After many months of looking forward to it, last month @cmjsnz and I jetted off to London! I had been before almost exactly two years ago and loved it, while it was Craig’s first time in the UK. We managed to cram in so many adventures, so I’ll split our trip into two posts to avoid this turning into a novel!
It’s such a long way from New Zealand (24 hours of flying!) and there’s no easy way to do it, so we thought we may as well try the new Auckland to Doha flight for our first leg (17 hours), leaving a shorter flight of 8 hours to London on the second leg. We had some delays getting into our Air BnB once we arrived but eventually we got in, and we managed a trip to the supermarket before getting some long-overdue rest!
Our first proper day in London we headed off to the V&A museum as there were a couple of exhibitions we were keen to check out. The first was the Balenciaga exhibit, which was absolutely incredible! There were so many beautiful dresses that I would wear in a heartbeat, and it was so enlightening to see just how much of an impact he had on fashion. The ground floor was dedicated solely to Balenciaga himself, covering different themes in his designs, while the upper floor showcased the work of other designers that he’d influenced, and it was easy to compare the true Balenciaga pieces downstairs with the Balenciaga-inspired.
Next we went on to the Pink Floyd exhibit, which was an audio-visual immersion into their works and their world. Sadly no photos were allowed, but I can tell you that it was spectacular! There were so many details and elements from their musical history on display, and listening to the stories behind their music and artwork was so interesting. There were even giant puppets, probably two storeys high, from The Wall, and the sculptures from the Division Bell to see in person.
By the evening we were struggling to stay awake thanks to the 12 hour time difference, but we were motivated by a steak dinner with my friends! A number of them have moved over to London and so it was so nice to see everyone again and catch up! Craig is a fan of cider and ended up having two pints; not thinking about the different size of our standard drinks back home he ended up with a bit of a hangover the next day, though he’s still blaming it on the jet lag!
As Craig was a little hungover, I mean jetlagged, we took it fairly easy the next day with a trip to Oxford Street where we did a bit of shopping – more on that later! We then spent our evening on the West End enjoying a performance of Kinky Boots. This was one of my favourite musicals from my last trip and so I couldn’t resist seeing it again!
To even things up with something a little bit more manly, we headed out to the London Film Museum on Wednesday morning to see the Bond in Motion exhibition. There we got to see many of the iconic vehicles from the Bond films, as well as costumes, props, and advertising. Craig was busy geeking out over all of this, while I learnt a lot as I’ve not yet seen a Bond film! Each car had its special weapons and modifications noted in the display, with one having the handy extra of a colour fax on board!
We watched our next show, An American in Paris, that evening, and it was absolutely delightful! I didn’t realise that the musical had only recently had its stage debut, despite the film being released in the 1950s. This is a classic musical full of beautiful songs and lots of dancing, and the costumes and staging were brilliant!
The weather was forecast to be reasonably fine on Thursday, so a day trip to Brighton was in order! We caught the train from Victoria Station (so easy!) and arrived within an hour. We wended our way down from the station at a leisurely pace, starting with the vintage stores close by (where I found my first purchase of the trip!) and a traditional pub lunch. In the afternoon we explored the Royal Pavillion, where again no photos were allowed inside, but it was full of lavish wallpapers, gold, and dragons! Finally we headed towards the pier; it was getting quite windy and cold by this time so I was glad that I’d layered up. As we were by the sea we thought it was the perfect time to try some UK fish and chips, unfortunately they weren’t a patch on ours back home and neither of us took to the mushy peas!
After our long day in Brighton and as the weather took a turn for the worst we took things fairly easy on Friday, only venturing out to the National Portrait Gallery and to have a gander round Trafalgar Square. We made sure to check out the BP Portrait Awards and catch up with our friend Will Shakespeare. We found dinner at Boyd’s Grill & Wine Bar nearby, which had a delicious sharing platter and the loveliest waitresses.
On Saturday morning we headed off bright and early to the markets! We started at Brick Lane and then traipsed through Old Spitalfields. There were so many goodies, especially all the sweet treats! I dragged my friends around a lot of vintage stores, sadly there weren’t too many things that caught my eye although I did manage to find the most exquisite Alix of Miami dress at House of Vintage which I ended up wearing for VVDO this weekend.
That evening it was time for the show I was perhaps most looking forward to: Dreamgirls! I had recently introduced Craig to Glee and so we were both super excited to see Amber Riley perform. She is an absolute star, bringing the house down with her performance of ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, and the whole production was so incredible. I could easily watch it many more times over!
As if Saturday wasn’t exciting enough, on Sunday we were definitely in for an action-packed day! I had booked afternoon tea at Sketch for the morning, as naturally who doesn’t like to start the day with cake? On the way I basically hauled Craig over to take my picture in front of the Maddox Gallery window display, because it had ALL the flowers!
When we made it to Sketch, it was everything I dreamed it would be and more! The decor is so luscious (and, of course, pink!), and the food was divine. I got very snap-happy with the camera because it was all too pretty not to document everything, especially the bathrooms. It was truly a wonderful special treat! And we were all so full afterwards, we could barely finish our sponge cakes! But there was no time for napping because it wasn’t long until we were…
…off to Harry Potter World! We had booked our WB Studio Tour for later that afternoon which gave us plenty of time to get the train and then the (Knight) bus up there. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away! The real sets, set pieces, props, costumes, and designs all live there, and they are all so incredibly detailed. It was eye-opening to watch and read about behind the scenes stories, such as that 15,000 orbs were made and lit for the Hall of Prophecy only to have the director replace them with CGI. How amazing must it have been to work on those films?
We got to walk through Diagon Alley, step aboard the Hogwarts Express, and try some Butterbeer ice cream, amongst many other magical things! The final part of the tour was particularly special as we could see the scale model of Hogwarts go from day to night.
I’m sure you can imagine that by the end of the day we were exhausted, but oh so happy! I think I’ve crammed enough adventures in here for the moment, but I’ll be posting about the rest of our travels in part 2 very soon so stay tuned!
Miss Hero Holliday