We landed late last night (London time) after an uneventful flight. We were greeted by rain (in London? A tiger, in Africa?).
This morning...a private black taxi tour of Harry Potter's London!
Our tour guide and driver, a lovely chap named Dave, drove in from his home in Stratford-on-Avon just to show us around. Among other things, we saw Sirius Black's house on Grimauld Place, the entrance to the Ministry of Magic, and of course Platform 9 3/4 (which is at King's Cross Station, a block or two from our hotel).
And just in case you think we Santows have an unhealthy obsession with all things Potter...there are already people camping out at Trafalgar Square for the red carpet premiere of the last Potter movie, which isn't until 4pm tomorrow!
After an hour or two, jet lag began to take its toll on us, particularly the smaller ones in our party! It was, after all, 4am EST when we got in the taxi. However, we were a bit revived by a stop at the amazing Borough Market in Southwark (home of the Leaky Cauldron, after Harry's Night Bus ride). Micah had a piece of chocolate, and instantly became charming and alert.
I had a double espresso, and expressed what passes for charm for me. Hot chocolate for Maya, and a chocolate bar with 80% Costa Rican cacao did the trick for Shana.
Dave dropped us off at St. James underground stop, near Westminster Abbey, and Micah had his first subway ride. He of course insisted on holding onto the pole rather than sitting; aside from a few near-acrobatic moves when the train pulled out of Victoria station, all was well.
After fish and chips (and Guinness, and a rest)...
We take the Tube to the London Eye! Micah is joined -- everywhere -- by his buddy Snickers. Here, you see Snickers and the kids on the Tube:
After a nice boat cruise up and down the Thames, we stopped for a quick dinner before going on the Eye. The restaurant, Yo Sushi, had good food -- but the main attraction was that all the food was displayed on a moving belt. You just grab what you want, from the colorful dishes that go flying by. Shana used time exposure for the photograph below, which conveys the kinetic energy of the place:
The London Eye, as you may know, is the world's largest cantilevered observation wheel (a Ferris wheel, in other words). It was built in 2000, on the banks of the Thames; once your 'pod' reaches the apex, you can see as far as 30 miles.
The view from the top:
Micah, as you will quickly learn, sees this trip as a quest to see all the towers of Europe -- Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc:
Day Two, London, Thursday July 7th:
On our second and last day in London we had grand plans to go to the Tower of London, and to eat at The Anchor -- the favorite haunt of our Harry Potter pal Dave. Alas, cold rain ruined the plans a bit...
We did get to the Tower of London, only to discover that most of the tour was outside. So we delayed it until our return trip in London, did a little souvenir shopping, and contemplated lunch. The Anchor was temptingly close, just across the Thames, but Micah declared that the cold had made his feet 'dumb.' Watch:
Not wanting Micah's feet to lose any more intelligence, we decided to duck into a cute little cafe in the church next to the Tower. This proved to be a good choice, since Maya was able to have her first bangers and mash (yep, a picture):
One must suffer much in the pursuit of art. After lunch, Shana invited the children to pose in a London phone booth. Alas, their visit was preceded by some antsy Brit at the end of an unsuccessful search for the loo. From their facial expressions, I think the odor is just getting to them...
From there, it was off to our hotel to check out, load up our camels, and head over to St. Pancras Station for the Eurostar to Paris. For Micah, the Eiffel Tower awaits -- and a few hours of motion sickness on the train, unfortunately.
Our high-speed train arrived Thursday night at Gare du Nord in Paris mostly without incident:
From there, its a taxi to our apartment in Montmartre!