General, Travel

London: Day 2

I really do love being a tourist in London. I love walking through the old squares, navigating the tube, and taking in the array of people and smells that permeate the streets. I even like London when it is freezing cold, which is a good thing really, because when we woke up on Sunday morning, it was snowing. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t sticking in the city, but there was a layer of sludgy ice on the floor and the temperatures were Baltic. Sunday was all about the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford to see Hogwarts in the Snow, and it really turned out to be a day that was affected by the snow: it tooketh and it gaveth in equal measures.

The 25 minute walk to Euston felt longer and harder as we battled the icy ground, the cold rain, and the whipping wind. I quickly realised that the Gryffindor scarf I brought to wear in the pictures was more useful as an actual scarf, and that I hadn’t put enough layers on below my coat. In my defence, I was wearing my warm Harry Potter jumper and new we would be toasty once we got to the studios, but the layers weren’t enough. I love my coat, and it’s nice and warm, but sadly it’s not as waterproof as I would have liked. Despite the weather, we got on a train to Watford Junction after picking up a Pret breakfast and were on the way to the studios.

Or so we thought. The snow that had been falling all morning, and throughout the night as it had turned out, was sticking when we arrived to Watford Junction station, which meant that there was a thick blanket of snow covering the ground. And not a nice white blanket, 6in thick coating that was stopping everything in it’s tracks and completing engulfing my canvas shoes in pure cold. We trudged over to the bus stop to wait with others (for too long a time out in the unprotected, unsheltered wind) and waited with staff and visitors alike. It became pretty apparent pretty quickly that there was no shuttle bus to take us to the studios, a fact quickly confirmed by the staff waiting with us. It was so cold, and the snow was only falling heavier, so we had a decision to make: a) wait it out for the bus that may or may not come, b) pay for a taxi to take us, only for the possiblility of being stuck at the studios itself once we were finished, or c) call it a day and head straight back to London.

After waiting for an hour in the freezing, making friends with the staff and helping an adorable little girl stay warm, we heard yet another message to say that the buses were grounded and wouldn’t be leaving for a while. As this message was passed on, a normal bus was struggling to get going in the bus station and looked completely abandoned. We checked online and with the staff and saw the announcement that said we could rebook and decided to abandon the day in favour of going back and warming up. As disappointing as it was, the opportunity to come back to a warm hotel room and visit another day was just to good to miss.

On the train back, just as we were thawing, my Dad and brother rang. I’d already messaged to tell them about the weather cancelling our plans, more out of frustration than thinking they could actually do anything about it, when my Dad said to go to the Palace theatre, as the snow was stopping many people from getting into London to see a show. Now, Emma and I were a little confused as we aren’t used to theatre shows on a Sunday, but we took his advice and after dragging ourselves back into the cold, we managed to score return tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for the same day, for both parts. I’m not sure you can 100% call it a win, as we had missed out on the tour and made our wallets considerably lighter, but still, we had got tickets to something that was sold out and that we both wanted to see. If 3 shows in 3 days wasn’t enough, we had now upped it to 5. It’s amazing how quickly your day can turn around!

The only downside to scoring seats so soon (other than the lighter purses) was the fact that we didn’t have time to go back and change. Part 1 starts at 1pm on a Sunday and we were already at the theatre and doors were open, so instead we bought programmes, took the obligatory bragging photos, and shimmied on into our seats. I say shimmied, once again we were on the front row of the Grand Circle, and once again room was at a premium, but who cares when you’re seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it was to see it live. The effects and the detail that went into the show was just of an insane level. The intricate sets, brilliant choreography and stellar acting completely caught my attention  and I was enraptured from the opening words. Yes, the plot of the script was thin when read, but seeing it in a theatre., performed live was pretty awesome. I love the simplicity of the suitcases and the sets, yet the detail of the changing costumers, the cloaks hiding set changes, and the brilliance (and creepiness) of the dementors. I really, for the first time, get why a live show can charge so much. The effort and the quality was oozing throughout the performance. I have to say, when Part 1 was over, it was odd to walk from a theatre without a curtain call to clap the actors. They absolutely deserved it, but I guess they know you’ll come back for Part 2 right?

Finally, after sitting in my cold wet clothes for 3 hours, we had time to go back to the theatre. The advantage of the dual performance is that there is a big enough gap between the shows to walk back to our hotel (handily just a 5 minute walk away) and that the evening show starts early enough to do something after as well. We sat back an relaxed on our beds, took off the wet clothes we’d been stuck in, and both managed to think about blog posts that we needed to write, and things that we needed to buy. We thought about plans for Monday (pre-Hamilton) and planned a post-show Dominos. Can you have a better mid-show break? We made it back to the show with time to take a photo with the sign and in front of the theatre. The sign and the symbol is quite unique and well known, so I was eager to get a good picture – thankfully it stopped snowing and raining long enough.

I don’t know what I can say about Part 2 that I haven’t said about Part 1 that doesn’t spoil the show. The special effects only increased, and the detail in the make up was spectacular. All the actors and actresses in the show were really incredible, but, for me the stand out performance was the young actor who played Scorpius Malfoy. I really wasn’t expecting the hilarity and the quality of the portrayal, and was surprised by just how good he (and everyone really) actually was. When we finally got to applaud the cast and creative, the curtain call was fairly long, but I guess it’s deserved as it’s a curtain call for two shows. I have debated internally about the money making nature of having two shows and couldn’t help but wonder whether it was a move to make money from the captive aduience, but having gone to see it, I don’t think that is what it (solely) is and was impressed.

Once it has finished and we had decompressed, we picked up our pizzas from the local Domino’s (literally) and settled in for the evening. What could have been a terribly disappointing day had turned out to be a surprisingly great (if expensive) one! 2 days and 4 shows down and we were only halfway through our trip, with the focus of our holiday still to come! Stay tuned for more…

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