Saturday, June 7, 2014

A day of iconic architecture - Globe, St Paul's and Royal Albert Hall

Day 4 (Thu, 5 June 2014)

For those who are not aware, King's Cross rail station is the one Harry Potter travels to Hogwarts from. The books made the station famous and cashing in on its popularity, a Platform 9 3/4 was set up for photo-taking. The Harry Potter shop around the corner in the station even provided props like luggage, scarves and Harry Potter glasses. They take a photo of you and you can buy it from the shop. There's often a long queue but this morning, we popped by and found only a couple of people waiting, so took the opportunity to get our HP shot (they even fling the scarf for you!)

This is the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4. Merchandise are very pricey, though. £19.99 for a Gryffindor tie!

We made our second trip to Shakespeare's Globe, after our failed attempt yesterday. The original Globe Theatre was an Elizabethan playhouse originally built in 1599 along the River Thames. This is a faithful reconstruction built as close to the original site as possible.

Again using the 2-for-1 coupon, we paid entry for only two adults for all four of us.

The inside is fascinating. Plays are staged with no spotlights, microphones or speakers, with live music. The Globe is the only infrastructure allowed to construct a thatched roof since the Great Fire of 1666.

It's a circular shape and the stage is made from oak, including the two pillars you see here. The backdrop is red as it's the setting for Anthony and Cleopatra that will be staged that afternoon.

This is the view from the second-storey Gentlemen's Box (or VIP box), which is where Queen Elizabeth II sits.

Danger Dan!

After that, we walked along Millennium Bridge over River Thames towards St Paul's Cathedral.

But first, we went for lunch at a new mall next to St Paul's - One New Change. Andre had always wanted to try Mexican food, so we thought this was a good opportunity to try Wahaca. It's a restaurant opened by previous Masterchef UK winner and serves authentic Mexican street food.

Foosball while waiting!

We chose platters of tapas-sized street food to share so we could try lots of different things. Steak tacos, chicken caesar tostadas, black bean and cheese quesadilla, and chicken taquitos.

Steak burrito. We each ended up liking a different item best but they were all very interesting and tasty.

The great find about One New Change is that there's a rooftop terrace on 6th floor that offers great view of London for free. It was cool and windy up there, and many people were having a picnic lunch on the benches. I overheard a lady tell her friend she comes here all the time to enjoy the sunset views.

We then headed back down to see St Paul's up close. St Paul's Cathedral is one of London's most prominent buildings. It was the site of Charles and Diana's wedding and the Queen's Jubilee celebrations.

We had considered paying for admission to enter the cathedral but decided not to. It's not that the interior is not spectacular, but to get the most out of it, it's best to climb the steps up to the various floors. It's 257 steps to the whispering gallery and some 500 steps right up to the Dome, where you can see all of London in its splendour. None of us were quite in the mood to do a vertical hike, so we decided to give it a miss.

The architecture is awe-inspiring and the grounds are lovely. Lots of people, including office folks in their suits, sitting by the gardens having a picnic lunch. The steps of St Paul's are, of course, iconic. Not sure if you remember Mary Poppins but one of the songs was about a birdwoman who feeds the birds on the steps of St Paul's.

That marked our day itinerary and we went back to the hotel before coming out again for dinner and a show. Dinner was at South Kensington, near our concert venue.

We ate at Kensington Creperie, which is popular with students (Imperial College is close by).

The place was packed when we were there at 5.45pm. Luckily, we'd made online reservations. They have an impressive menu with both savoury and sweet crepes.

We had bought tickets for the Royal Philharmonic Film Music Gala at Royal Albert Hall. I had attended the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall many years ago, when I visited London with my sister and it was memorable. I think it's one of those things you need to do as the Royal Albert Hall is simply amazing. The thing is that it's hard to find a concert that everyone in our family will enjoy (Andre isn't big on classical music) so when we stumbled on this one, it was a Eureka moment. With theme songs from movies like Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones, what's there not to enjoy?

The interior is breath-taking...and massive. It has a seating capacity of 8,000 (excluding standing room) and it looked like a full house.

Fabulous concert and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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