I took the Princess to London for her birthday. It’s not as extravagant as it sounds. We stayed with one aunt (they have TWO spare rooms, in their flat in London – as she said, “we live like oligarchs”) and another paid for our flights using her air miles. But still, it did feel rather decadent.
We were due to fly out the Thursday afternoon before her birthday but, very suspiciously, our flight was cancelled due to the air traffic controllers’ strike in France. Since we were flying direct from Dublin to London, it’s hard to see why that should be but doubtless BA had its reasons. My letter of complaint has, as yet received no response. We ended up flying out at 9 that evening which was fine although some of us were a little hyper at the airport.
The flight, excitingly, boasted free crisps and, annoyingly, an article in the magazine about Dublin. We got the Heathrow Express into London and a taxi to Islington and everything went as speedily as it could have done but we still didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. I also nearly had a heart attack when I took out £200 at the airport and discovered just how weak the euro is against sterling.
The next day, Friday, we were off to Harry Potter world near Watford junction. We put ourselves in the hands of my sister-in-law who, in her own family enjoys a reputation for vagueness. Before I first met her, I asked my mother- in-law what her daughter was like and she said, “Very kind and very clever but, a lot of her time spent with us on this earth is taken up with looking for her other shoe.” So I was a little tense but I can report that her reputation is entirely unmerited. She whisked us painlessly across London in exactly the predicted time and the delightfulness of being in a foreign city and just following someone else cannot, in my view, be overstated.
Harry Potter world itself was a huge success. We all enjoyed it very much; even those whose expectations were extremely high.
The props are amazing and the work that went into them is breathtaking. I would definitely go back (and I may have to as the boys have put in strong arguments for their rights).
You can wander up and down Diagon Alley and we did, happily, for ages.
The next day was a fresh new adventure. My sister had arrived in London and I went off with her, leaving the Princess to enjoy the company of her aunt and uncle. They went to the Tower of London which is excellent, I am informed.
Willing to bet that it was a superior option to the British Museum where I ended up going. Wonderful collection and so on but very tiring. Sister-in-law had given directions to all kinds of attractions near where we were staying (my sister and I peeled off for a fancy overnight in London – more free thing, hotel points this time – what’s not to love?). Both restaurants she recommended were excellent. And, again following her directions, we went into Persephone Books where I bought the Princess a small birthday present. I think that if only I had stuck to sister-in-law’s recommendation and gone to the Foundling Museum instead of the British Museum, I would have been a happier woman.
Meanwhile, the Princess and her aunt were preparing to go to a West End show (Matilda – very good since you ask) for which her aunt had v. kindly procured tickets.
The next day we all met for brunch, then back to Islington for cake and home. We were supposed to travel to Heathrow via the Heathrow express but alas, the line was down and there was no indication when it would be re-opened. When I asked if I could get my ticket refunded, I was told, only if I had bought it in the last 20 minutes. As herself pointed out, only a moron would do that as the line had already been down for an hour. My letter of complaint has as yet received no reply. We had to take a taxi to the airport. I would rather not talk about how much that cost but suffice it to say that we could easily have flown back to Dublin for half the amount. When we did get on our flight though, the Princess got a window seat due to the efforts of BA (as her feckless mother had only checked in that morning and there were no window seats to be had) and she is still an infrequent enough flyer to be entranced by the view over the clouds and the lights of the cities below.
Aside from our transport difficulties (on re-reading this, I note that they loom rather large but I have just described them in graphic detail in letters of complaint, so they are very fresh in my mind), we had a fantastic weekend. The boys are consumed with jealousy, as well they might be. I shudder to think what we will have to do when they turn 12. However, Daniel is an Arsenal fan and his aunt lives very near the Emirates stadium so I think the London relatives should prepare themselves mentally for a further onslaught.