It has been a long time coming but I finally managed to cross the other pond that is the Atlantic Ocean (for context, my westerly pond is the Pacific Ocean). I also managed to sneak in a few photographs but as it was more of a leisure trip rather than a travel-photography session I was very selective on the things I captured vs the things I just took in.
Just like many of my other excursions have begun, good old LAX was our initial destination. This time however I was lucky to experience the renewed Tom Bradley International Terminal. Previously I had always flown domestic so I never knew that this specific section had undergone some really beautiful renovations.
As if we had already embarked on our trip, my wife and I began our trek to experience new things and eat LOTS of new things within the eateries at the Tom Bradley Terminal. As matter of fact I believe the majority of the trip was spent eating. Here we were chowin' down some unexpectedly fresh sushi at CHAYA. The presentation was beautiful and it was to foreshadow the delicious 10/10 experience we would have in London and Dublin.
After landing in Gatwick and taking a short train, to our flat in London, my wife, our two friends, and I decided to take a stroll, as we wanted to visit the Tate Modern, knowing it was going to be open late. We got super lucky by the way on our Air BNB Flat which had an amazing view of the city and was located in the middle of a very ethnic-friendly market.
As we got to the TATE Modern, we decided to stop by a small restaurant just opposite the museum. This would be our very first meal in London and because it wasn't a planned location, we weren't expecting it to be great. After checking out the menu and getting our first glimpse at the food we were super happy we picked this place to stop and eat. The quality of the meat, veggies, and alcohol was amazing! Right away we knew London was going to offer some great food destinations.
Once at the TATE Modern we got to check out some very famous modern works of art but what specially made us feel at London, was the massive art Installation by Fujiko Nakaya named "London Fog," which I later learned was commissioned as part of the BMW Tate Live Exhibition: Ten Days Six Nights. It made us feel like we were truly in London a la Peaky Blinders. I managed to capture some pretty dynamic pictures as it truly was an Instagram picture farm.
Aside from various installations and galleries I was surprised to find one of the most controversial pieces of art at the Tate. "Fountain" which is one of the art world's most famous pieces, is literally a urinal that Marcel Duchamp signed with the words "R. MUTT" and submitted to an art exhibit in New York. The reason this piece is so controversial, or at least one of the reasons is because it poses the question, Is it art simply because one proclaims it? Of course the answer to this is super subjective and the topic of many heated arguments. Anyhow, it was great getting to see it in person and having my friends look at it with questionable stares. Afterwards we headed home for much, much needed rest after our long 10hr plus trip.
The next adventure in our trip was taking the iconic picture at Abbey Road! Yes, our goal was to recreate the walk The Beatles made in their iconic album and capture an image similar to the one found on the album. The latter would prove to be the most difficult part along with avoiding the on-coming traffic. Getting the angles and gait in unison was really trick but the images below are the closest we got. Truly a bucket list moment.
Afterwards we decided to grab some breakfast and simply went exploring as my wife and I had a date later on with the epic "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" play later that day. In fact just to prep for the play we took the tube to King's Crossing to stop by the local Harry Potter shop. I picked up some sweet Gryffindor gloves and scarf to properly represent my house. Arriving at the station after the quick tube ride literally took my breath away. The architecture at the station consisted of this blossoming series of metal tubes that covered most of the station. Looking at this made me feel as if we had now truly been transported to somewhere other than home. The awesome photo op at the actual Hogwarts entrance was a cherry on top.
Now properly fashioned and looking as if it were our first day of school at Hogwarts School of Wizarding my wife and I made our way to the Palace Theater in London. The tickets and seats that we were able to obtain were, according to the ushers, the best seats in the house. We sat on the 2nd level balcony, with great views down on the entire stage and the amazing spectacle soon to come. Without giving away any spoilers, the play was the longest, most theatrical thing I have ever experienced. The beginning in my opinion was super cheesy' but as the play went on I found myself lost in the magic and special effects. Looking back, it was an experience very few people would ever get to see in its original form, so I felt truly lucky and humbled to experience this work of theater.
Having properly rested in our awesome flat we were ready for our second full day in London. On this day we decided to knock out all the tourist traps and simply be one with the crowds. The day started with "The Best Breakfast" I had ever had in my life courtesy of the Breakfast Club. I ordered an amazing breakfast burrito which consisted of the freshest guac and the most organic and juicy bacon and eggs. I could definitely taste the care and quality of ingredients used. Oh yeah and my wife and I also demolished this amazing stack of pancakes topped with butter and a generous amount of berries. After this gem of a restaurant I was ready to walk ALL of London.
A short tube ride after breakfast, which we were still day dreaming about, we stopped at the Westminster Abbey and Parliament area for souvenirs and photo ops. We were here, in London, shortly after a terror attack on Westminster Bridge that had us and everyone visiting London on a slight edge. As we got close to the parliament's grounds and the surrounding fence we came across the memorial adorned with cards, flowers, and British flags. It was a semi-sweet moment where we found ourselves in the presence of such historic beauty and at the same time in the aftermath of horrific turmoil. We stopped a bit at the memorials, read some messages, and took in all of the architectural beauty, strength, and resilience of London and the British people.
On our final day in London and after having exhausted our touristic needs, we hopped on the tube, a train, and finally a bus that would take us to our final adventure in London, a visit to the Warner Bros. Studios to check out "The Making of Harry Potter". This theme park like studio was the home base of most of the films, not counting the locations used off studio.
Some of the very first props we saw simply melted our minds in awe! As we entered we saw the small closet that Harry called a room in the muggles' home, the Great Hall which hosted various special events in the Harry Potter movies, and lots and lots of costumes. To say we were overwhelmed at the very beginning was an understatement. The great part of the tour is that you don't have to move on to the next exhibit until you're truly done taking in what they are trying to show you.
I am a big fan of the "Process" so I simply stared and marveled at just how well the tour and displays captured the "how" of the movie series. According to the tour, the film came alive with the help of hundreds of artists, metal workers, and designers. Things like the the door to the Chamber of Secrets, the artifacts found within the study room of Albus Dumbledore, or literally the entire miniature set of Hogwarts must have taken thousands of human hours to create. These process-developed works are what truly blew my mind and being so close to the original designs was equal to standing in front of a Rothko or a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, truly a once in a lifetime experience.
On the trip back home immediately after the studio tour we summarized just how epic and wonderful our stay in London had been so far. From the food, to the venues, to the ease of simply getting around, oh and did I mention the exceptionally sunny but cool weather! The whole trip was definitely bucket-list worthy and enriched our lives with a lifetime of memories and inside jokes, I will never forget the Brittish and their beautiful city.
Following this quick stop in London we now packed our bags for Dublin, which was next on our two city trip through Europe.