We were in London. The best city (after Chicago).
Regular readers of this blog know my love for that city. Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Too true. No matter how long I am there and how many things we do, there’s so much left undone.
We began our visit in London by heading to my favorite tea place and bookshop in the world. I am obsessed with Fortnum and Mason’s tea, specifically their peach tea. Whenever we go to London, I always stock up on as many boxes as I can get home. When others pass through London, I ask them to pick up a box or two if they are able.
It’s a very upscale department store though it has focused on its food store in recent years. (The hat section has hats for £700!) The food is decently priced though I have been seeing my tea slowly rise in tea. It was a bit of a madhouse since it was sales season. But I found my tea and was quite content. My husband restocked his collection of very British tea towels as well.
Next door is the amazing bookstore called Hatchard’s. The bookstore has these beautiful built-in dark wood shelves and an amazing selection. Plus it has three royal warrants which means that three royals shop at the bookstore (Fortnum has two!). Mind you, there are many wondrous bookstores in London but this one is my favorite.
That night, we had a delightful Italian dinner at a restaurant nearby our hotel. I love their homemade gnocchi in a tomato sauce! How I adore how cosmopolitan London is!
The following day, we got up on the earlier side to go to the British Library. My number one thing to do in London was to see the Harry Potter exhibition there. However, the night before I discovered that all tickets had been sold out. HOwever, we decided to try to get there at 9:30am, before it opened, and see if we could purchase tickets later that day. We got there at 9:15 to find a small line already forming. I was really anxious since we didn’t have a lot of days to try this out. Within minutes of getting in line, the queue doubled!
But happy day! We got tickets and went in immediately! Woohoo! Most of the people in front of us already had their tickets.
The exhibition was well worth it. It was a delightful combination of Potter paraphernalia and actual historical texts. It was set up by Hogwarts subject starting with Potions and ending with Care of Magical Creatures. There were drawings by J.K. Rowling herself and other illustrations by more recent artists. J.K. Rowling is a surprisingly good drawer! I wrote more about the exhibition here for Book Riot: https://bookriot.com/2018/01/09/favorite-libraries-british-newberry/
There were old books about vampires and werewolves, manuals on palmistry, the oldest known star map, and so much more. It was well worth the wait and anxiety that I felt!
We had our breakfast in their little cafe, overlooking the King George III’s library. What an excellent way to start the day!
Our next stop was the British Museum with my family. We made a beeline for the Egyptian galleries where the Rosetta stone lives. As always, it was bustling! They had a little display off from the Rosetta stone with more modern artifacts including one of the first Arabic typewriters, which was so cool! We wandered the Enlightenment Gallery, which is set up to look a little bit more old school museum style. It tries to approximate what the museum might have looked like when it first opened. Cases contained similar objects from different cultures from across the world and time. It was nice preparation for the talk I would give later on Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection proved the foundation of the entire museum! We would return later for a longer visit to the British Museum on the trip.
Then it was off to the secret tea shop in Soho, a new tradition. The 1940s themed tea shop is located on the second floor in a pub where you have to use a staircase behind the bar to access it. Different tablecloths and tea cups decorate the tables while nice jazz plays overhead. I had a delicious carrot cake and wondrous tea. I don’t remember if it was Darjeeling or Assam, but I love that these two teas are common in London. Sadly, it’s hard to find them here in Chicago!
We made a stop to MinaLima around the corner. MinaLima is a store that sells prints and other paper goods related to Harry Potter. I’ve learned from the incredible podcast, 99% Invisible, that there are people whose jobs are to make all the printed materials for a movie.
Someone decided to sell prints from the Harry Potter movie including newspaper covers, Hogwarts textbooks, even candy wrappers. It’s a lovely gallery with beautifully designed room. The prints aren’t cheap but it’s definitely worth a look!
That’s all for now!