“Inspircation” Day 17: Walking London

Yesterday was the final day of this entire trip, and we spent most of it walking the great city of London.

We started off with a tube journey, however, arriving at Tower Hill to visit London Tower. I have been there several times, but I always find some new corner to explore. It was my mom’s first time, and I was determined that she see this iconic landmark.

I’ve taken many photos of this place in the past (including MANY doors), so this time I concentrated more on just exploring, rather than recording. But here are a few of the photos we took (including a couple of door details) . . .

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After the Tower, we had lunch and met up with a daughter of our friends back in Vancouver. She’s been living in England for almost two years. Coincidently enough, she was living in York when we were in the northern part of England last year and so we got to see her then and now she’s moved to London. So I’m not sure if she’s following us or if we’re following her.

Together we crossed Tower Bridge and walked along the south bank to the Globe Theatre. Marcie and I had been inside before, so this stop was really just a chance for the girls to visit the gift shop!

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globe-m&b

We continued on our way, across Millenium Bridge to St. Paul’s and then just kept on walking to our hotel, just as rush hour began to percolate. It seemed like every pub on every corner was teeming with patrons, so many of them that they were spilling onto the streets. It was quite boisterous. I think we must have walked 10 kilometers all over the city yesterday.

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Well, that was our trip! It was a simplified last day, and we are all feeling pretty beat. I would say that this “inspircation” was a lot more inspiration then vacation, but I’m feeling creatively energized and ready to head into a busy fall. Exciting projects await!

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“Inspircation” Day 16: Secret Cinema, Star Wars style

Yesterday, was such a full day, I didn’t even get a chance to blog at the end of it. So I’m doing a bit of catch up.

It was our first full day in London, and boy did we make the most of it. After a quick breakfast in our hotel, we hoofed it south towards Westminster Abbey. Marcie and I always prefer walking to transit, when possible, because, of course, you get to see so much more of a place. In this instance, we inadvertently ended up trekking along part of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. It borders some beautiful park land . . .

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We then arrived at Westminster Abbey and went inside to explore. I had been there previously, but it was the first time for Marcie and my mom. Collectively, I think our favourite part was the Poets’ Corner, where many famous writers are either interred or memorialized, including Chaucer, Austen, Wordsworth, Byron, Dickens . . . well, the list goes on and on.

We couldn’t take any photos inside, which started to really kill me as I encountered door after wonderful door. But at least we got a few pictures of the abbey just outside.

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And, as it happened, as we exited the abbey, they were sonorously ringing the bells. Yesterday marked the day that the length of Queen Elizabeth II’s rule surpassed that of Queen Victoria. We heard that Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep the celebrations low key (after all, this occasion also marks the anniversary of her father’s death).

We stopped to get a picture at Big Ben, along with the hordes of other tourists (which is a fortuitous thing, since there are lots of people to take photos of one another). So here’s my big belly in front of Big Ben:

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Afterwards, we headed to the Churchill War Museum. This is an amazing installation. Much of it is in intact from the way it was left at the end of World War II. It’s truly like a rabbit warren down there, with passages turning this way and that. It’s well worth the visit, but just make sure you do it in order and not get turned around like we did. (Which, should come as no surprise, given our history of getting lost on this trip).

I loved this wall of keys. These are the original keys from the period, which were used to open the various rooms.

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And here’s an original map—in fact, all the maps there were intact, left exactly as they were in 1945.

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And here’s the office of Churchill’s secretary:

churchillmuseum-office

As you can see by the above photos, the lighting wasn’t great, so we didn’t take a ton of photos and instead just chose to enjoy the experience.

Here’s a few doors from the day’s explorations . . .

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Then, in the evening, came the BIG EVENT. Months ago, Marcie and I booked tickets for Secret Cinema Star Wars. I had only found out about this event after we had planned our trip and since we were already planning to be in London during its run, we decided we better go. The tickets were quite expensive, but now, after having gone, I would have paid double.

Actually, I can’t even begin to express how amazing and surreally awesome Secret Cinema Star Wars. It was like walking into the movie. Or like playing some sort of Dungeons & Dragons game—except that it was the 5D version (6D, if you count the Force—and why wouldn’t you?).

Marcie and I had both been assigned identities months ago; she was Losa Starkiller and I was Joruus Macaque. Since we have been on the road a lot this year and coming all the way from Canada, we had not pre-ordered costumes. We had assumed we’d be able to buy costumes on site, so were much distressed when we discovered the shop is far away from the event. So, we arrived in our plain old clothes and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Everyone else, it seemed to us, was dressed head to toe in the most amazing costumes!

As it turned out, we did arrive at a stage of the event where we could buy some simple accoutrements, and we did—instantly we felt better.

But I get ahead of myself. Basically, the first part of the event focused on immersing us—the audience, the participants, whatever you want to call us—in the world that you seen in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Together, Losa Starkiller and I played Sabaac with Lando Calrissian, bartered with Jawas to buy valuable spice, drank engine oil in the cantina, watched the Modal Nodes play, sat at Aunt Beru’s kitchen (she served blue milk), witnessed Chewbacca break out of a Mos Eisley prison, were interrogated by imperial officers, personally booked passage to Alderaan with Han Solo, and were recruited—just the two of us out of at least two hundred people—by General Madine to prowl hidden corridors on the Death Star so that we could located Stormtrooper TK-144 and negotiate procurement of the secret plans vital for destroying the Death Star.

Which we did. Then watched Obi-Wan fight Vader, Luke destroy above said Death Star, and stood in the award ceremony to see the rebel heroes get their medals.

At the very end, we watched a version of The Empire Strikes Back. I say a version, because while the film played there was some live-action events going on, too.

There were no photos, phones, or devices of any kind allowed at this event, which made it an even more immersive experience. Honestly, the event would have been wrecked otherwise. But we did get a couple of photos outside at the end.

If you can go to this event . . . GO. Honestly. No matter how many words I write about it, it wouldn’t do the experience any justice. Best. Play. Ever.

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Best. Play. Ever.

“Inspircation” Day 15: Exploring another city of literature

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Well, we’re on the last leg of our “inspircation”. After we leave London, it’s home we go!

It was quite a travel day to get here today from Dublin. We work before 4 am, took a taxi to a teeming Dublin airport, flew to Bristol, took a bus to the Bristol train station, took the train to Paddington Station, then took the tube to Oxford Circus Station, then walked ten minutes to our hotel. Whew! Even as I write that, it seems a lot. The only thing we didn’t do was ride in a boat.

Marcie was excited to arrive in Paddington Station—here’s a photo of her posing with the popular bear:

marcie&paddingtonbear

The good news is that everything on the trip went without a hitch (I don’t think we even got lost, other than momentarily walking the wrong way once we got out of Oxford Circus) and I even had time to write while sitting on the train, occasionally lifting my head to watch the English countryside whipping past.

Despite this long travel day, I was desperate to get out into the city as soon as we got settled into our hotel. I have been here several times before, but I wanted to show my mom (who has never been here before) and Marcie (once before) some of my favourite corners.

And the first of those favourite corners is Cecil Court, a little street just off Leicester Square. We walked the whole way down, passing through Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square first.

trafalgar_mom&marcie

We eventually arrived at Cecil Court, much to my joy (and relief; I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sniff it out again). Cecil Court is a short lane (pedestrian only) that the home of the early film industry (just as it says on the plaque below).

cecilcourt_plaque

These days, the street is home to many book shops, including ones that sell first and early editions of books such as Harry Potter, Gone With the Wind, and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Many of these editions are signed. Yes—you can spend hundreds of pounds here. Scratch that. Thousands.

cecilcourt_firsteditions

The shop called Marchpane celebrates British children’s literature—one could shell additional hundreds of pounds here. The owner is a quiet gentle soul who indulged Marcie as she examined old editions of Alice in Wonderland plays that are far out of our budget. Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass seem to be specialities of the shop.

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I did end making a humble but beautiful purchase, spending 25 quid on a print of an Alice in Wonderland illustration, which pretty much made my day.

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Oh, and the store is also decorated with daleks.

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After leaving Cecil Court, we headed on to Fleet Street, admiring the architecture and buzz of the city, and found the courtyard down to Temple Church, which is an old church built by the Knights Templar in the 1100s. We could not go inside, but I had done so on a previous visit, and there I saw the graves, with effigies, of some of the Templars. Today, we could just explore the courtyard and see the beautiful door.

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Nearby, but on the other side of the street is Ye Olde Chesire Cheese Inn. This is another favorite place of mine in the city, partly because of its cozy feel, and partly because it oozes history—literary history.  It was a regular haunt of Charles Dickens, Samuel Johnson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Mark Twain, just to name a few.

chesirecheese_1667sign  chesirecheese_sign

The pub consists of several floors of narrow cozy floors, with winding steps and dangerously low stairs connecting each. You can enjoy a brew in one of the cozy alcoves and imagine the old greats pontificating there.

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The pub is also the setting of the recent children’s book The Chesire Cheese Cat, which I read and enjoyed this past year. (I highly recommend it.)

chesirecheesecat

Down the lane from the pub is the former home of Samuel Johnson. We didn’t go inside, as it was past closing time, but I did get a picture of his door knocker, which after all, is all part of my important role as a collector of all things door-related.

samueljohnsonhouse_doorknocker
On the way back to the hotel, we passed a Waterstones and I picked up the latest—and last—book by my favourite author, Terry Pratchett. I was so distraught to learn of his passing earlier this year, but am ever so grateful that he gave us one last Tiffany Aching adventure. I can’t wait to read it.
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Tomorrow is another big day. We are headed to see a few more sights and then comes our evening entertainment: Secret Cinema presents The Empire Strikes Back!

A trip to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

It can be hard work to chronicle Kendra Kandlestar’s adventures and the comings and goings in the Land of Een, so now and again a vacation to another world can do my mind a world of good. That’s why during our summer trip to London, Marcie and I made sure to visit King’s Cross Station where Harry Potter famously caught the Hogwart’s Express.

You can push your trolley through the brick wall. The cue to do so was short and we enjoyed watching people from around the world taking their turn before it came to be ours.

Here’s the photos we took of each other:

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We also had the “station masters” take a photo of us as a pair and decided to part with the eight quid for the photo afterwards.

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Of course, you can pick up the official photos in the shop just round the corner. Here, they have all sorts of wonderful displays set up and, of course, lots of Harry Potter themed merchandise threatening to lighten your pockets.

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Wares on offer included not only all the books, but chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts every flavour jelly beans, wands, scarves, sweaters—even “wanted” posters. You name it, they have it!

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I already have my own Elder Wand and Hogwarts baggage tag (given to me, respectively, by fellow authors Kallie George and Kari Lynn Winters from their trip to the Harry Potter park in Florida), so my temptations were tempered. Other than the photo of Marcie and I, my only purchase was a Ravenclaw scarf. Why not? Practical AND geeky.

King’s Cross Station itself is quite something. It’s one of the busier stations in the London Underground and I was eager to explore it in order to do some research for another book I’m planning to write after Kendra Kandlestar is done. But more on that another time . . .