WE didn’t exactly have a plan. There was a brief ‘hit list’ scribbled on to a sheet in my notebook – Buckingham Palace, the Ferrari Store, the Eye, Westminster, and The M&M Store were among the places we intended to visit.
Top of the list, however, was Platform 9 and ¾ in Kings Cross – for Potter fan Rebekah. The only thing we had planned for certain was breakfast – 8am, opening time in the (one of many) premises of a well-known pub chain. Since we had just over an hour to kill, we headed into the bowels of Victoria tube station, before heading into the bowels of London itself.
The problem with Platform 9 and ¾ is that it should never been in Kings Cross: J K Rowling admitted that she came up with Harry Potter on a train from to London Euston, but got her stations mixed up. Hence, the division between platforms 9 and 10 at ‘the Cross’ is actually a number of brick pillars – as seen in the movie – and not ticket barriers, as depicted in the novels. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be decided to put 9 and ¾ next to the first class lounge…and nowhere near a platform. But, there you go.
With it only being just after seven, we picked a pub near Angel tube, and decided to walk there to kill time. We were still too early, so, like any self-respecting Scots and Northern Irish – or students for that matter – we hung around until they opened the doors at 8am. As Ian tweeted, “…you can take the boy out of Scotland…”
After that, we headed for the Palace, some five minutes’ walk from Victoria Coach Station. After doing the usual touristy things (taking pictures of the guards; pointing out the flag they had to put up purely to fly at half-mast when Diana died; spotting armed police and saying a bit too loudly “Fuck, look at the size of that!).
Next, we had to move it to Southbank – Ian had convinced the press office at the London Eye into giving us tickets, which we had to collect by 10am. It was now closing on 9.50am as we headed for Westminster which, typically, was full of gawping tourists blocking the pavement.
Somehow we made it in time, and we were ushered into a glass sweatbox with a French family. A French family with children whose main hobbies appeared to be (in this order) shouting, and running. Me and Ian tried to snap as many pictures as we could as the giant wheel neared the top, knowing it was all downhill from there. Except the wheel suddenly stopped and reversed. Double the time to get some shots of London from above on a beautifully sunny summer day – result.
After this we just sat on a bench and enjoyed the unseasonal (for Scots/Northern Irish people) warmth…and screwing about with each other’s cameras. I had my Craig Whyte camera – a Canon EOS 550D, so named because it was paid for using a tax refund. Ian had his new Nikon D3100, which he was still getting to grips with, and Rebekah had my Olympus point and shoot, as well has her phone. What resulted was a series of fairly horrendous photos of all involved trying to do daft poses in front of the Thames, so don’t expect to see them here!
A quick stroll of through Whitehall took us to Trafalgar Square, where some sort of stage was being set up. We couldn’t tell what it was for, but they did have a tame falcon out catching pigeons. Well, I assume it was for catching pigeons, all we saw it do was stand on the roof of a van and conveniently turn in the direction of wherever a camera was being pointed.
Up the road, on Regent Street, was Hamleys. How can I put this? The place was organised chaos, inside were several storeys of bright red walls, and wipe-clean flooring. As we stepped inside, we were greeted by a man with a bubble machine cheering manically, “AAAAY! WELCOME TO HAMLE-EYS!”
The rest was much the same – kids running wild, much screaming, stacks and stacks of toys. Really, what else were you expecting? Oh, Rebekah kissing a six-foot high bear dressed as a member of the Queen’s Guard? Yeah, that too.
Across the road is a shop with a different kind of toys: The Ferrari Store. Complete with a Ferrari F2005 F1 car, one of only three ever made. The shop is, of course, completely overpriced – three figure price tags seems to be the norm – but is worth a visit, if only for a sight of the gleaming red monster in the lobby. At least, definitely if you’re a lifelong Ferrari F1 fan.
Or, you’ve got a massive wallet. And need a bigger one.