On the 9th November, myself and 3 others headed to London for a much needed and long-awaited weekend away. By long-awaited, I really mean it as we started planning and booking it at the start of August 2016! That may seem like a long time, but the reason we went was for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Play which is booking over a year in advance and selling out when it does.
We were very lucky with the travel from Lancaster to London as the dates were covered by a Virgin Train sale a few months back, so we got return tickets each for £22 (with 16 to 25 railcards) which is an absolute bargain, that’s cheaper than it costs for a day return with railcard to my parent’s home in Essex. The journey was direct and took about 2 and a half hours. As there was 4 of us, we were able to book the seats for a table, so we spread out on there and played cards which made the journey go a lot quicker.
On arrival, we quickly got ourselves Oyster cards for the weekend and had a pit stop in Argos on Tottenham Court Road, so I could start the spending with a new pair of headphones (my Beats Solos had started to struggle so I got myself some Solo2s!) and then it was straight round to Liverpool Street and a little walk to get to Enigma Quests.
For those who don’t know, Enigma Quests is an escape room in London which became very well known (and caught our attention) at the start of the year because it has a Harry Potter room. Knowing we were heading to London for the play, we of course had to do this to! We booked back in July when our dates first became available and slots were filling up fast. If you’re interested, definitely plan with plenty of notice!
The entrance to Enigma Quests seemed a little strange, you had to click a buzzer and let them know you are there for a pre-booked quest, they then remotely unlock the gate to let you into an alley which you walk most of the way down and go through a door into the building which opens into the reception. This feels a lot more professional than the entrance, with a manned desk, lockers to keep your stuff safe while you’re busy trying to pass your Hogwarts exams and lots of eclectic seating while you wait for your quest to begin. When they are ready for you, you get a key card which gives you access to the part of the building with the escape rooms… the basement. To get to the room you have to walk down 2 flights of stairs, the first of which is plain with no branding and very much makes you question where you’re going, but the second is painted yellow with arrows directing you so it feels a lot more professional. An employee meets you at the bottom and explains the rules of the room and we were let loose!
Enigma Quests are a little different to other escape rooms (as far as I’m aware anyway, this was my first!) Yes, it lasts the usual hour, but instead of finding solving puzzles and clues to escape the room, you are completing tasks to pass your Hogwarts OWLs. You aren’t locked in and there aren’t any live actors with you. They also allow you to signal for clues as many times as you want to.
The overall experience was very engaging and fun for all of us, even those less Harry Potter crazy (Dom, I’m looking at you!) and it didn’t require excessive Potter knowledge so if you haven’t re-read the books a million times, you still won’t struggle. In the end we needed 2 clues and finished 7 minutes before the end of the hour, meaning we got Outstanding in our OWLs! I don’t want to say anymore about it because I don’t want to spoil it for any future visitors, but I will say that I completely recommend it and think you should give it a go if you’re heading to London!
Following this, two of us went to the British Library for the “A History of Magic” Exhibition, however we were delayed a lot because we still had our suitcases and the queue for the cloakroom was long. Once we were in, we also had to rush through because the others in our group, who had gone to check into the Airbnb were having issues, so we had to go and meet up with them. What we did see of the exhibition though was very interesting and the drawings were brilliant. I’m planning on getting the book which was created to accompany the exhibition, so I can read more about what we saw.
I don’t want to go into detail about the issues we had with our Airbnb booking during the trip as it has now been resolved, however, it did put a down-turn on the trip and made some aspects a lot less enjoyable and wasted a lot of time. After the experience, I probably won’t use Airbnb again.
On the Thursday evening we had a quick dinner in Pizza Express (surprisingly the one by the Leicester Square tube station were able to seat us straight away) and then saw the first instalment of the Harry Potter Play. If you want to read my first impressions of it (spoiler free, as this review will be) then read my review of the first time I saw it. Seeing the play for a second time, with different actors, you get to see it from a different perspective. Like with most things, it wasn’t as magical as the first time, however I still loved it. It was interesting to see how the new actors to take on the roles portrayed the characters compared to the previous cast. There were certain actors who really took on the role in a way which made them really stand out and become an integral part of the play where previously they were more of a secondary character. The first time we went, we were sat in the front row of the grand circle, so we were fairly high up but not quite in the rafters. We were also quite far off to the left side, slightly around a corner, meaning our view of the left side of the stage was a little obscured but not too drastically. This time however, we were towards the back of the stalls and so the dress circle over hung in front of us, obscuring our view of the top of the stage a little, which wasn’t a massive issue, but it did mean we missed a couple of things. Once again, we were a little off to the left but not as much, so our view was a little better. What I have certainly noticed, is that the play is tailored towards the centre of the dress circle, and the view there seems to be the best.
We saw the second half of the play on the Friday evening after a quick McDonald’s dinner. During the day, we didn’t stop with the Harry Potter theme and spent about 5 hours at the Warner Bros Studio Tour. We certainly made the most of it, it had been 4 and a half years since I last went, and I wanted to take in everything new that I didn’t get to see last time (sadly the Butterbeer hasn’t got any better!) The main additions since I was last there were the forbidden forest, the Hogwarts Express and privet drive, however there just seemed to be more things to look at in general. Especially as we were there during the Dark Arts Halloween special.
The highlight for me was definitely the Hogwarts Express. It looked magnificent when you walked out onto platform 9 and 3 quarters and I loved that inside were the train carriages for each year. The forbidden forest was incredible to look at when you were stood by the entrance, but once inside there was less of it than I expected, especially if you take the no spiders route. It would have been nice if they had made it a little bigger and included a few more of the creatures, like the Centaurs or even Grawp.
On the Saturday we finally finished with the Harry Potter theme and went to the London Dungeons. Growing up in Essex, this was my closest Dungeons before moving to university, so I had been a couple of times before, although not for a few years. I had expected that not much would have changed, but I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of new additions. Again, I don’t want to say much more as I don’t want to give away any spoilers… but I still hate the finale…
Following the dungeons, we went in search of a pub with the rugby showing t leave the boys in while we headed off to the shops. We made our way down part of Oxford Street and I didn’t spend toooo much before heading to one of the ticket stands near Leicester Square to see if we could pick up anything cheap for the evening. We managed to get 4 tickets sat together for Thriller Live which was £28 each, so not too bad for last minute on a Saturday, especially as a lot of shows were over £100 each. By this point the rugby had finished so we all met up at The House of MinaLima, not Dom’s type of thing, but I loved it, although didn’t get much time there as we needed to go for dinner, Bella Italia this time, and decided to go for a wander around Covent Gardens before the show.
None of us really knew what to expect with Thriller Live, we hadn’t read anything about it beforehand, but we all really enjoyed it. The music was great and very well performed and it was nice not to need to follow too much of a story after seeing the Harry Potter Plays over the two days before. The only issue we did have, was that when we got there 10 minutes before the start, there was still a long, slow-moving queue which wrapped around the side of the building. We showed up later so we wouldn’t need to queue due to knee issues with one of our group, but if anything, arriving later made this worse. As m friend was in so much pain that he was leaning on a bin in the queue, we spoke to one of the organisers about letting him in straight away so he could go sit down and they were very accommodating and actually let our whole group in which was very good of them. It turns out that the delay was because they chose to implement new security measures but didn’t make ticket holders aware of this. The worst part of this being that they couldn’t hold the show for more than a few minutes so some people did miss the start.
On the Sunday, we dropped our bags off in Left Luggage at Euston station (cost £12.50 per bag for the day! Ouch!) and then went to Covent Gardens to have another wander, watching the street performers and to have breakfast. From there we went to Leicester Square and had a look in the new Lego store (money was spent because we’re still kids at heart) and the M&M store. After this was another shopping trip down Oxford Road where I definitely spent too much money, although none on makeup surprisingly, and we finished off our weekend with a meal in another Sport’s bar watching the end of the F1 before heading back to Euston for a very sleepy train home.
I had an absolutely brilliant weekend, even if I did spend way too much, and I had a great time doing almost everything Harry Potter that we could. I would love to know what you like to do if you go for a trip to London, tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading,