For close to two years I have been an active member of a Facebook group called Girls about the Globe for women who travel solo. It was established by Lisa from the website Girl about the Globe. So when Lisa suggested a group meetup in London I was super excited!
London is only a 50 minute flight from Amsterdam, and there are regularly super cheap deals. It’s a great place for a weekend city break, so that’s exactly what I did.
My primary purpose for the visit was of course, meeting some of the amazing women I have spent the last months talking to online. I also spent time catching up with a good friend from university back home, and another friend who I had met on my trip along the Garden Route in South Africa. Amongst all my catching up, I did squish in some sightseeing, but only a little.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
Straight off the bat it’s worth mentioning I’m a Harry Potter fan. Not a complete lose-my-shit-omg fan, but enough to be excited at the prospect of going to the Harry Potter studio. I read all the books in Dutch when I was living in The Netherlands as an 18 year old (GREAT way to learn a language by the way!) and then bought DVDs of all the movies once I was back in Australia.
The Studio Tour was fantastic! The first part of the tour is guided, but beyond that is self-guided. After an introduction to the movies and the studio, we were led into the magical great hall by our guide. Our first glimpse of the genuine sets used in the movies.
Beyond the great hall were various sets, costumes and props. I spent three hours wandering around, soaking up the magical atmosphere and snapping pics. The amount of detail that went into the design and creation of each and every item was simply amazing.
The tour is actually split over two studios: J and K (JK…JK Rowling). Before moving from one studio to the other there is a small cafe, where you may treat yourself to some authentic Butterbeer! It was obscenely priced and tasted horrid, nonetheless I felt I my visit would not have been complete without it.
The Harry Potter Studio is quite a way out of town, allow an hour transit time and you also need to be there 45 minutes before your tour. You catch the train to Watford Junction (around £16 return) and the shuttle bus from there to the studio (£2.50 return). Tickets need to be purchased in advance (£39 for the basic ticket), and you need to provide evidence of this in order to catch the shuttle bus to the studio. Alternately you can book a tour leaving from London, Generator Hostel offer a tour I believe, and this takes the transport hassle out of the equation.
Exploring the Thames by foot
I am a person that really explore by foot, so I actually spent a fabulous evening just wandering down the river Thames to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Then I crossed the river and walked down the other side all the way to Tower Bridge, and crossing over Tower Bridge back to the North side of the river. The city is really beautiful at night.
Being by the river I found it particularly spectacular to see the colours buildings and architectural structures reflected in the glassy surface of the river. If I hadn’t been so tired, then I would have stopped at one of the many riverside pubs to enjoy a wine.
Street Art Walking tour
Free Tours by Foot are a company that organise free walking tours all over the world. Surprisingly, I don’t think I have done one of their tours before so it was about time I did. They offer a fantastic 2-2.5hour Street Art Walking tour of East London. My guide was Greg, a local London street artist. He was incredibly knowledgeable about street art as an art form, it’s history, various styles, the artists, and of course the general rules and code of ethics amongst artists.
Despite the bitter, bitter cold and fear of losing my toes, the tour was brilliant and I throughly enjoyed it. I saw loads of different types of street art, some which I liked, some which I didn’t.
On asking for “must see places” in London loads of people mentioned to me that I should go to The Shard. The Shard is a skyscraper that almost literally looks like a shard of glass sticking into the air. It is one of the more recent architectural icons of London and provides a spectacular view of the city.
Tickets for the viewing gallery of The Shard are certainly what I would consider a bit ‘up there’. Bookings in advance are £21, but an ‘on-the-day’ visit is £31. However, the view from the Aqua Shard bar is amazing…and free!
I headed up to the bar, slowly sipped an overpriced glass of delicious wine and soaked up some spectacular views of London across the range of daylight through to night time. It really was beautiful!
Girls about the Globe
Girls about the Globe is a Facebook group/community for women who travel solo. The group was established by Lisa and is supported by Natalie, and of course all the members of the community. We all share our thoughts, concerns and travel tips; as well as request recommendations and arrange to meetup with others if we are travelling to the same destination.
It is a friendly group of women who are incredibly encouraging and supportive of each other.
London has LOADS of fantastic accommodation options, and with the comprehensive subway system the majority are well located. I chose to stay at Generator Hostel due to the fact that some of the other girls would also be staying here. Generator was a pretty funky hostel. The breakfast was ok but not amazing and it wasn’t the most cosy atmosphere. Despite that it had a positive vibe, it was clean, upbeat and lively.