Samuel Johnson famously declared that “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” What was true in the 18th century remains just as accurate today. England’s capital city is just over an hour away from home by train, and it’s a place I visit regularly for work and pleasure.
My first visit to London was as a teenage tourist 20 years ago. From this I caught a lifelong bug for international travel, but, like most visitors, had to contend with a lightening tour of the top sites. It is true you can cram the postcard images of London into a few days of sightseeing: Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square. Perhaps even take in a West End show or two. But to actually immerse yourself in some of the sights—such as the world-leading trifecta of the British Museum, the National History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum—it takes time.
This is why I count myself fortunate to have this opportunity to dip in and out of London’s offerings. I only visited the inside of the Tower of London for the first time last year, and many other sights, like St. Paul’s Cathedral or catching a play at the Globe, are still on the list of things to do. Added to this mix are familiar sights with a different angle, such as a new or revamped exhibition.
Which is how I found myself at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum for the fifth or sixth time. This is one of my husband’s favourite places to go for a spot of creative photography, and the new Star Wars exhibit had drawn us like moths to a flame (perhaps a bad cliché to use around wax works, but you get the point). It’s also fun to see what new public figures have been chosen to get the Tussaud’s treatment (hello, Benedict Cumberbatch!). Each statue costs approximately £150,000 to produce, so it’s no wonder they try to find stars with staying power: I swear most of the celebrities were there during my first visit 20 years ago.
It’s also a reminder that the cult of celebrity is not new. Indeed, people have been paying for over 150 years to get close to the rich, famous, and powerful at Madame Tussaud’s. What I find fascinating is that in the world of the internet and instant news, where nothing about a celebrity is left to the imagination, this desire for physical proximity to the famous remains. Perhaps technology even fans the flames: selfies on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like provide a ready audience. I can’t help but marvel how this relatively old art form of wax doppelgängers has found a new life in the 21st century.
Following Madame Tussaud’s, we paid a visit to the theatre to see The Play That Goes Wrong. That’s its actual title and it goes very wrong indeed, much to the delight of the audience. This was our second time seeing it and it remained just as amusing as before. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so I’ll just say that if you have the chance to see it, go now. The rest of this blog entry will wait and is nowhere near as side-splittingly funny (or funny at all to be honest).
The following day it was off to Legoland. We had enjoyed visiting the one in Florida previously, and had long wanted to see what miniature scenes were set up at this park near Windsor. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed off … only to discover upon getting to the gate that the 2-for-1 voucher had been left in our room. The hefty price tag meant we decided to turn around and tackle Legoland on another day.
Legoland Florida: We weren’t expecting the same thing at Legoland Windsor. We were, however, expecting to go inside.
While in the end it may be false economy (we will, after all, have to pay to get ourselves back to Windsor), it certainly felt like the right decision as it started raining not long after we returned. Even Windsor’s eponymous castle looked dull, so the day of Legoland photography would not have happened as we had envisioned anyway. I recognise that bad weather is the stereotype for England but, after a relaxing evening, the view of Windsor the following morning showed why this area is a tourist magnet.
Attempting to photograph Windsor Castle in black and white on a rainy day didn’t help; instead of dramatic, it just looked gloomy. The next day, however…
So London continues to work its magic, Windsor retains its royal charm, and Legoland, well, it will wait for another day.