I love movies and when I visit new places, I can’t help but compare them with what I’ve seen in films. When my family and I traveled to London in 2011, it was no exception.
London is beautiful like an heirloom. From the striking 18th century buildings in Chelsea to the traditional squares and gardens throughout the city, London has a distinguished elegance that comes with age. It left me in awe, not giddy.
“Young Victoria’s” London
“The Young Victoria” (Emily Blunt in the title role) showed some iconic landmarks, such as Kensington Palace, where Victoria lived as a princess, and Hyde Park, where a man tried to assassinate her. The scenes that were supposedly in Kensington Palace were actually shot elsewhere, but Hyde Park was the real deal.
When we visited Kensington Palace, many rooms were closed off for renovation, so I remember it more for its beautiful sunken garden and park than its interior. Speaking of Queen Victoria, we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum, where we saw the photos, clothes, and furniture of the real queen.
In Hyde Park, tourists occupied the “Speakers’ Corner,” which has historically provided a venue for people who wanted to air their opinions. For us, Hyde Park was a great place for strolling and for catching a “Hop On, Hop Off” double-decker bus.
Both “King’s Speech” and “The Young Victoria” showed scenes that were supposed to be in Buckingham Palace, though they were shot in other buildings. The real Buckingham Palace looked austere, almost graceless. If you go there expecting to see a palace à la Disney World, you’ll be downright disappointed.
In “Skyfall,” M (Judi Dench) is on the way to her office in MI6 when the villain, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), hacks into the agency’s computer network, culminating in an explosion in the building. We saw MI6 from the window of a bus—Route 360 to Elephant & Castle—en route to the Imperial War Museum. MI6 is a drab building that may harbor top secrets that warrant Agent 007’s protection, but its location is no secret and you can’t possibly miss it.
In the same movie, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the villain in the Temple Tube station. We took the Tube several times. It was as packed as in “Skyfall” and it was a pleasure to hear the famous “mind the gap” recording in the background, just like in the movie.
Big Ben, River Thames
In “V for Vendetta,” Evey (Natalie Portman) watches Big Ben blow up spectacularly. In “Last Chance Harvey,” Harvey (Dustin Hoffman) and Kate (Emma Thompson) stroll along the Thames.
London is an excellent city for walkers. I lost 3 pounds walking around the city— the first time I ever lost weight while on vacation! We walked from Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament’s Big Ben clock tower to the Thames. We hopped on a river boat, which took us to the Tower of London. We visited in late May and the Thames was murky, but when I looked down at the water, I was surprised to see that it was teeming with fish. We walked on the lovely promenade along the south bank of the Thames, all the way to HMS Belfast.
In the movies, London is a dream. And visiting the city was a dream come true!
All photos by Vincent Fazzi.