Chloe is still having an amazing time in London. The trip has been so amazing, in fact, that when her iPod Touch went permanently missing last evening (we think it might have been kidnapped), she managed to stay astonishingly calm despite the huge disappointment of losing her electronic link to the outside world. I attribute her level-headedness to the fact that we have seen so many wonderful things over the last three days that the loss of her gadget has not been as traumatic as it would have otherwise been. What are those wonderful things, you ask? Read on.
(1) Chloe thought we were simply going to visit an exhibition of props from the "Harry Potter" movies. But when we arrived at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London-The Making of Harry Potter, it slowly dawned on her that this was much more than just a display of props. It was the actual sets. The actual vehicles (like the Night Bus, below), the animatronic puppets and faces (including the robotic mask worn by the actor who played Hagrid), the actual living owls, including Hedwig. And best of all, the complete scale model of Hogwarts. Needless to say, after reading the series several times and watching the movies just as many times, if not more, Chloe was in heaven.
|The Night Bus at Warner Bros. Studio London|
(2) After stuffing her brain with all sorts of Harry Potter movie trivia, it was time to get serious. I convinced her that the National Portrait Gallery would be right up her alley, as she's recently shown an interest in portraiture. She was skeptical at first, but quickly realized that the museum was one of a kind. We both agreed that the portraits of the 15th-16th century Tudor period were our favorites. But the great thing about traveling with a teenager who has one leg in adulthood and the other still in toddlerhood is that she has no hesitation posing for photos like the one below.
|Chloe being silly at the National Portrait Gallery|
(3) Some of the most enjoyable sightseeing we've experienced so far has taken place on walking tours with London Walks. We have had the great fortune to go on three visits since Sunday, led by three terrific guides (all female and spectacular, mind you): Delianne, Kim and Chris. "Jack the Ripper Haunts" was a disturbingly graphic (i.e., not for the faint of heart) and fascinating stroll around London's East End. The crimes came back to life as we retraced the steps of his first five official victims and learned how difficult life was for destitute women who lived during the Victorian era. Our second walk, "Darkest Victorian London," also took us back in time to the 19th century. Our guide told a vivid tale of the stark contrast between rich and poor during that era. Among other stories, she introduced us to "mudlarks," the poorest of the poor children who tried to find anything of value in the mud along the Thames' banks to bring back to their starving and sickly families.
|The Mudlark Pub Under the London Bridge|
She also introduced us to Octavia Hill, a social reformer who built public housing for the poor and community centers where children could do schoolwork and stay out of the streets, and women could learn new skill. Octavia also played a huge role in the creation of the British pubic library system.
|One of Octavia Hill's Housing Projects|
Our third walking tour was actually a day trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge in the Wiltshire countryside. Salisbury is home to an exquisite Gothic cathedral built in the 13th century (think "Pillars of the Earth"). The cathedral is also the proud home of one of the four original versions of the Magna Carta.
|The Salisbury Cathedral Spire|
(4) Thanks to Chloe's pre-trip research, we visited a terrific little museum yesterday called the Herb Garret and Old Operating Theatre. Located in the attic of a church, the museum consists of displays of surgical tools, an old apothecary with exhibits of herbs used to treat disease and injuries and, most surprising of all, an operating room dating from 1822 that was used to treat female patients before anesthesia and the concept of sterilization existed.
|Herb Garret and Old Operating Theatre|
(5) A trip to London would not be complete without visits to such stalwarts as St. Paul's Cathedral, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. One of our London Walks guides was kind enough to let us in on the secret that is "One New Change," a shopping mall in The City that has marvelous views of St. Paul's and the surrounding skyline from its freely accessed rooftop terrace.
|St. Paul's Cathedral from One New Change|
|Oh no, Big Ben's falling|
|At the 25,596 performance of The Mousetrap|
|Chloe enjoying her first fish 'n chips dish|