At the start of the year, I took my first ever solo trip to London. I’ve had day trips to London by myself in the past but never actually stayed there on my own. I thought I would share the whole experience because it was something totally new to me. In the end, I really enjoyed this experience and I’m glad I did it.
MY FIRST SOLO TRIP TO LONDON
I’ve mentioned in past blog posts that I’ve really been pushing myself to go out and experience new things even if it means I have to do that on my own. I’m quite an anxious person so going out for the day on my own isn’t something I particularly enjoy.
However last year I came to the realisation that I was missing out on activities I did enjoy because I didn’t want to be on my own. I started last year by doing things like going to the cinema and visiting museums. The natural step after that was taking short breaks on my own.
I love seeing musicals. Before I got sick I would be down in London at least every six months seeing shows. But I would always go with someone. Last year I bought myself a ticket to see Bat Out Of Hell, a slightly strange musical featuring songs written by Jim Steinman. I love the Bat Out Of Hell album from Meatloaf and had to see it. I was going to be staying in Bristol at the time so taking a trip to London was no big deal. Unfortunately, on that specific day, I ended up sick and couldn’t go.
Then it was announced Bat Out of Hell would be closing at the start of 2019. Because of university, I wouldn’t be able to see it till at least after Christmas. So I decided to go to the closing night. Incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see the closing night performance of a musical do it. If you think a musical is good the closing performance will be even better.
TRAVELLING TO LONDON
I was lucky that Bat Out of Hell was closing the first week of 2019. I’ve been to London at this time in the past and always thought it was a good time to visit. The crowds aren’t so bad compared to the summer and the weather is usually pretty mild. Another advantage is that it’s much cheaper to visit in Winter. My train tickets were very cheap and I got a great deal on my hotel which was only £150 for 3 nights.
Considering my hotel was right in the centre of London, just down the street from Westminster Abbey I thought this was a great price However I was staying at a Hub by Premier Inn. This is like the ultra-budget Premier Inn. imagine those Japanese capsule hotels and you’re getting close to what my room was like. To be fair there was enough room for a bed and a bathroom but it didn’t actually have anyone windows.
I still thought it was a good price for what I got. Seeing as how it was just me in the room I wasn’t too bothered about the size. I really loved the location, just down from St. James’ Park tube station. But this was the closest Tube station to Westminster. As it turns out people tend to congregate there if they are protesting at Parliament. The day I left I was lucky to just miss a huge group of protesters outside the underground station.
LONDON GRAPHICS CENTRE
After getting checked into my hotel I headed up to Covent Garden. This is one of my favourite parts of London and even though it was past six in the evening it was still very busy. One place I always visit when I’m in London is London Graphics Centre.
This is just a few streets away from Covent Garden and in my opinion, is one of the best art shops in London. I restrained myself this trip and didn’t buy any notebooks even though I was definitely tempted. I was also able to pick up a specific type of paper which was very useful for a client project I had been working on at the time.
THE HOUSE OF MINALIMA
After leaving London Graphics I headed towards Shaftesbury Avenue. I’m always surprised by how close everything is in London. when you travel on the underground you don’t really get a true sense of scale. Since I was in the area I decided to pop into the house of MinaLima. This can be found just behind the Palace Theatre where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently showing.
It’s been a few years since I was last in The House of MinaLima and I was surprised by how much it had changed. I got there at about 7 in the evening which seemed like a very good time to visit. MinaLima is part shop and part museum, displaying graphic design work used in the Harry Potter films created by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.
The shop is much bigger than the last time I visited. They have a much larger selection of Harry Potter and now Fantastic Beasts memorabilia. As well as other products designed by MinaLima, such as the Illustrated Classics from Harper Designs.
Since I visited right at the start of 2019 the shop was still done up for Christmas. A new fantastic beasts movie had recently been released too so most of the museum featured artwork from the film. I won’t say anything about Fantastic Beasts because I’m not a huge fan of this new series. But I really love the graphic design work that went into the film.
BUYING WICKED TICKETS
I already had tickets for Bat Out Of Hell booked. But since I was in the area I thought I would try to get a last minute ticket for Hamilton as well. Each week Hamilton runs a lottery for 40 tickets, these are extra cheap tickets sold the day before the live performance. You enter the lottery through the Hamilton app but unfortunately, I didn’t win a ticket for the Saturday evening performance.
However, realised I could try and get a ticket for a Wicked instead because since its just across the road from Hamilton and one tube stop along from my hotel. So on Saturday morning, I got up early had my mediocre (but expensive) Premier Inn breakfast and headed to the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
My plan was to buy a day ticket for Wicked. How this works is you queue up just before 10 am. The ticket office opens at 10. There are a limited number of day tickets available. These are super cheap at £30 and you’re seated in the first two rows of the stalls. I arrived just before 10 and though there wasn’t a huge line I was definitely surprised by how many people were already queued for tickets. Especially as the musical has been open for over 10 years.
But despite the long line, I was still able to get a ticket for the evening performance. I usually have quite good luck going to musicals on my own. I’ve had my seats upgraded quite a few times. But I think being a solo traveller worked against me this time. I was seated right at the end of the front row. Though the seat was still good, I would have preferred to be more central to the stage.
A WICKED TIP FOR STUDENTS
I just want to share something I learned while waiting in the queue for Wicked tickets. If you are a student you can get the best available seats for £30 on the day if you show your student card. This is super handy if the day seats have sold out. International students can also use this offer, you just need some form of photo ID proving you’re a student. The only downside it isn’t available for Saturday evening performances.
WATERSTONES AT PICCADILLY CIRCUS
From the Victoria Theatre, I headed towards Piccadilly Circus and the Waterstones just down from it. This is another place I visit almost every time I’m in London and surprisingly I don’t just go through the books. Though they do have a very good science fiction section. There is a small cafe in the basement of this Waterstones which always seems to be very quiet considering its location in Central London.
On this particular day, I arrived at almost lunchtime and there was only one other person in the cafe. I find it’s a great place to get a seat and relax especially if I’m starting to get tired. After leaving Waterstones I continue on towards Bat Out of Hell which was playing in the Dominion Theatre at the far end of Oxford Street.
BAT OUT OF HELL
I had bought tickets for the matinee performance on the final day of its run. Traditionally with theatre, the last matinee is when the cast has a joke around and enjoy themselves. I think this is what made the show so fun. But because I had never seen Bat Out Of Hell before I didn’t know what was actually part of the show and what was an addition.
Bat Out of Hell is loosely based on Peter Pan. The plot could have been better but the staging and music made up for any faults. I love Meatloaf’s music and this made the show very enjoyable. Though there are better shows to be seen in London I’m still sad I won’t be able to see Bat Out Of Hell again.
After Bat, I headed back to my hotel for a quick bite to eat and a nap before heading out again for Wicked. It’s been a long time since I last saw Wicked and I think I forgot just how much I enjoy it. I love the story and how it fits in with the Wizard of Oz. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m older but I really appreciated the small callbacks to Wizard of Oz much more. Especially towards the end during Elphaba’s melting scene. Once the curtain is pulled across the stage it really looks like it did in the film.
THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
I started out on Sunday morning by getting the tube up to Kensington go visit the Natural History Museum. It’s been a long time since I was last at the Natural History Museum. Dippy was still in the main hall for one thing. The whale skeleton is very impressive but I still think I preferred Dippy.
The museum was much busier than I expected for a Sunday morning. Maybe it would have been better to go during the week or maybe I just can’t cope with screaming children. Either way, I didn’t spend long in the Natural History Museum. After checking out the collection of rare minerals and rocks. I went into the dinosaur exhibit but considering the massive queue I had to wait in for the exit this might have been a mistake.
VIDEO GAMES AT THE V&A
After deciding the Natural History Museum was far too busy I walked across the road to the V&A. I was getting quite tired by this point so I only went to the video game exhibition which was currently on. This was a paid exhibition but I think it was still worth the price.
The exhibit showed some behind-the-scenes artwork for a few recently released video games. It was quite funny I heard one woman exclaim that she didn’t realise how much work went into making video games. I guess she just assumed that they appear fully formed rather than people spending a lot of time working on them. The exhibit was quite a bit bigger than I expected. It even had a section on YouTube gamers and people who play games as a sport.
MORE LIKE THIS: Visiting Cosmonauts At The London Science Museum
The exhibition ended with a number of arcade-style video games. One in particular which has been in the news a lot recently is based on a YouTube video of a cat playing with a doorstop. This Dungeon crawler type game is made out of a single line of pixels and your controller is a doorstop which you flick to fight enemies. I wished I hadn’t been on my own for this part of my trip. It would have been nice to have someone to play the video games with.
I was getting really tired by this point so I headed back to my hotel for a lie-down. One of the things I really appreciated about this hotel it was how central it was to the places I wanted to visit. I could go out for a few hours then head back to the hotel for rest before heading out again. It really made a difference over the weekend.
On Monday I checked out of my hotel to head home. But first I was very fortunate that my dad was heading through London to his work. This meant I was able to meet him for breakfast before getting the train home.
I think there are many parts of my trip which I’ve forgotten to mention. I spent a good while wandering around Buckingham Palace. As a tourist myself I really can’t laugh other tourists but I do enjoy people watching in that area.
One of the things I didn’t get to do what I was in London was to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I really wanted to visit while it was done up for Christmas but I wasn’t able to get a time which worked with other things I had planned. It just means that I need to take another trip to London. Especially with the recent announcement of the new Gringotts area that has been opened.
Honestly, I’m really happy that I took a solo trip to London. Not too long ago I would have been full of anxiety just going into a coffee shop. The fact I was able to spend a weekend in London by myself and enjoy it is a huge deal to me. I realised to some solo travel is no big deal, but it’s still something I have to work on. If anything this weekend has made me want to go travelling even more.