14 min read

Elisa’s Birthday Day Out

A day out in London visiting some interesting places

Each Birthday the girls get to choose what they want to do as something special. Things chosen over the years have been West End shows, trips out shopping, the London Eye etc. This year Elisa asked if she could have a day out in London but doing something different. That was it. No other hints on what she might want to do or see so I got my thinking hat on to try and come up with a plan.

After searching t’internets for a while, looking for some slightly different things to do and see, I came up with the following as a game plan for the day:

  1. The “Treatment Rooms” Mosaic House1
  2. Kensal Green Cemetery2
  3. God’s Own Junkyard3
  4. Chin Chin Ice Cream Shop, Soho4
  5. The Seven Noses of Soho5
  6. Leadenhall Market to see the “Leaky Cauldron”6

Definitely not our “normal” kind of day out in London, and using the London Underground considerably more than we normally would as well. I ran it past Elisa and she was very excited with it all. Great!

Now, why are we going out in March when Elisa’s Birthday was back in August last year? Long story short: summer holidays, busy weekends, bad weather etc, especially the bad weather! It took a while for it to happen but there was never any doubt that it wouldn’t.

We got up early to get into Reading and onto a train into London so that we could make the most of the day out without losing too much time just getting into town. There was going to be a little more travelling around this time considering what we were doing so the more time we had the more likely we’d get everything ticked off the list.

The “Treatment Rooms”

First up was The ‘Treatment Rooms’ Mosaic House. As seems to be the norm these days, there were closures on the District Line tube, which were originally going to take along to Chiswick Park. A quick check of the tube map and a new route down to the Picadilly line and then along to Acton Town was devised. This meant a slightly longer walk too but it was a nice morning and the two of us don’t mind a walk.

Walking there we passed a garage with some pretty amazing, and very expensive cars in it. There were Ferraris and Lamborghinis outside with more of them inside! Lovely cars!

We ended up coming down Cunnington Street, around the back of the house (which I’d not seen in any photos) and we were both amazed when we saw that that too was completely covered with mosaics, as was the back wall of the garden! The mosaics were amazing – as you can see from the photos below – and we weren’t the only ones there admiring the house. There was another couple taking photos of the back of the house, and when we went round the front there was another couple there too. And there was me thinking we’d be there on our own looking at a house in a normal street in London?!

If the house wasn’t mad enough, out the front of it there were two vehicles, again completely covered in mosaics! There was an old flatbed truck of sorts, and an old black cab. I’d hate to guess how many hours had gone into decorating the house, garden, and the vehicles!

Kensal Green Cemetery

Having had a good look at all of the artwork we made our way back to the tube station and started the journey up to Kensel Green tube station and Kensal Green Cemetery. Having come down from Paddington we needed to head all way back up to it and past it on the Bakerloo Line to get to Kensel Green.

It was a bit on the warm side on the tubes, but stood by the window at the front of the carriage meant there was a nice breeze when the train was moving, as you can see in the video below. Hilarious!

Once we’d arrived at Kensel Green we headed down Harrow Road towards Ladbroke Grove, following the – rather dilapidated in places – wall of the cemetery. On the corner with Ladbroke Grove we found an entrance to the cemetery and started our walk back towards the tube station, taking in as much as we could as it’s huge; 72 acres and over 65,000 graves!

Taking a slow walk we were amazed how many different styles of graves, headstones and – what can only be called – statues there were. There was some serious workmanship on show that’s for sure.

One thing that really surprised us was how many of the graves were in such a bad, crumbling state of disarray. We guessed it was probably because the people buried there no longer had any family to look after their graves, but who knows? It really was interesting to look at the graves and read the limited information about the people.

I think we spent a good hour or so walking round, clearly not taking in anything like all of the cemetery, but we were both ready to move on to the next stop for the day, one that I was really excited to see since I found it online. So, we went back to the tube station and made our way all the way over to Walthamstow Central. We were definitely covering a lot of the town this time instead of just spending our time in the usual central part of London!

God’s Own Junkyard

It was a short mile’s stroll to the industrial estate unit where God’s Own Junkyard is housed, and what an amazing place it is! The array of neon signs crammed into the little unit was simply astonishing! It was a kaleidoscope of colour everywhere you looked.

It wasn’t just neon signs either as there were other film memorabilia scattered around, including a tea pot used in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland!

We both agreed that it was well worth the long tube ride as we’d never seen anything like it before.

I got us both a drink from their cafe and while I was waiting to pay Elisa took a couple of pictures using my camera. A gentleman kindly pointed out that we shouldn’t be taking photos using a DSLR camera, only mobile phones, which was clearly a sign we’d missed at the entrance? Fortunately I’d already taken enough pictures but to be honest, in this day and age and the quality of phone cameras as they are, I don’t really see what the difference is?!

Drink drunk we headed out the door and back to the tune station to make our way down to Charing Cross station to start our little walking tour around Soho. First things first though: food!

We’d already done quite a bit of walking since being in town and we were both feeling a little bit on the hungry side so we headed up to Leicester Square and Wagamama’s; a favourite of the girls whenever we’re out. I’ll admit that it’s one of my favourites too so I’ll never turn down a reason to visit. The food is delicious!

The Seven Noses of Soho

Stomachs full we made our way down to Trafalgar Square to look for the first of the Seven Noses of Soho. This one was supposed to be on Admiralty Arch so we headed over Trafalgar Square and over to Admiralty Arch only to find a lot of it covered with boards and scaffolding – doh! Was this going to be a bad start to the challenge of finding the noses?

We stood there, both of us staring at the columns until we spotted it. Hurrah! One down, six more to go with the next stop being Great Windmill Street.

Walking back across Trafalgar Square I threw in a little added bonus, showing Elisa Britain’s smallest police station. You can find it at the south-east corner of Trafalgar Square. Supposedly this tiny box could accommodate up to two prisoners at a time, although its main purpose was to hold a single police officer. It was built in 1926 so that the Metropolitan police could keep an eye on the more troublesome demonstrators. Legend has it that the ornamental light on the top of the box is originally from Nelson’s HMS Victory.

Sadly the box is no longer used by the police and is instead used as a broom cupboard for Westminster Council cleaners! Shame.

We got to Great Windmill Street – a little side street between Coventry Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, a street I’d walked down more times than I care to remember over the years, never having spotted a nose on any of the walls – and we started to make our way up looking for the elusive nose. It didn’t take us too long to find this one as it’s not a long street so another one ticked off.

From there we made our way up to Meard Street, finding this nose pretty easily as it was bigger than the others and, more importantly, not the same colour as the wall it was fixed to.

Having found three of the seven noses, we decided to have a pit stop at the Chin Chin Ice Cream Shop, just round the corner on Greek Street. It was a small place with only a few seats. It’s not a place you book a table like Creams for example, but we were lucky to find an empty couple of seats so we could take the weight off while we ate our ice creams.

We both went for the chocolate ice cream in a red wafer and I think it’s safe to say that we both thought that it was the nicest ice cream we’d had in a very very long time! It was so smooth and creamy and delicious! Highly recommended!

Rested and full of sugar, we popped back round to Dean Street. This was a challenging street as there were supposed to be two noses on this street, but having walked up and down the length of the street a number of times we only managed to find one of the noses. We could have spent far too long looking but in the end that wouldn’t have been a fun thing to do, and that’s what this was supposed to be, fun!

From there we went back to Bateman Street, where we’d already walked along to get to Chin Chin and back again to get to Dean Street.

Hilariously – or so we thought at the time – we found the next nose right next to some graffiti I’d photographed on our way to Chin Chin. Neither of us spotted it at the time – clearly focusing on the graffiti – but there it was. Hilarious!

The final destination on our hunt for the Seven Noses of Soho was Endell Street. This was a little bit further to walk than the previous three noses but it didn’t take us long to get there before starting the hunt walking up and down looking for the little nose. We found it though, chalking up six out of the seven noses, which we were more than happy with.

Leadenhall Market

The last thing to do for the day was to visit Leadenhall Market to look for the Leaky Cauldron.

We got the tube round to Monument and walked up to Leadenhall Market, taking in the Monument to the Great Fire of London and 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known as “the Walkie Talkie” because of its distinctive shape.

I’d only ever run through the market on the London Bupa 10K runs over the years and I was really looking forward to seeing it as the sun went down, all lit up.

We timed it pretty much perfectly to get there as darkness came down and I have to say, it really did look quite special with its yellow lights, ornate doorways, and wooden roof.

It’s not the biggest of places but we had a good look round before searching out the door. It didn’t take us long to find it as there were a group of foreign tourists grouped around it, taking turns to have their photos taken. Once they were all done I took Elisa’s photo stood in the doorway and we were done.

Elisa was really happy to have found the door, and if you compare the pictures below you can see the likeness of how the door and adjacent wall is normally and how it looked in the film.

Hagrid and Harry outside the Leaky Cauldron

Elisa outside the door used for the Leaky Cauldron

The Leaky Cauldron found it was time to head home after an amazing – if a little tiring – day out with my little girl.

Photos

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.The house, known as the Treatment Rooms, is owned and lived in by renowned mosaic artist, Carrie Reichardt. With the help of other mosaic artists from around the world, it took several years to complete, finally being completed in 2017. 4-6 Fairlawn Grove, Chiswick, London
2.The General Cemetery of All Souls, Kensal Green, was the most fashionable burial ground in Victorian England, its social heyday defined by the funerals of HRH The Duke of Sussex in 1843 and that of his nephew HRH The Duke of Cumberland in 1904. It is one of England’s oldest and most beautiful public burial grounds, and certainly its most prestigious.
3.God’s Own Junkyard showcases the late neon artist Chris Bracey’s personal collection of work in a salvage yard in Walthamstow. It contains everything from his signage for Soho sex clubs in the ‘60s to his work for the movie industry, including pieces that were used in ‘Captain America’, ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, ‘Byzantium’ and more. Sandwiched in between all of this, you’ll find his artwork, some of which have been exhibited in his gallery shows, and others that were specially commissioned by other artists and clients. Unit 12, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, Walthamstow, London
4.In 2010 they took a small, crumbling shop in Camden and started making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. No investors, crowd-funding, no plan B, no exit strategy, just a need to create something that didn’t exist yet; hand churning with liquid nitrogen was better than any other method. Chin Chin Ice Cream Shop, Soho is their second location in London.
5.An artist called Rick Buckley was ‘unmasked’ by the Evening Standard and claimed he installed the noses as a snub against CCTV spying culture in London, seeing it as an infringement of liberty. Mostly though, he just wanted to see if he could get away with glueing 35 noses across London. And that’s where the Seven Noses of Soho came from.
6.Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and is situated in what was the centre of Roman London. Originally a meat, poultry and game market, it is now home to a number of boutique retailers, restaurants, cafes, wine bars and an award-winning pub.