London Filming Locations: Notting Hill (1999)

Despite the huge success of ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral‘ in the mid-nineties, that film totally bypassed me and it wasn’t till five years later that I actually saw any kind of Hugh Grant film. That movie was of course ‘Notting Hill‘ (1999) and what do you know but 15 years on, my wife and I found ourselves staying at a rented apartment on Ladbroke Grove which is right in the heart of where much of this 1999 rom-com was shot.

Now, this is not the first time some of these pictures have appeared on Tokyo Fox as there was a Rom-Com special in December 2012 which cobbled together my efforts not only from ‘Notting Hill‘ but also from the aforementioned ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral‘ (1994) as well as ‘Love Actually‘ (2004).

Straight up on 2 minutes is Saints Tattoo Parlour (below) on 201 Portobello Road which a guy emerges from in disbelief that he got an ‘I love Ken’ tattoo.

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Another place to get the briefest of references is the failed restaurant of William Thacker’s (Hugh Grant) mate Tony; an architect turned chef who ploughed all of his money into the business. That place is seen on 3 minutes and is actually an art store (below) called Portfolio. The address is 106 Golbourne Road and it’s a short walk north of Ladbroke Grove Underground station.

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Anyway, what you really want to know is whereabouts the next couple of filming locations are. The famous blue door (below) of the house where William and Spike (Rhys Ifans) live is 280 Westbourne Park Road. It first appears on 3 minutes as William heads off home from Portobello Road which is just a few meters away. It’s Spike though who steals the limelight outside the door on 80 minutes when he poses for the paparazzi in his underpants!

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Just around the corner from their flat is the book shop (below) where normal guy William works and indeed first meets the very famous Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). It is seen for the first time on 5 minutes and is at 142 Portobello Road. Its now aptly named Notting Hill whilst the actual travel bookshop on which it was based is at 13 Blenheim Crescent.

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The interior scenes of the shop were actually shot at Universal Studios in Hollywood (below) along with a few other inside shots. There is a facade of the shop on display in the theme park which I have visited twice; in 2002 and 2011 respectively.

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Having got his coffee at 303 Westbourne Park Road (below), William proceeds to turn the corner into Portobello Road on 11 minutes where he spills his coffee all over Anna. It’s still a coffee shop but these days it’s home to a branch of Coffee Republic.

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William turns up at The Ritz (below), where is Anna is staying, on 22 minutes and gives an impromptu interview on behalf of Horse & Hound magazine to Anna as well as her co-stars. The high class establishment features again on 51 minutes.

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The first place William and Anna go on a date is to his sisters birthday party at 91 Lansdowne Road (below). This is the home to Max and Bella and as well as that first appearance  on 33 minutes it is also seen at dinner time half an hour later.

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The Coronet Cinema (below) at 103 Notting Hill Gate plays host to a couple of movies within the movie. First up on 48 minutes is when William and Anna watch something with the former wearing a snorkel mask/goggles and on 56 mins he is alone as he watches Anna starring in sci-fi film ‘Helix‘ in the wake of discovering her husband is in town.

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After that first cinema scene, William and Anna go to Japanese restaurant Nobu (below) on 49 minutes whereby Anna gives as good as she gets. This expensive place is part of the Metropolitan Hotel and is located at 19 Old Park Lane. 

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The final ‘Notting Hill’ location is The Savoy (below) at 1 Savoy Hill on the Strand which appears on 108 minutes. All good rom-com movies need someone chasing after their true love and this one is no different but rather than the usual dash to the airport we see William and friends driving through busy London traffic to get to the press conference in the Lancaster Room where he very publicly proposes.

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Many thanks to


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England 2014 Pt VI: Back To The Future Secret Cinema

Since it was first launched in 2007, Secret Cinema has kept growing and punters have continued to stump up a fair whack to take part in an offline event where in the past they didn’t even know what film they’d be seeing. In it’s most notable release so far, ‘Back To The Future‘ was revealed in advance and the tickets for the dates in July and August disappeared in no time. Luckily, Stuart (my brother-in-law) and Lorna (my sister) managed to get us all tickets not that my wife and I had any idea what it was all about when we were presented with the tickets following our family get-together the day before.

Lorna had told me in advance to keep my Sunday evening (August 10th) free but I just thought it would be tickets to watch a film or go to a music concert! As it was, my first guess was kind of right but in a way that was so different to anything I could ever possibly have imagined!

Despite the many Star Wars and 007 features on Tokyo Fox it’s actually ‘Back To The Future‘ which is my favourite film. However, regardless of that I was still very apprehensive about this event as I couldn’t understand what it actually was at first and with jet-lag kicking in I really wasn’t confident that we could stay awake for that long having been in bed so much earlier on the previous nights. Furthermore, when I did my research on the event the first Secret Cinema article I came across was one slating it for all number of reasons, most notably the £50+ ticket prices!

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After a morning of rain-soaked sightseeing we returned to our rented apartment for a much needed rest ahead of the nights events wondering how the rain would affect the occasion. We were pretty much still oblivious to what Secret Cinema entailed though when we arrived at Stuart and Lorna’s hotel in Stratford where they were staying for the night. On booking the tickets, each audience member is assigned a character name card and identity with many personal details on it (I was Roderick Poitras, an egg gatherer!) and one has to dress up as that extra to become part of the experience of being part of the production of this classic movie. We would certainly find out later on that it really is best to just go with the flow and get immersed in the world of cosplay in order to reap the full reward.

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The line to enter the “secret location” at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London stretched for miles and took us an hour or so till we entered via a bag search. This is a rare event in that mobile phones are confiscated from those who decide to bring them each night. It’s supposed to be some response to digital culture and of the course the organisers can use the excuse that mobiles didn’t exist in 1955 so allowing them would take away from the grandness of the event. What we didn’t realise though was that we could purchase disposable camera’s on sight (£6) which naturally we did and thereafter our attitude changed a little bit as it became just about taking pictures rather than enjoying it in the way that people used to do in days gone by!

So how to describe this event? It’s basically a BTTF festival with a bit of cosplay, theatre, cinema and live music thrown in for good measure. As soon as we entered we were on Twin Pines Ranch whereby we encounter the fairly surreal situation of interacting in character with some workers (a.k.a. trained actors speaking American English) amid real goats from Mr Peabody’s Farm.

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The site had been reconstructed to resemble the 1955 Hill Valley as close as possible with the courthouse square taking the central area. The clock tower is of course in front of that including a huge giant screen displaying the film. Hill Valley high school was to one side of the square and of course was playing host to the all important ‘Enchantment Under The Sea‘ dance which bookended the nights main event with Marvin Berry & The Starlighters performing. Lou’s Cafe was behind the square and the place for us to spend huge amounts of money on food and drink if we so desired! Just the £8 for my cheeseburger as not surprisingly this was not on sale at 1950’s prices!!

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The roads between the ranch and the courthouse square featured the houses of Biff, Lorraine, George, a few others and a bit further along was the Doc’s house and the Texaco gas station. Of course I’ve been to the actual houses used during filming in Los Angeles but nevertheless it was still very exciting to see these rebuilt places with actors inside them mingling with the audience in character. This interaction had actually started while we were queuing outside and continued all night with sketches taking place randomly at any place and any time. “No jaywalking” was said by traffic policemen and other such folk throughout the night every time one of us “extras” committed the number one crime in Hill Valley!!

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Courthouse square was where the vast majority of the huge crowd sat to watch the film which began just after 9pm. I had originally thought that this would, in a way, be the least exciting part of the evening but on a night of delightful surprises I was happy to be proved wrong again.

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Throughout the film, I not only enjoyed watching it outside with thousands of likeminded fans (which was actually far more exciting than I thought possible for a film which is nearly 30 years old!) but we also got to witness and be part of live re-enactments with many of them acted out on a stage lying beneath the screen. Furthermore, there were numerous cars, vans, yellow school buses, cadillacs and skateboards whizzing around the square as the actors and stuntmen recreated key scenes from the film parallel to their appearance in the movie. It was a pretty awesome spectacle.

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Conditions were fairly windy at times but thankfully the rain also managed to mostly hold off for the duration of the event. Overall, there was so much going on throughout the evening and it really is quite difficult to paint a really true and accurate picture of what this particular Secret Cinema was all about. The attention to detail was really great and there were so many geeky BTTF references everywhere. Now, you have to understand that this is my account of how I got lost in cinema on the night. With this event though, nearly every single participant has a different and unique experience and therein lies the beauty of such an event.

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England 2014 Pt V: Various London Bits And Pieces

The family day at Hampton Court Palace and the trip back to my hometown cut into our trip quite a bit (in a good way!) thereby limiting what we could actually see and get done in London to an extent. This entry includes random photo’s and basically ties up the various bits and pieces that were done in the nations capital in between all the other things going on.

Holland Park was our closest tube station and due to jet lag we were there before 8am on our first free day. I’m a fan on the world’s oldest underground railway and it was kind of cool to have the place to ourselves for a few moments before we rode on to meet my parents-in-law who were staying at a hotel in Shepherds Bush.

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Like last year, we started our tour of London at Waterloo station which is always a good place to take in a few sights in quick succession. Starting with the London Eye, you then see the view across the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben not to mention perennial tourist pleasers like double decker buses and black cabs. Sadly, it was a drizzly early Sunday morning as we walked across Westminster Bridge and down Whitehall (going past Downing Street) towards Trafalgar Square where conditions worsened. As a result, it was decided to take them to an indoor place so we tubed it to Tottenham Court Road to visit the nearby British Museum which my father-in-law in particular was very keen to see. We left them to it there as we had to get back for a bit of rest ahead of a long evening event which my sister and brother-in-law had lined up for us.

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The next day began with a quick look around Portobello Road running parallel to our rented apartment on Ladbroke Grove. The main event of the morning was to be the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; an event which takes place every other day and one that was absolutely packed with thousands of tourists on a lovely sunny morning. True to stereotype, my wife and mother-in-law are both fairly short meaning they had a restricted view of events so we didn’t bother hanging around for the whole thing.

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That lunchtime I met one of my friends for a pub lunch in a bar that doesn’t allow droids and after a couple of hours with him I set off to North Acton to find Jimmy’s (Phil Daneils) house from ‘Quadrophenia‘ (1979) which involved a 20 minute walk from the station past this incident under a bridge nearby. The weather really couldn’t make up its mind whilst we were in the country with sudden but fairly constant downpours of rain occurring throughout each and every day. Click here to see the London filming locations for ‘Quadrophenia‘.

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One of my friends in Tokyo recommended a Lebanese restaurant in Soho and usually I take such things with a pinch of salt but as I was on my own one day and wanting to sample something different to usual I decided to pop along to Le Comptoir. I splashed out on a pot of mint tea and a spiced minced lamb kofta wrap platter which was served with hummus, salad and pickled cucumber.

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It tasted great and by chance I returned to the same area the following day too when I met up with friends Richard and Mizuki. A year on from our last meeting and their 20 month old boy definitely likes using his legs now he can walk. Not a shy boy, that’s for sure as when left alone he would just wander through the middle of a group of strangers standing around on the streets! Will be interesting to see how he grows and develops over time!

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It may be quite surprising to some that I have never actually eaten Japanese food outside of Japan but that changed on this trip as my wife and her parents twice went out in the Shepherds Bush area to see how it compares to whats served up in its homeland. Quite interesting to see the differences in style, presentation, taste and service! Whilst I didn’t mind it, it must all be a unique experience for Japanese visitors to London though I can’t have any sympathy really if all they do is sample their own cuisine!

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Finally, here are some more random (and not particularly exciting!) photos which have no better home than just being dumped on the end of this page!

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England 2014 Pt IV: ‘Bond In Motion’ Exhibition

One of the things I really wanted to do whilst I was back in the nations capital was to visit this exhibition at London Film Museum in Covent Garden. With no-one else interested in going with me it was just a question of finding some time to myself to visit this fairly pricey place (£14.50 entry), and thankfully that opportunity arose the day after we returned to London from our mini trip back to my hometown.

This museum boasts as having the largest official collection of original 007 vehicles and is the largest display of its kind ever staged in London. The majority are loaned from the archive of EON Productions who produce the movies and the Ian Fleming Foundation who have located and restored many of the vehicles.

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The ticket sellers at reception advise you to start upstairs on the upper mezzanine that features some examples of the production company’s concept art and storyboards which was interesting enough but it’s downstairs where the real excitement exists as that’s where you can see the vast collection of vehicles representing almost all of the 23 Bond movies thus far.

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Each and every vehicle thankfully has a large TV screen next to it looping the moments it was seen in the film which is a great idea and really adds to the occasion as it isn’t too easy remembering the role each car, motorbike or whatever played in the movie.

There are about 50 James Bond vehicles on display and below are a selection of them:

* Skyfall (2012): Honda CRF250R – The motorcycle which Bond rode through the streets and bazaars of Istanbul as he chased an assailant in the films pre-title sequence.

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* Quantum Of Solace (2008): Aston Martin DBS & Montesa Cota 4RT – The former was heavily damaged after a chase at the beginning of the film in Siena, Italy. The motorcycle was rode through the streets of Haiti which in reality were filmed in Panama.

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* Casino Royale (2006) – Aston Martin DBS V12 – A product placement deal with Aston Martin was probably the main reason this one featured on screen. The car only features a spare gun and a defibrillator and was destroyed during Bond’s pursuit of Le Chiffre.

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* Die Another Day (2002): Aston Martin V12 Vanquish – The infamous car possessing a rather silly gimmick; the ability to effectively become invisible at the push of a button.

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* The World Is Not Enough (1999): Q’s Retirement Recreational Boat – The boat which Bond rode along the Thames, and even under it, in hot pursuit of an assassin.

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* Tomorrow Never Dies (1997): BMW R1200C & BMW 750iL – The stolen motorcycle was ridden through the streets of Saigon with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together. The car was remotely controlled by Bond during a chase inside Brent Cross shopping centre car park in London which doubled up as ‘Hamburg’.

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* The Living Daylights (1987): Aston Martin V8 + Cello Case Sled and case – The combination of 007 and Aston Martin were reunited for Timothy Dalton’s first outing as the double agent.

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* A View To A Kill (1985): Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II & Renault 11 2XE – Bond is driven around in the impressive Rolls whilst the Renault features in an early car chase as 007 pursues an assassin through Paris at high speeds whereby it loses its roof and manages to  jump onto and off a sight-seeing bus.

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* Octopussy (1983): Acrostar BD-5J Jet & the auto rickshaw – This mini-folding jet was  originally owned by Budweiser and can be seen exiting a horse-box. The latter was driven through the streets of Udaipur with Bond as a passenger rather at the controls.

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* The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Lotus Esprit S1 – Q delivers this special submarine car to Bond in Sardinia. It is equipped with anti-aircraft missiles.

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* Diamonds Are Forever (1971): Honda ATC 90 ATV & Ford Mustang Mach 1 – The dune buggy that went after Bond whilst the car is owned by Tiffany Case and during the Las Vegas chase it manages to balance on two side wheels to drive through a narrow alley although it mysteriously exits on the other two wheels in one of the great 007 movie goofs.

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* You Only Live Twice (1967): “Little Nellie” – the aircraft flown by Bond to try and locate Blofeld’s hidden rocket base from the air. The weapons include two fixed machine guns, rocket launchers, heat-seeking missiles, rear-firing flame guns and aerial mines.

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* Goldfinger (1964): Rolls-Royce Phantom III & Aston Martin DB5 – The Rolls was  owned by Auric Goldfinger and driven by Oddjob; one of the great Bond villains. The Aston Martin prototype has appeared in many Bond films but with slightly different number plates.

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There’s a photo opportunity allowing you to don a tuxedo (top half only) and recreate the gun barrel scene which features in all the movies. This could be pretty cool but £8 for something that could just as easily be done online for free was not worth it in my eyes!

There’s a cafe and souvenir shop beyond the main gallery which you need to pass through to exit the place. The cafe is surrounded by a few artefacts as well as a GoldenEye pinball machine and the gift shop is a place like no other with just about every conceivable product having the ‘Bond In Motion’ label on it. Needless to say that the 007 fans were lapping it all up!

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The London Film Museum is open 7 days a week from 10am and is located at 45 Wellington Street in Covent Garden. It is open for the rest of this year.

The London Film Museum in County Hall on the Southbank closed at the end of last year.

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England 2014 Pt III: Back To My Hometown

Tickets to Madame Tussauds weren’t the only discounted tickets I bought ahead of our England venture as I also purchased some heavily reduced train tickets to take us from London St Pancras to my hometown of Market Harborough and back following a nights stay. Of course both sets of parents were already acquainted having met a few days earlier in London and my in-laws were very keen to see the front and back gardens that my mum has created and cultivated over the years.

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After a light lunch buffet we visited Welland Park which has certainly changed a fair bit since my days of frequenting the place, but having been there on my cycle trip down memory lane a couple of years ago, I was more than aware of how it had changed.

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From there we walked along the river Welland into the town centre. Sadly the most famous (only?) landmark; the old Grammar school is presently under a bag whilst maintenance work is done on it but my in-laws were nevertheless impressed with what they saw elsewhere. In fact, that seemed to be the theme of the trip as things that I certainly take for granted in the UK were impressionable for our Japanese visitors. Another such example later on that day was the roast dinner and wine we had four our evening meal followed by crumble dessert and cheese and biscuits.

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The following morning we had breakfast together and then took a quick look around the village of Great Bowden where my parents live including the train line, church, oldest house, village shop and the green.

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Around lunchtime we drove the few miles to local sight Foxton Locks for a pub lunch in the wake of seeing the unique 10 lock staircase that takes narrow boats up and down the 23 metre hill. So many people from the village seemed to be in the vicinity on this day and as dog lovers my wife and her family were not only impressed by the near-200 year old locks but the dozens and dozens of dogs being walked in the area.

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More shopping for my wife and her mum in town later followed by late afternoon tea and cake rounded off our short trip to the place where I grew up and pretty soon after that our whirlwind tour of the area was over as we headed back down to London for the remaining days of our England trip.

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England 2014 Pt II: Madame Tussaud’s Waxwork Museum

One of the things that my mother-in-law wanted to do in London was to visit this very famous and hugely popular waxworks museum. I have to say that I’d never had too much enthusiasm for going to this place which may surprise regular Tokyo Fox readers (yes, such people do actually exist!) who have witnessed me travelling wide and far just to get my picture taken with a statue of some sort. However, I have always had a slight problem with there being so many of them in one place and the rather high entry fees probably put me off a bit too!

Before we arrived in England though, I went online and was able to book the four of us some tickets for an early evening visit which were sold at 50% lower fare and I guess £15 per ticket in this day and age ain’t so bad. The first part of the museum is a red carpet affair with some of the world’s biggest and most famous movie stars on show. It certainly hits you how busy this place is which took me a little by surprise as whenever I’ve seen friends pictures on Facebook at this place it’s looked like there’s been plenty of room and space to wander freely and get your photo’s taken with the stars! However, in reality it’s a mad crush and you’ve gotta almost force your way through to the front to get that all-important picture. Luckily my wife and mother-in-law were pretty good at that and soon got into the spirit of the place whilst my father-in-law and I took a little longer to adjust to the hordes of people in attendance.

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The stars on show in this area included Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger (all pictured) as well as Russell Brand, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Emma Watson, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and many more.

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We then proceeded along the walking route to the ‘Sport’ section where I got my hands on the World Cup alongside England great Bobby Moore, met David Beckham again (there’s a model of him and his wife in the ‘Party’ zone) and got to hang out with rugby and tennis legends Jonny Wilkinson and Boris Becker.

It was in this section that I realised you really have to pick and choose the ones you want to get photographed with although I’m sure there are some people who do each and every model. Global superstars of past and present like Pele, Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods and Usain Bolt featured among British talent like Tom Daley, Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Lewis Hamilton and so on. All interesting to me but pretty much unknown by my wife and her parents!

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We passed through the royals (just too many people waiting for picture opportunities) and culture sections fairly quickly before stopping at the music section which was stocked full with models of pop queens like Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Adele, Cheryl Cole, Kylie and Rihanna. Other legends like Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Freddie Mercury, the Beatles and erm, One Direction were on display.

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In terms of the waxwork models the World Leaders zone was pretty much the last area of real interest with the likes of Barrack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Boris Johnson and David Cameron (but no Japanese politicians!) featuring among others not that my wife knew who the latter two were when she took the above photograph! We finished off things with the Spirit of London ride; a black cab ride through periods of British history such as Elizabethan and Victorian era’s, Shakespeare, the Plague, the Great Fire of London, The Industrial Revolution, the World Wars, the swinging sixties and so on

The finale was the Marvel Super Heroes and their 4D movie experience went down way better than expected having had to wait nearly twenty minutes to see it.

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Overall, we probably spent about 90 minutes in the place which in all honesty was fairly quick and proof that you could easily stay there for a few hours. Someone came up with the idea of stopping for dinner afterwards at the nearby Wetherspoon’s pub next to Baker Street Underground Station and my father-in-law finally got the chance to sample some fish and chips and a pint of Guinness.

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England 2014 Pt I: When Two World’s Collide!

Our final day in England last year included many of the same ingredients as the first one this year but was very different in so many ways. The reason was that it was the first time for my wife’s parents and mine to meet each other. Having only arrived back in the nations capital the night before, we all set off for Kingston in south west London for the big meet up at 10.45am.

Handshakes and kisses were exchanged as English and Japanese customs collided and we made our way through the town centre to the river Thames to take a boat to Hampton Court Palace where we were due to have a celebratory ‘post-Wedding’ lunch at a pub nearby. As we were ahead of schedule we decided to do the palace before lunch rather than after which was the original plan. We didn’t go inside but instead wandered the outer  gardens which were free and, along with the Thames cruise, were two things that could be checked off my mother-in-law’s ‘to do’ list.

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Before that though we posed for a few group photo’s in front of the Palace which was built in 1514 and was once owned by Henry VIII.

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The bridge over the river from the palace took us to the Prince Of Wales pub in East Molesey where we had a lovely lunch together and had a toast for my wife and I.

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Another ‘must do’ for visitors to London is to ride on a double decker and that is exactly what we did next, to the delight of my wife’s parents, as we took one of the famous red buses back to Kingston bus station where the next surprise was waiting around the corner.

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Despite my many visits to Kingston over the years I had never even heard of, let alone seen the sight that came next. This amazing domino-style telephone boxes art-piece certainly ticked another box on the list of classical London features to see and photograph.

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When we stayed at my sisters place last Summer the house was under reconstruction so was a bit of a mess with the dishes lying in the bath and my nephew George‘s room being a makeshift living room and bedroom for all. A year on though and its finally finished and was looking very impressive as we all went back for afternoon tea. As it was my birthday the day before I was given some lovely cards and presented with the new Leicester City home shirt; a nice Puma affair fit to grace our first season back in the top flight for ten years! The pimms went down very well with all and with that we also enjoyed clotted cream, jam and scones as well as a wedding cake.

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There was so much going on throughout the day that I didn’t really get too much time to play with George which was a shame but all in all the day was a big success and went better than any of us could probably have imagined given the obvious language barrier and clash of cultures.

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