‘Celeb’ sightings, great views and a visit to Whole Foods in London

You might be jealous to learn that so far during our trip to London we’ve spotted Julia Roberts, Robert Pattinson and even Beyonce — all made of wax, of course, at Madame Tussauds London.

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Wax Beyonce in “Single Ladies” mode.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this museum, but my daughters were excited to check out the new Star Wars exhibit, so we got tickets. I was impressed by the range of celebrities featured, including everyone from politicians to sports figures to ogres like Shrek. There was even a ride that featured figures from London’s history and a 4D movie about superheroes. We were entertained for well over two hours. And the Star Wars exhibit didn’t disappoint.

An indifferent Princess Leia at Madame Tussauds London.

An indifferent Princess Leia at Madame Tussauds London.

After the museum, we boarded one of the ubiquitous hop-on hop-off bus tours for a ride around the city. We were really looking forward to this, but due to a variety of events including blustery winds, traffic snarls and my youngest daughter’s bladder, our trip was short lived. (If you’ve ever been trapped on a bus with a 3-year-old who decides she suddenly and urgently needs to go to the bathroom, you understand this particular category of hell.)

The nearest place we could exit the bus was the London Bridge stop, where we beelined for a Starbucks, not only because we knew we would find a bathroom there but because, well, sometimes you just want to go to Starbucks. I know visiting Starbucks in a foreign country isn’t a very travel-writery thing to do, but sometimes a 15-minute pitstop somewhere with dependable WiFi, white chocolate mochas and chocolate chunk brownies can really improve an afternoon.

As we were walking back to the subway we noticed we were right next to the Shard, a 95-story skyscraper that’s the tallest building in the European Union. I had read that it had spectacular views, so I asked an employee how much it cost to access the viewing platform. It was about $45 per person, he said, then he offered a tip — go up to the Aqua Shard restaurant/bar to enjoy the view without paying for anything other than a cocktail or a tea. (Don’t wear tennis shoes, though — they’re not allowed.) Here’s the view from there.

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The view from London’s Aqua Shard.

TEXAS TIE: We also came across a Whole Foods and couldn’t resist the urge to take a look around. Readers Alice and Caroline had both suggested this, and I loved the idea. I’ve been visiting Whole Foods since I was a child growing up in Austin, so it was fun to take a spin around the store in another country. For the most part, it looked the same. I wasn’t able to do a full inventory, but I did spot a number of Texas products on the shelves:

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There was also this cookbook, although I haven’t confirmed that the author is indeed a Tex-pert:

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The top floor of the Whole Foods was filled with restaurants, including a Mexican restaurant called Cocina Mexicana that promised “cilantro rice, the American favourite” as well as tostadas, burritos and quesadillas. Sadly, there were no breakfast tacos on the menu.

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We ended the day at the Coca-Cola London Eye, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the world. While the vibe was certainly different from the High Roller in Las Vegas, where I rode in a cart that included an open bar, the views were incredible.

View from the Coca-Cola London Eye.

View from the Coca-Cola London Eye.

A local even pointed out that we could see a group of horses getting trained for the Queen’s Birthday Parade this weekend. It was a breathtaking, educational experience and a fantastic new view of London.

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Our room with a view.

I’ll have more daily blog posts during the trip and will also be updating on Instagram and Twitter at @kristinfinan. Have suggestions of things we should do in London and Paris or places where we can find Texas ties? Let me know at kfinan@statesman.com.


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