Saturday, July 14, 2007

SPIRITS OF LONDON - Discover two major attractions from the Victorian city

Today, i take you to London for a review about two London attractions that i liked, and that you, theme park lovers, should like too when you will go to this great Victorian city.

The first one is inside the Madame Tussauds museum, located near the Baker street underground station. Baker street, by the way, is a famous street as it was there that Sherlock Holmes was “supposed” to have his home in Conan Doyle’s novels. For those of you who are fan of the great detective, there is even a museum on this place that you can visit.

Anyway, to come back to Madame Tussauds museum, it’s probably one of the best - if not the best - wax museum in the world. Why? Because of the quality of the wax sculptures, due, of course to the great talent of Tussaud’s sculptors. In two words like in one, the all-stars recreated there looks more real than real!

And, as you can get close to the figures, don’t forget your digital camera, just to bring back home a picture of your girl friend giving a kiss to Tom Cruise , Steven Spielberg or Prince Edward, among others...

Talking about Steven Spielberg, there is a whole room dedicated to blockbusters movies, from Jurassic Park to Indiana Jones, and super heroes like Spiderman and a giant Hulk, two other great “photo locations”

There is always the famous “chamber of horrors”, more scary, where you’ll see scenes of famous murderers and french revolution guillotine sequences.

AND, here it comes, you will find, too, a dark ride ! And a good little one. Called “the Spirit of London”, it tells the story of London from the 15th century til’ present time. To give you a better idea, just think to Epcot’s space ship earth attraction where you see scenes of different period of time, and it’s as close as you can to imagine the “london spirit ride” .
Of course, it’s less longer than space ship earth, but the decor - where there is audio animatronics, too - are really good , nearly as good as a WDI attraction.

The Queue line and boarding room decor is good, a kind of library where you board the people mover vehicles design with the look of the top of the famous London taxis...The vehicles turn left or right , just like in the “Haunted Mansion” to show you the different scenes.

The first scene shows Elizabeth the 1st, who reigns centuries ago, and there it goes with scenes of the great london fire, the london pleague, the building of st paul’s cathedral, the battles victories against Napoleon, the victorian era and the beginning of the great industries, the london “blitz”, etc...

...including the swinging sixties, to the finale with funfair carousels, a kind of extravaganza about the “london spirit”.

Next to the dark ride, there is a planetarium with a 12 minutes show, include in the price of the ticket, so, if you’re there, why not having a look! The good point about the dark ride is that you can ride it again if you wish. To be honest, you’re not supposed to, but if you want, you can do it easily.

The next attraction i’d like to let you know is one of my favorite, and is called “The London Dungeon” and it is some other kind of “spirits” that await you here. Those of the dark ages of england, the medieval wars where city were destroyed and their people tortured (!), the times of the great pleagues or the victorian killings of Jack the Ripper.....The London Dungeon is a kind of Gothic place, built in what was formely caves under the London Bridge station, and, although the themes don’t look fun, the theming and the atmosphere gives a one-of-a-kind experience which don’t exist anywhere else.

To tell the truth, the “Dungeon” is highly popular in London. Don’t expect to go there and to don’t find any queue line to enter it ( same with Madame Tussaud’s museum, by the way) . The English have always loved these “dark” stories - just think to their haunted castles - and there is at least three different companies who organize each day tours in the whitechapel district on the locations where Jack the Ripper did his dreadful murders...( click on the photo below to see the London Dungeon map in bigger size )

The facade of the London Dungeon say it all: gothic statues and this warning “enter at your peril”. Good theming, so, and disguised “gothic” actors will escort you from one part to another, as the London Dungeon experience is divided in six parts. The first one is “under siege” where you’ll see scenes of what was happening to the people of a defeated city of the old ages...

The next one is the new addition since 2005, and it’s called “the labyrinth of the lost”. Before you enter one woman of the cast - who looks like a witch - will warn you that every soul who have entered the labyrinth never came out of it and that, from time to time, it’s possible to hear their voice howling ... and then, as the gates open, it’s your turn to enter it. Basically, the labyrinth of the lost is the most easiest attraction i saw, as it is simply a mirror labyrinth! That’s right: a mirror labyrinth! but everything here is in the way it has been designed, i.e in a gothic style , it looks like an ancient crypt with a ceiling not high, and , as soon as you get in it, because of the mirror reflections, it lseems to never ends. Where it become really fun is after three or four minutes, when you begin to understand that there is REALLY no issue!! And, because of the special atmosphere of the London Dungeon you share before, you really begin to think that you will wander in it forever! Okay, of course, you’ll get out of it, but i won’t tell you how, as, when you’ll be in it, you won’t find any issue and come back again and again where you were 30 seconds before. So, it’s fun, and a little bit scary, too.

Next is the 1665 plague epidemic sequence where your group will discover the effects of the pleague as shown by one woman from the cast in a medical laboratory of the 17th century, perfectly themed.
Believe it or not, but they succeed to built a small flume ride in the caves, but before you acess it, you’ll enter the torture chamber where one of you will be chosen to experiment what were the old tortures ( don’t worry, you won’t be really tortured!)

So, then, it’s time for the “Judgment day” part. First you enter a re-creation of a 17th century law room where judges - all in genuine costume - will judge the group and sentenced all of you to death!

This is where you’ll board the boats and, passing through “traitor’s gate” - the famous gate on the Thames river through which the prisoners were entering the “tower of london” the medieval prison - will begin a spine tingling voyage into the depths of the dungeon where darkness surrounds you, lights flicker and your heart begin to pound...’til the final backward drop! ( below, a photo of the real “traitor’s gate” at the tower of london which is reproduced in the flume ride decor )

When you’ll get out of the boat, it will be to enter the 1888 victorian streets full of “smog” of the “Jack the ripper experience” . An actor of the “dungeon” will excort you from one scene to another and tell you the story of the probably first “serial killer” in history. There, too, perfect theming, and some “gore” elements with the wax bodies of the murdered women...

The last scene is about the “great fire of london” which destroy all the old wood London city centuries ago. It’s a small part in the dungeon experience but false fire effects - although primitive - and decor of the wood houses of the old london is pleasant...

Finally, this year, the latest addition to the London Dungeon is called "Extremis: Drop ride to doom!" ( nothing less than that! ) and is a 20 feet drop simulating a hanging after - again! - your trial. The press release give a better description:
"You have been judged and sentenced and now must accept the consequences of your crimes and experience the brand new Extremis: Drop Ride to Doom! Your heart pounds with fear as the hooded hangman gleefully guides you into position and your end draws near. Muster all the courage you possess as you step over the trapdoor and prepare for your own hanging!
There is no time to scream as you feel the floor give way, your heart leap into your throat and you plummet sharply into the darkness below...!"

Of course, at the end of the visit, you have a theme café, shop, and even themed rest rooms(!)where you’ll be able to buy any macabre merchandise you wish...

The London Dungeon for adult people or teen agers is scary and fun, because of its unique gothic experience, but i will not recommand you to enter it with children under 10 years old!

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