7 ways to feel closer to the magic of Mary Poppins

It's been more than 50 years since Mary Poppins popped onto our screens with her magical bag and flying umbrella. Originally played by the wonderful Julie Andrews, and more recently by Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns, the character has enchanted audiences around the world for decades. Why not get a little closer to the fantastical nanny as we learn more about the adventures of Mary and the Banks family in Edwardian London…

1. Remember that snow globe…?

A group of friends walking in front of London's iconic St Pauls Cathedral. Credit to VisitBritain/Sam Barker

Mary Poppins fans will no doubt recognise the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral as both the dramatic backdrop to the song Feed the birds, sung to the Banks children by their magical new nanny, and the building seen in Mary Poppins’ famous snow globe. The London cathedral is as unmissable in the film as it is on the capital’s skyline.

A triumph of English Baroque design, architect Sir Christopher Wren was asked to design St Paul’s after the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the city in 1666. The cathedral’s interior feels just as magical as Mary Poppins' carpet bag, with its intricate gilt alters, mesmerising ceilings and fascinating dome.

St Paul's Cathedral

2. The house where it all began

Did you know that the Chelsea house where P.L. Travers wrote the Mary Poppins books has been commemorated with an English Heritage blue plaque? The author lived in the house, which is said to have inspired the look of the Banks’ family home in the original movie, for 17 years, and the plaque recognises her importance to English literature and London’s history.

50 Smith Street

3. Enjoy a spoonful of sugar (or two)

A woman presenting a full plate of British scones. Credit to VisitBritain

Mary is famous for liking to add a spoonful of sugar to proceedings, so why not add a touch of sweetness to your day by baking a batch of delicious scones – a British classic! Tuck into this mouth-watering British tradition, or go the extra mile by adding a cup of hot tea and delicate finger sandwiches to create a full afternoon tea experience!

Popular in the UK since the 1800s, afternoon tea originates from when Anna Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, was feeling peckish one afternoon and asked for tea and some sweet breads and cake. It soon became the height of fashion to fill the gap before dinner in this way, and afternoon tea has been warming the hearts and bellies of Britain ever since!

Taste this British tradition by following our simple scone recipe here.

4. There she blows!

Did you know that the famous canon-blasting house that interrupted the lives of the Banks was directly inspired by a quirky home in north London? Nestled in the tranquil Hampstead area, the ‘Admiral’s house’ inspired P. L. Travers to include the eccentric seadog Admiral Boom in her books. Although dating back to the 1700s, it is still standing proud and the somewhat boat-shaped building remains complete with quarterdeck on the roof. Rumour has it that in 1775, the owner Lieutenant Fountain North started to fire cannons to celebrate naval victories and royal birthdays!

Hampstead Heath

5. See the city from above the rooftops

A bird's eye view over London including the river Thames and the Shard. Credit to VisitBritain/George Johnson

Bert took Mary Poppins up to the rooftops of London to show her the view of the capital through the eyes of a chimney sweep, but you can gaze over the capital’s magnificent skyline in a far more futuristic manner, via an online webcam! Lose yourself as you admire the stunning view from the 72nd floor of the Shard, looking down onto London Bridge Station and the River Thames. Don't forget to sing “chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee” as you survey Britain’s beautiful capital, just as Mary Poppins did.

The Shard

6. Order a bespoke umbrella

What is Mary Poppins’ favourite mode of transport? Umbrella of course! While owning a flying umbrella is just a dream, you can have your own bespoke brolly created at one of London’s historic establishments of fine craftsmanship. James Smith & Sons, just off Regent Street, has been designing and making high-end umbrellas (think handles of exquisitely carved wood) since 1830. 

James Smith and Sons

7. Learn some cockney rhyming slang

Everyone likes to do their best Bert impression from time to time, so why not take your cockney accent to new heights by learning some key rhyming slang phrases, hailing from London’s east end.

A great place to start is with a warm greeting. In cockney rhyming slang, ‘China plate’ means ‘mate’, but if you really want to be authentic simply say, ‘Alright me old china!’ Another slang phrase that is commonly used today is ‘Adam and Eve’ to replace ‘believe’, you will often hear Londoners say ‘I can’t Adam and Eve it’ in disbelief! Holding a similar place in the hearts of slang-loving city dwellers is ‘Barney Rubble’ meaning ‘trouble’. Used to describe people having a disagreement, you can say ‘they’re having a Barney’, and all will be understood.

07 Dec 2020(last updated)

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