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ON THE TRAIL OF PADDINGTON BEAR

With Paddington Bear's big screen debut due later this year, new interest has arisen in Michael Bond's famous furry creation, and families have begun following the London trail of the pint-sized stowaway from darkest Peru.


WORDS Debbie Neilson-Hunter

It’s early morning in London. As sunlight begins to filter through Paddington Station’s iconic glazed arched roof, the historic train shed’s concourse comes to life with workers on their daily Underground commute to offices across the city. In their midst, longdistance travellers with suitcases in tow and camera-wielding day trippers weave between platforms looking for the train service that that will take them to the sights of Windsor, Bath, Oxford and beyond.

For our disoriented and dishevelled party of four, Paddington Station is our final destination. The Heathrow Express has delivered us from the international airport as swiftly as scheduled, which is important; even after a 20-hour flight and a 15-minute train ride little can diminish the Little Misses Five and Seven’s enthusiasm. We only have three days to explore the capital and they’re eager to get started.

Barely a few minutes pass before we come across the first of many bear sightings on our London adventure.

As we locate the Praed Street exit that leads to our nearby hotel, we spot a familiar figure in a wide-brim hat, sitting alone on his rather worn suitcase.

There’s no mistaking our find, for on a tag around his neck are the words: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

On closer inspection it’s clear ours are not the only hands who have patted Paddington’s bronzed button nose, which has been polished to a fine honey-coloured (or, perhaps more fittingly, a marmalade-hued) shine for well over a decade.

Above: The changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Below: The Bear himself, image supplied by Jasnor.

Above: A still from the movie.

Above: The statue of Paddington at Paddington station.
Below: Paddington Bear stand.

Paddington
With a stellar cast including Jim Broadbet and Nicole Kidman, the film is sure to be a furry hit, and visit London has created a new tourist trail around the fictional bear's favourite London landmarks, so fans can follow Paddington around the city.


INFO: Official Paddington website www.paddington.com 
 Visit London www.visitlondon.com
 Jasnor Distinctive Toys and Gifts www.jasnor.com.au

An adjacent plaque reveals the reason the three-foot, six-inch bronze statue is here.

“Mr and Mrs Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.”

The quote begins author Michael Bond’s most famous story, ‘A Bear Called Paddington’, which he wrote in just 10 days after taking pity on a similar lone figure on a department store shelf, Christmas Eve 1956.

Today there are over 150 stories about Paddington’s adventures in London. His popularity with children continues to grow with more than 35 million copies (translated into 40 languages) sold worldwide. Many of Michael Bond’s classic tales have also been adapted for TV. Paddington even has his own website, app and digital game.

This year, for the first time ever, Paddington will appear on the big screen. Due for release in the UK on 28 November, the liveaction film adaptation stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Nicole Kidman and Ben Whishaw as the voice of (a computer-generated) Paddington.

As fans know, Paddington’s adventures don’t end when he arrives in London. Life is never the same for the Browns, their housekeeper Mrs Bird and neighbour Mr Curry as Paddington learns – often the hard way – how to navigate life in the human world.

Tracing the ursine traveller’s accidentprone footsteps however, has never been easier. While the original bronze statue, created by sculptor Marcus Cornish, was unveiled as a permanent exhibit at Paddington Station in 2000, this October will see 50 more life-sized Paddington Bear statues temporarily placed across the capital in all his favourite places – including the royal parks, museums, cultural centres as well as major landmarks.

Designed by artists and celebrities to celebrate the upcoming movie, the statues will eventually be auctioned off to raise money for the movie’s charity partners, which includes the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which runs the ChildLine support service, and Paddington’s own charity, Action Medical Research.

WHAT TO SEE
From taking in a pantomime in London’s theatre district or an open-air concert at Hyde Park to watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace or sharing his marmalade sandwiches with the ravens during a trip to the Tower of London, few know London better than Paddington Bear.

But on most fans’ wish-list is a visit to Windsor Gardens, where Paddington goes to live with the Browns, including their children Jonathan and Judy. In reality, however, there is no Number 32. What Bond imagined you’ll find at Westbourne Grove in the more fashionable heart of Notting Hill (also the setting for the 1999 film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts). The street is lined with designer fashion boutiques, homewares shops and art galleries. Don’t be surprised if you bump into a cast of other famous faces including Madonna, Richard Branson, Robbie Williams and Elle Macpherson who all have homes nearby.

Just around the corner is Portobello Road. In Bond’s stories Paddington is a regular visitor to Mr Gruber’s antique shop where the pair often indulges in buns and cocoa. The antiques section (near the Tube station) is world famous with over 1000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible imaginable. Saturdays get crowded but if you drop by throughout the week you’ll also find a wide variety of food and vegetable stalls, brica- brac, new goods and fashion stalls.

From next Easter, Brit Movie Tours plans to bring all these famous sights together in one three-hour tour dedicated to the Peruvian bear and the inspirations behind the film.

For those who want to take your own cuddly versions of the Paddington Bear home there’s ample opportunity.

If you ride up the escalator next to the statue at Paddington Station you’ll find the Paddington Bear Shop devoted to all things Paddington Bear, including stuffed toys in the familiar red hat and the blue duffle coat that the Browns give him, mugs, key rings, T-shirts, stationery and books .

Another must-stop on any Paddington Bear Trail is Hamleys toy shop on Regent Street, where we found him climbing an enormous pile of suitcases. And if you enjoy sticky buns and marmalade as much as Paddington, then make it your mission to swing by Harrods’ tea room in Knightsbridge for elevenses.



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