Harry Potter Studio Tour!

When we visited London in December, E got tickets for us to go to the Warner Brothers Studio – The Making of Harry Potter tour! The Harry Potter books and films were very important to our family, so we were thrilled to be able to go. We went on a weekday when our son-in-law had to be at work, so we were a party of five – my spouse B, our daughters E and T, our granddaughter ABC, and me. E was the only one who had been there before.

The Studios are outside London, so we needed to use trains and buses to get there. The last segment is on special studio buses. One of the first things you see after entering is a very large dragon in flight. We weren’t sure how ABC, at two and a half, would react to such things, but she loves dinosaurs and accepted dragons as a dinosaur-variant. (T is holding ABC in the foreground.)
HP flying dragon

Because so many people visit, the start times of the tour are staggered throughout the day. There are some introductory remarks from tour guides and a short film before your group is ushered into the Great Hall. Because we were there in December, everything was decorated for Christmas, including, of course, Christmas crackers at each place at the table.
Great Hall

You can see little details of the set, like the tree-toppers with flying witches…
HP XMas tree-topper

and the wreath around the crest on the fireplace.
Great Hall fireplace

After the Great Hall, the rest of the tour is self-guided, laid out in a uni-directional way. There are lots of sets, like Harry’s Gryffindor bedroom,
Harry's bedroom

costumes, like these from the Yule Ball,
HP costumes Yule Ball

and props, like this display of wands.
HP wands

There were certain displays that ABC did not like, such as these disembodied hairpieces.
HP wigs

Sometimes, context mattered. For example, we rushed ABC out of the dark Forbidden Forest Set with its spiders because she was not a fan, but, later, when we saw the huge model of Aragog, Hagrid’s former pet giant spider, which was several meters wide, mounted on a wall, ABC decided to sing “The Eensy, Weensy Spider” to it.

As a big fan of trains, ABC enjoyed the Hogwarts Express.
Hogwart's Express

Even better, we got to walk through the train cars!
Ada on the Hogwart's Express

For some reason, I had to rush ABC through the grand Gringotts Bank set, because she did not approve.
Gringotts

The destroyed Gringotts was much more to her liking! She insisted on watching the scene multiple times. It must have been the attraction of the dragon…

The last part of the display before the obligatory exit-through-the giftshop was the model of Hogwarts used for the external shots. ABC was a big fan!
J and Ada at Hogwarts model

It was a beautiful model. Because it was winter, we got to see it with snow which made it look even more magical!
Hogwarts model

We all had a lovely time. I hope we will be able to visit again in the coming years. It will be fun to see how ABC reacts over time. Warner Brothers also continues to add new displays, as well as having various limited time features, so there will be new things to see each time.

Eventually, ABC – and any future siblings – will be able to read the Harry Potter books and see the films. Perhaps, E and L will embark on our family tradition of reading each book aloud as a family.

Maybe, B and I will be able to join in via videochat…

Family time in London

One of the great things about going to visit family living in a historic and dynamic city is that you get to experience non-touristy, neighbourhood life. (I hope all my UK and Commonwealth friends will appreciate my remembering to put the u in.) L, E, and ABC live with L’s parents in Plaistow. The row houses there remind me of ones that you see in some US cities.
Larry's parents' house in London
L’s parents love gardening. The weather in London is mild enough for flowers outdoors in the winter. There were definitely no flowers co-existing with Christmas wreaths at our house in upstate New York!

We were surprised to see a tree full of parakeets! Apparently, escaped parakeets have led over the decades to thousands of these birds flying about London.
parakeets in London!

We learned that while most of the utilities are underground, the phone lines are not. Londoners get a lot of use from one utility pole!
London telephone lines

While we sometimes went in a family car, we most often got around by train or bus. Never having lived in a large city with good public transportation, I appreciated the extensive network of routes. While people in the US tend to think of double-decker buses as tourist vehicles, they are the common bus on most routes. They can carry twice as many people as regular buses and there are definitely a lot of people on the move.
London bus station
ABC loves to go on the buses and trains, especially when she can sit in the front of a train car or the top level of a bus. She likes to pretend she is driving.

Another advantage of being with Londoners is that they can direct you to phenomenal neighbourhood fish ‘n chips shops that a tourist would never find. We decided on haddock and there was so much food it overflowed the plates!
London fish 'n chips
It was also great to have so many home-cooked meals, especially when we had Filipino dishes. Given that most of us came down with a cold, it was especially great to have homemade soup.

travels

I am not a seasoned international traveller.

My first two visits to Europe were tours with the Smith College Alumnae Chorus, one to Sicily and one to Slovenia. Everything was organized and arranged in advance, so I didn’t need to think about much of anything, other than a few meals here and there. We had our own charter buses, so we didn’t even need to navigate in the places we visited.

At the moment, I am in London, visiting daughter E, granddaughter ABC, and E’s spouse L and L’s parents, with whom they are living. My spouse B and other daughter T are here, too.

Given that this is my first trip abroad that was not an organized tour, I am finding the nuts and bolts of travel a bit daunting. We flew from Newark to Heathrow, two large and totally unfamiliar airports. We took a train to Paddington Station, where E met us to shepherd us to another train and then a walk to their home. Later in the day, when our hotel check-in time arrived, it took both of L’s family’s cars to get us and the luggage the two-ish miles (3km) to our hotel.

Most of our to-ing and fro-ing has been by bus or train. London has a very comprehensive system of public transit, which is great because it is such a huge city.  Unfortunately, I am a) not used to having public transit available and B) intimidated by large cities, so I am grateful to have family with me to keep me on the right track, at least most of the time.

As in our trip to Slovenia, B is acting as the photographer, so I hope to share some posts with photos in the coming days.

Stay tuned!

(I promise not to be in central London near Parliament on election day, December 12. That could become entirely too exciting for someone like me who isn’t used to raucous crowds.)

SoCS: a trip to the grocery store

When we bring ABC to Wegman’s (our biggest grocery store), there are two things she wants to see.

One is the cow in the dairy section. It’s not real, of course, but does move. ABC says, “Mooooo. Cow! Mooooo.”

The other is a toy train on an elevated track over the bulk food section. ABC says, “Choo, choo. Train. Choo, choo.” Fortunately, she says this very quietly, not at train volume.

Would it be too silly to say we go to the store to get something to chew?

(There is a third thing at Wegman’s that ABC looks for when we go to the Asian foods section. There is a red and gold paper dragon over the aisle. ABC does not know how to make a dragon sound.)
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “chew/choo.” Join us!  Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/07/05/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-6-19/