Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Warner Bros Studio London- The Making of Harry Potter

Today I took my #1 Harry Potter fan on the Warner Bros studio tour.  She's been waiting months to get a behind the scenes look at the making of Harry Potter.  It was such a magical day for both of us!

Us, in the make up mirror
The studio is located 20 miles north-west of London in Leavesden.   Here they have preserved the amazing sets, costumes, and props that were actually used in the films.  Visitors must pre-book tickets (£28/per adult) which provides access at a specific time.  We were on the first tour of the day at 10 am and I highly recommend going as early as possible.  The crowds definitely increased as the day went on!
Upon entrance, fans are shown a short film about the making of the Harry Potter movies and then are led into the impressive Great Hall.  It is huge! You can imagine it full of Hogwarts students gathered around the tables for their respective houses.

The Ice Sculpture from the Yule Ball

After the Great Hall, the tour is self-guided.  We took our time and gazed carefully at each set and marveled at the elaborate props. 

These colourful displays were some of my favourites!
More goodies from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes

In the special effects area guests can hop aboard a broomstick and take a ride in front of a green screen.  This was loads of fun and we only had to queue for a few minutes.  Later in the day, the queue for this can be up to an hour long!  Of course, the photos are available for purchase- but they were so unique I didn't mind paying for them.

The tour continues outside on what is known as the "backlot".  Here, we got an up close look at the knight bus, #4  Privet Drive, the Weasley's car,  Potter's cottage, and the Hogwarts bridge.

#4 Privet Drive
Hop on the Knight Bus

We also stopped here to enjoy a bite to eat and a cool frothy cup of Butter Beer.

Yummy Butter Beer
Back inside we toured another sound stage full of special effects, "monsters" and more props.  Dotted throughout the displays are short videos explaining different aspects of the filming.  I especially enjoyed learning more about the animal actors featured in the movies.  Did you know that, despite their reputation for being wise, owls are actually quite difficult to train?  It takes a snow owl months to learn what a raven can accomplish in just a few weeks!

Along Diagon Alley

A trip down Diagon Alley led to the finale of the tour:  the model of Hogwarts.  It was huge and as we walked around it the lighting slowly changed offering us a feel for what it would look like at different times of day and night.

The Hogwarts Model and one happy girl
Of course, the final stop on the tour is the gift shop which sells all variety of things for the Harry Potter fan.  Stuffed animals, wands, scarves, t-shirts and jewelry are all on offer.  You can even pick up your very own Pygmy Puff to take home.

I really enjoyed every aspect of this tour.  And if I can say that (as someone who is embarrassed to admit she has never read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies), you can imagine how much my daughter loved it.  She was beaming ear to ear all day.  For me, that was the absolute highlight of the tour.

Are you a Harry Potter fan?  
Will you be visiting the Studio Tour in London?
If you've already been, what was your favourite part?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Holiday in Portugal

The Algarve region of Portugal is a hugely popular holiday destination for Brits.  It offers gorgeous beaches and sunny weather and it's only about a 2 hour flight from London.

Sagres: The very tip of Portugal
Another view of Sagres

We spent a week enjoying this beautiful country with 2 other expat families we know from Sydney.  With 15 people in our lovely villa the week was full of sunshine, swimming, laughter, good food and friendship.  What a treat for us all.

Swimming at the villa
Horseback riding in The Algarve
The view from Ponta da Piedade near Lagos

At the end of the week, the weather turned a bit nasty and my sweet friend suggested we ditch our seaside house and head north to the village she is originally from.  What an amazing way to end our holiday!  We got a taste of what the "real" Portugal is like.  They took us to local restaurants with the most delicious food, introduced us to their friends at the village salao, drove us out to more stunning beaches, and showed us around the medieval village of Obidos.  It was a perfect ending to a wonderful week.

The beach near Caldas da Rainha

The whole gang enjoying the trampoline
The girls on the street in Obidos

I arrived home feeling refreshed, restored and filled up with the love of my friend.  It was just exactly what I needed.  I'm not sure how I've managed to find the most sincere, caring, thoughtful, generous and hospitable friends all over the world.  I certainly don't deserve them.  But I am so, so grateful to have them in my life.

Me & my wonderful Portuguese-American-Aussie-Kiwi friend.  Love her!
What about you?  
Did you have a Spring Break holiday?  
Did it leave you invigorated & ready to jump into this new season?
I hope so!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Break

I hope you all had a beautiful Easter and are enjoying this Spring Break.  

We are on holiday in The Algarve region of Portugal; visiting gorgeous beaches, soaking up some longed-for sun, and spending time with some much-loved friends.

Looking forward to telling you all about it next week!

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