Explore: London

Explore: London & The Harry Potter Studio Tour

 

It occurred to me the other day that I never shared with you anything about our quick trip in March down to London. It rained the entire time, so my camera stayed in my bag for a lot of the trip. I wish I had more photos to share, but at least you’ll get a flavor of our adventure.

Explore: London

We arrived on a Monday afternoon and set off immediately for the Marx Memorial Library. My socialist child’s heart was all aflutter standing in Lenin’s office and eating an early dinner in the pub where Marx and Lenin hatched the ideas that are still inspiring young people to question the way the world operates to this day. 

We still had some daylight left, so we wandered around Clerkenwell and popped into the St. John’s museum, strolled past Smithfield Market, and came upon the gorgeous church above, St. Bartholomew’s. My favorite thing about London is the way you can just stumble upon history without even trying. Even if you don’t get to go inside, you should always slip down those side alleys when you think you see something cool. Chances are, you were right, and you’ll be rewarded.

Explore: London

The main reason we went down to London was to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour. If you love Harry Potter, and you’re in or near London, it will be worth every penny to take the detour to Watford Junction for this experience. These stories are so close to my heart, so to witness the loving detail with which these films were created was unforgettable. And naturally, they do a great job of making the experience emotional and cinematic without it feeling cheap or overcommercialised. 

I got chills looking at these stone knights (well, they’re probably styrofoam or something) and remembering McGonogall bringing them to life and sending them forth to defend the castle. It’s almost embarrassing how many times I got tears in my eyes on this day.

Explore: London

Speaking of McGonogall, look at how gorgeous her costume is. There are hundreds of costumes on display, and knowledgeable staff to share fun stories about wigs, shoes, makeup, prosthetics and other great behind the scenes anecdotes that make the experience more real for visitors. 

As a baker, I had to get a photo of the chocolate sculptures that were on the table at the welcome feast in Goblet of Fire. Can I get one of those chocolate phoenixes, please?

Explore: London

The Gryffindor common room looked so cozy. I wanted to plop myself on the sofa in front of the fire with my copy of Hogwarts a History. They also have that book on display, along with copies of the Quibbler, the Daily Prophet, and just about every book ever mentioned in the series.

Explore: London

There’s some fun interactive stuff as well. At the Burrow, you can practice your household spells and help Mrs. Weasley with the washing up and more. Also, I think I want that dish drainer for my own kitchen. Think I could get her to make me a chicken and ham pie?

Explore: London

You can also learn some dueling choreography, and of course, ride a broom. You’re not allowed to take photos in the broom area, but we definitely bought some photos of Emily flying to Hogwarts. She’s also wanted by Voldemort’s puppet ministry for being a political dissident. Dumbledore’s Army forever!

Explore: London

One of my favorite things was a hallway displaying some of the concept art created for the films. Obviously, this scene never made it into the film. If I had been by myself, I probably would have spent a few minutes mourning at Dumbledore’s funeral. This painting is just so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Explore: London

The grand finale, before the massive gift shop, of course, is the miniature scale model of Hogwarts. You can walk all the way around it and take in every angle of the castle. I loved standing here and remembering Hermione punching Draco Malfoy in the face. I’m practically a pacifist, but that kid had it coming.

There is so much more than what I’ve showed you in these photos. If you’ve been, I’d love to know your favorite bits. Also, pro-tip, the cafe is not outrageously priced, so you don’t have to panic about eating lunch there. You’ll need it. The food is placed perfectly at the a halfway point in the exhibit when you’re starting to get hungry and tired. Unless you love really really really sweet drinks, I recommend getting one butterbeer to share just to say you’ve had the experience.

The British Library was between the train station and our hotel, so I got to continue my perfect bookish day in London by gaping at the King’s library and ogling some ancient manuscripts that are on display there. It doesn’t take too long to visit the free exhibits there, so if you’re in the neighborhood, definitely pop in.

Explore: London

Our third and final day was Geoff’s turn to pick, so we hoofed it through London over to the Natural History Museum. This museum is huge and packed with exhibits, so if you really want to see everything, I’d give yourself at least half a day. Luckily, it’s free, so if you don’t get to see all you want, you can always go back. Our favorites were the animals. Of course, the dinosaur exhibit was awesome. The building itself is also spectacular.

There’s so much to do in London that I doubt I’ll ever get to see everything on my list, but that won’t stop me trying. What should we do in London next time?

Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
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Awesome in March

Awesome in March

Awesome in March

Work nonsense aside, March turned out to be pretty damn awesome. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with brunch at The Bungo, and I managed to fit into my wedding dress with no trouble. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen.

We followed up that act with a stroll along the Clyde Walkway and a visit to Bothwell Castle. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to hopping in that time machine.

I made doughnuts, celebrated what would have been my mom’s 56th birthday, and cuddled a cat, but all this was a just a prelude to the real excitement.

Emily was here for a week this month. We went to London and visited the Marx Memorial Library and checked out the dinosaurs and more at The Natural History Museum. But right smack in the middle of all that was a visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. It was so amazing, I could barely contain my excitement. I’m sure I was much more giddy than any of the kids who were visiting that day. It was worth every penny we spent, even if we were there two weeks before they opened the Forbidden Forest exhibit.

The internet was so so tasty this month. This Layered Irish Cream Pretzel Pie is dreamy. 

I’ll have the Crispy Baked Basil Chicken Cordon Bleu with a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes, please. 

Why yes, I would like some Homemade Frosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts. How did you know?

Classic Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Your favorites this month were Classic Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies, Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf, and Transformer Chicken. I’m coming to your house for dinner.

But that’s all just stuff compared to getting to spend time with my baby. It’s my absolute favorite thing. There aren’t enough words to tell you how she fills my heart. I am so very proud of her. She’s a million times more amazing than I’ll ever be. We’ve already bought her tickets for coming to visit this summer. I’m holding my breath until then.

 

Explore: Amsterdam

Explore: Amsterdam

Explore: Amsterdam

I absolutely loved Amsterdam. I would go back there tomorrow if I could. I could definitely see myself walking out of my canal house, getting onto my bicycle, and having a drink along the canal every day forever. I loved every inch of this city.

Explore: Amsterdam

There were treats and surprises around every corner. We ate some awesome ice cream., some screaming hot crispy frites, and irresponsible amounts of cheese. And there were still so many more treats to try.

Explore: Amsterdam

Emily also really loved the ice cream.

Explore: Amsterdam

Amsterdam was filled with gorgeous, friendly cats just begging to be petted. There was even a cat museum and a cat boat. Could this place be anymore charming?

Explore: Amsterdam

The architecture was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Everything is narrow and vertical and a little bit wonky. There’s a variety of color and no shortage of narrow alleys to explore. 

Explore: Amsterdam

Obligatory charming bicycle photo. I could become a bike person if I lived here. 

Explore: Amsterdam

In order to save money, our hotel was a bit outside the city. I didn’t mind at all as it was near a tram line, and we got to walk past beautiful scenes like this. It’s almost too beautiful to handle.

Explore: Amsterdam

I loved Amsterdam for it’s seamless blend of historical and modern. This 15th century church was right in the heart of the red light district. Even though this city is known for accessible sin, it was excellent for a family trip. A lot of the museums were quite expensive, but as the entire canal district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there’s plenty to enjoy just wandering the streets and taking in this unique city. I can’t wait for another trip. Can we go right now?

Ham & Turkey Pot Pie | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
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