Sunday, April 19, 2015

London 2015 - Day Four

Recap of the last full day in London....

We woke up bright and early and left the hotel by 7:00 a.m. to meet the big double-decker Harry Potter bus and the much anticipated Harry Potter studio tour.  This is another one of those things that I would not have ever signed up for, but in hindsight cannot recommend enough!  It was great!  If you are not a Harry Potter fan, you will be by the time you leave this place.  Very cool! 

Are you noticing a pattern here?  I had no damn clue what we were going to do in London.  Didn't even care.  These girls laid out a great plan and I was happy just to do whatever they recommended.  It was like being on a real tour! 

Golden Tours - Harry Potter Studio prepaid and they pick you up and drop you off at the studio door.  It was probably a 40 minute bus ride. 

This girl was not one bit happy! 
She loves Harry Potter.

This is the actual studio set of Harry's cupboard under the stairs.

Studio set of the Great Hall. 
It was really great! 

Look at the cute school uniforms! 


More sets.

Harry's dorm room. 

The Poisons and Potions classroom set. 

Those handles were stirring like magic.  It was cool! 

The Weasley's house - everything was all crooked.  Super cute. 

The train station!  One of my favorite parts.  You can see the kid on the right of this picture holding on to the cart and acting like he is running through the wall like in the movie. 

Animatronics and prosthetics

Hagrid head! 

Double-decker Potter bus.

Two moms acting like we are in the movies! 

We obviously missed our calling.

Look at those animated faces! Someone throw a green screen behind that car and it would look like we were flying through the air!   Lights, camera, action.....

We spent about three hours cruising through all the great exhibits and seeing all the props and sets and learning about all the fancy ways they made the movie seems so real.  Even after seeing it first hand it is hard to believe it was shot mostly in a big ol' warehouse.  Pretty slick.  We all bought a little souvenir (or several) and climbed back on the bus to London for our final afternoon in the city. 

We went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit and then were going to have a proper English Tea! 

Back to the underground Subway.  Quite a terrific public transportation system once you figure it out.  If we heard "Mind the gap" one time, we heard it fifty times!  One funny story that I don't want to forget....we got off at one station and there was announcement about the lift being out of order or the escalator or something.  It did not phase us because all the stations had stairs right next to the escalators and we did not think it was any big deal.  We got off and there was this HUGE line of people waiting to go up the elevator.  We saw the sign for the steps and thought it would be quicker to hit the steps.  

Well, it didn't take long to figure out why folks were waiting for the escalator!

193 steps.  

Up a circular staircase.  It makes me nauseous just typing it.  I was looking down at the steps because they were terrifically narrow towards the inside rail and really wide on the outside rail.  Not just an even step, so you had to look down to ensure you were going to get a foot on the step.  It made me dizzy!   Malarie, of course was cracking jokes the whole time!  She loves steps!  Highly entertaining! 

They had countdown signs in the stairwell.

You have gone 64 steps. 

You have reached 81 steps. 

You have made it 109 steps.

You have 42 steps left.

You have 15 steps left.  

Finally we reached the top and were laughing and huffing and puffing....and then one of our subway cards would not work to exit the station.  We were NOT going back down!  Finally, we got some help and fell out on to the street! 

The subway stations are clean and well used.  Lots of people choose that method of transportation and it is mighty smart when you see the traffic on the street!  Those double-decker buses are all over the place and they come within a fraction of an inch of hitting each other all the time.  It is miracle there are not more accidents!  They also have painted on all the street corners in big letters "LOOK LEFT" or "LOOK RIGHT"  That is for stupid Americans like me who cannot for the life of me remember that cars are coming from the opposite direction!  It is not natural! 

Enough about trains and buses....let's reminisce about Afternoon Tea!  It was probably my favorite activity and we had some pretty nice activities. 

It was a vegan Afternoon Tea, which might make a few of you cringe.  I have been around that cute vegan in the yellow sweater below to know that eating vegan can be super yummy! 

Here we are, ready and willing to see what all this afternoon tea business is about. 

The table was beautiful and there was a set menu.  Five types of finger sandwiches, hot scones with fruit, coconut cream and jam, three desserts and the choice of tea of coffee.  BRING IT ON!!   

Look at this cute bowl of sugar cubes.  
Vegans are NOT afraid of sugar!  

Mal and Meg both got hot is Jasmine and the dark one was something called Darjeeling.  
Me and Callie got coffee!  

Dark, thick, pressed Italian coffee!  Delicious coffee!  

I had three cups. 

That was a mistake.

Big mistake.

I did not sleep at all.

At all.

Not a wink. 

Surely the rational explanation for my lack of sleep was the abundance of super delicious coffee at four o'clock in the afternoon! 

Look at these cute sandwiches!  Here is what was inside:

Scrambled tofu with mustard cress
Grilled Portobello with rocket pesto 
Lemon & thyme tahini with cucumber 
****Grilled aubergine with red pepper and coleslaw****
Courgette with  semi dried tomatoes and Parmesan mayonnaise

I gave my favorite the stars!  Don't even ask me what aubergine is because I do not know.  It was delicious. That is what I know. 

These scones may not look like much....they were much.  So fluffy, light, great texture, delicious!  And there was whipped coconut cream which when combined with the strawberries and scones was like a little strawberry short cake.  Dessert before dessert. 

The dessert selection was probably my least favorite which is kind of shocking.  The little tiny pie slice in the background was a raw orange cranberry gelatin pie that was my favorite. The middle chocolate brownie was a bit too dense for my liking and the lemon coconut cake was okay.  As I am typing this I wonder if my dessert issue was because I ate so much already and had pre-dessert dessert of strawberry short cake! That is highly likely!  

AGAIN, this was another long meal.  We were there no less than two hours.  
These Londoners are meal loiterers!  

After we left the tea, we walked through Kensington Park on our way to Harrods.  There were people and pets out all over the place enjoying the beautiful day.  The girls got wrapped up watching a little min pin dog that appeared to be looking for his people.  I was worried we would be fostering that dog - but eventually his owners whistled for him and he went tearing off across the grass!   While we were observing and stalking the little dog, I spotted this guy feed a parrot.  From his hand!  I googled "parrots in London" and apparently they have colonies of feral parrots that frequent the parks.  That was unexpected! 

We got a little closer and also had some pretty bold squirrels visiting with us.  Megan shared a leftover strawberry with this little guy and I snapped this picture for Hubby who has a bit of a fascination with photos of squirrels.  

Then Megan put a few crumbs of leftover scones in her hand and some of the cutest little finches landed on her hand to eat!  Isn't that neat?

A little blue bird.

There were also a ton of pigeons on the ground around her feet.  They were coo'ing and making all kinds of noise.  I wish I would have gotten a video clip! 

We loved the parks.  The were active and busy, but not nearly as busy as say, Central Park in New York City.  

The flowers were just gorgeous! 

We finally found Harrod's and it was a HUGE department store that was packed with people.  I did a little price snooping because I find it interesting what people will pay for things.  I found a silk robe in the lingerie department that was $2,450. What?  They have super soft robes at Target for $19.99.  Where do you wear a $2,450 robe?  Crazy!  And the shoes?  Little tiny children's shoes for $400.  They only wear them for two minutes!  And they can't even walk yet!  Shoes are purely for decoration on little tiny baby feet! 

We unfortunately entered the store through the perfume department and the smell was wicked strong and nauseating.  I felt sick for most of the night.  Too strong!  We rode a double-decker bus back to the hotel and sat in the front seat of the top deck.  It was like a roller coaster ride!  My stomach was not amused!  My advice to any future visitors to Harrod's....find a different entrance than the perfume department!  

We inquired at the front desk how much a cab would be to the airport so that we could avoid lugging our bags onto trains and buses and turns out it wasn't too bad.  We made an executive decision to take the cab route back to the airport and it was a good one!  He dropped us off right at the door to our terminal.  Woo Hoo! 

Our 10 1/2 hour flight back to Dallas wasn't terrible.  The plane was not full at all and we all spread out on our own rows.  It is just nice to stretch out when you are cooped up for that long!  Three movies, a couple good naps and  lots of snacks made the time go by pretty quickly. 

We hit all the highlights in London, making the most of the few days that we had!  I so enjoyed sharing these experiences with Callie and the girls.  They are great travel partners!  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and now I can get back to some regularly scheduled programming!  

Have a great day! 

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