Posts Tagged With: London

NOT a Theme Park

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We recently drove down to Warner Bros Studios in London to celebrate our daughter’s 14th birthday with a Harry Potter Studio Tour. This was a much anticipated visit, one she’s been waiting for ever since they opened about a year ago. In fact, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the only two places she really wanted to visit during our year of travel were this one and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida. So, we finally booked our tickets, which seemed to me to be very expensive, and rose at the crack of dawn for the three hour drive.
Six and a half hours later, as we were leaving, those tickets felt like a bargain. And when I think how much we will be paying next month to visit Universal Studios, they seem like even more of a bargain! This is no theme park recreation of your favourite Harry Potter locations. This is the real thing. The place where the young Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint spent a vast amount of their childhoods, where all eight movies were filmed, where the almost-life-sized model of Hogwarts was designed and built, where the sets were lovingly created in an unprecedented amount of detail, and where the magical creatures of the wizard world came to life. Here, you can see the philosopher’s stone, stroll down Diagon Alley, and say hello to the hippogryph. You can examine the shelves in Snape’s Potions classroom, see the dishes washing themselves in the Weasley’s kitchen, and fly a broomstick against a green screen while watching yourself chase the golden snitch in a Quidditch match. You can even visit the backlot to see the massive Knight Bus, created by welding a few London double deckers together somehow and painting them purple, have a little rest in Mr Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia, and knock on the door of 4 Privet Drive.
But the tour isn’t just about the excitement of standing where Harry stood. It is an incredibly informative glimpse into film-making in general. Looking at the makeup tables and racks upon racks of costumes, the creature shop and all the prosthetic goblin faces and realistic feathered beasts, the graphic design department with its technical drawings and enough concept art to fill the Louvre, and the special effects where they tried prototype after prototype to get the flying cars and brooms just right – it is inspiring. It made me want to work in one of these departments. The possibilities for a creative mind are endless, and this place is a great way to showcase all that. It was, unexpectedly, one of the most exciting and educational field trips we’ve taken in England!
Of course, the tour did end with the obligatory overpriced gift shop, but even that was entertaining. I think the Wizarding World in Florida will pale in comparison.

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London is Not Calling

20130228-000145.jpgI have just realized that despite the fact that one of my most recent posts was about making your kids do stuff even when they don’t want to (the character building and all that), we have just let them write off our trip to London. I think I am a hypocrite. Or I’m just being lazy. Or smart. Or all of the above.
The story is, we were planning a little trip to London, just three nights, one day to do The Globe and a few other bits, another for the bus tour around the cities main attractions, and the other at the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. Then the kids got wind of it, and although they wanted to go to the Studio, they whined about the rest. Which they often do.
Now, normally, we don’t care about the whining. We try to ignore it, and go anyway, and they either tolerate, or actually enjoy, whatever it is we are doing. We are doing these things for them, after all.
But this time, we just caved. The gist of our decision making conversation centered around the fact that we were spending a lot of money to go down there for three days, and they were just so done with cities, they had no interest in going, and it really was for them this time. We have been before. In fact, we took our two oldest down for the Olympic triathlon in August, so even they have been…etc etc. So, we just ditched. We are still driving down to do the Studio Tour since our tickets were already booked, but no overnight. And no Big Ben. Or Buckingham Palace. Or Globe Theatre. Or Picadilly Circus.
I feel hoodwinked somehow. Like I just didn’t notice what was happening here. We gave in, and it is a slippery slope. Good thing I noticed now so I can avoid such blatant manipulation in future. This trip is not about the kids having a good time, after all, it’s about forcing them to do stuff they don’t want to do. Or they don’t think they want to do.
Oh well, we will be in England again in the future…maybe they will appreciate it more when they’re older…

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Olympic Fever!

I am not a fan of big crowds. They make me feel claustrophobic and anxious. Thats why I said I wouldn’t go anywhere near London during the Olympics. In fact, we made sure we flew into Manchester just to avoid London.
But, like everyone in England right now, we were bitten by the Olympic bug. Watching it on tv, and listening to the excitement of the commentators as the Brits continue to surpass all medal expectations has been an experience in itself. So much so, that a solo trip for Dev down to London to watch the triathlon became a three adult, four kid excursion which included me.
We started out at 5am, and were in Hyde Park by 10, ready for the start of the swim. We drove (and when I say we, obviously I don’t actually mean me) as far as Swiss Cottage on the outskirts of the city, then took the tube from there to Bond Street, and walked to the park. Easy Peasy.
There were 80,000 people in Hyde Park, and the atmosphere was amazing. And I coped quite well with the crowds, relatively speaking. I only counted the kids every 10 seconds, and I was hardly neurotic at all most of the time.
After the start, we headed into the BT Live area and watched the rest on the big screens. Again, a great atmosphere – very exciting when the Brownlee boys crossed the finish line. Of course, we were rooting for the Canadians too, but there’s certainly something about watching two Brits win medals while surrounded by thousands of other Brits!
At the end of the day, I’m glad I went, but I think Darragh said it best on our way home: Well, it was a good experience, but I think next time I’d rather watch it on tv with popcorn!

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