Thursday, December 26, 2019

Summer 2019 Adventures Part 1 - Harry Potter

Forgive me for I have failed as a blogger.....but I'm coming up for some air. I used to tell my students excuses are like buttholes....we all have them and they all stink! So without any ado, here are my stinky excuses....hee hee hee! Back in the late winter/early spring I got a part time job, but as these things is typically hurry up and wait. So I got all my paperwork in ASAP and then waited with high hopes my credentials would come in before leaving for R&R....they did not. So off we went, and of course they came in while we were gone. So upon return from R&R, while jet lagged, I was diving in to a backlog of work as my predecessor had left post in June and it was now late August. Also, last year I was a brownie troop leader for Clarissa's troop. In addition to continuing to be a troop leader, I also took on a role with the committee (the overseas equivalent of service unit). My role has a couple peak busy times....the fall is one of them. Plus, there is the whole everyday life, groceries, homework, ice skating, academic games team, etc things that go on and keep one normally busy. So there you have it! Stinky excuses have now cleared the room! I'm spritzing air freshener and it's time to catch up!

School ended and cardboard boat races were had! We were now a family with a rising high schooler and rising upper elementary school student!

So in 2019 British Airways started a new service (aka flight offering), a non-stop flight from London to Charleston, SC. - which happens to be our regular home leave/R&R location! Since there are no city pairs (required government flights) between Doha and Charleston we had the opportunity to choose the Doha-London-Charleston flight with American Airlines flown on partner airlines! When taking flights over a certain time length (including connections), we are allowed to stopover and rest (but only for 72 hours and we pay for our own hotel). So we opted to stopover in London, on our way stateside.

With our arrival late afternoon one day and our departure early afternoon another day, we essentially only had 2 full days to sightsee (plus a 5 hour time difference, so a bit of jet lag thrown in also). Once we made it to the ground (a lot of turnarounds in that landing...we landed a bit too), we got a taxi to the motel, found a SIM card for my phone, and had some dinner. We then all crashed as we had early morning bus to catch! The next morning, we caught a cab to a bus stop for the shuttle bus that took us out to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour of the Making of Harry Potter.

Once the entrance opened and we got out of the cold, damp London loveliness, we got something at Starbucks! (Sadly, they didn't have a 'I was here' HP mug for our collection).

While we waited on drinks, Mason nearly got abducted by the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon!

Needless to say, I think Mason was the most excited for the tour (he's read all the books twice and seen all the movies), followed by me (I've seen all the movies opening weekend and it's my box set Mason has read), then Richard (who loves a good HP marathon weekend), and finally Clarissa (who's probably seen a majority of bits from the first movie and is finally starting to read the first book). I'm mean this child was airborne in front of a Privet Drive sign with excitement (and we are in the middle of the teen years.....lots of meh's in our household!!).

So since the Harry Potter movies were filmed in/around London everything we were looking at were actual sets and props used in the movies. So it was pretty darn cool to see these things! We saw the little cupboard under the stairs (Harry's bedroom).

We then went to a little holding room, chatted to a tour guide about who'd been here before, then we moved into a little theatre to watch a short video. After that the tour opened into the main hall featured in all the movies. Just like TV studios, it seems so big in the movies but wasn't actually that big.

They had different professors' mannequins in the front of the dining hall. I honestly don't remember this little 'point counter' apparatus from the movies (must re-watch!).

After the dining hall, we went into what I will call the hall of props. Think of a prop from a movie and we likely ooh'ed and aah'ed over it! We saw dorm rooms, ice sculptures (wait...shouldn't that have melted...hmmmm), chocolate fountains.....

We saw the Erised Mirror from the Philosopher's Stone movie (Socerer's Stone is the American movie name) - if you read the engraving above the mirror at the top it reads: "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi," which if you read it backwards says "I show not your face but your heart's desire,".....Mason obviously saw his heart's desire!

The infamous Tri-Wizard cup - unfortunately it was covered in glass so we couldn't throw our names in

Mason and I both looked into Dumbledore's Pensieve (a device for storing memories outside of one's head....and therefore can be viewed by others).

Then a special case of super iconic items. I'm confident in everyone's ability to read what they are...

We all took turns posing in our robes (except 'our photos taken by strangers' averse child) and then some of us rode upon brooms in front of a green screen! It was quite fun. Though we only splurged for the video for super fan #1. I did cropped out the director and movie crew jibber jabber.

There was a spot for us to take a picture inside Hagrid's hut...

Up until this point, Clarissa had seemed a bit uninterested. Then she oddly enough let one of the staff members take her photo of us partaking in a beverage in Hagrid's Hut and she smiled!!!! Then we headed into the Forbidden Forest! I guess to any kid you say we are going somewhere forbidden and they are

It was a very cinematically spooky once we made our way a bit into in the forest and started seeing centaurs and spiders. Then when Clarissa saw this was a hands-on section and she could control the creatures and the weather in the Forbidden Forest she had a lot of fun.

The next set was Platform 9 3/4....I helped Clarissa with her cart of school goods since she was a first year and Mason moseyed through without a care in the muggle world.

We found our train and hopped aboard!

Not sure if he even noticed, but the spot Mason sat down by was a pile of Hufflepuff luggage....which is the house Mason is in!

By this time, we were starting to get a bit hungry and there was a perfectly placed cafe! So we stopped for a snack and of course a couple frosty mugs of Butterbeer!

We peeked into the Knight Bus,

walked into 4 Privet Drive...

saw Harry's birth home still showing damage of the "battle" with 'he who shall not be named',

got to "drive" the motor bike and flying cars,

and, of course, cross the wooden Hogwarts covered bridge, it was a bit windy!

The next hall was all sorts of creatures from the series. Good and bad! Mason's favorite - the Monster Book of Monsters.

Clarissa was interested by shriveled up Voldemort.

Hedwig seemed annoyed I was taking photos.

Probably the most fun thing we did in the creature hall was make Dobby (the house elf) dance. There were three different screens showing the different steps involved in the process. Take a look!

We then headed into the newly opened Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Mason successfully pleaded our case with a goblin to get us access into a vault.

There was a fire breathing dragon explosion in the bank. Clarissa really enjoyed this and we may have watched it several times! We then headed down Diagon Alley. Clarissa of course found the ice cream shop and I think Mason took in all the movie scenes that had been shot along this tiny street!

As you exit, you get to see a huge model of Hogwarts that was used for a most of the aerial shots used in the movies. You can see some adults to the side for scale! It was several stories tall. So it a HUGE model!

We, of course, had some time to find souvenirs in the shop and check out the floating candles in the cafe before catching our bus back into London. It was a pretty cool day, it took a few more months but Clarissa is now reading the first book in the series!

Summer Adventures to be Continued......