Let’s start with London because that’s where our trip began. We spent about eight days traversing across the city and even some areas a little further out. Their 60ish degree weather was freezing compared to 100 degree heat we had just left in Los Angeles, but my excitement (and big ol’ rain jacket) kept me warm enough to keep going. ;) I feel like we hit the ground running as soon as we landed and didn’t stop. Here’s the highlight reel:
1. Warner Brothers Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter was everything I hoped for and more. Being a giant Harry Potter nerd, this was at the top of my to-do list. I am so happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed. We spent six hours listening to every bit of our audio tours, watching every interview, reading every sign, and taking in each detail of the sets, costumes, and props on display. I loved learning new things that even surprised a super nerd like me. We got to walk through the Great Hall (hey tour guides, there is no ceiling!), board the Hogwarts Express, peek inside the Ministry of Magic, and doorbell ditch the Dursley’s on Privet Drive. Hermione’s Yule Ball dress was just as gorgeous in person. The details of each wand, small prop (Time Turner, Sorcerer’s Stone, Snitch), and paper product (Daily Prophet, school book, letters, Quibblers, and Marauder’s Map) was exquisite. They also had a really neat display on special effects – like Lupin’s trunk that actually opens up the drawers and shoot out books, shoes, etc. through mechanics – verses visual effects – like the CGI background during a Quidditch match. The tour also included a look at the giant miniature (I know) of Hogwarts. It was spectacular. The tour concludes in what look like Ollivander’s Wand Shop where they have wand box with the name of every single person involved in the eight films. What a legacy! I left feeling ridiculously happy and (if it’s possible) an even bigger fan.
2. Westminster was one of my favorite places to go while we were in London. This is also where I had my first “Oh my. I’m in London!” moments. We got off the tube and I was looking down, putting my train ticket back in my bag as we walked up the stairs. We had reached the top by the time I looked up and I found myself staring at Saint Steven’s Tower and Big Ben. I can’t even describe what it felt like to finally see it in person. In Westminster we wandered beautiful gardens and watched part of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace – very cool. But my favorite part was Westminster Abbey. There is a place within the Abbey called the Cellarium where they serve a lovely afternoon tea. We really wanted to do a traditional English tea, and our friend Amanda recommended this spot so we knew we had to go. It was delightful! I am not much of a tea girl myself, but I drank an entire pot of peppermint tea while we ate tiny sandwiches, delicious bite-sized desserts, and yummy scones with jam and butter. It wasn’t just the food – it was the whole experience. I’m so glad we did it. We also loved exploring the Abbey itself. There is something so powerful about stepping into a building with a history that dates back more than 1,000 years. I could barely wrap my mind around it. The coronation chair is also on display – it is one of the oldest things in all of England. The building itself is stunning, and I really enjoyed learning about England’s Monarchy through our audio tour (these were everywhere – it was awesome). Many of the Monarchs are buried or memorialized there. It was also neat that they honor other important English figures like William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, and Charles Dickens. I am so fascinated by their history and the way they have preserved it for so long.
3. Tour Guides! Some of our best experiences were on guided tours at Windsor Castle, The Tower of London, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Each guide we had was full of history, interesting information, and wit. Each location held fascinating stories waiting to be told. I’m so glad we got to listen to them. So thank you to Adam (Windsor), David (Tower of London), and Fi (The Globe) for bringing those stories to life and making our trip feel so special.
4. Being in the presence of Stonehenge is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced in my 26 years. Seeing something with my eyes that was seen by people 4,500 years ago was mind-blowing. I just couldn’t get my brain around it. The stones were a beautiful sight, and I was fascinated by the audio guide details – both fact and speculation by historians. I liked the idea that it was built for God or ancestors… At that time wood structures were built for the living. Stone was reserved for something more important. It was also such a gorgeous day which made it even more perfect. On top if that, the food there was delicious. It was an excellent thing to experience on our last full day in England.
5. On our final evening we did a final sprint around the city to see a few things we hadn’t made it to yet. We wandered through Hyde Park to find the Peter Pan statue, made our way to Trafalgar Square (which we had somehow missed earlier in the week) to take a picture with the lions, searched for Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street, and strolled down Portobello Road because when you love Disney as much we do you have to. We had a blast running around London and squeezing every last drop out of our experience.
So, there you have it! Some of my favorite moments from one of my newfound favorite places. Thinking through all of them and reading bits of my travel journal just made me so happy. I am so thankful for this experience, and I can’t wait to see more of this beautiful world! Check back soon for my (again, much belated) post on Paris!