Monthly Archives: August 2014

Warner Brothers Studio Tour (AKA, the Magical Harry Potter Studio Tour)

4 midnight movie premieres. (1 in costume.)
1 midnight book release.
6 books read in 2 weeks, and the 7th in 2 days. Plus multiple re-reads.
2 trips to the most magical place on earth, the Wizarding World in Florida.

And now… 3.5 magical hours at the Leavesden studios where the 8 Potter movies were filmed.


I asked the one intern left with me in the office (well, this Saturday was his last day, so now I am the only intern left) to go with me, because fangirling alone is just not as fun as fangirling with a friend, even if that friend isn’t quite as enthusiastic about Potter as you are. Vincent as my witness, I was skipping and bouncing on the way to the tour, and at several points during the tour. I checked my phone for the time at each Overground stop on the 40 minute ride to Watford Junction. I was telling myself to not hyperventilate. (Yes, much excitement.)

IMG_2074I have been waiting to go on this studio tour since I realized they were opening it up to the public. I knew I had to come as soon as I was accepted into my intern abroad program. And as you might be able to guess, it definitely lived up to expectations! Seeing original sets, costumes, props, models, designs, and effects was amazing. There was an intro video recorded by the trio, of course, and we entered the tour through the great hall set. (Unfortunately, we could not see the sky in the ceiling.)

Daniel’s first ever set of robes (and that pointy hat!), along with other tiny wardrobe pieces, was adorable. One of my favorite sections, of course, was the green screen section. I got to sit on a broom and fly through different scenes. (The employee made me mount the broom from the right side though. It felt really awkward, especially when trying not to trip on my huge Ravenclaw robe. Which I specifically asked for after they tried to hand me a Gryffindor one.) Once I have access to a decent scanner, those pictures WILL  be up. The other great interactive section of the tour was getting a chance to follow video instructions from the set’s wand combat
IMG_2098coordinator/coach. I had Hermione’s wand (since Ginny’s wasn’t available, and my favorite is a toss up between the two) and I’m pretty sure I could have taken the 12 year olds that went before me in a wizard’s duel. (That video is already up.)

I had to get some butterbeer, of course (though they didn’t offer it frozen, which is my favorite from the park). Their back lot had the outdoor sets, like the wooden bridge at Hogwarts, Number 4 Privet Drive (where everything was perfectly normal, thank you very much), the Knight Bus (which looked way better than taking a plain night bus), and Goderic’s Hollow. If I allow myself, I’ll just excitedly list everything. But I won’t. But all in all, it was seriously fantastic. The behind the scenes prop design 20140830_203217and makeup prep was fascinating, too. And seeing all the paper set models was amazing. There is a lot of talent on display at the studio. The absolute BEST model was the giant Hogwarts castle they used with green screen for exterior shots during the movies. Music was playing, there was dramatic lighting, and it was so incredibly detailed.

I was still (literally) skipping along with excitement when we left. (I was suddenly 12 again. For the entire day.)

The ONLY thing that disappointed me: You could not hear Moaning Myrtle in the bathroom, like you do at the theme park. (How hard is it to rig up a few extra speakers?)

Now – who is ready for a Potter movie marathon?! I’ve already been listening to the soundtrack nonstop.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”



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IMG_1686   Traveling to Italy was my first overnight trip completely solo since I got to London. Speaking of – I’m really missing all my friends that have already gone back to the States, or Australia, or Germany, or France, or just moved on to other parts of the UK. It feels like the friendships I made in the past 3 months happened over years. I’m so grateful I got to travel with so many amazing people! But traveling for 5 days by myself was incredibly freeing, and a different type of experience.

Venice was absolutely breathtaking. Pictures don’t do it justice. I was lucky enough to have fantastic weather the first two days I was there. With just some slight cloud cover, a comfortable temperature, a very slight breeze, and no need to take a rush hour tube journey, Venice was the perfect break from cold, rainy, crowded London (not that I don’t still love London! Its just a bit early for IMG_1692summer to be over, is all).  As soon as I stepped off the coach that brought me from the airport, I had my camera out to take pictures. Within about 30 minutes, I decided I could probably live there for a few months and be perfectly content with only a few friends and a stack of books.

The two highlights of my stay in Venice had to be the 3 hour walking tour (I learned so much history and managed to get my bearings for the section of Venice I was staying in – and I don’t think I would have ever found the best bookshop I’ve ever seen without it), and the groupon Gondola ride. (Groupon has been an important part of my life since leaving the States.) I loved hearing the water sloshing around in the canals and getting to ride a gondola through them was the one tourist thing that I would have regretted not doing.

I also possibly ate my weight in gelato.


Rome, as a whole, wasn’t as aesthetically awe-inspiring as Venice. However, the ancient and historical sections of the city were
magnificent! I saw Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum – so many Roman Emperors and officials that lived and entertained there. I kept thinking about different Bible stories I could put visuals to. Then there was the Colosseum! I knew it was large, but when I was standing in it, it felt monstrous. It was difficult to picture how many people used to be able to fit into the one building.


I also went on a 3 hour free walking tour in Rome – we went through some beautiful churches and saw some great architecture. I think, though, that my biggest disappointment in Rome was the fact that the Spanish Steps fountain and the Trevi Fountain were both drained and covered in scaffolding. Not what dreams are made of. Come on, Rome. I wanted my Lizzie McGuire moment!

Overall, it was a very successful solo backpacking trip through Venice and Rome. And the train ride between the two went through some gorgeous countryside! My new life goal may just be to retire to Italy. If I can manage to get a Visa.


“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown”

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Longines Global Champions Tour


The things I would do to be able to ride in that arena…

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook is most likely well aware of the fact that I got to see the Longines Global Champions Tour one Thursday. I think I uploaded a picture every 10 minutes for most of the day – and I was there for 13 hours!

The weather was actually quite nice at the start, and the classes started at a relatively low height with riders I had never heard of. (One of the USA riders was named Tara Couch – the coincidence made me laugh.) It was all held at the Horseguards Parade in Westminster – where Henry VIII used to have jousting tournaments… and there I was watching one of the largest global showjumping competitions. The arena also had the gorgeous backdrop of the surrounding Westminster buildings and a view of the top of the London Eye.IMG_1561

Of course, I was really there to see Beezie Madden ride. I think I’ve had a Beezie poster since I was still subscribed to Young Rider magazine at 12 or 13. I was sitting – for the first part of the day – on one of the short sides of the arena right in front of the combination, which is where most rails were dropped and about 80% of the falls happened. (It was a very exciting place to sit. haha.)

IMG_1539And since it was London… the skies opened up and dumped buckets of water on us all. I pulled out my cap and pushed the hood of my jacket up and huddled in my seat until the rain got so bad I could feel it seeping into my boots. The things we do for horses….

Once we got up to the Grand Prix riders (Beezie, Eric Lamaze, Reed Kessler, Jessica Springsteen, etc.) it got more exciting. There was rain, people were running for cover, horses were a bit more spooky… Unfortunately Beezie knocked too many rails to get into the jump off, but the jump off was fantastic.


Ireland v Wales

Throughout the day, I was also one of the few people who cheered and clapped for all the Team USA riders… And I did so loudly. I felt proud and patriotic during the awards ceremony for the class where USA got gold and silver. Towards the end of the day, as the jumps got higher and the riders were more well known, Team GBR got loud cheers from the entire audience… so I felt I should try to make up for the lack of Americans in the stands. haha.

Then, I got to enjoy some polo! Ireland v Wales and then England v Bangkok. At that point I was soaked all the way through because no matter what I did… the rain had been falling sideways. It got under my coat and down in my boots… But it was one of the best days I’ve had in London! If any of the dappled grays go missing….. (It won’t be me, but that’s just because I don’t currently have anywhere to put one…)



I was cold and wet and happy about the ponies

A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves – strong, powerful, beautiful – and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence.  ~Pam Brown

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4th of July in England

It should have been predictable since the 4th of July is my second favorite holiday (right after Christmas of course!) but spending Independence Day in England made me feel homesick for the first time since I left the States. Especially when I’m hearing updates from home about how great the weather and the pool are… And that I was missing the watermelon.

Still, I stubbornly wore red, white, and blue all day. This meant a red, white, and blue shirt, jeans, a blue cardigan, and red TOMS to work…. And wearing my “Bless Your Heart and the USA” tank to the 4th of July party at an American-themed club I went to with another American friend (plus two honorary American-for-the-day friends). The pizza that was almost as big as I was (that I’m still not sure how three of us ate by ourselves) helped with the homesickness. As well as the American flags everywhere.

We can’t forget listening to my 4th of July playlist on Spotify for three days straight. One of my American co-workers brought in some cookies and strawberries to celebrate, and the weather cooperated nicely all day. All in all, not too bad for spending the day in the country we won our independence from… Even if I was disappointed about the serious lack of fireworks.

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