This is my eleventh (and final) post about our family's first trip to Europe. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the educational US travel we have done here.
Trevor and I started out on Thursday, April 18 with my parents, who were walking to a HOHO stop about a mile northeast of our hotel. On the way, we passed by this famous landmark.
We left my parents at their bus, then continued on to Euston Station, where we would be meeting for our tour.
Tour of what, you ask? I'll get there. First, we needed lunch. There were a lot of choices, but we made a beeline for a pasty. Yum.
Trevor and I split one and it was delicious.
Then we chose a donut from Dum Dum Donutterie. These aren't ordinary donuts. They're baked (not fried) croissant donuts. We split a Galaxy donut. Fabulous.
After lunch, we met up with our tour group, then boarded our train. We traveled for about 25 minutes, got off, then boarded a bus. Ten minutes later, we were at our destination. We received headphones and got ready for our epic, behind-the-scenes tour. Can you guess where we went based on this photo?
If you guessed The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio, you're right!
Before I tell you all about it, I need to back up and explain why Trevor and I went alone. It wasn't by choice. Steve, my mom, and my sister are all huge Harry Potter fans too.
As I've mentioned, Kari did most of the planning for our Europe trip, arranging the cruise, hotels, and the tour I told you about earlier. Months ago, I booked our family's flights, shore excursions, and the train we didn't take. But I didn't plan anything for Rome or London until a few weeks before we traveled. Between my three speaking engagements and a million other things on my plate, it wasn't a priority. When I finally started researching, I discovered the Warner Bros. Studio. At first, I assumed it was like the Wizarding World at Universal here in California, but no. This is where the films were made, and you visit the actual sets, see the real costumes, and literally go behind the scenes of the movies! I was SO excited!
Kari and family already had their Disneyland Paris plans, so they couldn't join us. But Steve, Mom, and Dad were in. I went to the site to book five tickets... no tickets available for any time on any of the three days we'd be in London. None. What the heck?! I tried other companies. Sold out. Apparently tickets sell out months in advance. Long story short, I contacted all of the tour companies that sell tour tickets (I found 8) and begged them to put me on their waitlists. I refreshed every site every hour (not exaggerating) and FINALLY found two tickets, three days before we were traveling. I snatched them up. I checked for extra tickets while we were in Rome, and once a day while we were on the cruise. Nope. By then, Steve had made plans with Mahendra and my parents had decided to spend their day on the HOHO. So Trevor and I went alone.
It. Was. Incredible.
I can't tell you how amazing it was to be in the actual Great Hall with the actual props and actual costumes.
The tour starts with a movie, then you enter the Great Hall. From there, you proceed into the first studio. Remember, these are the actual sets, props, and costumes from the movies.
The tickets I got were for a fully guided tour through Viator, which was FANTASTIC. Definitely go that route if you have the chance. (Book your tickets 6+ months in advance.) Our guide, Hannah, put on her white gloves to show us costume continuity sheets, the insides of textbooks, potions bottles, and even Harry's scar. It was incredible.
The Mirror of Erised.
The Griffindor Common Room.
My favorite set was the Potions classroom.
Hagrid's hut was cool, too.
Actually, everything was cool. Hannah had interesting stories about every single thing.
We listened to her through headphones, so she didn't have to yell and we didn't have to stand right near her.
The first portion of our tour lasted two hours. Then we had a 30-minute break, conveniently located near the Butterbeer. Obviously, we had to try both the drink and the ice cream version. Delicious.
We also enjoyed the outdoor sets during our break.
Then Hannah rejoined us to continue the guided tour.
Then Diagon Alley.
The tour concluded at this stunning model of Hogwarts.
Here's a sense of scale for you.
The lighting switched gradually from day to night. Gorgeous.
At this point, we were welcome to go back and spend as much time at any of the areas we wanted. Trevor and I went back to do some of the hands-on stuff we hadn't done during the guided tour, then reluctantly said goodbye to Hannah and Warner Bros. We had plans to meet up with Steve and Mahendra for a late dinner, so it was time to go.
We rode the bus back to the train station, then found our train. We arrived in Euston Station, where we'd started, no problem. But, WOW, was it crowded! It was the evening before the start of Easter weekend, and the station was jammed with commuters, vacationers, and families. We had instructions to take the Northern tube line from Euston to Leiscester, then walk a few blocks from there. OK, Black Line. Easy enough.
Trevor and I are not public transportation novices (far from it), but it turned out not to be that easy. It might have been if there hadn't been thousands of people everywhere. We bought our tickets, then got directions to our platform from an employee. We squeezed on the train and only went one stop before Trevor noticed our train was not going the right way. We got off and figured out the mistake (the Black Line splits and we were on the wrong portion), got back on a train to Euston, then got onto the correct train. We reached Leiscester Square and fought through crowds to the restaurant, Maison Bab.
It was dinner for seven. Mahendra's wife Manna, daughter Pina, and coworker Dimitrios joined us for a spectacular meal. Everything was absolutely delicious and I couldn't have asked for better dining companions.
We didn't leave the restaurant until 11:00 pm. By the time we walked back to the hotel, it was 11:45 pm... WAY past our bedtime. But what a day!
After our late night, we slept in on Friday, April 19, then headed to Hyde Park via Marble Arch. The only good thing about the protests was that crossing the street was really easy.
Our goal was to find a geocache. Specifically, a multi called "Arch to Arch." The cache was very well done and took us on a tour of the beautiful and interesting monuments and memorials in Hyde Park.
While working on a puzzle, this randomly happened. Totally cool.
We eventually found the cache (yea, us!) and then walked to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The V&A is considered one of the world's best museums of art and design.
It was spectacular. We absolutely loved it.
We ate lunch at the V&A, which has the nicest cafeteria-style museum food I've ever seen.
It has the nicest dining areas, too.
I discovered my new favorite soda (affiliate link) there. It is SO good.
My favorite part of the (HUGE) museum was the fashion wing. I am very glad I didn't live in era of skirts wider than your height.
The V&A did a good job with providing hands-on areas. Here, Trevor is feeling the layers that make up this bed. Below we're designing our own monograms.
I love this bouquet of silverware.
Gorgeous jewelry, displayed so beautifully.
I liked the glass area a lot.
After a few hours at the V&A, we'd barely scratched the surface of what was there, but we were dragging. All that walking, followed by standing on the marble and tile floors, and we were drained and our feet were sore. We pulled ourselves away, knowing we still had a nearly 2 mile walk back. Fortunately, it was a beautiful walk, this time through a different area of Hyde Park.
We collapsed at the hotel with 20,000+ steps showing on the FitBit. After an hour of rest, we met up with the rest of the family for dinner and a stroll through Hyde Park. Only the close part, thankfully!
We walked back to the hotel (along the roads closed by the protests, which is why they're posing in the center of the street).
And then it was time to say goodnight and goodbye. We left early the next morning, flying direct from Heathrow to SFO. The rest of the family left a little later than we did and their route was much longer: Heathrow to Iceland to Seattle to Boise. I really miss the days when they lived in California, but I'm glad for the chance to travel with them. What a trip and what an adventure!