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UK

UK, UK Parliament, Big Ben, Travel, Europe, London, Britain, England
in Europe, United Kingdom

Travel: Why You Shouldn’t Miss Visiting the Houses of Parliament (London, UK)

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Touring the Parliament wasn’t originally on our schedule as we were quite unaware that it’s actually easy for people go inside and have a look. When we arrived in London, however, Alvin found out that since we were there during the session break, we could sign up for an audio tour! We booked our tickets just a day before and got slots! #WinningInLife

We have this sort of luck during our travels, you see. A similar thing happened in Japan – but that’s for a different post.

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in Europe, United Kingdom

Travel: The HMS Belfast (London, UK)

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Just dropping by to make a quick post about the HMS Belfast – one of the attractions in London we went to and really enjoyed!

It’s part of the UK’s Imperial War Museums (IWM). We visited 3 out of 5 during our trip and you can find the posts here:

I wasn’t really able to take a lot of photos inside the ship since I was busy trying not to fall into trap doors or make a wrong step while climbing up and down ladders. Note to self: The life of a sailor definitely isn’t for me. This, despite my obsession over the Navy’s gala uniform and how I would look in it.

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Travel: Covent Garden Market, Transport Museum, a meet-up, a Pub, & other must-sees (London, UK)

We started our second day in London by heading to the London Transport Museum. On the way there, however, we passed through the Covent Garden Market. The former fruit and vegetable market is now a beautiful shopping centre. It has high end brands like Dior and local shops selling artisan goods.

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Though what really got to me were the antiques and other awesome vintage finds. In case it isn’t that obvious yet, let me just put it out there – London is an awesome city for shopping for vintage. They have the best stuff I’ve seen! And I do love spending time looking through markets and stores that sell vintage and antiques.

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Travel: The Churchill War Rooms (London, UK)

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Note: The Churchill War Rooms is part of Britain’s Imperial War Museums. If you want to check out my write up on the IWM London, click here.

Tucked in a corner by the Clive Steps in London is the entrance to one of my favourite stops during our Europe trip. The inconspicuous door  leading to the Churchill War Rooms’ entrance was already modified to make it easier for people to find it. However, a lot of tourists who visit London still walk past it, not knowing what it actually is and not even noticing it.

The Churchill War Rooms is composed of the Cabinet War Rooms and the Churchill Museum. It is an underground complex built under the Treasury building in London that served as Britain’s command centre during World War II. It is where then Prime Minister Winston Churchill spent most of his time, making the most important decisions and plans back then. The complex was abandoned in August 1945 after WWII and was preserved.

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Travel: The Imperial War Museum (London)

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On our first day in London, we decided to visit the Imperial War Museum (IWM). We were staying at a small hotel nearby and getting there meant just a three-minute walk. Whoopee! Summer walks in London? Why don’t mind if I do. 😉

IWM London is part of Britain’s Imperial War Museums – a family of 5 establishments in the UK dedicated to keep the lessons of the past alive.

We’ve been to three of the five during this trip and this is the first post on this series. Will be linking the other two here once they are up.

IWM London is housed in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital and has been there since the 30s. It’s quite hard to miss this building along Lambeth Road as right at the front are two, 15-inch guns taken from the HMS Roberts and HMS Ramillies.

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The moment you walk inside, it is quite hard not to be impressed. You’ll be welcomed by a Harrier Jump Jet along with a couple more planes, rockets, and bombs. All are hung from the ceiling. We stood there gaping at them for a while.

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Travel: Arrival in London, The Real Platform 9 and 3/4, Plus Affordable Accommodation

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Ah, delays. They have become a norm in this blog and even on the Youtube channel I started. I would apologise but I’m afraid that won’t change anything so let me just jump right into the post.

We are still on our Europe trip but we will now discuss how we travelled from Paris to London. I’ve mentioned this before although I think I should just do so again: my husband is a huge fan of trains.

So during our trip, we took this mode of transportation whenever we could. Of course, we had to take into consideration the time and cost effectiveness of it whenever we chose between rail and flying. We also booked everything in advance to make sure we were getting good deals.

From Paris’ Gare du Nord station, we boarded the EuroStar that took us to London’s St Pancras station. We took the earliest train (we boarded at 7am) and I was practically sleep walking. However, we do want to make the most of our trip so sleep had to take a backseat during the whole three weeks that we were in Europe.

The journey took 2 hours and 17 minutes and most of it, I spent snoozing. Arrival at St Pancras was a breeze since British border control officials will already process your travel documents in Paris.

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Harry Potter, Harry Potter Studio Tour, London, Harry Potter London, Harry Potter UK, Studio Tour, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Hogwarts, Studio, Leavesden, Travel, Europe,
in Europe, Travel, United Kingdom

Travel + Ultimate Guide: The Making of Harry Potter – Studio Tour (UK)

We’re finally done with the Paris leg of our trip and we’re now in the UK! I’m so happy about getting through my backlog, bit by bit.

Today’s post is about one of my favourite bits of our Europe trip in 2015. This happens in the middle of our London leg but I opted to write about it first due to two reasons: 1.) It will be easier to link it to different posts and 2.) The first one is something I just made up the real and only reason is that I’m just hella excited to write about this one. So prepare yourselves. This is going to be a lengthy post.

If you know me personally or if you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you probably already know that I’m a humungous Harry Potter fan. Yes, I’m a grown woman and no, I don’t care what you think. It came out when I was young, okay?!

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It’s weird though how this isn’t my first time in Europe yet I only got to go to the studios during this trip. I guess timing really is one of life’s most important factors. That, and a companion (husband, in my case) willing to spend all day with you at a studio and watch you drool over things while being such an insufferable know-it-all (see what I did there?) and the ultimate fan girl.

Before I move along, I just have to thank Alvin for being such a great husband. We even marathon-ed all 8 movies prior to the trip just so he can be up to date with HP knowledge. I really can’t believe he only saw one of the movies and he can’t even remember which one! Forgave him for not reading the books though. His interests do lay in the non-fiction section of the bookstore.

Though I must say, he did look like he was enjoying himself in the studio in the end. Or… was he just humouring me?

Getting there

The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour is often advertised to be in London but it’s actually in Leavesden – an area that is actually 20 miles Northwest of Central London.

We took a train from from London Euston station to Watford Junction and the journey took a little over an hour so do take this into consideration! Upon arrival in Watford, we took a double decker bus operated by Mullany’s Coaches to the studio. The bus stops right in front of the train station and is decked in Harry Potter decal so you won’t miss it. The bus ride takes about 10 minutes and will cost you GBP2.50 for a return ticket.

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Tickets

We booked our tickets through the official website months in advance to make sure we get slots. The studio does not sell tickets on-site. So, no walk-ins.

You will get your booking confirmation via e-mail which you can exchange for actual tickets upon your arrival. There are ticket counters right outside the studio. You also have the option to have your tickets mailed in advance to you for a hassle-free entry.

Our tickets amounted to GBP85.85 in total. The breakdown is as follows:

Adult tickets: GBP33.00 each (GBP66.00)

Paperback souvenir guidebook: GBP9.95

Digital guides: GBP4.95 each (GBP9.90)

Tip: If you’ve read most of the books, the digital guides may end up being useless to you. It’s pretty cool though. It has audio and video so you can watch some behind the scenes stuff. But it ended up being more useful to my husband. So reserve the guides for people in your group who are not that much of a die-hard fan. As for the paperback souvenir guide, get it. It’s a steal for the price and is an exclusive piece of merchandise from the studio. You can see me talking about it here at 20:30.

When booking your tickets, you get to choose what time you want to start your tour. This is the studio’s effort to do some crowd control since it can get pretty congested. I suggest you go in the morning since people tend to stay longer and the afternoons will most likely leave the studio full with all the people from the morning tours, still lingering and taking photos. Our schedule was at 9:30 and we arrived to this:

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Not to worry. The line moves pretty fast. While waiting, you also get to see the cupboard under the stairs. It’s enough to get anybody who’s read the novels or seen the movies excited.

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The Great Hall

You will then be ushered in to a theatre room where a message from the cast will greet you. Cameras weren’t allowed so sorry if there are no photos of that. After the short film, guests will be guided towards the doors of the Great Hall.

You can just feel the excitement in the air as kids dressed as Hogwarts students and adults who wished they could do the same and not be judged for it await for the doors to open.

Tip: Go on your birthday. They would normally pick you to open the enormous double doors and be the first to go inside.

Confession: I almost pretended like it was my birthday just to be the one to get to open the doors. Knowing that my husband may not look at me the same way again, stopped me. In the end, the privilege went to a kid dressed in Hogwarts robes with a Gryffindor scarf.

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I did not scream nor run as I entered, I promise. I was able to retain my poise that’s normally reserved for diplomatic events that I attend with my husband. I was the perfect model of calm and cool until I saw these:

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And that’s when I started gushing and pointing at stuff. The fake food supposedly prepared by House Elves, the costumes worn by the cast (Tip: Look for the one worn by Daniel Radcliffe while filming Sorcerer’s Stone), the utensils – everything just lives up to expectation!

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