Friday, October 31, 2014

London Day 3.

Our last day in London was actually not really spent in London. We went up north to Warner Brother Harry Potter Studio Tour. Because we're nerds like that.


Landon and I are both big Harry Potter fans. We grew up reading the books, and actually argue about which one of us discovered Harry Potter first. I remember unwrapping the first Harry Potter book on Christmas morning and not having ANY idea what it was. I'd never heard of it. My mom told me it was a very popular book in England. So, I'm convinced that I was one of the first kids in America to read Harry Potter ;)

Anyway, we knew that we couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to the actual Harry Potter set if we were in England and I'm SO happy that we went!

Getting there was pretty scary though. When I was doing all my research before our trip, I realized that it would be cheaper to rent a car for our last day than buying train tickets. Our plan was to go to north to Harry Potter, and then go even further north to Milton Keynes to see my family, and then the next day we had to go way down south to the cruise terminal. When I added up the cost of all those train tickets it was really expensive! When I told Landon we should rent a car the first thing he said was that there was no way he was going to drive in England. I completely agreed. So I called Suzette and asked her if Jason would be willing to drive in England. His immediate response was, "sure!" I don't think he would've been so willing to volunteer if he would've known how crazy it was going to be ;)


It was SO weird to have Jason sitting on the right side of the car and to be driving on the left side of the road. He did such a good job navigating the crazy busy streets with super aggressive drivers, going through roundabouts clockwise, and driving down streets that were definitely not even close to wide enough for two cars to fit! Landon sat up front and gave directions and together they were a great team! Suzette and I sat in the back with our eyes closed praying that we didn't get in an accident. Ha!

I absolutely LOVED driving through the countryside! England actually reminds me a lot of Oregon. It was so pretty!


Anyway, we got to the studio and they have you watch a little video clip before introducing you to the entrance of Hogwarts and The Great Hall. Oh my goodness it was SO cool to be on the actual set!


The Great Hall! And the actual costumes and props from the movies :)
I was pretty excited to be there ;)
Their Yule Ball Costumes. P.S. Emma Watson is TINY. 
The Gryffindor Dormitory

I loved seeing all their wands!
The Mirror of Erised.
Dumbledore's office was amazing! It's crazy all the details that go into it that you don't really notice when you watch the movies.
It was really cool to see the broom machines
Do you remember this scene?

Halfway through we stopped for lunch and of course we had to try Butterbeer. It was surprisingly good, especially the cream on top.



Diagon Alley was AMAZING. 
Hogwarts Castle was definitely the coolest part. Holy cow!


After spending three hours wandering through Harry Potter, we went to Berkhamsted Castle. Well, it used to be a castle, now it is mostly ruins. It was built in 1066! It was really neat to walk around the grounds and think about all that must've happened there. I've definitely never been somewhere so old.









Next stop was Milton Keynes to meet up with my mom's family for dinner. We drove about 45 minutes further north to my Aunt Carole's house. She had organized for over 15 of us to meet for dinner and honestly, I was feeling a little nervous. I know that they are my family, but I hadn't met a lot of them and some of them I have only seen a few times when they visited America. But I had absolutely NO reason to be nervous because they all just welcomed me and loved me immediately! They are such amazing people and I felt right at home! It's so hard to describe how amazing it was to be standing in my aunt's house surrounded by my aunts, uncles, and cousins just laughing and talking.

My Aunt Carole is so sweet and kept giving me presents. I couldn't believe it! She gave me British candy, a necklace and earrings, and canvas pictures of London that are SO adorable. I was so overwhelmed with the love and kindness of everyone!

I wore the necklace and eatings on our first formal night on our cruise. I love them :)
After spending some time at Carole's house we all drove to dinner and continued talking and laughing for an hour or so. I definitely wasn't ready to leave and we ended up chatting for a long time outside of the restaurant too because I couldn't bring myself to say bye.

From left to right: My cousin Paula, second cousin Danni, cousin Carl, Aunt Ali, Aunt Carole, Uncle John (hiding!), Uncle Ray, second cousin Emma, cousin Mark, cousin Simon, second cousin Sennan, cousin Tracy. 
A few of my mom's siblings--my Aunt Ali, Aunt Carole, and Uncle Ray. My mom is the 7th of 9 :)
I was ready to take Sennan home with me! He is WAY too cute!
My cousin Carl works for Fossil and asked me if I would like some free clothes. I still can't believe how amazing my family is! We all walked over to his car and I ended up getting three sweaters and two darling flannel shirts. How awesome is that?! I'm telling you, my family is the best! :)

I finally had to say bye because it was getting so late and we had a two hour drive home. I got into the car and just burst into tears. Happy tears because I was so grateful that they all came to see me and that I had the chance to meet and see them (my uncle Ray drove three hours from Wales to see me!) But also sad tears because I didn't want to leave! I've dreamed of having aunts, uncles, and cousins my whole life and after spending time with them and realizing how amazing they truly are, my heart was breaking that I didn't get to grow up with them and that I don't get to see them on a regular basis. Family is the most important and I just wish I could see them all the time!

Thank you SO much to everyone who came and for making me feel so welcomed and so loved! It was such an amazing day and I can't wait until I can visit again and this time spend more than just a few hours with my incredible family!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

London Day 2.

After our crazy/miserable first day, we decided we weren't going to set any alarms in the morning. Our bodies needed to sleep and recover a bit! Since it was the middle of the day our time, we fell asleep right away but woke up a few hours later. It was kind of like we took a nap and then we were ready to be awake, even though it was around 3 am London time. After laying in bed wide awake for a few hours, we ended up falling back asleep until 11 AM!! I couldn't believe it. We slept for over FOURTEEN hours! I've never slept so long in my life, but obviously our bodies needed it!

Since we slept in for so long, I basically had to remove all the museums we planned on seeing from our itinerary. Oh well! The one thing that was on the very top of my list in London was The Tower of London, so we dedicated the day to that :)

I miss hearing "mind the gap" 50 times a day! :)
We took a train into central London and then walked across the London Bridge. I couldn't believe we were actually walking across London Bridge. THE London Bridge! Suzette and I of course had to sing "London Bridge is falling down" :) It was raining but none of us cared. It just added to the feel of London :)



awesome view of Tower Bridge!

We were all feeling SOOOOO much better after getting all that sleep and the day was absolutely perfect. When we got to Tower of London I was just giddy!





The coolest thing about being at the Tower of London was getting to see all the poppies. It has been 100 years since World War I, so they filled the mote of the Tower with red poppies to honor every fallen soldier. Each poppy was handmade from ceramic and there were THOUSANDS of them. It was really amazing to see.




When we got inside, we took a tour with the Beefeaters aka the Yeomen Warders. They are the "ceremonial guardians" of the Tower of London and basically the cutest little guys ever. I really wanted to get my picture with them, but I wasn't sure if it was appropriate or not. Dang it.



Since it was raining we couldn't do the official walking tour, but one of the Beefeaters took us into the chapel and just talked with us for 30 minutes about the history of the Tower. He was really sassy and I basically loved him.

Then we went to look at the Crown Jewels. They don't allow pictures, but I snapped this one right as we were walking in. One of the Beefeaters shot a look at me and before he could tell me off I said, "last one! Putting it away now!!" haha :) Woops...


It was unreal (sorry, you're going to hear that word a lot) to see all the crowns and scepters and robes and jewels from all the kings and queens. It's amazing how big the diamonds were!


Next we went inside the actual castle (The White Tower) to see the armory displays. Pretty neat!

This was Henry VIII armor... can you see why this one cracked me up? :)

The Tower of London is infamous for the torturing and murders that happened here, so of course we had to check out the display of the torturing equipment. It definitely gave me the heebie jeebies...


How cool is that bridge?!


As we were leaving the Tower and heading for the tube, we ran into my Aunt Wendy and Uncle Ray! I couldn't believe it! We were planning to meet them in a few hours for dinner, but what are the chances?! Wendy is my dad's sister and the last time I saw her was when she visited over 10 years ago. I recognized her as she walked by and stopped in front of her saying, "Aunt Wendy!" We were all in a little bit of shock!


Our next stop was Parliament. We walked out of the tube station and BAM! There was Big Ben! I couldn't believe it!


It was SOOO amazing to see such an iconic building in real life!



I couldn't stop taking pictures of it!
We walked about five minutes to Westminster Abbey and walked along the grounds. Ahh! Another iconic and BEAUTIFUL building.



We were all just so happy and having a MUCH better day! We had some more time to spare before we were meeting up with my aunt and uncle, so we decided to take the tube over to Covent Garden. It's a big shopping center with this really cool indoor market place, known for having street performers and music. It was really cool!


We stopped in a chocolate shop and got some Italian (I think?) chocolates. Yum!


Then we walked through the cool, alley-like streets to Salisbury Pub to meet my aunt. Going to a real-life London pub was on my "London bucket list." Also, how many people do you know that go to London and then meet up with their aunt in a pub?! UNREAL!





Even though it was really amazing to see all the iconic buildings, the highlight of my day was of course getting to spend an hour or so with my cute Aunt Wendy and Uncle Ray. I'm going to cry just typing this because I'm just SO SO SO happy that I got to see my family. Growing up with all of my aunts/uncles/cousins in England (and Canada!) was hard for me. I was always so jealous of people that had cousins and family that lived so close. I've always ached to know my family and especially to visit them in England. I just was so overwhelmed with joy to be sitting in a pub next to my sweet aunt just chatting and eating dinner. It was honestly my dream come true! Thank you SO much Aunt Wendy for taking the time to come into crazy London to see us! You have NO idea how much it meant to me!!! :D

It was seriously the PERFECT day and I was basically on cloud 9 the entire day. I can't believe it really happened! I'm still in shock over it all!
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