Sunday, January 8, 2017

Harry Potter Film Studio

Email from June 13:

We managed to get out of the Travelodge early, underground to Euston station, and then a train to Watford. We each had about 3 Hobnobs for breakfast. We got to the WB studios around 9:40 and our tickets were for 10am, so we ate at the Café. We each got a Belgian waffle with bacon for less than 5 quid each! Then we were in the studios. We walked through all the sets, props, details we missed in the films, and had a really great time. It was fun to look in the shop windows on Dragon Alley, walk through Privet drive, and take a good solid look at each of the elaborate props created for the films.

Then we saw all the drawings, renderings, and whitecard models. We heard the guy in front of us turn the corner and yell "Oh ____!" (explitive). Around the corner was the full model of Hogwarts. It was pretty awesome.

We also enjoyed seeing all the animatronics (the Monster book of Monsters!), the costumes, and my favorite set was the Ministry of magic. Those fireplaces and offices were just as amazing in real life as they were in the film. Tom rode the night bus, we walked onto the Hogwarts Express (running through the 9 3/4 barrier, of course). It was all very cool.

From Euston station on the way back into London, we walked to the British Library to see their special collections. It was absolutely pouring down rain and in the 4 block walk, we got completely drenched. We were wearing our raincoats but shoes and trousers were quite wet. We only stayed in for less than an hour and when we left it was sunny again. We checked into our new hotel (Doubletree Hyde Park) literally a block away from the BYU London Centre, so it's fun to back in the home neighborhood.

At 5pm, we walked over to a big British Pub around the corner called the Churchill Arms. Hilariously, it was a Thai restaurant in an old English pub. We met up with my BYU friend Elizabeth who knew about the place. It was fun to meet up with her. She married a Brit three years ago and moved here. We had a great visit. And then we headed to Piccadilly Circus for our play for the night: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

We've done great picking a great assortment of productions to see. They've all been completely different so you can't even compare them. Today's was a highly stylized choreographed play about a boy with autism navigating difficult situations he's facing. It was so compellingly done. It was fascinating and we enjoyed the experience.

Observations from London: I have seen only three Kebab places in all of London since being here and two of them are within a few blocks of the BYU London Centre! And everyone seems to vape. I keep thinking they're holding a pen or a car phone charger and then they smoke it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

V & A, Harrods, Tower Bridge

Email for June 12:

This morning we had breakfast at the hotel again and then headed to the Hyde Park Chapel. As the V&A Museum is literally next door, we started there. We walked through the museum until about 12:45 and then we popped over to sacrament meeting at 1. The Hyde Park chapel has added a little visitor’s center display about the history of the Church in England. After a lovely sacrament meeting (YSA with an American Bishop), we headed back to the V&A. We walked through the entire museum. When we’d finished, we walked down the street to Harrods.

I think if you’re going to walk into a store on Sunday, Harrods is clearly the one. We may have actually been taken somewhat seriously in our dress and tie. The food galleries are my favorite. We walked through those, the perfumerie and a few other rooms and then hopped back on the tube. We headed straight to the National Portrait Gallery and looked at everything there. Then we walked up to Leicester Square… the whole Theatreland area is my favorite.

We then took the tube to the Tower of London where we’re staying at the Travelodge tonight. After our previous three hotels, we feel like we’re staying in a hostel. But, it’s only one quick night so we’re close to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower tonight and then we’re off to Watford tomorrow for the Harry Potter Studio tour in the morning. It’s been raining on and off all day but we’ve been mostly inside so it’s been alright.

We got dinner at a Tesco around the corner and we ate it in our room watching British telly. At 9pm, we walked down the road to the Tower of London. At 9:30, our Yeoman Warder met up with us at the gate and let us in. He told us stories and led us around until 9:50. At that point, the official ceremony of the keys started. They have to do the whole thing in such precise time that everything has been said and everyone is in the right place when the clock tower chimes ten and then the guard is released to their barracks. 50 people or more live inside the tower. Most of them live in quarters on the building just inside the gates, but a few people live in some of the more inner towers including Lord so and so (don’t remember his name) who is the Constable of the Tower. We saw the lights on. Once we left the tower, we saw the TV shining in a different window. Our warder was awesome, as they all are and it was a great thing to do. Then we walked around to Tower Bridge to walk under it and see it all lit up from the area around the tower. And now we’re eating Galaxy Ripple bars and Hob Nobs and watching yet another tribute to the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Queen's Birthday Parade, Harry Potter Premiere

Email for June 11:

Today was simply glorious! We got up early, ate a yummy free breakfast at our hotel, and walked a block away to the Mall (the street between the arch and Buckingham palace, which of course rhymes with pal or shall) for Trooping the Colour. We got there around 8:15am and we got a place right up front. We ended up next to these two adorable old ladies that took a coach in from Birmingham and a lovely gentleman from Edinburgh named Peter.

The celebrations started around 10am. The amazing bands came down the mall (The Irish troops played bagpipes). There was a band and a regiment for each of the five home guards. There were also guards who lined the street. It was interesting watching the guards along the street. They stood rigidly the way we're used to seeing palace guards stand. But every so often we would see one march over to another and they would stand face to face, then one would grab on to another's hat. The ladies were explaining that the sergeants would do that to relieve their troops--they would grab the hat to take the weight off their heads for a minute. We even saw the sergeants put something into the guards' mouths sometimes, and we saw them joking around and smiling, while still standing rigidly and at attention. The police also lined the street, but they were much more relaxed than the guards.

We then saw saw the Royal Family go past in horse-drawn carriages. Camilla, Harry and Kate were in the first one, followed by two other carriages with other royals we didn't recognize. Then came the horsegaurds (hundreds of them!) followed by the Queen's carriage with her and Prince Philip (whose birthday was yesterday and he turned 95!). We were so close to both of them! Right behind them were Charles, Princess Ann, and William - all in full military garb (hard to see William and Charles' faces because of the big shaggy hats called Busbies or Bearskin).

Then, once all the troops and royals had passed, we had to wait another hour (they go to horseguards, near Whitehall, where the stands are and the Queen inspects them). Around 12:15, they all over back down the Mall toward the palace. At this point, the ladies had gone and we were just there with Peter. Once everyone passed again (we got great pictures!), we headed toward the palace with Peter. As we walked down the mall, we heard the 41 gun salute in Green Park to our right.

At 1pm, all the Royals came out on the balcony for the flyovers. Peter, who has a big interest in military, told us all about the Spittfire and some other ones. There were a dozen or more planes that flew over in different groups, including several vintage planes from both world wars. Then the final flyover was a group of fighter planes in formation with red white and blue jet streams that flew right over the palace. It was awesome. The whole day could not have been planned better. We saw the crowd that was in the stands. It's probably good we didn't get tickets as they were all decked out in hats, top hats, tails, and canes and umbrellas! Everything was timed exactly, super pomp and breathtaking. As Peter said: "That's one thing our country can still do really well." It's true. It was insanely marvelous.

When all was said and done, it was around 2pm. We walked back to the hotel and watched first the news and then a special on the monarchy and Buckingham Palace. Tomorrow there is a giant picnic down the mall for the birthday celebrations. The whole road will be inaccessible and representatives of the 600 charities the Queen supports will be invited. Marks and Spencer put together a very posh picnic basket for each attendee.

We left the hotel around 4:30 for dinner. We ate at a salad place called Tossed on the way to the theatre and then walked around Theatreland for awhile before getting in the queue to get into Harry Potter. The queue wrapped around the entire block more than an hour before curtain! It was crazy. The girl wearing a Marauder's Map dress wins my favorite outfit.

Harry Potter Part 1 review: I will follow J. K Rowling's request to #KeepTheSecrets, but here are the things I feel I can say: The play opens at the train station with the same scene where the book ends. And the moment they all run through the barricade, everyone on stage spun once and were immediately in their Hogwarts robes. And the play continued to amaze. The staging of the magic was fantastic. The Crowd was hot and gasped, clapped, and cackled appropriately. Everyone is amazing, though I'm not a huge fan on the guy who plays Draco. He seems too confident, large, and gruff for the little whiny character we're used to. Harry is just as brash as always and so is his son. The story is really about Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter. Lupin's son is never mentioned, which I found surprising. The magic was great, as mentioned, but the actual wizarding duals ended up a bit hokey, which was actually really surprising because none of the other effects seemed hokey at all. I also cannot imagine only getting tickets to Part 1. It obviously ended on a big cliff hanger and there wasn't even a curtain call. The lights just went up. And even though you sort of knew where the story was headed and you were totally interested in it getting there, when it did, it was kind of disappointing... so I'm excited to see Part 2. The play is staged on a giant rotating stage which helped with the amazing choreography of scenes. It really was magical.

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