Posts Tagged With: Harry Potter

Finding Magic in Scotland

Scotland. The land of thick accents, plaid kilts and the Loch Ness Monster — the three main attractions that flitted through my thoughts on my 4 a.m. flight to Edinburgh. After four days in the land of the Scots, my three main attractions shifted drastically.

Main Attraction Number One — Magic.

Quite possibly the best realization I had while on this trip was Scotland’s connection to Harry Potter, and by default, magic. I had no idea that many of the scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed in Scotland or that the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” was in Edinburgh. What are the odds of my first international weekend trip being so closely related to Harry Potter? It was a dream come true!

We first went to Edinburgh Castle, which sits on top of a rocky mountain high in the sky overlooking the city below. Oh, and there’s a train station that runs just below it. It’s basically Hogwarts. As we went through the castle and saw the places where canons had once been shot off, where nobles had once sat, argued and played, and where horses once trotted along cobblestone streets. I think it’s safe to say I let my imagination run wild, and who wouldn’t in such an inspirational and magical place?

After visiting the castle, we made our way back down the intensely steep hill (one of many in Edinburgh) to a cafe called The Elephant House, which also known as “The Birthplace of Harry Potter.” Why, you may ask, has this cafe been given such a grand title? Well, this little cafe, with its walls covered in Asian art and its chairs in the shape of elephants, was the same cafe where J.K. Rowling began writing the Harry Potter series on just a napkin.

It was an amazing feeling to think that I could have been sitting right where she sat when she started the Harry Potter series. The nerd in me had a little freak out session, especially when we were seated right beside a window facing Edinburgh Castle. The view we had from our table made it look even more like Hogwarts than from any other angle. That view explained all of the inspiration for Hogwarts Castle in just a window view.

The Harry Potter attractions and references didn’t end in the coffee shop though. Oh no, they continued everywhere we went in Scotland. The three girls I traveled with and myself booked a Highlands tour for the Saturday and Sunday that we were there, and the magic just seemed to ooze from the countryside as we drove around Scotland. The views were absolutely breathtaking and our tour guide, Craig, was a hoot. He even had a “wand” that he carried around when we would stop at different places. He explained to us how he was indeed magical because it would rain most of the time we were traveling, but whenever we would stop, the sun would come out and the wind would stop, if only momentarily. He told us that he controlled the weather with his “wand” and I believed him.

Craig was great, full of stories and jokes, and he was all about the magic, so when we had some extra time left on the first day of our tour, he decided to throw in a surprise visit to a very magical place. He took us to the Harry Potter Train Bridge where the Hogwarts Express actually drove over the tracks and where they filmed the movies for a few months out of the year. It was amazing and I recognized the place instantly from the movies. Craig even waved his wand toward the stone bridge just for the fun of it and when he did, no joke, a train popped through the tunnel and made its way across the tracks. It was magical.

Once we arrived at our hostel that night, we decided to play Monopoly, but being in Scotland, it was a little different than the Monopoly we grew up with. The names were all different and very British and the pieces were a little off, but the best difference was the fact that one of the railroads was Kings Cross, where platform 9 and 3/4 is in Harry Potter. I was beside myself and had to buy it, no matter what the cost was.

Main Attraction Number Two — Movie Sets and Castles

On our tour, we had the chance to visit a number of castles including the castle where scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed and scenery where Skyfall was filmed. All of this on top of seeing where some of the scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed added up to a wonderful cinematic atmosphere.

We also visited Dunne Castle, which is one of the few living castles still in existence. What makes it a living castle? Well, the family who owns the castle and has owned it for a very long time, still lives in the castle. As we walked through it, there were portraits of older family members, then large paintings, old black and white photographs, Polaroids, and finally, normal, modern printed photographs of the family who currently lives in the castle. The parts of the castle that are open for visitors were well preserved to fit their ancient background, but it was so cool to imagine growing up there as a child in modern day. It would be like living in a fairytale, especially considering the fact that this particular castle was situated on a Loch and was surrounded by absolutely stunning mountains.

As we drove through the countryside on the tour, Craig began to tell us stories of battles that took place in the hills we passed and warriors who gave their lives for their homeland. One such story was connected to William Wallace, the protagonist in the movie Braveheart. He told us the real story of William Wallace, how the royals of the time had burned down his house in retaliation to Wallace’s defiance. The soldiers didn’t realize that his wife was inside the house at the time.

Wallace took out his revenge by finding the nobleman who looked after his village and murdered him. The people in surrounding villages heard of this and joined Wallace in a raid against all noblemen in the country, attacking and murdering them one by one. Not too long after, Wallace was captured and the rebellion ceased. Wallace was tortured and given the most drawn out death imaginable.

Craig also told us the story of where the name “Braveheart” comes from. It has nothing to do with William Wallace at all. It is instead associated with a different warrior. The story goes that on his death bed, all this warrior wanted was to go on a pilgrimage, so he asked his best mate to cut out his heart, place it in a tiny silver coffin to hang around his neck, and take his heart on a pilgrimage.

The best mate obliged and carried his heart across the land until he was met with an opposing tribe. The best mate took off the coffin with the heart tucked inside, swung it around his head and into the battlefield and said to his men, “Follow the brave heart into battle!” This coffin necklace was discovered around the 19th century and is now on display in a museum in the U.K. Craig told us that human remains were found in this tiny coffin dating back to the time of this warrior, so they believe it to be the same “brave heart.”

Main Attraction Number Three — A Writer’s Dream

We continued our journey through the highlands, taking in the most gorgeous mountain views. There was inspiration all around us as we walked and climbed around the highland sites. Before arriving in Scotland, I was expecting it to be the same as Ireland, but it was so unique, so different than the Irish countryside I had grown used to in the past two months.

We even stopped at an overlook spot where there were hundreds of rock stacks situated to overlook the mountains and the loch below, so many that it was hard to walk without knocking one over. It reminded me so much of a friend of mine’s dad who used to make those same rock stacks in the Swannanoa River behind her house when we were little.

Those sights combined with the old feel of Edinburgh and our hostel that was once a church made Scotland an inspiration playground, a writer’s dream. Our hostel had such a cool atmosphere and the way it was set up was amazing. There were rooms set up throughout the main part of the old church and in each room there was a skylight, so you could see the top of the church from your room. It was magical.

And, on our last day in Scotland, I had the chance to visit the Writer’s Museum. It was amazing to see all of the Scottish writers and their works on display in such a cool location. It was especially cool to see the old printing press used to publish works such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Scotland was a magical place, and I can’t wait to go back sometime in the near future.

Edinburgh Castle

DSC_5523

DSC_5531

DSC_5559

DSC_5582

DSC_5564

DSC_5697

DSC_5675

DSC_5603

The Elephant House

DSC_5747

DSC_5748

DSC_5758

DSC_5764

The Hogwarts Express Bridge

DSC_6103

DSC_6084

DSC_6093

Scenery from the Bridge

DSC_6109

Kings Cross Monopoly

IMG_3478

The Monty Python Castle

DSC_5945

DSC_5971

Skyfall Exhibit

DSC_6052

Dunne Castle

DSC_6200

DSC_6224

DSC_6205

DSC_6267

DSC_6224

DSC_6266

William Wallace Statue

DSC_5897

DSC_5920

DSC_5926

DSC_5931

The Amazing Views

DSC_6034

DSC_6132

DSC_6137

DSC_6152

DSC_6369

DSC_6380

DSC_6419

DSC_6400

The Rock Stacks

DSC_6166

DSC_6189

DSC_6170

The Old Feel of Edinburgh

DSC_6438

DSC_5805

DSC_5543

DSC_5507

DSC_5457

The Church Turned Hostel

DSC_5435

DSC_5867

Loch Ness

DSC_6353

DSC_6350

Categories: Ireland 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Go To Hogwarts

When I was choosing where I wanted to study abroad, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for Hogwarts. I wanted to travel to a far off land to a school nestled in the green countryside, surrounded by water where I could row into campus on a boat my first day, and most importantly, it had to be a castle. And when I found a university that fit all of those criteria, how could I pass it up?

So, I chose to study abroad at University College Cork where sitting on the quad is the West Wing, otherwise known as the castle where classes are held, where the River Lee flows through campus and the occasional currach (traditional Irish boat) will be rowed through campus, and where there is lush green scenery every way you look. I found my Hogwarts.

After over a month of living in Ireland and going to classes at UCC, the idea that UCC is Hogwarts has only been further and further confirmed. There are the little things like everyone having either a British or Irish accent, and during my Early Start program, which was deep rooted in the folklore of Ireland, I had an Irish professor who taught us about fairies and leprechauns, witches, legends and tales of the unknown. I think it’s safe to say that during my first month at UCC I learned about magic.

There’s also the unmistakable Peugeot car that seems to crop up everywhere in Cork, and it’s almost always red. The symbol for this car is a lion on a red background, a.k.a. Gryffindor. And you can’t deny that Cork’s colors are red and white with the occasional yellow accent thrown in and the lion appears in the UCC crest. So I think it’s fair to say that Cork is Gryffindor.

Also, I can’t help but make the connection between hurling and quidditch. Both games are fast-paced and dangerous and they both fight for a shiny silver cup. Hurling, in my mind, is a blend of all of the quidditch positions, just on the ground, not in the air. In hurling, each player has their hurling bat like a beater’s bat, they use the bat to hit the ball like a baseball to score points like beaters would do with the bludger, they also pick up the ball and run with it in their hand and catch it in their hand like a chaser would with the quaffle, and of course the keeper is the same as the goalie. The only thing missing from hurling is the snitch.

Then there are the things in the city that are just too similar. Little things like the word “trolly” instead of shopping cart are of course part of the Harry Potter/European atmosphere, but it’s the larger things that really prove that I go to Hogwarts. One such thing is finding out that Treacle Tart actually exists in real life. My flatmate and I found a box at Dealz in the city and we had to get them. They taste absolutely delicious and made me feel more and more like I was in Harry Potter.

Another connection is the English Market — it’s a miniature Diagon Alley. Sure, the English Market only sells food and wine unlike Diagon Alley, but the entrance to the English Market is where I make the connection. The entrance is through a brick walkway that is closed off by a black iron gate when it closes. And, of course, it’s surrounded by pubs, any one of which could lead to the real Diagon Alley.

The largest connections I’ve made have been at UCC. The other day as I was walking to class I noticed about 10 children walking through campus with what looked like a teacher. They were all dressed in long black robes and each robe had a different crest sewn into it. They all were talking excitedly to each other in their thick Irish accents and looking around at the campus in awe, especially when they reached the West Wing, or the castle on the quad. This is where they stopped and stood in a line, while one by one they were called up by their teacher and given a piece of paper to which the rest of the kids clapped and cheered. I think some lucky 11-year-olds just received their Hogwarts letters.

And then there’s the inside of West Wing. It’s drafty, it’s stone, it has a dungeon, the door to each classroom is made like a castle door, but most importantly, there are dementors in the castle. They’re situated at the end of the long hallway with a dull yellow light shining on them. I swear, seeing them on my way to class makes my blood run cold every time I pass them. Although, this may have something to do with the fact that they stand right next to the door that leads outside, causing a nasty draft.

All in all, I go to Hogwarts, a school filled with common rooms, dementors, and of course, magic.

West Wing

DSC_4578

River Lee Flowing Through Campus

DSC_3945

DSC_3873

Peugeot Car Logo

puergot

UCC Crest

ucc-crest1

Hurling

hit

catch

Treacle Tart

IMG_3429

Eating Treacle Tart in My Ravenclaw Scarf and Cork Shirt

IMG_3433

English Market

market

English_Market-432x342

Kids Receiving Hogwarts Letters

hpkids

IMG_3390

IMG_3391

Dementors in West Wing

dementors

Categories: Ireland 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cobh: The Last Port and Call of the Titanic

A couple of weekends back, my flatmate and I went on a little day trip to Cobh, which was previously known as Queenstown, the last port and call of the Titanic. We hopped on the train and talked during the 25 minute train ride from Cork to Cobh, taking in the blur of the Irish countryside as we passed castles, greenery, and water.

Once we arrived in Cobh, we took to the streets, absorbing the warmth of the sun as we walked along the harbor. As we walked, we came across the Titanic museum, which was built in the original ticket office for the White Star Line. We took the tour, learning more about the tragic day that the Titanic was lost at sea, but we also learned a great deal more about the Irish perspective.

There were about 130 passengers that boarded the Titanic in Cobh and almost all were in third class. There were only seven survivors out of the ones who boarded in Cobh, the last stop before heading to New York. Before the tour began, we received a Titanic ticket with a name of one of the real Irish passengers that got on the Titanic. At the end of the tour, we found out our fate. I was fortunate to have the ticket of a survivor, even though she was a third class passenger.

As we went along, we also got the chance to see the original dock of where those last passengers boarded the titanic. Even though the dock was in shambles, it still brought images of teenagers dressed in 1910s garb, covered head to foot, to my mind. As we finished the tour, I couldn’t quite shake the reality of the lives that were lost on the Titanic. It seems that the Titanic has become a subject that many people talk about, almost always in relation to the movie, but I think people seem to forget the actual lives that were lost that day. They had families, lives, and they each had a reason to head to America.

After we ended out Titanic tour, we were getting a bit hungry, so we unpacked our peanut butter sandwiches and apples and found a great little spot by the pier to eat. It was so sunny and peaceful, and it seemed like there was some sort of festival going on because there were tents set up all over the little park, selling food and what not. It was the perfect afternoon to be in Cobh.

After lunch, we set off to explore more of the city. First, we went to St. Colman’s Cathedral, which is the focal point of the town because it can be seen from just about every angle. The thing about Cobh and getting to the cathedral though, is that it’s up a very large sloping hill. I literally felt like I was walking horizontally for a bit, but seriously, right after being in the world of the Titanic, I felt like I was walking up the Titanic’s deck when it was rising up to fall in the water.

We did get to pass by the “Pack of Cards,” which is a very iconic and picturesque view in Ireland of a line of houses sloped on this hill and from every angle, they look like a pack of cards. They were so cute and colorful and they had the greatest view of the ocean, but I’m not sure I could climb that hill every day.

Once we made it to the top, we walked a little further to the cathedral. It was absolutely stunning inside and out, and the large wooden doors on the inside of the cathedral reminded me so much of Hogwarts doors because they had black iron locks on them just like when they are closing the school in Harry Potter.

As we were leaving the cathedral, we met three very nice people who were asking us about our stay in Ireland and were just chatting away with us. One was from Ireland, but the other two were from Columbia. The Irish man spoke to us the most, telling us places we should visit and talking to us about our studies. We even had a long conversation about Cold Mountain because he had just watched it the night before, and when I said I was from North Carolina, he was all about talking to me about the movie. It was so great to meet such wonderful people.

Near the end of our conversation, he told us about this hidden Bible Garden up at the top of the city that we had to see, so we thanked him and we were on our way. We stayed on course per his instructions and found the most beautiful deserted little garden with amazing views of the town and the ocean. It was breathtaking.

After visiting the Bible Garden, we headed back down to the main part of town to explore a little more. The only downside to our trip is that there weren’t many places that were open. Only restaurants and pubs were open. I’ve found this to be true of all of Ireland so far, that all of the shops close down by 5 pm every day and they are closed all together on Sundays, aside from restaurants and pubs.

As we were winding down a bit for the day, we headed back to the harbor to take in the ocean views until our 4:30 pm train. As we approached the little park by the sea, we were met with awesome music coming from under the little gazebo in the center of the park. There were fiddles, tubas, trombones, flutes, everything a little town’s band needs. Listening to them play and seeing them all dressed in almost 1950s style pinstripes made me automatically think of Gilmore Girls when the Stars Hollow band would play in the gazebo.

Overall, it was a great day full of color, sun and surf.

Original Titanic Dock

DSC_4469

White Star Line Ticket Office

DSC_4470

Titanic Pose

DSC_4496

Cobh

DSC_4455

DSC_4451

DSC_4551

DSC_4548

Pack of Cards

DSC_4475

DSC_4539

St. Colman’s Cathedral

DSC_4487

DSC_4503

DSC_4515

DSC_4504

The Harry Potter Doors

DSC_4511

Bible Garden

DSC_4530

DSC_4538

DSC_4531

DSC_4520

The Gazebo Band

DSC_4544

Categories: Ireland 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finding My Flourish and Blotts

This past Sunday, my flatmate and I went on a little excursion through town. We went shopping in City Centre on Opera Lane, which is Cork’s version of America’s Rodeo Drive according to my professor. We went in all the mainstream stores, finding good deals and smiling at signs that said “Get more for your euro!” instead of the “Get more for your buck!” that we are so used to seeing in the States.

We also stumbled across a few bookstores on our journey, some with a mainstream feel like Barnes & Noble and Books a Million, but the others, the true gems, were the more rinky-dink ones we found.

The first one we came to was Connolly’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop run by a little old Irish man sitting on a stool behind his cash register. As soon as I walked in and saw stacks of books piled on the staircase, on the shelves, the floor, and just about everywhere else, I knew this bookshop would be a keeper. The song, “Somebody to Watch Over Me,” sang by Frank Sinatra, played on a record, its slightly scratchy sound reaching everyone’s ears throughout the tiny shop. The smell of old books just added to this perfect little place in the middle of Cork, as well as the posters of old poets, writers and actors that were up all around the shop.

I couldn’t believe how much this place reminded me of Flourish and Blotts from Harry Potter, and I really felt like I was on Diagon Alley while I was touching each book, going from title to title. I knew I had to find one before I left the store, so I began my search. I came across a few good ones, but I finally settled on “The Bodyguard,” a lesser-known 1970s novel about a future dystopian “Revolution” in Great Britain that spreads to all of Europe. I’m currently reading it and so far, I’m very happy with my choice.

We also found another bookshop called Vibes and Scribes, which was much larger, but still had piles of old and new books everywhere and that great old book smell. I found a few more here that I liked, including “The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom, which I read in one day. It was a great and easy read, and it goes along perfectly with my folklore class at UCC, about using easily accessible materials to make and do more complicated things.

I know that I will definitely be paying Vibes and Scribes more visits while I’m here, but I have to say my Flourish and Blotts has to be Connolly’s. I will definitely be going there more often, discovering more obscure novels and enjoying the thrill of searching through the thousands of books in his little shop.

We then walked up the giant hill to the Shandon Bells, the landmark of Cork. The view from the bells was breathtaking and the atmosphere of the little town full of cafes and wine made it seem like a small French oasis. The only thing throwing off this facade was the thick Irish accent of our waiter at Four Liars Bistro.

Overall, it was a great afternoon of stumbling across some pretty wonderful things.

Connolly’s Bookshop

“Someone to Watch Over Me” by Frank Sinatra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E07b0SbWWFc

Image

Image

Image

Vibes and Scribes

Image

Image

Shandon Bells and the Town

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Categories: Ireland 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Potholes, Squibs and Other Tales

This past weekend my folklore class went on a field trip to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park to learn more about Irish culture and to really experience what Irish life was like back in the day. The folk park is a lot like colonial Williamsburg in the sense that the entire park is full of houses and fields made in the traditional way with workers that are dressed to mimic the times, making things like apple tart the old fashioned way, pulling potatoes, and tending to the fire.

While we were walking from house to house, listening to our professor relate things we had learned that week in class to things all around us like settle benches, dressers, and cattle posts, a few lessons really stood out.

One such lesson was about the origin of the word “pothole.” My professor was teaching us about how you can tell where a house was built and how wealthy the people were who lived there by looking at their floor. Floors with large slates as their base meant wealthier families lived there, while floors that were uneven and “blotchy” meant poorer people lived there.

He told us all about how when a new house was built with a “blotchy” floor, it started off soft and to pack it all in to complete the floor, people held housewarming parties. At these parties everyone danced to pack in the floor and smoosh everything down. There were dances made just for this purpose.

But while everyone was dancing, one person was always hunched over in one corner of the house with their hands wrist-deep in the mushy floor. Why, you may ask? They were building the “pothole.” There was always a hole in one corner of the house that was a shallow circle with three deeper holes around it, basically the imprint of a three-legged pot. The reason every household had these holes was because when they wanted to mash anything, like potatoes, the bottom of the pot wasn’t strong enough to take the mashing. So, they would put the pot into the hole so the ground would absorb the mashing instead of the pot, not breaking the pot.

And that’s where the term “pothole” comes from.

We also keep learning about the multifunctional nature of the Irish culture. Everything the made had more than one purpose, always. So, when we learned about the blacksmith’s house, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Evidently, the blacksmith’s house was the hub of the town — It was where teenagers would go to make out because it was the warmest place to go. It served as the dentist because that’s where the pliers were. It was where all surgeries took place because all of the tools were there and they could cauterize the wounds easily. It was everything, the hangout, the doctor, and of course, the blacksmith.

But our adventure didn’t stop at the houses. We went all over the park, petting animals, eating the most delicious apple tart, hopping over streams, and of course, climbing up the castle.

The Bunratty Castle was amazing. It was so cool to see the old cannons out front and then to walk in through a sort of drawbridge, but it was even cooler seeing the old artifacts in rooms throughout the castle, seeing the great hall all set up with tapestries and long tables, and getting to climb to the top of the castle on the smallest, most challenging stone steps ever made. The view from the top was amazing, the green countryside, the misty river, all seen through the old turrets where arrows were once placed to keep away enemies.

Being at the top just made me want to go back to my childhood and play dungeons and dragons with knights and princesses and exciting adventures. After we went to the top, we then traveled down the tiny spiral stone staircase to the dungeons, which was pretty cool to see.

On our journey to Bunratty, before the castle and the folk park, we made a few stops to see castle ruins and old abbeys that had long been abandoned. Seeing the ruins was amazing, but walking through them, on them and in them was even cooler. As we were exploring the stone sight, my professor gathered us together and told us about the abbey and the castle ruins we were poking around in.

As he explained the architecture, small holes in the walls that were meant to be there to hold scaffolding so if the castle ever needed to be repaired, they could simply stick some wood up there and fix it quickly. As he spoke, he began pointing at things with his large red umbrella, clicking it along the stone wall with every word. My Harry Potter mind couldn’t help but make the connection to Hagrid using his umbrella to open the gateway to Diagon Alley, especially when my professor was speaking in an Irish accent.

The Harry Potter references didn’t stop there though. After he was finished explaining the castle ruins, he then instructed all of us to climb over the stone wall by walking on these large stones that poked out of the wall like steps. We all climbed over and my 34-person class crammed into one of the towers nearby. The inside of the tower was full of square holes, and my professor started to explain that this was a pigeonry, just like an owlery at Hogwarts. He also explained that the people liked to keep squabs in the pigeonry, which are pigeons who never learned how to fly or didn’t have the ability to fly. My mind flew straight to “squibs” in Harry Potter, the wizards who come from magic, but can’t actually perform magic.

The Harry Potter references were everywhere and in a place like Ireland, you can’t blame me for making so many connections.

The coolest part about the field trip and my folklore class is the emphasis on living tradition rather than artifacts and material objects. My professor stresses the importance and vitality of living tradition every chance he gets, saying that the proper way to learn about a culture is through living traditions, visiting places like Bunratty, experiencing the food, inhaling the turf smoke, building currachs (traditional Irish boats) and just living through tradition. I’ve already learned so much along these lines and I can’t wait to learn more.

Bunratty Folk Park

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Bunratty Castle

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Top of the Castle

Image

Image

Image

Delicious Apple Tart

Image

Ruins

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

My Professor and His Umbrella

Image

Image

Categories: Ireland 2013 | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

World Traveler

I’m sorry for the wait on the next few. I haven’t had wi-fi in a few days.

Today I became a world traveler. Before this morning, I had never been out of the country, and now I’m in England! It still seems so strange to not be in America. Everything here is so different, and I love it! It seems more like a fairy tale than real life. At the end of our 8 and a half hour plane ride, Daniel and I waited in line for two hours to get our passports checked. After a few questions about our intentions in England, I received my first passport stamp. After that, we couldn’t remember exactly where we were supposed to meet Bridget, so after speaking with a large number of people, we used a payphone to phone her mom. It took us a little while to figure it all out, but soon we were on the “tube,” or the Underground, where I sat mesmerized at the cottage-like houses passing by in blurs. The train smelled like fresh newspapers, which just added to my experience even more. On our way to meet Bridget, we even passed King’s Cross station, and being the Harry Potter nerd that I am, it was very exciting.

Once Daniel and I were in the right place, we met up with Bridget and she showed us around London. We saw everything from the changing of the guard to the Tower of London to Big Ben to the London Eye to the Globe. You name it, we saw it. We even saw the bridge that was in the sixth Harry Potter movie, the one that gets destroyed in the beginning. We also took a double decker bus around Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. We also saw the Olympics clock that counts down the days. There was a lot of construction because of the upcoming Olympics and also because of the Jubilee. From my understanding, the Jubilee celebrates the Queen’s 60-year reign, so they have flags and signs up everywhere to celebrate.

For lunch, we stopped at a stop-in place right near the London Eye called Eat, which are all over London. It reminded me a lot of home and Chapel Hill because it was mainly a sandwich shop with bottled waters and packaged sandwiches. While we were there, a ton of business people came in and got food, and man, was that a sight to see.

Once we were finished sight-seeing, we went to the train station, which reminded me a lot of the movie Hugo for some reason. The train station was a little strange because you could see all of the trains lined up out in the open right next to each other, and I wasn’t expecting that. And you have to pay 30 pence to use the bathroom. Once we got on the train, I was again reminded of Harry Potter because it was very much like the Hogwarts Express, at least in my mind. There was a trolley woman and everything.

After we got off the train, we met Bridget’s mom, hopped in the car, and were on our way to her house. I still don’t think I will ever get used to the whole backwards driving thing. Being on the other side of the road and the other side of the car—it all seemed so strange, especially with turns because I kept thinking we were turning into oncoming traffic. We soon made it to Bridget’s house, where thanks to Bridget and her wonderfully hospitable parents, we were able to shower and just rest for a few hours.

One of my favorite things about London is its rich history, which is evident everywhere you turn. The buildings, bridges, and even cars are so intricate and artistic. I could just sit on the street for hours looking at the architecture.  Especially with buildings like the Tower of London, you can really feel the history. Just knowing that this was the place that Anne Boleyn was beheaded gives the place great history. Bridget was also telling us that there’s this legend that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, then the kingdom will fall. So, the people of England have made sure that ravens can always be found around the Tower. They’ve even clipped their wings just to be sure. Seeing the Globe was also amazing. It’s hard to wrap your head around being in the same place where Shakespeare put on his plays. They still show plays in the Globe, even when it’s raining, just like back then. I would love to go to a show sometime in the near future. I will definitely be back sometime soon.

I still can’t believe what we accomplished in just a few hours. I am so thankful that we were able to come during such a great time with the Jubilee and the Olympics coming up. The weather was great too—classic English weather with a cloudy sky and a bit chilly, but we haven’t had any rain so far this trip, which is good. Now off to a longer flight of 11 hours and 5 minutes. Only two more flights until we are in Chiang Mai.

The Olympic Clock

Image

Buckingham Palace with Flag Flying (The Queen’s in!)

Image

Changing of the Guard

Image

Posing with a Member of the Guard

Image

Image

Image

Big Ben

Image

This One’s for You Daddy (Stormtrooper at the London Eye)

Image

The London Eye

Image

The Globe

Image

The Tower of London

Image

Image

Categories: Thailand 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.