Friday, August 30, 2013

Harry Potter and the trip to Warner Brother Studios in London

Yea, I admit it... I'm a huge Harry Potter Fan. I was going through photos of our trip to Europe in July and meant to post London pics but got side tracked with our trip out to the Warner Brother Studios to tour. If you are not a Harry Potter fan this will be a super boring post:-)

My middle child and I ended up having a grand fill of Harry Potter on the trip. We rented an apartment in Piccadilly Circus which was a fab location. It was just a few blocks away from the Theater district. Which just so happened to have Daniel Radcliffe in a theater production of The Cripple of Inishmaan playing while we were there. We had no plans to see any shows but knowing that Harry Potter (yes, he will always be called that by us) was right where we were was just too tempting. So Connor and I bought tickets and saw his performance. The theater was pretty nice and a small size which meant that we were very close to the stage. The play was actually pretty decent too. They had huge irish accents and I was worried we wouldn't be able to understand a word they were saying but after about 15 min it was easier to figure out the dialogue. It was a great mother son bonding moment.

After the show, we wandered outside to the back of the theater and saw a huge crowd standing at the stage doors. It took us about 1 second to realize that we might be able to see the actors leave the theater. So Connor and I of course were all over this opp to maybe get his autograph. Boo hoo no luck getting an autograph or shaking his hand but we did get to stand maybe 4-5 feet away from him. I got him on video barely as he is really short and hard to see over the crowds.

That was certainly an unexpected treat but then a few days later we took the train to the Warner Brothers Studio to tour the lot where they filmed a lot of the Harry Potter films. I swear I think I was walking around with my mouth open most of the time just soaking it all in. There was so much to look at and see from all the movies. This was a taxi that was in downtown London.

 This is the Great Hall. It was amazing.

Another shot of the Great Hall

Of course any other Harry Potter Fan would remember this house!

One of the actual addressed envelopes used in the movie.

Here is the Knight Bus. I never mentioned it but Caiden hates the Harry Potter movies so this wasn't an overly exciting trip for him but he insisted he have his picture taken on the Knight Bus. He just wanted to learned to talk with a British accent. LOL

This was the inside of the Knight Bus

So this is The Hogwarts Bridge. What was interesting is that there was only this one section and the rest of the bridge you see in the movies is computer animated. It's so cool to think we were standing right where all the actors were standing.

Look in the background on the right hand side and you can see the actual chess pieces that were used in the Sorcerers Stone movie

Inside Hagrid's Hut

Harry's Invisibility Cloak

Snape's Potions Class

Ron Weasley's bed. Notice the RW on his suitcase? Harry's bed is the one behind it. They said as the movies went on, the boys got too big for the beds and had to curl up to fit on them.

Gryffindor Common Room

Another shot of the common room.

Here are some of the props. Dobby the House Elf is back there. The book of Monster's and the enlarged hands from Dudley's aunt Marge when Harry blew her up.

This is the inside of the Book of Monsters.

This room is the final place you go before the tour ends. It is a model of Hogwarts and the grounds. Anytime you see an outside  aerial shot of Hogwarts this is actually what you see. The model is actually 2 floors and when you walk around the room you see different views. It was incredible. 

Another view

Well I hope I didn't bore you too much with all of my pics. I have more but will stop there.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Fun and Our Trip to Paris

I'm not gonna lie. It has been a crazy 3-4 months. A few unexpected life events threw the family into an adventure that had us kind of hankering down and doing a slight withdrawal from the world. The kids start school tomorrow, and I will then be able to spend some more time on beads and jewelry and getting the Etsy shops updated. I know it has been pretty slim pickings over in the shop lately.

But having said all of that. There were lots of fun side adventures that brought pure joy. We took the family to London and Paris this summer and it was truly the trip of a life time. Hubby and I have never been so it was new to all of us. Words cannot describe how incredible this trip was. I don't think any vacation in the future could top this experience. I loved visiting new cultures and seeing the difference between countries. I finally sat down last night and edited some of the Paris photos. I thought if you don't mind, I would share some fun pics. I still need to go through London (which was incredible also) and will do that part soon.

We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in the heart of France just a stone throw away from Notre Damn. If you are ever headed that way and would like an incredible place to stay, I cannot recommend this lovely home enough. Here is the link to their website I stumbled upon it when spending many hours trying to figure out where a family of 5 could stay without having to get 2 hotel rooms. We could not have had a better home base. 

The home is 400 years old and the hostess Ann was amazing. The photo below is the view from our room. The 2nd photo below is the boys looking out one of our windows in the room. All 3 of those windows were in our room and they opened up. The room was amazing. 

The photos below shows the area in the "lobby" part of their lovely home. Connor is holding one of the resident cats. These are the steps heading up to our room. I think the house has about 5 floors.

This is in the main "lobby" area also where Keegan would sit and play the piano every time we walked out the front doors. There was a swimming pool in the lower level that was beautiful. The water was freezing though.

The atmosphere is exactly how you would imagine Paris to be. There are people singing and playing the accordion everywhere. Even in the subway stations and they hop on and off the subway cars doing it also. And at every corner there are small bistros with tiny round tables facing out into the street and activity. The vibe and feel and hustle and bustle is like music to your ears. The food of course was heavenly. There are bakeries everywhere and tiny grocery stores. You don't see the big grocery store chains there. People buy enough to cook for a day or two at a time and it is all so fresh and eye appealing. The boys discovered Nutella crepes. YUM! And hot dogs are not what we have here. The first two photos below show the hot dogs. What I really admired about both Paris and London was the high quality and healthy choices of fresh fast food at every corner. I really wish we had those same choices here. 

This photo below is not the best as the sun was shining at the camera early in the morning but it is an open air bakery that we went to often.  Just look at the incredible food in the background. That is hubby and the kids and then our friends that traveled the same week as we did there.

And of course, what better than enjoying a crepe at the base of the Eiffel tower in the evening. 

So of course we did the Eiffel Tower tour and took the train up to the top. We went up in the evening and came down when it was dark. That was Keegan's goal to see the sunset from the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was amazing. The strange thing is that it does not get dark until almost 11 p.m. 

The view from the top. The city is just huge.

Love this photo of Keegan sitting at the base of the tower.

The top view from another angle.

We became expert Tube and subway riders. There is hubby and the boys reading the map. This was our primary means of transportation and we used to get to and from the airport with our luggage and the Eurostar train to get from London to Paris. Thank goodness for suitcases with wheels. It worked out perfect as we just did carry on luggage and each of us had a small roller bag and a backpack. It made it much easier to get around.

So the photo below is of my friend Sanna and her 3 kids and me with my 3 kids. Their ages almost overlap perfectly. Sanna was in my wedding and we were both Neuroscience reps and partners for half of our territory with Abbott Labs. They moved to Sweden and Switzerland about 7 years ago and just moved back to St. Louis a week ago. So she packed up the kids from Switzerland and overlapped her stay with ours and we spent a few days touring around Paris with them. It made the trip even more fun for the kids and of course I enjoyed reconnecting with her after being apart for so long. What's funny is that they even stayed one street over from us. The photo below was taken outside the door of our bed and breakfast. If you could look all the way to the end of the street (which isn't far) you would see the Seine River and Notre Dame.

Look closely below at the railing on the bridge. 

A closer look.... Can you figure out what is covering the rails?

It was the most amazing sight. Hubby and I had gone out for a stroll by ourselves and came upon this bridge. I couldn't wait to show the kids. 

 It is called The Lock Bridge and those are padlocks on the railings. Thousands of them. The surmise is that you and your loved one put a lock on the railing and then throw the key into the river below. The second time we were there, someone had even made these large keys that were tied onto the railing. Isn't the view just stunning. This is all at the end of the street where we stayed.

The kids were mesmerized looking at all of the locks and reading the words on the locks.
Hours of entertainment. Even Sanna got in on the fun when Keegan was pretending to stab Katie with the key.

The kids just stared and stared. It was dark by the time we were able to pull them all away.

On the last night there, we gave each of the boys a lock and they got to choose where they wanted to put it on and then chug the keys. Each lock had two keys so hubby and I took the kids extra keys for us to keep. 

This is the same bridge but in the evening. We saw several brides getting their photos taken on this bridge. What a romantic bridal scene. 

Okay...gotta admit that we had some total Chevy Chase European Vacation themes going on here. 

Hubby is into cycling and he bought a Tour De France flag and a few shirts at a store on Champs Ilyse right where the competition ends. 

We ventured out to Montmare for the day with Sanna and her kids and had a wonderful time. It was such a quaint area. This is a tavern.

They had this big square that had tons of artists that were selling their paintings and also artist selling portraits. I thought this photo was so cute below of this little girl. So Keegan decided that he wanted his  picture drawn too. 

This is the rest of the kids waiting for Keegan's drawing to get completed:-)

 Napoleons Tomb. So cool!

Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral

Our trip to The Louve

Of course I have hundreds more photos to share, but I will stop here as to not to overwhelm you. I knew it would be a fun trip but had no idea what an amazing and life changing & eye opening experience it would be. I highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking a great adventure.