Obrien World Tour

England

The Sorley’s and Abbey

England, RTWAmy ObrienComment

After a full day of Harry Potter, we were off to visit my friend from Crystal Lake who was so lovely to offer us a place to stay. I was super excited to see him again and meet his family. Jeff has been living abroad for the last several years, so this would be my first time meeting his wife, Erika and their adorable little one VB.

Once we finally got there, I was ready for some wine! and good friends. Ella and miles felt right at home running around with VB. Ella and Erika talked sci-fi and magna while Sean and I hung out with Jeff while he was making the most delicious food! Once Ella got settled in with a book Erika and Miles hit the playstation. It was great fun watching them.

After a great night sleep Jeff took us on a walking tour of Oxford. It was great having our very own tour guide! After a quick run by Oxford University, we headed to the Oxford library! Ella was so excited to get her hands on all those old books. Turns out you have to be a student to get into most areas, maybe some day. Instead we checked out the exhibits of rare books which was really cool. Even miles got into it! After lunch we bid Jeff adieu and headed to Gloucester Abbey. The kids were sad we couldn't stay long. They really loved Jeff and his family.

The drive to the abbey was breathtaking. There were fields of yellow flowers blooming everywhere. Off in the distance were hills of yellow patches mixed between several shades of green patches.

We had decided to visit the Gloucester Abbey since parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there. I am so glad we went, the place was unbelievable. They started building it in 1089 and finished in 1499. It took 410 years to build and you can see why. King Edward the II is buried in the main cathedral and there are catacombs below. We wanted to do the free tour but Miles was a little freaked. While we were there they were starting plans to remove the parking lot to restore the gardens that were once there. While they are doing this they need to make sure they don’t upset any people currently resting below the parking lot. Apparently they used to bury people all over the grounds of the church.
If you get a chance to check this place out you can wander around for quite some time. Best of all it is free, they just ask for a donation if you would like.

After the Gloucester, I picked a small hotel that was actually a pub with sleeping rooms above. I thought it would be perfect since it was about 2 hours from our place in Wales, and it is Sean’s birthday(he is waiting till Belgium to celebrate). I thought he could stay for a drink at the bar, while we headed to bed. When we first walked in, my first impression was that there is no way this is going to work. It was a bar! but once we met the charming couple that owned the place and saw our room, I was glad we came.  Plus as an added bonus, it has been the best food we have eaten since we're been here. They had a little something for everyone. Happy 40th Sean!



Harry Potter Warner Bros Tour

EnglandAmy ObrienComment

Today is finally the day! We are going to the Harry Potter Warner Bros tour. Ella woke up early, excited to get to the tour. She has been waiting months to go. It's too bad our tour doesn't start till 1 which is an eternity to a 10 year old. Luckily our hotel was situated on a canal. Sean took the kids for a great walk. After their walk, we knew we needed to rent a houseboat in France.

Hemel Hampstead was just a 10 minute drive to the Studios. I was surprised at how quiet it was when we arrived. Most theme parks in the US are chaos from the minute you hit the parking lot. They did a great job setting up time slots and only allowing around 100 people in every half hour. (the jump shot is for you Bean)

As you wait in the queue you can check out the cupboard under the stairs where Harry slept. The cool part about the tour is that these are all the actual props, objects, sets, clothing, animatronics used in the movie. After some brief instructions and a movie about the studio you enter into the great hall. Wow! you are blown away from the get go. You feel like you just stepped into Hogwarts. Ella’s eyes were so wide with amazement. She wanted to take in every second.
Once again they give you a few brief remarks about things in the room . Then they send you off to explore at your own pace. The  longest running time was 13 hours!  After being here I can understand why. As you walk along you realize the shear amount of man power, creativity, and talent that went into building every little thing. Everything from the movies was handmade the paintings, the furniture, the clothing, the dragons, the potions. I was in awe! and they don’t just do all that for Harry Potter, Every movie made out there has a group of people making all this stuff. It is mind boggling!

After wandering around what felt like minutes(actually 3 hours), we were off to the Sorley’s for a home cooked meal and friends. The perfect way to end any day.

Changing of the Guard /Science Museum/festival ... (day 5/6)

EnglandAmy Obrien1 Comment

Today was our first look at the English breakfast. Eggs, Sausage, hash browns, baked beans, and bacon. As we will find out later, this is basically the only breakfast they offer in the UK. Sean is the only one that keeps on enjoying this delicacy, the rest of us are craving waffles and syrup.

After breakfast, we headed back to the palace to check out the changing of the guard. We got there early but not early enough. The place was a mad-house! Even though we didn't find the best place to stand, we still saw most of the show. The whole thing was a little underwhelming but we are glad we stopped by to see it.

Since we were so close, we headed over to Big Ben, Westminster, and Parliament. It turns out it was the England V Day holiday , a memorial for the day that WWII ended.  The whole area was being set up for a parade the next day. Westminster was closed but the church next door was open.  Though we heard later that the lines for Westminster go around the block, so we were glad that it was closed. St. Margret's church next door and was so cool! and free entry even better!

Once again we are switching hotels, so we packed our gear and headed to the tube. Everyone was beat so we ordered pizza and hit the hay. Tomorrow we decided to check out one of the free museums.. the kids decided that the Science Museum was the best choice.

So glad they decided on this one, it was brilliant! Almost better than the Museum of Science and Industry! There were 5 floors of interactive fun.
The first thing we checked out was the Flash, Bang, Walop show. I still can't believe it was free!

Getting really hungry, we decide we would head out of the museum to grab lunch. To our surprise there was a festival right next door. If you know us, we love a good festival! So off we went to grab a bite and check out what was going on. Turns out it was a Science/Engineering festival for the college. There was food, music, and science projects from the students.




Makeshift Harry Potter Walking Tour/sightseeing London (Day4)

EnglandAmy ObrienComment

We woke up early with a mission, Harry potter walking tour before noon! We are switching hotels today and need to be out of our hotel by noon.. Making today one of many crazy London days.

First stop on the tour Kings Cross Station's Platform 9 3/4. Ella couldn't wait! As you walk into the station they have a little set up complete with cart, wands, and scarves of your favorite houses, all for free if you bring your own camera. They do take some pics for you that you can purchase from the store just a few steps away. Ella choose Ravenclaw! Miles was a little freaked by people staring at him so he passed on getting his picture taken. We took a few of him just a few steps a way. The actual station is pretty cool mixing modern lines with the old brick.

Next stop the Kings cross tube and on to Leadenhall market. Leadenhall market was said to be one of the inspirations behind Diagon Alley. The kids were less than impressed with the hall. They were hoping to find real live witches and wizards!

Next off to London Bridge and Tower Bridge where Harry and the gang flew over on broomsticks as they escape from the death eaters. The Final stop, with just minutes to spare, the Australian building said to represent Gringotts Bank. Wow! I can't believe we did that all before lunch. We are really getting good at navigating this big city. Now on to our next hotel.

We arrived at the hotel to find out they weren't quite ready for us so we dropped off our luggage and headed to Buckingham Palace. The palace was way cooler than any of us expected. We wandered around the grounds for quite a while before it started to rain. After a while we decided to head back to the hotel to check out our room and grab some grub.

I think this was our busiest day in London yet! Only one more day left...

Good Day London! (day3)

EnglandSean Comment

It’s a 3.5 hour flight to London but the in flight movies, games, and snacks once again make it go by extra quickly. Once in Heathrow we take the long walking trek to customs to get our much awaited first European stamps on our passports. Take note of the “long walk” to customs, be prepared but customs moved pretty quickly.

Once through Customs we pick up a UK sim card for the phone which probably would’ve been cheaper to purchase outside of the airport but we were excited to get moving. We easily locate the tube, get our Oyster cards and set off on the Piccadilly line toward Cockfosters. After an hour ride we exit at Kings Cross Station (home of the fabled 9 3/4 platform from Harry Potter) and walk directly into a very busy welcoming London.

After spending the last three days in desolate spacious Iceland it was a slight shock to walk out into a busy city. It's a real sensory overload as we immediately take in all the sights, sounds, and smells.

We quickly make it to our hotel The Travelodge at King’s Cross, drop off our luggage and head back out into the city to find lunch. Back at the King’s Cross Tube Station there is an artisan food market stocked with independently owned booths offering up a ton of English delicacies. I spot a vendor selling Scottish eggs while Amy picks up some yummy falafel. The kids on the other hand were a little less adventurous and stuck to McDonalds until I returned with a lamb kabob which Ella helped devour. All in all a comfortable proper picnic.

After lunch we head back to the hotel, to unwind, make some phone calls, and head back out to explore the local area. Everyone is tired from an early morning start and traveling so we decide to postpone the Harry Potter walking tour until tomorrow in exchange for a mile walk to the London Eye. Half way there we decide to take the bus instead since our Oyster cards cover the costs but I forgot mine in the room so we opt for some awesome gelato and an early night instead.