Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dublin, Ireland and London, England

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin was one of those places we've always wanted to go to, though we weren't sure what exactly we wanted to see and do there. We knew we wanted to go to an Irish pub and to see some of the city, and that would probably be about all we had time for in our two short days there.

It's a very charming city, full of pubs and shopping streets and beautiful parks.

We took a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to see as much of the city as we could.

We didn't have time to get off the bus here, but the Guiness brewery was a very popular stop on the tour!

This castle-like building is the old city jail. It's been in many films, including Michael Collins with Liam Neeson.

There were so many streets like this, tree-lined with row houses. Lovely!

The tour also took us through Phoenix park, which is one of the largest urban parks in Europe at 1700 acres. This is the Wellington Monument, which honors the military career of the 1st Duke of Wellington.

This is the Deerfield Residence, which is home to the US ambassador and has hosted many American presidents - and from this angle, it looks quite a lot like the White House.

This row of buildings is very typical of what we saw in central Dublin.

The River Liffey runs through the center of Dublin.

I don't think I've ever seen a tanker truck of Guiness before!

Beautiful pedestrian bridge over the river.

On the first evening at our hotel, we headed down to the lobby bar. A man got on the elevator with us, and he immediately attracted a lot of attention from the other people on the elevator. He was very large and fit, so it seemed reasonable that he might have been a famous athelete. When we got off the elevator, there were kids waiting to get his autograph - and it wasn't just him! It turned out that the All Blacks, one of the most famous rugby teams in the world, were staying at our hotel for the New Zealand vs. Ireland match that would be played that weekend. It's too bad that we're not rugby fans, because I think it would have been really exciting if we were! It was fun to watch everyone in the hotel lobby running around and collecting ohotos and autographs.

On the day of the game, we found a pub and hung out there with traditional pub food and pints of Guiness to watch the game.

Here Carter is modeling the hats they gave us.

The pub also had a few Santa statues around, so Carter posed with them.

On another day, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe. At this point, I have to admit that I'm a little over their menu - but my pin collection is going to be fantastic.

We definitely drank a lot of Guiness in the couple of days we were there.

We didn't take the duck tour - it seemed a bit cold - but it looked like fun.

It was a very quick visit to Dublin, but we had a lot of fun! One thing that really stood out to me was that, while the people were incredibly friendly, we had a very hard time understanding them! And this is after spending nearly a year outside the US and listening to English spoken with many, many different accents. There were many times when someone would speak to us (taxi drivers especially) and Doug and I could only look at each other in bewilderment.

London, England

As I mentioned in the last post, London is a city Doug and I have spent a lot of time in, though it's been several years since we were last here. We didn't do much traditional sight-seeing in London this time either, opting instead for theatre and food, mostly. 

But on our first day, we did something that was new to us since our last visit: We went to the Harry Potter movie studio tour just outside of London.  Warner Brothers bought the sound stage where many scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed and converted it into a tourist attraction. They have many of the actual sets, costumes, and props there, and it was really fantastic to see! I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so I was basically having a massive fan moment the entire time. So I apologize to anyone who is not a fan of Harry Potter, for the onslaught of pictures below. 

The studio is outside of London, but there is a bus you can take there and back that leaves from near Victoria Station.

We had booked our tickets several weeks in advance, because they only let in a certain number of people at a time.

All of the sets were decorated for Christmas, and there was a giant Christmas tree in the lobby.

The lobby was also lined with giant photos of the actors - and one of the Ford Anglias!

One of the first sets you see when you enter is the closet under the stairs.

Look! It's Harry's little bed and his toy soldiers and even his glasses!

They let people in in groups of about 25 at a time. There is a video featuring the actors who played Harry, Ron, and Hermione talking briefly about their experience growing up making the movies, and then someone leads the group to the doors of the Great Hall. The idea is that you are going to see the Great Hall for the first time in the way that the first year Hogwarts students do when they first arrive.

I'm honestly not sure if these statues were in place by the doors later on. I remember Umbridge's educational decrees being all around the door in the fifth movie.

There was a Christmas tree decorated in the colors of each house, along with some mannequins wearing costumes from the films.

Filch's costume and the jewel-filled house points counters!

The Great Hall set looked a lot smaller than I expected, but I imagine that when they filmed it, it took up a lot more space on the sound stage. This was as much room as they could afford for this theme park and still have room for everything else.

Dumbledore's costume and his podium.

Mad Eye Moody and Professor Flitwick, and a little bit of Trelawney on the right there.

Slytherin robes.

Ravenclaw robes.

Robes from my own house of Hufflepuff! (Note Cedric Diggory's Triwizard Tournament costume there in the middle.)

And Gryffindor, of course. That's Neville's costume from the last film on the left.

The Great Hall entrance doors from the other side. 

Yule Ball costumes.

This was the ice centerpiece at the Yule Ball.

Ron's infamous hand-me-down dress robes.

And the chocolate buffet (also from the Yule Ball, I believe.)

The gates to Hogwarts.

Carter is checking out the use of perspective in the corridor set of the Leaky Cauldron's Inn.

The Gryffindor boys' dormitory. This is Ron's bed.

And this is Harry's bed.

I wonder what Carter sees in the Mirror of Erised?

This display case contained a lot of the wands from the films.

The Gryffindor Common Room.

The invisibility cloak!

Weasley sweaters!

And it just went on and on!

More costumes!

The entrance to Dumbledore's office.

The potions classroom (at least, one of its incarnations).

Some of the portraits that hang in Hogwarts.

The door to the Chamber of Secrets.

And the Weasleys' kitchen!

Most of the set pieces were ones that were used in the later films. Most of the sets were built and then taken down as needed, so they chose from the ones they had left, I believe. Here are some of the Ministry of Magic set pieces.

The Malfoys' fireplace and some of their costumes.

Umbridge's office.

There was an exterior set area where they had a snow machine going.

The Knight Bus!

This bridge was featured in most of the films.

In the first film, Privet Drive was an actual location, but in subsequent films, they used this set for the exterior.

This is James and Lily's House in Godric's Hollow, which remains in the state Voldemort left it.

Hargid's motorcycle with the sidecar!

Tom Riddle's grave.

An animatronic Buckbeak.

Diagon Alley - which also was a lot smaller than I expected.

There was a room that contained a huge model of Hogwarts, which was the one they used for all of those sweeping exterior shots in the film. It was incredibly detailed, and all covered in snow for Christmas.

One of the really fantastic things you can do here is to ride on a broomstick in front of a greenscreen. They give you a robe to wear and you ride in front of many different scenes. Carter and I both did it, and it was so much fun! Unfortunately, the video from the camera that filmed us didn't come through, so we only have the still photos from the experience.

We also took a picture in the Ford Anglia!

At the exit (just before you reach the gift shop), there was the interior of Ollivander's wand shop, but on every wand box was written the name of a person who worked on the films. There were thousands of boxes, showing just how many people were involved in making these movies.

We hit the gift shop, of course. It's always fun to buy the Harry Potter-themed candy! We got a chocolate frog.

There are huge and made of solid chocolate.

Most of the photos I took were from that day! for the next few days, we went to some theatre and to restaurants, but we didn't do a lot of traditional London sightseeing.  We took Carter to see The Lion King.

And we also went to see the new musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

They sold chocolate at the show, of course.

Here is Covent Garden's market.

We went by the Hard Rock Cafe so I could buy a pin.

But we decided to eat at a traditional pub across the street, and we really enjoyed it.

So what's wrong with this sign? ;-)

I spent some time hanging out with some friends while Doug took Carter to the London Aquarium, the London Eye, and the Natural History Museum. He didn't take any usable pictures, unfortunately, so we don't have much to show for those two days. Meanwhile, I paid a visit to the most famous address in London:

And I enjoyed riding the Underground.

I've always wanted to take a picture of the inside of this station, so this time I did it. :-)

I found these cute little stuffed microbes for Carter in a museum gift shop. The one on the left is an E. coli and the one on the right is a red blood cell. He loves them!

London's taxis are my favorite in the world. The cars are large and roomy and set up so that groups of five or six can ride together. They're easy to climb in and out of and easy to fit all of your luggage in. And the drivers are among the most trained in the world. Being a cab driver in London requires years of study, and you really get your money's worth. During this year, we've had cab drivers drop us off on the wrong side of town, get lost and have to ask other drivers for directions, and in the case of New York, be rude to us. But not in London!

This was our last stop before heading back to the US, and it felt very strange to board a flight to Orlando, knowing that we had just one more time to get our passport stamped and then we'd be in the US for the rest of the trip. As I write this, we're actually on our way back to Austin at last -- and it's surreal to think that in a few hours, we'll see our house again for the first time in almost a year! (Edit: By the time of posting, we're actually at home!)

I have two more posts to make: one for Orlando and one for New York, and after that I'll probably make a few more posts summarizing the year and talking about adjusting to being home again. Thanks for following us this far, and stay tuned for a little bit more! 

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