Our last day of London. We got to sleep in a little bit. The kids have been really good about getting up early. I think this morning's wake up call may have been 7:30. We bought some pastries. Our group usually divides up this way: Maren gets chocolate, Jonah and I get lemon or cheese, and Mark gets blueberry or almond. I got my first cup of coffee at an outdoor stand. It was really good latte with a decorative foam. Then, we left for the metro and overland train station to Leavesden (a suburb of London where the Warner Bros studios are located, and where, for ten years, they filmed the Harry Potter films.)
This is the first week that the Harry Potter sets are open to the public. We saw them online and bought tickets. Tickets soon sold out for the four days we were to be in London. The day was overcast with periods of rain, so this was the perfect itinerary. We are very train savvy by this point. The kids are a wonder with their Oyster cards. Only one time did we get separated. The trains were crowded. I said go-go-go. Mark said no-no-no. The doors closed behind me, and off I went. I waited for the crew at the next station. It was fine, but from then on, we made sure that each family member knew our destination point. The kids are great at reading tube maps. If a city is safe, I would have no qualms about letting them travel by themselves. Good thing: we are training them to be independent people.
At the Watford Junction station, we got the WB bus, a double decker bus that was decorated with Harry Potter graphics. At the studios, we were a little early for our tour times so we spent time playing with the wands in the gift store. Love that store. I forgot that Maren has not had a chance to experience the wands yet. The rest of us all got to play with them down in Orlando at Universal Studios. I love how creative they made this one aspect of the story. (We would find out that the wand artistry only began in about the third film.) Our tour started at 10:30, and we didn't get out of it until 2. It was mainly self-guided. We were all enthralled. I cannot even begin to describe it. Jonah took pictures. Let us just say he took more pictures here than during the rest of our London trip combined. There was so much to see and experience. It was magical and intense. To think of all the detail that goes into such a movie. I was looking at the art work and graphics. Mark was checking out set design and building. Jonah had his eye on special effects and model making. Maren was all about acting and costume. (I think between the four of us, we could make an awesome movie.) The sets, props, costumes, and CGI were so detailed. We need to watch the films again with renewed appreciation. Among the sets we saw: The Great Hall, Gryffindor Great room, Griffindor boy's dormitory, Hagrid's Hut, Ministry of Magic, outside 4 Privet Drive, the Burrows, Dumbledore's Office, potions classroom, and Umbridge's office. Maren finally got to taste butterbeer.
This was a definite highlight of our overall trip. The other thing to note is that our family loves these kinds of exhibits. We have travelled to Boston to see Lord of the Rings movie art exhibit, and we have seen two separate exhibits of Star Wars concept art (Chicago) and movie art/costumes/props (Philadelphia). I still believe that Jonah needs to pursue something in the movie genre. Sure, it should be something on the technical side, but something with story. And we all know that Maren wants a future in film.
Lunch was an uninspired sandwich and crisps at the cafeteria. We left Warner Brothers with visions dancing in our heads. We arrived back at St. Ermine's at about 3:30 and had a two hour break before the planned dinner hour. This is significant because it was basically the only break we have had the entire time. Mark napped. Jonah read. Maren and I walked the few blocks to Westminster Abbey gift shop, a place that was closing as we arrived yesterday. One thing to know about Maren. She LOVES gift shops. The kitchier, the better, especially the crappy city gift shops like you see all over NYC. London did not disappoint her. We didn't actually buy anything here. I felt I had enough ornaments from England having bought them at Stonehenge, St. Paul's, Warner Brothers, and Tower of London. One thing we have learned-- sometimes key chains make better ornaments. They are less expensive and sometimes nicer than actual ornaments. And sometimes ornaments aren't available. Maren and I then went to tube station to top off our Oyster cards for the one last tube trip we had to make in the morning. Maren took care of the entire transaction at the computer kiosk. I love seeing her take care of things like that.
We returned to the room in time to get ready for our pub dinner. We ate at The Feathers pub just around the corner from our hotel. Jonah had bangers and mash; Maren had fish and chips with mushy peas, Mark had steak and eggs, and I had a beef, mushroom, and stout pie. Mark and I also enjoyed a few ales--the first of our trip. We all had smiles on our faces, Jonah especially. Not much can top sausages and mashed potatoes in his book (except for a little brown gravy). Maren had the large size fish and chips which she demolished!
Onto Wicked. What can we say about this? The show, the costumes, the music were all breathtaking. After our day at the studios, I tried to take in as many details as I could and to think about all the people and ideas that had gone into this production. We all had to agree, it was a near perfect day. Each night we write in a journal. Each person must record the best thing about the day (rose), the worst thing about the day (thorn), and the funniest thing about the day (jester). We couldn't think of any bad things about the day. The next morning, when asked what were the 3 best things about England, the kids both said Harry Potter, Wicked, and Tower of London.