London – after 5 years

Fact: UK is the first country I visited twice.

I’ve given a lot of thought about this post, this morning. What to write and what to keep for myself. Whether to tell the whole thing or just limit the post to the Harry Potter Studios. In the end, it’s all in here, I guess. Except the photos, which are only a select few. The rest will be probably up on Facebook soon or just on my drive.

Coming back after all these years, I think I was a bit scared I wouldn’t enjoy it this time either. Back in 2008, it was way too crowded, way too rushed and way too short. I had visited mostly things from outside London and when I did actually see a landmark in the city, it was already packed with Asians and all kinds of tourists. This time I LOVED it! I don’t know what did it, really. It must be true what they say: People make places. Places make memories. This were the best four days I’ve spent anywhere outside Romania. Forget about Spain and Switzerland (which, true, are still up there on the list), but London was like… an adventure.

We stayed at this lovely place called The Lilac Door. It is, literally, a lilac door that opens and lets you in. Jane was our host and she was lovely. Very attentive and helpful and everything. On our first day, we went for the Sherlock Holmes museum. I had begun to read the whole canon written by Arthur Conan Doyle and it was a must for me. This tiny little 3-story house on Baker Street, at number 221 B, was transformed to look like his quarters. And Dr. Watson’s. And even Mrs. Hudson’s. The amount of pipes and magnifying glasses were astounding and people were taking photos wearing his hat, pipe and scarf. A cold wind was blowing while we waited our turn to enter, but it was worth it. Small, but cosy. I would have loved to stay there.

Our second day was the peak of our adventure. We had booked, in advance, a tour of the famous Harry Potter Studios in Leavesden. I must say: before I even knew they existed, I was almost buying a flight ticket to Orlando, USA. After I’ve seen Leavesden, I’m sure the Americans can’t beat it. So my cousin comes up with this idea and I’m like, yeah, sure, I wonder what we are going to see there… We got on the wrong means of transport. We were late. I was thinking all the way there “Oh, no, please, I’m ready to beg for entrance if it’s necessary”. They clearly said that late arrivals might not be granted access. “Cousin, if they let us in, the Butterbeer’s on me!” Eventually, we arrived like 15 minutes over the scheduled tour hour, but they let us in. Kind blokes, the English! What’s more, they gave us an afternoon to remember! It was their one year anniversary, by the way, so all the more to celebrate and feel good!

We walked in this room that had 8 small LCD screens and they played a short intro. We sang happy birthday to people. And then we entered a small cinema, where we were told about the studios and such. But what followed was like… a dream. We actually went through the Great Hall doors that appear in the movies. We were invited in the actual Great Hall. We saw the tables and the House Points device. We saw the sets from the Gryffindoor common-room, the Burrow, Hagrid’s Hut, costumes (Daniel had 4 types of clothing in various degrees of dirtyness in the last film; bet you didn’t know that!), hundreds of props, Umbridge’s office, Dumbledore’s office, Diagon Alley, creatures, a wand shop and last but not least…. A 1:24 MODEL OF HOGWARTS CASTLE! It was just around a corner. It stood in a room of its own. You could tour it 360 and see it in different lights, while music was playing. The official merchandise shop ended the tour and I bought a Chocolate Frog and the Official Guide. They say it takes at least 3 hours to do the whole tour, but I would have stayed the whole day there, if it wasn’t for the concert and the weather.

The concert was held in the O2 arena, in North Greenwich. I think it’s the biggest they’ve got in terms of venues. I believe the Royal Albert Hall is smaller. But anyway. Who cared about the size? There were fans all over and you were a part of the crowd. Even though I was alone, I didn’t leave that to bother me. When the guys went on stage, I had forgotten about the fact that this is the first time I’ve been to their concerts, the first time that I was able to see them. Okay, they weren’t pretty original when it comes to in-between songs talk, cause they said pretty much the same things I had already heard in the Manchester concert. The lead singer even did the telephone thing: while singing “Nothing”, he called an ex of someone in the audience and made him listen to the song on the phone. But the surprise was when he began to sing at one point, and he wasn’t on stage. He appeared from one of the stands on my right and came all the way down to the standing public and then back on stage again. I really liked their special effects projected on the screen behind them. It was a short concert, in my opinion. But great.

On Saturday we had the “pleasure” of some snow. It began to fall in the morning and kept at it throughout the day. The wind made it worse. And to top it all, we went on the Millenium Bridge, just to get the umbrella tested and our hands frozen. My shoes were ruined that day and I wonder if I will be able to clean them somehow. Camden Market was a cute place, maybe a bit too busy, but it was a weekend after all. I was impressed by the 2-story Apple store. We ran into a small street orchestra of 5 people, who were singing in a corner. They even had a CD. Of course, even the guy singing in the tube had free CDs to give, but he ran out of them. Music is important to these people. I wish we appreciated it more.

Of course we’ve been to Westminster and the London Eye area, especially because my cousin wanted to take some long exposures.

Our last day was a bit odd, because the trains had delays and we had to adapt our schedule to that. The only thing we saw was Harrods, this huge store that sells about everything. We went for the food court mostly, to grab something to eat as lunch. Mum would have loved it there, I’m sure. All the purses and clothes.

Our host’s husband was a photographer and I woke up with his Nikon D3 in my hands one morning, when Jane brought it over. Of all the jobs in the world, her husband was a photographer! Imagine me and my cousin. :) We even met him one morning and they had a chat, like photographer meeting photographer, while I was talking to Jane.

All in all, my only regret would be that I didn’t take a picture on Platform 9 and 3/4. Too much scarf swishing and trolley jumping going on there! But this means I’ll have to go back one day… :P

P.S. We drank Butterbeer too!!! Couldn’t finish it, though, too cold for the weather. But it tastes good.

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