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[personal profile] misspotter
Just as the inspiration for Harry Potter came to JK Rowling on a train ride to Manchester, on a plane somewhere between Sydney and London I was suddenly struck by the idea of starting a public blog again. It's now been more than ten years after I got my LiveJournal, and about 8 years since I locked it away from casual viewers. I am now (fortunately) no longer a hypersensitive teenager, and these days get less worked up about my readers judging me. Also, I'm about to embark on the trip of a lifetime and feel like even the 5000 photos I took last time I went overseas wouldn't do it justice. 

We left Sydney late at night on the 9th, and after 21 hours of flying including a stopover in Dubai, found ourselves in London at last at noon on the 10th. Driving to our hotel from Heathrow really did feel like walking into a movie...there were Mary Poppins rooftops, houses just like the scene from Love Actually where Hugh Grant goes and knocks on everyone's doors, and there were cute little cabs everywhere! Though the gridlock in the middle of the day wasn't something I had expected...I dreaded to think what it was like at peak hour. 

Oh, and it was cold. After coming out of the nicely heated airport it was like being punched in the face (how rude and un-English!). I can't survive a Sydney winter without complaining at least a few mornings a week. but here the temperature never gets into double digits. 

The afternoon we spent doing housekeeping (getting phone cards, rail cards etc) and the night we spent having dinner with a family friend (at a Chinese restaurant of course). Unfortunately I was an exhausted wreck by 9pm and didn't even have appetite for green tea creme brulee or mango pudding. But one of these days I will go back...

The 11th, being my birthday, was my designated Harry Potter day. I think I'll have to make a separate post about the impact the Harry Potter studio tour at Leavesden made on me, because it was really quite an emotional as well as educational/entertaining experience. It felt huge (especially after I'd seen the Harry Potter Exhibition in Toronto and in the Powerhouse Museum which had nowhere near as much stuff) and I had no trouble spending 5 hours there! Or a lot of money in the gift shop...(in my defence, it wasn't all for me?)  I think the beauty of this tour was that you were encouraged to go up and interact with the exhibits, that you were allowed to take as many photos as you liked virtually anywhere, and you could drink Butterbeer! 

I swear the Butterbeer tastes better here than it did at the Theme Park. Even though it made me feel colder than I already was. I think it's because in Orlando, they put more sugar and fizz into it. Or perhaps I've just missed it for so long that I was doubly grateful for it. Whereas in July 2010, when I was at the Infinitus convention, we had the park for a whole night ("Night of a Thousand Wizards") and had UNLIMITED butterbeer (and not just the regular butterbeer, the slushies too!) so I had to alternate it with strongbow and various other things I don't quite remember (yeah, that was an interesting night...) 

Anyway,, because it was my birthday I got to push the doors to go into the Great Hall. And all the staff were real English people, as opposed to Canadians or Australians faking it. And...well, this is just huge. You get an idea from the outside that it's massive, but there's two indoor sections plus an outdoor section which alone contains the Knight Bus, the Ford Anglia, the motorcycle, the Privet Drive and Godric's Hollow sets, and the Hogwarts bridge. They can afford to do this, I guess, because the land is cheap so far away from the CBD (it's over an hour to get there - we took the underground to Euston then a train to Watford Junction and then a special Harry Potter-painted bus took us to Leavesden). The cute guy who worked at Leavesden in the 3D modelling section who started randomly talking to us said he wished it had been painted to look like the Knight Bus instead (actually, I should've really gotten his name/number, he started telling me that his mother lives in Oxford and he'll be going to visit her at the end of the year...but then he's kind of Draco-Malfoy blonde/pale, so...oh yeah, and also I already have all the Mr Ravenclaw I could want ^_^)

EDIT: oh dammit, I was so tired I managed to delete half of my entry before posting it. And ugh, since I'm crossposting, it means I have to edit two entries.

We only got back to central London quite late, so we just had time to head to Leicester Square to pick up some cheap tickets for Spamalot on Friday before grabbing dinner at Wagamama. There is nothing like hot ramen on a cold night! But again, I didn't have room for dessert. Instead, we went to Sainsbury's and bought 1.5L of cider (1xpear, 1xberry and 1xoriginal apple, each 500mL) for 5 pounds! I usually celebrate when they do a 3-for$18 at Liquorland in Sydney! I was also eyeing the 10 pound bottle of vodka too, but because I'm staying with my parents for the moment, well...I'll have to save that for later.

Wednesday was...DOCTOR WHO DAY! Which meant that we had to make the 2-hour train journey to Cardiff, Wales. It was surprisingly fast, considering we were essentially entering a different country (although there was no "WELCOME TO WALES" sign, all the signs and announcements suddenly became bilingual) and going almost to the other side of the island. And it was just really efficient - yes, we had to make two changes (one at Cardiff Central and one at Cardiff Queen St, but we never had to wait long between connections). 

Unfortunately, because the train was travelling so fast and it was an express that made something like 5 stops between London and Cardiff, it was impossible to take photos of the frosty trees/roofs, the rows of smoking chimneys, or the sheep standing in icy paddocks. Looking at the snowscape outside, however, made us feel a lot warmer in our heated carriage, although we were slightly worried we were wearing sneakers instead of snowboots. During the journey I listened to Spring Awakening (lol) and Dmitri Hvorostovsky's Russian Folk Song albums (omg, the tetris song is hilarious), chewed up a lot of my all-you-can-eat phone data plan, and knitted another charity square for my next Wrap With Love blanket. 

Once we got to Cardiff, because it's a coastal city, the weather became a bit milder (or maybe it was just heating up because it was noon by that point). My brother and I found the Torchwood hub! My brother had thought the mirrored pole thing was only 2m tall and was surprised it was...well, about five times that. We had a quick lunch at the cafe near the Doctor Who experience (which I would like to add, was HUGE, because they gave me a coffee the size of my head and a potato the size of two fists. I didn't have any space for the Welsh cakes :(

The DW experience consists of a short film, an interactive section which can be best described as a short walk-through amusement park ride, followed by the museum of Doctors, villains and companions. There's also short sections on how they created the sounds and prosthetics which is fairly interesting (including interactive Cyberman and Dalek voice modulators!) But you get the idea that the main point of this exhibition is to extract money from parents of small children, because the longest time we spent at any one thing (apart from maybe the control-your-own-dalek and David Tenannt's costume) was probably at the photo booth (we had trouble getting a good picture) and the gift shop (we had trouble deciding!) I considered getting a t-shirt or a backpack, but the backpacks were horrible quality and the t-shirts were huge, so I decided to settle for an iPhone case and some fridge/wall decorations. We took a slow stroll back to the station afterwards, enjoing the sunset.

The train ride back was far less interesting as it was already dark! But I continued knitting to HP audiobooks and later, AVPS. Because apparently...A Very Potter Senior Year is coming out! Tonight we've had a quiet night (takeaway Indian back at our hotel). And now, despite my quiet night, I think my eyes are once again calling the shots. I hope to talk to all of you soon! 

February 2013

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