Category Archives: England

Visit to Harry Potter World Studio Tour Part II

I posted the first part of the Harry Potter World Studio Tour here but then disappeared from blogging for a while, so I’m here to finish the job with the second post!

To continue from the previous post, the area where refreshments are sold also houses a few other sets, one of which is Privet Drive.  (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Privet Drive, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordPrivet Drive

While the first studio (Studio J) houses most of the sets used in the movies, the second studio (Studio K) contains mostly of props and models that were used for filming. The amount of detail that went into each prop was amazing. The amount of work that was done for each prop, some of which was only in the movie(s) for seconds is absolutely mind-blowing. As someone with high attention to detail, the blueprint and models in Studio K were gems to me!

Buckbeak, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordThe mechanical Buckbeak

Diagon Alley, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordThe famous Diagon Alley

Weasleys Puking Pastilles, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, Weasley's Puking Pastilles, Harry Potter World Studio Tour

Mechanical (animated gif) and a still of the Weasley’s  Puking Pastilles at Diagon Alley

Blueprints for the mechanical props and models Harry Potter World Studio TourBlueprint for Weasley’s Puking Pastilles and one of the models for the props

Whomping Willow model, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordModel of the Whomping Willow and Hogwarts BridgeHogwarts Model at Harry Potter World Studio, England, WatfordSmaller model of Hogwarts

There is also a larger model of Hogwarts that was used for filming and since we visited during winter, the model was covered in snow, which was beautiful. The larger model was also surrounded by numerous touch screen panels which gave more in-depth detail as to how the model was used during filming of the movies.

Hogwarts in snow, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordHogwarts in snow at Harry Potter World Studio Tour, Watford,
Hogwarts in snow, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordHogwarts in snow Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, WatfordThe larger model of Hogwarts covered in snowDetails on clock tower, Harry Potter World Studio Tour, England, LondonOne of the touch screen panels – “Keeping Perfect Time: All of the miniature clock taken in the castle were carefully set to match the time of day that a scene was meant to take place”

If you read and/or saw the Harry Potter movies, you will definitely enjoy the Harry Potter World Studio Tour. While I was tempted to watch all seven movies prior to visiting in an attempt to refresh my memory, I knew it wasn’t feasible due to the short time frame but I mostly definitely did a movie marathon of the Harry Potter films AFTER the visit! 😉

A Visit to Harry Potter World Studio Tour Part I

We received tickets to Harry Potter World Studio Tour from one of G’s cousins as our wedding gift. I was thrilled as I read all seven books and watched every single movie that was adapted from the books. We had intended to visit during the holidays in December but alas, they were fully booked/sold out! I tried calling again in January and was told that all weekends until March were booked. However, while I was on the phone with the agent, someone else canceled and we were lucky enough to take their spot for the same weekend! Needless to say, if you plan on visiting, please book in advance!

The Harry Potter World Studio Tour is located in Watford Junction, just outside of London. We took a 20-minute train from Euston in London to Watford Junction for £10.20 per person. Once at the station, there were plenty of signs to guide us to the shuttle bus that runs from Watford Junction to Harry Potter World Studio Tour. It was £2 for a return ticket on the shuttle bus and it took about 15 minutes to get to the Harry Potter World Studio Tour from the train station. (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Mullany coach bus to Harry Potter World Studio TourThe shuttle bus that runs from Watford Junction to the Harry Potter World Studio Tour

Upon arrival, we were to redeem our tickets at the Ticket counter near the entrance. We were told to redeem our tickets no later than 30 minutes before the starting time of our tour.

Harry Potter World Studio TourEntrance to Harry Potter World Studio Tour

Once we redeemed our tickets, we went into the Studio and wandered around the gift shop since we have a bit of time. There was a lot of memorabilia from the movies sold in the gift shop ranging from jewelry, clothing, toys, books, to food.

Harry Potter World Studio Tour Gift Shop StoreFloating candles in the gift shop store Harry Potter World Studio TourCandies, sweets, chocolate at Harry Potter World Studio Tour

As expected, the gift shop was busy given it was a weekend and we just browsed the store without purchasing anything. We then left to get a quick bite at the cafeteria before the start of our tour. The food was decent and overpriced as most tourist places are. There was also a Starbucks on site inside the Studio. After our refreshing ourselves with some food, we stood in line for the start of our tour.

Professor McGonagall, Weasleys, Moody Mad EyeFlying Car Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets Ford AngliaHarry Potter Closet Bedroom Studio TourCloset Staircase Harry Potter Bedroom Studio Tour

The tour then officially begins past a set of tours with a short film about Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Once the film ends, the screen is lifted to reveal the great doors to the Great Hall.

Doors to the Great Hall Harry Potter World Studio TourGreat Hall Harry Potter World Studio Tour

Once inside the Great Hall, one will find sets, costumes, and props lined along the walls with occasional screens of interviews with directors and producers.

Hufflepuff Great HallRavenclaw in the Great HallSlytherin in the Great HallGryffindor in Great HallRuben Hagrid Harry Potter Studio TourDumbledore in the Great HallSeverus Snape in the Great HallMinerva McGonagall in the Great HallMad Eye MoodyStart of term chocolate feastStart of term chocolate feast from Goblet of FireYule Ball Harry PotterYule Ball from Goblet of FireHair costumes Harry Potter WorldMake up and hairGryffindor Boys DormitoryGryffindor Boy’s DormitoryPortraits in HogwartsPortraits in Hogwarts that were painted after crew staff membersChamber of Secrets Snake DoorSnake door from Chamber of SecretsWizarding Money GoldGalleon (gold), sickle (silver) and knuts (bronze)Harry Potter letters The letters from Philosopher’s Stone

After going through all the elaborate and impressive sets in Studio J (the first of the two studios), I was eager to get some refreshments. Well, what else would be served other than Butterbeer at the refreshments corner?

Butterbeer Harry Potter Studio Tour

G and I both bought a small cup of Butterbeer for £2.95 each. I have been really eager to try it since I have heard good things about it. I wasn’t disappointed! It’s frothy, creamy and just delicious. If you like rootbeer floats, you’ll love Butterbeer. Sadly for G, he took a sip and disliked it, so I was left with two cups of Butterbeer to enjoy in all its glory! Woohoo! 😉

Butterbeer at Harry Potter World Studio TourCheers! (For details of outfit, click here)

There are more pictures to share but I’ll end the post here for now and will resume the second part in an upcoming post! Hope you enjoyed the pictures by far! 🙂

Travel – Exploring York Brewery

Hullo, G here! As previously mentioned, Fauxionista and I visited York, and the last part of our trip was a tour of the York Brewery. She was kind enough to accompany me to the brewery even though she’s not really a drinker.

York has a very proud heritage – they can trace parts of the city back twenty centuries, and people have settled there in one form or another since about 8000 years before anyone had even heard of Jebus. It can trace its official founding as a city to the Romans. The Romans who were around just after Caesar. The city was founded so long ago that the calendar they used didn’t have a need for a third digit in the year yet, let alone a fourth.

In those days, they likely didn’t have a brewery per se – they probably just had people that made beer, or in their case, “barbarian drink”. To be honest, from what little I remember of Latin class, back then they likely would have had beer in the Roman city of York, but it would have been only for the commoners, largely for medicinal purposes, and not very good. The women would use the beer foam in much the same way that skin cream is used today, so if you can imagine your wife dunking her hands in your beer and smearing it on her face before you started to sip your beer through a husk you’ll get some idea of what beer culture was like when the city was started.

Thankfully, that all went out of fauxion some time ago.

Two thousand years ago, beer would have been much weaker in both flavour and alcohol content (unless we’re talking about Heineken, I suppose), and would have contained a lot more sediment, and would have been much less consistent from batch to batch. It’s much better today, and the people at York Brewery are responsible for a portion of that!

We started the tour in a small room where they store the ingredients for beer (barley, hops, yeast, and water). (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

 photo OMDS0785.jpgThey did have a fine selection of different malts on hand, and we got to taste them!

 photo OMDS0788.jpgThey had the malt piled high on the side of the room – thankfully, this wasn’t what they handed out for tasting.

 photo OMDS0787.jpgThis was what we got to taste – the different types of malts.  They tasted a lot like cereal, but the darker ones were better with a fuller taste.

 photo OMDS0786.jpgSurprisingly, for the number of kegs and taps in the room, there was no actual beer to be had on the tour.  (They made it available at the end.)

 photo OMDS0789.jpgThe box on the floor with the handle (lower left) was filled with hops that people could taste.

We then got into learning how beer is made, as our guide explained the brewing process. More accurately, Fauxionista learned, and I stood around trying not to yell out the answers every time the guide asked a question of the group of about ten of us. (This was not my first brewery tour!)

 photo 20131019_173115.jpgBrewing is a fairly simple process. Brewing well is difficult.

 photo 20131019_165814.jpgFermenting beer in a giant vat – essentially a giant beer that’s almost finished being made.

The brewing process is fairly straightforward, and rather than relate it here, I’ll provide a link to the Wikipedia article on brewing in case you’re interested. What made this unique was we saw how the people at York Brewery do it to come up with the various flavours they have.

 photo 20131019_173441.jpgThe list of core (yellow) and non-core (white) brews at York Brewery for 2013.

After the tour was over, we got to go to the pub portion of the brewery, and actually sample some of the beer! The entry fee gets each ticket holder two half-pints of beer, and since Fauxionista didn’t want hers, that meant that I got to try four different beers! I had previously tried “Centurion’s Ghost Ale”, one of their core beers, the Christmas before last. Additionally, I’d had York Minster Ale which I liked, but a little less than the Ghost Ale, which I think is one of the best balanced beers I’ve had in a while.

Given that I’d already had those two ten months earlier, I decided to start with the York Guzzler. Every brewery has a “light summer ale” which is typically more like a pilsner, being lighter in colour and having less alcohol and more ‘zest’. The Guzzler is true to that form, and while good, it was not generally the sort of beer that I go for on a regular basis. (It reminded me a lot of Dogfish Head’s “Lawnmower Ale” actually.) I could see drinking it on a late summer’s evening if it were fairly warm, but I prefer a heavier, hoppier beer.

The unfortunately named “Yorkshire Terrier” proved to be worthy of the lacklustre imagination under which it was named, and was the worst of the four beers I tried. There was a confusing element to the taste (never good).  It wasn’t entirely unpalatable, and I did finish the sample, but I probably wouldn’t buy it.

The York IPA was significantly better. Since I do prefer hoppy beers, this was quite pleasant to drink. The hops that York Brewery uses actually come from mainland Europe (we learned on the tour), which is ironic insofar as Kent (in Southeast England) is known for producing hops. (They do get some from there, to be fair.) (Another aside – my Dad, who was born near Kent, would often go hop-picking on family vacations in Kent as a boy.) It’s not as hoppy as I would have liked – but it was still quite smooth with a slightly bitter aftertaste which gave it a nice finish.

I next sampled the “Black Bess”, a dark beer with a dark malty colour, not unlike Guinness. It’s colour was the only thing that it shared with Guinness, though, and that is a good thing – it has its own unique flavour palette, and while I generally don’t like roasted malt beers (they often taste too much like coffee), this one was actually fairly pleasant. It did have a taste of coffee to it, but the sugars in the beer offset that for the most part.  It would still lose in a head-to-head competition with the Centurion’s Ghost Ale, which is also a malty roasted beer but definitely the better of the two.

If you’re in York, and you enjoy beer and/or brewing, I would recommend York Brewery! It’s the only brewery in York (and in the city proper, at that), but as microbreweries go it’s a pleasant experience with a friendly atmosphere and some enjoyable beers.

Travel – York, England Part I

G & I visited his cousin and his family in York shortly after I moved to London. The rest of his relatives reside in London, with the only other cousin and his family in Exmouth. We went to visit for a weekend, departing on a late Friday afternoon train and returned on Sunday afternoon. While in York, we were able to visit the York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, and York Brewery. (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Welcome to York, England

Although I’m not Christian, I enjoy visiting medieval churches, as I admire their architecture and beautiful windows made of stained glass. Thus, York Minster was high on the list for our visit. I was pleased to learn from our hosts that York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals in Northern Europe. The cathedral is absolutely beautiful and it never ceases to amaze me how people in the ancient times are able to build such architecture without today’s technology. The admission fee of £10 was worth it as the ticket is valid for 12 months. For an additional £5, one can purchase a combined ticket for £15 to visit both the cathedral and the tower (275 steps to the top of the tower!). While G was keen to climb up the tower, I declined for I had done my research beforehand and most people advised visiting Clifford’s Tower for the view of York as one would also be able to see York Minster as part of it.

York Minster England Europe

Bike lane York Minster England EuropeBike path outside of York Minster

York Minster England Europe

Exterior York Minster England Europe

Exterior York Minster England EuropeOrnate exterior

Interior York Minster England

York Minster Hallway Arches

York Minster Stained Glass

York Minster Stained Glass

York Minster Stained Glass

York Minster Stained Glass

York Minster Stained Glass

York Minster Old Testament

Interior York Minster
Interior York Minster

Interior York Minster

After a quick tour of the cathedral, we went for lunch at the town center at Cafe Concerto. As we were with our hosts and their children, I tried not to be the annoying snap-happy guest and refrained from taking pics for lunch. Food at Cafe Concerto was quite good and decently priced (in comparison to London!). I also love the interior where the walls were covered with music scores. (You’ll just have to take my word for it or better yet, pay a visit!)

Cafe Concerto York EnglandImage via Cafe Concerto

After lunch, we walked to Clifford’s Tower for an aerial view of York. Built by William the Conqueror, the tower has functioned as a prison, royal mint, as well as the public “gallery” for the bodies of King Henry VIII’s enemies. The tower is all that remains of York Castle.

Admission was £4.20 for an adult which was relatively inexpensive. The view was definitely worth the price. However, do not expect any ornate interiors for the tower is nothing more than a circular brick structure in comparison to York Minster.

Clifford's Tower England

Clifford's Tower England

Miniature Clifford's TowerDiorama of Clifford’s Tower

Interior of Clifford's Tower The interior

View from Clifford's Tower

View from Clifford's Tower England

View of Castle Museum from Clifford's TowerThe majestic view

From Clifford’s Tower, we walked back to explore the town center further before our tour of the York Brewery. I’ll post the remainder on our tour in the next post! Hope you’re having a great weekend!