Category Archives: Places

Travel – Barcelona Part II

On our second day in Barcelona, we were off to an early start as our tickets to visit Parc Güell was scheduled for 8.30am. G’s cousin who lives in Barcelona had suggested that we booked our tickets (€7 per adult) in advance and try to visit early to avoid crowds. We took the Metro and got off at Vallcarca, one of the two Metro stops close to Parc Güell. We got a surprise when we saw the hill that we had to climb to get to the park! Granted, there were escalators between each block but it was only for the uphill direction. Well, it was all worth it as there were only few crowds, mostly tour groups and the view as well as the park itself was beautiful. Needless to say, Gaudi‘s handiwork did not fail to impress us. I shall let the pictures do the talking… (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Next on our itinerary was a visit to the famous La Sagrada Familia that has been in construction since 1882. Once again, we purchased our tickets in advance (€19.30 per person), which included a visit to one of the two towers (Navity or Passion). If one had to pick only one of Gaudi’s works to visit in Barcelona, this would be my pick. Gaudi’s magnificent work of art La Sagrada Familia is absolutely breathtaking. One can easily spend hours in the building admiring the architecture and his extraordinary vision. I was mesmerized by the beautiful stained glass and can easily spend a few hours staring at the vivid colors. There were also a few exhibitions housed in the building, some of which gave an insight to Gaudi’s architectural influences. G and I particularly enjoyed the 3D exhibition where we could touch the objects demonstrating his architecture ideas. We ended our tour by visiting the Passion tower which had a great view of the city.

After the visit, we headed back to our AirBnB apartment to rest before heading out for dinner in the neighbourhood. Our host had recommended Pizza L’avia as a restaurant with good local food that was inexpensive. Since we’ve been having tapas for our previous meals, I was delighted to find paella at the restaurant and ordered that for dinner. G as usual ordered pizza. (His goal is to eat pizza in every country that he visits!) The paella was bit too greasy for my liking but otherwise, the taste was decent. G however, wasn’t too pleased with his pizza due to the use of local cheese, which he found unappetizing.

After dinner, we headed to Museu Picasso which offers discounted rates on Thursday nights. We only paid €15 for our tickets with included an additional exhibition. Discounted tickets however can only be purchased in person after 7pm but since we were there early, we didn’t have to wait too long to purchase our tickets. Regular admission is otherwise €11 per adult.

As photographs were not allowed in the museum, I have none to show other than the entrance and a pretty snap of the blue skies from the courtyard past 8pm. I have to say between the Van Gogh Museum and the Picasso Museum, I much preferred the former in Amsterdam. I guess I prefer Van Gogh’s style of art to Picasso’s.

If you missed my first post on Barcelona, it’s here and the outfit details for this post is here. We’ll be off to explore the mountains outside Barcelona for the next post!

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 – The Hague, Netherlands

On the last leg of our day trip (part one, part two), we adjourned to The Hague, the seat of the government of Netherlands. We were driven around to see embassies and we did a quick pit stop at the Peace Palace before finally proceeding to Madurodam. If we had a choice, we would have happily skipped going around the embassies (nothing spectacular) and instead opt to spend more time at Madurodam since we had only very little time there.

Madurodam is a miniature park comprised of various famous Dutch places ranging from castles to public buildings, and transportation. It is absolutely fantastic (very interactive!) and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the Netherlands. As someone who loves miniature models, I lit up as soon as I stepped into the magical world of miniatures. (G can attest to that!) (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Tram in The HagueTram near the Peace Palace

Peace Palace NetherlandsPeace Palace

World Peace Flame in The Hague

Hansje Brinker at Madurodam
Map of Madurodam, The Hague

Kinderdijk Madurodam

MadurodamMadurodamHet Loo Palace and National Museum MadurodamBasilica of Sint-Jan MadurodamRound the Sting Madurodam

Hotel Des Indes MadurodamMadurodam Mill "De Palmboom" in Schiedam MadurodamRijksmuseum MadurodamConcert Gebouw MadurodamThe Hague Peace Palace in MadurodamTrain tracks MadurodamAmsterdam Schipol AirportAmsterdam Schipol Airport MadurodamAmsterdam Schipol Airport MadurodamCrane Operator MadurodamShip in Madurodam

What I failed to capture in my snaps are the moving transportation throughout Madurodam. It’s fascinating to watch as the vehicles move around the miniature city. (Think mechanical trains on a train track for Xmas displays but in a grander scale!) Sadly, we ended up spending less time than anticipated at Madurodam as our tour guide thought the park was closing later than it was. 🙁 I would definitely love to come back for another visit in the future. There’ll be one more post coming soon to round up my trip to the Netherlands!

Travel – Amsterdam, Netherlands Part II

On my second day in Amsterdam, I met up with a friend who took a day off work to be my tour guide. (Thanks, C!) I can’t express my immense gratitude to him for I wouldn’t otherwise been able to explore Amsterdam and its outskirts on a bike like we did. Amsterdam is a bike-friendly city and bikers rule the streets! (At one point, C was looking up Google maps while we were smack in the middle at an intersection and a car eventually came behind us. I was petrified and urged him to move out of the way but the car just went around us, nary a honk or negative gesture!)

We rented bikes from OV-Fiets (OV-Bicycle) at Amsterdam Zuid station where I met C. As C had a membership to OV-Fiets, I don’t know how much bike rental was but one can rent a bike for 24 hours in Amsterdam for around €10. After we got our bikes, I road tested it for bit as I wasn’t familiar with coaster brakes (back pedal brakes). Once I felt fairly confident, we rode off to the Rieker Windmill before biking into the city along the Amstel River. (WARNING: Picture heavy post!)

Rieker Windmill in Amsterdam

Rieker Windmill Amsterdam

Rieker Windmill in Amsterdam Netherlands

South of Amsterdam

Amstel River

Amsterdam bridge

VOC ship replica Amsterdam

We went to a flea market while in the city before heading to grab a quick bite at a Burgermeester. The cheeseburger and the banana milkshake I had was very good. It reminded me of Shake Shack, similar to Byron Burger here in UK. After our meal, we biked to Centraal Station to return our bikes before catching a train to Haarlem. The trip took about 15 minutes and the return train ticket was €8. From Haarlem, we rented bikes at the train station from OV-Fiets again to bike to the National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. C said that we would be biking to the beach and that it would be about 30 minutes from the train station. As I enjoy biking, I didn’t think it would be a problem as there weren’t rolling hills to be conquered. Alas, don’t be fooled by the flat lands in Netherlands! There were many times where I would be pedaling like a crazy person only to have the bike move by a few inches. C, like most Dutch who bike regularly, was super patient with me and kept motivating me to pedal along. I have to admit as we were close to the national park, I ended up wheeling my bike instead of pedaling on it for I was just too unfit! (While I’m fairly active, I haven’t worked on my cardio since I left competitive sports in high school!) All was well once we arrived at the cafe by the beach and took in the beautiful sights. After some refreshments, we walked along the beach to capture the beautiful sights.

Stairs to North Sea in Zuid Kennemerland National Park

Zuid Kennemerland National Park Bike Parking

Beach in Zuid Kennemerland National Park

North Sea beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park

North Sea Beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park

Sunset North Sea Zuid Kennemerland National Park

North Sea Beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park

North Sea beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park Amsterdam

Sunset North Sea beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park

Sunset North Sea beach Zuid Kennemerland National Park

After taking in the sights by the beach, we took a different route to bike back to the train station. We got to see the beautiful dunes in the park and I felt as though we were on a movie set for Lord of the Rings!

Sand dunes in Zuid Kennemerland National Park

Bike path lane Zuid Kennemerland National Park Amsterdam

We made it back to Haarlem train station shortly after dusk and caught our return train back to Amsterdam. I have to say, contrary to Harlem in New York, Haarlem in Amsterdam is posh! I couldn’t help notice the pretty big houses (some mansions) while biking to and fro. C and I parted ways after he made sure I was back in Amsterdam safely. (He then took a train back to Delft about an hour away where he resides.) I’m truly blessed to have such an awesome friend! I was beyond exhausted when I finally made it back to the hotel to meet G, so we stayed in for dinner. I’ll blog more about our day trip in Netherlands in my next post. Hope you’re having a great start to the week!