Hogwarts in the Snow

I am a kid at heart. I do not try to disguise it when I am out because it is who I am. But it can attract odd stares sometimes and I can’t help but feel self-conscious. Then again, nobody knows me in Leavesden. Ha!

We got into the queue to enter the studios along with a lot of young people ranging from toddlers to young adults in their late teens/early 20s. Their parents and I should be from approximately the same generation.

In the darkened room they ushered us into, we were told that Hogwarts (and the studio) was dressed for Christmas. I thought instantly of the Great Hall and the feasts the characters had there – and reality reciprocated. The scene that greeted us when the doors were thrown open was one I found similar to walking into a banquet hall in Windsor Castle or the Versailles. Except this one was occupied by wizards, giants and all the deliciously magical paraphenalia. I wished the floating lights were there though. But if I didn’t look up at the ceiling and added more lighting, I’d be able to imagine Fred and George throwing turkey legs at Ron.

It is really easy to get to the studios – once you are out of the city of London that is. Parking was a breeze. You probably want to get tickets in advance to avoid the queuing out front. I also rented the audio guide that gave commentaries of the different areas in the studios; It had some audition rolls and interviews with the actors too, and other rather interesting bits. But I think the displays give sufficient information. Unless you are a fan, then nothing is enough.

In the middle of the tour, before you head to the second studio, you reach a cafe. This is where you create your Butterbeer moustache. Expect to pay a bit, but the good thing is that you can have your own food too if you brought along your lunch. Have a picnic, they say. And we did!

Then at the end of the tour, there is the SHOP. A big one. Bring your gold coins.

And now, the pictures.


Of Western Skies and Libraries

Heathrow was empty. Sort of. No queues at customs and loos. People in the terminal are those who got off the same flight we did and the ones clearing out from few earlier flights. We had the Arrival Hall all to ourselves on Christmas Day. Then we had to part – our friends we travelled with the past two weeks are jumping on another flight home while we are staying for the weekend and the Boxing Day sales. Strange ping in the heart when parting with people you enjoy spending time with.

We spent good time in Portugal, driving from the Algarve region in the South to the pretty compact city of Porto to the North. I think, amongst us, we had a good 60 pieces of Portuguese egg tarts! That is approximately S$100 spent on egg and flour. And they were so worth the calories. Especially the ones from the Bélem district in Lisbon. We went expecting a super long queue, but it wasn’t all that long before I sunk my teeth into three gloriously delicious tarts with crispy pastry and squishy eggy centres. I figured I earned the right to binge on those anyway. Hey, I walked an average of 10k steps a day!

If one is looking to experience Europe, then frankly, Portugal shouldn’t be the first stop. But if quaint little towns, nature and laid back travel are must-dos on your travels, then head there. Of the lot, we liked Cape St Vincent, Sagres (in the Algarve) and the city of Porto best.

The Cape took us awhile to get to. It is the western most point of Europe afterall. The further we drove the flatter the land became, and cliffs with sheer drops appeared on the left side of the road beyond a broad strip of rocky land sprouting low-growing bushes. There are no railings. So if you drive a bit further than you should, then it is a watery, albeit scenic, grave in the Atlantic you’d have. Stop where you should too because the traffic police are itching to write you a nice note. Otherwise, the expanse of the land is mind-blowing and the views are spectacular!

There is a spot at an insane edge you can sit on to take a picture of yourself and the western skies. But my legs turned to jelly when I walked near so I became the photographer who zoomed.

And I thought nothing could beat this the rest of the trip. Of course I was wrong. And gladly so.

The Livraria Lello on Rua das Carmelitas. I adore libraries, the older the better. But stick magic to it and I am a goner. It seems JK Rowling spent good time in Portugal teaching English and some time in Porto in this very library that gave her the inspiration for Hogwarts. I am not sure how much credit this bookstore should have for Hogwarts, but it is beautiful. Having earlier seen the studio where HP was made (Ya! I did! *delirious laughter* More later.), I can see why. You pay €3 to enter and the amount can be used to offset cost of book(s) you buy.

Then I went to another library in Coimbra that functions as a book vault. Bibliotheca Joanina, Baroque, 18th century. Magnificent. Students then had to adhere to the strictest rules. If found flouting one, you’d be thrown into a cell under the library to reflect deeply and contemplate repentance.

I couldn’t take pictures. Bleh. But I have been naughty. Here’s one off the web that looks kinda familiar. I’d end up in the cell back when.

I am in Heathrow again for the flight home (This post took a few days to finish 😹) and this time, the crowds are in. We are leaving a 16degC London winter with unused scarves and gloves. 🎶〰➰. But we had a good break and it is with happy hearts that we heading home to spend New Year’s with the family.


Christmas 2015

I asked Google about ‘Christmas light up around the world 2015’ and it threw back a list of articles about those in Singapore. 

I tried ‘Christmas lights around the world 2015’and I got what I wanted. 

I think Singapore is the only place that uses ‘light up’; To others, it probably succeeds BOOM! 

The lights along Orchard Road, the main shopping belt here, are pretty this year. SJ and I went on an obligatory drive in the city and oooh-aaah-ed our way till the end. 


It seems the lights along Oxford and Regent Streets in London are beyond spectacular. With the forecast of probable snow then, I think it would be magical. 

We are looking forward to experiencing it despite the warnings from family to be careful during this time. I read that Special Forces have been deployed to patrol the streets of UK. That does little to comfort I think because they are ready for a fight in the name of defence. 

In a battle, there are only losers and death. I am not religious but Christmas with all its festivities is my favourite time of year. Let’s see if this one will change my opinion. 

The Green Witch vs. The Phantom

Gershwin Theatre, Broadway, New York

This is one musical that should not be missed. Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth played witches, Elphaba and Glinda, and belted out Defying Gravity that instantly became my new favourite song. Hummed it the whole trip and in the hotel shower, much to the chagrin of my hubby. Incidentally, Chris Colfer’s character in Glee did  a rendition of it not long after I discovered the song. I quite liked his version too.

Adelphi Theatre, West End, London

This one, erm, didn’t think it was so good. I think it PaLeD in comparison to its prequel, and for some reason, I cannot remember what happened to Raoul, Christine, and their son Gustave at the end. There were no music pieces that I remember either. But the set was nice, though not impressive. Plus, the theatre was really musty. From the reviews I read after, it seemed that the general response to this Andrew Lloyd Webber production was lukewarm. He is brilliant, but somehow this one didn’t quite cut it.



[First published: 26 Mar 2011]