After getting back from the Making of Harry Potter, we went back to our rooms and repacked. I had just a few more hours leftover before I finally made my way home from three weeks in Europe. The next morning, I woke up super early and made my way to Dishoom Shoreditch for my second meal at that restaurant. We managed to arrive just before it opened so we had enough time to really just hang out outside of it before it opened and guarantee that we would be sat as soon as possible.
Immediately after the restaurant opened, we were seated and I knew what I wanted to order. We decided to order two different types of naan rolls, the coconut yogurt and the bread. It was the most delicious spread I’ve had and to be honest, the naan rolls were just as good three years later. In fact they may have been better than I remember so I was a happy camper.
After getting through our brunch, we headed back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage and then made our way out to Heathrow. It was finally time for us to get ready for our flight out to Seattle. After three weeks of traveling around Europe, it was finally time for me to go home and settle back into my life.
We boarded our 787 Virgin Atlantic flight and flew the 9 hours home. I managed to get an exit row seat because I wanted the luxury of being able to stretch out and finally, I landed in Seattle ready to just lay in my own bed for the first time in 2018.
Once we entered into the studio, we began our tour. If you don’t know what this place is, then here’s the summary. The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Brothers Studio Tour is basically an opportunity to learn all about how they made the Harry Potter movies and also see the various elements of the movie sets such as costumes, how they made sets, etc. There are opportunities to go through and take photos, learn all about Harry Potter and even some photo opportunities to ride a broom through London.
We started out our tour in the Great Hall which was decorated for the holidays which was absolutely amazing. My inner child was definitely just so very happy and I am 100% sure I didn’t stop smiling. From the Great Hall we made our way into the actual studio where we got to see the history of the costumes, the bedroom sets from the boys dorms, all the way to learning about the animals that were in the movies. We were able to walk through the forest, see the mockups of Hogwarts and even check out number 4 Privet Drive. They’ve left quite a bit of the set in tact which is amazing. You have an opportunity to stop for food and get some butter beer before you make your way over to the actual costuming area that shows how they created the creatures and characters in Harry Potter including Dobby.
You’ll find interactive areas such pretending you are Dobby and seeing how you can control his movements on a screen. At the end, you can see a few mockups of Hogwarts and how it came to be the giant school that you see in the movies. Along with that, you get a chance to check out the wands and you really get to immerse yourself in the wizarding world of Harry Potter.
I have to admit that I spent the entire time being super excited about what I was seeing and I’m not entirely sure I was able to take it all in but I loved every minute of it. I honestly feel like it was the best way for me fulfill my love of Harry Potter.
When we were done with the tour, we made our way back to the bus and took the two hour journey back to London.
As you might remember, when we were in Paris, we had found that the Makingof Harry Potter outside of London had extra tickets for Friday night. So we decided to buy tickets and go Friday after work before we left for home on Saturday. We completed our work day at the Shoreditch office, and then made our way back to the hotel to drop off our stuff then grab the Underground to the Overground to the train station to grab the bus. It ended up being about a two hour journey to get all the way out to the Warner Brothers Studio where the movie had been filmed but it ended up being totally worth it.
If you buy a ticket for the Making of Harry Potter, you need to be prepared for the trek all the way out there. It is listed as the London location but it’s definitely not in London and it is definitely a trek. As soon as you get out of the train station, you’ll need to go outside to get on the bus out to the studio. It’s a pretty great tour bus though because they give you all the details when you’re driving the 15-20 minutes out to the studios so you know exactly what to expect and where to go when you’re done with the tour itself.
After we finally arrived at the Making of Harry Potter, we ran into the studio as quickly as possible to get our tickets scanned so that we could start our tour.
I have to admit, the instant we jumped off that tour bus, I felt like I was 12 years old again and could not wait to see the entire set that was available. We ran through the line to get to the front as quickly as possible laughing because we were so excited. I may or may not have yelled “is Harry Potter real!?” at my friend only to have her respond “OF COURSE!” I’m pretty sure we made a fool of ourselves in front of all the other people who were there, but no part of me is embarrassed of it because I was way too excited to be there.
The next morning, we woke up early and started our cold trek through Stockholm city center to get to our office. Our office is located right in the heart of the city center surrounded by all the cool shops and food places. We definitely got lost and I was definitely freezing, but we eventually found ourselves at our office where we settled in for the day.
I have to admit that one of the things that I love about being in another country during the holidays is how things are decorated and the fun foods we get to try. We had Swedish pastries for breakfast that were delicious and the entire office had holiday decorations including my favorite Swedish gnomes. If you haven’t seen the Swedish gnomes, you need to check them out. They are my favorite little critters and I fell in love with them the last time I was in Sweden.
When we were done with our meeting, we grabbed the Arlanda Express and made our way back to London. We landed in Gatwick, grabbed our Uber to our hotel and decided to grab some dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.
I have to admit that as someone who doesn’t drink and I’m not a huge fan of going out, being in the restaurant in our hotel, I was definitely overwhelmed. The hotel was the cool place to be for most people and so it was super loud and crowded with drunk people by the time we showed up from our flight. While I appreciated that all these people were out having fun and enjoying themselves on a weeknight, I definitely regretted deciding to stay in that hotel because all I wanted was to just relax when I travel for work and I wasn’t looking for anything too exciting.
If you find yourself in Shoreditch, Hotel Hoxton is the place to be whether you’re there to stay or just want to grab a drink. I would definitely say that it looked like the cool hip place to be based on how popular it was and the wide range of people who were there. As a business traveler, it’d be a good place to visit but not really a good place to stay.
I have never been one to be super motivated to work while riding some sort of moving vehicle. I get motion sickness so it’s hard for me to read while in a moving vehicle which means that cars are usually really hard for me to do anything but sleep. But with the current job, I’ve gotten better about working on airplanes which is good and productive but airplanes are definitely different than trains. Trains are like a halfway between cars and planes for me. Getting motion sick on them is kind of hit or miss for me so on the train from Paris to London, I decided to try out being productive.
We got into our seats and settled in for the two hour journey through the water over to London. The trains actually do have wifi on them but it is definitely super spotty and really hit or miss in terms of how well it’s going to actually work. For whatever reason, my computer did not want to cooperate with the wifi and so I ended up having a hard time working on the train. And as soon as we went into the tunnel, it got a little too rocky for me so I felt a little woozy. I ended up spending most of the train ride just staring out the window or trying to nap but I survived and that’s all that matters. Lauren worked the entire time and was super productive while I just sat there useless and trying not to vomit.
We eventually got into London then caught the tube to Shoreditch where we settled into our hotel room then got ready for dinner.
We stayed at the Hoxton in Shoreditch which ended up being a mildly bad idea. The bar for the hotel is actually a hip spot for people to hang out and so when we got to our hotel, we had to wade through a bunch of loud people who were definitely on their way to getting decently drunk. Luckily the rooms were decently soundproofed. It was my first time staying at the Hoxton and the decor is great and super hipster. I especially loved the little breakfast bags that we were provided where you pick what you want for breakfast, mark it on the bag, hang it out on your door handle and the next morning you have some food available for you. That honestly may have been my favorite part of the hotel. Plus, their instant coffee was actually really good too.
After we settled into our rooms, we decided to head over to Dishoom Shoreditch with one of my friends from college. I was so excited to finally go back to the that restaurant and get to try it for dinner. It was a meal, three years in the making.
I’ve been to London a handful of times and I always go for 24 hours or less. Here’s my list of what I think are must-sees and must-do’s there:
Things to do in London:
– Buckingham Palace (you can take tours if the Queen isn’t there). I haven’t gone into it, but because London is so big and there’s so much to see, I would rather see it from the outside and then go see other things.
– Westminster Abbey. I haven’t gone inside but it is beautiful. If you get more than 24 hours in London then I would suggest checking out the inside but otherwise if you don’t have much time it may not be worth it to go inside.
– Big Ben. You can see this from all around the city, it’s pretty iconic and it’s close to Westminster and the Wheel so you can do a quick walk by.
– Trafalgar Square. I did this in the rain at like 10PM at night so I couldn’t see too much while I was there but it is iconic and a huge part of history and it’s super close to St. James Park which is beautiful even at night in the rain.
– Hyde Park. The Princess Diana memorial is there. I love Hyde Park because it’s this giant quiet park in the middle of a huge city.
– St. James Park – it’s beautiful, check it out.
– The London Eye – it’s a pretty spectacular thing to walk up to but it’s actually fairly expensive to ride especially given how the dollar is doing to the pound. I just walked up to it, took a picture and moved on with my life. Around the London Eye, there’s a bunch of street food vendors that have amazing food to check out. Plus from there you can walk to the Tate Art Museum which is free (donations preferably but it’s cool if you don’t) and it has amazing modern art and is pretty cool. There’s a few Salvador Dali paintings which drew me in.
– London Bridge and Tower Bridge. London Bridge is not the same as Tower Bridge (the one that you see in all the iconic photos of London) so don’t be confused. 😉
– Platform 9 3/4s if you like Harry Potter. If you want a picture with the cart, get there early because there’s a line.
– St. Pauls’ Cathedral (this is 100% a must do). It’s kind of expensive, I want to say like 20 GBP to get in and you can’t take pictures in the actual cathedral. But you can take the stairs up the whispering gallery which is creepy and awesome at the same time. You can sit anywhere, whisper to the wall and people can hear it all around the gallery. I kind of feel like it’s the weird thoughts in my head but it’s pretty cool. After doing the whispering gallery, go up to the roof (if you aren’t afraid of heights). There are two levels, stop at the lower one to take photos but you get a much better view at the very top of the dome. It’s…. amazing. Definitely one of my favorite things I’ve done there. Just a note: be prepared for the weather because there’s no cover up there so you will be exposed to the elements dependent on how the weather is.
– Borough Market. This is potentially my favorite place in the world even though I hate crowds. This is essentially a year around farmer’s market/food cart place of happiness. There is amazing food there. If you have a place to store food there then I recommend heading here earlier rather than later and buying some food you can snack on. So good. Last time I was there, there was a goat sausage vendor that made food that I scarfed down. It was the most amazing sausage on a quinoa/cilantro type salad with the most amazing tzaikiki sauce ever. There’s also an amazing coffee place around the corner from the main entrance (says Borough Market over it) and you’ll notice that everyone is there. The coffee was really good and very fancy but it was pretty cool to see how they made the various coffees.
– Picadilly Circus: Shopping! Primark is amazing. It’s like our Forever 21 but slightly cheaper, slightly better quality and about 100% more chaotic but you can find sooo much there and it’s not available online.
Things that I love that are a little off the typical path:
– The various tube stations. There was a really amazing cool walkway at Kings Cross that is just gorgeous. I have a picture somewhere but it’s lit in all sorts of crazy colors and kind of psychedelic. I think it’s one of the underground walkways that they have there.
– If you hang out around that area, there’s a beautiful canal you can walk along and it’s just peaceful and it eventually leads to a square surrounded by restaurants. Looked like it was a developing area so it may not that be that interesting to go to alone but it was a nice place to relax.
– The Warner Brother’s studio in London (near Farringdon). It has all the Harry Potter house seals hanging in the window. Yes, this is only cool if you like Harry Potter. I died and had a minor freak out while I was there.
– Jamie Oliver has an Italian restaurant around Farringdon that was really good.
– Le Hore. It’s my favorite. It’s really kind of out of the way but it’s amazing.
– Dishoom. I went to the one in Shoreditch and I still dream of their brunch. Get the naan roll with either the sausage or the bacon. Plus the chocolate chai is amazing
– If you can get out of the city, go to Windsor Locks. I’m sure there’s a way to get there without a car but it’s a pretty cool castle!
– The train system is so much better there so you could totally leave central London and head out other places!
Things to note:
– Get an Oyster card, even if you don’t ever go back to London. It’s just easier that way and you can use it on all public transportation.
– The Tube is amazing and super efficient. Just note that during rush hour it can get terrifying and the central line (I wanna say red line) gets PACKED. But it’s super easy to use.
– Costa Coffee is like Europe’s version of Sbux. I actually really like Costa and it’s fairly decent priced.
– Don’t eat most Asian food (it’s not that great) EXCEPT for Indian. Ohhhhh the Indian food there is so good.
– Watch out for cars. Most of the streets in London will actually write on the ground which direction to look so keep that in mind. Don’t get complacent with crossing the street. I know it sounds ridiculous but… dude… just watch out
– If you guys are taking the train into the city from Heathrow, you can take the regular tube but if you’re willing to pay the money take the Heathrow Express. It takes like 15 minutes when it runs on time which I’ve had fairly good luck with except once, has wifi and takes you direct to Paddington Station.
– Make sure you have a chip in your credit cards. Most places in the UK will have to dig out some old device to swipe and most of the times it’s a hassle cause it doesn’t always read. Microchips are the way to go with them.
– When you’re wandering the streets, I recommend looking at the buildings just above regular height. Because London is such a historic city they have various plaques and little tid-bits about the city on the buildings. Like where major things have happened and such so you can learn a lot about the city just by looking around.
The next day we headed back to London and stayed in Hounslow for the night. I’ve never really stayed around that part of town and it was really interesting to get that perspective. I always go past that portion of the city but never get a chance to explore it. My coworker and I began wandering around that neighborhood and stumbled upon a cute Indian restaurant called the Jolly Waggoner that happened to be quite empty. You see, people don’t start eating dinner until much later and we were hungry at 5PM especially since my coworker was jetlagged so she was a little of on her schedule.
We wandered into the restaurant where we were stared at by the two people drinking at the bar because we were asking for dinner menus. We were seated and the owner promptly stopped by and told us that the chef was on break and wouldn’t be back until 6PM, would we be okay with waiting. Of course! We enjoyed some conversation and then ordered our food promptly at 6.
The restaurant was adorable and the staff was great. The manager/person in charge that night brought us some special homemade chili paste and offered us up drinks on the house after dinner. The atmosphere was great because you could have the great quaint restaurant environment and just 10 feet away was the bar where there were TVs and high tables. Even with the split, it was still quite comfortable and so you could sit wherever you felt more comfortable.
After London, I headed to Cheltenham on my own. I love this city. I’ve been there a few times and it’s not the most tourist of locations. They’re more known for the horse racing and the fact that they are close to Burton on the Water/Cotswolds. The food here is always delicious and it has a bunch of character. If you ever get a chance to go to Cheltenham I would recommend the following:
- The park in front of the Queens hotel in the center of town. It’s beautiful and a nice break away from a city setting
- The shopping district
- Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant
- The horse track
- Zizzi (this is an Italian restaurant in an old converted church and it is beautiful). This is one place that I always go to every time I visit Cheltenham.
After two full days in the city, I made my way back to Heathrow and prepared myself for my next big adventure…Prague, Czech Republic.
I love food. Enough said.
After a long day of wandering and snacking, my friends and I headed to dinner. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before but the last time I was in London my friend Kellen brought me to a place called Lahore Kebab House which is located in the White Chapel neighborhood of London. The first time I went there, I fell in love with the food. It’s delicious Indian food that is bring your own alcohol and it seems to always be packed. Since I was visiting, Kellen made plans for us to go to Lahore which ended up being a great surprise for me when I showed up. The three of us grabbed the underground from Kings’ Cross and made our way to White Chapel.
As per routine, we stopped at the a local market to grab some drinks and made our way to the restaurant. We were seated and began the process of deciding what we wanted to eat. This entails looking at the menu and then staring at the tables around us to see who looks happy with their food and what they’re eating. We settled on a range of meats and curries including goat, lamb and chicken. I’ve had the lamb before there and it is definitely one thing that I think is incredibly consistent there which is a great sign. Overall, the meal was just as delicious as the first time when I was there and I cannot wait to go back. You know it’s a great meal when after you’re done, you’re still scoping out the food at other tables to make a mental list for the next time you can stop by.
After dinner, it was time to go home. You see, after Lahore, you typically eat so much that you need to go home immediately because you’ll enter into a food coma and it will be game over. We went home and I settled nicely into my food coma until the morning.
The next day I had plans to go pick up my coworker at noon at Heathrow for our trip to Southend On Sea so Kellen and I had some time to go get brunch before I started the work portion of my trip. He had planned for us to go to a place called Dishoom. This is probably one of the best brunches I have ever been to (which is 100% a bold statement). The idea behind Dishoom is that back in the 60s and 70’s there used to be a plethora of Irani cafe’s in Bombay that welcomed everyone from all socio-economic classes. It was a place to eat, sit, hang and enjoy the company of those around you regardless of how much money you made and what social class you were in. They’ve since disappeared but Dishoom has brought that flavor to London. I believe they have 3 locations in London and we went to the Shoreditch one which is beautifully decorated and nestled in a quaint building. It’s not the most noticeable from the street but once you enter down the hall way along the verandah toward the restaurant, you feel like you’ve left London and entered a different relaxed atmosphere. We sat in the verandah which made up of mismatched couches, trunks and fun patterned fabrics.
Kellen and I were seated at a trunk table with low chairs that faced the entire verandah instead of each other. We reviewed the menu and decided on the naan rolls. The naan is freshly baked and they put various types of meat into it, some cream cheese, herbs and it is served with a side of chili tomato jam. Kellen opted for the bacon and egg one while I choose the sausage and egg one. The meats in Europe are more flavorful than what we have in the States (it could be the fat that’s kept but it adds a great amount of flavor plus, cumberland sausage. Yum!) The best part about ordering two different things was that they serve them in halves so we each had half of the bacon and half of the sausage ones.
I topped off my brunch with a chocolate chai tea which was amazing. It wasn’t excessively chocolatey, instead it was more of a chai with a hint of chocolate. As soon as I took my first bite of my naan roll, it was game over. I couldn’t stop eating until I had run out of food. Kellen may have taken a break between eating his halves but as soon as one was over, the other one was in my hand. I may not have actually put the food down at any point in time.
We finished our meal, chatted about life and just people watched until it was time for me to go back to the train station to catch the Heathrow Express for work.
I hopped on the tube and began my work life…