Holiday Travel Plans

It’s official! I booked my trip to Asia for the holidays.  I have decided that since my family has left the states for the holidays, I am going to follow them to Asia rather than going completely solo this year. The plan right now is that I will get some time in Taiwan to spend with family and family friends.  As of right now, from what I can tell, my parents have planned out my short time in Taipei and it will be filled with seeing relatives that I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.  As much fun as that is, my Chinese is terrible so I am slightly dreading this because I’m not sure how great of a communicator I will be.  But it is what it is at this point.

Following the short stint in Taipei, I will make my way to Seoul, South Korea.  Yup.  I’m finally going to South Korea!  I’ve flown through the airport so many times but have never stopped, I’ve been to Asia so many times and have not been to Seoul so here it is. It’s finally happening.  I’m going to spend a few days in Seoul and check out the wonders of this giant city.  I am absolutely terrified of it because I am concerned that I won’t get to see as much as I should and I won’t fully live it up like I should but I am still going to try regardless.  If you have any recommendations for Seoul, let me know.

After that, I will head to Tokyo.  Tokyo is another place that I have flown through more times than I can count and I have never left the airport.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever flown through Narita and have never left it.  I am so excited to finally go to Tokyo and see what this place has to offer.  One of my bucket list items is to take a photo in Shibuya so that will happen while I’m there.  It has to happen.  When my few days in Tokyo are up, I head to Kyoto. I’ll be in Kyoto for a few days exploring and checking out what it has to offer and I cannot wait.

I’ll be gone for just under three weeks. It’s not going to be as long of a trip as it was last year but that’s okay.  I am still just as excited and cannot wait to be wandering the world again.  It’s been almost a full year since I last left for an international trip so I am definitely getting antsy.

If you have any recommendations on things to do or where to go, let me know!

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Booking holiday travel

I am officially getting ready to book my next major international trip. I actually haven’t left the country since I returned in January and I have been itching to get on a plane again for an international trip. Due to the fact that I travel so much for work, it’s hard for me to find time to do an international trip and luckily, I managed to make time for it over the holidays.

I actually didn’t really know where I wanted to go for my trip but I knew that I needed to book something.  My vacation was racking up and I needed to actually make use of it before I hit the point where I stop accruing vacation.

Usually my parents and I do this thing where I go to them for Thanksgiving and then I head somewhere international for Christmas and New Year’s. My parents actually decided that this was the year that they would leave the country for Thanksgiving and so rather than spending Thanksgiving with them, I’ve decided I’m going to follow them to Asia.

So now it’s time to start planning my trip to Asia.  I’m thinking that I’m going to spend some time in Taiwan and then check out Japan and Korea. To be honest, I have only ever flown through the airports in both those countries and it is finally time for me to actually go visit.  If everything goes as planned, I will get to my 33rd and 34th country on my list which is so exciting.

I am not sure what my plan is for the trip but I know that it is time to get the trip planned and ready.

Any suggestions for Korea or Japan?

Dishoom for brunch

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.

Making of Harry Potter

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.

Going to the Making of Harry Potter

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.

Working in Stockholm

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.

Dishoom, London, Stockholm

We went to Dishoom, Shoreditch for dinner and it ended up being absolutely delicious.  I’ve always loved Dishoom brunch but had never been there for another meal so it was great to actually be there for another meal and actually try more foods. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations so we ended up waiting quite awhile for dinner. We sat at the bar for a bit and ordered beverages, as someone who doesn’t drink, they have great non-alcoholic beverages so if you don’t drink, it’s definitely worth it to try out their non-alcoholic drinks. They have a good selection and they’re quite delicious.

When we were eventually seated, we made our way downstairs to the far back corner of the eating area and over ordered on dinner, as per usual.  The food was absolutely delicious and we decided to do family style so that we could order more food to try. Unfortunately, it took us about 45 minutes to get seated and then because the restaurant was slammed, it took forever for us to get our orders in and then the food took forever to show up. Finally, when it came time for our bill to actually show up, the manager had provided us a free dessert because of the excessively long wait times we experienced.  It was super nice of them because we didn’t feel the need to complain but they were well aware of it our mildly poor customer experience. That being said, the food made up for everything so I wasn’t too concerned.

The next morning, we made our way to our office in Shoreditch then after a few hours, made our way out to the Gatwick airport for our flight to Stockholm. We took an uber there, probably could have taken a taxi but it was actually mildly cheaper for us to take an uber out to the Gatwick airport. From there, we made our way to Stockholm for 24 hours.

The Gatwick airport is actually really easy to navigate and the Norwegian Air flight was super easy for our short flight to Stockholm.

After landing in Stockholm, we made our way to the Arlanda Express and grabbed the train into the city where we checked into our hotel. The Arlanda Express is about $20 USD and it is a great way to get into the city when you’re looking for a fast and easy route into Stockholm. Plus it takes you directly into city center.

When we were done checking into our hotel, we made our way to the main train station for dinner. Yes, I ate dinner at the train station because we were so tired and too lazy to actually go find another restaurant.  We ended up eating on the balcony of the train station at an Italian food place that overlooked the entire train station with their holiday lights. The food was actually really good for being train station food and plus, it was right next to our hotel which meant that we had minimal time that we had to spend outside which is great because it was freezing.

Finally, it was time for bed because we had an all day meeting the next day before our flight back to London.

Working on the train, Paris -> London

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.