Harry Potter Studio Tour

Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan or not the studio tour is definitely worth a visit. Seeing the various sets and how the magical story comes to life is an amazing experience. Here are some pictures from our tour…

Outside the studio in Watford

Outside the studio in Watford



The cupboard under the stairs

The cupboard under the stairs



The Great Hall

The Great Hall



Gryffindor Boys' Dormitory

Gryffindor Boys’ Dormitory



Gryffindor Common Room

Gryffindor Common Room



Potions Classroom

Potions Classroom



Hagrid's Hut

Hagrid’s Hut



My favourite set, Dumbledore's Office

My favourite set, Dumbledore’s Office



The Chamber of Secrets Door

The Chamber of Secrets Door



A Deatheater

A Deatheater



Trying out the famous butterbeer

Trying out the famous butterbeer



Privet Drive

Privet Drive



Me and Hagrid, the half giant

Me and Hagrid, the half giant



Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley



Hogwarts Castle

Hogwarts Castle

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Milan and Rome

We’ve just spent 4 days in Italy, a day in Milan and 3 in Rome. I feel that Milan has less to offer than some of the other cities like Florence and Venice which we visited last year. Maybe that’s because the rain made our experience of walking around Milan uncomfortable… I’m not sure. We still saw as much as we could though. Supper was at a restaurant, Rosso Mattone, just a few metres from our hotel. They make HUGE pizzas and we had ordered one each! The pizza with grana and truffle oil was delicious and was the highlight of Milan for me…

Milan Cathedral (Duomo), one of the largest in the world

Milan Cathedral (Duomo), one of the largest in the world



Inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a shopping mall

Inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a shopping mall



Sforza Castle

Sforza Castle



Tiramisu and coffee

Tiramisu and coffee



Rome was amazing, to say the least, even though we’d been there before. You see pieces of ancient roman buildings among modern ones and can’t help but awe at this majestic city and its history.

Along with visiting sights we’d been to before this time we climbed the Spanish Steps, visited the Pantheon and even came back with a few paintings from Piazza Navona. Palatine Hill, we discovered, was like a little city on its own with palaces, a stadium, gardens and baths and was home to several emperors… On one side of the hill is Circus Maximus which is not much more than grass now but was once spectacular and used for chariot racing (the chariot race scene in Ben Hur was filmed here) and on the other side is the Roman Forum which houses the ruins of ancient government buildings.

Castel Sant 'Angelo

Castel Sant ‘Angelo



Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps



The Pantheon

The Pantheon



Inside the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon



Fountain at Piazza Navona

Fountain at Piazza Navona



Paintings at Piazza Navona

Paintings at Piazza Navona



On Palatine Hill, Colosseum in the background

On Palatine Hill, Colosseum in the background



Severan Arcades on Palatine Hill

Severan Arcades on Palatine Hill



The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum



Rome is a beautiful city and I would definitely visit it again to see the Colosseum, the Vittorio Emanuele Monument, the Trevi Fountain, everything basically and to have more Italian gelato and delicious pizza and pasta.

Pizza

Pizza



The Colosseum

The Colosseum



Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum



The stunning Vittorio Emanuele Monument

The stunning Vittorio Emanuele Monument



The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain

Amsterdam for a day

It’s amazing that a flight between London and Amsterdam is as quick as a flight between Durban and Johannesburg… 45/50 minutes. We took advantage of this and spent Saturday in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful, clean city with canals and tulips everywhere. I really loved the buildings and apartments along the canals.

Tulips

Tulips



One of many canals

One of many canals



Public transport within the city is by tram which is better than using underground rail as while you are travelling you get to see the city which is sort of a tour in itself…

Tram

Tram



At the Cheese Museum we tried amazing flavoured cheeses… pesto, truffle, cumin, chilli, peppadew, Italian herb. I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten.

The Cheese Museum

The Cheese Museum



The “I Amsterdam” letters were too crowded so we were not able to get a good picture but you can see a bit in the background of the picture below…

I Amsterdam

I Amsterdam



At Noordermarkt, an organic farmers market

At Noordermarkt, an organic farmers market



The Heineken Brewery

The Heineken Brewery



The Van Gogh museum

The Van Gogh museum



A windmill

A windmill



Inside the boat on the canal cruise

Inside the boat on the canal cruise



The Palace

The Palace

Madrid

Spent the weekend in Madrid and we found the city to be lovely, clean, neat and pleasant to walk around. We stayed at Hotel Claridge, an elegant business hotel which, in my opinion, was a steal at just half the price of our hotel in Paris. The hotel is outside the city centre but, as a metro station is just across the street, it was easy for us to travel to the centre and other areas of interest.


We had originally booked the trip because we had tickets for a Madrid Open semi-final match and were hoping to see Novak Djokovic play, which would have worked out if Djokovic managed to progress to the semis. Instead, the semi-final was between Stanislas Wawrinka (Ranked: 10) and Tomas Berdych (Ranked: 6), two really good players, but certainly no Djokovic in my eyes. Both put up a tremendous fight, making it a high-quality match for the fans as the underdog Wawrinka progressed to the final.

Finally tried authentic Spanish tapas, however, choice was limited for me as I don’t eat pork. Spain is a pork-lover’s dream. I did quite like patatas bravas though, which is fried pieces of potato covered in a creamy, spicy tomato sauce. The shrimps with garlic at Restaurant Esteban, http://www.rte-esteban.com, were delicious. Actually, the entire experience at Restaurant Esteban was lovely. It’s a cosy little restaurant and the owner who was our waiter (and speaks English) was welcoming and attentive. Pictures of him and his dad, who opened the restaurant 49 years ago, line the walls and you can tell much love and dedication has gone into this family business…

At Retiro Park

At Retiro Park



The pond at the park, Monument to Alfonso XII in the background

The pond at the park, Monument to Alfonso XII in the background



Monument to Alfonso XII

Monument to Alfonso XII



Puerta de Alcalá

Puerta de Alcalá



Trying a chorizo hot dog at Mercado De San Miguel

Trying a chorizo hot dog at Mercado De San Miguel



Madrid Cathedral

Madrid Cathedral



The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace



Entering La Caja Mágica

Entering La Caja Mágica



Us at the Manolo Santana stadium

Us at the Manolo Santana stadium



The players in action

The players in action



Restaurant Esteban on Cava Baja

Restaurant Esteban on Cava Baja



Relaxing at the hotel

Relaxing at the hotel



Madrid's Plaza De España

Madrid’s Plaza De España



Santiago Bernabéu stadium, the home of Real Madrid, the world's richest football club

Santiago Bernabéu stadium, the home of Real Madrid, the world’s richest football club

Wandering Paris

The first Monday in May is a bank holiday in the UK so we took advantage of this and spent the long weekend in Paris. On our previous trip to Paris we crammed a lot of sights and activities into a few days: going up the Eiffel Tower, The Palace of Versailles, The Louvre, a cruise on the Seine, the hop-on hop-off bus tours… This time we just walked around, saw many beautiful buildings, visited patisseries and just experienced the city without having to rush to anywhere. We also managed to have lunch (they were fully booked for dinner) at Bistrotters, http://www.bistrotters.com , which is ranked number 1 on TripAdvisor for restaurants in Paris. They make beautiful food…

Our lunch at Bistrotters

Our lunch at Bistrotters



Lemon meringue tart

Lemon meringue tart



Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral

Gothic architecture of Notre Dame Cathedral



Saint-Jacques Tower

Saint-Jacques Tower



Hôtel de Ville

Hôtel de Ville



Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe



Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Avenue des Champs-Élysées



Jardin des Plantes, botanical garden part of the Museum of Natural History

Jardin des Plantes, botanical garden part of the Museum of Natural History



The Panthéon

The Panthéon



Door of the Panthéon

Door of the Panthéon



Relaxing at Luxembourg Gardens

Relaxing at Luxembourg Gardens



Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Palace



The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower



The Louvre

The Louvre



Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea is an English tradition that started in the early 1800s as a means to stave off the hunger in anticipation of a late evening meal. Today afternoon tea is enjoyed as an occasional luxury or to celebrate a special event. Since we are in London we felt like indulging in this tea ritual as well. So we did a bit of research on the best places to have an afternoon tea and found Sofitel London St James, one of the hotels which received an Award of Excellence this year from the Tea Guild.

The hotel on a whole is beautiful. Tea, though, is served in the Rose Lounge, a cosy room with just a few tables and for lack of a better word, very pretty decor of florals and pinks. As with all afternoon teas, the menu consisted of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and pastries. The actual tea selection was impressive with a variety of blends, from all around the globe. A special touch by the hotel is having a harpist play, enhancing the tranquil atmosphere of the Rose Lounge.

Before going in

Before going in



Close up of the plaque

Close up of the plaque



The Rose Lounge

The Rose Lounge



Our table

Our table



Enjoying my Bihar White tea

Enjoying my Bihar White tea



Delicious finger sandwiches, raisin, plain and apricot scones warm from the oven

Delicious finger sandwiches, raisin, plain and apricot scones warm from the oven



One last pic

One last pic

The Lion King

Who hasn’t seen or heard of the movie, The Lion King?! It’s become a classic and so has the play. I didn’t see the play when it showed in South Africa but had heard only great reviews. So finally last night we attended the performance at the Lyceum Theatre, where it’s been showing for over a decade! And selling out almost every night too. It was absolutely amazing. The costumes, the choreography, the make-up and the beautiful sets… All of it, amazing. Whoever put this show together had great vision and imagination. Definitely go and see The Lion King the next time the play travels to your part of the world or the next time you find yourself in London 🙂

Obviously, we weren’t allowed to take pictures during the performance, so I just have these to share with you…

Inside the Lyceum Theatre

Inside the Lyceum Theatre



Quick pic outside after the show

Quick pic outside after the show