Review: Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour

As I was searching online for things to do before heading to London last June, I came across the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio tour in which you get to visit the set and see the making of the films. Being a Harry Potter junkie, I knew I couldn’t leave London without doing this. I booked my ticket online with Premium Tours and got the student discount for 51 pounds (I later found out you can get cheaper tickets on the official website for 33 pounds. This price doesn’t include transportation like the former does although you can get there for 2 pounds by shuttle – details provided on the site). The tour operates daily at different times throughout the day and takes around 6-7 hours with transport. I recommend going in the afternoon so that you can do some sightseeing in the morning and grab some lunch before you head out.

Once I arrived and entered the venue, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Since I had booked with a tour company, we skipped the queues and began the tour right away. First stop was the Great Hall, the famous dining area of the four Hogwarts houses (Fun fact: In the first film, real candles were used to create the illusion of floating candles in the Great Hall ceiling, up until wax started dripping on the actors and they had to replace them with animated ones). Throughout the Great Hall and the entire studios, there were mannequins dressed in the actual wardrobe that the characters wore which was really cool.

From the Great Hall we continued out to the main studio which contained all the well-known sets such as the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, the potions lab, Hagrid’s hut etc. I was a little disappointed that they were fenced off and that we couldn’t go inside; nonetheless I was happy to see them up close. Along with the many sets scattered around the studio, there were countless props on display. My favorites were the golden snitch, the golden egg from the Triwizard tournament, and the door of the Chamber of Secrets (Fun fact: The opening of the door was real mechanics and not animation, they actually built a mechanic door which they were able to operate and open with a remote!) There was plenty of interactive things to do as well, like having a video shot of yourself riding a broomstick around London, but you were charged extra for these things.

Walking out of the main studio, we made our way to the back lot. This area is home to the famous Privet drive, Godric’s Hollow, the Hogwarts bridge, the Knightbus as well as the enchanted car that Ron and Harry used to get to Hogwarts in the second film. There’s also a small shack that sells butterbeer (Fun fact: This is one out of only two places in the world that you can get butterbeer). Of course I couldn’t resist trying it and happily snapped a photo. It tasted pretty good, like a carbonated vanilla drink.

After sipping on butterbeer, we went into the second studio. In here were the man-made magical creatures and beasts featured throughout the films, such as Aragog the spider and Dobby the elf. Next, we walked into the set of Diagon Alley! This was probably the best set out of them all because we were able to walk up/down the main street which included places like Ollivander’s wand shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezies, and Gringott’s bank.

Lastly, we entered a dark room where a model of the Hogwarts castle and grounds that was used for the long shots in the films was on display. From there we entered the gift shop and that marked the end of the tour. The gift shop itself was just as impressive as the studios. There were hundreds of items to buy, from house robes and scarves to chocolate frogs and wands. Unfortunately, most items were expensive so I walked out with only a scarf, a mug, and key ring.

Verdict: It was a truly magical experience. The amount of work and effort that went into making the Harry Potter films really impressed me. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Harry Potter but I learnt a lot in visiting the studios. The fun facts provided in this review are courtesy of the super friendly studio staff, most of whom were extras in the films. I rate this tour 5/5; it’s definitely a must-see for any fan and definitely worth its price. Best part is that I can finally say that I’ve been to Hogwarts 😉

P.s: A new set, platform 9 & ¾, is expected to open March 19th!

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Have you been to the Harry Potter Studios or theme park? Let me know your thoughts and make sure to check out the gallery below xx

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Picnic for Two

So Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and for those of you still looking for date ideas, I’ve got you covered. Why not take your significant other on a nice picnic? It’s a simple yet meaningful gesture that I’m sure will leave more of a mark on them than a cliché dinner at a restaurant.

Last week the weather was surprisingly warm for February so my friend & I decided to go to the beach. We packed a picnic lunch and spent the entire day lounging about in the sand, it was so relaxing. We had the entire beach to ourselves which was the best part.

So what was in our basket? For a picnic date for two at a beach, park, or lake, you’ll need:

Essentials:

  • Picnic basket
  • Blanket (or beach towels)
  • Plastic plates, cups & utensils
  • Wet napkins or hand gel
  • Trash bag

Food & beverages:

  • Homemade sandwiches (my favorite is turkey & cheese with lettuce and tomato)
  • Bottle of wine of your choice
  • Big bottle of water
  • Snacks (pretzels, chips, nuts, chocolate etc.)
  • Chopped fruits & vegetables like apples, carrots, celery, strawberries which can be stored in containers

Optional:

  • Wireless Bluetooth music speaker
  • Homemade cake or cupcakes

P.s: Keep the location a surprise from your date. If you could find a secluded beach, park, lake, it would be even more romantic.

P.p.s: For perishable food items, be sure to bring ice packs or coolers!

Here are a couple of photos from the beach picnic the other day 🙂

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#instatravel

Instagram is such a great platform for documenting travel moments. I follow many travel bloggers/photographers on Instagram and I thoroughly  enjoy scrolling through my feed each day and seeing the world through their lens. Not all of us are lucky enough to travel the world for a living, but these accounts sure do it right and constantly motivate me to work hard and save up in order to visit these places myself:

@wearehandsome

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@tuulavintage

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@oliverheartmont

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@muradosmann

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@garypeppergirl

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@beautifuldestinations

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Who are your favorite travel bloggers/photographers on Instagram? I’d love to know. Shout out to Arielle for inspiring this post 🙂 check out her lovely blog!

Daydreaming of Dubai

Hello lovelies 🙂

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately, I’ve actually been planning a birthday getaway to Dubai with my best friend. I turn 22 in March and since I’ve just completed my university degree and am currently looking for a job, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands and what better way to fill it besides travel! We were able to find a great deal which I’m super happy about, although I’d love to ask for recommendations of things to do over there. I’ve actually been to Dubai before back in 2011 on a family holiday and I’m excited to go back – this time with my best friend – to discover more of this fabulous city so please do hit up the comment box, I’m open to try anything!

Peace & love xx

Top 14 Free Travel Apps

Those who’ve made travel plans for 2015, here are my top 14 free travel apps! Descriptions courtesy of http://www.itunes.apple.com although most of them can be found on other devices as well 🙂 safe travels xx

1. Kayak: The smart travel search engine. Hotel, flight, and car search and booking, flight tracker and itinerary management

2. TripAdvisor Offline City Guides: Traveling somewhere? Get this FREE city guide with the restaurants, attractions, hotels and reviews you love from TripAdvisor, stored in the app – no data roaming charges!

3. Google Translate: Break through language barriers with Google Translate.

4. TripIt – Travel Organizer: Organize your travel plans in one place with TripIt® from Concur. Simply forward your travel confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and TripIt automagically creates a detailed daily itinerary for every trip.

5. Airbnb: Make travel planning as mobile as you are with the Airbnb iPhone App! Airbnb opens the door to the world’s most interesting places to stay and is the simplest way to earn money from your extra space. With over 600,000 listings in more than 34,000 cities, Airbnb connects you with the experience that’s right for you.

6. Yelp: Top-ranked Yelp for your iPhone or iPad has over 50 million reviews on businesses worldwide — all in the palm of your hand. Whether you are looking for a pizzeria that is open now or a coffee shop nearby, Yelp is your local guide to finding just the place to eat, shop, drink, relax, and play.

7. Viber: With Viber, everyone in the world can connect. Freely. More than 460 million Viber users text, make HD-quality phone and video calls, and send photo and video messages worldwide over WiFi or 3G – for free. Viber Out can be used to make calls to non-Viber landlines and mobile numbers at low rates.

8. Accuweather: Stay connected to the latest forecast with AccuWeather – Weather for Life. This free, award winning weather app features AccuWeather MinuteCast®, the leading minute-by-minute precipitation forecast that is hyper-localized to your exact street address.

9. XE Currency Converter: Convert every world currency with the XE Currency App – Free Edition. It offers live proprietary currency rates, charts, and even stores the last updated rates, so it works when the Internet doesn’t.

10. Uber: Uber is your private driver in more than 50 countries.

11. Google Maps: The Google Maps app for iPhone and iPad makes navigating your world faster and easier. Find the best spots in town and the information you need to get there.

12. TripList – The Packing App: TripList is here to help you pack smarter, faster, and ensure that you have everything you need on your travels. Our app makes it quick and easy to create your own packing list for any kind of trip you may take.

13. AroundMe: AroundMe allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings. How many times have you found yourself in need of finding the closest Gas Station?

14. Converter Plus: Converter+ is a unit converter with the most extensive list of currencies and units in hundreds of categories. Converter Plus also comes with many calculators like mortgage, loan, tip, fuel consumption and many others for everyday problems.

Have you tried any of these apps? Are there any travel apps you think should make the list? Let me know!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! May this coming year be your best one yet 🙂

Although I believe resolutions can be made every day, the start of a new year is a good reminder to turn a new page and make some improvements in your life. This year, I plan to:

Maintain an exercise routine: I’ve been the same weight for years now. As much as I eat I’m lucky enough not to put on any weight. Still, that’s not an excuse to refrain from keeping fit and exercising. I’m not a very big fan of the gym, I do however like doing sport so I’m planning to start swimming laps at my local country club twice a week and play squash with my sister once a week.

Do more volunteer work: Those who have been following my blog from the start know how much joy helping others brings me and I’m not planning on stopping this year. In fact, I’m looking to increase my volunteer hours now that I’ve finished college and have got some more free time on my hands.

Go on a graduation trip with friends: Although I’ve just completed my Bachelor’s degree, the graduation ceremony isn’t until May. Hence,  my friends and I decided to postpone our graduation trip until then and are planning to visit the Greek Islands. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s probably the last time we’ll all be together for a while since some of us are going abroad to do Masters or to find better job opportunities. It’s going to be extra special.

Find a job that I love: Now that I’ve finished college I have to start applying for a full-time job. I’m keeping my options wide open and not planning to settle for something I know I won’t enjoy just for the sake of having a job. I don’t mind doing internships in the meantime until I find something I really love.

Learn to say “no”: I’m a huge people pleaser, constantly putting others before myself and often taking on more than I can handle so as not to disappoint anyone. It’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes and focus on your own well-being and I have to remind myself of that every once in a while.

What are your 2015 resolutions?