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LONDON, YOU’RE GREAT.

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The focus of my tidbits last week was my cousin’s wedding. When I started to write that article, I originally had planned to spend a few paragraphs on the wedding and then dive into a talk on the remainder of the trip. However, after writing about the wedding, I realized I was over 1000 words in and so I made the creative decision to make that specific article about the wedding only and then write another article (this one) about the non-wedding part of the trip. So here it is.

We set off for London on July 6th and arrived back home on July 22nd. The first week, between the 7th and the 14th, was mostly dedicated to wedding events. However, there were a few days at the beginning of that week that I did manage to get in some free time. Aside from bonding with cousins, walking around their town and going into the shops, I also got to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

Let’s talk about that day, shall we? My cousin, who had some errands to run in the area, dropped me and my sister off at around 11:00am. Our entry time was 11:30, but we were easily able to pass the time in their gift shop. We looked at all the souvenirs available for purchase and waited until we were called to go in. When we went in, the first place we went was similar to a movie theater. We watched a brief video where the principal cast of the film (the Golden Trio, for you Potter fans) discussed their journey through making the movies and then welcomed everyone to the tour. Side note: it would have been cooler if the actors were actually there to welcome us, but wishful thinking right? Anyways. Once we were welcomed, the TV screen lifted to reveal The Great Hall behind us. I would just like to stop here for a second and say that, for the remainder of my discussion about the tour, I will be using Harry Potter terminology. Just thought I should make that clear.

The Great Hall looked exactly like it did the movies, with the house tables, the head table and statues of the various professors and the headmaster—with the actual costumes on them. That’s right, the actual costumes and props they used in the movies were in this studio tour. Not only that, but—since this location was the site of where the films were made—they even had some of the sets from the movie as part of the tour. But I am getting ahead of myself. Apart from the aforementioned, the Great Hall also had statues of two of the characters, positioned in a comical scene taken straight out of the movie.

After the Great Hall, we were led into the two stages—stage J and stage K. Each stage had a plethora of props, costumes, sets and interactive activities—all taken directly from the movies. From the Gryffindor Common Room to the Knight Bus, from the Burrow to the Ford Anglia, from the Hogwarts Express to Privet Drive—it was all there. My sister and I managed to spend five hours there, just looking around. One thing to know about me is that I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I dare you to find a bigger fan than me. (Okay I know there are, but this is my column, so for that reason I’m the biggest fan). I have read all the books multiple times, seen all the movies multiple times, written Harry Potter fanfiction, been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, stayed up late reading theories about the characters and the story, have my own idea of who should have played certain characters (that weren’t in the movies) and some of my favorite celebrities are in those movies. In fact, my all-time favorite celebrity is Emma Watson, who—as you may know—plays Hermione Granger. So, for those reasons, you will not be surprised to hear that I got a bit emotional being at the tour. It was a dream come true.

That was the biggest thing I did before the wedding. The remainder of that week consisted of setting up the house for the pre-wedding events and welcoming guests as they arrived over the week. However, the Monday after the wedding, some of the family (the immediate family along with an aunt and uncle) went to a place called The Cotswolds. This is a place in the English countryside and, over the course of the week, we went on a steam train ride, visited a lavender farm, had lots of English tea and even visited a palace. That palace trip was great, not only because we saw the rose gardens of said palace, but also because we got to see a Bollywood movie being taped. All of the moms in our group were really excited. We also enjoyed some bonding time in the house we were staying in—by playing games, watching movies, cooking, listening to music and—each night—my sister, myself and our two cousins would have sister-bonding time by just talking about EVERTYHING. Plus, since there was no WI-FI, I even read a book. Which, despite me being a book lover, is something I haven’t done in a year.

Along with the aforementioned, we also stopped at Oxford on our drive home. I had heard many good things about the city, but had never been there, so I was very excited. The first thing I said when I got there was “this looks exactly how I imagined it.” It was so picturesque, with its college buildings, water bodies and churches; but modern as well, with its cafes and shops. I even spotted a sign for a Harry Potter bike tour (of course I did). I was a bit confused on why there would be this type of tour, until I noticed how so many of the buildings and grounds we saw as we walked reminded me of sites in the Potter movies. I wasn’t able to confirm this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if these were actually where the movies were taped or, at the least, if the directors took inspiration from these locations.

From the wedding to our family-moon. From bonding with family to making new friends. From July 7th to July 22nd, it was two weeks of pure joy. No lie, I had been excited for this trip since the engagement was announced in 2016 and had been building it up since then. You know how when you build something up in your head, the real thing isn’t nearly as good? Well I had the opposite experience because this trip exceeded my expectations in how I thought it would be. I felt pure happiness, love, excitement and all other good things while I was there. It was an incredible trip, one that I wish never had to end, and I can’t wait to go back and make more memories.

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