Monday, January 29, 2018

London! Part 2!

We saw Stonehenge,

the white cliffs of Dover,

and Warner Bros. Studio London!


It was magical! I even flew a broom, Harry Potter-style! Squee!

Here are some pics from our visit! Again, please forgive the surplus of exclamation points. I'm sure you understand because, you know, Harry Potter!! Eeeeee!!

The Great Hall

Harry's cupboard - Oh. Em. Gee.

Outside Dumbledore's office

Inside Dumbledore's office - Sh-hh! The portraits are sleeping!

The clock in the clock tower - It really moves!

Potions in the dungeon

Quidditch, anyone?

Portrait of the fat lady

Jim and the Hogwarts Express - We went inside the train, too!

Privet Drive - We were able to walk through the Dursley's house!

Wizards' chess piece

The Monster Book of Monsters - I think they keep it in a glass case so tourists don't get attacked.

Ollivanders - Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C.


Flourish & Blotts

It's such a great tour! We had a blast! When we were eating lunch, I saw a bit of snow falling outside and thought it was snowing. It was actually fake snow, but how fun is it that the first snow I saw in London was Harry Potter snow?! I saw the real stuff a few days later.

Out on the Muggle-filled streets of London, I could see threads of Harry Potter's world--or some of what may have planted seeds for the brilliant J.K. Rowling. Of course, I'm guessing. (I hear she drew oodles of inspiration from Edinburgh.)

Doesn't this building in London remind you of Gringotts?

Look at some of the candy at Fortnum & Mason! It's wizard-worthy!
(Note: Fortnum & Mason was established in 1707! Seriously!)

Heathrow Express/Hogwarts Express?

And hello? Real castles!

Here are some pics of Windsor Castle, which I was so eager to see! It did not disappoint me!

Bath is a beautiful spot, though we were only there for a couple of hours.
While there, we toured Roman baths! Someday I hope to return to Bath to see where Jane Austen lived and to explore some of the places that inspired scenes in her novels. I *heart* Jane Austen!

We visited Canterbury!
My son took this photo. Such a beautiful place!

Canterbury Cathedral

statue of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales

We also toured Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
I'd love to see one of Shakespeare's plays performed there!

One night, we walked through the rain to see Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre!

It was wonderful! I'd read the novel by Gaston Leroux and seen the movie, but it was incredible to see Phantom of the Opera performed live--and performed by that amazing cast! If it weren't for all the people around us, I'd have lingered in my seat and wept after it ended. It was that moving.

After the show, I thought about story. Story! It's such an important part of what makes us human, and we writers and illustrators--storytellers--try to master it, working, working, working at our craft. (I think it's important to add we're also playing, playing, playing with our craft because so much of the great comes from the play. Yes?)

Think of how story nourishes us and makes life richer. Learning the true stories of England's kings and queens turns seeing their castles and hangouts into meaningful, personal experiences. It's because of the "story" in history! Likewise, in reading and writing fiction, we can find our own connections, our own takeaways, our own truths. Plus, stories--nonfiction and fiction--can be so dang entertaining. Whether it's the true story of a king who had six wives or a pretend story about an eleven-year-old boy who discovers he's a wizard, it's a personal experience, being able to step into their worlds.

Speaking of being able to step into someone's world...I still haven't received my wedding invitation from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I do hope it comes! I want to go back to London!

Your turn: Where was your dream vacation? If you have not yet taken it, where do you think or hope it will be?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

London! Part 1!

(Warning: This post will contain way too many exclamation points. Proceed with caution.)

About a year ago, we started planning a trip to London! My husband had been there before, but our two kids and I had not. We were psyched! It was great, having a whole year to look forward to it! It felt unreal to me, that we were going.

December finally came, and off we went! We spent Christmas there. It was A-MAZ-ING.

This was the view from our room.

The Admiralty Arch was right near our hotel. Bloggy friends, there was so much visible history, smack in front of our faces. I couldn't get over it.

After we arrived and had lunch at a pub, my husband and I took a walk and ended up at Buckingham Palace.

There was a throng of people, so we joined them, just for funsies. I was hoping all of the fuss was over Prince Harry, since I'm a fan. I love how he honors his mother by continuing her work, helping raise awareness about AIDS, mental health issues, the need to get rid of landmines, and other causes that were dear to her heart. Plus, he and Meghan Markle are adorbs, and they just seem like extremely good people. Don't they?! Yes, they do.

But back to Buckingham Palace! A man and a woman who were also standing in the crowd said Prince Harry (!) and Meghan Markle were in the cars that had just left! I'm pretty sure it was true because a kid who was about seven told me he saw Harry. So, you know, that's proof.

If you're reading this, Harry and Meghan--er, your Majesties? Your Royal Highnesses?--I'm hoping to be invited to your wedding. No invitation or save-the-date announcement has yet arrived for me, but it's only January and I know you're busy. Just please give me enough time to find a nice dress and some cute shoes that are also comfy, since I'm practical that way--and enough time to research how to properly address each of you, just in case our paths cross on the dance floor or by an ice sculpture or something.

Thank you.

*bowing and now curtsying* Note: I'll also research how to properly walk away after meeting royals such as yourselves on dance floors or by ice sculptures.

This photo of a British squirrel was taken the first morning we were there, mere minutes after the Hyde Park Squirrel Incident. *sigh*

Don't ask. Just. Don't.

The Tower of London!

I think the gift shop there should sell shirts that say, "I lost my head at the Tower of London." Or maybe not. Yeah, never mind. It was a tacky thought, but we'll move away from that since, after all, I'm very classy. So classy, in fact, that I may be going to a very special wedding this spring.

Our kids (who are legal adults and should probably not be called "kids" anymore, but whatever) are better photographers than we are. Way better. This is one of the photos our son took of the Tower Bridge.

One day we watched the Changing of the Guard from various vantage points. Our daughter snapped this photo from a spot near St. James's Palace.

Other pics:

Horse Guards

the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall

Jim and I on a bus tour

our daughter riding in the open half of the top of the bus - See her wa-a-ay back there?

The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens - a memorial to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband

I think Victoria is fascinating. I loved all of Kensington Palace, but the "Victoria Revealed" exhibition took my breath away. Here are some pics from Kensington Palace:

Victoria and Albert - Their real-life love story ended way too soon when Albert died at the age of 42. I wish I could go back in time and meet them.

My son took this photo. The plaque says, "24 May 1819    Princess Victoria was born in this room."

On the wall was a quote: "My darling Albert's favorite picture"


Look at this gown from the 18th century. (Again, I'll show my son's photo.)

The information card explained the women at court wore wide petticoats to display their wealth and status. The gown is gorgeous! Still, I wonder if it marks the first time in history when someone asked, "Does this dress make my butt look big?"

We went to Hatchards, London's oldest bookshop. They've been selling books since 1797! It's huge, but it's divided by floors so it feels cozy and lovely. It's a bookshop fit for a king--or a queen, a duke, and a prince!

Check out the Royal Warrants!

Royal Warrant:

Royal Warrants:


I spotted Martha Brockenbrough's excellent novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, on a shelf!

Harry Potter, of course

part of the children's section - Isn't it wonderful?


There was so much to see! Here's my daughter's first attempt at photographing St. Paul's Cathedral.**

This is her second attempt:

This is getting rather long, so I'll end this post by telling you about the Very Practical Souvenirs I picked up during our trip. I adore them!

Pictured: Magnetic Monarchs (magnets with the kings and queens of England from 1066 through the present day), the Six Wives of Henry VIII  Coaster Set, and a Henry VIII ornament.

**Prince Harry and Meghan, I won't misbehave at your wedding. I promise.