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Did we go to London, or Hogwarts?

We see some old friends, dip into a lot of Harry Potter content, and watch a fair bit of trashy television.

One final blog for this Honeymoon of ours! We managed to accomplish a lot in London, despite being there for the least time, so this one might be a doozy.

DAY 18 – TRAVEL TO LONDON

Man if airplanes weren’t so magic why would any of us put up with them, honestly. Having to be at an airport like two and a half hours early is the worst, especially when you have a flight at 8:30AM. We woke up at like… 4:30 for this lousy flight. Oh lord. Dragged ourselves out of our hotel in the rain and walked to the bus to the airport. Which, btw, runs from central Edinburgh every 15 minutes 24/7, a thoroughly impressive fact. I wish we had public transit links like that.

Checking in to the flight was easy, but the security process was an absolute boondoggle. The bins didn’t automatically return themselves so people who left empty bins totally held up the security scanners. But there was no dedicated staff person to clean up the bins, so it was left to Good Samaritan passengers to clean it all up for them. Which they had time for, because if you get flagged for a bag check it takes about 20 minutes before they get to your bag.

Adam’s bag ALWAYS gets flagged for a check, so while he was waiting I just… put away bins the whole time. An old lady stopped me and said “It’s so disorganized here! This is crazy! But you’re helping so much! They should pay you! You’re being so helpful!” and that felt nice, so thanks, old lady!

Adam wasn’t feeling very well so we skipped breakfast, just got some chips (crisps) and mild drinks to get us through the wait. We sat by the window because they said they weren’t announcing our gate until 5 minutes before we had to board. As it turns out – our random seats were RIGHT next to the gate we had to go through. Some tiny children who were probably on their first flight ever showed up to stare out the window and they were SUPER HYPE. “I SEE A PLANE. THERE ARE TWO PLANES. THERE ARE THREE PLANES!!!”

The flight was through British Airways. Apparently their security video stars… an extremely expensive collection of people, including Michael Caine and Olivia Coleman. I think it’s funded by comic relief, so they probably donated their time rather than like… them having to pay like $100,000 for an airline security video.

Adam: The bit in this video is that it’s being made by a really clueless producer who doesn’t seem to know how famous his talent is, but it is a bad look because he only does this to the women and it just sort of makes the video come off as strangely sexist:

Producer: Hey thanks for bringing that coffee (takes her coffee and drinks it)

Olivia Coleman: No I… I’m here to read for the video

Producer: LOL THAT’S WACK THE COFFEE LADY WANTS TO BE IN THE VIDEO

Olivia Coleman: I… I’ve won three BAFTAs

Producer: HAHA WHATEVER LADY

He then does this to like three other actresses. It’s really awkward. Anyway, the flight was pretty standard. I’m amazed how used to planes I am now getting.

Noémi: We got on the Tube to head into the city centre. Oh my God I forgot how hot and disgusting the tube gets. I wish it was air conditioned. I wish it was. There’s nothing to stop luggage from rolling all over so I had to stand for the entire time. About halfway through I had the opportunity to sit down in the one seat that allows you access to hold your bags, but the two women who were sitting down next to it immediately scooted over to take it and I just… stared at them in disbelief. I mean, how dare.

We got to our hotel at Kings Cross and met up with Tom, who I hadn’t seen in four long years! (You can find many stories about Tom on my old blog!) The hotel wouldn’t let us log in because it was too early, so he took possession of our bags. This will come up again later.

We left with Tom and went to a local savoury pie place. There, we met up with Wolf & Gal! They are still the bestest friendos. We had delicious meaty pies – and then Adam and I ran for the theatre! The palace theatre, to be specific, because that’s where you can see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part 1 and 2.

Like me, you might have read the script for Cursed Child and been like “Jesus, this is some fanservicey garbage”. As it turns out, production value can really save a mediocre script. It can save it so much that spending SIX HOURS AT THE THEATRE seems pretty reasonable.

Adam: So also here are my thoughts on this; first of all, I adored the hell out of this play, I think it’s probably my favourite theater experience. I also think writing for stage is significantly different than writing for text, and if you took almost any other theater show, like even a famous/well regarded one, and just printed out the script/stage directions and treated it like a book, it would probably not go over super well. There has to be different considerations, different cadence in speech and delivery, certain characterization to make lines more recognizable, a lot of things. I think the play is actually really good and reading it just as a book is the worst possible idea. But, a ton of people aren’t able to/can’t afford to go see that show, so reading it at the time was the only way to really share it with folks that could go see it live. Watching a recording of it would possibly also do the trick but we won’t get one of those for a long time yet.

Noémi: After the first three hours (Part 1) we went and got a profoundly mediocre dinner, then we actually had enough time to go back to our hotel and check in. Which is kind of a shame, because while we were in the play Tom sent us a series of elaborate photo essays about what our suitcases were up to in the meantime – watching anime, having extramarital affairs, and snorting “cocaine”. I spent about 20 minutes laughing as those photos got texted to me.

Also, Adam managed to shower and change before we left, so I kind of wonder if anybody realized that he left the play in one set of clothes and returned for part 2 in another.

I won’t say much about Part 2 of the play except that – boy oh boy, that Harry Potter has some PTSD, alright!

Adam: I was so confused at “don’t look away”. WHY WOULD YOU MAKE HIM WATCH THIS?!

Noémi: We tried to go out for drinks for everyone but all the bars were CLOSING BY 11PM, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU LONDON. So we just ended up chatting for about 15 minutes and then we rolled back to our hotel. Adam and I watched Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, because we have the best taste.

DAY 19 – LONDON

The London hotel may even have had a better breakfast buffet than the Belfast one! There was a huge variety of foods, including multiple kinds of baked beans, which I really appreciated because the default beans are a little bland after a while. My favourite was the spicy pork beans. It made waking up early marginally worth it.

We also had big plans for this day. The first stop for the five of us (us, Tom, Wolf and Gal) was the British Museum, where they had an exhibit all about manga. It was very cool because they had a ton of original pages on display, including pages from Naruto, Attack on Titan, Chihayafuru, Astro Boy, Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, and many others. I find it really funny to read a historical description of manga written for an audience that knows nothing about it – there were at least a few times where I identified mistakes that they had made in their labeling. Is this what it’s like to be an expert??

Seriously though is there a manga museum in Japan with similar displays, but bigger? Because if so I want to go there and see it. I don’t need to be able to understand the displays. I just want to look at original artwork up close. I love traditional inking so much.

Adam: I did not realize I was going to be so into this exhibit but when they had a Junji Ito wall and some original pages from the Spiral anthology I was absolutely thrilled. You could actually lean in and see the layers of the artwork/pencil work on the page. I was pretty awestruck. I never understood why my folks loved going to museums so much to see paintings by particular artists, but if more of it felt like this exhibit felt then I totally get it.

Noémi: They had giant shelves full of manga, and Adam and I thought that Wolf and Tom were still in the exhibit so we just sat down and read manga for like half an hour, not realizing everyone else had left, and having no phone signal to correct us. WHOOPS.

It was nice, though. I read a whole volume of Ranma 1/2. Also, that gift shop was the most tempting gift shop I have ever been in. One of everything, please.

From there we headed to Euston Station because we had to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Waiting for us there was Kat – so we were now a team of 6! Getting the tickets was very confusing, so we stopped and asked one of the customer service agents for help in getting us to Watford Junction.

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah?”

“We’re trying to get to Wat-“

“The Harry Potter, right?”

I guess they get that question a lot. Or maybe it was because Kat had snitches on her shoes.

That dude gave us amazing advice, though. He told us we should go talk to a ticket agent and ask for a group ticket. That resulted in a 20+ pound price difference between the lot of us! Wow. Pays to ask for assistance, I have no idea how we would have known that otherwise.

It was so, so hot (it was like 25 but the humidity was absolutely brutal) but we had to get lunch so we grabbed something nearby and sat inside the station, watching a one-toed pigeon flap around and collect scraps. I loved him and hated him at once, because pigeons are awful but also oh no a little limpy pigeon stuck indoors, poor dude.

We got on a train – it was mildly air conditioned, thank god – and took off for Watford Junction. I’m just gonna say right here – nobody ever actually looked at our tickets. We could absolutely have not paid and gotten away with it. But we’re honest folks I suppose.

When we got to Watford, we had to wait for the bus to the studio tour. It was like a 15 minute wait. It was… so hot and sunny. Whyyyy.

The bus to the tour is a short jaunt away, so we were there in a flash. We got ourselves some water and ice cream to cool down, did a quick spin through the gift shop, and then went into the exhibit.

Which I’ve already been to! So here’s Adam’s cue.

Adam: There’s just so much to say about the studios. I have never been on a studio tour before, which, it feels like it should be self-explanatory as to what you should expect when you go on one. But for some reason, after all the introductions happened and we were ushered into our first set, I was still somehow taken by surprise. I guess I expected a showcase of costumes, props, that sort of thing. And they do certainly also have those things.

But it’s a studio tour. You walk through all the sets used for the films. The great hall. Snape’s potions classroom. Dumbledore’s office. The common room & boy’s dorms. Hagrid’s hut. On and on it goes. In each room they did them up with all the costumes for the appropriate characters, and with props, animated if possible (automatic stirring cauldrons, floating faucets that spout water, etc), set up as they would be during filming.

It’s very surreal. I got emotional walking through the great hall, and moreso when seeing snape & potions. Alan Rickman’s costume was displayed there, wig and all, floating in front of rows of backlit multicoloured bottles of ingredients, bubbling cauldrons on the table nearby. It felt a bit like he could have been standing there in front of me. That got me.

There were two exclusive exhibits this time (they switch a bunch of the sets out every once in a while so the tour is different for returning fans); we saw the forbidden forest, and gringott’s bank. The forest had a display of spiders, Aragog included, that descended from the ceiling and lurched out of trees. Gringott’s was just a set for the whole entire bank, like walking through the main hall up to a grumpy goblin to make a deposit. They also had sets for the minecart and the vaults underneath, and one version of the set totally destroyed with a dragon rampaging through it setting it on fire with screen & smoke effects.

Oh, I finally drank butterbeer. This has been a thing for a long time, and I finally tried one, and I discovered that it tastes basically like cream soda. And I love it. So sugary and delicious. Maybe I’ll try and make an ice cream flavour that simulates it appropriately, and then Noémi can eat absolutely none of it.

The tour ends by taking you all around the Hogwarts castle – like the actual one – they built an enormous scale model of it that was used for all the external shots & aerial/sweeping shots of the building and the grounds. Because of the scale they created it at, the level of detail they were able to put into it was absolutely baffling. They play a beautiful rendition of the school song while you’re walking around it and there’s a lighting rig that simulates a day/night cycle, and the castle’s interior lights up at night, with tons of tiny light fixtures and windows glowing in the dark. It’s really gorgeous, I could have sat there starting at it for an hour.

But, we closed the joint out – we had to run and catch the last bus home, which shipped us back to the trains.

Noémi: We got back to the train station and the train was like 40 minutes away so we were like what the heck are we gonna do for 40 minutes – and what better than to FaceTime my brother from the platform of a busy train station on his birthday?

We spent 40 minutes talking to Canada and messing around with filters. There are some garbage filters out there. Particularly that one where you end up in space and then you turn into a pigeon. Can somebody explain that one to me? I have so many questions.

Tired and bedraggled, we dragged ourselves back to our hotel and had a couple of drinks. The bartender there was VERY DONE with life and all his crushed ice had melted but he tolerated us remarkably well.

Wolf and Gal were off to visit more folks, so we said goodbye to them that night, watched more Kitchen Nightmares, and went to bed.

DAY 20 – LONDON

We gathered in the hotel lobby with fast food breakfasts to plot out our day. Donya was meeting up with us for the afternoon (I hadn’t seen her in 8 years – Tom hasn’t seen her in 12!) and she was coming from Waterloo station, and just as she informed me she was switching trains, I let her know we were headed to Waterloo anyway… but it was too late, she was in the underground and had no signal! WHOOPS

Silver lining – we got to see Donya a little sooner! I seriously missed Donya. Also, since I last saw her she has developed a serious interest in hockey. Even as a not especially hockey conscious Canadian, this makes my heart glad. (She’s a Caps fan, if you’re curious)

Anyway, back to Waterloo station we went. We wanted a lazy day after the previous two days of non-stop movement, so we were headed for a board game cafe. We played a game of Mysterium (we won!), Welcome To (Donya won – on the fourth tie-breaker! She had to leave shortly after that game so I think she just wanted to go out dramatically), and Baerenpark (I won!). We also ate a ton of delicious food and had excellent drinks. Including Pimms, which I have not had enough opportunity to drink on this trip. If you live in London and/or want to chill somewhere in London when you’re passing through, Draughts – Waterloo is a frickin’ awesome place. Possibly my fave board game cafe of all time.

The cafe is located inside a tunnel filled with graffiti and it is extremely cool. It is a very strange spot for a cafe, but it does give you something to admire and photograph when you leave!

Tom wanted to drop into Hemley’s afterwards, so we made our way there. If you aren’t familiar, Hemley’s is an absolutely stupidly large toy store. The first time I went I remember it being really impressive and cool. This time it was mostly sensory overload! I think if I’d gone in there as a kid, though, I’d have lost my mind trying to get my parents to buy me about 10,000 toys. As it was we got away with just one thing – an… incredibly stupid terrible tiny arcade cabinet (think a screen smaller than a game boy) which plays like 240 bootleg versions of real arcade ones. You can load up a game called “Magic Tony”, or “Awful Rushing”, or “Fruit Pig”, or “Mappy”, which was ABSOLUTELY Mappy Land except it loads up a game called “Bounce” which is a total re-skin. We spent like 5 minutes marveling at the fact that it was a thing that existed, and then both we and Tom bought one. Because we have EXCELLENT TASTE.

We rolled back to our hotel to grab dinner, and Kat ordered an alarming rainbow drink that had a candy unicorn horn in it. I ordered a drink with a beautiful paper flamingo attached to the straw. He was very silly and I loved him, but he was attached to the straw so I couldn’t take him home. Which honestly is for the best.

Adam and I went up to our room to pack, and Tom followed along because while we packed the plan was to watch some garbage dubbed anime. The anime in question was Baoh, an unnecessarily violent anime inspired by the manga written by the guy who wrote Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. It is one disorienting mess of an experience with a truly disturbing ending (and not in the way you’d think for something involving so much violence). It must be said, some of those dubbed line readings are *chef’s kiss* perfect. Which is to say – so bad. So bad. Why does everyone scream long after all their flesh has melted off.

Then we watched an anime that I forgot the name of literally 5 minutes after we watched it, but I knew it was a real word and my brain really wanted to call it “Crimes” so we’ll just go with that. It was like a 30 minute collection of AMVs paying tribute to a popular shoujou title set in 1980’s New York. It involved many long lingering looks at the WTC towers and many Japanese people speaking English written by other Japanese people (because the characters are American, damn it, they speak English). Although it was remarkably well written considering most people involved didn’t have a full grasp on the language.

After that we were too wiped out – we crawled into bed and fell asleep – ready for the journey home.

DAY 21 – THE ROAD HOME

We gave Kat and Tom hugs goodbye after breakfast and got ourselves onto the Tube – after a slight delay where Adam’s Oyster Card stopped working for no goddamn reason – and took off towards Heathrow. AIRPORT STUFF HAPPENED.

We had drinks and pizza while watching this weird clockwork knife wind up and slice around and waiting for our gate to be announced. As soon as it was announced we went to our gate and… had almost missed the flight despite the fact we started walking within 2 minutes of it being announced? Momentary heart attack!

We flew to Reykjavik without incident (watching Harry Met Sally (Noemi) and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Adam), and writing the Edinburgh blog) ate a quick lunch, and then got on the plane home! Which is where we are now, as I write. Although I assume we’ll be posting this when we’re actually at home.

So far on this flight we’ve watched 4 episodes of Friends, Captain Marvel (Adam), Crazy Stupid Love (Noémi), The Lego Movie 2 (Noémi), and X-Men Apocalypse (Adam – why).

Adam: It’s hilarious. ANGEL IS A HORSEMAN. Of all the picks. For some reason he looks at Angel (not only Angel, but a drunk, belligerent and disheveled one) and goes oh hell yea that’s who I want in my personal guard. THIS guy. Angel proceeds to be terrible at guarding Apocalypse and fails him completely, surprising no one. Spoilers I guess, but that movie is not good, you should probably never see it if you haven’t already.

Also, Icelandair continued with the really bizarre censorship in Apocalypse – they blurred out the word “God” in subtitles and english spoken word (right after two humans got evaporated, flesh ripping from their bones), and Psylocke’s boob window was blurred out in some scenes (but not all). I really want to go on a rant about how humans are really dumb and aggressively censor all the wrong things, like a normal ass human body or a BASIC RELIGIOUS CONCEPT. But I will save that for another time.

Noémi: Also on this flight we ended up with an empty seat next to us – that’s good! But then, the MOMENT the flight started, ALL THREE PEOPLE IN THE ROW AHEAD OF US FULLY LEANED THEIR CHAIRS BACK LIKE MONSTERS. I say they’re monsters because the flight left in the middle of the afternoon, none of them were even trying to sleep, and two of them were actual children who have to sit up if they want to do anything with their video games or tablets so they don’t even lean back. But their mom encouraged them to lean back. Because she is raising enemies of society. Seriously, what the hell.

By the time these last movies are done, we will be back on the ground, so I guess this wraps up the blog for this trip! I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave us a note if you read it in some shape or form – I know my mom’s reading it which was really the original goal of these blogs (to reassure her I’m not dead while I was away for months) but it’s nice to know people are reading to encourage future blogging efforts!

See you next time!

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