Days 10 to 14 – Surrey, Canterbury, and London

My original plan was to separate this into two posts but since I am so woefully delayed I am just going to put it all together. My goal was to get all the blog posts for this trip done by the end of the year and by gosh I am going to do it!

We arrived in Surrey, Guildford to be exact, on day 9 and settled into our hotel, explored a bit of the city, and basically took some time to recharge. The next day we decided to take a day trip to Canterbury, which I highly recommend. We took the train into London and transferred to a train to Canterbury, a very easy travel experience.

I cannot begin to describe how absolutely breathtaking Canterbury Cathedral is. I cannot even fathom the craftsmanship that went into the construction of this masterpiece. You enter the Cathedral grounds through a gate that reminded me of a castle and then you see this beautiful building when you enter that you cannot physically contain in a picture. It towers overhead and the carvings all over the building are amazing. The amount of history contained in the walls awes you as you explore the different rooms and listen to the audio guide, which I definitely recommend taking full advantage of.

There were many moments when we were inside that I had to just stop and take it all in. It truly amazes you what people were able to do back then, I mean we don’t really make buildings like this anymore that stand the test of time. Sure there are many projects that go into maintaining the building and preserving it, but can you imagine the time and dedication it took to create this structure in the first place. Unbelievable. I highly recommend going and exploring every single room in this Cathedral. The Crypt was the place that truly connected with me, you aren’t supposed to take pictures here (which I didn’t) but this was where I really had to take some time and just be. There was something about so much of this building that just took time to take in and I truly loved every moment we were here.

We then walked up to the University of Kent as my friend wanted to get some pictures with the sign (part of her family is originally from Kent so it was rather important). As you are walking up and you look back towards the Cathedral you get a really amazing view of the building from a distance. It was truly magical in my opinion.

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I really loved this view

After this we travelled back to our hotel in Guildford and that night we ventured to Shere and The White Horse Pub which was used as a filming location for the movie The Holiday. This was extremely exciting just because of how much we both love this movie. The White Horse is really lovely on the inside and the food was absolutely delicious! I definitely recommend going there if you happen to be nearby. We also had a lovely conversation with someone who lives there outside when we were waiting for the taxi to take us back to Guildford. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the inside and the few I took of the outside are too dark to see. Next time I will definitely have to go during the day as I hear Shere is really lovely.

Day 11 was spent doing something I have waited many years to do, The Warner Brothers Studio Tour London. That’s right we went and explored the sets of the Harry Potter films and it was everything I wanted and so much more. Honestly, if you are at all a fan of this series you need to go! It is more than worth it and honestly, next time I go I would totally do it again. They blow your mind right from the beginning when they usher you into a room with the posters from all of the films all over the walls and someone on staff welcomes you in, you are then lead into a cinema where you watch a short film of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint welcoming you to the studio. Next they raise the screen and all of a sudden there are the doors to the Great Hall. They open the doors and you walk into Hogwart’s Great Hall and your jaw drops. Everything here was absolutely amazing and for a fan like me truly a dream come true. Honestly, go! I took a tun of pictures while we were there so here are some of my favourites.

The amount of set pieces, costumes, props, and everything else you get to see is amazing! They told us the record for staying there was something like 13 hours, someone stayed the entire time the studio was open, talk about goals. I can totally see how you could spend that long there, I wish we had spent more time but we had a 2:30pm entry time and needed to catch the bus back. Now the absolute best part of the Studio Tour happens right at the end when you are enter the room with the model of Hogwarts that they used for shooting exterior shots for the films. The pictures do not convey the sheer magnitude of this model. You enter this room and your jaw hits the floor. It was absolutely INCREDIBLE!

I honestly loved every single minute when we were in the studios and I spent way too much money in the gift shop afterwards, but it was well worth it. I now have my very own Marauders Map, I feel like all of my favourite characters (except Luna) are tied to the map so it was an absolute must! I also wanted to get Luna’s wand but it was the only one they were sold out of…go figure, this ended up being a good thing as I spent way more than I was expecting to, but hey, worth it!

Now the next day we headed into London very early and left our bags at the hotel we were staying at before venturing to the reason we chose to take the trip in September. I had purchased tickets to a little show for my friend for her birthday, and she had to wait almost a year to cash in on them. Can you guess which show?

That’s right! We went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre in London and it was even better than I was expecting. Now I had stayed far away from any spoilers for this show as I knew I was going so I had no knowledge of what was going to happen which made this experience so much better. I am not going to say anything about what happens because I promised to keep the secrets but I will say that it was an absolutely magical show in every sense of the word and I don’t say that lightly. I have multiple degrees in theatre and have seen my fair share of shows and this one truly did magic with their technical elements and I have no idea how they did some of their effects. It is a two part show and we decided on doing both in one day so the matinee was part one and the evening was part two. Part One leaves off on a huge cliff hanger so as we were leaving we were both saying how glad we were to do it in one day. The acting was also phenomenally done, it was such a well cast show. I think my favourite character was Scorpius, he was just absolutely perfect! I am so beyond happy that we got the chance to see this show in London. Truly a terrific experience and it combined two of my absolutely favourite things, Harry Potter and Theatre!

After the show we went back to our hotel and officially checked in and basically crashed. It was a long day but well worth it!

The next morning we woke up and explored London. Today was our Royal day. We went to Westminster Abbey, I have pictures of the outside but you weren’t allowed pictures inside. I highly recommend the audio guide (I feel like I have said this quite a bit in these posts but it’s the honest truth), it is narrated by Jeremy Irons and boy just to have that voice in my ear was worth every moment! I love Jeremy Irons and as soon as his voice came through I turned to my friend with a ridiculously excited expression and she laughed at me. After Westminster we went to Buckingham Palace for our tour, indeed we went in, once again I have no pictures of the inside as photography was not allowed but everything was breathtaking. The intricacies of the carvings and the detail was phenomenal. I think my favourites were the blue room and the music room. They also had an exhibit with the Queen’s Fashion throughout her reign which was really cool to see, however there were a lot of people packed around the dresses and as I have claustrophobia in crowds I had to take a step back and away. I ended up going on and my friend spent a lot of time looking at all of the clothes. I would have loved to see them more but unfortunately sometimes you can’t. I did see the Coronation Dress and the Wedding Dress which were both really lovely and I saw one of her dresses from a visit to Canada which had maple leaves on it, I was so proud! We ended off the evening by going to see the longest running play in history, The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. I love Agatha Christie so I was in heaven going to see this show.

Our last day in London was spent exploring the final things we definitely wanted to do this trip. We took a ride on the London Eye, which is ridiculously expensive. Honestly, we got some great pictures, but I am still not sure if it was worth it, again I was also extremely hungry when we went as I didn’t have breakfast so that might have caused some of my negative feelings. We went to the Tower of London which was unfortunately closing so we couldn’t go inside but it was really fantastic to see from the outside, for some reason I was not expecting it to be a castle (don’t laugh at me). We saw Shakespeare’s Globe from across the Thames which I was quite excited about, next time I will go actually see it. We also saw St. Paul’s Cathedral from across the street, once again very beautiful building. I found the TARDIS! Yes, I am a Doctor Who Fan. And we ended the night in Notting Hill and went to a lovely Fish and Chips Place which I definitely recommend, it’s called The Fish House of Notting Hill.

I adored London and will definitely be back at some point!

And thus ends our trip to Ireland and England. Thank you to everyone who had read these posts. I am very disappointed in myself for taking so long to post the final days, but hey I finished before 2016 did. I have no idea what my next trip will be or how long it will take me to save up for it but I do believe I have caught the travel bug.

Until next time!
~Sara D’Agostino

 

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Days 7 to 9 – Travel, Bath, and Oxford

I have been hopelessly remiss in updating this blog with the rest of my trip. I could not manage to update this for the rest of the time we were in England because we had far too much packed into our schedule. I am hoping to get the rest of the trip posted before the new year. I know it has been an extremely long time since this trip but here’s hoping I can remember enough to entertain you.

The seventh day of our adventure was entirely devoted to travel. We made the decision to go from Cork to Bath in one day. We both agreed we would definitely do this differently the next time. We took a train from Cork to Dublin and then hopped on the ferry to Holyhead. I definitely recommend taking the ferry over, it was beautiful and relaxing and if you wished to brave the wind you could go up top and enjoy the water passing by. Both of our phones were dying on the way so I don’t have good pictures of the crossing but here’s what I got.

Not much I know. From Holyhead we got right on a train and attempted to make our way to Bath. This meant we got on about four different trains and because there was a major delay we ended up missing the last train from Bristol to Bath and had to take a taxi instead. It was an unbelievably exhausting day! By the time we got to Bath it was past midnight. We went straight to bed, which is a shame because it was a Friday night and there was definitely festivities going on but when you are tuckered out you need sleep. My recommendation (and what we should have done) is taking a stop somewhere in Wales. We passed through the Welsh countryside in the train and it was beautiful. We both agreed that we would have really enjoyed spending some time there and then the travel would not have been as daunting.

Our eighth day was split between Bath and Oxford. In the morning we explored the absolutely gorgeous city of Bath. As we were walking though the city I could really picture myself there. It was a lovely meld of city and peaceful country. Seriously it was breathtaking!

We had two goals while we were in Bath. We wanted to go to the Jane Austen Centre, which was a really nice treat. It was smaller than I was expecting but it had some very cool memorabilia from the movies. They also have a regency tea room which I highly recommend. We had a lovely meal and it was a great experience to have tea in Bath.

We unexpectedly ended up being in Bath during the annual Jane Austen Festival which was a lovely experience. When we were walking through the streets we would just see people dressed in full regency attire. I got very excited and really wanted to join them but I did not have proper outfits. Next time I shall pack a formal dress or some such thing.

Our last stop before we left was the Roman Baths which was extraordinary. If you are in Bath you should definitely go see them. The amount of history and the way they are preserved astounds you. They provide audio devices which I highly encourage taking full advantage of. They allow you to take your time and really learn more about the things you are interested in. We both took time in certain rooms that resonated with us and I learned so much. I have a thirst for knowledge and it was definitely satisfied through this excursion.

I absolutely adored Bath! I will definitely be returning and hopefully able to spend some more time in this beautiful place. Hmmm….maybe I will apply to the university there…

We caught a train to Oxford in the afternoon. We had to make one connection but it was a very easy journey. We got to the city in the late afternoon/early evening and made the trek to our hotel which was part of the University. It was a very nice place but we were on the third floor and there are no elevators. Oh, also did I mention that my suitcase had broken in Galway and by this point I was pretty much dragging it around with me? The cobblestones in Oxford almost destroyed my arms! We went to a cute pub that night that had absolutely delicious food and we were planning on going out on the town after but I was under the weather so we ended up staying in. I’m still disappointed that we missed the Saturday night opportunity, but that’s life! The next morning we explored the city a bit, unfortunately because it was Sunday we couldn’t really go in anywhere. We also walked through a section of street where they were filming something set in the 1960s which was really cool to witness so there was that.

All in all Oxford was truly beautiful but a let down after being in Bath. As my cousin said when I was talking to him about it, if I had gone to Oxford first it would have been a very different reaction and I probably would have fallen in love with it.

Once we explored Oxford we picked up our things from the hotel and headed to the train station and were on our way to Surrey. That will be part of the next update. Hopefully I will get to it very soon.

Again I am disappointed in myself for how delayed this blog post was.

Until next time!

~Sara D’Agostino