Scot-lish

A quick blog about England, Scotland and a long trail of Harry Potter movie locations. Look around if you've ever wanted to vist the UK, or are a Harry Potter fan and want to see the places I've been. And become Scot-lish. Like me.

Name:
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Finally in my 20s, love reading and a huge Harry Potter fan

The current mood of Tazzu at www.imood.com

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

DAY FIVE

Today was to have a rather historical start. We raced off to Stratford-upon-Avon,

the place of Shakespeare's birth. Most of the actual birthplace area is padestrianised, so leaving my dad in the car (since he thought going to look at the birthplace of someone who has been dead for quite some time was... well, insane!), my mom and I wandered off down the cobbled road. The first thing you notice as you start, is this statue:

The quote at the bottom says: "O NOBLE FOOL! A WORTHY FOOL!", which is from 'As You Like It'.

Down the left side of the street, we pass a few shops selling cold drinks, ice-creams and pins and scarves, but then we come to the main attraction. Here we find the actual place in which Shakespeare was born (couldn't be much more obvious, could it?):

The house looks surprisingly stable and well looked after, considering how old it is. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to go inside, but I've heard that it is quite something to see!

Crossing over to the other side of the road, we found many shops bearing Shakespeare's name, as though he frequented the places quite often. There is the Shakespeare Bookshop, which I foolishly thought was a general bookshop, but in fact only sells the works of one particular author...

and then, of course, the best part of the street... the Shakespeare's Little Sweet Shop. Let me list some of the available choices in this store:

  • Strawberry, Apple and Lemon Bon Bons
  • Pear-Drops
  • Fruit Jellies
  • Kola Cubes
  • Sour Pops
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Assorted, Cola, Bubblegum, Strawberry and Blackcurrent Millions
  • Chocolate Stem Ginger
  • Rainbow Drops
  • Chocolate Nuts
  • Crispets (what??)
  • Herbal Tablets
  • Toasted and Grey's Teacakes

and that's just to name a few. There was also a enormous variety of fudges (my favourite!!!) and biscuits or cookies. This shop is just incredible. I now know exactly what it feels like to be "a kid in a candy store"!!

After our trip back into history, it was time for one of the more boring parts of the trip (well, for me at least). One of the places my dad was dying to see was Donington Park, which is a car / racing museum...

I will admit, this place is pretty well laid out. There are a lot of statues in the gardens in memory of some of history's best racing drivers, and from the look on my dad's face when he finally came out of the building two hours later, the museum is fantastic too. This is definitely to be recommended to any racing car lovers!

Some of the other sites for today:

  • A beautiful church, in the middle of nowhere:

  • Many lavender fields (which would keep appearing throughout the trip):

  • My first time to a Tesco's - if it sounds strange that I'm getting excited about a grocery store, remember that anything you see for the first time can be pretty thrilling, no matter how stupid it seems!
  • Sherwood Forest in Nottingham... as in Robin Hood's home!

MOST FASHIONABLE FASHION IN UK TODAY:

  • Peasant skirt

SONG HEARD MOST OFTEN TODAY:

  • "Crazy Chick" by Charlotte Church
  • "Speed of Sound" by Coldplay (makes for a great change from the previous song!!)

CAR OF THE MOMENT TODAY:

  • Mini Cooper (how surprising!)

TOURISTY THINGS BOUGHT TODAY:

  • Postcards
  • Fudge from the Little Sweet Shop
  • Bookmarks with wise Shakespearean quotes

Monday, June 27, 2005

DAY FOUR

Today was our last day at the fabulous five-star hotel, and I decided, today was the day I was going to use the pool. We had tried to get into the pool room since the day we arrived, but the swinging doors were firmly shut to us. The doors had windows you could look through onto the pool, and it was like dangling candy in front of a child – this pool was incredible.

We finally discovered we had to go through the massage parlour, then down a long corridor with about 10 doors to choose from, then through the changing room, and finally we arrived… it was like stepping to something the Greek gods had created.

The pool was enormous and crystal blue. All around the room was paintings of cherubs and Greek pots and heroes. A room to the side was filled with pool-noodles and other fun pool-type toys, and hidden away in another corner was a sauna, steam room and aroma therapy room. I tried the first two – and nearly died from the heat, and the aroma therapy room smelt like medicine, so I chose to stick to the pool. It was only then that I found the Jacuzzi…

After about two hours of lounging around in the pool, I decided the morning had been well spent, and we went off to start the next leg of our journey. Just before we left, we took a picture of the manky wall behind our hotel – the one built by the Romans in like 200 BC.

Today we were going to find the Silverstone race track and Stonehenge. As we started off, we passed near Wimbledon. About 20 minutes drive away from the actual stadiums, people were using their gardens as parking places, and charging up to £20 just to park your car, and then walk for another hour!

£20 may not be a lot in England terms, but it sounded ridiculous to us! When we actually passed Wimbledon, I saw a few of the grandstands and the sign for Centre Court. People were queuing by the hundreds outside, just waiting to get a glimpse of their favourite tennis star. Glad it wasn’t me in line…



Next up, we reached Silverstone… and I was suitably unimpressed. It’s all very well being able to see the signs and the gates for the place, but what’s the use if you can’t see the actual track?



We begged the guard to let us in, but he was having none of it, so we had to be happy with what we saw… which was rather very little. At one point, we were even going to climb up some rickety old bridge thing, but we figured our lives were more important than seeing the track.

Making a pit stop to get some lunch, we found some interesting ‘goods’ in the convenience store – this is always the best part about travelling to another country, getting so see what they have that I’ve never seen before. There we found chocolate, in the shape of Pringles Chips, and toothbrushes that are the size of your thumb nail – it already has the toothpaste on, and you just chew it and voila! A minty fresh smile!

Along the way to Stonehenge, the next stop, we saw some really amazing scenery, mostly the rolling hills and wheat fields you expect, but we also saw a lot of poppy fields. We were wondering what exactly the English are doing with all these poppies – since what you make with poppies is mostly opium…



Another long while of driving, and then, there it was… Stonehenge. Now this was pretty impressive to me, although it seemed a lot smaller than I had thought.

When you get to the entrance, there are posters standing around explaining how the stones got there and what they’re composed of. There are also two of the actual stones there, and you’re supposed to touch them and feel how different they are in warmth – apparently one type of stone absorbs more heat than the other. My mom and I were amazed at this difference and that we could actually feel it. My dad said he didn’t feel anything, and looked at us like we were mad.

When you pay to get your ticket, you’re also given a long black thing that looks like an old cell phone – it has a key pad and a speaker at the top that you have to hold to your ear. This thing was going to tell us the history of Stonehenge, take us on a magical trip back in time to when men were savages and women were still in the kitchen, cooking the woolly mammoth… Except my cell phone gadget wouldn’t work, and kept repeating the same part of the story over and over. Stonehenge then seemed to lose some of its magic as I swore at the CP gadget and threatened to throw it on the floor.

Eventually, I gave up and just looked at the stones – it really is a beautiful sight. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I discovered you couldn’t go closer to the stones than about 15 metres, but hey, I enjoyed it anyway. When we left, I found a machine that turns a penny into this squashed out strip of copper with a picture of Stonehenge on it. You have to turn this lever that squishes the coin and imprints the picture – what the ‘daft tourist’ (me) didn’t know is that when the coin came out it would be flaming hot and singe my skin. So I now have a faint impression on Stonehenge on my left palm…

Along our travels, I took this picture, which I'm really proud of - it makes the balloon look so lost and desolate, definitely one of my favourite pictures:

And this is the name of a narrow, winding little road we actually drove on:

And suddenly, another day of our holiday was over. We stopped at our next hotel in Rugby – a Travelodge (these places aren’t too bad for the price). The best part of the night was that our room overlooked a field, a field that was filled with bunnies. When we opened the windows, it was like the whole countryside was moving as the bunnies all disappeared into the trees… this was just the kind of thing I had expected in England, and I was loving every minute!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

DAY THREE

Well ladies and gentlemen, today was my day. The first day of full on Harry Potter site seeing! I'll mostly stick to the Harry Potter info and keep the photos coming...

The day-trip we took was one organised by British Tours, and let me tell you, it was worth it! Unfortunately, I don't think I made a very good first impression with our guide. While my parents waited for him in the hotel foyer, I ran across the road to buy something. When I came back, I noticed my dad talking to this mad-professor type guy, and my first thought was, "I can't believe my dad actually knows someone in this country!" (My dad seems knows everyone everywhere we go...). Not knowing this man was there for me, I barely introduced myself. Then felt like an idiot when he led us off to his car...

Anyway, no damage done, and the first stop was to see where 'Diagon Alley' can be found. It's this tiny little back street that looks a lot like a market place, and surprisingly, is just a few blocks away from the hotel we were staying at. It obviously doesn't look like the same place now, but it does have that cramped and 'looks like it was built by magic' feel. I even got to see the door of one of the 'shops' Harry and Hermione come out of.

Next was a visit to King's Cross Station. It was here that we discovered the tour guide was a man in a hurry. There was no strolling along, or even brisk walking with him. I had to run to keep up with him, incase I missed any commentary. Most of the pictures my dad took today show Tour Guide and my backs, running off into the sunset. Never let it be said Harry Potter doesn't keep you fit...

King's Cross Station is really beautiful and rather imposing from the outside, with a very regal looking clock.


But, it is just a train station, so it's not really all that exciting on the inside. I got to see the platforms that were used for the film - platforms 4 and 5, if you didn't know (I didn't!):


and then it was off to see the Real Platform 9 3/4 (Oh my, this was so excting!)...


...and that was it, we were rushing off again. Don't think I'm weird, but I was really impressed with KCS, it was just like I thought it would be. And I nearly got to hop on the Hogwarts Express.

We had to get to Oxford before lunch, and the drive took a while. It's unfortunate, but I was really starting to fall asleep since there wasn't much interesting during the trip. I did, however, manage to see (as we were whizzing past) the British Library, Madam Tussauds, the Hoover Building and Chilton Hills, where a lot of great furniture is made. Now please, tell me you would have been riveted by this...

Just before we got there, we drove to a house where a really strange prank had taken place many years before...


... that's right. It's a plaster shark. In the roof. That has been left there for quite some time, as a 'memorial'. There are some weird people around there, I can tell.

When we got to Oxford, it was really gorgeous. Well, that really isn't a good enough word, but it kind of leaves you speechless. I didn't realise that the University was actually a whole little town. There are people living virtually right next to the colleges, and the other remarkable thing is that nearly the whole place is pedestrianised. Unfortunately, we couldn't get into Christ Church where the HP scenes were shot, since it was Sunday and they were having a normal church session, but we did see the College that Bill and Chelsea Clinton both attended, and Merton College, which JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, went to:


If I can remember correctly (and remember, I was tired), Tony Blair was also a student of Oxford. Also saw The Eagle and Child Pub, nicknamed The Bird and Baby (so different to the original name), which had frequent visits from many English writers, including Tolkien. I think he did more pub-crawling that studying.

Some other views of Oxford:


I won't say what I was supposed to see at Oxford yet, because we did go back later in the afternoon, then you'll see some great pictures!

So then we were scurrying off to get to Gloucester, before lunch again. Another wild and exciting drive. With no radio or open windows.

At Gloucester Cathedral, the next HP destination, I saw:


- The Cloisters (corridors) that you often see Harry and co. walking down. They are truly spectacular and you can't begin to imagine how high they go. The window panes in the walls, most of which are really colourfully decorated, are so old that they're warped and bent out:


- The place where Harry and Ron hid from the troll in the first film (did some sneaky hiding myself):

- And the interior of the Cathedral. It was really interesting to see the place where the bishop sits and the incredible stained glass windows, but I won't include all that here, just this picture:


Finally, it was time for lunch. We had the choice of going to the Bird's Hip pub, but ended up at the Golden Heart pub. Here we had really delicious food - lamb and veggies... okay bla bla bla. Let's get back to the trip.

We had to go back to Oxford after Gloucester, in order to see the staircase where McGonagall greets the First Years, and the Great Hall. So once we got there, we parked a day's worth of walking away from the Church (remember, only pedestrians are allowed on the streets), and started to run after Mr Tour Guide. And it was totally worth it when we got there. This church is just beautiful, with lovely gardens and the ivy growing on the walls. It seems unreal that it can be so perfect:



I would go back to this place just to sit in the garden and look at it. Inside, we found the staircase:

Top

Bottom

It was so eerie being there, because I recognised the place from the films, but it was hard to believe I was actually standing there.

Then next up, we have the Great Hall. Standing inside it, the place felt tiny, but this is the actual room used for Hogwart's Great Hall. It's still used by the kids that attend school there - the film crew was actually hoofed out when it came time for the students to have their meals. Bet that really impressed them! Here it is:

Look carefully, and you'll see that there's only enough room for three rows of tables, not four, but thanks to the magic of movies (or maybe Harry Potter), this will be the Great Hall...

And so, that was my Harry Potter Tour Day. It was really fantastic to see all the different locations and I would definitely recommend the tour to anyone who is interested in the HP films!

MOST FASHIONABLE FASHION IN UK TODAY:

  • Peasant skirt
  • Jeans with chunky belt

SONG HEARD MOST OFTEN TODAY:

  • Wouldn't know - Mr Tour Guide wouldn't let us listen to the radio

CAR OF THE MOMENT TODAY:

  • Mini Cooper (they're like the new epidemic)

TOURISTY THINGS BOUGHT TODAY:

  • Feather quill pen (kind of fake)
  • Harry Potter badges
  • Medieval silver bangle
  • Postcards

Saturday, June 25, 2005

DAY TWO

Today, much to my delight, was Shopping Day. My dad got very depressed at the thought, but unfortunately for him, we were determined.

The first stop was Harrods, except it took ages for us to get there - we just couldn't seem to find the right bus. We left the hotel at about 9am, and only arrived there in time for lunch - that's 3 hours just riding around on a bus, trying to get to a shop that is virtually around the corner.

We stopped at the Horse Guards on the way - just one of those tourist things you have to do. We arrived just in time to see them come out and I watched them with pity - surrounded by weird people talking pictures of them, not being able to kick them in the ribs and tell them to shove off. Actually, they can't even 'grin and bear it' since they aren't allowed to move at all. The horses on the other hand seemed quite fine with bearing their chompers at the people and having a ear nibble, like this one, who seemed to like the look of my tasty head:

Also managed to see the beginning of the changing of the guards, where just three guards swap in the 'corridor'. All every exciting and posh, dahling...

Finally, we discovered Harrods, after first nearly missing it. Some photos were taken of me standing outside the building, with the locals sniggering behind their hands at the 'daft tourists'.

However, Harrods was not quite what I was expecting. Actually, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't that. Beautiful as it was, it was all handbags and jewellery. Kind of boring after a while... but I, being a 'daft tourist' didn't realise that Harrods took up five floors. Now that is my kind of shop!

Each level had many rooms, each with something different, but we were in search of the 'Egypt Hall'. Off we trundled, through the Bling-bling Evening Gown Section, Smoking Lingerie Section, Very Expensive Coats Section, Rather Expensive Stationery Section and many others. When we reached the Egypt Hall, the Egypt part was all the decorating - pillars carved with hieroglyphs, sphinx statues and so on. Very lovely, but still filled with Very Expensive Stuff.

Some, um, interesting looking chandeliers in the food sec.


Rather retro stationery sec, yeah baby.

We got around to the food section, were you pick your own seafood and meat, and they cook it right there for you. The vegetable section is huge with enormous variety - meaning I saw things I have never seen before, and I live in a very strange country. Then there was the Sweet / Candy Section. Parents, pray for the lives of your children, because that place is a child trap. You will never see them again. Everything seems to have stepped out of Santa's workshop and screams at you with blinding colours. You just want to touch things. Every sweet has at least ten different varieties (so you would have to have at least one of each), and not only are the walls covered with sugary goodness, but there are sweet islands filling up the rest of the room. Now bear in mind, I am nearly 20 years old, think of myself as quite mature and way past anything that anyone might consider childish. But I had to be dragged away from this room, kicking and on the verge of screaming. It was like leaving Wonderland.

But it had to be done, as it was time for lunch, which let me tell you, was fantastic! The service in the restaurant was brilliant - everyone was so friendly, and the food was... well, mouth-watering.

Next, after stopping to take a picture of an important London feature:


(The guy with me just wanted to get his face in a tourist's photo, I think)

...we were back on the bus, in search of Hamley's Toy Shop. Another child trap. As you walk in you can hear kids laughing in delight and see shop assistants playing with some of the toys to advertise them. What a job. Another shop with 5 levels, I asked which level had the Harry Potter goods. All I'm interested in, I'm afraid. It was on the top level, so we moved up the escalators, but got sucked into the first section on the first level.

Here, you can make your own teddy bear. You choose the outside - white and shaggy bears, brown and soft bears, dogs, hippos etc, and then the assistant asks you to choose how fully stuffed you would like it. I chose medium (cuddly) and she then sticks the bear onto a pipe and fills it with stuffing. It makes the most horrible sound - enough to scare any child away, but then I'm off to have the bear sewn up. You get a tiny red, material heart on which to make a wish which is then sewn into the bear's stomach. Hamley (what I called my little bear) then got his own birth certificate and passport, and you can also choose an outfit for your bear. This is by far the best part. Bikinis, ballerina tutus, race-car driver overalls, boardshorts, fairy outfits - you name it, they had it. I chose the Scottish outfit (naturally), complete with kilt and sporran. It is the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen. The only part I didn't understand was how you were supposed to get these outfits onto the dog or hippo toys...

On we moved to the fifth level. I searched for the Harry Potter stuff, but it didn't seem to be there. Eventually I found it, shoved into a corner, just two shelves of it, including some Lego and a rather plastic looking broomstick. I was so disappointed. Everyone had told us that for Potter merchandise, Hamley's is the place. I looked into a seperate room, but that just turned out to be the staircase. It had, however, been painted with scenes from the third Potter film. Brilliant paintings including the Whomping Willow, the Hogwarts Express, the house's emblems and so on:





But that was it. That was all there was of Harry Potter. And the plastic broom of course. Sad.

Then we were to go back to the hotel. But I, since it was Shopping Day, had to go to Virgin Cosmetics:

Great shop with all glittery and shimmery lipglosses and nail polishes. We couldn't stay long in case we missed the bus we needed, which could have resulted in us being stuck there for an hour. Us daft tourists didn't quite get the whole 'bus' system yet.

Here's a pub with a great name. I love this picture because it looks like everything is moving except me and the pub:

For dinner that night, we went to another pub. This one was called the Liberty Bounds. I later found out the story behind that name - in the olden, olden, really olden days, fathers used to take their sons around the boundaries of their land and thumped them with a stick or cane to teach them what land is their and what isn't. When I heard this, I thought it was sick and was grateful for the invention of walls and gates...

Had a cute waiter at the pub. Have no idea what is name is, as he is Greek, so it was kind of unpronounceable. I ended up calling him Valentino, and my mom called him Stefenopolis or something. But he made the whole pub experience worth it.

P.S. We discovered a really manky old wall behind our hotel. We then discovered it was built by the Romans in BC. Unbelievable really that the wall could have lasted that long!

MOST FASHIONABLE FASHION IN UK TODAY:

  • Peasant skirt
  • Jeans with chunky belt
SONG HEARD MOST OFTEN TODAY:

  • "Crazy Chick" by Charlotte Church
CAR OF THE MOMENT TODAY:

  • Mini Cooper (gotta have one kids!)
TOURISTY THINGS BOUGHT TODAY:

  • Oxford University t-shirt
  • Union Jack flag
  • Gold tin with coin chocolates and 4 candy sticks from the Harrods Child Trap
  • Hamley's teddy bear with Scottish outfit
  • Shimmery lipgloss and roomspray from Virgin Cosmetics