Friday, December 5, 2014

Stratford-upon-Avon and Kenilworth Castle

Photos of Stratford:

Shakespeare's birthplace

THE room where Shakespeare was birthed oooooh

River Avon

This was the spot of Shakespeare's actual house. A man bought it as a holiday house and was eventually so fed up with the constant tourists that he had it torn down...

Photos of Kenilworth Castle:

It was windy as you can see... 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Downton Abbey Locations & Blenheim Palace

I am so behind on my personal blog, I know, I’m sorry. My Mom keeps bugging me about it though, so I’m going to try harder (though she knows more about everything I’ve been doing than anyone, so what she thinks is going to be new here, I don’t know lol).

About three weeks ago, I was able to go on a tour that included stops at various Downton Abbey filming spots and an afternoon visit to Blenheim Palace (birthplace of Winston Churchill).

Our driver/guide for the trip, Tony, was very friendly, humorous, and informative. He was a fan of Downton Abbey himself, so everything he said was interesting and engaging. In fact, he knew a few “inside scoops” about the show because he is close friends with the father of the actor playing Tom Branson (Allen Leech). He was actually an attendee at Allen’s christening lol

One of the “insider secrets” he told us was that even though Tom and Ms. Bunting have chemistry onscreen, the actors dislike each other in real life. Apparently, the actress playing Ms. Bunting overheard Allen say that she was unattractive to others on set when she’d arrived. He tried to save himself when confronted, but the two could never reconcile that moment (which makes it all the more interesting that **SPOILER** she gets the boot halfway through the season when it feels like there was more story to tell).

When we got to our first stop on the tour, Cogges Manor Farm (Yew Tree Farm in the series, home of Mr. Drew), we had about 15 minutes of the farm to ourselves before the school groups started arriving, which was nice. The scones in the cafe were also homemade and delicious!

After the farm, we made our way to the village of Bampton, where several filming sites are located including the post office, church, hospital, Crawley house, and even the shed where Thomas stored his ration loot and then realized he’d been scammed! We then drove through the Cotswolds to various filming sights including The Swan Inn.

We then drove further to Winston Churchill's grave site, along with other family members, before heading to Woodstock for lunch. Tony dropped us off in a great spot and pointed out four different eating locations to choose from. I ate at The Buttery and had a yummy sandwich with a pot of tea.

After lunch we met back up and took the short walk through the gardens up to the Blenheim Palace entrance. Tony gave us a tour of the place himself. He was extremely knowledgeable of each room and answered any questions we threw at him. One thing I did not enjoy about the palace was the weird modern art on display in each of the rooms by Ai Weiwei. It was all very ugly and distracting in my opinion. The furniture was pushed out of the way toward the walls to make room for the art pieces, which dampened the beauty of seeing the rooms. In one room there were dozens of pictures of holding the middle finger up in front of famous landmarks. It was just dumb…what if you had children with you? Ugh, how annoying.

Anyway, after touring the house we were let loose to explore the surrounding gardens. I loved how vast the grounds were. There was a gorgeous bridge over a lake and a bunch of different kinds of birds hanging around the water.

After a bit of exploring, we met back up at the coach and headed for London. It was a lovely day and a fun experience seeing the DA filming spots in real life. Blenheim palace was also a site that had been on my list, so it was nice to be able to cross that one off (even with the WEEWEE art).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Harry Potter and Oxford

This post is long overdue, I know....

Two weeks ago I went to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden. The day started off with deciding what to wear. Should I be a normal Joe or sport my colored stockings in support of the Hufflepuff house? I chose school spirit in the end and am glad I did. They were just whimsical enough for the occasion!

I was very excited for the tour. I admit I was a bit of a latecomer to the world of Harry Potter, but I still enjoyed the books and absolutely loved the movies! Getting to see basically every prop from the series and so many costumes was too awesome to even describe. I took over 400 photos that day, which I am simultaneously proud of and horrified by! Even the most casual fan of the movies would enjoy this tour though. Just from a filmmaking stand point, the amount of BTS information and access is incredible.

The moment I got really excited was at the very beginning of the tour. It was a total surprise the way they kick it off! I won't say exactly what it was in case you make it there someday, but I will say that it involved the Great Hall...I got chills.

Inside the two hangers were basically every single prop and main set from the series. Amazing. My favorites were Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room, and the Great Hall! I also got to try the famous butterbeer drink, which I actually enjoyed. They must have tweaked it over the years because (as you can tell from my apprehensive face) I'd read many reviews that it was sickly sweet. It was barely sweet though, a perfect taste.

Diagon Alley was especially overwhelming. It was so cool to see the details of the shops up close! I so badly wanted to go inside and explore them, but alas, they're not real.

My souvenir of the experience (apart from the mass photography), a chocolate frog with a 3D Salazar Slytherin inside.

Here are the rest of my favorite pictures from the day:

After all the Harry Potter fangirling, we headed to Oxford. I actually think my favorite thing about Oxford was the huge homes along the way to the colleges (you all know I love houses). They were gorgeous! I can only imagine how many millions they must cost.

We got a tour of Oxford from an Oxford student who showed us several colleges and talked about how the education system works at the University. We passed by Exeter, Jesus, and Trinity. We also saw the Sheldonian Theatre and walked through Christ Church and its gardens.

We had some free time to walk around the streets. There were street vendors and food carts. I bought a cute scarf and had some yummy gelato ice cream!

Overall, I thought Oxford was nice, but I could have spent much more time there actually going into the colleges and seeing where other parts of the University were since it's so spread out.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Interiors of London

This past "weekend" (Thursday through Sunday woohoo!) I've had the chance to look at the exclusive interiors of London, from Buckingham Palace to personal homes. Building interiors are one of my favorite things to see. I'm the kind of person whose idea of a fun afternoon is going out and looking at model homes on the market and scrolling through various versions of staircases on Pinterest. So getting to walk through Buckingham Palace and see a few architecturally significant residences during London Open House, was pretty darn cool.

Touring the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace was incredible and possibly my favorite London site so far. Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed inside the Palace, but I did buy some nifty postcards afterward. Normally, I don't gravitate toward listening to the audio tours while visiting sites, but here it was very well put together and really pretty necessary. With many audio tours, you simply walk up to whatever you're interested in and put in the corresponding number on the sign. However, this tour was an amazingly immersive experience that felt like a real guide was with you. Plus, without it, I would have missed vital information about portraits, furniture, and even the locations of secret passageways!

There was an excellent exhibition for the 2014 tour cycle as well centering on childhood and what growing up as a royal was like. They had over a dozen outfits worn by young Prince William and Harry, as well as Princess Elizabeth and Beatrice. There were lots of royal toys, furniture with their names inscribed, and even drawings they had done (Queen Victoria was the best artist). Actually everything Queen Victoria was my favorite part, from a surviving dress she wore as a child to the portraits of her family she had hung on the walls of the Palace. I'm not sure why she's my most-looked-up-to royal figure. Probably a mix of the time period she ruled, her love of husband and family, and the fact that her rule was a true golden age.

When the inside tour was over, we were led out into the gardens. They were so beautiful! I took a lot of pictures. I can (literally) only imagine what it must be like to have a royal garden party there. It would be so incredible to see something like that!

Also this weekend, an event was going on called London Open House. These sites are either normally open-to-the-public sites which then become free or are personal homes that have been architecturally praised and are open for public tours. On Saturday, housemate Janel and I went to two private homes. The first was called "The Small House". It is reportedly one of the smallest self-sustaining homes in all of London and wow was it small! Before becoming a home it was first a flower shop. The owner lives here "occasionally" and the house is apparently worth around 250,000 pounds. Yikes!

The next home we went to had a bit more room to move! It was a pink traditional Victorian home that had been purchased by an architect and completely redesigned. It was gorgeous and also very sustainably built with special insulation, windows, and rain-catchers.

So that's pretty much been my weekend! It was fun and also exhausting....but every minute has been worth it. There's so much to see and do here. It's never ending really, which is both awesome and sad, since I won't be here forever. I just really have to concentrate on the things I know I want to see and do, while still making room for the spontaneous life that is living in London! Hope you enjoyed.