Lifestyle: Hogwarts in the Snow

I’m a huge Harry Potter geek, along with my sister, and despite spending a good four hours at the WB Studio Tour in April there was still so much more we wanted to see. Deciding to go again during ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ was a good decision – we managed to catch the bits we missed out on before, whilst experiencing some new bits too.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 14_zpssacggb3e.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 4_zpsnkbjf3qb.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 3_zpsyz5zks9o.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 5_zpsfu2jqsx4.jpgWe ended up spending another three hours there! The only reason we left was because it was wayyyy past dinner time and two sisters getting hungry is not a good combo…

The Great Hall was decorated with numerous Christmas trees, and for a few seconds when you’re in The Great Hall, they light the Christmas puddings on fire. We’re gutted we missed this part! It was all wonderfully festive, and the ‘roast turkeys’ looked delicious.

Once done in The Great Hall, you are ushered out – so everyone else behind you can experience the same effect. For the rest of the tour you are on your own to explore for as long as you like.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 7_zps5ibvo5uo.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 6_zpsdiflmgy6.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 9_zpswijvcatv.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 10_zpssq6shl4q.jpgSeveral of the film sets have also been adorned for Christmas. It would be perfect to go pre-Christmas to get into the festive spirit, unfortunately it felt a little flat going just before the New Year! During ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ there’s the chance to experience how the snow, ice and fire effects are made – including putting your hand in a burning fireplace, playing with snow and watching the Goblet of Fire lit up.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 1_zpsiekp8kj1.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 2_zps1uf9bspm.jpgWe didn’t fly any broomsticks this time, but did the obligatory trip to Platform 9 & 3/4. We also still didn’t get a chance to really explore the area outside between the two sound stages where you can find the Knight Bus and Harry’s house on Privet Drive – both times it has absolutely chucked it down making it far from enjoyable. Guess we’ll have to go back again…

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 12_zpsd6gwzmkn.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 8_zpszsywqnal.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 13_zpspnvg6ar3.jpgThe next part of the tour is taken up with special effects, creatures and modelling – including THAT castle model. I find it amazing how well this was used in the films. This time the castle was covered in snow and ice, which is applied by hand for the exhibition. I can’t imagine how painstaking that would be!

So, another trip to Hogwarts and I STILL want to go back again. I’m desperate to go to the Harry Potter World in Florida too…

Are you a Potter fan? What house would you have been in? (I’m a Ravenclaw girl myself…)

Lifestyle: Afternoon Tea in Brighton

Living a short train journey from Brighton has major advantages – the biggest being plenty of girly days out with one of my closest friends.  A few weeks ago we decided to visit the Blackbird Tea Rooms for a spot of afternoon tea.

Blackbird Tearooms9 photo 2015-05-03 12.35.08_zpsmnhvjbuj.jpgBlackbird Tearooms6 photo 2015-05-03 12.35.57_zpsodmnbhbs.jpgDefinitely not a bad decision, it was such a lovely afternoon of catching up, excellent tea and yummy food. The cakes in particular were so different to other afternoon teas, it made a lovely change.

Blackbird Tearooms5 photo 2015-05-03 12.36.09_zpsirfzbym6.jpgBlackbird Tearooms4 photo 2015-05-03 12.36.16_zps1bavrdur.jpgThe food wasn’t perfect. I’d question the freshness of the salmon (it was a little grey looking, with a fishiness not usually there in smoked salmon), and some of the cakes tasted of sugar and not much else.

Blackbird Tearooms10 photo 2015-05-03 12.32.49_zpsldscwku6.jpgBlackbird Tearooms1 photo 2015-05-03 12.30.52-1_zpsebcigboi.jpgThe scones were superb, with the jam being some of the best I’ve had.

Blackbird Tearooms11 photo 2015-05-03 12.32.13_zpsfw0xpwpr.jpgBonus points for the tea, which was loose leafed. I found it refreshing, perfectly stewed and pretty spot on – when I remembered to use the strainer of course! Service was pretty awesome too, and other food around looked fab. I was very jealous of the poached eggs I spied at a neighboring table!

Blackbird Tearooms2 photo 2015-05-03 14.07.52_zpsmh8eeto4.jpgBlackbird Tearooms3 photo 2015-05-03 14.07.46_zpsblstynzf.jpgThe actual tea rooms were stunning. Properly ’40-’50s style, not ‘fashionable vintage style’ as is so overdone. The garden area was so charming, whilst not warm enough to sit out we visited them on the hunt for the (outside) toilet.

Blackbird Tearooms8 photo 2015-05-03 12.35.18_zpskoexg2pm.jpgI’d definitely visit these tea rooms again, though probably just for a snack and cake – I do love afternoon tea but found this a little heavy on the sugar for my liking.

Have you ever had afternoon tea? Any Brighton recommendations? 

Lifestyle: Harry Potter Studio Tour

You might have caught a glimpse of my excitement on Good Friday, and for good reason – I was off to the Harry Potter Studio Tours with my sister. I’d booked the trip months ago for her fifteenth, timing it well to see the Hogwart’s Express, and as avid HP fans we were unbelievably thrilled to go. I even bounced on the spot a few times that morning.

 photo 2015-04-03 17.32.34_zpsgpf0aazd.jpgThis post will be pretty photo-heavy, I took a ridiculous amount of pictures!

 photo 2015-04-03 17.28.29_zpskprk6rqz.jpgThe first thing I will say is that this isn’t a family attraction. It’s really not suitable for children at-all, despite the attempts (“flying” a broomstick). If your child isn’t old enough to appreciate the films or books, they are unlikely to enjoy this day out. And it’s also pretty damn expensive, so don’t waste a ticket.

 photo 2015-04-03 15.02.56_zpsvhj8jpnj.jpgOn that note, ouch. Our day, including dinner out in Watford and train tickets, probably cost nearly £200. Admittedly I didn’t need the chocolate frog or every-flavour beans (but we got them to share), and I probably didn’t need the professional photos. But it is eyewateringly expensive, definitely on a par with theme parks. Having said that – I definitely think it’s worth splurging the cash if you are a fan of the Harry Potter world. It was utterly amazing, no attention to detail was missed, and we could have spent far longer than the three hours we did there. We only hurried through because (ta London Midland) we’d be getting rail replacement buses home and I didn’t want to be too late. A bonus for the price is that this attraction really isn’t overcrowded. Any queues are managed well, but there’s not many at all.

 photo 2015-04-03 15.05.41_zpsgx24xzh5.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.04.05_zps4q2qshqe.jpgThe tour starts with a short cinema experience, before you head into the Great Hall. Whilst it’s kind of gutting to have the realization that the ceiling in the films isn’t real, it’s pretty cool to see all of the detail in the room (the floor is real stone) and there’s original costumes around the edge.

 photo 2015-04-03 15.09.39_zpshvbxbnrj.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.15.47_zpskyb27i8u.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.19.56_zpskrcrh6id.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.23.50_zpsmllaftno.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.29.31_zpswx9nmet5.jpg photo 2015-04-03 15.21.52_zpsbmx9rpnu.jpgThe next massive room has so much in it. The Hogwart’s gates, Hagrid’s huts, classrooms, offices, dormitories, costumes (including that dress of Hermione’s), props. I couldn’t choose my favourite bit if I tried, though I’d probably lean towards Dumbledore’s office. Even if it’s just because it proved my geekiness – I walked in and exclaimed there wasn’t a window in the film. A member of staff confirmed I was right, and said most people don’t realise that. Woop!

 photo 2015-04-03 15.44.15_zpsktg3zppg.jpg photo 2015-04-03 17.12.46_zpszmvcs8sb.jpgWe held wands, and then tried our hand at both flying the car and broomsticks. Just for the experience I said. Twenty-one pounds lighter I was in the possession of three lovely photographs. Expensive, yes. Overpriced, indeed (even more so the DVDs!). But worth it for the memories and the looks on our faces.

 photo 2015-04-03 16.12.05_zps8qpmfnnd.jpg photo 2015-04-03 16.13.44_zpsdmjnbjz7.jpgThen for my favourite bit of the whole day. Platform 9 & 3/4! I’m so glad that we didn’t miss the arrival of the train as it is stunning. Full-size engine, which actually smells real. There’s a bit too much empty space in the area though, I imagine it will be filled gradually with other exhibits. It was also good to get the classic photo on the platform!

 photo 2015-04-03 17.19.27_zpsozpoinff.jpgOnto animal-y props. My sister really enjoyed this section, and I definitely found it interesting learning about what was ‘real’ and what was computer animated. It was interesting to know that the model of the Basilisk was only created because 11/12 year-old Daniel was struggling to imagine where it was when acting – he didn’t look scared enough! I was terrified of the spider (it weight 1 tonne whilst filming, requiring 15 crewmen for operation!), and fascinated by all the drawing that went into the creating of a non-animated film.

 photo 2015-04-03 17.23.16_zpsizwgea7i.jpgAnother highlight was Diagon Alley – I wasn’t expecting it to be lifesize! It was utterly amazing and totally surreal to walk down that street – I wouldn’t mind if they opened an actual ice-cream parlour down there, or maybe a miniature bookstore! Or opened up Ollivander’s into the wand exhibit at the end?

 photo 2015-04-03 15.08.42_zps65ijqsts.jpg photo 2015-04-03 17.26.27_zpsjiud0zq9.jpg photo 2015-04-03 17.29.00_zpspknn4m2m.jpgThen the models. And wow, these were good. For someone who’s not interested in that kind of thing, even I could totally appreciate the detail in these – to the point of getting annoyed at the crowds speeding by without a second glance. They must have taken hours!

 photo 2015-04-03 17.32.34_zpsgpf0aazd.jpg photo 2015-04-03 17.38.45_zps3yf6a8rx.jpgBut then there was this. The big model. It was incredible, a full Hogwarts, to scale, with stunning attention-to-detail. It completely took our breath away, shame the lighting in the room made photography difficult!

 photo 2015-04-03 17.41.00_zpsxmh0db6d.jpgThe final bit was the wands room – all actors had their own individual wand, and they were in boxes in this room. We spent a good while hunting out our favourite actors, though failed at finding Rupert Grint’s – so we will have to go back! The tour ended in the shop (clever move), but it was SO overpriced. Like £27 for a scarf?! Hell no. I was tempted by a keyring, but we just went for the chocolate/sweets and the extra book set.

 photo 2015-04-03 15.13.58_zps9ridi3ft.jpgAnd because I loved what I was wearing so much, I have to tell you about it. I found it perfect for the day and the travelling! I wore my new jeans from New Look (black, skinny, high-waisted – and my only pair of jeans currently!), and a navy shirt*, topped with bright orange cardigan* and my new favourite – a biker jacket*. Scarf was a lovely present from W’s parents, I believe from Zara, and of course I accessorized with a Leather Satchel – this one is an 11″ in Autumn Tan, and stunning! I’m virtually never without a satchel…I was asked to pick a few items from the George @ ASDA site a few weeks ago, and I adore everything. The jacket in particular is such good quality, I’ve refreshed my work wardrobe and found my perfect LBD. Would highly recommend having a browse!
 photo 2015-04-03 16.50.54_zpsybvyhy4z.jpg

Have you been to the Harry Potter Studio Tours? Were you a fan of the books/films? The only thing I don’t recommend is the Butter Beer – it’s not great!


Lifestyle: February Favourites

I can’t believe how quickly this year is going, two months down already! It’s been a scary three whole months since I was surprised with a curling trip for my 21st birthday, and I’ve been on my ‘get healthy’ routine for just over a month now. After a rather disappointing 2014, I’m determined 2015 will be my year. And what better way to stay positive than to remind myself of things I’ve loved recently…?

Vegan Blueberry Cake photo 2015-02-07 18.20.46_zpsiynvvb5x.jpgThis cake in Brighton. Myself and Libby went for a girly day of catching-up, shopping and eating. I spent far too much in Boots, failed at resisting to splurge of house items for next year, and destroyed my diet in GBK (which to be honest, kinda disappointed me after Byron). This Vegan Blueberry Cake from Catwalk Cakes was utterly delicious. Tart and tangy from the fruit, moist sponge and a ridiculously cream icing. Hard to believe it was vegan! More snaps from the day will be coming soon!

Traidcraft Cookies photo 84fdbb2c-68a8-41bb-906d-23612d36c22b_zpslsw5pne0.jpgKeeping on with the unhealthy theme, I was sent some TraidCraft cookies* a few weeks back, and really enjoyed them. More biscuity than cookie, with a very crumbly texture, they were perfect as a pre-bed snack. The ingredients made me feel slightly better about indulging, as they use fair-trade palm oil – apparently regular palm oil is one of the biggest contributors to rainforest destroying.

Steam Engine - Severn Valley photo f7b37a94-e47e-422b-a2ab-4a518934ed96_zpsdc5f2rjx.jpgI never expected myself to include a train-trip in my favourites, but I spent Saturday afternoon on the Severn Valley Steam Railway and had a blast. One of my loveliest friends hired out a carriage for his 21st, filled a table with sandwiches and cake, and off we went. An excellent Indian for dinner followed by more than a few hours in the pub, we kipped at a Travelodge and ate huge fry-ups the next day. Damn good weekend! A highlight was seeing the baby elephant from the train – so sweet, which wish I’d got a photo!

The Breakfast Scrub photo 2e9208c1-ff10-4895-bc21-66825087a2c1_zpsznsiqd1a.jpgOnto beauty and I’ve been trying to take a bit more care of myself. My moisturising regime fell apart over Christmas and I never got into it again. Result = mild eczema has returned, and my arms feel awful. I’ve loved returning to my old favourite The Breakfast Scrub for it’s delicious smell and actual scrubbiness. Staying on the theme of amazing smelling products, and I can’t not mention the Bodyshop’s Wild Argan moisturiser. It smells amazing, stinks in quickly, and is hydrating enough for the day (I prefer something richer at night). Just wish these scaly patches would up and disappear!

LVLoveLife Cookery Event Prawn Salad photo eebae8ef-3e9a-4161-873f-c57878e9884c_zpsg39nxnkm.jpgBack onto food, but something slightly more healthier! On Monday night I attended my first blogger event (!) at the Smart School of Cookery with LV. I’ll tell you more on Saturday, but I can honestly say I had the best evening; tasty food (which I will be recreating at home) and fabulous company. A particular mention to Immy May who made me feel super-welcome!

What have you been up to this month – anything exciting?