24 March 2014

Little Sis in London: Harry Potter Studio Tour

When I was just a wee lass in upstate New York, me and my sister had just one very special wish in life. We wanted to go to Disney World. And my parents, being the poor but ever encouraging individuals that they were fed that hope along. My Dad would tell us that if we collected all the change on the floor of their closet and put it in the change jug, by the time we filled up one or two of them we could head to Disney. My Dad worked in the kind of industry where he always had loads of loose change in his pockets and most of it would get haphazardly thrown onto the floor of their closet. Off we went to the closet to collect all the change and put it in the water jug. We hoped, and we dreamed, and we couldn't wait to head to Disney.

This is when I learned what evil was, kids. DON'T believe your parents. My parents did not bring us to Disney. Instead we moved to Minnesota, which is decidedly un-Disneylike. Disappointed. And I've held on to that grudge for awhile (actually, just about the Disney thing. I ended up loving Minnesota for the few years we lived there. I almost became famous with my girl gang. We called ourselves the Fruit Girls. OH YES WE DID. I was too cool for you to understand.)

Years ago in the height of the Harry Potter mania after the movies were officially done, we caught word of the Harry Potter World down in Florida and that desire to head there again over took us. Even as full grown adults. Well kids, I did make it to Disney. But I ran through it instead and just spent my only free day off at Harry Potter World. You can read about that stuff here.


Wait....did you see what I did there? I told you I was gonna link to a post about Harry Potter World...and then I didn't. How's that feel Mom and Dad? Huh? Not good, I bet. I'm ready to go to Disney whenever you two are. 

Really I just forgot to blog about that experience. But I did love it.

And now for the actual point of this post (yes. There is one. I swear.)

Harry Potter Studios with my little sis was so much fun. Also, the second time I've been. It's so big and vast that going a second time (or maybe a third, or a fourth...) doesn't lessen the excitement at all. 

If you do go, I'd recommend eating properly before hand and then investing the extra cash for the audio tour. SO much good info. And you get chatted up by Tom Felton. But when doing the audio tour, you'll need to allow yourself at least 2.5-3 hours in the very first building. Once you get to the outside bit and then through the second building, you'll breeze right through. But this is why you need to eat properly prior.

Full English Breakfast and milky tea...yup. That is eating properly right there.

You get picked up in a pretty kick ass bus.

But obviously it's no comparison to the real knight bus. Which is actual buses welded together and enforced with steel on the bottom so that when it was driven, it wouldn't tip over. And they shut down parts of London just to film scenes with it being driven around.

A small scale model of Hogwarts that was being built as the books were being written. So they had to add things and change bits when J.K. Rowling would reveal new information about Hogwarts as the books went on. But they used this model to shoot a lot of the movie footage of Hogwarts, as well as a real life castle here in the UK.

Let's play Spot-the-Super-Nerd....Oh wait...THERE SHE IS.

We freaked out to learn those were the actual clothes that the actors wore. We kind of freaked out over every bit of information actually. We're generally very excitable people.

The great hall. Though I've been in the one that inspired J.K. which is in Oxford and is much, much smaller, but still looks really freaking cool.

It was freezing out but we did not care. Privet Drive was pretty awesome to check out.

And the actual cupboard under the stairs that they used in the films. They have this right in the lobby next to the line to get into the studio space.

Overall it was a ridiculously fun day. The Making of Harry Potter....or HARRY POTTER DISNEY WORLD as we like to call it, definitely fulfilled all my nerd fantasies.

Ummm, Mom and Dad, I still want to go to Disney and have a beer with Mickey. Actually, that's a lie, I am terrified of any person completely covered in animal costumes or cartoon costumes or just any costume where I can't identify the person underneath. Come one, what if it's an alien in there? YOU DON'T KNOW.

xx Lindsay

18 March 2014

Introducing My Flat Wife

I don't think I'd be as happy as I am this second time living in London if it wasn't for me winning the flatmate lotto.

I found her when I was frantically searching for a room to rent about two weeks before I was set to move here. You'd think me waving my money around the Internet screaming 'here! TAKE MY MONEY!' would have made the process easier...but no. Also, I don't really have that much money...and nobody is really jumping on board when I advertise about my 'awesome homemade guacamole' and the fact that I'm a good cuddler. Big spoon or little spoon was never on the flatmate applications.

Spareroom was my website of choice on looking for people. Also, Facebook. My stage manager friend had a few leads for me, as did one or two other English friends. But ultimately, Spareroom and Skype came through for me. E was the only person who would Skype with me and even though we only chatted for a total of ten minutes, there for was giggles galore and repeated hair twirling on both parts. So ya know, love at first inappropriate joke. I'm sure there were many. I only really like people who make me laugh and who I can make laugh. I blogged about not really knowing how things were gonna go when I first arrived, you can check that out here.

Within a week or two we bonded quite happily. Seeing Punchdrunk together....being confused at Punchdrunk and heading for the bar at the exact same time...She bought me a glass of Champagne, so I had the lovin' feeling quite early on really. It doesn't take much to woo me.
EVERYONE takes a bathroom selfie at Punchdrunk's Drowned Man. Not kidding. Look on Instagram.
 There's been accidental 'oops where's all the wine gone?' kind of nights that turn into 'exciting dramatization using weird dolls' nights. Like ya do...

She was having an epic love affair with a Spanish wine and didn't want to tell her boyfriend, CabSav. He's a douche anyways.
 E has invited me to fun parties that involve looking sexy....

 ...and parties were you put on your Sunday best. Clearly.
Try to go out and pull with that face on. Some people go for the Zombie look though, it's like a thing now.
 And nothing quite says 'fancy pants' like pouring Strongbow in a Champagne glass and inventing the drink name 'Trampagne'.....because it's a 'tramp's version of Champagne.'

I adore her.  She's delightful and she laughs at me when I'm hungover and she gossips about big name bloggers with me and tells me stories about the time she had to dress Benedict Cumberbatch...and has not yet gotten mad at me when I stole her good bottle of Pino Grigio. So thanks for being a fabulous flatwife.

Happy wife, happy life.

xx Lindsay

17 March 2014

Little Sis in London: Day 4--Sunday Roast & Sunday Giggles

Guys, I don't want to brag or anything. But I know how to do Sunday right. It's all about not having a plan during the day and then enjoying a roast and some comedy at night. BEST IDEA. Also drinking too much with your sister on a Sunday has it's fun moments.

I made breakfast...I think...I actually can't remember now. Especially since I didn't instagram it for proof....But who cares. This happened:
Classy jump shot. In front of a boat.
We had a wander around Greenwich. The gem of Southeast London, IMO. Couldn't find a place to eat as every place was packed. The tourists feed like zombies at an all-you-can-eat human buffet when it comes to weekends in Greenwich. 

I took Lauren to my 'just recently passed food obsession' Byron Burgers. Still kind of hanging on a bit to this fixation, but it's slowly being shoved out of the way by my Pho Cafe obsession...which can be seen here.
Stuffed with burger. Clearly.
 I can't recall what we did in the afternoon to occupy our time...but that's probably because I was so damn excited about taking my sister to see Newsrevue at the Canal Cafe Theatre that evening and for a roast before hand.

I've seen this show a few times, as the cast changes every six weeks, and they only do the show based on current events. So it's always changing. It's only an hour long and often times completely hysterical, depending on the cast. I had seen this cast already because my friend Rae was in it and I couldn't wait for my sister to check it out. I do have to mention that Rae did rap in it...and I don't care who you are, but if you rap well, your attractiveness goes up exponentially in my book. However, I am bff with Rae's partner...so there was no drunken, confused flirting going on. You're welcome, Rae. My gift to you is not having to experience that.

Beforehand, we booked a table for a roast. Sunday roast's in England are a huge deal and most of the time you should be on the safe side and book a table.

Really, I just feel fancy seeing my name.
AND they spelled my name correctly. Makes me feel sexy towards you, Bridge House Pub. Spelling my name right...such a turn on. And you think I'm joking...
 Delicious Sunday roast....we did chicken and that odd little shaped thing in the upper right hand corner is essentially why I moved to this country. YORKSHIRE PUDDING. Like a doughball made with fat. So good. If I ever get married, I may give them away as wedding favours.

 My sister and I were raised right and made sure to get dessert. You don't know when dessert may run out, so get it every time. Family Rules to Live By.
We split dessert. Cause we love each other. I will only split dessert with someone I care about.
Lauren loved the show and we were in stitches the whole time. As Americans, we got about 90% of the show as there's obviously a few UK politics bits thrown in, but of course there's loads of ragging on America as well. You can only laugh...and drink some more.

Tipsy sister selfie.
Overall a decent night, other than when I made what I thought were sweeping gestures of flirtations towards one of the guys in the cast...but failed miserably. I think my flirting comes across as polite conversation, and I give the attitude of 'you hold enough interest to keep me awake', sadly. Must work on that... Why are there not classes on this??

So I got tipsy with my sister, bar closed at 11pm, per the unfun rules of England, and we skipped home. Good thing we ended the night rather early because the next day was.....HARRY POTTER DISNEYLAND! Get excited....

xx Lindsay

15 March 2014

Little Sis in London: Day 3--Shakespeare Disneyland (Stratford-upon-Avon)

This way to Shakespeare Disneyland.

For my sister's third day in London, on the Saturday she was here, we thought we'd go on an adventure and head to a place neither of us have been before. Even when studying abroad. So I booked us rail tickets to Stratford-upon-Avon.

I know, I know...bad anglophile. No, I've never been. For some reason I missed that day trip when my group went while I was over here the first time. But no matter, going this time with my sister turned out to be the best decision. 

I have to say, I'm a little bit in love with this small, quaint town. Yes, there are lots of tourists, but some of the side streets we checked out were absolutely lovely and charming!

This is like Main Street USA at Disney...except it's Stratford...so Shakespeare Street.
Once you get off the train at Stratford-upon-Avon, you're accosted by construction but just follow the pedestrian footpaths and you'll quite easily find your way to all the good bits in town. Everything was very well marked and we headed straight for the good stuff....
We're kind of into gift shops. They just have the most interesting stuff!
 I swear that so far tourist spots in England have THE BEST gift shops. We just seem to find the craziest things there. I almost bought some Shakespeare head cookies to mail back to my old theatre company in DC, Folger Shakespeare Library, as I have a feeling they would get a kick out of those. But restrained myself since they probably wouldn't have made it....cause cookies in my possession just don't last.

My sister wouldn't let me buy this. But I am not ashamed to admit I really, really want it.
I want this...as I'm clearly not concerned with dating ever again.
 Then we stumbled upon this GEM. A kind of weird Harry Potter knock off shop. Everything was named after almost Harry Potter things, but not quite. It was weird and delightful. Clearly we are nerds and this kind of stuff gets our blood pumping.

At this point I texted my friend Amanda, as she used to live in this area, to inquire what should we do. Because like true adventurers, we made absolutely no plans and looked nothing up prior to getting there. And because I'm only friends with the awesomest kinds of people, she sent me a list of food suggestions. MY FAVOURITE KIND OF SUGGESTIONS. So we went and had one of the most amazing meals over at The One Elm. The sun was out and our skins were the scary kind of white, so out on the patio we sat. My sister is still talking about the food we had there. I was entirely focused on my own, so I didn't bother taking a picture of hers but it had something to do with whipped goats cheese and bruschetta, and a side of curried veggie soup with fried onions on top. Mine was roasted chicken, butternut squash, and bacon risotto. With a side of Aspall's Cyder, another passion in my life.
I will figure out this recipe and then make it. Every day. Till then it features heavily in my dreams.

After that delightfulness, we pressed on. And I got distracted by really dorky things. Not unusual.

This is an old house. Yup. Just thought it looked cool.

Oh wait... no it's owned by somebody named Hall's Croft. (KIDDING...Shakespeare's Daughter's house...my friend Caitlin was probably twitching when I wrote that last bit haha)

Shakespeare's bust is quite cartoonish, don't ya think?

Shakespeare's Grave.
 Like the bad tourists we were, we had about 20 minutes to check out something Shakespeare related by the end of our day so we hauled ass over to the grave. I will definitely try and be a better tourist next time and properly check out all the sites. AND go see something by the RSC.

Next time Stratford.

Before we left, this happened.

I don't know this man. But he was excited to be there.
Clearly you need to check out Stratford-upon-Avon. Absolutely loved the day trip we had there and I am determined to head back again. It will be even more wonderful when the weather stays sunny and gorgeous. Anyone else have any suggestions for things I should do next time I go? Of course, I'm open to other food options too...Amanda may have mentioned something about gelato and waffles.....

xx Lindsay

13 March 2014

An Evening Visit to the Tate Modern

There's something a bit magical about visiting a museum in the evening after all the tourists are long gone. Being a member, or at least knowing a member, of a museum does have it's perks!

I'm a girl that likes free things and if a friend asks me to go to something for free, most often times I will say YES...even if it is to the museum that still gives me the creeps a bit.

I've been to the Tate Modern several times. One of the first times was during my study abroad time years ago. The Tate Modern is set up in the old Bankside power station and still retains a creepy feel to it. Perfect for modern art, don't ya think!

There's a long walk way going down when you enter in on the side and the first visit there they had an exhibit set up where as you walked along the passage way there would be a series of sounds set off very, very quietly. It was eerie and definitely freaked me out a bit, solidifying the place in my mind as a bit haunted.

But still, you don't turn down free.

So on Tuesday night, off I went when the sun went down to meet up with my friend and her aunt and uncle for a members only viewing of the Richard Hamilton exhibit. I don't know enough about art or modern art at all, but I did enjoy this exhibit. His early stuff wasn't too interesting for me, a lot of science-y work with photographs and etchings that I didn't quite get. But once he hit his pop art phase and infused a lot of current politics into his work, really good stuff. Some of it quite funny as well. All I'll say is there a room titled Shit & Flowers. We giggled a lot through that one and even my friend's aunt found it quite amusing.

We picked up a few post cards from the shop for souvenirs. I quite like keeping postcards for myself. I have a few at home in New York and someday I may frame them all together. But that requires a lot more inclination towards arts and crafts than I currently possess.
Two of my favourite pieces from the Richard Hamilton exhibit. 

After absorbing all we could from the viewing, my friend invited me along to the top of the Tate Modern. I had no idea there was a top bit, but there are two floors at the very top. One that's a members only cafe/bar and the one above that is the restaurant. We went up for dinner and was greeted with this majestic view of London at night.
One of my favourite sites in London: St. Paul's Cathedral.
I couldn't believe my luck to be able to dine with a view like that. Now I'm dying to go see what the city can show me from the bar at the Shard.

Something about booze and gorgeous views. I'm a fan. Good idea, guys.

I would have photographed our dinner, but felt it would have ruined the atmosphere. We had lovely wine and two courses of food that looks small and elegant and still manages to fill you up. I turned down dessert. That's how you know it was good. I had something called a garlic corn cake and I'm fairly certain it was the best vegetarian dish ever. And I don't normally enjoy anything vegetarian. So this was an exciting development in my small, narrow minded, culinary world.

Highly recommend joining as a member for fun evenings like this. Oh and make sure to bring a friend. I think I might be available....

xx Lindsay

12 March 2014

Little Sis in London: Day 2..FOOD

Now, just to warn you...day 2 of little sis in London was a whole lot of eating. It's just what we do best. But we did walk a ton checking out Lauren's old study abroad haunts, walked a lot around Harrods...on a Friday....and didn't murder anyone despite being tourist hell, before making it to afternoon tea. And we also hung out with a few more of my amazing friends and saw a show...but the friends bit was more fun.

I made breakfast for us before heading out of the house and over to Holborn, which is where Lauren used to live during her study abroad time. Sadly the place she used go for, in her opinion, the best flapjacks around, no longer sells them. So instead we decided we needed to find a sugar replacement and went for Bea's of Bloomsbury, which has a location right near Holborn. But I won't even include a link and didn't bother to take a photo because I was sorely disappointed. For a place that I've seen a lot of chatter about over the internets, it wasn't what it lived up to be. Maybe it's because I chose one of their special treats of the day and not a cupcake. But I don't mess around with dessert items and hate wasting the calories on something that I can't even fully remember just what it was that I had. I just remember it tasted like flour and sugar and that's it.

Checking out the British Museum

We meant to go see the reading room at the British Museum. Even though Lauren lived within a few blocks of the museum she never made it in to check out the library. Sadly, we failed at this as well and found it to be closed. But we did get a nice wander around the museum before heading out for tea.

We knew Harrods wouldn't disappoint. Though this seemed to be the day were we failed at everything. Couldn't get her flapjacks, couldn't get a good sweet treat, wasn't able to see the British Museum's reading room, and then we couldn't get a table at our favourite afternoon tea spot in Harrods. If you wanna shell out the money and eat so much that you need to waddle for days afterwards...always go for the Terrace Bar. I did not think to make a reservation for a Friday...silly, Lindsay...and apparently Friday's are just as crowded and packed with tourists as a weekend. If you must go to Harrods, and you must, go on a Monday or Tuesday morning.

We were able to get a table at The Tea Room at Harrods instead and it ended up being just as delicious, but much cheaper, as this place will actually allow you to split a tea. In other words, we didn't have to have individual trays of sandwiches, scones and cakes. We got one and split it between us, which decreased the waddle effect that you'll get from having tea at the Terrace Bar, where you can't split it. We ordered the Mayfair, which is everything but the champagne. And just had to order a second pot of tea in addition since the Mayfair is just intended for one.
The Mayfair
 We tend to work from the bottom up on such a feast as this and that means beginning with scones, which are my absolute FAVOURITE thing ever...mainly because of the clotted cream factor.

If you wanna check out a really fancy and lovely afternoon tea, head over to my blogger friend Amanda at Rhymes and Ribbons and check out the tea she went to at Flemings here. I drooled a little reading it. I wouldn't have done well at that tea cause that would have meant drool in public and I hear that's just not fancy.

The dessert was divine.
I'd go back just to get these to-go...which YOU CAN DO. Thanks, Harrods.

This is where the photos end. The rest of the evening consisted of having entirely too much fun. We went to dinner at The Gypsy Moth in Greenwich, one of my favourite pubs in the area actually and had dinner with my friends Lucy and Gibson, before heading off to see a show at the Greenwich Theatre. The show was about on par with Bea's of Bloomsbury I think...I don't remember a whole lot other than being asleep during the second act and my sister passing gas near the end and trying to pretend it wasn't her...

DIDN'T think I'd include that huh, sister? Muwahahahaha...

(there's goes my chance at any future birthday gifts...)

I must say, I was delighted by Greenwich Theatre as a space and found it really lovely. It helped that they had the bar open post show and delicious wine on the menu (I've grown attached to Rioja wine and will get it anytime it's offered on the menu). I will definitely try to find more productions to go to there in the future...though maybe not any Shakespeare plays that are three hours long.

Lindsay xx

10 March 2014

Little Sister Comes to London: Day 1-Jet Lagged And EXCITED

...And hates on the way I ask questions.

No seriously. You don't want to mess with Little Sister when she's jet lagged and you damned well better ask questions like an American or she. will. not. respond. ... Ya know, except to tell me that each and every time.

Such a delight, she is.

No but really, I love this chick. My sister is the best person in the world in my opinion (pretty much all my family are the best people in the world. We kind of rock.) And I was so super psyched she came, even if she has a vendetta against my fluid accent. I must say, by the end of her four days here, she was asking questions in the English way too.  It just can't be helped. Someday maybe I'll do a quick voice recording of the different way Americans ask questions versus the way British do...but that day is not today. Someday when I don't sound quite so much like a man (thanks for the cold, sister).

My little sister also did the study abroad thing here in London, but her experience was greatly different than mine. Soon I'll also get around to writing a post about how to go about guaranteeing that you have the best study abroad experience in London and the main point of it will be to get INTEGRATED. My sister had a blast while she was here for a semester, but she was at an American school, taught by American professors, with American students. She never really got to know the English because she wasn't a part of that world. And as a result, she's a teeny-tiny less addicted to the UK than I am.

Well make that a lot less addicted. She, like my family, can't really understand why I love it here so much. But one thing she does understand is that there is some really good food here in London (ummm, hello...we are family, so...duh). Essentially she was the best foodie buddy for the four days she was here.
Clearly we're related.

Her first choice of places to eat at immediately once off the plane was, of course, Wagamama's. She is most definitely related to me. I don't know what it is about this place, but we love it.
Promising she won't pass out in her food.
I did, no surprise here, take pictures of our food that we ate that day...but I have a feeling that I've plastered photos of Wagamama's dishes throughout this blog and it's getting a little redundant.

But I will post this fun side-by-side comparison of my sister food stealing from me and, coincidentally, a lovely photo provided to my by my future sister-in-law of my brother food stealing from her. FAMILY. Whaddaya gonna do? DEFEND YOUR FOOD like it's your honour, that's what.

And now for the rest of Day 1 of my sister's trip...it's all about London skyline photos and pictures of Ben's Cookies.
London is just Instragram ready. Check out my Instagram account here if you feel like perusing London and food photos galore!

If you ever come visit me, friends, or ya know...wanna stalk me cause we don't know each other that well, I'll meet ya at BEN'S! Best cookies in London.
BEN'S COOKIES!! You must share with me. It's the rules.

Lauren is a fan. And also 100% more stylish than me...even when eating food.

This is how I always look when consuming deliciousness.
Sister Selfie.
I was the cruel older sister and made her stay up the whole day. Jetlag is a bitch my friends, and the best way to enjoy your vacation quickly is to force yourself to keep 'normal' hours when you arrive, hydrate excessively on the plane, and keep moving.

My sister and I met up with my English twin, Laura, here in London (Lauren got to meet all my people while here, an unusual occurance) and we had a drink before heading off to what turned out to be the BEST fish and chips dinner we've ever had. We went to Bonnie Gull on the recommendation of another one of my friends, Olivia, who I've also known for 9 years (!!). Her older brother is one of the owners of the restaurant and she's always bragging about how good it is, so I decided it was perfect for us to try out on my sister's first night here.
I'm not going to lie to you...I have considered printing this picture and putting on my bedside table. And have found out that recently that one cannot be 'in a relationship' with a seafood dish on Facebook. Cupcakes, however, are fair game. I don't make the rules.

You know, I always tell myself that'll be the last post I do that's 90% food pictures....

LIES, why would I ever say that??

Lindsay xx