Mairi on the Map

travel tips and wellingtons

birthday treat

The day before my birthday, we went to Leavesden Studios in London where all the Harry Potter films were made. It’s a good place to go because it’s not right in London, it’s really easy to find. As you queue to go in, you pass the cupboard under the stairs, and the entryway is full of huge pictures of all the cast. Then you watch a short video which tells you how the three main actors/actress pretty much lived here for 10 years. The film ends with a shot of the great hall, then the screen lifts up to reveal the actual great hall! When you walk into the great hall, all the teacher’s costumes are there, plus costumes from all 4 of the houses including Daniel Radcliffe’s first Hogwarts robes. From there, the tour is self-guided. They tell you to allow yourself 3 to 3 1/2 hours to go around the whole thing, but I took 6 hours so it depends how big of a fan you are.

There are loads of sets from the films including: The Gryffindor boys dormitory, everyone’s bed is personalized to their character, and the beds were made for the first film, so by the last film the actors had to curl up to fit in them.

The Gryffindor common room and Dumbledore’s office which is full of books, actually phone books with thick leather covers. Also Dumbledore’s telescope which is the most expensive prop ever made, yet is only ever seen in the background.

Professor Lupin’s defense against the dark arts classroom, and the potions classroom, it’s dark shelves crammed with over 500 jars of ingredients. There’s Hagrid’s hut, and the Weasley’s kitchen where the knitting knits itself, the pans scrub themselves, and there are cereals called cheeri-owls and pixie puffs.

You can even do some things yourself; I got to put on Hogwarts robes and ride a broom in front of a green screen. And I learned some wand movements from the battle at the end of Order of the Phoenix.
Then you go out to the backlot where there is the flying Ford Anglia, the Knight bus, and 4 Privet Drive!

Then on to the second stage where you’ll find the creature shop (which means lots of prosthetics and animatronics) and all the concept art and models. In the creature shop you can see Buckbeak, Aragog, Dobby, Fawkes, even, for some reason, Hagrid’s head.




oh, the irony

You know how everything always says “caution, small parts, unsuitable for children under 3 years of age”? Even if there really are no small parts and it’s not possible for anyone to choke on it even if they were under 3 years old? Isn’t it annoying? Well this is even better. That label has been known to appear on birthday cards. They’re made out of paper! What’s going to happen?! Not only that , but the birthday card in question is specifically designed for someone’s second birthday. Oh, the irony.


wellington whereabouts

An update on where my wellies have been recently:

Hiking in the Lake District; tramping through muckety mud, babbling brooks, rocky rocks, and f. . . f. . . foggy fells.

Wandering the cobbles of Edinburgh;the Royal Mile, Edinburgh castle, and Greyfriars kirkyard.


magic in Edinburgh

I have recently been to Scotland and I enjoyed it because it was quite a Harry Potter related visit, seeing as everyone thinks Hogwarts is in Scotland and J. K. Rowling wrote some of the books there. But it wasn’t all Harry Potter; we did go to Edinburgh Castle and Camera Obscura.
Even so, the first thing we did was go on a Harry Potter tour called the Potter Trail.

20130221-150338.jpg On the Harry Potter tour, we saw the cafes where J. K. Rowling wrote the books, and we saw her handprint. We even saw places that inspired locations in the wizarding world. Oh- and we saw Tom Riddle’s grave.

The castle was really good too. We saw the Crown Jewels! But as soon as the one o’clock gun went off, there was a hail storm! It was crazy! I think they hit a storm cloud! (I’ve recently learned that in good punctuation, never use more than one exclamation mark.)

The Camera Obscura was very good as well. It’s full of illusions and camera magic. It’s hard to explain. . .


pubs and more

Pubs are definitely not a rare species in England. Neither are Fish and chip shops. In PEI there’s only one fish and chip shop and it’s actually a restaurant. Here in England, there’s about one on every second block. It’s just weird, that it’s not weird. It’s just weird, that it’s not weird. It’s just weird, that it’s not weird – you know? Never mind. Some pubs I’ve seen so far include The Wheat Sheaf, The Three Horse Shoes, The Wagon, The Jamaica Inn, The Cow and Calf, The Traveller’s Rest, The British Oak, The White Hart, The Black Swan, The Elephant and Castle, The Queen, The Cock and Crown, and The Rhubarb Triangle. When we first went to The Rhubarb Triangle, Liah said, “Well, this is better than I expected.” And Mum said, “What did you expect, a triangular building that only sells rhubarb?” And, oh this is a good one, when my dad was in Ilkley, he saw one called “Bar Tat”! I’m trying to think of good pub names for a pirate story I’m writing but I could use some more ideas. These are some of the ones we’ve brainstormed: The Crunchy Shellfish, The Cheese and Cracker, The Salty Dog, The Wet Dog, The Crinkled Bush, The Daft Turtle, and Ye Old Caramba Inn. Anyone have any more Ideas?


beautiful Bruges, Belgium

Here’s my theory on why Bruges is one of the best places ever:

Bruges is full of chocolate (and not just any chocolate – Belgian chocolate) it’s literally in every second shop. So because there’s so much chocolate, the people who live here are always eating it. And when people are always eating chocolate, they are always happy, because that’s what chocolate does.


Because the people are so happy, they feel like treating their environment with respect and being nice to their animals. That’s why the buildings in Bruges are so beautiful, the swans are so clean and the horses so proud. When the horses are proud and happy to be doing what they are doing, they do their work well, which pleases the people.


Now the people are all happy, so they all feel like making chocolate. . . You can guess what happens next.


weird winters

It’s definitely stopped being autumnal and started being wintery. But winter in Europe is very different from winter in Canada. In P.E.I., winter is an average of 3 feet of snow covering the ground, with half the island at a hockey rink. In Europe, sledding is a rarity, but it’s cold. It’s a different kind of cold though. It seeps into your bones and even when you’ve been in a warm cafe for half an hour, you’re still cold. You can’t escape the cold! That should be a poster for a horror movie – “you can’t escape the cold”. But in Canada it lasts a lot longer. In February, we phone our family in England and they tell us all about how the daffodils are coming up, blah-de-blah, it’s Spring. Not where I live. The snow is still here. And it’s not going anywhere. There have been blizzards in May, at my house. (A lot of people have May as their middle name.) Speaking of snowy weather, about 55 million years ago, palm trees were growing in the North Pole! I can’t imagine it! There also used to be a lake the size of England in the Sahara desert, if you didn’t know. Weather can be so weird. I guess it must all have something to do with Global Warming. . .
P.S. Today is national Guacamole day.



nauseating nosh

Beware! Always double check what you’re eating in France. Stuffed snails are probably not that hard to recognize, but frog’s legs can disguise themselves. Some other things that stand out in the super market are pigs legs with hooves still on, tied to the wall, and octopus tentacles. They’re the purple ones with suctioney things. You can’t miss them.


We also saw cow’s tongue for sale! Euuuugh. So be careful, and watch out for “cheval” (horse) in the grocery stores. Unless you like that stuff.


In the presence of royalty (almost)

Well, it’s not every day you meet the Queen’s butler! I had tea with the Queen’s butler!!!!!!! The Queen’s butler!
The story: My mum’s friend, Kim, texted us randomly while we were up the Eiffel Tower. She told us we should really meet her friends who lived close by, because they had a great view and a great story. . .
So we turned up in the pretty square of Place de Tetre, climbed up more stairs (all we ever did today was go up stairs!), and knocked on the door of Jules and Andrew’s apartment. They were glad to see us and we had scones and clotted cream! But that was only the beginning of their surprises. It turns out, when Andrew was was 16, after 3 days of collage, he became the Queens butler! When he first told us, I thought he was lying or joking – I didn’t believe him! I still can’t get over it! He showed us a scrapbook full of pictures of him, the Queen, Princess Diana, and Margaret Thatcher. There’s more that I’m not going to publish, but there were rare pictures of Princess Diana and others. Will and Harry used to go to Disney Land Paris! He also stayed in Africa, in the ranch where Out of Africa was filmed, where he dined with a view of elephants and giraffes and got a scar from the “pet” black panther! Now he hosts romantic secret dinners with a view so amazing, people think it’s fake. And Jules is a hair stylist. He has styled Rihanna’s and Shakira’s hair! Well, he made a wig for Rihanna.


Cool clouds

In the mountains, the weather is a little bit weird.
There are some really weird clouds to begin with. Graham said people even come to Sauto specifically to photograph the clouds. In the mornings, there are tall clouds that rise up from the valleys and vertically float up your windows.

And then there was the time when we were in Villefranche, almost at the bottom of the valley, and it was 13 degrees and sunny. Then we drove up the mountain, and the temperature slowly dropped until, when we arrived in Sauto, it was 3 degrees. The sky was still blue, the sun was still shining. . . And it was snowing!!


The same thing also happened with rain. There’s also a lot of days where the weather can’t make up it’s mind – snow or rain? Clouds or sun? Once, we even got rain from Africa! It was all dusty, the mirrors at the solar furnace had to be cleaned! I’m sure there’s lots more weird weather all year round that I might discover if I lived there.

Tikka masala hyphen.

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