UK, week 4 (The End)

Our fourth and final week would be a partial one, but there was plenty to pack in before we called this trip complete.

On Saturday, the rest of the fam went to scope out London, but Natalie and I went to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour. At $89 a ticket, I was grateful that Natalie is the only Harry Potter fan in the family.

After weeks of anticipation, Natalie had reached her Mecca:

One could do an entire post on this Harry Potter experience alone. To summarize, it’s a self-paced tour through the enormous collection of original sets, props and costumes from the eight Harry Potter movies made between 2001 and 2011.

We saw professors’ costumes…

The Great Hall…

A golden snitch…

Snape’s costume and classroom…

The Hogwarts Express…

The Knight Bus…

The Dursley’s house…

…and literally thousands of other artifacts during the five hours we spent there.

Of course, we had to try Butterbeer. I expected it to be gross (as butter flavored beer would be), but it’s actually just butterscotch soda. Both Nat and I liked it.

There was a section dedicated to the pre-production artifacts, which are beautiful works of art in and of themselves:

I was unable to capture in photos the grandeur of the enormous Hogwarts model used in all of the movies’ exterior shots. I don’t identify as a Harry Potter fan, but even I felt a little tinge of heartache that this was not a real place, because I longed to go there:

One last connection to the world of Harry Potter on the way out:

Bottom line: any Harry Potter fan visiting London should consider this a must-see. From the incomprehensible amount of detail that went into making the movies, to the hundreds of visitors so emotionally vested in the lives of fictional characters, it’s a profound testament to the power of a well-told story.

I don’t see myself reading any of the books (yet), but Natalie is excited to share all eight movies with me when we get home.


That evening, Natalie and I reunited with Amy, Carrie and Emily at the lovely London home of Rob and Margaret, friends of a professor Amy works with. (More on them in a sec.)

We would rely on public transportation while in London, so I was quite happy to turn in the keys to our rental car, having added nearly 2,000 miles to its odometer:

I appreciated the unfettered freedom to get around over the previous weeks — so no regrets — but I never really enjoyed driving in the UK. I got honked at only twice, and I didn’t kill hardly anyone, so I’m going to call that a win.

Amy and Emily scouting a subway route back to Rob and Margaret’s:

Amy and her protege Emily are two modern day Magellans. Not sure where the rest of the family would be without them. (Lost in London, that’s where.)

On our way to the train station on Sunday, Amy was called away by the siren song of a local farmer’s market. It was all good, however, as it provided one last mouthful of cream teas:

Next was Natalie’s last stop on her Harry Potter pilgrimage: Platform 9¾ at the King’s Cross train station. The actual King’s Cross is not at all how it’s portrayed in the movies or described in the books, but that didn’t stop the enterprising Harry Potter gift shop from slapping up a Platform 9¾ sign to attract customers:

We waited in line for almost an hour for Natalie to take this rather eccentric photo, to the delight of onlookers:

On Sunday afternoon we went to church. Westminster Abbey, to be specific — the coronation site of every British monarch since 1066 (among other things). It’s technically closed to tourists on Sundays, but anyone can attend services for free. You just can’t meander around or take photos.

Ok, so I snuck a photo. This place was just too cool. On my way out I noticed the tomb of Handel. I walked over Isaac Newton’s grave.

Big Ben:

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring:

By late afternoon, the bloody nubs I once called feet needed a rest:

That evening we rode the London Eye, a large ferris wheel on the River Thames:

It was golden hour lighting-wise, perfect for a rare family selfie:

…and a nice glamour shot of London:

Monday was London day 2, which we started at the British Museum:

One of the world’s best museums + free admission = super busy:

My favorite part was seeing the gen-U-ine Rosetta stone. Thanks to this lil’ slab found in 1799, Egyptian hieroglyphics became decipherable, unlocking 4000 years of human history:

There were several mummies just begging to be unwrapped:

Quick back story: A much younger Jon and Amy once went on a college trip to Athens Greece and visited the magnificent Parthenon. I remember wondering about all of the missing sculptures (frieze) that once adorned the outer perimeter:

Found them: (“Dear London, we want our stuff back. Sincerely, Athens”)

Weariness from traversing the museum — and the UK over the previous three weeks — was setting in hard:

Natalie found the energy to visit some nearby exotic ballet stores, however:

Carrie, Natalie and I kept up with Amy and Emily for just a little while longer. We’d eventually break from the group and head home early.

That evening, we all enjoyed sitting and chatting with Margaret (Rob was away on business). We are so grateful to both of them for sharing a piece of their home and lives with us for a few days. Their generosity has made me reevaluate whether I’m doing enough for humankind.

It was time to pack for the trip home, but our net volume had expanded. Amy had a brilliant idea to MacGyver another suitcase out of grocery bags and packaging tape. (It worked!)

Our Tuesday morning cab ride to the airport:

We got the VIP treatment again thanks to Amy’s foot (which is feeling much better, by the way):

Ever since we visited the Boeing plant during our RV travels many years ago, Emily’s favorite airplane has been the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Tuesday, she finally got to fly on one (and talk shop with the pilot afterward):

After the long flight, the girls were glad to be in Chicago where the internet flows freely. We all worked hard to stay up until a reasonable bedtime; everyone was asleep by 9pm having been up for ~22 hours.

The next morning (after a great night’s sleep) we checked out of our hotel but still had a few hours to kill before our bus’s departure time:

As luck would have it, we were able to meet up with Amy’s cousin Amanda and spend some time with her (and getting a tour of the restaurant where she works as a pastry cook):

By mid afternoon, it was time to hop on the Megabus:


…and by early evening we were back in Indianapolis:

Upon entering our house for the first time in nearly a month, the cat was assaulted with affection:

If I had some pithy wrap-up for this trip, I’d include it here. But since I don’t, I’ll end with some random things I want to remember: one-lane roads, waving, thumbs up, now leave the round-about, on-demand hot water, mint body wash, non-sliced cheese, white bread, Wheatabix, delicious tap water, Sussingtonshirefordton, cheers, afternoon tea, clotted cream, L for learner, pub food, rock walls, higgledy-piggledy, a bit dodgy, clotheslines.

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