London Diaries – The Liz Chronicles- You’re a Wizard Harry

Waking up in London in itself was a dream come true. This was real, it wasn’t a dream, I was really in London. After more than 10 years of dreaming of this, it was truly happening. At the hostel, we get up excitedly and get ready for our very long day ahead of us. At the breakfast table, who do we find other than some of my people! We had breakfast with 3 Brazilians, two were leaving that day and one was trying to move to London. (Dude, same.)

Our first stop was the Sherlock Holmes House. And as silly as it is, I was just pumped to be getting on the “tube” to head over there. It really is the little things that make the trip memorable and exciting. Once we arrive, it’s no surprise we start with a photo shoot right outside 221B Baker St.

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Then, we go inside and the first thing we are met with is the souvenir shop. I didn’t know where to look or what to do with myself. They had stuff from the book version of Sherlock, which is what Liz loves, and they had from the show, which I love. Needless to say, I wanted to buy EVERYTHING! But rationale (aka Liz) kicked in and I held myself back from buying everything from sweaters to a pipe. I settled for a deck of cards with Benedict Cumberbatch’s face and a card holder with again Benedict Cumberbatch on them, the latter of which I of course used for the rest of my days in London!

After we had spent quite a bit of time at the store, we headed into the actual museum. And boy, was it awesome! We took tons of pictures in every corner of that house. What made it even more awesome was meeting Kait, a Canadian friend, who we spent the rest of the house touring with. Sherlock’s living room was basically our studio. They had hats, pipes, and a magnifying glass which of course called for an entire photo shoot. The funny part about this bit is as soon as we walked in Liz went for Sherlock’s stuff only telling me “You can be Watson.” And I of course followed her instruction only to remark how Watson of me to do it. And we ended our tour with a bathroom selfie in Sherlock’s bathroom.  But on the way back down, our first shoot wasn’t enough, we go back for more and find other props to use including the violin!  But when it was my turn with the violin I, of course, get caught and yelled at.

 

We, then. headed to the tube and carefully got on, as we had learned the day before that the doors did NOT open up again if you got stuck in them. (Liz’s leg got stuck and she pulled it out before the train started moving again.)

It was time to start our Harry Potter adventures and we were absolutely ecstatic. We had a rough start as we arrived at Leicester Square a bit confused as to where to go first. The great thing, is because we looked incredibly lost, we were immediately offered help by a passer by. But we soon got the hang of our walking tour map & papers. We hit a few different locations but mostly we were just happy to take in London. We saw our first red phone booth which called for pictures.

Next, came what ended up being one of my favorite spots on the tour, Hardys candy shop. It wasn’t my favorite because the walls were lined with candy from the ceiling to the floor. Or the fact that we were able to buy HP candies including chocolate frogs. No, all that was awesome but isn’t the reason I loved this place. I don’t think I have ever had this much fun at a candy store, and all thanks to Laurie. Laurie, happened to be the guy working behind the counter who provided me with all this sugary goodness. But Laurie was more than just a candy store sales man, he was a crumping genius, model extraordinaire, and fun loving man. As I took pictures with him, his poses blew me away, then we had a full blown dance party right there in the middle of this small candy store and it was epic. As we left this store, we promised Laurie we would tell his tale to all we knew so they would go visit him and have dance parties with him.

 

On our journey we encountered more Hogwarts students like us, Gringotts money, and an Aussie street performer. When we arrived at Trafalgar (a place we had to ask 3 different cute locals how to pronounce) Square, I was almost moved to tears. It’s true it’s a beautiful place, but that is not the reason I almost cried. I felt overwhelmed with emotion on the sheer fact that I was here. I wasn’t sitting at the office, I wasn’t at my house watching a movie, I was present in London and appreciating all it’s glory. When you dream about something for so long, it’s hard to explain how incredible it feels that this place not only measures up to your expectations but exceeds it. It was also strange to me how I didn’t feel like I was a tourist. I felt like I belonged, that I had finally found the city I was meant to live in. After moving around so many times, I had never felt so at home as I did in London. (Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.)

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At Trafalgar they had these lion statues and I saw so many kids on them that I was like “I WANT TO CLIMB TOO!” I should’ve definitely thought more carefully about my wish. Getting up there was such a struggle that Liz had to push my butt up, literally. The issue? We began laughing hysterically at the situation, which only made getting up that much harder. Oh did I mention I was in a dress and tights? Yeahhhhhh. You’re welcome Trafalgar Square visitors.

 

I would like to take a moment and dispel a common conception of Londoners. Most of the world has been told that Londoners are cold, rude and just unpleasant people. Within being there a day (and later on 4 more days) I can tell you with full confidence that, that statement is grossly untrue. Any local we stopped to ask for directions, help, information, to take a picture, guidance, opinion, or ask any question was incredibly graceful, kind and helpful. Even if they were in a rush they were never rude or talked down to us as if we were dumb tourists. So to anyone planning on visiting, I tell you the people were incredibly wonderful, and if you’ve had a bad experience I’m sorry.

Okay, back to the story. For lunch we headed to Sherlock Holmes Restaurant & Pub. Our goal this trip was to eat local and traditional plates and only drink local (or national) beers. The bar man’s sass was on point when he said

V:”Can we sit anywhere?”

Bar Man: “Oh you two? No I don’t think so.” With a straight face.

Liz began laughing and then the bar man couldn’t help but smile and reply “yeah, sit anywhere, but up here is where you order.”

Food wise we had bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes) and Liz had an English Ale called Old Speckled Hen while I had the Sherlock Holmes Ale (duh). Also the awesome thing was Liz taste tested a few of the beers before picking hers. And funny enough according to her “The Watson Wallop was Sherlock but less.” A fun fact about pubs in London, they’re all gorgeous! Most of them are black with gold lettering and have flowers all around the top and sometimes on the side. They look incredibly inviting and just beautiful.

 

After lunch came more walking and more filming locations. It was awesome to see first hand different locations and how they transformed those places into what we see in the movies. Then we were walking by the Thames river when our legs just couldn’t handle all the walking. It felt like we had walked all of London, which we pretty much had. And we sat on a bench, which was elevated (GENIUS) so that you get to see the actual Thames and not the barrier. Liz looked at me and asked me how I was feeling. The only word that came to my mind was Blessed. And not in the #blessed way people use it jokingly. It was real. I was blessed to be able to not only afford but be able to do this. So many people go through life unable to explore other parts of the world, or accomplishing life long dreams, and here I was doing one of mine. I was incredibly grateful to be able to do it. And regardless of how much I wanted to chop off my legs in pain, or how my shoulders hurt from my bag, or how cold I felt or anything else, I felt happy and calm. And that in itself was amazing to be able to feel that way. In that moment, nothing else mattered other than the happiness and peace I felt. (I’m getting sappy, I know, but just preaching the truth, that’s all.)

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The cool thing about this self-guided tour was that in it they had these awesome historical artifacts and locations that were off the beaten path and we were able to see those. As the sun began to set and the rain began to drizzle, we approached Borough Market. I had a change in hairstyle thanks to Liz and we looked around this awesome place. A place that definitely had the possibility of being the Leaky Cauldron location, but more importantly was filled with hoards of men spewing from the pubs. We looked at each other confused, it was only Wednesday after all. Why were all these men drinking at pubs on a Wednesday?

 

Well with that question still in our minds we headed to our last stop, Leadenhall. We had to ask for directions, of course, and this is where our lovely Liz becomes a heroine. This guy was actually walking us over to show us where to turn and he wasn’t paying attention to the traffic, so Liz had to pull him back so he wouldn’t get hit by a car. And Liz saves a life. No biggie. At this point exhaustion and hunger had gotten the best of us and we just couldn’t go on any longer. It was also 8pm, and we had started our day at 8am. 12 hours of walking is bound to make anyone quit. So we found Pizza Express and had a lovely pizza for dinner. Side note: this location also had pubs full of men.

After dinner Liz approached a group of guys our age to take a picture of us. We actually ended up pulling up a seat with them. Now, I don’t quite remember if they invited us to join or we invited ourselves, but regardless what I do remember is a lot of laughs. They asked us about our Americanness while we asked questions on their Britishness. It was a nice trade off. Liz and I got made fun of for ordering British Ales, that apparently are considered old men drinks, while we poked fun at their Gin & Tonics, an american older man’s drink of choice. After a few drinks and many jokes (that remained with Liz and I the rest of the trip) , one of our new friends had to leave so we wanted to capture this lovely group and took a picture with them. The other two stayed with us and we actually ended up hanging out for the rest of the evening. We headed to a martini bar after the pub where I learned that British boys are much more unafraid to dance than American boys, and that they were unafraid to order martinis, typically considered a girly drink in America! What we also learned from our new friends is the reason we saw hoards of men at pubs at 5pm is that it is very common for people after work to get together with their friends at pubs to socialize any day of the week. I absolutely loved that idea. It just fostered a more social environment that allows you to make new friends and create quality time with your friends that doesn’t have to mean you are all getting so hammered you don’t remember the previous night. All of this actually also meant that people are not in a rush to get married and that it allows them to actually enjoy their 20s and let things happen naturally.

 

All in all this very long day, was so incredibly fun and full with adventure. And also just full of appreciation for London, Londoners, my life and Liz. It was truly a wonderful day.

Much love always!

# of Miles Walked According to My Phone Step Counter: 12 miles

Sunsets Around the World

Please click on the pictures to see an enlarged version of it. Enjoy! 

10 Essential ‘Must Have’s For Any Trip

Whether you are a man or a woman or anyone, these next 10 items is a must when it comes to traveling!

1. Sleeping Mask

If there is one thing you must absolutely take on any trip, this is it. My discovery of sleeping masks is by far one of my greatest. You may be laughing right about now, but just hear me out.  No matter what time of the day it is, you put on a sleeping mask and everything gets pitch black allowing you to get sleepy. This helps with airplane rides, jet lag, trains, ships, or any place that has too many lights while you’re trying to nap or sleep. I took it with me to Europe it made me such a better travel companion because I always felt super well rested. I even used it to take naps in the car when I wasn’t driving!


2. Ipod & Headphones



To go along with #1, the headphones can be used as ear plugs. I certainly use mine as one because my headphones are noise cancelling. And with that unusual use, you can, of course, use it to store your music. One more sleeping tip: if it helps, download calming music if you just need to nap somewhere busy. (Rain noises always works for me!) Skullcandy headphones are actually my favorite. They’re simple but they work so well.

3. Water Bottle

We all like to save money and time right? Right. Well, here is the perfect way to help you: bring your own water bottle. The amount of money you will save for every bottle of water you won’t be buying and the time you will save yourself from having to go find it, means more money and time spent somewhere else. If you happen to have forgotten your water bottle, worry not! Some places, like car rentals, give out water for free and then just make sure you hold on to it after you’re done. If you have to buy one, do so and hold on to it. The great thing is most hostels, airports, and even some attractions have water fountains you can fill your bottles for free. That way you will have water with you all day long. (PS- Empty water bottles are totally allowed through security!) 

 

4. Saline Nasal Drops/Spray

What is one of the worst kinds of pain someone can endure? The pressure of a stuffy nose on a plane! It feels like needles in your eyes. Well, I present you the greatest gift I can give you, Saline Nasal Drops/Spray. It will clear up the pressure and allows you to breathe again! It is also great if you happen to have a cold during your trip. My medicine/first aid kit consists of just: Tylenol, emergency inhaler, saline nasal drops, band aids and a wrap (I’m injury prone so this is if I pull something and need to stabilize anything).  (I can guarantee some of my cousins are laughing at this one since they were the ones that introduced me to it.) The one I use is Brazilian, so when I find an American version I’ll post it.

5. Waterproof Bag

Chances are anywhere you are going in the world you’ll be dealing with water. Whether it’s a beach, water park or even that random water that falls from the sky, it’s nice to have something to protect your valuables. I’m also betting you will have a phone with you? Great! What if I told you that, that waterproof bag could allow your phone to take photos of you underwater? Yeah, thought you might like that.

 

6. Toothbrush

Another obvious one, but I write this one because you should always bring this. It’s counterpart, the toothpaste, can actually be found for free sometimes at hotels and hostels or it’s something you can borrow from someone else. But no one should be sharing toothbrushes.



7. Small Hand Lotion, Chapstick, & Hand Sanitizer

These 3 essentials will you get you through anything. You can never go wrong having a small lotion in your bag, especially if you’re going to cold weather. Chapstick is good for every season. And if you’re a girl, get tinted chapstick to double up as lipstick. Hand sanitizer is the life saver you never knew existed. When you’re traveling, bathrooms might not be the most accessible things. So having a hand sanitizer handy means your hands can be clean whenever you need them to be. Always remember to pack your LCS (Lotion, Chapstick, Sanitizer), you’ll thank me later.

8. Notepad

Have you ever been walking around and had a great idea but by the time you got home you’ve totally forgotten about it? A notepad can fix that problem. Having a notepad with you means that when you have an idea, need to write down any contact info, need to jot down information, or are getting directions you have a place to put this all in.

9. Scarf Blanket

A scarf blanket can come in handy in many situations. For cold weather you have a nice warm scarf. For naps on cars, planes, and trains you have a blanket. And if you’re already too warm, you also have a pillow (just make the scarf into a ball). It’s always handy to have one of these, because sometimes weather is unpredictable and having a versatile item like this one could be difference between being miserable from the cold and being able to enjoy your trip.

 

 10. Fold Up Bag

This discovery was made by following the golden rule: always listen to your mother. It’s no surprise moms know best. On my last trip, my mom had just bought this bag that folded up into a small square and she suggested I take it with me. At the time I thought why in the world would I ever need that? Boy, was she right. This bag can be used for many different purposes, let me share a few. You can use it for grocery shopping, souvenir shopping, as an overnight bag in case you want to leave your suitcase in the car, or basically for any other reason that you might need extra space to carry things. Trust me on this one.

 

These are the essential items I think everyone should always have with them when they’re traveling. My suggestions on how to use these items are just what I’ve come up with, if you have any other ideas on how to use them please leave a comment below. Also are there any items I missed that you think should be included in here? If so, let me know!

 

Enjoy your adventure!

 

PS- If you click on the pictures, they take you to the Amazon link where you can purchase these items.