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And all was well

At the end of my week in London in 2012, I visited the Warner Bros. studio tour of the making of Harry Potter. This was by far my most anticipated experience of the trip. If you’re a Potterhead and have the chance, this should definitely be on your bucket list! Get the audio-guide (narrated by Tom Felton) and immerse yourself for a few hours in the wonderful world of film and magic. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. There are a lot of them, so keep scrolling!

Sets and set details

Costumes

Props and portraits

Artwork and odds & ends

 

Scale models

Hogwarts model

This is the cr√®me de la cr√®me of the experience. The entire model has miniature torches and lights simulating people passing in front of them. To appreciate the full-scale of the model, I’ve added a photo from the Daily Mail to the bottom of this post from their article on the model of Hogwarts. The lighting in the room where the model is kept cycles through a few phases, simulating night and day, showing¬† the model in all its immense glory.

From the Daily Mail article: Proud: Jose Granell, model supervisor, is pictured with the model of Hogwarts Castle. It has been used for every one of the Harry Potter films.

From the Daily Mail article: Proud: Jose Granell, model supervisor, is pictured with the model of Hogwarts Castle. It has been used for every one of the Harry Potter films.

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

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London in October

In October 2012, I spent eight days in a surprisingly sunny London. I was actually there to work with the Waggener Edstrom London team, but I made sure to have some extra time to explore the city and tick off an item from my (unpublished) bucket list. I arrived on a bright Saturday morning, ready to take on the city.

London has tonnes and tonnes of sites to see, museums to visit, and pubs to explore. I managed to see a lot taking into consideration that I only had the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend I arrived, and the evenings after work.

My first point of business was to buy a local UK sim card. After getting lost all over the show in Europe in April (with a husband to navigate), I thought I’d place my trust in the Google. The second point of business was an Oyster card. Clearly I had my priorities sorted out, and I strongly recommend that you do this as well if you’re unfamiliar with the city.

After checking into the hotel, I set out to “pursue that flighty temptress, adventure”, only to realise nothing has opened yet. After waiting around, a little tired from the long flight, things started looking up and I managed to visit the Jubilee market, Trafalgar square, the National Gallery (amazing!), the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. I joined a Swede who stayed in the hostel with me, and we had a fantastic Indian dinner in Brick lane.

On Sunday I checked into the Charing Cross hotel, and ticked Tower bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the Tate modern (holy crap, when can I go back?), Millennium bridge, St. Paul’s cathedral and Camden town off my list.

My week nights were filled with random pubs, amazing restaurants, and revisiting some of the sites I’d already seen to take a few photos of them at night. My last visit before departing London the following Saturday, was the National Portrait gallery and the very bright M&M’s World in Leicester square.

There is one other element that I’m saving for a post of its own, one that deserved taking a Friday afternoon off and going all the way to Watford. “To be continued…

Reflecting on London

M & Ms World, Leicester square

All  images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012. Please contact me if you would like to use any images from this site.

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A night tour at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria

We spent Saturday night at the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, better known as the Pretoria Zoo. They offer night tours with knowledgeable guides, focusing on nocturnal animals. The tour starts at 18:30 and ends at around 20:30, where after groups may proceed to designated picnic areas to braai and spend some time relaxing around a bonfire. If you’d like to make a bigger trip out of this, you may also book a camping tour.

The Pretoria Zoo stretches over 88 hectares (roughly 217 acres) and celebrates its 114th year in 2013. The night tour is well worth the effort, as there are only a few other guided tours in the zoo at night and there’s no jostling for a view. The tour is however very focused, so if you want to see a bigger variety of animals it might be better to visit in the day. Photo opportunities will also be better then ūüėČ

I managed to get a few pictures, but with my ISO set to 3200 most of them are very noisy.

An exotic buck seen in a spotlight at the Pretoria Zoo A flock of flamingoes settling down for the night at the Pretoria Zoo

A juvenile eagle owl sitting on a log at the Pretoria Zoo

A male bengal tiger seen at night in the Pretoria Zoo

A view of the union buildings and the city of Pretoria in the background, with a sundial in the foreground at the Pretoria Zoo A pack of wild dogs sleeping under a tree at the Pretoria Zoo

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Turning our house into a home: the before & after

In December 2012, we moved into our very own house. As first time home owners, the first week was filled with excitement. The four months following that first week, has been filled with a lot of hard work.

The reward has been worth it though, as this past weekend was the first one since the beginning of December last year that there was no ‘To Do’ list. No more walls to paint. No builders tramping through the house and no more small little things niggling at my conscious to get done.

Door to master bedroom

Well, I’m lying. There was one more thing. It read: “Take and post some before and after photos.”

Done.

For those of you who want more info, our work regime was roughly as follows:

  • Remove all carpets, replace with laminate wood flooring in all bedrooms and study. Sand and varnish parquet floor in lounge, dining area and hallway.
  • Resurface the bath, basin and toilet (changing the colour of the enamel from blue to white).
  • Move into the house.
  • Unpack most of the boxes. Don’t unpack everything, as we’ll have contractors in the house for the next two months.
  • Remove all curtain pelmets.
  • [DIY] Paint the bathroom, WC, hallway, master bedroom, lounge, and dining room.
  • [DIY] Mount curtain rails and hang newly made curtains in lounge (YAY!!).
  • Pack the kitchen back up and use the study as a temporary kitchen.
  • Demolish kitchen.
  • Start replacing the kitchen.
  • Remove tiles from wall in study.
  • [DIY] Put cornices up in kitchen.
  • [DIY] Paint cornices, kitchen walls, study.
  • Unpack the rest of the boxes, including the kitchen (again).
  • Build and [DIY] cover frame for TV mount to hide cables.
  • [DIY] Mount TV-cable-hider-frame and TV (at 2am the night before your housewarming).
  • Enjoy fabulous new kitchen while preparing food for said housewarming ūüôā

All images by the author: © catterflyworx 2013.

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Eurotrip 2012: Highlights from Amsterdam, The Netherlands

27 – 30 APRIL: AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS
THE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THREE DAYS IN AMSTERDAM

Continued from part 14: Day four in Paris

As with most things in life, all good things must eventually come to an end. I’ve been putting off writing this post (for a month, I know!), as I feel that it will finally conclude a trip I’m not quite ready to forget.

The entrance to Pension de Laurier. Photo from http://www.hostelworld.com

We depart the beautifully wet city of Paris on an early morning train to Amsterdam. The owner of¬†Pension de Laurier, the B&B we will be staying at, kindly smsed us details explaining which trams to take to get there safely. Of all the train stations we’ve arrived at over the last four weeks, Centraal Stasie seems to have been the most confusing one to decipher. It cost two journeys back to the station in order to get tickets for the bus and tram system, but finally we succeed.

Arriving at Pension de Laurier could not have been more different from our Parisian “hotel” experience. It felt like arriving home to a place of love. We showered and felt 1000 times better for it, ready to take on the city of Amsterdam.

After Venice, Amsterdam seemed a breeze to navigate. The streets were easy to understand and the entire city if amazingly beautiful. I truly feel as though I would be able to live there, if ever I wanted to leave the sunny “velde” of South Africa behind.

We had so much planned for Amsterdam, but after so many museums, beautiful parks, exciting roadtrips and historical sites; we were completely touristed-out. We spent our last three days in Europe being far less industrious and far more relaxed. We also stopped taking notes of what we did every day, so I am recalling the highlights from memory!

1. Walking to the Van Gogh Museum and instead of going in, enjoying a picnic of cheese, fresh bread and champagne on the lawn in front of the museum.

Picnic on the lawn in front of the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, Museumplein, Amsterdam

Boerenkaas with black truffle

2. Shopping in De 9 Straatjes area. The shops here are quaint and small and intimate and awesome!

3. Sharing a serving of fresh ‘frittes’ with Francois in De Dam Plein, watching the “kermis”.

4. Finding a cheese shop with amazing fresh breads down the road from where we were staying.

5. Discovering that Burger King was running a promotion ūüôā

6. Walking through the Westermarkt market on Sunday.

7. Marvelling at the very Dutch, very lopsided architecture.

8. Enjoying the rest of Amsterdam, in gloriously sunny weather.

9. And of course, being in Amsterdam on 30 April 2012 for Koninginnedag!

Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
Koninginnedag 2012 by Antonio Olmedo.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Day four in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 13: Day three in Paris

26 April: The creepy underground of Paris’ catacombs

As you’ll know from our visit to the Capuchin Crypts in Rome, I have a slightly morbid fascination with the way in which human remains are on display. Growing up in South Africa, this is completely unheard of and more than a little eerie.

I also realised (a little belatedly) that this scene in the Court of Miracles from The Hunchback of Notre Dame was actually far more creepy than I initially thought as a child back in 1996.

The catacombs in Paris was one of the only attractions we couldn’t book tickets for before-hand and my only advice here is the GET THERE EARLY. We stood in line for two hours, as only a select amount of people are allowed in at any given time. There are numerous warnings to the faint-hearted about the catacombs’ confined spaces and somewhat disturbing displays of remains. In addition the passages accessible to the public form an almost 2km long labyrinth some 20m underground. This tour is not accessible to young children. Though cameras are allowed, you are¬†not allowed to use flash and the conditions are very dim.

In comparison with the very stylised displays of the Capuchin Crypts, the catacombs seemed impersonal and gave a distinct “function over form” feel.The catacombs used to be stone quarries in the 1700s. Abandoned because of the dangerous conditions, these empty tunnels became the perfect place to store the remains of approximately 6 million people when the Paris cemeteries were filled up in the early 1800s. Along the path are signs showing the cemetery that the remains originated from, as well as the date on which they were moved.

I loved the experience and highly recommend it!

Our trip concludes: Three (very lazy) days in Amsterdam

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Day three in Paris, France

23 – 27 APRIL: PARIS, FRANCE

Continued from part 12: Day two in Paris

25 April: An epic tour of the Louvre
We had all the best intentions in the world to get up early, but fail miserably and choose to sleep in instead. After some coffee and a croissant from the corner bakery, we take on the majestic Louvre.

We were amazed at how much we were actually able to fit in, though I suspect this is largely down to the fact that I had planned a route¬†through¬†the museum in order to see everything that we considered a “must see”. Generally, I’d be waxing on about the immensity, the overwhelming awe, and the incredible collection of artwork that is housed in the Louvre at this stage. However, in this case there truly are not enough words to describe the magnificence of this awesome collection.¬†Instead, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Continues with Paris’ creepy underground – a visit to the catacombs.

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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The things you’ll see: Street art and alleys from Venice & Paris

Due to some crazy deadlines and loads to do at work, ¬†I’m struggling a bit to update this as regularly as I’d like. However, I’m shamelessly hoping that I can placate you with a bribe in the form of some photos from Venice and Paris. This is an assortment of doorways, alleys, street art and other tid-bits unsuitable for a general gallery of travel photos.

All images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012

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Eurotrip 2012: Day two in Paris, France

23 – 27 April: Paris, France

Continued from part 11: Day one in Paris

24 April – Of plans and schemes comes naught

Our plan for the day is to visit a rather vast area riddled with tourist attractions in the 7th and 17th arrondissements of Paris. These include the¬†√Čcole Militaire, the¬†Champs-√Člys√©es, the Champ de Mars and a trip up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve found Tripomatic an invaluable asset in planning what to see in our unknown destinations, and would highly recommend it!

The first stop on our tour (no matter what that plan may say) is the House of the Invalids. We chose a Metro stop on the far end of the Ponte Alexander bridge and the view is stunning walking over it. The bridge is one of the oldest in Paris and is adorned with quite a few wonderful details.

It seems as soon as we arrive at Les Invalides it starts pouring down with rain again. We meander around the courtyard looking at the displays of canons and the like whilst keeping out of the rain as best we can, though after three weeks of constant rain I have to admit that I’m no longer feeling the love.

Together with a gaggle of other tourists, we spend the next 40 minutes or so hiding our in an alcove. At this stage it seems abundantly clear that the skies won’t be relenting their watery assault any time soon, so we make the tough decision to go back to the hotel and have lunch.¬†The rain has been somewhat like a toddler with a light switch, and the constant on-off on-off of the torrential downpour has at least been constant in its unpredictability.¬†It has now become clear that our already short-listed version of the sights we want to see in Paris, will have to be cut again and again in order to fit in with the weather’s schedule.

During another dry spell we grab the opportunity to visit the Eiffel Tower. Instead of leisurely strolling through the surrounds, we act like true tourists and take the Metro to the closest stop to the tower and get in line straight away. Through some fluke we end up buying 2/3 tickets, meaning we have to climb the first two levels of stairs before we can take the elevator to the third level. Though the views are amazing and it’s a rather nice experience, the wind is biting and horrible as one ascends.

The view from the top is amazing. The only hill in Paris proudly boasts the Sacr√©-Coeur and the Louvre is clearly visible. Having studied the lay-out religiously in preparation of our visit tomorrow, this offers an amazing bird’s eye view. In the distance the Arc de Triomphe is visible with its adornment of crazy traffic, but over it all lies a bank of cloud threatening everyone with its seemingly ever-present gloom.

Esplanade du Trocadero, with Paris CBD in the background

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

Les Invalides

After descending the steps and reaching ground level, Francois requests that we take a stroll down the Champs-√Člys√©e, at least for a while before we get wet again. The gardens are beautifully kept and it’s a great experience walking down these well-worn stones, but in the light of wanting to save some time we find the next Metro stop and head to the Arc de Triomphe, as the rain is holding out on us for the moment.

Knowing that I may be judged severely for this, I have to admit that the arch itself is not all I expected it to be. The symbolism is great and the detail on the structure itself fascinating, but as a whole I felt rather underwhelmed. As far as unique experiences go, the arch itself doesn’t make it to my list of top 10s. However, while we were standing around looking at the traffic and being told to stay away from the arch, it seems that some military procession was taking place and we were caught up in the middle of it. This did make up for the lack of great weather a bit!

After our long day of (mis-)adventure, our final stop for the day is meant to be the restaurant we found in Montmartre last night. We get dressed in our finest, non-tourist garb and settle in for a wonderful meal of foie gras, duck and chocolate fondant. The service is impeccable and the wine lovely, perhaps all the more so because of the beautiful setting.

After dinner we realize that we may still catch the 23:00 light show on the Tour de Eiffel is we hurry, and as the weather is behaving we take the longer route across the Champ de Mars towards the tower. The lights start twinkling as we walk hand-in-hand towards the tower and I have to admit, that it is every bit as wonderful, romantic and clichéd as one could ever imagine. The perfect ending to a less-than-perfect day.

Next: a day at the Louvre.

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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Eurotrip 2012: Bourg-en-Bresse, France


21 April: Bourg-en-Bresse, France

Continued from part 8: Annecy, France

The road to clean washing
We check out of our hotel and stop at a little boulangerie (bakery) across the street to get some croissants for breakfast. They were life changing! Best. Croissants. Ever. EVER! Soft and buttery on the inside, flaky and crunchy on the outside, and absolutely divinely fresh!

We arrive in Bourg-en-Bresse just before 12:00 and check into the hotel. It seems we unwittingly booked two hotels in the same franchise and are really happy with being assured of clean rooms and decent service, though this room is even smaller than our hotel room in Annecy was (didn’t really think that was possible, but hey!). After checking in, we head out to view the only point of interest we could find in Bourg-en-Bresse: The Royal Monastery of¬† Brou.

The Royal Monastery of Brou, France

The Royal Monastery of Brou on a gloomy day

We arrive to find the doors closed, together with the rest of the town it would seem. We’ve forgotten about the fact that everyone packs up shop between 12:00 and 14:00; one can’t even find an open coffee shop to have something to drink in while we wait! We decide to wait in the car while we watch the weather closing in again. The wind picks up and a bride and groom arrive, with photographer and yards of white dress in tow for some pre-ceremony photos. Nothing else of interest happens, and I eventually fall asleep in the driver’s seat.

The Royal Monastery of Brou, France

Entrance to the Royal Monastery of Brou

Finally when the doors open at 14:00 we get inside. The monastery has amazing Gothic architecture and intricate carvings. Sadly, no photos are allowed inside. Overall the churches in France have been less impressive than their counterparts in Italy, though it seems that the focus is more on the architecture and design than paintings, sculptures and frescoes.

The Royal Monastery of Brou, France

An inner courtyard in the Royal Monastery of Brou

The Royal Monastery of Brou, France

The monastery is famous for it’s multicolor tiled roof.

Upon returning to the hotel at a decent hour for once (we may be getting used to this “the sun only sets at 22:30 at night” thing), I decide it’s past time we found a laundromat and get some clean clothing. This seems more trouble than I’d anticipated, as neither the guide, Google Maps or our GPS can find one (searched for in English and French). Luckily the concierge is able to help, and he points us to the only laundromat in town.

It takes us a while to figure out how to get the machines to work, and luckily we’re not the only tourists completely dumbfounded by the all-French instructions. Eventually the washer fills up with what seems to be soapy water, and after about an hour and a half we return to the hotel with semi-dry clothes. We spread them out all over the tiny room, leaving a little space to wiggle under the bed-covers and sit up reading while it rains again outside. Tomorrow we’ll pack up and spend a lazy Sunday in Lyon, before leaving for Paris on Monday.

Continues in part 10 with our stay in Lyon, France.

Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.

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