This Week

I have multiple “notes” in my note app that are bullet point lists from the days I was too tired to blog while on my whirlwind adventure, but I don’t think they’ll actually be written any time soon.

My trip to the UK and Ireland was amazing and beautiful, but now I’m paying the price for that ten hour plane ride on the way home.

My parents joked about posting something about this on Facebook, but my inclination at the time was to not do so. I have thought about posting on Facebook over the past few days, but it didn’t feel right. Instead, I’m writing this blog post. It feels like a more appropriate medium.

Despite the fact that I got up and stretched my legs pretty frequently on the long haul flight, they got so swollen that they felt like they were going to pop. We spent the night in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night and flew into Greenville on Sunday where my parents picked us up. My legs stayed very swollen and sore through Tuesday, when the swelling finally went down most of the way but the soreness remained. I was also a little nauseated on Tuesday afternoon, but I didn’t really think anything of it.

On Wednesday morning I got up and let River outside. I started to feel dizzy but continued puttering around the kitchen. My dad asked if I was feeling okay and I mentioned that I had a headache.  I remember saying to my mom that I felt like it wasn’t good that  my legs still hurt so badly from the flight on Saturday. My dad was down in the basement and my mom was getting ready to go upstairs and take a shower. My memory of what happened next probably isn’t 100% accurate because it was terrifying.

I very suddenly became incredibly dizzy. My chest started hurting and I started having trouble breathing. I told my mom to call 911 and that I thought I had a blood clot. My dad came upstairs and made the call while my mom held me up in the chair I had sat down in. I got very sweaty and almost passed out several times. At some point my dad was holding me up. I think my mom went to make sure the paramedics knew where to come and maybe to move some things out of the way. I remember her moving the dog crate out of the way. It took the paramedics about ten minutes to get to our house, but it felt like much longer.

The paramedics (Ben and Christie from Skyland Fire Department- they were wonderful) arrived and asked me a lot of questions. I don’t remember what all we talked about or what types of things they checked for. I got onto the gourney with some help and they loaded me into the ambulance. My dad got in the passenger’s seat in the front. There was another paramedic or maybe a fireman there too, but I never saw his face and I don’t remember his name. I do know that it was his day off. Mom got in her car with River to take her to doggie daycare and she left right behind us.

The paramedics put an IV needle in my arm, checked my blood pressure, and set me up for an EKG. I remember Christie reminding me to take big, slow, deep breaths and telling me everything was going to be okay. They did an EKG in the driveway before we left and it was abnormal. I remember Christie whispering something to Ben and me saying “it makes me really nervous when you whisper.”

Christie drove the ambulance and Ben rode in the back with me. As we were turning down one road in my neighborhood, I said to Ben, “Well you aren’t using the siten, so I can’t be that bad off.” Less than ten seconds later the siren came on. Ben assured me that I was okay and that they were just being extra cautious. At some point during the ride, I asked Ben if I was going to die. He grabbed my hand and said “look at me.” I didnt, so he said “look at me, Catherine.” I did and he said “not on my shift. Do you hear me? You are doing great. You are going to be okay” or something of that nature anyway.

We eventually got to the hospital after about ten minutes that felt like an hour and I was placed in a room in the ER. They did a chest X-ray fairly shortly after I arrived but it was at least four hours after I arrived before they did an ultrasound on my legs and a CT scan of my chest with contrast.

They later told me that the ultrasound showed a blood clot in my left leg and told me that I will need to take the blood thinner Coumadin for 3-6 months and will need to give myself blood thinner injections in my stomach twice a day for the next five or so days.

The only symptom of pulmonary embolism I DIDN’T have was coughing up blood. My dad talked to his friend who is a doctor and we are fairly certain that it was a pulmonary embolism that led to us calling 911. 

I ended up in the ER again on Thursday night because I had a fever and my discharge papers said to seek “prompt medical attention.” I do not have an infection, but I probably do have a virus on top of everything else.

My official diagnosis is blood clot and DVT (deep vein thrombosis). You may google that if you’d like more information. For the next five to seven days or so, I’m at risk of the blood clot dislodging or part of it breaking off and going to my lungs causing another pulmonary embolism. I have been very very lucky so far. Please keep me in your thoughts or pray for me, whichever you are inclined to do.

I am doing okay today. My head hurts and my legs ache. I can’t really be left alone because of the potential pulmonary embolism, so I’ve been hanging out in my bed with my legs propped up on pillows with an air horn by my side, just in case.

I am so grateful that I live with my parents and that my mom was in the room when this happened. I am so thankful that both of my parents remained so calm in the face of something so terrifying. I am so appreciative of the paramedics who came and took care of new. I am so grateful for each person who has asked if there is anything I need this week.

So, that’s what’s up with me!


Do you hear the people sing?


Today was fantastic. I woke up at 6:45 again because I wasn’t feeling well, but the antibiotics seem to be kicking in and I felt much better throughout the day today. I just hung around the house until Tiffany woke up then we hung some laundry to dry and folded what was already dry.

We went and ate breakfast at a place Gian Paolo recommended called The Breakfast Club. Tiffany and I both tried blood pudding for the first time and agree that it is absolutely disgusting and we won’t be eating it again. After breakfast, we went to this store called Primark. There’s not really anything in America that I can compare it to. They have clothes and home goods for SUPER cheap. It actually reminds me a lot of stores in South Africa.

After Primark we came home to get ready for our busy afternoon and evening. I went to the post office and mailed some things home then took a shower. Tiffany did my hair and makeup and I felt very pretty. Afternoon tea at the Ritz was a bit overwhelming but overall an amazing experience and I’m really glad we did it. I felt really weird about the waiter pulling my chair out for me then pushing me back in and I really didn’t like it when he folded my napkin and put it on my lap for me. I never really got used to having them pour our tea for us and I eventually just started pouring my own. I was very afraid that I was going to do something wrong and get us thrown out. Thankfully, that did not happen. It was very very fancy and very beautiful. From what I’ve heard about her, I think my great grandmother probably rolled over in her grave a couple of times during my afternoon tea.

Tea lasted until about 5:15 and the doors to the theater didn’t open until a little after 6, so we took a walk through Green Park to Buckingham Palace before returning to the Ritz and catching our very first black cab to the theater. There was so much leg room and there were no people crowding us and we got to sit down. It was lovely.

The London equivalent of China Town is just across the street from the theater and we caught the tail end of a group of what I assume we’re street performers playing the drums and working a dragon puppet before going into the theater.

Les Miserables was AMAZING! Their 30 year anniversary of continuously performing in London is this October and it’s pretty cool that we got to go in a big anniversary year. The set was out of this world. There was a giant rotating circle in the stage floor that added a lot of depth to the performance and the way they used their set pieces for multiple uses was really cool.

I usually like to write a lot more than this, but we have to be awake in less than 4 hours to leave for the airport for our flight to Dublin!


September 13, 2015

I actually slept in today! Well, sort of. I did wake up at about 8:45 but I went back to sleep until almost 11. This was especially good because the cold/sinus infection/whatever that I have been dealing with for the past few days is now definitely an upper respiratory infection. This is super annoying because I haven’t been sick (at least not in the upper respiratory infection kind of way) in a while and now is definitely not the most ideal time for this to be happening.

Tiffany and I each had some things we wanted to do today since it was our last day to really do stuff and each of us had different things we wanted to do, so we parted early this afternoon then met up for dinner.

Anyway, I put on this pretty dress my Mama gave me, left the house, and got on the tube. There was a six month old puppy named Monty on the tube with me! I thought he was an English Springer Spaniel, but his mom said he is a working Cocker Spaniel or something. 

I got off the tube at the King’s Cross/ St. Pancras stop and walked past the absolutely gorgeous hotel that is attached to St. Pancras International.

The British Library was a pretty short walk away and it wasn’t hard to find because there were signs. I didn’t really know what to expect since I hadn’t done any real research on it, but I had read that it is the largest library in the world and that was enough for me. 

Right after I walked into the library my phone started buzzing as I was getting a call from my Dad on WhatsApp. If you haven’t heard of this app, let me just do a little product placement. WhatsApp allows you to text anyone anywhere in the world as long as they also have it downloaded. It only uses data, so if you have wifi it works for free. They also added a feature so that you can now do voice calls through it. It’s what I’ve been using to keep in touch with my family while I’m here and it always sounds like the person I am on the phone with is right next to me. I used the text feature a lot while I was in South Africa, but the voice feature is even more useful. It was great to hear my dad’s voice!

I went into an exhibit called Treasures of the British Library. It was absolutely incredible but I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures. You can, how everyone, explore some of it online at

I saw the Magna Carta, the Gutenburg Bible, handwritten lyrics by the Beatles, early copies of Shakespeare’s works, hand written stories by Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, and Jane Austen, music written by Bach and Beethoven, and so so much other cool stuff. My favorite thing was probably the handwritten letter from Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII to Cardinal Wolsey. On the way out, I visited the gift shop and got a tote bag that says “I like big books and I cannot lie.” I love it!

My plan was to head to Charing Cross Road and check out some of the used book stores that I read about on Pinterest, but there was a cycling race today called The Tour of Britain that had a lot of roads shut down and barricaded. I went into a regular book store in Trafalgar Square and I was really excited that they had a Harry Potter display. All book stores everywhere should have a Harry Potter display at all times. I walked back outside and there were just a ton of people milling about. That in combination with the roads being shut down and the area being difficult to navigate with the road closures made me decide it was time to head to a different part of the city. I’ve done really well with the crowds so far. The only times I have been truly bothered were just before the changing of the guard and on the tube when a ton of people are just cramming into the cars like they are sardines during rush hour.

I decided to go scope out a store that Tiffany and I are headed to tomorrow called Primark. I read about it on Pinterest as well. They have very inexpensive clothing and homewares, but what I wanted to see were their reusable canvas shopping bags. The store is at least three stories tall and I think it may actually be four floors. I was worried that it would be very crowded today because it’s the weekend and the thing I read on Pinterest said it isn’t for those who don’t like shopping or crowds. While it was certainly crowded, it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.

I left Primark and decide to wander around a bit on Oxford Street. I came to the end of the road and realized I was looking at Tottenham Court Road, which JK Rowlin mentions several times in The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm. I looked to my left and noticed a plaque identifying the pub at the corner of the streets as The Tottenham, a bar frequented by Cormoran Strike in JK Rowling’s newest book series. I got really excited and went in thinking it would be the perfect place to eat something, but they sadly told me they don’t serve food so I left to find somewhere to eat. I explored Tottenham Court Road a little more before returning to Oxford Street and finding a place that offered “proper hamburgers.” The burger was playing, but the dessert was dynamite! I had something called a bannoffee mess, which I picked because of the bannoffee pie recipe in the Harry Potter cookbook. It was similar to banana pudding in some ways. It was a sort of parfait of vanilla ice cream, bananas, caramel sauce, and biscuits (British cookies). It was incredible and I definitely want to try to recreate it at home.

I decided to give those used book stores a try again and took the tube to a different station to avoid the bicycle race. I went into a few of them and wasn’t really that impressed. I didn’t buy anything. After going in a few bookstores, I got a text from Tiffany, so I left to catch the tube to Picadilly Circus to meet her for dinner. I’m glad we met in Picadilly Circus because I wanted to go there since it is one of the places Harry, Ron, and Hermione go in Deathly Hallows, but it was sort of underwhelming since I have been to Time Square.

I had just eaten about two hours previously, so I didn’t want anything to eat. We wandered for a while and came across what I think must be the London version of China Town. We walked into SoHo and Tiffany chose a place called Pho.  We came home afterwards and have been doing laundry and writing postcards.

Tomorrow is the big day! Afternoon tea at the Ritz and Les Mis on the West End!


Henry the Eighth, I am, I am

Today, Tiffany and I split up and did our own things. Tiffany met up with a friend she met while studying abroad in Hungary and went to some museums. I went to the Holy Grail of King Henry VIII history, Hampton Court Palace.

I was hoping to sleep in today, but woke up around 8:45 anyways. Probably in part because I went to sleep around 10pm last night. I went to the post office and mailed some things home. I have room in my bag for souvenir stuff, but I was only 2 pounds away from the weight limit on the way here and I don’t want to have to check my bag. I paid £24 to ship about four and a half pounds of stuff home, which is considerably less than it would cost me to pay to check an extra bag for the two legs of the trip home that we aren’t already planning on checking a bag and splitting the cost.

After leaving the post office, I caught the tube to Vauxhall station, where I just missed the train out to Hampton Court Palace, so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next train to come. That was fine because it gave me time to eat a delicious apple cinnamon turnover and caused me to catch the next train, where I sat next to Bill and Susan. They were a lovely couple in their early seventies from Southern California and I really enjoyed my conversation with them. 

Upon arriving at the train station, I walked across a bridge and part of Hampton Court Palace came into view on the other side of the Thames.

I found out at the gate that they are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the palace this year. I found out later that it is specifically the anniversary of the Tudor part of the palace.

I picked up the ticket that I ordered online last night at the information desk and I was thrilled to see that they had one of the souvenir penny smushing  machines. I love those and always try to get a smushed penny whenever I see one. Today, I got one with Henry VIII’s face on it. They also gave me a map at the information desk and I was very surprised when I looked at it and saw how massive the palace really is. I watched a documentary on Netflix recently (I think it’s called Secret’s of King Henry VIII’s Palace and I definitely recommend it) but I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of the place.


I took lots of panoramic photos today because I was having trouble fitting the palace into regular sized photos. I assumed that the picture you see here was the front of the papace. In actuality, it’s only the front of the guard arch and some palace apartments and leads into a giant courtyard.

Here is an aerial view photo I just found on Google

It was absolutely incredible to walk where Henry VIII and his wives and daughters walked and to see the leftover decorations honoring Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn that were missed when Henry had the castle redecorated after each of them was cast aside (or killed when I comes to Anne Boleyn)

Catherine’s decoration came in the form on some stonework in an archway above a door leading into the rooms where big parties were held. The stonework was of pomegranates.
 Anne’s decoration came in the form of a woodworked H intertwined with an A at the top of some wood paneling in a corner.

I also got to see the kitchens where all of the food was prepared. The servants got paid time off and had good job security, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to work in any of those rooms with enormous fireplace were. I got to see the window of the bakery but visitors aren’t allowed inside it. It was on the second floor. I would not want to have to carry giant bags of flour up all of those steps.

I also walked through the hallway where Katherine Howard is rumored to have escaped from her guards and gone running down the hallway screaming to King Henry VIII begging for her life. She was the second and final wife to be beheaded. Fun fact: there were reports of people seeing a ghost in that hallway up until the 1700s. There have been no reports of anyone seeing a ghost there recently, but people have reported feeling disoriented and dizzy. Even though the palace tours cover something like 60 acres, almost all of the people who faint at the palace do so in that hallway.

I took a nice little horse drawn team ride through part of the gardens, which are gorgeous. It’s interesting because from that side of the palace, you can clearly see where William of Orange and Mary Stuart tore down part of the Tudor palace to add on in a more modern style that they had fashioned after the Palace of Versailles.  The only things I was sort of bummed about were that the tennis court was closed for repairs and I couldn’t find the maze. Aside from that, it was a pretty perfect day.
I toured almost everything that was available to the public before leaving to catch the train back into London proper. I had a lovely chat on the train with a mother and daughter who moved to London from New Zealand. Side note for mom and dad, people in London like cookies and need (life) insurance, too! Jac, they have a government here, too! London is also VERY dog friendly. You can even take your dog on the tube or into the Tower of London!

Anyway, I stopped into a little grocery store and got something called a cheese twist (which is actually just a croissant topped with cheese, stretched out, and twisted) before riding the tube back to Manor House. I stopped at the kabob shop and got some chips (French fries) that I didn’t really end up eating before going back to the house and calling to talk to my parents then calling my big brother.

I felt okay for most of the day, but have started feeling pretty badly again the past few hours. My throat isn’t really sore anymore, but I have developed a cough and a runny nose.

There isn’t really a plan for tomorrow, but I’d like to try to go by the British Library and see Picadilly Circus.


London Pass

We woke up and got started a little later than we meant to this morning. I’m still not feeling well. I felt HORRIBLE this morning, bad but not terrible for most of the day, then started going downhill pretty quickly around 4pm.

We started the day at the Tower of London. We took the free guided tour, which I didn’t have time to do last time I was here, and I am very grateful that we decided to do so today. There was so much information the Yeoman Warden gave us that we simply would have never known if we just walked around the complex by ourselves.  We got to see the traitor’s gate, the window that Anne Boleyn had to watch her scaffold being built out of, the chapel, and the burial place of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Jane Grey.  We learned about the history of the buildings and the use of the Tower as a prison.

We were hungry by the time we left the Tower of London, so we stopped at a Pret and picked up sandwiches and drinks then took the park to Parliament Square and sat down to eat on some steps next to a statue of Gandhi. Our view included the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. It was beautiful and sunny, so it was really nice to just sit in the shade and eat.

Next, we went to Westminster Abbey. It is enormous, but it looked much bigger to me on TV when I watched the Royal Wedding. We got to see the tombs of King Henry VIII’s daughters, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I as well as the tombs of Mary, Queen of Scots, Sit Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin.  Poet’s Corner was also pretty incredible since it held the tombs of Charles Dickens, Handel, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Olivier, and Tennyson as well as memorials for Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Milton, Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde.

After the Abbey, we went to the London Zoo. I have come to the conclusion that zoos in all countries are like zoos in any countries. I kept forgetting that we were in London.  Seeing the reptile house where they filmed for Harry Potter was cool, but I was a little disappointed that they didn’t actually have a Burmese Python.

I’m pretty sure I’m getting a fever again because I have that really exhausted, hard to open my eyes, tired eyes thing going on.  It’s not even 10pm but I’m going to try to get some sleep soon.


Long Live The Queen!

This post is going to be shorter than the others because I am very tired and I’m not feeling well. My head started hurting several hours ago and it was shortly followed by a sore throat.

This morning, we intended to go to a place called The Breakfast Club for a full English breakfast. It came highly recommended by one of our AirBNB hosts. The wait there was an hour long and we were trying to make it to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard, so we walked across the street and ate at a place called Toi and Moi instead. I ordered a “mini” breakfast with no mushrooms and scrambled eggs instead of fried. I ate everything but the beans, but I even tried those.

We made it to Buckingham Palace a little before 11 thinking the changing of the guard would start then, but it didn’t really start until about 11:30. The crowd was pretty intense, so we didn’t stay for the whole thing, electing instead to go ahead and book tickets for the inside of the palace for 12:15. It was my second time inside of BP but they had changed a lot, so I really enjoyed the experience. One thing that was really interesting was that they already had a whole exhibit set up about the Queen being the longest reigning monarch to date, even though that record wasn’t broken until yesterday. They even had a whole table of related items in the gift shop.

After the tour, we had a snack at the palace garden cafe before checking out the gift shop then walking to see The Wellington Arch. I have wanted to go to Twinings since we got here, so we finally made that happen. One of my mom’s friends visited England several years ago and brought her back a Twinings tea towel that has been lost for a few years now. I was hoping to replace that for her, but the Twinings shop doesn’t actually sell tea towels anymore.

We came back to the house after Twinings to drop some things off and change shoes before a Jack The Ripper walking tour. Our train got delayed three times on the way to Tower Hill, so we didn’t get there until five minutes after the tour left. We had seen a few signs for other JTR walking tours and we were standing near one reading it when a peculiar man dressed in a top hat began talking to us about his JTR walking tour and the negative aspects of all of the others. He seemed pretty harmless and really passionate, so we decided we would go on his tour. If I remember, I’ll write more about him later, but the gist is that he turned out to be a rambling, easily destracted, racist, prejudiced conspiracy theorist.  My favorite moment was when he told us that people with mental illness walk funny. I guess he didn’t notice the very funny walk I must surely have.

After the tour was finally over, we went to get dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub that has been around since before the big fire of London. It was rebuilt in around 1666 after the fire burned it down and has remained in the same location off of Fleet Street (with some remodeling) ever since. The food was pretty good but the building was absolutely incredible. It reminded me of The Burrow in that it was sort of a hodge podge of different levels and rooms.

Tomorrow, we are using our London Passes to go to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the London Zoo. It’s going to be a long and busy day. I am looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday before I go to Hampton Court Palace.


Trust me, I’m The Doctor

Today, Tiffany and I woke up around 6:30 AM so that we could get to the coach station in time to catch our bus to Cardiff. The trip was mainly uneventful, but there was (of course) some pretty bad traffic on the M4 so our bus was 30 – 45 minutes Late. We also accidentally rode it past the stop we needed, so we had to take a little walk to get to the correct Cardiff Bus station. A very kind woman directed us to the right bus stop and we were on our way!

Our plan had been to find somewhere to eat before the Doctor Who Adventure. We were running late, but I was getting hangry, so we walked into the little cafe next to The Doctor Who Experience (TDWE). It was in the front of an exhibit called The World of Boats which my dad probably would have enjoyed but we did not have the pleasure of exploring. We both ordered the same thing, a ham and Welsh cheddar panini with crisps AND chips. The Welsh cheddar tasted like a sharper version of Brie and the panini was delicious. Neither of us got to eat very many of our chips (French fries) because we were cutting it pretty close on time as far as getting in line at TDWE.

We walked into the building and were immediately greeted by the sight of a weeping angel, several daleks, a cyber man head, and the costumes of Time Lords. We didn’t have to wait very long in line before we entered the first part, the interactive experience known as the Gallifrey Museum. They change both the interactive portion and the exhibit for each new Doctor, and who knows how often in between, but I still don’t want to give too much away in case any of you get to go one day. If you want details on the interactive portion, message me on Facebook. It entailed going on a marvelous adventure, helping the doctor save the TARDIS and our own lives, and encountering two of the big bads of the series.

Once the interactive portion was over, we entered the exhibit room, which I will post photos of at the end of this blog entry. It was so cool to see all of the costumes, the sonic screwdrivers, and the TARDISes (TARDI?) I loved getting to see a couple of different TARDIS consoles as well and Tiffany and I even had our picture taken inside Ten’s TARDIS. At the end of the exhibit there was, of course, a gift shop. I got several postcards, a t shirt, and a reusable shopping bag.

We left TDWE and walked along Cardiff Bay down to Mermaid Quay (pronounced “key”). I really wanted to stick my hand in the water because I like the idea of touching a bunch of different oceans, or in this case, the bay that leads to the Irish Sea. The first gate to the docks that we encountered was locked and I was very disappointed. However, we came across another gate that was closed but not locked. I opened it, walked out onto the dock, laid down, and stuck my hand in the water. I got a stern look from a lady wearing an official looking red windbreaker, but I got to touch Cardiff Bay! We continued walking past The Milennium Center and the giant tower known to Whovians as Torchwood Tower. I had just mentioned to Tiffany that the other entrance to Torchwood should be really close to us somewhere when we came across a fan created memorial wall to Ianto Jones where the entrance should have been. There was an older couple walking ahead of us who was likely very confused by the plaque commemorating Ianto Jones’ sacrifice to protect the children of this planet. We wanted to touch Torchwood Tower, but there were gates up around the area becaus there is going to be a huge performance there on Saturday night.  We went inside The Millenium Center for a little bi. I bought more postcards from the Cardiff Visitor Center inside and we had a lovely conversation with an older Welsh gentleman.  Every person we met in Cardiff was so kind and helpful! It was also much less busy than London since it’s so much smaller and it really felt like a little break away from the hustle and bustle.

We went outside again and asked some employees if we could please just walk over and touch the tower, but they told us no, so we walked back along the edge of the bay towards TDWE and got some ice cream from a truck. I was slightly disappointed to find out that a knickerbocker glory, which Harry Potter gets to eat at th London Zoo in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, is really just a chocolate sunday. It was still delicious, though.

We also walked by the church where Roald Dahl was christened, which we only knew about because of a plaque we found in Mermaid Quay. We caught the bus near TDWE and rode past the BBC studio. We were able to see part of a monster costume, a room full of shoes, and a seamstress hard at work through the windows.

We wanted to go tour Cardiff Castle, but the last entry is at 5pm and we unfortunately didn’t make it there in time. Instead, we walked around downtown Cardiff and checked out a lot of different shops before having meat pies at Pieminister and making our way to the train station. We were supposed to arrive back at Paddington Station in London around 10:30, but one of the engines on our train broke down so it ran much slower and we ended up making it back into the city sometime after 11 and back to the house sometime after midnight to find that our sweet hosts had folded our laundry for us! We sat downstairs talking to Gian Paolo for a while and he gave us some recommendations for breakfast tomorrow before I called my parents and talked to them for a little bit. River could hear my voice and cried a little bit. I felt bad that she was whining but I really loved getting to hear her.

Also, this exchange happened on the train back to London after a long day:



Back to Hogwarts

Today was INCREDIBLE! I posted all of the photos on Facebook and I will post a few here, but Tiffany and I spent five hours at the Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studio Tour and it was glorious. We saw a giant lot with construction and green screens on our way in and at the very beginning of the tour, a tour guide told us that they are filming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them there!!! We had butterbeer ice cream with our lunch and it was so creamy and delicious. The vanilla base tasted like someone had frozen thick homemade whipped cream. It had butterbeer syrup swirled throughout and it wasn’t too sweet like the liquid butterbeer usually is. 

I thought my phone died at the end of the studio tour, so I put it in my purse and didn’t get it out again until we got back to the flat. I should specify that I’m not sure if this actually qualifies as a flat. It is like an American townhouse with a small backyard. I’m not sure what that makes it here. A semi-detached house maybe?

We were rebellious twice today with excellent results each time. At Leavesden, we ended up tagging  along behind a “premium” tour that had a tour guide. MUCH more expensive, but we got the experience for free! Then, on the way back into London from Watford, we slipped into a first class carriage on the train. It was silent the whole ride, it was peaceful, and there was lots of extra legroom!

Anyway, after the studio tour, we rode the train back into London then caught the tube to Harrod’s, where we spent quite a bit of time. We went into the part of the store that exclusively contains “Super Brands” like Prada, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, and many many others. I touched a dress that costs £3500. 

We wandered through the bookshop and into the Harrod’s Gift Shop, where we each picked up a few things. We then wandered around and found a Godiva Cafe and each bought a few chocolates. We didn’t see very much of Harrod’s (it takes up a whole city block and is at least 6 stories of shops) but I was very glad we went in the evening on a weekday as it wasn’t too terribly crowded or overwhelming. We walked outside and stood and listened to a girl play classical songs on the violin for a while before stopping at a grocery store and a Pret A Manger.

We returned home and tried to solve a mini-crisis. I didn’t realize I was supposed to print out the tickets for the bus to Cardiff tomorrow and for The Doctor Who Experience. We asked one of our host, Bryan, if there was any chance they had a printer here. They don’t, but he told us that his husband, Gian Paolo, could print our tickets for us at his work. That didn’t work out because we have to leave in the morning before Gian Paolo gets home, but we were so grateful that he offered.  They are seriously such amazing AirBNB hosts. Bryan gave us directions to an Internet cafe where we walked and printed everything out.  Crisis averted! On our way back, we stumbled upon a Turkish (I think) bakery. Tiffany got some baklava and I got a little sweet pastry that turned out to be just like a sweet I loved when I was living in South Africa, Koeksisters!

We started a load of laundry before we left for the Internet cafe. Here in England, they have machines that double as washers and dryers! Apparently, most people only use the dryers in the winter. We hung our clothes to dry on a rack by the radiator.

We are leaving very early tomorrow to catch the bus to Cardiff for the Doctor Who Experience. We will be taking the train back tomorrow night. I am so excited to go to Wales for the first time!
Every time I write a post that has pictures in it, my phone lags behind a lot and I can’t actually see what I have typed until about thirty seconds later, so I apologize for any typos!


September 7, 2015

Today we slept in! We didn’t wake up until about 11 and we putted around the flat for a little while before we really got going.
One of the cats slipped past me last night and got outside. We knew that the cats were allowed outside, but we were very nervous last night (and all of today) because we couldn’t get her to come inside and she stayed out all night. It turns out that is a pretty regular thing for her, but we were glad to hear this evening that she had come home this morning. Anyways, we spent a bit of time this morning trying to get her and the other cat to come inside, to no avail.

We left the flat and headed towards Charing Cross Rd. to pick up our London Passes to use later this week. We had the address for the office but had to use a map app for directions. We got a little lost but ended up accidentally wandering into Trafalgar Square. There were artists making chalk drawings and a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes. It was crowded, but so beautiful. I almost cried because the final Harry Potter premiere was at Trafalgar Square, so I know that the real queen (JK Rowling) has been there before.

We left Trafalgar Square to find the London Pass office again and passed it for a second time before realizing that the reason we couldn’t find it was because it was in the downstairs (underground) section of a round building that was sitting by itself on an island in the middle of the street. After finally picking up our London Passes so that we could use them on Friday, we got on the tube and headed out to find the Boroughs Market. 

I had read about a place in the Boroughs Market named Bread Ahead in a Buzzfeed article about London Streetfood that will change your life. Buzzfeed was not lying. In addition to the Bread Ahead stand, the market seemed to go on and on and on with every type of food you could think of. Tiffany and I each bought a meat pie from another vendor on the list, Pieminister. Tiffany bought a few different types of English sausage, a Yorkshire tea, and a salt beef sandwich. I bought a delicious slice of ginger cake and a bratwurst that I ultimately didn’t really like because it tasted like  sauerkraut even though there wasn’t any on it. I threw the bratwurst away and had another donut instead, meaning that I tried both their blackberry jam stuffed donut and their vanilla cream filled donut.

We left the market and decided to wander around for a little while. Our adventurous spirits were rewarded when we ran across a replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the remains of Winchester Castle, Shakespeare’s Globe, Millenium Bridge (which the Death Eaters destroyed) and a pub called The Anchor where Shakespeare himself supposedly used to drink.

We left The Anchor and rode the underground to the London Eye. It was an amazing experience and the photos from my iPhone really don’t do it justice. When we got off of the London Eye, we walked across the bridge and saw The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and  the big gate at the end of the road where 10 Downing Street is before the wandering a little farther and finding ourselves at Trafalgar Square by accident for the second time today. We stopped in a Pret A Manger to get drinks and to get croissants before catching the tube back to Manor House, where we are staying.


This is my first experience with AirBNB and I could not be more pleased. Our hosts, Bryan and Gian Paolo, are kind, helpful, warm, and welcoming. I would definitely recommend staying with them to anyone who is coming to London.


September 6, 2015

We woke up at around 6:45 this morning after going to sleep around midnight. I was up at 3 and at 6 before finally getting out of bed at 6:45 and I don’t think Tiffany slept very well either.

We made breakfast and drank some tea on the patio in the back yard before we each took a shower and got dressed for the day. Our first stop was at Brick Lane Market in Shoreditch. It was mostly just junk for sale, but there were a ton of food vendors to choose from and one booth in particular that had really excellent fresh squeezed juice. I had some lemon ginger juice and some strawberry mango juice. We walked around for a long time before I got a ham and cheese crepe and Tiffany got creamy pork ramen soup. For dessert, I had a caramel chocolate filled churro and Tiffany had a Nutella and banana crepe.

Next, we went to Kings Cross Station to have our pictures taken at Platform 9 3/4 and to see the shop at Platform 9 3/4. After that, we went to a shopping center where I was able to get a SIM card for my phone before we wandered through the shops.

From the shopping center, we took the Tube to Baker Street and went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. It was okay, but the £15 per person price tag seemed like a bit much. I probably would have enjoyed it much more if I had actually read the books instead of just watching the movies and tv show.

From Baker Street, we went to Paddington Station. I remembered reading that Hagrid and Harry had gone there for burgers after leaving Diagon Alley and I was hoping to eat a burger wherever they are a burger from. The only option we could find was McDonald’s, so we each got a cheeseburger and sat down to eat them near the Paddington Bear shop, which we went into next.


We were both very tired after all of this, so we came back to the flat to hang out for a little while before deciding what to do next. We eventually went to a place called Love Shake in Shoreditch to have milkshakes and picked up some late night pizza, a lot of which we are putting in the refrigerator to save for tomorrow.

I’m not quite sure yet what we will do tomorrow as it largely depends on what time we wake up, but we got lots and lots of walking in today!