Archive for the ‘harry potter’ Category

Durham, England

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

I was so excited to visit Durham, England this past weekend. Such a lovely city! It’s about a three-hour drive from Edinburgh, but totally worth it. (Probably shorter by train.)

The flecks in this picture - yeah, that's snow!

The flecks in this picture – yeah, that’s snow!

I visited Durham Cathedral, which was absolutely amazing! As both a history nerd and a Harry Potter fan, I loved the place. The history buff in me geeked out over the fact that I was, you know, strolling through a gorgeous Norman cathedral built in 1093. Two major historical figures, which I studied last semester, were buried in the cathedral – St. Cuthbert and Bede – so it was pretty cool to see those!

The door to the cathedral.

The door to the cathedral.

Left: Shrine of St. Cuthbert/St. Cuthbert's Grave, Right: The Venerable Bede's Tomb

Left: Shrine of St. Cuthbert/St. Cuthbert’s Grave, Right: The Venerable Bede’s Tomb

The Harry Potter fan in me nerded out over the cloisters. This served as the courtyard at Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films! So not only did I get to visit a cathedral, I also got to visit the wizarding school of my childhood dreams.

This screen cap and the one above it show scenes from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone which were filmed at the Durham cloisters.

This screen cap and the one above it show scenes from Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone which were filmed at the Durham cloisters.

While we were able to see the castle from the outside, my friends and I were not able to get tickets to tour the inside. Instead we strolled through the streets and shops in the city. Could not get over how cute this city was!

So yes, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Durham, perhaps for more than one day as there is a bunch of awesome stuff outside the city which would be great to see. (Escomb Church – look it up!)

P.S. On a completely irrelevant note – the sun is the weirdest thing here. When I arrived in Edinburgh it was completely dark by about 4:30. I would leave my last class (which ends at 5) and it would be dark out. I leave class now and the sun is still shining. There’s become about an hour difference in sunset time in only about three weeks. It’s so disorienting, I thought I was losing my mind. Apparently, by the time I leave Scotland in late May, the sun won’t set until about ten o’clock at night! (Thought this was interesting enough to put on the blog, but not enough so to get it’s own post, so I’m tacking it on here.)

Rockin Oxford Lyra-style

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

So after a week in Oxford, I can say I feel considerably smarter. And yes, I will admit everytime I punched in the door code to get into the college, I’d be smug about it. We got our own dorm rooms at Univ, arguably Oxford’s oldest college (there’s 39 of them total). Since they want to maintain the historical integrity of the building, the dorms rooms are stuck wherever you can fit them—as a result, some kids got hobbit holes with low ceilings and others got rooms that looked like hotel suites with bay windows. I was lucky enough to get a room in the corner overlooking the library and a little quad. I had a couch in my room also, with a sink and a huuuge desk. Didn’t bring my laptop to get the full studious-collegiate-you-know-Oxford-experience. We were served breakfast and lunch everyday in the Great Hall, which looks like the exact one from Harry Potter. There were portraits of scary old men glaring at you as you ate, but nothing could diminish from the taste of British bacon.

And of course another bucket list-er was achieved!

13. Punt on the river.

For all of you that don’t know, punting is basically steering a flat rickety boat with a long pole—that’s it. No oars and it tips easier than a canoe. I volunteered to start us off! Granted, I secured the lead by crashing into other people’s boats but hey, what can you do right?

Ramming speeeeed!


Through the treeees!

The most rewarding part of the day was not falling out of the boat! Switching punters was the challenging part…as the boat sits extremely close to the water and rocks with the slightest shift in weight.

Oxford was an amazing little slice of a city filled with little shops that cater to the students—a four level bookstore, cafes with cheap fare, collegiate wear and sketchy clubs. There was a burrito place that played American music–don’t judge me, burrito withdrawal is a serious problem. We did visit The Eagle and the Child, a pub that C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to frequent. I didn’t exactly catch inspiration to start writing my papers or anything….but it was a good effort, right? We also saw the famous shrunken heads at the Pitts River Museum! Incredibly creepy but AWESOME.

View from St. Mary's bell tower...3 pounds to climb it. Worth the views!

The highlight of the tourist-y things we did….yes, get ready for it….I climbed the Harry Potter staircase. Yessir.

For those of you that are not Harry Potter fans. First of all, you need to evaluate the direction your life is going. Second of all, this is the staircase that the first-years waited on to be sorted. Remember when Draco first introduces himself to Harry? The very same. It’s in Christ Church, which is a college in Oxford as well as an actual church. We weren’t allowed to walk on the lawns and the “helpers”/tour guides wore bowler hats and cute little suits.

The last night of Oxford was lovely. We were served a super fancy dinner in the Great Hall with our teachers, (truffle soup to start us off with!!), dressed “smart” and played pool with the Brits in the Univ bar afterwards.

Perfect homework conditions---tea and a breeze

But no, English weather is terrible right?

In other words, Oxford was a successful mini-trip in the grand scheme of my big trip. I’d definitely be interested in going back, and highly recommend it!

Stonehenge and Harry Potter film locations ;)

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Look out for the crazy Americans...

That sums our experience up pretty well! Not to be blasphemous, but aesthetically Stonehenge is nothing special. The real “woah” factor lies in how long the stones have been there, the fact that they were carried there all the way from South Wales, and the fact that people have been fascinated by them for hundreds of years. The weather was apparently the best it’s ever been in all of ASE’s years of going there!



We walked around the Stones through the throngs of tourists (SOOO many, kinda cheapens the experience) for about an hour. We were encouraged to take tons of pictures, and we did, although I get the feeling people were not so fond of the crazy Americans laughing at the ridiculous pictures we were taking….we did get a few laughs at some points. At us, probably, not with us, but that’s fine!




Monsters attacking the place..

After Stonehenge we went on to Salisbury, which has one of the last truly all-Gothic cathedrals. Although Bath Abbey is beautiful, I preferred Salisbury’s for the architectural style. It was in amazing condition, with a beautiful altar in the shape of a cross, pouring water down into vents with mathematical precision. It also housed the oldest clock in the world, although only the gears remained. It humbles you to stand in a place that tremendous, with vaulted ceilings so high you have to crane your neck, and think of how people hundreds of years ago made something so amazing with nowhere near the tools we have today. It made me not want to talk above a whisper and be mindful of the squeaks my hiking boots were making. Also, Salisbury Cathedral houses one of the original four copies of the Magna Carta!


The Cathedral is deceptively small from the outside view, inside there were so many prayer rooms, mini-cathedrals for special ceremonies, and amazing ceilings. It was filled with ornate carvings, vaults for burials, a museum, gift shop, and restaurant out in the courtyard.




From Salisbury we went to Lacock Abbey, founded by a widowed Countess in the early thirteenth century as a haven for nuns. But in more recent years, it was the filming location for the halls of Hogwarts—that’s right Harry Potter fans. I walked the same halls as Harry, Ron and Hermione. 95% of us at the program are English major and Harry Potter fanatics, so this was quiiiite a treat. The rest of the house was restored and beautiful of course, but the real pull was the hallways surrounding the courtyard.

Look familiar, HP fans?

The town was also the site of Lily and James Potter’s house, the location where Harry and Hermione were exploring Godric’s Hollow, and the place where Dumbledore and Harry went to recruit Slughorn from his house. The 2010 Benicio del Toro film “The Wolfman” was also filmed in Lacock. It has its perks as a filming location because it maintains thatched roofs and Swiss siding, which gives it a quaint old English village feel. We had dinner at The George Inn, second oldest pub in Britain, with the original fireplace from medieval times still intact. I sat there chowing down, wondering how many Viking-like warriors had sat in that exact same place, gnawing their teeth at a leg of lamb and guzzling tankards of ale. It makes me appreciate the history, and really enforce how young America is in comparison.

As for my classes so far, every one of my “tutors” (still sounds strange to call them that) is from Oxford University. I envision a lot of work, they don’t call it Advanced Studies in England for nothing! They all want you to call them by their first names though, they say “professor” is only a label given to extremely high up tutors who have been teaching for at least 20-ish years. They’re very easy to talk to, and not the slightest bit pretentious despite the prestigious school they’re from. They do expect a lot from you in class discussion, which is a lot more rigorous than back home. It makes me really appreciate the scholarly environment I live in right now! haha

A Week in Oxford

Monday, August 15th, 2011

From September 17-23, my program is taking me to Oxford University where our classes will be taught there for a week. Up on the menu:

-Served breakfast and lunch in the Great Hall (Harry Potter-induced giggle. Yes, THE Great Hall where they eat breakfast in the movies. The very same. Mhmm.)

-Guided tours of the city

-Accommodations in the dorms

-A formal dinner with the faculty

-Punting on the Isis River (think gondola boats in Venice)

-Visit to Bleinheim Palace, where Sir Winston Churchill was born (pictured to the right)



But something that really catches my eye more than any of the others is FULL access to the infamous Bodleian Library. Uh huh. It’s pretty much like the moment where the Beast unveils the insane library as a present to Beauty.

    And apparently, the library serves as the filming location for the Harry Potter movies (the Hogwarts library and the hospital wing). To an English major, it’s a double whammy. Not to mention, Philip Pullman’s (an Oxford grad) Dark Materials series takes place in Oxford. Who knows, maybe Oxford will inspire me to write the next Pullman-esque best-seller series! I don’t even think I’ll know what to do with myself. Probably stare and drool.

And a formal dinner with the faculty? Sometimes I wonder how I managed to finagle a spot into this program. Rubbing elbows with some of the most distinguished faculty in the world? Actually taking classes in one of the most prestigious universities worldwide? Sigh. I’ll be sure to have people handy to revive me when I inevitably faint.

Orientation Week Trips

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

So! I’ve been poring over the ASE site almost every single day now, and I’ve been looking especially at the optional (but seriously, who would pass these up?) trips during orientation week. And my nerdy English-major self is especially excited about the first one :)

1) Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Lacock.

Well of course Stonehenge warrants no introduction. It’s clearly coordinates aliens left to come back and attack us with. Salisbury, where Stonehenge is, has medieval cathedrals, and castles and forts from the Iron Age. And Lacock Abbey is where (drumroll) TONS of Harry Potter was filmed!!!

Aw yeah, recognize that abbey? If you don’t, you seriously need to re-evaluate the direction your life is going.

2) Nearby Spots of Historical Interest

The spot varies with the semesters, past trips were The Cotswolds and Glastonbury, where King Arthur is supposedly buried (picture).

Since I’m taking “Myths and Legends of Britain and Ireland,” I’m definitely rooting for a Glastonbury trip. Allegedly, it’s heavily mentioned in the Avalon myths, and has strong ties to the Holy Grail and Lancelot. Not only would that add depth to my class, but then I could annoy everyone and quote Monty Python the entire trek to see it.

3)Substantial Hike

While I’m sure my thighs will hate me for this, I’m definitely going on the hiking trip. The Jurassic Coast has apparently been a past location. Another favorite spot is Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales (pictured).

Apparently you can walk the entire park/mountain if you have 8 days to spare (it’s 95 miles…but I think I’ll pass on that one). I’ve got my sturdy hiking boots and weatherproof gear all set to go, and how many people can say they’ve gone mountain climbing in Wales? Anyone know any good hiking songs??