After leaving Lincoln we drove to Watford, a suburb of London. Watford did not have much going for it with the exception of the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Michelle was the driver behind this stop although the kids were super excited that we chose to do it. We arrived at the studio at 9:30 a.m. in time for our 10 a.m. tour time. We started out by watching a video from the cast regarding their experience filming. As we walked out of the theater we were standing at the doors to the Great Hall. The doors opened and all of a sudden we were on the actual film set for Harry Potter. They consider the sets as “Hot Sets” meaning that they could use them tomorrow if needed. As we left the great hall we toured all of the major sets in each of the films. There was also an opportunity for Michelle and the kids to fly on broom sticks as they inserted the backdrops as if they were flying around Hogwarts and around London. Butter Beer was also on the menu. The kids loved it although it tasted a little like cream soda to me.
After the tour we were dropped off in the gift shop. If I thought the entrance tickets were expensive, it was nothing to what we were about to spend in the store. The kids each wanted wands, which we treated them to. Here is where they also spent most of their pocket money. All in all $350 later we walked out. While it was a very expensive day, I would not have changed any part of it. The delight and joy on their faces (Michelle included) was priceless.
The following morning we departed Watford on our way south of London. En-route we made a slight detour to a town called Kimpton. A friend of mine has the last name of Kimpton and had asked that if I was close to stop in and take a picture. We did one better, not only did we take a picture of me in front of the sign but also found a pub to hoist a pint in his honor. 😉
From Kimpton, we headed to our hotel in East Grinstead. The following day we met five of my relatives and their families for a lovely afternoon of reconnecting. I think it was wonderful for Michelle and the kids to meet the family and our children to meet their cousins.
We then headed into London to do all of the traditional tourist items including the London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. A nice addition was that we happened to be in London during the Tour de France. As we were standing at Big Ben, we were able to see the cyclists race by. They are truly flying; you don’t get the full sense of their speed on TV.
After a month in the United Kingdom, we were truly exhausted; however, we would not have traded the experience for anything. We traveled 2,600 miles, and if you have ever been there you know that in the UK that is a huge distance, unlike here in the States. I found that I missed driving on the right side of the car, and I found the narrow roads exhilarating. Michelle would not agree. J
I realized something this trip — I have not gone back enough. I really enjoyed connecting with my family again. As I get older I am beginning to realize the importance of that so much more. I hung out with some of my older relatives and wonder if I will ever see them again. The last time I was back was in 2008 for my gran’s funeral.
Michelle and I have come to the conclusion that I need to make a trip back at least every two years, with the family joining me every other trip to help curtail the cost. While we will never do a month again, we will probably spend 10 days more often in and around my brother’s area and Lincoln.
As I look back on our journey I realize that this was truly a trip of a lifetime and that it was so important for me to have my family here in the States connect with my extended family in the United Kingdom.