Tag Archives: tour

The Making of Harry Potter: Warner Brothers Studio Tour


At last: my birthday gift to me!

I laughed.

I cried.

(Well, nearly.)

And I wandered Leavesden Studios in a daze, remembering with fondness every moment of Harry Potter mania – the seven books, the midnight release parties, the costumes, fan fiction, and hushed spoiler whispers – and the anticipation of the films that brought the magic to life.IMG_1132IMG_1065On the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, eager fans (e.g. yours truly + Marijn, my trusty comrade in arms) can revel with abandon in the literary and cinematic masterpiece of fifteen years of Harry Potter – from the 1997 publication of the Philosopher’s Stone to the box set release of all eight films.

Props, sets, costumes, interviews, pranks and quirks, production secrets and behind-the-scenes gossip – soak it all in, children of all ages. The magic lives on. IMG_1124

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Table Mountain

“It is not your mountain until you’ve conquered it” – Dragana

I proudly claim ownership over a small piece of the domineering Table Mountain. Mark, one of my Cape Town hosts, and I scrambled the Platteklip trail to the top on my very first morning.


To Cape Town I Go!

IMG_0625At long last, the Visa Saga is complete!

Following my Swazi border-jump, I re-entered the Republic of South Africa with a week to kill before my London flight. Naturally, an opportunistic trip to Cape Town was in order.

And just as I feared, I fell in love with the city. Hard.

In four and a half days I saw a major slice of Western Cape highlights, but left so much of Cape Town itself grievously unexplored. Can I persuade anyone to accompany me on a future South African jaunt?

Lourenço Marques: A walking tour of Maputo

Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, grew from a colonial settlement in the 16th century after the arrival of Portuguese explorer Lourenço Marques. The land proved largely inhospitable to Europeans – marshy, muggy, and malarial, yet still of mercantile value. Sea ports seem often to have those qualities.

The city is sometimes called City of Acacias, for the many acacia trees lining its avenues, and sometimes the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

In present-day Maputo, an eccentric expat named Jane Flood has organised an independent walking tour of the city, which we took on our last morning in town. The history of Mozambique, but especially of Maputo, is a fascinating tangle and one I wish I had known more about prior to visiting.


Under Portuguese rule, the art and architecture of Maputo grew rapidly, mimicking the styles of its European overlords. Evidence of this era remains all throughout the city and continues to influence the modern art community. Community parks and luxury hotels sprang up around town

IMG_6323Famed revolutionary and politician Samora Machel led Mozambique to independence in 1975, when he became the first president of the Républica Popular de Moçambique. Honouring his ties to the Soviet bloc, Machel quickly reclaimed all Maputo’s streets by renaming them after prominent socialist and communist figures. Needless to say, the West was unnerved by this leftist leader in the Cold War era. The politics of Mozambique must wait for another post, however.

Both my stay in Maputo and the tour prompted me to read books set in Mozambique, and for a curious novel about the city’s Red Light district, I refer you to A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankel. Not exactly the height of fiction, and not entirely about Mozambique, but a diverting read all the same.

For another perspective, watch this video tour of Maputo featuring Europeans.

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The saddest bus tour

Durban Ricksha Bus. Human language shall never capture the uniqueness of the experience nor the hours of delight it gave us for the remainder of the trip.

2014-04-14 15.10.49After Cathy’s timely arrival to our party, we had 24 hours remaining to enjoy our coastal retreat, which we attempted to do with aplomb: early morning surfing (a success this time!), a lengthy post-surfing run along the promenade, and a tour de force of the greater city since Cathy had not been able to explore alongside us.

Ricksha advertises three hours of sightseeing and learning about such major Durban attractions as the Promenade, uShaka Marine World, Victoria Market, City Hall, the newly-constructed Moses Mabhida Stadium, and Suncoast Casino.

The wealth of information provided about these highlights includes a list of souvenir offerings, prices of admission, and style of architecture. It does not include mention of history, importance, or indication of benefit to Durbanites.

What is not advertised, however, are the many luxury hotels that will be pointed out along your tour (each offering “excellent services and facilities to the public“), the golf courses where mid-status regional golfers come occasionally, a prep school for affluent high school boys, views of the highway, various restaurants along the fabled Florida Street, and assorted trees, flowers, and obscure buildings identified only by their colour with no supporting detail of importance.

Most unforgettable was our 45-minute refreshment break at a decrepit shopping mall tucked away in suburbia at which point we debated forgetting to return to the bus at the expected time…

Southern African Adventure

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  • 7-8 April | Marijn & Ann arrive in Mokhotlong
  • 9 – 11 April | Sani Pass & Drakensbergen
  • 11/12 April | Cathy joins us with friends from Jo’burg
  • 12 April | Drive to Durban
  • 13 – 15 April | Surfing near Durban, potentially go up to St Lucia/Kosi Bay/Richards Bay/Sodwana/Isimangaliso Wetland Park
  • 16-18 April | Swaziland
  • 18-19 April | Santa Maria Island, Mozambique
  • 20 April | Day trip with Maputo friends
  • 21 April | Back to South Africa
  • 22 – 23 April | Kruger Park
  • 24 April | Drive back to Pretoria
  • 25 April | Apartheid Museum, dinner, last bits and bobs
  • 26 April | Cathy, Ann, & Becky leave South Africa

The Making of Harry Potter

This is adorable. And makes me that much more excited about my birthday gift to myself in 6 months.