Living LEAP: Phase 6

Don’t know what LEAP/MRT is? Missed the start of this series? Click here to catch up!

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Since my last recap a few months ago, I wrapped up Phase 5 and moved on to Phase 6.

Phase 6 is basically where you’re on your own. You’ve learned how to eat and what to eat and now you just live your life!

In Phase 6, you test out your highly reactive foods (red) and see how you respond to them.

All my results are posted here – but as a refresher:

My highly reactive foods and additives (red) are crab, lecithin, lemon, salmon, sesame, and spinach.

My moderately reactive foods and additives (yellow) are beet, cabbage, cashew, cheddar, codfish, coffee, dill, egg, red #40, garbanzo, green pea, maple, oat, pear, pinto bean, rice, salicylic acid, sodium metabisulfate, spelt, and strawberry.

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In addition, you gradually introduce foods into your diet that the MRT did not test in order to determine your tolerance level.

For example, the blood panel didn’t test kiwis, brussels sprouts, kale, or dates. I miss kale chips and roasted brussels sprouts and can’t wait to add them back (if I can – I haven’t tried yet). I have happily added back kiwis and dates. Dates are especially great since they are a nice, filling snack and now I can utilize Larabars when I’m on-the-go.

You also begin a rotation diet in Phase 6. The rotation helps you not over-consume certain foods/food families to the point where you could possibly lose a tolerance for them or even develop a new sensitivity.

An easy way to do this is to rotate food families every three days. For instance, chickens and eggs are both in the pheasant family, so you might eat eggs and chicken on Monday but then you would wait until Thursday to have them again. You wouldn’t want to eat eggs on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, and eggs again on Wednesday because your body isn’t getting a break from the pheasant family. It’s all about variety and making sure to keep your diet diverse.

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What I’ve been eating lately: 

Enjoy Life Food’s Chocolate Chips / Chunks / they’re dairy-free, nut-free, and soy-free.  Easily found at most health food stores, co-ops, or on Amazon.

Elderberry Syrup (Amazon / Etsy / DIY) / this simple immune system-boosting syrup is great for warding off the cold or flu or speeding up recovery if you’ve already caught something.

Theo’s Gingerbread Spice / I’m a huge dark chocolate fan but Theo’s special holiday chocolate bar is my latest obsession. I may have to stock up to tide me over until next Christmas!

Trader Joe’s Salsa Autentica / few ingredients, but full of flavor – goes perfectly with blue corn chips!

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What I’ve been using lately: 

Bumble & Co’s Shampoo & Conditioner / still loving this! The smell is heavenly but it’s a little expensive so I keep it as a treat.

Acure Organic’s Pure Mint + Echinacea Stem Cell Shampoo & Conditioner / my new go-to! The price is right and the mint is invigorating.

Fat and the Moon’s Lip & Cheek Stain / When I first started LEAP, I was kind of bummed when I had to toss all my lipsticks and stains because they were chemical-laden and chock full of red dyes. I missed being able to perk up my look with a bright pop of color. So, although beets are on my moderately reactive list and Fat and the Moon’s product contains beet root, I am pleased to have found an alternative to my old beauty products. Due to the beets, I use this sparingly but love it!

Primal Pit Paste Happy Pits Sensitive Stick / after ditching traditional antiperspirant, I trialled many natural deodorant options. Tom’s of Maine, Fat and the Moon, Crystal… you name it. Nothing was working and I was sick of stinking or having a rash (which I later figured out was from the baking soda) so I went back to my trusty, albeit aluminum-filled Secret. But, I’m ready to get back on track so my next experiment will be with Primal Pit’s new deo for sensitive skin since it’s baking soda free. Wish me luck!

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What I’ve been reading lately:

Secrets from a Baker: How to Make Any Recipe “Real Food Approved”

Why Prebiotics Are Just As Important As Probiotics For Gut Health

Tired Of Nutrition Nonsense? 7 Food Rules Anyone Can Live By

The Problem With Pads and Tampons (and Natural Alternatives)

Good Food on a Tight Budget

EWG’s Healthy Home Tips: Use greener cleaners and avoid pesticides

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How I’m Feeling: 

When I started my LEAP journey last February, I had no idea how much it would change my life but I had high hopes. I’m so pleased with the outcome. It took dedication and a lot of hard work but it was so worth it. In the end, treating your body right and providing for it properly is a process. It’s not a diet or a phase; it’s a lifestyle change. It is something you’ll always be working on.

Sure, it’s a roller-coaster and, yes, you fall off the wagon every once in a while. But, you get back up because you’ve realized that you only have one body, one life, and no one can take care of it but you. It’s a big responsibility but you can do it! And when you need a little help, there’s a whole supportive community out there waiting with open arms. I’ve met many new people on my LEAP journey, found wonderful blogs to follow, and fantastic businesses to support. There’s a whole movement of individuals who are in the pursuit of health and wellness in a simple, all natural way. It’s incredible and inspiring!

I get asked many questions about my recent life change and about how MRT / LEAP works. However, after I’ve explained everything, the next thing I usually hear is, “So, you can never eat those foods again?!” and “There’s no way I could ever do that! If I had to stop eating XYZ, I’d die.”

My response? Sure, if you take the MRT test and follow the LEAP protocol you might find some of your favorite foods are reactive for you. But then, if you are feeling bad enough to give MRT/LEAP a try, wouldn’t you be willing to do just about anything to feel better? In truth, most people who have to give up a favorite food or two (or more!) realize that after their symptoms are resolved, it’s really not worth it to go back to feeling awful just for a food.

And, just because the MRT reveals you have food sensitivities, doesn’t mean you will always have the same sensitivities. Some people with food sensitivities have found that after giving their body/immune system time to calm down (usually months), they can enjoy foods they were found sensitive to so long as they are not over-consumed. Others find that they’re always sensitive to those foods or that although the reaction has lessened it still remains a sensitivity. It all depends on the person.

Furthermore, like I mentioned earlier, there’s always the possibility that new food sensitivities can develop.

That’s why it’s so important to vary your diet as much as possible as this may help prevent new sensitivities from developing. One food sensitivity theory is that because our immune system is weakened and we continue to bombard our body with the same foods over and over, we develop sensitivities to the repeating foods/chemicals.

A diverse diet is crucial to help ensure you are receiving the variety of nutrients your body needs, which in turn helps support a healthy immune system.

So, in the end, maybe you will have to give up your favorite foods. Or, maybe you won’t. But if you feel like your body is out of balance or you’re suffering from some of symptoms listed here – I can’t help but think you owe it to yourself to take that leap, face your fears, and possibly give up that that favorite food in exchange for a healthier, happier life.

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So, that’s what’s been going on over here!

Again, if you have any questions about things I’ve written about or about MRT/LEAP in general just let me know. Wishing you all good health and happiness!

$ Let’s Talk Money – Part 7: Food for Thought & an Update

click here to catch up on the rest of the series

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Upon realizing it’s been exactly a year since my last update (oops!), I figured it was time for a little catch up!

As of right now, we have $10,944.54 to pay back in student loans and $11,600 on the car loan.

Over the last twelve months we’ve continued to chip away at the debt.

Sure, a few expenses popped up that set us back a little: dental surgery, passport/supplies for my trip to Europe with my mom, travel & gifts for weddings, etc.

But, for the most part we’ve been able handle whatever comes along thanks to saving / budgeting for both planned and unexpected events.

Paying off debt definitely takes time, but if you keep on it and stay committed – you’ll eventually reach the finish line!

In case you need more motivation (besides how accomplished and free you’ll feel when you see $0!), I find it helpful to follow other people’s pay-off journeys.

A few of my favorites are:

  • Newlyweds on a Budget
    “We may not have a lot, but at least we have each other.”
    They paid off $45K in 45 months…and just bought a house! This blog is chock-full of great info/advice and the comment section is always ripe with insightful discussion.
  • Clueless with Cash
    “Just a girl trying to break up with her debt and become a little less clueless.”
    Real talk from someone who’s riding the roller coaster that is trying to have a life while tackling student loans and credit card debt!
  • Kitty & Kevin
    “Two 20-somethings struggling with mountains of student loan debt.”
    No joke – mountains! They’ve been diligently working to pay down $100K… and they only have $20K left now!
  • Monica on Money
    “Saving, Budgeting, and Frugal Living.”
    Monica’s paid off her mortgage in 5 years, is paying for her Master’s degree with cash, and living frugally in Florida.

So, while it may seem impossible at times, you can get out of a difficult financial situation.

And once you’ve made it, you can start setting new goals to make sure you’re comfortable for the future!

✈ Europe | Oxford | Part II

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London Part I | Bath | London Part II (Harry Potter) | Oxford Part I

Day 4: We met up with some old friends of Mom’s from her college days and took a walk along the canal and through Port Meadow – where cows and horses roam. We stopped for a morning coffee at the Perch and admired a sweet little church in very small nearby town of Binsey before continuing along the canal and footpath. We lunched at The Trout with its resident peacock and headed back into town to climb up St. Mary’s tower. There we hung out with the gargoyles and took in the 360° view of Oxford before heading back down the small spiral staircase to check out the inside St. Mary’s Church. Finally, we grabbed a treat for our walk back home (a tasty little number called a “dark millionaire”).

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| our little walking group heading through Port Meadow and along the canal |

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| in the incredibly tiny town of Binsey and The Perch, a historic pub and restaurant |

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| the small parish of Binsey – St. Margaret’s Church |

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| back on the path, passed the remains of Godstow Nunnery |

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| tasty lunch at The Trout – gnocchi (with beef broth, butternut squash and broccoli) and a side of peacock! |

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| back in Oxford, heading up St. Mary’s tower to see the view – you have to travel up a tiny spiral staircase and squeeze through the passageway at the top – but it’s worth it! |

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| … see, what’d I tell ya? |

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| hangin’ with the gargoyles and grotesques |

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| taking in the view – boy, we’re up high! |

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| Oxford, whatta beauty! |

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| we had way too much fun playing in the tower |

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| back down on the ground, exploring the church below |

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| inside St. Mary’s |

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| St. Mary’s details – (top) beautiful wood carvings on the pews, (bottom) floor slabs, some dating back to 1645, but sadly missing their brass (most likely stolen or destroyed) |

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| (bottom) the tasty “dark millionaire” dessert I mentioned, (left) Mom’s breakfast quiche, (right) delicious dumplings from a sweet street food vendor |

Day 5: Grabbed a quick breakfast and started on a walk through Iffley via the ancient high walled footpath. Saw lovely thatched roofs along the way and a very neat 12th century Norman church with fantastic carvings and ancient stone decorations. From there we crossed the Lock and strolled along the Thames, past some horses in a meadow ,and headed back into town. Mom sweet talked the gatekeepers at University College into letting us in to see the Shelley Memorial. We finished up our jaunt through town by walking through a pretty garden before heading home for dinner.

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| at the beginning of the Iffley walk – the stone reads “here Ifley Hyway 1635 |

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| along walk through Iffley |

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| Iffley Church – The Church of St. Mary the Virgin –  built c. 1170–80 in the Norman style |

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| inside the church |

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| aren’t the carvings magnificent? |

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| crossed the Iffley Lock to be greeted by these featured friends |

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| very happy horses grazing in the sun |

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pretty gardens |

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finishing up our walk |

Day 6: Packed my bags, bid farewell to Oxford, and flew back to the States where a very happy Mr.C was waiting to welcome me home!

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And with that,
my European travelogue has come to an end.

Thanks for following along!

It’s been fun to share these photos and stories with you.

I wish you all many adventures of your own -
be they across the street or across the globe!

✈ Europe | Oxford | Part I

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London Part I | Bath | London Part II (Harry Potter) 

The last stop on our trip was Oxford, England. My mom, who did her study abroad there during college, had some old friends in the area she wanted to visit so we spent our last week abroad wandering the English countryside, popping in to various local colleges and grounds, and exploring nearby villages.

A little history of Oxford – it was first occupied in Saxon times when Alfred the Great created a network of fortified towns across his kingdom. The settlement began with the foundations of St. Frideswide’s nunnery in the 8th century and was first mentioned in written records in the year 912. The University of Oxford was founded in the 12th century and is the oldest English-speaking university. Today, the university is made up of 38 colleges. In addition to hosting a significant student population and being an academic hub, the city’s main industries are publishing and car manufacturing.

Now, onto the fun!

Day 1: We slept in and then took it easy; enjoying a leisurely stroll through University Park where we ate fresh berries along the way and admired the fall colors. We also wandered through the downtown area and popped into the Pitt Rivers Museum where the archaeological and anthropological collections of the University of Oxford are on display.

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| walking through University Park |

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| beautiful afternoon stroll |

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| wandering through downtown Oxford and side streets |

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| Pitt Rivers Museum |

Day 2: We visited Magdalen College (pronounced “Maudlin”), walked their beautiful grounds, fed fallen chestnuts to the the deer in their park, gaped at their 213 year old tree, and then ducked inside the college to see their great hall / cafeteria.

From there we continued our tour around town before stopping at Christ Church to see their grounds, great hall, and cathedral. The cathedral was originally the church of Saint Frideswide’s Priory. The site is claimed to be the location of the abbey and the final resting place of Saint Frideswide (although this is debatable). Saint Frideswide, who I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post, is the patron saint of Christ Church and of Oxford.

A few Harry Potter movie scenes were filmed at Christ Church – most notably the moment when Harry and the new first-years enter Hogwarts and are greeted by Professor McGonagall. This scene was shot on the 16th century staircase which leads up to the Great Hall. Christ Church’s Great Hall was replicated in the film studios to create the Great Hall in Hogwarts.

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| entering Magdalen College |

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| Magdalen College courtyard |

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| exploring the grounds of Magdalen College |

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| Magdalen College has a deer park! |

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| more of Magdalen |

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| look who we spotted… |

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| Mom holding the chestnuts/buckeyes we fed the deer and oh look she made a new friend! |

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This tree is called “Magdalen Plane”. It is a scion of the hybrid tree planted in the botanic garden in 1666. This tree was planted in 1801, which makes it exactly 213 years old. |

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Magdalen’s hall / cafeteria |

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| visiting Christ Church |

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| inside the walls of Christ Church |

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| the stairs leading to Christ Church’s Great Hall – they can be spotted in two Harry Potter films (the Sorcerers’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets) |

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| inside the Great Hall – which was used as a model for the Great Hall in Hogwarts |

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| inside Christ Church’s beautiful cathedral |

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| such neat carved details on the pews |

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| stunning “Hope, Faith and Charity” stained glass window designed by Edward Burne-Jones |

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| Saint Frideswide’s shrine – made in 1289, it’s the oldest monument in the cathedral |

Day 3: We hopped on a bus and took a took a little day trip out to Burford, a Cotswold village. There we walked along a few footpaths, visited their little church, lunched on the grounds, and fed the swans before bussing back to Oxford. Once there, we walked around the city to see more sites and architecture … like the shimmery Bridge of Sighs and my favorite little street of pastel houses.

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| Burford village |

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| walking along a footpath just outside Burford – you can see the village in the distance |

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| Crossing my first stile! A stile is built along a footpath fence, wall, or hedge to prevent farm animals from moving from one enclosure to another while still allowing path users to use the route. Stiles are often steps, ladders, or very narrow gaps. |

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| I may have squealed when we came across this…. just off the footpath – a World War II pillbox aka a concrete dug-in guard post. I read and watch so many things that are WWII related that it’s always exciting to see a piece of it in person. |

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| Burford’s church (St. John the Baptist) |

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| inside Burford’s church – the brass plate (bottom left) lay hidden under the floor for about 300 years. With its plea for a prayer for John’ s soul, it would certainly have been torn up during the Reformation of the Church of England. But, the brass was discovered in 1827 when work was being done on the building’s floor. |

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| the church grounds |

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| the quiet corner where we ate our sack lunch |

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| wandering Burford – old almshouses/”poorhouse” (left), village streets (middle & right) |

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| back in Oxford |

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| walking around Oxford |

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| the Bridge of Sighs |

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| streets of Oxford  – Hoyle’s Games, The Bear pub, and my favorite little row of pastel houses! |

Up next… more Oxford and the last of our European adventure!

✈ Europe | London | Part II – WB Harry Potter Studio Tour

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London | Bath

When planning our trip to London, it was a given that we’d be visiting the Warner Bros. Studio for their Making of Harry Potter tour.

My friend Liz, who is currently in Scotland working on her master’s degree, had planned a weekend trip to London while we were in town and decided to join us.

My mom was Liz’s kindergarten teacher so we’ve known each other and been friends for ages. In a hometown as small as ours you really get to know everyone; it also helped that Liz and I were big into music and drama in high school so we spent lots of time together there and in youth group. It was really neat (and a bit trippy) to be able to connect while both overseas!

That morning, Mom and I met Liz at Watford Junction where we took a shuttle over to the studio and proceeded to geek out for hours!

The London Warner Bros. studio is where all eight of the Harry Potter movies were filmed, so all the original props, sets, costumes, etc. on display for the tour.

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| the shuttle, giant chess pieces, Harry’s cupboard under the stairs, an obligatory studio shot, and the actors’ hand molds |

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| the Great Hall at Hogwarts |

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| costumes, set pieces, wardrobe/makeup, and props |

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Gryffindor Dormitory |

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| Snape’s Potions Classroom – our favorite! Oh, Alan Rickman… |

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| Dumbledore’s Office |
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| entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, the Golden Snitch, and the Burrow (Ron Weasley’s house) |
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Number Four Privet Drive, Liz trying Butterbeer |
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Hogwarts Bridge and the Potters’ Cottage |
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| wonderful witches, the Knight Bus, Flying Ford Anglia |
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| going behind the scenes at the Creature Effects Workshop – why, hello, screaming mandrake! |
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| full-scale models of Aragog, Buckbeck, and a Dementor were also on display |
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| the impressive Diagon Alley set |
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| The magical and impressive Hogwarts Castle model that was used to create all the exterior shots you see in the films. As you circle the model, the room’s lighting cycles from “day” to “night” – which is gorgeous! |
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| playing in the gift shop |

After the studio tour we weren’t quite ready to leave Harry Potter Land, so once we returned to London we made sure to stop by King’s Cross Station to check out Platform 9 3/4.

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| St Pancras railway station (next to King’s Cross) and Platform 9 3/4 |

After King’s Cross, we parted ways with Liz and Mom and I headed over to the British Museum. The museum is free to all visitors and houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts.

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For dinner, we found a decent Greek restaurant and feasted on our favorite dishes: saganaki, fasolakia, and taramosalata. Yum!
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On our way home, we ran across a cheap ticket booth in Leicester Square and scored last-minute, 11th row center seats to Evita!

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It was quite the way to end our very fun, eventful day!

Up next… Oxford!

✈ Europe | Bath

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles | London

During our stay in London we decided to take a day trip over to Bath.

My mom visited London five years ago and took a Jack the Ripper tour with the lovely people at London Walks. She had such a great experience that we signed up for their guided tour of Bath, England.  The tour guides of London Walks are incredibly well-versed in history, great at helping you see the “big picture” of the place you’re visiting, quick to share local stories or point out things you might not otherwise notice, and of course they’re quite clever and humorous too (as you’ll gather from glancing at their website).

We met our tour group at Paddington Station and hopped on a train to Bath. There we toured the Roman Baths, Royal Crescent, and Abbey.

A little history: The city was founded in the 1st century AD when the Romans built a temple and baths in the valley and baths, using the natural hot springs as a thermal spa. However, tradition and archeological excavations suggest the hot springs were known before then and were probably enjoyed by Neolithic hunter-gatherer tribes and Celtic people. In the Middle ages, Bath became and important center for the wool industry. In the 18th century, it developed into an elegant spa city, famed for art and literature (Jane Austen was famous resident).

Want to take the tour yourself but never have to leave your couch? Click here for a short video.

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passing St. Mary’s Hospital on our way to Paddington Station |
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| arriving in Bath: the Empire Hotel, Pulteney Bridge crossing the River Avon, and St. Michael’s Church |
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Pulteney Bridge – historic, with shops built into it, similar to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence |
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| part of the medieval city wall |
bath4Georgian architecture crafted from honey-colored Bath Stone and the Royal Mineral Water Hospital - a working hospital that has searched and treated rheumatic diseases for over 200 years|
bath5| historically popular bathing places in Bath |
bath6| the gorgeous Bath Abbey |
bath7| Bath Abbey: magnificent stained glass windows, fanned vault ceilings, and angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder |
bath12| (left) The Royal Crescent, one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks, is a row of 30 terraced houses arranged in a sweeping crescent, (right) another rounded landmark, The Circus |
bath9| entering the Roman Baths |
bath11| inside one of the best preserved baths in the world |
bath10| The Sacred Spring that still supplies natural hot water |

bath8| in the Pump Room curious visitors can taste Bath’s natural warm mineral water |

After saying goodbye to Bath, we headed back to London where we wrapped up the day with a hearty dinner at the pub in our neighborhood – The George & Dragon.

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Up next… Oxford!

✈ Europe | London | Part I

Catch up on our grand European adventure:
Rome | Pompeii | Florence Part I | Florence Part II | Paris | Versailles 

Day 1: We woke up early to the Eurostar (a high-speed train service that travels underwater through the Channel Tunnel aka “Chunnel”) from Paris to London. As we stood in line at the passport checkpoint before boarding, I saw a bald head in front of us that looked awfully familiar. The man was with his wife, both in chic but casual attire, and talking about sweet potatoes of all things. Mom was acting like a giddy school girl when I told her who I’d just spotted but we both managed to keep our cool (for the most part). We did about lose it when the passport officer asked his occupation and he answered, “Actor.” (dreamily, Mom says!). I mean with those lashes and that talent?! Who wouldn’t be smitten with… Stanley Tucci!!! Yep, turns out he and his wife were returning to their home in London after a day-trip to Paris. I only know this because someone else blogged about being six rows away from him the day before!

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| Stanley Tucci: on his wedding day with wife Felicity Blunt, alongside Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada, and as the outrageous Caesar in the Hunger Games series (images c/o Google) |

Anyway, our little celebrity-sighting was like finding a heads-up penny because it definitely started the next leg of our trip off right. We arrived in London and went straight to our lodgings at Carr Saunders Hall, a dormitory that the London School of Economics rents out to tourists when college isn’t in session. We ditched our bags quickly, got a map and directions from the front desk, and set off to our next destination… the Apollo Victoria theater.

There we spent the afternoon basking in the glory that is “Wicked The Musical”. I’ve read the book series multiple times, played the soundtrack to death, and saw it once before in Chicago – but it was Mom’s first time going and we had an amazing experience. Great seats, incredible performers, knock-out costumes – Wicked is such a treat that you definitely should go if you ever get the chance!

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| Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz |

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Buckingham Palace |

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| Everyone’s favorite phone booth! |

Day 2: We took a break from London and spent the day in Bath.

Day 3: Mom & I met up with my friend Liz and spent most of the day at the Warner Bros. Studio – Making of Harry Potter tour.

Day 4: We woke up, grabbed breakfast, and headed downtown to meet Liz and do some general sight-seeing. Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey – quintessential London! After taking in the scenery we split up; Liz walked over to St. James’ Park and Buckingham Palace while Mom & I took a tour of Westminster. We reconnected for lunch at The Laughing Halibut where we were joined by Liz’s friend, Lauren. It was a fun lunch –  traditional fish and trips, good conversation, and a little entertainment on the side (a pigeon flew into the restaurant and wildly flapped about until one of the cooks caught it bare handed and tossed it back outside!). Following lunch, we parted ways with Lauren and strolled down to Trafalgar Square, passing the Prime Minister’s house along the way. We then spent some time wandering the National Gallery, a free art museum that houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900s. After the museum, we bid farewell to Liz so she could pack and get some sleep before her long bus ride back to Edinburgh (where she’s working on her master’s degree – you can follow her adventures here.). Mom & I continued on to the National Portrait Gallery for a while before finally calling it a day.

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| Big Ben – Palace of Westminster |

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Westminster Abbey |

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| The Chapter House of Westminster Abbey and the oldest door in Britain (it’s the only surviving Anglo Saxon door in the country)|

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Palace of Westminster, The London Eye, Liz soaking up the scenery… and rain |

fishnchips | lunch at The Laughing Halibut |

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| The National Gallery |

Day 5: For our last day in the city, we decided to meet up with a guide from London Walks for a tour of the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a 900-year-old fortress and castle. It has also served as a royal residence, housing for the Royal Mint and the Crown Jewels, barracks, storehouse for military paraphernalia and weapons, and notorious prison. Throughout its history, the tower imprisoned many people – from common criminals to monarchs. Famous prisoners include Lady Jane Grey (who was executed on Tower Green, an open terrain in the Tower of London, nine days after being crowned Queen), Edward and Richard (two princes, ages 12 and 9, sons of Edward IV, who are believed to have been killed by Richard III, their uncle, who took the throne for himself), and Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard (two of Henry VIII’s wives who were both imprisoned and later executed).
After touring the Tower of London, we walked along the Thames and waved to St.Paul’s Cathedral before collecting our luggage and catching a bus to the final destination on our grand European adventure, Oxford.
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| The Tower of London |
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| Traitor’s Gate (the water entrance where many prisoners, accused of treason, passed through), The White Tower, and one of the famous ravens (legend says that if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall) |
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| views from inside Beauchamp Tower where the important prisoners were housed |
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| graffiti left by prisoners, mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries when the Tower of London was the country’s foremost state prison (this time period was one of great religious and political upheaval) |
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| an arrow slit in the fortress wall, the Bloody Tower gate, and a glass memorial that commemorates those who were executed on Tower Green –  scaffolds for beheadings were often erected in front of The Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula |
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| Armor and artifacts on display in the White Tower  – including suits belonging to Henry VIII |
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| Tower Bridge |
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St.Paul’s Cathedral |
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| walking along the Thames |

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| traveling first by tube, then by bus to our final European destination |

Up next… Oxford!