Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy birthday to me

Most people spend their birthdays partying with friends. Or partying in clubs. Or partying in whatever way they best enjoy partying. Well that's what I did today too. But I did it in my own way. And I did it with my dad. And it was great.

You'd think with the difficulty I'm having at keeping my eyes open this evening that I'd had some crazy raucous adventure of an afternoon and evening. I just slept periodically through the new episode of QI: Quite Interesting on BBC2 and if you were guessing, you'd probably assume I spent the early night pubbing or clubbing. That's what people do in England right? That's what everyone else is doing.

I may have turned 20 today, but in every other way I was still acting like a teen. No wait, a pre-teen. No, a child. Or a toddler, maybe.

While I have no lessons to learn or teach with this blog - I'm probably too lethargic to think of any morals worth writing about - there is certainly a bit to tell. So here it goes.

The past few days have had me staying over at my dad's hotel. While my study abroad program provided accommodation for the first few days of my London studies, when I discovered that an internet connection would cost an arm and a leg (among other factors), I was quick to switch to a hotel that I already knew and loved. Plus, staying with my dad was a must. No explanations necessary.

This morning as per our usual arrangement, my dad was responsible for waking us up to start the day. We had planned to be up around 6:30 am to get down to breakfast and be on our way to Watford Junction where we'd pick up a coach (bus) to the Making of Harry Potter tour at Leavesden Studios.

But Dad woke up at 7:15 am. So we jumped out of bed and proceeded to freak out.

Making a weird face, ready to let you into the Great Hall.
Still we made it in time and managed to be part of the first group of attendees at the tour - I guess the first tour starts at 10 am. My dad being the oddball that he is blurted out to an employee at the tour that it was my birthday and I got a badge (pin) saying "It's My Birthday" as a souvenir from the tour. Later, I was given the chance to open the doors at the Hogwarts Great Hall (the first stop at the tour) because turning 20 is, despite being a moment of lost innocence, an opportunity to "open doors" (punny) to new experiences, I suppose.

We spent around three hours wandering through the tour. We saw the Great Hall, set pieces, costumes, props, special effect animatronics, mock-ups and a million other beautiful installations along the tour. This included walking down Diagon Alley, visiting Harry Potter's home as a baby, Number 4 Privet Drive and making our way across the beautiful wooden bridge from the Hogwarts grounds.

It all sounds silly and childish, but as someone who has spent more than half her life loving the HP films and books, and as someone who spent a good year and a half being utterly obsessed with all things Harry Potter (around age 12 or 13), resulting in her subsequent obsession with the country of England and the city of London, this entertainment franchise serves as an important aspect of my two decades of life.

Much to our surprise, they happened to have Butterbeer at the Harry Potter tour (a treat we both tried a couple of years ago when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Orlando). And at the very end of the tour I walked away with a Deathly Hallows keychain.

So after that, we came back to London via train and then we partied.

Partied and partied...

Actually we got back to the hotel for a lunch of cornish pasties and I napped. And I had to keep forcing myself to wake up because I would not could not waste a birthday sleeping in a hotel.

The rest of the day is kind of a blur because it was such an odd whirlwind. My dad and I walked through Victoria, the area of London where we stay when we're in town. We visited TopShop and I was less than enthused. Then we stopped by House of Fraser and I discovered the wonder that is department store shopping in London.

As we left the store, we were met with our first real rain of London along this trip thus far. Though we'd felt a slight drizzle at Leavesden, this was the kind of rain that washes the memories off the sidewalk of life (à la Woody Allen). Luckily I'd serendipitously purchased a pair of Hunter wellies from House of Fraser and there was a Boots nearby at which to purchase a lovely sturdy new umbrella.

Earlier in the day we'd picked up a Cadbury chocolate cake from Sainsbury's, so when we arrived back at the hotel in the evening to eat a dinner quietly in our room, we were able to sum everything up with some Birthday singing and a knife at the center of the cake subbing in for a candle. I "blew out" the knife and thus christened my 20th birthday.

This may not have been what others would consider an exciting way to celebrate an anniversary of birth. Sure, there are clubs all over this city. And there are pubs for celebrating and going mad. I could've even traveled to some other area of Europe for a wild time. But after two years of spending my birthday without family, and specifically without my dad, I can't think of any better way to have spent this personal "holiday."

I'm ending the evening sitting in bed while my dad watches Rob Brydon host Would I Lie To You? It's a simple end to a pretty simple day. But it's the best way I could think to have spent my birthday this year. Wouldn't trade it for anything. Goodnight.

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