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The Warner Brothers Studios Tour, London

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Located close to London and home to a number of recent smash hit movies, the Warner Brothers Studio near Watford is a brilliant day out for all the family. For film buffs, there’s the chance to take a look behind the scenes at how the magic is made on set while for those who have a love of a some of the biggest movies of recent years will be able to see a whole lot of great settings and scenery from these and other fabulous films.

The studios are most famous for being the location of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where Harry Potter and his school friends learned their magic and faced great foes as they grew up as boarders at the school. A number of the most famous locations from the films that will be instantly recognisable to any fan of the movies are still in situ at the studios and are ready and waiting for Muggles to take a tour and learn what happens behind the scenes.

Recognisable locations

Warner Brothers Studio is most famous for playing host to Harry Potter during his years at Hogwarts. Many of the most recognisable locations from the films, including Dumbledore’s office as well as the potions classroom where Harry, Hermione and Ron went through their paces with Severus Snape. Younger visitors have the opportunity to jump on a broomstick in front of the green screen and take a ride around Hogwarts like their young heroes.

 

Professor Umbrides' office

Take a trip to the Ministry of Magic and visit Professor Umbridge’s Office

In the Backlot, you get to see some of the outdoor settings of the film as well as sample a little something that Muggles rarely get the chance to try. Take a look around the Knight Bus and learn about the special course that had to be plotted through London so the triple-decker didn’t get smashed to bits under the low bridges of the city. You can also see the half-giant Hagrid’s giant bike with its huge seat to accommodate his giant behind! Once you’re done looking around out back, make a pit-stop and refresh yourself with some Butterbeer at one of only two locations in the world where the real stuff is served.

Arts and crafts

As well as looking around the locations and props from the films, the tour introduces you to some of the other items that make Hogwarts the recognisable place that it is on screen. The Art Department shows some of the intricate sketches created in the design of the set and shows how those pencil drawings were turned into stunning paintings using a digital brush.

 

The creature workshop

Just a few of the highlights from the Creature Workshop

You can also visit the Creature Effects studio where prosthetists and make-up artists created all kinds of incredible casts including a fully working animatronic version of Hagrid’s head and over 250 full body moulds of various actors’ bodies to be used for death scenes and stunning spell effects. You can also meet Dobby, Buckbeak and many of the goblins you’ll recognise from the films.

Conclusion

Tickets for the tours must be purchased in advance and can be bought through the Warner Brothers Studio website. With offers for families and larger groups, it’s the perfect way to get your family or group away for a fun day at a very reasonable cost. Don’t forget, you can’t get tickets on the day so make sure you’ve packed yours ready to go.

Close to the M1 motorway and easily accessible by rail, there are plenty ways to get to the studios whether you’re travelling by car or on public transport. Studios are open for tours starting from 9am with the last tour ending at 5pm seven days a week except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so you have plenty of opportunity to discover the setting of your favourite characters.

Image Credits: Sarah_Ackerman and Sarah_Ackerman

The Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, 29th November 2013 – 6th January 2014

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There are few ways to celebrate the festive season in London lovelier than indulging in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. From the end of November to early January, a whole section of the park is transformed into a beautiful scene with everything you could possibly want to get you in the festive spirit. The smell of Christmas food and drink wafting from the stalls gives a fantastic atmosphere while there are entertainments fitting for the season.

Fairground attraction

There are plenty of things to keep kids of all ages happy at the Winter Wonderland. With activities that appeal to everyone, your visit is guaranteed to be great fun. The fairground rides range from the gentle galloping horses to something to give a thrill and a spill to those who are a little older and want something more exciting and are interspersed with plenty of places to get hot chocolate, festive sweets or something more substantial to eat

Winter Wondeland fun fair

Enjoy all the fun of the fair, with the big wheel in the background

Christmas circus

If you want to sit back and watch others performing tricks and stunts, take a trip to the circus instead. Within the Wonderland will sit a Big Top hosting the world famous Zippo and his Christmas circus. With shows lasting 45 minutes and fun-packed from beginning to end it’s the perfect way to entertain the little ones in your family on a trip to the park.

It’s always incredibly popular, though, so make sure you book your tickets early to guarantee a seat in the fully heated tent. After dark, Zippo brings out the Cirque Beserk and offers some of the more high-octane acts for an older crowd. For those looking for a little luxury, you can even book a box with champagne for the full VIP treatment.

Santaland

Another winner with the kids is Santaland, where kids can meet Santa; enjoy a range of fun rides for little ones and the toy factory where you can watch the elves making toys for the big day. Visiting Santa is free and every little visitor gets a present to take home with them as a memento of their meeting with the big man.

The Magical Ice Kingdom

One of the highlights of any visit to the Winter Wonderland will be a walk through the Magical Ice Kingdom. A snowy walk through the park is dotted with wintry woodland creatures and even a carriage pulled by unicorns! At the heart of the Kingdom is the ice rink, which surrounds the old Victorian bandstand and is lit with hundreds of thousands of twinkling fairy lights. The biggest of its kind in the UK, it’s an incredibly popular attraction for Londoners and visitors to the city in the run-up to Christmas.

The Big Wheel

If you want to get a truly unique view of London in all its wintry glory, book for a ride on the Winter Wonderland’s incredible 50 foot high observation wheel. Offering the chance to look down over the whole of the spectacular park decorations as well as the area beyond Hyde Park, the wheel is a big attraction for those who would like to get a breath-taking vista from high above the frozen earth.

The big wheel at winter wonderland

The beautiful big wheel at the Winter Wonderland

Conclusion

The 2013 Winter Wonderland will mark the seventh consecutive year that Hyde Park has played host to this seasonal extravaganza. Each year has been bigger and better than the last and 2013 promises to be the best yet by far.

The nearest Tube station to get you to the Hyde Park entrance for the Wonderland is Knightsbridge and admission to the park and the Winter Wonderland itself is free. While you may wish to pay for a ride or some tempting Christmas Fayre, you can also just wander around and soak up the Christmas cheer.

Image Credits: Flat World’s Edge

The History of the Crystal Palace, Sydenham Hill, London

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The Crystal Palace, not to be confused with the London football team of the same name, is a grand cast iron and plate glass architectural masterpiece that has a place in the history of London over the past 160 years. While the building was originally built in Hyde Park and gave the name to the area of South London where it was moved after the Great Exhibition for which it was originally erected in 1851.

Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace in all its glory on Sydenham Hill

 

When it moved to its permanent home in Sydenham Hill, the Crystal Palace was greatly enlarged and set in a landscaped park. However, it was subject to a series of unfortunate events that brought the great building low and left it in a state of dereliction.

Hyde Park beginnings

Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and many other structures around Europe, the Victorian era’s World Fairs saw the development of the Crystal Palace as a centre to show off all that was great about Britain and its industrial creativity.

Designed by Sir Joseph Paxton to show off the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution, the grand structure used the newly invented cast plate glass method for making window panes and resulted in a truly impressive structure made almost entirely from iron and glass.

The Expo took place between May and October 1851 and saw the Crystal Palace offer a temporary home to some of the world’s greatest treasures. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, the world’s biggest diamond at that time, was exhibited alongside 8th century jewellery and gold and silver enamelled handicrafts from Sindh in what is now Pakistan.

Alongside these treasures were some of the greatest technological advances of the time including some of Samuel Colt’s earliest firearms and some of the earliest public conveniences for which visitors to the Expo were charged one penny per visit.

The big move

After the close of the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace was carefully dismantled and taken piece by piece to Sydenham Hill where it was reconstructed in a form that was even bigger than the grand building that stood in Hyde Park. Completely rebuilt by 1854, Queen Victoria herself presided over the re-opening of the permanent exhibition centre so large that it straddled the border between Surrey and Kent.

Through the latter part of the 19thcentury, the centre saw a great many ground-breaking exhibitions and conferences including the world’s first ever aeronautical exhibition and the first national motor show

Tragic fire at crystal palace

The tragic fire laid waste to the whole of the Palace

.Sadly, the Palace eventually fell into decline. The enormous costs of the initial build and later move of the structure to Sydenham Hill saddled the construction and management company with debts it could never clear. As the building fell into disrepair, catastrophe struck when a small office fire turned into a roaring inferno that even 400 firemen could not contain. The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire on 30 November 1936 and has lain in ruin ever since.

Looking to the future

Through the 20th century a number of plans have been proposed to redevelop the site where the Palace stood. Crystal Palace Football Club, which obviously has a strong connection to the area, has put forward a plan to move there and build a new 40,000 seater stadium. However, those plans have been thrown into doubt this year by an announcement in the summer that a Chinese development company has entered talks with the London Mayor to redevelop the Crystal Palace itself along with regeneration of the park.

Conclusion

The Crystal Palace site and the park in which it stands are full of local history and plans for the future. Whatever ends up taking the place of the long-demolished Palace itself, the history of the Crystal Palace will remain.

Image Credits: Wikipedia 1 and 2

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