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Harry Potter and the Search for the Wizarding World in the UK

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I’m certain that about 70% of people in their twenties are still waiting on their Hogwarts acceptance letter (and viewing every owl they see with suspicion), so I’ve run down the five best places in the UK for curious muggles to scope out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Harry Potter series, but I mean… the last movie came out in 2011… you should be caught up by now.

Platform 9 ¾: Kings Cross Station, London , England

Courtesy of JoJo-Bean/Flickr

We’ve come a long way since Harry Potter first arrived at King’s Cross and the entrance the Hogwarts Express platform is now marked with a sign for Muggle-born first years or those who are travelling without their parents.

Right beneath the sign, is a luggage cart that is stuck in the wall which cannot be removed with any Muggle tools; many suggest that this is, in fact, the work of notorious prankster George Weasley. Rumour has it that if any Muggle is able to move the cart, they’ll be awarded an honorary certificate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but as of yet, no one has achieved this.

This spot on our Harry Potter tour is completely free to visit and you can pose for photos with the luggage cart wearing a Gryffindor scarf before visiting the Harry Potter-themed shop to purchase your very own wand and robes.

Hogwarts Express: The Jacobite Steam Engine, Fort William, Scotland

Courtesy of 96tommy/Wikimedia

For those who don’t manage to slip through the barrier at King’s Cross, there is another way onto the Hogwarts Express and all it requires is a short trip up to Scotland.

Here in Fort William, you can board the Jacobite Steam Engine (Hogwarts Express), ride on the Mallaig route which will take you over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, also known as The Bridge to Hogwarts.

Although you won’t meet the Trolley Witch (she only rides the train with the students), you can enjoy high tea aboard the train (they prefer pounds sterling to Galleons).

Please note: This route will not drop Muggles at Hogwarts because, for them, Hogwarts does not exist. In order to deter unwanted visitors, Headmistress Minerva McGonagall cast a spell on the school buildings so that they appear to be dotted around the country rather than all in one place.

Hogwarts Castle: Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, England

Courtesy of Richard Croft/Geograph

This Northumberland castle is the exterior of Hogwarts, and it is in these very gardens where Harry Potter rode a broomstick for the very first time, catching the attention of Flying Instructor Madam Hooch and Gryffindor Quidditch Captain Oliver Wood to become the school’s youngest seeker in a century.

Here you can take an on location tour of the Hogwarts grounds but remember not to venture off into the Forbidden Forest. It’s strictly off-limits.

Hogwarts Library: Duke Humphrey’s Library, Oxford University

If you’d prefer to read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Hermione, then perhaps a visit to Oxford University would be more your cup of tea. Here you can explore Hogwarts Library and the Infirmary, located in the 15th Century Divinity School, on the same guided tour. Just stay out of the Restricted Section and don’t drink the Skele-Gro.

The visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic: Great Scotland Yard, London

Courtesy of Shazz/Wikimedia

For those curious about the Wizarding World outside of Hogwarts, I recommend visiting the Ministry of Magic but obviously they won’t let muggles inside (with the possible exception of the Prime Minister)…sorry about that.

Although you won’t be able to find the phone booth that wizards use to enter, as it’s under an invisibility spell, you can still stop outside the visitor’s entrance and see if you can spot an Auror leaving work for the day. Bonus: if you visit in 2019, you may even spot then-Minister for Magic, Hermione Granger.

What do you think of the list? What other locations would you include?

If you’ve visited any of these locations, then let me know in the comments and share your pictures.

Originally posted 2017-08-01 11:32:25.

Emma is a queer British freelance writer specializing in politics, travel, and entertainment. Barack Obama (yes, that one) follows her on Twitter and she’s never been sure why. She takes her coffee seriously and wears odd socks because life’s too short.

48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Honolulu

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Why Go?

How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.

Getting There

All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.

Checking In

Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach! http://www.royalgrovehotel.com

Day One

Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s http://www.luluswaikiki.com. While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.

Hit the waves! Many establishments hire out boards or give surf lessons

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals. http://www.waikikiaquarium.org.

For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center https://www.alamoanacenter.com/en/events.html, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.

Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and  be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.

If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming https://www.hulas.com.

Day Two

Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.

After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s www.dukeswaikiki.com. Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.

The Barefoot Bar at Duke’s

After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel https://www.royal-hawaiian.com and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.

The Royal Hawaiian

Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki https://topofwaikiki.com. The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!

View from Top of Waikiki

 

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 18:54:31.

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Getting Lost the Right Way (and Avoiding the Wrong)

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Road trips are magical. The open road, the endless possibilities. But you know what isn’t so magical? Getting lost in the middle of nowhere (read: out in the boondocks where not even the coyotes know where the closest gas station is). That being said, there is a right way and a very, very wrong way to get lost on a trip.

If you want to get lost and enjoy yourself, it’s best to have a plan in place. Seems counterintuitive, yes. But getting lost on purpose is more organized than it sounds. To start, know the highways nearby and keep in mind that the point of getting lost on purpose is to see new things. When lost the right way, it’s certainly not about the destination, which is good to keep in mind. For one, make sure your tank is completely full. Nothing is scarier than getting lost in the countryside with only a quarter tank and no sign of civilization in sight.

Don’t trust that GPS will always be there for you. Like that one friend, it probably won’t be (Totally not something that happened to me recently in rural south Georgia, not at all). Depending on your carrier, data connection and location services can be spotty at best and nonexistent at worst. Don’t be like me, who learned this the hard way.

Use GPS even if you think you remember the way back. The last drive I went on, I followed directions very carefully getting there and believed that I would be able to remember the turns in reverse going home.This resulted in what I like to call: a disaster. What I didn’t consider was the fact that rural Georgia looks completely different at night, when every tree looks the same and you have the added hazard of deer all over the roads. I knew I was lost after twenty minutes, but I kept driving, foolishly positive I’d eventually find the right road again.

Maps are your friends. Remember how your parents always told you to keep a map or atlas in your glove box? They weren’t just being old-fashioned. When GPS has failed and you longer recognize any landmarks, a map is your only hope (barring meeting a friendly stranger or an extra cell tower magically constructing itself in the next open field).

Print out directions beforehand. I know, I know. Printing out directions Google Maps is almost as dated as paper maps. But believe me, it can’t hurt. Even if you don’t print them, the screenshot feature on smart phones exists for a reason. Before you hit the road, coffee and snacks stocked and ready to go, pull up GPS while you have bars or Wi-Fi, and find the turn-by-turn directions. Screenshot them. And then, when you inevitably lose service at some point in your voyage, you still have access to your route. I didn’t do this, and by the time I had service again, I was two and a half hours away from home, when the drive should’ve taken an hour. (Do as I say, not as I do, my friends).

If you realize you’re lost and know where you took the wrong turn, GO BACK ASAP.

There comes a moment when you’re lost when you can usually pinpoint where you went wrong. When that happens, turn around as soon as you realize, despite the hope that maybe you’ll find a familiar street. Realizing you took a wrong turn is a sign from the universe that you need to go back, rather than trusting your foolish instincts. It’s a losing battle, and you will get more lost. It’s practically the law of the universe.

Just ask for directions, no matter how much you hate doing it.

This applies to everyone, and I’m ignoring the stereotype because it really isn’t just men. If you see a gas station or a small business, just stop. It’s almost guaranteed that someone will know how to get back to where you were headed, and you might stumble upon a cool store or attraction or monument that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

The moral of the story, friends, is that getting lost can be an adventure. You learn things about the area, about yourself as a navigator (this could be good or bad) and best of all, you have a story to tell at the end of it. Just remember that if you’re gonna get lost, try to do it on purpose.

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 17:57:03.


Also published on Medium.

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Metalhead Transgender Woman is Making Political History

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As a long-time fan of metal music and an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, I am ecstatic that Danica Roem, band member of her band Cab Ride Home and transgender woman won a four-way Democratic primary on June 13th. In addition to being a musician in a metal band, she was also an experienced journalist in Prince William County, which is the county she wishes to represent if she wins the position a seat in the House of Delegates in Virginia.

However, while Roem has won the battle, she’s still fighting a war. In order to gain a seat in the House of Delegates, she will have to defeat Republican Bob Marshall who is currently serving his eleventh term. Bob Marshall supports one-man, one-woman marriage, believes that same-sex marriage has a negative effect on heterosexual marriage, introduced the Physical Privacy Act which would have prevented transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (luckily this bill failed), supports the idea that employers can fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has a weak idea of what equality means and twists around words to fit his agenda,

“There never were ‘heterosexual’ only water fountains in Virginia or other Southern states.  Separate elementary or secondary schools were not built for GLBTQ children.  Homosexuals and lesbians could sit anywhere they wanted on buses, trains and other public transportation.  Homosexuals were never enslaved as a class or brought to America in chains.  Homosexuals never were forbidden from ‘marrying’ heterosexuals.  Homosexuals did not have to engage in nationwide ‘sit ins’ at restaurant lunch counters to be served a meal.  Lesbians did not have to take “Literacy” tests as a condition for voting.” 

and many more discriminatory ideas. In comparison, Roem supports adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Prince William School system’s nondiscrimination policy, protecting transgender students, and values people individually, not by what religion they belong to or what sexual orientation they may have.

With the current presidency comes a resurgence of ultra-conservative ideas and, because of that, it is a possibility that Bob Marshall will serve a twelfth term. However, Roem is off to a good start. By winning the Democratic primary, she is showing the US that even the most conservatives of states can switch courses and realize that members of the LGBT community deserve the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

Since 1991, when Marshall was elected, Prince William County has become more left-leaning as the population grows. It was one of the Republican-controlled counties that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump which shows that the district leans more toward to progressive side, which is definitely good news for Danica Roem. Because of this, Roem has a real chance of winning a seat in the House of Delegates. Even if she does not earn the position, by running and winning the Democratic primary, Roem set the stage for future transgender individuals to run for a position in the government.

Originally posted 2017-08-24 11:48:44.


Also published on Medium.

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