Christmas at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Last holidays I had the amazing chance to spend some days in Los Angeles. As I was going to be there during Christmas, I wanted to think ahead what to do on Christmas day taking into consideration that most places are closed. I was glad to find out that Universal Studios would be open on the 25th and so without second thoughts I booked tickets online for that date. I couldn’t believe that I was going to spend Christmas Harry Potter style. It couldn’t get more perfect.

Here I share with you some recommendations:

The earlier you arrive the better:

As Universal Studios opens its doors at 9 am, I highly recommend you to get there as soon as it opens so that you can make the most of your time there. And also take into account that it gets busier every hour and if you don’t have a VIP ticket you’ll have to endure long wait lines for the rides.

Download the universal studio’s app:

It will give you all the information you need regarding wait times and special shows plus interactive maps.

Hogwarts, your first stop:

Once you step into Universal you’ll find attractive stores and other sections of the park such as the Simpson’s or The World-Famous Studio Tour. You’ll have time for all that, so I encourage you to head first to Hogwarts where you’ll find Harry Potter’s most popular ride: The Forbidden Journey.

It’s a motion simulation ride that will give you the thrills. The ride itself is not very long, what is long is the waiting time (for me it was more than an hour).  The good thing is that as you get closer to the ride, you get to step into the castle’s corridors and classrooms making your wait more bearable.

After the castle, meet the hippogriff:

Once you step out of the castle you have another ride: The Flight of the Hippogriff.

This one is a low-intensity (child-friendly) roller coaster. The waiting time is shorter and you get to see Hagrid’s hut exterior.

Lunch at the Three Broomsticks:

So, if you arrived at Universal at 9 and you did the two main rides, that means that it’s way past noon and you are starving.

Fortunately, Hogsmeade has the place for you. Inside the Three Broomsticks, you’ll find an English style menu: fish and chips, Shepherd’s Pie and of course, the famous butterbeer (only for people who can bear highly sweet beverages). I must go ahead and say that this is not a very cheap tavern (obviously), the food isn’t exactly delicious either, but the place inside is spectacularly set. It really makes you feel inside Harry Potter’s world.

enjoy Hogsmeade:

After a hearty lunch, just have fun walking around Hogsmeade.

There are several attractions happening every hour. You can get to see Beauxbatons Academy’s girls making their elegant presentation, Hogwarts student’s choir singing with their huge frogs or even, during some evenings, enjoy a magical snowfall.

There are several stores with original merchandising (you can even buy Hermione’s famous gown).

Don’t forget to visit Ollivanders and see how a wand chooses its wizard and even cast your own spells.

the grand finale:

At nighttime (during selected dates) there is a light and music show outside the castle that takes your breath away. It’s certainly a glorious ending to a perfect day.

Goodbye Hogwarts, see you next time in Orlando…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerouac’s Big Sur: From San Francisco to Los Angeles

I started 2019 in San Francisco. It was certainly a perfect place to begin the year, watching new year’s eve fireworks from The Embarcadero and enjoying a flask with hot tea while trying not to freeze (mental note for next time: just because you’re in California doesn’t mean it won’t get cold).

Knowing that I would have to head back to L.A. soon and Buenos Aires after that, I decided to plan for the Kerouac part of my trip inspired by his 1962 novel “Big Sur”.

City Lights, Jack Kerouac Alley, and the beat museum

‘But instead I’ve bounced drunk into his City Lights bookshop at the height of Saturday night business…’

So, I also bounced (but not drunk) into City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco. Founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1952, this iconic bookshop saw published famous beat works such as Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems (1956).

Located at 261 Columbus Avenue in Chinatown, the store has the advantage of being near other must-go places such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Lombard Street.

Inside you’ll find a paradise of books. If you want to hurry into the beat’s section you will have to go to the second floor where you’ll find Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and more. As I already had most of their books I ended up buying Joyce Johnson’s Minor Characters which I hadn’t been able to find in Buenos Aires.

Once you step out of the bookstore (for me it was three hours later) you find two Kerouac related places.

Just around the corner stands Jack Kerouac Alley with authors’ quotes on the floor and nice artwork on the walls.

And crossing Columbus to 540 Broadway you’ll find the Beat Museum which exhibits beat memorabilia and also offers also walking tours of the city. For more information visit: http://www.kerouac.com/

Monterey

‘In a half hour into a bus seat, the bus says “Monterey” and off we go down the clean neon hiway and I sleep all the way, waking up amazed and well again smelling sea air…’

So my following stop was also Monterey. Located on the southern edge of the Monterey Bay, it is approximately a 2-hour drive from San Francisco.

It is a nice place to stop and stretch your legs. You can visit the Fisherman’s Wharf and grab some food (there are some excellent candy shops and bakeries) or go to the Bay Aquarium.

Big Sur

‘Now all I’ve got to do to complete my scape is get 14 miles down the coast to the Raton Canyon Bridge and hike in.’

Next, I headed south to Big Sur, a mountainous sector of the Central Coast of California between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. From Monterey, I took the famous Highway 1 for 28 minutes and I marveled at one of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever seen.

 

Along the serpentine-shaped way, you’ll find several vista points where you can park your car and take a moment to appreciate the view.

You’ll find beautiful beaches (most not easily accessible), redwood forests, State parks, and local fauna.

Before continuing my journey south I stopped at Big Sur Bakery for reinforcements. I had the best cheese scone ever and a good cup of coffee. There was a sign on the door that said “help wanted” and I wondered what if I left everything behind and stayed there…

And then I found myself heading back to L.A., and then back to Buenos Aires where I started writing this post.

‘Big elbows of Rock rising everywhere, sea caves within them, seas plollocking all around inside them crasing out foams, the boom and pound on the sand, the sand dipping quick…’

For more on my journey between San Francisco and Los Angeles read: http://prenomcinthia.com/the-west-coast-in-10-filming-locations/