Sunday, April 29, 2012

Friday 4/27: Goodbye Tyrosse...

Friday was my last day. How bizarre to wake up and think, "This is the last time I'll wake up in this this this house..." I had lots of things to do in the morning (Jessie and I went to the grocery store so we could buy things we wanted to take home/to Tanzania) and at 11:30am we went to Margot's tennis match. She was playing in a tournament in Tyrosse, so we just walked over to watch. It was lucky that it wasn't raining (and there was even a little sun!) for her game. Unfortunately she lost, but she played really well! 
Margot playing tennis

In the afternoon, I had to finish packing and also go to the bank to get all the money out of my account. Jessie made chocolate chip cookies (which turned out really thin and more like chips!) while I was busy with my packing. 
When Margot got home from surfing, we all decided to go in the pool. Actually, Jessie and I were thinking that--since it was finally kinda sunny--it was our last chance to go swimming! After Jessie and I had jumped in, Margot was convinced that she had to accompany us. We spent about a half an hour playing games and jumping in the pool. It was really cold, but still lots of fun!

First ones in!!!

Margot joins us!
Chantal, Philippe, Jeanne, Pierre, and Claire came over around 5:30pm to have tea and say goodbye. We chatted for about an hour and then gave hugs goodbye. Claire had made me a really adorable book of drawings with a goodbye message she had typed up. Clearly she had been working on it for a while (and Chantal told me that she was really sad that I was leaving). I'm gonna miss her, too! 
My favorite girls! :)
For my last dinner, Catherine had made chili (well, we had all made it together the night before)--which was delicious. As dinner drew to a close, the feeling that I was leaving began to hit me. I asked Margot to pass the water pitcher and thought "well, that's the last time I'll ask that." When we'd all finished eating, we gathered for a family photo (taken by a friend of Lucas, who was spending the night). Jessie also managed to get a good pic of Dunja and I. I hurried up to finish packing a few last things--then lugged all the bags downstairs. Earlier I had mentioned to Ralf that I wanted to buy a "TYROSSE" sweatshirt, but he told me that Hugo had one that was now too small for him. So, tonight, Hugo gave me his sweatshirt! It's comfortable and I love it!!
Family time!!! 

My amazing host family

And my host dog!

Jessie and I carried our bags out to the car and Ralf came out to say goodbye (Margot and Catherine were taking us to the station). I gave him a big hug and got all choked up--I couldn't believe it was already time to say goodbye. I told him thank you for everything and that I hoped we'd see each other soon in Oregon. Then I ran inside to say a quick goodbye to the boys. Ralf waved us off and we popped in the "Memories" CD mix that I'd made for Catherine and Margot. It's a mix of a bunch of songs that we'd listened to throughout the time that I lived there. Not surprisingly, I immediately had tears running down my cheeks as "Homeward Bound" (Simon & Garfunkel) began to play. It just got worse as all the songs that held memories of fun times hanging out with them played one after another. I could hear Margot crying, so (without looking at her--we were both studiously staring out our windows) I took her hand and we held hands all the way to the train station. When we were most of the way there, "Vivo Per Lei" (Andrea Bocelli & Hélène Segara) came on and Catherine began to sniffle as well. When "Amazing Grace" (her favorite rendition--sung by "Il Divo" at the Coliseum in Rome) came on, she lost it entirely. 
When we arrived at the train station, Catherine parked and they helped us get our bags to the train. After we'd stuck everything on the train, Jessie and I went back out on the platform to say goodbye. We were all crying (Jessie is a sympathy crier--she lost it as soon as everyone else was crying) and hugging and saying that we'd skype and write and visit... We couldn't help but laugh at ourselves, being all weepy! Catherine told me that it was like seeing her own daughter leave--I have certainly gained another mother. Margot and I squeezed each other tightly and sniffled...I'm going to miss that girl. 
Eventually the train blew its whistle and we had to get on. We waved goodbye and blew kisses as the train pulled out of the station (with Margot running alongside).

Monday 4/23-Thursday 4/26: My very last week...

As luck would have it, we had rain all week. Ugh. Lots of stormy, gray weather and loads of rain. We spent quite a lot of time just hanging out inside... I had to work on sorting my stuff and packing. Jessie did a lot of reading and we both played games with Margot and in the evenings we watched movies with Catherine. 
I had had a problem with my fake tooth while I was in Sheffield, so on Monday I went to the dentist to have it looked out. He took an X-ray and informed me that the root the fake tooth is attached to is dead. Apparently that's really bad and I'll need to have the root taken out and a new tooth put in--in the next month or two. Daaaang. That's NOT going to be cheap. But, he prescribed me some antibiotics (apparently there was an infection and that's why it hurt quite a bit) and enough pain killers for me to take with me to Tanzania.  Margot was also having tooth problems--she had a loose tooth that was taking FOREVER to fall out! She kept wiggling it around, but it was being stubborn. Finally, one night right before bed, it popped out! Since in France they don't have a tooth fairy--they have a little mouse instead, I copied a picture of a mouse from online and then Jessie and I gave her a euro. We slipped it under her door while she was sleeping and she was so surprised to find it in the morning! First she accused me of doing it, but I just looked confused and said "isn't that normal that the mouse would give you something since you just lost a tooth?" She then waited for Jessie to get up and accused her...Jessie denied any association. So, Margot returned to me and kept badgering me until I gave her a big smile and she said "I KNEW IT WAS YOU!!!" 
La petite souris!
On Wednesday (4/25) it was a little bit drier, so Jessie and I attempted a beach day... I gave Margot and Jeanne a ride to their surf class (they were surfing every afternoon this week) and then Jessie and I went out onto the beach in our suits--all ready to go for a swim. However, it was super windy and chilly on the beach and the water was pretty darn cold. We got up to our knees and then decided not to actually go swimming. We instead went into the town of Hossegor and walked around (stopping for a pastry, of course!) before returning to sit by the beach for a while and wait for Margot and Jeanne to finish their class. At least we got a little bit of time at the beach without it pouring rain!! 
Pre-attempted swimming...


Instead we opt for a pastry
 On Thursday (4/26), Jessie and I took the train to Bayonne for the afternoon. It rained while we were walking to the train station, but the whole time we were in Bayonne was decent. We strolled around the lovely cobblestone streets, visited the cathedral and cloister, ate a picnic lunch on a bench near the old castle wall, and sat near the river while eating gâteau Basque. It was my last gâteau Basque...I definitely need to figure out how to bake it myself. 
Part of the picnic!

In front of the cathedral in Bayonne

Wandering in the cloister

Jessie by the cathedral

On Thursday evening, Margot, Jessie, and I goofed off with photobooth.... :)


Thursday 4/19-Sunday 4/22: A visit to Sheffield

On Thursday (4/19), Jessie and I slept in (we were rather exhausted from the past two days of exploring) and then headed to the train station--stopping for a breakfast bagel on the way. Mm, bagels! That's definitely something I'll be looking forward to having when I get back to the US (they don't DO bagels in France...)!
We took the train from London to Sheffield (about 2 hours by train to the North), where Grace and Elara picked us up at the station! It was so good to see them again! Unfortunately, though, it was just as gray and rainy there as it was in London. We headed back to their house and had a relaxing evening (which included some delicious carrot soup and watching Black Adder).

Then, on Friday, Jessie and I got to sleep in because Grace was busy in the morning and everyone else was gone (Kim was at work, the girls were at school). In the afternoon we tried to go to a museum with Grace, but when we got there it turned out to be closed! Phooey. So, we did some grocery shopping (Jessie needed to stock up on "Percy Pigs"--a British gummy candy) and then went back to Grace's house and had a magnificent tea party! We had walked over to pick up Elara from school and then came home and prepared the tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. It was so elegant and delicious! 

Grace even brought out the good china!


The GOOD kind of cider!
On Saturday, Kim, Grace, Miranda, and Elara took us to the MAGNA museum in an old factory in Sheffield. It's a science museum and has four parts: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. There were plenty of fun activities and exhibits. We had a lot of fun, although it was really chilly!

The shut-down factory, turned science museum

Jessie's cool!

Jessie drives the backhoe
That afternoon we were all feeling really lazy, so Kim turned on the movie "Madagascar" (because I'd never seen it). When the first movie finished, we continued with "Madagascar 2." That evening, we had an absolutely delicious Indian dinner followed by a traditional Greek pastry. 
Jessie and I had to leave on Sunday morning so we could catch a bus and train to get us to the airport in Manchester. We took a Ryanair flight back to Biarritz, where Ralf picked us up at the airport. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 18th: My birthday and a trip to the Harry Potter Studios!

On Wednesday (4/18), Jessie and I woke up early so we could walk down to the London Bridge tube stop, take the tube across town, and take a train out to where a bus picked us up to go to the Harry Potter Leavesden Studios. Going to the studios was Jessie's gift to me to celebrate my 23rd birthday! It was pouring rain, but that just added to the coolness of flying around roundabouts on the top of a double decker bus! When we arrived, the lobby was enormous and had huge photographs of many of the actors all around the room. In addition, they had hung several of the huge set pieces from the ceiling!
Jessie and the Harry Potter bus!

At Leavesden Studios

The Lobby

We waited in line and shuffled past Harry's Cupboard and some framed pictures of the Dursleys, hanging on the wall. We joined our 11am tour group and were led into a room with a bunch of screens where we watched a video explaining how the Harry Potter movies came to be (how the director discovered the books and how Harry Potter became a huge hit). Next we were brought into a cinema where they showed a video they'd made about the Studios. It was the three main actors who told us about all the work that had been put into making the 8 movies over the 10 years that they had all worked at Leavesden Studios. It would have been so cool to have been a part of the team that made the movies--props, costumes, sets, whatever!! Just to have been a part of the team! At the end of the video, the three actors were standing in front of the doors to the Great Hall and they opened up the doors and said something like, "Come on and see for yourselves!" With that, the screen in our cinema lifted and behind it were the REAL Great Hall doors! It was beyond cool! Jessie and I just looked at each other and grinned! :)

In front of Harry's cupboard

The Great Hall doors!

Jessie in the Great Hall
Our tour group went into the Great Hall and our guide told us about how the set designers had decided to use a real stone floor because they knew it had to last for 10 years and withstand hundreds of children walking around on it all the time. She told us loads of interesting things and then let us loose to look around and take pictures. It was so thrilling to be walking through the Great Hall! After a little bit of time, we were told that another tour group would be entering the Great Hall and we had to move into the next room.
The next room was massive. It had bits of lots of different sets (tables from the Yule Ball, the Hogwarts entry gates, the Gryffindor common room, the boys dormitory, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's hut, the potions classroom, the hallway in the Shrieking Shack, the Burrow, Umbridge's office, the Ministry of Magic entry hall, and more!) and also loads of props and costumes. 
The delicious chocolate delicacies! (all fake, unfortunately...)

The Boys Dormitory

Jessie in the Mirror of ERISED
Since Jessie and I had arranged to get one "digital guide" to share, we often stopped to hold the earphones up between us and watch little extra videos they had on the iPod guide that told about different parts of the making of the movies. I was blown away with how much work had gone into making the movies. Seriously. Everything was so detailed and so carefully and lovingly created. In the potions classroom, the props people had found over 1,000 glass jars, which they filled with different sorts of items (the tails or legs of plastic reptiles, boiled bones from meat shops, or other creepy-looking items) and then hand-labeled! So much work that you don't even really notice in the movie! I was so glad we got to check out all the details.
The Gryffindor common room

Jessie and the clock thingy

The entrance to Dumbledore's office

Jessie in the potions classroom

The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets

The Burrow!

Umbridge's office...
After we'd spent hours and hours in the big room, we headed outside to where the large set pieces were: Number 4 Privet Drive (and Number 3, as well!), the Knight Bus, the Riddle gravestone, the chess pieces from the giant game of Wizard's Chess in HP #1, the Potters' house in Godric's Hollow, the Hogwarts bridge, Sirius' motorbike, and Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia! It was raining when we first got outside, so Jessie bought each of us a butterbeer! It was incredible. SO delicious!! And just like I had always imaginede it--creamy and fizzy and AMAZING! Unfortunately, it's only sold at two places in the world: the Studios and the Harry Potter theme park in Florida.  

Yep, Sirius' motorbike!

In the Ford Anglia

Jessie gets a "ride" on the Knight Bus

Number 4 Privet Drive

At the Dursley's house

The Potters' house in Godric's Hollow
 While we were taking pictures outside, the camera started flashing the low-battery button....nooooo! We hadn't been very careful about keeping it shut off while we'd been in the earlier part--so after this point, we didn't get very many more pictures. In addition, we were starting to run out of time (we had tickets to see a show with Caryn and Jan and needed to be back by 7pm), so we had to move more quickly through the rest of the tour. Next came the section that showed how they did the special effects and how they created all the different creatures in the magical world. I was particularly impressed with Buckbeak--they had created it so that it could be controlled by the special effects guys and it looked just like it was real! They had used real feathers to make it look perfect! We stood there for a while, just watching it move!
Jessie is a DRAGON!!! (or a Thestral)

With Buckbeak, the amazing creation!
Next we walked right into Diagon Alley! That was surely the coolest part of the tour! We were very sad that the camera was basically out of batteries at this point because it was incredible! It was just like the movie--all the shops (which we couldn't go into, but the window displays were excellent!) and the cobblestone street. Very cool.
Jessie in Diagon Alley
 And, finally, we walked into a big room that had the model of Hogwarts Castle--the one they used for all the overhead, sweeping shots. It was so detailed--Jessie and I were wishing we could be little fairies so that we could go wander around the castle! The room was fairly dark, but the castle was lit up and the movie soundtrack was playing. It was pretty moving, actually. We watched our last video on the digital guide (about their last day of filming) and then headed through the "wand shop" (a small room that has thousands of wand boxes, each labeled with a name of someone who worked on the films during the 10 years--and there is a box for every single person!) and into the gift shop. We looked around the shop, but very quickly discovered that it was way too expensive for us.
In front of Hogwarts Castle

In the "Wand Room"
Since it was getting late (4:15pm), we caught the bus back to the station where we caught a train back into London. Since our train came in right next to King's Cross Station, we stopped by to get a picture at Platform 9 3/4!
Jessie at King's Cross Station!

Heading through Platform 9 3/4
Since it was my birthday, Jessie and I decided to go out for an early dinner (well, technically all we'd had all day was a tiny breakfast around 8am and then a butterbeer at the Studios). We found a pub that served veggie burgers, so we had a quick dinner (we inhaled that food!) and then walked over to the theatre to meed Carnyn and Jan. They treated us to Noël Coward's comedy, "Hay Fever"--starring Jeremy Northam and Kevin R. McNally. The show was hilarious! Afterwards, Caryn and Jan agreed to stop by the stage door so we could get some pictures with the actors! Then we walked over to a French restaurant and Caryn and Jan treated us to a late dinner (just something small). To top off a fun night, we got to take a cab back to their flat!! Such a great birthday!

With Kevin McNally (Mr. Gibbs from Pirates!!)

With our lovely host, Caryn!

And, of course, our other amazing host: Jan!!