Every once in a while Marlowe asks if she can see my blog. She likes to click around and look at old photos of herself. This always sparks the conversation from me of, “seeeee, this is why I like to document everything!” — but that’s another story. This last week she asked again if she could look at old photos on my blog. We started clicking around on all her old birthday posts. Instantly this feeling of panic and sadness fell over me as I realized that, in this time of blogging less, I hadn’t blogged about her 8th birthday yet. I mean, I sort of did, because I blogged about her birthday tea party in Paris (it was magical) but I never shared our London adventure and her more than amazing birthday surprise.
I’m really happy and grateful that blogging, social media, and photography supply me with an income to support my family. But more than that, I just really cling on to this space for the memories to look back on one day. Most of the photos on my blog aren’t prize worthy or amazing, but they hold so much worth in significance for me. And I know they will for Marlowe one day too. I know she’ll look back on this easy and perfect day with joy one day. And I’m glad she has this space here specifically for that.
We had arrived to London the night before her birthday. I was nervous to schedule the flight so close to her birthday surprise, because well, you never know. But we made it over to London (from Paris) super quickly and easily. One of the best flights we’ve ever taken if I’m being honest. But maybe mostly because as soon as we took off, we could see our destination right in front of us.
As soon as we arrived we checked into our apartment and made ourselves at home. Ethiopian food for dinner and a quick market run to have a few pieces of fruit to hold us over in the morning. Each morning started off the same, with a big mug of tea to warm our tropical bones. Marlowe knew she had a surprise waiting for this day. But she had no idea that the Harry Potter studio even existed. This helped with the surprise factor for sure 🙂 She thought she would maybe just be going to some sort of Harry Potter store for a wand — and that alone made her very happy as a “big surprise.” And I was so happy to know that was all she needed to bring her joy on her birthday– but she would be getting something much, much larger.
We put on our sweaters (ahem, jumpers) and coats and hit the neighborhood by foot to find us a delicious birthday breakfast. On the way to our destination we stumbled upon a little food hall of sorts (Mere Street Market). There were a small handful of food vendors and two or three shops inside. We had popped in for another cup of tea (again to warm our bones) and sitting inside the café counter was an enormous piece of vegan chocolate cake waiting by the glass.
I asked Marlowe, “how do you feel about chocolate cake for breakfast on your birthday?”
She was thrilled. I sipped on tea and she ate about a third of her cake and asked to save the rest for later.
We wandered through the shops and restaurants even though about half of it was closed– probably mostly to avoid stepping out into the brisk cold morning air for as long as possible. Also, since I really had no idea how much time I would need or how exactly I would get to the HP studio– I gave myself plenty of time to figure it out the day of, giving us plenty of time to slowly wander.
We finally mustered enough courage to step back outside. We continued on our path to the restaurant in mind. What restaurant that was, I have no idea now. We ended up stumbling on this cute backyard feeling restaurant with a giant sign that read “vegan gluten free pancakes” and we were sold. We stepped inside the Love Shack and were so pleased with our decision. The girl at the counter was one of the nicest people we had ever met. After she found out it was Marlowe’s birthday, she offered her another special treat in the form of chocolate to indulge in.
Marlowe, much like me, prefers savory over sweet and chose to continue her trend of ordering avocado toast on every single trip we adventure on. She enjoyed the toast, but loved the salad so much that she ended up ordering the salad in a giant size without the toast on our next visit to the restaurant.
For me? Pancakes. While I am a savory over sweet girl, I was just so happy to find pancakes that I could eat, that I went for it. We liked the Love Shack so much that we went back there about 5 out of 7 breakfasts in London. Each morning we’d show up icy cold and got warmed up by the sun about halfway through our breakfast, ending up in about two to three less layers than we started with. It was perfect.
Afterwards we made our way back to the apartment, stopping at a cute little organic market on the way (no pictures to show for it) to pick up ingredients for dinner. We walked around the store and found tomatoes, carrots, and a gluten free pasta option. Marlowe was happy with the idea of a veggie pasta. And so just like that, dinner was decided. We carried our produce back to the apartment. Left it there. And then we heated up one more container of tea… before leaving again because it was time to make our way to our big surprise.
Our drive to the studio was very, very difficult! I am the worst at any sort of lies/surprises. I can’t keep a straight face for the life of me. Of course, Marlowe being 8 and not an adult made the situation a bit easier. She has no idea that my poker face is awful. It works out quite well. I imagine I have another year or so before she can call me out on anything.
I calculated the time and distance and decided that an uber would be best. While the train would be cheaper, we hadn’t ventured into the London Underground yet, and I was nervous to have our first ride be on the way to her big surprise. I didn’t like the possibility of messing it all up and losing our time slot. The whole car ride over I sat there very, very nervous.
The ride itself gave nothing away, it was mostly on the highway through forest and farm area. But once we got to the town, signs for the studio started popping up. She barely noticed just until we pulled in. Even pulling in, I’m not sure she understood where we were going.
As we pulled up and I told her, not only would we be buying a wand, but we would be seeing all the sets of Harry Potter and where the film was made. She was THRILLED.
We spent the next few hours frantically running up and down the studio making sure to see and learn about all our favorite parts. I’m sure I had mentioned this, but before heading to London, the universe and timing aligned perfectly. About two weeks before our trip the movie theatre near us was playing a Harry Potter marathon with about three films per day playing. We spent a ridiculous amount of time in the movie theatre that week. Two days in a row seeing back to back films, 7ish hours in a theatre a day just to make sure we could see every film.
I’m truly not a movie person, but it was SO good to be able to do this with her knowing the in just a short amount of time I could surprise her with the studio. While the studio tour would be cool just after reading the books, it was just THAT much better after binge watching all the films.
Marlowe was just pure joy this day. She was so excited to be in the great hall, to learn about the moving props, of course the costumes, and so much more. And I was just SO SO happy to be able to give her that. I fully understand that there are not many 8 year olds in the world that get flown to London to celebrate their birthday like this. Not only is she lucky to be able to experience this, but I am lucky to be able to give her this.
I really had no idea what life would look like when I gave birth to her. 8 years later, I’m really grateful to be here with her.
The amount of photos she let me take of her– and her excitedly posing for them, shows pretty well just how excited she was 🙂
We ended our studio tour in the typical tourist fashion, in the gift shop. This sweet girl, at the very last-minute decided she was no longer a Ravenclaw and went full Slytherin on me. Not to get all nerdy on you, but Ravenclaw always seemed like the house that would fit her best. It seemed like the cool choice she could make to go against the typical Gryffindor crowd. Not sure why she took the last-minute Slytherin path, I’m still a bit in awe, but I love her for it regardless.
We made our way back to our apartment and I wiped up a quick pasta dinner while she cozied up with tea and a book. We ate our quiet dinner together before snuggling up in bed for the night.
Her birthday worked out perfectly and I couldn’t have asked for a better day for her. She was thrilled beyond words and still excitedly tells people how she went to the studio for her birthday. I hope she fondly remembers her 8th birthday forever and a day.
And if not, well, five months later, but her birthday post is finally here on the blog, documented to be remembered. I look forward to her looking back on this entry one day and remembering all the bits and pieces that may have fell loose from her memory.
Happy birthday Marlowe Paloma.
You’re too sweet to be in Slytherin, but I love you forever anyway.