If you grew up without the yearning for a letter from Hogwarts, then I both pity and envy you. But we can’t all like being whisked off to the magical world of Harry Potter – some of us have to hate fun.
If you’re in London, and sick of snapping photos in front of buildings erected well before your time, you should consider visiting Warner Bros. Studio where you can learn about the making of Harry Potter, and discover how the movies captured the essence of J.K Rowling’s mind.
Even if you lack an inner nerd, we recommend checking out the tour if you’re travelling to or living in London. Why? Find out below.
Tickets:Buy online – £41.00 for adults, £33 for children with family, carer and other saver tickets available.
Getting there and home: If you can get yourself to Watford Junction (a train will likely get you there) then you can buy a £2.50 return shuttle bus ticket. You can also buy tours with tickets included.
You can buy a wand
Regardless if you’ve managed to miss every re-run of every Harry Potter film on free-to-air TV, everyone wants a wand. You can wave it around as you speak to your colleagues to exert importance. You can use it to point to things to emphasise a point. Or you can shake it around as you cook dinner to make others believe Tuesday night’s dinner won’t be as bland as you know it will be.
For the Harry Potter aficionados who have integrated ‘wingardium leviosa’ into your vocabulary, you can purchase every character’s wand from the Ollivander Wand Shop set up at the end of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour including Harry’s and Voldemort’s.
You will appreciate what you have
Never heard of how Harry lived before he was whisked away by a giant to a world of magic? Well, you’re in for a treat.
The poor boy was shoved under the stairs, with little to no material items and chastised on a day-to-day basis by his extended family – I bet Christmas is looking good now.
Checking out where Harry lived up until he was 11 makes you appreciate that extra space in your wardrobe – even if you question why no one called child protective services.
You can have a sip of Butterbeer
Um, how delicious does Butterbeer sound? Drinking a butterscotch-like liquid which fills you with warmth sounds better than the what’s available on the market likely to leave you full of gas.
Although J.K Rowling’s Butterbeer has alcohol in it, Warner Bros. is kid-friendly and delivers a creaming-soda type beverage with a thick icing-consistency froth on top. It’s not for everyone since it’s quite sickly, but my god that first sip is delicious.
Book and film buffs might find the Butterbeer a bit disappointing, with the imagination regularly enhancing our expectations.
Score Instagram likes with aerial shots of Hogwarts
Have you seen how many posts are under #hogwarts on Instagram? If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and check out the three-million-plus posts uploaded via the social media platform.
Even if your profile is full of landscape shots, Warner Bros. Studio has a cool way to capture aerial views of Hogwarts (as in a castle) without carting along your drone. Grab a snap like the one above, chuck it up on Instagram, and with a bit of Valencia or Sierra to jazz it up, you’ll be racking up the likes before you know it. You’re welcome.
Those of you who love the films so much you’d wear a cape to a midnight screening, prepare to have your minds blown as to how they filmed Hogwarts from above. If you already know, well, good for you, nerd.
If you are adamant you won’t get enjoyment out of how they brought Harry Potter to life (aka you’re Voldemort), check out what else London has to offer.
After you’ve mustered up the courage to climb down into the man-made pool known as the Bogey Hole, and had your caffeine hit on the eccentric street known as Darby, you are likely to want a few more things to do in Newcastle.
My guide isn’t a must – except for the one about ice cream, because ice cream – but it does offer some alternatives if you get some time to explore the city known for its ability to beach a coal ship.
If you already live in this city, sound off in the comments with other places to check out.
1. The other side of Lake Macquarie
Where: Fishing Point Road, Fishing Point.
Donning your joggers and joining the dozens who head down to Warner’s Bay for a weekend stroll along the Esplanade is great and all, but for those after a chill experience should make the trek to the other side of the lake.
Known as Fishing Point, explore the picturesque lake where locals moor their boats on their jetties. If you’re after a weekend away, check out the stunning properties listed on Airbnb, with several listings offering lakeside luxury and a chance to backflip off your jetty.
If you don’t want to stay too far out from Newcastle’s CBD, you can catch a train and a bus to the coastal destination, or hire a car to cut travelling time down from an hour and a half to 45 minutes.
2. Bar Beach Wall Ball Courts
Where: Empire Park, 107-109 Memorial Dr, Bar Beach NSW 2300
Daaaaaaaaamn! Is what you would be saying while admiring your hidden wall ball skills, and not the talent from courtside. Wall ball involves a player hitting a ball against the wall with a racket, and can be made a team sport by adding extra players.
Groups of friends often dominate the courts, pow-wowing with each other as the feel-good endorphins are pumping through their body. They then venture across the road to cool down in the ocean.
Although the wall ball courts across from Bar Beach are nearly always taken, if you have a weekday to spare you can make your way there, provided you have a tennis racket and balls.
3. Find King Julian at The Hunter Valley Zoo
Where: 138 Lomas Ln, Nulkaba NSW 2325
You don’t have to travel to Sydney to connect with your spirit animal, with the Hunter Valley Zoo located five minutes from Cessnock. And you’re in luck if King Julian (Madagascar) is yours, with the zoo giving visitors the chance to feed and play with the hilarious creatures in their Meerkat Encounter.
If you don’t have the cash ($100 per person) to let these inquisitive creatures dig for critters in your lap, you can still check them out through the transparent exhibit.
There are also crocodiles, lions, kangaroos, koalas, overzealous goats and sheep eager to guzzle the feed you can pre-purchase, and more. So whether you’ve got kids that need entertaining, or you’re a kid at heart, make the trip to Hunter Valley Zoo – you bunch of pansies.
4. Stumble to the Valley of Wine
Where: Polkobin, Hunter Valley
While I would rather tell you to get to the closest bottle shop to buy a few bottles of cheap wine and sit in a park, I think it’s frowned upon. Besides, your Instagram photos will appreciate a trip out to wine country.
Hunter Valley wines are world famous, but you wouldn’t know it here in Newy where a sack of your finest Fruity Lexia prevails over a nice Shiraz.
Many guides suggest hiring a car, but let’s be real since you’re not going to stare at the wine. If you’re civilised and want to maintain a clean record, look into tours with transportation included. You can then savour the flavour or knock it back and enjoy the taste of regret the following morning.
You can take in the sights instead of being one – check out the hot air balloon rides you can take at the crack of dawn, followed by a well-deserved champagne breakfast.
5. The Beaches – on a Sunday
Where: 99 Frederick St, Merewether NSW 2291
You will notice the Beaches pub as soon as you drive down Federick street, past Merewether Beach. The giant hotel takes up the corner block and delivers views the rich get to wake up to every morning. The secret to feeling like a millionaire is waiting until Sunday’s for the best view in town.
If you love a beer after a bash at the beach, stay downstairs. If you want a damn good Instagram photo, and a cool place to risk a hangover on a Monday, check out Rooftop Sunday’s at the beaches.
The Sunday session is open to those who dress appropriately – no singlets and thongs – and there’s a cool balcony you can overwhelm with a group of friends to feel like it’s your own.
6. Stifle your screams for Ice Cream
Where: 172 King St, Newcastle NSW 2300 and in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre
How good is ice cream? Before you answer, you need to check out Popolo Artisan Gelateria where locals drive around in circles to get a car space in the hopes they’ll be licking a cone of dairy (or dairy free) goodness. If you’re on foot, you’ll be able to take in the assortment of delectable flavours without the pang of anger due to a lack of car spaces. Don’t be put off by the line, with the sugar hit well worth the wait and your hands will be sticky in no time.
If you’re after some finger-licking desert in the daylight hours, check out the shop in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre.
7. Get pampered at Muster Point
Where: 53 Maitland Rd, Mayfield NSW 2304
How good would it be to roll out of bed and get your hair done by someone else while munching on a cheese toastie? Well, you can get the entire package if you head to Muster Point Collective in Mayfield.
The innovative start-up features Perry the Feeder food truck specialising in toasties, and the Cutting Division made up of talented hairdressers renting a chair. Book an appointment with Illiana or Marisa Conway online and grab a toastie on your way – we didn’t think a grilled cheese could taste any better, but we were mistaken after it followed a head massage.
8. Demand a schnitzel from Harry
Where: Located in the Junction Fair Shopping Centre next to Popolo
Sometimes we feel for Harry, constantly being harassed for schnitzels (chicken and vegetarian available).
But you haven’t experienced Newcastle without munging in on a delicious wrap after hearing ‘One schnitzel please Harry’, following your order. At least they’re polite.
Locals usually order from a secret menu, which used to be displayed before the business rebranded and put up a public list of options (while we like to think we are in an exclusive club, we’ve seen the secret menu sitting at the cash register).
Get your wrap and take it to the beach, or a dark basement where you can be alone to appreciate the delicious taste – we won’t judge.
9. Get your homewares fix at the 24 hour Kmart
Where: Waratah Village
Well, this one is obvious, isn’t it? If you don’t already have Kmart’s entire homewares range, you’re doing it wrong. We understand if you’re on a holiday, and you can’t bring back that new dining suite. But you can go there at 2 am and purchase all the little things, like this flamingo light.
Okay, we are pushing things here, but we spend a lot of time at the 24/7 Kmart, so it was tough to come up with an alternative place to take the ninth spot. Besides, how good are the stylish storage options!
10. Find more than just knick-knacks at Olive Tree Markets
Where: Civic Park, Newcastle
Markets are usually good for two things – coffee/food and rewarding your inner knick-knack hoarder. It can be a work of art to convince your significant other to wake up early, deal with the crowds of other hoarders and nudge your way into the stalls to awkwardly stare at the pet rocks.
But The Olive Tree Markets, which relocated from the Junction Primary School to Civic Park, feature a cool collection of stalls with products worthy of your cash.
Blake Parker makes regular appearances with his stall, featuring an assortment of breathtaking prints he captures on his adventures. You can check out what he has to offer by viewing his Instagram.
All photos are my own except for the Muster Point photo, which has been supplied by @illianaandmarisahmb.
I haven’t written here in quite some time – partly due to the requisite of staring at a screen and writing so many words all day for work, and partly due to what the title suggests. Writing about this topic scares the absolute crap out of me. However, with the incredible movement involving anxiety awareness and education, I’ve felt a strong urge to chip in.
Anxiety is a stifling disease: negative thoughts parade in your brain while nausea floods your stomach. If you try to distract yourself, you’re simply left feeling forgetful as to why a sick feeling is in the pit of your belly. For those who have never experienced it, it could be a feeling similar to how you may have felt when you lost an important item, such as your wallet or phone, or an assignment for university after not saving it – you simply feel sick.
It keeps you up at night, it affects how you come across to people, it lingers for hours on hours after a single conversation, and worst of all it doesn’t go away no matter how hard you try to rationalise the situation or the thought/s taking hold of your mind.
Recognising anxiety has recently become more and more common, which has not only helped relationships and how people with the disease are perceived, but it has allowed people who suffer from the illness to understand what the feelings are. Unfortunately, it isn’t a fix. We know what the feelings are, and sometimes we even know why we feel them, but we usually can’t get rid of it.
At the end of the day when we are tucked up in bed, the thoughts are released to wreck havoc and incite fear, guilt, regret, humiliation and eventually sleeplessness. This results in being tired the next day, exhausted even, which only exacerbates the problem further and we are left irritable – hurting those around us, lashing out because we are unable to cope with the emotions fuelling every negative thought conjured up in our brain. This only leaves us to feel guilty and humiliated about every interaction we’ve had and thus the vicious cycle begins.
There are plenty of different types of anxiety: generalised anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety attacks, phobias/fears, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety. These disorders can be mutually exclusive or cross over with one another. These can be triggered by huge events in one’s life, or can develop from thin air.
Every definition you read on the web about these anxiety disorders, including mine, are general overviews because no single anxiety disorder is the same – some could have a phobia, others could have social anxiety, or many could suffer from multiple types of anxiety disorders.
For example, some could feel a heightened sense of fear and nausea when they are about to embark on what they perceive as a fearsome activity. A person afraid of heights has developed a negative feeling towards any activity involving high places – it could be due to a childhood incident, or simply developed out of nowhere – and when they are about to face their fears, such as climb high ropes for a school activity, or jump off a giant rock into the ocean with friends, the nausea floods their stomach and fuels their mind to believe there is a huge level of risk involved – rational or not.
Think about something you’re afraid of: death, losing all your money, talking to a girl or boy, being publicly humiliated, or anything at all which incites worry and fear. This is a phobia, irrespective of how little or big it is, irrespective of how disabling it can be. The intensity of the worrying thoughts increase when you face this fear, but this fades when you are removed from the situation.
Now when it comes to generalised anxiety this feeling sticks around all day and all night long. Not as intense as it is when one with a phobia is about to face their fear, but it can reach this high level of intensity depending on the person and the situation.
It can ruin friendships and relationships because you become so absorbed into what was said and become so sensitive to things which make normal friendships flourish. You then spend too much time obsessing over what you did wrong which hinders relationships even more – if you had just let it go things would be fine. To sum up in a few words: anxiety is a dick.
The worst part is, when it comes to relationships and friendships, you are left feeling, and almost believing, all of the people in your life are slowly realising they don’t want to be around you because you make them feel like a bad person. If you’re so sensitive and reacting all the time to little things they are left feeling pretty shitty and this pushes them away, only triggering yet another fun cycle of irrational thoughts.
This can result in people acting out, unable to really understand why they are like this when someone else, say their brother, sister, friend, etc., isn’t this way (or so it seems). This ultimately ends up making the person feel crazy, and sometimes even results in others seeing the person as crazy. It is horrible to be labelled as crazy when you can’t help or control your feelings – when you would do anything to help or control your feelings.
There is management available for anxiety – medication, exercise, healthy eating, therapy etc., but at the end of the day there is no real cure for the illness, only awareness, education and understanding that no matter who the person is, what they have, or where they are in life, they could be suffering from it.
Anxiety can leave you feeling very insecure, crazy, and downright stupid sometimes, but people who struggle with it can still be happy and can still enjoy life. If you are on the other side of an anxious person and they are freaking out about something involving you it just simply means they appreciate and care about you – because they really care what you think.
The more education on what the illness can do to someone, and the more awareness of the person’s intentions, then perhaps the better management of these cycles, and ultimately the disease.
Entering a competition online feels like how all the men in your life felt after that pic of Justin Bieber came out, while winning feels like how all the women felt.
Winning a free trip to New York City
When I received my boohoo package and a flyer fell out featuring a competition to win a trip to New York for the boohoo X Charli XCX launch party, I decided to enter it.
Then, just as everyone should with the new white girl Pumpkin Spice hair trend, I forgot all about it. I even forgot about the fact I had entered it, because let’s be real this basic bitch wasn’t going to win it.
Weeks later, at 3:00am AEST, my phone lit up with the message ‘You are one of our winners for the Charli XCX launch party’.
The next morning I responded and stared at my Gmail inbox for a solid 20 minutes without blinking only to realise that Australia is literally nowhere on a map. I did the math to get the time difference, then Google’d the real answer, and figured I’d have to wait until around 7:00pm AEST for a response.
Hannah, the social media manager of boohoo, responded and it was real. I, Sarah O’Brien basic bitch number 3,111,267,980, won the competition of a lifetime – a free trip for two to New York and access to a VIP launch party.
I screamed like my jam in the club just came on and then I went to my group chat on Facebook and bragged, finally receiving a response after all these times of being ignored.
I was able to take a friend, and as much as I wanted my friends to each send in an audition tape, there was no time and I settled for my boyfriend so I could hold it over him and win any fight for the next year or two (Him: You spent all the money on a Simba outfit for a cat? Me: Yeah but I took you to NY for free so..).
The days leading up went slower than the minutes on a microwave, but the day finally arrived and we were at Sydney International Airport boarding a 14 hour flight to LA. I took a few sneaky snooze tablets and they decided not to sink in until we got to LA so I was going through customs like I was Snoop Dogg at his 420 party. I made it though and we boarded our six hour flight from LA to NYC.
New York City
We landed at nighttime, which worked well so we could get rid of the jet lag, and then got to our hotel somehow (quite vague as the tablets were still in full force). We were put up in the amazing DoubleTree by Hilton in Midtown and received a warm cookie on arrival. I MEAN WHAT!? I don’t think I have ever received a warm cookie on arrival – #basicbitchlife.
We decided to hit a pub, because STRAYA, and then went to bed in preparation for the launch party the next night.
We got the whole day to do what we wanted, so we did touristy things (video recorded squirrels while yelling “ALAN, ALAN”, in Central Park) – and then went back to the hotel to get ready.
Once we were dressed we tried to get a subway to our meeting point in SoHo, but that was a flop that set us back and decided to hail down a taxi instead.
HOLEY CRAP NEW YORK HOW DO YOU GET ANYWHERE AND WHY DO YOU ALL BEEP YOUR HORN SO MUCH IT’S OBVIOUSLY NOT GETTING YOU ANY WHERE FASTER?!?
So I was in the back of the taxi having a huge panic attack half because we were going to be very late, half because I had no idea if the taxi’s car alarm was going off or it was just our driver on the horn.
Charli XCX for boohoo
We arrived, and while we were late everyone understood it was because we were from STRAYA. Once I recovered from my panic attack I took in what we were about to do. Get on a giant double decker bus with the face of the beautiful Charli XCX sprawled across and drive all the way to Brooklyn with the wind in our hair.
Then out came Charli, making me feel like my basic bitch status just went down to number 6,789,723,980. She gave us each hugs and I tried not to wet myself because I was wearing white. Then she got on the bus, YASSS!!
We jumped on board and each scored some beers, which is so STRAYA. The view as we were crossing the bridge on the top of a double decker bus was incredible – not to mention surreal.
Once we arrived we took part in some interviews, during which Joe Jonas got out of a van with his crew and I realised I was not even worthy of a basic bitch status anymore.
We walked in and I walked straight past the photo lounge because all this excitement had turned me into a nanbots and my bladder was going to explode. Once I could take it in, it was incredible.
The Villian venue in Brooklyn had transformed into this amazing neon-lit party featuring pac man machines, hot girls on stilts, a mechanical bull, and most importantly free Charli XCX cocktails.
Joe Jonas came out and started DJing and I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Then the Queen herself, Charli, slayed the stage and I realised the morning after I was slut dropping to Boom Clap – I really need to stop doing that.
After the performances were done we got to go up and take photos with Charli herself, which I then obviously posted on Instagram pretending like we were total besties and this was just another day in my amazing life.
After the party we headed back to our hotel and I tried to get more warm cookies because I felt like a Queen and Queen’s probably get unlimited warm cookies.
We then got a few extra days to explore the beautiful and exciting city of New York, where we hit comedy clubs, saw Cold War Kids live at Terminal 5, and harassed the front desk for more warm cookies because now I am a #basicqueen.
I recently visited New York City – the city that seems to have its shit together – but I picked up on just a few things that need to be explained…
1. Why does everyone beep so much, the only time I want to hear beeping is when the microwave beeps to tell me my pizza pocket is ready.
2. Why are your toilets actually swimming pools, what happens when guys sit on the toilet do their peens get a bath, ARE YOUR TOILETS ACTUALLY PEEN BATHS?
3. Why does everyone on the street always ask me if I want to a buy a CD and when I say ‘no’, they say ‘bitch, don’t think I got change’? I don’t know what you got but it sure ain’t change.
4. How are you all so skinny with those damn portion sizes – I want a slice of lasagne not a slab to take home and feed my family of 10. Does the peen bath have a magical calorie extractor attached? TELL ME YOUR SECRETS!
5. Why is everything pumpkin spiced? What sort of white girl shit is this?
6. How is everyone so calm when they decide to close the only subway that will get you straight to your destination without having to catch 5236 different ones? If you’re down there you obviously can’t afford to life so what have you got to lose people? RIOT!
7. Why is every pub so surprised that I want to eat when a baseball game is on? DO YOU ALL FAST WHEN A GAME IS ON? DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL FEELINGS SO YOU CAN’T EAT?
8. Why do you put your rubbish on the side walk and not in a huge bin? I’ve seen crows literally open bin lids to get into rubbish, but they don’t even have to work for it in your city.
9.Why is Stabby McStab town (Stabby McStab town) just a few streets away from Richy McRich town (Soho). One wrong turn and everyone is saying gun in every second sentence like they talking about a pumpkin spiced latte.
10. Why is the cab driver always on the phone? Who is he chatting to? What are they talking about? Is it his mum? Is it my mum?
Are those against the Melbourne Cup actually supporting a more widespread sense of animal cruelty?
Two Melbourne Cup horses died in last year’s race, but if you do your research approximately 50 died that same day because their owners were too lazy to call a vet when early signs of illness became apparent, or because the owners fed their horses the wrong thing causing colic – a disease that causes premature death.
So would it be too far of an assumption to state by being against the Melbourne Cup you are actually supporting a more widespread kind of animal cruelty as these horses would become either wild or cared for by irresponsible or poor owners?
The more horses pushed into the wild face death due to starvation or dehydration. The more horses taken in by owners face a lack of care, colic disease, and more due to owners being irresponsible or even just unable to afford it – a rising trend as farmer’s income declines. The race-horsing industry is a multi-million dollar industry giving these animals the right care that they need, immediate attention to early signs of illness, and while it may be for greedy and selfish reasons, it still sees these animals cared for.
In actual fact the horse Mongolian Kahn, a front runner for the Cup, has been showing signs of colic disease and instead of receiving zero care it will be treated immediately, and removed from the race. That doesn’t sound like animal cruelty to me, but letting it die because the owner is too lazy to call a vet, does.
I am a vegetarian and I have often struggled with the for and against battle with Melbourne Cup and ultimately the racing industry. I don’t eat any meat including fish, nor do I consume anything with Gelatin in it (this is made from cows hooves and found in many lollies, jelly and more).
I don’t wear anything made out of leather, nor do I shop anywhere that supports Angora Fur (David Jones and General Pants both supported Angora but have recently ditched due to the video footage of rabbits having their fur ripped out while they are alive).
Many people I have seen posting about the fact the Cup supports animal cruelty, shopped at these places, wear make-up and clothes brands that are notorious for testing on animals and animal cruelty, respectively, and more. They support definite animal cruelty without even bothering to do the research, yet are quick to state the Melbourne Cup, and only the Melbourne Cup (not any other race days) is a form of animal cruelty.
There is a whole other argument for racehorses and their futures after racing, which has left me very confused about my stance on racing, but for now this is how I see the Cup and the race-horsing industry – straight from a vegetarian’s mouth.