All posts by Johan & Kylie

Tech Time #2: Capturing Skype History

Wow, it’s been a while since our first Tech Time … oops?  I guess technology is everywhere around us now, and a lot of long distance relationships rely so heavily on technology, that, well, it’s all second nature to us.  But one of the troubles we knew we’d have to face eventually with Migrationsverket was how to prove that relationship and document our online history which was harder than one would expect.  We were asked in July to provide evidence of flight stubs and photos and phone calls but we’d been looking into how to extract our Skype history for quite a while before we received that email (preparation is key).

Hopefully this will help some of you going through the same process of proving your relationship and your history with your partner.  In the end, none of these options worked 100% for us, but that was probably due to the extent of our history.  We eventually came to an almost-complete history with which we would have to make-do, but that was after quite a bit of trial and error!  Just because something didn’t work for us, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, particularly if you have less of a Skype history than we do … at the time of running these applications, we had been using Skype daily for 3.5 years and had retained the complete history.

Tip About Using Skype

First things first, if you use Skype on a daily basis like we do, you’ve probably built up quite the chat/call history, particularly if you look under Tools > Options > Privacy > Advanced Settings > Keep History for … Mine has always been set to “Forever”.  Even when I reinstalled Windows and Skype, I made sure to back up our chat history, instructions for which can be found here.  This means I have our entire (very extensive) chat and call history since we first started talking in October 2012.  If you have reinstalled the app at any point without backing up those files, or if your chat history is set to something other than “Forever”, unfortunately you won’t be able to retrieve any of that older history so that’s something to look out for.  Also, as far as what we sort of looked into it, we couldn’t find a proper way of extracting any of the Skype call history from our phones or tablets easily (which would differ from those made on the PC – notice how when you answer a call on one device it will hang it up on the other, so that call time will only be recorded on the one device) so that’s another thing to consider if you do rely heavily on phone or tablets for calls, you may end up tearing your hair our trying to take screenshots of everything.  In the end, we omitted these calls from our evidence, but we felt we had enough else to make up for it.

Below is a list of our recommended software. And remember, just because we didn’t succeed with a particular one, doesn’t mean that it won’t fit your needs better or that you won’t have luck using it. Try them all!

4.  Skype

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For most of us, the first place we search when trying to pull up a history will be the original source – aka Skype.  Wrong.  I guarantee for most of you trying to obtain a call log, Skype will not be your answer.  This is because they will only offer up a call log for those using the paid service.  So by all means, scroll up through your conversation, screenshot every call you make… or, you can copy and paste your entire conversation, trying to copy and paste each call entry which will look like this:

[9:09:47 PM] *** Call from Johan ***
[9:37:51 PM] *** Call ended, duration 25:37 ***

But there are better ways to go about it.  Read on.

3.  Skype Log View

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This is a nifty little program which creates a log of all your calls and messages and uses the help of command-line prompts to organise the search results by a range of dates, or contacts, or whatever the case may be.  This list can then be saved as a HTML or XML file.  And I’m sure people have had success with it, but it wasn’t for us.  From memory, it took around six or more hours to run the export, and by the time it finished and I looked at the log, it was all over the place.

Over 3.5 years of chat history and calls, it showed half a dozen (maybe a dozen at most, but that’s being overly flexible) calls, the rest was simply our message history, and I ran it several times changing the commands and removing them, and I just could not get it to work.  For whatever reason, it was just skipping over whole sections of months and years of our calls because it might have one in 2016, and 5 in 2012 or something crazily disproportionate.  It would probably be a good program if you wanted a condensed scale of messages (as it shortens them to one-liners) but it just did not work as a call log for us, and honestly, after the hours I bothered with it I decided screenshots from Skype would’ve been easier and a more trusted source for the migration board.

2.  Skype Export

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This one is a little more complicated, as unlike Skype Log View, there is no graphical interface, and you use it solely through the command prompt in Windows or Mac Terminal, which might discourage more casual computer users.  But don’t worry, there is good documentation on the above-linked GitHub page. That said, if you’re unfamiliar with the Windows command prompt (or Mac Terminal) you might want to read some basic guides.

This was probably one of the fastest exports we tried, however, it was once again more of a full export … which is great if you wanted a log of every message you’ve ever sent and every call you’ve ever made (twice – once for receiving and once for ending).  But once again, too long for our needs.  It was basically like copying and pasting our entire Skype history into a HTML file instead of a Skype window.  It was a little neater, but still just as long and unnecessary.

1.  Skype Exporter

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Skype Exporter ended up the winner, in our case, although it still wasn’t as perfect as we would’ve liked, but close enough to it.  Very easy to use, at the click of a button this program took around 1.5-2 hours to run an export, and I ran it several times because I found a problem with the export freezing on the same date in late-April 2016 (it was July).  It would come up with a pop-up error which unfortunately prevented me from saving the log, because I couldn’t click out of the pop-up error without it forcing the program to close.  In the end, we decided to work around this error, because despite this, it was exactly what we wanted.  A full and complete Skype log, detailing our call date and time with each other, omitting all our millions of chat messages for just a straight out call log.  In an ideal world, the export would finish successfully and you’d be able to save it as some sort of text file, however because of the error we ended up screenshotting the lot, because the one thing we were still able to do was scroll through the log.

We ended with 108 screenshots, which we cropped and downsized 4-to-a-page, across 27 pages and saved into a single PDF.  And that’s how we condensed 42 months or 3.5 years of our communication.  Or, part of it, as mentioned at the start of this post, this only detailed the calls made and received on my PC, not those on the phone/tablet as well.  The one thing with this program is there is no way to search through just one contact’s history, however as Johan is the only one I have any major contact with on Skype, this wasn’t a big deal for us.   Indeed if you successfully obtain a text log, other contacts could also be easily omitted, or crossed out in a paper print out. We decided against screenshotting any of our Skype message history, because with that amount of calls, you could imagine the accompanying message list.  We did, however, take some photos of our other communications – text messages, handwritten letters, etc.

Capturing Other Applications

As we were missing the last 3 months of our most recent call list from the Skype log, we turned to screen capturing the other applications we used to make calls – FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger.  Both of these have an easy option for viewing your call log, however again no way to extract them from the phone or tablet without taking individual screenshots.  I am also fairly sure both of these had a cut-off point, because they rely on “recent” call lists and “recent” will only go back so far.  As we only needed the last three months worth, this worked out okay for us, but for anyone else that uses them as a more regular means of communication, you may run into troubles later down the track.

As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t provide a Skype message history, because there was just too much and where do you begin with that?  What we did do, however, was take one screenshot of our Facebook Messenger chat history – but this method no longer works! 😥 But it was such a great method because you could go into the full-page conversation history on a PC, and if you scrolled up, it will say “Loading Older Messages …” with a number.  Ours was 43138.  Highlighted that number for their reference.  Obviously, it would be insane to provide them that chat history, but one screenshot would tell it all.

In addition to this, we also provided screenshots of the folder properties of our shared Dropbox and Google Drive folders, showing the amount of files and folders shared between us – which we thought was an excellent indication of the way we share photos and documents.  We also took screenshots of other couple apps we used to share photos and drawings; screenshots of our shared Etsy store; our blog; and my progress in Swedish-learning programs.  We captioned everything with short explanations, and all in all, we’re confident we’d given them enough evidence to work with.  Then it was back to the waiting game…

The Final Week

J:  Back in Haparanda, it was time for me to go back to school, which started the very next day. It was nice to see all my friends again, even at the expense of missing Kylie, but if I’m honest, I didn’t have too much time to miss her, compared to her sitting alone in my apartment. That said, it was always nice to come home and see her every day. I liked to call out that “honeyyyy, I’m hooome” that they always do in movies and shows, because why not? I think that’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most when we move together. Not having to come home to an empty apartment every day. It’ll be nice to have someone there to greet you and give you kisses when you come home 😀

K:  It was odd, having him around every minute of the day and suddenly he wasn’t there anymore.  We spent so much of this last week just sleeping in late, uploading photos and catching our breath from being on the go the whole time.  It was always nice to see him again after school though!  On the first day, we had forgotten to get his apartment key off him and so we were stranded at the apartment and unable to lock up, but luckily he finished early this day and we explored some shops where Mum picked up some discounted Christmas placements and serviettes, Johan bought some new shoes and we had ice creams at yet another candy store!  Candy World is supposed to be Europe’s largest candy store, right here in Haparanda.  It was pretty large, complete with a children’s playground, but very spacious, and I still don’t quite know whether to believe it or not!  Pricing it up though, we found most candy to be cheaper at the grocery stores and so left without, which was probably a good thing because we’d already eaten so much!

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J:  The first night back to school, I had an assignment to finish, a report on a project we did the first term, which got carried over to the second. The next night, we had some time over to go hunting for northern lights though! I had seen them before in Haparanda, though that was earlier in the season, and we were kinda hopeful that we would catch them again. Alas, we had no luck with that, and that was the last time we tried, but I did show them this nature reserve where we’ve had activities with school, and I wanted to show them this lookout tower from where I think I saw my first ever aurora. Again, we never found that either. That said, it’s a forest, and it’s easy to get lost, and I’d only been there once. One day I’ll find that tower again though!

Also, I made a kladdkaka (a sort of Swedish mudcake). It was okay I guess, but I failed in baking it the way it should be made, and it ended up way too hard and crumbly. But Kylie and her mum enjoyed it.

Pic 2Our very own lantern, which we had carried everywhere with us but this was the first time we actually used it!

K:  The next day, the key to Johan’s apartment in the hands of Mum and myself, we returned to the nature reserve to try and find this tower he spoke of in the daylight.  We had more important matters at hand first though… and spent half hour walking in the wrong direction, because we’d missed one of the turns!  It was good exercise nonetheless, and still so beautiful to hear the crunch of snow beneath our boots.  It was making me cold and grumpy though, but Mum wasn’t leaving until we went back to ‘her’ forest.  We retraced our steps and were soon on the right route again.

Pic 2Haparanda Train Station, which is along the way and no longer in use.

And we eventually found it again, this magnificent forest and it’s snow-covered trees straight out of a fairytale.

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It’s many long winding roads will eventually lead you to the lake.  Another snow-covered lake.  You almost wouldn’t be able to tell if it wasn’t for the row boat propped up near the edge.  And we met a bloke who went out walking on it, straight shortcut across town!  We didn’t trust ourselves though, this was a man who knew the ice and had with him a prodding stick!  Still no tower to be seen though… are you sure it existed, Johan? 😛Pic 4

By the 14th of January, we were getting pretty upset counting the days until going home.  Me, because I’d have to leave Johan, and Mum, because she’d have to leave the snow.  I slept late while Johan went off to school, wishing he could stay for longer cuddles, packed and repacked suitcases (as I was leaving all of my heavy winter gear with Johan, to avoid having to bring it all back next time) and waited for his lunch breaks with eagerness.  Today, I met one of his school friends, Dan, and we talked with him a while. 🙂 Meanwhile, Mum decided she’d go explore the town again without me, walking up and down along the river until after it got dark.Pic 5

J: On the 15th of January, it was my birthday! Congratulations to me! Me and my friend Dan met Kylie and her mum at the shops after school, and Kylie apparently had a secret she wanted to hide from me! Turned out it was… (drum roll) CAKE! She had bought me my favourite cake 😀 She also hung up a banner thing in my apartment that said happy birthday. She’s nice 🙂

We celebrated with a dinner date at a Chinese place. She had fried rice and I probably had deep fried chicken again. I love that stuff. Then we ended the night by going to the pub and met up with my friends. Kylie doesn’t drink, but I do occasionally. There weren’t many people there though, so we soon moved on to a group home where a lot of students at my school stay, and which frequently host parties.

The night ended well, if you ignore the fact that Kylie got sick, probably from the food at the restaurant.

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K:  By the next morning, I was feeling fine, at least tummy-wise, not emotional-wise, as it was to be our last day together.  Johan was now the one with an upset tummy, and was not a good way to end our trip!  Thankfully, it was a Saturday, and we were going to cherish every last moment together.  Mum and I had booked a flight from Luleå to Stockholm where we would spend one more night, so we would be ready for our international flights home at Arlanda the next day.  Our flight wasn’t departing until the evening though, and it was another 2 and a half hour bus trip to Luleå Airport, and we insisted that Johan come along to spend just those few extra hours together and help us get to where we were going as there was one transfer we had to make.

J: Nothing much happened between the time we arrived at the airport and we parted at the gate. We were the only people in the airport at the time, and so we had the place to ourselves. We mostly spent the time in a nice cosy sofa, holding on to each other and talking. Recounting the good times we had had, and reminding ourselves that it’s not the end and next time we wouldn’t have to leave each other again!

This is also when we finally tore into the chocolate frogs we bought at the Warner Bros Studio Tour four and a half weeks earlier! One could say we drowned our sorrows in the chocolate.

While we were inside feeling sorry for ourselves, Kylie’s mum had gone out into the snow, one last time, and she didn’t return until it was almost time to go to the gate. They even allowed me to go with them though the security and wait with her at the gate, which was nice of them.

Pic 8Drowning our sorrows in chocolate.

K:  It was the moment we’d both been dreading.  I don’t think there’d been any tears up until this point, which was the same for the first trip.  The tears didn’t come until the goodbye.  We mostly sat and cuddled, wishing it could last forever, and promising that this would be the last goodbye.  Promising that next time, Johan would come to Australia.  Promising that next time, I would fly back with him to live our happy ever after.  And the tears ensued.  And we kissed and hugged and they were calling for us to board.  And I didn’t want to let go.  But at the same time, Johan needed to get the bus back.  It was the last bus that would make it in time for the next connection.  We were the last left at the gate.  I told him to go.  And he did, and Mum took my hand as we headed for the gate.  We all looked back at one another.  We gave our tickets to the attendant, and I looked back again.  He was gone.

J:  It was with a heavy heart I walked away. I kept looking back as long as I could still see them, then I rounded the corner and walked out through the exit, and keeping with the theme of this holiday, I only just made the bus back home. This is also when I lost my Ravenclaw scarf, but I didn’t really have the energy to care about that, because I had left Kylie at the airport and we wouldn’t see each other again in many months. In fact, I’m still waiting.

Pic 9Last moments.

K:  There’s not much to say about our flight or our final day in Stockholm.  We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel and we couldn’t do much, because we had to be at the airport 2 hours before our lunchtime flight.  We had transfers to and from the airport and it was all pretty miserable.  Yet the sunsets made me smile, and I held to the belief that next time it would not be a 2 year wait.  It would be less, and it would be to move to him.Pic 10

Harry Potter Studio Tour!

This post is really long and contains Studio Tour spoilers. You’ve been warned.

J: So… This was one of the most looked forward to days of this holiday. And it was amazing! Let us take you through it.

We began by taking the train from King’s Cross to Watford Junction and then, after waiting for the official studio tour shuttle bus, being confused about when it should arrive, talking with other equally confused visitors etc, we finally got to board this cool double decker bus, finally on our way to a most magical place.

The Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studio Tour.

We got our prebooked tickets and audio guides relatively quickly, considering how packed the place was. One of the most memorable things about waiting in line though, were the people. There weren’t too many apart from us in full cosplay, but most wore their house colours and wands, scarves, t-shirts with Harry Potter prints etc. The most stand-out though was the guy in an incredible Voldemort cosplay. I’m sad to say we didn’t get a photo with him. We only saw him in the lobby. We lost him when we got into the actual tour.

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The cupboard under the stairs which you saw lining up to enter the tour.

And what a tour it was. The beginning was amazing (you’ll hear that word a lot.)

Fun story: Kylie recently met Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) at Supanova, where she asked him his favourite part of the tour. His answer was the beginning. And he said what we’ll say to you: “I won’t spoil it for you“. You have to experience it yourself.

Other fun story: They told us the record time for someone staying there was 13 hours. Stay tuned to the end to find out how long we spent.

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Have you ever noticed that the doors to the Great Hall contain the four house crests?

K: The first place you find yourself after the introduction is the Great Hall. As we were visiting in December, they were featuring the making of snow and fire effects, not to mention all the festive Christmas decorations! The Great Hall was decked out in (see what I did there? :P) massive Christmas wreaths and trees laden with gold stars. Levitating broomstick-riding witches flew around the top of each one. The Great Hall left us as awestruck as it left Harry the first time he entered the Hall for his sorting. Tables filled with roast chickens and potatoes, bowls of peas and jugs of water (with hog head lids). At each seat there were house-specific bonbons and gifts; there was pudding, and even cakes covered in white icing topped with fondant snow wizards!

The fireplace was lit, and around the walls were mannequins dressed in house robes, showcasing the changes in design over the years and at the end of the Hall, in front of the staff table, were the costumes of Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid and more! There was also a table you could sit at, and feel what it felt to sit in the Great Hall.

This area was unfortunately a little rushed as it is the start of the tour you are asked to move out to let the next group of people in, but you could return if you didn’t get enough time. The rest of the tour though is at your own pace and boy, did we take our time exploring every inch!

J: And there was so much to see! I’m going to take you through the first area in broad strokes, because if I went into detail this would get way too long.

So after the Great Hall you go through a section with related items such as the scale model of the inside of the Great Hall ceiling used to make the sky effects, and also some specific set pieces like the ice fountain sculpture from the Yule Ball and all the delicious desserts. (Unfortunately not edible).

Following this is costume, hair and makeup. Yes, they have that kind of stuff too. The best are the wigs and costumes though. Also a bit about distressing costumes at the end.

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Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Common Room. Note the Christmas cards behind them!

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The costumes Evanna Lynch wore for Luna Lovegood.

After this there’s not really any kind of order to anything, and there are a lot of things to see. Unfortunately, I can’t list everything, but some of the highlights, more or less in order off appearance, is the Hogwarts gates, the Gryffindor dormitories and common room – which are amazingly detailed – the Leaky Cauldron with the forced perspective setup used to simulate the long corridor on the upper floor, the Mirror of Erised and the Fat Lady portrait, the display of wands, Dumbledore’s office with all its knick-knacks, including the cabinet with the memories from HBP and the pensieve. The potions classroom, the actual Goblet of Fire, the Weasley’s kitchen in the Burrow, the Ministry of Magic, the portrait wall and so much, much, more that I’m probably forgetting.

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Kylie filming the Gryffindor boy’s dorm.

And the attention to detail in all of these sets is incredible. And many in include buttons you can press to trigger animatronics to make the sets feel even more alive. There are also staff scattered about, giving further information about the items, such as the Goblet of Fire, and how its casket uncovering mechanism worked.

K: You forgot the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, Umbridge’s office, Malfoy Manor, the huge swinging pendulum, and Hagrid’s Hut! How could you forget Hagrid’s Hut?? This was one thing we thought better in the a Harry Potter Exhibition though, because unlike the exhibition, you couldn’t walk through and sit in Hagrid’s huge armchair. There was also a display of horcruxes, items to be found in the Room of Requirement, the most expensive prop on set that is seen for a whole of a second or two… The list goes on and on.

They were also showing how they make fire and the different methods of making snow and you could put your hands in and see and feel the different results. Of course this only made me more excited to see the real stuff again! We also participated in Wand Training 101, a video tutorial with wand trainer, Paul Harris, from the movies, and had fun learning five different wand movements for combat, as seen in the Trailing Tonks behind the scenes feature on OOTP.

Towards the end of the room they showcased Quidditch items – the different balls and brooms – and other modes of transport against a huge green screen. Everything from Harry’s first Nimbus 2000, to Mad Eye’s specialised broom with back support, from Sirius’ motorbike, to the Gringotts carts! It was here you entered the no-photography green screen area to have a ride on your very own broom and have your photo in the flying Ford Anglia! Considering the queue was almost at the door, the line moved quickly. Though we had no intention of buying the £12 photo or the £25 video on usb stick, it was still disappointing to see a foot cut off that the photographer hadn’t warned us about, and might have been the difference between falling into the urge to make a purchase or not. Whether or not you plan to buy the photo, definitely do the experience – it’s not every day you get to ride a broom and despite the staff member telling you what to do and where to look, it was so much fun! They also lend you robes in any house if you don’t have them, which was no problem for us, but my Mum picked out a Slytherin robe *facepalm* I could see her fitting into any other house, but not Slytherin!

J: The next section of the tour was Platform 9 and 3/4. They had everything! Including the actual full size train! This was also where they had the Hogwarts Express shop, which has stuff you won’t find in the gift shop at the end of the tour so make sure you look through it and buy what you want from here now! You won’t be able to go back later!

Of course, we had done extensive research into what would be available and what we wanted, unfortunately, the photo frame Kylie wanted from this shop wasn’t in stock, so we couldn’t get it (more reason to come back a second time) but we still had a great time at the station! We took photos of the train and staged photos of us around the station, reading the Prophet, waiting for our train!

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All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

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Reading the morning news on the platform.

You could also look inside one of the train carriages, where they had dressed up one compartment for each of the years Harry went to Hogwarts. It was great! Again, such attention to detail!

Here you could also ride a Hogwarts express simulation thing and have another opportunity to pay a lot of money for a photo, but we didn’t do it. What we did do however, was take a lot of great photos ourselves!

K: By this time it was almost 3pm, and we were starving and our shoulders were sore from carrying camera bags and cosplay bags so we welcomed the break at the Backlot Cafe!  There is a small section just as you’re leaving the area to enter the cafe that housed a display case showcasing Mina Lima’s design work for the series, including the Marauders Map, Dumbledore’s Will, Weasley Wizard Wheezes products and school books. Unfortunately we didn’t spend too much time looking at this as we were getting worried we’d only completed the first half of the tour!

The Backlot Cafe was surprisingly reasonably priced and we grabbed some egg, bacon and mayonnaise sandwiches for £4.25 (okay, a bit much for a sandwich, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting to get a meal under £6, and I do love a good egg sandwich!)  We also grabbed long awaited Butterbeers in the plastic souvenir tankards, delicious, but not quite the buttery taste we believe it should be!  You could also grab newly introduced Butterbeer ice cream cones, but alas, we skipped this until next time!

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Outside the Backlot Cafe, they have the outdoor sets… The Knight Bus, Privet Drive Houses 3 and 4 (which they open up on special occasions, but not when we were there), the Potters House, and part of the iconic Wooden Bridge which you get to walk through. That felt very authentic, with its uneven floorboards and sloped roof, was very cool. Off to the corner before you enter the next part of the tour they also had the chess pieces from Philsopher’s Stone, and again, Sirius’ motorbike and Mr Weasley’s flying car – this time you could take your own photos with them, so yes, of course we did! Was a little disappointing you couldn’t climb up on a chess piece and be a knight like Ron, but I guess that could be a little more dangerous!

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J: About the butterbeer, as I had never tasted if before, I thought it was just great! But alas, I don’t have anything to compare it to. I’m sure Kylie’s butterbeer is great too though and I’m gonna ask her to make it for me as soon as possible!

The outdoor area was really fun too, but a little chilly after being in the warm exhibition halls for hours. So it was nice to go back inside for the back half of the tour.

This was where we encountered the creature shop! Which was full of models and animatronics of every imaginable creature and character in the wizarding world! There were shelves of tools and masks and material used for model making, and on the tallest shelf was a big black human-sized balloon thing that we had explained to us was used for Aunt Marge’s blowing-up scene! Seriously, there was no end to the creativity in that place!

You got to see complex animatronics that were often no more than a body part with metal rods and cables sticking out of it, probably the most impressive of which was Hagrid’s head (or was it his body?). There was also a glass box in the middle with smaller animatronics that actually moved if you pressed a button, like Hedwig, the miniature dragons and the baby-like Voldemort remains seen in the King’s Cross scene of the last movie. And boy are the people making these things talented! Baby-Voldie breathed and turned it’s eyes on you and looked almost alive!

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Miniature Hungarian Horntail.

There were also regular “still” models, which were incredibly detailed as well. There were life-size models of the trio as well as Malfoy, Dumbledore, Hagrid and Dobby, all in glass cases. Admittedly the model of Harry looked slightly off (maybe because he wasn’t wearing his glasses?), but that was probably the only thing that didn’t live up to expectations. The rest looked amazing!

Lastly, before you arrived in the next section, you passed a life-sized animated Buckbeak, whose movements were so smooth and coordinated you would almost expect him to get up and fly away at any time! They also had life-sized models of Aragog, the thestrals, the Hungarian Horntail, the Bailisk and more.

Next was Diagon Alley, which was pretty much as expected. Amazing. They had the Weasley Wizard Wheezes, Ollivanders and all the other shops. Unfortunately they didn’t let you walk into any of them, but it was great nonetheless! You even got to learn how they made the footprints of Harry walking in the snow under the invisibility cloak!

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Looking down Diagon Alley.

Following this, you got to walk through corridors of posters showcasing amazing concept art before ending up at a room with miniature paper concept models for all the outdoor scenery, like parts of the castle and Hagrid’s Hut.

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There’s something on the bridge that doest belong…

These were all cool and stuff, but they had nothing on what lay ahead. The icing on the cake so to speak. The massive, even in miniature, fully painted model of Hogwarts and the grounds. Seriously, this thing is huge! They had interactive screens where you could read about the model and how it had evolved throughout the movies, parts being added and stuff, and how it was finally moved, in pieces, to its current location. And the lights in the ceiling illuminating it shifted through a day and night cycle, providing an impressive effect.

I could go on and on about this thing. It was probably the single most impressive piece they had on display in the whole tour. It was dressed up for winter in impressive detail, with snow on the ground and in the trees, and the buildings were so amazingly detailed. I can only imagine the amount of time and work that went into creating it. Sculpting it into perfection. It was truly a sight to behold.

You walked in a circle around it, allowing you to take it in from Every angle before reluctantly leaving it for the room of wands.

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A view of the castle, looking toward the owlery.

This is the last stop before the gift shop. And when I say room of wands, I mean that there were boxes of wands filling every inch of space on the walls and stacked in piles in places. And every single box had a name on it of someone who had worked on the movies, including all the people working behind the scenes like set designers, artists, directors and producers. We managed to find most of the major actors, like the trio and other important characters, but I’m sure we missed a lot! I’m not sure that there was one name repeated, which just goes to show how many people worked on making these films come to life over the ten years.

K: And then it was all over! Except it wasn’t all over because you were greeted with the gift shop and it was like another huge display of props all over again and we didn’t know where to look first! Almost immediately you step into the Dark Arts section which we knew we didn’t want anything from, but of course, we couldn’t leave one corner of the shop unexplored! They had toys of every animal, sections dedicated to each house, wands of every character, endless options of keyrings and magnets, t-shirts and drinkware, and the more expensive Noble Collection props. We pulled out our shopping list and a quill, and began filling our arms with goodies and crossing them off our list. We spent at least an hour in the shop finding (and not finding) the things we wanted, and it was a fun interactive experience in itself! Once again despite the long queues at checkout, they moved very quickly and the staff were very helpful helping us look for the things we couldn’t find ourselves (and turns out they weren’t there, so it we didn’t overlook anything after all!) We ended with about three bags full of stuff, and if you’re still not tired of hearing about Harry Potter, or youre just interested in knowing what we bought in the gift shop, you can find our Studio Tour Haul Video right here!

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Our shopping list.

And then you walked out and you were back where you started and you had to return the audio headset (which we didn’t have any chance to listen to!) and you collected your jackets and you tried not to cry as you looked around at the portraits on the walls, just wanting to line up and do it all again! By the time we got out of the gift shop, we had spent about 9 hours there, and then we spent about another hour just sitting at the cafe, eating Bertie Botts and trying to book a taxi on the free WiFi for the airport the next morning. We really didn’t want to leave. But sooner or later we had to walk out, and wait on another bus to take us back, with excited kids retelling their parents all that they had seen and they’ll surely be retelling that for a while!

It took about another hour to get home and have dinner, and then recheck the taxi booking again. Then we had to spend the night repackaging our suitcases, trying to safely pack in all our of new souvenirs, and we worked it so that one suitcase held the merchandise and items we wouldn’t need to access, and one held all the clothing and things we’d be accessing all the time. By the time we went to bed it was 1.30am, and we had alarms set for 3am for a 3.30 taxi! Exhausted? Absolutely.

Ask Us Anything #1

We know!  We know!  Where are all the holiday posts?  They’re coming!  We are going to take it in turns to recount the holiday, and Johan is taking his sweet old time!  But we aim to have more posts published in the coming week.  In the mean time…

A couple of weeks ago, we had our first question sent in to us by Phi!  Phi asks:

A lot of international LDR couples are FRAZZLED over the visa process, thinking that a marriage/fiance visa route is easier. What do you think about that?  For example, instead of looking for jobs, like you two, they worry about the entire visa result over the process. what do you think?

Such a great question, and we’ll do our best to answer it!

K:  I think the process of applying for a visa, whether a work or marriage visa, is (in the technical aspect of it) much more important than the end result.  If you take the time to do your research and gather as much information as you can, by the time it actually comes to applying for the visa, things will hopefully run much smoother.  As long as you put in as much detail as you can, and be completely honest on your application, then hopefully there won’t be any problems with getting your application accepted.  At least, that’s my positive thinking!  We’re really lucky with Sweden, they have a special type of visa which I’m looking at getting.

J:  Yeah, I haven’t really looked into the visa application stuff as much as Kylie has, but there is a residence permit you can get “to live with someone in Sweden with whom you are planning to marry or become common law spouses“.  What this means is that we don’t need to rush into a marriage to be able to live together, we can take it one step at a time.  The whole process seems to be a fairly uncomplicated.  The person moving applies online, sends in supporting documents proving the relationship, then gets called into an interview at the embassy. The person to whom they are moving must answer an online questionnaire and then a decision is made whether to approve the application or not.

K:  By obtaining this residence permit, it will also entitle me to a Swedish personal number (ID) and allow me to set up a bank account, undertake SFI (Swedish for Immigrants), etc.  It is a 1-2 year permit which will also automatically grant me a work permit, and I can apply for an extension when that time is up.  We must be able to show that we can support each other financially until I get settled in as it may take time to find work, and once I’ve been living in Sweden for 3 years, I can apply for a full Swedish citizenship.

J:  It really seems like the most sensible option for us over a working visa for which she can only stay 12 months. It is really all about doing your research. Comparing the cost of living in either country, the cost and benefits of the different visas etc. A visa in Sweden costs about 1/28th of what a visa in Australia costs (150SEK/240AUD vs 41628SEK/6865AUD) , so even if it wasn’t for the fact that Kylie has really fallen in love with my country and really wants to move here, her moving to Sweden is really the more financially logical choice for us. We have also compared the cost of living in both countries, and while it wasn’t as much difference as it was with the visa, some important things, like housing, is a little cheaper in Sweden.

K:  When I heard about the fees, that really put the icing on the cake!  So right now we’re in the middle of doing continual research and checking out the forms we’ll need to fill out in preparation for submitting them a little later in the year and gathering as much evidence as we can of our relationship and detailing our plans for the future, including how we’ll support ourselves with work.  For instance, if I can’t obtain work in Sweden right away, which I’m absolutely not holding out hope for, I do have online transcription work that I can do for a very minimal wage, but it’s something that’s there.  We don’t plan to make the move unprepared without some sort of income.  One could be accepted on a partner visa, but what’s the point in that if it falls through a year later because you haven’t thought about how you’ll survive as a close distance couple living away from the support of your family and friends back home?  Which is why we’re trying so hard right now to talk about such things and work out a process that will work for us, that will not only sit good on an application, but work effectively in practice.

J:  Yes, you really should have some kind of longer term plan, and have savings as a safeguard for if things go wrong. Life in unpredictable, and you never know what might happen, so the more eventualities you are prepared for, the better. Consider things such as what will happen if your application is denied? Know the rules for reapplication. What if you lose your income? Know your options. What if something delays your planned moving date? A lot of these things could make the move cost a lot more than you originally anticipated, but if you have done your research and are prepared to deal with it, you could minimize the damage, or at least not be surprised by it.

We will of course keep everyone updated on our journey to closing the distance, and all the trials and worries that are sure to come with it, but I hope that it will go as smoothly as possible, and that we can inspire others to get close the gap as well. Distance can seem like this insurmountable obstacle, but armed with the right knowledge, it doesn’t have to be that bad.

🙂

Happy All Hearts Day!

Happy Valentines Day!  Grattis på Alla Hjärtans Dag!  Wishing you all a warm and fuzzy day!  For all the long distance couples out there, we hope the timezone differences won’t stop you from enjoying some quality time together.  We celebrated by a movie date with the classic and ever-loved fairytale, Shrek, and Kylie enjoyed the tasty lollipop Johan bought for her on Christmas day. 🙂