I WENT TO HOGWARTS!!!!! I stood in the Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s office, the Burrow, and so many other places that just remembering them all makes me giddy. And the best part is, that this wasn’t in some extremely vivid Harry Potter dream (unlike my Hunger Games dreams, which trust me are just scary), this was real life!
As blatantly obvious from the title of my blog, I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and as such there was no way that I was going to miss the chance to visit the Warner Brother Studios Backlot in Leavesden and see all the sets, props, and costumes from my favorite book series’s film adaptations. What kind of self-respecting Potter addict would I be if I did that? Certainly not one worthy of having the name of my blog invoking the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. So I immediately snatched up two tickets for the May 2nd tour of the studios, intending on taking my travel buddy/partner extraordinaire.
Only one small problem, Dan hasn’t finished the book series yet OR seen any of the movies.
Unfortunately Dan is not a speed reader like I am and he doesn’t have any of the books with him, so I couldn’t pester him into finishing the series before we went on the tour, and I refuse to let him see the movies before he reads the books. What? I’m a purist! But I couldn’t exactly bring him along on a tour of the studios without him having the prior knowledge to appreciate it. So the solution was to watch the first movie only (we were planning on more, but our schedules got in the way) so he had at least seen the magical world before and I could feel more at peace for bringing him along.
Totally. Worth. It.
We set out at 7 am, giving ourselves three hours to reach the Studios for our tour, but I had underestimated London rush hour traffic and we ended up over 20 minutes late to our scheduled entrance time. But it ended up not being a problem as the employees were really understanding. I think it must happen all the time and the tickets are more of, guidelines, than actual rules. We queued along with other swarms of Potter fans, ending up right next to Harry’s Cupboard under the Stairs, and his glasses!
At first I felt a little silly for being so excited over seeing movie sets and props, but that self-consciousness fell away as I was struck with the awe-inspiring Great Hall set, surrounded by other people from all over the world who had been touched by JK Rowling’s incredible world as much as I had. Talk about instant camaraderie and International Magical Cooperations!
Yet another situation where words cannot do the experience justice, and there was so much packed into two sound stages that I wouldn’t even been able to describe everything we saw. Every corner you turned there were more sets, more props, more costumes, more people, more excitement than a kid in Honeydukes. And these were all originals, used in the films, not replicas like in the amusement park in Florida. We got to see how they made some of the coolest effects like flying broomsticks and the basilisk, and even see some effects that you wouldn’t think were effects at all like the crooked hallway of The Leaky Cauldron and how they made it not only crooked but also appear three times it’s actual length!
We saw the centerpiece from the Yule Ball, the Potions classroom (including self-stirring cauldrons and Harry’s Advanced Potion Making textbook), the Hogwarts Gates and thestrals, the Horcruxes, Malfoy Manor, the Griffin staircase that lead’s up to Dumbledore’s Office…see what I mean by there was something everywhere we looked? Things were even hanging from the ceiling, like the Great Hall’s ceiling model and the Hogwart’s clock. And I could keep listing for probably hours: the doors to Gringotts vaults, the Triwizard Cup and clues, the Goblet of Fire, the Hogwarts portraits, the sculptures from the Ministry of Magic, Umbridge’s office from the Ministry–outfitted with over 206 kitten plates–broomsticks, wands, Diagon Alley, everything!
And that was just inside.
Outside our first stop was to get a cup of butter beer, which ended up being something akin to butterscotch soda topped with cream to mimic foam. There are four stages to butter beer drinking. 1. Buying Butter Beer “OMG I am actually going to drink butter beer! This is so cool!” 2. First Sip of Butter Beer “Hey this actually isn’t that bad. And so cool!” 3. Second Sip of Butter Beer “Ok this is a little on the sweet side. But still, so cool!” 4. Third Sip of Butter Beer “I can literally feel cavities forming. Anyone want the rest of my butter beer?” Still, it’s a novelty you must try when you can. And take a picture of the “foam mustache” you get from the cream!
The rest of the backlot was pretty sparse, but that didn’t stop us from getting pictures in the flying car, the Knight Bus, knocking on the door of Privet Drive, and in front of the Potter’s Cottage. And the giant chess pieces from the first film were outside too, which made it totally worth having forced Dan into watching the first movie a few weekends ago, not that it really took much forcing. Throughout the tour, I made sure that I was always one location ahead of Dan so that I could prevent him from seeing some things that would give away story lines beyond book 5. And then of course I made Dan be in some of my 287 photos taken and promised him that he would appreciate the gesture later.
There was one more room of special effects and a magical surprise that, much like I refuse to ruin the storyline of a book, I don’t want to spoil for anyone who goes to the tour so I won’t reveal it here. Just know that I was not the only one getting teary eyed!
And what would a visit to Hogwarts be without an exit through the gift shop and the purchasing of a few treats from “Honeydukes”? 😉