London – Harry Potter

 

 

“Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow -

Unbelievable.”

Kate Bush

Wow” from Lionheart

1978

 

 

When I woke, I felt something I did not wish to feel: a tickle in my throat. I had been all over London the past few days, and people were hacking and sneezing in every direction. But I’m a compulsive hand-washer. I’m downright wacky about not touching any part of my face while out in the world. How could I have picked up a germ? I couldn’t give myself an answer, but that didn’t change the fact that I had indeed contracted something. And the tickle was wasting no time in turning into pain. But what could I do? I had places to go and things to see, for cry-eye!

 

It started a few weeks before the trip. Mister and I had talked about taking the short trip outside London to Watford. What is in Watford, you may ask? Leavesden Studios are located in Watford, friends. And that is the home of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. (It is a studio tour, not to be confused with the theme park in Orlando, Florida.) It’s easy enough to procure tickets online, but I wanted to immerse myself so deeply in that tour that my Golden Snitch would pop. So I contacted someone Mister and I know and asked for a favor. I had no expectations, as people are busy and if I didn’t hear back from the guy, well, no worries. I just thought I’d ask. And the most amazing thing happened. Our friend responded. Not only did he respond, he came through. Big time. We were to have our very own personal guide for the tour!

 

 

Anyhoo, back to that fateful Friday morning – the one with the sore throat. Mister and I headed out early, as I’m mortified of being late. First we went to Kings Cross Station, as we’d heard Platform 9 3/4 was there and we wanted to see it. Even though there was a queue of folks waiting for photos, I just couldn’t get into it. Not sure why, but it was kind of a letdown. And that made me sad. So we took the Tube to Euston Station and purchased tickets on the Overground Train to Watford Junction. I kept telling Mister that getting there early would give us an opportunity to have a little something for lunch before our tour. (As we’d missed breakfast – again – this sounded like a grand plan to me.) Taking the train was easy, then we caught the WB shuttle to the Studios. Easy. We were indeed early, and there was a cafe there, and we should have eaten. But we didn’t. Again, this one meal per day business… I don’t know what we were thinking. But I digress…

 

 

We went through the gift shop (which is fabulous, by the way) and took photos of ourselves a la the “Wanted” posters seen in the movies. (Yes, we are supreme dorks.) And it was awesome! Then we walked around the lobby and admired the portraits of the actors taken over the 10-year period of filming the movies. That alone brought giddy smiles and I was so happy! We weren’t even on the tour yet, y’all, and I was about to bust my buttons! So I got a coffee and we sat for a few minutes. When our designated tour time arrived, our designated tour guide appeared. Her name was Michelle and she was immensely likable. She led us to a room where the tour introduction is made and we were off. Note: I’m going to give you an abbreviated telling of our tour experience, because between the two of us, Mister and I took about 3 million-billion-godzillion photos. And y’all – that’s a few too many pics for a blog post.

 

 

After a brief introductory video, we and all the other folks with the same timed entry were led into a small auditorium. Once seated, our collective gaze fell on the doors before us: the entrance to The Great Hall of Hogwarts.

 

 

A brief speech was made by one of the guides and then, unexpectedly, he asked if Mikki and Mister were present. We looked at each other, then timidly raised our hands. We were asked to come forward, so Mister and I did. We were then directed to open the grand doors for all to enter…

 

 

Kids – I know we were standing on a film set. This place isn’t ancient or anything, but its beauty and place in my heart brought tears to my eyes. It is spectacular! And immense. There are so many things to admire and study in this room, one could spend all day there. But the tour was just beginning, so we were all led onward.

 

 

Our tour guide, Michelle, was keen to answer any and all questions and to say she is a font of information is an extreme understatement of the most ridiculous magnitude. Michelle was providing us with so many facts and stories, we could hardly keep up. Here are a few of the sights we encountered, starting with the Gryffindor Common Room…

 

 

The Fat Lady Portrait, showing actress Elizabeth Spriggs. Ms. Spriggs died during the production of the films. Our guide told us that after her passing, the producers were in need of another actress to fill her mighty frame. Apparently, actress/writer/comic Dawn French called up the producers and said something along the lines of, “So I heard you need a fat lady. I’m a fat lady.” The rest, as they say, is history…

 

 

The Weasley Clock…

 

 

Quidditch!…

 

 

Wands of the various characters – each handcrafted and unique…

 

 

At this point, we thought we must surely be near the end of the tour. That’s when Michelle told us we were about halfway through (wha?) and that we could take a short break – outside – and grab ourselves a snack if we so chose. We did chose, but as we had an impressive track-record of skipping meals to the point of weakness, we opted to only indulge in Butterbeer. No food…

 

 

Whereas the first part of the tour involved sets and props, the second part featured mostly technical aspects of the productions, such as various masks from Gringotts Goblins…

 

 

Buckbeak the Hippogriff – When Buckbeak came alive and started moving, it was beautiful…

 

 

If I tell you I love Dobby, I am underselling my emotions…

 

 

 

Then we entered Diagon Alley, which is spectacular…

 

 

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes made me smile…

 

 

When we reached the small architectural model of Hogwarts, we thought that was it.

 

 

The tour must surely be over, right? Wrong. Michelle had given no indication that once we rounded the final corner, we’d encounter the filmed model of Hogwarts…

 

 

I happen to believe in magic. But if I’d been a non-believer, walking into that room would have converted me. The majestic beauty of Hogwarts gripped my very soul. Joyful tears filled my eyes and I was in awe. Walking all around the model, Mister and I were completely overwhelmed. Hogwarts! It is truly a sight to behold.

 

 

 

After leaving the Hogwarts room, everyone passes through a lovely space dedicated to all the people who worked on the Harry Potter films. Wand Boxes line the walls, top to bottom. Each box is labeled with the name of a person who contributed to production in some way. The big names are there, of course, but so are the names of people most of us will never know. It’s a lovely homage to the efforts of the many. And it was a fitting way to wrap up the tour.

 

 

We took a few parting photos, then it was time to say goodbye to our tour guide. Michelle made that day for us. Yes, we would have loved the tour had we taken it on our own. But we didn’t take it on our own. We had been guided and informed by a spectacular, dedicated, knowledgeable employee. And we loved it. We also adored her! We all hugged each other and said our goodbyes, then Mister and I picked up a few souvenirs at the gift shop. Our tour had lasted four and a half hours! We were happily spent and couldn’t believe everything we’d seen.

 

 

After the train ride back to London, we dropped our souvenirs at the hotel and headed out for a pub crawl. And food. All day without eating had left us weak. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure not eating wasn’t helping to fuel my body’s fight against whatever evil germ was attacking my throat. So we found a pub and had a fab dinner, then moseyed to another pub.

 

 

Y’all, I was trying. I really was. If Mister had said he’d wanted to hit up 10 more pubs, I would have given it my all. But the truth is, I was wavering. The London Croup (Mister’s name for it) was wiping me out and I felt awful. I guess I must’ve looked awful, too, because at some point Mister glanced at me and said he thought I needed to get some rest. We started walking back to the hotel and a sneezing fit grabbed hold of me and shook me silly. That’s when I knew I was defeated. We got to the hotel, I readied for bed and I very nearly passed out. As I was drifting off, I realized I was smiling. Wow – what a day! What a privileged experience! And then I fell asleep, with magical visions of Harry Potter drifting through my mind…

 

 

To be continued…