Right. I love Harry Potter. I’ve been on Pottermore. It told me I’m a Gryffindor (Or an Ilvermorny Wampus). Blackthorn wand, 13 3/4″ in length, unicorn hair core, unyielding flexibility. My Patronus is a White Stallion.
Other than logging in to procure all that information, I don’t go on Pottermore; I don’t own any Harry Potter merchandise; I’ve never dressed up as a character. However, my books are well loved and I’ve read the series more times than one hand can count and will always appreciate the international treasure that is J.K. Rowling. I love Harry Potter.
While I was in the UK (both England and Scotland), I just so happened to go to A LOT of Harry Potter sites. From the Studios to Oxford University (The Great Hall, the library, Infirmary, etc. ) to Durham University (cloisters in the halls of Hogwarts) to The Elephant House (“birthplace” of Harry Potter) to the Glenfinnan Viaduct (the bridge the Hogwarts Express transports on) to the FREAKING PLAY, I can confidently say I have been to the majority of places where Harry Potter was filmed. ALL. BY. ACCIDENT.
I’m not kidding. I honestly didn’t mean to go to these places (except for the play and the Studios). I just kind of stumbled up on them and was like, “Wait. This looks familiar.”
Let’s start with the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Located right outside of London in Watford, even the journey to the studios was Harry Potter infused. You could grab the train from King’s Cross Station, then take the shuttle bus (which looks very similar to the Knight Bus…) to the Studios. As soon as you enter the Studios, you’re in Hogwarts.
It starts with a video introduction from Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), and Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), inviting you into their home and life that was the Wizarding World. When the video is over, the screen lifts and you’re in front of the Hogwarts door. The employees must LOVE their job, because they get to select lucky audience members to come up to the doors, recite J.K. Rowling’s final movie premiere line (“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”), and then the chosen ones open the doors to the Great Hall.
The Studio Tour was absolutely amazing. All of the props, the sets, the wigs, the costumes, the animatronics, EVERYTHING, was here. And OMG the Butterbeer. It was exactly how a magical iced drink should taste. There were even Golden Snitches hidden around that you could find in a passport you are given, which also includes places for it to be stamped in various areas of the studio (tip: don’t let your friend stamp your passport because he may sabotage it and miss the circle completely).
The absolute COOLEST part of the entire thing was the scale model of Hogwarts. It’s a 1:24 scale model, and it was used to film exterior shots of the school. It was breathtaking. You can see below how big it is, and the lights and colors changed with the music.
Since there’s just so much to talk about with the Studios and SO many pictures I took, I’ll just leave my fave four here for you:
When news that Rowling was creating a play that was to take place 16 years later and debut in the West End in London, I immediately signed up on the waitlist to be notified when tickets went on sale (like for EDC or Burning Man). Months and many emails later, I got my priority booking time and promptly booked two of the cheapest tickets for September 3rd, 2016. The way the play works is that it is separated into two parts: Part One and Part Two. You can choose between watching Part One a certain day then coming another day for Part Two, or you can watch it all in one day with about an hour and a half break in between (plus the normal intermissions). I chose the latter. Do it all in one go, baby.
Now, I had absolutely no idea where in the world I would be in September or if I’d even be allowed back into the UK (given I didn’t extend my U.S. entry requirements). All I knew is that I had to go, one way or another. As it turns out, this play is literally the only reason I returned to London (I flew in from Romania, making it the fourth time to this city.).
By the time September rolled around, I still had one extra ticket and no one to go with. I happened to meet a group of really fun British boys when I was in Albania (more on that later) and kept in contact with them. I still don’t know how it happened, but one of them managed to convince me to take him to the play. In return, I made him take me out to brunch, then I proceeded to take the extra room in his flat for the week without paying or getting the consent from his other flatmates. Thanks again, boys!
We started the day by going to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross. A little outside the station is where we brunched, an amazing place called Caravan, which I highly recommend. We then went to Roll Call to pick up our tickets, where the lovely attendant handed me the gold speckled ticket and ended our transaction with “Mischief Managed.” I love him.
Some random dude gave us a flyer to go check out the free House of Minalima, which is around the corner from the theatre, while we waited for the play to start, so we did. It was awesome; five flights of Harry Potter memorabilia where the Muggle workers knew everything and featured actual posters from the movies and features of what was the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film.
Then. PLAY TIME. So I bought the cheapest tickets because again, budget backpacker here. I’m not gonna lie, our seats weren’t the best. My friend is 6’3″, and his knees were basically scrunched up to his chin. It’s not the most comfortable I’ve ever been. But, I couldn’t care less because HARRY POTTER. The sound won’t play on this video for who knows what reason, but you can see our (mainly my) really excited faces. Here’s us before:
End Part One. For dinner, we had seriously good £10 steak and chips at Flat Iron Steak; it was a ten minute walk from the theatre IN THE RAIN and I didn’t have an umbrella so I will always be mad at him for taking me there and also I was wearing a rather fitted dress, so all this food was seriously cramping my style. I guess it was worth it (it was worth it).
Back to Part Two. I should have mentioned before that I didn’t read the script before seeing the play, so I have absolutely no idea what is coming up. Commence Part Two.
Here’s us after (this time the sound works):
Okay, guys, seriously. Like. I love Harry Potter so much. As far as the storyline goes, I wasn’t a fan. But THE PRODUCTION VALUE. THE ACTING. THE EVERYTHING ELSE. So I’ve been in plays and musicals before. I know how the theatre works. There were moments when both my friend and I seriously had NO IDEA how they did what they did on stage. It was magic. LITERAL MAGIC. And those last scenes crushed me. The girl behind me couldn’t keep it together. I swear she used my hair to wipe her tears away. And the acting! Absolutely superb. What an incredible cast. I would see the plays again in a heartbeat solely for the production value and acting quality. However, that’s the most I’m going to say about the play. #keepthesecrets
And finally, Platform 9 3/4:
This is the new platform in King’s Cross. Due to the popularity of the films and books, the London Transportation couldn’t have the platform at the actual platform, so it’s located before the trains in the station. My first time to London in 2007, the series wasn’t as popular as it is now, so in between platforms 9 and 10, there was just a half trolley going into the wall. There weren’t any employees, there wasn’t a wait, there was nothing in the trolley and there wasn’t a sign. Now, as you can see from the picture, it’s all decked out. There are employees who provide you with a wand and scarf of your House choice (I was feeling all the Houses this day, so I donned all four scarves), and you take two photos, one of you jumping and one of you pushing the trolley into the wall. Both are good fun.
There’s a store you can purchase all sorts of Harry Potter merchandise, as well as the photos that were taken of you at the trolley. If you get a chance to visit any Harry Potter anything, have fun, enjoy your time, and solemnly swear you are up to no good.