Posts Tagged With: Harry Potter

NOT a Theme Park

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We recently drove down to Warner Bros Studios in London to celebrate our daughter’s 14th birthday with a Harry Potter Studio Tour. This was a much anticipated visit, one she’s been waiting for ever since they opened about a year ago. In fact, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, the only two places she really wanted to visit during our year of travel were this one and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida. So, we finally booked our tickets, which seemed to me to be very expensive, and rose at the crack of dawn for the three hour drive.
Six and a half hours later, as we were leaving, those tickets felt like a bargain. And when I think how much we will be paying next month to visit Universal Studios, they seem like even more of a bargain! This is no theme park recreation of your favourite Harry Potter locations. This is the real thing. The place where the young Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint spent a vast amount of their childhoods, where all eight movies were filmed, where the almost-life-sized model of Hogwarts was designed and built, where the sets were lovingly created in an unprecedented amount of detail, and where the magical creatures of the wizard world came to life. Here, you can see the philosopher’s stone, stroll down Diagon Alley, and say hello to the hippogryph. You can examine the shelves in Snape’s Potions classroom, see the dishes washing themselves in the Weasley’s kitchen, and fly a broomstick against a green screen while watching yourself chase the golden snitch in a Quidditch match. You can even visit the backlot to see the massive Knight Bus, created by welding a few London double deckers together somehow and painting them purple, have a little rest in Mr Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia, and knock on the door of 4 Privet Drive.
But the tour isn’t just about the excitement of standing where Harry stood. It is an incredibly informative glimpse into film-making in general. Looking at the makeup tables and racks upon racks of costumes, the creature shop and all the prosthetic goblin faces and realistic feathered beasts, the graphic design department with its technical drawings and enough concept art to fill the Louvre, and the special effects where they tried prototype after prototype to get the flying cars and brooms just right – it is inspiring. It made me want to work in one of these departments. The possibilities for a creative mind are endless, and this place is a great way to showcase all that. It was, unexpectedly, one of the most exciting and educational field trips we’ve taken in England!
Of course, the tour did end with the obligatory overpriced gift shop, but even that was entertaining. I think the Wizarding World in Florida will pale in comparison.

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Edinburgh Myths Debunked

This is our third night in Edinburgh, and despite the chilly temperatures and the driving winds, we have clocked a fair number of miles walking around this beautiful old city. We started off on our first afternoon with The Potter Trail, a ninety minute magical walking tour of the city featuring locations which inspired scenes and characters in JK Rowling’s books. We met outside Greyfriar’s Bobby’s Inn, and before we even started the tour, our robed guide, Will, started the debunking of local myths by telling us that the tale of Greyfriar’s Bobby was not actually true. It was made up to attract tourists. It worked, and obviously still is working judging by the number of people taking photos of Bobby’s statue, and the flowers and little doggie figurines that are still being placed on Greyfriar’s grave. The story is that the little dog sat on his master’s grave for years after he died. Until he himself died, in fact. Very touching. But completely fabricated.
Anyway, the tour was a great introduction to the city as well as a great way to engage the Harry Potter mad people in my family. We saw lots of cool things, including JK Rowling’s handprints in the sidewalk, and the cafe where she wrote the first book. And the cafe that claims to be where she wrote the first book. Second myth debunked. Despite the signs outside The Elephant House claiming it as “the birthplace of Harry Potter”, it is, in fact, a place where she wrote bits of the second and third books, but not the first. We did have to return there the following day, though, for an expensive coffee, because of the bathroom. The bathroom walls are covered in what might normally be called graffiti and scrubbed off, but this is special graffiti. This is Dumbledore’s Army. Almost every inch of wall and door space is covered in names of people from all corners of the earth who have been mesmerized by Rowling’s tales of witches and wizards. But there was still room for our three to squeeze their names on there!
The magical and mythical are what Scotland is all about, really, and the theme continued as we toured the magnificent castle. One of the highlights there was seeing the Honours of Scotland (the Crown Jewels), and the Stone of Destiny. Which is another one of those tales that may or may not be true…but don’t we just love to believe them?
Today we visited The Camera Obscura, the first purpose-built tourist attraction in Edinburgh. It’s amazing that this place is 150 years old and it can still draw a crowd! The kids loved the fact that they could spy on unsuspecting castle visitors from five floors up – and from inside a building! And then we grown-ups almost threw up from the mirror maze and the freaky tunnel thingy.
We’ve had busy days, but it has been great to walk back to Brooks Hotel, knowing our cosy room and comfy beds await us. There’s something so special about staying in a nice hotel that makes all that tramping around in the cold worthwhile. It’s like your reward at the end of the day! And we leave tomorrow – looking forward to that last Scottish breakfast in the morning. Maybe I’ll actually have the haggis this time!
But probably, I won’t.

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