Well, I finally found a coffee shop here in Cirencester that provided free WiFi (thank you Starbucks) and I decided that today was a good day to share my Hogwarts experience.
As you might assume from the title of this post, we decided to visit The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London (The Making of Harry Potter) on my 37th birthday. Yes, my letter to Hogwarts didn’t arrive on my eleventh birthday but better late than never, right?
We arrived early (WAY TOO early) because I was excited and freaked out we’d somehow miss the train or something and we’d miss our tour. I’m a bit neurotic with things like that, just ask Brandon.
After picking up our tickets we ate the sandwiches we’d packed for the road. I probably ate in record time because EXCITE. Inside we headed straight to the gift shop (I do love a good shop!) to kill some time and browse all the things. I knew I wanted to purchase some sort of souvenir but when I walked in I quickly realized if I wasn’t careful I would spend all of our money on decking myself out in full Harry Potter gear. I made about five rounds of the shop (which was quite sizable) before announcing that I must have a wand. I decided that Hermione Granger’s wand was perfect for my needs.
Here’s a horrible photo of my wand. Sorry, it’s not easy capturing the details.
That settled, we headed off to join the line for the big tour. We entered into a room where a lovely tour guide gave us a brief welcome and tried to get us all pumped up for the tour. I must admit the crowd was rather subdued and I felt rather odd when I cheered upon asking Are you excited? Because HELL YES, I AM!
Anyway, off to another theater-style room where we watched a compilation of the best bits of the movie. Then the lights went up – along with the screen – to reveal the doors to the Great Hall. Now I knew from friends that if it was your birthday, you’d get to open the doors. I had been looking forward to that moment all day. But when the screen went up, I realized we were in the absolute worst position possible. We were right at the back of the theater in the very last row! I was NOT about to miss my opportunity.
When the guide called for the birthday people I
elbowed *ahem* carefully weaved my way through the crowd to join the other two birthday women (Yes, women. No children that day). Sadly Brandon wasn’t as pushy crowd-weaving savvy as I am, and wasn’t able to snap a photo of my big moment. But I did take a selfie because IT WAS MY BIG MOMENT!
I did wait till Brandon joined me before moving on through the Great Hall (aren’t I a peach?) but from that moment on he was on his own. I turned into a little kid,
running walking carefully through the sets and displays, snapping photos and selfies like my life depended upon it.
Each area revealed more detail than I could take in. It was overwhelming but in a really good way. I couldn’t focus enough to read the write-ups near the displays, but I did manage to stand still long enough to watch a few of the videos they had playing around the sets.
I think what struck me the most was the amount of detail put into each prop. There was something like 17,000 boxes of wands in Ollivander’s shop and each one had a handwritten label. HANDWRITTEN!
My favourite sets included the The Burrow, Dumbledore’s Office and the Gryffindor Common Room. I would have been quite happy to move into the Burrow and live there. Here, take a look…
But really, every set was amazing. I loved how they had the actors clothing on display and all the interactive bits. I even made the brush scrub the dishes in the Burrow!
The massive woven tapestry which outlined the entire Black family tree had actual burn marks on it! This beautiful wall hanging had been carefully woven and then burned. Now that is dedication to detail.
Diagon Alley was another favourite of ours. Again the detail was stunning. We spotted the Hogwarts train at Platform 9 3/4 and snapped a few pictures before a quick stop for Butterbeer ice cream in the backlot cafe. Which by the way, is very sweet and yummy!
The second part of the tour was outside and contained the larger outdoor sets. Thankfully we had lovely weather and were able to stop by each set for a picture.
Next was the special effects area and the models of Hogwarts. Both were really cool. One of the tour guides revealed a little secret about Luna Lovegood’s feet in a particular scene. But I’ll never tell! We also saw an animatronic Hagrid head which was so life like that it was scary.
Then just like that, it was over. We went through the entire tour in a couple of hours. Part of me wanted to stay longer and take in every small detail I’d missed, but I really think you could spend days in there and not see it all. Apparently the record for longest time spent in the studio was 13 hours! It seems like a lot but if you really took your time and read everything, I can see how you could lose time in there.
There are very few words which can adequately describe the feeling you get when you walk through those doors into the Great Hall. I feel like language has failed me here in this post. Amazing, cool, stunning and awesome just don’t quite do it. I feel so blessed to have been on the tour and I’m grateful for my loving husband who agreed to spend my 37th birthday in Harry Potter’s world. All I have left to say is go and experience it for yourself. It’s worth it!
P.S. Brandon let me put this awesome picture of him practicing his wand skillz. 😉