We spent eighteen months outside the UK and Emily’s favourite bit was coming home and going on the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Here she explains why.
We didn’t want to come home from Australia, that’s how we ended up buying tickets for the WB Studio Tour, to sweeten the deal coming back to a grey UK. Whilst I have grown up with Harry Potter, Sian has never been interested. We met in 2007 whilst working at a residential children’s camp, Order of the Phoenix came out in the cinema and Sian was the one who volunteered to stay on centre as the rest of the staff dressed up and went to watch it. I must have caught her on a good day when I not only talked her into letting me buy studio tour tickets for a week after we were flying home, but also convinced her to read the books beforehand. Obviously she was hooked and got up to book five before she got distracted by some sensible shoes and power tools. She duly went on pottermore, getting her wand and owl before being sorted, the Gryffindor (no surprise, the cocky little shit) to my Hufflepuff, and we were off on the Hogwarts Express (Megabus) to London.
We arrived about an hour early due to a combination of my excitement and my very British need to allow twice the amount of time to get there “just in case”. This turned out pretty perfect as you could easily spend half a day in the gift shop alone. We tried on cloaks, checked out the timeturner, chess set, Quidditch jumpers, broomsticks, chocolate frogs; they had everything you could imagine. I quite fancied the lost diadem of Ravenclaw myself.
Some friendly advice if you are heading to the Harry Potter Studio Tour; have plenty of spare money for the gift shop. Also, if you cannot get tickets just go out there to the gift shop anyway, it is an attraction in itself. We didn’t manage a full lap of the shop before our tour time arrived, so we joined the queue, checking out the cupboard under the stairs while we waited to go in.
Finally we were in! Some friendly question and answer sessions whereby we learned that most of the visitors were Gryffindors (yeah right) and we were taken into the theatre. A film was played with some of the cast and crew talking about the films and I got all emotional. Then before we knew it the screen was gone, the doors were open AND THEY WERE THE DOORS TO THE GREAT HALL AND THERE WAS THE GREAT HALL AND I COULDN’T CONTAIN MYSELF ANYMORE IT WAS ALL TOO MUCH.
From that point I did not stop grinning the whole time. My eyes were wide and my face ached from smiling so much. The only part of the tour with a time limit was the great hall, but there was plenty of time to have a good look around. After that we were through to the exhibits, from the Gryffindor dormitory, to Dumbledore’s study, the potions classroom to Umbridge’s office. Every single moment was perfect.
We felt very lucky that we went shortly after the Hogwarts Express arrived at the studio tour. As we rounded the corner we saw smoke billowing from the train, it’s cliche to say but it really was magical.
We found out the cafe were doing butterbeer ice cream so we joined the short queue to hand over more money in return for a tasty treat. We sat down with our drinks overlooking Privet Drive, the Hogwarts bridge and the iconic three story knight bus.The butterbeer itself is pretty strange, like cream soda with a dollop of sweet cream on the top. It was alright at the beginning but seemed to taste worse the more we drank, so we were pleased we decided to share a cup.
After learning about animatronics and discovering Hagrid was a robot, we turned a corner and ended up in ACTUAL Diagon Alley. It was even better than I imagined. We walked up and down the cobbled street several times, looking in all the windows and marvelling at the detail that went into the sets. It was just unbelievable. I felt like I’ve missed my calling in life, I should have been a prop/set designer for Harry Potter.
Next we rounded the corner and there in all its glory was Hogwarts, lights twinkling, a perfect end to a perfect day. It was the happiest day of my life. Just don’t tell my wife.