The Harry Potter books and movies are some of my favorites of all time. Getting the chance to see behind-the-scenes goodies was something I never dreamed of and I’m still pinching myself.
(The real chess pieces!!)
While we were waiting for our tour time, we had some sandwiches (we packed a picnic lunch. Cheap!) in the cafe along with several other families. One of the families was busy having an argument. They were speaking a language I don’t understand and the women were wearing scarves which covered everything but their eyes. A teenage boy spit in the face of one of the women during their argument and hit her on top of her head.
The spitting wasn’t just a “p-tooy” spit. It was a wad of nasty looking gunk that landed on her scarf with an audible splat. When he hit her head, she cried out and tried to scoot away on the bench seat. As she was scooting away, another female (all wrapped up, but had the girth of a mom) slapped her shoulder and shook her finger at her. The girl put her head down and wiped the spot from her scarf with a napkin.
I saw that group later in the tour…the girl with the spit-stained scarf had her eyes fixed firmly at the floor.
(Dumbledor’s stand…every year there’s more and more wax because they really did light candles and let them drip. The crew was on standing orders to not bump the candle wax to ensure none of it broke off.)
At the beginning of the tour, there were a couple of short films about the books and how they became movies. Then Daniel, Emma, and Rupert come out and talked about how they love the crew and they cried when it was over and they were so lucky and magical things really do happen to normal people. By the end of the films, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Then the screen parted and there it was. Hogwarts. My inner child squealed with delight.
When the doors were opened, the Great Hall was in front of us. I
had pushed my way was lucky enough to be near the front, so when the doors opened, it was like they were opening just for me.
In the Great Hall of Hogwarts, the girl with the scarf kept her head down.
For an extra charge, we rented digital guides narrated by Tom Felton. Malfoy guided us around, offering tidbits of behind the scene info and jokes shared by the cast. The girl with the spotty scarf had a digital guide, but she didn’t have her headphones anywhere near her head.
I don’t know their situation, but it occurred to me that she looked like someone who’d been around a Dementor and needed chocolate. Here was in a magical place, surrounded by amazing props and scenery, but she wasn’t allowed to enjoy it. Every time she’d look around, the Spitter would raise a hand as if to slap her. The Spitter couldn’t have been more than 13? 14? at the most…
(The chefs on set really did make a bunch of chocolate for the kids to eat for the chocolate feast.)
(Those wooden beams are actually painted foam.)
A few times, the Spitter and I made eye contact. He would glare at me and show his teeth. At first, I glared back just because that’s my nature. Later, I smiled and rolled my eyes at him. I tried to stay away from their group, but in a museum-type of setting where everyone wants to see the same cool stuff, sometimes proximity was unavoidable.
Finally, after Dumbledor’s Office, their group wandered away and I didn’t see them again.
(A real set of moving/winding stairs was made. It was the hardest thing the crew had to make.)
During the tour, visitors can jump on a Quidditch broom in front of a green screen and pretend to play the famous wizarding game. Also, they had butter beer!
Just like at Universal Studios in Florida, the music of Harry Potter movies was piped throughout. With the giant sets and stages and authentic props, I half expected Hermione to pop around a corner and start scolding me.
(The Ministry set was huge and very elaborate. It was also Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite set.)
(#4 Privet Drive)
(Hagrid’s massive animatronic head.)
(Buckbeak moved! He would blink and move his head…and bow!)
(Super detailed white-card models.)
The last display is the model of Hogwarts used for aerial shots. It was mammoth. And amazing. And I want it.
Finally, through Olivander’s store. They really did build a shop filled with 21,000 wand boxes and all the wand boxes really were labelled.
And they really did destroy the store and blow up a bunch of boxes and glass.
The tour was expensive but it was worth it. The kids had a blast and my daughter, the budding artist, was inspired by the vast world that started on a train from Manchester to London so many years ago. …as The Doctor said, “Good ol’ JK.”
After the tour, we had to hurry to catch trains and find our hotel. We caught a flight back to our starting point and we’re waiting to go home. We’re experiencing a significant hiccup in our travels, but I know that I have my family and I am loved. I know I won’t get spit on by some mutant camel person. It’s been an amazing trip and I’m so glad we’ve done all the things we’ve done…but I’m ready to come home. I’m ready for free tap water and free bathrooms. For my house and my dog. For my kitchen and my bed.
I will keep that girl with the spotty scarf in my prayers…and the camel child, too. It must be hard to be that miserable.
Keep us in your prayers, too, as we make our way home. :)