Fans of Harry Potter: this post may make you hyperventilate. Stay calm. Remember to breathe.
Not a fan of Harry Potter? See you tomorrow, when normal, grown up service resumes. Apologies in advance.
Harry Potter Fans Anonymous – I’m Victoria and I’m a Harry Potter fan. It’s been a big part of my life for ten years now, so it was only a matter of time until I dragged the whole family off to Leavesden to visit the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour to satisfy my on-going addiction.
We arrived about an hour earlier than our time slot at what felt like a retail park, were directed to a parking bay and, in our hurry to get inside, declined the offer of a local pub recommendation from the very welcoming car park attendants for some lunch, opting instead for the on-site café. We braced ourselves for some hideous food but actually it wasn’t too bad… except for the (expectedly) hideous prices. Anyway, enough about the car park and the café, on to the tour.
We queued, as directed, 20 minutes before our designated tour time, were welcomed in a cinema-style introduction by Daniel, Emma and Rupert (yup, first name terms!) and then walked through the grand Hogwarts doors (squeeeal) and found ourselves in the Great Hall (bigger squeeeeal)… and the magic started.
We had a mini presentation from one of the guides with some information about the two parts and then, upon leaving the Great Hall, the rest of the tour is self-guided. For those with questions or in want of more detail (and yes, I realise the “detail” is very much a figment of their own, amazingly dedicated, imaginations) there are staff placed strategically around the studios to provide background and even mini “tutorials” on the artefacts, sets and costumes.
The tour promises that secrets will be revealed and they certainly are. Normally, I’d hate to see how the magic is created, as it could ruin the enchantment of the films, but in this instance it added to it.
Seeing the actual Great Hall was pretty breathtaking, seeing the (surprisingly small) costumes worn by the actors was fascinating, standing face-to-face with actors dressed as Death Eaters was great fun (except for my mum who jumped out of her skin), and being (almost) in the sets and being able to touch some of the props gave me goosebumps.
I’ll admit it – I transformed in to an ultra-mega-super-Harry-Potter-geek-a-saurus. Think the entire cast of The Big Bang Theory all mashed up in to one giant Star Trek enthusiast, attending a Star Trek convention and having lunch with William Shatner. Yip. That was me.
My exceptionally nerdy brother actually commented, as I did a little squeal on discovering a particular item, that it was nice to “not be the nerd for once”, stating that, in this environment, he felt almost “cool”. Whatever.
This is a Mecca for Harry Potter geeks looking to prolong the love.
Highlights for me, after much deliberation over dinner and in the car on the way home, were as follows:
- Standing in the Great Hall. The ACTUAL Great Hall. OMG! I almost cried.
- Walking along Diagon Alley and poring over the intricate window displays. So real. So atmospheric. I know the names of the shops along this fictional street almost as well as the stores along Oxford Street.
- A rather detailed lecture about a number of key characters’ wands, including the individual aesthetics and qualities of each. Very interesting with some very well-thought out arguments even if it was all completely made up and not necessarily endorsed by JKR!
- Sampling Butterbeer, which wasn’t as gross as I imagined it to be
- Looking for the cast names in the Wand Room
- And finally, spending the best part of an hour walking around and around and around the scale model of Hogwarts. It made my heart pound.
My least favourite bit? The gift shop. it made my senses ache and my wallet cry. I wanted to buy everything. Sadly I’m not a billionaire, or an eight year old, so I had to restrain myself. In the end I bought some tongue-in-cheek books JKR wrote for Comic Relief, Quidditch through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, to add to my HP book shelf, alongside The Tales of Beedle the Bard and the original seven books.
After the tour we made our way over to The Grove Hotel, about a five minute drive away, for some cocktails, in-depth Harry Potter related discussions and dinner. This hotel in itself provides a great day out with amazing gardens (square trees, hidden fountains and giant glowing plant pots) and a number of restaurants and bars. Apparently the cast stayed here during filming. *Commence fan-girl squealing now*
I’m now planning to watch the box set back-to-back and annoy everyone with lots of pausing and shrieks of “I’ve seen that” whilst pointing at the screen.
Overall, a GREAT day out for HP fans old and young. Who wants to come with me when I go back? I’ll sort out our costumes, let me know your sizes…
The Details: the studios can be reached by train or road and details can be found at the WB website. Tickets get booked up well in advance so plan ahead. Also be aware that you have to book for a specific time slot and have to arrive well in advance in case of queues. All information can be found on the website here.