Conjure up a holiday with a difference on enchanting tour
I’ve been called a complete and utter witch in my time, so it was inevitable that I’d end up at Hogwarts.
Well, that and the non-stop nagging from my eight-year-old son. And if we were going, then Momo (granny), who has also read all of the books and seen all of the films, was coming too.
Now I hope I’m not upsetting anyone when I reveal that Hogwarts Castle doesn’t exist as such.
Our destination was the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter (which is certainly a mouthful).
The WB Studios are actually outside of London and the Making of Harry Potter isn’t some place you can go to on a whim, so forward planning is key for this trip.
Trust me, this was our second attempt at visiting, but it was definitely worth the wait.
The Making of Harry Potter is approximately three-and-a-half years old and located in the Warner Brothers Studio, where the majority of the films were made.
You don’t have to be a Potter fan to enjoy the experience, but, having said that, there were plenty of them about.
Both my mother and I had read most of the books and watched all of the films available before the arrival of my son.
At age eight, my son thought he was a bit too old for the cape and scar, although he kept his new glasses on throughout as a tribute to Harry
He, in turn, became mildly obsessed – at the age of five he used to don fake glasses, paint a scar on his forehead, use my mother’s anorak as a cape and a single chopstick as a wand.
Given those details, you’d think that would qualify us as fans, but it doesn’t. Real Potter fans are hardcore.
At age eight, my son thought he was a bit too old for the cape and scar, although he kept his new glasses on throughout as a tribute to Harry.
All around us there were people, a lot older than my boy, dressed in gowns, various ‘house’ scarves and wielding brooms.
These are the ‘real’ fans, but you don’t have to be one of them to enjoy the tour.
You also don’t have to be a child – the Potter books are widely regarded as ‘children’s fiction’ despite the fact that they are read by all ages – and the tour was made up not only of diverse nationalities, but people of all ages.
Kids get issued with a special Harry Potter passport that contains a treasure hunt for 13 golden snitches (the wee winged globe from Quidditch) located throughout the tour and a chance to get six different passport stamps.
My son wasn’t all that bothered about looking for golden snitches, but my mother enjoyed it immensely!
It was just the same with the Butterbeer, which my son insisted on getting. He didn’t like it at all, but Momo thought it was delicious.
The tour begins in the Great Hall, which had an array of delicious looking (but fake) food laid out on one of the tables.
Anne Marie and her son are big fans of the Harry Potter franchise
In the following room many of the original sets, props and costumes are on display, including the Weasley’s Kitchen, Dumbledore’s Office and the Ministry of Magic.
My son was eager to see the Gryffindor Common Room and the dormitory that Harry, Ron, Seamus (the Irish one), Dean and Neville Longbottom share.
He was a bit perturbed about the smallness of the beds, which I hadn’t noticed. And indeed they are tiny – the beds were designed for the first film when the boys were pre-teens and not for the hulking men they were by the last film.
All three of us were thrilled to be able to climb aboard the ‘real’ Hogwarts Express where you can walk down the corridors, but not sit in the carriages. We had foolishly invested in the digital guides, when you really don’t need them as the exhibits are self-explanatory and there is plenty of staff happy to talk to visitors and answer questions.
The tour takes part in two separate buildings and in between you can visit the real-life Knight Bus, Privet Drive and the Hogwarts Bridge.
Despite being really excited to see all of these familiar things, my son’s favourite part of the tour was when we were taught wand-wielding.
If, like me, you thought that you just pointed the thing and shouted ‘Avada Kedavra’ and blasted your opponent into the hereafter, then think again.
There’s a definite art to posing, which my son took to instantly. I, on the other hand, will not be adding ‘wand pointing’ to my CV any time soon.
Of course the very best bit is when we got to walk down the ‘real’ Diagon Alley. All three of us enjoyed that immensely.
My little boy said it was “brilliant”, but would have been better if he’d been able to go into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop – but after seeing the eye-wateringly expensive prices in the official gift shop (which would even scare the pants of ‘he who must not be named’) I was seriously glad the purveyors of Diagon Alley were closed for business.