We are a family that hoards straws. As the rest of the world goes plastic free and embraces reusable or biodegradable options, we continue to purchase plastic bendy straws from China... in bulk. I do love the planet, but I also love my sanity, and as my 7 year old autistic son has decided that super bendy party straws are his favourite thing in the world, we will continue to buy them (thanks to Montana's Canada for introducing these to us- not sarcastic- you save lives).
I usually grab a handful of straws and stuff them in my backpack before heading out with the kids. Other exciting items in my backpack include; a change of underpants and trousers for each boy (honestly better safe than sorry), emergency snacks, colouring paraphernalia (this is all my 4 year olds really need to be happy), and most importantly, BABY WIPES. I have heard that people are giving up one use wipes for the environment, I am so sorry that I cannot support this noble effort personally. Maybe in 10 years. Maybe some people like to clean up sick or poop with reusable handkerchiefs, I do not.
On Sunday, February 4, at the bag check before entering Warner Brother's Studio London, the man checking my bag kept looking up at me incredulously. Finally, he asked, "So many straws, no drinks?" Through laughter, I explained the situation. I'm not sure if he was relieved or confused, but we were sent along our merry way to explore the magical world of Harry Potter.
The entire day felt very inclusive, we were comfortable with our children. My partner and I could have easily spent over 4 hours enjoying the studios. We did the entire tour in about 2.5 hours with the kids, all parents know that kids set the pace, or you pay the price. Because the twins are under 5, their tickets were free. My ticket was also free, as I went as a carer for Mr. K. Only paying for 2/5 tickets may have been the most magical thing of all! We also were able to skip the queue into the studio, due to the disability ticket. Although, as you must book ahead (it's recommended 2 months in advance), the queue is quite organized and everyone has a start time. It didn't look like a very long wait, but we were more than happy to skip it.
As Harry Potter was mainly filmed on the studio lots, when you visit, you are able to investigate all the original sets, costumes, and props. I only cried a little bit when I walked into the great hall. For those of us who have read and loved the books and films, it's overwhelming to see all this in person. There are also many interactive aspects where you can experience the magic of special effects using green screen, or walk through a forest with animatronics and inclement weather created through studio magic. The attention to detail is phenomenal.
Potter's Cottage in Godric's Hollow was a favourite of mine at the studio. It's built in full scale. Can't you just imagine Voldemort, I mean He-who-must-not-be-named, swooping in to murder Lily and James Potter? It's really creepy stuff and feels strangely real when standing in front of this badly damaged Tudor cottage.
Who could forget the neat and tidy no. 4 Privet Drive? In the first film, scenes in and around the Dursley's home were shot on location in Bracknell, UK. In later films, they used this set built to resemble the street. Honestly, I drive by homes that look like these all the time. This is plucked right out of an actual English town. I love it. Side note, no. 4 Privet Drive has exactly the same banister that we have in our home here in Cheltenham. We also have a cupboard under our stairs. If you would like to visit us, and are not claustrophobic, we can give you the Harry Potter experience. So cosy. So suffocating. So magical.
There are warnings for arachnophobes in all the guidebooks and literature for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. The enchanted forest is full of spiders the size of fully grown adults that suddenly drop from overhead. Then there is Aragog. She is the size of 4 fully grown adults (or 2 Hagrids). We waited deep within the dark forest for her to appear. When she ultimately did, she was met with nervous laughter and a loud shout of fear from my children. I was able to keep it together, barely... Pictured above, is one of the "smaller" spiders. We also had some meaningful conversations with Buckbeak the Hippogriff. We would speak and he would answer by tilting his head and blinking his eyes, as animatronics so often do.
Then there are the iconic Harry Potter Moments. Drinking Butterbeer, it tastes like root beer and butterscotch and somehow the ice cream foam is actively bubbling as they hand it to you. It's much better than any Pinterest recipes I had tried previously. Running across the very crooked Hogwarts Bridge. I suppose that you could walk, but my children avoid walking when they can. Exploring the Hogwarts Express Steam engine. Having your picture taken as you push your cart through Platform 9 3/4 (proudest moment of my life thus far). DIAGON ALLEY. Falling in love with the large detailed model of Hogwarts used for exterior shots in every Harry Potter Film. The model took 74 years to build when you add up all the time spent by 86 artists and crew members. There are 2500 fibre optic lights, to simulate torches and students moving through the corridors. I could have stared at the model for an hour or more. The lights in the room it's kept change from dawn, to day, to dusk, to night on a rotation. It's beautiful.
The most exciting part of the day, other than discovering a Starbucks in the front lobby of the studios, was learning that the Mirror of Erised is real. This ancient ornate mirror, with the inscription of " Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi." I show not your face but your heart's desire (for those of you who cannot read backwards- writing backwards is a TOP magical skill). I looked in the mirror, and I saw my heart's desire, these 4 goofs. The heart's desire is known to drive a person mad, and this is also true for me. So in conclusion, magic is real, life is mad, and Harry Potter is still the best.
If you would like to read more of my Harry Potter thoughts, click here...