A Harry Potter pilgrimage

Elizabeth Whitten
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The tour bus pulled up to what had once been an aircraft hangar, but there was no mistake, the sign said, “The Making of Harry Potter” in its iconic font. Three wizard’s chess pieces stood on guard out front, splattered with red paint.

I had arrived at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, England, where for a decade the Harry Potter movies had been filmed. Since March 21, 2012, Warner Studios has allowed visitors to see the memorable sets from the Harry Potter films. Visitors can wander through the sets of the Great Hall, Professor Snape’s potions classroom, the Weasleys’ kitchen, Dumbledore’s office, the spectacular Hogwarts castle model, and almost anything else you can think of. The tour recognizes the work put into the series of films and celebrates the abilities of those responsible for the mesmerizing sets.

Want to see the ice sculptures for the Yule Ball? It is one of the first pieces you will see. I had fantacized about wandering down the twisting cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley since I had first read “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” There are plenty of other nice touches to the tour, including the collapsing house that the charcters Lily and James Potter died in. My favourite piece ended up being the sketch room for the concept art.

 The only downside I feel obliged to point out is that the tour deposits visitors into the gift shop, which is dizzyingly vast and unavoidable. The gift shop can leave a sour taste in your mouth that has nothing to do with butterbeer. It seemed to have been designed with the sole purpose of keeping you in it as long as possible and to deplete you of your cash. As well, the average length of time spent at the tour is three hours and for £29 for an adult ticket and £21 for a child, it is pricey. This does not include the cost of getting to the studio. It may not be worth the trip unless you are a hard-core Potterhead.

 Before I went to the studio, I had taken a quick detour in King’s Cross Station to see Platform

9 3/4. It has become a pilgrimage site for fans that flock there and someone very enterprising has allowed a trolley to be lodged into the wall. There are even attendants who will provide a scarf in the house of your choice and take a professional photo.

You can pick up a printed copy at the nearby Platform 9 3/4 store. When I was there, it was crammed with paraphernalia such as wands, scarves, sweaters, mugs, posters, as well as admirers.

While waiting in line to get my photo taken ( at a cost of £8 to have it printed), it occurred to me that many others standing in line were also making this brief stop before heading out to The Making of Harry Potter, but that for those who could not afford the hefty price tag of the studio tour, this would be their own salute to the book series that was present throughout their lives.

Instead of going on the tour, people have created their own tours of must-see places. Some would go to the spot of the Leaky Cauldron or the ancestral home of the “Noble and Most Ancient House of Black” at No. 12 Grimmauld Place.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series offers many different ways to pay homage to the characters that grew up with us, and we don’t need Warner Studios to show us how.

 

 

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