Sorcery, Stonehenge and “Seeing” Jane

Is the weekend over already? I guess time flies when you’re riding broomsticks, looking at ancient rock structures and following in the footsteps of Jane Austen.

Yesterday I hopped on the Euston train to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour (I wasn’t allowed to take the Hogwarts Express because alas, I am a muggle). Luckily they let me in so I could live in Harry’s world for a little while.

The tour is on the Warner Brothers studio lot, which is a bit (I’m trying to incorporate more British lingo) outside of London. After queuing (lining) up to get in, we waited outside two huge doors before we could go in … the Great Hall!

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Great Hall!

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Can I stay for dinner?

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Me and the profs

 It was great, but not as big as I thought it would be. It was much less than the length of a football field and hard to believe that more than 400 students, professors and production crew members fit inside for filming.

We continued on to see many of the sets, props and costumes. The studio had Daniel Radcliffe’s original Harry Potter robes (from when he was a wee 11-year-old), Hagrid’s hut, the Gringott’s vault door and so many more.

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The Common Room

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Dumbledore!

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Buggy rides

I couldn’t believe how detailed everything was. Every single wand case in Ollivander’s was labeled with a name. Every potion had a number. The letters that were used in the movie were handwritten (Lily’s handwriting looks so feminine and Umbridge’s letter was on cat stationery. Too perfect!)

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I rode in Ron’s dad’s car through the countryside and on a broom through London, and for a few seconds with no hands! I even got to put on robes (but the Muggle supervisor wouldn’t let me take a picture of myself wearing them. He wanted me to pay 20 pounds for the studio picture).

I knocked on the door of Privet Drive, stood on the Knight bus, read almost every placard and soaked in the magic. I also tasted it in the form of butterbeer (which is really sweet cream soda with a lot of foam. Definitely sweet enough to get the house elves tipsy).

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More “butter” than beer

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The castle is really small, too

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As a writer, one of the most exciting parts for me was viewing things from J.K. Rowling’s perspective. I loved imagining how she must’ve felt to have her world, the world that began on a coffee shop napkin, come to life before her eyes. All of the interviews with the directors, producers and actors showed how invested each member of the crew really was. Harry Potter became real-life magic because so many people believed in the story and were moved by it.

The exhibit is a must for any Harry Potter fan. Based on the number of people who liked almost every single picture in my Facebook album, I know that Harry Potter was a defining part of many of my friends’ childhoods. And like J.K. Rowling said, I was really glad Hogwarts was there to “welcome me home.”

Today started very early. Our bus left for Stonehenge at 8 a.m. and we made the bus just in time (public transportation tried to make us late by not running at its scheduled time. Luckily, we won).

We drove out of London to Stonehenge, which is about 90 minutes away, past fields of sheep and pigs. (How British, right?) Stonehenge is the most famous of all of the 1,300 stone circles in the U.K. (yes, there are that many). It’s believed that ancient people in 3050 BC started lugging stones all the way across Europe to create the circle. The construction took place over 1,550 years. Some of the stones weighed more than 50 tons; so don’t ask me how they placed those stones on top of the others. (Some conspiracy theorists say that aliens made the circle as a portal to Earth, and I think that’s the only explanation for this arrangement). Just kidding.

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We got all the way there and it was closed. Well, as closed as Stonehenge can be. You can’t touch the stones anymore because people used to come chip away at them to take pieces away as souvenirs. Now no one can touch them because they don’t want the stones to fall down. Today the path that leads up to the stones was blocked off because of the weather, so we had to take our pictures through a fence. I am happy to report that there were no UFO sightings, so the aliens must be happy with the status of their rocks for now.

Because Stonehenge was closed we had extra time in Bath, which is a town in Southwestern London. I was really excited to go to Bath because of its ties to Jane Austen. She lived there for a short time and hated it because of the self-important society women she saw at balls. (Luckily, these feelings were not wasted because she channeled this snarkiness in her books.) Because I wasn’t exposed to any of these women (and I don’t like in the 19th century), I loved it!

It’s a beautiful village with buildings made primarily of Limestone. Even though it was frigid outside, I’m glad we got to see the town with a layer of snow coating it. I felt like I was seeing the wintery English countryside of my literary dreams!

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Sorry, Jane. I loved Bath!

We first saw Assembly rooms where Jane Austen once went to balls. There I was, standing in the same room she has been in! It was very surreal for me. I spent most of my time in the rooms imagining how the whole town of Bath once gathered for balls and how women leaned against the very columns I was leaning against while they were waiting to dance. I loved it!

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Jane was in this room!

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Waiting patiently for the next dance

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See? I would fit right in

Then we saw the Roman baths, which are some of the only ancient baths that still work. They were communal, co-ed steam pools where people bathed naked! How scandalous!

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Next I walked past the Jane Austen Centre, which was closed as I expected, so I took a picture in front of the sign. On the two-hour drive back to London, we watched Pride and Prejudice on the bus TV. It was the perfect ending to a Jane-filled day!

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As close as I could get

Until next time,

A literature lover in London

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