Saturday, May 5, 2012

Potter and Shakespeare

I know many of you have been waiting for this... my report on the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. It wasn’t that great actually.


It was pretty much one of the best things ever!!

We caught the train to Watford Junction to get the Harry Potter shuttle bus to the studios in Leavesden., where filming took place over ten years. Even before going in we saw Harry’s cupboard under the stairs and one of his pairs of glasses, which got us super excited!After seeing an introduction video in a cinema, the screen was raised in front of us and there they were, the doors to the Great Hall, which we entered to see two of the long tables set for dinner, the teachers’ head table, the tally of house points, Dumbledore’s lectern and a few cosutmes! It was so exciting actually being there!  The detail in all the sets, the props, the costumes, is incredible. We saw the Gryffindor common room and boys dormitory, Dumbledore’s office (my personal fave), the Potions classroom, the kitchen from the Burrow (a close second), the Ministry of Magic (absolutely massive), Umbridge’s office in the Ministry, Hagrid’s hut, and the Green Screen including broomstick, Sirius’s motorbike and the cart on which Harry, Hermione and Ron rode through Gringotts. Not to mention all the amazing props and costumes!! Ugh, too much to include here!!

The Hogwarts Great Hall, ready for dinner

Gryffindor costumes, including Harry's first year uniform on the left and Neville's cardi second from the right.

Wands - Harry, Hermione and Ron included

The Mirror of Erised - apparently I desire a bunch of strangers...

Gryffindor common room

The Crystal Goblet from Half Blood Prince and the Philosopher's Stone from Philosopher's Stone

Various fun props including a snitch, the time turner, the deluminator and Rita Skeeter's Quick Quotes Quill

Dumbledore's office. I totally want this room!

Potions dungeon classroom

The door to the Chamber of Secrets

One of my favourites: The Burrow

What remains of the Ministry of Magic.

Umbridge's Ministry office

And that was only the first part! The backlot was next, but we took a few minutes out to sample some Butterbeer – the verdict: delicious! Almost sickly sweet, with a really creamy, marshmallowy vanilla-tasting head on it. My only complaint about the butterbeer was that it was cold, where I had always imagined it being warm, but maybe that’s just me! The backlot was also very cool, and had the Knight Bus, two of the houses from Privet Drive (including number 4, of course), the Potter’s House from Godric’s Hollow, the wooden bridge to Hogwarts and some of the giant Wizard’s Chess pieces.

Mads with her Butterbeer

Privet Drive

The Knight Bus

Me paying my respects at the Potter's House at Godric's Hollow

Next we went to the Creature Shop, where they had prosthetics, robots and dummies of the cast – the best to see was poor little Dobby and Buckbeak the hippogriff, which moves so smoothly it’s like a real animal. We got to walk up Diagon Alley and finally see the huge model of Hogwarts, which they used for filming external shots of the castle. It was incredible. It was absolutely massive, and so incredibly detailed: I wanted to cry!!


Ollivander's on Diagon Alley

Hogwarts!! Amazing!!

Hogwarts at daytime

The detail on this enormous model is absolutely incredible!

Out via a massive giftshop, trying to resist as much temptation as possible (although I did get a gift or two and maybe a couple of books).  Then it was back to the flat to pack up and clean, ready to leave on Friday!

Yesterday morning I caught the train to Kings Cross to pick up a very nice Audi A4 which will be mine for the next 2 weeks! It is a very sweet ride and very fancy, with no handbrake (it’s automatic with the gears) and a key that doesn’t turn, you stick it in the dashboard and it becomes a button that you push to start the car. And the engine shuts off whenever you stop at lights, then turns on again when you release the brake. AND it has GPS which may be the coolest thing ever! I made it all the way back to Walthamstow not knowing where the heck I was the entire time and I didn’t get lost!

The Audi. Sweet as. Only problem is they don't seem to like telling you what the speed limit is in England. Problematic when there is a speed camera on the road to our hotel. I suppose it's like a guessing game...

Driving in London is actually not as bad as driving in Sydney – it feels like there are less cars, and other drivers are extremely polite and accommodating. Except that you can drive for over an hour and still be in the city, the place is so huge! After packing the car we drove to Bermondsey to drop some stuff off at Mads’ locker and we were on our way to Stratford-Upon-Avon, our new home for the next two days!

The drive was pretty nice, a lot of Canola fields and sheep and small towns: basically England looks just the way you would imagine And so, so, so green!  It feels like you’re wearing green coloured glasses or something, even the air seems to be green – actually rather funny as there have been water-wise signs all over the place and we were told the other day that England is in the middle of a very bad drought, I had to try very hard indeed not to laugh out loud.

Canola fields across from our hotel. Stunning, makes me think of Bathurst...

Sheep and lambies next door! So adorable!!

We got to our hotel and were completely blown away! It’s in an old manor house on the site of a medieval town which was abandoned a long time ago and is now a sheep paddock. The hotel itself is so beautiful, with a topiary garden, a big fountain, and a wooded duck pond. There is a huge canola field across the road, and one of my favourite things, a little church which dates back to the 11th Century.  The church yard is completely overgrown with graves hidden all over the place: apparently Shakespeare’s grand-daughter was married there, and there is a claim that Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway there as well (mind you, this is a claim made by just about every church in the area. Maybe they just had lots of weddings...). After a stroll around the grounds we drove in to the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon. Everything was closed, pretty much, but we had a look at Shakespeare’s birthplace, and found a laundrette so we did our washing. At one point a bunch of hard-ass fifteen year old boys came in to eat their fish and chips and listen to S Club 7. They make ‘em tough in Stratford! Back to the hotel for dinner in the fancy pants dining room, where I spotted a secret door in the panelling – apparently there are a lot of secret passageways in the hotel!

Billesley Manor Hotel

The main entrance

Mads in the Topiary Garden

The beautiful All Saints Church, originally part of the medieval town that once stood in the (now) paddock next door.


Mads looks for some reading material

We slept in (again) this morning, and then Shakespeare Saturday started in earnest! First we went to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which is a couple of miles out of town and is where she grew up, before getting knocked up and marrying Will. We had chocolate cake for breakfast at the cafe across the road and headed in to the house which was stunningly beautiful! It has a thatched roof, beautiful gardens (I am obsessed with bulbs after this trip. I just want a yard full of bulbs!) and the whole place is delightfully crooked. There is not a level floor in the place, it looks like it’s going to fall down at any moment and I love it! Move over Hampton Court, I think I will live here instead! We went for a walk along the Wooded Walk which was so fun and, again, so green. Then we drove back to Stratford to see Shakespeare’s Birthplace. The town is so lovely, there are so many old, crooked 16th and 17th Century buildings. We also checked out Nash’s House and New Place, which is where Shakespeare died but was knocked down a long time ago, so now there is a big archaeological dig going on where the house used to be. We then walked along to Trinity Church, which is where he, Anne Hathaway and other family members including his daughter are buried.  The interesting thing about Shakespeare is that despite the fact he was so famous even in his day, there is very little that survives that we know definitely belonged to him. Compare this with the Dickens exhibition we were at the other day, there is even a shopping list that Dickens wrote that survives.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage.

Anne Hathaway's garden

The Woodland Walk

Mads with her new best friend, the rubber William Shakespeare duck.

Me outside Shakespeare's Birthplace

The best bed in the Shakespeare's living room.

Shakespeare's stairs

What light from yonder window breaks? Why it's Juliet! Performance at Shakespeare's birthplace.

A street in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Archaeological dig at New Place.

Trinity church, where Shakespeare was both baptised and buried.

Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare's graves. His reads 'Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, and cursed be he that moves my bones.' Fair enough. 

Mads chillin by the River Avon in the churchyard at Trinity.

Another cool building in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Mads outside the Madeleine Ann shop. Even though our Mads is Anne with an 'e', it's pretty dang close! 

We walked back to the town centre along the River Avon, and had dinner at a pub established in 1450, which was pretty cool too. Despite almost having a panic attack when I nearly lost one of my gloves in one of the gift shops, all in all it was a very pleasant day in a very historical and beautiful town: I highly recommend a visit!

Also, they sell Wonka Bars here, just like the ones in the Willy Wonka movie! Forget seeing Shakespeare’s first folio, probably the most exciting point of the day was seeing Wonka bars in a shop’s cabinet!!

Yaaaaay Wonka bar!

Golden ticket???

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