Chasing the Golden Snitch Across the UK
For as long as I can remember, I have always fantasized about attending the famous Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, waiting for a strange owl to drop off my letter (even though I am way past 11 years old). Heck, at one point in my life, I even role-played as a Hogwarts student on Tumblr and attended 'courses' at Hogwarts Is Here.
My dream of becoming a witch slowly started to come true: getting officially sorted in Pottermore (though I still don't know which house I belong to... ), visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, receiving my wand from Ollivander, casting some spells, trying Butterbeer, and to top it off, visiting The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio in London.
[ READ: Experience: The Making of Harry Potter (Once Upon A Sojourn) ]
Yes, I am a huge Potterhead. In fact, my family is too, which is why we followed Harry's footsteps when we visited the UK.
Although Harry didn't spend a lot of time in London, the cast and crew of the movies sure did. Not to mention J. K. Rowling herself received inspiration from many locations around the city.
Harry visits the Reptile House at the London Zoo in the first film, where he talks to a snake, makes glass disappear, and accidentally traps Dudley in the exhibit. Unfortunately, my own magic powers didn't spawn here, and I didn't seem to be able to communicate with the snakes - I guess that might have been a good thing.
You can't visit London and not set foot inside the hustling-bustling icon that is King's Cross Station. Of course, this is where all Hogwarts students board the Hogwarts Express on the first of September every year. The station often plays host to many tourists who seek Platform 9 3/4 - you can take a picture with the cart (wand and scarf included as props), and then head over to the official shop next door to pick up some goodies.
Another iconic location in the series is Diagon Alley. J. K. Rowling found inspiration for this magical alley at Cecil Court, a street lined with Victorian-style bookshops that, naturally, feature the Harry Potter books in their displays. If you're seeking any dark magical items, you might want to visit Bedfordbury Street, the inspiration for Knockturn Alley. But before you can even set foot inside the wizarding world, you have to pass through The Leaky Cauldron. This storefront (pictured above) at Borough Market was used as the pub and inn's entrance in The Prisoner of Azkaban, shown just after the crazy Knight Bus sequence.
Sometimes, our favourite young wizard and his friends can be found in the 'muggle' London. Imagine a little red phone booth just by that lamp post in Great Scotland Yard - that's the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic.
And then there's that scene when the trio is fleeing from Death Eaters in The Deathly Hallows: Part I, and they wind up almost getting hit by a bus as they teleport to Piccadilly Circus. Speaking of Death Eaters, remember that bridge they destroyed in Half-Blood Prince? Yeah, that was the Millennium Bridge, which crosses the Thames. Thanks for 'destroying' such a prominent landmark, fellas.
Entering Lacock Abbey was literally being at Hogwarts. Many scenes of the school from the first film were shot here, including:
- Harry releasing Hedwig in a snowy courtyard
- Various hallway scenes
- Professor Quirrell's Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom
- Professor Snape's Potions classroom
- The study hall
- The room with the Mirror of Erised
And if you take a stroll in Lacock Village, you'll enter into a quintessential historic English village, complete with quaint wooden cottages that look vaguely like those at Godric's Hollow. Harry's birth town was not filmed in this village, however, Horace Slughorn's house can be found here.
FACT: the cauldron was already there prior to filming, used by nuns way back when. It was the perfect prop for the film.
We're going to leave England for just a little while, and fly (by broomstick, of course) to Scotland. Also maybe travel in time a bit, 2 years after London and Lacock. Probably the most important Potter site of all is The Elephant House in Edinburgh, aka the birthplace of Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling spent a lot of time in this coffee shop penning her classic series. Unfortunately, due to our tight schedule, we weren't able to stop inside and visit the Potterhead graffiti walls in the restrooms.
Oxford University, England
Our last stop (for now) is ALSO Hogwarts! All Potter-ness aside, I would love to study at Oxford - I fell in love with the town, the buildings, the culture, the history... so much of it! Maybe one day...
The Divinity School looks a little strange without hospital beds lined up against the walls, huh? Another thing missing is Ron dancing with Professor McGonagall in The Goblet of Fire.
The scene where Draco Malfoy is transfigured into a ferret in The Goblet of Fire was filmed at the New College cloisters, specifically, a large tree in the courtyard. The cloisters were used for some hallway scenes as well.
Seeing this last one almost made me cry: the staircase at Christ Church.
Harry: "Alright there, Ron?"
Ron: "Alright, you?"
Harry: "Alright. Hermione?"
Hermione: "Never better."
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
It marked the beginning, and the end of the trio's first year at Hogwarts. I just wish I were met with the Sorting Hat at the top of the stairs. Though, just like in the films, the staircase does lead to a food hall, which was the production team's inspiration for the Great Hall in the films.
And that concludes my journey chasing after Harry's footsteps... TO BE CONTINUED sometime in the near future.