Just in case out first day in London wasn’t touristy (and geeky) enough, we followed it up with a trip out of London to take the Making of Harry Potter tour where they demonstrate, in great detail, a tremendous amount of what went into making the Harry Potter movies. As huge Harry Potter fans, it was an excellent choice for Pam & I (although I admit I felt a bit sheepish for choosing a movie set tour over the many more significant cultural opportunities London offers . . . but not enough to change our plans). But, we also did expect to be able to fit in some kind of sightseeing in the evening — although the tour is over an hour outside of London, we planned to be back in town by late afternoon.
When I was planning the trip, I debated the best way to get out to the tour site (at Leavesden) and back. The train was the economical choice, but would have required 2 Tube lines, a transfer to an overground train and then catching a shuttle bus, and with all of that, ensuring we’d make it out there by our 11:00 tour time. The direct bus from central London, though much more expensive and equally time consuming, had the attraction of being stress and effort free — all we had to do was show up on time, and someone else would take care of getting us there. In the end, I opted for the bus, and after my frustrating experience with the trains between Gatwick Airport and London, I’m glad I did — I think the train would have been fine, but I’d learned we couldn’t necessarily count on it being punctual enough.
The bus was as easy as we’d imagined, and the tour company booked us on a return trip just over 3 hours after the start time of our tour, which confirmed our expectation of being back in London well ahead of evening.
We actually arrived a fair bit before our tour time, so we made the logical first stop — the gift shop — where we went a little crazy. Very cleverly, the coat check was happy to hold all of our purchases for free while we were on the tour, so we were able to shop without worrying about the volume! (So many cool things … )
After our excessive shopping, we got in line and started the self-guided tour. There was so much to see — original sets (the Great Hall, the cupboard under the stairs, the boys’ dormitory, several classrooms and offices, the Gryffindor common room, the Burrow, Hagrid’s Hut), original costumes, and so very many props. There were videos explaining myriad details of movie magic (I was truly shocked by the vast number of things I had assumed were CGI effects that were actually practical, mechanical special effects — like the dishes that washed themselves!) and others detailing everything from casting to animal training to making snow. We saw the Knight Bus, tried Butterbeer, explored Diagon Alley and stood transfixed, staring at *the* model of Hogwarts, it all its intricate and impeccable glory (the pictures do not do it justice). Not only was it truly magical to get to see so many pieces of the Harry Potter world up close, but I’m amazed at how much I learned, as well.
It took us a long time to wander through (and, though we didn’t rush, I think we could have taken even longer). I have no idea how anyone manages the tour in 3 hours. It took us over 5.
We had, by then, of course missed our bus, but we simply took a later one, and made our way, tired but very satisfied, back to London. It was an excellent way to spend a day — in fact, I’d happily go back again one day.