Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Harry Potter Post

This may be a lengthy post, and it may also be photo-heavy.
Maybe not though. Let's see.

   Our family holiday at the end of last year/ the beginning of this year was spectacular. We spent two weeks in Orlando, Florida and spent at least two days of that being nice to each other. Quite something by our standards, I assure you.
   We have been to Orlando before. Several times, in fact. The big difference this time (and the main reason we actually went) was the recently created Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

   It's quite difficult to put into words how brilliant it was, because I think it's something that only a Potter fan would understand. In the simplest possible terms, it was everything I wanted it to be, crammed into an obscenely small space.
    Aptly named "The Wizarding World...", the Harry Potter bit is essentially an amalgamation of the key wizarding locations in the series - Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley and Hogwarts. Walking in to Hogsmeade, you are greeted by the Hogwarts Express, which has crashed into the middle of a perfectly-crafted higgledy-piggledy snow-covered english village.

Entrance into Hogsmeade
"Please Respect the Spell Limits"

   The best bit though, to every single Harry Potter fan in the world, is seeing Hogwarts looming over the park. We've all wished, at least once, that we could go there in real life and now we actually can.

     You'll notice, on that photo, that there is a waiting time posted at the castle gates. That is because the castle houses the main attraction - as if the rest of it wasn't enough. "Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey" is a super-realistic mobile simulator, that takes you on an ACTUAL ADVENTURE with Harry himself.
   The waiting time, as you can probably see, was usually around an hour, but I almost found myself wishing that it was longer because the queue itself is really a tour of Hogwarts. It starts in the greenhouse, see below, and then takes you through the Gryffindor common room, through Dumbledore's office, into Defence Against the Dark Arts and down a million corridors - all of which contain talking paintings and moving photographs.

View from the Greenhouse

   Enough about Hogwarts, though. Hogsmeade itself is genuinely gorgeous. The shops that are dotted around are a selection of those from both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, and, rest assured, I was drawn in in a big way. I managed to buy myself several little presents, despite remembering that I am actually 23 years old. (You'll have to wait until the end of the post to see what I bought. Although I will say that it KILLED me that I didn't buy a Marauder's Map.)
   The biggest queue in the park, oddly, was the one to get into Ollivander's. They, apparently, give you the real wand-buying experience. I had more important things to queue up for though. And, as a side note, I definitely wouldn't ever go if you are opposed to queuing. It will become your life.
   Speaking of queues, and moving swiftly on to toilets, even the toilets were heavily themed. Moaning Myrtle seems to have locked herself in the bathroom again, and can be heard moaning and muttering while you are in there. Can't think of anything better than that, can you?
Dervish & Banges
"Family Brooms, Vintage Brooms, Toy Brooms, Racing Brooms"

      Something I can recommend quite wholeheartedly is the Three Broomsticks. We ate lunch in there, despite the 45-minute wait, and I nearly died of both excitement and hunger. To be honest though, I was just excited to be there. Incidentally, the menu, for those who care, is exactly what the people of America think British people eat. There was stuff like shepherd's pie, fish and chips, pork chops - y'know, the kind of thing we eat every day.
   I, being of the fussy variety, opted for a children's meal and got Mac 'n' Cheese. This was an excellent decision. The normal-eaters in my family said that the food was lovely. They also said that it is about time that I got over my fear of unprocessed food.

The Three Broomsticks

   The big regret I have, now that we've been back for a couple of weeks, is that I didn't try any Butterbeer. I was all ready for it - because I always prepare myself for new tastes - but the looks on other people's faces as they tried it, as well as the hundreds of barely-touched pints I saw left on tables, made me sure that I wouldn't like it. My sister tried it though, and she said that it was a bit like drinking a Werther's Original. So there you go.

   Right, now for the good bit. Souvenirs!
   As you can see above, I bought a Ravenclaw t-shirt. I am a full supporter of Team Gryffindor, but if I'm completely honest with myself I would have been put in Ravenclaw. I certainly have more wit than bravery, and I also look quite nice in blue.
   My sisters also got similar t-shirts. One got Gryffindor, one got Slytherin and the third got a general Hogwarts one, because nobody really wants to be Hufflepuff (not to mention that it is difficult to wear yellow if you are a sufferer of Pale British Skin).
   Also above, you may have noticed the chocolate wand and the ACTUAL CHOCOLATE FROG. These are both from Honeydukes, which also sold some lovely looking cakes, including rock cakes courtesy of Hagrid. The chocolate frog did indeed come with a collectible card, but, inexplicably, we all got Rowena Ravenclaw. Strange. (note: I haven't eaten either of the chocolate items yet. I can't face it.)
   That Harry Potter plastic bag is in the photo because I was as impressed with that as I was with everything else. It is literally folded up, along with four others, and is being stored lovingly with both the wand and the frog.

   Now, here we have some quite exciting things that I bought from Dervish & Banges. Dervish & Banges, in the book, sells and repairs magical items. In real life, however, it sells Hogwarts clothing. The special bit about it though, is that the clothing items that they sell are "movie-accurate". That Gryffindor scarf, for example, was quite expensive because it is EXACTLY THE SAME as the scarves the Gryffindors wear in the more recent films. They did cheaper ones, which were not movie-accurate, but I am nothing if not committed.
   The Gryffindor pin, left, is really beautiful close up. I regret to inform you, however, that my camera will not listen when I tell it to turn off the flash. They did prefect badges too, but I was trying to restrain myself.
   And finally, on the right, is a rather smashing bookmark that my sister and I bought on a whim. Unfortunately, it is too heavy to function as a bookmark and has actually ruined a couple of pages in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. That should probably be considered, in future, by the merchandise designers. I still like it though. It's currently attached to my mirror.

And that's it.
I tried to keep it short, and I think I did quite well.
I must remain mindful, however, that there are people who couldn't care less about Harry Potter. *spits*