When I first read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone I was eleven years old, the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione - I sometimes wonder whether this is why the world of Hogwarts pulled me in head first the way it did, it was difficult not to feel a kinship with three eleven year olds experiencing a new and exciting place - I was in my first year of grammar school doing the very same. Minus the magical experiences of choosing an owl, boarding the Hogwarts Express, and letting a wand choose me! We carried on that way for a while Harry, Ron, Hermione and I - all the same age until the books began to fall out of sync with my academic years and waiting for each one to be published felt like an eternity, though they were always worth the wait and I would gorge myself on reading the moment I got my hands on the latest book, unable to tear myself away until I'd reached the end. Speed reading complete I'd then go back to the beginning and savour the second read, rationing myself to a couple of chapters per day and relishing every word, every new detail of the magical world.
Rumours flew about the books being adapted into films and once the Harry Potter section of the Warner Bros website popped up prior to the first film my little sister Verity and I would load the page just to see the Hogwarts Express billowing steam. I'll never forget my parents bundling us into the car with vague promises of a day out only to find we were actually pitching up to the cinema the day the first film hit the screens. Amazing. It was all the better for having a sister 5 years my junior who was even more excited than I was to see Hagrid and his flying motorbike, Dumbledore and his Put-Outer, the Sorting Ceremony.
The eighteenth of October rolled around and after present opening in bed (complete with handmade wizards hat and a birthday card with a secret message only revealed by heat - I love my man) we were off to see the wizards (and witches) at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. Cue car trouble of fairly epic proportions resulting in limping to the nearest town and hiring a car to be sure we'd arrive in time for our tour slot. Once we'd parked and picked up the tickets I was suddenly struck by the sheer scale of the place, it is gigantic from the outside and I know that seems like an obvious thing to say but I hadn't banked on the hugeness! As for the tour itself I won't reveal too many details or ruin any surprises in case you are a fellow Potter fan and plan to visit yourself but suffice to say it exceeded my expectations in almost every way. There were so many sets and props I had been looking forward to seeing up close but I was blown away the attention to detail. One of my favourite settings in both the books and the films has to be The Burrow, home of the Weasley family and a house oozing with warmth and magic. The glimpse inside was incredible, just standing in front of the Weasley dining table I felt at home and would have loved to curl up in an armchair there. The Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore's Office, The Great Hall, Diagon Alley, The Potions Dungeon, Hagrid's Hut and the stunning graphic design cabinets were some of the many highlights for me. Spotting Luna Lovegood's roaring lion hat made my day and my first sip of Butterbeer was a pleasant surprise after reading mixed reviews, I drank the whole cup and seriously considered ordering a second!
Experiencing the magical world created by Jo Rowling brought to life was an absolute treat and I'd heartily recommend a visit to any Potter fan!