Harry Potter Appears Real at Warner Bros. Studio

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Hogwarts stairway and portraits at the Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden, England

When I first read the Harry Potter books I found myself imagining the characters and the magic, and of course Hogwarts, but many aspects were fuzzy. That is, until I watched the first film. Suddenly the actors cast became what I saw in my head when I read the dialogue. The details were beautifully filled in by the elaborate costumes and props.

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The lounge of Number 4 Privet Drive is filled with Harry’s letters.

Sometime after the movies began debuting, I was in Chicago and there was a special exhibit of the Harry Potter film props and costumes. I loved it so much I was even inspired to copy the knitted blanket on Ron Weasley’s bed. I had toured movie studios and I knew that seldom do they spend so much time or money on getting to this level of reality!

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Ask at the information booth for the Passport so you can get stamps along the way and find the golden snitches throughout the tour. 

So when we were planning our Harry Potter adventures in London, I was enthusiastic about taking the train to the outskirts of London to the Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden for the “Making of Harry Potter” tour. It is around $60 a person for a ticket to enter the world of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and No. 4 Privet Drive. The greeter tells you that it takes about 3.5 hours to walk through (at your own pace) with a lunch stop about 2/3 through. In fact, we explored most of the sets and exhibits and stopped for a quick lunch and it took about 5.5 hours. Not that we are complaining! Plus there is shopping at the end of the tour.


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The graphics firm designed 20,000 individual props for the Weasley’s joke shop on Diagon Alley.

We got some great advice: ask the interpretive hosts if they have a favorite fun fact for the room they are stationed. All of the hosts were very enthusiastic about all things Harry Potter and usually gave us more than one fun fact. This is how we learned that 17,000 wand boxes were created for Olivander’s wand shop. And that many of them are still charred from the scene when Olivander’s shop explodes–a shot they only had one chance to capture. Or that Rupert Grint who played Ron asked to keep the number 4 from the house on Privet Drive.

We went on a weekday and there were lots of school trips. The staff said it is actually less crowded on the weekends. It was a fantastic day.

American Pie Vs. British Pie

Final-Book-Cover_15Dec2011_cropped1Happy Pi(e) Day!

My first plan for today was to read Beth M. Howard’s book Making Piece and then to reflect on the roles pie has played in my own life. I am as my mother reminds me “from a long line of pie-baking women.”

I bought the book (it’s on my TBR shelf) and then I realized I’d be in London on Pi(e) Day.

I am in London in the middle of two glorious days Harry Pottering. I did scope out a shop, Pieminister, where I could try some British meat pies. Alas our schedule is so full it may not happen today. I may have to wait for Ian Leavitt’s pie in the butcher shop in Tollesbury, Essex.

CriscoI recently began watching the Great British Bake Off on Netflix. I am late to the party. I went back to watch from the early seasons and someone in there they gave the amateur bakers the challenge to bake an American pie. I was appalled by how they interpreted our pies. First they all used butter only crust. While there are Americans who use butter only crust, it is more common to use half-butter, half-shortening in the crust. Or as the women in my family do–all shortening, preferably Crisco. (I’m sure Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are shuddering if they read this.) Second, American pie is served from it’s pie “pan” which is most commonly a ceramic dish especially for pie. The bakers did get right that it is almost always very sweet and can be a cream pie or a fruit pie or a combination.

Watching the show has also reminded me of some of the very delicious meat pies I have enjoyed in England. I hope to eat some today, perhaps at Warner Brothers Studios.

Pick up a fork and celebrate Pi(e) Day with your choice of savory or sweet!

Update: I did get some absolutely fabulous chicken pot pie from Ian the butcher in Tollesbury, Essex. He makes his with a puff pastry top.