My birthday celebrations!

I have reached the grand old age of 28.

As with all birthdays I was super excited and enthused about what activities lay ahead for me. I wasn’t disappointed…

I started off my birthday with a delicious breakfast at the excellent Wahaca where I had divine sweetcorn fritters with avocado mash, salsa, tomato, crema and bacon. Then a short walk from Charlotte Street past my old work place on Maple Road and to Euston Station to catch the Hogwa…11.39 to Watford Junction.

The first Harry Potter film I saw was Prisoner of Azkaban and I was hooked. Immediately after leaving the cinema I went and bought the first two films and since then I have been a convert to JK Rowling’s books and the cinematic adaptations.

As the train pulls into Watford Junction, and as anyone who has been there will tell you, you’re overwhelmed by the bleakness of the place. You come out of the station and stand at a less than magical bus stop with other magical fans until a double decker bus covered in images of Hogwarts arrives and the excitement begins…

I was going on to Harry Potter world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Harry Potter tour
Harry Potter tour

You pull up outside what is clearly film studios, which in itself is exciting for those of us who don’t spend much time in them, and on the side of the building emblazoned in twenty foot high letters “The making of Harry Potter”. It is immediately very exciting as you see the real chess pieces used in the Philosophers Stone outside and then you step into the reception area which is covered in huge photographs of the cast before making your way to either the queue or the gift shop. The gift shop has some incredibly cool stuff but if you actually wanted to buy any of it you would have to maybe remortgage…(I bought a keyring…I rent).

The tour itself is every bit as magical as you would expect and despite having to show a childlike enthusiasm for Harry Potter every single day, the staff were brilliant and always on hand with extra bits of information about the films and the making of them. As birthday boy I got to open to doors of the Great Hall as the tour started which was very exciting. I adored seeing the sets and costumes in the Great Hall and from there, it only got better. We were told that the self-guided tour would take between three to four hours and it took around three and three quarters which for all that you saw represented really excellent value.

Chess pieces from the first film
Chess pieces from the first film

After the interior sets, costumes and props you can go outside to see some exterior sets like Harry’s house at Godric Hollow and impressively the Knight Bus. There is also a little café outside which sold Butterbeer! It must be noted that at the café, the prime opportunity to rip you off and leave you with a sour taste, the food and brink was very reasonably priced and they let you take your own food in anyway thus extending a huge amount of good will to families.

I wasn’t sure about trying Butterbeer as I had heard bad reports from others who had been on the tour before but in the end, well, you only live once and did I want for the rest of my life to know I’d said no to a Butterbeer when I’d had the chance?

Butterbeer!
Butterbeer!

It was delicious! I was thrilled by the creamy bubbly beverage that I happily enjoyed while looking at the outside sets and more amazingly crafted chess pieces from the first film.

What surprised me all the way through is that despite it being the middle of the day, at the height of summer, it never felt crowded or rushed.

The exterior sets from Diagon Alley were incredible and the staff were showing how wand magic worked to a very happy group of people.

Lumos!
Lumos!

I think though that one of the most interesting bits, from the perspective of someone who has an interest in the film making process, was seeing the miniature Hogwarts they built to film for the outside shots of the castle. It was miniature compared to a real castle but absolutely huge compared to a toy and was so detailed that you felt you were walking around the castle grounds.

Mini Hogwarts
Mini Hogwarts

Overall I was so happy to have been taken to Harry Potter world for my birthday, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the incredibleness of the day and I really recommend that fans of the film do the tour.

After all this excitement, there was more! I went to the excellent Meat Liquor for dinner and had a fantastic bacon cheeseburger, onion rings and chips.

Then…

I went to see the first ever BBC 6 Music Prom! This was an absolute delight for me as I have not only never been to a prom but I have never sat in a box at the Albert Hall. The Stranglers kicked off an excellent show with ‘No More Heroes’, with the prom also featuring Laura Marling who is incredible, Cerys Matthews who was, er, different but fun, and the London Sinfonietta and Anna Stéphany were conducted by Andrew Gourlay who really excelled at helping classical meet contemporary.

I don’t think The Stranglers doing an orchestral rendition of Golden Brown is a bad way to start your next years worth of live music…

The view from my box as The Stranglers play
The view from my box as The Stranglers play

It was a truly diverse and magnificent birthday and although exhausted, I was the happiest of exhausted that I could be.

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