School ended and cardboard boat races were had! We were now a family with a rising high schooler and rising upper elementary school student!
So in 2019 British Airways started a new service (aka flight offering), a non-stop flight from London to Charleston, SC. - which happens to be our regular home leave/R&R location! Since there are no city pairs (required government flights) between Doha and Charleston we had the opportunity to choose the Doha-London-Charleston flight with American Airlines flown on partner airlines! When taking flights over a certain time length (including connections), we are allowed to stopover and rest (but only for 72 hours and we pay for our own hotel). So we opted to stopover in London, on our way stateside.
Once the entrance opened and we got out of the cold, damp London loveliness, we got something at Starbucks! (Sadly, they didn't have a 'I was here' HP mug for our collection).
While we waited on drinks, Mason nearly got abducted by the Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon!
So since the Harry Potter movies were filmed in/around London everything we were looking at were actual sets and props used in the movies. So it was pretty darn cool to see these things! We saw the little cupboard under the stairs (Harry's bedroom).
We then went to a little holding room, chatted to a tour guide about who'd been here before, then we moved into a little theatre to watch a short video. After that the tour opened into the main hall featured in all the movies. Just like TV studios, it seems so big in the movies but wasn't actually that big.
They had different professors' mannequins in the front of the dining hall. I honestly don't remember this little 'point counter' apparatus from the movies (must re-watch!).
After the dining hall, we went into what I will call the hall of props. Think of a prop from a movie and we likely ooh'ed and aah'ed over it! We saw dorm rooms, ice sculptures (wait...shouldn't that have melted...hmmmm), chocolate fountains.....
We saw the Erised Mirror from the Philosopher's Stone movie (Socerer's Stone is the American movie name) - if you read the engraving above the mirror at the top it reads: "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi," which if you read it backwards says "I show not your face but your heart's desire,".....Mason obviously saw his heart's desire!
The infamous Tri-Wizard cup - unfortunately it was covered in glass so we couldn't throw our names in cup....lol.
Mason and I both looked into Dumbledore's Pensieve (a device for storing memories outside of one's head....and therefore can be viewed by others).
Then a special case of super iconic items. I'm confident in everyone's ability to read what they are...
We all took turns posing in our robes (except 'our photos taken by strangers' averse child) and then some of us rode upon brooms in front of a green screen! It was quite fun. Though we only splurged for the video for super fan #1. I did cropped out the director and movie crew jibber jabber.
There was a spot for us to take a picture inside Hagrid's hut...
Up until this point, Clarissa had seemed a bit uninterested. Then she oddly enough let one of the staff members take her photo of us partaking in a beverage in Hagrid's Hut and she smiled!!!! Then we headed into the Forbidden Forest! I guess to any kid you say we are going somewhere forbidden and they are game...lol.
It was a very cinematically spooky once we made our way a bit into in the forest and started seeing centaurs and spiders. Then when Clarissa saw this was a hands-on section and she could control the creatures and the weather in the Forbidden Forest she had a lot of fun.
The next set was Platform 9 3/4....I helped Clarissa with her cart of school goods since she was a first year and Mason moseyed through without a care in the muggle world.
We found our train and hopped aboard!
By this time, we were starting to get a bit hungry and there was a perfectly placed cafe! So we stopped for a snack and of course a couple frosty mugs of Butterbeer!
We peeked into the Knight Bus,
saw Harry's birth home still showing damage of the "battle" with 'he who shall not be named',
got to "drive" the motor bike and flying cars,
and, of course, cross the wooden Hogwarts covered bridge, it was a bit windy!
Hedwig seemed annoyed I was taking photos.
We then headed into the newly opened Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Mason successfully pleaded our case with a goblin to get us access into a vault.
There was a fire breathing dragon explosion in the bank. Clarissa really enjoyed this and we may have watched it several times! We then headed down Diagon Alley. Clarissa of course found the ice cream shop and I think Mason took in all the movie scenes that had been shot along this tiny street!
As you exit, you get to see a huge model of Hogwarts that was used for a most of the aerial shots used in the movies. You can see some adults to the side for scale! It was several stories tall. So it a HUGE model!
We, of course, had some time to find souvenirs in the shop and check out the floating candles in the cafe before catching our bus back into London. It was a pretty cool day, it took a few more months but Clarissa is now reading the first book in the series!