(Sunday, January 18th)
The main activity today was a Harry Potter walking tour of London. Since it was a Sunday, everything was under construction, so it took a while to get to London Bridge, the meeting point for the tour. We got off at Monument Station, so named because of “The Monument” outside the station. I’m assuming there weren’t many monuments at the time it was built and named, but this monument is for the London Fire, which burned for three days and destroyed over 13,000 homes. The monument was very, very tall (I couldn’t see the top), but, oddly, the tall buildings around it make it hard to know it’s there if you’re in the neighbourhood.
London Bridge itself is a bit underwhelming, especially since Tower Bridge is the bridge a lot of people think was London Bridge. I’m sure it was much more majestic the first time it was built, before it was destroyed by Norwegian Vikings trying to help the King of the time.
The tour was a lot of fun, especially for a Potterhead like me. If you’re not a Harry Potter Fan, feel free to skip to the end of this post! Our tour guide, Steph, was so charismatic and entertaining. She was probably a bigger Potter fan than I was, so she had tons of interesting Harry Potter and also local information for us. The first stop on the tour, however, was not a Harry Potter film location, but a Bridget Jones location. We stopped outside the setting for Bridget’s apartment building, as well as the restaurant window through which Colin Firth and Hugh Grant crashed.
Next, we went to the building where they filmed the Leaky Cauldron and the Knight Bus in Movie 3. They added a façades over the English Wine & Spirits Co. and the Posh Bar.
Then we walked to a Knocturne Alley inspiration location, where several black market deals and trades used to take place in Elizabethan England. There was even a prison conveniently next to the tunnel, in case a vendor did not pay his share to the head honcho.
After that, we look out to the Millennium Bridge (so called because it was finished in June 2000, the closed and fixed by 2002). However, it is called Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge because that’s what it was when it first opened. As for Harry Potter, this is the bridge that is destroyed by Bellatrix Lestrange and a few other Death Eaters in Movie 6.
Next, we made our way to Westminster tube station. On the way, we passed a flaming tuba, and a replica of Sir Francis’ ship, a pirate who believed in magic and searched the seven seas for the philosopher’s stone.
On the tube, Steph acted as a sorting hat and asked us a series of questions regarding: our favourite Colour (Red, Yellow, Blue, or Green), what animal our patronus would be (Lion, Badger, Eagle, or Snake), our favourite class (Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Charms, or Potions), and our attitude towards the rules (pick and choose, make mistakes, never break them, always break them). Based on this, she determined that I was a Ravenclaw!
Once we arrived at Westminster, she pointed out the escalator that had “12” written at the bottom. When we arrived at the top of the escalator, she pointed out the tube entrances where Harry and Mr. Weasley passed through in Movie 5. In order to set the scene, Steph told us that had Harry to be at a court hearing in London because he used magic in public to ward off a dementor, then she had us all yell “Expecto Patronum” in the middle of the tube station. Steph then told us that since Westminster tube station is in Central London, and close to where a lot of politicians work, it was very expensive to close down and rent. Around £200,000 per hour, to be exact!
Just outside Westminster Station, around the corner from Big Ben, we went passed the Banqueting House, the hotel where the cast stayed during London filming, and where their greenroom was (the place where they took breaks from filming).
We walked passed Downing Street, where there was a small crowd outside, and made our way to the entrance to the Ministry of Magic (in movie 7). We saw where the trio hid and kept watch while waiting for Mafalda Hopkirk.
Literally around the corner was another entrance to the Ministry of Magic, this time for Movie 5. Here there was a phone box where Mr. Weasley entered the code 62442, which spells MAGIC, to enter the Ministry. The set team had to cover up the entrances to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but they were only able to use half (lengthwise) of the street, so they added half a bridge over the street!
Another block down the street, we came up to a pub with a small building next door that was far back from the road. According to the men in the pub, this is where the inside of 12 Gimmauld Place was shot!
We continued walking, this time towards Trafalgar Square. We got a lovely view of Buckingham Palace from outside the gate by Trafalgar Square.
In Trafalgar Square, Steph first pointed out the scenery used in Movie 6 for the flight of Bellatrix Lestrange and the Death Eaters. The she told us about the premier for the eighth and final movie. Most film premiers in London take place in Leicester Square, but Warner Bros. was expecting a huge crowd, so they started the red carpet down the road, in the square. In doing so, they set the record for the longest red carpet at 455 meters!
The last couple stops on the tour were not film locations, but inspiration locations. The first stop was a dark alley way with several deathly hallows drawn on the dust of the windows by other Potterheads. It was obviously an inspiration for Knocturne Alley, right down to the slanted roof on a single building where Jo Rowling and the production team pictured Harry, Ron, and Hermione perch on top while spying on Draco and Narcissa in Book 6. The films had to copy this location because they could not fit the cameras and rails into the narrow alley, but they clearly did an amazing job!
The final stop was a narrow cobblestone road filled with little shops, including several used book stores. This was the inspiration for Diagon Alley. It was just around the corner from “Knockturn Alley” and fits Jo Rowling’s description of a hidden sanctuary for witches and wizards right in the heart of London! One of the used book shops was dedicated to children’s literature and proudly displayed signed first editions of Books 1 and 2 in their window. Someday, when I have 900 pounds to spare, I’ll go back and get one! As if on cue, a lady wearing all pink walked through “Diagon Alley” and reminded me of Umbridge! (Though she didn’t really look like a toad, she was just wearing an unnecessary amount of pink.)
We took a group picture where we posed as if a group of Death Eaters were straight ahead.
With a quick magic trick, the tour concluded. We asked Steph for lunch suggestions and she led us back through Knockturn Alley to go to a Burger place in Covent Gardens called Meat Market, which was quite good!
After lunch, we went to Covent Garden station and decided to skip the suggested elevators and go down the stairs. We didn’t realize the platform was 15 stories (or 193 stairs) below ground! I have no idea why it was so far below, but I’m just glad we weren’t going up!
After that, we said our goodbyes and headed on separate trains, Lindsay’s to Heathrow and mine to Angmering. There, I met my Aunt Sara! She took me to her lovely English cottage where I met the rest of her family, including her husband, Alex, and their children: Joseph, Oliver, Freya, and Sofia. We all enjoyed an amazing roast beef dinner followed by mince pie! They were all so delightful! We had lots of cool conversations comparing English and Spanish and Canadian culture! I was so glad to have met them! Hopefully I can see them again someday!