After returning from Paris on Friday afternoon, I came across with my family to the UK on Saturday. Our first stop was at Eton – where an old friend of mine lives. We used his home for a base to head up to Watford on Sunday to do the Harry Potter Studio Tour, something my kids had been asking to do for the longest time.
We were on the tour starting at 11am: we’d ended up having to buy over-priced tickets from a secondary tour operator and throwing away the bus transfer from central London… these secondary operators tend to buy up the tickets for certain periods, making it the only way to get tickets. Anyway, we were able to go directly to Watford and pick the entrance tickets up once the bus had arrived.
The magic started already at the entrance to the tour.
After a relatively short common introduction we were free to wander around at our own pace. There was plenty to see.
As we’re on the lead-up to Halloween there were some special Dark Arts-focused exhibits. I really liked one that looking at the evolution of the Death Eater masks: these went from being skulls in the Goblet of Fire to being much more stylised in the Deathly Hallows movies.
In general I really liked the physical workshop props. They reminded me of our trip to Weta in New Zealand.
Warwick Davis has played several roles in the movies, and one of the exhibits focused on a mask made for him to transform into a goblin.
There was fun Kinect-based interactive exhibit that allowed you to animate Dobby, the house-elf.
The kids loved Diagon Alley, of course.
Another treat was the Hogwarts Express, which contained a number of compartments with props from the various films. (We’d had a seperate compartment to ourselves in the train from Neuchatel to Geneva, on the way to the airport, so the theme had been set early on in our trip.)
You have to pose at the entrance to Platform 9 3/4, of course.
Halfway through the tour we stopped for a butterbeer, which unfortunately was truly awful (for our tastes, at least).
Which probably explained the inclusion of liquids disposal at the recycling area.
It was fun to see the (sadly non-functional) Knight Bus.
There was a section of the Hogwarts Bridge – something that apparently didn’t appear in books, but has become a much-loved feature in the films.
Something I really liked about the tour was the focus on architectural design. They appeared in physical form on the walls…
As well as at times being projected…
Here’s The Great Hall:
There were a number of small-scale models of Hogwarts.
Here’s the bridge again:
The most amazing example was the 1:24 scale model of the entire Hogwarts castle. It apparently took 74 man-years to build. Utterly incredible.
We had to get a few commemorative photos, etc. but I was pleasantly surprised about how little my kids wanted to buy things from the gargantuan gift shop.
After a full day at the tour, we headed back to Eton and then wandered to the Windsor riverside for a drink.
On Monday we headed across to Islington, where we spent some time by the river. (My brother lives on a narrowboat in London, although his is moored elsewhere.)
As our train to Edinburgh was only departing from Euston Station at just before midnight, we killed an hour or two in a very picturesque pub.
Eventually we made our way to Euston, where our sleeper train awaited. We had three sleeper compartments – each with two bunks – which was also very much in keeping with the trip’s theme.
We managed to get some rest – not a huge amount, but enough – before arriving in Edinburgh at 7:20am. The sun was shining on this beautiful city.
We were able to check in early to our Airbnb, thankfully. It has a lovely view from the front across the park, and an equally nice one behind across to Bruntsfield Church. The rainbow isn’t there the whole time, of course.
We managed to a explore the city a little, while the weather was good.
While we didn’t go inside, we did head to the castle to check the view from the top.
We had lunch in what we had thought was an old gothic church, but is apparently an events centre.
In the afternoon it was time to get some work done, which thankfully only meant meeting up for a few prepatory drinks with Zach Kron from the Dynamo/Refinery team and Anthony Hauck from Hypar. It was a good opportunity to plan for the next day’s one-day pre-BiLT Hackathon.
Today it’s the Hackathon itself, which I’ll talk about in my next post. (My family is off doing more Harry Potter-related activities – walking tours and suchlike – as there’s a strong connection between Edinburgh and the books.)