Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

Thursday, July 9th, was one for the books. Our day began exploring the two country churches near Charlecote Park: Hampton Lucy and Charlecote Church. I love country churches because, while they are glorious and grand, they still have a very intimate and cozy feeling. Charlecote Church was lovely, but Hampton Lucy knocked my socks off. Walking through this beautiful testament to God was magical — it felt like a fairy tale. Oh, to get married at a place like this! (I cannot help but think these silly things, my literary brain is spoiled.)

Later on, we traveled to Bletchley Park, the top-secret compound for Britain’s decoders and decipherers. If you saw The Imitation Game, this is where Alan Turing and his colleagues achieved the impossible and broke Axis and Japanese messages, ending WWII by an estimated two years sooner. There are places that look incredible and then there are places that feel incredible: aside from the manor, Bletchley Park is a collection of nondescript buildings and modest shacks. But walking around the campus, browsing through these rooms that witnessed so many important discoveries, you cannot help but feel the inspiration, dedication and genius that once filled this area. What is even more remarkable is that this mission was kept under wraps for decades; many of its workers took their Bletchley Park stories to their graves. These selfless servants to their country are heroes for their unyielding commitment to good in the great fight against evil, and it was an honor to behold such greatness.

Our day continued at the Warner Bros. Studios London “The Making of Harry Potter” tour. While I was excited to dive even deeper into my Harry Potter fandom, my expectations were not radically high. The thing is, my family and I have had some pretty fantastic Harry Potter experiences. It all began when we attended RailFest — a festival in York with all kinds of famous and historic trains — eleven years ago on our first trip to England. We were able to ride, yes ride, on the actual Hogwarts Express and even got a piece of coal from its engine. We have also traveled to many filiming sights, such as Goathland (Hogsmeade), Glen Nevis (quiditch and the Tri-Wizard tournament) and the Glenfinnan Viaduct (on the Hogwarts Express). We even got our picture with Platform 9 3/4 before it got touristy! My point is, we all felt like we’d done so many neat, Harry Potter-related activities before that this would fall below our other experiences. We were wrong.

Upon arrival, you are escorted into a briefing room, where you declare your Hogwarts House and watch a short clip about the making of the Harry Potter movies. You then are ushered into a small theater, where you watch a longer clip about the making of the Harry Potter movies, but this time it’s hosted by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. As the hype gets greater and greater, they hit you with all the feels when the Great Hall is revealed behind the screen. Claire and I both looked at each other and our jaws hit the floor. 

The magic only continues as you enter the Great Hall, with John Williams’s score playing among the props and costumes. At this point, you’re invited to wander through the exhibit and ask questions to the guides, who claim that they know everything. I didn’t really test this qualification, however I did hear many, many interesting facts that I had not known before. I know, I know, it was rough for me to admit that I don’t know everything about Harry Potter! Our whole family was awestruck by the amazing attention to detail displayed; not one single inch of a set showed signs of the real world. Every slip of paper, every seam, every cobweb was strategically placed for one purpose: to bring JK Rowling’s magical world to life on the silver screen. The quality was superb, but the quantity was admirable, as well. We spent nearly four hours exploring “The Making of Harry Potter”, but it might as well have been four days because there was just so much to see and do. Warner Bros. really pulled out all the stops in order to create an incomparable experience for the millions of fans who cherish Harry Potter. It is also a testimony to the thousands of cast and crew members that contributed to these projects over the decade they were in development, which was a very admirable and humble thing to bring to everyone’s attention.

Truly the most fantastical moment came at the end of our tour. Turning the corner, the lights were dimmed, the Harry Potter theme was playing and before us was a life-size model of Hogwarts Castle. While not the staggering facade that Harry, Ron and Hermione occupy in the films, this model was large enough to feel real, as though one was looking at it from a short distance. It was the feeling you get upon seeing an old friend for the first time in a while: excitement, comfort and most of all, joy. I realize how corny I sound, but I hope that all who love Harry Potter, or any work of fiction for that matter, can relate to the love one feels for these stories. Harry Potter has inspired a generation to be loyal and brave, to fight for what is right and to speak up for those who cannot. These books and movies have taught us about the power of friendship and the inconquearable strenght of love — they show us that good will always conquer evil. To behold the very home of this timeless tale about the boy who lived was overwhelming. It was magic.

*This was the JK Rowling quote we saw while exiting, which took me from keeping the lump in my throat at bay to full on crying crocodile tears. A guide stopped me to ask if I was alright, which I responded with my reassurance of simply being emotional from my love of Harry Potter. She says it happens all the time, which I fully believe and have no shame, whatsoever concerning. 

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