The morning we started slowly, knowing that we were visiting Warner Brothers Leavesden Studio in the afternoon. This was going to be one of the big highlights for T-Rex so we wanted to save our energy for the big event. We popped into Café Nero, which is a small chain of Cafes for some panini and coffee. We headed to our pickup point, a few minutes walk from our hotel, and soon we were on our way.
After a two hour drive picking up more muggles going to the studio and driving out there, we were running a bit behind schedule. We were relieved that we had organised the tour bus though, because it seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere and getting there by ourselves would be a bit of a struggle. When we did arrive we were told to get by 5:40pm, which left us only three hours. They said it would take 3 to 3.5 get through it all, but we couldn’t enter for twenty minutes because of our group ticket.
We grabbed some food in the cafeteria, and let me just say – even the shitty food is better than ours. If you go to Movie World for instance, your options will be a cheap hot dog, plain chips or a meat pie. Here we had Thai meat balls, baguettes, jacket potatoes and chocolate truffles.
When we did get inside, they showed a video presentation from the cast who explained this was a home for them growing up for ten years. Pumped and excited to see this piece of history we started in the tour. The first part of the tour was all the props and special effects throughout used throughout all the years. I had never been to a movie studio and so seeing the thousands of items used was staggering, especially when most are handmade just for the one scene where they are only seen for a fraction of a second. It really makes you appreciate all the hundreds and thousands of man hours by very creative people to pull off such an immersive world.
I could try and explain the magic of the place (see what I did there), but it is not easy to translate into words. The rich history and background of the pieces, the nostalgic feelings of the HP universe and the visual smorgasbord of clothes, wands, vehicles and more. They even had a real Hogwarts Express train that you could explore, with each carriage set at a particular movie. In the middle there was a place where you could order some famous butter beer. It was yum and weird at the same time, but having one for myself, finishing off T-Rex’s and having a Dr. Pepper in the cafeteria; I was in some sort of sugar high.
Luckily for me, we were ejected to the outdoor section where you can see Privet Drive, the knight bus and the school bridge. It was raining ever so lightly and a fake snow machine gently working in the background. It felt like the most genuine and intimate experience of the whole tour, and was definitely our highlight of the experience. The next section had all the creatures, still and mechanical which was still terrifying, especially the giant spider. There were replicas of all the actor, architectural drawings of all the sets with models. The last room before the gift shop was a giant, and I mean huge, replica model of Hogwarts and all the surrounding grounds. As we are in winter, they had decked it all out in snow as a winter wonderland. It was a very beautiful experience and we paused to be in the present and share this moment together.
We then exited to the gift shop, normally gift shops are tacky and lame and I can’t wait to escape, this was certainly not the case. It was huge and jam packed with interesting items, replica wands, games, food, clothes and so much more. We could spend hours there, but we were unfortunately on a tight timeframe to return to the bus. The only purchased we made were a ticket for Hogwarts Express, Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans and a Harry Potter Trivia (T-Rex’s two most favourite things) game. We were quite annoyed that they allow less than the recommend time to stay there. To make matters worse, they dropped us off on the other side of London from our hotel when we assumed they would return to the pickup point (we later found out this was normal). Luckily we are such pros, we travelled back to Trafalgar Square on the tube with ease.
For dinner we shared a takeaway pizza from Pizza Express, a chain that is pretty popular here. It was about $22 for one pizza that was not very nice with extremely sparse toppings. Definitely won’t be going back, but was interesting experience nonetheless. What an awesome and magical experience!