Warner Brothers Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, England

The day was still overcast and rainy but at some points, there were patches of sunlight breaking through the clouds.
IMG_0028.JPGAndy said often, “Welcome to England.  This is typical English weather.”  I think he was worried I would be put off by it, but I love rain and if I’m honest, overcast days are better for my multiple sclerosis so England and I got along just fine.  It was a bit cold though than the day before so I bundled further into my scarf, hat, gloves, and winter coat, ensuring I remained super cozy.

As Andy drove, the sun began to shine through the clouds so I busied myself taking pictures as passed.  One aspect that surprised me in the best way was the large amount of undeveloped land, most of which held sheep.  I swear we saw as many sheep here as one would see cattle in the States.
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Soon, we arrived to our destination: Warner Brothers Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter!  I’m a massive Harry Potter fan — I have and read all of the books, seen every movie.  J. K. Rowling is a highly talented writer, and I will argue for hours about her series being deserving of the literary canon.  She is one of few authors that can craft emotional and high-interest tale that appeal to a variety of age groups.  She is incredible to say the least . . . which will get me off of my soapbox for now.  Andy though knew my admiration was deep for Rowling and Harry Potter so he surprised me with an early Christmas present to Warner Brothers Studios.  Here, you can walk around and explore permanent exhibits used in the Harry Potter films!

We had a special deluxe tour, which meant we were guided around the studio by a woman leading a small group (instead of roaming aimlessly with about 120 other people).  Inside, everywhere you looked held either actual props or the set itself.

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The Weasley’s flying car, Anglia, was hanging in mid-flight near the front entrance

We got to enter the actual Great Hall with Professor Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, and Severus Snape’s outfits overlooking the tables.
img_0050It was around here, one of the tour guides loudly asked, “Let’s hear it for House Hufflepuff!  Who is in House Hufflepuff?!”  A good amount people cheered.  Andy and I just looked at each other.  I had come decked out in my Ronald Weasley Slytherin sweater (I realize that contradicts . . . let’s move past it) and Andy wore an equally green sweater to show what house we belonged in.  The woman continued, “And let’s hear it for House Ravenclaw!  Who is in House Ravenclaw?!”  More people cheered; we yawned.  “And what about House Gryffindor?!?!”  Before she could even finish the word, the room boomed with their ecstatic cheers.  Andy and I rolled our eyes.  “And what about . . . House Slytherin?!” she finally asked. We had been waiting for this moment and mustered up the loudest cheer we could . . . only to find we literally were the only ones to celebrate.  We paused; the Great Hall was quiet.  “Get out,” the woman said flatly.  Nice to know we were accepted.

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To pay homage, a picture of the students’ Slytherin attire.

We moved past our not-brightest-moment, seeing the intricate Yule Ball drink fountain, which was just as impressive and just as large as it appears in the movie.

20161122_122740-2Then the Yule Ball outfits . . .

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Notice the color of Hermione’s dress (far left) — This rosy color is visible on all of her attire and meant to show the sweet goodness, innocenceof a girl.

Notice how closely Hermione’s dress color matches Professor  Dolores Umbridge’s color (seen below).  This was done purposely to give Umbridge the appearance of seeming equally sweet, innocent and good, like a grandmother would be perceived.  However, as her powers and evilness grew, her color pink grew brighter.  If you looked closely, the pins on her dress were skulls, showcasing true evil.
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Next, we saw costume designs where the actors’ wigs, prosthetics, and all else were used.

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Wigs were necessary for all actors, mainly for ones like Bellatrix Lestrange (middle dark brown curls).  With the weather outside rainy, the curls the crew would put into her actual hair would instantly fall.  This wig guaranteed she kept a consistent similar look.
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Snape was my favorite character.  Rowling’s plot twist involving him was so delicately written and fine-tuned that this is one of the reasons I think she is an incredible writer.
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For designs such as the famous scrawling of “I must not tell lies,” they wrote then produced the images to ensure they stayed exact no matter how the actor moved.  Something similar was also done with Harry’s scar as well.

After, we continued to various rooms in the studio.  First, Dumbledore’s office and all of his memories . . .20161122_145326img_0060

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There are over eight hundred bottles of memories here with handwritten words on each.

Then, the potions classroom!  This was one of my favorites because there were numerous glass jars and I swear there was no repetition of what was inside!
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All jars had handwritten labels, which was amazing to think about the time and energy that went into absolutely every facet of the movie!
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Even the students’ textbooks had true pages with information created so that the actors could truly feel like were in school using the books.

After, we headed to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters to see the Hogwarts Express . . .20161122_152728

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Inside Harry and Ron were found with their cabin full of treats.
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And of course, Scabbers was enjoying the sugar too!

and celebrate over some delicious butterbeer (and later, butterbeer ice cream)!
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A walk to Creature Creation followed (where a tear was shed for sweet Dobby). . .

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Gringotts head goblin
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Bless it!  Poor Dobby!
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This dragon was designed to spit fire!
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Eee!!!  Aragog
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Little known Buckbeak fact: My kitten is a massive Buckbeak fan.  Whenever he sees Buckbeak, without a word, he will come running and sit in front of the TV.  He has no interest in the TV unless there’s a massive Buckbeak on the screen!

We were even able to stroll down Diagon Alley, passing Ollivander’s Wand Shop . . .
img_0091img_0147and Eeylops Owl Emporium and Magical Menagerie for a hopeful peek at a Hedwig-look-alike.
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Lastly, we passed sketches, paintings, and models of everything from the Whomping Willow, Aunt Marge, and prefects’ bathroom to the Durmstrang ship, brooms, and Privet Drive.  Then — right at the very end — we finally got to see it!  Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry which was truly magical!

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What was hard to believe is that Hogwarts is actually an insanely massive model.  Those filming had cameras on the end of pins and such to get zoom shots around the school.
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It was incredible how detailed Hogwarts was.  Here are the greenhouses where the mandrakes (my favorites) were kept!

Overall, this trip was amazing!  I could have spent all day inside and still want more.  Apparently the longest someone stayed in here was thirteen hours and the shortest was forty-three minutes.  I vote the first amount!

Full of Harry Potter and magic, we drove back to Wembley where we had delicious — what I call and have been waiting for — Cheeky Nando’s.  Let’s backtrack: One of Andy’s and my first conversations was on Cheeky Nando’s.  It seemed to be this secret society that only Brits knew and they would giggle while Americans looked on confused.  I didn’t want to be a confused, stupid American!  I wanted knowledge!  Power!  I wanted Cheeky Nando’s!  “But what is a Cheeky Nando’s?” I’d ask him often only to get a laugh and a sort of nostalgic glint across his eye.  That no-answer left me researching, coming across articles like this where a Brit took an American girl to get some cheeky Nando’s or this titled “Americans on Tumblr are Trying to Find Out What a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ is and are Struggling,” which proved to me I wasn’t the only American confused and doing research.  Thank God because let’s be frank, United Kingdom, the answer is not easy and I’m blaming y’all.  So here is my experience trying to determine what the heck is a Cheeky Nando’s.

Me: “Andy, for real.  What is a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’?  You said it’s a restaurant but I don’t get it.  Why does everyone there go crazy for it?  It seems to have a cult following similar to . . . Taco Bell here . . . but not.”
Andy: “Wot’s Taco Bell?”
Me: (Let’s just take a moment to imagine my facial expression, America.  And that facial expression is exactly how Andy was looking at me when I asked what a Cheeky Nando’s was.  I let this pass.  It was too much at that moment, too too much.)  “What is it?”
Andy: “A cheeky Nando’s is when you go out with your mates on a Friday night and you are planning to just go out but you start drinking and one thing leads to another and you go out-out.”
Me: “That’s so confusing.  Sooo a ‘Cheeky Nando’s’ isn’t a restaurant.  It means ‘drinking with friends’?”
Andy: “No.  Well, kinda.  Nando’s is the restaurant.”
Me: “Then why does everyone call it Cheeky Nando’s . . . ?”
Andy: (Giving me a look like I was the strangest person) “No, no one calls it that.  It’s just Nando’s.”
Me: (Of course.)  “But you said cheeky — Why?  What does cheeky even mean?  Why is a restaurant cheeky?” I felt lost.
Andy: “Cheeky is when you go out to Nando’s . . . for dinner . . . on a Saturday night and you end up going out-out.  Five beers later your mates want to go to another pub but you had only planned to go out.”
Me: “Right.  So cheeky and Cheeky Nando’s mean the same thing which is not a restaurant but drinking with friends.  That’s the common theme here.  Why don’t you just say that?”
Andy: “No, that’s not it at all.”
Me: (Clearly I wasn’t following) “Let’s start over.  What is ‘cheeky’?  What is the definition?  What part of speech is ‘cheeky’?  A verb?  Definition: Drinking with friends, no?”
Andy: “Definition?  Part of speech?” (He acted as if he had never heard those words before).  “The definition is what I just said — It’s Friday night and say, you and me want to go out.  We go to Nando’s and you say you only want a beer but we end up getting a lot more and then go back to your apartment and — ” (His eyebrows raise up and down)
Me: “Okay, okay, I get it!  Cheeky means to have sex!  . . . Wait, I thought you and your mates had Cheeky Nando’s?  So you have sex with your mates?”  (Keep in mind, we had just met.  I wasn’t judging; I was only ruling out ‘boyfriend material’ at the time.  Instead what Andy was ruling out was my certainty as the only thing I created was certain chaos.)
Andy: “WOT?!” (He seemed appalled.)  “No!  Bloody hell, L!  No!”
Me: (Fresh start, fresh start) “Okay.  Andy.  Bless it.  We must be on a different page.  First.  What is the de-fi-ni-tion of ‘cheeky’.  Not a Cheeky Nando’s.  Not an example.  A definition.  As in ‘Part of Speech: Verb.  Definition: To drink and have sex.’  Like that.”
Andy: (Silent for a long time.  I either made a break through . . . or I was speaking Parseltongue.)  “Okay . . . okay.  Right.  . . . oh . . . kay . . . ”  (After laborious minutes) “It’s just — This is hard.  Really hard.”

Overall, America, I learned two things from the past months of dating an Englishman:
1. Cheeky
Part of speech: Adjective
Definition: To be up to trouble or mischief
2. Nando’s
Part of speech: Noun
Definition: A restaurant that originated in South Africa and has a Portuguese theme.
Therefore, all curious, a cheeky Nando’s is simply a way to describe a restaurant where apparently Brits go without intending to get into mischief but one thing leads to another and voila, they go out-out where drunken shenanigans ensue . . . I think.

Long story short, after all that talk I was ready for Cheeky Nando’s.
Andy: “What do you want?”
Me: “Um . . . what do you get?”
Andy: “Half chicken, medium hot peri-peri.  Rice.  Chips.  Three extra hot peri-peri wings.”
Me: (Blinking at his no-hesitation answer) “Okay.  I’ll just have the chicken.”
Andy: “But what part of chicken?”
Me: “Uh, what parts can I get?”  (I looked at the menu again.  There was every piece and every combination:  There was a whole chicken, a half chicken, a butterfly chicken, a breast, a fourth a chicken breast, a fourth a leg, chicken livers, three chicken wings or five wings to ten or twenty to about twenty-five wings.  There were chicken wraps and pitas, chicken salads and chicken burgers and grilled chicken, chicken on-the-bone and chicken off-the-bone.  Then double chickens and even a chicken roulette, which seemed scary but intriguing.  There was a fino platter and a meal platter and a full platter next to a jumbo platter which quite frankly all adjectives minus the fino meant the exact same thing.  And yet, for the life of me I couldn’t find the word ‘thigh’ or ‘drumstick.’  It was KFC on steroids.)  “Can I not just have one thigh?”
Andy: “Let’s come back.  What sauce do you want?”
Let me tell you, the sauces were no different as there were fifty sauces.  And fifty sides.  And fifty desserts.  Then fifty non-alcoholic drinks next to fifty-alcoholic drinks.  Don’t believe me?  Just try scrolling to the end of this UK menu.  Dedicate some time, friends.

Our order ended with me telling Andy I fully trusted him and that “I just want chicken.”  “Good thing,” he said before going to the counter and coming back with this . . .
20161122_203220.jpgwhich caused me to not-so-daintily express one, my happiness at having Cheeky Nando’s and two, my love for my boyfriend knowing me so well.  Let me just add we ate everything.  No shame, no shame at all.

What was a shame though was that with a stuffed belly, I passed out super early and that was the end to our exciting Day Three.

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