I love June, it’s the midpoint of the year and the weather is starting to improve. Summer is on it’s way. Also though it’s a certain girls birthday…mine! My husband as per usual spoiled me rotten with lots of gifts including some sandals from Clarks, tickets to Harry Potter Studio Tour, some Rosé Veuve Cliquoet champagne and tickets to see the Aladdin stage show later in the year.
Unfortunately I had to work in the morning but treated myself to the afternoon off to do some shopping and go out for a nice meal. We ended up at Giraffe after they emailed me a special offer for my birthday whereby if I spent £30 I got a free bottle of Prosecco. At the actual restaurant it was quite difficult to claim this offer, the staff member serving us had to get the manager and after inspecting and re-inspecting the email voucher the manager accepted it but with the caveat that she will also check later with the area manager and they may contact me further. Although they did accept it I did not appreciate the way that I was made to feel and this has put me off visiting the restaurant again.
The next day we headed to London to see some sights before getting on the train to Watford Junction for Harry Potter. We had a walk around Kensington and into Holland Park to see the Kyoto Garden. This is a Japanese garden in the middle of London, it was gifted by the people of Japan for the recognition of the Japan Festival held in London in 1992 and it’s beautiful. I have always appreciated gardens like this; we made a point to visit the one in Golden Gate Park while in San Francisco which was stunning. The one in London is on a much smaller scale but it’s a little oasis of peace in the madness that is London.
From here we walked up Kensington High Street, had a little browse in some shops and up into the park surrounding Kensington Palace. The park is beautiful, it was not as sunny as last time we visited it but still looked lovely and was packed with people enjoying the open space.
We got the train from Euston to Watford Junction which is where you transfer to the bus for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. You do have to pay for the bus but it’s fairly cheap at £2.50 return for an adult and stops right outside the train station and outside the entrance to the studios. Once here you have the option to collect your ticket from the machines on the wall or from the kiosk, both times I have gone we used the machines and it’s dead easy. If you do get stuck there is a member of staff stood there who will also help.
Once through security we entered the ticket hall, last time we were here it was filled with people. This time it was busy but didn’t seem as busy. This soon changed once we got in, it seemed there were a lot more people inside than I remembered. However that’s not to say you couldn’t get near everything to have a look up close. Most of the items on display were there previously but certain things had been moved or additional items added. For example by Hagrids Hut there is a little area where you can call the broomstick from the floor to you which was new. The area for green screen rides on broomsticks had grown and there was a row of about 10 booths set up to accommodate the higher demand.
The other new areas include the Forbidden Forest which was awesome! There’s a special effects area where you wait to go into and they out on a little show with the spiders, this was brilliant. I loved all the thunder and lightning which came with this, there’s actually a handle where you can control this yourself which is pretty cool. This is also the area with the Hippogriff who bows to you, I know it’s not real and just an animatronic but it’s fantastic to see and you do forget that it’s all fake. Once out of this area you go to see The Hogwarts Express. Again this is a new area added since I last went. As soon as you walk into the station it takes your breath away, the train looks magnificent. Along one of the walls is a row of 4 areas to take your Platform 9 and 3/4 photos, which of course I did. You can also go on the train, each of the carriages is set in chronological order from the first film to the last with little props placed inside each. There is a bit of a queue to get on the train as it’s pretty small inside but it doesn’t take too long.
Next stop is the cafe, again this has changed massively. The last time I came it was a small cart with just Butterbeer outside but it’s now a fully functioning cafe that sells hot meals alongside Butterbeer drinks and Butterbeer ice creams. There is also a large selection of indoor seating looking out into the courtyard. In the courtyard there are several props,from,the films to take your photos with including the Ford Anglian and the Knight Bus. There’s lots of fun to be had in this area and you can also have a little wander through Number 4 Privet Drive which is new.
A word of warning here, you are clearly told at the start of the tour that it’s all one way and once past certain areas you can’t go back. Pay attention to this because 75% of the stuff is in the first stage. However what I feel is the most impressive item is housed in the second stage, Hogwarts Castle. Make sure to stay in here for a little while to watch it go from day to night to see all the clever little touches to the model such as the lights. There are information screens set all around the model which can tell you lots of fascinating things about how it was filmed and how they made the model you see before you.
After this you of course exit through the gift shop and before you know it are back into the world of muggles. We headed out to get the bus back to the train station, managed to get a quick bit of shopping done in Uniqlo on Oxford Street before our staple London tea of Shake Shack. This place is the bomb, it’s no In-n-Out but it’s a close contender. Before I knew it we had to go get the train home. It had been another fantastic birthday, I can’t wait to see what next year brings.