Road Trip Wednesday: Day One – Oxford, UK
Oxford is one of those places that I have always wanted to visit. Not for a specific building, not for a single spot, but just – see it, in general. The university and surrounding area holds such a majestic and historical atmosphere, even from afar.
Seeing it in person exceeded all of my expectations. I distinctly remember walking up to one of the buildings, and just letting my mouth drop open in awe. The magic of the place pulls you in immediately.
Speaking of magic, I felt like I practically was at Hogwarts. Before I went running off to enjoy all of this, I found myself immensely jealous of those attending the university. I wonder if they ever get used to the amazing environment that surrounds it; somehow I doubt it.
But yes, magic! We walked upon a staircase that took me straight into the films, as if I was watching fellow students ascend and descend the many floors of Hogwarts. Really, a House ghost could have burst from a wall at any moment.
We then walked into what was used as inspiration for the Great Hall. My first reaction was, “Whoa, this is wicked small!” It really is amazing what camera angles and editing can accomplish. But there we were, walking into a hall with four tables, a fifth at the front, with portraits surrounding us in every direction. Even the plates were set for a feast! We were only missing Dumbledore’s start-of-term welcoming address.
Also, we visited a lovely courtyard that was used for one of my favorite scenes in the film: Moody/Crouch Jr. transfiguring Malfoy into a ferret. It was incredibly easy to just visualize the scene happening right before us next to the large tree.
Oxford was truly magical, due to both the Harry Potter scenes and locations it brought to life and the sheer wonder of the university itself. It might be the closest to Hogwarts one can ever get – in the Muggle world, at least.
My journey to the UK really began about six months before I even went. One night, when Skyping with one of my best friends Alexandra (she lives in Sydney, Australia) about LeakyCon London, we started plotting what else we were going to do. We already knew that we wanted to get to the UK about a week ahead of time. We both live & breathe London and wanted to be able to fully enjoy it. Soon after we found ourselves creating a list of all the Potter filming locations within London. Then I stumbled upon Gloucester Cathedral, and happy to find that it was only a few hours outside of Central London, decided that we HAD to go there. And, of course, while we were there, we might as well go to Stonehenge…and Oxford…and Lacock Abbey – but oh, wait, then we weren’t very far from Cardiff – and then OMG, the beach where Dobby was laid to rest! As you can see, the idea very quickly grew bigger and bigger, until we were on a 6 day, 1,600 miles, and over 35 hours of driving road trip.
Fast forward to July 30th. Alex & I boarded our Virgin Atlantic flight and were on our way! We actually managed to sleep on the flight, which was lucky. We had a very busy day once we landed.
After landing safely, meeting up with Caleb (who had just spend 4 glorious days in Ireland!), we grabbed our car hire and made our way out! We had a few errands to do (food, water, SIM cards) before we headed to our very first stop – the REAL Privet Drive. Located on Picket Post Close in Bracknell, the street was used as the location of the Dursley’s home in the first film. After that, the crowds became too much to control, and the street/house was re-created on a soundstage at Leavesden Studios. The streets in the UK, if you don’t live there or have never visited, are tiny, almost never straight, and confusing as heck. Needless to say, once we found the RIGHT street, we all screamed (me the loudest, admittedly). It was immediately recognizable (see pics 1 & 2 below) and incredibly thrilling to be in front of. We didn’t get out of the car, mostly so as not to disrespect to the families that did live there, but also because we had a lot ahead of us. We did joke on our way out though how neat it would’ve been if someone came running out of the house and yelled at us – Uncle Vernon style.
Our next stop was Rosie’s house – our co-worker and friend who lives in just outside of Oxford. She was going to take us into Oxford proper and tour around the plethora of Potter filming locations sprinkled about Oxford University. Once we arrived (on a double decker bus, nonetheless), we made our way to Christ Church, Oxford. First impression is that this place is stunning, absolutely breathtaking. If you are lucky enough to go to school here…I envy you. After snapping a LOT of photos (pics 3-7 below), we joined the queue to head inside – where we would find the staircase that the first years walk up in Philosopher’s Stone (and we are pretty sure where Harry follows a young Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets memory) as well as the first of many dining halls that would serve as inspiration for the Hogwarts Great Hall (pics 8-13).
Sadly, the Bodleian Library (where they filmed most of the Hogwarts library scenes) was closed, but the Divinity School was open! The Divinity School played host to many rooms in Hogwarts, including where McGonagall teaches the Gryffindors to dance in Goblet of Fire, but it is most known for the Hogwarts Hospital Wing. You can stand on the place where a petrified Hermione lay still in her bed, or smile and laugh over where Ron & McGonagall dance haphazardly (pics 14-15).
Next we headed over to our last stop of the day, New College, where a very special ferret came to be. That’s right – the amazing quadrangle featured in Goblet of Fire! The entire courtyard is taken up by the impressive tree which is much, much larger than I anticipated. We all laughed and giggled over where Tom Felton sat in the tree, taunting Harry, then once jumping down, getting turned in the infamous twitching ferret of Ron’s happiest day. In fact, the exact stone where Tom stood is still there! We then took a few dorky photos in the cloisters (the hallways surrounding the quadrangle) and stood in the doorway where Harry called Ron a “right fowl git” (pics 16-22). We made our way out shortly after and headed back to Rosie’s house – where something else quite amazing happened.
On our way back, we were talking about how amazing it was to see these places with friends, true Harry Potter fans. For all of us (and fans around the world), it had been six years since there was new Potter material for us to devour as a unit. Granted, as hosts of Alohomora!, MuggleNet’s global book club & re-read, Caleb, Rosie, & I were used to talking about Potter together – but still, it wasn’t new information. Honestly I don’t remember exactly how this happened, but I remember getting back to Rosie’s house, sitting down for a few minutes to rest my eyes (I had been up for approximately 29 hours at that point!) only to be awoken with cries of happiness – Pottermore had released Remus Lupin’s entire backstory! So we gathered in a circle, each on our respective digital devices, and silently read. At one point, I remember looking up to say something, but stopped myself and just smiled. I was sitting in a circle of people that were not only Harry Potter fans, but my friends, whom I loved & adored, reading brand new Harry Potter information. It was a moment that I will never, ever forget.
The rest of the night was a typical evening. Amidst the sleepiness, we had an amazing dinner with Rosie’s entire family, then settled in for a much needed night of sleep. We were to raise early the next morning, as Thursday, August 1st was our most jam packed day – four stops – including Gloucester Cathedral, Stonehenge, Lacock Abbey, and the city of Cardiff.
Be sure to check back next week to read about our day two adventures!