The first time I chanced upon Harry Potter was in the seventh standard. One of the cute girls of my class sat in the corner of the bus reading the still thin paperback. I asked her what the book is about, more out of interest in her rather than the book. Her reply was a sonorous “It’s about magic.” I was barely able to mumble a few words before wandering off. Thus, built my first impressions about Harry Potter. I thought it was a book which told you how to do magic and other tricks.
A few days later, my bench mate Rahul Singh comes loaded with the first four books. I reluctantly borrow the first “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and tried to plod on. The first 50 pages of Harry’s life don’t really draw you in until it all explodes upon me. The four books were finished within a week followed by an indefinite wait for the movies to come out.
A decade later, 8 movies, a prequel, another three books along with a few supplementary ones and numerous quizzes later, I am a certified Potter Fan. The round glasses and a geeky look don’t really do me many favors either. To satisfy my craving for Pottermania, I searched for more places and finally landed upon the Universal Studios in Orlando. A Harry Potter based theme park that will allow me to live through all of my fantasies that I had harbored since childhood. Snigdha immediately had two tickets booked for us.
The first thing that strikes you about Universal Studios is how they have recreated London in the middle of Orlando. The almost exact replica of King’s Cross Station, Leicester Square, Wyndham’s Theatre and the Eros Fountain, the Knight’s Bus is the first spectacle that your eyes will be drawn to. The shrunken head on the bus is an interactive one and responds to your commands. Diagon Alley is surreptitiously located behind the Leicester Square.
Eating at the Leaky Cauldron
Diagon Alley is perfect for Potter maniacs like me. With a plethora of magical attractions at every corner, the street recreates every shop from the books and the movies. Walking up the cobbled streets, I lose myself in the beauty of a world that my daydreams. Roaming through the made up streets of Diagon Alley, the Leaky Cauldron is the first stop. This dome shaped building looks like the tavern straight out of the movies.
Although the low lighting gives off an effect of darkness, it is actually slick and shiny. A traditional breakfast of sausages, bacon, potatoes and scrambled eggs later, we venture onto Diagon Alley, the place where Harry has his first contact with the magical world. Other eating options include the Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour where you taste the Butterbeer flavored ice cream. There are also some watering holes namely The Hopping Pot, The Fountain of Fair Fortune and Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshments.
Casting spells in Diagon Alley
Diagon Alley is one of the apt places to buy some of the best Harry Potter memorabilia. From wizarding robes at Madame Malkin’s to wizarding supplies at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, the Diagon Alley will soon have you emptying your pockets. For those who read through the book quite minutely, the dark alleys of the Knockturn alley provide an another level of excitement altogether. Dedicated to the dark arts, the Borgin’s and Burkes offers you Death Eater masks and skulls. Now, an essential part of the Diagon Alley at Universal Studios is of interactive nature. You can buy your interactive wand at Ollivander’s the wand maker and use them to cast spells all over Diagon Alley. Some of these spells also light up at Knockturn Alley giving a sense of surrealism.
The interactive wands cost $45 and help you to cast spells all over the Alley.The squirting fountains to singing heads, there are medallions which have to be found and the directions given on it followed. There are more than twenty spells that you can try out and it can bring out the child even in every adult.
The Gringotts Bank
One of the featured programs of the Diagon Alley is the Escape from the Gringotts Bank. The Gringotts Bank lies below a massive dragon intermittently belching fire into the sky. The goblins sitting on both sides of walkway lend a sense of authenticity to the whole experience. The animatronics has been calibrated to such a high level that the goblins look up at you whenever the bells are rung. The lead goblin even takes to you and answers some of your questions. The Escape from the Gringotts is a roller coaster ride that took us through all the alleyways beneath the bank. There is some footage cast along the way to make for your entertainment.
It’s now time to get ourselves to King’s Cross and ride the Hogwart’s Express. The platform 9 and three-quarters are made of brown bricks, a typical of an old school British Railway Station. A curtain separates the platform from the Muggle one as you race across it to find your seat on the Hogwarts Express. There are LCD screens on the windows of the train which gives you a feeling of the rolling English countryside. You will require a separate Park to Park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express.
You can read about the next part in Hogsmeade here.