Saturday, March 7, 2015

The day started with about an hour drive to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of Harry Potter. The entrance was gated and the studio right in front of our eyes. We quickly left the bus and walked to the restaurant to have lunch, after all 28 of us ordered food we sat down and ate but it was evident that we all wanted to rush into the tour. After eating we lined up to enter a main room of introduction where we saw Harry’s bed under the staircase of the Dursley’s home. Yes, his little toy soldiers were there. Once in the room, a member of the crew introduced us to the world of Harry Potter by playing a video about the books and how they changed the life of so many including all of ours. He also informed us that every country was able to pick which poster they wanted to use to advertise the movies, as you can predict, different countries picked different images. A roll call of the people in the room was taken and he asked “who has traveled the furthest to see the world of Harry Potter?” Some people came from Taiwan, others from Chile and then it was us, the loud Americans who cheered as he said the US. Then we moved to a room in which we took a seat and the famous trio greeted us from a screen. They informed us about a world that we were unaware of, the people behind the scenes of the movies who were also pivotal for the creation of the magic of the movies. Additionally, they told us that it was in that studio that they attended school, celebrate birthdays and basically spent the majority of their time. Dan was 10, Rupert was 12, and Emma was going to turn 9. The cast then opened the door to the Great Hall of Hogwarts. But it was actually Kat who opened the doors, this Great Hall was used for all the films except the first one where they used Christ Church in Oxford. In the room we saw Harry first costume, it was tiny and brought back tons of memories from when Harry was first welcomed to Hogwarts. The Hall was grand, just like I had imagined it and we were actually stepping the steps of the cast, ahhhhhh! After the Great Hall followed many many sets ranging from Dumbledore’s office, to the Gates of Hogwarts, to the Gryffindor common room, to the potions classroom, to the costumes from the Yule Ball. There were so many things to see that it would have actually taken me 9 hours to pay attention and read everything like the tour guide had mentioned before we began. Some of my favorite things were the doors, for example the door to the Chamber of Secrets was created by the HP team and it actually worked like we saw in the movies although many believe it was created by computers! The door was created by the Special Effects Department who managed to let the snakes slither long slotted tracks which are powered by an electronic motion hidden behind the door. Another one of my favorite sets was Hagrid’s Hut which looked just like the movies and there was actually another hut built in smaller dimensions so that Robbie Coltrane could look even bigger. One of the most memorable walks was the one through the small table that held Harry’s only letter of acceptance into Hogwarts, this is a one of a kind letter and has no replicas that were used for the movies, how amazing, I was so close to the letter! Additionally, I loved that the studio included the display on birds and animals which let us know about the crew of trainers and dog walkers that spent their time training more than 250 animal actors which included Hedwig, Crookshanks, Mrs.Norris, Scabbers, Fang and even one pygmy hippopotamus. But the exit of the studio tour into the great giftshop was just amazing with the great display of ALL of Hogwarts which gave me chills as I saw it. It was used for actual filming and then manipulated in computers, the details were incredible and the makers of the castle did not miss a thing! I absolutely loved every part of the tour, thank you to all those that made the movies possible and brought one of my favorite stories to life! Best, Melissa DLT

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Place where the Magic Happens-- Both On and Off the Screen

Today we dove headfirst into the world of Harry Potter, exploring the very place where our favorite trio grew up-- the Warner Brother's Harry Potter Studio.  Needless to say, we were enthralled, carefully budgeting time to make sure we had a decent amount of time to spend in the enormous gift store.  We saw everything from the Great Hall to the Gryffindor common room to the Ministry of Magic to Diagon Alley to concept art to the Hogwarts model used for filming.

This evening, we had a bittersweet final group dinner as we reflected over the trip and mentally prepared to say goodbye to the wonderful Oxford and the magical world of Harry Potter.  

Kat leading the way to the Great Hall.

 The Hogwarts gates

The Potter's house post-Voldemort

Casual selfie with the Hogwarts model

Model of Hogwarts

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Great Missenden (Featuring A Particularly Great Author!)

After a good night's sleep, we woke up bright and early to disembark from Oxford to pay a visit to the village of Great Missenden, home to the one and only Roald Dahl. We arrived in the village after about an hour of the sunniest bus ride you could imagine in England, which gave us just enough time to explore our surroundings before we headed to the museum. Our walk through town led us to a beautiful church sitting atop the hill, St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, which is home to the village's cemetery.

In fact, this is where Roald Dahl himself is buried!

Great Missenden is certainly still considered the home of Roald Dahl - he still receives hundreds of letters from children across the world who read his book through the Great Missenden post office, which are bagged up and delivered to his daughter.

The group split up from here: some of us stayed to explore the graves (the oldest one we found dated back to the mid-1800's!), while others explored the nature trail and still others headed back into town. Great Missenden was quite charming, full of little cottages and overflowing gardens.

We finally arrived at the Roald Dahl Museum to begin our tour, which (after a quick exploration of the gift shop) started with an informational session about Roald Dahl's life in the museum's story center. We learned many facts about the author. For instance, did you know that Roald Dahl once crashed his fighter plane into the deserts of Lybia? This was actually the inspiration for his first publication, though he and the editors cleverly omitted the fact that Dahl had actually run out of fuel for his plane! This plane crash left him with an injury to his back - a lump that was never removed, so he cut a chunk out of his writing chair to accomodate it. Dahl was also incredibly tall, towering over Kat at 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches.

After concluding our lesson about Roald Dahl, we were given free time to explore the museum, which houses the entirety of Roald Dahl's archives. Dahl wrote many, many drafts for each of his stories, and he insisted that his archives remain together after his death. Because of his expansive archives, we know that "James and the Giant Peach" was once actually "James and the Giant Apple"! Dahl also considered an orange, a pear, and a cherry as the transportation for James and his insect friends.

We also saw the original models for Wes Anderson's adaptation of "Fantastic Mr. Fox":

Most excitingly, the museum also features a recreation of the hut where Dahl spent 4 hours every day writing his books. Here he kept his writing chair, his writing table (made specially for him and covered with billiard felt because it was easier on the eyes), and his desk, which held memorabilia from throughout his life. See if you can spot: a silver ball made from wrappers from every chocolate bar he consumed for a year, a vial containing shavings of his own spine, and the sawn-off top portion of his own femur.

After touring the museum, we stopped for a spot of lunch at Cafe Twit, and hopped on the bus back to Oxford.

When returning to Oxford, some of the class went on a tour of Brasenose College before gathering for our discussion of "Boy," Roald Dahl's book about his own childhood. After our group discussions, many went to the Turf Tavern for dinner and wrapped up the evening with a game of trivia hosted by The Eagle and the Child.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Exploring Oxford - Monday Edition!

Monday began with a wonderful tour of The Bodleian Library. Our tour guide started us off in The Divinity School of the library, where the infirmary scenes from the Harry Potter films were shot. The Divinity School was historically used for the oral examinations of degree candidates. The ceiling was the most noteworthy aspect of this room, decorated with the initials from those who helped build the room, the King's crest, and various animals. 

We next were taken through the Convocation House (the "Parliament House" of the 17th century), Duke Humfrey's Library, and the Chancellor's Court. An interesting story from our tour guide: the books on the lower level shelves in the Duke Humfrey's Library used to be chained to the desks that sat below the shelves. Good thing at least some of the books from the library can be borrowed nowadays. 

The Tower of the Five Orders - the entrance of the library, displays five classical orders of architecture (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite).

A statue of William Herbert, Chancellor of the University and Bodleian benefactor. 

The Radcliffe Camera (contains reading rooms). 

A few of us went to the top of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. The views were gorgeous!

In the afternoon it was time to discuss The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Of course, these discussions had to be held at the famous The Eagle and Child pub, where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien (among others) would meet to discuss their writings. This famous group of authors was called the Inklings.  

We had a great time sharing our thoughts on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Some topics we discussed included the roles of women in the novel, Christian undertones, and the characterizations of the animal characters. Overall, we had an amazing day and we cannot wait for more adventures!  

My discussion group! 


Drinking Our Way Through Jet-Lag...Tea, of Course!

What is evident about Oxford is that if you're not sipping the tea, you are not livin! After 9 grueling hours of travel, which included at least two planes, one bus, and some super power walking, the Harry Potter course's members have made it!
Here's an image of our first meal, together--this is taken at the "All Bar One" restaurant on Saturday evening:

On Sunday, March 1st, some of the group members opted to participate in a traditional Anglican church service at the beautiful Christ Church of Oxford:

Others decided to traverse the city in search of some fun ...and, well, they at least made it to some museums (turn down for what?!):

Ashmolean Museum:



A couple of our group members even bared the cold to see some awesome sights on top of Carfax Tower.

Yesterday, March 2, we all went on a tour of the beautifully, regal city of Oxford: 

Ultimately, we ended our day with nothing but good thoughts, good vibes, and good drinks...tea, of course.