Saturday, 31 August 2013

Day 2: Harry Potter at Warner Brother Studio

The knick knacks from the Etihad's activity pack came in handy the next morning as Central Park Hotel did not have toothbrushes or toothpaste for us. The black socks looked cheap but did a good job at keeping our feet warm.
We went to a tiny cafe, Lo Spuntino, next to Queensway Underground for our breakfast.
Our second day of hot chocolate
Coco asked for a bowl of chicken soup for breakfast.
Toast with scrambled egg for me
Toast with ham and egg for Coco
Now I know where Singapore first got her 'Priority Seat' wording from.
It didn't work with the general public and SMRT had to change it to 'Reserved Seat'.
The dingy Underground  
 The cramped carriage made me wonder if 'private space' is an exclusive Singaporean thing.
We alighted at Euston Station, and bought separate train tickets to Watford Junction.

Thanks to the internet, I was aware that there are 2 trains that go to Watford Junction:
one takes an hour to reach there, while the other takes only 15 to 20 minutes. Had to check with the ticketing lady which platform the 20-minute train was at, and she could only tell me when the train pulled in. From my experience, the 20-minute train is usually at either Platform 8 or 9. Even at Watford Junction, the train going back to Euston Station would be at either of these two platforms.

The journey to Harry Potter Studio took us 1.5 hour and another 1.5 hour back.

Can you imagine me journeying there and back the second time the next day?

The second time I went to the Studio, I realised that I could pay for the National Rail ticket using the Oyster card and charges between peak and non-peak hours are vastly different. I paid 8 or 10 pounds during the peak hours (about 4 to 5pm).

Watford Junction Station platform

After exiting from the station, we went to Bus Stop 4 to take a Harry Potter bus to the Studio.
1 pound per pax for the 15- or 20-minute return trip.

I had printed out the print version of the tickets, but still had to change for the real tickets at the ticketing counter.

I was supposed to receive the ticket for the souvenir guide as well, but for some reason, the counter lady totally missed it out.

I returned the next day just to get the souvenir guide and claim my tax refund for the 200 over pounds I had spent at the Harry Potter gift shop. I did my Maths and basically, my tax refund was wiped out by my transport cost when I went back the second day.

We were so fortunate to coincide our visit with hordes and hordes of student visitors. Sigh!

Harry's closet under the stairs was at the entrance queue
The 15-minute tour

The Guide explained that there is a Hogwart emblem in the fireplace, but it is never seen in the movies as it is always covered by the fire.
It makes me wonder why they bothered to create it in the first place.
One last look at the dining hall and the door we came in by
The first thing that struck me about the props was the intricacy and the amount of details they put in to create the set
Coco enthralled by the chocolate feast
Coco never fails to point out to the unsuspecting viewers that 'the chocolate is real'. Which chocolate sculpture? I can't remember

Coco loves the blue uniform

The pretty ice sculpture and Hermione's supposedly beautiful gown at the Yule Ball
I am sorry but on closer look, it looked like draps to me!
The Creaking Caldron. Don't know which scene it appeared in. Didn't matter. Coco wanted a picture of it.
The not-so-pretty, could-have-been-better Invisible Cloak
Harry Potter's dorm
The wands
Coco laughed when I told her that people were buying the Goblet of Fire as souvenirs. She said,"This one is the Globet of Fire lah! So big. How to buy?"

My weak defense of my ignorance,"Oh, who asks the cup of dunno-what look so much like a goblet?"

Dumbledore's office
Props, props
And more props
The flying scooter and brooms are set against a green backdrop so they could 'photoshop' backgrounds into the scenes.
And I always wondered why Harry Potter and his fellow actors are not afraid of height
The mechanics of the various props
Some things would be kept a secret if you never read:
The furniture and items in Hagrid's Hut were made small to make him appear large

Very intricate door
As Dolores Umbridge becomes more powerful, her suits become pinker. I bet nobody notices it.
The amount of details they put into making Harry Potter!
The audio guides

Harry Potter Studio was good at making money out of Harry Potter suckers. Who can pass up the opportunity of having pictures of himself in the flying car and on flying brooms taken? Plus a DVD on the flying broom. It cost me 55 pounds for 3 photographs and 2 DVDs if I recall correctly. 
They even incorporated magic in the toilet - you place your hand over the button and it would do an auto-flush!
We came to what we thought was the end of the exhibition and decided that we should do our stomachs some justice. It was cold, with a little shower. We needed some warmth, in and out.
The counter staff asked if I wanted onion. I was expecting chopped, white onion bits. I must have looked shocked to see big chunks of carelessly cooked onions poured on my hotdog. The Chinese guy behind me immediately made it very clear, and loud, to the staff that he did not want onion.

I simply cleaned the onion off my hotdog before I wolfed it down.

Drinking her Butterbeer, because the Guide said you couldn't get it anywhere else
If you want me to describe, it tasted like root beer with vanilla foam on it.

Doesn't Baby look stylish?

Baby had to stand as she was completely hidden when seated
The Night Bus
The Bridge that looked sooo long in the movie

By then, we were getting a little tired, but we were informed by a staff that we were only halfway through the exhibition!

So we ploughed on.
Saw the mechanics of some props 
Baby playing with the owl 
and *gasp* Voldemort!
My favourite section of the Harry Potter Studio - Diagon Alley
The Hogwart model built in 2 (or 3?) months

We were visibly relieved that we finally reached the gift shop, a sign that we had come to an end. It was getting late and we had spent about 7.5 hours at the Studio.
'This is so cute! Help me take a picture!'

Guess what happened next?
'Can I have this? This will be the last soft toy I have.'

Don't believe a woman, no matter how young she is, when she says 'this will be my last ...'
Watford Junction Station (National Rail)
We couldn't believe what we read on the train's toilet door:

This train flushes directly onto the track.
Do not flush the toilet when the train has stopped at a station.

A bored Baby and the tired-but-happy Coco

I had forgotten all about my tax refund and souvenir guide. For some strange reason, I woke up at 3am in the morning just to remember them! I am not sure why they came to my mind. It was like I was reminded. I thought about whether I should make the long trip back and I was unsure if I could get the tax refund since I read online that you must get the tax refund receipt on the same day you purchase the merchandis, but eventually I decided that I should so that I wouldn't keep thinking about it for the rest of the trip.

By the time I reached the bus stop at Watford Junction, the bus had stopped serving trips to the Studio. I waited in vain for at least 20 minutes and managed to catch one of the returning buses on the other side of the depot. The driver, Rob, was very nice about it when he knew I had forgotten about my stuff. He offered to take me back without charging me and told me that I could catch his bus back if I could make it back to the Harry Potter Studio bus stop within the next five minutes. I know I may sound really useless but the awful experiences at London within such a short time had me in tears on the bus. I felt so lousily treated I told myself I would never return to London.

I ran back to the Studio and a nice guy at the gift shop assisted me in getting the tax refund receipt without any fuss. He also told me where to get my souvenir guide. 

When I went back to the bus stop, the same driver, Rob, was indeed still there. 

I was grateful to these two guys. I would give them 'The most helpful people in London' award if I could.

Coco was running a temperature the next day. I left her at the hotel with Baby while I went back to the Studio. By the time I returned, this was what greeted my eyes.