Category Archives: Harry Potter and all things magical

Mon ami Harry Potter

Mon ami Harry Potter

Introduction:

Fact 1: I am, indeed, a lucky French Girl. A heartfelt “merci” to all of you, for the messages you sent following last week’s story.

Fact 2: If you do not like/get/care to hear about… the magical world of Harry Potter, skip this story. It is choke full of references and private jokes seulement pour les initiés… 

Fact 3: This is intended to be a joyful post. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have! I already know I will use Hermione‘s time-turner to return here, over and over again. 
Potterphiles…
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows release (part 1)

Last week, I wrote about my friends, and the important part they play in my life.

Today, I would like to talk about other friends… fictional friends, but friends nonetheless. 

Like many young children and adolescents, I was once a voracious reader. I had many heroes, who kept me company and cheered me on (or so it seemed,) as I navigated the challenges of that great adventure we call Life.

I was very surprised years ago, when a story told by an English woman captured my [adult] heart and my imagination, the way it had captured the heart of millions of people around the world. It still does today, fourteen years after the first book was published.


Junior’s [elaborate] 6th birthday party:
Young wizards find their wands in Diagon Alley…

Harry Potter. Seven books. Eight movies. The most successful movie franchise of all time. A dedicated amusement park in Orlando, FL. The Warner Bros. Harry Potter movie studios tour in London, UK. Millions of fans, les Potterphiles.


Maman et Junior about to board the Hogwarts Express
Harry Potter World, Universal Studios, Orlando, FL
Summer 2010
Everything and anything has been written about the young wizard’s saga. This is no reason for me not to pay a tribute to the wonderful characters who have lived with me for so many years; have turned my son into another voracious reader; have enabled me to share countless hours of fun and silliness with my friends (and does it ever feel great to be silly in this serious, depressing world!)


2010: A black car (witch?) is christened “Tonks”
A young 4th grader celebrates reading all the books in the series
This is my modest, but heartfelt tribute to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the gang. It is not based on scientific research. The opinions expressed here are mine only. 

Harry Potter is like Nutella. You either love it, or you don’t. Those who get it know all the details, and all the characters in the story. They have passionate discussions and arguments about the plot or the characters’ deeper motives. Those who don’t (“I could not go past the first two books… I did not care for the movies…”) shake their heads at Potterphiles and shrug it all off. 

Les pauvres. I am genuinely sad for the Muggles who have not been properly exposed to this wonderful story. They do not know what they are missing.
Even the Duchess of Cambridge is a fan.
Do you think she will read Harry’s adventures to young Prince George in a few years?

The story started years ago with three young wizards, in a book written by a struggling single mom, who was about to live her own Cinderella story. Harry Potter soon developed a faithful following. Later, thanks to an inspired casting director, and the magic of the big screen, the young wizards became famous the world over. Like me, like Junior, millions of people adopted Harry, Ron, and Hermione. From this…


About to become famous, and very, very wealthy:
Hermione (Emma Watson,) Harry (Daniel Radcliffe,) Ron (Rupert Grint)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

… to this…


Three [still young] actors, impersonating their 40-year old characters
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2 (2011)

A literary and cinematic legend was born. Thank goodness.

My favorite thing about the Harry Potter saga? It is always entertaining and exhilarating; keeps you guessing and dreaming; and – never condescending – tackles some great Life themes: Love, friendship, family, courage, loss and resiliency. Everyone can relate. 

I will always be grateful to J.K. Rowling for inspiring some of the most interesting and in-depth conversations I have shared with my son after he read the books. Today, the young adolescent can be harder to talk to, and I cherish these memories. 

Everyone has a favorite character, or two, or three. Here are some of mine. Harry the orphan may experience loss during his formative years (more than a child should have to,) but he is fortunate to be surrounded by a motley crew of supportive, faithful friends, his family of choice.

Dobbie, the free elf.
Drives you crazy, and often gets you in trouble,
but he will give his life for you if he has to.
Hagrid, the semi-giant…
because everyone needs a sensitive, bear hug-loving friend
Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis,) the other orphan.
The hero with a noble heart nobody (not even Lord Voldermort) saw coming…

When Neville the underdog gets mad…
One of the most satisfying moments in the last installment.


I confess to a soft spot for the next gentleman. I liked his character in the books and suspected there was more to Professor Snape than met the eye. I liked him even better when talented Alan Rickman became Harry‘s foe in the movie series. Rickman, like so many classically-trained actors in the saga, was perfectly cast and added depth and complexity to a tragic character. I cried when Snape died. I cried again when Harry discovered who Snape really was. 



As a side note, I consider myself very privileged to have met Professor Snape in person.


This one lives in my neck of the woods (and I don’t think he drinks butterbeer…) 

So many characters. So many favorites. It is tempting to continue listing them, but I won’t. Instead, I would like to share my most recent adventure in the world of Harry Potter.

Warning: Lots of photos coming up. For fans’ and wizard eyes only! 

This summer, while I was vacationing in England, I embarked on a double-decker bus and went on a field trip to the Warner Bros. movie studios north of London. Let me make something clear: This is a must-see tour even if you are not a fan of the series. If you are interested in the movie-making process, don’t hesitate.

Imagine a group of buildings, in the middle of nowhere. This is where most of the Harry Potter movies were shot over the course of ten years. The walking tour takes visitors behind-the-scenes, as many secrets about film making are revealed. Two indoor and one outdoor lots kept me busy for at least three hours. Then I had to stop by the well-stocked (and overpriced) gift store– a Potterphile dream!

The most surprising thing during the visit is probably the sheer size of the sets. I found myself immersed in the Harry Potter world. I had a real case of déjà vu, and for good reason: They were exactly the ones featured on the big screen for ten years. 

The cupboard under the stairs… 
I walked the Great Hall of Hogwarts! 
Gryffindor Common Room: So many details! 
The Potions Classroom: Once again, details, details! 
Inside the Burrows: I watched Molly Weasley’s sweater “knit” itself…
Dolores Umbridge’s office (complete with animated Kitty plates)

How about a walk up Diagon Alley? Only Hagrid was missing…



17,000 wand boxes inside Olivander’s are hand-labeled.
The 4,000 people who worked on the movies for 10 years are mentioned on some of them



The outdoor sets weren’t forgotten…

Is Butterbeer allowed on the Knight bus?
A peaceful little street… not!


It was artifact and prop galore! I did not know where to look. I did not know what to capture with my faithful Lumix LX5. It was overwhelming. 


The moving marble staircase… They actually built a full-size one!
The Chamber of Secrets door… I almost expected the snakes to start sliding around… 
Recognize this? (and to the right, the hidden entrance to Dumbledore’s office)
I remember all the scenes shot on this bridge at Hogwarts, don’t you? 
Beaucoup de props!
The Yule Ball ice structure

The tour reflects the high degree of professionalism and attention to detail that helped make the Harry Potter films into the most successful movie franchise ever. It was as if Warner Bros had wanted to thank all the fans for their support over the years. Visitors are allowed to look at everything; and try everything (including a broom flying lesson – Let me just say I will never look at a Quidditch match the same way ever again.) There were signs and placards all over the lots to explain and detail the process of film making. I was fascinated. 


Interesting facts about the animal actors… 
Five different dogs played Fang. Who knew?




La pièce de résistance, at the end of the tour: a giant, 1/24 scale model of Hogwarts. It took over 50 sculptors, painters and other artists to build, and was used for many outdoor shots of the castle. It stands in the dark, in the middle of a large room, lit up by 300 fiber optic lights. Perfectly hand-sculpted to scale. Impressive… and magical. It was the perfect way to wrap up this memorable visit. 



I will leave le mot de la fin (the final word) to Jo Rowling and Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.  




Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, 
but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” 

— Professor Albus Dumbledore



A bientôt.





24 Responses to Mon ami Harry Potter

  1. Your love for Harry Potter certainly shines through in your wonderfully detailed post and the lovely photo of Junior’s 6th birthday party really captures his excitement too. The attention to detail in the Warner Bros tour is absolutely incredible and I had no idea that it included so much and full size sets too. The ice structure and the model of Hogwarts are stunning. They obviously employed the very best craftpeople. I would certainly enjoy finding out about the movie-making secrets too. I’m sure you couldn’t resist a treat in the gift shop!

  2. Troooooooooooooooooooooooop bien, trop bon, trop génial!!
    Comme je plains les pauvres Moldus qui sont passés à côté d’harry Potter..
    Si tout va bien, dans un mois j’y suis !Croisons les doigts très, très fort!

    • Troooooooop bien en effet, et dans quelques semaines, ce sera ton tour d’aller rendre visite à Harry et tous ses copains. J’ai utilisé l’agence de voyage Goldentours je crois. C’était très bien organisé. Seul problème: L’heure de retour est fixe et tu n’as “que” trois heures sur place.

  3. YOU have left me in a state of wonder. Though I have only seen the movie once, I can see the draw with the enchanting scenery, the magic, TOUT!!! And it is a grand pleasure to see you again mon amie; tu t’es vraiment amusée cet été! Alors, tu es prête pour la rentrée? Anita

    • Merci Anita. Je me prépare tout doucement pour la rentrée. Avec les cours particuliers, c’est un peu compliqué: il faut que tout le monde soit disponible, et qu’on trouve “un créneau” pour chaque étudiant. J’ai de grands projets pour l’année qui s’annonce. Je te raconterai tout ça plus tard. Bon courage pour la reprise de ton côté!

  4. v I am not a harry fan I never read the books or viewed the movies- but this was an excellent post the details goodness you need a week to look and dissect it all thank you for the tour-

    • You’re welcome g. Too bad you have not been introduced to the world of Harry Potter. You are so passionate about things (and people,) and you have empathy. I think you would enjoy that great story! Hugs to you.

  5. Oh, thank you for this journey! I don’t know if we will make it to London in the near future, and although the Orlando amusement park is much closer I don’t think it’s quite the same thing…

    • You’re right, Liene. The Orlando amusement park is great fun but can’t compare to the London studios. There isn’t a single ride there, yet the visit was thrilling! I hope you make it there one day!

  6. Well I’ve just shared this post with Aimee and she has asked me to relay to you this message….I’M SOOOO JEALOUS!! I would say she is without doubt as huge a ‘Potterphile’ as yourself Veronique :).

    • Well, what can I say, Grace? Aimee has perfect taste 🙂 Tell her not to miss the Studios if she ever makes it to London. This was an incredible experience, and one of the highlights of my trip this summer.

  7. Un petit coucou du soir (ici).
    Your blog is always such a pleasure to read, dear Véronique! And thanks to you, I learned something new about Florida. I didn’t know Harry and his friends were featured in Orlando. Shame on the “Potterphile” I am.
    On my list… when I have time.
    I hope all is fine for you.
    Hugs from the West Coast,
    Anne

    • What??? Even if you don’t know, your kids must have heard of it! 🙂 And you are a Potterphile too. I tell you what: This is a great idea of a new design for your beautiful silk scarves. A Harry Potter edition for Christmas. Approach Warner Bros. If they decide to sell it in their stores, you can retire right now 🙂 Bonne chance, Anne.