Searching for Harry Potter in and around London

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London.

by Richard Berner, San Diego, CA

Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Muggles, Quidditch: if you’ve heard any of these strange-sounding words from your children or grandchildren, chances are they are fans of the best-selling Harry Potter books. Our 9-year-old grandson, Marcus, greatly enjoyed them and he and I read most of the series together.

Five of the books have been made into successful motion pictures, and Marcus and I traveled to the London area in April ’08 to visit some of the locations used in the films.

Beginning in Bath

We arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on a nonstop American Airlines flight from Los Angeles. After catching a National Express bus from Heathrow to Bath (£48.75 round trip for us both), we walked from the Bath bus station to the Parade Park hotel (8-10 N Parade Passage; phone +44 [0] 1225 46 34 84, www.paradepark.co.uk), where our room cost £80 per night.

Dinner was at the nearby Huntsman Inn (1 Terrace Walk). Marcus had fish and chips and I had a chicken appetizer with a pint of ale for a total bill of £17. The value of the pound hovered around $2 on this trip, making mental currency conversion easy but painful. Returning to our room, we watched a DVD of one of the Harry Potter (henceforth, HP) movies on my laptop computer.

Stone circles

The next morning we were scheduled for the guided “Stonehenge & Avebury Stone Circles” full-day tour with Mad Max Tours (phone 07990 505970, www.madmax.abel.co.uk). The minibus was full, with 16 people.

We chose a beautiful, clear day for our ride on the London Eye.

Our driver, Charles, pointed out ancient burial mounds in fields as we drove to our first destination, Stonehenge. Marcus was impressed with Stonehenge, although he thought it would be bigger.

There was an archaeological dig in progress among the stones there and a display on site regarding the dig. Admission to Stonehenge was not included in the price of our full-day tour (£27.50 adult or £13.75 child), costing an additional £6.50 and £3.30, respectively.

Next we went to the much larger stone circle at Avebury, where the stones are more naturally shaped than those at Stonehenge. I enjoyed this site more than Stonehenge, as visitors can walk among the stones and touch them.

Some stones are missing, as they were used as building material over the centuries, while others were destroyed or buried in the Middle Ages, since the church regarded the site as a pagan temple.

Village visits

Along the way to the village of Lacock, our next stop, Charles pointed out the white horses of Wiltshire, large representations of horses etched into the underlying chalk layer of the hillsides nearly 300 years ago. We also drove by Silbury Hill, an earthen mound that is the largest man-made prehistoric object in Europe.

In Lacock, all the buildings date from the 13th to 18th centuries and are owned by the National Trust, which leases the stores and houses there to the residents. Charles pointed out a few locations that appeared in the HP films, including Harry’s parent’s house, a graveyard and a section of street used as the magical village of Hogsmeade.

According to the HP novels, it was necessary to push a luggage cart through the wall to reach Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station. Photo by Marcus Rice

While the rest of our group had lunch at the historic George Inn, dating from 1362, Marcus and I walked to Lacock Abbey, where we saw the cloisters, hallways and rooms that were used as sets in the first two HP films. Scenes from the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice” also were filmed in Lacock.

The picturesque Cotswold village of Castle Combe was last on our tour schedule. During our brief visit it was undergoing some cosmetic changes, as it was to be used as a location for a new Anthony Hopkins movie, “The Wolfman.” The original “Doctor Dolittle,” with Rex Harrison, was filmed there 40 years before.

This was my third time using Mad Max Tours and I highly recommend them. I have had three different guides, including the owner, Maddy, and all have been excellent. (The company name refers to Maddy’s dog, Max, not to their style of driving or the Mel Gibson movie.)

Back in Bath, Marcus had dinner at a Subway sandwich shop and later accompanied me to Tilleys Bistro (3 N Parade Passage; phone 01225 484200, www.tilleysbistro.co.uk), where I had an excellent pork loin dinner, a daily special, with wine for £15. Following dinner, we watched more of the HP DVDs on my laptop and enjoyed seeing scenes filmed in the locations we had visited earlier in the day.

Touring Bath

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we packed up, left our luggage at the hotel and walked a few blocks to visit the Roman baths. The baths were neglected after the Romans left the area in the fifth century, and eventually they were covered up as the city grew around them.

Rediscovered in the 19th century, the site was excavated and later made into a museum. Admission (£10.50 adult or £6.80 child) included a live guided tour of the baths and an audio guide for the baths and the museum with a special sound track for children. New since the last time I visited this site was additional commentary by the travel writer Bill Bryson.

On to London

We took the noon bus back to London via Heathrow. At Victoria Station I bought an Oyster Travel Card, one of London’s best deals. For our six days in the city, I spent a reasonable £24 plus an initial fee of £6 for all our tube and bus transportation throughout central London. Marcus rode free with me.

The more attractive St. Pancras Station stood in for the industrial-looking King’s Cross Station in the Harry Potter films. Photo by Marcus Rice

We took the Underground to Bayswater Station on Queensway and walked to the Caring Hotel (24 Craven Hill Gardens; phone 020 7262 8708, www.caringhotel.com). I had stayed at this hotel several times before, so they gave me a repeat-customer discount off their rate of £68 per night.

The Caring Hotel is a budget hotel that won’t be confused with a 5-star Hilton, but it met our needs. I had reserved a family room that had three beds and facilities en suite. An English breakfast was included in the rate.

After settling in, we had dinner at Bella Italia Restaurant (phone 020 77929992), located in Whiteleys shopping complex (151 Queensway). The children’s plates, which included a drink and dessert, cost £4.50. I had one of the daily pasta specials with garlic bread and a glass of wine for £16.

Bella Italia is a chain of Italian restaurants with many locations in London. We ate there three times, as it was Marcus’ favorite.

HP landmarks

While in London, we visited and photographed several locations from the HP films. At King’s Cross train station we saw Platform 9¾, the fictional departure point for the Hogwarts Express, the vintage steam train that took Harry to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The overhead walkway at King’s Cross is where Hagrid, Hogwarts’ gamekeeper and Harry’s friend, gave Harry his ticket for the train.

We also looked at the much more attractive St. Pancras Station, used in the movie as the exterior of King’s Cross. It is a fine-looking brick building dating from 1868.

Our visit to the London Zoo included the 1927 Reptile House, shown in the first HP film as the place where Harry discovered he could speak to snakes. Leadenhall Market on Gracechurch Street was where Hagrid took Harry to buy his school supplies for Hogwarts.

Other famous landmarks we saw in London also appeared in the films, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the River Thames and several Thames bridges. One of London’s distinctive red telephone booths was used as the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Even the Underground made an appearance in the films.

Other city sights

In addition to seeing the HP sites, we went to several other attractions in London. I had bought combo tickets (£33.25 and £23.75, respectively) for the Wax Museum and the London Eye prior to leaving home. At Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the sports figures were Marcus’ favorites, and we both greatly enjoyed the wonderful view during our 30-minute ride on the London Eye. We chose a beautiful day with great visibility.

The Roman baths in Bath were constructed between the first and fifth centuries.

We visited the Dalí Universe, an exhibition in the nearby County Hall Gallery, as Marcus had recently done a school report on him. There is a Picasso exhibit in the same building.

For a good overview of London, we took the double-decker Big Bus Tour (www.bigbustours.com). The tour price (£22 and £10) included a narrated cruise to Greenwich on the Thames, which we did the following day.

At Greenwich, Marcus and I walked up the steep hill to the Royal Observatory and discussed the Prime Meridian. However, I think what he liked best was rolling down the grassy hill with the other children there.

We went to see “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theatre, as I thought Marcus would appreciate the creative staging of the play. We also visited the British Museum (free entry), where the Egyptian exhibits and mummies were highlights for him. I was impressed that Marcus knew the significance of the Rosetta Stone.

During our trip to the Science Museum (free entry), he enjoyed the hands-on interactive exhibits.

A final day

On our last day, we took a local train to Hampton Court Palace and walked through the 300-year-old hedge maze in the gardens. We had a good time and made many wrong turns before we found our way out. The on-site restaurant in the gardens, Tiltyard Café, was a good spot for an informal lunch (£15 for two).

We finished our last full day with a stop at some of the cluttered shops along Queensway for gifts and souvenirs. Marcus’ favorite trip memento was a football jersey from Arsenal, his number-one English soccer team.

Dining out

Leadenhall Market appeared in the first HP film. It was where Hagrid took Harry to buy his school supplies.

In addition to Bella Italia, we ate at Oscars (phone 0871 0753911), a Mexican restaurant located in Whiteleys shopping complex (£18 for two). We had fish and chips at the friendly Prince Alfred pub (112 Queensway; phone 020 7229 1474), where we shared one plate for £7.50 plus our drinks. The no-smoking rule in pubs makes them a lot more enjoyable for both children and adults.

Halepi (18 Leinster Terrace; phone 020 7262 1070), a Greek restaurant, had good chicken kebabs for two for £30, with wine.

On our last morning, we walked 15 minutes to Paddington Station and rode 25 minutes on the Heathrow Connect train (www.heathrowconnect.com) to the airport (£6.90).

This trip was a wonderful opportunity to introduce my grandson to international travel, and we had a great time. If anyone has questions or comments, e-mail me c/o ITN. Marcus’ blog on this trip can be found at www.marcusadventure.blogspot.com.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
London.

by Richard Berner, San Diego, CA

Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Muggles, Quidditch: if you’ve heard any of these strange-sounding words from your children or grandchildren, chances are they are fans of the best-selling Harry Potter books. Our 9-year-old grandson, Marcus, greatly enjoyed them and he and I read most of the series together.

Five of the books have been made into successful motion pictures, and Marcus and I traveled to the London area in April ’08 to visit some of the locations used in the films.

Beginning in Bath

We arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on a nonstop American Airlines flight from Los Angeles. After catching a National Express bus from Heathrow to Bath (£48.75 round trip for us both), we walked from the Bath bus station to the Parade Park hotel (8-10 N Parade Passage; phone +44 [0] 1225 46 34 84, www.paradepark.co.uk), where our room cost £80 per night.

Dinner was at the nearby Huntsman Inn (1 Terrace Walk). Marcus had fish and chips and I had a chicken appetizer with a pint of ale for a total bill of £17. The value of the pound hovered around $2 on this trip, making mental currency conversion easy but painful. Returning to our room, we watched a DVD of one of the Harry Potter (henceforth, HP) movies on my laptop computer.

Stone circles

The next morning we were scheduled for the guided “Stonehenge & Avebury Stone Circles” full-day tour with Mad Max Tours (phone 07990 505970, www.madmax.abel.co.uk). The minibus was full, with 16 people.

We chose a beautiful, clear day for our ride on the London Eye.

Our driver, Charles, pointed out ancient burial mounds in fields as we drove to our first destination, Stonehenge. Marcus was impressed with Stonehenge, although he thought it would be bigger.

There was an archaeological dig in progress among the stones there and a display on site regarding the dig. Admission to Stonehenge was not included in the price of our full-day tour (£27.50 adult or £13.75 child), costing an additional £6.50 and £3.30, respectively.

Next we went to the much larger stone circle at Avebury, where the stones are more naturally shaped than those at Stonehenge. I enjoyed this site more than Stonehenge, as visitors can walk among the stones and touch them.

Some stones are missing, as they were used as building material over the centuries, while others were destroyed or buried in the Middle Ages, since the church regarded the site as a pagan temple.

Village visits

Along the way to the village of Lacock, our next stop, Charles pointed out the white horses of Wiltshire, large representations of horses etched into the underlying chalk layer of the hillsides nearly 300 years ago. We also drove by Silbury Hill, an earthen mound that is the largest man-made prehistoric object in Europe.

In Lacock, all the buildings date from the 13th to 18th centuries and are owned by the National Trust, which leases the stores and houses there to the residents. Charles pointed out a few locations that appeared in the HP films, including Harry’s parent’s house, a graveyard and a section of street used as the magical village of Hogsmeade.

According to the HP novels, it was necessary to push a luggage cart through the wall to reach Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station. Photo by Marcus Rice

While the rest of our group had lunch at the historic George Inn, dating from 1362, Marcus and I walked to Lacock Abbey, where we saw the cloisters, hallways and rooms that were used as sets in the first two HP films. Scenes from the BBC production of “Pride and Prejudice” also were filmed in Lacock.

The picturesque Cotswold village of Castle Combe was last on our tour schedule. During our brief visit it was undergoing some cosmetic changes, as it was to be used as a location for a new Anthony Hopkins movie, “The Wolfman.” The original “Doctor Dolittle,” with Rex Harrison, was filmed there 40 years before.

This was my third time using Mad Max Tours and I highly recommend them. I have had three different guides, including the owner, Maddy, and all have been excellent. (The company name refers to Maddy’s dog, Max, not to their style of driving or the Mel Gibson movie.)

Back in Bath, Marcus had dinner at a Subway sandwich shop and later accompanied me to Tilleys Bistro (3 N Parade Passage; phone 01225 484200, www.tilleysbistro.co.uk), where I had an excellent pork loin dinner, a daily special, with wine for £15. Following dinner, we watched more of the HP DVDs on my laptop and enjoyed seeing scenes filmed in the locations we had visited earlier in the day.

Touring Bath

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we packed up, left our luggage at the hotel and walked a few blocks to visit the Roman baths. The baths were neglected after the Romans left the area in the fifth century, and eventually they were covered up as the city grew around them.

Rediscovered in the 19th century, the site was excavated and later made into a museum. Admission (£10.50 adult or £6.80 child) included a live guided tour of the baths and an audio guide for the baths and the museum with a special sound track for children. New since the last time I visited this site was additional commentary by the travel writer Bill Bryson.

On to London

We took the noon bus back to London via Heathrow. At Victoria Station I bought an Oyster Travel Card, one of London’s best deals. For our six days in the city, I spent a reasonable £24 plus an initial fee of £6 for all our tube and bus transportation throughout central London. Marcus rode free with me.

The more attractive St. Pancras Station stood in for the industrial-looking King’s Cross Station in the Harry Potter films. Photo by Marcus Rice

We took the Underground to Bayswater Station on Queensway and walked to the Caring Hotel (24 Craven Hill Gardens; phone 020 7262 8708, www.caringhotel.com). I had stayed at this hotel several times before, so they gave me a repeat-customer discount off their rate of £68 per night.

The Caring Hotel is a budget hotel that won’t be confused with a 5-star Hilton, but it met our needs. I had reserved a family room that had three beds and facilities en suite. An English breakfast was included in the rate.

After settling in, we had dinner at Bella Italia Restaurant (phone 020 77929992), located in Whiteleys shopping complex (151 Queensway). The children’s plates, which included a drink and dessert, cost £4.50. I had one of the daily pasta specials with garlic bread and a glass of wine for £16.

Bella Italia is a chain of Italian restaurants with many locations in London. We ate there three times, as it was Marcus’ favorite.

HP landmarks

While in London, we visited and photographed several locations from the HP films. At King’s Cross train station we saw Platform 9¾, the fictional departure point for the Hogwarts Express, the vintage steam train that took Harry to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The overhead walkway at King’s Cross is where Hagrid, Hogwarts’ gamekeeper and Harry’s friend, gave Harry his ticket for the train.

We also looked at the much more attractive St. Pancras Station, used in the movie as the exterior of King’s Cross. It is a fine-looking brick building dating from 1868.

Our visit to the London Zoo included the 1927 Reptile House, shown in the first HP film as the place where Harry discovered he could speak to snakes. Leadenhall Market on Gracechurch Street was where Hagrid took Harry to buy his school supplies for Hogwarts.

Other famous landmarks we saw in London also appeared in the films, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the River Thames and several Thames bridges. One of London’s distinctive red telephone booths was used as the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Even the Underground made an appearance in the films.

Other city sights

In addition to seeing the HP sites, we went to several other attractions in London. I had bought combo tickets (£33.25 and £23.75, respectively) for the Wax Museum and the London Eye prior to leaving home. At Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the sports figures were Marcus’ favorites, and we both greatly enjoyed the wonderful view during our 30-minute ride on the London Eye. We chose a beautiful day with great visibility.

The Roman baths in Bath were constructed between the first and fifth centuries.

We visited the Dalí Universe, an exhibition in the nearby County Hall Gallery, as Marcus had recently done a school report on him. There is a Picasso exhibit in the same building.

For a good overview of London, we took the double-decker Big Bus Tour (www.bigbustours.com). The tour price (£22 and £10) included a narrated cruise to Greenwich on the Thames, which we did the following day.

At Greenwich, Marcus and I walked up the steep hill to the Royal Observatory and discussed the Prime Meridian. However, I think what he liked best was rolling down the grassy hill with the other children there.

We went to see “The Lion King” at the Lyceum Theatre, as I thought Marcus would appreciate the creative staging of the play. We also visited the British Museum (free entry), where the Egyptian exhibits and mummies were highlights for him. I was impressed that Marcus knew the significance of the Rosetta Stone.

During our trip to the Science Museum (free entry), he enjoyed the hands-on interactive exhibits.

A final day

On our last day, we took a local train to Hampton Court Palace and walked through the 300-year-old hedge maze in the gardens. We had a good time and made many wrong turns before we found our way out. The on-site restaurant in the gardens, Tiltyard Café, was a good spot for an informal lunch (£15 for two).

We finished our last full day with a stop at some of the cluttered shops along Queensway for gifts and souvenirs. Marcus’ favorite trip memento was a football jersey from Arsenal, his number-one English soccer team.

Dining out

Leadenhall Market appeared in the first HP film. It was where Hagrid took Harry to buy his school supplies.

In addition to Bella Italia, we ate at Oscars (phone 0871 0753911), a Mexican restaurant located in Whiteleys shopping complex (£18 for two). We had fish and chips at the friendly Prince Alfred pub (112 Queensway; phone 020 7229 1474), where we shared one plate for £7.50 plus our drinks. The no-smoking rule in pubs makes them a lot more enjoyable for both children and adults.

Halepi (18 Leinster Terrace; phone 020 7262 1070), a Greek restaurant, had good chicken kebabs for two for £30, with wine.

On our last morning, we walked 15 minutes to Paddington Station and rode 25 minutes on the Heathrow Connect train (www.heathrowconnect.com) to the airport (£6.90).

This trip was a wonderful opportunity to introduce my grandson to international travel, and we had a great time. If anyone has questions or comments, e-mail me c/o ITN. Marcus’ blog on this trip can be found at www.marcusadventure.blogspot.com.