"It's LevioSA"... HP Tour Day 2

Trip Start May 23, 2009
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Trip End Jul 20, 2009


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Saturday, July 11, 2009

SATURDAY, JULY 11

On Day 2 of our Harry Potter adventure we had breakfast at the hotel before boarding the coach to go to Alnwick Castle. I was under the impression that the drive wouldn't be too long and was surprised when one of our first stretch breaks was on the border of Scotland and England! There was a small little snack booth where, according to our tour guide Heather, you could even get your passport stamped! From there, Alnwick wasn’t too far.



Alnwick Castle is the residence of the Duke of Northumberland for part of the year and used as a museum and wedding/tourist destination, and has a treehouse restaurant and a garden. The HP significance of Alnwick (pronounced "Anick," btw) is that they used it as a filming location for Hogwarts in the 1st two movies. We walked around a little but then got lunch since we had lots of time before our tour began. After lunch we went to Dragon Quest, the kids area of the castle, where my brother and I dressed up in medieval costumes and then looked around at the different exhibits and games. My favorite part of Dragon Quest was the funhouse-like exhibit that had talking skeletons, a spinning chamber, and a dragon that blew smoke! It was pretty funny.



We then met up with the “Magical History Tour” (it used to be called the Harry Potter tour but Warner Bros had a problem with that and told them to change it) where our tour guide pointed out all of the locations used in the films including an entrance to Hogwarts, Hagrid’s Hut and the entrance to the Forbidden Forest, where the flying car in COS crashed into the Whomping Willow, where Harry learned to fly, and where Ron insulted Hermione (“it’s leviOsa, not levioSA”) causing her to run into the bathroom with the troll in SS. It was so cool to be there and the grounds were very recognizable. Upon reviewing the movie it’s pretty crazy how much of the scenery and surrounding areas had been CGI-ed (parts of the castle were added, scenery taken out, etc.) We also found out that our tour guide, an Alnwick native, had been an extra in the film! He said that the producers had come to his primary school and asked if anyone wanted to be in the first Harry Potter film! He was 12 and mainly did it so that he didn’t have to go to school for three weeks since he hadn’t read the books at that point. We asked if he was on the Quidditch picture on the castle wall and he pointed out his ear and also explained how a few of the Alnwick employees had been extras in the film and he was a body double for Tom Felton when he had to use the bathroom! They even got ₤500! Personally, I’d pay just to be on the HP set.



After the HP tour finished we took the historic tour of the castle that told us about the castle. It was pretty cool and the castle was celebrating its 700 anniversary this year! It was a nice castle but I was a little put off by the taxidermy dogs in the rooms; there were 5 and the Duchess seemed really into it because in another picture she was holding a taxidermy duck – but who am to judge a Duchess’s hobbies? It was interesting to learn that the 1st Duchess who lived there had a stream/river moved back a few feet because she couldn’t see the original from her window.



David wanted to try the archery that was offered so we went to the archery spot and were the last family before he closed for the day and went home. The archery instructor was really funny and joked around with us a lot; he told me that I looked like trouble when we got there. My dad went first and had impressive archery skills – he’s pretty good at just about every sport he tries. The archer then challenged my brother about how he was going to compare and he did well but my dad had done better. The instructor saved me for last and while I was putting on the arm guard he pulled my dad aside and talked to him (later I found out he told him to keep the camera rolling). When I was ready he set me up with a bow and taught me how to line everything up.



I lined up and shot my arrow and it sped towards the target before going up and past the target and hitting the green screen a good deal behind it. My second arrow was also a major fail and didn’t go near the target. Then the archer gave me the baby bow as a joke and asked if he should be nice to me. I said, “Yes, please,” and when he asked me why I told him that I was trying my best. He said ok and then informed me that he had given me a left-handed bow and that made it impossible for me to hit the target. When he went to get a new bow he told me to retrieve the first two that were on the ground. I scampered over.



Basically there’s a big green tarp that’s maybe two or three feet behind the targets and then two different targets with corresponding lanes. There were three ropes that stretched horizontally across the tarp. So, to reiterate, I scampered over to retrieve the arrows and discovered that there were really only two ropes along the back tarp and that the third rope connected the two targets. I found this out by running straight into the rope; it hit me on the forehead and I fell on my back. It gave everyone a pretty good laugh and is conveniently caught on tape. I managed to finish up the rest of my arrows and did well but not exceptional by any means. When my mom went to take a picture of me with my bullseye the guy said that it wouldn’t do and plucked my arrows from the target and put them all respectively in the middle. It was good fun.



We then went to check out this really neat tree-house café that some others had told us about and took a tree walk (that was not as high as the one at Egeskov) before heading back towards the main entrance to meet our group for dinner. We ate at the castle restaurant, The Sanctuary, and the food was really good. Of course our dinner conversation revolved around HP and Heather told us about one of her good friends who went to school with J.K. Rowling and said that the teachers in the books were just like those they had in school! It was really neat to learn that they were (loosely) based off of real people.



Later that night we listened to a Scottish storyteller named David who was really cool. He was in a kilt and told us old Scottish folktales; he even taught us the chorus of a song and we all sang in the hotel sitting room!
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