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Harry and Hagrid in Diagon Alley

Anyone who knows me at all knows about my undying love for everything Harry Potter. At age 90, I will remain hopeful that maybe my Hogwarts letter simply got lost in the mail. More realistically, though, I will be 90 and stuck wondering how in the world JK got all that wonderful imagination, planning and hard work down on paper with such grace. Needless to say, I spent a week in London and the only thing I can talk about (besides the food and cider and English language) is a Harry Potter walking tour!

On my first day in the city, I embarked on a Dickens/Shakespeare tour that turned out to be pretty lackluster. I had a better time wandering around Blackfriars, etc., on my own, pretending to be a seventeenth-century unwashed heartbroken bride, or whatever. The tour guide actually announced that her primary job is acting, but that she hadn’t found a role in awhile, and later stopped the tour to take a call from her agent. So—soot me up!—I had to do the Dickens and Shakespeare literary exploring on my own time, and with my pockets 9 pounds lighter.

But I ramble. My Harry Potter trivia knowledge history goes like this: I have read every book in full no less than four times, probably no more than seven, excluding partial skims (a process in which I cover my favorite parts). I have also read the first four books in French and the first book in Spanish. Whenever the tube conductor (is that the proper term?) announced Tottenham Court Road or Charing Cross, I nearly fainted of excitement and found it odd that no one else shouted, “Harry Potter went there!” Long story short: I am a complete nerd who, turned off by my first tour of the city, didn’t expect much from a tour of my all-time favorite subject.

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“And there he sits, munching and gnawing, and looking up at the great cross on the summit of St. Paul’s Cathedral, glittering above a red-and-violet-tinted cloud of smoke. From the boy’s face one might suppose that sacred emblem to be, in his eyes, the crowning confusion of the great, confused city–so golden, so high up, so far out of his reach.” Charles Dickens, Bleak House

As it turns out, however, this particular tour is actually remarkably entertaining and historical. I am glad to have given my walking shoes and tour-paying-budget a second chance, allowing me to leave London on a high note. The Harry Potter tour takes you by some great old pubs (some of which Dickens frequented, none of which are featured in the Shakespeare/Dickens walking tour), the Millenium Bridge, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe (or shall we say, replica), and the tour guide Richard was even enthusiastic enough to point out some Bridget Jones’ Diary scene sets. If Richard is an actor, his is a much better one than the other nameless lot. Richard either knows how to get his tips, or he is actually, truly, deeply enamored by historical London and its significance in film, literature and touristic pleasures. Richard the tour guide made us all feel like Harry in Diagon Alley, or the Weasley Twins on the verge of trouble (sorry, I couldn’t stop.)

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While I think adulthood is important on many levels (notably, learning to pay your bills, clean up after yourself and notice the people who surround you in this world), growing up can be quite overrated. In London, I spent boatloads of money on fancy teas and museums and “culture”, but what I will always remember is my starring performance, alongside Richard the tour guide, in a scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; the theme music Richard slyly played from under his coat as we entered Leadenhall Market; and the timely flick of his wrist as the crosswalk signal lit up to his shout, “Lumos!” Sometimes, it’s safe to walk backwards—to remember the joy and passion that come from a small childhood fantasy. Sometimes, that’s all we have to hold on to as the weather turns cold and wet (as it has here in Troyes.) Sometimes, our childhood remises (see previous post) are the only signs of the far-off existence of Spring. Excuse my abstraction; what I really mean to say is that, one day, I will receive my Hogwarts letter.

You may find more information about the Harry Potter tour led by Richard at LondonWalks. Considering my budget, this is obviously not a sponsored advert.

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