St Pancras Renaissance
St Pancras Renaissance
A Hogwartian Weekend - London, England
There are two varieties of grownup when it comes to Harry Potter. You either love JK Rowling’s creation, that has sold over four hundred and fifty million book copies and is the highest grossing film series of all time, or you are - let’s face it - a muggle. I’m a huge fan of the magic, the ever darkening storylines, winter scenes at Hogwarts and, most of all, I adore Dobby. And for us enthusiasts, young and slightly older, there’s one current topic of excitement - the opening of the Warner Brothers’ Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour. At Leavesden Studios, where the movies were made, the tour gives you the chance to spend time immersed in the world of Harry Potter – seeing the sets, costumes, and props as well as learning the secrets of the special effects.
But what’s the best way to start the day that will see you walking down Diagon Alley? I would advise waking up in London’s most Hogwartian hotel, the St Pancras Renaissance. With its high arched windows, spires and famous clock tower, the hotel - designed by George Gilbert Scott in 1873 - feels like part of a film set. It is a location loved by movie cameras and has appeared in, not only Bridget Jones and Batman, but scenes from the Harry Potter movies - yes, the blue car took off from just outside the hotel (for me, this was only eclipsed by finding out that Wannabe had been filmed on the Grand Staircase).
A carefully chosen room – such as a concourse view Chambers Suite – will enable you to wake up to a sweeping view of, perhaps not Platform Nine and Three Quarters but, the sexiest terminus in Europe and you can watch the Eurostar set off on its continental journey.
Downstairs, the Booking Room Restaurant and Bar are part of the former Midland Station and are perfect for feasting Grand Hall style. Punch, made from a recipe by Charles Dickens, and cocktails, including the Silver Diamond (a delicious jubilee celebration drink featuring King’s Ginger Cordial, cherry liqueur, fresh lemon and, you guessed it, lashings of gin) are served in Victorian cut glass. There’s a classic English menu and you absolutely must try the parmesan and truffle chips.
Next morning, you are within a few minutes’ walk of Euston and the train to Watford Junction where the double-decker Harry Potter bus awaits you. The tour is absolutely breathtaking, not only for Harry Potter Fans but, for anybody who wants to gain an understanding of the amount of painstaking work by so many people (four thousand over ten years, for Harry Potter) that goes into making a film. You experience grandeur in the Great Hall and at the Hogwarts Gates but also minute detail such as the selection, from London’s flea markets, of each individual piece of Dolores Umbrige’s feline crockery. Learning the secrets of visual effects you can fly a broomstick against a green screen whilst in the Creature Shop, Buckbeak bows and I excitedly squeaked as Dobby was brought to life. Outside in the backlot, pose on Hagrid’s motorbike, aboard the Knight Bus, in the flying car, and walk along Privet Drive and the Hogwarts Bridge.
For me, the most compelling part was seeing the artwork: from the initial sketches to the architecturally precise models and full colour paintings that eventually became scenes. The hand crafted model of Hogwarts takes up an entire room in its magnificence. It’s mesmerising watching it change from day to night and through the seasons.
My final piece of advice? Butterbeer is very much an acquired taste.