A group of Norwegians and one Argentinian sit in an unremarkable train station in Watford, a town in Hertfordshire, the United Kingdom. They are joined by one Canadian, followed by three Brits. Somewhere, chugging along on an overground train, two Americans and another Canadian sit sheepishly. They did not check the schedule, and they are late.
Like any good story, this one must begin with the dramatis personae. This tale includes Ida, from Oslo, Norway; Jehiel, from Mar del Plata, Argentina; Emma, Emily, and Heather P., from York, Solihull, and Birmingham, England; Taryn, from Calgary, Canada; Joe, from Brussels, Belgium; and Heather L. (who you'll remember from the previous post) and her fiancé Bennett, from Boston, USA.
At the start of August, 2013, we decided to embark on an ambitious pilgrimage. We planned – from six countries in six time zones – to travel to the city we considered our mecca: Edinburgh, Scotland.
We began our trip in the unremarkable train station, where from Watford we travelled to the Warner Brothers’ studio where the Potter films were made. Heather, Bennett, and I were the late ones, and our arrival dampened what could have been a magical moment. Instead of emotional introductions after years of virtual contact, we rushed through our hugs and hellos and zipped off to the studios to make our tour in time.
That evening, dining in London, we were finally able to absorb being in one another’s presence. We learned what drinks people liked and the way they pronounced words. The following morning, we congregated at Platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. We boarded our train (from a different, less fictional platform) to Edinburgh and ate Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. Only later did we realize our trip bore more than an uncanny resemblance to Harry’s own journeys to Hogwarts.
Edinburgh is the city that broke all our hearts. Everything about it is a stunning juxtaposition of ancient, old, and new. We hiked Arthur’s Seat, a golden-green hill with crumbling red paths. At the top we saw a castle, a Parthenon, and rows upon rows of housing. I jumped into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest international arts festival in the world. We visited the café where J.K. Rowling wrote and gathered inspiration for the Potter books and the graveyard where she sampled names. We stood in the Balmoral Hotel, where Rowling said goodbye to Harry, where she signed a bust of Hermes marking the completion of the series, where she drank half a bottle of champagne and sobbed.
On this trip, Joe and I walked the Baker Street thoroughfare in London, indulging our penchant for Sherlock Holmes. Taryn and I explored the hallways of the BBC headquarters. Jehiel showed us his phoenix tattoo, the letters "FT" in the centre to honour the first two letters of our group’s name. Emma and I locked ourselves out of our Edinburgh flat, throwing rocks at the windows in an attempt to gain entry. Heather P. taught me invaluable lessons in tolerance and positivity. Emily and I ran away to Paris and Versailles.
At the very end of the Harry Potter Studio Tour, there is a room holding only an enormous model of Hogwarts Castle and its grounds. The lighting shifts with the seasons, highlighted by touching music from the various scores. We stood there for an hour, marvelling at how it looked so wonderfully real.
Raisa Patel is a writer, crafter and full-time geek. She enjoys baking cupcakes, advocating for social justice, and listing things in threes. Raisa is currently waiting for her Hogwarts letter, which she expects to receive any day now.