In just a few days, the Warner Bros Studio Tour opens its first major expansion: Platform 9 3/4 complete with the original Hogwarts Express. To my complete surprise and utter delight, I was invited to come along to a preview of the new additions and be one of the very first to experience the magic of the platform!
Of course, Leona came along. We'd had to rush through Hogwarts in the Snow back in February so we were delighted to have an opportunity to have four hours to explore the practically-empty studios.
You know how I said it was practically empty? Look at it! It was amazing to be able to see all the sets without crowds. I found I could get up really close to the props without being in anybody's way and spend as long as I liked at any one vantage point.
One of the most exciting details is the steam that flows out, accompanied by that familiar whoo! call of the whistle.
However, the unrivalled best part is that you can actually board the Hogwarts Express and walk all the way down. It's a very narrow walkway and, although each compartment displays props from a different film, it's difficult to stop and take photos because the people behind you can't get past.
Never fear, though, because you have the opportunity to sit inside an open-front compartment as if travelling towards the school. On the mirror on the wall, you can see how the British Rail logo is showing through the Hogwarts sticker.
Also on the platform is the wonderful Railway Shop, where you can buy all sorts of Hogwarts Express merchandise not found in the main store. I'll definitely be picking up the Platform 9 3/4 Christmas decoration next time!
On the way out of the platform, which leads directly into the Backlot Cafe, you can find the cabinet filled with all the graphic design-based props. This pleased me immensely as it's one of my favourite parts of the tour and I'd assumed the display had been taken down when I couldn't see it for my past few trips.
I don't want to alarm anybody but Satan's been visiting Gringotts...
After a surreal experience in a completely deserted Diagon Alley, we had a good old nose at the wands in Ollivander's. The man in there, who admitted to us that he wasn't a "wand expert" had an insane amount of interesting information on the cast and crew featured on each box. He even helped us find Alan Rickman's box although he wasn't entirely sure where to find it so had to radio and ask "Where can I find Alan Rickman's wand?" which cracked me up!
Finally, we visited the gift shop which was eerily empty (We may have been the last people to leave!) Since it was so quiet, we had time to really browse the shelves and I discovered that many of the storage and decorative items in there are original props from the film. For example, the bookcases that hold all the book and stationery souvenirs were originally used for filming in the library.