My Life, Travel

Diagon Ally VS. Hogsmeade Village – The Return

After we spent at a week in Palm Beach, resting and recuperating, we travelled back to Orlando ready for our flight home the next day. 


We stayed in ‘Staybridge Suites’. In our suite we had a big bedroom and a lounge area with a sofa bed, a TV, a counter with a mini kitchen. On the morning of the flight I woke up, nice and relaxed and well rested. We were planning to get up at 4am to be able to check out at 5am and catch our flight at 7am. 

Glancing at the clock I saw it was later than mom and dad had told me they would wake me. When my parents saw that I was awake, they came in and told me that our flight had been cancelled. 

We were due to fly from Orlando to Germany and then from Germany, back to Birmingham. However with the pilot strike happening our flight was postponed to the following day and now we were flying from Orlando back to New York then New York to Birmingham.

Now with a completely free day ahead of us, we decided to take advantage of the great opportunity and return to Universal Studios and venture back into Diagon Ally. Since we were unable to board the Hogwarts Express after visiting Hogsmeade Village, I have desperately wanted to go back and now I could.

Moving through the roads back into Universal Studios, we joined the crowds and headed into the theme park and got our tickets. Collecting our maps, we wondered through the park to the shows and attractions we went to one our last visit. 

Waiting, we attended another  ‘Blues Brothers’ show and once again I watched mom sing and dance along to the songs, still out of tune. They were happily immersed in the show so I took this opportunity to walk around and observe the goings on in the park. 

After enjoying it last time, dad wanted to go on the new Simpsons ride again. After we felt after last time, we respectfully declined. Arranging we would meet him after, mom and I walked around the sets behind the Simpsons ride which was featured in the TV series and had a bite to eat and drink.

Next we decided to go back on the rides which we went on when we were last here. First there was the Men in Black ride. Squashing into one car and going around the tracks, I tried to shoot as many aliens and creatures I could, and my score was higher, my dad still managed to beat me. Next was the Mummy ride, I just felt sick by the sight of the roller coaster but I got a grip on myself and climbed in with the help of my parents. 

Going to great heights and shooting back down into complete darkness, I was seized by the thrill that I felt last time I was on the ride. WOAH! We zoomed up ramps at high speed and then down again in a lot of water. Eww. 

The best and worst part of the ride was when we climbed up a very high track, where the carriage tilted backwards, leaving us suspended for a minute, then sent us flying through a dark pit, we then became upright again and flew at high speed down more tracks, before coming to a complete stop. Stomach in knots, I bent over the side, ready through up again.

Being kids, we searched for Shaggy and Scooby Doo. Joining the queue we saw Shaggy, Scooby Doo and the Mystery Inc. van. Maybe it was my imagination, but the queue seemed to be longer than when we were last here, full of adults and children a-like. 

After being in the queue for a while, mom and I finally got to the front and standing between Scooby and Shaggy and posed for the camera. Then mom wanted to pose for photographs with Shaggy and Scooby Doo alone and wouldn’t stopped posing and once again it was embarrassing and hilarious at same time!

We then journeyed back into Diagon Ally and I couldn’t stop bouncing up and down with excitement. Reaching the entrance to Diagon Ally, we stood and admired the life size model of Grimauld Place which of course was headquarters of the Order of Phoenix. 

I smiled as I saw Kreacher, the house elf peering out at people who walked by then hiding behind the curtains again. After taking a few photographs with the Knight Bus as a back drop we entered Diagon Alley. 

I know this probably wasn’t possible but I was even more excited this time when I stepped into the hidden wizarding street. Once again the quote from Harry Potter and The Philosopher Stone came into my head ‘Harry wishes he had eight more eyes’ I just couldn’t move, I just remained still soaking up the brilliant atmosphere.

Walking through the cobbled street, I found my way to the little ally way which I followed and that took me through to Knockturn Ally, and Borgin & Burkes. Fans and visitors could come and admire the set and experience the full impact of the shop by going in and looking around, buying the products and items that are on sale within the shop. 

Going into the shop I saw all of the props sold in the shop when in the films. There was spooky skulls to disembodied hands and eyeballs in jars. Though I’d seen this before, I couldn’t resist looking around and finding it very creepy.  

Venturing back from Knockturn Ally into Diagon Alley, I felt the atmosphere change subtly, clearing, becoming lighter and less compressed, though that may of just been my imagination. 

Standing on the edge of Diagon Alley, I felt my eyes grow wide at the sets featured there. The sets were exactly where their replacer was positioned in the films, such accuracy, it was clear that everyone involved in the creation had studied the exact place of each shop to make it more realistic, it was incredible. 

Shaking from my excitement, I weaved in and out the crowds to get further into the street, soaking up to brilliant atmosphere with every movement. There was Quality Quidditch Supplies, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, Eyelops Owl Emporium, Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, Flourish & Blotts and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.

Architects and designers had clearly studied the sets carefully and precisely. All of the interior and exterior was so rich in detail and designed to the last detail to much accuracy. Stepping inside each of the shops, I couldn’t help but stop and look in amazement. The interior of each shop was incredible. 

All of the shops were designed with the exact colours they used the films. Then there were drawings and paintings and carvings in the wall, which were featured in the films to set the scene even further. A number of items in each shop were placed in locked cabinets to showcase them, similar to the film’s portrayal of the shop. It felt so realistic, I felt a camera was going to appear, ready to shoot a scene and we were going to be asked to participate. Deluded thoughts, I know. 

Having been into Quality Quidditch Supplies, I took the time to admire everything on sale. We visited Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions next. Here is concentrated on the detail on each and every robe on sale in this shop. 

There was the different quidditch robes which belonged to each of the four Hogwarts quidditch teams. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.  Then directly beside this was all the robes belonging to all four houses. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. 

As I was so excited last time I came here, I neglected to notice that each robe sold in the shop had one of the four house crests on one side of the robe, in plain sight. All the crests were that of their house colours and the animal significant to their house, perfect for everyone, despite their house. 

Skipping Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment and peering in the window of the Eyelops Owl Emporium, seeing the little perches which models of owls, including Hedwig sat. We finally headed into Flourish & Blotts. Glancing around, I saw various books in locked cabinets on display for us to look at. 

Walking in one direction we saw copies of all the textbooks that were brought by students each year. It felt really weird to hold actual copies of the school books in my hands. One of which has been made into a successful film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”. 

Then I turned my attention to looking at the original Harry Potter novels. Having already brought the special editions of the original books, I took time to flick through each and admire them all, one at a time. 

Feeling peckish, we decided to go back to Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and had more of the delicious ice cream sundaes. Having had sundaes here on our previous visitors, we couldn’t decide between these and the others on sale. 

After hard decisions, we decided to order our favorite one which we had last time, then two new ones and share them. Perfect in the hot weather.

We saved the best shop for last. Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Being  their shop, Fred and George’s personality and sense of humor seemed to be reflected in the themes of their shop. 

The architecture, design and carvings were all shown in the shop as they were in the films. All of the models and decorations were there to set the scene even further. It was amazing. 

All of the merchandise Fred & George designed, created and sold such as ‘puking pastels’ and ‘skiving snackboxes’ were stacked on shelves which fans could purchase. The items and models in and on display in the shop were also on sale. Having already brought a lot of the merchandise sold in the shops, I just sat in the shop and soaked up the atmosphere of this incredible shop.

Stepping once again into Olivander’s wand shop, we spent time looking at the different wands. The more I looked at them, the more I did realise that the wands did reflect traits of their owner’s personality. 

According to the shop assistants, who knew all about the different wands, the character’s personality had influence on the way their wand was crafted and carved. Glancing around the theme park, I saw a range of the different wands being used. 

Fans using the normal wands were casting make-believe spells, waving their wand randomly, while other fans were using the interactive one, speaking incantations and completing correct wand movements. It was quite interesting to watch.

We took some time to stroll through the cobbled street of Diagon Alley, soaking up the atmosphere and hot weather if the day. Approaching Gringotts Bank, we saw the large model of the fire breathing dragon perched on top. Getting closer, I could feel the heat that the dragon’s fire, it was incredible. It really did remind me of  the dragon featured in Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2. 

Journeying into Gringotts Bank, I admired the magnitude and detail of the inside. Glancing around we saw animatronic goblins positioned behind each desk in the bank to represent the goblins at the bank. As we walked in, the goblins seemed to turn to look in our direction, reacting to our movements. 

At the big, centre desk was a taller goblin which also moved in our direction when sensing us. It also spoke to us, saying random sentences which didn’t make total sense, but it was amusing all the same. Following the passage around and venturing lower in the bank, we found ourselves in a set of vaults, similar to Bellatrix Lestrange’s. At the very end of the passage was a themed ride, connected to Harry Potter’s adventure in Gringotts Bank. ’Escape From Gringotts’. I loved this ride the last time I was here and couldn’t wait to ride it again. Getting onto a roller-coaster, we accompany Harry Ron and Hermione on their quest to retrieve the Horcrox. 

The carriage responds to the things, happening on screen in front of us. Voldermolt and Bellatrix appear and demand to know where Harry is, then points wands at us, causing the carriage to tilt and go down hill at high speed, sending us deeper into the vaults. It was like a 3D experience, spinning and zig zagging down and around the tracks. We them got splashed with water after a spell bounced back on us from the screen. 

Straining vocal cords from the amount of screaming, we were pulled up to the surface by the dragon. Coming to a final stop, we caught our breath and found our way back into the fresh air. 

The end of the day approaching, we decided to walk around Diagon Ally one last time. Not being able to resist we wondered in each shop to buy any merchandise that I had failed to buy, if that was even possible.  

Seeing that The Leaky Cauldron was open we decided to try more Butter Beer. Finally getting to the front of the queue, I ignored the option of the original Butter Beer and ordered the frozen one. Sipping at it, I soaked up the last of the tremendous atmosphere. 

Glancing at all of my new souvenirs and remembering what I brought on our last visit, I still felt I was missing something. Eyes probing the shops, they came to rest on Olivander’s wand shop. I was missing a wand. Running in, I looked over all of the wands on display and the ones up for sale. 

Already having an idea of which in my head, I examined them closely to try to make my decision. The choice was between Hermione and Dumbledore’s wands. Very tough. After much consideration, I emptied out the rest of my money bag and decided to buy Dumbledore’s wand. 

Hooking more bags full of souvenirs onto the back of my chair, I clutched the Elder wand, the most powerful wand in the world and left the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Leaving Diagon Ally and heading towards the Universal Studios exit, we decided to enjoy the light and sound show. The show was amazing. I just sat back and watched, appreciating every single part of it. 

I enjoyed it even more the second time around, it seemed to be a bigger show full of more fireworks than I’ve ever seen. All the fireworks were with of different colours, sizes and patterns, going off everywhere. 

Actually, it felt like a little piece of magic in itself. A stolen day and a perfect end to a incredible holiday.

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