Tina got married last month. Instead of a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” trip, she opted for a “bachelorette” weekend at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (TM) at Universal Studios outside of LA [henceforth referred to as “HPWorld”]. Also, she planned everything: including organizing the dates for seven people, booking an AirBnb, and buying all the tickets to HPWorld.
Oh, also, she booked plane tickets for the two of us because hell if we were driving down through the central valley. We’d probably just die in the desert. So last Friday, we were travel buddies on the short flight from SFO to LAX with some “Oriental” snack mix to keep us occupied.
Guess who picked us up at the airport? Our high school friend Dorothy, whom I last saw on WVT! We drove an incredibly circuitous route from LAX to our AirBnb in Hollywood, our home for the next 36 hours. Our little unit was plastered with black-and-white photos of Marilyn Monroe and decorated with crystal wall-hangings, fake Oscar statuettes, and hairy pillows and rugs that shed a lot. It also had a depressing windowless closet-turned-bedroom that I dubbed “murder room” that a few people got to sleep in.
The rest of our party (Brooke, Camey, Iris, and Daniella) arrived after we had eaten dinner and were in PJS, watching the Olympics (of course). I had only met one of them, Brooke, but I was sure we’d all get along knowing that Tina was the common link. The next day, we got up early and were ready for our adventure at HPWorld!
Based on advice from previous attendees, we made a bee-line for Ollivander’s wandshop where there is a small show about getting picked for your wand. Tina and Camey were selected as audience participants, which was hokey and fun–they “made” lights turn on and bookshelves move inside a darkened room filled with wand boxes.
Sorry, these photos suck because it was so dark. And also because I am a terrible photographer. I tried to get one of Tina looked with wonderment at all the boxes of wands, but….she just kind of looks like “What is wand?”
We bought Tina a wand to commemorate this trip, and it was one of the ones with a sensor that “makes” things move at certain points around the park: quills writing by themselves, lights illuminating in windows, etc.. Like all good wands, Ollivander’s quality pieces are made in China (ha, ha).
After Ollivander’s, we immediately got in a very long line (110 minutes!) for the castle ride at Hogwarts. While we were in line, we made “friends” with the Chinese tourists behind us accidentally….
Note also that Camey is drinking butterbeer that we purchased at a concessions cart. It is very sweet; Camey had two. I am impressed.
(Everyone except the Hus-friend has been unable to find me in the above photo. I’m in the upper lefthand corner.)
The castle ride was really cool; there’s a lot of visual stimulus paired with a moving seat that makes you feel like you’re flying/diving/swooping. Unfortunately, it also made me quite motion sick, but I felt better after eating lunch at The Three Broomsticks. Sorry if you haven’t read HP and don’t know what I’m talking about.
We explored Hogsmeade, popping into various stores-come-to-life from the books.
The park is very well done: clean and well-landscaped, and the park attendants are all good at staying in character and helping maintain the atmosphere. I felt so sorry for them, dressed in their wool school sweaters and heavy robes on a summer day in southern California. The glittery chunks of fake snow adorning the tilted village buildings were fooling no one–it was hot.
In the afternoon, we exited HPWorld and explored some of the rest of Universal Studios. We felt like old people when we finally got to ride the Universal Studios tour, not because we got to see set pieces from iconic movies and TV shows, but because we got to sit down for the better part of an hour.
Basically, I learned that movies are lies. You think things were filmed in New York City; they weren’t. They were filmed on a sound stage or in front of a street of building facades outside of Los Angeles…like this set used in War of the Worlds. There’s someone’s house on the hill, overlooking this totally destroyed airplane set piece. Can you imagine living in a house with that weird view? LA, man, it’s a weird place. I basically assumed everyone working at Universal Studios was hoping to break into showbiz.
(I actually had to leave the park early because I got a headache. While waiting for the rest of the group to get back, I came to terms with the fact that Pottermore sorted me into Hufflepuff house.)
We had so much fun celebrating Tina this past weekend! The other women brought decorations and organized cute HP-themed gifts for her. Instead of being visited by strippers, I’m proud to say that we took teen magazine quizzes, geeked out over Harry Potter, ate pizza in Hollywood, inhaled a bag of cheesy puffs, and enjoyed a delicious Sunday breakfast at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, a suggestion by LA native Daniella. (Okay, we did giggle a lot about the menu item: “One waffle with one succulent breast.”)
It was a great weekend with a delightful group of people, old friends and new! Can’t wait for all the fun we’ll have at Tina and Ben’s wedding reception coming up in October.