This week has been so eventful, it wasn't until Athena reminded me that I remembered that today would be a good day to continue our report of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and other Universal Studios attractions).
When last we left our heroes, they had just saved the day or something by not getting destroyed by Dementors at the Quidditch match and spectacularly watching Harry Potter perform a Patronus charm. Upon leaving Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, we came across a kiosk selling wands. I seem to remember asking something about how effective they were, to which the response was something along the lines of "they're not." The wands that actually do stuff are sold at Ollivander's, but I guess everyone
knows that. Or I may have asked something about how wouldn't Harry miss having his wand, since here it was for sale. In that case, the answer was, no it's okay, this is just a replica. ...Maybe that led into the "how well do they work" question. I'm sorry; I only have bits and pieces of memories of this whole thing. The important part is that Gaston picked up one of the wands and started yelling things like, "Crucio!" and "Avada Kedavra!", causing a very alarmed kiosk keeper to shout, "Sir, we do not--Sir! We do NOT cast the Forbidden Curses!" And we were all highly amused even though it was rather childish. But even childish endeavors are a lot of fun if people play along.
The kiosk was right next to the queue for the Flight of the Hippogryph, so we figured what the heck, let's ride it. It was just a little roller coaster, but little is just the right kind of roller coaster for us, because we don't do so well with the falling great distances thing. The queue goes right past Hagrid's hut...which really causes me to question the geography of the whole thing, since Hogsmeade is only like ten feet away, but hello? it's MAGIC. And we get to hear Fang make noises, and then we get to the loading area, and it's all full of equipment for dealing with magical creatures. Oh! I forgot. Before that, there are a bunch of empty cages (Gaston pointed out that the fact that they're empty should be cause for alarm, but they're probably all hanging out in the Forbidden Forest, so whatevs) and several containers of man-eating slug repellent. Was it man-eating? I don't remember what it was about the slugs. (Give me a break! I haven't actually read Harry Potter since The Deathly Hallows came out. We just don't have the time! We're seriously considering starting a re-read...eventually.)
Aaaanyway. The ride vehicle was really cool, because it was a regular roller coaster car made of fiber glass, but! it was done up to look like you were sitting in baskets! What I mean to say is, ostensibly
the ride vehicle is a wicker construction designed such that the front of the front car looks like a hippogryph head! It's super neat! (That sounds totally sarcastic in text, but I assure you it is sincere.) Doesn't it just make you want to weave hippogryph-shaped furniture? Maybe someday... *wistful*
But the best part! is that after you get seated in your basket, the ride takes off, and just before you start up the incline, you go right by
Buckbeak! And Hagrid tells you to bow to him, and he bows very elegantly back, and off you go! ...Only they don't use mag-lev technology, so you sloooowly go up the first incline, and then! Off you go! Flying along the tracks like you're on a
hippogryph! It was a nice little roller coaster, and I kind of wish we'd gone on it again. I just like it, because the area around it has nice decor.
After that, it was time to explore Hogsmeade. Gaston and Alice had been to Magicianville before, and on that visit, Alice's parents offered to buy everybody a wand. So Alice took full advantage of this offer and got an interactive replica of Fleur Delacour's wand, which of course she brought along with her this time. And here is the fun of the interactive wands: all through Hogsmeade, there are special emblems on the ground that have an incantation and an arrow indicating the proper wand movement. If you stand on those emblems, point your wand at the store window they're in front of, and do the spell properly, something happens! The first one we came across was....I don't remember what the spell was, but there was a neat little model of a wizard on a broom being chased by a dragon, and if you do the spell right, the model activates and the wizard and dragon move. (Athena reminds me that this one might have been second. There was also a Wingardium Leviosa window nearby, where you can charm the Quaffle in a set of Quidditch equipment (normally it's just sitting there, but cast the spell, and it levitates!).)
So we went around casting spells at windows, and the really funny thing about it is that, even though it was Alice's wand, the usual sequence of events was we would come to a window, Alice would take out the wand and hand it to Gaston who usually went first and gloated about how he did it so fast, and then he'd hand it to one of us, who would almost always struggle to get it to work, and would start bouncing up and down in surprised glee when we finally succeeded. So the one who actually owned the wand was kind of like a mother entertaining her small children, all of whom are older than she is. There was one window that we both got to work on the first try, with a tray of desserts that you could set to rotating. Then you could do the other spell to get it to stop moving, so that was pretty neat.
The other amusing thing is that, generally, we found that unincanted spells worked just as well as chanted ones, except for Herbivicus (which was surely just a coincidence, because the sensors pick up movement from the wands, not sound...I mean...). This one is especially amusing, because I guess it's just that the word is so fun to say that we kept saying it out loud, but! we kept pronouncing it the American way, with the silent H, and then we were discussing it, and I was like, "No, in England, they pronounce the H," so we tried it that way, and it worked! As Hermione says, pronunciation matters. The other spell we found this to be an issue on was Incendio, which has a hard C, because it's based on Latin.
And then there's the stores! Oh my goodness, the stores were so amazing. The decor was so magical! Aaaahh... We especially loved the Owl Post, because we (especially Athena) have a thing for owls. So we were in there looking at the lovely stationery and all the plush owls that were on sale (fortunately for our wallets, none of them really spoke to us; plus, that would have just been weird, but it is magic, so), and then our gazes wandered up and saw! in the rafters! there were actual real live
owls! What! That's SO COOL!!! The trend continued in other stores. There was one that sold...school supplies of some kind. It's where you would get your broom, but they didn't even have that many toy brooms for Muggles, so I don't remember what it generally sold. But the POINT is, that since they sell brooms, there are some tethered to the rafters, and they're actually flying! As in, not only
are they attached to the ceiling to look like they're hovering there, but they move
, too! They were tied to some barrels, surely to keep them from flying away and not because there were motors inside the barrels or anything. The thickness of the rope tying them there is probably just a testament to the strength of the brooms.
There was one store that sold wizarding apparel. Not just t-shirts and other touristy stuff, but, for example, replicas of Hermione's prom dress (Yule Ball formal robes?) and wizarding hats like the one Dumbledore wears. That sort of thing. And of course more Hogwarts house stuff. They also had sweaters, just like the ones Mrs. Weasley made! This is perfect! We were just thinking before we went that if they had ones like she made for Fred and George that we'd need to figure out how much we'd be willing to spend on them! And they were just barely above our price limit! But that's okay, because there was one with an R for Ron and one with an H for Harry...but no F or G. What.
This was unacceptable. So we found a shopkeeper and said, "Excuse me, where are the Fred and George ones." in a Very Stern Tone. Okay, no we didn't. We actually said, "Excuse me, do you have sweaters like this for Fred and George?" And he said he's sorry, no. And that's
when we got indignant for real. But actually Gaston was more indignant on our behalf, because arguing about numeralism and singleton privilege is fun. So there was a brief rant about those things, and I don't remember how it got brought up, but someone suggested that there IS Fred and George specific merchandise. Not much. The storekeeper informed us that Ollivander's had replicas of their wands. But of course, they don't make interactive versions of Fred and George's wands. But they do sell them in a fancy set with a lovely display stand.
I think that may have been when we decided once and for all that, whatever, we don't want to be wannabes anyway; we'll just come up with our own original wands. This is also where we decided we wanted to get Ilvermorny gear instead of Hogwarts, because let's get serious, if we had gone to a school of witchcraft and wizardry, it would have been that one. (Although if we were really
serious, I don't think the American spirit would have settled for only one school of witchcraft and wizardry on the entire continent, and surely some entrepreneurial scholar would have started another one, at least on the West Coast, by the time we were old enough to go to one.) We did look at the Fred and George wands, and if we had been feeling like we had money to throw away, we might have gotten them. But we also talked to a storekeeper at the place where you buy your school robes, and she said that they do come out with new interactive wands and Fred's and George's might come along, so maybe we'll set aside a couple hundred bucks for when they do. Or we'll go with our other plan, to have Super Outdoorsman Gaston make us all our own unique wands and take apart his wife's wand to see if we can make them interactive. (Or, instead of pulling apart her lovely wand, we'll buy one of the cheaper interactive wands.)
By then the crowds were starting to pick up, so we decided to go down to the lower lot and see if there was anything we wanted to do there. Turns out there wasn't, but we went on the Transformers Ride anyway. Again, it was fun, but it was a simulator, so everyone (except maybe Gaston) was a little carsick afterward. It's another one that's a little too fast-paced to remember what all happens, but basically you're in a Transformer that transforms into a getaway van (I guess?), and you're helping Optimus Prime and Bumblebee...do something...with the Allspark? I don't know. But of course whatsisname Megatron? I think it's Megatron and his Decepticons are after you, and stuff happens, and there's one Decepticon that makes a giant vortex that you get sucked in a couple of times, and then someone shoves the Allspark into Megatron and it explodes and the day is saved, all thanks to our heroic efforts of sitting in a getaway car and not dying. Optimus Prime thanks us for saving the universe. And the ride operators unenthusiastically congratulated us on our victory, and we left.
Nearby, they had the Transformers meet and greet, which was really cool, because the Transformers actually talk and interact with the guests. I took a couple of pictures, and our nephews got really excited when they saw them at Christmas. If I'd known they were familiar with Transformers, I would have taken more pictures. Oh well; next time.
We also saw a dinosaur encounter out by the Jurassic Park ride (which was closed, but we wouldn't have gone on it anyway, because even though it's one of the best stories on a ride I've ever seen, we just can't handle that drop), which had us wondering because currently our nephew who is the most into dinosaurs is also the one who is terrified of real animals, including house cats. So if he were to run into a dinosaur--something he supposedly loves--but it was also a live
guy in a fairly convincing suit
animal much bigger and more threatening than a house cat... I'm just very curious. Would his love of dinosaurs overcome his fear of animals? Maybe his mom will take him to the Jurassic Tour when it gets to their town and we can find out...
Today I'm thankful for fun with wands, the Flight of the Hippogryph, positive reviews of Mitsuboshi Colors (but how can you not love it?), getting to go to stake choir practice, and being able to amuse myself.