Breakfast at Hogwarts

This blog is part of my “Elayna Ventures: London & Edinburgh 2015” Travel Journal

April 17th, 2015

DAY TWO

As my friend Claire so wonderfully put it when she posted the photo below:

Stuff Tiffany’s! Breakfast at Hogwarts is what it’s all about!”

Photo taken by & comandeered from my MuggleNet friend & fellow staffer, Claire Furner.
Photo taken by & commandeered from my MuggleNet friend & fellow staffer, Claire Furner.

After only about five hours of sleep in the span of two days, my friend Laura and I awoke trying our best not to pull a muscle from fangirling too hard, because we were about to have breakfast at Hogwarts. WHO ELSE DO YOU KNOW CAN SAY THAT?!?

Basically, over the years, we at MuggleNet have built some pretty great relationships with WB and the people behind the series. So naturally, when WB heard we were going to be rolling into London to host the biggest Harry Potter event in the UK for 2015 (#nbd) they apparently decided to do something nice for us. When our boss reached out to them about us coming to visit, they in turn offered for our staff to come in for a free tour/light breakfast. The conversation in which I discovered this excellent news is still rather priceless:

I'm not fangirling, you're fangirling.
Because what better reaction than a cactus with a balloon when you learn you’re going to Hogwarts?

#NerdyVIPI spent the ensuing week and a half after learning this information trying to hold myself together and not have a spazz attack at the thought of MuggleNet getting its own tour, so that by the time the day came, I was quite the jittery mess of feels. Some of us teamed up and caught a taxi, and I must say that there’s nothing quite like the craziness of pulling up to the studios and seeing that big logo for The Making of Harry Potter. Once inside, we were greeted by the incredibly nice people who worked at the Studio Tour, and a little sign that read MuggleNet Registration. I must be honest, it felt like we were nerdy VIP’s or something. As we waited for the rest of our group to arrive, the girl leads us through this back area and in through a room chock full o’Olivanders wands, and then there it was . . .

The actual model of the actual Hogwarts that was used to film the series that I grew up with. I was standing before the very model that I first saw on screen at age 11. I was in the place of my dreams, the one place in the world that while fictional, has always felt more real to me than anywhere else. Hogwarts was actually there to welcome me home. Holding back tears was difficult.

Pictures were taken, DELICIOUS noms were enjoyed, and we got to mingle with some more of the really delightful people who work there. You could just tell how much they love working there and getting to live that #NerdLife every day. Their excitement was infectious, and I suppose they fed off our excitement as well. The energy surrounding Hogwarts was made of nothing but happiness, I tell ya. It was the perfect way to start the day.

Once all the croissants and coffee were consumed, and all of our staff had arrived, they led us back through to actually begin the tour. I began to feel that excited sort of anxious as members of staff kept saying to me “OH MY GOSH ELAYNA WAIT TILL YOU SEE HOW THEY START THE TOUR!!” and “YOU ARE GOING TO FREAK!” But all the while, no one had told me what exactly I was going to be freaking out over. As we walked away from Hogwarts I remember saying to someone, “You were right. Starting the morning off at the castle was great.” and they responded with, “That wasn’t what we meant! There’s something EVEN BETTER! Just wait and see.”

It took my mind a second to receive and process the idea that there was something better than mother effing Hogwarts.

We were ushered into a dark room, where soon a video began to play on the walls. The feels began immediately as the video showed footage from the filmmakers and cast about the experience of making the films. It brought back so, so, so many memories and I got a little teary eyed pretty quick. But once that was over, they ushered us into a cinema, where we watched yet another video, which made my case of the feels turn chronic. Here I am, at the Studio Tour, with MuggleNet friends, watching Dan, Rupert and Emma standing in front of the Great Hall on the screen, talking about the films that changed my life.

Then it happened.

The video ends and then THE SCREEN GOES UP AND THE ACTUAL GREAT HALL DOORS ARE RIGHT THERE. I completely lost it.

CALL 999. I'M HAVING EMOTIONS.
CALL 999. I’M HAVING EMOTIONS.

By this point I’m already hysterical with happiness, and that’s why it took me several seconds to realize that the tour guide was saying, “Can I have Aimee and Elayna come on up please?” Its at this moment I FULLY realizes that the ‘better than Hogwarts moment’ was.

The staff had picked me as one of the people to come up and open the doors. There are no words I can type that can sum up what it felt like. I have never been so overwhelmed with joy. Everyone from staff was smiling, and here I am, sobbing like an idiot, because I can’t believe they would actually have picked me for this auspicious moment.

To make the experience even MORE special (like that’s even possible at that point) it bears being said that the scene in the first film, where McGonagall first walks them into the Great Hall was one of my favorite parts of the series, because every time I’d watch it, I’d remember how I first felt watching the first trailer, and the same sense of magic and wonder I felt when seeing it for the first time at the age of 11 would wash over me. So as I’m standing there, hand on the same freaking door handle that so many people from the films have touched, with the tour guide saying “Welcome to Hogwarts” was The. Single. Happiest. Moment. Of. My. Life.

We walked into the Great Hall and the happy sobbing continued. MuggleNet staff reading this: you can never know how much that moment meant to me – to have had that chance to be there with you all and be the chosen one to open those doors. (God I am actually crying happy tears right now typing this, thanks for that) Everything about that day, from the hall to the Hogwarts Express, from all the props, costumes, effects, drawings and wands to the beautiful moment at the end of the tour where we came full circle back to the castle: it was 1000 times more perfect than anything I could have imagined for it still being my first 24 hours in London.

The rest of the day felt like a blurry mix of feels and excitement, for Expo Patronum was set to happen the very next morning. We spent the evening stuffing bags and getting registrations ready, and I discovered the craziest thing, which is that in the UK you can buy wine by the glass at a freaking train station. (#AmericanProbs)

The whole day was just so memorable and full of more happy emotions than I could have conceived were IMG_6941possible to feel in a single day. I grew closer with friends I’d already met from Leaky, and new ones that I’d only just met once arriving to the UK. But honestly, it was those people that made everything worth it. Seeing the Studio Tour was incredible beyond measure, yes, but to experience it with fellow people of MuggleNet, fellow fans who understand the feels, and amongst who there was no judgement whatsoever. Being with them, in that sacred nerdy space, made for the most magical day of my life.

TO BE CONTINUED IN “EXPO PATRONUM” . . .

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Smile

I’m coming off of the accidental blogging hiatus I’ve been on to share this photo (below) and explain why it’s so gosh darn important to me right now.

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I used to hate pictures being taken of me. Hated it. I felt like all a photo did was capture every crappy flaw I felt I had, and preserve it for all of history to see. I’d look at photos of myself and verbally tear them to shreds. Sometimes the negativity would just be in my head, but most times I would say it out loud to the people looking at them with me:

“Oh lord, kill it with fire!”

“This is awful, I have like six chins!”

“Ugh, I’m so gross in this one.”

“Delete that from existence please!”

This was the kind of smack talk I’d dish out about m y s e l f. My self esteem was a living nightmare. I’d allowed countless taunts and being bullied in my formative years to change my perception of my own body into this hideous, inaccurate, not-me-creature that I couldn’t stand to look at. But as time has gone on, and selfie culture has griped the 21st century tight and propelled us all into a world of omg-look-at-me #SelfieSundays, I’ve fully embraced the idea that taking photos of oneself can be extremely therapeutic, and help us to see ourselves in a way that makes us more confident, self assured individuals.

People can hate on selfies and those who take them all they want, but it doesn’t change that snapping a good picture of myself, makes me feel amazing. It’s not about the likes and the comments (which while encouraging, are not necessary). It’s so I can see myself how I want to see myself, which is as a bamin’-slamin’ confident queen of my own universe, dammit!

Caring about others is immensely important to life as a human being, but I think there also comes a time where we must remember that we are human beings too. We are individuals who need love, and not just from external sources. There’s got to be self love as well. As my homeboy J.C. once said:

Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Note the thyself in there. We’re supposed to love other people as we love ourselves, but how can we be expected to reciprocate to the world what we don’t feel for ourselves? That’s just not a thing. So the selfie above, for me, embodies that. It’s about looking at myself, and seeing a person who’s worthy of love instead of someone who’s face needs to be hidden.

Looking back at older photos of me, I’ve realized how much I used photoshop the heck out of them or crop them as close to my face as possible. And I would never, ever purposefully smile with my teeth. Lack of health insurance kept me from getting braces growing up, and the way I used to see it, my face was bad enough without the crooked teeth, and so my smile suffered. My smile wasn’t honest, because my happiness with who I was wasn’t honest. And apparently its so noticeable that I even had a friend of mine text me yesterday about it. She had just gotten my new number and was adding a contact photo of me, and only had two she could use – one from last year when we first met, and one from just a few weeks ago:

The other pic I had was from Leaky last year and you’ve just come so far that it didn’t even look like you anymore.

While I still have a long way to go, the photo above – with me smiling so genuinely because I woke up that morning feeling fan-freaking tastic – served as a realization that I’ve come pretty far from where I started. The text hit home, because it’s so true. Year ago me would never have the confidence of the girl in the photo above, and to me, that’s a wonderfully mushy mix of exciting and beautiful.

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My first selfie? This pic is about 10 years old. Me, my self esteem and smile have com a long, long way.

Old me used to believe confidence was a destination, but the reality is, being confident with yourself is not an arrival point or finishing line that you cross. It’s a journey. One that we must continue on through our lives, full of the same pot holes, pit stops, flat tires and tolls you’d find on a regular old road trip. But journeys are also beautiful, let you constantly see things you never did before from new perspectives, and lead you to people who make the whole adventure one worth having.

So for any of you reading this and not feeling so hot with who you are today: my advice? Take a selfie. Pick your best angle. Put on your best outfit. Wear that hat you love. Do the duck face, the peace sign or whatever else makes you feel ten shades of fabulous. Because you have the right to feel incredible about yourself. And most importantly friends – please remember to smile.
(PS – Writing this has got me determined to complete the blogging from my London vacation, so expect Breakfast at Hogwarts this coming Monday!)