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Personal #3: When A Dream Becomes Reality

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“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” – Albus Dumbledore

I recently ventured to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a.k.a. HPL) in Orlando. For three years, I planned for this. For six years, I dreamed of it. After all, only fools daren’t dream of walking the halls of Hogwarts, binging on Chocolate Frogs, and conquering the Most Dangerous Dark Wizard of All Time. So what happened when this dream finally became reality? The crushing reminder that dreams rarely translate well into real life. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous time, and probably burned more calories laughing than I did circling that damn park 100 times. (Bingham was right – life is better with company.) Despite this, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed as I said my goodbyes to HPL. I think the following Before/After shots adequately illustrate my feelings. I went from captivated to crestfallen in 72 hrs. flat:

BEFORE

No way that's the real Hogwarts Express. There's no way!

AFTER

I don't remember a fire extinguisher being in the books...

What exactly went wrong, you ask? Let me break it down for you in bulleted list fashion:

  • Too small: I get that this is only one part of the Islands of Adventure, but come on. Harry Potter – the name that produced the highest grossing film series of all time and first billionaire author was relegated to a section the size of a Wal-Mart Superstore parking lot. Epic fail.
  • Poorly placed: In order to reach the gates of Hogwarts, we were forced to experience arguably the worst part of the Islands: Seuss Landing. I became nauseous and uneasy every time I passed through this pastel-colored abomination. Seuss Landing will definitely make an appearance in my Hell. That and strangers gawking at any portion of my wedding. Both are equally offensive.
  • Hogsmeade: This all-wizarding village was the main setting for the park. Big mistake. About 15% of the HP series takes place here (if that), and it’s mainly just shops. So why did they pick it? Oh right, because it’s mainly just shops. Commercialism is King, even in HPL. After figuring that I’d probably drop at least 30 bucks in each shop, I come to find that most of them were just facades. There were only about four actual shops. With bad merchandise. Take, for instance, the Chocolate Frog that I couldn’t wait to buy at Honeydukes. It was possibly the worst chocolate I’ve ever tasted, and that includes the sketchy generic chocolate my mom would make me throw out on Halloween. Also, Zonko’s sold the jokes and tricks from the series right alongside a rubber chicken and chattering teeth…what?! Despicable.
  • Staff that denied my wizard status: I’d like to speak with the person responsible for the employee instruction manual at this place. Any time I spoke with a staff member, I was referred to as a “Muggle.” How don’t they get that the people who come to HPL are seeking recognition for their magical abilities? And why are you assuming that I’m not a wizard? My involuntary response to each worker was, “I’m not a Muggle!” coupled with a scathing glare. To make matters worse, they all spoke with American accents. The only time I heard a British accent was when the conductor of the Hogwarts Express commanded, “Say butterbeer!” I shall remain forever grateful for his enthusiasm.
  • Lack of dark arts/wizards/magic/aura: I fell in love with this series because of its dark nature, particularly in books 5-7. I expected to have Death Eaters shooting curses at me while simultaneously having my soul sucked out by a Dementor. I thought of the different spells I would use on Voldemort as we battled in the Ministry of Magic. I was even prepared to leave with a piece of my soul safely confined in a Horcrux (my Bette Boop bobblehead being the likely object of choice). Yet there was no sign of the Dark Arts, let alone of Voldemort himself. I suppose the powers that be didn’t want to scare off their core customer base of 4-16 year olds. Still, this was a huge miss.

I will say that, on the plus side, I bought two awesome t-shirts and enjoyed the Dragon Challenge coaster. Overall, though, the Wizarding World didn’t come close to my dream world. Much is to be said for fantasies staying fantasies, because your idea of a thing can only remain perfect in this form. I began this journey desperately wishing to experience the magic of HP in real life. Now I wish I never sought anything beyond what was already in the books, films and, most importantly, in my head.

Personal #2: HPL a.k.a. WWoHP a.k.a. Heaven

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It is 5:20 a.m. I am currently experiencing insomnia because “Travel Tara” has kicked in. This is a condition whereby my anxiety/excitement for a preplanned travel activity has inhibited or completely eliminated my ability to sleep, comprehend external stimuli, or form coherent speech. Why has this condition set in? Because in 14 hours I leave for the most magical place on Earth. As a result, I feel what I imagine the love child of Jessie Spano and Richard Simmons would feel on a daily basis.

That’s right, kids. The moment I’ve been waiting for since 2007 has finally arrived. I am flying to Harry Potter Land (HPL) a.k.a. the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) a.k.a. Heaven tonight! This is where my fantasies will literally come true. It is an entire theme park dedicated to all things Harry Potter and marketed toward children ages 3-12. I along with those children will experience the unimaginable joy of living life as a wizard. And if that makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.

I will also be joined by BFF Tricia. She is the perfect partner in crime for this excursion since her inner nerd can outshine mine any time. (P.S. Trish, how did I Google you and land on a video from your Anything Goes glory days? I love the internet.*)

This is only Part 1 of this post, since I will have to disclose my life-altering experiences at HPL. For the record, Kate asked me to, not least because she is going to HPL in a month. Classmates, you may think us odd, but I think we’re awesome.

One reason is because once I’ve spent four days at Hogwarts, I will finally feel worthy enough to join the Holy Grail of Amazon communities:

Choosing between the Harry Potter community and the Fantasy community is going to be tough. Although, the Boxed Set community is really where the power lies, despite its smaller size. Do you know the dedication one must have to own an entire boxed set? Not to mention the resources to afford it. Boxed Set it is.

*At this moment. In truth I’m terrified that all of this data on me exists in the ether and I never know when it will come back to haunt me. It’s so Kafkaesque. And I am such a loser for saying that.