I can't imagine what it must be like to be J.K. Rowling. Has no greater writer come from such humble beginnings? She stated in an interview that the idea for Harry Potter simply "dropped into her head" one day while on the train, and it quickly snowballed into something pretty big. But I don't expect she believed it would ever get THIS big:
The above picture is a snapshot of Hogsmeade, the fictional wizarding village from the Harry Potter universe. It serves as the hub of the pretty much brand-new Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park(s). Talk about extravagant. I can write about this place all day, but nothing compares to the experience of strolling down the brimstone walkway, gazing up at the wonderfully lopsided architecture, smelling Butterbeer in the air, and immersing yourself in Harry's world. It's truly entrancing.
The park sits in the back corner of The Islands of Adventure, sandwiched between Jurassic Park and The Lost Continent, and it is easily the most popular attraction at Universal. The words to describe it escape me. The attention to detail, as seen above, is astounding. When you enter the village, it's like walking directly into Rowling's imagination. To the immediate right
is the magnificent Hogwarts Express, presented by a "conductor" who interacts with the crowd at certain times of the day. Continuing in, the Three Broomsticks
stands lopsided and weathered on the left, and next door, Honeydukes sweets shop sells Bertie Bot's Every-Flavor Beans and Chocolate Frogs to hordes of young Potter fans. Zonko's joke shop is filled to the brim with goofy artifacts and knick-knacks. Dervish and Banges, basical
ly a glorified souvenir shop, contains an assortment of artifacts from the series, like brooms, time-turners, pens, parchment, cloaks, robes, and wands.
The absolute most entertaining and enthralling division of the village BY FAR, is Ollivander's Wand Shop. Much unlike the other shops available for guests to enter, Ollivander's is a show. Wrapped around one side of the building are line ropes which, on the days I visited, were always completely filled with excited Muggles. The times I had waited to get inside, the line had thinned out a little. Our 20 minute wait was worth every second.
When you enter Ollivander's, it suddenly becomes very quiet. A desolate, somewhat eerie sound resonates through out the room. Everything looks EXACTLY like the Ollivander's from the movie. The walls are massive shelves, stacked to the ceiling with wands; thousands of them, all made up to look very dusty and old. Then, "Ollivander" descends from a dimly lit staircase. He introduces himself to the large congregation of Muggles before him, and carefully selects one person from the audience to receive their special wand.
I, admittedly, had hoped I would be picked; but alas, no such luck. My first visit, he chose an older woman, and the second he picked a young girl. Both are extremely, extremely lucky. "Ollivander" offers his chosen person 3 wands, in the same fashion as in the movie. The first two, at his command of pointing and reciting a certain incantation, make flowers "wilt" in the corner,and cause wands to shuffle on the shelves (with the addition of lights and sound effects that enhance the experience). These wands are not meant for the chosen Muggle. The third wand, however, is the one. Music begins as "Ollivander," says to himself, "Curious, very curious," and he hands the wand over. At their touch, a wind whips up inside the room, the music swells, and a soft, glowing light engulfs the wildly grinning participant. Then, with some closing remarks and "tips" on how to properly operate a wand, "Ollivander" leads the group into a section of Dervish and Banges where a large selection of both character AND original wands await to be purchased. I purchased an original, although I came quite close to buying the Elder Wand, but I wanted one completely original to the Park. I chose a handsome looking wand with a phoenix feather core. Easily the coolest $30 I ever spent. (I unfortunately did not get any pictures of the inside of Ollivander's for fear of disrupting the show with my flash. It was pretty dark, and my videos came out poorly, also.)
Now, the castle. Gaze upon it's glory. GAZE UPON IT!