From here we went into the first soundstage, which was full of props and sets and costumes from all eight films. My wife was in heaven. She got to see pretty much everything she'd ever wanted to, from the Gryffindor Common Room to Dumbledore's office to the Weasley's kitchen. Very cool. Outdoors on the way to the next soundstage we stopped off for some butterbeer and saw the Knight Bus, Sirius Black's motorcycle, the Hogwarts rickety bridge, and Harry's muggle home at 4 Privet Drive in Surrey, among other exterior sets. Soundstage Two was where the movie magic really happens-- creature construction, animatronics, costume shop, makeup effects, models, original concept art, and the set for Diagon Alley (the latest version, including the Weasley brothers' joke shop.)
Then we came to what was, for me, the highlight of the tour: the model of Hogwarts Castle. Like the Great Hall, it was dressed for winter and even at what I estimated to be around 1/12th scale, this thing was enormous. It is constructed so that there appears to be movement and activity behind the windows, and the level of detail is truly lovely. It is a masterpiece, and I am so glad that it has been preserved. My wife was in tears, and I found myself quite moved as well.
From Leavesden, we went to Hyde Park for the Winter Wonderland, a kind of state fair/carnival affair. I mentioned it in an earlier entry, the one with all the complaining. There was good food, though, and hot (alcoholic!) cider; nifty ice sculptures, and a terrific circus, the Cirque Berzerk. The star of the show was an extremely talented high wire artist who took insane risks without a safety harness or a net, but with supreme confidence in his abilities. It was a great shoe, but as I mentioned in an earlier entry, I think we were so worried about having nothing to do that we arranged to do far too much. We went home cold, crabby and exhausted.
Christmas Day we slept in, had a quiet brunch in the flat, and watched a little telly. Mid afternoon we walked to the Marylebone Hotel for a spectacular Christmas Dinner--venison, Norfolk turkey, chestnut stuffing and figgie pudding. We had a perfectly lovely time. Then we made our way home just in time to check one more thing off my bucket list: I got to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special on the BBC in London on Christmas Day. Heaven.