This day. It was just awesome.
Jim and I were able to take Grace and Patience aside for a day and finally visit Hogsmeade. It's hard to explain what these books mean to us; the beginning of a lifetime of voracious reading for the girls, the bond we can share with them as fellow Potter nerds- it's just special.
Rowling's creation is like a fine croissant. An expertly crafted recipe inspired by centuries of experience, followed to the letter, layer upon layer upon layer falling together- and yet at first bite you need know none of this. It is simply good. That is the amazing thing about Harry Potter.
It was very special to walk around this place and, in a small way, see these wonderful books come to life; sharing it together. Just incredible fun.
After arriving we stopped at Ollivanders first. Of course every Potter reader worth their salt knows this is an outpost of the true Ollivanders, which is in Diagon Alley.
The queue was short, because it was early in the day, and then it was time to enter the shop. Guests are admitted in small groups- adding to the intimacy of the experience. The Ollivanders employees are incredibly well-trained and absolutely wonderful. In all other places in the park I enjoyed the atmosphere and the fun of seeing so many details come-to-life, but, the man in Ollivanders was so in character and invested so much in what he was doing that I found myself forgetting he was playing a part.
We told the girls very few details about what we'd experience in Florida- they just had the basics. This way, if we missed something, no one knew to be disappointed. So they didn't know what was coming at the Wizarding World, other than Hogsmeade, Honeydukes, etc. That was exciting enough.
They didn't know, for instance, that Ollivanders was not just a trip through a shop, but was first an experience- a wand choosing ceremony, in which one child is chosen from each group (15-20 people) to experience the ceremony for themselves, just like Harry.
And so we entered into the dark, hushed shop, and this amazing, kind, incredible "wandmaker" turned. to. Grace. She had no idea what was coming and was stunned. He asked her name, and began presenting wands for her to try. Wand after wand, none "fit". She spoke lumos and got lightning, etc. (Yes of course this is all pretend but it seems so very real.)
And then he presented her with a birch wand, 13 inches, reasonably pliable, unicorn hair core. He (again, wonderfully in character like the kindest, wisest, most wonderful Santa Claus of a man you have ever met) told her this wand was particularly well-suited to those as loving and creative as she, that it would be especially useful in spells of protection and healing. He seemed such a spot-on judge of her character; it was disarming. (Full disclosure, this is when I lost it and started to cry.)
She took the wand, and, well, it chose the wizard. It was wonderful and so well-done. And, she had no idea to expect it, which made it all that much better.
When the ceremony was through we were shown out of the shop. Everyone cleared out, and as we passed the wandmaker Patie said nothing but stopped in front of him and looked up. He could have brushed her away, reminding her it was time to exit, but he didn't. He was so kind (especially in knowing she was Grace's sister and would feel left out.) He suggested a wand that would be particularly good for charm work, and she was more than satisfied. (Patie identifies very much with Hermione, who is also particularly good at charms.)
It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience we'll never forget. Grace has been high as a kite about it ever since (once the shock wore off.)
Honeydukes, The Three Broomsticks, Hogwarts, Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, all of it was wonderful. I'll let the pictures say the rest.