Harry Potter: The Exhibition (17th December 2011)

Today was Jono and my last Beginner's Level 1 Mandarin class - we have completed the course of 20-hour class time in the past 10 weeks and I have to say, we have done well. Though we vary in knowledge and skill level in the language (me more than Jono since I can understand and speak some of it), both of us learnt a lot in the class at our respective levels and pace. I was very pleased that by week 10, I was able to read the simple Chinese letter we were given in class today (though writing it would be a whole different story). Jono's progressing very well, often forming his own sentences by stringing together the words we learnt in class and saying it to me, occasionally not making any sense - in such instances, I would help correct it and he would try again. It's great that he's always willing to try - that's the first step in learning a new language. You need to attempt speaking it, however weird the accent may be or flow of words. It can only get better with time :)

Each week, we would walk to class in Ultimo from Central Station, passing by Powerhouse Museum that is currently home to the first Harry Potter: The Exhibition held in the southern hemisphere with Sydney being the only city in Australia to showcase the exhibition. Y
oung kids and teenagers would be seen exiting the museum with memorabilia such as wands, scarfs and posters, some even dressing up as characters from the movie. We have been putting off checking out the exhibition for weeks but decided to go after class this week since we won't be coming to Ultimo until class starts up again in the new year (yes, we are continuing our Mandarin lessons!). I had booked us two adult tickets earlier in the week to secure our entry to the exhibition today. Cost us $32 per person and I had to pick a time of entry - we had the 3.30pm slot which meant we must enter the exhibition between 3.30 - 3.55pm. Having an allocated time slot is a great way of staggering the number of visitors to the exhibition so that it doesn't get too crowded and visitors get more enjoyment of their visit.

We headed to the museum after our class and went straight to the queue for our entry session. There were already a few people lining up ahead us from different age groups, all very excited to see what lies behind the dark curtains. Once the staff gathered enough people for our session, we were ushered into the waiting area where we were met by another staff dressed like a Hogwarts professor, welcoming us to the famous School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in her British accent (she was totally in character). "Who wants to try out the Sorting Hat?" asked the professor and several eager hands shot up in the air. If you recalled from the movie, the Sorting Hat is an old and battered talking hat that magically determines which one of the four School houses the new student goes to - here, the selected visitor would first be asked which School is their favourite as they take their seat on the stool, then the Sorting Hat takes a bit of time to consider its choice before announcing aloud its final decision. "Gryffindor!" exclaimed the Sorting Hat, and the audience applauded at the little boy who looked so pleased with the outcome. Of course, this was all orchestrated - whatever the favourite house the visitor said at the start would most definitely be the house selected by the Sorting Hat. Not so much magic for the average adult but still, it was rather entertaining watching the kids enjoying themselves.

We were then told to walk through the huge doors that led us into a small dark room with several screens - with the doors closed behind us, the lights were dimmed and the screens lit up with a short movie of clips from the various Harry Potter films, a good refresher for those who may have forgotten what happened all those years Harry and his friends spent at Hogwarts and fighting Voldemort and his Death Eaters. When the movie ended, the lights came back on and we were ushered by the friendly museum staff to enter the Gryffindor common room at our leisure. Iconic items including Harry Potter's wand and glasses, the Gryffindor school uniforms, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, the fierce head of the Hungarian Horntail Dragon, Quidditch accessories including the Golden Snitch and even the Nimbus 2000 flying broom can be found on display in the exhibition. Jono and I took our time checking out the exhibits, stopping to take a close look at some that were so intricately designed. "Come look at this!" I called out to Jono and we both laughed looking at the Fat Lady portrait - she was trying to break a crystal glass by singing but after several failed attempts, she speedily broke the glass by smashing it and went back to her singing position, smiling at her pretend success. It was hilarious! Several of the paintings found in the exhibition were 'alive', the figures in the painting were moving, just like the ones seen in the movies :)

There were a few interactive displays found in the exhibition. We got to pull a baby Mandrake (a plant with roots that look like a human) out from the pot as seen in Harry's Herbology class - these Mandrakes scream when unearthed (whiny little things). We also had a go at tossing the Quaffle ball through the goal hoops, as well as go inside Hagrid's Hut and took a seat on his giant chair. Remember that Hagrid is a half-giant so all the furniture and many other items in his home were over-sized - his chair comfortably fitted both of us! I was a bit startled by the rumbling sounds coming from the dinner table. The large dragon egg looks like it is about to hatch...
The exhibition also featured costumes and wands of the Death Eaters, the Horcruxes and a Dementor that hung from the ceiling - a fan was blowing underneath the Dementor, making it look quite real and rather eerie. I think I'm going to move on...We continued on into the Great Hall at Hogwarts lit by thousands of candles floating above the room and a ceiling that looked like the sky, yummy goodies from the feast laid out on the dining table. I really enjoyed the exhibition and thought it was very cleverly put together, how the different scenes were set out with matching background and walls, allowing visitors to experience being in the scenes as seen in the Harry Potter films. Pity no photography was allowed - it would have been awesome! With hundreds of authentic props, costumes and artifacts from all of the films featured, this is an exhibition you don't want to miss, especially for you Harry Potter fans. The travelling exhibition runs from 19th November 2011 - 8th March 2012 in Sydney so be in quick before it's over!

As we exited the exhibition, the figures in the paintings on the wall applauded and congratulated us on completing our tour. Into Diagon Alley (wizards' shopping destination) we went where Muggles (those of us without magical powers) can pick up memorabilia including wands, souvenir T-shirts, house scarfs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (we bought 2 boxes). At $5 per box, it was pretty steep but the flavours looked highly interesting - Earwax, Dirt, Grass, Bogey were some of them. Sounds pretty weird to me...We decided to try a few on our way home, randomly picking a reddish-coloured bean and having half the bean each. We chewed into the candy and looked at each other's face and expression, bursting into peals of laughter (the security guard probably thought we were crazy, laughing so much about candy). "THAT tasted a lot like dirt," I said, and Jono agreed that it was probably Dirt or Earthworm. Bleah. We tried another bean, this time a bright orange one that was supposed to be Vomit. Oh my god! We laughed so hard we had tears coming out of our eyes - it was ABSOLUTELY disgusting and brought back all those times we ever puked! How on earth do they make beans that taste so much like the real thing??? We were both very impressed with the accuracy in flavour though urgh, really need something nice to rid this vomit taste so we had the Watermelon to sweeten things up. Only half a Vomit bean and it was vile - I can't imagine having the whole bean! Yuck!! Photo of our 
Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans in its box:

We headed home around 5pm, had some afternoon tea and tried more beans. Couldn't help it - we were curious! We had Sausage, Dirt and Lemon this time, and no doubt they got the taste right. It seems we always needed a nice one to wash off those beans with weird flavours. Several others I'm keen to try include Earwax, Bogey, Soap and Pepper. Oh, and maybe Rotten Egg though if Vomit was that accurate, I'm not sure if I really want to try the Rotten Egg...We're going to save the other box for when the rest of Jono's family turns up (they are also Harry Potter fans) - it'll be interesting to see their reaction when they sample the beans :P


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