Two of the biggest things on my list for must-dos on our trip around the world has been to see as many games as I can of my favorite team in any sport in all of the world (which borderlines on obsessive) – Tottenham Hotspur, a soccer team based out of London – and to also visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour which also happens to be in London. For this past week, we were luckily able to procure tickets for two games and the tour. As is understandable, I was ecstatic to be able to go back to London to not only have these amazing experiences, but also because I seem to love London more with every one of my visits.
Disclaimer: If you don’t like soccer, I will not be offended if you skip down to the Harry Potter Section Below.
The first game we went to was to see was the FA Cup match between Tottenham and Newport County, a lower league team from Wales. The FA Cup is a knockout tournament between all the semi-professional and professional teams in all of Britain and Wales and has been going on annually for 137 years as the oldest recognized football tournament in the world. The total number of teams that participated in the tournament this year is a whopping 737! The closest analogy I could come up with for the FA Cup is if all of the college baseball, A, AA, AAA, and MLB baseball teams played in an annual tournament against each other. The game we went to would be the equivalent of a major league team playing against a class AA team like the Akron RubberDucks (yes, real team name).
Obviously, with the gap in skill level between the two teams you would expect the better team to win, but what makes the FA Cup and soccer in general exciting is that with enough luck any team can win and the tournament is known for producing some pretty wild upsets. Luckily for us, though, it was not to be their day as Tottenham ended up playing much better than the previous match they had played against Newport which ended 1-1, and Tottenham pulled through with a 2-0 win. As the game is less important than the other competitions Tottenham play in, many of the reserves got to play, but the upside was we got to sit in the third row which was amazing and allowed us to get closer to all of my favorite players than I had ever been before. It was by no means the most exciting game in the world but as it was only my third ever Tottenham game I was more than happy to witness it and was in awe of the enormous Wembley Stadium.
Several days later, we went to our second Tottenham game. This game, to me, is one of those games I had always dreamt of going to see and I am so happy to be able to say I went, not just because of the final scoreline, but also because of the history and magnitude of the fixture as a whole. I would definitely equate this game against Tottenham’s rival and neighbor Arsenal with the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game, both of which come with the palpable dislike between the two sets of teams, the fans, and even the two managers/head coaches.
Tottenham vs. Arsenal is what they refer to in England as the Noth London Derby (pronounced “darby”), which indicates that both teams are from the same city. For the past 100+ years, the rivalry has become one of the fiercest in all of England and is a day that Tottenham and Arsenal fans alike mark on their calendar whenever the fixture list is first announced and your feelings on the season is always that much better when you can look back and see a W next to your team’s name beside this game. Throughout the derby’s history, Arsenal has had the greater success against Tottenham but in recent years the tide has started to shift as Tottenham finished in a better position in the league than Arsenal last year for the first time since 1995 and are poised to do so again this year.
Kickoff was slated for 12:30pm so we had to get up extra early because there was no way I was not going to tailgate for this match especially as my nerves were through the roof. Our hotel was within walking distance to the stadium so on the way we stopped at a jam-packed bar that was filled to the brim with Tottenham fans having a last pint of beer before the match. We got to Wembley Stadium with a good amount of time before the match and I somehow convinced Lauren to let me buy yet ANOTHER Tottenham Jersey (Thanks, babe!).
Watching the game amongst the 83,000+ rabid fans like myself is something that is very difficult to describe to people who have never really experienced European soccer. If you have ever been to a Columbus Crew SC match you are likely to have seen the loud and passionate couple thousand of fans that sit in the Nordecke and chant and cheer the entire match. But just picture an entire stadium filled with four times more people than can fit in the Crew’s stadium all chanting, clapping, and cheering like the Nordecke before, during, and after the match until their throats are raw from shouting. The excitement and noise levels are ridiculous and I would urge anybody to who visits Europe to get a feel of the passion for the sport that the people over here have.
The game, as is always the case between these two teams, was fast and intense, with both teams exerting all their might against their hated rivals, the players fueled by the raucous atmosphere in the stadium around them. As the game went on, the chances started more in more to be coming from the Tottenham attack and shortly after half-time, Harry Kane struck to make it 1-0. I would love to say that I jumped up and hugged a stranger next to me after the goal and jumped for joy, but being the borderline alcoholics we are, I was in the concourse while we finished our beer since you are not allowed to drink them while in view of the pitch. As is my luck, that was to be the only goal of the game and it was scored by my favorite player in the biggest game soccer game I will probably ever attend. Needless to say, I was heartbroken to have missed the goal, but at the end of the day, I am still thankful that I got to go, that my team won, and that I was lucky enough to have been gifted the tickets by my amazing mother.
The rest of the day was a little bit of a blur since we had started so early but thanks to public transportation it was not an issue and we went back into London for the rest of the night. It had been a while since we had some good American-style Chinese food so for dinner we stopped at P.F Changs before heading to a Comedy Club to get some laughs in before heading home from our long day.
The next day we went back to Wembley Stadium for the third time that week, this time to take a tour of the stadium which we got a discount for on our tickets. The stadium opened in 2007 on the site of the old Wembley Stadium after it was demolished in 2002. It is the biggest stadium in England, fitting around 90,000 fans. Other than Soccer games, obviously, Wembley Stadium is a huge concert venue which has been host to many of the most popular musicians in the whole world. It is also the home to most of the NFL football games that get played in England when they travel to London every year.
WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
Later that day, we had our tickets reserved for the WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. The museum began in 2012, a year after the release of the last Harry Potter film and occupies the same studio in which the films were made. Since the beginning of the films, the studios have become one of the largest and most state-of-the-art filmmaking facilities in the world. According to TripAdvisor, The Making of Harry Potter is the highest rated attraction in the world every year since it was opened and it definitely lived up to the hype for us.
As you can see there are an incredible number of interesting things we saw in the museum, including sets from all of the movies, props, and interactive exhibits that were amazing to see and interact with, even for people like Lauren who like the movies, but are not huge fans. There are so many things to see and I was amazed at everything they were able to display. Even though we spent multiple hours in the studio I did not find any second of it boring or not worth it. I would have gladly paid double what I did to go and enjoyed it much more than The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida. It truly was a magical experience for me and I left the studio elated and dying to re-watch the movies.
Harry Potter Tour Tips:
- The earlier you schedule your tour, the more time you have to wander around. You don’t want to have half the tour left and have them kick you out before closing.
- The tours are fully-booked months in advance so make sure you look and buy your tickets months before the actual day you want to visit.
- Ask Questions! The people in the museum are EXTREMELY knowledgeable and are more than happy to give you extra behind the scenes information. We asked some random girl a question and she took us on our own mini-tour of Diagon Alley which was amazing!
- The tour is a little outside of Central London so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there before your tour is scheduled to start.