A Traveler’s Review of the Harry Potter Series (First Four Books)

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I finished rereading The Goblet of Fire. I don’t really do traditional book reviews, though–I like reading them, just don’t want to write them–so I thought I’d try something different. Combining my love of travel with my love of reading: this is a review of the first four books in the Harry Potter series, not as books, but as a vacation that happens to take place in words.

The World: This world is very special to a lot of people, and with good reason. Personally, I’m especially fond of the shopping. Diagon Alley is still as wonderful as I remember–I wanted to go into every store. Hogsmeade is also very charming. But the real attraction, of course, is arguably Hogwarts. If you want to spend some time in a magical-castle-boarding-school (and who doesn’t), this is a fantastic place to start. That isn’t to say it’s a perfectly safe place, but we’ll get to that later on.

The People: First off, it has to be said that most of these people are wizards, so there’s a certain danger involved for anyone who doesn’t possess similar magical powers. And as previously mentioned, Hogwarts is a school, so your odds of getting accidentally cursed by someone who isn’t trying to curse you aren’t, you know, nonexistent. That having been said, however, the people of this world are mostly very welcoming. Except for those who really, really aren’t. The good news is that in the first few books, it’s generally pretty easy to tell who’s who. I understand that gets more complicated the longer you stay in the world, but at the start, you should have a pretty good sense of who to run away from.

Dining and Activities: Those with adventurous palates will probably have a lot of fun with the food here, and will especially enjoy the candies this world has to offer. (Check out Honeydukes.) For those who don’t find the food particularly appetizing, there’s plenty else to keep you busy. I already mentioned the shopping–there’s a very interesting bookstore in Diagon Alley. Those with bookish tendencies may also enjoy the Hogwarts library. If you prefer to spend your time on more scientific pursuits, you’ll have a chance to learn a fair amount about potions, and also a fair amount about magical flora and fauna. For more athletic types: you’ll definitely enjoy Quidditch. In fact, even if you don’t plan to play the game, I’d recommend taking in at least one match, as it’s a big part of the wizarding world. And it can be a lot of fun to watch when you aren’t the person who’s about to get creamed by a Bludger.

Other Assorted Hazards: This is what I meant when I said Hogwarts isn’t perfectly safe. This is a magical world, with magical creatures. There will be dangerous things happening. It helps a lot if you stay away from things with names like “the Whomping Willow.” I mean, the risk is right there in the title. But you may find it unavoidable, in which case… I don’t know, be careful. Bring a first-aid kit. No, seriously, you’ll want it. Which brings us to the last section…

Things to Pack: Just a few items that may make your stay in the Harry Potter universe safer and/or more enjoyable.

  • First-aid kit. Because it had to be said again. They do have magical ways of healing injuries there, but sometimes those ways are not immediately accessible. So be prepared.
  • A blanket, for those long stormy British nights. Also for when something scares you and you need to hide. Because that could happen, too.
  • Tea. Because tea. Does there have to be another reason?

All in all, I enjoyed my most recent visit to this universe. I’m not sure yet about venturing into the darker chapters that supposedly lie ahead, but I can say that these first few books make good weekend getaways (or week-long, or month-long journeys, depending on how fast you read). And inexpensive, too, as “tickets” are probably available at your local library, free of cost.

So, there. I’m not sure if I’ll do more reviews like this, but at least this one was fun to write.

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