Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Children's Tour ; Harry Potter Fans Flock to Kings Cross Station to Find Platform 9-3/ 4, Where He Catches the Train to Hogwarts

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Children's Tour ; Harry Potter Fans Flock to Kings Cross Station to Find Platform 9-3/ 4, Where He Catches the Train to Hogwarts

Article excerpt

Like Mary Poppins soaring over rooftops, the charming characters created by English authors cross geographical boundaries. Translated into many languages, the stories belong not just to the country that spawned them, but to the children of the world.

There is no more enjoyable introduction to British culture, history, and literature than entering the world of favorite storybook characters and following in their footsteps. It's fun to visit places you dreamed of as a child and introduce your own children or grandchildren to them.

London is the perfect city to take youngsters on a literary journey through parks, gardens, castles, and cathedrals that were haunts of J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, P.L. Travers's Mary Poppins, and Michael Bond's Paddington Bear.

Kensington Gardens, the original setting for Peter Pan's Neverland, adjoins Hyde Park, creating a wide green space of more than 630 acres.

A brick wall and wrought-iron entrance gate separate the flowers blooming along winding paths from the multistoried buildings across the street. Quiet ponds and lagoons attract ducks, geese, and swans. This serenity and tranquility give Kensington a magical, other- world quality.

J.M. Barrie lived near Kensington Gardens. A visitor can stroll down the paths where Barrie walked the St. Bernard he and his wife received as a wedding present. The dog became the model for Nana.

On one of these walks Barrie met the Davis family. The idea of Peter Pan came from the many games he played with the Davis boys, and from the adventurous tales he made up to entertain them. He became their favorite "uncle," and when their parents died at an early age, the boys were left in Barrie's care.

When I was there, young boys clad in blue pants and white shirts jumped, skipped, and bounced as they searched for Peter Pan's statue. They raced along the banks of the Long Water, the smaller, narrower upper section of the Serpentine, a 40-acre artificial lake.

The Long Water narrows until it reaches Tivoli Gardens, a group of four fountains placed symmetrically in front of an Italianate summerhouse designed by Christopher Wren. A hundred yards beyond, the boys came upon Peter Pan. They dissolved into shrieks and delighted laughter.

This was exactly the reaction Barrie anticipated when he commissioned George Frampton to create a bronze statue of the fairy- tale character. Barrie sneaked the statue into Kensington Gardens in the dark of night, hoping that when it was seen in the morning, people would think it got there by magic.

Scholars have surmised that the idea of a boy who wouldn't grow up was based on Barrie himself, who remained forever youthful, with a willingness to play games, a vivid imagination, and a boyish appearance.

Leave Kensington Gardens-Hyde Park, hop on a red double-decker bus, sit on the top tier, notice the rooftops, and count the brick chimneys so prominent in the tales about Mary Poppins. …

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