When I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago, I found a Harry Potter cafe. I was sitting ina restaurant recommended by my hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi. I was reading the signs across the street whenI thought the one place was called lways". I thought that was strange and I saw a number of people go in or stop to look at it. Then I realized that strange symbol in front of it was an "a". Ah, I get it, "Always" is the name. The "a" was the symbol for the deathly hallows. Now, in Korea, some places write "Cafe and Beer" outside. At first I thought this said the same, then I realized it said "Cafe and Butterbeer". Any Potterhead knows what butterbeer is and there is a place right across the street that serves it. I had to go. On entering the place I was overwhelmed with all things Harry Potter. First off there was merchandise. Boxed wands, replicas from the different characters from the movies, each one different. There were the bobble heads I had seen in North Amercia of other famous characters. Souvenir ups from Harry Potter world Hollywood. And necklaces. They had a good version of the necklace Hermione wore to go back in time and of the Deathly Hallows. There was a notice that if you reviewed them on TripAdvisor they would give you the deathly hallows necklace as a gift. You know I wrote a review and i bought the time reversal necklace.
The front room was full of people so I was escorted to the back room. Even more Harry Potter. One wall was painted with a scene from Diagon Alley with a dragon on the rooftop. Another wall was full of framed pictures of the cast of the movies in costume. The back wall had the banners from each house hanging its length with the Quidditch cup in front and the Griffindor sword, as well as house scarves. The sorting hat was hanging from the ceiling, as were Quidditch brooms. Daily Prophet newspapers were also posted on the walls with headlines from the movies. It was a muggle paradise.
I was handed a menu which listed Butterbeer, Polyjuice potion, Felix Felicia, Goblet of Fire, Forbidden Forest Fruit among others. There was real coffee and other drinks and food, but you know what I had to order? Butterbeer. It ended up being a soda with a sugary syrup added on top but it had a nice head on it like beer of a sort and it suited the atmosphere, which is the most important part.
As I was sitting there two other groups of travellers came in and I got to watch their reactions to the room. They all loved it. It was like your childhood coming to life, your imagination becoming real. Sure, we had all seen the movies and I had read all the books, most of them twice. I am not a child but the stories resonated so well with people you felt like you could be part of the story and the cafe made it feel possible. I am sure the sets for the movies would have been much grander, or Harry Potter world more impressive, but here, in Hanoi, this was pretty cool. Years ago I was in Oxford University and you were allowed in the real room they used as the great hall in the movies. It wasn't set up like in the movie - it had plates from the university dressing the tables and some very serious men with tilted bowlers watching us suspiciously, guarding the sanctity of the place as well as the dishes, I am sure. Always cafe was much more fun experience and I particularly love the name because it was so integral to the movie and made you like Snape and understand his sacrifice.
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