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London lines up for 'Hallows' eve

Harry Potter fans voice excitement and some end-of-series sadness as they wait in the damp for the book's release.

July 20, 2007|Alicia Lozano | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — Outside Waterstone's book shop in tourist-filled Piccadilly Circus, a woman in her 20s slept soundly on the sidewalk, her witch's hat covering her tired eyes.

A young girl dressed as a Victorian nurse chewed on candy and chatted with others eagerly waiting outside the store. And at the front of the growing line, a 16-year-old from the Netherlands held a sign addressed to spectators: "Only $2 for staring," it said.

The highly anticipated release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," the last book in J.K. Rowling's series, will go on sale starting at midnight tonight. The book already has the British capital dizzy with excitement.

Fans trudge through rain-soaked streets in search of memorabilia. Tourists have timed visits here to coincide with the book's release. And retailers are hosting huge Potter parties for enthusiastic readers hungry to find out what happens to the boy wizard.

"We've waited long enough," said Roy Oosting, a 20-year-old from Belgium.

Sitting on the damp sidewalk, Oosting joked with 19 other fans who had traveled here from Brussels. Known as the Dreuzels (the Dutch word for Muggles, which in the Potter books are humans without magical powers), the members of the group, ages 16 to 23, have been waiting outside Waterstone's since Wednesday afternoon. They plan to take shifts waiting in line and napping in their hotel rooms.

A woman from Michigan and her two daughters were camped farther down the line. They booked a hotel across the street to make sure they would not miss the bookstore party.

"I love the waiting and anticipating, of guessing what is going to occur," said Margie McCloy. "Sharing this with my girls is what is most magical to me."

"I'll miss the spectacle," interrupted Chellie Carr, McCloy's youngest daughter. "No Harry Potter fan will ever experience this after this book."

Across town, fans have been pouring into King's Cross Station for a view of the railroad platform where, in the books, Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione board the train for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

A group of French students with matching backpacks swarmed a plain wall that read Platform 9 3/4 . A German family feverishly snapped pictures of a luggage trolley sticking out from the brown bricks. And a woman from Texas smiled as she posed for a picture in front of the sign.

Although "Deathly Hallows" is the last of the Potter books, Britain's tourism industry hopes the buck will not end here.

Tours have sprung up to take Potter fans through England and Scotland to locations used in the movies.

For $700, fans can take an eight-hour taxi tour in London and Oxford to movie locations such as King's Cross Station and Christ Church College. Beyond Boundaries travel agency offers weeklong tours that range from $1,800 for a Spanish-speaking guide to $3,000 for a nine-day adult adventure.

Many loyal readers still find the excitement of this week's book release mixed with sadness.

Some say they can't wait to find out who lives and who dies, but others wish that the fantasy wouldn't end.

"I sort of grew up with the characters," said 18-year-old Kyle Dobson, who plans to stand in line with his brother, Jarod, to get their copy of the book at midnight.

"You got so used to them being around, since it's been 10 years now," he said. You always had something to look forward to. If you invest a lot into them, it's quite a sad thing."

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