Posted 10 years, 50 weeks ago.
Today I sit in a chair in Anaheim. We flew into LAX this morning from Orlando, here we spent a short three days at Universal and also at the pool. Orlando was a bittersweet visit. Good things happened, bad things happened.
Allow me to explain.
Less than an hour after I posted my previous post about New York from the plane, we arrived at the airport in Orlando. We got off the plane and headed to the baggage claim area to collect our luggage. After a short wait, the conveyor kicked in, and bags started appearing from the mysterious land beyond the plastic flaps. First a lot of unfamiliar bags, then my new bright orange one, and then more unfamiliar bags. Twenty minutes or so later, no new bags had a appeared… and Mel’s was nowhere to be found.
Let me just point out that Mel has had a bag (filled with expensive, fancy things) lost before, so losing her luggage is one of her greatest fears during a trip.
After watching the same bags go around the loop a couple of times, I turned to her and said “I don’t think it’s coming” which caused Mel to mutter “thanks” under her breath before storming off. She found her way to the baggage claim office, where she discovered that her bag was currently on a flight to Seattle. SEATTLE. We made arrangements for it to be delivered to the hotel, and tried to focus on our holiday.
We caught a shuttle to the hotel on International Drive, which at first glance was… well… dodgy. Every other shop has a sign up saying that they either sell discount theme park tickets, or they sell some form of Disney souvenirs. After we checked in and left our gear in our room, we went for a walk to explore, and more importantly, to get something for Mel to wear other than the clothes she’d spent the plane ride in.
After finding a dress for Mel, we went back to the hotel, where Mel got changed and we caught a taxi to Universal City Walk1. Here we found Mel some walking shoes, picked up our tickets to the parks, and also got some bits and pieces to take home for people. We didn’t stay long though, and ended up heading back to the hotel to sleep.
We got up early to catch the first shuttle to Universal in the morning so that we could make our breakfast reservation at the Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (which is part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure park). Inside the restaurant feels just like in the movies or books or whatever, including lights from the guests upstairs (some of them performing magic), owls out the window, and the like. Add to that the music from the movies’ scores, and you have a very Potteresque atmosphere in which to eat breakfast.
I should also mention that with my breakfast I ordered a “butterbeer”, which is one of the go to drinks in the Harry Potter world (the other, I am told, is pumpkin juice). In the theme park, this basically consists of butterscotch flavoured soda topped with melted ice cream (which forms the head of the “beer”). I’m usually a fan of butterscotch flavoured things, but this was well… a little weird. Suffice to say, I’m glad I tried it, but I didn’t have another.
After breakfast we headed out to explore Hogsmeade. We looked in some of the stores (wands are EVERYWHERE), and then lined up for ‘The Forbidden Journey’ which is one of the main rides (it takes place inside of Hogwarts). After a wait of around 75 minutes or so, we found ourselves strapped in for a little more than we bargained for. Mel started screaming almost instantly, and I started to swear (this, of all things, is my reaction to moments of fear: I curse like a sailor).
I won’t bore you with details of the rides we went on. Basically it consists of us going on a few relatively tame rides in different sections of the park, including one rollercoaster (“The Flight of the Hippogriff”). Our favourite ended up being one called “Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges” which was great because we got completely soaked (something that was really wonderful considering the awful heat).
Our second day took us to the Universal Studios park. Here we walked through various lots that are made to look like American cities: New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, etc. We were walking around at a fairly leisurely pace… until the Delorian and the train from Back to the Future caught our eye, and suddenly we were all but running towards that.
For the most part, though, Universal Studios is a lot of “oh, look at that” and not so big on the rides. We spent a lot less time in this park, and eventually left, hoping to go back to Islands of Adventure for the rest of the day. We got our 3 day park-per-day tickets turned into 2 day park-to-park tickets, and then headed back into Islands of Adventure, hoping to get on the Bilge-Rat Barges ride again. By the time we got to the ride, though, we were in the middle of the afternoon’s thunderstorm, and after waiting for it to end, we decided to give up, and headed back to the hotel.
We got changed (we had gotten soaked in the rain), and then headed back to City Walk to see the eighth Harry Potter film at the AMC cinema. We originally got some decent seats, but as it turns out, they were for friends and family of disabled patrons, and so when a guy in a wheelchair turned up with his family, suddenly we found ourselves having to search for new seats in an already packed cinema. Needless to say, we ended up right down the front to the left hand side. (Please note: I don’t blame the guy. He can’t help his condition. But the cinema employee could probably have been a little more accommodating. Just saying.)
After two days at Universal, we were pretty knackered, so we ended up spending our last day at our hotel; surfing the net, swimming in the pool, and eating jellybeans (I love jellybeans so much).
I checked another couple of items from my “things to try” list: butterbeer, buffalo wings, and IHOP. Of the three, buffalo wings were the best, though I ordered way too many, and ended up leaving half of them behind.
All in all, Orlando was a fun stop. Super hot, which was kinda awful, but visiting the parks was fun. If we ever go back it will be to visit Disney World (which we didn’t get to), and maybe to take Mel back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Orlando, or at least the part of Orlando where we stayed, isn’t really anything other than a place to stay while visiting the theme parks. We’re glad to have visited, but we’re not in a rush to return.
For those not in the know, Universal and Disney have a sort of shopping district outside their theme parks. It’s basically an outdoor mall, with various stores, restaurants and a cinema. For Universal, it’s called ‘Universal City Walk’. Disney calls theirs ‘Downtown Disney’. To visit them, you don’t require a ticket into the park itself. ↩