Sunday, August 15, 2010

WARNING: Super long and nerdy account of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Oh my goodness. If you haven't been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet, you need to go right now. Srsly. I don't even know where to start. This park was so completely and utterly cool that I almost exploded. First, our attire:

Here I am enjoying our free breakfast at the Three Broomsticks in my "Meggle" shirt (get it?)! (Side note: That is pumpkin juice I have. So. Cool. They also had butterbeer that you could have, which was a butterscotchy-sweet drink. I got it just cold, but you could also have it frozen. It was too sweet to drink the whole cup though.) Also, we both had prescription glasses made before our trip, so I believe our souvenir Harry Potter glasses are infinitely cooler than other peoples. And the shirts we wore were homemade too, I used a bleach pen and copied the font from the internet...but the best part is Bryan's shirt:

See how much crisper (is crisper a word?) "Muggle" came out on his shirt? I think it must have something to do with the dye in the shirt because we bought his new and we got mine at a thrift store. Oh well. That's not even the best part though. Check out the back:

"Jesus was in Gryffindor"! It was Bryan's idea, I just drew it for him. Let me tell you what, he is in SO many people's vacation memories and lots of people asked where we bought our shirts, which made me feel good :) Okay enough about my bleach pen skillz, let's get on with it.

Frickin' Hogsmeade! It was also exceptionally cloudy our first day there which added to the snowy ambiance. Look at how the chimneys are all caddywhompus! Love it! All of the stores were there too, some were just a storefront, which I hope in the future they change and make it so that you can go in each one. Can you believe that there were lines just to get in to them? The stores you could go in were Zonko's Joke Shop, Honeydukes, and Dervish and Banges. We only had to stand in the line for Dervish and Banges because we did all of our souvenir shopping late in the evening, about an hour before the park closed, so a lot of people had left. But it was worth it because I finally found my Gryffindor pin! (Did I tell you that I collect pins? Well, I do.)

Here is the owl post, which was just a store front. Even so, look at all the detail they put into it! Oh, and in the bathrooms? Moaning Myrtle. On a speaker. So. Cool!

Once you walk through Hogsmeade, you see Hogwarts,
which is where the Forbidden Journey ride is:

The line to get on the ride is almost as cool as the ride itself (which was omgsoawesome, but we'll get to that later) because it snakes through Hogwarts, so you get to walk through all of the parts of the castle. We stood in line one time (for 25 minutes right when the park opened) so that we could see everything. After that, we capitalized on a little known secret called the "single riders line" for people who don't mind being split up to fill in spaces on the ride. This little gem allowed us to ride this ride 3 times in 30 minutes when there was a 75 minute wait for the regular line. The funny thing is, that 2 out of the 3 times we wound up riding together! I love efficiency! Or would that be inefficiency? I don't care, I love it! Anyway, I was saying that I'm glad we stood in the regular line once so that we could see Hogwarts:

First, the line started in the greenhouse. I was so excited I couldn't even contain myself. Like a kid in a candy store times a billion. Then, once you get inside you see this:

Love it. Do you see that Gryffindor house is in the lead? Sometimes I feel like the other houses don't get the respect they deserve. I mean, what's so bad about Hufflepuff? But I digress.

The entrance to Dumbledore's office! My pictures from inside his office didn't come out, but he had all of his trinkets and tools, and he was even there at his desk! They used that super cool advanced technology that makes the person look like they are standing there. I don't know what it's called, but he wasn't on a screen or anything, he was projected, but in 3D. They also did that for Harry, Hermione, and Ron in a classroom that you got to walk through. And:

The pictures move! They have a texture over what I assume is a tv screen to make it look like an oil painting, but they move! Very well done.

This might be one of my favorite pictures of us from the trip. We're on the Forbidden Journey ride, about to go through the floo network, and Bryan snaps this pic.

That ride is so cool too. You are facing sideways, so you can't really see the "enchanted bench" you're in, or anyone else's, so it really envelopes you. Some of the time you're in front of a huge screen flying on a broom, but then it will take you away from the screen and you'll be in the midst of dementors. Aragog makes an appearance, as well as the whomping willow, and something we missed the first time we rode it, a Basilisk skeleton. The ride was very, very well done. I'm glad I was able to ride it more than once!

The other rides in the Harry Potter section were neat too, one was a kiddie roller coaster, The Flight of the Hippogriff, which we only rode once, and the other was the Dragon Challenge, which was a super fun roller coaster. We w
ere able to ride this one 4 times because in the morning and the evening when the park wasn't as busy, the people that were there wanted to do the Forbidden Journey. Well, since we already tackled that one 4 times over, we went to the other rides like this one.

The one thing we didn't do is the "Wand Chooses You" interactive experience at Ollivanders. The line was super long 100% of the time, and we figured it was probably geared more toward kids than adults, and even though Bryan and I consider ourselves big kids, we decided that we don't need a wand.

Another secret of Islands of Adventure, is that since everyone wants to see Harry Potter first, you can ride all the other rides in the park for little to no wait. This is true in the morning and the evening. Rather than wait 60 minutes for the Forbidden Journey at 9pm, we rode 4 other rides in that time with less than a 5 minute wait each. Our strategy (HP strat 2.0) was to knock out all we could in the morning, leave the park in the early afternoon when it's busiest to go see a movie (The Other Guys is hilarious. I thought it was gonna be SO dumb, but it was really funny) then have some dinner and go back to the park around 8pm when the crowds died down. Worked like a charm (hah!), the longest we stood in line for any ride was 25 minutes.

I can't say the same about Disney World. Since we were in Orlando, we went to the Magic Kingdom as well. First, our car was late, and even though our driver was the biggest character we met on the trip, he was also the most annoying. What's so bad about riding quietly? Everything to this guy, he talked non-stop. He told
us about how he will bend over backwards for his guests, because "guests" are "VIP" and "ride in a town car". "Customers", however "shop at 7-11". "A cab will pick up any garbage off the street. VIP ride in town cars." "Welcome to Orlando, this is my home and you are my guest. Come on in, want a beer?" His words, not mine. Also, after he divulged that even though he worked at Universal, and was the best at his job no less, he quit and hasn't been back because he "never goes backwards in life" and "never dates the same girl twice". Not even kidding. Then, he came clean and apologized for being late. No, not in the morning, but in the evening when he was actually 10 minutes early, but considered that 5 minutes late because "15 minutes early is on time". Well, at this point we pointed out that, by that logic, he was actually 30 minutes late when he picked us up in the morning. Didn't even phase him. He just kept talking. Oh man, we won't forget Jimmy, if that's even his real name. And second of all (did you forget we were counting? Me too. Almost.) they lost our ticket reservation so we almost didn't get to go in. That was frustrating, but it worked out.

Here's a picture of a sign in the bathroom at Disney:
I feel like this sign was unnecessary. I like how at the bottom it says "Hand washing tips provided by Sparkle" like they're all proud of themselves for providing this breakthrough information that will ensure the cleanliness of your hands, when in reality there is no new information here. These aren't "tips", they're instructions.

Anyway, so Disney wasn't as cool as I remembered it being as a kid. The lines were long, the rides definitely weren't as fun and adult friendly as Universal, and the employees were less accommodating. I am glad we went one time for the memory bank though, and now we won't return until we have kids that will think it's as magical as we did. I did get my very own Ellie Badge to add to my collection, which made it worth going for sure. Here we are on Space Mountain! Which, by the way, hasn't changed one bit since 1999 when I was there last. Hey, if you look super close you can see my Ellie Badge! It's my new favorite pin.

Other things we encountered on the trip: Bumper Boats, Blue Delicious - a long island except with blue curacao instead of coke and at 2 for 1 no less!, this quote from "Pulp Fiction" (I don't know why it came up, but once it did we kept saying it), rain for 15 minutes and then humidity, Bob Marley bar - Bryan was stoked that they had his favorite drink from Jamaica, but other than that it wasn't as cool as it sounds, pinky toe blisters, c'you c'mears - inside joke that is not worth explaining because it's not funny, Bryan's inexplicably terrible smelling shirt, bad karaoke at a bar with equally bad drinks - compared to Blue Delicious that is, and pleasant evening weather even though it was super humid and hot all day - which is more than I can say for the weather in Texas.

Phew! That was a long one! I couldn't resist. :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy (Belated) Birthday to Meg!

Really, it should be Megh because that "h" is there for a reason and silent letters never get enough credit.
Yes, I made this cake myself. For my own birthday. But it's not a big deal, I wanted to. Seriously, I'm not even being sarcastic. I don't know anyone who likes Van Gogh as much as I do, plus he also has a silent "h" (and "g" for that matter), so really, I was the perfect candidate for this cake. :)

That's all for now!