Monday, June 20, 2011

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

In May we got out of cold and rainy Seattle and spent 11 days where it was really too hot and humid, but it was fantastic. Whenever I felt too hot I just had to remind myself that back home it still looked and felt like winter. Most of our trip was all about Disney. We spent four days at each of the Disney parks, one day at Downtown Disney and three glorious days on the new Disney Dream. Fantastic! However, there was no way I could go to Orlando and not spend a day at Universal's "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter".

It's a theme park that was designed with the help of the set designer for the Harry Potter movies and the author, J.K. Rowling herself. I've heard nothing but good things about it and have waited a year to go. It was worth the wait. It's awesome. I felt like I had walked into the books and the movies. The music from the movies plays everywhere in Hogsmeade (the village) and Hogwarts (the school), even in the restroom. All of a sudden I heard the mournful voice of Moaning Myrtle when I was in the restroom. It made me giggle.

We looked in all the shops, rode the rides (not the Dueling Dragon coaster). We both liked the Forbidden Journey ride so much that we did it twice. As Terry said, it's an intense ride as you "fly" through the castle, over the castle grounds, almost get attacked by the Whomping Willow, a dragon, and Dementors, after flying along with Harry in a Quidditch game. The last part lets us fly along with Harry over the lake and back to the castle. The entrance to the ride is through Hogwarts. All the things from the books and the movies are there. And it's great to see Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom with Harry, Ron and Hermione talking.

Pat at the Three Broomsticks drinking Butterbeer

For lunch we ate at The Three Broomsticks. We both decided on the Cornish Pasties (that's pasty, not pastry). I felt very British, knowing what it was and how to pronounce it. Terry had a Hogshead beer and said it was very good. I had a Butterbeer. It's hard to describe what it tastes like, but it's yummy and I wish I could have them more often. Frothy and foamy on the top, not too sweet, kind of fruity tasting, not carbonated. Oh, and the Cornish Pasties were very good as well.

We stood in a very long line to get in to Ollivander's Wand Shop. The owner of the shop selects one person to be chosen by a wand. Many of his lines are right out of the first book. The girl that was chosen seemed a bit overwhelmed, but she went along with it and when the wand "chose" her and he explained it's meaning, she just kind of glowed. We saw her later with her dad and Terry asked if she got her wand - of course, she did! After the wand show, we were all shuttled into the shop next door. I would love to have bought a lot of things, but honestly, I can get them on-line, meaning I didn't have to carry things around with me.

Later in the day, I bought a bottle of Pumpkin Juice. They drink it all the time in the books, and I always thought it sounded a bit . . . unappetizing. However, now it's my other new favorite drink. This one has apple juice, pumpkin puree and apricot puree, sugar and a few other flavorings. It's kind of the tast of a good spiced cider, like the one from Trader Joe's.

At one point, I asked Terry if he thought most of the other people in Hogsmeade and at Hogwarts were as nerdy as I am about Harry Potter or if they just like the rides. The more we walked around, I think I had found a lot of kindred spirits, all of them referencing the books/movies and taking photos of the shop windows that only appeal to those of us who have loved the books for a long time. So, if that is not you, most of what I really enjoyed about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter probably made little or no sense. But just imagine your own favorite book or movie and then being surrounded by that world. It was great!

Pat and Terry at Hogsmeade

The other part of the day, we wandered through the rest of the Islands of Adventure. That's a not so subtle way of saying there are a lot of roller coasters. I was willing to wait while Terry rode them, including the Dueling Dragons, but he seems to have lost his death wish - which is the way I look at coasters that dangle your feet, twist all around and upside down while going very fast. The rest of our time at Universal was short - I knew he'd like the Jurassic Park River Adventure. We're not sure why it worked, but after we put our things in a locker, knowing that we would likely get wet, we got in the Express line. She scanned Terry's ticket and in we went with hardly any wait at all. It was so much fun that we went right back around and did it again. At that point, we realized there was another line that people were standing in - with a 50 minute wait. We sat in the back both times and only got a little wet, just enough to cool off in the hottest part of the day. The people in the front row, however, were drenched. So glad we put our stuff in lockers - who wants to take a chance on ruining cameras? I think the only other "ride" we did was Poseidon - it was a special effects show.

We headed back to the bus and ate dinner here at the hotel. Homewood Suites offers a breakfast and a meal in the evening. We were both exhausted so the idea of going out for dinner just wasn't appealing. I tried to do some reading while Terry was downloading his photos after dinner and kept drifting off to sleep.

From then on our trip was all Disney. But it was fun to go to a theme park where we'd never been. Everything was new and different and we actually had to look at the park maps to figure out where we were and how to get where we wanted to go.

I don't know that we will ever go back to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It's really the only part of Universal that appeals to me and that makes it expensive since Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are a very small part of Islands of Adventure. But I am so glad that I did get to see it for myself. It was worth it at least once.


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