Looking at the Vacation

It was a wonderful vacation. We experienced sun and sand and family. Thrown in on the end was a 2 day visit to Universal Studios specifically to see Harry Potter World (Hogwarts and Hogsmeade).
My sister and brother in law were gracious hosts and we loved our visit! The hot tub was delightful even if the weather was a little on the chilly side. It did warm up to near 70 degrees so it was definitely warmer than Indiana. We crammed in a bunch of activities – we went to some thrift stores, the guys played frisbee golf, visited the farmer’s market, had sushi, I cooked a steak dinner (with help from my sister), did a few geocaches, we walked on the beach, watched the sun set, enjoyed the hot tub, watched a little TV, and talked! There are a few of you who might think I talk a lot. Well, I can’t hold a candle to my little sister!! The last night there we talked until 3:00 AM… I was so tired the next day.

 

   

After a longish ride back to Orlando, we were able to relax and prepare for the visit to Universal Studios. Having been to “the happiest place on earth” I was hoping for a similar experience. They have 2 parks and each one has a portion of the Harry Potter universe. I suspect this is to ensure fans shell out the money for both parks. I was a little dismayed that all rides exited through the gift shops. It was a little blatant. To be more specific, Paradise Island is geared to little kids. The rides were less terrifying (in general) and the waits shorter except for the new ride “Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure” which first thing in the morning was already a 2.5 hour wait time standing in line. By the end of the day it was a 3 hour wait and they weren’t allowing any more people after 3:00 PM! We had a 5 min wait on most of the other rides! Best one was The Minion Ride. Followed by the Fast and Furious ride as the funniest. We didn’t do any of the rides that involved water. The Harry Potter attractions involved spots where (provided you shelled out $55 to purchase the wand) you could stand and waving your wand in a specific pattern activate the “magic”. The result was the sight of dollar signs floating through the air and little wizards and witches having mini meltdowns as they failed to “flick and swish” effectively.


So my overall evaluation of Universal Studios was a resounding “meh”. Yes I had fun but it was not as well done as Disney. The Jurassic Park area was completely underwhelming. Only half the science-oriented stations worked and the overall feeling was of being talked down to… On the other hand the best and cheapest concession was the smoked turkey leg. It was big enough for 2 and without the $3 chips only $13! (yes the food is very over priced) We took a backpack with some foods – bananas and pears and oranges and a couple bagels and pastries from the hotel breakfast. I can’t imagine feeding a family in the park!!
Now on the other hand we got to do some quality people watching. The park was rife with newlyweds. Most of the couples were from the UK or South America. How do you know? you ask. Well, the big badges that many wore that said “We’re Celebrating…” with a write in area. Most said “our honeymoon” while there were a few that said “our wedding”. There were others that had t-shirts that said “Hubby” and “Wifey” or Good Wife/Bad Wife with the word witch crossed out. As for their countries of origin, the accents were unmistakable. Most of the people visiting the Harry Potter attractions were from across the pond (UK) – and they were quite happy to let you know where they called home. The Brits mostly reminded us of a Tracey Ullman type – down to earth working class and plain good people on the vacation of their lives. The couples from South America (some from Brasil and Venezuela and a few from Peru and then the others who were undetermined) seemed to be slumming it. They were on the whole, pushy and loud and not at all friendly. Perhaps it is a cultural thing. Those women were the only people wearing high heels and what I’d consider clothes to go clubbing in (maybe they were so unfriendly because their feet hurt)!

34 thoughts on “Looking at the Vacation

  1. I love that first shot of the nicely groomed beach with the few tracks across it — and the sand dunes shot, too! I never thought Universal Studios was an attractive theme park (there’s one in LA too), and wouldn’t have particularly aimed for a Harry Potter section. I’ve been to Epcot too — once shortly after 9/11, when we had the entire park to ourselves, and did it all in 1/2 day! It’s much more interesting, and less Hollywood-ish!

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    1. Yes – disc golf is the same as Frisbee golf. I’m pretty sure we’ll go back just not to Universal Studios. The beach was very pretty and after it warmed up it was delightful.

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  2. Hope you got to see the Epcot Center. I liked that a lot. Universal studios, is a definite meh for me too. The beach looks so clean and welcoming. What beach was this? Vero Beach?
    South Americans wear high heels! Period! We had an exchange student staying with us. He was from Brazil. His parents came for the high school graduation in 1996. We went to the auditorium, and found seats way up in the bleachers. The mother was wearing a glittery floor length gown with sequins and stuff, and she had on high heels. You can imagine how difficult it was for her to climb up the many tiers of the auditorium. The father was in a three piece suit. Perhaps they always have very formal attire for functions like that.
    When I was in Orlando with Sayeed and went to the Disney World, I saw hundreds of South Americans, and the ladies were in high heels.
    Glad you and your sister had such a good time together.

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    1. Good to know my observations are corroborated! We haven’t been to Disney since the boys were young – maybe 25 yrs ago! I will definitely be going back as Epcot was the high point of that trip. The beach was Pensacola Beach facing the gulf. The sand was so white that it looked like snow. There weren’t many people on the beach so it felt like a private beach! We could see the beach from my sister’s house since she lives next to the beach access. They have only 2 weeks unrented left this year and will be moving there as their primary residence as of January. Tiki House Pensacola Beach – they are on Houfy (house for you)… you’d love it there – take the whole family for Christmas (has 5 bedrooms plus 2 bunk rooms for kids so it sleeps 20)!

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      1. Pensacola Beach is one of the best beaches. My parents retired on the Gulf of Mexico near Fairhope, Al. It was beautiful and I had the opportunity to visit the less visited beaches in Pensacola during the winter months.

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  3. We live in Florida but the last time I went to any Disney world was a free ticket after boot camp graduation from the USN. We are not theme park kind of people but the stepson and the grandkids are loving living in Florida because of the Disney parks and go once a month.I love the beaches and the small fishing towns.

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    1. To each his own. I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much if I went often – the novelty would wear off. The beaches are a marvel mostly because the only beach near by for us is Lake Michigan and those beaches are not the sandy ones in Florida – they are all rocky requiring sturdy shoes if you are going for a walk…

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    1. I am well rested. This is in sharp contrast to returning from vacation while working – I hated to come back because no one did my job while I was away so the first couple of weeks back were crazy busy!!

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  4. I haven’t been to Universal Studios for at least twenty years, and certainly before they expanded. At the time, I preferred it to Disney because it was smaller, less-crowded and more easy to manage. But it sounds as if they have grown too fast and ruined the very thing that made it so good in the first place!

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