Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Florida Trip: beaches and Disney and wizards

It's good to finally sit down and stop moving.  What's not so good is that thanks to my mother I'm addicted to this game on Facebook called Slingo, so while my family (families) are out back swimming or watching something together I'm in my big armchair playing this damn game.  But if you're beginning to get concerned, no, I have not spent my entire Florida vacation inside on the internet.

Tonight I'm still finding sand all over my hands and between my swollen toes from being on the beach all day.  I can happily say that I succeeded in getting a nice looking tan, but ask me to turn around and you'll see that the backs of my arms are glaringly white.  I didn't set foot in the Atlantic - I was confined to my chair because walking over the uneven sand in my cast was troublesome and I was too scared to try without - but despite the mobility issues, the beach on the East Coast was beautiful nonetheless.  I'm not usually one for sitting around and doing nothing; the four hours we spent by the water was almost difficult for me to sit through because there's only so much I can do without moving and there's only so many times I can listen to No Doubt's Settle Down even though I adore the song.  In comparison to my last two days, though, it was nice to come to a screeching halt.

Two days ago, Sunday, we went to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.  As I mentioned in my last post I've been once before in my life, though I can't remember much aside from what was the most terrifying experience of my entire existence: a staged alien ride where an alien breaks loose in a room and it is downright traumatizing.  Thankfully Disney smartened up and replaced the monstrous thing that breaks the power and runs around you in the dark with Stitch from Lilo & Stitch instead.

I can't explain the sort of feeling that came over me when we set foot off of the monorail - if you've never been, you take a monorail from the parking lot because this Disney property is freaking huge - and onto the Main Street with Cinderella's castle staring directly at you at the end.  No, I can explain it: I turned into a giddy kid.  Into Tomorrowland, where we sat through a Monster's Inc. live comedy show, rode Space Mountain, and competed in a laser game on the Buzz Lightyear ride; deeper into the park, where we took pictures with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger after riding a hunny pot through the 100 Acre Wood; through It's a Small World which was bloody torturous; over to the Haunted Mansion which gave me heart palpitations, and it's worth mentioning that I'm astounded by the production and detail of that ride; finally finishing on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster and with Pirates of the Caribbean which has since been redesigned to match the movies, complete with eerily realistic animatronics of Johnny Depp.  The highlight, though, came in the form of a 3D movie ride called Mickey's PhilharMagic, which involves a journey through some of the most iconic musical numbers from the classic cartoons, all redesigned from 2D to 3D.  What took the show to a higher level was that when a 3D pie was thrown through the screen at you (okay, not literally, obviously), the room filled with the scent of cinnamon and pie crust; when a wave engulfed the screen, you were sprayed with water.  Really awesome stuff.  Really was the happiest place on earth.

Oh, and I pulled the sword from the stone.

I'd never been to Universal Studios until yesterday.  The moment that I saw the Hogwarts Castle on the horizon I swear to god I think I almost started crying and sounds that I can't even begin to describe escaped my mouth.  We powered through the park straight toward the entrance to the Wizarding World, to Hogsmeade, and for the love of god, it was the most incredible place I have ever been in my entire life.  The honest truth is that I've spent about fifteen minutes attempting to put into words what being in the middle of that row of shops was like, but I've just given up completely.  The pictures we got hardly do the place justice; it was swimming with people as enamored with the detail and wonder as I was, and the fact that the soundtracks to the movies played on speakers everywhere you went just made everything infinitely better.  We walked straight onto the Dragon's Challenge roller coaster: its queue was themed entirely around the Triwizard Tournament, and walking through the line-up was almost as good (if not better) than the ride itself.  You pass by Hagrid's Hut, the crashed blue car, into the champions' tent, deep into some dungeons and around the freaking Goblet of Fire itself.

Walking up to the castle took my breath away.  The anchor of the themed area is the main ride within the castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but yet again the queue was as good as the ride itself: you first wind around the grounds and greenhouses before you enter the castle itself, and holy shit.  Dumbledore's office; the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom; the common room; past the Mirror of Erised, the Fat Lady, talking paintings, the Pensieve, I can't describe it.  (apparently neither could our camera - we had to leave it with our bag in the lockers) The ride itself is, without exaggeration, the most fun I have ever had.  You fly over the grounds, through the Quidditch pitch, through the Chamber of Secrets; you're attacked by a dragon, Aragog, spiders, and Dementors.  Again, I can't find the right way to properly describe with words how the ride actually worked, but I just know I screamed and laughed the entire time because goddamnit I had so much fun.  Strategically you can't exit the ride without passing through a gift shop; I came away with a Hippogrpyh stuffed animal, a Hogwarts mug, a Deathly Hallows keychain, and I later bought myself Sirius Black's wand from Ollivander's.  But that's all.  Oh, and a mug of Butterbeer, which was oddly delicious even though it was, really, disgusting.  I want to go back so bad and live there.  (we ended up deciding not to continue on in the park right away without riding the castle ride once more)

Wish you were as cool?
Unfortunately lightning in the skies derailed our plans for the rest of the park: they were forced to shut down any rides involving water, so we couldn't ride the Jurassic Park adventure that I was looking forward to.  We were lucky that everything else was eventually reopened, and I again ran around like a kid through the Marvel section of the park to Dr. Doom's Freefall ride and to the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, which was a blast.  I wish we had spent more time with Marvel, considering it was visually so cool: painted entirely in bright colours, the paths were set up like New York streets, and costumed superheroes like the X-Men (ahhh!) covered the buildings and roamed the streets themselves.  (I was restrained from getting a picture with Rogue and Storm - boooo) Had I not wasted away so much cash in the Wizarding World I would've gone as crazy with the superhero memorabilia, but by that late point in the day, we were eager to go home.

Tomorrow?  We revisit Disney, though this time we brave the Tower of Terror again in the Hollywood Studios park.

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