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Old 01-12-2013, 12:39 AM   #16
AnnieDan_Artlover's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Coteau-du-Lac, Qc, Canada
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Chapter 5 - Nov. 27th part 1: Jacksonville-UNIVERSAL!!!

THAT IT IS! For real!
For Mama, the trip started in Disney, even though she was excited about WWoHP... for my part, even though I had been counting the days leading up to the departure and feeling like our vacation started as soon as we left our driveway... I felt like TODAY the fun was starting!

I am a thrill seeker, a big fan of roller-coasters and big crazy rides, and on that level, Universal has more to offer me than Disney, so even if I didn't think I'd enjoy it more than WDW, I was still very excited!

I can't remember what time the alarm clock was set at... but we woke up much earlier than that... at 5am!

Breakfast was OK, no more, as usual... but hey, it was free, right?
Checkout happened in 1min. Not even joking!
And so we were on the road at 6:45.

We arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel at 9:30 after an easy drive and very clear directions, as expected.

Having done my research, I knew the handicapped parking was free (compared to something like 18$ a day), I didn't know if it would be closer (which would be nice) but for once I would definitely enjoy having a handicapped parking card... I don't often need it anymore, and honestly don't use it if I don't need it... except in these cases... Maybe it makes me a bad person... or maybe it just compensates a bit for all the crap living with this illness brings... That's how I see it.

Right getting out of the car I thought my luck was the worst ever, as one of my ankle "cramped" and I hardly could walk. I limped to the check-in counter with Mama, taking many stops along the way.
Lucky we had taken my cane. But I did NOT want to have to use it all day, and if it had continued like that we would've had to rent a scooter.

But our luck was not bad, it was great!
Even if it was super early, our room was ready and on our trip back to the car to get the luggage, my ankle got better.

And here is the room!

It felt very deluxe... and I couldn't help but notice that the colors, lime and khaki green and rich chocolate browns, were the same as in my little studio at home! HA! I have taste my friends!

The beds were really comfortable, it was nice to have pillows that weren't so thin you felt like sleeping with a folded sweater... The vanity area is separated from the bathroom, which we love. The mini-fridge was the old-style full of over-priced snacks type, so we didn't touch it.
One cool thing I found was the iPod-friendly alarm-clock, on which I could both play and recharge my iPhone at night! (not playing it at night, duh!)

I did notice, though, on the bad side, that there was no free internet access, not even Ethernet. And the price wasn't clearly noted anywhere. Maybe there was free WiFi in some common areas, but it wasn't advertized at all and I never encountered it.
I must say I was very disappointed that a place obviously so intent on making itself cool and techno-friendly wouldn't even be up-to-date on that... while the cheapest 75$ motel offers free WiFi!!! I mean come on, we paid over 250$ for the night!!!

We didn't lose time unpacking too much, we put sunscreen on (it was sunny, I had read many places that "This is Florida, even in the middle of winter, you wear sunscreen!"... we are white as ghosts, we were not gonna take any chances), we used the automated kiosk to take our pictures (AWFUL, as always) and print our Express cards and off to the park we were! It was 10:20.

Our first stop was guest services, to upgrade our park admission. See, when I bought ours, I bought (on 2 separate occasions), 2 days, park-to-park tickets. But now a promotion was going on for Canadian and US residents: buy that and get a 3rd day FREE!
Honestly, we didn't plan on coming back for a 3rd day...

BUT... I figured, if we really loved the parks and wanted to come back... once we used the tickets it probably would be too late to upgrade.

So now was the time.
In line we went, and it wasn't too bad. It took us about 15min, all in all, and as I expected, they upgraded without even blinking. Just asked for proof of canadian residency.

We went to Citywalk to have lunch, went to Panda Express, and in fact were there 5min too early and had to wait for it to open! And we were not the only ones! ...In those places where people get up so early and do so much, I don't get why they only open at 11am?! People get hungry much earlier!

Anyone who knows me knows I went to China in 2010 to work with pandas, so to me trying out PANDA express was a must! Plus, it turns out the food wasn't bad! And Mama really liked it!

Then it was off to Islands of Adventure, because even if we knew tomorrow we would have early entry, Mama wanted to check our "Harry Potter land" first. Personally, I didn't care what I did first so I was totally fine with that!

Here is our first ever look at IoA

We went straight there, using the Seuss Landing shortcut I read about here on the DIS (take a left right after the arch at the entrance)... not because it was necessary, but for fun!

...It was empty! Well, not totally empty, but there were fare less people than I expected! Look!

The first thing we did was take our picture with the driver of the Hogwarts' Express!

We were very lucky that he was there just as we entered... and that we could actually just walk up to him to take the pic! The family he was taking a picture with just happened to walk away as we walked in the WWoHP! (EMPTY I tell you!)

Empty as in... only 5min for Dragon Challenge... and it was the time it took to get from the entrance to the ride itself. There was no actual wait at all! And gosh was it scary to walk in there! You couldn't see where you put your feet! I thought I'd fall flat on my face a few times... Having to use the hands to make sure you are following the chains, making sure there is a wall on one side to check that's not the way to turn... yikes!

And it was like that on most of the attractions! Empty, long, sinuous lines that seemed to go on forever in the dark!

I rode the blue dragon first... as blue is my favorite color... and decided I would ride the red one tomorrow. I don't know why, I was kinda slow to start and didn't feel like riding again and again and again. Of course I always feel a bit silly doing that when I'm by myself, it's much easier to get in that mood when you're in a gang or at least with someone else who likes thrill rides as much as you do!

Or maybe it was just the long walk up the ride.

So we strolled along the shops and took in the atmosphere, and since we knew we could buy things and have them sent to the front of the park to pick up later, we looked for gifts, especially for my 2 "fake nephews" (my best-friend's 7 y.o. twin boys), who are into HP. But they are young and don't know much about the different houses... and we couldn't find anything very interesting in my price range. I did spot some plastic dragons but they didn't get me very excited... I kept them in mind, and hoped I would find better. I was told the store you exit from the Forbidden Journey held different merchandise.

We did like what we saw at Zonko's, the candy shop! But we decided we would buy those items tomorrow, have them shipped to the front of the park, pick them at the end of the day and pray they wouldn't melt from that time until we got to our room in Disney where it's cool... (or during the drive from Disney, in the southern states...)

Between 2 shops, we took a break and tried the famous butterbeer. We took 2, one frozen and one regular. Even if it was a slow day, we skipped the non-line at the kiosk outside and went inside at the Hogs head, following the tip I had read, to order it.

When the bartender offered us the souvenir mug for... can't remember but I'd say it was something like 7$ each instead of maybe 3$ without... Mama said yes, thinking it would make a nice gift for the twins!
Until we saw the mugs... It only said "Butterbeer"!!! Not Harry Potter, not WWoHP, not Hogwarts or Hogs Head, just Butterbeer.
Those kids speak a BIT of english, they saw the movies in french and of course didn't read any of the books yet, they have no idea what butterbeers are. MAYBE they remember what bièreaubeurre is, which is the french translation... but probably not even that, because it's such a small detail in the movies!
That was such a disappointment!

We didn't want to log that around all day for nothing, so we threw one in the trash (yup. Had it looked better we would've given it away... no, wait, we would've liked it and kept it! But it wasn't worth a dime). We kept the other because it means refills of any soda at both parks would only be 0.99$. That means you save 2$ each time!
...You know what? We still trashed it after a while. Mama figured the 2$ wasn't worth the trouble of carrying it. And having a mug to drink your soda isn't very practical (no lid!)... plus you need to wash it in a restroom each time to be able to carry it. Goodbye guest-trap mug!

But, ah, for the all-important question of the actual butterbeer?
We both liked it. Mama liked both while I prefered the frozen. But it's so sweet that we had trouble finishing it and didn't buy more.
We decided to sit inside the Hogs Head to drink ours... and were not told that we shouldn't, but all the tables had a little "Reserved" sign... it wasn't clear if the tables were reserved for customers who buy something, like we just did... or only those who buy food... or others. If it wasn't for those who buy food, I really wonder WHO can sit there... And considering the crowd level, I don't really get why we weren't clearly allowed to sit there, if we HAD to buy food to be able to sit at a Reserved table...
But anyways, we found a table with a space which didn't seem to be reserved and sat there and no one bothered us...

The atmosphere is really immersive and cool... for a short while.
I would NOT recommend eating there.
The noise level is crazy, and I'm not talking about the customers!

To make it "like in the movie", there is, first off, the HP movies music. Which is nice, not too loud, and usually airy. I love that score!

But then there are the effects! Chairs being scraped on the floor above you, creaking ceiling, footsteps... and loud enough to be sure to be heard even in a loud crowd in the pub, over the music... and those noises repeat every 2min or so.

I've been to Rainforest Café which is noisy, especially the animals and the thunderstorm, but they don't go continuisly!

Mama isn't super tolerant of loud noises and she wanted out almost as soon as we were seated. I am tolerant of those things, but even I wanted out pretty fast.

The moving hogs head on the wall behind the bartender was one cool thing though. (and it grunted, of course...)

After that we walked up to:

And we did the Forbidden Journey!
Actually, Mama walked with me for the castle tour, and then I did the ride.

During the tour we saw:
The greenhouse

The house's points "sandglasses"

Dumbledore's office entrance

Dumbledore's office with all these talking and moving pictures, which totally amazed me and sadly this picture doesn't do justice at all

We saw Dumbledore, who talked to us

And since I forgot to leave my phone with Mama, I had the luck of taking that pic of the sorting hat too

Luckily, she was just a few feet away and I could give it to her before I got into the ride vehicule! I remembered reading swwake's TR from last year in which she lost hers in this very ride!!!

I loved the FJ! I loved how that crazy new technology mixes the old with the new, moving in all ways, dragons shooting hot fire in your face in a non-video scene and then right after you're in a quidditch scene...
But as I got out I also noticed it's the first ever ride to get me queasy!
The butterbeer I had just drank probably didn't help! But still...

When I exited and re-joined Mama, she told me she had been sourly disappointed. No matter how much I had told her that WWoHP didn't amount to much, and that there was little to do... she expected more... as for the castle visit, she expected MUCH more and disliked having to snake her way along the lines with other visitors, feeling in the way every time she would've wanted to stop and look closer (which, miss anxiety as she is, she did not, obviously).
She would've much rather have a RIDE to visit the castle, like a Pirates of the Caribbean-type ride that would've taken you along the different parts of Hogwarts...

So that's how we left WWoHP, me a bit queasy but very impressed and happy by the major ride, Mama very disappointed. I must say I was a bit underwhelmed overall by WWoHP too, but having done all the reasearch I knew what to expect so it was no surprise.

In the next chapter: Will Spiderman keep me hostage?

Last edited by AnnieDan_Artlover; 02-04-2013 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 01-12-2013, 02:13 PM   #17
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Wow the "crowds" look so low at WWoHP. We went and it was jamed pack. Even getting the early entrence since we stayed at Portafina Day. Took two hours to get into the wand shop. Those are great pictures of inside Hogwarts.
Me Luckylady (53) DH (60) DS#1 (33)DD (25) and the "baby" DS#2 (23)
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Old 01-14-2013, 01:35 PM   #18
RIP our sweet Magic (09/27/10)
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Oh what fun! We love the HRH. Incidentally, in all my travels, I have realized that the 2 and 3 star hotels often include free internet and breakfast. 4 and 5 star hotels generally charge for these (unless you are a high-level loyalty member). I am not sure why this is the case, but I have noticed it.

Don't you love FJ?! (I actually lost my phone on RRR, but it was at Universal!)

We felt about the same about butterbeer. Ok for one time, but overly sweet. I prefer Pumpkin Juice.
Susan, Chris, Katie (22 and in Grad School at CU - Go BUFFS!)

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Old 01-19-2013, 05:09 PM   #19
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Chapter 6 - Nov. 27th part 2: Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios

We decided to continue on our way instead of going back where we had entered WWoHP, so we started walking through the Jurassic Park area... where I took that (bad) picture

and not much else... the rides didn't interest me, the dinosaur "dig site" or hands-on museum type-thing that's there wasn't appealing either... we looked in the shop, where I almost bought the earth magnets... but didn't... and that was it.

Then we went to the Marvel area where there were more fun things to do!
I first went on the Hulk, which I had spotted since we first approched the park! That big green roller-coaster... Yeah, that's my kinda thing!
I liked it, except I bumped my ears 3 times on the harness (even though I was holding my head back and trying real hard not to let my head smash on the sides...) So... OUCH. The ears were red from the bumping.
Which is why I didn't do it again, because it had been a walk-on (especially with the Express ticket, since there was a slight wait for "the others")

OK, it's not just because of the ears that I didn't go right back on... I still didn't have my ride mojo and it felt awkward to just go right back on... I'm that weird.

So I went on Spiderman, which I loved! It made me think of the Forbidden Journey ride, but tamer and with 3D glasses...
But then, as the ride came to a stop... it came to a stop!
We could see the platform, we saw people coming out of the ride, a few vehicules ahead of us... but we didn't move forward afterwards! We got stuck there.
I was riding with a man and his son of about 5y.o., and he started whining. I thought he was scared, but turns out he had to pee! (I think that scared ME more! ) Luckily, we were only stuck there for about 2 minutes. Phew.

After that horrible ordeal I walked over to the Dr. Doom's Fearfall, in which the Express ticket makes you go kinda backstage and walk forever, alone, in the dark (again!)... I was totally out of breath when I got there! And it was my turn to get seated. You read it right: No. Wait.
But it's a "fall tower" like in any other park, so it wasn't any special.
On thing was fun though: Mama had stayed back almost at the other end of the street and I saw her from up there... I waved at her and she could recognize me and waved back! First time ever someone can make me from such a height! (I was on a corner, which helps). That was cool. Not the first, I know, but I thought it was cool.

After that very little thrill, we walked through toontown and to Universal Studios.

Even though the first ride I wanted to do was Rip Ride Rockit (otherwise known as RRR), we were starting to get tired and my feet were hurting, so I figured it would be wiser to start by the new Despicable Me Minions Mayhem 3D motion simulator. And I totally loved it! Like the movie, I loved the humor, it's well made and it's really fun!
I didn't do it again right away because, well, I wanted to ride other things and fatigue was looming.

After that, finally, was RRR!!!

For my first go, I chose "Born to be wild". I figured it would be great for, well, ripping along the tracks! And I chose well! It was, simply put: AH-MAZING! It's my new favorite roller-coaster!
The music is perfectly timed with the action, the ride itself is well made and fun, it's smooth (in your face, Hulk!), and it lasts for about 90 secs! That's what I'm talking about!
I'm passionate about music and a thrill seeker... put the 2 together and it's paradise!
I couldn't wait to do it again!

...But I felt bad for Mama so I wanted to do something else, something she could do too.

So to Shrek 4D we went. And our first wait of the day, about 10min... time for the previous show to end, so we could get into the pre-show. This is one thing that makes me like the motion-simulator attractions, and that type of attractions, much less. You always have to wait, and do a pre-show! Takes so much longer than just hoping into a ride!

We both liked it... but were not super impressed either.
In one part of it, you ride in a carriage and it's bumpy and it's reflected on your seats... I felt it was funny... but it lasts wayyy too long, until it's not funny anymore and just bothering. They should've went on to another effect faster, in my opinion. And that's just an example. But in the whole we did like it! I would definitely not advise to skip it!
And the fact that Mama could do it means the severely motion sick out there probably can too! (altough it depends on what makes you sick, of course)

We didn't feel like waiting about one hour in the sun to stay on our feet for the parade... so we walked out of the park... but not before I did RRR a second time! This time I tried it with "Pump it" by the Black Eyed Peas! It was great! But not as great as "Born to be Wild"!

We were out at 4:20pm and went to eat at Hard Rock Café.

Mama got a burger and I took the jumbo combo, which is all appetizers. I didn't even eat half of it, and since it was pretty spicy, Mama didn't eat more than 1-2 bites from it either.
Our server was good, but he was so chatty that he was on the verge of being annoying, coming back to talk every 2min while we were waiting for our food, instead of just letting us relax and talk, or letting me take notes for my TR!

After we finished eating we stopped by the store, where I got my usual magnet (I get a magnet from every city I visit... or try to, anyways), which accounted for my Hard Rock souvenir (I have a souvenir from every Hard Rock Café I've ever been to, from Boston to Beijing!).
I also needed to find a Tshirt or 2 because of a bra problem.

Now, that sounds weird, I know, but here it is:
Over the past few months, because of a new med I was taking, I gained a LOT of weight, pretty fast. So much so that most of my summer clothes (from just 3-4 months ago) didn't fit anymore! And that my jeans were tight. So I had to buy a few summer clothes before I left, one size bigger. And borrow one pair of Mama's jeans. But I didn't think of the bras.
During that first day in Universal, I noticed how my bra was too small, as on shaky rides, they... ahem... couldn't hold me back. Which can be embarrassing in itself and uncomfortable, mostly... but not too bad if your clothes aren't see through. I mean, I'm sure you look weird if people look THERE, but otherwise...
Except almost all my new shirts or tank tops WERE see through. They were cheap stuff (or light fabric, which I usually prefer), so if you're not all in the bra... well let's just say it's not A-OK!

So I needed 1-2 Tshirts which would not make the bra problem go away, but would give me peace of mind... Because we didn't feel like making a trip to the nearest mall for bra-shopping.

I did find a good Tshirt. A bit too big, but still cute and it would have to do! (at least I won't worry about it shrinking!).
Eventually I did find one bra in my stash that was one size bigger than the others, so I wore ONE bra the whole trip!

After that we walked back to the hotel.
I took a few pictures as we were leaving:
Universal Studios entrance

Universal "ball"

CityWalk from the other side of the water, on the path leading to the hotel

I took this picture of the holiday decorations in the hall of the hotel, and you can see some memorabilia on the far wall

I loved the theming, being a music buff!

As soon as we got in I took a bath... and I almost fell asleep in it. I didn't want to get up, I was so tired!
But I did, and we were asleep by 8:30pm!

High of the day: Rip Ride Rockit
Low of the day: Having to go to bed so early!
Food of the day: Frozen butterbeer

High of the day: Arriving at WWoHP
Low of the day: Leaving WWoHP underwhelmed
Food of the day: Panda Express noodles

Plan for the day:
Arrive around 10am
Check-in, leave luggage in the car
Islands of Adventure
Get in the room at the end of the day

What actually happened:
Arrived at 9:30am
Check-in, get in the room immediately!
Islands of Adventure
Part of Universal Studios!

In the next chapter: Do we get to do all we want in one last day at Universal?

Last edited by AnnieDan_Artlover; 02-04-2013 at 10:30 PM.
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Old 01-19-2013, 05:13 PM   #20
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Wanted to say hi and welcome luckylady!
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Old 01-19-2013, 05:48 PM   #21
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Thank you. OMG I can't believe you were brave enough to ride RRR. Just looking at that coaster gave me chills. Then when you see the net under it noooooooo! Another great set of pictures. Can't wait to her about your next day.
Me Luckylady (53) DH (60) DS#1 (33)DD (25) and the "baby" DS#2 (23)
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Old 01-28-2013, 07:52 PM   #22
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Chapter 7 - Nov. 28th part 1: Early morning entry at WWoHP

We woke up at 5am!
I had set the alarm at 6am, to make sure we would be in time for the Universal, WWoHP version of Extra Magic Hour... but clearly, going to bed so early has it's advantages and so we didn't need any alarm clock!

We took our time to pack, as we were checking out that very morning, and got ready at a relaxed pace.
We had to wait for the breakfast places to open, anyways... that's the downside to getting up so early!

We packed the car at around 7am then headed to Emack & Bolio's to have breakfast. It's a bit like a convenience store, and they have a few breakfast item. Mama took a Starbucks coffee with a bacon, egg and cheese croissant (which you reheat in a small microwave). It was just OK, she said. I took a yogurt parfait (with fresh fruit and some oat-cereals-stuff)... it was very good, but after 1/3 of it, it started to make me slightly sick so I stopped eating. I was full anyways!

We then walked leisurely to the Islands of Adventure... all by ourselves

We entered at 7:55 and had the place to ourselves!
We still took the famed shortcut even though it wasn't necessary... there was ONE other family walking in and so we could confirm it was indeed faster to take a left right after the Dr. Seuss entrance

By the way, I liked the Christmas decorations!

And finally, we were in the deserted land of Harry!

Yesterday, Mama had said she wasn't sure she felt the need to come back, especially not GET UP EARLY and come back... but seeing this, she definitely was happy we did! (especially considering we woke up early anyways!).

It was a really special feeling, being in there practically by ourselves!

Even though it was empty, we hightailed it to Forbidden Journey so we could walk in the castle without anyone bothering us... we thought we would just walk it together in the "not riding" line, and then I would do the riding line... but probably because it was early and empty, there was just one line anyways... so when we got to the end, I rode it... and got slightly nauseous again, just like yesterday! Still loved the ride just as much!
But wouldn't ride it twice in a row...

We then shopped seriously at the "castle shop"... having been told that would be the best place to find good gifts for my best friends twins... but even spending a long time perusing... it was a bust. Only some clothes were slightly interesting... nothing great for young kids, nothing great for boys (or not in my price range anyways)... and our surprise, nothing with "Harry Potter" or "Hogwarts" on it! Only "Slytherin" or "Gryffyndor"... how weird.

So we walked back to Diagon Alley (aka the main area!) and we shopped some more. I re-checked everything in all the shops... and I finally settled for chocolate wands at Zonkos and the plastic dragons at Dervish and Banges... which, as I said before, didn't get me very excited. Plus, I had to combine, which I hate doing (give one gift to both kids so they'd split it... not their favorite thing), but my budget was too tight.
While I was paying for the dragons, Mama spotted the brooms beside the cash register, and we asked how much they were. They were just 35$! I had thought they cost way more... but I couldn't afford that for each of them anyways so that was the end of that. Kids can split a bag of 4 dragons and play with those together... not so one broom...

But I knew it... I got out of there and could only think of the damn brooms. I could just imagine their excitement opening their present!
But it was too much money... except... if I bought them as both Christmas AND birthday presents... their birthdays being exactly one month after Christmas... they are not fan of that either, but it's better than splitting one gift, and better than giving a gift they wouldn't like as much...
It would still bust my budget... but not as much.

So I went back in the store and made the exchange. Lily was a gem about it, very helpful, and I made sure to notify Universal about her!

That's when we took a break and tried the pumpkin juice, sitting on a stone ledge (near the Hog's Head)... Mama didn't like it, as she isn't a fan of cinnamon... I liked it but it's not my favorite.
We kept the bottle as a souvenir.

Then we were off to Zonkos to buy said chocolate wands, and 2 chocolate frogs... one for me and one for my best friend Alex who is a big eater! I can't go wrong with chocolate, even if he's not a big HP fan!

We had all those things shipped to the front of the park, where things like chocolate are kept cool, much better than lugging it around or leave it in the car to melt!

Between stores, I wanted to ride the Dragon Challenge I had not ridden yet : the red one. But it was closed!!!
On our way out of WWoHP I checked again (maybe 20min later) and it was still closed...

We left, having done all we wanted to do, and it wasn't even 9:30 yet!
We felt much more satisfied and happy about our visit than yesterday... being more by ourselves, being able to take pictures and a few videos and truly enjoy the sights made all the difference in the world.

We walked back through Seuss Landing, since we hadn't really seen it, walking by fast both mornings...

Being from Québec, Dr. Seuss is not part of our culture. I had never even heard of him or his work until a few years ago, back when Jim Carrey's How the Grinch Stole Christmas came out... which I never watched. I've always wanted to watch A Cat in the Hat... but never got around to it. Hey... isn't it kinda funny that those 2 classics of american culture had canadian lead actors? It just hit me...

So... the result is, as cute as we find that area of the park... it doesn't pull on our heartstrings, doesn't bring on any nostalgia or anything. Unlike, say... Disney.

Still, we decided to do this

And guess what? In that little train made for about 20 people, we were only 4! And all adults! The others were also a pair of mom-daughter. If we ever had any worries about looking silly, out the window they would've went!

Reminded us of the "Do not miss Dumbo, you won't look silly, and if you do it doesn't matter, you'll never see those people again" of course... So we were very merry getting off!
We did like the ride, even though I was worried about Mama getting motion sick all the time because it was more jerky than I had foreseen! But she was OK. In fact, we were both a bit sad it was so short!

Walking to the exit, I saw the Hulk roller-coaster... and decided to ride it one last time.

Bad, bad, BAD decision.
I had a slight headache.
Remember how yesterday I bumped my ears a few times on it? Well this morning it wasn't bumping the ears, it was banging the head! I wasn't sitting in the same place in the train, more in the rear, and it was much rougher.
When I got off I wanted to die. The headache was like I had downed a big slushie in 2min!
Enough that I had to sit down for a few minutes...

But then, sitting there close to the roaring noise of the Hulk was not much help...

After that it was definitely time to exit Islands of Adventure, and I wasn't even sorry. Not just because I was mad at the Hulk for the headache (and mad at myself for not thinking about it) but because we had done what we set out to do.

But before we left we stopped at the little sandwich and pastry place in the Port of Entry (the name on the check is Croissant Moon... but it's not identified on the map) to have a very early lunch...it was about 10:30! Hey, we had a very small breakfast before, at only 7:15am!

Mama had a turkey hoagie and I had an italian melt. It was destiny : Mama's was cold and came with lettuce and tomato slice, which I don't like. I was gonna take the italian panini when the clerk suggested I take the melt, which came on a rosemary bread& which turns out made it hot instead of cold& I wanted a hot sandwich! And mine didn't come with lettuce or tomato slice! PLUS, Mama's came with a side of potato salad, which I hate, and mine came with a pasta salad with black olives which I like (not LOVE but like, I do LOVE the olives though), and Mama hates!
Mama added a bag of chips, and I added a red velvet cupcake, which I didn't finish.
Everything was very, very good!!!
I'd say : Food 5/5, Service 4/5, Atmosphere 3/5 (it's not themed, really)

I took the opportunity to take Tylenols& At first I didn't want to, thinking not riding a roller coaster for a while would do the trick, but it didn't.
Even with the Tylenols, I spent the whole day with a headache. No love for the Hulk from me!!!

In the next chapter: How many minutes of our lives will we never get back?

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Old 01-28-2013, 09:16 PM   #23
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Count me in!!
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Old 02-01-2013, 04:46 PM   #24
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Welcome, MelMel11!

I apologize for not posting more often, but I just caught my 3rd respiratory infection in 4 months (broncho-pneumonia, then bronchitis, this time... not sure yet, probably bronchitis again).

Also I started a blog about my life with Ehlers-Danlos (in french, but if anyone here is bilingual, here it is : Opinions, découvertes et vivre avec le SED

All in all it doesn't seem like much, but, well... it's enough!

I'm not forgetting about you, the DIS tab is always open on my browser and whenever I can, I will post the next chapter!

It's amazing to have so many readers and I truly appreciate it!
Hope I don't bore you all to death or lose you along the way because I don't update fast enough!

Have a great groundhog day!
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:37 AM   #25
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Nah, I'm still reading. I am the queen of not updating, and of abandoned trip reports!
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Old 02-04-2013, 06:39 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by swwake View Post
Nah, I'm still reading. I am the queen of not updating, and of abandoned trip reports!
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Old 02-04-2013, 07:09 PM   #27
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Chapter 8 - Nov. 28th part 2: Universal Studios afternoon

First thing we did after we walked out of IoA: we walked to the car, in the HRH parking lot, because it was COLD. In the low 70°F with a thick cloud cover and slightly windy (but still humid), I was ok with my long sleeve vest and my jeans, but Mama was cold without long sleeves.
My feet were hurting a lot (even though I was wearing my brand new walking shoes!) but I still walked with Mama.

Because of the foot pain, we decided not to walk back though. We tried to take the bus, since the bus stop was right beside our car in the parking lot... but the bus that stopped after we had waited 5min was NOT going to US... the driver said the right bus should come by "any minute"... but after waiting 2min, we decided to take the water taxi instead. The wait wasn't long, and it was a fun ride.

I wanted to do RRR again, but decided to wait, because of the headache... I figured, if it made the headache a lot worse, I should do other stuff first.

Mama had said she wanted to try the Minions ride even though she has motion sickness& I was sure she couldn't, but hey. So we did that first, and she got nauseous and only watched about 20sec of the ride. She did it all with eyes closed! But at least it's the image and not the motions that makes her sick, so she was basically OK. She says she wouldn't be any better using the benches (motion-less seats). At home or at the movies, when crazy motions like the Star Wars flying chases happen, she has to close her eyes or she gets sick. And our sofas don't move!

After that we walked a bit to help her nausea wear off.

So I went to the Mummy.
I had the incredible luck of being in the front row for my first time.
It's now one of my favorite rides EVER!!!
Now, THAT is a dark roller coaster! At first I thought it was a "haunted-mansion" kinda dark ride, and almost thought Mama could've done it. I was almost disappointed, and THEN it started! Woohoo! Not having read too much about it, never having done it, being in the front& it was an amazing first time!
The only downside was it brought back the headache a notch or 2. So as much as I felt like hoping right back on, I didn't.

Then we did Twister.
I had done my research so I was totally thrown off when I read that "stationary seating" was available. Part of me was just happy we would be able to sit. But figures, I was right, the map was wrong. We did stand up. And OMG was that lame! They had me until the cow. And wow, was that "rain" cold!
That's 15min we'll never get back. But hey, now I know...OK, I knew already, but now we know for sure, from our very own experience! ...And at least it's something we did together.

Since the headache was still pretty strong (and noise in Twister didn't help), I didn't walk back to RRR as I had planned. Instead we checked the times and decided to go see the animals show& so we walked the whole way there (towards San Francisco, which I now realize is the long way round... seemed pretty equal on the map at the time).

We got there just at 1:15, for the 1:30 show... except there was no 1:30 show! I had read the wrong line/wrong dates. I really don't like how the times guide is included with the map and is the same for every day and you have to be REALLY careful when you check a show or event's time!
Today the show would be at 2:30. So I checked and the Horror make up show was at 1:45 so it was perfect. We had time to walk over there and go to the restrooms first and on the way back we saw the Men in Black and Doc from Return to the Future (no one wanted pics with them! not even me... I'm not a face character type). And then there was

SCOOOBY! He was with... eeeeh... the guy. I said I wasn't into face characters! I almost wanted to ask him to move away so I could have just Scooby with me& but I didn't. There was just one person doing a pic when we got there& so we had time. We snapped a picture and YAY.

Horror make-up show& it's something we both like, Mama watches show about special effects on TV (FaceOff anyone?), etc.
But altough we laughed (the guy was crazy funny), we were disappointed not to learn anything. It was nice to rest the feet though. Oh, and thanks to our Express pass, we were seated in the front row, almost dead center! We had not been waiting in that area, but the lady asked "all with Express pass" to go in that line and enter first. Cool. Otherwise the pass was not needed, as the theater wasn't even a quarter full...

Then we walked straight back to Animal Actors, we had nice enough places, about 1/3 from the bottom and 1/3 from the right, almost the end of a row, we could see well. But at that one, the Express wasn't used at all. We saw the entrance on the other side of the theater (on the far left), but the line was on the right and there were no associates on the left side and the rope was closing the entrance.

I loved the pre-show the most, with all the animals going on at once with music and there were CATS. I love almost all animals (not so much the scaly, slimy ones, sorry), I love dogs, but I have to admit felines, big and small, have a special place in my heart. So I was disappointed that cats were only in the preshow!
We liked the show, but were not jumping with excitement& it was ok. And the first bird trick is exactly the same as the one used in Disney's AK Flights of Wonder!

After the animal show we walked back from where we came from, and I stopped to do the Simpson's ride.
That was the longest wait I had all day, I think. Maybe 10min. I used the Express line but they immediately merged us with the regular line and since there weren't a lot of people it saved me like& 5 seconds. I have to say, it was like that the whole time at Universal, it was just more obvious in that attraction, I think.
I loved that ride a lot! Like Forbidden Journey, it made me slightly nauseous. Not sure I could've done it a second time right away& especially not with the headache, which was worse again.

When I say nauseous, it's very slightly, funny feeling in my tummy, a bit queasy and that's it. I could do it again, I could eat, it would just not be wise, I guess.

I decided not to do MIB, from the descriptions it seemed like Buzz, a shooter's ride, and those don't get me excited.
I was very tired, my feet were aching, and I had decided it wasn't a must do before I even got to the park. Maybe I should have done it, with the park so empty and the lines so short, and with the express pass on top of it all, what's a 10min more? but I didn't. And I don't really regret it.

We went into Disaster. Being tired and the feet aching A LOT.
Such a long wait in that room before they started, and then the "casting", and then more standing for the preshow, and it's so COLD in there! Wow! We could barely support ourselves in there. I was leaning on the railing in front of me, Mama took the last row so she could lean on the wall. I almost decided to sit on the ground. I was this close to scout for an associate to ask to just leave&
We were so glad there were seats in that next room, for the filming. And then the final "ride". Phew. Finally it was over.
We might have enjoyed that attraction a little bit if we had not been so tired& but in that state, we just felt it was 30min we'd never get back and it was time wasted.

Walking around we saw a few of the Macy's balloons, preparing for the parade, or simply as holiday decorations, I'm not sure... but they definitely were cool, and I took a pic of this one:

We then passed the Mummy, which I loved but was too tired to do again (which says a lot about the state I was in).
Finally we got to RRR which I rode one last time. No matter how tired or how bad of a headache I had, I couldn't leave without that. If we had had more time and energy, and less pain, I would've rode that one at least 5 times that day alone!
At least it's a smooth ride so I knew the headache wouldn't be as bad as in the morning with the Hulk.

I tried the bonus songs, and chose Night on bald mountain by Mussorgsky. I wasn't sure how well bonus songs went with the ride& as soon as it started I laughed with joy, because I knew it would work and would be amazing, and it was! It was the best yet! Yup, better even than Born to be wild, which had been incredible!
The only caveat is that being timed to be perfect, it stopped before the absolute end, so the last turn aka the last 2-3 seconds of the ride are in silence. I didn't care, the rest was so absofreaking perfect!

After that, with a major headache and feet I could barely stand on (the heels were just burning so much), we exited and entered back in Islands of Adventure to go pick up our packages. It took a while, but the girl found them, they were intact& and so we walked out of there and to HRH parking lot with brooms on my shoulder.

We put that in the car, and drove to& drum roll& the Contemporary!!!

...So, for you folks counting... it was 45min we will never get back!

In the next chapter: When will we crash?

Last edited by AnnieDan_Artlover; 02-04-2013 at 10:42 PM.
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Old 02-04-2013, 08:45 PM   #28
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Chapter 9 - Nov. 28th part 3: We arrive at DISNEY!

We got in the car, looked at each other, and high fived : We were finally going to the WORLD!

The drive was short (about 25min) and easy, directions were very clear.
That is, until the entrance to MK, where on one side it's for the park, on the other to the resorts (and maybe something else).

I think it's written on the asphalt "park only" on that one side& but as much as I tried to decipher what was written, I couldn't& I still had to look in front of me and drive, see? And Mama is useless for those things...
And the many, clear, obvious directions that had been there on signs previously (and in plenty of time), were nowhere to be seen then. I was in the center lane (well, kinda& center-ish, of the, I'd say, 10 lanes)& and there were those booths and I saw rates for parking, and panic was getting to me, I was like "what, wait, I'm not supposed to pay parking, where are we, what did I miss?"
So I told the lady where we were going, and she says I have to go to the right lane and "follow the green side". I was so happy it wasn't too busy, as I had to change like 5 lanes in 250 feet! Then the clear directions were back again and it was easy. Except I'm happy I knew I had to follow "Contemporary" because there was nothing for Bay Lake Tower (aka BLT).

The CM at the parking lot entrance told us where to go for BLT check-in (that wasn't very clear on the signs) and we pulled up to the curb.
I knew check-in would be swift so there was no use going to park.

We got to the check-in counter and it took less than 1 min for the guy to hand us our package. Yay for online check-in (which I had done before leaving home a few days prior)!

A bellboy was in the lobby waiting for another guest (who went to park her car).
The check-in clerk said he was sorry but the bellboy had been "reserved" and was waiting for the other guest, and he would call another& we said no problem and went to wait by the car. 10 seconds later the bellboy came to us (we saw him arguing with the check-in clerk) and he said he would help us, as the other guest wasn't coming back& while he was unloading the car I saw her come back& well I think it was her.
I'm guessing the fact that I had my cane might have influenced him...

He was super nice, gave us tips and waited for me with Mama outside while I went to park the car.
By the way, while I parked I saw another green Cube, parked just behind ours. So crazy because in 3.5 days of driving south, we didn't see ONE Cube, no matter what color!

The bell boy was kind enough to put all our bags in the hallway so I could take pictures of the clean and empty studio

He showed us where things were, placed things where we wanted& we gave him 1$/bag, even for the small ones, he really deserved his tip!

We noticed a few things we brought we didn't need, like dish soap (there was even a sponge!), dishes and utensils.

I had requested the highest floor or close to the 5th floor walkway.
We got room #7432, which doesn't mean 7th floor, but area number 7 (outside of the C-shape, facing the Contemporary), 4th floor.
Another time, I would simply ask for the highest floor available, because you get a nicer view... and unless you're EXACTLY on the walkway floor, going from the 10th or the 4th from the 5th with the elevator doesn't make a big difference.
Maybe it does when the place is filled to capacity and the sole elevator stops at every floor... but when it's low season... nope.

Our room (studio...) was very close to the walkway, the second one, in fact! So, walking from the Contemporary to the BLT, we could see in our room... meaning we had to remember to close the curtains when we changed!
The nicest thing about this was, we were very close to the elevator!

Our first impression of the studio was : It's roomy, clean, modern... perfect!
The best thing about it was the kitchenette and the storage space. There were shelves in the bathroom, plus storage under the sink.

In the kind of hallway coming in, there is a lot of space where you could put a crib, where we put the suitcase rack, our plastic storage box under it and all our bags. It was just on the side, not in our way to go in our out, but also out of our way inside! It's also where we put the sofa cushions (since we used it as a bed). (didn't think to take a picture of that mess...)
The closet is pretty big... then in the kitchenette there is a lot of storage space on both sides AND under the sink...

...and in the room there's the big desk, with drawers and shelves.

We had more space than we needed. Of course we were only 2 adults in there.

On the downside was the low lighting, which is often a problem in hotels. Mama especially notices since she has problem seeing in low light situations.
Is it so hard to put a big bright ceiling light in the main room? There is only the bed lights in the main room, and another where you have the small table, nothing else. You always have the feeling it's dark. (Mama has, anyways!)

The sofa-bed wasn't too bad at all! I kinda like sleeping in that, with the sofa arms making a cocoon I would sleep on that again.
Here's what it looks like open :

As for the view... well, we had paid extra for the lake view... not willingly. We wanted to pay the less amount possible and asked for standard view, but there were none left available so we HAD to get lake view... and figured it would make it a nice perk after all... well paying for that... It felt an awful lot like a standard view... we had to go on the balcony and work an angle to view the lake.
Here's the view straight out

At around 7pm we were so tired we almost decided to go to bed without doing anything else... but we managed to drag ourselves to Contempo Café. Mama ordered a turkey BLT and I ordered something weird for the first (but definitely not the last) time of the trip. Well... weird for me anyways. Different is probably a better term.
It was the vegeterian flatbread, with dried cranberries, humus, white beans, caramelized onions and arugula... It was DELICIOUS. So sad I could only eat half... I packed it and put it in the fridge hoping I would eat the rest... I didn't.

We had brought everything to eat in the room, feeling way too tired and out of sorts to eat amidst the screams and noise of the monorail, no matter how happy we were to finally be there...
There was a pretty long wait and quite a few people, so while I waited (sitting! My poor, aching feet!), Mama went to the convenience store (Bayview Gifts and Fashion) to buy milk.
We also added some bagels, cheese and Uncrustables to our order for tomorrow morning's breakfast.

So, Contempo Café?
Atmosphere: 2/5 Busy, loud... It's a quick service!
Service: 3/5 Nice CMs, but very slow. There was nothing "quick" about it. But it was nice for a quick service to be able to get a buzzer and go do something else or sit instead of waiting there standing on your feet.
Food: 5/5 Very, very good!
1st time? Yes.
Would recommend? Definitely!

After eating, we each took our showers, unpacked... yup, even almost sleepwalking, we finished unpacking almost everything!

At 9:30pm, as I was coming out of the shower, I could hear the music of the Electrical Water Pageant, which I had been dying to see (we had missed it in 2008)... but it wasn't to be. Mama said we couldn't see all of it from our balcony, but I was still sad I missed it by being in the shower!
We also prepared our things for tomorrow... and we eventually went to bed, where we totally crashed, at about 10pm.

High of the day: Riding RRR again with Nigh on Bald Mountain
Low of the day: My poor feet... doesn't bode well
Food of the day: Contempo Café's veggie flatbread!

High of the day: Arriving at Disney
Low of the day: Twister
Food of the day: mmm, the turkey hoagie or the turkey BLT, how to choose?

Plans for the day:
Early entry to WWoHP
Finish Universal, redo RRR
Drive to Disney
Get settled in BLT

What actually happened:
Well, just that!

In the next chapter: What do we do first?

Last edited by AnnieDan_Artlover; 02-10-2013 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 02-04-2013, 09:50 PM   #29
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Sounds like a good time so far!
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Old 02-04-2013, 10:47 PM   #30
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What the???

OK, so it was sheer luck that I noticed most of my pictures were missing... I had to go over all my links and paste the pics again (better now than after chapter 32... hope it doesn't happen again!). I hope I caught them all. Please tell me if you notice any broken link...

And as I'm pasting those broken links pics, I notice some weird thing going on... there are some & characters sprinkled everywhere in my posts! Never noticed those before, and I'm sure I would've! It looks like it replaces punctuation marks, but not always the same... and it's clearly not mistyping, as it's pretty hard to mistake hitting shift-7 (&) instead of a comma, a question mark or a dot (all instances in which it was placed).
Now it looks like I don't know how to type, but most of all, it makes it very hard to read! I tried to correct a few entries, but I'm not even sure it'll hold, as it seemed to happen all of a sudden... and my head, full of bronchitis and antibiotics, just couldn't take the corrections anymore... So I hope it's readable... as for the pics, please tell me if it gets worse!
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