It doesn't matter, we'll never see them again! A Dec. Mother-daughter TR

Discussion in 'Completed Trip Reports' started by AnnieDan_Artlover, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Chapter 1 - Who, What, When, Where, Why

    Hi, for all who havent read my previous (or ongoing) PTRs or my past TR, Im Annie-Danielle aka Dan.

    Im 33, both very mature and a big kid and the most important thing to know about me, I guess, is that I suffer from a chronic illness called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which, to make it short, means bad connective tissues (ligaments, skin, that kinda thing), bad immune system and lots of problems most of the time. Thus, I cant work, not even part time and I live in an extension of my parents house.
    Last time we went to the World, I was in a wheelchair& my health is much better now so it was a big excitement thinking about how it would be to WALK!
    My favorites
    -Thing to do in a theme park: thrill ride, the crazier the better
    -Disney food: Pretzel bread
    -Disney movie: Fantasia
    -Disney character: Can't choose... as long as it's fuzzy!
    -Disney park: Epcot


    And with me is my mom aka Mama.
    She is (ok, she asks that I say in her young sixties, says it shall be enough). :rotfl2:
    Her favorites
    -Thing to do in a theme park: people watch
    -Disney food: Casey's mini corn-dogs
    -Disney movie: Cinderella
    -Disney character: Can't choose, but like me, prefers the fuzz balls!
    -Disney park: MK

    A mother and daughter trip, just for fun, to see the new Harry Potter "park" and Christmas decorations!

    Saturday November 24th - Sunday December 16th: A 3 day drive to and back, 2 days in Universal and 15 days with the Mouse! All in all, 23 days!

    Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary!

    Because we could! Seriously... There has to be perks of being too sick to work, right? I try to pretend I retired really early (still working on enjoying the good days without guilt and remembering those don't even come close to compensating the bad ones...), and Mama is half-retired and working mostly from home so she could take the time off (and deal with any emergency from there if needed). With that part-time work money and the money I put aside we could do it. That, and all the nice research and help from the DIS which saved us a ton of cash, too! :worship:

    All the details will come in time (probably more than you will be able to endure!:faint:).

    I'll try to update the TR regularly and keep a nice index here, and I can already assure you there will be weeks of nothing when I'm too sick, and then on good days a few updates in a row. ::yes::

    Oh and before I forget, a disclaimer: Any similarities between this TR style and the Frumps' is intentional, you guys make the best ones! :wave2:

    In the next chapter: The first hint of how the TR title came to be...

    Chapter 0 - The PTR
    Chapter 1 - Who, What, when, where, why
    Chapter 2 - Nov. 24th: Home-Harrisburg
    Chapter 3 - Nov. 25th: Harrisburg-Greensboro
    Chapter 4 - Nov. 26th: Greensboro-Jacksonville
    Chapter 5 - Nov. 27th part 1: Jacksonville-UNIVERSAL!!!
    Chapter 6 - Nov. 27th part 2: Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios
    Chapter 7 - Nov. 28th part 1: Early morning entry at WWoHP
    Chapter 8 - Nov. 28th part 2: Universal Studios afternoon
    Chapter 9 - Nov. 28th part 3: We arrive at DISNEY!
    Chapter 10 - Nov 29th part 1: Getting ready
    Chapter 11 - Nov. 29th part 2: Epcot, finally!
    Chapter 12 - Nov. 30th: Hollywood Studios
    Chapter 13 - Dec. 1st part 1: Epcot
    Chapter 14 - Dec. 1st part 2: Epcot AND MK wooo
    Chapter 15 - Dec. 2nd part 1: A surprise! ...and Animal Kingdom
    Chapter 16 - Dec. 2nd part 2: Animal Kingdom and Boma

    Chapter 17 - Dec. 3rd part 1: Hollywood Studios
    Chapter 18 - Dec. 3rd part 2: HS / Le Cellier
    Chapter 19 - Dec. 4th part 1: Magic Kingdom
    Chapter 20 - Dec. 4th part 2: Epcot
    Chapter 21 - Dec. 5th part 1: Magic Kingdom
    Chapter 22 - Dec. 5th part 2: Girls' night out!

    Chapter 23 - Dec. 6th : Animal Kingdom
  2. GrammyJudy

    GrammyJudy DIS Veteran

    Jan 9, 2008
    WOW I've never been first on a TR before. I love a mother daughter story as my DD, who is 32, and I have had 2 of those to WDW.I am so jealous you had such a long trip.:cool1:
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  4. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Welcome GrammyJudy!

    ...and I've never had a reader so fast! :cool1:

    Pressure, pressure, haha!

    I'll go work on the next installment now. ;)
  5. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    We are leaving TODAY!!! I don't know who was most excited, me or Mama! She asked me yesterday if we could leave a day early :rotfl:

    I do know dad was not very excited. Sad and boring little :offtopic: moment but needed I think. My dad is alcoholic. Yup, Mama still with him, don't ask.
    Yesterday, our last day at home, he was... out drinking (he's retired). Came out too late for dinner (and too wasted), went straight to bed.

    We were VERY proud of ourselves for having thought about it and asked him to help us to put the heavy stuff in the car BEFORE he left, even if it was almost 24hrs before departure time! Sure, we could've done it ourselves. But my energy is scarce and I wanted to keep it.

    So, that's that.

    We had put the alarm clock at 7am, and of course we were up at 6am! :hyper:
    In the same way, we had planned to leave at 8am, but were out of the driveway at 7:30am!

    ...Mama decided to go wake dad up so he could say goodbye. I would've left him to sleep and to feel guilty waking up... He jumped out of bed saying he didn't think we were leaving so early (duh... and of course he knew), yup, it felt good to leave! ::yes::

    Here's a trusty steed
    Yeah, that's the nice pic from the store, but it's the same car, and it even was just as clean when we left, as we had it washed yesterday!
    We LOVE this little car.

    Of course, it started to snow just as we pulled out of the driveway... it had not snowed at all yet. Had to start today. Mama was worried about driving (especially coming back mid-December) because we would be on all-seasons tires instead of winter tires. I wasn't WORRIED... but knew it could be hell if nature didn't cooperate.

    But the snow was very light and sparse, so the drive was easy until the USA. We crossed the border on the 401/81 in the 1000 Islands and there it took us only 10min all in all (considering it was the US thanksgiving weekend, we had been a bit worried about a longer wait!).

    The drive continued to be OK, the snow on and on but still light, except one moment, about 2min in the Adirondacks where it was just a blizzard! So glad it stopped! If it had snowed like that for long, it would've been safe to drive as the snow was accumulating on the ground and it wasn't slippery, but I would've been SOOO tired! It's so dizzying and you need to much more concentration to try and figure out where you're going!

    Then, just out of Syracuse, the weirdest thing happened: the biggest fine hail downpour I've ever seen! It started very suddenly, and felt as if a salt truck had been on an overpass and was dumping it's load on us! No kidding, it was my first impression! Luckily, again, it didn't last for more than 5min. (for us, anyways!)

    We stopped for lunch at a Friendly's in Cortland, and it was at at least 5min from the I-81 (on 181). We stopped there because when we saw it it had been a while since we'd seen any other and we were scared we wouldn't see another for a while yet, and we had to pee and were hungry!
    But there should be a rule... if you're more than 2miles from the highway, you should've have a right to advertise on those highway boards!!!

    I mean, you see the thing on the side of the highway and you think it means it's close, then you take the exit, follow the sign, and it makes you turn, and turn, and you start to worry it'll take you 20min to get back on course!!!

    I liked what I ate, Mama didn't... and while there the title of this TR came to life, even though we didn't know it at the time... we were talking about the trip to come and I told her how people here on the DIS had said Dumbo was not to miss, and how someone had asked if, as an adult riding alone, they would be pointed at and would look ridiculous... and the answer that person got was "Not at all, it's Disney after all... and anyways, if someone were to make fun of you, you don't know them and won't ever see them again!".
    Which is very true.
    Now keep that bit of information in mind, there will be a test. ;)

    All in all, we stopped for one hour. And it was a good thing. Rested the body and the mind!

    But we were anxious to get back on the road!

    I can't say we could notice any "Thanksgiving traffic"... driving was very easy.

    Then, at about 14 miles from Harrisburg, the traffic stopped... damn. We did our last miles driving between 10-30mph! There wasn't any accident, it really was just too many people. We had talked too fast!

    Still, even with all that, we checked in the Harrisburg East Hampton Inn at 5:30pm!

    The room was very nice, with a fridge, a microwave, a desk... We even got a water bottle and cookies, probably because it was my first time as a HHonors member!

    We had dinner at the TGIFridays just 0.5 miles away. Sadly we were not very hungry (and very tired), so we only ordered the appetizer plate which we shared.
    And what is this? Pretzel bread with cheddar cheese dip (with beer and bacon in it)! It tasted almost exactly like cheddar cheese soup! That was heaven on a stick!

    We decided then and there to go back to have dinner there on our drive back! And hopefully we will be more hungry...

    Back to the hotel we took our showers... OK, now... Why do they leave the curtain showers OUTSIDE of the bath if doing so will make a HUGE mess???
    See, we don't have a bath in our house, just a big shower with a DOOR. It has been years since I went to a hotel with a bath and shower curtain and even longer since I had my own... so I didn't think about it, I left it as it was, took my shower, got out and OMG. it was a small lake in there. Thank god for too many towels!

    As long as we're on the "moan about the hotel bathroom issues" topic, I do love when the bathroom lights don't trigger automatically the fan, so you can use it without the noise, or leave it on as a nightlight... but no fan AT ALL?! Really? That's just weird. And not very healthy, me thinks.

    Oh yeah, one last bathroom rant: I had the stupidest idea... and tried the complimentary shampoo & conditionner (not all in one, both of them). We had both. I just figured they might be nice. They sometimes are in hotels... Well, not in Hampton Inns. Stay away from them!! I never had hair that knotted and dry in my life! I'm sure I left 1/4 of my hair on the brush trying to untangle it!

    At 9:30pm, after watching 2 episodes of "Too cute" on Animal Planet and taking notes for this TR, we passed out for the night.
    ...Not without noticing the loudest A/C-heater unit EVER.

    1 day closer to Disney!!!

    Plan for the day:
    Drive from 8am to 5pm (with breaks)
    What actually happened:
    Exactly as planned!

    High of the day: Finally leaving for Disney!
    Low of the day: Fine hail past Syracuse

    In the next chapter: will my choice of printing CAA directions instead of using the GPS or another service make us lost?
  6. StilAPrincessAtHeart

    StilAPrincessAtHeart Mouseketeer

    Jan 17, 2012
    I'm totally in! I just started my Nov/Dec. TR with my mom and My DD. It was my mom's first time and she is hooked. So, I'm sure your mom/daughter TR will tug a bit at my heart strings. :)
  7. GatorMommy2007

    GatorMommy2007 Mouseketeer

    Sep 25, 2010
  8. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Welcome, welcome StilAPrincessAtHeart and GatorMommy2007!!! :wave2:

    Not wanting to spoil anything, but I couldn't wait so I started my new PTR since we are GOING BACK!!!
    In case no one had noticed the new ticker and PTR link in my siggie! :rotfl2:

    Here's the PTR link Technically, it's not twice in the same year... - A Fall 2013 mom-daughter PTR

    The year is starting as rough as it ended on the health side, I haven't had a good day yet and today is big on the migraine side but I felt like writing (now that I started, right?) so we'll see how it goes with the migraine and migraine meds (you know when you took the meds but it still isn't working? So you get the double whammo of migraine + side-effects... hate that).

    So pleaser forgive any weird ramblings (as if I didn't do that on a normal day :lmao:) and added typos, as I'm kind of seeing cross-eyed and through semi-closed eyelids. :rolleyes2

    Shall we?
  9. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Today I was way more excited than Mama, because altough we were still driving closer and closer to our goal, we were making a slight detour to visit my good friend dreamer17555!

    First off, we had a really bad night's sleep. Mostly because of the hotel. Even if I would go back there and like Hampton Inns in general… I tried to sleep without earplugs and it was a bad idea. It took me a while to go to sleep and I woke up after about 1hr. Mama snores so loudly!… AND the fan on the heater/AC was incredibly loud, as I noted before… plus the walls are super thin (we could hear what people were saying walking by in the hall!). Luckily people weren't noisy… but the fan and snoring were enough.

    Add to that that each time Mama or I would go to the bathroom, the light would reflect on the mirror in the "hall" in such a way it lit up the whole room! That's what woke me up in the morning…
    But in the meantime… I woke up with the noise at around midnight… then had to take the earplugs when I wasn't back to sleep 30min later… I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning and not having a restful sleep. The pillows were too soft (but 2 were too high, of course) and I kept trying to make myself comfortable. :crazy2:

    Mama didn't sleep much better and the fan woke her up too (it kept starting). Each time I got up I woke her up… and she said she could hear me snoring lightly and having slight problem breathing a few times… I'm still congested because of my sinusitis/ broncho-pneumonia and the air was very dry in the room too.

    But at last it was morning, we woke up "for good" at 6am (we had put the alarm at 7am, haha) and were out the door at 6:45, I was so proud of us!
    Before we had left home we had talked about this and how we could be faster in the morning, especially Mama who can be real slow. In our 2008 trip it could take us (ahem, her) over 90min to get ready! That would NOT be tolerated this trip! :laughing:

    A few tips to be fast in the morning (on the road or in Disney)?
    Take showers before going to bed, prepare everything for the next morning, from clothes to bags, do not scatter and bring the minimum amount of bags necessary if you're on the road... and of course eat minimal breakfast, in room if possible, or stuff that doesn't take a long time to eat (a bagel or toasts is much faster than cereals, for ex.).

    Since we were on the road, eating in the room was NOT faster though, so we took the complimentary breakfast (not very tasty, as expected), and I got nausea... happens sometimes. I had to take some Pepto-Bismol caplets, which helped, but I still carried the nausea for a few hours.
    After breakfast we used the bathroom located near the checkout counter and Listerine strips (having brushed our teeth right after waking up... we usually prefer to wait after eating but that was more polite for other guests :rotfl: and, of course, faster than going back up to the room).

    We filled the refillable mugs we had brought and were back on the road (and NOT worried about snow!) at 7:45! ...WAIT... it took us 1hr to have that stupid simple breakfast?! And it wasn't checkout, as it took just about 2min. We will HAVE to work on that! :sad2:

    We stopped for gas before leaving Harrisburg, and on the drive to Greensboro got stuck in traffic 3 times, each because of an accident... guess that was a result of the Thanksgiving crowds...
    Our lunch was at Taco Bell, which Mama enjoyed much more than she remembered, now she is almost looking forward to the next time!

    Like yesterday, we stopped a few times in the morning and a few times in the afternoon for bathroom breaks and stretch. About once every 60-90min.

    Then the direction mess started...
    Since we had problems with our GPS on a trip to/in Atlanta in the summer of 2011, I had decided not to use it unless totally necessary... especially since the drive down to Florida is fairly easy. So I had looked a few itinerary apps (Google Maps, Mapquest, CAA, etc). I finally settled on CAA, of which we are members, and printed that.
    Mama is my co-pilot and takes her role seriously, studying the day's directions in the morning, using a marker to scratch off what's done... mostly because it stresses her out...
    I had understood from my comparisons that pretty much all services gave me the same itineraries.

    We still brought the GPS, just in case... but it was in the glove box.

    Turns out the CAA instructions were... right but not clear enough in the last stretch towards Greensboro.
    For example, you get to a fork and have no idea which way to go... either because it's new or you're just supposed to guess that you should follow the logical option (i.e. the exit saying "Greensboro")... Usually, if you have no instruction, it means you need to continue and not take any exit... Which was true for one of the occasions when this happened... But at one point, we used that common sense... to eventually have to go back and actually take the exit! The right way should've been "road changes name, keep going straight" or "turn left to follow road #xx"!

    Also, many, many times the direction was to take, for example, a "slight right"... while it was literally a right turn (90°).

    And thanks to those unclear directions, once in Greensboro things didn't seem to make sense anymore... so we got the GPS out. Which showed us again why we hate it so much, as it made us take the wrong exit and made us go around in the city while it was "recalculating"... while we had just followed it's instructions! That damn thing is evil!

    But eventually the GPS got us in the right place... and we could see that we were in the same place the CAA directions would've gotten us anyways... if we had just stuck with those and trusted that they were right, we would've been OK... but to be honest it didn't look OK at all!

    We managed to get to Greensboro's Hampton Inn, Mama walked to Wendy's to get her dinner (she didn't want to join me and Becca for dinner, so she ate in the room and watched TV, which actually made her quite happy).
    We had the biggest laugh when she told me where she got her dinner, because just yesterday she told me how she would never eat at Wendy's because the square patty made her nauseous just thinking about it (she's weird that way!). And there she was eating that, because it had been convenient to get that... and turns out it was the best burger she ate! She said it tasted like the ones she makes at home. :thumbsup2

    I got ready during that time, and Becca came to get me at 6pm. We had agreed on 6:10, but she was early and I was happy about that since I was early in getting ready too! We were anxious to see each other again and very hungry!

    I got her to little gifts I had brought her from the car: A bottle of apple cider from a apple orchard owned by a friend of mine… for her birthday which just passed, and cookies I baked for Christmas. I hope she likes them!!!

    We went to Arigatos, a japanese place, for dinner, same place we went 17 months earlier and we both love! But I must say it's not ideal for conversations, and when you don't see each other often, a quieter place where you can talk would be better. Noted for next time!

    As usual, we talked about her kids, our similar health issues, Disney, families, dance and a few other things… :goodvibes

    Then to continue our evening we went for coffee on Tate St. where unbeknowst to us was a poetry slam happening! We got there just before it started… so instead of talking we drank our coffee while enjoying a very good slammer… but left before the contest about to happen started because we didn't want to leave in the middle of it, and did want to talk a bit… so we ended up chatting in her car in front of our hotel room!
    (The Greensboro Hampton Inn is like a motel with the doors on the outside of the building… which I kinda like! So easy to unload the car!).

    The evening was amazing, it's so much fun, we are so alike… and it's so sad that we live so far apart and can't spend much time together!!! :sad1:

    We would've wanted to continue talking but she had to wake up very early the next morning... and I must admit I was tired from all the driving and didn't want to get up too late the next morning either, our last driving day until Florida!

    Small word about the Greensboro Inn:
    We love that the vanity area is separated from the rest of the bathroom, so you can get ready while someone else is in the shower, bath or whatever!
    On the other side, unlike last time we were there (June 2011), there wasn't even a small fridge! And there was a small stain on my duvet cover.

    The AC/Heater unit was MUCH less noisy, barely could hear it! Such a relief!
    Mama was just as noisy though :lmao:
    I'll try going to sleep with my earphones and my music (lullabies and stuff) instead of the earplugs, which I don't like... might soothe me and help me sleep on top of dampening the noise... It's 11:30pm, lights out!

    Plans for the day:
    Drive to Greensboro, dinner with Becca
    What actually happened:
    As planned, woohoo!

    In the next chapter: Will we find our hotel for the night?
  10. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Last (full) day of driving!
    Don't get me wrong, I love driving (really!). A lot. Seeing new things (sometimes...), the feeling of being free, the music (altough it's not as loud when you're with someone, especially if that someone is Mama)... I love it! :goodvibes

    ...But we couldn't wait to get THERE and DO STUFF! Not just sit there and roll.

    Even though I was in bed at 11:30pm, I wasn't asleep until around midnight... but even if to give me a chance to get all the rest I needed I had put my alarm at 8am... I was up at 7:15!
    Still, I slept well for the first time... which made me realize how tired I was!

    We finally got the routine right, breakfast included, so we were on the road at 8:30am. Being in a rush I'm sure we could be faster, eat while driving for example... but that wasn't necessary at all and not something we would've liked.

    During the whole day I think we stopped a total of 3 times! We could feel the anxiousness to GET THERE. :lmao:

    We stopped at a Ruby Tuesday in Walterboro, SC, for lunch. OMG that was so good! It was our biggest lunch so far, a bit too big for an afternoon of driving. We ordered coffees after that to help us stay asleep, and took a walk to the next door gas station to buy ourselves something to drink...

    That's where we saw this:
    Our first palm trees!!! :cool1:

    Then it was, again, the complication of understanding the directions given by CAA's Triptik... First off I took the wrong lane, which lead to the wrong side of the highway, because I had the name of the road (can't remember which), and say it was "east"... well you could see the overhead sign saying the road name, and only once very close to it could you see "west" and at THAT point could you see a second sign with the "east" lane... on the complete opposite, 3 lanes further, which at rush hour like we were, was NOT a possibility to cross. Grrr, hate when roads are badly designed like this. (well, signs more than roads). Why didn't I just know and trust the printed directions? Because they didn't make sense by then.

    And when, on our second pass we took the right road, it said we should meet the intersection with the hotel's street and would be "right there"... well turns out it's a very weird place and we had to almost do a 180° on that street (you know, a U-street) to find that street, in a weird industrial-looking part of town (that was the feeling we had in the dark anyways).

    But, in the end, we did make it there and checked in just a bit past 6pm!

    When the clerk asked if we easily found the place and we said what happened, he said it wasn't the CAA's fault and that everyone gets lost going there...

    Maybe the "weird-industrial-place" feeling was wrong, but there wasn't anything there. Either we went to the neighbouring Radisson or Marriott's restaurants... we had started walking there when I realized I was way too tired for that and pleaded to Mama to just order pizza in the room. She is not a fan of eating in the room, but I must've looked really bad since she agreed.

    We ordered from Pizza Hut and it arrived in 25min!

    Doing that saved us a bit of time, too, since we could do a few things while waiting for the delivery, and jump into the shower right after eating, which took us much less time than eating in a restaurant, waiting for the check, etc.

    Plus, the pizza was pre-cut, not too messy and delicious!

    We went to bed somewhere around 9pm! Totally exchausted. I even almost forgot to take notes for this TR!

    One last thing though... I decided to have my hair cut! I was toying with the idea for the last few months, almost did it a few weeks ago at my last hairdresser's appointment... but figured it was best to have it long during the trip so I could make ponytails and such in the heat, and not have to worry about style, either. I had decided to have it cut at my next appointment though.

    And then I made the mistake of using that damn hotel shampoo and conditionner 2 days ago... and tonight even though I used our own my hair was still all tangled, and I broke so many hairs untangling it, my hair looks awful! I must've pulled 2 hanfulls of hair and got a headache from pulling on my scalp so much (not even kidding).
    And our conditionner is good quality... how much do I need to put in now?! My hair was always bad with tangling, and the longer it got the worst it gets... now it just makes me crazy.
    If I wasn't just scared of looking stupid (or lucid, one would say), I would just cut it myself right now!
    I looked online and the Contemporary has a hair salon, thank goodness, and the prices are not too bad, so the first thing I'm going to do when we get to Disney is take an appointment! Just a few more days to endure...

    Plan for the day:
    Get to Jacksonville
    What actually happened:
    As planned! We are gooood. :cool2:

    In the next chapter: What will the crowds be like in Universal and how much will we be able to accomplish in a day shortened by some driving?
  11. gwynne

    gwynne Ad astra per aspera

    Jan 1, 2012
    I'm in. You are writing a great trip report!
  12. cheekypoppins

    cheekypoppins DIS Veteran

    Aug 7, 2012
    GASP!!!! thousand islands is so beautiful we used to cross the border n drive through the states then re cross the border at thousand islands n drive on into quebec to go see my dad.
  13. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Welcome gwynne and cheekypoppins, and thanks!

    Thousand Islands IS indeed beautiful... but guess what? It's also the closest crossing point for us, for that route anyways! We ARE lucky, hehe!
  14. nym4588

    nym4588 Mouseketeer

    Jun 23, 2007
    Looking forward to reading! I'm taking my own mother/daughter trip next January!
  15. swwake

    swwake RIP our sweet Magic (09/27/10)

    Jan 13, 2008
    I'm here and reading along. I'm glad to see that it's been somewhat uneventful so far and that you got to spend good time with your friend!
  16. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Welcome nym4588 and faithful swwake! :wave2: (me and swwake have known each other for over 5 years now, gee time does fly!)

    Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you, just a bit of stage fright before throwing myself in the "real" thick of the TR I guess. ;)

    Let's go!
  17. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    THAT IT IS! For real! :cool1:
    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! :hyper:

    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! :cool2:

    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. :teacher:

    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! :scared1:

    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! :rolleyes:

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

    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. :headache:
    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?
  18. luckylady

    luckylady DIS Veteran

    Aug 27, 2004
    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.
  19. swwake

    swwake RIP our sweet Magic (09/27/10)

    Jan 13, 2008
    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.
  20. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    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. :confused3

    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! :thumbsup2
    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. :rolleyes:

    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! :rotfl2:) Luckily, we were only stuck there for about 2 minutes. Phew.

    After that horrible ordeal :lmao: 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. :goodvibes

    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! :crazy2:

    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?
  21. AnnieDan_Artlover

    AnnieDan_Artlover Mouseketeer

    Aug 8, 2007
    Wanted to say hi and welcome luckylady! :wave2:

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