OXFORD AND WARWICK
Well to go around the world you gotta get yerself an airplane. Now I just called up my WestJet buddies and said,
"Hey, I need me an airplane".
"Of course...well for me and my family".
"You're own plane, no other passengers?"
"Well we're not serving food but we have these tiny Espresso cookies and some salty snacks."
"Can we got direct?"
"No...gotta stop in Toronto at the world's worst airport".
"Yeah, something like that."
And so it was we found our way to Florida and to our room at the Royal Parc Suites in Kiss Me (Kissimmee...Kisss em me...put in extra letters as you wish). We were booked for 5 nights...that didn't happen cuz of a windy dude named Matthew. Apparently he was coming ashore so the East Coast of Florida was evacuated but that story is for another day. Well after being checked in by "Grumpy Girl Guts" we found our very nice little room and headed for bed. Epcot was only a matter of hours away (that's what happens when you land after midnight).
And so it was we went to Epcot and it was not too busy except for Spaceship Earth (a.k.a. giant ball
thingy)which always has like a 90 minute line (skip it folks, go later). Took a sharp left into "Innovations" where nobody seems to go. Got to paint a mural with a magic paint brush, it's so cool that it ranks as #3 of things we enjoyed most at Epcot. In #2 position is "Ellen's Energy Adventure" (how come they can't update this video by say...20 years?). Anyhoo it's the ride that matters. It's the moving movie theatre ride and it's as cool as it ever was. There may be dinosaurs (including Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy).
Up next is the Mexico pavilion with the Grand Fiesta Tour (think Small World with Mexican dolls) and then what we think is the line-up for the little Norwegian Ride. Line up and realize you are not in the attraction you thought you were. Instead you meet Anna from Frozen. She's so darn pretty she better not turn out to be gay. She's my new girlfriend.
After Anna we find the entrance to what is no longer the little Norway ride but the Frozen ride with matching 90 minute wait (nah...that's okay). So it's off to find Figment (of my Imagination). I like this ride but did they redo the song. It seems they did. Starting to get peckish so it's time for food...NOW!
Looked about and decided to run over to Italy.
bring on the butterbeer - 2 days
Time for Universal Studios or rather "Harry Potter World" with a touch of Dinosaur. We thought we'd start with Jurassic Park. Be careful what you wish for. Rides in this area include:
"You can't ride this you're too friggin old and besides it breaks down a lot" (Pteranodon Flyers)
"Looks like it might be hard on the old neck but will think about it" (Skull Island - Reign of Kong) and the ever popular "Looks like a gentle boat ride" (Oh crap!)
I of course chose the "Looks like a gentle boat ride - Jurassic Park River Adventure". There were boats and water, how bad can it be? I see no sign of danger so why am I putting on a seat belt? So off we go with various dinosaurs poking their heads out of the water to say hello, a car that looks like it might have encountered some problems, a few scary warning type things but then suddenly we were out of the water and headed skyward, like one would, if say one were on a roller coaster. Did I mention I do not care and always avoid roller coasters? Still perhaps we need to get high up to meander further down river letting gravity bring us down. Well...gravity brought us down all right. Suddenly signs suggest you put things away like cameras but still you are floating downstream and then...a dinosaur. I never saw the drop...HOLY SHEET MY PANTIES! There may have been screaming and not in a good way. Friggin dinosaur ride.
Well others in my party do rather like the roller coaster thing so I waited, like the brave soldier I am while he did the King Kong thing. Apparently it was a bumpy bus and a bit of coaster and not overly wonderful. Think the outside decorations were better than what was inside.
Okay enough of Dinosaurs, I came here to see Hogwarts and Harry so off we go.
Now since we rode the Hogwarts to London train back and forth so many times over 2 days I don't rightly remember exactly what day we did what. What I do know is that there is no better ride in the whole entire world than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You get to fly with Harry, on a broomstick through Hogwarts Castle. May have done this more than one time...just sayin. I woulda taken pictures but I was busy flying man. I'm sorry to all my co-riders for repeatedly shouting,
"This is Fekkin AWESOME!" (Maybe more than a few times). I may not exactly have used the word fekkin either. They should have posted a language warning sign.
Now if you are lucky enough to share a train compartment on the Hogwarts Express with a girl dressed exactly like the Emma Thompson's character Professor Sybill Trelawney you will learn about secret places in Diagon Alley. That secret place is Shutter Buttons where you have a director, a costume, and star in your own Potter film. Acting with green screen is sooooo....hard. Still you get a DVD with 13 scenes and if this isn't the best souvenir (except for a working wand) then I don't know what is. So glad we did this.
What else...hmmm. We didn't buy one of those wands but enough kids did it's super fun to watch them cast spells. They are all so intense on getting it right and will try over and over. There's helper folks around to help the little ones who are getting frustrated but refuse to give up. You see you have to do the spell quickly and exactly right or it doesn't work. I like that the other folks paid the money and we get to watch the spells. Pretty fun!
Another spot many seem to walk by unaware is Knockturn Alley. It's pretty dark for picture taking but it's where you can find the "other" souvenirs like Azkaban T-Shirts at Borgin and Burkes. They have Death Eater masks and things from the dark arts. Cool staff too, like this here new friend of mine. See me up on her head. It's not that she's pissed off, she always looks this way.
So I decided to sit out the Escape from Gringotts (remember I hate roller coasters) by sitting on the stairs to the left. My companion, a.k.a. "Dude named Joe" did go in. Now I walked through until the ride actually boards (you can do that so you can see some of the inside stuff). I got my bank note from Gringotts from the teller but don't ask me where I put it. It's around somewhere.
So while outside on the steps I can now tell you exactly when the dragon breathes fire. It's every 10 minutes exactly so 3:00 pm, 3:10 pm, 3:20 pm...etc. So line up your camera and you can get the shot.
The funnest thing on the stairs is that it went from sunny to pouring with rain in seconds. I got to watch folks scurry like made from the streets all pressed up against the shops in Diagon Alley. I had to leave the stairs and cuddled up to a waste bin for protection. It sure does rain hard and fast here. Minutes later the rain has disappeared and it's like nothing happened except some folks are soaking wet.
One last thing. Buy the pass that lets you go to both parks as otherwise you can't ride the Hogwarts Express. Ride it both ways as it's not the same going as it is coming back.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING - HURRICANE MATTHEW
They had ordered a complete evacuation of Cape Canaveral. The hurricane, they said, was coming ashore and then heading inland to Orlando. Worst hurricane in 100 years they said. Universal had stopped all the shuttle buses from stopping and told us to pick ours up somewhere that turned out to be wrong. We knew he arrived at 6:30 pm and we began a desperate search at 6:35 pm and finally found him pulling away. My travel buddy Joe tried to stop him but he kept yelling back that he had to go. Luckily he changed his mind and let us board. Our error had been asking any of the useless Universal parking folks where to find our bus.
In wasn't long until we understood that the driver was in a panic as the roads had gone from bad to impossible. Everyone was evacuating form the east coast and the Interstate was at a standstill. A drive that should have taken 20 minutes took well over an hour taking ever back route the driver could find. He' d be hours late picking up the Disney folks.
We set out to load up on emergency supplies like flashlights, candles and food before the stores ran out. The gas stations were already out of gas. We had bumped up our rental car by a day and would insist on a full tank of gas as there was none to be had.
On Thursday morning (storm due late Thursday night/early Friday) we headed out on foot to see what was open. Restaurants (nope), big indoor market (nope), Old Town (nope). We walked for quite a ways and found that Chocolate Kingdom was open. Except for 2 staff we were the only people there. We had a private tour of how you make chocolate and bought lots for our emergency supply kit (the chocolate/pecan bar did not last very long at all). Man that was some good chocolate.
After dropping off our chocolate we headed to a little grocery store (very little) in search of bread as apparently all stores ran out the day before. The little store had one package of white flour tortilla shells (better than nothing). We could manage those stuffed with baked or cold beans. It had been cloudy but no wind or anything when we entered the store. Just as we headed out the storm hit...sort of. Winds a gusting, rain going sideways in a torrential downpour. If this was Matthew it was only going to get worse. We had a bag of groceries and me so Joe decided to run back to the hotel for the car.
Poor Joe...it took him 3 days to dry out. I don't know how you can get wetter than jumping in a swimming pool but he was soaked through and through. We did have a full tank of gas though after forcing Enterprise to give us (for no additional cost) a car full of gas. The only one they had was an upgrade but old Joe wasn't leaving the rental place without a full tank since there was no gas anywhere. Even the agent at the rental place was from another location as the regular employees were home hunkering down for Matthew.
After getting back to the hotel that was that. The local government (well the Florida governor dude) said no one was allowed out now. No one on the streets at all, basically martial law. We had power though but every TV channel was Matthew and the internet was so slow it crashed every minute or so.
Well old Matthew tricked us all. Even Disney as for the first time ever all the theme parks in Florida were closed. No Disney, no Universal, nothing open at all. But Matthew didn't come...barely a breeze except for that 5 minutes after the grocery store incident.
And so since we'd bought a couple of packs of cards we played rummy for hours and hangman and wandered around the inner courtyard. It was kinda cool because all the families were talking and so many were playing games and cards. At last, a little hurricane that wasn't, brought families together. It was actually a fun day. Maybe it was all the chocolate we ate.
Matthew did hit further up the coast, exactly where we were to holiday. St. Augustine. We got an email that our hotel was evacuated indefinitely so we had to plan an alternate holiday to somewhere else. That's how we wound up in Tampa/Ybor City for a holiday. Never could visit Joe's sister even though she was but an hour or so away (in the wrong direction, close to the east coast). Oh well...Ybor City here we come.