Hard Rock Casino Hollywood, Florida sent me a coupon for $20 of free slot play, so I thought I would drive down to the casino, do some gambling, and visit my sister – but my sister said she didn’t want to see me. Getting rejected by text message: “I’ll be running around all day tomorrow have a dr apt and the gym”. Hmm. I’m not even going to write about all the negative emotions and thoughts I have about the lack of closeness in our family. But work gave me the day off. What to do?
I know! I’ll go to Universal Studios Orlando and pick-up my annual pass.
I didn’t get started until just after noon, but only a two hour drive later, and I was in the parking garage at THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER. I parked in nearly the same spot as I had four years ago and thus the game of Been-There-Done-That began. At first, everything was making me sad. I left Florida three and a half years ago because I was unhappy. I never intended to return to my old life and being in my old stomping grounds was making me depressed. Even the places that used to be an escape for me just seemed sad to me after four years of living differently.
Once I got into the park, I started to perk up. It was dangerously hot outside. I would need to buy a refillable cup for $12, so I went with the Butterbeer. It’s not kosher (I suspect it has gelatin in it) but I ate it anyway. Also, it was insanely crowded. I had never seen the park that way. I just missed the singing Frog Chorus, which I love; but there was still the castle. It was dark and dingy and had not been kept-up. I am so going to write the company and complain, but it had two new areas: the Fat Lady’s portrait and the Gryfindor Common Room with more talking portraits. I was surprised by how much the broomstick ride tossed me around and nearly snapped my neck off. Why such extremism for today’s generation of kids? You know, one of the scariest rollercoasters in the world is made entirely out of wood, the Zippin Pippin in Memphis, Tennessee, and it does not snap your neck off. Regarding the Harry Potter ride, I still have to close my eyes for the spider part… and now also the Dementor part. That’s half the ride!
Next I bought candy in Honeyduke’s Sweet Shoppe, also not kosher, although real JellyBelly jellybeans totally are kosher. The park used to sell a cheaper made-in-China version of the candy but I wrote to them and they changed it. Okay, so maybe you can tell that I wasn’t exactly having fun yet, which is why I decided to ride the Hogwarts Express train to the other park. After all, I bought the annual pass specifically so I could ride the train that joins the two parks, Hogsmeade Village and Daigon Alley.
The train ride was really good. They had some neat special effects. No spoilers here. It was totally worth the extra money.
When I arrived in “London”, I couldn’t find the entrance to Daigon Alley! That was a funny touch. So I stopped at 12 Grimaud Place. I really enjoy the details that Universal puts into the theme parks. The details are the magnificence of JK Rowling’s magical world that she created in her mind when she was a single mother getting by on unemployment. Such a story she has. Once I entered Daigon Alley, I was totally unprepared for the awesomeness of it. I decided that I had been right to allow myself three days to explore the new park and I decided to leave it until my next trip on April 1st. However, I couldn’t resist following a small sign that pointed the way to Knockturn Alley. OMG, it was so creepy! I purchased a crystal skull in Borgin & Burkes. I was pleased to see that the accursed necklace was for sale for $350 muggle. That was a cool touch and it’s pretty. I am almost glad that I do not have $350 to spend on a trinket because wearing the blue necklace would freak me out! But here’s my current dilemma: I want to buy a $117 wizard’s robe. The thing is, they are cheaply made and lack details. I could easily stitch together a better one (and it is now on my to-do list), but I suspect the fabric might cost me more than $100 because the robe probably needs a good five yards of black plus five yards of lining. That calculation makes the mass-produced version a good value. Now I have to think it over, maybe price compare on E-bay…
In the end, I spent at least six hours at the theme parks, $40 on gas, $60 on beverages and trinkets, and I had a really good time. I am happy that I am going back in 19 days for a three day visit before Pesach.
“Wizarding Day Trip. 11 March 2015.” is copyright © 2015 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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