Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Orlando (Day 1): Hotel and Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Last week my mom and I stole away to Orlando for a mother/daughter trip. We left on Thursday morning and flew to Orlando. After a taxi ride, we were at our resort...Universal's Royal Pacific.

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Even just a few steps inside the property and I could already tell that I was going to love this resort more than our previous stay at Universal's Portofino Bay a few months ago. All the lush greenery and landscaping immediately made the "feel" of the resort more to my liking. 

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Upon walking into the lobby, there were real orchids everywhere. You could not miss the south pacific vibe they were trying to evoke. 

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I think the lovely themed courtyard in the middle of the main floor of the resort went a long way to solidifying the theme and making the resort very peaceful.

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Our room was ready when we got there (hallelujah) and we went right up. I loved that it had purple as an accent color!

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These rooms had recently received a refresh in decor and we loved it. 

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It was nice to each have our own bed too. The room was large...we felt like we had plenty of room for all of our stuff. 

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We had this view of the pool from our room. Unfortunately, it was through a fogged up window that never went away during our stay. It's not something we would complain about or switch rooms for, but it was disappointing to not have a clear view out of our only window. 

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The bathroom was nicely decorated and we liked that the sink was separate from the bath/shower area. It made for easy mornings and evenings when we were both in here. 

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After we got settled, we made our way down to one of the hotel's restaurants, Jake's American Bar. We wanted to grab some lunch and decide how to spend the rest of our day. 

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This was the crab cake burger with sweet potato chips. Delicious! We had planned to stay at the hotel that day and maybe swim and just relax. But, we were both too excited to get over to Universal and check out the park!

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But first, we did decide to walk around the hotel just a little to get our bearings and see what else it had to offer. 

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All of the walking paths were dotted with Asian statues and architecture. And lots of plants...again, I loved that!

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The pool itself was huge and had a spray area, sport/volleyball area, beach entry, and still more landscaping. We didn't stop to swim this time, but we made a mental note to do so at least once in the next couple of days. 

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After our quick tour of the resort, we hopped onto the water taxi that took us to the parks. We decided to hit Universal Studios first since we'd have early entry to Islands of Adventure the next day. 

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It was fun heading into the park with nothing on our agenda but to look around and do what we wanted.

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We found the holiday shop and, of course, had to go in! We both bought some ornaments here.

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We kept walking toward the back of the park, taking in the sights, and shopping/stopping for photos when we wanted. We could not pass up a photo opportunity with Jaws.

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I actually remember this ride from when I was a kid. It's no longer in operation as a ride, but obviously they didn't want to get rid of Jaws entirely. 

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We made it all the way to the back of the park and found London! We were so pleasantly surprised to find the park decidedly un-busy even in the middle of the day (usually the busiest time). 

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Obligatory phone booth photo...

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This time we took the time to dial the Ministry of Magic and listen to their pre-recorded message. 

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Next we looked at the Knight Bus. 

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Everything looks in order here. 

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We went over to Grimauld Place to spot Kreacher up in his window. 

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Then mom had a chat with the shrunken heads and Stan Shunpike since there was no line. 

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Finally, it was time to enter the Wizarding World! We went through the brick wall at the Leaky Cauldron...

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...and found ourselves in Diagon Alley! It was so cool for me to be back and for mom to see it for the first time. And this time was SO much less busy than when we were here before our cruise. (Mental note: bring the boys back at a less busy time.)

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Over the course of the next couple of days, we thoroughly checked out and photographed each store in Diagon Alley (and Hogsmeade, for that matter), but today we focused on Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. The hard-to-miss whimsically colored shop just to the right as you enter Diagon Alley. 

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I actually took a ton of product shots of all their fun things, but had to scale back for sharing here on the blog. Besides being far less busy, one other thing that was different about this visit vs. the one with the boys was that I didn't have two little children pulling me to go see things right now! My mom and I took our time looking at everything...and of course, photographing everything. 

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We got two Pigmy Puffs...the pink one for Logan and the purple one for Ethan. 

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All the shops have such elaborate set-ups...including the non-accessible, but fully stocked second and third floors. 

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And the screeching of Dolores Umbridge can sometimes be heard from her unicycling figurine hanging from the ceiling. 

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So much to see in Diagon many signs and sights!

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I love Potages. It's not very colorful compared to some of the other shops, but the cauldrons and their hanging signs (pictured below, a few photos down) make it so unique.

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Every shop window is something to be explored. Gilderoy Lockhart's books include moving photographs. Obviously - this is the Wizarding World after all. 

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Just look how wonderful it is! It makes me want to go back right now even though we just went!

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Here's those Potages hanging signs...

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And the main more than one way. Gringott's Bank houses the only ride in Diagon Alley and also the fire-breathing dragon atop it's roof. 

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The Magical Menagerie...

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We made time to stop and try a Butterbeer. This time we just got the regular tap was as yummy as ever. I think this is my favorite variation of Butterbeer, although I have not tried the hot Butterbeer yet. 

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The Owl Post is very realistic with all the owl droppings and such. The details really make the place. 

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We went inside the Gringotts Money Exchange to buy some chocolate coins for the boys.

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We did not buy the Wizard gold bars, but almost...

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After we'd wandered around, we looked at the expected wait time for the Escape from Gringott's ride and saw that it wasn't too bad. We weren't planning on riding today, but decided to anyway because it wasn't a terrible wait. 

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After the ride, and a few more photos, we left Diagon Alley for the day, and also Universal Studios. We headed back to the resort via water taxi again to get ready for our dinner reservations. 

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We ate at Emeril's Tchoup Chop restuarant, which is at the Royal Pacific resort. Very convenient. 

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The inside of the restaurant is stunning. Lots of tile murals, amazing glass chandeliers, cool lighting, and pressed flowers. 

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The centerpiece of the restaurant is this lily pad pond, which is a huge rectangle running down the length of the dining room. 

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For our appetizer (it was SO hard to choose just one), we had the steamed pork and vegetable dumplings. They were perfect. 

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For my main dish, I had the Mahi Mahi.

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And mom had a giant bowl of duck curry. It was so big we definitely could have split it!

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For dessert, I had one of the specials...a mason jar of peanut butter, chocolate and jelly mousse/pot de creme. It was a very sweet ending to a fun first day!

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