Harry Potter World Visit! #UniversalStudios #DisneyWorld

So – I was missing from the blogosphere for the better part of two weeks, but I have an excellent excuse – my family and I went to Universal Studios.  This wasn’t our first trip – the few times we’ve been there have also been in January and the weather is usually hit or miss.  We’ve trudged through rain, suffered sunburns (usually just me) in mid seventy degree weather, and bundled up in temperatures hovering around freezing.  This year we were fortunate to have sun, but the temps were low 30’s in the morning, rising to maybe 50 degrees by mid afternoon.

I promised to post pictures when we returned, so here they are.  This first group is from the magical Harry Potter World.  If you’ve never been, it looks exactly like the movie sets -the level of detail is just incredible.

The first time I saw Platform 9 3/4, I nearly screamed.  The train station looks exactly as in the movie, and there’s a window/mirror kind of thing that makes it look like you’re walking through the wall.  The train can take you between Hogsmeade (Hogwarts castle is on the same side) and Diagon Alley, the same side as Gringott’s Bank.

The bottom picture is the dragon breathing flames on top of Grigottt’s.  The goblins working in the bank look incredibly lifelike and move.  My son saw something online saying if you address them the right way, they’ll tell you things about the dragon.  He tried it, but maybe didn’t speak loud enough.

The newspaper picture is a little blurry – it’s the story about Harry being Undesirable No. 1.  While waiting in line for the Escape from Griggott’s ride, there are several of these newspapers to read and watch.  The people in the pictures are animated just like in the movies – fascinating!

Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley offer Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.  With the chilly day, the warm Butterbeer was fabulous – it had a distinct butterscotch flavor.  The Pumpkin Juice was cold, but I brought home a bottle to enjoy later – it’ my favorite.

Christmas decorations were still up and the parks were just beautiful with all the lights.  This picture was taken in the Hollywood section of Universal.  Lights were wrapped around the palm trees and strung across the buildings.

I had to get a picture of my sons with Scooby-Doo.  His cartoon was one of my favorites growing up and my sons loved watching him when they were younger.  Neither of them wanted to pose with Scooby, but I pulled the Mom-Card and threatened persuaded them it was in their best interests.

The last picture was while waiting in line for Jimmy Fallon’s Race Through New York.  Hubby, sons, and my oldest son’s girlfriend are wearing the 3D glasses.  This is a new motion simulator ride that takes you through NBC studios, Times Square, and around the Statue of Liberty – definitely worth trying!

 

We hadn’t been to Disney’s Magic Kingdom since the boys were younger, so thought we’d take a day and revisit.  Big mistake.  Huge.  Those who say Disney is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ have clearly never been to the park.  The Seventh Circle of Hell is a more apt description.

I purchased our tickets online months earlier, thinking it would save time.  At Universal, you scan your barcode at a kiosk, it prints your tickets, and you’re on your way.  Not so simple at Disney.  You’re still required to wait in line with everyone who hasn’t bought tickets just to pick up yours.  That was over an hour wait.  Insane.  They’re Disney – they should have a better system.

After that, we had a choice of taking the ferry or monorail over to Magic Kingdom.  The kids had waited in line for the monorail while got the park tickets hoping to save some time.  That was another thirty minutes.  When we finally got on the ‘express’ monorail, it was delayed three times.  A five minute trip took nearly thirty.  From the time we parked our car, it took over two hours to arrive in the actual park.

The rest of the day was no better.  This was considered an ‘off-peak day’ – but I have no idea why.  Some of the lines were three hours long, we were shoulder to shoulder, chest to back with people in some sections and came to a complete standstill at one point, a gridlock of bodies, strollers, and screaming children (and some adults).  The majority of the employees were rude, the rides hadn’t changed, the food was horrible (and we waited an hour in line for that).  The only bright part of the day was that I’d made fast pass reservations online for a few of the rides, one of which we missed because of the delay in getting into the park, but we persuaded an employee to honor it and let us in.

We voted unanimously to leave about six hours after we’d arrived – most of that time spent waiting in line or gridlocked in a sea of bodies.  Back at Universal, we walked freely in the streets with no one invading our personal space, enjoyed both old favorites and exciting new rides, and appetizing food.

That was my Disney rant.  If you’re ever torn over which park to visit, you know my opinion.  We’re glad to be home, one of the boys is back at school, the other has a longer Christmas break and is still home – and I’m still catching up on laundry.  But the Christmas decorations are down – so there’s that.

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Writer’s Retreat – I’m Soooo Out of Here!

I won’t be around the next few days – headed out for a Writer’s Retreat and am determined to get this new book finished and in the hands of beta readers.  I’m behind on reading and have several ARC’s I owe reviews on, Bad Moon Rising is coming up and there are 31+ posts to get ready, I’ve made three unexpected visits to the vet over the past few days, my youngest son needed a tux immediately for symphonic band (I’m sure this came up suddenly – no way he would have sat on that info until the last minute, right?), plus all those other things that seem to pop up when you’re leaving town.

But….I have a book on tape for the trip (Game – Jasper Dent #2 by Barry Lyga), the address plugged into Google maps, and I’m about 90% packed.  I’m really looking forward not only to uninterrupted writing time, but reconnecting with writers and friends I haven’t seen for a little over a year, and attending workshops by the retreat host, author C.J. Redwine.

Wish me a productive retreat!

Fangirling Over Authors! #books

This past weekend was the Southern Kentucky Book Festival, conveniently located only ten minutes from my house.  I spent all day Friday in writing workshops (it’s also children’s day, so at lunch I snuck over to see some of my fav authors) and on Saturday I attended panels, bought books, and met authors.  

Mindy McGinnis was a first time attendee, and I’m such a fan of her books – trust me, not a bad one in the bunch.  On her website last year, she critiqued my query (so helpful), and I was anxious to meet her in person.  When I met her on Friday, her newest release, Given to the Sea, hadn’t arrived yet, so I headed to her table first thing on Saturday morning and totally lucked out, getting the next to last copy on her table.

This was also Brigid Kemmerer’s first year attending.  My youngest son and I read her Elemental series together, which she was thrilled to hear, also being a mother of all sons.  She’s holding her new release, Letters to the Lost.

D.G. Driver was bombarded by over 1,000 young readers attending children’s day on Friday (R.L. Stine was the headliner).  She has a wonderful YA series dealing with social and environmental issues (Juniper Sawfeather), with the third in the series scheduled for release in the next couple of months.  Look for my upcoming interview with her – I’ll keep you posted.

C.J. Redwine is a frequent visitor to the book fest and I’ve attended two of her writer’s retreats.  The third one is scheduled in September (just in time for my birthday) and I can’t wait!  With helpful workshops, beautiful scenery (Tennessee mountains), excellent food, and writerly friends, what more could you ask for?  I bought a signed copy of C.J.’s newest release in the Ravenspire series, The Wish Granter.

The day after book fest for me is like the letdown the day after Christmas *sigh*.  Now I have to wait until April for the next one.