Back in 2014, my family and I took a week-long vacation to the state of Florida. We went in late September, just before my sister and I started the school year (since we were still in college), as means of enjoying the last days of summer while also exploring a new state in our home country. Although we didn’t spend a long time in Florida, we had a good time seeing a different region of the U.S all the same.
*note* apologies for the lack of photos in this post: I don’t have many of them saved from the trip four years ago!
That said, we took a flight to Fort Lauderdale from Los Angeles. The flight took somewhere between four to six hours (as we were going from the West to East coast) and soon enough, we arrived at Fort Lauderdale’s airport. We didn’t venture out of the airport, though, as we had a cruise to catch to the Bahamas. All we did was grab some Dunkin’ Donuts for the road (the very first time I had the ubiquitous coffee/donut chain– it’s not very prominent on the U.S. West Coast), before boarding the cruise to several islands in the Bahamas (more on them later).
In any case, upon returning to Fort Lauderdale after the week-long cruise, my family and I continued our vacation by renting a car and heading to Orlando, about a three-hour drive north. Weather was highly unpredictable and stormy, as we went through periods of sunshine and showers on the way over– considering that I’d just returned from studying abroad in Paris (notorious for on-and-off summer weather), it didn’t faze me so much, although it did surprise me that it was in the U.S.!
I suppose that living in temperate Los Angeles makes the rest of the world seemingly unpredictable in weather– that said, I don’t think I could ever live in such a humid, stormy environment like Florida. In any case, my family and I braved the weather, and we soon made it to our apart-hotel in Orlando, just a 15-20 minute drive from Universal Studios. We would be staying there for the next couple of nights as means of visiting the amusement park.
Our stay in Orlando was essentially to visit Universal Studios. It’d been over a decade since I last went to an amusement park (e.g. Disneyland and Legoland in California), and I, never really a huge fan of such places, didn’t know what to expect when it came to riding roller-coasters and other rides, especially when I didn’t necessarily enjoy them as a child.
However, I found my time in Orlando to be surprisingly enjoyable. My family and I visited Universal Studios, and we got to explore a myriad of different themed rides, from Jurassic Park to The Simpsons. We especially focused on the rides at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which turned out to be a blast. While I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard fan of the fantasy series, I do enjoy the books, and I was happy to see a part of my childhood come to life in the form of roller-coasters, “magical” food products, and enchanting souvenirs.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually split up into two parks: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. My family and I visited the latter first, where we rode “Flight of the Hippogriff” and had an *overpriced* lunch at the Three Broomsticks where I tried Cornish Pasties for the first time (not bad) and had Butterbeer (super sweet, but I enjoyed it!).
We wandered a bit around the village after lunch, popping into Honeydukes and several other souvenir shops where we saw plenty of merchandise and sweets being sold at just about every corner. I saw Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (which I wasn’t so keen on, since I’d had them when I was younger; I guess it’s to appeal to children, but I don’t understand why people would create vomit or booger-flavored jelly beans…), as well as Chocolate Frogs, one of my personal favorites. At Ollivander’s Wand Shop, I was incredibly-tempted to buy a wand, but alas, they were out of my budget…while it would’ve been nice to have one, I don’t think I’d have use for it, anyway.
In the end, I bought a Slytherin bookmark and journal, along with a Ravenclaw T-shirt. From the Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz I’d taken, I was sorted into Ravenclaw, which I find apropos for my personality. Still, I’d like to think that I’m part-Slytherin, too, so I decided to get the best of both Houses!
Following our time in Hogsmeade, my family and I headed to Diagon Alley, which was absolutely inundated with people in the afternoon. We didn’t stay there too long, as we weren’t huge fans of getting sucked into the crowd, so after a brief tour around town (and a pop inside Gringotts Bank), we left Diagon Alley and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to check out other rides at the other themed attractions.
My family and I spent two full days at Universal Studios, just because there was so much to see and do. Outside of the amusement park, we didn’t do much in Orlando, except go out for dinner in town. I remember we went to a Cuban restaurant once, where I ordered fried yucatan as starters before moving on to some hearty chicken dish (which I forgot the name of). I also had a mojito, which was absolutely refreshing in the near-autumn heat– Cuban food is tasty, and you can bet that I was very full in the end!
Overall, our time in Florida was brief– if anything, it was more a place between transfers to and from the Bahamas than a proper visit. All the same, we still got to check out Orlando, even if only for Universal Studios. I’m not the type to like roller-coasters (or amusement parks, in general), but I admit that I did enjoy myself on some of the rides. Even if you’re not the hugest fan of amusement parks, I do think that places like Universal Studios can offer a fun time not just with rides, but also spectacles and other forms of entertainment to bring out the kid in you.
I’ll be recapping my time in the Bahamas and the Caribbean in the next post soon!