A Cruise, A Few Loop-De-Loos, and Some Blues (Days 7 – 8)

Universal Resort (February 23 -24)

The drive from Tampa to Orlando was an easy hour and fifteen minutes of highway cruising.  We passed exits for towns with names like Thonotosassa, Zephyrhills, Poinciana, and Apopka.  Needless to say, The Alphabet Game was a snap. By 11:30am, we were already parked and meandering through City Walk at Universal Resort.  We spent all of Thursday at Universal Studios, enjoying the atmosphere and waiting in very short lines.  Because we didn’t stay at the resort, we were relegated to the “slow” queue.  It didn’t matter, though, because we never waited longer than a half hour for a ride the entire day.

Our favorites were Men in Black (for pure fun) and The Mummy (for theming and thrills).  The Mummy was exceptionally well themed – the creepiness factor began as soon we stepped in the queue.  E.T. Adventure would have been a contender for the favorite list, too, if it weren’t for its bizarre ending.  We began in a darkly lit forest, happily riding our bikes over police cars and across the moon.  All of a sudden, we were  transported to E.T.’s psychedelic planet which resembled Disney’s It’s a Small World ride on acid.  The mismatch of the two parts completely ruined the experience for me.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why E.T. wanted to get home to that so badly

Lunch at Mel’s Diner, which consisted of cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, onion rings, french fries, and milkshakes, was pretty tasty and more than adequate for amusement park fare.  Some mighty fine rides were parked out front of the eatery, too.

{sadly, out of commission the first day}

We left Universal to check into our hotel and then head to Boma for our eight o’clock dinner reservation.  For some reason, I never actually looked into the location of the Palisades Resort relative to Universal.  Turns out, it was about 25 minutes away.  What a bummer!  The hotel, or should I say condominium resort, was average at best and one of my least favorite parts of the whole vacation.  For showering and sleeping, I suppose it was adequate and the cheap rate did a tiny bit to ease my disappointment.  I wouldn’t stay there again.  The one positive in its favor was its proximity to Boma.  By 8pm we were pretty hungry which equates to pretty grouchy in the Wandrin’ family.  A long commute to supper could have been disastrous.

Boma, Flavors of Africa, is located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge at the Disney World Resort.  We’d eaten there once before on our first trip to The Happiest Place on Earth and had such a good experience we thought we’d try it again.  I love Animal Kingdom Lodge.  It is all dark and exotic rustic luxury with its thatched roof, dim lighting, and abundant use of wood.  The resort property backs up to Animal Kingdom Park which means giraffes and okapi wander right up to the edges of the resort.  When we went for dinner the first time, we spent quite a while exploring the grounds and watching the animals.  Because it was already dark this time, we headed directly to the restaurant.

For the rather late hour, Boma was hopping.  Kids were everywhere, the buffet was mobbed, and the serving staff was bustling.  Despite the full waiting area, we were seated immediately (always make reservations ahead of time at Disney).  Our table was situated under a palapa in the back part of the restaurant where it felt quieter and not quite so frenetic.  Let me just state for the record that a buffet is not my favorite style of dining.  It’s a carnival for spreading contagious bugs.  I’m not a germaphobe by any means but even I get squeamish thinking about all those hands touching the serving spoons and so many people breathing all over the food.  And don’t even get me started on unattended kids (who will be kids – they can’t help it) who lick their fingers and touch food they have no intention of taking and who must touch everything.  The quality of food at Boma is good enough that I was willing to overlook my misgivings.  There are several specialities that were offered such as pap, fufu, kool slaai, and bobotie along with standard American fare like chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese.  The wood roasted meats were very good, too.  We ended our meal with Boma’s Zebra Cakes and other delicious bite-sized morsels.  I didn’t bother with photos because the lighting, while atmospheric, was very poor quality for snapping pictures.  With bellies full, we headed back to our condo and called it a night.

We headed out early the next morning for Universal Resort and the Islands of Adventure.  We wanted to get to Hogsmeade and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before the crowds arrived.  I was feeling pretty nauseated and under the weather (probably because of the evil buffet the night before) but I didn’t want to miss the fun.  We went directly to Hogwart’s to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The wait time was only forty-five minutes, a third of the time it would be later in the day.  The theming for the ride was fantastic and from what I understand, the ride itself was pretty intense.  Although I did ride it, my eyes were closed the entire time.  On a good day, this is the type of ride that would do me in with motion-sickness.  Because I was already feeling rotten, it totally ruined me – even with my eyes shut.  When the torture finally ended, Hubby had to basically peel me off the seat and carry me out to a shaded spot and lay me on the cool stones.  I think forever passed before the world stopped spinning.  It took every ounce of will power I had not to toss my cookies right there in the shadow of Hogwart’s.  While I struggled to pull myself together, the kids rode Dragon Challenge and bought magic wands.  It was still early in the day and Hogsmeade was already wall-to-wall people.  As soon as I was able, we made a speedy exit and checked out the rest of the park.

I didn’t ride another thing the rest of the day, being content to wait in the shade while the others had their fun (this is so contrary to my normal self!).  The Incredible Hulk and Doctor Doom’s FearFall were favorites.  Spiderman was closed for servicing, which was a huge disappointment because we’d heard that it was a great experience.  No one felt like getting wet, so we dissed the water rides, too, but I loved the Jurassic Park theming.  In the afternoon, we headed back over to Universal Studios to see the Horror Make-Up Show.  Very good and very funny.  While the rest of the fam rode Rip Ride Rockit and revisited favorite rides from the day before, I relaxed on the patch of green grass in front of the amphitheater.  Despite the fact that I felt like I was going to die, I couldn’t help but notice the perfect weather and be thankful that my last day on earth was so gorgeous.  The rest did me good and when the others came to collect me we decided to trek back over to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure for butter beer and some shopping at Honeyduke’s.

{ The biggest Hard Rock Cafe in the world }

{ Dr. Doom’s Hideout }

{ Patiently waiting }

{ Butter Beer, anyone? }

{ Honeydukes: Home of adorable but ridiculously expensive candy }

After dinner and a bit of shopping at The Hard Rock Cafe, we made out tired way back to the car by way of a very festive City Walk.   While we were walking out, throngs of well dressed partyers were heading into the fun.  I had no idea City Walk was such a happening place on Friday night.  The 25 minute return drive seemed to take forever.  While we were all sad that our adventure was coming to an end, I think everyone was ready to go home.  Before we tucked ourselves into bed, we packed and organized everything for the flight home.  After feeling rotten all day, finally crawling between the cool sheets in a dark, quiet room was heaven on earth.

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