Friday, January 16, 2015

Harry Potter, Day 2

Day 2 of the Harry Potter vacation started with a bit less rush than day one.  We had a leisurely breakfast at Starbucks (also at the hotel) and rode the water taxi back to Universal, getting there just as the gate opened.  This day we didn't join in the jogging to Diagon Alley but rather just strolled over, enjoying the sight and feeling of a virtually empty Universal.  But eventually we slipped through the gap in the brick wall and back into the fantasy of HP world--and hopped on yet another Gringott's ride (we ended up taking that ride four times).  By the time we got out the shops and attractions were open, and we took in more of the amazing details that give the feeling of being in a real world and a fantasy one simultaneously.  I, of course, especially liked the owlery--where all the postal owls live.  I thought having the layers of owl poop was an especially nice touch.

We took in a puppet show, talked with an animatronic goblin at the bank, watched the dragon belch fire (never got tired of that).  Eventually we slipped out through the brick wall and hoped the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade (even the trip from one section of Harry Potter world to the next is a ride--the "window" shows the countryside, with Fred and George riding broomsticks, while you can see the shadows of Harry, Ron, Hermione and others through the frosted glass of the doors).  We walked through the castle--but did not take the Dragon ride again!
I don't like rushing on trips, and would rather see a few things thoroughly than try to see everything.  We had planned to do only Harry Potter World--but I had also allowed for a certain number of hours for standing in line.  We were pleasantly surprised that in the entire two days, a line was never more than 15 minutes long, so that gave us time to visit some of the rest of Universal.  Basically, you get a sensation of big--over the top.  Every attraction has major special effects--many with thousands of gallons of water, pyrotechnics, holographic projections.  For the "Disaster" ride, Bob was chosen to be one of the pseudo-actors.  Of course, it wasn't until he was on the stage that I realized that he still had the camera, so I couldn't immortalize him.  Taking advantage of the lack of lines, we just wandered from attraction to attraction.  We took the boat ride through Jurrasic park, getting spit on by dinosaurs (but in a sanitized way--I never realized how much chlorine was in the Jurassic period), drifting under waterfalls, and finally getting soaked in a final dive into the water.
(and as long as we were already wet, we went on the ride a second time)

The nice thing about Universal is that you get the impression that everything is free--you just walk in for the show or the ride.  Of course, you had that gulping moment when you first buy your ticket--but then the pain is over and you can do whatever you like.

Our original plan for day two was to spend a few hours there, go back to the hotel for a nap, and then come back because I wanted to see the dragon in the dark.  But we were having so much fun acting like a couple of kids that we just stayed there.  In all (I kept notes) we did the Gringott's ride four time, the Disaster ride twice, Jurassic Park twice, the Dragon Challenge, The Mummy, watched the Terminator show, a Horror makeup show, and went through Posidon's adventure.

Obviously we were having a blast.  But even after only two days I was noticing a disconnect--a certain discomfort.  We live a little closer to nature than most people.  We have acreage rather than just a yard, a swamp out back, peacocks roaming around, chickens, and I work at a natural history museum.  Universal is just *so* perfectly artificial, so thoroughly groomed.  I found myself grateful for the occasional weed among the landscaping, and luring pigeons with the crumbs of my lunch.  I was grateful for the perky little sparrows who joined us at our breakfast table.  I was grateful for that touch of reality.

Another phenomena we witnessed were the large number of people with cameras on "selfie sticks".  This lets you put your camera on a stick so you can videotape yourself walking around (showing yourself rather than the scenery).  I really don't get it--possibly because I dislike having my picture taken.  In fact, we took no pictures of Bob, and only one of me, and that's only because one of the shops was "Spinwitch's" and SpinWitch is my online name.

But dusk was approaching, and we took the train back to Diagonal Alley.  And I realized I was tired--I wanted to see it in the dark, but I was also ready to leave.  But there are benches, and butterbeer, and we just relaxed as the sun when down and lamps came on in the windows.  In the dark, the people with the "working wands" could turn on some magical lights. 

Finally, it was dark, and we waited for the grumble and roar of the dragon, spewing his flames into the night.

And it was time to leave.  We walked slowly, turned, and saying farewell to the magical world, slipped through the brick wall to come back home.

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