Bob took care of all of the details (part of my birthday gift) and I must say, kudos to him! All I had to do was relax and enjoy.
For starters, we added a couple of hours into our schedule for the drive down (normally about a 5-hour drive). We would be driving past Gainesville--where there is a wonderful natural history museum. And places to get barbeque.
There are many very well-done exhibits, but I always gravitate towards the ice-age animals.
And then head out to the butterfly garden. They've added some displays just outside of the garden of large floating felt butterflies and moths. The nice thing about vacations is that when you're away from the land of "I'm busy and have things to do" and into the world of just hanging out and enjoying, you find yourself thinking "I could do that." Who knows? Maybe someday.
A pleasant stroll through the butterflies, and we were ready to hit the road again.
And this is where Bob outdid himself. One of the things that I'm really really bad at is standing in line. More than a 15 minute wait and I really start questioning how much I want whatever is at the front of that line. It's the reason we've never been to Universal, and it's been something like 30 years since we've been to Disneyland. I also don't do crowds. So he found out that if you stay at one of the hotels at Universal, you get to go on the grounds an hour before the gate officially opens. And there is a water taxi to take you from the hotel to the gate--so no driving, and no long walks.
Of course, the sort of hotel that offers that kind of amenities isn't exactly a Hotel 8.
Yep--that's all one hotel. The rooms are just as impressive (especially the bathroom)
The Portifino even describes itself as "swank" in its brochures--a term you just don't hear often. I don't do "swank" much myself. For one thing, it means you need a good pair of walking shoes and a GPS just to find your room (the check-in is at the tower in the back--our room was in the wing on the near left in the picture. Other differences I noted (was making a mental table of plebian vs. swank, aka Motel 8 vs. Portifino). At a Motel 8, you park by your room, and there is usually a microwave and fridge in the room. Also a free breakfast. At swank, cars are kept out of sight (parking lot is past the tower) and you are not expected to eat it your room. And a gourmet breakfast buffet is available for a pretty swanky price. That didn't stop us--we always travel with cheese and crackers. After a long day, I don't want to go out.
So the end of day one found us happily ensconced in swankiness with a glass of wine (and bottle of cider for Bob) and resting up for our trip into the world of Harry Potter.