It's Too Hot! (April at Animal Kingdom Lodge)

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crazycatperson's picture
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While in Diagon Alley, we discovered that the moving marquee over the Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes shop was not working. This is what it should do, video taken during our trip two years ago.

I also found photos from that earlier trip of our wizarding gear - hubby wore his polo shirt, but I didn't wear my T-shirt since I had purchased it during that trip.

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After poking around Diagon Alley for a bit, we headed back through the "secret" entrance into muggle London and caught the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade.

Back when there was just one "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" - Hogsmeade - there was a nonfunctional Hogsmeade station (first photo) just inside the Hogsmeade gate with a train engine visible. That train went nowhere, of course. Now, even though there's a fully functioning Hogsmeade station (second photo) right outside the gate, the old train and station are still right where they were several years ago. I wondered why they didn't take it out and put something else in; aside from the obvious reason (why spend the money), it occurs to me that leaving it allows people who don't have park-to-park passes to see the train and pose for photos in front of it.

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Once in Hogsmeade, I poked around while hubby went off looking for a smoking area. It was already starting to get hot. We did no rides in either Harry Potter area - I can't since none of them are tame enough for me, and hubby just wasn't in the mood. I think he'd had his fill of park touring by this day. We did do the non-rider walkthrough of Hogwarts Castle, which I always enjoy, and we took our time since it was pleasantly air conditioned inside.

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And then we caught the train back to Diagon Alley so we could get lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, which I prefer to the Three Broomsticks. I got toad in the hole, my favorite; hubby I think got one of the pies, shepherd's or seafood, cannot recall which. Although the toad in the hole comes with a gravy, I dabbed a bit of HP sauce on a piece just to see what it tastes like and was pleased to discover it's a bit like a thicker Worcestershire sauce. I could see putting it on a burger or meat pie.

After lunch, we caught the train back to Hogsmeade again because the Hogwarts Express is the best ride at Universal. Once there, hubby wanted to go to CityWalk to try to find someplace that sells cigarettes. At this point, even though I would've liked to stay and enjoy the parks, I was ready for a break from the heat, so I left with him, intending to head back to the hotel for a bit. We stopped on our way out to do the Cat in the Hat ride, then discovered there's pretty much nowhere in Universal where you can buy a pack of cigarettes, so hubby dropped me off at the hotel and I showered and rested while he went off to find smokes. On our way through CityWalk, we encountered a dancing shrimp outside Bubba Gump's.

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Once hubby was satisfactorily nicotined and I had cooled down sufficiently, we headed back to Universal, arriving in the Universal Studios park just in time to catch the parade. Last time we did Universal, we were totally underwhelmed by the parade, which was so short it barely qualified as a parade. This time it was a little better; they had added a few new things, although they could still take several lessons from Disney on how to do a theme park parade. The photo below is part of the new "Secret Life of Pets" float, which was really cute.

I had two things on my agenda at this point: get some Earl Grey lavender ice cream and ride the Hogwarts Express some more. Goal number one was accomplished but was a major disappointment. Two years ago, I thought the Earl Grey lavender was the best ice cream I had ever tasted. This time, it almost tasted like vanilla. It had none of the flavors I thought I remembered. Was my memory faulty, or had they screwed up the recipe? Maybe even subbed vanilla for a flavor they were out of? I will try it again next time, but if it's as forgettable as it was on this visit, I won't bother again.

So we headed on for goal number two, catch the train back to Hogsmeade and maybe wander around Islands of Adventure a bit. So we got in line and waited...and waited...and waited. Eventually they announced technical difficulties. Eventually they announced it again. People started to leave. More announcements. Eventually the train limped into the station and people who had been stuck on the ride for a fair while were able to get off. But instead of boarding more people, they announced that the ride was closing for the evening. They did offer paper Express Passes good for at least several days, but this was our one and only day and the park was closing in half an hour. Hubby complained, kinda hoping they would give us a second day's admission for free, but no such luck, so we gave our passes to someone else. At least we had gotten to ride the train twice to Hogsmeade and once back to Diagon Alley, but still, it was a disappointing way to end the day.

We decided to get dinner in CityWalk on our way out. Hubby suggested trying Bubba Gump's, but the wait was longer than either of us cared to experience. We wandered around a bit, not seeing anything that really appealed to us, and ended up at the Panda Express. It was edible, but not really any better than the mediocre Chinese food we can get back home in the boonies. On top of that, the staff weren't very helpful. Guess they assume we've all been to Panda Express before (we never had until that evening). We had trouble finding cutlery and sauces for our egg rolls, in the first case because the cutlery station was empty and no one had bothered to refill, in the second because they don't leave hot mustard and duck sauce out where anyone can grab a handful, you have to ask for them. We won't be back.

And that was it for our evening.

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crazycatperson's picture
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Tuesday, May 2 bright and early at 8:00 am we arrived at the Orange Lake timeshare resort for our tour and sales pitch. On the plus side, bright and early meant we had most of our day free, but I do hate mornings.

So, our salesman found us, escorted us out to his golf cart, and drove us all over the place. This resort is HUGE. It's also old, as in been there for decades, but while many of the buildings are old (and I've read on other Disney/Orlando forums that the older units definitely show their age), this was a sales pitch first and foremost, so aside from driving past, we saw none of the older stuff. We toured several of the newer buildings, each nicer than the previous one. The in-unit photos below are not all from the same building or units, but everything looked nice, and the concierge-level suites (not pictured) were amazing (and totally out of our price range, lol).

After the tour, we got sat down and offered the pitch. The salesman was persistent - he even offered us a Port Canaveral timeshare since he knew we mainly used our non-Disney timeshares to exchange into Disney properties, and Disney won't let you do that with Orlando-area timeshares - but he was not at all hard-sell and took our final "no" graciously, unlike most timeshare salespeople, who are your best friend until you say no, then they act like you just ran over their dog. Still, if anyone here is interested in a non-Disney property (I know, fat chance), Orange Lake would be a nice choice.

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I'm dying to ride the Hogwarts train. Sorry about your Panda Express experience. I've never been in one either, probably won't try that one!

My sister owns at Orange Lake, very nice suites, relaxing place. Five minutes away from Animal Kingdom. We like it there, but bought at Disney- of course!

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I also want to see Robyn flirting with a Storm Trooper! laugh

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Another thing that has bothered me in the past about timeshare sales pitches: they tell you it'll be an hour and a half, or two hours, and then the salesperson keeps you twice as long or longer. This time around, at the two-hour mark I was going to tell him his time was up. He did not keep us any longer than we were supposed to be there. Another plus for Orange Lake.

Once we were done with the sales pitch, we headed over to Disney Springs for lunch and to buy some Ghirardelli chocolate as gifts for friends. We haven't driven to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs in years - the last time we had a rental car while there we were staying at Saratoga Springs and just walked or boated over. So this was our first time navigating the new parking garages. I like them (well, the one we parked in, which was the one closer to the Marketplace end). The lights that tell you where there are free parking spaces seem like a good idea, although we didn't need them since the garage was half empty. In the summer or over holiday seasons, though, I imagine they're quite helpful.

We weren't sure where we were going to eat at this point - Blaze Pizza was out since we'd been there already, but several other old and new places interested us. We happened to walk out of the garage right next to the Polite Pig, so we took a look inside and decided to stay. This is some GOOD barbecue, folks. I got the ribs with corn; hubby got brisket with grilled cauliflower. Both meals also came with cole slaw. We each had a taste of the other's food, and I evaluated this barbecue based on how it compared to our favorite local barbecue joint. I thought the brisket was better than the local place's beef and the ribs were not quite as good - they were still excellent, though, and I would get them again. The corn was delicious, and I even liked the cauliflower - I'm generally not a fan of cruciferous vegetables unless it's raw cabbage in some kind of salad or on fish tacos. The cole slaw was also good. We will be back.

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After doing a little shopping at the Disney store and purchasing our chocolate (four of those big bags of assorted chocolates) at Ghirardelli, we got caught in a downpour. We waited just inside the door at Ghirardelli, then when the rain let up a bit we dashed for the parking garage. Fortunately, we were heading back to our hotel for a bit, so we were able to dry off.

After a rest at the hotel, we headed back to WDW to meet Robyn and Simon at the Magic Kingdom. Since it's been a month and a half and I have no notes, I don't recall exactly what we did and when. Hubby and I had some FastPasses different from Robyn and Simon's, and this time on Splash Mountain I pretended to be asleep. I also know that we did Buzz Lightyear with Robyn and Simon and hubby also did 7 Dwarfs Mine Train with them while I babysat Robyn's scooter, happy to have a seat for a bit (after a week and a half of walking miles every day, I was exhausted). Beyond that I have no photos and cannot recall what we did. But we did have a very nice few hours with them and stayed into the early evening. I do recall that we left Robyn and Simon as they went hunting for a good spot to see Wishes. Oh, and I got Casey's corn dog nuggets for dinner (hubby had a hot dog).

And then we left to get packed and ready to head home Wednesday. Amazingly, I was ready to go home at this point - although if we'd done the free Holiday Inn stay first and had to leave for home from Animal Kingdom Lodge, I might have felt differently. Still, it was a very nice week and a half even if it was beastly hot most days. The heat won't keep me from going back in April; this was our third visit in that month and for the previous two the weather was tolerably hot.

Next up, we'll be back in October, perhaps with relatives in tow this time. The October trip will be our last on our current annual passes, and two different siblings and families have been invited to join us since last winter, but for one reason or another it hasn't happened yet and I'm not sure it will happen in October either. Oh, well - we'll have a good time anyway.

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Kristen K.'s picture
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Love love love that picture of you two hugging at DHS! It is *so* cute! You should totally get that one framed, you both look like you are having the time of your life.

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Kristen K. wrote:
Love love love that picture of you two hugging at DHS! It is *so* cute! You should totally get that one framed, you both look like you are having the time of your life.

Why, thank you! It's one of the rare occasions that hubby didn't just stand there looking mildly interested in whatever was going on. So perhaps I should print and frame it.

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Dang that Polite Pig food looks good! Now I'm hungry! muchlove