Thursday, September 29, 2016

Universally Awesome! April 2016 Trip Report, Day 3: Smorgasbord Day! Part 2

The first part of the day can be found HERE.

We stumbled outside from the Forbidden Journey that lasted Forever and felt the sun hit us; it seemed like eons since we had last seen the sun, and we soaked it in.  With the free passes in hand, we all agreed to use it for an attraction that doesn’t offer the Express Pass – yep, we were heading to Gringotts!  Before we headed to the station, though, we stopped to watch the frog choir croak a song.  After we had seen enough, we went through the turnstiles and were queued up for the Hogwarts Express in no time at all.  The lines were small, and we were able to have a compartment to ourselves.  As soon as we sat down, we all started the “it’s such a beautiful wall!!!” talk (check out the previous day's blog posts).  We enjoyed the air conditioning while we saw new hidden “Easter eggs” in the attraction (and again cringed at “Hermione”).  We also saw Voldemo…well…just to be safe…we saw He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the distance.  I think we all agree that we liked the Islands-to-Studios version a bit better than the other direction's version, though both are really good!

We exited the Express and decided that, since it was right around 11:00, we’d do lunch first before the throngs descended upon the restaurants.  We took a “when in Rome” mentality and went straight for the Leaky Cauldron.  The food was good; nothing to write home about, but we were still glad we ate there and soaked in the atmosphere.  To let the food settle, we opted to hold off a bit before riding Gringotts, so we toured Diagon Alley.

As you could see, we spent quite a bit of time in Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes...

All we ask for is an occasional smile from the boys...

Around noon, we went down Knockturn Alley and looked around Borgin & Burkes for a few minutes before exiting out onto Horizont Alley (say it fast…then think about the name of the area.  Yes, this is the actual name of the street). I mapped out a couple of locations for us to visit after we got done with Gringotts.  We made our way over to Gringotts, stored our stuff in a locker, and flew through the queue line which had a posted standby time of 30 minutes.  We were in the very back for this ride through, and there’s one part where the back section seems to tower over everyone else.  I think we all liked the back row the best, though I would still recommend trying to get the front row or two for your first ride.  We exited and grabbed our stuff from the locker – we were experts at the lockers by this time.

After Gringotts, I had an ulterior motive in mind and set a plan in action.  I had us look around a magic shop or two for a couple of minutes, making sure that we had Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor within eyesight.  I was going to lobby the rest of the Mushfam that we were having a great time and that we should celebrate by having some ice cream!  I knew that the only thing I needed to do was mention this to the boys, and they would be on-board.  Sheri would be outnumbered 3-1, and, though her vote usually has a 400% weighting taken into account, I didn’t think she’d put up much of a fight on this one.  As we looked at the flavor choices, I let them in on my ulterior motive: I wanted to get several flavors and have all of us taste and rate them.  My plan was to then record our review and send it to the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast as they had a debate going on regarding the best flavor.  Since the cones had two scoops, we could select two different flavors.  I got the strawberry peanut butter and the apple crumble, while Sheri got the sticky toffee pudding and the salted caramel blondie.  Aaron got a combination of what Sheri and I got (I couldn’t remember), and Eric opted for the soft-serve Butterbeer!

To hear our review, please head to This site...our review is about 3:40 in.  Lee, Tracey, Darren, and Hunter had a little fun at my expense – it was definitely deserved, as, for the life of me, I couldn’t get “salted caramel blondie” out even if my life depended on it, and I ended up calling it the wrong name the entire time – give it a listen for a good laugh.  FYI: the UUOP is a well-done podcast, and it’s my go-to for updated Universal Orlando news every week.  If you're looking to add a little Universal Orlando flavor to your lists of podcasts, I’m sure they’d love to have you subscribe!! They have a really good overview of the Universal Orlando Resort in Episode 212 - for those of you thinking of heading to the resort for the first time, you'll definitely want to download that one and listen to it.

With the ice cream consumed and the debate concluded (GO APPLE CRUMBLE!!), we walked around Diagon Alley for a bit longer. We timed it just right to see some of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees perform a couple of songs:

I saw that the line at Ollivanders’s was non-existent, so we hopped in and were in a wand room with no wait at all.  I submitted an actual wait of 1 minute to, fully expecting their stats whiz, Fred Hazelton, to consider this and any future time submitted by me to be invalid.  We all really enjoyed the show that we saw; the wizard we had did a great job with the selection!

Apologies for the blurriness...we were in-transit to the show room

After Ollivander’s we grudgingly left Diagon Alley and decided to head back over to Springfield to see if the Simpsons ride was running, since we missed it the previous day.  It was!  We flashed our Express Pass at the entrance, and, while it didn’t get us on the attraction immediately (we merged in with the rest quite a bit before the actual pre-show rooms), it probably knocked the 30 minute wait down to around 15 minutes.  Being a Simpsons fan, I was loving the short clips they had airing on the televisions in the line.

The Back Side of Krusty!!!  (Sorry…I had to)

We all LOVED This ride – the boys are old enough to get most of the jokes now, and Sheri has developed a tolerance for the show, so she had an idea of what was going on.  After yesterday and today, this land is easily my non-Potter favorite land.  I could have spent even longer in there, but Sheri dragged me out – I started to tell her that she had to promise to come back so we could….and she finished my sentence: “so we can have some Duff beer in Moe’s…I already knew that was coming.”

Man, I love that woman!

On our way out, we saw the Optimus Prime photo op going on…that was sooooooo flippin’ cool (I know, it’s not in the traditional travel agent vernacular, but it was really flippin’ cool!) and contemplated getting in line for a pic.  We were heading out of the parks for the day, and it was right at 2:00.  Nice!

We took the boat back to Portofino Bay and decided to chill for a while.  I had some research that I wanted to do – I had visited all of the hotels but one…Cabana Bay!  The boys wanted to swim, so they got ready while I worked on logistics on how to enjoy some family time at the pool, get to Cabana Bay, get back, and ready for our 6:45 reservation at Mama Della’s Ristorante located at our hotel.  Before we got to our room, though, we decided to do a little bit of touring of the resort:

We got everything we needed and headed to the West Wing of Portofino Bay (yes, we made Presidential jokes on the way).  We found a table with an umbrella vacant and grabbed a seat.  We then shooed the boys into the water and grabbed the cocktail menu at the Splendido Bar and Grill!

I went with Pina Colada……….come on…….you know you want to sing it……(“GETTING CAUGHT IN THE RAIN!”), and Sheri – I can’t remember what it was that she got, but she liked it!  We downed our drinks and relaxed for a while.  I knew that there were bocce ball courts nearby, and I tried to convince everyone to trust me and move to another pool area; there was some resistance, but the boys immediately started playing as soon as they saw the open court.

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