Travel Dates: 4 April - 6 April 2016
I am, and have always been, a very imaginative child. When I was younger, I would inhale fiction books as though they were candy: Christopher Paolini, Roald Dahl, Eoin Colfer, Enid Blyton, and so many more. It was a wonderful part of my childhood: my parents were able to go about shopping without worry knowing that I would be sitting in the same spot at MPH reading, I was almost never seen without a book in my hands. There were many sleepless nights spent exploring dungeons and castles, flying dragons and fighting knights. In fact, to this day I am cautioned against starting a new book at night, because I would not have the willpower to put it down unless it drops on my face from exhaustion.
But above all the beautiful places I have visited and wonderful characters I have met, there is no world as unforgettable as the one created by JK Rowling.
Some of you would understand this, and some of you perhaps not so much. I am just thankful that Bianca Hoh is someone that does, because this visit the Harry Potter World, Orlando, would have been very different otherwise.
Imagine you have spent a decade of your childhood exploring a place together with some of the greatest people you would have ever met. Every second brought forth a new adventure. You've cried, laughed, hurt, partied, all within the magical walls of a wonderful school called Hogwarts. I remember walking through Diagon Alley with Harry and Hagrid for the first time, in awe at the wondrous inventions these magical beings created; I remember running alongside the Golden Trio when they released a trapped dragon and rode it to freedom as they escaped Gringotts with a horcrux in their hands.
And then, while you're 22 years old and travelling the United States, you walk pass a brick wall and end up in a place that you have spent years imagining, suddenly coming to life right before your eyes.
I struggle to come up with words to describe the feelings I had when I entered Universal Studio's Diagon Alley for the first time. Sure it was packed with people and sure it was an expensive experience, but it was truly and really, magical. The detailing they put into creating this world was so incredibly impressive. From the large white dragon perched on top of the tilted wizard's bank, to the wayward trail that led to the dark and damp Knockturn Alley: it was immersive and wondrous and... Well, I could honestly start using the thesaurus and even then it might not be enough.
To highlight exactly how important this point of the trip was to us, let me detail our journey to and from Orlando. We had decided that we would save some money from having to pay for a night at the hotel, as well as flight costs, and took a 9-hour overnight bus from Atlanta to Orlando. It wasn't an uncomfortable ride, but when we arrived to our hotel at 6am we were utterly exhausted. Thankfully, the receptionist at the front desk took pity on us and allowed us to check in as soon as we got there (or we might have just passed out on the couch otherwise). Dragging our bags to the very end of the hotel, we proceeded to clean up super quick, before knocking out completely for the next 4 hours. This was fortuitous for it is unclear if we would have survived the excitement of the day if not for that nap; not to mention, we were due for another bus at 8am the very next morning, meaning we would have to be out of the hotel by 6am to head down to Miami.
A large part of me wants to write about all the amazing things we did while at Harry Potter world, but I would probably eventually run out of adjectives at some point and really, I would not want to spoil the fun for anyone. So here are a few highlights:
The two 'main' rides: Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, were amazing. Not because it was really all that thrilling (Universal Studio doesn't typically have heart-racing rides, they're more about aesthetics than adrenaline), but because of how incredibly immersive they were. The latter involved you walking through the halls of Hogwarts, which again, the fangirl inside of me probably fainted numerous times due to how realistic it all was. The adult that was present however, still teared up during both attractions, because really, how would you feel if your favourite characters thanked you for your part in saving the world, even if you did nothing but sit there?
The Hogwarts Express, again, bloody brilliant. The food that you can get at the Three Broomsticks or Hogs Head was probably the best food I've ever had at a theme park (roasted turkey leg barbecued ribs and charred corn, yumm), and I still have the occasional carvings for their butterbeer.
All in all, hands down the best thing we did in all the the United States. My only complaint is that it was a stupidly expensive endeavour (~$150USD for both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, plus the entire Universal Studio park, but who cares about the rest really?) but so, so worth it.
This of course, spurred both Bi and I to reread the entire Harry Potter series (for the 30th time) and relive the whole experience over and over again. Ah... What a time it is to be alive.