The Wand Chooses the Wizard, Mr. Potter.

Oh, I’m sorry. Did you think that the totally age-inappropriate obsession that I have with Harry Potter was over and done with? Ha! Part 1 and Part 2 of my Harry Potter World recap may have come and gone, but we’ve still got Sunday to cover. In fact, Saturday’s recap wasn’t even 100% complete — I left out one extremely important piece! Well, fear not, friends. I’m about to rectify that. In fact, I should tell you right now that it’s about to get EVEN nerdier in here (you didn’t think that was possible, did you?). Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that Ollivander’s wand shop isn’t really a shop at all. In fact, it’s more like a show. You stand in a line (where the attendant is repeatedly telling people that this is not a line for a ride, so please don’t get in thinking you’re about to get on Dragon Challenge, haha), and eventually you’ll be ushered in with a group of 15 – 20 other people into the shop.

The Wand Chooses the Wizard
It’s cool and quiet inside, and just there, behind the counter, is the actor playing Mr. Ollivander himself. Thus, the show begins:

Mr. Ollivander
He motions to a girl dressed in school robes, standing in the front. She’s probably about 13-years-old. “You there, Gryffindor! Step forward,” he calls. She tentatively goes up to the counter, where he proceeds to inspect, measure, and generally observe her. He then offers her a wand to test out. He instructs her to use the Wingardium Leviosa spell on a box of wands resting on a shelf to the side. The shelves break and fall down. Not the wand for her! He casts a quick Reparo, then pulls a different wand for her to try.

Ollivander himself
The second wand causes a thunderstorm in the shop. Strike 2. As you might predict, it’s the third and final wand that’s juuuuust right: the music swells, the room glows, and finally a wand has chosen her. We are then dismissed into Dervish & Banges next door to purchase wands of our own (and I imagine that her parents now have to foot the bill for her wand as well, haha). Now, I knew going into things that I had about a 0.01% chance of being chosen by Ollivander for the show, especially if there were kids in my group. But somehow he must have sensed that I was a true fan (perhaps the squealing and clapping I did when we first walked in? Or maybe the incessant click-click-click of my camera throughout the entire presentation?) because before my parents and I had a chance to exit, he came up to me.

“You there,” he said. I responded with a look of shock and what must have been a truly dumbfounded grin plastered on my face. “What house are you?” he asked.

I struggled to use my words like an actual human being for a second, before stammering out, “I… haven’t been sorted yet.”

“Hmm,” he said, looking at me quizzically. “I sense a great wisdom in you. Surely one as wise as you must be Ravenclaw!”

“I certainly wouldn’t mind that!” I said, even though I’m about 90% sure that if I were to actually be sorted, I would be a Hufflepuff. Womp womp.

“I just the wand for someone with your great mind. Ask my assistant inside the shop for the hazel wand. Yes… Hazel, 11 1/2 inches, with a core of dragon heartstring. Surprisingly powerful for its size, and well-suited for wisdom such as yours.” He gives me one last appraising look before walking away, and I stumble out of the shop in a stupor.

Ollivanders
After a few minutes of TOTALLY geeking out because holy crap, that was completely awesome, and was the next best thing to being chosen for the show itself, I go right up to one of the shop assistants and ask for the hazel wand.

Hazel. 11 1/2 inches. Dragon heartstring.
I purchase it (all wands are $29.95, for your reference) and proceed to make a fool of myself for the next twenty minutes, swishing and flicking it around like the fool I am while we had our butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks.

Swish and flick!
Well, I did give it over to my mom so that she could have a little mischief too.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good
I solemnly swear I am up to no good.
And that, my friends, is hands-down the most amazing part of my Saturday.

Mischief Managed.
Now, if you’re still able to hang on with me, we can flash forward to Sunday and get the rest of this beast done. Sunday, my mom stayed back at the hotel and my dad and I made good on our intention to actually see the non-Harry Potter parts of the park, haha. We started off in Marvel world, where I was exceedingly grateful that I hopped on the Hulk coaster right before leaving the night before, while the wait time was low. Still one of the best roller coasters I have EVER been on! We then worked our way through the Toon Lagoon (stopping to get thoroughly soaked on the Popeye water ride, hehe), although we didn’t go on any other water rides since there was a little bit of on-and-off rain and potential thunderstorms that threatened to shut them down. We did stop for a little while in the Jurassic Park Discovery Center (always so much fun for me, despite the PTSD that movie gave me, haha) and eventually made our way back around to Hogsmeade.

Hogsmeade
Here, we got in line for the Flight of the Hippogriff ride (the wait was about 45 minutes – I definitely noticed a significant drop in sheer volume of people at the park from Saturday to Sunday, even though it was a holiday weekend!) and is themed like a Care of Magical Creatures class taught by Hagrid.

Hagrid's Hut
Since this is more of a kid’s roller coaster (no loop-de-loops or anything fancy), my dad was happy to accompany me on this one (Hulk coaster — not so much, haha). The ride itself is only, what, 45-seconds long? But it was fun, of course, and you get to bow to a mechanical Buckbeak as it starts, which I loved.

Buckbeak
After the ride, we revisited the Three Broomsticks to fuel up with another butterbeer (this time in souvenir mugs, OF COURSE) before braving the various shops. They were just as delicious the second time around, and doubly as fun in plastic flagons, haha.

Butter me up! Take a sip... Butterbeer!
Riding on my frozen butterbeer-induced sugar rush, I then proceeded to spend all my money on ridiculous memorabilia. So. Frackin’. Worth it.

Cauldron Cake 2 Cauldron Cake
The most immediate thing I walked away with was a cauldron cake from Honeydukes that didn’t even make it out of the park. My dad and I devoured this little mousse-filled chocolate cupcake with relish — I can’t wait to try to recreate them! I also forced him to take pictures of me with my new pet Pygmy Puff.

Pygmy Puff
His name is Stanley.

Hey, Arnold!
And that pretty much marked the end of our theme park adventures! We made it back to the hotel in time to grab a late dinner with my mom (SUSHI!) and prepared ourselves for the trip back. I had to get a little bit creative with the packing since, in addition to my own souvenirs, I was also transporting wands back to Ben & Taylor. Aside from the wand, butterbeer mug, and Stanley, the rest of my own spoils included…

Spoils of Harry Potter World
Candy from Honeydukes, a Gryffindor t-shirt, a chocolate wand for Sean, U-No-Poo candies (bahahahaha), postcards…

Stationary
… a leather case containing cards and envelopes…

Honeyduke's Swag
… a chocolate frog, a package of Fizzing Whizbees (which I got to eat half of before Daxter dug them out of my suitcase and ate them… which led to an entirely new level of freakout given his health history… but I digress!), and a box of Bernie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. And then there’s the piece de resistance of my new Harry Potter-inspired collection:

Timeturner
A Timeturner of my very own. Suck on that, Hermione. Yes, I know it’s a lot. I deposited quite a few Galleons into Universal’s pockets this weekend. I would like to point out, however, that when I made a joke about how much money I was spending on what is essentially just CANDY to the guy at the register in Honeydukes, he said that I shouldn’t feel bad because he has literally rung up thousands of dollars worth of merchandise for just one person before. So, really, I think you should all be impressed with my restraint. 😉

So. There you have it. How do I even sum up what really was the trip of a lifetime for me? Aw, to hell with it. I am just going to embrace the cheesy sap that I am, and say that it really was magical. I don’t expect all (heck, any!) of you to understand it, but it was just amazing for me. It was the culmination of my childhood (I was more or less the same age as the characters in the books as each one came out, so I literally grew up with Harry Potter) come to life. I loved every minute of it, and I simply cannot WAIT to go back.

Mischief managed.

Of course this is happening inside your head, Harry…

…But why on earth should that mean it is not real?

It probably doesn’t even need to be said, but I am postponing this week’s weigh-in to allow my butterbeer belly time to deflate. So, where did we leave off? Ah yes, it’s Saturday morning, my parents and I have just arrived at the parks, and I am rip-raring and ready to get my arse to Harry Potter World! For those of you who are unfamiliar with the layout, Universal Orlando is split in two: Universal Studios park and Islands of Adventure. The latter is the one that houses the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is a section of the park along with others themed around things like Marvel superheroes, Jurassic Park, and Dr. Seuss.

Hop on Pop

We traipsed through Seussland and The Lost Continent, taking a few giddy moments at the Lorax statue and peering into a shop or two. No time to dilly-dally, though. I was a girl on a mission.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

It actually kind of sneaks up on you. Despite the fact that you’re actively looking for it. You just walk around a bend and suddenly, there it is.

Please Obey the Spell Limits

Hogsmeade. With its snow-crested rooftops and meticulously planned storefronts and Butterbeer barrels lining the streets. Eager children in robes roaming the streets, Hogwarts castle looming in the background. I would be lying if I didn’t get just the slightest bit emotional when I saw it. I’m only ridiculously obsessed with Harry Potter human, after all! And it was quite the magical moment for me.

Hogsmeade-ing

After going through the main gate into Hogsmeade, we were immediately greeted by the enthusiastic conductor of the Hogwarts Express. To the right is the steaming smoke stack of the engine car, set up perfectly for a photo op. As I mentally squeal with utter delight, I see that the lockers for this area are housed under a sign indicating they’re part of the Hogsmeade train station (clever!).

Hogsmeade Train Schedule
All Aboard!Hogwarts Express

Across the cobblestones from the train sits Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes. At this point, the squealing is no longer just in my head.

Zonko's
Extendable Ears
U-No-Poo

I demand that we go inside right away, and I immediately melt at the sight of extendable ears dangling from the ceiling, wizard chess pieces dueling it out in the store window. Zonko’s and Honeydukes are connected, so it’s a mere hop, skip, and a display of Every Flavour Beans before I’m in the next store.

Honeyduke's
Bernie Bott's Every Flavour Beans
Chocolate Frog

I practice extreme self-restraint and leave the stores empty-handed today. After all, we’re only about 30 minutes into our two-day park adventure at this point! No point in letting my chocolate frogs melt while we’re waiting in line. They’ve only got one good jump in them to begin with.

McHavelock's Wizarding HeadgearOwl Post
Brooms for allSpectrespecs

Everyone keeps asking me what my favorite part of the park was, but it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing. It was the overall feel, you know? The window displays of stores that weren’t even functional, set up for no purpose other than for us fans. The Mimbulus Mimbletonia in the window of the botany store. The set of Gilderoy Lockhart’s books displayed in the bookstore. Moaning Myrtle echoing from inside the bathroom walls (don’t forget to go to the ‘public conveniences” while you’re there!). I just loved it all.

Dervis & Banges

Besides Honeydukes and Zonko’s, the only other store that you can really go into is Dervish and Banges. This is where they sell all the wands, robes, and various paraphernalia you could dream of. We actually had to wait in a line just to get into the store itself on the first day we were there. Once inside, it’s mayhem, but amazing.

Replica Wands

Ollivander’s isn’t actually a store, so you can’t buy your wand there. We did go into Ollivander’s, of course, but I just wanted to point out the difference. It’s more like a show, after which you can purchase the actual wands in Dervish & Banges (or in one of the many other stores around the park, of course). You’ll find replicas of all the characters’ wands from the movies in addition to 12 wands that are exclusive to the park. The meanings behind these special wands are based on the Celtic rune calendar, so they can match you with one based on your birthday. As it turned out, I didn’t need to have them analyze any dates in order to know which wand to get, but that’s another (infinitely more awesome) story for later.

Pumpkin Patch

We stopped by a merchant so that I could try a pumpkin juice before we went any further at this point. Pumpkin juice, as crafted by the creatives behind the theme park, tastes a lot like spiced apple cider. A quick look at the ingredient list showed an apple juice base, with pumpkin puree, apricot puree, and various spices (and preservatives, of course, but that’s to be expected).

Pumpkin Juice Refreshing!

It was delicious but VERY sweet. We ended up watering it down quite a bit, and given the outrageous amount of sugar I remember reading on the nutrition label, so it’s probably just as well. Regardless, I certainly found it refreshing! And you better believe I kept the bottle. 😉

Courtyard and towers

The Harry Potter area of Islands of Adventure currently boasts three main rides. First, there’s Dragon Challenge, a dueling roller coaster that they converted from a previously existing ride. I remember going on this particular coaster when I came to the park many years ago, so I didn’t feel the need to wait in line for it again. Then there’s Flight of the Hippogriff, which is more of a kid roller coaster. Dad and I hit this ride up on Day 2, when the line wasn’t too bad. Then, finally, there’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This spectacular simulator ride, which features a majority of the original actors, is the real star of the show. We waited in line for 90 minutes for this puppy, and it was so, so worth it (though my mom probably feels quite differently. Those who get easily motion-sick, be forewarned!). I won’t spoil things too much, but just know that I loved it. Once you weave your way through the outside part of the line, you dump your stuff at the free lockers inside and then get to take a tour of Hogwarts Castle!

Entering Hogwarts!

Starting with a few talking portraits (the way they cured the screens really does make them look like paintings! It’s fantastic!) and various decorative pieces that I recognized from the movies easily (the Mirror of Erised, the unicorn tapestry, etc.), you go through a few rooms before being greeted by Professor Dumbledore himself in his office (make sure to look for the Pensieve!). Then, you meet up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and finally learn what the ride is actually going to be about. Spoilers stop here, so if you’re curious for more you’ll just have to go to Orlando and find out yourself! 😀

Three Broomsticks Hog's Head

After disembarking from the ride, retrieving our things, and edging our way back out of Filch’s Emporium for Confiscated Goods (a.k.a. the ride’s gift shop), we headed down to the Three Broomsticks to let my mom’s stomach settle and refresh ourselves. They serve traditional British pub food there, unshockingly, so we got a couple plates of fish & chips to share. It was also here that I had my first (but not last!) taste of frozen butterbeer. Otherwise known as God’s gift to sugar, the aftereffects of which must be a parent’s worst nightmare, hahaha.

Icey Frozen Butterbeer

It tasted like a vanilla and butterscotch milkshake, and was so, so, SO delicious. I cannot wait to try to recreate this at home… with alcohol, natch. I’m thinking something like cream soda, butterscotch liquor, and a blender. Can you blend carbonated soda with ice? Guess we’re going to find out! And on that ominous note, I think we’ve covered enough ground today. Are you still with me? Haven’t jumped ship quite yet? Still to come: Ollivander’s and choosing my wand, Hagrid’s hut and the Flight of the Hippogriff, and many, MANY galleons’ worth of swag!

To be continued…

The Girl Who Lived

Before you even ask: yes, it was awesome. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter fully met my (wildly high) expectations, I had an amazing trip with my parents, and I am roughly 6.8 times happier now than I was when I left. As I’m still having a bit of trouble readjusting to Muggledom, you’ll have to excuse me while I get my bearings back. Also, I took 287 pictures this weekend and narrowed them down to a gentleman’s 75 just for you, haha. This means it still may take juuuust a little while to get through the entire magical experience. I assure you, however, it will be well worth the wait. (And that sentiment goes for the trip as a whole, most definitely.)

The Adventure Begins...

What better place to start than at the beginning, hmm? Friday morning, my parents and I set off on our way down to sunny Florida. After dealing with the normal travel logistics (bags, nourishment, car rental), we arrived at our hotel, which was my aunt’s timeshare property that she generously gifted us time at, the Wyndham Cypress Palms.

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We settled in for a bit before meeting up with an old friend of my mother’s, from her Hong Kong days! We had dinner at Seasons 52 Orlando, which I believe is the original one!

Seasons 52 Orlando

Still armed with fond memories of my blogiversary celebration at the one up here, it was a fantastic meal (as well as the first and last healthy meal of the trip, haha).

MusselsGoat Cheese & Artichoke Flatbread
Ahi Tuna SaladOld Friends

We all shared mussels and a goat cheese & artichoke flatbread to start, and I got an ahi tuna salad. Fresh and delicious! Naturally, as Seasons 52 claims they originated the idea of the “shot glass dessert”, we had to get a sampling of those as well to finish the meal:

Red Velvet Shot

Red velvet for me, please! After dinner, my parents dropped me off at Downtown Disney, the bustling (and free!) area outside of the Disney parks, where I met up with blog reader Alicia and her boyfriend!

World of Disney

I was so glad to have been gotten a little taste of Disney while I was in Orlando, since even though this was a trip with a VERY specific purpose, you know I love me some Disney.

Smirk

Alicia was a fantastic tour guide! There’s a lot of cool stuff in this little pedestrian area, including a Disney Store that does so much business that it singlehandedly accounts for an entire percentage point of Disney’s revenue. Let that sink in for a sec.

GenieBuzz & Woody
Candy CauldronD Street

The real gem in this area though? The Ghiradhelli Soda Fountain, where the three of us shared one of their incredible signature hot fudge sundaes.

Sundae

The calories don’t count if you split it, right?

NOM

Admittedly, after getting up uber-early to travel, by the time we were done walking through the area (and getting to see more awesome things like the House of Blues and the Cirque du Soleil tent) I was pretty exhausted. I did have to conserve my strength, after all! The next morning I would be headed onto great things — terrible, yes… but great.

Welcome!

Despite my very best intentions to get an early start, we didn’t end up getting to the park until around 11. Which ended up being just fine, because it gave us a chance to fuel up before I reverted to my 7-year-old self again. 😉

Mommy & me

Universal has an area called Citywalk that sits outside of the actual parks and is filled with shops and restaurants, similar to Downtown Disney. We grabbed some grub there before charging into Islands of Adventure, full-speed. I had talked a big game about meandering through the rest of the park first, working our way over to the Harry Potter area at a time that it might be less crowded, but…

Islands of Adventure Wait Times

I mean, C’mon. Are you really surprised that I wasn’t able to wait? Everything was just beginning!

HP World Cover Photo

To be continued…

All Aboard…

… the Hogwarts Express!

Yes, I am FINALLY going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I don’t care how lame you think it is! Right now I am en route to Orlando, headed towards a totally awesome, totally nerd-tastic weekend with the ‘rents. Though yesterday was full of emotion (thank you all SO much for your kind words in response to my incredibly raw and emotional post, by the way), I know that this trip will be just the thing to pull me firmly out of the doldrums.

Though, to be honest, I’m not really sure why I’m so excited. I mean, it’s not like I’m some huge Harry Potter fan.

It’s not like I own multiple items of Harry Potter clothing and related paraphernalia.

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It’s not like I took off work on the day that the last book was released.

It’s not like I read all 759 pages in one sitting, fell asleep, then woke up and started reading it all over again from the beginning.

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It’s not like I have ever stood in line for hours to attend a midnight release of the movies.

I especially didn’t see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in the theatre four times.

And I was as cool as cucumber and didn’t freak out at all when I met Daniel Radcliffe.

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Nope, I’m just not that girl.

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BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Clearly, none of you are fooled. I absolutely AM that girl, and I am not ashamed! Harry Potter is awesome, and haters can feel free to hate on me, my inappropriate obsession with my dogs, my laziness, and my hatred of getting sweaty, but don’t mess with the HP, yo. Rest assured, you will be getting a VERY detailed recap of my adventures at Universal Studios this weekend, hehe. I come back on Monday afternoon (Happy Presidents Day weekend!), so I have a fantastic guest post lined up before I overwhelm your eyeballs with pictures of wands, wizards, and the 10 gallons of butterbeer I intend on consuming (“All hands on deck, Granger!“). SQUEEEEE, I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!

Have a magical weekend, friends!

Bright Lights, Ocean City

Hallo! Here we are with part dos of my Ocean City beach weekend adventure. Need to catch up on Part 1? Clickity click, you know the drill.

I Heart You, Ocean.

I know I left you in rapt anticipation of reports on the rest of my weekend (which, of course, I’ve deluded myself into thinking you actually care about, mwahaha) so let’s get to it!

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After the beach happened on Sunday (since every day started off with the beach, duh!) we went a-mini-golfin’. This was not just your average, everday putt-putt though…

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This was PIRATE mini-golf!

Ahoy-hoy!

ARRRRRR!

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I was purple, natch.

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Swing and a miss!

I was also terrible at mini-golf, natch.

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At least I had fun trying!

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I’m pretty sure that losing at mini-golf is not the thing that will set me over the edge anyway. Besides, I knew I’d be able to drown my sorrows at the Boardwalk afterwards anyway!

Ocean City Boardwalk
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Boardwalkin'

Drown my sorrows in ice cream, that is! Dumser’s is amazing.

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As you can see, I basically made love to my soft serve orange and vanilla swirl.

Dumser's
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You’re welcome for that.

Monday morning ended with more time on the beach, my back getting wrecked by the sun (worth it!) and a long, lazy drive home — complete with a Cracker Barrel pit stop. All in all, a fabulous weekend.

Now when’s the next beach trip? 😉