Favourite Places, 8: Sanibel Island, Florida

Seashells! So many that they form a mini-breakwater at one part of the beach. The island  ‘s unique east-west orientation makes it a prime catchment for treasures the ocean waves along the Gulf of Mexico wash ashore, and is renowned for its shelling beaches.

SJ fished out this live whelk fairly easily while wading, hunched, along the shallow parts of the water. The hunch is also known to be the Sanibel Stoop – the posture visitors adopt when they hunt for pretty shells on the pristine white beaches. 🙂 From afar, it did look like there were misshapened flamingoes pecking about.

We returned the whelk back to where it belonged after the photo-op, deeper where it is safe.

Post 99. Sanibel

From Muggle to Wizard Land and Beyond!

What can I say. The publicity campaign spoke for itself. It’s hard to miss unless you’ve been hiding under a rock. Google “Harry Potter”, and the entire slew of articles, interviews, photos, blogs, tweets, FB updates on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando will pop right out at you. 18 June 2010 must have been a memorable day for the muggles who were there for the grand opening.  I could only ogle through my monitor and pine for the day I will see the place for myself. 

Hogwarts Castle, Hogsmeade, Ollivander’s! Butter Beer!! Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball coasters!!! Pffffttt. I decided one day that enough is enough.

So SJ and I pitched the idea to our fellow muggles, particularly our little niece who devoured the 7 books a few times over, to make the trip in Dec 2010. Off we went and what fun we had.

Because it is hugely popular, we had to get in a queue just so we can collect a piece of paper that told us the time we could get into WWoHP. This is strange because we were already in Islands of Adventure. It’s like going to Disney World and having to queue to get into Tomorrowland. Anyhow, that piece of paper was super precious and I remember me bobbing uncontrollably with excitement as we approached the entrance to WWoHP.

Then I saw.

The Hogwarts Express first. Then snowed-capped Hogsmeade Village, Hogwarts,  Three Broomsticks. And then everything else came into view. We caught the Beauxbatons’ and the Durmstrang’s performances. We had butter beer. Took the Horntail and Fireball 2 times each. Rode on the Forbidden Journey on our second round back. Wah. I was in harry potter heaven.


The only downside to the visit was that we had to queue everywhere we went – the rides (of course), for food (sure), to enter all the shops (?), to pick out merchandise (?!).
But, it was so worth the stress.

Prepare to queue is what I’ll say to those intending to go. And avoid going during peak periods i.e. US school hols or public hols. With the last instalment of the movie coming up in July 2011, WWoHP is only going to get busier.

PS: I congratulate myself for buying with discretion and for being the proud owner of a wand, a Griffindor pillow, a Hogwarts luggage tag, a Griffindor fridge magnet, a Hogwarts-postmarked postcard, and a nice red and gold Griffindor t-shirt; And I salute those who went gaga and bought a stupendous amount of WWoHP memorabilia, particularly the woman in front of me who bought a few hundred dollars worth…money spent like a true fan.

 

[First published: 18 May 2011]

Incredible Hulk

Not the movie, but the roller coaster in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Orlando.

It’s number 45 in the Top 50 list of roller coasters rated by CoasterFanatics.com, and was voted number 1 back in 1999 by Discovery Channel viewers.

This roller coaster is totally different from the others I’ve been on – It starts out by LAUncHinG the roller coaster at a speed of 64km/h! No dragging on chains and slowly chugging uphill for this one. POOF and you’re catapulted into the air! I didn’t even get to wake the butterflies up in my stomach. Most, most, most exhilarating.

A synopsis of the ride, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“…ascends to 110 feet (34 m). Upon exiting the Gamma Tube, the train immediately goes into a zero-g roll, down a 105-foot (32 m) drop, and into a cobra roll. Riders complete a vertical loop, then enter a tunnel full of mist. At this point of the ride, the train’s speed has reached approximately 65 mph (104km/h). The train encircles the gamma tube and is sent into the back area via corkscrew. A smaller vertical loop wraps around the brake run, which is flanked by two over-banked turns. The coaster is slowed down by the brake run before being sent down another hill to a corkscrew and turn-around. Riders then travel sideways through an on-ride camera zone and then to the ride’s final brakes after a helix.”

If number 45 goes like this, I cannot wait to try number 1.

[First published: 31 Mar 2011]