Friday, November 11, 2016

Orlando Trip Report - November 5 - 12, 2016

The last time we were in Orlando was when my son was 8.  He's 26 now.  We decided it was time to return.  This sojourn wasn't for Disney though (gasp!).  We had missed International Drive and Universal Studios last visit so this is what we chose to do this trip.  My son was a huge fan of the "Harry Potter" books when he was young(er).  I read him the first one and when we got to the second, he asked me to read more each night, meaning more than one chapter...  I told him that he knew he how to read himself and it was now that time for him to start reading on his own.  He read all the books from that point on and saw all the movies too...I'll admit that he nudged me at one movie while we were on vacation because he said I was snoring.  :)  I admit I am not a "die hard" Harry Potter fan.  My youth was spent reading C.S. Lewis books like "The Magician's Nephew" (I read this to him),  "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe" & the series of Narnia...

I'm also going to admit, the closer we got to leaving, the more I started questioning my thoughts not to visit WDW... If you're interested, you can read my Disney obsession here.  However, I stood by my decision as I knew it would be too much for me and I'm too old and impatient for those long, hard, waiting-in-lines, grinding days now...

When we went to Orlando in 1998, our dollar was only worth 50 cents to the US dollar then - so that trip cost me double in my Canadian money .  This time, one US dollar cost me $1.35 to buy.  I chose to stay at the Point Orlando Resort .  About a month after I booked, I got a facebook notice from Universal Studios about booking a hotel and getting "4 day park to park" tickets through them.  This turned out to be $400 CAD cheaper for me so I did it.  We ended up at this hotel instead.  To be honest, I wasn't thrilled about it, but the savings won in the end.  Also, the Point Orlando had a daily resort fee that would have been about $120 CAD more for the week for me too so I saved on that.  The factor that decided my change was that the Rosen Inn got raves about the location and I like being in a good location, especially since I never drive on vacay... Below is pictures of the hotel I took while there.



The hotel and park tickets were $900 USD which was about $1170 CAD at that time.  We got our air for $450 CAD return, all in, for each of us.  I booked Mears shuttle return for both of us to/from the airport and that was $59 USD.  That included a 10% web discount.

Saturday, November 5th:

We caught a taxi to the airport early as in about 4:30am.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30am.  We had one stop in Chicago.  At 7:30pm local time we arrived in Orlando.  I had sought out the Mears counter and redeemed my confirmation for tickets.  Our shuttle left within 10 minutes.

Upon check in, the front desk tried to get us to move us to sister property by the convention center and said they would pay our cab to get there.  Said they were renovating and didn't want us to be bothered with noise.  I declined the offer - the reason being is I hadn't done any research on the property so didn't know what we would be getting.  It was called the Rosen Plaza.  He tried to sell me on the 4 stars and said it was in the "heart" of International drive.  I still said "no" but can't help wondering if we should have done it???

There was no elevator to our section but only stairs.  We were close to the pool.  The room was okay - like your standard motel but old and well used.  We always wore our flip flops as the carpet looked and felt grungy.  This really was only a room to sleep and shower.  There was nothing else that made you want to be in there.  We unpacked a little, we were exhausted and starving.  I had read that there was a place a called Game Changers close by that was a sports bar type place  It was right next door.  We went and sat outside on the patio.  It was about 11pm local time now.  We ordered some wings and an appy platter (below).




The onion rings were really good!  We went back to the hotel room and both of us were out like lights.

Sunday, November 6th:

We went to Universal Studios today.  I was up at 6am and trying to sort stuff, finish unpacking etc.  The beds in the room were comfy so that was a good thing.  I got an "amber alert" for Broward County on my iPhone and was baffled about that.  It freaked me out, as I thought it was something in the room that was setting an alarm off.  I googled it and found how to turn those notifications off.  We had Bailey's coffees in the room and then decided to go have breakfast before we headed out.  I picked Perkins on Sandlake road.


I don't like going to chain places we have at home like Denny's or IHOP, so Perkins it was.  I rarely eat at chains and not at home either unless someone else is buying.  It was just a couple of minutes walk from the hotel.  We had to wait about 10 minutes.  They had WiFi which meant I could order Uber after we ate.  I ordered a breakfast scramble with egg beaters.


It was quite good.  I could only eat about half but my son polished his off without a problem.  I got an Uber and he showed up almost immediately.  Fare was $5.85.  I tipped $5 for all my Uber rides. I tipped our hotel maid $5 each day as well.  This guy was very nice and conversational and we had a great drive there.


He let us out at the Guest Drop off by Citywalk and told us that is where they pick up too.


Universal has free WiFi throughout their whole resort and theme parks which was great!  Loved that.  We lined up to get our tickets, so that we could line up for rides and proceeded into Universal Studios...


Wait times were about a half hour to 50 minutes it seemed.


The weather was about as perfect as I could ask for.  Warm but not hot and zero humidity.  Just lovely.  I was very, very happy about that.  We started off with "Shrek 4D".


By the time we got down to the "Rockit Rollercoaster", wait times were averaging 20 minutes.  I braved it and went on this...


They give you free lockers to put all your items in and you have to or they won't let you on.  The lockers are done by fingerprints which was kind of cool - though I was slow at figuring it out, lol.  Anyways, we did it.  I'll admit I closed my eyes more than a few times and it felt like a looooong ride but I was happy I did it and thought I would like to ride it again - but just not today...I was dizzy when I got off with a mild vertigo feeling...


We did "Revenge of the Mummy" next and it was basically walk on, but said 15 minutes.  The queues take that time pretty much.  I was disappointed.  To me, it felt like a complete "copy/ripoff" of Indiana Jones at Disney and was a very short experience.  Unfortunately I was underwhelmed.

We stopped for a snack/drinky break at Finnegan's Irish pub.  They bring you some complimentary Irish soda bread with butter and apple jam.


I ordered a cocktail called "Revenge of the Mummy".  Unfortunately it was really sweet.  I tried to drink it but couldn't so pressed my son to try and have it.  I ordered a glass of wine instead.  My son ordered the "Dublin Chicken Sandwich".  I think it was $12.  I had a bowl of their split pea and ham soup.  $5.



Both were okay and typical of pub or theme park food.  Nothing to complain about.  What was really nice, was when our server brought the bill, she took off my drink saying, "I know you didn't like it, so I removed it from your bill".  I thought that was so nice!  Service has been excellent since we arrived and everyone at Universal has been great so far.


My son and I loved the "Transformers" ride.  In fact, it may have been our favorite of the day.


We caught a parade as we were walking around...




Then we went to ride the "Minions" ride...


So when we were entering the theatre, my sandal got caught on the cement stair as I was walking up and it tripped me.  My bottled water flew down and hit the ground.  My son looked behind but thought I just dropped it and was picking it up, but OMG, I smashed my toe.  I got mad at him for not helping me up, lol.  I barely enjoyed the ride as my foot was screaming in pain at me.  Major ouchie, but also very typical of my clumsy self.  Many of my trip reports report my clumsiness.  :)

"The Simpsons" town was next.  The ride was walk on and I noticed my toe was turning purple.






We both enjoyed the ride.  We finally made our way to "Diagon Alley".


I had to buy my son a frozen "Butterbeer", which was like $7.50!  I was curious for a taste - but, lol, it tasted like butterscotch - duh on me!  :)


We ended our day with a walk on ride of "Escape from Gringotts".  Those seats were uncomfortable for me and my son.  My knees hit the bar in front that is level with your knees and my feet barely touched the floor.  Maybe all tall people feel that way.  I'm 5' 9".  My son said same thing and is 6 ft.  I think I was all "3-D'd or 4-D'd out by this time and was not appreciating it as much.  Anyway, when we got off, staff were just blocking everything and everywhere and guiding you out of the park.

Our plan was to eat at "The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium And Savory Feast Kitchen". Below is a picture I took of it when we arrived at Universal Citywalk in the morning.


We checked in and were told they would text us when our table was ready.  ETA was one hour and forty minutes!  Oh well, we were on vacation, but my body was tired!  I'm not used to 10 hour "theme park" touring anymore.  I WISH they had told us they had a bar, but they didn't, so we walked over to "Margaritaville" for a drink.  My toe was throbbing in pain.  Our reservation took exactly that time.

We were escorted upstairs and sat by a small 2 seater table by a railing.  It was uncomfortable because the people in the booths opposite were facing our table so staring straight at us.  That booth of people happened to be "Holly Madison".  At least it was low key and they weren't interested in us in the slightest.  :) Below is my view I had while sitting.


Our server recommended the zucchini for an appetizer.  It is below,  along with a delicious drink I ordered called "Old Chocolate Fashion".  It had Bird Dog chocolate whiskey, cherry Heering liqueur, sugar, chocolate and orange bitters for $12.  It was delcious!

Fried Zucchini – $9.95
Parmesan cheese, sesame soy dip

My son had a burger and I a pork chop.

May Contain Bacon – $15.50
Half pound housemade patty, bibb lettuce, smokey thick cut bacon, grilled pork belly, pineapple chutney, chipotle Jack cheese, brioche bun
Fire Grilled Pork Chop – $22.95
Bitter chocolate mole sauce, grilled rapini, lyonnaise potatoes

My son also ordered a milkshake.  They take 25 minutes to prepare.  He said it was very, very good.  I had a sip and thought it was okay, but I'm no dessert expert as I don't eat them...

Heavenly Hazelnut – $12.50
Nutella ice cream, hazelnuts, Nutella, cocoa powder, fresh whipped cream

Bill was $77 and I left $20 tip so it was $97.  Our waiter was awesome.  Charming and funny and was really a nice addition to dinner.  The food was very good, but not outstanding.  It was a nice meal to finish a long first day though.  We walked out to the guest drop off and got an Uber.  Same price - $5.85.  We were soon back in the room catching much needed Zzzzz's.

Monday, November 7th:

We were ready and out of the room about 10:30am.  Below is a picture of my "ouchie toe".  At least it wasn't as swollen or throbbing in pain anymore.  I touched up my chipped nail polish, lol.


We went to the lobby and picked up our Universal coupon book we were promised with our package.  We summoned an Uber.  Same price.  We went off to Universal.  

As soon as we got out, my son realized he left his iPhone on the seat.  We tried running after the driver but he didn't look in his rear view.  A taxi tried honking at him for us too, but he was not paying attention.  We were kind of beside ourselves for a moment as we tried to figure out what to do.  I kept pushing the "contact us" on Uber but when I would enter my cell number it would tell me it was not registered with them and to go to their website.  I was getting frustrated.  I tried to ask people if they used Uber but no one had any real suggestions for us.  

So, I used the app to get another Uber to come pick us up.  Same price.  He showed up quickly and I told him of our incident.  He showed us how to contact the driver on the app.  We thanked him, told him we didn't really need a ride and tipped him and got out of his car.  Our driver called and said he had the phone but was busy doing a delivery and would meet us when he was done.  WHEW!  I didn't ask how long though.   We went to Citywalk and the first place there is "Bubba Gumps".  I so didn't want to go in there, but we didn't have much of a choice and both of us were feeling very stressed at this point.  I ordered Prosecco and cup of gumbo.  My son had a cup of chowder and coffee. Then I had another drink and another.  Our bill was over $60 and I was doing something I really didn't want be doing either - sitting there.  We didn't want to be "deep in the park" if he called though.  The best thing in there was this sign (below) but the truth is, I was drinking cheap wine!  :)


I finally contacted the driver again as an hour and half had passed by.  I then got a message from Uber with his personal cell number.  I called him and he said he would meet us in 30 minutes.  He was right on time and I tipped him $10.  I probably should have tipped him more, now that I think of it, but we were relieved for all that to be done with!  Our karma was good today that he got it back as Uber clearly states that if you leave items in their cars, they are not responsible.

We headed straight for "Diagon Alley".  



We went and had lunch at the "Leaky Cauldron".



You order, pick up your drinks with a number and then carry it over to be seated. We were in fact seated by the leaky cauldron.  :)



My kiddo ordered a banger sandwich and I had the "toad in a hole".  It was served with yucky green peas,  which I pushed off the side.  Blech... It was really eggy and dense, not like a fluffy Yorkshire pudding should be.  Lunch was okay.  Nothing really to remember but it was still edible.  My son loved his "lemon squash" but my wine was kinda like swill.  It was almost $40 for everything.  Since it was self serve, there was no tipping though.



We left and wandered all the stores and shops before heading over to the train to get to Islands of Adventure.





I noticed that kids with "wands" were controlling some of the magic throughout this area.  :)


When boarding, they even had a stop to buy treats at half way through the queue.  We got a Heineken beer ($8!) and continued onward.  Staff told us the train is always a 50 minute wait or more later in the day as everyone is tired...We just wanted to experience the ride to Hogwarts castle.




And then we were there at "Hogsmeade".  



As soon as we got off, there was a ride called "Dragon Challenge".  We blindly put our items in a free locker and proceeded to board.  Then I realized it was a coaster and that my feet would be dangling and I was scared!  I started screaming at the top of lungs from the moment we left till we arrived back.  My toes were clenching my sandals as I thought I would for sure lose them.

We made our way to "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" which is in Hogwarts castle.  I mean, WOW, the Harry Potter stuff is themed beautifully.  Really impressive.


There was no wait though it said 15 minutes, but like I said earlier, the queue took that long to get there.  I could not imagine waiting when the park is full!  This was a nice, fun ride, our feet were dangling again and we were both dizzy now though.  We decided to call it day!  It was a really long, rough day and we were feeling it.

We made our way out of the park, stopping to shop for Christmas ornaments and chocolate.  I got two really great ornaments and my son got some chocolate and fudge.


We exited, thinking this sign below was appropriate for us.  :)


We made our way back to the guest drop off area and when we got an Uber, it notified us that rates were double because of demand.  We had to pay $12.65 to get back this time and our driver was grouchy which made me grouchier, and he didn't know where he was going.

We went across the street once back at the hotel for water and wine.  The little "mini-mart" was horribly priced and we paid $4 for six small bottled waters.  We went to the ABC liquor store and it was priced fantastically!  I was not expecting that.  We could have got 12 large Aquafina waters for $6 there too, which was better than the cheap water we just bought.  I got two California wines for $6 each on sale and left happy.  I will be back!  

We went back to the room and got ready for dinner.  I got an Uber and it was 2X the price again at $25.87 for our ride to Disney Springs.  Our driver got us there in about 20 minutes and let us off in an ideal spot close to our restaurant.


We had reservations through Disney reservations at Chef Art Smith's  Homecoming restaurant.  Disney will charge your credit card if you don't show up - $10pp.  I couldn't think of a better thing at this moment than having a comfort food dinner.  I mean, Oprah's personal chef of 10 years had to fit the bill, right?  We were 15 minutes early for our 8pm reservation.  When we checked in with the hostess, she asked if my cell number was correct and said they would text us in 15 minutes when our table was ready.  I told her we were going to sit in two chairs right in front of her in the waiting area.  She said she would still text.  Um, okay...so I asked if we could sit in the bar then.  She said yes and said we could eat there if we wanted.  I told her I wanted to keep my table.  

We sat down at 2 dirty empty spaces at the bar and were ignored for 15 minutes.  I was beginning to think that our bad day was not going to improve.  Finally someone came by (the people on either side of us had been checked on twice while we sat there waiting).  We got our drinks but the dirty mess and food was not cleaned up.  As soon as the drinks dropped down we got a text to check into the front desk to "get an update".  She told us to pay up at the bar and carry our drinks/water with us to our table.  I left $25 for our two drinks.  I had a "Basil Smash" (below).  My son had a Pina Colada.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon, sour mix, simple syrup and smashed basil leaves $10

So I splashed along with my drinks as we went outside to the patio.  I wasn't very happy at this point...  Our server was really nice and my mood slowly started to improve.  We started with some hushpuppies and deviled eggs.

Bunch of Puppies $10
House-made hushpuppies served with pimento cheese and red jalapeño jelly

Church Lady Deviled Eggs $10
Homecoming-style whole deviled eggs

Oh My Goodness!  These were soooooo good!  The deviled eggs were topped with shallot jam and fried okra.  Both were yummy beyond belief.  We were finally feeling happy and relaxed.  We both ordered the same dinner below.

Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken $26
Chef Art Smith's signature dish! Buttermilk brined for 24 hours then perfectly fried and garnished with our house-made hot sauce served with creamy mashed potatoes, cheddar drop biscuits and love

Ours was served with white bacon gravy and I have to say that these mashed taters were the second best I've EVER tasted.  First goes to Gordon Ramsay's  in New York City.  We were in heaven.  The pickled zucchini was superb too - spicy and crispy.  I loved these.  I got a glass of the house Cab and it was good too.  (Much better than the wine swill at Universal).

We finished with his signature "Hummingbird Cake".  It was so yummy, amazingly fantastic too.  I had a few bites over my normal only one taste bite. 


We packed all that we didn't eat to go. We had a full bag but knew it would be great tomorrow for breakfast.  We have a fridge in our room.  We asked Disney staff where Uber picks up and were directed to the "Strawberry" parking lot at Cirque du Soleil.  Our Uber showed up almost immediately and was only $11.82 for the ride home!  That balanced out the first fare and I was happy.  It was a great ending to a marginal day and we were both in bed sleeping soundly soon after we arrived back at the hotel...

Tuesday, November 8th:

This was our "non theme park day". It was also a BIG day in the U.S.A. as it was "election day".  We have been fascinated by this election - have never seen anything like it before.  Was expecting Ashton Kutcher to announce that we were all being "punked" at any time but that never happened...it just went on and on and ON and was just bizarre!  I have no good words to describe this other than feeling stupefied.  How could EITHER of these two persons be the final candidates to be president???

We slept in till 9:30 and then I wrote up the trip report.  My son lazed.  We had Bailey's coffees in the room and finished our delicious dinner from last night.  That fried chicken is some of the best I have ever had.  Highly recommended!  I finally showered and we got an Uber to the Outlet mall.  It was about 1:30.   It was $5.85 for the Orlando International Premium Outlets.  


I did alright shopping and bought some stuff at three different places.  My son had a fancy iced coffee and that was the highlight of his trip to the mall.  :)  He wasn't interested in shopping but they had free WiFi there so he kept himself amused.  We left in a couple of hours and called an Uber back to the room for $7.05.  The app told me the fare was "slightly elevated" because it was a bit busier.

We got to the room and we decided to go back to Game Changers for some "loaded fries".  


My son had saw these on the menu our first night here when we went and wanted to scratch the itch off his list.  


When we were seated on the patio, I opened my purse for my iPhone.  It wasn't in there.  I tried not to panic and my son said I probably left it in the room since I didn't need to call a Uber.  He reminded me that I rarely take my cell with me and I honestly didn't know because we unpacked the stuff I bought and freshened up.  It was possible...

We got back to the room and my phone was nowhere to be found.  I kept thinking that I had looked in the Uber when I was teasing him about whether he had his phone, so then thought maybe I left it outside on the bench when we called the ride at the Outlet mall.  I called my front desk lost and found and asked.  I called the mall lost and found and asked.  Nothing.... I got my son to get the Uber app on his phone and logged in.  I messaged the driver and nothing.  I decided to put the phone in "lost mode" from my laptop and put my son's cell number in the message it would display, just in case someone found it. My son said he was going to call it.  He did but no one answered.  I told him we had to get ready for our dinner show and so we did.

His phone rang!  It was our Uber driver!!!!  He said he picked up 2 more fares and no one said anything or found it.  Then he said when my son called, it alerted him by the ringtone that there was something in his car.  He got the "lost mode" message on the screen and called us.  WHEW, again!  He brought it back to us in 20 minutes.  I tipped him $20 and he seemed really happy.  Earlier, he had also told us that he couldn't vote today - couldn't vote for either candidate and decided not to...he told us he might move to Canada. I told him not to, that we were going to build a wall.  :)  We all laughed.

I got another Uber after we went back to the room to take my phone out of lost mode.  We were going to Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show .  The fare was $5.85 though we probably could have easily walked there.  I found this show on Trip Advisor and it was rated highly.  An interactive improv comedy murder show.  We had a drink at the bar first and then were seated inside the theatre.  We learned that we were all there for an "audition"... They scoped the audience out by chatting and seeing who was open to participating and didn't make anyone uncomfortable at all.  All good...


Below is the "producer" of the show.  He was fantastic in his character role and was my favorite.


My dinner below was lasagna with meatballs.  It wasn't bad.  About the same as the theme park food I've been eating, but I wasn't there for the food.  Wine, beer, ice tea and pop were all unlimited and they kept it all flowing.


Below is a lady that played dual roles of sisters and was so good.  I picked her as the murderer but alas, I was wrong...only 5 people got the outcome correct.  (Don't worry, they change the shows and your chances of seeing the same one are small).  The random winner was rewarded with a Sleuth's magnifying glass and the others got a souvenir pin.  


We tipped $10 per person as that what was asked for ($5 to $10pp) and called another Uber home.  Same price.  When we exited, there were cabs waiting and a driver asked us if we wanted one.  We said no thank you and then he asked us if we wanted to know about the election?  We said sure and then he went on a rant that Donald Trump was winning.  He came over and showed his Android phone and showed us what was going on.  It was obvious he was freaked out.  I couldn't comfort him but just told him that we lived in Canada.  (I didn't throw in the part about building our own wall to keep the US out  ;)  and I am of course joking.  I don't even talk politics, normally.  This day and election was just anything BUT normal.  We got our ride and went to the room to watch the election results but fell asleep before it was done...

Wednesday, November 9th:

Woke up to find out Donald Trump won the election.  It didn't surprise me - at all, but it really hit me hard this morning.  A man with no experience and endorsed by the KKK is now the president of my most favorite country besides my own.  I felt numb.  I guess we'll all find out how this is going to play out, but it's hard to be optimistic about it.  This election has changed the way I look at the USA.  :(  That is that, and I'm moving along now...

Back to Universal today.  We slept in and arrived at noon.  Uber was $5.85.  We were both starving so I decided to splurge at Emeril's.  It was really gray outside and muggy.  I was already sweating and uncomfortable.  I'm not going to lie, I was partially hungover too from drinking too much while watching the election last night...


My son ordered a pizza.

PROSCIUTTO
smoked tomato sauce, Maytag bleu, baby arugula

ROAST BEEF PO' BOY
shaved Creekstone beef simmered in beef jus, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle

Both meals were just delicious and we enjoyed every bite.  My son had the banana cream pie for dessert. It's one of Emeril's signature dishes and is really worth having.  It is really fantastic.  It is not overly sweet and all the flavors meld perfectly together.  If you like banana cream pie, then you absolutely have to try this!


Bill was $78 or $95 after tip.  Well worth it and we really enjoyed lunch today.  I really wasn't feeling like riding and rushing today so we just took our time and sauntered around Islands of Adventure.



We saw all the water rides today, like below (Jurassic Park and Ripsaw Falls) but decided not to do any of them.  We will leave this for our last day and do them.  I bought rain ponchos from the dollar store at home too so we're ready.  I saw a LOT of soaked people to the bones - head to foot drenched today.




We rode SpiderMan.





I really enjoyed our walk around Seuss Landing.  I even bought a Seuss nightshirt for $30.  They had started the Christmas decorations there too.






We wandered a bit more...



We took the Harry Potter train back to Universal Studios. It is different then when arriving at Hogwarts and was well done.  Only a 20 minute wait today which was much better.  Everything was walk on pretty much.  We walked around some more and then went and saw the Terminator show.  We both enjoyed it.  We ended with E.T. and the park was just closing down.


We decided to go to The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar.  Our bartender at Sleuth's last night said she worked there and highly recommended it.  I had my doubts about sushi since we have such good stuff at home in Vancouver, but we were hungry and tired and tried it.  We were seated outside on the covered patio and below is my view looking right, which is the main hub or entrance into Citywalk.


I ordered a really good cocktail called a "Grapefruit Smash" and my son got a Smores shake ($6) so half the price as at Toothsome but he said it was not as good.



We started with an appy of "Spicy Poke Dip".  It was okay but not great.

Spicy tuna poke with salmon and yellowtail, seaweed salad, served with wonton chips

My son ordered a "Rise and Swine Burger" and he said his was really, really good, albeit super messy and hard to eat.  (I was in the bathroom when dinner was served so he was well into eating his when I got back, so no picture).  I got a "Fusion Specialty Bento Box".  It was pretty NOT good and not interesting at all.  Most of it stayed where it was.  I was full and got enough to eat though.  I had a bite of my son's burger too which was much better than my offering.  The sushi was really sub-par, I got the tempura shrimp...

A combo meal featuring both burger and sushi, including slider cheese burger, sweet potato fries, Thai cucumbers, edamame and choice of a 4 piece Fusion Specialty roll (Firecracker or Tempura Shrimp Roll)

Bill was $65 or $78 after tip. We got an Uber back for $5.85 and went to the room.  I had some wine and wrote up the trip report then went to bed.  I was soooo tired and my body ached!  My son said his iPhone app said we are walking around 6 to 10 km per day, so it's not crazy but I can certainly feel it.

Thursday, November 10th:

I awoke early and felt a lot better.  Today was our Aquatica day. I rented us a cabana too ($59).  It opened at 11am, so we went to Perkins for breakfast again and got an Uber from there.    Below are our two breakfasts at $10 each.  I had egg beaters again.  Really good value overall though again, I could only eat about half.  Even my son didn't finish and he can polish off anything!

There was a lady in there making balloon animals for the kids.  One family was so rude to her.  They had 3 kids and she was standing by their table making her first balloon.  It took a while, but she was very detailed and did a great job.  After she handed the first one to the child, the father shooed her away saying, "Can you go stand somewhere else and do this?"  She came back and brought the other two balloons (one was a really cool Spider Man) and the table ignored her.  I felt so bad for her.  I went over and told her she was making beautiful balloons and tipped her $5.  It was clear by the $5 hanging out of her shirt pocket that she was working for tips.  She was so happy, I thought she was going to cry.  Geez, it doesn't take much to smile at someone and say thank you.

COUNTRY SAUSAGE BISCUIT BREAKFAST
Two sausage patties inside fresh baked biscuits, topped with cream gravy and American cheese. With two eggs, two Applewood bacon strips and choice of hash browns, breakfast potatoes, tots or fruit.

CLASSIC EGGS BENEDICT
A traditional favorite of two basted eggs, grilled ham and rich hollandaise served with choice of hash browns, breakfast potatoes or tots and choice of fruit or Mammoth Muffin

It was a beautiful day out, nice and sunny so I was happy.  It was less humid than yesterday as in not humid at all.  Our Uber was $7.00 to Aquatica and our driver was hilarious.  He was 70 years old and had lots to say about the election and America. Probably our best ride yet and I laughed the whole time while in his car.  We arrived right at eleven.  He joked that we must be Canadians because only they would be going to a water park when the temperatures were like this.  :)


Our cabana is below.  It was located at "Roa River Rapids".  It came with 12 bottles of Dasani water and our host told us to take them with us if we didn't finish them as she said that we paid for them.  We took 6 when we left.  Also included was towel rental and a locker.  I really enjoyed it.


My son did some slides.  We did the lazy river and rode down the rapids and relaxed. I actually nodded off while on the lounger.






We stayed till about 4pm , then got ready to leave.  We enjoyed a very relaxing day.  It closed at five.  The Uber back was $6.85.  Earlier, I had a hot dog at the park ($8!) and my son had a chicken wrap which was $11.  We showered and got ready for our dinner at Disney Springs.  Tonight we were going to Frontera Cocina. I have always wanted to go one of Chef Rick Bayless' restaurants and would finally get the opportunity.  The Uber cost $13.83.  The driver was really annoying and I had to tell him when to turn for the exit to Disney Springs because he was just blabbing away (about himself - we heard his life story) and not paying attention.  Of all the Ubers we have used this week, this was the first and only annoying guy.  I still tipped him, though I hesitated about it and put it back in purse once, then took it back out.  I figured the way he was talking and bragging about himself that he really needed the money because I'm sure none of it was true...


Wow, Disney Springs is so big!  It has changed so much since we went to "Pleasure Island".  It was packed too - so many people, like wall to wall people.


I ordered a Margarita which was really delicious. It was called "Play with Fire" and was $15.

Ambhar blanco tequila, cucumber,
jalapeño, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, hibiscus
salt rim

We got some Guacamole and Chips too ($10).  The waiter sort of pushed them on us when we sat down and my son thought they were complimentary as he said, "Would you like me to bring you some guacomole & chips to start"?  So my son said yes, sure and was all happy.  I told him after that they weren't complimentary and his eyes got real huge when he saw the price on the menu, lol.  You can even get bacon guac if you want, but I just wanted it plain tonight.  These were sooo yummy though a little stingy on guac.  We had tons of chips leftover.

Verde • Roasted poblanos, roasted tomatillo,
toasted pepitas, cilantro and onions 

My son decided on a shrimp dish.  (I recommended it to him, as I saw Chef Bayless prepare it on the show "The Chew" before we left).  I just had Carnitas.

Shrimp Mojo de Ajo
Pan-roasted Mazatlán blue shrimp with mojo de ajo
(slow-cooked garlic, olive oil, lime, chipotle),
plantain rice, grilled calabacitas, warm corn tortillas • $27

Slow-cooked pork shoulder with garlic and lime,
black beans refritos with Cotija cheese, guacamole,
pickled red onions, salsa verde, warm corn tortillas • $23

Both dishes were very flavorful and satisfying.  We were not disappointed.  I will give the edge to Art Smith's Homecoming restaurant as being our favorite of this trip though, so far.  Below though, is the dessert my son ordered.  He said it far exceeded the others he's had so far and was the best one of the trip.  I had two bites as it was so dreamy good!

Coconut Lime Cuatro Leches
Sponge cake soaked with four milks topped
whipped cream, toasted coconut, fresh blackberries,
and lime zest •$9

My son had coffee and I had a glass of cava.  My son told me how much he had enjoyed this trip with me and melted my heart.  <3. Bill was $104 or $124 after tip.  We wanted back to the Strawberry lot by Cirque and requested an Uber.  It was $11.82 back and our driver was not annoying.  She asked us when we were going back to Canada and then said she could be packed and ready to go with us.  One thing a lot of our drivers had said was that people from all over the world had mentioned this election and how surprising it was that every single one asked about Donald Trump.  She said she was embarrassed and sad.  We got back to the room and I immediately went to sleep. I was stuffed from dinner and tired again.

Friday, November 11th (a.k.a. Last Day):

I woke up and typed the trip report up to date and then showered.  We were heading to Universal Islands of Adventure.  Usual Uber and fare of $5.85.  We arrived at 11:30am and the line ups were huge and long and people everywhere.  We realized today was Veteran's day here (Remembrance day at home) and is a stat holiday for us so figured it probably was here too.  We were both hungry so went to Mythos for lunch.  


There was about a 10 minute wait and then we were seated.  Wow, what a beautiful restaurant!  Really nicely themed and the menu was great.  They actually had some decent wines and a good list of them, along with cocktails, etc.  Below is our view to the right, looking out at the Hulk coaster.


Below is our view looking left.  That booth was only empty for seconds while they cleaned it.


I ordered a glass of Prosecco and my son a pop.  They brought us complimentary bread and butter.


Semolina Crusted Calamari
tender calamari flash fried, served with Spanish chorizo aioli,
marinara and charred lemon
$8.99

Grilled Chicken “BLT” 
marinated chicken breast, cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato jam and pickled red onion served with Parmesan French fries
$14.49 

Lamb Burger
hand-packed ground lamb with grilled onion,
shredded lettuce and fresh tomato topped with feta-olive aioli
served with Parmesan French fries
$16.49

The Parmesan on the fries was fifty cents extra but it mentioned nothing about the green stuff on them, which turned out to be Basil.  That was a little strange.  The food was good, better than anything else we ate inside the park.  Emeril's was the best meal on Citywalk we had.  My son got a Cappuccino to finish and I had another Prosecco.  He said it was great.


Bill was $70 or $85 after tip.  We left and made our way through Hogsmeade which was packed!


We went along to Skull Island: Reign of Kong next.  


Wow the line up was  105 minutes. We realized we should have done this when there was no one in the park the past two days we were here. But, we waited and went through the queue...


What was scary was the queue was never ending!  We moved for an hour and a half and then came to a complete stop for a half hour.


Everyone was starting to get fidgety and restless.  Then an announcement came on saying that Skull Island was operational again and they were resuming the ride.  Well, I'm sure you can imagine that there was a collective groan and there was.  About another 15 minutes later we boarded the ride.  And then we were off! It felt like the ride was about a minute long.  So not worth queuing for that long, but live and learn.

We did the water rides next starting with Jurassic Park.  Our ponchos worked well and we were barely wet except for our heads/hair.  The hoods blew off when we went down the hill.  Ripsaw falls we got off a little more wet.  Both of our legs from the knees down were soaked and my son's head was soaked.  We managed.  We made our way to Hulk.  



There was a 45 minute line and I didn't feel like doing that, so I suggested my son to go as a single rider which was 15 minutes.  He agreed.  I waited for him at the exit.  We left the park and it was about 6pm.  We took the usual Uber back for $5.85 and went to the ABC liquor store to buy some alcohol for home.  It was cheaper than the duty free.  We went back and started to pack.  Mears was coming to get us at 2:50am for our 6am flight!  We had 8pm dinner reservations for Itta Bena at Pointe Orlando.  Uber was the usual $5.85.  I was looking forward to this as it was "Contemporary Southern".  We were hungry too.  Atmosphere was nice enough, there was a gentleman playing piano as well.  We ordered after some chit chat with our server.

SCALLOPS AND GRITS
Seared Jumbo scallops served on gruyere delta grind grits, sweet corn crab cream sauce $14

SOUP DUO
She Crab Soup:  Jumbo lump crab meat, cream, dry sherry
Mushroom Bisque:  Cream of portobello, button, and shitaki mushrooms, fresh thyme and rosemary $7

The scallop and grits dish was fantastic.  The grits were great with the corn.  Both soups were good.  My son liked the She Crab and I the Mushroom better.  Below was my son's entree:

DUCK AND WAFFLES
Confit of Maple Leaf Farm duck, rice pilaf waffle, blueberry hoison reduction $26

Oven Baked Mac N' Cheese $6

BLACKENED GULF RED SNAPPER
Spicy andouille hash, lemon beurre blanc $26

This was the Chef's nightly special dessert - Apple Crisp Ala Mode

All the dishes were tasty and enjoyable, especially that mac and cheese.  My snapper was a little overdone and I found the hash a little bland.  I only had one bite of the dessert as it was really, really sweet.  We settled up our bill and it was $115 or $137 after tip.  I tipped the piano player $5 too.  We had to summon an Uber at the Blue Martini bar downstairs.  Same fare.  We went to the room and quickly packed.  We set a wake up call for 2am.  I got up a bit earlier to finish the trip report off.

We had a really enjoyable week, and there is a lot to do in Orlando.  We barely scratched the surface.  I-Drive was much more than I thought and I would have liked to walk it more, but the theme park walking took it out of me and I just wanted to get from point A to point B.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect.  It is expensive here, and I blew through a good chunk of change but I expected that so it wasn't like that was a surprise or anything.  I forgot to even look at my Universal coupons but I saw about 3 or 4 I could have used, like free dessert at Emeril's and 10% off at the sushi place.  Oh well, mybad.  :)  My son was a little mopey today about the vacation being over, but I'll be happy to get home and get out of the grungy hotel room and into my own abode.  Right now, I just want to spend a couple of days in bed!  :)