Our son Jacob was busy with a new puppy and a job, so he was unable to join us in Europe. When we returned to the states we wanted to meet up. Jake wanted someplace warm and also wanted to see the new Star Wars land at Disney. I love Star Wars and am always up for a good theme park. Cap and I still talk about the 10 times we rode the California Screamin roller coaster.
This time we decided upon Orlando. It had been almost 10 years since we had visited a theme park but had always enjoyed our occasional visits. The juxtaposition to our recent travels proved stark. Just weeks prior we had been wandering ancient roman streets and walking among centuries old timbered buildings. Now, we were walking past new buildings constructed to look old or ancient. I admit I had mixed feelings. The rides were fun and the lands imaginative. The new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, Pandora of Avatar fame and Diagon Alley from Harry Potter were all amazingly well done. I preferred them over the older parts of the parks as they sought to take you into an imaginary place rather than a sanitized version of the past.
And then there was the cost. Our habit of tracking daily spending was once again enlightening and frightening. How do people do it? $300 a night for a basic hotel room in the park, over $100 per person per day for a park ticket. $10 beers and average food at twice the price. Needless to say, it was not budget friendly. Ten days in Orlando cost more than an entire month in Europe. We all agreed by the end that 10 days was too much and that we would not need to return anytime soon, but we still had a great time. An unexpected blessing/curse of full-time travel is you become something of a travel critic aka snob. I tend to compare travel experiences asking myself was it worth my time or my money. If you are not careful it can take the joy out of travel. Travel should be a joy even if it doesn’t compare to a better time last month, or last year.
Our first three nights were at a Disney resort which allowed us early entrance into their parks, this proved a good plan though it did not allow for sleeping in. If you stay at a resort hotel you can enter the parks before the general public. Most people do not like to get up early on vacation which also helps if you don’t mind getting up early. Disney Hollywood studios where Star Wars is located opens at 6 AM, which requires a 4:30 wake up for the 5:15 AM bus to the park.
The park is not completely empty, but we were able to ride most of the rides twice before the standard opening time of 9 AM. I know how crazy it sounds to arrive that early, but we rode every ride and were generally ready to leave the park before noon and never waited in a line more than 20 minutes. Compare that to when we walked by the new Harry Potter themed Roller Coaster around 10 AM and noted a 240-minute wait time. Yes, people were lining up for a 4 hour wait to ride a roller coaster. It was a pretty cool roller coaster, but no ride is worth a 4 hour wait.
It was not all theme parks, Jake wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center so we drove out to Cape Canaveral for the day. It was impressive, educational and fun. To prepare we had watched a Netflix documentary on Apollo eight the night before. We had also been watching the National Geographic series Mars. We had a great time, and all wanted to return for a rocket launch some time. We also enjoyed our best meal of the trip on the deck of the Grills Seafood restaurant in Port Canaveral. We shared a table with a couple from North Carolina and chatted into the evening.
We also took in a few movies. Jake and I saw the new Zombieland movie while Kelly saw Maleficent. We went to a Matinée at the theater in Universal City walk. Reclining chairs with footrests, beer and wine at your seat, and the tickets were $7. The best deal of the trip. We liked it so much Jake and I went to Joker a couple days later. A dark and disturbing movie but some amazing acting. As for Zombieland, there will be no academy award nominations, but it was great fun.
I am beginning to think Kelly knows someone everywhere and Orlando was no different. Kathy and Matt have a beautiful house on a Lake outside Orlando. Kathy is the sister of Kelly’s brother in law.
They invited us over and we were also able to see John and Alice, Kathy’s parents. We spent the day on their ski boat touring the dozen or so interconnected lakes near the Bay Hill golf course. Beautiful country with oak trees covered in Spanish Moss and huge homes of the rich and famous. Surprisingly, there was not a single bar or restaurant where you could dock a boat. So, we returned to dry land and Kathy took us to the Yellow Dog Eats Barbecue. A great meal which I would highly recommend.
I understand why so many people move to Florida regardless of the ever-increasing threat of Hurricanes. Warm weather, sunshine, lots of water, though the Alligators keep you firmly in the boat. As we boarded our flight for what we knew would be short dark winter days ahead our thoughts quickly turned to our next destination. Maui.