Saturday, February 14, 2015

Universal Studios Orlando : the Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley

Second day in Universal Studios and this morning we head on down to Diagon Alley for our free breakfast in the Leaky Cauldron. I had the best pancakes breakfast with a side of hot Butterbeer. Yesterday, Jess and I tried both the frozen Butterbeer (slushy version), and the cold Butterbeer (carbonated version). They both tasted absolutely perfect, but a lot of people had voted the hot Butterbeer as the best. I couldn't for the life of me imagine how a hot version could ever be better than the cold ones, especially when the word 'beer' was involved. However, Butterbeer is not really beer, but a yummy caramelized non alcoholic drink. Nevertheless, I remained skeptical. The temperature this morning was in the 40s. When I took my first sip of the said drink, all my suspicions were dispelled. Hot Butterbeer, topped with foamy caramelized whipped cream, runs down your throat smooth as silk, especially when the temperature of the drink is just right. Consumed in the early morning chill, even better. Hot Butterbeer for me is like what Starbucks is to Muggles - I could be addicted to that sh**.

I got ahead of myself, talking about food and all. The grandeur of Diagon Alley begins when you first step in and behold the magnificence of the fire-breathing dragon who sits atop the Gringotts Bank. There is really no where else to look. Your eyes travel the long cobbled pathway that leads your gaze to the Gringotts Bank at the end of the street. Your gaze continues to trail up the building before you squint against the glare of the sun (or perhaps from the dragon's fiery display). It breathes fire upon the hour, and tons of people gather around to take pictures and videos of this great moment. In the Gringotts building, you can ride the simulator down to the vaults of the bank.

Jess and I chose our interactive wands today and began practicing our spells in earnest. Her favorite character was Professor McGonagall, but they were out of her wands. She eventually picked out Sirius Black's. I love Luna Lovegood, but her wand didn't really do anything for me. In the end, I picked one that was made from Ash wood, even though I was torn between others. Although my birthdate dictates I should have picked out the Hazel wand, the description of the Ash wand really called out to me. The description says that Hazel wood is associated with wisdom, protection and magical skills. Hazel people are often wise beyond their years. They make inspiring teachers, combining creative talent and practical knowledge. That's totally me, isn't it?! However, I didn't care for how the Hazel wand looks, so I picked the Ash - wands made from Ash are especially productive as Ash trees are known to attract energy. Ash people are kind and generous with a gift for seeing what is beautiful in the world and in others. I'd really like to attract some positivity and I liked the wand, so Ash it was.

A map accompanying each wand shows the different locations where you can cast your spell. You look for a medallion cast into the ground that not only gives you the spell, but illustrates the way to wave your wand. When Jess and I first started out, we weren't sure what the medallions looked like. We saw an unassuming golden round disc on the ground and excitedly jumped on it, waving our wands around waiting for something to happen. A witch politely pointed out that we were really standing on a sewage system marker, and guided us to the right medallion. Flushed red with embarrassment, and feeling like total Muggles, we immediately saw that the proper medallion had carvings and words and arrows on it. Our excitement quickly overrode any feelings of shame as we resumed our incantations. Ascendio and descendo made things rise and fall; incendio made a bird burst into flames; aguamenti and the water fountain spouted water. Jess was practicing this particular spell when she accidentally splashed water onto a bystander. I was corrected on many occasions by Jess that it was "Wingardium Levioooosa" and not "Wingardium Leviosaaaa". Swish and flick, swish and flick. Whatever, Hermione.

Tonight, we got tickets to watch the Blue Man Group, courtesy of our friend Mark, who had the proper connections. I loved every minute of it, and it made me wistful for my theatre days in school. Mime, music and visuals were the key elements in the performance, but the power of these elements cannot be underestimated - no spoken words were necessary. There was also heavy use of technology which in turn was used to make a social commentary on how we are all so dependent on it. It was funny and clever, and you get a sense that these guys must have a lot of fun brainstorming, writing, rehearsing and performing.

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