Back from Orlando!

Hi everyone! We’re back from Orlando safe and sound… and tanned, my arms almost match colours now! We arrived home around 10:30pm last night after a lengthy drive from New York City, which was preceeded by a flight from Orlando to La Guardia airport.

We had a great time and managed to see and do pretty much all the parks in Orlando except for the water parks. For most parks we did two days so that we could cover everything at them that we wanted to.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom was a lot of fun, it’s boken up into several main parts. There’s Mainstreet USA, which is filled with all kinds of neat shops. Then there’s Frontier Land, which is all western themed. The next one, Adventure Land, was all the adventurous Disney themed stuff, like Agrabbah from Aladdin and the caribbean port towns from Pirates of the Caribbean. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride was cool, I got some snazzy souvenirs from the gift shop for that one, including a cursed Aztec coin medallion. Liberty Square is another USA themed area of the park, this one borders Frontier land and is the civilized counter-point to the wild west of Frontier Land, it had a huge steamboat that you could ride along a large circular river, as well as the Haunted, House, which I didn’t get to see. Fantasy land was your typical Disney magical themed stuff like Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, basically all the princess themed stuff. Also in Fantasy Land was the It’s a Small World Ride, which I have to admit, I really enjoyed. And lastly in the ring that is the Magic Kingdom, there’s Tomorrow Land, which is where the attractions for the various sci-fi themed Disney characters are, like Buzz Lightyear and Stitch, Buzz’s ride was fun, it was a rail-shooter ride, which was fun.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Deb Bry and I rode the the Star Wars Star Tours ride a couple times, it was really fun, we got to visit Coruscant, Hoth, Kashyyk, and Naboo. And of course Bry and I built ourselves lightsabers in the gift shop afterwards. The Disney animation studio at Hollywood Studios was really neat, you get to see how the animators at Disney do their work, learn about the creative process they follow, and do some interactive stuff, to try it out yourself. We got to meet characters there, too, like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey, and ever Mr Incredible and Frozone, I got my picture taken with them. Deb’s favourite part at the animation studio was the drawing lesson classes. You get to sit in a room lined with rows of light tables and learn how to draw a disney character from an Disney animator, I really enjoyed it, too. At Holloywood Studios, we also went and saw the Muppet Vision 3-D, which actually got Bry to like the Muppets and really got me stoked for the new movie coming out. We also saw the Little Mermaid stage show, which was actually really cool and had all kinds of lights, sounds and water effects mixed in with the show to make you feel more immersed in the story. We took a quick walk through the Walt Disney One Man’s Dream museum, which was very interesting. And of course, we couldn’t visit Holloywood Studios without checking out the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular which shows you a behind the scenes look at how the stunts are done and it was awesome. You can feel the heat from the pyrotechnics halfway up the seats and Deb, Bry and I sat third row, closest to the finale with the exploding jet fuel. I was almost worried I’d come back without eyebrows, but it so much fun to watch.

We also visited Disney’s animal Kingdom where we went on safari and saw the Lion King show, which was incredible. We also saw the Finding Nemo musical, which was really neat.

Epcot was probably my favourite of the Disney parks, though, all because of two things. The first is the ride inside the epcot sphere, called Spaceship Earth, which was really fun and interesting, and was narrated by none other than Judy Densch, which was even more awesome. And the second was the Epcot World showcase, which is a huge area that circles a large lake in the center and covers countries from around the world, each country is organized into a little town embodying the most well-known aspects of that country, with authentic cuisine, shops run by people from that part of the world, as well as music and street shows related to those countries. The countries, in counter-clockwise order (which was the order we did them in thge first day) are: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, the US, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. My favourite countries to visit in Epcot were the UK, Morocco and Japan. In the UK on the first visit, we ate at the Rose and Crown, an honest-to-God english pub, complete with traditional english fare and a full range of beers and spirits. I had bangers and mash with a pint of Guinness and felt like I had died and gone to heaven, it was so good. In the Japan Pavillion, which was done up like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace, had the largest shop out of all the countries in the showcase and carried everything from kimonos, to katanas, to paper fans, to pokemon, to pocky, to tea, to domo-kuns, to miyazaki toys, to paper umbrellas to Gundams. And even a choose your own clam pearl stand where you buy a chance to choose a clam from their tank and they open it for the first time in front of you to see what pearl you’ve bought, sometimes coming away with some exceedingly rare pearls worth far more than you paid. As for Morocco, I pretty much just liked the way the whole thing looked and smelled and even sounded like an arabian market, lots of incense, tile mosaics, stone archways and winding roads.

Another place I loved was Downtown Disney. Honestly, if it hadn’t started raining both times we went or I had been able to fit more in my luggage, I would have spent so much more time shopping around there. Downtown disney has the largest stores out of the entire range of Disney resort attractions. There was even a large Lego store, that’s right, an entire store devoted to nothing but lego. I ended up finding one of my favourite purchases from the entire trip, the thing I splurged on the most there. It’s one of those Lego board games they’ve been releasing lately, but one that hasn’t been released in Canada yet. It’s called Heroica and there are four sets to it, which, of course, I bought all of. What makes it so great is that it is essentially, drum roll… Lego Heroquest. As for Downtown Disney itself, though, I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve spent a couple weeks checking out the parks and want to bring back souvenirs for family, pretty much any souvenir you can get at any of the Disney parks, can also be bought at Downtown Disney somewhere, which the exception of some really specialized stuff, like they had a bunch of cool books at the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop in the Magic Kingdom, that were not available elsewhere, even downtown Disney as far as I had seen.

I have to say, though, one place I really enjoyed was Universal Studios Islands of Adventure There was so much stuff to see and do there.The Spiderman ride was cool. And it was fun visiting Jurassic Park and walking through the Visitor’s Centre Pavillions. But my favourite part of Universal was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Deb, Bry and I got to drink butterbeer (which is delicious by the way and tastes somewhat like a butterscotch vanilla float, but smoother and so much more addictive). We also got to visit Ollivander’s Wand Emporium and we each got ourselves a wand appropriate to us based on a signifcant date of our choice, using the old Celtic calendar of 13 months. Bry and I ended up getting the same style of wand since he chose his birthday as his signifcant date (January 10th) and I chose the day my mother died (January 2nd), which both fall in the same range on the celtic calendar and so we both have the same design of wand (a long, rough-looking almost druidic style of wand), though every wand has slight differences. Deb also chose her birthday (May 20th), which ended up giving her a short, finely carved, smooth wavy wand with rings of colour along it’s length. I also got a leather-bound hardcover pocket notebook with a metal Hogwarts crest on it, which is really nice. I almost bought a house Ravenclaw robe, but didn’t because it was too expensive, good thing, too, since I found out later I would be house Gryffindor, not Ravenclaw as I originally thought. Although Bry is Ravenclaw, so the baseball cap I got I gave to him, which he was happy about.

There was lots more stuff we did and saw, but off the top of my head I can’t remember them all now, I’m sure they’ll come up in conversation at some point. So, I apologize for not updating during the trip but I was so busy just enjoying it that it was hard to find the time.

The National – Exile/Vilify

As it turns out, The National are fans of Valve’s games. So much so that they wrote this song just for Portal 2. The song was hidden in the game as a little bit of an easter egg. Now, they’re holding a contest for people to make a music video for the song, and whoever wins will win a signed guitar. This is one of those entries, and in my opinion, the best.