Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Epcot’s World Showcase, and the home of the Rich and the Richer- Naples, Florida
We promised Jude that if he read 4 of the 7 Harry Potter books, he will be rewarded with a vacation in Orlando to see Harry Potter World (now called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade). It was an expensive incentive but we needed a vacation anyway. So last summer, we packed our bags and flew to Florida.
We own a Hyatt timeshare and we have been wanting to go to one of their vacation club resorts, the Hyatt Coconut Plantation in Bonita Springs. To get there, we flew to Ft. Meyers, rented a car and drove two hours to get to the resort. Hyatt Plantation is beautiful and there’s actually a lot to do within the resort.
The next day we took the resort’s shuttle to their own private beach. It brought us to the dock and from there we took the ferry to the beach. The beach wasn’t what I had in mind. I am used to the white, powdery sand beaches in the Philippines but this one had a lot of rocks that made it difficult to walk. We stayed there for a couple hours, just relaxing and watching Jude collect seashells.
In the afternoon, we drove to Naples. I’m not sure why we were never aware that Naples is home to the rich- very very rich. We saw mansions after mansions with the boats parked in front or behind them.
The streets of Naples reminded me of the rich areas in Los Angeles but with a Carribean touch. We saw some neat shops and cool restaurants while walking around. We enjoyed a gelato place where they had vegan flavors. We went into an oil and vinegar shop where the sales lady was so knowledgeable about everything. We bought a coconut flavored vinegar that was delicious.
After three days in the resort, we drove to Orlando. It was about 2-3 hour drive from Bonita Springs. We stayed at the Hilton in Walt Disney World. I would’ve preferred to stay in one of the Disney hotels but because we had Hilton points, we stayed there to save money (as we all know how much Walt Disney World plus Universal Studios could put a huge dent on the bank account!). We have been to Orlando many times before and have been to all the parks at WDW so this time, we only picked and chose where to go. We absolutely love Epcot and that was the only place within the park where we wanted to spend the day. My personal favorite is France and Morocco. The boys love Japan all for its Nintendo and Pokemon items sold in the gift shop! We had French pastries in the afternoon (with our favorite French macarons) and croque monsieur for lunch. Dinner was at Chefs de France (food was great and moderately priced- highly recommended!). Over the years of going to Epcot, I think we have tried most of the restaurants in all the showcase countries..
I have always wanted to go to Morocco. When I was in Barcelona with my parents a long time ago, we came across a tour to Morocco. Back then when Europe didn’t have the currency in euros yet, it was still quite inexpensive. We wanted to go but my parents, being Filipino citizens, had to acquire the visa from their home country- the Philippines. In my future milestone birthday (don’t want to divulge the age yet hehe), I will surely go to Morocco. For now, the world showcase at Epcot will do 🙂
When Joshua was 4 years old, he loved watching Mulan. Somehow, with all the times we went to a Disney park, he’s never met Mulan in person. This time he made sure he waited for her to come out. When she did, he was overjoyed to see her. I told Mulan that she was his childhood crush! He laughed, thinking as strange as it sounds, what I said probably had some truth.
The following day, we went to Universal Studios to finally see Harry Potter World (the main reason we were in Orlando in the first place).. We first went to Ollivander’s and witnessed the magical experienceof how a wand chooses a wizard. After the entertaining presentation, Jude chose his personal wand.
Our most unforgettable ride was the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It is similar to Soarin’ at Epcot but much faster and a little more “frightening”. The feeling is like flying on a broomstick, much like the game “quidditch”, but this one takes you to different scenes and environments in and around Hogswarts Castle. It is SO MUCH FUN!! If you plan to visit anytime soon, do not miss this ride. In fact this summer (2014), they will have a new and second Harry Potter theme Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Dragon Alley. From what I read, guests will feel they’ve stepped onto the London film set, complete with the popular wizarding pub. Definitely something to look forward to in the future.
Lunch was at Three Broomsticks restaurant and all of us had fish and chips. We also tried the famous Butterbeer and the boys really liked it. Personally, it’s a little too sweet for me but I would say it is still tastes good.
Joshua heard from his friend to make sure and try the ‘Every Flavour Beans” found at Honeydukes. They are jelly beans of every flavor- that is every flavor imaginable. Just imagine the flavor of vomit, liver and tripe, soap, earwax- should I go on? I tried most of them and to me they weren’t that bad. But the boys, including Keith, felt like puking at each bite of the strange flavors. They really amused me and made me laugh.
I was not much of a Harry Potter fan. In fact when it first came out of the theaters, I remember hating it. I didn’t let Joshua read any of the books but somehow I changed my opinion. J.K. Rowling is a good writer and I wouldn’t want to deprive the kids from reading this wonderful series. As we speak, Jude is done reading all 7 books and we have seen all 7 movies. We still can’t find the time to watch the very last one. My over all experience at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade- was way way much more pleasant and enjoyable than I have ever anticipated. I highly recommend for you to visit it whether you are a fan or not.
After this exhausting yet fun-filled vacation, here’s how I felt: