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Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

 

This past weekend David and I went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, mostly to experience the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and have been waiting years to be able to go to Universal just to see it all come to life. I’ve tried to get David just excited as I am about Harry Potter, and while he has really grown to like it, he is nowhere near my level of obsessed. He was such a good sport and so patient while I just ogled and awed over everything.

 

Since Universal Studios was closing early at 5pm for Halloween Horror Nights, we decided to start our day there. Plus it seemed only natural to explore Diagon Alley before heading to Hogwarts and Hogsmead.

 

Once we got to the London section of Universal, I saw Kings Cross Station and immediately got giddy, grabbing David’s arm and pointing. We followed the crowd toward a red brick wall, and when we turned the corner, what was hidden behind that wall took our breath away.

 

Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

 

There were several alley ways in Diagon Alley to explore, filled with stores from the books. Walking around truly made me feel like I was in the books and movies. It was so realistic and well done. I didn’t want to leave. I could have spent all day just sitting and enjoying my surroundings. They even included Knockturn Alley, which has a really neat store in it that focuses on the villains and Deathly Hollows, so be sure to go explore the less desirable side of Diagon Alley. David was so patient with me while I explored every nook and cranny of the place.

 

Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

 

We took a break in our exploration to jump in line f or the Gringrotts ride. We ended up waiting 2 hours, but there was no way either of us was going to skip the ride. Obviously the rides aren’t very long, and I doubt any ride is truly worth a two hour wait, but the ride was fantastic regardless. The detail inside the bank was amazing just like it was all over the rest of Diagon Alley. They even had goblins and newspapers with moving pictures for you to look at while waiting in line!

 

Before leaving Diagon Alley, we were sure to visit Olivander’s and check out the wands. You can buy 30 something famous wizards wands (including Harry, Voldemort, and Death Eaters), or buy one that coincides with your birthday. They also have plain wooden ones and interactive ones that allow you to do magic tricks at specific places within the park. I knew selecting the right wand was a serious decision so I decided to think on it and buy my wand at the other Olivander’s shop over in Hogsmeade.

 

Before heading over to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, David and I had to get Butter Beer. Butter Beer was one of the main reasons I was so excited to go to Universal. They sell it in both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we couldn’t wait any longer to try it. When we entered the little pub we found ourselves faced with some tough choices.

 

I stuck with my original plan to try Butter Beer and David got the Wizards Brew, which was a dark lager they brew on the property. It actually tasted pretty good, but both of us agreed the Butter Beer was better. It was fantastic. So rich and foamy. It is similar to a cream soda, and the foam tastes a lot like the foam on top of a cappuccino. It’s so sweet and rich, that an entire cup is too much. I couldn’t finish it no matter how delicious it was. You also get foam all over your face when you drink it, which is half the fun. I also managed to somehow get it all over my pants, but it was a small price to pay.

 

Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

 

As it got close to 5pm and Universal Studios was about to close, David and I headed over to Islands of Adventure to explore Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. We had planned and were really excited to take the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station but the wait to get on the train was 45 minutes, and by that point in the day, we were losing our patience with lines. We decided to skip the train and just walk over to Islands of Adventure.

 

Entering Hogsmeade was wonderful, if not as shocking as rounding the corner to see Diagon Alley had been. Before really exploring, David and I decided to go get in line for the Hogwarts ride. The wait was only about 45 minutes and the ride was fantastic, just like the Gringotts one. Of all the rides we went on that day, those two were my favorite. It was amazing to walk through Hogwarts in the line and see familiar scenes like Dumbledore’s office and the defense of the dark arts classroom.

 

After the Hogwarts ride, we went on to explore Hogsmede. It felt a village trapped in Christmas and it was magical. I had so much fun exploring Honeydukes and the other stores. While exploring we saw that the Dragon Challenge roller coaster had a 15 minute wait and we jumped right on. It’s a traditional roller-coaster and we both loved it. After the ride, David and I headed over to finally purchase our wands. I knew I wanted Snape’s, and wondered why I even felt doubt or the need to think about it in the first place. From the very first book, for some reason I was always drawn to his character, and he was always my favorite, even when seemingly evil. David, who has only seen the first 3 movies was confused why I would want Snape. He picked out Dumbledore and when the wand clerk said it’s the most powerful wand, I told him now he has to watch the rest of the movies to find out why.

 

Our Trip to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

 

When I say that wand went with me everywhere, I am not exaggerating. I carried it around with me and wouldn’t put it away, back in its box. I looked like a kid. Even after we left the park, it came with me to dinner in my purse. It even made me question my muggle status when David asked me if I knew any spells and I did the Patronus spell. My Fitbit instantly went off. I mean, I could have just hit my step goal, or I could be a half-blood wizard (or even full blood since I am adopted after all) and my letter to Hogwarts somehow got lost. I like to pretend it’s one of the later options.

 

The trip to Universal was everything I had hoped it would be. I will caution that Diagon Alley was insanely crowded, and so was Universal Studios as a whole. Hogsmeade and Islands of Adventure were much less crowded. Despite the crowds and lines, we both had a wonderful time. I can check it off my bucket list now, although I have no doubt I will be going back in the future.

Travel

Our Trip to Vermont

David & I went to Burlington, Vermont last month, and it was a wonderful experience. Burlington is David’s favorite city and he’s been dying to show it to me, especially in winter.

 

We were meeting 8 other people in Burlington as a sort of reunion for David and his friends. The actual process of getting to Vermont was a bit rocky since our flight out of Atlanta was delayed and we missed our connecting flight. We spent the entire day at the airport, eventually got a late flight into NYC, spent the night with David’s friends and then we all made the 6 hour drive up to Vermont the next day.

 

The first night we all went out to dinner and for drinks. It was a lot of fun and Church Street was beautiful.

 

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The next day we decided to drive to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. It was so scenic and beautiful.

 

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At the end of the tour they gave us a sample of a new flavor to try. It was Lemon & Poppy Seed. I was not a fan.

 

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Some members of our group wanted to do a snowshoe tour after the ice cream tour. I said no way since I didn’t want to lose any appendages to frost bite. While the snowshoe people went on their trek, the rest of us went up to the Ice Cream Grave Yard and had some Ice Cream in the comfort of the heated Factory building.

 

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After Ben & Jerry’s we went to the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. David’s friends wanted to make one for their daughter, but David and I wanted to make one too. David took forever picking out it’s outfit and name. He took it so seriously it was adorable. We settled on a cute hoodie so he matched David and the name Benjamin.

 

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Next on the list was wine tasting. I tried ice wine for the first time. I have to say I was not a big fan of this winery, and it takes a lot for me not to finish a tasting but there were two I had to dump out because I could not finish them.

 

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When we got back from wine tasting some of us went out for dinner. It was COLD. I had to bundle up, and the scarf I made myself came in handy.

 

 

I seriously am not cut out for that kind of weather. The snow blowing in my face was torture. Thank goodness for fleece leggings. I wore them every day under my jeans.

 

Before heading to the airport on our last day, David and I went to grab breakfast and walk around Church Street one more time. Luckily it was a little warmer than the day before and had stopped snowing. Also Yankee Candle was having a 75% off sale so I was happy.

 

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On the way to the airport, we stopped at this country store. Apparently country stores are a thing up North. I had no idea. It’s like a Cracker Barrel but 4 times bigger with more stuff.
I found old fashioned original pure Cola Syrup people used to use for upset stomachs back in the day!

 

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I had a wonderful time with David and his friends in Burlington and I’m glad I got to spend time with David in his favorite city. It was beautiful. And FREEZING

Travel

Our Trip to Tallahassee

Last weekend I got to take David to Tallahassee, home of my alma mater Florida State University. We went specifically to see the FSU v. Miami football game.

 

I hadn’t been back to Tallahassee for years and was so happy to be back. We got in late Friday evening and took it easy so we would be up early ready to start tailgating. I even brought a rolly cooler so we could easily transport our beer from tailgate to tailgate. A lot of my sorority sisters were in town for the game so I wanted to be sure to stop by and visit as many as possible.

 

The day started out with a quick stop by Westcott Fountain, an FSU landmark, and then my sorority house. Bothwill always hold a special place in my heart

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

Afterward we roams around from tailgate to tailgate saying hello to old friends of mine, some I hadn’t seen since graduating in 2007. It was great catching up.

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

Before heading into the game, we decided to take a chance and stash the cooler in some bushes to grab after the game.

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

The game was amazing. FSU won and David really enjoyed his first college football game. The energy in Doak Campbell Stadium during a home game is something you have to experience and unlike anything I have experienced at other college football games. I’m so glad I got to share the experience with David.

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

 

As an added bonus, the next morning we went back and found the cooler!

 

Our Trip to Tallahassee

Travel

Our Trip to Chattanooga

This past weekend David and I made a day trip to Chattanooga. It is only 1 hour and 45 minutes from Atlanta so we figured we could squeeze the trip all into one day.

 

It was David’s idea to take the trip and he planned everything. I was pretty sure he was up to something. Our first stop was Ruby Falls. I wasn’t really sure what Ruby Falls was except for an underwater waterfall. Turns out you have to trek through a cave system, ending up 1,120 feet underground. This if not for people who do not enjoy tight spaces or being underground. It is a claustrophobic’s nightmare. I’m generally not claustrophobic, but the idea of being so deep underground made me pretty uneasy the entire time we were down there. Despite my unease, the walk through the cave was absolutely worth it. Ruby Falls was beautiful.

 

 

It’s the largest known underground waterfall at 145 feet high and it was breathtaking. The lights they use definitely helped, because before they turned them on for us, it was pitch black in the cavern.

 

After seeing the falls I was speeding my way through the cave to get back to the elevator and above ground as fast as possible. I totally left David in my dust while he was stopping to take pictures.

 

After Ruby Falls we had about two hours before our dinner reservations so we decided to go see the Incline Railway since it would take less time than Rock City. The Incline Railway is basically a train car that goes down the mountain at a very steep incline. In fact, it is the steepest incline railway in the world. I am a huge fan of roller coasters, but this made me uneasy because it moved so slow. It was like going over the edge of a big drop on a roller coaster but going less than 10 mph while doing it. The ride down provided great views, but we had to ride it back up to get back to our car. The ride up was definitely worse than the ride up. You start out with very little incline, then as it slowly climbs up the mountain you feel yourself being pulled forward in your seat by gravity. I could not get out of the car fast enough once we got to the top.

 

 

I’m really not a scaredy cat, and am actually usually an adrenaline junky. However. apparently the fear of a cave-in and an old rickety train car fighting gravity scare me. After the incline David and I grabbed dinner and then it was off to my surprise.

 

Turns out David was up to something – he surprised me with a ghost tour. One thing about me – I LOVE ghost tours (see, not a total scaredy cat). I enjoy learning the history of the city and getting the creepy scary stories along with it. I made him do his first ghost tour with me up in Boston, and he actually enjoyed it. Plus, he knows how much I love them and he figured Chattanooga would have some good haunted history. He sprung the surprise on me while we were driving up to Chattanooga, and all day I could not wait for out tour. We did our tour through Chattanooga Ghost Tours and our guide was Hope. I highly recommend both. She was great! She takes the paranormal seriously, has had some crazy experiences, and even works in full costume which I appreciate. Our first stop was this big haunted mansion. She encouraged us to take pictures because people on the tours often get images of people in the windows. Three people in our group got really creepy and convincing photos on their iPhones of what were clearly human figures in the windows. I loved it.

 

Most of the tour wasn’t actually scary, just a little creepy and interesting. However the parking deck below was the one place I could not wait to get away from. David made me stand there for the picture when all I wanted to do was run away. I know you’re thinking “how is a parking deck scary?” Well it is the site of what used to be an undertakers office in the 1800’s and is on the original level of the old city before they built it up to avoid flooding. This is also the only stop on our tour that scared our tour guide because of her experiences there. Call me naive, but I believe in ghosts, or at least the occurrences of something paranormal that I can’t explain, and I believed her stories. David not so much, but he still enjoyed the tour and found it interesting. Plus it was perfect timing with Halloween so close. I absolutely loved the ghost tour.

 

 

We got back to my place pretty late and my back was killing me. David suggested I take a hot bubble bath to soak my muscles. I’m a big bubble bath fan so I did not hesitate to jump at the chance for a nice relaxing soak. Little did I know he was up to something while I was in the bath and he used the ghost tour surprise to get me off the scent of the real surprise. I’m very difficult to pull a surprise on. I always guess what it is before it is unveiled and it drives him crazy. This time though he got me. I was so sure he was up to something, but when he told me about the ghost tour I was sure that was it. Turns out I was wrong. When I got out of the bath, David was in bed, and my bedroom door was shut, which was odd because we never shut my door. I asked him why my door was shut and he said “Oh no reason.” Then I heard an odd blowing noise that sounded like my air conditioning was on at full speed. I was confused because it was less than 40 degrees outside and I was sure I’d turned my air off. I asked him what that sound was and he said “Oh nothing.” I knew he was definitely up to something at that point and the sound was coming from the other side of my bedroom door. When I opened it I stood there in complete and utter shock.

 

 

David had bought me and set up a 5 foot inflatable Halloween Hello Kitty. I am obsessed with Hello Kitty and have been since about age 3. I never grew out of it.

 

He set her up and had her waiting for me when I got out of the bath. He also attached a card to her that was the absolute sweetest card I have every received. I was absolutely speechless, which rarely ever happens – I always have something to say. I cannot believe how lucky I am to have someone in my life that is so thoughtful, sweet, and cares so much about me. Sorry for being mushy, but I am so thankful to have him in my life. And yes, he really does exist, he just requested that pictures of him not be included on my blog, and I completely respect his privacy. That’s why there are no pictures of the two of us in any of my posts.
All in all it was a fantastic trip!

Travel

Our Trip To New England

David and I recently took a trip up to New England. He grew up in New England and went to college up there so he wanted to bring me home to see where he was from, meet some of his family, and meet some of his friends. David flew up a few days ahead of me, and I flew up that Thursday for the first leg of our trip.

 

Our first stop was a quaint old coastal town. The place was tiny and adorable. We even stopped at a cute old school little ice cream stand and got milk shakes before heading to the beach house.

 

It was here David decided to break the news on me. When he sad previously said “beach house” before our trip, I pictured a cute little house, not too fancy, by the beach. I hadn’t thought twice of it. Now when we were less than two miles away he started using the term “beach cottage” and said he had a something he needed to tell me. In my head I told myself it must be some rule about shoes in the house or tracking in sand. I was way off. David took the moment right before we got to the beach house to tell me there was no indoor shower and that if you wanted hot water to wash your hands or face, you would have to go outside to the bathroom on the porch. NO INDOOR SHOWER Y’ALL! I stood there laughing, sure he was playing a joke on me to test me. We had only been dating two months at this point and maybe he wanted to see how I would handle a curve ball. NOPE. he was serious. The beach cottage was built in 1911 and is much the same as it was then. I’m not kidding. And to be honest, that’s what was so awesome about it. It had so much personality. It even had the original fixtures.

 

When was the last time you saw a doorknob like this? Look at the keyhole!

 

It used to be a boarding house in the 1920’s so it has a ton of bedrooms upstairs. I got one of the bigger ones that had been combined from two into one by knocking the wall down between two rooms. There was a bathroom upstairs with a working toilet and sink, but only cold water. Downstairs on the back porch was another toilet with it’s own little room to one side of the porch, and across from it was the room with the sink that had hot water. Then down the stairs and around the house, through some grass, was the shower. It was added onto the house later with it’s own little entrance and room, and was actually nice, aside from my having to wear shoes to get to it.

 

All I could do was laugh, from the second he told me, even after he said he wasn’t joking. I’ve had to brave it before while camping for a week, bathing in streams, so this was nothing. He’s lucky I’m not a girly girl, because I know a few who would have demanded he get a hotel room for the night. I loved the cottage and all it’s charm.

 

After getting settled in the cottage, David and I decided to walk down to the beach. We would only be there for one night and we wanted to get as much time by the water as possible. After laying around for a bit he insisted we go for a walk. I’m more of the sleep on the beach and lounge in the water type of beach-goer but he wanted to show me where he used to explore as a kid, which I thought was adorable, so I jumped up and followed him. He led me to some rocks and insisted we walk across them around a bend. I was less than enthusiastic about the idea, not because I don’t like exploring, I love it, but because the rocks were wet and I’m a clumsy mo fo. His face dropped when I suggested we skip the rocks so I said “what the hell?” and followed. Less than a minute later I slipped on a wet rock while trying to inspect a tide pool and landed hard on my butt, banana peel style. It hurt. A lot. All David could do was laugh while trying to pick me up. I was glad at least he saw it so my pain wasn’t for nothing and someone got a laugh out of it. With my pride hurt I said “I told you the rocks were a bad idea and that was going to happen!” to which he took my hand, hugged and kissed me, and led me further along the rocks and around the bend.

 

We were confronted with rocks that were fully submerged in the water, most at impossible angles to stand on. To continue on our quest to where we wanted to go we would have to jump from rock to rock with the waves crashing on us. An idiotic idea. I was a tomboy as a kid and did a good bit of rock climbing. These rocks were wet and had no remotely flat surfaces to climb on. I told David no way. He tried to act like I was being a scaredy cat, to which I took offense because if there is one thing I’m not, it’s a scaredy cat in these type of situations. I’m usually the first to lead the way. However, I’m also not stupid and this was asking for an injury. He eventually agreed it was a bad idea since it was high tide. Apparently he only crossed that area when it was low tide and the water wasn’t hitting the rocks. So instead we sat there for a while enjoying each other’s company and the waves crashing. It was peaceful.

 

After the beach, we went out to dinner with his cousin and uncle to a great steak house, then David and I went to this casino complex that was HUGE. It was one huge complex with numerous full size casinos inside as well as a bowling alley, tons of restaurants, and shops. It was like several of the hotels in Vegas being connected. We had fun, and I think we both came out slightly ahead.

 

The next morning we drove to visit David’s mom, who is absolutely amazing. She was so sweet, and any nerves I had about meeting her quickly disappeared. She led us around a nearby town that had a lot of the old buildings still in tact. We saw an old axe factory, an old mill, and got to walk across an old railroad bridge. It was beautiful.

 

The axe factory

Beautiful view from the railroad bridge

 

After visiting with David’s mom, it was time to drive to Boston the next morning. We stopped on the way to grab lunch with one of his close friends, but were late because I was so miserably hung over and sick from the champagne his mom had opened the night before. After lunch I started feeling a lot better, and once we got to Boston, I was ready to go explore. I LOVE Boston. I went up there years ago to look at law schools and fell in love. I hadn’t been back since and was really excited to explore the city again.

 

We went and walked around Newbury Street, which I loved. We saw a cupcake place with a line literally outside the door. David figured that meant it must be delicious and insisted we wait in said line. Turns out it was Georgetown Cupcakes, which is based in DC and I guess is on TLC. That explained the line. They had so many flavors, we had a tough time choosing but each got two to try out.I’m kind of a vanilla addict so I went with Vanilla Birthday and Vanilla2. David got the Chocolate Ganache and Mint Cookies & Cream.

Next we headed to Faneuil Hall. David surprised me with a ghost tour. Something about me – I LOVE ghost tours and try to do them in every city I visit. Not only do the paranormal stories fascinate me, you also get a really neat history lesson in the process. This was David’s first and he was clearly skeptical, only doing the tour to make me happy. Turns out he actually liked it. He said the history was really interesting because you don’t realize you may be standing right where the British fired during the Boston Massacre when your in the entrance to a subway station, or that Boston Commons has huge mass graves under it that were used to bury people that were hanged. In Boston Commons, at the site where the hanging elm used to stand there is a plaque. Our tour guide did a neat little trick where he turned his flashlight off, laid it on the plaque, and let us ask questions to the ghosts there. They would answer by turning the light on. I’m a cautious believer, and thought it was pretty amazing. I saw David was fascinated and wanted to believe, but was still skeptical.

 

View of the Capital during the ghost tour

 

After the ghost tour we walked to meet one of David’s friends at David’s favorite beer spot in Boston – Boston Beer Works. They have delicious fruit infused beers, of which I am always a big fan. I went with the watermelon beer (I loved it), and David got his favorite blueberry beer. That beer is the reason we went to Boston Beer Works. Apparently the blueberries are from Maine and they even bounce around in the carbonation. I thought it was pretty cute and it tasted good too.

The next day I had to head back to Atlanta and reality. I had an amazing time in New England, meeting David’s family, meeting his friends, seeing where he is from, and enjoying all the history. It was a great weekend.

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