Friday, February 27, 2015

SUPER ENTHUSED BLOG: Diagon Alley & Universal Studios Florida (but mostly Diagon Alley), Christmas Day 2014

It is now February, and I am still thinking about my magical, impromptu Christmas Day vacation to Universal Studios (but mostly Diagon Alley!). On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014, my fiance and I were hanging out with a good friend who was in town from Philly, and talking about how great it would be to take a trip to Disney or Universal for Christmas. As a Disnerd, Disney is always my first choice, however it being Christmas, we all pretty well figured that would be a bad idea (read: nightmare), as Christmas Day crowds at Disney are not something we would be willing to deal with. None of us had been to Diagon Alley, and my fiance had never been to Universal Studios at all, while I hadn't been for probably 20 years (last time I was there, Jaws was still a ride... sob). So, we decided we would hop in the car, drive to Orlando, spend a glorious Christmas Day at Diagon Alley, and drive back that very night. Before we headed out, we did a hotel search and lucked out with a great room at a great price at Universal's Cabana Bay. I am soooooo glad we chose to stay at Cabana Bay, from the moment we walked into the cavernous lobby filled with towering, beautifully decorated Christmas trees, we knew we chose the right place to spend Christmas Eve.



The hotel is an expansive complex and it was decorated immaculately for Christmas. We were immediately cheery and pumped! After driving to the other side of the complex and checking in to our small but crisp, clean and comfortable two queen bed room, we decided to head to the 1960s-futuristic themed bowling alley for some grub. The bowling alley was so cute, and our waitress was lovely. Impeccable service from start to finish at this hotel. We were pretty tired from the nearly 5 hour drive from Miami, so we didn't go for a round of bowling, but if were staying longer (and next time), we will definitely bowl a few rounds. We had cute snacks, took a walk around the grounds and a fun time at the bowling alley and hit the sack to prepare for our adventure the next morning.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

SUPER ENTHUSED BLOG: Florida Renaissance Festival 2015 - First Two Weekends (Themes: Swashbucklers & Sirens & Time Travelers/Steampunk Weekends)


So far I have attended the first two weekends of the Florida Renaissance Festival (FLARF) in 2015. I purchased a season pass, as usual, and plan to attend every weekend if possible, as usual. As I was looking back through photos of FLARF of years past, I realized that I would be celebrating a decade as a consecutive FLARF patron. I have been attending FLARF intermittently over the past two decades,  but in 2005 I started attending again seriously, enthusiastically, and annually. I have a collection of annual pass holder commemorative pins and this year is no different. I love my pins. I love my FLARF.

Like many patrons, I love the sights, sounds and smells of the fest; I love the garb, the creative dress, the performers, the musicians, the sound of crowds ooh-ing and aah-ing, laughing and hollering in call-and-response antics in the distance from wherever you are. I love the morning parade, I more than love the nightly pub sing that closes the fest. I am a fan of the fest, if you haven't guessed! Besides being a medieval and renaissance history enthusiast, I also enjoy the spectacle and escapism of the fair, the way that Quiet Waters Park swallows and disperses crowds - the fair is a completely immersive experience.



You can spend an entire day at the fest and not see even a quarter of what there is to see, not to mention that you can attend all 5 weekends and see something new and different each time. Each weekend has a unique theme, and that is certainly part of the fun, but it isn't the only reason that each of multiple visits can be novel and unique. There is just so much happening at the same time, there isn't enough time in a day to see all the shows, musicians, roaming characters, happenstance encounters with actors, characters and other guests, not to mention play all the games!

One thing I try never to miss is my favorite show/presentation, Flight of the Raptor. Ray and Sharron are so delightful, and their birds are just incredible. I learn something new each time (mostly because I forget something from last time), and this year they debuted Casper, a beautiful peregrine falcon, who flew majestically over our heads and swooped over the crowds in an always captivating display of falconry.



Another element of the fair that I make sure to always make time for is visiting the encampments and artisans. True historical reenactment, the encampments show us slivers of everyday life for different segments of society. The reenactors staffing the encampments are happy to talk to guests and explain the elements of the encampment, you just have to be bold enough to walk in and ready for anything.

The Hanseatic League, portraying a merchant caravan from Norway, always has a beautiful and vibrant encampment full of characters and activities; you may stumble upon a performance or sight the King and Queen enjoying this lively group. Sir Elrick at the Apothcary stand and the Paladin Society always have a beautifully crafted display that seems to have tripled in size this year with the addition of new tents and displays. This group is even more impressive as its run by a group of high school students from South Plantation High. If I ever have a child and they join this group, I will be so proud! Just a great group of young adults contributing a bit of history, costume, weaponry, crafting and artistry to the fest, and the community at large. Just one look at Sir Elrick and his Apothecary booth and you're transported to a different time. He backs up his looks with wonderful storytelling ability and a great looking booth full of wares. History of Chivalry's Dwarvesong encampment is also one of my favorites. I can get lost watching the Blacksmiths at work, always with the bustle of the rest of the camp at work cooking and crafting, steam rising from whatever is cooking on the fire, and beautiful wares on display. There are many other groups and areas full of intricately themed reenactment and activity including Tuatha de Donnan, Maclaine Militarie Ecole, the Gaming Glen and more.

The music of the Florida Renaissance Festival deserves at least its own blog post, suffice it to say the musicians and their performances are the heart and soul of the festival. If you see no other musical performances in the day, and you should definitely see as many as you can, make sure to stay for the final pub sing that starts around 5:30pm at the close of the fest each day. You'll get a sampling of each of the musicians and a rousing finale of "A Health to the Company" led by King Ferdinand, Queen Isabella and the entire royal court.


I have so much more to say about FLARF, but hark, I've got four more weekends of festival season to share with you, so for now, my goodly friends, here's a health to the company, and one for the next blog post! Upcoming FLARF 2015 weekends include: Bodacious Bodices, Voyage to the Orient, Dragons & Wizards & Thrones, Oh My!, and Kilts & Colleens (probably my favorite, a Celtic themed weekend!). Thanks for reading.

-JB

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure OPENING WEEKEND! Long Lines, Queue Tour & Tips!

Was it worth it? Watch to find out! On Friday, February 14th, I rode Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure for the first time on t...