Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Travel Bucket List - Part 1

 Las Vegas to see Love - Las Vegas itself doesn't really appeal to me but I'm dying to see the Cique du Soleil show Love. As a huge Beatles fan it definitely had to go on the travel bucketlist.

Austria - the snowcapped mountains, the huge lakes, the cute houses. What's not to love about Austria? Plus I could pretend I was in the Sound of Music whilst I was there!

New York - Probably a place that is on everyone's bucket list but oh well. Christmas would be my ideal time to visit as it looks amazing then.

Amsterdam - I can't put my finger on why but I've always wanted to visited Amsterdam, I'd like to see a lot more European cities but Amsterdam is right up there at the top.

Disneyland California - After visiting Disney World in Florida I feel I really need to see what Disneyland has to offer. It looks amazing with the cute Mickey ferris wheel.

Lake Como - To be honest I'd pretty much take any Italian lake, I mean come on it doesn't take much explaining does it?! Just look at the beautiful picture!

Catch part 2 of my travel bucket list here.


Friday, 25 September 2015

Florida: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Aside from Disney the other part of our Florida holiday that I was super excited for was the Harry Potter world which is split across the two Universal Resort parks. In Islands of Adventure there is Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Castle and in Universal there's Diagon Alley and Kings Cross Station. 
I knew it was going to be good but it went above and beyond what I expected, the whole place has been done amazingly well and there's soooo much to look at. There are only 4 rides and the Hogwarts express train ride between parks but even the rides are so different to anything I've ever been on.


Inside Hogwarts Castle is the Forbidden Journey ride. Even the queue is pretty good as there's so much to look at as you're walking through the castle. The ride itself is so unusual, you hang above various scenes from Harry Potter and pivot and rotate to get the sensation of flying on a broom. You don't go upside down but you are dangling in the air and it lays you right back at certain points so it's definitely a ride where you shouldn't have anything in your pockets and wear secure shoes. 
There are two other rides in Hogmeade, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge. We didn't go on Dragon Challenge as I'm not a fan of big rollercoasters but we did go on Flight of the Hippogriff which is actually a kids rollercoaster but it was mainly adults going on it!
























Whilst in Hogsmeade you can also visit many of the shops mentioned in the books/films such as Honeydukes and Dervish and Banges and eat at the Three Broomsticks. From here you can also go to Hogsmeade station and catch the Hogwarts Express to Kings Cross Station over in Universal. The train ride itself is an amazing experience and the journey is different each way though we only rode one way (Hogsmeade to Kings Cross). The windows have animations to make you feel like your really traveling to your destination and there's even things going on at the other side of your carriage door.
 Across in Diagon Alley you can again visit many of the shops that are found in the books such as Ollivanders and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and eat at the Leaky Cauldron. You can also take a trip down Knockturn Alley and visit Borgin and Burkes. It's much more shaded over in this part so I'd recommend visiting here in the afternoon for a break from the sun. At both parks you can also buy Butterbeer which comes in three varieties, normal, frozen and hot. Now considering temperatures were easily above 40 degrees when we were there I didn't try the hot one but I did try the other two. Frozen was my personal favourite but they're both really good!

There's only one ride over in Diagon Alley which is Escape from Gringotts. Again this is a really unusual ride. It's a 3D rollercoaster that takes you through detailed sets and special effects. I loved both of the main attraction rides at Harry Potter but this one was probably my favourite.

We set a day aside to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which I would recommend doing if you go in peak season like we did and if your a big Harry Potter fan because there's a lot to look at, the queues for the rides can get pretty long and the shops get really busy so you'll want to set time aside to make sure you don't miss anything.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Autumn Admiration
































"Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." Emily Bronte

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year, it always has been. From seeing the leaves change colour and fall to the ground to the crisp, sunny walks. I just love everything about this wonderful time of year.

What are you looking forwards to this autumn? Let me know in the comments.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Florida: Universal Resort

The Universal Resort in Florida contains two theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios as well as City Walk which has shops and restaurants.

We visited Universal three times during our holiday. Once for each theme park and then once to have a day at the Harry Potter world stuff. If you're a fan of Harry Potter like me then I would recommend doing what we did as then you can properly appreciate the areas as they have been done so well. For that reason I am not including the Harry Potter bits in this post, they will be on a separate post.

Universal Studios
As you would expect, Universal Studios focuses on the movie industry and special effects. There are a lot of 3D and simulator rides at this park as well as lots of shows to go and see if you want. We only went to one show which was the animal actors one which was really good.
 Aside from Harry Potter, the other large attraction here is of course Springfield. You can pop to Moe's for a drink or grab a bit to eat at Lard Lad's Donuts or Krusty Burger. I really liked this area of the park but be warned ID is a big thing in America when wanting to buy a drink and we really wanted to have a Duff beer in Moe's but the guy wouldn't accept photocopies of our passports (other places did) so you may want to keep this in mind.




















In terms of rides, as I've already mentioned, lots are 3D rides or simulators which isn't really my kind of thing. I'd say the rides here weren't as good as Disney rides but that's just my opinion. We went on Terminator 2: 3D, ET Adventure, Men in Black Alien Attack, Disaster!, Revenge of the Mummy and Twister: Ride It Out. We both loved the Revenge of the Mummy which is a pretty amazing roller-coaster.

Islands of Adventure
 Out of the two Universal parks I'd say Islands of Adventure is slightly better though I can't comment on too many of the rides as the main day we visited this park there was a storm early afternoon and all the outdoor rides were closed for ages so we just ended up leaving which was a bit of a shame. I also chickened out of the Hulk ride which I kind of regret now.
























Like Universal Studios has Springfield, the big attraction (again aside from Harry Potter) is probably the Jurassic Park area. Way before I even wanted to go to Florida or it was even a consideration booking it, the first ride we watched on YouTube was the Jurassic Park River Adventure so it's always been a big deal for me and it was the ride I was most looking forwards to going on. It definitely didn't disappoint. 
Even though we didn't go on many rides here they aren't all simulator ones like at Universal which I preferred. The rides we went on were The Cat in the Hat, Jurassic Park River Adventure and Bilge Rat Barges. We both liked Jurassic Park the best. A little friendly warning about the Bilge Rat Barges ride, it's a rapids ride and when I say you get drenched I mean you get drenched from head to foot. I love water rides but even this was too much for me. 


Monday, 14 September 2015

FILMS: What We Watched #14

 We're the Millers
2013 | 110 min | Comedy
J: So there I was, bored stiff 20 mins into an 8 hour flight to Florida, so I needed something to watch. First I watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (although Lauren didn't watch it, hence why we ain't reviewing it) and then I watched We're the Millers. Basically a down and out guy is set to make a lot of money by smuggling drugs, but he needs a 'family' to help cover his motives. And herein lies the hilarity. I loved the vanilla-as-fudge family that they end up befriending too! It's a pretty decent comedy. Not the best one ever but I'd definitely watch it again.
 
L: I watched this on the flight to Florida because I'd either seen the other films or really didn't like the sound of them. This turned out to be a pretty decent comedy and it definitely made me laugh a lot so I told Josh to watch it too. A drug dealer, a stripper, a runaway girl and a nerdy boy all team up to create a family in order to smuggle drugs across the border from Mexico to America. As you can imagine things definitely don't go to plan which is where the many comedic moments come in, from accidentally making friends with a DEA agent to actually discovering they all quite like being part of a family. It's not all that often we watch comedy films to be honest but this one was pretty good and I'd definitely watch it again.
 Sinister
2012 | 110 | Horror
J: I've seen a lot of scary movies, but this has got to be one of my favourites. Basically families are being murdered and there is a link between them all, a link a crime writer unintentionally attaches him and his family to. There is plenty of tension and suspense alleviated by well timed comedy interjections from a local police officer. The murder methods are pretty grim, and the demon that is possessing the kids just looks plain scary. Although I love his name...Mr Boogie. Terrifying with a hint of disco.
L: This has to be one of my favourite horror movies, the only thing is I always have nightmares after watching it which is pretty weird. We've seen Sinister a few times now but it still manages to make me jump. We actually watched this in preparation for seeing Sinister 2 but we haven't actually got round to that. The name of the scary character in this film always makes me laugh a bit (Mr Boogie) but aside from that it is actually a pretty good scary film.
Basically children have been going missing since the 1960's and a crime writer discovers a set of gruesome snuff movies that links them all together. I think the fact the film has creepy children in it freaks me out even more!
 The Midnight Meat Train
2008 | 98 min | Horror / Thriller
J: I saw the title and I thought it'd be a porno. Turns out it was't. Despite my initial disappointment at this revelation, it turned out to be an okay movie.  A little strange, but I can see why it could be considered by some as a cult movie. The acting isn't great, and there are some annoying and over the top special effects that are clearly meant for 3D (eyes flying out towards the screen, etc) but it was still a decent watch.

L: Despite the erm, questionable title this is in fact a horror film though my childish and boyish sense of humor meant I was laughing at this title for a good few hours. We were on the search for the cheesiest horror film we could find on Netflix when we came across this which actually had pretty good reviews and had Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones in it so we were under the impression it would actually be a decent film. I found it weird and difficult to follow, the acting wasn't the best I've ever seen and at times it tried to be really artsy with the slow motion shots and overall graininess of the film but it sort of failed. It's not the worst horror film I've ever seen but I don't think I'd watch it again.

Would You Rather
2013 | 93 min | Horror
J: Okay so this one is pretty sadistic. We've all played Would You Rather. Or at least a varient of it. Would you rather have a ducks beak or a ducks legs? That kind of thing. Well this movie s like that, only sicker and you could die. That's pretty much the premise! Despite the rather predictable twist at the end that you could see coming from about 4 years away, it's a really good scary movie.
L: This film is a dark twist on the traditional game of would you rather. Instead of funny things like would you rather have the face of a cat or the face of a dog it's stuff like would you rather electrocute yourself or the person sat next to you then it gets worse from there. This kind of reminded me of the Saw films. It was a decent watch and I would probably watch it again but it did have a very predictable ending.

If you only watch one of these films it should be...
J: Would You Rather
L: Sinister

Friday, 11 September 2015

Florida: Walt Disney World Theme Parks Part 2

Following on from Tuesday's post where I shared some photo's from Magic Kindgom and Animal Kingdom, today I'll be sharing photo's from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. 

Epcot
Epcot was the first Disney park we visited and I'll be honest I didn't really know what to expect as I've never been to Florida and Josh just remembered being bored by this park when he went as a kid and a teen. Well it turns out we both really loved it, in fact we even went back a second time! I'd say it's definitely more of an adult park than Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom but it is far from boring.























The park is split into two different areas, World Showcase and Future World. 
In the World Showcase there are 11 different areas made to look like the countries Canada, England, France, Morocco, Japan, America, Italy, Germany, China, Norway and Mexico. There's shops and restaurants to look in and all the buildings look like traditional buildings from the country they're in. There's only one ride in the World Showcase which is the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico which is a slow boat ride quite similar to the It's A Small World ride at Magic Kingdom. 
The Future World area is more educational and it focuses on the science and technology that has and continues to shape the world. I know this might sound quite boring but it really isn't as all the rides are in this area too. Though I do think certain attractions such as Universe of Energy need modernising. 
I feel the rides here, like the entire park, are more geared towards adults. Although there aren't any big thrill rides I think the educational aspect would bore younger children. We went on the Gran Fiesta Tour, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, Test Track, Mission Space, Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Universe of Energy. We both enjoyed Test Track the best although I have to say Journey Into the Imagination is a close contender too because Figment (the character in the ride) is just too cute and he has a very catchy song!























Epcot also has a nighttime firework display, IlluNations: Reflections of Earth. We watched it from the bridge that connects England and France and I would argue that that is probably the best place to stand as you're directly facing all the fireworks out on the lake and you have a clear view around the whole of the World Showcase when that lights up. 

Hollywood Studios
As you'd expect with a name like Hollywood Studios, the focus of this park is on the movies and old Hollywood glamour and the whole park is done out in an art deco style. I really loved the vibe of this park and it came close to knocking Magic Kingdom off the top spot as being my favourite park. It turns out Hollywood Studios also became the place for facing one of my biggest fears but more on that later!
We'd Fast Passed two of the big rides at this park, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Now I was assured by Josh that Rock 'n' Roller Coaster was just a fast roller-coaster in the dark and that it didn't go upside down, it was only as we got near the front that Josh told me he'd actually never been on this ride. Guess what? It goes upside down. Lots of screaming happened and a few swear words may have slipped out once or twice but it was actually a really good ride, I couldn't tell you what Aerosmith song was playing though because neither of us could hear it over my screams. 
After that ordeal I also had the Tower of Terror to face, now I am petrified of heights but I really wanted to overcome this to go on the ride. I don't think I've ever been as scared. I very nearly got off the ride when I saw what you were sat on and that you only have a lap belt holding you in but I stayed on, there may have been actual tears but I  rode the Terror of Terror and I feel pretty proud of that! Now I've done it I would go back on as it is a really good ride, it definitely lifts you right out of your seat though!
The rides we went on at Hollywood Studios were Star Tours, Muppet Vision 3D, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and The Greatest Movie Ride. Josh like Rock 'n' Roller Coaster the best and I liked Tower of Terror. For a tame ride though The Greatest Movie Ride is really enjoyable.
We went to see Fantasmic at night which is a show featuring a whole host of Disney characters. It involves projections on the water, floats of characters and Mickey Mouse overcoming evil and nightmares as it is based on Fantasia. It is a really beautiful show and again it definitely brought a tear to my eye. 
While we were there Frozen's Summer of Fun was also taking place which meant there was a firework display to songs from Frozen. This has ended now though. The fireworks were enjoyable but as Fantasmic is really the main nighttime attraction they didn't really compare to Magic Kingdom or Epcot's fireworks. 

You can read part 1 featuring Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom here.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Florida: Walt Disney World Theme Parks Part 1

I thought I'd kick off my Florida posts with a biggy, a look at two of the Disney World theme parks. So grab a drink and get comfy while we take a look at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom
To me a trip to Magic Kingdom is exactly what a Florida holiday is about. Having never been to Florida before I was beyond excited to see the castle and just get completely wrapped up in the magic. The first thing I did when we got there was to go and buy some Minnie Mouse ears. The second thing I did was to queue up and meet Tinkerbell, and no I'm not joking. She's my favourite Disney character and I don't care how childish it sounds, it was an amazing experience. She even asked if I was a princess because I had my hair (unintentionally) like Anna's from Frozen!
I loved Magic Kingdom purely because it felt sooo magical and there was so much to look at. Josh however said it's his least favourite park, though he has been to Florida before. While I do agree it is a lot more childish than the other parks I still enjoyed it. 
In terms of rides, we didn't go on every single one (but then we didn't at any park) and the rides here are probably the tamest out of all the parks but again there's so much to look at on them. We went on It's a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, Enchanted Tiki Room (this a show not a ride), Haunted Mansion, Carousel of Progress, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We both picked Haunted Mansion as our favourite ride though Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain came in close behind.





















We visited Magic Kingdom on two separate occasions during our holiday, once during the day and once at night and at both times they had amazing shows and parades on. During the day there is the Festival of Fantasy parade where you get to see all your favourite Disney characters riding past on amazing floats. At night there is the Electrical Parade which again features lots of Disney favourites on floats all light up, there is the the Celebrate the Magic show which projects Disney images onto the castle to tell the story of the imagination and storytelling. Finally there is the Wishes nighttime spectacular where fireworks shoot over the castle. 

I have to admit the nighttime shows did make me cry as they're so beautifully done and they feel so magical, when you see a firework arch over the castle that looks like the star that shoots over at the start of the films you just can't help but have a little weep!

Animal Kingdom






















Animal Kingdom was one of the more relaxing parks for us, probably because it's not solely ride based and the rides that are there aren't particularly big thrill rides. It's a good job it was more relaxing though as I ended up getting the start of a cold on this day. Which is also why we skipped the Kali River Rapids ride as I really didn't want to get completely drenched.
We both really enjoyed walking around looking at all the animals and the safari was pretty amazing too. We definitely recommend going on the safari in the morning though like we did as the animals are much more active then. 
The rides we went on at Animal Kingdom were It's Tough to be a Bug, Expedition Everest and Dinosaur. We both enjoyed Expedition Everest the best, though I definitely screamed quite a lot on it.
Animal Kingdom also have two amazing shows running throughout the day in separate theater's. There's the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo - The Musical. Both are absolutely amazing shows and are something you'd expect to see in the West End or on Broadway. They're just brilliant.























 We also decided to eat at a restaurant at Animal Kingdom and opted for the Rainforest Cafe, we didn't even know that there's actually one of these in London too! I went for the Caribbean coconut shrimp with Caribbean rice and it was easily when of the best things I've eaten.

You can read part two featuring Epcot and Hollywood Studios here.