And so it proved. Having seen the queues for the new ‘Wizarding World’ the other day, none of which dropped below 60 minutes waiting time from 8.00 am until 10.00 pm, we were keen to make an early start and get that one unfulfilled item out of the way.
Some chance. The queue seemed to start at 60 minutes wait the moment anyone got into the park – so we went for a series of ‘second time round’ exercises in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I won’t bore you with the details – we’d done them all before except (for me) ‘The Mummy’ which I backed out of first time round. 25 minutes wait, and a very intense (but short) indoor roller-coaster ride complete with much flame, smoke and loud noise. Again, great fun but not entirely sure it justified the wait. Still, no stones unturned and all that.
The parks are full of a different range of people, now that most Florida schools have gone back. Lots of Mexicans, Hispanics, French and, of course, Brits. This seemed to mean that there was considerably more blatant queue-jumping than we had seen before…or maybe it was just me getting impatient. Also, what seemed to be a large school party of girls / young ladies who had stalked us to Blizzard Beach yesterday. This at least made the queuing more lively and the screaming more shrill at the exciting bits.
I took the opportunity to take some photos which I had missed the first time round. Some very old favourites first, although in a different guise. How the mighty are fallen.
And of course, I couldn’t resist getting myself into that famous shot….
Eventually, having swanned around for a couple of hours, in the course of which we ended up on some Floridean cheap-jack mall, where I was assured I could get an iPad for $299. Even my lust for cheap Apple products was not enough to overcome my natural scepticism about, shall we say, the provenance of this item, so we left in a hurry.
And so to the big new attraction which everyone is talking about and, as we found, flocking to – ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’. Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are a sort of idyllic, nowhere to be seen in the real world, version of Britain (or Wales, or Scotland) I suppose. Taverns, little shops with home made produce (including the earwax flavoured beans!), steep and narrow roofs with long chimneys all bowed under the weight of snow in the surreal setting of a Florida summer, steam trains, polite and dutiful artisans going about their daily toil. It’s a good job that the students of Hogwarts had Quiddich, otherwise we might have had cricket on the green as well.
Still, the castle looks really impressive (photos on previous day’s blog) from the front. And, just to make our afternoon complete, as we turned up to another 60 minute queue, the heavens opened and a total and utter downpour commenced. My £5 poncho covered most of me and the boys – apart from my backside and shoes – but other members of the party were not so lucky, particularly when we discovered after 10 minutes of pre-queueing that we had, in fact, been in the queue for the lockers rather than the ride itself.
60 minutes is quite a long time to shuffle up and down a series of queueing lanes, although Disney and Universal are masters at not letting you see enough of the queue in front of you to become discouraged. So each lane goes up and down and you walk along meeting the same people coming in the opposite direction, all trying not to look as it they are bored witless. On this occasion, the wait was enlivened by two factors. First, the very real threat of rain returning and of finding yourself standing outside the limited shelter available. Second, by the charming antics of a group of mixed American / Japanese young people a few stops in front of us who spend the whole 60 minute wait playing first some bizarre shooting game followed by what to my cynical UK eyes looked very much like ‘pat-a-cake’. Harmless enough, to be sure, but it’s fair to say that had any of us had the use of the ‘Expelliarmus’ or ‘Avra-cadavra’ spells, they would have been dead or turned into slugs before the end of 15 minutes. I suppose we should be thankful – they could have been evangelists and we could have ended with a sing song.
I also have to say that rarely have I seen so much corrective dental hardware in such a small group of people. No wonder Americans are so fond of rites of passage films – their young people are so socially disadvantaged by dental braces, thick corrective glasses or just plain acne (the ones without ‘abnormal bodily dimensions’ that is), that none of them get the chance to look at the opposite sex until at least age 25 when they start to look vaguely normal. Any fan of the Simpsons will be familiar with the American view of cosmetic dentistry as epitomised in classics like ‘The British Book of Teeth’. Well, good for us say I. We may have overbites, underbites, fillings, discolorations and good old crooked teeth….but at least we don’t play pat-a-cake past age 6 ! And don’t look like Brains out of Thunderbirds.
Actually, I’m sure they were all charming and kind to their mothers. It’s just that a 60 minute wait in what looks like the Hogwarts slightly run down patio terrace does nothing for my sweetness and light.
Still, at last we were in. Again, the build up lasts longer than the actual ride itself (no sniggering at the back there). You go into the Hogwarts castle and through a number of rooms which are familiar from the films. Some very clever use of audio-visuals to make the paintings come alive, as well as the usual holographic projection of Harry, Ron and Hermione to talk you into the scenario. There are numerous warnings not to proceed onto the ride if you have any of a variety of medical conditions, including heart disease, blood pressure, motion sickness, fear of enclosed spaces, casts on arms or legs (!), incontinence or unsteady bowels….well, I made those last two up. But the overall effect is forbidding.
Then the ‘Forbidden Journey’ ride, which involves being clamped into what looks like a flying bookcase, complete with dangling legs (your own) and slightly dodgy restraint bar. The bookcase then transports you into a, frankly, god-smackingly wonderful, thrilling, amazing, terrifying journey which mixes projections and live action. At various points you are aware that you are dangling in a real cavern with various monsters popping out to menace and amaze you; at others you are flying around a projected landscape of Hogwarts, Quiddich and all things beyond. Pretty much totally real, vertiginous (the flying bits at least) and utterly convincing. One of the most exhilarating (there, that word again) 3 minutes I have spent since Jermaine Beckford’s promotion winning goal two seasons ago, along with subsequent celebrations. Really, really, well done and well worth the wait.
So there you go. We came away from that determined to forgive most of the ‘Deathly Hallows’ books, and Hermione’s red-haired children, to find that most of the park was shut down due to more lightning and thunder and rain. So we came home.
I’m conscious there are no pictures of this wonder. Which I hope to remedy tomorrow once I’ve had chance to raid other peoples’ cameras. And sometime soon the roller-coaster video compilation, just to prove to you what brave and fearless people we really are.
For the moment, however, goodnight.