Yesterday was my last day in Orlando, so to go out with a bang Taylor and I headed to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter parks. This was one of the most exciting parts of the trip for me, since I was a little bit obsessed with the series growing up. Some of my favorite memories are listening to the books on tape in the car, or wearing robes and pretending the creek by my house was Hogwarts when my friends came over. We used to make potions in the bathroom, and for years all I wanted for Christmas was the castle lego set. To see a lifelong favorite come to life in this way was truly amazing.
While the Universal Park overall seemed fun, nothing was as detailed and exciting to me as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, which were connected by the the Hogwarts Express. There is even a ride that goes through the castle, and another that goes through Gringotts.
One of my favorite spots was Honeydukes, and I couldn't resist buying a pack of Bertie Botts and a Chocolate Frog to bring back for Tyler and I to share. The whole store was super cute, with all of the treats from the movies lining the shelves. From Pumpkin Juice to Fizzing Wizzbees, it was super difficult to decide what to get. The pastry cabinet also had themed treats, like the Pumpkin Pasty and the Cauldron Cake. I honestly wish I could have tried it all. Luckily I was able to get a butterbeer next to the castle that curbed my sweet tooth long enough to make more rational decisions about desert.
Another great spot was the robe shop in Diagon Alley, complete with a mirror that gives compliments. I couldn't leave without a Weasley sweater, especially after the talking mirror told me I looked dashing. I decided I didn't have a lot of use for Ravenclaw robes, as much as I wanted them but I did settle for a pin so that I could still show my house pride.
The Magical Menagerie was set up like the pet store where Hedwig and Crookshanks are from, and filled with stuffed versions of magical creatures. I was pretty disappointed that there was no niffler, which I've loved since Hagrid brought them for a Care of Magical Creatures lesson in the Goblet of Fire.
For dinner Taylor and I got to eat at the Three Broomsticks, with the moving Azkaban poster of Sirius Black (hands down the best character - closely followed by Luna and Hermione) keeping watch over us. I ordered fish and chips again, falling back into my study abroad habit. It's really hard to resist pub food, and I've missed it in the states.
After dinner we left Diagon Alley for the final day of the Universal Mardi Gras parade, which turned out to be a blast. The floats were huge, and some shot out confetti and breathed fire. I got tons of plastic beads, some that I caught and others that hit me in the face, but overall it was a great finale to an amazing trip.
I am so grateful to have friends that provide me with opportunities like this vacation, and I am so glad that Taylor was willing to show me around her "new" home this past week. I miss her all the time, but Orlando is perfect for her, and who can complain about friends who work in the happiest place on earth?