Friday, January 2, 2009

trip to orlando

This was our first trip after coming to US and unfortunately it was not a road trip. Oh! How we miss our bike, or motorcycle as they call it here. (When in rome... ;) ) But it was still a good trip. Let me start with the preparations. Since I promised to write about the food experiments and didnt keep up the promise, heres what i made the day before the trip :
chivda/chevdo/mixture whatever its called in different parts of india made from puffed rice and cornflakes.

Moong dal halwa - using this recipe. The only problem was the the dal didnt get ground finely in my mixer. Otherwise I can imagine this to be really tasty

Baked tikhat/tikhi puri - For this, I took wheat flour, besan, one grated garlic pod, til, ajwain, fair amount of warm oil, baking pwd, chilli pwd, dhana jeera pwd and made a stiff dough. Rolled out in a round shape and made cuts on it to prevent puffing. Baked them at 375 F for 5 mins on each side.

I knew that we are not going to eat so much of home food but this was just an opportunity to try the recipes I had wanted to try. Otherwise I am too lazy to make snack kind of recipes.

The next day, the journey to Orlando was not uneventful. Well, we missed the connecting flight from Atlanta. We were put on stand by on the next flight and if we couldn't get on that one, we would have to spend the night on the airport and leave next morning at 8. But luckily, we were cleared for the flight. But we had to endure a couple of stressful hours.
We were at our hotel by 4:30 in the evening. We were too tired to go out so we just went for a small walk around the place and had 2 nice subs from subway. I was surprised that we need to buy water and a water jug is not provided in the room unlike India :)
The hotel's guest service desk, told us that they have really good discounted tickets. And she said we also have a free tour of our resort and free breakfast and a presentation. And you will get the tickets after this 2 hour program. There was also a free pickup and drop. We could not see any harm in it since it started at 7:30 and we would be free by the time, the parks open. That was a mistake to have agreed to this. The so called "presentation" was to try and force us to buy a time-share vacation property. Somehow we managed to escape by 11:30. Then we had to wait in a long queue to get the tickets. And by the time we were back to the hotel, half a day was wasted. To cheer ourselves up, we went to the Indian restaurant buffet which was bang opposite to the hotel. The food was good and we were happy and stuffed again ;) Now was a good time for a nap. Before taking the nap, I made reservations for the dinner show at wonderworks. We already had the tickets now.
At 6 in the evening, we reached wonder-works. It was a fun place to fill up any free hours in Orlando, if you have them. The bed of nails and some video games were good. But the dinner show was the best part of the evening. It was a comedy and magic show. And it was great fun with lot of viewer interaction. And there was unlimited pizza, popcorn and drinks (that would be pepsi for us ;) ) That's wonderworks, the upside down building.

The next morning we took the shuttle service provided by the hotel to reach disney. We went only to one of the 4 disney theme parks and that was called magic kingdom. This being Christmas day, the park was completely crowded.
The jungle cruise ride was good fun. The cruise is supposed to take you through the rivers of African and Asian jungles. There are some wild animals and other surprises on the way. And the skipper who is supposed to navigate the boat keeps the humour going.
The Pirates of Caribbean ride was also a good one. Get to see the very real looking Capt. Jack Sparrow and other characters and experience some "mild but wild thrills" as they call it at Disney.
The Splash Mountain ride is very popular at Disney. We had to wait for nearly an hour in the queue to finally ride it. I was too busy anticipating the fear of a 5 stories drop into the water to enjoy the ride fully. It is better to let the ride surprise you rather than know what's going to happen. And well, it wasn't so frightening after all and I was like, is the drop already done! Then, we went to the Haunted Mansion. Another fun ride. All rides at Disney are fun rides and nothing too extreme.
We got to see the "Once upon a Christmastime parade". That was the highlight of the day. The Fantasyland part of Magic Kingdom can be completely skipped if there are no children in your group. Except Mickey's PhilharMagic which is a delightful 3-D show.
By evening we were exhausted. And decided against waiting for the fireworks display. We had to regain some stamina for Universal parks the next day.

The next day we went to Universal resort. They have 2 parks. We first went to Islands of Adventure. This was a day full of adrenaline rush. In this respect, Disney and Universal are different. Disney is more plain fun and Universal is more of extreme fun. But each of them is unique. It is good thing, we covered both. The first ride we went to was called "Incredible Hulk Coaster". Some interesting facts about the coaster :
The Incredible Hulk launches riders upward 150 feet in three seconds. Immediately, riders experience a zero-g heartline inversion and turned upside down 110-feet above the ground.

The Incredible Hulk reaches top speeds of 67 mph. It also features one of the highest inversions in the world at 109 feet.

The G-force experienced on the Incredible Hulk Coaster is equivalent to that felt by the pilot of an F-16 fighter jet.

The Incredible Hulk launcher provides about 45,000 pounds of thrust for two seconds. If the same thrust were used on a bowing ball, it would reach the Pacific Ocean. More facts found here

Do I need to say we were shaky for a while after the ride? But I loved the ride. Next we went to the "Amazing Adventures of Spiderman" ride. The most popular ride at Universal. And we waited an hour in the queue. But the best part is that the story is slowly built upon as you wait in the queue. So you are not bored and get into the Spiderman mood before the actual ride. This story building is part of many rides at Universal and Disney which is a good thing considering the way these parks get crowded. The story goes that you are sent out to get pictures of Spiderman as the city is taken over by all the baddies. The baddies come to hurt you while Spiderman saves you. You need 3-D night vision glasses for this ride. I really cannot write much about it. It has to be experienced, and several times at that. This really was the highlight of the day along with the revenge of the mummy ride.
Next was the Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges ride. You pass through white water rapids on large, round rafts that seat eight people. Everyone gets soaked on this ride. The next soaking ride was Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. Experience a 75 foot drop into the water sitting inside a log. Guaranteed fun and guaranteed soaking! One problem was the ride experienced some technical difficulty when we were half way through the queue. So some time lost there.
Next up was Duelling Dragons which is also a very popular roller coaster at universal. But we didn't get much of a queue because it was lunch time. And no one would dare ride this on a full stomach. We planned on a late lunch after finishing this ride. There are two inter-looped roller coasters called "Fire" and "Ice". It has several inversions, including a zero-g roll, a Cobra roll, two corkscrews, and two vertical loops but the distinct feature of this ride are the 3 near misses with the other coaster. It seems as if the 2 coasters come straight at each other in a head-on collision but are steered away at the last minute. If you are brave enough, the ride is best experienced in the front row. There is a separate queue for the front row seats.
After lunch, we headed straight to universal studios park. First up, was Shrek 4D. It didn't impress as much, maybe because we already did the mickey 3D show and this wasn't much different other than moving seats.
Next, we headed for the Revenge of the Mummy ride. Another great ride, similar to Spiderman. The queue area is used to create a story line. You wander on to the sets of Mummy and later into the Mummy's tomb. Good set-up all the way. Ride itself is a lot of thrilling fun. Universal calls it psychological thrill ride. Again a must-see attraction for adults.
As soon as we got out of the Mummy Ride, we were just in time and the right place for Macy's Holiday Parade. So, we were lucky to catch it. Although, the Disney parade is better, this ones good too. By, the end of it, it was already going to be 6 o clock in the evening and we had had enough of thrills for a day. So, we just roamed around a bit and headed back to the hotel.

The next day, we went to SeaWorld. If you are staying near International Drive, it is better to use the I-Ride trolley instead of the hotel shuttle which takes forever to reach SeaWorld because it goes to both Universal and SeaWorld. This day was like a breath of fresh air after all the mad roller-coaster and waiting in queues days. We went straight to the Shamu "Believe" show. Shamu is the killer whale and unlike its name, it looks so beautiful. If I could, I would have sat in that stadium to see the show over and over again. It was definitely the highlight of the day and of the trip too. The relationship between the trainers and the whales, touches the heart. Again, one of those indescribable things which needs to be experienced.

Next up, Blue Horizons show. It was spectacular with elaborate costumes and stunts. There were dolphins, parrots and amazing stunt actors. Since, this was the holiday season which translates into hoards of tourists. We had to reach the respective stadiums at least half an hour before the show. There is also a dolphin nursery and dolphin cove where you can feed and touch the dolphins. Stingray lagoon where you can touch and feed Stingrays. We also saw the manatees, penguins and sharks. People can pay to be put up in cages in the shark pool! That's what they call a "close" encounter :) The other show that we saw was A'lure, the call of the ocean. No animals on this show. It has some amazing performers and silk yo-yo artists. Underwater viewing of whales and dolphin pools is also good. And if you are lucky, you can see them right next to your nose, like the dolphin in the picture. Did you see the air ring it is creating?
We had reservations for the dinner show, Arabian nights. So, we left at around 6. First there is a magic show in the waiting area. It is more hard core magic unlike the comedy magic show of wonderworks. And then everyone is led into a stadium for the actual show. There was salad, pasta and some strange icecream. The show was good. I think they had brought in a new story line for Christmas. Much of the acrobatics was as seen in the A'lure show. The exception being, there were lots and lots of horses here and some good performers on the horse. It is not worth the 50-60$ they ask for. But we got discounted tickets so that was fine.
That was our last outing in Orlando before we caught a flight back home the next afternoon.
Some of the new tastes I discovered during this trip were : salad and honey mustard dressing. Who knew salad could taste so good? Fresh and crunchy lettuce and other greens spiked with the lovely honey mustard dressing. And I also loved the creamy scrambled eggs. And the lovely Italian herbs and cheese bread at subway. I can now understand how people can eat a sub everyday at subway. Some mouth-watering memories those! So, on our next trip to the grocery store we bought a bottle of honey mustard dressing and salad greens.

1 comment:

Achyut Telang said...

Sounds like it was a lot of fun...and reading about stingrays reminded me of Steve Irwin who was killed by it....though they don't generally attack anyone!