Well the Friday of Winner’s Weekend was a very long day for us. It was a fantastic day and an amazing visit to the Dream House. It was tough to leave but it was getting late and we knew we had a big day the next day. We finally got back to the hotel around 10:15 PM and having missed our dinner reservation at Norman’s we headed upstairs long enough to change clothes (mainly shoes), and then meet downstairs in the lounge for a drink and dinner. We wound up having a variety of appetizers and drinks. We finally headed off to bed and I barely remember my head hitting the pillow.
Saturday we had to leave the Ritz-Carlton and transfer to a Hampton Inn for our day at Universal. Originally they had us scheduled to fly home on Saturday but I asked if we could stay to do Universal. They agreed but there were no rooms at the Ritz so after finding no rooms in any of the Universal Hotels, I made reservations at the Hampton Inn. We headed there and because it was so early we had to leave our bags at the desk since we couldn’t check in yet. We had like a five-minute wait and then boarded the shuttle to Universal and were at the Park by 10:00 AM.
We were mainly interested in the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter,’ primarily because my daughters are huge fans and my wife and I are fans, while not as intense as Kate and Carolyn. Kate goes back to reading the first Harry Potter book before it was published in the US. My niece and nephew brought a copy back from England and Kate had heard about it so she started the series. I think the experience surpassed their expectations. We started in the Diagon Alley side and they had a great time. I couldn’t participate in the rides due to the location of my new kidney. It is in the front and slightly below and to the right of my stomach and the nephrologist told me to avoid the rides since the safety harness, when secured, would press pretty intensely against the kidney. Considering the alternative, I do not think I missed anything as compared to having a working kidney. While they did the Escape from Gringotts ride I scoped out the rest of Diagon Alley which included lots of shops, and I saw 3-4 mini shows that were very interesting. I also spent far too much money on souvenirs and considering how much it cost just to get into the park, they should have given me the stuff! After having our fill of Diagon Alley we headed to Hogsmeade via the Hogwarts Express. It was a cool ride that I could do. We had a nice lunch at the three broomsticks. I wasn’t feeling well so I had a salad with some Cornish Pasties and my problem tuned out to be that I was low blood sugar and just needed food. After lunch we headed to Hogwarts Castle and they all did the rides there while I explored Hogsmeade and at one point wound up taking a wrong turn and entered The Jurassic Park section of the park. There was a lot of shade in this section so I took a break and rested. I also had to log onto Southwest and register for the cattle call for the flight home on Sunday afternoon. That done I went back to Hogsmeade and explored the shops and watched a couple of performances. Once everyone was done doing the Harry Potter stuff we headed on to the other parts of the park. Overall it was a very nice day to visit a theme park in Florida. It was overcast and not too hot so we didn’t get too overheated. Occasional rain came down but I’m told that is normal for Florida. The rain that fell was very light and would last only a few minutes and afterwards it would clear and the sun would come out and dry most of what had gotten wet. We then took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley side of the park and did that side.
After finishing in the park we headed to the City Walk outside the park to look for a drink and some dinner. We wound up at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and had Margarita’s and some Nacho’s to start and then dinner! It was a great end to a long but exciting day! We finally left around ten and headed back to the hotel and fell into bed for a great nights sleep. Sunday we could sleep late since we weren’t flying out until the afternoon. Carolyn had to leave earlier than the rest of us as she had an earlier flight – at least that was the plan. Her ride to the airport came at 10:00 AM and she left but texted us like 5 minutes later cause her flight to Philadelphia was delayed and she would now miss her connection to Ithaca. She made it to the airport and was working with a ticketing agent when her flight was “voided” whatever that means. We had contacted the travel coordinator who organized the travel for the whole weekend, not just us but also the sponsors and the HGTV Execs and he eventually got Carolyn on a later flight thru Detroit and then Ithaca. By the time we made it to the airport Carolyn was all set, she just had to spend the afternoon in the airport which is half mall and half food court – kind of like heaven to a 21-year-old girl. Our flight and Kate and Kenny’s flight flew on schedule and we even landed like 10 minutes early. Even stopping for an early dinner at Katz’s Deli on the drive home from the airport, we arrived by 7:00 PM totally exhausted but having had a once in a lifetime weekend! Thanks HGTV!!!