Posted in Holiday

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

So it has taken me over a month to sit down and write this post. It shouldn’t have taken me this long but sadly due to my MS after I returned from Orlando my MS decided to make itself noticed and I have just started feeling able to sit down and write a post. I’m lucky with my MS as I don’t have as many issues as other MS suffers do but when it does show it’s ugly head it takes me a while to get back to being human.

Anyway, I am back from Orlando and had a wonderful time. We came, we saw, we cast spells and had a wonderful time. I went with my nephew Josh and we flew out to Orlando on February 6 and landed in Orlando around 4:30. We live in Oklahoma so we flew out of Tulsa. That is not an easy airport to fly out of for those curious. We flew American which flew us to Dallas then to Orlando. The interesting thing about the flight was that we were told there would be a 51 minute layover in Dallas. Turns out..not true at all. We landed a few minutes early actually. We grabbed our bags and went looking for our gate. The gate of course was in a completely different section of the airport and required us to take the Skylink, which is a speed train that shoots you to the terminal you need to go to (I was reminded of the train from The Hunger Games). We found our gate and our plane was boarding! Where the heck was the layover? I wasn’t terribly sad but gee I wouldn’t have minded 10 minutes. So off to Orlando we go..it was a 2 hr flight and I had time to watch a movie from the many selections American offers. I was actually glad I was able to watch their movie and not use my devices..save the battery right?

We touched down in Orlando to a lovely sunny day. After deboarding the plane and realizing we were actually here we started looking for the Universal Travel desk where we had to pick up our Travel Pack that was full of all our tickets for the park. At one point I remember wishing I had wheels on my shoes because we walked forever to get to the Travel Desk. Once we finally located the desk it was empty (thankfully) and we meet a very helpful Universal employee named Cheryl (great name) who gave us so much information about the park I couldn’t wait to get started. We waited for our shuttle that would take us to our hotel and shortly we were off to start our Unviersal adventure.

I had family from Texas that was also visiting Universal at the same time so once we arrived at the hotel and planned on meeting up with them. They were already in the park riding rides so we were going to meet up with them later. Josh and I were ready for a bit of a rest and we wanted to checkout the features of our room. We were staying at Universal’s Aventura Resort; this is an on-site hotel. The hotel was very clean, has a huge selection of bars and restraurants. The rooms come with iPads that control the entire room..from the lights to the air to the tv. It was really cool to play with the lights and use the iPad to control the TV. We didn’t watch much TV but did turn it on a few times to play with it. Not to mention you can use the iPad to get online and surf the web as needed even order food to your room if desired. I was very impressed with the hotel.

It was getting close to dinner time so Josh and I left the hotel and headed to City Walk. We were told we could take the Water Taxi’s to City Walk. We had to talk to a nearby hotel to board the taxi but it was worth it. They became our favorite way to get back and forth from City Walk to our hotel. The hotel supplies a bus about every 15 minutes but we really enjoyed the taxi. The sun was setting the weather was perfect. A person couldn’t ask for a better setting to take a water taxi ride in.

Our park tickets didn’t start until the 7th so we could only get into City Walk which is where we decided to go for dinner. There was so much to chose from we settled on eating at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. It is actually one of our favorite places to eat when we are traveling so we knew the food would be good and who doesn’t love Bubba Gump? My Aunt and cousin found us for dinner and joined us. We had a great waiter, food and an enjoyable time. After dinner we were all ready to head back to the hotel and get ready for our first full day at the park.

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Posted in Holiday, San Antonio

San Antonio here we come..

Day 4 of our trip has us leaving Padre Island and heading to visit my relatives in San Antonio. The last stop before leaving was at Sea Turtle Inc.. We were all quite excited to learn more about one of our favorite animals, sea turtles.

We arrived in time to make the first talk on sea turtles this is called “Turtle Talks” and what we has humans can do to keep them safe in the ocean. It is truly amazing to learn that a simple thing as a straw can do so much damage to turtles and other sea animals. One of the things we quickly learned being on the island was that straws close to the ocean were paper straws and other restaurants didn’t even give straws as they are not friendly to the ocean. During “Turtle Talks” it was explained how the turtles in care at Sea Turtle Inc had come into their care, why they had to be cared for and if they were able to be released back into the ocean. The goal is to rescue the turtle and return them back to the ocean sadly that is not always possible. There are several big tanks that house those turtles that are not able to return to the ocean due to injuries that will not allow them to survive on their own

After the presentation we headed over to where the sea rescued sea turtles are housed. Many of these turtles are happy to be at Sea Turtle Inc they get wonderful care from the care takers at Sea Turtle Inc.

Weights have to put on this turtle to keep him submerged due to shell damage

There is more to see inside the facility on how to care for turtles and other sea life. In a separate out building there were more turtles ; some local turtles, loggerhead turtles and many others all that have been rescued and in rehab to hopefully get better and be returned to the ocean. It is a very educational place to stop and learn for both kids and adults.

After leaving Sea Turtle Inc. we were ready to say good-bye to the island we had quickly fallen in love with and travel onto San Antonio. The drive to San Antonio seemed much faster than the drive to South Padre and thankfully Laura slept from the time we passed a little town called Peggy into San Antonio. I love San Antonio not just because my Aunt and Uncle live there I have come to love all the city has to offer. We didn’t have a lot of plans while in San Antonio but as this was Laura’s first time there I wanted to show her some of the highlights of the city. Once we made it to my Aunt and Uncle’s we were happy to be out of the car and ready to just sit and do nothing, which is not easy to do when you have a 9 year old who has been sleeping for the past 4 hours. Thankfully there are pugs at my aunt and uncle’s to keep her busy. We were all ready to see our beds that night and sleep.

Over the next few days we visited downtown San Antonio, we took a tour through The Alamo and a ride down The Riverwalk. San Antonio is full of so much history it always gives me chills when I visit to think of all the brave men that fought in this city so many years ago. The Riverwalk is equally amazing as many of the apartments on The Riverwalk were once large homes, churches even banks that over time have been converted into living quarters. San Antonio takes great pride in preserving what they have around them.

We didn’t get to make all the stops we had on our list mostly due to time and being a bit worn out and ready to take things easy. I managed to get in a local theater show with my aunt. One of her neighbor’s has a daughter that is in the local theater company and was in the production of Mamma Mia. My aunt bought me a ticket for my birthday to go with her and her friends. We went to dinner before the show at Down On Grayson located in The Pearl District. The food was wonderful and enjoyed by our entire group. After dinner we made our way to the play and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

She was amazed by this waterfall, she was ready to jump in clothes and all

The rest of our weekend was spent primarily around the house baking cookies, my aunt made Laura a dress for her to wear for the upcoming school year and she helped Josh make a warm and cozy flannel blanket, he can’t wait for the weather to get colder so he can use it. My dad and a friend of his joined us over the weekend. My uncle was giving Dad discarded wood from a deck he had just replaced. I get part of the wood to make a screen porch at my house..Yay! The end of our visit came much too quickly, good-byes were said and we were back on the road again with wonderful memories of South Padre Island and San Antonio. We are already thinking of when we can go back again and explore more places in both places.

Posted in Beach, Holiday

South Padre Island, Day 3 con’t

Beach time!

After we ate lunch and shopped for touristy things we made our way back to our condo and got ready for our day at the beach. I want to say how sorry I am that we were not able to stay longer at Niki’s Place. This was a wonderful location and the condo was truly a great place to stay. We were only able to catch the two days open at a great deal and we took them. I am already trying to find time to make my way back their for a girl’s retreat 🙂

Niki’s Place had everything you could think of for the beach, a cart to carry all of your stuff down to the beach, pails and shovels for those sand castle designers there were even beach towels for anyone who did not bring one with them. I was quite impressed with what I discovered. We chose not to take advantage of all the goodies available. We had brought our own towels so we were going to tackle the beach as if this was our lake at home, towels on the ground and sand in your face.

Laura and I hit the water first she was so excited to dive in nothing short of a shark was going to hold her back. Josh stayed on the shore keeping an eye on our things while the great sea adventurer dove to find sea shells. When we returned to shore it was with news that the lady beside us had offered us an umbrella and chair set as her friends had called it a day and they were already paid for and someone should use them she said. So we found ourselves moving to lounge chairs and under a lovely umbrella for the rest of the day. What a way to spend your day it was truly wonderful. It was Josh’s turn to take Laura out and they went further into the water than I did (he’s much taller than I am waves would have knocked me down). I moved our stuff to the umbrella and set up for the day..ahh

Deep into the water they go

One of the amazing things about the ocean is how deceptive it can be. Standing on the shore looking at the water it looks so deep then you notice there are people walking about several hundred feet in front of you. As Josh and Laura learned the further they walked there was a sand bar that you could stand on and still be far enough away from the shore yet not so deep in the water. Laura did learn that the further out you go the strong the waves get and how easy it is to be swept away. Luckily Josh was with her the entire time to keep her safe. She had a great time and loved every minute of it.

We stayed at the beach until the sun started going down and the beach staff began collecting the chairs and umbrellas. We were sad to see the day end, wanted to have another day and for time to stand still but we had one wonderful day and know that at some point we will return to this lovely place.

As the sun went down these little fellas started moving in to feed off the sea life in the water

We headed back to our condo with smiles on our faces and sand all over us. I swear we took back half the beach in just our shoes, blankets and what clothing it could attach itself to. LOL! Thank goodness Laura had a second pair of shoes with her because the pink shoes she took to the beach was done. I tossed those things in a paper bag and waited until I could find a power hose to clean them off (I found them at her house a few days ago still on the back porch with sand still on them, I brushed my hand over the sand just to remember our time at SPI). We showered and got cleaned up for dinner. We ate at a pizza place we had passed on your way to The Original Dolphin Watch, the reviews were good so we went to check it out. Russo’s New York Pizzeria was the name of the place and it was great. Laura and I had their Stromboli with 3 toppings of our choice. Josh had their Bianca pizza which Laura ended up having a few slices of despite the fresh arugula on top. The restaurant had a lovely atmosphere, very laid back it had the feel of an Italian restaurant. I know when we go back it will be one of our places to revisit. I’m sorry for not taking any pictures of our food. I’m still new to posting pics and I always forget to pull out my phone and snap photos. I’ll get better I promise. If you visit their website the photos online do not lie the food looks that yummy.

Before we headed into Russo’s Josh stopped into Island Style surf shop. He saw they had OluKai shoes and wanted to check them out. If you haven’t tried these shoes I highly recommend them. They are worth every penny you pay for them and they last years. He has been wanting a new pair and hadn’t found what he has been looking for in shops here at home. He hit the jackpot at Island Style they had exactly what he was looking for and at a price he was happy with. He bought new shoes and we ate a great dinner. It was a great way to end our last night on the island.

Posted in Holiday

South Padre, Island Day 3

Wednesday-Beach Day!

Wednesday was our last day in Padre. The plan for the day was a 10 o’clock reservation with The Original Dolphin Watch boat Tour. We had decided the night before to wake up early and make our way to the beach and watch the sunrise.

Josh woke me up right around 6 am, I woke up Laura. We all pretty much went in whatever clothes we could find. We did not want to waste time and miss the sunrise. We made our way to the beach and found a great spot to sit and watch the sun come up above the ocean. As always with the ocean the tide was out which had changed the look of the beach. What was underwater the evening before was now several feet back and people were doing their morning walks and runs in the soft wet sand. I loved sitting on the embankment watching people walking their dogs, walking in groups talking to each other and just enjoying the beautiful morning as the sun slowing began to rise above the water. It was amazing sitting their watching the sun come up over the water. It was something magical that we don’t see where I’m from.

Left over umbrella and chair from the day before..waiting to be used again

Don’t get me wrong we have our own lovely sunrises in Oklahoma, but seeing the sun rise above the water is completely different. The sand was so soft and felt wonderful between our toes. Laura enjoyed chasing the waves and searching for sea shells. I had a great time writing in the sand and watching the waves erase the writing. As the sun rose higher the water began to rise and reach closer to where we were sitting. We knew then it was time to say good-bye for now and return in the afternoon.

There is a part of you that secretly hopes The Flying Dutchman shoots out of the water. Watching the sun rise up over the water is truly magical and calming. I could have stayed on that beach all day and been completely happy.

We had to sadly leave the beach and get ready for our Dolphin Tour. We made our way back to our condo, showered and found the location of The Original Dolphin Watch. I chose this tour over the others because the price was great and there was an educational piece about 20 minutes into the tour. I liked that and knew Laura would enjoy it plus it was on a big boat and not on a small one. Since this was her first trip to the ocean I felt this would make her feel safe. The Dolphin Watch was located on the west side of the island where other boat tours were. Once we were on the water nets were lowered to drag along the bottom of the ocean so marine life could be picked up and brought on board for the visitors to see. We were able to see a star fish and a blue crab. The catch wasn’t as big as they usually catch but it was enough to impress the children on board and to educate them on the lives of ocean life. Once the sea life was returned to the ocean we headed off to find dolphins. It was a nice and breezy ride the boat had an upper and lower deck. We chose to sit on the lower deck in the shade so we wouldn’t get wind burnt or sun burnt. I notorious for getting sun burnt everywhere I go so we decided to play it safe. The captain took us out where the Rio Grande dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. The water is warmer here and a great feeding place for dolphins and pelicans. We were able to see several dolphins feeding in this area. After several minutes watching them feed and play around the captain directed us back to the dock. It was a wonderful way to finish our morning.

Rio Grande meets Gulf of Mexico

After our boat ride we went looking for lunch. We decided on a restaurant we had read about on Trip Advisor Cap N Roy’s it was a combination of Mexican and seafood. We had a great lunch, plenty of seafood in a great restaurant full of memorabilia of the owner and island residents fishing excursions. When we finished lunch we headed to a souvenir shop and picked up a few things to take back home then headed to our condo to get ready for the beach.

Posted in Uncategorized

San Antonio-A Riverwalk Kind of Day

Palm Trees in food court alongside Riverwalk

Monday-Day 1 in San Antonio

I’m not counting Sunday as we did not get into town until 6 pm. Thankfully nothing uneventful happened, traffic was great considering where we were going and only a few stops to get here. Once we were inside the city limits we stopped by my families house for dinner and a short visit then headed to our hotel on the Riverwalk.

Joanna’s conference is being held at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter so our hotel is in the same place. After a long days drive and a lovely visit with my family, we were ready to crazy into a nice bed and sleep. So it was refreshing when we pulled up to the Marriott Rivercenter and see these lovely faces eager to take your car and whisk you inside their very air-conditioned hotel. I could have slept in the lobby I was so tired. Luckily I didn’t have to do that a nice Porter (in shorts I thought were made up for comedy shows ) arrived with a luggage cart and loaded all our luggage onto and wheeled it to our room. I felt like royalty having a porter take our luggage to our room, take everything off the cart and hang clothes in the closet. The room was nice and cool, roomy with a bed made from hell. I’m pretty sure it was manufactured by the ACME Brick Co. I’m so excited that I have a week to sleep on this thing. I read somewhere once that sleepy on too soft a bed will give you a bad back, not sure what sleeping on bricks will do for you. Crumble your spine?

Aside from the bed from hell we both grabbed a bed and hit the bricks for the night. While Joanna is at her conference I decide to hit the Riverwalk in search of, no idea. Hey, I’m on vacation. I don’t have to search for anything.

 

Rio Cruise boat in front of Rivercenter Mall

The location of this hotel is great, only a few doors down is the Rivercenter Mall. I hit that to see what was going on in the mall world today. Turns out when you visit on a weekday and not in the summer when kids are out of school, the mall isn’t terrible. Usually, when I visit my family in San Antonio it falls in summer or we venture to the mall on a weekend, always full of people. Today has been so nice. I took my time through the mall, one vendor stopped me to ask if I was looking for anything. I smiled at him and said No, No I’m not. It was truly a great feeling. After I walked the mall more than I should I found a lovely ice cream shop, Marble Slam Creamery. I bought an ice cream took it outside and ate it while watching the tourists ride up and down the Riverwalk on the boats.

RiverCenter Mall and patio area on Riverwalk

While sitting at my table a little Chinese family took the table next to me. They became ecstatic over ducks they saw in the water. Not just the kids, mom, grandma as well. They were speaking in Chinese but they kept saying duck and laughing this wondrous laugh that made you smile actually it makes your heart smile to know people are happy about such things as ducks swimming in a river. I ate my ice cream while listening off and on to the family talk about the ducks later pigeons. Eventually, I finished my ice cream and gathered my things to leave. I rather hated to leave the family and their excitement but Dad and additional family members brought food and I knew they would need my chair so I left to walk down the Riverwalk. It’s something people should do instead of riding the boats all the time. San Antonio has put in a lot of money and thought to make the pathways easier for people to walk on and enjoy the Riverwalk. I truly enjoyed my time. I was ready to get back to my room and cool off, it is rather warm out today. I wouldn’t have it any other way I’ll take warm weather over cold any day of the week.

flower box on Rivercenter Mall