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 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 Holiday

South Padre Island, TX Day 1

Sunday-The Journey begins..

I wanted my first blog trip to be a place to remember. I thought of several places locally and some quite far away. I came up with one of my favorite places to visit-San Antonio. The plan was to go with my nephew, sister-in-law, and niece. What ended up happening we sister-in-law had to have an immediate knee replacement and couldn’t make the trip. I started thinking of just scraping the entire trip and began thinking of other places I could go. What I came up with was South Padre Island, TX I could still stop in San Antonio on the way back and visit my family.

We brought my 9 yr old niece with us on the trip so my sister-in-law could recover after surgery. I felt it was the right thing to do for my sister-in-law and for my niece who had never seen the ocean before was really excited to go. There should be a manual for riding in a car with a 9 yr old girl. Whatever you bring on the trip to keep them occupied, triple it. Whatever you do DO NOT I repeat DO NOT feed them sugar! Josh and I learned that the hard way. When asked when will we get there every 20 minutes I sent a prayer of thanksgiving to my mother for putting up with me when I was 9. There was not enough to keep that child busy the entire 8 hr drive to Austin. Because we knew the trip was going to be a long drive we decided to go as far as Austin, get a room and visit with my cousin who lives there and recharge for the next part of our trip.

My cousin lives in North Austin so I wanted to find a hotel close to her apartment. She graciously offered to let us stay there but her apartment is small and this was a Sunday night so work was on the agenda for her the next day. I knew having a 9 yr old that doesn’t like to sleep would not be a pleasant night for her. I found a great room at DoubleTree by Hilton Austin Northwest Arboretum, the location was just where I wanted and the price was right for one night. We were greeted at the front desk with a warm smile and yummy cookies for each of us. The beds were unbelievably comfortable, after the long drive I hated that we had to get out again. LOL

We enjoyed a nice dinner with my cousin at an Italian restaurant at Mandela’s. The restaurant was located in a shopping center but when you walked inside it was like walking into an Italian market. There were meats, cheeses, loaves of bread, gelato and wines for purchase. There were outdoor tables where you could sit and enjoy a gelato if you did not want to have dinner. We enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner then went back to the hotel and visited a bit longer and watched my niece enjoy the hotel pool. We got up the next morning, stopped at Cracker Barrel for a great breakfast and headed south to Padre Island. Sand and ocean here we come!

Posted in Christmas

43 weeks until Christmas

Yet another Christmas has come and gone and another one will be here before we know it. Is there anyone out thinking about being away from home at Christmas? I always wanted to do that when I was a child, I was always at grandparents houses Christmas morning. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that my family started having our own private Christmas and we stayed home as my father didn’t enjoy traveling.

I have always wanted to go away at Christmas to someplace really magical, like England and experience a Dickens Christmas. I realize that is just fantasy but I’ll bet there is some lovely village in England that comes close. I’ve wanted to go to New York City on Thanksgiving and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade to usher in Christmas and enjoy the sites New York City has to offer. As I have gotten older the idea of going to colder places no longer appeals to me and a nice warm tropical island has a better appeal. Hawaii would be a great place to spend Christmas at least once or even sunny Florida.

TripAdvisor reports that 40% of travelers book their vacation 6-12 months out and another 60% book 1-5 months out. If you are planning a trip during the Christmas holiday booking now is advised. I truly enjoy using TripAdvisor when I travel. When you download their easy to use app to your phone or personal device you are able to make an itinerary of places you want to visit, eat at or shows to see. There are also reviews from travelers letting you know of their experience at that venue. I have found this very helpful in bigger cities I have been too.

I have listed 5 of the holiday spots that are within the US and easy to get to.

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-temps are around 60 degrees, beachfront condos can be rented from $109 – $450 a night depending on your group size. Myrtle Beach has many things to offer during this time of year from sandy beaches to aquariums.
  • Port Isabel, Texas-temps are a lovely 70-80 degrees in December, located just before you get to Padre Island. Rental property goes from $105-$440 a night depending on your group size. Port Isabel is full of American history, lighthouses and pirate ships. Fun can be had by the whole family.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado-temps range from 40 degrees and lower in December. If a Christmas setting is what you are looking for this is the place. Minutes away from ski resorts, an hour away from Denver. Colorado Springs is home to the Olympic Sports Training and Visitor Center, Pikes Peak is not far away and Garden of the Gods is breathtakingly beautiful.
  • San Antonio, Texas -temps vary during December usually mild weather around 50 degrees, average nightly stay $200 depending on group size. San Antonio has so many things to offer while visiting. During the month of December, some of their seasonal parks are closed but do open for a few events mostly on weekends, check their websites if thinking about going to Sea World or Fiesta Texas. This is a city that stays busy, plus you are only a few hours away from the Gulf Coast should you want to venture further south.
  • Orlando, Florida-temps range from 70-50 degrees in December. Hotel rates vary as most are based on theme park visits. The website does offer good packages for those wanting to visit. Orlando has so much to offer it would be hard to pick one thing to showcase. The Orlando website does offer an app to download to help you sort out your choices of where to go on your trip. I am all about free help.

Those are my 5 choices. I hope they have been somewhat helpful should you decide to pack up and head elsewhere for the Christmas holidays. Have a great trip, Cheryl