USA Road Trip – Day 10 – Lazy Days & Crazy Nights

As we had visited a lot of beaches and had seen the sights of Hollywood, originally our plan for Sunday was to spend the day at Universal Studios. However after having a bit of a crazy one the night before and all feeling slightly hungover and tired, we decided on a lazy pool day instead.

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Even though we had enjoyed the odd beach afternoon or a couple hours downtime, the majority of the trip so far had been go, go, go. Not that we were complaining as we were having the best time, but there is no better feeling knowing that you have no plans and can just take the day as you please.

I was quite jealous when I found out Megs and Fraser had enjoyed breakfast in bed, but Matt and I had already found a good spot around the very chilled out pool area and I was enjoying a snooze in the sunshine. (oh how I wish England would have reliable weather, sunbathing in March – the dream!)

We had lunch at the pool bar, which was so yummy and needed and then spent the afternoon either chilling in the hot tub, reading a book on a lounger or playing bat and ball in the pool.

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By early evening we were feeling revived and decided we should do something fun for our last evening in LA. So after a quick change we decided to get the free shuttle bus from the hotel to Universal Studios which was only 10 minutes up the road from us.

We had left it too late to actually visit the theme park, however they still have the CityWalk, which is an all day, all night entertainment area, which includes restaurants, bars, shops, nightclub and cinema.

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We had a little walk around and went into a few shops and then decided to pop into Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville for a drink and a game of cards (as was tradition on this trip) the cocktails were delicious and we ended up staying a little longer than we first expected as it was just so nice and chilled.

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It was starting to get dark when our thoughts turned to dinner. We could have stayed put but we wanted to have a little explore and see what else was on offer.

There were so many food outlets to chose from however nothing was taking our fancy, also a lot of the options were fast food places and we wanted something a little nicer than that. We made our way over to Tony Roma’s as we had heard it was meant to be quite nice place for ribs and steaks etc however while waiting in the queue for a table, we didn’t really like the atmosphere of the place it felt hectic and the food just looked like fast food. So we left still umming and ahhing about where to go. We ended up walking right to the front of CityWalk and found Saddle Ranch Chop House. It looked fun with its cowboy theme and mechanical bulls and there wasn’t much of a wait so we thought we would give it a go.

Unfortunately though we were sat right at the back of the restaurant (this is a huge place) and there wasn’t really anyone else around us. It really lacked any atmosphere (it all seemed to be out the front) and we were surrounded by creepy looking cowboy themed waxworks. There was a moment where we decided to leave this place too however we just couldn’t decide where we wanted to go and didn’t want to aimlessly walk around again, so decided to stick it out. Hoping for some good BBQ food.

In fairness my ribs and sweet potato fries were delicious however the rest of the group didn’t have dinners to rave about but they were nice. In hindsight we wished we had just gone to Hard Rock Cafe!

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We declined desserts and decided to go for another look around the shops we had missed the first time around, before heading back to the hotel, to enjoy wine under the stars and play perudo. THE game of the holiday.

Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 3 – Shopping, Storms & Sports!

After a much deserved lie in, we decided to jump in the car and find a good spot for breakfast. Told you, food is always the first thing I think of!

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Our hire car

We drove with the roof down, making the most of the gorgeous Florida sunshine and after a quick online search, we ended up at Keke’s – a restaurant specialising in breakfast.

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KeKe’s seemed a popular spot which made us happy with our choice and we couldn’t believe how much was on offer with the large and varied menu.

In the end I decided on a large chocolate chip waffle with a side of banana and strawberries which was absolutely delicious and Matt went for the chocolate chip pancakes. Just check out the pancakes though, it was like a Man Vs Food challenge and our waitress found it hilarious watching to see if he could finish them all, but unfortunately he couldn’t quite.

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Keke’s is next door to The Mall at Millenia, which is huge and filled with every shop imaginable but after breakfast we decided to drive a little further to the outlets instead.

I love American Outlets as you can get such great bargains. We didn’t visit every shop as we would have been there all day, but we just checked the map to find the ones we really wanted.

I honestly couldn’t believe how cheap things were though. For example in Victoria’s Secret they were selling lip glosses for $1 each! One Dollar! In our UK stores they are currently £9 each madness!

We also popped into The Disney Store, Ralph Lauren, Sunglasses Hut, Levi, American Eagle and my absolute favourite Bath & Body Works. Seriously when is the UK going to get one of these stores? I have been obsessed with them for years and on this trip alone I managed to bring back about 10 soaps and numerous other bits and bobs, everything just smells amazing! I brought a cherry ‘Vampire Blood’ soap for Halloween which all our visitors loved and Sparkling Snow has been out since Christmas and looks and smells so lovely.

 

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Inside Bath & Body Works

 

We had just left Bath and Body Works and only had one shop left to visit when a huge thunderstorm began. We had to take cover under a shop awning as there wasn’t enough time to run back into a store without getting drenched, plus I had leather flip-flops on, not the most practical footwear to run in!

It’s crazy how quickly the weather escalated and how heavy the rain was coming down. The thunder and lightning were directly above us and was so loud! The weird thing though was it was still so hot so even though we were getting rained on we didn’t feel cold.

 

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Just a little windswept!

 

We watched some people make a run for it, either to a shop or their cars but then the rain would come down even heavier. In the end we decided to make a run for it ourselves as we had no idea how long we would be waiting there for otherwise. However running to the last shop we had a bit of a nightmare when my Bath and Body Works bag broke – silly paper bags! So we were scrambling around in the pouring rain trying to collect all the goods that had spilled everywhere. Kindly, a stranger gave us one of his bags to use after seeing us struggle. Thanks again kind man! 🙂

Shopped out and soggy we made our way back to the hotel.

We didn’t have any plans for the evening so after having a little look at our options, we decided to head back to Universal’s CityWalk. We felt like the night before we had been too tired to take it all in properly, plus Matt wanted to watch the Miami Dolphins game, so we decided to head back and find a place to eat, drink and watch the game.

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Our hotel lobby bar

Universal was a lot busier than the day before but we realised it was the start of their Halloween Horror Nights so everyone was making their way into the parks. The Horror nights look amazing if you are into that sort of thing but I think I would be super scared! I can’t even watch horror films let alone walk around feeling like I was in the middle of one! So we left them to it and made our way to NBC Sports Grill & Brew. This place is huge and has screens everywhere showing all the sport imaginable. Matt was clearly in his element! They also played amazing classic rock music which is my favourite so wasn’t all bad 😉

We got a couple of drinks and decided to order a load of sides and starters to share rather than a proper meal, as we just wanted to relax, snack, drink and watch the game. Again a lot of fried foods oops, but they are so yummy! I think in the end we went for the cheese curds, onion rings, fries, southern fried sliders and buffalo wings – always buffalo wings they are my absolute favourite!

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It was a lovely chilled evening, but I couldn’t even tell you who won the game!

More fun tomorrow.

Love, Chloe xx

Honeymoon Day 2 – Universal Studios!

Even though I had an amazing sleep my body still decided to wake me up at 6am! So I decided to go for a little explore. I wanted to check out the breakfast options, always my main priority when staying at a hotel and I also wanted to book us onto the free shuttle bus which dropped hotel guests off at some of the parks. Although we had the car, some days we decided it would be easier to use the free transportation on offer, especially if we wanted to stay at the parks all day and would be tired or wanted to have a couple of drinks.

The staff were more than happy to help me, even at that time of day! I found a couple of options for breakfast and was told we were welcome to visit the neighbouring Marriott Hotel to use their facilities and restaurants too, which was good to know.

We decided to try out Highball & Harvest for breakfast, which was a restaurant and bar area in our hotel. It offered an à la carte menu as well as the all you could eat breakfast buffet. It was pretty pricey but I guess that’s to be expected in the type of hotel we were staying at, but the food was super fresh and delicious so made up for it. Matt even finished off his breakfast with an American frosted doughnut! When in Rome….

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Even at 9am the mixture of heat and humidity was fierce! Waiting outside for the shuttle bus to collect us, I was already melting and the day hadn’t even begun.

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Such a tourist with my backpack!

We arrived at Universal Studios ready and raring to go, map in hand, our plan was to visit both parks (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure) in one day. Some people might think we were crazy but we just didn’t have enough time to do it any other way. Due to this we upgraded our tickets to the Express tickets, which meant we could skip the queue once at each ride or show. This was actually really useful and worth the money as it meant we could do all the rides we wanted to without getting stressed or rushing around. The only attractions these tickets didn’t work for though were the Harry Potter rides.

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Phew I’m tall enough!

Now, I could easily talk about all the attractions in great detail and go through step by step every single thing we did, which is what I originally started doing when first writing this post, but it was going on forever and I just thought you would get a bit bored! So I’m going to try to condense it all as best I can and just show you a lot of photos instead!

We started the day at Universal Studios which consists of 7 themed areas. Production Central, New York, San Francisco, Hollywood, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and finally The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. We made our way around all these areas apart from the kidzone and went on the rides, looked in the shops and just enjoyed the atmosphere and excitement of being there. I must admit though I hate big rollercoasters which is annoying for Matt who loves all rides, so he did have to go on a few alone 😦 Sorry Matt!

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One of Matt’s favourite films – Back To The Future

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This ride was so good!

One of my favourite rides in this Park was probably Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, it’s really well done and quite funny, plus Matt and I are such big kids who love anything Minions! I also loved the Simpsons ride and the whole Simpsons area. It was pretty cool to be able to go into Moe’s for a drink, Krusty Burger for food or to the Kwik-E-Mart for gifts!

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A couple of the areas didn’t have much going on, as they were either working on new rides or had just demolished old ones. I get that they constantly need to be working on new ideas and attractions but I’m not sure how I feel about the new, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride which opens in 2017. I appreciate he’s a big deal in America but just sounds weird to me and I don’t see how it relates to Universal, also I think it’s going to be yet another 3D or 4D Ride! Personally I really miss the old school rides like Twister, Earthquake and Jaws. I really wish they would bring some of those kind of attractions back!

Now this may offend some people haha, but I am not a Harry Potter fan. I have never read the books and have only seen tiny snippets of the films if my sister, dad or Matt have had them on, I just don’t get the hype. So before we visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I must admit I wasn’t really bothered or excited about it. In all honestly I was actually annoyed when they started building the areas as I just couldn’t understand why they had to take over the Universal Parks. Why couldn’t they just build a whole new Harry Potter theme park of its own?

Vent over I promise.

As when I actually stepped foot inside HP World it really did look pretty impressive, even though I had no idea of what shops, streets, people I was looking at, I could still enjoy it and embrace the wizarding experience. Plus the rides are really good too!

 

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Trying Butter Beer – Matt was very disappointed when he realised it wasn’t real beer!

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As we had been on everything we wanted to go on and seen everything we wanted to see, we decided to take the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station over to Hogsmeade Station, located in Islands of Adventure.

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Universal’s Islands of Adventure is also split into 7 sections. Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, Seuss Landing and finally The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

We were flagging a bit by the time we made it over to this park, so we decided that our first stop would be lunch at Mythos Restaurant. We needed time out of the heat and we just needed a sit down after all the walking! We opted for a light lunch which arrived quickly and was tasty.

Fuelled and raring to go again, we went out to explore what this park had to offer. Starting with HP Hogsmeade. Again this area was visually stunning and the main ride was full on. Not at all what I was expecting!

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Sorry Matt for making you ride alone!

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The newest attraction at I.O.A which is pretty impressive

Our favourite rides more often than not are the water rides. So by the time it got to late afternoon and we were absolutely sweltering from the heat, we decided it was time to cool off and Toon Lagoon seemed the place to go. Starting with Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which I was quite scared to go on, the reason I don’t like roller coasters is due to the drops, so when I saw the height of this log flume I panicked but Matt basically forced me to go on and I’m glad he did as I loved it, even though my face tells a different story…

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This photo will forever make me laugh!

Then we found  Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges which is a rapids ride. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much on a ride before. We got absolutely drenched through, but this was by far my favourite ride of the whole day. We even went on for a second time which we filmed on the GoPro.

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Drenched from the water rides!

We made The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man our last ride of the day as it was about 6pm and we were uncomfortable in our wet clothes. We ended up getting changed in the toilets ha, but I was just happy I was dry! I’m so glad we brought a change of clothes and shoes which we kept in our backpacks inside lockers when we were on the rides, as this meant we could then carry on the evening without having to head back to the hotel.

We then spent the evening at Universal CityWalk which is located just outside the entrances of both parks. We mooched around the shops, brought some amazing macaroons at The chocolate Emporium and then finally treated ourselves to cocktails and burgers at Hard Rock Cafe.

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The Texan: Hickory-smoked pulled pork, chipotle barbecue sauce, cheddar & Monterey Jack cheese, crispy fried jalapenos & onions all on a toasted brioche bun. Yummmm!

An amazingly fun but long day!

Love, Chloe xx