I had no desire to get up early. So we got up early. We were going to Universal Studios today, and it was across LA. We’ve done this drive before and it takes almost an hour. We nearly dragged Sasha out of bed and into the car. She really doesn’t do mornings. Once going I setup Google maps to guide us. Estimate drive time was 1 hour 40 minutes.
LA was fucked.
We drove through the worst construction and accidents. Most of the accidents were caused by the massive construction. You could see black marks up on the side barriers where cars had been hitting there on a regular basis. that’s a pretty good sign that your freeway planning was done by monkeys on meth. Jesus.
The crawl was so pleasant that we decided to get some coffee on the way to save time from waiting at the get tot get in and do it. Yulia found a place called Tribal Coffee. It was not the best neighborhood, but the place had very funky look. Inside was a lot of local art and a pretty expansive menu.
We ordered some coffee and a quick bite, then waited. And waited. And waited. The old guy running the place had no idea what his menu was. He was slowly comparing the order to the big menu on his side of the counter, then very slowly making the item. Another guys was sitting near us, also waiting. He said that this place made great food, but it always took a long time. He said he waited an hour for a breakfast Burrito once.
Our food did finally arrive. The coffee was brewed through a sweat sock and atomic hot. Yulia’s Sandwich was OK, but Sasha’s Acai bowl was basically breakfast shave ice. It was like he copied a menu from a art cafe, but has never tasted any of the foods, including coffee. We lost a lot of time, but traffic did clear up a bit.
Once at Universal Studios, we had to go through security like Disney. They had a full bag check and metal detector. Seems to be the norm now. It was still a hot day, but not as bad as it was at Disney. However, the air quality was bad, you could see the smog in the air. Anaheim and LA are similar weather, but vastly different air quality.
Once in we ran right over to Hogsmeade. The had the whole village here, it’s really amazing. The sign over the gate read “Please Obey all Spell Limits”. This was awesome. At the end of the village you could see Hogwarts, which is the Harry Potter ride itself. The first thing we did was get a cup of butterbeer. It’s basically Butterscotch creme soda, but it’s pretty good. We looked at the shops and streets, and then went wand shopping.
Having a good wand is critical. The town is setup with places to cast “spells” by waving a wand in the right pattern, things happen. (flowers grow, music plays, etc) It’s really simple, but such a cool effect. We went over to Olivander’s and looked at the wands. ther were descriptions of the wands with their types. I got an Alder wand:
Alder wood is well suited for making flutes and pipes, and for building bridges. Alder people are adventurous travelers and confident decision makers who trust their inner voices. Alder people should work hard to maintain a balance between work and play
Holy crap I’m such a nerd. Beware my mad nerd skillz.
With the wand in hand I tried a few spells, and actually got one to work. Yulia and Sasha were giving me a “look” so I put it away and we went to the rides. we first went to the big ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – we had the Front of Line passes (they work once for each ride), but naturally got in wrong line. The place was a zoo, so we ended up through the wrong arch and waited about 30 minutes in the heat before we got to someone to ask if we were in the right space. They pulled us over to the fast lane.
The line for Harry Potter is amazing itself. It’s Hogwarts. Totally Hogwarts. the paintings are talking. You pass Dumbledoor’s office, everything is there. It would be fun to wander around the queue just so see all the cool things in there, without the rest of the people of course.
The ride was absolutely amazing. It’s a combination of visual and practical effects, with flying, but not too rough. You fly through the castle, past a dragon, giant spiders, through a Quidditch match, into the tunnels under the castle and back out. The chairs are swooping and diving as they transition the scenes. It’s amazing. Even better, since they didn’t scan our passes the first time, we went right back a second time. Awweeesoooome.
We did the little roller coaster here, then checked out more shops in Hogsmede. I got better at “spells’ with the wand, some of the scenes are pretty cool. It’s fun, and I even got Yulia and Sasha to try. Yulia got it to work and thought it was fun. Sasha gave me a look.
From there we went over to the Simpsons ride, We got right in, and then waited. and waited. The ride went down right as we got in. At least we were at the front where all the jokes are going on by the characters. The jokes are even funnier the second time around. At least we were out of the sun while waiting, and they did bring us some Jelly Bellies as thanks for waiting. Simpsons had some changes, and they also referenced that this used to be the Back to the Future ride. Thanks for reminding me that I’m old. I almost forgot.
From there we worked our way down to the lower lot with Mummy and Transformers roller coasters. IT’s actually a long ride all the way down to the lower lot. The escalators are covered, but with the heat and air quality it was an uncomfortable bake. At the end of a full week of 90-100 degree weather, your body just doesn’t react as well anymore. We were remembering to drink lots of water, and we took time to linger at the cooling misters in the park as well. That helped, and at the lower lot we took in the rides. Most of the rides in Universal use some combination of motion and video – Transformers is that way, and it’s great, but The Mummy is just a plain dark fast rollercoaster. You do it once forward, then again in reverse. It’s excellent. We skipped Jurassic Park. Even as hot as it was we didn’t feel like a splash ride. The quick hot/cold change just messes with your head.
Back up in the main park we walked around the stores and resturants. We were getting pretty hungry and wanted to stay somewhere cool. They were doing construction on the “French” town, which had the best shade before, so we ended up going back to Hogsmede and the Tavern there. This was all British themed foods, but it was surprisingly good. We had some fish and chips, and a big Ploughman’s platter (meat, cheese, etc.) It was cool inside, and actually made us miss our times in real British pubs. (That was a good trip). The also had a rather nice bar, with three Harry Potter Themed beers. I got the “Wolf Red.” It was good, and went well with the cheese.
We got in a few more of the rides we wanted, but it was not cooling down at all. To make things worse, there was a fire nearby and you could see and smell smoke in the air. I did some more spells around Hogsmede (I practiced and got them all to work. Have Wand Will Travel. Then we went for walk in the Universal downtown. It’s expanded since we were here last, and honestly better than Disney Downtown at this point. But it was hot and we hit what we wanted, so we headed back.
Trraffic was even worse. It was a 2 hour drive at rush hour. LA is a hot fucking mess. We even checked for alternate routes, but no deal. We just slogged through I-5 until we hit Anaheim. I dropped Yulia and Sasha at the hotel, tired. Then I dropped the car off.
In the end of the day, we cleaned up, went down the the bar at Steakhouse 55, and ordered some food and drinks. It was nice and quiet in the lobby bar. We took everything up after a while to finish in the room. The fireworks show from our window was great to see again, and was a good finish to the trip.