This was our first day without any rain at all -- clear blue skies with bright sunshine. This made a big difference, as you'll hear later.
We're liking our lazy mornings strategy, so we stuck with it. We left at 1pm and our first stop was Universal again. On our previous two visits we'd done Islands of Adventure then Universal studios (so we'd toured clockwise); this time I wanted to go anticlockwise, in part so I could do the Hogwart's Express in the opposite direction. Again, we toured separately as we had different priorities. This is working really well for us. I had an Express Pass again -- and this time I was very glad that I did.
Despite it nearly pushing me over the edge during the VIP day, I started with Minions: it's so creative I wanted to give it another try. And it's great. The Unoffocial Guide mentions this feature as an example of the creativity of the ride's designers:
A mouse being eaten by a cat being eaten by a dog beating eaten by a lion!
The ride was fun, but my priority was new rides not re-rides so I headed towards Springfield. Now, you may remember that I bought an interactive wand during the VIP day. I had tried it out during our second trip but I'd had difficulty getting the spells to work and, when they did, I found the whole experience pretty flat and unconvincing. So I decided I'd give the wand away. It took a couple of attempts to find a suitable recipient (the first one said his kid was too young and wouldn't appreciate it.). I had bought Draco Malfoy's wand and I found a family with a blond kid, so that seemed right. While the kid himself seemed delighted, I'm pretty sure the parents thought I was engineering some kind of scam or was a paedophile, so they were ungrateful in the way middle class British people are. But I hope the kid enjoyed himself.
Our VIP tour guide had said The Simpsons was the number one worst ride for motion sickness, but I still wanted to give it a try. And I'm glad I did. I was pretty much fine riding it and it was a lot of fun. Most of the queue (like a lot of Universal queues) was outside and, even with an Express Pass, was a little challenging to stand in. (Incidentally, the ride itself is just like the old Back to the Future ride in design.)
From there to Men in Black, which was fine, but not as much fun as Toy Story at DHS, to which it is similar in concept. And then to the Hogwart's Express. As I think I've read elsewhere, the journey in this direction is better, and you get to see Platform 9¾. I got a better picture of the ride:
After two not-great meals at the Leaky Cauldron, I wanted to try Three Broomsticks. This is more American-style food -- I had the ribs and chicken: the ribs were pretty dry and could have used more sauce, but it came with a full corn-on-the-cob, which was really delicious. Overall, better than the Leaky Cauldron. (Being American-style, there was also way too much food for one person. I think two British people could save a bundle of money by just sharing meals.)
Universal doens't actually have that many rollercoasters. I'd only ridden the Hulk and Dragon Challenge so far, and I'd heard bad things about Rip Ride Rockit, so I went for Flight of the Hippogriff, partly because you pass Hagrid's cottage in the queue.
I haven't yet ridden 7DMT at MK yet, but I imagine they're similar. My kind of ride -- great views, too.
Because it was so hot and sunny, I decided to brave Jurassic Park. And I'm now in a position to answer the question "Just how wet do you get when you ride Jurassic Park?" I was mostly worried for my super-comfy shoes, so I swapped them for my Crocs. I needn't have bothered: my shoes stayed dry (as did my bag) but my top half got drenched. No biggie: I'd brought a small towel and my t-shirt is very thin and dried quickly. (I was in the front row: your experience may vary!) Incidentally, the regular queue for this ride looked brutal: outdoors and packed in like sardines. Yup, I was very glad to have my Express Pass.
A quick last ride on Kong, then I met up with my friend and we went for our appointment at Animal Kingdom.
It started with Lion King, and I'm very proud of this photo that I took:
And then, finally, Na'vi River Journey. My expectations were a little low because of reviews I'd read. I was basically expecting Pirates of the Caribbean or Small World, but with fluorescent jungle scenes. Well, I was pleasantly surprised -- I thought it was much better than that. I won't give anything away, but I think it's a great ride. Incidentally, once again, the queue looked brutal -- similar to the Jurassic Park one. Hurrah for FPP!
Now, today's weather had been bright sunshine and it made a huge difference to Animal Kingdom. I'd felt a bit flat on our first two visits, but with the sun out the whole place -- and especially Pandora -- was so much more vibrant. I'm really glad we came again and I took a tonne of pictures. Here's just a few.
Our last attraction was Maharajah Jungle Trek. Now, we did get a tiger sighting, but again I was struck by the fact that AK is a zoo. The animals do not have the space I imagined they'd have. This was a disappointment for me. (But happier news on this front later.)
My friend had heard good things about Sanaa at AKL, so that was our final destination of the day.
As our server led us to our table he came out with the same guff the server at California Grill had come out with -- you know, what a great table we were getting and all that nonsense. (Yes, we're still bitter about CG!)
This time, he was not lying. Here's our table:
An ever-changing, awesome view.
The food was just as great. We started with the bread service that had been recommended to us. Five different flat breads with nine different dipping sauces, from spicy to sweet. Delicious. The whole experience was excellent and I strongly recommend it (though your experience may vary if you don't get a window seat).
Back to my issue with zoos. I felt much more comfortable with this set up. The animals shared a pretty large enclosed area. Way bigger than the tiger had at AK. And because none of them were predators, they all just got along. They wandered round, grazing here and grazing there. Sometimes alone, sometimes in same-animal groups, sometimes in mixed groups. Perhaps in some ways a better life than in the wild, with the constant threat of being killed.
Incidentally, my planning again paid off today, and the timings worked out incredibly well. The advance effort was definitely worth it.
Tomorrow: Epcot Food and Wine!