Friday, December 22, 2017

The Magic of Universal Studios - Harry Potter

Universal Studios City Walk
I haven't taken a personal vacation for quite a while and so decided I wanted to get out of the cold of the Northeast and take in some sun.

Picking Universal Studios in Orlando was the best choice 1) because it is close, 2) warm, 3) Harry Potter of course!

I Harry Potter. I'm one of those people that has to stop and watch any Potter film as I'm clicking through the romote.

The adventure starts by going through the CityWalk, streaming with restaurants, theaters and shops.


Escaping From Gringotts

Goblin at Gringott's

Once inside the "Cities" park, I starting my journey at Diagon Alley, exacting replicas from the set including Weasley's, Ollivanders, and Knockturn Alley, plus Gringotts. Took the "Escape from Gringotts ride, but what was really impressive, much more than the ride itself (after 1 1/2 wait), was the replication of Gringotts from the final film, complete with Goblins and those beautiful chandeliers.

 I took my time walking through the Harry Potter part, except for paying $50 for the special wand from Ollivanders, traveled to Kings Cross to take the Hogwarts Express to the other park (Island of Adventure) to HogsMeade and the Castle. They really did the Hogwarts Express really well and you see scenes from the movies as you pass through the English countryside on the way to Hogwarts.

Hogsmeade was a perfect replica filled with shops and the various eating places and kiosks. After a shorter wait than "Escaping from Gringotts" was the Castle, walking through various pieces of historic Hogswart Castle pieces venturing to one of the best rides I've experienced in a long time. You actually feel like you are riding a broom through Hogwarts. It was fantastic!!

That evening I witnessed the amazing and memberable Christmas show at the castle. I'm so glad I went around Christmas time because the music, lights, fireworks all converging together was spectacular. I tried to take photos, but nothing really does it justice. It is much better to look at it and take it all in.


Inside Hogwarts

Island Adventure Park

I'm glad I bought a pass to both parks, but if I had to choose one over the other I would buy the Island Adventure Park because the rides were great and of course, the castle to me, was the best time.

Lost Continent

Jurassic Park
Marvel Super Hero Island

Spiderman ride was fun and enjoyable, but the Jurassic Park ride was really fun (prepare to get wet)

The following day, I went back to visit the first park (with Diagon Alley) but went to the other cities; New York, San Francisco, Hollywood. The ride with a virtual Jimmy Fallon through New York was fun, The Mummy ride, not so much. I did go to a Hollywood Horror Makeup session that was interesting, but again not as good as the rides at the Island Adventure Park.

CityWalk and Cities

Okay Ride

Nice Replica

New York Street

And all the rest...

Saturday, November 25, 2017

European Christmas Markets Are Now Open for the Holidays

As I was walking around Boston on this beautiful, gorgeous winter Saturday, my mind wondered to when I was living in Europe during this time of year. Right now the Christmas markets are open for the holidays. I've written about it on several occasion in the blog and wanted to share these thoughts and photos again.

Here are the ones I loved the most...Enjoy!

Christmas Markets Open in Slovakia

Way to Party at the Vienna Christmas Markets

They’re Open: Christmas Markets in Central Europe

Christmas Markets Are Now Open

Krakow (Cracow) The Royal City

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Montpelier, Vermont; The Smallest Capital in the U.S.

It may sound odd...a weekend in Montpelier would be worth the time, but I needed to escape the city. Montpelier, the smallest capital in the U.S. with 8,000 residents, was a relatively quick, inexpensive trip to feel like I really got away.

I was hoping for more fall colors, with the many New England storms we've had, most of the leaves were gone. Actually bare and grey (it rained the whole time), getting the opportunity to sleep was the only retreat with favor.

Nestled on a river with a mountainous park above it, the town is dotted with early American architecture and as it turned out a nice getaway.

The gold dome of the state capitol building is a beacon in the sleepy little government town.

Right above the town is a park for hiking with houses peaking in and out of the woods. 

Ethan Allen, an early Montpelier resident was part of the Green Mountain Boys a group of freedom fighters. His statue adorns the State House.

Ethan Allen 

Town Architecture

Historic Museum

View from the State House steps over the town

Montpelier, Vermont State Capitol

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Takashi Murakami Exposition at Museum of Fine Arts Boston

One of the joys of membership is being able to have previews of new expositions before the crowds start arriving. This weekend I was privileged to see the new Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics. A Collaboration with Nobuo Tsuji and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I wouldn't say I'm a connoisseur of Japanese art (even though the MFA has one of the better Japanese art collections outside of Japan), I have been looking forward to this series since I heard about it a couple of months ago.

Murakami's vibrant colors, textures and detail are extraordinary. Enjoy! The collection is open until April 2018.

Check out the detail

See the garden grow

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Martha's Vineyard...Celebrating the Last Days of Summer

Hyannis Port Harbor 
Getting in the last bit of travel of the summer, I went to Hyannis and took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. I've spent the summer taking trips all along the New England Coast and this was the last place I hadn't seen yet on the Cape. 

Prior to setting out on the ferry to the Vineyard, I saw that the JFK Memorial was only about 1/2 mile from Hyannis Port harbor.

JFK Memorial with a waterfall
An easy walk to a quiet, peaceful place, the memorial sits right on the water. There is a Korean War Memorial right beside the JFK Memorial. The grounds are surrounded by manicured flowers, green grass and waterfall overlooking the Hyannis Port Marina filled with sailboats and mansions.

Martha's Vineyard

The Vineyard is really several cities; Oak Bluffs, Tisbury (Vineyard Haven), Edgartown, Menemsha, Chilmark, & Aquinnah. The ferry arrived in Oak Bluffs one of the main cities best known for its "gingerbread houses". Two and-a-half miles each way are the towns of Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. 

Each has its own unique vibe and specialty. I was only able to see Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven and Edgartown.

Oak Bluffs is really a lovely little town with a large harbor and restaurants. If you love seafood, this is the place for you. I've never seen so many bistro's, all Al Fresco, of course.

I sat at an outside bar along the dock and have a good Caesar salad with shrimp. Bring you $$$ because the eateries are costly. I got two shrimp for $8 on a small Caesar salad for $12.

Oak Bluffs Park

I decided not to take the island tour ($45), and instead took the local bus. An all day ticket is only $8. With traffic it takes about 30 minutes to get to and from each city, but with traffic it can take up to 1 hour.

Edgartown has a completely different setting from Oak Bluffs. Full of beaches and quaint houses, it is very pretty and peaceful. The streets weave in an out of green lakes and ponds, with houses and white picket fences.

Vineyard Haven Harbor
Vineyard Haven is chock full of art houses and galleries. The harbor works its way around from east to west. Intermixed with the shops are coffee shops, ice creameries and bistros. I realized I could probably have walked there from Oak Bluffs. It is about 2.5 miles.

I did think about renting a bike, but there are only a few pathways and the roads are narrow, so I didn't want to chance it. There are places to rent little fiats if driving around in traffic is your thing (it's not mine).

I'll have to come back to the island and stay (once I've saved up) but it is pricey at around $400 a night. Nantucket is more intimate and smaller so it was easier to do in a day. Everyone has told me September is a great time to visit. Next year!

Sunset on Hyannis Port

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Portland, Maine...Seaport, Walks, & Art Galleries

View from Portland Seafood Company

I've either been to or lived in several north shore communities in Massachusetts (Salem, Manchester by the SeaGloucester, Newburyport, and Rockport), so this summer I traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire and now Portland, Maine to see other New England seaports.

Portland has a busy Waterfront with many eateries and shops. I stopped off at the Portland Seafood Company for a surprisingly reasonable seafood wrap with a Shipyard beer (nice!). 

Portland is a walking city like many other waterfront communities, with art galleries and tourist vendors.

Within about two hours I walked around the wharf, by the Shipyard Brewery, and along Center Street where the art galleries offer extremely pricey pieces. 

The architecture is what you might expect in many East Coast communities with a mixture of traditional structures with character and history and then very modern glass and steel apartments. 

I expected many more historical structures and less trendy buildings and tourist shops. I past through a street festival, hoping for some great, little "buys" but found high price art, jewelry and clothes. 

If you want to travel by car there are some places to park, but I took a stress free trip, the train was easy (a bus would have been less expensive), but the station is about 4 miles outside of town. A taxi ride is about $10 but I couldn't find a taxi when I wanted to leave for the station so it took a while to get one to come to main on a main street Longfellow Square. 

I was glad I saw Portland, but honestly in my opinion the seaports, wharf's and art communities on the north shore of Massachusetts are more visually attractive and the art and artwork more interesting and less expensive.

Pieces of the Berlin Wall brought to Portland

WWII Memorial with a Female