Grab a taxi and travel with me to Universal Studios!
Hitting the sunny coast of California in mid-November seems like a perfect alternative to blustery winds and harsh power outages in the San Juan Islands.
Zooming across the airways of bustling Las Vegas with an extreme head cold may not have been the greatest idea, but nothing could have stopped Sean and I from visiting my sister and now 10 year old nephew in Bullhead City, AZ. It had been far too long and the travel down south was a welcome solace from the busy winter schedule on Orcas.
Misery, usually a harsh word for how one feels under fever, couldn’t come close to describing the horrid pressure and constant cough wracking my body. Some good soup and a warm bed were the only luxury to look forward to in the first two days of travel in the cold dessert. My Aunt, whom with we boarded with the first night, fed us some soup and hopped us up on medications and cough drops in order for rest to claim us quickly and efficiently. The morning brought grogginess and sniffling fits that came out of nowhere, the small heated bedroom becoming too stifling a place to lay any longer. A cup of joe and fancy vanilla-less french toast greeted my senses walking into the kitchen. My Aunt visited with Sean and I until it was time to venture down the 2-hour highway to Bullhead City.
My sister, if anyone knew her, greeted us with calm enthusiasm that screamed excitement more than anything else. My nephew, whom attended school for the last time before Thanksgiving, was fetched an hour after our arrival in the small, quiet town of Bullhead; his surprise and definite happiness in meeting us again was hardly containable as his hugs said everything words could not. And amidst the usually “kibitzing” and “slams” that siblings engage in, our family knows no end. All rewards from our successful banters are formed into aching stomachs from intense laughter and loud noises that could annoy the neighbors. The swell interactions never ceased in the house, or the mini van that we rented for our road trip to California. I often wondered if our boisterous personalities irritated that somewhat focused demeanor of my sister Robyn’s boyfriend Michael. It’s amazing how spending time with loving family fills a spot in your heart that is forever needing of human interaction.
California offered crazy drivers and all-the-time rush hour with people living their lives at 200% every moment. We called an uber driver from our rental house on Hollywood Hills to chauffeur us to Universal Studios, but OHH! I am forgetting the most important part of being in California…PORTERS! I have got to say the appreciation of this place hit home with me as at least 50 people were on the clock from opening until close at this place.
Absolutely everything in this place is made fresh every morning! Their counter space was exotically filled with cream filled pastries, potato balls, mini cakes, and baked bread. It is what anyone looks for at 7:30 in the morning for breakfast or a delicious pick me up.
California is rife with attractions and events everyday, but Universal Studios is definitely the biggest of them all (aside from Warner Bros and Hollywood Blvd). The earlier you can get there, the better, because once the triple-gate security screening opens up people come flocking. Out of the various rides and movie-delving frolics of Thursday morning park viewers, Harry Potter World and Jurassic Park are without a doubt the most visited areas in Universal. Transformers, the Mummy and Water World share their own circle of followers for sure, but when your older sister is a die-hard Harry Potter — namely Severus Snape — freak, the obvious first stop is Harry Potter World.
Now, first thing to look forward to when entering into Hogsmead is the Hogwarts express with the conductor at the front ready to take pictures with witches and wizards alike. Second major excitement factor is the Butter Beer barrel carts, and the frozen as opposed to the regular beer was exceptionally better. Up on the hill lies Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, tempting passerby’s gaze with magical halls of wonder and adventure. Honeydukes and Ollivanders line the left side of the alley as does a general store for the Hogwarts houses and nifty souvenir shopping.
The photos above are taken from a Universal Studios Tour Bus in which several people were able to tour the studios, sets, production and test areas, stunt areas, among other places where directors of films and tv shows shoot. Jaws, Bates Motel, WhoVille, King Kong, Illumination Studios who did Despicable Me, Fast & Furious, and Jurassic Park. Sets were very much realistic, complimented with smoke barrels, ripped barbed wire fences, old fashioned cars and stables, authentic diver getting eaten by the great white shark in Jaws, and Mr. Norman Bates monitoring others from his mansion with a kitchen knife.
Universal City-walk was done at night, of course, with all the neon signs lit up and night stores open there was no shortage of meandering to be done. Building of restaurants were embellished and extravagant, Italian or Mexican, you name it and you’ll find it. We ate at Buca di Beppo, an authentic family style Italian restaurant that has been visited by major Hollywood stars such as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, Danny DeVito and Robert De Niro, among others.
Next installment to my California/Arizona vacation will be on Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood Boulevard! Be looking for it, and sorry about the long waits in between posts; chocolate shops are busy this time of year. 🙂