The Happiest Place on Earth (Farewell U.S.A)

Trip Start Jan 17, 2010
Trip End Dec 17, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Most people start talking about the weather when things get awkward in conversations. In the case of Florida, it’s worth talking about. Wow, it was hot! It wasn’t just the heat but also the humidity that let us know we were closer to the Equator than any other spot in the U.S we had been. The temperatures regularly hovered around 100 degrees Farenheit, which made the water parks an inviting option in Disney World.

Mostly from Seinfeld, I knew Florida was full of old people. I can definitely see the appeal of the place and understand why. It is a place of immense physical beauty and it has a more light hearted atmosphere than many other places here. Our first visit to McDonalds had a head count of 15 people and we would have been the only ones under 60. To continue the stereotype, there were actually 2 old guys talking about how expensive things were these days!

We bought a 9 day pass to Disneyworld. I can understand why they call it a world. They have done an amazing job of concealing the parks from the highways. There are thick forests of trees that line the highways, and there is no way you would know the parks were there if it wasn’t for the street signs. The size of them is what makes it so amazing. The land that Disney owns would rival that of a small city. Literally. They have their own roads, hotels, shops and even ‘Downtown Disney’.

Not just because of the cost, but I was glad that we chose to stay outside Disneyworld. It was nice to get back to reality at the end of the day and see civilisation on the ‘outside’.

The parks were a lot of fun, but they are draining. The heat combined with the size of them means you are super tired by the end of the day. All up we went to the 6 parks we could have.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom was the traditional place with the castle and parades of Disney characters. We rode the Dumbo elephant ride amongst others. The rides there were more kid like so we didn’t spend heaps of time there.

Epcot had come highly recommended. It has a technology and futuristic feel to it. It is actually one of those places where education is made fun, instead of trying to just make it fun. There was one ride that was more of a cable car ride. It was narrated by Judi Dench and went through the history of humanity and how technology progressed to get us to where we are now. It was really good in linking different periods in time and the figures and mannequins that made up the ride would rival a wax museum. There was also a ride that simulated what a car goes through in its testing before hitting the road. A space simulator that made me feel like I was never going to get my stomach back ended our day earlier than expected there.

We went to Animal Kingdom twice. We were able to get some great photos of the animals. This was probably my favourite park. The rides were great, including a great Mount Everest rollercoaster and wild rapid ride. It was like a theme park and zoo rolled into one.

The last major park was Hollywood Studios. After going to Epcot the day before, I was still a bit queasy so I avoided most of the good rides. Universal Studios at L.A was pretty good, so this was a bit of an anticlimax.

For $50 extra, we could get to the water parks. We actually spent most of our time there. Highlights of the water parks included a 120 foot free fall drop, sliding on nothing but your own back. It was over in about 4 seconds, but it was crazy! The descent was so steep for the first half that you couldn’t even see your own feet. We generally adopted a policy of me riding them first and then describing them to Lara before she decided if she would follow. Proudly I can say that she went on every single one. Other water slides included rollercoaster style slides on 2 person rafts. These parks were great as well because there was a stream that ran around the edge of all the slides were you could relax on inflatable tubes after the crazy rides. Typhoon Lagoon had a fake wave pool, which generated perfect 6 foot waves to the sound of screams every minute or so. It was a bizarre sight to see a wave appear out of a giant swimming pool.

Probably the funniest thing about Disney World is that it is dubbed ‘the happiest place in the world’. Credit the employees who have to wear cheesy fake smiles all day. But the irony was that there were so many crying kids on the rides we couldn’t help feel the adults were having more fun than them. In fact, there were plenty of young couples around our age there as well.

I spent one day taking a drive to the West Coast of Florida. I had seen the Atlantic Ocean that flanks the East Coast but I headed to Tampa and went in the Gulf of Mexico. There was no sign of the oil spill and the water was beautiful, like a swimming pool. It was definitely the best beach I have seen here in the U.S.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a visit to a city without going to a basketball game. We had planned to call it quits in Boston but the Orlando Magic were in the playoffs. I didn’t even suggest it, Lara wanted to go after we watched Game 1 of the series. Dwight Howard and the Magic dominated the Atlanta Hawks in the game and the entire series. We were in the very back row but the view was fine and the atmosphere was incredible. The tickets were only $25 each and I’m really glad we went, it was definitely a highlight of the trip.

As I sit in the hotel at Raleigh Airport waiting for our flight to New York tomorrow and London the day after, I am really ready to leave the U.S, not because we haven’t had a blast but because we have done everything we had wanted to do which is nice to say. Fifteen states - New York, North Carolina, Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida along with the District of Columbia and even a day trip to Canada. We have seen so many landscapes - deserts, forests, snow, sun, coastline, rural farmland, winding roads and vast cityscapes.

Although I am nervous about language barriers and foreign lands, Europe will be a nice change. There will be plenty more to write about then!

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