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Florida - May 18 -Universal Studios

Bright and early start for our first theme park day of the trip. We were on the road at 7.45am for the 30 minute easy drive to the Universal Orlando car park and paying $25 for the privilege of leaving the car there. We parked our car in Jurassic Park 401. Not sure why that detail is relevant to anyone reading this but heigh ho.

It was a quick hop skip and jump along the moving walkways and through security and before we knew it we were in CityWalk. I was a bit concerned about my calf from the extortions the day before but apart from feeling slightly stiff, I was moving fine.

Our tickets were easily collected from 'Will Call' and we made our way through the gates at 8.30am a full 30 minutes before opening. We were able wander freely along the entry street although the rides were not open yet.

Now before I came on this trip I had decided to ride Rip Ride Rocket, as it was the only ride in all the Disney & Universal parks I had not completed. As I stood there watching it going round on its test runs I was having second, third and fourth thoughts about it. It looked quite a smooth ride, but....

It was the vertical ascent up, where you were tipped fully onto your back, followed by the 180 degree free fall down and then into this twisty loop thing before goodness knows what. Neil tried to assure me that at no point were you upside down, but that was the least of my worries. Why did I feel the urge to ride it? What was I trying to prove? I am old enough and certainly ugly enough to just say no. I was having this internal argument when Karen said the ride was now open and it was only 8.50am.

Without thinking anymore about it, I gave her the rucksack, emptied my pockets and tamely followed Neil. As there was no wait, I didn't have time to change my mind and found myself locked into the seat. You are given 30 seconds to choose your personal soundtrack for the ride but without my glasses I couldn't read the tracks being offered and so it selected some default rock song and before I knew it we were off.

It was then and only then I realised that I couldn't change my mind and so I pushed my head back and gripped on for dear life. I closed my eyes and waited for the drop. Whoosh, wham bam. We were off. It wasn't smooth, it wasn't pretty. I was rocketed about and shook from side to side. I didn't manage to open my eyes until after the weird loopy thing. Even the bits that looked easy after that whist watching beforehand buffeted me all over the place. But I survived. Did I enjoy it? Not really. Would I do it again? Probably not, as I not sure I would feel the need to do so, but at least if I did I would know what to expect.

Anyhow we were back with Karen at 8.59am still a full minute before the park officially opened.

According to plan Neil had, Transformers was next. Again there was no queue at all. No idea what the ride is actually about. No idea who were the goodies or baddies but it was quite well done if somewhat confusing.

Then we went off to Harry Potter Gringots ride. The 3 of us decided to use the single rider queue. We were waiting almost 30 seconds before we all got on the ride. This was fab and one we all enjoy (and understand!).

Then it was the turn of The Mummy ride. This time the wait time said 10 minutes. It turned about to be about 3 minutes. This ride always surprises me. It is great fun but needs to be longer. It is possibly my favourite in the park.

A quick march round the park to Men in Black saw us waiting a whole 5 minutes before we entered the vehicles. The not so competitive Neil beat me by 900 points (or 1 extra target hit). We were both beat Karen by well over 100k. I'm never really sure if she understands that she should only be shooting the Aliens but she was happy.

By now it was time for our 'Virtual pass' for the new ride 'Fast & Furious' which had only opened 3 weeks previously. Now Karen & I had never seen the film nor any of the 7 sequels. But we soon got the gist of it. The technology in use here is impressive. The HD screens all around the bus really makes you feel you are moving along fast and in the action. Its a big step up from the old Co-Op Father Christmas ride in St Stephens, Norwich.

We then had the biggest queue of the day waiting for Karen in Starbucks, but it was nice to have sit down. From here we went to ride The Simpsons followed by ET. The latter is still very sweet but technology has moved on and each time we ride it we fear it may be the last. It is the last original ride from the park opening.

Lunch then followed at the Leaky Cauldron over in Diagonal Alley in the Harry Potter land. Karen & Neil had Bangers & Mash whilst I went for good old Fish & Chips. This was tasty and typically American in that I had three times as much fish than chips. It was a nice touch that there was malt vinegar on the tables.

We had been waiting to ride Jimmy Fallon - Race through New York but it had been broken all morning. Using the app Neil saw that he had literally just reopened with a 5 minute wait so we hurried over before the rest of the park realised. Neil was actually disappointed the queue was so short as we just marched through the queuing area not taking in all the things we should have been looking at whilst waiting. The build up was better than the ride itself which was a bit silly really, but as ever well done. It was yet another one that needed 3D glasses and some people had unbelievably walked past them without picking theirs up which caused a minor holdup. Honestly I think there should be an intelligence test before you are allowed on these rides (I will gloss over what I did on the Pandora ride last year, but not one of my proudest moments after queuing for so long).

We were now thirsty and so went back to The Simpsons and purchased 2 pints of Duff Beer from Moe's. It cost $19.90. I think for that I should have been part ownership of the bar. I have never really 'got' The Simpsons or the cult of it. It maybe because whenever I have watched it, it always seen be the episode about the monorail. I much preferred Top Cat or the more obscure 'Wait till your Father gets home' from my youth.

Karen & I decided we needed a break and opted to go into watch Animal Actors On Stage whilst Neil went back and redid Harry Potter and The Mummy. The show we watched was a poor shadow of what we had seen before. It was mainly just dogs and cats and a couple of birds. I used to like the Orang-utan that was cheeky and loved performing to the crowds.

As Shrek 4D was close by we then joined the short queue for the next showing and after a few minutes watched the show. Again this probably needs updating, but it is still amusing.

By now it had started to rain. Neil decided to try Rip Ride Rocket once again. I opted to keep Karen company instead. However the ride closed due to the weather whilst he was waiting to ride. We mooched around for a while but decided we had literally done every ride we wanted so left the park and wandered round City Walk for a hour.

A new store had been opened a few days before we arrived called Voodoo Donuts. I had never heard of it, but ridiculously there was a 20 minute queue set up to get in. I'm not sure if they are really good or just a cult, but 20 minutes queue (longer than we had waited all day) for a Donut? Neil said if you ordered enough then they served them in a cardboard coffin. Words fail me.

We ate in Bubba Gumps much to Neil's dismay and dislike of eating anything from the sea. He did seem to enjoy his Fish & Chips though. I had Shrimp Caesar salad. Karen had some Fish Rice concoction. We had a $25 credit to use so the overall bill wasn't too bad. After this we went back to the Villa where Neil and I watched some MLS before retiring for the night.

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