One of the things I was most excited about doing on my holiday was visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando.
I’ve spent much of the kids’ childhoods reading them the books and watching the movies together over and over.
One of our most memorable childhood moments with the eldest was when she greeted her dad at the front door at the tender age of 4 and announced: “Dad! Dad! Cedric Diggory is DEAD!”
Dad was horrified that a book we’d been blithely reading to a pre-schooler contained such a shocking incident, the eldest was shiny-eyed with wonder …
I digress …
The thought of walking down a recreated Diagon Alley had me all starry eyed.
Buuuuuuut, I didn’t get there.
Because, of course, the only day DD and I had free before we left was also the opening day of the annual Harry Potter festival at Universal Studios. Rupert Grint and various other stars of the movies were going to be there and everything. Sure, that SOUNDS fabulous in theory, but can you imagine what the crowds would have been like?
There was also the small matter of entry tickets alone being $US147 ($AUS207). Ouch!
I decided I didn’t fancy paying more than $200 to be sandwiched into Diagon Alley with thousands of frenzied fans.
So we went to The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral instead and it was BEYOND AWESOME.
It was one of my favourite things we did the whole trip.
I’ve become quite evangelical about space facts since our visit.
For example, did you know that astronauts on the manned Mars space mission will live in a blow-up spaceship during the trip. Yup, they’ll float around inside a giant bouncy castle thingy that they pump up once they’re in space. Cool, huh?
And the first astronauts to the Moon had to calculate their re-entry to the atmosphere with a pencil and a set square … if they got it wrong … explosive death spiral …
It’s a stark contrast to my ignorance before I went.
My co-workers were VERY startled when I admitted earlier this week that I had no idea anyone other than Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon. I mean I suspected more people had, but I wasn’t entirely sure (forgive me Orsola, my lovely astrophysicist friend).
The looks on their faces … all their mouths formed shocked “O”s … because it turns out 12 men have walked on the Moon.
Well whaddaya know …
It’s bizarre that I was so clueless, considering what a science fiction/fantasy fanatic I was as a teenager. The Galaxy Bookshop in Castlereagh Street was my version of heaven on earth.
I hadn’t expected to enjoy Cape Canaveral quite as much as I did – I thought it would be a bit dry, just staring at space junk. The website didn’t really sell it up. But the reality was sooooooo amazing.
We went on a bus tour and saw the launch pad for the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon and the ENORMOUS building where they assemble the rockets. Then we went to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, which was fascinating. They had a whole room set up with the actual controls from the Apollo mission and did a countdown to mirror the original one.
It blows my mind that we were ambitiously sending men into space more than 45 years ago. Go humans!
The center even had a real-life Saturn V rocket hanging from the ceiling.
Oh, and one of the little module thingies that were designed to land on the moon, which looked like it had been wrapped in aluminium foil like some year 2 craft project.
Oh and an actual moon rock you could touch.
All of the presentations were so well done.
I must admit by the time I got to the space shuttle exhibit I was a bit exhausted. (Though thinking about all the astronauts who died in them was a bit confronting.) I’ve realised old age means I only have half a day of sightseeing in me, so we kinda hustled through that one and the Mars mission one, and it was lovely to rest my legs in the IMAX theatre.
If you happen to be in Florida any time I totally recommend going to Cape Canaveral.
DD and I were blitzed.
Fifteen out of 10.
Here are the requisite happy snaps …
Song of the day: Chris Hadfield “Space Oddity”