Friday night we had no plans for dinner except attempting to get into Margaritaville at Universal's City Walk. 22 people is an awful lot, and they won't take reservations. So, when we went to the hostess and said we were such a large party, she said she could do two tables for 11 in 2 hours and 15 minutes. My cousin asked how long it would take to get 11 tables for two, that was 1 hour and 15 minutes. At this point it was after 7 PM, so no way were we waiting, especially with 4 kids under 7!
So, we all trooped back to the boat to the Portofino and decided to find something there. Now, they have a bunch of restaurants, but most are fairly expensive and we already had reservations for one for the next night. We found a pizzeria/deli that had a little side room with seating for 8 set up, and asked if we could move tables in for everyone. The staff freaked at first, so Dad and I just sat down at the side and let everyone else hash it out. By the time my cousins and uncle moved stuff around, though, it was a perfect little private room. Then we discovered you had to order everything at the counter, which was very busy. It took me almost 15 minutes just to get my very necessary glass of wine. But the food was tasty and everyone finally had fun (seriously, it took about 2 or 3 hours to make this all happen).
I have become good friends with one of my younger cousins, M, over the past year, and we had made plans in advance to go drinking together after dinner way back when we first plannned the whole trip. I also begged my old favorite cousin, B, to join us and even went to his wife to ask if she minded watching their children that night so he could. She, being the wonderful woman she is, said absolutely and even joined us at a hotel bar for the first round. Unfortunately, my least favorite cousin was all put out, so I did the right thing and invited her, too.
Wow, catching up with family you haven't seen in ages is enlightening! I got to hear the entire story of my uncle's divorce and remarriage, how everyone else was getting along these days, and how weird it was that my uncle's ex also came to the reunion despite her successor being there. It hit me that I may barely know these people anymore, but I still really do know them, because circumstances may change but people rarely do!
So, after J left us to put the baby to bed, we went off to Pat O'Brien's at City Walk and had a couple rounds of Hurricanes. I've had them before, but not like this! They were about a foot tall and super-potent. Not to mention delicious! Highly recommended if you can handle them.
Everyone else begged off before the last round, so M & I ended up alone after all. We dished about everyone until the bar kicked us out and met a really sweet couple from Boston on the way back. Very, very fun.
Unfortunately, we had to meet up at 8:00 AM to go to eat & head to the parks and got to bed around 3:00. Oops!
I was surprisingly not hung-over (rum doesn't usually agree with me) and full of energy the next morning. When everyone finally gathered, we went to Universal Studios to pick up our tickets. One cousin had arranged for all of us to have two park tickets and Express passes that get you on a super-short line for each ride. After about an hour, we all finally walked through the gates and headed over to the Shrek 4-D movie. We had one pregnant woman, one uncle with a heart problem, and me who had never seen Shrek and just wanted to go have a cigarette, so we all stayed off and hung out. After about 30-40 minutes, my Dad comes out the door and tells us they hadn't gotten to actually do the main movie, it was broken. He had given up after 20 minutes of sitting there doing nothing, and soon the rest of the group followed. Then about 8 of them decided to get right back online to see it in the other theater. Everyone else was annoyed, so we dragged them off the line and gathered to figure out the next ride we should go to. I suggested that this was silly, we had lots of ages and different ride preferences, and no one was going to get to do what they wanted if we stayed in a group. Also, there's almost no rides at Universal, they're mostly next door at Islands of Adventure!! So I gathered my fellow thrill-ride fans and we finally got to have some fun!
First of all, the Hulk rocks! Great coaster, every moment a surprise and not so hard on the body (I have back problems, so I prefer coasters that are more psychological than physically draining). Also, their Spiderman 3-D ride is unbelievable and actually scary! I've never been that freaked out on a ride before, it was so much fun!! Both Duelling Dragons coasters are fantastic, I keep trying to have a preference, but it's impossible.
On the other hand, whatever you do if you go to Universal, do not bother with Poseidon's Fury - it is the lamest production I have ever experienced. The attendant said it was fine to bring in an 8-month-old, but failed to warn us that it would scare her silly and she'd cry the whole time. It's full of dark moment and pyrotechnics, why would a baby enjoy it? Why would anyone enjoy it? The kicker was there were exits everywhere and they wouldn't let us use them, even with a wailing baby.
I learned something about Universal in general that day: Universal sucks, too bad their rides are pretty awesome! No organization, clearly lame training for employees, and people just walk into each other everywhere. I have never been stepped on so many times!! It really was a great ad for Disney, to be perfectly honest. They would NEVER make anyone sit on a broken ride for 20 minutes at Disney when it was easy to get everyone out!
In the afternoon we wanted to take all the little kids to Dr. Seuss world, so we started calling around to find the ones that weren't in our sub-group. It took about 20 minutes just to find out who they were with, and then another hour of standing around doing nothing to figure out how to get together. So I took off with one coaster-loving cousin and his pregnant wife (poor thing, she loves thrill rides but couldn't go on them and waited patiently outside everything all day. She wouldn't let us skip anything!) for a few more rides before my left ankle decided it was time to get back to the hotel. We had to get ready for dinner by then, anyway, so it worked out well.
We decided to walk back to the hotel along the garden path (instead of the boat), and it was so beautiful!! Peaceful and full of gorgeous trees and flowers, just what I needed after all the artificiality of the parks.
Luckily, we had actual reservations for a fairly tasty buffet that night, so for once we got to just go sit down somewhere. We all dressed up a little, too, and it was neat to see everyone out of theme park mode. Really great desserts, yum!
Everyone was pretty tired and heading home the next day, so after a couple of drinks with a small group, we all said our goodbyes and made plans for breakfast with the people who were leaving in the afternoon. What a great day!!