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Travel Bear: ~Wizarding World of Harry Potter~

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My husband and I went to Universal Studio’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter this last February for our 5 year wedding anniversary. We stayed in one of the on site resorts so we were able to enter the park an hour before the public, which was worth it for sure. We got to the park at 8am and were led through the rest of the park to Hogsmead and the Hogwarts area as only that area is open for early admission. Walking up to the little village and train station instantly transport you to the wizarding world and is simply amazing.

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When we entered the village of Hogsmead we walked around, got some good pictures while the crowds were calm from early admission. We headed straight to Hogwarts castle to ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” where you are taken on a flying adventure with so much to see, we rode it twice. We even enjoyed waiting in line for  “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” as you get to go through the castle and in each little waiting room there is something to entertain you while you wait. There are moving portraits to listen to and watch, film accurate rooms to marvel at and much more.

One thing I was glad for in the parks is that before every large ride where you can not take your bags (we took a back pack) there are lockers outside of the rides where you can store your stuff for free while you are on the ride. You scan your finger print and then get your locker number, store your stuff away and then after the ride you just go and scan your print again and it opens your locker for you to grab your things and go.

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I could spend all day walking through the shops and looking at every little thing. The shop fronts are amazing and really draw you in. In Hogsmead you have so many amazing things to look at: “Honeyduke’s” where you will find shelves of magical candy and treats, “Dervish and Banges” where you can find a bit of everything from t-shirts to brooms, “Ollivander’s” which is a smaller shop than the one in Diagon Alley but there are all the wands a wizard would want to pick from, “The Owl Post” where you can send mail or purchase stationary and quills, and “Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods” which is the gift shop located at the end of “The Forbidden Journey” where you could spend quite a bit of time looking around at all the odds and ends.

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We grabbed some breakfast at “The Three Broomsticks” which has “Hogs Head Pub” attached to it. You can sit and look at all the interesting decorations while grabbing a bite or a drink.

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In “Islands of Adventure” where Hogsmead and Hogwarts is you have two rides: “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” and “The Flight of the Hippogriff” . They are right next to each other so once you get off one head directly to the next one. “The Flight of the Hippogriff” was a simple small track coaster where you get to see Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak chilling outside. We went the first week of February and the crowds were not bad at all. The longest we waited in line for anything was 30min but 8 out of 10 rides were much less of a wait time than that.

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You really want to try and go during low crowds because it is so great to be able to really take everything in. When you are in the shops look everywhere, side to side and up and down, there are things everywhere to see. Exploring is such a big part of the experience of the Wizarding World for sure.

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Once you’re done walking around Hogsmead, if you have the park to park pass you can hop on the Hogwarts Express to head to “Universal Studio’s” where you will find Diagon Alley. Riding the Train to and from the two parks was fun and each way you will have a different experience so we found the park to park pass worth the extra cost since we only had one day to do all we could.

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When you get off the train it puts you out into London where you need to look around for the entrance to Diagon Alley. When you walk through the opening and there are buildings looming on each side you are transported to when you first read “The Philosopher’s stone” or saw the movie for the first time. The hustle and bustle of everyone adds to the charm of the area as there are things to see and do all around.

The main ride in this area is “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” which was a blast, this ride was multi-dimensional with so much to experience. On top of the bank is a dragon that blows fire every few minutes and man can you feel the heat below! You can go next door to the “Gringotts Money Exchange” where you can trade your U.S. Dollars for Wizarding Notes you can use to purchase things around the Wizarding World.

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The Florida heat can bear down even in February so you should stop by “Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor” for some fantastic soft serve or hand dipped ice cream in many fun flavors including ButterBeer Ice Cream!

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Make sure to take the little tour of “Ollivander’s Wand Shop” where a lucky wizard will be chosen by a wand. You can purchase replica wands or interactive wands that can cast spells around the park, each wand is about $50.

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There are many shops to look at in Diagon Alley: get your jokes at “Weasleys Wizard Wheezes”, some dapper robes or dresses at “Madame Malkins Robes for all Occasions”, all your Quidditch needs at “Quality Quidditch Supplies”, find a loving companion at the “Magical Menagerie” and several more shops to explore.

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Make sure to try and catch some of the shows while you are visiting. We got to see “Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees” sing some great tunes and embarrass a lucky person with a serenade.

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In Diagon Alley you can grab a bite at “The Leaky Cauldron” which is where we ate lunch, you can also go by “The Hopping Pot” for your choice of all the wizarding drinks to be had like: Toungue Tying Lemon Squash, Fishy Green Ale, Wizards Brew and many others.

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We took the train back to ‘Islands of Adventure” and got to see the Frog Choir show which was so fun to watch. Besides Celestina’s show and the Frog Choir there is a Triwizard show as well that takes place in the same area as the Frog Choir.

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We sat and relaxed in the middle of Hogsmead as the sun went down and watched the lights come on giving a truly magical ambiance. The Hogwarts light show at night was one of the coolest shows my husband and I have ever seen. Such a wonderful experience to bring our magical day to a close. We headed back to our room which was so easy with the resorts shuttle services.

I could go to the Wizarding world every week and never get bored. We really enjoyed our time there and can not wait to go back.

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Have you ever been to Universal’s Wizarding World? Let me know about your trip in the comments! What house do you claim? What is your favorite treat in the park?

 

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~First Impressions~ Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits

Back in April my daughter and I were looking for a new series to watch together and came across “Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits” (also known as: Kakuriyo no Yadomeshi) on VRV’s Crunchyroll simulcasted series and liked the look of the cover right away. We began watching it and immediately liked the animation and the story.

This series is filled with many different Ayakashi (spirits/demons) that show up in many of Japans historical fables and stories. Once you hear what someone is you can go and look up more information to learn about that spirit which I always find interesting. The show has a very “Spirited Away” feel and story with the added aspect of that good ol amazing looking and sounding food that many anime series have lately.

The show follows a human girl Aoi who is spirited away to the world of Ayakashi to marry the Ogre god Odanna (that is in charge of a well respected bed and breakfast called: Tenjin-ya) as payment for her grandfathers debt to him. She is thrown into a cast of interesting and fun characters including but not limited to: a young hostess Snow Woman, a Kitsune nine tailed fox best friend, a eerie blond Zashiki-warashi, Tanukis, Kappas, and many more characters and ayakashi.

Aoi quickly becomes more comfortable in this hidden realm as she learns more about the different beings around her. She uses her skill of making delicious food with flavors from the apparent realm (human world) that also suit the tastes of the Ayakashi. She quickly gains admirers for her wonderful food and her caring nature for other beings.

My daughter and I very much enjoyed this series and waited less than patiently for Mondays after school to watch the new episode. Since this last week all 26 episodes are out to binge watch and enjoy.

Have you watched this series? What did you think about it? Who was your favorite character? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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~What am I watching?~

The school year has begun again and I am able to get back into a better routine finally! Lately I have been picking various different anime shows on VRV to watch and thought I would start posting a little bit about what I am watching and a bit about each show.

This first show: “Kakuriyo -Bed and Breakfast for Spirits-” I have been watching since it began simulcasting and it has been great so far! Right away it gave me “Spirited Away” and “Kamisama Kiss” vibes. Interesting characters and story for sure with lots of Ayakashi lore!

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“Asobi Asobase” has been one of the funniest shows i’ve watched in a long while. It initially looks like some cute slice of life/school life show but then things take a comedic turn quickly. I find myself laughing out loud and asking “What the heck?!” while watching this show.

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“Flying Witch” is like “Kiki’s Delivery Service” with more about the many aspects of being a witch and the inclusion of other spirits and things. Lots of fun characters and an all in all easy watch that feels like a slice of normal life but with a witch.

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What have you been watching? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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~Travel Bear: Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium at Universal’s City Walk~

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So this past week I celebrated my 5 year wedding anniversary with my Husband by going to Orlando, Florida for a few days. We drove in from Northern Alabama and got to where we were staying (The Cabana Bay Resort) around dinner time. I had found this amazing place at Universal’s City Walk called the Toothsome’s Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen that gave me Wonka Steam Punk feels and knew that would be our first stop on our Anniversary adventure.

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The factory look of the restaurant was so neat and the decor was Steam Punk inspired with lots of cools things to look at while you are being led to you table and as you sit. There were so many options for food, drinks and of course massive decadent desserts.

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I ordered the Vegetable Press which was a warm sandwich with roasted vegetables, portobello mushrooms, arugula pesto, gruyère and dill harvarti cheeses, on cranberry herb artisan bread. It was so good! Everything about my food was amazing and delicious. My Husband ordered the Vegetable Garganelli that had italian penne pasta, seasonal vegetables, garlic, and white wine. We could have shared either one of these dishes as they were fairly large and filling and so so good.

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As we sat eating and enjoying the atmosphere we watched some of the most glorious desserts going by, milkshakes with cupcakes and cookies out the top, chocolate everything and so much more. If you want to come here for just dessert there is an area you can do just that!

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Attached to the restaurant is a amazing gift shop/sweet shop. There was countless artisan chocolates, macarons, cakes and other sweet things in cases you can get to take back to your hotel or to enjoy right there. There are t-shirts, packaged candy and steam punk accessories to buy as well. It is lots of fun to really walk around and look at everything in detail.

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Going to the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium was definitely the right way to start our adventure and we will for sure go here again.

 

 

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First Impressions “A Centaurs Worries”

Also known as “A Centaur’s Life”, is an anime that follows a group of friends in a world much like our own except for the fact that there are several different races in a broader sense. The races include: Angel folk, Demon Folk, Cat People, Centaurs, Mermaids and a few others. Each race has unique physical attributes but are all equal in the eyes of the government. The history of the world within the anime and manga is nearly identical to our own except that evolution changed and went a different route than in our world.

It is a “slice of life” anime that follows high school students in their everyday life and sometimes shows the world around them and political struggles. The center character as you might have guessed is a Centaur named Hime, along with her best friends a demon girl, a goat girl and a snake girl. They live fairly normal high school lives with friends, events, confessions and other things typical of teen girls.

I really enjoyed the manga as I have a interest in the “Monster Girl” genre to begin with but this series is makes it seem so normal while bringing up a lot of real world social issues that make it a gem among newer series for sure.

Have you watched this series or read the manga? Who is your favorite character or what is your favorite race? Let me know what you think in the comments!

~Yuri on Ice!!!~ First Impressions

So this is an interesting one for me let me tell you. I usually steer clear of any of the “boy group sports anime” after having tried to watch a few and them fall flat with me. I will always give series a try though and after hearing so much about this one I caved and started watching it. For whatever reason I was pulled in quick and hard and binge watched the entire series in just two sittings (ive watched it twice at this point).

I think part of it has to do with the fact that I enjoy watching real ice skating more so than other sports as well as my adoration for slightly yaoi stories (ill just admit that right now). I enjoyed the animation and the skating sequences were beautiful along with fun characters all around. There was so much behind the main character when it came to anxiety and feelings of not being good enough I think a lot of people can relate to as well.

I think this one is worth a try but will say I do not think this series is for everyone. If you do watch it let me know what you thought about it in the comments! Also who was your favorite character? I would say I like Yuri the best at this point because he is fairly relatable .

 

 

~Travel Bear~ Namsan Tower and Love Locks

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The second full day in Seoul we got up early and walked about a block or two from our hotel to the lift heading to the main area that takes you too N Seoul Tower also known as Namsan Tower.

105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea

 

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You buy your tickets to the cable car that takes you up the mountain to the tower which were about $8 if I remember correctly.

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Once you get up the Mountain you take a few stairs and come across a side area outside that is filled with “Love Locks” these are locks that couples or friends will write their names on it and then lock it to one of the rails or lock trees then throw the key away.

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For $8 I bought a lock that they were selling and wrote my husbands and my name on it as a symbol that our love was forever.

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After leaving the lock area you go up a few more steps to a large outside courtyard that has many beautiful trees, flowers, pagoda type gazebos and lots of great picture spots.

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When you go into the tower there is a concession stand where you can get several different types of popcorn, fried squid, roasted yams and a few other snacks you can get and then go to the top and eat while you look out over the city. When you get on the elevator that takes you to the top you look up and there is a screen that makes it look like your in a rocket and it blasts you into space as you go up. It is a cool thing to do for sure!

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Once your at the top you can walk around the entire thing and look out over Seoul and see mountains surrounding you on all sides just about. There are binoculars you can use to see farther as well. At the top of the tower there is a candy shop, gift shops and a few more cool picture spots.

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We thought it was funny when we went into the bathroom and the whole side on the stall was just glass looking out. You could hear girls go into the stall and gasp slightly when they saw the window.

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There were lots of neat shops inside the tower as well as a Hello Kitty Museum and Hello Kitty Store. Lots of souvenirs to choose from and lots of great memories to make.

Have you ever been here? Do you want to? Tell me about your visit or why you want to go here in the comments!

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~Travel Bear: Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea~

 

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On my first full day in Korea my friends and I went to Lotte World located at:  240 Olympic-ro, Jamsil 3(sam)-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is a partially inside and outside amusement park that has some cute similarities to the Disney Parks in the U.S.. 

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We went on October 7th, 2016 and I was very surprised to see so much Halloween decor everywhere. I knew Halloween was not celebrated as much outside of the U.S. but Lotte World brought out all the stops when decorating for Halloween. There were pumpkins and witches galore and everything had a bit of a cute touch to it!

Our Tickets for the day which are normally about $50 we got for about $23 using a coupon on our phones. I was so amazed that we could get tickets for so cheap!

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On the inside of the park is a large ice skating rink and several floors filled with rides, games, stores and lots of food places and kiosks filled with lots of things. There was a little monorail that went above the park and several rides like: a pirate ship, a Sinbad ride that reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean, A full loop ride, several kids rides and so much more.

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You can exit the inside to head to the other half of the park where there are many more rides and a cute little castle. At the time I went, they were having a zombie island attraction and many little horror themed areas. If you go to Lotte World you want to download the park app on your phone and you can get early passes for the rides. You have a few passes for your visit and you have to be quick to get the times you want for the more popular rides.

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There was so much different food in the park: Hot Dogs, Jajang myeon, Chicken, Kebabs, Pizza, Ice Cream, Cookies, Hamburgers, Udon and Tankatsu plus so much more! I was surprised to see such an array of things from all over the world. I was also glad to see that the prices were not crazy and very affordable compared to an American park where they gauge the price of food like crazy.

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While we were there we got to see the special Halloween Parade which was so fun to watch. There was so many floats, dancers and lots of cool costumes. I videoed the entire thing and will be posting it on my youtube shortly.

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I had a fun day at Lotte World and would defiantly go back in a heart beat. Have you ever been or want to go? Let me know what your favorite part was or what you look forward to the most?

 

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Heading to Korea ~Day 1~

This was my first day of adventure heading to South Korea! I went from Birmingham, AL to Dallas,TX then to Narita, Japan and finally to Seoul, South Korea. It was such a long day and I went through 4 airports and was on a plane for a total  of around 21 hours.

I flew with American Airlines and Japan Airlines and let me tell you, Japan Airlines is fantastic, the hostesses were so caring and attentive to make sure the flight was as comfortable as it could be. The food was good and man did they keep on feeding you.

It was so great to see my friend in South Korea, we hadn’t seen each other in over 7 years! The moment I entered South Korea I fell in love with the Country.

Stay tuned for many more videos about my adventures, tips and tricks and much more!

Travel Bear: 5 hours till heading to Korea

Oh my goodness, I am not fully believing of the fact that in 5 hours I will be on my way to South Korea. This trip has been a dream and a promise for 8 years now and it is finally happening. I am starting to get a bit nervous which thankfully I have kept at bay this entire time. I am not very fond of flying but am hoping for the best. This will be my first time overseas and in moments seems overwhelming.

I will be doing so much and will be documenting every step of the way so please look forward to a wave of new content, blog posts, tips and tricks, and videos in the coming month. I look forward to this amazing adventure and am so thankful for my best friend: my husband who without him this would not be possible.