Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Orlando! More than just Universal Studios?

Can you blame me for thinking my weekend trip was going to focus mainly on Universal Studios when this was waiting for us at the airport?
Turns out, as incredible as Universal Studios "Islands of Adventure" park was, there was a lot more fun to had those two days in Sunny Orlando with Wendy and our fellow Astorian, Helena!
This is the swimming pool where we stayed!

After a quick sleep and relaxing start, we headed to the park on Friday!

I was... excited.

HOGWARTS! I nearly peed myself with glee.

We even rode the kiddy coaster!

We bought the unlimited fast pass, which nearly doubled the price, and a one-time-per-ride fast pass would have sufficed and cost less. Oops. Even though the lines weren't bad at all on the weekday, the fast pass still came in handy and we rode most of the rides we liked multiple times!

Hogsmeade was an incredible example of how attention to detail can make the standard nickel-and-dime theme park shops a thoroughly enjoyable part of the experience, and incorporated lots of scenes and shops from Diagon Alley too!

A butterbeer (non-alcoholic) at the Hog's Head

The dueling dragons were coasters predating Harry Potter

Awesome red and blue, intertwining coasters, equally intense! 
One such detail turning a roller coaster line into the Forbidden Forrest
Hogwarts from another angle.

Islands of Adventure is divided into 5 parts. We bolted straight to Harry Potter world, and spent the most time there, but there was also a comic strip/Rocky and Bullwinkle/Dudley Do-right area, Marvel Universe, Dr. Seuss area, and some sort of Atlantis area that didn't really have rides, but looked awesome and had tours/shows we ended up skipping. A good excuse to go again sometime! 

Obviously, I was a little more than ecstatic to see this.

Like coming home!
We tried to ride this 3 times, but bad weather/park closing time stopped us at 2. Easily the best ride in the park though.
Appreciated the decor, but the ride looked lame.
Dr. Seuss world was more fun just to walk around.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish... 

I think the good doctor would be pretty proud of this area.

Next time Atlantis, I promise!


You don't want to make Wendy angry...

More cool signage

Next we drove out to the Disney World "Village" and had dinner at this huge pre-historic restaurant.
The place must have sat about 500 people, and there was never less than a 40 minute wait!

40 minutes was perfect too because it allowed us to enjoy their undersea portion (appropriately a bar) with a huge, beautiful aquarium under a giant octopus with a moving eyes and jellyfish chandeliers! Then it was off to our table for rather reasonably-priced, standard, American food (actually, my fruit and walnut salad was pretty excellent).
Seriously, this place was so massive it could have been a converted sports arena!

Animatronic dinorsuars flipped out every half hour to a simulated comet collision. Poor little fella.

Different sections were different time periods, including Ice Age. (note the giant jelly!)

After dinner we walked around the rest of the shopping center and even made some small purchases. This model is entirely made of LEGO bricks by the way

The next morning our first stop was breakfast at Chic-fil-A.
 I spotted this next door at 7-11. Guess they still love Shaq!

Second stop Saturday was a bird rescue!

But I brought pumpkin juice back from Harry
Potter World to enjoy. Sorry Shaq!
Next up, we bought Florida craft beer. Notice OBP squared has twice the alcohol and one ripped bee!

Actually, I'm skipping lunch, which for some reason I have no photos of, but we went out for BBQ at the local's favorite, 4 Rivers.
We took the beers back to Helena's for some pool-side refreshment, which ended conveniently as a sudden afternoon shower and lightening started to look threatening. We headed back to the house, took a nap, and slowly got ready for a night out!
We went to Cask & Larder first for some light dinner, heavy dessert, and a flight of original craft beers! Helena didn't drink, because she was driving. Good thing too, because as we waited at a red light on our way to the clubs. we got rear ended!
It was low speed, and everyone was fine, before you get worried, but the cars got a bit banged up, especially the guy who was at fault. After the police finished up with us, did we call it quits? Of course not! We hit two/three clubs and finished up with late night tacos!
Orlando bars, by the way, are so much fun!

I mean, look at all these happy Gen-Y-ers enjoying 80's music night!
After delicious Mexican food, I had to fly home, kiss my cat, and prepare for the next adventure:
Argentina Business Trip! More on that after I finish working the 68th UN General Assembly!
Talk about busy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Also Go Out Too Much

I really should stay home more.
Poor me, right? Always doing fun things and spending a ton doing it, but I really would like to save more, stay home, play video games, drink my own home brewed beer, and pet my cat.

When she lets me.
But living for the moment does have it's benefits! Here are some moments I managed to get my phone out and capture between all my hours at work!

A mini-JET reunion

We had ramen, karaoke...

And a little honesty? 

My favorite things about Astoria are the people.

I get to run into them at cool events like this bloc party at the Strand

These shoddy photos are from outside The Strand on Broadway in Astoria. Less than a year old, and they're already throwing bloc parties! I didn't even ask who was going, I just went, and sure enough... saw about a dozen friends from the 'hood!

Somehow I didn't get any photos, but after this, I rode my bike halfway home tothe lovely home of a JET-couple who threw a killer BBQ on their deck! It was several more hours of delicious food, good conversation, games, beer, and dessert!

Theses two photos are taken from about the same spot. One looking into the restaurant, the other looking out! If you enlarge it, you can see the band playing on the stage in the middle of the street. They were strange, but quite rockin'!

Another (the next?) weekend, us former-JET-types dressed up in yukata and jinbei for a Brooklyn pub crawl!
Every few months my coworkers and friends get together for bowling too!
Ryan's b-day party at the beer garden!

Hugh and I at his wife's going away party. He was very torn up.

More friends with Janelle, a.k.a. the one going away. She's working the coolest job ever, so I bet that helps pass the time.

Not often enough, Wendy and I go on double-dates

This friendly raptor invited me to a juggling convention!

The latest NYC craze is the Cronut, a croissant-like doughnut. The flavor changes every month. I've had lemon and coconut mint. Apparently this month's flavor is "fig and mascarpone". Getting one involves lining up outside the one bakery that invented them at 6 am and waiting until they open at 8 to buy one before they sell out, so needless to say, it's a commitment. 
Remember that juggling raptor? Here he is playing the 8 string bass with his band "You Bred Raptors?"

Another weekend I gave a couple lectures to this year's new JETs heading to Japan on Japanese etiquette. This guy, Steve, surprised me by being one of the group because we first met as fellow foreign exchange students in Japan in 2004! 

This guy works at the Czech-style beer garden near my house! The beer is good and CHEAP, but the food is pricey, so I only go about once a month.

Every year I wonder what to do for New Years, Halloween, 4th of July, etc. But this year, once again, I was lucky to be invited to friend-of-a-friend's apartment for a Japanese-style BBQ and then viewing of the Macy's fireworks on the Hudson from the communal deck in New Jersey. It was such a fun and comfortable environment, we got to know a lot of new, cool Japanese people while enjoying drinks and Japanese food! 
We love sake!

So much food!

The view was amazing even before the fireworks!

Another fun day out and 2nd year running (no pun intended) - This year we did the Color Run, a 5k "fun run", in Brooklyn. Last year in Philadelphia was better scenery, but really, it's more about who you run with!

This is our "after" shot. Hence the name "Color Run"!

Here is the post run brunch I got in Greenpoint! Nom!

Then I went home and shaved my hair!

I got to the beach only twice this summer, but on this lucky day I took 4 lovely ladies with me!
Saw the NY Philharmonic play with Mariah Carey in Central Park

And my buddy Dan held his annual, insanely good BBQ in Astoria!

So that's pretty much my summer! WINTER IS COMING!