Two weeks later and I am finally writing about my Orlando experience. I have so many stories to share that I am pretty sure that they will not all fit in one post. So I will probably be breaking it down.
To be honest, after the #Orlando hate shooting at the #Pulse nightclub a week and half before the conference, going to a place where the grief was fresh left me a bit apprehensive. My FB feed was filled with stories shared of Muslims being targeted throughout the U.S. outside of Mosques (Muslim place of worship), in stores, and for no reason whatsoever. Being an obvious Muslim covered in Hijab, I wondered how I would be perceived.
Words cannot express how grateful and humbled I am by the people there. Filled with smiles, kind words, and jokes. They were able to distinguish between two people who had nothing to do with each other, a lesson that so many Americans need to learn.
A close friend and fellow book addict joined me on this trip. Leaving every moment of every day one for the books. To be repeated as stories to our families, friends, coworkers and especially to each other.
Our first day upon arrival was spent having a quick lunch at Cracker Barrel, we then headed out and toured Chocolate Kingdom where we each designed our own chocolate bar. Mine was milk chocolate with rice krispies, m&m's and cashews. SO GOOD!
Shortly after we found a Groupon for World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe, so we headed there and tasted some amazingly flavored chocolates. We also had the best caramel hot chocolate in 98 degree whether with 90% humidity that was worth EVERY sip. (I highly recommend this place)
(solid chocolate sculpture of the Taj Mahal)
I highly recommend searching through Groupon for things to do and places to eat when going somewhere new!
We then headed over to the WonderWorks Museum (the upside down museum) and had an absolute BLAST. If you havent been, GO! So much fun and just a way to de-stress after a long day.
(look how awesome it looks)
To wind down, we decided that it was time for dinner and headed over to CiCi's Pizza after seeing coupons for them all over place. I HIGHLY recommend that you NEVER set foot into this pizzeria styled buffet. The food was absolutely DISGUSTING. Truly the worst food, the place looked gross. We spent 20 bucks and walked out hungry because we were too grossed out to eat anything.
The memory I have been waiting to create for YEARS finally happened. And by years, I mean since 2007 when my brother promised to take me to Harry Potter world for my high school graduation present when it first opened and didnt. Nine years later I went with a fellow obsessive Potter Head and it was the experience of a lifetime. The entire time I was there I felt like I was in a trance. It felt both surreal and exhilarating. I was on cloud nine.
I rode roller coasters (well, the indoor ones) even though I am TERRIFIED of heights. By obsession with the Potter World pushed aside that fear as I squeezed the life out of my friends' hand while riding broomsticks at Hogwarts Castle and had fire breathed on us at Gringotts bank. I screamed and laughed hysterically and I am super grateful that she, and others in the line, encouraged me not to chicken out and get on the rides.
(this was me when I realized I was standing in front of the castle)
I was kept in a trance as I watched a puppet show from the Tales of Beedle the Bard 'the Fountain of Fair Fortune'. I was filled with joy as I had my butterbeer ice cream and drink. I was overwhelmed with wonder as I walked through shops and made my purchases.
(super excited to be riding the Hogwarts Express)
But nothing, NOTHING stuck with me more than Mr. Ollivanders wand shop. I had heard stories of demonstrations. Lights flickering. Books falling. Mr. Ollivander himself. I was beyond ready to witness the magic. And I did.
After being ushered into the darkened shop, I found my friend and I standing next to a family of 3 adults and 2 children. I found myself enraptured as Mr. Ollivander began talking. He walked up to one of the kids and asked
Mr. Ollivander: How old are you?
Mr. Ollivander: The perfect age for Hogwarts. What house do you hope to get into?
Mr. Ollivander turned slowly to look at me and says: Sooo, Slytherin?
Me as my heart rate picked up to an incredible speed: Oh, yes!
Mr. Ollivander continues talking then says it is time for a demonstration. He walks to the front of the room and calls up the little boy. Then he slowly turned to me and goes: you come up as well.
(I can honestly say I almost passed out? Lost it? Was on cloud 9? All of the above?)
Mr. Ollivander: How old are you?
Me: uhh, 26..
Mr. Ollivander: ................ 26? *stares* *continues on with demonstration*
At this point I am making these weird noises and squealing because I am filled with such an intense and overwhelming feeling that I have never felt before.
Mr Ollivander handed me a wand and told me with a swish and a flick to say lumos. Which I did and promptly started bawling. Big fat tears streaking my face racing to get out of my eyes. I honestly, in that moment, felt like I was truly in Mr. Ollivanders wand shop, that I was honestly on my way to Hogwarts.
I am part of the Harry Potter generation. I remember buying my first copy from a library book sale for 5 cents at the age of 11. I grew up with the Potter gang. I waited year after year as book after book came out. They were my childhood. So standing there was something that took my breath away. I had also heard stories that Mr. Ollivander only called up children, and I knew I surprised him with my age but I didnt get sent back with the group thank God. Rather, he fed into my excitement, talking with me as Mr. Ollivander talked with Harry. I was then handed a wand that I was told would do great things in which I quickly purchased because I knew that it would forever be a token of my experience.
To the man who played Mr. Ollivander, thank you for giving 11 year old me what was the most important thing to her at that age.
(My Potter World loot includes my precious wand, lemon drops and salt water taffy from Honey Dukes, two butter beer mugs and a maraduders map mug)