Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tutorphil's Orlando Adventure!

It's snowing outside as I prepare this photographic summary of my recent jaunt to the sunshine state for the 2013 International Higher Education Teaching & Learning Conference  at the University of Central Florida, Orlando.  It is hard to believe that only a few days ago I was swanning about in my latest Last Exit To Nowhere t-shirt, strolling leisurely about the UCF campus with its trees festooned with tresses of Spanish moss and its impressive central fountain putting rainbows into the perfect blue sky...

View from my window seat as the gloom of New York gives way to the warmer hues of Orlando...

The corridor outside my room at The Overlook Hotel - I mean, Holiday Inn, Orlando...

Mmmm - breakfast, American-style!

Tony & I hire a car and go west....
... stopping at Denny's diner for a spot of lunch...
...which was more Lynch than Norman Rockwell.
A Denny's diner speciality - 'Moon Over My Hammies' - and yes, that's a kind of porridge on the side (or grits) topped with a garnish of cheese.  Everything comes with a garnish of cheese - even the cheese.

Our eventual destination - Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Roadtrips are notoriously thirsty work!
Cheers! Now, about this conference thing...

Sam's Beach Bar, Hudson Bay... a few moments after this photo was taken, I was accosted by a local named Sandy, who wanted a line dance to Shania Twain's Man, I Feel Like A Woman.  Fortunately for all concerned, no photograph evidence survives of the crimes against hand-and-eye co-ordination that soon followed...
The UCF campus (one tiny bit of it).
They've got their own fountain!

Our presentation is done, the conference is over; with one day left before the flight back to Blighty, it's time to hit the theme parks...
The fibreglass threshold to Islands of Adventure, the first of two theme parks encompassed by Universal Studios, Orlando. 
Introducing Dr Seuss land - so kitsch and sugary it makes your teeth ache!

Harry Potter's snow-caked simulacra simmering under the Florida sunshine... The recreation of Potter's 'wizarding world' was pretty amazing - surreal, belief-beggaring, and somehow astonishing.  The attention to detail was extraordinary, and with John Williams' theme piping out from under the eaves, it was difficult not to be charmed.

Oh, the irony - not so 'super-dry' following mine and Tony's trip on the Jurassic Park River Ride, which was pretty unremarkable in terms of its ropey animatronic dinosaurs - until, that is, the near vertical drop into an abyss filled with water!  And suddenly we understood why everyone else was wearing waterproof ponchos. Doh!

The Incredible Hulk Roller-coaster.... see below!

I'm actually on this somewhere; indeed, if this image had a soundtrack it would be me going 'F*******************K!' According to the other conference delegates with whom I shared a carriage, my unfettered use of expletives as we looped-the-loop was nothing short of astonishing...

Heroic pose post-Hulk experience: what you can't see in this image is the way my left leg was wobbling uncontrollably as litres of fight-or-flight adrenalin still fizzed madly about my body....
Next stop, the other park - Universal Studios proper...

... home of the stars.... (or, in this case, out of work actors...)

A recycled prop from the now defunct Jaws ride... *sob*

And so my journey into the hyperrealistic playground that is Universal Studios, Orlando comes to an end...
All in all, it was a bit of an adventure.  Tony and I met lots of interesting people doing interesting stuff at other universities and I ate a lot of medium rare protein garnished with cheese.  I've now seen just how much sheer spectacle American dollars can buy you; I've been whirled upside down, and attacked by dementors, and I've been trapped on a subway while a major earthquake brings the city down around my ears.  I've learned too that childlike-expectation rarely matches wheezing, animatronic reality and that incessant piped music is a very bad thing.  I've also learned that one go on a terrifying roller-coaster is never enough...


  1. Words cannot describe how jealous I am right now. Glad you had a great time, Phil :)

  2. These pictures are like some sort of kitsch, dutch angled version of Robert Frank or Garry Winogrand.

    Also I just looked up the current attractions for Universal Studio and ALL my childhood favourites from when I visited are gone: Jaws, Kong, Back to the Future and Earthquake. How terribly sad. The replacements don't look anywhere near as good. :-(

  3. :( git take us all next time XD

  4. Wow!! Looked like quite an adventure!! Pictures look beautiful!! :O A nice read to couple my evening tea :)

  5. Glad you enjoyed yourself Phil! I'm really sad to find out the Jaws ride has gone though. I can't believe that was even an option! :(

  6. "Everything comes with a garnish of cheese - even the cheese." hahaha!! Glad you had a great time :)

  7. @ Anita - even the fresh fruit salad at the hotel's 'all-you-can-eat' breakfast bar came with the option of both cottage cheese and grated cheese!

    1. How do cows make enough milk to satisfy America's cheese fettish?

  8. Looks amazing. Certainly a trip I'd love to take one day. Out of all of it, I'm most jealous of Harry Potter land! :P Glad you had fun though. :)

  9. Man, you just have to rub it in our faces, don't you? C= Glad you had fun, and hope you don't feel too jet-lagged (or disappointed by English weather).

    ... Why can't *we* have our own fountain?

  10. Are there any pictures of the conference? Where's all the evidence of poignant, forward thinking academic discussion and debate? All I'm seeing Phil drinking beer by the sea, chilling out in the sun and having a jolly good time at Universal Studios. ;-D

  11. Welcome back to snowy England!! The pictures looks great! Glad you had a great trip! :D

  12. I can't believe you ate at a Denny's and made it back alive. A brave man!

  13. This looks amazing. Looks like you had a great time. =) It's good to have you back, now. Welcome back to England!!! =D