Jet lag notwithstanding, we are back from eight days in Florida. Yes, Florida. In August. Because it’s cheap. Though we might have spent our savings on ice cream. Here are the highlights, in no particular order:
Hogsmeade: our home away from home.
1) The amusement parks. We did not do Disney, as everyone expects. Instead we did Universal, mostly because Universal’s Islands of Adventure includes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We spent more time in Hogsmeade than we did at the hotel, which also meant we had to summon fresh enthusiasm for another trip through Olivander’s, another ride on Flight of the Hippogriff, etc. Summoning such enthusiasm was surprisingly easy, because the kids had so much fun, even with the heat and crowds and occasional rainouts. Worn out wizards decompressed at the Dr. Seuss water play area while grown ups lounged in the shade. Favorite part? Raiding Honeyduke’s–Hogsmeade’s candy store–and then working through butterbeer, a chocolate frog, and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans with the gusto of a Gryffindor. Might not have been K’s favorite part, seeing as she had beans of pepper, soap, dirt, and tomato all in a row. No, not tomato. Vomit. Praise Jesus she didn’t know the difference.
A wall of water, just about to hit K. That’s just the way we roll.
2) The water park. Between my germaphobia, aversion to cold water, and complete distaste for submersion, water parks are not my thing. But there was something amazing in watching M assess a large water slide, then tackle it anyway. He was fearless, and I was impressed. And besides, there’s something truly relaxing about spending an hour floating down a lazy river, watching the kids climb in and out of their inner tubes, floating faster to be chased down, leaning back to flip over. It was also truly something different, which in itself is a novelty. We did not, however, try the wakeboarding. Great value at $12 per day, as long as you don’t ingest the fatal amoeba in the water (true story). Memories are fantastic, but every germaphobe has her limits.
Winter, the tail-less dolphin. Can’t see her? Don’t worry, neither could we.
3) The beach. Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, St. Pete’s. AKA paradise, especially after sharing a small room amid the hustle and bustle of Orlando. We opened the door to our condo and everyone seemed to spread like oil hit by soap. Space! Space for the kids to play, space for the adults to read, space to do whatever we wanted in our own little bubbles. It seems antithetical to a family vacation, but in fact the space worked as an antidote to the nerves close quarters can fray. The water was bath-warm and shallow for-nearly-ever, home to dolphins and crabs and one very confused mussel. Plus there was a fantastic soft serve and shake place right in front of the hotel. And yes, we had both.
4) The Olympics. I know: the Olympics are in London. I’ve never been much of an Olympics fan, and if we’d been home, I might have ignored them entirely, especially seeing as they are being replayed most extensively in primetime when the kids would normally be asleep. But in Florida, working on California time, we turned them on almost every night. The four of us, worn out from a long day, would collapse on the couch, sweetly smooshed together, and watch whatever sport we happened upon. We’d explain the rules and admire the different athletes’ abilities. We’d ooh and ahh. We’d get pjs and brush teeth during commercials. It was the most simple, quiet, quality time we got on the whole trip, a surprising gift and one I’d have missed if we hadn’t gone. I’ll never look at the Olympics the same again.
Beach fun. Don’t adjust your eyes. The camera just steams up in the humidity.
So that’s it. Alright, there were some bad moments, too. Every vacation has them. For the last two days K kept asking for a day off, and you can only substitute ice cream for dinner so many time before someone melts down. But for the most part, it was a true departure from the norm, and surprisingly successful. And there were lots of little good moments as well, like mini golfing and feeding alligators and watching the Peabody duck march. Most satisfyingly, we were all ready to come home. Okay, it would be better to have come home without having to go back to work, but someone has to pay for all those memories.