To get to Ronan's wedding in Tampa Bay, we had a layover at Diagon Alley
Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. This place is amazingly detailed. Did Universal Studios just out Disney Disney?
The inside of Gringotts. The line for the ride was just as entertaining as the ride. They had banking goblins and everything.
Exterior of Gringotts with a dragon.
Just a few shops in Diagon Alley. Ollivander chose Megan and told her that her wand is powered by unicorn hair.
The genius of creating Diagon Alley as a theme park is it literally is a shopping district. So, everything in the park is for sale.
Mmmm... Ice cream for breakfast. I guess we shouldn't have waited to eat until we reach the park...
This Gringotts goblin was so suspicious
With so many people in robes and wizard hats, it's difficult to tell who's a fan and who's an employee.
The Knight Bus and driver.
Megan making a call to the Ministry of Magic
"OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! IT'S THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS!" 1) Brilliant idea to turn interpark transportation into a ride 2) Devious to split the Harry Potter areas enough to charge for the all park admission.
Hogsmeade has less snow than Rochester...
Again, look at the detail of this place.
I should install these guys at the end of our driveway.
Pumpkin pasties, shepherds pie, and two Butterbeers (one regular, one frozen) at the Three Broomsticks.
I haven't been to Universal Studios since 1996 and it is WAAAAAAAY better. No more "Murder She Wrote" show, but they did keep the ET ride for some reason. It's a completely different and better park now. But, major fail getting rid of the Back To the Future Ride and Nickelodeon Studios.
Christmas in Dr. Seuss' head
Grinch-mas was weird. A theatrical production of the original tv cartoon, but add a random hotsy-totsy lady. The "whos" noses are kind of creepy too.
Back to Diagon Alley. And you have to go back because it has a different show going each way.
Just hanging out in San Francisco. No more Jaws ride, but Jaws is still there.
Apparently, you can only have good architecture in theme parks in America...
Megan on the Kitty Kat Club sign. And to the far right, notice the chip on the facade. These buildings are constructed with styrofoam. Not bad.
The Blues Brothers informing us the show will be delayed just a little bit.
MOE'S TAVERN! It was way too clean inside. But, they did offer Flamin' Moes. So...
Hello Chief Wiggum!
Lard Lad Donuts is the perfect object to photograph.
Hogwarts after dark! Nothing like a fire breathing dragon to brighten up the neighborhood.
The Leaky Cauldron.
Wet Burrito at CityWalk. When we leave Rochester, we try to get things we can't get back home. For example, good Mexican food. This was amazing and way cheaper than eating out in Rochester (sad, but true).
Xmas in Hollywood!
Inside the Knight Bus
Outside of Diagon Alley.
OH YEAH! It's Duff Man and his cousin Kraus Guy.
The former Back To the Future ride has been converted to the Simpson's ride. It's very intense, but the gull wing doors remain.
WELCOME TO ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA!
Pelicans are amazing.
Christmas in Florida. My favorite decorations are snowflakes because they seem ironic down there. But, the climate makes way more sense for a nativity scene...
The Salvador Dali Museum (http://thedali.org/). Most highly suggested even if you are not a big fan of surrealist art. Seeing his work in person is so much more impressive than any of his prints or reproductions. The colors and detail are apparently almost impossible to photograph. I learned a ton and was very inspired. Even the building is interesting.
A Picasso Exhibit was there as well. WARNING: That staircase will make you dizzy if you walk in to the top.
Outside the Dali Museum
The famous Dali mustache. #Dalistache
I believe this is a Cypress tree. Whatever it is, it's a pretty cool tree.
Central Avenue of St. Petersburg is great. Lots of restaurants, bars, boutiques, and art galleries. All housed in great buildings.
The Chuhily Collection (http://www.moreanartscenter.org/content.php?id=90)
Another great museum in St. Petersburg.
Puffy paint paintings by Dale Chihuly.
Megan wants to know how I can install this museum in our house.
This looks very similar to the sculpture hanging at Eastman Theatre in downton Rochester. What's really impressive is we can get so close that we could touch it. Don't touch it!
So many squiggles.
Megan pondering "this would make a great candy bowl"
That's a full size boat. Just so you know the scale.
I have to install this above our stairs leading to the 2nd floor of our house now. Thanks Dale Chihuly...
Went to check out the Channelside Neighborhood of Tampa. What a dud. Apparently, all there is is this boat, a cruise ship terminal, a dead mall, and tons of parking lots.
Want to know more about this boat, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_American_Victory
The Parktologists. Finally, a term that accurately describes the experience of our car-crazy world...
Welcome to Ybor City!
Lots of great old buildings. Wonderful balconies and fun shops. Very interesting part of Tampa.
Jose Marti monument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/José_Mart%C3%AD)
Tampa Streetcar (http://www.tecolinestreetcar.org/). Fun little old trolley. Reminded me of the trams in Lisbon, Portugal. Too bad they haven't expanded and modernized this system throughout the Tampa Bay area because they really, REALLY need it.
Old Timey streetcar. But, the friendliest drivers ever!
Nothing like an outdoor bar in December to warm a northerner's heart.
Amalie Arena (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalie_Arena) home of the Tampa Bay Lightning. While I would have loved seeing a pro hockey game, I just couldn't bring myself to going into a refrigerated building in Florida knowing 6"-12" of snow was falling back home.
Mr. Ybor who had a part of town named after him. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicente_Martinez_Ybor)
La Teresita Cuban Restaurant (http://www.lateresitarestaurant.com/) LOOK AT ALL THE FOOD WE GOT FOR UNDER $20! All of it doesn't even fit in the photo. And it all tasted great! Our server was very kind and helpful. Highly suggested if you are in the Tampa area.
Our hotel, America's Best Inn (http://www.americasbestinnstpete.com/) in downtown St. Petersburg. It's was a great value near all the downtown attractions. Very European. While it doesn't have all the amenities you'll find at other hotels, your wallet will be grateful.
Shops and apartments near Tropicana Field where the Tampa Bay Rays play.
Look who's poster I saw on vacation! My high school friend, Paul Hoffman, is in Greensky Bluegrass (http://greenskybluegrass.com/) and you should check them out.
Historic 8th Avenue in St. Pete's Beach.
It was just slightly too chilly for a day on the beach. But, a walk was more than tolerable. But, nothing is better than walking around in shorts and a t-shirt with local girls walking around in gortex coats with fur lining.
Megan's thinking "Is it really December?"
AND NOW FOR RONAN AND JACKIE'S WEDDING! Let the festivities begin at Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Tampa (http://www.sacredheartfla.org/)
Entrance with organ above
Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico. Not a bad setting for cocktails before the reception, eh?
Ice luge of love. The bartender was all happy-go-lucky until he noticed that the ice sculpture was surrounded by Irishmen. Then he got a bit nervous and started citing Florida laws that may or may not exist. Can't blame him...
The wedding painter!
"THIS IS DISGUSTING..."
The bride and groom on the dance floor.
ONWARD TO THE AFTER-PARTY! Stayed out way too late since we had a flight the next day way too early. But, it was completely worth it. Congrats Jackie and Ronan. We wish you the best and hope you have a great party in Ireland! Wish we could be there with you!
Ugh... Back to reality. And why did it have to be about 9" of the heaviest snow ever? Had I known, we would have missed our flight home... forever...