As you experienced travelers know, it didn't work out that way.
I hadn't taken into account the fact that the flight out to Orlando is a lot shorter than the flight coming home; we would only be in the air about five hours. That's not nearly enough time for a satisfactory snooze, especially since it takes a while to settle down when you get on the plane.
So we landed in Orlando at 6:00 am after a sleepless night. Not good. Thank goodness we had weren't tackling a theme park on the first day as originally planned.
Sean's friend Alexis picked us up at the airport and took us to his house, where we met his mother and eased into Florida life. (Not really. We weren't there long, perhaps half an hour?) You want to know something about Florida in December? IT'S BLOODY COLD. I was wearing every jacket and sweater I had brought with me, and I was still shivering. What the french, toast?? This is Florida, I should be running round in tank tops and shorts! We went out to a lake near Alexis' house because it was reputed to be pretty, but I couldn't even make it to the end of the dock. The cold wind cut straight through my clothes and sent me running back to the car.
Alexis and Seanie at the lake. Note how the Floridan Alexis is perfectly calm, while Californian Seanie is freezing.
We had arrived expecting to be allowed into our hotel at 11:00am, but it turned out the Holiday Inn didn't allow check-in until 3:00pm. Good-bye, naptime. To kill time, we ended up at Ripley's Believe It Or Not, which is definitely one of the silliest places on the planet. As I wrote in my notes, thinking to post on Yelp:
There's a lot of stuff here, and it seems to be completely random. In one room you might see examples of medieval torture; in the next there's a car built entirely out of matchsticks. We saw shriveled, two-headed animal fetuses, masks and weapons from around the world, and wax figures of the fattest man and the tallest man on record.
I often used to wonder who purchased outsider art - you know, those murals constructed with dryer lint or celebrity portraits made of candy - because who would want to own such oddly tacky decor? Apparently Ripley's provides a very steady market for these artists. Throughout the Odditorium, strange artwork was proudly showcased for the world.
It's a very cluttered museum. Some of the rooms feel claustrophobic, with exhibits scattered on the floor, on the walls, and on the ceilings. When a large group goes through the room, it becomes bottlenecked and almost impossible to continue forward. There are very few staff members in the exhibits themselves - they seem to be concentrated at the entrance and the gift shop - so it was very easy to touch objects and, for several kids we saw, climb all over them.
In several areas, segments of the Believe or Not! TV show run constantly, providing supplementary information about the item before you. The rest of the time, there are small placards or posters to explain why this particular oddity is worthy of the collection.
Our favorite area was the final room with the light tunnel. It's so trippy! We didn't feel sick at all, but I could easily see how others would. (My mother would have HATED it.)
My boyfriend and I were looking to be amused for an hour or two, and that we were. So I can't say we didn't get what we paid for. But the tickets still seem overpriced, largely because the exhibits are dated (and often culturally insensitive to our modern PC world) and poorly maintained.
Yeah. But if I thought that Ripley's was culturally insensitive, I had no way to anticipate just how much of a stunner the Arabian Nights Dinner Show would be. Y'see, I'd heard that dinner shows were a Big Thing in Orlando, and I wanted to see at least one while we were there. There was a pirate-themed show and a medieval-themed show, but those companies also had outlets in California. The Arabian Nights show was the only one unique to the Florida area, so we got tickets.
Well. My goodness.
We saw the Christmas show, and it is WEIRD. The basic story involves an Arabian Princess, bored and worried because her One True Love is away for Christmas, so she summons a genie who provides her with many amusements, including a meeting with Santa Claus. Uh...the *Arabian* Princess celebrates Christmas? ...what??? Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure she'd be a Muslim. So that was really, really odd.
Everyone spoke in rhymes. This made the dialogue extremely cheesy and stilted.
There was some sort of story, but it wasn't important, since the show was mostly an excuse to show one Christmas-themed vignette after another. Again, some of the choices were baffling...cowboys dragged Santa's sleigh into the arena, Victorian men and women rode out in proper English outfits to prance amongst the Christmas trees, and Santas' elves perform horseback acrobatics. The horses performed well, and I felt like the performers were really trying to give a good show...but the clash between traditional English/American Christmas symbolism and the premise that it all takes place in a Middle Eastern setting for the pleasure of a Arabian Princess is really difficult to reconcile.
I had the vegetarian lasagna, and it was delicious and very filling - I doubt I ate more than half of it. My boyfriend gobbled up his steak with relish. (He was also free to enjoy his limitless beer; by the end of the night he was very, very happy.) Our dessert options were either brownie or cheesecake; I tried both and they were merely OK, but I was so full at that point that even if they'd been AMAZING I doubt I'd have managed more than one or two bites.
Culturally insensitive? YES.
But fun? Well, YES. The horses are entertaining to watch, and some of the stunts are pretty impressive. I had a good time, and I'm glad we went. I'm a little sorry we missed the non-holiday show, surely it would have been better.
Christmas elves. At an Arabian Nights show. Just think about it.
Our hotel room wasn't too exciting, but by the time Arabian Nights was over we could have passed out just about anywhere. Alexis, who had acted as chauffeur all day long, kindly dropped us off so that we could FINALLY go to sleep.
And that was the first day.