If you have not gathered by now, I am a bit of a theme park nut. Not only did I have annual visits to Cedar Point growing up, but I moved to Orlando (after a boy) and lived and worked at either Universal or Disney over the better part of the 8 years I was there. Since I am still Seasonal at the Mouse House, I have made many return trips. But I had not been back to Universal Studios since they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And as a Potter fan I was determined to right that wrong this trip. (it also helped that I am now working again and could afford the ticket. But that is just details).
Anyway, I knew in advance I was going, so I decided to look online to see what the Gluten-Free options were. Basically, they told me to see a chef at one of their “Fine Dining” establishments. Oh oh. This could be very, very bad as my budget, both time and monetary, was for quick service dining. So, I was scared.
But, Friday morning came and I headed out to get my ticket for Islands of Adventure (aka IOA). After you find your parking in their GINORMOUS parking garages (I take a picture on my phone of where I park so I can remember), you walk. A lot. Before you reach the park entrance. So, you walk to a hub between the 2 parking garages, then you walk to CityWalk, then you walk THROUGH CityWalk, then you pick your direction. Right leads you to Universal Studios Florida, Left takes you to IOA. And past Margaritaville, which is always tempting. But the park icon is always there, leading you in like a sailor lost at sea.
So, it is always better to buy your ticket online. Learned that the hard way. The longest line I stood in all day was the line to get into the park. But it made for some fun people watching.
Once inside the park, I made my way to Guest Relations. I should have known I was in for a hard time when the person at the desk had to ask someone else what they had. When they finally found someone, I asked if they had a printout of their GF dining options. The person tried to tell me, but I told him that I would forget if I did not have a printout and I would like a list so I could peruse it at my leisure. And I had to ask a couple of times. After receiving the printout, I learned why. They spend a paragraph talking about how great the chefs are at their 4 full-service restaurants (2 in each park), in dealing with guests with gluten allergies and creating meals to “suit individual tastes and needs.” Mention was also made about how Confisco Grille at IOA has a dedicated GF menu with the following options: “Pesto Penne & Tomato Basil, made with rice noodles: Mussels; and Caesar Salad.”
I am going to actually type out the next paragraph regarding the quick service because it made me see red. And I quote: “We are pleased to provide a variety of gluten-free quick-service options. The International Food & Film Festival in USF, and the Thunder Falls Terrace in IOA, offer the following gluten-free items: roasted chicken; smoked chicken; smoked ribs; smoked turkey legs; roasted potatoes with onions, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper; roasted corn; baked potatoes; french fries cooked in canola oil; and salads.” 1 restaurant in each park offering the same menu is a “wide variety??? Plus, you know, the fruit that is available throughout the park is safe.
Needless to say, I was not a very happy person. A variety of options, with 1 food option. I am going to blog later about how much I enjoy this park, but I want to finish up on the food. Hopefully y’all will come back to read the next part where I go all giddy and fangirl.
When I finally made it to Thunder Falls, located inside the Jurassic Park section, the first thing that I noticed was that the
food was served cafeteria style. That put me on alert. Then I talked to a supervisor, who was not much help, and finally got Chef Reuben. Reuben was very good about answering my questions, letting me know that while the food was GF, it was prepared in a central facility that might not be, and while I could have BBQ sauce from the line, i could not get it out in the restaurant, because that one was GF. My options were: Rotisserie Chicken, the BBQ Chicken, the Rotisserie/BBQ combo platter, and the Grilled Chicken Salad. Then I was told to join the line, and ask that either he, or Youza (his 2nd) make my meal. So, waited in a long line for food, asked for Youza, and she put my Rotisserie Chicken plate together in the kitchen and brought it out to me.
And it was….alright. The portion was HUGE and I did not eat again that night, but the flavor was just average. But Youza and Reuben were fantastic. So, on my way out I wanted to make sure they got recognized for being knowledgeable when no one else in the restaurant was. And the new person in Guest Relations told me I didn’t have to leave Harry Potter to eat after all! Not on the list of places to eat is the Three Broomsticks. So, you can have everything served at Thunder Falls at the Three Broomsticks, as well as Potato Leek Soup and a Wedge Salad. And it is not served cafeteria style. Wish I had known that in advance…
Med Soda: $2.59
Rotisserie Chicken Platter: $10.99
No piece of mine that I was not contaminated.
Next time, I am bringing my own lunch in.
Later this week I want to talk about how much fun IOA is!
Thanks for reading!
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty hard on myself. For the longest time, I thought I could not sing because someone told me, “we don’t sing well.” I think believing that helped to form some of the mental blocks about myself and the roadblocks I put in my own path.
When I was a little girl (yes, I was little), I used to LOVE to sing. Did it all the time. My Opa would give me a penny every time I saw him if I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I sang it a LOT! But eventually, the music in church that I couldn’t follow the melody if they gave me a 20 foot roadmap, and someone saying “we don’t sing” every Sunday, led me to believe I could NOT sing.
When I finally got a car, I sang in it ALL the time! I just belted along with the songs hoping I did not sound like a total tool. Worrying about what other people think is another issue of mine…even when there was no one in the car with me. One day, I was chillaxing in my parents basement with Teenie, singing along to Queen videos (she got to hear me sing, I gave her rides and I ALWAYS sang in my car. Still do), when she turned to me and told me “You can sing!” When I didn’t believe her she told me that I hit a really hard note. That was also a bass note. Hi, female, but still, kinda cool that my range went that low.
Talk about the confidence boost! I still did not believe I could really sing, but her encouragement got me to find a voice teacher one summer when I was between colleges and interning at a theatre. While I did not like how I was singing with her, looking back I see that what she was doing was trying to get me to place my voice properly. Best response was when I was singing at a Christmas service (in the pews), and my mom turned to me and stated, “you have a really nice voice.”
And then, I did nothing with it. Not a thing. Just kept singing along in my car. No voice lessons, no nothing. Until about a year after I moved to Chicago. I moved here wanting to act and do the things that I let fear stop me from doing. And I got a job hosting karaoke on the weekends at a local theme park. So I signed up for group voice lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. Hated my teacher, but between her and the encouragement from the folks in the park, I signed up for private lessons. And I also started auditioning for musicals.
I was with my first teacher for almost 2 years, before she left for new adventures, and during that time I started to be cast fairly regularly in ensembles of various community theatres. It is amazing how much you can learn, when you are open to it and go in with an open mine. After that, I moved to an instructor who has really worked with me on standing correctly, speaking correctly (did you know you can talk wrong?), and placing my voice in the proper spot when singing. Currently, we are taking a small break while she rehearses for a show.
So, while I do not think my voice has grown into what it can be, it has grown. I still sing karaoke, but at bars, and I am back on the audition circuit. To continue growing my voice is a challenge, but I have learned that I CAN sing. And it is one fear that I have broken free from.