Hey, y’all! You’re listening to Tourist in your Town. Okay, I had Covid in late January. I did not get too sick. It felt like a really bad sinus infection. I had no lung issues and didn’t lose my taste or sense of smell. But I did get very congested. Since I had some antibodies going, I decided to take a trip. I considered going to Asheville or Chattanooga, but decided instead to go to Orlando, Florida. For years, I have been waiting to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. It seemed like a good time to do it. It’s off season, it shouldn’t be too crowded, right? Well, I’ll tell you about that later. Anywho, I got a cheap flight through Allegiant. I had 2 free nights from my Hilton Honors points, so off I went.
I chose Allegiant because they have a direct flight. What I didn’t understand is that the airport where I landed was so far away from Universal. It was a 40 minute car ride. Normally, there would be a shuttle, but due to Covid, no shuttle. I looked at taxis, considered renting a car, evening thought about just driving down instead. The drive would have been 9 ½ hours. That’s just too long for me to drive alone. Also, the plane tickets were already purchased. I could have taken a credit for them and used it later. But decided I really just did not want to drive. After recommendations from some folks, I chose to go with Uber. My biggest issue with that is that you can’t schedule it ahead of time. You can schedule your trip TO the airport, but not from. I don’t like not knowing if I’m going to have a ride or not. I decided to chance it. Right before lock down, I got approved for TSA pre-check and had not had a chance to try it yet. This is some awesome shit. If you haven’t signed up, do it! You have 2 options, domestic or international. If you don’t think you’ll be flying anywhere outside of the states, then just do domestic. Seriously, worth every penny and even the time to go to the interview! Here’s the way it works. Once approved, you get an ID number. Anytime you book a flight, you put your number in. Then when you check in and get your boarding pass, your number is there. When you get to the airport and go to the precheck line, they scan your pass, and send you through the line. At wee little Mcghee Tyson in Knox, it wasn’t very busy, so they saw me coming. Here is the wonderful part, you don’t have to take your toiletries or electronics out of your bag! Also, you get to keep your shoes. It’s like the old days, where you put your bags in the tray to go through the x-ray. Be sure to remove any metal. You don’t have to empty all your pockets, just anything metal. Then go through the metal detector. That’s how it used to be before 9-11.
Mcghee Tyson is pretty small airport. We have 1 sit down restaurant and it’s Ruby Tuesdays. I visited so I could get my pre-flight bloody mary. I tried the omelet, since they were only serving breakfast at the time. It was fine. The bloody mary was excellent though! The flight was pretty full but I managed to get a row to myself. The flight is only an hour and half so the chatty kids and their loud video only irritated me marginally. Also, keep in mind that Allegiant brings a snack and drink cart around. But you have to pay for any snacks or drinks.
After landing at Sanford International Airport. You’d think that with a name like that it would be a large hub. Nope, it’s a pretty small airport. Did I mention that it’s kind of far from anything. So, I pulled up my Uber app and it wouldn’t work! I couldn’t order a ride! There were some small vans sitting at the ride spot, so I just went up to one and asked if he only took reservations. No, he says, get in. In the 40 minutes that I rode with Bob, I learned a great deal about the values of raw honey. Also, spent a small fortune. But I got to the hotel. Then discovered that my Uber issue was operator error. Live and learn, eh?
I was staying at the DoubleTree at Universal Studios. It’s a little over a mile from the park. There is a beautiful walkway to the park from the hotel. It’s a little spooky after dark, though. There are pics and video on the blog, touristinyourtownpodcast.com. After a brief nap, I wanted to hunt down dinner. I considered taking an Uber to downtown Orlando, but after spending so much on the taxi, I didn’t want to spend any more on car rides. I decided to stick with something nearby. The options were slim. A few chains, TGIFridays across the street, Kobe’s Steakhouse, and a local place called Miller’s Ale House. I think it’s a local chain. The area is like any suburban area. Some small strip malls and even an outlet mall nearby. But the roads seemed a little too busy for walking although there was a sidewalk. If you’ve ever seen a car lose control and jump a curb, then sidewalks don’t feel very safe on a busy road. Miller’s was pretty much in the parking lot of the hotel. So, that’s where I went. All the local beers they had on tap were IPAs. I am not a fan of IPAs, so I steered clear and went with a classic, Guinness. So, they had something on the menu called a Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich. I assume this is like Nashville Hot chicken only with fish. Yes, please. I don’t generally eat chicken, so I was ready to try it. But, alas, it was not available. I went with the Creole mahi and Shrimp. Blackened Mahi filet, roasted shrimp, andouille sausage, spinach, diced Roma tomatoes, creamy cheddar grits, New Orleans creole sauce. It was pretty tasty. The Mahi and shrimp were perfectly cooked, not rubbery as they can sometimes be. Back at the hotel, I wanted to have a drink and sit outside. They have a beautiful patio with a large fire pit and water feature. There is also a decent pool. I got a Sunshine State Lager from Florida Beer Company in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was a good refreshing beer. Perfect for a sitting outside and relaxing. After that it was time for sleeping. Be sure to listen to the next episode to hear all about the Island of Adventure at Universal Studios and even some Harry Potter stuff! Thanks for listening to Tourist in Your Town Podcast. Visit the blog for pics and videos! Stay Safe, Stay Hydrated, and Pack Light!