Eat my shorts… it’s Voldemort and Bart

How do you explain to US customs why you need to take a brick through?

Just say it’s because you’re rebuilding Diagon Alley brick by brick.

Our guide tells us that’s what a member of the Harry Potter film team did to ensure everything met with JK Rowling’s approval.

The very same JK would visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in both Universal Orlando theme parks to make sure everything is as she wrote it.

And here we are standing outside the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley, near Gringotts Bank with its imposing fire-breathing dragon frontage.

I am in need of some butter beer after escaping (just) in one piece from the clutches of the Dementors.

Those Dementors have been besieging Hogwarts Castle, situated in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

Wet your whistle: The Leaky Cauldron

Wizards get taken to Dragon alley by Ernie Prang and Dre Head, the dreadlocked skull drivers of the Knight Bus.

Ably conducted by assistant Stan Shunpike whom we meet. Muggles though must use their feet.

Us Muggles are allowed on the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station, London, to Hogwarts Castle.

But watch out though for those Dementors silhouetted in the carriage window. There are enemies everywhere.

The Forbidden Journey

It helps, of course, that Harry and Ron are there to help.

We are on the Forbidden Journey 3-D cart ride at Hogwarts Castle.

The dynamic duo lead us on our broomsticks.

And we skirt the cliffs on a dizzying simulator ride which puts us right at the heart of the battle.

We were well prepared though.

Read all about it: The Daily Prophet

Because we had already been to Olivanders to discover who would be selected for a special wand.

These wands as everyone knows pick you, not the other way around.

And Emma Jane was the lucky recipient of a shiny new one given to her by the sage Garrick Olivander.

It was not dissimilar, it must be said, to Harry’s. His is 11in long, made of holly, with a phoenix feather core.

You can buy your own keepsake from the store for a competitive $36.95 (€33).

And I got to see the Dark Arts show in Hollywood

Empowered, Emma Jane leads the way through Gringotts Bank on to our carriage for a dual with the Dark Lord.

Our anaemic and hirsutically challenged nemesis and his shaggy-haired accomplice Bellatrix are not so easily shaken off.

Our group must tangle again with them in the Gringotts vaults.

It’s a banker

Gringotts, it is said, is the safest place to be.

And the animatronic goblin chiefs do leave you with a sense of comfort that they would guard your worldly possessions with their life.

Lockers with thumbprint recognition do the rest.

Saving wizards and half-bloods is thirsty work though and this muggle needs refuelling.

And me either: Bringing you all the news

Only one place for it… Moe’s Bar.

Universal Orlando is all about family fun and The Simpson, as we all know, are the family who put the fun into dysfunctional.

On the way to a thirst-quenching beer in Moe’s you can get a meet, greet and snap with Homer and Bart.

Tuck in at Moe’s

Pass the Krustyland stalls, Lard Lad Donuts and Duff Gardens.

The lure of a Krusty Burger takes precedence over The Simpsons Ride.

All ready for the Knight Bus

Krusty’s piece de resistance sees the clown coming under threat from Sideshow Bob is a seat-of-the-pants six-minute ride.

My pants though were firmly wedged into a seat into a sat in Moe’s and my lips wedged into his signature burger.

It looks a lot like a normal 6oz burger with cheddar cheese sauce, a giant tomato slice, iceberg lettuce, served on a speciality bun.

But with an extra special sauce ingredient.

One of the family: With Bart and Homer

That it’s served in Moe’s. Well, worth ten bucks.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can try the chicken waffle sandwich (so wrong, it’s right).

You feel as lazy as Homer, and you’ve every right to be, you’re on holiday after all then while away the afternoon at Moe’s.

But if you’e got kids tugging at you to hit the rides – then you better sup up and get back over to the Islands of Adventure.

Get them in: At Moe’s

There are seven themed islands:

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a magical escape)

Marvel Super Hero Island (pumped-up action)

Toon Lagoon (a water ride extravaganza)

Jurassic Park (prehistoric mayhem)

The Lost Continent (myths and legends

Seuss Landing (childhood wonders)

Port of Entry (the shop-centred enhance).

Spider-Man proved a particular favourite of the group, a 60ft freewill, emulating the webbed one’s descent.

Green monsters

Your correspondent meanwhile was taking a breather after unleashing his inner Hulk.

The Hulk is a vengeful superhero (so, they all are, yes).

But he has taken out his anger in a particularly brutal manner.

With one of the regulars

Launching you 150ft in the air, with an acceleration of zero to 40mph in two seconds flat, it reaches speeds of 67mph.

The Hulk has seven inversions and turns you upside down in a weightless zero gravity before sending you crashing back down to earth.

If lots of inversions send you loop-the-loop it may be best staying off this one.

And it wasn’t just the Hulk who was green about the gills after this one.

I met up with Shrek in Hollywood… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/06/22/my-weekend-with-marilyn/

A friendlier green monster is Shrek.

There is no better way to sign off your trip to Universal Orlando than to sit back and join everyone’s favourite ogre and his sidekick Donkey as they battle the evil Lord Farquaad.

Shrek is a 4D cinematic experience, you’ll go on a thundering gallop through a haunted forest ride on a fire-breathing dragon.

You’ll plunder over a waterfall.

All in the quest of Princess Fiona.

You’ll have ‘spiders’ fly out at you and be sprayed in the face and be tilted back forward and back in your seats.

Kick-ass entertainment and few do it better than Shrek and the magical cast of Universal Studios.

Relaxing: The Loews Portofino in Orlando

Fly me there

How to get there: Aer Lingus fly from Dublin to Orlando four times weekly; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Fares start from €259 each way including taxes. Visit aerlingus.com for more information.

Aer Lingus customers can pre-clear US customs at Dublin airport. http://www.aerlingus.com

Where to stay

Where to stay:  On-site at Universal Orlando at the 5* Loews Portofino Bay Hotel with American Holidays, from €1,109 per person.

Price includes return direct flight with Aer Lingus to Orlando, Florida.

Seven nights’ accommodation at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. Selected dates September & October 2015.

The providers

Go with Attraction Tickets Direct http://www.attractionticketsdirect.ie. Check out their latest packages.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.

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