As I mentioned in the 2023 Alaska cruise summary, I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently. I’ve done a lot of reading this year, but this is especially true of the month of August.
And so we come to Bravelands. I’d had Broken Pride sitting unread on my shelf for about two years. This was partly fueled by a concern that I would hate it. A lion character called “Fearless Gallantpride” was just a bit too corny, even for me. Still, after enjoying Bamboo Kingdom and while waiting for its next installment, I figured it was time to pick up Bravelands. The main series, set in the African savannah and told from three different animals’ points of view, is comprised of the following six books:
The characters of Bravelands are Fearless Gallantpride (a lion cub), Thorn (a baboon, and my favorite character from the very first book until the end) and Sky Strider, a young elephant. Many other compelling characters comprise the rich cast, including my favorite villian in any Erin Hunter book I’ve read to date.
📚 My book posts aren’t reviews as much as they are a gathering of my thoughts and feelings on the experience of having read them. Therefore, there will be spoilers under the cut. 👇
If you intend to read Bravelands (and I highly recommend that you do), I recommend that you skip the rest of this post and come back to it after you’ve enjoyed books 1 through 6 of this wonderful series. More than other Erin Hunter series, Bravelands has some pretty great twists that would be ruined by spoilers.
Hi, everyone! I had about a week’s break between the cruise and this long-awaited Orlando trip. It was pretty awesome! I got right to blogging about it, although, just like with the cruise post, I didn’t decorate the photos. I just don’t have time at the moment.
This was my first time going to Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I especially loved our time at Universal, with all of the Chucky stuff and the Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary special things. Let me tell you about it!
💔😿 Dropping Kotoko Off 😿💔
Up until now, I’ve never been very concerned about leaving our cats to fend for themselves for a few days –three days is my max without someone dropping by. They have each other for company, I have cameras all over the house, litter boxes are plentiful, and I leave enough food and water available that it never runs out before we return.
But Kotoko is old now and needs multiple medications per day, as well as extra encouragement to eat. So, for the first time, we dropped her off at Christopher’s mom’s house on our way to Orlando (this was on Saturday morning). It’s about two hours to get there, and Kotoko pooped in the crate within the first ten minutes. Joy! Thankfully we were fairly well-prepared, though we did have to stop to clean up and buy some wipes (the one thing I forgot to pack).
Now that we have the Hyundai IONIQ, we have to stop for charges more often than we did for gas (but it’s cheaper and we’ve never loved a car more. It is so comfortable!) We had to do this once on the way, and we stopped to let Kotoko out for a stroll since she wouldn’t run away. Even if something were to startle her, she is far too old and stiff. But there was no one around, anyway. And we watched the skies just in case of a hawk or something.
Here are some photos of her stretching her ol’ creaky leggies:
We dropped Kotoko off shortly afterwards, and after some breakfast, arrived in Orlando just before noon.
🐸🐘 Our Hotel 🐘🐸
Our partner booked us a stay at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort. This is one of Universal’s own resorts which means you get extra park perks, including admission to Chucky’s Twisted Playground. It’s also a four-star hotel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever stayed in one before; I certainly can’t remember ever being in such a very luxurious hotel before.
Granted, luxury isn’t everything. I’ll never forget staying at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort with Christopher. It may not have been four stars, but it was unforgettable too.
My favorite thing was the fountain with the elephants in the middle:
The grounds were unbelievably beautiful. Turtles could be spotted sunning themselves among multitudes of lily pads.
Cute frogs lined the walkway that led to the lobby:
While these are all the photos I took, our room was gorgeous too. The beds were queen-sized, but that meant I got more cuddles. 😁
🦖 First Day At Universal 🦖
I would go on (and regret) a single coaster on this trip, as you may know, I cannot stand them. I am not afraid for my life. I just hate the feeling of high speed and drops, no matter how small. I hate them in kiddy coasters, even. I hate it so much that if our partner lifts me up in his arms and spins me around, I can start crying very quickly from the mild stomach-drop feeling that even such a spin gives me.
For me, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world, but I always end up getting pressured anyway. I didn’t give in to the famous (or infamous, depending on who you talk to) Jurassic World VelociCoaster. But I loved getting to see some of the queue and statues:
Here’s a little video:
After some time in the park and a wonderful lunch at a very nicely themed restaurant, we went back to our hotel to freshen up. Then we returned to the park for Halloween Horror Nights.
I was very apprehensive about the scare zones, and we had to go through one to get to our first haunted house. But thankfully, the first scare zone was funny and honestly cute. It was called “Vamp ‘69 Summer of Blood” and was all hippie zombies. I am glad we got there early because this was a very colorful zone, much better in the daytime. I loved it and wished I’d dared take a photo with one of the performers. But I was so busy enjoying myself that I didn’t take any pictures of this area.
Once past this zone, we did our first haunted house, Chucky’s Ultimate Kill Count!
Between hiding my face because of strobes and being terrified, I think I saw 60-70% of it. But I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I hurt Christopher in my fear. I grabbed his arm so tightly that he had severe bruising on it even after the weekend. I even bit him once, somehow… I guess his arm was too close to my face when I screamed. I felt really bad.
This photo spot was at what I thought was the end but wasn’t. It was maybe the middle?
After this, we went to do the YETI: Campground Kills house. This would be my last house. I was so overwhelmed by the flashing, the intense screaming, and not being able to keep my face against Christopher’s arm (we had to move faster) that I was crying when I came out.
Since I refused to do any more houses, the boys convinced me to try the Revenge of the Mummy ride. After watching some videos, I really thought it might be okay. Even with the first few, unpleasant scary/fast/going-backward elements, right up to when the real coaster part kicked in, I thought I would be okay. But I really wasn’t.
It’s such a pity because even though I didn’t love it at first, I felt safer than on any other coaster I’ve been on until now, and as it slowly progressed I felt more and more hopeful. But when it shot up in speed and the drops and curves began… I didn’t panic, but I felt so BAD. It’s not queasiness, but I think it’s the worst physical feeling I could ever have, that isn’t actual pain.
I never want anyone to feel what I feel on a coaster, but I’m sure anyone who did would never ask me to ride one again. It is just the worst. By the time the ride was over before we were fully stopped, I was full-on sobbing. I think part of the reason for that was that I was so upset that I couldn’t take it. I really wanted to make them proud, but I couldn’t force myself to enjoy something my body hates so very much.
So… that was the end of rides for me since they only did coasters that day.
We met up with our friends later in the evening and walked around the park drinking together. We also saw a wonderful show, Nightmare Fuel Revenge Dream, which I really enjoyed. Our friend Ana had a Chucky-related surprise for me which I’ll show you later in this post.
We got back to the hotel past 2:00 a.m. and were more tired than we would be on any other day. Our feet hurt so much, and Christopher’s back was killing him. But it was a very fun day.
🎃 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 🎃
For some context on just how utterly exhausted we were, we didn’t even wake up until like, 1:00 p.m. on this day (Sunday). After a shower and a scarfed-down sushi lunch, we were on our way to Magic Kingdom.
So hot. So much queueing, so much rushing and waiting. I saw this Woody just chilling in a girl’s backpack. It made me giggle.
In fact, I saw many adults with toys at the park (I mean adults without visible children or strollers). Usually, the toy was cheerfully peeking out of a bag, just like that. It always made me smile. And no, I didn’t have a stuffie friend with me at any point, even though I brought Beta and E.T. on the trip. It really was too hot to carry them.
🌹 Dining At Be Our Guest 🌹
This was one of the nicest experiences we had this weekend and a highly anticipated one at that. Our partner worked so very hard to get us reservations months in advance. Here’s the three of us at the entrance:
And waiting to be called in the Beast’s sitting room:
I took a photo of our just-married friends, Jessie and Ana, too:
This place is basically a Beauty and The Beast fan’s wet dream. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The Beast wasn’t going table to table, but I was able to get some photos of him:
We got so lucky to be placed in the coolest room within this restaurant, with all the ripped drapes and the enchanted rose! Christopher loved it.
This happened a few times per hour:
I really tried not to overeat so I could enjoy the desserts but was still pretty full and couldn’t finish them all. They were delicious and so pretty!
We took photos next to the rose. I got some video, too! A petal fell every once in a while.
Now for the pics. Christopher and I…
With our partner…
And Jessie and Ana:
I was able to get a better picture of the beautiful entrance with our partner:
And I took a photo of Jessie and Ana by Cinderella’s Wishing Well:
I’m always happy to see Huey, Louie, and Dewey around!
I took this photo of Main Street as we were walking towards our spot to watch Mickey’s Boo to You Halloween Parade. It looked so pretty:
Even more sparkly in video!
We had reservations for Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular Dessert Party for after the parade. It was a much nicer way to enjoy the fireworks show!
🌈 Last Day At Universal 🌈
We checked out pretty early so we could have one last enjoyable morning at the parks. Here’s Christopher as we waited for our partner to bring the car around.
Once at the parks, I got Christopher’s photo with his beloved DeLorean time machine:
🌚 E.T. Adventure 🌚
I was so happy to finally be able to go on the E.T. Adventure ride. I’m not actually 100% sure if I went on it maybe some 19 years ago, or if I saw a video of it. It felt slightly familiar. In any case, I loved it. Our partner treated me to this photo souvenir after we rode it:
The photographer allowed me to take photos of the other display which was also an option that one could do instead of the bike:
🦕 Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary Tribute Store 🦕
For Jurassic Park’s 30th anniversary, Universal had a special store with many wonderful photo-op displays and memorabilia. I had a limited amount of time to spend here, but here’s an article that goes into a lot of detail about this incredible place.
This is what greeted you as you walked in:
The maquettes on display were very cool:
Other cool odds-and-ends:
A very neat display of old merch:
I hope I get another chance to go here before they close it. There was so much more I didn’t get to see!
🎀 Hello Kitty Store 🎀
They had a very cute Hello Kitty store! I was a bit taken aback by the merch… some of it was downright bizarre, but very unique and cool!
🔪🩸 Chucky’s Twisted Playground 🩸🔪
We did this at the very end, before getting on the road. How glad I was not to miss it! First, we had a LONG walk to the hotel where this attraction had been tucked in. It was hot, but it was such a beautiful day:
Christopher somehow was a trooper throughout, even though he was so worn out.
Finally, we made it. It was a series of photo-ops, basically. I loved it!
I was able to get a bunch of cool photos. After all, that’s why we were there. This first batch is all the photos we’re in (well, mostly me):
And here’s the rest. I loved this place and was so happy I didn’t miss out on seeing it. The dolls definitely struck me more as movie-Chucky than TV show-Chucky, though. His pupils were really small, making him more scary and less cute (but I love Chucky in any form!).
💕😺 Heading Home With Kotoko 😺💕
While Kotoko ruled the cats-and-dog roost that is my mom-in-law’s house, she spent the weekend looking for us and missed us terribly. As soon as I opened the door she began meow-screaming in joy. It broke my heart, but also made me happy to see her affection. I picked her up and held her and she kept rubbing her face all over mine, and her purr sounded like a motorcycle. She is a deeply loving and affectionate old cat.
Once in the car, she kept purring all the way home on Christopher’s lap. If I turned around and said her name, she kneaded the air and squinted happily.
We had another charging stop, where Kotoko got to enjoy walking around one more time.
✨🎁 Goodies! 🎁✨
I am so happy with the souvenirs I got. My favorite one is this baby Dronkey from Shrek! I couldn’t believe I found one. Our partner got it for me.
As I mentioned earlier, our friend Ana surprised me with a lovely gift of a Chucky fan. I love it so much I could hardly bear to use it. I’m going to put it somewhere in my studio, or maybe in the movie room.
I also got a Chucky bucket hat! It’s reversible. I love it so much!
I got three E.T. souvenirs. Our partner got me the lanyard and lanyard pocket which I used throughout the weekend:
And I got this E.T. glass and plush keychain:
This was a wonderful trip. Of all the times I’ve been to Universal, this time I enjoyed myself the most of all by far… even if I cried twice. 😅 I would go again next weekend if I could. I loved it so much!
But we are done traveling for a while, and I can certainly use the break. Maybe I’ll become a little more active on my blog again. We will see! For now, I thank you very much for reading.