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Posts Tagged ‘florida’

Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

I can’t say that I’m a tremendously huge fan of Harry Potter. I’ve read two and a half books and haven’t seen any of the movies. But when I heard there was going to be a Harry Potter theme park opening in Universal Studios, I decided I would be more than excited to go.

The park, which will feature a virtual robotic ride over Hogwarts Castle, will open on June 18 in Orlando, Florida. It will be dubbed ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ and will leave plenty of room for every Harry Potter fan. It will take up 20 acres, after all. Besides the main ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, other rides will also be featured, like the Dragon Challenge, and the Flight of the Hippogriff.

Some of the more interesting aspects of the new theme park lie within its eating establishments. As all fans of the book know, there are some very unique foods that present themselves to characters in the stories. The main restaurant, called Three Broomsticks, will feature butterbeer, a drink that tastes like shortbread cookies and butterscotch.

MTV News reports that they will also serve Rotisserie-smoked chicken, chargrilled ribs and turkey legs, as well as British pub staples like fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties. Of course, some other tasty treats include pumpkin juice, chocolate-y cauldron cakes, treacle fudge and a Scottish ale called Hog’s Head Brew.

For those of you who couldn’t get enough of the cool stores in the Harry Potter books, you will actually be able to visit them. Visitors will have shopping opportunities in stores like Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Honeyduke’s Homemade Sweets, Ollivanders, Owl Post, and Zonkos.

Click here to see a slide show of pictures from the new theme park. Looks pretty nifty to me!

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

As an avid reader of Carl Hiaasen books, I can say that none of his books have ever let me down. I’ve read five of his great eco-friendly novels now, but for some reason, the sixth one just isn’t catching me.

Not the greatest Hiaasen book, but still worth a read. Photo from filedby.com.

Not the greatest Hiaasen book, but still worth a read. Photo from filedby.com.

Double Whammy takes place, as always, in sunny Florida. Well, mostly. (This novel switches a bit to Louisiana, too.) The plot thickens when a famous local bass fisherman is suspected of cheating to win bass tournaments throughout the state. Private investigator Decker is hired to take on the case, but the events in this case go way beyond his usual assignments.

When the famous fisherman is discovered murdered days before a big tournament, someone tries to frame Decker for the crime. All the while, he is still in love with his ex-wife, is seduced by the real killer’s sister, and must try to pull off escaping from the cops long enough to prove his innocence.

The characters in this book are colorful, to say the least. Most of Hiaasen’s characters are. However, there is one in particular that keeps coming back in many of the novels — ex-Florida governor Clinton Tyree, who nows goes by either the name Skink or Captain. He is a crazed environmentalist who eats fresh roadkill, shoots a gun at airplanes, and badly punishes anyone who dares to get caught hurting nature.

In the case of this book, I think Skink may be one of the only reasons I’m still intrigued. I am always curious to see what he’ll do next. Perhaps it’s the fact that the story is about a bass tournament that has turned me off. I’m just having a hard time grasping this story.

But hey, it’s all about opinion. If you like Carl Hiaasen, by all means, read this book. You might love the fishy story!

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

Ernest Hemingway, one of the great classic writers of our time, was known for living in the Florida Keys. Many of his books take on a tropical sunshine setting as a kind of great homage to his home.

This past week, the wonderful sunny folks living in Key West had their turn to pay homage to the famous writer. They celebrated their 29th annual Hemingway Days festivities from July 21-26. Today was the last day of the activities.

Ernest Hemingway look-a-likes running of the bulls outside Sloppy Joe's Bar. Photo from Reuters.

Ernest Hemingway look-a-likes celebrate the running of the bulls outside Sloppy Joe's Bar. Photo from Reuters.

Hemingway Days included so many fun events, including the “Papa” Hemingway Look-Alike Contest, a Key West Marlin Tournament, and a crazy “Running of the Bulls,” held by Sloppy Joe’s Bar. There were many more activites on top of all that — you can read a list of everything at the schedule of events website.

Watch a video of last year’s look-alike contest here.

Many of the events were held at Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the most famous tribute restaurant and bar to Hemingway himself. In fact, their logo is a picture of the great American writer. They even had a Hemingway arm wrestling tournament today at noon. What fun!

Another interesting thing about Key West is that it has made Ernest Hemingway’s former home into a museum dedicated to his life and works. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum provides guided tours to vacationers to the area. Of course, the tours were a big part of the Hemingway Days activities, as well.

A cool little tidbit about the property is that it is now home to over sixty cats, half of which are polydactyl, which means they have extra toes. According to the museum website, Ernest Hemingway was given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain and some of the cats who live on the museum grounds are descendants of that original cat.

Perhaps this event will spark your interest next July for the 30th annual Hemingway Days events and activities. Really, what other writers can you think of that inspire such festivities?

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

I’m going to share one of my guilty pleasures with you so that you can adopt him as one of yours, too. Carl Hiaasen, a fairly well known author from Florida, has written countless books over his years in the field. Some of his greatest hits include Nature Girl, Sick Puppy, and Hoot, which was recently made into a movie (with some help from Jimmy Buffett).

This post will serve as a general overview for you. In the future, I will certainly have reviews of some of his individual books. To tell you a little bit about his novels, they are all mysteries that take place in Florida. Hiaasen has quite a bit of pride for his home state!

Each novel usually introduces readers to five or six different characters, who start out as complete strangers. Through whatever set of circumstances they encounter, they always end up meeting by about three quarters through each book to finish the tale and end the mystery.

The thing that I love so much about Hiaasen’s books are that they all have a nature/environmentalism theme. The topics range from litterbugs to endangered species to cleaning up the ocean. However, the characters are often crazy and comedic, making each book a true pleasure to read. The villains are always suffering from some insane lack of common sense.

Also the fact that all the tales take place in Florida is great, too. It sets the scene for a beach paradise, rich with history and nature. I don’t know about you, but mysteries in tropical places seem more appealing than those in snowy places.

Let that warm Florida sunshine beat down on your face as you pick up your first Carl Hiaasen book! Get enthralled in fighting litterbugs. But hey, if things get too hairy, you can always relax under a palm tree.

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