Holy Land Experience
Blueberry Hill RV Resort is emptying out as snowbirds start heading back north. We first noticed a few empty sites when we returned from our unscheduled trip to Pittsburgh about a month ago. Now there are even more empty spaces. We can see 8 or 10 vacant sites from our window in the back section where we are staying, and the front section (shown in the photo below) is only a little more than half filled.
Our friends, Dick and Barbara, pulled into one of the unoccupied sites near us on Friday. We first met Dick and Barbara last summer in Iowa while we were waiting out the flood waters, and we have stayed in touch with them since that time. They still have a stick house near Charlotte, NC, but they travel for extended periods in their motor home. Dick and Barbara happened to be home last fall when we were in the Charlotte area, and we stopped by their house. We had a nice visit, and they ended up taking us to lunch at a great barbecue place.
Now Dick and Barbara are at the beginning of a spring trip with several stops in Florida, so they planned to stay for a few nights here at Blueberry Hill on their way south. One of the things we were planning to do before we left Florida this year was visit the Holy Land Experience, which is located about an hour away in Orlando. The Holy Land Experience is a re-creation of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Christ. It is part Christian ministry and part tourist attraction. When we mentioned the Holy Land Experience to Dick and Barbara in an email, they expressed an interest so we planned to go while they were at Blueberry Hill.
We headed to Orlando Saturday morning and arrived at the Holy Land Experience just before they opened. We ordered our tickets online, and we had to pick up the tickets at Guest Services. Not only did we get a $5 per person discount for ordering online, we also got to bypass the lines at the ticket windows. The photo below shows the entrance, which is designed to look like one of the gates to the city of Jerusalem.
The area just inside the gate is a replica of a Jerusalem street market with baskets of exotic fruits, vegetables, and other items that you might expect to find in a Middle Eastern marketplace. The central courtyard in the market is flanked by a gift shop and a cafe.
making our way through the market, we found we were just in time to see
the Crystal Living Waters. During the 20-minute presentation, the
fountain dances and swirls in time to inspirational music.
Throughout the day, there are numerous live plays and musical presentations depicting the life of Jesus. The photo below is during a play called "The Ministry of Jesus," which is a collection of several Gospel stories.
There is a re-creation of the garden tomb. This venue is the focal point of the passion play "Behold the Lamb." We didn't see the passion play since it was scheduled late in the day, which was longer than we wanted to stay.
The one-third size replica of Herrod's Temple is centrally located in the Holy Land Experience, just like the real-life temple was in ancient Jerusalem.
Paul liked the scale model of the city of Jerusalem that was housed inside one of the buildings near the outdoor temple replica. The photo below shows the scale model of Herrod's Temple.
The next photo is another view of the model of the city. The temple is the tallest structure on the right.
There was a presentation by a staff archeologist at the model several times during the day.
The archeologist gave an overview of the history of city of Jerusalem
and pointed out numerous landmarks on the model. He also described many
features of the temple.
Near the building that housed the model of Jerusalem was the Scriptorium.
The Scriptorium is a museum that houses a research library of several thousand manuscripts, scrolls, and other religious artifacts. Some of these items are on display to the public as a walk-through exhibit that traces the history of the Bible from early papyrus scrolls, through hand-copied manuscripts of the Middle Ages, to early printed Bibles that started with the Gutenburg Bible in the 1400s.
We were amazed at how well done everything was. All the exhibits and shows
have an unmistakable Gospel message. Our only complaint was the crowds.
We normally don't do touristy things on weekends, but because of the
way our schedule worked out, Saturday was the best day for us to go to
the Holy Land Experience. There were lots of people there that day,
including many church groups, and the Holy Land Experience isn't as
well equipped to handle large crowds the way Disney is. The walkways
and exhibit layouts aren't always as efficient as they could be - the
overflow crowds from some outdoor shows block pathways, and the
entrances to some exhibits interfere with the exits from others on busy
days like the one when we were there. We still enjoyed the Holy Land Experience and highly recommend it,
but go on a weekday if at all possible. Note that they are closed
Sundays, although they do have church services each Sunday at 10:30 AM.
The next photo shows our group at the Holy Land Experience. Barbara and Dick are on the right.
About mid-afternoon, our feet were getting tired and we were getting hungry. Although there is food available at the Holy Land Experience, we had our sights set on Bahama Breeze. Bahama Breeze is one of our favorite restaurants; and when we received an email from Bahama Breeze with a coupon for $10 off any dinner entree, we couldn't pass it up. We forwarded a copy of the promotional email to Dick and Barbara, so each couple had a coupon.
There are two Bahama Breeze restaurants in Orlando, and they are both fairly close to the Holy Land Experience. We stopped at one of them for an early dinner on our way back to Blueberry Hill. Barbara and Margery had almond crusted tilapia with lemon butter, Dick had Bahamian chicken kabob salad, and Paul had Jamacian grilled chicken with mango salsa. Yum! :)
On Sunday after attending church, we traveled up to The Villages, which calls itself Florida's friendliest hometown. The Villages is located about 30 miles north of Bushnell and made up of 32 "villages" with neighborhoods of homes ranging from patio villas to ranch style homes to premium homes. We know several people who have either retired there or bought second homes. It's a golfer's paradise with 33 golf courses, but for those not so inclined there are over 100 special interest groups that meet on a regular basis. The Pittsburgh Club is so big they had to start a second one! Although neither of us is ready to settle down permanently, our stop in the Villages Sales Office was informative. Florida in general and The Villages in particular may bear further investigation in the future when we are finally ready for a stick house again.
We had a great time visiting with Dick and Barbara. We shared lots of good conversation, a ride on the Withlacoochee Bike Trail, and several meals. They were soon on their way to visit other friends in Florida, and we had to say "good bye." We look forward to crossing paths with them again.