That Was The Week of Woe

Often of a Sunday evening, the black dog will find me. The looming presence of another Monday steals a part of my weekend and I spend more time than I should “fearing” going back to what I’d rather not.

Most times, of course, this is silly and unfounded and the worst thing I have to contend with is the commute and having to make my own brew. I then promise myself I won’t be so foolish in future until it all happens again the next week.

Last Sunday, following a tremendous two-week break, and the opportunity to almost totally unwind, this Monday phobia was strong. In the back of my mind I was assuring myself it was all unfounded and all would be well.

I was wrong. Holy moly, the week just gone was a struggle. Physically and mentally it felt like I was dragging myself along on my xmas inflated belly towards the finish line of the end of each day never mind the weekend. Monday, with the clock only having edged to 12.30, saw me seriously wondering how I would actually make it until 5.30. It was not good. My brain struggled in a similar manner, and I felt like I had been parachuted into my seat and told to do a job I had never heard of never mind done before.

Muscle memory kicked in around Thursday and I began to feel that I wasn’t stealing a living and no doubt things will bet “better” next week. It all went to confirm that as fortunate as I am to have the job I do, with probably the best company to work for possible, this is not my calling, and should my lottery numbers drop at any point you will not see me in the local paper declaring that I will continue working. I will be emailing my resignation from my first class Florida bound seat within hours of the cash hitting the bank.

So with that horror now hopefully behind me, the new year has brought into focus two priorities for the year. Our holiday of course, which celebrates my 50th, but first, and more importantly, Rebecca and Tom’s wedding in May.

Stuff is organised and even paid for mostly. There is nothing major left to do, find or fund, but now we are into the detail. Guest lists, confirmed numbers, table plans, favours (whatever they are) and the little bits and bobs that I would never have guessed were part of a wedding.

Luckily, I have somewhat of a track record for planning stuff and Rebecca has inherited enough of that to be making a good job of things. The hen do plans are ticking along in the safe hands of Emily and I’m sure everything will fall into place helped by the huge efforts of all of us.

Yesterday, as Louise wrestled with her latest assignment deadline for her midwifery course, and Tom went to do his Ju-Jitsu, Rebecca, Freddie and I went for a wet and windy walk around what’s known as The Jumbles. It’s a country park/reservoir which holds a dual role in my mind. Now, it’s a lovely place for a walk right on our doorstep but formerly it was a place of horrors as this is where my school would make me do cross country in PE lessons. Tell me how it makes sense that because it was raining we weren’t allowed to play football but were allowed/forced to run miles around some water.

We spent some of the time going over what’s left to do, so that helped and things seem clearer now. We spent the rest of the time waiting for Freddie to pick up stones every three steps.

We saw a 17 week old Old English puppy which I immediately fell in love with and a Great Dane that was more horse than dog. We said hello to the ducks and got rained on quite a lot. A lovely afternoon.

So after a grim work week, the weekend has helped. Friday night was the Mustard Christmas do. Having had a very busy festive period, my bandmates and I went out for a curry and some dirty beer. We also took the chance to watch a couple of local bands as that’s something we seldom get a chance to do. Alas, they weren’t very good, but at least it made us feel better about what we do!

Today hasn’t a lot that I need to do, which is always the plan but seldom the reality for a Sunday. I have a small DIY job to do at Louise’s Mum’s house, but then the afternoon is mine to do as much or as little as I like….once I’ve walked the dogs…..and tidied the kitchen……

With that horror-filled first week back at work done, the wedding plans firmed up nicely, at some point between now and May I need to rid myself of the post-xmas paunch and should time allow later today I will fire up the Florida plan and start to put some flesh on the bones of our daily activities.

I shall probably share the current state of that with you all next week unless I forget or something more interesting happens in the meantime.

Till the next time…….

Christmas Is Over. Give War a Chance…

I’m going to keep this brief today otherwise it will just turn into a return to work moanfest and there’s enough negativity around without me adding to it.

I was desperately in need of a break as Christmas approached and I do feel better for my time off. Another few weeks away from the rat race would be nice if I’m honest for me to really feel the benefit but that won’t pay the bills so tomorrow I will resume my battle to beat the traffic and feign interest.

Our New Year’s celebrations were lovely if subtle. We enjoyed an excellent Indian meal at a restaurant called Akash in Darwen with Rebecca, Tom and Freddie. They went on to a family party at Tom’s brothers and Louise and I rolled home to watch Jools Holland, desperately trying to stay awake until midnight. I made it, just, having enjoyed the night.

So it’s been a traditional festive period, involving all the things you’d expect. There was a visit to the tip, impressive weight gain, and a chocolate mountain that we’ll be staring at until Halloween as we can’t now eat it as of course we need to lose the pounds that have found us in the last few weeks.

I’m not a fan of the whole new year, new you stuff. In a way, the new year thing feels a little bit like the most Mondayish Monday of all Mondays, and I rail against the stark U-turn in advertising from indulgent foodstuffs to gym memberships, weight watchers and fitness equipment. It all feels a bit too predictable and controlling for my liking.

The world seems to be sharing my dim view by getting 2020 off to a wonderful start. Australia is on fire and it is absolutely heartbreaking to see what’s going on there, and the man-baby in the White House seems intent on starting a distracting war to stop people concentrating on his illegal actions. As re-election campaigns go, it’s a bit predictable and it will certainly be expensive in all sorts of ways. I did say there was a good amount of negativity knocking about.

In brighter news, we are just 253 days away from our next trip and assuming we aren’t at war or on fire, we have some fine plans, almost exclusively (at this stage) involving food but you’d expect nothing less. Standby to be told about each and every element of that plan in excruciating detail in coming weeks.

I did say I’d be brief so let me keep that promise so I can soak in my last few hours of freedom before reentering the real world tomorrow. Once the horror of the first week back is done I may be in a more jolly space and able to blog at you more positively.

Till the next time……

Notes From No Man's Land.

Greetings. Having spent the last fifteen weeks or so using my weekly blog to report on our latest US adventure, I find myself trying to use my now flabby and out of shape blogging muscle to somehow come up with something to write that isn’t based on rides and food. Bear with me as I ease myself back into the weekly discipline of thinking of something to write.

I am slap bang in the middle of a glorious two-week break from work. It felt needed, and of course, by the time I’ve relearnt how to do nothing, I’ll be heading back into the daily grind once again, rueing not spending the downtime more wisely by doing even less than I did.

Our Christmas has been gloriously unspectacular. We hosted on the day, somehow catering for nine, with only about eight hours of hard labour in the kitchen required and our house still hasn’t recovered, with pots, plates and presents still strewn about the place like the aftermath of a particularly wild party at Mary Berry’s.

I could post ten minutes of video here, showing Freddie ignoring every present but one at our house on Christmas morning, but it wouldn’t be fair to expect anyone not related to us to sit through that.

OK, I’ll post one of the clips at a mere five minutes or so which outlines the chaos of the unwrapping process with two dogs and the glories of the Bolton accent. Louise will love it…..

The dogs did, of course, get their own gifts, courtesy of Emily so it’s only right you see that too. There’s nothing like quality content and….well, you can complete the punchline.

Other than that we have had some lovely lazy days, doing not much more than hoovering up leftovers and clearing the fridge of all the stuff we overbought whilst binge-watching stuff. It’s what God and the baby Jesus would want.

I know I spent much of my trip report bemoaning illness, and in some ways, I have never fully recovered from that since my return to the UK. I have, it seems, been snotty, coughy and achy ever since. However, over the festive period, most of the family, and it seems most of the UK, have been struck down by cold-related illness, Freddie included, and it’s fortunate that we are off work to enjoy our respective conditions to the fullest.

If I were a proper blogger who spent time planning what spews onto the page this post would be a glorious retrospective review of the past year and indeed past decade, a decade for which I have blogged almost every week in its entirety.

Instead, I am stumbling around this Twxitmas no man’s land in a tired daze, wondering if it’s possible to eat yourself to death. Of course, should you wish to occupy your downtime in this festive wasteland, there are something like 450 blog posts from me you could wade through. That would save me having to apply any brainpower to looking back at all that time.

Having started blogging in November 2009 I have documented all manner of crap in that time. The decade about to end has, like with every one of you reading this, delivered some highs and of course some heartbreaking, soul-crushing lows. On the negative side, I will remember the decade for two of the most upsetting episodes in my life, which I won’t be sharing here, but, as you must, you suck it up, deal with it and move on. Of course, things could have been worse and we are blessed in many ways that I undoubtedly don’t appreciate enough.

Of course, one of those blessings has been the arrival of Freddie into our lives. It can be incredibly tedious to listen to someone pap on about their kids and grandkids, but hey, I’m not about to break the habit of a lifetime, but it has been THE highlight of this or any recent decade. What a fun-filled, joy-giving bundle of perfection he is and I apologise for my past and future Freddie related gushings.

A feature, and of course highlight of the last decade (or two) have been our Florida trips. We’ve been fortunate enough…no bollocks to that…we’ve worked our absolute arses off and endured all kinds of soul-crushing stuff to be able to afford them, and we’ve done all manner of glorious things and eaten all kinds of filthy nonsense. They have defined the childhood’s of the girls in many ways, and, fingers crossed they will continue to do the same for them and Freddie in the years to come.

So that’ll do for today. Hopefully, the new year and decade of blogging will see a glorious return to the incredible content I am renowned for producing.

Image result for spacey side eye gif

Look, I know I overuse this gif but it is useful in so many ways.

I hope the new year celebrations and whatever follows them are kind to you and yours and your WDW trips are frequent and glorious. Seasons greetings and best wishes for 2020 and beyond from everyone here at Mkingdon Towers.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Fifteen

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Fifteen

The irony of sleeping in until 7.45, the latest lie in of the whole trip, on the day we fly home was not lost on me. It made it clear to me that in future I clearly need more than just two weeks of a holiday to allow my body to begin to adjust to vacation mode.

The next hour or so was filled with the unavoidable packing and tidying in preparation for our departure. It was relatively pain-free, to be honest. It’s almost as if we’ve done this a few times before and are finally getting the hang of it.

Tom and I collected all the now full cases and girded our loins for the task of forcing them into the back of the van. We struggled at the airport upon arrival so this was looking like a challenge and a half now our luggage contained several purchases and half a ton of plastic tat collected by Freddie along the way.

If anyone can explain to me how we slotted everything in with ease I’d appreciate it. The only rational observation is that upon arrival I was tired, emotional and a little incompetent and at least two of those can’t be true.

Breakfast was the first order of business and we pointed the van north towards the 192, happy to eat at whatever relevant establishment we saw first. Ideally, it would be a restaurant.

A IHOP caught my eye and we arrived like a SWAT team storming an embassy. I think we were hungry. It was busy but we were seated immediately so nobody got hurt.

We had a lovely server. Her chatting was pleasant at first, but as it stretched into more than three minutes, preventing us from eating, it started to lose its charm a little. At last we ordered –

Freddie had smiley faces, which would probably be the only ones seen today.

He made sure his Dad was cutting them up to his liking…..

I had blueberry pancakes and they were all kinds of awesome.

Rebecca had birthday cake pancakes and Tom had what you can see there. I didn’t capture its name…sue me.

Emily had chocolate chip pancakes and they were every bit as good as you might imagine.

Louise had something called a Split Decision.

With coffees and juices and a very nice tip the bill was $100.

Back into the van now and off to Disney Springs. We parked in Lime and spent more time than was ideal in Uniqlo. Things were purchased and then the pain was done. Next, the inevitable last-minute gift shopping in World of Disney. I think we spent an hour in there buying things for other people who already have nearly every possible gift from someone who has holidayed in Orlando. It gets harder each year.

It was another hot day so we found a shaded seat near a bar and listened to a chap with a guitar for a bit. There were some final cocktails consumed by the non-drivers and we sat and contemplated the horror of returning home.

We took Freddie on the little carousel there and he met one of his new friends again.

The view before us made the thought of the M60 on a cold, dark rainy Monday even more disconcerting.

For one final time, Freddie somehow got the camera again….

Just a few highlights there from the 78 photos he took.

With drinks consumed, we moved on to the Marketplace for some browsing of expensive shiny things.

Louise spotted a necklace she liked and I was really struggling to find a reason not to buy it. The Gods smiled upon me. As it was taken from the case for further inspection the assistant realised it was actually broken. I shed a small tear.

On the way out we popped into Amorette’s just “for a look”.

It was good….

We could not put it off any longer. We boarded the van and pointed it at the airport at 2.50. It felt like they had built a few more tolls on the way back than we saw upon arrival. Undeterred we arrived at the car hire return at 3.20.

All sweat and regrets, we pulled the luggage out and headed for check-in. There was a ten-minute queue to do so. Security was a whole different matter. What a slow-moving, joy void that was. Just the tonic for those travelling home after a holiday.

We boarded the wrong sort of monorail and headed for the gate.

We wanted to spend our last moments in Orlando eating, as nature intended. We tried Bahama Breeze, but the wait was too long so we walked over to the Outback instead who were able to seat us immediately.

Alas, this airport version was a pale imitation of the place we enjoy so regularly at Formosa Gardens. A limited menu and virtually no vegetarian options whatsoever. They had to come up with some sort of attempt at a salad for Emily which wasn’t worthy of a photo.

I had an Asian Chicken Salad so that I wouldn’t put too much weight on during the holiday.

Freddie had a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Rebecca, Chicken Tenders.

Louise and Tom a Steak Sandwich.

All in all, the food was a decent reflection of going home from a WDW holiday. It was so underwhelming, I actually had a beer to console myself.

We boarded without incident or queue, as we waited for everyone else to queue up for their guaranteed seat before getting on last.

Freddie was changed into his comfy flying clothes and readied for take-off.

My notes end here. The flight wasn’t great, mainly as Freddie was a little bit unwell and had a temperature, meaning the he had a period of upset and crying about halfway home. Shout out to the family sat behind Rebecca, Tom and Freddie for complaining to the flight crew about Freddie crying and stopping them sleeping. You stay classy.

You don’t want or need to hear about our landing and endless waiting for luggage at Manchester. All I will say is that we were the last out of the place as one of our cases was missing. I had to fill out a load of forms about that before finally going to meet our now very tetchy taxi driver who had been waiting for over an hour. He took it out on me all the way home by regaling me with his right-wing, racist views, not stopping to draw breath. He was a message from the Gods as punishment for being so stupid as to leave Orlando. The return to the stark reality of the UK could not have been better signalled.

So we’re done. I would typically at this point wax lyrical about WDW, and Florida in general, as some sort of attempt to explain my relentless desire to return. Chances are, if you are reading this, you know.

Despite my never-ending illness, and the week-long threat of weather-induced devastation, I have to say this trip was a beauty. We all enjoyed it enormously, due in no small part to the thrill of showing Tom and Freddie something that means so much to us all. The joy of spending uninterrupted time with Freddie is just a happy and joyful bonus of course. He has brought so much happiness, fun and enjoyment to our every day lives, that being in WDW with him is just something we treasure. I contest that there is no better place on the planet to spend time together as a family. For those of a certain age, like me, who seem to spend more and more time looking back at the girl’s younger years and getting annoyed and upset that I can’t actually remember huge chunks of their lives, these overly detailed trip reports have been a godsend, in forever capturing at least some of our time together. Same goes now for Freddie of course.

So I won’t drone on. I don’t know how many words I’ve written detailing this trip, or how many hours I’ve spent doing so, but I could have saved us all the trouble by just posting these two twenty-second videos the day after we got back. They say it all.

Thank you for your perseverance for making your way through another one of our trips. After all these years it really is touching and mind-boggling that so many of you still care enough to read this stuff.

Unfortunately for you, we’re doing it all again next year as I celebrate my 50th in the only place I ever could. If you missed it and want to read about how that plan is going, this is the link you need.

Things have worked out very neatly with the ending of this trip coinciding with Christmas. So I will take this opportunity to wish you all a lovely one and if at all possible a Disney filled 2020. Every view, read, comment and like is always very much appreciated, probably more than you know. It’s a small corner of the internet, but I’m delighted you join me in it of a Sunday.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Fourteen

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Fourteen

There aren’t many other combinations of three words which will strike fear into the heart of a WDW fanatic more than “last full day”. It is inevitable and yet ignored for as long as possible. It is a day for savouring the details, drinking in the sights, sounds and smells of a place you may not see for quite some time. whilst trying to have some fun at the same time.

Ours started with me awake at 7. There was no sign of anybody else so I made some coffee and ate a Voodoo doughnut as nature intended. It turned out that Freddie had been unsettled during the night and so, of course, had Rebecca and Tom so they were a little slow to get started this morning.

Louise and I did some packing whilst we waited for them to be ready and by about 10am we were loaded into the van for the final trip to a park this time around. Every time we had driven to the parks on this trip, as we stopped at a set of lights as we joined the 192 we had seen a billboard, which alternated between three adverts. One of them was for Hollywood Studios and had a large picture of one of the aliens from Toy Story. Over time, Freddie had invented a game of “there he is”, every time the picture appeared. He played it for the final time. Am I getting across that we were very aware that today was the last day?

I had already shifted some FastPasses to later to accommodate out later start at some point before leaving the villa and after parking in Simba, we boarded the tram knowing it was for the final time. I tried to stop myself blinking so that I could drink in as much as possible of every single thing.

It seemed busier than we’d seen today but however busy it was, we were going in hard today for a full-on fun fest. As we made our way up Main Street….

We came across the start of the trolley show and we stopped to enjoy that before completing the journey to Caseys where we spent a few minutes listening to the piano player.

We were headed to Pirates for our first FastPass of the day. That was handy as the standby queue was forty minutes already. We had ridden in all sorts of different configurations on all sorts of rides over the course of the trip but for this one, Freddie rode on my knee and it was a treat. I’ve ridden this ride a lot, many times with my own young girls, and to see at close hand his wonder and enjoyment made this one as special as those early rides with my own kids. It was lovely.

It was by now 11.30 and of course, time for lunch as nobody had eaten breakfast and my doughnut didn’t count. We decided on Pecos Bill’s as Emily had heard good things about the veggie options there. I mobile ordered from within the building and waited for it to be ready to collect as the others found a table.

Louise and I had Beef Nachos

Emily had the Veggie burger and Tom a normal one

My notes say Rebecca had “chicken”….

Your guess is as good as mine. Freddie had a Chicken Rice Bowl.

Emily was so blown away by her Veggie burger that she had to double-check it really wasn’t meat. She has raved about this burger at regular intervals since returning which may be useful to you if you have one of those odd veggie folks in your party.

Rebecca was detained in the loo for a while so we made our way toward Tomorrowland. With no news via WhatsApp of her following us, I waited at Small World whilst the others walked on to ride Ariel, which I know she would be upset I wasn’t a part of. With Rebecca now with me we caught up with everyone else just as they exited the ride.

Next, we walked all the way back to the Speedway where some actor from the 50’s seems to have been hanging around.

After a twenty-minute queue, Emily and I rode together for the first time in what must be twenty years. I seemed to do better than previous attempts, wrenching the steering wheel from one extreme to another to avoid the middle rail.

Freddie did some steering apparently, and can’t have done any worse than I did. We then moved on down to the People Mover for a sit-down. There was no queue, but as soon as we boarded the ride stopped for a couple of minutes, denying us of the cooling breeze.

Freddie did his best to help out.

Totally by accident I then took one of those photos that I suspect we’ll treasure for a long time.

Once we got moving again I took some now very much out of date “update” pictures of the Tron construction….

We all know that size isn’t everything but it does look mightily impressive. I can’t wait to ride it.

Louise then took in some sunshine whilst the rest of us rode Space Mountain. For the first time many years, we were directed to the left-hand track. I’m not saying it’s wilder than the right but it was not possible for me to tense what I needed to for long enough and in the end just had to relax everything and scream.

To clam the nerves we got an iced coffee from the Joffrey’s nearby. Despite me clearly being an internet sensation and a black belt at blogging, this is one of the many reasons why I don’t do the same on Instagram….

Having polished off our drinks we quickly made our way over to Branstormer for our FastPass. There were just a few minutes left on our window so Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and I hurried and made it just in time.

This queue afforded us a better view of Tron….

I used the fandangled thing on my camera which allows me to point the viewfinder backwards to capture Freddie enjoying it for the second time.

At first, he maybe wasn’t too sure….

But he soon settled into it…

We met back up with Emily and Louise before riding Buzz. We were doing some serious crisscrossing of the park to get in as many rides as we could now. I inflicted a justified and crushing defeat on Emily, reclaiming my crown for at least one more year. We then made our way over to Liberty Square to take in the Muppets history show.

We paused at the castle to take some photos whilst it was relatively quiet there. Freddie’s nap did not stop me capturing him in this iconic location.

We spent a decent amount of time here, doing lots of last day photography.

We found a place on a nearby wall on which to sit as we watched.

We enjoyed the show and it’s a great addition to an area of the park most would just previously just walk through to get somewhere else.

We wandered a shop or two before heading back to the castle for the impending show. It’s difficult to reconcile what I will say next to the arctic sideways rain currently going on outside my UK window, but as we stood watching the show, I could feel the sweat, generated by the phenomenal heat, trickling down my back and other places. Nice.

With Emily in tears andFreddie now awake, new photographic opportunities opened up to us, and we tried to recreate the partners statue with mixed results….

The Dance Party parade came by just then so we watched that for a bit.

Freddie got to dance with Chip and/or Dale and this last hour or so just sort of fell into place as a lovely way to end our time at Magic Kingdom. It’s often the things that aren’t rides that stick in the memory the longest.

We made our way down Main Street through the shops. Freddie got a Mrs Potato Head to go with the male version he had back home and we ended up near the flag pole, deciding what to do for food. We had nothing booked and our later plans involved watching Reflections of Earth for the final time at Epcot. After a quick play with the dining options on the app and finding that to be unfruitful we decided to go off-site.

So this was it, our official MK goodbye.

So panic mode photos started….

It was as tough as it always is to leave this place and there were more Emily tears and longing looks over shoulders as we made our way to the monorail to get back to the car.

It took us just twenty minutes to drive to our restaurant of choice, Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Lake Buena Vista. This was a long-time favourite of our early trips but we had left it alone for a while as newer things had to be tried, but by jingo, we were glad we went back. This was one of the best meals of our trip and if you haven’t done it, give it a go. It was amazingly quiet and the service, probably due to that, was superb.

For a start, it begins with warm bread and dipping oil.

We gorged ourselves on appetisers of Goat’s Cheese Peppers and Mozzarella Sticks, which were all kinds of awesome.

Louise and I had Meatballs.

Emily had a Butternut Squash Pasta thing….

Tom had Mama’s Trio….

Rebecca had a strangely un-photographed Rack of Lamb.

Everybody raved about the quality here. Just superb.

There was cheesecake for Louise and Tom, Tiramisu for Rebecca and Sticky Toffee Pudding for me.

With three glasses of wine and various other drinks, plus a 20% tip it was $220.

Happy and full we made our way speedily to the Boardwalk. Here fine folks, is where I drop another of my “infamous” planning hacks. It can often be tricky to get parked at a resort if you aren’t staying there, and as we wanted to leave Epcot via International Gateway once the fireworks were done, finding a reason to park here was key.

Having realised that the Big River Grill place at the Boardwalk does not take ADRs, it was simple enough to drive up to the gate, flash some ID and say we were going for dinner there. We were waved through to park without question. Assuming that isn’t common knowledge, if anyone asks, I didn’t tell you.

We made our way up to the hotel entrance for our onward journey to Epcot.

With timing reminiscent of the D-Day landings we arrived at “our bridge spot” at 8.40 and took up our last ever viewing position for Reflections of Earth.

Now, I know we’ve all seen it, and indeed I have posted our video from our earlier viewing this trip, but it’s gone now, so have it again, this time with the added pathos of knowing you can never watch it live again.

There was genuine emotion, nostalgia and regret at it’s passing and it took a good amount of time pull ourselves together and move on, in every sense. You can even witness first hand my croaky cold filled timbre at the end of the video……I wasn’t well you know.

We stopped at the shop at International Gateway to get Emily an ROE T-shirt but they only had odd sizes left so we were denied, only to be rescued by the lovely Val Ramsay who got us one a few days later and posted it to Emily Thank You!

It was a long, leisurely walk back to the car via one of my favourite places on earth.

I’m pretty sure that this store was named after an actress known for her adult roles….

It was a subdued and uneventful drive home and once there, I checked us in for our flight home and then took my sad, tired (still ill) body to bed.

All that remains is our travel day and reflections of the trip and reflections of Reflections of Earth. Spookily the writing of this report will take me right up until Christmas as if this had all been planned. With the amount of planning cock-ups you’ve witnessed over these last weeks, you will know this was not the case, but I will revel in the neat, tied up with a bow satisfaction it brings me.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Thirteen

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Thirteen

There was a hint of a lie in this morning. It was a leisurely 9.30am by the time everyone was vertical and as I am a rat race drone, conditioned by years of monotonous work-based drudgery and now incapable of sleeping beyond 8am, I spent that time doing fun things like putting the bins out and putting a wash on.

With our days remaining dwindling now our kitchen cupboards were looking a little empty but I managed to find Freddie some Cheerios and we watched some TV whilst he ate them.

All this dilly-dallying would normally have had me gnawing my limbs off, but with us being hard at it, pace-wise over the last few days and having had a late night last night I was super chilled daddio. No rush to be out this morning….honest.

Despite the later start nobody managed to feed themselves so we stopped at the local McDonalds for breakfast. I parked the van and as we all tumbled out of it we were being waved at frantically by what looked like some of The Village People from inside the restaurant. It was not a 1970’s themed promotion but instead, a sign that the one particular McDonalds franchise we had chosen, from the millions available, was closed for refurbishment.

Their exaggerated arm gestures did suggest that drive-through was still open so we all piled back into the van and made our way there. Six hungry people in a van, with a seemingly unintelligible northern England accent in a foreign country….what could possibly go wrong?

What fun I had shouting over my shoulder into the dark recesses of the van to gather information on food requirements to then shout it out of the window at a small intercom which responded with crackles and scratches. That only took ten times longer than I would have liked.

Naturally, we were asked to park up and wait for our food so we did. A few minutes later a brown bag was delivered to us and we very quickly discovered the shocking news that our order was wrong as we were missing Emily’s veggie option and Freddie’s drink. So round we went again to shout some more into the void of the intercom before being asked to park up again whilst they fixed their errors. Sigh. Fast food?

More minutes passed and another brown bag arrived. We soon discovered that Emily’s meat-free burger was actually the very meaty version. Emily point blank refused to go round again and said she’d get something in the parks, should we ever get there. Tom ate the meaty burger as an act of selfless sacrifice.

Finally, we were heading to Hollywood Studios and we parked in a very hot Mickey and trammed our way to the entrance.

Having spent a lot of time 30 days ago making FastPasses for this morning, upon realising that we weren’t doing mornings today, I had seamlessly shifted them all to the afternoon. You may find it as hard to believe as I did that we only entered the park at 12.20.

After a restroom stop for Freddie we quickly made our way to the 12.30 Frozen sing-a-long show. We had all enjoyed it enormously the other day and we were a little disappointed that the male storyteller wasn’t the same hilarious one we had previously. We enjoyed it still but didn’t laugh as much.

More restrooming before heading into Indiana Jones for the 1.15 show.

We were seated just as it started only then to find them having serious sound issues for a good while. Eventually, the show got started….

Freddie wasn’t too keen on some of the loud bangs we were very close to so I took him out, or at least up to the back of the theatre where he felt much more comfortable and we watched the rest of things from up there. We were the first out of the place as the show ended and the others were not too far behind.

This brought us to one of our FastPasses at Star Tours. Louise assumed Freddie duties whilst the rest of us rode. As we rejoined Louise, it was time for a Freddie nap so we decided to wander some shops to allow him to fall asleep in his stroller. He didn’t so instead we headed over to the Dance Party for which we had a 2.25 FastPass.

I know this may seem like a silly thing to say, but there were a LOT of kids here.

Rebecca and Tom sat on the floor with Freddie and we found some actual seats towards the back.

Dancing happened. See how Freddie has already perfected the “Brent”….

Two thoughts occurred to me.

  1. Imagine being a cast member at this show and seeing that six times a day.
  2. It was good but comes nowhere near the classic version we took the girls to all those years ago which included the legend that is Bear in the Big Blue House.

After experiencing all those kids in such a confined space, we needed sustenance. Emily and I had a cheesy pretzel, but I was confident CVS would have a cream for that. Louise, Emily and Rebecca had a Hollywood Lights cocktail from a cart next to the pretzel booth thingy. We all had a sit down for a bit whilst those things were consumed.

After that, we did some shop wandering on Sunset Boulevard, killing time until our Rock n Rollercoaster FastPass at 3.40.

Rebecca and Tom rode first and we discovered that somebody has built a whole new bit of the park here. Nobody told me….

It was too hot to do anything silly like walking around that new area so instead, we used a bench to people watch and rest.

It was soon our turn to ride. See how we naturally attached ourselves to the exit door to gain those vital few places in the queue……

After riding, we caught up with Rebecca, Tom and Freddie in the Pixar shop before then riding Tower of Terror via standby which was a very palatable few minutes. I did not ride, instead, I took Freddie on a full lap of the entire park as my way of saying goodbye to it for now. I know this may sound odd, but strange things happen towards the end of a WDW trip…for me anyway.

As I was trying to soak in as much of it as I could by not blinking unnecessarily, Freddie was enjoying the ride (I was walking at full man pace) waving at cast members. As we came to the end of the loop we stopped to do some hula hooping. Well Freddie did, I’m not sure they had my size.

We met up with everyone else at the top of Sunset before making the sad final journey to the exit and the official goodbye to the park for this year. Emily cried a little whilst I just buried the hurt and upset deep inside like you are supposed to.

We made our way back to the car….and notice how Louise blows tens of dollars on an official WDW spray fan thing when we have just two days to go…..

We were headed for City Walk for dinner tonight. We arrived at 5.57. I know that’s an exact time check. The reason I know that is parking becomes free after 6pm, so we pulled to the side just before the payment booths and waited for three minutes. I’m not proud of it, but at the same time, not ashamed either. It is what it is.

We parked, for free, in Cat In The Hat 360 and made the long journey on foot through security and to City Walk.

We went straight to Cowfish as we were hungry, of course. We were seated immediately.

I went all crazy and abandoned the diet coke and went for one of their delicious milkshakes.

There was wine and cocktails for the ladies and Tom joined me in the milkshake…..we didn’t share, he had his own.

Louise returned from a restroom visit with disturbing tales of shallow bowls and furious hand washing. Despite this, we ordered…..

Rebecca, Tom and I had the Cheeseburgerooshi. I know we’ve eaten some terrific stuff, but I have to say, and Tom agreed, that this was the tastiest thing of the entire trip.

Undeterred by shallow bowls, Louise had an upside-down Spicy Burger.

Emily had the Veggie burger option….

Freddie had the grilled cheese sandwich and loved it.

Tom managed a deconstructed chocolate cake and I had a coffee. The bill was $206 including an 18% tip. We loved it here.

We had a slow wander around City Walk. It was one of those lovely dusky, twinkly light times, made better by the glorious warmth. We soon came across the fountains and Freddie was straight in.

He loved playing here as much as we all enjoyed watching him. This was one of those unplanned, glorious memory moments and one I think we’ll all remember for a long time.

Being very wet, Freddie was then whisked off to the restroom to get changed into the spare set of clothes a very organised Rebecca and Tom had with them.

Whilst they did that the rest of us sat on some chairs next to the fountains, again soaking in the surroundings, weather and all-round gloriousness of where we were, banking it to somehow get us through the bleak cold winter to come.

With everyone back together we made our way over to Voodoo Doughnuts. We were not in any way hungry, but we’d vowed to try them and we wouldn’t be back here this trip, so sacrifices had to be made at the altar of gluttony.

Emily and I queued and chose a selection of six.

We sampled the wonders of the glorious pink box, which I’m sure is one of those films you can buy on your TV in hotel rooms, but most of the doughnuts came back to the villa with us to be eaten later.

We made the long journey back to the car and after those 10,000 steps we made our way home stopping at a gas station for fuel and some milk. We were home by 9 after a very lovely day.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Twelve

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Twelve

I know all of you are hoping that I awoke this morning feeling much better, having fought off whatever super virus I had contracted. I didn’t. Never mind. As the very good song goes, we go on.

If this were a Hollywood movie, right about now, teams of men in hazmat suits would be rappelling down the outside of the villa before smashing through my bedroom window to escort me to some secret isolation facility for intrusive examinations. As it wasn’t, I swallowed a handful of pills, blew my schnoz (not a euphemism) and braced myself for the day ahead.

With a Dorian shaped hole meaning the plan made little sense this deep into the holiday, today we faced another sort of non-park day. Madness.

We did have stuff planned though, starting with a character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s and ending with MNSHHP. Last night I had told/pleaded with Louise that we needed to leave the villa by 9.40. That of course meant that I was pacing the lounge like some caged tiger listening to the never-ending sound of the hairdryer coming from upstairs at 9.55. Admittedly, it’s been some time since I used such a device, but it did seem more time than was necessary for Louise’s amount of hair.

This resulted in an aggressive drive to the Contemporary and a mild sulk from the handsome, yet slightly portly driver. We arrived at 10.30 which was far too close to the 10.40 ADR for my liking. Despite that I self-parked of course and we made our way in across the car park and into the hotel reception. This resort has never been high on my list of places I really wanted to stay. There’s nothing wrong with it of course, there are just other resorts I like more. That does not take away from the impressive size and styling in the foyer.

There was a disappointing queue to check in which was not appreciated by my rumbling tummy. It took about ten minutes to get checked in and seated in the waiting area.

Freddie took charge of the buzzer thing and we took a seat. Even at such a young age, see how he sports the “where’s my bloody breakfast” expression like a pro.

After about another ten minutes we were buzzed and seated, right at the back of the restaurant overlooking this glorious vista.

Our server was upon us immediately filling our cups and glasses with appropriate liquids and explaining how the buffet works. That was a bit like explaining snow to Eskimos and clearly, she had no idea who she was dealing with. Somebody had to volunteer to wait at the table with Freddie. I don’t know who did that, as I was away filling my plate.

The selection here is enormous and eventually, we had all visited and filled our plates.

Just so you know, that was Tom’s (first) plate. You know by now that I would never contemplate such gluttony.

Personal highlights that I need to share with you were the Tater Tots, Eggs Benedict, the cheesy potatoes and my final flourish at the waffle station. That got a bit silly if I’m honest as my creation contained chocolate chips, butterscotch chips (no, I didn’t know they existed either), caramel sauce, syrup and a sprinkling of M&Ms.

With perfect timing, just as I was getting to the stage of passing out whilst fighting the meat sweats, the characters started to arrive. First up the big man himself.

The interactions were very good. It helped that we were tucked away a little bit and we got a good amount of time with each.

As you can see Freddie was getting more confident with the characters now and really enjoying meeting them.

We left at 12, and headed back to the villa for some of that resting stuff.

Having put a brave face on things over breakfast I crashed into illness and self-pity again whilst everyone else spent time in the pool. My plan stated we should be leaving the villa at around 4pm to get to Magic Kingdom for our Mickey’s Not So Scary party. As a sign of how ill I was, I didn’t pester anyone to get ready and just left things to nature so we ended up leaving at 5.45 instead, showing no regard for the FastPasses I had booked a month earlier for that 4pm slot.

Another doozy of a headache, no doubt brought on by the reservoirs of snot up my hooter was plaguing me again. I parked us up and we trammed into the park.

Freddie was the only one in our party to make the effort and wear a costume, although his Mum & Dad followed the theme.

Upon entering the park we got wristbanded for the event and made our way through the designated party area to get our candy bags and our first handful of sweets. I’d eaten those by the time we made our way around to Casey’s for some tea.

I didn’t document it but I have a vague memory of exchanging a less than loving exchange with Louise in the queue. I blame the illness and the fact that Louise was probably in the wrong.

It was busy, but we eventually got our selection of hot dogs and corn dog bites and amazingly found a table to sit at whilst being attacked by the killer ducks in that area. We ate our food admiring many of the excellent costumes so many guests had gone to the effort of making.

We made our way through Adventureland, bypassing Pirates which we had intended to ride as it had a 25-minute wait. Instead, we walked round to Splash which was a walk on.

Riding things you have done hundreds of times is always nicely enhanced in the twilight/darkness of night. As we made our way around Splash it went from twilight to full-on dark and it was lovely.

On that note, as we left the ride, the Haunted Mansion looked incredible. My photos don’t do it justice, but it’s all I have.

We entered the queue, with this being Freddie’s first time. As ever, any concerns we had about how he would react were unfounded.

Even the noise and pitch black of the stretching room did not phase him and he spent the entire ride dancing in his Doom Buggy. I had a buggy all to myself and I may, just may, have closed my eyes for a few seconds. Again, I was ill you know.

We watched the performers on the lawn for a few minutes and then made our way through Fantasyland, collecting more candy.

Having got nowhere near riding Mine Train with a FastPass at any other time during our trip, we headed there next. Louise opted to take Freddie for a wander whilst the rest of us waited the 20 minutes or so to board.

This is a belting ride. For the amount of space this takes up, it is definitely a bang for your buck. We only seem to ride this one in the dark too, which I’m sure enhances our experience. I did feel sorry for the lady in the same carriage as Tom, who was doing his level best to rock the thing until it tipped over.

The only downside to this ride tonight was, having invested all of $5 earlier on a hand sanitiser and clipped it to Ryan, I lost it, wrestling him out of the snug space by my feet on this ride. The sanitizer was a vain attempt to infect as few people as possible and of course, protect myself from further misery. There was no way I was wasting another $5. I had a budget to stick to.

We carried on down to the teacups ride, bought Freddie a light-up pumpkin necklace thing to add to his collection before he rode with Rebecca and Tom. I don’t have many rules on these trips, but me not riding the teacups is one of them. This all stems from a post-breakfast buffet ride in the early naughties that still gives me cold sweats to this day.

After riding Freddie was restroomed and changed and we waited near Dumbo. As they returned there were many smiles as they had managed to get Freddie onto Barnstormer. They just tried him against the measuring stick as they passed the entrance, got the green light and on they went. His first coaster and again he loved every second.

I got us all a drink and we walked to Main Street to watch the fireworks which were starting shortly. It was busy but we managed to find a decent spot without too much trouble, which I guess is one of the benefits of going to one of these limited numbers ticketed events.

I have, as ever, saved you from the 257 other photos I tried which were blurred, dark or downright crap!

When the fireworks ended, much of the gathered crowd moved away and we were able to make our way forward to the same corner we occupied last year to watch the upcoming show. Again, it was excellent.

The Sanderson sisters really are a highlight and if you can get to see them you really should,

By this time, Freddie was way past his bedtime so Rebecca, Tom and a very tired Louise headed for the car. Emily and I had important unfinished business so we stayed a little longer. Sure, there was a parade to watch but more importantly, Emily had her heart set on one of the Amuck cupcakes.

Image result for amuck cup cakes

Believe it or not, I wasn’t that hungry (I wasn’t feeling well you know), so I had just had a blueberry muffin when we had waited the Starbucks queue out to get them. As we did, the headless horseman rode past the shop so we knew the parade would not be far behind.

My muffin was excellent. It was moist and warm and lasted about seven seconds. A tale as old as time.

We made our way down to a spot we often use for the watching of parades, the steps of City Hall. We didn’t have long to wait at all.

I know the photo above is mainly of the chaps with the spades, but, my word, can we just address the elephant in the theme park. Those are some serious leggings. Amirite?

This parade cast member clearly spotted them too.

We could see the end of the parade coming around the hub and we decided to make a run for it, conscious that we had folks waiting in the car and it would be better to avoid the main rush of folks leaving the park.

We went home via a 7-11 for essentials like cold sore cream and Tylenol, only one of which was for me. A cold sore was probably the one affliction I wasn’t currently stricken with.

I was in bed by 12.45 and asleep before 12.46.

By the way, you may have missed the rare unicorn that is a mid-week blog post from me? If you did, and you want to hear about our next trip’s birth, then you can do so here….

A link to the post about our 2020 trip
Where There’s a Villa There’s A Way

Till the next time…….