Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Five 2nd September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Five 2nd September 2018

I look at my notes for today and it says we had a lazy start. It feels like there was a lot of this already this trip. I do wonder then why, looking back now, that I was definitely the most tired I have ever been on one of these things this year.

Sure, I’m the oldest I’ve ever been, but without stealing my Jerry Springer style summing up at the end thunder, I may have pushed the pace too hard.

Anyway, lazy we were and there was some TV watching, Freddie had his toast for breakfast and everyone generally did nothing until about 10.30 when readying began. We left the villa at 11.30 and headed for what turned out to be a very busy I4. I don’t tend to think about things like this when planning, but we were heading for Toothsome for lunch, and if I were back home I would seriously question driving that far to anywhere for lunch. It’s different here and on holiday of course food is very much part of the destination not the journey for us, and there is only one Toothsome, so travel we must and did.

It took us forty-five minutes to get to a Universal car parking spot and, another thing I wouldn’t do at home, I spent $22 on parking without blinking an eye or ranting for three and half hours, which I definitely would do in the UK.

We were in Spiderman 455. We unloaded everyone and Freddie’s stroller and after a battle with some escalators and some elevators that weren’t working, or at least not quickly enough for my patience, we were on the moving walkways and heading into City Walk.

By jingo it was hot.

We arrived at Toothsome, and again, it’s a bloody long walk from the car to get there, just after 12.45. There was no wait and we were taken upstairs and seated immediately.

Now, we were here for food. The chap at the front desk clarified that, as they must get a load of folks rocking up just for milkshakes. Regardless of our dining intentions, our priority of course was a milkshake so we spent many minutes looking at a menu we had read many times before the trip, even watching a vlog about them all, to help in our decision-making process.

I still rushed it a bit, and ended up blurting one out feeling pressured by the waiting server.

Me – PB&J

Mikey & Rebecca – Celebration

I can only apologise for the blatant lack of a photo. There is no excuse.

Emily – Key Lime

Tom – Brownie

Louise – No milkshake, but some wine

They are absolutely bloody lovely. I know they look impressive and that is important, but the taste does not disappoint. I loved mine as did everyone else.

We sucked on these whilst waiting for our meals to arrive.

Me – Red Reuben

Louise – Houmous & a side of Onion Rings

 

Emily, Mikey and Rebecca – Chicken Sandwich

Tom – Burger

Freddie – Pasta

Imagine the fullest thing you can, double it and add a bit more and that was me. I was absolutely stuffed, bordering on hospitalisation. So a good meal!

We walked, slowly, back to the car in incredible heat wondering if we would ever need to eat again. (We did).

The plan stated that this afternoon was a non-theme park day and instead we were to go shopping. How this would make the day any more restful, I have never known, but we have always done some shopping so off we went. The location was to be the Premium Outlet Malls at Lake Buena Vista.

The fatal flaw in this plan was defined by the very reason for its existence. Today was Labor (sic) Day weekend, and as such, my plan was to stay as far away from theme park crowds as possible. It seemed that all of those crowds had instead congregated at this mall. We toured the car park for about twenty minutes before finally admitting defeat. There was just no chance of us finding a spot and so I left that traffic nightmare and drove straight into another. The queue of cars to get back to the Crossroads area (Benny says Hi….ask your granddad) past Bahama Breeze was just bobbins. We sat and waited for about half an hour inching forward slowly. Just as we got to the front of the queue some f*ck nugget tried to just indicate and swing in right in front of us. If Freddie’s first words are unrepeatable, this moment will be why. I can assure you, I did not let him in.

Denied of retail therapy at one location we headed to Disney Springs, where these days, the one thing you can be pretty sure of is a parking spot. We pulled into Lime, found a spot easily and disembarked.

We wandered some shops, I have to say halfheartedly.  Emily got a hoodie but other than that nothing was purchased and enthusiasm for such was very low it had to be said.

Rebecca voiced those views first and said they’d rather be in a park. Faced with a fairly forceful sulk, it was agreed that we’d chance a theme park as they couldn’t be any busier than these bloody shops.

Don’t worry, the pin had been removed from the back of this badge…I mean pin…no, I mean badge. There was nothing sharp on what Freddie was holding here is what I am saying.

Once back in the car we pointed the van at Magic Kingdom. He who dares wins.

We parked in…

At this time of day there was no army of Cast Members waving you to the bottom of a row so we drifted around the car park like it was the Premium Outlet Mall again until we found a spot.

We were by now getting quite skilled at the routine from the car, onto the tram and off again. Everyone had assumed a role, and we dismantled the stroller and boarded in a few seconds like on of those F1 pit land crews. We didn’t wear helmets though.

We monorailed in

Once in the park we consulted the app to see what horrendous queues awaited us and to confirm that no FastPasses would be available for anything.

 

I have to say, I struggled with the app this year. It was constantly flakey. Certain pages never loaded. For example, whenever I viewed our plans, unless I filtered by something, no content appeared. It froze a lot and was generally about as fast as an episode of Poldark. (Sorry my hatred for all Sunday evening period dramas seeps out now and again).

With every ride rammed we resorted to meeting a character. We rarely do this these days and hadn’t done any this trip. With Freddie with us, we should and we did. We struck out up Main Street heading for Tomorrowland and Buzz who was out doing a meet.

On the way, we passed “the purple wall”. If you “do” Instagram you’ll know….

Mikey, Tom and Rebecca joined the queue for Buzz for Freddie’s first ever official character meet.

We wondered if he would be terrified of them. It may run in the family as Louise is quite scared of other large things with weird heads.

As they queued I loitered ready to take a few photos once they got to Buzz.  There was an Edna drive by…

We needn’t have worried about Freddie. Like everything else on this trip he took Buzz in his stride.

As did Mikey.

Whilst waiting I had used the app to book some FastPasses having found some actually did exist. The first of which was…

This is a ride I hadn’t been on since 2003 I think. After a pre-ride wee our FastPass time came around and we all boarded except Louise who I think thought it may be too thrilling for her.

After feeding Freddie, we now headed back to Tomorrowland (sure, I do know we just came from there…) and we did the old faithful rides when things are busy and you need something to do between FastPasses. First,

Even this had a small queue, but we were soon aboard, enjoying Magic Kingdom at dusk.

When you are “the planner” of the group there can be a certain pressure. Every time you leave a ride all eyes turn to you with a “What now?” attached. So I often find that whilst on one ride my mind is thinking of the next step or two. In this case, the answer was right in front of me and we did Carousel of Progress.

There was a holiday many years ago when Rebecca was obsessed with the song and we had it in the car for the whole fortnight. There is no greater testament of our love for her than the fact that she survived.

Our second FastPass was now due and thankfully it was for Buzz and not some ride at the other side of the park.

Again, the scores weren’t important. These competitive Dads who can’t just appreciate the joy of taking part with their family are a real source of dismay!

As we exited the ride the fireworks were on. This was a problem as Emily and I had been avoiding all online showings of Happily Ever After so that we could watch it for the first time live. So as we bolted for the exit, we did our best not to look up or indeed listen to what was going on! We must have looked a bit strange, head down, shouting instructions to each other, trying to avoid the gathered crowds whilst only looking at the pavement.

The other concern of course was that the fireworks would finish, and thousands of folks would start heading for the exit too, so this was a full paced extraction. We still took the resort monorail as the queue looked shorter and we were soon back at the car.

Right, time to get back on plan! Applebees it said and Applebees we would do.

We did the one on the 192 and were pleasingly seated immediately. More pleasing for those not driving was the news that it was two for one on most alcoholic drinks.

There were so many flying about that I lost track of what they were.

This one is actually Tom’s milkshake. He has an addiction problem, and this is it.

 

 

Freddie was alseep so we had brought him in still in his car seat. Applebees had an ingenious contraption that could be placed at the end of the table that we could rest that on so he wasn’t on the floor.

The fact that the only child in our party was out of it did not stop us from commissioning something from the wandering balloon person.

 

Yes, even at my age, I can still get Woody.

We ordered some appetisers as it had been several hours since our life threatening amount of food at Toothsome.

Me and Emily shared some nachos. Louise and Mikey had some Mozzarella sticks.

For mains we had –

Me – Thai Salad

Louise, Mikey and Emily – Various Pasta things

 

Tom – Club Sandwich

Rebecca – Boneless Wings

Who knows why I didn’t photograph those!

It was all superb. I know Applebees isn’t fine dining but it is good fun, great quality and at $200 including a 20% tip great value too. Full and tired I got us back home and we were in bed by 11.20.

Till the next time…..

 

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Four 1st September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Four 1st September 2018

The exertions of the last few days resulted in me sleeping for a full nine hours, according to my notes. This pleased me. There was no rush to get anywhere this morning as I had once again built in a lazyish morning, unsure of how everyone and especially Freddie would be coping with the journey, heat and time zone change.

Speaking of the latter. I’d like to claim this as an act of planning genius however you wouldn’t believe me, but as I enjoyed my breakfast this morning in the villa I found a channel on the TV that was showing live coverage of Liverpool’s footy match. Freddie watched with me.

This was glorious and it ended (in glorious victory) just as everyone was almost ready. So I then took my usual seven minutes or so to shower and dress and still be stood waiting at the door for everyone else.

It was around 10am when we made it into the car. This included, and would on most days, at least one person coming back into the villa to get something they had forgotten just as I had set the alarm.

We were Epcot bound again (don’t question the plan) and we parked in Explore 78 amidst some serious heat. For the first time this trip we needed to get on a tram from the car. This meant collapsing the stroller, which I left to Tom as it was his honour to do so and not because I didn’t know how.

Security was busy. I know it’s necessary and a reassurance but jeez it can be a pain in the arse when all you want to do is get into the park and start doing stuff. It was about 10.30 when we got into the park and with a FastPass for Spaceship Earth at 10.50 we wandered some shops and loitered a for a bit until we could ride.

We scanned our bands at 10.45 and joined what turned out to be a ten minute wait.

 

 

As it always tends to, the ride stopped three times on our journey. In addition to this outrage, mine and Emily’s photos didn’t work. I await the results of my compensation claim.

Right, so with the first ride done and it being at least 11.30, clearly it was time for lunch. Regular readers will know what happens next. We stand around for a few minutes with me reciting all the options available to us for lunch before they are all ignored and we end up in Electric Umbrella again.

The beauty of eating so early is that the place wasn’t rammed and we quickly ordered.

Me and Louise – Brisket sandwich

Emily, Mikey, Rebecca and Tom – Burger

We all devoured our selections and then Freddie had a pot of something whilst the rest of us toured Mousegear for a bit. Rebecca and Tom stayed with Freddie, he wasn’t abandoned with a spoon!

Once we were all back together and fed we walked over to Soarin’ for our FastPass.

Rebecca, Tom and Emily went on first and the rest of us rested outside for a bit. There was a very odd rain shower for a few minutes which we missed as we had luckily chosen to sit just under the cover of the entrance to the Land.

We rode next with our FastPass taking just ten minutes, which wasn’t at all bad for Soarin’.

We did get called forward as a party of three which cut down the wait a little and allowed me to roll out my smug face as I “excuse me’d” my way to the front of the queue. Upon exiting Rebecca had messaged to say they had gone to Mousegear, as they hadn’t had a chance to look round when we did as they were feeding Freddie. I left Louise and Mikey at The Land and walked at a pleasing pace to get them.

Of course we then walked all the way back to Louise and Mikey as we were then going to ride Journey Into Imagination.

You may be shocked to discover there was no queue for this one. There was some mild concern that Freddie may not like the dark bit, the train noise and the loud blast of air, but he didn’t flinch and danced his way through every part of the song.

Continuing our theme of zig-zagging from one side of the park to the other as much as possible, Mission Space was next on the agenda. On the way, I decided we should do Crush as we were (relatively) close and I was confident there’d be no wait. Ten minutes saw us taking our seats and enjoying one of the hidden gems of WDW (in my view).

OK, now we were allowed go to Mission Space to use our FastPass. Freddie had been put to sleep by Crush so Louise sat out with him whilst the rest of us rode.

With a nervous Mikey wondering what Orange and Green meant, we were in, definitely doing Orange. Rebecca and Tom were assigned to one pod with me, Emily and Mikey in another.

Mikey’s anxiety was not helped by the briefing video (by the way, where has Gary Senise gone? This is unacceptable!), and the wait to board in the corridor.

The ride was as impressive as ever and Mikey felt suitably unwell afterwards which is always a good sign of it going well.

Time had marched on and now I had to as well. Our ADR for Via Napoli was imminent and there wouldn’t be time for us to stroll up there at the group pace, so I was despatched at full speed to check us in.

World Showcase was busy again and the ten minute walk was littered with body swerves, tutting and the occasional naughty word as I weaved my way through the eating and drinking hordes. I arrived, glazed in a nice sweat, with a few minutes to spare. I explained that everyone else would be here shortly and took a seat to wait in the scorching heat in the courtyard at the front of the restaurant.

Somehow I missed everyone passing me and got a message on my phone to ask where I was. I joined everyone at the entrance, confirmed we were ready and with just a few moments wait we were seated.

We had last eaten in the restaurant in Italy over a decade ago and had been very underwhelmed, so we were hoping for a better experience in the new version.

Pizza was very much the order of the day….

Me – Pepperoni

Mikey & Louise – Spicy Sausage

Rebecca and Tom – Large Marge

Emily – White Pizza with artichoke

This, at the risk of going overboard, was THE best pizza I have eaten in my life. Let me confirm what you are thinking too. That is quite a large sample size on which to base that conclusion. It was delicious.

We also discovered that Freddie likes pizza too.

This is Freddie’s pizza face and I think we’ve all been there.

Desserts were ordered –

Me & Emily – Shared a Tiramisu

Rebecca & Tom – Shared a Tiramisu

Freddie & Tom – Shared a Chocolate Mousse. I applaud Tom’s “two dessert” tactics.

Hmm, that reminds me of someone….

Mikey – Cannoli

Louise – Ball Things (may not be the actual name on the menu)

During dessert Rebecca and Emily asked if we could do Fantasmic that evening. This blatant disregard for the plan was shocking and went against all of their training. However, high on pizza and pudding, I agreed and right there and then secured a FastPass for Ariel at Hollywood Studios that we should be able to fit in before Fantasmic.

It turned out that we needed to “nip back” to the villa before heading to Studios as Freddie’s ear defenders (bought for fireworks shows etc) had been left there. Sat at the very rear of Epcot, in a World Showcase fuller than my underpants, there was no “nipping back” about it. Time would be short and we needed to get going.

It took a while to navigate the crowds and walk all the way down to the main entrance.

Next was the tram, then into the car, all taking too much time.

Why we then stopped at Walgreens (again) was beyond me but apparently it was essential. We bought some more toilet roll, amongst other things, so I could see how that might be essential without resorting to ruining the villa’s towels.

Time in the villa was strictly limited by me standing at the open door with the car still running shouting “hurry up” a lot and we were then on our way to DHS. Many other annoying delays like traffic lights and other cars/people inevitably increased my heart rate but we eventually arrived into the park, after the delay inducing long walk from the tram caused by all the work underway, at 7.20 ish. Freddie needed changing so I despatched everyone other than Rebecca, Tom and Freddie up to Ariel, clinging to the vague hope of getting into that before Fantasmic, whilst I waited for Freddie to have a clean bum.

We then walked up to meet everyone else, but upon realising that Freddie now needed feeding, Ariel had to be sacrificed and we sat on a bench whilst Freddie ate. With that done we walked all the way back to Sunset Boulevard and got some drinks and slushies on the way in to the show.

There was only ten minutes to wait before the show started and it became apparent very shortly after it did that Freddie was too tired to be putting up with it, so Rebecca and Tom took him out whilst the rest of us watched.

We met up after the show with Freddie safely tucked up in his stroller and walked to the tram stop. So that we didn’t need to disturb his slumbers, Rebecca, Tom and I walked back to the car and let the others tram it. We all arrived at the car together anyway.

We set off for home, and for some reason that I will never understand we stopped at Walgreens again. Home and bed at 10.30.

Till the next time….

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Today goes to prove that no matter how many times you’ve been to Florida, incompetence and planning failure can still happen. Today is the tale of two fails. Read on to see if they affected my birthday adversely or not…..

At the end of this whole thing I will share my thoughts on more general stuff that I could have done better, but for now, it’s only day three and we need to crack on.

Another birthday in Florida dawned and I was awake at 5am. An improvement but still unacceptable. As I got downstairs Rebecca and Tom were up, due to Freddie. One element of the planning I had got right was to denote this morning as a time for resting. The long travel day and an adrenaline filled first day in Magic Kingdom can take it out of you. Whatever *it* was, I was empty.

I opened cards and presents from both those with me and those left at home over a coffee and some brekkie.

As folks woke up, we all assembled around and at times in the pool.

Mikey was the last to rise after what was obviously a much-needed lie in.

After playing, I retired to a lounger with a James Patterson book from the shelves of the bookcase up in the nook of the villa. I aspire to have a house with a nook. Crannies, I have loads of though.

I do enjoy this poolside time and tradition dictates that whilst relaxing and reading I devour a bag of chips (crisps) large enough to feed a family of four for a week. Today it was Cheese Puffs. I had only eaten a Bagel for breakfast so I was allowed. The resting continued until around 12.30. I took my orange tipped fingers and crumb covered chest up into the shower and everyone was good to go by 2pm.

I was ready first and apparently I may have nodded off on the couch whilst waiting for everyone to put some bloody clothes on.

Having had all that time this morning to rest and get ourselves organised, perhaps someone could explain how I then managed to forget my camera! Fail number one.

We had an ADR at Beaches & Cream which would also allow us to park at the Beach Club. Unusually the guard at the gate scanned my magic band to check my ADR. Surely people don’t lie about having ADRs just to park there??? 😉

We found a spot to leave the car and walked into the Beach Club taking all the usual photos of one of my favourite places in the world (on my phone).

That ADR for Beaches & Cream, which wasn’t for another forty minutes or so, had only been possible for four of the seven of us, so the idea now was to ask if they could take three of us as a walk up. I let the others stroll a bit whilst I wandered to the podium to work my magic. It only took me a few minutes with the lovely lady to get satisfaction…..I don’t think I need to add anything here.

I now walked briskly at full man pace to catch up with everyone as they could fit us all in pretty much right away. I was halfway to the Dolphin (or is it the Swan?) when I got a message from Rebecca saying they were sat outside Beaches & Cream. Super. Getting more of a sweat on, I power walked back to meet them. With all the faff, we’d missed that immediate window and had to wait a bit to get two tables together.

We were seated by the jukebox, which for some reason seemed to be stuck on “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” by Buddy Holly. By the end of the meal, it did matter, a lot, and if any of us ever hear that song again, the story will end with “and then he turned the gun upon himself”.

We ordered –

Me – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Rebecca – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Tom – Chicken Burger and a Snickers Sundae

Emily – No main meal, just a No Way Jose.

Mikey – Cheese Bacon Fries and Fudge Mud Slide

Louise – Burger and a milkshake and she shared my dessert.

In the rush to get it down before she took too much….

The bill was $150. Frankly, I would have paid double to turn the jukebox off.

We wandered, full bellied, towards International Gateway. I was very conscious that entering Epcot this way for the first time for our newbies would be weird, but there was little to be done about that. We were watching the fireworks tonight, as is the law on my birthday and as such being able to wander out to the Beach Club to get back to the car is just better than getting out of the front entrance with the muggles.

Once scanned and searched we walked through the UK, stopping to listen to a little bit of the British Invasion (assuming they are still called that) and then we moved on to Canada via a temporary Ireland. There was no physical border here…think on politicians….

We waited fifteen minutes for O Canada, but frankly I had been waiting eighteen months so that mattered not.

I am declaring it now. O Canada is THE greatest song ever written. Don’t @ me, as I believe the kids say. I loved the film, I loved Martin Short and my application for Canadian citizenship is submitted.

It was coming up to our FastPass time for Nemo and Friends so we navigated a very busy World Showcase (Food and Wine Festival be damned) down towards the seas. This was another Freddie favourite. We wandered around the Living Seas a bit afterwards…..

and on the way out we bought Freddie a stingray from the gift shop. Not the easiest pet to care for but it’ll be a good learning curve.

He was christened Steve, until someone pointed out that this may be a little distasteful bearing in mind how Steve Irwin met his end, so he was renamed Simon, although I couldn’t quite remember that and still called it Steve for the rest of the trip.

Time for another FastPass now. Luckily it was for Frozen Ever After, probably the furthest point from our current spot in the park so we only had to walk all the way there, through jostling throngs of folks carrying small food portions, who were a bit drunk on that Tortoise Vodka from the Vombekistan booth or whatever it was they were drinking.

It was a testing walk, with my tut muscle flexed on a regular basis, but we arrived a few minutes before our window, wandered the shop for a few minutes before joining the FastPass line, still a little early. There was a fifty-five minute standby queue. Just no.

After enjoying the ride we wandered up to China and took a spot in the gardens to watch an imminent acrobat show.

We had a decent view until a couple just came and stood right in front of us, oblivious to the very obvious fact that they were blocking our view and were dicks. My tut reflex burnt out with use but they did move after a few minutes of my violent stares. We then wandered the shop for a bit.

Our time was now approaching for our evening ADR at La Hacienda at Mexico. This had been a late, impulsive addition to my birthday plans and I am blaming that for what looked like the second planning fail of the day. Rebecca and Mikey were sent to the podium to sweet talk the cast member into bagging us a window seat for Reflections of Earth, with it being my special birthday meal.

They returned to us with bad news. I had made the booking for 7.45, expecting that we’d be able to stick at the table for the fireworks starting at 9pm. For reasons that nobody could explain, tonight ROE wasn’t due to start until 10pm!

Down trodden and defeated we went ahead with our meal, and were led, ironically, to a window seat. That’s right, rub it in.

Our mood was immediately improved by our server, Francisco, who was excellent and a bundle of energy and joy. Cocktails were ordered and he made the generous offer of swapping out anyone’s drink if they didn’t like their selection.

Mikey ordered Francisco’s recommended cocktail….the Avocado one…and loved it.

Emily took him up on the offer of a swap as her first choice tasted like Cillit Bang.

For starters we had….

Mikey – Fundido. That sounds like a sex toy, but it was more satisfying as it was a whole pot of melted cheese.

Rest of us – Guac and chips

For entree…

Me – Short Rib

Louise – Chicken & Veg thing

Emily & Rebecca – Chicken Enchilada

Mikey – Salmon

Tom – Steak Enchiladas

They were all tremendous and this meal was right up there with my favourites of this trip. I don’t know what it is that makes something stand out as a “special memory” on one of these trips but I feel that this meal will make that cut. I loved it.

It was about now that we realised it was about 9.20 and we had a chance to make it to the fireworks. Francisco encouraged us to stay and he very nicely took his time getting our desserts.

Tom and Louise – Custard Flan thing

Me – Chocolate Mousse

A birthday surprise cake was arranged for me and Happy Birthday Mexican style was performed.

To get us all the way to ROE we ordered coffees too.

Appreciating that we had eaten at Beaches & Cream in the late afternoon and nobody was that hungry, this whole meal was a very fine effort indeed. We were able to watch the fireworks from our table so that planning fail was averted. Emily cried as is the law during all WDW fireworks shows.

The bill was a large one. $427 including a very good tip for Francisco. We waddled slowly around the World Showcase all the way back to International Gateway.

Here is Steve/Simon resting on the way back to the car…

We were home and in bed for 11.20.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Two 30th August 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Two 30th August 2018

For the second day in a row I was awake at 4am. I really, really tried to go back to sleep today but failed miserably and I was up and about by 4.30. Freddie and Tom were already in the pool. Tom had fallen asleep a couple of hours before I did last night so no doubt he had been awake for hours by now.

I had some cereal for breakfast and Tom had his Outback meal from last night. That’s the right way to start a holiday.

Freddie had some toast.

As ever, no matter what stupid hour we are awake on this first day we still end up leaving for the parks later than desired. Despite me knowing that a 7.45 departure was already behind schedule, as the car was half full of first timers I shunned the Sherberth Road route and went down the 192 to World Drive so that they could experience the sign on the first journey to Magic Kingdom.

Rebecca did a fine job of capturing the moment.

and other important landmarks.

We were early (but not early enough, which would be a theme for a lot of the holiday) and were able to park close enough not to require a tram. We walked in to the TTC and security took quite a while. We of course took the monorail as nobody should be taking the ferry on the first day unless, unlike us, you arrived with plenty of time!

Once off the monorail, after emotional first views of the castle, we were quickly through the entrance and soaking in those wonderful first morning vibes…yes, I said vibes.

As we got to the start of Main Street proper, there was a trolley show just starting. Whilst everyone stopped to watch that I nipped into the Emporium to secure all the badges we needed. Rebecca needed a birthday badge as this trip was her 21st birthday present and I also got three 1st Visit badges for Tom, Freddie and Mikey.

As I returned, the show was just ending and Rebecca burst into tears. The emotion of being back here got to her, and when asked she confessed that now having Freddie with her had pushed her over the emotional edge. Emily is normally the cryer!

Now you get it” I said to her in my own special patronising way.

We all then went back into the Emporium for the procurement of magic bands. I was very happy thank you very much, with my grey plain one I got for free at the Beach Club last year. Everyone else, even those with previous bandage, seemed hell-bent on getting a new one.

With selections made, with a blunt reminder from me that time was limited and they needed to “just pick one”, we paid. The octogenarian behind the till was asked if he could/would link them for us. He didn’t refuse as such, but pointed out that we could do this via the app. Before I could stop everyone they were all downloading and logging into the app and trying to do just that. I was trying to tell everyone that it wouldn’t work as I had all the tickets on my account. A few error messages later and the task was abandoned as the show was starting at the castle. We would sort it all out later.

As the show ended, we headed left into Adventureland.

See…

We arrived at what would be Freddie’s first ever WDW ride and Rebecca and Tom went off to park the stroller.

There was of course no queue at this time and we were soon riding with Freddie transferred to his contraption.

We had all wondered how he might react to the rides, with Pirates being a decent first test. It is dark, has some loud noises and a gentle drop or two. He was such a cool customer. He just took it all in with a great deal of curiosity.

We continued round to Splash next and Louise volunteered to sit out with Freddie whilst the rest of us took advantage of the walk on.

After riding, our plan to also do Big Thunder was thwarted by a thirty minute wait time so instead we wandered down towards Haunted Mansion for which we had a FastPass. On the way, we called in at the Ticket Office in Liberty Square. I had never noticed this before but I wondered if they could sort out our Magic Band woes from earlier.

They could. The CM there was incredibly helpful and armed with his tablet device he scanned and tapped away until we were all linked up to our bands and still retained all our links on my account so I could book stuff for everyone. I apologised for the technical incompetence but he said we’d been given a bum steer by the guy who sold us the bands and he should have either sorted it for us or asked a few more questions to understand what we needed to do.

We were a little peckish now following our very early breakfast so we stopped at Sleepy Hollow for sugarific treats.

I had a Churro sandwich and it was all kinds of incredible.

Mikey had a strawberry waffle

Emily a Nutella Waffle and Louise a Breakfast Waffle, both of which I failed to capture as I was in mid-churro orgasm.

Freddie was allowed a little piece of heaven.

So now, all smacked up on sugar snacks, we used our Haunted Mansion FastPass. Freddie again took it all in his stride and didn’t seem fazed or frightened by any of it.

We availed ourselves of the Tangled toilets before making our way to It’s A Small World. There was no queue, and this, it seemed to me anyway, was Freddie’s favourite ride of the whole trip. We rode it a few times and he was totally engrossed each time.

As we retrieved Freddie’s stroller from it’s parking spot, as his body made contact with it, he fell asleep. The benefits of doing WDW at ten months old!

So again, Louise volunteered to sunbathe whilst looking after him. The rest of us piled into Philharmagic after a ten minute wait as a show had just started. It was weird having to describe what a ride/show was before going in when asked by one of our first timers. For this one, I think I went with Disney’s Greatest Hits in 4D.

As we exited it was raining so we loitered in the shop whilst messaging Louise to see where she was sheltering. She was under a brolly outside Pinocchio’s Village Haus so we scampered over there. We took the chance to lunch whilst it rained and we had some cover and I, for the first time, mobile ordered our lunches. We all had flatbreads or nuggets I think and it was about $80.

Mikey seemed to enjoy it.

Fed and watered (again) it was now time for our Big Thunder FastPass so we walked back that way. Rebecca and Tom used theirs first and the rest of us waited in the very, very hot sunshine. I parked Freddie up in the shade and loitered by his stroller so that nobody pinched him or thought him abandoned.

A Canadian lady had taken it upon herself to have a chat with Mikey and Louise, attracted by his 1st Visit badge. She was a veteran and shared stories of her travels and asked what he was making of things.

With Rebecca and Tom off the ride, the rest of us did the same.

There was some filming going on in and around the ride, and as we were about to board this lot were let on from the opposite side of the track, so they enjoyed one of my best glares.

The guy in front, with the Rays shirt, seemed to be regretting several life choices at that moment.

It surely is the wildest ride in the wilderness.

We had a message as we left saying that Freddie was having his lunch over at Tall Tales so we joined them there. Once he was fed (he is never really full!) we made our way down to Main Street (one of these times we might work out a route that doesn’t involve constantly crisscrossing the park) as we were going to get Freddie his first hair cut at the barbers.

We couldn’t get in immediately but I was able to reserve a slot for 2.40 which would follow on nicely from the parade. So we took our spot on the pavement outside, right at the end of the parade route just as the Grand Marshalls were coming past. Yeh, we were better at it.

Then the band came by.

And the rest followed.

Freddie was sweaty but happy watching it go by.

Ariel had missed me, it was clear.

Tinkerbell seemed to be regretting that Mexican last night……

That’s better!

With the parade done we made our way back to the barbers.

Freddie was soon in position.

Here is the video if you want to watch it.

With that done, we were all set and ready to go.

With first day tiredness creeping up on us we decided to head out and have a rest before our ADR at Whispering Canyon in a couple of hours. We got the resort monorail and headed for the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim.

Cocktails for all but me and Freddie were ordered.

We sat and chatted and rested for a bit.

Soon it was time to head to Wilderness Lodge, so we monorailed back to the TTC and walked to the car for the short drive. Well, it would have been shorter had the new road system for Magic Kingdom resorts not confused me, but we did some sight seeing in the surrounding area and we were still on time for our ADR….just.

With a 5pm reservation we were the first in the place, so we were a little worried that the famous atmosphere may be lacking. However, it soon filled up and all was well.

We had an excellent server who looked after us very well with just enough shenanigans to make things fun. We all had the unlimited skillet thing and enjoyed it a lot.

Tom & Mikey took advantage of the unlimited milkshakes.

We had some Nachos to start, just in case an unlimited amount of food wouldn’t be enough.

Some salad arrived, sat around on the table for a bit until the server came and removed it again.

Then the real action began.

Special mention for the corn bread which we actually doggy bagged as we couldn’t eat it all.

Freddie was a fan.

And of his Dad’s milkshake.

Despite eating huge amounts, Tom and Mikey opted to have a dessert too. It was a chocolate something and they almost finished them.

Tired and so full we might die, we trudged to the car, called at the Pharmacy as we would seem to do at least once a day from here on in, and got home at 7.15.

Louise and Mikey went in the pool for a short while but everyone else took their food babies to bed very early.

Till the next time….

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

I’m tired, jet lagged, and dreading work tomorrow. What better frame of mind could I be in to start writing this thing? Well, I could also be sad that I’m back in the UK, and somehow as the wheels hit the tarmac at Manchester I could have instantly developed a life threatening cold.

Sitting here now, a little weary and down beat for various reasons, looking back at my notes from the start of the trip just gone, I have to say I am not looking forward to recounting the untold joy, optimism and excitement of the start of a WDW trip. It is a necessary evil so it is time to stop moaning and get on with it.

The evening before our trip began, I noted that things were very busy and stressful. We had a million things to do, parents to see, takeaways to order and eat as well as last minute packing and seemingly never ending chores to complete before we were allowed to leave the country. As we wouldn’t all be at our house in the morning, I had to take this chance to take some traditional photos. Rebecca wasn’t very impressed as she had her rollers in and her dressing gown on, but a tradition is a tradition and she had to suck it up.

Then, a new tradition, with Freddie’s first by the door photo.

and Tom’s…

Somehow, we got through everything we needed to do, and I think I got to bed around midnight, honestly looking forward to the 4am alarm I had set going off.

Somehow I was awake before it went off, probably due to others already being up. Upon picking my phone up to turn the impending alarm off, I saw that I had a text. It was from Virgin. They regretted that there was to be an hours delay to our flight. Not as much as I regretted not knowing that before I went to sleep. It could have meant an extra hour in bed had I had chance to delay the taxi pick up. Ah well, showers were had, cases crammed full, weighed then opened again and things were re-arranged into other cases, and then weighed again until we were fairly confident that all of them might be under 24kg.

The taxi arrived a few minutes early, a rushed goodbye was said to the dogs and finally after all this waiting, we were off. The loading of the taxi was a rush and a bit of a panic, and I spent the journey to Rebecca and Tom’s wondering what I’d forgotten. It turns out that was my hoodie, which sat in my wardrobe. Balls.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were ready and waiting to go as we pulled up, and we added their luggage to the groaning pile already in the back of the van. It was a tight squeeze and on the assumption that our mini van I’d hired would be smaller than the bus we were currently in I was quite concerned for our ability to get all the luggage from Orlando airport to the villa.

Being so bloody early the journey to the airport was a quiet one. There was some chatter in the back, but I was sat next to the driver and thankfully he was wasn’t a talker so I could sit in the uncomfortable silence in peace. We arrived at 6.10 and took the lift up to departures to endure a horrific five minute queue to drop our luggage off.

 

Two of our cases were just over the 24kg limit despite our best efforts but the kind lady in the ill fitting Virgin uniform “waived” the charge that should have been levied against us. The car seat had to be taken to a special drop off point at the other end of departures and once we’d done that we were free to head through security, up another level which needed another lift. Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and the pram (it will be a stroller as soon as we land state side!) were diverted through the fast track lane and I made a mental note to ensure that Emily would be in a pram the next time we come. The rest of us endured the normal route and we all got through within a few minutes. Louise was searched as usual.

We weaved our way, Ikea style through the absurd collection of poncy displays and arty photos that are meant to flog perfumes and headed for food. Frankie and Bennys seated us immediately and then ignored us for about ten minutes.

Freddie had his food at the ready so he cracked on anyway.

The rest of us waited for our order to be taken.

Me and Tom – Eggs Benedict, which was to be the smallest plate of food we would see for the next two weeks.

Emily – Nutella and Banana Thing

Louise & Mikey – A Big One

Rebecca – A fry up of some sort

Some toast was ordered for Freddie so that he didn’t feel left out.

With coffees and juices for most, (two drinks each? well we are on holiday!) the bill was £90.

We strolled duty free for far too long, and lost Louise and Mikey who snuck off to the loo without telling anyone. Emily got some sunglasses, and crucially, Louise bought very little. We found some seats and rested for a while before finding a bar in which I could have a £27 diet coke. Technically, there were seven drinks purchased, but you know what I mean.

I took the chance to release the chocolate hostage on UK soil, so that wouldn’t be needed later in the confines of the plane toilet. With that task complete, gate 210 was located and we sat and watched folks queue up for ages to board and take the seat they had reserved.

It was about fifteen minutes until we boarded and made our way up to the bubble. As we were settling in a stewardess (is that what they are called nowadays?) told us that there were a number of empty seats on the flight so if we wanted to use some of them after take off it would give us more room for Freddie.

We took off at 11.30 which Louise enjoyed as much as she always does. We were up to altitude quickly and the seat belt signs were off. Within three seconds some bloke from a few rows away literally threw himself into the spare row in front of us, claiming them as his own. Mikey had a word with the cabin crew and he was directed to another empty seat near his own and Mikey and Emily took up that row meaning we were now three rows of two, and we all had more room which was excellent.

The bubble seats have a really handy shelf/storage bin down the side which is great for putting stuff on and in, but also, if you have an infant with no seat of their own it is useful for them to sit and play on too.

Despite my earlier Eggs Benedict I was starving. They were a bit small and pretty average to be honest, and I shouldn’t throw stones in that particular glass house, but I needed food. With a predicted flight time of eight and half hours drinks were brought round (free, which was nice), and I hoovered up the six pretzels that came with my diet coke in seconds.

Thankfully, food was not far behind and I had a sausage in my mouth quicker than a guest at a Michael Barrymore pool party (I like to keep things topical). It all tasted very good.

We now settled in for the duration with some trying to sleep…

Others, played with Vera…whoever she is….

and most crucially some of us were just impeccably behaved. Freddie was a star for the entire flight, without a hint of trouble, noise or complaint….

There was a lot of looking at this…

and this…

I watched the Darkest Hour with a forty minute nap in the middle of it. After playing Solitaire for a bit I finished the flight by watching Downsizing whilst eating our snack…

I was hungry again so it mattered not what it tasted like. It was devoured. The film was a bit weird, felt about half an hour too long and lost its way a bit.

We started to descend at 7.20 UK time. As they tend to, my ears gave me a fair bit of pain on the way down but I don’t mention it much….just every time I go on holiday.

We were one of the first off the plane and the relief and joy as the first bit of Orlando heat seeped through to us on the walkway from the plane was palpable. I have to say that Orlando is a mess for arrivals. It is warren of corridors and double bag drops and/or dragging cases up and down escalators. It could be a million times easier. Immigration was a ten minute wait and another similar wait for our luggage. As is traditional, Louise is “desperate for the loo” at this point but she was told in no uncertain terms that she could wait until I was getting the car. Words were exchanged, most of them not repeatable here.

Another ten minute wait saw us heading for the garage to choose our carriage for the next two weeks. The criteria was simple. Whichever had the most luggage space would be chosen regardless of all else. After a few minutes of opening various trunks (we are in the US now) we settled on what turned out to be a Toyota Sienna. It took all the luggage fairly easily which was a huge relief.

I was determined to take a few minutes now to get myself familiar with the knobs and buttons at my disposal, again like a Barrymore pool party….but started the thing up to get the air con going. It was a keyless ignition thingy but I did note that there was no sign of the key which could be crucial when it came time to lock the thing later. A search of nooks and crannies proved fruitless and so I piled out of the car, a little frustrated, looking for assistance. The chap I found spoke as much English as I did Spanish, but I think I got my point over as he said, whilst helping us look for the key “No key, car no vroom”. I understood that he meant the key must be somewhere in the car or it wouldn’t start. After a few more minutes Tom found the key under the driver’s seat and we were finally on our way, with me a little sweaty and agitated.

I had unleashed our trusty old sat nav and stuck that to the windscreen but of course in the underground garage it was picking nothing up. The fact it had been in its box for 18 months in a cupboard in the UK also won’t have helped. It was at this point that I made a mental note that in future it would be a good idea to write down, on something close to hand, the actual address of the villa so that I could put it into the thing. As it was, as we emerged from underground and it started working, I browsed recently found destinations whilst trying not to hit anything and chose one that was pretty close to where we were heading. I think it was Old Town, and I figured that if I got us there I’d be able to find Emerald Island Resort.

The first few minutes behind the wheel felt as alien as ever, but I soon settled into it and began to enjoy our travels. It took about half an hour to get to the 192. I had retained all the loose coin from our last trip, rather than leave it behind as I often have and this proved a stroke of genius as they were very handy for the couple of tolls we encountered on the way.

As we reached the Formosa Gardens turn off the 192, there were roadworks and an annoying queue at the lights which made the last five minutes of our marathon journey today a little frustrating. Upon arriving at Emerald Island, I got us past the guard on the gate with some photo ID and the paperwork sent from the villa owner. That same paperwork directed us, without delay or diversion to our new home.

The cases were dragged in and exploring was done. There was a momentary concern that I couldn’t find the second master ensuite bedroom but after turning a corridor upstairs it was located and all was well. Yes the villa was that large that a bedroom could be hidden.

As unpacking happened, I took Tom and Mikey to the supermarket for the procurement of essentials. On the way out I stopped at the clubhouse to get a pass for the gate so we wouldn’t need to speak to the guard every time and with that done we were on our way to spending over $300 on food and things. We returned, unpacked and Louise had a shower. By this point, Freddie was just too tired to function and it became clear that he wouldn’t be fit to come out to eat. So Rebecca, Tom and he stayed at the villa whilst the rest of us ventured out to the Outback.

There was a ten minute wait for a table but were soon knee deep in cheesy bacon fries and a bloomin’ onion.

We had –

Me – Aussie Cobb Salad

Louise – My notes say a cheesy chicken thing

Mikey & Emily – Chicken Caesar Salad

We ordered some stuff to go for Rebecca and Tom, namely some more cheesy bacon fries, a philly steak sandwich and another Caesar Salad which took the whole bill to $140 including a good tip for our lovely server who reminded us of Karen from Will & Grace.

We were back at the villa by 9.30 to find everyone asleep so the food went into the fridge and everyone else hit the hay within seconds.

Till the next time…..

Airport Conventions

Well, here we are. The final post before our next adventure. At times I have seriously doubted that this countdown would ever end. It’s been a struggle I’ll be honest and one of the toughest to get through, but of course that may just be perception and me being a drama queen.

To add some last-minute spice to the mix, my Mum is hospital, suffering from some sort of virus/infection. She’s on the mend I think with some antibiotics and TLC and hopefully she’ll be home and fully on the mend before we leave.

As always seems to be the case, the final week at work has been a doozy, spectacular in its shitness, just to ruin any potential joy of knowing it is my last for a while. Work is doing its best to keep its icy tendrils dug deep into my being until the last possible moment . Hopefully, I’ll be able to switch the work brain off at Manchester airport as I remove my work email account from my phone for a couple of weeks with a deep joy.

Still no bloody FastPasses for Flight of Passage or Slinky and believe me, I’ve been trying. It’s personal now. I didn’t want to ride the bloody things anyway.

As it’s been far too long since we went away, the reminder of how stressful the final few days can be had been forgotten. There are a million things to sort out, mainly pet related, mixed with a good amount of work nonsense that I can’t detail here. Add to that my recurring waking nightmare of realising just when it is too late that I have forgotten something, and I will be delighted when we are finally on our way.

The holiday haircut has happened. Spending so long in the chair can be tiring in itself as I’m sure you will appreciate. Thankfully, it was a different chap this time, and one that doesn’t feel the need to make conversation. The toenails have been cut, and it is important that everyone appreciates this level of personal grooming. It’s all part of the million small parts that go into making one of these trips work.

We are so close now. I can almost taste that going on holiday excitement. The traditional by the door photo will need to be tweaked this time. Rebecca has had the audacity to go and live elsewhere, so she won’t be “home” on the morning we leave. Don’t worry, I will creatively solve this issue and we may even have some new photos and traditions now!

The early alarm call, the panic to get last-minute stuff into the cases, standing at the front window looking for the taxi whilst simultaneously shouting at females to be ready, trying not to get tearful whilst saying goodbye to the dogs and telling them you won’t be long, even though you will, and they have no idea what you are saying, and then the surreal journey to the airport. The sun is rising over the sewage works as we cross Barton Bridge by the Trafford Centre. The tiredness and adrenaline give a nice spaced out vibe as you’re new “what are you travelling in” clothes feel like you are wearing someone else’s gear. We are a beautiful mess of new trainers, bumbags and comfy pants.

As we come off the M60, I check Ryan for the 373rd time to make sure the passports are there and we then are deposited into departures, sweating slightly due to luggage exertions, craning necks to check the nearest screen for information on your check in desk.

The double-edged sword of wanting to be checked in within seconds, and knowing that in two weeks you would give several body parts to be right back at this point battle within your brain before security is endured followed by a huge breakfast, some WH Smith browsing and the purchase of some overly priced smelly liquids in duty-free precede us sitting at the gate with a Starbucks and a feeling that I’ve already put all the weight back on that I spent the last few weeks taking off.

This routine is so familiar it’s like a family friend.

Thanks for sticking with me during this countdown. Stick around for some social media action, including some Facebook live stuff as and when appropriate. Say hello, either online or if you happen to be over there with us, in person. Even if you don’t want to talk to me, which is understandable, you can have a photo with Ryan if you like.

We made it! See you back here on the 16th of September.

Till the next time……

Yearn To Fly

Yearn To Fly

I’ve not known what to do with myself this week. With no FastPasses to book, it has been a bit of an anti-climax following two weeks of frantic button pressing. I have been randomly trying the app to see if any Flight Of Passage (or Slinky Dog) FastPasses become available. Not for me it seems. It’s becoming a bit of a bee in my bonnet if I’m honest, especially with Emily regularly reading me loads of posts from Orlando Facebook groups all pronouncing how easy it has been for them to secure them.

I find this unacceptable. Don’t Disney know who I am? I am a world-famous blogger with handfuls of readers. I am a high level influencer with several top brands relying on me to promote their goods. Bright white trainers, twenty year old Adidas rucksacks, hair products, man thongs and other such things are just a few examples of the huge impact my implied approval can have.

Image result for i'm kinda a big deal gif

How Disney can allow me to be denied a ride on one of their attractions is beyond me. One utterance of my displeasure and all of my readers will never darken their doors again….probably. I am in no way resentful that my yearning to fly up a passage will go unsatisfied.

I did a bit of a “try on” session last week. Louise started getting stuff organised, with the case brought out to sit in the bedroom like some portent of impending joy and she needed to know which T-shirts I’d be taking. It was at this point that I realised that I have a lot of T-Shirts. To be fair, they come in many sizes to accommodate me in varying states of shape. With my pre-holiday weight loss regime almost done, I can fit into most of them for now, so I have some tough decisions to make as we near packing time.

That hasn’t of course stopped me ordering one more. We have decided not to do full costumes for Mickey’s Not So Scary due to fears of being too hot, but themed (non-matching) T-Shirts are the order of the day. Mine arrives shortly and you shall have to wait to see it in the trip report. I will set your expectations now that it probably isn’t worth the wait.

My dollars arrived this week too. There weren’t as many as I might have wished for due to the atrocious state of the exchange rate, but that is something I can’t affect so I’ll just silently fume about it and feel like I am being persecuted by the currency, Slinky Dog and Flight Of Passage Gods.

I do feel more organised than I did this time last week. I have gathered all the documents I need and they nestle in my planning folder ready to be tucked into Ryan. Yes, I do put them in the order in which they will be required during our journey…what of it?

One of those documents came from the villa owner, who sent me the instructions for our stay. It comes in three volumes, with a page count to rival a Tolkien novel. It may take me the whole nine-hour flight to digest the complex and intricate requirements to gain entry first to the gated community and then the villa. The recycling and refuse routine is one step down from launching a manned mission to Mars and if we don’t get something wrong during the trip it will be a miracle.

We have reviewed the food menu and entertainment options for the flight and both look promising. Of course, Rebecca, Tom and Emily, having Freddie on their row will be watching nothing with a ten month old to entertain, but I am hopeful I can squeeze a good number of films in to fill the time. Granddad privileges. I have served my time and have the Polly Pockets to prove it.

So now, all that is left is to fret about all the usual stuff. Will I get everything done at work that I need to pre-launch? Will we all fit into the taxi to the airport with our luggage, stroller and car seat? Will the journey be OK? Will I forget some crucial detail or document and ruin the whole trip? Will everyone enjoy the trip I’ve planned? Will the two weeks fly by in about two seconds? Well, yes it will, so I am reminding myself to soak up every moment, including the foreboding prospect of the long flight, and my insatiable desire to power through all the admin crap at Orlando airport and be released into the wild in my shiny hire car (van).

With one more blog to go before we leave, there will then be a brief pause to blogging whilst we holiday. On my return, the trip report shall commence. If you have any like-minded Disney friends whose Sundays you’d like to ruin, howsabout you share this crap with them? Encourage them along to marvel at our food consumption and let’s see if we can get my readership into double figures.

If they Like the Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter, not only will they be alerted with each new post of the trippie, but during the holiday I’ll be over sharing all sorts of exciting updates, almost certainly to be food related.

Our digits will be single tomorrow. All of our suffering will end shortly.

Till the next time…..