The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Three

Day Three – August 29th

The novelty of the 4am wake up had worn off at this point. I’m all for it on the first morning as the excitement of getting to a park for the first time numbs the pain of the lack of sleep, but by now, to be honest, I’d rather be sleeping.

Having said that, I was asleep by about 7pm last night so it was to be expected I suppose.

I tossed and turned until about 5am, which made a right mess of the bed sheets. I booted up the villa’s PC, made a brew and a bagel and came back to see it still trying its best. Once online I started doing what every male at a PC does when alone in the wee small hours. I tried to locate a shop that sold trainers. It’s an odd fetish, sure, but I’m not doing anyone any harm.

Louise had “forgotten” her trainers. When I was charging around the house on the day we left at another ungodly hour, before nipping out to pick Sarah up and ensuring that everyone who had been incapable of setting an alarm was actually awake, Louise had casually mentioned that her trainers were in the coat cupboard in the kitchen and could I put them in the case. I forgot/didn’t have time and now it was my fault that she had none and we had to go shopping this morning to get some.

Having located a shop that looked to stock cheap trainers, other folks started to rise around 6am. Rebecca and Sarah took a dip in the pool, which was allowed as we were not due to leave the villa till mid-morning. Traditionally day two is a rest day, but as we’d only been able to get a Be Our Guest reservation today, for lunch, we had to return to the Magic Kingdom, like it or not. The plan was to arrive just before lunch, do BOG and then pick up whatever rides we could despite the crowds.

Just the four and half short hours after I was awake, Louise and I left for the trainer shop. It was about a ten minute drive and after a similar amount of time we realised that the Payless Store was named such as it stocked shite I wouldn’t set on fire to keep warm, much less wear on my feet. Having been foiled in our quest for trainers we went to the next shop along. As the name of the Payless Store had been very honest about the stuff it sold, imagine my concern as we entered this next shop which was called Dicks! Thankfully, it was a sport shop. I did note a subtle difference to JD Sports in that a sign on the door requested that all guns should be left at Customer Services.

Louise tried on a few pairs of trainers, chose the most expensive ones available and we were on our way. But no, Louise spotted a discount women’s clothes shop and we ended up in there for the best part of an hour looking at bras. This morning was not as much fun as you might imagine it to be if you were told you’d be spending your time with Dicks and bras. To top off the fun, we trotted round Target to for more “bits” which included (for some reason I wrote this down) sugar and another bra.

We got back to the villa at 10.45. Amazingly everyone was ready. I walked out again, convinced I’d walked into the wrong villa.

We left at 11.15 and parked in Hook 77. Upon boarding the tram Emily shared her pleasure with the concept of mornings.

Others seemed more awake.

As we left the tram Rebecca had to restroom but at least she had the decency to know how wrong this was and apologise for her weakness. This did mean that we missed the ferry boat that had been docked invitingly for us as we left the tram. So we had a ten minute wait for the next one.

This allowed me ample opportunity to take some photos of the new cabin things at the Poly.

You may, I will admit, find better photographs of these elsewhere on the internet.

Running out of things to photograph, I was pleased that the boat turned up and we boarded.

We waved at folks on the other boat, and soon enough completed the crossing.

Main Street never gets old and I feel compelled to take (the same) photos whenever I set foot on it.

However, I do like the last two, with both the girls with Minnie Ears in front of the castle. I told you my photos were vert artsy.

Our first stop was at a FastPass+ kiosk outside Stitch. This is the closest you will ever find me to this “ride” as it is an abomination and should be killed with fire. I was trying to see if we could add/swap any of our FastPasses for today as they weren’t our ideal selections. Nothing was available so we were advised to come back once we’d used one of our currently booked ones.

We then made our way over to Be Our Guest for our lunch reservation. I’m pretty sure this was meant to be a photo of the Mine Train ride and not a very poor attempt at photographing Louise.

I checked in with a flash of my Magic Band and we were told to join the queue. Surely, the definition of a reservation was to not have to, but hey ho, join we did. Now, the last time we dined here was for dinner and it was truly one of the best experiences we have had at WDW. The theming was incredible, the service great and the food as good as can be expected in a theme park. After we had eaten we had left to an empty (closed) Magic Kingdom and had a lovely stroll out to the exit taking loads of photos and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Often when you try to recreate something like that it is doomed to failure, but Sarah and Nana and Grandad hadn’t been and we felt we should give it a go for them. However, a lack of knowledge on my part with some stupidity thrown in for good measure was to lead to what was a bit of a disappointment.

So this queue went on for an age and I had no idea why. We were given a menu in the queue and eventually once at the front, realised that there were a set of kiosks at which we were to enter our order before we found a table. I honestly had no clue lunch service was like this, so that’s my own lack of research, but I didn’t feel great about it.

Ordering in this manner for seven people is not the easiest task in the world, plus, as we’ve established over the years, I’m stupid. So as we got to our table and our sandwiches (that’s pretty much all you can get) arrived, we were missing one…mine. Yep, I had been so intent on making sure everyone had ordered theirs, I forgot to do my own. So I had to go back to a kiosk and ask the CM if I could sneak in and order one more, which of course they let me do.

The theming of course was still lovely…

However, by the time I had ordered mine and got back to the table everyone else had finished. Again, I know this is my own fault!!  Drinks were obtained from a McDonalds style dispenser and the whole thing was a bit like eating a football match. Had I known lunch was done in this way we probably would not have bothered. My own incompetence apart with the ordering cock up the whole thing felt incredibly mass market (yes, I know I’m in a theme park, but I know it can be done better than this….cos Disney do it!).

Add to all this that Louise’s beef sandwich arrived still mooing and had to be sent back, and we can declare this not to be our favourite dining experience to date.

I can however confirm that this stuff is indeed delicious.

We did a few photos as we left…

and headed over to Jungle Cruise for our first FastPass. It was very, very hot which meant that Louise declined the ride in favour of sitting in the sun. The rest of us boarded our second boat of the day.

I had to record the back side of water of course.

Our captain was good, but not the best we’ve had. It got a bit wet, but luckily I had some trunks to hand.

As we had done Small World yesterday we changed our FastPass for it now to Buzz. Yes, we did that one yesterday too, but Small World is a labour of love and need not be repeated. Plus, I had pride and revenge to seek out score wise.

Our next FastPass was for Peter Pan. Alas we were too early to ride so we went to get a drink at Pinocchio’s place. We sat outside under some brollies in the incredible heat letting our sweat run freely wherever it wanted to.

Soon enough, we could do Peter Pan, which funnily enough was something often heard when Jim Davison was in pantomime.

Next, we wandered over to Tomorrowland, with some clouds threatening to add to our moistness. It was so humid that frankly I was willing the heavens to open.

In need of some air con and a sit down we decided to go into Carousel Of Progress for both.

Grandad was asleep in seconds but the rest of us sang along like all normal folks are compelled to.

We had a look around the Merchant of Venus shop next and Emily got some sunglasses to avoid her looking so squinty in every photograph. At this point Grandad’s God Shoes (he meant to say Jesus Sandals but once he’d called them God Shoes once, the name stuck) broke. The strap at the back was hanging off and he was now hobbling around trying not to lose it! In an attempt to take his mind off that we went into the Laugh Club.

Rebecca was featured in the pre-show where they show audience members on the screen which delighted her almost as much as it pleased Emily, as it meant it wasn’t her up there. How two daughters raised identically by the same parents can be so different is mind blowing.

After another enjoyable show here we went next door for our recently acquired FastPass for Buzz. I scored a much more respectable 293,000. Louise left claiming something around 500,000, which frankly I didn’t believe.

Space Mountain had a wait beyond our tolerance, so we decided to step out of the crippling heat for a little while by venturing over to a monorail resort for a drink and a sit down. The Contemporary was the nearest so we ended up there, up in the Outer Rim bar.

We were all glad of the cool and the comfort.

I contemplated important things like the meaning of life, why I have more than one chin and why I gave Louise the camera.

The girls sat a suitable distance away from us so as not to be linked in any way to Grandad’s broken God Shoes.

We had a couple of rounds of drinks including beers and cocktails as the promised rain came down in some style. After two hours and a growing bar bill there was no sign of it stopping so we ditched the plans we had to go back into the park and headed for food and home in that order.

To prevent us getting drenched on the way I handed out the ponchos I had stuffed into Ryan earlier. It was a nice touch to find these in the garage at the villa saving us multiple dollars! What I didn’t know was that one of them was a child’s size and Sarah got that one. What followed was a hilarious few minutes as she tried to put it on only to have it stuck over her head for about two minutes whilst the rest of us laughed supportively.

Here she is, once again, able to breathe.

We got the monorail out to the TTC where it was as damp as we had expected.

We headed towards the villa not knowing where we would eat. I spotted a Black Angus at the junction of the 192 and our turning onto Old Lake Wilson Road and suggested that. We had a great meal at one of these back in 2004 or 2005, so of course that guaranteed the same tonight!

I did the gentlemanly thing and pulled the car right up to the door to let everyone out before I went off to park, knowing I would be soaked by the time I sat down to eat. As everyone was piling out I felt a bump and the whole car rocked. It turned out a chap reversing out of the disabled spot by the door had hit us. He was very apologetic and as no damage could be seen at all and more to the point it was absolutely pissing it down, we didn’t feel the need to get his details and we let him drive off, with him expressing his thanks.

My notes on what everyone had are patchy, but here goes.

Me and Emily – Southern Fried Chicken and Mash

Grandad – Steak (detailed, I know).

Nana – Burger

I have no clue what was had by everyone else but it all seemed to go down pretty well. Rebecca was struggling a bit with women problems so she didn’t eat that much and was a bit quiet and grumpy. With that in mind and our dampness this meal won’t go down in the history books as one to remember but it was fine.

We paid $160 and ventured out again into the rain. I ran to get the car and avoided any further collisions as everyone boarded at the door. The rain intensified as we drove home and the lightning was incredible. We were home and in bed by 10.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Two

Day Two – Friday 28th August

Ah, the traditional first day ritual of waking up at a time nobody should know about, especially those on their holidays. Imagine my delight at being so only because somebody phoned me at 4.23am. Who knows how long I may have slept on for….maybe even all the way until half past!

I ignored the call of course, but then saw a voicemail had been left, so I thought I’d better see what it was in case I’d won the lottery or the UK’s sexiest male again. The call was from my bank. It would seem that I had gone overdrawn, and several payments presented were about to be refused and they suggested I got in touch. This did seem odd to me as today was pay day, and as pricey as the airport breakfast was, my wage should be covering most of that.

I got online and found that my account was sadly missing any form of salary payment for me which was, as you can imagine, a mild concern. Eventually I called the bank and explained that, as I had discovered with a bit of googling, HSBC were having all sorts of trouble sending payments and my employers happened to bank with them. It would appear that my salary payment was stuck in some HSBC pipe somewhere and would be in my account in due course.

The bank chap said he knew about the HSBC issue. So that was all sorted then surely? I had been with my bank since 1987 and never missed a payment to anyone and he could see right in front of him how much I got paid each month and from whom it came. Imagine my chagrin as he went on to say that if I did not pay in that day then all the payments presented would be returned and I would be charged.

Put it down to the lack of sleep if you like, but the next couple of minutes were a bit like the clip from Pulp Fiction…you know the Samuel L Jackson soliloquy? I pointed out that I was overseas and therefore unable to “nip into a branch” to pay in. I also outlined my disgust at his lack of understanding of one of their “black” customers. This was not a racial comment. I have a “special” account with them reserved for those with enough stupidity to pay a monthly fee for it to supposedly get some sort of personal service.

Bollocking somebody at a whisper, so as not to wake anyone else up, from 4000 miles away is a new skill, but I mastered it quite quickly. The call ended with a promise of paying everything and no charges being made. It turns out my salary hit my account later that day and all this nonsense was for naught. Sigh. OK, on with the holiday.

With zero chance of getting back to sleep I got some orange juice from the fridge and settled down to watch some adverts on the telly.

Around 6am I began the task of waking everyone else up. There was no way I was going to be up from 4.20 and not be at a park for opening. I started with the girls, predicting them to be the most painful but when I went back into my bedroom, Louise let off a tirade of abuse not seen since my call with the bank. Having woken her I retreated to the lounge once again, leaving her to come around. When I ventured back in some minutes later the reason for her foul mood was that the clock next to her side of the bed was wrong and it read 4.30am rather than the now 6.30am. How we laughed!

It took until 7.38 (precisely) to be out of the villa. I took up, what would become my customary position by the alarm panel waiting for everyone else to get out so I could set it. The really funny part of this EVERY DAY was just as I thought everyone was finally out on the drive and I pressed the button to set the alarm, someone would come back in, apologising that they had forgotten something. Again, how we laughed…each and every time.

Still, this was not a bad time to be out and heading for the Magic Kingdom. We breezed out of the villa development and onto the main road up to the 192. We turned right and we were immediately greeted with stationery traffic and this….

I have to admit to having a slight mood on at this point. The world was conspiring against me at every turn in my quest to have some fun. I will not have it be said that there are greater problems in the world! With the bank stress and now this I had half a mind to set the sat nav for the airport and give it up as a bad job.

A long ten minutes of not getting very far passed and the traffic then eased. Whilst sat in the queue a large wasp had attached itself to Louise’s window. She loves wasps and did not jump about three feet into the air when she saw it.

Once calm again she grabbed the camera and took too many photos of it as our speed increased and it continued to hold on defiantly.

Louise’s ability to focus on entirely the wrong thing in a photo is impressive.

The wasp left us at the junction of the 192 and we took a right in the direction of World Drive. For many years, having stayed around Formosa and Lindfields we have usually taken the Sherberth Road route into the parks so entering the official opening was a novelty and something I vowed to continue in other areas of my life.

With Sarah with us, as a first timer, there was something quite correct about going under this sign on the way in.

We arrived at the Ticket and Transportation Centre at 8.10. This pleased me and offered some reward for the ridiculous speeds I was doing up World Drive. “But officer, it’s our first morning, I’m all excited and we were stuck behind a truck for ten minutes!”

Emily had a voucher for her short term park ticket (to cover the few days until she got her Cast Member one) so she and I went to a ticket window to swap that. I also collected a First Visit badge (they are NOT buttons) for Sarah and a Birthday one for Rebecca. Sure, her birthday was back in May, but this trip was part of her present and so celebrate we would.

No sane person takes the ferry boat on their first day, so a monorail journey and the first poking of my sack (Hello Ryan!) saw us stood outside the Magic Kingdom in time for the opening ceremony.

See, that phone is still there.

With the show done, the large crowd moved slowly into the park with us right in the middle of it. Eventually we got to the Holy Grail that is Main Street and took in the sights and sounds and the realisation that we were finally home again. It had been too long!

I expertly walked backwards taking snaps as we went. Stopping is for amateurs.

I think I have one of these shots from every year we’ve been!

The new hub looked lovely.

With Pirates closed, our natural left turn meant that we would be heading for either some Splash or some Thunder. This is pretty typical for me after air line food and it may take a few days to sort itself out.

As we passed Pirates we saw a group of new cast members on a tour of the park. It was funny to think Emily would be doing that in a few short days.

Splash it was.

It was a walk on and this first ride is always a special time. The endless possibilities of the holiday to come in your mind, the very real magic of one of the best rides in WDW and the near euphoria of finally being there after months of planning and anticipation.

As we left the ride Grandad declared that he needed the loo. This, frankly, was unacceptable behaviour after just one ride and I made my feelings clear on the matter. We would have to make those minutes up later from his own time.

Naturally, Thunder was next.

Nana declined to ride and again it was a walk on. Always fun and surprisingly fast.

Our natural Disney navigation systems took us down towards the Haunted Mansion now and as we arrived we saw a thirteen minute wait posted which we guessed meant a walk on.

It was a joy to see Sarah’s reaction to the stretching room and all the theming that is done so well. There had been a few changes in a recent refurb which were nice to see and the traditional stops during the ride of course happened too. I can hear the voice now telling me to remain in my buggy.

As we left the Mansion some weaker folks spoke of their need of a drink and sit down. There was clearly some form of mutiny happening but in the interests of cordiality I agreed. We went over to the snack place in Liberty Square and got a variety of stuff that I couldn’t be bothered writing down. I had a drink and a banana anyway. As we chatted an elderly Cast Member approached us and started to chat. He was called Fred and we spent a good ten minutes talking to him about all sorts of stuff. He asked how many times we’d been, which was a few more than him and he’d worked there for thirty-two years!

We spoke about Emily starting work and it being Sarah’s first time and he quizzed us a little too much it seemed on the make-up of our party. He seemed delighted when he learned that we were three generations of the same family, plus Sarah, a first timer. As we were making to leave (I’m sorry Fred, no matter how charming you are I can feel the queues getting longer) he said he had a question for us. Anywhere but a Disney park and I’d have been listening for banjo music and squealing pigs.

Would we like to take part in the parade this afternoon as Grand Marshalls?

Well, my smile gave him the answer immediately. Of course we would!! We were shocked, delighted and excited in equal measure. He told us where to be and when and said he would see us there later. We wandered off not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. In my dazed state even I went for a wee and then we somehow ended up in It’s a Small World.

Clearly Louise had the camera again.

Still a bit dazed we left the ride and someone else went for a wee. If we can’t co-ordinate our bladders better than this, it could be a frustrating holiday.

Philharmagic was next and we timed it perfectly, entering the holding area just as the doors opened. The show wasn’t full but this did not stop me having to be restrained by Louise as I went for those stopping half way down a row like some drunk outside a nightclub who has had his kebab knocked from his hands.

About half way through the show, starting to regather myself a little I suddenly remembered all this FastPass+ stuff I’d done many weeks ago. I checked my app and sure enough we had a FastPass for Buzz in a few minutes. I spent the last minutes of Philharmagic trying to calculate the distance to Buzz and the speed at which I’d have to get everyone moving to get there in time. We did our best but we arrived as a collective sweaty mess five minutes after our FastPass slot had ended. Looking at the forty minute standby queue I gave everyone a slap for not walking quickly enough. With our newly gained Grand Marshall status I figured it was worth trying to use the FastPass anyway and strode confidently to the pole thingy. I waved my ticket at it (we had not yet had time to get bands of magic) and it lit up and turned green. If your pole does that, see a doctor immediately.

Six more waves of tickets and we were all in.

The score on this ride is not the point at all. It is merely the fun of riding that counts.

As my planning skills are awesome, just as we left Buzz, with me scalding Emily for poor sportsmanship and gloating, our slot for Space Mountain rolled around. We made our way over and again minus a Nana, entered. This is me with the camera, but this is artsy and intentional, not out of focus.

My notes tell me someone else restroomed prior to Space. My disgust at that time did not allow me to document who.

This was a great ride. Having Sarah along meant that finally someone on it screamed louder than I did.

As we left the ride we took the chance to get our Magic Bands in the shop at the exit. It was painless yet expensive.

To allow some form of resting without actually resting, we boarded the people mover thing.

As ever, this was a nice breezy sit down.

There had been a disgusting lack of food so far today so we were due to remedy that right now with a buffet attack at the Crystal Palace. We wandered over past the castle, through the new hub area.

We were a little early, for probably the first and last time this trip, but I figured if they added together our lateness for Buzz and our earliness for lunch we’d be about right. We were. I checked in and more or less as soon as I had that thing in my hand it went off and we were taken to our table.

I was pretty restrained food wise to be honest. A little salad to start and just the one visit for “mains”, with no dessert. Listen, we’re here for eighteen days and if I go off at full tilt I’ll have to be winched out of the front of the villa by a reality TV show.

One clear disadvantage of a large touring party is that when characters appear, there are often multiple cameras in use. The girls want one for their phone(s) plus my Dad has his camera out and they are all competing with my official record of the event with the real camera. So what happens is this…

After all that food, a large Pooh was inevitable.

Then, back to the food.

Emily likes to look her best for the camera.

A rare shot of me and a rarer shot that is actually in focus from Louise.

Our server had fallen for our dastardly plan of pretending it was Rebecca’s birthday and brought her a nice cup cake. We all sang to her and were immediately condemned to eternal damnation for our evil deceit.

She also got a lovely card signed by the characters.

Eeyore turned up suitably late.

I’ve taken better photos. The one on Rebecca’s phone was no doubt great.

As an aside, here are the girls from way back in 2004 in more or less the same spot. Time does indeed fly.


The bill was as sizeable as expected at $304. I was left all alone at the table to settle the bill whist everyone else buggered off to the shops. Once relieved of my wealth I caught them up during a traditional silly hat try on session.

By this time we had to make our way to meet Fred for our appointment with the parade. We wandered all the way back to Splash Mountain to the gate where the parade starts and ends from (either, not both). We were a little early and met Brian, our official photographer…I kid you not. He took some shots whilst we waited for Fred and started what would be the royal treatment from start to end.

Once Fred arrived we were given Mickey hats to wear and told that we’d have some free photos from Brian’s work to collect on Main Street later. We also got certificates to confirm our Grand Marshall status. He took us backstage to where our car was waiting for us and we climbed in.

We chatted with Fred and the driver until the other Cast Member with us shouted “Thirty Seconds” whilst touching her ear piece which was clearly just for effect! We were told to “smile and wave boys” for the duration and look out for Brian taking photos as we went.

Here we are doing as we were told.

A Dibber/blog reader had just spotted us and shouted “Where’s Ryan?” so I did the decent thing and showed them my sack. It was hard work smiling and waving for that amount of time but the whole thing was surreal and bloody marvellous. During the parade we had a few shouts from people who lived in Bolton or thereabouts. We were announced across the park as the Williams family and Sarah Prince from Bolton at regular intervals.

As we pulled into the backstage area at the side of City Hall we thanked everyone in a two-mile radius about twenty times.

We were then escorted to a roped off area right at the end of the parade route and we were told that Brian would continue to take photos as we watched the parade pass by. So we waited for the parade to arrive.

And here we are watching the parade. Thanks Hilary for pointing me at this vlog which captured us. We appear from around 5m 30 seconds in.

Be warned, there are a lot of parade photos.

We got up close and personal with some of the characters…sometimes a little too close.

See how Ariel delights in seeing me all sweaty in my tight T-shirt and attractive baggy shorts.

When it was over, we wandered, still shell shocked by the whole thing, to the photo shop. We viewed all the ones Brian had taken and choose our freebies to have printed there and then. We linked to rest to my MDE for viewing later.

Not sure how we’d top what had just happened, either today or ever again we made our way out of the park. This being Sarah’s first ever day in a Disney park, it may have set the bar a little too high!

We monorailed to the tram stop and we left our parking spot in Aladdin to make our way to the Publix supermarket close to our villa for yet more shopping. We got back to the villa at 5.15 and right on cue the rain came down. To be honest, we were beyond spent for today and we all just collapsed in various places of rest and I think I was asleep at about 7pm. What a day!

Till the next time…….

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day One


Those familiar with holidays in Florida will understand that they are not simple and straightforward. With the advance of technology, it could be argued that the planning of them is getting more complex, with the need to use apps and web sites to arrange your eating and riding preferences many weeks before you will actually do them. This extensive planning is one of the best things about these trips, as it extends their reach into your non-holiday life and the excitement builds for months before you step on a plane.

If there was a scale of complexity in holiday planning, then I think the one you are about to enjoy with us would be a contender for the top ten. Some of the easiest trips we’ve had over the years have involved just the four of us (my wife and two daughters making up the four) and have gone like clockwork. Should you wish to read about any of our previous trips you can do so in my books or various places online.

This trip, by intention and design turned out to be one of the trickiest and most complicated adventures we’ve done. Much of that was down to the size of the party. Here’s the full cast list for you….

Me – Craig, forty something Dad, blogger and trip planner.

me kitchen sink

You know what I look like, so here’s one from the archives!

Louise – Wife, mother, sunbather and red wine sponge.

louise bag on head
Emily – Eldest daughter, twenty years old, Disney nut job, soon to be Cast Member.

1emily yummy

Rebecca – Youngest daughter, eighteen years old, glamour puss, selfie expert and drama queen.

model 2

Sarah – Rebecca’s friend, also eighteen, party starter, bundle of energy and Florida first timer.

sarah pic

Tony – My Dad. Grandad, full-time golfer and apprentice Alzheimer’s.

dad pic

Margaret – My Mum, Nana, full-time golf widow and semi-pro shopper.

nana pic

Add to the mix that Rebecca left her boyfriend behind and her need for WiFi would exceed that for oxygen, Emily would be starting work for Disney during the trip and the enormous range of ages in our party and it was clear that my planning skills would be tested to the maximum. It is hard enough consulting busy day guides and planning our activity around food consumption, but then you add in the unknowns of Emily’s shift patterns and training and the day-to-day itinerary gets to the point where you throw a six to start and see what happens from there. You’ll know that I am calm and relaxed about these things, so none of that would be a problem, right?

So this trip, in many ways would be a landmark one. For a start the kids were no longer kids (yet I’m still paying for them somehow!) and Emily would stay behind in Florida, completing her own personal fourteen year journey from Disney fan to Disney Cast Member. For that reason and a few more besides, this journey would be an emotional roller coaster (this is getting like the X Factor!) and things after the trip would never be quite the same again.

With that in mind, if you are still willing to join us then step this way as we begin the Adults Only Tour 2015.

Day One – Thursday 27th August

This trip started as most tend to with a very early alarm. During these early pre-flight hours I am the veritable busy bee, charging around the house doing stuff that nobody should when they are technically on holiday. At something past 4am I found myself emptying the bin, changing cat litter and generally tidying the house in preparation for anyone wishing to break in during our trip. More of that later!

What I didn’t know was that instead of undertaking these non-essential tasks I should have been concentrating on more important stuff, like making sure those travelling were awake and out of bed. With the taxi due to collect us at 6am, I casually poked my head around Rebecca’s bedroom door at about 5.20 as it seemed, quiet….too quiet. The reason for the quietness was that she was still asleep! She had slept through her alarm and she would now need to fit her three-hour getting ready routine into about fifteen minutes. I left her and her bottom lip to it, unable to reverse time for her and I set off to pick up Sarah from her house, which is about five minutes away. I arrived early, which, as Louise will tell you, is often the case. Sarah was up, dressed, ready and full packed. She had passed the test and would indeed be allowed to come with us after all. As we drove back past our house, I noticed that the house next door was in total darkness. This, you may think is not the most unusual thing to see at 5.30am, but you should know that my parents live next door to us and they to, should by this time be up, awake, fully packed and ready to go. Once parked up, I called them. They were the second part of our touring party to have slept through their alarm and they now had minutes to get ready too. Any sane person would have banned them from the trip at this point!

I returned home to find nobody as ready as I wanted them to be so I made myself a brew. My backside had been in contact with the couch for many seconds when Emily sent me a text (from her bedroom) asking me if I knew where her birth certificate was. This was the same birth certificate I had told her to locate about six weeks ago, knowing that she would need it for the endless Disney admin involved in starting to work for them, as Emily would during our trip. I casually started to rip the house apart to find said document and thankfully did so without too much stress and aggravation. This sort of last-minute panic is yet again evidence that no matter how long your countdown, how many months you have to think about this stuff, there will always be something you wished you’d done that you didn’t!

Once located, I took the birth certificate up to Emily in her bedroom, who still wasn’t ready, to find her suitcases still open and half her stuff across her floor. I could immediately tell that they would stay that way forever without some form of intervention. Grabbing stuff from Rebecca and Louise that would obviously not fit into their cases, I stuffed that into Emily’s cases and got them closed and ready to go. It says a lot that Emily, packing for eight months away had more spare room in her cases than anyone else did!

The taxi was five minutes early, which was not helpful as nobody was ready. I herded lots of females downstairs and hurriedly assembled some of them in front of the front door for the traditional photo. The rushed nature is obvious as –

  1. The front door behind them is open as my Dad had just come in to see why were not outside yet
  2. The girls look ill prepared for such a momentous occasion.

As stress levels were peaking about now, my camera decided not to work too. I had to quickly swap over to my phone to take these pictures. This was not the smooth start I had wished for.

I now wrestled seemingly endless luggage out to the cavernous spaces within our mini bus and this made me moist. It’s an odd fetish, but each to their own I say…don’t judge me.

Rebecca said a lengthy and tearful goodbye to Tom, her boyfriend, for which I was very sympathetic and allowed her multiple seconds to undertake. With everything and everyone finally inside the vehicle by 6.10, we finally set off for the airport. We had the “if you have tickets, passports and money, anything else you have forgotten doesn’t matter” conversation, which is sort of true unless you left the gas hob turned on or the bath running.

As we set off I got my camera out and had a fiddle to see why it wasn’t working. With a little coaxing it went off in my hand all of a sudden, which wasn’t a first for me. I suppose expecting it to perform immediately after months of inaction was wrong of me!

This is what the road from our house to the airport looks like, in case you were wondering. The jaunty angle is intentional and artsy don’t you know.

At this point I needed to ask the good folks of Manchester what on earth they were doing on the roads pre 7am when I have a holiday to get started? There was far too much traffic in our way as we navigated the narrow chicanes between the endless cones of the M60.

Having made the mistake of arranging the taxi for 6am, rather than the 5.30 my guts told me would be correct, we were now, with the fifteen minutes of lateness added in, forty-five minutes behind my ideal schedule. This was to be pretty much the case until we landed back in Manchester in just over two weeks from this moment. We made our way to the check in desks (9-23) for Thomas Cook and joined the frustratingly long queue. It didn’t take too long to get to the front and with only minimal tutting and bottom lip protrusion, we were done, and as we seem to have to do every time we make this journey, we had to drag one heavy case over to the special drop off point rather than wave it off onto the convenient conveyor belt behind check in.

Some may tell you that I am careful with money. I rubbish those claims now by telling you that I had personally invested in a security fastpass for all seven of the touring party. How joyous I was to discover that it was an absolute waste of time, as for the one and only time on the entire trip, we encountered no queue at all. As we got to the bit with the trays where you have to take all your clothes off and have an anal probe, a young security chap was in attendance. Rebecca and Sarah were up first and as he told them they would need to remove their jackets he couldn’t suppress a smile and leering look as they thrust their assets unintentionally their way.

As Grandad approached him next to fill his tray, he made a comment to said security guy about his lustful expression and the young chap admitted it was a perk of the job. His expression then changed slightly when Grandad pointed out to him that I was Rebecca’s Dad and she was only just eighteen. Surprisingly I then breezed through all security checks without a pat down or even a second glance.

Unfortunately Grandad was not so lucky having left his iPad in his hand luggage as it went through the X-ray machine. One body search later and we were all ready to go and find some food.

Here are the Rebecca and Sarah post security.

We had a Giraffe for breakfast, which was an interesting offering I thought as usually we have a fry up. As always seems to happen, the greeter at Giraffe was stressed, sharing tales of them being busy and service being a little slow. How could they possibly know in advance that breakfast time on an August morning in a major airport could be a little busy?

Here, I have to warn you, that my usual practice of listing out what everyone had and taking photos of it will be a little hit and miss on this trip. With a party this large, it is often impossible to hear and/or remember what everyone had and by the time I get the camera out those served first are halfway through and almost on dessert. Anyway, I do my best….

Me and Rebecca – Healthy Nut Bowl (this is not some sort of sporting cuppage device). Rebecca also ordered some eggs.

Louise, Grandad and Nana – A fry up of some variety

Emily – Brekkie Burger

Sarah – Sausage, bacon, egg and beans

For reasons that were never made clear, Sarah’s turned up on three separate plates. I get that she asked could she just have Sausage, bacon, egg and beans, rather than the full fry up offered, but the multiple plate thing was strange.

We all had juices, teas and coffees and Rebecca and Sarah had a cider, reflecting the prospect of them not being allowed to drink for the rest of the holiday. The bill was £89.

Once fed we split up into smaller groups to wander the shops. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t shake Louise with her inconvenient knack of buying stuff and Emily came with us too. Louise got some perfume which was in no way overly expensive causing me to sulk at the preposterous idea of spending that amount of money on a small bottle of smelly water. We got some snacks and stuff from WH Smith and then wandered to the gate, meeting the others there.

As usual we sat and watched in awe as folks created a huge queue to board the plane on which they have a reserved seat and waited in comfort.

When the queue was this long….

we joined it. At this point, I have recorded in my notes that I was already exhausted after a busy and stressful morning. I may be getting too old for this.

I challenge anybody to correct me on my assumption that no plane in the history of aviation has ever actually left the tarmac at the time it is supposed to do so. We pulled back from the gate a few minutes late and then taxied for what seemed like a couple of hours before engaging the engines properly and getting on with stuff.

Louise had popped her medication at the gate and now enjoyed, as she always does, the joy of take off by gritting her teeth, squeezing my hand occasionally and screaming out loud at every bump and change in engine noise. A good flyer, she is not. I must say though that this year both outgoing and on the return were two of the calmest flights I have done with her. The fact that we were both in tears for most of the return journey was probably a distraction, but you’ll need to stick around till the end of this whole thing to find out exactly why.

I’ll just point out at this point that the end that I refer to above may be some time away. You may have noticed that we have only just taken off and I have written a small novel. Hunker down…..get comfy…..we’ll be here a while.

So, we looked at this for many hours.

We upgraded the in-flight entertainment systems for £4 each which was worth it. See, smiling faces!

Louise made regular checks on the wings and engines. All seemed well.

Grandad did what he always does.

Still there, still not on fire.

Emily tried her best to catch up on some sleep, but Nana was having none of it.

We bought a few rounds of drinks…yes, bought.

We would have to see a doctor upon landing to see if we could get that phone surgically removed from Rebecca’s hand.

I watched American Sniper and enjoyed it and then enjoyed the bangers and mash. It left me feeling really bloated, but I always do after airline food, I don’t know why.

I was disgusted to see that after many hours of flying we were still just outside of Leeds.

If you follow my blog at all, you may have picked up that the build up to this holiday was long and at times complicated and stressful. It was now, as we sped our way to the magic that I could actually feel the de-stressing process starting to kick in. I was wound tighter than Rolf Harris’ belt buckle in cell block A, and it would be a few days yet before I really did feel the benefit.

I made the schoolboy error of going for a wee at the wrong time and due to the movement of trolleys and trolley pushers found myself stranded at the top of the aisle whilst they made their slow progress up to me. I was missing for about half an hour and Louise was getting quite concerned as I had the money and she wanted another drink!

I filled out the white customs form at this point, as usual cursing the lack of space in economy as I inevitably dropped the pen and had to fish around for it under my legs unable to fully bend without smashing my forehead into the seat in front.

Next, I watched Kingsmen, which passed some time, although I thought it was about twenty minutes too long and I think Emily did actually get some sleep at some point. Yet more drinks were purchased at vast expense without so much as a grumble from me, as my Diet Cokes were currently costing me about £25 a round.

With still many hours ahead of us in the blue yonder I waded into the third film of the flight, Tomorrowland. Again, it was OK, without rocking my world and it saw me through until our descent into Orlando began. It was at this point that the teenage girl sat in front of us said “We’re going down now”. She said it again a few minutes later. In fact over the next ten minutes she said it more than twenty times. I counted!

Resisting the urge to throttle her with my headphone wire, we made our seemingly endless drop into Orlando and hit the tarmac at around 3pm local time. Each year, I tell myself to relax and enjoy the journey and each year I fail. This year’s journey felt particularly full of faff and my aforementioned stress levels probably didn’t help things. I was very glad to be on US soil, but still tense at the thought of all the upcoming faff before we’d be set free onto the roads of America. As it always is on the Manchester side, the airport experience for me seems massively over complicated. Folks are always checking the same documents you had checked five minutes ago by someone else and you get asked the same questions multiple times too. I’m all for thwarting terrorist activity but unless my tracksuit bottoms were made from explosive hemp, I don’t think I look like much of a threat.

At baggage reclaim, we were the cliché that is getting all your cases but one very quickly and then standing tutting as the last one comes off last. Whilst waiting for the last case, which by the way, contained nothing of mine, I glanced at one of the last barriers between us and a car, that being the food/white form checkpoint. No queue existed which pleased me greatly.

Of course as soon as our last case was in our possession it looked like a crowd scene from Les Miserables and I was certainly Miserable about it. I made the queue go more quickly by tutting and huffing expertly and we were finally free, to join another throng of people waiting for the monorail. We inevitably made the “Por Favor Mantengese” joke (and if you don’t know what that is, we can’t be friends) as the doors closed and sped off to the main part of the airport. Once there, signage was bobbins and we wandered around a little until we found that we needed to take an escalator down one level and then a lift down again to the hire car places. At this point my heart rate was at Olympic marathon runner levels with excitement and stress, so imagine my joy as the lift doors kept re-opening every time we pressed the button to close them. It took about three minutes to get going, which I know doesn’t sound a lot, but, just close your eyes and count to 180…and imagine standing in a lift, one tantalising floor from your hire car and the growing queue to pick it up.

The queue I mention was in reality about ten minutes and I know I say this every time, but what are you doing at the hire car counter for longer than five minutes? There were people there with sleeping bags rolled out and lawn chairs as they chatted seemingly without a care in the world to their agent from Alamo. When it was finally my turn I thrust my documents and credit card at the chap, gave him my best “I’ve been up for twenty hours and I don’t want an upgrade” glare and let him push his buttons rather than mine.

He did try to sell me a toll pass thingy, at which I sneered with haughty derision. As I turned from the desk with our car now literally throbbing in anticipation of our arrival just over the road, Sarah, at that moment sat on her case and promptly fell off it with all the style and grace of me ice skating. I left everyone chuckling at that as I tore across the road to the car garage at incredible speed. I flashed my credentials at what I hoped was an Alamo employee and he was suitably impressed enough to point me at a row of cars to choose from. We had discussed spending some time choosing the best one for us, as since booking the car, for a party of six, Emily had joined us and made it seven, so we knew space would be tight on this one trip from the airport. In the end, we went for the nearest one and spent a good few minutes trying to get large objects into tight spaces.

The result was pleasing and left me sweaty and out of breath.

I think the crowded car and long journey had tipped Nana over the edge.

Don’t even ask me how Rebecca managed to swap sides mid-journey! I was busy driving!!

The journey was painless, due to the use of Sat Nav, which we bought back in 2010 and had been one of the best $60 we’d spent on US soil.

We found the villa with little swearing and I hopped out to undo the key box, release the key and let the holiday really begin. Call it stupidity, lack of sleep or, well yes, it was stupidty, but there were two boxes with a combination on the wall outside the villa, one at eye level and one at shin level. For some reason I only saw the latter and spent far too long trying to open it with the wrong code, again getting hot and sweaty. Just as I was about to drive the car through the villa’s front door to gain access, the top box was spotted and opened easily. We were in.

It was lovely. Mark and Tracy had left us a lovely welcome package too. Don’t worry, Mark and Tracy own the villa, they didn’t break in to leave us some treats.

Within minutes bodies were in the pool.

I spent my time unpacking a bit and seemingly putting about seventeen different things on charge.

Next, was the important job of figuring out how the TV worked, which, for the next two and a half weeks, I remained the only person in the villa competent at doing so.

After a little while hunger forced us to get ready for some food and as tradition dictates it would be the Outback Steakhouse up at Formosa. We left the villa at 6.30, tired, excited and hungry…the other dwarves couldn’t make it.

Our server reminded us about everything we love about the US dining experience and we ordered -(bear in mind my early caveat about tracking everyone’s order in a larger group).

We started with cheesy fries and a Bloomin’ Onion of course…with the complimentary bread. This eating is serious business!

Emily’s lack of sleep cannot prevent her smiling as it went down.

Nana, Louise and Rebecca – Chicken Caesar Salad

Me – Australian Cobb Salad

Grandad – Talpai (which was, and probably still is, some form of fish)

Emily and Sarah – Burgers

With wines, beers and other drinks it came to $153 plus tip. Full and flagging we dragged ourselves around the supermarket to grab some essentials which somehow cost us $130. On the way back to the villa I tried to use the force and left the sat nav tucked away. I did OK apart from completely missing the turn into our development a handful of times, so the sat nav came out along with my bottom lip and we finally got back at 9pm. This of course was 2am UK time and about twenty-two hours since we last slept, apart from Grandad, who had about six hours sleep over the Atlantic. He was still asleep first!

Till the next time……

A £125 Pumpkin!

This week, dear reader I have failed you. I intended to be posting day one of the trip report about now, but alas it is not finished. That said, it is further along than the one paragraph I reported last week, but real life has been upsetting my rhythm all week and I have struggled to find the motivation and indeed time to get it done. If memory serves, about now we are over the Atlantic somewhere watching Granddad sleep and eating average food. That may not sound like much progress, but there’s a lot of words involved in getting us so far.

Not to make excuses, (but I will), I was away with work for two days and then I have had a double-header of gigs over the weekend. I need to retire really to give me enough time to do the things that work stops me from doing. There are so many hours during the week that are poured into activities I really have little interest in and they could be so much better spent on other things. Sadly, those other things do not earn me the money I need to do those other things. Life is a bitch and a huge Catch 22.

Louise and I have experienced our first week in an empty nest and to be honest we’ve both been so busy that I’m sure the change hasn’t hit us yet.  We have of course noticed small things like less noise, a smaller food shop and slightly less mess but I’m sure in the coming weeks it will hit us more forcibly. Hopefully all this won’t sink in for a while as I may just realise just how much I miss the girls and that probably won’t be a good thing. Emily too is feeling a little homesick over in Florida, despite enjoying herself amongst the parks, so if you do find yourself near the UK pavilion you have my permission to seek her out and give her a hug from us. A jaffa cake or two may also help.

Rebecca and Tom seem to have settled in well to their new home and they also seem incredibly happy, which is all you can hope for really. Tales of Rebecca cleaning a bathroom and tidying up leave us wondering if there has been some sort of body swap but long may that continue. She’ll be starting her new (first full-time) job shortly so she really is a big girl now!!

Last night, on the second night of our two date weekend world tour, we played at a local wedding. As you know, I am not one for the blowing of trumpets that are mine, but we are very good at them! It is always great to see a packed dance floor all night.

bleachworks 3-10-15

If you, or anyone you know is having a wedding, or any sort of party, then do get in touch for special Mkingdon discounts for your dash of Mustard. A live band makes such a difference to any event I think. Having watched many a “DJ” stand and press play on a compilation CD, there’s something a bit exciting about live music. (Advert over).

There are a couple of family members that I don’t often mention, mainly as I don’t like them. They are our two cats Pumpkin and Daisy. Cats, to me, are useless. They offer nothing to the household beyond an inside toilet and scratches on stuff you don’t want scratched. Pumpkin has been a bit unwell for a while and my approach of “she’ll be fine if we leave her long enough” was roundly ignored last week and Louise took her to the vet. One consultation, an injection and blood test later and we are handing over £125. Imagine our delight when the vet told us a few days later that the results of all that showed nothing amiss and her regular throwing up after eating may just be a reaction to her food. She then suggested that we should feed her chicken and fish for a bit to find out. Now, call me a cynic, but surely that advice should come before 125 quids worth of useless stuff? Safe to say my regard for the cats has not improved following this episode. If anyone wants to buy a cat for £125, I have a selection of two you can choose from.

By the way, you have no idea how much self-restraint it took to not have today’s post titled something about expensive pussy!

Earlier this afternoon I finally got around to looking at some of the photos we had taken of us when we were the Grand Marshalls of the afternoon parade in Magic Kingdom. We got a few free at the time but the rest are now online for us to choose from. I’ve ordered just a couple as the prices are typically Disney, but the whole experience was surreal and excellent so we should have some mementos of what will be a one-off experience. Hopefully they will arrive in time to include them in what will be day two of the trip report. Having said that, at my current pace of writing they could arrive at Christmas and still be in time! I won’t steal any more of my own thunder by saying much more about it here other than we felt honoured, delighted and a bit overwhelmed with how we were treated.

I won’t use the word promise, but I will try my very best to have the first day ready for next Sunday, as it will least save me having to come up with a post next week! 🙂

Till the next time…..