Where There’s a Villa There’s A Way…..

What’s this nonsense? A mid-week Mkingdon blog? As if it isn’t enough effort to write one of these a week, never mind the effort of actually reading more than one.

When I’m mid-trip report, as I am currently, you lovely readers miss out on the weekly cut and thrust of my exciting life. It’s like if Keeping Up With The Kardashians were cancelled, put in a skip and set on fire, twice, and then blown up for good measure I imagine, and I do like to imagine that.

Anyway, whilst you have all been enjoying enduring the weekly updates from a holiday that happened a long time ago now, I have been busy. For the first time ever, and I recognise that this might be hard to appreciate or believe, upon landing in Manchester at the end of a trip, I knew for sure that we would be returning the following year. This is because I will be celebrating a significant birthday. That gets me a free pass with Louise, as you know she has often put her foot down and stopped us from going back to Florida year after year….

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So, like a multi-masking maestro, I have been writing about the last trip and simultaneously planning the next. I’ve managed to fit a bit of work in here and there too.

It hasn’t been easy. Firstly, Louise is back at University on a short and very intense course to become a midwife. As such her holidays were fixed and as they stood, meant that she would need to be in the UK on my actual birthday, which would have been a shame for her. Anyway, many weeks of negotiations, pleading and crossing of fingers saw them agree to her taking a holiday outside of the set dates….twice.

That “twice” was important as the first set of dates saw prices of flights that seemed to be inclusive of owning a good chunk of the plane and not just travelling on it. Many weeks of checking prices for mid-August passed with no success and hope was fading that we’d be able to go at all without a seven leg journey via New Zealand.

Having somehow got those later dates agreed, it made all the difference and yes, I am delighted to announce that we are now booked to return to Florida in 2020 for a special birthday trip.

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We leave on the 26th of August and I seem to have done very well with the flights, more through luck than judgement I would admit.

Prices north of £1000 each for our original dates were laughed off for a long time, and only very recently using the new dates, I struck lucky. With the demise of Thomas Cook, it left us only one direct operator from Manchester so we had three choices –

  1. Virgin
  2. Aer Lingus, indirect via Dublin
  3. Stay at home

Thankfully, option 1 came through for us, and with paying a little extra for bubble seats on the way out and Premium on the way back we secured flights within the budget. Having been contacted by a reader after posting on Instagram about this booking, it seems we have been very fortunate indeed. They (Hi Julie, I hope you get your flights sorted) were telling me that even in late September they were seeing prices over £800 for standard economy, which is just crazy. I’m taking it as a sign that this trip was meant to be, or the Virgin web site was broken. The latter may be true, as, for reasons I could not fathom, on our return leg, the Premium option was actually cheaper than economy. I booked it very quickly!

It was nice to have that in the bag and have the main task done. Or so I thought. This just moved me on to phase 2, accommodation. The easy element of that was booking our time at Universal. Hard Rock was always the intention and it was just a matter of finding the best deal. I was just about to book with someone else when I stumbled across Travel Republic who were offering just a £30 deposit to secure the two rooms we needed, with the balance paid just before we go. Thank you kindly very much and that was done. Two rooms for two nights in early September.

This was all going so well. Onto the villa. We had a fairly testing set of requirements, so it maybe should not have shocked me that it was so much effort to find “the one”. They were –

At least 2 masters with en-suite and another Queen/Double if possible.

You would not believe how hard this was to find. There’s a whole other blog post in my mind for villa owners, about how to make it more likely to get booked. Some do make it really hard!

Location – Ideally around Formosa/Emerald Island/Sunset Lakes.

As with when buying a house, location x 3 matters. When visiting WDW, it just makes life easier and gives the flexibility to be able to “pop back” to the villa if needed. There’s nothing worse than a 40 minute trip to and from the parks.

Prettiness – Being a special trip, I wanted something that reflected the gravity/success of getting there, so I was looking for something eye-catching, nicely decorated and with a bit of a wow factor.

I have spent more time than I would like to admit looking at villas since securing our flights. I have endlessly wavered between villas that were very close to the parks, but are now a little dated (or the websites are and have photos from 2006!) and those villas only just built, but are so far down the US27 that they are equidistant between WDW and Miami.

To draw a veil over a long, long…..long process, finally, I bit the bullet and, paying a little more than I may have wished, but bugger it, this is a special trip, booked this one. You can click the image to view it…..

It’s on a new development at the end of Funie Steed Road. That is the road which runs parallel to the 192 past all the developments I mentioned above. So it is a good mix of everything we were looking for. Namely, shiny, new and yet still in that sweet spot of being close to WDW.

I feel I have short-changed you, by skipping the detail of the endless painful hours which brought me to that villa. Especially, after all that work and research, I eventually found it by going back in our family WhatsApp group and looking at some villa links I posted months ago that had caught my eye. Sigh. It was the second one I ever saw way back then.

I still have to book us a car, but that is easy, right? The first draft of our 16 (glorious) days is now crafted and of course, pretty much every meal spoken for. I won’t steal my own thunder and reveal any more as I will need something to write about when this current trip report comes to an end, and I can only moan about my commute for so many weeks!

So, yay and hoorah, we have a countdown and it feels good. Now, let’s all commit to finishing this current trip report strong and then we can gird our collective loins for the next one.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Eleven

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Eleven

Having survived the night, I woke to be almost pleased that today would be a sort of rest day. It involved no theme parks anyway, which would probably be for the best as I had no doubt already infected half of North America, like some sort of mid 70’s Elton John.

A few months ago, based on Freddie’s absolute obsession with The Minions, I had booked a character breakfast with them, as recompense for not doing Universal this year. To be fair, I don’t think he knew that was the case, but the grandparent guilt is strong even when there is no reason for it. Today was that day and after resting in my pit until 9am, we were all up, ready and out by 10am. In the plan, I had given us an hour to get to Universal, but thankfully in half that time, we were self-parking and making our way into the Royal Pacific.

We know this hotel fairly well having stayed here a couple of times but it still took a long walk, a compass and a generous helping of the force to find the location of this breakfast.

It was waaaaayyyy down there, right out at the back of the hotel.

We were still early and after checking in we waited about ten minutes for anything to happen. Judging by Freddie’s reaction here, this booking had been a wise choice.

After those ten minutes, Gru and a Minion (I’m not sure which) appeared for some meet and greet action. Freddie, having been all-in on the cardboard versions wasn’t immediately that confident with the lifesize equivalents.

To their credit, the characters were very patient and won him over eventually.

With our photos done we were then shown into the “dining room”. This is where it started to get a bit odd.

The breakfast was in one of the conference/meeting rooms which had been filled with a few large round tables and some more cardboard versions of the characters. Despite the event being about half full, they were still having parties share tables and we really hit the motherload.

We were joined by a family of three, Mum, Dad and what we assumed was their son. Nothing too odd there. However, the son was in his late twenties, maybe early thirties and had a definite, Alan from the Hangover vibe.

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Despite being British, we attempted a hearty good morning and got nothing back. We were served juice and coffee and unleashed on the buffet, but “Alan”, in an unnecessarily rude manner, refused everything. No drinks, no food, no manners. He just sat at the table looking around with a permanent scowl on his face. His Mum and Dad tucked in, but still, not a word from them. We carried on regardless.

Freddie was especially taken with “the gurls”.

The food was fine, if nothing too special. The whole event felt weird though. The choice of room lacked any sort of atmosphere and it felt like we were just sat in a random, bland conference room eating breakfast….because we were.

Still, this is what we came for….

Freddie had ample time with all of the characters and I had three trips to the buffet. Everyone’s a winner.

Our table sharing friends took about two photos with the characters, with the son not taking part in that either, and then immediately left. Honestly, they were just weird. Not like us perfectly normal folks!

After about an hour we were done eating and meeting and we made our exit. As we were three days from going home, Louise, of course, decided she needed some new “more comfortable” footwear, so we popped into the onsite boutique to purchase probably the most expensive pair of flip flops in the northern hemisphere. It’s fine.

We strolled back to the car and made our way back to the villa for some serious resting. I rested so much that there isn’t one photograph of the entire afternoon. That camera stuff can really take it out of you. I didn’t swim due to me still not being any better. Instead, I sat inside unwisely eating all of a family size bag of Cheetos and watching endless re-runs of Two and a Half Men, pre-Kutcher of course.

Everyone else was in and around the pool, blissfully unaware of my fight for survival. and orange fingers.

At some point folks got ready and at 6.30 we left the villa again, heading up the I4 again towards Universal for our trip to Teak Neighbourhood Grill. We hadn’t booked, or let them know we were coming. We did that once and we got such a fantastic welcome and red carpet treatment that we felt a bit guilty and awkward with all the attention, so we wouldn’t be doing that again! On the drive, I slumped to new lows of illness. I had a headache the likes of which would have made a lesser man moan about being ill all the time. I was really struggling.

You can almost see my headache here….

Ah yes, Freddie had the camera again.

If anyone would like to see the 47 other photos like those, just let me know.

After a forty-minute drive, we arrived and only had a five-minute wait for a suitable table inside. As we were seated, I took some more pills and went to the restroom and expelled vast amounts of fluid from my nasal area. Seriously, it took about five minutes, three toilet rolls and a couple of flushes. As soon as that was done my headache lifted and I cannot express the feeling of relief and euphoria involved. I floated back to the table full of joy and empty of snot, ready to order.

We skipped appetisers, planning to focus on the wonders of the entree menu and for me, it was an easy decision, despite the vast amount of choice.

The Cronie burger was, once again, magnificent.

Louise had the French Dip.

Rebecca had a Green Salad.

Emily had the Trooper Burger, with the meat substituted for an Impossible Burger.

Tom also had a burger. Its name had Pig in it, I think…..don’t hassle me, I was ill.

The food was delicious and it made us happy.

Cocktails were involved, Emily had a blueberry beer she had been craving since our last visit and Tom, Rebecca and Freddie shared a Brownie dessert.

Yes, they did finish it.

The service tonight wasn’t the best we’d ever had here, but the food made up for it. With tight pants, we loaded our full bodies back into the car and drove directly home as fast as was legally allowed. It was straight to bed for me, again praying that I might make it through the night.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Ten

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Ten

If you think Boris Johnson is saying “Get Brexit Done” a lot, just see how often I manage to let you know that I was not feeling 100% again today. In fact, I’d rate myself at about a faltering 35%, but nothing short of limb loss would keep me away from a theme park today.

I was awake at 6am, expelling liquids from all sorts of holes and eating my bagel in front of the TV. It was a mere three and a half hours later that everyone was ready and I reversed the van off the drive. By this time I was almost ready for my second set of tablets of the day.

The plan, which I had painstakingly crafted over many months was, at this stage, at the risk of another Boris Johnson analogy, a right bloody mess. We would be starting the day by heading for Epcot. Just to reaffirm that….

By the beard of Zeus it was hot today. We like it hot, but not that hot…….

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Our first FastPass was a poorly planned Frozen Ever After. Poor, as it meant we had to yomp all the way up there from the entrance in the incredible heat. Freddie somehow managed to jettison his sun hat from his pram somewhere along the way without anyone noticing so that had to be replaced.

Having made the physical sacrifice of burning about three and a half thousand calories getting there for our FastPass, the standby line was ten minutes. Smashing. Still, we saved about eight of those minutes by still using our FastPass. It was for the best as it gave all those young, blonde cast members less time to ogle me in the queue.

Freddie very much approved of this ride and we took him into the shop afterwards to meet the troll for the first time. I was a little sad that he would never know the true joy of what preceded it and running through the film theatre at the end of the old Norway ride so you wouldn’t have to watch it.

I could easily have filled that nose with the fluids I was carrying in mine!

Even though I had a bagel about six hours ago, I felt breakfast was deserved, and in my haste to get food down my neck, I led us into the bakery in Norway. I have to say, I did expect a slightly better array of breakfast finery, but we made do with cakes.

I had something called school bread. I learned that it was pretty good and absolutely nothing like bread.

Louise had a chocolate chip cookie the size of a small planet. Freddie may have helped.

Rebecca and Tom shared an un-photographed Parfait and Tom had some fruit. I think his body was making a cry for help. Emily, not being a breakfast person, declined to participate and just had water.

We sat and ate for a bit whilst Freddie did some people watching.

We then moved off around World Showcase, stopping in most of the countries and alas shops.

A glance at the app revealed that we were about fifteen minutes from a Voices of Liberty show so we made our way into the American Pavilion and I sought out a restroom to empty my nose of about three pints of snot.

Freddie explored for a bit and I took him into the native American exhibit, but I doubt he retained a great deal of the information to be honest.

We took our places as the singers emerged.

If these very talented folks ever sing O Canada, I may never recover. I suspect that’s unlikely unless the US invades Canada at some point, but these days you never know.

Onto Japan now to admire some huge bongos….

I told you it was hot. Even the air conditioning couldn’t save this toy.

Many of us were hungry now, with Tom’s body violently protesting about the fruit it had been subjected to earlier and despite our very fine intentions to sample a load of food from the food and wine booths, nothing stuck out as being worth queuing for and/or something Freddie would appreciate, so we kept on walking. When we got to the UK, I went to the fish and chip shop to get some waters. Even in my home pavilion, things get lost in translation. I wanted to buy some bottled water but ended up with a tray of six cups of tap water, which were both very tricky to transport back to everyone else and tasted a bit weird.

With the heat as it was, my incompetence was barely tolerated.

To redeem myself, I decided to bite the bullet and see if the Rose and Crown could accommodate us. Whilst I enquired, Emily spotted that one of the cast members at the podium was a chap from our home town who used to work at her school. As someone once said, it is a small world.

We were seated immediately and could even choose whether we sat inside or out. It was perhaps not the wisest decision to sit outside, underestimating the heat, but it wouldn’t be the first or last crap decision I would make this trip. It was made mainly as Freddie was now very asleep and it would be easier to park his pram next to us outside.

Tom and Rebecca had Bangers & Mash. Oops, I blame the heat for my tardy photography.

Emily had the vegan Bangers & Mash….

Louise and I, having eaten the most sugar in Norway, were not starving so we just had the cheese and biscuits.

Freddie kipped throughout.

$130 lighter, we continued our journey around the world and in Canada, I got myself a new cap as I had stupidly forgotten mine and my thick head of hair was just so sweaty! Rebecca needed some new sunglasses having forgotten hers because she only had three and a half hours to get ready this morning, so they were acquired too. Did I mention the heat? Luckily, I wasn’t struggling with a temperature and life-threatening cold during this very severe heat.

With our FastPass for Test Track now almost due we made our way down in that direction. Another long sweaty walk followed and after setting up baby swap, Rebecca and Tom sat out first with the still sleeping Freddie whilst the rest of us rode.

Having left Emily to most of the design work, resisting the urge to take over, our car and performance lacked a little but it did not detract from the ride. We took over Freddie duties whilst Rebecca and Tom rode and a now wide awake Freddie loved sitting in all the cars.

Having been in every car at least twice, we made our way out and not long after Rebecca and Tom returned. I made myself useful by going to get everyone a drink, oh and I may have acquired a couple of those Joffrey’s doughnuts again. They are superb.

We spent a bit of time in Mousegear, mostly to cool off, but Emily also got herself a hoody….one of these…

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Having somehow managed to pay for my 24-year-old, fully employed daughter’s hoody, it was now time to leave Epcot and head over to Animal Kingdom. Even writing that now feels weird and not something I might plan, but Dorian had ridden the proverbial coach and horses through the laminate and all bets were off. We had an ADR to honour and by jingo, we were going to.

It was a brief ten-minute drive and we left the van in Peacock. Louise refused to move just yet, a sign of the incredible heat today. She just needed a moment more in the air con, so we left her to it and walked in across the car park to the entrance. Having done that, Rebecca almost passed out, so seeing that as a subtle sign, we spent some time in and around the cool of the restrooms, perhaps recognising that the pace today had been a little more demanding than the weather might permit.

Having cooled off a lot we continued our journey up to the safari. It was a walk-on, and probably because the animals have more sense than us, there were not so many on view. They were probably backstage in the air con.

Oh look, more giraffes…

I like how I captured this bloke’s ear in lovely soft focus though….

And here, unlike other less skilled photographers, I cleverly managed to focus on the pole on the truck and not the animals.

Next in this master class of photographic technique, I capture some trees….

As tradition dictates, it is now time for my Rhino joke…..

Our guide confirmed that the one out front was called Neal…with this joke included in every report, you can complete the punchline yourself.

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We slowly made our way over to Yak and Yeti for our ADR.

Louise met us there having been tempted out from the cool car by the prospect of eating at one of her favourite eateries and as we were early and too hot to move, we asked if we could bring our reservation forward. We could and we did.

As is the case in quite a few restaurants now, we were shown to our regular table! In the spirit of fighting the heat, we got Freddie a slush thing and I think he enjoyed it.

We always love our meals here and today was no different. I even had a beer. Crazy I know!

We ordered –

Me – Beef Tacos, which were tremendous.

Emily – Tofu Sweet and Sour

Louise, the same but with chicken

Tom had Korean Beef, quite what they had done to upset him I don’t know… (ba dum tish)

Rebecca had Honey Chicken

With Egg Rolls and Pot Sticker appetisers, we were nicely full, but that didn’t stop us ordering a cheesecake and a number of forks and we all had a bit. At times I am very grateful for my extra dessert stomach.

The bill was a testing $250, but this is one of our favourite places and one we always love.

With that done, so were we. The heat had done us for today and we wandered out to the exit to say the first of our goodbyes for this trip. This would be our last Animal Kingdom visit this trip. We seem to have spent a lot of time here this time and that’s a good thing.

On the way home, we, of course, called in at the local CVS and spent $70 on drugs. They were legal and much needed for my quickly deteriorating state. Did I mention I wasn’t well?

Till the next time…..

The Dodging Dorian Tour – Day Nine

The Dodging Dorian Tour – Day Nine

I started today close to death. The onset of my cold last night had incubated nicely during the night into what I assumed was the onset of the Zombie apocalypse, as clearly no human could feel this rough and live to see next week. As I was due back at work at that time, I figured this wasn’t a bad way to go and resolved to make the best I could of my remaining time. If the cold was going to get me I figured I may as well eat myself to death and go out in style.

Luckily, today had become a non-park day. What should have been happening on day two, didn’t as we moved a theme park up due to Dorian, and so here we are on day nine, doing day two of the plan. I’m glad that’s clear.

Typhoon Lagoon was the plan and it opened at 10am, so leaving at 9.40 was just late enough to have me silently tutting that we probably would arrive a few minutes after opening, seeing every sliver of shade already taken and us crisping nicely in the scorching sun for eight hours.

Upon arrival, the car park was empty, or at least close to it and me and my budgie smugglers made our way into the park ignoring my chaffing flabby white thighs as they attempted to start a fire between my legs. Not for the first time baby!

It did take us a good few minutes of wandering to find somewhere that would allow Louise unfettered access to eight hours of blistering direct sunlight and the rest of us some cooling shade. All of the umbrella spots had gone to the people who hadn’t left their villas too late so we had to try and find a spot covered with some natural shade. As we began to set up camp, Tom, Rebecca and Freddie were already off into the water.

I sat, making good use of the toilet roll I had brought from the villa, depositing it once used into the supermarket plastic bag I had brought for that very purpose. I mean, who wants to be walking all the way to the restrooms! Fear not, I was depositing nasal secretions rather than anal, which is a sentence I didn’t imagine using in this, or any report.

I read for a while between sniffs and blows and after some time doing that I wandered off to get some bottles of water for everyone. See how everyone rallies round when I’m ill so I don’t need to do anything? No, me neither.

Eventually, the heat got the better of me and it was time to go and infect the wave pool with my germs. With every battering from the waves, I was no doubt launching ever so tiny molecules of germ-ridden snot in all directions. Caring is sharing. Hopefully, the coughing woman from the plane was in there and she caught it again.

Soon, that was very much enough of that and I had to retire back to my sun lounger, resting there like some oversized snot dispenser. Louise and Emily left me to it and went to do the lazy river.

By the time they returned it was 12.30 and I was so hungry I was about to call Bob Geldof to launch an appeal. Louise, Emily and I went off first for lunch leaving the rest to guard our possessions. My large plastic bag of snot ridden toilet roll was clearly going to be catnip for any potential thief.

Louise bagged a table and far too many condiments and napkins whilst Emily and I ordered. We had…..

Me – Chicken Burger

Emily – The Impossible Burger

Louise – A “Chicken and Rice Thing”.

Emily’s was pretty good but other than that the food was at best average. We returned to camp and released Tom, Rebecca and Freddie for their eats.

The rest of the afternoon was spent resting, for me anyway. Tom wasn’t seen again until closing, as he spent every moment sliding down stuff. Imagine our surprise at the end of the day when he returned looking like a very red thing.

Late in the afternoon, I took Freddie into the wave pool for a bit, obviously away from the major action.

We had a lovely time and he wasn’t keen on leaving at all, but we did around 4.30, having avoided a rainstorm at Typhoon Lagoon, which is incredibly unusual for us. I loved that time with him playing in the shallow end. I’ve banked that as a another one of those times to remember.

We made our sandy footed, damp bottomed way out of the park and back to the car which had attained the temperature of the sun whilst we had been away. That was handy as it would need to dry out my seat after I had made it all wet. Incontinence is a curse of the middle-aged.

We were soon back at the villa for welcome showers and changing. Our plan was to head over to Magic Kingdom tonight to watch Happily Ever After. Like some overconfident, detail averse idiot, I assumed that tonight’s fireworks would be at 10pm, so I had booked the Plaza restaurant for an 8.15 ADR. See how I subtly hint at some upcoming planning woe?

We parked in Scar, drinking in another spectacular Floridian dusk.

There are few places on earth that make me happier than a tram heading into Magic Kingdom. Freddie seemed to concur. We were again dumped and forced to walk to the TTC.

I apologise but there’s something about a WDW sunset that means I get a form of photographic Tourette’s and can’t stop myself.

It was right about now that I actually looked at the app to discover the time of Happily Ever After tonight and realised that I had once again dropped a huge ricket, as tonight for reasons that were never clear to me, it would be on at 9.15.

Still, the view was nice.

Fearing now that we wouldn’t be done eating by 9.15 I was very annoyed with myself. I haven’t been keeping count of all the absolute howlers I have committed this trip, but it’s a lot. Clearly, I need many more trips so that I can improve my planning skills. I put this one down to illness, which I’m not sure I have yet mentioned.

With the new time table in mind, I upped the pace a little as we entered the park trying to get us to the Plaza those crucial few minutes early.

I hoped that we may be seated immediately, as we arrived at around 7.55 but alas no, we waited until just after 8.15 before getting shown to our table.

Freddie had been in charge of the buzzer and was convinced it was actually a phone. I have no idea who he thought he was chatting to.

Here, you can see Tom and his radioactive complexion. He’s doing well to hide the incredible pain caused by his T-shirt touching his skin.

I look like someone who has been expelling snot from most orifices for several hours. See how I manfully suck it up, flash a winning smile and don’t mention that I’m ill at all.

Service was a little slow, or maybe that was just my perception. We ordered as today’s water park exertions started to hit Freddie like a ton of bricks. He hits the same brick wall that Rebecca used to all those years ago. As soon as the incoming food would hit his stomach we all knew it would be game over. To be honest the same would still be true for Rebecca!

Rebecca and Tom had one of the Plaza’s special milkshakes each.

Upon its arrival, Freddie suddenly perked up a little!

Louise and I had the steak….

Emily, the Fried Tomato Sandwich,

Tom and Rebecca, a Turkey Sandwich

and Freddie the PB & J

The bad news was that, as feared, we missed the first few minutes of the fireworks and I had another enormous man baby sulk.

The slightly better news was that we had a window seat and had a decent view of the stuff we were missing.

I hastily paid the bill and we made our way outside to watch the rest.

At this point, as predicted, everything had caught up with Freddie and he immediately fell asleep in his pram. Rebecca and Tom decided to set off for the car with him before the crowds all did the same. The rest of us stayed to watch the end of the fireworks and whilst doing so got a message from Rebecca telling us that the monorail was down and the exit was like a scene from a disaster movie where thousands of people try to get on a ferry boat. We immediately left, just ahead of most of the crowds but still got caught in the carnage.

The ferry still seemed like the best option and we waited fifteen minutes to board one. It was packed and not one of the more enjoyable journeys on it, but it got us where we wanted to be.

We walked to the tram pick up and were soon back at the car where Tom, Rebecca and a very much asleep Freddie were waiting. I drove us home still feeling more ill than anybody ever in the history of the world, but I don’t like to talk about it.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Eight

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Eight

With a full day’s park touring ahead of us, now that Dorian was behind, or technically North East of us, it was handy to be awake nice and early. Alas, that did not result in us being out of the villa similarly early.

By the time everyone had done whatever everyone needed to do it was 9.30am and let’s face it, the day was ruined already. Right?

All those days ago when I booked our FastPasses for today, some sixth sense, or maybe years of experience told me not to book our first FastPass until 10.35, so our late start was not as dramatic a disaster as my protruding bottom lip might have had you believe.

Signalling another quiet day, despite our tardy arrival, we parked too close to the entrance to warrant a tram and we breezed through security without significant sack intrusion and we were into Hollywood Studios.

On the whole subject of favourite parks, I can never give a sensible answer when asked. In fact, it seems that whenever I enter any park it assumes the position of my favourite until I go to the next one. The warm virtual hug each park gives me as I enter is one of the best things about this place.

We were making our way to Toy Story Land and as you can see, the emptiness we were seeing was pleasing and encouraging.

As many now inconveniently restroomed, we observed a squirrel showing un-nerving familiarity with people for a while.

Our first FastPass was for Alien Swirling Saucers. It was upsetting to see it only had a ten-minute standby queue.

To avoid the discomfort only experienced by sardines in a can, I rode separately so that Louise and Emily could ride together. I spent the ride taking Grandad photos of Freddie and attempting the grandparent wave at high speed.

As we disembarked, Toy Story Mania was showing a meagre ten-minute standby time so we headed there. Just as we reached the ride entrance it changed to twenty-five. We joined anyway and ended up waiting for fifteen. A decent compromise.

I rode with and resoundingly thrashed Emily. I don’t always report the results of these types of rides, but when I win, it seems right and proper to do so.

As we queued, we had discussed, agreed and booked our dining plans for the day, securing Sci-Fi Diner for later. I could sense a milkshake in Tom’s immediate future. Not knowing how Dorian would play out we had left things a little free and loose, but enough about my extra large eating shorts.

Speaking of food, now it was time to tick off our list one of the snacks we had ear-marked as essential in our planning stages. A Num Num Cookie!

I secured a number of them, along with some coffees of varying hotness and coldness from Joffrees and we snacked, well. By jingo these things are superb. Soft, warm, moist….all the good words apply here.

As we scoffed, we spotted a show of some sort starting up right at the bottom of Pixar Courtyard so we wandered down that way. It was an Incredibles dance and play type affair and Freddie was up for it.

Like his Grandad before him, women naturally gravitated to him, and he spent the latter part of the show limboing with Mrs Incredible.

This was one of those unplanned, stumbled across moments that will live long in the memory. You can’t beat them.

Having wooed Elastigirl, we moved on to Ariel, as we had a (redundant) FastPass for the 12.05 show. We had to kill ten minutes in the Launch Bay before being allowed to enter.

Freddie met Darth Vader. You’ll have to trust me as it was un-photographed.

We used the FastPass entrance at Ariel with no requirement to do so and settled in for the show.

Freddie is asking his Mum why Ariel is staring at Grandad.

Freddie loved the water spray, bubbles and the laser effects and sat through the whole show enjoying what was a very good Ariel.

Outside, in the courtyard, Freddie did some character meeting…..

We did have a FastPass for the Disney Junior Dance Party show, but as that again wouldn’t be required on such a quiet day, we decided to not do that and instead we headed for Tower of Terror which was just showing a ten-minute wait. Louise was on Freddie duty, otherwise known as sunbathing and the rest of us enjoyed the ride.

We were all kinds of ready for lunch so we decided on the first place we came to after riding.

Louise and I shared a Chilli Cheese Dog

Emily had the Fried Tomato Sandwich

Tom had a foot long, but that’s frankly none of my business.

Rebecca and Freddie shared some Nuggets

We finished eating with perfect timing to walk over the road for the 2pm Beauty & The Beast.

I can’t be the only one to wish for the return of Four For A Dollar?

An enjoyable show as ever, with Freddie’s attention being kept throughout. I agreed to enter some shops after this solely because my love handles were melting.

Louise looked at and even tried on some retro style dresses in the now ever so posh shop, but decided against buying one. I had no opinion on this….

Image result for anchorman gif super duper

I chose two T-shirts as part of my birthday present package and we admired some lovely Up! art work.

See, very free and loose….

Rebecca and Tom got themselves a couple of Up! T-shirts for their MHSSHP outfits and then we ended this shopping nonsense and set off to explore Galaxy’s Edge a little more. On the way, we phoned home and spoke to Louise’s Mum, discussing time differences, the weather and Los Cadbury’s Fingres.

Freddie nodded off in his stroller during the walk so we just had a general wander, who is a lesser-known character in the Star Wars films. We started in the driod shop where we would absolutely not be paying $200 for one. Many others seemed to have no such objections.

We wandered some more…

Having taken more photos than one of those speed cameras in motorway roadworks, we left Star Wars behind, heading for another product of the Seventies, The Muppets.

This might just be me, but the layout here is a bit odd. You have Galaxy’s Edge, separated from Star Tours by The Muppets, the courtyard and the pizza place. I am surprised that they didn’t extend Galaxy’s Edge out to Star Tours, relocating the Muppets elsewhere. It just feels like a weird break in theming to have that in between the two Star Wars things.

We arrived halfway through the pre-show, but it seemed to me that the film shown in the waiting area has changed. This is not acceptable as I was not consulted. The show remains untouched and despite the challenges of the 3D glasses Freddie managed to sit through the whole thing. He was particularly fond of Sweetums and the bubbles which appeared at some point.

We wandered the adjoining shop for a bit before making our way to Star Tours.

Louise, Emily and I rode first. It was a walk-on so we didn’t have to wait too long for Rebecca and Tom to do the same. As they rode we watched some Jedi training and then went to check-in at Sci-Fi Diner and they joined us once they were done.

Darth Vader there, with a similar “red pencil” that Oli, our Old English Sheepdog, has from time to time.

Freddie was very taken with this car and spent quite some time posing in it and playing with the other kids doing the same.

After a fifteen-minute wait we were seated and despite the gloomy conditions, managed to order.

Rebecca and I had the BBQ Burger

I gave up with the photos after that one due to the absolute lack of any light.

Emily had the Falafel Burger, Louise and Tom the Cheese Steak and Freddie the child’s burger. Milkshakes all round, which were superb and we all loved this meal and experience. I failed to write down how much it came to, but I didn’t care. I was full of milk shake and happiness.

We had half an hour to kill until the next showing of the Frozen sing-along, so despite our bulging bellies, Tom and Emily joined me in a speed walk to Tower of Terror which had no wait time. I’m not over exaggerating when I say that we queued for less time than it takes me to start peeing.

We avoided throwing up and left the ride into the lovely dusky atmosphere of Hollywood Studios looking its best. Freddie was spending this little bit of free time getting his hula hoop on.

I spent it filming randomly for the benefit of Facebook and of course for myself who can now watch it months later, in a cold dreary November.

Parks at dusk are special and especially special when they are as quiet as Hollywood Studios was at this time.

Frozen was superb. It can depend on which cast members are appearing and we struck lucky with a couple of hilarious ones and Emily laughed so much I feared for her underwear.

By now, darkness was approaching and again, the place looked glorious.

To end what had been a superb day we headed to Fantasmic now, picking up drinks and ice cream on the way. It had been ages since we ate!

It was right about now that I got that sinking feeling of incoming illness. Damn that woman on the plane! The inevitable arrival of a cold was not welcome, but for now, I pushed those thoughts away and enjoyed the show.

As happens in most situations that involve fireworks, nighttime shows and characters, Emily was emotional. I have to say that ending “Some imagination huh?” does manage to get me every time. I love it.

We were too tired (or ill in my case) for the Star Wars fireworks so instead, we headed for the car. We were home and in bed by 10pm, resting nicely in the afterglow of a glorious full theme park day. More please!

Till the next time……