Last week’s post saw me bemoaning all my stresses, strains and tribulations. In the context of how bad some folks have it, of course, it ain’t so bad, but busy and stressful it is.
So it would make perfect sense then in these circumstances to go out and get a puppy right?
With my usual level of input on things we commit to for about a decade, Louise brought Woody home last week. We have of course been considering getting another dog at some point in the future for a while. Whilst I did not agree that this was that point, here he is.
He is a Daschund. The fact that I am not sure how to spell that highlights my involvement so far. He is of course a cutie and seems to be settling in pretty well. My great fear when getting a new dog is always the horror and pain of house training. It stresses me out and I find myself dragging the poor bugger outside every ten minutes telling him to do something he has no clue about.
In the few days we’ve had him he’s been doing OK. He usually does what he needs to outside and on the odd occasion we don’t have him out at the right time he’s finding a puppy pad.
The other big worry with a new puppy is of course nighttime. It is very early days there too, but so far, with not too much whimpering, he’s then settled down for long enough for us to get some kip.
As we can never have enough pets, it seems we may also be adopting Rebecca’s cat, Hades. He’s a hairy thing and they fear all that fur is causing issues for Dougie. When we bought a farmhouse it seems we knew what was coming.
In other news, the frames and glass for our conservatory turned up and, miraculously and thankfully, the next day so did the chap who was fitting them. So they are in and the room exists again and we are water tight and secure at the back of the house again. There’s a good number of days of work yet and then we have to get the floor tiled and do some cosmetics but there is (a lot of light) at the end of that tunnel.
I’ll share some photos once we are done. It will be a huge cosmetic improvement of course but the old one may not have have survived another winter and it was that magical mix of freezing in winter and sauna like in summer and often less than water tight in heavy rain. The new one has a “proper” roof and better glass so hopefully it will be somewhere in the middle now.
Time for blogging is at a premium so apologies for the brevity but it’s time to stand outside for twenty minutes again until Woody has a wee.
This is the first non-holiday blog in forever so let’s see if I can remember how this works.
Let’s start with the obvious update. Last Sunday morning little Dougie joined us and due to an arduous birthing process and one that we should not repeat please Rebecca, he and his Mum did not come home until Wednesday.
The thing that Rebecca had been yearning for was to introduce Dougie to his big brother who had been patiently waiting at home unable to visit the hospital, along with the rest of us apart from Tom, due to Covid regulations.
Here is the moment they met.
It’s fair to say they have been inseparable ever since.
Rebecca is recovering well after her emergency C section and thankfully all the drama of that is behind us. For those eating and/or a little squeamish that is all we shall say about that.
We got our chance for a hold and a squeeze of Dougie on Thursday evening and it was glorious.
So that’s a delight and a relief!
The last time I wasn’t doing trip report things here, we were just about to go away to Florida (maybe, depending on Omicron…remember that?) and Louise’s Mum suffered a stroke. She went into hospital in late December, which led to Louise staying home to look after her. Mary came out of the hospital in early January and came to live with us, under the expert care of Louise who has given up her job to look after her Mum.
It would take too long to go through all the ups and downs of this past almost six months now but safe to say it has been a mix of good times and tricky ones, both in terms of Mary’s health and the challenges presented in caring for her. She was back in hospital recently with pneumonia but is home with us once again now.
Outside of that, just to add some spice to life, we are halfway through getting our conservatory replaced and you all know how I love having jobs done around the house with all the mess and disruption that goes with them.
There is some sad news since we last “spoke” about our lovely Old English Sheepdog, Oli. Sadly we lost him unexpectedly in late January and we were all incredibly upset. Time helps, but I still get overcome with it at points when things remind me. Everyone says it, but he was truly a special dog and a huge part of our lives. It still hasn’t really sunk in that we won’t see him again. It happened so suddenly that I still feel traumatised by the events of that evening. All these months later I still find myself expecting to see him in his favourite spots around the house.
Our other dog, Bean, has been soaking up all the extra affection and attention (and food) since we lost Oli. In her bereaved state, Louise finally let Bean up on the couch and she seems quite happy about that situation.
In other animal news, and we have a lot, you may remember that Emily has pet rats? Well, there have been turbulent times there too with three of those sadly passing away in recent times. They all have a forever resting place in our field now and Emily has added a couple of new babies to her collection. They really are lovely pets and cute little buggers and if only pets didn’t pass away that would be great.
So with all that and my work being especially busy and stressful in recent times, it has not been a time of great peace and quiet, but when is life ever?
As mentioned towards the end of the trip report we unusually have zero holiday plans. Louise especially is in need of one, but that isn’t possible for now. I have finally watched a vlog now though. Only one, and perhaps it is quite telling that it was a Universal one, but maybe the urge to return is slowly starting to awaken from its slumber. However, the more I read and remember about the WDW park situation now, the more that cost and complexity just make me reluctant to go through that stress. I have enough of that in real life. We all know we’ll return at some point of course. I can only hope by that time it is recognisable as the WDW we love so much.
So there we go, a whirlwind recap and you are up to date I think. I have no doubt forgotten some stuff but that’s enough for anyone on a Sunday.
Hello again, it’s been a while since there has been any non-trip report bloggage. I hope you are all well.
Even before we went away, the previous seemingly endless months were just me making inaccurate guesses and predictions about travel restrictions and moaning about having to rearrange a holiday four hundred times.
So today would be the post where I would typically catch you up on everything that has been happening in the four months since we got home. I’ll probably save that for next week as today, with absolutely perfect timing, we have a new arrival in the family.
Please say hello to Dougie.
He arrived at 5.56 this morning weighing an eye-watering 9lbs 15oz. We are so relieved proud and in love all at the same time. Much like almost all of the pregnancy, his delivery was not straightforward, but all that matters now is that he, Rebecca and Tom are through it and everyone is safe and well.
It looks like Rebecca and Dougie may be staying in for a few days so I’m not sure when we will get to meet him yet but obviously we can’t wait. He has cheeks that just need a good squishing!
So that’s all I wanted to say today. This is Dougie’s post on his special day. A huge well done to Rebecca for getting him here and for Tom for getting her through it. Freddie will be an excellent big brother I’m sure and becoming a Grandad for the second time is just too awesome for someone as average at writing as me to convey.
Be braced for Dougie photo spam in the coming weeks. I make zero apologies.
So it’s Tuesday January 18th now. The holiday is on its last legs and I now get to document that tricky travel home day. It shouldn’t take long.
I awoke at 7am, probably the latest I had slept all holiday. Alanis Morrissette has a song all about that. I did want to go back to sleep but could not, so instead, I checked us in for our flight home and rested in bed until about 8.30.
I showered, dressed and finished the packing with Emily up and about around 9am. With precision timing we walked out of the room at 10.58 no doubt much to the disappointment of the housekeeping staff. We met Rebecca, Tom and Freddie at the car and somehow got all the luggage to fit with room left for us all to sit down.
The first order of business was gas. With all the food we’d been eating it wasn’t that shocking, but I also needed to get some petrol into the car. I don’t know why but I detest filling the car up and last night had ignored the low fuel light which I now regretted as I had no idea if what we had left would get us to a gas station.
I fired up the in car sat nav and searched for gas stations, setting off to the nearest one which looked to be just a few minutes away. That journey was fraught but it looked like we were going to make it. As we approached our destination there was a distinct lack of gas station where the sat nav said there should be one. I swore quite a lot.
Cursing the in car sat nav and the relatives of everyone who was involved in its construction, we headed for another, a worrying distance away. We ended up down on the 192 and for the second time arrived at a piece of land that should contain a gas station but did not. Abandoning technology in favour of my eyes, I spotted one over the road and with everything crossed that the fumes in the tank would get us there, I headed that way.
We made it, I filled up and reflected on a needlessly stressful start to the day.
With that pressing need satisfied, we moved on to the next one which was of course food. I pointed the car towards Lake Buena Vista and another visit to The Cheesecake Factory. It took twenty minutes to battle a busy I4. We arrived at 12.05 and it was surprisingly busy for that time on a Tuesday. We were seated immediately though.
We of course started with Nachos.
Nachos are probably one of Louise’s favourite things on the planet and as if she had sensed their presence from across the Atlantic she called just as they arrived with absolutely no consideration for us being hungry.
I sneakily passed the phone to Emily so I could eat.
We were also presented with a lovely bread service. It didn’t last long enough to be photographed.
Freddie ordered Chicken Strips
With apparently much improved camera skills, Rebecca and I had the Fried Chicken Sandwich.
They did not persist for Tom’s Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.
Emily had the Impossible Burger.
Again, everything was superb.
As we were just finishing our meals, Rebecca cried out in pain, complaining of very strong shooting pains in her stomach. I briefly had visions of missed flights, hospitals and a grandchild born in the US, but thankfully, they passed before desserts arrived, as I was not missing my cheesecake for anything!
Emily and I shared a Tiramisu one.
The bill was $164 and I somehow expertly managed to spend every last dollar on my Caxton card. It’s a life skill.
Unavoidably we now had to head to the airport. We stopped at a nearby bin to dump all the “trash” accumulated in the car and then set the sat nav for MCO. Knowing this sat nav we would be in Key West by sun down.
We arrived at the airport safely and the car drop off was very simple. We also dropped off our toll tag thing which had worked a treat. Our bag drop experience was probably the easiest ever with no queue at all.
Security is always grim at MCO and it looked to be horrific, but once we had been through the passport check, we were through in fifteen minutes or so. We monorailed to the gate and found some seats. The queue for a Starbucks was worse than security but we got one eventually.
An announcement that boarding was starting at 4.30 was made, which was odd as we were not due to take off until around 6pm. We got to the gate and were surprised to be allowed on immediately with no queue at all. Once we were on the plane we realised why. The thing was empty. I would say there were twenty people on the flight.
Boarding was complete by 5pm and we were airborne by 5.30. This is the time you really just want to be home, but for me, this time, even more so even though I was dreading work and the scales.
The prospect of the cold, grey UK is never one I relish but clearly, this time, none of that mattered and I just needed to be home.
The flight (pardon the pun) flew by. This was easily the quickest and most pleasant journey home we have ever had. We all spread out of course, so had loads of room which made the whole thing very, very tolerable.
Despite still being full from our lunch, I demolished the food provided and soon enough we were on the ground in Manchester. Nothing of note happened on our arrival. Immigration was OK and our bags appeared fairly quickly as there weren’t many on the flight at all.
We drove home to find Louise had locked us out by putting the security bar on the front door so we had to knock her out of bed. We were home.
I have shared a lot of (negative) thoughts throughout the trip already, so there’s not a lot left to say here, however that probably won’t stop me doing so. I have to add for balance that real life, since returning has been stressful, odd, worrying and busy and this may have impacted upon my writing style/mood too. Because it has taken so long to write this thing, at times I honestly couldn’t remember how we really felt beyond the brief notes I made too, so perhaps I have done the odd disservice here and there.
We did enjoy lots of the trip of course and we will look back on it with fondness in the future I am sure, but it definitely was not the same as we have enjoyed in the past. As such we have no immediate plans to return, or have any idea when we might. This is driven a little by our recent experience but also by real life stuff such as Louise’s Mum’s condition and required care and the fact that Rebecca is literally just about to give birth and that new arrival will need to grow some before we could consider a trip to WDW with them.
It’s weird not to have that burning desire to return that I normally have once back in the UK. A tangible sign of my apathy is that, despite now being best friends with high profile Florida vloggers, I have not watched one vlog since our return. Of course, life has been busy, and a post trip slump can be normal, but to me that seems weird. I do think that many first timers now may get home and feel the same way and be back in Magaluf the next summer.
In recent days, I can almost sense the distant rumblings of interest in another trip stirring, but they are some way off yet. It feels like some time is needed for WDW to sort itself out a bit. Post COVID staffing levels will be a big factor and getting those back up to where they are required will help them to re-open everything which in turn will hopefully spread out the crowds and reduce waiting times. My mind has considered a Florida trip with no/less parks too. Strange times indeed.
So in summary, Genie+ is a shit show, or at least it felt that way due to the long wait times. Whether Genie+ is the cause of those, I don’t know, but WDW need to get to grips with the crowd levels and whatever is impacting the guest experience so badly. It was simply not as enjoyable to be in the parks this time compared to literally every other time. The two new/different things in the mix are the COVID impact and Genie+.
Aside from the operational impact of replacing FastPass with Genie, which doesn’t seem to have improved the experience, there is also the feeling of indignation of being forced to pay extra for things that were included in your ticket price. I was very offended by this and felt ripped off when shelling out for LL and/or Genie+. This is not something that will endear visitors to WDW for the long term and any short term uptick in profits will be countered by a longer term loss of loyalty. In case I have not been clear, Genie+ is an affront, ineffective and something that will discourage us from visiting WDW in the future.
Universal was good. We were, of course, spared most crowd issues and long wait times due to staying on site and we really enjoyed it. It remains an occasional thing for a couple of days rather than the main stay of our trip, but we loved our time there. We do it infrequently because the front of line is expensive. It feels WDW may be heading the same way.
A definite huge positive from the trip was our villa. The best we have stayed in by some distance and we will return without doubt.
So there we have it. A weird trip for lots of reasons. We will absolutely go again. It won’t be for a while I would think, and in that time I hope things settle down and we can return to an experience worthy of the increasingly huge investment needed to be there.
Thank you as always for coming with us on the trip via these posts. Your patience and endurance is astonishing and appreciated.
It’s the last full day and traditionally one of sadness. There was some of that, but tempered very much by a desire to get home now. Still, we could not bring the flight forward so it was our job to make the best of the time ahead of us.
Our story today starts in the very early hours. I was asleep, unusually, but I remember (gracefully) leaping from my bed in a startled yet sleepy state, deeply confused. As my flab rippled under such odd activity, I stood in the dark of the room, wondering, where I was and what was going on.
I couldn’t see much but I could hear faint music, coming from I did not know where. I had dark and disturbing thoughts of some murderous clown coming for me in the night accompanied by some weird theme music.
This unpleasant confusion lasted a few more moments before I saw Emily move in her bed and look towards me, with a look on her face that questioned my sanity. As she did so, she removed her ear pods from her ears and the music suddenly became a lot louder.
Turns out she had been listening to music to try and drown out my snoring in an attempt to get some sleep. Add this to the “a villa suits us better” list. I sheepishly returned to bed, hopeful of a few minutes more sleep. What sleep I got was fitful and it ended around 7am. I immediately booked Genie+ to allow us to actually do some things on this our last day and as I was doing so got a message from Rebecca. She had been awake until 4, not due to Emily’s music, but more to do with pregnancy aches and pains. She was very tired and was letting us know our planned early start was off the cards for her.
Emily and I pressed ahead with the plan, after getting the stroller from the car and dropping it off at Rebecca’s room so they could join us later. We drove to Magic Kingdom and found ourselves in Hook again. The lack of trams persisted and we walked into the park whilst Facetiming Louise.
It was good to see our last day would be a consistent experience with all the others.
In our monorail compartment was an odd chap. Now I know, to some, certainly ased on last night’s ear pod experience, I would be odd, but this guy was in his early forties, yet dressed like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. He had two mobiles on the go, constantly checking both, and he was sweating profusely whilst coughing over everyone. It was weird. He had his wife and two kids with him and spent the journey talking very loudly at them all. He shouted at his kids to get up from where they were sitting making a huge performance of it, telling the whole monorail that “Boys can stand”, unlike of course girls who cannot I assume. I convinced myself he was a drug dealing, Covid spreading idiot, and I felt sorry for his kids. Not that I am one to make snap judgements about people based on a brief encounter. Still it passed the journey to the Kingdom of Magic.
We got into Magic Kingdom around 10.30. Moans, odd blokes on the monorail, issues and Genie+ aside there are few better sights than this.
This too is a lovely sight, there are just a few too many people in the way of it. We planned to get breakfast at Sleepy Hollow. The huge queue there put paid to that so we went to the stall thing near the stocks and got a banana instead. We ate that as we walked over to Carousel Of Progress. It had no wait time unlike everything else in the park.
Today was Martin Luther King Day, but I don’t think he was there, not that the parks needed any excuse for them to be busy.
This show provided an oasis of calm from the crowds outside.
It will not shock you to learn that our bananas did not complete us, so we mobile ordered a pretzel with soft cheese from The Lunching Pad and collected it as we left Carousel.
We shared that in what were cold and windy conditions today, relatively speaking, for someone who lives in the North of England.
Next we had a LL booked for Buzz but we needed to kill some time in Star Traders before that rolled around. We rode and then walked down to Main Street to do some more handbag shopping for Louise.
A cavalcade happened.
We consulted on Louise’s gifts with Rebecca, virtually, before making a final selection but deferred actual purchase till later in the day so we wouldn’t need to carry them around.
We spotted the Dapper Dans on the train station so we stopped to watch them, going live on Facebook to share that with you all.
It was now time to make our way over to the Contemporary for our lunch ADR at Steakhouse 71. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were to meet us there.
We were early so had a look around the resort and shops.
Emily bought a hoodie and some gifts in the shop there and we met up in reception at 1pm. I checked in and we were seated five minutes later.
We got some drinks….
and then ordered….
Freddie – Burger and mash
Emily, a grilled cheese…
Me, a Turkey Club Sandwich….
Rebecca, a very poorly photographed burger….
Tom, a steak suffering in a similar way…
All of the above were great. Great service too.
The whole point of coming here, if I am honest, was the huge chocolate cake so we ordered two of those and a Crème Brulee to share between us all. Both were incredibly good.
Freddie of course had ice cream.
We all felt a bit like this after all that food.
The bill was $190 including tip and it was now 2.35pm. I had booked a LL for Big Thunder that ran out at 3.10 so we were up against it. Again, it always take far longer than you think to get from one place to another as we were about to prove.
We hurried to the monorail and the journey around the resort loop took an age, with the driver having the absolute nerve to stop at each resort. For some reason we sat outside the Grand Floridian for ages. All this meant that we only got to the entrance of Magic Kingdom at 3.05. We were clearly not going to make it to Big Thunder in five minutes, with or without a pregnant one amongst us. I cancelled our LL as if we had been late/refused entry we could not book it again that day.
Queues were looonnnnggg everywhere. The People Mover was “only” twenty minutes so we did that. Freddie then wanted to ride Buzz so we joined a 45 minute queue which only took 25. I rode with Freddie, who employed the “no look” aiming method which led to another crushing defeat at my hands.
During all of the past few hours I had been stacking LL bookings for later in the day with Genie+. One of those, for Pirates was now due so we made our way there.
More world class photography took place.
Spotting that Small World was only at 20 minutes we walked there and rode with a 10 minute wait.
Marginally better photography took place.
This took us nicely to our next LL for Peter Pan’s Flight….see….
As we boarded at 5.45, the standby wait was 110 minutes! After riding we got a drink in the Pinocchio place. At this point Tom and Freddie went off in search of more rides whilst the rest of us headed for Main Street to complete the handbag and purse purchase for Louise.
With that done, we headed over the road into the Emporium where everybody in Florida was currently shopping. We left quickly and our LL for Ariel’s ride was now due. Rebecca declined the walk all the way over there and said she would find somewhere to sit and wait for Tom and Freddie. Emily and I dodged people and speed walked over to ride.
This quick fire series of rides felt good and what we had been missing for much of the trip. During this trip it had only been possible a handful of times where we had bought Genie+ and managed to “stack” reservations for later in a day.
Emily and I now walked back to Main Street to take up a position for the fireworks. It was busy and we had no clue where everyone else was so we messaged to find out. We were stood near the bridge over to Liberty Square, with Rebecca not budging from a seat she found near Crystal Palace. Tom and Freddie were AWOL, it turned out half way round Space Mountain. Their desire to get to ride that meant they did not make it back in time for the fireworks which Rebecca was a bit upset about.
This was mine and Emily’s view.
Some trees made it less than perfect but arriving at this late stage it was good enough.
Allow me to share my photographic skills once again.
OK, this is a bit better….
An enjoyable show, but at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it ain’t no Wishes.
We met up with Tom and Freddie outside Sleepy Hollow and we all made our way across to our final LL booking at 8.40 for Haunted Mansion whilst Rebecca told Tom off for missing the fireworks.
More epic camera work. I actually have a pretty good camera, I’m just really rubbish.
There’s something odd about knowing you’ve done your last ride. We exited into the now very cold evening, a mixture of all kinds of emotions. We strolled out, having our customary last look up Main Street.
It was less blurry than this.
You can see the crowds had really died off by now!
As ever we took the resort monorail, with even that having a ten minute queue. That wait was nothing compared to the one for the tram (yes, they do exist). I fell on my sword and walked back to the car so that everyone else could fit on one row. We all arrived back at the car at the same time.
We had not eaten for many hours now and so a search began for somewhere that was open. Again. this felt weird and unusual or is it just me? Struggling to find an open eatery or take away at around 10pm on the 192?
We found a McDonalds but as we had found all trip they had zero options for Emily. Everything had meat in it or was cooked in non-veggie oil. The rest of us got some of that and we continued what turned out to be a fruitless search for other non-meat options for another half hour or so. With Emily less than impressed we arrived home around 11pm, and those able to, ate something. We were all in bed for midnight.