Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Eight 5th September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Eight 5th September 2018

Enough of this meandering out of the house at any time we like. I had put my foot down. Today, we needed to be out and out early. I had spoken. We *had* to be out by 8.30, no excuses, no delays, if necessary, no sleep.

We left at 9.20.

Usually I would have been mad, but this was mainly caused by Freddie having a lie in. He is forgiven by default. This meant that time was tight, as our first FastPass slot ended at 10.05. Luckily, via Sherberth Road we were a longish stone’s throw from Animal Kingdom, which was our destination this morning.

We were at the gates by 9.30 and via a broken speed limit or two once in the car park, we were in Dino 39 and on to a tram a few moments later.

The theme park Gods were smiling, as the security line was short and we were actually stood on the correct side of the entrance at 9.50. I started the walk to Everest at a brisk pace but shortly afterwards we were halted. Emily had arranged to meet up with Ceara, who is currently on the CRP in the UK pavilion as it was her day off.

Out of the kindness of her heart Ceara had agreed to come along and use her cast member magic to get us a “return time” for Flights of Passage. To facilitate this we had to visit some secret cast members tucked away on a secluded path. Much tapping of tablet devices and scanning of bands happened. I had no idea what was going on, but we were eventually sorted and once again on our way to Everest.

We chatted to Ceara on the way, and still managed to arrive at the ride entrance at 10.03. Impressive if not a little stressful.

We saw the relevant cast member to sort out the baby swap stuff. Her name was Beth and she was lovely. She allowed five of us to ride initially and then a further four to ride the second time with the baby swappers. The ride was pretty quiet so nobody suffered any extra waiting due to us.

Once everyone had ridden, we all met up outside the gift shop. Ceara revealed her real motive for joining us today. She wanted a photo with Ryan!

It seemed like a fair exchange for all the help she would end up giving us today.

In all the rush and kerfuffle of getting everyone where we needed to be on time, I had not yet consulted the app to check our plans for the rest of the day. So, my natural instincts kicked in and we set off for the safari. It would turn out that I had at this point totally forgotten that we had a FastPass for the safari later, but that’s not important right now.

There was a five-minute wait and we were soon all aboard.

Regular readers will know that at this point you are about to get bombarded with a large selection of blurred photos of animals. Enjoy!

It was a good trip and enjoyed by all.

Now it was time to head to Pandora. I had managed to secure a FastPass for Navi River Ride and that was next on the list. We tried our best to take in the theming as we wandered into another first this trip.

It’s been a while since this came up in a trip report, but that might benefit from a drop of Vagisil.

Ceara watched Freddie so that we could all ride together, which was lovely of her.

It’s a gentle ride, but excellently themed and one you’d need to ride a lot to take it all in.

We returned to Ceara to rescue her from the incredible heat. We were now headed for Flights of Passage. Ceara had used her CM special pass to get a return time (before she met us earlier) and as all our bands were linked to hers as her guests, we could ride with her. Having tried and failed to get a FastPass this was a lovely thing for her to do and very much appreciated.

Tom and Rebecca sat out first to feed and change Freddie and the rest of us entered.

I know there will be a good few of you that haven’t ridden this yet so I won’t describe it, but….

WOW.

This is just incredible and from a technology point of view this is THE best ride in WDW.

We exited all agog and watched Freddie so Tom and Rebecca could ride. Whilst they did we want to Santuli Canteen to get us all some food. There was no queue. In this instance this was a bad thing, as there as no time to study the menu before ordering so it turned into a panic driven random selection, just making sure that we had enough meals for everyone.

Don’t even ask me what this stuff was…

They were all just variations of the “protein” option. Whatever they were, they were very tasty indeed. With those demolished I mobile ordered a few desserts…

These were also excellent.

Being a gloriously flexible planner and all round good guy, whilst eating I used the app to swap the Safari FastPass I forgot we had booked for a Lion King one and as  that show was imminent we wandered there next.

We were Warthogs.

I have run out of superlatives over the years with which I can heap praise on this show. It’s good.

Mikey was loving it so much he volunteered for the bit at the end where the kids walk round shaking stuff. We “forgot” to tell him it was really just kids who did this, but, to his credit, he didn’t seem to care and loved every second.

A glance at the app showed that every ride time (Pandora aside) was ten minutes at most which pleased me. To celebrate we paused for Ceara to take a group photo.

Freddie had nodded off.

We headed for the rapids next, looking for a little moisture to combat the incredible heat. Louise sat out with Freddie and the ride was a welcome walk on.

I am happy to report that Ceara got the worst of it and was absolutely drenched but to be fair we all got a decent soaking.

To further aid the cooling down we stopped at the cocktail bar near Everest for some refreshment. I didn’t make a note of what everyone had but there were no complaints other than it seemed to cost me $50 for a mocktail.

With Freddie in mind we headed over to…

We’ve only done this once before and our memory of it was that we didn’t need to do it again. However, now with Freddie needing to see it, we were prepared to fall on our swords.

It was *much* better than our memories had remembered. Freddie didn’t manage to sit all the way through it. He’d been woken from his nap to go into the show and he was tired and hot so Tom took him out about half way through.

Dinoland next and on to Primeval Whirl for some rib rearranging.

Rebecca and Tom took the chance to get Freddie back to sleep by walking him around whilst the rest of us rode. Mikey and I rode together, proving that two gentlemen of our girths should find smaller partners to inflict injury on.

We sat in the sun whilst Rebecca and Tom rode and had a much needed cold drink. Then we headed over to…

Emily *hates* this ride due to the childhood trauma of the first time she rode it and she volunteered to sit out with Freddie. It turned out that Ceara wasn’t a huge fan either and screamed all the way round.

We collected Emily and Freddie and made our way back to Dinoland so that a now wakened Freddie could be taken on Triceratops Spin.

With that done, we started the walk over to Yak & Yeti for our ADR(s).

When we arrived I spoke nicely to the lady at the podium and merged our two seperate ADRs (I hadn’t been able to book for our full party on the app back home) and added Ceara.

As we stood outside waiting to be seated a young girl had just thrown up and we got to marvel at the custodial staff dealing with it using some magical powder which made it vanish.

Many cocktails were ordered…

I went crazy and had another mocktail….well, it was more an “ade” of some sort…

We ordered some Egg Rolls and Pot Stickers as appetisers and the chef came out to talk to Ceara who needed to see what she could eat with her allergies.

We had –

Ceara – Lo Mein with no veg

Me – Lo Mein Combo

Rebecca and Emily – Honey Crispy Chicken

Louise and Mikey – Sweet and Sour Chicken

Tom – Korean Beef

We all had various desserts too….

Desserts were Freddie’s favourite part of the meal….if you look closely at the photo above, you can see Freddie’s hand reaching out to get his Dad’s attention. Tom had made the mistake of sharing his cheesecake and now Freddie was on a mission.

He was a HUGE fan of cheesecake and they may have created a monster by introducing him to it.

Freddie had corn dog bites for his main meal and enjoyed those too.

It was going dark now and it was almost time or Rivers of Light. Animal Kingdom was looking very handsome.

As Everest was a walk on we rode that, Emily and Ceara did it twice. We had a FastPass for Rivers of Light so were able to wait until quite late before actually entering.

Freddie was knackered and there was little chance he would sit through this show so Rebecca and Tom wandered slowly out to the exit through the shops and we said we’d meet them at the car.

We took our seats and waited about ten minutes for it to start. It has changed quite a lot since we saw it last, starting with some of the cast wandering through the audience.

I’ve seen quite a few young girls on Instagram with less make up, but his contouring is “on point”. Am I doing this right?

The show is much improved, in my opinion and my camera excelled itself…

The water projections and lasers are far more “firework like” and it is all much more effective and interesting.

We made our way out of the show and wandered slowly to the exit, browsing a couple of shops. These delightful warm, dark Florida nights are just a treat to witness.

We dropped Ceara off at her apartment at Vista Way and then made our weary way home by around 10.30. Another tiring but very enjoyable day.

Thank you to Ceara for making the day much easier and enjoyable via the use of her special cast member magic and of course for getting us on to Flights Of Passage which everyone agreed was just mind-blowing!

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Seven 4th September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Seven 4th September 2018

After the very fine and full day yesterday, the plan recognised the need for some R&R. So there was no rush to be anywhere this morning and folks were allowed to get up when they wished.

I might have wished to be in bed until about 10, but my body clock had me up earlier than I might have liked. Resisting breakfast, knowing what the plan was, proved tricky. We were all ready to go at 10.50 and the sat nav was programmed with the location of a new eatery for us, Keke’s. We hadn’t had a US style, rib busting, double chin causing, T-shirt stretching, guilt inducing mega breakfast yet, so today was the day.

Now, we could have just driven a few minutes up to the 192 and done some pancakes and stuff at a Dennys or similar, but dining is an event on our holidays, and based on a fair amount of online praise and some blog reader recommendations, we had been salivating over the menu at Keke’s during the planning phase for many months.

So we did the half hour drive and arrived to endure a ten minute wait to get a table.

I’m not sure you can read this, but we reminded ourselves of the menu choices…

I had been pretty sure that I would be going for pancakes. The other stuff looked very appealing but there is always a mild concern that the other dishes might not contain the girth I was looking for. Size is important.

We ordered coffees and juices, in most cases one of each, and Emily had a hot chocolate.

and then we ordered…

Me and Tom – Blueberry Pancakes

Louise – French Toast with some sides that I didn’t write down

Mikey – Pancakes & Sides

Emily – Stuffed French Toast

Rebecca – Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I truly can’t believe that I didn’t photograph those and I suspect my camera or SD card has “lost them”.

My word, those pancakes were thick, satisfying and a perfect demonstration of my stupidity and bad relationship with food. I loved them.

We did feed Freddie, don’t be fooled by the manic longing in his eyes.

Those pancakes soaked up maple syrup at an alarming rate and we went through a huge bottle between us. I didn’t finish all of my pancakes to be honest. Knowing I had to drive home I thought it best not to pass out and/or vomit over the steering wheel. Tom made a very valiant effort, especially when he went for the large portion size of four pancakes compared to my meagre three!

After parting with $130 and any chance of ever fitting into my “smaller T-shirts” ever again, we waddled to the car and it was a subdued journey back through a few scattered rain showers. Louise suggested that we detour through Celebration to show our newbies, so we did. Who says my planning is not flexible?

We kerb crawled through the ‘burbs for a bit, picking out our lottery win houses, before heading back to the 192 and the villa. We were home by 2pm and we spent some time around the pool, but clearly not taking any photos! All this resting!!

Whilst we lay, read, swam and rested the pool cleaner came. We pointed out that one of the panels on the pool net thing was broken and she said she would let the relevant folks know. Indeed, a man was with us in double-quick time later that day to sort it. Freddie did some swimming and then was whisked away for a bath whilst the rest of us got ready.

We left, bound for Magic Kingdom at 5.20 after feeding Freddie. How he could eat at this point was a mystery to me. Due to reasons, tonight would be the only night we would be able to see Happily Ever After. A lot of nights at Magic Kingdom were taken up with MNSSHP so it was tonight or not at all.

Obviously, like an over eager, do it all knob, I had also shoe horned some FastPasses in before the fireworks.

We parked in Jafar 310 and trammed it in. A monorail ride later and we were into the park.

Oh look, I remembered to take a photo.

We walked through the castle and into Fantasyland.

We had a FastPass for Winnie the Pooh and this would be our first ride of this for many a year.

Perhaps it was better when I wasn’t taking photos….

Freddie definitely enjoyed the ride, but he enjoyed the shop at the exit equally.

I am ashamed to say that we were a little hungry at this point. We walked down to Tomorrowland and mobile ordered some hot dogs from The Lunching Pad.

It took an age and I was not happy about it. See how furious I am by the arch of my eyebrow.

 

We waited for a bit longer….

Until I reached my limit and wandered up to the counter. I asked a Cast Member who, I have to say was not the brightest I have ever met. She looked at the computer, found my order and pressed a button, and hey, look at that, my phone buzzed to say my order was ready. As the hot dogs we’d ordered were all pre-made and sat in a warmer, this should have been the case about ten minutes ago. Sigh.

We had an overly long conversation about whether we wanted cheese or apple sauce with our hot dogs. Another cast member had to step in to translate (she was an English speaker!) and despite the fact that anybody ordering apple sauce with a hot dog should be ejected from the park, finally I had my tray of food and I returned to our table.

We had hot dogs here a few years ago and they were excellent. It seems that they had shrunk by about 40% since then. They were still tasty but even after our frankly stupid breakfast, they didn’t fill much of a hole. At $10 a dog, this was challenging the Brown Derby for value for money.

Our FastPass for Buzz had opened up so Rebecca and Tom went to ride that followed by the rest of us when they returned. We got a churro or two whilst we waited as obviously we hadn’t had enough sugar today. I didn’t make a note of why we rode seperately but I suspect Freddie had dropped off. Whilst we rode Tom got himself another hot dog so that he felt like he’d eaten something.

We moved on to Mine Train now and it looked lovely in the increasing darkness. Rebecca and Tom rode first again, and we rode immediately afterwards aware that time was pushing on and the fireworks were looming. Again, a mixture of the wrong camera setting and my extreme incompetence produced some classics.

Take my word for it, riding this in the dark is excellent. By the time we exited it was 8.20 and there was just ten minutes until Happily Ever After. Emily and Louise walked ahead to bag a spot for us, but by the time we got to Main Street it was carnage and cast members were shouting at folks like us turning up at the last-minute to not stop there, and to keep moving, which was fair enough.

We never met back up with Louise and Emily who were somewhere near Caseys. Instead, the rest of us were marshalled up into the central hub.

We had a very good view if not a lot of room around us.

It was a great show and one I’d need to see many more times to take it all in. We shuffled our way to Caseys to find Louise and Emily who had, it turned out, had a worse view than us. Reunited we loitered outside of Caseys to watch the projection show on the castle.

That was lovely and full of Disney magic, we turned to shuffle to the exit.

I feel the camera and I almost redeemed ourselves with the last few photos.

Again, we chose the resort monorail due to the size of the queue for the other one.

There was still a fifteen minute wait but eventually we made it to the TTC. Boarding the tram involved a little bit of scrummage. Being so many of us, and with a stroller and Freddie, we were always open to over aggressive knob heads barging their way into a row of seats. Anyway, we all managed to get on albeit in various rows.

As another comment on the size of those hot dogs we called at McDonalds on the way home. I just had a drink but I think Tom and Mikey ordered food. They are young growing lads!

Naturally we also called at Walgreens for some water and “bits” before driving home and to bed at 11.15. Another relaxing rest day then.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Six 3rd September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Six 3rd September 2018

After a bit of a fragmented day yesterday, today was much more like it. It was all theme park, all day and some of the night too. As KC and his band of sunshine once said, that’s the way, ah ah, I like it, ah ah.

I was awake at seven. Today was a day that we needed to be out at a decent time so I was rushing round trying to get Ryan filled as required, the relevant items charged, and lots of bodies up and out of bed. Rebecca and Tom needed no such help as they had been up for a lot of the night with Freddie who had decided that he didn’t need to sleep.

It was soon clear that the early start I had been looking for would not be forthcoming. I mentally adjusted our plans to at least get to Hollywood Studios before the end of our first FastPass window at 10.35. We left the villa at 9.20, and then again at 9.21 once a couple of folks had wandered back in to pick up sunglasses or vital medication that frankly they could have done without.

Naturally, we couldn’t pass Walgreens without calling in. We needed bin bags, pills and some “bits”. I went in to get them as I didn’t trust anyone else to do it quickly enough.

Once back in the car I did force the pace ever so slightly, conscious that we may well miss that first carefully planned and painstakingly acquired FastPass. We parked up at 9.50 and did the tram in from Film 53.

With all the work going on here the entrance is a right mess to be honest.

This is the new Sky Way thing which looks a long way down the road to being ready.

It took a painful ten minutes to get through security. I would support a change here to the x-ray style thing they have going on at Universal. It’s much quicker and less intrusive than someone poking around your sack with a pointy stick.

We were finally through the gates and as I turned to see where everyone was I could see Louise a few gates down…….taking a survey!!!!!! Luckily, she quickly drew that to a close before I had to give her one of my looks, and we were headed towards Tower of Terror for that first FastPass. It was now 10.15.

I tried to balance my insatiable desire to get to the ride in time for our slot with the need to take in my surroundings. Over the years I have become adept at taking photos whilst walking at full speed.

At the entrance we arranged the baby swap thing and the cast member tapped their pad a bit, scanned some bands and everyone but Rebecca and Tom rode. Every time I ride this it amazes me all over again. From the theming…

to the ride itself, it always puts a smile on our faces. Sometimes a very strange one!

As frequent riders it is easy to take for granted the pre-show in the study and the theming of the boiler room. Mikey was taking all this in for the first time of course and luckily we also had a good cast member seating us to add to his mood of apprehension and terror.

There was much screaming and a lot of laughter as we were dropped several times. We exited to watch Freddie whilst Rebecca and Tom rode. Whilst they did that, the rest of us walked down to Starbucks to get some breakfast. It would be my second breakfast, but I’m on holiday, get off my back! Emily and I queued, listening to the absolute nonsense being shouted out by the folks dishing out the orders.

“Snail foam and phlegm mist with a lemsip shot for Savannah!”

“Flattened grass and armadillo tears frappacino for Tyler!”

I just wanted a coffee and a cake.

The ordering is so complex here that I wrote it all down on my phone for fear of ballsing it up. We sat outside on the kerb waiting for Rebecca and Tom. As we did the first order wandered past a couple of times.

The cast member was keen to get into one of my photos.

After middle breakfast we wandered up towards the Chinese theatre and towards one of our favourite shows.

Not sure what that lady is up to if I’m honest.

One the way, it was a little surprising to see a shiny black helmet.

It was now time to enter Ariel.

It had been a while.

We didn’t have a FastPass and there was a decent queue so I was a little concerned that we wouldn’t make it into this show, but we did, just. Freddie joined the Ariel fan club and danced his way through the show. I’ll be honest, I’ve had better Ariels than this one, but I’m being picky! It wasn’t helped by some gimps behind us talking all the way through, and why, oh why, is it that EVERY TIME we watch this show some bell end feels the need to take a flash photo at the end of the puppet section?

It was now time for a first. It’s always exciting and this was to be our first experience of Toy Story Land.

It’s down there somewhere.

It was scorching hot and the place was busy. Everyone wandered about for a bit taking photos etc, but eventually I rounded us all up and herded everyone into Toy Story Mania for our FastPass. A few years ago, this FastPass would have been a prized possession, but now it was the poor relation to the other newer stuff.

We rode with just a five minute wait. I really wish they would fix their scoring system as it was clearly broken again.

At the exit, Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Mikey joined the queue to see Woody and Jessie. It was a long one so Louise went off to find a seat in the sun and Emily and I loitered ready to take some photos once they got to the front. The incredible heat was clearly going to be a precursor to a storm which we could see forming above us. It was now a matter of which would come first, the storm or the meet and greet.

As we were waiting, spookily, I also met Woody. Not the one in costume but a Dibber and long time blog reader, Woody and his wife who had seen from a Facebook post where we were and had hunted us down…I mean sought us out to say hello. We had a chat and they very kindly tried to give us a FastPass for Slinky in a few days that they were just about to cancel. Even though we tried literally as they cancelled, we still had no joy. Lovely of them to think of us though, so thank you both!

The other Woody and Jessie had been for two “short rests” in the time it took to get to the front of the queue and literally as this photo was taken, the heavens opened and everyone ran for cover.

Poor Mikey was next in line and missed out.

We made a mad dash for One Man’s Dream which is where Louise had run to as the rains came. So had half the park so it was a bit busy. We had a wander, Freddie was fed and we waited for about fifteen minutes until the worst of the rain was over.

Some of the concept art models for Star Wars Land look amazing.

The rain hadn’t stopped but it was less torrential so we poncho’d up and struck out.

We had a FastPass for Rock n Roller Coaster and a little but of moisture was not going to deny us.

We did the baby swap admin again with Rebecca and Tom waiting out with Freddie initially. Mikey, who if you hadn’t gathered yet, isn’t a huge coaster fan, loved it and screamed all the way round to prove it.

We then waited with Freddie whilst Rebecca and Tom rode. With the weather still a bit bobbins we were looking for indoor activities so we headed right back to where we had come from and did the Star Wars Launch Bay thing, not really having a clue what it was.

On the way the girls shopped for a jumper each. I had a very vivid flashback to 2003. Our day in MGM had been a wet one and before heading into the Brown Derby we got them matching jumpers so they wouldn’t freeze to death whilst eating. With those secured we moved on to….

Our ADR for Brown Derby was fast approaching so we only had time to watch the film. Louise had opted to stay out and wander a shop or two and as we were really cutting it fine by the time the film ended, I messaged her and told her to go and check us in at the restaurant.

We got there just a few minutes late, Freddie was changed and we were seated in what was a half empty Brown Derby.

We were hungry, and the waiter started us off with some warm bread which was more addictive than crack, or so I imagine. I inhaled it within seconds.

It was a set menu with not a lot of choice and we had –

Me, Tom, Rebecca and Louise – Steak

 

Mikey and Emily – Chicken

Freddie – Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Desserts were just brought with no selection required or sought…

It was nice food. They were, what I would call, “poncy bollocks” portions, but very nice.  It was an enjoyable meal and a nice peaceful break from the park but the bill was a ludicrous $550. Even adding in the Fantasmic guaranteed seats etc, that is just silly and we won’t be doing that again.

With full(ish) bellies we decided to do the Frozen sing a long next. With a little time to kill before that we watched the full First Order March having just caught the tail end of it earlier.

We took our seats in Frozen and I have to say this show was excellent and totally exceeded any expectations I had for it. It was just great fun. Sure it’s just the songs from the film but the cast were great and everyone loved it.

With that having somewhat made up for the bill at Brown Derby we moved on to our final FastPass for the day at Star Tours. I had secured this whilst eating as I am clearly a very able multi-tasker. Louise sat with Freddie in the now much better weather and Tom especially liked this one as he is a huge Star Wars fan. At the exit we watched a few minutes of the Jedi Training too.

Being in the area and being pretty sure that there hasn’t been a wait longer than five minutes for the Muppets since 2003, we headed over there.

On the way in we passed a food stall selling Corn Dogs. Pretty much everyone had been looking forward to trying one during the countdown to this trip, so the plan was to grab one once we’d seen the show. I told you they were “poncy bollocks” portions in the Brown Derby.

After enjoying a salute to all nations but mostly America, we walked back to the stall to see it closed. Gutted was not the word. We found Louise and Freddie and spotting, via the app, that Tower of Terror was just a fifteen minute wait we walked (all the way) over there to ride it.

The random drops were much better this time.

Fanstasmic time now. On the way in we got some drinks and we got Freddie his first obligatory light up toy, a Buzz Lightyear. We had a great view (not a $550 view, but still), and Freddie this time was less tired and loved the whole thing, even the loud stuff.

It goes dark quickly in Orlando.

I found a selfie mode on my camera and annoyed Emily with it for a bit.

The show was great, until, just as the “finale” started, the gimps on the row in front of us all stood up to leave to “beat the crowds”. That’s exactly what I wanted to do to them and I let them know with major tutting and disgusted looks. They made a token gesture of bending down a bit and scurrying away. Idiots.

Once the show was over I noticed one of them had lost their Magic Band. I picked it up, hoping they were staying on site and I could charge a million pounds of merchandise to their room.

Instead, I carried it out to the exit and handed it in to a cast member instructing them that the owner should be banned from every Disney park for life for being an early leaving knob.

We collected the parked stroller and shuffled out to the exit. Despite the thousands doing the same, a tram was immediately waiting to take us back to the car. How do they do that? You can’t get out of the Trafford Centre car park in under two hours at a weekend.

We were home by 10.15, after a ding dong twelve hour theme park bonanza. Love it.

Till the next time…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By jingo it was hot.

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

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

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

Me – PB&J

Mikey & Rebecca – Celebration

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

Emily – Key Lime

Tom – Brownie

Louise – No milkshake, but some wine

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

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

Me – Red Reuben

Louise – Houmous & a side of Onion Rings

 

Emily, Mikey and Rebecca – Chicken Sandwich

Tom – Burger

Freddie – Pasta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We parked in…

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

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

We monorailed in

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As did Mikey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

For mains we had –

Me – Thai Salad

Louise, Mikey and Emily – Various Pasta things

 

Tom – Club Sandwich

Rebecca – Boneless Wings

Who knows why I didn’t photograph those!

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

Till the next time…..

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Me and Louise – Brisket sandwich

Emily, Mikey, Rebecca and Tom – Burger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pizza was very much the order of the day….

Me – Pepperoni

Mikey & Louise – Spicy Sausage

Rebecca and Tom – Large Marge

Emily – White Pizza with artichoke

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

We also discovered that Freddie likes pizza too.

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

Desserts were ordered –

Me & Emily – Shared a Tiramisu

Rebecca & Tom – Shared a Tiramisu

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

Hmm, that reminds me of someone….

Mikey – Cannoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time….

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

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

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

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

Freddie had some toast.

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

Rebecca did a fine job of capturing the moment.

and other important landmarks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the show ended, we headed left into Adventureland.

See…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey had a strawberry waffle

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

Freddie was allowed a little piece of heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

Mikey seemed to enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

It surely is the wildest ride in the wilderness.

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

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

Then the band came by.

And the rest followed.

Freddie was sweaty but happy watching it go by.

Ariel had missed me, it was clear.

Tinkerbell seemed to be regretting that Mexican last night……

That’s better!

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

Freddie was soon in position.

Here is the video if you want to watch it.

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

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

Cocktails for all but me and Freddie were ordered.

We sat and chatted and rested for a bit.

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

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

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

Tom & Mikey took advantage of the unlimited milkshakes.

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

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

Then the real action began.

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

Freddie was a fan.

And of his Dad’s milkshake.

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

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

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

Till the next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

and Tom’s…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Emily – Nutella and Banana Thing

Louise & Mikey – A Big One

Rebecca – A fry up of some sort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others, played with Vera…whoever she is….

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

There was a lot of looking at this…

and this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had –

Me – Aussie Cobb Salad

Louise – My notes say a cheesy chicken thing

Mikey & Emily – Chicken Caesar Salad

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

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

Till the next time…..