To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Seventeen April 27th 2017

It won’t surprise you to learn that I am very sad. This applies to the now me, sat typing this, and the trip report me back in April. Going home isn’t easy at any time and by writing this bloody thing I’m doing it for a second time.

It isn’t helpful that I sit typing this at this time in August when for more years than I care to remember we have been in Florida. I shall solider on.

One of the many traditions of our trips is that I make absolutely zero notes of what we do on our last day. It’s a rebellious bout of sulking as the universe has conspired to make me work for a living.

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So we woke up at some point and tackled the horror that is packing.

Yeah that last photo is a blurry mess. Do I care?

It’s hard to articulate to those not of a similar inclination the very physical pain involved in looking at photos like this and knowing you won’t be back there for a while.

Whilst there, it seems you are cossetted in a bubble wrap of loveliness, protected from real world shite by the sweet embrace of the Florida warmth. I can’t describe the love I have for particular small, inconsequential things. Such as after an early evening shower, putting on a light summer shirt and some shorts and it being forgivable to wear sandals. Meandering to your eatery of choice for too much food, served to you by someone who gives a toss. Getting back in the car and hearing that soft “bong” warning tone from your car that UK cars never have. Sigh….It doesn’t take much to make me happy….just a persistent Florida holiday.

Emily was feeling it too.

This is the posh bag she bought herself yesterday at Magic Kingdom, when the world was a better place than it was this morning.

We did all the horrible packing crap, and wrestled the cases downstairs. I got the car for the last time (sob) from the car park and drove back to load it up. We drove across, for the last time (sob) to the All Stars for Mum & Dad and headed towards Disney Springs. The need for a ridiculous amount of food outweighed any desire to shop for Louise, Emily and I so we dropped Mum & Dad off and headed for Perkins at Crossroads.

The messaging on their menu takes me back to one of those pay per view films in that hotel….OK….not again.

Emily demonstrated how we were all feeling.

I resolved to take my angst and anger out on my body and decided to order the largest amount of food possible. As an absolute minimum requirement it had to arrive on two plates.

For me…

Plate 1

Plate 2

It was a scramble of some kind.

Eggs Benedict for Louise. I can only applaud the fact that Perkins feel that a dish as good as this requires a muffin as well.

I think this was some sort of Fried Chicken Sandwich for Emily…

It was fantastic and stupidly good value for money. I think it was about $33 for the three of us.

Full of food and dread of real life, we headed back to Disney Springs.

We walked around a bit, apparently, and no doubt bought some stuff.

I’m not sure why I took this, but I suspect it was to have a record of what a blue sky looks like.

I have to say, the appearance of that ring carving booth at Disney Springs was a shock….why would anyone want a carving of their ring?

We always enjoy looking around the art shop and as the next photo exists then I guess we did that.

More walking about…

It was very hot and we needed a drink so we found a table by the lake. The mood was…well…like this

We were waiting for Mum & Dad to find us so that we could head off to the airport. I have absolutely no recollection of that drive to the airport. Maybe that’s for the best.

Dropping the hire car off was as painless as ever. They really do have that down to an art.

I do remember that security was a pain and took an age but eventually we were sat in the departure lounge awaiting the inevitable.

We wandered duty free for a bit, got some drinks and moped about appropriately.

We boarded pretty much on time and as always happens, no matter how much we wish it didn’t, we took off, leaving Florida behind again when we really didn’t want to.

Again the flight is something my mind did not capture for posterity. I think the in flight entertainment was the same as on the way out which was a bit crap. I don’t think I slept, but probably dozed for a while, who knows.

Eventually the greyness of Manchester enveloped us once again and we bumped down into the monochrome reality of real life. Trivial things such as the queue to get back into my own country and waiting for the bags just happened. Our taxi guy wasn’t stood at the exit to arrivals of course, they never are. A quick phone call later saw him turn up like the shop owner in Mr Ben and we were all in the van and enduring rush hour M60 when just a few short hours ago I was a fully paid up member of the Beach Club elite.

The last thing to report happened as we pulled up outside our house. Everyone disembarked eager to see Rebecca and as I was dragging cases out of the back of the van Louise got out very quickly. That speed was due to the fact that she fell in dramatic style, head first into our front garden wall. It turns out the arm rest of the seat she was leaning on to support her as she left the van gave way and with that her body made contact with the floor in alarming style.

It could have been a very nasty fall, but thankfully she was OK and we were then all allowed to laugh. Brews were made and we chatted to Rebecca and Tom about our adventures, said hello to the dogs and made our peace with being backing home.

So there we go. Another trip done and dusted. The one silver lining of coming home was seeing Rebecca of course as we’d all missed her. It was weird and often hard for us to not have her with us for the first time but as you may know now, she was in the early stages of a pregnancy and she’ll be due this November.

Here we go with the usual end of trip report soppy melancholic nonsense. It’s not intentional, it is more a true reflection of my feelings whenever a trip ends and we are inevitably a long way from returning.

I always struggle to articulate the hold Florida has on me. God knows Louise has begged, moaned and pleaded to go elsewhere for years but thankfully she has always given in to my enormous sulks and allowed us to go back time after time, and I think has mostly enjoyed it when we have. I just feel so comfortable there. Sure, we go to the touristy artificial version and not the real Florida. I’m not daft. But that suits me fine.

It has taken me quite some time to get this trip written up. We got back in late April!! So in the time that’s been going on of course thoughts have turned to our next holiday. It looks like it won’t be until August 2018 (sad face), but in the spirit of the circle of life, joining us will be two first timers.

If all goes to plan, Tom, (Rebecca’s fiancee) and of course young Freddie will be claiming their 1st Visit badges. It has been many, many years since we took any young children and we have never taken one as young as Freddie will be at the time. Rebecca was two the first time we went and Freddie won’t even be one when we travel.

I apologies now to all those who will be sat on our plane.

Over the years, I’ve read and even written lots of advice on the age old question, when is the best time to take your children to WDW?

For me, it’s simple. I understand all the arguments about waiting until they are a little older and it makes a lot of sense, but you know what, whatever you do those kids are always going to get older but they will never be the age they are right now ever again. So my advice? Take them now, take them whenever it is possible to afford to do so. For very small kids of course there are many things they cannot experience, but as we’ve done everything a lot, we don’t care. This will hopefully be his first trip of very many and if he doesn’t remember it, we will.

Finally, a genuine thank you to everyone who continues to read this blog. Your loyalty is astounding. Each week’s post gets almost an identical number of views which suggests both of you come back each time 🙂 I am genuinely thankful and astounded that you still give some of your time to read what is written here when you could be spending your WDW related reading time much more productively getting banned from It’s Orlando Time on Facebook.

The bad news is that from next week you’ll be back to enduring random nonsense rather than tales of our Florida adventures. Of course, there is a whole new trip to plan, so that’ll be fun right?

Thanks for reading!

Arsene Wenger…….

From the day he arrives on the planet
And Freddie becomes our grandson,
He’ll have more to see than can ever be seen
Disney’s more than can ever be done

There’s far too much to take in here
More good fun than can ever be found
But the years which roll by
Will see me always try
To show him all of that hallowed ground

It’s the Circle of Life
Hear the theme parks call
Years of fun we hope
As we share our love
Disney’s warm embrace
Through his eyes reminding
It’s the Circle
The Circle of Life

 

Till the next time….


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Sixteen April 26th 2017

Just like that we get to our last full day of the holiday. See, I told you we needed more time in WDW!!

For anybody who has read any of my previous trip reports (available now from your local Amazon) you will know that there is only ever one place any such last day can be spent. Today, we Magic Kingdom.

Desperate to eek out every last second my body roused itself at 7am. With only the hour to get everyone ready and out of the door we set off for the Kingdom. We had arranged to meet Mum & Dad there so there was no need to detour for a pick up.

We flaunted our on-site specialness to avoid the $50 parking fee or whatever it was that week and parked up in Simba 110.

You don’t need me to tell you whereabouts in that row we were sent to park.

A tram arrived very promptly and whisked us away.

We encountered the (then) brand new security at the TTC rather than at the park gates and it worked well.

See I told you we were early.

Our earliness conspired against us at this point as the monorail was either not yet open or having early morning difficulties and so we were forced to catch the ferry. This is strictly verbotten (this is not the German version of the popular dancing show) as it “feels” like it takes longer to get to where you need to be. With no option other than a brisk swim, we waited.

Our goal was now to be seen off in the distance.

I mentally studied my fellow guests working out who I would be able to man handle out of the way should it come to that to make sure we got on the next ferry. Luckily, my Van Damme tactics were not required.

Once through the gates, having just missed the park opening show (thanks monorail) we made our way to Space Mountain.

There were signs that this could be a busy day.

With a little bit of local knowledge from the odd trip we’ve done before, rather than walk all the way up to the hub ans across the main bridge into Tomorrowland, we turned right past The Plaza and cut through the noodle station thing that is open about three times a year.

That’s better.

As we approached the ride it was already showing a twenty-minute wait which I didn’t believe. Louise, starting to panic that today would be the last sunshine she may see for many months, chose to sit in it rather than ride so it was just Emily and I who walked straight on.

Twenty minutes…pah!

I screamed my way round as usual with the not uncommon thought at the back of my mind that this is now a very old ride and perhaps my considerable girth may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and sends our car flying off the rails to an untimely death. Still, I enjoyed it.

We wandered across to Buzz now and again walked on without any form of wait.

I got an average 137,000 which was paltry compared to Emily’s score but frankly she had cheated by reading online about where all the high scoring targets are. I made a mental note to do the same before we return.

It was now time for a healthy and nutritious breakfast to set us up for a long day. Coffee was a must so we went to the Joffreys stand not far away. I did not know that Disney had bought the Game of Thrones franchise. I can’t wait for the Dwarf Sex attraction at the Hollywood Studios.

You weren’t expecting anything other than this for my breakfast were you?

More full of sugar than my T-shirt was of me we made it across to do Philharmagic.

The show wasn’t full but I still hated everyone who decided it was fine to sit wherever they wished. What do they think this is, some sort of holiday?

As we left Mum & Dad arrived just in time to use our FastPass for Mine Train. A rare treat for us, being a first time ride.

It’s a great addition to the park and a ride with some nice touches and a good mix of roller coaster and dark ride. I approve, which must be a huge relief to everyone at Disney.

We walked and rolled (Dad having an ECV again) over to Liberty Square in need of a drink. As we bought our stuff we noticed some of these wandering about…

There was a mild panic as one got seperated from its Mum for a few minutes but eventually all was well and we could move on with our day.

We continued on towards Splash Mountain, but being early (it’s a rare theme today) we did Big Thunder, tolerating a thirty minute standby queue.

That’s not Dad in his ECV by the way.

The queue area has been “interactivated” since our last trip so it was interesting to see that and a good reason why I didn’t choose to FastPass this ride sixty odd days ago. Honest!

I wonder how much these Cog’s worth? Ba Dum Tish.

Now, as if all this stuff is planned months in advance, our FastPass slot for Splash was open.

Out of around a dozen photos I took on this ride, this was the best…

I shall let you imagine the horrific incompetence of all the others.

We walked through Adventure Land back to the castle where I redeemed my photographic self with this one.

and these aren’t too bad…

This spot right here is one of my very favourites on the planet.

As we wandered the hub a dance party show thing (probably not the correct title) started so we watched that for a bit.

We continued our loop back towards Buzz as we now had a FastPass for that.

Same castle, different side.

Now, THAT’S a fanny pack to admire.

I’m not entirely sure what Emily was doing here…

I think her Nana may have just put some ice down the back of her top. This tit for tat game started on some trip many years ago and continues to this day….

We did Buzz again, with scores that I shan’t bother anyone with.

With being such a long time since I had any sugar, ice-cream was required from the place next to the Merchant of Venus, which sounds very similar to one of the pay per view films on offer in  a hotel I stayed in with work.

Despite Emily’s mortal fear of ever being selected to appear on one of the screens in the show, we did the Laugh Floor next. She escaped that experience and we all enjoyed the show again.

At the FastPass kiosk thing across the road I secured us a Haunted Mansion ride for a little later in the day. Always planning you see.

We had a sit down and a rest on the People Mover now.

Next we walked over to Liberty Square to find a decent spot to watch the 3 o’clock parade, which was due to start at 3 o’clock!

Before it did, there was some marching band action. Again, my mind goes back to those pay per view films that I have never watched.

Some impressive horn there…again my mind goes…oh never mind.

Then the parade proper got going and we had a great view…

Ariel looks very pleased with her nice fork….again my mind…..enough!

Ariel here, wondering why I never call her anymore….

I could have been mistaken but I think Peter said something about Hook and a huge anchor?

With perfect timing our recently secured FastPass for the Haunted Mansion now opened up. Seriously, I hope someone is appreciating these ninja planning skills.

After exchanging my fuel rod (not a euphemism) we made our way to the exit to catch the boat over to Fort Wilderness for our dinner reservation.

It took us twenty-five minutes from leaving the park to get there.

Emily sat next to Doc Brown I think.

We checked in and had a drink on the porch where we bumped into Catriona again and had a chat.

We were soon seated and let loose on the buffet.

To avoid shaming myself, several photos have been omitted from this part of the trip report. Let’s just say I was very full.

With the seams of my clothes straining to hold everything together we wandered back towards the boat, saying hello to a horse on the way.

A boat was kindly waiting for us and got us back to the Magic Kingdom at…

We spent the next hour or so browsing the shops. Emily had her heart set on a Dooney and Bourke bag (since she was about eleven) and now being all employed and stuff she had the required dollars to do so.

This is the one she chose.

We got some more gifts for Rebecca before heading off to ride Pirates. The park was fairly busy now as everyone was staking out spots for one of the final Wishes. Somehow between Main Street and Pirates we lost Mum. Dad circled back on his mean machine but to no avail. Whilst he continued the search, the rest of us rode.

During the ride my phone buzzed with a message from Dad. Whilst scouring the vast expanses of the Magic Kingdom the battery on his ECV had run out and he was now stranded somewhere close to the Aladdin carpet ride. Thinking that you couldn’t make this up and I was never this much bother when they took me to WDW as a child, we left the ride and went to rescue him.

Thankfully both Mum and a kindly cast member had found him and the latter had radioed for a new ECV to be brought out for him. As this took a whole ten minutes the lovely cast member gave all of us a FastPass for Big Thunder. I had waited with Dad for his new vehicle to arrive whilst the others wandered to the hub to stake out a spot in which Emily could weep uncontrollably as we watched Wishes for the last ever time.

We joined them there and began the hour or so wait before the show. Thirsty and hot I wandered off, almost back to Pirates to secure us all some drinks. Emily certainly needed to stock up on fluids before Wishes started. As it did, so did the tears and she was absolutely heartbroken throughout.

We both had goes at comforting her…

but she was beyond any help.

As usual my photos were not great so here is the video if anyone wants to have a watch.

I’m not sure if you can hear Emily crying in it.

We needed another drink at this point so off I went again and I got back just in time for the projection show at 9.45.

By the time that had ended we were all spent. It was too late to do the FastPass we were given by the cast member so we headed for the exit full of emotion and last day melancholy.

I turned at the end of Main Street to soak in the last few moments…

Before finally admitting to myself that we really did need to leave after an awesome last day. This part of a trip always gets me right in the feels. Memories, nostalgia, wondering if (yeh right!) or when we may return makes for a lumpy throat. This place is embedded deep within our family and leaving for the last time is always an emotional time.

We jumped on the resort monorail as the other one was rammed and we were quickly back at the TTC, on the next tram and back out to the car. We dropped Mum & Dad off and wearily made our way back to the Beach Club. We all collapsed into bed having done a good few steps today!

See you next week for the joyous recollection of our packing and travelling day, without the aid of any notes whatsoever!

Till the next time…..


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fifteen April 25th 2017

We didn’t leave for Hollywood Studios until 10am. Anyone might think we’d done something stupid last night like stay out past 1am drinking. Rest assured I felt great and was my usual ray of sunshine as we drove over to pick Mum and Dad up.

It must have been a morning for things that never happen. Not only did I have a mild hangover for the first time since I had hair, but by some strange alignment of the Gods, we parked at the very bottom of the row. This never happens to us…oh apart from EVERY OTHER TIME WE HAVE VISITED A PARK….EVER!!

I wouldn’t have minded so much but we were poised to be put at the very top of a row but the evil and vindictive cast member chose the line of traffic I was in, rather than the one at the side of me to make the long journey to the Mordor of the car park.

We slowly, very slowly, made our way back to civilisation.

Oh I never did show you a photo of our hire car did I? This is what happens when you refuse all the upgrade hard sell.

We were parked in…

by the way. I didn’t take that photo to remind me where we had parked. I took it to identify the evil cast member responsible for our six-mile walk so I could exact painful revenge.

We boarded the next tram to arrive only having to man handled half a dozen small children out of our way. Maybe this is why I don’t drink very often?

As we flashed our bands though the entrance Dad made his way to the garage to hire himself an ECV. When I had made our first FastPass of the day some sixty odd days ago, I had not taken into account spending the previous evening out with Oliver Reed and Richard Harris resulting in such a late start, and so I was a little tense as the process of hiring said ECV was taking an age and the end of our FastPass slot for the most popular ride in the park was approaching more quickly than my need to buy some elasticated trousers for work.

Once Dad was in his vehicle we mowed down anyone silly enough to be in the way as we headed up to Toy Story Mania.

In the end we made it with a few minutes to spare and we barged our way past the ever-present entrance loiterers (why do you do it people, why? Either go in or get out of the way!!) and made our way through the queue.

I scored a bang average 137,000 but that was enough to shame all other family members which is, let’s face it, more important.

My natural talent for planning was demonstrated once again now as we had to walk all the way to the Tower of Terror for our next FastPass. Dad cared not one jot as his machine was fully charged and he sped off looking like Richard Hammond before his next hospital visit.

Even though he absolutely should not have done so Dad rode with us, but Mum sat out.

This is one of those rides that, no matter how many times you do it, every time you leave, your love for it is reaffirmed and increased. The theming is just incredible and the ride is just a load of fun.

We had a walk over to Rock n Rollercoaster next to see what the standby queue was like. Mum & Dad were not riding so we three joined the half hour standby line. It took a little less than that and as ever much of our waiting time was spent stroking the beady door. Just us?

With adrenaline pumping, the ladies needed a restroom as we exited. I took the chance to capture the same photo as I have on every previous trip.

Feeling the need for a snack we stopped at the fruit stall thing opposite Beauty and The Beast. We didn’t buy any fruit of course, we’re not monsters. Instead we had some hummus, well I didn’t, I had a huge pretzel with some cheese that I’m pretty sure didn’t contain any actual cheese, but it tasted great. I was to be thirsty now until the end of July.

Nothing is more nutritious than a cheese flavoured pasteurised cheese snack.

Full of stuff that is produced with genetic engineering, we made our way into the 1pm Beauty and The Beast show. With Dad in his ECV we were directed to a special area of the theatre, which turned out to be the front row. With this in mind I Facebook Lived the whole thing, mainly for the benefit of Rebecca back home.

The show begins these days with a chat from this chap before he mortifies some teenage girl on stage by singing at them.

Emily spent her time appreciating the sentiment of the pre-show but thanking her lucky stars she was not picked for it.

The show was great of course, all the better for our unfettered view.

You should appreciate the talent it takes to both Facebook live with one hand and take photos with the other.

With Dad keen to test the top speed of his ride we decided to motor on over to the Great Movie Ride next.

There was a show in progress as we walked past the “bit where the hat was” and these were waiting to go on…

It was a twenty-minute wait to ride, which we could have avoided if Dad hadn’t parked up outside and walked in. ECVs were being directed to the front of the queue. I don’t know which idiot told him he’d have to leave his outside.

The ride has been a favourite of ours since we first started the trips with the girls. Rebecca especially always wanted to ride this. I don’t think I knew it was closing as we rode for what would be our last time but my notes do record that I thought it was looking a little tired. The standard of the acting seems to have gone downhill in recent times or that could just be the fog of nostalgia from when I first rode it as a child.

With no regard for my own safety, we walked across to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid next. As long as we sat the back where Ariel couldn’t see me, we should be OK. She gets upset looking at what she could have won.

Luckily ECVs were being directed to the very rear of the theatre.

As ever some absolute knob took some flash photos during the opening puppetry scenes. I imagine they also did not move all the way down to the end of their row.

As we exited I noticed that the March of the First Order was imminent so we took up a position to view it.

Feeling all Star Warsy now, Emily and I went to ride Star Tours. Louise, Mum and Dad opted to sit out in the sunshine and have a drink.

The wait was the full half hour promised but we were rewarded with a new (to us) story line.

It was 4.15 now and time to head out of the park to eat.

Bahama Breeze was on the plan, one of our absolute favourites.

We arrived and were seated without delay around 5pm. Our server had a hint of headmistress about her and we found the service to be a little rushed even though the place was fairly quiet.

To start we ordered some cheese bites and chips and guacamole.

It might just be us, but we find it really annoying when entrees turn up with your appetisers still on the go. They did.

We had –

Me, Louise and Emily – Jerk Chicken Pasta

Mum – Burger

Dad – Steak

I was a little late with the camera!

As is the law here, desserts must be had and it must be Rebecca’s Key Lime Pie. We were, it has to be said, missing her today.

The bill was $180 including a good tip. We headed straight back to Hollywood Studios and parked in Stage, yep, right at the bottom of the row.

We trammed again and wandered the shops for a while.

I say again, dusk is just a fabulous time to be in a theme park at WDW.

Dad not only had a means of getting about but also his very own personal seat to be in as everyone else walked around the shops.

Having got several gifts, mainly for Rebecca and Tom, we made our way over to the Muppets, and I don’t mean the gimps taking flash photos of the Little Mermaid show earlier.

Of course, much of this park is a building site currently.

Next, the long trek all the way across the park to take our seats for Fantasmic. Mum and Dad stayed at the back with the ECV, but we three made our way as far down as we could, mainly so that Emily could see as she had forgotten  both her contacts and glasses.

It goes dark quickly in Florida.

As ever I took some awesome photos.

I threw my camera into that fire.

We had a moment of rare disappointment as the show ended. For reasons best known to Disney, the Star Wars firework show we really wanted to watch started the precise second Fantasmic ended. This of course meant that we were shuffling our way out of the show instead of being stood watching it. We could see the odd firework in the sky above us, but this seemed a very strange bit of timing. Maybe Disney think it will make you visit the park twice?

 

It was a long walk out…

We met Mum & Dad at the stroller/ECV return and then stood admiring the view as Louise had a long meeting with the porcelain. There are worse places to wait.

The tram took us back to the car and we dropped off Mum & Dad before getting back at home just after ten.

A lovely day in one of our favourite places.

Till the next time……
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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fourteen April 24th 2017

My celebratory tone at returning to a theme park and more specifically WDW was to be short lived. For reasons best known to those in charge and not me, today, we would rest. Yes, yes, I know we just spent what felt like three and half months on more white powdery stuff than was seen at an Amy Winehouse party, but these two very heavy theme park days had resulted in “tiredness” and the need to do nothing for bit.

You know me. I can moan about anything in even the best situations and locations and I will. But, should I need to not visit a theme park when one is located just a few hundred feet to my left, then I suppose an acceptable place to do so is around Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club.

Having no particular place to go, the 8am awakening was mildly annoying. I took as much time as I damn well liked after I had showered putting on my shorts and T-Shirt before wandering the long corridors from our room to the shop in the lobby for breakfast.

Having listened to endless apologies from Louise yesterday I granted her permission for her to join us today and so we ordered a breakfast platter for Emily and a Breakfast Sandwich for me and she who was so very wrong.

There were no seats available outside so we wandered into the solarium to eat.

Whilst eating, we had a quick chat about what our next trip might look like. We all agreed again, that Louise had been very wrong to only allow us such a paltry amount of time at WDW this time around and all future input from her would now be forbidden, leaving Emily and I to do all future trips properly.

After breakfast we wandered out to the pool, picked up some towels and found some suitable beds. This involved Louise calculating wind speed, the trajectory of the sun and the local plant life to ensure that she would be able to capture the optimum levels of sun.

Once she was happily prone, I assumed the position.

It was, as you can see, fairly quiet today. There was still a Cast Member checking that you were resident before allowing into the pool area. We rested and read for a bit until Louise and I ventured into the pool. This was followed by a couple of cocktails for the ladies from the wandering waitress.

The early cloud cleared up nicely….

We then Facetimed Rebecca…

She is there, honest.

It was, quite frankly, a real bummer not having her with us. We shall remedy that on our next trip!

We went back to our room at around 2pm to get ourselves ready.

Mousekeeping had been in….

Whilst Emily and Louise took far too long to get themselves decent, I picked up Mum & Dad from the All Stars, driving back to the Beach Club to be disappointed that they still weren’t ready.

With some mild tutting and polite herding, I was eventually able to seperate them from the hairbrush and other such faffing and head into Epcot via International Gateway.

Yes, I know I take the same photos every time I walk this way….what of it?

This picture reminds me that in the first version of the plan for this trip (one of very many indeed) we were booked to stay at that hotel. When we had to move dates and everything else it was no longer available and we ended up paying a fair bit more to stay at the Beach Club. I’m perpetually tight, but right at this moment I didn’t begrudge a penny.

Oh, I can now also explain why we had to move our dates. Shortly after booking the trip Rebecca discovered that she was pregnant and was due too close to our travel dates for us to risk it. So we moved the dates back by a month or so into April. Unfortunately Rebecca then suffered a miscarriage and began a heart breaking few months of that happening more than once. So in the end we needn’t have moved dates but some things are more important than when we holiday.

Thankfully, Rebecca is now well into a pregnancy with our first grandchild due this November.

Here is little Freddie cooking nicely.

We wandered around World Showcase, starting at France, heading towards Norway for our Frozen Ever After FastPass.

Thankfully we only went into one shop and that was Italy. It draws Louise in like a pasta based tractor beam on every trip and once again, we left much poorer, Louise the proud owner of a new necklace. Her other 612 seemingly no longer ft for purpose.

I think that at some stage of a Florida trip we have all felt like this young man….but speaking honestly, this is how I feel on most Monday mornings back home.

I applaud the mother for quite clearly tweeting that rather than dealing with it.

Here again, rather than queue to meet a character, a distant photograph with random strangers does just as well.

Arsene Wenger…..

Nope, I have no idea what Emily is doing with her hands either.

That’s better.

Once at Norway we scanned our bands and joined the FastPass queue.

The standby queue was like a scene from Ghandi.

Louise proved that it wasn’t my fault that a lot of pictures were blurry.

We waited about ten minutes to ride.

It’s a nice ride, obviously using the exact same track as Maelstrom. It won’t change your life but it’s lovely and must be magical for the young children.

We completed the World Showcase loop stopping at Mexico. Green Day haven’t aged well.

I had maracas to shake. I think my shorts had shrunk.

By now I’m sure this has been said a million times, but here, in Epcot, Donald got his wall at Mexico.

We walked down into Future World, making the long trek to Spaceship Earth for our next FastPass. It was very hot today and we needed a drink and sit down half way there.

It was a long slog but we finally made it to Spaceship Earth five big balls of sweat with tired legs……it was down! How I laughed.

In the desperate hope that it was a temporary blip we wandered the shop for a bit, used the restroom and loitered, but to no avail.

We admitted defeat and began the long walk back the way we had just come. We were distracted and cheered up by some singers on the fountain stage.

They were very good and improved our mood as we set off on the long slog back to International Gateway. Whilst watching them sing my mind was ticking over. The plan stated that we now must head out of Epcot to get over to Celebration for our evening meal. I was tempted to suggest we sack that off, stay in Epcot, eat where we could and just save us the hassle of the trek. I dismissed that idea only to learn that my instincts were correct, but a crystal ball was something I did not have.

We made it to our car, well I did, everyone else sat and waited for me in the cool porch of the Beach Club. Off we went then to Celebration for our evening meal.

Prior to the trip, I had been warned that one of our most favourite eateries, The Market Street Cafe, had changed ownership and was now a little bit pants. Being an idiot I ignored this advice and took us there anyway.

Celebration was still lovely though.

We were seated quickly and that’s where the quickness stopped really.

The service was a shambles from start to finish. John Barrowman’s more effeminate brother served us, not getting off to strong start by telling us they had just had a huge party in and he was tired and all over the place. We soon discovered he was correct.

We ordered cheesey fries to start as we had always loved those here. We waited an age and then they brought all the entrees out. We pointed out that we hadn’t seen our appetiser yet and they were taken away, no doubt to be kept lukewarm.

Eventually, said fries came, followed, unsurprisingly quickly by all the entrees again. Somehow Louise ended up with two lots of Nachos rather than the one she ordered, but worst things happen at sea.

We somehow ended up with –

Me – Fried Chicken

Emily – Chicken Parm

Mum – Chicken Wrap

Dad – Chicken Pot Pie

Louise – As you know by now…Nachos x 2.

He took some stuff off the bill for all the mess ups and as annoying as it was, he had tried his best so we pretty much put it all back on in the form of our tip.

We left having taken much longer than anyone should to eat a simple meal and headed over to Woof Gangs.

Alas, there was no sign of Otis, the huge Newfoundland we met on our last trip so we did a quick wander around the cinema and fountains…

Before jumping back in the car to get back to Epcot for Reflections of Earth. Our wandering time here had been severely curtailed by the overly long meal.

Mum & Dad were tired so we dropped them off home and headed back to the Beach Club. With all the delays to our meal we were now rushing to get there in time for the start of the fireworks, rather than having some time to wander World Showcase at night, which is one of my favourite things to do.

We rushed through security…

However, we then took up our usual spot on the bridge between the UK and France and didn’t have to wait long. Suddenly everything seemed right with the world again.

I shall spare you all the crap blurry photos I took.

As it ended, I turned to Emily and gave her a big hug as she was inevitably in floods of tears. Me being a very manly man I was nowhere near doing anything so silly.

We walked back to our room and quickly got changed as tonight, like me getting out of the bath, there would be Jellyrolls. The ability to do this is just fantastic and one of the best things about staying in this location.

We walked round and paid our entrance fee, with the door staff taking an age over Emily’s passport to confirms she really was 21.

It was busy and we started off on some chairs at the side but through the course of the night we table hopped as they became free. I was glad we did, as in our original seats we were right by a huge crowd of conference attendees who were leathered, loud and leary, dancing very badly right in our eye line.

We had a fab night. We started a tab with one of the waitresses and settled in. The performers are just superb and if you haven’t been, you must.

I won’t spoil this for those yet to go, but this is a highlight of the evening.

I think we were in there for over two hours. I’m really not sure. That’s because we spent $145 on booze. We left at around 1.30, very merry and highly satisfied with the time spent there.

I assume we then went to bed!

Till the next time……
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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Thirteen April 23rd 2017

It was very upsetting to wake at 8.30. All those days on the bloody beach when I was awake at 7am and today with a theme park in my immediate future and I had lazed half the day away.

Never let it be said that I air brush these trips and only give you the edited highlights. In the spirit of full disclosure at this point in the trip Louise and I were not on speaking terms. I won’t bore you with the trivialities of the subject matter, as to be honest I can’t really remember, but as all long-term couples know, this happens from time to time.

Suffice to say that I of course would have been totally in the right and Louise would later issue a full and unreserved apology.

After exchanging dirty looks and mild insults as we got ready, it was decided best for all concerned that Louise didn’t join us this morning. After declaring our undying love for each other, I left the room with Emily, who was all disdain and eye rolls at our mature behaviour, with me deploying full flounce and we went in search of food. Of course, for all our moody tantrums and vitriol I had made sure Louise had money and everything she needed for the day, as of course deep down we both knew that at some point in the not too distant future it would all be sorted out.

We bought a breakfast from the Beach Club Marketplace. A breakfast sandwich and a bounty platter, which thankfully did not contain any coconut, were consumed outside within minutes and we were soon on our way to Animal Kingdom after a quick stop at the All Stars for some parents. At the entrance to the car park I reclaimed some of the costs of staying on site by flashing my magic band rather than handing over $50 or whatever the car parking cost that week.

My joy was short-lived as there was a huge queue to get into the car park. It snaked all around the perimeter, its size only matched by the size of my bottom lip. As Disney tend to do, they shifted a huge number of people in a short amount of time and we dumped the car in Giraffe 46.

We didn’t have long to wait for the tram and after a bag check, scanner and a queue at the turnstiles we finally got into the park just after ten.

The first FastPass of the day was the safari, so we headed in that direction. That’s a good old walk especially with two almost octogenarians in your party but it was worth the trek.

We had a great guide and saw a god amount of stuff. I have promised myself that I shall keep returning to WDW until I can manage some non-blurry photos on the safari.

It isn’t often these days that it happens so at the first sign of a huge horn I took a photo of it.

There’s a probably an animal somewhere in that photo.

Ah there it is…..

I’d tell you that this was a hippo….But that’s just lion…..

As is often the case, my milkshake brings all the birds to the yard….

Smile!

After returning from our two-week safari, we set off for our next FastPass which was to be Everest.

Since our last visit a stadium seems to have grown in the middle of the theme park.

Dad rode Everest with myself and Emily and we all loved it. It’s one of the rides that just make you smile every time. It is a good one to ride early in the day as it blows the cobwebs off, gets the adrenaline flowing and puts you in a great mood.

When we got home and looked at our Memory Maker we had a few random photos that very obviously not taken by me.

Like these…

We walked on around to Dinoland where Mum & Dad played some of the games.

Emily and I moved on to Primeval Whirl.The stated 30 minute queue turned out to be just ten which made us happy.

We left battered and bruised and now Emily joined her Nana in battle.

No prizes were won alas.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug was next on the list and with a standby wait of just ten minutes we walked through all the queuing bits, with me trying to snap as many of the animals as possible in the tree.

It went well didn’t it?

It is quite usual for there to be screaming in this show, especially as it comes to an end due to some of the effects used. However, this show started with that too, as we seemed to have another screaming kid being subjected to something they absolutely did not want to go through. For all new parents out there, as much as the theme of this show might seem kid friendly, it is absolutely not suitable for toddlers as this poor screaming soul was demonstrating. Of course the parents didn’t take it outside and when it is still in therapy well into its twenties, it can read this blog to find out why.

It was 1pm now. We’d done a lot hadn’t we? We needed a drink and a sit down so we headed for Starbucks. It took a while to get served as we were behind a large group of teenage girls, each ordering drinks more complex than the theory of relativity. The shapes and colours of their drinks were a mystery to all but themselves.

Mum and Dad had a strawberry smoothie and I continued to order whatever Emily did and had another iced coffee thing. See how Starbucks had to really try to not spell my name with a G.

We watched the world go by for half an hour waiting for our next FastPass slot to come round. It was to be the Kali River Rapids, but by the power of the app, I discovered it was down. Instead we wandered over to the Lion King for the two o’clock show.

I have raved about this show every time we have seen it, and this shall be no exception. What a stunning, talent filled feel good fest this is.

I have the same photographs of it many times over so I decided to just sit back and watch it this time…oh apart from doing a Facebook live…but that took no effort.

As I wandered around today I noticed quite a few folks staring at my torso. Now, this is pretty normal when you have a physique like mine. But even for me, today it was noticeably more frequent.  Disregarding the usual number of pestering females undressing me with their eyes, I think everyone else was admiring my T-shirt, which is one of my faves.

You’d think after all our visits that I would know the official name for all the rides and attractions. I don’t. Apparently according to my notes we did the “Gorilla Trail thing”.

and eventually the trail led to an actual gorilla.

For the first time in many years next we took the train up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch otherwise known as the place where you pet goats.

However, as nice as the goats were, this guy was my favourite by a mile.

Next, we stroked a cow with horns, which is not a euphemism.

During our safari, our guide had told us that the restrooms at Rafiki’s Planet Watch were the best in all of the theme parks. I therefore felt duty bound to test that theory. I’d give it five minutes if I were you.

They may be the best but they still had that huge gap at the bottom of the door which mean that passers-by could see my knees. Spladosh!

We caught the train back and headed for Yak & Yeti. Louise had been in touch and said she would meet us there. This was no doubt as she had realised he error of her ways and realised her undying love for me. Either that or she really wanted to eat at Yak & Yeti.

As we made our way there, I demonstrated one of my top tips. If you see a huge queue to meet a character, simply take a picture of it with a random child and save yourself half an hour of waiting.

For those of the nerdy disposition, these, I think, are the projectors used for the new tree show thing. They are huge.

As we approached the restaurant, Louise and I spotted each other from a distance and ran in slow motion towards each other, meeting with an embrace and from somewhere romantic music poured out over us.

We waited for about twenty minutes before being seated upstairs.

We ordered some appetizers of Egg Rolls…

and Dad had some Firecracker Shrimp, which I think was due to some tight shorts.

Various strange lemonades and some wine for Louise arrived as we ordered….

Me – Combo Lo Mein

Dad – A Salmon Thing

Mum – Sweet & Sour Chicken

Louise – Teriyaki Chicken

Emily – Honey Chicken

The food was superb again. It was $225 including a healthy tip.

We consulted the app to plot our next move and seeing the safari was just a ten minute wait we decided to do it again for the benefit of Louise. See, I am so kind and considerate ever when she has been totally in the wrong.

There weren’t as many animals out and about at this time which frankly serves Louise right.

You lucky lot, getting two lots of blurry safari photos in one day!

We then walked all the way back to Everest. Louise, Emily and I rode using our recently acquired Fastpasses and then I let Emily and Louise use Mum & Dad’s FastPass to ride again. Again, how lucky is Louise?

As dusk approached we had to get ourselves in place for our first viewing of Rivers Of Light. We thought we could just wander across from Everest to the entrances we could see but no, they were for folks who had made a FastPass for it. Instead, we had to walk about six miles to the other side of the park to the muggle entrance.

We sat for just under an hour waiting for the show to start. That was fine as we were tired and it gave Louise more chances to apologise to me. Having just eaten obscene amounts of Chinese food we had a thirst that was life threatening. It was also very hot of course. It was a bit gutting not to see one drinks vendor wandering about. If I had wanted to buy some plastic tat that would light up, I had vendors walking by every few seconds. But if I needed life saving water, I would have to wait it seems.

There are few better places to be on the planet than a Disney park at dusk.

The show itself was very good. I suspect we’ll need a good few viewings to take it all in.

After the show we spilled out into Dinoland and we immediately bought lots of water and drank it as if we’d be wandering in the desert for a few days.

Louise needed to restroom so we sat for a long while waiting for her to release the chocolate hostages. Once she had returned we wandered slowly through a now quiet park.

We trammed back out to the car and dropped Mum & Dad off at their hotel before heading back to the Beach Club. We read and phoned for a while until sleep took us.

Minor domestics aside, that was a properly good full theme park today. We left satisfied that we’d done a lot.

Till the next time…..


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Twelve April 22nd 2017

We’re coming home, we’re coming home, we’re coming,

Yes we’re coming home!

OK, there was enough singing at the start of the last day so I’ll leave it there, but yes finally we are Disney bound and I am all sorts of happy about it.

Don’t get me wrong, for all my faux outrage at being at the beach for so long, Siesta Key was lovely. You’ve seen the pictures. It is idyllic and we have been lucky to have spent a week there. But, you know, as of today, we are at the Beach Club, so there is no competition.

I was awake and as bright as a button at around 7am, excited to be heading for the big WDW. Packing was finished quite quickly, which couldn’t be said for the task of getting all the luggage into the car. With all the “bits” we’d been buying, plus Louise’s astronomical spend on bathing costumes, the car was at breaking point as was my patience as our inability to get everything into the car was causing us a delay in our departure.

After a quick brew and a bagel we were finally on the road by 8.20. The next two hours or so looked a lot like this…

and we only saw something worthy of photography again when we were getting close to Orlando.

We had a slight traffic delay around the junction where the I4 splits to the US27 but we were pulling into the Beach Club just after 10.20 all smiles and needing a wee.

It has to be said there have been better photos taken of this landmark.

A sight so good, it deserves showing twice….

We left the cases in the car fully expecting our room not be ready and indeed the intention was to check in later after some time in Epcot, but as we entered the lobby several members of the party went for the earlier mentioned much-needed restroom visits and so I took the chance to get it done now.

We were attended to by Kirt. If you imagine a more camp John Barrowman, you will be someway to knowing how he was. He made some frankly quite scathing comments about our FastPass+ choices as he printed our itinerary and then more or less gave me a huge bollocking for not bringing our previous Magic Bands with us. Listen matey, for the amount I’ve paid for the room at the Beach Club I am expecting a gold plated band and a free helicopter.

Ten minutes later we were all done, including our new Magic Bands, but of course our room was not yet ready. No matter. We wandered out towards the view of the Boardwalk, feeling finally at home. We’ve been to lots of different places on and off site over the years but there’s little to beat this warm, welcoming cuddle once in the embrace of Disney for the first time on any trip. Feeling like we belonged, even among the wealthy inhabitants of the Deluxe resort, we drifted on a cloud towards International Gateway.

I make no apology for the overkill on the pictures here. It is absolutely one of my favourite spots on the planet.

At the entrance we encountered the new scanners for the first time, having to open my bum bag into a tray along with my phone and coins and pass it through in a tray, more or less needing to be naked to get through without setting off the buzzer.

April is not a normal time for us to be in WDW and as such we had never seen the Flower and Garden Festival. I have to say it was lovely and it made a really welcome change to see the park looking a little different. We wandered past the UK & Canada on our way into Future World.

I’ve not seen a bush this impressive for many a year….

Or a big green Pooh since the girls were newborns…

Oh yes, another thing Kirt commented on with all the acidity of Joan Rivers in her prime was my choice of Magic Band…. “How very colourful”, he sniped….well he is American so he would have said “How very colorful”.

In a usually empty grassy bit, a child’s playground had appeared. I was just grateful I no longer had kids young enough to require me to spend any time in it.

The whole place looked glorious.

We found a butterfly enclosure just before Future World and wandered in for a look around and to take some spectacularly poor photographs.

Failing to capture any butterflies with the camera I resorted to more familiar subjects..

and larger butterflies that were a damn sight easier to photograph.

It had now been many minutes since we last purchased anything and in the absence of a supermarket, we entered Mouse Gear. Louise felt compelled to buy some shiny ears.

As we were heading to ride Mission Space with our first FastPass, we left Mum and Dad shopping. Mum had ridden it once and had never forgiven me.

We were a little early for our slot so we wandered into the Festival Centre, which was the place where the Making of Me scarred the girls for life about a decade ago.

If you are a keen gardener then this place would have been very interesting. As it was, we did a quick loop and left.

As we left we took the chance to take a better picture of the excellent bush on display. To get a shot of it clear of other annoying folks we had to wait quite some time. Top tip – Once you have taken your photo of something people are waiting to take a photo of, do not stand in front of it looking at the photo you just took.

It was now time for our FastPass to see Gary Sinise’s hair. We chose the Orange option, but it still looked brown to me on the video he is in.

Once we were given access to the natural phenomenon which is Sinise’s barnet…

We still had a longer than expected wait to board our space craft. Our suspicion was that somebody had ejected their lunch all over the cockpit. The appearance of several senior Cast Members and a telling smell pretty much confirmed our thinking.

I have ridden this thing many times now, yet as I stand waiting to do so, I always question why. I spend that time thinking back to how odd it makes me feel during the ride and how for the next hour I feel like I had twelve pints of mild the night before. Still, it was good fun.

Next we made our way across the park for our next expertly planned FastPass. We were to chat with Crush.

The weather was glorious.

The photography still less so….

We had a five minute wait to enter during which time we were entertained by a baby screaming at a decibel level reserved for aircraft taking off. Even though we are very much out of practice with the whole baby thing, within about five seconds Louise and I looked at each other and mouthed “it’s tired”. Still, what reason had the parents not to insist on taking it into the show and letting it shriek from start to finish?

None it would seem.

We said a quick hello to the manatees…

and headed out towards The Land. Soarin’ was to be our next FastPass.

You may wonder why I take random photos of people I don’t know like this. Well, at least this one is almost in focus. Being honest, I take these sorts of photos as it helps me remember what we did as I write my notes up later.

Same with ones like this….

We had to loiter at the entrance for seven minutes before waving our bands and walking in. We had a ten minute queue which is quite respectable for Soarin’ based on previous trips. Alas, we were in row three, so had everyone’s legs dangling above us. Louise was quite chuffed though as she doesn’t like heights and when we get row one she needs a Valium to cope.

The new film is awesome. Too short of course, but any longer and the standby queue would be measured in days not minutes.

It was now 2.55 and we were walking towards Figment when we spotted something very strange. A queue!! It was out of the door.

Bamboozled by this odd happening I engaged my brain, opened the My Disney Experience app and secured us a FastPass for 3pm allowing us to bypass said queue and walk on. I have my moments.

With that done it was now time to head out of the park. We had to get Mum and Dad to their hotel and checked in before getting ready for our ADR at Sanaa later.

As we walked back to International Gateway, World Showcase looked very busy. Back at the car we liberated our luggage and Louise and Emily got that to out room whilst I drove Mum and Dad to the All Stars.

Having had a moment of genius getting that FastPass for Journey Into Imagination, I made up for it now by parking up in the check in car park and then wrestling Mum and Dad’s luggage from the boot and dragging it to reception to check in. Of course, they were in building seven which is a good drive from reception so we had to lug it all back to the car, put it back in the boot and make our way to their car park.

Once they were in their room I made my way back to the Beach Club.

For the next few hours we just chilled out a bit to be honest. We napped, read and just appreciated being where we were for a while. It was lovely.

Eventually showers and readying happened, yet not early enough to prevent the usual friction as I hurried Louise and Emily to be ready before they would naturally be so.

We picked up Mum and Dad at 7.45 and drove onto Kidani Village and parked in their underground car park. We found our way somehow from there to the restaurant and only had the buzzer in our hands for about a minute before it went off summoning us to our table.

We had two servers, as one was Earning Her Ears. Louise and Emily ordered a Mai Tai which had a touch of the Del Boy about it….

and then we moved on to the reason we were here…..the bread service.

Holy hell it was good. So good we polished it off in record time and they brought us some more.

Emily and I had Butter Chicken

Everyone else had steak….

Everything was tremendous and however much it was, and I forgot to write that down it was worth it.

We left at around 9.45.

and wandered back through the resort to the car…

Mum and Dad were tired so we dropped them off before heading back to our home.

We had planned to do Jellyrolls tonight but Emily wasn’t feeling great so we, as the Americans say, took a rain check and just had a short wander around the area.

Have I mentioned that I love it here?

We were in bed around 10.45 dreaming of more Disney delights to come.

Till the next time…..


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Eleven April 21st 2017

Sing with me….

 

One day more!
Another day, on the beach for me.
This never-ending road to meet Mickey;
These days of beach are much maligned
They’ll surely end I know its time.
One day more!

How can I write about today?
When I wish we had departed?

One day more.

Tomorrow we’ll be on our way
Our time in Disney World just started!

One more day is all I know.

Will we ever ride again?

One more day so tricky sharing.

I was born to be in queues.

What a life, how dare I moan.

Till we’re there it’s what I’ll do!

I can’t wait until we’re there!

One more day of beachy yawns!

I can’t wait to see the shows

One more sandy day of tedium.

Till I see my Ariel there

Where they serve the dogs of corn

I’ll eat two and I won’t share

The food I have is just for me!!

Tomorrow’s when the day is here

One day more!

One day more till we can have fun,
Aim for rope drop like we should!
We’ll be ready two hours later,
And my strops will do no good!

One day more!

Watch us run a muck,
We’re gonna ride ’em all,
We’re gonna meet a duck
By the Epcot ball,
Here’s a little tip
You never have too much
We’ll stay beyond all others
And not give two….hoots!

One day to a new beginning

Raise the expectations high!

Where a bumbag is a thing

A bumbag never is a thing!!

Disney World is for the winning

There are rides that must be done

Do you know of what I sing?

My place is there, I ride with you!

One day more!

I will be a Disney hero
All will follow where I go
We will use my little secrets,
We will use the things we know.

One day more!

One more day till we will have fun
We will ride all that is good
Must be ready, pert and well poised

Tomorrow we’ll be on our way,
Tomorrow is the Disney day

Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our time in Disney has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

Yep, it’s our last beach day!

I was awake early. I took the chance to have a chat with Rebecca who updated me on some of the work we were having done to the house whilst away. You know the work I was blogging about before we went that would “definitely be finished before we left”. Anyway, it was close now and I was pleased to see it from thousands of miles away.
I rose at 8.30 and breakfasted in a cereal manner.

You will of course know that I then went to the supermarket for our lunch and “bits”. It took longer than usual today as I had to say my farewells to the staff. They were genuinely upset, mainly as they weren’t sure how they would pay the rent next month without my expenditure and the goodbyes were tearful.

We made it over to the beach at around 11am minus Mum & Dad, as my Mum needed to be close to certain amenities in the house if you know what I mean. Today was to be a day of serious tan acquisition. At home we see sun all the time, on the TV, so we knew that today may be the last time there was a chance to lie in something warm for a while unless we wet the bed.

Louise was either sunbathing or had too much vino last night.

I took some random beach shots so I could look at them during the bleak mid-winter and curse myself for wishing away our time at the beach so that we could go to Disney.

Here’s a sandy Ryan.

Don’t worry, these are the last of my body parts you should see today.

After Mum and Dad arrived bearing lunch we all ate. My Dad then immediately went into the sea, making a mockery of all those years he told me as a child that if I swam after eating I would undoubtedly die.

Our last afternoon passed as all the earlier ones had until a couple started to toss some balls in front of us.

I read a lot more, finishing another book and starting a new one that I had found in the house. It wouldn’t have been my first choice but it was either that or start reading the back of the sun cream bottles…and you know we had enough of those to have kept me going for a few days.

Louise went for a stroll, Dad swam a bit more and for the final couple of hours we went crazy and put the umbrellas down, allowing the sun to do its worst in our last throes of beach time.

Emily gave up first and wandered back to the house. Mum and Dad were next, leaving just Louise and I to soak up the last moments of our time on Siesta Key beach.

Eventually I dragged Louise kicking and screaming off the beach, her fingernails making a lovely trail all the way back to the house.

Everyone showered and we started the packing for our move tomorrow to the Beach Club (for us) and All Stars for Mum and Dad. Once ready we walked to the bus stop for our journey to the village.

Having had a curtailed experience on our last visit to The Hub due to Dad feeling ill, we decided to give it another go. It certainly seemed the most popular eatery and we had a wait of around half an hour for a table.

We sat outside and had a look at the menu.

We all cocktailed to soften the blow. It’s a lively place but tonight was even more so due to a very loud and large birthday party. They were one of those groups that like to make everyone see and hear what a great time they are having. I was delighted to see them leave.

Louise and Emily shared a pitcher of Margaritas and I had a Coronarita.

My drink had clearly confused my Mum.

Dad had two Isle Have Anothers. I couldn’t tell you what was in it.

We started with Nachos….as we tend to do a lot.

I had a Pork Enchilada…..but surely we had a cream for that by now!

Emily and Louise had a burger.

Mum had Fish and Chips

Dad had seafood pasta.

Just for a change we were all really full. We paid the bill and I forgot to write down how much it was. It was worth it anyway.

Imagine the delight and celebration in the supermarket when we visited them again. We needed “ointments and bits” according to my notes. We left with several members of staff clinging to my leg as I dragged them towards the door.

Luckily the bus arrived just as we left, they accepted that I had to leave and returned to the store to begin the process of boarding up, ready for their inevitable closure.

We were in bed for ten.

Tomorrow, we Disney!!!

Till the next time…..


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Ten April 20th 2017

For the love of all that is holy, will this stay at the beach never end? At the time, I had no such feelings. Now, trying to make the same notes for the sixth day in a row somehow different is driving me insane. This must be how Coldplay feel every time they start a new album!

This is, I suppose, why normal folks don’t write trip reports for beach holidays.

Today, an alien space craft landed on our roof and shared with me the secret of time travel. Or not. Maybe instead my notes look just like yesterday’s.

But wait, what’s this. They say I was awake at 5.15. It turns out my phone rang at that time with a call from an 0151 number. Being pretty sure that nobody in Liverpool needed me that desperately I declined the call and went back to sleep until 8.15. A bagel and a brew were taken on board and Dad and I of course went to the supermarket. Today’s shopping list included lunch, a sun hat for Mum and some cold sore cream. Whilst in the pharmacy an elderly Floridian chap asked me to help him pick out the correct dental floss. This wasn’t due to him admiring my stunning dentistry, rather a symptom of his lack of sight. I put on my best Hugh Grant impression, as I feel compelled to do whenever I’m speaking to Americans, and got him what he needed.

Once back home we loaded up for the beach, crossed the road and dug in for the day, with another stiff breeze threatening our brollies.

Hey, look there’s Ryan!

Sitting, resting, reading, lazing, sunbathing and chilling were just a few of the activities undertaken until 12.30 when I walked back to the house to pick up lunch. In a radical departure from earlier days I had a salad and not a sandwich. It had walnuts and cranberries in it and was really exotic. A few days on the beach and I think I’m Peter Ustinov.

As had happened every day so far, just after lunch the direction of the wind turned 180 degrees. You could set your watch by it. So we had to move the umbrellas and dig them in again pointing the other way. Such a hectic day!

Drastic measures were being taken to tan the bits that needed tanning but cover the bits which had already been burned to a frazzle. Louise had sellotaped a couple of brillo pads to her nipples to prevent further burning.

I read a lot in the afternoon and ate an unfortunate amount of crisps. By doing so I made friends with this chap who by the end of the afternoon was pretty much tame and sat on my knee. Oh hey, there’s Ryan again.

He liked crisps almost as much as I do.

By 4pm the burn was becoming too much and we wandered back to the house. The rule is that no matter how early we leave the beach to get ready, the departure time will still be the same. The time taken for readying expands to fill the time available.

During the readying we heard a large bang from our bathroom. It turned out that Louise had fallen in the shower bruising things unmentionable here. Add that to her burnt boobs, cold sore and the cut on her foot that she picked up from the door as she had entered the bathroom and she was entering the territory of having to be put down to prevent any further suffering.

Tonight’s dinner was to be at an Olive Garden, at which we pointed the sat nav now and set off. Twenty minutes later we arrived at South Tamiami Trail. Our wait for a table was to be twenty minutes, but they softened the blow with a half price voucher for the bar.

Louise had a red wine, Dad a G&T and sodas for everyone else.

Once seated we browsed the familiar menu whilst we waited for the salad and garlic bread. Our server had asked if anyone wanted soup. After ten minutes of laughter and scathing sarcasm she understood that we preferred the salad. To be honest salad and bread sticks are the main reason we come here.

Our server noticed that all the bread had gone before she had finished putting the basket down on the table so she went and got some more. I can confirm I ate too many of them for my own good.

I then had Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo

Emily & Mum had Lasagna. This is pretty much Emily’s favourite food on the planet.

Louise had her “usual” of four cheese Ziti but this time with meatballs.

You may notice it was meatball singular.

Dad had Chicken Marsala.

Everything was superb as it always tends to be here.

As we were getting into our eating stride by this stage of the trip, desserts were done too.

Emily & I had Tiramisu but I’m sure CVS do a cream for that.

Mum had Apple Pie Thing (that’s what my notes say!)

Dad and Louise had chocolate cake.

They were all as good as they look.

With more wine, two lattes and a cappuccino we were confirmed as greedy gits and asked to pay just £135 plus tip for all of that.

We wandered across the parking lot to a nearby Publix for, you guessed it, bits. I noted another potion was acquired and Dad bought a white toothpaste as he didn’t like the blue one he was using. It was only after checking out that we pointed out that one was blue too.

Back to the car now and we drove to Siesta Key village and parked up for a wander around the shops. We didn’t go for a drink anywhere as our bodies could not accept any form of food or drink at this stage and Emily had left her ID at the house.

We were back home at 9.30 and asleep just after 10 with a bit more reading done.

Till the next time…..


La Nouba by Cirque Du Soleil



Universal Orlando Ticket Discounts!

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Nine April 19th 2017

Sooooo…another beach day to write about……O…K……this week at the beach is truly testing my ability to make very similar days sound different. You’d think after all these years of stretching the same half a dozen gags over all these trip reports I’d be fine. Let’s see how we go.

We were up early at around 7am. We had arranged to Facetime Rebecca and Louise’s Mum at 12 back home. Having dragged my tired sack of bones from my bed to chat, once that was done I went straight back for a bit. There was no theme park queue to be at the front of after all.

Once up for a second time, guess where I went? Yep, the supermarket. I was picking up the usual stuff for lunch but I also needed a book. I don’t get much time to read in real life but on holiday I tend to devour books at an alarming rate. However, it would appear that the population of Siesta Key are either illiterate or all own Kindles as it took a very long search to find a shop that sold them and then the choice was pretty poor. Having picked up a fairly standard holiday thriller I returned home and got us over to the beach at around 10.30.

There was a lot of wind today, but with all this rich food we were eating, that wasn’t too much of a surprise. After such a strenuous morning we all rested until around 12, avoiding direct sunlight and trying to keep our umbrellas from blowing down the beach. Emily and I went for a wander up the shoreline.

I’m not sure how far we walked but it was the furthest we’d walked since we last saw a theme park.

We encountered some strange and wonderful beasts, native to the area…

These are probably called the orange billed black heads or similar…

This one, probably has a latin name such as hugioscruffygit.

Whereas this creature I think was called something like Mutton As Lamb With Cheesewire Up her Arse.

 

When we reached this it felt like a natural place to stop so we did.

We had a sit down for a few minutes taking in the smell of our skin crisping nicely in the midday sun.

Then we walked all the way back.

Emily resumed her place under her umbrella and I nipped back to the house to get our lunch. We endured doing lots of nothing for the rest of the afternoon. There was literally nothing worthy of a photo or me making a note of it. Some might say that’s an ideal afternoon.

At around 4.45 we headed back to the house and everyone rested and readied whilst I made some notes. As I opened up the camera to look back at our very eventful day, I noticed it had ever so slightly completely broken.  The large LCD display on the back looked like a kaleidoscope. Having experienced a very similar issue at Vero Beach some years ago I diagnosed it as having sand inside it and being irreparable. It did still take photos, as this classic proves.

But clearly a new camera was required.

Once everyone was ready we headed to a Best Buy which I had located online. I left everyone in the car and made a very swift trip inside to pick up the cheapest point and shoot camera I could find. The Canon Powershot was the one I walked out with, having exchanged it for $119. I have to say, the photos from here on in are much better. All these blurry ones weren’t my fault after all!!

We stopped for gas and filled the car with $30. Not actual dollar bills you understand. I swapped that amount for an appropriate liquid. Tonight we were following our sat nav to Applebees.

It was just a five-minute wait to be seated at our table….

and this was done by a young girl with EMO tendencies and an impressive fringe which made me all sorts of nostalgic.

As we perused the menu, drinks were ordered…

Emily had a Blue Long Island Iced Tea…

Louise had a Sangria…

and clearly I now had a camera that worked!!

We shared some Mozzarella Sticks for appetisers…

Then we entree’d as follows….

Me – South Western Steak Salad…

Emily – Burger

Louise – Steak with Garlic Mash and Broccoli

Dad – Chicken and Shrimp

Mum – Who clearly couldn’t wait for me to take my photo….a cheesey chicken thing. I’m sure that’s exactly what it said on the menu..

More cocktails followed and I ordered the Deep Fried Apple Cake thing…

Everyone else said they didn’t want any but I asked for extra spoons and sure enough I had to fight everyone to the death to stop them eating more than me.

The bill was $135 plus tip. Our way home was only interrupted by our daily pharmacy stop, this time at CVS. I didn’t make a note of what we bought other than “more bloody ointments and potions”. Our lovely beach house was beginning to look like a classroom at Hogwarts.

We excelled ourselves tonight by being in bed at 9.30.

Till the next time……

Great Disney Deals

 

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Eight April 18th 2017

For all you theme park fans who love to read trip reports about rides, shows and all the stuff that goes with it, today’s report will mostly be around golf, shopping and food. So….that’s good isn’t it?

Nobody was in any rush to get up today. This party lifestyle was taking its toll. More to the point, everyone was burnt to a crisp and the thought of spending another day lay in the sun was about as appealing as Piers Morgan.

On the plus side, the weather did look to be promising a little relief from the heat with some cloud and lower temperatures so I took an executive decision and, (are you ready?), changed the plan!  The plan had me and Dad down to play golf tomorrow but with sunburn at the forefront of everyone’s mind I pulled it forward by a day, meaning the ladies would be sheltered inside whichever mall I could find to deposit them at.

Cruising the internet like a pro, I quickly found a golf course and a mall close enough to each other to work. Dad did a crazy thing and actually phoned the golf course to book rather than do it online, whilst everyone got ready. These quaint old traditions do need preserving I guess.

We left the house at 10.20 and arrived at the same mall we went to last night to eat at the Cheesecake Factory thirty minutes later. The females rolled from the still moving vehicle before we sped off to Rolling Hills for our 11.20 tee time.  The chap in the pro shop who booked us in probably hadn’t been a Disney cast member earlier in his career. His disposition and cheeriness was that of a Remainer at a UKIP conference. He was so awful to us that Dad emailed a complaint in later, only to find it was the anniversary of his father’s death!!  So we felt great about that, but really he shouldn’t have been working in those circumstances. That could only happen to us….

We were clubbed and buggied up and out on time. My golf took a little while to warm up despite having played as recently as eighteen months ago.  As with most places a man of my standing and good looks goes, leggy birds were not too far away…

and I was watching Dad for tips on how to get the thing to go in the right direction.

I got steadily better, as to be honest, I could not have got any worse, and on the back nine (see how easily I slip into the technical lingo) I managed three pars on the trot. For those non golfers, you should be worshiping me as some form of sporting freak.

Dad was blown away by the value of this offer…

and was seriously considering selling up and moving over here just to take it up. It’s basically £30 a month to play three courses as much as you like, unlimited time on the driving range, a beer with every round of golf and golf lessons. There hasn’t been a better deal since the one we’re definitely going to get from the EU.

To even things up, the golfing Gods restored my incompetence on the final hole so I finished in a blaze of glory with a humbling nine. I think I was getting tired!

I still managed to get round in less than 100, which for your average hacker who plays once a blue moon is almost respectable. If I played more than once a year I’d be dangerous.

We handed our stuff back in and went to have our free lunch which came with the round. It was a very acceptable chicken burger for me and chicken salad for Dad. Thoughts now turned to the absolute financial carnage Louise could have caused in the many hours she had been left unsupervised in the mall. This thought threatened my free lunch escaping so we quickly got into the car and sped back to the mall hoping we had some dollars left for the rest of the trip.

It was a narrow escape. There had been some buying, mainly for Rebecca, and the obligatory large candle that for reasons that escape me, we’d have to now transport around Florida and back over the Atlantic. It could have been much worse as the ladies had spent not an inconsiderable amount of time contemplating how to get a double bed back to the UK for Emily’s room. It was lovely apparently. See what happens when I’m not around to squash their hopes and dreams?

We left the mall as quickly as possible and after all those hours shopping the next thing we had to do was stop at a supermarket to buy stuff.

Two photos there just in case you were not familiar with what a supermarket is….

My notes say we bought bits. I really need to start a business up that specialises in bits. It is a very lucrative industry.

As Louise inevitably visited the pharmacy for some medical apparatus, cream or pill we did not yet carry, I did notice this…

Now I know it is blurry, but it boils down to the fact that you can order your repeat prescriptions via text. In the UK you have to submit, in person, a written document, notarised by your local MP between the times of 9.00 and 9.03 on the third Tuesday of a month beginning with H, and the receptionist can still use it for toilet paper if they don’t like the cut of your jib.

We eventually finished buying bits and headed home. I think it was the nine on the final hole but I felt really rough when we got there. I resorted to lying down for an hour whilst everyone got ready and that seemed to do the trick. It also meant that for once I didn’t have to wait for an age having got ready myself, after being told “I’ll only be five minutes now” by Louise.

Having figured out that the free bus service stopped about six feet from our front door, we wandered there and waited for a few minutes until it turned up.

Dusk is a lovely time in Florida wherever you are it seems.

The bus ride was only a few minutes and after alighting we wandered down Ocean Boulevard to Daiquiri Deck.

We were immediately seated over looking the Boulevard.

Cocktails were ordered by all, except Mum, with this being my first of the trip.

If only I had written down what it was!!

We started things off with a shared Hummus platter and Nachos for appetisers.

Then we all had…

Emily – Chicken Caesar Wrap classily garnished with half a bottle of ketchup.

Louise – Siesta Burger

Dad – Shrimp and Scallops

Me – Ribeye (I am officially shite at taking these photos. In my defence, I have to do it very quickly as everyone is gagging to dig in!)

Mum – Chicken Fajita Wrap

The food was just OK to be honest. The location and cocktails are the main reasons to visit here I think. Whilst we were eating we saw the one and only sight of rain of the holiday (shocking for an August visitor) in a torrential downpour.

It only lasted about ten minutes and was all done by the time we were ready to leave. We had a wander around for a bit and found a bar with a live band so we went in there and had a drink whilst watching.

They were pretty good, despite playing a load of songs we’d never heard of. Having rocked out until the early hours, if early hours means 10.30, we left looking for a bus. Instead we flagged down one of the many free ride services that operate on the island. They are typically golf cart style things with fairy lights and a hippy driver and they are free other than a tip. She delivered us to our door and I gave her ten dollars, having no clue if that was enough or too much.

We were in by 11pm and sleeping within minutes.

Till the next time…..

Great Deals on Theme Park TicketsGreat value Blue Man Tickets

 

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Seven April 17th 2017

After all that partying last night and staying up till all hours, understandably we slept in until 9am. I bet you weren’t expecting this rock and roll lifestyle were you?

We all breakfasted in line with our individual desires. My desires were cereal. Yes that’s odd but it’s my business OK? With that done and some clothes added to my silky frame I of course set out for the supermarket with Louise and Mum. Where else?

I stocked up again, bought sandwiches for lunch on the beach (this routine may get overly familiar to you by the time we leave Siesta Key) and paid another piece of their mortgage off.

Louise had no interest in sandwiches, hoagies and snacks. Her attendance was for an ulterior motive. Her so far Frodo like quest for bathing costumes had been fruitless (yes I know we are in Florida, where people attend formal events in a bikini, but none of the four and half thousand we had so far seen had been right) so we now had to visit some of the beach shops to continue the quest.

The one directly across from the supermarket  was huge.

In fact, it was three shops knocked into one. I suspect it was owned by the same people as the supermarket and they had extended purely on our spend with them so far.

Louise looked at stuff and I loitered uncomfortably trying not to look at the thongs and bikini tops. Bored of that I wandered deeper into the shop away from the “women’s things” to more general beach equipment. I bought a beach chair (the house only had four) another umbrella for more shade as we had all of course burnt ourselves yesterday, three beach towels and two wicker mats for the lying upon.

All of that still came nowhere near to the amount Louise spent on two swimsuits. As I paid, in a state of shock, it crossed my mind that I bought my swimming gear sometime around 1989 and in today’s money it would have cost about £5. Sure all the netting inside has perished and they can be a little snug, but there aren’t many pairs of shorts I can buy that wouldn’t be, if you know what I mean!!

We left with the shop owners high-fiving each other and headed back to the house. After a lie down and launching a Go Fund Me page for the rest of the trip, we wandered over to the beach at around 11am. It was less windy today which was ironic as we were all covered up to protect our salmon pink flesh from the raging sun and a bit of breeze would have been very welcome.

You may have missed the news that Dad recently launched his own rap band, MC Denture and the Liver Spots.

Staying in the shade today was everyone’s sole focus and any part of the body found outside of the shade’s protection soon reacted like those vampires in the Twilight films.

I had popped back to the house around 12.30 to pick up the food for lunch.

It may sound hard to believe but I could not finish my sandwich. It was huge. Here’s a picture of huge amounts of meat between my legs.

Of course that didn’t stop me putting away almost a full packet of crisps/chips. One of the major benefits of being an alleged grown up is that I don’t need to finish my sandwich to be allowed to eat the other more interesting snacky stuff.

On a beach the size of a small country, I did find it ironic that we somehow found ourselves within ear shot of the biggest bore in the US. Not only did this group have the ignorance to play music all day, inflicting all sorts of youngster noise upon us, but the one chap who had assumed the role of preacher for the day, spoke literally non-stop, about his favourite subject….himself.

My God he could talk. Dad pondered if he ever took a breath as we entered hour two of his anecdotal diarrhea. Topics included films he had seen and his vital thoughts on each of them and every scene within it, himself, how he spent time in jail before turning his life around, himself, sports, himself, what his companions should do with their lives, education, homes, families, diets oh and yes he talked about himself.

It got to the stage where Dad declared he was going into the sea to drown himself. Before doing so, he did pop over to our friend to ask his advice on the best way to do it.

Emily and Mum took evasive action by late afternoon and went back to the house. Their burnt skin was also a factor in that decision. Louise, Dad and I stayed until 4.30ish before striking camp and heading back too. As we had enough gear to attempt an assault on Mount Everest, the walk back, in silly heat and very soft sand proved to be a struggle. I’m sure you all feel sorry for us!

Showers, after sun and readying took until 6.30 when we set off for…

It was about a half hour drive to the Mall at University Town Center. We parked up and entered to be told of a forty minute wait for a table. We hunkered down for that but only ten minutes later we were called. Apparently someone hadn’t turned up for their reservation and we could have their table. You see, good things happen to us in this country!

We were shown to a lovely booth and began the task of working through the enormous menu. The choice was bamboozling. We declined appetisers as of course we were all aiming for dessert here.

Long Island Ice Teas were ordered for Louise and Emily…

and we ordered…

Me – Steak Tacos

Louise and Emily – Four Cheese Pasta with Chicken

Dad – Chicken Shrimp and Pineapple

Mum – Club Sandwich

All of the above was lovely. However, with all of that nonsense out of the way we could move on to the real reason we were here.  CHEESECAKE……

The choice of cheesecake is, as you might expect, vast. We spent an age looking but as our server returned to take our orders, I still hadn’t settled on what may have been the biggest decision of the trip. In a mild panic, I spat out the name of a cheesecake, with no idea if that was really what I wanted….

It was a Snickers Cheesecake…

Emily and Louise – Banana Cream Cheesecake

Dad had ice cream and Mum had Strawberries. As neither of those were cheesecake, I deemed them unworthy of a photo.

I know that I have said that I have been full previously on this trip so far, and perhaps only with the exception of the Hash House a Go Go extravaganza, this was the fullest I had been. I did force every last crumb of the cheesecake down though. It was a matter of principle.

The bill was $200 including a good tip.

The drive home through a sugar coma felt quicker than the drive there which was welcome as all anyone wanted were looser clothes and bed. The latter happened at 10pm. Yes another late night hedonistic extravaganza.

Till the next time…..

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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Six April 16th 2017

It can be hard to find the amount of time I’d like to dedicate to writing these things. Considering I have to fit it into the seven free minutes I have each week, the quality of them is just about acceptable but about 50% of what I aspire to. Anyway, over the next few weeks as I cover our time at Siesta Key, I will have an ingenious time-saving plan. I can simply copy and paste the day I’m about to write over and over as we did pretty much the same thing for a week. Stand by for a lot of pictures of sand and blue skies with some food towards the end of each day!

For those who have lost track or didn’t care, today was Sunday. We were to spend it worshiping Louise’s favourite deity, the sun.

We woke up naturally at 8.20 and took a leisurely shower. I suggested that tomorrow we try it one at a time. Breakfast was a very un-Hash House like bagel and a cup of coffee. I was worried that I may waste away to nothing on such meager rations. It had almost been twelve hours since we last visited the supermarket, so that was the first stop of the day for beach essentials. That consisted of lunch in the form of sandwiches and snacks and some tackle for the enjoying of the beach such as lilos and umbrellas. Americans seem allergic to shade but us pasty Brits need all the protection we can get from the merciless sun.

I watched some football on the TV upon returning home until everyone was ready . See how I have learned not to pester folks to be out of the door early every day of the holiday!

We wandered over the road and found a suitable spot on a very spacious and idyllic looking beach. The first job was to blow stuff up.

Twenty minutes, and a couple of cardiac arrests and blackouts later, things were of a suitable size and girth. The fact that nobody used the bloody things for the whole week was hilarious.

Siesta Key beach is as lovely as its awards and reputation suggest.

Our rented house was at the beginning of those tracks in the sand you can see in the picture below.

Over the years Louise has done her best to sample all of life’s ailments, diseases and injuries in the US. I think it is some sort of crusade or comparison to prove the UK’s NHS is better than the US alternative. I have documented all of these, some in more graphic detail than I should. I think we all remember the Vagisil escapade some years ago?

Well, this year I think she has surpassed all previous efforts. She had burnt boobs. This was not as you may assume a result of getting her baps out in the sun around the pool at the Royal Pacific. No, that’s how I burned my boobs. Instead, it was all down to one more example of the very strange things ladies do in the name of fashion. To allow her to wear certain outfits without the support of a bra she had used some nipple covers. Now, men I hear you. What the f*** are nipple covers? They were news to me, but they are a thing.

I always thought they were for the exclusive purpose of preventing breast-feeding mothers from having permanent wet patches. When the girls were very young it wasn’t too uncommon for me to wake up with said nipple cover attached to some part of my body. That’s all part of the magical parental journey.

Now, I have discovered that to prevent “chapel hat pegs” when wearing certain kinds of dresses, these posh elastoplasts are used to keep the bad boys at bay.

Somehow, these had caused some very serious damage to Louise’s puppies and as much as I am making light of this, they looked bloody sore and no fun at all. With this in mind the next few days were a struggle for her to find comfy sunbathing positions or indeed to wear clothes that actually touched the damaged area which drew a few funny looks I can confirm!

Traditionally at this point, Dad will apply a reservoir of factor 50 and then immediately wash it all off in the sea. Today was no different.

We all rested, read and other things beginning with R. It wasn’t too long until lunchtime rolled around and I wandered back to the house to pick up the stuff we’d bought earlier from the fridge. Ryan, on his first outing of the holiday earned his stripes carrying it all back to the beach.

We had pre-made sandwiches which were, as you might expect, huge. As I had been in charge of choosing lunch there was also a good amount of snacky crap, such as huge bags of chips (crisps) and some chocolate brownie things that I can still taste today. I got some beers too and Dad went crazy having about four which is probably more than he drinks the rest of the year!

The afternoon passed without much else to report. We rested and read some more, and as Louise had thrown one seagull a Dorito, our section of the beach looked like a scene from a Hitchcock film.

You can clearly see some lovely birds in that last photo!

That was the ONLY time one of those bloody lilos was used. Literally a waste of breath!

After a tough day of this sort of thing we started to drift back to the house in phases from around 4pm. Showers and readying began. Being our first night we weren’t sure how or where to get the plethora of free transport options to the village so I played safe and ordered an Uber. It took twenty minutes to get to us and about three minutes to take us to our destination. That was Ocean Boulevard, the road that runs through Siesta Key Village and includes many shops, bars and restaurants. Thankfully it now looked a lot less like Magaluf and much more like the sleepy, relaxed location I had researched all those months ago.

We wandered for a bit and ended up choosing The Hub.

With a twenty-minute wait for a table we took to the bar and I had my first beer of the trip.

The ladies had cocktails, apart from Emily who had left her ID at the house and Dad another beer.  Here’s Emily looking very pleased with her Coke.

We were seated and then served by Jazz who I can best describe, in Louis Walsh style as reminding me of a young K D Lang. As the vast amounts of food we were about to order wouldn’t be enough Jazz persuaded us to get some chips and salsa to gorge on whilst we looked at the menu.

We ordered –

Nachos for Lousie and Emily, who clearly thought the chips and salsa were not sufficient.

Me – Ribs

Mum – Chicken Tacos

Dad – Steak & Shrimp

Emily & Louise – Chicken Burrito

Half way through the meal Dad felt very rough and had to escape to the loo. He waited outside for us whilst we finished and I ate his steak. We put it down to too much beer, rich food and sun and he laid off the beer for the rest of the trip and felt a whole lot better for it. If you don’t drink a lot, suddenly drinking can be hazardous.

The bill was $130 plus tip and the food was excellent. We rounded off the night with yet another visit to the supermarket. Dad bought a huge corkscrew for the bottom of his umbrella. This was to bury it deeper into the sand. The beach had been quite breezy today, which was very welcome in the blazing sun, but it did cause some umbrella carnage from time to time.

We of course had to buy some sun screen as the one we had brought with us and used hardly any of was no longer suitable for reasons I can’t explain and we also got some aloe vera for our burnt bits and Louise’s toasty nipples. I think they were a band in the seventies?

We caught the free bus that was parked up outside as we left and we got off a stop early as it was pitch black and we couldn’t tell where we were in the dark. Bed was found at a hedonistic 10pm.

Till the next time…..

 

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Five April 15th 2017

The first phase of the holiday was ending today. A part of me was saddened by this. After all the planning, waiting and build up I always try to cling onto each moment of the trip as it escapes through my fingers like fine sand.

There was still far more to come than had passed but I am strange like that. Today was moving day, Universal was over and we were heading to Siesta Key. As all we had to do this morning was put the possession explosion that had happened in our room back into our cases there was no mad rush to get up. We lazed in bed until a crazy 9am. It took an hour to pack and just after ten we left RPR for the last time and headed over to get Mum & Dad. More fun and sweating was had with the quart into pint pot game involving the luggage and car. We did find a slightly different configuration which improved things but Dad still had a case on his lap.

Thankfully we only had a ten minute drive this time. We were heading for Hash House a Go Go and a life threatening amount of food. As we entered the car park we noticed it was as packed as my underwear. Thankfully they had complimentary valet parking. So once we had released Dad from his suitcase companion, we handed over the keys and headed in. It’s usually at this point that I imagine the news headlines –

“Stupid Brit Gives Complete Stranger Posing as Valet His Car Keys”.

The lure of food was greater than my worries so I continued onwards.

We were faced with a fifteen minute wait and a tractor.

We were seated just before 11am and began the daunting task of navigating the menu. It is HUGE.

We stalled the waitress by ordering some drinks. Coffees and juice all round and Louise ordered a special Mocha which she declared to be the best she ever had. My nickname is mocha by the way!

I didn’t get a picture as I was too busy choosing food, but here’s one I found online.

We eventually decided upon –

Me, Dad and Emily – Andy’s Fried Chicken Benedict

Andy’s sage fried chicken w/ fresh spinach, hardwood smoked bacon, market tomato, griddled mozzarella, chipotle cream and scrambled eggs.

All Benedicts served on a fresh split biscuit with griddled mashed potatoes

Mum – Tractor Driver Combo with French Toast

Two Eggs w/ bacon sausage or potatoes with 1 HH signature flapjack. Add one buck for HH famous flapjack.With Vanilla Waffle With Griddled french toast

Louise – Portabella Mushroom

Fresh portabello mushroom, roasted red peppers, basil pesto & griddled goat cheese all on a fresh baked wheat bun

As my attempt looked like this….

Here’s a competent photo taken by someone else.

It is hard to describe the food here. I struggle to find a word that captures what I thought about it. It was superb, delicious, huge, different, fun, huge, unique, huge and huge.

Emily threw the towel in with her plate looking untouched. I made a very good effort but couldn’t finish. It was just so full of things that are designed to fill you up. Mash, Fried Chicken, Biscuit and smothered in a delicious spicy sauce. Safe to say this place will be on the plan for every future trip we undertake.

My notes failed to capture how much it cost, but frankly I didn’t care. You have to try this place!

Slightly more of us left at 12.40 than had arrived. Our car was returned to us and noticeably groaned as we inflicted our increased girth upon it. We found ourselves stuck in traffic trying to get onto the I4. I did think that the traffic was much worse in and around Universal and I Drive than it ever is around WDW and Kissimmee. With only one U Turn required (unlike Theresa May…ooh bit of politics….) which was totally the fault of our sat nav and not me, we found the Interstate and headed for Disney Springs. We arrived at 1pm and parked in Lime. That’s one of the new car parks. The theme parks are full of breath taking technology delivering jaw dropping immersive experiences. However, the fact that you can see if a row has a space without driving down it blew our collective minds. We live in exciting times.

Disney Springs is, as we expected, almost unrecognisable from what we first encountered as Disney Village in 1980 and as Downtown Disney in more recent times. We arranged to meet Mum & Dad later and set off to do what I hoped would be browsing.

The D Life, Beauty & The Beast themed shop was lovely.

Next was Sephora. I have no idea what any of the items they sell are but clearly I am almost alone in that as it was packed.

Louise was still searching for some sandals. Not just any sandals. We of course encountered many pairs of such in the many shops we visited, but none ticked the boxes they needed to.

Emily got a couple of sweatshirts which somehow I paid for despite her being 21 and gainfully employed.

It was very hot and we needed some water which we picked up from the Poutine Place. Upon getting to the counter and seeing some food, I almost threw up there and then, my stomach protesting at the thought of me trying to put anything else into it. It was an act of self protection and I applaud it for that.

We entered the vast expanse of World of Disney next and spent days wandering the endless array of Disney merchandise. By some miracle and completely by chance we left via the same doors we came in, which is a first for us. It was time now to meet Mum & Dad and so we headed back to the Lime car park entrance.

With Louise still needing footwear and a swimming costume I googled for a Walmart or Target having had all the posh boutiques at Disney Springs let us down and set off.

Never has the phrase cockpit been more apt.

Louise was slightly excited for a second in case this was the bloke from Sons of Anarchy.

It wasn’t.

The Target google found for me was actually the same one we spent far too much time in last year kitting out Emily for her time working in WDW. The same retail park contained a Ross in which we spent more time than any man should have to endure.

Then we went next door to the large sports store. We spent only a few minutes exploring the huge Dicks. Thankfully, the required sandals were discovered in Dicks. There are specialist web sites for that I believe. OK enough desperate attempts to make innuendos out of Dicks. In Target she also found some shorts.

With all the shopping I could tolerate done we now headed for Siesta Key.

It took just under two hours in total.

The last mile driving down the “front” was slow and tortuous but we eventually got to our house without incident or getting lost.

The house was lovely. Quirky certainly, a little rustic and not your typical polished, clinical new home but it was in keeping with all the other properties in the area.

Emily and I went to find the local supermarket. It was somewhere we would spend many happy hours over the coming week.

We had gone for some “essentials” and left $137 lighter about forty minutes later.

With the shopping packed away thoughts turned to dinner but nobody was really hungry so we stayed in the house and snacked instead watching some TV.

Apparently wine was an essential I forgot to pick up during my first visit to the shop, so I remedied that now with another trip. The drive to the supermarket took me up the main road on which all the bars and restaurants are. I did have a slight worry that I may not have brought us to the most suitable place as it looked tonight like Magaluf or Falaraki. However, this was a Saturday night at the tail end of Spring Break and my slight fears were unfounded as we would find out during our stay.

Upon getting back to the house I was knackered and fell into bed, managing about ten minutes reading before sleep.

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

 

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Four April 14th 2017

Day four already? This trip will soon be over for the second time before we know it.

No alarms were set this morning and I rose majestically without any need for encouragement at 7am. I got out of bed shortly afterwards too.

It took the usual hour and a bit for everyone to be ready and our first stop was at the gift shop in reception. Louise needed to buy a cover up T-shirt as, amazingly, she had somehow got herself sunburned. How this happened is a mystery to us all.

With one “Yes I am Tourist” Universal Studios T-shirt secured and adorned we could start the day. We water taxied again, tolerating yet more dreadful weather…

and arrived into the park at 8.50. Top of our list today was the new (to us) Kong ride. The ten minute walk from the entrance to the ride felt longer than that but we Expressed our way in just after 9.

Since this ride opened Emily has had a never-ending panic attack at the thought of encountering scare actors in the queue. This made the walk through the queue area a little nervy for her but thankfully for her it turns out there weren’t any in the Express queue.

As with most rides, the first time is a bit of a blur looking back. I was impressed with it though and it is something a little different to traditional rides with the mix of actual ride stuff and the 3D film elements.

Having ticked off our main objective before the park got busy naturally we needed food having only had a light snack last night. We walked back into the Marvel area in search of something stupidly unhealthy….apart from me.

Emily and I struck out at a proper walking pace having left Louise to sunbathe on a bench. Yes, she was already burnt, but this made perfect sense and should not be questioned.

Like some sort of sugar filled tractor beam our bodies ended up outside Cinnabon, which had a handy Starbucks next to it. I drank whatever Emily ordered and we got some stuff from Cinnabon that you’d struggle to qualify as food. It was ridiculously good.

We walked back to Louise, juggling our haul and made it to a bench with an umbrella not far from Spiderman.

With a huge sugar rush surging through my system it made perfect sense to add a good dose of adrenalin to that so we went to ride the Hulk. We Expressed but it was a slightly disappointing fifteen minutes. Again, a locker was required. These new lockers are operated by your park ticket which is a neat idea, but Universal do employ one member of staff to stand by the lockers with a microphone repeating “Do not lock your park ticket in the locker!” endlessly, over and over and over and over.

The fact that despite this I very nearly did proves that humans are stupid.

After its big refurb, I have to say I didn’t spot a great deal of difference but I can’t say that I memorised how it was before. The start of the ride felt a little quicker but that could be my accelerating old age. It remains a great ride and a guaranteed trigger for my roller coaster Tourettes.

Somehow Mum & Dad were waiting for us as we exited the ride. Perhaps they heard my swearing as I rode?

Those with an Express ticket rode Spiderman next, whilst those who didn’t had a sit under the same umbrella we breakfasted under. Again, it was a fifteen minute queue.

We made our way into the Jurassic area of the park and got a drink. It was hot today. I was taking a photo of Emily and Mum resting on a wall (there doesn’t need to be a reason, OK?) when a kind lady offered to take one of the three of us.

As I took my place on the wall I whispered to Emily that if this nutter did a runner with my camera, as the youngest it was her job to chase her down.

Now, just to be clear for those in a panic at that photo. That is Dad’s rucksack. Being a good son (sometimes) I took it off him to make his walking around a bit easier. Ryan was back in our room enjoying the facilities unaware of my infidelity.

I apologise for my rare appearance in a photo.

We all joined the non Express queue for the Jurassic River thingy with the promise of a thirty minute wait. As we entered, staff were rejigging the queue rope things to extend it and altering the wait time to 45 minutes. I submitted an immediate written complaint and stood there and sucked it up.

We got a lot less wet than I remember. Emily seemed to have finally conquered her childhood terror and fear of this ride caused by some idiot parents taking her on it when she didn’t want to at a young age.

We wandered on for a bit and entered the discovery centre in search of some cool air.

There wasn’t much else of interest in there to be honest so we made our way out of the rear of the building to discover a lovely view.

After a few minutes taking that in and posting it on Facebook to remind everyone we were here and they weren’t, we walked on a bit going nowhere in particular.

For regular readers, this is a special moment. We’d eaten a lot recently and it was therefore probably inevitable that at this point I encountered, for the first time this trip, turtle head.

That (attempt at a) joke feels like a member of the family I am so familiar with it. As I took the camera out to take that photo, Louise began to ask me why and then stopped. She knew….we all knew.

Having already spent her allocated shopping budget for this trip on that very special Universal Studios T-shirt this morning, Louise was going crazy trying to find some sandals. It is as inevitable as the turtle head joke that a few days into the trip, whatever footwear Louise has brought with her will no longer be suitable and we must undertake a mission to find ones that are. We went into EVERY shop on our wanders, with no joy.

Her pain would have to continue…..and I did.

I do try to give my own wardrobe choices a little thought. For example, it is not the done thing to wear Disney merchandise in Universal and vice versa. Knowing which park we were doing today and that it included a certain ride, I had chosen this one today.

I am actually more muscular under the T-shirt, but not green.

We found ourselves in the Seuss bit of the park

and Emily and I used our Express specialness to go on One Fish, Two Fish.

Sure, we are 46 and 21 and every other rider was not, but we cared not one jot.

It was time for another tactical meal, which required us to satisfy our immediate hunger (which was mild) and yet still leave our bodies ready for tonight’s inevitable onslaught. We chose the Croissant Moon Bakery as it was close and we had eaten there before so we knew they did sandwiches etc. Their isn’t a huge amount of choice but it did the job.

I failed to record what everyone had and to take any photos other than these…

You can do a post-mortem to figure out what we had just eaten. I think I had a hogie but I would probably be able to get a cream for that when we called at the pharmacy next.

We walked back to Spiderman so that Mum & Dad could ride and then headed for the wet rides. Mum and Dad declined the chance to get wet through on Dudley Do Right so the three of us entered via Express. Whenever you enter this ride you know that every item of clothing you are in will be drenched. What you don’t expect is to get into that state before you get on the ride itself. As we walked through the queue, above us a boat cornered and threw out a huge wave of water over the edge to unsuspecting idiots below which with perfect timing, I walked into.

My shock was only matched by Louise and Emily’s laughter. I buried my anger deep and plotted my dastardly revenge whilst stood in a stupidly long queue for us Express special people. The ice cool air conditioning was a joy for anyone who had just been soaked to the skin. Thirty minutes with Express isn’t really acceptable in my spoiled, over entitled head.

Everyone who walks from Dudley Do Right’s to the Bilgerats ride says things like “Well, we can’t get any wetter”. Everyone is wrong. You absolutely can.

We joined the muggle queue so that we could all ride together and it was annoyingly longer than the 20 minutes posted. As usual we got wetness in places that hadn’t been wet for a long time. We left the raft and quickly noticed that we were missing a member of our party.

We turned around to see Mum still sat in the barge. Maybe she wanted to ride again? Turns out she couldn’t get the seat belt off and the barge was moving round ever closer to her having to ride the thing all over again. Dad was trying to free her and then several members of staff also boarded the vessel in an attempt to free the Bolton One.

The rest of us of course stood watching and laughing.

With moments to spare the seat belt was opened and another ride averted.

Too wet to do anything else now we headed for the exit. Emily and I went in the opposite direction to everyone else as she wanted to buy a sweat shirt she had seen at the Jurassic River Ride earlier. After making that purchase we continued to do a full loop of the park at full walking pace. It felt good.

The park was very busy now, especially around Potter and we did our best full speed walking, people dodging moves to make our way back to the entrance. Feeling a tiny bit peckish we stopped for a quick snack.

We only wanted a churro and a pretzel yet were subjected to one of the most frustrating waits of the entire trip. That family at the front appeared to be doing their weekly grocery shop here and then paying with about six different credit cards. I have seldom tutted so loudly.

We ate our snacks as we walked to meet the others hoping to have done so before we got there to avoid any unnecessary sharing. We all walked back to the water taxi and then I drove Mum & Dad back “home”.

Louise and Emily did their lady readying things for a while and we left at 6.05. No doubt I had said we needed to leave at 6, but they do it out of spite. The traffic was awful for some reason so it took ten minutes to get to Mum & Dad and then much longer than I had planned it would to get to the Poly for our dinner at ‘Ohana. After a stressful, steering wheel gripping, teeth grinding journey we arrived at 7.10.

Before our meal we went to Trader Sam’s for a drink and hopefully some fun.

The only seats were those at the bar, so we mounted a stool each and looked at the cocktail menu. For those not familiar with this place, it is a grown up, cocktail serving version of Whispering Canyon. If you haven’t been to Whispering Canyon then I can’t help you.

Various rum based cocktails were ordered. I have no idea what they were, other than I had a Skipper Sipper which was from the “I’m driving” section of the menu.

I did taste Dad’s cocktail and it was what I imagine petrol to taste like. Bloody hell it was strong and he had to really battle through it to get it down. Louise had less trouble. You won’t be surprised to learn that she ordered a cocktail which was intended for sharing.

The bar tenders are very entertaining and there are several “show pieces” they do when certain drinks are ordered, but I won’t spoil those.

We did two rounds of drinks. Louise was sat at one end of the bar and I at the other and we had “chosen” the two comedy bar stools that slowly lower themselves to the ground. She can probably blame the drink but I noticed fairly quickly and stood up for a bit. About five minutes later Louise turned to her side to find she was looking at everyone’s knees and wondered if she’d fallen over.

Being the tourist suckers we are, we purchased every souvenir glass it was possible to do so and with that in mid our bar bill was somewhere close to our monthly mortgage. Well, we are on holiday.

With four fifths of the party now a little worse for wear we had to find ‘Ohana and check in. As is always the case it seems, as we got to the check in podium there was a family in front of us taking much longer than it should to undertake a simple task. We stood waiting for almost ten minutes as they faffed and discussed why the poor cast member couldn’t find their reservation. They resorted to texting someone called Kay to ask what name the reservation would be in. Then Kay was asked what time it was made for and how many people it was made for. Rather than call Kay and find all this out in one go, we waited for the texts to come back with dwindling patience.

What they didn’t ask Kay was which fecking restaurant their reservation was for. Turns out it was Kona Kafe. Thanks Kay. How we laughed and laughed. The cast member smiled and wished them a magical day as did we all.

We took about seven seconds to check in and started the wait for our table.

After about ten minutes we were seated. I don’t know what the odds of this are but we were shown to the exact same table we had the last time we were here …

The bread and salad arrived immediately and were lovely.

Then the mains started to arrive…

Shortly after that several men turned up waving their meaty swords at us. We were also served chicken, shrimp and steak and it was awesome.

We ate more than any human should. Dad had a really bad attack of heartburn towards the end of the meal. I think his rum cocktail was melting his insides to be honest. He had some milk and a visit to the loo and felt a bit better.

It didn’t matter how full we were, pudding had to be done as it was the main reason we had booked this place.

We all shared this…

It was incredible and probably took a couple of years off my life expectancy.

At 9.40 we paid and wandered down to the beach to find a spot to watch Wishes from the beach.

The music was inaudible/non-existent so we were probably sat in the wrong place, but the view was great.

My camera skills were less great so I will only share a couple of my attempts.

We meandered back to the car with a stop at the front desk as Louise had left her sunglasses on the table in the restaurant. Luckily they had been discovered and handed in. Those cocktails have a lot to answer for.

The drive home and the drop off for Mum & Dad were uneventful and we were all in bed by 11.30 thinking about which clothes might still fit us tomorrow.

Till the next time…..

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Three April 13th 2017

Holidays are fun. Holidays are relaxing. It’s a chance to unwind, chill out and put the stress, strains and worries of every day life behind you. There’s no need to be getting up at silly times to get to work, it’s a time to do what you want, when you want.

So….I’d set my alarm for 6.30am as we needed to be out early to make the most of the extra hour for onsite guests. After making my contribution to the chocolate hostage release programme, amazingly we were out before 8am. It turned out that we should have set the alarm for about 4.30am as I shall now explain.

We walked to Universal rather than take the water taxi as again it was very busy.

On site guests are able to enter the parks from 8am. The Potter stuff is the only thing open at this time so this creates a stampede to that end of the park and despite a commendable power walking effort from all three of us, as we entered Diagon Alley on our way to Gringott’s, the queue for that was already at the brick wall. Yep, the wall that is the actual entrance to Diagon Alley…at 8.20am. There was no chance of us enduring that.

For me, this is one of the main reasons that we won’t be rushing back to Universal anytime soon. Aside from the fact that future trips are likely to include a small human (if you don’t know why then read this) for whom a lot of the rides won’t be suitable, the premium you pay for onsite perks didn’t feel like value for money for us this time to be honest. I found this bottle neck of onsite guests at the one open ride for the extra hour a bit silly. The fact that Potter rides are not eligible for the Express passes, and that only those are open for the extra hour makes the whole thing a bit of a waste of time really. Rides like Minions have a half hour queue even with Express and generally, we found it hard to fill a full day in one of the parks, whereas twelve hours in a Disney park seems like we’re still missing things. It may have just been a symptom of Mum & Dad not having Express but I’m not sure that was the whole reason. I shall no doubt wax lyrical further into this report when we arrive in WDW about feeling at home and all that…so it may just be that Universal is not Disney and you can’t blame it for that.

Anyway, I shall no doubt return to this theme at the end of the report….something for you all to look forward to I’m sure.

So we retreated to Starbucks and joined a queue that was only a little shorter than the one for Gringotts and got some breakfast. I don’t often visit Starbucks I’ll be honest so I never know what to order. The menu is more complex than theoretical physics, so during this trip I adopted the strategy of just having whatever Emily ordered. I can’t tell you now what I had to drink, but it was nice, had something call soy in it, which I’ve only ever put on my Chinese take away previously and it had ice in it. It was lovely. I also had a sandwich, or at least a miniature version of one.

Whilst breakfasting I had employed glorious multi-tasking skills to book a time for the new Fallon ride. By the time we’d finished eating it was time to do that.

This new “reserve a time” thing is, in my worthless opinion, the future of rides in theme parks. Having seen a few vlogs about the pre-ride waiting experience for Fallon (and the best in my view are The Trackers) I was a little gutted to be immediately summoned to ride. I had wanted to have a good look round and see the stuff they put on to distract you from the three hour wait…which for us was about thirty seconds.

The ride itself is very enjoyable. As most of these things are, it’s a bit short, but it’s a busy one and you’ll need a good few times to take it all in.

As we exited I got a message from Dad that he was in the park and ready to meet. I told him where we were and from his reply it was clear that he wasn’t in the right park! They had gone to IOA. Leaving them to get the train over to Universal we headed to the Mummy. We always love this one and rode on the front row. I don’t know if this was the reason, or if they had changed the ride a bit to include more water but for the first time in a good many years I found myself moist riding Mummy.

Luckily it’s quite dark in there…..

I left Louise and Emily there and walked up to King’s Cross to meet Mum & Dad. I found them easily enough. Dad had chosen to hire a wheelchair today as he was really suffering with sciatica. He’d soldiered on yesterday but today he would be pushed around whether he liked it or not.

Once back with Louise and Emily, we parked Dad up in some shade with Mum whilst we went off to ride Rip, Ride Rocket with our Express passes. No matter how many times I ride this I am always surprised by its intensity and by how much it feels like you are going to fall out backwards on the way up. This ride is harsher than the crazed Admin’s banning policy for the It’s Orlando Time Facebook group! Actually, probably not.

You have to take so many things off to ride this that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the first naturist ride in Orlando.

I discovered a few new swear word combos on the way round as it threw my aging body in directions it was not built to withstand. Good fun!

We considered doing Minions (without Express for Mum & Dad) but the 80 minute wait was about 60 beyond our tolerance so we did Shrek. This was our first experience of entering a ride with a member of the party in a wheelchair. We were ushered to the front of our very own line, had our own route into the theatre and were allowed in first. All very nice, but all things considered, I’d say it’s best not to have someone needing a wheelchair than cutting a few minutes from your queue.

Next we made our way to the Monster’s Cafe where we were to leave Mum & Dad whilst we expressed Minions. On the way, I couldn’t help marvel at how rough Bob Geldof is looking…

As we approached Minions it was clear that even the Express line wasn’t very Express. It snaked to places any Express line should never snake. This was enough to put Louise off and she opted for a bench in the sun, so it was Emily and myself.

Luckily, these days she is just about tall enough to ride!

After a very un-Express like thirty minute wait we rode before exiting, finding Louise and heading back to Mum & Dad. Despite numerous visits, I honestly can’t remember this Monster’s Cafe existing before today. Either it’s new or my memory is in as good a shape as my waistline. It’s a quick service place with the usual selection of fast food fare.

Emily ordered a cheeseburger and Mum & dad shared one…

Not for the first time, Louise and I shared a foot long…..

After lunch we went over to the Horror Make Up Show starting at 1pm. Once again we were special cased due to the wheelchair but there was no queue or crowd to speak of. I did spot what I assume is the latest hipster trend in foyer…

and my usual reaction to hipsters…

Next we did the Terminator ride..

As we waited to enter, (an important comma that one) a girl close to us in the queue dropped a full drink all over the floor. I found it strange that she was even allowed in with it but even odder that the staff wandering about did absolutely nothing about it having clearly seen it. The waiting area was dark and as soon as that queue started to enter someone was going to go full Torvill and Dean through it.

As we were first in via the wheelchair line we didn’t get to see what happened. My Disney snobbery reared up in full effect, declaring this would never happen on Disney property. I know that everyone appreciated me entertaining them with my views.

This Terminator show is on an impressive scale I always think. It’s almost a forgotten attraction now but the mix of live action and film and all the effects is excellent and seems to go under the radar. I’m not sure how much longer the Terminator brand will endure to make this relevant and I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never watched any of them, but I applaud the effort!

It was time to call it a day and head to the exit now after a restroom stop for some.

Emily wasn’t “restrooming” there on the bench, she was just waiting!

We water taxied back to RPR and once again found some sunbeds in the kid’s pool area. The ladies used our room to change first whilst me and Dad guarded the beds like some German sun towels and then we changed too.

Snoozing, reading, swimming and cocktailing filled the afternoon along with a soupcon of swimming. Dad found the hot tub which worked wonders on his sciatica.

At around 6.30 I drove Mum & Dad home and returned to find the readying of Emily and Louise not as far along as it should have been. At 8pm we set off for Teak Neighbourhood Grill. The walk from our room, to the car park and the subsequent pick up of Emily and Louise from the front of RPR, followed a few minutes later by the same at Mum & Dad’s hotel became a familiar routine. As my usual routines in life go, it’s up there in my all time favourites.

We stopped en route at a pharmacy (not for the last time this trip, but you knew that already) to get some Milk of Magnesia for Emily. I know she won’t mind me sharing with you that she was more full of shit than Katie Hopkins and needed an intervention pronto.

We went all crazy and ordered some appetisers as if we had never eaten here before.

We got two lots of Mozzarella Rounds and a Crab Dip whilst we studied the menu.

I was eating the missing one, sorry.

I didn’t eat any of the crab dip if I’m honest as to me, that tastes like an I’m a Celebrity Bush Tucker Trial with the emphasis on bush.

Our entrees were

Me & Emily – A badly photographed Cronie Burger & Garlic Fries

“french doughnut” tossed with cinnamon-sugar served with a half pound Angus burger topped with maple-pepper bacon, smoked Gouda cheese and an over med egg…a must try!

Louise – French Dip 2.0

open faced thinly sliced prime rib, provolone cheese, horseradish mayo on garlic artisan baguette served with au jus dipping sauce with garlic fries.

Again I can only apologise for the photo

Dad – Imperial Trooper Burger

mozzarella cheese, tomato, spring mix drizzled with sour cream-chive sauce & imperial stout glaze served on toasted brioche bun. He added a side of Scallop Potato which he declared to be incredible!

Mum – Plain Jane Burger

american cheese, bibb lettuce, tomato on toasted brioche bun…pure simplicity with chilli cheese fries.

The Cronie Burger was so good, you can have another photo of it.

Dad had beer, Louise wine and a sangria and the bill was $150 including a healthy tip. I love this place! I was so sad to be leaving that I took photos on the way out feeling all emotional…

We left at 10pm, lost in a fog of calories and the glow of satisfaction. After dropping Mum & Dad off we barely made it to bed before falling asleep. I think I read for about ten minutes before welcoming a coma like sleep into my body.

Till the next time…..

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Two April 12th 2017

I have to confess that I have been procrastinating. Tackling day two has felt like an increasing weight on my shoulders as the week has rumbled on. Why you ask? Well, even if you don’t I’ll tell you. Day Two, the first full day of the trip is so full of promise, excitement and hope that sat here now, in a rainy Bolton, as far from going on another holiday as it is possible to be, I’m finding it hard to put myself through it. My heart is broken that I am not now just starting the holiday all over again, wrapped in the comfort blanket of the hot Floridian sun, feeling more at home than I do at home with all that holiday laid out untouched in front of me.

Sigh.

With that said, I must press on and try to convey all of that as we revisit that day together from the comfort of my blog.

At a ridiculous 4.20am, I was awake, bleary eyed and bloated from the flight and still full of all that yummy Outback goodness. Emily was already awake and of course on her phone, suggesting that some snoring may have kept her awake. I hope those in the next room don’t do that again!! Courtesy of the time difference we all chatted with Rebecca back home for a bit and I simultaneously arranged to meet Mum and Dad at 7am.

Then I find, examine and operate the coffee machine in one silky movement and make some coffee for Louise in my boxer shorts. I couldn’t find any filters but they did the trick instead. Hmm, full of extra flavour due to my special roasted beans.

Readying started at 6am and I went to collect Mum & Dad at 6.50, managing to find yet another way to get lost in that five-minute journey to their hotel. Once back at the RPR we wandered around for a bit trying to locate the water taxi.

We naturally went the wrong way before eventually finding a lovely long line waiting for it. It also looked like they were checking room keys due to said long lines, and with Mum & Dad not residents we elected to walk. It took ten minutes, most of which was spent by me concentrating on not walking too fast, doubling back to let folks catch up and Louise telling me off for walking ahead of everyone. I was excited!!

We had our first encounter with the new security set up here. Airport style scanners and an emptying of all pockets into a tray just as we entered City Walk.

We joined a healthy queue at the gates of Islands of Adventure (IOA) and waited for about ten minutes. Mum and Dad, not having the extra hour of on site guests, went off to get some breakfast on City Walk and we arranged to meet later.

We walked to the Potter stuff at a pace that just allowed almost everyone else in the park to overtake us. Room cards were being checked on the way but in no great detail. They were just required to be wafted at the staff asking to see them with no checking of dates as far as I could tell.

By the time we got to Hogwarts there was a thirty minute queue posted but I think that was just to get a locker. Knowing what was in store today I was travelling bagless. Ryan was resting in the room and I had all I would need crammed into the small sack at the front of my shorts.

The ride itself was a walk on, but that walk takes about ten minutes. We had only ridden this once before so it was nice to do it again and notice almost all of it that we missed the first time. If you don’t like spiders or have kids that may never sleep again after being attacked by a twelve-foot dementor, perhaps give this a miss. We loved it.

Still firmly in that first morning adrenaline rush we headed straight for what was Duelling Dragons.

It was a walk on at this hour but even I had to succumb to a locker on this one. Even my small sack was not allowed. I showed it to the lady at the entrance and she said it was very nice but too big to ride with, and also suggested I seek medical attention at the first opportunity as it shouldn’t be black.

We were quickly loaded and off at silly speeds through all sorts of loops and inversions. There is no greater sign of getting older than how you feel upon leaving a roller coaster. Until recent years I would do them all day with barely a repercussion. More recently I have wandered off rides feeling like Oliver Reed after a lost weekend. I was dizzy, queasy and bilious, three of the lesser known dwarfs, I admit.

I tried to put this down to not yet having eaten rather than becoming an old git and declared it breakfast time. Knowing what I had planned food wise for the rest of the day I was hoping to just have a light snack to save space in my expanding belly for the shenanigans later. The need for food was too great to be picky and we stumbled across the road into the Broomsticks place.

This was our second visit here and the speed at which you choose your food has not improved. It wasn’t that busy and it still took us far too long. Perhaps that feeling was exaggerated by my rumbling belly? There are around half a dozen set menu options and we went for –

Me – Porridge Breakfast (on the right) and Emily American Breakfast

Louise – Pancake Breakfast

I had to be quick with these photos as preventing folks from eating was a danger to my health at this point. In fact by the time we actually got our food our hunger was a real problem. The last time something was this hotly anticipated in Hogsmeade was when Ron Weasley used his wand to perform his Hymenio Destructo spell on Hermione.

It was $57 for the three of us.

They were tasty enough and did the necessary to fill the gap but this meal wouldn’t make it into my top ten list for the holiday.

By the time we had finished eating Mum and Dad were waiting for us outside. We had a quick wander back up to Hogwarts so they could take some photos and then we escaped what was becoming a very busy Hogsmeade and headed for the train station.

There wasn’t a queue at this time which was nice. The last time we took this train we waited forty-five minutes. It’s a very clever ride, if that’s the right word.

There are so many different elements going on that I suspect it will take many rides to appreciate them all.

As I stood up to leave the train I moved towards the window rather than the exit to take a snap of the plaque I had spotted above the window which seemed to have my name on it. Just as I stood, Louise, sat across from me did too and her head attacked my hand. It resulted in a decent slap to the side of her head. That’s my story Officer and I’m sticking to it. The worst thing about that was the blurry photo it resulted in.

We will never know why that plaque had my name on it.

We alighted the train and wandered into Diagon Alley.

The Gringott’s ride had a wait time of 115 minutes. Nope! Instead we meandered through the shops and streets and eventually found a bench from which we could watch a show that had just started. I forget what it was called but it was the one with the puppets/storytellers.

After bumping into Frank Bough…

and a drink we left via Weasley’s magic shop thing…..

and struck out for Men in Black so that I may inflict a demoralising defeat on everyone. After another f***ing locker farce we entered via the normal muggle line rather than Express so that we could all ride together. It was only a ten minute wait.

In the interests of appearing to be a grown up I shall draw a veil over the scores achieved on this ride. One shouldn’t sully family fun time with such base trivia as the scores on some game that really doesn’t matter. Anyway, I do think my gun was faulty. I was giving it all I had but there was just nothing happening. Again, I’m told it’s not a big deal and it’s happens to all men.

We made our way around to the Simpson Ride. As often happens Louise decided to sit out in the sun rather than ride. I don’t know if you know this, but she’s keen on the occasional bit of sunbathing.

Again we took the non Express line as Mum & Dad were riding and it was only ten minutes. Fate dictated that we would share our car with a family competing in the “Worst Parenting Skills of the Year Award”. A youngish couple with two very young kids joined us in the waiting room. At this point the kids were just noisy. As we entered the actual car to ride the younger child decided to go to Defcon 3 in the tantrum stakes. They had been allocated the front row of the car but Damona decided she wanted to ride in the rear row. We loitered barely concealing our disdain as the family moved to the rear row to satisfy the demands of the mini demon amongst us. Once in that row, this child proceeded to go into full Linda Blair, head spinning, spitting and kicking meltdown for reasons nobody could fathom.

At this point the chap loading us in suggested they leave as there was no way the ride could operate with the child in that state. They took his advice and he exchanged a glance with us that communicated all that was required.

I think that family are still outside the Simpsons Ride with the parents discussing in a calm voice their mild disappointment with their offspring’s behaviour whilst it rips clumps of hair from their heads.

It was 11.30 by the time we exited the ride and by normal first day rules this was time for our evening meal. With this in mind we started the walk to the exit for our lunch at Toothsome.

We walked slowly as it was very hot now.

We got there just before 12, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy to get a walk in table.

It wasn’t and we were seated immediately even having the option of sitting inside or out. As my immediate future included a milk shake fashioned from ice cream, inside was the only choice. Plus I needed my newly acquired moist patches to dry out in some nice air conditioning.

Amazingly I wasn’t really that hungry. I could have eaten of course. We all have our sacrifices to make, but I had one eye on our evening meal plans at Cowfish in a few short hours so I decided to be sensible and just have a drink…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum & Dad hadn’t had a large breakfast like us so they ordered a Chicken BLT each.

Louise had some wine. It was barely the afternoon by the time it arrived so that was OK.

As we sat, we were visited by a couple of the characters that wander around. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the bit on the menu that explains who they are and what the story is supposed to be…I had a milkshake to choose, so our interaction with them was a little awkward as we had no idea who they were or what they were talking about. Indeed, my Dad kept asking this lady what she was out of…..to her credit she didn’t break character once.

The bill was $90ish and I have to say the milkshakes were superb and Mum & Dad reported that their meals were excellent too. The place itself is fantastically themed and if you don’t fancy a full sit down meal you could of course just pop in for some take out or I think you can also sit in the reception area and have a milkshake.

Feeling very proud of my restraint at only taking on board around 2000 calories in a drink, we set off to Universal Studios. Once back in the park we made use of our Express passes for Shrek whilst Mum & Dad had a wander and did some shopping.

We waited as long as it took for the current show to finish before entering and Louise and Emily were treated to this year’s first rant about those morons not moving all the way to the end of their row.

After exiting we went across the street to Minions but even with Express, the queue was huge so we decided not to bother. It was hot, we were starting to feel that first day effect come mid afternoon so we decided to wander back to the hotel for some rest.

There was no chance of us walking back to the hotel. We waited about fifteen minutes for a water taxi and enjoyed the breeze as it took us back.

I drove mum & Dad back to their hotel whilst Louise and Emily got changed for the pool. I joined them once I had done a quick change into my mankini. I hadn’t had that waxing for nothing!

Some very welcome resting happened next. Emily and Louise had a cocktail or two and we did some reading and quite a lot of nothing for a while. The only free beds at this time of day were around the small kiddies pool. I always marvel at the absolute lack of shade provided in the US at public pools and water parks. Luckily my legs were well shaded by my over hanging gut.

I did point out to Louise that she may want to shave her legs….

We went back up to the room around 6ish and I popped out to get Mum & Dad at 7.30 hoping that by the time I got back Louise and Emily might be ready. They were and we got the water taxi again over to City Walk.

Cowfish told us there was a forty five minute wait for a table, so they took my phone number, to text me when it was ready and we wandered off in search of a drink.

No, don’t worry I didn’t have another milkshake…I’m not an animal.

Instead we found a table at a bar and ordered some drinkies, enjoying the ability to sit outside in a T shirt at night. Tomorrow I might even wear some shorts too.

I felt a throb in my pocket after about thirty minutes which coincided with our table being ready. We were seated upstairs. It can be a bit noisy in here. It’s very open plan with very few soft furnishings but the food is worth it.

We ordered –

Me – Cheesburgerooshi. I would find this very hard to describe so instead here’s what the menu said..

Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries.

It looked like a non blurry version of this..

It was stunning and I would highly recommend it.

Mum – Crab dip with chips. This was an appetiser as Mum was still full from lunch.

The photo was once again rubbish…

Dad – I recorded it in my notes as a Lobster/Shrimp thingy. I suspect this was not the official name..

It looked like this….

Emily had a burger of some kind. (Top note taking tonight Craig!)

After consulting the menu it would appear to be a Dynamic Duo Burger.

The Dynamic Duo*
Beef burger, braised short rib, sweet roasted garlic, provolone cheese, tomato onion jam, lettuce, onion, tomato, onion roll.

As did Louise.

We all shared two pieces of cheesecake just to make sure we had hit our 10,000 calories per day target and it was delicious.

The bill was $145 including tip.

Emily cleared the whole burger and a very respectable amount of cheesecake. It was an impressive and valiant effort. Nobody knew if they were more full than tired and so we water taxied back to RPR and I sleep drove Mum & Dad home before falling into bed just after 11.

Till the next time……

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day One April 11th 2017

In my pre-blogging days here is where I would do a pre-trip introduction thing, telling everyone about the trip we had planned, how we booked it and who was going. As I have blogged about little else for months every detailed twist and turn of all the above is covered there already. If this trip report is your first visit to my blog, then welcome, and where have you been? Feel free to read back if you want a back story that will probably be longer than the actual report itself. That’s what happens when you blog every week!

I would usually also apologise in advance for all sorts of things….language, too much detail, using the same half a dozen jokes that I first used in 2003 and length. I am accustomed to apologising for my length, however, as these days I post this stuff on my own blog, there will be no such contrition and forewarning. I’ll write what I want and hope some folks read it.

This trip started like most of them have, with an early alarm call. I am jostled from my slumber by my alarm at 4am to the sound of the shower already running. This is a significant event as leading up to our trip we have had “men in” fitting a new bathroom. This morning would be the first time that we had a functioning shower after the best part of three weeks, so this noise was pleasing to me. It also meant Louise was in the shower and wouldn’t stink today, which was a bonus.

I was done a few short minutes after rising, which I’m told isn’t a big deal and happens to lots of men. Cleansed and dressed I headed downstairs to sort the dogs out, make some brews and eat a bagel. Being a kind soul I took Louise’s brew upstairs and allowed our youngest dog Bean up with me. She of course jumped onto our bed, which isn’t usually an issue, but this morning she chose to put dirty marks all over the nice new bedding Louise had put on a few short hours ago and so I was suitably chastised for my foolishness and banished to put said sheets in the washer again and tell Rebecca that she’d need to dry and refit them later.

Having got the first row out of the way before 4.30am the customary last-minute cramming of cases ensued and every time I think they are good to go and zip up some other thing is presented for inclusion. It is tradition that the last item to appear are the blazing hot hair straighteners which I have to somehow get into our luggage as the taxi man drums his fingers outside the house. Bearing scars like David Carradine in Kung Fu (ask your Dad) I drag luggage downstairs and tell my Mum and Dad and the taxi bloke that we won’t be long which is a blatant lie.

FYI we are at 500 words and not in the taxi to the airport yet….settle in for the long haul.

We say our goodbyes to Rebecca and Tom which won’t make it onto my list of favourite things to do. Ten minutes later than I would have liked we all make it out the door and into the taxi.

At this point I am presented with a quandry. This is the photo in front of the door time, but of course, one of the participants in that isn’t coming with us, or indeed dressed. So what to do? I decide to take the same photo anyway, but the Gods intervene and make every attempt blurry and crap. I am using my brand new camera for the first time, the taxi man is literally breathing down my neck to get going and it’s all a bit flustered. Anyway, I snap something I’m not happy with and leave.

This one has an added dog.

This one is zoomed in so you can see the blur more clearly. This is a very rare shot of Rebecca without make up so cherish it.

The drive to the airport was a quiet one. To be honest I was tired and a bit upset at leaving folks behind so I didn’t feel like chatting. We arrive at Terminal 1 at 6.10am. The taxi cost us £85 return. I locate the relevant desk at which we can drop our luggage off at and wander to it. There’s no queue and no fuss. Our main case is 23.7kg and so it gets a special sticker to denote it is overweight. I was a little offended to have a similar sticker attached to my T shirt.

There is no queue at security and having had our boarding passes sent to my mobile rather than print them off for the first time I stand wafting my phone at a scanner as everyone passes through the barrier. We live in the future.

We didn’t have to remove our shoes at security, but my Dad was given special attention as he forgot to take his iPad out of his rucksack. We waited for him to join us after his interrogation.

“They tested me for drugs and everything” ha says as he reappears.

“They must have thought you were Emilio Escaban!” jokes Louise.

I thinks she meant Pablo Escobar.

Next we restroomed and then assumed our “waiting for Louise” positions which would come in handy throughout the trip.

Giraffe for breakfast, which made an interesting change from cereal. Once seated we ordered juices and coffees and some food…

Me – Egg and Bacon Bagel

Louise and Dad – Simple Breakfast

Mum and Emily – French Toast

It was all good and cost us £61 including a tip.

Exhausted from his efforts Dad found himself a newspaper and seat whilst the rest of us wandered around some shops. Duty Free was relatively painless with just one make up purchase for Louise. In WH Smiths, we bought books for the flight. I got a David Baldacci novel. Since Ben Elton stopped writing novels he has become a recent holiday tradition. I also got a notebook and pen for the taking of notes for this here trip report. I don’t know what else we got but it cost me £45!

As we made our way back to Dad I tried to take a sneaky photo of the Victoria’s Secret model’s poster but it turned out blurry. That wasn’t the camera, I had just gone cross eyed.

To add insult to insolvency Louise then decided to have something called gel nails done whilst we sat and waited for our gate to be announced. Add a Starbucks to the mix and we had to go home now as we had spent up!

Now it was time to go to the gate, which was 32. As ever seems to be the case it was the one furthest away and by the time we got there and various party members had last minute wees, we were the last to board. We were spread across rows 40 and 41. I don’t mean that literally, I just mean we all had seats in those rows.

We took off amazingly close to 10.15 and settled in for the ride.

This is a rare shot of my Dad being awake on a plane.

Louise passed the time by doing her impression of Dr Evil…

I already had a feeling of this trip flying by as the whole airport thing seemed to flash by in record time. Maybe I’m getting old?

Take off saw Louise’s fear of flying in full effect and it is only by holding my hand and crushing my fingers that she prevents the aircraft coming down in a ball of flames.

Ah, it was only a matter of minutes…

Lots of this happened….

We upgraded our entertainment package and bought some headphones for a fiver each and I started by watching The Accountant with Ben Affleck. I too was shocked to see him flying Thomas Cook to Orlando, but there you go.

Food came and was passable. I enjoyed James Martin’s sausage, which you should expect to read about in the Sunday papers very soon.

I then watched a Modern Family that I’d seen a few times already but it passed half an hour. At this point, Emily had a wee. Don’t worry, I won’t be documenting every passing of water, but this one was significant as it was on an aircraft. Emily has always had a phobia of loos in the sky and now at 21 she seems to have managed to get over it!

Next was The Arrival…no, not into Orlando, the film with Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. It was a bit weird but I chose it as it was quite long. Length is important at times, and on a long haul flight most things that can pass almost two hours are worth a watch. I did feel this film was about half an hour too long but it got me to the three hours to go point in the flight.

I started my notes on events so far…

Louise fell asleep at this point. This is relevant for two reasons.

  1. She says she never sleeps on a plane. The Diazepam and red wine said otherwise.
  2. Recently on Facebook she posted an unflattering photo of me and my chins asleep on the flight. I have a similarly unflattering photo of Louise in a similar pose but I am too much of a gentleman to post it.

The flight crew were busy again dishing out teas and coffees which I never have on a flight. It’s a throwback to my childhood I think when it used to be served in those small, flask like plastic cups and it made me feel sick. With the aisles full of stewardesses and trolleys far too many folks felt the need to be up and about. In my view, your job on a plane is to sit down for as long as possible and be as little trouble and nuisance as you can be to the crew. I reserve my best tuts for those who are out of the traps faster than Usain Bolt as soon as the seat belt signs go off once airborne. What can you possibly need to do so soon after take off? Anyway, at this point deep into the flight, having supped her coffees, one woman from the front of the plane walked all the way to our row, right at the back, with three empty cups to give them to a stewardess still serving drinks to the rest of the plane.

Said stewardess (or is flight attendant now? Apologies.) hid her disdain much better than I did.

Next I watched War Dogs which was better than expected. It did have a load of bad language in it which had been hilariously overdubbed for a flight showing so there was lots of “You are funning kidding me” going on. During this film our snack was served. The less said about it the better I think.

That film ended just ten minutes before we landed. Said landing was bumpy and Louise particularly enjoyed the skidding across the runway as we touched down. You will have heard her screams back in the UK. The captain apologised for the rough landing and the emergency stop braking he had to do to correct it. He said it would at least mean they didn’t need to sweep the plane now. How Louise laughed.

Hey Orlando…looking good.

Being back in Orlando saw smiles break out all over.

As ever it seemed to take longer than the flight to taxi to the gate and I could feel the tension rising as folks flicked their seat belt clasps in anticipation. Being at the rear of the plane we were pretty much the last off. I think there were 320 people on our flight and as we arrived in the immigration hall we were somehow 340th in the queue. It snaked on forever and was not moving. This turned out to be the longest wait we have ever had to get through immigration. It was over an hour. Having stood around for that hour, collecting our cases was very quick as they had been circling the carousel for forty minutes or so. Louise then declared that she had to go to the restroom and so we stood for twenty minutes just before the customs form desk watching not only all of our flight file through to form some nice queues at car hire, but also the recently arrived Virgin flight that came in half an hour after us.

Being tired, cranky and eager to get going this did absolutely not result in an argument.

Turns out there was no queue at our car hire desk after all. I escaped the upsell with just a charge for a tank of fuel and headed over to the garage. Having booked our car before Mum and Dad were coming with us, I had stuck with the full size option as the helpful graphic on the website assured me that it would fit five adults and their cases. It didn’t really and we had to try a few cars to find a boot…sorry trunk, that would give us a fighting chance. With everything and everyone finally in, the sat nav was unleashed and we headed for Universal. Sat Navs are great, but if some numpty types in the wrong destination they can be less effective. Having searched for “Holiday Inn” and picked the one that seemed closest to Universal, assuming that to be the one that Mum and Dad were booked into, we arrived at our destination at a spot where a Holiday Inn perhaps did stand when our sat nav was built.

It certainly wasn’t there any longer and so I booted up my phone to get the correct address. A few moments later we found it. As we made our way around the Universal area my Dad pointed out that Wet and Windy was over there. This was a tad harsh on Louise I felt, as it was probably just the medication for the flight.

The traffic in this area was bobbins. Every red light lasted a bout a week and a half and there were jams everywhere. This was not in any way frustrating when you are trying to start a holiday.

I went in with Mum and Dad to get them checked in, up to their room and crucially onto the WiFi so we could message them about meeting up later. Their room was huge, clean and lovely, which was a relief.

We then made our way over to Royal Pacific.

Our wait to check in was longer than I would have liked. Every guest at the desk with a member of staff seemed to be organising the Normandy landings rather than getting their keys to a hotel room. Finally we were attended to and, I assume as means of apology, I was offered a lay. This was not the time or place so instead I accepted a garland of flowers around my neck and we went to the room.

Having had a very smooth experience at Manchester, the whole post landing experience at Orlando had been crap and stressful. Hopefully now that would be behind us. Our room, 1705, was lovely with a decent view.

We tested the loo, got on the WiFi to taunt those back home about our location and rested for a bit. We left at 7.30 to pick up Mum and Dad and go for tea.

The sat nav froze at a crucial point of our five minute journey which resulted in me taking a five mile detour up and then back down the I4. This did not bother me one jot! We waited in the lobby for them for ten minutes as despite hearing his iPad ping with a new message (from us) Dad decided not to look at what it said!

Anyway, not to worry, the shorts were on and the holiday had started.

The Outback was just a five minute drive away and were delighted to be seated immediately. We were less delighted to be sat next to a huge group of Brits who seemed to be trying to talk to family back home without a phone. Alcohol may have been involved, which is fair enough, they are on holiday, but inconsiderate noise like that is a pet hate of mine. They seemed to take about an hour to actually leave having declared they were doing so but eventually peace prevailed.

We kicked off with the new combo starter of a Bloomin’ Onion topped with cheesey fries.

Followed by….

Me and Mum – Aussie Cobb Salad

Emily – Caesar Salad

Louise – Fillet Mignon Skewers with Mash and Broccoli

Dad – Surf and Turf

The quality of these photos does get better I promise you. The newness of the camera was still defeating me.

We were so full that I feared death. The bill was $126 so we left $150. Mum and Dad were dropped off and we headed back to RPR and straight to bed.

Till the next time…….