The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Six

Our decision to skip the Magic Kingdom last night was, it turns out, a wise one. Freddie set the tone by sleeping for a full twelve hours and I think we all needed that early night and some extra sleep. Of course, being decidedly middle-aged I didn’t benefit too much as my days of sleeping for twelve hours ended sometime in the early 90’s when the girls destroyed my ability to sleep beyond 8am or have a positive bank balance.

We were all up, dressed and out by 9.30am and unusually so early in a trip, heading for a second day at Animal Kingdom. In its early years you’d be lucky to get a full day out of this park but now it’s all grown up and a place you can spend multiple days with no issue.

Unlike our last visit, we had some useful FastPasses and after arriving and taking the obligatory “I’m at Animal Kingdom” photos….

our stroll brought us to Everest for around 10.20 to use our first FastPass of the day.

With baby swap sorted, Rebecca and Tom rode first and I took the chance to play the “Ready Steady Go ” game again with Freddie over by the wall. The rest of us then rode taking more obligatory photos and screaming in a way that might call into question my masculinity.

It seems that everyone else in our party has forgotten how to do things of a morning. Only I had prepared for maximum touring efficiency by having breakfast in the villa so now we needed to feed people. This will not be tolerated on a long term basis.

We wandered over towards the area near the safari looking for something suitable. As testament to how long it has been since we sought food in this area, we approached Tusker House. In years gone by this was counter service style (I think) and you could sit out back and listen to someone washing up. If you know, you know.

However, now it appears to be a high-end dining experience at $55 per head for lunch, which they were now taking seating for. This was not what we were looking for so we snuck away and went next door to the little bakery thing and ordered some sweet stuff and drinks. I mean, as if any idiot would blow that much cash on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park. Seriously, what sort of fool……I can’t imagine anyone being so silly…..anyway, onwards……

I appreciate that I had already eaten breakfast but if you think I was going to sit and watch everyone else eat without tucking in, then where have you been all these years? The danish thing above was lovely.

I have to be honest, I don’t remember what this is, or who ate it. It looks veggy friendly so probably Emily.

This photo doesn’t do justice to the size of this thing. A phrase I have never used before.

So we sat and ate our stuff for a bit, forming a nice sweat in the ludicrous heat.

Hopefully, you can still see Freddie there despite his camouflage.

Like a hungry chick, he awaits his chunks of Mickey-shaped goodness.

Having wasted vital touring minutes with non-essentials such as eating, we finally moved on to the gorilla trail thing. I accept that may not be the attraction’s formal name.

I apologise now for the nakedness in this next photo.

Freddie found these little chaps fascinating and a kindly cast member allowed him under the rope so he could go right up to the glass for a better look. I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody.

At this point, after a good breakfast, inevitably, we encountered turtlehead.

Whilst Freddie dealt with that, I “toad” him I’d be just next door with this chap.

We continued our tour of the various animals…..

At one point coming face to face with my future reality.

I made a mental note perhaps to skip dessert this evening.

One more photo from the Freddie with animals series…..

These were impressive Zebras….

but next to them were mere cats, so I didn’t take their photo.

We spent a good amount of time watching the gorillas as they were all close to the window and one of them had a newborn. I took several photos, all of them failing to capture it.

I assumed that the baby’s head was that hairy thing inbetween the Mum’s legs. I didn’t want to contemplate the possibility that it wasn’t!

Onwards further along the trail and to the silverback, avoiding decent photos of himself since 1997.

As we exited the trail we had fifteen minutes to kill before being the allowable ten minutes early for our safari FastPass. We spent that time in the shop, browsing and not buying. Some liquids were onboarded though.

We needn’t have bothered killing that time as when we tried to enter the ride via the FastPass queue the signs to the stroller parking for FastPass guests were so confusing and incoherent that it took about twenty minutes to find it. Moist, mad and middle-aged, I harrumphed my way back to the queue.

Eventually, amidst my many tuts, we boarded our truck.

A more paranoid person with hang-ups about their weight may have felt the universe was talking to them….

Overall, with this being almost the middle of the day, we’ve seen more on other safaris, but we did OK.

If you like giraffes this will be your favourite trip report day ever.

Our guide told us that giraffes only sleep for about twenty minutes at a time. That took me back to Rebecca’s newborn days. Clearly, she is part giraffe.

Freddie with his, “why is Grandad taking all these photos” face.

and this may be the most anyone has seen of the lions on any AK safari in living memory…..

It was now 12.55 which left about four and a half minutes to get the next Lion King show. We used all of the available time and just took our seats as the show was starting, with the benefit of not having to learn the hand jive stuff whilst we waited.

I did some more Facebook live-ing here….so if you want to watch it, and why wouldn’t you, here you go.

We left the show high on the joy it always brings and headed for Pandora. We had a Navi FastPass at 13.55. See how our touring experience seamlessly flows when I don’t have to re-plan it on the day.

On our way there, we decided we needed a drink. Normal families might alight at a drinks cart and get some water and cokes and spend about $3.50 each. Not us. We spotted the new Nomad Lounge next to Tiffins and decided to have a look. As I approached the cast member out front, my tired, weary legs spotted the plush looking banquettes (this place is too posh for just sofas) and as soon as the cast member confirmed we could bring a napping Freddie in, still in his stroller, I was sold.

This place is lovely. Very comfortable seating, top class service, lovely cocktails (and the diet coke is fine) and a lovely setting. It’s odd that it is right in the middle of a theme park yet somehow they have managed to make it feel secluded and peaceful.

We chose from the menus, not only ordering cocktails at the price of a weekly shop back home but also some “light bites”. If they want us to keep visiting this place they should reconsider their marketing messaging of their food.

The cocktails arrived first….

Hmm, diet coke…..

Then our lunch.

Those were the sliders, and these the chicken satay….

I had the bread service, because, presented with that as an option, why on earth wouldn’t you?

We spent over an hour here and enjoyed every second. We also Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home….all this and WiFi too! It was peaceful, relaxing and with lovely food and drink. So yes, with multiple rounds of cocktails, we blew $200 on a walk-in last-minute lunch in a theme park, but that figure, which would horrify me back home, meant little. We work so hard to get on these trips that every now and again you have to do things like this and I loved it.

Our relaxing time here meant that we had just gone past our FastPass for Navi. We decided to head there anyway, hoping the ten minutes grace period would save us and it did. Between getting from the front entrance and down the path to the queue, the heavens opened, and we got a few seconds of a drenching, which wasn’t all that unwelcome, other than we were then stood in air conditioning for a few minutes.

This isn’t a thrill ride by any stretch but it’s interesting, and one that everyone can go on, and Freddie spent it pointing at stuff that I wondered how his little mind was making sense of.

With all our FastPasses spent as we left the ride I fired up the app and secured another for the Rapids. restrooming happened and we made our way over to the ride as the time slot for our FastPass was nowish.

On our journey there we stopped to watch some dance party stuff going on but still managed to arrive at the Rapids ten minutes early. Our bands got the magic bleep anyway and we were in. Louise volunteered to sit out with Freddie. We looked with appropriate disdain at anyone wearing a poncho in the queue. That’s like having some soup at home before going out for a large meal so you won’t eat too much. The whole point is that you get yourself wet.

One thing I noticed was the waterproof cover thing in the middle is gone, so if you have anything with you that you would normally put in there, you can’t and it will get wet. Having said that, compared to the mother of all raft rides, Bilge Rats at Universal, this is nothing. Sure, we got a bit splashed, but nobody comes off Bilge Rats without feeling like they sat in a bath for an hour.

At this point, we headed for the exit. We wanted to get back to the villa for showers before heading out to eat. We were home around 5pm and I spent all the time other than the five minutes it took me to get ready resting and watching TV. We left the villa close to 7pm and headed up the I4 to Lake Buena Vista and Bahama Breeze.

The roads felt unusually quiet, perhaps brought on by the incessant TV coverage of everyone’s impending doom at the hands of Dorian, and the restaurant too was pretty empty. We chose to sit outside.

We ordered some drinks, an appetiser combo and a goat’s cheese dip thing.

I had a mocktail.

Tom ordered what I think was called the Dell Boy.

The ladies had stuff like this.

I had a Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad (the hippos today clearly having a subliminal effect on me).

Rebecca and Louise had the Jerk Chicken Pasta

Emily, the Black Bean Tacos

Tom had the Taste of Jamaica

and Freddie the Chicken Tenders.

I sacrificed my Virgin Bahamarita to Freddie who loved it.

As was becoming a tradition now, Freddie laid his hands on the camera and started randomly pressing the button. To be fair, if I hadn’t told you that, you probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference to my photographic skills.

Hippos be damned, I had a Key Lime Pie and Tom had a Chocolate Cake thing. The Key Lime Pie is excellent here and Tom cleared his too, but to be fair that can’t be used as any sort of comment on quality as he always tends to do that.

The bill, driven by a lot of cocktails was a slightly pricey for off-site, $250. The service wasn’t the best tonight, not bad, but we’ve had better, so I only left 15%. I tend to overtip all the time in my attempt to assure US servers that Brits aren’t always destined to leave no or little tip, but when the service isn’t that deserving I will knock a bit off.

Once again, our full bellies and heavy eyelids scuppered our best intentions of going to Disney Springs and everyone just wanted to go to bed. We did so by 10pm allowing our bodies to convert today’s calories into fat nice and early.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

There’s a long history of me being fortunate enough to spend my birthday in WDW. I can’t remember a bad one and today’s events, as yes, it was my birthday, ranked very high on the all-time list.

Touring World Showcase has been a regular event to celebrate my body ageing and resembling a deflating balloon just a little more, and again, we had Epcot planned. Today, however, had a little more meaning than usual, as this would be the last time that I would be watching Reflections of Earth on a birthday.

ROE has been a huge part of our family trips over the years. Indeed, it started on October 1st 1999, which was just a few days before the first visit for the girls, so for that, and many other reasons it has taken on a very special place in our lives and of course our trips.

This birthday started regrettably early at 5am. I refused to leave my bed until 7, reading and internet browsing until that time. I made my way downstairs eventually to be greeted with cards and presents and some football on the telly. I enjoyed some breakfast and Man United failing to win in equal measure and at around 9am, Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home.

Half an hour later everyone was loaded into the van and we made our way to Epcot and Discover 12. It was a short tram ride to a drop off point that led to a walk to the entrance which was longer than the tram ride. Once through security and the finger scanning I took the chance to commemorate the occasion with an “in front of the ball” photo with Freddie.

Today’s FastPasses, having not been made on the morning of our park visit, were in much better shape, represented by Soarin’ being our first. We set up baby swap and Rebecca and Tom sat out first having a drink and some cake in the food court in The Land.

The rest of us made the long walk to the ride.

I have never used the standby line for this ride so I always try to see, with interest, what the interactive stuff is over in the muggle line. I am interested, but not enough to actually queue up to ride.

We enjoyed, as we always do, Patrick’s safety briefing and then the new film for Soarin’. It’s just an excellent ride.

We took over care of Freddie, finished off the cakes Rebecca and Tom had bought, and Louise got some breakfast having failed to prepare by getting some back at the villa. It was a breakfast croissant and some potato things, the latter of which Freddie ate most of.

Once we were all reunited we made our way out over to Nemo. Walking out of The Land, I did so with Freddie walking beside me, holding my hand. It’s these lovely little things that stick in my mind.

It was a walk-on and a welcome sit down. We had a look around the fish and stuff, which I suspect are not their formal Latin species names.

By the time we left, it was 11.50 and time to execute my extra cunning piece of very cunning cunningness that I teased in a pre-trip blog weeks ago. I do fear that I oversold this as some stroke of planning genius, but I shall reveal all now, as long as you promise to keep it to yourself.

One thing that we don’t enjoy about watching Reflections of Earth is the crowded shuffle all the way down to the main entrance, followed by a wait for a tram or a long walk to the car. With that in mind, we always try to tie a viewing of the fireworks at Epcot with a dining reservation somewhere around the Boardwalk so that we may park there. This allows us to leave Epcot via International Gateway, which is not only better than the other option, it is actually a pleasant experience and a lovely stroll.

This year, on this birthday, having lunch or early dinner in any of those locations was not an option as we very much wanted and had booked to eat at Via Napoli. So, bending the rules ever so slightly, I made a rogue ADR for two at Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club.

The idea was that, now, Emily and I would power walk back to the car, drive it round to the Yacht Club, using our ADR to get access to the parking, and then walk back into Epcot to continue our day. Doing this of course does mean that there is a fair chance that you may get charged the $10 per person for missing your ADR, but frankly, that cost is bearable for the six of us to be able to have a leisurely stroll back to the car after ROE, rather than the battle to the main entrance with a stroller and a tired Freddie.

So there you go. If you want to use that trick you can, although, I did find a better trick that we used later in the trip. If I tell you now, you will have no incentive to keep reading, so try not to lie awake thinking about it.

When we arrived at the little house where the security guards live at the Yacht Club, I had my photo ID to hand, and a quick scan of my Magic Band confirmed to him that I did indeed have an ADR and we were waved through. It worked better than we thought as the self-parking at the Yacht Club was pretty full, and he directed us to the Beach Club parking which is that little bit closer to International Gateway.

As we always do when visiting here, we take photos as some sort of homage to how much we love it.

I think this photo has featured in more trip reports than I have.

When I’m having to endure a cold, bleak, work-filled day at home, sat in meetings that make me question my career “choices”, that photo above is where I wish I was instead.

It’s open now of course, but at the time, I had to lift my camera above my head and the boarding to sneak a photo of the new Skyliner station just outside International Gateway.

We discovered that everyone else was down near Mission Space so Emily and I made our way down through the UK and Canada to meet them.

It was a skin crisper today. Not so much hot, as human barbeque.

In another example of ninja levels of planning, just as we met up with everyone, our FastPass for Mission Space, booked 30 days ago, became active. I’m not saying I am good at this stuff, I just let my record speak for itself.

Louise sat out in the unbearable sun watching Freddie who was having a snooze in his shady stroller. As we often tend to do, we waited a little longer than we should have due to some lightweight leaving their lunch all over the ride. We entered, praying that we weren’t sat where the vomit just was.

After a successful mission, and a moment’s silent mourning that we no longer see the wonder that is Gary Sinese’s hair in the now-departed briefing video, we left to find Louise and Freddie.

It was very much lunchtime now and because we knew it was about to get bulldozed, we chose Electric Umbrella just in case it never returns. I didn’t mobile order here for some reason and instead stood staring at the board like it was the first time I had seen words, or food, blurting out numbers to the order taker. Yes, I’m one of those that order here by number.

Alas, the number I got wrong was the members of our party and when we got to our table, I realised, that as I often do in these situations, I had ordered for everybody other than myself. I really couldn’t be arsed queuing again so Louise and I shared a cheeseburger and a few choice words about my incompetence levels.

To make amends, as everyone was finishing up, I left the table and power walked around the corner to the Joffrey’s coffee stand and got us some dessert in the shape of three doughnuts. They are a size of which I approve.

Rest assured, Freddie shared that with his Dad and that means he didn’t get that much of it. These things are awesome and delicious in all sorts of ways. Get some.

We did some wandering around Mousegear and then made our way over to Journey Into Imagination. It will not surprise you to learn that this was a walk-on. After riding I finally had to admit defeat and go to a restroom. I can only hold it so long. The rest of the party took Freddie up to the dancing water fountain things, with which he was fascinated.

Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.

It was a walk-on. I await my refund from Disney for this insult.

After riding, Tom went to retrieve the stroller from the ride entrance and Freddie did some modelling whilst we waited.

Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.

I captured some photos of the area, knowing that it was about to be changed forever in just a few days.

Freddie enjoyed Crush and sat through the whole thing pretty well. With that done, it was time to make our way up to World Showcase. The plan now was to say our goodbyes to O Canada, as we had recently heard of an impending revamp and I was very much not OK.

I had checked online before leaving the UK that it would still be open on my birthday and I had, I’m sure, seen that it would be. Upon arriving, a cast member was stood at the top of the steps informing guests that it was now down for refurbishment until January.

I rugby tackled him to the ground and opened several cans of whoop-ass all over him. It made no difference and he point-blank refused to open up the show just for me. I have to say that I was very upset not being able to see this one last time. Please, just give me a moment…….and please appreciate one more time the glorious majesty of this song.

We continued up to the UK and across the bridge towards France as we were now on our way to Via Napoli. As some sort of representation of my distress, we experienced one of the weirdest rain storms we have ever seen in Florida. The skies cried at the demise of O Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of rain over the years but most of it gives you some sort of warning of its impending arrival. This one, as we were halfway across the bridge, came on as if we’d turn the shower on. There was no slow build-up or a few drops at first, but instead a complete downpour of torrential rain from nothing. We started at speed in search of cover. I wrestled the two umbrellas I had liberated from the villa out of Ryan and handed them out.

We sheltered eventually outside the perfume shop in France but by that time we were already soaking wet.

It lasted for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to mean that we now had to get a wriggle on and get to Italy asap, without stopping anywhere on the way.

Those familiar with a Floridian summer will not be surprised to see this next photo and how unrecognisable it is weather-wise from the previous ones.

I power-walked ahead a little, allowing others to restroom and checked us in. We were seated as soon as everyone caught me up.

We ordered various cocktails and with it being my birthday I even ordered myself a beer flight.

To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.

It pleased us.

But not a much as the pizza did.

Louise, Emily and I ordered individual pizzas, but Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza……and it was good.

Emily’s looked like this

Freddie looked excited…..

and we all tucked in, delighted with our choices. This is good pizza.

Service was a little slow, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were just enjoying the sit-down, the lovely food and drinks and making the most of my birthday. To pass the time, Freddie got his hands on the camera and took about three hundred photos that I would need to delete later. He managed a couple that survived the cull.

We ordered some desserts even though we were full beyond all bounds of sensible eating.

Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.

That was quickly abandoned as soon as his ice cream turned up.

I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.

I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take any photos as Louise enjoyed some large chocolate balls. Probably for the best. Tom had ice cream too. If you hadn’t noticed yet, he is quite keen on the odd ice cream.

The bill was large as expected, but worth it. We loved it again. We waddled out into the dusk of World Showcase, which as you know, is one of favourite times and places on the earth.

Inevitable restroomery meant that we loitered here for a while and I didn’t mind one bit. During the meal, I had managed to secure us a Test Track FastPass so we made the long walk there now. It was only as we got within earshot of the ride that Emily pointed out the lack of the distinctive ride noise. I consulted the app, and yep, it was down. Collective weeping at the wasted energy our legs had exerted transporting our very full bodies ensued. It was, of course, my fault and I was forced to walk back up to Mexico, naked, whilst Louise rang a bell shouting “Shame”.

To try and rescue the situation I took us into Mexico as the ride there is just as good as Test Track, right?

Well, Freddie thought it was great!

We then started our journey around the lagoon to our traditional ROE viewing spot on the bridge between France and the UK.

We got there with half an hour to spare and spent that time just being there and loving it.

My camera fails to capture this as do my words.

As I was stood looking out across the lagoon, with *that* music playing, a warm breeze blowing making the temperature just perfect, the lights twinkling aside the flaming torches, this, I recognised, was one of those moments.

All sorts of memories and thoughts came to me, brought to mind no doubt by pizza, beer, my birthday and the impending loss of Reflections of Earth. All the years I have stood here with the girls at various ages, the thought that my Mum & Dad wouldn’t see it again and alongside all of that, the anticipation of what’s to come, the possibilities of Freddie’s life in front of him and all of the trips, experiences and memories we would make together. My heart and belly were full, and that’s the way I like it.

I captured a few moments of it here…

Then, the torch was extinguished and the fireworks began. I captured that too.

There were tears at the end of course. Emily cries at everything, but even Rebecca shed a couple tonight, but I just had something in my eye and I think that pizza had caused the lump in my throat.

We slowly made our way out towards the Beach Club. After such a beautiful, magical evening, it was only fitting that we ended it by waiting half an hour for Louise to have a poo in the Beach Club.

I drove us home. It won’t be the last birthday I spend here, but if it were. it would have been a good way to finish.

Till the next time…….

Mormons, Makeovers & Memories

The recent horror show at work led me to take drastic action last week. On Tuesday I booked Friday and Monday off. My body was telling me I had to. It was also telling me I’m a fat get, but I can only deal with one thing at a time.

The decision was initiated by the fact that on Friday evening Louise and I were going out to watch Book Mormon in Manchester. This was our glorious Christmas present from Emily and we’d been looking forward to it ever since. My commute being what it is, battling my home, to then turn right around and head back to half a mile from where I started seemed silly, so the day off made sense on many levels.

I didn’t do a great deal with it I am pleased to report. It was nice to take a breath, enjoy the nice weather and set off nice and early to avoid rush hour stress.

Our plan was to eat in Manchester pre-show, and despite our first choice being too busy we had a lovely Indian before heading into the show. It was fantastic. This might be the musical for people who may not feel that they like musicals. It isn’t your traditional, boy meets girl, love song driven affair. It is incredibly funny, fast paced, original and of course full of great songs. I think (and don’t quote me on this) it was written by the creators of South Park with the bloke who wrote Avenue Q. From that you may work out it is irreverent and rude, but for me that just makes it better.

I give it five stars and a Freetime thumbs up (ask your Dad).

This week has also seen some significant news coming from WDW. Whatever is going on at Epcot, it’s big. We already know that the entrance area is being rid of those Leave a Legacy things, but it seems the work and transformation also reaches all the way up to Club Cool and the fountain area. Institutions such as Electric Umbrella and Mouse Gear are to be closed, either temporarily or for good perhaps in some cases, and as with all major WDW changes that brings a mix of emotions.

Now, I am old enough to remember standing in front of a monitor in the area beneath Spaceship Earth and talking via video to a cast member to book our meal for later that day at China in World Showcase. That was in the early 80’s I think and that’s probably as good an example as you would need that things do need to change with the times. That blew our collective minds at the time and unless Epcot is going to fully embrace the retro modern motif, then I guess change is inevitable. Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom sort of has that going on, and bearing in mind what Epcot stands for, then with technology having changed so much since 1982 when it opened transformations like these make sense.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t had time to read up on what might be coming to Epcot. Honestly, if you are relying on my blog for up to the minute and accurate WDW news then I don’t think you’re doing it right! I’m not sure I’d even class whatever this is as a Disney blog, and I salute those bloggers who are always up the minute on the latest changes, rumours and announcements. I just wish I had more time to read them.

Whatever is on the way will need to be accepted, not that I have a choice, and trust has to be placed in the Imagineers doing all of this. I do appreciate the constant reinvention though. We all pay a lot of money for our time at WDW and it would be easy for them to sit back for a few years and watch that money come in, but they do seem to be constantly investing our hard earned into significant changes and upgrades. Of course, that’s a big driver for footfall. Many folks will go back specifically to see the latest new thing, but, then at times, many more will go to watch something before it vanishes forever.

Reflections of Earth is one of those. That thing has a really special place in our hearts. We’ve watched it on most of my birthdays over the past twenty years of course, but it’s more than that. So our final viewings this year will be a special time. There’s something special also that Freddie will see it with us. He was there last year of course but was too young to take it in. This year, as we say goodbye to it, he will take it in for the first time. The circle of life metaphor doesn’t need making.

Change is constant, time stops for no-one and Emily might still be crying on the flight home after saying goodbye to ROE. WDW is expensive, but very few holidays get you like that and I suppose that’s why we all keep going, right?

Till the next time…..

Freddie, Football and Fatigue

This will be rushed and make less sense than usual. I know that sounds like a challenge but I am on Freddie duties this weekend so my typing time is restricted. Louise is out working so he has been entrusted to me and me alone. My parenting memory muscles are being tested along with my stamina.

Supervising little humans is literally a full time role as this weekend has reminded me. The fact that I did my step target yesterday without leaving the house other than a walk to the local shop demonstrates the physical exertions of making sure he hasn’t got his fingers in something he shouldn’t.

He’s been good though, as he always is. He is ever pleasant, tantrum free ( so far) and a joy to be around. There’s a reason I had kids in my twenties though. I had more energy then!

I have of course fulfilled my duties as Grandparent to spoil him and feed him stuff his Mum and Dad might not. Here he is enjoying his Scooby Do gingerbread biscuit.

It has been a manic week all round. Work has been a million mile an hour maelstrom full of pressure, problem and pricks and then I was out gigging on Friday night over in Bispham, which meant a very late night, followed by an early start on Saturday as Freddie duties commenced.

Louise arrived home just after six, giving me just enough time to walk the dogs before settling in for the football. Now, typically I avoid blogging about a few things that I feel strongly about and football is one of them. The easiest way to stop either of my readers from turning up each week would be to wang on about my favourite team. Same goes for Brexit.

You probably know that I support Liverpool so last night was kind of a big deal. It’s been a terrific season but the thought of ending it with nothing tangible to show was not a good one and I was, as I always am before big games, anxious, edgy and knowing I wouldn’t actually enjoy the game itself until the result was beyond doubt.

The game itself was awful, and with Liverpool holding a slender 1-0 lead from the first minute, the game was on a knife edge for the next 86 minutes and it was not an enjoyable experience. Then, in the 87th minute a second goal brought sweet relief and a grown man to his feet in the living room, shaking his fists at the TV. If you get football, that won’t sound tragic but if you don’t then of course it will and I don’t mind either way. It’s best I don’t tell you about how emotional I got at the final whistle. It cannot be explained if it needs explaining to you.

If you have no idea what the game was, just know that winning the European Cup for the 6th time is a big deal and the pleasure almost equalled the relief felt as the cup was hoisted aloft by the players.

I retired to bed just before midnight preparing myself for day two of Freddie fun. He’s currently crawling through his pop up tunnel thing on our living room floor. It isn’t clear it is a floor at the moment as it cannot be seen for toys. If it ever stops raining we shall head out to the park for some swing action but the forecast does not look great.

This evening will be spent relaxing for sure, readying myself for another five days of mayhem at work. A casual glance at my diary for the week confirms it is chock full of meetings I don’t want to go to, people I don’t want to deal with and more work than I know can be fit into the amount of time available. It pays for the holidays I suppose.

OK, I have to go and see what Freddie has been doing outside on the road for the last half an hour. That’s a joke Rebecca!

Till the next time…..

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

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

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

We left at 9.20.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good trip and enjoyed by all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOW.

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

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

Don’t even ask me what this stuff was…

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

These were also excellent.

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

We were Warthogs.

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

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

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

Freddie had nodded off.

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

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

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

With Freddie in mind we headed over to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many cocktails were ordered…

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

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

We had –

Ceara – Lo Mein with no veg

Me – Lo Mein Combo

Rebecca and Emily – Honey Crispy Chicken

Louise and Mikey – Sweet and Sour Chicken

Tom – Korean Beef

We all had various desserts too….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Today goes to prove that no matter how many times you’ve been to Florida, incompetence and planning failure can still happen. Today is the tale of two fails. Read on to see if they affected my birthday adversely or not…..

At the end of this whole thing I will share my thoughts on more general stuff that I could have done better, but for now, it’s only day three and we need to crack on.

Another birthday in Florida dawned and I was awake at 5am. An improvement but still unacceptable. As I got downstairs Rebecca and Tom were up, due to Freddie. One element of the planning I had got right was to denote this morning as a time for resting. The long travel day and an adrenaline filled first day in Magic Kingdom can take it out of you. Whatever *it* was, I was empty.

I opened cards and presents from both those with me and those left at home over a coffee and some brekkie.

As folks woke up, we all assembled around and at times in the pool.

Mikey was the last to rise after what was obviously a much-needed lie in.

After playing, I retired to a lounger with a James Patterson book from the shelves of the bookcase up in the nook of the villa. I aspire to have a house with a nook. Crannies, I have loads of though.

I do enjoy this poolside time and tradition dictates that whilst relaxing and reading I devour a bag of chips (crisps) large enough to feed a family of four for a week. Today it was Cheese Puffs. I had only eaten a Bagel for breakfast so I was allowed. The resting continued until around 12.30. I took my orange tipped fingers and crumb covered chest up into the shower and everyone was good to go by 2pm.

I was ready first and apparently I may have nodded off on the couch whilst waiting for everyone to put some bloody clothes on.

Having had all that time this morning to rest and get ourselves organised, perhaps someone could explain how I then managed to forget my camera! Fail number one.

We had an ADR at Beaches & Cream which would also allow us to park at the Beach Club. Unusually the guard at the gate scanned my magic band to check my ADR. Surely people don’t lie about having ADRs just to park there??? 😉

We found a spot to leave the car and walked into the Beach Club taking all the usual photos of one of my favourite places in the world (on my phone).

That ADR for Beaches & Cream, which wasn’t for another forty minutes or so, had only been possible for four of the seven of us, so the idea now was to ask if they could take three of us as a walk up. I let the others stroll a bit whilst I wandered to the podium to work my magic. It only took me a few minutes with the lovely lady to get satisfaction…..I don’t think I need to add anything here.

I now walked briskly at full man pace to catch up with everyone as they could fit us all in pretty much right away. I was halfway to the Dolphin (or is it the Swan?) when I got a message from Rebecca saying they were sat outside Beaches & Cream. Super. Getting more of a sweat on, I power walked back to meet them. With all the faff, we’d missed that immediate window and had to wait a bit to get two tables together.

We were seated by the jukebox, which for some reason seemed to be stuck on “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” by Buddy Holly. By the end of the meal, it did matter, a lot, and if any of us ever hear that song again, the story will end with “and then he turned the gun upon himself”.

We ordered –

Me – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Rebecca – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Tom – Chicken Burger and a Snickers Sundae

Emily – No main meal, just a No Way Jose.

Mikey – Cheese Bacon Fries and Fudge Mud Slide

Louise – Burger and a milkshake and she shared my dessert.

In the rush to get it down before she took too much….

The bill was $150. Frankly, I would have paid double to turn the jukebox off.

We wandered, full bellied, towards International Gateway. I was very conscious that entering Epcot this way for the first time for our newbies would be weird, but there was little to be done about that. We were watching the fireworks tonight, as is the law on my birthday and as such being able to wander out to the Beach Club to get back to the car is just better than getting out of the front entrance with the muggles.

Once scanned and searched we walked through the UK, stopping to listen to a little bit of the British Invasion (assuming they are still called that) and then we moved on to Canada via a temporary Ireland. There was no physical border here…think on politicians….

We waited fifteen minutes for O Canada, but frankly I had been waiting eighteen months so that mattered not.

I am declaring it now. O Canada is THE greatest song ever written. Don’t @ me, as I believe the kids say. I loved the film, I loved Martin Short and my application for Canadian citizenship is submitted.

It was coming up to our FastPass time for Nemo and Friends so we navigated a very busy World Showcase (Food and Wine Festival be damned) down towards the seas. This was another Freddie favourite. We wandered around the Living Seas a bit afterwards…..

and on the way out we bought Freddie a stingray from the gift shop. Not the easiest pet to care for but it’ll be a good learning curve.

He was christened Steve, until someone pointed out that this may be a little distasteful bearing in mind how Steve Irwin met his end, so he was renamed Simon, although I couldn’t quite remember that and still called it Steve for the rest of the trip.

Time for another FastPass now. Luckily it was for Frozen Ever After, probably the furthest point from our current spot in the park so we only had to walk all the way there, through jostling throngs of folks carrying small food portions, who were a bit drunk on that Tortoise Vodka from the Vombekistan booth or whatever it was they were drinking.

It was a testing walk, with my tut muscle flexed on a regular basis, but we arrived a few minutes before our window, wandered the shop for a few minutes before joining the FastPass line, still a little early. There was a fifty-five minute standby queue. Just no.

After enjoying the ride we wandered up to China and took a spot in the gardens to watch an imminent acrobat show.

We had a decent view until a couple just came and stood right in front of us, oblivious to the very obvious fact that they were blocking our view and were dicks. My tut reflex burnt out with use but they did move after a few minutes of my violent stares. We then wandered the shop for a bit.

Our time was now approaching for our evening ADR at La Hacienda at Mexico. This had been a late, impulsive addition to my birthday plans and I am blaming that for what looked like the second planning fail of the day. Rebecca and Mikey were sent to the podium to sweet talk the cast member into bagging us a window seat for Reflections of Earth, with it being my special birthday meal.

They returned to us with bad news. I had made the booking for 7.45, expecting that we’d be able to stick at the table for the fireworks starting at 9pm. For reasons that nobody could explain, tonight ROE wasn’t due to start until 10pm!

Down trodden and defeated we went ahead with our meal, and were led, ironically, to a window seat. That’s right, rub it in.

Our mood was immediately improved by our server, Francisco, who was excellent and a bundle of energy and joy. Cocktails were ordered and he made the generous offer of swapping out anyone’s drink if they didn’t like their selection.

Mikey ordered Francisco’s recommended cocktail….the Avocado one…and loved it.

Emily took him up on the offer of a swap as her first choice tasted like Cillit Bang.

For starters we had….

Mikey – Fundido. That sounds like a sex toy, but it was more satisfying as it was a whole pot of melted cheese.

Rest of us – Guac and chips

For entree…

Me – Short Rib

Louise – Chicken & Veg thing

Emily & Rebecca – Chicken Enchilada

Mikey – Salmon

Tom – Steak Enchiladas

They were all tremendous and this meal was right up there with my favourites of this trip. I don’t know what it is that makes something stand out as a “special memory” on one of these trips but I feel that this meal will make that cut. I loved it.

It was about now that we realised it was about 9.20 and we had a chance to make it to the fireworks. Francisco encouraged us to stay and he very nicely took his time getting our desserts.

Tom and Louise – Custard Flan thing

Me – Chocolate Mousse

A birthday surprise cake was arranged for me and Happy Birthday Mexican style was performed.

To get us all the way to ROE we ordered coffees too.

Appreciating that we had eaten at Beaches & Cream in the late afternoon and nobody was that hungry, this whole meal was a very fine effort indeed. We were able to watch the fireworks from our table so that planning fail was averted. Emily cried as is the law during all WDW fireworks shows.

The bill was a large one. $427 including a very good tip for Francisco. We waddled slowly around the World Showcase all the way back to International Gateway.

Here is Steve/Simon resting on the way back to the car…

We were home and in bed for 11.20.

Till the next time…..