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…….

Is It Because I Is Back?

Hello? Is this thing on?

My body is back in the UK, but my mind is yet to accept this. Mentally I am still in the technicolour wonderland with a warmer climate where every meal is a brush with a cardiac arrest and the amount of money spent doesn’t count as dollars aren’t real money. I do quite like it you know!!

It always blows my mind that within a few short hours you go from wandering around a baking hot Disney Springs (don’t we all do that before going to the airport?) to landing in an ever grey Manchester.

I am avoiding reality for now. I haven’t dared go anywhere near the scales and I refuse to admit to myself that I have to work for a living again on Tuesday. I’m not dressed yet and I sit here in my dressing gown eating something between breakfast, lunch and supper watching people go past our window doing grown up things like jogging, walking their dogs and generally engaging with the world in a way in which I simply cannot right now.

Sigh.

We had a blast. We narrowly avoided a visit to a medical facility which is the exception rather than the norm for one of our trips, although we came close a couple of times. Instead, we spent more time in pharmacies than theme parks and if anyone needs a cream or potion for any ailment on earth, give me shout as we’ll have it.

That feeling of being at home over there gets stronger with every visit. I know after the amount of times we’ve been that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but the feeling is strong.

I won’t steal any more of my own thunder as I need to get on with a trip report. I have made the token gesture of downloading all the photos to my laptop and getting them up on photobucket ready for inclusion but beyond that, the fog of jet lag and the fact that I am struggling to see the laptop over my stomach have restricted my progress…well, progress indicates that something is actually happening, which it isn’t yet.

I will say that we and especially Emily and I realised that we didn’t have enough time at Disney. We knew that before we went I think, and it was intentional that the trip would be different, but there was a feeling of being slightly robbed of time there as we inevitably missed out on some stuff that we love. As fantastic as our time at Universal and Siesta Key was, as soon as we got to the Beach Club there was a strong feeling of belonging, peace of mind and joy that reaffirmed what we probably already knew. Any future visits will be WDW centric. Still, moaning about that after almost three weeks over there seems churlish.

I feel confusingly knackered and refreshed in equal measure. Mentally it always does me the world of good I think, but physically I feel close to a hundred years old right now, not helped by gigging last night on seven hours sleep out of the previous 48 hours.

So I shall leave it there for today. I will commit to day one being ready for next Sunday as if I write it down here I will have to crack on despite my working week looking grim. Thanks to all of you that followed our trip online in real-time and hopefully I can keep your interest for the trip report to come. Oh and discussions for our next trip started before we got home….but hey, what’s new?

Till the next time….

Health, Hurdles and Heresy

So we made it. Work is done, and whether we are ready or not we’re due to fly on Tuesday.

I have to be honest, it has been a countdown that hasn’t been as enjoyable as it should have been for many a reason…

  1. Rebecca is not coming with us.
  2. The house has resembled the Somme for three weeks and the bathroom still isn’t done!
  3. Louise’s Mum has been quite ill and Louise has been worried about leaving her.
  4. My Mum has also been ill and has spent Friday and Saturday in hospital.

It has been a rocky road to this holiday for sure and here we are, literally a few hours from departure and only now are we fairly confident that my Mum can travel.

Even work had an unsatisfactory ending. It feels like I have left loose ends everywhere and in the back of my mind there are already concerns about the stuff I will have to return to.

This is normal though right? The trepidation, stress, worry and anxiety? I know it is, but we seem to be off the scale for this trip. Usually those feelings are just about whether your ESTA is really valid, you’ve forgotten something important, that property you rented will turn out to be a vacant building lot or you turn up for your flight on the wrong day. Health matters trump all of those of course and our collective fingers are crossed that everyone remains on the road to recovery.

Assuming all that turns out OK we then have other appendages crossed that we will actually have a working bathroom for showers on Tuesday when we are up at  crazy o’clock to begin our journey. We are close now, but it will be touch and go if that is the case.

Sigh….so my usual joy at finishing work for a US adventure has been tempered. Preparations continue as they must, with the added work of digging the house out from under a three-inch blanket of dust. I have also been digging out T-shirts and shorts from various dark recesses of the house. I’m fatter than I should be so the larger ones are getting picked. I’ll just have to watch what I eat over the next few weeks!!!

So having limped, stumbled and fallen over the line, we find ourselves on the cusp of departure. Louise is a whirling dervish of dust, cleaning implements and vigor and I have been similarly busy throwing stuff into skips, hosing things down and more latterly preparing Ryan for the trip.

Most of the time Ryan is my gig bag, carrying all the leads, connectors and trappings of your every day rock star to gigs and back. Having done our final gig before we leave last night, he has been emptied and restored to his rightful role of holiday rucksack. He is now sat holding our camera, passports, US sat nav and all the other stuff he is so familiar with.

I have also ticked off the equally vital task of going to the driving range with my Dad to make sure I could remember how to hit a golf ball in preparation for our 18 holes of sweaty golf whilst we are at Siesta Key. It’s all go!!

I’m quite glad we are off to Florida now as we will beat the rush created by Ant N Dec’s Saturday Night Advertisement Show. That’s a master stroke by Disney that. A ninety minute ad on prime time Saturday night telly. With a crap dollar rate and a gibbon in the White House I’m sure visitor numbers are dropping. I suspect that one show last night has generated a huge demand for this summer and beyond.

I didn’t see the show myself as I was out being a Rock God, but I caught up with some of the “highlights” this morning. I much prefer them in I’m a Celeb as this Saturday Night Noel Edmonds tribute act is a bit twee for me. I tip my hat to those responsible for the logistics of making that show happen though. Live telly, from the US, in a theme park, with links to folks in the UK strikes me as a military operation to get right. It was very impressive. That thing at the end of the show though had my toes curling I’ll be honest. I know this is heresy and I’ll be in the minority but it was all a bit of a cheesey showbiz cliché and well, I’ve said this before, but like this…

Anyway, enough of being a party pooper. It was lovely to see that the weather looks nice and hot at the moment and it’ll be nice to be back “home” very soon.

So I leave you in peace now for a few Sundays, there is packing to be done, chores to be carried out and those million and one things to get done before we start having fun.

I’ll be tweeting, facebooking, hitting up Insta (yeh, that’s right, I’m cool like that) and maybe Snapchatting but I doubt that as I still can’t work it. It was built specifically only to be used by those under 25. So follow me on any and all of those for some live videos, photos and pithy nonsense.

And away we gooooooooo….

Till the next time…..