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

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

Yes we’re coming home!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sight so good, it deserves showing twice….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or a big green Pooh since the girls were newborns…

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

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

The whole place looked glorious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weather was glorious.

The photography still less so….

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

None it would seem.

We said a quick hello to the manatees…

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

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

Same with ones like this….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and I had Butter Chicken

Everyone else had steak….

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

We left at around 9.45.

and wandered back through the resort to the car…

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

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

Have I mentioned that I love it here?

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

Till the next time…..

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Blow By Blow….

Now that all the changes and faffing are done (hopefully) and the dust has settled on all the re-arranging of stuff for our next holiday, I thought I’d share our my (weirdly over thought and scarily detailed) plans with you for our trip even though it’s not until next April. Yes, I know that’s a long way away, but sharing this stuff makes the trip seem closer and reality a little further away, plus, with your combined expertise and knowledge, dear reader, you can point out any glaring errors or omissions. Your opinions are more than welcome, as long as I agree with them, otherwise you’ll just get yourself banned!!  That’s how the internet works, right?

This is all still pretty loose. Well, when I say loose, I of course know where we are eating most days and which parks we’ll be in for the Orlando time, but loose as in each second is not yet accounted for. It is bound to change a few times between now and departure date as I see and remember stuff we have to do….

Day One

We fly out of Manchester courtesy of Mr Branson at around 12.45. I have yet to experience a flight that actually left the ground at the time advertised so let’s say we’ll be airborne sometime in the early afternoon. Once home, myself Louise and Emily will drop off Nana and Grandad at the Holiday Inn Across from Universal (official title, not a description) and head off to check in at the Royal Pacific Resort. Once checked in and short pants adorned we shall collect some grandparents and head out to the Outback. It’s become a tradition that this is our eatery of choice for this first night. It became so as we stayed around Formosa Gardens for quite a few years in a row and it was convenient. A few Bloomin’ Onions and Cheesey Fries later and it’s become a must do.

With us staying quite some distance from Formosa of course, I’ve substituted it for one on I Drive, trusting that the quality will remain regardless of location. With full bellies we shall retire to a fitful sleep, ready for the early rising which is of course inevitable.

Day Two

With us no doubt being awake before it gets light we shall make best use of this by using the early hours access to the Potter stuff. With the grandparents “off site” they may have to wait at City Walk with a coffee until the muggles are admitted. We have five days here so at some point they’ll be able to do the Potter stuff they are allowed to go on. Heart conditions permitting!

Dinner is planned at Cowfish on City Walk. We tried this for the first time on our last trip and it was excellent. I intend to repeat my choice from that trip too with a

The Cowfish Has Offically Left The Building (A.K.A. The Hunka, Hunka)

Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side. (Make it a SINGLE HUNKA LOVE, half-pound beef burger for $13)

I will not be making use of the $13 option!

Day Three

Today is the tired day. The journey, the early morning wake up and a day in a theme park mean that this is always down as a rest day for us. We shall spend it by the pool at RPR but we shall make the effort to get across to the new Toothsome Chocolate Factory for lunch, which may just be made up of milk shake and pie. We are on holiday!

Dinner is pencilled in for Celebration. We usually do the Market Street Cafe but I have been warned that a change of ownership has not gone well so we may look elsewhere in Celebration. The main thing we want to do is meet Otis again, who we bumped into and fell in love with last year.



Should time and energy allow we may pop to Disney Springs for a look and a wander (but no spending, unless it’s food).

Day Four

Refreshed and revitalised we shall tackle Universal Studios today. A train ride across to IOA may come into play should we be done early before heading off for dinner at the Teak Neighbourhood Grill. It’s very much a favourite of ours and we’re much closer to it than we normally are so it cannot be missed.

Day Five

It’s our last full day at Universal so we shall mop up any stuff we haven’t done or want to do again, no doubt with a bit more pooling too. The plan for dinner is a Disney one and assuming the ADR Gods are smiling upon us when the time comes, O’hana is the plan. We haven’t been since the girls were very small and that was for a breakfast. We did dinner there back in 2003 I think, so I think we’re due a visit.

Day Six

Our first move and it sees us pack up and head for the beach. We check into Siesta Key, here…
final siesta

and relax. We plan to do the beach, food and some cocktails and beer over the next week. Should we, by any chance get bored of days here…

We always have the option of popping to Busch Gardens for a bit of theme park action.

Day Seven

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Eight

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Nine

A radical change today as golf is on the plan for me and my Dad as we leave the ladies to do the beach. The two courses currently contending for our custom are Rosedale Golf Club and Palms at Forest Lakes. Whichever presents the lesser chance of me losing a dozen golf balls in water will get the nod.  I have planned to drive out for dinner to the nearest Applebees. Again, a firm fave and we don’t have time to fit it in during our Orlando time.

Day Ten

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Eleven

Beach! Again, a drive out for dinner to the local Olive Garden. A perennial treat for us. Nothing fancy, just great food, great value and Emily’s favourite Lasagne on the planet. The bread sticks and salad are as addictive as crack cocaine ( I would imagine!).

Day Twelve

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Thirteen

We leave Siesta Key and head back to Orlando. The plan says Epcot from whatever time we get there and at some point we will check into All Star Sports (Nana and Grandad) and Beach Club (the rest of us) for our final few days and whistle stop tour of the Disney parks. We’ve done the resting, now some proper theme park days!

Dinner is tentatively planned for Beaches & Cream and the night will be spent watching some duelling pianos at Jellyrolls.

Day Fourteen

Hangovers permitting, an earlyish start to get to Animal Kingdom and hopefully we will have enough stamina to make it all the way to the new night-time stuff too. Either way, Louise, Emily and I will all want to ride Everest in the dark.

We always seem to end up having lunch at Yak & Yeti, hopefully leaving enough room for a late dinner at Sanaa, ADR permitting. The bread starter thing is a thing of beauty and delight.

Day Fifteen

Hollywood Studios today for another park day. I’m hopeful of catching Fantasmic so it could be a long day and we may pop out late afternoon to eat at Bahama Breeze before heading back into the park for the show.

Day Sixteen

Where else, but Magic Kingdom to end the holiday. It isn’t everyone’s favourite but it’s the symbol of everything Disney and my tradition is to fight back the tears as we walk out of the park for the last time each trip. Emily does less well at the fighting part!

Dinner may very well be at the end of the boat trip across to Fort Wilderness at Trail’s End, which is too becoming something of a habit/tradition, but we’ll see how the day goes.

Day Seventeen

We have a full day in Orlando as our flight isn’t until around 8pm so I would imagine we’ll be doing our normal last-minute shopping at Disney Springs for gifts, souvenirs and those last few thousand calories before heading off to the airport, long pants and an enormous sulk.

As things change, I shall keep you updated of course!

Till the next time……

Everything’s Changing….But Planning Isn’t a Pain.

I had three days off work this week. I had booked them to do some decorating following our recent builder visit. However, the plasterer who needs to get our walls ready for that decorating seems to be a relative of Ronnie Biggs (ask your Dad) and has thus far not materialised.

You can imagine how upset I was not being able to decorate. Instead, those three days flew by in a whirl of nothingness. I am honestly struggling to remember anything I did during that time. I’ll take that as a good sign.

What I have had to do recently is completely re-engineer our holiday. For reasons I won’t trouble you with, we had to move the dates of our trip from March until April next year and this took a fair amount of my planning expertise to execute. Half way through that re-engineering our party size grew a little too.

This trip started out as just Louise and I, planning to indulge in the beach and endless nights at Jellyrolls. Then Emily confirmed she would allow me to pay for her to come with us shortly afterwards, which didn’t change much at all and finally, as I was in the middle of moving stuff to the new dates a tipsy conversation between Louise and my parents resulted in them coming along too.

This was a real test of my planning skills and Florida knowledge. We had pushed the boat out accommodation wise. It was pricey enough when we booked all this pre-Brexit vote, but now with the dollar rate being shite, the costs were just out of the question for a retired couple.

So, I deployed ninja like planning skills to make this work.

So we are now going on April 10th, with Virgin. For the first five nights we are at Royal Pacific Resort and I have got Mum and Dad into the Holiday Inn Across From Universal Orlando. Honestly, that is what it is called. The idea is I can nip over to pick them up or Uber can do the honours. They won’t have Front of Line of course but it matters little as the big rides never interested my Mum and my Dad is recognising that at almost 80 and with heart trouble, endlessly riding the Hulk isn’t the best of ideas!

Then we head off to Siesta Key for a week. Luckily I had free cancellation on our booking there so I cancelled our property there and I have now booked a three bed place instead for us all. That sounds simple enough but there have been a few false starts and it feels like 27 changes of plan with regards to our stay there. Hopefully, now we are locked and loaded here.

This video includes our property and a few others, but it is just nice to look at Siesta Key!

It is safe to say I know Siesta Key as well as it is possible to know anywhere without actually visiting it.

For our last few nights we were booked into The Swan. Alas, it was not available for our new dates so we were looking at other on site options. Again, we had free cancellation so that was not a problem. For years we have vowed to stay within walking distance to Jellyrolls to do it without me drinking Diet Coke and after flirting with other, cheaper options such as Old Key West, and sacrificing that dream, I bit the bullet and the extra cost and went for the Beach Club. Of course, once my Mum and Dad were coming the silly costs for that were not an option with the $ rate now at less than 1.3 so a plan was hatched.

They will stay at the All Star Sports at a price so low that for a few seconds I considered doing the same and saving a small fortune. I have resisted. You live but once. They can bus, Uber or be picked up from there as it is just ten minutes from us.

So thinking about it, those three days off were not spent decorating. Instead they were spent buried deep in accommodation web sites conjuring up options so complex the CIA have recruited me into their Cyber Ops team. (Guess who watched Jason Bourne last night!)

Despite the extra hassle of rearranging all of this, it has meant that I have had two bites at the planning cherry and as a good few of you will appreciate, that is a big part of the fun of these trips.

Right time to go. We are off to meet Jakki, Steve, Aodhan and Naimh (long term Disney/Dibb friends that we usually meet in WDW) for some ten pin bowling and food (seperately) as they staying in Manchester.

Till the next time…..