Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Fourteen 11th September 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Fourteen 11th September 2018

Here we go then, with the mixed emotions of the last full day. I salute both of you that made it with me to this point. It feels like this holiday has lasted for months and indeed via the medium of this weekly bloggage it has.

It will end next week, perfectly timed as the last one before Christmas, in a blaze of  travel day melancholy. Then at some point after that, in the haze of Christmas holiday days off, there will be lots of self-reflection, self-criticism of the many planning faux pas, and joy that we were able to share Freddie’s first trip. He made the whole thing very special, but I shall not steal my own thunder as God knows, now the trip is done I will need stuff to write about each week. I’m not sure I remember how to write a weekly blog on non Disney trip subjects. Based on the last couple of months, I am also fairly sure I have forgotten how to do trip reports too.

We rose today intent to wring every last drop out of it, and I had, a few months ago, booked us into Be Our Guest for breakfast as a last day surprise for Rebecca. Beauty and the Beast is her jam (I believe that is the correct lingo) and with this trip being a treat for her 21st birthday, then it felt right to do so.

Our last quick service visit to BOG was not brilliant to be honest, but that was more down to misaligned expectations and to allow Rebecca and of course first timer Tom to experience the theming, breakfast felt like a risk worth taking.

I had already of course had to move our reservation back a bit as there was no chance of being there for the overly ambitious 9am I had foolishly selected back in the UK. It was now a more sensible 10.20 and as such, I had declared that we absolutely had to be pulling off the drive at 9.

As we pulled away at 9.20 I wondered where my authority might be. Again, I had to leather it a little to make sure we did not arrive late and we abandoned the vehicle impressively by 9.45 and got on a tram.

Security and a monorail later and we were in the park by 10.

As we entered Main Street the parade was on. It’s called something like flex it, move it, tight Lycra I think. We watched it from the corner of our eyes as we yomped at pace up towards Be Our Guest.

With that parade thing in progress, our progress was stunted a little and Mikey was prohibited from stopping for a wee to ensure we got to check in by 10.10. Well done me.

We were herded into the queue which reminded me of all the reasons why the quick service thing isn’t that great here. The family in front of us had too many children. So much so that one of them just wandered off towards the back of the queue and neither of the parents noticed. Eventually I tapped them on the shoulder to let them know that young Darlene was somewhere close to Atlanta in a van with blacked out windows. The Mum scuttled off after her and returned full of sheepish thanks and firm holds on the kid’s neck.

It took ten minutes to get to the ordering kiosk things and I did the pressing of the buttons as clearly I was in charge. I executed it flawlessly and then we, somewhat less flawlessly, searched for a table large enough to accommodate us.

All I would say is that having just blown $170 on breakfast it would have been nice not to have loiter next to some party who looked close to finishing and then having to push their post dining carnage to the edge of the table whilst waiting for someone to clear and clean the table. Anywho, with all that done, we were in, seated and you just can’t knock the surroundings.

Although these are quite disturbing to be honest.

I had a Croque Madame, but I was able to walk it off.

Everyone else had Gaston’s Feast, which was not, it turned out, a large ice cream covered in chocolate and nuts.

These were accompanied by pastries.

The food was good and as experience dining goes, you don’t get better surroundings.

We left at 11.10, eager to use our first FastPass of the day which was for Ariel.

This was one of Freddie’s favourite rides. He will carry the Ariel torch for me when I can no longer.

As I now stated as we exited, it was only right that the first timers with us got to experience the pinnacle of Disney magic and so we headed directly to the Country Bear Jamboree. There was, amazingly, no wait for the next show starting a few minutes after our arrival.

Tom and Mikey were, as you can imagine, suitably impressed.

Next, we rode Aladdin’s Carpets, which is a ride I haven’t been on for many a year.

With that done, Pirates looked to be a walk on so that is exactly what we did. At the entrance a show was underway so we watched Jack Sparrow for a little while.

I suspect that isn’t the most flattering photo he’s ever had taken, and we shouldn’t judge his resemblance, or lack of it, to Johnny Depp based upon it.

This the new redhead scene, where to bring it up to date with modern ways, sees her taking a selfie, adding a filter and moaning at the bloke for not leaving his avocado encrusted plate to soak before going into the dishwasher.

We needed a rest at this point. We made it across the way to the shaded seats and sat with a drink for about half an hour. By then it was time for our next FastPass on Splash Mountain. Louise stayed with a sleeping Freddie whilst everyone else rode.

We saw that Big Thunder had no wait at all so we fitted that in quickly before moving on to Splash.

It was 1.55 by the time we had done both of those mountains and the parade was about to start. I power walked back to Louise and Freddie to collect them and told the rest of the party we’d meet up after the parade. We found a spot for the parade which was unintentionally directly across from everyone else. Spooky.

By jingo it was hot, and we experienced a little piece of Disney magic as the cast member on a nearby stall came over and handed us a couple of water bottles for free. Our spot had Freddie nicely tucked into the shade and enjoying a cold wet towel.

Here you can see Anna and Elsa drinking in my sweaty sexiness.

“Hmm, look how the sweat stains from under his arms are almost meeting up with the one down his back!” Said Elsa

“Dreamy” agreed Anna

“Look how those shorts don’t leave much to my imagination….” said the one from Princess and The Frog, using her arms to emphasis the point.

And here, if ever a Disney character reflected my appearance….

As the parade ended we were literally melting. It was ridiculous and we just needed to cool down a bit. We headed into the nearest shop and just stood in it for ten minutes until our sweat started to dry.

Feeling a little better we headed off for a Disney first. In all these years we had never tried a Dole Whip and now we headed off to put that right.

It was delicious and very welcome in the scorching heat.

We headed for Jungle Cruise next and encountered the longest queue of the trip. It had to be endured as of course we wouldn’t get another chance this trip to ride this one.

On the trail of tidying up the other stuff we hadn’t done yet, Monsters Inc was next, so we headed in that direction.

With Louise having sat out with Freddie a lot, I volunteered to miss this one and I took him over to some benches near Space Mountain whilst he snoozed in his stroller. I left the camera with the girls though, who captured Tom starring in the show.

Whilst they enjoyed the show I sat under the People Mover listening to the same announcement every ten seconds. Another few minutes and I may have cracked. Luckily the return of the others saved me and we moved away.

Freddie now needed a feed and like everyone on this trip, food makes him happy.

Whilst he was being fed we did some wildlife photography.

We did a baby swap for Space Mountain next, with Rebecca and Tom going first. As we waited Louise used the personalised merchandise counter thing to get a new phone case done with her name on it. It would have been handy to take a photo of it to show you here but I didn’t.

We had to wait about twenty minutes for that to be made so everyone else walked down to Main Street to do some last day shopping. We caught with them, did some shopping of our own and took the last photos of the castle for this trip. The dark clouds perfectly reflected the feelings of leaving Magic Kingdom for the final time on our trip.

With a Halloween party that evening we couldn’t, as we would usually, spend the last evening in Magic Kingdom and we were headed over to Epcot for Reflections instead. It didn’t make it any easier as the monorail pulled away.

To prolong the pain, the resort monorail we were on was delayed due to some local lightning. I was starting to get concerned about our reservation at Beaches & Cream for tea as it was currently 6.10 and we were booked in at 7.20. By 6.20 we were off and we smoothly moved from monorail, to tram, to car and sped across to the Beach Club to park the car.

I’ll be honest, most of the motivation for eating at Beaches & Cream was to be able to park there so we would have a much easier exit after the fireworks. The other reason was of course the food…

That was my Reuben and it was excellent.

Louise and Mikey had a burger…

and we all had cheesey fries.

We were split over two tables, so I was too far away from the others to annoyingly take photos of their food.

Once full we walked out into the darkened delight of the Boardwalk area at night.

We made our way to International Gateway and we took up “our spot” at 8.40, feeling some last night feels.

We waited for a bit for the torches to be blown out…

And then it started…

Freddie was fine with the noise, completing a trip where he just dealt with everything like a professional. He had been an absolute star.

There were tears, lumps in throats and all the usual emotions. It was a quiet walk back to the car, for me especially. I find this bit tough. I won’t be able to articulate it here but it won’t stop me trying. It’s memories and nostalgia from previous trips, wondering if we’ll make it back to see all this again added to thoughts of going home and the mixed feelings of seeing family members and pets, yet knowing work is on the horizon. Let’s just say this is not the favourite part of the holiday.

We made our way home by 10pm (that’s why you park at the Beach Club!) and we all retired to bed.

Till the next time…..

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily was feeling it too.

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

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

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

Emily demonstrated how we were all feeling.

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

For me…

Plate 1

Plate 2

It was a scramble of some kind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More walking about…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Arsene Wenger…….

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

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

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

 

Till the next time….


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fourteen April 24th 2017

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fourteen April 24th 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once she was happily prone, I assumed the position.

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

The early cloud cleared up nicely….

We then Facetimed Rebecca…

She is there, honest.

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

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

Mousekeeping had been in….

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is little Freddie cooking nicely.

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

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

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

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

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

Arsene Wenger…..

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

That’s better.

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

The standby queue was like a scene from Ghandi.

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

We waited about ten minutes to ride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebration was still lovely though.

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

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

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

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

We somehow ended up with –

Me – Fried Chicken

Emily – Chicken Parm

Mum – Chicken Wrap

Dad – Chicken Pot Pie

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

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

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

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

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

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

We rushed through security…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I assume we then went to bed!

Till the next time……
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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Twelve April 22nd 2017

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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Fitting In The Fountain

I’ve had more successful dieting weeks to be honest. It included two…no three take-aways and more biscuits than is conducive to weight loss. Clearly I wasn’t in the zone as it’s been a stressful week and we tend to eat our feelings in this family.

Speaking of over eating. You may not think it possible for us to get any more of it into our calorie laden plan. I thought that too, but Emily pointed out that since we shuffled our plans to give us one less day at Universal and one more at WDW we had a day in the plan without any food planned in. This was clearly a huge mistake and Emily’s idea was to squeeze in Beaches & Cream with us staying at the Beach Club. Looking at what we will have eaten by then squeezing in might be more literal than you may imagine.

Those of you familiar with Beaches & Cream will know that it isn’t very big and as expected, getting an ADR for a party of five this many days out was never likely and we were denied. However, I haven’t been obsessing about Florida holidays for fifteen years for nothing and quickly my database of knowledge and experience threw up an alternative.

In the Dolphin there is a similar looking establishment to Beaches & Cream. It doesn’t have the same level of theming or fun and games based around obscene amounts of ice cream in a sink, but I thought it may work.

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A quick look at the menu confirmed my suspicions. Here are some of the highlights….

Fountain Signature Burger

Two 4oz. Angus Burgers, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Avocado-Bacon Aioli, Caramelized Onion, Tomato, American Cheese, Sesame Brioche Bun

Southern Pulled Pork

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork, Western Carolina Barbeque Sauce, Apple-Fennel Coleslaw, Toasted Pullman Bun

Chicago Dog

Vienna All Beef Hot Dog, Cherry Tomato Relish, Kosher Pickle slices, Beer Mustard, Sport Peppers, Caramelized Onions, Hot Dog Potato Bun

Stawberri Kookies with House Vodka

Strawberry Patch and Cookies & Cream Ice Creams, Strawberry Topping & Chocolate Milk, topped with Whipped Cream & Oreo Crumbles with House Vodka (must be 21 or older)

Soft Serve Split 

Classic Banana Split made with Vanilla, Chocolate, and Swirl Soft Serve, topped with Pineapple, Chocolate and Strawberry Toppings, Whipped Cream, Peanuts, a Cherry and a Banana

PB&J Shake

Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Strawberry Topping with Whipped Cream & Reese’s Pieces.

So that’ll do nicely as an alternative. It is of course within walking distance of the Beach Club so on this extra Disney day, which we plan to spend some of it resting by the pool, we can wander over there for lunch. It doesn’t offer reservations so we’ll go early for that reason and one other very important one. On our holidays we have to plan our eating times carefully to ensure we will be hungry when the next meal reservation rolls around.

Bearing in mind that we will be in Celebration for our evening meal later that day and then moving on to Disney Springs and the culinary treats to be had there we will need to lunch at a time which may be bordering on brunch. These holidays don’t just fall together you know.

If you have any intention in reading about our trip when we get back, I would advise against reading it hungry. The amount of food pictures that are likely to feature may push into a calorie spree that I cannot be held responsible for. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Oh and if you happen to be staying at the Beach Club when we are, I apologise now for what will be the horrific calorie induced frame that I will be parading around the pool. I’ll be to wear a thong won’t I?

Till the next time……

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.

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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…..