Un-Presidented Joy

I’m Craig Williams, in Bolton and THIS is CNN.

What a surreal week it has been. Not that I have missed a moment of work to do so, but I have watched CNN for about five days straight. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing. It has been its own parallel universe of interactive maps and incredulity at how long it takes to count votes. If nothing else, my geographical knowledge of America has increased by about 3000%.

Before this week I have dipped into CNN from time to time. If I screw up my eyes really tight and eat something that tastes of cinnamon, I can almost imagine I am in Florida whilst doing so. This week though felt like a week of holding my breath. This won’t be a political rant but, it was nice to exhale yesterday when the result was confirmed. I know little about Biden and have no idea if he will be a great President or not. In my view, it doesn’t matter who replaced Trump, just that somebody did. The rest can be worked on.

Getting back to the recent core focus of this blog, and whether we will be able to go on holiday at some point on the future, will this change make that any more or less likely? I have no clue. I’m an increasingly overweight alleged middle manager in a northern backwater and my insight into global pandemics is not something I would include on my CV.

I was really encouraged to see one of the first things Biden announced was his intention to at least have a go at sorting things out. He was taking briefings on the virus even whilst waiting for the results and has now said he is going to set up a task force to tackle it. The pleasing change is that it will be led by actual experts and scientists. That’s got to beat trying to ignore it, right?

Whether that will mean the timeframe for the US opening up to overseas tourists will be closer or further away is anyone’s guess. If they make a significant difference quickly then it may open up the borders, or if they know they have to play it safe and keep things closed for longer then it may not. Either way, I still suspect our March 1st departure is unlikely right now and we may have to go through the pain and expense of rearranging one more time.

I’m strangely sanguine about it and will just be happy for the adults to have a go at sorting it. If only the UK would take the same approach. The latest update there is that the £12bn test and trace system is currently managing to contact about 60% of people exposed to the virus. You can’t go to the pub, cinema or see your elderly parents but your kid is sat with 30 others in a small unventilated room with no mask. I for one cannot understand why we sit in the foreboding shadow of a second wave.

This very strange “Que sera sera” attitude towards a WDW trip is very unlike me and I suppose the intense focus on the house move is probably responsible for giving me something else to fret and obsess about. Perhaps once that is sorted I will be back to rocking in a corner listening to the Epcot Futureworld loop music.

As there is literally no better use of your ears (other than listening to O Canada) then I will point you at this. It is just ten hours of Epcot loop music, but you can always just start it again when it finishes.

Should we have to move the trip again, then I suspect we would move it to late summer, to pretty much a year after we should have been there. That’s a kick in the guts, but for my sanity’s sake let’s hope things are normal enough to do fun things again. Heaven knows how heavy the crowds are going to be whenever that happens. I’m not saying we won’t be there, enjoying the fact that we can jostle shoulder to shoulder with other folks to get a decent view of the fireworks, but I do think the park reservation system will stay for a while to cope with something other than the limited capacity due to a pandemic. With the prospect of the parks hitting full capacity for some time once restrictions are no longer needed, that would make sense. It’s far from ideal of course, but right now, that’s a step forward.

House wise, there is a sniff of some kerfuffle on the horizon as our seller still hasn’t found anywhere to go and is refusing to contemplate going into rented accommodation to save the chain. It’s been a month since they accepted our offer and we and the rest of the chain below us are all some way down the road now in terms of conveyancing and surveys etc so we are starting to apply some pressure (nicely) as there is a risk that buyers below us in the chain may get tired of waiting and look elsewhere, seeing the whole thing crash down. We have some options and tactics to pursue as next week begins so stay tuned for a bit more stress and hassle.

For those of you who know how well I deal with uncertainty, it will not be a surprise to you that the house and holiday situation are causing me stress, heartburn and a lack of sleep. To once again highlight the cruel injustice of the world, where some people see higher stress levels as a route to weight loss, it would appear my body needs triple its normal calorie intake to cope. This may not end well.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Ten

If you think Boris Johnson is saying “Get Brexit Done” a lot, just see how often I manage to let you know that I was not feeling 100% again today. In fact, I’d rate myself at about a faltering 35%, but nothing short of limb loss would keep me away from a theme park today.

I was awake at 6am, expelling liquids from all sorts of holes and eating my bagel in front of the TV. It was a mere three and a half hours later that everyone was ready and I reversed the van off the drive. By this time I was almost ready for my second set of tablets of the day.

The plan, which I had painstakingly crafted over many months was, at this stage, at the risk of another Boris Johnson analogy, a right bloody mess. We would be starting the day by heading for Epcot. Just to reaffirm that….

By the beard of Zeus it was hot today. We like it hot, but not that hot…….

Image result for peter kay solero

Our first FastPass was a poorly planned Frozen Ever After. Poor, as it meant we had to yomp all the way up there from the entrance in the incredible heat. Freddie somehow managed to jettison his sun hat from his pram somewhere along the way without anyone noticing so that had to be replaced.

Having made the physical sacrifice of burning about three and a half thousand calories getting there for our FastPass, the standby line was ten minutes. Smashing. Still, we saved about eight of those minutes by still using our FastPass. It was for the best as it gave all those young, blonde cast members less time to ogle me in the queue.

Freddie very much approved of this ride and we took him into the shop afterwards to meet the troll for the first time. I was a little sad that he would never know the true joy of what preceded it and running through the film theatre at the end of the old Norway ride so you wouldn’t have to watch it.

I could easily have filled that nose with the fluids I was carrying in mine!

Even though I had a bagel about six hours ago, I felt breakfast was deserved, and in my haste to get food down my neck, I led us into the bakery in Norway. I have to say, I did expect a slightly better array of breakfast finery, but we made do with cakes.

I had something called school bread. I learned that it was pretty good and absolutely nothing like bread.

Louise had a chocolate chip cookie the size of a small planet. Freddie may have helped.

Rebecca and Tom shared an un-photographed Parfait and Tom had some fruit. I think his body was making a cry for help. Emily, not being a breakfast person, declined to participate and just had water.

We sat and ate for a bit whilst Freddie did some people watching.

We then moved off around World Showcase, stopping in most of the countries and alas shops.

A glance at the app revealed that we were about fifteen minutes from a Voices of Liberty show so we made our way into the American Pavilion and I sought out a restroom to empty my nose of about three pints of snot.

Freddie explored for a bit and I took him into the native American exhibit, but I doubt he retained a great deal of the information to be honest.

We took our places as the singers emerged.

If these very talented folks ever sing O Canada, I may never recover. I suspect that’s unlikely unless the US invades Canada at some point, but these days you never know.

Onto Japan now to admire some huge bongos….

I told you it was hot. Even the air conditioning couldn’t save this toy.

Many of us were hungry now, with Tom’s body violently protesting about the fruit it had been subjected to earlier and despite our very fine intentions to sample a load of food from the food and wine booths, nothing stuck out as being worth queuing for and/or something Freddie would appreciate, so we kept on walking. When we got to the UK, I went to the fish and chip shop to get some waters. Even in my home pavilion, things get lost in translation. I wanted to buy some bottled water but ended up with a tray of six cups of tap water, which were both very tricky to transport back to everyone else and tasted a bit weird.

With the heat as it was, my incompetence was barely tolerated.

To redeem myself, I decided to bite the bullet and see if the Rose and Crown could accommodate us. Whilst I enquired, Emily spotted that one of the cast members at the podium was a chap from our home town who used to work at her school. As someone once said, it is a small world.

We were seated immediately and could even choose whether we sat inside or out. It was perhaps not the wisest decision to sit outside, underestimating the heat, but it wouldn’t be the first or last crap decision I would make this trip. It was made mainly as Freddie was now very asleep and it would be easier to park his pram next to us outside.

Tom and Rebecca had Bangers & Mash. Oops, I blame the heat for my tardy photography.

Emily had the vegan Bangers & Mash….

Louise and I, having eaten the most sugar in Norway, were not starving so we just had the cheese and biscuits.

Freddie kipped throughout.

$130 lighter, we continued our journey around the world and in Canada, I got myself a new cap as I had stupidly forgotten mine and my thick head of hair was just so sweaty! Rebecca needed some new sunglasses having forgotten hers because she only had three and a half hours to get ready this morning, so they were acquired too. Did I mention the heat? Luckily, I wasn’t struggling with a temperature and life-threatening cold during this very severe heat.

With our FastPass for Test Track now almost due we made our way down in that direction. Another long sweaty walk followed and after setting up baby swap, Rebecca and Tom sat out first with the still sleeping Freddie whilst the rest of us rode.

Having left Emily to most of the design work, resisting the urge to take over, our car and performance lacked a little but it did not detract from the ride. We took over Freddie duties whilst Rebecca and Tom rode and a now wide awake Freddie loved sitting in all the cars.

Having been in every car at least twice, we made our way out and not long after Rebecca and Tom returned. I made myself useful by going to get everyone a drink, oh and I may have acquired a couple of those Joffrey’s doughnuts again. They are superb.

We spent a bit of time in Mousegear, mostly to cool off, but Emily also got herself a hoody….one of these…

Image result for wdw yellow hoodie

Having somehow managed to pay for my 24-year-old, fully employed daughter’s hoody, it was now time to leave Epcot and head over to Animal Kingdom. Even writing that now feels weird and not something I might plan, but Dorian had ridden the proverbial coach and horses through the laminate and all bets were off. We had an ADR to honour and by jingo, we were going to.

It was a brief ten-minute drive and we left the van in Peacock. Louise refused to move just yet, a sign of the incredible heat today. She just needed a moment more in the air con, so we left her to it and walked in across the car park to the entrance. Having done that, Rebecca almost passed out, so seeing that as a subtle sign, we spent some time in and around the cool of the restrooms, perhaps recognising that the pace today had been a little more demanding than the weather might permit.

Having cooled off a lot we continued our journey up to the safari. It was a walk-on, and probably because the animals have more sense than us, there were not so many on view. They were probably backstage in the air con.

Oh look, more giraffes…

I like how I captured this bloke’s ear in lovely soft focus though….

And here, unlike other less skilled photographers, I cleverly managed to focus on the pole on the truck and not the animals.

Next in this master class of photographic technique, I capture some trees….

As tradition dictates, it is now time for my Rhino joke…..

Our guide confirmed that the one out front was called Neal…with this joke included in every report, you can complete the punchline yourself.

Image result for ryan oneal

We slowly made our way over to Yak and Yeti for our ADR.

Louise met us there having been tempted out from the cool car by the prospect of eating at one of her favourite eateries and as we were early and too hot to move, we asked if we could bring our reservation forward. We could and we did.

As is the case in quite a few restaurants now, we were shown to our regular table! In the spirit of fighting the heat, we got Freddie a slush thing and I think he enjoyed it.

We always love our meals here and today was no different. I even had a beer. Crazy I know!

We ordered –

Me – Beef Tacos, which were tremendous.

Emily – Tofu Sweet and Sour

Louise, the same but with chicken

Tom had Korean Beef, quite what they had done to upset him I don’t know… (ba dum tish)

Rebecca had Honey Chicken

With Egg Rolls and Pot Sticker appetisers, we were nicely full, but that didn’t stop us ordering a cheesecake and a number of forks and we all had a bit. At times I am very grateful for my extra dessert stomach.

The bill was a testing $250, but this is one of our favourite places and one we always love.

With that done, so were we. The heat had done us for today and we wandered out to the exit to say the first of our goodbyes for this trip. This would be our last Animal Kingdom visit this trip. We seem to have spent a lot of time here this time and that’s a good thing.

On the way home, we, of course, called in at the local CVS and spent $70 on drugs. They were legal and much needed for my quickly deteriorating state. Did I mention I wasn’t well?

Till the next time…..

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.

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

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

Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.

It pleased us.

But not a much as the pizza did.

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

Emily’s looked like this

Freddie looked excited…..

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

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

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

Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.

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

I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.

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

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

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

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

Well, Freddie thought it was great!

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

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

My camera fails to capture this as do my words.

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

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

I captured a few moments of it here…

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

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…..

 

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Eleven 8th September 2018

This morning saw energy levels at a very low-level. Everyone slept in and I blame this tiredness for me and Louise having a corker of a falling out which led to an epic amount of cold shoulder and glares around the pool. Hey, even ladies as lucky as Louise to be married to me don’t have sunshine and lollipops all the time.

The time around the pool this morning, recharging the batteries, was much-needed and the decision last night to delay our start at Epcot was a very wise one. We were ready to leave the villa by 12 and called at McDonalds to further replenish our bodies. There’s little that a huge intake of calories cannot make better. We ate in the car park before making our way to our parking spot in Discovery 17.

Security was a right pain the harris today. It took an age and this needs improving as you can’t have guests waiting fifteen to twenty minutes to get into the park. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be doing checks, just do them in a better way.

It was 1.30 by the time we say the big ball.

I had seamlessly rejigged all our FastPass reservations for today and even included Louise despite our fall out. The first was for Spaceship Earth and despite that slot now being immediately available, everyone decided they needed to go to the restroom. I waited like the patient, chilled out theme park wanderer I am.

I love Spaceship Earth. Firstly, it’s a cool sit down, but the whole thing is just a shot in the arm of classic Disney.

It was raining as we left and Freddie needed his lunch so we found a bench in the covered bit on the way to The Land.

Once Freddie was full I took us into the short film festival which was in the old Captain EO theatre. Rebecca is still not OK with EO no longer being shown by the way.

I had no expectations for this but I was blown away. We watched three clever, moving and entertaining films before walking back to where Freddie had lunched to do our FastPass for a character meet and greet. We traditionally never use a FastPass for this, but we’d already done most of the rides and it was of course a requirement that Freddie meet Mickey on his first visit.

That’s the photo right there. The whole trip justified and paid for.

With the main man in the bag Freddie moved on to some other new friends.

We had wondered how he would react to characters before we went and it’s safe to say, he took this in his stride as he did everything else on this holiday.

 

We now made our way up to a very busy World Showcase and as the law dictates, started in Mexico. You can go the other way round of course, but you’d be wrong.

After a wander of the market stalls we did the ride.

I still miss the glorious cheese and 70’s naffness of the original ride if I’m honest, but Freddie enjoyed it and danced the whole way round.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie went off for a wander whilst the rest of us walked to the US pavilion to watch the Voices of Liberty.

We got a seat around the edge thankfully as this tiredness was not going away. Is it me or is this show ridiculously short these days. It may be my ageing brain playing games here but I have memories of shows in years gone by that went on for twenty minutes or longer. This one was about two songs and done. They were excellent of course but more would have been great.

It seems that we were not the only ones feeling a little low on energy today. This lady was asleep when we arrived, slept through the show, and we left her in the same spot when we left.

We continued our journey the correct way around World Showcase, stopping in most countries for a browse and a drink in a couple. We picked up the pace a little as it was getting very rainy and believe it or not a little cold. With that in mind and our tiredness we messaged Rebecca and arranged to meet up by the big fountain thing near the golf ball. I understand these may not be the exact names of these things.

At the risk of overplaying how tired we were, and I know I have mentioned it a few times now, this is perhaps the best example of how bad it was. The plan had Teak Neighbourhood Grill for dinner. Knowing how much of a favourite that is to us, our decision to sack that off and just stay local to the villa instead and do The Outback will tell you all you need to know. Teak would have been a forty minute drive and would have meant a much later night.

I called ahead from the villa to bag a table and we waited just a few minutes after arriving to be seated.

Those of you paying attention will remember that Rebecca and Tom missed out on The Outback on our first night so in a way it was good to have them try it, and we of course started off with a Blooming Onion and Cheesey Fries.

I was too slow with the camera.

The waiter was a real character. His voice was the male version of Marge’s sisters in The Simpsons. He was clearly well versed in dealing with Brits as she used the word Cheers endlessly and he had a special skill of talking non-stop whilst taking our order. His service was excellent though.

We had –

Me – Steak & Shrimp

Emily and Mikey – Chicken Tenders

Tom and Louise – Philly Cheese Steak

Rebecca – Caesar Salad

We were literally falling asleep at the table. That may have been the numerous cocktails and wine though to be honest. We paid the bill, crawled back to the car and made the short journey back to bed. It was 10 o’clock.

It would appear that my plan had broken everyone and I was hoping a good night’s sleep would sort everyone out. You will have to tune in next week to see if I was right.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Four 1st September 2018

The exertions of the last few days resulted in me sleeping for a full nine hours, according to my notes. This pleased me. There was no rush to get anywhere this morning as I had once again built in a lazyish morning, unsure of how everyone and especially Freddie would be coping with the journey, heat and time zone change.

Speaking of the latter. I’d like to claim this as an act of planning genius however you wouldn’t believe me, but as I enjoyed my breakfast this morning in the villa I found a channel on the TV that was showing live coverage of Liverpool’s footy match. Freddie watched with me.

This was glorious and it ended (in glorious victory) just as everyone was almost ready. So I then took my usual seven minutes or so to shower and dress and still be stood waiting at the door for everyone else.

It was around 10am when we made it into the car. This included, and would on most days, at least one person coming back into the villa to get something they had forgotten just as I had set the alarm.

We were Epcot bound again (don’t question the plan) and we parked in Explore 78 amidst some serious heat. For the first time this trip we needed to get on a tram from the car. This meant collapsing the stroller, which I left to Tom as it was his honour to do so and not because I didn’t know how.

Security was busy. I know it’s necessary and a reassurance but jeez it can be a pain in the arse when all you want to do is get into the park and start doing stuff. It was about 10.30 when we got into the park and with a FastPass for Spaceship Earth at 10.50 we wandered some shops and loitered a for a bit until we could ride.

We scanned our bands at 10.45 and joined what turned out to be a ten minute wait.

 

 

As it always tends to, the ride stopped three times on our journey. In addition to this outrage, mine and Emily’s photos didn’t work. I await the results of my compensation claim.

Right, so with the first ride done and it being at least 11.30, clearly it was time for lunch. Regular readers will know what happens next. We stand around for a few minutes with me reciting all the options available to us for lunch before they are all ignored and we end up in Electric Umbrella again.

The beauty of eating so early is that the place wasn’t rammed and we quickly ordered.

Me and Louise – Brisket sandwich

Emily, Mikey, Rebecca and Tom – Burger

We all devoured our selections and then Freddie had a pot of something whilst the rest of us toured Mousegear for a bit. Rebecca and Tom stayed with Freddie, he wasn’t abandoned with a spoon!

Once we were all back together and fed we walked over to Soarin’ for our FastPass.

Rebecca, Tom and Emily went on first and the rest of us rested outside for a bit. There was a very odd rain shower for a few minutes which we missed as we had luckily chosen to sit just under the cover of the entrance to the Land.

We rode next with our FastPass taking just ten minutes, which wasn’t at all bad for Soarin’.

We did get called forward as a party of three which cut down the wait a little and allowed me to roll out my smug face as I “excuse me’d” my way to the front of the queue. Upon exiting Rebecca had messaged to say they had gone to Mousegear, as they hadn’t had a chance to look round when we did as they were feeding Freddie. I left Louise and Mikey at The Land and walked at a pleasing pace to get them.

Of course we then walked all the way back to Louise and Mikey as we were then going to ride Journey Into Imagination.

You may be shocked to discover there was no queue for this one. There was some mild concern that Freddie may not like the dark bit, the train noise and the loud blast of air, but he didn’t flinch and danced his way through every part of the song.

Continuing our theme of zig-zagging from one side of the park to the other as much as possible, Mission Space was next on the agenda. On the way, I decided we should do Crush as we were (relatively) close and I was confident there’d be no wait. Ten minutes saw us taking our seats and enjoying one of the hidden gems of WDW (in my view).

OK, now we were allowed go to Mission Space to use our FastPass. Freddie had been put to sleep by Crush so Louise sat out with him whilst the rest of us rode.

With a nervous Mikey wondering what Orange and Green meant, we were in, definitely doing Orange. Rebecca and Tom were assigned to one pod with me, Emily and Mikey in another.

Mikey’s anxiety was not helped by the briefing video (by the way, where has Gary Senise gone? This is unacceptable!), and the wait to board in the corridor.

The ride was as impressive as ever and Mikey felt suitably unwell afterwards which is always a good sign of it going well.

Time had marched on and now I had to as well. Our ADR for Via Napoli was imminent and there wouldn’t be time for us to stroll up there at the group pace, so I was despatched at full speed to check us in.

World Showcase was busy again and the ten minute walk was littered with body swerves, tutting and the occasional naughty word as I weaved my way through the eating and drinking hordes. I arrived, glazed in a nice sweat, with a few minutes to spare. I explained that everyone else would be here shortly and took a seat to wait in the scorching heat in the courtyard at the front of the restaurant.

Somehow I missed everyone passing me and got a message on my phone to ask where I was. I joined everyone at the entrance, confirmed we were ready and with just a few moments wait we were seated.

We had last eaten in the restaurant in Italy over a decade ago and had been very underwhelmed, so we were hoping for a better experience in the new version.

Pizza was very much the order of the day….

Me – Pepperoni

Mikey & Louise – Spicy Sausage

Rebecca and Tom – Large Marge

Emily – White Pizza with artichoke

This, at the risk of going overboard, was THE best pizza I have eaten in my life. Let me confirm what you are thinking too. That is quite a large sample size on which to base that conclusion. It was delicious.

We also discovered that Freddie likes pizza too.

This is Freddie’s pizza face and I think we’ve all been there.

Desserts were ordered –

Me & Emily – Shared a Tiramisu

Rebecca & Tom – Shared a Tiramisu

Freddie & Tom – Shared a Chocolate Mousse. I applaud Tom’s “two dessert” tactics.

Hmm, that reminds me of someone….

Mikey – Cannoli

Louise – Ball Things (may not be the actual name on the menu)

During dessert Rebecca and Emily asked if we could do Fantasmic that evening. This blatant disregard for the plan was shocking and went against all of their training. However, high on pizza and pudding, I agreed and right there and then secured a FastPass for Ariel at Hollywood Studios that we should be able to fit in before Fantasmic.

It turned out that we needed to “nip back” to the villa before heading to Studios as Freddie’s ear defenders (bought for fireworks shows etc) had been left there. Sat at the very rear of Epcot, in a World Showcase fuller than my underpants, there was no “nipping back” about it. Time would be short and we needed to get going.

It took a while to navigate the crowds and walk all the way down to the main entrance.

Next was the tram, then into the car, all taking too much time.

Why we then stopped at Walgreens (again) was beyond me but apparently it was essential. We bought some more toilet roll, amongst other things, so I could see how that might be essential without resorting to ruining the villa’s towels.

Time in the villa was strictly limited by me standing at the open door with the car still running shouting “hurry up” a lot and we were then on our way to DHS. Many other annoying delays like traffic lights and other cars/people inevitably increased my heart rate but we eventually arrived into the park, after the delay inducing long walk from the tram caused by all the work underway, at 7.20 ish. Freddie needed changing so I despatched everyone other than Rebecca, Tom and Freddie up to Ariel, clinging to the vague hope of getting into that before Fantasmic, whilst I waited for Freddie to have a clean bum.

We then walked up to meet everyone else, but upon realising that Freddie now needed feeding, Ariel had to be sacrificed and we sat on a bench whilst Freddie ate. With that done we walked all the way back to Sunset Boulevard and got some drinks and slushies on the way in to the show.

There was only ten minutes to wait before the show started and it became apparent very shortly after it did that Freddie was too tired to be putting up with it, so Rebecca and Tom took him out whilst the rest of us watched.

We met up after the show with Freddie safely tucked up in his stroller and walked to the tram stop. So that we didn’t need to disturb his slumbers, Rebecca, Tom and I walked back to the car and let the others tram it. We all arrived at the car together anyway.

We set off for home, and for some reason that I will never understand we stopped at Walgreens again. Home and bed at 10.30.

Till the next time….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ordered –

Me – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Rebecca – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Tom – Chicken Burger and a Snickers Sundae

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

Mikey – Cheese Bacon Fries and Fudge Mud Slide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For starters we had….

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

Rest of us – Guac and chips

For entree…

Me – Short Rib

Louise – Chicken & Veg thing

Emily & Rebecca – Chicken Enchilada

Mikey – Salmon

Tom – Steak Enchiladas

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

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

Tom and Louise – Custard Flan thing

Me – Chocolate Mousse

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

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

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

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

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

We were home and in bed for 11.20.

Till the next time…..

Skecher Buy Golly Wow

Before we do this, I should warn you that this one may be longer than anything you’ve been used to.

Look at that. Even the innuendo engine is getting a warm up as we near take off.

Seriously though, this one goes on a bit and if you’ve ever (always) read these posts, marvelling at how sad I am that I spend so much time and effort over planning stuff, then this one may not be for you. This, dear reader, goes to a whole new level.

By the way, at Louise’s request I have added a few links to Disney terms in this post for folks reading this that are not au fait with da lingo.

Firstly, the important stuff.

Ryan is home and he will ride again. The lady did a great job on him and he is literally as good as new. You can all now rest easy.

Shit got real this week. It’s probably about time that I started blogging about my upcoming holiday don’t you think? You all must be dying to hear some of the detail by now.

Image result for kevin spacey side eye gif

Tuesday saw the start of our FastPass+ journey, and it wasn’t good. It would be very sad if I had booked a meeting room at work to retire to just before 12pm so that I could concentrate fully on the task at hand. Yep, it would. These things are too important to be interrupted by a phone call or work based emergency.

On the off-chance that Disney would open up the date I was waiting on earlier than expected, I sat refreshing the site for a while, before finally seeing the new date appear at exactly 12pm.

Image result for refresh gif

Bloody sticklers. Here we go, I thought, I’ll just quickly nab three passes and be on my way.

I am sorry to say that the site on which FastPasses are booked is not, or certainly was not on this day, fit for purpose. It was continually crashing, often so tantalisingly close to the end of the process that I almost cancelled the whole holiday. OK, maybe not, but it was bobbins.

After about ten minutes of frustrating red-faced repetition there was still no sign of success. Ooh, more innuendo…..once it is unleashed there is nothing to stop it…..ahh, now I am in an endless innuendo loop.

After a further twenty minutes I finally had one in the bag for Haunted Mansion, at 10:05. As pages loaded and then vanished, all I was seeing was the list of available attractions shrinking as my blood pressure and frustration grew. The whimsical error pages that Disney use when things go wrong were very quickly losing their appeal.

It was almost forty minutes after 12 that the site seemed to settle down and I was able to finish the job. I bagged Big Thunder Mountain at 12:25 and then, with Freddie in mind, Dumbo at 2:20. I totally understand why this could be an alien concept to normal holiday makers, but all these bookings fell nicely into place, not by accident I should say, with our plans for the day. Yes, I have planned to this very sad level of detail, mainly because I can. Knowing the park layouts so well, and how the day generally goes, my thinking is this.

We should be there before the park opens, and after a wander around the shops on Main Street and an inevitable Starbucks, position ourselves near Casey’s for rope drop. We shall saunter, nonchalantly left, using the stroller as a weapon of mass destruction across the bridge into Adventureland for Freddie’s first ever ride in a Disney theme park, on Pirates. With that being  pretty much a walk on, he said confidently, we shall then continue our journey to Splash Mountain, where the standby wait should still be tolerable and we can hopefully get that under the belt too. Of course, Freddie will have to sit this one out.

That should then allow us to wander down to Haunted Mansion for 10am ish to use our first FastPass. By then we’re at 10.30 and if previous first days are any form of precedent then we’ll need lunch, which I haven’t planned. I’m not a monster!

We shall probably eat, drink and see what we get on in Fantasyland, such as Philharmagic, the Carousel, and It’s A Small World should wait times be bearable.

Then our Big Thunder FastPass kicks in so we can walk back up there for that before amusing ourselves until the 2pm parade. The previous travel day and time difference will be kicking in by now and we’ll hopefully just manage our Dumbo FastPass before heading for the exit.

We have a 5pm Whispering Canyon ADR, so we’ll have to make a call at this point whether we try to get back to the villa for a shower and change or, if time is short, we do something like head over to the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim bar. It has been declared that this place serves the best Long Island Ice Teas on the planet and this may be the only time we have this trip to get to sample one, apart from the mug who is driving.

I know this level of detail may sound nuts, but with a lot of expensively acquired experience and knowledge it’s possible and for me totally sensible. Hopefully it makes the day smoother, less stressful and more rewarding for all concerned. As long as time is allowed within this mental level of over planning for the metaphorical smelling of roses, photos in front of the castle and other good stuff all should be well.

The following day saw similar levels of thought and….

Image result for i'm not even sorry gif

We’ll be at Epcot, but not until the late afternoon/evening. Again, experience tells me that we suffer on day two. The jet lag, journey and adrenaline of day one can make another full day in a park a bit of a strain. So we’ll be at the villa for most of the day, celebrating my birthday a bit until our Beaches & Cream ADR at 3:50. I could only get four of us in for that so if the others can’t get a walk in we’ll eat elsewhere. So we expect to be in the park from around 5:30. When trying to slot some late in the day FastPasses in, thought was needed. The last thing you want to be doing is crisscrossing the park, so a route is needed.

With this in mind I secured The Seas with Nemo & Friends at 5:45. We can enter via International Gateway, wander down to Canada and watch Martin Short before I cry at the song. We will then make our way down to Nemo. We can then take our time to get back up to World Showcase, no doubt via Mousegear, to start the traditional tour of the World Showcase pavilions for my birthday. Of course, that allows us to do Frozen and a FastPass is sorted for 7:30. With ROE not until 10pm that day, that should give us enough time to wander most of the showcase before ending up in “our spot” on the bridge near France to watch the fireworks. We did have a spare FastPass slot left but there’s no point in cramming one in just for the sake of it. We probably wouldn’t get time to use it and that just means some other folks who would might miss out.

The next day we could book for this week oddly would see us in Epcot again (don’t question my planning!). Yes, don’t, as I honestly can’t remember why.

Anyway, this is a full-ish day in Epcot allowing for a later start due to the late ROE the night before. So again, thinking of a sensible route between FastPasses, we start with Spaceship Earth at 11:50 followed by (I am chuffed to say) Soarin’ at 12:25. That is always the prize FastPass for us, despite Louise’s trepidation and fear of “flying”.

In a blaze of glory we then move on to Mission Space at 2:35, timed perfectly just before we eat at Via Napoli at 3:40, saving us revisiting our food somewhere on the way to Mars. Whether we will be able to get on Test Track via standby or single rider, we shall see. One cannot be too greedy of course.

Yesterday we were able to book for the 3rd of September and that is Hollywood Studios and Labor Day too. I had to drop Emily off at the train station just before 12 as she was heading to London to watch Heathers. This meant that I was in central Manchester at 12, reliant on 4G and a following wind to secure what could be a tricky set of Fastpasses as, with Toy Story Land open, this would likely be the busiest park of our trip.

It was effortless. Aside from Slinky Dog being immediately unavailable a few seconds after 12pm, I easily secured Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Rock n Rollercoaster. I was pretty pleased with that. With that first one running until 10.35 we may be able to endure a bit of a queue to get onto Slinky if we are at the park for opening. We’ll see.

With FastPasses done for as far as I can do them, thoughts then moved on to other pressing matters. Yesterday was also new trainers day. They have to be bought a few weeks prior to departure so that they can be worn in nicely. After last year’s change from the traditional all white affairs, I must admit that I am now sold on a Skecher and wanted another pair of those. Usually, I buy everything online, but trainers, for a WDW trip have to be tried on in person. I cannot over emphasise the importance of comfortable footwear and no chances can be taken.

With that in mind, after dropping Emily off I headed for some actual shops. I ended up in Bolton town centre and despite living here all my life, I did not recognise the place. A few fruitless shop visits later and I was relying on google to find somewhere that actually stocked Skechers. My last resort was Debenhams and they had at least three pairs to choose from.

It was like a scene from Are You Being Served with an actual person attending to me, getting the right size from the back and at some point almost trying to apply some sales techniques to close the sale.

I walked away with a pair of comfy loveliness just in time to get back to my car before my 80p of parking ran out.

 

With that daring show of leg, I’m done, as I suspect are you.

Till the next time….

Book Cover

I Got The Muzak In Me

In a week when it all ended….the World Cup dream and for some, the glorious weather, it could be easy to feel a bit down. But, you know me, I am a constant beacon of positivity and unrelenting joy, so you won’t be finding that here.

The genius of the timing of our holiday this year is that just as everyone else will be lamenting the end of the summer holidays and grappling with the buying of school uniforms and the horror of doing the daily lunch box again, we shall be shedding the worries and woes of every day life and jetting off to kill ourselves with artery clogging amounts of food.

Having watched a bit of the Trackers this week, I have to say that WDW seems to be really upping its game on the food front, especially from a quick service point of view. There are not enough minutes or notches on my belt to fit in all the fantastic looking stuff I am seeing. It is a challenge I am willing to take on of course, and one that I feel the years of training on previous trips has prepared me for.

With a real risk of peaking too soon, WDW fever and excitement arrived bigly in the Mkingdon household this week. This visitor from the US was probably the most welcome one the UK saw, but that isn’t difficult. It’s a sign of how fevered said excitement is when Louise joins in. As enjoyable as she finds the trips, she does not share the obsession levels of the rest of us, but, at times, such as these, she’s all in. We’re ready!

There’s little that can happen to peak my excitement levels. They remain on a constant throughout the year, rising by small increments the closer we get to the next trip. Sometimes though, something sneaks up on you. It grabs your heart-strings, tumbles your tummy like a drop on a coaster and shoots fresh adrenaline through your veins. This is not some class A drug, well, not as everyone else understands that. It is something random, a smell, a memory, a feeling or in this case, some music.

Emily was up in her bedroom, working her way through her WDW play list yesterday afternoon. I was up and the down stairs packing all my band gear into the car for last night’s gig when I heard some familiar strains drifting down from her penthouse (converted attic). O Canada was the first. I cannot over document my affection and admiration for that song. I would sell my home and all its contents and give the meagre proceeds to any random Canadian citizen after hearing the first few bars.

On my next sweaty trip up the stairs to collect some other heavy musical object, it happened. My stomach flipped, the dizziness came and I was instantly transported to another place. It wasn’t last night’s food rebelling against me, no. It was this…

Now, there’s five hours of that thing so I apologise for ruining any plans you might have had for your Sunday. I chose to start that at a certain point for you, which was the theme that I heard Emily playing. I can’t begin to describe how tangibly that particular piece of music put me in Epcot in that second. I could feel it, smell it and touch it. Countless memories of so many trips, the heat, the bright sun, the torrential rain, the twinkling night-time lights, the excitement of the first Epcot day of the trip and the gut wrenching sorrow at the last. All of these, brought sharply to mind by one simple piece of music.

It’s a part of me, it’s a part of us. An immovable, unavoidable building brick of our family history. All of that from one small section of what some might call “muzak”. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right!

See what I mean about peaking too early? I have to go back to work tomorrow and pretend I’m both OK and actually interested in what’s going on. Surely if I played that to my boss and explained he’d be fine with me just not working until we go away? No, I suspect not. He’s never been. He was thinking about going once and asked my advice. I think I frightened him to death with the word document I just so happened to have on my laptop with detailed planning advice. I find it saves time.

In the end he went to California and did a road trip with three kids under ten. He didn’t go to Disneyland either. It was probably for the best. As other colleagues over the years have done, he may have returned underwhelmed and then I’d need to find a new job.

Till the next time…..

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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Cram Packed Planning

Thanks for your votes and thoughts last week. For those interested, it seems we are a trusting bunch around these parts…

a-poll

How productive was your week? I had a good one and got lots done, despite being at work for far too much of it.

As soon as we booked our next trip I added calendar reminders to my work diary on the days we could book the ADRs we wanted. That way, nothing silly like work would make me forget to get those sorted asap. Last week saw three of those reminders pop up and I snaffled them all with great gusto. Who he is and why there was a magician at work I don’t know?

We’re only on Disney property for four nights, so four ADRs seems an awful lot for someone who keeps saying they will be eating off site mainly. Whichever idiot planned to only have four nights on site at WDW is now desperately trying to cram in all the stuff we need to do and it may not be pretty. For example, our only day in Epcot (which is at least a two-day park) is the day we leave Siesta Key and check in at the Beach Club. So half the day, or at least half the morning will be taken up traveling back and checking in etc, so we won’t get into the park until close to lunchtime I think. I am planning on setting fire to the Siesta Key rental in the early hours of that Saturday morning just to make sure we’re all up and out nice and early though.

To make matters worse one of our must do ADRs (Sanaa) had to be on that day, so we’ll need to leave the park in the late afternoon to allow getting ready time (seven minutes for me, a couple of hours for Louise) to get to our reservation in time. It’s an early one as I want us back into Epcot before 9pm to catch Reflections. That may seem tiring but hey, we’ve just done a week at the beach, so be prepared to use up all that saved energy in the next few days.

So with only a few hours for such a large park I was getting a little concerned. At Emily’s suggestion I checked to see if Epcot had Extra Magic Hours that night, with us being on-site superstars and all that but alas it did not. However, I did see that Epcot has EMH the very next night. Well, that works nicely as we are at Animal Kingdom that day, which closes early at 7pm. So once done there, having eaten at Yak and Yeti (an ADR success from this week) we can head back “home” to the Beach Club, and stroll on into Epcot for another couple of hours until 11pm. If our legs can carry us, heck, we can even do Jellyrolls after that if we want to. It’s on our doorstop!

Sure we have to be up nice and early the next day to get to Hollywood Studios for another twelve hour park day but we have a whole nine hours of sitting down to do on the plane home a few days later so it’s all good.

Our final ADR is becoming a little bit of a tradition. Trail’s End is a nice way to break up our final day which of course is always at Magic Kingdom. A lovely boat ride over to the campgrounds, an all you can eat buffet that will threaten to sink that same boat on the way back in to the park just as the sun sets. That’s always a favourite and magical time for me and I love the parks at that time.

In theory we could do a park on the day we fly home but usually we spend that shopping for all those gifts we saw on day two and said something like “we’re here for ages, we’ll get it later” and then have to panic and run around in the final hours trying to remember where we saw it. That and eating. Speaking of which, I posted a few weeks ago about the Toothsome place at City walk.  I’ve also posted recently about WDW and Universal being good for us tourists as they have to compete. Well, as if I knew what I was talking about, did anyone see the extreme milkshakes that are on the way at the new Planet Hollywood place?

Image credit to Inside the Magic
Image credit to Inside the Magic

Yes, one has a full slice of cake on top, what of it?

The problem now is of course, I have to shoe horn these buggers into my plan too. I’m not sure what will kill me first, the calories or the stress of planning.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen – 10th September

Hooray and Hurrah, we’re back in a theme park today and I have notes that expand over multiple pages. My excitement at this prospect clearly was not shared by those I am allowing to share this trip with me. My daily moan about leaving late should be inserted here along with my grumpy attitude and protruding bottom lip.

This childish strop isn’t purely driven from my desire to get to every theme park at opening (as if we’d ever manage that beyond day one). With this new concept of booking your rides in advance, I had spent not an inconsiderable amount of time months ago setting out the schedule of the day ensuring that we got on more than the tram from the car park. Balancing that with the concept of this being a holiday is a struggle shared by every Florida holiday planner I would imagine.

Once again our journey to a park was spent (by me) glancing at the clock and the speedo calculating constantly whether the reading on the latter would mean that we got to Epcot at a point on the former that would work. The added pressure today was that the first FastPass was for Soarin’, the favourite ride of several of those in our group (Louise excepted). We dumped the car in Amaze 36 and waited for what felt like three days for the tram to arrive. My teenage sulk was now off the scale. It was around now that I realised (again) with the turnstiles and bag check still to do that you need to allow about an hour or more from leaving your villa to the time of your first ride.

Everyone knows that every villa in Florida is “only fifteen minutes” from Disney. Right?

After all the travelling, checks and swiping of things we stood on the right side of the entrance looking at the big shiny ball. After allowing about four seconds for that, knowing that we had exactly six minutes to get to Soarin’, we struck out, at my pace, to get there. Knowing what you know about the geography of the place, do you think that’s possible, with two of your party in their seventies?

I can’t say that we chatted much on that march, or smelled too many roses, but somehow we swiped our Magic Bands at the entrance to Soarin’ with the clock still showing 10.00 exactly. I don’t work this hard for a living!

Of course, we still waited ten minutes to board even with a FastPass but that gave us a chance to get our breath back and stop sweating. Louise got through the ride somehow despite her irrational yet very real fear of heights/flying. We were out by 10.25 and now the camera is released to record images of the day.

Worth the wait I think you’ll agree.

We turned left as we left The Land heading for The Seas. We entered of course via the Nemo ride which was a walk on and nice sit down. We spent the next hour or so wandering about looking at stuff behind glass.

We watched the manatees eating for a bit and finished our journey to the deep with the Crush show. I know this is aimed at young children, but frankly it is wasted on them. I urge Disney to do an adult version which could be very funny I think.

We emerged into the sunlight at 11.45 heading for our next FastPass which was Spaceship Earth.

We were a little early. Yes, that’s right, early. It’s no good now!

We spent five minutes in the shop near the entrance buying stuff we didn’t need before marching majestically past a sizeable queue with the smugness of Piers Morgan.

After looking for our funny faces on the big screen as left, we headed for Test Track to see how long it would be broken down for. After watching the Jamminators en route we were amazed to find it operational. The posted thirty minute standby queue was right at the end of our tolerance for a queue but we joined nonetheless hopeful for a shorter wait. Alas, it was the full thirty, but with the designing of our car it passed fairly painlessly and we all enjoyed the ride.

After all this fun and stuff it was inevitable pay back that we now had to spend some time in Mousegear. Hadn’t we done today’s shop browsing in the five minutes before Spaceship Earth? We bought stuff, but I didn’t record the details in my notes as the pain was enough first time around.

We moved on to what would be our last ever viewing of Captain Eo, although we didn’t know that at the time. Oddly, this was always in Rebecca’s list of top attractions. Her childhood love of MJ had never diminished and ever since its return this has been a must do. Oddly, there was no wait for this one but despite the half empty theatre we did of course move all the way to the end of the row.

After those few minutes of 1980’s funk we stopped at Ice Station Cool and introduced Sarah to Beverly. You can only imagine the delight of having someone new to play this trick on.

What you need after drinking some Beverly of course is to ride something which can soothe your stomach, so we set off for our Mission Space FastPass. Nana and Grandad opted to sit this one out as the first time we took them on they felt ill for about two and half years afterwards.

Of course we had to choose the Orange experience, as this would be Sarah’s first time. I have noticed, as the years go by, that my propensity to feel as rough as a dog after this ride increases. It is only a matter of time until I emerge from the pod with carrots and sweetcorn all over my bright white trainers. I haven’t eaten either of those since the late nineties but I know that doesn’t matter.

With thankfully clean trainers we left Mission Space and headed up towards World Showcase. With not having spilled my stomach contents it was inevitable that this led to serious turtle head at this point.

Normally, and without need for discussion we would start our world tour at Mexico. I don’t know why we have always gone that way, but it just happened. Today we had reason to do things differently. This was Emily’s first day on stage and so instead we headed straight for the UK to find her.

She was busy being trained of course so couldn’t distract her for long but we got a quick photo and left her to get on with stuff.

We moved on through France and continued the loop through all the countries in turn. Louise did her best to have a drink in each pavilion but had to admit defeat and inebriation after not too long. In Japan we found the drummers about to start as we were leaving so we took a seat for a rest and to watch them. I wandered off to a funnel cake stand near the America pavilion to acquire some much needed calories, and frankly, I played a blinder.

That my friends, is double chocolate funnel cake with ice cream. If possible, it tasted better than it looks and we all dug in and devoured it in no time at all.

Our wanderings continued through lots of shops and stuff.

Germany it seems is mounting a challenge to Mexico, where the law states you must try on the big hats and shake your maracas.

Which by the way we did as well.

We did the ride in Mexico too, although the term ride is a bit of a stretch to be honest.

We were done for today, both in terms of energy and stuff to do so we wandered down to the main exit somehow finding some energy reserves to do some more shopping. It had been a very long, hot and tiring day, and on the drive home most folks declared that they didn’t want to go out for tea so we stopped at a Papa John’s close to home and got enough pizza to feed everyone who was in Epcot today. Louise and I did fancy going out so we left everyone else in their PJs and a pizza coma and set off to eat out.

We had nowhere in mind and ended up at a Chilli’s. It felt strange to be eating as two again and the meal was OK, but nothing special.

I had Tacos and Louise had Fajitas. There was a two for one wine offer on which Louise was delighted about and the bill was a lovely $59 including a good tip. We didn’t get home until 11.20 so bed was the only thing on our minds, where I thrilled and delighted Louise….by falling asleep immediately.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Five

Day Five – 31st August

Back at the beginning of this report I moaned about how complicated it had been planning this trip. One of the reasons for that was Emily’s work commitments and today saw the first of those as she had to check in. So I apologise in advance that today may not be the most entertaining ever spent in Orlando.

I was awake at 6.45. I had also been awake for most of the hours preceding that as my “I should really be in hospital” cold now had a full grip on my weak and illness filled body. I administered yet more drugs, some of them even legal and added some fuel to fight the disease by eating breakfast too. It doesn’t matter what I had as I couldn’t taste it.

With a check in time of any time after midday for Emily, I was keen to get her packed, out and processed leaving enough time to do some holiday stuff too, as, after all today was also my birthday, which was, quite rightly taking a back seat today. So there was a lot of rushing around getting her organised and ready to go. This wasn’t helped by some apparent drama going on back home with her boyfriend that was distracting her from her own important day and instead of packing and getting ready she was hammering away at her phone with her thumbs.

We left the villa at 10.40 leaving Rebecca and Sarah to relax and rest after a tough few days in the parks. Nana and Grandad came with us and were dropped off at the discount women’s shop Louise and I found the other day. Grandad could not thank me enough.

The first job was a “big shop” at Target to get her set up with everything she might need in her apartment. Now, you’ll know that I love supermarket shopping, especially when it’s all for someone else. So we spent a long, long time choosing duvets, looking at hair dryers and suitable food stuffs that could be made quickly and easily….with a hair dryer.

At one point I did lose my temper ever so slightly with Emily as she was more concerned with the activities on her phone than the questions we were asking her about the stuff we were buying…for her. Louise played referee and things were calmed down.

After paying the huge bill I needed a coffee and a sit down so we got both in the Starbucks at the entrance to the store. Nana and Grandad met us there and we headed back to the villa to collect Rebecca and Sarah. See, not complicated at all this is it?

On the way to Emily’s check in location, which is close to Crossroads for those interested, we dropped off Rebecca, Sarah, Nana and Grandad at Downtown Disney (it was still called that at this point!). Our need for food saw us make a quick pit stop at a McDonalds and hoover up a burger and fries before finally getting to Vista Way. If you’ve seen Monsters University, it looks a bit like that, but with all different nationalities rather than Monsters wandering about. We parked up and Emily went to do her thing.

She was only gone for ten minutes, returning with a lot of paperwork and news that she had been allocated her first choice accommodation at The Commons. The drive to The Commons took a few minutes and after getting through what is pleasingly tight security we arrived at her building. We dragged her cases up to the door and knocked. We were greeted by a young lady who for the first minute or two we thought was American. However she soon explained that she was Norwegian and we could then start to hear that her accent was not from the US but did have a very distinct American “twang” . Lisse was lovely and we chatted for a while as Emily started to unpack. We got her settled in, said our goodbyes to Lisse and headed off back to Downtown Disney to meet up with everyone.

We parked up in the new Orange multi storey car park. I needed a restroom and had remembered from years gone by just how nice they were at the House of Blues so I made use of those. We walked all the way from House of Blues to World of Disney. Oh look, a photo….

And another…

You wait all trip report for one and then three turn up.

As we met up with everyone we soon discovered that Sarah and Rebecca had spent their time and dollars wisely.

Rebecca informed me that Grandad had paid for lunch so she had used the dollars I had given her to buy a Pandora charm instead. Female logic!

We spent a large amount of time wandering around the huge World of Disney store. Whenever Louise suggested we buy something I expertly dodged the bullet by telling her we should wait until Emily has her Cast Member ID and we can get discount. It worked a charm….which Rebecca should have waited to buy too!

We left around 4.30 passing the Lego shop as we did.

For the second time this trip we were now about to con Disney for which I heartily apologise. I still contest that over the years we’ve paid for a few white lies. We drove to the Beach Club to park up as we were going to Epcot and always prefer to escape through International Gateway after the fireworks.

A quick flash of the pink thing which had been stored in my shorts and the guard simply smiled, nodded appreciatively and told us to park wherever we liked. I don’t suppose he sees too many UK driving licences.

Again, these photos tend to be an annual event but I make no apology. This is one of our most favourite places.

We walked through the lobby, remembering again just how lovely that is and then out the other side, turning left towards Epcot.

Once through the entrance we stopped in the shop there to pick up my birthday badge. Remember, it is my birthday!

Of course, our first stop today had to be the UK pavilion to have a look at Emily’s new work place.

It was beyond warm today and Grandad was very happy to spy a comfy seat in one of the shops.

As was Nana.

Rebecca and Sarah grabbed a Duffy and settled in to do some colouring.

The rest of us wandered around looking at Emily’s colleagues to be and the incredible prices of a Twix.

We left the UK and we were Canada bound.

As we made that long journey it started to rain so our progress was more hurried than it might have been. Our plan was to watch Martin Short in O Canada as frankly it had been far too long since we did. As we got to the theatre we were confused to find it roped off. We crowded together in the entrance trying to keep dry until a Cast Member appeared to let us in. That was just the start of the waiting as we then had to sit in the foyer area for about ten minutes.

Once we were in, the show was slightly spoiled by three young folks stood next to us who had obviously been sampling a few drinkies around the world. The circle vision, standing up and the skin full they were on the wrong end of made them quite disruptive. My main fear was that Grandad would get annoyed enough to do something and we’d have a full scale international incident on our hands.

Having waited so long to see the film we were now bordering on late for our dinner reservation at the Rose and Crown. I hurried off at full man walking pace to book in.

By the time I got to the front of the podium queue everyone else had caught me up. We were given our buzzer thingy and it was going off within a few minutes. We were seated on the patio outside and we were served by Rebecca…but not ours.

I sat there looking there handsome for a while.

We ordered the following –

Me and Nana – Fish and Chips

Emily – Bangers and Mash

Grandad – Chicken Tikka Massala

Louise – Steak

Rebecca – Shepherd’s Pie

Sarah – Chips!  Yep, that’s all she wanted after their large lunch at Wolfgang Puck.

As ever, Rebecca left the vegetables and used them to recreate a photo we had seen years ago, at Bahama Breeze.

With it being a special occasion we all had or at least shared a dessert and we all chose the Velvet Cake.  Grandad had a very unsubtle word with our server explaining it was my birthday (have I mentioned that yet?) and could they bring something out with a candle in it. All the servers singing Happy Birthday to me around that poor cast member with a candle shoved up their nose was odd.

All of this eating and singing meant that time was pushing on and darkness was falling changing Epcot into that magical place it becomes as the lights come on.

As it was now 8.35 we did consider ordering more food and or drinks so that we could tough it out and watch ROE from our table. Our server second guessed our quandary and solved it for us by offering us a spot on the patio down by the water. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and the rain that had been on and off all afternoon had the decency to stay away too making our ponchos redundant other than to keep our bums dry on the wet chairs.

It’s customary about now, just before the fireworks start that I desperately try all the settings on my camera to try and make these photos not the usual crap blurry nonsense that all the others are.

So, that worked well.

ROE was the usual incredible spectacle that we have to come expect, and any of my birthdays that don’t include it, are poorer for it.

Full of fireworks afterglow we wandered out of the park back towards the car at the Beach Club. The rain was coming back again and everyone was very tired at this point. So just Sarah, Rebecca and I walked all the way to the car leaving everyone else back at the valet point for us to return to pick them up.

For the first time this trip we dropped Emily off home at The Commons and found our way back to the villa via the I4. We were glad to be in bed by 10.20.

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winners in the World

Thanks to everyone who has already read my latest article for The Dis. My Country Needs Me is all about the UK pavilion in Epcot, so if you haven’t yet please do have a look. Having only recently done so myself, I would also recommend liking their Facebook page as all the latest news is there for you plus of course some very talented contributors!

I never truly understood the scale of the Dis to be honest, but if these figures are true, and I don’t see how they can be, surely I am pretty much famous now? I think they represent the whole section rather than just my little post!

dis shares

Having waved January off with two fingers, February is upon us, and we chalk off one more month on our countdowns. I use the plural as the three I have in mind are, (in chronological order) Louise starting work, Emily going to WDW for her year and then of course our trip starting in August. Wedged in the midst of all of those is Rebecca’s 18th birthday. Rebecca’s countdown to that started just after she turned five I think. She’s excited. Not that we have a great deal planned for it. Her trip to WDW is most of her present, as it was for Emily, although with May and August being so far apart it is not ideal and I’m sure we’ll do what we can to make the actual day as special as possible.

Anyway, following on from last week’s post, where I listed stuff I have never done in WDW, it would appear that these list things are quite popular blog wise as I had a good few comments, and most of you buggers read and run every single week!

So, on the theme of my Dis post above, where I whinge about the UK pavilion being a bit short on stuff to entice us in, it got me thinking about my favourite pavilions in the World Showcase, so here (imagine Fluff Freeman music at this point) are my top five….

5. Norway. This one gets points for effort as it has a ride, and probably the most intense one in the whole showcase, which I know isn’t saying much. It has a bakery which always scores well with me and the pavilion tends to be staffed by young female blondes who have no choice but to be nice to me. What’s not to like?

4. Mexico.  This pavilion scores very highly for theming. The night-time all the time interior is excellently done and no holiday is complete without shaking my maracas in public and the trying on of a big hat. The restaurant is also one our favourites in the World Showcase with the candlelit tables and moonlit backdrop doing a great job of replicating al fresco dining. Mexico would have been more of a contender for top spot had they not changed the fabulously kitsch 70’s film on the boat ride for the Donald Duck thing that is there now.

3. China. The food here of course has an influence as I love a Chinese, although the restaurant here isn’t the best example in the world. The counter service option is superb though and we’ve over ordered and over eaten there several times. I mark this one highly for the entertainment value. The frequent shows from the acrobats both amaze and shame me, as I wonder how two bodies, built basically the same way can be so different. These acrobats can perform feats that I would get inured just watching. As much as I do not like too much shopping, the shop here is always worth a good look around as it always has interesting items to browse and not buy.

2. America. Size isn’t everything but the scale of the place is impressive. However, my appreciation for this pavilion is based upon the unbelievably good Voices of Liberty. The soprano regularly communicates with dolphins with her high notes and when they start singing the patriotic American songs I want to invade a small country under the star spangled banner.

1. Canada. The song alone wins it for me. As you know I am likely to be in tears at the opening bars. If I were actually Canadian I don’t think I could cope with listening to it all the way through such is the effect it has on me. Add to that of course the excellently humorous film with Martin Short and one of the better eateries on property, and you have a clear winner.

My affection for the World Showcase is of course evident from all the birthdays I have spent there, and no doubt my top five will change based upon our next set of experiences in the summer, but those are my current favourites.

You may have noticed that I am trying to block out the reality of these cold winter times with thoughts and blogs about sunnier places and happy travels. Next week, as I did this, I have less happy travels down the wintry motorways to Head Office. As I scrape the ice from the windscreen at 5am on Tuesday, I shall be humming O Canada and closing my eyes hopeful that when I open them I will be stood in shorts and T Shirt in the ultimate happy place. I’m sure that will work!

Till the next time……

Damned if Disney Do, Damned if Disney Don’t.

One of the side effects of people being passionate about a subject is that it tends to drive some heart-felt opinions. This is very true for the ever passionate and dedicated Disney community too.

I would guess that this set of fans has one of the largest blogging communities on the interwebs, along with endless podcasts, forums and multitudes of other social media style get togethers. Hats off to Disney for delivering a product and experience that engenders such dedication, interest, and at times venomous hatred.

It may be a little extreme to call it hatred, but they only have to change something at one of the Disney parks, or indeed not change something, and the internet catches fire with vitriolic bombardments, stating each side of the argument as if folk’s lives depended on it. This week, the announcement to fuel this fire of fury was the one about the Norway pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, replacing the Maelstrom ride. I’m going to assume that if you are reading this you know what that is, and if you don’t then a short spell on google will tell you all you need to know. To summarise, they plan to replace a ride called Maelstrom that has been around for years with a new attraction themed around the incredibly popular Frozen movie.

Bye!

Replacing anything that has been in place for years at a Disney park is fraught with danger. The Disney company make a big deal about memories, and when you’ve got decades of them concerning a ride or attraction, when someone comes along and removes it, emotions can run high. I have similar anger issues over the fact that Stitch’s Great Escape still hasn’t been replaced by something that doesn’t suck.

So these Imagineers have a difficult balance to maintain, as well as the best job in the world. Firstly they have to do things which will keep the company profitable or else they won’t be around too long. They have to keep things fresh, without changing too much and they have to make sure they keep up with the Jones’ down the road at Universal.

Look at that queue!!

I can see both sides of the argument in this case. Sure, Frozen isn’t set in Norway, although there are obvious inspirations there. So it may seem that this new Frozen attraction is being shoe horned into Norway a little, but there is the alternative view that just next door to Norway, the Mexico ride has removed the more traditional view of Mexico in favour of the Donald Duck Three Cabaleros thing. I miss the kitsch nature of the old film, but I can see why they did it too.

Frozen is so huge now that I can see there was an urgent need to get something more than a queue to meet face characters in place. My main concern regarding the introduction of this into Norway is size. The crowds and demand for this will be enormous, and I just wonder where the queue might end up snaking too. They may be lining up past Spaceship Earth and out into the car park. I know that the pavilions around the showcase are much bigger than the facades may have you believe, but I just hope that they can build an attraction with the capacity to cope with the demand. As long as they keep those young Norwegian blondes who constantly undress me with their eyes whilst I queue, how bad can it be? The women cast members do it too.

There have been similar uproars and approval for the proposed Avatarland at Animal Kingdom. I have to say, I’m not doing cartwheels down the street over this one, but, I’m sure that when delivered it will be another high class, well executed set of attractions that we’ll thoroughly enjoy doing again and again.

In a conversation with Emily earlier, we gave the UK pavilion a make over too. I suggested that a new dark ride be built based on Robin Hood. We also then decided to put a traditional tea shop in place too, where we could charge silly amounts of money for a pot of tea, some crustless sandwiches and a Fat Rascal. We’d make it a Princess Tea Party, with Maid Marion, Wendy, Alice, The Mad Hatter and Pooh and friends in attendance.

Now, if someone can plant that as a rumour on some Disney forum we’ll have folks fighting in the streets before dawn. To the barricades!!

Till the next time…..