Irma God!

Florida is in my thoughts more often than it isn’t. Usually, that involves me wishing I was there. Right now that isn’t the case due to the horror that is Irma which is bearing down on my favourite destination.

We have been there at this time of year, hurricane season, a lot. We’ve been very, very lucky and (touches wood) have never been impacted by more than an impressive storm. In 2004 we missed hurricane Charley by a few hours, arriving just after it had hit and we saw very clear evidence of its power at our resort (Cypress Pointe) and on the golf course we played with many of the villas around the course being without their pool covers.

Again riding our luck we were the last flight out of Sanford at the end of that holiday as the airport closed for another incoming hurricane.

As you can see, the damage from Charley that we saw was relatively minor (ignore the wrong dates from my camera!). Having said that a quick google search tells me that 15 people died in Charley and it cost $16 billion to repair all the damage. I guess Orlando has typically escaped major damage in the past as it is very central but to see parks closing shows how serious Irma could be.

You’ll probably know that the weather in Florida can be an obsession. There is a weather report on TV every sixteen seconds with all sorts of analysis of every weather front. For us, none of the nasty stuff that was being tracked during our time there ever turned into anything of note. They either broke up or veered out to sea. We’ve had some serious rain at times but nothing on a scale that could be as bad as Irma looks. I just hope that the ever present weather obsession doesn’t make folks complacent that Irma will also prove to be less than predicted.

Irma looks so different. Its track has looked like going right through Florida for days and there seems to have been no last-minute deviation or reprieve.

It can only be hoped that the incredible damage seen by the islands already hit by Irma isn’t replicated in Florida. Having been to the Keys, I really fear for them down there. The buildings, beautiful as they are, just don’t look strong enough to withstand a hurricane of this magnitude.

This seemingly very active hurricane season is especially interesting to me as we will be in Florida this time next year. It has made us think, what would we do in such circumstances. Of course an interrupted holiday is nothing compared to what residents may be facing but we can only hope, for our own selfish reasons, that this year isn’t repeated next year.

It seems wrong to start waffling on about our plans for next year with all this in mind so I’ll save that for a later post. I’ll just say that our dates are sorted, a villa booked and a plan forming which ONLY involves Disney.

So I send my thoughts to anyone in Florida right now, resident or visitor and hope that this passes with the best possible result for all.

Next week hopefully, this can be a less sombre place and I can begin to bore you with every tiny detail of a holiday you won’t be going on or probably care about. It’s what I do!

Thanks to everyone for your comments last week. It was nice to chat with you all and hopefully there’s more of that to come. My throw away comment about killing this blog with fire was tongue in cheek. I wasn’t fishing for pleas to keep blogging but I thank you for your kind words and encouragement all the same. You are stuck with this nonsense for the foreseeable I’m afraid.

Till the next time….


To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Eight April 18th 2017

For all you theme park fans who love to read trip reports about rides, shows and all the stuff that goes with it, today’s report will mostly be around golf, shopping and food. So….that’s good isn’t it?

Nobody was in any rush to get up today. This party lifestyle was taking its toll. More to the point, everyone was burnt to a crisp and the thought of spending another day lay in the sun was about as appealing as Piers Morgan.

On the plus side, the weather did look to be promising a little relief from the heat with some cloud and lower temperatures so I took an executive decision and, (are you ready?), changed the plan!  The plan had me and Dad down to play golf tomorrow but with sunburn at the forefront of everyone’s mind I pulled it forward by a day, meaning the ladies would be sheltered inside whichever mall I could find to deposit them at.

Cruising the internet like a pro, I quickly found a golf course and a mall close enough to each other to work. Dad did a crazy thing and actually phoned the golf course to book rather than do it online, whilst everyone got ready. These quaint old traditions do need preserving I guess.

We left the house at 10.20 and arrived at the same mall we went to last night to eat at the Cheesecake Factory thirty minutes later. The females rolled from the still moving vehicle before we sped off to Rolling Hills for our 11.20 tee time.  The chap in the pro shop who booked us in probably hadn’t been a Disney cast member earlier in his career. His disposition and cheeriness was that of a Remainer at a UKIP conference. He was so awful to us that Dad emailed a complaint in later, only to find it was the anniversary of his father’s death!!  So we felt great about that, but really he shouldn’t have been working in those circumstances. That could only happen to us….

We were clubbed and buggied up and out on time. My golf took a little while to warm up despite having played as recently as eighteen months ago.  As with most places a man of my standing and good looks goes, leggy birds were not too far away…

and I was watching Dad for tips on how to get the thing to go in the right direction.

I got steadily better, as to be honest, I could not have got any worse, and on the back nine (see how easily I slip into the technical lingo) I managed three pars on the trot. For those non golfers, you should be worshiping me as some form of sporting freak.

Dad was blown away by the value of this offer…

and was seriously considering selling up and moving over here just to take it up. It’s basically £30 a month to play three courses as much as you like, unlimited time on the driving range, a beer with every round of golf and golf lessons. There hasn’t been a better deal since the one we’re definitely going to get from the EU.

To even things up, the golfing Gods restored my incompetence on the final hole so I finished in a blaze of glory with a humbling nine. I think I was getting tired!

I still managed to get round in less than 100, which for your average hacker who plays once a blue moon is almost respectable. If I played more than once a year I’d be dangerous.

We handed our stuff back in and went to have our free lunch which came with the round. It was a very acceptable chicken burger for me and chicken salad for Dad. Thoughts now turned to the absolute financial carnage Louise could have caused in the many hours she had been left unsupervised in the mall. This thought threatened my free lunch escaping so we quickly got into the car and sped back to the mall hoping we had some dollars left for the rest of the trip.

It was a narrow escape. There had been some buying, mainly for Rebecca, and the obligatory large candle that for reasons that escape me, we’d have to now transport around Florida and back over the Atlantic. It could have been much worse as the ladies had spent not an inconsiderable amount of time contemplating how to get a double bed back to the UK for Emily’s room. It was lovely apparently. See what happens when I’m not around to squash their hopes and dreams?

We left the mall as quickly as possible and after all those hours shopping the next thing we had to do was stop at a supermarket to buy stuff.

Two photos there just in case you were not familiar with what a supermarket is….

My notes say we bought bits. I really need to start a business up that specialises in bits. It is a very lucrative industry.

As Louise inevitably visited the pharmacy for some medical apparatus, cream or pill we did not yet carry, I did notice this…

Now I know it is blurry, but it boils down to the fact that you can order your repeat prescriptions via text. In the UK you have to submit, in person, a written document, notarised by your local MP between the times of 9.00 and 9.03 on the third Tuesday of a month beginning with H, and the receptionist can still use it for toilet paper if they don’t like the cut of your jib.

We eventually finished buying bits and headed home. I think it was the nine on the final hole but I felt really rough when we got there. I resorted to lying down for an hour whilst everyone got ready and that seemed to do the trick. It also meant that for once I didn’t have to wait for an age having got ready myself, after being told “I’ll only be five minutes now” by Louise.

Having figured out that the free bus service stopped about six feet from our front door, we wandered there and waited for a few minutes until it turned up.

Dusk is a lovely time in Florida wherever you are it seems.

The bus ride was only a few minutes and after alighting we wandered down Ocean Boulevard to Daiquiri Deck.

We were immediately seated over looking the Boulevard.

Cocktails were ordered by all, except Mum, with this being my first of the trip.

If only I had written down what it was!!

We started things off with a shared Hummus platter and Nachos for appetisers.

Then we all had…

Emily – Chicken Caesar Wrap classily garnished with half a bottle of ketchup.

Louise – Siesta Burger

Dad – Shrimp and Scallops

Me – Ribeye (I am officially shite at taking these photos. In my defence, I have to do it very quickly as everyone is gagging to dig in!)

Mum – Chicken Fajita Wrap

The food was just OK to be honest. The location and cocktails are the main reasons to visit here I think. Whilst we were eating we saw the one and only sight of rain of the holiday (shocking for an August visitor) in a torrential downpour.

It only lasted about ten minutes and was all done by the time we were ready to leave. We had a wander around for a bit and found a bar with a live band so we went in there and had a drink whilst watching.

They were pretty good, despite playing a load of songs we’d never heard of. Having rocked out until the early hours, if early hours means 10.30, we left looking for a bus. Instead we flagged down one of the many free ride services that operate on the island. They are typically golf cart style things with fairy lights and a hippy driver and they are free other than a tip. She delivered us to our door and I gave her ten dollars, having no clue if that was enough or too much.

We were in by 11pm and sleeping within minutes.

Till the next time…..

Great Deals on Theme Park TicketsGreat value Blue Man Tickets

 

Is It Because I Is Back?

Hello? Is this thing on?

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time….

Ask The Bill Payer’s Permission….

I’ve been blogging now, pretty much every week since 2009. Over that time I have covered every single topic available along with most of the emotions known to mankind. The content has been diverse (which is a polite word for “all over the place”) and I have ranted, gushed, moaned, bragged and been heartbroken at different times, sometimes all in the same post. However, today sees a first. I am to use a button that I have not yet pressed in all of these blogging years.

But first, some background. A few weeks ago I blogged about the annual event of us craving a holiday once winter starts to fade. We had house stuff to do as well and so the decision was not made. In recent days a top line plan has emerged that will see us to do both. Louise said that we both agreed that the house stuff is to come first which means that our holiday plans have been pushed back a little into early 2017 and it is looking like February. This is one of the joys of not holidaying with school age kids which goes some way to compensate for the fact that they’ve grown up now.

Now, at that time of year few places on the planet will deliver the skin scorching temperatures required by Louise if she is to sunbathe for 23 hours of each day. With the entire globe at our disposal I have exhausted all relevant possibilities and am now considering two locations….America and the USA.

With those lower temperatures in mind, our original plan of a more beach based trip seem to be foiled or foolish. I know for normal human beings the mid 70s would be fine for a day at the beach, but Louise needs skin melting rays to feel the day has not been wasted. This rules out (I think) the Miami/Naples/Keys type of trip that I had in mind last time I blogged about this stuff.

So here is where I need help (some may say I have needed help for some time). In my mind, (and lets face it, that’s all that matters. Louise is picking the stuff for the house so it’s only right I choose the holiday!) I…or rather we, are looking at three options, which are…

The usual Orlando based holiday.

However it will be anything but the usual as it is very unlikely that Rebecca (and Tom) will be with us. Emily will travel with us I think. I’m not sure we (I) want to do a fully Disney based holiday this time. I suspect there will be Disney stuff involved, but not the daily focus we’ve had in the past. Strangely though, having said that, I quite fancy staying on site for a chunk of the trip. We do want to spend an extended number of days on site at Universal too. We don’t feel that we’ve done the Potter stuff enough and we love staying at the Hard Rock. So in summary, option 1 is an on site Disney resort (I’m thinking Old Key West) followed by four nights at the HRH.

California

We have threatened to do this for years, but have always drifted back to Florida. We *will* do it at some point. We always say that just after booking for Florida again. I suspect the reason for that is familiarity and ease. We know Florida so well that the level of planning and preparation is much reduced and we can just turn up and engage auto-pilot, feeling like we have returned home.

There would need to be a high level of research and prep to undertake a Californian Adventure as (I think ) such a trip is much more sprawling. There is also the small matter of the very long flight, which for a very frightened flyer in Louise, is its own challenge. Once there, I also think it involves a lot more travel as the things we think we want to do are a long way apart. Having said that, my knowledge of the place is so rubbish that I only have a handful of things in my head that I think we’d want to do. Those are Disney at Anaheim, maybe Vegas, Alcatraz, a beach (see, I don’t know what the temperatures are in California in February), Six Flags and the curly steep road in San Francisco.

Somewhere Else Other Than The US

I have nothing to add here.

So here is where I need your help and this is the new thing I waffled about at the beginning. I have attempted to use the poll feature, so please cast your vote below, ask the bill payer’s permission, and do not vote if you are watching on catch up etc etc etc.

I reserve the right to completely ignore the results of the poll but I am genuinely interested in your thoughts of you all. Most of you are seasoned US travelers and probably know more than I about Orlando and definitely California.

 

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen – 12th September

If you look back at my numerous, previous trip reports and had to summarise them, there are a few ways to do so, but in my mind they are pretty much just diaries of how to fill the time in between eating with the more than occasional knob gag.

Today is going to be a great example of that, as it is all about getting stuff into our bellies and little else.

We did not wake until 9am which is a good sign that the holiday is coming to an end as our body clocks are finally starting to make sense. Incredibly we were in the car by 9.45 which is quicker than we ever have been when it mattered on a theme park day.

We got to the Commons at 10.15 to pick Emily up and were soon pulling into the car park of The Beach Club. The plan today, having missed our reservation for it the other night thanks to our dodgy sat nav, was Beaches & Cream. Having no reservation today we figured arriving at opening would give us the best chance of getting a party of seven into one of the most popular, yet smallest eating venues on Disney property. God loves a trier.

Every time I am in this location I remember how much we loved staying here in 2010 and I always make a mental note to remember that if we ever book another trip.

After talking very nicely to the young ladies on the podium our only option was to sit at the counter in about an hour. We agreed to that, having no choice of course, and decided to have a walk around the Boardwalk area to kill the time.

We bought some gifts in Screen Door and had a general browse before catching the boat back to Beaches & Cream at about twelve. With buzzer in hand we still had to wait another half an hour to be seated.

For me there was no need to look at the menu as I knew I was having a Kitchen Sink. The fact that the girls opted to join me was fine. Everyone else opted for normal food.

It is indulgent beyond measure and despite our best efforts, including ordering tactical salty fries too, we just couldn’t finish it today. I am suitably ashamed.

The bill was $125 but I was too full and close to a sugar coma to care.

Next on the plan was a trip to (the very newly named) Disney Springs. We were directed to park in a spot near the Casting building across the road so we did.

As usual when shopping we splinter into smaller groups, so Nana and Grandad made their own way to procure the relevant gifts for the grandchildren not currently with us. The rest of us spent an age in the World of Disney and Louise bought me a lovely Mickey watch for my recent birthday.

We got ourselves a much-needed drink and sat on the benches near the stage area before continuing into Marketplace and Once Upon a Toy. Earlier in the holiday, near a face painting location, Sarah had refused to have one done as she was fully made up. She promised Rebecca that the next time we saw somewhere to have it done she would and Rebeca could choose. So….

All shopped out we left around 4pm and went back to the villa. There was some pool action for a while.

Then we had to get ready for our evening plans, which were, to my absolute delight, Teak Neighbourhood Grill. We were out by 7.30 as due to a twitter exchange with Teak, they had reserved us a table at 8pm. The journey was awful as it was raining. That word doesn’t really do justice to what was happening but it’s all I have. We arrived, ten minutes late and I was exhausted from the tension of concentration and the fear of death.

As we walked in we were immediately escorted to our reserved table and welcomed like honoured guests. Over the years a good number of folks have gone to Teak and told them that they heard about it from my trip reports/blog so we have often chatted on twitter etc and as and when we recreate the famous Donut Burger at home we always send them photos.

The welcome that awaited us tonight was something none of us expected or deserved. John and Tony, the owners, greeted us and stood at our table chatting for ages telling us about the number of times I’m mentioned from Brits eating there. If I had an ego it would have been nicely stroked. We were given an exclusive sneak peek of their soon to be released new menu which looked awesome (and will be launched by now of course.)

Sorry for the blurry photos…

We also had a look at their incredible beer selection which wasn’t something I had been too aware of, having always been driving.

The beer cocktails look amazing. We were even given a couple of samples of the newer items they are now serving.

That, and a pumpkin beer, served with sugar around the glass rim were my favourites.

We ordered –

Me – Cronie burger and garlic fries

It is no over exaggeration to say that this is one of the best things to ever be in my mouth and so deserves two photos. That cronut is an improvement on the Donut Burger I have had in the past and those garlic fries are just beyond delicious.

Emily – Donut Burger

Sarah – Chicken Tower Sandwich

Grandad – Chicken Breast Dinner

Nana – Crab Cakes Salad

Louise – Beef Sandwich with dip and garlic fries

This was THE best meal I can remember. Everyone was just blown away with the quality of their food and the flavours were just ridiculous. Being so full we were close to death, we refused to order dessert. Undeterred, the owners introduced us to their executive chef who arrived at our table with a dessert sampler to share.

Again, incredible.

Just when we thought the night couldn’t get any more special, the owners arranged for Ashton Kutcher to be our server! The girls were happy.

I had an incredibly unflattering photo taken with the owners showing exactly where all that food now was….

If you have read anything I’ve written in the past you will know that I have raved about Teak for years. Every time we go it gets better and some of the new menu items they have brought out are incredible. They even have a secret menu that you need a password for (Like them on Facebook for that).

We have eaten at the poshest of the posh Disney restaurants and most of the major chain places in Florida. What we love about Teak is that it feels like an authentic locals place, and that really comes over in the atmosphere. It is our favourite without any doubt.

Feeling full and humbled to be treated so nicely by everyone there we left around 10pm having given the biggest tip in my history of tipping.

An awesome night.

It will not surprise you to know we were home and in bed as quickly as humanly possible.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2016 – Day Nine

Day Nine – 4th September

The fact that I continued to wake up naturally, at times before I need to when back at home and going to work struck me as a weird combination of irksome and pleasing in equal measure. My pleasure was again dampened by the fact that it took two hours from me waking up to us being on our way.

Louise and Emily were very hard to rouse this morning, which was an unsurprising consequence of what was a very tiring day yesterday. I was impressively energetic considering I had spent the night in a hotel room with two women. At just after nine we dropped the cases off in the car…

and then we headed to the water taxi to get us over to Islands of Adventure.

I took the photo that everybody takes…

and made the long walk through the park towards Hogwarts.

The theming was as impressive as I remembered from our one and only previous visit.

There was a fifteen minute wait posted for Forbidden Journey but nobody said this was just to get a locker. To be fair Grandad did struggle to understand the instructions but still, it’s a right faff.

It soon became apparent that I had remembered very little about this ride from our previous visit. This was a good thing and maybe one of the advantages of my fading memory as I get older. I got to enjoy it for the first time all over again.

We went straight on to Flight of The Hypogrif, Hippogryph, Hypogryf…..the next ride.

Quite brief, fast paced and leaving you short of breath. You can put your own version of the usual joke there.

Having only had the two hours between waking and leaving the hotel, clearly breakfast had just not been an option, so now, food was on our minds. The Three Broomsticks satisfied our essential criteria of being open and right in front of us. It is a counter service affair, with your order placed at a till and then you pick the food up.

As we proved at Be Our Guest, co-ordinating an order for a party of seven in this manner is clearly a task beyond me.  Our order taker was in her tenth decade on earth which didn’t help her understand seven idiots from Bolton shouting orders at her randomly. Sarah almost pushed her over the edge as she ordered one of the standard dishes, but wanted it without about half of the items. This took much longer than you would believe.

With our order locked and loaded we filled up our trays and found a table. Guess what? My food was missing again. With only a minor sense of humour failure and a decent flounce I went back to the food counter to claim my pancakes.

It was 11am when we left and most of us then rode the old Duelling Dragons ride, which may not have been the best time to do it, with bellies full of food.

With our special passes we walked right to the boarding area, arriving just in time to see the ride break down and spend the next ten minutes awaiting a fix. This was really good fun.

After a brief stop for photos…

Next, Grandad, Sarah, Rebecca, Emily and I decided to do Poseidon’s thingy. This was a grave mistake.

We walked in, but were held behind a rope for almost half an hour waiting for the “tour guide”. Then, with the tour itself taking a similar amount of time Louise and Nana had been sat outside in the burning sun for almost an hour and Grandad and I had all the money, so they couldn’t get a drink!

Now I know why they call it Poseidon’s Fury.

Once we had a drink we wandered through Seuss Landing.

We rode One Fish, Two Fish.

Emily there, regretting forgetting her sunglasses, that I had purchased for her earlier in the trip at vast expense.

Next, Cat in the Hat, which I’m sure has much less spinning than it used to.

We completed the holy trinity of Suess rides with the Carousel thing. I know, somewhere in the world, somebody exists who has heard and understood the spiel the ride operator says before the ride starts, but it isn’t me.

Once the ride was over Louise struggled to dismount. Other less chivalrous chaps may have laughed and watched her struggle. I did too. I do have photographic evidence but obviously I am not stupid enough to post it here.

We continued our journey around the park, with The Hulk next. We had heard that there was to be a major refurb starting a few days later so this would be the last time we would ride it in its current form.

Nana and Grandad didn’t ride and with our Express passes it took the rest of us about ten minutes to do so. As we came back to the loading area we were held in our seats as the attendants dealt with someone’s lunch which was all over the carriage in front.

Sarah, Grandad and Rebecca did Dr Doom’s Fear Fall next. I’ve never ridden that one and don’t intend to. Instead the rest of us browsed some shops before all riding Spiderman once we were all back together.

Somehow, we got the impression that there may be some rain on the way.

With that in mind, it made absolutely no sense to do the water rides now, so we did. Well, most of us did. Dudley Do Right was first and it was as awesome as it always has been. The most impressive log I had seen all holiday.

Everyone leaves that ride thinking they are wet, until that is they then go on the Bilge Rats ride and experience whole new levels of wetness. We did just that. As we left that ride I blew many dollars on the human drier. It made no difference at all to our clothes but crucially we were able to dry out our paper express photo ID things.

I don’t know what it is, but yet again we entered and left the Jurassic Park bit without stopping. The Jurassic River Ride was down due to the incoming storm and without that is there anything else to do here?

This brought us full circle back to Hogsmeade.

We headed for the train station, hopeful of keeping dry.

I captured the natural beauty of my two daughters whilst in the queue.

It was our longest queue of the day at over half an hour and everyone but especially Grandad was feeling the two long theme park days in our legs.

It is safe to say that capturing the ride’s effects on camera is not easy, so please don’t judge the attraction by these poor efforts.

Why that Weasley is giving Rebecca the middle finger I don’t know.

By the time we arrived at our destination the rain had also arrived. We left the station and found shelter in what I think was the exit of Disaster.

It rained a lot for quite some time. Not quite long enough to persuade me to buy any ponchos or anything daft like that.

After about half an hour the rain died away and we made our way to the same Starbucks we went to yesterday for refreshments. Whilst everyone ordered I took Emily to a nearby shop to get her a hoody as she was freezing in all the air conditioned rides etc. Filled nicely with coffee of various types we once again rode The Mummy, this time without Nana and Grandad.

Next, we undertook a first for everyone by riding Transformers. Honestly, now, I can’t really remember much about it but I think it was very similar to another ride.

After the ride we stumbled upon Megatron.

We rode Minions again, ending our Universal experience as we started it.

It was time to leave and we made our way to The Cowfish for tea (dinner).

No appetisers here as we were saving ourselves for the huge burgers we had been looking forward to experiencing here.

I had…

The Cowfish Has Offically Left The Building (A.K.A. The Hunka, Hunka), which is, Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side.

It was awesome. I was so busy indulging in that awesomeness that I didn’t write down what anyone else had.

This was Louise’s (I recongise her boobs in the photo).

This must be someone’s burger. I know it isn’t Emily’s as that is her new hoody on the next seat.

I think this is another view of mine.

It made me happy, fat and blurred.

Astonishingly Emily and Rebecca ordered a dessert. I was close to hospitalisation I was that full so I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Rebecca shared this with Sarah.

Emily had cheesecake. As my organs were shutting down due to the enormous calorie intake, my photographic skills were poor.

Somehow I dragged my body around some shops for a little while looking for things for people other than me. Before too long sense prevailed and we ambled on to the water taxi and made it back to the car.

Somehow I managed to operate it and get us back to the villa and our welcoming beds.

Till he next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Eight

Day Eight – 3rd September

The pain of these early starts, and today was once again a 6.30 am wake up, is paid back in spades if you are out to the parks before many others can manage. So imagine my levels of upset as again, it took us over two hours to get out of the villa. I should not have been too surprised as this morning we had to pack for our overnight stay at the Hard Rock Hotel. For me, that was underwear, swim shorts, normal shorts and two clean shirts. For others, it involved what appeared to be about a week’s worth of kit.

It was a depressing 8.50 am before we reversed off the drive and made our way up the I4. This meant an arrival at Hard Rock at 9.30 am. Naturally I self-parked and then spent far longer than we should have checking in. It took an age. This may have just been my perception as my need to be on rides already was as large as the chip on my shoulder at the late start.

Our room was not ready of course, but no matter, we would just check our bags and get on with it. Alas, no. It seems now that on-site guests need an extra photo ID thing to use the front of line privilege. This was a self-serve affair at a kiosk in reception. It could have been a tad more intuitive and for reasons that never became clear, Nana ended up with a moustache on her photo.

We wandered out to the pool area, trying to remember where the path started to get to the water taxi before lunch. I really do need to learn to relax in these situations.

It was 10.15 before we got in to the park…thankfully that was am and not pm.

First up, and with a suitably smug flash of our special passes, was a walk in to the Minions ride. There was already a queue that we would not have tolerated without our golden tickets.

This ride is of course just a re-hash of all the other rides that have been here before, most recently Jimmy Neutron, but it made it no less enjoyable. The pre-show is very good too. I would imagine this ride will stick around a bit longer than its forerunners judging by the amount of Minions stuff both in the parks and the movie franchise.

We crossed the street to Shrek and again avoided a woeful looking queue. This clearly pleased Rebecca.

We enjoyed another strong pre-show here.

The obvious next ride was Rip, Ride Rock It which now appears to have stricter security than most airports. I can only imagine someone was injured to such a degree that a law suit followed, by some object falling from the ride. The checks are only just short of full body cavity and the riders, had to go back to the non-riders, Nana and Grandad, to leave our glasses, hats, phones and most of our clothes with them.

We of course were able to walk on without a wait, and it was apparent that I have aged significantly since my last ride on this, as it felt much more intense and painful than I remembered. We watched the video clip of our ride as we exited and I marvelled at how I managed to hold that pained expression for the entire ride.

We wandered back to Nana and Grandad who had taken the chance to chillax in the shade.

This wasn’t as good an idea as it may have first appeared as he then couldn’t get up again.

Breakfast had been so long ago by now that food and drink became an urgent priority. We made our way up to the Starbucks past the Mummy ride for coffees and pastries.

Once refuelled, there was a mildly awkward moment as we appeared to be having a conversation about how bad it was to ride Mummy. Thankfully, I realised in time that this was the roller coaster we were walking to and I was glad to have kept my opinion to myself.

Everyone rode this one, mainly as we all lied to Nana and Grandad about how intense it was.

Here is the photo everyone wants to see, the gift shop as you exit.

We wandered on with no particular plan and sort of stumbled upon Diagon Alley. This was because it wasn’t here when we were last.

We briefly ambled around a shop or two with me cursing my lack of preparation and research about this new area. It was also very busy compared to the other areas of the park.

Somehow we found ourselves outside Gringott’s and wandered inside to ride. The bank hall as you enter is probably the most impressively themed thing I have seen on any ride. It was incredible. You may wonder then why I did not capture it in a photograph. Well, I was Periscoping instead.

Looking back now, the ride experience was a bit of a blur. I seem to remember being herded into a cubicle to have a photo taken for reasons that never became clear and then we joined the queue. There was a lift involved somewhere along the line and then we climbed some stairs up to the boarding area.

As we sat down there was a right old palaver.  Grandad had been put in the front row but was then told he’d have to move as he didn’t fit. The young ride attendant then had a complete brain meltdown as she tried to reconfigure the seating to accommodate our party of six and everyone else in with us. Despite us all telling her what to do, which was obvious to everyone other than her, she just couldn’t bring herself to get it sorted. It took forever before we just ended up moving ourselves around, into the arrangement we had been telling her to do and we were off. We all have times at work like that I guess.

The ride was of course superb but inevitably a little too short. Louise tells me that it is something you get used to eventually. We made our way over to Men In Black where I continued my form from Buzz a few days ago.

We then made our way to the exit feeling hot and tired. We spotted some familiar faces on the way.

The water taxi took an age to arrive but at least our rooms were ready now. I always like to pay that bit extra for the preferred view.

To be clear, I NEVER pay for a preferred view.

At this point five of us (everyone but me) went down to the pool. I went to pick Emily up now that she had finished her work for the day. On the way back to the Hard Rock we stopped at a 7/11 to get her some lunch and then after changing in our respective rooms joined the others at the pool.

Louise had worryingly already opened a tab so I went in the pool to try to block that from my mind. Grandad, Emily, Rebecca, Sarah and I went down the slide and generally just messed around in the pool for a bit.

There was a DJ on by the pool who had a few games going that we absolutely did not take part in. Instead we rested and drank for a few hours.

It was around 6.30 when we left the pool and ventured upstairs to get ready. I had to have a lie down for a while after settling the bar bill and then spending another $75 in the hotel shop on “bits”.

I quickly showered and then caught up on my trip report notes whilst I waited for everyone else to be ready to go.

We made our way to the water taxi as we had a reservation at the Hard Rock Café for dinner.

As we arrived at the taxi stop we were approached by a blog reader who had recognised us. We had a quick chat and a photo before boarding our vessel. It was lovely to meet you Debbie.

Grandad’s bumbag game was strong!

We were immediately seated and over ordered spectacularly once again. We took some family photos to pass the time. Emily, as ever, was delighted to be photographed.

Then of course the smile comes out for the selfie.

Louise and I are less skilled at this art.

A few Nachos the size of a small planet were our appetiser.

Me and Emily – Pulled Pork Sandwich

Sarah and Louise – Fajitas

Grandad – Shrimp Platter

Nana and Rebecca’s meal were not recorded in my notes I’m afraid. However, Nana’s looked like this.

My body hated me for how full I had made it and despite the very real physical pain we left and started to try to walk off the impending heart failure.

This is one of our favourite places of an evening. It looks lovely…

However, tonight we were simply too full to enjoy it.

We ambled to the water taxi stop and it somehow carried our excessive weight back to the hotel. The youngsters sat by the pool for a bit but all the oldies were in bed by shortly after ten. Yes, that’s what you call Hard Rocking at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Till the next time…..