The Joy Of No Jetlag?

In a world that doesn’t suck big hairy devil balls, today’s blog post would have been me moaning about just having landed back in the UK, being jet lagged, cold, dreading work but at least having a decent reason to be the weight I am now. I’d also have to be trying to motivate myself to start the trip report.

Just think about all that moaning you have been saved from. That’s at least one thing you can thank the pandemic for.

So I suppose in some small way I should feel better now. Had we just got back, we wouldn’t have a countdown, it would be at least a year until we may go back and there would be a whole lot of real-life stretching out before me.

To fill the void in my life, I have been doing some regular vlog watching. I couldn’t for the longest time. It was too painful. It still is, and there are times when I see a certain location on a vlog and I feel physical pain at how much I am missing it, but on balance it is helping a little.

I have two go-to vloggers now to get my fix of the parks, which is precisely double the amount I had pre-lockdown. The Trackers, of course, are the default setting, and now thanks to a recommendation here some weeks ago, Paging Mr Morrow. They do cover much of the same stuff of course as many vloggers do. Indeed, I think half of the current park visitors are vloggers, but they do it quite differently.

What I like about Paging Mr Morrow is that he indulges in food like a tourist should when in the parks. Multiple beers and snacks are the default setting for most of his videos. In fact, some of them make me feel like I am the model of restraint.

I’ve also continued to review and edit our own home movies from the last couple of decades in an attempt to fill the void. You can subscribe to my very own YouTube channel if you like (guys), so as I upload you can watch them. That channel has existed forever as more of a dumping ground for random videos I wanted to save, but with our WDW videos now digitised, I do aim to edit and post all the “good” bits there. I have been gaining subscribers at the rate of around one every five years, so it’s only a matter of time until I too can give up my day job and rely on the advertising revenues my “content” generates.

Yesterday I added a couple more videos. One was spectacularly badly filmed footage of the Osborne Lights in what was MGM back in January 2005. The second was one that really only has interest and value to us, but I’ll share it with you. It’s a lovely clip of us in Olive Garden, again on the same trip over December 2004 and January 2005 with Rebecca playing rock, paper, scissors with her Grandad. There was some glorious cheating going on, and I’ll leave you to ponder who that was being done by.

It’s a daft little video and probably of little interest to anyone but us, but I uploaded it to make sure we never lost it. Yes, there are large spectacular events on a WDW holiday. Fireworks, shows, parades and all the castle stuff, but sometimes these little moments mean more. You can see we are all knackered, but we’re happy, full of good food and just enjoying being there.

I had totally forgotten this had happened of course. It is just one meal in a cavalcade of eating experiences over the years, so to find it within all the other footage was lovely.

Of course, it didn’t help with my feelings of missing the place. We’ve eaten in that particular Olive Garden more frequently than many of the restaurants near our house. I can almost feel the atmosphere there, the smells and of course the breadsticks and salad which, and I will not enter into any debate on the subject, are the best on the planet.

So as we slip back into all sorts of new lockdowns, and us Mkingdons feel like we are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of work and not a lot of fun, loins are having to be girded, and teeth gritted as we try to get through what feels like a bit of a grim time right now. For so many of us who congregate here of a Sunday, our trips to WDW are a bright light at the end of our tunnels, and right now they are a very dim glow, so far in the distance that they are almost invisible.

So you see, I shamelessly lured you into a blog post by telling you how in different circumstances I might be moaning about stuff and then, like some form of politician, I pull a sucker punch and deliver moaning anyway, just of a different flavour.

With Louise working all weekend, I shall step away from the keyboard now to attend to my chores. It’s probably best for all concerned.

Don’t forget (guys), Like, Subscribe and all that jazz on my YouTube channel (that’s what you say to become an internet sensation right?) so that within a matter of weeks I can be earning my living doing brand endorsements for funeral plans and incontinence pants. I’ll be uploading exciting content as regularly as ever, which to date has been about three videos a year. Watch out Tracker, I’m coming for ya!

Till the next time……..

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Seven

Day seven already, and despite the title of this trip report and the little bit of enforced last-minute plan changing, you may wonder, what’s with all this Dorian drama? Indeed.

During the last two days, the eleventy billion hours of TV coverage had told us that the long hoped for “right turn” had happened, and Dorian was off up the coast, with Floridian landfall now looking unlikely. Those on the coast would be affected but it seemed we would be missing the worst of it.

This had not stopped Disney going all health and safety on us and closing their parks at 2pm today. I was awake at 6am, looking for Dorian updates and for the latest thoughts from Denis Phillips on Facebook. He is the “go-to” meteorolo…….meeterol……met….weatherman and his updates had given a lot of clarity and calm in what might otherwise have been a stressful few days.

Like the mature rational grown-up I am, I was a little upset that this major weather event which had already devastated several islands in its wake and might yet still do similar to the coast of Florida had denied us of some park touring time, I went downstairs to the TV to see how bad today’s weather might actually be, feeling suitably proud of my selfish attitude. These latest weather reports would determine whether we ventured to a park until 2pm or not.

I had by this stage got about 27 different weather apps on my phone and I spent an overly long amount of time looking at each of those and watching several different weather folks, oddly all on the same channel, predict what would happen. It was amazing that one channel could employ thirty-six weather experts and have them all on at the same time.

All of the above were predicting some quite nasty rain this morning and after much deliberating, I decided to call it, and the parks were off for today. It would not be fun in torrential rain. Instead, we decided to go out for breakfast. If we can’t ride, we’ll eat.

I noted that I was particularly hungry this morning, which would be good news for whichever breakfast place we stumbled upon first. I did notice, with some concern, that as we got into the car, there was blistering sunshine and nothing but blue skies, but this, of course, would all change as predicted by the great and good of the TV. Right?

As we met with the 192 we spotted a Perkins and after a mildly dangerous and somewhat illegal U-Turn, we abandoned the van in the parking lot and made our way inside. Again, as I cast my eyes upwards, there was still no sign of the evil weather coming our way.

We were seated immediately and ordered coffees and juices. I was becoming a little obsessed with the weather at this point, wondering why outside did not look like this…..

Image result for storm gif

I had blueberry pancakes….

Emily and Tom had some form of Eggs Benedict (I did write it down but I can’t read my own writing!)

Louise had this…

and Rebecca had the thing you can see at the end of the table which I have in my notes as “Not sure but something big”. It’s tricky keeping track of what everyone orders with a larger party!

The food improved my mood a little. Outside still looked like a typical Florida day and not mild Armageddon and I was developing a large sulk about it. All I could think was we were wasting the day and that I had made the wrong call to scrap our theme park plans. Its time likes these that the responsibility of being “the planner” lies heavy.

I paid the $85 bill and as it was still sunny we decided to go for it and head for the planned park for the day, Hollywood Studios. At this point, Lousie made that call as she couldn’t take another second of my man baby pouting. I doubt I have driven to a theme park more quickly in all these years. We parked in Mickey 312, trammed and had our sacks poked with a stick.

See, no hurricane!

It seemed that many other people had made the same wrong call that I did and had abandoned their plans.

Seeing such low crowd levels, now would be the time to head for the newly opened Galaxy’s Edge. Join us, as we enter for the first time….

It was clear that most of the people who had made it into the park today were also headed for this area…..

but it was still fairly light in terms of crowds.

It’s always a special time experiencing something for the first time in a park, and luckily when that’s a theme park you don’t get arrested. That’s especially true with something as significant as this. We soaked up the incredible theming for a while, wandered about and got our bearings.

Like a literal tractor beam, we were pulled to the Falcon and were all blown away by the detail, size and scale of the thing….

Did I mention that the theming was impressive?

Full of excitement, anticipation and pancakes, most of us joined the 70-minute queue for Smuggler’s Run. Louise volunteered to stay with Freddie.

Emily was overjoyed to be wearing her spirit jersey, selected to protect her from the air con chills of our breakfast restaurant and not to sweat 12 pounds off her in a raging hot theme park. Another victim of my poor decision making. We all must suffer for the cause from time to time. Tom was bravely sporting his unusual hairy neck.

It didn’t feel like over an hour of waiting to be honest. We were, of course, taking in all the new stuff and admiring what an incredible job had been done.

You will have to excuse the large numbers of photos here, I was a little over-excited.

You can tell it’s a new ride when you feel the need to take photos of the queue.

Even I’m not sure why I took this one….

Once you get into the holding area just before you ride, the theming is eerily identical to the scenes from the films. It’s excellent.

We were allocated our roles and were then just seconds away from riding. I was a little giddy.

The ride itself flashed by in an instant and I cannot remember too much about it. There is so much going on that it will take many more rides before it all sinks in. It is very enjoyable, incredibly well put together and a stunning addition to the park.

I’m sure the last hour had seemed a little longer for Louise and Freddie so we hurried out to meet them now. It was still gloriously hot, dry and incredibly un-hurricane like. We were about ten minutes away from our reservation at Oga’s Cantina. We’d booked this on the M60 some weeks ago, after seeing reservations being released, with little to no clue as to what it was. We were about to find out.

There was a queue and the cast members would wander up and down it shouting out names when they were ready to take you in. We didn’t wait long.

The theming is great. We did wonder why they hadn’t made it much more like the actual Cantina from the film but I’m sure there is good (legal) reason. We were shown to our seats which were shared with two other couples.

We studied the menu…

I made no attempt to write down what we had but they looked like this.

This was mine. I cannot say that I knew what was coming when I ordered it, but it was an experience.

I also can’t say that any of the drinks we had were the nicest of the trip, but of course, this was just about experiencing the new stuff in Galaxy’s Edge and we took it for what it was.

The place was rammed and noisy and not the best place for Freddie so we didn’t stay too long. It was 1.30 now, with the park due to close at 2pm. We noticed that Slinky Dog was showing a thirty-minute wait, so we decided to give that a go.

We set up baby swap, with Louise, Emily and I planning to ride first. Tom and Rebecca took Freddie to ride the Saucers whilst they waited, just too late to benefit from Louise deciding not to ride and instead soak up the last few minutes of sun before Dorian ended the world. Emily and I joined the standby queue.

Spookily as we came to the point where the standby and FastPass queues meet, Rebecca and Tom were stood waiting to merge and joined us. This accidental situation, got me thinking of a slight “hack” here. If you have a large party and one or two people willing to sacrifice themselves you could do the following.

Set up baby swap and say that one or two people are riding first and they join the standby. Whether they queue and ride or not is up to them. This immediately gives the rest of the party a FastPass, intended to be used as the first riders return, but there is nothing to stop those immediately joining the FastPass queue. It’s a stretch to call it a hack, but it kept me occupied thinking about it during the queue. This was a welcome distraction from the army of annoying kids in front us who did nothing but fight each other, climb on the rails and generally be a pain in the arse. Mind you, if you call your kids Hunter what do you expect?

So, in the end, we all rode together on our first ever Slinky as if it was written in the stars after all our failed attempts to get a bloody FastPass for it. The ride is a belter. Just fast enough to entertain the adults and not scary enough to terrify the kids.

The park was closing now. Weirdly the weather was still great and there seemed to be no reason to do so. With that in mind, we decided to go to Disney Springs which had no such plans to close until much later in the day. It was a twenty-minute drive and we parked in the Lime garage.

We walked for too long trying to find somewhere we could sit and have a drink. We ended up outside Splitsville on some high stools and a table. Does anybody else have real trouble making sense of the geography of the place now? My brain just can not reconcile the new layout with the old.

Whilst we rested and drank, a sudden appearance of some Dorian inspired wind blew all the menus off the table, knocking Louise’s red wine all over Emily’s bright white trainers. Being very new and very expensive she was rightly upset but the waitress was brilliant. Not only did the affected drinks get replaced, she returned with some club soda and cloths and we managed to clean any trace of red wine off Emily’s shoes and laces.

With that trauma behind us, we wandered off to the shops. Freddie added to his essential plastic tat collection….

For obvious reasons, the big balloon thing wasn’t in operation.

On our travels, Rebecca got some Up! Mickey Ears for MNSSHP. Before long, breakfast seemed a long time ago and we needed food. With it just being “round the corner” we decided on Olive Garden and we were there in a few minutes.

We were seated immediately and soon had the infamous salad and breadsticks along with our drinks.

I had some non-alcoholic berry thing. It was nice and more importantly not diet coke.

Tom naturally had a milkshake/iced coffee thing and at this point confessed that he’d been hungry for about four hours!

That used to be my plate of salad. We ordered…..

Emily – Five Cheese Ziti

Me – Steak & Alfredo

Louise and Rebecca had the lasagne.

Emily has turned vegetarian since our last trip and this meal was her single greatest sacrifice to date. Olive Garden lasagne was her most favourite meal on the planet so to watch two others eat it was painful!

Tom had the Tour of Italy.

Having skipped lunch (did you notice?) I had Tiramisu.

Tom had a huge chocolate lasagne cake. He was still so hungry that they could have brought him a urinal cake and he would have eaten it!

We paid the $180 including decent tip and made our way to the car. It was getting a bit breezy now and there was to be a curfew starting at 11pm tonight with worse weather to come. We made our now customary stop at CVS on the way home for stuff we apparently couldn’t live without. As we pulled out of the car park using an exit I hadn’t previously used, there may have been a few moments of us being on entirely the wrong carriageway, but I soon restored order with no harm done, save for some colourful words from the passenger seat.

We all watched some TV and relaxed in the villa. As I went to bed I could hear the wind really getting up outside and some pretty heavy rain. Apparently, it was quite a wild night, and the weather was pretty rough too (BOOM!) but I slept through all of that, missing any sign of Dorian altogether! The previous six days of 24/7 TV coverage seemed all the more worthwhile now.

I know these things can be devastating and deadly, and this one tragically was elsewhere, so we were thankful it didn’t cause us any issues other than a few lost hours at Hollywood Studios. Touching wood and anything else that may do the same job, we have in all our touring years managed to avoid any real hurricane impact despite almost always travelling in peak hurricane season. Long may that continue. And yes, I said touching wood…..fnarr.

Till the next time…….

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Thirteen 10th September 2018

As we near the end of this trip, even the writing about it has me feeling tired. I look at my notes for this day and they are a scrawly mess, rushed and all over the place. A decent metaphor for our state of being as this day dawned.

I should warn you that the levels of food consumption during this day are epic. I know over the years we’ve been known to put it away, but prepare yourselves…

We had of course had a very late night and this turned into a very late start today. Of course I had expected this and only had a brunch on the plan. Even so, that quickly turned into lunch as we didn’t leave the villa until 12.30.

Naturally Walgreens sucked us in on the way past. I didn’t make a note of what we were buying. I mean, what could we possibly still need at this point? I did note that it took an absolute age and I was getting stressed about it.

On the bright side, we were heading for Hash House a Go Go. It took us until 1.45 to get there, but still, let’s look on the bright side.

We hadn’t booked or phoned ahead so it was pleasing to see that it was pretty empty and we were immediately seated. We all ordered coffee and juices of varying fruits and settled in to consult the menu.

My notes are so rubbish that I have no idea what this is or who ordered it. It looked nice though.

That looks like Louise with a mocha of some kind.

It took us quite a while to decide what we wanted. There is so much choice here and wanting to order the largest portion available it took some well spent time to ensure that was the case.

Me – Chicken and Waffles

It deserves two photos…

Mikey – Andy’s Chicken Benedict

 

Tom – Pancakes with all the sides available

Emily & Louise – Stuffed Burger

Rebecca – Fried Chicken Thing

Freddie had a child’s pancake, which in normal life would have fed two adults. He barely made an impression.

It seems kind of redundant to talk about portion size after posting those photos, but I’m gonna. Holy shit, the amount of food here is just incredible/obscene/dangerous.

Nobody finished anything, although I gave it a really good go. Tom was the last to admit defeat, with enough food left to regret leaving it later.

I love this place. It has quickly become a must do on our eatery list.

The bill was $240 including a nice tip and that included the waiting staff carrying me to the car whilst I vomited all over them.

Having already been tired, now, carrying that amount of food in my ample belly, I was close to a coma. Somehow, I pointed the car at Animal Kingdom and relied on instinct and luck to get us there.

Several people needed to expel things from their bodies, so we loitered around the toilets for a bit.

We entered the park and headed for It’s Tough To Be A Bug. It was a walk on. I am old enough to remember when this was pretty much the headline attraction here.

We donned our bug eyes, and waited a few minutes before being admitted to the theatre. I was quite concerned about Freddie in here. Emily is 23 and still lifts her feet off the floor for the whole show, but once again, he just took it all in and let it wash over him with no negative reaction at all, even the scary bits. This child was built for Disney trips!

With that effort of having sat down for ten minutes we needed a drink and a rest so we got one across from Yak and Yeti at a frozen Coke stand. Some of us had rum in them, some, who were driving, did not.

After a twenty minute session of people watching and some much needed digestion we headed into the Up show. This will forever be “Birds of Flight” to us, but I am not resistant to change!

We had explained to Mikey that it was a bird show knowing that he was petrified of all birds.

As we waited for it to start, Freddie had a feed…

and then it started…

and that was about as much as Mikey saw. At this point, just after the first bird flew over the audience, he was seen sprinting for the exit. We didn’t laugh much.

Tom became part of the tunnel through which birds flew. It was probably for the best that Mikey had vacated that spot on the end of our row.

The show was good fun. I can see why they have included the Up characters, but I’m not 100% sure they have created the best show that they possibly can yet.

We had a FastPass for Everest next. You simply cannot ride this thing too much.

Look how full of energy we look.

There’s some compulsion that makes me take this photo every time I ride this thing.

The ride woke us up a little and pumped some much needed adrenaline though our sugar filled veins. I was simply too tired to tense my body on the way round which led to a whole new riding experience. I would recommend it.

Luckily we now had a FastPass for the ride potentially the furthest away from our current location, the Safari. Freddie had given up the struggle and fallen asleep so Louise sat out with him whilst the rest of us rode.

At this point of the holiday I was heavier than this chap and about as light on my feet.

Here’s my mate Neil….

Rhino Neil.

That joke makes a welcome return from every previous trip report I have ever written. Much like myself it gets better with age….right?

It was 6.45 when we had safari’d and that meant it was time to…

We trammed back to the car which was here…

I am not clear why I took that photo on the way out, having clearly remembered where we had parked. I blame the fog of food.

Back at the villa we had a welcome half an hour of feet up time. At this point, as incredible as it sounds, we headed out to eat. This isn’t something that you should attempt. We are seasoned professionals and have trained for this for years.

Listen, the plan said Olive Garden, and this, with days quickly running out, would be our only chance to do it. If it were even suggested that Emily could not have the Lasagne at the Olive Garden the consequences cannot be contemplated.

So we made the short drive to the Olive Garden on the 192 and once again, I forgot my camera so, you will be viewing the ones from my phone (again).

Upon arrival, we were told our table would be available in about five minutes. Being a larger party, and that’s not surprising after our lunch, we had to watch several smaller parties seated as we glared at them with hatred and a shocking emerging amount of hunger.

That five minutes turned into twenty or more and I was not happy. The manager sensed this and apologised, offering us free appetisers to appease our disdain. To be honest, nobody was going to have appetisers as were only just hungry, but being free and us being pigs we did of course.

Naturally we ordered a light salad and not this huge bowl of melted cheese and bread.

Along with this other huge bowl of molten cheesy spinach stuff and bread….

Plus these breadcrumb parcels of more melted cheese with sauce all over them.

To be fair, after eating all of these, we did then have some salad….

and more bread…..

Before tucking into our main courses….

Rebecca and Emily – Lasagne

Mikey and Tom had the Tour of Italy which was upside down for reasons I can’t explain.

Louise had the five cheese Ziti, as we hadn’t had any cheese recently.

I had the Shrimp Scampi and clearly forgot to take a photo of it. I had literally looked at the menu and found the entree with the lowest calorie count. It was a little late for that I’ll grant you, but every little helps.

There were cocktails and wine and a bill of $217 including a tip. It was, as ever, one of the best meals of the trip despite us forcing all this down due to our earlier gluttony.

Had I mentioned we were tired. We dragged our flabby bodies to the car and made the ten minute drive home before collapsing into bed at 11.

Till the next time…..

Scary Stuff

Before I begin, it’s only right that I share with you the results of my very scientific poll last week. For those who didn’t read that post…..get out…go on…if you aren’t here every week, begone, I hold no truck with part timers….ahem…

The poll was asking if the charges for parking your car at Disney resorts would make you reconsider staying on site. Turns out, for most it would…

I suspect there may be larger, more representative polling mechanisms than me asking my two readers, but it does seem that this new policy is causing folks to pause and consider their options. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. The entire Disney board, who read this blog every week, will no doubt be holding emergency meetings this week as a result of this.

On a journey that started in 1980 and has included more trips than I can remember (true story) it isn’t very often that I get to experience new Disney stuff on one of our Florida trips. Sure there are new eateries, and new rides along the way, but to do new stuff that we have never experienced before, we usually have to venture further afield.

The Keys, Daytona, Vero Beach, Naples, and Siesta Key have all featured in the quest to find new stuff and to make sure Louise tolerates us going to the same place all the time. We’ve loved them all by the way, and should time and money permit, we’d return to them all.

This week saw the booking of our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets. In all these years we have never done one of these party events and I am definitely looking forward to it. On our typical end of August trips, Halloween bursts out all over the Magic Kingdom on our last few days and with this holiday due to start a little later than normal, right at the end of August, we get the chance to do the party night.

With a complete disregard for my plan, Disney conspired to make life a little difficult. Despite the park hours saying that Magic Kingdom closed at 6.30 on the 6th of September, making me assume that we could safely bank on that being one of the dates for MNSSHP, it was not. Or at least there are no tickets available for that date right now. So, I had to do some swift emergency surgery to the plan, rejigging several days as if it were some trivial task. Should anyone less experienced than I attempt such a thing, disaster would surely ensue.

A future blog post will once again outline this new plan in graphic day by day detail. Try to manage your excitement and anticipation if you can.

To cut a medium length story short, we are now doing Not So Scary on the 9th of September and for reasons I won’t bore you with, it looks like we’ve had to cut Edison from our dining plans as a result. That was caused by a chain of events and a line of thinking that you wouldn’t believe even I were to explain it. In summary, it was either Edison or Olive Garden for the chop and as the latter’s Lasagne is Emily’s favourite food on the planet it was a short decision making process.

Somehow this change meant that we needed somewhere to eat a late lunch at on the day of MNSSHP, off-site, so we could go back to the villa to change as we didn’t want to turn up anywhere in our costumes before heading to Magic Kingdom for the party! So on the 9th we will be resting poolside for the morning and then around 2pm, venturing out to eat before going back to the villa to change into our elaborate costumes. It has been decided that this shall be Miller’s Ale House on the 192. We’ve done it once before and their wings and cheesy fries are excellent.

The double edged sword of doing new stuff like MNSSHP is that, yay, it’s all new and exciting, but, boo, I don’t know what I’m doing so much. So research is needed. Or I could just be lazy and ask you lovely folks the current question in my mind…and that is…

It rings a vague bell that there are rules around Halloween/character costumes, and adults cannot wear “proper” costumes, I assume for fear that some guests may mistake other guests for characters? I can see the risk as even out of costume I am constantly assumed to be Gaston, Prince Charming and/or Hercules. It’s a bother. So what can we wear? I see pictures of folks in “full costume” when I look online but it would be good to hear from some folks with personal experience and/or real knowledge unlike me!

Beyond my plan to recoup the price of the ticket in the amount of candy gathered, what other tips would you give to a first timer at Not So Scary?

For those of you who enjoy a Freddie photo. Here is a significant one, his first passport photo. I think he will be happy with that for the next few years!

Returning to normal life, I picked up my new (to me) car on Wednesday. I am probably the least petrol headed male in the UK, but still, it is always nice to get a new car and enjoy that smell for a few days at least. It has some groovy toys like a reversing camera, which I’m sure is handy if you are not a parking God like myself. It also has heated seats, which will definitely be useful and used as it seems winter has come for good and we are destined to live on single digit temperatures for the next 27 years. I have had a hot bottom for years and this will only enhance it. Steady ladies!

Today, Mustard begin their wedding season. The first of our wedding bookings for the year happens today and I’ll be there for most of the day and night. By the time you read this, we shall probably be setting up our gear, sound checking and then hanging about for a long time. The actual playing of songs is always a small part of the life of a function band. Without roadies and an entourage, it is very much a “Do it all ourselves” approach with the highlight being the pleasure of packing everything up, getting it into the car and then unloading it back into the house at some stupid time in the early hours. Safe to say, we do not do it for money!

Enjoy your Sundays.

Till the next time….

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Ten April 20th 2017

For the love of all that is holy, will this stay at the beach never end? At the time, I had no such feelings. Now, trying to make the same notes for the sixth day in a row somehow different is driving me insane. This must be how Coldplay feel every time they start a new album!

This is, I suppose, why normal folks don’t write trip reports for beach holidays.

Today, an alien space craft landed on our roof and shared with me the secret of time travel. Or not. Maybe instead my notes look just like yesterday’s.

But wait, what’s this. They say I was awake at 5.15. It turns out my phone rang at that time with a call from an 0151 number. Being pretty sure that nobody in Liverpool needed me that desperately I declined the call and went back to sleep until 8.15. A bagel and a brew were taken on board and Dad and I of course went to the supermarket. Today’s shopping list included lunch, a sun hat for Mum and some cold sore cream. Whilst in the pharmacy an elderly Floridian chap asked me to help him pick out the correct dental floss. This wasn’t due to him admiring my stunning dentistry, rather a symptom of his lack of sight. I put on my best Hugh Grant impression, as I feel compelled to do whenever I’m speaking to Americans, and got him what he needed.

Once back home we loaded up for the beach, crossed the road and dug in for the day, with another stiff breeze threatening our brollies.

Hey, look there’s Ryan!

Sitting, resting, reading, lazing, sunbathing and chilling were just a few of the activities undertaken until 12.30 when I walked back to the house to pick up lunch. In a radical departure from earlier days I had a salad and not a sandwich. It had walnuts and cranberries in it and was really exotic. A few days on the beach and I think I’m Peter Ustinov.

As had happened every day so far, just after lunch the direction of the wind turned 180 degrees. You could set your watch by it. So we had to move the umbrellas and dig them in again pointing the other way. Such a hectic day!

Drastic measures were being taken to tan the bits that needed tanning but cover the bits which had already been burned to a frazzle. Louise had sellotaped a couple of brillo pads to her nipples to prevent further burning.

I read a lot in the afternoon and ate an unfortunate amount of crisps. By doing so I made friends with this chap who by the end of the afternoon was pretty much tame and sat on my knee. Oh hey, there’s Ryan again.

He liked crisps almost as much as I do.

By 4pm the burn was becoming too much and we wandered back to the house. The rule is that no matter how early we leave the beach to get ready, the departure time will still be the same. The time taken for readying expands to fill the time available.

During the readying we heard a large bang from our bathroom. It turned out that Louise had fallen in the shower bruising things unmentionable here. Add that to her burnt boobs, cold sore and the cut on her foot that she picked up from the door as she had entered the bathroom and she was entering the territory of having to be put down to prevent any further suffering.

Tonight’s dinner was to be at an Olive Garden, at which we pointed the sat nav now and set off. Twenty minutes later we arrived at South Tamiami Trail. Our wait for a table was to be twenty minutes, but they softened the blow with a half price voucher for the bar.

Louise had a red wine, Dad a G&T and sodas for everyone else.

Once seated we browsed the familiar menu whilst we waited for the salad and garlic bread. Our server had asked if anyone wanted soup. After ten minutes of laughter and scathing sarcasm she understood that we preferred the salad. To be honest salad and bread sticks are the main reason we come here.

Our server noticed that all the bread had gone before she had finished putting the basket down on the table so she went and got some more. I can confirm I ate too many of them for my own good.

I then had Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo

Emily & Mum had Lasagna. This is pretty much Emily’s favourite food on the planet.

Louise had her “usual” of four cheese Ziti but this time with meatballs.

You may notice it was meatball singular.

Dad had Chicken Marsala.

Everything was superb as it always tends to be here.

As we were getting into our eating stride by this stage of the trip, desserts were done too.

Emily & I had Tiramisu but I’m sure CVS do a cream for that.

Mum had Apple Pie Thing (that’s what my notes say!)

Dad and Louise had chocolate cake.

They were all as good as they look.

With more wine, two lattes and a cappuccino we were confirmed as greedy gits and asked to pay just £135 plus tip for all of that.

We wandered across the parking lot to a nearby Publix for, you guessed it, bits. I noted another potion was acquired and Dad bought a white toothpaste as he didn’t like the blue one he was using. It was only after checking out that we pointed out that one was blue too.

Back to the car now and we drove to Siesta Key village and parked up for a wander around the shops. We didn’t go for a drink anywhere as our bodies could not accept any form of food or drink at this stage and Emily had left her ID at the house.

We were back home at 9.30 and asleep just after 10 with a bit more reading done.

Till the next time…..


La Nouba by Cirque Du Soleil



Universal Orlando Ticket Discounts!

Bait and Switch

Despite me boring you all to tears with the blow by blow account of my planning adventures (and I had, believe it or not, edited out a lot of stuff) following last week’s update there were still some twists and turns to go.

The final link in the chain that did not want to get sorted was our Siesta Key booking. I consider myself fairly experienced in this DIY holiday malarkey but even I was stunned and shocked at some of the stuff I have come across.

I had spent a good deal of time on sites like HomeAway, VRBO and even Trip Advisor looking at and enquiring about properties. As I have said before, Siesta Key has very few hotels and even fewer within striking distance of the beach and village so it was always going to be a private rental.

Now, call me old-fashioned but when you see something online that gives you a price once you enter the required information, in this case, dates and number of people, you would expect that to be the price you were going to pay. There are rules about this stuff…believe me, I do it for a living.

However on more than one occasion, including the property I linked to last week, the web site offering that property at a given price then only gave me the option to Enquire Now, despite showing me a detailed breakdown of the costs involved. I waited longer than was ideal for a response and I then got quite a terse reply telling me that the costs would actually be about 30% higher than shown on the web site I had seen the property on. This wasn’t the only time it happened during my planning travels and they typically then tend to send you a link to a different website, managed directly by them where these new prices are shown.

These websites tend to look like something a teenager built in 2003 and haven’t been touched since. They offer no online booking facilities and do indeed give these new prices the tetchy owner is claiming to be correct. I honestly felt guilty for –

a) having insulted them by daring to want to book their property at the (originally) advertised price

b) querying why the price had risen by a good few hundred dollars

It won’t surprise you to know that I walked away from that particular deal without further discussion. I believe the term I’m looking for here is bait and switch.

Anyway, later that night, using a site I had heard much of but had never used, I found a suitable property on AirBnB. Crucially I was able to book there and then at the advertised price and things such as the cancellation terms etc were also clearly shown.

So, after what seems an endless search, seventeen false starts and more stress than it should have caused, here is where we will be staying in Siesta Key.

final siesta

It is a little bit further away from our ideal location than I might have liked, but the more realistic price and extra space clinched it. It is literally steps from the beach and a ten minute walk to the main street of the village where all the food and stuff is. I also remembered a chat I had with a blog reader (Thanks Mark) months ago when I first mentioned Siesta Key about free taxis operating on the island, so if needed we will use those if the walk is just too much our sun soaked bodies.

Finally, surely now, we are all sorted. I have marked the calendar with important dates about the booking of dining and fastpass stuff and I can now start to fill in each day with some plans. You’ll know by now that this starts with our eatery of choice for the day and we work backwards from there. There was a minor crisis when I realised that we simply didn’t have enough days in Orlando to get all our favourites in but I think I’ve resolved that by finding some of the chain restaurants we love, such as Olive Garden and Applebees close to Siesta Key, which frees up a couple of meals for our limited time in Orlando.

With Mum and Dad now coming along, thoughts turn to maybe fitting in a game of golf with my Dad and again that is likely to be somewhere close to Siesta Key as our Orlando time is too precious.

The basis of the plan currently involves the likes of Teak, Cowfish, Market Street Cafe (Celebration), Bahama Breeze, O’hana, Sanaa, Outback, Olive Garden, Applebees and Beaches & Cream. We also somehow have to fit in the new Toothsome Chocolate Factory place at Universal…

Credit to Insidethemagic.net for the image…..

Image credit to themeparktrader.com

I don’t know about you but that’s made me hungry so I’m off to eat something….

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Ten

Day Ten – 5th September

I know that we have a track record over the years of declaring a day a rest day and then spending it doing things not even close to resting. However, today was to be one of those rest days and frankly we needed it. The two days at Universal had been hard on the legs (and stomach) and we were all feeling it.

You can tell this was a real rest day as there’s no sign of a photograph until this evening when food appears. All of this is trip report writer’s code to suggest that today may be short and a bit unexciting, in sharp contrast to all the other days which require a seat belt and a Diazpam to survive.

Now, having said all that, with you all prepared for tales of us lounging around doing not a lot, I found myself awake at 4am. This was solely due to my illness and it was probably my body’s way of protecting me from drifting away into a cold related coma in my sleep, such was the level of my maladay. Looking back at this day now, from some months away, it is hard to remember how I felt but judging by the unrepeatable description of my state in my trip report notes, I was one poorly boy.

What is even more indescribable is whatever madness took me at this time to attack my work emails on the villa’s PC. Having deleted a few thousand emails that I didn’t need to get in the first place I staggered back to bed for a couple of hours, waking again around 9am.

Despite being at death’s door we did a trip to the supermarket to restock the fridge and cupboards with high sugar foods and vein clogging fare. You have to feed a cold you know.

On the way back we called in at the local CVS Pharmacy to see if anyone had found a cure for the cold recently. They hadn’t but I spent a silly amount on various treatments to make me feel like I was at least putting up a decent fight.

Back at the villa we all swam, read and relaxed in varying degrees. It was hot of course, which felt great when like me you had a fever not seen since a Saturday Night in 1977.

Have I mentioned my illness enough yet?

For lunch we feasted upon sandwiches from Publix which I’m sure were very tasty for those with a working sense of taste, or smell.

Readying began around 3pm and we made our way to The Commons to get Emily no doubt many, many hours later. Today she was on Traditions, the renowned “sheep dipping” into Disney culture for all new Cast Members. Anyway, she wasn’t back yet, so we went over to Premium Outlet Malls which is literally a few minutes away from her apartment.

We shopped for a bit. Yes that’s right, I am ill and we’re shopping. What fresh hell is this?

Something happened which occurs about as regularly as Halley’s Comet. I bought, or should I say, I was bought a pair of jeans. It was my birthday present from Mum and Dad. They were even “a label” which all my jeans are, however normally that label is George.

We browsed about four thousand other shops before Emily was ready so we went to pick her up and brought her across to the Mall. She needed some stuff for upcoming training so after a quick Starbucks we split off into three groups, Louise, Emily and I were one, Nana and Grandad another and Rebecca and Sarah the last. We shopped at great speed trying to pin point very precise items of clothing in the vast open spaces of the huge department stores. Having secured the work related stuff Emily needed we got her a new pair of converse too as her existing ones were held together by hope and spit.

We had arranged to meet up with everyone at 8.30 as we would need to leave at that time to get across to Beaches and Cream for our reservation. How we were all looking forward to our Kitchen Sink or whatever else we may decide to have.

Once in the car, I set up the Sat Nav, typed in Beach Club and off we went, in the dark, in a foreign country. Those last two things are an excuse for me not thinking anything was odd about the back streets and dodgy areas we were being taken through. By the time we reached our destination it was very clear that we weren’t in Disney anymore and our chances of getting to our reservation in time were slim. I never did figure out how the Sat Nav which had been so reliable for years had decided that the Beach Club was on some residential street about forty minutes from Lake Buena Vista. I put it in the glove box for a while to think about what it had done.

We found our way to Crossroads at around the time of our reservation and being about ten minutes from Beaches and Cream we may have had a chance of still making it. However, there was gridlock, no doubt with folks heading to Downtown Disney so we abandoned all hope and made a Plan B. With us being where we were we decided upon Olive Garden.

Surprisingly we were seated immediately and, oh look, some photos….

That was worth waiting for I think you will agree.

We perused the menus and spirits were high despite the crap journey, horrible traffic, my impending death from a blocked nose and having been shopping.

I cannot explain this photo.

We opted for the salad and bread sticks with Sarah going for the soup option instead.

We ordered –

Me – Gorgonzola Steak Thingy

Louise – Some sort of Cheese Ziti

Emily & Sarah – Lasgane

Rebecca – Stuffed Something (I am King of Trip Report note making)

Grandad – Chicken and Shrimp

Nana – Rosemary Chicken

Desserts were not possible and with wines, beers, special lemonades and my expensive Diet Cokes we paid $175 including a generous tip.

We dropped Emily off home and headed for the villa getting back at around 11. I was still ill.

Till the next time…..