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

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

Yes we’re coming home!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sight so good, it deserves showing twice….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or a big green Pooh since the girls were newborns…

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

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

The whole place looked glorious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weather was glorious.

The photography still less so….

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

None it would seem.

We said a quick hello to the manatees…

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

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

Same with ones like this….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and I had Butter Chicken

Everyone else had steak….

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

We left at around 9.45.

and wandered back through the resort to the car…

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

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

Have I mentioned that I love it here?

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

Till the next time…..


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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 Seven

Day Seven – 2nd September

Not only was I awake again at 6.30am, full of snot and loathing for my own body, I was tackling some work emails too. My inability to switch off from work was probably the reason that I had been cursed with illness on my holidays. I only had myself to blame. Nobody likes a kiss ass.

It was only another two hours and ten minutes until everyone was ready to leave. We left the villa for Hollywood Studios at 8.40, yes, it goes without saying, about twenty minutes later than I might have liked to.

It took us that same twenty minutes to get there and park up in Stage 46. We boarded a waiting tram and headed for a day of fun.

I really have no idea why I felt the need to take that last photo.

Today we had two early Fastpasses booked quite close together, so with us running a little behind (my) schedule I was a little stressed and concerned that our first one, Toy Story Mania, would take too long to do and we’d miss our second.

With that in mind I pushed the pace as we made our way into the park.

Still, I had the time and skills to take superb theme park photography on the way.

I know you are impressed with those masterpieces and you are welcome to use them but please, make sure you credit me!

We got to Toy Story at 9.40 and my fears were unfounded. Unlike previous years the FastPass line was, well, Fast and we didn’t have any wait at all. Naturally, I won, easily with a fairly respectable score of 146,000. Everyone else’s score was so far short of that sort of awesomeness that I did not even bother to record it in my notes.

Having triumphed with my fast-moving wrist action, I felt the need to replenish my energy levels and we stopped at a coffee caravan (honestly, it was) for drinks and some of us had a Danish. I’ll leave you to guess whether I had one or not.

We sat outside One Man’s Dream whilst taking calories on board before going in for a quick look around.

We couldn’t stay for the film, which was a shame, as I always enjoy it. We had to leave to get to our next FastPass appointment, this time with Ariel. It was a little odd that upon arriving at our FastPass time of 10.30, we found the next show didn’t start for twenty minutes. As the park didn’t look busy, rather than stand in the pre-show area for that length of time we decided to have a wander around the gift shop instead. Thankfully after just a few minutes we heard music coming from around the corner which turned out to be what I have cleverly captured in my notes as “The Frozen Thing”. We walked over and took up a spot to watch that.

Ah, that’s what it was called….

I tried to Periscope this but the WiFi connection was bobbins and it kept bombing out.

With perfect timing, as this ended we wandered into Ariel and took our seats just as the next show was starting. We were sat on the far right which meant the sound wasn’t the best for this show, but it was as great as ever.

In an unusual twist, the ending seemed to have changed to one where Eric was mauled to death by an Old English Sheepdog.

We left the police to clear up the mess and made our way up to the Great Movie Ride. Louise had a weird leaky eye thing going on so she missed the ride to sort that which allowed me to take photos of a nicely trimmed bush.

We ended up waiting almost twenty-five minutes but it did give us a chance to see the new sequence of film clips. Seeing new things like this always brings mixed emotions. Of course, seeing rides updated and refurbished is great but then you automatically pine for the old stuff and feel sad that it will never be the same again. Or is that just me?

The ride itself isn’t that different once it gets going but Richard Attenborough seems to have returned from the dead to appear in one scene.

It was now time for our third FastPass at the Tower of Terror so we walked over there. Nana wasn’t feeling great today so she declined to ride, instead browsing the shops and carrying everyone’s bags. It is always upsetting to see a small standby queue when you have a FastPass as it restricts one’s ability to gloat. We made the most of sweeping majestically past the ten minute queue.

This is one of my favourite rides. The theming is probably the best on Disney property and the ride itself, now it has the random drop sequences, is just great fun.

The obvious destination after this was Rock n Rollercoaster, where we saw a twenty-minute standby time posted. We were even more delighted to see that this was nonsense and we walked on, straight into the studio pre-show.

This is another superb ride, so good that everyone except Grandad rode again straight away.

It’s the law that this photo must be taken.

We then made the long trek across to Star Tours. The trek was so long that by the time we got there we wanted feeding again so we popped into the Backlot Xpress counter service place next door. We had –

Rebecca, Sarah and Louise – Hot Dog

Me – Chicken Salad

Nana – Burger

Grandad – Chicken Nuggets

We rode Star Tours with full bellies and we got the Darth Vader story. I say that assuming that what I have heard is true and there are a number of options to experience.

After a brief look around the Star Wars gift shop we turned left towards the Muppets.

This too had a small change in the pre-show with the “Evil Kermit” from the most recent film making an appearance. Having not seen that film, it just made it a bit weird. After seeing this show more times than I can remember it was lovely to see and hear Sarah laughing out loud as a first timer.

In what was turning into an excellent theme park day, in terms of the amount of stuff we were getting done, next we trekked all the way back across the park to catch the 3pm Beauty and The Beast show.

It was incredibly hot by now and I lost about a stone in sweat as the show progressed.

It was now time to go and pick Emily up after her work meetings this morning. It was no bad thing as the heat was making the whole theme park thing hard work now.

We drove to The Commons, only to find once connected to their WiFi that Emily was stuck in meetings still, so we decided to drive back to our villa and come back for her once we were all showered and changed.

That turned out to be around 6.30, and with another stop at The Commons to collect a daughter, we then drove on to Kidani Village for our reservation at Sanaa. We self-parked (of course) and made the quite long stroll into reception.

Not surprisingly it is a mini version of Animal Kingdom Lodge. We watched some of the animals from a balcony for a little while, enjoying the place very much.

We checked in at Sanaa and had a ten minute wait for our table. We viewed the extensive menus but the appetiser had been a done deal for months….

One of the main reasons we had booked this restaurant was for the Naan bread appetiser…

I know it looks good on those photos, but there is no camera on the planet that can capture it’s awesomeness. It was incredible.

We then continued with –

Me – Tandoori Chicken

Grandad, Emily, Rebecca and Sarah – Butter Chicken

Nana – Butter Chicken with Steak

Louise – Butter Chicken with Lamb

I took a few photos, but alas, I can’t remember which is which….

Safe to say that everyone was very happy with their choices. Fuller than we had any right to be, we went for it and ordered dessert too.

 

With plenty of wine, beer and soft drinks the bill was $365.

Frankly, unable to make it all the way to the car in one go, we sat in a lounge off reception for a little while giving our body’s time to adjust to their new weights. Once able we walked, slowly, back to the car, dropped Emily off and headed for home. Having learned nothing from previous visits we stopped at Publix to be reminded that it closes at 10pm. We were in bed twenty minutes later.

Till the next time…..

Plan vs Food

Welcome to the new look Mkingdon blog. That’s if you’ve noticed that we’ve had a bit of a redesign. It’s been a long time since a change was made so I hope you like it.

I’m blogging a little early today as Louise is working. This is her first weekend at work since qualifying and so it makes sense to get it done whist she is out at work. It is also of course Father’s Day and I sit here in the after glow of a breakfast of enormous proportions. Now that the girls are old enough to operate cookers and stuff I get more than I used to in the heady days of cereal and toast.

Pardon my knees

Pardon my legs

I have a fine collection of presents which also include ludicrous calorie numbers, a T-shirt and an Xbox game.

My breakfast today represents the struggles of the week just gone too. In time that absolutely should not have been spent working, I have been wrestling with our WDW plan this week. Trying to predict Emily’s movements and meetings as she starts work is just one challenge I am trying to rise to, but the main one has been not having enough days. This has surprised me, as we are going for our longest trip ever at 18 nights. With that in mind I had thought we’d have endless rest days and time for the smelling of roses and all that jazz. To be honest, theme park wise, we’re doing OK. Even with Disney and Universal to fit in, we have the odd day without firm plans. The real tricky bit has been the eating plan.

Having been to WDW a lot, we have built up a back catalogue of favourite eateries that we have to do each time. We also like to fit in a new one or two as well, so this week I came to the conclusion that I simply don’t have enough days to eat all the stuff we want to. By around Thursday I had somehow slotted in all of the following –

Outback
Crystal Palace
Be Our Guest
Applebees
Rose and Crown
Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
Romanos Macaroni Grill
Hard Rock Cafe
Cowfish
Beaches and Cream
Miller’s Ale House
Whispering Canyon
Bahama Breeze
Olive Garden
Teak Neighborhood Grill

I still had a couple of places, such as the Cheesecake Factory that I couldn’t find a slot for unless we were to eat four meals a day. Then, yesterday, whilst chatting through the plan with Emily she was a very bad influence and threw up a couple of dining “must dos” that I had totally forgotten about. Whilst looking for availability on the Disney app for a reservation at O’hana (that we never did get), we were reminded that Sanaa had been a new one that we had wanted to try for a while and so with a bit of juggling we slotted that one in too, quite early in the trip.

Whilst searching for that reservation for Sanaa we also saw Trail’s End mentioned and remembering our previous visit there that quickly got added to the must do list. Don’t ask me how, but that’s now booked too!

I am pleased with all our plans but I have to say that I’m also a little worried about the amount we’re going to be eating. I’m sure we’ll manage. I’m not suggesting that we are food obsessed or that our touring plans start with where we will be eating, but Emily already knows what she is ordering at certain places. For example, at The Market Street Cafe she will be having –

Cheese Fries
With Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, topped with bacon and served with ranch dressing. 6.95

Banana Cream Pie 5.50

Milkshakes
Cookies & creams 4.50  add malt .50 

At Sanaa, I think it is fair to say that most of us will be going for this as an appetiser –

Indian-style Bread Service

Choice of Three Breads – Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Choice of Three Accompaniments – Red Chile Sambal, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, or Tamarind Chutney.

It goes without saying that when we go to Teak I will be having the Doughnut Burger. That has to happen. On a similar note, when we visit Cowfish at City Walk, there is only choice for me and that is the  –

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

Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side.

It’s ridiculous. I am still stuffed after my breakfast and now I am drooling over my keyboard! I’m putting weight on just writing about this stuff. I shall have to walk Oli for an extra few minutes. That will burn a few thousand calories, right?

I hope your Father’s Day is a good one should it be relevant to you and I shall go now to see mine. The effort of walking all the way next door may well burn a few hundred more calories!

Till the next time…..