To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Three April 13th 2017

Holidays are fun. Holidays are relaxing. It’s a chance to unwind, chill out and put the stress, strains and worries of every day life behind you. There’s no need to be getting up at silly times to get to work, it’s a time to do what you want, when you want.

So….I’d set my alarm for 6.30am as we needed to be out early to make the most of the extra hour for onsite guests. After making my contribution to the chocolate hostage release programme, amazingly we were out before 8am. It turned out that we should have set the alarm for about 4.30am as I shall now explain.

We walked to Universal rather than take the water taxi as again it was very busy.

On site guests are able to enter the parks from 8am. The Potter stuff is the only thing open at this time so this creates a stampede to that end of the park and despite a commendable power walking effort from all three of us, as we entered Diagon Alley on our way to Gringott’s, the queue for that was already at the brick wall. Yep, the wall that is the actual entrance to Diagon Alley…at 8.20am. There was no chance of us enduring that.

For me, this is one of the main reasons that we won’t be rushing back to Universal anytime soon. Aside from the fact that future trips are likely to include a small human (if you don’t know why then read this) for whom a lot of the rides won’t be suitable, the premium you pay for onsite perks didn’t feel like value for money for us this time to be honest. I found this bottle neck of onsite guests at the one open ride for the extra hour a bit silly. The fact that Potter rides are not eligible for the Express passes, and that only those are open for the extra hour makes the whole thing a bit of a waste of time really. Rides like Minions have a half hour queue even with Express and generally, we found it hard to fill a full day in one of the parks, whereas twelve hours in a Disney park seems like we’re still missing things. It may have just been a symptom of Mum & Dad not having Express but I’m not sure that was the whole reason. I shall no doubt wax lyrical further into this report when we arrive in WDW about feeling at home and all that…so it may just be that Universal is not Disney and you can’t blame it for that.

Anyway, I shall no doubt return to this theme at the end of the report….something for you all to look forward to I’m sure.

So we retreated to Starbucks and joined a queue that was only a little shorter than the one for Gringotts and got some breakfast. I don’t often visit Starbucks I’ll be honest so I never know what to order. The menu is more complex than theoretical physics, so during this trip I adopted the strategy of just having whatever Emily ordered. I can’t tell you now what I had to drink, but it was nice, had something call soy in it, which I’ve only ever put on my Chinese take away previously and it had ice in it. It was lovely. I also had a sandwich, or at least a miniature version of one.

Whilst breakfasting I had employed glorious multi-tasking skills to book a time for the new Fallon ride. By the time we’d finished eating it was time to do that.

This new “reserve a time” thing is, in my worthless opinion, the future of rides in theme parks. Having seen a few vlogs about the pre-ride waiting experience for Fallon (and the best in my view are The Trackers) I was a little gutted to be immediately summoned to ride. I had wanted to have a good look round and see the stuff they put on to distract you from the three hour wait…which for us was about thirty seconds.

The ride itself is very enjoyable. As most of these things are, it’s a bit short, but it’s a busy one and you’ll need a good few times to take it all in.

As we exited I got a message from Dad that he was in the park and ready to meet. I told him where we were and from his reply it was clear that he wasn’t in the right park! They had gone to IOA. Leaving them to get the train over to Universal we headed to the Mummy. We always love this one and rode on the front row. I don’t know if this was the reason, or if they had changed the ride a bit to include more water but for the first time in a good many years I found myself moist riding Mummy.

Luckily it’s quite dark in there…..

I left Louise and Emily there and walked up to King’s Cross to meet Mum & Dad. I found them easily enough. Dad had chosen to hire a wheelchair today as he was really suffering with sciatica. He’d soldiered on yesterday but today he would be pushed around whether he liked it or not.

Once back with Louise and Emily, we parked Dad up in some shade with Mum whilst we went off to ride Rip, Ride Rocket with our Express passes. No matter how many times I ride this I am always surprised by its intensity and by how much it feels like you are going to fall out backwards on the way up. This ride is harsher than the crazed Admin’s banning policy for the It’s Orlando Time Facebook group! Actually, probably not.

You have to take so many things off to ride this that it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the first naturist ride in Orlando.

I discovered a few new swear word combos on the way round as it threw my aging body in directions it was not built to withstand. Good fun!

We considered doing Minions (without Express for Mum & Dad) but the 80 minute wait was about 60 beyond our tolerance so we did Shrek. This was our first experience of entering a ride with a member of the party in a wheelchair. We were ushered to the front of our very own line, had our own route into the theatre and were allowed in first. All very nice, but all things considered, I’d say it’s best not to have someone needing a wheelchair than cutting a few minutes from your queue.

Next we made our way to the Monster’s Cafe where we were to leave Mum & Dad whilst we expressed Minions. On the way, I couldn’t help marvel at how rough Bob Geldof is looking…

As we approached Minions it was clear that even the Express line wasn’t very Express. It snaked to places any Express line should never snake. This was enough to put Louise off and she opted for a bench in the sun, so it was Emily and myself.

Luckily, these days she is just about tall enough to ride!

After a very un-Express like thirty minute wait we rode before exiting, finding Louise and heading back to Mum & Dad. Despite numerous visits, I honestly can’t remember this Monster’s Cafe existing before today. Either it’s new or my memory is in as good a shape as my waistline. It’s a quick service place with the usual selection of fast food fare.

Emily ordered a cheeseburger and Mum & dad shared one…

Not for the first time, Louise and I shared a foot long…..

After lunch we went over to the Horror Make Up Show starting at 1pm. Once again we were special cased due to the wheelchair but there was no queue or crowd to speak of. I did spot what I assume is the latest hipster trend in foyer…

and my usual reaction to hipsters…

Next we did the Terminator ride..

As we waited to enter, (an important comma that one) a girl close to us in the queue dropped a full drink all over the floor. I found it strange that she was even allowed in with it but even odder that the staff wandering about did absolutely nothing about it having clearly seen it. The waiting area was dark and as soon as that queue started to enter someone was going to go full Torvill and Dean through it.

As we were first in via the wheelchair line we didn’t get to see what happened. My Disney snobbery reared up in full effect, declaring this would never happen on Disney property. I know that everyone appreciated me entertaining them with my views.

This Terminator show is on an impressive scale I always think. It’s almost a forgotten attraction now but the mix of live action and film and all the effects is excellent and seems to go under the radar. I’m not sure how much longer the Terminator brand will endure to make this relevant and I’ll be honest and admit I’ve never watched any of them, but I applaud the effort!

It was time to call it a day and head to the exit now after a restroom stop for some.

Emily wasn’t “restrooming” there on the bench, she was just waiting!

We water taxied back to RPR and once again found some sunbeds in the kid’s pool area. The ladies used our room to change first whilst me and Dad guarded the beds like some German sun towels and then we changed too.

Snoozing, reading, swimming and cocktailing filled the afternoon along with a soupcon of swimming. Dad found the hot tub which worked wonders on his sciatica.

At around 6.30 I drove Mum & Dad home and returned to find the readying of Emily and Louise not as far along as it should have been. At 8pm we set off for Teak Neighbourhood Grill. The walk from our room, to the car park and the subsequent pick up of Emily and Louise from the front of RPR, followed a few minutes later by the same at Mum & Dad’s hotel became a familiar routine. As my usual routines in life go, it’s up there in my all time favourites.

We stopped en route at a pharmacy (not for the last time this trip, but you knew that already) to get some Milk of Magnesia for Emily. I know she won’t mind me sharing with you that she was more full of shit than Katie Hopkins and needed an intervention pronto.

We went all crazy and ordered some appetisers as if we had never eaten here before.

We got two lots of Mozzarella Rounds and a Crab Dip whilst we studied the menu.

I was eating the missing one, sorry.

I didn’t eat any of the crab dip if I’m honest as to me, that tastes like an I’m a Celebrity Bush Tucker Trial with the emphasis on bush.

Our entrees were

Me & Emily – A badly photographed Cronie Burger & Garlic Fries

“french doughnut” tossed with cinnamon-sugar served with a half pound Angus burger topped with maple-pepper bacon, smoked Gouda cheese and an over med egg…a must try!

Louise – French Dip 2.0

open faced thinly sliced prime rib, provolone cheese, horseradish mayo on garlic artisan baguette served with au jus dipping sauce with garlic fries.

Again I can only apologise for the photo

Dad – Imperial Trooper Burger

mozzarella cheese, tomato, spring mix drizzled with sour cream-chive sauce & imperial stout glaze served on toasted brioche bun. He added a side of Scallop Potato which he declared to be incredible!

Mum – Plain Jane Burger

american cheese, bibb lettuce, tomato on toasted brioche bun…pure simplicity with chilli cheese fries.

The Cronie Burger was so good, you can have another photo of it.

Dad had beer, Louise wine and a sangria and the bill was $150 including a healthy tip. I love this place! I was so sad to be leaving that I took photos on the way out feeling all emotional…

We left at 10pm, lost in a fog of calories and the glow of satisfaction. After dropping Mum & Dad off we barely made it to bed before falling asleep. I think I read for about ten minutes before welcoming a coma like sleep into my body.

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…..

Jolly January and Unscratchable Itches

Having asked for a volunteer or two last week to wade through the untidy mess of the first draft I got many, many more offers than I had anticipated. I should know better than to underestimate the kindness and support of you all, but I did.

The downside of that was that I felt like an absolute arse having to only select a few folks. It felt like I was throwing people’s kindness back in their face, so if you did volunteer, thank you and I am just sorry that I couldn’t let you all read the thing. I just couldn’t process that amount of feedback.

In hindsight I probably went a little early, which wouldn’t be the first time, as when I started to review that draft it was indeed messy, and I have spent a lot of time this week fixing stuff. Apologies to the volunteers for that, had I waited a week your job may have been easier and quicker.

I haven’t had any feedback yet, and as I am far too close to the thing to be anything like objective I still have no idea if it is woeful or not. Louise asked me the other week if I was happy with it, and I honestly could not give her an answer. I definitely need some third-party perspective just to do basic things like tell me if the story works and holds any interest for the reader at all. If the thing is never mentioned again you’ll know which way the feedback went!

My fear and loathing of the return to work last week did of course not live up to the actual experience, but it was still an awful shock to the system. I am told there has recently been a weekend too, but I refuse to believe that as I haven’t noticed one.

Last week, I also told you about Emily’s blog and she was delighted that so many of you have been to have a read. Having read her second post yesterday, I have to say that if she keeps writing them like that I shall stop promoting the thing as I may not get my readers back!

Her latest post is lovely, and covers the sad passing of a Disney institution. If you haven’t read it I suggest you do.

If my return to work was preceded by histrionics and over dramatic whingeing caused by a long time off work, then imagine how Louise is feeling tonight. She has been off now for about five weeks, although she has had course work to do, but tomorrow she returns to a placement in Preston. We did a dummy run today of the commute and it isn’t a nice one. No offence to Preston, but it is a right schlep from our house. Let’s hope the snow stays away! This placement sees her out and about in the community for the first time so if you have a dressing that needs attention in Preston, watch out!

Not that it matters, but this week has seen nearly all of us have a Disney moment or two. Even Louise came over all misty eyed when Emily was playing her new WDW CD, and the house was filled with the melodic beauty that is O Canada. As I tweeted at the time, O Canada should be the National Anthem of the world.

The longing for Disney is a routine occurrence at this time of year, with the post-Christmas lull, diets, return to work and crap weather. Don’t worry, it matters not, as it shall remain an unscratchable itch. We will not be booking anything. Instead I shall buy a sun lamp, put on my shorts and sit listening to that CD for the summer months.

The sad realisation that getting through that first week back at work after Christmas is not enough, and I have to do it again, every week, is it a bit of punch to the guts. It is usually an unaffordable holiday that helps us through that, but this year we shall have to do our best without it. This weekly posting could get ugly in the coming weeks, you have been warned.

As the first in what may be a long line of emotional crutches, allow me to share with you the latest offering from the restaurant that brought us the Donut Burger.

Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

If these WDW urges continue I fear we shall be recreating that some time soon.

Till the next time…..

If Mohammed can’t go to the mountain, make calorific food.

Staring down the barrel of our first non WDW year since sometime around 2001, the pain is becoming unbearable.  So much so that on Friday afternoon in a quiet moment at work, I glanced back through the photos on my phone, and eventually came to the ones taken last August in Florida.

I felt the urge to tweet a photo of the now infamous Donut Burger from the Teak Neighbourhood  Grill, stating how much I missed it.  A retweet from Emily and a brief Twitter conversation with the sister-in-law led us to a Saturday night based around re-creating the dish here in the UK.

So between us we procured the required ingredients, and I kicked off the cooking.

A good start

A good start

In terms of ingredients, I suppose I should list what you might need, but to be honest it is fairly obvious.  Anyway, we had ten diners and used –

  • Two dozen glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
  • Twelve good quality beef burgers
  • Some maple cured bacon
  • Cheese
  • Chilli Fries (made by sister-in-law)
  • A selection of mustards, ketchup, BBQ sauce and mayo to suit all tastes

The burgers said to fry them, so I did.

Fry my pretties

Fry my pretties

With the bacon under the grill, as soon as stuff was ready I started to plate up.  Before I did I quickly melted the cheese on top of each burger.  Plating up is a bit messy, as the sugar glaze stuff gets everywhere!!

I had been afraid that the finished article would bear no resemblance to the real deal over in Florida, but I was pretty chuffed to be honest.  To be fair, it isn’t the most technical of dishes!

Tower of Power

Tower of Power

Glazed goodness

Glazed goodness

Amongst the diners present, only Emily and I had actually eaten the real thing back in August, so I had no idea what sort of reaction there would be.  Our other guests had been to Teak during their recent Florida trip just after Christmas, but had different dishes.  My brother had tried (and failed) to polish off the Heart A-Teak.

Be afraid!

I needn’t have worried.  Everyone seemed to lap it up!!

Oh Brother!

Oh Brother!

That expression is I think a mix of disbelief and joy!!

Meat - good, burger - good, bacon - good!  It's good!!

Meat – good, doughnut – good, bacon – good! It’s good!!

Rebecca and her boyfriend Tom were equally impressed.  Tom is a fitness freak so I wasn’t sure how he’d react, but he wolfed it down.  That burger, along with the chocolate cake and custard to follow rid him of his ugly six-pack in one go!

Don't interrupt my burger

Don’t interrupt my burger

Emily’s aversion to photos knows no end, similarly her love for this dish.

Too late

Too late

Nephew Jack had necked the lot by the time I had got to him.  I took that as a good sign.

My Precious!!!

My Precious!!!

Niece Sarah was also won over!!

By this time plates were becoming clean and I had spent enough time snapping and I needed to eat my own!!

That didn’t take long, and with a choice of New York Cheesecake or Hot Fudge Chocolate Cake for “afters” everyone was soon suitably immobile, tired and I think happy.

Full of food and topped up with wine and beer we discussed how we should open an American inspired restaurant, with dishes like these, the obligatory eating challenge, and an old-fashioned traditional ice cream and American soda bar.

We had loads of great ideas, and between us probably enough knowledge and business sense.  Alas, we lack the couple of hundred grand to get it going so instead we had another beer and finished off the wine.

So, in an attempt to fight off the lack of America blues I have managed to replicate that “none of my clothes fit” fear for my next day at work by consuming a ridonculous amount of calories.  We also have no money, so we can almost pretend that we’ve just got back from Florida.  Can’t we?

A couple of tweets and Facebook posts of said burgers drew a wide range of comments.  All I will say is that those expressing revulsion, concern or sheer horror…..like all things in life, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

If any of you are heading to Florida soon, give the Teak a try, and tell them I sent you.  Whether you have or indeed like the Donut burger, you’ll have a good time anyway.

Not that I’m missing the place at all…..

Till the next time…..

And we’re back in the country….

Hello All.

Apologies for blogless Sunday, and this is just a very quick post to confirm that we have indeed made it back home in more or less one piece.

There is perhaps a little more of me sat typing this than typed the last blog update, but such are the perils of a Florida holiday and I am classing every extra pound as a badge of honour for our latest adventure.

The trip report has started, but only just, and Day One, can be found over at the Dibb.  Day Two has not yet been started but I hope to get to it this week.  Work has had me all over the place since getting back, both mentally and physically.  I’m away again Tuesday evening, and this, as it did last week, should give me the time to get it done.  There is little else to do in the bustling Metropolis of Marlow (no offence Marlowians).

We are all back into our respective routines, me as I said above, right in the deep end of a load of new work stuff on my return, the girls into their own important school and college years (we’ll have one doing GCSEs and one doing A levels this year!), and Louise’s nursing course now has her in her placement doing some actual nursing.

She’s doing shifts and all sorts, and working hard, as nurses do, but she is enjoying it which is the main thing.

I won’t steal any of my own thunder by talking about the holidays, but I will give you this photo, as I think it made it to Facebook via Emily anyway.

donut burger

Don’t knock it till you try it!

This was without doubt the tastiest thing Emily and I ate all holiday.  Honestly.  Right there on that plate are about half the pounds I gained!  I shall leave the rest of the story to the trip report, and await the varied comments from “Yum” to “Vomit”.

Normal service next Sunday hopefully, but I shall keep bloggage light so that I can spend the time getting more days done.

I should also encourage anyone who doesn’t already to follow Wizzo from the Dibb, as he is about to embark on what I think is his sixth trip in as many months…something like that anyway.  @Tweetwizzo is what you need if you twitter, and I’m sure he will be treating us to food porn and extreme gloating pretty much from Wednesday onwards, and I don’t hold it against him one bit!

Till the next time….