To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Fifteen April 25th 2017

We didn’t leave for Hollywood Studios until 10am. Anyone might think we’d done something stupid last night like stay out past 1am drinking. Rest assured I felt great and was my usual ray of sunshine as we drove over to pick Mum and Dad up.

It must have been a morning for things that never happen. Not only did I have a mild hangover for the first time since I had hair, but by some strange alignment of the Gods, we parked at the very bottom of the row. This never happens to us…oh apart from EVERY OTHER TIME WE HAVE VISITED A PARK….EVER!!

I wouldn’t have minded so much but we were poised to be put at the very top of a row but the evil and vindictive cast member chose the line of traffic I was in, rather than the one at the side of me to make the long journey to the Mordor of the car park.

We slowly, very slowly, made our way back to civilisation.

Oh I never did show you a photo of our hire car did I? This is what happens when you refuse all the upgrade hard sell.

We were parked in…

by the way. I didn’t take that photo to remind me where we had parked. I took it to identify the evil cast member responsible for our six-mile walk so I could exact painful revenge.

We boarded the next tram to arrive only having to man handled half a dozen small children out of our way. Maybe this is why I don’t drink very often?

As we flashed our bands though the entrance Dad made his way to the garage to hire himself an ECV. When I had made our first FastPass of the day some sixty odd days ago, I had not taken into account spending the previous evening out with Oliver Reed and Richard Harris resulting in such a late start, and so I was a little tense as the process of hiring said ECV was taking an age and the end of our FastPass slot for the most popular ride in the park was approaching more quickly than my need to buy some elasticated trousers for work.

Once Dad was in his vehicle we mowed down anyone silly enough to be in the way as we headed up to Toy Story Mania.

In the end we made it with a few minutes to spare and we barged our way past the ever-present entrance loiterers (why do you do it people, why? Either go in or get out of the way!!) and made our way through the queue.

I scored a bang average 137,000 but that was enough to shame all other family members which is, let’s face it, more important.

My natural talent for planning was demonstrated once again now as we had to walk all the way to the Tower of Terror for our next FastPass. Dad cared not one jot as his machine was fully charged and he sped off looking like Richard Hammond before his next hospital visit.

Even though he absolutely should not have done so Dad rode with us, but Mum sat out.

This is one of those rides that, no matter how many times you do it, every time you leave, your love for it is reaffirmed and increased. The theming is just incredible and the ride is just a load of fun.

We had a walk over to Rock n Rollercoaster next to see what the standby queue was like. Mum & Dad were not riding so we three joined the half hour standby line. It took a little less than that and as ever much of our waiting time was spent stroking the beady door. Just us?

With adrenaline pumping, the ladies needed a restroom as we exited. I took the chance to capture the same photo as I have on every previous trip.

Feeling the need for a snack we stopped at the fruit stall thing opposite Beauty and The Beast. We didn’t buy any fruit of course, we’re not monsters. Instead we had some hummus, well I didn’t, I had a huge pretzel with some cheese that I’m pretty sure didn’t contain any actual cheese, but it tasted great. I was to be thirsty now until the end of July.

Nothing is more nutritious than a cheese flavoured pasteurised cheese snack.

Full of stuff that is produced with genetic engineering, we made our way into the 1pm Beauty and The Beast show. With Dad in his ECV we were directed to a special area of the theatre, which turned out to be the front row. With this in mind I Facebook Lived the whole thing, mainly for the benefit of Rebecca back home.

The show begins these days with a chat from this chap before he mortifies some teenage girl on stage by singing at them.

Emily spent her time appreciating the sentiment of the pre-show but thanking her lucky stars she was not picked for it.

The show was great of course, all the better for our unfettered view.

You should appreciate the talent it takes to both Facebook live with one hand and take photos with the other.

With Dad keen to test the top speed of his ride we decided to motor on over to the Great Movie Ride next.

There was a show in progress as we walked past the “bit where the hat was” and these were waiting to go on…

It was a twenty-minute wait to ride, which we could have avoided if Dad hadn’t parked up outside and walked in. ECVs were being directed to the front of the queue. I don’t know which idiot told him he’d have to leave his outside.

The ride has been a favourite of ours since we first started the trips with the girls. Rebecca especially always wanted to ride this. I don’t think I knew it was closing as we rode for what would be our last time but my notes do record that I thought it was looking a little tired. The standard of the acting seems to have gone downhill in recent times or that could just be the fog of nostalgia from when I first rode it as a child.

With no regard for my own safety, we walked across to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid next. As long as we sat the back where Ariel couldn’t see me, we should be OK. She gets upset looking at what she could have won.

Luckily ECVs were being directed to the very rear of the theatre.

As ever some absolute knob took some flash photos during the opening puppetry scenes. I imagine they also did not move all the way down to the end of their row.

As we exited I noticed that the March of the First Order was imminent so we took up a position to view it.

Feeling all Star Warsy now, Emily and I went to ride Star Tours. Louise, Mum and Dad opted to sit out in the sunshine and have a drink.

The wait was the full half hour promised but we were rewarded with a new (to us) story line.

It was 4.15 now and time to head out of the park to eat.

Bahama Breeze was on the plan, one of our absolute favourites.

We arrived and were seated without delay around 5pm. Our server had a hint of headmistress about her and we found the service to be a little rushed even though the place was fairly quiet.

To start we ordered some cheese bites and chips and guacamole.

It might just be us, but we find it really annoying when entrees turn up with your appetisers still on the go. They did.

We had –

Me, Louise and Emily – Jerk Chicken Pasta

Mum – Burger

Dad – Steak

I was a little late with the camera!

As is the law here, desserts must be had and it must be Rebecca’s Key Lime Pie. We were, it has to be said, missing her today.

The bill was $180 including a good tip. We headed straight back to Hollywood Studios and parked in Stage, yep, right at the bottom of the row.

We trammed again and wandered the shops for a while.

I say again, dusk is just a fabulous time to be in a theme park at WDW.

Dad not only had a means of getting about but also his very own personal seat to be in as everyone else walked around the shops.

Having got several gifts, mainly for Rebecca and Tom, we made our way over to the Muppets, and I don’t mean the gimps taking flash photos of the Little Mermaid show earlier.

Of course, much of this park is a building site currently.

Next, the long trek all the way across the park to take our seats for Fantasmic. Mum and Dad stayed at the back with the ECV, but we three made our way as far down as we could, mainly so that Emily could see as she had forgotten  both her contacts and glasses.

It goes dark quickly in Florida.

As ever I took some awesome photos.

I threw my camera into that fire.

We had a moment of rare disappointment as the show ended. For reasons best known to Disney, the Star Wars firework show we really wanted to watch started the precise second Fantasmic ended. This of course meant that we were shuffling our way out of the show instead of being stood watching it. We could see the odd firework in the sky above us, but this seemed a very strange bit of timing. Maybe Disney think it will make you visit the park twice?

 

It was a long walk out…

We met Mum & Dad at the stroller/ECV return and then stood admiring the view as Louise had a long meeting with the porcelain. There are worse places to wait.

The tram took us back to the car and we dropped off Mum & Dad before getting back at home just after ten.

A lovely day in one of our favourite places.

Till the next time……
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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Eight April 18th 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad was blown away by the value of this offer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were immediately seated over looking the Boulevard.

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

If only I had written down what it was!!

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

Then we all had…

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

Louise – Siesta Burger

Dad – Shrimp and Scallops

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

Mum – Chicken Fajita Wrap

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

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

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

We were in by 11pm and sleeping within minutes.

Till the next time…..

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The Adults Only Tour 2016 – Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen – 14th September

Who knew that a holiday that started on the 27th of August 2015 would last all the way until mid-February? In more ways than I could ever describe, it has been one heck of a journey.

No matter how hard I try, our last day and our journey home never have any decent notes recorded. It isn’t intentional, I just can’t seem to bring myself to record this day. So I’ll do my best with the half a page I do have and the handful of photos, but your reading may be brief today.

I had another fitful night’s sleep before the alarm woke me at 7am. The next couple of hours saw the traditional Tazmanian Devil impression as we dash around the villa trying to get everything into our cases. Inevitably this involves the purchase of an extra case, which I nipped to CVS to do before we were able to finish and leave the villa at 9.45. It took an act of God to fit everything into the car and Grandad and I were a little hot and sweaty as we reversed off the drive.

A huge breakfast was now required, so we drove up to the 192 and I decided upon the Perkins, mainly as it was the first place we saw.

We were seated and ordered orange juice, coffees and in some cases chocolate milks.

I didn’t record what everyone had but you’ll get the idea from these photos.

We paid $103 plus a large tip made up mainly of all the change I wanted to get rid of. They didn’t seem to mind.

Next on the list was a trip up to Lake Buena Vista, where, being the coward I am, I put $10 of fuel in the car. With everything else going on today I wasn’t mentally ready for a game of Russian roulette with the fuel gauge.

Just when we thought that the car was about to burst at the seams we stopped off at Publix near Emily’s apartment to stock her up one last time before she would be left to fend for herself. The mood today was sombre as you can imagine. Not only were we going home, but of course one of us was staying behind and after knowing this day would come for many months it wasn’t making it any easier. It didn’t feel real.

Anyway, as we started wandering the aisles of Publix Louise had to nip to their loo. She found us again afterwards and on we went with the shop. A few minutes later she stopped in her tracks with a look of panic on her face. It would appear she had lost her phone. She dashed back to the loos to see if it was there. She knew she had it as we entered the store and so it MUST be in there right?

Wrong!

She went to Customer Services to see if it had been handed in there but it hadn’t.

I started to incur huge data roaming charges on my own phone now trying to contact Vodafone to block the thing and report it lost. This was, pretty much, the last thing we needed amongst everything else that was going on.

It was about this time that Louise realised that she hadn’t lost her phone at all and that it had been stuffed down her bra the whole time.

How we laughed.

Already emotionally spent, we took all Emily’s food and her new iron back to the car and somehow packed it in with everything and everyone else. As we set off for The Commons we all knew we were coming to the time we had all been dreading. We were about to drop Emily off for the last time.

I won’t document this in great detail. I have a history of over sharing our stuff all over the internet so let’s not and just say that it was difficult, and it isn’t something I want to experience again.

Despite my $10 investment we still coasted into the airport on fumes with my heart racing. Maybe that wasn’t due to the low fuel?

Having booked Premium Economy for the home leg we checked in quickly and easily, got through security and then monorailed out to gate 81. Louise, Rebecca, Sarah and I got a table in the Outback. We weren’t hungry but fancied a sit down for a drink. To be polite we ordered some cheesey fries too.

With this done I wandered off to the restroom to put my long pants on. This is a symbolic event every year and denotes the end of the fun. Today it felt more sombre than usual.

We wandered duty free for a bit and then as we eventually went to board the plane which had been delayed for half an hour it struck me very hard that I had three passports in my hand and not the usual four. My stomach churned.

I know I’m over egging this upset malarkey, and even looking back now I sound like a big girl even to myself, but at the time, this was how we felt and so I’m reporting it as such.

My notes end here. I will openly admit that Louise and I cried like babies as the wheels left the tarmac of Orlando. It felt strangely symbolic and the last twenty years flashed before our eyes. All the holidays, all the times we’ve flown home together and all the challenges Emily would now have to face on her own. Sure, she was twenty, but a young twenty and it was our job to look after her, both then and forever.

We eventually gathered ourselves somewhere above the Atlantic and the flight happened. We landed, waited an age for our cases and got ourselves home.

So there we are, the end, in many ways.

It’s been a blast over sharing these adventures with you all over the years. Our return home this time was an arrival into a whole new world. Louise and I returned to an empty nest, with Emily in the US and Rebecca and her boyfriend Tom getting their first place together. Both of those departures had been a long time in the planning so we knew it was coming. It didn’t make it any easier and I think we’ve both taken a while to get used to the idea.

So at this ending of an era, I suspect there won’t be any further trip reports. It feels that way anyway, mainly as there probably won’t be any more holidays of this nature. The days of the four of us going away will now be forever captured in these reports. Any future Disney trips will be very different I’m sure and not for some time and that weirdly feels OK to be honest.

We’ve been through some huge changes and challenges as a family in the last year or two with more to come no doubt.

So now, I need to thank you for reading this one and any of the others if you have. Writing these has been a huge part of our, or certainly my, enjoyment of these holidays. Louise, Emily and Rebecca, I thank you for letting me write them, tolerating the note writing and photo taking along with allowing me to share things you’d rather I didn’t with a load of strangers on the internet.

Girls, at least when you have kids of your own, you can look back on these trip reports and let your kids know how many knob gags their Grandad knows!  I’m waffling now as, to be honest, I don’t know how to end this. Bringing well over a decade of reports to a close isn’t something I know how to do, so how about a few memories from them?

It’s been a blast.

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Till the next time?

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen – 12th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry for the blurry photos…

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

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

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

We ordered –

Me – Cronie burger and garlic fries

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

Emily – Donut Burger

Sarah – Chicken Tower Sandwich

Grandad – Chicken Breast Dinner

Nana – Crab Cakes Salad

Louise – Beef Sandwich with dip and garlic fries

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

Again, incredible.

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

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

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

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

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

An awesome night.

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

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Twelve

Day Twelve – 7th September

There’s a very good reason you probably won’t find too many trip reports of beach holidays. The material for such is a little monotonous and uninteresting as I shall now demonstrate.

We were awake around 8am and of course had to pack, ready to check out. With that unpleasantness done, we went down to the free breakfast. It was very nice and buffet style, so I shall let you draw your own conclusions about how that went.

Nicely full, we took our luggage out to the car before making our way down to the beach and more expensive sunbeds.

I can summarise the next few hours in two photos.

As the second one demonstrates, it was very, very hot and few of us were suffering from a little too much sun yesterday.

The rest of the morning meandered away with little or no activity to report, which of course is the sign of a good beach day. Rebecca, Grandad and I ventured into the very rough sea for a little bit, followed by some more lying around. Riveting this isn’t it?

Around lunch time we experienced a very strange rain shower. There were absolutely no clouds and yet we were sprinkled with not unpleasant drizzle. As this rain was persisting a little longer than we wanted it to, Louise suggested that we drive out somewhere for a lunch a little more varied than the burger van fare available on the beach. With that decision made we packed up and decided we’d head back to Orlando after lunch and so we said our goodbyes to Daytona.

We love Daytona and of course Vero. I do find it a bit odd that we have always done beaches on the East coast of Florida rather than the more traditional destinations such as Clearwater and St Pete’s. One of these years we will put that right I expect, but there is always that dilemma of trying something new or sticking with that you know you will enjoy.

We drove aimlessly around Daytona for a bit learning that the eateries featured in our sat nav were now sadly out of date, with many of them now closed. This should not have been too surprising as it hadn’t been updated since we bought it in 2011 (I think).

We ended up on the road out of Daytona back towards Orlando and spotted a large mall, which was called Volussia. As unappealing as that sounded to me, being a mall, it had an Applebees attached to it and so that made our decision to stop an easy one.

As we waited to be seated, perusing the menu, our decision to leave the beach proved to be a good one, as the heavens opened and stayed open for a good few hours.

We had –

Grandad – Shrimp Starter and then Won Ton Tacos

Me – Appetiser Sampler as my entrée, which was made up of Nachos, Mozzarella Sticks and Boneless Wings. I didn’t have a starter as I’m not an animal.

Louise – Same as me, but with Quesadillas instead of wings

Rebecca – Same as me

Sarah – Mozzarella Sticks and then a Fajita Wrap

Nana – Fish and Chips

I must have been hungry as those two photos were all I could manage.

With some Margaritas and a wine or two the bill came to $130 including a tip.

We left and drove west toward Orlando, through the rain, arriving back at 4.50. The plan had been to collect Emily on our way out to Hollywood Studios, but she told us she was knackered after work and just wanted to sleep, so we changed our plans to leave a little later, taking the chance to nip to Publix for more bits, which essentially consisted of wine and high sugar goods.

We left the villa at 7.30, arriving to see the Studios looking glorious in the dark.

Tonight was the final Frozen Firework party thing of the summer and so we made our way up to DJ Chill who was expertly playing other people’s records in front of the Great Movie Ride.

My ability to take a blurred photo knows no bounds.

The girls got their groove on to the “banging tunes” for a bit, whilst Nana and Grandad wandered off to the shops and to get a drink.

After battling their way right to front for more throwing of shapes they returned to us to watch the fireworks.

We enjoyed the fireworks so much I took another blurred photo.

We then battled our way down Sunset Boulevard for the 10pm Fantasmic, stopping in the villains shop on the way for drinks, souvenirs and more crowd battling.

Once inside a very full and busy stadium we took our seats.

Clearly not feeling myself, I agreed to buy Louise some lighty up ear things and after fighting my way to a vendor and all the way back to my seat, imagine my delight when they didn’t work. The joy continued when the show started, as after about a minute it stopped again due to the increasing rain. Our history of rain and Fantasmic is surely now legendary?

We waited a few minutes and the show started up again…..only to stop once more after not long at all. With our patience at full stretch, we stuck it out a little longer and we were rewarded with the rest of the show without interruption.

Here is my traditional eulogy about Disney’s ability to disperse thousands of people via seemingly a couple of trams without fuss, queue or complication. Within minutes of leaving the stadium (after swapping out Louise’s defective ears) we found a tram waiting for us, with no queue at all and we were whisked away to our car and we are on our way on amazingly uncongested roads. In the UK, if you dare to attempt the Trafford Centre at any time other than 2am on a weekday you sit on the car park for forty minutes waiting to get off.

We did witness some truly scary driving from some folks on the way home, with last minute lane switching and the cutting up of other folks, but thankfully my experience, excellent road sense and The Force saw us home safely. I was so busy keeping us safe that I did miss a junction so we took a lovely scenic route home, which was nice. We were home by 11.40 and I managed about a page and a half of my book before my eyes closed.

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…..

The Adults Only Tour 2016 – Day Nine

Day Nine – 4th September

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

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

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

I took the photo that everybody takes…

and made the long walk through the park towards Hogwarts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a brief stop for photos…

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

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

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

Once we had a drink we wandered through Seuss Landing.

We rode One Fish, Two Fish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This brought us full circle back to Hogsmeade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the ride we stumbled upon Megatron.

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

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

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

I had…

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

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

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

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

I think this is another view of mine.

It made me happy, fat and blurred.

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

Rebecca shared this with Sarah.

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

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

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

Till he next time…..