One Day Like This…

Ok, I’ve calmed down a bit now. To be fair to me I did say last week’s post was knee jerk but it doesn’t matter what limb is jerking, I stand by my opinion. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a universal (pardon the pun) condemnation of a Disney change and there have been many over the years.

I also said that the whole thing would get smoothed out and maybe refined. That hasn’t happened yet of course but I stand by that thought too. I’ve watched some more vlogs and feel better that ignoring the whole shit show could be a viable option, especially during the hopefully quieter times in January.

Certainly being very selective in any use of these paid for options will be the order of the trip if we do at all. In effect Disney have removed the three free Fastpasses we used to have and it stinks. Making the best of that means that I may need to up my game in terms of planning our park days and break out some of the strategies honed over the years to get on stuff with the least amount of waiting.

Rather than just piss and moan, whenever Chapek gets a minute to read this here is my suggestion if they absolutely insist on introducing a paid for option. Retain the three free FastPass+ rides that guests can book in advance. Then, if guests wish to upgrade they could pay that $15 per person (or maybe even a little more) to get one FastPass go on all the rides that day.

For now I think the best thing to do is to put it to the back of my mind and focus on the very positive news that we are very close to another Florida adventure and it will be be full of lots of good stuff.

With that in mind let’s trot through the plan as it stands. The thought of getting lots of days filled with fun stuff all in a row is almost unthinkable after the last couple of years. Just one day like these would have been very welcome at any point in that time!

One major change enforced by the park reservation system is that we don’t have many formal rest days planned. Usually we operate on a two days on, one day off scheme but now, having to book your WDW park days, we cannot risk being “locked out” if we plan a rest day but then decide to pop to a park late in the day.

So every day has a park booking of some sort and we will not use/cancel them when we know for sure our plans for that day. Factoring in the weather in January too makes that more of a requirement as rest days typically need to be warm and sunny and January might see some that aren’t and we would need to have a park to visit.

For those who may have missed the details of our flights, and heaven knows there have been many changes over the last couple of years, we have booked with Aer Lingus direct from Manchester. We leave the UK on the 3rd of January at 11am. That fact has still not completely sunk in.

We land around 3pm and have a minivan reserved with Sixt at MCO at a price that could be confused with buying one. I have set up the app to use the Visitor Toll Pass thing. I’m hoping it will save us scrabbling for quarters from the bowels of Ryan after a nine hour flight in a car crammed with suitcases and tired people. We head straight to the villa and depending mostly on Freddie’s tiredness levels we will either order takeout (see I am already mentally in the US) or if he and everyone else is up to it, head out for tea. I haven’t planned anywhere for that meal. Who am I?

There will be a supermarket visit somewhere around this time and some unpacking and then bed.

You’ve been here long enough to know that the first day will be spent at Magic Kingdom. we are very close to ADR day now and I’m hoping to snag one at O’hana for an early tea recognising our body clocks will see us eating lunch at sometime around 10am. If I can’t get that ADR then we might do somewhere in the park or do offsite. We have to save our pennies for going on popular rides now you see!!

Day two is traditionally a rest day. It might be this time. I see Typhoon Lagoon is reopening in December and if temperatures allow we will be there on this day. If not I have a park reservation at Hollywood Studios. Dinner plans are for The Cheesecake Factory.

Day three is Epcot probably trying to get on rides in Future World before heading off site to Bahama Breeze for dinner. One of our absolute favourites.

The next day is Hollywood Studios watching other people get on Rise Of The Resistance. As it stands I have nothing in the plan for dinner. I am suitably ashamed. Let’s see what ADR day brings.

Day five is a Saturday and it’s the weekend of Disney run things so I expect things to be busy. With that in mind I have the closest thing to a rest day on the plan. It starts with breakfast at Hash House a Go Go and then most of the day recovering from that around our villa. I do have an Epcot park reservation if needed and things don’t look too mad.

Animal Kingdom appears on day six for a good old full day of park touring. Dinner of course is at Yak and Yeti.

Monday the 10th of January next and plans are still fairly basic with Magic Kingdom on the cards but again no dinner plans as of yet. Perhaps an ADR at the new Skipper’s place in the park or we will head off site depending how long we stay in the park.

The next two days will be spent at Universal. We have crowbarred this in on the cheap so with no Front of Line we will be theme park commandos for two days getting done what we can get done. Dinner on the first day will be Cowfish and on the second night, we’ll I’m not sure yet.

Day ten sees a park reservation for Hollywood Studios and not much else at this stage. I am wrestling generally with how many in park dining reservations to make or whether we go off site.

Day eleven is Epcot and hopefully Via Napoli for dinner as we wander World Showcase and the following day we are back at Animal Kingdom. We have to pack up and leave the villa the next day so I have dinner at Ford’s Garage as it is very close to our villa so we can head back and get packed.

Next we check in to Coronado Springs for two nights. Weather allowing, the first day I have us around their pool and dinner at Sanaa, ADR permitting.

Then comes our last full day and you know where that will be spent. Magic Kingdom with as yet no dinner plans.

The next day is just full of a huge breakfast and travelling so let’s not think about that yet.

So you can see plans are loose as yet. I have work to do but that can only really happen once we can book dining. The weather is a potential curve ball at all times too. With all the date changes and uncertainty it’s clear my detailed planning has suffered and I need to up my game. I suppose deep down I still can’t believe we are going and it is having an impact.

Hopefully these blogs continue to contain more planning normality and less moaning going forward. We can all but hope.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day One

One of the greatest challenges in documenting one of these trips is the first day. Here I sit, still a bit jet lagged, the horrors of work on my mind, trying desperately to re-capture the excitement and anticipation I can see in the photos from our travel day. The two moods could not be more removed from each other.

Our travel day starts early these days. With Rebecca not at home we have to do the door photos the night before. It does warm my heart a little that it is the girls asking days before when and how we are all getting together to get them done. It is not just my sad tradition, it is theirs too.

This report starts even earlier than that this time. You find me at my desk on my final afternoon. I am tolerating the back to back meetings that have somehow invaded my diary and counting down to the the time I can leave without being formally disciplined when a text arrived on my phone. Oh good, I can now check in for our flights.

I follow the link and start clicking stuff. Now, my track record with online check in is not good for some reason. It never seems to go smoothly. Anyway, I am moving through the various pages with my natural silky grace and one more click will see us all sorted.

An error appears. That’s odd. I do not make mistakes, so surely this pesky website is playing up. Looking in more detail the error relates to Emily and it tells me to check her status on the ESTA website.

The faint stirrings of nausea appear deep within my gut. I do as advised. Luckily, I have a photo of her passport stored on my laptop so I have all I need to confirm that her ESTA is fine. My hands are shaking a little as I type in her details, mainly as the new red warning message across the top of the ESTA site reminds me that it can take 72 hours to get approval.

So, it turns out she has no valid ESTA. My mind wildly searches for a reason for this, but the only one it can come up with is that I am an absolute idiot. I remember distinctly sitting at my laptop many weeks ago getting everyone’s ESTA either renewed or checked. I had a stack of passports and I worked through each one methodically.

Anyway, finding someone else to blame for this was a job for later. Right now, I had to apply and quickly. With my hands shaking a little more, I somehow got the application done as quickly as possible. As expected, Authorization (sic) was pending. I sat refreshing the page for a bit, but nothing changed.

At this point I called Louise to confess my incompetence. Next I called Emily to confess the same and without saying it out loud, letting her know that she may not be travelling with us. She took it calmly and in her stride which just about stopped me from jumping from the window ledge I was stood on. An hour passed, and panic was setting in and I started googling stuff about recent time frames for ESTA approval. Nothing gave me any comfort, and despite knowing it was very unlikely to make a difference I called the number on the ESTA site. I sat on hold for twenty minutes whilst still refreshing the page constantly.

Whilst doing that I even checked out flight times over the coming days just in case the worst happened and she wouldn’t be able to fly with us.

To draw a veil over the horrors of this afternoon, at 4.35pm, a desperate push of F5 refreshed the ESTA site one more time and, thankfully, the status changed to Authorized. I haven’t felt relief like it since her conception.

Now, you will know that I am a dedicated planner and have been until this point a fastidious, organised type. I could never imagine that I would be incompetent enough to let this happen. Clearly I am that incompetent, as I will prove to you in other mistakes I will document here over the coming weeks. Senility is arriving early. But do please take my failings as a warning to check and double check everything one last time. I can ony think that Emily’s passport was stored in her room and when I gathered them all together I couldn’t count properly and didn’t do hers. As I said, incompetent.

So, with that over with, and I am sweating slightly again just recounting it, we shall proceed with those traditional door photos.

If I had been sensible I may have got the camera out before now to remind myself how it works. Like most of you, my phone is my camera at every other time than a WDW trip so getting to grips with my very nice Canon G7X takes a little time. All of that is an excuse for these being a bit blurry.

They got a bit better as we went along….

Well some did….

Now would be a good time to warn you. There are going to be a lot of photos of Freddie in this trip report. It’s natural of course but it’s best I tell you now.

Now we get into the different configurations….

and a more traditional door photo….

So with that done, we ate our takeaway, finished the packing and all went to bed.

Online check in still wouldn’t work for Emily, so that was one last minor issue we would need to address at the airport. A small price to pay for my stupidity. I had felt panic stricken and on edge all evening to be honest, convinced I had made some other error and it was hard to relax into the holiday feeling.

That no doubt contributed to me being awake from 3am. I rose at 7am for the traditional three S’s, tidied up a bit, put the bins out and got the final bits into the cases and wrestled them downstairs. The taxi arrived early at 8.20. We were ready and after a tearful goodbye to the dogs we loaded ourselves and the cases into the van, with me still questioning what I had forgotten.

We collected Rebecca, Tom and Freddie five minutes later and made our way slowly to the airport with me doing the “you been busy?” thing with the driver as I had to sit up front.

We arrived at 9.20 and made our way to desks 14-24. We were approached by a chap offering us an upgrade. Alas, it was not a free one, and another £800 for the move to Premium Economy could not be justified, especially as I had already, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, paid for extra leg room seats in economy.

Emily’s check in was trouble free and it was a nice feeling to have her boarding pass in my hands.

Security was dreadful. As we had a pram with us we were directed to the Assistance Lane. There wasn’t any assistance that I noticed, but there was a whole heap of waiting. It wasn’t helped by the family in front of us having what appeared to the their weekly food shop in their hand luggage. After about half an hour we finally got through and feeling hangry, we moved through into the departure lounge. Our direct route to food was only interrupted as several of the females needed the rest room.

Freddie made good use of the time.

A bee line was made for Giraffe, our usual Terminal 1 eatery and there was no wait to be seated. The choosing of food was a serious business.

We had…..

Me and Tom – Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

Louise – (A quite poor) Eggs Benedict

Emily – Veggie Breakfast Sandwich

I failed to capture this but it looked like the sandwich Tom and I had.

Rebecca – Some Mexican themed breakfast thing

Freddie – A generic kid’s breakfast

Coffee and juice for all and it came to £90 including a tip.

Having only just waited outside a restroom mere moments ago, we had to do so again as my daughters laid some cable. With that done, we wandered some shops, I bought a book from Smiths and then we found ourselves a seat to wait for the gate to open. I think even I had a wee at this point. I am only human.

As I did, I wondered, as I often do, what it is that makes men need to dredge up a pint of phlegm as they take a leak at the urinal. The two functions are not connected. Why do I have to have a wee whilst listening to my fellow urinators pulling up bodily fluids from their toes before expectorating it into the piss pot. Come on fellas, sort it out!

We explored the totally authentic UK/Manchester themed area of duty free too.

Yet more restrooming was done as we made our way to gate 27. As ever, there was a long queue which we ignored and just waited until most folks had got on. Inexplicably, Rebecca and Louise needed to restroom again. Is there a doctor in the house? They took just long enough to make me a little worried that the gate would close with us still on UK soil and some heated messages were exchanged before they reappeared.

We boarded and settled in for the flight which was announced as taking nine hours.

Our extra leg room was welcome and looked like this. You will see that I denounced the usual bright white trainers, but fear not, the tradition was not abandoned. More on that later.

As ever, we did not take off at the intended time, instead we left the UK at 3.07, some twenty minutes behind schedule. Drinks and entertainment upgrades were purchased. These not being free is the main difference between Thomas Cook and Virgin in my mind. The available film choice was pretty poor to be honest with few that hadn’t been out for an age. I found Vice and watched that with a few breaks for entertaining Freddie and food, which was chicken pasta or beef stroganof.

At some point, clearly Freddie got his hands on the camera…..

Only the appearance of the ice cream got him back settled in his seat and watching something again.

Freddie was great to be fair on what felt like a very long flight. It was made to feel even longer and more arduous as the woman sat behind Rebecca coughed for 8 hours and 50 minutes of the nine, without once covering her mouth. It was a nasty, “I’ve worked down a coal mine for thirty years” lung wrenching, phlegm factory of a cough that promised to infect most of the plane with whatever she had.

To prove that fact, I developed a runny nose almost immediately and spent a lot of the flight blowing my conk in the toilets, which isn’t a euphemism.

Freddie was tired but wouldn’t sleep so I took him for a walk around the cabin once everything had been served, sold and collected. I spent the rest of the flight watching Big Bang Theories I had already seen and blowing my nose. A sandwich and some cake was served around 10.30pm UK time and the desperation to get there was not eased by that offering.

Our descent took about 45 minutes and we landed at 7.04pm Orlando time. We taxied to the gate by 7.20. We were sat in row two which had me excited about being the first off the plane. Knowing that, the ground staff attached the tube to the middle door instead and we were off behind most other passengers which would prove to be troublesome. I say it every year, but MCO is a mess for arrivals.

Firstly, immigration was horrendous. We had arrived just behind what appeared to be a fight of 3500 Brazilians. We waited for 80, yes, 80 minutes to get processed. Poor Tom had to hold a now sleeping Freddie in his arms for the entire time. Louise was having hot sweats as despite all of her previous restroom visits, there was now a chocolate hostage fighting to be released.

Not surprisngly, our bags were waiting for us when we finally got through. We collected those whilst Louise sprinted for the restroom.

The next parts of moving through Orlando airport also contribute to my view that it is a mess. The whole double bag drop thing is silly, and we always choose to just take them with us, but that involves escalators and/or an elevator before you even get to the monorail.

With a light sweat on, Buddy the Mayor greeted us and we finally made our way to the bit where you walk for miles again, before more elevator nonsense to get down to the car hire bit.

Having been reunited with his pram, Freddie made full use.

There was no queue at all at the Dollar desk and I was in and out like a teenager’s first time. They tried the upgrade thing, the extra insurance thing, the toll pass thing and the sat nav thing. I brushed them all aside and rejoined the group, now on a mission to get to the bloody villa.

We had been directed to row 2 to choose our mini van. My tired brain was confused by the fact that row 2 seemed to only contain SUVs until a staff member pointed out the mini vans were about five minutes walk down that row. What’s another bit of walking at this stage?

We spent a few minutes trying to choose the best van available but gave up and just chose the one we were stood next to. The cases and pram were jammed in badly and we were off. Tom programmed the sat nav and with only one minor detour, as I took a wrong exit somehwere along the 528, after a long, dark and rainy journey we made it to Sandy Ridge. Wait, no, I took a turn earlier than I needed and we were still a few hundred yards away. A quick turn around, and a bit of swearing and we were now on the right development at least.

Now if someone can explain to me why the villas are numbered in a random order that would be great. We were in 206, so obviously next door would be 196 yes? I mean….

This caused another U turn and some more swearing before the van was more abandoned than parked on the drive and we started dragging the cases in.

Louise found a letter for us from the management company telling us that Hurricane Dorian was definitely going to completely ruin our entire trip. OK, in my tired state I may have over reacted, but the letter was written in a way that pretty much said we would either need to evacuate or spend two weeks in the bath tub. My mood was not a positive one.

Add to that, my dissapointment that the villa seemed to be less than we were expecting. I spent a decent amount of time looking for a cheap (we weren’t supposed to be going remember?) villa with two en suite masters, sacrificing location to get that within our budget. At first glance, the two main bedrooms, whilst being en suite had, at best, Queen beds. Rightly or wrongly, when someone advertises two master suites, I would expect at least King size beds.

As Tom and I headed to the supermarket for supplies, I was, I have to admit, feeling a little downbeat. With the hovering threat of a holiday ruining hurricane and me seemingly having dropped another bollock with the villa selection I was not as upbeat as anyone should be at this point of a trip.

This was compounded by the fact that the nearby Publix closed at 10pm and it was now 10.40, so we had to go across to the WaWa petrol station to grab some milk and cereal for Freddie’s breakfast.

Defeated and deflated we got back to the villa and fell into bed around midnight.

Maybe it is my advancing years but this travel day is a real endurance test. It involved almost 24 hours of being awake, endless queues, waiting, dragging of luggage and frustrations. You may be hoping that things improve or this trip report might not be very much fun. Well, I have to report as I find, but don’t worry, you are, over the coming weeks about to join us on one of our most enjoyable trips. Whether I can write about it in a way that you’ll enjoy cannot be guaranteed though!

Till the next time…….

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Three 31st August 2018

Today goes to prove that no matter how many times you’ve been to Florida, incompetence and planning failure can still happen. Today is the tale of two fails. Read on to see if they affected my birthday adversely or not…..

At the end of this whole thing I will share my thoughts on more general stuff that I could have done better, but for now, it’s only day three and we need to crack on.

Another birthday in Florida dawned and I was awake at 5am. An improvement but still unacceptable. As I got downstairs Rebecca and Tom were up, due to Freddie. One element of the planning I had got right was to denote this morning as a time for resting. The long travel day and an adrenaline filled first day in Magic Kingdom can take it out of you. Whatever *it* was, I was empty.

I opened cards and presents from both those with me and those left at home over a coffee and some brekkie.

As folks woke up, we all assembled around and at times in the pool.

Mikey was the last to rise after what was obviously a much-needed lie in.

After playing, I retired to a lounger with a James Patterson book from the shelves of the bookcase up in the nook of the villa. I aspire to have a house with a nook. Crannies, I have loads of though.

I do enjoy this poolside time and tradition dictates that whilst relaxing and reading I devour a bag of chips (crisps) large enough to feed a family of four for a week. Today it was Cheese Puffs. I had only eaten a Bagel for breakfast so I was allowed. The resting continued until around 12.30. I took my orange tipped fingers and crumb covered chest up into the shower and everyone was good to go by 2pm.

I was ready first and apparently I may have nodded off on the couch whilst waiting for everyone to put some bloody clothes on.

Having had all that time this morning to rest and get ourselves organised, perhaps someone could explain how I then managed to forget my camera! Fail number one.

We had an ADR at Beaches & Cream which would also allow us to park at the Beach Club. Unusually the guard at the gate scanned my magic band to check my ADR. Surely people don’t lie about having ADRs just to park there??? 😉

We found a spot to leave the car and walked into the Beach Club taking all the usual photos of one of my favourite places in the world (on my phone).

That ADR for Beaches & Cream, which wasn’t for another forty minutes or so, had only been possible for four of the seven of us, so the idea now was to ask if they could take three of us as a walk up. I let the others stroll a bit whilst I wandered to the podium to work my magic. It only took me a few minutes with the lovely lady to get satisfaction…..I don’t think I need to add anything here.

I now walked briskly at full man pace to catch up with everyone as they could fit us all in pretty much right away. I was halfway to the Dolphin (or is it the Swan?) when I got a message from Rebecca saying they were sat outside Beaches & Cream. Super. Getting more of a sweat on, I power walked back to meet them. With all the faff, we’d missed that immediate window and had to wait a bit to get two tables together.

We were seated by the jukebox, which for some reason seemed to be stuck on “I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More” by Buddy Holly. By the end of the meal, it did matter, a lot, and if any of us ever hear that song again, the story will end with “and then he turned the gun upon himself”.

We ordered –

Me – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Rebecca – Cheese Bacon Fries and a Snickers Sundae

Tom – Chicken Burger and a Snickers Sundae

Emily – No main meal, just a No Way Jose.

Mikey – Cheese Bacon Fries and Fudge Mud Slide

Louise – Burger and a milkshake and she shared my dessert.

In the rush to get it down before she took too much….

The bill was $150. Frankly, I would have paid double to turn the jukebox off.

We wandered, full bellied, towards International Gateway. I was very conscious that entering Epcot this way for the first time for our newbies would be weird, but there was little to be done about that. We were watching the fireworks tonight, as is the law on my birthday and as such being able to wander out to the Beach Club to get back to the car is just better than getting out of the front entrance with the muggles.

Once scanned and searched we walked through the UK, stopping to listen to a little bit of the British Invasion (assuming they are still called that) and then we moved on to Canada via a temporary Ireland. There was no physical border here…think on politicians….

We waited fifteen minutes for O Canada, but frankly I had been waiting eighteen months so that mattered not.

I am declaring it now. O Canada is THE greatest song ever written. Don’t @ me, as I believe the kids say. I loved the film, I loved Martin Short and my application for Canadian citizenship is submitted.

It was coming up to our FastPass time for Nemo and Friends so we navigated a very busy World Showcase (Food and Wine Festival be damned) down towards the seas. This was another Freddie favourite. We wandered around the Living Seas a bit afterwards…..

and on the way out we bought Freddie a stingray from the gift shop. Not the easiest pet to care for but it’ll be a good learning curve.

He was christened Steve, until someone pointed out that this may be a little distasteful bearing in mind how Steve Irwin met his end, so he was renamed Simon, although I couldn’t quite remember that and still called it Steve for the rest of the trip.

Time for another FastPass now. Luckily it was for Frozen Ever After, probably the furthest point from our current spot in the park so we only had to walk all the way there, through jostling throngs of folks carrying small food portions, who were a bit drunk on that Tortoise Vodka from the Vombekistan booth or whatever it was they were drinking.

It was a testing walk, with my tut muscle flexed on a regular basis, but we arrived a few minutes before our window, wandered the shop for a few minutes before joining the FastPass line, still a little early. There was a fifty-five minute standby queue. Just no.

After enjoying the ride we wandered up to China and took a spot in the gardens to watch an imminent acrobat show.

We had a decent view until a couple just came and stood right in front of us, oblivious to the very obvious fact that they were blocking our view and were dicks. My tut reflex burnt out with use but they did move after a few minutes of my violent stares. We then wandered the shop for a bit.

Our time was now approaching for our evening ADR at La Hacienda at Mexico. This had been a late, impulsive addition to my birthday plans and I am blaming that for what looked like the second planning fail of the day. Rebecca and Mikey were sent to the podium to sweet talk the cast member into bagging us a window seat for Reflections of Earth, with it being my special birthday meal.

They returned to us with bad news. I had made the booking for 7.45, expecting that we’d be able to stick at the table for the fireworks starting at 9pm. For reasons that nobody could explain, tonight ROE wasn’t due to start until 10pm!

Down trodden and defeated we went ahead with our meal, and were led, ironically, to a window seat. That’s right, rub it in.

Our mood was immediately improved by our server, Francisco, who was excellent and a bundle of energy and joy. Cocktails were ordered and he made the generous offer of swapping out anyone’s drink if they didn’t like their selection.

Mikey ordered Francisco’s recommended cocktail….the Avocado one…and loved it.

Emily took him up on the offer of a swap as her first choice tasted like Cillit Bang.

For starters we had….

Mikey – Fundido. That sounds like a sex toy, but it was more satisfying as it was a whole pot of melted cheese.

Rest of us – Guac and chips

For entree…

Me – Short Rib

Louise – Chicken & Veg thing

Emily & Rebecca – Chicken Enchilada

Mikey – Salmon

Tom – Steak Enchiladas

They were all tremendous and this meal was right up there with my favourites of this trip. I don’t know what it is that makes something stand out as a “special memory” on one of these trips but I feel that this meal will make that cut. I loved it.

It was about now that we realised it was about 9.20 and we had a chance to make it to the fireworks. Francisco encouraged us to stay and he very nicely took his time getting our desserts.

Tom and Louise – Custard Flan thing

Me – Chocolate Mousse

A birthday surprise cake was arranged for me and Happy Birthday Mexican style was performed.

To get us all the way to ROE we ordered coffees too.

Appreciating that we had eaten at Beaches & Cream in the late afternoon and nobody was that hungry, this whole meal was a very fine effort indeed. We were able to watch the fireworks from our table so that planning fail was averted. Emily cried as is the law during all WDW fireworks shows.

The bill was a large one. $427 including a very good tip for Francisco. We waddled slowly around the World Showcase all the way back to International Gateway.

Here is Steve/Simon resting on the way back to the car…

We were home and in bed for 11.20.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

I’m tired, jet lagged, and dreading work tomorrow. What better frame of mind could I be in to start writing this thing? Well, I could also be sad that I’m back in the UK, and somehow as the wheels hit the tarmac at Manchester I could have instantly developed a life threatening cold.

Sitting here now, a little weary and down beat for various reasons, looking back at my notes from the start of the trip just gone, I have to say I am not looking forward to recounting the untold joy, optimism and excitement of the start of a WDW trip. It is a necessary evil so it is time to stop moaning and get on with it.

The evening before our trip began, I noted that things were very busy and stressful. We had a million things to do, parents to see, takeaways to order and eat as well as last minute packing and seemingly never ending chores to complete before we were allowed to leave the country. As we wouldn’t all be at our house in the morning, I had to take this chance to take some traditional photos. Rebecca wasn’t very impressed as she had her rollers in and her dressing gown on, but a tradition is a tradition and she had to suck it up.

Then, a new tradition, with Freddie’s first by the door photo.

and Tom’s…

Somehow, we got through everything we needed to do, and I think I got to bed around midnight, honestly looking forward to the 4am alarm I had set going off.

Somehow I was awake before it went off, probably due to others already being up. Upon picking my phone up to turn the impending alarm off, I saw that I had a text. It was from Virgin. They regretted that there was to be an hours delay to our flight. Not as much as I regretted not knowing that before I went to sleep. It could have meant an extra hour in bed had I had chance to delay the taxi pick up. Ah well, showers were had, cases crammed full, weighed then opened again and things were re-arranged into other cases, and then weighed again until we were fairly confident that all of them might be under 24kg.

The taxi arrived a few minutes early, a rushed goodbye was said to the dogs and finally after all this waiting, we were off. The loading of the taxi was a rush and a bit of a panic, and I spent the journey to Rebecca and Tom’s wondering what I’d forgotten. It turns out that was my hoodie, which sat in my wardrobe. Balls.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were ready and waiting to go as we pulled up, and we added their luggage to the groaning pile already in the back of the van. It was a tight squeeze and on the assumption that our mini van I’d hired would be smaller than the bus we were currently in I was quite concerned for our ability to get all the luggage from Orlando airport to the villa.

Being so bloody early the journey to the airport was a quiet one. There was some chatter in the back, but I was sat next to the driver and thankfully he was wasn’t a talker so I could sit in the uncomfortable silence in peace. We arrived at 6.10 and took the lift up to departures to endure a horrific five minute queue to drop our luggage off.

 

Two of our cases were just over the 24kg limit despite our best efforts but the kind lady in the ill fitting Virgin uniform “waived” the charge that should have been levied against us. The car seat had to be taken to a special drop off point at the other end of departures and once we’d done that we were free to head through security, up another level which needed another lift. Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and the pram (it will be a stroller as soon as we land state side!) were diverted through the fast track lane and I made a mental note to ensure that Emily would be in a pram the next time we come. The rest of us endured the normal route and we all got through within a few minutes. Louise was searched as usual.

We weaved our way, Ikea style through the absurd collection of poncy displays and arty photos that are meant to flog perfumes and headed for food. Frankie and Bennys seated us immediately and then ignored us for about ten minutes.

Freddie had his food at the ready so he cracked on anyway.

The rest of us waited for our order to be taken.

Me and Tom – Eggs Benedict, which was to be the smallest plate of food we would see for the next two weeks.

Emily – Nutella and Banana Thing

Louise & Mikey – A Big One

Rebecca – A fry up of some sort

Some toast was ordered for Freddie so that he didn’t feel left out.

With coffees and juices for most, (two drinks each? well we are on holiday!) the bill was £90.

We strolled duty free for far too long, and lost Louise and Mikey who snuck off to the loo without telling anyone. Emily got some sunglasses, and crucially, Louise bought very little. We found some seats and rested for a while before finding a bar in which I could have a £27 diet coke. Technically, there were seven drinks purchased, but you know what I mean.

I took the chance to release the chocolate hostage on UK soil, so that wouldn’t be needed later in the confines of the plane toilet. With that task complete, gate 210 was located and we sat and watched folks queue up for ages to board and take the seat they had reserved.

It was about fifteen minutes until we boarded and made our way up to the bubble. As we were settling in a stewardess (is that what they are called nowadays?) told us that there were a number of empty seats on the flight so if we wanted to use some of them after take off it would give us more room for Freddie.

We took off at 11.30 which Louise enjoyed as much as she always does. We were up to altitude quickly and the seat belt signs were off. Within three seconds some bloke from a few rows away literally threw himself into the spare row in front of us, claiming them as his own. Mikey had a word with the cabin crew and he was directed to another empty seat near his own and Mikey and Emily took up that row meaning we were now three rows of two, and we all had more room which was excellent.

The bubble seats have a really handy shelf/storage bin down the side which is great for putting stuff on and in, but also, if you have an infant with no seat of their own it is useful for them to sit and play on too.

Despite my earlier Eggs Benedict I was starving. They were a bit small and pretty average to be honest, and I shouldn’t throw stones in that particular glass house, but I needed food. With a predicted flight time of eight and half hours drinks were brought round (free, which was nice), and I hoovered up the six pretzels that came with my diet coke in seconds.

Thankfully, food was not far behind and I had a sausage in my mouth quicker than a guest at a Michael Barrymore pool party (I like to keep things topical). It all tasted very good.

We now settled in for the duration with some trying to sleep…

Others, played with Vera…whoever she is….

and most crucially some of us were just impeccably behaved. Freddie was a star for the entire flight, without a hint of trouble, noise or complaint….

There was a lot of looking at this…

and this…

I watched the Darkest Hour with a forty minute nap in the middle of it. After playing Solitaire for a bit I finished the flight by watching Downsizing whilst eating our snack…

I was hungry again so it mattered not what it tasted like. It was devoured. The film was a bit weird, felt about half an hour too long and lost its way a bit.

We started to descend at 7.20 UK time. As they tend to, my ears gave me a fair bit of pain on the way down but I don’t mention it much….just every time I go on holiday.

We were one of the first off the plane and the relief and joy as the first bit of Orlando heat seeped through to us on the walkway from the plane was palpable. I have to say that Orlando is a mess for arrivals. It is warren of corridors and double bag drops and/or dragging cases up and down escalators. It could be a million times easier. Immigration was a ten minute wait and another similar wait for our luggage. As is traditional, Louise is “desperate for the loo” at this point but she was told in no uncertain terms that she could wait until I was getting the car. Words were exchanged, most of them not repeatable here.

Another ten minute wait saw us heading for the garage to choose our carriage for the next two weeks. The criteria was simple. Whichever had the most luggage space would be chosen regardless of all else. After a few minutes of opening various trunks (we are in the US now) we settled on what turned out to be a Toyota Sienna. It took all the luggage fairly easily which was a huge relief.

I was determined to take a few minutes now to get myself familiar with the knobs and buttons at my disposal, again like a Barrymore pool party….but started the thing up to get the air con going. It was a keyless ignition thingy but I did note that there was no sign of the key which could be crucial when it came time to lock the thing later. A search of nooks and crannies proved fruitless and so I piled out of the car, a little frustrated, looking for assistance. The chap I found spoke as much English as I did Spanish, but I think I got my point over as he said, whilst helping us look for the key “No key, car no vroom”. I understood that he meant the key must be somewhere in the car or it wouldn’t start. After a few more minutes Tom found the key under the driver’s seat and we were finally on our way, with me a little sweaty and agitated.

I had unleashed our trusty old sat nav and stuck that to the windscreen but of course in the underground garage it was picking nothing up. The fact it had been in its box for 18 months in a cupboard in the UK also won’t have helped. It was at this point that I made a mental note that in future it would be a good idea to write down, on something close to hand, the actual address of the villa so that I could put it into the thing. As it was, as we emerged from underground and it started working, I browsed recently found destinations whilst trying not to hit anything and chose one that was pretty close to where we were heading. I think it was Old Town, and I figured that if I got us there I’d be able to find Emerald Island Resort.

The first few minutes behind the wheel felt as alien as ever, but I soon settled into it and began to enjoy our travels. It took about half an hour to get to the 192. I had retained all the loose coin from our last trip, rather than leave it behind as I often have and this proved a stroke of genius as they were very handy for the couple of tolls we encountered on the way.

As we reached the Formosa Gardens turn off the 192, there were roadworks and an annoying queue at the lights which made the last five minutes of our marathon journey today a little frustrating. Upon arriving at Emerald Island, I got us past the guard on the gate with some photo ID and the paperwork sent from the villa owner. That same paperwork directed us, without delay or diversion to our new home.

The cases were dragged in and exploring was done. There was a momentary concern that I couldn’t find the second master ensuite bedroom but after turning a corridor upstairs it was located and all was well. Yes the villa was that large that a bedroom could be hidden.

As unpacking happened, I took Tom and Mikey to the supermarket for the procurement of essentials. On the way out I stopped at the clubhouse to get a pass for the gate so we wouldn’t need to speak to the guard every time and with that done we were on our way to spending over $300 on food and things. We returned, unpacked and Louise had a shower. By this point, Freddie was just too tired to function and it became clear that he wouldn’t be fit to come out to eat. So Rebecca, Tom and he stayed at the villa whilst the rest of us ventured out to the Outback.

There was a ten minute wait for a table but were soon knee deep in cheesy bacon fries and a bloomin’ onion.

We had –

Me – Aussie Cobb Salad

Louise – My notes say a cheesy chicken thing

Mikey & Emily – Chicken Caesar Salad

We ordered some stuff to go for Rebecca and Tom, namely some more cheesy bacon fries, a philly steak sandwich and another Caesar Salad which took the whole bill to $140 including a good tip for our lovely server who reminded us of Karen from Will & Grace.

We were back at the villa by 9.30 to find everyone asleep so the food went into the fridge and everyone else hit the hay within seconds.

Till the next time…..

Every Little Thing About The Magic

As much as everyone here in the world of Mkingdon will be delighted to finally be on this bloody holiday, that surely is nothing compared to the sheer joy for both of my readers who are being subjected to this tortuous and constant over sharing of every tiny detail.

Not long now.

Anyway, onwards with that over sharing, yes?

Not being one to leave things until the last-minute (that can’t be a surprise to you?) my mind has been working overtime, making both mental and physical lists of stuff I’ll need to get organised. This ranges from dog walkers, dog sitters, instructions for both, currency, the tragedy of the exchange rate, and this week most crucially, the contents of Ryan for the flight. Yes we have two weeks to go and I agree that I shouldn’t have left it so late!

The filling of Ryan involved the ransacking of several bedroom cupboards, wondering in which “really obvious” place I had put all that stuff I now needed after our last trip. This included, but was not limited to, my bumbag, a veteran of dozens of trips. I shudder to think how much cash has passed through its zips and compartments over the years.

The camera of course and this year I have a lovely new one, a Canon G7X, courtesy of Emily last Christmas, which is a far better a piece of kit than I’ll ever be a photographer and clearly, being a planning genius with foresight a plenty, a load of quarters that had been stuffed into my bumbag last year. This is very wise, as we typically get stuck at a toll booth after leaving the airport waving $50 bills at an automated teller that only takes coins. Somehow, we also returned last year with $1 in actual note form which I had saved. Returning with $1 in cash is another sign that my obsessive planning skills are a cause for concern. Anyway, that dollar will help our budget this year no end. I bought it at a crazy rate, something like 1.40 so it will represent great value for money indeed.

A new addition this year and again, another excellently thoughtful gift, this time from Rebecca and Tom was this, my official trip report notes book.

Usually I grab something from WH Smiths at the airport, but this, official Mkingdon merchandise is surely a line of business I should pursue to fund my early retirement. Let me have your orders as and when….

The FastPass fun continued last week and was broadly a success.  I left you at the end of last week’s post on the 3rd of September having just secured our Hollywood Studios FastPass+ bookings. Of course we didn’t get Slinky Dog, and as you’ll see when we get to the Animal Kingdom day shortly we also didn’t get Flight of Passage as we are just never that lucky, but no matter. Well, it does matter and I’m incredibly bitter but that won’t change things will it?

Image result for bitter gif

So the 4th of September, according to the plan, was a rest day. We have a long track record of planning rest days which somehow then turn into very busy days, and this was another. The plan said we were to go out for a large breakfast . These are not possible on theme park days as that is vital “doing stuff” time, so a rest day affords us the chance to eat ourselves to a near death experience. Keke’s is the plan, with some resting in a food coma for the rest of the day, desperately trying to get hungry again for our dinner at Cowfish around 5pm. Then we are to go into Magic Kingdom to watch Happily Ever After as for reasons, it will be the only chance we get to this trip.

I couldn’t resist seeing if there were any good FastPasses around just before the fireworks and got a bit carried away, mainly as I managed to snag a Mine Train FastPass. Add to that a Winnie The Pooh and a Buzz Lightyear Spin and all of a sudden we needed to be in Magic Kingdom by 5.40 and Cowfish was brought forward to an earlier time to accommodate that. We will have a job on our hands to feel hungry but, we must make sacrifices for the plan.

Onto the 5th, and Animal Kingdom. Despite being on the app seconds after 12, of course Flights of Passage was unavailable. We happened to be in the car at the time and so it was down to Emily and an intermittent signal to secure the necessary. She played a blinder, her finely honed phone thumbs flying across the app to get us, Everest, Na’vi River Journey and the Safari all by lunch. By the way, we hope to have that lunch at the Satu’li Canteen place before again fighting to get hungry for our traditional Yak & Yeti reservation at 6.15. Technically we have two reservations at 6.15 and 6.30 as I was unable to get one for seven, but could somehow get one for four and one for three fifteen minutes apart.

We’ll see after that if we want to stick around for Rivers of Light or not.

We’re now at the stage of the trip where we will be visiting parks for the second day. This is a luxury we have not been availed of for a while as, and I may have mentioned this before, on our last trip, we spent most of the holiday on a beach and only had four days at Disney. So this pleases me.

However, with a second day at Hollywood Studios planned for the 6th of September, and that park being in a state of flux I was/am slightly fearful that we wouldn’t be able to fill it. Having bagged three headliners on our first day, we now had some flexibility. It goes without saying that we didn’t get Slinky dog again. Other, less deserving folks got that again.

Image result for bitter gif

Anyway, we went with Star Tours, Rock n Rollercoaster again (you can never ride it too much) and Alien Swirling Saucers. We plan to nip out to Bahama Breeze for tea (dinner) before returning to watch the Star Wars fireworks thing for the first time ever. We were irked on our last visit to find that it started at the exact moment Fantasmic finished, making it impossible to do both.

The 7th of September is a day off from the FastPass malarkey, as we are at Typhoon Lagoon with The Cheesecake Factory for tea. So on to the 8th….

A return to Epcot for what will be a third time, but crucially for our first full day here. We kick off with the third of the big three, Test Track, followed by the Freddie friendly Turtle Talk and Journey Into Imagination. Having done a couple of late afternoon/evenings in this park already by this stage of the trip we plan to leave for dinner at Teak, one of our absolute favourites.

The 9th is our character breakfast at O’hana, some resting and then we are off to Magic Kingdom for our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I have secured a couple of tactical FastPasses from 4pm before the park closes to non party guests. We can do Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight before 6pm when we will be consumed with candy collection, special parades, fireworks and hopefully rides with no wait times.

The 10th is another day with no FastPass requirements as we are resting. We have brunch at Hash House a Go Go, a trip to A&E to address our gluttony, some wandering around Disney Springs and dinner at the Olive Garden at Lake Buena Vista. The evening is pencilled in for a Boardwalk visit.

So that leaves us with our last full day. Even the thought of booking FastPasses for our last full day makes me sad and emotional. We are of course in the Magic Kingdom, but with a twist. There is another Not So Scary party that evening so the park will close at 6pm. So instead of our usual last night watching of fireworks and some tears, we shall adjourn to Epcot, and watch some fireworks and shed some tears instead. The FastPasses for our day were secured a few moments before posting this and they are….

Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

Splash Mountain

Thunder Mountain

We finish strong with a couple of headliner favourites, before heading over to Epcot for final fireworks, tears and the start of the planning of how quickly we can get back.

Finally this week, I have a confession to make. Usually I am a pioneer of tastes and trends. I shape the zeitgeist, I set the pace and forge my own path. However, last night, I was led by the nose to a decision. In this case I am grateful to be that social media sheep. We were watching a recent Tracker video where they visited La Hacienda. We must have walked past this place hundreds of times over the years and never given it a thought, so caught up in a wave of pre-trip excitement, I accepted the challenge of trying to fit just one more meal into our bulging dining plans.

I think I did OK. A quick search found me a 7.45 reservation on my birthday when we of course are due to be in World Showcase anyway. The fact that we are at Beaches & Cream at 3.40 on the same day is merely a challenge that we need to rise to.

Whilst there can be no guarantee that we will be within viewing distance of the fireworks, the fact that I will be laying it on thick to the greeter about it being my birthday and three of our parties first visit, I am hopeful we will be eating somewhere close enough to a window to see some of Reflections of Earth.

We should be able to stretch the meal out for just over an hour, to get to the 9pm start time even if it means some of us having seven courses to do so. I suspect that restaurant has had a lovely uptick in bookings due to that video, but I don’t mind moving with the herd if I can eat lovely food in front of some fireworks.

Enough now.

Till the next time…..

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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Best of Orlando


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad was blown away by the value of this offer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We were immediately seated over looking the Boulevard.

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

If only I had written down what it was!!

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

Then we all had…

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

Louise – Siesta Burger

Dad – Shrimp and Scallops

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

Mum – Chicken Fajita Wrap

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

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

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

We were in by 11pm and sleeping within minutes.

Till the next time…..

Great Deals on Theme Park TicketsGreat value Blue Man Tickets

 

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – 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…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Eight

Day Eight – 3rd September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We enjoyed another strong pre-show here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandad’s bumbag game was strong!

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

Then of course the smile comes out for the selfie.

Louise and I are less skilled at this art.

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

Me and Emily – Pulled Pork Sandwich

Sarah and Louise – Fajitas

Grandad – Shrimp Platter

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

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…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Five

Day Five – 31st August

Back at the beginning of this report I moaned about how complicated it had been planning this trip. One of the reasons for that was Emily’s work commitments and today saw the first of those as she had to check in. So I apologise in advance that today may not be the most entertaining ever spent in Orlando.

I was awake at 6.45. I had also been awake for most of the hours preceding that as my “I should really be in hospital” cold now had a full grip on my weak and illness filled body. I administered yet more drugs, some of them even legal and added some fuel to fight the disease by eating breakfast too. It doesn’t matter what I had as I couldn’t taste it.

With a check in time of any time after midday for Emily, I was keen to get her packed, out and processed leaving enough time to do some holiday stuff too, as, after all today was also my birthday, which was, quite rightly taking a back seat today. So there was a lot of rushing around getting her organised and ready to go. This wasn’t helped by some apparent drama going on back home with her boyfriend that was distracting her from her own important day and instead of packing and getting ready she was hammering away at her phone with her thumbs.

We left the villa at 10.40 leaving Rebecca and Sarah to relax and rest after a tough few days in the parks. Nana and Grandad came with us and were dropped off at the discount women’s shop Louise and I found the other day. Grandad could not thank me enough.

The first job was a “big shop” at Target to get her set up with everything she might need in her apartment. Now, you’ll know that I love supermarket shopping, especially when it’s all for someone else. So we spent a long, long time choosing duvets, looking at hair dryers and suitable food stuffs that could be made quickly and easily….with a hair dryer.

At one point I did lose my temper ever so slightly with Emily as she was more concerned with the activities on her phone than the questions we were asking her about the stuff we were buying…for her. Louise played referee and things were calmed down.

After paying the huge bill I needed a coffee and a sit down so we got both in the Starbucks at the entrance to the store. Nana and Grandad met us there and we headed back to the villa to collect Rebecca and Sarah. See, not complicated at all this is it?

On the way to Emily’s check in location, which is close to Crossroads for those interested, we dropped off Rebecca, Sarah, Nana and Grandad at Downtown Disney (it was still called that at this point!). Our need for food saw us make a quick pit stop at a McDonalds and hoover up a burger and fries before finally getting to Vista Way. If you’ve seen Monsters University, it looks a bit like that, but with all different nationalities rather than Monsters wandering about. We parked up and Emily went to do her thing.

She was only gone for ten minutes, returning with a lot of paperwork and news that she had been allocated her first choice accommodation at The Commons. The drive to The Commons took a few minutes and after getting through what is pleasingly tight security we arrived at her building. We dragged her cases up to the door and knocked. We were greeted by a young lady who for the first minute or two we thought was American. However she soon explained that she was Norwegian and we could then start to hear that her accent was not from the US but did have a very distinct American “twang” . Lisse was lovely and we chatted for a while as Emily started to unpack. We got her settled in, said our goodbyes to Lisse and headed off back to Downtown Disney to meet up with everyone.

We parked up in the new Orange multi storey car park. I needed a restroom and had remembered from years gone by just how nice they were at the House of Blues so I made use of those. We walked all the way from House of Blues to World of Disney. Oh look, a photo….

And another…

You wait all trip report for one and then three turn up.

As we met up with everyone we soon discovered that Sarah and Rebecca had spent their time and dollars wisely.

Rebecca informed me that Grandad had paid for lunch so she had used the dollars I had given her to buy a Pandora charm instead. Female logic!

We spent a large amount of time wandering around the huge World of Disney store. Whenever Louise suggested we buy something I expertly dodged the bullet by telling her we should wait until Emily has her Cast Member ID and we can get discount. It worked a charm….which Rebecca should have waited to buy too!

We left around 4.30 passing the Lego shop as we did.

For the second time this trip we were now about to con Disney for which I heartily apologise. I still contest that over the years we’ve paid for a few white lies. We drove to the Beach Club to park up as we were going to Epcot and always prefer to escape through International Gateway after the fireworks.

A quick flash of the pink thing which had been stored in my shorts and the guard simply smiled, nodded appreciatively and told us to park wherever we liked. I don’t suppose he sees too many UK driving licences.

Again, these photos tend to be an annual event but I make no apology. This is one of our most favourite places.

We walked through the lobby, remembering again just how lovely that is and then out the other side, turning left towards Epcot.

Once through the entrance we stopped in the shop there to pick up my birthday badge. Remember, it is my birthday!

Of course, our first stop today had to be the UK pavilion to have a look at Emily’s new work place.

It was beyond warm today and Grandad was very happy to spy a comfy seat in one of the shops.

As was Nana.

Rebecca and Sarah grabbed a Duffy and settled in to do some colouring.

The rest of us wandered around looking at Emily’s colleagues to be and the incredible prices of a Twix.

We left the UK and we were Canada bound.

As we made that long journey it started to rain so our progress was more hurried than it might have been. Our plan was to watch Martin Short in O Canada as frankly it had been far too long since we did. As we got to the theatre we were confused to find it roped off. We crowded together in the entrance trying to keep dry until a Cast Member appeared to let us in. That was just the start of the waiting as we then had to sit in the foyer area for about ten minutes.

Once we were in, the show was slightly spoiled by three young folks stood next to us who had obviously been sampling a few drinkies around the world. The circle vision, standing up and the skin full they were on the wrong end of made them quite disruptive. My main fear was that Grandad would get annoyed enough to do something and we’d have a full scale international incident on our hands.

Having waited so long to see the film we were now bordering on late for our dinner reservation at the Rose and Crown. I hurried off at full man walking pace to book in.

By the time I got to the front of the podium queue everyone else had caught me up. We were given our buzzer thingy and it was going off within a few minutes. We were seated on the patio outside and we were served by Rebecca…but not ours.

I sat there looking there handsome for a while.

We ordered the following –

Me and Nana – Fish and Chips

Emily – Bangers and Mash

Grandad – Chicken Tikka Massala

Louise – Steak

Rebecca – Shepherd’s Pie

Sarah – Chips!  Yep, that’s all she wanted after their large lunch at Wolfgang Puck.

As ever, Rebecca left the vegetables and used them to recreate a photo we had seen years ago, at Bahama Breeze.

With it being a special occasion we all had or at least shared a dessert and we all chose the Velvet Cake.  Grandad had a very unsubtle word with our server explaining it was my birthday (have I mentioned that yet?) and could they bring something out with a candle in it. All the servers singing Happy Birthday to me around that poor cast member with a candle shoved up their nose was odd.

All of this eating and singing meant that time was pushing on and darkness was falling changing Epcot into that magical place it becomes as the lights come on.

As it was now 8.35 we did consider ordering more food and or drinks so that we could tough it out and watch ROE from our table. Our server second guessed our quandary and solved it for us by offering us a spot on the patio down by the water. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and the rain that had been on and off all afternoon had the decency to stay away too making our ponchos redundant other than to keep our bums dry on the wet chairs.

It’s customary about now, just before the fireworks start that I desperately try all the settings on my camera to try and make these photos not the usual crap blurry nonsense that all the others are.

So, that worked well.

ROE was the usual incredible spectacle that we have to come expect, and any of my birthdays that don’t include it, are poorer for it.

Full of fireworks afterglow we wandered out of the park back towards the car at the Beach Club. The rain was coming back again and everyone was very tired at this point. So just Sarah, Rebecca and I walked all the way to the car leaving everyone else back at the valet point for us to return to pick them up.

For the first time this trip we dropped Emily off home at The Commons and found our way back to the villa via the I4. We were glad to be in bed by 10.20.

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Four

Day Four – August 30th

Every now and again, I get asked for planning advice for trips to WDW. This is usually from folks I work with as everyone who reads my blog and these reports probably know more about it than I do. These work folks have no idea of the level of my obsession with the whole thing and should they ever find out that I write detailed trip reports about my holidays then my so far stellar career may well be adversely affected. I have long since stopped telling folks about how big a role these holidays have played in my life so far as it is too hard to explain and instead I smile and nod as they tell me they will buy park tickets when they get there and might not do Disney as their kids are all grown up now at 11.

Anyway, the point of all that is to lead into my admission that we are today about to do our third theme park day on the trot and this is, as everyone knows, blasphemy, especially at the start of the holiday. I’m no big fan of rest days but the theme park legs (you know that feeling right?) and jet lag factor make this a very bad idea. Despite us having eighteen days this trip (that’s right, there’s a long way to go yet my dear readers!) for some reason that now escapes me, today had to be Animal Kingdom.

Thankfully this 4am nonsense was over and I didn’t wake until the glorious hour of 7. Breakfasts and showers were had, which doesn’t half make your bagel soggy (not a euphemism). Pleasingly we were out of the villa at around 8.30, the first time, then after someone ran back in to get what they forgot, I reset the alarm, sighed and rolled my eyes a few times, and we left just before 8.40.

As we were going to Animal Kingdom today we used Sherberth Road noting that those dodgy looking apartments just as you turn off the 192 have finally been knocked down. We arrived at the parking booth just before 9, just in time to sit behind some arse that was asking for directions to Disneyland or trying to sing to the cast member to avoid paying the charge, causing me to undertake the traditional ill-tempered scathing rant about idiots who take an age to pay for their parking. It’s all part of the magic.

We parked in Peacock 4 which was close enough for us to walk in rather than tram. Of course, any distance is close enough to walk, but you know what I mean.  Rebecca risked being sent home (and I mean to the UK not the villa) by needing a wee before we went through the turnstiles. I’d already lost several vital minutes by, as ever, choosing the wrong line at bag check and waiting for that one guard who is swabbing everyone’s bag for traces of anything you bought at Universal.

With Rebecca’s empty bladder we finally entered the park and started the march over to Everest.

We had a FastPass+ of course and we all went on apart from Nana who is not a big fan of the going backwards thing.

Now, I know I am not in the strongest of positions to comment on anyone’s choice of hair style, however, whilst waiting to board I had to capture this.

Twice.

Even the lady at the front of the queue stared in disbelief.

In case you were wondering, my trainers were still looking fresh!

This ride is a firm favourite of ours and we always take this photo of course.

Minus Grandad this time, we rode again via the now ten minute standby line. If it were possible, it was better the second time.

We left the ride full of smiles and pumping adrenaline and headed over to the Rapids so that we could get wet as early as possible. As we made our way over, we partook in what is a bit of a traditional game. It started years ago, and it entails Nana trying to get ice cubes stolen from a drinks cart down the back of the girl’s T-shirts.

Everyone joined in and in an over-zealous moment Sarah tried to get Rebecca who quickly spun round causing Sarah to land a perfect left hook on her nose. There were a few tears but thankfully no blood or recriminations. Again, Nana declined to ride as she had just dried out after her last ride of this in 2005.

Another tradition is that on all and every water ride the one person you do not want to be anywhere near is Emily. She always gets drenched. Louise foolishly gambled that this time would be different based on the law of averages. She was wrong. They got absolutely soaked.

Not satisfied with our level of wetness, Grandad, Emily, Sarah and I re-rode immediately with everyone getting their fair share of moistness. After two rides it was inevitable that I’d have a damp snake to photograph.

It was at least 11.30 by now and everyone wanted to eat but were afraid to admit it. I solved the issue by saying I was starving as we passed the Yak and Yeti counter service and we were probably the first customers of the day.

We had –

6 Honey Chickens with rice for everyone but Rebecca

1 BBQ Chicken Stir Fry for Rebecca

Some egg rolls were involved, and I even managed to remember to order my own food this time.

It was very tasty and we’d be full for at least twenty minutes.

Safari time now, so we made our way in that direction.

Having eaten Chinese food we of course had to stop for water about seventeen seconds later. Louise had borrowed Emily’s sunglasses as she couldn’t find her own!

We didn’t have a FastPass so we joined the alleged twenty minute queue. I am still awaiting my day in court with Disney as that twenty minute wait was closer to thirty. Despite the hour of the day, the safari was a good one and produced the usual collection of blurry shots of animals in the middle distance.

That last one is my only celebrity photo of the holiday. You don’t recognise him? It’s Neal….Rhino Neal.

We had a 1pm FastPass for the Festival of The Lion King and time was tight so we set off at a good pace to get to Camp Minnie Mickey. Thankfully we realised that doesn’t exist anymore and that the Lion King is about a five minute walk from the Safari before we’d walked all the way over there.

We were all still a little moist and it was a bit chilly inside the theatre as a result. Louise was fine though. After twenty years with me she is used to being perpetually moist.

The show was as incredible as ever. We always *know* it’s going to be good, but always leave somehow surprised at how good it actually is.

 

How this was the only photo I took during the show I do not know. I think I was Periscoping (not a euphemism), so that was probably to blame.

Keen to see Sarah’s reaction to the ending of It’s Tough To Be a Bug we headed there next.

As ever, there were birds hanging around wherever I went.

Sarah’s reaction did not disappoint and made the whole thing more enjoyable in a sadistic kind of way.

With three theme park days in our legs we were now ready to not do any more theme parking today. We left the park at 2.30 and headed back to the villa. It was so nice to sit on the lanai, drinking, snacking and reading with intermittent swimming.

A few hours later it was time to get ready for our evening’s plans. Later we would be creating shock and awe at Applebees with our eating exploits, but first we’d arranged to meet up with Beryl York and her family at the villa they were staying in at Clear Song. We’ve been Facebook friends with Beryl for years and we are past masters at meeting folks off of the internet in Florida but there’s always that nagging worry that they may be axe murderers who wear their victim’s skins as a coat.

With those thoughts in our heads and Sarah wondering why she had come on holiday with such weirdos who meet random strangers for no apparent reason we drove the short distance to Beryl’s villa.

Of course, within seconds we knew everything was fine and we were welcomed warmly into the huge villa they were renting. I think it was housing about 635 people as they kept coming out of rooms and saying hello. We had a tour of the villa and then sat and chatted for a couple of hours, stupidly forgetting to take any photos whatsoever. Beryl was lovely as were her entire family and their happiness at being in Florida with all of their families was more than obvious. We have met some lovely, lovely people through our Disney holidays and tonight was no exception. Beryl, thank you to you and your family for making us feel so welcome.

We made our way to the 192 to Applebees, stopping at our villa on the way for urgent wees from a couple of females who forgot to go at Beryl’s, apparently.

There was a twenty minute wait for a table at the restaurant so we studied the menu.

Once seated we ordered some Mozzarella sticks and some shrimp thing as appetisers. They didn’t last very long at all and soon we were on to the main event, some of which I even took photos of.

Grandad – Steak and Shrimp

Me – Something called a Hog Dare Ya which was pulled pork related

Louise – Nachos

Nana – Some Shrimp Salad thing

Sarah, Emily and Rebecca – Burgers

 

The bill was $155. The service wasn’t brilliant tonight, in fact the worst we’d had at an Applebees, which was reflected in the tip. Around this point in the proceedings I developed a cold which would remain with me for the rest of the trip. I battled on like a trooper of course, but as you read every day of the trip from here on in, set aside a minute or so to appreciate my struggle and applaud my selfless determination to not moan about it.

We stopped at the Publix ten minutes after it closed so whatever it was we wanted would have to wait until tomorrow. Bed soon followed as I battled with the severe illness, silently, selflessly and without mention of it for several seconds at a time.

Till the next time….

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Three

Day Three – August 29th

The novelty of the 4am wake up had worn off at this point. I’m all for it on the first morning as the excitement of getting to a park for the first time numbs the pain of the lack of sleep, but by now, to be honest, I’d rather be sleeping.

Having said that, I was asleep by about 7pm last night so it was to be expected I suppose.

I tossed and turned until about 5am, which made a right mess of the bed sheets. I booted up the villa’s PC, made a brew and a bagel and came back to see it still trying its best. Once online I started doing what every male at a PC does when alone in the wee small hours. I tried to locate a shop that sold trainers. It’s an odd fetish, sure, but I’m not doing anyone any harm.

Louise had “forgotten” her trainers. When I was charging around the house on the day we left at another ungodly hour, before nipping out to pick Sarah up and ensuring that everyone who had been incapable of setting an alarm was actually awake, Louise had casually mentioned that her trainers were in the coat cupboard in the kitchen and could I put them in the case. I forgot/didn’t have time and now it was my fault that she had none and we had to go shopping this morning to get some.

Having located a shop that looked to stock cheap trainers, other folks started to rise around 6am. Rebecca and Sarah took a dip in the pool, which was allowed as we were not due to leave the villa till mid-morning. Traditionally day two is a rest day, but as we’d only been able to get a Be Our Guest reservation today, for lunch, we had to return to the Magic Kingdom, like it or not. The plan was to arrive just before lunch, do BOG and then pick up whatever rides we could despite the crowds.

Just the four and half short hours after I was awake, Louise and I left for the trainer shop. It was about a ten minute drive and after a similar amount of time we realised that the Payless Store was named such as it stocked shite I wouldn’t set on fire to keep warm, much less wear on my feet. Having been foiled in our quest for trainers we went to the next shop along. As the name of the Payless Store had been very honest about the stuff it sold, imagine my concern as we entered this next shop which was called Dicks! Thankfully, it was a sport shop. I did note a subtle difference to JD Sports in that a sign on the door requested that all guns should be left at Customer Services.

Louise tried on a few pairs of trainers, chose the most expensive ones available and we were on our way. But no, Louise spotted a discount women’s clothes shop and we ended up in there for the best part of an hour looking at bras. This morning was not as much fun as you might imagine it to be if you were told you’d be spending your time with Dicks and bras. To top off the fun, we trotted round Target to for more “bits” which included (for some reason I wrote this down) sugar and another bra.

We got back to the villa at 10.45. Amazingly everyone was ready. I walked out again, convinced I’d walked into the wrong villa.

We left at 11.15 and parked in Hook 77. Upon boarding the tram Emily shared her pleasure with the concept of mornings.

Others seemed more awake.

As we left the tram Rebecca had to restroom but at least she had the decency to know how wrong this was and apologise for her weakness. This did mean that we missed the ferry boat that had been docked invitingly for us as we left the tram. So we had a ten minute wait for the next one.

This allowed me ample opportunity to take some photos of the new cabin things at the Poly.

You may, I will admit, find better photographs of these elsewhere on the internet.

Running out of things to photograph, I was pleased that the boat turned up and we boarded.

We waved at folks on the other boat, and soon enough completed the crossing.

Main Street never gets old and I feel compelled to take (the same) photos whenever I set foot on it.

However, I do like the last two, with both the girls with Minnie Ears in front of the castle. I told you my photos were vert artsy.

Our first stop was at a FastPass+ kiosk outside Stitch. This is the closest you will ever find me to this “ride” as it is an abomination and should be killed with fire. I was trying to see if we could add/swap any of our FastPasses for today as they weren’t our ideal selections. Nothing was available so we were advised to come back once we’d used one of our currently booked ones.

We then made our way over to Be Our Guest for our lunch reservation. I’m pretty sure this was meant to be a photo of the Mine Train ride and not a very poor attempt at photographing Louise.

I checked in with a flash of my Magic Band and we were told to join the queue. Surely, the definition of a reservation was to not have to, but hey ho, join we did. Now, the last time we dined here was for dinner and it was truly one of the best experiences we have had at WDW. The theming was incredible, the service great and the food as good as can be expected in a theme park. After we had eaten we had left to an empty (closed) Magic Kingdom and had a lovely stroll out to the exit taking loads of photos and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Often when you try to recreate something like that it is doomed to failure, but Sarah and Nana and Grandad hadn’t been and we felt we should give it a go for them. However, a lack of knowledge on my part with some stupidity thrown in for good measure was to lead to what was a bit of a disappointment.

So this queue went on for an age and I had no idea why. We were given a menu in the queue and eventually once at the front, realised that there were a set of kiosks at which we were to enter our order before we found a table. I honestly had no clue lunch service was like this, so that’s my own lack of research, but I didn’t feel great about it.

Ordering in this manner for seven people is not the easiest task in the world, plus, as we’ve established over the years, I’m stupid. So as we got to our table and our sandwiches (that’s pretty much all you can get) arrived, we were missing one…mine. Yep, I had been so intent on making sure everyone had ordered theirs, I forgot to do my own. So I had to go back to a kiosk and ask the CM if I could sneak in and order one more, which of course they let me do.

The theming of course was still lovely…

However, by the time I had ordered mine and got back to the table everyone else had finished. Again, I know this is my own fault!!  Drinks were obtained from a McDonalds style dispenser and the whole thing was a bit like eating a football match. Had I known lunch was done in this way we probably would not have bothered. My own incompetence apart with the ordering cock up the whole thing felt incredibly mass market (yes, I know I’m in a theme park, but I know it can be done better than this….cos Disney do it!).

Add to all this that Louise’s beef sandwich arrived still mooing and had to be sent back, and we can declare this not to be our favourite dining experience to date.

I can however confirm that this stuff is indeed delicious.

We did a few photos as we left…

and headed over to Jungle Cruise for our first FastPass. It was very, very hot which meant that Louise declined the ride in favour of sitting in the sun. The rest of us boarded our second boat of the day.

I had to record the back side of water of course.

Our captain was good, but not the best we’ve had. It got a bit wet, but luckily I had some trunks to hand.

As we had done Small World yesterday we changed our FastPass for it now to Buzz. Yes, we did that one yesterday too, but Small World is a labour of love and need not be repeated. Plus, I had pride and revenge to seek out score wise.

Our next FastPass was for Peter Pan. Alas we were too early to ride so we went to get a drink at Pinocchio’s place. We sat outside under some brollies in the incredible heat letting our sweat run freely wherever it wanted to.

Soon enough, we could do Peter Pan, which funnily enough was something often heard when Jim Davison was in pantomime.

Next, we wandered over to Tomorrowland, with some clouds threatening to add to our moistness. It was so humid that frankly I was willing the heavens to open.

In need of some air con and a sit down we decided to go into Carousel Of Progress for both.

Grandad was asleep in seconds but the rest of us sang along like all normal folks are compelled to.

We had a look around the Merchant of Venus shop next and Emily got some sunglasses to avoid her looking so squinty in every photograph. At this point Grandad’s God Shoes (he meant to say Jesus Sandals but once he’d called them God Shoes once, the name stuck) broke. The strap at the back was hanging off and he was now hobbling around trying not to lose it! In an attempt to take his mind off that we went into the Laugh Club.

Rebecca was featured in the pre-show where they show audience members on the screen which delighted her almost as much as it pleased Emily, as it meant it wasn’t her up there. How two daughters raised identically by the same parents can be so different is mind blowing.

After another enjoyable show here we went next door for our recently acquired FastPass for Buzz. I scored a much more respectable 293,000. Louise left claiming something around 500,000, which frankly I didn’t believe.

Space Mountain had a wait beyond our tolerance, so we decided to step out of the crippling heat for a little while by venturing over to a monorail resort for a drink and a sit down. The Contemporary was the nearest so we ended up there, up in the Outer Rim bar.

We were all glad of the cool and the comfort.

I contemplated important things like the meaning of life, why I have more than one chin and why I gave Louise the camera.

The girls sat a suitable distance away from us so as not to be linked in any way to Grandad’s broken God Shoes.

We had a couple of rounds of drinks including beers and cocktails as the promised rain came down in some style. After two hours and a growing bar bill there was no sign of it stopping so we ditched the plans we had to go back into the park and headed for food and home in that order.

To prevent us getting drenched on the way I handed out the ponchos I had stuffed into Ryan earlier. It was a nice touch to find these in the garage at the villa saving us multiple dollars! What I didn’t know was that one of them was a child’s size and Sarah got that one. What followed was a hilarious few minutes as she tried to put it on only to have it stuck over her head for about two minutes whilst the rest of us laughed supportively.

Here she is, once again, able to breathe.

We got the monorail out to the TTC where it was as damp as we had expected.

We headed towards the villa not knowing where we would eat. I spotted a Black Angus at the junction of the 192 and our turning onto Old Lake Wilson Road and suggested that. We had a great meal at one of these back in 2004 or 2005, so of course that guaranteed the same tonight!

I did the gentlemanly thing and pulled the car right up to the door to let everyone out before I went off to park, knowing I would be soaked by the time I sat down to eat. As everyone was piling out I felt a bump and the whole car rocked. It turned out a chap reversing out of the disabled spot by the door had hit us. He was very apologetic and as no damage could be seen at all and more to the point it was absolutely pissing it down, we didn’t feel the need to get his details and we let him drive off, with him expressing his thanks.

My notes on what everyone had are patchy, but here goes.

Me and Emily – Southern Fried Chicken and Mash

Grandad – Steak (detailed, I know).

Nana – Burger

I have no clue what was had by everyone else but it all seemed to go down pretty well. Rebecca was struggling a bit with women problems so she didn’t eat that much and was a bit quiet and grumpy. With that in mind and our dampness this meal won’t go down in the history books as one to remember but it was fine.

We paid $160 and ventured out again into the rain. I ran to get the car and avoided any further collisions as everyone boarded at the door. The rain intensified as we drove home and the lightning was incredible. We were home and in bed by 10.

Till the next time…..

The Adults Only Tour 2015 – Day Two

Day Two – Friday 28th August

Ah, the traditional first day ritual of waking up at a time nobody should know about, especially those on their holidays. Imagine my delight at being so only because somebody phoned me at 4.23am. Who knows how long I may have slept on for….maybe even all the way until half past!

I ignored the call of course, but then saw a voicemail had been left, so I thought I’d better see what it was in case I’d won the lottery or the UK’s sexiest male again. The call was from my bank. It would seem that I had gone overdrawn, and several payments presented were about to be refused and they suggested I got in touch. This did seem odd to me as today was pay day, and as pricey as the airport breakfast was, my wage should be covering most of that.

I got online and found that my account was sadly missing any form of salary payment for me which was, as you can imagine, a mild concern. Eventually I called the bank and explained that, as I had discovered with a bit of googling, HSBC were having all sorts of trouble sending payments and my employers happened to bank with them. It would appear that my salary payment was stuck in some HSBC pipe somewhere and would be in my account in due course.

The bank chap said he knew about the HSBC issue. So that was all sorted then surely? I had been with my bank since 1987 and never missed a payment to anyone and he could see right in front of him how much I got paid each month and from whom it came. Imagine my chagrin as he went on to say that if I did not pay in that day then all the payments presented would be returned and I would be charged.

Put it down to the lack of sleep if you like, but the next couple of minutes were a bit like the clip from Pulp Fiction…you know the Samuel L Jackson soliloquy? I pointed out that I was overseas and therefore unable to “nip into a branch” to pay in. I also outlined my disgust at his lack of understanding of one of their “black” customers. This was not a racial comment. I have a “special” account with them reserved for those with enough stupidity to pay a monthly fee for it to supposedly get some sort of personal service.

Bollocking somebody at a whisper, so as not to wake anyone else up, from 4000 miles away is a new skill, but I mastered it quite quickly. The call ended with a promise of paying everything and no charges being made. It turns out my salary hit my account later that day and all this nonsense was for naught. Sigh. OK, on with the holiday.

With zero chance of getting back to sleep I got some orange juice from the fridge and settled down to watch some adverts on the telly.

Around 6am I began the task of waking everyone else up. There was no way I was going to be up from 4.20 and not be at a park for opening. I started with the girls, predicting them to be the most painful but when I went back into my bedroom, Louise let off a tirade of abuse not seen since my call with the bank. Having woken her I retreated to the lounge once again, leaving her to come around. When I ventured back in some minutes later the reason for her foul mood was that the clock next to her side of the bed was wrong and it read 4.30am rather than the now 6.30am. How we laughed!

It took until 7.38 (precisely) to be out of the villa. I took up, what would become my customary position by the alarm panel waiting for everyone else to get out so I could set it. The really funny part of this EVERY DAY was just as I thought everyone was finally out on the drive and I pressed the button to set the alarm, someone would come back in, apologising that they had forgotten something. Again, how we laughed…each and every time.

Still, this was not a bad time to be out and heading for the Magic Kingdom. We breezed out of the villa development and onto the main road up to the 192. We turned right and we were immediately greeted with stationery traffic and this….

I have to admit to having a slight mood on at this point. The world was conspiring against me at every turn in my quest to have some fun. I will not have it be said that there are greater problems in the world! With the bank stress and now this I had half a mind to set the sat nav for the airport and give it up as a bad job.

A long ten minutes of not getting very far passed and the traffic then eased. Whilst sat in the queue a large wasp had attached itself to Louise’s window. She loves wasps and did not jump about three feet into the air when she saw it.

Once calm again she grabbed the camera and took too many photos of it as our speed increased and it continued to hold on defiantly.

Louise’s ability to focus on entirely the wrong thing in a photo is impressive.

The wasp left us at the junction of the 192 and we took a right in the direction of World Drive. For many years, having stayed around Formosa and Lindfields we have usually taken the Sherberth Road route into the parks so entering the official opening was a novelty and something I vowed to continue in other areas of my life.

With Sarah with us, as a first timer, there was something quite correct about going under this sign on the way in.

We arrived at the Ticket and Transportation Centre at 8.10. This pleased me and offered some reward for the ridiculous speeds I was doing up World Drive. “But officer, it’s our first morning, I’m all excited and we were stuck behind a truck for ten minutes!”

Emily had a voucher for her short term park ticket (to cover the few days until she got her Cast Member one) so she and I went to a ticket window to swap that. I also collected a First Visit badge (they are NOT buttons) for Sarah and a Birthday one for Rebecca. Sure, her birthday was back in May, but this trip was part of her present and so celebrate we would.

No sane person takes the ferry boat on their first day, so a monorail journey and the first poking of my sack (Hello Ryan!) saw us stood outside the Magic Kingdom in time for the opening ceremony.

See, that phone is still there.

With the show done, the large crowd moved slowly into the park with us right in the middle of it. Eventually we got to the Holy Grail that is Main Street and took in the sights and sounds and the realisation that we were finally home again. It had been too long!

I expertly walked backwards taking snaps as we went. Stopping is for amateurs.

I think I have one of these shots from every year we’ve been!

The new hub looked lovely.

With Pirates closed, our natural left turn meant that we would be heading for either some Splash or some Thunder. This is pretty typical for me after air line food and it may take a few days to sort itself out.

As we passed Pirates we saw a group of new cast members on a tour of the park. It was funny to think Emily would be doing that in a few short days.

Splash it was.

It was a walk on and this first ride is always a special time. The endless possibilities of the holiday to come in your mind, the very real magic of one of the best rides in WDW and the near euphoria of finally being there after months of planning and anticipation.

As we left the ride Grandad declared that he needed the loo. This, frankly, was unacceptable behaviour after just one ride and I made my feelings clear on the matter. We would have to make those minutes up later from his own time.

Naturally, Thunder was next.

Nana declined to ride and again it was a walk on. Always fun and surprisingly fast.

Our natural Disney navigation systems took us down towards the Haunted Mansion now and as we arrived we saw a thirteen minute wait posted which we guessed meant a walk on.

It was a joy to see Sarah’s reaction to the stretching room and all the theming that is done so well. There had been a few changes in a recent refurb which were nice to see and the traditional stops during the ride of course happened too. I can hear the voice now telling me to remain in my buggy.

As we left the Mansion some weaker folks spoke of their need of a drink and sit down. There was clearly some form of mutiny happening but in the interests of cordiality I agreed. We went over to the snack place in Liberty Square and got a variety of stuff that I couldn’t be bothered writing down. I had a drink and a banana anyway. As we chatted an elderly Cast Member approached us and started to chat. He was called Fred and we spent a good ten minutes talking to him about all sorts of stuff. He asked how many times we’d been, which was a few more than him and he’d worked there for thirty-two years!

We spoke about Emily starting work and it being Sarah’s first time and he quizzed us a little too much it seemed on the make-up of our party. He seemed delighted when he learned that we were three generations of the same family, plus Sarah, a first timer. As we were making to leave (I’m sorry Fred, no matter how charming you are I can feel the queues getting longer) he said he had a question for us. Anywhere but a Disney park and I’d have been listening for banjo music and squealing pigs.

Would we like to take part in the parade this afternoon as Grand Marshalls?

Well, my smile gave him the answer immediately. Of course we would!! We were shocked, delighted and excited in equal measure. He told us where to be and when and said he would see us there later. We wandered off not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. In my dazed state even I went for a wee and then we somehow ended up in It’s a Small World.

Clearly Louise had the camera again.

Still a bit dazed we left the ride and someone else went for a wee. If we can’t co-ordinate our bladders better than this, it could be a frustrating holiday.

Philharmagic was next and we timed it perfectly, entering the holding area just as the doors opened. The show wasn’t full but this did not stop me having to be restrained by Louise as I went for those stopping half way down a row like some drunk outside a nightclub who has had his kebab knocked from his hands.

About half way through the show, starting to regather myself a little I suddenly remembered all this FastPass+ stuff I’d done many weeks ago. I checked my app and sure enough we had a FastPass for Buzz in a few minutes. I spent the last minutes of Philharmagic trying to calculate the distance to Buzz and the speed at which I’d have to get everyone moving to get there in time. We did our best but we arrived as a collective sweaty mess five minutes after our FastPass slot had ended. Looking at the forty minute standby queue I gave everyone a slap for not walking quickly enough. With our newly gained Grand Marshall status I figured it was worth trying to use the FastPass anyway and strode confidently to the pole thingy. I waved my ticket at it (we had not yet had time to get bands of magic) and it lit up and turned green. If your pole does that, see a doctor immediately.

Six more waves of tickets and we were all in.

The score on this ride is not the point at all. It is merely the fun of riding that counts.

As my planning skills are awesome, just as we left Buzz, with me scalding Emily for poor sportsmanship and gloating, our slot for Space Mountain rolled around. We made our way over and again minus a Nana, entered. This is me with the camera, but this is artsy and intentional, not out of focus.

My notes tell me someone else restroomed prior to Space. My disgust at that time did not allow me to document who.

This was a great ride. Having Sarah along meant that finally someone on it screamed louder than I did.

As we left the ride we took the chance to get our Magic Bands in the shop at the exit. It was painless yet expensive.

To allow some form of resting without actually resting, we boarded the people mover thing.

As ever, this was a nice breezy sit down.

There had been a disgusting lack of food so far today so we were due to remedy that right now with a buffet attack at the Crystal Palace. We wandered over past the castle, through the new hub area.

We were a little early, for probably the first and last time this trip, but I figured if they added together our lateness for Buzz and our earliness for lunch we’d be about right. We were. I checked in and more or less as soon as I had that thing in my hand it went off and we were taken to our table.

I was pretty restrained food wise to be honest. A little salad to start and just the one visit for “mains”, with no dessert. Listen, we’re here for eighteen days and if I go off at full tilt I’ll have to be winched out of the front of the villa by a reality TV show.

One clear disadvantage of a large touring party is that when characters appear, there are often multiple cameras in use. The girls want one for their phone(s) plus my Dad has his camera out and they are all competing with my official record of the event with the real camera. So what happens is this…

After all that food, a large Pooh was inevitable.

Then, back to the food.

Emily likes to look her best for the camera.

A rare shot of me and a rarer shot that is actually in focus from Louise.

Our server had fallen for our dastardly plan of pretending it was Rebecca’s birthday and brought her a nice cup cake. We all sang to her and were immediately condemned to eternal damnation for our evil deceit.

She also got a lovely card signed by the characters.

Eeyore turned up suitably late.

I’ve taken better photos. The one on Rebecca’s phone was no doubt great.

As an aside, here are the girls from way back in 2004 in more or less the same spot. Time does indeed fly.

image054

The bill was as sizeable as expected at $304. I was left all alone at the table to settle the bill whist everyone else buggered off to the shops. Once relieved of my wealth I caught them up during a traditional silly hat try on session.

By this time we had to make our way to meet Fred for our appointment with the parade. We wandered all the way back to Splash Mountain to the gate where the parade starts and ends from (either, not both). We were a little early and met Brian, our official photographer…I kid you not. He took some shots whilst we waited for Fred and started what would be the royal treatment from start to end.

Once Fred arrived we were given Mickey hats to wear and told that we’d have some free photos from Brian’s work to collect on Main Street later. We also got certificates to confirm our Grand Marshall status. He took us backstage to where our car was waiting for us and we climbed in.

We chatted with Fred and the driver until the other Cast Member with us shouted “Thirty Seconds” whilst touching her ear piece which was clearly just for effect! We were told to “smile and wave boys” for the duration and look out for Brian taking photos as we went.

Here we are doing as we were told.

A Dibber/blog reader had just spotted us and shouted “Where’s Ryan?” so I did the decent thing and showed them my sack. It was hard work smiling and waving for that amount of time but the whole thing was surreal and bloody marvellous. During the parade we had a few shouts from people who lived in Bolton or thereabouts. We were announced across the park as the Williams family and Sarah Prince from Bolton at regular intervals.

As we pulled into the backstage area at the side of City Hall we thanked everyone in a two-mile radius about twenty times.

We were then escorted to a roped off area right at the end of the parade route and we were told that Brian would continue to take photos as we watched the parade pass by. So we waited for the parade to arrive.

And here we are watching the parade. Thanks Hilary for pointing me at this vlog which captured us. We appear from around 5m 30 seconds in.

Be warned, there are a lot of parade photos.

We got up close and personal with some of the characters…sometimes a little too close.

See how Ariel delights in seeing me all sweaty in my tight T-shirt and attractive baggy shorts.

When it was over, we wandered, still shell shocked by the whole thing, to the photo shop. We viewed all the ones Brian had taken and choose our freebies to have printed there and then. We linked to rest to my MDE for viewing later.

Not sure how we’d top what had just happened, either today or ever again we made our way out of the park. This being Sarah’s first ever day in a Disney park, it may have set the bar a little too high!

We monorailed to the tram stop and we left our parking spot in Aladdin to make our way to the Publix supermarket close to our villa for yet more shopping. We got back to the villa at 5.15 and right on cue the rain came down. To be honest, we were beyond spent for today and we all just collapsed in various places of rest and I think I was asleep at about 7pm. What a day!

Till the next time…….

Going Limp…now with added hardness!

I just wanted to do a quick post to let you know that the latest trippy, Mkingdon’s Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013, is now available in hard copy, as an actual, real life book.

Now, before you all rush off and buy a dozen copies each, I need to add some caveats. I didn’t get this done in hard copy to sell really. Instead, there were two main reasons,

  1. I wanted to test out getting a book printed like this, as I plan to do it with “the book” when it is done.
  2. I thought it would be nice to give Emily a physical copy so she would always have it to remember her 18th birthday trip

So, those caveats….

  • It is quite expensive, perhaps not surprisingly. It is being sold at the absolute minimum allowed by the supplier…I promise….I don’t need another yacht!
  • The pictures in it are in black and white and the quality of them is average at best
  • You probably own it on Kindle already.

Anyway, when I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was trying out getting a physical book done, a few folks asked me to let them know when it was done. So I am!

If you want to have a look…..click the picture below…

This time, it is hard.
This time, it is hard.

As time allows, I will try to do the other trippy book in the same way.

That is all.

Till the next time…..

The Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013

Clearly a blog post from me on a Saturday can only mean one thing.

I have a book out!!

(If you go back through my post history and find one on a  Saturday when I didn’t have a book out, then I reserve the right to be wrong and to declare you sad).

This (probably) replaces your normal Sunday dose of blog.

Finally, after the most tedious teaser marketing campaign in the history of teasing, I am pleased to announce that the latest trip report is ready.

The Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013 is available to download from Amazon right now!

Book Cover
The Going Limp in Orlando Tour 2013

If you do not own such technical frippery as a Kindle, then fear not. There is probably an app for that. If you own a smartphone, laptop, tablet or even PC, you can get a FREE Kindle app from your relevant App Store, and use that to download and read this thing.

As ever, I need to thank Louise, Emily and Rebecca for allowing me to flaunt their holiday all over the place and I especially need to apologise to Louise for the chocolate hostage situation. All will become clear in the book.

I also need to thank my volunteer proof reader, Janine (@disneynine on Twitter) for taking the time to flag up seemingly endless spelling mistakes and other errors.

No matter how often I read my own stuff, I still miss glaring stupidness, so having someone check this before release should make your reading a less frustrating experience. Proof reading has little effect on the actual quality or originality so that will be all my own fault.

I am also thankful that anyone gives enough of a toss to want to read this thing. I’d love to get your feedback if you do read it, either here as Comments, via Twitter (what do you mean you don’t follow me???) or the Facebook page.

If you feel inclined, any (nice) reviews will be very welcome on Amazon itself too! Any nasty reviews can be sent to me at donotwanttoknow@mkingdon.com.

If you aren’t sure what all this is about, and you want to try a bit before you download, then you can sample Day One here, to get a feel for the tone.

It has been very different writing this trip report in this way. Normally there is a mad rush to get each day posted as quickly as possible which of course led to the enormous number of typos in the other book which I then had to go through and correct after it “went live”. I only spotted them when I read it on my own Kindle, having been blind to them in Word or on the internet. I don’t do detail very well, and I suspect I didn’t correct them all.

Being able to write it all in one go has hopefully meant a more consistent standard (consistently poor) and a cleaner read (I don’t mean less smut). Of course, on that topic, not being subject to forum moderation (yet), I have not had to worry about rude words and close to the knuckle innuendo as much. Whether that is a good or bad thing I don’t know.

I hope those of you kind enough to download it enjoy “Going Limp” as much as we did. First to finish gets a prize. The glow of self satisfaction.

Till the next time…..