To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Thirteen April 23rd 2017

It was very upsetting to wake at 8.30. All those days on the bloody beach when I was awake at 7am and today with a theme park in my immediate future and I had lazed half the day away.

Never let it be said that I air brush these trips and only give you the edited highlights. In the spirit of full disclosure at this point in the trip Louise and I were not on speaking terms. I won’t bore you with the trivialities of the subject matter, as to be honest I can’t really remember, but as all long-term couples know, this happens from time to time.

Suffice to say that I of course would have been totally in the right and Louise would later issue a full and unreserved apology.

After exchanging dirty looks and mild insults as we got ready, it was decided best for all concerned that Louise didn’t join us this morning. After declaring our undying love for each other, I left the room with Emily, who was all disdain and eye rolls at our mature behaviour, with me deploying full flounce and we went in search of food. Of course, for all our moody tantrums and vitriol I had made sure Louise had money and everything she needed for the day, as of course deep down we both knew that at some point in the not too distant future it would all be sorted out.

We bought a breakfast from the Beach Club Marketplace. A breakfast sandwich and a bounty platter, which thankfully did not contain any coconut, were consumed outside within minutes and we were soon on our way to Animal Kingdom after a quick stop at the All Stars for some parents. At the entrance to the car park I reclaimed some of the costs of staying on site by flashing my magic band rather than handing over $50 or whatever the car parking cost that week.

My joy was short-lived as there was a huge queue to get into the car park. It snaked all around the perimeter, its size only matched by the size of my bottom lip. As Disney tend to do, they shifted a huge number of people in a short amount of time and we dumped the car in Giraffe 46.

We didn’t have long to wait for the tram and after a bag check, scanner and a queue at the turnstiles we finally got into the park just after ten.

The first FastPass of the day was the safari, so we headed in that direction. That’s a good old walk especially with two almost octogenarians in your party but it was worth the trek.

We had a great guide and saw a god amount of stuff. I have promised myself that I shall keep returning to WDW until I can manage some non-blurry photos on the safari.

It isn’t often these days that it happens so at the first sign of a huge horn I took a photo of it.

There’s a probably an animal somewhere in that photo.

Ah there it is…..

I’d tell you that this was a hippo….But that’s just lion…..

As is often the case, my milkshake brings all the birds to the yard….

Smile!

After returning from our two-week safari, we set off for our next FastPass which was to be Everest.

Since our last visit a stadium seems to have grown in the middle of the theme park.

Dad rode Everest with myself and Emily and we all loved it. It’s one of the rides that just make you smile every time. It is a good one to ride early in the day as it blows the cobwebs off, gets the adrenaline flowing and puts you in a great mood.

When we got home and looked at our Memory Maker we had a few random photos that very obviously not taken by me.

Like these…

We walked on around to Dinoland where Mum & Dad played some of the games.

Emily and I moved on to Primeval Whirl.The stated 30 minute queue turned out to be just ten which made us happy.

We left battered and bruised and now Emily joined her Nana in battle.

No prizes were won alas.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug was next on the list and with a standby wait of just ten minutes we walked through all the queuing bits, with me trying to snap as many of the animals as possible in the tree.

It went well didn’t it?

It is quite usual for there to be screaming in this show, especially as it comes to an end due to some of the effects used. However, this show started with that too, as we seemed to have another screaming kid being subjected to something they absolutely did not want to go through. For all new parents out there, as much as the theme of this show might seem kid friendly, it is absolutely not suitable for toddlers as this poor screaming soul was demonstrating. Of course the parents didn’t take it outside and when it is still in therapy well into its twenties, it can read this blog to find out why.

It was 1pm now. We’d done a lot hadn’t we? We needed a drink and a sit down so we headed for Starbucks. It took a while to get served as we were behind a large group of teenage girls, each ordering drinks more complex than the theory of relativity. The shapes and colours of their drinks were a mystery to all but themselves.

Mum and Dad had a strawberry smoothie and I continued to order whatever Emily did and had another iced coffee thing. See how Starbucks had to really try to not spell my name with a G.

We watched the world go by for half an hour waiting for our next FastPass slot to come round. It was to be the Kali River Rapids, but by the power of the app, I discovered it was down. Instead we wandered over to the Lion King for the two o’clock show.

I have raved about this show every time we have seen it, and this shall be no exception. What a stunning, talent filled feel good fest this is.

I have the same photographs of it many times over so I decided to just sit back and watch it this time…oh apart from doing a Facebook live…but that took no effort.

As I wandered around today I noticed quite a few folks staring at my torso. Now, this is pretty normal when you have a physique like mine. But even for me, today it was noticeably more frequent.  Disregarding the usual number of pestering females undressing me with their eyes, I think everyone else was admiring my T-shirt, which is one of my faves.

You’d think after all our visits that I would know the official name for all the rides and attractions. I don’t. Apparently according to my notes we did the “Gorilla Trail thing”.

and eventually the trail led to an actual gorilla.

For the first time in many years next we took the train up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch otherwise known as the place where you pet goats.

However, as nice as the goats were, this guy was my favourite by a mile.

Next, we stroked a cow with horns, which is not a euphemism.

During our safari, our guide had told us that the restrooms at Rafiki’s Planet Watch were the best in all of the theme parks. I therefore felt duty bound to test that theory. I’d give it five minutes if I were you.

They may be the best but they still had that huge gap at the bottom of the door which mean that passers-by could see my knees. Spladosh!

We caught the train back and headed for Yak & Yeti. Louise had been in touch and said she would meet us there. This was no doubt as she had realised he error of her ways and realised her undying love for me. Either that or she really wanted to eat at Yak & Yeti.

As we made our way there, I demonstrated one of my top tips. If you see a huge queue to meet a character, simply take a picture of it with a random child and save yourself half an hour of waiting.

For those of the nerdy disposition, these, I think, are the projectors used for the new tree show thing. They are huge.

As we approached the restaurant, Louise and I spotted each other from a distance and ran in slow motion towards each other, meeting with an embrace and from somewhere romantic music poured out over us.

We waited for about twenty minutes before being seated upstairs.

We ordered some appetizers of Egg Rolls…

and Dad had some Firecracker Shrimp, which I think was due to some tight shorts.

Various strange lemonades and some wine for Louise arrived as we ordered….

Me – Combo Lo Mein

Dad – A Salmon Thing

Mum – Sweet & Sour Chicken

Louise – Teriyaki Chicken

Emily – Honey Chicken

The food was superb again. It was $225 including a healthy tip.

We consulted the app to plot our next move and seeing the safari was just a ten minute wait we decided to do it again for the benefit of Louise. See, I am so kind and considerate ever when she has been totally in the wrong.

There weren’t as many animals out and about at this time which frankly serves Louise right.

You lucky lot, getting two lots of blurry safari photos in one day!

We then walked all the way back to Everest. Louise, Emily and I rode using our recently acquired Fastpasses and then I let Emily and Louise use Mum & Dad’s FastPass to ride again. Again, how lucky is Louise?

As dusk approached we had to get ourselves in place for our first viewing of Rivers Of Light. We thought we could just wander across from Everest to the entrances we could see but no, they were for folks who had made a FastPass for it. Instead, we had to walk about six miles to the other side of the park to the muggle entrance.

We sat for just under an hour waiting for the show to start. That was fine as we were tired and it gave Louise more chances to apologise to me. Having just eaten obscene amounts of Chinese food we had a thirst that was life threatening. It was also very hot of course. It was a bit gutting not to see one drinks vendor wandering about. If I had wanted to buy some plastic tat that would light up, I had vendors walking by every few seconds. But if I needed life saving water, I would have to wait it seems.

There are few better places to be on the planet than a Disney park at dusk.

The show itself was very good. I suspect we’ll need a good few viewings to take it all in.

After the show we spilled out into Dinoland and we immediately bought lots of water and drank it as if we’d be wandering in the desert for a few days.

Louise needed to restroom so we sat for a long while waiting for her to release the chocolate hostages. Once she had returned we wandered slowly through a now quiet park.

We trammed back out to the car and dropped Mum & Dad off at their hotel before heading back to the Beach Club. We read and phoned for a while until sleep took us.

Minor domestics aside, that was a properly good full theme park today. We left satisfied that we’d done a lot.

Till the next time…..


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To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Six April 16th 2017

It can be hard to find the amount of time I’d like to dedicate to writing these things. Considering I have to fit it into the seven free minutes I have each week, the quality of them is just about acceptable but about 50% of what I aspire to. Anyway, over the next few weeks as I cover our time at Siesta Key, I will have an ingenious time-saving plan. I can simply copy and paste the day I’m about to write over and over as we did pretty much the same thing for a week. Stand by for a lot of pictures of sand and blue skies with some food towards the end of each day!

For those who have lost track or didn’t care, today was Sunday. We were to spend it worshiping Louise’s favourite deity, the sun.

We woke up naturally at 8.20 and took a leisurely shower. I suggested that tomorrow we try it one at a time. Breakfast was a very un-Hash House like bagel and a cup of coffee. I was worried that I may waste away to nothing on such meager rations. It had almost been twelve hours since we last visited the supermarket, so that was the first stop of the day for beach essentials. That consisted of lunch in the form of sandwiches and snacks and some tackle for the enjoying of the beach such as lilos and umbrellas. Americans seem allergic to shade but us pasty Brits need all the protection we can get from the merciless sun.

I watched some football on the TV upon returning home until everyone was ready . See how I have learned not to pester folks to be out of the door early every day of the holiday!

We wandered over the road and found a suitable spot on a very spacious and idyllic looking beach. The first job was to blow stuff up.

Twenty minutes, and a couple of cardiac arrests and blackouts later, things were of a suitable size and girth. The fact that nobody used the bloody things for the whole week was hilarious.

Siesta Key beach is as lovely as its awards and reputation suggest.

Our rented house was at the beginning of those tracks in the sand you can see in the picture below.

Over the years Louise has done her best to sample all of life’s ailments, diseases and injuries in the US. I think it is some sort of crusade or comparison to prove the UK’s NHS is better than the US alternative. I have documented all of these, some in more graphic detail than I should. I think we all remember the Vagisil escapade some years ago?

Well, this year I think she has surpassed all previous efforts. She had burnt boobs. This was not as you may assume a result of getting her baps out in the sun around the pool at the Royal Pacific. No, that’s how I burned my boobs. Instead, it was all down to one more example of the very strange things ladies do in the name of fashion. To allow her to wear certain outfits without the support of a bra she had used some nipple covers. Now, men I hear you. What the f*** are nipple covers? They were news to me, but they are a thing.

I always thought they were for the exclusive purpose of preventing breast-feeding mothers from having permanent wet patches. When the girls were very young it wasn’t too uncommon for me to wake up with said nipple cover attached to some part of my body. That’s all part of the magical parental journey.

Now, I have discovered that to prevent “chapel hat pegs” when wearing certain kinds of dresses, these posh elastoplasts are used to keep the bad boys at bay.

Somehow, these had caused some very serious damage to Louise’s puppies and as much as I am making light of this, they looked bloody sore and no fun at all. With this in mind the next few days were a struggle for her to find comfy sunbathing positions or indeed to wear clothes that actually touched the damaged area which drew a few funny looks I can confirm!

Traditionally at this point, Dad will apply a reservoir of factor 50 and then immediately wash it all off in the sea. Today was no different.

We all rested, read and other things beginning with R. It wasn’t too long until lunchtime rolled around and I wandered back to the house to pick up the stuff we’d bought earlier from the fridge. Ryan, on his first outing of the holiday earned his stripes carrying it all back to the beach.

We had pre-made sandwiches which were, as you might expect, huge. As I had been in charge of choosing lunch there was also a good amount of snacky crap, such as huge bags of chips (crisps) and some chocolate brownie things that I can still taste today. I got some beers too and Dad went crazy having about four which is probably more than he drinks the rest of the year!

The afternoon passed without much else to report. We rested and read some more, and as Louise had thrown one seagull a Dorito, our section of the beach looked like a scene from a Hitchcock film.

You can clearly see some lovely birds in that last photo!

That was the ONLY time one of those bloody lilos was used. Literally a waste of breath!

After a tough day of this sort of thing we started to drift back to the house in phases from around 4pm. Showers and readying began. Being our first night we weren’t sure how or where to get the plethora of free transport options to the village so I played safe and ordered an Uber. It took twenty minutes to get to us and about three minutes to take us to our destination. That was Ocean Boulevard, the road that runs through Siesta Key Village and includes many shops, bars and restaurants. Thankfully it now looked a lot less like Magaluf and much more like the sleepy, relaxed location I had researched all those months ago.

We wandered for a bit and ended up choosing The Hub.

With a twenty-minute wait for a table we took to the bar and I had my first beer of the trip.

The ladies had cocktails, apart from Emily who had left her ID at the house and Dad another beer.  Here’s Emily looking very pleased with her Coke.

We were seated and then served by Jazz who I can best describe, in Louis Walsh style as reminding me of a young K D Lang. As the vast amounts of food we were about to order wouldn’t be enough Jazz persuaded us to get some chips and salsa to gorge on whilst we looked at the menu.

We ordered –

Nachos for Lousie and Emily, who clearly thought the chips and salsa were not sufficient.

Me – Ribs

Mum – Chicken Tacos

Dad – Steak & Shrimp

Emily & Louise – Chicken Burrito

Half way through the meal Dad felt very rough and had to escape to the loo. He waited outside for us whilst we finished and I ate his steak. We put it down to too much beer, rich food and sun and he laid off the beer for the rest of the trip and felt a whole lot better for it. If you don’t drink a lot, suddenly drinking can be hazardous.

The bill was $130 plus tip and the food was excellent. We rounded off the night with yet another visit to the supermarket. Dad bought a huge corkscrew for the bottom of his umbrella. This was to bury it deeper into the sand. The beach had been quite breezy today, which was very welcome in the blazing sun, but it did cause some umbrella carnage from time to time.

We of course had to buy some sun screen as the one we had brought with us and used hardly any of was no longer suitable for reasons I can’t explain and we also got some aloe vera for our burnt bits and Louise’s toasty nipples. I think they were a band in the seventies?

We caught the free bus that was parked up outside as we left and we got off a stop early as it was pitch black and we couldn’t tell where we were in the dark. Bed was found at a hedonistic 10pm.

Till the next time…..

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily it’s quite dark in there…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily ordered a cheeseburger and Mum & dad shared one…

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

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

and my usual reaction to hipsters…

Next we did the Terminator ride..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was eating the missing one, sorry.

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

Our entrees were

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

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

Louise – French Dip 2.0

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

Again I can only apologise for the photo

Dad – Imperial Trooper Burger

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

Mum – Plain Jane Burger

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day Two April 12th 2017

I have to confess that I have been procrastinating. Tackling day two has felt like an increasing weight on my shoulders as the week has rumbled on. Why you ask? Well, even if you don’t I’ll tell you. Day Two, the first full day of the trip is so full of promise, excitement and hope that sat here now, in a rainy Bolton, as far from going on another holiday as it is possible to be, I’m finding it hard to put myself through it. My heart is broken that I am not now just starting the holiday all over again, wrapped in the comfort blanket of the hot Floridian sun, feeling more at home than I do at home with all that holiday laid out untouched in front of me.

Sigh.

With that said, I must press on and try to convey all of that as we revisit that day together from the comfort of my blog.

At a ridiculous 4.20am, I was awake, bleary eyed and bloated from the flight and still full of all that yummy Outback goodness. Emily was already awake and of course on her phone, suggesting that some snoring may have kept her awake. I hope those in the next room don’t do that again!! Courtesy of the time difference we all chatted with Rebecca back home for a bit and I simultaneously arranged to meet Mum and Dad at 7am.

Then I find, examine and operate the coffee machine in one silky movement and make some coffee for Louise in my boxer shorts. I couldn’t find any filters but they did the trick instead. Hmm, full of extra flavour due to my special roasted beans.

Readying started at 6am and I went to collect Mum & Dad at 6.50, managing to find yet another way to get lost in that five-minute journey to their hotel. Once back at the RPR we wandered around for a bit trying to locate the water taxi.

We naturally went the wrong way before eventually finding a lovely long line waiting for it. It also looked like they were checking room keys due to said long lines, and with Mum & Dad not residents we elected to walk. It took ten minutes, most of which was spent by me concentrating on not walking too fast, doubling back to let folks catch up and Louise telling me off for walking ahead of everyone. I was excited!!

We had our first encounter with the new security set up here. Airport style scanners and an emptying of all pockets into a tray just as we entered City Walk.

We joined a healthy queue at the gates of Islands of Adventure (IOA) and waited for about ten minutes. Mum and Dad, not having the extra hour of on site guests, went off to get some breakfast on City Walk and we arranged to meet later.

We walked to the Potter stuff at a pace that just allowed almost everyone else in the park to overtake us. Room cards were being checked on the way but in no great detail. They were just required to be wafted at the staff asking to see them with no checking of dates as far as I could tell.

By the time we got to Hogwarts there was a thirty minute queue posted but I think that was just to get a locker. Knowing what was in store today I was travelling bagless. Ryan was resting in the room and I had all I would need crammed into the small sack at the front of my shorts.

The ride itself was a walk on, but that walk takes about ten minutes. We had only ridden this once before so it was nice to do it again and notice almost all of it that we missed the first time. If you don’t like spiders or have kids that may never sleep again after being attacked by a twelve-foot dementor, perhaps give this a miss. We loved it.

Still firmly in that first morning adrenaline rush we headed straight for what was Duelling Dragons.

It was a walk on at this hour but even I had to succumb to a locker on this one. Even my small sack was not allowed. I showed it to the lady at the entrance and she said it was very nice but too big to ride with, and also suggested I seek medical attention at the first opportunity as it shouldn’t be black.

We were quickly loaded and off at silly speeds through all sorts of loops and inversions. There is no greater sign of getting older than how you feel upon leaving a roller coaster. Until recent years I would do them all day with barely a repercussion. More recently I have wandered off rides feeling like Oliver Reed after a lost weekend. I was dizzy, queasy and bilious, three of the lesser known dwarfs, I admit.

I tried to put this down to not yet having eaten rather than becoming an old git and declared it breakfast time. Knowing what I had planned food wise for the rest of the day I was hoping to just have a light snack to save space in my expanding belly for the shenanigans later. The need for food was too great to be picky and we stumbled across the road into the Broomsticks place.

This was our second visit here and the speed at which you choose your food has not improved. It wasn’t that busy and it still took us far too long. Perhaps that feeling was exaggerated by my rumbling belly? There are around half a dozen set menu options and we went for –

Me – Porridge Breakfast (on the right) and Emily American Breakfast

Louise – Pancake Breakfast

I had to be quick with these photos as preventing folks from eating was a danger to my health at this point. In fact by the time we actually got our food our hunger was a real problem. The last time something was this hotly anticipated in Hogsmeade was when Ron Weasley used his wand to perform his Hymenio Destructo spell on Hermione.

It was $57 for the three of us.

They were tasty enough and did the necessary to fill the gap but this meal wouldn’t make it into my top ten list for the holiday.

By the time we had finished eating Mum and Dad were waiting for us outside. We had a quick wander back up to Hogwarts so they could take some photos and then we escaped what was becoming a very busy Hogsmeade and headed for the train station.

There wasn’t a queue at this time which was nice. The last time we took this train we waited forty-five minutes. It’s a very clever ride, if that’s the right word.

There are so many different elements going on that I suspect it will take many rides to appreciate them all.

As I stood up to leave the train I moved towards the window rather than the exit to take a snap of the plaque I had spotted above the window which seemed to have my name on it. Just as I stood, Louise, sat across from me did too and her head attacked my hand. It resulted in a decent slap to the side of her head. That’s my story Officer and I’m sticking to it. The worst thing about that was the blurry photo it resulted in.

We will never know why that plaque had my name on it.

We alighted the train and wandered into Diagon Alley.

The Gringott’s ride had a wait time of 115 minutes. Nope! Instead we meandered through the shops and streets and eventually found a bench from which we could watch a show that had just started. I forget what it was called but it was the one with the puppets/storytellers.

After bumping into Frank Bough…

and a drink we left via Weasley’s magic shop thing…..

and struck out for Men in Black so that I may inflict a demoralising defeat on everyone. After another f***ing locker farce we entered via the normal muggle line rather than Express so that we could all ride together. It was only a ten minute wait.

In the interests of appearing to be a grown up I shall draw a veil over the scores achieved on this ride. One shouldn’t sully family fun time with such base trivia as the scores on some game that really doesn’t matter. Anyway, I do think my gun was faulty. I was giving it all I had but there was just nothing happening. Again, I’m told it’s not a big deal and it’s happens to all men.

We made our way around to the Simpson Ride. As often happens Louise decided to sit out in the sun rather than ride. I don’t know if you know this, but she’s keen on the occasional bit of sunbathing.

Again we took the non Express line as Mum & Dad were riding and it was only ten minutes. Fate dictated that we would share our car with a family competing in the “Worst Parenting Skills of the Year Award”. A youngish couple with two very young kids joined us in the waiting room. At this point the kids were just noisy. As we entered the actual car to ride the younger child decided to go to Defcon 3 in the tantrum stakes. They had been allocated the front row of the car but Damona decided she wanted to ride in the rear row. We loitered barely concealing our disdain as the family moved to the rear row to satisfy the demands of the mini demon amongst us. Once in that row, this child proceeded to go into full Linda Blair, head spinning, spitting and kicking meltdown for reasons nobody could fathom.

At this point the chap loading us in suggested they leave as there was no way the ride could operate with the child in that state. They took his advice and he exchanged a glance with us that communicated all that was required.

I think that family are still outside the Simpsons Ride with the parents discussing in a calm voice their mild disappointment with their offspring’s behaviour whilst it rips clumps of hair from their heads.

It was 11.30 by the time we exited the ride and by normal first day rules this was time for our evening meal. With this in mind we started the walk to the exit for our lunch at Toothsome.

We walked slowly as it was very hot now.

We got there just before 12, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy to get a walk in table.

It wasn’t and we were seated immediately even having the option of sitting inside or out. As my immediate future included a milk shake fashioned from ice cream, inside was the only choice. Plus I needed my newly acquired moist patches to dry out in some nice air conditioning.

Amazingly I wasn’t really that hungry. I could have eaten of course. We all have our sacrifices to make, but I had one eye on our evening meal plans at Cowfish in a few short hours so I decided to be sensible and just have a drink…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mum & Dad hadn’t had a large breakfast like us so they ordered a Chicken BLT each.

Louise had some wine. It was barely the afternoon by the time it arrived so that was OK.

As we sat, we were visited by a couple of the characters that wander around. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read the bit on the menu that explains who they are and what the story is supposed to be…I had a milkshake to choose, so our interaction with them was a little awkward as we had no idea who they were or what they were talking about. Indeed, my Dad kept asking this lady what she was out of…..to her credit she didn’t break character once.

The bill was $90ish and I have to say the milkshakes were superb and Mum & Dad reported that their meals were excellent too. The place itself is fantastically themed and if you don’t fancy a full sit down meal you could of course just pop in for some take out or I think you can also sit in the reception area and have a milkshake.

Feeling very proud of my restraint at only taking on board around 2000 calories in a drink, we set off to Universal Studios. Once back in the park we made use of our Express passes for Shrek whilst Mum & Dad had a wander and did some shopping.

We waited as long as it took for the current show to finish before entering and Louise and Emily were treated to this year’s first rant about those morons not moving all the way to the end of their row.

After exiting we went across the street to Minions but even with Express, the queue was huge so we decided not to bother. It was hot, we were starting to feel that first day effect come mid afternoon so we decided to wander back to the hotel for some rest.

There was no chance of us walking back to the hotel. We waited about fifteen minutes for a water taxi and enjoyed the breeze as it took us back.

I drove mum & Dad back to their hotel whilst Louise and Emily got changed for the pool. I joined them once I had done a quick change into my mankini. I hadn’t had that waxing for nothing!

Some very welcome resting happened next. Emily and Louise had a cocktail or two and we did some reading and quite a lot of nothing for a while. The only free beds at this time of day were around the small kiddies pool. I always marvel at the absolute lack of shade provided in the US at public pools and water parks. Luckily my legs were well shaded by my over hanging gut.

I did point out to Louise that she may want to shave her legs….

We went back up to the room around 6ish and I popped out to get Mum & Dad at 7.30 hoping that by the time I got back Louise and Emily might be ready. They were and we got the water taxi again over to City Walk.

Cowfish told us there was a forty five minute wait for a table, so they took my phone number, to text me when it was ready and we wandered off in search of a drink.

No, don’t worry I didn’t have another milkshake…I’m not an animal.

Instead we found a table at a bar and ordered some drinkies, enjoying the ability to sit outside in a T shirt at night. Tomorrow I might even wear some shorts too.

I felt a throb in my pocket after about thirty minutes which coincided with our table being ready. We were seated upstairs. It can be a bit noisy in here. It’s very open plan with very few soft furnishings but the food is worth it.

We ordered –

Me – Cheesburgerooshi. I would find this very hard to describe so instead here’s what the menu said..

Seasoned Certified Angus Beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white cheddar cheese, applewood bacon, and red onion, wrapped in soy paper and potato strings then flash fried. Topped with ketchup, mustard, dill pickle and Roma tomato. Served atop Cowfish sauce. Served with house seasoned fries.

It looked like a non blurry version of this..

It was stunning and I would highly recommend it.

Mum – Crab dip with chips. This was an appetiser as Mum was still full from lunch.

The photo was once again rubbish…

Dad – I recorded it in my notes as a Lobster/Shrimp thingy. I suspect this was not the official name..

It looked like this….

Emily had a burger of some kind. (Top note taking tonight Craig!)

After consulting the menu it would appear to be a Dynamic Duo Burger.

The Dynamic Duo*
Beef burger, braised short rib, sweet roasted garlic, provolone cheese, tomato onion jam, lettuce, onion, tomato, onion roll.

As did Louise.

We all shared two pieces of cheesecake just to make sure we had hit our 10,000 calories per day target and it was delicious.

The bill was $145 including tip.

Emily cleared the whole burger and a very respectable amount of cheesecake. It was an impressive and valiant effort. Nobody knew if they were more full than tired and so we water taxied back to RPR and I sleep drove Mum & Dad home before falling into bed just after 11.

Till the next time……

To Siesta Key…And Beyond Tour 2017 – Day One April 11th 2017

In my pre-blogging days here is where I would do a pre-trip introduction thing, telling everyone about the trip we had planned, how we booked it and who was going. As I have blogged about little else for months every detailed twist and turn of all the above is covered there already. If this trip report is your first visit to my blog, then welcome, and where have you been? Feel free to read back if you want a back story that will probably be longer than the actual report itself. That’s what happens when you blog every week!

I would usually also apologise in advance for all sorts of things….language, too much detail, using the same half a dozen jokes that I first used in 2003 and length. I am accustomed to apologising for my length, however, as these days I post this stuff on my own blog, there will be no such contrition and forewarning. I’ll write what I want and hope some folks read it.

This trip started like most of them have, with an early alarm call. I am jostled from my slumber by my alarm at 4am to the sound of the shower already running. This is a significant event as leading up to our trip we have had “men in” fitting a new bathroom. This morning would be the first time that we had a functioning shower after the best part of three weeks, so this noise was pleasing to me. It also meant Louise was in the shower and wouldn’t stink today, which was a bonus.

I was done a few short minutes after rising, which I’m told isn’t a big deal and happens to lots of men. Cleansed and dressed I headed downstairs to sort the dogs out, make some brews and eat a bagel. Being a kind soul I took Louise’s brew upstairs and allowed our youngest dog Bean up with me. She of course jumped onto our bed, which isn’t usually an issue, but this morning she chose to put dirty marks all over the nice new bedding Louise had put on a few short hours ago and so I was suitably chastised for my foolishness and banished to put said sheets in the washer again and tell Rebecca that she’d need to dry and refit them later.

Having got the first row out of the way before 4.30am the customary last-minute cramming of cases ensued and every time I think they are good to go and zip up some other thing is presented for inclusion. It is tradition that the last item to appear are the blazing hot hair straighteners which I have to somehow get into our luggage as the taxi man drums his fingers outside the house. Bearing scars like David Carradine in Kung Fu (ask your Dad) I drag luggage downstairs and tell my Mum and Dad and the taxi bloke that we won’t be long which is a blatant lie.

FYI we are at 500 words and not in the taxi to the airport yet….settle in for the long haul.

We say our goodbyes to Rebecca and Tom which won’t make it onto my list of favourite things to do. Ten minutes later than I would have liked we all make it out the door and into the taxi.

At this point I am presented with a quandry. This is the photo in front of the door time, but of course, one of the participants in that isn’t coming with us, or indeed dressed. So what to do? I decide to take the same photo anyway, but the Gods intervene and make every attempt blurry and crap. I am using my brand new camera for the first time, the taxi man is literally breathing down my neck to get going and it’s all a bit flustered. Anyway, I snap something I’m not happy with and leave.

This one has an added dog.

This one is zoomed in so you can see the blur more clearly. This is a very rare shot of Rebecca without make up so cherish it.

The drive to the airport was a quiet one. To be honest I was tired and a bit upset at leaving folks behind so I didn’t feel like chatting. We arrive at Terminal 1 at 6.10am. The taxi cost us £85 return. I locate the relevant desk at which we can drop our luggage off at and wander to it. There’s no queue and no fuss. Our main case is 23.7kg and so it gets a special sticker to denote it is overweight. I was a little offended to have a similar sticker attached to my T shirt.

There is no queue at security and having had our boarding passes sent to my mobile rather than print them off for the first time I stand wafting my phone at a scanner as everyone passes through the barrier. We live in the future.

We didn’t have to remove our shoes at security, but my Dad was given special attention as he forgot to take his iPad out of his rucksack. We waited for him to join us after his interrogation.

“They tested me for drugs and everything” ha says as he reappears.

“They must have thought you were Emilio Escaban!” jokes Louise.

I thinks she meant Pablo Escobar.

Next we restroomed and then assumed our “waiting for Louise” positions which would come in handy throughout the trip.

Giraffe for breakfast, which made an interesting change from cereal. Once seated we ordered juices and coffees and some food…

Me – Egg and Bacon Bagel

Louise and Dad – Simple Breakfast

Mum and Emily – French Toast

It was all good and cost us £61 including a tip.

Exhausted from his efforts Dad found himself a newspaper and seat whilst the rest of us wandered around some shops. Duty Free was relatively painless with just one make up purchase for Louise. In WH Smiths, we bought books for the flight. I got a David Baldacci novel. Since Ben Elton stopped writing novels he has become a recent holiday tradition. I also got a notebook and pen for the taking of notes for this here trip report. I don’t know what else we got but it cost me £45!

As we made our way back to Dad I tried to take a sneaky photo of the Victoria’s Secret model’s poster but it turned out blurry. That wasn’t the camera, I had just gone cross eyed.

To add insult to insolvency Louise then decided to have something called gel nails done whilst we sat and waited for our gate to be announced. Add a Starbucks to the mix and we had to go home now as we had spent up!

Now it was time to go to the gate, which was 32. As ever seems to be the case it was the one furthest away and by the time we got there and various party members had last minute wees, we were the last to board. We were spread across rows 40 and 41. I don’t mean that literally, I just mean we all had seats in those rows.

We took off amazingly close to 10.15 and settled in for the ride.

This is a rare shot of my Dad being awake on a plane.

Louise passed the time by doing her impression of Dr Evil…

I already had a feeling of this trip flying by as the whole airport thing seemed to flash by in record time. Maybe I’m getting old?

Take off saw Louise’s fear of flying in full effect and it is only by holding my hand and crushing my fingers that she prevents the aircraft coming down in a ball of flames.

Ah, it was only a matter of minutes…

Lots of this happened….

We upgraded our entertainment package and bought some headphones for a fiver each and I started by watching The Accountant with Ben Affleck. I too was shocked to see him flying Thomas Cook to Orlando, but there you go.

Food came and was passable. I enjoyed James Martin’s sausage, which you should expect to read about in the Sunday papers very soon.

I then watched a Modern Family that I’d seen a few times already but it passed half an hour. At this point, Emily had a wee. Don’t worry, I won’t be documenting every passing of water, but this one was significant as it was on an aircraft. Emily has always had a phobia of loos in the sky and now at 21 she seems to have managed to get over it!

Next was The Arrival…no, not into Orlando, the film with Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. It was a bit weird but I chose it as it was quite long. Length is important at times, and on a long haul flight most things that can pass almost two hours are worth a watch. I did feel this film was about half an hour too long but it got me to the three hours to go point in the flight.

I started my notes on events so far…

Louise fell asleep at this point. This is relevant for two reasons.

  1. She says she never sleeps on a plane. The Diazepam and red wine said otherwise.
  2. Recently on Facebook she posted an unflattering photo of me and my chins asleep on the flight. I have a similarly unflattering photo of Louise in a similar pose but I am too much of a gentleman to post it.

The flight crew were busy again dishing out teas and coffees which I never have on a flight. It’s a throwback to my childhood I think when it used to be served in those small, flask like plastic cups and it made me feel sick. With the aisles full of stewardesses and trolleys far too many folks felt the need to be up and about. In my view, your job on a plane is to sit down for as long as possible and be as little trouble and nuisance as you can be to the crew. I reserve my best tuts for those who are out of the traps faster than Usain Bolt as soon as the seat belt signs go off once airborne. What can you possibly need to do so soon after take off? Anyway, at this point deep into the flight, having supped her coffees, one woman from the front of the plane walked all the way to our row, right at the back, with three empty cups to give them to a stewardess still serving drinks to the rest of the plane.

Said stewardess (or is flight attendant now? Apologies.) hid her disdain much better than I did.

Next I watched War Dogs which was better than expected. It did have a load of bad language in it which had been hilariously overdubbed for a flight showing so there was lots of “You are funning kidding me” going on. During this film our snack was served. The less said about it the better I think.

That film ended just ten minutes before we landed. Said landing was bumpy and Louise particularly enjoyed the skidding across the runway as we touched down. You will have heard her screams back in the UK. The captain apologised for the rough landing and the emergency stop braking he had to do to correct it. He said it would at least mean they didn’t need to sweep the plane now. How Louise laughed.

Hey Orlando…looking good.

Being back in Orlando saw smiles break out all over.

As ever it seemed to take longer than the flight to taxi to the gate and I could feel the tension rising as folks flicked their seat belt clasps in anticipation. Being at the rear of the plane we were pretty much the last off. I think there were 320 people on our flight and as we arrived in the immigration hall we were somehow 340th in the queue. It snaked on forever and was not moving. This turned out to be the longest wait we have ever had to get through immigration. It was over an hour. Having stood around for that hour, collecting our cases was very quick as they had been circling the carousel for forty minutes or so. Louise then declared that she had to go to the restroom and so we stood for twenty minutes just before the customs form desk watching not only all of our flight file through to form some nice queues at car hire, but also the recently arrived Virgin flight that came in half an hour after us.

Being tired, cranky and eager to get going this did absolutely not result in an argument.

Turns out there was no queue at our car hire desk after all. I escaped the upsell with just a charge for a tank of fuel and headed over to the garage. Having booked our car before Mum and Dad were coming with us, I had stuck with the full size option as the helpful graphic on the website assured me that it would fit five adults and their cases. It didn’t really and we had to try a few cars to find a boot…sorry trunk, that would give us a fighting chance. With everything and everyone finally in, the sat nav was unleashed and we headed for Universal. Sat Navs are great, but if some numpty types in the wrong destination they can be less effective. Having searched for “Holiday Inn” and picked the one that seemed closest to Universal, assuming that to be the one that Mum and Dad were booked into, we arrived at our destination at a spot where a Holiday Inn perhaps did stand when our sat nav was built.

It certainly wasn’t there any longer and so I booted up my phone to get the correct address. A few moments later we found it. As we made our way around the Universal area my Dad pointed out that Wet and Windy was over there. This was a tad harsh on Louise I felt, as it was probably just the medication for the flight.

The traffic in this area was bobbins. Every red light lasted a bout a week and a half and there were jams everywhere. This was not in any way frustrating when you are trying to start a holiday.

I went in with Mum and Dad to get them checked in, up to their room and crucially onto the WiFi so we could message them about meeting up later. Their room was huge, clean and lovely, which was a relief.

We then made our way over to Royal Pacific.

Our wait to check in was longer than I would have liked. Every guest at the desk with a member of staff seemed to be organising the Normandy landings rather than getting their keys to a hotel room. Finally we were attended to and, I assume as means of apology, I was offered a lay. This was not the time or place so instead I accepted a garland of flowers around my neck and we went to the room.

Having had a very smooth experience at Manchester, the whole post landing experience at Orlando had been crap and stressful. Hopefully now that would be behind us. Our room, 1705, was lovely with a decent view.

We tested the loo, got on the WiFi to taunt those back home about our location and rested for a bit. We left at 7.30 to pick up Mum and Dad and go for tea.

The sat nav froze at a crucial point of our five minute journey which resulted in me taking a five mile detour up and then back down the I4. This did not bother me one jot! We waited in the lobby for them for ten minutes as despite hearing his iPad ping with a new message (from us) Dad decided not to look at what it said!

Anyway, not to worry, the shorts were on and the holiday had started.

The Outback was just a five minute drive away and were delighted to be seated immediately. We were less delighted to be sat next to a huge group of Brits who seemed to be trying to talk to family back home without a phone. Alcohol may have been involved, which is fair enough, they are on holiday, but inconsiderate noise like that is a pet hate of mine. They seemed to take about an hour to actually leave having declared they were doing so but eventually peace prevailed.

We kicked off with the new combo starter of a Bloomin’ Onion topped with cheesey fries.

Followed by….

Me and Mum – Aussie Cobb Salad

Emily – Caesar Salad

Louise – Fillet Mignon Skewers with Mash and Broccoli

Dad – Surf and Turf

The quality of these photos does get better I promise you. The newness of the camera was still defeating me.

We were so full that I feared death. The bill was $126 so we left $150. Mum and Dad were dropped off and we headed back to RPR and straight to bed.

Till the next time…….

Is It Because I Is Back?

Hello? Is this thing on?

My body is back in the UK, but my mind is yet to accept this. Mentally I am still in the technicolour wonderland with a warmer climate where every meal is a brush with a cardiac arrest and the amount of money spent doesn’t count as dollars aren’t real money. I do quite like it you know!!

It always blows my mind that within a few short hours you go from wandering around a baking hot Disney Springs (don’t we all do that before going to the airport?) to landing in an ever grey Manchester.

I am avoiding reality for now. I haven’t dared go anywhere near the scales and I refuse to admit to myself that I have to work for a living again on Tuesday. I’m not dressed yet and I sit here in my dressing gown eating something between breakfast, lunch and supper watching people go past our window doing grown up things like jogging, walking their dogs and generally engaging with the world in a way in which I simply cannot right now.

Sigh.

We had a blast. We narrowly avoided a visit to a medical facility which is the exception rather than the norm for one of our trips, although we came close a couple of times. Instead, we spent more time in pharmacies than theme parks and if anyone needs a cream or potion for any ailment on earth, give me shout as we’ll have it.

That feeling of being at home over there gets stronger with every visit. I know after the amount of times we’ve been that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but the feeling is strong.

I won’t steal any more of my own thunder as I need to get on with a trip report. I have made the token gesture of downloading all the photos to my laptop and getting them up on photobucket ready for inclusion but beyond that, the fog of jet lag and the fact that I am struggling to see the laptop over my stomach have restricted my progress…well, progress indicates that something is actually happening, which it isn’t yet.

I will say that we and especially Emily and I realised that we didn’t have enough time at Disney. We knew that before we went I think, and it was intentional that the trip would be different, but there was a feeling of being slightly robbed of time there as we inevitably missed out on some stuff that we love. As fantastic as our time at Universal and Siesta Key was, as soon as we got to the Beach Club there was a strong feeling of belonging, peace of mind and joy that reaffirmed what we probably already knew. Any future visits will be WDW centric. Still, moaning about that after almost three weeks over there seems churlish.

I feel confusingly knackered and refreshed in equal measure. Mentally it always does me the world of good I think, but physically I feel close to a hundred years old right now, not helped by gigging last night on seven hours sleep out of the previous 48 hours.

So I shall leave it there for today. I will commit to day one being ready for next Sunday as if I write it down here I will have to crack on despite my working week looking grim. Thanks to all of you that followed our trip online in real-time and hopefully I can keep your interest for the trip report to come. Oh and discussions for our next trip started before we got home….but hey, what’s new?

Till the next time….

The Going Limp In Orlando Tour 2013 – Day One – Sunday 18th August 2013

As promised, here is Day One of this year’s trip report. I’m now intending to write the rest of it, and get it all out in the form of an eBook as quickly as possible. I reserve the right to change Day One between now and then as I’ll probably spot some mistakes in it!

I’ve been asked if I will post it on the Dibb as well, and the answer is maybe. I say maybe only because posting this thing in one format is time consuming enough, so to do it here, the Dibb and in an eBook is a mighty task. I don’t see much point in posting just one day there right now, with a huge gap until the rest is ready, so I’ll wait until it is complete and try to put the whole thing up in one go.

I am very open to feedback on where and how you’d prefer to read this thing (if at all!). Hopefully between the Dibb and eBook you can consume it in the manner that suits you best.

Enough caveats….here we go…..

The Cast

Craig aka mkingdon – On the cusp of 43, mental age of 3. Waist measurement slightly higher than that.

Louise – As ever, on the cusp of a greater age than me, student nurse, qualified mother, bad flyer, keen amateur red wine drinker.

Emily – Recently 18, the reason for this trip, Disney freak, One Direction obsessed and a beautiful creature.

Rebecca – 16 going on 26, boyfriend obsessed, with a makeup habit that would bankrupt a Sheik. Another beautiful creature.

Ryan – A rucksack whose growing fame is a constant source of confusion and mild resentment.

Introduction

This holiday was officially not happening for most of the preceding year. We had of course booked it, and had things planned, but we had kept all of this a secret, as it was to be a surprise present for Emily’s 18th birthday at the end of July.

The determination, caution and downright luck in keeping things a secret were incalculable, but somehow we managed to do the big reveal to her on the evening of her birthday in front of all the family. There were tears and joy in equal measure. Emily blubbed a bit too.

If you want to see how that went, and an enormous amount of back story you can read it here.

The title of this year’s trip report is inspired by Louise and I being aged cripples. Louise has a long standing ankle problem which causes her grief on a regular basis. Indeed on our last trip she spent the last day being pushed around the Magic Kingdom in a wheelchair.

As I career at a frightening pace towards old age, my body too seems to hate me, and with about a week to go to this trip my right knee decided to play up. So the title is a reference to old age, but not the in the way you may think! The limp to which I refer are the ones carried by Louise and I through the trip. Not that you will hear me moan about it at any time.

Day One – Sunday 18th August

There are many inescapable truths about undertaking a holiday to Orlando, and two of them I shall document now. The first is that no matter how far in advance you book, plan and prepare, you will always wish you’d spent more time doing so as you realise you have forgotten to do something or you have made a mistake.

The second is that the days leading up to your holiday will be some of the busiest of the year. Perhaps that is just me? Louise has a compulsion to rebuild our house before we leave, and will undertake cleaning tasks previously unheard of in our normal routine, that now become essential before the immovable deadline of our departure.

So, what planning disaster befell me? The day before our departure I had logged on to the American Airlines website in an excited mood, ready to do the online check in thing. I filled out all the required information, clicked the button and was greeted with a nasty red error message. I do not have the best track record with online check in to be honest and can’t remember too many (any) occasions when I have done it with any measure of success.

My failure this time was linked to my activity months ago, when I had entered our API information (Advanced Passenger Information) into the American Airlines site. I had made an error with one of the passport expiry dates (Louise’s) and when I entered the correct one during check in, the site spotted the conflict and immediately suspected I was plotting some terrorist activity.

SWAT teams dropped from helicopters outside of our house, my bank accounts were immediately frozen, and my own passport burst into flames in front of me. I actually didn’t mind the frozen bank accounts thing as it might stop Louise from spending any more money in Boots.

Despite some desperate pressing of buttons over and over, the result did not change. Louise offered some opinion on this but I shall not sully this report with it.

Deflated, I resigned myself to having to check in with the muggles at the actual airport in the morning.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of chores and tasks that I would rather not be doing, and we retired to bed staring at a 4am alarm call, which for once I didn’t mind at all.

It felt like not a lot of sleep happened before that alarm went off, and as Louise did whatever women folk do in the bathroom, Oli, our Old English Sheep dog jumped, well no, he stepped on to the bed, and lay on me for half an hour. I considered this his punishment for his impending trip to the kennels.

With three females to contend with, I was informed when my seventeen seconds of bathroom time had arrived and I used it wisely. Once I was dressed I continued with more chores and tasks that I didn’t want to do.

Putting the rubbish out, hoovering, and then hovering in bedrooms telling women folk that they needed to stop using their straighteners now as I had to cool the bloody things down and get them into a case this side of Christmas. By the time I had wrestled said cases into our not very spacious car, I had a nice sweat on. Nobody wants to be moist at 5am.

Of course, no matter how late we were, nothing stops me herding the girls into position for the traditional photo.

As would be the case for pretty much all of the holiday we were about half an hour behind (my) schedule. This meant the goodbye to Oli lasted about six seconds (He’s a dog, get in the car!) and we were at last on our way to Manchester airport.

With the car pretty much full to capacity, the journey was a gentle one, not wishing to snap an axle and we arrived at 6.30. I of course drove to the wrong car park, and had to carry out several illegal manoeuvres and some illegal language to get us back on track.

Once we were at the right place, it was a very smooth process. Terminal 3 Meet and Greet is to be recommended and commended. Basically it works like the hire car places at Orlando airport where you drive into a lane, grab your cases from the boot, drop your keys and head for the terminal. They give you a receipt that you won’t be able to find in two weeks’ time.

Terminal 3 is just a short walk across the road, and at this stage I was unable to contain myself and I arrived much sooner than Louise. This I believe is a medical condition and happens to everyone from time to time, and isn’t a big deal. Once we were reunited we took the lift up to Departures. I found the correct check in desk smoothly without any incompetence or the need to ask a disparaging American Airlines rep where check in was whilst I was stood right in front of it. The lost half hour caused by hair doing and woman faff had cost us our place at the front of the queue, and we were now disappointingly nestled in with other people.

After a security check and passport check in which we confirm that we are handling nothing incendiary aside from the contents of my underwear, we were then pointed at a self-serve kiosk and told to get on with it. Luckily, with me being a technical genius we flew through this without incident or help, and in no way needed some patronising member of staff to come over and ask why we were taking so long.

After dropping the cases off and breezing through security without the need for any cavity invasions, we were now free to tick the most important of pre-flight boxes, and that is food. Now they have these full body scanners, I leave several members of security in a state of admiration, awe and envy as they all review my scan for several minutes. “He certainly was packing heat” was what I thought they said as I walked away.

Being Terminal 3 virgins we wandered wide eyed, agog at the vast array of eating options. After looking at the one restaurant and the couple of shops we plumped for the former.

Louise has to release a chocolate hostage before anything else happened, so the girls and I grabbed a table and I took the brave step of ordering for Louise.

I tried to take some photos, but it was a bit early.

We had –

Me and Louise – Eggs Benedict

Not the best we’ve ever had, and made very difficult to eat by the frankly crap knife.

Emily and Rebecca – (Blurred) Berry Yoghurt Thing

Orange Juice all round, and coffee for the grownups.

Once food was ingested, everyone felt up to a photo.

The bill was £33, which was some £20 or so less than I was expecting for airport dining.

Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, we were chatting. Well to be exact, the girls were on their phones and occasionally giggling to themselves. Rebecca re-entered the real world for a second to share a photo with us of Beyonce’s new haircut.

Louise looked at the photo, and said. “I preferred her with a big bush”.

My views on Beyonce’s bush were unrecorded in my notes.

The Duty Free shop, which is pretty much anything but free, drew Louise in like Jimmy Saville to a school disco. There was lots of spraying, and thankfully no paying to be done.

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We then called at Boots for “some essentials”. I stayed outside to be honest as it would have just resulted in a row. We have more Boots stock in our possession than they had in this shop, but still purchases were made.

WH Smiths took yet more of my meagre wealth, including the purchase of a colouring book for Rebecca. Yes, she is sixteen, and yes the book was six quid. I need my head examined.

Costa was next. The girls had one of those frozen crapachino things, and I think the adults had warm proper coffee. We found some seats to wait in, and then waited. Rebecca coloured in, Emily stared at her phone and I captured both.

Rebecca got her very lovely grown up top covered in very childish green felt tip pen. We are convinced that even on her wedding day she will get some sauce down the front of her dress.

When we were checking in (do you remember that far back?), we had been told that our flight to Chicago was delayed by an hour. I was already mentally preparing my multi-million dollar compensation claim when I spotted the departure boards now showing that it would depart on time. They were messing with my melon man!

We drank our coffees and Louise took some of her (legal) medication to help her get through the flight. I’m not saying it sends her a bit loopy or anything, but a few minutes later she did come out with the phrase, “Have I got coffee on my eyebrows?”

The more worrying part of that is that she did indeed have coffee on her eyebrows. Remember kids, the drugs don’t work.

At around 9.50 we wandered down to gate 55, and fortunately this was also where we would be flying from. The “on time” departure of 10.40 already looked unlikely to me as the staff were messing about paging folks for chats at the desk, and mostly not getting anyone on board the plane.

Boarding started around 10.40, which was when we were supposed to be setting off. They started boarding in groups with the first to board being those who were members of American Airline’s clubs, which included about seventeen different variations based on precious stones. There were calls for Sapphire Club Members, Diamond Club Members, Gold Club Members and I’m sure there was a Topaz Club in there somewhere. I boarded when Brassic Club members were called.

The sheer number of folks in these priority boarding clubs outnumbered the clubless scum which seems to me to devalue them somewhat. Luckily, despite our delayed boarding, there were still seats left for us. That was a relief.

We actually took off at about 11.40, which was the time they said we were delayed until at check in. Having only a two hour connection window in Chicago, I now knew that things would be tighter than a tight thing with us now being an hour behind. I therefore spent the next eight hours or so worrying about that.

Louise was now on the wrong end of 10mg of Diazepam, and for all she knew we could have been on a coach trip to Blackpool.

I’ll pay for including that!

She added a few red wines to that during the flight, so it was like flying with a cross between Oliver Reed and Pete Docherty.

We stared at quite a lot of this….

Until the food arrived.

It tasted better than it looked, and the carrot balls made Rebecca laugh for longer than it really should.

At this point the first film was about half way through. It was the Steve Carrell one about the magician. As we were seat back TV-less pretty much nobody actually noticed it starting and having missed half of it I certainly didn’t try to catch up.

The second film was disappointing to be honest. It was the Avenger’s Assemble one that’s been out for ages, so I thought that was quite poor to show that to be honest. In a desperate attempt to eat some time I watched about an hour of it.

In between heads passing the screen, and the reflective glare from the windows blocking the view, I gave up on Scarlett Johannsen and I then read for a bit.

Somehow Louise got her hands on the camera, with inevitable results.

It is often hard to convey the litany and boredom of a Trans-Atlantic flight, as you end up skipping about six hours of tedium by just saying that eventually we arrived.

So please stare at this for seven hours before proceeding.

After more food, which was a delightful bit of pizza, of which I may have had more than one piece, hoovering up those bits not required by offspring, eventually, we started to descend. As ever that took about four times as long as was estimated and hoped for. I have to say that I would not willingly connect in Chicago again. I had completely ignored the fact that Chicago is actually quite a long way from the east coast of the US, and added a considerable amount of flying time. New York or Philadelphia are preferable, and my all-time favourite connection destination is Atlanta.

As we were plummeting to the ground in a controlled manner one of the cabin staff made an announcement. Nobody heard her, so she tried again over the tannoy system and that worked a little better.

I heard the first bit, which told me that I really needed to listen to the rest of it. She started with something like, “For those making connections to the following flights, (she included Orlando), as your connection times are tight, there will be staff on hand to assist you make your connection….”

At this point Louise “drink and drugs” Williams turned to me and asked me what the hostess had said and what we had to. I tried to listen to the announcement and respond at the same time, failing at both. Louise took this to mean I was ignoring her, and took the right hump with me. I caught about half of the information I needed from the announcement and took the right hump too.

Obviously this in no way led to a falling out at this stage of the holiday. Louise of course quickly realised that she had been completely in the wrong, apologised and we moved on.

We landed at 1.50, with our onward flight to Orlando leaving at 2.50. This was going to be close. As we walked down the ramp from the plane we could hear a voice shouting “Orlando!” I am often mistaken for Mr Bloom, so I ignored this as best I could as I had no time for these crazy females throwing themselves at me.

Shortly, we found an airport person stood with a group of folks, and she too was shouting “Orlando”. I approached; she confirmed my last name and gave me a very important looking Express Connection folder which I was to have in my hands at all times.

Once she had collected all thirty two folks making the Orlando connection she had us all marching through the airport. She did allow a restroom stop, and I broke the world record for tutting as I watched those weak of mind and bladder take those vital minutes to do the do.

Onwards again, and we were marched to a VIP line at immigration, and almost immediately processed to the absolute disgust of the hordes of folks in the queue. I wafted my special orange envelope around a bit, and smiled at them smugly. This didn’t last long as the immigration officer processing us looked at our flight time to Orlando, shook her head and said good luck!

Next, on to the baggage reclaim. All the cases for Orlando were already out and lined up next to the carousel with our airport escort encouraging each passenger on to greater speed like some sort of relay coach at the Olympics.

We barely stopped, and headed for the customs check where they seem to frown upon you carrying six dozen burgers and a bag of sheep shit. Looking at the impressive orange coloured thing I had in my hand he waved us through.

We were then abandoned a little at the monorail to the correct terminal, and with barely minutes to spare, there was an element of panic at this stage. This wasn’t helped when the first monorail we boarded promptly broke down and we had to quickly transfer to another. Once off, we were stuck behind some folks who were inexplicably in no rush whatsoever, despite the fact that we knew them to be on our flight to Orlando. They stood still on every escalator and walkway rather than walking.

They were exposed to my most vicious stare.

Now it was security, and they gave not one toss what colour the thing in my hand was. We still had to more or less strip down to our undies and pass everything we were carrying through the X-Ray. At the other side of security our “assistant” appeared again, and pointed us towards our gate, which as she remarked with some irony, was the furthest one away.

We power walked, jogged and sprinted towards it, knowing that the scheduled departure time had already passed. As I got close to the gate I kicked on, to make sure they couldn’t close it. I’d wrestle folks if I had to.

I threw some boarding cards and other random pieces of paper at the chap on the desk, who found the right ones and handed me back some sweet wrappers and receipts. Louise and the girls caught up shortly afterwards and we knew we’d made it. As we sat down, one more family boarded after us and with that the door closed and we pushed back, basking in the loving stares of all the passengers we had just delayed. You’re welcome!

The whole Chicago airport experience was just an absolute blur, and an experience I do not want to repeat. For anyone doing this connection, you need at least two hours. We were rushed and prioritised through every stage and it still took us over an hour.

We left just fifteen minutes later than scheduled.

We were seated in two lots of two a few rows apart, and we could see Rebecca chatting away to an old bloke on the end of their row. No doubt he had a shared interest in make-up, fit boys and Beyonce’s bush.

For the next two hours we then looked at this and sighed in relief.

It was a little bumpy, and the pilot said he was having to fly around some weather in the Orlando area so we came in the scenic route via the coast. As ever it seemed to take an age to actually get down onto the ground, but we were off quickly, and immediately found a restroom for Emily as she had needed one about sixty miles out of Manchester.

Onwards now to the monorail to baggage reclaim, and after only a few minutes we had what we needed and took the elevator (not lift) to the car hire desks. After all this travelling, queuing and being processed, this was the longest queue of the entire journey. There were only two people in front of me and one being served, but there appeared to be only agent at the Thrifty desks, and for some reason, everyone apart from me seems to require an hour to sign a few forms and collect some car keys.

I shifted from foot to foot a few hundred times and sighed quite loudly as my form of protest. Finally a second member of staff showed up, and after an eternity I was being “served”. I’ve done the car hire thing a good few times now, and have encountered varying degrees of skulduggery to extract extra dollars, but this chap was at a whole new level.

He tapped at his keyboard and furrowed his brow. He said “You’ve only ordered an Economy???????” in a tone of voice that suggested I may have murdered some small animals.

“Yes, that’ll be fine for us” I said, quite patiently, considering I’d been awake for about twenty hours.

He then went on to tell me that this would be smaller than a Fiesta, and we would struggle to fit in. I told him, as calmly as I could that I had transported my family and luggage to the airport in a Peugeot 107, which would most likely fit in the trunk (I speaka da lingo) of whatever car I was going to get here.

He begrudgingly accepted defeat on that one.

As he was winding up, he casually slipped in that I wouldn’t have to worry about any tolls, as all that was prepaid.

“Oh, is it now?“ I asked him how much that was.

Reluctant to tell me, he muttered “$26 a week”.

I ever so politely told him that I didn’t intend to ride up and down through tolls for the entire holiday and we’d be fine to pay with cash.

Again, he reluctantly gave in, removed that charge and had me sign for the tank of gas, which is also a con, but at $45 not one I could be bothered arguing about now.

Feeling dirty and somehow invaded, I guided us across the road to the garage. Having waited an eternity to be almost fiscally raped at one desk, I could not understand why we now stood in another queue in the garage.

As we waited, Emily spied a car she hoped we’d have. I was less hopeful.

When served all they did was point us at the Economy row and tell me to pick one.

I would have, but the row was empty. I found an employee getting out of a car in the Compact row, and she told me to just take one of those instead! We chose the closest one to us, a white Ford Focus, the boot of which swallowed our luggage without noticing, and we were off. We should have chosen a different car, but all that will become clear a little later.

I never learn, and every year I am so keen to get where I am going that I set off without doing some basic essentials such as –

  • Getting the seat into a position from which I can actually drive the car
  • Working out what all the knobs and levers do
  • Especially working out how to work the wipers, as it ALWAYS rains on our drive from the airport

As some sort of cosmic irony, after paying for a couple of tolls with paper dollars (not coins) at manned booths, as we left the 428 we came to an unmanned, exact change only toll for 75 cents. We did not have 75 cents and so we sat staring at the thing for a couple of minutes wondering what to do.

Eventually I took one of the envelopes that would allow me to pay by post, drove off and watched the camera flash away as it recorded my crime.

The chap at Thrifty was laughing manically back at the airport.

As ever, all my navigational confidence flew out of the window once I was actually trying to find our destination, despite dozens of trips in the past. Eventually, I found Old Key West, passing some landmarks we recognised.

I parked up in the short term check in car park, and left the ladies in the car.

This was a much better experience than Thrifty. I had checked in online weeks ago, so all I had to was collect the room keys/charge cards, not be given the PIN to operate them for charging (I would return tomorrow to sort that, as I didn’t know that yet), and then be told to wait a second.

Out of the back comes a chap carrying several balloons and a birthday badge for Emily.

I called in the shop opposite reception to get some drinks, and it was about then that I understood that I had not been issued with a PIN for the charge cards. They somehow sensed my exhaustion and let me process the $9 order without one. Despite my incredible tiredness, I was quite intrigued by the new contactless payment pod things.

Upon returning to the car, this particular eighteen year old quickly regressed to a six year old, bouncing up and down on the back seat as she grasped her balloons.

I had been given (bad) directions to our building, but as we were approaching twenty two hours of awakeness now, my brain refused to compute them. After taking much longer than it should, we found our room and dragged our cases and weary bodies into it.

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We quickly found our way around, the girls getting on the wireless within seconds of arriving, and collapsed into bed.

The room was lovely and as I’d been told, larger than your average Disney room. As we all enjoyed the sensation of being in bed, a massive thunderstorm was going on. It was so close and loud that it made the headboard shake. As soon as the kids were asleep, the headboard would be doing so again, no matter how tired I was. I do tend to snore quite violently when so tired.

It was good to be home.

I hope you enjoyed Day One. Should anyone reading this be new around here and by some strange quirk of fate you haven’t heard me prattling on about my book before, you may wish to go and buy it. You can find Mkingdon’s Tales of Family Food and Florida on Amazon, and it contains ten year’s worth of similar (very similar) reports going back to 2003.

Till the next time…..