Fifty Shades of Beige

I’m sick of moaning. You’re sick of me moaning. I get it. This week’s post could very easily be a shit fest of self-pity and woe is me. Let’s face it, most of my posts are, but in a week where every day I am thinking where I should be instead, it would be a miracle if it were not.

I will desperately try to perform that miracle.

FYI though, so far this week we should have eaten at O’hana, Teak Neighbourhood Grill, Bahama Breeze and today would have been Yak & Yeti.

On the plus side…..erm……I don’t have to go to work next week. When cancelling my annual leave I retained a week just to not be at work for a bit. I have been working hard and I haven’t had a break since before lockdown so I need to be away from it for a bit. The fact that we are currently in the middle of decorating a couple of bedrooms is the perfect metaphor for 2020.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday. Unlike in the alternate universe in which I would be in Epcot, I have no plans other than I am playing golf with my Dad in the morning. I’m not very good but I enjoy it. I have given very strict instructions that there should be no elaborate celebrations. Of course, we aren’t allowed to be together in groups larger than….I mean on a Wednesday, if it’s raining, I can see six members of my family….erm, every other week, if I close my eyes I am allowed to sit outside with…..

No, I haven’t got a clue what we are allowed to do, but I know that a large family gathering, even if I wanted one, is not allowed. I know it makes me an ungrateful grinchy knob, but I just don’t feel in the mood for big celebrations. I’m sure I will see everyone that matters at some point, at whatever the currently allowed distance is and that’s all that counts.

I did pick up my car on Thursday. It’s nice. It’s like my old one, but silver and a bit newer. It has a lot more gadgets though including voice commands. I need to sit in it for several hours learning what everything does so that I can use my voice to do things and concentrate all my efforts on moaning about my commute, should I ever do that again.

Still, at least the weathers’s been nice.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, Redes sociales

A lot of the angst we are feeling is due to the fact that the rescheduled dates in March feel very shakey too. For a family used to having a concrete countdown, this does not work well. How’s Florida doing? Better, if you believe the reported numbers. I don’t so much.

Ever since the reporting of numbers was moved from the CDC to the Whitehouse, amazingly, the numbers of cases have immediately and drastically declined. Even if those numbers were true then case numbers of around 3,000 per day and deaths of over 100 still do not make great reading for the state….never mind what’s really happening.

So I still cannot foresee borders being opened, certainly not before the election over there. With the new (please!) President not taking office till January, any lifting of travel restrictions to the US from the UK is going to be close to the wire for a 1st of March trip I think.

So as this descends into another moan-fest I should slap myself, count my blessings and stop being an annoying douche bag, right?

I have reached 50, all of my family are here and healthy, we are not living in poverty or hardship and I have a car that I can talk to. I am like some sort of portly, older Marty McFly, living in the future we all dreamed of….apart from the highly contagious deadly disease and the fact that there’s no Huey Lewis in Bolton. Swings and roundabouts and I need to watch Back To The Future again.

Anywho, as I live through the last few hours of my forties I suspect I won’t feel very different when I wake up in my 50’s tomorrow. As I plan to live to at least 120, my mid-life crisis isn’t due until I am 60. The coming decade of my 50’s holds the hope of it being better than my 40’s. We went through a lot during that time. Louise returning to study to become a nurse was a challenge, there was also some “nastiness” right at the start of my 40’s that saw my, to that point stellar, career hit a few bumps. (It wasn’t at all stellar and hasn’t been since either). Those and other financial challenges were tough and hopefully behind us. There were all sorts of dramas involving the girls, but this is par for the course and I expect nothing less in every decade to come to be honest, but hopefully, as they get older these shall be less frequent and less traumatic.

Of course, Freddie joined us in my 40’s and that would be the highlight of any decade. I hope to spend however many decades I have left spending as much time as possible with him, whenever possible, in Florida.

Some of you reading this will have been with me through all of that and in some cases, for many years before. I first started over sharing stuff about my life and family online around 2003 on various forums (remember those?). I don’t even find my own life that interesting so I can only applaud in awe your tolerance for mediocrity and average writing. We’re approaching twenty years of me papping on and both of you that read this every week are still here.

I am away now to spend the last day of my 40’s doing a bit of decorating. At some point, at a time totally of my own choosing, I will also walk the dogs. The fact that I should, by rights, be in Animal Kingdom won’t be on my mind at all.

Till the next time……

Man With A Plan

OK, so we’ve done the Christmas, New Year and the moany back to work posts. Waistline aside, things are back to normal and so, with barely a mention so far of our new and exiting WDW plans for my 50th, it is well overdue that I drag you kicking and screaming through a day by day account of the plan as it currently stands.

I’ll be honest, it’s probably much more complete and finalised than even I imagined at this stage. In fact, moments after confirming the dates and flights, the day by day template was filled in and if it changes significantly between now and August I’ll be astounded. It would appear, that shockingly, I’m quite good at this now. Still, that won’t stop me obsessing over it at regular intervals and adding extra, unneccsary expense to it as we go. It’s what I do.

Last year was a “cheap as chips” we shouldn’t be going affair so we held back on the ADRs and on-site dining. There are no such restrictions this time around so you will notice much more going on in that regard.

Day One

We fly on August 26th from Manchester with Virgin. We are bubbling as we enjoyed that so much the last time we flew with Virgin. I’m pleased to say we take off (around) 10am (no plane has ever left the tarmac on time in the history of mankind) and land at a very sociable 2pm at MCO. We didn’t enjoy the later flight times last year as it meant getting into Orlando at 7pm, and by the time we’d got to the villa there was no time to go out and eat. See where our priorities lie?

I’ve hired an overly extravagant car from Dollar. I have shunned the mundane mini-van for some sort of monster truck equivalent that will take up three parking spots wherever we go. I’m only 50 once, if at all.

We will be picking that up and leaving the airport more quickly than the It’s Orlando Time group left Facebook, but under less suspicious circumstances.

Our villa is a doozy, again an absolute extravagance, near Formosa Gardens. We should be there some time around 4pm, and after a little unpacking and a trip to the supermarket, taking our seats at the Outback Steakhouse as tradituon dictates some time around 9pm UK time.

Day Two

If you don’t know by now that our first day is spent at Magic Kingdom, I can’t help you. With a more civilised arrival time on day one, we should be fed and in bed by a sensible time, meaning we are fully rested for day two and a full day in the park. The plan is to last until late afternoon/early evening and then go to the Polynesian for our (hopeful) ADR at O’hana.

Day Three

Traditionally a rest day but in recent times we have chosen to spend it in a water park. This works well as those who want to can rest up and those who get bored after an hour around the villa pool can go off and risk life and limb on the slides and stuff.

We are going in strong from the start food wise with a trip to Teak Neighbourhood Grill planned for our evening meal.

Day Four

Hollywood Studios today. Hopefully Rise of the Resistance has calmed down a bit and we won’t need to be outside the park gates at 6am. I can say with some certaintity that whether it has calmed down or not, we won’t be doing that!

Again, like some dining greatest hits collection, another firm favourite for many years is on the plan for tonight, at Bahama Breeze.

Day Five

Animal Kingdom. We didn’t see Rivers Of Light last year, mainly due to time pressure but also because we suspected Freddie wouldn’t sit through it. With another 12 months under his belt he might so we’ll try to give it a go.

The hits keep on coming with Yak and Yeti for dinner (by that I mean tea but I’m aware people south of Birmingham read this).

Day Six

As tends to happen every year, this will be my birthday. It’s a big one, and not only does it mark my passing into my 50’s and no doubt another pants size, it also marks the 40th anniversary of my first ever trip to Florida. I spent my 10th birthday in Miami all those years ago, and look what’s happened since! We drove up to Orlando for just two days at what was only the Magic Kingdom then. It was clearly enough to create the monster I now am.

Epcot of course. You knew that, but we are cramming more food than is wise into the day with a character breakfast ADR at Cape May (we can then park at the Yacht & Beach), a wander around World Showcase and then probably back to the villa to get something vaguely presentable on. That’s because I am hopeful of securing an ADR at California Grill, followed by a re-mortgage and a viewing of the fireworks from the viewing deck.

Day Seven

Something new today. We are doing a few days at Universal, and the first part of that will be to give the “new” water park Volcano Bay a go. I need to do some proper research and vlog watching on this as I have very little clue as to what goes on there and the best way to tackle it, but, again it serves as a rest day after the excesses of yesterday’s celebrations and a chance for the more adventurous members of the group (Tom) to go and play.

To keep that theme going, for dinner we are going to try the Ford’s Garage place on the 192 for the first time. If you’ve been and think we shouldn’t, now is the time to tell me.

Day Eight

So now we start our holiday within a holiday and check into the Hard Rock at Universal. This is one of our most favourite places in Orlando and despite probably only needing one night to get the required front of line passes to complete both parks, we’re doing two. It gives us more chance to experience the parks, especially as it is Tom and Freddie’s first time and hopefully rest around the pool.

We will start in Islands of Adventure today.

It also opens up some of the excellent dining options on City Walk and we HAVE to do Cowfish as the Cheeseburgerooshi is the most delicious thing on the planet and that’s where we will head on this evening. Toothsome for dessert may be an option or perhaps Voodoo Doughnut’s taken back the room for an orgy of excess.

Day Nine

Universal Studios today, with perhaps some pool time followed by a meal at Antojitos, which is a Mexican most of us have never tried but Emily recommended it after eating there during her CRP stint.

Day Ten

We checkout from the Hard Rock but of course sill have front of line access so we will park hop and re-do anything we want to. Once we’re done we will head back towards the villa and eat at Applebees on the 192.

Day Eleven

All I have so far for this day are food plans. They are BIG food plans, and I’m sure we will fit something inbetween them, but after three park days, some relaxed down time filled with calories will no doubt be required.

Breakfast/Brunch will be at the excellent Hash House a Go Go. Several hours of moaning and swearing that we’ll never eat again will be followed by dinner at Sanaa at Kidani Village where there will be literal fist fights over the bread service. We all do like us some bread. Hopefully we’ll also be able to show Freddie some of the animals wandering about out the back.

Day Twelve

Back to Animal Kingdom today. We loved our light lunch at Tiffin’s last time out so we may wander back there for cocktails and food around lunchtime. With that in mind, I just have Homecoming at Disney Springs in my plans for dinner, as that is known for it’s light, healthy menu!

Day Thirteen

Our second day at Epcot. It feels late on day 13, but that’s how things work out sometimes. Tonight will be our chance to watch whatever they have seen fit to replace Illumnations with. No pressure.

With that in mind, we will return to Via Napoli as we have loved it on our past two visits.

Day Fourteen

As we will have 14 day tickets for all the Universal stuff I have pencilled in a return today. We won’t have front of line of course, but we can have a more leisurely wander and ride anything that doesn’t have horrible wait times. By this time in the trip, we will be well into September, past Labor Day and hopefully, there will be sufficiently low crowds to make this worthwhile.

Our dining option of choice tonight is Cheesecake Factory. This is another awesome eatery and we were all gutted not to be able to fit this in last year.

Day Fifteen

We are lucky enough this year, due to my 50th splurge, to be staying a little longer. We return to Hollywood Studios today with little more planned than that. Olive Garden is pencilled in as our eatery.

Day Sixteen

Our last full day is of course spent at Magic Kingdom. Last year we popped out to eat off-site at Romano’s Macaroni Grill and were delighted we did. We hadn’t been for a few years but if you haven’t been, you must. With that in mind, it is planned to do the same this year, but if other events take our fancy we may do those instead. Who said I was a planning obsessed overweight ball sack?

Day Seventeen

Travel. Enough said. We’ll do a huge breakfast somewhere and then fly home after buying gifts for people who have hundreds of Disney gifts already.

The only positive about today is that I managed to get us into Premium for less than economy so we may get some comfort/sleep on the way home.

So there you go. I’m tired after typing that out so who knows how we will cope with the real thing.

If you have any advice or suggestions on new places to eat that we should do instead of returning to past favourites I’ll be all ears.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Ten

If you think Boris Johnson is saying “Get Brexit Done” a lot, just see how often I manage to let you know that I was not feeling 100% again today. In fact, I’d rate myself at about a faltering 35%, but nothing short of limb loss would keep me away from a theme park today.

I was awake at 6am, expelling liquids from all sorts of holes and eating my bagel in front of the TV. It was a mere three and a half hours later that everyone was ready and I reversed the van off the drive. By this time I was almost ready for my second set of tablets of the day.

The plan, which I had painstakingly crafted over many months was, at this stage, at the risk of another Boris Johnson analogy, a right bloody mess. We would be starting the day by heading for Epcot. Just to reaffirm that….

By the beard of Zeus it was hot today. We like it hot, but not that hot…….

Image result for peter kay solero

Our first FastPass was a poorly planned Frozen Ever After. Poor, as it meant we had to yomp all the way up there from the entrance in the incredible heat. Freddie somehow managed to jettison his sun hat from his pram somewhere along the way without anyone noticing so that had to be replaced.

Having made the physical sacrifice of burning about three and a half thousand calories getting there for our FastPass, the standby line was ten minutes. Smashing. Still, we saved about eight of those minutes by still using our FastPass. It was for the best as it gave all those young, blonde cast members less time to ogle me in the queue.

Freddie very much approved of this ride and we took him into the shop afterwards to meet the troll for the first time. I was a little sad that he would never know the true joy of what preceded it and running through the film theatre at the end of the old Norway ride so you wouldn’t have to watch it.

I could easily have filled that nose with the fluids I was carrying in mine!

Even though I had a bagel about six hours ago, I felt breakfast was deserved, and in my haste to get food down my neck, I led us into the bakery in Norway. I have to say, I did expect a slightly better array of breakfast finery, but we made do with cakes.

I had something called school bread. I learned that it was pretty good and absolutely nothing like bread.

Louise had a chocolate chip cookie the size of a small planet. Freddie may have helped.

Rebecca and Tom shared an un-photographed Parfait and Tom had some fruit. I think his body was making a cry for help. Emily, not being a breakfast person, declined to participate and just had water.

We sat and ate for a bit whilst Freddie did some people watching.

We then moved off around World Showcase, stopping in most of the countries and alas shops.

A glance at the app revealed that we were about fifteen minutes from a Voices of Liberty show so we made our way into the American Pavilion and I sought out a restroom to empty my nose of about three pints of snot.

Freddie explored for a bit and I took him into the native American exhibit, but I doubt he retained a great deal of the information to be honest.

We took our places as the singers emerged.

If these very talented folks ever sing O Canada, I may never recover. I suspect that’s unlikely unless the US invades Canada at some point, but these days you never know.

Onto Japan now to admire some huge bongos….

I told you it was hot. Even the air conditioning couldn’t save this toy.

Many of us were hungry now, with Tom’s body violently protesting about the fruit it had been subjected to earlier and despite our very fine intentions to sample a load of food from the food and wine booths, nothing stuck out as being worth queuing for and/or something Freddie would appreciate, so we kept on walking. When we got to the UK, I went to the fish and chip shop to get some waters. Even in my home pavilion, things get lost in translation. I wanted to buy some bottled water but ended up with a tray of six cups of tap water, which were both very tricky to transport back to everyone else and tasted a bit weird.

With the heat as it was, my incompetence was barely tolerated.

To redeem myself, I decided to bite the bullet and see if the Rose and Crown could accommodate us. Whilst I enquired, Emily spotted that one of the cast members at the podium was a chap from our home town who used to work at her school. As someone once said, it is a small world.

We were seated immediately and could even choose whether we sat inside or out. It was perhaps not the wisest decision to sit outside, underestimating the heat, but it wouldn’t be the first or last crap decision I would make this trip. It was made mainly as Freddie was now very asleep and it would be easier to park his pram next to us outside.

Tom and Rebecca had Bangers & Mash. Oops, I blame the heat for my tardy photography.

Emily had the vegan Bangers & Mash….

Louise and I, having eaten the most sugar in Norway, were not starving so we just had the cheese and biscuits.

Freddie kipped throughout.

$130 lighter, we continued our journey around the world and in Canada, I got myself a new cap as I had stupidly forgotten mine and my thick head of hair was just so sweaty! Rebecca needed some new sunglasses having forgotten hers because she only had three and a half hours to get ready this morning, so they were acquired too. Did I mention the heat? Luckily, I wasn’t struggling with a temperature and life-threatening cold during this very severe heat.

With our FastPass for Test Track now almost due we made our way down in that direction. Another long sweaty walk followed and after setting up baby swap, Rebecca and Tom sat out first with the still sleeping Freddie whilst the rest of us rode.

Having left Emily to most of the design work, resisting the urge to take over, our car and performance lacked a little but it did not detract from the ride. We took over Freddie duties whilst Rebecca and Tom rode and a now wide awake Freddie loved sitting in all the cars.

Having been in every car at least twice, we made our way out and not long after Rebecca and Tom returned. I made myself useful by going to get everyone a drink, oh and I may have acquired a couple of those Joffrey’s doughnuts again. They are superb.

We spent a bit of time in Mousegear, mostly to cool off, but Emily also got herself a hoody….one of these…

Image result for wdw yellow hoodie

Having somehow managed to pay for my 24-year-old, fully employed daughter’s hoody, it was now time to leave Epcot and head over to Animal Kingdom. Even writing that now feels weird and not something I might plan, but Dorian had ridden the proverbial coach and horses through the laminate and all bets were off. We had an ADR to honour and by jingo, we were going to.

It was a brief ten-minute drive and we left the van in Peacock. Louise refused to move just yet, a sign of the incredible heat today. She just needed a moment more in the air con, so we left her to it and walked in across the car park to the entrance. Having done that, Rebecca almost passed out, so seeing that as a subtle sign, we spent some time in and around the cool of the restrooms, perhaps recognising that the pace today had been a little more demanding than the weather might permit.

Having cooled off a lot we continued our journey up to the safari. It was a walk-on, and probably because the animals have more sense than us, there were not so many on view. They were probably backstage in the air con.

Oh look, more giraffes…

I like how I captured this bloke’s ear in lovely soft focus though….

And here, unlike other less skilled photographers, I cleverly managed to focus on the pole on the truck and not the animals.

Next in this master class of photographic technique, I capture some trees….

As tradition dictates, it is now time for my Rhino joke…..

Our guide confirmed that the one out front was called Neal…with this joke included in every report, you can complete the punchline yourself.

Image result for ryan oneal

We slowly made our way over to Yak and Yeti for our ADR.

Louise met us there having been tempted out from the cool car by the prospect of eating at one of her favourite eateries and as we were early and too hot to move, we asked if we could bring our reservation forward. We could and we did.

As is the case in quite a few restaurants now, we were shown to our regular table! In the spirit of fighting the heat, we got Freddie a slush thing and I think he enjoyed it.

We always love our meals here and today was no different. I even had a beer. Crazy I know!

We ordered –

Me – Beef Tacos, which were tremendous.

Emily – Tofu Sweet and Sour

Louise, the same but with chicken

Tom had Korean Beef, quite what they had done to upset him I don’t know… (ba dum tish)

Rebecca had Honey Chicken

With Egg Rolls and Pot Sticker appetisers, we were nicely full, but that didn’t stop us ordering a cheesecake and a number of forks and we all had a bit. At times I am very grateful for my extra dessert stomach.

The bill was a testing $250, but this is one of our favourite places and one we always love.

With that done, so were we. The heat had done us for today and we wandered out to the exit to say the first of our goodbyes for this trip. This would be our last Animal Kingdom visit this trip. We seem to have spent a lot of time here this time and that’s a good thing.

On the way home, we, of course, called in at the local CVS and spent $70 on drugs. They were legal and much needed for my quickly deteriorating state. Did I mention I wasn’t well?

Till the next time…..

Yaks, Yetis and Yew Tree

You’ll have had enough work based whinging by now I imagine? Well, on the bright side I retire in about twenty years so not long to go now.

I was “darn sarf” for most of the week at Head Office. I was in meetings to kick off one large project whilst literally at the same time overseeing the delivery of another. Relaxing it was not.

Anyway, with one off my plate now, and team members back from holidays, the next few weeks look more tolerable. Wait, is that the countdown home straight I can see just around the next bend? I think it might be. 58 days folks. One more pay day. I can almost smell it.

The car hire balance was paid off on Friday and that’s the last chunk of expense to be paid apart from the spending money. Out of interest, how much spending money should I take for two weeks?

Ah, the memories of that question being endlessly asked on Disney forums and no doubt still being asked today if I went on any to look.

Summer has arrived, Wimbledon is imminent, as is the Open Golf and these are all welcome tell tales signs that we will shortly be off on our adventures. After 73 weeks of rain, I intend to enjoy the lovely warm weather before autumn starts next week. Bear in mind, that right about now, somewhere in the UK, the John Lewis marketing team are pulling all nighters trying to decide which acoustic maudlin version of a song they are going to play over their Christmas ad this year.

Summer of course also means festival season. Glastonbury is on my telly showing several young folks I don’t recognise talking over music that nobody on stage is actually playing. Mustard have their own festival season as well which lasts over the space of the next two weekends. Today, we are off to Yorkshire to play at the Ravenknowle’s Children’s Gala. We are sharing the billing with Mr Zoot, a children’s entertainer and the Wrenthorpe All Stars. The latter being a majorette troupe and the former a Yew Tree court case waiting to happen. They may not sound all that but both will be better than Janet Jackson was. I believe this gala is similar to Glastonbury in that most of the crowd won’t have heard of us either. Still, if you are in the area, that being Huddersfield, then come along, take lots of illegal drugs and pee in a bottle but don’t throw it at the stage whilst we are on.

Then next weekend, specifically the 7th of July, we are playing at the Tottington Big Day Out. That, it won’t surprise you to learn, is in Tottington. We’ve played this one before and it is a fantastic day out as well as being Big of course. Again, come on down if you’re local. We are on from around 2pm I think. I cannot confirm if Mr Zoot or the Wrenthorpe All Stars will be appearing at that one so you’ll just have to take your chances.

I am still fighting the urge to books ADRs but forgive me, I have done another. One place that we have to eat at, as we rate it so highly, is Yak and Yeti. There’s little competition in Animal Kingdom of course for a sit down do, so it made sense to secure a table. With a party of six, walk ups are harder to come by and if we miss out on this eatery Louise would be very, very upset. It is one of her absolute favourites.

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So that is done for the 6th of September at 6.45. That’s our second day at DAK, the first being Labor Day. Expecting that day to be busy I suspect we may not last all the way to Rivers Of Light, so on our second visit, we shall eat and see if there is room in Rivers of Light after the meal. I doubt there will be if we rock up at 8.15, but it is what it is. See, I told you this trip is trying to be a more relaxed take it as it comes thing. Look, I know you won’t believe it, and I’m not sure I do, but I’m trying.

Time to go, I have a “festival” (gig in a field) to get to.

Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Eight 5th September 2018

Enough of this meandering out of the house at any time we like. I had put my foot down. Today, we needed to be out and out early. I had spoken. We *had* to be out by 8.30, no excuses, no delays, if necessary, no sleep.

We left at 9.20.

Usually I would have been mad, but this was mainly caused by Freddie having a lie in. He is forgiven by default. This meant that time was tight, as our first FastPass slot ended at 10.05. Luckily, via Sherberth Road we were a longish stone’s throw from Animal Kingdom, which was our destination this morning.

We were at the gates by 9.30 and via a broken speed limit or two once in the car park, we were in Dino 39 and on to a tram a few moments later.

The theme park Gods were smiling, as the security line was short and we were actually stood on the correct side of the entrance at 9.50. I started the walk to Everest at a brisk pace but shortly afterwards we were halted. Emily had arranged to meet up with Ceara, who is currently on the CRP in the UK pavilion as it was her day off.

Out of the kindness of her heart Ceara had agreed to come along and use her cast member magic to get us a “return time” for Flights of Passage. To facilitate this we had to visit some secret cast members tucked away on a secluded path. Much tapping of tablet devices and scanning of bands happened. I had no idea what was going on, but we were eventually sorted and once again on our way to Everest.

We chatted to Ceara on the way, and still managed to arrive at the ride entrance at 10.03. Impressive if not a little stressful.

We saw the relevant cast member to sort out the baby swap stuff. Her name was Beth and she was lovely. She allowed five of us to ride initially and then a further four to ride the second time with the baby swappers. The ride was pretty quiet so nobody suffered any extra waiting due to us.

Once everyone had ridden, we all met up outside the gift shop. Ceara revealed her real motive for joining us today. She wanted a photo with Ryan!

It seemed like a fair exchange for all the help she would end up giving us today.

In all the rush and kerfuffle of getting everyone where we needed to be on time, I had not yet consulted the app to check our plans for the rest of the day. So, my natural instincts kicked in and we set off for the safari. It would turn out that I had at this point totally forgotten that we had a FastPass for the safari later, but that’s not important right now.

There was a five-minute wait and we were soon all aboard.

Regular readers will know that at this point you are about to get bombarded with a large selection of blurred photos of animals. Enjoy!

It was a good trip and enjoyed by all.

Now it was time to head to Pandora. I had managed to secure a FastPass for Navi River Ride and that was next on the list. We tried our best to take in the theming as we wandered into another first this trip.

It’s been a while since this came up in a trip report, but that might benefit from a drop of Vagisil.

Ceara watched Freddie so that we could all ride together, which was lovely of her.

It’s a gentle ride, but excellently themed and one you’d need to ride a lot to take it all in.

We returned to Ceara to rescue her from the incredible heat. We were now headed for Flights of Passage. Ceara had used her CM special pass to get a return time (before she met us earlier) and as all our bands were linked to hers as her guests, we could ride with her. Having tried and failed to get a FastPass this was a lovely thing for her to do and very much appreciated.

Tom and Rebecca sat out first to feed and change Freddie and the rest of us entered.

I know there will be a good few of you that haven’t ridden this yet so I won’t describe it, but….

WOW.

This is just incredible and from a technology point of view this is THE best ride in WDW.

We exited all agog and watched Freddie so Tom and Rebecca could ride. Whilst they did we want to Santuli Canteen to get us all some food. There was no queue. In this instance this was a bad thing, as there as no time to study the menu before ordering so it turned into a panic driven random selection, just making sure that we had enough meals for everyone.

Don’t even ask me what this stuff was…

They were all just variations of the “protein” option. Whatever they were, they were very tasty indeed. With those demolished I mobile ordered a few desserts…

These were also excellent.

Being a gloriously flexible planner and all round good guy, whilst eating I used the app to swap the Safari FastPass I forgot we had booked for a Lion King one and as  that show was imminent we wandered there next.

We were Warthogs.

I have run out of superlatives over the years with which I can heap praise on this show. It’s good.

Mikey was loving it so much he volunteered for the bit at the end where the kids walk round shaking stuff. We “forgot” to tell him it was really just kids who did this, but, to his credit, he didn’t seem to care and loved every second.

A glance at the app showed that every ride time (Pandora aside) was ten minutes at most which pleased me. To celebrate we paused for Ceara to take a group photo.

Freddie had nodded off.

We headed for the rapids next, looking for a little moisture to combat the incredible heat. Louise sat out with Freddie and the ride was a welcome walk on.

I am happy to report that Ceara got the worst of it and was absolutely drenched but to be fair we all got a decent soaking.

To further aid the cooling down we stopped at the cocktail bar near Everest for some refreshment. I didn’t make a note of what everyone had but there were no complaints other than it seemed to cost me $50 for a mocktail.

With Freddie in mind we headed over to…

We’ve only done this once before and our memory of it was that we didn’t need to do it again. However, now with Freddie needing to see it, we were prepared to fall on our swords.

It was *much* better than our memories had remembered. Freddie didn’t manage to sit all the way through it. He’d been woken from his nap to go into the show and he was tired and hot so Tom took him out about half way through.

Dinoland next and on to Primeval Whirl for some rib rearranging.

Rebecca and Tom took the chance to get Freddie back to sleep by walking him around whilst the rest of us rode. Mikey and I rode together, proving that two gentlemen of our girths should find smaller partners to inflict injury on.

We sat in the sun whilst Rebecca and Tom rode and had a much needed cold drink. Then we headed over to…

Emily *hates* this ride due to the childhood trauma of the first time she rode it and she volunteered to sit out with Freddie. It turned out that Ceara wasn’t a huge fan either and screamed all the way round.

We collected Emily and Freddie and made our way back to Dinoland so that a now wakened Freddie could be taken on Triceratops Spin.

With that done, we started the walk over to Yak & Yeti for our ADR(s).

When we arrived I spoke nicely to the lady at the podium and merged our two seperate ADRs (I hadn’t been able to book for our full party on the app back home) and added Ceara.

As we stood outside waiting to be seated a young girl had just thrown up and we got to marvel at the custodial staff dealing with it using some magical powder which made it vanish.

Many cocktails were ordered…

I went crazy and had another mocktail….well, it was more an “ade” of some sort…

We ordered some Egg Rolls and Pot Stickers as appetisers and the chef came out to talk to Ceara who needed to see what she could eat with her allergies.

We had –

Ceara – Lo Mein with no veg

Me – Lo Mein Combo

Rebecca and Emily – Honey Crispy Chicken

Louise and Mikey – Sweet and Sour Chicken

Tom – Korean Beef

We all had various desserts too….

Desserts were Freddie’s favourite part of the meal….if you look closely at the photo above, you can see Freddie’s hand reaching out to get his Dad’s attention. Tom had made the mistake of sharing his cheesecake and now Freddie was on a mission.

He was a HUGE fan of cheesecake and they may have created a monster by introducing him to it.

Freddie had corn dog bites for his main meal and enjoyed those too.

It was going dark now and it was almost time or Rivers of Light. Animal Kingdom was looking very handsome.

As Everest was a walk on we rode that, Emily and Ceara did it twice. We had a FastPass for Rivers of Light so were able to wait until quite late before actually entering.

Freddie was knackered and there was little chance he would sit through this show so Rebecca and Tom wandered slowly out to the exit through the shops and we said we’d meet them at the car.

We took our seats and waited about ten minutes for it to start. It has changed quite a lot since we saw it last, starting with some of the cast wandering through the audience.

I’ve seen quite a few young girls on Instagram with less make up, but his contouring is “on point”. Am I doing this right?

The show is much improved, in my opinion and my camera excelled itself…

The water projections and lasers are far more “firework like” and it is all much more effective and interesting.

We made our way out of the show and wandered slowly to the exit, browsing a couple of shops. These delightful warm, dark Florida nights are just a treat to witness.

We dropped Ceara off at her apartment at Vista Way and then made our weary way home by around 10.30. Another tiring but very enjoyable day.

Thank you to Ceara for making the day much easier and enjoyable via the use of her special cast member magic and of course for getting us on to Flights Of Passage which everyone agreed was just mind-blowing!

Till the next time…..

Party Of Seven

I shall start with what the kids these days call a shout out! It is a double one in fact as today is not only Mother’s Day, but also my Mum’s birthday, and a significant one too. Happy Birthday Mum and Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the other Mum’s in my life, Louise, Mary (Mother in law) and Rebecca. You are all awesome and I’ll be seeing you all later to state this in person.

It’s been a busy week of organising what we’ll be eating in 180 days time. This is completely normal. I don’t know what we’re having for tea tonight, but I do know our dining arrangements for late August/early September.

Last week’s post brought news of our first ADR at Whispering Canyon. So far that successful streak has broadly continued despite some hurdles along the way. My spider senses were spot on with my concerns over trying to book Beaches & Cream for a party of seven. My first few searches resulted in a quack quack oops (ah, DLT, may God have mercy etc) and this was disturbing as I really want the Kitchen Sink experience for the newbies in our group.

By reducing our party size I did begin to see some options appearing and eventually booked a table for three at 3.50. Once that was secured, I went to edit it and tried to up the party size to seven. It was having none of it, but it did let me increase it to four. In an act of desperation I fell on my sword and had to make *that* phone call to Disney. Now, I haven’t phoned for an ADR in years so can someone please explain how I remembered the phone number, international codes and all? I spoke with an actual cast member, put on my best Hugh Grant accent and asked for a table for three around the same time. The cast member was lovely, but had nothing. Ah well, at least I had exhausted all options.

So the plan is for four of our party of seven to go and do that and Louise and I, with either Freddie or Mikey to walk up to The Fountain at The Dolphin for a similar soda shop experience, if of course we can’t secure a walk up around that time.

The next day was relatively straight forward in comparison as we were not trying to fit a party of seven into a restaurant the size of our front room. Via Napoli, Emily’s choice, was our aim and albeit a little earlier than we had originally planned we snagged a table for seven at 3.40. I’m fairly happy with that time as by the time we finish, it won’t be long until dusk, when Epcot’s World Showcase transforms from one of my favourite places in the world to one of my favourite places in the world with twinkly lights and fire torches.

Having stated on several occasions that “we don’t need many ADRs” the next day was our first ADR free day so there was no booking to be done. For those who care, it is a day filled with Toothsome for lunch and Applebees for tea (dinner). I see no issue with that, and that may indeed be a problem.

We are now up to the 3rd of September and the plan says it contains one of the few full theme park days. We will be Hollywood Studios and there had been a request from Louise to dine at the Hollywood Brown Derby. With food, as with her men, her taste is for the classy. Now, I had done a little research into the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Despite several years in the noughties where we booked this thing at vast expense only for Fantasmic to be rained off, I am a glutton for punishment and wanted to book that again. Not having to sit on those bleachers for an hour with a numb bum and a bored ten month old appealed to me.

I don’t know why, but currently there are no dates beyond August for booking this package. Whilst this raises a small concern about Fantasmic being down (surely not), for now I have booked us an ADR at The Brown Derby and I’ll keep an eye on things and swap that to the package as and when it becomes available.

Onwards to the next day which again is a non ADR day with just some light bites at Keke for breakfast and Cowfish for tea. I may have a problem. I admit that.

The following day is another of those full theme park days at Animal Kingdom. This always has to include Yak & Yeti or Louise won’t let us go to Florida again. When trying to book this one we came up against the party of seven issue again. Not one option for that party size at all, so we had to search for a party of four. Having plenty of options for that and having booked for 6.30, another search for a party of three returned nothing, with a link to view my existing plans. This suggested to me that the web site knew I had a booking already and for that reason wasn’t letting me book another. We got a bit sneaky at this point, and we used Emily’s My Disney Experience account to search. Sure enough, she was presented with plenty of options and booked for three at 6.15. This seems a lot of faff for larger parties but as all Disney’s top executives read this every week, it’ll soon get sorted I’m sure. If for no other reason that as two seperate prties they can’t automatically add the 18% gratuity for parties larger than six.

Yesterday, I was looking at our plans for the 6th of September, when we plan to do the Not So Scary party. The plan says Olive Garden, but I had a tentative option of trying to get us into Be Our Guest. I was quite amazed to see an option for a party of seven and in a blur of excitement I booked it. It was only when the dust had settled that I realised it was Quick Service lunch at 2.30. With a second look, there are no times being offered beyond 2.30. Usually you can search for any time and just get no results, but there are no later times shown as a search option, so I’m guessing that’s because of the early closing of the park for the party.

Anyway, I cancelled that Be Our Guest reservation as we’ve done lunch there before and it doesn’t compare to the dinner experience so I’ll see if we can get that booking on another day.

So that’s been my week. I’ve somehow managed to fit in a really busy week at work and a gig this weekend too. I am impressed if nobody else is!

We are pretty much done now for ADRs beyond that vague intent to try and get into BOG at some point and Edison. However, if we get BOG, we may have to sacrifice Edison to fit that in. NASA have less complicated plans for space exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after all that.

Till the next time….

Cram Packed Planning

Thanks for your votes and thoughts last week. For those interested, it seems we are a trusting bunch around these parts…

a-poll

How productive was your week? I had a good one and got lots done, despite being at work for far too much of it.

As soon as we booked our next trip I added calendar reminders to my work diary on the days we could book the ADRs we wanted. That way, nothing silly like work would make me forget to get those sorted asap. Last week saw three of those reminders pop up and I snaffled them all with great gusto. Who he is and why there was a magician at work I don’t know?

We’re only on Disney property for four nights, so four ADRs seems an awful lot for someone who keeps saying they will be eating off site mainly. Whichever idiot planned to only have four nights on site at WDW is now desperately trying to cram in all the stuff we need to do and it may not be pretty. For example, our only day in Epcot (which is at least a two-day park) is the day we leave Siesta Key and check in at the Beach Club. So half the day, or at least half the morning will be taken up traveling back and checking in etc, so we won’t get into the park until close to lunchtime I think. I am planning on setting fire to the Siesta Key rental in the early hours of that Saturday morning just to make sure we’re all up and out nice and early though.

To make matters worse one of our must do ADRs (Sanaa) had to be on that day, so we’ll need to leave the park in the late afternoon to allow getting ready time (seven minutes for me, a couple of hours for Louise) to get to our reservation in time. It’s an early one as I want us back into Epcot before 9pm to catch Reflections. That may seem tiring but hey, we’ve just done a week at the beach, so be prepared to use up all that saved energy in the next few days.

So with only a few hours for such a large park I was getting a little concerned. At Emily’s suggestion I checked to see if Epcot had Extra Magic Hours that night, with us being on-site superstars and all that but alas it did not. However, I did see that Epcot has EMH the very next night. Well, that works nicely as we are at Animal Kingdom that day, which closes early at 7pm. So once done there, having eaten at Yak and Yeti (an ADR success from this week) we can head back “home” to the Beach Club, and stroll on into Epcot for another couple of hours until 11pm. If our legs can carry us, heck, we can even do Jellyrolls after that if we want to. It’s on our doorstop!

Sure we have to be up nice and early the next day to get to Hollywood Studios for another twelve hour park day but we have a whole nine hours of sitting down to do on the plane home a few days later so it’s all good.

Our final ADR is becoming a little bit of a tradition. Trail’s End is a nice way to break up our final day which of course is always at Magic Kingdom. A lovely boat ride over to the campgrounds, an all you can eat buffet that will threaten to sink that same boat on the way back in to the park just as the sun sets. That’s always a favourite and magical time for me and I love the parks at that time.

In theory we could do a park on the day we fly home but usually we spend that shopping for all those gifts we saw on day two and said something like “we’re here for ages, we’ll get it later” and then have to panic and run around in the final hours trying to remember where we saw it. That and eating. Speaking of which, I posted a few weeks ago about the Toothsome place at City walk.  I’ve also posted recently about WDW and Universal being good for us tourists as they have to compete. Well, as if I knew what I was talking about, did anyone see the extreme milkshakes that are on the way at the new Planet Hollywood place?

Image credit to Inside the Magic
Image credit to Inside the Magic

Yes, one has a full slice of cake on top, what of it?

The problem now is of course, I have to shoe horn these buggers into my plan too. I’m not sure what will kill me first, the calories or the stress of planning.

Till the next time…..