Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Day 9 - another visit to Blizzard Beach

Not too much to report today as we just had a slow start to get to Blizzard Beach by its 10am opening time before spending the whole day there until it closed at 5pm.

Good things about Florida (in no particular order)
  1. The weather
  2. Blue Diamond Wasabi and Soy roasted almonds
  3. Cheap petrol (29 pence/litre)
  4. Disney
  5. Minimum speed limit on Interstates
  6. Did I mention the weather?
  7. Right turn on red
  8. Overtaking on the inside
Bad things
  1. Annoying sales tax
  2. 4 way junctions

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Day 8 - back to Animal Kingdom and an evening at Hollywood studios

Another early start sees us back to Animal Kingdom to get on the African Safari where we board a truck to see just about all of the major African animals in a very clever landscape. Then followed the Lion King show, a pretty cool 30 minute show and lunch in the Rainforest Cafe.

Following an afternoon back at the Apartment pool, we decide to head back into the Hollywood studios park for the evening Fantasmia show, and unfortunately have our first experience of bad Disney organization. Lots of un-organized queuing and a 15 minute late start.

click image to see pictures

Monday, 29 December 2008

Day 7 - back to Epcot

Time to get back to The Epcot Centre to try and finish off the bits we couldn't get to the first time around. The real highlight for me was Mission: Space, a simulated space flight to Mars. The simulator/ride was the best yet with loads of G forces, probably a bit too much for Dylan! I also really enjoyed the "Universe of Energy", presented/narrated by Ellen DeGeneres and also the huge aquarium tanks with sharks, rays, dolphins and turtles. A ride we missed again was "Soarin'", a hang gliding simulation that had a 160 minute queue and first fastpass ticket of about 9pm when we got to it.

We managed to finish up about our normal time allowing time to have a swim in the pool before tea.

Thinking about the 70-80 degrees temperature in winter, I wonder if I could swap the UKs climate, but of course give up our long summer evenings, I think it probably always gets dark by about 8pm at the latest here.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Day 6 - Kennedy Space Centre

An early start to get on the road for the 60 minute drive to the east coast and Kennedy Space Centre. We are almost first in the queue and get a good start on the bus tour that visits Gantry 39, The Saturn V facility and the International Space Station centre. The Saturn V part is the best with good stuff about the Apollo missions and the impressive Saturn V rocket itself.

We see a fair bit of wildlife on the bus, including 'Gators, Bald Eagles an Armadillo and some vultures.

Overall the trip is interesting but, in my opinion, slightly disappointing considering the high entrance fee.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Day 5 - Disney Magic Kingdom

Not too much of an early start today, and we were rewarded with probably the most crowded day so far. The entrance to the park starts with the usual $12 parking and "tram" ride, but then an extra step is either the mono-rail or ferry across the lake. We took the mono-rail and were rewarded with the sight of a 'gator swimming below us.

The Magic Kingdom is the most "Disney" of the Disney parks with Mickey, Minnie and Donald in great abundance. The park is also aimed at younger children although there are some rides for older ones such as Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain. We managed to get on Space Mountain, but left it too late to get sensibly timed Fast-passes for anything else of substance, so spent more time that usual wandering around and exploring the sights and scenes. We did manage to see some shows and also went on a Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We also held out the "parade" at 15:30 which was quite an experience, although personally one is probably enough.

We still managed to get back to the apartment for a twilight swim in the pool while it was still about 75 degrees!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Day 4 - Blizzard Beach

Christmas Day! Very strange. At least the kids managed to hold out until 05:30!

After a fairly slow start it's off to Blizzard Beach which is surprisingly quiet. This is a great resort for the kids to have fun and the parents to try and chill out. In spite of that, still pretty tiring and we managed to stay until closing time at 17:30.

Pretty good weather in the 80's but a short rain shower in the afternoon.

All exhausted, back to the apartment for tea. Kids probably the tiredest yet.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Day 3 - Disney Animal Kingdom

An early start today as we suddenly realised that the Animal Kingdom opens at 8am. We didn't quite make it for 8, but early enough to get on a few rides before the crowds really got going.

The Animal Kingdon is the highlight so far even though once again we didn't manage to go around the whole thing deciding to instead have some chill out time back at the pool. We'll head back anther day to do Africa, Discovery Island and Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Highlights were Kali River Rapids where you get a soaking and Expedition Everest, a large and scary roller-coaster that Robyn and I managed 2 trips on thanks to Fast-pass and Dylan's reluctance.

We saw large (Flying F0x) bats, tigers and loads of birds.

Attractions visited:

Dinosaur (ride)
Primeval whirl
Finding Nemo (musical)
Flights on wonder (bird display)
Kali River Rapids
Everest Expedition
Maharajah Jungle Trek

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Day 2 - Hollywood Studio

We plan a day with an early show start and a return to the apartment for lunch before returning for the evening fireworks etc.

Arriving at the Hollywood studio park after our easiest drive yet, we are before the 9am opening time, but there are still thousands ahead of us. Once inside we decide to head to the Toy Story ride and get funneled into the fast-pass queue, where we eventually get tickets for some 2 hours ahead. Moving on to the very quiet "back-lot" tour, we hit very lucky and all our plans change as we get given Dream Fast Pass special tickets that provide fast-passes to all the major rides in the park. We now decide to make a full day of it to get the best advantage of these special tickets.

Finally get back to the apartment about 5pm and the kids try out the pool while get some more shopping at the local supermarket.

Attractions visited

Backlot tour
Cascade Canyon
Lights, motors, action
Star Tours
Indiana Jones show
Rock 'n' Roll roller-coaster
Prince Caspian
Little Mermaid

Monday, 22 December 2008

Day 1 - Epcot

We do the checking in stuff and take a look at the lovely pool area and, after a quick shop at the very nearby supermarket and breakfast at Dennys (diner), we decide to go to Epcot which is one of the nearer Disney attractions. Once again, although driving is really easy, we seem not to have learnt much about navigating and make a meal of the short journey.

When we finally arrive, it's a slight dissappointment to have to pay $12 to park when we've paid hundreds of pounds for our 14 day passes, but you can't fault the organisation and the sheer scale of everything is simply amazing. We get transferred from the car park to the main park on a road train and quickly get into Epcot. Immediately, the quality and cleanliness is apparent, especially considering the age of the park.

The first area is the modern part with loads of technology exhibits mixed in with the traditional rides. It's Disney's most busy time and the queues are epic, but at least there is the Fast-pass ticket system, where you can get a ticket for 'later-on'. We actually don't bother with this yet and just continue to explore in the sunny, but slightly chilly, weather. (We expected this first day to be un-seasonally cold, and know it's picking up tomorrow).

We manage to get about halfway around the 'world' area before we run out of time and head back to the apartment for tea.

Everyone's pretty tired already and the kids are straight off to sleep.

List of attractions visited

Body parts
Velcro show
Mexican boat ride
Viking boat ride
Chineese acrobats
China film show
Norway filem show
Where's the fire?

Florida for Christmas and New Year - getting there

To do the madness that is air travel we needed to get up at 04:45! We loaded up the car with our luggage and dog to make the first trip to our friends Sarah and
Doug in Hatfield where we dropped off the dog for it's 2 week holiday and picked up Doug who drove us to Heathrow terminal 3. Of course, despite my stress and panicing, we arrive in plenty of time at about 06:35. The American Airlines flight is un-eventful apart from the slightly grumpy old maids who pass as air stewardesses and we land in Miami about 10 hours later at 15:00 local time.

Of course, that's the easy bit! Immigration is actually not too bad as I'd managed to fill in the reams of paperwork on the plane, but the baggage reclaim is bordering on third-world, with all the cases just dumped in a heap behind one of the conveyor belts, inviting a scrum! Luckily we make a reasonable escape and then head outside to the steaming hot underground car hire shuttle bus pick up area and hence to the car-hire depot to pick up our Pontiac C6.

Now the fun really starts as we've been travelling already for 17 hours and it's about 17:00 as we head north for the drive up to Orlando. We have a map that I'd taken trouble to print off at home and we managed to find the I95 heading north with no trouble, although in retrospect this might have been the wrong choice as maybe the Florida Turnpike runs the whole route, the map I had was not too clear about this. We stop off for a Mucky Macs tea and then manage to somehow miss a turn to get us heading NW to Orlando, so we have to detour slightly. We get there in end, but still manage to make a complete hash of finding our apartement just a few miles away from Disney, I think fatigue, bad maps and large distances are taking their toll.

We finally arrive at about 21:00, some 21 hours after leaving home and manage to get access to our 3rd floor apartment which is pretty super. Huge and well equipped with 2 double en-suite bedrooms, nice lounge and kitchen with three TVs and free internet access, hence this post.

It's still 75 degrees outside, but we manage to crash out, exhausted!

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Due to my amazingly bad typing skills I discovered a new unix command today:

$ ddate
Today is Setting Orange, the 53rd day of The Aftermath in the YOLD 3174

Google leads me to

Learn something new, although maybe not useful, every day.