Monday, 29 July 2013

Whirlwind

Life has been like a whirlwind since we came home from Florida.  I have been throwing myself into my uni work.  I am making progress, just am very unsure of the content.  Only time (and an exam) will test to see if I know it.

It has been nice to be home though.  We have managed to catch up with a few friends.  Sebastian's teachers came to see him last monday.  It went well, other than him throwing the wooden blocks they brought with them around (eekkk).  I got a phone call from his school that afternoon to ask if I could bring him in the next day, as they are unsure how he will cope with a small classroom and other students.  We trundled down to school, and one of the admissions staff walked him down to his classroom.  We watched from the office.  Of course, Seb was more interested in going to Isaacs classroom, or the park, but his teachers managed to entice him in.  He was there for 45 minutes!!! Luckily Oliver and Isaac were provided with some coloring to keep them happy.  When his visit was over, his teachers said the admin lady would call and let me know how the meeting they were going to have had gone.  I am still waiting.....

My dad arrived last wednesday.  He had left it quite late to buy his tickets, so ended up having to fly into one New York airport, then from the other one to Charlotte.  Because of this his flight was due to get in to Charlotte at 22.50.  It landed early, but they were kept on the plane for 20 minutes, then more time spent waiting for his baggage.  I eventually picked him up at 23.50.  We didn't get home till 1.30am.  We were both very tired.  It is nice to have him here though.  We had a relaxing day on thursday and Friday.  We headed into Greenville for Main Street Friday and some dinner, and bumped into Tracey, an English friend, who also had people with her visiting from Blighty.  

Saturday we headed to Costco for our mammoth bi-monthly shop, then to Cheddars for some lunch.  This was lovely.  Dad and I then headed to the mall in the afternoon, so we could do a bit of shopping. Typically  I could not find anything I wanted.  We drove home via Bi-Lo.  Whilst putting my bag on my shoulder, I managed to rip the top off my mole, which I only noticed when we were done shopping.  I managed to get myself a doctors appointment for this morning, only had to wait an hour in the surgery to be seen by an actual doctor!  She removed the mole, thank goodness, as it has always been a bit of a problematic one, sticking up and rather unsightly.  She has to send it of for tests, but does not expect anything to be up with it, she says no news is good news, so hopefully I won't hear from her.


Yesterday we took dad up to Caesars Head for a look out over Greenville.  I had forgotten how beautiful it is up there, this is only the second time we had been up there.  It was covered in clouds, making it difficult to see, but lovely and cool, and so picturesque.  From there we travelled to Jones Gap.  Oliver had been there on a school trip, so we thought we would go for a little look around.  Again, it is very beautiful, and the walk from the car park to the actual park is a mini hike in itself, particularly for small tired boys.  We saw some amazing butterflies, but decided not to do any of the hikes.  Save that for when the boys are bigger and it is not so buggy up there.  We came back, had a BBQ, then went to the pool.


Paul is away for part of this week, so we are planning on a few day trips, just the zoo etc and maybe breakfast one morning, plus Paris Mountain State Park.  The lake should be open for swimming, which would be good to try out.  

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Disney from a Goslings view point (some hints and tips)

Note:  we did Orlando at our convenience.   We did not do It to save money, do all the rides, see as many characters as we could.  This was a holiday.  We did not want to overextend ourselves, or miss out on too much, or stress ourselves or our kids out too much.  So these hints and tips are just general bits and pieces to maybe consider if you are planning a trip to Orlando to do the theme parks.

A lot of the inspiration, and where I got my hints and tips from can be found here, here and here

General Park Tips
Check opening and closing times, and if there are any extra magic hours (Disney only).  This is where people staying at a Disney resort can go in early, or stay later. I made a conscious effort to go the days after extra magic hours.  Not sure it made a difference.....
Get there early, if not before opening, shortly after.
Make sure you pick up a map as you enter.  Or even better, download the park apps.  All the parks we visited had one.  Disney's app allows you to make plans in advance, it also gives you up to date character locations.  Both Seaworld and Legoland apps are very good, and give you the facility to mark your car in the car park.  Unfortunately we could get neither to work!  
Head to the attractions you want to see first, get them out of the way before it gets too hot or too busy.
Take small drinks and snacks, it will help keep the kids going, and you won't be forking out every time they feel hungry
If you are staying in the park all day, try and eat lunch early or late.  We did this every time, and even at the Rainforsest Cafe, only had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 2pm.  It is less busy, and slightly more relaxing (if eating in the parks can be relaxing)

Disney's Magic Kingdom
It take  a good 30 minutes to get from the car to the parks, as you need to use at least one form of Disney transport.  
Apparently the rope drop at the beginning of the day is really good.  We never saw it,  we arrived about 9.15.  By then the first wave of guests were through, so the first walk down Main Street was not too busy.
If you get paper tickets for longer than 2 days, it is worth seeing guest relations to change them to plastic ones.  This will make it easier to get in and out of the parks.  
This was by far the busiest park we came across.  
We did a lot of rides all 5 of us.  We were surprised how much Sebastian could do.  He even got to go on a roller coaster, even though he is just over 35 inches.
We did not take advantage of parent swap.  We did get fast passes for all of us for Splash Mountain, but the weather had other ideas.
We ate twice in here in the same day, both times in Fantasyland.  It was expensive, though the food was quite tasty.  Disney has relaxed its policy on bringing in food, and will allow soft sided cool boxes.  We saw plenty of people picnicking around all the parks.
People grab places quite early for parades, if you want to see a parade and get a good viewing spot, you will need to sit down at least an hour before hand.


Disney's Animal Kingdom
All Disney Parks have areas that are always busy.  Here it is Africa and Asia, try and do these first, they are right next to each other.
Be prepared to spend extra money in Dinoland if your kids want to do the arcade games.
The walking trails are particularly good, take your time and enjoy them.
We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, it was really good, well worth booking if you can, or taking the chance.
There is only one parade at this park.  We caught the end of it after lunch.  It was not busy (compared to Magic Kingdom), and all the boys got to see bits of it.
This is a good park to see the characters.  Camp Minnie Mickey is a character meet and greet.  If it had not been raining so much we would have walked down to it, but it is quite off the beaten track.
This park closes at 8pm, the animals need their sleep....


Disney's Hollywood Studios
The area that is busiest here is Pixar Place.
We headed straight to Toy Story Mania, waited 30 minutes.   By the time we left the wait time was 90 minutes, and the Fastpass return time was 8pm!  
The shows were good,  do not take a 2 year old who does not like crowds or loud noises.  
The Star Wars Jedi Academy looks awesome, wish we had signed Oliver up for it. But you have to sign them up.
My boys loved the Disney Junior show, it was perfect for them.  We queued up half hour early, and were sat 3 rows back from the front.
This park is probably more suited for older children.




EPCOT
We did this on the 4th July, it was packed..... We went late in the day, to stay for the fireworks.  I think if we had gone earlier, it would have been less busy, and easier to do the rides.
Futureland is looking a bit dated.  There is not a lot for our boys to do.  Oliver wanted to do Test track, but it was out of Fastpasses, and the wait time was 90 minutes.
The Innovations building were quite good (and air conditioned), good for a gentle walk in the heat of the day
Futureland closes at 7pm, though the rest of the park stays open till 9/10pm
Again, this part of the park is best suited for older kids.
Walking around the different countries is cool, but quite a walk for small ones,  ours all took turns in the buggy.
All the countries have stages for music, check the times if there is any particular type of music you want to see.
We ate fish and chips in England.  They were delicious.  All the countries have eateries, so there is food for all palates
Epcot has drinking game written all over it.  A local drink in each country.  Japan had sake, Mexico had margaritas, France had wine, you get the picture... When the kids are older, we will be returning to do this
You need to get a spot for the fireworks early.  They mark out walkways around the lake, so people know where they can sit.  People were sitting down 2 hours early here!!!!
The fireworks were ok, not the spectacle Paul and I remember them being from when we were younger.  Guess thats what age does to you...
The fireworks lasted about 15 minutes.  I was expecting more to be honest.  Especially as it was the 4th July.
Getting back to the car was ok, getting out of the car park was not.  It took over an hour.... Go out the main middle road, it is much quicker 

                                           

Monday, 15 July 2013

Coming home: The Black Keys

We spent wednesday lounging around the house, relaxing, reading, and doing Lego.

We packed up most of the house on the thursday morning, and were still able to make it on the road by 9am.  We had already decided to take the coast road, I95, home as we did not think it would be too busy.  Other than a bit of traffic around the major cities, we were right.  Paul managed to do the first 200 miles while listening to the cricket through his phone.
Note the headphones
We stopped for an early lunch just after Jacksonville, and I took over the driving.  I got us all the way past Savannah before tunnel vision started to set in and we had to swap over again.  Paul did the next stint, and I took over about 80 miles from home.  The weather was appalling once we got on the I26, and it has remained so since we got home.  We arrived back in Simpsonville just before 6pm, so we made really good time.

Friday was spent relaxing, recovering and eagerly awaiting our night out.  Way back in February, we booked tickets to go and see The Black Keys at the Charter Amphitheater in Simpsonville.  We watched a storm come over at about 4.30, and the rain chucked down.  The thunder was almost continuos, and the lightning just kept on coming.  We wondered if it would even be on.  Our wonderful friend Anna arrived at 7pm, to babysit the boys. We got the younger 2 in bed, and headed off.  I had originally planned to park our car at a good friends house, she lives on a subdivision right near the amphitheater.  We headed the back roads, as traffic around the area can be notoriously bad if there is an event on.  We drove by the back entrance, and noticed it was open with parking available, so we went for it.  I text my friend to offer my apologies for messing her around.  We paid our parking, and got parked near the side of the amphitheater.  It was very muddy, but at least not raining.  We walked down to an entrance we had seen that was not as busy, but the place was a mad house.  It took us a good 25 minutes to queue up and get in, not what you want after doing a whole load of theme parks, followed by a 500 mile drive.

Finally in!
We made it in, got a beer each ($9, probably quite reasonable for an event) and had a little squelch around.  We settled on an area about half way down and just off the aisle.  The support act were the Flaming Lips.  I know very little about this band, other than Edith Bowman used to big them up all the time on Radio 1.  They were quite good, not my cup of tea, but certainly Pauls.  Just before the set ended, we headed up for more beer.  We were served by a delightful gent from Greenville Rugby Club, who picked up on our accents straight away.  We headed back down, to await the headliners.

When  I first told my friends here I had booked these tickets the majority of the responses were "who are the Black Keys?" Well, they won 4 Grammy's this year.  We only got into them just before we left the UK, but still do not have their fill back catalogue yet.  What we heard at the concert though, we really loved.  They played a lot from the album we have, and a whole heap more that we have never heard. They were very good.  It has been a long time since we saw a concert (think it was Reading Festival, 2004!!!), but this was good.  They were tight, rocky, eager and very good!  They finished playing just after 11pm, but came back for an encore, which was awesome.  We both really enjoyed the concert.

The Black Keys
The people watching was almost as much fun.  You had  the dressed up girls, looking like they were going clubbing, to the rednecks standing down wind from us smoking a very suspicious smelling substance, to the college gang with a German with them in front, very entertaining.  After the encore we headed back to the car.

We were able to get out of the venue in about 20 minutes, which I though was very reasonable given the amount of people.  We had a slight delay in our journey home, due to a car being in a ditch down the back road, but the fire brigade seemed to have it all under control.  We made it home just after midnight, gave Anna a bottle of wine as a thank you, and headed straight in the show to wash our muddy feet (they truly were disgusting, I wish I owned a pair of wellies)

Here is a link to one of The Black Keys well known songs


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yCIDkFI7ew

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Legoland - Part 2

We decided not to rush to Legoland on the tuesday, and arrived about 11pm.  Again, it was not too busy, but probably a bit busier than monday.  There was also quite a few school buses parked in the car park.

We headed into the park.  The boys had a few things they wanted to do that they had spotted the day before. The first stop was the Lego Factory tour.  This is supposed to be a miniature version of a Lego production line.  It starts with a video, then takes you through the production line.  It was not very good.  From here we headed to Duplo play town, a park area.  This was in full sun, and seeing as it was very hot again, we did not stay long.  There were some dubious looking spiders webs in some of the play equipment.

We then went to Lego Kingdoms to The Forestmens Hideout.  This was another play park which was more suited to Oliver and Isaac.  The big slide was closed off, which it had not been the day before.  Luckily this park was in the shade, so we were able to stay a bit longer.  Seb was not interested though, and just wanted to sit in the buggy.

Food was calling, so we headed to The Market Restaurant to see what they had.  This had lots of different counters selling different types of things, none of which I thought the boys would eat.  So we went back to the Pizza and pasta places we went to the day before.  Again, Isaac barely ate anything, while the rest of us pigged out.

It was very hot by now, so we took a slow walk to the back of the park to the waterpark.  It was even quieter this time.  We all got changed, and decided to base ourselves near the wave pool.  We got some loungers, just under the shade.  We all had lots of fun in the waves, the boys were able to have a bit more freedom, as we were able to keep a good eye on them.  We went to the Duplo splash zone again, which the boys enjoyed (damn them slides), and another go round the lazy river.  The staff were not as helpful, and there were loads of empty rings around the river.  I was able to take Isaac like I had the day before, but Paul decided not to take Seb, as he had not enjoyed it.  We went back to the loungers, and got some ice cream and beer.  Seb was getting tired, so he got in the buggy, and sat there relaxing for a good chunk of time.  Isaac was also getting tired, so he had a little relax.  This enabled Paul to take Oliver on the lazy river again.  On the way back they noticed the Duplo pool had been closed.  Within 5 minutes, the wave pool was closed, and the lifeguards were fishing something disgusting out....

We thought this would be a good time to leave.  Unfortunately, so did everyone else, so the changing rooms were packed.  We left the waterpark and headed towards the gate.  We stopped at the Build and Test area on the way through the park.  The boys were all given some wheels as they headed in.  The idea is to make a car and then test it on ramps.  If we had done this earlier in the day it would have been awesome.  By this time though, our children were shattered, and getting all silly when the pieces  would not stay on.  It did not help that a lot of the pieces were too worn or broken to stay on.

So we trundled off back to the car, for the delightful drive home.  The boys loved Legoland.  The concept is amazing, but although the park has only been open a few years, many things felt a bit worn and neglectful.  The staff here were also a bit hit and miss.  Some were amazingly helpful, but most looked like they were there to gossip with their friends.  There is no way enough shade in parts of the park, which could easily be rectified.  Paul and I were a bit underwhelmed by the whole place.  We were glad we got a 2 day ticket though.  To do the whole thing in one day is possible, but you would be shattered for a few days after.  It was nice to spread it over the two days, slightly more relaxing, and we were able to take things in a lot better.  Its just a shame it cost us a small fortune in fuel.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Legoland- part 1

We did Legoland over two days.  It was only $15 each to upgrade to a 2 day pass.  We also took advantage of a special offer, where if you name the date you are going to Legoland, you get $15 off admission.  So the second day was almost free.  We also added the water park to the admission, to be able to cool off in the hot sun.

The first day we arrived about 9.30.  Legoland is a good 45 minute drive from Orlando.  We arrived, paid the parking (only $14 this time, woohoo), and trundled in.  The first thing that struck us was how quiet it was.  After the chaos of Disney and Seaworld, this was most welcome.



We headed straight through mini-land, up to Lego City.  Here Isaac got to go on the mini driving school, followed by Oliver having a go on the Lego Driving school.  The mini driving school was not at all busy, yet despite there being no queue, they still timed Isaac's go, and kicked him off as soon as his time was done.  He was very pleased with his driving license.  Oliver's was a bit better.  He had to sit through a video which told him the rules of the road etc.  He then went out with about 8 other drivers, and got a good time on the road.  It was very cute to see them all abiding by the rules.  I think Oliver would have preferred it if the cars had gone faster, and it was a race track, rather than a street circuit.

From here we headed to Boating School.  The queue for this was a bit longer.  I rode with Oliver and Seb while Paul went behind us with Isaac. Our boot had rubbish steering.  we ended up getting stuck under a pelican that squirted water, and could not get the boat out.  Needless to say, we got soaked.  Which was actually quite nice.  It managed to keep Seb really cool.  The days we did Legoland it was hot, too hot.

After a quick drink and snack our next stop was Lego Technic.  Oliver and i rode the Aquazone Wave Racers, then Paul and Oliver rode the Lego Technic Coaster, both were pretty good.

From here we headed through Land of Adventure where we all joined the queue for Coastasaurus.  Seb had measured perfectly for it at the bottom, but when we got to the top, he was too small.  Isaac was also kicking off about going on, he really didn't want too, so Paul took the pair of them back again, and Oliver and I rode.  This was one rickety roller coaster.  We then joined the line for the Safari Trek.  This was about  a 15 minute wait, but the boys amused themselves by playing Lego.  Oliver rode on his own, I rode with Seb, and Paul took Isaac.  We drove through a safari of Lego animals, which all the boys enjoyed.

By now we were starting to get hungry,  We had spotted a pizza and pasta buffet place when we came in.  Luckily we were early enough to get seats.  The price was reasonable, think it was under $50 for us all to eat and drink an unlimited amount.  Isaac was being a pickle, and refused to eat anything.  We eventually coaxed him into having 3 pieces of garlic bread.  The rest of us had 2 plates worth, Oliver and Seb having double portions of both pizza and pasta, Paul and I going for pizza then salad.  We were able to refill our drinks as much as we wanted, so did this just before leaving and heading to World of Chima

This was one for Isaac, he loves Chima, but there did not seem to me a lot there.  The boys got a nice soaking in Craggers swamp, before we went and looked at Legend of Chima, the ride.  This is a boat ride, through the story of Chima where you get to shoot water from cannons in front of you.  There are also cannons on the side that people watching can shoot.  You can also shoot the people in the boats in front and behind you.  We all had a great time on this, and got soaked.

Seb in Craggers Swamp
Seeing as we were already wet, we took a slow meander through Miniland to the Lego Water Park, right at the back of the park.



This made Legoland for us.  It was not too busy.  After getting changed we parked ourselves on the sand by the Duplo Splash Surf.  Then it started raining.  Seeing as we were already wet, we kept playing in the water.  The boys loved the little slides, but Seb and Isaac would not ride with out me or Paul.  They quickly became a bit tedious to Paul and I, so we went and gave the Built a Raft River a go.  This is basically a lazy river, with rubber rings with lego bits attached so you can build as you float round.  This was ok, the boys liked it.  I managed to get a double ring which had a seat bit in one of the holes, so Isaac had a good ride.  Paul did not manage to get one for Seb though, which made his journey a little cumbersome.  We then went to the wave pool, which was awesome.  A good size, not too busy, and the boys were pretty safe.  They all enjoyed jumping in and out of the waves, and off the island that was positioned in the middle.  They also enjoyed playing with the bigger bricks.  We had a quick go in the joker soaker area.  This was perfect for Oliver.  On a couple of occasions we did not see him till he got to the bottom of a slide. The water here was freezing, and it came at you from all directions, even when you are just standing in the pool.

After the water park, we headed for the gate.  It was already after 5pm! We had to stop and try the Granny Apple Fries.  These are apples, cut into fries, fried then dusted with sugar and cinnamon, served with vanilla cream dipping sauce.  A bit pricey, but very very yummy.  Of course, we had to stop in the Big Shop on the way out.  We has a good look round, before we decided what we wanted to purchase.  Ouch........

The boys were shattered

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

SeaWorld, Orlando

We awoke in good time on Saturday morning.  Initially we had no intention of doing any theme parks over the weekend.  After 4 days of Disney, we needed a break on the Friday. 

We got to SeaWorld for about 9.30, paid our usual parking fee of $15 and drove on in.  We parked quite near the entrance, so it was very easy to walk.  We picked up our tickets, and headed straight into the park.  We knew there was a Shamu show starting at 11, so we decided to take a leisurely walk round.  On the way we stopped to apply sunscreen.  We realized we were near the dolphin nursery, so we stopped and had a look

       
They were absolutely beautiful.  There were about 7 dolphins in this tank, and there was one youngster, who was very small.  It was absolutely amazing to watch them.  They came up real close to where we were standing.  

We carried on on our walk to Shamu.  SeaWorld is such an immense park, with lots of walking, and it was hot, real hot.  We parked the buggy up and headed into the show.  As we got there pretty early, we were able to get seats just inside the splash zone, near the end of an aisle.  We still had a good 30 minutes to wait,  so gave the boys iPods to keep them occupied.  The show began, loads of video of the world on the big screens.  Then the whales came out.  I still get a tingling feeling when I think about it, it nearly made me cry (and it takes a lot to get me emotional!!!).  They were so beautiful, graceful and BIG!!

         
Paul got some excellent photos, which I will put on Instagram or Facebook once I get home.  There were 5 whales 'performing'.  I know animals performing like this can get quite a few people's backs up. I felt a bit funny about it, but still enjoyed the show.  Before we left for Orlando,  I did a bit of research on SeaWorld and the killer whales and the other animals in captivity.  This did a bit to alleviate my thoughts.  It's a very sensitive subject.  SeaWorld Orlando has been through a few hardships with regards to their trainers.  A female trainer was killed a few years ago, and because of this, the trainers are not allowed to get in the water with the killer whales anymore.  I think this is a wise decision.  At the end of the day, these are wild animals, albeit most where born in captivity.  Opens up a whole big debate on nature vs nurture.  Any who, I digress

        
So Sebastian really does not like shows.  We think he may be claustrophobic, or does not like not knowing where the next whale was coming from.  But he made the show quite unpleasant, particularly for the people sitting around us.  I can only apologize profusely to those who may have been near us.

The show lasted 30 minutes, and the boys really enjoyed it (except Seb).  They particularly liked being splashed by the whales.  Luckily we had sat far enough up the splash zone, that we did not get too wet.  

We went outside, and decided to get an early lunch.  We had, included in our admission ticket an all you can eat plan.  So we headed to the nearest eatery.  This happened to be Mango Joe's, a Mexican based place.  Paul got a mixed meat burrito, while I went for the burrito bowl.  The boys had kids meal in a special Shamu box.  It was needed, and did not taste too bad.  

After lunch we headed to Wild Arctic.  This was a walk through aquarium/exhibition, supposed to be like you are an Arctic Explorer.  We entered as there were people having a close encounter with the beluga whales.  This was amazing to watch.  People feeding these whales, then the interaction between the whales and the trainers was beautiful.  You could feel a real relationship. Unfortunately, we did not get any good photos, trust me it was great. From there we headed to the polar bear.  He was asleep.  Then on to the walrus.  Again, what an absolutely massive creature, yet so graceful under water.  We were able to see all the animals from above the surface and below.  Amazing 

From here, we headed to Shamus Happy Harbor.  This is an area designed for kids.  Paul and Oliver were ale to go on the Shamu Express, a kiddies roller coaster with no queue.  The rest of us walked around in the shade, staying under the water misters.  There is a splash area too, but we managed to bypass it, and headed to the Seven Seas Railway, a train ride for kids, where everyone except Paul rode.  Oliver and Isaac even went on without any adult supervision.

                                  

From there, we walked up towards the Shark Encounter, pausing in the Sea Garden on the way.  The Shark Encounter was ok, it has one of the longest under water tunnels in Florida, with plenty of sharks swimming over your heads.  You are even able to feed them from the top, if you are prepared to pay.  There is also Sharks Underwater Grill and Bar to eat in, if you fancy an upmarket meal.  You get to eat with the sharks.  Unfortunately our wristbands did not cover this, such a shame, as the kids would have loved it.  

By the time we got out, it was nearly 2pm.  We got some drinks, it was so hot.  We realized we were near the Sea Lion and Otter theatre, and the show was about to start.  We thought we would risk it with Seb.  Mistake.  We were able to go in, just after the show had started.  We got ok seats.  But Seb was not happy.  Paul took him out, and Oliver, Isaac and I enjoyed a very humorous, well performed show, with a strange looking walrus........
                                       

We then attempted to go through the new Antarctica exhibit.  It was heaving, stupidly busy.  There was a 120 minute wait just to go in and see the penguins, so we quickly bypassed it.  We were all roasting hot, and absolutely shattered by now.  We headed to the Jewels of the Sea Aquarium, conveniently hidden beneath the Journey to Atlantis log flume ride.  Man, I wish the kids had been old enough to ride it, would have been good to cool off.

It's funny, up until we hit the Antarctic area, the park has seemed quiet.  After that,there just felt like there was people everywhere. That could have been down to the time of day.  It was nearing 3pm, and we were all starting to wilt.  We made the executive decision to leave fairly soon.  None of them had slept, although they all needed.  We headed out via Dolphin Cove.  We started off in the underwater viewing area.  Again, absolutely magical, and air conditioned.  We enjoyed cooling off, and the boys loved watching the dolphins 

        

We ended up walking out via the dolphin feeding area.  Again, of you are prepared to part with some more cash, you can feed the dolphins.  We declined to do this, and instead headed to Stingray Lagoon, to watch the stingrays.

We wanted to eat on the way out, but could not find anywhere that accepted the bands.  So we thought, screw it, and stopped at Cypress Bakery on the way out,  2 coffees, 1 refill of our big drunks cup, a large half chocolate dipped cookie, and a humongous rice crispie cake later, we all felt rejuvenated, and ready to face the sweltering hot, but short walk back to the car. 

         
 
  
 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Reading for pleasure

It has been a while since I have read for pleasure.  I normally have my head buried in chemistry books, for my degree.  I think the last book I read for pleasure was one of the fifty shades books.  That was certainly a pleasure.....

Since I have been in Florida, I have been reading what I want.  Here is a loose round up of the books I have read

South of Broad by Pat Conray

I was put on to this author by one of the mums from Oliver's baseball team.  He writes books that are set in South Carolina and the surrounding area.  I originally wanted 'Lords of Discipline', but my local library did not have it in. I took this and 'Prince of Tides'.  After reading the blurbs on the sleeves, I choose to bring this with me.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, in fact, I think I finished it in 2 days.  From the description on Amazon...

'Leopold Bloom King has been raised in a family shattered—and shadowed—by tragedy. Lonely and adrift, he searches for something to sustain him and finds it among a tightly knit group of high school outsiders. Surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, as well as Charleston, South Carolina’s dark legacy of racism and class divisions, these friends will endure until a final test forces them to face something none of them are prepared for.'

I look forward to getting home to the other Pat Conray book I borrowed from the library and hope to read it before the mundane chemistry books set in

Link to Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/South-Broad-Novel-Pat-Conroy/dp/0385344074/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373165482&sr
=1-6&keywords=pat+conroy


Half Blood blues by Esi Edgyan

A book I found in the house we are staying in.  This is not dissimilar in the previous book in that it jumps back and forward in time.  I choose this first as it is based in WWII history, and Louis Armstrong, is a fictional pretext is a character in the book.  From the blurb on Amazon

'Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction
Berlin, 1939. The Hot Time Swingers, a popular jazz band, has been forbidden to play by the Nazis. Their young trumpet-player Hieronymus Falk, declared a musical genius by none other than Louis Armstrong, is arrested in a Paris café. He is never heard from again. He was twenty years old, a German citizen. And he was black.'

This book went out with a camp squib unfortunately.  The ending could have been so much better.

Link to Amazon. 
http://www.amazon.com/Half-Blood-Blues-Novel-Esi-Edugyan/dp/1250012708/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid
=1373165887&sr=1-1&keywords=half+blood+blues


The Last Gospel by David Gibbins

Another book I have found in the house we are staying in.  This is what I would class as a 'Dan Brown' style book, with the lead character being a marine archeologist.  It takes you from the Mediterranean, to Rome to London, to Jerusalem, then to Galilee.  This is my kind of book.

From the blurb on Amazon
'History is full of secrets. Secrets that have remained hidden for thousands of years. And we have no idea what many of them are. We know they're there, under the ground, at the bottom of the ocean, hidden away, just waiting for someone to unlock them. Enter Jack Howard, one of the greatest archaeologists of his day, a man who never stops believing, never gives up hope that out there might be the next big discovery. But when he and his best friend Costas are interrupted during a dive off the coast of Sicily that might possibly reveal the final journey of St. Paul, Jack has no idea what lies in store...Their journey takes them to one of the great lost libraries of antiquity, destroyed by the eruption of Pompeii, into the heart of ancient Rome and the holiest sites of Jerusalem. Their quest? So earthshattering that there are men who would kill anyone and anything in their path to conceal this secret...the secret of the origins of Christianity itself, and of THE LAST GOSPEL.'

I thoroughly enjoyed this read.  He has written more books in the Jack Howard character, and I would not mind reading another.  But I worry it would be too similar (just like the Dan Brown books......).  Might give another a go though, just to see.

Link to Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Gospel-David-Gibbins/dp/0755335155/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373500521&sr
=1-11&keywords=david+gibbins




I am hard pressed to say which was my favorite, I think you can tell which was not!! I look forward to being able to read for pleasure again, hopefully not too far in the future....




An evening at Epcot

After 3 Disney parks in 3 days, we decided to take it a bit easier on the Thursday.  It was the 4th July, so we knew every park would have fireworks, it was just a case as to which park we wanted to go back to.  We thought we had done every park the best we could, and did not have one we really wanted to go back to.  We decided to try Epcot in the evening.  I had read it is generally the quieter park, so thought it would be the best to visit on the evening of one of the busiest holidays in the States.

We kicked around the house in the morning.  It was nice to not have to rush out the door.  We relaxed around the pool, and enjoyed the house.  This enabled Seb to have a good nap.  We ended up leaving the house about 4.30, and headed to Epcot.  As we drove in, we noticed that the Magic Kingdom was signposted as being full.  We parked up, after paying the usual $15 for parking.  Isaac had fallen asleep on the way, so we put him into the buggy, and let Seb walk down to the entrance of the park.  It was busy going in.  The park was very busy.  We walked into FutureWorld, and headed straight to Test Track.  This was a ride we had scoped out on the app.  It looked good for Oliver.  Unfortunately, it had a 120 minute wait, with no fast passes left.  We obviously decided to leave it.  We headed into a couple of the Innovations buildings.  Oliver got to play some Disney games on the Playstation, and Isaac eventually woke up.  There was not much for the us in FutureWorld.  Let me rephrase that- there were too many people to even contemplate trying to go on any rides or see any shows.

We headed down to the World Showcase.  We started in Canada, and made our way around the countries.  We stopped in the United Kingdom for some food. Fish and chips x3, 2 Harp lagers in commemorative steins, and a diet coke, possibly the most expensive fish and chips ever.  Very tasty though.  The boys needed a bathroom break, so I took them off, while paul waited with Seb.  The heavens opened again, but not too badly.  We then headed on to France, Japan, Morocco, Italy, Germany (the boys loved the model trains) , China, Norway and Mexico. 
         

One thing we noted about the World Showcase.  It is a drinking game.  Have a drink from each country in each country.  There was beer in Canada and the UK.  Wine in France, sake in Japan, more beer in Germany and Norway, sake again in China, and margaritas in Mexico.  I hope to go back to Epcot in about 10 years time.  The boys can go and do the rides, while Paul and I get steadily drunk....

Any who, by the time we got to Mexico, it was 8pm.  We still had 2 hours till the fireworks,but people were already starting to claim their spots on the side of the lake in preparation. As much as we didn't want to, we felt it necessary to go and find a spot.  We hunkered down near the Showcase Plaza and waited.  We got a good spot.  We were near to the restrooms, but far from beer.  It's times like this I am grateful to Apple for iPods and iPhones.  The boys were happy playing, while we waited.  We had a nice Floridian couple settle in next to us.  She was happy to chat away which helped.  Her husband worked at AK driving the trams.  

10pm the fireworks started. They were good, but not as good as I thought they would be on Americas birthday.
       
The display finished about 10.15.  We had also been able to spot some other fireworks going off at the other parks.  We headed out with the crowds, back to the car.  We walked back, rather than wait for the tram.  We were not too far which was good.  

We loaded the boys, and headed out of the car park by the directed route.  Unfortunately, as we were so near the front of the park, it took ages for our line of cars to move.  So long in fact that the boys all fell asleep before we had moved 3 foot.  I noticed that the cars at the back of the car park were going out a different way, and people retuning to their cars were choosing to go across the car park to a feeder lane further back in the car park.  We sat in the row, not moving for about 30 minutes, before we decided to drive across the car park and go through the feeder lane.  We were out in seconds, though still got stuck on the interstates going out.  There was an accident further up the road, but an hour and a half to get from the car in the car park to the house (usually takes 20 minutes), was completely unacceptable. There was not a cast member to be seen directing traffic or even assisting people on leaving the park.  I know this is a public holiday, even still, procedures should have been implemented to allow the good people spending their hard earned cash to celebrate 4th July at Epcot. It left a slightly sour taste in our mouths regarding Disney, and I wrote some strongly worded criticisms on their twitter feed, and a nasty message on Facebook.

Yesterday was spent relaxing around the pool.  We went to Five Guys for lunch (review to follow), and spent more time around the pool, feeling like a proper holiday.

  

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Disney Hollywood Studios

We awoke early on Wednesday.  Our delightful children had decided that 6.30 was a good time to get up.  Given that they had done 2 days of theme parks and were pretty tired, it did not take long for the bickering to start.  So we had to get up and deal with them.  This enabled us to be out the door just after 8, the earliest so far.

We drove the usual distance to Disney, paid the usual $15, and parked up.  The tram was just arriving as we were about to start walking down to the park entrance, so we hopped on it.  We were in the park by 9.10, and went for one of the most popular rides that we all could do, Toy Story Midway Mania. we passed Pluto on the way.    In my research I had discovered that the fast passes for this ride often run out by 10am.  We got there, discovered that the wait time was 30 minutes, so joined the queue, while watching Buzz and Woody in the window over the way doing character meet and greets.  We moved through the queue, and got into a carriage quicker than the 30 minutes advertised.  We had our 3d glasses on, Paul rode with Oliver and Seb, I took Isaac.  Our seats backed on to each other, so photos  were difficult
                                      
Midway Mania is a lot of arcade games, where you have to shoot things.  It was perfect for our boys.  We all really enjoyed it.  We exited the ride to find a wait time of 60 minutes!  We got ourselves together and headed towards Disney Junior Live on Stage.

It was not due to start for another 30 minutes, but we queued up, just as they extended the queue lanes.  We ended up being about 20th in the queue.  This worked out much in our favor.  The boys were amused by the TV screens showing snippets of Disney Junior, and they waited very well, for over 30 minutes.  We entered the theater, and were seated 2 rows back on the floors (man that hurt our legs), right in the centre.  We did well to get these seats, there were many people behind us.  The girl comparing the show was very good.  The boys were able to see a lot of their favorite characters.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Goofy all made appearances.  These were followed by Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First and Jake with his crew from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  Our boys really enjoyed this, even Oliver, which I was most surprised about.  A really good show, with puppets, perfect for a 'junior' audience

         

We headed from this to find food.  We arrived at the Backlot Express eatery to find it not open yet, at 11.10.  We had spotted on the way in the Jedi Training Academy, right. The Star Wars ride.  This is where young Padawans get to master their skills with the help of Darth Vader, and some Storm Troopers.  Oliver was ever so keen to do this.  It looked awesome, he was old enough,  so maybe next time.  About 10 minutes before the eatery opened, we headed back in.  Paul was one of the first served, so we were able to have an early lunch in relative peace and quiet (a rarity in Disney), but as we were finishing the hawks were circling, awaiting our table.  

We went out, along the Streets of America.  This is a fake film set, where nothing is as it seems.  We stopped, so the boys could have their photos taken with McQueen and Mater.  We had decided to go and see. 'Lights, Movies, action-Extreme stunt show'.  We got there in plenty of time, so were able to get good seats.  Think we waited about 30 minutes.  The boys were happy though, playing iPods.  Unfortunately, this show was not for Seb.  He lasted about 10 minutes, before I had to take him out as he was crying his eyes out due to the noise.  Just as we were walking down the stairs, they announced Lightning McQueen on the set, so we ducked through to the front so we could see him.  It still did not interest Seb.  He was too tired and spooked by the noise to care


I walked around with Seb in the buggie for a bit.  The place was packed.  I had just found somewhere to sit, when the heavens opened.  I got a text from Paul to say the show had stopped, so we headed over to where the show was kicking out.  We all sheltered for a bit, while we waited for the rain to stop.  

We had seen that Ralph from Wreck it Ralph were due to make an appearance in The Magic of Animation.  So we took a slow walk through Pixar Place, then up Mickey avenue, stopping for ice lollies and drinks on the way.  Oh, and a quick hello with some army men.
                                     
   

We got to the Magic of Animation just after Ralph and Venelope appeared, and the queue to meet them was already 30 minutes long.  So we watched them from a distance.  We don't do queueing, particularly when the boys are tired.

                                   
We also saw Sourcerer Mickey, again he had a massive queue.  We left the Magic of Animation, and decided to head home.  It only took us about 30 minutes to get from the middle of the park to the car, via the tram.

 The boys had managed 6 hours in a park, yet again.



Friday, 5 July 2013

The Animal Kingdom


So we had every intention of being up early on the Tuesday.  We hoped to be able to do Animal Kingdom (AK) in half a day.  Typically we woke a little late, and after paying the parking, (goodbye $15,) we arrived at the park about 9.20am.  We were able to park near enough to the park to walk from the car to the gate.

As usual, with Disney, the place was heaving.  We had already decided the night before, to head straight for the Safari in the Africa area, right at the back of the park.  I reckon half the people had the same idea.  It was quite a walk, but the boys did good.  When we arrived, there was a half hour wait.  We decided to join the queue.  The line moved fast, and I think we got on our Safari truck in under 30 minutes.

We managed to get the back row of the Safari truck.  This enabled us to get some good photos, looking out the back.  Quite possibly the best ride on the truck.  We passed through many animals.

                                   
We saw black and white rhino, 2 different types of giraffe, hippos, crocodile, lions, ostrich (they even had a nest, right near the road), various antelope, pelican, vultures and wart hogs.  It was well worth the queuing, the ride lasted a good 30 minutes, and was a lot of fun.  A bit like our honeymoon in Kenya, but on a much smaller scale!

After this we decided to take a little break, and headed through the crowds exiting the ride, back into the Africa area.  We came across Kusifari coffee shop and bakery.  Paul and I both had a Danish, Isaac and Seb shared a muffin, while Oliver had a croissant followed by coffee and apple juice.  Just the little pick me up that was needed.  We decided to stay in Africa a bit longer, and headed to Pangani Forest Exploration trail.  

This was a walking trail, with loads of animals and artifacts laid out along the way.  Isaac loved looking at the replica skulls of the animals on display, over looking at the animals themselves.  Again there were plenty of animals on display.  The main attraction was probably the gorillas, though there was a working bug house that Isaac liked.  My boys also loved the fish.  We decided not to do the wildlife express train to Rafikinis planet watch, as I had read mixed reviews.  Besides, we did a few train journeys the day before.  

So we left Africa, and headed to Asia.  Amazing how a 10 minute walk can allow you to skip continents.  We had read the night before that the Kali River Rapids, one of the biggest attractions in Asia, Isaac and therefore Seb were too small for, so we bypassed these.  Good job, as queuing was over an hour, and the fast passes available weren't till much later in the day.  We went to Maharajah Jungle Trek.  Again, this was another walk through area, which had plenty of birds and fish, and a few tigers thrown in for good measure. It also had some awesome looking fruit bats.
        
  The clouds were starting to look quite ominous, and the crowds just kept on growing.

We headed on anyways into Dinoland.  My boys had been so looking forward to this.  Dinoland is like a fun fair area, based on dinosaurs.  We joined the queue for Triceratops Spin, a spinning  fair ground ride not dissimilar to the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom.  It only had a 20 minute wait.  While we were waiting we heard the first crash of thunder, and saw the first strike of lightning.  The ride was then closed for about 40 minutes, while they waited for the storm to pass.  Luckily we were in the queueing are of Triceratops Spin, which was covered, so we hunkered down.  The boys had some snacks, then played iPods.  We rescued the buggy from outside, luckily it had been under a poncho, and put Seb in it.  This is where we realized Seb can sleep in theme parks.  

The rain and thunder eventually stopped, so I was able to take the boys on the Triceratops ride.  As we had been sheltering in the general vicinity, we were able to get on it very quickly after it reopened. They loved it, though Isaac had hold of the control which sets the height of the ride, and held it on low the whole time!  Seb was still asleep when it had finished, so I decided to take Oliver on the Primeval Whirl.  This was a spinning roller coaster.  As the rain had only just stopped, the queue was under 30 minutes.  Paul and Isaac were happy to go and look in some shops and generally amuse themselves in Dinoland while we rode.  This was a cool ride.  As it was just Oliver and I, we were able to hop in a carriage with another 2 riders, this shortened our time in the queue by about 4 carriages, not much, but it helped.  By the time we got on the ride it was raining again.  We finished up, and head back to Paul, Isaac and a now awake Seb.  They had been shopping, and bought the only souvenir from all the Disney parks we visited.  A foam dinosaur for Isaac, costing $13.  The rain kept up, thank goodness for raincoats and ponchos. 

There was other things we could have done in Dinoland, but the weather was really off putting.  It was gone 1pm by now, so we decided to brave the rain, and try to find some lunch.  We headed through the Discovery area, which if there had not been so much rain, we would have stopped and spent some time in it.

We had already noted that there was a Rainforest Cafe in AK.  We headed there for lunch ( please see http://feedinggoslings.com for a review, coming soon).  We finished up at about 3.45. And the sun was shining. I was ever so keen for the boys to be able to see a parade while we are here.  There is only one in AK, it starts at 3.45.  So we raced back through the gates, and headed up to the parade route.  We caught the last 15 minutes of it.  This was perfect for us, they may not have done a full one.  Also where we were standing was a main thoroughfare, so fairly busy, but we were able to stand far enough back to enjoy it.
       

There was not much more we wanted to rush to do in AK.  We headed out, caught a tram back to the car.  It took us about 30 minutes to get from the inners of the park to the car

I thoroughly enjoyed our time in AK.  This is the one park neither Paul or I had been too.  It is an amazing concept, and I am led to believe they do a lot for conservation too. 
 



Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Magic Kingdom

We didn't end up leaving at 8.  We woke up at 7.30, but managed to get out the door by 8.30.  We drove the 20 minute drive to the Magic Kingdom, paid for parking ($15, ouch), and drove to the Heroes parking lot.  As we were not too far from the ticket area, we decided to walk it.  It did not take long.  We found a ticket pick up machine, and collected out paper tickets.

From the ticket area, we had a choice wether to get the monorail or the boat to the Magic Kingdom.  We opted for the monorail.  It was busy, to be expected, but the queues moved quickly, and within 5 minutes we found ourselves on the train.  Riding into the Magic Kingdom was amazing.  We arrived at the same time as the steam train.  By now it was about 9.15.  We went through the gates, and began heading down Main Street.  We were quickly asked to move on to the sidewalk, as there was a parade coming through by the people of Main Street.  We watched a little bit of this, before moving on down towards the circle, where all the areas branch from.  We had already decided to head to Tomorrow Land, as we thought there were some things in there that might interest the boys.

The first ride we went on was the Tommorowland Transit Authority People Mover.  This was a ride that all of us could go on, a theme for the holiday.  We all enjoyed this ride.  It basically took you through all the rides in Tommorland.  So we were able to ride in a car through Space Mountain, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin.  This was a good ride for us.  Nice and gentle, and it enabled the boys to see what they wanted to do next.

As soon as they saw the Tommorowland Speedway, they wanted to go on it.  Luckily, they were all tall enough, even Seb.  Even better, there was only a 20 minute wait.  We queued up, and decided who was riding with who.  I rode with Isaac, Paul took Oliver and Seb.  We went in the last car of the ride, Paul and co took the first of the next row round.  I so shouldn't have let Isaac drive, he steered from side to side.  Luckily, I was in charge of the gas.  All the boys really enjoyed this one, and wanted to go again, but by the time we had finished the wait time was up to 40 minutes.

We stopped for a quick snack, before walking on to Fantasyland, and the next ride, the Mad Tea Party. This is a spinning teacup ride.  Not my favorite, but the wait time was only 20 minutes again, and the boys really enjoyed this.  Again, this was a ride we could all go on in the same teacup.  We then headed further into Fantasyland.  This is a new area of Magic Kingdom (I will put some links up when I get home, I need to do a bit of research.....). 

We were gong to go on the Dumbo flying elephants ride, but decided the queue was too long.  I had heard that the Barnstormer was a good roller coaster for kids, and was a Goofy inspired ride.  I was mightily surprised that Seb was tall enough at 35 inched to ride the roller coaster.  I think the people working it were also a bit surprised, given he seems so small.  The wait was only 20 minutes, so we went for it.  We got into a carriage, 3 rows of seats per carriage, Isaac and Paul up front, Oliver on his own in the middle, the Seb and I at the back.

                                      
  This was a surprisingly fast roller coaster, that really threw you round the corners.  I had a good hold of Seb, thank goodness, as Paul did of Isaac. From their faces you could not tell if they liked it or not, but the all said it was awesome afterwards. It is not too long,or high.  It is quite fast, and has high speed corners.  Even Seb tried to tell us how awesome it was.  From here, the boys had a quick splash in  Casey Jr Splash and Soak centre.  The weather though, was not playing ball.  Isaac wanted to go into Pete's Silly Sideshow.  We did not realize it, but this gave us a good opportunity to meet some characters.  The wait time was only 20 minutes, and it seemed to go a lot quicker. Seb got a bit freaked by Goofy in his costume, but this could be because he was about 7 foot tall.  Isaac was not too keen either.  Oliver loved it.  Both Isaac and Oliver were happy to go and meet Donald Duck though.
                                       
We then headed further into Fantasyland.  Under the Sea-the journey of the Little Mermaid was calling our name.  The sign said the queue was about 30 minutes, so we decided to go for it.  There were a few bits and pieces to keep the boys amused mid queue, but not much.  It took a good 30 minutes to get to the front.  Paul and Oliver boarded one clam shell, I took the others in the next one.  It is basically a ride to tell the story of the Little Mermaid, but without all the nasty, boring, sloppy bits.  Good animatronics, makes me glad I have 3 boys.  
Next we attempted to go and get some lunch.  Unfortunately the one place we wanted for a sit down meal was full to bursting, queuing  out the door in fact.  So we ended up getting some quick food from Friar Tucks Nook in Fantasyland.  Hot dogs and chips (that's crisps to those in the UK) for Paul and I, and nuggets and chips for the chimps.  We ate outside, not the best food, but we were hungry.  After lunch we headed through the castle.  I swear last time you came here you could not walk through it,  but I may be wrong.  
                                    
   
We headed towards Liberty Square, over the bridge, towards Frontierland.  This is when we hit the crowds.  Man, it was busy round near Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.  The weather also started turning a bit nasty.  As we had every intention of retutning in the evening, we decided to cut our losses and head for home.  We boarded the train, which only runs one way, and headed for the entrance to the park.  From here we took the monorail back to the ticket office, then a tram back to the car park.  It took a full hour to get from Frontierland to the car.
We were all absolutely shattered.  Isaac and Seb both fell asleep on the way home, though Isaac woke up when we got back and Seb slept for an hour or so.  Not long after we got home, the heavens well and truly opened, and it thundered and rained for most of the time we were home.  

It was just stopping raining when we headed back to the park.  We caught the tram from the car park. By now, everywhere was soaked.  Our intention was to try and stay for the the electrical light parade at 9pm.  We decided get the boat to the park.  This was a nice old fashioned boat, with hardly anyone on it.  Very pleasurable.  Once we reached the park, we got on the train back to Frontierland, meaning we had done a full lap of the park by train.  Frontierland was just as busy.  We got fast passes for Splash Mountain, just in case we decided to go on it later.  We headed to Tom Sawyers Island by raft.  We had just finished doing the Fort on the Island, when the cast members said we had to leave, and head back to the raft port.  We got there just as the heavens opened.  There were many people waiting for a raft, and we boarded a fully loaded raft in the pouring rain, while thunder and lightening happened all around us.  
We went into the Hall of Presidents to escape the rain, but decided not to stay for the show.  We thought we would escape the rain by heading for some dinner.  We ended up back in Fantasyland, after getting through more rain.  We ate at Pinnochio Village Haus, where the boys shared pizza and nuggets, and Paul and I had a pizza each.  
By the time we had finished, it was still raining, the boys were soaked, and it didn't feel like there was much more we could achieve.  By now it was 7.45pm.  We headed down to the parade route.  It was packed. Everyone was already taking their spots on the side of the road.  We did not think the boys would last over an hour sitting in the rain.  We decided to cut our losses and head home.  Again, it took nearly an hour to get from Main Street by the castle to the car.  
         

Seb fell asleep in the car on the way home, and barely stirred when we got him ready and put him into bed.  Isaac also went very happily.  Oliver went not long after.

We really enjoyed the Magic Kingdom, but the weather was so against us.....
*****************************************************************************************************************************
This is just my account on how our day went.  When I get home, I shall be doing a 'hints and tips' post to give my opinion on how to do Disney and Orlando theme parks in general.  We did it at our convenience, though I have read many things on how to do it cheaply, quickly and with kids of all ages....

Watch this space

*****************************************************************************************************************************
   

Monday, 1 July 2013

We made it

As the title suggests, we are in Florida.  

That was a hard journey.  We left Simpsonville at 8.30am.  

I drove the first leg, and managed to go till nearly 11am.  We got into Georgia, before I needed a driver change
Paul drove for about another hour and a half before we stopped somewhere in Georgia for a McDonalds for lunch.  Not the best McDonalds, but the boys enjoyed the break, and the chance to play.  We ended up stopping for about 45 minutes, after many toilet breaks.... 

Paul was able to drive for about another hour before he needed to stop.  I jumped into drive, and managed to do a good 2 hour stint.  This got us out of Georgia (thank goodness, something about that state I just don't feel comfortable with), and a good chunk into Florida.  We were about 160 miles from our destination when we stopped again.  We stopped at a Starbucks for a coffee, the boys had some juice and a cookie, while we indulged in some good coffee.

Paul drove for the final chunk.  In our whole 550+ mile journey, we ran across  only one accident on the final stint.  We decided to go via Atlanta, inland, away from the coast road,as we thought it would be too busy.  We think we made the right decision, after doing the coast road to get to Tybee Island and experiencing lots of traffic.  

We did not count on the toll roads though.  It would appear a lot of the major roads in Florida are tolls. We are used to this in France, but it is not something I did not anticipated here.  Thing is, we cannot figure out how they work.  I am sure we will with time.

So we arrived at the house at 7.30pm, a whole 11 hours after we left Simpsonville.  As I say, a long, hard drive.  I am eternally grateful for purchasing the DVD players for the cars, they really helped the boys.  Both Isaac and Seb slept, though neither for very long.  But they did watch a lot of movies.

So the house...... We drove into the sub division thinking hmmmmm.... Lots of kids out playing, lots of cars in the road.  It appears to be a good mix of residential  and rented properties.  We have neighbors pretty near on both sides, no back yard, but a lanai covered pool.  We came in, the living area is large, connected to the kitchen area, again large.  Both these areas have tables that seat 6. The sofas are ok, the tv is a flat screen.  We are able to park our car in the garage which helps.  The master bedroom is lovely with a big shower, and a comfy bed.  There are 2 other rooms, one a double, the other with 2 singles.

We got settled, unpacked, and gave the boys a party plate dinner.  They eventually went to bed at about 10pm.  Paul and I got in the pool.  It was cold.  Paul stayed in longer than me.  

The boys woke up usual time this morning.  We watched the British Grand Prix, awesome race, but tires are a concern.  After, we let the boys in the pool.  They loved it.  There are loads of noodles, and other pool toys here, so they had plenty to play with.   We got them out just before lunch time, and went for some lunch, then for some shopping ( food stuff only).  As they all fell asleep in the car, we used the time to explore the Disney area and get a feel for where everything is.  We drove past Seaworld, around the Magic Kingdom, and very near to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

We returned back to the house.  I had a sleep, Oliver and Paul watched the rest of the NASCAR, while the other boys played.  We would have gone back in the pool, but the thunderstorms just kept on happening.  Once I woke up, I gave the boys their goodie bags, they loved them.  

The boys had a sandwich dinner, and we put them to bed at a slightly later than usual time.  Isaac is still awake, and letting us know it.  We are enjoying drinking holiday alcohol, and not enjoying putting Isaac   back to bed.

So tomorrow is Magic Kingdom.  We are planning on leaving here at 8am.  That should give us plenty of time to get there, get the boys creamed and pick up our tickets. Then we await the rope drop, and the walk up Main Street with the Disney characters.  Paul and I are both really excited.  Lets hope the boys behave, and we can have a good day tomorrow.

Watch this space....