Our retirement adventures


on December 17, 2013

10 November 

Savannah. Skype Sarah and Harry, Ali off climbing. Harry’s talking is coming on fast with words being strung together. His understanding of what is said to him and his recognition of us on the screen is also fantastic for his age.

Drive the long drive to Orlando along the I-95 and the I-4, a journey of about 6 hours with stops at various Panera Breads for breaks along the way. 

Check in at Westgate – fast and efficient and we have the washing on within the hour.

11 November

Westgate Palace

Westgate Palace

The first day we have not had to get up with a breakfast deadline. Down by the pool before 10:30 to catch some rays before the sun goes behind the building. 

A visit to Publix results in a well stocked fridge; less dinners out now. 

12 November 

A day of only spending $5 and that on a pair of trousers for Harry! Another morning by the pool and a meal in. We are still tired! 

13 November

Too cold and windy to sit out by the pool today. Meeting Flic & Mel from Airport so try out journey without tolls, unsuccessful. Car has had a message for last few days saying “change engine oil now” so visit Budget desk only to discover that the car rental is only until tomorrow!  Help, panic! 

New car provided as old one required it’s first service but I need to contact CarHire tonight to see what the guys in Boston didn’t do properly.

(Why did Budget release the car for a long journey when it needed it’s first service? – Another stupid action by Budget in Boston.)

Collect Flic & Mel but it is dark by the time we get to Westgate so they don’t see much especially after a 15 minute wait in a queue of traffic.

14 November

Winter Park, FL

Winter Park, FL

Shopping day for the girls.

First though, visit Winter Park, for a ride on the lake and through the canals looking at wonderful canal-side houses.  This is apparently one of the most expensive areas for property in Florida.

Canal side property, Winter Park

Canal side property, Winter Park

Then off to Florida Mall, Premium Outlets and a few others for the rest of the day. Not brilliant weather, very cold for Florida at about 59F which is unfortunate for them. Dinner at Olive Garden, at request of the girls. 

Sort car out with another visit to the Budget desk at the airport whilst girls at Florida Mall. Person in front of me at car park exit has to pay $255 to get out, how long had she been there, I wonder. 

15 November

Strange car at Mount Dora

Strange car at Mount Dora

Girls off to Universal Studios to do the Harry Potter side whilst we go to Mt Dora, a lovely town so unlike anything else in Florida, more like the towns we have been through earlier; Blowing Rock and Chatham.

Mt Dora B & B

Mt Dora B & B

A nice B & B found by the lakeside, or so we thought by looking at it from the outside – unfortunately “Tripadvisor” says otherwise though.

Some car owner is obviously hooked on Betty Boop although not sure if the car goes, or is even roadworthy

Sal not well with a cold, how did she get another cold so soon after the earlier one in Washington?

Pick girls up from Universal and off to Bealls for more shopping. They had been on the Harry Potter ride twice and found virtually no queues for any of the rides so had “done” Universal in record time and were out early.

Not a good weather day though although warmer but wetter. Teach Mel how to play Canasta and she repays us by her and Flic beating us. They even get a round of 4 red 3s twice in a row.

16 November 

We opt for a trip on the Boggy Creek airboat rides today although sat nav lady wants to send us on a route that includes numerous toll roads, perhaps she is employed by the toll road association.

Not sure if they will actually go today as by now the rain is quite heavy and persistent, so unlike Florida weather we have encountered before. Wait in fish camp cafe with lots of Harley Bikers who were there for a Poker Drive, proceeds to charity!

Shy Aligators

Shy Aligators

We do manage to get out but am guessing we were the last of the day as the rain returned almost as soon as we had finished. Out over reeds mown down by previous journeys, our boat stuck to well defined tracks so as not to damage the rest of the vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Only a few Alligators seen, but some were babies, as young as a few weeks up to a couple of years old. Lots of birds scuttled away on the water as if they were walking on it as we approached at about 35 mph through reeds and other foliage growing in the shallow water. A couple of other birds were pointed out to us but with ear defenders on it wasn’t easy to hear our guide. 

Whilst we were waiting for the ride, one of the staff, Cody, a local who also lives near Stansted (UK) and performs magic shows, shows us a baby alligator rescued from a zoo and invites us all to hold it, not that scary though as his mouth was taped. Cody gives a good talk as well as £20 to Flic and a $2 note to Mel.

Flic in a shop, where else!

Flic in a shop, where else!

Off to Celebration for a late lunch at Antonio’s in by now heavy rain, but still muggy and probably the first really bad weather day we have had since we arrived in the USA. Quick view of the shops and off to Downtown Disney. 

Cirque de Soleil tickets for tonight bought on line last night but opt for the cheaper seats in Row KK which is high up at the back. Virtually as soon as we sit down we are upgraded to Row B, right down the front. Wonderful seats, you can virtually touch the actors and we only paid under half of what row B would have cost.  ($67 each we paid, $146 each would have been the cost had we booked Row B!)

As always, a wonderful show that you could watch over and over again as there is so much going on – loved the diablo girls. As it had by now stopped raining, we walk around as much of Downtown Disney as we could, it was crowded and as a result lively, even though a few parts covered in boarding whilst they re-develop. Good performances by Lady in Red and later, Man in Red near the Lego outlet. All of us shattered but they still manage to beat us at Canasta.

17 November 

Suite has a service today, the first we have needed. A much better weather day today and Richard takes Flic & Mel to Discovery Cove for their swim with Dolphins. Swim not till 2:45 so agree to pick them up at 4:15. We go on a luggage search for Mel as she and Flic have bought so much another suitcase is needed – now there’s a surprise. Night time visit to Shopping Mall for Flic & Mel. 

18 November 

Phone call from Service department, “do we want our rooms serviced?”  “No” is the response, “we had one yesterday”. More shopping for the girls and eventually Mel finds some shoes for Debbie’s wedding and a suitcase to take all her purchases back.   

Back to Westgate to try and watch the rocket launch at half one. Too cloudy though, so nothing to see, shame. 

Afternoon for both in Sea World followed by dinner in Planet Hollywood. Call in at a camera shop but put off by salesman calling a Canon lens “a piece of shit”.  Won’t be going back. 

Back at Westgate and we have had our rooms serviced despite the phone call! They even left a message on Flic’s bed to say they couldn’t do her bed and we should put a note outside if we don’t want a room service. Oh well, fresh sheets for the 2nd day in a row. 

Finally beat Flic and Mel at Canasta. 

19 November 

Flic and Mel’s last day with us.  They have only been here 6 days but have crammed so much in to it. Today is their 2nd visit to Universal Studios and we go off to Florida Mall for a JCPenny look around. Get tempted by a Sigma lens in the camera shop near JCPenny but decide to look on-line first. Glad I did as price about the same. 

Pick Flic & Mel up at Universal Studios, again no queues and they had done everything in 6 hours. Off to airport for their flights back to the UK; no chance of upgrade though but the good news is the luggage for Mel’s onwards Flybe flight to the IoM is under 20kg.

Return via Publix, a long traffic jam to a dinner at “home”. There is so much traffic in and around Orlando as compared with the other places we have visited. The lights at intersections seem to stay red much longer and a few intersections are just not phased properly in some instances. 

20 November 

Need cash. ATM downstairs charges $6 for the privilege. Collect Eagles tickets for Saturday, pay for parking and off to Altimonte Springs to see if we can find a Kuhl jumper – no joy, right colour but wrong size. Back to Florida Mall to get shirt & trousers for Harry, and back to Westgate for a lazy afternoon/evening although not good enough to sit outside.

21 November 

Another grey day and not worthy of even venturing into the pool area.

Loch Ness monster at Disney?  (no wonder they can't find it in Scotland)

Loch Ness monster at Disney? (no wonder they can’t find it in Scotland)

Have a mooch around Disney Downtown for a couple of pressies after a walk around the lake at Celebration.

Now off to the Premium Outlets at Vineland; what a horrible place this now is, hardly a word of English spoken, rudeness by many people and a veritable scrum in Carter’s.

Take photos of a couple of things Mo wants, to check if they are the right ones and exit leaving about 20 people in the till queue. At Guess, queue for over 5 minutes only to be told that the staff member who greeted us and told us that all the store was 50% off was lying! The item Sally wanted was not included!

A few items bought in Publix for dinner restored some faith in the area, the guy who served was very friendly. 

22 November 

A slightly better day but only just. Did manage a swim but no sun again. Off to Barnes & Noble for a book for Sal, a DVD (Once) and a pressie for Mel.

Chinese Beer

Chinese Beer

Dinner tonight at Ming Court, a favourite of ours when we are here. At first, lots of tables free but we obviously just beat the rush as by the time we left there were hardly any free tables. The meal ranks high among the meals we have had so far this trip. 

The TV has many programmes devoted to the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death and all American flags are at half mast. Lots of books and magazines in the shops but not sure how many people are buying them – perhaps the press are more interested than the American people.

23 November 

Our last full day in Orlando. There is really not a lot to do here when there is no sun unless you are into the expensive amusement parks and the shopping. The traffic is considerably slower moving and greater in volume now than we recall it was when we last were here, 4 years ago with increased waits at traffic lights and it is absolutely outrageous that the price of gas has increased over the last two days by 10c a gallon presumably because next week is Thanksgiving week.

Hey, that's a swimming pool for humans, not for ducks!

Hey, that’s a swimming pool for humans, not for ducks!

Glad we are not here on Black Friday as the shops will be even madder than they are now. 

Probably the best day for taking in the rays that we have had since we arrived in Orlando, not a great advert for Florida sunshine.

Not only do we manage a swim but a couple of ducks follow suit afterwards.

Finish packing and all set to go off to the Amway Centre for an Eagles concert. Mo sends message as to what she wants so drive to Premium Outlets at the top of International Drive but there are cars queueing to get parked so after a couple of minutes in the queue, give up and join the queue back to International Drive, up the I-4 passing virtually stationary traffic in the other direction and out to a Red Lobster for our last Orlando meal. Crab legs is a first for Richard – not as expertly eaten as Jim would have done. 

Eagles in Orlando

Eagles in Orlando

Off to the Orlando Amway Centre, easy prepaid parking but our concert seats are high up & sideways (to stage).

Bottled water at $6.25 a small bottle –  extortionate!

Warm up act quite good and get their CD free in exchange for my e-mail address. One song is in a film due to be released on 25.12.13.  We shall see if it is memorable. 

Eagles are tremendous, especially Desperado, Tequilla Sunrise, Hotel California and Take it Easy. Some guy nearby insists on harshly whistling for much of the concert which upsets Sal’s ears and two couples in the row in front nearly come to blows over leaning forward and obstructing the others view but otherwise a full house of appreciative fans. 

Leave halfway through the last song of the 2nd encore to beat the crowds and are so thankful as we are out of the car park in 5 minutes and down the I-4. Stop at garage to fill up with gas for tomorrow.

Quite a few customised cars circulating around, looking very smart with their wide wheels, jacked up suspension and bright colours. Not being racist, it is noticeable though that they are all occupied by young black people in, sometimes, outrageous clothing and I must say it was a little intimidating. Back at Westgate, the car park is virtually full for the first time in the two weeks we have been there.

Off early tomorrow for the drive to Miami for the last leg of our adventure, a cruise to the Caribbean.


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