Archive for April, 2015
After writing our last blog, we had five more days at Disneyworld, followed by three days in Sarasota. We are now back in High Wycombe!
On Thursday 9th April we went to Typhoon Lagoon, the water park we last visited when Claire as five! The weather was beautifully hot and sunny, but as a result the park was crowded, and we had a great problem finding seats. The boys enjoyed playing in an area designed especially for small children. Having missed out on Blizzard Beach the previous week, Sandie sampled the Lazy River and also the wave machine. There was a near disaster when a giant wave swept her off her feet and knocked off her glasses. There was no way she could have found them, and she was wondering how she could find her way back to the rest of the family. She asked the nearest man for help, and to her immense relief he managed to locate her specs quite quickly.
Our remaining Disney days were spent revisiting the other parks for the third or even fourth time. There were rides and shows we hadn’t had time for previously, as well as favourites we were keen to experience again. One evening we stayed late enough in the Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade – little changed since our first visit to Disneyland in 1976, but still a great show. It was good that we’d chosen to do it that night, because on our final visit to the Magic Kingdom (Saturday 11th) there was a heavy thunderstorm in the evening. Fortunately by then we’d seen all of the outdoor shows and parades, so we were happy to eat indoors and then go to see the ‘Laugh Floor’, a very entertaining show based on Monsters Inc. characters. During the show, a spotlight is turned on members of the audience, who appear on giant screens. This time, we featured, and the characters on stage made up a ‘High Wycombe National Anthem’ in our honour.
Back to Sarasota
On Sunday 12th April, we left our villa, spent a final few hours at Hollywood Studios, and then drove to Tampa airport, where we dropped Claire and the boys. Their flight was advertised as on time when we left them, but later we heard that it was delayed. There were concerns about whether they would make their connection in New York, but fortunately the London-bound plane waited for them.
We drove back to Jane’s house, where we stayed for three more nights. On the way we detoured to collect the keys to our condo, as our purchase had ‘closed’ while we were away. The next morning we went round to the condo, to await the delivery of furniture we’d bought before going to Disney. It all arrived as scheduled – the only problem was that the delivery men could not get the box spring (divan base) up our stairs! There is a turn in the stairs; the mattress would bend, but the box spring would not. The men had to take it back, and we now await one that comes in two parts.
Over the next two days we shipped stuff we’d already bought from Jane’s house round to the condo. And we did a lot of shopping. It’s amazing how many things you need when you are equipping a place from scratch!
On our last night in Sarasota we met up with Jane and Phil. Tuesday 14th April was Sandie’s birthday, and the following day was Jane’s. So we had a double celebration, dinner at the Crab and Fin restaurant on St Armand’s Circle. We sat outside, and had a great time eating, drinking and chatting in the warm Florida evening.
Back to High Wycombe
We left Sarasota late on Wednesday, and flew overnight direct to Gatwick, where Claire and Oscar met us. It was nice to be back in our flat for the first time since we set off for St Lucia on January 8th, though it was sometimes difficult remembering where everything was!
Friday 17th April was Charlie’s birthday – hard to believe that he is now six. Maggi arrived that afternoon, and we all went to the Pizza Hut (Charlie’s choice) for a family birthday dinner. We had three birthdays to celebrate: Charlie’s, Sandie’s and Maggi’s, all within the past week
Charlie’s birthday celebrations continued through the weekend, as his party was not until Sunday. On the intervening Saturday he and Oscar were taken to Chessington World of Adventures by their babysitter Laura and her friend Amy. This enabled Claire to join us and Maggi on a day trip to Scotland for Aunt Margie’s funeral. It was a long day, involving a very early start, a flight to Edinburgh and a drive across to Glasgow (there were no direct flights at convenient times).
It was a beautiful day, and the crematorium was in a lovely setting. After a short but moving service, we adjourned to the Pond Hotel – where we have stayed several times, and had lunch with Aunt Margie – for refreshments. Other relatives and friends left soon after 3, and we had time to kill before catching our plane home. So we drove up to Loch Lomond Shores, for a brief visit to one of Aunt Margie’s favourite haunts.
Funerals are inevitably sad occasions, but it was great to meet relatives that we hadn’t seen for many years, to revive happy memories and to celebrate Aunt Margie’s long life.
Our Disney passes were valid for two weeks. There are six parks in total (including the two water parks) and our original intention was to spend a full day in each, alternating with ‘rest days’. However, things worked out quite differently. A full day, from park opening (usually 8am) to closing (as late as 1am in the Magic Kingdom) would be quite tiring, and it seemed unnecessary to wear ourselves out when we had two weeks in which to see and do everything. On the other hand, a day doing nothing would be boring for all of us – and finding other things to do rather pointless. So we ended up going to Disneyworld every day, but kept the days (usually) relatively short.
Epcot and Blizzard Beach
The plan for Thursday 2nd April was to go to Blizzard Beach, but thunderstorms were forecast, which made it not ideal for a water park. We’d already scheduled Epcot for the next day, but Charlie was keen to have a preview, having heard that it was Opa’s favourite park. So we ended up spending most of Thursday and Friday there. This gave us plenty of time to explore Futureworld and the World Showcase Lagoon. Of course, we had to start with ‘Spaceship Earth’, aka the Giant Golf Ball. In the ‘Sea’ pavilion, the boys enjoyed watching the real fish and manatees, as well as going on the ‘Finding Nemo’ ride.
The highlight however, was walking around the lagoon, visiting all the different countries ranged around the lake. We discovered you could get Epcot passports, and have them stamped in each country visited. To Charlie, really interested in geography and flags, this was great. One evening we stayed to see the ‘IllumiNations’ show, with fireworks and laser lights on the lagoon.
By this time Oskie was fit again, but earlier in the week Ian had had a sore throat. He soldiered on, knowing that otherwise we would all have been stuck, as he was the only person insured to drive the car. But then Sandie caught the bug, and on our second day in Epcot she felt really bad. So the following day she stayed at the villa resting, while the others made their delayed visit to Blizzard Beach. They all had a good time, apart from Oscar who managed to fall off his ring into the Lazy River!
Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
On Easter Sunday we went to Hollywood Studios, our first visit since 1999 when it was relatively new and known as MGM Studios. We went on more rides, and the boys collected more autographs. We saw the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular (the set alone was mind boggling) and at the end of the day watched the Fantasmic light and sound show on the lake. It was while we were waiting for that show to start that Sandie picked up an email informing us that Ian’s Aunt Margie had died. Although she had reached the great age of 95, she was in relatively good shape when Maggi and Sandie visited only a month ago, so the news came as quite a shock.
Our visit to Animal Kingdom the previous week had been somewhat spoiled by Oskie’s illness. This meant that quite a chunk of the day was lost taking him to the Urgent Care Center, so we returned to Animal Kingdom on Monday 6th to make up for lost time. We did a lot more rides, got more autographs, saw tigers and a komodo dragon (real) and a musical show featuring the Lion King characters (not real).
While at Hollywood Studios, we’d noticed that children aged 4-12 could enrol for the ’Jedi Training Academy’ and take part in shows where they individually fought Darth Vader. We watched one of the shows, and the boys were really keen, but they had to be registered early in the morning (we were told places were always filled within an hour of the park opening) and we were much too late. So on Tuesday we got up early, Oscar became an honorary four-year-old for the day, and they succeeded in getting places for the 12.35 show. This, as you might imagine, was comprehensively photographed and filmed. The light sabre training was entertaining, especially as Oscar (by far the smallest of the potential Padawans) had problems activating his weapon. But it was great fun, and something we shall all long remember.
While waiting for the show, we tried out other attractions in Hollywood Studios. After lunch we took the boat which connects the park with Epcot, as there were a few more things we wanted to do there. While we were on our way, it began to rain – our first wet day at Disney. By the time we reached Epcot, it was pouring down. Fortunately the boat landing is close to the ‘UK’ section of World Showcase, so we were able to take refuge in the British pub!
We needed to get back to Florida before Claire and the boys flew out on Friday 27th March, so we left Maggi’s after lunch on Sunday 22nd. Luckily by then she was on the road to recovery following her eye operation. We drove first to High Wycombe, arriving in time to relieve Laura who was looking after the boys while Claire was in Dubai. She arrived home early the next morning, and then it was just a brief ‘hello – goodbye’ before we headed for Gatwick. The traffic was heavy, so the journey took longer than usual, but once we arrived, everything went smoothly. We returned our rental car and used our standby tickets to board the BA flight to Tampa. We landed there just before 6pm EST. We picked up a new rental car and drove to Sarasota, arriving at Jane’s house before 8.
We had four days on our own in Sarasota – just as well, because we had plenty to do. There was work: revising, editing and submitting Ian’s final report, writing a short proposal for another project (Ian received the invitation to tender on Tuesday, and the deadline was Thursday!) and commenting on proposals our colleagues were writing. Then there was our condo: we went to the title company’s office to sign the final papers, and to our bank to do the wire transfer. The rest of the time was spent shopping, mainly looking for all the 1001 things you need when setting up a place from scratch. We now have furniture on order, and a collection of stuff in Jane’s closet – but there is still a 3-page list of things to get!
Claire and the boys arrive
There was a panic during the week when Charlie developed scarlet fever – but fortunately he was fit enough to fly. The trio landed at Tampa on time, but very late – 12.30 am to be precise. We were at the airport to meet them. Not surprisingly, the boys fell asleep in the car on our way back to Sarasota, and we all got up late next morning.
In the afternoon we took them to see the new condo, then went to Siesta Beach. This time, it was Oscar’s turn to be unwell. He had ear trouble, so Claire got him some medicine and after crying a lot he fell asleep in the car, leaning against Sandie. It seemed a shame to disturb him, so she ended up sitting in the car with him while the others went on the beach. Charlie had a great time, so Claire suggested going to the beach again next morning. Oscar was then fit and lively, so they were both able to enjoy building sandcastles and splashing in the waves.
On Sunday afternoon we loaded the car with Claire’s luggage and some of ours. We did the two-our drive to Kissimmee, and moved into the villa we had booked for the next two weeks.
We were all excited about going to Disney, so got up early on Monday morning. We had pre-booked tickets via Disney London, on a special deal which meant we could spend as much time there as we wanted over two weeks. On our first day we headed for the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately it seemed that the system used by London was not entirely compatible, and they could not find our booking. After some delay they succeeded in doing so, but it meant that we missed the opening ceremony.
When we were inside the park, we headed (following the Schagen family tradition!) for Pirates of the Caribbean. Then it was the usual round of rides, parades and shows. The boys enjoyed meeting some of the Disney characters and getting their autographs (something our children did many years ago). The park was crowded, and some queues were extremely long, but by arriving early and using fastpasses we managed to get on several rides without waiting too long. But although we stayed until about 9 pm, we did not manage to go on all the rides we wanted to do. So we had a repeat visit (later in the day) on Wednesday, to fill in some of the gaps.
Meanwhile, according to our original plan, we visited Animal Kingdom on Tuesday. Everything is now highly automated at Disneyworld; you can book your fastpasses and meals online, and download an app on your mobile phone so you can make changes while you are in the park. The only problem is that everyone has the same idea, so things can get booked up very early! In Animal Kingdom the queues were generally not too bad, but we lost a large chunk of the day because Oskie was not well. He had had ear trouble on and off since Saturday, and around midday was in really bad shape: he cried continuously, and there were spots of blood from his ear.
We enquired at the First Aid Center, and they referred us to a service which collects people from the park and takes them to an Urgent Care Center nearby. Sandie went with Claire and Oskie, and they spent several hours waiting around. The verdict was that he’d had a ruptured membrane which was now healed, but had left him with an infection. So it was the usual antibiotics and painkillers – similar to UK procedures, apart from the cost!!!
PS we have a condo!
Tuesday was ‘closing’ (completion) day on our condo purchase. So we now have a second home in Sarasota! Doloris collected the keys on our behalf, and we shall pick them up when we return from Kissimmee.