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.