While in Orlando we alternated ‘rest days’ with full-on days out. After our day at Universal, we had a relaxing day spent mainly at our resort complex. In the morning we went to the pools (there were two, plus two hot tubs), and in the afternoon we ventured a short distance to do some shopping. We had dinner at an enormous McDonald’s (supposedly the biggest in the world), with a massive indoor play area. The really strange thing was that they did pizza and pasta as well as the usual McDonald’s fare!
Kennedy Space Center
Monday 17th April was Charlie’s birthday, and he had elected to visit the Kennedy Space Center. Unfortunately Oscar woke early with a temperature, not feeling well. So our first stop was to buy some suitable children’s medicine. After a dose he fell asleep, and was much brighter when he woke up, though ‘on and off’ throughout the day. At one point the fast road we were driving was closed, and we had to detour. Still, we reached KSC at 9.30. After a look round the rocket garden, we did the bus tour to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. There were two introductory films, and then a huge space to explore, with the rocket and lots of related exhibits. In the afternoon we explored the Atlantis Center: introductory presentations about the shuttle and a lot to look at, plus a launch simulation which Sandie tried.
Charlie wanted to have his birthday dinner at a Pizza Hut, and we finally spotted one in the outskirts of Orlando, when we were nearly home. But it was a really depressing place: we’ve decided that the Pizza Huts in the UK are now better than those in the US! When we got back Ian looked up photos of our two previous visits to KSC, in 1982 and 1989. It was interesting to do a ‘compare and contrast’, and see how different the place is now. It has expanded enormously, and become more like a theme park.
The next day Ian managed to lose his bridge tooth, so we had three men all with gappy teeth!
Back to Disney
After KSC we had another relaxing day, the highlight of which was playing mini-golf at Disney’s Winter Summerland – a great course with fake snow, ice, and Christmas music. Wednesday 19th was our big day, the climax of our trip, with a visit to the Magic Kingdom. The park was open 8 am-midnight, which meant a very early start in order to make the most of our day.
We were parked at Disney by 7am, collected our tickets and took the ferry across to the Magic Kingdom. We’ve been there many times of course, but somehow you never lose the excitement. We were at the castle forecourt in time for the official opening at 7.55, and then (following the well-established Schagen tradition) it was off to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. We managed to do five attractions by 10am, just as well because after that the queues were long, although not as bad as we’ve seen them sometimes.
Charlie and Oscar are now big fans of Splash Mountain; Sandie and Claire also love Space Mountain, and Ian’s favourite is the Buzz Lightyear ride (he managed three attempts at shooting the Evil Emperor Zurg). We attended Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial, and Oscar was picked as an apprentice. We had dinner (a buffet with visits from Winnie the Pooh and friends) in the Crystal Palace, but had to complain about the air conditioning – it was turned up so high, we were freezing and glad to be back outside in the warm!
Back to Sarasota
Next day we checked out of the resort, and paid another visit to Disney Springs, giving Claire an opportunity to do some shopping.
Then it was back to Sarasota, and more visits to playground, pool and the beach. On Saturday morning we did our usual trip downtown, to the library and the market. We had coffee on the bus, and the boys were able to try out the trampolines and the climbing wall – Oscar loves climbing, although this one proved rather difficult for him. In the afternoon we went to St Armand’s Circle for more shopping and another visit to Daiquiri Deck. On Sunday we did a similar trip to Venice, ending up with dinner at Sharky’s on the Pier.
All too soon it was time for Claire and the boys to return home. On Monday morning we took the boys to the pool while Claire did her packing. Then it was off to St Petersburg for lunch and a stroll along the bayfront, before saying farewell at Tampa airport.
The condo seemed quiet when we returned there on our own. But we had only nine days before our own departure, and a lot to do in that time. There was our usual cycle of activities, and saying goodbye to people we won’t see again until November. We needed to clean the condo, wash the sheets, decide what we wanted to take to England, and do our packing. In addition, Sandie was on a rota for feeding a neighbour’s cat while they were on holiday.
We needed to arrange to have our post forwarded, and change to minimum car insurance while we were away. The car itself had to be ‘put to sleep’ for the summer, battery removed and a protective cover put on. We succeeded in one of our goals for this season, to get Florida wills drawn up and signed. We’ve been busy with forward planning too: travel, possible work projects, and campaigning for the forthcoming election.
But we’ve still had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. Last Friday night we did our usual pub crawl, to the Bayfront where there were a number of young people dressed up for a prom. On Saturday we went to the Players again, this time to see the 1960s farce Boeing Boeing. On Sunday we went to Siesta; after our usual beach walk we met up with friends Robert and Kathy for lunch, and visited the ‘Siesta Fiesta’ art and craft show. On Monday evening we went to a meeting of the Europeans in America group: dinner and drinks at a pub that was new to us. Tonight friends are joining us for drinks, and to help us finish up some of the food in our freezer.
The weather has been consistently hot (30+), so we’ve made the most of the CP2 pool, and our lanai. Twice we went round to the bayou, where we sat in the evening sun, listening to the birds singing, watching the pelicans dive and the fish jump, and catching the occasional glimpse of a manatee. A real highlight was when a manatee and her calf swam right up to the deck. We love life here, and will miss it!