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Mike’s 50th Trip to Siesta Key, Disney’s Boardwalk, Universal and New York, June 2014 - Part 3

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mike, Jun 26, 2014.

  1. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    DAY 3 - Monday 9th June - Busch Gardens

    Although tired, I have another broken night, waking at midnight (Did I hear a noise? Wife stirring?) which (at my now advanced age!) requires me to have a drink and visit the bathroom! I wake again at 1:50am (the earlier drink needs to get back out!) and, weary sigh, again at 3:50 - this time it's definitely down to Amanda, who is intermittently snoring and whimpering!
    I fail to drop off again and give up at 4:30. The beauty of a rented house is that I can creep out of the bedroom without disturbing Mrs J and make myself a coffee. I take it outside (deliciously warm even at this silly hour) and post some Tripadvisor reviews.

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    Amanda wakes naturally at 5:15 and joins me outside. It's humid, after last night's rain, and there is a bit of a breeze, but the temperature must be high 70s already. Rain is forecast again today (in fact the forecast for all 4 days here is a bit grim, however I will let slip in advance that all turns out well!) but we are off to Busch Gardens regardless.
    Our first draft itinerary had Busch on our 5th day, on our way to Orlando after leaving the cottage, to save some driving, but we became nervous about leaving our gear in the car all day. Opinions from various sources suggested that should we be robbed, our insurance would not cover the losses, so we decided to fit it in today.
    Anyone who 'knows' us (in life or through Facebook or forums) will be aware that Amanda and I are very early risers at home. We get up at 5am every day to walk our Staffie, Ruby (who has her own FB profile, search for Ruby Staffordshire-Jones) up a local hill. One of our joys is watching the sun rise, knowing that 90%+ of the population rarely see one, so we intend to be up early enough to squeeze in as many as possible during our Florida visit.

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    After showers, we walk to the nearest beach access at 6:15 and stroll along the edge of the surf, watching the pelicans and smaller sea birds taking advantage of the dawn light to harvest their breakfast. On our return leg, heading to the Village Cafe, we come across a small lagoon where a large number of different species are clearly pigging out on a captive stock of marooned fish and shrimp.

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    This beautiful, almost art-deco house is right on the beach as we leave for the café… who lives in a house like this?

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    Arriving at the cafe as they open at 7:00am, we are greeted like old friends by the same server, who remembers our drink choices. Although we are adjusting to the richer, holiday diet, we both feel like a change from bacon and eggs today. Pancakes and fruit seem to fit the bill, and we both add banana, blueberries and strawberries to the basic cake...

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    And I go for the Mr Greedy option and have two! They are truly delicious!

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    The bill is $25, we leave $30. We are back at the cottage by 7:45, and in the car, heading for Tampa at 7:50. We enjoy an incident-free, roof-down journey along busy but free-moving roads and arrive at Busch Gardens at 9:15...

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    … to find a line of cars waiting for the car lot to open. First time I've ever queued to get in a car park in Florida!

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    A notice advises that the lot opens at 9:30... in fact it's a few minutes earlier than that, due I believe, to the line of cars starting to back up onto the main road. We pay our $17 parking fee and follow the usual cone lines to a spot near the tram stop. The temperature is already 87 Celcius. A short tram ride later, we are admitted through the turnstiles and we join the rope drop line near the front.

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    My aged bladder starts talking to me, and, seeing other guests nipping under the rope to use the restrooms in the entrance area, I regress to 10 years old, and stick my hand up! "Miss" let's me in, with a smile, and I deal with matters outstanding.

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    After the National Anthem has been played (I'd forgotten they do that at Busch and Seaworld) we are admitted and speed walk to SheiKra. Which doesn't open til 10:30. (Deleted expletive!) Sigh. We head back to Gwazi, a wicked, wooden roller coaster, stow our gear in a locker (chargeable, which is a bit annoying) and are loaded within 5 minutes.

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    Wow! Double WOW! Had forgotten just how wild this coaster is! It looks like it will be fairly exciting, but unlike the original, traditional wooden Midway coasters, this one has banked curves and modern engineering skills included at no extra cost.. It is fast, it is thrilling, and do NOT under any circumstances ride it if you have a weak core or dodgy back or neck. It WILL bite you!

    We leave the ride, recover our gear and head back to Stanleyville to see if SheiKRa is open. After re-stowing the bags (another 50c) we wait in a short line for the ride (which is still being tested, with empty cars running) to open. It does, and we are admitted at 10:35.

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  2. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    In the next 20 minutes we ride our favourite coaster 3 times with no waiting. Fantastic! Worth the admission on its own! The last ride is front row, even more awesome!

    More coaster fun awaits. We restroom. Recover the bags, and march across the park to Kumba, riding twice, both walk-ons, in less than 10 minutes.

    It's very hot now, and we feel like getting wet to cool off a bit. I usually object to water rides without a poncho or a change of clothing, as I hate squelching round in wet shorts for hours afterwards, but in this heat I reckon we'll be dry in quick time. We head to the Congo River Rapids, but, as on our last visit in 2008, it is not operating due to some technical problem. A few dozen hopeful visitors are waiting in line, but we don't fancy gambling with our time and walk across to the next best splash opportunity, Tidal Wave.

    The first part of this ride is pretty dull, but the final drop certainly does its job and we are pretty well soaked! Ah well, in for a cent, in for a dollar as they say in Wigan, and we stand on the bridge and wait for the next boat to descend. Blimey! I have hold of the rail and almost get knocked off my feet. Amanda is less well anchored and ends up several feet across the bridge! No injuries though, and we exit satisfied, with not a dry patch anywhere!

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    Heading back across the park, we sit under SheiKRa to catch up on notes and watch the people getting damp in this splash zone. It's 12:05pm, and we are both getting a bit hungry - breakfast seems a long time ago. We've usually eaten pretty well at the Zagora Cafe near the entrance, so off we go. A carb free chicken salad each with a shared watermelon side costs $25. We sit on the hot terrace, albeit under an umbrella, to eat.

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    At 12:45 we restroom in the block behind the Cafe before ambling over to the final big coaster, Montu. Some clouds are building up and it looks like we might catch a thunderstorm this afternoon.

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    Montu is a walk on and we ride 3 times, back-to-back. This is a quality ride, very smooth, with incredible Gs.

    The only other attraction that appeals is Cheetah Hunt nearby, but sadly it also appears to be out of commission. Ah well, we've scratched our major itches here and decide to quit while we're ahead, and before it rains. After another visit to the restroom (we've been drinking pints of water all morning!) we exit the park at 1:45, using the free wifi to get a sat nav fix on my phone. It is with some sadness that we learn from Facebook posts that Rik Mayall has died suddenly. RIP.

    We have decided to head back the scenic route, across the Skyway Bridge and down the northern keys, intending to eat an early dinner at the Sandbar on Anna Maria Island if possible. A few miles into our journey the storm ahead finally breaks, with some force, and it leathers down, but only for 10 minutes or so.

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    In typical Florida fashion the skis clear and within minutes the temperature has climbed back up from 74 to 92 Celcius. We stop (no doubt illegally!) immediately after the toll at the start of the Skyway to drop the roof before heading on to this most scenic and dramatic of roads:

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    Amanda takes lots of photos as we cross. We are impressed with the long, parallel piers at both ends, serving as fishing/recreation areas for residents and visitors.

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    We progress through Bradenton (had forgotten that this place is a reasonably sizeable city, and quite attractive) and across to Anna Maria. This is a beautiful island, but a bit quiet for us for more than a visit. The Sandbar is easily discovered towards the north end of the island, and we park up in one of their numerous car lots before heading for the restaurant.

    It's reasonably busy, probably about half full, being between typical times of demand (it's about 3:45pm) and we have no difficulty getting sated straight away. We are offered decking or sand beneath our feet, and obviously we elect for bare toes on the beach!

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    The Sandbar http://sandbar.groupersandwich.com/ is a large venue, with a huge, covered terrace opening right onto a glorious beach. The menu is heavily oriented towards seafood, naturally, but there are the usual steaks, salads and burgers available too.

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    Our server is a little dizzy, and it takes her a few minutes to sort our drinks order (Prosecco for Amanda, Sam Adams for me) and even longer to take our food choices. In any other setting that might be cause for some irritation, but in this beautiful location, on one of the prettiest, whitest beaches anywhere, we can live with it!

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    When we finally get her attention Amanda orders crab-crusted scallops and fries, and I choose a variation of surf and turf (stuffed king prawns and (it turns out, a HUGE!) steak which I request ‘blue’). They come, inevitably, with a ‘free’ salad, and a platter of warm rye bread and whipped butter. Sigh. Few light meals for us this holiday!

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    The food is very good rather than exceptional. It’s not surprising that the Sandbar is popular, and we would certainly eat here again, but mostly for the location rather than fine dining or service. Overall a positive experience and we are glad we came. The check is $70 ($85 incl a possibly over-generous tip) and, after walking a little way up the beach to photograph the pretty houses (no jealousy at all, not us!) we head for the car at 5:00pm
  3. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    We take the island route, making our lazy way off Anna Maria onto Longboat key and finally Lido Key where we exit via St Armand’s Circle (basically a luxury end shopping area wrapped around one of the few roundabouts in Florida!) and over the bridge to Sarasota. The whole journey entails passing endless rows of beautiful houses, from beach cottages to millionaires’ retreats, any of which would be a delight to own.

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    Having ended up at the northern of the two bridges accessing Siesta Key for the first time this trip, I feel like I am doing it right at last! On previous trips this has been by far the more common way of approaching the island, and is instantly and pleasantly familiar. We glide slowly along the palm lined boulevards, (with more high-end residences) before passing through SK Village and landing back at the cottage at 6:30pm. It is still sunny and hot, with perhaps a few light, high clouds around. The forecast for today was pretty dreadful, but apart from the 10 minutes near Tampa, we've had a glorious day yet again.

    We dump our gear, make coffee and sit quietly on the patio for a while, catching up on social media and trippie notes.

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    After taking showers we leave about 7:45 and walk down the main road away from the village, to Beach Access 10 before strolling and paddling back along the water’s edge, facing the setting sun. We may not be ‘beach’ types, and couldn’t imagine sitting or lying around all day for a week, let alone 2, but we love, love LOVE these early and late strolls along the sand.

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    It’s an especially magical sunset tonight, with enough cloud to create stunning colours and effects. You won’t be surprised to hear that we take many more photographs! Our iPhone cameras don’t begin to do it justice!

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    Happy selfie!

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    We leave the beach just past the village, calling into the 7-11 store for a bottle of water, before continuing down the bustling strip, past busy, happy bars and restaurant. No where takes our fancy, as they are all either too busy to get prime seats, or the music doesn’t suit our mood.

    Ah well, we are nothing if not predictable! We carry on to the Blasé Café once more, arriving at 8:50, where we are greeted like friends and take the same patio table we had yesterday. It is a bit quieter tonight – the server explains that Monday is the only night they don’t have live music, but we don’t mind. Amanda tries the (oversized and strong) Margarita tonight, and I have a chocolate martini! It’s heavenly, and comes decorated with a smiley cat face!

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    The check for 5 huge and delicious cocktails? $38! I leave $50. We head back to the hotel, floating slightly, at 10:15.

    We relax on the deck for an hour or so, with a modest nightcap from our personal stash, and head to bed at 11:45pm.

    Another great day. Good night all.

    Mike & Amanda x

    TOMORROW – Mangrove Tunnel Kayak Tour & more.
  4. Tink
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    Tink Cead Mille Failte! Staff Member Administrator

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    Another great day. I love the Skyway bridge. :yes:

    Sarasota county is one of the best counties in Florida. The residents there care about the area, one another, and those who are not so well off as many who live there. It attracts many celebrities, usually as snowbirds. The infrastructure has built in supports for those who need help of nearly any kind. I was at the farmer's market there one time, and saw a small group of women pooling their resources (financial and knowledge of the area) to help someone. I'd live there if I could. :yes:

    So good that you are having such nice days. You know Florida weather! You can drive out of nearly anything! :D
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  5. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    I loved Sarasota and the Skyway Bridge is amazing :yes:

    I love the detail in your reports Mike, it's just like being there.
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  6. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thanks everyone. Am labouring through the rest of the report, although work and sleep keep getting in the way!
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  7. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    Another great day Mike. You are making me want to go there, but you know I won't drive. Loving all the photos. They make me very happy.

    Mags
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  8. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    Absolutely loving these trip reports Mike. I'm sure you do a heck of a lot more when you're out there than I manage to do! giving me some ideas though :)
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  9. BUTTERHEAD1
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    BUTTERHEAD1 Addicted to Mickey

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    We visit Sarasota and Siesta Key every year as well. We love it there, so much so that we are hoping to relocate down there in a few years. I am loving your trip reports and I am going to be sad when they are all done.
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  10. Watchinherskip
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    Watchinherskip Better known as "That Guy"

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    Yeah what she said, Mike great stuff. I too felt like I was there. Good job.

    Funny you mention being an early riser, I am not generally, but when on vacation....I get up before the sun. I had some great memories of walking the decks of cruise ships as the sun was rising and we were steaming across the Caribbean. There are only a few people up then as many had partied rather hard the night before.
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  11. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thanks for your kind remarks everyone. This first week back at work has been tough but am reliving the holiday as I labour through the report. Text for day 4 almost done! Just got to copy and paste 60-70 image links now!!
  12. Dawn
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    Dawn carpe diem-ing Forum Host

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    Oh lordy lordy please put a warning before posting bridge photos like that. :thud:
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  13. Tink
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    Tink Cead Mille Failte! Staff Member Administrator

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    You know, Dawn? When I saw those photos I thought of you... "Our Dawn won't be going over this bridge any time soon."
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  14. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Oops! Sorry Dawn!! I forgot about your phobia! I thought you'd weaned yourself off it after Wales recently?!!
  15. sarah
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    sarah Addicted to Mickey

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    Loving it still
    Can't wait for 4th one
    Have you thought about writing travel books x
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  16. Mike
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    Mike Imagineer

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    Thought, yes, believed I could pull it off? No. :shrug1::D
  17. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    Oh Mike I think you would be brilliant at it, you should give it a go :yes;
  18. sarah
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    sarah Addicted to Mickey

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    I believe you could
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  19. Mags
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    Mags Serious Forum Regular

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    Your reports are so detailed and the photographs are the icing on the cake. Go for it Mike!

    Mags
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  20. uscwest
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    uscwest Senior Cast Member

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    Absolutely gorgeous photos there Mike. We've never done Busch, mostly because we rarely leave Disney, but also because DW is NOT a coaster fan.
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