What a Carry On! Part 7 – Saturday 23rd August 2008 You’ll probably realise by now that Amanda and I don’t lie-in much – we are up and about at 5.00am at home, walking the dog and getting a gym sesh in before school runs and work, and so far this holiday we’ve been rising by 6.00 or 6.30 at the latest. Well, I set a new record today, when I open my eyes to daylight (hey, sunny daylight at that!) and, peering at my watch, note that it is 8.30! There’s no sign of Amanda, and I try to piece together the events of last night. I am quite worried by the fact that I have absolutely no recollection of the last part of the evening and absolutely no idea how we got home! Worse, I am convinced that I left my credit card at Jellyrolls. I’m not hungover as such – we tend to drink plenty of water during and after a night out – but I am a bit wobbly. I go downstairs to find everyone up and dressed, and make coffee to drink on the lanai with the adults. We’re too late for the planned waterpark, and to be honest, I need an hour or so to recover. Telling Amanda of my worries about the credit card, she produces it, with the check for $200, and, confusingly, $200 cash that we didn’t have when we went out. We presume that Maggie and Julie have both (drunkenly) paid us $100 each for their share! Everyone seems fairly happy to have a more relaxed start to the day, which I am relieved at, and we discuss options for the rest of it. I suggest doing Boggy Creek Airboats. On a previous trip in 2003 my kids, parents and I visited the site at East Lake, so this time we choose the larger lake at Southport Park. Showers and breakfast are disposed of, and we set off in lovely, hot sunshine, at 10.50. Southport Park is at the bottom of Ponciana Boulevard, 19 miles from its junction with the 192 between markers 10 and 11. Traffic is light….. … and we arrive at 11.40. I park up on the dusty lot to the side of the main buildings, overlooking a huge, blue lake. As we exit the car, I feel stinging on my sandaled feet and look down in horror to see that I am standing on a nest of fire ants! The little swines are biting me for Florida, and I brush them all off as quickly as I can – my feet are marked by angry red blisters in a dozen or more places and sting like hell! It’s beautifully scenic. We walk into the air-conditioned office/shop and wait in line for a few minutes before booking on the 12.25 boat. After restrooming and a quick browse of the tacky gift shop (with a huge stuffed or artificial alligator!) ..we venture outside to sit under the shelter, watching the other visitors and airboat arrivals. I can’t remember why I was posing like this… answers on a postcard please.. The staff are trying to drum up a bit of extra income by offering to take your photo with a small alligator… I’m not mad about the idea that his/her snout is taped shut (for obvious reasons) but the woman tries to assure us that they suffer no ill effects from this, and they are from a ‘pool’ (literally!) of captive ‘gators that will never be released into the wild (due to familiarity with potential human prey?) and they are rotated to ensure a few weeks rest between photo sessions. Hmm. To be honest, I prefer my wildlife in its own setting, ideally natural, and surely the best way to serve the alligators’ best interests would be to leave them alone? Just my opinion. We are called to board at 12.15 and, picking up a set of ear defenders each, take our places on the first couple of rows. The guide is very friendly, and welcomes everyone to the tour. He does warn us that the spray will probably affect us today, particularly in the front row, but it’s hot, so we don’t mind. Off we go, ear defenders (essential!) in place, out onto the lake. The tour consists of sections of exhilarating speed (where we do indeed get wet!) and slower periods, cruising the margins to see the wildlife. We visit an alligator’s ‘nest’ with mom and babies (hard to photograph) and several cranes and herons. A group of wild Osceola Turkeys are grazing at the lakeside (the guide tells us they are in fact in an area normally well out of the water.. the lake has risen 18” in this week’s storms!) … … and we are treated to the majestic sight of a Bald Eagle flying to a perch in the trees to one side. (Just too blurry to post, I’m afraid.) The half hour trip takes.. well, 30 minutes, exactly! By 1.00pm we are back at the car (registering 98 F on the thermometer in the full sun, settling down to 93 as we head back) and I set our nose towards Celebration where we plan to have lunch. We pass this familiar site on the way…. Only in America, eh? I park near the Hotel, more or less opposite Sherlock’s, at 1.40 and we cross to the Market Street Café. The Café is busy inside, but we ask to eat on the patio and are seated immediately. Although the lovely view across the lake is blocked occasionally by minivans, it’s a peaceful and pleasant spot to have lunch. After a round of drinks have been served, we order as follows: Mum & Dad: salmon-fishcake burgers (you have noticed they always order the same by now, haven’t you?)… Adam & Amanda: burgers and fries: Beth: veggie burger: Mike: Nachos from the starter menu, and a Thai chicken salad: I naively assumed that my two lighter dishes would equate to one normal meal; not a bit of it! The nachos come on a huge plate, and the salad is served in an equally vast bowl! Ah well, England expects and all that…. I set to with enthusiasm! The food is well cooked and tasty, and we all enjoy the meal, even though I can’t finish mine. The check is $95 including tip. We sit and finish our drinks, watching the grakels muscling in for scraps at adjacent, empty tables. It’s just after 2.30 when we drag ourselves off our chairs and across the road to Starbucks. One of my personal, Florida treats and traditions is to drink a cup of coffee on the rocking chairs at the lakeside. Previously, this has always been a Barnies coffee, but Starbucks took over here a couple of years ago. We send the kids to secure some rockers and buy our coffees before rejoining Adam and Beth on the lakeside. This is lovely! I send mapman/Steve a text (another little tradition) telling him I’m raising a cup for him on our rockers! The wind is getting up a bit and the skies are darkening across the lake. A polite Mexican chap in overalls asks us to move to the side while he collapses the umbrellas, as there’s apparently a storm approaching! Wonderful! Fay’s gone, but this is just a typical, summer weather pattern for Florida! We adjourn to the large, open sided gazebo above to finish our drinks, in case it rains. And rain it does! Mum and dad hide behind a pillar as the huge drops blow in from across the lake: ..and it looks like all the excitement has proved too much for Adam, again! After an initial, enthusiastic squall, it looks like it’s settling down into sustained rain, so we finish up and head back to the villa, getting briefly lost on the way, as I try to find which of the seemingly identical, residential streets leads to the High School, which I know is located at the end of World Drive, a couple of miles out of the centre. (Mum and Dad are going to a church service there tomorrow). We make a regular stop at Winn Dixie on the way back, arriving around 4.00pm in a lightening storm. The weather eases a bit, and Amanda and I shower before soaking in the hot tub and pool for a couple of hours. Bethany disappeared off to bed, obviously tired and grumpy due to the return of the hot weather. Adam joins us in the pool, and mum and dad rest on the lanai and inside. No one feels hungry after the sizeable lunch, and we just eat a sandwich for tea. It appears that the rain has stopped for the present, and with the prospect of a fine evening, everyone except Bethany elect to go to Epcot for Illuminations. I know we have a cruise booked for tomorrow, but it could be rained off, and I have missed my favourite show thus far this holiday. We head out around 7.00 and drive to Epcot without incident, arriving by 7.25 and finding no one in attendance at the toll booth, so we enjoy free parking. I drive all the way up to the front and take a spot close to the monorail track for a quick escape later. It’s very pleasant, around 75 degrees and dry. It seems fairly busy around the entrance plaza, with people leaving the park (what, before Illuminations? Are they mad??) but less crowded once we walk through to the Innoventions area.. We linger in the plaza for a while, in case the fountain starts to play, but by 8.05 it’s obviously not going to kick off on the hour, and we continue into the World Showcase. Wandering slowly anti-clockwise, we pass through Canada and the UK pavilions. Epcot is a fantastic place in the dark: beautifully lit and laid out for the simple pleasure of strolling. Our ramble takes us as far as the US pavilion, where we buy some popcorn from the new(ish) kiosk opposite the theatre. It’s ok, if a little greasy for us, and we call at the loos in Germany to wash our hands before taking up post in front of Italy for the show. Well, it’s fantastic. My favourite show, with my favourite lady, my dear parents and one of my kids, on a fine evening… even with the globe missing (it’s in for refurb, apparently) it doesn’t disappoint, and all too soon we are wandering towards the exit to the sound of Promise, followed by the theme from the much missed Tapestry of Nations parade that finished in 2002… Way-la, Way-la Hay-la….. I am at peace. Passing China, we can hear the bull frogs calling and stop off to see if e can spot any in the ornamental lake there: Amanda and I saw dozens a couple of years ago! There are one or two, and they’re huge! An excitable American guy (possibly drunk!) climbs over the fence to try and get hold of one! It’s 9.45 when we reach the car, and the journey home is a breeze; we arrive at 10.05. Beth is up, having spent most of the night in bed, where she soon returns. The rest of us sit out for a while, and enjoy a glass of wine before retiring around 11.00pm. It’s been a good day. Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: Typhoon Lagoon, Spoodles & illuminations Cruise.