What a Carry On! Part 5 – Thursday 21st August 2008. The late night doesn’t keep us in bed any longer than usual and we are awake at 6.00am. We get up at 6.30, closely followed by the rest of the family. Dad tells us that they saw a large raccoon last evening, wandering past the pool enclosure into the wildlife reserve at the back of the house. Beth is on the computer first thing, checking a GCSE result for a part of her RS course – she’s done ok, with 85% so far. (She finishes the course next year) It’s trash collection day so we open the garage door to put the garbage bins out. Virtually all those already on the street outside neighbouring houses have been blown over by the winds or ransacked by the raccoons! Either way, the street is a mess. It’s raining and very windy, and all the forecasts indicate more of the same for most of the day. We talk over a coffee and decide to carry on as planned, with a morning at Animal Kingdom. Later, if it’s sill rough, we’ll visit a Mall somewhere ( I don’t ‘do’ shopping, but am outvoted by the rest of the consumers in the group, but I at least manage to get them considering Mall at Millenia instead of the Florida Mall.) We shower and prepare our gear before leaving at 8.20. Here’s the weather as we leave: AK is the closest of the parks and we are entering the car park at 8.35. I manage to create a bit of confusion after this, by following the car in front, which has seemingly missed the right turning and we both end up, with a few more sheep behind us, at the wrong side of the vast lot! A damp and resigned-looking CM sorts us out and we park up properly, at the most extreme end of a row, as per usual! Once everyone is poncho’d up (except Amanda, who won’t wear them!) we splosh over to the gates and are admitted at 8.55. We split up at the rope drop, sending our faithful assistants to get FastPasses for the Kilimanjaro Safari while the four adventurers head over to Expedition: Everest. This is a walk on and just as thrilling as I recall it. Mum doesn’t care for it though, finding it a bit rough for her – and due to the rain pelting our faces on the faster sections, we decide not to repeat just now. Bethany is also a bit out of humour, complaining that her Crocs are rubbing her feet. She has brought a couple of spare pairs of shoes however, (women!) and she changes them in the shop before we exit to find Dad and Adam. The boys are outside, with FPs for 920. We wait a few minutes until this time is reached, so that Amanda and I can get a couple more FastPasses for Everest for later (slot 10.00 – 11.00). Quick restroom (and I discover later that my darling wife is recording all my RR stops by taking pictures of the establishments I visit! Charming! It’s not my age, by the way, I just drink loads of water too ensure I remain hydrated! And, as editor in chief, I won’t be posting any of them anyway!) There’s a superb, jet-powered hand dryer her which intrigues us, and Adam goes in to test it! We stroll out of Asia towards Africa, enjoying the detailing and theming of the park along the way. I love the ‘mud’ pavements with their tyre tracks and drifts of stones. The Safari is a walk on and we don’t need the FPs. We enter at 9.35 and are off on quite productive session of animal sightings. They’ve (thankfully!) altered and updated the narrative a bit since our last trip, dropping the sickly ‘Little Red’ rescue nonsense. Due to the dull skies, bouncy ride and low light levels, however, most of our pics were disappointing, and I only post one. Heading back the way we came, Amanda and I use our passes at EE and arrange to meet the rest of them in Dinoland USA (I never fail to wonder who the heck thought the names of the lands up here!) It seems to have stopped raining and we aren’t pelted by the drops on this second ride. On exit, we take a couple of photos of the ride: Oh no, the Yeti got them! We exit at 10.20 and walk on to DLUSA.. where it starts to drizzle again. The family are milling about a little aimlessly, so we take control and steer everyone into Dinosaur. There’s a little congestion in the entrance, as the CMs are insisting everyone takes off their ponchos before getting any further inside – I suspect that this is to prevent them getting snagged on the ride vehicles, but they don’t offer an explanation. The Standby time is posted at 20 minutes, but we walk straight on yet again. Not a bad experience, if a little jerky, and, glory be, as we leave at 10.45 … it’s sunny! The four younger of us head across to Primeval Whirl, leaving the wrinklies to rest on a bench nearby. This time the 20 minute standby is accurate, and, having entered at 10.55, we are off by 11.15, happy, if a little bruised! Treading the same paths as before, we march briskly across to Flights of Wonder in Asia, arriving at 11.25 for the 11.30 show. There’s loads of space, and we are seated in the centre, close to the front and stage. The stage set is very well done – Adam spots Hidden Mickeys in the façade. This is one of my favourite attractions at the Animal Kingdom, and I urge you to go and see it if you can. We leave at 11.55 and decide to quit while we are ahead. I suggest Sweet Tomatoes for lunch, a favourite of the kids, although Mum and Dad have never been before. Using the tram, we are soon back at the car and, using Steve’s excellent map, we arrive at Sweet Tomatoes on I Drive at 12.45. We have just started piling our plates up when I hear a ‘Mike!’ from across the counter – Jakki and her family are on the other side, just having their last meal in Orlando before heading off to the airport after a full month of holidays! For those of you not familiar with Sweet Tomatoes, here’s how it works. You pay a paltry sum of less than $8 each for an all you can eat affair, (and my parents got 10% pensioner discount!) consisting of a fantastic salad bar (one visit only) followed by as many trips as you like to the hot food and dessert stations. Their soups are legendary, and everything is made fresh every day. Our (ok, MY) modest lunch includes the salad, two or three bowls of soup, all different; a spicy pasta dish and several pieces of foccacia and pizza. I finish off with muffins (blueberry, apple & cinnamon, buttermilk cornbread & chocolate brownie) topped with frozen yoghurt. Here’s a full (sample) menu: Drinks are extra – a couple of dollars for ‘bottomless’ coffee, sodas and lovely fruit juices. We are done by 1.40 and waddle healthily and virtuously to the car. The Mall at Milennia isn’t far away, although I manage to take a wrong turn before we arrive at the right place. Parking at the Macy’s end, we enter for an initial reccy and to find the restrooms (of course!) We make use of Macy’s own, on the upper level. I had been attracted to this mall before the holiday, as it seemed to be a smaller version of our own Trafford Centre in Manchester, and had a decent array of more up-market shops (I wasn’t intending to actually buy anything this trip, so there’s no point browsing TK(J!)Maxx or Top Shop when you can unfold sweaters and mess up displays in Louis Vuitton or Chanel!). Oh, and there are two Starbucks outlets! We split up, arranging to meet at the upper level Starbucks at 3.30. Amanda and I set off on an initial wander the full length of the Mall, on the lower level, from Macys to Bloomingdales at the opposite end, before strolling back again on the upper floor. It is attractively planned and laid out: not too many stores, and most of them of the ‘upscale’ type. We ‘do’ two of Amanda’s favourite shops, Tiffanys (where the staff are much more welcoming and less snooty than at the flagship, New York outlet!) and Jimmy Choos, where, to my horror, she tries on several pairs of eye-wateringly expensive (if, admittedly gorgeous!) heels. My darling is wearing her flat, Teva sandals, and the assistant is noticeably impressed when she climbs aboard a pair of 5 inch strappy things and strides off confidently across the floor as if she wears such apparel every day... I explain that she does! I feign a choking fit and possible heart attack, and in the ensuing chaos manage to wrestle Amanda out of the store and away from the danger area. Once we have put a few dozen stores between us and JC’s, I take her from over my shoulder and let her walk on her own again. There are attractive lounge areas scattered through the Mall, and a striking water feature in the central entrance foyer. We bump into dad and Adam along the way, although Adam is desperately seeking a restroom (having had 4 or 5 pints of ‘bottomless’ coke at lunch!) and so we continue on without them. It’s soon 3.30 and we head for the food court to wait for the rest of the family. It would be rude not to buy anything here today, so we get coffee from Starbucks. Actually, Beth has bought a couple of garments and my dad has found some discounted Crocs he likes. We leave just after 4.00pm and it’s leathering down once more. Always the gentleman, I leave the mob under cover at the entrance while I run for the van. It’s only a hundred yards or so, and I run fast, but I’m soaked to my George underpants by the time I scramble into the vehicle. The journey home is uneventful if wet. We stop at Win Dixie for the daily shop (they get worried when we don’t call!) which today includes a replacement for the pool lobster, which Adam has killed. Sadly, they are all out of lobsters and other monster crustaceans, so we adopt an alligator instead. It rains more or less constantly for the rest of the day, and we tend towards staying under cover on the lanai instead of swimming or soaking in the spa. I use the pc to check the location of our friends’ rented villa at Grand reserve for tomorrow, before relinquishing it to my impatient daughter who is experiencing MSN withdrawal symptoms. No one is particularly hungry after the mammoth veg fest earlier, but eating three or four times a day becomes habitual, so we have a sandwich and a beer at 6.00ish. We discuss the fact that it doesn’t look as though the trash collection has taken place, and after the snack I pop out to bring the bins back into the garage. Not long afterwards, we realise that dad is missing: I find him wandering the sidewalk at the front of the villa, searching for the ‘missing’ bins. (I remind myself that he’s thirty years older than me, so I should be ok for a few more years.....) The evening passes happily enough, with the kids playing Foosball in the games room and the adults drinking and chatting outside. The mood (ok, my mood) deteriorates a bit when Adam brings the happy news that his toilet is blocked, and assumes that his dear father can clear it for him..... I seek out the requisite plungers and attend to the problem, although not in the most gracious of tempers. The details of the operation don’t need airing here, but I require a shower afterwards before rejoining the party on the pool deck. If anything, the rainfall is even heavier now, and we note that the pool has crept up a good 6 inches over the last couple of days! By 10.30 we are all ready for bed. Goodnight! Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Jellyrolls!