Archive for February, 2011


Miami

The drive to Miami was shorter than expected and we discovered that the car park Lizzie had tracked down on the sat nav was only $5 for the whole day. After asking for directions from the security guard we quickly walked the three blocks to the nearest post office to send various postcards, letters, parcels and birthday cards home. That done, we returned to the car to drop some things off before wandering through downtown Miami in search of a Starbucks.

Cool car in front of an art deco hotel

Frappucinos bought, we got down to the real reason we were there, free Wifi and each checked email and attempted to use Skype (the connection was too slow for anyone at the other end to hear us). After consulting the guide book, we started the long walk towards Little Havana. The walk, and what we saw of Little Havana made us feel quite uncomfortable as we were obviously being watched the whole time. We clearly never found the good bits as advertised in the guide books. Walking back towards downtown we gradually started to feel more comfortable and stopped for lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Lime. The food was amazing and reasonably priced, and we were disappointed to find that although it was a chain, all the restaurants were in Miami. After a short wander towards the water we realised that our only option to get to South Beach was to take the bus. The bus was only $2 each and dropped us off only a block away from South Beach. Our first stop was a bar, naturally, where Lizzie, as driver for the day had a small beer and I had a massive frozen daiquiri, a mixture of pina colada and sex on the beach flavours. It was lovely, but very alcoholic, which helped numb my slightly painful knee for the remainder of the day.

YUM!

Finishing our drinks we wandered down Ocean Drive taking photos of the Art Deco buildings and then onto the beach where we paddled in the Atlantic and took more photos before heading back to catch the bus. It was just a short walk back to the car from the bus stop, and the journey back to the campsite for one last night was uneventful. Neither of us were particularly hungry but we cooked corn on the cob in the campfire as well as some baked potatoes to have cold for lunch tomorrow.

Fort Lauderdale

After an early start and a breakfast of jam sandwiches we headed for Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The drive wasn’t bad and the parking garage was both completely empty and cheaper than we expected, score! We started our day with a gentle stroll down Las Olas Boulevard, which is the main shopping area, popping into a few (somewhat overpriced) shops. After a while the shops tailed off and we were walking past various small peninsulas and waterways with huge yachts moored in them. Eventually we came to the huge drawbridge which took us over the river towards the beach. We sat on the beach for a while, and then wandered along some of the beachfront shops. Deciding to go in search of the Riverfront (which the USA book informed us was worth seeing) we were stopped by the bridge operator, who recommended the Water Taxis to us and gave us a leaflet. We stopped on a bench by the water to look over the leaflet and decided that although slightly expensive at $20 each it would allow us to see more of Fort Lauderdale. The Water Taxi was waiting as we arrived at stop number 4 and we sat back and enjoyed the commentary from the Captain and the First Mate as we travelled through the waterways.

Waterways and yachts

These are lined with huge yachts moored outside even bigger mansions belonging to the rich and famous, some of whom were identified by the commentary. At one of the stops we saw the largest cruise ship in the world, taller than the Hilton hotel that it was next to. We got off at stop 9 for lunch in the Cheesecake Factory and to put more money on the car to continue our adventures. There was a bit of a wait for a table in the Cheesecake Factory but it was so worth it. Having gone in planning just to have cheesecake, we eventually decided to share two appetisers and finish up with cheesecake. The food was amazing, avocado and chilli egg rolls and quesadillas with dips, followed by a slice of raspberry and lemon cheesecake for me and red velvet for Lizzie. Liz couldn’t quite finish hers so we had it boxed up for later. After quickly returning to the car park to pay for more parking we caught the Water Taxi again and got off at the Riverwalk, where we wandered for a while before catching one back in the other direction. These second two taxis were nowhere near as good as the first as they did not throw in any sort of commentary, which was a little disappointing. Before we knew it 5 o’clock had come around and we got off at the next stop hoping to get a taxi back in the opposite direction. Alas! A look at the schedule told us that the next one would not be there until half past, and with parking running out at twenty to, we were just going to have to rush. So we power walked and walked and walked and walked. We hadn’t quite realised how far it was… about 30 blocks, several miles at least. We arrived at the car hot, tired and thirsty, but although we were 20 minutes late, thankfully there was no ticket. Having caught our breath we began the drive back to the campsite. Thankfully, our noisy neighbours from the night before were gone and we roasted vegetables in the campfire and finished off Lizzie’s cheesecake. The rest of the evening was spent with each of us taking a turn on the laptop before bed.

A day of frustrations

Having looked forward to real beds for days, neither of us slept particularly well which was a bit disappointing. Once we were showered and dressed we repacked the car as neatly as possible before beginning the drive to Fort Lauderdale. When we eventually got there we realised it was Saturday and absolutely heaving. After a while of driving around searching in vain for a parking space we gave up, switched drivers and headed to the campsite via a petrol station. Although not exactly what we had imagined, Markham Park was fine. The showers weren’t the cleanest and the group next to us had essentially booked the campsite for a party, but it was a campsite. Tent pitched, we asked at the office for the nearest supermarket and laundrette and eventually found our way there. The laundrette was very frustrating, the clothes didn’t wash properly and the driers took SO long to dry, all in all a bit of a failure. We then tackled Publix to get food for the next few days and charcoal for cooking. By the time we got back to the campsite it was dark, so Liz lit the fire and started cooking the sausages (veggie) while I sorted out the cooler and food bags. Supper was a chilled out affair by the campfire with a couple of beers before getting ready for bed. Overall a somewhat frustrating day (we also managed to drop some sausages into the fire, never to be seen again) hopefully tomorrow will be better.

 

The day dawned bright and early and we were up, showered and all packed up in time to leave the campsite by about half 9. After a quick stop at the supermarket for suncream (Liz) and a giant straw hat (me) we headed back towards Kennedy Space Center. Our first stop was the Astronaut Hall of Fame, included in our ticket price, but situated just across the water in Titusville. It had lots of interesting exhibits with lots of memorabilia, both from the early space program and from the astronauts themselves. I must say, 45 year old orange juice that has been to space no longer looks very appetising, nor does fruitcake. There were also a number of fun interactive exhibits, so while Lizzie experienced G-Forces I tried landing a space shuttle in high winds (via a simulator obviously). Having finished the Hall of Fame, we headed over to KSC to see all the things that we hadn’t had time for on our previous visit. To say it was busy was an understatement, the queues at the ticket kiosks were huge, but smugly grasping our tickets we joined the equally huge queues for security and bag search, at least we didn’t have to queue twice. Having braved the queues, we collected maps and daily event schedules before heading over to the Space Shuttle Launch experience.

Space Shuttle

Having stowed our loose articles in lockers (we are expert at this now) we joined the queue for the ride. After several introductory videos we filed into the ride capsule for the launch simulation. It was amazing, simulating all the movement experienced during the launch, just minus the G-Forces, I was tempted to do it again, there wasn’t really time unless we were to miss something else. Coming out of the ride, we ran into Diana and Stacie from the day before and had a brief chat with them before exploring a Space Shuttle, very cool, and lunch. After a quick and very windy lunch (I couldn’t put anything down or it would blow away!) we headed through the rocket garden towards the Early Space Exploration exhibition and spent some time wandering through the exhibits there before taking photos and playing in the Rocket Garden. Lizzie climbed into a launch capsule, but it was a bit claustrophobic for me to try. She also had some fun playing with the interactive water fountain. After a brief wander down the Space Walk of Honour (mostly honouring donors!) we returned to the IMAX theatre, to look at the NASA art gallery and the Hubble Space Telescope exhibition. After a brief trip to Exploration Space and the presentation there, Lizzie headed in to see Star Trek live, but not being much of a trekkie myself, I returned to spend a bit more time playing on the interactive exhibits in Exploration Space and revisiting the shop. We met under the NASA sign and posed for photos before heading back to the car for the drive to our home for the night. After three days of space related activities, I think we can safely say that we were completely “spaced out”. Our home for the night was a somewhat dodgy Super 8 motel in a slightly dodgy area of Fort Pierce, nonetheless, the room was clean and there were beds! After hauling everything out of the car, we split the jobs that needed to be done. Lizzie sorted out the cooler and the food, while I cleaned out the car… with an audience of four bikers drinking beer. Oddly enough, I actually felt safer with them there, at least someone was there to see if I was kidnapped and dragged into the night. Luckily this did not happen and I returned upstairs to repack and spend some time on the internet before bed.

 

We woke up at stupid o’clock (5.30am) and quickly got ready before leaving the campsite at 6am to drive over to Titusville. A quick pit stop for petrol, 3 tolls and about 60 miles later we arrived at Space View Park. Unexpectedly, there was no public parking in the park itself, so we drove around in search of a parking spot. The local Masonic Lodge were selling parking spaces for $20 for the day, so we pulled in and paid up. They were very nice, and although $20 seems a bit steep, we were glad that we had paid to park somewhere safe since people who had parked for free on back streets returned to find their cars broken into and their fuel tanks drained, which would not have been a good end to our day. Not being able to park in view of the launch changed our plans of sleeping in the car somewhat so we gathered some stuff together and headed towards Space View Park, although we were headed towards the crowd where the big screen TVs and the press were, a wrong turn down the Astronaut Walk of Fame took us to a quieter area of the waterfront, where we were able to claim a spot right at the front just behind a waist-high hedge. This was at about 7.45am, in the next half hour there were at least two rows of us there, and it quickly filled up as the day wore on. The girls next to us, Stacie and Diana had driven all night from Georgia and were skipping work to be there. It was a pretty hot day (about 83 degrees Fahrenheit) and after midday the hedge provided very little shade, so I was very glad of the large umbrella that they had brought with them. Liz, having changed into her bikini in front of the crowd spent most of the day working on her tan. The day went surprisingly quickly, with the occasional trip to CVS or to Burger King to use the bathroom and enjoy the air-conditioning. Rather than hit the outgoing traffic straight away, we decided to go for a quick meal and a drink with Stacie and Diana before hitting the road after the launch, so Diana and I went for a wander to find somewhere. The first bar we found was suspicious right from the sign outside that proclaimed “Bikers Welcome” and everyone turned around as we walked in… maybe not there then. The next place we tried was much better, so we decided to head back there after the launch.

People crowding into the water for a good view

Although the place we were sitting was meant to have the launch broadcast live through the sound system, a passing boat that morning had pulled the wires loose, so we had no audio, but there were enough people around us with radios tuned in to hear the coverage that we had no problem knowing what was going on. As the launch time neared people started crowding towards the front, only to be sent back by the rather formidable ladies sitting behind us, people were even standing in the water to get a good view (we were very tempted to yell shark to see what would happen). Eventually, after a tense few minutes delay while they worked on a computer problem, the final countdown began.

Lift off!

The launch itself is difficult to describe, the countdown finished and the billows of smoke were the first thing we could see, and then with the rockets spewing underneath the shuttle took to the sky, going up and up and up, until we saw the solid boosters released and the shuttle disappeared from view. It was not until at least a minute after the launch that the noise started to reach us and it went on after the shuttle was no longer visible to the naked eye.

I know it's wonky... I wasn't really paying attention to the camera

It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, but it was over so fast. I do have over 100 photos though, so at least I have a record of it. Having packed up our stuff we hurried over to the restaurant to get a table. The service was terrible, but the food was good and we managed to kill some time to allow the traffic to ease a little. We parted ways with the girls, making tentative plans to meet at KSC tomorrow. Getting back in the car we joined the traffic leaving town. It was slow, painfully slow. What on a good day is an hour’s journey took us about 3 ½ hours. At about 10ish, Liz pulled over to the side of the road for me to take over the driving since the constant slow pace had caused her legs to cramp up. About 25 miles from Orlando the traffic let up a little, and after only one wrong turn, we finally got back to the campsite just after 11pm. Our plans for repacking and airing out the car and blogging went completely out of the window as we changed into our pjs and climbed into our sleeping bags as quickly as we could. Another early start tomorrow.

 

NASA

After two days at Universal we decided not to have such an early start and eventually arrived at Kennedy Space Center at about half past ten. On seeing the amount there was to do, this was not the best idea, which is why we were both pleased to find out that our tickets were actually valid for two days (not including launch day tomorrow). Having found this out we phoned our campsite to extend our stay by an extra night so we could come back to fit everything in. Our first stop was the IMAX theatre to see the first of the two shows, this one on the Hubble telescope. Although it was pretty long that wasn’t a problem because it was fascinating. Although the other IMAX film started just minutes after we came out, we decided to give our eyes a break and head out on the bus tour before the queues got too long. After about a 15 minute wait we were loaded onto a very air conditioned bus and taken to the viewing gantry, a structure several stories high from which we could see Launch Pad 39A with the space shuttle Discovery all ready for tomorrows launch. This was very exiting, even though it was still covered by all the servicing platforms. It took quite a long time to fight through the rude people to get photos of ourselves next to the shuttle, apparently we are too polite, you should shove others out of the way so you can get your perfect photo! After the viewing gantry we caught the bus again, this time to the Apollo/Saturn V Center to learn all about the Apollo program. By the time the introductory film was over we were both really hungry, so headed to the Moonrock café for lunch, passing under the enormous rocket in the process (more about that in a minute).  Lunch was a bit expensive for what it was, but I suppose with a captive audience they can set the prices to whatever they want. It was still cheaper than Disney though. After lunch we went back to the theatre exit to do the whole exhibit from the beginning. I took pictures of all of the Apollo Mission patches which were hanging from the ceiling as I walked down the room. The rocket was absolutely enormous, almost the entire length of the building, I couldn’t fit it all into one photo.

Discovery on Launch pad 39-A ready for launch tomorrow

We also watched a recreation of the first moon landing in one of the theatres and wandered around exhibitions of space suits and special tools that had to be developed for the astronauts to use (ie. A long handled scoop to pick up moon rocks since they couldn’t bend very far in the space suits). Having seen everything that we wanted to in the Apollo/Saturn V center, we got back on a bus to the main visitor complex. Our first stop was the local area information desk where we phoned the campsite to extend our stay as well as asking the all important question…where is the best place to watch the launch tomorrow? We were given a map with a few viewing options highlighted and advised to get there early to get a good spot, as well as to have a fun tank of gas and to bring plenty of water. That done, we had a brief wander around the shop before heading back to the IMAX building to see the other film, this time about the International Space Station. If possible, I found this even more interesting than the Hubble film, especially after attending a talk at Space Camp in St Andrews from an astronaut who had spent six months there. For me, it was too short, I wanted to know more, but there is comparatively little at Kennedy Space Station about the ISS because it is not yet completed. By this time it was getting quite late in the day so we visited the Astronaut Memorial before heading over to the Shuttle Launch update center to listen to a live presentation. As well as talking about tomorrow’s launch, he also talked about the other things that have been recently launched or are due to launch in the near future (some highly classified). This was very interesting and he also reminded us that our tickets were valid for another day since it was impossible to do everything in one day. Since closing time was very near, we headed to the shop to buy souvenirs, postcards, gifts and freeze dried ice cream before heading back to the car. The drive home was uneventful and we stopped off at Denny’s for dinner and popped into the supermarket to get supplies for the launch tomorrow, before heading back to the campsite for showers and sleep.

 

Yes, today was the day for Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, complete with the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We got up really early in order to be waiting at the gates when the park opened. Parking in Spiderman 453 today we joined the huge crowds heading into Islands of Adventure.

Entering Hogsmeade

On the other side of the turnstiles we joined the massive crowd being held back until the park officially opened at 9am. As soon as 9am rolled around people (us included) started running towards the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Eventually we made it in, before they closed it off and started issuing tickets for return later in the day. The whole place was amazing though, more so that I had imagined it would be. There are lots of pictures.We headed straight towards the ride in the castle (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) and joined the already 60 minute long queue. After about 10 minutes we reached the lockers to store our stuff and decided to go for the single rider queue and were on the ride pretty fast. It was really good so we rejoined the single rider queue and got to go again. Then we realised that all the cool stuff, the castle tour of all the classrooms was part of the queuing system so we joined the hour long queue just to see them. Right at the end of the queue we discovered that there was actually a “castle tour” that took you straight through…fail! Deciding that the shop was waaay too crowded we joined the queue for the Dragon Challenge (used to be the Duelling Dragons) annoyingly the guy at the entrance was not clear with his directions and we ended up missing the lockers completely and I was sent back to the beginning to stow my bag…grrr. I was allowed back through child swap to do the ride, and then we both queued again so we could try both rollercoasters. Our planned lunch at the Three Broomsticks went out the window with their lack of vegetarian options. Nevertheless we HAD to try butterbeer so we joined the queue in the Hogs Head. Butterbeer is really good, so good in fact that we came back for more later in the day. I have no idea what is in it, but it is really nice. The whole place was so busy that we decided to return later in the day rather than face a 45 minute wait to even get inside any of the shops. Just before leaving Lizzie was tapped on the shoulder by a strange man, it turned out to be Ed, the lovely paramedic who had looked after me so wonderfully the day before. He was surprised to see me up and about since I had looked so ill the day before, but said he was glad I was feeling better. Aww, we love Ed, Lizzie particularly! Leaving Hogsmeade we popped by the Forbidden Continent for Poseidon’s Fury, which I might add is crap now they have tried to update it, I much preferred the original Zeus vs. Poseidon version… who the hell is Darkenon and what is his Classical significance?!! By the time this had finished we were really hungry, so headed over to Seuss Landing and Circus McGurkus Café Stoopendus for lunch, although we were disappointed to see that the Green Eggs and Ham Cafe was closed.

The closed Green Eggs and Ham Cafe 😦

I think by this point we can safely say that theme parks are the home of uninspiring vegetarian food, with perhaps one choice per restaurant if you are lucky… poor Liz, cheese pizza it is. After lunch it was time for some Dr Seuss themed rides the Caro-Seuss-el and the Cat in the Hat ride before heading towards Toon Lagoon for the water rides. To my dismay, and Lizzie’s joy (she isn’t a fan of log flumes) Dudley Do Right’s Ripsaw Falls was closed, but we did go on Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges, which was fun, but very very wet. I was soaked to the skin and did not dry out for several hours. Making our way back through Marvel Superhero Island, I waited in the sun (to dry out a bit) while Liz went on Dr Doom’s Fear Fall before we both headed over to the Incredible Hulk Rollercoaster. It is truly amazing, accelerating half way up the first incline (the bit that most rollercoasters do slowly) and twisting you upside down straight away. It was well worth the extra wait for the front row seats, which I have never done before. The speed of that helped dry us out a bit, but I imagine the person after us was a little grossed out to find a damp seat awaiting them (sorry whoever you were). After the Hulk we headed back to the Spiderman ride and froze in the indoor air conditioned queue in our still damps clothes. After that we headed back to Seuss Landing to go on the skyride that we had missed before returning to Hogsmeade for more Butterbeer and to browse the shops at our leisure.

Sunset over Hogwarts Castle

Both of us resisted the urge to buy wands (at $32 dollars each it was a bit difficult to justify) and enjoyed signing our credit card receipts for our smaller purchases with feather quills. After a final butterbeer while watching a dance off between Beauxbatons and Durmstrang students we headed to Jurrasic Park to go on the riverboat ride. I was slightly persona non grata after this, I had forgotten that it was a log flume… oops. It was almost closing time so there was no queue but we did get wet even as we sat down since the ride had clearly been running with empty seats. This ride is seriously scary in the dark, and then it takes you inside and up and up and up.

Posing with the students from the dance off!

Then just as you are attacked by a huge dinosaur you plunge into the darkness and come out in a huge plume of water at the bottom. I was almost dry before that as well. Apparently its one of the highest log flumes in the world, with an 85 foot drop… fun times. We headed back towards the exit and could not resist going on the Hulk rollercoaster one last time, its brilliant in the dark by the way, before heading back to the car and the campsite. Back at the campsite we were not up for very long before heading to bed after a pretty exhausting day.

 

Universal Studios

Having bought our tickets over the phone the day before we headed to Universal safe in the knowledge that we were saving money on the gate price. Parking in Spiderman 455 we joined the crowds of people streaming towards the entrance. Luckily most of the crowd veered off towards Islands of Adventure as we headed to the gates to collect our tickets and after a brief queue at the turnstiles we were in. Our first stop (since it was right in front of us) was Shrek 4D, a 3D show with the added twist of moving chairs and other special effects. It was good fun and a gentle way to start the day. This could not continue however and our next stop was the Rock it Rollercoaster, where you choose your own music to listen to as you go round and they also film you so you can buy a music video of the ride (unfortunately this didn’t work all day though). I was a bit apprehensive of this ride since it starts with a completely vertical ascent… scary.

Rock it Roller coaster complete with vertical ascent!

I did feel a bit like I was going to slip out of the seat as we went up, but the ride itself was absolutely amazing. We both came off agreeing that we had to go again later in the day. Our next stop was the Twister show/experience which started with an introductory video then put you in a mock set while they staged a twister which was pretty cool. On our way to the next ride we realised that we were at the right place and time for the blues brothers show so we waited and watched that which was really good. We then went on the Revenge of the Mummy ride which is a rollercoaster in the dark with things that jump out at you. The Disaster show was pretty fun, volunteers got to act out parts and then we all were loaded onto a subway train to take part in the finale of the disaster film as commuters in a subway while water gushed in and explosions went off. It was all pretty good fun. Our next stop was the Jaws ride where we tried valiantly not to get too wet (we managed pretty well) before heading towards the Men In Black ride. This was another shooting at targets type of ride and was pretty good fun and didn’t have too long a wait either. The queue for the Simpsons ride was massive so we decided that lunch would be a good idea. After a pretty long queue we sat down for a quick lunch before heading over to Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue which was a fantastic show. Unfortunately the headache that had started before lunch was getting progressively worse and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. We headed back across to see what the queue for the Simpsons ride was (still massive) and then went to sit in the shade for a while as I was feeling so awful. Liz suggested that we go over to First Aid to see if they had a place that I could lie down for a bit. We arrived at First Aid and were looked after wonderfully by Ed, who gave me a place to lie down, found me a blanket when I got cold and gave me some painkillers as well as keeping Liz entertained while I was having a sleep. About an hour and a half later, feeling much better I decided that I was ok to leave. We were informed by Ed that it was the hottest day of the year so far so I didn’t feel quite so pathetic that the sun had affected me so badly. We returned to the Simpsons ride, which was a bit of a disappointment, kind of like a 3D rollercoaster simulator, then went on the Woody Woodpecker kiddy rollercoaster which was so rickety it was a bit painful. Our final two stops were the ET ride (a little tame but fun) and the Rock it Rollercoaster again, this time to different music. Although we had planned a meal in, we decided that I could do with real food after feeling so ill so stopped off on the way home so I could at least have something green for dinner. When we got back to the campsite I pretty much went straight to bed, hopefully this won’t happen again tomorrow, I don’t have time to feel ill!

 

After a short lie in on Saturday we packed up the tent, checked out and drove over to Downtown Disney to get all our shopping done. We then spent a good few hours wandering around the shops buying gifts for ourselves and others. Once we had finished with shopping we headed to the Ghiardelli Soda Fountain to have ice cream sundaes for lunch. Rather than go for any of the ones on the menu, it was cheaper (and more fun) to create our own so we did. They were enormous, and served in a waffle shaped like a bowl with the edges dipped in chocolate… yum. We chose a table where Liz could sit in the sun and I could sit in the shade. Unfortunately this proved to be Liz’s downfall, having finished the ice cream we both proceeded to eat our waffle bowls, trying to bite through the bottom of her (much more melted because of the sun) chocolatey waffle bowl it exploded all over her… chocolate everywhere. I, helpfully, could not stop laughing, both at her predicament and the look of surprise on her face. Having found a bathroom where she could wash off all the chocolate we then got back into the car and headed towards our next campsite, a mere 6 miles up the road. We checked in and pitched our tent before spending the afternoon skyping home and playing on the internet in the sun. That evening we headed out for dinner and then to the supermarket to restock our food supplies before heading back to the campsite. Sunday was similarly lazy, I skyped Mum in the morning and had a long chat and then spent the afternoon trying to catch up with my blog and uploading photos. All in all, a much needed rest after the intense four days spent at Disney.

Friday morning dawned, well, noisily. The new family next to us had been talking loudly (parents not kids) since 5am and we were not impressed. After showers we headed out to catch the bus to Epcot. Epcot has always been my favourite park, probably due to the fact that the first times I came to Disney we used to return to Epcot most evenings to have dinner at a restaurant somewhere on the world showcase (the best, either Japan or the steakhouse in Canada. The worst – France, who kept us waiting for hours, served a child’s burger rare and complained that James was asleep at the table – he was 9, jetlagged and we weren’t seated until really late). Anyway, we arrived and went straight on Spaceship Earth (the ride inside the big golf ball). Jim and I used to go on it every night as we arrived in the park, sometimes several times. But, THEY’VE CHANGED IT! I was a little disappointed, although the new interactive version is fun, its not the Spaceship Earth that I know and love. Sad face. Our next stop was straight over to Soarin’ for fastpasses since it is another popular ride, it seemed that many people had the same idea. Since we were in the building, we went on Living with the Land, a boat ride through various greenhouses and labs to do with the environment. I always remember this ride since on my very first trip to Disney (1997) this was where the crowd stressed Jim out so much that he ran out of the queue and outside, to take out his stress on a defenceless metal bin. The upside of this though was the ride operator telling Mum that guest services would give us a pass to skip the queues since he found them so upsetting…score! This was brilliant and made the whole holiday, and the next two Disney holidays much more fun for all of us not having to queue. We headed over to the Finding Nemo ride and took videos of the seagulls and then Liz discovered that she had lost her glasses case, with her ticket and fast pass in it. She searched her bag and her pockets and we divided to retrace her steps. I eventually found it, it had fallen from her pocket on the ride and they had it at the operation desk, phew. Nemo was fun, if a little tame and finished in the seas pavilion where we looked at the various sea life including manatees, dolphins, eels and real clownfish. Looking for Liz’s glasses case I had been pushed on the stairs and landed oddly on my bad ankle, and it was pretty painful. We headed to Ellen’s energy adventure which involved lots of sitting down and Liz asked about the possibility of borrowing a wheelchair. ($15 appaarently). Luckily the 40 minute sit down was exactly what it needed so the wheelchair was unnecessary in the end. Our next stop was the awesome Test Track ride, where you sit in a “car” and become a crash test dummy for various tests. We got fastpasses for later then headed down the single rider queue. Reunited at the exit we headed quickly over to soarin which was fantastic. You sit in 3 rows of seats with your legs dangling and then the three rows lift up (a bit like a ferris wheel) to put you into the centre of a huge concave screen and as the seats move the film shows views of California, as if you are flying over it. Unfortunately the queue remained too long for us to go back for the rest of the day. After Soarin’ it was time to head to my favourite part, The World Showcase. We were really hungry at this point and had planned to have a big(ish) late lunch and to skip dinner in order to catch the fireworks. The vegetarian options in Mexico left a lot to be desired and although tempted we bypassed the $10 frozen margaritas (pints of). We found decent food in Norway and I really enjoyed my Ham, cheese, onion and apple toastie. We then headed back to Mexico to start the showcase properly. The ride was a bit tame, but fun none the less. We spent the afternoon wandering through the countries – Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, “The American Adventure” (yes we both posed next to the sign), Japan, Morocco, France, UK and Canada. We had Kaki-gori (shaved ice with fruit syrup) in Japan which was delicious before continuing.

Me and Alice

In the UK we waited to meet Alice (in Wonderland) and I decided that I want her job – dressing up, posing for photos and play acting all day – excellent! We then headed back to Test Track to use our fastpasses and play in the cars in the showroom. Liz then went on Mission Space while I went to play in the Innoventions pavilion. (I can’t go on Mission Space because the last time I tried the tiny ride capsule thing really freaked me out… I would make a rubbish astronaut). After meeting up we went on Spaceship Earth again and then went to the Photocenter to look at our photopass pictures. We were really disappointed that the professional Disney photographers are really rubbish. Most of the photos were either blurry or unflattering, I think we really amused the guy helping us by being so critical of ourselves in each one. The biggest disappointment was the Magic Kingdom pictures in front of Cinderellas castle, he had managed to angle the pictures so that we were blocking the castle completely… FAIL! Deciding that it was our last night and that we were hungry, we headed to China for some dinner before staking out a premium firework viewing place in the UK. The fireworks were good, but again, not quite as good as the Magic Kingdom, but a good end to the week none the less. After the fireworks we joined the hoards heading for the exit and just squeezed onto a bus back to the campsite. Back at the campsite we were slightly alarmed/irritated to find that people had arrived and created a street party, with loud music, screaming children and people everywhere. Somewhat grumpily we went to bed, all prepared with the phone number for security, which we did not end up using since we managed to fall asleep.