Florida...24 nights, 8 theme parks, 3 water parks, Kennedy Space Center, 4 and a half birthdays, only 4 visits to McDonalds...exhausted, I think we need a holiday to recover, Las Vegas here we come!
Our time in Florida has been a “holiday within a holiday” as the rest of the trip will hopefully be a bit more relaxed. We have had a manic three weeks here rushing around trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day, marching top speed around the parks, ticking off each ride from the map...hmm, sounds familiar!
Before Mum and Dad McQuillan left to head back to the freezing shores of Scotland we visited Seaworld, the highlight of which was watching a dolphin blow bubbles and then play with them underwater and the Dolphin and Bird show was a close second favourite. The only downside to this park was the small and often overcrowded tanks and enclosures which the animals were kept in, we all felt there was a bit more that this park could be doing for animal welfare.
For Peter's 7th birthday we visited the Kennedy Space Center, which is a great day out as there is loads to do...the boys however chose to spend most of the day playing in the kiddie play park (as I stressed out about everything we were missing while repeating to myself “I must be more chilled out”).
We were lucky enough to see two shuttles out on the launch pads at Cape Canaveral (which we were informed is pretty unusual). We had been hoping to see the launch of one of these shuttles, the Altantis STS-125, while we were in Florida. As we watched online for information on the launch the date had been creeping further and further forward, with the latest update being 14 October, the day after we left Florida. Then on the day we were at Kennedy the mission was put back until 2009. The shuttle had been going up to do some routine replacement work on the Hubble telescope, but the Hubble telescope has stopped working and efforts to reset it were not successful (this brought to my mind a picture of an astronaut poking an indented reset button with an earring, but I assume it is more hi-tech than this!). The purpose of the mission has now changed to repairing the telescope and the astronauts need to retrain for the new mission, which will now take place next year. Who would have thought that the Hubble telescope would have an impact on our holiday!
We all went out for dinner for Peter's birthday, we had tried to book the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, but had left it too late and could not get a reservation. Instead we decided to let Peter decide where he wanted to go... and he chose to go to McDonalds...a bit cheaper than we had budgeted for, but everyone seemed to enjoy it! Then it was back to the cabin for chocolate cake (and our last air-conditioned evening).
We spent our last ten days in Florida trying out some new parks, namely Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Aquatica (our ticket also gave us admission to Wet 'n' Wild but we ran out of time to do that one!). Quick run down on each park...
Universal Studios was a disappointment...it was very disorganised, with long queues and unimpressive rides..the main redeeming feature was a big water play area for the kids and a ball play zone (which has to be the coolest playzone I have ever been to...I had a great time... except I kept tripping over little kids as I ran about...). The Simpsons ride also earned a big thumbs up from Peter, Joe and David.
Islands of Adventure was great. It seemed like a smaller park and there was a good mix of rides, including three big rollercoasters, a Dr Seuss themed “island” full of kids rides and an awesome Spiderman ride! Another highlight was when Joe and Peter met Spiderman and he was very impressed by Joseph's odd crocs fashion statement (he wears one red and one blue shoe)...Spiderman thinks he might copy the idea, so watch closely next time you see him on TV!
Aquatica is a brand new waterpark operated by Seaworld. We enjoyed this park, but again found it to be a bit disorganised in comparison to the Disney waterparks.
We noticed in all the parks that there were loads of Scottish people, I guess it must be half term in some of the Scottish schools this week. It was very bizarre to be surrounded by so many familiar accents when we are so far from home. The most Scottish thing I heard said was from a lady who had been on the Simpsons ride, who commented “Aye, it was guid, but it was an affy hing aboot” (translated: “Yes, it was good, but it was a long queue”).
The weather turned a bit more stormy in early October and we had thunderstorms almost every day, but they passed quickly and the heat soon dried up the rain. We have become pretty good at judging how long we have until the downpour arrives, although had a couple of complete soakings while we were developing our skills!!
There is loads to do on our campsite, there are two pools, a few playparks, kids activities, a restaurant, two shops, bike/boat/canoe hire, a nightly campfire with a singalong followed by a Disney film...so we have not been short of activities when we are not in the theme parks. The boys have also made some friends and have built a Fort in the swamp, which is subject to a programme of continuous improvement as better sticks and twigs are found.
The campsite got really busy over the weekends with a lot of Americans coming for a couple of nights. Americans believe in luxury camping and arrive with mountains of stuff including TV's, spare cars and their own golf buggies to get around. Most of the tents and RV's are decorated with lights and our neighbours on the second weekend gave us a set of fairy lights for our tent, so that we fitted in a bit better and felt a bit more American!
The main challenge while camping has been cooking with limited utensils...think along the lines of Ray Mears meets Blue Peter! We had to be innovative and kept jars, tubs and cartons to re-use as sieves, serving dishes and tupperware.
The only other down side to camping is the insect bites...we are all suffering at the jaws of the bloodthirsty beasties of Florida, leaving us with itchy bite marks all over our ankles and legs...nice!!
Internet access was not good in Florida and hopefully this slightly longer than usual blog post will make up for a few weeks with not much of an update. Hopefully over on the West coast of the USA it will be easier to get online...California is the home of Silicon Valley, so surely wireless internet will not be too much of a problem...
Here's hoping the next post will be describing my big win on the slot machines...now where did I put my lucky cork..?