Doesn’t time fly ….

…. when you’re having fun?

7B733E6A-DA0F-4E48-A8C7-BE40D6EF537E.jpeg

How is it our last full day in Orlando tomorrow? Clearly we’re having far too much fun because it has flown by! Soon we’ll be back to work, struggling with jet lag and the rest and relaxation will be all but forgotten, but, and it’s a big but, we’ll have the memories and our batteries will be recharged.

Orlando isn’t generally a relaxing holiday in the way that a beach holiday is. We’ve averaged over twelve thousand steps per day (including Saturday when we spent nine hours of the day sitting on our derrieres on a plane) and we’ve been awake, if not up and out, before seven thirty every day (admittedly this is helped by us being five hours behind our body clocks, but still ….). On a typical beach holiday I reckon we average about twelve steps a day and sleep about as many hours! However, I think (jet lag aside) I come back more refreshed and recharged after a holiday in Orlando because my brain is almost completely removed from reality. Everything is exciting, exhilarating and extraordinary. I may sleep less in terms of quantity, but the quality is better because the days are physically tiring and my brain is switched off from anything of concern in the real world.

So, what have we been up to?

Day one we were up and out early because we’d booked a day at Discovery Cove. We grabbed an Uber and we were there around nine am. Discovery Cove is an expensive day, but the price you pay is all inclusive. It includes breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks …

693D5407-D392-45DF-AA45-BDB5025E083E

… towels, fish-safe suntan lotion, use of a life jacket or wetsuit, snorkel equipment and access to the Grand Reef full of rays, tropical fish and (safely behind glass) sharks.

There’s also a lazy river …

137015E3-371F-487D-8468-1FB0E7C7BFB7

… a serenity beach …

EF5A58D1-54EC-4DD0-A5F9-9F7432648430

… a walk through aviary …

… and a marmoset island.

05EC083E-B8C6-488D-BF44-14BD290F8C7D.jpeg

You can pay a bit extra and do various activities such as swim with dolphins, feed the rays or seaventure which involves putting on a weird space helmet and walking under water, but we just had the basic package because we didn’t want to be tied to particular timings.

With your ticket you also get free entry into, and parking at, SeaWorld and Aquatica, and for a bit extra, Busch Gardens, so you could make your money go even further if you wanted to do all that too.

We had a great day. Really relaxing. I love the lazy river and the serenity beach. We went there for my fortieth birthday eighteen months ago and it was supposed to be a one time only, day of a lifetime thing, but it was so good that we had to do it again!

On to day two and it was Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the itinerary. This is our third visit, so we pretty much know what we’re doing now, and in what order. On our first visit we start off in Universal Studios …

C26881EC-C7CA-498D-9E34-B31DF00AE14B.jpeg

… and take in all that has to offer, then we take the Hogwarts Express over to Islands of Adventure.

890F12BF-8D9E-498C-AD9E-6E9458871A55.jpeg

On our return trip, we do it the other way around because then we can ride the Hogwarts Express in the other direction. You see all sorts of magical Harry Potter goings on outside the window during the trip, for example, Hagrid flying on his bike and the Weasley’s Ford Anglia, and they’re different each way. Unfortunately it didn’t go quite according to plan this time. All was fine on trip one, but today while we were waiting in Hogsmeade Station to go back to Kings Cross, the Hogwarts Express got a technical fault so we couldn’t ride. All was not lost though. In true American great customer service style, everyone was given a single ride express pass as compensation so we ran over to the Hulk coaster which had an eighty minute wait earlier in the day and got straight on that. It’s my favourite coaster so I was disappointed that we hadn’t been on, but didn’t want to wait in a queue for that long.

I could go on and on (and Ariston) about the various aspects of the Universal Parks, but there’s so much in them that I’d be writing for days so instead I’ll just share some of my favourite photos from the two days.

They’re nearly all from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! I enjoy other parts of the parks as well, but the Wizarding World does have a special place in my heart!

Day three we went to another Universal park, this time their water park, Volcano Bay (the one we can see from our bedroom window).

C9F9EA5C-DF52-4EF7-B628-C4A94394B623

Volcano Bay is literally two minutes walk away from our hotel, and we have a dedicated entry point from the hotel as well as access an hour earlier than normal park hours.

We were up and in early because we wanted to get on a couple of the big rides before the queues built up. We managed to get on four rides, including Ko’okiri which  is a body plunge through a trapdoor at the top of the volcano which plunges you into the water below, and Krakatau which is an aqua coaster in a canoe which takes you soaring up and around the volcano.

We’d booked premium seating which was a great idea.

851D908F-AD90-4EE6-8494-02C003E083A4.jpeg

We had our own little space with comfy sun beds and, most conveniently, our own locker which meant we didn’t have to keep traipsing back and forth to the lockers. We could also order food and drinks direct to our seats.

Here’s the volcano up close and personal.

801BC36D-104D-4222-A956-27B3135967D4

There’s a pool at the base and every twenty minutes or so the bell goes off signalling that the wave machine is about to start. Much splishy splashy fun was had!

I think my favourite feature is the winding river.

75170864-8AE2-49E9-B4E7-8F8FEB493A59

Here you just float around without a care in the world on your ring, until you decide you’ve had enough.

Here’s a few of the slides we went on, including a view of the volcano from the back.

We’re going back to Volcano Bay again tomorrow to relax on our last day. Hopefully if we get there in the early admission hour we’ll be able to book premium seating again. It worked out as about £65, but it was well worth it for the comfort. Tomorrow is looking like there might be some rain as well so it’ll be good to have a roof, even a canvas one!

Our final destination of the holiday, which we visited yesterday, was Epcot.

7AA3F20E-F67F-4688-9A44-EAA66803ED06

I have to get some Disney in!

First things first, we had to meet Mickey Mouse! We booked character dining at the Garden Grill.

I wasn’t quite as star struck as when we had lunch with Pooh Bear and his Hundred Acre friends a couple of years ago, but I was pretty close!

We spent quite a while in Future World exploring. Several of the rides/attractions are educational which makes a pleasant change. We learnt about the ecosystem and the work Epcot does to try to reduce its carbon footprint on Living with the Land.

It was soon time for something more frivolous though so we went and sat in a giant shell and watched Nemo and Dory and then went to Turtle Talk where we were entertained by Crush. Totally awesome dudes and dudettes (you have to say that in a California surf dude style!)

We queued for ages to get on Soarin’ but oh boy Pluto, was it worth it! Amazing! It really felt like we were flying over some of the world’s most iconic sights.

After this we headed for World Showcase and we explored all the countries. The International Flower and Garden festival is on at the moment and there were some beautiful floral displays, as well as these amazing topiary figures.

We hung around until nine pm so that we could watch IllumiNations. That was well worth the wait, and the ensuing nightmare of getting an Uber along with the rest of Epcot!

Right, it’s late so I’m off to beddy byes. I’m too tired to proofread so apologies for any errors!

 

… and the holiday begins

It’s the end of our first full day in Orlando and we’re sat in our hotel room watching last week’s Game of Thrones as a precursor to being able to watch episode three actually as it’s first aired as opposed to having to wait till after work on Monday because it shows at 2am UK time!

We flew from Gatwick yesterday and we stayed with my Granny the night before because she lives near the airport. I don’t get to see her often because of the distance, so I really enjoyed seeing her, even if it was only for a few hours. We also got to sample her infamous Shepherd’s Pie for tea. I don’t know what she puts in it (a bit of this and a bit of that if you ask her) but it always tastes A.Maze.Ing! Should’ve taken a photo!

We flew with Thomas Cook on an Airbus A330. We managed to get seats together but not next to the window. Thomas Cook wanted £25 per person, per flight to choose our seats, and I refused to pay £100 for that particular privilege!

We got a couple of meals included in the price, but had to pay for drinks at any time apart from with meals. I treated myself to an alcoholic drink as we’d decided to Uber around rather than hire a car this holiday.

B75521A6-2CFC-47BD-A0B8-0A05347D5BB4

Mmmmmmm … Rhubarb and Ginger G&T.

I also decided to pay to upgrade to Premium Movies for my seatback screen as well because there were three films on that I didn’t get round to seeing at the cinema – Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born and this most apt viewing delight for a holiday to Orlando …..

27A52427-98F8-4196-A801-4363BC1BF4E7

Excuse the reflection!

All three were really good, but I think the hype had been so intense for A Star is Born that I was actually slightly disappointed with the ending. I did buy the soundtrack on iTunes the second I got to somewhere with WiFi though, which, FYI, in Orlando is freaking everywhere (I’m already starting to sound American apparently!)

We arrived at Orlando to the customary huge queue (line!) but it moved reasonably quickly and we were soon through to wait for our bags – don’t you always feel a huge sense of relief when your luggage appears on the carousel?!

As I mentioned, we decided not to hire a car this trip like we have the last two times we’ve visited Orlando. On top of the cost of actually hiring, insuring and refuelling a car, the hotel we’re stopping in charges $20 per night to park a car in their garage and, as it’s a Universal Hotel, they also provide a shuttle to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and it’s two minutes walk to Volcano Bay so that’s three days the car would just sit outside doing nothing but costing money. We ordered our Uber after we’d collected our bags and eight minutes later it was there. Simples!

Our hotel is Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We stayed here last time and loved it so booked a return visit. It’s a 1950s themed hotel.

This is the corridor outside our room …

E34B0008-AC4F-4BC4-BE84-076B7B03DD39

… and the theming continues in the rooms.

8F3EDE19-B609-4081-91DA-950AEE879035

There are two pools, one with a lazy river, a massive food court, a bowling alley and a Universal shop.

As I said, it’s a couple of minute’s walk to Volcano Bay, which is Universal’s water park which opened in 2017, and we paid extra to have a volcano view room.

Boy, was it worth it! Amazing view by day …

C9F9EA5C-DF52-4EF7-B628-C4A94394B623

… and night!

B79B2653-193D-4BF5-AC3F-8F188F5E3DBB

Anyway – all new Game of Thrones is starting so I’m off! I’ll be back soon with more Orlando news.

2018 Review in Pictures

I should’ve probably written this post on 1st January, but I was busy finishing off my greenhouse and since then I’ve been back at work and feeling somewhat tired. It’s amazing how quickly you get out of the habit of getting up early and doing proper adult things. Every January when I go back to work I struggle to keep my head above water because I’m so tired and suffering from the January blues. I always manage though, and soon we’ll be through January. February’s not much better, in my humble opinion, but its saving grace is that it’s closer to Spring and you can finally see that the days are getting longer. The end of Winter is in sight!

I downloaded the top nine app which makes you a collage of your nine most liked photos on Instagram.

856e3de8-c346-4c3c-b37c-1ba42d5c4a28

I like all these photos (as, apparently do the people who follow me on Instagram) but I didn’t feel that it represented my year as I remember it. Of course, I only started my blog and the accompanying Instagram account (greengirlgardener for anyone who’d like to follow me) in July so it’s not representative of the whole year, but there’s not one gardening photo on there and that was a massive part of my 2018. I also realise that I need to be careful not to use a photo I’ve already posted as my featured blog picture because that’s how I’ve ended up with the same photo twice. 

Anyway, I thought I’d look back on my year and try to select my personal favourite pictures, and maybe you’ll find them interesting.

We managed to keep our fur babies healthy and happy in 2018 – this really isn’t a chore because they are just so delightful. I couldn’t not include my favourite pics of the gorgeous twosome from this past year.

How do I choose my favourite pictures from the garden? Honestly my phone is full of pics of plants and garden paraphernalia! I’ll try to narrow it down.

This is what really sparked my enthusiasm for the garden when we had the jungle chopped down and I could really see what we had to play with!

It inspired me to create our bistro.

I soon added other features to give character to our space.

My wheelbarrow planter.

3CA3B5FB-7042-4C49-8FEE-4A636354D0D1

My planter which was made by my Dad for my birthday which I love.

965B5BB5-7F92-4A8C-82E5-77BAF62E553A

My raised beds ready for growing fruit and veg in the summer.

60C782D1-A10F-41B0-AF9F-20768B937571

More recently my greenhouse which I’m really excited about.

D2058BE7-404E-4D3D-9B5C-94EB60985DC0

The garden gave me so much pleasure this year. I can’t possibly show you everything that I planted or managed to nurture, so I’ll try to narrow it down to a few of my favourite photos.

When the cats were kittens it was impossible for me to crochet because they would run off with my yarn, but this year, now that they’re the ripe old age of three, I rediscovered my love for hooking and I also resubscribed to Little Box of Crochet. Here are some of my makes.

I also met Amanda, the owner of Little Box of Crochet at the Grand Sale Event.

E760F832-56CF-4516-B341-62FD4F166F4F

I went on three holidays. Lanzarote at Easter with hubby’s side of the family.

d0a4a7b8-f646-4a79-a3af-410dd7b1a92c

Sandybrook Country Park near Ashbourne with some of my best and oldest (in time, not age!) friends for May Bank Holiday.

002a24ec-40f9-4d5b-80ca-512df0de965f

And Mexico in November with hubby.

img_1869

2018 saw the last of my school year turn 40. My birthday is at the beginning of the academic year so I turned 40 in 2017, but my best friend celebrated her milestone birthday in style in 2018. We went to London, saw Les Miserables in the West End and had afternoon tea at the Dorchester.

6866f1b5-ccc7-4ff2-b5f2-2862a007bc66

I don’t even like tea, but I was in the Dorchester and I was drinking tea whether I liked it or not! I look thin in this photo – might print it out and stick it to the fridge to motivate my New Year diet!

This is really not in chronological order because this happened in February. It’s just in the order that it’s fallng out of my head! We finally knocked our teeny tiny kitchen through to the dining room to create a big kitchen diner. It’s the best thing we’ve done to the house – we no longer fall over each other when we’re trying to cook, and we no longer risk going up in a puff of smoke like we did using our old dodgy cooker!

30011e1a-58ce-43d9-bfe6-9adc78f9217d

Hubby and I went to Thorpe Park with two of my work friends (one of whom made a rollercoaster fwiend – sorry, in joke!) Until I went to Orlando for the first time in 2016 I’d never been to a proper big theme park. I used to go to a local theme park when I was a kid, people can’t believe that I’ve never been to Alton Towers! I loved Thorpe Park. It was so much fun.

My youngest brother got married in August and I gained another sister-in-law. It was an amazing day and really made me appreciate time with family.

4AC4B353-B093-4D9B-B2E6-8D014BE838DE

Oh, almost forgot! I got a promotion and became an Account Manager. I’ve tried to embrace my new role and am enjoying the learning process. It’s not always easy, and I’m spending a lot of time outside of my comfort zone, but I’m relishing the challenge and am determined to succeed and prove myself. That reminds me, I must ask for new business cards!

c73d2778-c1a5-4b31-8003-237811588cb2

I think that’s the major events of 2018 covered. So, what’s to come in 2019? If all goes according to plan, then I’ll travel to Orlando and Spain. I’ll return to Sandybrook with the girls. It’s highly likely that I’ll visit the south of Italy with work. I’ll visit the Hippodrome to see Peter Pan and the Alexandra Theatre to see Thriller Live. I’ll pay an extortionate parking fee at the NEC when I visit Gardeners’ World Live with my best friend. There are tentative plans to go to Kew Gardens, do pub quizzes, visit Tallinn and to remedy my not having been to Alton Towers. I’ll take part in my first CAL (crochet-along) with thousands of people around the world when I follow attic24’s sweet pea blanket pattern. I’m planning to decorate the downstairs loo, redo the bathroom and obviously there will be exploits in the garden. I did briefly toy with the idea of a huge PVC igloo on the lawn today when I was daydreaming (and imagining myself to have won the lottery) but I’ll satisfy my gardening dreams by beautifying my greenhouse and growing my own fruit and veg this year.

I hope you all have plans for 2019, whether big or small. Life’s for living!