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Kevin Stringer -- October 2000 -- Walt Disney World (BVIR, VBR)


Weds 11th Oct to Fri 27th Oct

Well, well, well. Here we go again. Less than 10 months after our last visit we are girding our loins (and a fine set of loins I have too) for another trip to Florida.

Without any more preamble let's get straight in with the who's and where's and why's.

  • Firstly (and quite rightly so) there's me: Kev. A fertile and quite lovely 42 years of age. In many countries of the world I would be deified. Or is that certified, I'm never quite sure which the doctor said it was. Now some of you may have read previous trip reports of mine and so will find my constant self praise to be a little boring but this is my trip report and it makes me happy, so you will have to live with it. I can assure you that the truth is much less wholesome and appetizing than my happy little fantasy world.
  • Tammy, my wife of 14 years and not much longer if she doesn't submit to my every request for regular trips to WDW. To be serious for a moment, we are one very lucky couple. These days it seems like nearly everyone we know has either split up or divorced. Perhaps we are the strange ones as I cannot possibly envisage a time when we will not be together. Sloppy I know, but just add 'romantic' to my ever growing list of qualities.
  • India, 9 until November. Bright, energetic and happy. Most of the time. Historically she is better behaved than her younger sister but recently has taken to sulking more often when she can't get her own way. Here was I hoping that her happy demeanour would rub off on her sister and it turns out the other way round. Sigh, life is just not fair sometimes. Don't worry a week or two in the dungeon with the rats will soon put her right. You may get the impression that I don't cherish my children but nothing could be further from the truth. I love my little ratbags with the same intensity of feeling that I get from being in WDW and we all know that no man could give more than this.
  • Georgia, 6 at the moment but will have her 7th birthday while we are in Florida. Georgia's temperament has improved over the last couple of years. I suppose that there is a sort of equalization process going on with my two children. My main fear is when they are both teenagers and I am going to be stuck in the house with three moaning, whining women. Can I come and live at your house then please? Georgia really is a pretty little thing except that she has just lost a front tooth and now does a passable impression of Goofy. Not that this worried her in the least, just another opportunity for the tooth fairy to deliver her financial payload. Mercenary little madam.

This will be the first trip that we have planned where we have not had to consider what to do with poor old Duke the dog as he died a couple of weeks before our last holiday. His ashes are buried in the back garden and he is doing an excellent job of fertilizing a flower planted in his honour. Ironic really when you consider that he spent half his life attempting to kill all the plants with his never ending water supply. When I go I have asked Tammy to scatter my ashes over the heaving bosom of a well endowed topless model. Tam does not seem too keen on this for some reason, come to think of it, I don't suppose the topless model would appreciate it much either. Hang on a minute, WDW should be in there somewhere as well.......... got it.... I will have my ashes scattered over the heaving bosom of a well endowed topless model while she is drinking a large beer and watching Reflections of Earth from next to the boat dock in front of Italy. Now if I could just find way to watch while all this happened...........

Right, now the introductions are out of the way, I will get down to the business at hand. Some of you may have been wondering about why this is going to be a semi-Disney trip. Well, maybe a more accurate description would be a semi-WDW trip report. We are going to make use of our newly acquired DVC membership for the first time and so will be splitting our time between WDW and Vero Beach. The plans are roughly as follows:

Thursday 12th October fly into MCO using a Delta flight via Cincinnati. (Thank goodness for spell checker because I never would have spelt that right otherwise). This is obviously not an ideal way to travel with children as it adds a considerable time to your journey, but beggars can't be choosers and all the direct flights were booked by the time our plans were finalized. My strategy is to look disgusted if my children start to play up on the flights and hope that Tam takes all the blame from the other passengers. Failing that I will just lock myself in the loo for 8 hours. Upon arrival we will travel to the Delta Orlando Resort on International Drive for the night. As we are not landing until 7:00 pm it is not worth using up our DVC points when we will probably crash out as soon as we arrive.

Friday 13th October book into the Boardwalk Villas for 3 nights in a standard view studio. Now this is the part that I am REALLY looking forward to. One of the main reasons that we bought into the DVC is that we would be highly unlikely to pay the fantastic prices to stay anywhere like this for a single trip. I looked on the DVC site the other day and the rate for a room the same as ours would be £230 a night including taxes! Makes me think we got a positive bargain! Pamper me, cosset me, wrap me up and smother me in luxury, I deserve it. We intend to take the first day slowly and relax around the pools in both the Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Club. In the evening we are hoping to meet up with Trish and Kev who we met when they organized a RADP meet on New Year's Eve last year. If you think that I am lucky, they have just moved to Florida and so will have access to WDW on a regular basis. The latest thoughts are to meet in Beaches 'n Cream for a burger and huge dessert. The next day will be spent at Universal and Islands of Adventure as we have one day left of a multi-day passport. The main aim will be to ride Men in Black as it was not open last time we went. Spiderman is also a must do for Georgia as she missed out on this last time. Our last day at the Boardwalk will be spent in MGM Studios, primarily to ride Rock 'n Roller Coaster and to see Fantasmic!

Monday 16th sees us move on to Disney's Vero Beach Resort, staying in an Inn Room for 7 nights. Now here is where we take a real departure from all of our previous holidays to Orlando as we will not be rushing about the theme parks but setting a much more leisurely pace. Relaxation, good food, swimming, bike riding, walking and sight seeing will be the order of the day. Everything that I have read about this resort has been very positive so I am hoping for a great time. Georgia will have her 7th birthday while we are here, so I will be interested to see if the CM's will do anything out of the ordinary for her. I do not think that it is fair to expect anything, but it will be nice if it does. George has been asking everyone for money for her birthday so will be looking to do some hefty shopping.

Monday 23rd, back to the Boardwalk Villas in a preferred view room for 4 nights. Tammy fully expects to drop into the Belz mall on our way back from Vero Beach for a spot of retail therapy. I am hoping for an act of God to destroy it before we arrive, but will probably have to grit my teeth like a good husband and spend a few precious vacation hours doing something that I could do any day of the week at home. Bitter? Me? How could you think such a thing? Two of the last three days will be spent in Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival. this will also give us another opportunity to sample the wonderful Tapestry of Nations and Reflections of Earth. The girls are more excited about this than anything else. To tell the truth so are Tammy and I.

Now the more observant of you may have noticed that only 3 WDW days are included in this itinerary. This may seem a little sad at first glance but the more I visit the more I enjoy just BEING there. We no longer have to rush around and try to do everything, taking our time, relaxing and just soaking up the atmosphere of being in the World are what it's all about for us. I will be interested to see how I feel about Vero Beach as it will undoubtedly have the Disney stamp of quality, but will it have the magic for me? We shall see.

Well, that's about it for now. I can't help but think that I am missing something out. I've got this nagging feeling that something very important has been omitted. Hang about while I get a drink and think about it. That's it! BEER!!!! I'm sure that those of you that have read my trip reports before are well aware of my well earned reputation as a clean living, fine, upstanding young (?) man. However, purely in the interests of you, my friend, I will endeavour to sample the beer products throughout the World and beyond, with no feeling for my personal well being or ability to walk in a straight line. My report will be full (as will be my stomach) and as complete as I can possibly make it. What a saint I am.

DAY 1 WEDS 11th OCT.

After a never ending day at work we set off for Gatwick at 4:30 PM. Tammy and I both agree that we both feel slightly down immediately prior to any trip. Happens every holiday, I don't know why. The children help to raise the enthusiasm level and once we are in the car we start to get more excited.

On the way up we stop at Bracknell for a KFC, after all, you've got to get in the American mood. On to our hotel the Holiday Inn Express at Gatwick. 3 or 4 miles from the airport, it is a new hotel, plain but nice clean and modern. Tammy starts to watch Brookside (a 1 hour episode!) on TV so Kev and the girls beat a hasty retreat to the pub across the road for an all too brief hour. India rattles on incessantly about WDW as she is rather excited while Georgia is getting tired and keeps saying she is worried about the plane as she always feels sick when she flies.

Back to the hotel for the girls to go to sleep and Daddy to watch the football. It is Finland v England in a World Cup qualifier. As of late the England team have been similar to me on a shopping trip. Unenthusiastic and lacking attention. Unfortunately my fears are borne out as another poor performance results in a 0 0 draw.

I clamber into bed at 11:45 to try and sleep but without much success. There is nothing wrong with the room other than it being slightly warm, (aren't most hotel rooms?) the bed is comfy and it is reasonably quiet but none of this helps. I always seem to get this problem the first night in a strange place. Hotel rooms and I uphold that old moral that you should never sleep together on a first date. As I write this it is 2:30 in the morning and I have retired to the bathroom where I am sat on the loo. Undignified maybe but at least it helps to pass the time!

DAY 2 THURS 12th OCT.

I eventually return to bed and doze fitfully until 6:30 when the alarm goes off. I have tried most things during the night to get to sleep including counting sheep but the stupid creatures insist on flocking together and I loose count. So I try counting Mickey Mice instead. Unfortunately my subconscious insists that there is only one REAL Mickey Mouse and puts a stop to that. Damn my logical mind. Tam has not helped with her impression of a crocodile doing a death roll most of the night.

We have a quick continental breakfast and are off to the airport. I have been very impressed with the Holiday Inn Express. If you are looking for a simple no frills hotel then this is a good choice. New, clean and efficient, you also get 15 days parking in the long term car park at the airport for £92 for a family room.

Check in with Delta is quick and we wander round the shops where a miraculous event takes place. I buy two pairs of shorts while Tammy buys nothing! This is soon put right when we go through to the departure lounge where perfume and after shave are purchased. Just as well we go on holiday once a year or we would smell like tramps. I buy Issey Miyake which is a bit whiffy. A glowing compliment from one of life's true connoisseurs. I'll be surprised if they don't use this in an advertising campaign.

The girls pass the time before the flight watching the planes and writing in their diaries. Oh yes, India is wearing her Mickey Mouse ears just to ensure that everyone knows where we are going. Our flight is uneventful after taking off 30 minutes late. The first film is Big Momma's House which is a pretty average comedy. Not exactly high brow entertainment but OK. Tammy laughs a few times quite loudly, not quite realising that all those people around her not watching the film are looking at her. The second film is Mermaids. Hardly a latest release but I've always enjoyed this film. A combination of Cher, Bob Hoskins, Wynona Ryder and Christina Ricci would be interesting in anything.

We arrive in Cincinnati at 3:15. Customs and Immigration takes about 30 minutes and we are soon on the flight to Orlando. I am always amazed at Orlando airport, bright, airy and efficient. Our suitcases are already on the carousel by the time we arrive at baggage reclaim and we trundle off to pick up our car. Dollar car rental is amazingly swift and simple. we walk up to the empty desk, show our voucher, walk across the road to the parking garage and pick up pur car, a Chrysler Sebring. The whole process from landing to leaving the airport has taken about 30 minutes. in fact the whole journey has gone like clockwork. Let's hope this is a good omen for the whole holiday.

I get used to the car quickly and despite missing the turn to the Beeline Expressway we are soon headed towards International Drive. A word about the car. It is, by UK standards, large and plush although only a mid size. if there are only 4 of you don't be tempted to upgrade to a full size unless you carry a lot of luggage.

As we crawl along International Drive, Tammy and I can't help thinking what it will be like next year when we take Tammy's mum for the first time. It's quite an assault on the senses of a small town Englishman seeing the hustle and bustle. You certainly couldn't call it sophisticated but it is enthralling nevertheless.

We check into the Delta Orlando Resort and after a quick snack (and a beer) head off to our room. This place is fine for one night but I'm glad we are moving tomorrow. That's the trouble with staying on site at WDW, you are spoiled by the experience and constantly compare everywhere else to it. We are in bed by 10:30 although to our bodies it is 3:00 AM.

I'm sorry that this first part of the trip report is all about the journey but all good things come to those that wait. The interesting stuff starts tomorrow.

DAY 3 FRI 13th OCT.

I wake up and look at the clock. 3:30 AM. Shortly after the girls wake up with Georgia complaining about India fidgeting about, so Tam goes in with India and George clambers in with me. Tam is soon moaning about India wriggling around. Ah, poetic justice.

We are all up and having showers by 5:00 AM. Apologies if you had the room next to us that night but the time difference is to blame. By 6:30 we are driving along International Drive where we stop to buy a few odds and ends before an all you can eat breakfast at Ponderosa for $3.99. The family shuttle back and forward between our table and the counters with amazing regularity and vast quantities of food are consumed. We finally waddle out and I consider calling the Orlando Bomb Squad as there is a strong chance that one of us may explode.

Back to the Delta Orlando Resort where we pick up our bags and head off to the Boardwalk Villas. Pulling into the driveway to the resort is quite a moment for us! We draw up to the reception area and are greeted by a pleasant chap who unpacks our car, parks it and stores everything for us. I feel that this is what I was born for. Park the car my good man, I'll ring you when I require it again. Check in is very quick as it is still only 9:00 AM, (we don't get a 'Welcome home' though) and we wander off for a look around. This is certainly a place that lives up to all expectations, beautiful decor and wonderful views. We roam along the Boardwalk, then up to the quiet pool and Community Hall where the girls would probably play all day on the free video games if we let them. The main pool is next and we plonk ourselves down on 4 sun beds and finally start to relax. the girls, of course, are straight into the water and spend ages going down the impressive slide. (Georgia with her arm bands on). I am writing this led on a sun bed beside a lovely pool with the sun blazing down from a cloudless Florida sky. A couple of hours into our first DVC stay and I already know that we have done the right thing.

Tammy is in the pool trying to teach Georgia to swim which given Tammy's prowess in the water is somewhat akin to me educating someone in the finer points of cooking. But then again, I shouldn't complain as I'm relaxing while she does all the hard work. She does have some success as Georgia manages to swim a few strokes.

11:30 AM on the first real day of our holiday and I haven't sampled the local brew yet. This is put right without further ado with a beer from the Leaping Horse Libations pool bar. We are charging most of our expenses to the room for the first time ever and will find out whether this turns out to be a good idea or not when we get the final bill.

After a look around and me doing my Steven Spielberg bit with the video camera, we walk over to the Yacht and Beach Club to use the pool. As other people have said, this is more like a small water park than a pool and the girls spend a happy couple of hours playing in the sand and water. Tam and I also spend a happy couple of hours enjoying some peace and quiet. (And a beer!) At 3:00 PM our room is ready so back to the Boardwalk we go. We are in a standard view studio, number 2099, overlooking the entrance. we enter with some trepidation, hoping not to be disappointed. We certainly are not as the room is very tastefully furnished, clean and pleasant. I know that some find the studios to be too small, especially for a family of 4, but all I can say is that they must be used to the more palatial American homes than us because it is certainly large enough for us. I think that if you are used to basic hotel rooms then this is a huge improvement and perfectly adequate for two adults and two small children. Bell services deliver the luggage very quickly and we are soon unpacked.

At 4:00 we go to Community Hall for the girls play Goofy Bingo. While they are doing that Tam and I go to the General Store to purchase the vital beer supply. On our return to watch the girls at play I can only say that I am shocked and horrified.. They are playing bingo with Disney characters instead of numbers but the spelling is all wrong! I mean, Mowgley? Brear Bear? No self respecting Disney fan would get this wrong. Shudder. One of the shops on the Boardwalk is the Wyland Gallery that has wonderful paintings and sculptures of sea creatures. None are priced and as Tammy says, if you have to ask the price you can't afford it. Well, I didn't ask the price and I still probably couldn't afford it.

Back to the room to shower and change where Georgia has a bit of a tummy ache. She must also be very tired as we got very early this morning and she has done an awful lot of swimming today.

We are out of the room at 5:45 and on our way to the Belle Vue Lounge for a drink. A pleasant spot for a beer but then again it would have to be absolutely awful to put me off my beer. Over to Beaches and Cream we go to meet Trish and Kev who have just moved to Florida from Maine. We met them when Trish organised a New Year's Eve RADP meet which we attended. I will be employing the patented Stringer marking system for our meals on this trip with marks out of ten. Hardly scientific but at least it gives a feel for our likes or dislikes. Obviously I will once again be referring to Tammy's trip notes for the details. Tam and I share a burger (9) and then we all attack a huge chocolate sundae (9). I can't remember what it was called but it had just about everything under the sun in it. Showing the true Dunkirk spirit we chomp away until it is no more. Trish and Kev tell us about their move to Florida and the change of climate and we all enjoyed a very pleasant evening.

At 9:15 we wander back round to the Boardwalk and part with Trish and Kev, promising to keep in touch and hopefully meet up next year. Tired as everyone is, the girls still want to watch the Epcot fireworks from afar, so we stroll the Boardwalk again to watch from the bridge. all we can see are the high fireworks and just about hear the strains of the distant music but it is still enough to rekindle the feelings that we all have for this excellent show.

Back to room and the girls are tucked up in bed while I sit on the balcony with a beer to enjoy the comings and goings at the Boardwalk entrance and ponder on life. Am I exceptionally lucky or has all this fallen to me through good planning? So many people never get to enjoy the things that I have seen at WDW many times over and now I am staying in one of the highest rated timeshare resorts in the world. I come to the conclusion that, while planning may have played a part, I am still one lucky devil.

DAY 4 SAT.14th OCT.

Tam and I wake about 5:30. The jet lag has not worn off fully yet. The girls snooze until 6:30 and then get up. A quick breakfast in the room and we are on the way to Universal by 7:30 to use up the last day of a multi pass we have left over from January.

With perfect timing we are at the gates for 8:00 opening and head for Men in Black Alien Attack. We come off the ride and head straight round to ride again, so you can tell how much we enjoy it. I am once again top dog at shooting aliens and easily trounce the wimpy women with my manly score of 330,000.

They are preparing the park for one of the Halloween Fright Nights and the mascot seems to be a rather scary clown similar to Pennywise from It but called Jack. The catch phrase being 'If you're not afraid of the dark, you don't know Jack'. Georgia finds him particularly scary but fascinating at the same time. We tease her for the rest of the day about this. She will probably develop deep psychological problems and grow up to be a mass murderer of clowns.

Over to do battle with King Kong where our guide is a complete nutter. Tam and I are laughing for the whole ride as he really hams it up with an over the top performance. Next is ET which is always fun, especially for the children. I'm not sure if I've ever heard him say goodbye using our proper names. This time he mutters something about Klammy and Ingra.

A lot of the rides and shows have special Halloween versions prepared for tonight such as Nightmare Creatures II and Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure. As we pass the Animal Actors Stage I say that they ought to have a naughty version of that where the animals bite people and poo everywhere (snigger!). Tammy tells me not to be so childish, so I sulk for the next hour, head bowed, kicking at stones.

Twister is very clever. A little too short maybe but Georgia enjoys the flying cow. The girls now go to the Kiddies area with Tam while I go to see Terminator 3D. This is the first time that I have seen it with the motorbike working properly which is a big plus.

I join the rest of the tribe in the Curious George play area. The whole reason for this part of the park seems to be to get children as wet as possible, which they all love of course. At regular intervals a huge trough of water empties from a great height. Never mind wet, I'm surprised no one drowns.

After this we leave for Islands of Adventure where we have a quick ride on the Cat in the Hat before lunch in the Enchanted Oak Tree Tavern. Large amounts of greasy American style food are consumed including ribs, chicken, corn and fries (6/10) but this does not stop Tammy and the girls from venturing forth in search of sweets while I sit and write up my trip report. They return with bags full of jelly beans and sour laces. The girls finish all theirs but Tam has got quite a few left. I reckon she should keep some for later to be pulled out at an appropriate moment to head off a child rebellion, only to be told 'They're my sweeties and you can't MAKE me share!' Oh, you think so do you young woman? Well, Mr Hand will be paying a short sharp trip to Bottieland some time in the very near future I do believe. Hang on though, she's 36. Oh well....

We watch Poseidon's Fury using the IOA version of Fastpass for the first time and it works wonderfully well as we stroll casually passed a long line of suckers ..... er .... other customers. I'm sure that this show has a different ending from when we saw it in January and is much better for it. Georgia is using the earplugs as last trip for anything loud and they work a treat. If you have a child that is a little afraid of loud noises then give this a try.

Back through the Lost Continent, which I still think is the prettiest of all the lands, and on to the Unicorn themed children's coaster. Georgia loves this and wants to go again, she also derides Tammy who doesn't like anything that goes higher than 5 ft off the ground. It's a fairly run of the mill ride that is supposed to represent a trip on a Unicorn through an enchanted forest. A ride through a few less than magical twigs more like. It could have been much better, a ride through a forest like the walk through area of ET would be excellent.

Popeye's Bilge Rat Barges is next and we somehow avoid a massive soaking. Afterwards the girls play on Me Ship, The Olive while Tam and I split a beer (I'm driving) and watch the people getting soaked on the ride. Why is it so funny to watch another human being getting wet? The most fun are the ladies who are dressed nicely with immaculate makeup on. Evil aren't we?

Just a minute, I should be ashamed to be British! Here I am, a long way into the afternoon and not once have I mentioned the weather. Well, it's sunny with a few patchy clouds, mid 80's and a light breeze. Wonderful!

We go to Spiderman next where the line is 30 minutes. there are definitely more people in the park than when we were last here in January. Most everything was a walk on then. This is Georgia's first time on Spidey and although she looks a little apprehensive when I glance at her during the ride, she say's she enjoys it. For the rest of us it is the highlight of the day again.

We decide that we have been on everything that we want to for the day and leave the park around 5:00. The traffic on I4 is heavy and we don't arrive back at the Boardwalk until 5:45. The journey back is not helped by the fact that Tam decides she has had enough of the rock station on the radio and fiddles around trying to find something quieter.

Back at the Boardwalk we use the valet parking facilities again and trot off to our room. We are very lucky with our room location as it is about 50 yards from the lobby and on the same floor. Directly opposite our door are the stairs which lead to the main pool. The girls are looking forward to a swim, so off we go. The main pool is quite crowded and noisy so we plump for the quiet pool, which lives up to its name as there can't be more than half a dozen people there. The girls hire rubber rings ($2 per hour for DVC members) and happily wallow around while Tammy and I relax in the last of early evening sunshine, with a beer of course. a very pleasant way to relax after a day at a theme park.

A quick word about Universal. We have enjoyed all our trips here and today has been no exception, but this will probably be our last visit for a little while as we have ridden everything we want to several times. it is not the same as Disney for me in that the rides themselves are the only reason for being there. Once you have done these the rest holds little long term appeal. the Disney parks give me much more in terms of an all round experience. The shows, the parades, the music, the lights, the food, the people. Substance over glitz. Now if they could just move Spiderman to MGM Studios.....

After a shower and a beer we take to the Boardwalk to perambulate and enjoy the atmosphere. Hunger is calling us again so we have a pizza from the take away window at Spoodles. It takes about 20 minutes but is very nice, hot & fresh. Georgia is now getting tired so we walk back along the Boardwalk towards Atlantic Dance where a disco has been set up. I want to stay and impress the lovleeee laydees with my sexy dancing but I'm outvoted. Just as well, the sniggering and finger pointing often puts me off my stroke.

Back at the room the girls are swiftly to sleep at 10:00 and I spend a happy hour on the balcony watching the comings and gongs at the Boardwalk entrance. Wow, there are some strange people around. Sometimes I think I am the only sane ..... pass the kipper Mildred the ferret needs washing ..... person here.

Bed at 11:00 a happy bunny.

DAY 5 SUN.15th OCT.

I wake up at 5:30 again but manage to drop back off to sleep and we all eventually get up at 8:15. A decent nights sleep at last. We had intended to make it in time for Early Entry at the Studios but that has gone by the board.

After breakfast in the room we decide to walk into the Studios along the path by the river. Bad idea. The gate under the bridge is locked (the pathway is not officially open yet) and we have to go over the bridge and back to the Swan to catch the boat. There is a bit of a queue so we head off to the Boardwalk boat dock. As we walk round we see a boat coming across the lagoon, so we run round to catch it. Of course, this one is going to Epcot. Doh! Still, at least we have had a nice couple of mile walk to get the system up and running for the day.

After all our exertions we enjoy a very pleasant ride in the sunshine to the Studios. After buying a 4 day park hopper (we intend to use 3 days this year and keep one for next year) we go in and head straight for Rock 'n Roller Coaster to get a fastpass.

After this we sit and enjoy a drink and ask the girls what they want to do today. We give them the option of staying out all day at the park or returning in the early afternoon for a swim. to our amazement they decide to miss out on the swimming.

We are taking things very easy today and we stroll across to see Muppet 3D. I always find things to laugh at here, especially Beaker who is definitely our favourite. Back across to Rock 'n Roller Coaster where Tam rides with India while I wait with Georgia, then India comes on with me. I love this ride, especially the launch but it always makes me feel queasy afterwards. Must be some sort of inner ear thing.

A stop is now required at Starring Rolls Bakery for cakes and drinks, which help me to recover.

Over to the Hunchback of Notre Dame which, to me, is the very essence of the Studios. The wonderful songs and skilled cast make this a happy experience every time I see it. We pass a cart selling all sorts of hats and India buys some Mickey heads on springs while I try on one hat after another as Tam shakes her head sadly at each one.

Next is Voyage of the Little Mermaid for Georgia before we head to Mama Melrose's for our 3:50 Priority Seating. This is a first for us and while not being the finest dining experience on site, is certainly very nice. We start with a Caesar salad (6) - lot's of dressing but a not particularly inspiring salad - Portobello Mushrooms on Polenta with a rich wine sauce (6) - mushrooms a bit overdone. We split an entree of Chicken Marsala, mashed potato with a cheese and chive crust and vegetables (6.5) - bit of a wishy-washy sauce. The girls have kids meals (Georgia doesn't like her hamburger because it tastes of meat!) and we also manage a couple of beers and two glasses of Chianti. The service is OK but could be better. She has to be reminded about the wine and we have nearly finished our food by the time it comes. Total cost $63.58.

Now feeling pretty happy I decide to adjourn to the Tune-In Lounge for an after dinner beer while the ladies go on Star Tours. I get as far as the bar before discovering that Tam has taken all the money and cards with her. Muttering and moaning under my breath I return to Star Tours to meet the women. 'What an unfortunate misunderstanding, how did we possible manage that? Ha Ha.' I tell her. Or words to that effect.

I forgot to mention earlier that Georgia had fallen over and grazed her wrist slightly. A kind lady had given her a plaster but it had now fallen off causing a serious medical emergency. So off we head to the medical centre where the lady attends to us with the required amount of gravity, cleaning and plastering the wound before giving the girls some stickers.

With Georgia now patched up, we now head to Fantasmic! (via the sweet shop for the girls) sitting in the Pochahontas section at 6:00 for the 7:30 show. Ample time to write up the trip report and enjoy a beer or two. The pre-show entertainment is provided by Delman who juggles, clambers on stacked up chairs and generally abuses several memebers of the public. Great fun. Fantasmic! plays to a packed house and is as wonderful as ever. Hardly anyone walks out before the end so we get to see the finale in all its glory. After the show we wait for a few minutes for the crowd to thin out, then stroll out without much trouble.

At the boat dock there is quite a queue but we get on the second boat within 10 minutes. India has bought a Fantasmic! tee shirt that is brightly coloured and features all the villains. Me and Ind love it but Tammy threatens to accidentally leave the iron on it for too long when she gets home, India counters by promising to put Disney stickers all over the new fireplace, which is Tammy's pride and joy. 15 all I believe.

The ride back in the boat is nice and allows you to see the Epcot resorts lit up in all their glory. The Swan and Dolphin have never been my favourites but the more you look at them the more you appreciate some of the architectural splendour. Well worth seeing close up. We are back in the room and asleep by 10:00.

DAY 6 MON.16th OCT.

We're all up and about by 7:30. After a quick breakfast the packing begins. This turns out to be pretty painless and by just after 9:00 we are in the car and on our way to Vero Beach. After a couple of wrong turns we manage to get on the 192 which runs all the way to Melbourne. We decide to take the more scenic route because we are in no hurry and it's nice to see a bit more of Florida than the interstate.

From Melbourne we take the A1A and soon arrive at Disney's Vero Beach Resort. As we drive in we are greeted at the gate and directed to check in where a lady earning her ears deals with us in a very friendly and efficient manner. It is 12:00 and our room is already available. It is an Inn room, garden view (No. 2343) on the third floor overlooking the front of the resort. Tam and I both think that it is slightly larger than the Boardwalk Villas studio, except for the balcony. The room itself is again nicely appointed with practically the same layout and facilities.

After we unpack we have a wander round. First impressions. A very beautiful, laid back resort. The colours tend to be muted pastels in keeping with the environment. The beach is virtually non-existent as the tide is right in and the breakers are crashing in dramatically on what is left of the shoreline. You would have to be a good swimmer to be out there today.

The pool area is very nice with a lighthouse themed slide and plenty of sun beds. We now decide to go shopping. I know what your thinking - 'He hates shopping doesn't he?' and yes, you're right but I'm working on the basis that if we get it out of the way now then I'm clear for the rest of the holiday.

Off we troop to the Indian River Mall where we have lunch in the food court before splitting up to look around. Neither Tam or I are particularly inspired by this mall, much preferring the Belz mall in Orlando. To my horror I hear myself agreeing to a stop at Belz on the way back to the Boardwalk next week. I can only put this down to temporary holiday insanity. (And the fact that there is a CD or two that I want).

The only thing that we buy is a two piece pyjama set with the Princesses on it for Georgia's birthday in two days time. It is the usual chiffony (is that a word?) type thing but Tammy hates it so that's good enough for me. I'm sure that Georgia will want to wear it all day on her 7th birthday while all around ask 'What's that strange little girl doing in her pyjamas?' Just down the road from the mall we stop at a Walmart Super Center for some essentials. As we only buy a measly 12 bottles of Miller Lite I wonder how we manage to waste $45 on other frippery such as food etc.

Back to Vero Beach and with the food stowed away we venture through the underpass to the other side of the road to check out the lake. We fancy using the facilities there for a BBQ later in the week but I do notice a couple of mosquitoes the size of Spitfires attempting to land on me, so this might not be such a good idea after all.

Back to the pool where the girls enjoy an hour splashing about and going down the slide until it closes at 6:00. I enjoy a beer, well, 3 actually, while I write up my trip report. This seems to take longer every day. Perhaps I am getting more tedious and verbose as I get older. Do you people realise how much I suffer to bring you this riveting material? Do you care? Are you still awake?

We return to the room for a quick shower before heading off to the campfire at 8:00. The sea sounds even rougher at night and it pounds up the shore as we all congregate around the unlit fire waiting for it to start. There are quite a few people and all the benches are taken. The fire is lit and roars into life a little too quickly for me. I'm wondering whether there is some gas power at work here. The logs are certainly real, maybe I am too used to Disney artificially creating realistic environments.

The evening then takes on a slightly surreal feel as the sing-a-long starts. Now, being British, I do not expect to know all of the songs but by the silence and the looks on the faces of all around, the American guests can't figure out what's going on either. So, we have these two Disney hosts circling the fire singing and gesticulating while we all watch in amazement. I fully expect them to whip out some eye of toad and wing of bat while encouraging us all to get naked. It would have brightened up the evening anyway. Once this part is out of the way, the marshmallow roast and ingestion thereof is fun and tasty.

Following this pleasant, if strange, experience we go to the Green Cabin Room for drinks a Chicken Pizza (8) and a Chicken Caesar Salad (8). The girls play draughts on the chequered table top with Georgia studying every move in great detail before moving to exactly the wrong place. Somehow the game seems to last about an hour and still ends in a draw.

Back to the room around 10:30 where I watch American Football on TV and ponder on the days events. One thing I have noticed is that the very high standard Disney resorts are a strange mix of sophistication, elegance, luxury, brashness and unpretention. Don't get me wrong, I find it refreshing that I could as easily be stood next to a bus driver from Bristol as a millionaire from Seattle and both would be equally well catered for. Isn't this a great place to be?

DAY 7 TUES.17th OCT.

Up at 8:00 and off to the welcome meet in one of the beach front cottages. Now this place is really stunning. 3 bedrooms downstairs with 2 bathrooms, whirlpool bath, showers etc. while upstairs is the living area, kitchen and balconies both front and back. Unfortunately it costs a zillion points a night.

The meet itself provides free coffee and breakfast including fruit, croissants, muffins etc. It is split into two parts, one relating to DVC, which doesn't really tell me anything I don't already know, and the other telling you about the resort activities and surrounding area. This part of the presentation is done by Justin, a radical surfing dude, so everything is 'really cool'. He is very funny and makes the whole thing thoroughly entertaining. At the end they have a draw for a cool bag and a towel which first India and then Georgia get asked to take part in. They don't pull out our tickets (stupid children!) but they get offered something for helping out. They can choose from either a beach ball, a frisbee or a slinky each. They both choose the ball but then Justin gives them both a frisbee as well. Then he says you may as well have the slinky too! Not a bad haul for one morning.

The next few hours are spent relaxing around the pool while the children indulge in various activities. Firstly there is the water balloon toss. As the name suggests this involves a load of children attempting to catch balloons filled with water, usually without much success. The end result is wet, happy children. Next is the water relay. Two teams of children are chosen and they race against each other from one side of the pool to the other whilst carrying a ball and cone. Some children are very fast, while others take longer than an African Olympic swimmer.

Lunch at Bleacher's (the pool bar) is followed by a walk along the beach for me, India and Georgia as Tammy relaxes by the pool. When I say 'beach' I use the term loosely. There is very little sand to walk on as the tide roars in again. What sand there is, is liberally peppered with seaweed. You would not choose this resort for its beach facilities. it is probably just a rough time of the year as there are beach chairs and jet skis available for rent in more favourable conditions. Also British visitors that might expect to stroll the beach and drop into a taverna or beach bar (as in the Med) are going to be disappointed as there is nothing for miles in either direction. In fact the whole area surrounding the Vero Beach Resort is highly residential and you definitely need a car if you want to explore outside.

At 3:00 we sit on the back porch and listen to Unca Banjo for a few minutes before attending the open house in the beach front cottage. The lady there is not particularly talkative but we enjoy a glass of lemonade and a cookie.

Back to Community Hall as it is time for bingo! There are only two other players so the Stringer family reap another veritable treasure chest of prizes including chocolate for Tam and various knickknacks for the girls. Shame they don't have beer for a prize. One thing about this family, we are always up for a freebie. In fact Tammy would probably walk across red hot coals if she thought that there was something free at the end of it.

Back to the room, showers and out by 5:30. We are going to eat in Captain Hirams, about 4 miles away in Sebastian. This is a pretty place by a marina. We start with salads which are 99 cents with an entree. India has the smoked fish dip and crackers (8) with fries on the side (wow, don't I sound American!) while Georgia stretches her culinary boundaries with hot dog and fries (7). My entree is Grilled Grouper (8) and Tammy has the Seafood Platter, which consists of scallops, mahi mahi and shrimp broiled in a white wine, butter and lemon sauce (8.5). We have a coupon from the web site for a free dessert and try the Captains Derby Pie, a nougat brownie covered in cream and choc chips (5.5). The total bill including tip is $70, very reasonable I thought. This is helped by the draft beer being $1 on special. As I am driving I cannot take advantage of this great deal. Life can be so cruel sometimes.

Back to the resort where we book Shutters restaurant for 7:00 PM tomorrow night for Georgia's birthday celebration. As we are passing the TV room the Tigger Movie is just starting.. I want to go to the bar for a beer but we start to watch the film and once we are settled we have to watch the whole thing. Several people walk by on the way to or from Shutters and give us amused looks but we are all snuggled up on the sofa, so pay no attention. There are not many things that can keep me from a beer but Tigger seems to be one of them.

We are back in the room by 9:30 to wrap up Georgia's presents. Tam has bought a birthday banner which we are going to put up when she is asleep.

DAY 8 WEDS.18th OCT.

Up at 7:30 for Georgia's birthday. The banner is up and she has lots of cards to open, many containing money which is what she wanted so that she can buy things in WDW. She opens her Princess pyjamas and is very happy with them along with the Tarzan video we have bought for her. We put her birthday badges on to her tee shirt and, after a quick breakfast, set off for the pool.

There is a lady giving swimming instruction to children and India and Georgia join in. It is not really teaching you how to swim, more learning not to be afraid of the water, how to float and to put your head under the water. She is a very nice lady but the lesson goes on for about an hour and the girls both come out pretty cold.

At 11:30 there is a Hoop La Coin Toss on the croquet lawn and the girls both come away happy with little prizes. Back to the room for an early lunch before we go down to the lobby to ring Granny and Grandma so they can wish Georgia a happy birthday. Both Tam's mum and mine will be coming with us next year when we will include a week at the Boardwalk Villas, so, of course, they want to know about the weather etc. Talking of the weather, I have not mentioned it much up to yet because basically it has been the same every day. High's in the mid 80's with evening temperatures falling to around 70. Perfect.

Back at the pool tam and the girls go off to do the Treasure Hunt at 1:30 while I sit here and write up my trip report. I think I will lie back and enjoy the sun for a while now, I may crack open a cold beer if I'm so inclined. It's a hard job but somebody's got to do it. Cold where you are is it? Shame!

So far no one has noticed or mentioned Georgia's birthday. We have priority seating for Shutters tonight and Tammy has mentioned that Georgia is 7 today, so we will see if anything happens. The girls come back from the Treasure Hunt with a ring and a small plastic fish. Not exactly the haul of Spanish doubloons that I was hoping for but they have had fun anyway.

After a swim we all head for the beach where we stroll and paddle. Tam hops anxiously around the shoreline while the girls and I paddle, convinced a freak wave is going to carry us away. She watches far too much television. One advantage of all the properties along the beach front being residential is that you can stroll for miles and barely meet a sole.

Back at the resort we attend the DVC members open house for another nice glass of lemonade and a free DVC cap each, which is very nice.

After this we have a game of mini golf which is free as today is members day and we get a few various benefits. My performance is outstanding, even Tiger Woods would struggle to live with me today. I card a 2 over par 25 for the 9 holes. The odd couple of drop shots I put down to misreading the putt on the hole where you have to hit the ball through the centre of the cannon. I also think that they may have over watered the green on the shark hole. Of course, I trounce the women, although this is not hard considering Tammy's strategy seems to be to aim at the hole and then hit the ball as hard as she can. It takes her a while to work out that the ball is not supposed to end up further away from the hole than before you hit it.

Another swim and we return to the room for showers and to dress up for Georgia's birthday party. We arrive at Shutters at 7:00 and the lady at the desk says that she has a phone call for Georgia. It is Goofy wishing her a happy birthday. We found both the food and the service here to be very good. Georgia has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which was multicoloured and in the shape of Mickey Mouse) and fries, while India has chicken strips and fries. I have the Sirloin Steak with Mashed Potato (9 - exceptionally tender) and Tam has Prime Rib with Jacket Potato (8.75). My she's getting fussy with her marking. Dessert is a White Chocolate Bread Pudding with rum and banana sauce (6) which sounds better than it tastes.

There is no sign of anything happening on the birthday front so Tammy has a quiet word with the waitress. A few minutes later 3 of the staff appear with a piece of cake with a candle in it and happy birthday in sauce. We all sing happy birthday and Georgia looks suitably embarrassed. It proves that they will help to make your child's birthday more magical but you may need to give them a little reminder.

After the meal we withdraw to the Green Cabin Room where Tammy has an Islander cocktail which is $1 off on DVC members day. Tam would drink something with meths in if it was $1 off. We sit outside on the balcony and listen to the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach. The campfire is still going on so Tam and the girls go down to catch the end of it. When they return Tam says that Justin is doing it today and he recognises India and Georgia. He also sees Georgia's birthday badge and gets everyone at the campfire to sing happy birthday, so after a slow start things have definitely improved on the birthday greetings front.

It is getting a bit breezy outside so we go in for another drink and a game of draughts. India and I take on Georgia and Tammy. Using our superior tactics and game plan we trounce them thoroughly which impresses Georgia no end as she promptly falls asleep on Tammy's lap. Time to head back to the room and bed at 10:00.

Georgia has had a fun filled birthday. This is the second birthday she has had away from home, the first was when we went on a short break to Butlins. For those of you that don't know much about Butlins, our room was smelly, damp, tatty with graffiti scratched into the furniture. We only went the once. So which was the better birthday? Butlins or Vero Beach? Oooh .... tough one that. It takes Georgia about two seconds to make up her mind.

DAY 9 THURS.19th OCT.

Awake at 8:00, we laze around and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the pool at 9:45. The sea looks a little calmer today and the tide is out a little so, apart from the seaweed at the top of the beach, it looks quite appealing.

We position ourselves by the slide and watch in amazement as a boy around 11 years old insists on coming down backwards. The lifeguard asks him several times not to and on the third occasion calls him over and warns him about it. Still he persists in doing it, so the lifeguard calls him over again and asks his name. He then talks to the boy in a very friendly but firm way explaining that it is dangerous to ride backwards and that if he keeps doing it, he will be banned from the pool. I was so impressed with the way he dealt with the situation. He prevented the young lad from doing something he was not supposed to do but kept it friendly and quiet. I was not so impressed with a boy who obviously thinks that rules apply to everyone but him and whose parents are nowhere to be seen.

After swimming and sunbathing for the morning we walk up the road to get a couple of subs for lunch from the pizza place which is one of the only two shops within walking distance. These are very good and we take them back to the room to eat where Tam says 'Shouldn't we be going soon?' as we have booked places on the Indian River cruise leaving from the marina in front of Captain Hirams. I think that it leaves at 1:30 but Tam says, no, 1:00. I look at my watch and it says 12:40. Whoops! Down to the car at double speed to try and drive the 6 miles to the marina. We make it with seconds to spare.

The cruise itself is in a sort of glorified pontoon boat. We are told that you often see manatee, dolphin and alligators. Unfortunately we see none of these but it is still worth the money. we are out for about 3 hours and some of the scenery is very beautiful. We do see turtles and several different sorts of birds including ospreys, cormorants and herons. Just looking at some of the houses that line the river makes the trip worthwhile. What an amazing place to live. On the way back across the lagoon the captain allows both India and Georgia to drive the boat while I keep an anxious eye out for icebergs. A fun trip and I would certainly do it again. I'm sue that on another day you would be lucky enough to see more wildlife.

Back at the resort Tam sits by the pool while the girls and I go down to the beach. The sea is definitely calmer now and there is more sand visible. There is still a lot of seaweed at the high water line but very little in the sea itself so the beach looks slightly cleaner today. Several people in the resort have told us that they very rarely get seaweed here so we have just been unlucky with the storm conditions out in the ocean. I will happily put up with a bit of seaweed if it means that the storms stay out in the ocean and leave us to enjoy the lovely weather.

Back at the pool we relax again in the late afternoon sunshine (oh, the pain!) before heading back to the room to shower and change for the evening. The meal tonight is in Hurricane Harbour (about 4 miles away) in Sebastian. It is a pleasant little place right on the marina, with a man playing a guitar providing the background music. Tam has the Veal Marsala and Jacket Potato (7) and I have the Chicken Francaise (7) which is chicken dipped in egg and fried. The food is not bad but it could be a bit hotter and the vegetables are a bit watery. This is a typical Florida ocean side restaurant. Lovely location and very pleasant but average food, which is reflected in the price. The total bill is $48 including the children's meals, drinks and tip. You can get better quality meals but you obviously pay more for it.

Once we are back at the resort the bar beckons. We sit outside on the balcony as it is a much calmer night and feels warmer for it. The waitress asks if we saw the rocket go off tonight. What rocket? She tells us that it went off at 8:40, about an hour ago. We are all really unhappy to have missed this. I mean, they sent up a rocket while I'm here and didn't contact me personally to tell me? Don't they know who I am? Don't answer that! Oh well, next time.

Georgia is desperate for her bed so Tam takes her back to the room while India and I finish the beer (well, I finish the beer while India provides encouragement) before we stroll down to the beach to see the stars. It is a crystal clear night and as we look over the ocean there is no artificial light to spoil the view. It is an awe inspiring sight as all the beauty of the heavens is displayed before us. Now, I know that the Disney Corporation is powerful but to provide such a majestic display just for my benefit is very moving. Thank you Michael. Now about those free annual passes.......

DAY 10 FRI.20th OCT.

We lie in until 8:45. Breakfast in the room is accompanied by Scooby Doo on the TV. The ghost would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for those pesky kids.

The first activity of the day is archery over by the lake. India is pretty good at this, she must have some Robin Hood in her blood. I have a go and my first few efforts fly way over the target and deep into the woods. I may not have scored anything but I bet I scared the local wildlife. Tremble at my name, for I am Kevin, slayer of racoons and frightener of small mammals.

Back at the pool I clamber to the top of the water slide with the various cameras, as you get an excellent view of the resort from here. Another lazy day around the pool. The girls and Tam go off to do the potato sack race while I take it easy and read my book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Tammy and India have read all four so I have got to read them just to see what all the fuss is about. I can certainly see how this will translate onto film, the sets and special effects promise to be spectacular.

Tammy is reading Bill Bryson Down Under. She is telling me about some strange Australian place names such as Burrumbuttock (giggle) and Tittybong (even bigger giggle). She seems to think that I would like to spend some time in the latter of these. She's probably right, I've always been attracted to a nice pair of Bongs.

After a lunch of nachos the girls and I stroll down to the beach. The beach chairs and umbrellas are out for the first time but the tide is in and there can't be much more than 15 feet of beach visible. I venture out into the ocean a little way and nearly get knocked off my feet a couple of times, so I scuttle back to the beach to dig holes in the sand with the girls. Our puny efforts are soon swept away by the mighty ocean so we slink back to the pool.

For the first time ever Georgia manages to swim a width and Tam goes off to buy her some goggles as a reward. She is soon ducking her head under the water and having great fun. It's amazing what a little bit of confidence can do for you.

It's bingo time again at 4:00. Don't let anyone tell you that the Stringers don't enjoy sophisticated entertainment on holiday.

Back to the room to shower then we are off to the Riverside Cafe in Vero Beach. We found this place in the book of restaurants that they keep in Guest Services. This is an excellent resource as they have photocopies of directions to the various places that you can take. We chose the Riverside Cafe as it claims to be the only place in Vero Beach that you can watch the sunset. As it turns out it is a very good choice. It is right by the waters edge with boats moored at the marina. We are seated at a water front table as there is a wedding party inside the restaurant. the bride is wearing a sparkly silver dress and the girls think she looks like a mermaid. Unusually for Florida, this is a covered but open sided restaurant which is a pleasant change from the glacial conditions often found in the air conditioned areas. There is a bar which is buzzing as people have congregated to watch the sunset. There is a warning on the menu that tells people that a bell will ring and everything will stop for 5 minutes to watch the sun go down. As the time approaches a waitress comes up and asks the girls if they want to ring the bell. Georgia is too shy but India leaps up on to the chair and rings for all she's worth. sure enough, everyone focuses on the skyline as the huge red sun sinks slowly over the horizon. It all reminds me of Key West.

Out on the deck the wedding ceremony takes place and everyone claps as they walk back into the restaurant. Our server is a young girl who tells us that it is her first night in the job. She bears an uncanny resemblance to Brittany Spears so will get a large tip on that basis alone! We have an appetiser of Breaded Fried Shrimp with Tomato and Horseradish Dip (7.5) and salads. I have Salmon with Crab and Blue Cheese Mousse (9) and Tam has Grouper with a Lemon and Shrimp Sauce over rice (8.75). We then split a Key Lime Pie (9.5) which is delicious, very soft, just the right texture. Total including drinks and tip is $85. We all enjoy the meal here and rate it level with Shutters as the best meal we have had at Vero Beach. It is fun to find a place that has a really relaxed feel to it with plenty of people at the bar to create an almost party atmosphere. A definite recommendation.

Back to the resort where the girls want to watch Mulan downstairs on the large TV so Tam and I make our way to the Green Cabin Room to relax with a couple of beers. Well, you could at least try to look surprised. The entertainment tonight is a couple of blokes called the River Rats. One plays guitar and sings while the other plucks a piece of string attached to an upturned washtub. I hope they don't split the takings evenly because the washtub guy seems to be getting much the better deal here.

All the entertainment provided in the Green Cabin Room is of a relaxing nature, either quiet jazz or acoustic music. Very laid back after a hard day around the pool.

DAY 11 SAT.21st OCT.

Up around 8:00. We decide that we want to do something today but we're not sure what. We look through a guide book of the area that we have picked up and decide to drive to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter.

We leave at 9:00 and arrive 3 hours later. This is due to a combination of trying to find the place and also taking the more scenic A1A along the coast. The drive back takes half the time on the Interstate. The sanctuary is quite a small place but costs nothing to get in. It is primarily there to help injured wild animals to recuperate before being released back into the wild. We spend an interesting hour or so looking around at Florida panthers, snakes, bobcats, skunks and all sorts of birds including ospreys and eagles. There is also a small forest trail to walk around.

As we drive back through Jupiter we come across the Jonathan Dickenson State Park. There are big banners out proclaiming that today is the parks 50th birthday and that admission is free. (Normally it costs $3.25 per car.) We enter the park and then drive for about 4 miles until we reach the recreation area. The normal park activities are available including hiking trails, bike trails, canoeing and boat trips. In addition there are all sorts of birthday party happenings, these include people dressed up and re-enacting various parts of Floridian history. There are Seminole Indians, civil War Infantrymen, an 1840's settler and Jonathon Dickinson himself, after who the park is named.

One very interesting thing is the man who is giving an indigo dyeing demonstration. Now I know this sounds as interesting as listening to a double glazing salesman but it is actually very informative. For instance, did you know that indigo was a plantation crop that, at one time was considered on a par with silver and gold? Me neither. Apparently they would soak the young shoots and leaves of the indigo plant in 40 foot wide baths full of a mixture of water and urine. The resultant concoction was then pulverised and mixed to get air into it before being left to dry out in the sunshine. This produced a foul smell that meant no dwelling could be built within a quarter of a mile. The end product was a block of solid indigo which could then be used to dye clothing, wool etc. See how educational it can be to read one of my trip reports? Well, if you can't have fun you might as well learn something.

The kiddies area has a selection of small creatures being handled by people. These include a baby alligator, snakes and a tarantula. One little girl lets the tarantula crawl over her hand. Georgia looks on from a safe distance. Spiders and Georgia do not get on well together.

We decide to take a canoe out as it only costs $10 for 2 hours but when we go to pay we are told that we can't all go in one boat. Tammy is not confident at all about going out on her own so we give it a miss. It's a shame because the river area is really beautiful with mangrove swamps and exotically forested areas to paddle round.

One thing that has caught Tammy's attention is a 6 foot long cake in the shape of an crocodile. Around 3:30 they have a ceremony to cut it up and begin to hand out pieces to everyone. Tam is in there, pulling small children out of the way and nudging Grannies to one side. I fully expect her to take a running jump and land with a big splat in the middle of the cake and wallow around in it. Instead she settles for the largest piece she can get. By the way, it is very nice.

A band are just setting up on the stage so we find seats right at the front to watch them. They kick off with 'Keep Your Hands To Yourself' by the Georgia Satellites, one of my all time favourites, so I sit happily for 20 minutes listening to their set. As Tam says, if only I could have a beer I would be in my element.

We leave the park at 4:30 to start our journey back and encounter the first rain of our holiday. Just a few showers, nothing to get worried about. I would thoroughly recommend a trip to this State Park, we had a great time and there would still be plenty to do even on a normal day. Why not do what we did and pop into the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary while you are there as well?

We get back to Vero Beach around 6:00 and decide on a night in with a couple of videos. We get out Mighty Joe Young and Armageddon as the rentals are free for DVC members. Next a quick trip up the road sees us stock up on beer, coke, popcorn and a 10 piece family meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken. Back at the room the pig family descend on the food and munch through it faster than a plague of locusts. We have all seen Mighty Joe Young with the exception of Tammy. The biggest problem is stopping Georgia from blurting out bits of the story before they happen. Armageddon is next. I had read a lot about this film but never seen it. To my surprise we all thought it was great. OK, so it is as believable as a politician at election time, and some of the clichés are clichés of clichés (don't worry, I didn't understand that last bit myself) but this is an action film first and foremost. The special effects are spectacular and it races along at a cracking pace. Bruce Willis gets to be an All American Hero and the world is a safe place once again. Hey, if you want Hamlet, watch Hamlet. One of the things that does get annoying is the regularity with which foul ups occur. To quote India 'Something goes wrong and then something goes wrong and then something goes wrong and then ....'

I've just realised that you're not getting a lot of WDW related information during the Vero Beach section of this report so I will try and bring it back on topic for you. Georgia was looking a little GOOFY today, she's a CHIP off the old block. We watched a film about outer space which could have included PLUTO and I've just spent one and a half hours of my valuable holiday time writing up this trip report, which really is taking the MICKEY.

DAY 12 SUN.22nd OCT.

I don't wake up until 9:00 (probably to do with the multiple beers consumed while watching the videos last night) only to find the room empty. The ladies have been for an early morning stroll along the beach, which they all enjoyed. Breakfast is quick and we are out by 10:30. We are having a lazy day and we sit around the pool while the girls splash around and generally have fun. They go to the games room for a while and come back looking disconsolate. When I ask what's wrong they say that two boys took over the game that they had paid for. I apply the standard parental response of 'Well, you've got to stick up for yourself.' Sometimes I think it must be very confusing being a child. I hear myself saying the same things to my children that mystified me when I was young. We want our children to be self-assertive, confident, happy, friendly and liked by their peers without being over bearing, bullying, precocious, rude or violent. And what's the best we can come up with? 'You've got to stick up for yourself.' No wonder they feel hard done by sometimes.

At 12:30 we take a stroll along the beach to the shop to buy lunch which consists of a tuna sub a BBQ beef sub and various sweets and chocolate bars. The shop only seems to sell booze, snack foods and sweets. All the main ingredients for a happy Stringer family.

Back at the pool to leave Tammy basking in the sun while the girls and I go to the beach. I paddle and generally ponder on life while the girls attempt to build an ocean proof hole. This will be our last time on the beach but I'm not too sad, as Tammy says, we will almost certainly return sometime during our 42 year DVC membership.

At the pool India takes part in the Tug of War, boys v girls. The girls win as the boys let the side down. Mind you, the girls did outnumber the boys two to one. Georgia is desperate to play mini golf again so off we go to tee off. This time I am 4 over par which I put down to the windy conditions. Both Tammy and India are happy as they get hole in ones.

After a shower we are ready to dine out. This time we choose Mr Manatee's in Vero Beach. It describes itself as THE place for casual dining and this turns out to be pretty accurate. It isn't the prettiest place that we have been to but it is clean and the food is very good. We start with Teriyaki Steak Bites (9.9 excellent) and Baked Potato Skins with bacon, cheese and spring onions (7.5). India has the Salmon Brochette (8.5) and we share the Chicken Breast in a creamy mushroom sauce (8.5). For dessert Tam and I split an Over Indulgence, brownie, ice cream and whipped cream (9.0) and the girls share a Banana Pie layered with ice cream (6). Tam also has a couple of glasses of the house wine which she says is very good. Total is $80, which is not bad considering the amount of food and drink consumed. This also includes quite a healthy tip for Cindy who is probably the friendliest server we have had the whole trip.

Back at the room we watch A Bug's Life before bed.

DAY 13 MON. 23rd OCT.

Up at 7:00 to begin packing. We are returning to WDW today and Tam wants to stop at the Belz Mall on the way through, hence her keenness for an early start. We have had breakfast and are in the car by 9:00. It is sad to be leaving Vero Beach but I am looking forward to being back in WDW even more. This time we take the direct route up I95 with Tammy cursing every car that passes us, after all they might be going shopping. We don't want one more person in front of us at the check out now do we?

The drive is uneventful and we are in the car park at Belz by 11:00. Now I have to be honest here and confess that the shopping goes less painfully than I expect. (I know, I know, I'm shocked too!) By far our biggest outlay is on CD's. I manage to lay my grubby little mitts on CD's by Green Day, The Violent Femmes and Barenaked Ladies. Tam buys a greatest hits album by Roxette. Yes, I did try to talk her out of it, but, what can I say, she's musically challenged. Georgia buys a Christina Aguillera (sp?) CD which shows how she is growing up. This time last year it would have been the Teletubbies or something similar. According to Georgia Christina Aguillera is 'cool' and 'ex'. India is looking for the Fantasmic! CD but can't find it. She'll have to get it in Epcot tomorrow. We have lunch in the mall and much to my amazement we are back in the car by 1:30. I can hardly believe it but wisely keep my big mouth shut for fear that Tammy might change her mind, decide it's only half time and rush back in for the another go.

Off to Goodings for a few bits and pieces and cookies and sweets for work colleagues

On to the Boardwalk Villas where we check in at 2:30 and our room is ready! This time we have a preferred view room number 3064, on the third floor, just 2 rooms from the elevators. Our balcony overlooks the main pool and also gives a lovely view of the Swan. I could not be happier. Much as I have enjoyed Vero Beach, I really feel like I have come home. We even had a 'Welcome home' from the lady at check in.

We unpack quickly and take a walk around. as we leave the room we turn left to follow the corridor along to the end as I have read a lot of people complaining about the distance from the elevators to the farthest rooms. They are not wrong as we have to walk quite a way to the end. Here we find a place called the Attic Lounge (or it may have been Room.) The doors are shut but I try one and it opens so in we go. The room is lovely with comfy chairs and sofas all over the place and large windows giving a panoramic view over the Boardwalk. Outside is a patio (directly above Jellyrolls) and we take a couple of photos. As we leave the Attic Lounge there is a CM coming along with a trolley loaded with drink. I am starting to think that this is not a guest area.

Back at Guest Services I ask about this room and am told that it is only for private parties, convention groups etc. Oh dear. Never mind, at least I have seen something that most guests never get to see. If you get the chance to have a peek inside then take it as it really is beautiful.

We wander along the Boardwalk and go into the DVC presentation area where we ask to see our DVC guide Bobby. He is not working until Wednesday so perhaps we will see him then. While there we ask to see around a 2 bedroom unit (which is really a 1 bedroom plus studio) to see what our accommodation will be like next year. Wow, it really is spectacular. I haven't finished this years holiday and I'm already looking forward to next year.

The main pool is next where a beer is purchased for me along with a vodka and citrus cocktail for Tam and drinks for the girls. With tip it comes to $13. Oh well, we are celebrating our return home. We walk around to the quiet pool with our drinks and I sit and write up the trip report while the girls enjoy a late afternoon dip.

Back in the room the girls have a shower and Tam and I enjoy a beer on the balcony. It's one of those very special times when you are so relaxed and at ease that all seems right with the world. The view is lovely and the sounds of people enjoying themselves in the pool seems to fit in perfectly with the moment. All too soon the girls are done and it's time for us to get ready. To give Tammy her due, she has been in commando mode when it comes to getting ready for the evening on this holiday. By that I mean that it takes her half an hour to get ready rather than the usual interminable length of time. England could lose a Test Match in the same time it takes her to apply makeup. (Cricket, for my American friends.) Mind you, why should I complain, it gives me time for another beer.

Tam asks if I'm turning into an alcoholic. (Jokingly!) No, I'm just on holiday and relaxing. I employ the classic Stringer counter 'Well, are you becoming a food-a-holic?) Humorous, eh? By the look of her stomach she is definitely ahead on points. (Ducks as empty beer bottle misses head by inches.)

We are off to the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian so we catch the bus to the Magic Kingdom. As it draws up at 7:00 the park is just closing for the day. As we walk past the gates on the way to the monorail I get a sort of tingle that makes me feel I am where I belong. I ask Tammy if she feels the same and she says 'No, it doesn't feel that long since we were last here.' That's the difference between us, Tam likes it, I love it. I don't even want to go in particularly, just being around makes me feel good.

We get the monorail round to the Poly. There is quite a variation in the dress of the people on board as some are leaving the park after a long day while others are dressed up for an evening meal at one of the resort restaurants. At the Poly we are seated at the Kona Cafe within 5 minutes of arrival. We start with Prawn and Shrimp Potstickers (8.5). Our entrees are Beef Teriyaki with Sticky Rice (6 - too spicy) and Herb Crusted Chicken with Parmesan Mash (8.0). The girls share a kids ice cream cone with M&M's on top. Total is $68. The food is of good quality but just not quite to our taste, a little over spicey.

The Poly is a lovely place at night with all the flowing water and vegetation. we go outside but unfortunately the main dock and pool area are being refurbished. Also the flaming torches are not working, which makes it a little difficult to get around. Down on the beach we watch the Electrical Water Pageant. There are one or two other people watching but that's all, so when a large round of applause breaks out when it's finished I look around to see what's going on. I hadn't noticed all the people sat on their balconies overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon. Now that is some view.

We get a taxi back ($13 with tip) and are in bed by 10:30.

DAY 14 TUES. 24th OCT.

Yippee! Epcot today. It is early entry so we wake up at 7:00 when Georgia crawls into bed with us, as she has done for much of the holiday. She says 'I love you daddy' and when asked why says 'Because you're pretty.' PRETTY! PRETTY! Now there are many things a man might like to be but 'pretty' is not one of them. When told this she says 'OK, because you like villains.' Ah, now there's a reason to be proud.

We enter Epcot via the International Gateway at just after 8:00. It's very nice strolling through an empty World Showcase (it doesn't open until 11:00). We pass all the stalls for the Food and Wine Festival which have Tammy hungry already.

On to Test Track where we pick up Fast Passes before riding Spaceship Earth. Tammy is thinking ahead to next year when her mother will be with us and wondering how she will like it as she is slightly claustrophobic.

We intend to do the Universe of Energy next but hear the cars running on Test Track so decide to get in the standby line. Sure enough, at 9:00 it opens and in we go. We wait about half an hour and then the ride breaks down half way through. I thought that maybe they would let us stay on to ride again but, no, we are made to get out. I might have made more of a fuss but we still have our Fast Passes left so I let it ride. (Or not ride, if you see what I mean.)

Over to the Universe of Energy where I can't help pondering on what a strange threesome Ellen, Jamie Lee Curtis and Albert Einstein would make. All the bases covered there, I think.

Back to test Track which goes smoothly this time. We all think this ride is great. I know some people don't think that it is as thrilling as it might be but it's fine by us. I always tend to look at the technology behind the ride and am amazed at how this manages to function at all.

The Living Seas is something that we have not done for a few years but India wants to see the Manatees. These creatures are so graceful and I'm always amused by their expressions which seem to be a mix of gloominess and resignation. As Tammy says, Eeyore without the legs. Their bulk is incredible and I can't help thinking that a few people I see around the park would not look out of place in this tank.

It is now 12:00 and the frustration is starting to well up inside of Tam. All that food out there and time is slipping by. We begin an anti clockwise stroll around World Showcase to sample the food and drink. Be warned that the samples that you try at the food booths are very small and, although relatively cheap at $2 or $3 each, this soon adds up. The wine samples for $2 are ridiculously tiny, barely a couple of mouthfuls. One good thing is that you can get the recipe cards for anything you try.

Rather than try and list the items we eat in chronological order I will just put them all down in one go.

Greece: Pork Souvlaki with Pitta and Minty Sauce (8.5), small Athena beer (8.0) and Baklava (9.0). Total $7.

Chocolate booth: Chocolate Strawberries (9.0) $1.50.

Canada: Maple Fudge (9.0 - tiny portion), Cheddar Soup (10), Schone Maple Pale Ale (4.0) a strange sort of maple urine flavour. Weird, but it sort of grew on me, perhaps I should have been a sailor. Total $5.00.

Mediterranean: Lamb Kabsa (10), Efes beer (5.0).

United States: BBQ Chicken Sandwich (6.0), Clam Chowder (6.52). Total $4.75. The children have Chicken and Fries from the normal counter service restaurant and Tam and I split a large Bud (9.5).

Australia: Lamingtons - a sort of sponge covered in chocolate (6.34), Black Opal Shiraz (8.57). Total $4.50.

Southeast Asia: Chicken Satay (8.54) $3.50.

You have noticed that, as the day wore on and the beer started to take effect, the marking got a bit out of hand. However I can assure you that it was all done using highly scientific and well proven principles. If you don't believe me, buy me a beer and I will explain it all to you in great detail.

Back to the details of the day. In Canada we watch the film. This is Tammy's favourite which just goes to show that she does have a Disney heart after all. The girls are both starting to get a bit grumpy so we agree to take them back for a swim. Unfortunately for them, at the International Gateway they have the World of Beers and a presentation by Budweiser called Bud World. Sorry, but this opportunity is too good to miss. The Bud World thing is obviously one big advert for Budweiser but is also very interesting and informative as we first watch a couple of short films about the history of Budweiser before a talk about the brewing process from a brewmaster. (Along with tasting as well). At the end there is a spot quiz on the five ingredients of Budweiser and muggins here gets chosen to do it. Showing stunning recall and staggering intelligence, I get all five. Nothing to do with the fact that 3 of the 5 ingredients are on the table in front of us of course. In case you're interested they are malt barley, yeast, rice, water and hops.

After this entertaining half hour we stagger out slightly squiffy and get on the boat back to the Boardwalk. It is now 3:00 and Tam and I take turns to have showers while the girls finally get to have a swim.

Back into Epcot at 4:00 and the first stop is at the World of Beers where I try a Sunny Beaches (Indian beer 6.0) and Tam has a Cider Jack Raspberry (8.75). We wander around and nibble here and there and watch various things including a demonstration on cooking Escargot, preparing Sushi and the end of the Cookin' show in the American Gardens Theatre.

We watch the first Tapestry of Nations from France and then move on to the UK to watch the British Invasion. This brings back memories of New Years Eve and Georgia joins in with Hey Jude. At the end we all get up to the front to Twist and Shout.

We start our trek back round World Showcase to find a spot to watch the second Tapestry of Nations and Reflections of Earth. This proves to be easier said than done as many of the prime locations, including our favourite spot in front of Italy, are roped off. When I ask what for, I am told it is for conventioners. This is one aspect of Disney that I am not too fond of. I understand that conventions bring in large sums of money but the ordinary park goer has had to fork out a fair bit to be there as well. I don't mind space being set aside for private functions but it seems that every time I go there are larger and larger areas being restricted to the general public. Pretty soon there will be nowhere left to watch from. I am starting to loathe those pesky conventioners with their little plastic badges.

Anyway, as it turns out we have very nearly the perfect spot for both shows. Just to the Norway side of Mexico they are stopping people from standing by the lagoon railings in order to keep it free for a walkway while Tapestry of Nations is on. I ask the CM on crowd control duties if we can stand there for Reflections of Earth after the parade is finished and she says yes. So we find an empty spot just across the road to watch Tapestry. I nip up the road for a beer and then we watch the parade which really is so much better at night. We are just across the road from the roped off disabled section and all these people are so enthusiastic, clapping and cheering every performer. This gives the whole thing more atmosphere and makes for great fun.

Meanwhile, being the devious person that I am, I'm keeping one eye on the end of the parade and one eye on the CM controlling the walkway opposite. When she stops people crossing for the last time and they start to line up at the railings I dart across showing all the agility and grace of a slightly inebriated middle aged man and find one of the last few spots. Tammy and the girls hurry across and we are set.

This position is excellent, much nearer to the globe so that you can see a lot more of the moving figures. You can also feel the heat from the fire quite strongly. I was not sure how much I would enjoy the show after seeing it so many times in January, but I had no need to worry because it was still as wonderful as ever. Georgia shows another sign of her increasing maturity as we have forgotten the earplugs but she just watches with her fingers in her ears instead. Mind you, she is also very tired by now so we head off back to the Boardwalk via the boat. I know it's not far to walk but when you have a weary Georgia, the less walking the better.

Back at the Boardwalk there is still just time for a trip to the bakery for cakes for the girls while Tam and I have a hot dog. Back in the room there is a bit of a problem with the sleeping arrangements as a debate ensues as to who sleeps which side of the bed. There is a bit of a tantrum and a few tears are shed. Georgia is convinced that the whole world conspires against her and that life is just not fair. I agree, we've only got two days left.

DAY 15 WEDS. 25th OCT.

We don't get up until 8:30 and then have a leisurely breakfast before leaving the room at 10:00. This is going to be a quieter day just doing whatever takes our fancy. We take a stroll over to the Swan and Dolphin for a look around. They share an exceptionally nice pool, large with a couple of waterfalls. Inside the Dolphin lobby is very impressive, certainly these resorts have grown on me as I see more of them. Tammy still thinks that they look like glorified Days Inn from the outside. The thing that puts me off more than anything are the number of conventioneers that are roaming around. It seems incongruous to see people in suits when you are on holiday in WDW, too close to work for my liking.

Over to the DVC house on the Boardwalk to meet Bobby Corsello who is our DVC guide. We don't want anything in particular, just to say hello and ask a couple of questions. We are made to feel very welcome and sit and chat with Bobby over a cup of coffee and a biscuit. As we leave Bobby gives the girls some candy floss and some salt water taffy. The Stringers score with the freebies again.

Next we drive over to Old Key West and ask to look around a 2 bedroom unit as we have still not fully made up our minds as to where we will stay next year. A CM shows us around a room in building 26 which is very impressive indeed. I had read that the units here are bigger than at the Boardwalk and this is true. It is a real 2 bedroom unit as opposed to the Boardwalk which is really a 1 bedroom unit with connecting studio. It has all the same facilities but the large balcony overlooks a very pretty water area with golf course beyond. Tammy is particularly impressed and says that it would be a lovely place to stay as we get older. Next year then! It is certainly quieter than the Boardwalk and is really the sort of place that you could stay for a couple of weeks and never visit a theme park. I think we will probably stick with the Boardwalk for next year as it is more lively and the proximity to both Epcot and the Studios is a big plus.

After looking around Old Key West we drive off to see Celebration. In case you don't know this is a fully functioning town and community that Disney built. I have read all the reports of it being a Stepford like community and to some extent I suppose this is true. Everything is picture postcard pretty, there is no rubbish, no graffiti and all is sweetness and light. We park up and stroll around by the lake where the shops and cafes seem to be. Lunch is at Max's cafe on the corner overlooking the lake. This place is a sort of retro 50's diner but, like everything else in Celebration, new neat and clean.

Between us we manage to demolish a BLT sandwich (8), Mushroom Soup (10), a Chicken Sandwich (7), a Salmon Burger (7.5), a beer, a chocolate shake, a soda and a Bananachino (8.5 - a coffee and banana drink.) The total including tip is $38, which I thought was very good as the food is very good.

My thoughts on Celebration. I liked it very much. I know that there are restrictions on how the people that own the houses there must keep them and that some people see this as a nanny state or big brother scenario, but I don't see much wrong in being forced to keep your property up to a reasonable standard. I bet many of you wish a few of your neighbours were made to keep things tidier. Isn't this something we all aspire to?

Tam says that she feels it is a little too perfect, almost like a town full of Disney resorts. And what is wrong with that may I ask? Perhaps you would prefer the odd stray dog roaming around or a few McDonalds boxes blowing in the wind? Maybe some peeling paint and a few pot holes in the road? Within 2 miles of leaving Celebration we are back on the 192 with its slightly gaudy motels and eating houses. Now where would you prefer to live? A point well made I think. (Smug look on face.)

The girls have been desperate to swim in the pool at Wilderness Lodge for ages so we drive over there to let them have some fun. Don't give me that disapproving look, DVC members get pool hopping privileges at all the resort pools. As I write up my trip report the ladies have fun in the pool and hot tub. Another of Georgia's front teeth comes out while she is playing. She's starting to look like a gummy old woman. Just like her mother then. We suddenly decide to do the Wilderness Lodge tour. As with all things that we do, it has to be the hard way as we have only 10 minutes before the tour starts and the girls are still in the pool. Rush, rush, rush and we join the tour with just a couple of minutes gone.

If you are ever over at the Lodge you ought to think about doing this as it is very informative and costs nothing. It starts in the lobby where you are told about the architecture and materials that the Lodge is made from. You get to find out what is real and what is fake. You progress to the Burning Oak Smokehouse where you are shown how they smoke the various meats for use in the Wilderness Lodge restaurants using cherry, apple and hickory woods. We also get a sample of smoked pork ribs to try. The tour finishes in Artist Point where two chefs tell you about the restaurant and give you a sample of the salmon to try. Did you know that most of the fish served in Artist Point does not come from Florida at all but is flown in from Seattle and other West coast areas? Well you do now. The whole tour only takes about an hour. Anything that educates and nourishes at the same time has got to be good in my book.

We return to the Boardwalk for a quick swim before going out for the evening. On Bobby's recommendation we have cancelled our Priority Seating at the Flying Fish and rebooked for 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian as he says that it is an all you can eat buffet and very good. The added benefit is that it is a Villains character meal. Nice one.

As we lie by the pool enjoying a beer and listening to Aerosmith, I reflect that we leave for home the day after tomorrow. (sniffle.) Tam and I are discussing how we will use the DVC in the future. We are both agreed that you could come to the Boardwalk for 2 weeks, have a fantastic time and never go near a theme park. I think the main thing I would miss would be the night time parades and shows.

After showers we leave for the Grand Floridian at 7:00. India has her Fantasmic! tee shirt on and I am wearing my Villains Jafar shirt. The bus arrives within a couple of minutes and the lady driver asks where we are going as the Magic Kingdom has just shut. She then drops us off directly at the Grand Floridian. Thanks very much.

We have a look around the resort, which seems busier than usual as the Walt Disney World Golf Classic begins tomorrow. I am keeping an eye out for Tiger Woods but to no avail. I learn the next day that he lives not far from WDW so he is not likely to be staying. Doh!

We enter 1900 Park Fare at 8:00 and are seated immediately. The Villains tonight are Radcliffe, Prince John, the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook and Cruella De Vil. They all look like they are having a good time and all visit the table regularly. I think that they spend most time at the tables where they think people like to interact with them most. Our girls are absolutely fascinated by them but when they approach they go all shy and smile but say little. Radcliffe spends time tickling nearly everyone, including Tammy who jumps a mile. Cruella De Vil is probably the most fun as she is the only one that talks. She's not bad looking either, the black and white hair does something for me. I'm positive about that. Get it? Positive. As opposed to negative. Black and white hair. Aw, forget it!

I don't think I would have the patience to be a Villain. One particularly obnoxious little boy keeps deliberately stepping on the hem of the Queen of Hearts dress while the parents watch on. I was hoping that she would turn around quickly (accidentally on purpose) and send him flying across the room. All the staff there seem to be having fun including the chefs, servers and front desk staff. It may not have been as sophisticated a night as we would have had at the Flying Fish but is probably more fun. The food is too varied and numerous to mention but it was very good.

Back to the Boardwalk by taxi ($15 including tip) where more shopping ensues, India finally getting the Fantasmic! CD she has been after.

DAY 16 THURS. 26th OCT.

We wake up at 8:15. Oh no! This is our last full day so we had better get a move on. By a miracle we have eaten, got ready and are out the door by 9:00. We walk across to Epcot on a lovely sunny morning and enter through the International Gateway. It is a pleasant start to the day strolling through World Showcase almost alone.

We head for Journey Into Your Imagination and are the only people in the building. There have been no changes since we rode in January, still too many dark areas. Into Honey I Shrunk The Audience. Tammy enjoys the True Colours pre-show as usual. I can't understand how old Wayne Szlinski (sp?) keeps winning the Inventor of the Year when all his creations seem to go wrong.

Over at the Land we do the boat ride which is always interesting, you always seem to find something that you have never seen before. This time it is 9 lb lemons. As she likes this ride so much I am trying to persuade Tam to work in the labs here while I drive monorails all day.

The girls then get taught how to make Toll House Cookies. This seems a good idea at the time but, after they have been given a chefs hat with their name on it, we wait for nearly half an hour while enough children are rounded up to complete the group. Not the best use of our time on our last day. In the end it takes about 3/4 of an hour for the whole thing. At the end they get given a Mickey Mouse shaped cookie that must be nearly an inch thick and crammed full of chocolate chips. It tastes divine. Unfortunately it tastes so good that the children only let us have a little bit. (Mutter, mutter, selfish little pigs, mutter.) Tam and I have to console ourselves with a Fajita Chicken Baked Potato which is very good. Tam decides that 3/4 of an hour is a small price to pay for a cookie of this quality. She would probably camp out overnight to ensure she got a free cookie.

On to Spaceship Earth again. We have to ride this at least twice every trip. As we exit we see the Art of Disney opposite. We are after the Animal kingdom Poster so in we go. We end up buying both this and a poster of Pooh and Piglet fishing by a pond. This is the old style classic drawing prior to Disneyfication and is very pretty. Both of these will be hung in our newly decorated bedroom.

Round to Test Track where we pick up Fast Passes for a 4:30 - 5:30 return before moving on to Norway to ride Maelstrom. Another short but sweet ride. After this we decide to leave the park so the girls can have a final swim. On the way out both India and Georgia get a Kaki-Gori, which has become a firm favourite with them.

Back to the main pool which is a bit crowded so we end up in the quiet pool. This always seems to lovely and relaxing with only about a dozen people about. With typical timing we start up a conversation with a couple from Wales just as they are getting ready to go to the airport. So, if by any chance you get to read this Debbie, I hope you had a good trip home and enjoy your holiday next year. They are at the Boardwalk using their DVC membership for the first time the same as us and wished that they had joined earlier. there you go all you potential new DVC members, take the plunge.

After showers we return to Epcot at 4:45 and head straight to Test Track to use our Fast Passes. This is one occasion when Fast is not the word to describe this Pass as oit takes us 40 minutes to get on the ride. I think that the regular technical difficulties experienced at this attraction tend to mess up the Fast Pass system somewhat.

As we make our way across to watch the 6:00 Off Kilter show it starts to rain quite heavily. Out come the brollies for the first time. Tammy reckons you can tell the Brits because they all have brollies as well as a resigned expression on their faces. luckily the rain only lasts for 10 minutes. Off Kilter is cancelled so a couple of beers (Labatts Blue Lite) is followed by fish and chips from the UK, excellent as usual. We walk on round to Morocco and have the Lamb Kabsa again as everyone enjoyed it so much last time. A cherry and apple funnel cake as dessert and we are all full and happy.

As this is our last night we decide to find a good place to watch Reflections of Earth and sit by the fence just before the stave church in Norway as it gave us such a great view on Tuesday. The other advantage of this spot is that you are close to the parade route for Tapestry of Nations and so get a fine view of that as well.

As we are waiting for the parade we get talking to a lady from Canada called Ingrid who has two little girls as well. we pass the time discussing all things Disney. Strange how we have talked to practically no one for the whole of the holiday and then on the last day we get into conversation with two different people. Must be the Disney gods ensuring that we are aware of the lovely folk that come to WDW in order to facilitate our swift return.

Reflections of Earth is stunning as usual, one day my face will fix in a permanent grin after this show as I just can't stop smiling as I watch. One thing that I notice is that they turn off the lights on top of the Swan and Dolphin to ensure that you can see only darkness at the start of the show. Just another small Disney touch. 5 minutes after the show finishes another firework display begins somewhere over by the Boardwalk. We had noticed tables being set up on the beach in front of the Yacht and Beach Club earlier on and so presume it is coming from there.

We walk back towards the fountain to watch one last time as it is so beautiful at night. When this finishes it is finally time to walk back to the International Gateway. We get the boat back and as we step onto the dock at the Boardwalk another firework display begins in the Magic Kingdom area. this one is absolutely huge. I think perhaps it may be the American Pyrotechnics Association convention as I recall reading somewhere that it was going to be sometime around now. Whatever it is, it's certainly spectacular and just seems to go on and on. not bad for our last night, 3 firework displays. India says she thinks that it has been especially put on by Disney to tempt us back again next year. No problem there then.

After a slice of pizza from Spoodles and a cake from Seashore Sweets it is time to return to the room. we do so as slowly as possible, stealing last looks across the Boardwalk as we go. Another wonderful trip finished apart from the boring flight home.

DAY 17 FRI. 27th OCT.

Everyone wakes up at 8:00 but nobody wants to get out of bed. The journey home is never pleasant. We have breakfast and are packed by 10:00. We are trying something different this year. In an attempt to extend the holiday until the last possible second we are spending our last hour and a half by the pool. Bell services pick up our luggage and store it for us while we go and relax. The girls go for a swim and I ponder on why we always feel so depressed on returning home from WDW.

I think it is because Disney creates a magical fantasy world, bright exciting and vibrant. We experience battles between good and evil, spectacular parades and shows, resorts of luxury and opulence, beauty, happiness and an assault on the senses that is amazing. All of this creates an 'other worldliness' that makes a return to our everyday lives more difficult because of the extreme contrast between normality and Disney. Probably a load of rubbish but it works for me.

After swimming for an hour or so we go to the health club to shower and change. Lunch is supposed to be a sandwich from the Boardwalk Bakery but there are none ready. When we ask how long they will be we are told about half an hour. This is cutting it a bit fine so we opt for the ESPN club instead. Ironic really as this is the place we had lunch after our DVC tour in January. You could say we have come full circle. Tam and I share a burger which is excellent and the girls share a kids chicken fingers meal. Along with a last beer for this trip (snivel) sodas and tip, the cost is $38.

The rest is boring. Load up the car, drive to the airport, get the plane to Cincinnati, get the plane to Gatwick, drive home. YEUK! Sorry this last part is a bit downbeat but that's the way I feel.

SUMMARY

A ha. Caught you. Just when you were breathing a huge sigh of relief and thinking that it was all finally over, I sneak in with a summary at the end. Fiendish but effective!

Weather - As I'm British this had to come first. I would definitely recommend this time of the year. We had large amounts of sunshine and no real rain to speak of. With daytime temperatures in the mid 80's and evenings around 70 it was as close to perfect as you can get.

Crowds - In the parks we noticed a considerable difference between this time and our last trip in January. There were definitely more people around this time although I wouldn't say that the crowds were in any way unmanageable.

The Boardwalk Villas - Wonderful. A beautiful place that has everything I want in a resort. It can be loud, quiet, exciting, tranquil, just about anything you want it to be really. The valet parking is a real boon, something that I did not think I would use very much but ended up taking advantage of all the time. You get a better class of person at the Boardwalk, at least you did until we arrived. None of your All Star riffraff here. I'm only joking, I spent many a happy time at the All Star resorts, I'm just feeling a bit smug and superior now I've got into the DVC.

Vero Beach - Quiet, laid back, relaxed and very pretty, this is the perfect place to unwind and take things slowly. There is not a huge amount to do at night and nothing within walking distance outside of the resort. Everything is based around the pool and the beach but it never seems that crowded. There are plenty of sun beds and seating areas, of course it still helps to get there early if you want the prime spots. (Early means pre 10:00). We enjoyed eating at the Riverside Cafe (in Vero Beach), Captain Hirams (in Sebastian) and Shutters (on site). I had read a lot about how friendly the staff are supposed to be at Vero and I have to say that I agree with them. I think the relaxed atmosphere must rub off on them too!

Both DVC resorts are staggeringly well thought out, being both beautiful and luxurious. We will probably never stay anywhere better.

This was a slightly strange trip for us in that we spent only 4 days in theme parks. It is likely that this will be the way that we will approach our holidays here in the future. Relaxed rather than hectic.

Well, I hope you have found this trip report interesting even if you haven't agreed with everything within. This is because you are wrong and I'm right. Stringer rule No.47a - I am always right even when I'm wrong.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to comment on my reports either by posting or via e-mail. It is very much appreciated and it helps to know that there is someone out there prepared to slog their way through my endless drivel.

See you in November 2001.

Kevin Stringer

kevin.stringer@virgin.net


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