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Q-Tips

Never say never again

No I will not be discussing the former English band that was fronted by Paul Young, more on tips to follow later in the blog.
Best laid plans and all that - a bus of similar standard to yesterday’s heap rocked up, but early on this occasion, the driver was a cheerful happy soul though. We got to the Animal Kingdom at around eleven, my younger brother Stuart had recommended the Avatar ride, the queue was quite long but we had all day so plenty of time to do everything we want to do ……
Having never seen any of the Avatar movies I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the ride was spectacular, you really did feel at times that you were flying. After that things sort of took a turn for the worse. We had experienced some long queues yesterday, in Epcot particularly, Disney have introduced this scheme available via an app on your smartphone whereby you can join a “virtual queue” for the top rides, except you can’t, the virtual queues closed as soon as they opened. You aren’t able to join a conventional queue and even if you had purchased a lightening pass (skip the line) that still wouldn’t have got you access to some rides over the “virtual queue”, though sometimes they do offer you the chance to “buy” a quick pass for a ride, for $20 a person!
Now as I stated in my previous entry this is the number one vacation resort in the world, so it stands to reason that it will get incredibly busy and as such you have to expect to queue, a lot, but we even had to queue for over an hour to see the “Lion King Show”. Just as frustrating was the number of times that rides developed “faults” whilst we were actually in the queues, and the coup de grace / icing on the cake was when we were about to mount one ride when the heavens opened and thunder and lightning was all around us, so all outside rides were closed for a couple of hours. So when we eventually got back to our hotel sometime after nine o’clock that evening I think we were both a bit frustrated at how the day had panned out, our 2 day passes weren’t cheap then if you start factoring in the cost of buying the skip the line passes it does start getting very expensive ….. bah humbug!! However, I do think that the attention to detail throughout the Disney Parks is outstanding, even whilst waiting for the rides you can’t help but marvel at the lengths they have gone to immerse you in the rides that you are going to experience, and the shows are sensational, particularly the “Lion King”.
Monday as planned for was spent at Universal Studios, on entering the park you witness quite the most frightening ride that I have ever seen, called the “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit” - a fair bit of motivational talk was needed to convince Diane that it was a good idea, fortunately as we joined the rather short queue a ten year old little girl and her papa from Columbia were in front of us, their English wasn’t great, Dad told me he was from Medellin, birthplace of a certain P Escobar, though went I mentioned this Dad started talking about football, a bit of a break down in communications I think, Diane faired slightly better with his daughter, I think the gist of what she was saying was basically “don’t be such a pair of wimps, look at the size of me!”
Unconvinced with trepidation we boarded the ride which takes you up in a horizontal position before literally throwing you up into the air as you begin a white knuckle ride at break neck speeds, on the occasions that I opened my eyes the Colombian and his daughter had their arms out cheering away with glee, it was all Diane and I could do to let out the occasional yell of anguish as we were thrown around for what seemed like an age! Eventually we stopped, our Columbian friends fist pumped us and I am guessing said something along the lines off “we told you there was nothing to worry about you pair of wusses!”

We decided that it was time for something more sedate whilst they no doubt went off to source another terrifying ride! The next attraction we found was a short concert by the Blues Brothers.

We enjoyed a few more rides, there isn’t the quantity in this particular park but the slightly more relaxed pace suited us for our last day, the final show we saw was a live action Jason Bourne stunt show, really clever mixture of live actors integrated with a background film, then it was back to the hotel to get ready to go and see The Eagles. They were performing at a venue called the Kia Centre situated in the actual city of Orlando, it is an indoor arena which normally stages basketball, ice hockey & indoor football, it was only a 20 minute drive away from our hotel. The Eagles were supported by Steely Dan, another American rock group founded in the early 1970’s. The concert was just amazing and a fitting end to our holiday.
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Rourtours Tips:
Whilst I don’t consider myself to be anything like a seasoned traveller, having completed a couple of road trips in the States there are a few points/tips that I have picked up along the way, which I thought may be of assistance if you are considering doing such a trip in the future.

Some of you may be aware of the tipping culture that exists in the States, by coincidence there was an article in The Times that I read whilst out in the USA on our trip. It is pretty much expected that whenever you order a meal, have a drink in a bar, take a ride in a taxi or a bus or countless other services that you tip the person who has served you. To this end when you are presented with your bill it will either have a space for you to enter how much you are tipping (this will be added to your bill) or a lot of the card readers have a set of buttons for you to press depending on how much you wish to tip, usually 18%, 20% or 22%. When you then factor in that the price you saw advertised for your meal for example does not include tips or taxes the actual price you saw on the menu will be much higher when it comes to pay, some places even automatically add the tip. I had some difficulty in getting my head round why tipping is so necessary or expected until I read the aforementioned article in The Times, it seems that a number of employers pay far less than the minimum wage, and they rely on their staff being tipped accordingly to bring their salary up to the required minimum. As a consequence in some parts of the US now employers are now paying a salary above the minimum wage to reduce the reliance on tipping, the public are happier too as the price they see represents much closer to the price they will pay, employees as well prefer this as well apparently. Personally I prefer to tip in cash, to that end I always take an amount of cash in small denominations to pay for tips, this also seems quite popular with the staff themselves.

A good reliable Sat Nav System is essential (particularly if your co-pilot isn’t too good at map reading), I have found Apple Car Play as an invaluable tool that a lot of modern cars have fitted, basically it allows your mobile phone to work through the car’s built in display. The thought of trying to find locations, particularly in the big bustling cities without Car Play or an equivalent system wouldn’t be my idea of fun.

Americans are inpatient! If you fail to move off the moment a light changes or don’t filter right when clear (even on a red) expect a loud blast from the horns of those behind you! Whilst stuck in a long line of stationery traffic one day I allowed another driver to pull into my lane in what I thought was a bit of considerate driving, however the blasts and gestures from the irate woman behind me clearly suggested that you shouldn’t display such kindness, anyhow I then let another car pull into my lane just to enjoy the spectacle of the woman behind me go into fits of total rage and convulsions!! Another time we were waiting to be allocated a table in a restaurant, some couples behind us couldn’t be bothered to wait so just walked past us and found themselves tables, Diane had to restrain me a bit on that occasion!

Don’t expect your room to be cleaned everyday, housekeeping in all the hotels/motels we stayed in did just the basics on a daily basis, which consists of emptying the “trash” and giving you fresh towels, if you want anymore doing you generally have to let the hotel staff know in advance, not really a problem for us as aside from Orlando the longest we stayed in a location was 3 nights.

Air conditioning units in all the places we stayed were incredibly large & loud, but are essential for a good nights sleep. I liken the noise as to when you hear the bin lorry pull-up outside your house at about 0630 in the mourning and then realise that you didn’t put the wheelie bin out the night before! Take some ear plugs with you!

Petrol is the only thing that is cheaper than at home - prices do vary but you can in some places pay almost half the price of the UK - The Americans still think it is far too high and harp back to days when it was under $2 a gallon, aside from that expect to pay more for most items compared to the UK.

Nothing is free! If it is provided, there will be a charge for it, we had 6 items of luggage of varying size that were a bit of an effort to move around the airport so we got a trolley, that will be $9 please! Check whether you hotel comes with free parking, in New Orleans it cost over $30 a night.

Waffle House provide the best breakfasts/brunches and lunches! They are a restaurant chain found all over the place, we used them several times after an early start when we stopped mid to late mornings, not just waffles, although their waffles are great, and as much fresh coffee as you want!

We tend to use the hop on hop off tourist buses to see as much as we can of a city, which are very good, they also provide for a few dollars more walking tours which we found a very interesting and enjoyable way of getting to learn more about the cities that we are visiting.

So that brings to an end the latest edition of rortours, our flight home was fairly uneventful, we got off to thick cold fog at Heathrow, I regretted keeping my shorts on for the flight- someone threw her toys out of the pram whilst waiting for our luggage which was delayed, actually it would more accurate to say she threw her phone out of her pram, thankfully the kind gentleman that was nearly hit by said phone returned it to her undamaged- I told her that she should have slept on the plane!

A bit of a cliche I know but our trip has certainly shown that there is much more to Florida than just the theme parks, we really enjoyed the drive down The Keys and our time at Key West, we both liked Miami as well, and on reflection we should have allowed more time to explore the Everglades. I know it isn’t Florida but the days we spent in New Orleans were great fun, I think is a great city to visit. Would we go back to Orlando, probably not, unless we are performing the type of role my mum performed 25 years ago - so as they say “Never say never again!”

Rortours will be back next June/July/August next year all being well when we intend to follow the British and Irish Lions Rugby Team around Australia for some 6 weeks or so.

Posted by Rortours 19:04

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