Florida – September 2011

Day 14 – Downtown Disney

Sunday 2nd October

Today was always going to be a rest day with no plans on the schedule to visit a theme park. As such, I never bothered to try to wake up or get up and about very early (not that I do otherwise come to think of it). I guess all the ‘I’m too old for this shit’ stuff that I got up to yesterday must have taken its toll on me, as I was stiff all over this morning and could barely get my body to stand erect on demand and unaided. With aches and pains coming from parts of my body I hadn’t felt in years, I was blissfully glad for the opportunity to simply lounge around all day and just do nothing. Sandy was already up and about by the time my aches and pains roused me into full consciousness. On weekends generally, when we have nothing specific to do, Sandy would typically get up first and then go back to bed again once I was up and about and able to tend to the kids. And so it was today also. I knew Sandy was tired enough to want to go back to bed again, as she practically kicked me out of the bedroom before I barely had time for my eyes to lock focus. This was around 09:00 and it wasn’t until well after 12:00 noon before she got up for the second time today. Clearly, she needed the sleep.

Whilst Sandy was enjoying her much needed beauty sleep – perhaps I should have phrased that differently – I spent a few hours of quality time with the kids. Initially, they were content to sit in their rooms and watch their TVs and so I spent some time on the laptop trying to write up yesterday’s blog that I hadn’t been able to complete due to tiredness last night. Each time one or other of the kids was demanding attention, I put the laptop away so that I could feed that need and went back to it only after they were content again. It took repeated attempts in the end before I got the blog entry finished shortly before Sandy got up again.

One of the many tricks up my sleeve that I used to keep the kids entertained was the pool, so I thought I’d get them into their swimmers so that they could take a dip. The pool is back up to temperature again now. However, a new problem has emerged. One quarter of the square pool is cordoned off to form a shallow pool and this section was now almost empty for some reason. Worried that there was a leak somewhere and that the pump might eventually run dry, I called the management company to report the problem. The woman I spoke to seemed unprepared for this eventuality and told me she’d try to call her manager and to call us back within the hour. Either I missed the call or they never called back so I e-mailed the owner to let them know to follow up.

The kids did enjoy their half-hour or so in the pool but ended up getting on each other’s nerves to the point that I decided to deprive them of any further pool time and got them dried and dressed again. The 2-car garage here is set up as a games room with a pool table, table-football, air-hockey and a ping-pong table, and we spent some time playing with much of this equipment over the course of the morning.

By the time Sandy got up, shortly after noon, we were restless and we started to consider things that we could do or places that we could go. If nothing else, this proves that it doesn’t matter how or where we take our holidays, we’re just not the lazy-do-nothing kind of people. Although it was clearly too late in the day to consider doing a major theme park, we thought we’d take the kids over to Downtown Disney, where our Disney theme park tickets would grant us free access into the Disney Quest fun & games attraction.

The decision to cut the lounging around short and to head out to the nearby Downtown Disney area was taken fairly swiftly and, given the lateness of the day, we set out fairly soon thereafter for lunch at a nearby McDonald’s. Joey had been requesting this for the past 24 hours and so we thought we’d finally indulge him – if for no other reason than to simply shut him up. We’re not entirely sure whether it was the food or the customary toy that came with the kids meal that he was really after. He seemed to enjoy both – which is more than can be said for me, as I still don’t like the McDonald’s food here.

Just across the road from the McDonald’s restaurant were a couple of camera shops and so I drove over there to pick up a new camera strap whilst the kids were burning off some energy in the outside play area. It was neither cheap nor expensive, I thought, at $25 and I do feel a lot more secure with the heavy DSLR hung around my neck now.

Just before heading out, I checked out the dining options over at Downtown Disney and a relatively new restaurant called T-Rex caught my attention. It’s an America fare restaurant that Disney has done up to the nth degree around a dinosaur theme. Disney does theming very well and so I called in to make a reservation. Alas, no priority seating was available until 20:30, which I thought was too late for the kids, but we were welcome to just show up and take a number. The guy I spoke to on the phone was particularly useful in letting me know that the wait could be anything from 10 minutes to an hour and a half. I guess that was his way of saying that he had absolutely no idea how long it would be before we might expect to get a table at this time of the week and at the time we expected to be there.

The drive over to Downtown Disney took all of ten minutes and we parked over on the Eastside section of the crescent car park. To the best of my knowledge, Downtown Disney falls within the Walt Disney World property boundary but for whatever reason, parking in the huge car park there is completely free. It’s always been this way and I’ve often wondered about this  but I’m not complaining.

We walked past the new T-Rex restaurant, which I must say looks very good from the outside at least, and went straight for the Marketplace cluster of shops on the Eastside. The most obvious draw here is the Lego shop, with it’s enormous Lego structures both outside and inside the store. I was stunned by the sheer numbers of different Lego sets that they had on offer in the store. When I was a kid, all you had to do to collect ‘one of everything’ was to amass a small handful of Lego bricks. Nowadays, with the many custom Lego brick shapes that are only good for specific themes, such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and, of course, the numerous Disney character & movie themes, collecting one of everything would break the bank and fill the house with nothing but Lego and I’m not entirely convinced this makes for a better experience or a worse one. Either way, we picked up a couple of Ninjago sets for Joey and each kid selected a set of Lego characters from the various build-it-yourself stands, where there are containers of varying pieces of hats, heads, bodies, legs and accessories from which to construct your own, unique little Lego figure. They were priced at 3 completed figures for $10 and so both Joey & Jennifer came away with 3 figures each. We’ll skip over how enough parts to make a further half dozen figures somehow managed to ‘fall into’ one of our bags. Shhh!

We continued to look around the Lego shop for a while, as Sandy perused the neighbouring Disney Store next door. Despite being huge, and much to my amazement, she came back empty-handed. She thought that the prices there were simply too steep. I guess Disney’s greed makes it their loss.

Having explored the Lego shop to within an inch of it’s life, we then strolled through the Pleasure Island section of the Downtown Disney area and Sandy stopped in at a particular shop to buy something for a particular friend. As I’m not sure who’s reading this at the moment, I won’t go into any details here just in case.

We had planned on taking the kids into the Disney Quest building but seeing as it was now already half past five, we thought we’d dine first and so I wandered back there to see if we could get in. As luck would have it, we could and the wait was only 5-10 minutes. The dinosaur theme on the inside is done no less spectacularly than on the outside and I never kew which direction to point the camera next. The restaurant itself is truly enormous and every square meter of wall and ceiling space is devoted to the dinosaur theme, with dozens of animatronic dinosaurs all roaring and moving about in place. Every 20 minutes or so, the room darkens somewhat and there are flashes of light and crashing sounds. The dinosaurs all start to roar in synchrony with the lighting effects and with each other as a mock meteorite strike is played out.

The food itself was, I have to admit, plentiful and really quite excellent and I would gladly eat there again. It was, as might be expected, slightly more expensive than eating at a ‘normal’ restaurant but so much more than I had feared. Including tip, I spent a little over $100 for the four of us.

Next to the dining area, there was a build-your-own-dinosaur shop, where you basically construct your own soft toy from it’s constituent parts. Sandy wanted to treat the kids and so we indulged. The actual soft toy dinosaur itself was reasonably priced at around $15 but after adding all the shoes, clothing, etc., the price really picked up pace and Sandy ended up spending more on these two stuffed toys with their accessories than I did on our bloody meal! Deep breath in … and out. We’re on holiday! The dinosaurs were packed neatly into special boxes complete with holes for their heads and tails to stick out of – a nice little touch.

With [very] full tummies and yet more stuffed toys to take home with us, we set off in the direction of the other end of the Downtown Disney area – the Disney Quest building. As expected, our tickets granted us full access and we were also able to continue to use our guest assistance card to bypass the queues for the attractions inside, although this turned out only to be necessary on a couple of the attractions. I remembered many of the attractions but there seemed to be a few new ones also. We spent about an hour and a half moving through the building floor by floor until we felt that we’d exhausted what there was there to keep the kids entertained. I partook in a simulated roller-coaster ride but the enclosed space and full 360 degree motion of the pod made me quite queasy – so much so that I forewent any further attractions where motion was involved. We had only partial success with Joey on the various motion and simulation attractions.  It was a shame that some of the games machines that we tried were either not working or we simply couldn’t figure them out. Both Joey and Jennifer quickly lose interest when this happens – and quite understandably so. We did have some fun playing a 4-man air-hockey table for a while – at least until Joey allowed his fingers to get too close to the table surface and got them duly smacked by the high-speed, floating puck. It was a genuine accident and with both kids by now really quite tired, had it not been this, it surely would have been some other straw to break that camels particular back and so, with diminishing returns, we decided to call it a night at that point.

We made it back to the car via a nice stroll along the water’s edge. It would have been nice to have been able to proclaim that both kids were sound asleep by the time we got back to the house but, alas, the drive wasn’t long enough. Still, it didn’t take them long to nod off once their heads hit their pillows.

Whilst we were out, someone must have come to sort out the pool, which is now really quite full -probably a little overfull in my opinion but there you go.

We are looking forward to seeing my Cousin Shane arrive here tomorrow at noon and also to seeing Marc & Anna, hopefully, tomorrow evening for dinner. My Niece Louise and her man, Chris, are in town soon and we expect to be seeing them for dinner on Tuesday evening.

With Shane arriving tomorrow, we’ll have another rest day so as to spend some quality time with him. If we decide to venture out anywhere, that’ll be an on-the-spot decision.