2011 Florida with Matt, Elliot and Nick

Thursday 17th February

We were up really early all packed and ready to take our nephews Matt & Elliot on holiday to Orlando Florida. 
At 7.30am their Dad Jon arrived with the boys and our friend Nick, and at 8am the taxi arrived and we were off to Gatwick.
We had breakfast at Frankie & Benny’s and a wander around duty free shops then boarded for the flight. This went well if slowly as usual, the boys were fine and soon became accustomed to flying. 
We arrived in Florida at about 5.30pm Orlando time and after the usual faffing we got through customs and went to find out hired car for the hols, a Lincoln Town Car which was large enough to carry all five of us and our luggage.
We drove towards Kissimmee and near out destination stopped for dinner at a Japanese restaurant then went to the supermarket for essential shopping for the morning and finally to the lovely villa we’ve rented as our holiday home. It is great, the boys have a room each and we have a pool and a hot tub both with views over the lake, what more could we need? We explored the villa, chose our rooms and settled in – bed was calling soon as it was about 3am in the UK and we’d had a long day.

Friday 18th February

I was up early, jet lag always gets me. I made coffee and went out to sit by the pool, it was barely light and I heard a scuffling noise just outside the pool netting. I went to see what it was and discovered that an armadillo was digging just beside the pool. I filmed it for a while then as I tried to move closer it ran away.
Matt & Elliot were up soon after and I told them about the armadillo while we had a cuppa and waited for Andrew & Nick to wake up.
We went out to Denny’s for a typically huge American breakfast, free refills included and then down to the Florida Mall to have a wander and do some shopping. 
Matt found some basketball boots {he plays basketball at home,} I bought some denim shorts then we returned to the villa to relax for the afternoon.
Later on we went out to a Mexican restaurant for an all you can eat buffet. A relaxing day to try to shake off the jet lag.

Saturday 19th February

We were all up early and got ready to hit Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had an early lunch at N B A then got tickets for the afternoon for Harry Potter as it was full already. 
Andrew, Matt & Elliot then used their Express tickets to go on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster twice, Doctor Dooms Fear Fall, Jurassic Park River Adventure which Nick & I joined them on, followed by Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges & were all soaked through.
Then it was time for Harry Potter World, Matt queued for 2 hours to go into Ollivander’s Wand shop to buy a wand for their younger brother Finley who was at home. 
Then the Fearless 3 went on the Dragon Challenge roller coaster and in to Hogwart’s Castle for the Forbidden Journey ride. Nick & I were allowed into the castle to have a wander around and I did some filming in there. 
I wandered round the other shops there and filmed the Mandrake squealing, bought some sweets in Honeydukes, then met back up with Nick and tried some of his Butter beer which was truly revolting!
I bought a tee shirt for Andrew in Filches Emporium of Confiscated Goods & watched the witches dance group.
Later after we were all Harry Pottered out we went to a Sizzler’s steak restaurant on the way home then relaxed in the jacuzzi or pool before bed.

Sunday 20th February

Up early this morning to visit NASA for the day. Drove there with no hitches, then had a totally rubbish breakfast in the cafe there. We did the whole tour around Kennedy Space Centre then Nick & I sat in the sun and ate space ice cream whilst the Fearless 3 did the space rides we didn’t fancy venturing on. 
Later on we all wandered around the Rocket Garden, my favourite part of NASA where all the old rockets go to spend their retirement. We wandered up to the spacemen memorial then headed back.
Dined at the lovely Ming Court Chinese Restaurant this evening, marvellous food & service then we fed the koi in their fish pond just outside the restaurant where they provide bags of fish food for a dime or so per bag. Back to relax at the villa with some wine & the jacuzzi.

Monday 21st February

Decided that it was time the boys & Nick tried breakfast at Denny’s, Andrew & I think you should go there at least once per visit to America – NASA breakfast – no contest!! 
All full from lovely big breakfast we set off to spend the day at Epcot. Has a wonderful day wandering around the whole of Epcot, lunched in Japan and had hotdogs & chips on the promenade later. Drank tequila cocktails in Mexico, bought tickets for Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba on Wednesday & watched the firework display later. Afterwards we returned to the villa to relax in the pool/jacuzzi as usual.

Tuesday 22nd February

Messed about in the villa for part of the morning while Andrew tried to sort out tickets that Nick R was going to buy, then spent the day at Universal Studios starting with the MBA for brunch. Walked around all day, watched the Blues Brothers, Mardi Gras parade, Lombards Landing San Francisco to get soaked again on the Jaws ride, the Twister roller coaster ride, the Hollywood Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, and the Simpson’s rides.
Worn out we decided to go to the wonderful Australian Outback restaurant for large steaks, beer & wine. Again relaxed back at the villa before retiring for the night.

Wednesday 23rd February

Andrew spent the morning trying to sort the tickets again, then we hit Florida Mall for a bit of retail therapy for all. Wandered for a while then went to the Rain Forest cafe for food and a wander around their shop.
After that it was time to go to see La Nouba! The performance was wonderful, we all enjoyed it very much, though Andrew and I thought it was better when we saw it in 2000.
Back to the ranch to relax by the lovely pool or in the jacuzzi.

Thursday 24th February

Today is the day we are going to watch the Discovery Shuttle’s last launch so we set out early to drive to Cocoa beach for a great view of NASA. The drive was long as the traffic jams were tremendous, obviously everyone else in Florida was heading there too!
We eventually got to Cocoa beach & having found a place to park we went to ANY pizza for lunch.
Afterwards we took the boys to Ron Jon’s Surf Shop {One Of A Kind} where we bought tee shirts, and ashtray etc. and wandered around the huge shop perusing.
We found a good place to watch the Discovery Shuttle {due to take off at 4.45pm} amongst the huge crowds and waited for countdown, the excitement was palpable! The only drawback was that it was the only cloudy day we’d had since we arrived, but up it went and we did get pix and video of it! The sonic boom came after it disappeared behind the clouds. Everyone was cheering and the atmosphere was great. We wandered back to the car, collecting an iced drink on the way and watching the televised version on the big screen in the cafe while waiting to be served. The return journey was worse than arriving, it’s normally about 1 ½ hour trip but this one took over 4 hours – but well worth it we all agreed when we finally arrived back at the villa and finished racing for first to the loo!

Friday 25th February

Another morning spent on the phone for Andrew, but at last he has the tickets sorted out so the Basketball match at Florida’s Amway Centre is on for all the boys tonight – Hurrah!!!
Nick took the boys out while I waited in with Andrew, they brought us a take away lunch from the Outback. We messed about for rest of day at the villa & tickets turned up at about 3pm. The boys all went to the match which started at 8pm & I stayed at the villa and relaxed in the jacuzzi with some wine and a good book.
So glad we managed to get those tickets as they all enjoyed the match so much, a great atmosphere there and a wonderful evening was had by all. I think that the basketball and Discovery take off were the highlights of the boys holiday.

Saturday 26th February

Out last full day here, the holiday has gone way too fast as they do!
Elliot, Andrew and I went to the lake side just outside the back door to take some photos & vid. of the herons and their chicks that we’ve seen every morning coming to feed since we got here. They are lovely and didn’t seem to be bothered that we were the wrong side of the mozzie netting and watching them closer than usual.
We seem to be agreed that we will spend today at Sea World so set off to see the mammals. We saw the dolphins and babies, crocodiles, manatees, sea dragons etc. a lovely relaxing day just slowly wandering & spending time with all the different species here.
Nick and I watched the shark show then I fed the stingrays while Nick took photos. The Fearless 3 meanwhile had left us to the tamer stuff to do and gone roller coasting again on the Kraken, the Manta and any other frightening ride they could find. We met up & took some photos of the Fearless 3 having last rides then it was time to leave & spend our last evening at the villa. I sat in the jacuzzi as usual and watched the boys playing catch and frisbee etc. in the pool, none of us want to go home yet.

Sunday 27th February

Sadly it’s time to pack up and leave this lovely villa with its wonderful view over the lake. The boys have a last game of billiards in the games room, we load up the car, give our leftover booze to a couple 2 doors down that just arrived and set off on the return journey.
We drop off the car and go to wait for the long flight home at 18.05pm.
It’s been a wonderful holiday in the sun & hopefully one Matt & Elliot will remember for a long time too.