Orlando, the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios

So, as promised a quick overview of the holiday. Above is me – still peely wally (ie very pale for my non Scottish readers) – at Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. Yes I am wearing Minnie Mouse ears and a Micky Mouse t-shirt…it’s a prerequisite of going to Disney! There were tonnes of families in matching t-shirts and ears and hats and my family were no different…except my dad who refused point-blank to wear anything like that. So we just called him a ‘bah humbug’!! Hee hee.

Anyway, first impressions of the Magic Kingdom…We took a free shuttle bus from our hotel to the park early in the morning. We arrived at Epcot and took the monorail to a steamboat port and got the boat across the water to the Magic Kingdom. It was a nice way to arrive, but a bit drawn out. Anyway, I was shocked by the amount of security on the doors of the Magic Kingdom…shocked, but not surprised.  Disney, like most other big parks, is a potential target for terrorists, which is horrible. Anyway, we got through the security (it was like being in an airport it was that much) after standing in the first of many queues that day. We walked through the gates and into a lovely faux town with lots of shops selling hugely overpriced food, drink and gifts. Everywhere was the sickly sweet scent of sweets or cakes or something. There was no magic…not for me anyway.

We walked up towards the castle and into the area where the first ride we wanted to go on – Space Mountain was – unfortunately the queues were horrendous. We had bought a day ticket, but you can’t pre-buy day tickets for Disney, websites only allowed you to buy two days or more, so you can’t pre-book fast passes for a day either. We tried to book it on the machines in the park and we got help from a very nice Disney employee who was a whizz on them, but we couldn’t get a fast pass for Space Mountain for that day (the queue was over two hours long). We did, however, manage to get fast passes for the Haunted Mansion, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean and a couple of other rides, so we took those. We also went on the train that goes around the park a couple of times.

I’d like to say I had a fantastic time at Disney, but after a whole day (and around nine miles of walking according to my Fitbit) traipsing around the park I came away with a kind of ‘meh’ kind of feeling. I was quite disappointed in it. I felt the rides we did get on were quite old-fashioned, there was nothing fantastic about them. Also, you had to wait ages to get your picture taken with a character. I didn’t come away feeling like I’d had an amazing day. I just felt I’d paid an awful lot of money for a non-descript kind of day.

Above the view from the train in the Magic Kingdom. Verdict on Disney’s Magic Kingdom – meh.

Now Universal Studios is so much better.

We did Universal Studios the following day and it was fantastic. As a huge Harry Potter fan I, of course, was desperate to do the Harry Potter bits of the parks. We bought tickets for the two Universal Studios parks (as well as the fast passes, although we still had to queue, but not as long as folk who didnt have the passes) just so we could really enjoy both Harry Potter sites and the train between the two, but we got so much more as well. The first bit we headed for was Hogsmeade (pictured above and below).

It was amazing. The place felt so real and the attention to detail was amazing. We went to Ollivanders to buy wands and I picked up a couple of book marks too. This area also houses Hogwarts itself which we also visited. Then we went to the station to get the Hogwart’s Express to Diagon Alley.

The train journey itself is amazing. It has old-fashioned carriages with individual wee rooms. On one side, you can see out the windows and watch the ‘journey’ to ‘London’, but on the other, you are looking at the frosted glass of the doors between the room and the walkway and you can see the shadows of Harry, Ron and Hermione and hear their conversation. The journey doesn’t last long and takes you to ‘King’s Cross Station’.’s

Diagon Alley was nearby, as was the Night Bus (see below).

Diagon Alley was packed and we didn’t do the ride at Gringott’s (although apparently it’s good, but I don’t like rollercoasters so I didn’t want to do it).

Once we’d had our fill of Harry Potter, we decided to explore the rest of this park. It was fantastic. There are lots of places to see and things to do and it’s here we did the Transformers ride (which is AMAZING – you really feel like you’re in the middle of a battle between the Decepticons and Optimus Prime and his ‘men’, it’s terrifying in places, but such a thrill – you are in a city trying to escape the Decepticons and you get shot at and you tumble off the top of a sky scraper and it’s all so real you squeal all the way through it, but are secretly loving every minute of it), the Despicable Me ride and the Shrek ride. The Despicable Me one was amazing too, although not on a par with Transformers, and the Shrek one was good, but tamer.

We also saw a parade. We missed out on the Disney parade in the afternoon because we were doing the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, so it was nice to catch this one. Here’s Gru et al dancing and singing in the streets…

And a view of this park across the water…

After we’d tired of this park we took the Hogwart’s Express back to the other park and did the Jurassic Park ride and a few others.

Some more views of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade from a bridge that led us to the Jurassic Park ride.

The Jurassic Park ride was really good. It’s a river ride. You get on your ‘boat’ and go into the enclosures, dodging animatronics dinosaurs along the way. It ends with a long tip and splash into the water and is really fun. We followed this by popping into the King Kong ride. None of us were that bothered about doing it – in fact my mum was going to sit out because she couldn’t be bothered waiting in yet another queue – but we were all so glad we did. It’s really REALLY good. Again you are in a ‘car’ driving about Kong’s island dodging dinosaurs and large spiders and other beasts. This is done mostly with SGI and it’s so lifelike. It was exciting and scary and thrilling and, well, if we had the time or energy we would have done the ride again and again and again. It’s great…almost as good as the Transformers ride.

If I remember rightly, King Kong was the last ride we did that day as we had to catch the bus back, but we also squeezed in a few others along the way. We would around 10 miles that day according to Fitbit and we could hardly put one foot in front of the other by the time we were finished, but we all had a really good day.

Verdict on Universal Studios: loved it, would definitely go back. It’s fantastic. Recommend it.

Oh nearly forgot, my thoughts on Orlando. It’s immaculate and very modern, but I felt it was soulless. There is no culture to the place. It’s pretty enough, but I prefer old cities and towns with hundreds of years of history and buildings to match. We stayed at the Days Inn Hotel, which when we first arrived we weren’t that impressed with, but it was immaculate, the rooms were comfortable, the staff were lovely and it had a really nice pool area that the kids loved.

Our last full day in Orlando was taken up by the Universal Studios trip. The following morning we got up early (aching from all the walking we had done over the previous two days, but it was worth it), took a taxi to Port Canaveral and caught our cruise ship, the Norwegian Epic. More about that in the next blog post…I just loved the ship and the places we visited.

Til next time,

Dawn xxx

Minions and Museums – doing family stuff this week

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The weather has been pretty good recently and there’s been some really nice skies. It’s been warm and the kids have been out playing and having a great time.

Because it’s the holidays (I have another week off work…yippee!) and we’re not going anywhere, we’re trying to take the kids on wee day trips here and there. Hubby still isn’t up to full strength, so it has to be somewhere near-ish and something he can do without walking too far. This week we went to see the new Minion movie at Clydebank. The kids loved it, we thought it was pretty average. In fact, it’s safe to say I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. Then we went to Frankie & Benny’s for lunch. Was nice to go out as a family again after months of poor hubby being so ill.

We had a few days at home and today we ventured into Glasgow to the Kelvingrove Art Galleries and Museum in the westend. I have loved this place since I was a kid and hope my kids love it too.

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I took the camera, so here’s a wee selection of what you can see inside the museum…

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I found it odd seeing this armour with guns as I thought armoured soldiers just had swords and spears, but apparently there were guns around in 1610 when the armour and the guns were made and folk were still wearing armour. You learn something new every day!

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You can’t go to a Glasgow museum without having some sort of Rennie Mackintosh influence!

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The heads (or heids as they say here in Glasgow). I love these.

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I just love the costumes. I wish there were more on display.  I wish there was a museum of costume in Glasgow – there was one in the Borders, I don’t know if  it’s still there – and I’d go all the time. The work on this dress is stunning.

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Couldn’t go by Robert Louis Stevenson without taking a quick pic.

Not sure where we’ll go next week. The boy wants to go back to Vikingar! in Largs – I’ve never been but I’d like to go. Ho hum! Decisions, decisions.

Right, am off. Dinner is nearly ready and I’ve got plans to do stuff tonight (yes including writing!). Til next time!

Dawn xxx

 

 

Picking up the needles, picking up the pen

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Hello again! How’s things? Did you have a nice time over the festive period? I hope you did. We did. Was great waking up naturally and pottering about the house for two weeks. Now we’re back to normal and are very quickly back into the swing of things.

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag. Of course we are all feeling horrified by what’s been going on in France and my heart goes out for the friends and the families of the people who died and were injured. Last night and the night before were really stormy…it was so bad in the wee small hours on Thursday night, it woke both myself and hubby up. It sounded like the wind was trying to rip the roof off our house. Luckily there was no damage to the house. Poor folk up north though…especially in the islands, for they got it far worse.

On the positive side, I’ve been catching up with friends and planning a new short knitting course with two of them. We taught knitting and crochet to P6 and P7 kids in our local primary before Christmas and we all enjoyed it so much that we are doing it again. The girls who took part last time – and unfortunately we couldn’t persuade any of the boys to take part – produced some lovely mini scarves as gifts for grans and mums. This next session we’re got plans for a new project…I will reveal that once we’ve told the participants of this one.

Okay, time for a quick look at some of the gifts I made my hubby and kids this Christmas…

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The Minions – one each for the kids

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Monkey for hubby (it’s an in joke)

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Rabbits for the girl and boy respectively.

 

Christmas time was also great for giving me more time to read. I got through the three Hunger Games books in the run up to Christmas. I read Molly Keane’s Devoted Ladies and am now on Queen Lucia by E F Benson. I watched the BBC version of Mapp and Lucia and loved it. Talking of BBC telly and I’m pleased to see Father Brown is back on the box. I really enjoy it. It’s gentle murder mystery…just what I like. I’m not into really dark, scary murder mysteries. They give me nightmares…it’s that mad imagination of mine.

Regarding writing. I’ve been lazy on that front lately. I intend to get into it again this week. I’ve written up a schedule (if I write it down that I’m going to do it, I am more likely to do it), I’m going to go over what’s been written so far and I plan to finish it by the end of May. There I’ve said it, now I just have to do it!

Right, am off to do some reading. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and see you soon.

Dawn xxx

Birthday cake, a Minion and Writing Lots and Lots

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It’s the boy’s birthday next week and already he’s really excited. We’ve got him a whole load of Dr Who things (including a sonic screwdriver!) and his grandparents are coming to ours tomorrow to give him their gifts. For an extra special treat, me, hubby and the girl will also be taking him to see Nativity 3. We have the first two films on DVD and he really loves them. He wants to go to McDonalds afterwards, so we’ll take him there too. I will also bake him his birthday cake this weekend…yum!

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So how have you all been? I’ve been busy today getting on with my Christmas makes. I’ve done the bulk of the two Minion plushies I’m making for my offspring. I’ll show you the finished pair once I’ve completed them. Am doing them whilst the kids are at school, so won’t be getting back to them til next week. It’s really hard keeping something like this a secret as the two of them love to stick their noses into everything. It’s “what’s this mum?” and “can I have that?”. They are well hidden, but every time one of the kids goes near the area the toys are hidden my heart’s in my mouth in case they discover them. Here’s an image of the pattern I’m making…

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Anyway…

I’ve also been busily writing away, although not so much today or yesterday. I’ll do some tonight…the planning’s done…just need to write it up. My word count is currently standing at just under 20,000 words…only 30,000 (minimum) to go!! Hope I can keep it up…it’s not easy.

Right, that’s me for just now. My hand is aching from all the knitting and sewing and typing I’ve been doing today (bring out the violins!). Til next time.

Dawn xxx

 

Squirrels, Dr Who and Despicable Me

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This little fella was one of three grey squirrels who decided to raid my bird table yesterday. The other two ran off, but this bold one stayed to stare at me. The lure of the seeds and nuts was too strong, I think.

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The first pic was taken with the patio door open, this one is through the glass hence the slight ‘film’ on the lefthandside.

Anyway, how are you all? Hope you are hail and hearty! What’s been happening in your lives? I successfully managed to make two hats for my kids from a pattern from Fleece Fun which is a blog by a lady called Angel Hickman Peterson and has lots of great patterns for fleece. Am going to make the matching mitts for them this weekend. Will do pics next time.

So what’s been happening at Nelson Towers? Hmmm…just the usual. My parents visited last Saturday and of course the kids were there for about five minutes before disappearing off to play. I feel sorry for my parents. It’s nearly an hour’s drive to our house from theirs and they only see the kids for all of five minutes at the beginning and then the end of their visit. Still that’s kids for you. I feel it’s better to let them go and play because they get bored and fidgety and whiny anyway. Plus the biscuit plate would be decimated!

Been trawling the website looking for ideas for Christmas makes for my kids. My boy is a huge Dr Who fan (the girl finds it too scary at times) so I’ve been looking for various things to make (for both of them…no Punch without Judy as they say). I’m going to do this Tardis kindle cosy from American Witch cos they want a tablet each for Christmas. I also want to make them an Adipose each from a pattern by Erika Kent. There’s also a good tutorial from Amanda Tepie here. And I’m going to give these a wee try…felt Dr Who plushies by Michelle Coffee (great name) of Deadly Sweet Plushes…I really love her Star Trek plushies so may make them for myself (I know I am a saddo, but they are fab). Plus on a non Dr Who vibe, I am also planning to make them a Minion each from a pattern by Hannah at We Lived Happily Ever After.  The next thing I need to see is if anyone’s making anything Monster High or Ever After High (the things my girl is into). I am going to be very busy over the coming weeks!!

Am currently working on a small gift for a couple of friends I’m seeing soon. I won’t say what cos they read this blog. Will put up a pic after I’ve given it to them.

Anyway, I must get on. Got tonnes of stuff to do. Til next time!

Dawn x