We’re up early again today, 7.15am, as I’m off to play golf. The ladies are all going to the Mandara Spa at the Dolphin for all sorts of pampering and prettifying. I know the spa is ready for them because I saw the concrete mixers and industrial paint spraying equipment being moved in last night.

Matt picks me up at the Wilderness Lodge at 8.00am and drops Deb off to meet up with the rest of the ladies and then drives us to the Palm course.
We are playing with our friend Vernon again. He is a DVC rep here in Florida, so if you ever want to take a tour, watch out for Big Vern, he’s the one to organise it for you.

My round costs $106, but this is because I am hiring clubs, which I am not over impressed with. I bought a set of Slazenger clubs at home that are better than these.
We are too late to warm up on the range (where the deer and the antelope play) so we go straight to the first tee. They are short of carts so the starter sends a guy from Milwaukee called Daryl to play with us. This works out very well as he shares a cart with Vernon and they are both pretty good golfers. Matt and I tag along behind as we are of a similar standard. Let’s just say Tiger Woods doesn’t have to start having sleepless nights on our behalf just yet.

Matt has bought a brand new driver and is itching to take the little beauty out for a test run. I won’t tell you how much it cost, but it could run the economy of a small South American country for a month or so. On the first few holes he’s having a few problems with it. I don’t think I help when I ask, in all innocence, whether he’s kept the receipt so he can take it back. To be fair to the old boy, he does hit a few cracking drives with it too, including one up the 18th that goes a good 230 yards.

We are progressing nicely or at least we think we are until one of the course officials tells us we are playing really slowly. Hells teeth man, it’s nearly 100, you couldn’t play quickly in that if you were the demon seed of the devil himself! The group behind are not even in sight so we’re not holding anyone up. As he drives off in his buggy Big Vern can be heard muttering something about inserting a 5 wood where the sun don’t shine.

We see a lot of wildlife along the way including a deer grazing by the side of the fairway, turtles and a rather friendly racoon. There is a lady driving round in a cart selling snacks, drinks etc., when she stops near us the little possum creeps out of the undergrowth and looks at us with the sort of soulful eyes I normally reserve for the barman after he’s called last orders. Robbie the racoon is obviously semi-tame, I think the lady in the cart must drop him titbits on a regular basis. You can’t blame the racoon; I’m partial to a titbit on occasion myself.

It takes us 5 hours to play the 18 holes and believe me it’s a tough course. Lots of heavy rough and water. I should know, I played through or out of most of it. At the end Matt and I are more or less even, which is just how it should be.

We say ‘cheerio’ to Vern, it’s a shame we can’t stay for a drink, but Matt has to drop me off and pick up Deb as we are dining at Victoria and Albert’s tonight and the ladies want to spend a leisurely time preparing themselves. I open my mouth to tell them they should have started a few hours ago in that case, but quickly think better of it.

Back at the Lodge the ladies tell me they had a lovely time at the spa. Tam had a Balinese massage (I think this entails a quick buffing with a couple of coconut husks) and the girls both had a manicure. Tam and Susan had big hunky guys for their massages and Deb is jealous. I can understand, when you live with Matt the attentions of a hunky male is something that must be sadly lacking in your life.

Tam tells me that the spa was excellent, they have a waiting room where you sit in your robe with chilled fruit water with cucumber and lemon to drink, also lots of types of tea. After your massage there is a nicely decorated room overlooking a fountain and you can spend as much time there as you like. Tam says it was totally relaxing. It cost $120 for Tam’s massage (never mind Balinese, I’d have given her a West Country massage for that, ply ‘em with cider and rub ‘em down with pig fat) and $25 each for the girls’ manicures. She informs me it was money well spent.

Back to the room for showering and best clothes preparing. The girls have never done Victoria and Albert’s before and are looking forward to it enormously.

At 5.00pm we are all dolled up and ready to go. We go down to the lobby to meet up with Susan and Lu Beth and valet parking sort a taxi out for us.

We arrive at the Grand Floridian and are in Mizners Lounge by 5.20pm to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails.

Deb and Matt arrive at 5.45pm and we chat and enjoy the drinks and music provided by the band.
At 6.30pm we enter Victoria and Albert’s. I told you about the food we had in my last trip report, so I won’t go through all of that again other than to say it was all just as fantastic as last time. The service is wonderfully understated, the servers talk in a quiet tone in keeping with the surroundings.

At one point a newly married couple get up to leave the room and all the other diners clap them, while Matt mutters ‘Good luck’ in a tone that suggests they are going to need it!

There is a harpist playing, which is lovely, adding to the ambience enormously. You have to enjoy the meal here as a total experience, it’s not just about the food.
It lasts nearly 3 hours and we don’t finish until nearly 10.00pm. The girls rush down to Narcoosees to watch Wishes while the rest of us take a more relaxed exit from the restaurant. Let’s face it, after the wine pairings with the food at Victoria and Albert’s, relaxed is the only way to go.

Taxi’s are sought, Deb and Matt’s to Saratoga and the rest of us back to Wilderness Lodge. In the elevator at the Lodge a man asks us if we’ve been to Victoria and Albert’s. That’s a strange assumption to make just because I’m wearing a jacket and tie in the heat of another scorching Florida evening. I usually dress this way for Splash Mountain.