JUNE 2004

Right then, as has become traditional (at least with me) with under 2 weeks to go, I am ready to launch head first into the pre-trip report for our latest foray into darkest Florida. Armed with only a rather basic imagination and rusty keyboard, I shall plumb the dark and dirty recesses of my feeble brain and lay before you the plan for a fortnight of wild abandon and happy excess.

Or I could tell you what we are going to do.

You should know us all by now. If not, where have you been for my previous 5 trip reports? I’m afraid that ignorance is no excuse. Although in this case ignorance really is bliss. Still, you found your way here eventually, so I’ll forgive you.

Who’s a goin’?

Me, Kev, 46. I know, I know, you’re thinking ‘He’s going to ramble on about himself for ages again’. And you’d be right! It is, after all, my favourite subject.
I still work for the same company, but have recently been promoted to Quality Manager. So, if you have a pile of quality around that requires managing, I’m your man.
STILL playing football. Perhaps ‘playing’ is taking it a little too far. Ambling out on to the pitch and wandering around aimlessly before retiring to the bar to discuss where it all went wrong would be closer to the truth. At least it helps keep me young and virile.
I must admit that one of my less attractive habits is the ability to sulk when things don’t go my way. I could probably sulk for England. In fact, if I entered the World Sulking Championships I would probably win the gold medal. But then there would be the endless round of chat shows, award ceremonies, being greeted by celebrities and politicians, being voted Sulking Personality of the Year and ending with a knighthood from the Queen for services to sulking.
It just seems too much like hard work. I’ll just have to remain an amateur.

Tam, my wife 40. Yes, that’s right 40. The woman is 40.
You may have gathered that she has recently passed this particular landmark, much to the pleasure of the author who found plenty of opportunity to tease and ridicule.
She’s actually wearing reasonably well. Sure, I have to touch her up now and again and scrape a few barnacles off her bottom, but not too bad all in all.
Did I mention that she’s 40? Perhaps I’ve gone too far. Let’s hope she doesn’t know what happened to John Wayne Bobbitt.

India, eldest daughter, 13. Since last year she seems to have grown a foot and developed an unhealthy interest in the opposite sex. This is not to be encouraged. I distinctly remember telling her on several occasions that she is not allowed to grow up. Those boys are nasty, foul creatures. I should know, I was amongst the foulest. Tam would say I still am.
India has also acquired a rather dubious taste in music. She loves Robbie Williams, but doesn’t like Ryan Adams. Where did it all go wrong?

Georgia, little squitty child, 10. She’s my little baba. Unfortunately I seem to have passed on the sulking gene to Georgia. Obviously, she hasn’t attained my high standard yet, but that’s not for the want of trying.
Give the child credit though, she is getting braver where rides are concerned. She tried Space Mountain for the first time last year and loved it and is now itching to try Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. Shame we aren’t going to the Studios this year!

Now, we have quite a large and varied group along at various times in our adventure this year.

Firstly we have the Return of the Mothers. Remember Return of the Mummy? Well, it’s like that except more frightening.
Both my mum and Tam’s mum came with us in November 2001 and enjoyed themselves, so we thought we would invite them again this year. I know, I’m a saint.

My mum, Dorothy, 79. Those of you that read the 2001 report will know that my mum is no ordinary 79 year old. Walking? Not a problem. Bike riding? Easy peasy. Kyaking? Well, I’m not sure on this one, but we may give it a go!
Every time we ask her to come with us she asks if we really want her to come along, are we sure she won’t get in the way. You have to be joking mother. I can foresee the day when she will be pushing me around WDW in my wheelchair.

Tam’s mum, Julia. (age withheld due to SIL’s generous nature and good manners). I think Julia would say that she is looking forward to a return to Captiva more than the WDW portion of our holiday, although we had fun there too on the last trip.
Awww… now I’ve gone and spoiled the surprise that we are returning to Captiva. Never mind.

Also joining us at various times during our WDW week:

Sharon and Evan. We met Sharon in WDW in 2001 after corresponding for a couple of years. Last year she and Evan came over to the UK for a holiday and spent a week with us in the West Country.
Sharon got married to Jerry in January and, along with Jerry’s daughters Marissa and Gabby, they are meeting up with us as often as possible during the week we are in WDW.
I’m really looking forward to meeting Jerry and seeing Evan again as this trip is becoming decidedly female heavy. (Am I allowed to say female and heavy in the same sentence without attracting a clip round the ear?)
A man can only take so much talk of shopping and chocolate before he hankers for the refuge of a discussion on sport, beer and the relative merits of Jordan’s bosom versus J Lo’s bottom. Deep thinkers we men.

Thought I’d finished with attendees for this years funtasmic trip, didn’t you? Well, no I haven’t.

Just after Christmas I received an e-mail from a lady in Tulsa called Susan.
Susan had read my trip reports and wrote to say how much she had enjoyed them. After questioning the woman’s sanity, I wrote back and so started a regular correspondence, with Susan keeping me informed on the latest goings on in the world of Disney.
On my side of things, I introduced Susan to UK Sunday night chat on the DIS Boards. One night during chat I mentioned our up coming trip and asked Susan if she could make it down to Florida at the same time as us. After a quick check round, she determined that she could and would be bringing her friend, Lu Beth, along with her.
Now, I am given to understand that Lu Beth is partial to a beer now and then, so things are looking up as regards a drinking partner.
All this is very well, but at a quick count I make this 10 females to 3 males. And when Evan and Jerry aren’t around, 7 females against little old me. Be gentle with me girls. I bruise easily.

When are we a goin’ and what are we a doin’?

Thursday May 27th we leave work at lunchtime and catch a coach up to Gatwick for an overnight stay at the Hilton. I think we have tried just about every different form of transport it is possible to use when making our way to the airport. We have been by car, taxi, train and now coach. We decided on this because it is cheaper and hopefully will mean less movement of luggage. With 6 of us it would take 2 cars.

Friday May 28th we clamber aboard the 1:30pm Virgin flight to Orlando. Just the standard sardine class for us I’m afraid, we can’t all afford the luxury of Premium Economy. (Looking towards you and Matt with envious eyes at this point Deb).
I suppose it will be the usual mix of boredom and excitement. I have looked at the Virgin web site and the films for May look pants with a capital p! Let’s hope the web site is wrong.
On arrival in Orlando we pick up our 8 seater van and head off to the All Star Music for one night. The thinking behind this is that we will be arriving relatively late (I estimate 7:30pm) and wanted to be somewhere we could just relax. The girls can have a swim, we can grab a bite from the food court and a beer from the bar.

Saturday May 29th. Doubtless we will be up at the crack of dawn. That’s not strictly true. I will probably be up pre the crack of dawn. Still, if you have to see dawn crack, there are few better places than Florida.
Getting up so early means we are unsure as to where to eat breakfast. We’ve done Ponderosa a few times in the past, but may give somewhere else a go this time. Then it’s time to jump in the van and start our drive down to Captiva.
Now, we have driven straight down the Interstate before as well as taking our time and going down the coast road. As we are in no hurry, we are contemplating driving across country. I realise this may take a fair while, but at least we will see a bit of Florida previously unknown to us.
The intention is to arrive at Naples around lunchtime to have a look around as I’ve heard it’s a very nice town. Then it’s on to Captiva and our villa on Wightman Road.

Sunday May 30th to Saturday 5th June. Just relaxing in Captiva. There are not too many firm plans at the moment, we will just take it as it comes.
Certainly we will take a boat trip one day, possibly to Useppa Island as it looks very pretty. Tam is keen to go kayaking again and I am keen to discover the joys of the local hostelries.
The girls will be only too happy splashing about in either the sea or our pool. Although it’s only small (the pool not the sea) it will be the first time that we have had a villa with a pool, so it will something of a novelty for us.
I’m sure Julia will be itching to get out on one of the bikes provided with the villa and I’m sure we can find plenty of things to keep my mother busy as well. There’s the washing up, making the beds, cleaning the house, fetching the shopping etc. You didn’t think we brought her along to enjoy herself, did you?

Saturday 5th June. Return to Orlando and check into the Boardwalk Villas. Now this was a tough decision. We really enjoyed staying at the Beach Club Villas last year and would happily have returned there, but we noticed you can get a Boardwalk view for the same number of DVC points and the lure of waking up, sitting on the balcony and enjoying the sights was just too much for us.
In the evening we have PS’s for ‘Ohana where we will meet Susan and Lu Beth for the first time. Boy are they going to be disappointed! They will be expecting a cross between Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp. What they will actually get is a slightly puny and dull Englishman.
After the meal we will retire to the Poly beach to watch the water pageant and Wishes.

Sunday 6th June. Into Epcot for the last day of the Flower and Garden Festival. We chose this as I know that Julia will particularly enjoy all the floral displays.
Now, here comes a big problem for me. I REALLY want to go on Mission Space, but spinning things and I do not mix well. The tea cups are a real no-no for me. I know that I have to ride it at least once, so the plan is to go on first thing in the morning. This way, if I am sick, I still have the rest of the day to recover and be ok for the evening. See, told you I am puny.
Hopefully, this will be the first time that the entire Stringer Tour Group will be together as Sharon and her clan will be joining the rest of us for the evening to watch Reflections of Earth.

Monday 7th June. We may do Boggy Creek Airboat Rides today. The ladies also may want to fit in a spot of shopping. You should all be well aware of my aversion to this particular activity by now, but I feel I have to let the females off the leash at some point in the holiday. Two weeks without shopping builds up a particular hormone in women that makes them aggressive towards the poor downtrodden male. It has been proven scientifically.
The evening provides one of the highlights of our holiday. Tam, India, Evan and I are off to the Hard Rock Live to watch The Darkness. This is going to be LOUD. It won’t be subtle, but it will be fun. Tam isn’t too sure about this, but I have assured her that we will find a nice rug for her legs and park her in the corner with some ear plugs and a mug of cocoa.

Tuesday 8th June. A quiet day, either around the pool or possibly pool hopping. In the evening we are going with Susan and Lu Beth to see Cirque de Soleil. Now, this has never really appealed to me, but everyone says it is wonderful, so we are giving it a go.
After the show we have PS’s at House of Blues, another first for us.

Wednesday 9th June. All day at the Magic Kingdom. It is the anniversary of the day Jerry proposed to Sharon in front of the castle, so we are all getting together to celebrate. How many years have you got to be married before you stop celebrating and start commiserating?
Another first for us will be Mickey’s Philarmagic. I’m really looking forward to this.

Thursday 10th June. Our last full day. We intend to go to the Animal Kingdom for a while before heading back to Epcot for our last evening. For us, there could never be anywhere but Epcot for our last night.

I’m not even going to mention Friday and the start of our journey home. It’s not going to happen. I’m going to take the best day of our holiday and turn it into Groundhog Day.

So that’s it for now. In some ways this is the very best part of the holiday. It is all yet to come and the anticipation is wonderful.