Monday, 26 September 2016

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

One of the Orlando experiences that really had an awesome impact on us as a family and stayed with us for the whole of our first trip there 5 years ago was the Disney breakfast. Being able to go to the Disney boat club to have breakfast with Minnie, Goofy and Donald was a magical experience. When we arranged to visit Orlando the following year it was our first year working with Visit Orlando and as we started organising our itinerary for what ended up being a very busy holiday, we knew that we had to save space for a morning meal with the Disney crew (most important meal of the day don't you know).

This trip was no different. The experience we had the previous two times had us longing for another visit. Our favourite holiday photo from the first visit was at the Disney boat club. The entire surrounding area is beautiful and great for taking photos, as we sat outside the dining area waiting to be called to our table we asked someone if they wouldn't mind taking a photo. It turned out to be a lovely shot and we wanted to recreate it 5 years on.

As Minnie and her friends had not changed their boat club outfits during our three visits to the Disney breakfast, it was great to get pictures of the boys during each time to compare. Sometimes it blows my mind at how quickly the time has gone and at how grown up both the boys are now. It doesn't matter how big they get though. When they see Minnie and her friends they are my little boys all over again, that's the magic of Disney.

The food at the Disney breakfast is lush. The selection (considering it is breakfast) is huge. Despite us not being able to some of the food due to us not eating Meat, Dairy and Gluten etc, what makes the Disney breakfast dining experience stand out above any other place we had eating in Orlando is the extent they go to to make sure there is a great selection of food for you to eat, no matter what dietary issue you have. We were able to request gluten, Dairy free Muffins, and waffles (shaped like Mickey Mouse), and the chefs went above and beyond to make food from the buffet, minus the ingredients we couldn't have, especially for us. The whole experience is magical, exactly what you would expect from Disney.

After eating, there is no rush to leave the boat club area, which I think is great considering we were not Disney guests at the hotel. The manmade beach and huge lake are lovely to walk around and it is so relaxing that you could easily lose a few hours just casually pottering around. The decked are at the edge of the water was on our list of possible wedding venues. A quiet, intimate service, somewhere special to us. I'm still not sure where we will eventually choose though.

Our trip to the Disney boat club was just as special as our first visit. What makes Disney so magical (and Orlando on the whole) is the effort that the staff go to, to make sure that while you are there, you are fully entertained and treated like a VIP, and that you leave the restaurant with a huge smile on your face, eager to visit again.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”

As a family that loves to read, we do everything we can to motivate the boys to better their reading skills. Because of this, characters from stories and certain authors have become very special to the boys and an ongoing part of our lives. While visiting the greatest family tourist destination in the world, it's awesome to be able to fully submerge ourselves in the books that we adore and feel part of the stories and characters that have had a huge impact on our families development. Dr. Seuss was huge for me growing up, not at Opeie's age unfortunately, I was much older when I first read his amazing stories, but it was something I wanted to share with Opeie early on. We own a huge collection of his books and I've loved reading them to the boys. It's lovely now though that Opeie is reading them back to me and I'm falling in love with the stories all over again. Seuss landing takes us right into those stories and being able to meet the characters at Islands of adventure is a great addition to the park visit and probably Mrs M's favourite part of the holiday (she loves the Lorax).

It's been a while since I read an actual book but I squeeze a comic or graphic novel in where I can. Marvel was my big love from very early on and characters like Spider-man and the Avengers took up a huge chunk of my 'quiet time'. Reading comics is something that I've passed on to Seth now and I can't wait until he gets into some of the great comic runs that I have adored over the years. Super hero island is an awesome place for photos and with heroes and villains out in the street happy to pose for pictures, it's super hero heaven.  The last time we came to Orlando Seth was unfortunately too short for the hulk roller coaster and Opeie was far too young for the Spider-man ride but this time round, height wasn't an issue and they both got to enjoy the rides they had missed out on. Seth and I also took a ride on Dr. Dooms tower of doom which totally took me by surprise and had me feeling a little nauseous haha. While Seth and I made the most of riding the bigger rides , Mrs M took Opeie investigating and Opeie spotted some Super heroins that he could bat his eyelashes at.

The other huge hero from the books we love is obviously Harry Potter, who didn't get the attention he deserved during our last visit. Seth was too young for reading the books and neither of them had watched any of the movies. I was a big fan of Harry Potter at the time and was excited about visiting Hogsmeade, sadly, when you have a none interested 5-year-old and a breastfeeding 2-year-old though, you don't generally get to do the things that you want to do.  Seth is reading the Order of the phoenix now for his school reading and both boys watched all the movies on the build up to the holiday so you can imagine the excitement when we finally did arrive at Hogsmeade. Despite the long queuing time (which your mind is cleverly taken away from with so much going on), for me and Seth the Hogwarts ride was the best ride of the holiday.

For us as a family, Universal studios/Islands of adventure will always be the ultimate park attraction in Orlando. It has many of the things we love, all together and this amazing theme park reinforces the improtance of reading and the magic that comes with colourful characters we adore.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

"Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons."

When you pull into the car park at the Florida mall and round the corner of Macy's you are greeted by a huge display of colour and some giant fun loving crayons up to mischief. From the outside, the Crayola experience looks like the most fun you could possibly have and when you get inside you are not disappointed. Everywhere you look there is somewhere awesome to take a colourful pic. The staff (like everywhere else in Orlando) are all smiles and clearly there to make your experience magical.

Eager to find out what the tokens were for that we were given on arrival, the first thing we came to were machines where you could create your own crayon labels which was great. These crayons have barely changed since I was at school and I remember filling in my colouring book pages clearly (with my tongue hanging out the side of my mouth for concentration). I really enjoyed colouring as a child so it was a lot of fun creating these labels. Turns out you can't give your crayons inappropriate names though, much to Mrs M's and my disappointment. 
*must remember that these are children's attractions.

With machines for you to melt crayons into various shapes, ones that melt your crayons and spray the hot wax to create fun spinning creations and photo booth areas that take your picture and turn you into a colouring book page, there is loads to keep you entertained during your visit.

The great part about the attraction is where it is situated, making it the perfect way to break up a hefty shopping trip, because us tourists need to fill up those empty suitcases we travelled to Orlando with and it's not much fun for the kids at times. While we were there we also visited the Crayon factory to see how the crayons were made which was really interesting.

The Crayola tokens can also be used on the vending machines for the play putty in a variety of colours and there are plenty of cutters and other tools available to keep you occupied for some time. Clearly I had let myself go this holiday and was having too much fun!

To top off our amazing visit we left through a great giftshop where we were able to fill a huge tin with every colour crayon they had and more, meaning we could continue our Crayola adventure back at the apartment. A definite thumbs up for our creative little colour fiends and I thouroughly enjoyed the visit myself, a recomended attraction for any fan of colour.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

"My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water."

When planning a trip to Orlando it is easy to get caught up in the big attractions and commercial side that it is so well known for. Although there is nothing wrong with this it is important to know that there is a lot more to this beautiful part of the world and you can find out all you need to know through Visit Orlando. If you venture further out from the main tourist area you are rewarded with picturesque scenery and really interesting plants and wildlife.

For the first morning of our awesome family holiday, I had booked us an adventure in Winter Park. I am ashamed to say that I had done no research about where we were going and had based the outing on the fact that we planned on eating at Ethos, Mrs M's favourite restaurant and it was in the same area. We had visited winter park during our last holiday to Orlando and driving through residential areas to get there, after going from highway to highway, gave us the chance to see a completely different side to our holiday destination.

Enter Charlie, a really sweet guy who after getting in his boat gave us an amazing tour of the beautiful lakes surrounding the idyllic suburban city, courtesy of Winter Park Scenic Boat tours. As we looked out on lake Osceola I thought 'Wow! this is beautiful but how are they going to make this trip last an hour?'. Had I have researched the tour I'd have found out that we would also be out on lake Virginia and lake Mizell which were connected by cool picturesque canals covered by cypress trees and other interesting plants.

As Charlie narrated the journey you couldn't help but hang off his every word. The story of the history of the lakes and its residents was fascinating and it was a really educational trip for the boys which was a huge added bonus for us. The architecture in the area was beautiful and there were so many stories being told about the people and families that have made Winter park the area it is today.

What stuck out for me the most was the story of the restoration of Capon house. A huge historic building for winter park that was set to be demolished before being saved by the local community. Charlie explained how the property had been cut in half and transported from one side of lake to the other via barge in two journeys so that it could continue to be a part of the historic area. I would have loved to have been there to watch that. The story had us watching videos of the move on YouTube that evening and it was fascinating.

The trip wasn't all about the architecture and its caring community though. We also learnt a lot about the nature surrounding the area and the plant life growing on the edges of the waterways. The most interesting to hear about was the resurrection fern that when subject to the sun and hot weather, shrivels, goes brown and looks pretty dead but as soon as it rains is completely rejuvenated.

There was a moment during the tour where the boys were hoping that Charlie was going to take the boat up this ramp, thankfully though we stayed on the water and continued listening to the story.

Despite all of the beautiful scenery, interesting architecture and fascinating nature, Opeie was loving these floating in the water and wanted to know what 'No Wake' meant. I had absolutely no idea until I had googled it. Clearly I have not spent much time on the water.

There really was so much to see during our hour on the lakes and I could have happily gone round again. It's great coming to Florida, the home of Mickey Mouse but if you take time to look at the historic side of Florida you'll find real Beauty and a more organic side to a holiday destination that will continue to drag in huge crowds. Charlie and the staff really made the visit and it's always great to be made to feel so welcome.

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