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Old 01-08-2009, 04:28 PM   #1
UKDEB
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Sans Friends - Preamble

When

Sunday, 2nd November – Sunday, 16th November, 2008

Who

Deb: Aged 47. Reformed control freak who now just likes to go with the flow (well, to a point ). Foodie.

Matt: Aged 36. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Nuff said.

How

Flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy - London Gatwick/Orlando International

Where

Sunday, 2nd – Thursday 6th: Disney’s BoardWalk Villas

Friday, 7th – Saturday, 8th: Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort

Sunday, 9th – Saturday, 15th: Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

Preamble

Orlando has been our holiday destination of choice since 1992 with visits becoming progressively more frequent. November 2008 marks our 18th trip and our second this calendar year. It’s a bit of a departure for us being only the second time Matt and I have travelled to Central Florida without family or friends along. Not only that, but this will be our first entirely onsite stay and so it would be fair to say that our expectations and aspirations are a little different this time. On the plus side, we’ll get to do precisely what we want to do when we want to do it with no-one else to consider, but we know we’ll miss the riotous laughs and bonhomie which can only come from being part of a group of like-minded individuals.

As usual in the build up to the trip, much of our leisure time is spent planning, writing and re-writing itineraries and chatting about the things we’re most looking forward to. As the main benefit of travelling without companions is the ability to be able to go with the flow, we’ll be keeping advance bookings of any kind to a minimum. Matt sulks a bit when I insist, “yes, that does include golf”, but cheers up when I point out that not booking doesn't equate to not playing. Who says men are gullible?

Staying onsite will allow us to spend a lot more time in the parks than we might otherwise have done, although we know we’ll be taking far more pleasure from just strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere than from indulging in rides and attractions. We want to take lots of photographs and we’ve pre-ordered the PhotoPass CD to ensure that we’ll also get plenty of the two of us together.

Eating and drinking is a major part of any holiday for us and, with Orlando being a veritable playground of opportunity in that regard, we won’t be stuck for choice. Knowing there are several old favourites with which we need to reacquaint ourselves as well as some newcomers to explore, the only problem will be fitting it all in.

Sticking with the eating and drinking theme, our trip has very much been planned around the International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot - one of our favourite events. The main reason this is to be an onsite foray is that, having bought into DVC in October 2006, we can make this a virtually free trip as far as accommodation costs are concerned. We had originally booked 5 nights in a studiio at our home resort of Saratoga Springs, followed by two nights at Universal’s Royal Pacific and then a final 7 nights in a one-bed unit back at Saratoga Springs. Ideally we wanted to be at an Epcot resort for our first 5 nights to coincide with the final week of the IF&WF and, having given up all hope of that happening, the waitlist finally came through for a studio at BoardWalk Villas precisely one week before we were due to fly.

So, the scene is set…


Saturday, 1st November

As has become customary, we’ll be spending the night before our flight at the Sofitel in Gatwick’s North Terminal. Whilst I don’t particularly have a fear of getting held up in traffic and missing our flight, it is one less thing to worry about. It’s nice, too, to get rid of our luggage by taking advantage of Twilight Check-in. That way, all the chores are out of the way and we can just relax and the holiday can begin!

It seems a bit strange to be flying on a Sunday. Normally, we’d be finishing work early on a week day for our drive to Gatwick. Today, we have all day to kill – it’s pointless getting there too early as there’s little other to do than have a meal and a drink in the lobby lounge. There will be no getting drunk and spilling red wine everywhere, or playing pool in the sports bar for us, tonight. No witty conversation. (Did I say witty? I meant smutty ). The first pangs of regret at not having friends along are starting to make themselves felt. *Sigh*

Although we always get our clothes ironed and everything laid out on the spare bed days or weeks beforehand, we never pack until the last minute. Following a nasty incident many years ago which nearly ended in the divorce courts, Matt now does all the packing . So Matt packs whilst I make the house ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Our adult daughters are off to their Dad’s for the duration. Quite how I talked him (or them for that matter) into that is still a matter of some surprise to me, but as I use the term “adult daughters” in its very loosest sense, to say I’m relieved would be to grossly underestimate my emotions. Weeping was involved.

Somewhere amongst the packing, housework, despatching the girls and weeping, we find time to check in online 24 hours ahead of our 11.15am flight. (Yes, I know I said we’d be using Twilight Check-in, but they don’t call me Debbie Belt-and-Braces Churchill for nothing ). As usual, we're not able to print our boarding passes, but at least we're one step closer to securing our seat requests.

We pull off the drive at 3:50pm with darkness rapidly closing in. As we do it starts to drizzle (having been fine all day). By the time we reach the M4 30 minutes or so later, it’s teaming down and from there, it’s torrential all the way. There’s nothing worse than driving on the motorway in pouring rain. Wait; driving in the pouring rain in the dark is worse . Still, despite the rain, we have an easy run with no hold-ups and we’re pulling into the (empty) Park Plus depot at around 6:20pm. Just as we finish up the formalities at the desk, a bus rolls up and leaves as soon as we’ve stowed the cases, so we enjoy the 5 minute drive to the South Terminal with a bus all to ourselves.

There are several people in line for Twilight Check-in when we arrive, but we’re all done within 15 minutes and our seats are confirmed. Next we head over to TravelEx to collect our currency. There’s no-one waiting, so we’re very quickly away. Once again we find we have transportation to ourselves as we’re the only people to board the tram to the North Terminal.

Checking in at the Sofitel is quick and easy. We like this place. It makes for a very pleasant start to the holiday, made all the more pleasant by the fact that we always book using Airmiles. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if I was paying the rack rate of £200 per night. After depositing our hand luggage in the room, we head straight back down to Le Café which is a terrace style restaurant in the open atrium lobby. It’s one of three restaurants – the others being Ken Hom’s Gatwick Oriental and La Brasserie. Unsurprisingly, all the food and drink here is overpriced (captive audience and all that) and we’re more than happy to opt for the cheapest of the three knowing that we have lots of exciting eating options to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. We did try the Ken Hom place once and, whilst it was okay, it was disappointing for the money – certainly no better than most Chinese takeaways.

Those of you who know Matt will probably not be surprised to learn that he opts for the burger and fries. He may believe he is fooling me into thinking he’s gone all avant garde on me by very grandly ordering the “ground beef pattie”, but I can interpret the menu as well as the next man (especially when the next man is Matt ). I have to admit, though, that both the burger and the fries are surprisingly good. My crayfish tails pizza has a very nice topping but a rock hard pre-made base. Pizza bases are so easy to make, so I don’t understand why they need to serve up something which resembles cardboard . More importantly, we imbibe of the first drinks of the holliday – Kirin for Matt (x2) and Alamos chardonnay for me. The bill comes to £47.48 including the pre-added 12% tip.

We retire to the lobby bar for a nightcap. Matt has a Knob Creek on the rocks (insert your own joke here) and I have an Old Fashioned (bourbon, demorara sugar and orange bitters). Actually we have two. At 9.30pm - another £28.50 + £3 tip lighter - we decide to call it a day and head off to the room to watch some rubbish on TV. All evening Matt has been unsuccessfully trying to establish the result of today’s F1 qualifying, which we missed during the drive down (or, more accurately, across). We eventually learn that Lewis is P4. Yikes! Doesn’t bode well for tomorrow’s race.

Our room:



First drinks in Le Café:





Nightcaps in lobby lounge:







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Last edited by UKDEB; 07-23-2009 at 04:54 AM.
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:40 PM   #2
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Great start Debs
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Old 01-08-2009, 04:59 PM   #3
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I love the sofitel and last time we stayed we were with our friends. great photos


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Old 01-09-2009, 02:20 AM   #4
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Fab start Debs
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:25 AM   #5
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Hoorah, you finally made a start - so glad you've decided to get this one going and I am certainly looking forward to more
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:57 AM   #6
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Great read as I would expect. I get so irrate with the Sofitel pricing on everything, was almost enough to make me forego alcohol....i did say almost will look forward to more
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Old 01-09-2009, 03:01 AM   #7
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Lovely start Debs.
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Old 01-09-2009, 03:14 AM   #8
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Woo Hoo - Another Deb & Matt report

Can't wait for the food reports, esp the IFWF ones.......
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Thank you O' great Tag Fairy - You have made this Proud Redhead a very happy bunny!!
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Old 01-09-2009, 05:23 AM   #9
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Great start, cant wait for more
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:07 AM   #10
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Am really looking forward to more installments as I enjoyed Matt's day by day account as well.
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:21 AM   #11
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Great start Deb - can't wait to read more

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Old 01-09-2009, 07:15 AM   #12
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A trip report at last!

About time you got your lazy ....... er ... I mean, lovely start to the holiday Deb.

The photos of the Sofitel brought back many memories. Almost sorry we booked the Hilton for May, but it was too good to miss at £57 including breakfast.

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Old 01-09-2009, 07:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
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The photos of the Sofitel brought back many memories.
Most of Tam blind drunk I'd wager
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Old 01-09-2009, 08:09 AM   #14
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sounds just like our pre-flight day with the Sofitel .....

oh hang on, our kids were in tow, twilight check-in with 3 trolley loads of luggage and non-UK passports is a loooong task and god forbid we could take them to a restaurant and bar due to the fear of them wrecking the joint, had to go to McDonalds instead and drink Coke, followed by Happy Feet on the TV in the room, plastic sheets on the beds incase they peed and lights out by 8pm ...

okay - well I can dream my pre-flight day/night goes like yours!!!

start as you mean to continue .... and I love the shirt on Matt (a man after my dh's heart!)
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Old 01-09-2009, 09:50 AM   #15
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Yeah you've started
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