Day One No Room at The (Sleep) Inn and tears before bedtime.. 16.12.01 Where was I?..Oh yes, so its now 3am on Sunday morning and theres no way Im getting back to sleep, so go over the plan several times in my head to ensure no flaws (little did I know .) while the grizzly bear whos sleeping the room carries on sleeping like .well, a grizzly bear I spose! At 5am I give up and leap into action (well almost). Time to rouse the troops I think .DH even gets a cup of tea in bed, how civilised! (Make the most of it dear!) Start the waking process for the Bexter at 5.15 when the alarm call comes, and she actually isnt too bad well, there is an incentive after all! She only moans a bit at the cold. Very glad to see the cars not iced up this morning, that would have been horrible! Leave the hotel at just after 6am, only 3 mins behind schedule good going guys! (This is the only time throughout the holiday we are on time make the most of it!) Off into the wilds of Kent well, there are some pretty scary people who live round here you know!) Arrive at APHG car park, booked through Barclaycard for a mere £44 for the fortnight, at just after 7am, not bad. Their map was easy to follow and booking the car in is painless and quick. Board the coach for Gatwick and arrive at Virgin check in a little after 7.30am not bad! The queue looks pretty awful, but not as horrendous as when we travelled in February and it moves quickly and is well organised. Chat to other travellers while we wait (in readiness for chatting to queue-ers at WDW see?) and by 8am have checked in. Now I can relax a bit! We have the seats we had reserved, Ive had our air miles put on our frequent Flier account, our hand luggage has been weighed and all is right with the worldJ Must be time for breakfast! Actually I feel as if it should be lunch time, after Ive been awake since 3am! Bek and DH cant agree where to eat (now theres a surprise) as Dh wants the full fry up and Bek wants a tuna baguette (!), so for the sake of peace and Vinces stomach I take DD off to Costas for a very expensive sandwich while Vince settles in to Garfunkels for his full English! One tuna s/wich, one rather horrible almond croissant, one cappuchino and one coke costs me over £7! Phew! Im not impressed. While we are sitting munching I give Bek a Christmas present, a book to read on the plane, and a very funny Xmas card, which has us all laughing as Vince joins us for his coffee. Off to do some browsing in all the shops, buy my bottle of water for the plane, and then through to the departure lounge. There is quite a queue getting through security here too, but again it only takes 10 minutes or so it would have been quicker but Becky sets off the alarm and is searched (poor girl, very embarrassing) told her she looked dodgy! Disappointed in duty free as cant seem to find an assistant to help, so give up, their loss not mine! Make lots of very unsubtle hints to Dh about the new CK perfume, Truth, which he seems to ignore . But he obviously isnt that deaf as he comes shiftily out of the shop later with my perfume Here, its for your birthday! ..Well, you could have saved it then or at least taken the price off !!!!! Very nice though. At 11.15 the gat number goes up on the boards and we wander through to Gate 35 where we find seats to wait, and watch them loading English Rose (means I hum the song by The Jam for ages after) our VA aircraft for the trip. We also notice several engineers working on the top of the a/c hmm, doesnt look good. Sure enough as the lounge fills up, we hear those horrid words Virgin Atlantic regret to announce Theres a technical fault with the plane, which is actually a faulty light on the top of the plane, now being fixed, well be delayed by one hour. OK, not too bad. I can live with that. We watch the engineers being winched up to the top of the plane, one of them looks about 12! Glad hes only fixing the light! True to their word, an hour later we start boarding. We are nearly last to board as we have seats in the middle of the a/c, but thats ok, the seats are pretty good and Im still relaxed. Ive put my flight socks on (you know, those lovely trendy ones for helping DVT?)..expensive but they work. Feeling very laid back until the next announcement that because someone hasnt turned up they need to off load their luggage ggrrrrrr! Now delayed another 30 mins for this. Groans all round, but, ok, offered a drink while we wait, nice ice cold water. Wait 30mins then begin to taxi another 30 mins later we are still sitting waiting, bit stressed now just want to get there! Eventually 2 hours late, at 2.20pm were off! At last! The rest of the flight is ok. Disappointed that Americas sweethearts is not on as was advertised online, but see 2 good films, Rat Race and Me Without You, which is very funny and follows 2 girls through their childhood, teens to adult hood thru the seventies and eighties, music, fashion and all .wonderful nostalgia!J the theme music is White Horses,.anyone remember that from the Seventies? At one point I look around and all at the same time there are several women all doing foot exercises just like aircraft aerobics!J Only have one gripe about this flight, the dinner trays are not collected from our part of the plane for over an hour., no stewards in sight! Very irritating! Manage to doze off for the odd cat nap (remember I was awake so early) but Im really looking forward to reaching our hotel for a good sleep tonight .Now, if this was a horror film, thered be doom-laden music at this point .so just imagine it instead ..Little did our heroine know what horrors lay ahead for her . Get the picture? Land at MCO at 5.40pm, manage to make up an hour on the way, good! Home at lastJ Of course, its already getting dark now, which is a first for us (our first first so far!) but we know our way around pretty well by now so dont worry too much. Customs is a breeze and we have only one person in front of us. The officer actually smiles and jokes with us wow! We are among the first to collect our bags and pass through the next security point where Becky is again searched very thoroughly (told her he just fancied her really) Should have know this was all going far too smoothly! The cases then take ages to come thru the next conveyor system but eventually we are all set and our nice porter takes us down to wait for the Alamo bus .its only taken 35 minutes from exiting the plane to here, great! the airport is dead, but then it is Sunday evening, does that make a difference? .we wait and wait .and wait ..More than 35 mins later we are still waiting for the bus, along with an ever increasing crowd of people. We have watched Mears, Hertz and several other buses come and go and are grimly telling each other we should have gone with Dollar like last year when it arrives at last. Cue the crowd of people shoving to the front to get on the small bus. What a miserable old devil the driver is! Vince has tendonitis in his shoulders so has trouble lifting, so I try to lift up the cases onto the very high bus platform, with no help at all from the driver thanks very much sir! 15 mins later we arrive at the Alamo depot to collect our car. Again I lug our cases off while Vince goes to hand over the paper work and collect the keys. We wait another 10 mins or so then he comes out and find that the car is miles away (it seems) and we need to get a shuttle (an old man driving a car) to take us to the car .why cant they have cars waiting nearer the depot for the flights expected?? Another 10 minutes or so then DH is back with the car. Its dark and we are exhausted by now, but I dont like the look of this car. Then we notice a scratch and dent in one side, eventually track down someone who just shrugs and notes it on a piece of paper (yes we should have pushed for another car there and then but were much too tired) More problems when it takes ages to start the car, then we are eventually on our way. By now we have all had enough, are tired and very grumpy. Vince tells me on the way that they had stung him for extra insurance too for $100 or so, I rage because I paid for the fully inclusive deal, but we will have to sort it out later. Its taken us over an hour and a half to get from the airport bust stop to get on our way .we vow never to use Alamo again, back to Dollar next time! Finding our way to the 192 is simple, but looks strange in the dark. Never driven this far along this end of the 192 before! Seem to drive forever before we se The Sleep Inn, situated right behind a McDonalds hmmmm. Dont care what it looks like, Im tired! I know its a glorified Travel Inn, but was very good deal. Very relieved to get inside and check in, pay for a safe, collect our card key and were off. Up to the room, walk inside Now, this is where the fun starts! I walk into the room and notice something strange and very crucial it is a very small room, and there is only one bed! OK I know Im tired but there really is only one bed, right? Stomp downstairs where I grit my teeth and ask what they are playing at. Long story, but they insist the booking they received from the American agent was for one person only so didnt they notice there were 3 of us then?? Im not happy (can you tell?) and even though I show her my receipt which clearly states 3 people on it the receptionist refuses to budge and says there is nothing else available at the moment and will have to wait to speak to her manager in the morning. OK I admit, I lost it a bit then ..but its been a long day! What happened to customer service? I thought your Tourist Industry was encouraging UK holiday makers back? I say at one point but she just looks at me and shrugs. She eventually suggests that for tonight they can supply us with a rollaway bed for Becky, and we really have no choice at this time of night but to agree. I return to the cupboard, I mean room, and the bed is duly left outside the wrong room (thanks a lot). Its not the cleanest bed Ive seen, and with a big dip in the middle looks awfully uncomfortable, but right now Becky says shed sleep in the saddle if she had to would probably be more comfortable too! ..I ring the Tour Agent but of course its Sunday evening no answer! Then, problem No2, the bed doesnt actually fit in the room! We do manage to squeeze it into the space next to our bed, between us and the bathroom, but to use the bathroom you have to climb over the bed great! Oh, and you cant open the room door unless you put the bed up out of the way .I tell reception this and suggest this could possible be a hazard in an emergency .I get the shrug again and give up before I lose my temper completely. Vince decides hed better bring the luggage in, and put it somewhere in the room, God knows where! As he doesnt want to leave it in the car overnight ..problem no 3 then arises as he cant shut the boot of the car. It appears that whatever accident this car has had has affected the boot mechanism and now it just wont close great! I ring Alamo and am told that they cant send and alternative car out for a trunk problem ..GGGGRRRRRR! Very surreal conversation goes something like this .Im sorry Maam we cant do that, you need to return the car to the airport depot to exchange it. I dont think so, that will take a good 90 minutes and we are already exhausted, and how do we drive it there when we cant close the trunk? I say sweetly You need to use some rope Maam Where do I get rope at this time of the night? You need to drive to a Kmart Maam Ahh, and how do I do that when I cant drive the car there with the trunk flapping open? (Through gritted teeth) pause.. You need to return the car to us Maam Is this a recording? We are open 24 hours Maam well thats great for you sweetie! I try sarcasm but it falls on deaf ears, as does the rant about poor customer service. Ok I give up, Becky is ready to fall down in a heap by now, she clambers into the horrible bed, and I climb over her to use the bathroom, then settle down to a good howl .. I booked all this myself and feel very responsible. I just wanted to make it a special Christmas holiday .what a horrible start! Knowing we will get little sleep we fall into bed (literally), deciding that tomorrow is another day, and we can sort it all out in the morning .. After all, how much worse can it get?