Fred and Wilma 'Wonder' Through the Panama Canal - With a Couple of Stowaways

wilma-bride

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Jul 13, 2005
Chapter 1 - Have a little sniff of US dollars and get excited

Wednesday April 29th

OK, so I know I’m not the only one who does this – we all pick up our US $$$ and immediately sniff them, don’t we. Don’t we? OK, so maybe it’s just me. So what has that got to do with the price of fish? Well, I had this clever idea (actually, it was Kim’s idea) to use the titles from the pages in my Waldo Pancake Travel Journal as the chapter titles for our trip report. Today’s title was “Have a little sniff of suncream while packing and get excited”. While suncream doesn’t do it for me, there is nothing like the smell of fresh, crisp $$$ to get me excited for our trip. So that became the title of Chapter 1. I can’t promise the rest of the titles will be as creative.

The day had finally dawned; today was the day we set off on our Panamanian adventure. Well, today we would get as far as Heathrow airport at least. Gary got up as usual and went off to work and Daniel was despatched to school, despite complaining that he had a sore throat and needed to stay home with his Mummy (cue much fake coughing and sniffing).

Mum and Charles, having arrived the day before, got up and had breakfast and we popped into town to get some last minute necessities:- Lee Stafford dehumidifier spray and a travel size moisturiser to take on the plane. After paying a cheque into the bank for Gary – and being told off for knowing his PIN – I treated Mum and Charles to a coffee in Costa, a small price to pay for free childcare for the next 2 and a half weeks.

Back home, I did online check-in. Tony messaged me to say that he had been unable to complete online check-in for some reason but didn’t know why. I think he was secretly hoping that he and Tee had been upgraded to 1st class. I killed some time by putting the final touches to my nails and printing off some cruise documentation.





Soon, it was time to pick Daniel and his friend, Holly, up from school. Gary arrived home shortly after we did and we set about packing the last few bits into the suitcases. Gary couldn’t find the portable luggage scales, which he swore he had left on the windowsill in the spare room. After a few minutes of searching, they were eventually located just inside one of the suitcases. Apparently I must have put them there….

After we finished the final chores – black recycling bin out, salt for the water softener in, Mum’s laptop updated – then it was time to leave for the airport. At 5.45pm on the dot! The M4 was quiet (which was lucky since it had been closed for hours the day before) and we were making good time. When checking my phone, I realised I had a missed call from Tony, who had left me a voicemail asking e to call him back. He sounded pretty serious and I instantly panicked that there was something wrong – everything from family problems to expired ESTAs and passports ran through my head. Never let it be said that I over-react to minor issues. I phoned him back with shaking hands and beating heart. Apparently he and Tee had arrived at the hotel and wanted to know what time to book the table for dinner. Doh! After chastising him for worrying me half to death, I updated him on our position and ETA and we agreed on 7.30.

Just after 7.15 we arrived at the Premier Inn Bath Road and checked in. I explained to the receptionist that I wanted a top floor room at the back of the hotel (after a bad experience last year) and, after checking, she confirmed that is exactly what we had. We popped up to the room to drop off our bags and freshen up, and found a card on the dresser, which had been left for us by Sue and Richard (a couple from the UK who were on the same cruise as us, who had stayed there the previous night before flying out to Miami earlier that day). Inside was a message wishing us a safe trip and saying they were looking forward to meeting us. A lovely gesture from a lovely couple!



Downstairs, we arrived in the lobby at the same time as Tony and Theresa. There were big hugs all round and Tee and I did a little huggy dance of excitement. It had seemed like this day would never come. At the restaurant, we joined the queue to get in. A very rude man pushed his way past from behind us and marched to the front, explaining that he had a reservation. Tony got a bit annoyed and pointed out that we had a reservation too but at least were polite enough to stand in line. We were seated very quickly after that and ordered drinks – Diet Pepsi all round; talk about pushing the boat out. We had bought the meal deal along with our room reservation, which included a two course dinner plus a soft drink or glass of wine. After perusing the menu – otherwise known as chatting for ages until the waitress came back to take our order and realising we hadn’t actually looked at the menu and forcing us to make a rapid decision – we settled on the following:

Tony – Garlic mushrooms followed by a mixed grill
Tee – Mixed platter (chicken wings, ribs and ???) followed by fish and chips (with new potatoes and garden peas)
Gary and I shared a starter of ribs, followed by a mixed grill for Gary and a plain chicken burger for me.

The starters arrived quickly and they were pretty tasty. The waitress took away our plates and brought out the mains. Unfortunately, this is where things began to go wrong. My burger came out with mayonnaise on it, when it was supposed to be plain, so the waitress took it away to rectify it. Tee cut into her fish, only to discover it was completely raw in the middle. The waitress, apologising profusely, removed that too. Gary and Tony’s steaks were not cooked as ordered, although we think that the waitress perhaps just mixed them up when she put them on the table.

Eventually Tee and I got our meals and dug in. The manager visited our table to apologise again, and offered us a drink on the house. Tony opted for another Diet Pepsi. We joked that we should have ordered a bottle of champagne. Tee’s meal still wasn’t entirely correct as she had ended up with mushy peas, instead of the garden peas she’d requested but, by this point, none of us wanted to make any more fuss – we’re so British!

We still had a dessert to come with our meal deal and opted to share a Rocky Road Sundae – anybody who knows Gary will realise what an achievement this was since “Gary doesn’t share food!”



Tony was persuaded by the waitress to indulge in Caramel Apple Pie with custard (Terry, take note – this is what custard should look like).



Gary and I also ordered a Rekorderlig each – Mixed Fruit for Gary and Strawberry Lime for me. We had our first picture of the holiday (although Tee was sadly on the wrong side of the camera).



After we finished dessert, we decided we would have a game of pool in the bar. We asked for the bill, only to be told that all the extras were on the house, due to the issues we’d had. Bargain! Gary and I won the pool, despite some disastrous shots from me.



We retired to the room around 10.30. Gary watched TV and I read my Kindle for a while. There was a little bit of noise from the corridor but it didn’t last long and we settled down to sleep just before midnight.
 
Last edited:

Tink rules

<font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t
Joined
Dec 30, 2006
OK...before I start reading...I'm subbing so I don't miss anything!!!!:flower1:
 
  • redzinner

    Me Wants the Medianoche!
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    :flower:Been waiting for this! Friends, fun and travel! Nothing better!

    I never smell US dollars. :rotfl::faint:
     

    Linda67

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 18, 2009
    Great start, really looking forward to this one!
    Your nails looked fab by the way
    It's always so exciting staying at a hotel the night before a flight, especially when you know you have such a wonderful trip ahead of you!
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Checking in. This looks like a very busy first day. What a shame that so much went wrong with the meal. I love your nails.

    Corinna
     

    tony64

    <font color=blue>Should've been a Cowboy<br><font
    Joined
    Jun 21, 2003
    nice update, we were robbed on the pool. ;)
     
  • wilma-bride

    <<This space intentionally blank>>
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    Joined
    Jul 13, 2005
    OK...before I start reading...I'm subbing so I don't miss anything!!!!:flower1:
    Welcome Michelle, I hope it brings back some happy memories for you.

    :flower:Been waiting for this! Friends, fun and travel! Nothing better!

    I never smell US dollars. :rotfl::faint:
    Oh, Ok, just me then ;)

    Great start, really looking forward to this one!
    Your nails looked fab by the way
    It's always so exciting staying at a hotel the night before a flight, especially when you know you have such a wonderful trip ahead of you!
    Just realised that the nails picture was taken before I did the 'tidying up' - they didn't really look that bad for the duration of the cruise (in fact, I repainted them after a couple of days. Just think, you'll be starring in the next Panama Canal trippy ;)

    Checking in. This looks like a very busy first day. What a shame that so much went wrong with the meal. I love your nails.

    Corinna
    It was a pretty busy travel day, although I didn't feel as stressed as usual. Travelling without children really does make for a more relaxed experience (I did miss my boy terribly though). Thanks for the compliment on the nails, I was very happy with how they turned out.

    nice update, we were robbed on the pool. ;)
    OK Tony, whatever ;) Doesn't it feel like such a long time ago now?

    Hi Joh! Enjoyed reading about the start to your lovely trip. :-)
    Hey Brenda, it was off to a great start. It's going to be quite a while before your bit though :)
     
  • wilma-bride

    <<This space intentionally blank>>
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    Jul 13, 2005
    Chapter 2 – Check you haven’t lost your passport every five seconds

    Thursday April 30th

    I woke up really, really early – at 5am - having slept very soundly but just not for long enough. I read for a while. I’m not sure who loves my Kindle Paperwhite more, me or Gary, as it allows me to read without having a light on, which would wake him up, or having to sit on the bathroom floor (readers of my early trip reports will recall me dong that on the first few mornings of every Florida trip, while I adjusted to the local time). Gary continued to sleep on, until I woke him at 7. After showering and getting dressed, we met Tony and Tee downstairs for breakfast, which was also included in the meal deal we had paid for. We have stayed at a few Premier Inns around the country and find they all take a different approach to breakfast. Some allow you to order cooked breakfast from a menu while helping yourself to cold items (cereal, pastries, fruit, etc.) from a buffet. Here, the whole set-up was a buffet but, in all honesty, I found the choice limited and not particularly appealing. I settled, in the end, for a couple of pieces of toast and some bacon, from which I crafted myself a bacon sandwich. Tony had full English, Gary and Tee had cereals and toast – very virtuous. Back up in the room, we packed our hand luggage and met Tony and Tee back down in the lobby at 9. After checking out, we set off for Terminal 3 short stay car park, where we would be leaving our respective vehicles in the safe hands of Purple Parking (also included in the package we had bought through the hotel). Although they only had packages which included 15 days of parking, we had been able to call Purple Parking separately and add on the required number of days’ parking at an additional cost (I think ours was just over £21 for an extra 3 days). It was rush hour so took us nearly 30 minutes to travel the 3 short miles to the car park, but we were still there in plenty of time. The process went very smoothly, although they did have us as returning on the 16th so Gary had to remind them of the correct date.

    Tony took a group picture of us and our luggage outside the terminal and then we went through to bag drop.



    Tony and Tee went over to the main desk to get checked in. Gary and I were stood next to a group of young lads who seemed to have an awful lot of bags. One particular lad had two bags, one at 25kg and one at 29kg, and was being asked to pay £105 for his second bag. I was very glad that we had chosen to pay for our extra suitcase online when we checked in. It was still expensive, at £55, but certainly the cheaper option. Tony and Tee got checked in with no problem; turned out to be a random check so no upgrade for them. They were gutted to have to slum it in Economy with us ;) Gary and I asked about an upgrade to Premium Economy on our outbound flight but, at £289 each, we declined (especially as they wouldn’t refund the cost of the additional bag we’d purchased online).

    Upstairs, we went through security – I forgot to take my watch off so at the last minute I slipped it into Tee’s tray, which was then selected for an additional check. Tee’s green jacket was in the tray and, with my watch being purple, we joked that it had been pulled aside for excessive brightness or clashing colours. We expected the fashion police to show up at any minute.

    In the terminal, we meandered around for a while, before settling on drinks at Rhubarb Restaurant and Bar. We found a table and ordered – tea for Gary and Tony, a mixed berry smoothie for Tee and a ‘Rhubarb’ Cure for me – a mixture of Vodka, Chambord, Cassis, Cranberry Juice and Pink Champagne. It was really very nice, but went straight to my head!





    We paid the bill (£24) and, after a quick stop at WHSmith for crisps and Pepsi Max, we made our way to Gate 18. We were excited to see our plane had a Disney name.



    We were already boarding when we arrived at the gate and, from the speed at which the row numbers were being called, it was obvious that the plane was pretty empty. Gary and I had exit seats and Tony and Tee were upstairs so we said farewell and parted company temporarily. Although most people were on the plane fairly quickly, there (as always) was one couple who literally rocked up to board at 12.25 (ten minutes before departure). We were also held up by air traffic control, until 13.20, so we were 45 minutes late taking off in the end. We were due in to Miami at 17.15 (local time) so, hopefully, not too late getting on to the stand.

    After taking off, we were offered drinks. I had a vodka, orange and cranberry and started watching The Equalizer (I do love Denzel Washington). I was feeling a bit sleepy so kept pausing it and dozing. Lunch was served – beef burgundy or Spanish style chicken. We had one of each; I ate neither and Gary tried both but said that they were both pretty horrible. I ate the roll, crackers and cheese and also passed up my dessert to Gary as it was chocolate orange – ugh! I finished watching The Equalizer, and had another vodka, orange and cranberry and a mini Fab lolly, which I much prefer to those awful low fat choc ice things they used to give out. There was still 4 hours of the flight to go – it was really dragging. Gary and I decided to watch Gone Girl together so synchronised the start on our monitors. Tony popped down to have a quick chat and we discussed how boring the flight was. It turned out that Tony and Tee actually thought the lunch was nice. Tony said that the upstairs section of the plane was half empty too. I had walked around downstairs a little while before and people at the back of the plane had entire rows of seats to themselves. Tony returned back upstairs to Tee, and Gary and I started watching the film. After a while, afternoon tea was served – a choice of wraps but, unfortunately, both had mayonnaise so neither of us ate them. The ‘plane’ crisps and rocky road bar were very nice though.



    Eventually we landed, almost 30 minutes late, at 5.30pm local time. Immigration could only be described as hellish and it was 7.30pm by the time we cleared customs, collected our luggage and rental car and left the airport.
     

    tony64

    <font color=blue>Should've been a Cowboy<br><font
    Joined
    Jun 21, 2003
    It does seem along time ago now doesn't it.
     

    Linda67

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 18, 2009
    You are spoiling us with another update!
    Flights can really drag sometimes, shame you didn't have some decent food to take your mind off it
     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    readers of my early trip reports will recall me dong that on the first few mornings of every Florida trip, while I adjusted to the local time
    I tend to do this, too. That will be one advantage of my solo trip. I can read in the bed as soon as I am awake without disturbing anybody.

    Gary tried both but said that they were both pretty horrible.
    What a shame. Normally their food is pretty nice as far as airline food goes.

    Immigration could only be described as hellish and it was 7.30pm by the time we cleared customs, collected our luggage and rental car and left the airport.
    That sounds like a complete nightmare. We are hoping to do another cruise out of Miami in December. Looks like we are best off flying indirect.

    Corinna
     

    Ware Bears

    Bring me that horizon
    Moderator
    Joined
    Jan 23, 2003
    When I used to work in a bank we always used to smell the new money! :rotfl:

    Great start to your hols and I LOVE your nails! :thumbsup2
     

    TotallyAngelic

    Disney Addict
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2005
    brilliant start - love your nails - how did you get that anchor on there? I am with you are the mayonnaise thing on burgers / sandwiches etc ... just yuck. That chambord drink sounded rather nice and a very nice start to proceedings.
     

    KathleenlovesMickey

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2007
    Loving the report so far. We found Rekorderlig here just in cans tho. We have not tried it yet but we got three flavors we are afraid the cans won't be as good as the bottle. I had to laugh at the custard pic and comment. The one thing Disney does not do well is desserts. Can't wait to read more.
     

    dizneeat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 9, 2006
    I was hoping you'd do a trip report. So happy I found it. Now going back to read all about the start of your adventure.
     

    mandymouse

    Bahama Mama Time !!
    Joined
    Mar 8, 2003
    Great start Joh, and I too love the smell of $$$ :rotfl:Really looking forward to hearing about your cruise :)
     



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