My Summer Holiday to Florida - Orlando
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The main reason for my trip was to see Michelle and Alex get married in Orlando, but I took the opportunity of going diving in the Florida Keys and drinking in Sarasota (both with Doctor Professor American Steve) as well.
Bird was out drinking because it was her last week in her job before she started her new job on Monday. When I got home from work, I thought that it would be a good idea to start packing because I was flying out to Orlando the next day. I didn't have to pack too much, because I was borrowing a lot of Steve's kit (all I had to take was a wetsuit shorty, my mask and my dive computer - I also thought that a suit, shirt and tie might be a good idea for the wedding).
I managed to get everything packed into my rucksack (which had to be held together by a couple of safety pins) and a small hand-luggage bag. After checking-in on-line, and working out the best way to get to Gatwick (I was convinced that I'd be alright with a 1-hour check-in, although Darren wasn't convinced), I poured myself a can of Stella and settled down for the evening. Bird then arrived back from her night out in London very smiley and very giggly. Because she wasn't going to see me for about a week-and-a-half, she decided that it would be a good idea to give me 11 days' worth of tickling in one night - just what I wanted!
Anyway, after a couple of hours, we decided it was time to go to sleep (she had work in the morning and I had to get to Gatwick in time for some Stella before the flight took off).
I had decided that the easiest way to get to Gatwick was to get a coach from outside The Toby to Victoria and then get a train to Gatwick. The M4 was likely to be busy early in the morning, but there's a bus lane, so I decided that it was the best way. Famous last words. The coach arrived on time, but there was so much traffic on the M4 that the coach couldn't even get to the bus-lane. Once it did get there, it overtook a few miles of stationary cars before getting stuck in traffic on the bus-lane. I eventually arrived at Victoria at about 09:30. I caught the 09:45 Gatwick Express which got me into Gatwick South Terminal at 10:15. My flight left from the North Terminal, so I caught the shuttle and got to the British Airways check-in desk at 10:30. Seeing a big queue, I went straight to the front of it and started speaking to the first agent that became free. "Excuse me", I said, "I'm booked on the 10:55 to Orlando, can you get me on it please?" He started laughing. Fortunately, I'd checked in the previous day, so I already had my seat allocated. He looked at my luggage and reckoned I'd get away with both bags as hand luggage. "If you can make it to the departure gate on time, you're on the flight. It'll be a miracle if you make it." he said. Off I ran, shouting the answers to the security questions over my shoulder as I went.
I got through 2 security checks and 1 passport check in record time (I didn't even get hassled about the safety pins that were holding my rucksack together) and somehow managed to get to the departure gate by 10:40 (in time to get onto the flight, but not enough time for a pint of Stella before I got on). I hadn't even had time to check out what totty was going to be on the flight, but I could see quite a bit of pokiness around.
I thought that I was going to have problems getting my two bags into the overhead luggage guvnas, but there was enough space. I just had to move some German bloke's luggage out of the way and there was space. I then sat down next to this German bloke (who had had time to have a few pints in the bar) and started chatting to him in German. After about 5 minutes, I had exhausted my knowledge of German, so we started speaking English (after all, I was on a British Airways flight from England to America).
The selection of beers on the flight seemed quite reasonable, but I couldn't see any Stella on the trolley. Never mind, at least I didn't have to pay for the beer. The food was reasonable and the pokiness was far enough away not to be too annoying. About halfway through the flight, I got given a questionnaire because I'd been randomly picked to fill it in. Lots of tick boxes to say how good and bad they were and two boxes for comments at the end. Under "What have we done well", I put something about the speed that I got through to the departure gate. Under "What have we not done well", I put something about not having Stella on the plane. Later on in the flight, the bloke picked up the questionnaire. About 2 minutes later, he walked back and said, "We do have Stella on board, you only had to ask". Obviously, I then said, "May I have a can of Stella please?" - result!
Sometime later, we landed at Orlando International Airport. It must've taken longer to get through immigration, customs and the several security checks than it took to fly across the Atlantic. The queue for customs was the worst - the place was full of annoying pokiness - I was ready to give them all a good clip round the ears. The security checks were quite stringent as well - they scanned all luggage and people (making us remove our shoes - had they heard that I went to school with the "shoe bomber"?) before we were allowed into the country. As if Gatwick security, which has been stringent for years before the Americans suddenly realised that terrorism could affect them as well as us, hadn't already done this.
Michelle was late meeting me at the airport (nothing new there), but at least she had a good excuse this time. Her nephew had gone to Wet 'n' Wild (a water theme park, not some kind of dodgy strip club), broken a tooth and been taken to hospital. She had been there with him and dashed off to meet me at the airport.
Alex and Michelle took me to the hotel (the Rosen Plaza), made sure that I got checked-in OK and saw me up to my room. It was a fair sized room, with 2 double beds. Because they both wanted to drink when we went out in the evening, it made sense for them to sleep in my room and not have to drive back home (just a bit of the problem if I pulled, but there wasn't much chance of that). It was a good job that Alex and Michelle came up to my room with me - I was very confused when I found a TV in my wardrobe. Fortunately, Alex was there to point out that there was a much bigger wardrobe by the door.
They left me to sort myself out and we agreed to meet in the lobby a bit later. I had a quick sleep and a quick shower (I had plenty of dangleberries to get rid of) and then headed down to the bar for a pint. I had a quick Bud, but there wasn't any totty around, so I went back up to my room. I met up with Collette and Nick in reception (not enough time for a pint). Michelle and Alex arrived, I got introduced to some of their mates and off we went to Paradise Island, along with Gary (Michelle's brother) and Michelle (his missus). On the way there, there was plenty of lightning in the sky. As we got out of the taxi, it started to rain. We met up with Michelle and Alex's "room-mates" at the entrance to Paradise Island (I'd met one of them propping up the hotel bar). It then really started to tip it down - I couldn't believe that I'd travelled all that way to stand sheltering from the rain.
After a bit, we ran to buy our tickets (Gary had a couple of discount vouchers - top man) and then ran to the nearest bit of shelter. So, there we were, standing outside the toilets. Not much fun and definitely no beer. Off we went again to the Adventurers' Inn. Getting served was hard work - they wanted to be sure that nobody under-age was served, so when anybody tries to buy a round of drinks, everybody in the round has to show their wristband to the barman. Personally, I think a better way would be to not allow any pokiness in Paradise Island at all. The "entertainment" in the Adventurers' Inn was dire - even a couple of Buds didn't make it any more bearable. Nicky and Sven turned up, having been in every other bar and club looking for us. We finished our drinks and headed off to check out some other clubs.
My memory got a little bit hazy from then onwards. We went to a 70s club (excellent music and a fair bit of totty). I do remember Sven coming out with a terrible excuse for under-age sex - "She might only be 15, but if I have her twice.....". I think I'll stick to totty that were born before the last Labour government lost power. We went to another couple of clubs, I lost abysmally at pool to Nick and we saw some of the on-street entertainment (although we missed the actual midnight celebrations because it was raining). There was some vodka jelly around in one of the clubs (I wimped out) and a kebab van to keep us going back to the hotels. Plenty of totty around, it's just a pity that I didn't have TottyCam with me.
We had to wait ages for a taxi (we kept trying to get into the security vans, but the security guards weren't having any of it). Somehow, Michelle and Alex managed to get the taxi driver to take back twice as many people as we had paid for on the way there. I don't think the hotel bar was open when we got back, so we went straight up to sleep. Alex gave us a little treat of a striptease before we went to sleep - now why didn't Michelle follow his example?
Michelle and Alex left at about 10 o'clock, leaving me to sleep a little longer. I made it down for "breakfast" by about 11:30. I couldn't be bothered to decide what to eat, so just went for the buffet lunch. Jon (Alex's cousin who I'd met the previous night) sat down on the table next to me, so we chatted for a while - for some reason, we both needed to drink lots of liquid. At about half-one, I decided that I actually ought to do something with my day. I had plans to go to Sea World, but really couldn't be bothered (after all, I was on holiday). There wasn't much totty in the hotel, so I went for a walk outside to see whether I could find any. There wasn't much around, but I did walk past a supermarket, so I thought that investing in some factor50 suntan lotion would be a good idea. There were plenty of places to eat and I quite liked the look of the WonderWorld exhibition (although I didn't have time to have a look around because I was meeting Collette and Nick at 7 o'clock to catch a lift to Alex's parents' party. Nikki was in trouble for not attending the rehearsal.
There was just time for a quick shower before I decided that I ought to head down for the bar for a quick pint of Bud (I was actually beginning to like the stuff and wasn't too upset about not being able to drink Stella) before meeting Collette and Nick in reception. After a few U-turns and plenty of tollbooths, we arrived at Alex's parents' house. I don't always enjoy big family events, but this one was great. Everybody was very friendly, the food was good and there was a well stocked bar in the kitchen. What could go wrong? As it got late, the mosquitoes started to bite, so we all went inside and pulled the mosquito net door across the patio door. It seemed like a good idea, until Michelle's dad didn't see it and tried to walk straight through it. Apparently, he wasn't the first and I doubt he'll be the last. We had to leave before midnight so that Michelle and Alex wouldn't see each other before the wedding. Back at the hotel, we carried Michelle's stuff up to the bridal suite (there was plenty of space - maybe I should get married).
Today I was going to be good and go to SeaWorld. After I'd had breakfast, I really couldn't be bothered. It was going to be full of pokey little kids, cost far too much money and be too much like hard work. Instead, I went to the Wonderworld exhibition that was on almost opposite the hotel - much cheaper and easier to get to as well. It still had the potential to be full of pokey little kids, but they seem difficult to get away from in Florida. The exhibition was pretty good - a bit like I remember the Science museum in London being, but on a much smaller scale. It didn't start off too well, when I walked through to "rotating" tunnel, which almost made me throw-up. The rest of the exhibition was fun and informative - and there was some totty around as well (although not good enough or plentiful enough to make up for all the pokiness).
Walking back from WonderWorld (or WonderWorks, I can't remember), I gimmered around through the shops (some nice totty was playing in the fountain) and saw that there was a Hooters bar. I quite fancied it, but thought that it was probably a bit sad to go in there on my own. A quick walk back to the hotel to see if Nick fancied a drink while Collette was doing all the bridesmaid stuff. I found him in the pool and he didn't take much persuading (especially when I mentioned that I'd discovered that there was a Hooters bar just opposite). He said that Nikki and Sven were going to be arriving soon, so we had a quick pint in the hotel bar while we waited for them (I knew I'd be able to persuade Sven into a pint at Hooters). Jon (Alex's cousin) was at the bar, so the four of us headed across to Hooters.
What a brilliant place. We went in, found a table, and my jaw dropped. There was so much totty wearing so little. One of the best waitresses came over to serve us and asked us for "ID". We couldn't all prove that we were over 21, so she went to have a word with the manager. He said that unless we all had "ID", we couldn't get served. I call that a result, I got to perve at all the Hooters girls, have someone think I was under 21 and I didn't even have to by a drink!
Instead, we headed next door to the "BiteMe" bar. We got served without a problem there and I just couldn't believe my eyes when I realised that the waitresses had "BiteMe" written across their chests. We supped about 3 pints before we decided that we really ought to go back to the hotel (we only had about 40 minutes before the wedding was due to start and we were still wearing shorts and T-shirts). Jon found quite a few of the sayings that I used quite amusing (especially the "She wouldn't scratch her nose if she fell over" comment - that I think I got from Ellie). Sven had also done quite well - leaving his wallet with Nikki, so I had to buy his beers.
Anyway, being blokes, we all tarted up fairly quickly in time for another pint or two at the hotel bar. After a while, we were summoned upstairs. The wedding was lovely - don't tell anybody, but I had tears in my eyes. Almost everybody at the ceremony had nice posh digital cameras, which made my TottyCam look rather cheap (which, indeed, it was). After the ceremony, we went to the room next door to have some drinks and nibbles. It was all very nice - a totty harpist was playing music to keep us entertained (although our chances of having "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Come on Eileen" were fairly slim).
Then it was downstairs to the main hall for some food, speeches and some dancing. We even had a Scottish bagpiper to play during the meal (I don't think anybody checked to see whether he was a "real" Scotsman or not - it was definitely warm enough to walk around in a skirt without any underwear). I had met a few of the people who I shared a table with over the past couple of days and everybody was really nice. The food was good and the speeches were also. After the "first dance", the DJ got us all going and we hardly sat down after that. TottyCam was put to good use but, unfortunately, it didn't work very well and none of the pictures came out very well.
After the DJ had finished, I went upstairs to get my discount vouchers and passport, so that we could get into the hotel's nightclub. It was all a little bit loud for us, so we finished our drinks, went to the hotel shop, bought some beer and sat next to the pool. What a very relaxed way to finish off the day.
I don't think we stayed up too late because Nick, Collette and I were driving down to The Keys early the next day (well Nick was doing the driving, but Collette and I still had to be awake).
And then we went to The Keys
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Created on: 30 Aug 2003. Modified on: 30 Aug 2003.
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