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Florida: December 2010

In December last year we spent 8 nights in Orlando, Florida with Grahams family {his parents, his sister & her fiancé, his aunt & uncle and his cousin & his fiancée}, making 10 of us in total. The 8 of them had spent a week down the coast in Fort Myers first but due to our lack of holidays, we could only get 6 days off work. We met them all in Orlando on the Saturday.

We set off on the Friday, my 29th birthday and as we landed in Orlando, we were just relieved that we had actually managed to get there, following a few issues to say the least. It started with the never ending snow which had closed Edinburgh airport and kept my sister & nephew up here since the weekend before. The week was full of helpful suggestions from everyone and there were even thoughts of driving down to Manchester for our Orlando flight; thankfully the airport reopened on the Friday morning! However there were still a few issues at check in {how an airline system can’t cope with people who have the same surname and the same initial I don’t know!}; the plane had to be de-iced; we had to sit in the exit row since there were only 7 passengers on board; we almost didn’t land in Manchester due to freezing fog {the option was to divert to Liverpool} then our pre-booked seats on the next flight were given to someone else due to the earlier check in mix-up!


Thinking that was all that could possibly go wrong, the jumbo jet {which had Harry Potter on the side} took ages to get de-iced, although this did mean that we could take some other passengers on board that had missed their flights. Just as we thought they were about to finally close the doors, it turned out one of the emergency exit slides didn’t work. Thankfully the captain made the decision that he was happy to fly without it {it didn’t breach any safety laws} and finally, after what felt like ages, we took off and were on route away from the freezing cold & snow!


When we arrived, we picked up our hire car then went straight to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Downtown Disney where we spent just one night before meeting everyone else the next day. We had booked the Wolfgang Puck Café at Downtown Disney for my birthday but I really did not feel well at all; I think it was just a mixture of the stress of the week before, the journey and the time difference so really we shouldn’t have even bothered trying to go out! I’m sure the food is normally nice but we did not have a great meal! We had planned to look around all the shops there for a while but we just ended up getting a taxi home.

The next day, still feeling a bit sick, we met everyone else at the massive villa we had hired for the week. Located in Emerald Island Resort, it was only minutes from Disney, and had 7 bedrooms. It was perfect for the week and despite not being able to use pool due to the cooler weather, it was in a great location, close to everything. Since we had missed the first week with everyone and it was my birthday, we were given the biggest master bedroom with a massive en-suite bathroom. The size of the bed was hilarious and I almost had to jump up into it every night!


We spent the week at the theme parks and doing lots & lots of shopping, having a lovely & relaxing time! Since we have been so many times before and were only there for a week, we didn’t visit every theme park, we just chose our favourites.

First up was Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure. We bought the one day, two park pass which allows you to visit both parks on the same day; it is so quiet at the start of December that you don’t need to spend any longer. I was so so so excited about this as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter had just opened at Islands, which to be honest was really the main reason we wanted to go back to Orlando with everyone! Graham and I had seen it being built the year before and couldn't wait to experience the new ride inside Hogwarts. It definitely lived up to expectations, as did the way they have made Hogsmeade; if you like Harry Potter its definitely a must see.


The whole family went so eventually we had to split up; 10 is far too many people to keep track off and we looked a bit like a school trip! Its only really me & Graham that like the bigger rides and roller coasters so we went off by ourselves. We started in Islands, hopped over to Universal Studios, went back to Islands for another go on Harry Potter then back to Universal for the big parade before finishing up back at Islands to see Hogwarts in the dark. Its safe to say we walked miles. I had to buy myself a chocolate frog to eat too!

During the holiday parade, which uses some of the balloons from Macy’s thanksgiving day parade in NYC, we couldn't find Grahams parents anywhere; we gave up looking and settled down to watch. You can imagine our surprise when his parents, aunt & uncle came trooping along the road, helping to hold up the massive Uncle Sam balloon! They had been approached earlier on to see if they would help and they had to go for special training over an hour before the parade started. They loved it and I tried to snap as many photos of their five minutes of fame! If we ever go back I’m going to go and ask if I can be in it!


On Wednesday it was time for Epcot. When I was younger this was probably my least favourite park as the rides were quite slow & boring and it felt like being at school. However now it has the best rides at Disney, including Soarin' & Test Track, and is well worth a visit. It also has some of the nicest restaurants at Disney that are always booked in advance. We went on a couple of rides together then since no one else will ever come on Mission Space with us, we all split up and met up later on for dinner.

After managing to go on everything we wanted, we took the boat over the lagoon then walked around all of the countries. We watched some of the performers, bought another Christmas decoration and enjoyed some mulled wine in Germany. We met everyone back in Germany for dinner, where Graham’s uncle treated us all to celebrate his retirement. We had to book it months in advance since there were so many of us and the food was actually really nice. After dinner we found a spot to watch the fireworks which are always fantastic.


Leading up to Christmas, Magic Kingdom stages special events called Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. We booked quite far in advance to go on the Thursday and were quite surprised to see it was sold out when we arrived. Although not every ride is open most are and its a lot quieter than on a normal day, with the addition of special Christmas parades, fireworks, hot chocolate & cookies. We had heard rumours that you could get in as early at 4pm despite the event not starting until 7pm so we thought we should give a go. We were successful which meant we had much longer in the park. After the required group photo in front of the castle, we were in for another surprise.


After we watched Grahams sister & her boyfriend Jake getting their photo taken, he got down on one knee in front of the castle, with all of the family watching. Cue a lot of congratulations, screaming & crying! They are now getting married next August; I’m going to be a bridesmaid and Graham an usher and I can’t wait for another family wedding.

After all of that excitement we went on a few more rides, including the Jungle Cruise which is always closed once the actual party starts. Then it was time for one of my favourites, Splash Mountain. I could only convince Jake and Grahams dad to come on with me as everyone else thought you got too wet! At 7pm we came back to the park entrance so we could see the fake snow {despite seeing enough real snow at home to last us a lifetime} and find the special event merchandise. We struggled to find it then were surprised to see it being grabbed off the shelves before people had even had a chance to look at it; this explains why we weren't able to find any the year before! We managed to get the Christmas decoration & pin we all wanted then it was back to the rides, including Space Mountain, another of my favourites.

They have a special Christmas fireworks display which is always spectacular; I always think it’s even better than the one at Epcot. We managed to fit in a few more rides before the later Christmas parade started which is always great to watch.


Another reason we love to visit Orlando is the shopping. We came well prepared with an empty hand luggage case each to fit in all of our new purchases! The year before we had been allowed to check in two suitcases each but they have now changed the rules back to just one, as per any other destination. We visited The Mall at Millenia; The Florida Mall; the Premium Outlets at Vineland Avenue & International Drive; Downtown Disney; Target & Michael’s and managed to pick up quite a few things!


We managed to fit in a round of mini golf at Disney’s Fantasia Fairways as well; it’s a lot harder than it looks and I think I would have been better on the easier crazy golf side, Fantasia Gardens!


On our last evening, we went for dinner at the Grand Floridian Café at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. We had eaten here on our visit in 2006 and thought it would be good to go back with the rest of the family. It meant we could also celebrate the engagement. I had a caesar salad followed by spice-dusted tuna which was delicious, followed by the chocolate fondue for dessert which Graham and I shared. Although the food is lovely I still prefer the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort where we had also eaten in 2006 and the year before, in 2009. From there you can watch the fireworks at the magic kingdom from the rooftop walkway.

During the week we had also eaten at the Outback Steakhouse, the Longhorn Steakhouse & Perkins so you can see that the kitchen in our villa wasn't really used!

We have been to Florida many times, the last three times with Grahams family at the end of November / beginning of December, basically between Thanksgiving and the lead up to Christmas, when it is really quiet. Despite the weather not being great this year, normally its a lot hotter and since the parks are really quiet and Christmas is everywhere, its a brilliant time to go. I'm not sure when we will go back again; maybe when we can take the baby!


  1. Man, being proposed to at Disney must have been cool!

    You look gorgeous in those pictures G!


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