Saturday 24 June 2017

Florida Holiday 2017 ~ Day 5 - When plans go astray!

We awoke to the sunshine peeking through our curtains at Pier House 60 and were faced with glorious sunshine upon the white sandy shores of Clearwater. It certainly was a room with a view!

We headed down for our breakfast (which was included in our stay) and were greeted with more stunning views, this time of the marina. Breakfast was great with loads to choose from including sausage and eggs, bagels, fruit, pastries etc. I had some amazing whipped strawberry mousse stuff on my bagel - certainly beats a bowl of cornflakes!!

The plan today was explore the coast and we were aiming to get to Weeki Wachee Springs to see the mermaids. We never made it that far in the end but had a great day regardless! We first headed up to the town of Dunedin which is a short drive from Clearwater. I'd heard it was a pretty little town to stop at but we were on the hunt for one thing....the splash park! We'd spotted it on the website and it was right up Elliot's street. We eventually found the park and it was brilliant, loads of undercover seating, a big play park, swimming pool and of course the splash park. Elliot couldn't wait to get his swimmers on and get stuck in!

Unfortunately, about 60 seconds after he started playing we heard an alarm which turned out to be a lightning detection and they had to close the splash park as a precaution! Elliot was gutted and of course there were tears but he soon cheered up once he spotted the shaved ice truck. I've only ever seen shaved ice on telly and it's not something we get in the UK (or am I missing out on something?!). Basically you get a cup of ice flakes and you can add flavoured's pretty similar to a slush puppy. Yummy! We went a bit mad with the flavours and ours both ended up a murky purple colour but they were delicious!!

After a quick play on the slides, the splash park reopened so we hot footed it over to get a seat in the shade and Elliot went mad in the water. A little while later the heavens opened and it absolutely poured down - I've never seen rain like it! The park stayed open but we were getting so wet that we decided to call it a day and had to make a mad dash to the undercover area to dry off. Not sure who was wetter, Elliot in his trunks or us holding the towels!

Our next visit was New Port Richey to call in on a bakery (That Little Bakery on Grand) owned by a friend of ours who moved back to the US from Dorset a little while ago. It was great to catch up and a good excuse to stop for a cake!!

Time just flew by today and it was almost 3pm by this point - we did think about driving onto Weeki Wachee Springs but we were already 2 hours from Kissimmee and the kids were getting a bit grumpy about being in the car so we made a quick stop at Walmart for snacks and then started the drive back....which seemed to take forever! Back in Kissimmee and we headed down to the Old Town to check out the car show.

We've not visited the Old Town before and I have no idea why because it was good fun! A bit tacky but I enjoyed the atmosphere - there were lots of cool cars parked up and lots of people out enjoying the live music. We stopped for a drink and some nachos in Southern Breeze and although he'd been complaining he was tired, Elliot was full of beans and dancing around all over the place! (I think it was the sugar in the slushies!)

We watched the cars do a lap of the Old Town and decided to call it a day as it was way past bedtime for the little ones. Paul had had some beers so it was my turn to get behind the wheel - gulp, my first time driving this holiday. Luckily I didn't have to drive far but it wasn't too bad!

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Florida Holiday 2017 ~ Day 4 - Roadtrip to Clearwater

We have fond memories of Clearwater Beach after visiting back in 2005 and really wanted to take the kids this time around. As we aren't doing Disney we had quite a few free days so we decided to book a hotel there so we didn't have to rush around!

We were aiming to leave Kissimmee nice and early but that didn't go quite to plan. Having small children can do that! It was about 11am by the time we left - doh! The drive to Clearwater should only take about an hour and a half but we decided to stop en route at a place called Sawgrass Lake Park which was near Tampa. My husband didn't really sell it very well, he said it was a giant swamp we could walk! But actually it was lovely there and so glad we stopped. After a quick bum change for Erin on a bench (she always seem to poo when we're in the car and always the worse kind that leak!!), we followed the wooden boardwalk into the maple swamps. Oh my god it was HOT!!! Lovely walk though, we spotted loads of wildlife including alligators, turtles, birds, dragonflies and the biggest cricket I've ever seen. We also spotted a rather speedy tortoise by our car - who knew they could move so fast?!

Onto Clearwater and Elliot spent the majority of the journey complaining he needed a wee...seems to be a reoccurring theme of the holiday! Our hotel, Pier House 60 was right on the marina and perfectly located for us to explore the shops and beach. Lovely hotel too - they had upgraded our booking to a studio room which was massive and had the best view of the beach!

Wow, what a view from our room!
We were all pretty hungry by this point as we hadn't had lunch (just lots of beef jerky in the car!) so we ventured out in hunt of something good to eat. We didn't get very far because located just by the Marina is Crabby's - Paul was enticed in by the lure of happy hour but I was just looking forward to the air-con!! The food was nice - alligator bites to start (first time trying alligator and it tasted a bit like chicken) and then coconut shrimp and fries for my main. The portions were pretty big too so we were all stuffed and didn't have room for pudding much to Elliot's disgust ;)

We spent the next couple of hours having a wander round the shops and dodging the rain - the sky went ominously black so we knew a shower might be on the way. Luckily we were under cover when it hit!

After a quick look in the Hulk Hogan shop (had to explain to Elliot who he was - made us feel a bit old), we headed over to the beach just in time for sun down. Unfortunately there were a lot of clouds in the sky so the sunset wasn't as spectacular as it could have been but it still made for some pretty stunning pictures. Especially after the sun had set and the sky changed to a gorgeous pinky colour.

Elliot was having so much fun jumping in and out of the water - needless to say, his clothes didn't stay dry for long! Even Erin had a paddle in the sea - it was so warm but she didn't really know what to make of it. Especially as her little feet kept sinking!

Once we'd managed to tear Elliot away from the sea, we wandered up to Pier 60 where there were loads of stalls selling homemade arts and crafts. Not my cup of tea but it was a lovely atmosphere just being there. And it was SO warm still, even at 9pm!

We decided to call it a night as the kids were tired so we headed back to the hotel. Elliot was out like a light after all that splashing!

You can check out my previous holiday posts here

Monday 19 June 2017

Florida Holiday 2017 ~ Day 3 - Universal Studios

If I had to choose between DisneyWorld or Universal Studios, Universal would win every time. We love the parks and I couldn't wait to visit again this time around - especially as Elliot is finally tall enough for the minion ride, yay!

The kids were awake at 6am today so not as bad as yesterday. Being up early has it's benefits I suppose as we were at Universal by 9am! The parking attendant tried to get us to upgrade to preferred parking ($30 rather than standard $20) but it was dead quiet and we didn't bother with that, we were in the first block anyway. We headed over to Citywalk and popped into Cinnibon for breakfast. I love this place and we always try and visit while we are in the US! I had a giant sticky bun and it was AMAZING!!

We headed over to the big Universal arches and of course had to take some pictures...along with the rest of the crowds! Elliot was so excited at this point, it was hard to reign him in for a photo. He was literally skipping along with excitement! We always take a photo here so I really need to dig out our pics from holidays gone by to see how we've all changed :)

Hubby went off to pick up our tickets and he confessed that he'd treated us to express passes - woohoo! Our first stop was the Minion ride and Elliot could not wait to get on it. Last time we came he was too small to go on and he's been talking about it ever since so he was so happy to have grown those extra inches over the last two years. It was my first time too and we both loved it! As we were coming out of the ride we joined the queue to meet two of the minions (who knows which ones, I can't tell them apart) and we got a selfie!

We didn't really have a plan with the park but the express pass was really useful in maximising our ride times and minimising queuing. Like most 4 year olds, Elliot doesn't have a lot of patience so it was great not to be waiting in queues and having him whining!

We met lots of characters throughout the park including Transformers, Beetlejuice, Shrek and the gang and Spongebob. Elliot was hoping to see Scooby Doo but sadly we didn't spot him! I don't know what the schedules are for the meet&greets but it looked like you just had to be in the right place at the right time. When we met Shrek we were the very last family before they closed the queue - phew!

We bought one of the refillable cups which was around $20 I think but we definitely got our moneys worth - sharing it between 3 of us meant we must have filled up at least 10 times! My fave was the pink lemonade. The only downside with drinking lots was Elliot needed a wee constantly. It became a running joke that we'd get to the front of the queue and he'd need the toilet - this happened on the Harry Potter ride, Jimmy Fallon and Minions!!

Speaking of Jimmy Fallon, I loved this ride! Paul had no clue who he was but I've seen lots of clips of him on YouTube - really enjoyed the ride and it was so clever how it was done. I liked that there was lots to look at before you get on the ride too.

When we reached Kings Cross and Diagon Alley, the skies went ominously dark and a breeze came out of nowhere so we guessed that rain might be on the way....and yep, it poured down! Paul and Elliot were on the Gringotts ride whilst I was sheltering from the rain and trying to feed Erin in the dry, all whilst trying to wrangle my poncho. They had a bit of luck on the Gringotts ride - Elliot was saying he didn't want to do it but one of the staff members convinced him he should do it, and took him and Paul right to the front of the queue! (Couldn't use express passes on that one). By the time we'd had a look in the sweet shop (and taken Elliot for yet another wee) the rain had slowed down and we were able to go outside without getting drenched.

Between Paul and I we managed to cover most of the big rides (he did more than me, I'm abit of scaredy cat with the big ones) and it was great that Elliot could go on most of them too. He loved the Simpsons area and really enjoyed the Simpsons ride.

We were tempted to get a Lard Lad giant doughnut but thought we'd better not...they were huge! Instead Paul had a beer from Moe's and we wandered onto the kids area for the ET ride. I love this one, I know it's so old and outdated but it still gives me goosebumps when the bike flies through the air!! Hearing him say goodbye to Elliot was pretty special too :) (Can you guess where I got the inspiration for Elliot's name!)

The whole day went so fast and before we knew it, it was time for the parade at 7pm. Paul got us a spot and Elliot and I popped over to do the Transformers ride which was brilliant!! We got back just as the parade was starting and it was nice to see all the characters, especially the Secret Life of Pets ones who weren't there last time.  Erin seemed to enjoy it too and she got lots of attention from the parade dancers!

The boys had one last go on the Minions ride and we then let Elliot loose in the gift shop. Everything was so expensive and typically, he wanted everything! We got away quite lightly with a $5.99 Secret Life of Pets blind bag but we really could have spent a fortune.

As we left Universal Studios and walked round through Citywalk, the sun was just setting and the colours were amazing - the Hard Rock Hotel seemed to glow!

We ended our day with dinner in Bubba Gumps, taking advantage of our Landrys card. The rest of the queue were told a 40min+ wait but we were taken in and seated pretty much immediately - brilliant! We had a nice meal but Elliot was so so tired, poor boy was literally falling asleep as he ate his pudding!

We managed to keep him awake just long enough to get back to the car and he was fast asleep before we'd even left the carpark :)

We had a brilliant but exhausting day - love Universal Studios!

Sunday 18 June 2017

Florida Holiday 2017 ~ Day 2 - An Early Start!

Well so much for the kids being knackered and maybe sleeping late....they were both wide awake at 5am!!! That is a time I never see at home so it was a bit of a shock to the system!

Decided to have a quietish day today to ease us in gently (Florida hols are exhausting) and we decided to head over to one of the premium outlets nearby. We're not really into designer clothes so couldn't really get excited about most of the shops but we did stop at the Toys R Us and Disney outlet stores...can you tell who this holiday is geared around?! Elliot couldn't wait to make a dent in his wallet and came out a few dollars lighter. He's only 4 so doesn't really understand the value of money yet but he enjoys having his own pennies to spend in the shops. We got some great bargains in the Disney shop - Tsum Tsum's were only 99cents so we had a few of those plus the world's ugliest toy, a Happabore from Star Wars. It looks a bit like a dinosaur crossed with a pig but it was only $4.99 and Elliot really wanted it!

We were getting a bit peckish by this point so we headed over to I-Drive for some lunch. Decided on Millers Ale House and as it was Tuesday, kids ate free which was a bonus! We've never eaten at Millers before but it was a nice lunch and not too expensive. I had chicken fajitas, Paul had the Philly cheese steak sandwich and Elliot had hot dog and fries. He got a free pudding too and me and Paul shared the Nutter Butter Ice Cream cake which was really really good! (And was a good job we shared)

Elliot was itching to see "the upside down house" or Wonderworks as it's actually called so we wandered along to see about going inside. We had a coupon for $2 off but it was still very expensive at almost $90 for the family. We almost decided not to go in when we saw the prices!!

Wonderworks is split into different zones such as natural disasters and space discovery and there are loads of interactive exhibitions to see and play with. Elliot was a bit freaked out by the earthquake simulator but he loved the giant bubbles!

At the top of the building is the basement (it's upside down remember!) and there you can find laser tag, an arcade and a glow in the dark high ropes course. It was busy so there was a bit of a queue but Elliot and Paul decided to take on the ropes. I honestly didn't think Elliot would do it because it was so high but he loved it!!

After we left I-Drive we headed back to Kissimmee but decided to make a stop at Walmart - I love this place!! You can buy anything and everything and it's always fun having a mooch round. Elliot was beginning to flag so we knew we didn't have too much time so we just picked up a few essentials (beef jerky and twinkies obviously) and Elliot finally got to check out the toy selection. He's been looking forward to this for weeks after we had a look online at the Walmart website and he was eager to see what he could spend his money on. That pocket money is certainly burning a hole in his pocket!!

It was almost 9pm by the time we got home so it was a quick snack and bed for Elliot and Erin while I did bottle washing/sterilising and put a load of washing's just like being back at home!

Florida Holiday 2017 ~ Day 1 - London to Orlando!

So we decided to book a hotel the night before our Florida flight to save travelling up to the airport mega early. We got a great deal via the Sandman Hotel in Crawley which included parking for the two weeks.

We left Dorset around 4.30pm and soon had to do an unscheduled poo stop for Elliot! Timed it just right though as Erin needed feeding and everyone was hungry so we had a quick Mcdonalds tea.

We arrived at the hotel after a nice easy journey and lugged all our stuff to the room. Travelling with 2 small children is certainly a different experience to travelling as a couple - SO MUCH STUFF!!!

Up bright and early the next morning and we were on our way to the airport just after 8am. We were flying premium economy so we breezed through check in and on to the metal detectors. Elliot and I both beeped so we had a full body scan!

I had done a click and collect order from Boots so we went and picked this up - such a great idea, I wasn't sure how much baby formula I'd need so ordered loads!!

We had brekkie in Jamie's Italian - never eaten at one of his places before but was really impressed. Paul had eggs benedict and it was sausage sandwiches for me and Elliot. The food came really fast and was lovely - Paul said his breakfast was one of the nicest he'd ever had! After trying his I really wished I'd ordered it too!

Once we'd boarded the plane we found our seats and were quite pleased - our original seat choices had been changed so we could use the skycot and were a bit worried we'd be crammed in but we had so much room! Paul was in the middle and Elliot and I had two seats at the front of premium with absolutely loads of room for all our stuff and Erin in the skycot.

The flight was good - certainly can't fault Virgin on their cabin crew. It felt like they were constantly feeding us and they were lovely to the kids! Really impressed with the food - usually plane food is rubbish but I loved this. For my hot meal I had chicken in sauce with mash and veg (really nice) plus a chocolate brownie - yum!! Elliot had the kids meal but he didn't like his pasta and started eying up mine so the lady swapped it for a chicken dinner which was good of her! Afternoon tea was nice - loved the clotted cream!

I didn't watch any films, nothing really took my fancy plus my headphones were so crackly but the time did go fast as I had the kids to entertain! (plus I actually got to read a bit of my book which is a luxury these days!)

Soon it was time to buckle up again and we started descending down towards Orlando. We got a great view of Kennedy Space Centre! The pilot warned us that it was raining in Orlando and he wasn't wrong, it was absolutely bucketing it down. What a welcome!

We wanted to minimise our time in the immigration queues so we made sure that when the plane stopped we were literally packed and ready to go with no faffing about. We were one of the first off the plane and got pointed in the direction of the new machines - it only took a few minutes to scan the passports, take a finger print and take a photo....easy peasy apart from Erin's pic which we had to redo!! I thought we'd got away with queuing but nope, onto another queue to have our passports checked again. I'm always a bit scared of the people behind these desks as they are so stern and make you feel like you've done something wrong but the man we had was actually quite friendly and chatty!

We finally got to the baggage claim and grabbed all our cases...and buggy...and car seats. We definitely needed a trolley but it was still a struggle!! We then had to ditch the baggage again and get on the monorail but thankfully we were able to keep hold of the buggy so I didn't need to lug Erin around. We finally got our luggage back (after losing each other in the airport!) and headed over to the car rental garages. We did all the paperwork online which made things loads quicker - we just picked a car and were good to go! I have no idea what car we have but its silver and there was plenty of room in the boot for our everything-but-the-kitchen-sink luggage!

The kids were knackered by this point and both fell asleep as soon as the car started - it was probably only 6pm Orlando time but obviously 11pm UK time so no wonder they crashed. We stopped on the way to our villa for the obligatory fried chicken and beer (this has turned into a bit of a tradition since the last time we came to Florida) and spent almost $90 on you do! (Very excited to see caramel m&m's though!!)

Our villa is in Kissimmee and we stayed here last time so it was easy to find and nice to be back in familiar territory. Elliot was wide awake again now so he was straight in the pool in his pants!

Straight to bed and hoping we don't get woken up too early! (Famous last words....)

Friday 2 June 2017

Mighty Claws Adventure Golf - Bournemouth

Last weekend saw the grand opening of Mighty Claws Adventure Golf in Bournemouth and we were lucky enough to be one of the first families to try it out.

Elliot loves crazy golf and he's also dinosaur obsessed so it was a match made in heaven really - from the minute we pulled into the car park and he spotted the volcano, he was a bouncing excitable ball of energy!

Mighty Claws Adventure Golf is the brainchild of Allan Saud who owns the Playgolf course in Bournemouth. The 18-hole adventure golf course features large scale animatronic dinosaurs, an erupting volcano and a 5 metre high waterfall....if you look closely you might even notice that the water is an unusual colour!

Is it water?! Is it Ribena?!

The course is based around the "Invasion of the Iron Jaws" story which features a whole host of lovable dinosaur characters who have to undertake a series of fearsome adventures in order to free their valley from the evil Iron Jaws.

We couldn't wait to get started! We picked up our clubs and balls from the front desk and made our way to the entrance and through the impressive double doors and under the Sweet Claw Valley archway. We actually bumped into some friends (Emma who writes at Families Online) so we did the course with them which made it even more fun!

The 18 hole course is suitable from 4 year and up and obviously the holes vary in trickiness. To be honest, I think the kids cheated but everyone was having so much fun that it didn't really matter! The favourite amongst the children was the hole that involved hitting the ball over a stream...needless to say the balls dropped in but luckily nets are supplied to fish the balls out!!

As we finished the course we spotted Toby the T-Rex so we nipped over to say hello - he was quite an enthusiastic dancer!!

We headed over to The Kitchen Club for some well earned lunch where it was pizzas all round. Elliot didn't want pizza originally but even he couldn't resist a slice when he saw how good they looked.

We had a fab morning at Mighty Claws and would definitely recommend it as a family friendly activity. Kids are well catered for with smaller clubs and the course itself is well laid out and completely accessible for buggies and wheelchairs.

For more information, check out the Might Claws website here

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