13/04/13. The United States of America. The State of Florida has only slightly less people than the whole of Australia, 19.5 mil to 22.5 mil, and 19 percent of them are Spanish speaking so there may still be a few more Hola's and Gracia's to come. Orlando, where we're staying, only has a population a bit over 220,000 but has over 53 MILLION visitors per year which explains the vast suburbs with nothing but hotels and resorts. And, if you want to know why their buildings keep getting blown over, we saw a new hotel complex going up and the entire structure is timber frame and sheets of what looks like ply wood. Not a double or a single leaf brick wall to be seen.
You know your on your way to the great USA when you squeeze into your seat, adjust and buckle up and reach into the pocket in front for the Airline magazine and the first thing you pull out is a 60 page glossy dedicated solely to ....American Baseball.
It's a flight from Buenas Aires so the flight crew still speak Spanish but there's no denying your destination. We're on our way to the land of Uncle Sam.
Our five weeks in South America has been one awe inspiring, jaw dropping experience after another, The Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Chile, Bellavista, Buenos Aires, Machu Picchu etc but I'm so looking forward to not having to use sign language and a crippling 'Manuel'-esque Spanish accent in order to get directions. And, NO MORE FOOD ROULETTE. We learnt early on that the best you can do is point at the picture and use hand signals to try to describe your version of a medium rare steak with salad, then it's really just a matter of cross your fingers and wait and see. You hardly got what you ordered and that was mostly fine because it was all about experiencing different things.
One thing I won't miss will be not being able to flush toilet paper and having to flick it off your hand into a small bin, sometimes without a lid on it. And personally, I won't miss it when the passengers clap every time a planes wheels touch down. What the hell was that all about?
14/04/13 Without stating the bleeding obvious, The States is a big place. It's a big country with big ambitions, big dreams, a big ego and no doubt still a very big future. But it's not 'til you get here and have a bit of a look around that you realise that here, size does matter, in everything. You have to cook your toast once then turn the bread over and cook the other half because the breads so big. We bought a turkey leg at Disney World and it fed the four of us. It wouldn't have looked out of place on the Flintstones. The resort we're staying in is that vast it should have it's own post code. In fact it might, I haven't checked yet. A "large"coke here is a litre and a half cup, and I think that comes with a free refill. Joe's Liquor, a small liquor store just off Universal rd has 137 different tequilas, 172 whiskeys, 156 vodkas and 168 Rums and god knows what else. There is a McDonalds with a kids play area that big it has it's own day care centre.
We had our first "mall" experience the other day at The Florida Mall. I must admit I'm usually yawning in the car park before I get through the first set of sliding doors to these places but I'd never "hung out at a mall" before. I was a little excited. We picked up our map, compass and guide dog and ventured inside. All the big stores you've heard about, JC Penneys, Saks, Macys, Sears are all here. There is a store the size of a suburban supermarket dedicated entirely to M & M''s. Every conceivable form of merchandising all based around a coloured chocolate button.
Now, cup your two hands together, imagine that they are now completely covered in a rich dark chocolate and on top of that sprinkled liberally in a thick coating of peanuts.That,is the size of your ice cream cone. That's two heart attacks and a case of diabetes right there and that is before this gaping, yawning hole has been filled with one or many varieties of flavours of ice cream. They don't use scoops here they use garden spades. Unbelievable. There is no moderation here. It's big or bigger.
I'll tell you what else I've seen lots of that's big, bellies. Apparently 69.2 percent of all Americans over 20 are either overweight or obese. Of that 69.2 percent, 35.9 are obese. Being overweight means you have a body mass index of between 25 and 29.9 percent. Being obese means your 30 percent or over. And shockingly, 36.4 percent of kids aged 6 to 19 are obese. The current generation aren't setting much of an example for the generation to come. It seems there are mostly two body types here. The overweight and obese or the really buff. Your either struttin' a keg or a six pack. Not much in between. The obesity epidemic, not my words, currently costs the American tax payer $US147 Billion per annum and at current rates, by 2030 fifty percent of ALL Americans will be obese at a bank breaking cost of over two Trillion dollars per annum. Big numbers. Most Americans I've met I like. I truly hope they get a handle on this because the alternative isn't looking very healthy.
Here's an example of how big can be good. If you choose well you can eat good quality food, lots of it and for not a lot of money. There is national chain of organic stores here called Wholefoods. It's amazing. Imagine a Coles size supermarket but dedicated to organic and wholefoods. Not entirely organic of course but massively organic. Every thing from make your own wheat free and organic muesli to create your own sushi. What amazes, apart from the range of course, is the price. Stuff is so cheap here. A 500 gram punnet of organic fist sized strawberries for $3.99. You can buy your quality organic takeaway food here by the pound. It's brilliant.
We got a Tornado alert the other day. The weather turned thundery and dark. A good day to be inside eating fresh and crunchy organic almonds, the finest 67 percent Mindo chocolate from Ecuador and drinking a rich and caramelly Dark Espresso Roast coffee. Heaven.
It was the same night we were going to The Pirates Dinner Adventure. It came highly recommended by the resort concierge but I don't think she gets out very much. The kids thought it was ok and the keen cast members did their best to get as many people involved as possible but it all came across as a bit lame.
|Where smiling now but we haven't seen the food yet|
|They tried hard but it just fell flat|
Not a patch on the Buffalo Bill show in France. $16.50 for two watered down beers in plastic cups and some old tart in a leotard getting poodles to jump through a hoop as pre-show entertainment wasn't a good start. The food at these things is never great but this was hospital grade. Driving there was going to be interesting. The tornado had whipped up some nasty weather and when we left for the show the rain was coming down in horizontal sheets. Very exciting.
16/04/13 The Magic Kingdom today.
|Thank god for digital coz my memories just not that good|
We did most of the old favourites. Thunder Mountain, Christina's favourite, Splash Mountain, one of my favourites, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain etc etc. Getting there early i.e before the gates open is worth the effort. We literally had the Haunted House to ourselves and we walked straight onto Thunder Mountain. By the time we got to Splash Mountain it was still only a ten minute casual stroll and then straight on. As you'd expect by mid morning the more popular rides are back out to 40 plus minutes. But then there's always the Fast Pass. Poos Honey ride was out to 70 minutes and we basically walked straight on.
The Monsters Incs Laughing Floor was the unexpected highlight. It was a real time interactive comedy routine with members of the audience picked out and put up on the big screen where they are ceremoniously made fun off, in a nice way off course. They were obviously professional comedians because their patter was off the cuff, very funny and in direct response to audience members comments and reactions. And yes it was definitely all genuine. How do I know?
Well you know how they always pick on one main guy and make him the centre of the action. I was that guy. I even got a sticker that said so.
|The end of another perfect day|
Tomorrow it's off to Disney's Animal Kingdom.
18/04/13 This was a real treat. A different atmosphere with different rides and attractions to what we have seen before. We started with the Kilimanjaro Safari. A ride on an open air bush bus through a variety of the unique habitats of the 110 hectare Harambe Wildlife reserve. From lush and shady forest landscapes to open savannas and rocky wetlands we saw most of the 34 different exotic animals that the park was created to protect. White Rhino, Giraffe, Cheetah, Lion, Hippo, five metre African Crocodiles, Elephant and many many more. No mechanized beasts or animated creatures here.
|King of the jungle and doesn't he know it|
|I'm guessing this guys the Bull.|
It was as close to the real thing as you could get without being in Africa. The other stand outs for the day were the live shows. The Lion King musical and the Finding Nemo musical were both brilliant.
|The Lion King - spectacular|
|Nemo's Bruce, my favourite White Pointer|
|Some totally sweet turtle action|
Real quality productions. Superb talent, astounding costumes and sets and so tightly produced the whole story is told in 30 short effective minutes.
It's Tough to be a Bug. This was a hoot although several parents are going to have some long term soothing to do to their young ones. It came with a scare warning for young kids but, "parents know best". Sure enough, within minutes there was wailing and screaming in the aisles as 3,4 and 5 year olds were scared witless by the giant 3D Tarantula on stage shooting poisonous darts at their little bodies. It was a 4D show so you also got the full effect of the darts whizzing past your head, whoosh whoosh. Some of the stuff had the adults jumping so I could just imagine what it would be doing to the ripe unfiltered imagination of a five year old. To finish there were giant spiders lowered down from the ceiling close enough to almost tickle our heads. Geez, poor little buggers didn't stand a chance.
Last but not least, Expedition Everest. I have nothing to say about this ride except, look at the pictures below.
|What a bunch of screaming sissies|
|OMG, OMG ,OMG, OMG !!!!|
Day finished, mission accomplished.