After a hitch-free flight to Orlando last Wednesday, we picked up our hire car (a large automatic Dodge with 4 miles on the clock) with the help of our greeter, Mark, from Give Kids the World (GKTW). In seven days I've only genuinely traveled on the left once, although I do keep trying to get into the driver's seat on the wrong side - I'm happy it's that way around.
The flight seemed to take it out of Pads. Thursday he woke up and was sick a few times.. it was a reminder of the last time we went abroad in August 2008. We were happy enough to lay low and adjust. In any case, it rained a lot that day! Thankfully he pulled out of the doldrums and has been fine since. This has enabled us to visit several of the 'sights', multi-day passes are provided as part of the GKTW package.
Friday - the Magic Kingdom. Apparently this was far less busy than it has been on other days - quite a frightening thought because it was pretty busy when we were there! Pads is reluctant to go on big roller-coasters but there really arent any in this park. With his special GKTW pass, there was no waiting at all for what we did go on: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc.
Saturday - Universal Studios - with Pads' special pass we did both sections of this in one day! This park is aimed at older ages than Magic Kingdom and Pads still wasnt up for the big rides (e.g. The Hulk) but we packed so much in that no-one was grumbling.
Sunday - Lake Sherwood Orthodox Presbyterian Church, warm welcome, simple worship and good preaching. A day set apart for the LORD helps us keep everything in perspective. The very best attractions in the world are passing and fading. In the midst of it all, there's Boaz asking if we can play a simple game one night. Paul challenges us to set our affections on things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Col 3:1)
Monday - Disney's Hollywood Studios has unforgettable shows like Indiana Jones, Studio Backlot Tour, MuppetVision 3D, Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show... Pads clearly felt that he was cramping our 'need for speed' a bit and, though jibbing at the 'Tower of Terror', finally got us onto the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Initially he said he was doing it for me, but he admitted to enjoying it afterwards.
Tuesday - Kennedy Space Centre - well worth the hour drive. I had not realised what a mess the US made of trying to get into space initially and that there are only two more shuttle launches left but the next one is in April. I wondered what would become of the Space Centre when space exploration is officially off the menu. Anyway, the shuttle simulator was excellent. We tucked in a trip back to Hollywood Studios to catch Fantasmic, along with another 9000. The reports that say you have to get into this 2 hours before it starts are not far wrong.
There are a number of remarkable things about the GKTW village. Whenever we returned to the villa there was a gift waiting for the children. The food options are very flexible (e.g. they'll send the breakfast cart over to your villa in the morning and it is possible to order a pizza until 10:30pm!) and we have dined very well for very little over the last week. We were struck by the enormous number of volunteers that come from all over the place to lend a hand. I hardly ever saw the same person twice in any of the facilities. They are especially abundant in the 'Gingerbread House' dining room, serving up food/drink, cooking waffles, insisting on carrying your tray or getting you a drink refill. One elderly volunteer does a clown act at breakfast times. They're driving the lemonade/cookie cart around, serving at the all day (7.30am-9:30pm) ice-cream parlor, helping out at the regular events - they throw Christmas every Thursday! When we arrived the weather was quite seasonal for that with heavy rain and temperatures as low as 8 degrees at night - shocking! But the heat has slowly come back and now it's giving Moli and Ash a bit of heat rash. Nothing some antihistamine can't sort though. We still have tickets for a few more big attractions but everyone is enjoying the slower pace of today.
We are still 'pinching ourselves' to be here and feel deeply grateful for the many charities that have made it possible.