Saturday, February 16, 2019

Disney Dreams

So I just got back from a mid-winter break in Florida; I think it's the first time I've ever done that. Many years ago I went to Florida with my parents at the end of March but since that's nearly the end of the winter I don't think that really counts.  It was my forth time going to Disney.  This time I went with one of my sisters, she flew from Calgary and I flew from Ottawa and we flew down together from Toronto.

I'm always a bit anxious when we have itineraries like that; there's so much that can happen that can cause you not to meet up as planned. This time there was snow in Ottawa, we weren't supposed to get snow but we did so I left for the airport early. My flight left on time but we had to de-ice, the pilot made up time in the air and we arrived in Toronto on schedule.  We got to the gate but they couldn't get the bridge over to the plane, snow was blocking the wheels. They send a guy with a shovel and salt but that didn't work so we waited again for a plow to show up, 20 minutes of waiting on the plane when I had only about an hour and 40 minutes to get the next flight. My sister was already waiting at our next gate.  I made it with plenty of time as the flight to Orlando was delayed a little bit. I really didn't have to worry as there was a flight attendant on my flight to Toronto who was working the flight to Orlando so the flight probably wouldn't have left without a full crew anyway.

We arrived in Orlando and picked up our rental car, for the first time I paid for the gas up front, won't do that again. We were so close to all the parks and shops that I only used half a tank of gas during the week. We had a little difficulty with GPS and cell phone map directions but we got to the hotel. We had a little scare there when our reservation didn't show on the hotel computer, but they got that sorted out pretty quickly. We went up to our room dropped of our stuff and when back down to the restaurant to get something to eat since they don't feed you on domestic flights.

Our first Disney park was EPCOT, we decided to do that one first since we've both already been there and that we could make it a short day without feeling like we had missed too much. It was much as I remembered, the security and the bio-metrics to get in was new.  We realized that we would have to arrive earlier due to the length of time it took to park and get through security.

He's a real man

We spent most of the day in the Tomorrowland part of the park so didn't really have a lot of time for the World Showcase.  The Fast Pass system works quite well permitting you to get on a ride without having to wait in extraordinary long lines.  We did leave this park early and didn't stay to see the fireworks.

The next morning we went to Disney's Hollywood Studios, neither of us had been to this park before.  We got there pretty early and tried to get to the Slinky Dog Dash before the line was too long, by the time we got to the ride the line up was over an hour long but little did we know that was the shortest it would be all day.  Needless to say we didn't not ride it; in any case, it's just a roller coaster.

Slinky Dog Dash

Meeting Olaf
Me and Olaf

 We did stay to see the evening show at Hollywood Studios called Fantasmic. It's quite a spectacle of light, water and fireworks. We used a Fast Pass for the show so we had pretty good seats too, not to far off the center.  This was the only night we had problems getting out of the parking lot as we were leaving at the same time as thousands of other people.

The next day we did Universal Studios' two amusement parks so that we could do both parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade - Hogwarts and Diagon Alley.  We had a park to park pass so that also let us ride the Hogwarts Express between the two parks.  I really enjoyed these two attractions the Harry Potter locations are so well done.  We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and shared a mini pie combination (cottage pie and fish pie), sticky toffee pudding and each had a butter beer for lunch. My sister and I both agreed that the fish pie with salmon and shrimp was the best; overall, I would say that the food at Universal outdid that found at the Disney locations. The butter beer isn't bad either, the foam tastes like caramel.  We rode Hogwarts Express and even that was fun.

Hogsmeade Entrance

Hogwarts Express


Diagon Alley

Gringott's Bank

Leaky Cauldron

Leaky Cauldron

 The next day we would be back at Universal's City Walk for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and to see a Blue Man Group show.  We took the opportunity to sleep in and went out later for breakfast and to do some shopping. We got a bit lost and never made it to the outlet mall that was just across the highway. We did end up at a skeleton museum, oh well it was our vacation so you just go with the flow.  When we got back to the hotel, we enjoyed the pool for a couple hours before heading off for our evening out.

The Hard Rock Cafe was just as expected, they have the same menu around the world. I kind of wish they had some regional selections. This is the third one we have been to, we've also been to the one in Brussels and the one in Rome. London's is part of the plan for next month. The Blue Man Group show was good, I thought it would be more music but there was quite a bit more comedy than there was music.

We took a second relax day and this time we did make it over to the shopping mall. Our next two days were back at the Disney Parks. Disney's Animal Kingdom was first up, we made sure to get there as early as we could and went straight for the Avatar ride, we still ended up waiting an hour but it was worth it.  They have done a really good job with the Pandora world.  We also went on the safari truck ride to see the game preserve. I actually think we waited longest for this attraction.   It was really neat to see the animals in more or less an open setting.

We had a Fast Pass for the evening show, Rivers of Light, here too. Originally I had it for the late show but I changed it for the earlier show. This gave us time to go see the Tree of Life all lit up and still get out of the park before final exodus.

Our last Disney park was the classic Magic Kingdom.  At Magic Kingdom, you could only go up Main Street to the castle until the actual opening when they had an opening ceremony and little show starring who else Mickey and Minnie Mouse. We had Fast Passes reserved for all of the mountains, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain. I think we did most of the classic rides we remembered like It's a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. The only classic one we missed was Peter Pan, the line up was just too long and we did't ride the newest roller coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for the same reason. There were some real fans at the Country Bear Jamboree, some ladies who came dressed up like the bear trio.

Magic Kingdom

It all Started with a Mouse!

It's Small World

Country Bear Jamboree
We ended the day by watching the fireworks. We didn't mind staying late as we still had one more day in Orlando to relax, do some shopping and get packed.

Our last day was the only day where we had rain, but that didn't stop us from heading over to Disney Springs for some shopping.  One nice thing is that parking is free at Disney Springs, parking at every other park costs money. At Universal Studios if you park after 6pm your parking is free but the evening we went our dinner reservation was for 5:15 so we still had to pay the full day rate.

They have some nice stores and even a few attractions. We were told by a waiter at Red Lobster that it was a great place to go in the evening for a drink and to hear live music.  We just wandered around and then had a late afternoon drink with some nachos before heading back to the hotel to pack.

So that was our week in Florida. It was so nice to get out of the cold weather even if just for a bit. I got home just a day before a big snow storm, so I actually ended up with one more day off.

I really enjoyed the trip, but I'm not sure if Disney lived up to my memories and dreams. The parks were crowded, the food was mediocre, gifts expensive ($27.99 for mouse ear headbands) and the lines long for the length of the ride especially the newer rides.  I thought for the money Universal was a better deal.

Would I go back, probably will, after all it's the place where dreams are made.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Stories my Mother Told Me

Today marks one since my mother passed away and at the end of the month she would have been 85, I thought I would write a little post about stories she told me about her life.

The first one is a story that really someone would have had to tell her. My mother was born on Prince Edward Island and the weather at that time of year can be very cold and snowy. Well as luck would have it there was a snow storm on the day of her birth. My mother was born with the umbilical cord around her neck so the midwife sent her father to get the doctor. He had to go with the horse and cutter to get the doctor.  And since I'm telling this story, you know it all went well.  It was 1934, every time Mum told us this story we always said it sounded like "Little House on the Prairie". It was a leap year that year and Mum also told us she wished she had been born the next day on Feb 29th.

My mother had tuberculosis of the spine and had to have surgery when she was quite young. Se had a scar running all the way up her back. She had to stay home from school for a year, much of it spent in bed in a body cast.  She said it was while she was home that her mother taught her to knit and sew.  Once she was able to get up, she also started piano lessons which she loved all of her life.  Even before that she said that she and two of her brothers had spinal meningitis but most doctors told her that was very unlikely it was spinal meningitis.  But she remembered that the house was quarantined and people would bring them baskets of food since they couldn't leave the house. She and her brother Terence thought it was great fun since they weren't very ill and also got to stay home from school. Her younger brother Phil was very ill though so ill that they had the parish priest come to give him Last Rites. They all survived.

My mother and her family moved to Halifax during WWII. She said it was the first house she lived in that had an indoor toilet and running water. My grandfather was a pattern-maker in the Halifax Shipyards and the house was war time housing in the North End.  My mother told me a story about asking to go with some relatives back to PEI for Christmas one year. Her mother told her that they couldn't afford it but later told her if she went, the train ticket would be her Christmas present. My mother agreed, she always loved the Island.  On the day she was to leave, her mother gave her a small wrapped gift and told her it was so there would be something under the tree.  My mother was disappointed, at the time, to find that it was only a bottle of hand lotion.   But her memory of that Christmas was a very happy memory so for her presents did not make Christmas but rather time spent with family and making Christmas a happy memory for her family.

Her mother, Louise Arsenault had been a school teacher before she married. She taught in a one room school house, teaching children, some of whom likely were near as old as she was and I'm sure some of the boys were bigger than her.  She also taught for a few years after she was married as the school records show her both as Louise Arsenault and Louise Pineau.  My mother also was a teacher. She went to the Nova Scotia Normal College in Truro, Nova Scotia, I guess that's what they called Teacher's College back then.  The first school she taught at was the Alexander MacKay School for boys. I don't think she taught there very long before she married my father. After she married my father she didn't teach again until we were posted to Alsask, Saskatchewan. There she taught Kindergarten at the base school - John A Silver. She actually had my brother in her class one year. She told the story that one day when he tried to get her attention, he called Mrs Stewart, Mrs Stewart, Mommy. She also told us that she was counselled for teaching too much of the Grade 1 curriculum. During our posting to the States, her teaching credentials lapsed and she never taught again afterwards. She did continue in the education field as a teacher's aide and with adult education teaching art. She also was a piano teacher, a catechism teacher and a brownie leader.

This next story is really about my brother, one of my sisters and me. We were living in Foymount, a small radar station near Pembroke Ontario. I would have been about 5 going on 6, my brother only 4 and my sister only 3. In those days, churches weren't locked especially on radar stations. We decided to go and visit with God and took two of our little friends with us.  Well, we had good intentions but once we got there inquisitiveness took over.  We got into the Christmas decorations and broke some ornaments, sprayed water on the floor from the pump fire extinguishers and dumped some books on the floor.  I guess some people found us there and took us home. Dad and the other father went and cleaned everything up but they were still charged and fined $15, probably a lot of money in the early 60's. It was the only time I remember getting a spanking.  But Mum certainly remembered it when on another radar station some teenage boys broke in the church and drank all of the Communion wine. Their father's weren't charged or fined as times had changed in the military but Mum always said it was because one of the boys was an officer's son.

My mother was also a bootlegger. When we lived in Gander, Nfld, my father made home made beer. He also made it when I got older as I remember he would also make root beer for us kids. But anyway back to Gander, one night when my Dad was working, some of his buddies went over to the house. They knew Dad made beer and asked Mum if they could buy some from her. She sold them a few bottles and was happy to tell Dad when he came home that she had made a little extra money. Dad wasn't mad but he told her she couldn't sell beer as she would get him in a lot of trouble as it was illegal for them to sell alcohol. That one sale was it for her career as a bootlegger.