Orlando Home Again!

We’ve been coming to Orlando since forever…. since there was only the Magic Kingdom surrounded by swampy wilderness….  Once the girls were old enough – 3 and 5 –  we came every other year, just about, and we have some very happy memories here.  My mum and dad came with us several times.  In fact, the last holiday we had with my dad was here…. A lot of family memories.

In 2001 when we were here staying at the Marriott World Centre with my second “parents”, Harriet and Bernie, we took the brave step – or so it seemed – of buying timeshare weeks here with Marriott, at the Grande Vista, Marriott Grande Vista which was just being built.  I remember, getting on the plane, feeling a bit shellshocked and wondering what on earth we’d done.  As it happens, we needn’t have feared, our timeshare weeks with Marriott have proved to be fantastic buys and we broke even on the cost (yes, even with all the maintenance etc), years ago.  The secret of having a successful timeshare is to buy from a top, respectable developer, like Marriott, who put their brand behind the resorts rather than some dodgy guy on the Spanish seafront, and to use the weeks and use them ruthlessly.  It sounds so obvious doesn’t it?  But so many people, don’t use their weeks every year and yet continue to pay maintenance – that’s just crazy.  And the Marriott system is so flexible: we use the weeks here in Orlando at different resorts as well as Grande Vista; we swap them and use them all over the world at Marriott and non Marriott resorts; we change them into Marriott Hotel Reward points every other year which gives us thousands of hotels within the Marriott/Starwood and now Sheraton brands to stay in.  We swap them for flights and holiday packages.  It’s brilliant.

We often come back to Orlando though, because we love it here.  We love the parks of course, enjoy exploring  them as they’ve grown, to the point now where two weeks is just not enough really to even enjoy just WDW and Universal.  But, it’s more than that.  We enjoy that we can be at two very different coastlines within an hour or so; that we can dive at the coasts or in the natural cave and canyon springs in central Florida; we like the overwhelming dedication of the whole place to the idea of “holiday”.  Whatever you want to do, you can do it here.  Nothing?  No problem. And the people here like providing these brilliant holidays for you.  There’s none of that slightly grudging surliness you get in some holiday locations where the locals really really wish you’d just go away.  And on the other hand there’s none of that count-your-fingers-we’re-skinning-you-alive greed either.  No.  40 years ago the city of Orlando decided to be the vacation capital of the world and that determination has never faltered.  You can stay at the Ritz Carlton or at the Motel 6, you can eat Michelin star food, bbq ribs or cook in…. shop till you drop, fish, dive, visit theme parks, sail on the lakes, balloon, play tennis, drive racecars, golf at a huge number of courts, play tennis, visit the alligators….

And for the last couple of years, it’s even more convenient for us because most of my dear second family have moved down here to within 90 minutes of Orlando, so we can combine holiday jaunts with visiting them.  And this year even the last holdout northern remnant are coming down while we are here for a visit, so it’s perfect.  Well, not quite perfect, because both girls won’t be with us.  They are both working these days and Lucy has used all her leave this year – or has it promised – so she can’t come.  But Daisy is joining us for our last two weeks, which will be a total joy.  We have Disney passes for those weeks so we will have the delight of visiting the Mouse and his friends with her.  It’s going to be a great trip.

But first we had to get away from Port Everglades and our (shudder) second cruise.  You can read about it here under Cruises: Caribbean on Carnival Splendor.  We rented a car at the cruise port yesterday, loaded up our luggage, and headed north up the Florida Turnpike.  Let me encourage you to use this road if you are travelling between Miami and Orlando.  Yes, its a toll road, but the maximum you will pay for over 200 miles of relaxing motoring is $15.40.  Well worth it.  A much quieter motorway than the scary I-95 and you pass through lush, jungly terrain along the way.  From the cruise port to our hotel took about 3.5 hours of easy motoring.

Marriott Grande Vista is on south International Drive, just down the block from SeaWorld.  Its a massive resort now.  Maybe 8 different buildings of self catering 1,2 and 3 bedroom condominiums, a golf course, golf academy, restaurants, a huge lake with boating, pools, magnificent landscaping.  It’s really beautiful.  And always a good welcome: Welcome Home, they say as we check in.

For the first two weeks we have a one bedroomed unit in a building 2 minutes walk from the main pool.  Our apartment is on the top (5th) floor and looks out over the lake towards Walt Disney World in the distance, about 6 miles away.  We have a large open plan lounge/dining room/kitchen, a master bedroom suite with a huge Jacuzzi bath and double sink wash area, another bathroom with a shower, an outside screened turret dining area, and a small laundry with a washer and a drier.  The kitchen is a full one with dishwasher, massive oven, microwave, fridge freezer, toaster, juicer, coffee maker, blender, garbage disposal…..    In the lounge there is a king size sofa bed.  When Daisy arrives in two weeks though, we have booked the unit that interconnects with ours to make a two bedroomed apartment.  These apartments were built as two bedroomed but with the option to “lock off” one of the bedroom suites to make a studio apartment.  So Daisy’s unit will be a studio with bathroom, kingsize bed, sofa, kitchenette and balcony, but it links directly into ours.

After we’d checked in yesterday late afternoon we dumped the cases in our unit and headed off to the nearby Walmart SuperCentre to food shop.  We did a pretty massive shop – definitely enough for the next two weeks.  We will eat out some nights but it’s nice to have the option of eating in, especially for our diets.  I suppose we spent about £200, but it was a very big shop including some sun products.

Came back and I made dinner(calves liver and cauliflower mash about £3) while Bob started the unpacking.  We managed two cases before feeling totally knackered and turning in.

This morning we finished the packing and put away the cases.  Bob seems to be having a re-visit of the dreaded cough and cold so we decided on a restful day.  Had Facetimes with both girls.  Spoke to Franny, my “cousin” who we are going over to stay with on Tuesday.  Just had a really quiet time.  Then late morning we went down to the big pool area that’s near us and pegged out.  The weather is really nice.  Low to mid 80s, some clouds coming over and then disappearing….. perfect for relaxing but also perfect for when we start to be more active.  Not gruelling hot like it can be.

Came back to the apartment about 4 and I did my hair and fixed up dinner.  Roast chicken with trimmings (for Bob).  Also got a wash done so we are all squeaky clean and ready for Orlando FUN!!!!!!!