New York New York…

… So good they named it twice! Last week I was concerned that storm Nero would interfere my travel plans, but I was lucky that the centre of the snow storm hit further north of New York. So, as planned I flew out on Sunday morning, and although it was cold and snow was on the ground it was beautiful and sunny in New York. I checked-in into my hotel, the Eventi on Sixth Avenue. Although it has a small footprint it soars 23 stories into the sky and that's only half of it, I'm not sure what they use the other 20 odd stories for. Anyway, after a quick and efficient check-in I headed off to BH video. If you've never been there you just have to see it, it is a huge store at least 3 floors full of video, photography, and computer equipment and electronics. I just did a quick smash and grab, I filled my list and headed out of there before I got too tempted!

Sharon, Roisin & Eimear have been here from the previous Thursday in New Jersey playing at a basketball tournament. On this Sunday they were heading into New York for some sightseeing, an NBA basketball match and I met them for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe in Time Square. They headed back to New Jersey and I headed back to my hotel, I can tell you by now I was very tired.

Monday morning was wet, overcast and misty, but I had booked a trip to see Brooklyn. This trip was billed as the best of Brooklyn Sightseeing Food and Culture Tour. Normally they can cater for up to 25 guests and use a coach but I was lucky that was only two of us. Diane from the Philippines, me and our guide Isaac. So we had a Isaac to ourselves and did the visit by SUV. A sunny day would've been nice but we still enjoyed ourselves immensely. Isaac a native New Yorker was knowledgeable, good-humoured and plenty of fun. It normally would take four hours but Isaac was very good to us and took us to a few extra places and we were back five hours later. It was mostly a cafe crawl from one restaurant another, where we sampled different types of food as we visited the different parts of Brooklyn. This was not gourmet food but simple ethnic food from local simple cafes and restaurants but it was all good quality, fresh and full of flavour. It finished with a fantastic Cuban sandwich, which as you can see doesn't look anything special but it was yummy!

Home again, a quick change, and I headed for a quick visit to Macy's. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about Macy's as I was a bit underwhelmed! I then decided to head out for dinner and look for a restaurant called the Wild Ginger. I read a few good reviews about it on the web but I could find it nowhere, and I was very disappointed. I found another little French bistro which was very nice it had plenty of atmosphere, by that I mean it was dark, busy, noisy with music and chatter, and the tables were very cosy. In fact they were so close that even a fart couldn't slip by. Anyway the service was fast and the food was good, so time to head back and rest after a busy day, and look forward to Sharon and girls joining me for the rest of the week!

Second week: Orlando

Our second week starts with us having to check out early from the Sheraton, but we hang around for a few hours by the pool as we can't check in until 4pm in the Westgate Lakeside Resort. So the car is packed, somehow, and we enjoy the afternoon by the lovely pool and get a lunch. I think our second week will be more leisurely, enjoying the pool and the parks and less shopping. We check in and this time skip the invitation to a free breakfast I never saw anyone withdraw his offers of cheap lunches and other stuff so quick when he heard us refuse. Anyway we check out our new pad, it's bright, airy and large with a nice patio out to the pool which is just outside the door only question is it going to be very noisy.

It's Eimear's today and she decides we will head to the movies but I've covered all this.

A latish morning for the girls and I'm proved wrong straight away as they decide to go shopping again after a big brunch in Perkins. Will it ever stop, I'll just have to put up with it. We're tired of eating out so dinner in tonight!

I don't know if it's the time of year, the schools being off, the weather or the recession but the parks are not as busy as we expected. For our next visit to Universal we decide to head over late, about 2.30pm we arrive. The perceived wisdom for the parks is to arrive early to get on the good rides. But we head straight to Hogsmeade and Harry Potter ride or whatever it's called and it's only a 45 minute wait. But it is well worth it, it has to be the best ride in the park, highly recommended and a must. We do a load of the good rides in Islands of Adventure and the wait times are great, including only 10 minutes for the Hulk.

To be honest at this stage all the days get confusing and I can't remember what we did on what days and even in what weeks. In the Studios one of my favourite rides is the "Disasters", a new ride since we were here 5 years ago. There is some good stage acting by our guide, some nifty special effects with Christopher Walkin who acts as a director of this supposed new disaster movie. It's very well done and good craic. The Simpsons ride has taken over the old "Back to the Future" slot, and Men in Black is still good fun.

We have had some spectacular thunder storms in the evening and nights. It's a long time since I've seen such amazing lightning, huge bursts across the sky and then when the rain comes it is torrential and very hard to drive in.

We have another day in Seaworld to catch the Shamu show the girls have their last go on Kracken and we head to SeaWorlds new water park Aquatica where the girls passed away a good few hours on the water rides. At this stage well parked out I think 10 days in Orlando is enough and then to head to the coast for a relaxing time on the lovely beaches, reading, sunning, walking and good food and drink. In the past we've done the Gulf Coast and its great along there.

All in all a great holiday but looking forward to getting home and heading to Spain for the month of July!

First week: Orlando

It's hard to believe we are here a week already today, the time is just flying by. The flight with Aer Lingus was grand though the poor guy next to me was a bad flyer and didn't like the turbulence but he was a lovely guy to talk to and the hostesses were very nice to him. I love driving these big American cars, we got a big white Cadillac which is just lovely to drive but can it drink, 17 miles to the gallon!!! I hope US gallons are smaller than ours, must check that out! Well they are but not much 1 US gallon is about .83 imperial gallon, still doesn't make it much more economical to run.

Anyway our first week was in a timeshare in Sheraton Vistana Villages. A nice resort but our condo needed a little tlc, not too much it was still very nice and spacious for us all but I think they keep all the nice ones for owners naturally enough, and it had free wifi, very nice pools, a shop, and a decent enough restaurant. I don't know why we agree to go to their free breakfasts so they can try flog you another timeshare as another couple of hours of your holiday disappear, but I suppose it can be interesting to hear how the different schemes work especially one involving the Sheraton and all its hotel brands. It's nice to have really good accommodation but the reason to come to Orlando is the theme parks and the shopping and we have done a fair amount of this.

Seaworld is literally around the corner from us and Eimear did her first ever roller coaster the Kraken and she loved it. The great thing is that we were early enough, here in time for the National Anthem, took us a moment to work out why everyone had suddenly stopped and stood motionless!! Being early meant we walked straight on to the Kraken and then a second time. Next was Atlantis and from there on a bit of a blur as we did the other shows and rides though we've left the Shamu show for another day.

Our next park was Islands of Adventure in Universal another early start and we headed to Harry Potter land which is very good. It's laid out as a winter scene in Hogsmeade but not many rides the best one had a queue of 90 minutes that we decided to skip the rest is shops where they flog you all sorts of Harry Potter stuff, though we did buy the butter beer. We headed off to Jurassic Park where we actually did our first rides, then to toon land and here we got absolutely soaked on a flume ride and the Popeye boats. We were wet through and didn't dry for hours. The great thing here was that the queues were short I don't think we queued for more than 30 mins and we got on all the big rides. Mind you the older you get the less you like the big roller coasters like the Hulk which I did but Sharon skipped. We had a good lunch in the NBA restaurant before heading in to The Studios for an hour. We came back a second day to do the studios and started with my favourite Terminator "I'll be back!". We had another good day.

We met our friends Richie and Linda and their two kids, in Disney World's own ideal town, called Celebration. We had a great meal and headed back to their villa. Another lovely night.

Shopping was the other main activity and we did plenty of this too! Today is Eimear's birthday, now we have another teenager, so she wanted to go to the cinema after we moved to our second timeshare. We headed to Disney Down Town to catch Pirates of the Carribean. After eventually getting a parking spot we booked our cinema tickets for 9.30 and had time for a meal first. Now the meals in the US are huge you could not eat all the stuff they give you. But Disney of course is different, expensive and smaller portions, but this was just as well as we didn't realise the cinema we booked was a diner cinema. I've never seen anything like it. You have table tops in front of you and servers bring you food and drinks during the movie and not just popcorn and sweets but a full dinner, great but a pity we had eaten though I did manage some popcorn!









Orlando - Florida

The girls insisted it was time to go back to Orlando. "But dad I was only 7 the last time I was there and I couldn't go on any of the rides and it's sooo long ago I can't remember".  I tried saying "well here look at the videos, that will remind you!".  They also said "We won't go back to Spain if you don't bring us", so in the end we relented and now the five of us are heading off in two weeks, Aislinn is going to Croatia with her own friends for a holiday.  We only hope that now this Icelandic Volcanic ash doesn't cause us any problems! The good thing is that friends will be there at the same time so we will meet up with them and that will make a great trip of it.  But it's all that shopping as well!  I'm sure we'll have a great time and in fact I'm looking forward now to it, the theme parks, the weather, the meals, some good craic and even a bit of shopping will be fun.