Wednesday, 29 August 2012

But I never get sick!

Cowboys was so much fun! I like to go there every now and again but not all the time because it would become boring if I did... loads of UK there and the music was good. Got some line dancing in, couple of free beers (well, Bud Light Lime which to be honest, is pretty grim, but I'll drink it if it's free haha!) and obviously sobbing and crying at the end when we all linked into a circle with the people leaving in the middle. Sad face.

Got home and crashed into bed at about 3am.

Sunday, I was an AM... it was supposed to be a 10.45 because I was training Rob but he decided he wants to stay as a food runner so therefore it wasn't training anymore. I asked Kevin my manager if I could come in at 11.30 instead and thankfully he said yes. So I got an extra half hour of sleep which my post-Cowboys head really appreciated, and went into work at 11.30. Isaac was providing a nice bit of wind and rain for us which was fun but the shift was pretty boring. I was in 106 which is a three-table section and therefore wasn't busy and therefore I earnt rubbish money. Went home after the shift and played around on the computer for a while whilst trying not to fall asleep. Nick got extended from work so I eventually met him at about 8pm and we got Panera Bread. He dropped me off home where I went to bed at 9.30pm because I was exhausted.

On Monday I was a Mid! Woo! Again, was supposed to be training but wasn't... but I was thankful for the extra hours. My manager sent home half the servers for the AM because the weather was gross outside and the park attendance was expected to be really low. We only had 8 servers for the AM!! (Normally we have 13-15)... I was in 106 again but this time the section next to it was closed so I picked up tables in that section too and it was a much more beneficial morning for me. I managed to get fish & chips for lunch (mwahahaha) and then for the PM I was in 510. I like this section especially coz it has good views of the fireworks as well. By this point, Tropical Storm Isaac had changed course and headed more west of Florida so the wind started calming down a bit and we actually got the plastic windows open for the last turn of the evening. I even picked up a table on lower deck! So, the crazyness of having 5 tables at once was awesome as always... although I probably had the fussiest and most demanding guest I've ever had that evening too.

She was with her son who I think was about 12 years old... firstly, she interrupted my introduction to say "we need pasta for him, what kind of pasta do you have?"  to which I told her that on the kids menu we have a meaty macaroni meal. She said she wanted that for him, without the sauce and with just butter. This isn't unusual so that was all fine until she said "What kind of pasta is it?" and I didn't know so I guessed it was Fusilli (wrong!) so when it came out she kicked up about the fact it was Elbow pasta not Fusilli. Ugh. Also, that the portion size was too small for him (the kids menu is designed for ages 9 and under....) so I had to go and get him more pasta plus carrot/celery sticks and apple slices. In the meantime, she's asking every server that goes past for something else - salt, pepper, another salt mill because it didn't work, new cutlery, napkins, more viniagrette for her salad etc. She had the frisee & apple salad with a side order of chicken breast on the top which was fine because we've done that before for guests that want a light dish at dinner time... except that half way through the fireworks, she asked for a candle. Upon asking why she wanted a candle, she said it was because it was too dark and she couldn't see "if the thing on the side of my plate was a piece of salad or a moving bug that crawled into my food". Cue then having to go and get her another salad and chicken breast. Well, chicken is one of the foods that takes the longest to cook in the kitchen (about 15 minutes) so I got one of the chefs to grab a pre-cooked one (from a lunch dish we've got) and pop it in the microwave and then freshen it up on the grill for her - boom, ready in 5 minutes! I literally could not have dealt with her complaining it was taking too long. She was a nightmare! She even complained that the kids menu was "too girly" because it has cinderella on one side of it - but it has Brave on the other! Basically, I wasn't in her good books for the whole evening!!

Anyway, after the Mid I was really tired... I was one of the last to clock out and I got home at about 11.15pm and went to bed.

Yesterday, I was off because I switched my days off with someone this week so was off Tues/Weds instead of Weds/Thurs. I'm glad because I woke up with a cold :( Tickly throat, sniffles, headache, the lot. I was supposed to hang out with Nick all afternoon after he got out of school but he wasn't feeling too good either because of lack of sleep so instead we got TGI Fridays for lunch and then went our separate ways. I ended up going to see Sophie in the end, we went to the cinema to see the "Odd life of Timothy Green" and got ice cream at Ghiradellis which was nom. Then came home, I dosed up on NyQuil and went to bed.

Today I'm off again and I have to go to the Rose & Crown this afternoon to have goodbye drinks with the people leaving, then Tyler and I are going to go to Magic Kingdom to see the MM&Y because it finishes on the 3rd September (distraught about this) so probably yet more crying in store!! There's only about 8 weeks left until my finish date and I can't really deal with it.

Oh, and a side note: the funniest thing happened to me on Sunday morning. We were walking across the park after getting some greasy food for post-Cowboys breakfast at Odyssey and this family were walking towards us. Suddenly the girl goes "You're Catherine!" to me... then "I've seen you on the internet!!" Turns out, she's seen my vlogs and blog and wants to apply for the ICP when the applications reopen! I just thought it was really funny and kinda cool because it was rather like being a local celebrity LOL. Anyways, hello to her if she's reading this - I hope you enjoyed the rest of your holiday and good luck with your application!! 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Another thing ticked off the bucket list?

Well Friday was thrilling....! I got up and had Sweet Tomatoes for lunch with Tyler which was yummy before he went to work. I went home and uploaded more photos from the trip. Nick got extended at work and I finally met up with him at about 8pm, after I'd baked some fairy cakes to pass the time! We went to Chili's and I had a chicken burger before we went to the cinema and saw The Campaign which was VERY funny. We didn't get back to housing until about midnight so he just dropped me off and went home.

Today I was back at work and the weather was super nice - sunny and warm but with a strong wind, felt amazing!

The wind is the title of this post - or more specifically the fact we have Tropical Storm Isaac heading straight towards us! This is my third full summer I've spent in Florida and I have yet to experience a proper Tropical Storm or Hurricane! There's a strong chance that Isaac will develop into a Category 1 or 2 Hurricane as soon as it clears Cuba/Hispanolia so that's exciting. I don't think it's due to actually hit us head on but we'll definitely feel the effects for the next few days! My manager Whitnie was off today but I left her note saying I was willing to be on the "hurricane team" if we should need it/there's space. She signed people up on Wednesday when I was off work - gutted! Needless to say, I think it will be 86 Lower Deck for the next few days! (Using 86 before something in culinary terms means we've run out of it... but we use it before anything that is 'finished' or not used in the R&C as a colloquial term... so this week it will be 86 Amelia, 86 Dougie and 86 Sarah as they're leaving wahhhh)

Anyway, I was in 508 and had a busy section for pretty much the whole shift which was a pleasant change for the AM. After I finished with my guests I had to wait for the PM server taking over my section as she was on break (which went on for about an hour and 20 minutes... if I hadn't been having fun in the mean time I would have been much more irritated by this - we only get an hour) so I went out and played football in the street with podium, did Beer Cart 2 and gave guests "high 4s" with the Mickey gloves. Mucho fun. I miss doing the stuff like that on podium! Finally she came back from her break and I banked out. Got a text from Nick to say he got extended again and he finished at almost the same time as me so he drove me home via McDonalds, yay!

Tonight I'm off to Cowboys which I'm sure will be fun if sad (as always) because it's time for more people to leave! :'(

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Same old, same old...

Well, it was back to work promptly on Friday afternoon with a PM after a grand total of 4 hours sleep at the Commons! It actually went really well - I was in 301 (Dart Room) and even though it was very very noisy because the bar was packed, it was a good shift. I got a nice guest compliment as well - I love it when the guests feedback on the receipt! :) I was kinda pumped up on Monster for the whole evening though - gotta love a good energy drink. I went home and crashed out after the shift.

On Saturday, I went in as a MID. Hoping to give away my PM, I kept asking only to eventually be told no by one of my managers as too many people had called in. But then luckily another server changed her mind and picked up my PM so I got to go home at about 5pm... actually, I went home and then promptly to Walmart to buy food as I had almost nothing. That was the usual 2.5 hour expedition. When I got back, I ended up going out to Pei Wei with Nick for dinner which was packed out! I've never been in there when it's really busy... not great! I didn't get a good night's sleep that night for one reason or another either so getting cut didn't really solve the tiredness issue. Meh.

On Sunday, I was a PM so I did get to have a lie-in. I'm normally an AM on Sundays so that was a bit weird. I was in section 401 and had a pretty good shift despite it deciding to throw it down with rain making it hard to be heard in a section with a plastic roof! I also had some guests who barely spoke English but instead of it being espanol that they spoke... it was francais!! I managed to blag my way through the meal with schoolgirl French, slow English, French menus and hand signals! I was really tired by the end of the shift though but I'd picked up KD from Ryan because he wanted to go to Parliament so I didn't get out til pretty late. I think I got home at about 11.45pm.

Monday, I was a MID again because Amelia had wanted to get rid of her AM so I picked it up to make myself a MID and she's working my Friday AM so I get an extra day off - win. Anyways, I was in 514 for the AM which was a bit sucky because it was SO HOT. Nobody wanted to sit outside... so I got cut for my break at 2.30pm. Got about a 45 minute break before coming back to find out my manager had screwed up the floor plan for the afternoon and despite being outside for the AM, I still ended up with an outside section for the PM as well! Not only that, but it was 709... hello lower deck. I didn't get sat because nobody wanted to be outside and then a gigantic storm appeared out of nowhere and we actually saw it approach from across the World Showcase which was quite cool. It hit us so we had to wait for that to pass and then I spent 30 minutes drying my tables. By this point, it was like 6pm so I hadn't been sat for the best part of 4 hours! Well of course, I was then slammed with tables.... I ended up with a 5 table section for the rest of the evening and ran around like a headless chicken. I was totally exhausted by the end of the shift and of course, was on POS's for my sidework so didn't get out til late again.

Tuesday I did get a lie-in again though because I was a PM. It was also, unfortunately, a Tuesday so therefore EMH.... UGH. Oh, and the cherry on the top was that I was also KD! This meant I was in 201... which I thought would be a good section except that we didn't seem to get any 2-tops for the whole evening reservation or otherwise! It poured with rain for the whole evening so we were reservations-only and even then I didn't fill my section at any point. Luckily, my 6-top table was sat three times because I lost one of my 2-top tables as they used the table for dart room to make a big table for a big party... so I basically went from serving 21 people at once the night before, to about 10 the following night! It was rather boring actually. I made extra effort with my guests but not to much avail which was sad. I also didn't clock out until about 11.50pm which sucked! I eventually got home at 12.45am and went to bed at 1am.

As mentioned earlier, I ended up with 3 days off this week... so after only 7 hours sleep, I was back up and getting ready for a day at Busch Gardens with Sophie, Geraint and Hannah. There's a free bus that goes from Publix (it's free for annual passholders and supposedly $10 for non-passholders but we didn't pay!) and it goes at 9.30am returning at park close... ideal! So we got the bus and got to Busch at about 11am. We got on Cheetah Hunt straight away with only a 30 minute wait and it was awesome as always. Then we got a bite to eat and the clouds rolled in... we have Tropical Storm Isaac quite nearby so we are getting a lot of rain off that at the moment. We walked around in the rain and saw some animals before it cleared up enough for us to ride Sheikra and Kumba which were both really good. Then it really poured down so we saw some more animals and played in an arcade for a bit. The problem with Busch is that if it rains, there's nothing to really do. We fed some kangaroos and then went to watch the Ice Skating show which I thought was really good (Geraint didn't feel the same but then he's a boy! :P) before getting the bus home at 6pm. We stopped at Publix before walking home and I spent the rest of the evening watching TLC and slobbing around.

Today I slept in before getting up and getting the M bus to the Florida Mall. I needed to return something to Forever 21 so I did that, wondered around a bit without spending money (go me!) and then got the coach back. I have uploaded some more pictures from the trip last week this evening but that's about it! It's weird that I'm off tomorrow as well... not much planned except I'm going to meet up with Nick as he's back from being at the beach for a few days. We may have some more plans in the pipeline....

At the Mall, I saw a Cars clip and it reminded me of working at the Disney Store... miss that place! But Hayley gets here in 9 days!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

1170 miles of driving later...

Well, we did it! And it was INCREDIBLE.

Starting from the beginning... on Monday I went to work and got my ER. Went home, packed and got ready. Nick came and picked me up at around 5pm, we stopped at the post office then we went to get some food at Panera before heading to the airport. The flight to Atlanta was delayed by about an hour but we eventually got there and the hotel was literally a monorail ride away (well, the Sky Train actually) to the convention center. It was a Marriott suites hotel and it was very comfortable... we even got free breakfast the next day. We had to get up at about 6am, had the breakfast and then went back over to the airport to get our Delta flight to Phoenix.

*side note* I should mention that the reason we went to ATL rather than straight there was because we were initially planning to go to Nick's parents house and then drive to Tennesse for a couple of days so we'd got really cheap flights to ATL... we didn't want to waste them and the timing worked out better to go via ATL on the way there.

SO... we got our flight, it was all on time and everything. It was about a 4 1/2 hour flight which was pretty boring because we didn't have in-flight entertainment so we mostly just played on the iPad and I read my magazines. We went back 3 hours in time so we actually touched down at about 9.30am PST (Pacific Standard Time). We went out of the airport to find the rental car shuttle and instantly the heat hit us! Before 10am in the morning and it was already about 95 degrees.... but it was a dry heat ;) (more on that later) We got the shuttle bus and then Hertz told us it would be about a 45 minute wait for our car to be ready so we had a snack and sat around until we got called. We added Nick as an additional driver and then went to find our car... it was a Chevrolet Captiva Sport 2012 in WHITE! It pretty much looked like this:

Much bigger than we thought it would be. I am pretty sure we got an upgrade actually... either way, it suited the trip we were about to take so I approved. We drove about 30 minutes out of Phoenix to a Walmart to pick up some snacks and water (for us and as a back up for the car!) before hitting the road!

We drove north for about 4 hours until we reached the Grand Canyon! Yup, simple as that! It was weird because you drive through miles of desert (complete with cacti!) and then it goes hilly and foresty... and you wonder when the Grand Canyon, if it's so "grand", is going to make it's appearance... you get to the entrance to the National Park where you have to pay about a $25 entrance fee per vehicle (cash only!) and then through to the visitor's center. At this point, we had still not seen any type of canyon or even big hole in the ground. We got there at about 3.30/4pm so a few people were leaving, we circled for about 5 minutes until we got a really decent parking spot... we went through the visitor center area to get to the shuttle bus stops. They give you a map when you pay the entrance fee and there are four different shuttles you can get which go to all the viewpoints on the South Rim. There are many hiking trails and places to explore which are on the map and signposted too but we weren't really interested in that. So, we got the orange route which took us east of the visitor center to the South Kaibab Trailhead... and THIS is where we first saw the Canyon! During the bus journey there! It was a sudden intake of breath moment and we weren't the only ones on the bus whose first glimpse this was so that was exciting. The bus arrived about a minute later and we jumped off (even though we planned to stay on until the next stop, Yaki Point) because we wanted to see it so badly! We went off the path a little bit and suddenly we were on the edge of the world! LITERALLY!

There were no fences or barriers... if you tripped and fell - you would DIE! It was scary! Especially seen I was wearing my rubbish vans with little grip on them... on the way back up the little hill Nick had to hold me so I didn't slip on the gravel and fall backwards to my death :P Anyways, it felt like the edge of the world... the silence was amazing - even though there were about 10 people that got off the bus, we were all on our own in this little spot without sight of anyone else. All you could hear was the odd bird noise and the wind whistling through the Canyon... when neither of these things were present then the silence almost hurt your ears. We took lots of photos and then after about 20 minutes decided we needed to move on and see another viewpoint but in the end this was my favourite point - maybe because it was the first one we saw - but it felt special.

We continued the orange bus route to Yaki Point for another amazing view. Then got the orange route back to the visitor center and changed onto the Blue route which took us through the Grand Canyon Village. There's a cafe, a gift shop, picnic areas and some other amenities (I believe a post office, bank and small grocery shop?). We then changed at Hermit's Rest Transfer Stop onto the Red Route (this is another nice viewpoint even though we didn't realise it was one) so we could go to the other side of the South Rim and to Mojave Point. We stopped off at Hopi Point which was a different view and then we wanted to go further round... and it was worth it! We got off at Mojave Point and we could see the Colorado River, more than a mile down into the Canyon! The sun was getting a little less intense by this point so it wasn't as hazy which was nice. We took some really nice pictures and I even did a little video (I'll put it on my YouTube channel at some point) before deciding it was time to head back. We were tempted to stay for sunset... but it was very busy as everyone had the same idea so I figured we'd see the sunset once we were back on the road. We spent about 3.5 hours at the Canyon in the end which felt perfectly fine - we saw everything we wanted to see and got some amazing photos. That was not only a point on the bucket list marked off, but a visit I'd wanted to do for many many years!

We did indeed see an amazing sunset as we drove away... I was initially driving at this point but Nick took over as I wanted to take pictures. We drove the 3.5ish hours to Las Vegas mostly in darkness (this included a brief stint on Route 66!! We stopped so I could have a picture with a sign but it was dark so a slight failure... I shall endevour to post it at some point!). We were driving on the highway and going up a slight hill when we broke the crest of the hill to see the whole of Las Vegas laid out before us... I literally stopped mid-sentence to be speechless at the view! Probably won't forget that moment for the rest of my life... amazing. All the glittery lights and lasers shining all around out of nothing! Complete black and darkness all around us and then suddenly that! I can hardly describe it in words to be honest. From that view, it took about another 45 minutes to actually get into the city but our hotel was only just off the highway so it was easy. After a little confusion on where to park (we actually ended up self-parking in the Mandalay Bay hotel lot instead of the valet Four Seasons lot... which also meant it was free versus $22!) we had a walk through the hotel and casino to find the elevator that would take us up to the 35th floor of the Mandalay Bay where the Four Seasons was located. So basically, we were staying in a hotel on top of another hotel!

It was very plush. As it was the Four Seasons (ahem, Trip Advisor's #1 rated hotel in Vegas!) it felt miles away from the casino side of things... it was all classical music, marble flooring and bath robes! Our room had an amazing view from the 36th floor over the south side of Vegas (towards the side we'd entered the city from) even though it wasn't a 'Strip' view, the glittery lights pleased me haha. We got changed and headed out just after 11.30pm to go and get a picture of the 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign which was something I really wanted to do. We had been up for about 21 hours at this point so we were both knackered... it was about a 0.5 mile walk to the sign so by the time we'd done this in the middle of the night and had a brief snack at McDonalds (the SLOWEST MaccyDs EVER by the way) it was time for bed. The bed was amazing, like sleeping on a cloud! Having said that, I think I was pretty overwhelmed by the whole day and thus, didn't actually sleep very well. That was my fault though, not the hotel!

The next day (Wednesday), it was bright and sunny. We checked out of the hotel at about 10am and went to the Starbucks located in the Mandalay Bay for some breakfast. Gambled a couple of dollars on the slot machines just because we *had* to! Won nothing of course ;) We then hit the road again, on route to the Hoover Dam!

This is located only about an hour outside of Vegas - it was very easy to get to. It was bloody hot, I'll tell you that! About 100 degrees when we got there. You get three options for visiting - 1) is $7 to park and then you can wonder around the top part of the Dam and the visitor center, 2) is $7 to park and then $11 per adult to do a 30 minute tour inside the Power Station and 3) is $7 to park and then $30 per adult for the 1 hour Power Station and Dam tour. We wanted to do option 3 but even at midday there was already a 2 hour wait for the 1 hour tour so we got the 30 minute tour instead. First we got taken into a room to watch a brief 10 minute video about the Dam - how it was built, why it was built etc. Very interesting. Then we had to wait for about 20 minutes before we were taken down in groups of about 35 people to the Power Station where the Dam was explained and we were showed the generators and pipes.. it was intriguing. Nick loved it because he's a science nerd whereas I only just understood it but good times! After this, we went back to the surface and went to walk across the Dam (crossing between Nevada and Arizona, this excited me!), took lots more pictures and got very hot as it was topping 100 degrees by this point. We got a couple of drinks for the car and some souvenirs before getting back into the car for the long drive to Death Valley. We were only there for a couple of hours but it was worth it - you could have spent longer there if you'd wanted to.

So, we drove from the Hoover Dam, across another state border into California! (Three states in one day isn't bad!) Death Valley was the slightly uncertain part of our trip... we didn't really know what to expect. As we were ahead of schedule, we took a detour to go and see 'Rhyolite' which was a Ghost Town!! It was founded at the beginning of the California gold rush (about 1905 I believe) and took off, becoming a town of a few thousands within weeks. But the whole place was abandoned by about 1918 and the buildings were even deconstructed and the materials reused in other towns as the mines dried up and no more gold was found. However, there were a few buildings left which were kinda creepy to look at but interesting at the same time! So we drove around there and then continued on to Death Valley.

 It was about 3 hours to there from the Dam and the temperature kept going up and up. It was about 108 degrees by the time we got to the Death Valley National Park. I luckily had a map which I'd printed (otherwise we would have been pretty screwed!) so we knew the viewpoints we wanted to see. By this point it was about 5pm and the visitor center was closed so we were on our own! We drove to 'Devil's Golf Course' which looked cool from the website - and indeed it was COOL! Well, actually it was about 115 degrees, but basically it's so dry that the rock salt had formed itself into balls creating a very bizarre effect. We took some photos and then got back into the car to drive to Badwater Basin which was about another 20 minutes down a dusty road away... surprisingly, most of the roads were fully paved concrete and we didn't have to go "offroad" toooo much! Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America so that was awesome... about 220 feet below sea level if I remember rightly. Oh, and at about 6pm that day it was 122 DEGREES!! That's 48.8 CELSIUS!!! But, as I said - It's a dry heat! Haha!

Okay, so to describe a "dry heat" - it's literally like walking into an oven. It envelopes you like a blanket... every breath you take kind of dries your mouth out. Your sweat evaporates as soon as it's left your skin so therefore you don't feel as hot. You drink water like it's going out of fashion but you don't feel any more hydrated. Every step feels like a massive effort because it tires your body out trying to keep cool. I think that's about all I can say to try and describe what that heat feels like!

Personally, I was already feeling a bit tired... so spending about 30 minutes out in that temperature nearly did me in! After about 15 minutes I was feeling very, very hot... slightly dizzy and slightly sick. As soon as I got back in the car I realised that I had a bright red patchy face and I was sweating all over once I was back in the A/C of the car.... I had to put the seat right back and spend about 10 minutes lying down forcing water down my throat in an attempt to stave off the heat exhaustion. I'm not overdramatising when I say I thought I was about to pass out. Luckily after about 30 minutes of staying in the car, I felt a little better. We stopped at a place called 'Natural Bridge' (I didn't get out) and then drove to 'Artist's Palette' where the light makes all the colours of the rocks come out. By this point, it was about 7pm and time for sunset again... we found a good spot a little higher up and the sunset came round fast! We took lots of pictures and then decided to try and make headway of getting out of the park before it was completely pitch dark.

At about 10pm after endless dark roads, hills, drops and scary moments on the sides of cliffs where road barriers were not high priority at building... we reached 4000 feet on top of this mountain and we decided this would be the perfect place to stop and see the stars.


That's all I can say. I was speechless. We turned the car lights all off and the only light was the stars. We were very lucky as there was no moon either. I saw a long patch of white going across the middle of the sky and presumed it was cloud until Nick told me that actually that's the galaxy! It was basically where there were so many stars in such intensity that it makes it look white... INCREDIBLE. Shortly after this revelation I saw for the first time in my life - a shooting star! AHHH!! I was almost brought to tears. That was, until Nick thought he saw a snake/mountain lion/scorpion and scared the crap out of us both by turning the headlights back on the car complete with horn noise! LOL!  We dragged ourselves away from the view (and the fact we'd scared ourselves by standing in the dark along with the poisonous reptiles all around) to keep driving. It was a long, long drive to Los Angeles. We stopped once more to see the stars before we got back to civilization and 4G phone signal!

We drove to our hotel in Santa Clarita, on the edge of L.A. I gladly crashed out... due to my poor sleep the night more and all the excitement of the day, I was completely exhausted.

The next day (Thursday) we got up at about 10.30am and checked out before navigating L.A. (slightly hair-raising) to go and see the Hollywood sign!! Awesomes! I can't believe I actually saw it in person! We drove through some nice neighbourhood to get there with mahoosive mansion houses - I definitely want to go back to L.A. one day and explore more. Same for Vegas. Anyways, we drove for about 30 minutes to... DISNEYLAND!!!

Now, for me, this is somewhat of a pilgrimage. Ever since I've ever worked at WDW, I've wanted to visit where it all began in California. Everyone had told me how small it was etc. but I absolutely loved it... you park in a multi-storey before getting the tram to the parks. Disneyland (aka Magic Kingdom basically) was directly opposite California Adventure (read: Hollywood Studios with extra stuff) just like in Paris where the parks are walking distance from each other. We headed to Disneyland first... it was super easy to get in, we just showed our main gate and got our park hopper tickets. After getting over the initial shock of the tiny-ness of the castle and my extreme excitement at walking up Main Street USA, we headed to Tomorrowland to do Space Mountain and get fastpasses for Star Tours (it had to be done!). We only waited about 30 minutes for Space so then we did the Matterhorn (it was a classic but unfortunately, quite painful!) and then Indiana Jones (exactly like Dinosaur at DAK but with The Mummy type theming!) before going back to our fastpasses for Star Tours. Then we headed out of that park, over to California Adventure (CA).

Like I said, CA is a little bit like DHS but with extra stuff. OBVIOUSLY the first place we had to go with Nick in tow was Soarin'. But at least, it made sense here - literally Soarin' Over California... the queue line was much nicer. Nick took a thousand pictures and I think he enjoyed himself! After wards, we got some chinese food (the general food options at DLR are so much better than WDW minus EPCOT in my opinion) and then went over to the much-anticipated Cars Land. It only opened a couple of months ago so it was rather busy... we only waited about 100 minutes for the main ride though. It was like Test Track but much better, amazing anamatronic characters in the form of Mater and Lightening McQueen and then you race another car at the end (we won!). We headed over and did the rollercoaster California Screamin' before getting ice cream from Ghiardellis and then doing the Little Mermaid ride and Tower of Terror. We then went back to DL and did Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion (where it dawned on me that I'd wanted to go to DL since I saw the Sing-a-long video Disneyland Fun when I was about 7 years old...) We did some shopping in the gift shops and then at about 8pm it was time to leave. Sadly, we didn't have time to do the shows, parades or World of Color which was a pity... next time, eh?

We drove to LAX and dropped off the rental car. Got some food at the airport and then boarded the red-eye flight at 11.20pm home... it was yuck. Mainly because it was an overnight flight, we landed at 4am PST (7am EST) then drove home and I went to bed. I napped on the plane but felt very groggy and gross. I got about 4 hours sleep before having to get up to get ready for my PM yesterday!

It was also yuck because I didn't want to come home. It was the most amazing trip I've ever done I think.... I saw some sights I'd dreamt of seeing and more. I had take-your-breath-away moments, crazy moments and unbelievable moments. We drove through 3 states, a total of 1170 miles, saw temperatures from 66 degrees to 122, I took over 600 pictures (which are yet to be uploaded... I'll update this when they have been!) and I had the time of my life.

I also owe a thank you to Nick for being an amazing driver (he ended up doing the vast majority of it), tolerating me and my excitement at Disneyland plus my endless requests for pictures, and being the best travel buddy I've ever had.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Did someone say adventure?!

Okay so quick update before I go so that when I update on my return, I won't have to mention the "boring" stuff!

Yesterday, I worked an AM shift and I was in 303 which was nice, mainly for the air conditioning. I swapped sidework with David in the end because I got sat at 3pm and he was almost done so that I was KD instead of him which worked out well. My guests didn't leave until about 4.30pm so I clocked out at 5. I got changed and headed into the park to try and find my sister a birthday present! I eventually managed to... after going to Mouse Gear and most of the World Showcase. I got quick service food in Japan which is another country ticked off my list! I got "Shrimp Tempura Udon" which was big fat noodles in a brown, salty kind of brothy soup and topped with two massive shrimp that had been deep fried (they tasted like a shrimp version of funnel cake LOL)... it was yummy actually. Then I got some apple strudel in the Germany QS which was okay... not that amazing. I headed home and washed my hair, packaged up the stuff to send home and then watched the last two hours of the Olympic Closing Ceremony...


I loved it! The who's who of the music world over the last 30 years and a Spice Girls REUNION! Also, loved Take That and the Freddie Mercury tribute... feel very privileged to be British. I started my program with the attitude that I "didn't care" about the Olympics being in London and I wouldn't pay much attention to it... and over the last two weeks have become addicted to watching all sorts of sports to see how Team GB were doing (or failing that, Team USA!)... I am happy that the USA won over China but mostly just amazed we came 3rd!

After it was finished, I packed my last few bits for the trip and went to bed.

Today was a simple day - got up, went to work, printed some stuff off in the learning center, got to the R&C, set up the kitchen, got an ER, home by 12.30pm. WIN!!! I straightened my hair and painted my nails, watched an episode of Casualty and now just waiting for Nick to get done packing before he comes to pick me up and we can start our desert adventure!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Warm Guinness, anyone?

Well, for my PM shift I was in 303 which was nice because it was inside but the sidework sucks! It was a pretty standard shift except that I had a really nice family at the end who wanted a picture with me which I always find amusing! Oh, and this was also the family whereby the Dad wanted a 'warm Guinness'... ummmm... So I got a pint from the bar and dunked the glass in a cup of boiling water - seemed to do the trick. That's what I call going above and beyond!! Anyway, I got out in reasonable time considering I was on POS's as my sidework which is the longest and most-to-do of any sideworks. Afterwards, 11 of us descended on McDonalds which was a lot of laughter actually. I got home at about 12.30am in the end.

On Friday, I was off because of the shift swap. I decided to go on an adventure to the Mall at Millennia on the Lynx buses which was partially a success and partially a massive failure. Getting there was okay - I got the 8 bus from the Outlets to the top of I-Drive and then had to wait about 30 minutes for the 24 bus to Millennia. The bus stops right outside so I went in, got some lunch and had a wonder round the shops. Got some nice stuff in Bath & Body Works as well as Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Got some make-up in Macy's and some chocolate from Lindor. Then at about 3.15pm I got the 24 bus back from Millennia which was fine... until it dropped me off at the top of I-Drive and then the 8 bus preceeded to drive right past me! It went a diversion from it's route (which it's not supposed to do) so didn't stop. Grr. So I walked to the next bus stop (in 95 degree heat, blazing sun and on a sidewalk next to a 6-lane road I might add) and then had to wait 45 minutes for the next bus because one blatantly didn't turn up... So, almost two hours after I left the Mall, I finally got home. Not happy about the lack of public transportation or general crappiness of the Lynx buses, even more than 4 years since I first got one!

Anyway, about an hour later, Nick picked me up and we went for some food at O'Charley's. I had a really good caesar salad with chicken. We bummed around for a bit undecided on what to do... eventually we got starbucks and then chatted for a while before getting a late-night movie at AMC... we saw Ruby Sparks which is a relatively lesser well-known film but I enjoyed it. I eventually got back to Commons at around 12.45am and went to bed.

Today I got up for my 12pm AM shift. Usually you end up with a bad deal with the 12pm shifts because you don't have a chance to choose a number that correlates to a section and instead end up with whatever is left. Lucky for me though, lower deck was closed and I ended up with 201 as the AM KD which was pretty sweet. I turned my tables a lot... I had around 10 I think and made decent money for an AM. I clocked out at 4.45pm and then we waited at the bus stop for AGES before the bus finally came... this is in the midst of pouring rain, blowing winds and a thunderstorm brewing almost directly above us. I stayed on the bus with Tyler and we got Chick-fil-a before going back to Commons for me to change. We got the bus to Walmart which was the usual 2.5 hour awful round trip so that was joyous. Upon getting back, I've tidyed up (much needed) and packed my stuff for the trip this week....!!

Now I know I've been quiet about this trip but here's a map of where we're planning to go:

Yep... you can see there that's over 1000 miles of driving!! We're going to touch Florida (obviously), Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and California in 4 days! It seems impossible that we're going to be attempting to see the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, Death Valley and Disneyland in 3 days but heck, we're going to give it a jolly good try!!! The eagle-eyed readers may notice that yup, we're staying at the #1 hotel in Vegas: The Four Seasons! I'm very excited about this... and hopefully we'll be able to walk up the original Main Street USA which will be like a pilgrimage for me! The Hoover Dam and Death Valley were Nick's choices of things to see (and riding Soarin' in the correct state LOL) and the Grand Canyon is somewhere both of us wanted to go. Las Vegas happened to be placed well for an overnight stop but we probably won't actually "do" Vegas - that's for another time when I have money to gamble! Maybe some slot machines and a cheeky cocktail though? We shall see what the tiredness level is!

So yes, here's to endless desert roads, mountain treks, 114 degrees Fahrenheit, Red Bull and an overnight flight back home! EXCITED MUCH!!!!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Drinking round the monorail...

More about that blog title later!

On Thursday evening I got drinks and soup at Longhorn Steakhouse with Tyler as I hadn't seen him in forever which was really nice. We walked back to Commons via Publix for him to get a few things and then I just spent the rest of the evening relaxing before getting an early night.

On Friday I was an AM! This was random for me as I always seem to be a MID on a Friday. I was a 1045 but I went to help Janet with getting money from the safe across the road so I forgot to clock in! I was there early as well! So irritating. My manager said he'd sort it out and I wouldn't get half a point... but as of one minute ago when I checked my record card it's still on there - GRRRR!! Anyway,  I was in section 307 which was nice and my guests all finished in good time so I got out by about 4.30ish. I went home and just spent the evening watching Pirates of the Caribbean 4 on the DVD player... very low-key.

On Saturday I was a MID. So this kind of screwed with my mind because I'm normally a MID on Fridays so I kept thinking it was Friday all day long... anyways, I got a good deal because I was in 201 for the AM (inside!) and then got to choose my PM section so I picked 510 which was good. I was a MID because I had picked up the PM shift from Nick Anderson so really it was extra hours for me. It worked out well because I had a good day money-wise and it was actually quite enjoyable if totally exhausting. It rained in the afternoon but stayed busy so that was nice. There's so many British guests around at the moment so it's nice to chat to people from the homeland! (even if they don't know how to tip in the American way!!) I didn't do much in the evening considering I got home at about 11.30pm.

On Sunday I was an AM. I was in 505 and didn't have much hope of it being a busy shift because it was outside but it actually wasn't too bad in the end. After I finished work, I went to cast services and got changed then Nick picked me up and we ended up going back to the Commons so I could change. Originally we'd planned to go a park so I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt but then it decided to pour with rain so I ended up having to get changed because I was cold! After that we headed to Millennia to go to Cheesecake Factory... of course there was a 30 minute wait but it had dried up by that point so we could sit outside. It was good - I had a chicken burger and resisted cheesecake! After this, we went to the Universal CityWalk AMC to see the new Spiderman film which was really good. We didn't go to Downtown Disney because it was nearer to go to Universal. After that he dropped me off at Commons (it's already sucking to not be able to hang out later because he's moved house....sad face) and I went to bed.

On Monday I was a MID again, this time I was training Geraint. It was his second day of server training and I was holding the wine class!! I was a bit nervous about it because I hadn't done it before... we started at 11.15am and I managed to make it last until midday which I thought I'd go too quick so that was good. He doesn't like wine so it was difficult to explain what was nice and what wasn't! Haha! After that we started the MID in section 307 which was nice. It was reasonably busy. For the PM we were in 510 and he seemed to be coping okay. I made friends with a 4-year-old on table 514 (not my section!) who was super cute... he was showing me his 'lucky coin' which he'd found on the floor, a Kentucky-imprinted quarter. He asked me if we could go and find another lucky coin so we went back into the restaurant and had a look around... I conveniently had some coins in my pocket so of course we found another lucky quarter and a lucky dime ;)

We were both exhausted by the end of the MID it has to be said. Got home around midnight and went to bed.

On Tuesday I was a PM (naturally seen as it's EMH) so I had a nice lie-in until about 10am. Then I walked to Publix via American Eagle (I got a new pair of shorts and a vest and a t-shirt!) and literally melted from the heat on the way back with my shopping. I had a shower and washed my hair before getting ready for work. I was in 508 so it was crazy busy for most of the shift. We had a freak wind/rain/thunderstorm half way through the PM which was mad but apart from that it was a pretty standard shift. I had a table of Canadians who couldn't get over the fact that we didn't have Onion Jam on the Cheese Plate anymore (that was gone 5 months ago!) and another table of 9 people, 5 of whom were children and got their own table whilst the adults sat on the adjacent table drinking a lot of Harp. It was an amusing evening with a lot of auto-gratuity involved! After work, Nick picked me up and we got Midnight McDonalds which tasted amazing because I was starving! He dropped me home and I went to bed.

Yesterday was my day off. Tyler had persuaded me into VoluntEARing in the morning so I had to get up at 8am (ugh) and wear my costume. We went to Vista Way where we got into a van and drove to the Boys & Girls Club in Pine Hills (also known as Crime Hills) which is just west of Orlando. The B&GC is a charity providing after-school/childcare facilities for kids who are from low-income families and may have been affected by crime/drugs etc in the neighbourhood. Basically it's a place for them to go so that they don't get into trouble on the streets. It was actually a lot of fun - we spent most of the 3 hours in the games room with kids between ages 6-10 (it was very LOUD) playing games like table football, pool, twister, ping pong etc. We spent some time in the teen room where we witnessed a guest speaker who ran another B&GC in Osceola County and had had a bad childhood but pushed through it to become a semi-professional American Football player and successful. It was very inspiring... I feel that VoluntEARing should be a compulsory part of any Disney College Program - even just one event because it takes you out of the Disney bubble just for one day and makes you realize that there are a lot of people less fortunate than you just 20 minutes away from the crazy tourist trap that is Orlando.

After we left, we got changed back at housing and then headed to the Wilderness Lodge on the A-bus. We got some crisps and dip and a cocktail at the bar there before getting the boat to the Contemporary to have another couple of drinks (mudslide!) and food at The Wave. At about 7pm we headed over to Magic Kingdom which wasn't too busy. We watched Dream Along With Mickey on the stage which was fabulous and then met one of Tyler's DCL friends called Adam. The three of us headed over towards Tomorrowland to do the Carousel of Progress (good times!) and then the TTA. Then we did Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise before getting back to the castle just in time to see half of TMM&Y. We got a better spot for Wishes and I pretty much cried all the way through...

This was a combination of the alcohol I'd consumed (hense the blog title name even though we actually didn't get any monorails yesterday!) but also the recent news that due to some of the Operating Participant pavilions (like Italy and France) expanding it means that there will be even less beds for the UK Pavilion in housing. This therefore means that extensions are looking increasingly unlikely/almost impossible. Even for someone like me who finishes half way through Food & Wine and if I extended it would take me through Candlelight where they need experienced senior servers like I'd be by then... I shall try and ask about an extension but getting back to wishes... watching it made me almost come to terms with the fact I'd have to leave in November as scheduled. I thought about all the times I'd stood there and watched those fireworks as my "last time" and yet I was still there in 2012 watching them again. I feel like this news about housing at least makes it easier to deal with a "no" to an extension request because it's out of our location's hands... it's to do with housing not the fact that Disney don't want you. It would be amazing to be here until January because of Christmas, Candlelight and the remainder of Food & Wine but ultimately, if it's meant to be that I leave in November then that's the way it is.

After we'd recovered after Wishes (I wasn't the only one crying!) we watched the second showing of MM&Y before getting a taxi back from the Contemporary (we couldn't face the bus) and I fell into bed totally exhausted!

Today I am usually off (as it's Thursday) but I swapped with someone who wanted today off so I'm working a PM then I'm off tomorrow. Woooo.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Going for gold!

It's been an exciting week in the UK pavilion because.... the Olympics has started! So, obviously, the guests think we are the font of all knowledge which, based on my own personal experience, is somewhat the wrong idea! I say this for the fact that we're not only 5 hours out time-wise but I spend most of my time working at EPCOT where I don't have access to a television....soooo... I'm not too knowledgeable! I have however just downloaded the London 2012 app onto my iPhone - mainly for the purpose that I can have fun arguments with Nick about Team GB vs. Team USA! All good fun! :)

Anyways, the rest of my day off after my last post was pretty chilled, I didn't do much. On Friday, I was a Mid (of course) and it wasn't that busy... I was 508 for the AM which was very quiet because it was so hot nobody wanted to sit outside... I decided to keep 508 for the PM part of my shift too because I thought it would be better on money but to be honest it wasn't really... the park was just too quiet and the weather too hot. I did have an eventful table where there were 5 guests - 3 of whom had allergies! Between them I think there was seafood, shellfish, gluten, nuts, onions, pepper? Exciting stuff. It got a bit busier towards close but I think I still got out by about 10.30pm which is really good going for 508! I went home and went to bed.

On Saturday I was an AM in 307 which was a reasonably busy shift because it was inside. After the shift, I went home and got changed before heading out with 23 other UK'ers (some were new new new new newbies... so called because we've had so many newbs recently!) and we went to the Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge. It was really good fun yelling constantly for KETCHUP! (You'd have to be there...) and then the 24 split checks nearly gave the server a breakdown. LOL. Afterwards we all headed back (in one cab - squished or what!) to the Commons and then some people headed out to Cowboys. I was going to go but I decided against it because I was tired, had a headache and was a 1045 the next day.

So yeah, Sunday was a 10.45am. Pretty uninspiring shift - I thought I was training but nope, I was just a 10.45AM. I was inside again, this time in 301 (Dart Room) which I like a lot more than I used to. It's still awful in the evening because you have to shout to make yourself heard next to the bar but at lunchtime it's nice. I got done with that and Nick picked me up from work... we went to Pei Wei for chinese food and then picked up a DVD rental called 'Sarah's Key' which was a really good movie about the holocaust (better than it sounds!).

On Monday I was a PM and ended up in 307 again so that was 3 days in a row being inside! Good times! My guests all got done by 9pm so I managed to leave by 10.15pm! Yay. It was a bit of a crazy evening for some people but it was standard for me.

Tuesday I was a PM again, this time I was outside in 505. Oh my gosh it was SO DEAD. Literally, even at 6.45pm it was so quiet. We had a few issues with the dishwasher machine so we stopped walk-ins for a while, it was reservation-only and obviously most people wanted to be inside because it was so hot. Eventually I got sat 2 tables who both had TIW (Tables in Wonderland discount) so got auto-grat... then I had a 4-top spanish speakers, 8-top (auto-grat again) and then finally a 12-top (auto-grat). They were a laugh and it was a good shift in the end but I literally after tipping out the bar and food runners, didn't have enough cash to bank out and give Janet the GT what she was owed! I had to dig around and find $2 to give her from my bag... I got over $125 in gratuity though so that will help my paycheck next thursday. Overall I only had 5 tables though which was crazy especially for EMH as well.

On a side note, I am really getting to HATE Extra Tragic Hours. They're pointless for restaurants in my opinion. It should be QS, Merch and Rides only. Disney have just announced that they're cutting back EMH to an extra 2 hours rather than 3 in 2013 - bit too late for me but I think it's a good idea!

So, yesterday was my day off. I slept in (which was amazing) and then went to Downtown Disney to get Nick a housewarming present as he's just moving apartment this week to Celebration (this means he won't be across the road anymore... sad face...). Then I met him to help move stuff and pack up his car. He left me at the half-empty apartment whilst he went to unload his stuff and put some furniture back together at the new place... so I busied myself by helping tidy up and do laundry for him whilst catching up on Casualty on YouTube. Then we got dinner at Macaroni Grill (one of my new favourite places) and watched a thriller movie on DVD called 'Gone'.

Today I have mostly spent the day watching the Olympic Water Polo on TV (it was USA vs GB so obviously quite entertaining) and we got thrashed by the Americans! I got lunch with Nick at Ruby Tuesday and also went back to the doctor this morning to get my blood test results which were perfect! My iron levels are all normal they haven't dropped so that's all good news, I just need to keep taking the Ferrous Sulphate supplements I've taken for the last 18 months.

In other news, yesterday was our 9 monthiversary...! That's 3/4 of the way through.... :O