Nimbus's DIBB Photo Blogs


Part 3 of this mini trip report covers our visit to the Olympic Park in Stratford, London. Hannah was taking part in the Synchronised Swimming Combo cup that was taking part in the Olympic Aquatic Centre.



The synchronised swimming competition was being held on Saturday 7th July. So we had a day of travelling from Watford around the M25 to east London, checking in at the Premier Inn at Stratford and then looking around the Olympic Park and the Westfield Stratford City shopping mall.

The Premier Inn here was better than the one at Watford - it had air conditioning for starters! Plus they actually came in the room and cleaned things.



There was an event going on in the Olympic Park called Making The Future, and hosted by Shell. We’d already booked some free tickets to this. We joined up with one of Hannah’s synchro friends and went to have a look.

There was an ‘eco-marathon’ where some novel eco cars were raced around a track. Thankfully, no running was required by us.



The rest of the Making the Future event mostly consisted of interactive displays showcasing alternative power sources and energy efficiency. It was aimed more at high school kids.

In the evening there were some concerts but these were for over 18s only and we didn’t go to them.



You could watch the eco-cars racing. Although it was a bit hot to do that for too long.



One exhibit was a bit like the end of the Crystal Maze. Hannah and her friend had to capture carbon (yellow foam balls).



Then Hannah built a small model car powered by saltwater and got to race it around a track.






We spent maybe 2 hours at the event. Thankfully it was free to enter.

Here are some views from around the park.









We then spent some time shopping in the Westfield shopping mall. It was air conditioned but very busy. Especially Primark.






The next day Hannah was taking part in the national synchronised swimming competition at the London Aquatic centre, shown above.



It was warm and humid inside the pool area.



Hannah’s team did well. They came 6th place which wasn’t bad considering they had a very young team. Sadly they didn’t get a medal though.



The competition went well and everything was well organised. We had another look around the shops afterwards - dodging the football fans celebrating England getting to the semi finals of the World Cup - and travelled back home to the North West the next day.

Overall, we had a great four days in the South East. We’d primarily gone for Hannah’s synchro competition and to see the Warner Bros Studio tour (which was excellent). Whipsnade Zoo was a last minute addition and also very good, albeit tiring.


Ocean Florida


After visiting the Harry Potter Studios tour (see part 1), the next day we visited nearby Whipsnade Zoo.

Apparently it’s the largest zoo in the U.K. And, yes, it’s definitely big and spread out. You can take your car inside it (this costs extra) but we left the car outside and walked around it. On the one hand, the size of the zoo meant the animals had lots of space. On the other hand, it meant a lot of walking.



After passing through the entrance we were a bit lost. The first thing you come across is a road! We went right and found ourselves going into the European section.

Above is a brown bear.



Lots of these maras just wandering around. People seemed to think they were wild hares.



Penguins! Michelle’s favourite animals.






Reindeer. In July.

It was a sunny and hot day and the poor reindeer looked very hot.



Blurry photo of some rhinos.



The views were very good.

Here we are above the chalk lion (I think) carved into the hillside.



Antelopes? I can’t remember.

There were a lot of school trips when we visited. Lots of them. The only problem with them was that they’d all go round in groups. So one moment it would be quiet with only a couple of people nearby. Then the next moment there would be several dozen excited kids and teachers crowding around to look at the animals.

Otherwise, due to the size of the zoo, the park wasn’t busy.



Zebras.



Giraffes being fed.






Hello!

You could get a good view of the giraffes (at least when the school kids weren’t crowding around).



Elephants.



There was a little elephant who was having a great time in the sun. He played a bit of football and ran around the larger elephants. At one point the keepers switched on some water sprays and the elephants began drinking from them with their trunks - whilst the little elephant played in the spray.






Rhino getting a shower.



Buffalos.

We saw lots more animals and also each had a melting ice cream. Our feet were killing us after all the walking and it was very hot.

It’s an excellent zoo and well worth a visit. Although it’s bigger than, say, Chester Zoo it doesn’t have the same variety of animals. The animals are far more spread out. We spent about 5.5 hours here.

Next - in part 3 it’s over to the City. (London, that is, and to the Olympic Park).



Here’s a quick trip report about our short trip to Watford and London, specifically to the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios Tour, to Whipsnade Zoo, and to the Olympic Aquatic Centre in East London.

The three wizards on this short adventure were Michelle, Hannah and myself (Steve). The trip took place from 4th July until 7th July 2018.

This is Part 1 - Harry Potter Studio Tour.



The first part of our trip down south was a visit to the Warner Bros Studios Tour at Leavesden near Watford. We’d tried to go last year but hadn’t realised you need to book ages in advance. I think this time we booked 6 months in advance.

Here’s the entrance walkway.



We got there at about 11:45am for a 12:30pm booking. We had a quick Starbucks and cake before heading into the tour. We planned to have lunch halfway round.

There were quite a lot of school parties on end of year trips.



The main entrance area. It was busy here. We decided to get some audio guides (about 12 for 3). To be honest, I probably wouldn’t bother with these. There’s plenty of info on the tour without an audio guide.



The entrance.



After a brief talk and intro talk, the doors open into the main hall at Hogwarts.



In the main hall they show off the Goblet of Fire. Don’t step into the ring.



Looking back to the doors you enter by.



After a short demonstration of the goblet and a talk about the hall, you go through to the main area where you are free to look at all the props, costumes and sets at your leisure.

Here are some random photos of various bits and bobs.






Colourful taps.



Wands of all different types.









Eyes...!















Dumbledore’s office.






Potions class.



Lots of things to see, plus some “animatronics” - like the magically moving spoon in the small cauldron.






There’s an area where you can have a photo and video of you flying in a broomstick taken against a green screen. Hannah tried this out. Sadly you couldn’t take photos yourself and the price of the official photos was rather expensive (I think it was 40 for 2 photos and a video on a USB stick). So we didn’t bother buying the photos.















Spooky!



The sets are very impressive. In fact the whole place is pretty amazing.






Into the Forbidden Forest...






Beware of the giant spiders (there is a chicken exit just after Buckbeak if you are an arachnophobe).



Then it’s into Kings Cross and platform 9 3/4. It’s looks similar to the one at Universal Studios in Florida but inside. And the Hogwarts Express doesn’t move.

Again, an excellent set.



Hannah by the Hogwarts Express.



Michelle got her owl-posted letter and is off to Hogwarts.



The sweet trolley.

Which reminded us - it was time to have something to eat. And, luckily, we were at the cafe/restaurant near the middle of the tour.

Michelle and I each had a hotdog and Hannah had a cheeseburger. The food wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t too expensive either. Still, if you wanted to save yourself a bit of money you may want to bring your own food.

Hannah wanted some Butterbeer ice cream but the queue was long and she was full from the cheeseburger. It was a pity they didn’t sell this elsewhere during the tour.



Onwards, and time to catch the knight bus.



Inside Privet Drive.












Little Voldemort. Aww, ain’t he cute.



Lots of creatures.



Into Diagon Alley.

Again, it’s similar to the one in Florida but inside. It’s not as large and expansive as that in Orlando and it’s missing the fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts.









And then onto the big finale...



...A huge model of Hogwarts.

This is massive and very impressive!









It’s a real wow moment.






After that you go through Ollivanders wand room and then into the shop. You always exit via a shop. Make sure you take plenty of money for souvenirs!

In the end we spent about 4.5 hours here, including time for lunch. You certainly need at least 3 hours to look around everything and it’s possible to spend 5 or more hours here.

There’s lots to see and do - the only negatives are that it’s quite expensive at about 41 per person and you need to book many months in advance.

Still, it was a fantastic day and well worth seeing, even if you’ve been to the Wizarding World at Universal. This goes into a lot more detail.

Next - in part 2 it’s a trip to the zoo.



Our final day in Orlando before flying back to the UK in the afternoon.

We had thought about visiting a park during the morning but, as we'd have to be back to CBR by 12pm midday to pick up our cases, we decided it was too much of a rush. Instead we had a relaxing breakfast in Centertown...



Here's a view inside the main building at CBR looking at the "info desk" and the quick service area beyond.



Looking towards the soda fountain area in the QS area.



After finishing our packing and handing our suitcases to Bell Services for them to keep until later, we sat around CBR resting and enjoying the view and the weather.

Above is a 'lighthouse' where you can hire cycles and boats.



Another view of CBR.



CBR has a number of purple martin houses dotted around the lake. During the holiday, we were lucky enough to be around when a CM was checking up on the nesting birds inside and the CM gave a little talk. We also saw some recently hatched chicks inside the houses (apparently the parent birds don't mind).



Lots of beaches.

(Sadly, the beach edges are now roped off)



Eventually, it was time to go and wait for the Magical Express bus back to the airport.

The internal shuttle bus took ages to come and when we arrived at Custom House (the check-out building) the Magical Express bus was already there. Plus Bell Services took ages to get our cases out of storage - so I'm afraid I didn't give them a tip this time (I would usually). I have to say, I don't like rushing and so I felt a bit flustered as we finally got our cases loaded onto the bus.

This time the bus back to MCO was a proper Disney bus and showed Disney videos on the screens. This bus was much better than the one we'd had on the way to CBR two weeks ago.

We soon arrived at the airport and checked in at the Thomas Cook desk.



We'd arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and so had a look around the shops first - the Disney Earport store, Universal shop, etc. We also had a bite to eat before eventually braving the long queue at security.

Once across to the gate via the monorail, we got a coffee from the Starbucks there and waited for our flight to arrive. Again, I found that I quite liked MCO; it's not too busy and there's more to do and see than at Sanford.



Our plane was a bit delayed and it seemed to take the ground crew ages to clean it. There was a bit of an amusing moment when the woman on the tannoy was blaming the aircrew for the delay whilst the aircrew were sat near us waiting until the ground crew had finished and they were allowed to go on the plane. They sat there shrugging their shoulders basically saying, "Nothing to do with us, folks".

Anyway, after a bit of a wait, we boarded and soon we were flying back to Manchester.

Sadly, the movies on board were the same as the ones on the outward journey. And, as always, I couldn't get comfortable enough to get any sleep. Other than that, the flight was ok and the food was half decent for once.



Another wonderful holiday in Orlando had come to an end. We'd had a fantastic time at the parks and the weather was very good - warm but not too hot and hardly any rain (other than that evening at Hollywood Studios when it threw it down).

By the end we still had quite a few meal and snack credits left. Of course, we used some to get a few packets of sweets for friends (and ourselves!) but we still didn't use them all. We'd spent just under $200 on taxis (admittedly, Uber would've been cheaper) and just over $200 on our two character meals. And we probably spent around $200 on other meals at Universal and Seaworld and maybe $150 on other things. Our food and gifts at Disney were paid using the DDP and $200 gift card we'd received for "free".

We're not sure when we'll be back. Hannah is now heading towards her GCSEs. Going at Easter or Christmas holidays will be busy and summer is a bit too hot for us. It also feels all a bit too... familiar to us. I think we could do with a break for a few years and maybe return when there are some significant additions to the parks - like Avatarland at AK and Toy Story land at HS.

We'll see. Until then... TTFN.



On our final full day in Florida, we visited Animal Kingdom for the second time. It had been almost 2 weeks since we'd last visited at the beginning of the holiday.



This time we were going to concentrate on seeing lots of animals, like this parrot. Our first stop was in the Oasis area at the front of the park. It's an area that many people just walk through.



Just before we saw more animals, it started to rain a little. So we visited Mickey and Minnie in their safari outfits. The queue was short so we didn't have long to wait.



Say cheese!



After we'd seen Mickey and Minnie, the brief rain shower had stopped. So we carried on searching for animals. Like this little frog.



A bird having a shower.



Another bird with a colourful bill.



A wader.



A very colourful bird building its nest.



In the bird enclosure within one of the animal walks.



Black and white zebras.

Or are they white and black?



A lazy gorilla.



A blurry hippo.



I have no idea what this animal is.



A couple of cheeky chipmunks...

And Chip and Dale too.

You can meet them in Rafiki's Conservation Station, which you get to via the train at the back of Animal Kingdom.



Chip'n'Dale were very cheeky. When Chip discovered she had a pin badge of him, he ran about punching the air.



We also had to have another go on Dinosaur. I'm not sure whether the kids sat behind us enjoyed the ride (we're in the front row, btw). The ride is a bit 'thrilling'.

Of course, we also had to ride on Primeval Whirl and the Safari again.



A closer view of the Tree of Life.

After a slower day at AK, we then made our way back to CBR for tea and to do a bit of packing. Tomorrow it would time to return home.



Friday. A just a couple of days before the end of our holiday. Time to visit Epcot again.

This time we weren't quite so focused on the Flower Festival but just re-rode our favourite rides.



Like Spaceship Earth.

It's a simple ride but one I love. To me, the Big Ball is the most iconic site at Walt Disney World and the fact that there's a ride inside is just the icing on the cake.



Also, we're one of the few people who love Ellen's Energy Adventure (well, someone has to). I don't know why other people don't rate it very highly.



Duck!



Oh, ok. Here's one last photo of flowers.



It wasn't quite so sunny today. But thankfully it wasn't raining (yet). Also, it wasn't too busy either.



For lunch we ate in Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion. They do some wonderful meals there and lots of scrummy cakes.

I had the sweet and sour chicken and chocolate cake, whilst Hannah had the chicken salad, Michelle had the large sandwich and creamy coleslaw, and they both shared the carrot cake. I had a posh coffee and Michelle had a standard coffee. All for 3 QS meal credits.

We still had loads of meal credits left and we knew we weren't going to use them all before we left.



Onwards and a quick go on the Journey into Imagination ride. The song is catchy, Figment is cute, but the rest of ride is generally average.



Time to park hop.

At the International Gateway exit between the UK and France pavilions, we thought we'd go and see the Boardwalk area and then visit Hollywood Studios. The Friendship boats are like another ride - better than the Country Bear Jamboree!

Whilst waiting for the boat to arrive I opened up the Disney app and booked a fastpass for the Great Movie Ride. I have to say, we found the new changes to the Fastpass+ system an excellent addition. Being able to book a 4th fastpass on your phone for a different park makes things a lot easier.



We hopped off the boat at the first stop...



...the Boardwalk area.

To be honest, there wasn't a lot going on here. And as we'd already eaten a large lunch, we didn't want anything else to eat. Certainly not the kitchen sink.

We did look around the resort shop though. And then went for a walk.



A nice view.

Boardwalk is pretty close to Epcot.



The Dolphin hotel on the walk along the river towards Hollywood Studios.



And the Swan hotel (I think).



Hollywood Studios in the distance. We're getting closer.



Tower of Terror from the side.



At Hollywood Studios we used our fourth fastpass on the Great Movie Ride and then booked another fastpass for Star Tours. There were no fastpasses left for TSMM and we didn't fancy joining the standby queue.

We also had another look in the Star Wars Launch Bay. There, I bought a lightsaber. Because you have to.



Dinner time - time for yet more food!

This time Darth Vader waffles and fried chicken. Yup.



And, for dessert, a BB-8 cupcake.

Nomnomnomnom...



I can't remember whether I'd posted this before but here's a photo of a Darth Vader cupcake. I love the fact that they've added a red lightsaber (made out of red chocolate).

We'd come to Hollywood Studios a couple of days ago to watch the Star Wars fireworks but it had rained. Lots. So we'd come to HS again today to try a second time. Of course, it started raining *again*. Only the second time during our holiday - what were the chances!

Thankfully, the rain wasn't very heavy and stopped before the fireworks started. So we did manage to see them. And, oh my goodness, am I glad we did. The Star Wars fireworks were amazing! Easily the best fireworks at Disney. The synchronisation with the music was excellent and the final minute was just epic. So many booms and bangs! It's just a pity it was over so quickly.

Anyway, once we'd recovered from the onslaught of fireworks we headed back to the buses, to CBR, and to bed.



As it was Hannah's birthday week, and she loves Stitch, we'd booked breakfast at 'Ohanas over at the Polynesian resort. We took the resort shuttle bus from CBR to Magic Kingdom and then got the resort monorail to the Poly. There was a problem with the resort monorail when we got there and for a while we thought we wouldn't make it to our breakfast in time.

However we did make it.



After waiting a short while our pager (remember those?) buzzed and we were led to our seats.



For breakfast we had both Mickey and Stitch waffles, bacon, eggs, sausages, and those breakfast "biscuits" (naff savoury scones). Oh, and lovely POG juice too - which is basically Five Alive.

The breakfast was nice but nothing great. We're not big eaters but even we thought we didn't get a lot. We had to ask for some more waffles but only got one more each - and our server didn't seem that eager to get those.



Of course, the main reason for being here was to meet Stitch.



Happy Birthday Hannah (again)!



Oh, and we met Lilo too...



...and Mickey Mouse...



...and Pluto too!

The characters seemed to rush by - Stitch wasn't with us for very long before moving off the next table.



Hannah went on a walk around 'Ohana's with some maracas.



Anyway, the breakfast was ok - and meeting the characters was good - but for the price I'm not sure it's worth it. Especially as we had the QSDP for free. A Bounty platter from our hotel was just as good.



We then had a look around the Polynesian...



...in the shop...



...and outside. The Polynesian Resort looked very swish, especially the villas on the water. Oh, to have more money and be able to stay at a deluxe resort!



We then took a boat over to Magic Kingdom to meet some friends who were also at Magic Kingdom that day.



Across the Seven Seas Lagoon, we passed the ferry boat. Or maybe it passed us. Whichever.



Ah, look. The castle in the distance!



After meeting up with our friends... there was a slight misunderstanding regarding Tom Sayer Island (they were on one raft passing us whilst we were on the other raft heading in the opposite direction)... we then used our fastpass for 7DMT followed by a ride on BTMR. Then a quick rest with a drink in the circus area.

As we were near the big top, we went to see Goofy and Donald inside...



First, the Great Goofiny...



...then the Amazing Donald Duck.

The queues to meet these were pretty short and the 'tent' is nicely air-conditioned.



Look - an empty vehicle on the Winnie the Pooh ride. How dare they! Don't they know there was a huge queue of people waiting. And by huge I mean 20 minutes.



Hannah then had a drive on the Tomorrowland Speedway. Mmmm, the smell of gasolene. Last time we'd been on this, Hannah couldn't reach the pedals but was now tall enough. She'll never pass her driving test though.



The best attraction at MK - the Hall of Presidents. Riveting and informative. Well, informative anyway.



As we wandered out towards the exit, we decided to stop by and see Talking Mickey. Yes, Mickey has finally recovered from his throat infection and has found his voice.

What was great about this meet was that Mickey got Hannah to help him with a magic trick. Pick a card, any card. Hannah got the Queen of Hearts.



Of course, Mickey got it a bit wrong. But it was fun.



Good ol' Magic Mickey.



Mmm, Stitch waffles.

We'd had a great day at MK again. The parks seemed a little less busy this week than last week so MK wasn't quite so crowded. Which was good. We'd had a nice brekkie, seen some friends, been on plenty of rides, met some characters, and had an early night (or, at least, not a late night).

Tomorrow - park hopping from Epcot to Hollywood Studios.


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2018
Sorcery, Safari & Swimming - A Short Sojourn to the South - Part 3
Sorcery, Safari & Swimming - A Short Sojourn to the South - Part 2
Sorcery, Safari & Swimming - A Short Sojourn to the South - Part 1
2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 15 - 17th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 14 - 16th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 13 - 15th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 12 - 14th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Days 10 & 11 - 12th&13th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 9 - 11th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 8 - 10th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 7 - 9th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 6 - 8th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 5 - 7th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 4 - 6th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 3 - 5th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 2 - 4th April 2016
Another Amazing Adventure - Day 1 - 3rd April 2016
Our Original Orlando Odyssey - Dec 1997
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Park Hours - Tuesday 17/07/2018

WDW & Other Florida Park Hours
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
9:00am
~to~
11:00pm
Epcot
Epcot
9:00am
~to~Extra Evening Hours
9:00pm
Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
9:00am
~to~
10:30pm
Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios
8:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
10:30pm
Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach
10:00am
~to~
8:00pm
Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon
10:00am
~to~
8:00pm
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure
9:00am
~to~
10:00pm
Universal Studios
Universal Studios
9:00am
~to~
10:00pm
Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay
9:00am
~to~
9:00pm
SeaWorld
SeaWorld
9:00am
~to~
9:30pm
Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens
10:00am
~to~
10:00pm
Aquatica
Aquatica
9:00am
~to~
7:00pm
Legoland
Legoland
10:00am
~to~
7:00pm
Legoland Water Park
Legoland Water Park
10:30am
~to~
6:00pm
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Extra Evening Hours Extra Late Hours for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of Florida Park Hours

Disneyland Resort Park Hours
Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park
8:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
12:00am
Walt Disney StudiosCalifornia Adventure 8:00am
~to~
10:00pm
Extra Morning Hours Early Entry for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of West Coast Park Hours

Disneyland Paris Park Hours
Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park
10:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
11:00pm
Walt Disney StudiosDisney Studios 10:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
8:00pm
Extra Morning Hours Early Entry for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of DLP Park Hours

US Dollar Rates
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Updated: 02:30 17/07/2018

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Travelex CP  €1.1033
Updated: 02:30 17/07/2018