The city beautiful - Orlando, Florida

So, finally after the long wait and visa hiatus I got my passport on the 21st of May. Just a day before my presentation at the conference at Lake Buena Vista, Disney, Orlando. Kind of feels like the US embassy has really tested my patience, my will and my commitment this time. Generally the embassy sends an email the day they dispatch the passport for collection and the passport is delivered to your door the very next working day anywhere between 10 AM to 5PM (huh! And that's after narrowing it down).
So, on the 20th of May I finally got the email from the embassy at 17:01 confirming that my passport is on its way. I had already pretty much given up the wish and hope of travelling and presenting to thousands of people at an international conference, with the perks of getting even the slightest glimpse of Disney land in Orlando. I was like, "whatever, no matter what time it comes tomorrow I am not going anymore." 

However, my parents and friends were positive. They told me,"there is still hope. You might still be able to make it!" But without the surety of my passport coming in the morning AND giving enough time for me to get to the Airport (closest international one being 2 hours away from my location), book flights, check-in as well as check my baggage in, I wasn't quite ready to put myself under a whole new level of stress again. Then there was also the question of getting to orlando on 21st itself without exceeding the budget. Already I had lost money on my prior booking that was non-refundable.

Anyway, I checked flights for 21st. The cheapest and latest one I found was at 16:20 from Heathrow that got me to Orlando via Washington at 00:19. Hufff! So much mental tension… Really felt I was playing russian roulette now. I could not sleep that night. Did I want to take the chance? Was I ready for the stress? Was the conference worth it after all? Mind is a funny thing. It is fidgety and disturbed so long as you are unsure. No matter how much you try to convince it, unless you really make up your mind, it will not rest. I knew once I had made up my mind for real only then I could actually fall asleep. So I debated and debated and debated... Weighed ALL the options I could think of, looking into all the pros and cons… Finally I told myself, "no matter what happens tomorrow, I am not going. I tried my best and things may be worked out probably for the best, but I don't have to go. At least it was a good try…" And much as I thought, no sooner I had made peace with my mind and was sure about my decision I fell asleep.

Next day went by like a dream. I was up early. I had my shower, made a cup of tea and got ready to go to work. My guy's dad came over to visit me with the hope that if we got the passport before noon he would drop me to the airport without problem (plus it's faster via car). Bless that loving man, he had come over all the way just to make sure that he could drop me to airport as soon as my visa arrives. I felt little bad to tell him I wasn't going anymore so I secretly wished that the passport doesn't come before 12:00. I know it's a little evil of me after all he had done to think of something like that… Lo! At about 10:00AM my passport arrived! I thought to myself, "well, there you go, now what are you going to do?"

Still trying to fight it, I asked him one last time, "do you think I should go? Do you think it's worth it?" To which he resolutely said, "my dear it's worth every struggle!" And that's it, I booked the  16:20 flight and got ready to leave immediately. Luckily I had packed well in advance when I was hopeful that my passport would arrive before 20th and hadn't unpacked it even when I gave up. So we dashed to the airport, checked everything in, grabbed some delicious english breakfast and soon it was time for me to board. After that is all just a series of check-points, security checks, flight movies and crappy flight food… I managed to watch two films "The Lego movie" and "American Hustle", of which both turned out to be pretty enjoyable. Just that there is not much to the Lego movie except everything is made of lego and the visuals are great, the story is pretty generic, the unexpected chosen one that everyone is doubtful of is the one who has to overcome his own doubts and defeat the villain… Yup, Kung Fu Panda all over just with legos. American hustle on the other hand was quite interesting with colourful cast of A-listers and glitzy costumes. Quite a tasteful drama I'd say and all the characters so well portrayed. Well, when you have a team of glamorous academy award winners and nominees I don't think you should expect anything less no? Watch out for Louis C.K.!

Then it was washington and more security checks till I finally made it to Orlando… from there it was straight to the hotel and sleep the night away. Man… I was already 5 hours behind my normal (Greenwich meridian) time, you could stab me but I still wouldn't wake up anymore till next morning.

So, up till here is the memoir of my journey to America… Now comes Orlando!

Just one word to describe Orlando - AMAZING!!!! Aptly named "The City Beautiful" Orlando is a major city of flowery land, Florida (literal translation). It is one of the most visited cities in US with wide range of attractions such as Walt Disney Resort and the Universal studios. Not just that, Orlando alone has a lot to offer  as a place too… The sun, the weather, the sea, the beaches, the massive portions of mouthwatering food… Oh what I wouldn't give to come back again… It was truly enjoyable in all aspects. US is humungous and each states are huge too. There is a lot one can do in Florida, it is almost half as big as the whole of UK from Miami to Panama. The lovely peninsula has beautiful sandy beaches in every direction you go except up north. The weather always sunny and warm with occasional rain which is refreshing and not sad like here in UK. Sad that I had only one day to enjoy it all. But hey, what would you do if you had only one day to live in Orlando??? Go to disneyland of course :)!! Well, for me it was an obvious option cause that's where my conference was… 

So, the next day early in the morning at 6:30AM I got the cab to get to the conference hall. It was early but there was the speakers' breakfast from 7AM so I really wanted to make it for that as it is a chance for me to familiarise with all the people presenting that day. While getting to Disney the view was beautiful- green and serene. Temperature outside was about 17 degree C, very pleasant… A bit cold for them rather as told by my Irish cabby. Once there, it was just 5 hours of conference and meeting people from my field and also socialising with new people from different places. Even met others from my own university who had been enjoying the American sun since the preceding weekend… Lucky pigs! So, now came visiting a bit of the city in how much ever time I had left that day. Oh! I love the student life… Not only do you make connections and meet great people but also visit astounding places. Don't know about others but I can only give you my own accounts of this trip and Disneyland

Magic Mickey
Now Lake Buena Vista is a massive lake in the massive area where you have the Animal Kingdom, the Universal Studios, very many luxurious resorts, conference venues and even the most visited Magic kingdom. Everything is prim and proper, well maintained down to the T.

We took a complementary boat ride to the Wilderness Lodge across the lake (that's about 15 minutes walk from our conference venue) to get lunch. The resort has everything to offer as a family entertainment package that a 5 star hotel does, relaxation pool, gift shops, music, cool themed restaurants, even the wilderness critters like little wild rabbits and squirrels… And on top, as told by a friend residing there, the caretakers even leave a chocolate everyday in every hotel rooms after making the beds… How great is that :D!!!

Wilderness lodge
The gift and souvenir shop at the wilderness lodge
There we had the most fantastic lunch at a native american themed restaurant. And I'll be lying if I say anything lesser than the fact that I had THE BEST pork ribs, fries and slaws EVER!!! I still miss it and get hungry whenever I remember :p… And the portion was soooo massive I didn't even require any dinner that day at all. Money well spent I'd say :) Then we took the ferry for a tour of the lake that took us all the way through the alligator infested water to Magic Kingdom… 

Ferry ride 
What can I say, everything is indeed magical at this place. There was cosplay, cackling of little kids, blazing sun, clear blue sky, the freshness of the sweet water wind, costumed disney characters, fun rides, game stalls, food vends, fabulous daily 30-minute parade and the most magnificent Magic Kingdom palace!!! Here's just a gist:

The beautiful entrance to the most enchanting world
Spectacular parade

My favourite dumbo

Breathing fire
My lovely friend in front of the palace and Walt Disney's statue holding hands with Mickey 
Beautiful white building
By 4PM (AST) I was tired as hell and just wanted a bed. But there was still so much to do. We walked back from the Magic kingdom to the conference venue where my friends and I attended further talks. We then decided we'd head to the Downtown disney area and get gifts/food… Whatever people fancied. Frankly I couldn't care less, I was seeing stars… But we made it anyway. We took the bus from the resort to Downtown. Btw, the ferries and the busses are all complementary. Sweet! 

Downtown is about 30-45 minutes from Lake Buena Vista. While heading down I couldn't help but marvel at the efforts the folks at disney have dedicated in maintaining the scenic view of the entire area and catering to everyone as best as they can. Then came downtown itself, gosh is that place a wonderland too. There were sculptures of volcanoes and lego dragons and all sorts of merry statues everywhere. Spitting Stitch on top of a shop, Mickey and Minnie singing the christmas carols (for some really weird reasons I have no idea about), there were air gondolas and even a massive T-Rex skeleton on top of the "T-Rex" restaurant.

Amazing artificial volcano above the "Rainforest" restaurant.

Cute little spitting Stitch 
My hero… "To infinity and beyond…"
The sun set was so majestic
Fancy T-Rex restaurant
There was even a mini Lego land. Gosh the look on my friend's face... Such a child inside :D Giant sculptures of dragons and disney tales made just out of Legos. It was really beautiful. We even made multiple rounds of the Disney merchandise outlet buying gifts and souvenirs… Oh! Soooooo many things to buy... All the soft, cuddly plushies!!! Spent 2 hours there and didn't even know how time flew. Yup, time definitely flew…

Lego sea dragon
Buzz and Woodie
Dragon and some dude :p
Such intricate designing of the flames...
My forever sweetheart - Dumbo
Well, this was it for the day. I can't believe it is over this soon… But I had been awake since 5.30 in the morning after getting about 4 hours of sleep only, plus the clock was fast approaching my bed time here in UK. On top of that I had been dragging my luggage the whole time since I changed my hotel to the one my friend was in who would accompany me in my US expedition (and the flight next day was at the crack of the dawn so it was best if we left together)… I cannot describe how freakin' tired I was. I could literally sleep as I stood. So, we finally headed back to our hotel at about 10:00PMish and no sooner than I hit the hay I was gone…

Well, that's all for now folks (lol! different company, I know)… 

Next, my "Hee-haw" trip to Dallas! Till then,

With loads of Mickey love,


Photo credit for Disney Parade: Doris Nekesa