Orlando is well known for its shopping, especially direct factory outlet stores. We were keen to unload money to this worthy cause, but first we had to check into the Hyatt Place. Our Filipina Uber lady driver had trouble in actually being able to get to the hotel although we could see it wizzin’ along de road. The reason was that our Hyatt, along with some other hotels, is marooned in the middle of massive roadworks and you have to take tricky detours to make landfall. When we eventually did, I thought about my plans to drive a Mustang to Miami. The turnpike would be fine but how do I get on to it and then off it and into an airport? I feared we might never get out of the Orlando building site. I grew chicken wings, flapped them, and decided on Uber rather than selfie Mustang.
Michelle has now mastered the art of Uber and it is a godsend. The cars are cared for, sanely driven and the drivers are friendly and chatty. In the case of our Filipina lady, during the hour she drove us from Cape Canaveral to Orlando, she provided us with a monologue covering her family history, her friends, what she said to her husband, what her husband said to her, what she nearly said to her husband but didn’t, what her husband said to her but shouldn’t have. She talked non-stop for an hour. We have booked her for the four-hour drive to Miami. After that, we’ll know even more of this riveting story.
Our hotel room is spacious and nicely appointed except when it comes to the bathroom, which is so small you have to step around behind the door and then squeeze past the toilet bowl and shower screen to get out. A fatter person could easily become wedged between the door and the shower screen. The shower rose is especially annoying because you only have a choice between a piddle of warm water or a blast of cold.
Having unpacked, we hightailed it down to the Premium Outlet Mall, credit cards huddling in fear in our wallets. I didn’t intend to buy anything but that all went off the rails. I ended up with shirts I didn’t need, and shoes that I needed even less, with shorts to match the shirts I didn’t need in the first place. I soon had a needless bagful while Michelle couldn’t find anything desirable apart from presents and a pair of sandals. While we were in Saks Fifth Avenue I spied a sparkler on ‘extra special’ and bought it for her. My credit card needed a defibrillator to get it going again.
The mall is actually a large number of crisscrossing open walkways with shops lined up either side. They cover most brands familiar to me plus a whole lot more we don’t have in Australia. It is very tempting to pig out. I was tempted. I pigged out. About the only clothing I really did need were white tennis shorts. When I asked for them in the brand shops the sales people thought I was crazy.
“You really mean white sir? You want to play tennis in white? Hey, dis guy wants white tennis shorts! Never hoid of nuttin’ like that. The closest we got to white, sir, is black.”
I persevered. The Nike welcoming man said his store definitely didn’t have white tennis shorts, but to his astonishment, Michelle found them. They are a bit odd but made in some new miracle fabric that plays most of the game for you and carries you back to the clubhouse.
While we were trawling the designer shops we came across a kiosk selling tickets to the Universal Studios theme parks (high on our have-to list) at a saving of US$140. There was a catch. We had to pick up the tickets at a resort hotel after sitting through a travel club presentation that would only take an hour. We would be given breakfast as well. Beside the saving, the travel club sounded interesting. We signed up.
This morning we turned up at the resort hotel and were fastened on to by the most aggressive selling team I’ve ever experienced. ‘Breakfast’ comprised a choice of an apple, banana, watery coffee or cereal and we were asked to hurry along because the show was about to start. This took place in a little side building where a guy who could double for Usain Bolt went through an alternatively shouting and whispering harangue with lots of face pulling and the aid of a big screen showing idyllic holiday destinations. If we joined at a cost of US$9,900 we would get eight weeks of cheap holidays a year. When we blanched at that, the price dropped to $7000 if we signed today, followed by a specially tailored offer, because we were nice Australians, of $4000. I do not have $4000 with me, I said, nor is my credit card ready for such an assault, especially after the sparkler. It has to keep us eating for the next three weeks, I added. They were not interested in our possible starvation. “Okay, okay, tell you what, gimme $300 to cover the registration paperwork and I’ll hold the deal until you get back home and wire us the money.”
We sprinted for the exit after three hours of deal deflection and then had to get our reduced price tickets to Universal after being passed around between icy-faced officials. Was it worth it? O course not. However, our visit to Universal certainly was. All coming next time with the first, much awaited, hotel toaster review.