Archive of ‘Travel’ category
[Dress: Stop Staring // Shoes: Christian Louboutin]
One of my favourite things about Dunkeld House Hotel was the fact that it was very much a “dress for dinner” kind of place. As you know, I over-dress for EVERYTHING, and I’ve long-since become accustomed to sticking out like a sore thumb everywhere I go. There are so few opportunities to get “dressed up” these days, and people are so hellbent on being “comfy” at all costs that it can be quite difficult to indulge my love of fashion without feeling like a bit of a freak because of it. People regularly find my blogs having Googled something like “Can I wear jeans to a wedding/christening/other special event?” and I guess when even something like a wedding is deemed denim-appropriate, the act of wearing a dress when you don’t actually HAVE to can seem totally incompressible to some people.
At Dunkeld House, though, I finally felt like I had found my people. It’s extremely rare for me NOT to be the most over-dressed person in the room, but when we went down to dinner on Saturday night I didn’t feel even a little bit out of place, which was a strange and wonderful feeling. Naturally, then, I totally failed to capture this moment in photos: it was starting to get dark by the time we went downstairs, and it was also absolutely freezing outside, so the combination of the flash and my “OMG, hurry up and take the photo so I can go back inside!” look meant that these were the only shots that were even vaguely usable: d’oh!
Anyway, since I’ve (finally!) run out of photos to show you, I guess this is the perfect opportunity to give you the opportunity to go and take some for yourselves. Hilton Hotels have kindly given me a £100 gift voucher for their hotels, to give away to one lucky reader. The voucher is valid for one year, and I’m afraid it can only be used at hotels within the UK, but hey, I guess that’s a good excuse for you to come and try out somewhere like Dunkeld House for yourselves.
You’ll find the instructions for the giveaway in the widget below (Please not that only entries which follow the instructions will be valid: you must follow this site using either Facebook or Bloglovin’, and provide your email address for verification, and so I can contact you about your prize!), and entries are open for one week. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Last time on “Amber Over-Dresses in a Slightly Different Location”, Terry and I had checked into Dunkeld House Hotel and were all ready to start relaxing. The hotel gives you lots of different ways in which to do this: there’s a pool and spa, there are bars and a restaurant, you can go quad biking or off-road driving… that kind of thing.
For us, though, the main attraction of a country house hotel is, well, the country, and Dunkeld House has a LOT of that to offer. The hotel sits on the banks of the River Tay, and is surrounded by the famous Birnam Wood, which Shakespeare aficionados will know from its role in MacBeth. The estate is spread over 280 acres, and we wanted to explore at least a little bit of it while we had the chance, so I did a quick change, and we headed out.
My best advice to anyone planning on visiting Scotland: assume that it will be cold and wet, and pack accordingly. And, you know, it might NOT be cold and wet. We have a saying here that if you don’t like the weather, you just need to wait 15 minutes and it’ll change, so you never know, it might even be warm and dry. Let’s face it, though: the most likely scenario is that it’ll be cold and wet, which is why I may have forgotten to pack my toothbrush, but I DID remember to throw my Hunter boots in the car before we left. It was a rare moment of sense for me, and I have to admit, I felt quite smug as we left the hotel and even more smug when we ended up walking much further than we’d anticipated, reaching the nearby village of Dunkeld, turning back towards the hotel when we realised neither of us had brought any cash with us, and then getting almost halfway back when Terry all of a sudden discovered that his wallet had been in his jacket pocket the whole time. D’oh!
We still had some time to kill before dinner, and we were both feeling hungry by that point, so we headed back to the village AGAIN and had some lunch in a little beer garden with a gorgeous view, which I obviously didn’t bother to photograph, because did I mention we were in a beer garden? (I actually had coffee rather than beer, but still…)
By the time we got back to the hotel we’d done a LOT of walking in those woods, but we’d still only managed to see a tiny part of the estate. What we did see, however, we really loved: the woods at Dunkeld are seriously scenic (we walked by the river most of the time, which was nice and relaxing), and also seriously old. You get a real sense of history walking underneath the branches of the ancient trees, and, the grounds of the hotel are dotted with lots of cool little touches, like the fairytale glade and face-like grotto in the photos above. It was definitely one of the nicest woodland walks we’ve done, and, as an added bonus, all that walking helped us work up a good appetite for dinner, too. Which, coincidentally, will be the subject of tomorrow’s post…
[Trousers: H&M// Jacket: New Look (2011) // Sweater: H&M // Boots: Hunter c/o Sarenza]
[Disclosure: We stayed at Dunkeld House compliments of Hilton Hotels. All opinions are my own.]
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[Skirt: Tibi*// Shirt: George Kids // Scarf: Primark // Sunglasses: eBay // Shoes: Studio TMLS c/o Sarenza // Backdrop: Dunkeld House Hotel c/o Hilton Hotels]
This past weekend, Terry and I were lucky enough to be the guests of Hilton Hotels, at their beautiful Dunkeld House, in Perthshire. Which, OK, isn’t quite the “Highland Fling” of my title, but meh, close enough.
Perthshire is an area we’ve visited a few times in the last couple of years, and it’s a particularly beautiful part of the country, which is only about a 90 minute drive from home, so we were more than happy to be able to see a little bit more of the area. We’ve previously visited Glamis Castle and Blair Castle, but we’d never been to Dunkeld, and we were both instantly charmed by it: it’s one of those picture perfect little villages, from which you could remove the cars and other modern touches and feel like you were on the set of a period drama or something.
I could say the same of Dunkeld House itself, actually. It’s one of those old country houses, set on its own rambling estate, and the giant stone archway you drive under to get to it provides a good clue as to what you’re in for, which is basically a Downton Abbey-meets-Monarch of the Glen” kind of experience. Awesome, right?
Unfortunately, our visit was a fleeting one, so we didn’t have time to check out the pool and spa (This was probably just as well, because Terry couldn’t find his swimming trunks before we left, and it wasn’t exactly a “swim in your underwear” kind of joint…), but we did take full advantage of the opportunity to just relax and switch our heads off for a while. Well, Terry did. My head is almost ALWAYS switched off, as you know, but the fact is, we’ve had a kind of rough start to the year, for one reason and another, and the past few weeks have been particularly stressful, so the chance to just relax and not worry about anything for a while couldn’t have come at a better time. It took me around an hour to get used to the fact that I was actually allowed to use the towels in the bathroom, and to ruffle up the bedsheets if I wanted to (I was joking about the “basket of kittens” thing in my last post – well, sort of – but our house is currently being kept in a constant state of readiness for viewers, which means our bathroom towels are of the “just for show” variety, and when we want to actually dry ourselves, we just use an old rag or something…) (I’m joking, we don’t use the bathroom at all, for fear of messing it up. And we sleep in the car now.), but after that it was all good.
As soon as we checked in, I unpacked my overnight bag, so I could find out which essential items I’d forgotten THIS TIME. There were three missing items on this trip, namely:
1. My toothbrush
2. Its close friend and partner, the toothpaste
3. That top that was a pivotal part of the outfit I’d planned for Sunday, and the absence of which is the reason you will only be subjected to three sets of outfit photos rather than four from this trip. Because yes, I managed to change three times in less than 24 hours. You didn’t really expect any less from me, did you?
Once I’d established what I’d forgotten I called down to reception. “Hi!” I said, “It’s the over-dressed redhead who just checked in. You couldn’t send me up a couple of toothbrushes [Terry had forgotten his, too. We suck at packing, seriously.], some toothpaste, and also a black bardot style top, kinda 50s-inspired, would look great with a kicky little silk scarf? You know the kind of thing? Thanks!”
And you know, not five minutes later, someone was at the door with the two toothbrushes and toothpaste. They couldn’t help with the top, but that’s because I didn’t actually say that last bit, obviously. In fact, I didn’t say anything at all: I made Terry phone them instead. I don’t DO phones.
With that little bit of business out of the way, then, we were ready to start with the relaxin’. But that, my friends, is another story for another day, so you’re going to have to tune in later this week for the next thrilling instalment of What Amber Did That One Time She Went to Dunkeld. Assuming you can stand the suspense, obviously…
P.S. If you CAN stand the suspense and stick with me through another couple of posts, I promise to make it worth your while, by giving away a £100 Hilton Hotels voucher on Friday. Deal?
[Disclosure: We stayed at Dunkeld House compliments of Hilton Hotels. All opinions and random acts of stupidity are my own.]
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[Trousers and top: Zara // bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs c/o Shopbop // Shoes: Buffalo c/o Spartoo // Sunglasses: random gift shop in Orlando c/o my dad]
Well, folks, it’s a big day here at the ol’ blawg, for today, a mere two months after I returned from my holiday to Florida, I will finally stop talking about it. I know! Do I win some sort of prize here or something?
While you’re all probably breathing a sigh of relief, however, I’m actually quite sad to have reached the end of my Florida outfit posts, because I’ve been missing the place SO much lately. Little random memories keep popping into my head, unbidden, and all of a sudden I’m hit with this wave of what I can only describe as “homeskickness”, even although I’m already home. If only it really was a small world after all…
But I’m supposed to be talking about the outfit, aren’t I?
I wore this out to dinner on our second last night, and no, I didn’t spill anything, even although I was basically ASKING FOR IT by dressing in head-to-toe white – or off-white, in this case. Don’t worry, I was amazed, too. I think we all were.
As a pale-skinned redhead, I’m always hearing that I shouldn’t wear white, or, indeed, any other pale colours, because apparently they “wash me out”. To that, I have more or less the same response I give to people who tell me midi dresses make me look stumpy, which is basically, “Yeah, I know, but I just can’t seem to make myself care...”
The fact is, you see, that when you have skin as pale as mine, pretty much everything will “wash you out”. And actually, I think black is a far worst culprit than white in this respect: it has the power to leech every bit of colour out of my face, and leave me looking like the living dead. White, on the other hand, seems to reflect light back onto my skin, so I may be washed out, but at least I look alive, you know? Also: I love white. I love the drama of it, and so I’m probably not going to stop wearing it any time soon, especially this particular off-white shade, which I seem to have collected a fair bit of recently.
As for these trousers, well, I may have managed to get them through dinner unscathed on this particular occasion, but I wasn’t so lucky the next time I wore them, to see a show at the Edinburgh Festival earlier this month, because when I got home and took them off, I realised the black top I’d worn them with had somehow managed to dye the entire top section of the trousers navy. Yes, navy. Disaster was narrowly averted (and no, I don’t think “disaster” is too strong a word, here…) with the aid of some stain remover and hot water, but I do have to ask myself just how many more times I can hope to cheat fate with these trousers. In fact, as soon as I hit “publish” on this post, I might just go and get a head start on the inevitable “oh noes, I ruined my prechus cream trousers by dying them red/black/green/whatever – woe is me!” post which you all KNOW you’ll be subjected to at some point in the probably not-so-distant future.
Hey, maybe THAT’S why people tell me I shouldn’t wear white?
Because we don’t get to be freezing cold often enough here in the UK, when we were in Orlando this summer, we decided to go and be freezing cold in the Icebar, which, as the name suggests (and as you probably already know), is a bar made completely out of ice.
I say we “decided”. That makes it sound like there was actual planning involved, doesn’t it? Trust me, there wasn’t. In fact, we didn’t even know there WAS an Icebar in Orlando until it popped up in the “places near here” list on Foursquare. That explains why I’m really not dressed appropriately for the freezing cold. Well, that and the fact that I’m NEVER dressed appropriately for the freezing cold, obviously. At least I found a belt for that dress, though, hey?
As it happens, you don’t really need to worry about dressing for the cold at the Icebar, because right before you go in, they give you these big, padded, parka style jackets, plus gloves to wear. Or, if you’re very vain and/or pretentious, you can pay extra for a giant, floor-length faux-fur coat. I can’t imagine who would actually DO that, though?
(These photos were all taken in really low light (and in some cases, with my iPhone), so some of them are a bit blurry. Also: VODKA. OOh, lookit my icy throne!)
OK, OK, in my feeble defence: as I said, we hadn’t actually planned to go to the Icebar that night. We were in Orlando for a dinner show, and because I am a little brat, the only way my family had been able to persuade me to go to a dinner show (because quelle horreur!) was by telling me there would be free wine. And there was free wine, people. (And actually, the dinner show was HILARIOUS, but then, now that I think about it, maybe everything is hilarious with free wine? I mean, the Icebar was certainly hilarious after it. Hmm. Look, guys, I’m going to just wait here while you all go and pour yourself a nice, big glass of wine, OK? Trust me, this post will seem all the better for it.) So, if I’m completely honest, I was already a little bit tipsy by the time I decided I absolutely HAD to have a floor-length faux-fur coat. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t have done the same thing sober. I could be wearing a faux-fur coat right this very second, for all you know. I could also be drunk right this very second. There is literally no way to know.
Because the bar is fairly small, and also because I’m guessing they don’t want hoardes of drunken people falling around and knocking over the sculptures, they only allow a few people in at a time (don’t worry, you get to relax in the “Fire Lounge” while you wait. There is no fire in the Fire Lounge. There is vodka, though.), which is actually really good, because it means you get the opportunity to wander around and look at everything without having to push through crowds of people. You also get the opportunity to take silly photos with the various Things That Are Made of Ice:
(It’s the giant, woolly gloves that make this shot awesome, isn’t it?)
Now, I know you’re all probably freaking out right now at the sight of my bare legs and open coat, but one thing we all noticed was that it actually wasn’t all that cold inside. I mean, sure, it was a tad nippy. And we were wearing thick coats. (And need I remind you: VODKA.) But it’s not like you’re OMGFREEZING, and you’re not in there all night (we stayed for one drink, which was more than enough time to have a good look around), so it was cool. Do you see what I did there? Cool? In the ice bar? I’ll get my coat. My… faux-fur coat…
[Dress: River Island (old) // Shoes: Vivienne Westwood for Melissa c/o Sarenza // Cardigan: H&M (new) // Sunglasses: Gucci c/o Shopbop]
I’ve written about high tea at the Grand Floridia (or “Grand Tea at the High Floridian, as I just wrote….) before, but, well, I’m going to do it again, because as anyone who’s gone through my archives will know, I really only have about three subjects which I just repeat endlessly, and hope my readers will have really short memories. And also because, like our trips to Disney’s Boardwalk, visiting the Grand Floridian has become a bit of a Florida tradition for us: not just because of the high tea itself, but because the hotel is so beautiful to walk through – and one of the best spots to watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from, other than the park itself. (And sometimes including the park itself, to be completely honest…)
Because the high tea is so popular you really have to book in advance: we booked ours as soon as we got to the Orlando area, and had to wait a week for the first available time slot – which we then almost missed, due to heavy traffic on the way there: whoops!
As you can see from the photos, though, we did make it in time (just!) and thoroughly enjoyed our high tea. I took the opportunity to wear my favourite of the three River Island dresses I bought in this style last year (The other ones are here and here, if you’re particularly interested…), plus a pair of my Vivienne Westwood Lady Dragons. I’d brought the cardigan along to beat the chill from the aircon in the hotel, but also because Tropical Storm Debby was still hovering above Florida, and making the weather a lot cooler than normal. Happily, though, the sun came out for the first time in days when we wandered down to the hotel’s boat dock after our high tea, marking the return of the hot, sunny weather we’re used to in Florida, so I couldn’t have been happier. I mean, champagne, sunshine, big-skirted dresses… what more could you ask for?
Well, maybe a carriage, actually. A big, white, Cinderella-style carriage, say…
Seriously, they think of everything at Disney. They really do.
[Dress: Stop Staring 'Boardwalk' dress // Shoes: Paris Hilton (yes, really) via TK Maxx]
This dress is Stop Staring’s “Boardwalk” dress. And I wore it to… Walt Disney’s Boardwalk. Yes, I went there, with the matchy-matchy. Yes I did.
My tendency to be over-enthusiastic about matching my outfits to my surroundings, however, is not the subject of today’s post. (Although, let’s all hope I never go to see the circus, say, because God knows what I’d deem “appropriate” for that…)
No, the subject of today’s post is how I managed to buy this dress completely by accident. Yes, you heard me: it is an accidental dress.
OK, I’m sensing some reluctance to believe me here. You’re thinking this is going to be some kind of transparent way to justify my dress habit: it’s OK, I understand. I would think that too. But seriously, you guys: I REALLY DID BUY THIS DRESS BY ACCIDENT. No, I did. And I will tell you how I did it…
(You know, just in case you want to buy a dress by “accident” too, one day.)
(OK, the inverted commas were a joke. It really WAS an accident. Pinky swear.)
So! I first met the dress last summer, at the Unique Vintage store in L.A. I loved it, but they didn’t have it in my size, so I came home without it and resigned myself to spending the rest of my life searching for either a UK Stop Staring stockist who wasn’t charging a small fortune for a dress, or a US stockist who wasn’t charging a small fortune for shipping. Obviously I was more likely to find Nigel, the International Man of Mystery hiding in my attic than I was to find either of these things, so I had actually pretty much given up my search. UNTIL ONE FATEFUL DAY.
That day started out just like any other, with nothing whatsoever to indicate that I would soon be buying a new dress totally by accident. There I was, sitting at my desk, diligently searching for items to feature on my various blogs when suddenly there it was, right in front of me:
THE BOARDWALK DRESS. OMG!
Now, I’d come across the dress before, of course, but it had always been too expensive to justify buying, on account of the whole shipping/customs thing. This time, however, it had popped up on a European website (Before I go any further here, let me just confess that I don’t remember the name of this site, and didn’t bookmark it or anything. Because I was on it totally BY ACCIDENT.), which piqued my interest, because perhaps the shipping from Europe would be slightly less extortionate than shipping from the US?
Therein, however, lay the problem.
The website didn’t seem to have International shipping prices listed. So, in order to find out how much it would cost, I had to do that whole “adding the dress to my basket and pretending to go through checkout, only stopping at the last moment” thing.
You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Which is great, because I certainly didn’t.
Well, I went through the process of adding the dress and typing in my details. It seemed to take an extraordinarily long time to get to the bit with the shipping details, though. In fact, I might have had to input my payment details to get to that piece of information. It was OK, though, because as soon as the shipping costs came up, and I talked myself out of buying YET ANOTHER dress, I hit the back button and exited the site. No harm, no foul, definitely no dress. So I closed down the browser and I went about my business.
A week later, the dress turned up.
I’d like to say I have no idea how it happened, but well, I’m not THAT stupid. Obviously I didn’t exit the website in quite as timely a fashion as I thought I did, and given that I HAD typed in my payment details (Only to get past that bit so I could get to the shipping costs, though!), I guess it wasn’t SO surprising that here was the dress on my doorstep. By accident.
(Or! Or! Maybe I slept-walked to my computer in the middle of the night and went online and ordered it? Or… Rubin did it?)
I really should’ve sent it back, of course. But .. meh. These things happen for a reason. That’s what my granny always told me, anyway. And who am I to argue with the mysterious forces of fashion?
Let this be a warning to you, though, people: accidental dress purchases can happen to anyone, at any time.
(But let’s face it: they’re probably most likely to happen to me…)
P.S. Bonus out-take:
“Showplace of the Hore”. Well, isn’t that interesting…
[Swimsuit: George at Asda (old) // Skirt: Forever 21 (new, but not online) // Shoes: Vivienne Westwood for Melissa (old)]
Yup, we’re back in Florida, folks. Not literally, obviously – just in the sense that I’m back to posting outfit photos from my holiday, because, no, I am not done with that yet. I wish I WAS back there literally, though. It actually makes me a bit sad looking back at these photos: it all seems a really long time ago now, and to say I miss it would be like saying I have a little bit of a thing for polka dots, but nothing major. Speaking of which…
By the third week of the holiday, even I had started to think I might need some kind of polka dot intervention. I hadn’t planned to wear nothing but dots for days on end, but that’s how it had worked out (probably because that’s all I packed), and I feared I had started to turn into some kind of parody of myself, and that I would never wear anything else, ever again.
“Amber,” I told myself. “Just stop it. Wear something else, just for a change. Or you’ll have to change the tagline of your blog to ‘lots of photos of me wearing polka dots’, and God knows, you don’t want that, do you? Wear something else.”
Well, I thought about this, and I decided to do it. I would wear something other than polka dots.
Then I thought, “Screw that, I’m going to wear MOAR polka dots! Double the dots, double the fun!”
So I did. And honestly, I’d do it again. In fact, I probably will.
I will also spin. And have only one arm. (Aside: I’ve discovered a rare talent for looking like I have only one arm in photos. Which at least makes a change from looking like I only have one leg.)
It actually wasn’t particularly sunny when these were taken: this was the week Tropical Storm Debby decided to take up residence over Florida, and dumped rain on us for several days in a row. It was almost like home, actually, only hot. We were lucky, though – we just got rain, but a few miles away, some people lost the roof of their house due to a tornado which touched down. We spent a day under a tornado watch, with me frantically Googling “OMG TORNADO!” and wishing I’d brought those red sparkly shoes with me. I HATE being caught unprepared with stuff like that.
Every year for about the past five years now, Terry’s birthday (and my dad’s too, actually) has fallen while we’ve been on holiday. Which just isn’t fair, is it? I’m currently campaigning to have my own birthday moved to June, so I can ALSO celebrate somewhere hot and sunny, but for now I’m just taking comfort in the fact that wherever Terry chooses to celebrate his birthday, I get to go too.
This year, Terry wanted to celebrate his birthday at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Which kinda makes my “high tea, followed by a trip to Zara” seem a bit shoddy, really, doesn’t it?
(It wasn’t really.)
(I got a really nice jacket in Zara.)
(And champagne with my high tea.)
For those of you who’ve never heard of it, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new(ish) addition to the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure Theme Park, and is designed to look like Hogsmeade, from the Harry Potter books (well, d’duh!), with Hogwarts itself as the centrepiece.
The park actually opened on Terry’s birthday, two years ago. Unfortunately for us, that was the day before we due to fly home from Florida that year, and as people had been queuing overnight just to get into the parking lot, we decided to give it a miss. Being the huge Harry Potter fans that we are, though, we weren’t going to let that happen twice, so on Terry’s birthday this year we got up bright and early (well, we got up early, anyway. I’m never exactly “bright” at that time in the morning. Or, you know, any other time, really.) and off we went.
The park was busy. Like, REALLY busy. Like, “OMG, not even the Magic Kingdom on 4th of July that time was this busy”. Seriously, we’re no strangers to Florida’s theme parks, and how crowded they can get, but at Harry Potter World, you would walk into a store and then have to just stand there and wait for the wall-to-wall tide of people to gently carry you to different parts of it. So it was busy. That was the only negative, though, because the park itself is just amazing. I think it’s probably the most visually stunning of all of the Florida parks, and they’ve done a fantastic job of re-creating the Harry Potter world: in fact, I got a bit teary as we walked into Hogsmeade, and then turned the corner to see Hogwarts looming over us, it was just that perfect.
Inside Hogwarts castle is the main attraction in this section of the park: the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. We had to queue for over an hour to get onto it, but trust me: it was worth it. And I say that as someone who won’t generally wait for anything if I don’t have to.
(There was a man in line behind me who kept cracking gum in my ear. I wanted to kill him. It was still worth it, though.)
The ride is really hard to describe: it’s kind of a cross between a simulator and a… rollercoaster? OK, hold that thought: it’s totally not a rollercoaster, which was a relief to me, because I HATE rollercoasters, and had spent the entire wait going, “Is this a rollercoaster? No, seriously, is it a rollercoaster? Because I’m not going on it if it’s a rollercoaster. Do you think it’s a rollercoaster?” And no matter how many times Terry told me that, NO, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IT IS NOT A ROLLERCOASTER, WOMAN, I wouldn’t believe him. But it wasn’t a rollercoaster. It was, as I have just learned from the Wiki page about it, a “robocoaster”. Hee! It – and I quote, because I’m lazy:
“ allows the seats to pivot while being held above the track by a robotic arm. However, the ride is not a roller coaster but a scenic dark ride. The experience includes scenes such as flying around Hogwarts castle, encountering the Whomping Willow and a horde of Dementors, and being caught in a Quidditch match. The ride performs such movements as dropping, spinning around, twisting and turning. The ride does not go upside down, though there are a few moments when riders are flat on their backs.”
It’s totally awesome. There’s also holographic versions of Harry, Ron, Hermione and a lot of the other characters (played by the actors from the movies) and… yeah, it’s just awesome. In fact, we liked it so much, we rode it twice, which turned out to be a good thing because on our first ride, the car broke down briefly. It started up again after about 30 seconds or so, so we didn’t think it was a big deal, but during the second ride, we realised we’d missed quite a bit of it, so we were glad we’d gone back. (We were also glad we’d chosen to take the “single riders” line, which, as the name suggests, means they will just slot you into any spare seat in the cars, rather than seating your party together. You do get split up from your friends/family, but only by a few minutes, and it takes the wait time from something like 90 minutes to something like 15 minutes, so it’s definitely worth doing. It also allows you to walk around singing, “All the single riders! All the single riders! Aaaaall the single riders! All the single riders!” to the tune of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”, and that rocks, too. I’m singing it now, in fact.)
After our first ride on Forbidden Journey, we went to the Three Broomsticks, for lunch and Butterbeer:
The lunch was just OK: pretty standard theme-park fare. The Butterbeer, though, was fantastic: Terry had actually got a recipe for Butterbeer off the Internet back in December, and had made some himself, and he was pleased to find that his attempt was pretty close to what they were selling in the park. It’s super-sweet, and tastes a bit like butterscotch. It’s also impossible to drink without ending up with a pretty impressive Butterbeer Moustache, so that’s fun, too.
And that was our day at Harry Potter World. We also walked around the rest of the Islands of Adventure Park, which we’ve visited a few times now, and did some of the rides there. None of them involved giant castles and snow-capped streets, though, so we apparently didn’t take any photos for the rest of the day. There’s always next time…
OK, so, on the last episode of “Amber Recounts Her Holiday in Tedious Detail”, I was still in Clearwater, where I was wearing a playsuit, and probably flashing everyone within a five mile radius, for all I know.
After a week of this (A week of “being in Clearwater”, I mean. NOT a week of flashing everyone. Although possibly that too.), however, we packed up and moved to the Orlando area, where we were renting a house for rest of our vacation.
It was there that I met THE DUCKS.
The first duck appeared the morning after we arrived. I got up in the morning, walked into the bathroom, and there it was, sitting on the vanity, all pretty and, well, duck-like. To be honest, I didn’t think too much of this. The house we were staying in is owned by a couple who have a few small grandchildren: I assumed the duck belonged to one of them, and that Terry had found it and left it out for me to see. Because, yes, I am totally the type of person who gets a kick out of finding a rubber duck in her bathroom. I don’t get out much.
Anyway, I had a quick look at this duck, then I continued with my day, and forgot all about it… until later that evening when we got back from a day out, and I discovered that my small yellow friend was now swimming in the bathroom sink:
(Most of these photos were taken with my iPhone, by the way, so apologies for the low quality…)
Well, obviously I knew someone was messing with me at this point. The question was: WHO?
List of Persons Suspected of Duck Husbandry:
SUSPECT #1: TERRY
The obvious suspect, of course, was Terry. He was, after all, the one who was sharing a bathroom with me. He had the opportunity. But did he have the motive, I wondered? I considered this question carefully and concluded that, well, he didn’t really have a motive to be leaving rubber ducks in my bathroom. That wouldn’t necessarily stop him, however, and Terry does have a long history of Messing With Me, so I made a mental note to watch him carefully, and moved on to…
SUSPECT #2: MY MUM
My mum was always a prime suspect in the Mysterious Case of the Appearing Ducks, because my mum has history with rubber ducks. As those of you with very long memories probably will not recall, during our stay at the Chancellor Hotel in San Francisco last year, my mum tormented me by pretending the staff at the hotel had been leaving her a new rubber duck every morning. This obviously annoyed me, because WHY WAS I NOT GETTING DUCKS, WHY? So it would make sense that my mum would once again torment me with ducks, in a neat little reversal of her previous prank. (Why yes, my family ARE a bit strange. What gave it away?)
SUSPECT #3: MY DAD
My dad was never really a serious suspect. While it was clear that he knew more than he was letting on, and was obviously implicated in some way, my gut instinct was that he was a mere accessory to the crime, a helpless bystander in this crazy world of duck rustling. I more or less eliminated him from enquiries, but kept his name on the list of suspects, because if there’s one thing I learned from Nancy Drew, it’s… I didn’t really learn anything from Nancy Drew, did I?
The next morning, there was a second duck waiting for me in the bathroom.
(This is not the duck I found that morning, nor is it in the bathroom. That duck declined to appear in this blog post, asking not to be identified. Picture is posed by a
(I’m joking, it’s the one in the photo at the top right of the image below, with the garland around its neck. I thought it looked a bit like Brad Pitt, for some reason.)
After that, it was basically open season: the ducks appeared at a rate of one per day. No matter how vigilant I was, or how early I got up, determined to catch the culprit yellow-handed, each morning I woke up to find a new duck waiting for me:
They were gathering.
But FOR WHAT?
My family all still resolutely refused to claim responsibility for the ducks. I, meanwhile, grew worried. What if the ducks had not, as I had initially suspected, been procured for the express purpose of tormenting me? What if the ducks had ALWAYS been in the house? That would mean the ducks really belonged to the owners of the house, and I wouldn’t be able to bring them home with me. And that would be tragic because, well, by that point I’d started to get attached to them. Not in a creepy, women-who-love-ducks-too-much-kind-of-way, of course. I mean, it’s not like I’d NAMED them all or anything.
*changes the subject*
Finally, just a few days before the end of our holiday, my morning duck came with a letter:
I was overjoyed. They had chosen to communicate with me!
In my mum’s handwriting (ahem), the letter explained that the ducks were refuges, seeking asylum in my home town. They wished to return to the UK with me, they explained. And then we would be together forever, the rubber ducks and I.
With that letter, the identity of the duck charmer was revealled:
It was my own mother, people.
And she hadn’t been working alone, either:
Yes. Far from being the innocent bystander I had assumed he was, my dad had actually been responsible for the placement of the ducks each morning. It’s always the ones you suspect the least, isn’t it?
As for Terry, he actually had nothing to do with it at all. He had, however, surprised my parents in the act of purchasing the ducks in Target the day we arrived, so he wasn’t totally innocent. I, meanwhile, didn’t know WHAT to think. I felt like I was being attacked by ducks:
They were all around me:
But eventually I came to accept them, those little ducks. To love them, even.
They were like the family I’d never had. Or something.
So I did as they asked. I brought those ducks home with me.
And they all lived happily ever after. In my bathroom. Where they belong.