Sunday, 28 August 2011

There's more to Florida than Disney

It's probably about time that I began to discuss the other attractions in Orlando outside of  Disney World.

Obsessed Disney fans rarely go offsite usually because it's not safe downtown dressed like this:

ummm.... nice sea shells
But there are some other things to see and do beyond the World. Whilst there can be no doubt that Uncle Walt primarily drove bulk tourism to Orlando, Florida had long been a sunny haven for the northern 'snowbirds' with beaches and golf courses and gators. The postcards from the 1950's show what it was like.

Cypress Gardens was opened in the thirties as a beautiful botanical garden.  Post WWII tourism grew and the Gardens became more popular and by the fifities Cypress Gardens was the Water Skiing Capital of the World!

The Gardens went from this.....

... to this:

This should be an Olympic sport!
 Of course, by the eighties, Disney was not to out-done by any old waterskiing pyramids and quickly put the characters on the water.

thighs of steel

And Disney have not been the only ones to transform the landscape. Today, the water skiing madness is over, Cypress Gardens is long gone, but on October 15 will re-open as the biggest Legoland theme park in the world!

I wonder if lego waterskis stay in one piece when going over the jumps?
Considering Disney own the rights to Star Wars, I doubt Legoland will be able to do anything like this though:

In a lovely touch, Legoland do plan on maintaining the original botanical garden - you can see that famous little bridge on their map

Mr Ice Cream is helping
But wait a minute ......... what's that I see on the map?

Will Legoland be reviving the water skiing craze?

Old postcards sourced from; 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Zonta Birthing Kits - 4000 kits on their way to Ethiopia

"60 million women give birth each year with the assistance of a traditional birth attendant or no assistance at all"
Coming from a country where we have sophisticated hospitals and "machines that go bing", it is easy to ignore how giving birth alone, in a remote location, would be in terms of pain, cleanliness, and personal assistance.

Rotary supporters having fun while packing kits
One of the biggest events for the year in my Zonta Club is our Birthing Kit Packing Day. Every year we organise a large community session, in collaboration with many supporters, and pack 4000 kits to send to a developing country. This year our kits went to the Hamblin Foundation Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa.

Let's have a look at the history and what's involved. The whole story is pretty complicated, so watch the videos to see the kits, how an assembly works and why the kits are important.

Zonta Birthing Kits are the brainchild of Dr. Joy O'Hazy, a member of the Zonta Club of Adelaide Hills. She had travelled and seen Sally Field in the US supporting birthing kits and was inspired to devise her own system. She devised a kit and began working with reproductive hospitals in Papua New Guinea to get the contents, methods and training right. Enthusiastic with their success the club supported the project and got it off the ground for Zonta Clubs across Australia

Supported with a government grant from AusAID, the club was then able to establish the Birthing Kit Foundation - a separate entity with the sole purpose of managing this project. The Channel 10 TV show: The 7pm Project recently aired a 3 min piece that introduces these ladies and the Foundation. (2012 UPDATE: This video is no longer available)

Have a look at this longer video from the Birthing Kit Foundation which highlights the need for the kits and also shows how an assembly day works.

On Saturday, 30 July my club conducted its annual birthing kit packing day. To fund the purchase of the kit materials from the Foundation we raised over $8,000 which included donations from :
and support from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Lyneham for the free use of their hall, and for organising the refreshments (YAY, Cake!)

Have a look at this short video from Queensland ABC News which shows the huge day organised up in Brisbane:

The organising committee in my club spent many hours over several months getting our day together - you can see all the materials that have to be organised, a pallet load full! The co-ordination is extraordinary - tables, ice cream containers, boxes, cakes, advertising, volunteers - I can't explain the extent of the organisation. Below I have put a few photos of our 2010 and 2011 days.

If you are here in Australia and would like to attend a packing day, the Birthing Kit Foundation maintain a Facebook page and this list of upcoming packing days across the country. Contact them and go! go now! Packing days are an unique experience - no where else can you do this - and you'll be supporting women across the world to have a clean birth.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Travelocity is stalking me

By strange coincidence, Travelocity released this video about the recreational activities available at WDW.

This is spooky. (And not just because this week Disney announced that the Spa at the Grand Floridian will be closing in September - so just ignore that bit)

I wonder if this chick is in cohoots with those bus-spotters.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Doing Disney on the Platinum Plan

My quest is diligent and never ending in serving you, gentle reader, in the delights that may be awaiting you if you choose to venture to Orlando in 2014.  I'm going on a quest to find the holy grails of Orlando tourism for you.

These guys are still wandering around the outer areas of Fantasyland
In the spirit of exploration for you, I am donning my armour, my running shoes and undertaking the Holy Grail Quest of WDW: The Platinum Plan. This is the motherload of touring. On this plan you pay an extraordinary amount of money (a.k.a. rate rate on a hotel room - AARRGGHHH - WHO PAYS THAT???) and Disney give you access to (almost) every activity, tour, restaurant, show and sport on offer.

On the DISBoards the "Quest" is defined - buy the package for only 1 night. And that's exactly what I've done. I have from check-in time (which I will do at approximately 7am) until midnight of my check out day - about 41 hours in total - to experience as many events as I can manage.

The "Holy Grail" part is getting the most value in activities out of the package over and above what it cost to buy.

To get anywhere near the Holy Grail there can be no wimpy archery lesson, mini golf or casual snack at a cafe. This is hard core touring and eating where the top drawer activities are targeted.

Forget this polite little lobster, it is going to be more like this......
It is not pretty, nor for the faint hearted.

After the jump, let's have a look at a couple of the highlights I have booked

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


When you go to WDW, however enchanting the inside of your "Haunted Mansion" room, at some point you'll wish to go outside and do something. If you've not been to WDW you may not realise just how big it is. The common rule of thumb is that it is the size of two Manhattans.

I know I know .... WAY too obvious .... OK .. so here's the competition: you come up with the opening Manhattan joke. I'm bound to have some Disney crap valuable prize here somewhere.
But I've not been to Manhattan so how do I know how big it is?

What I do know is Canberra, and that WDW is almost the same size. With a bit of rough digital mastery I'll show you. I've taken maps of both places at the same scale and overlaid WDW onto Canberra. WDW is the grey area that covers almost everything.

Oooh ... my house is at the Polynesian Resort!
WDW is covering the whole of Civic, inner north and south, Weston Creek, Fyshwick and the airport, and most of Belconnen and Tuggeranong.

Having established that WDW is literally the size of a city, what do you do when you are staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom, located down south near the Tuggernong Hyperdome, and want to get to the Magic Kingdom up in Flynn?

In Canberra, you catch an ACTION bus. The Blue Rapid can cover the territory in 1 hour.

WDW also runs its own bus fleet - 270 modern buses with GPS, air conditioning, disabled access and best of all - few traffic lights or general work-a-day traffic! So a journey of the same distance in WDW would take half the time.

A superfantastic Disney bus - photo courtesy of which is totally a  WDW Bus-spotters paradise. Photos of buses going back from 1981! With serial numbers and route lists. Ummm ... frankly it's a tad creepy. 
So you scoot around all over from resort to park to swimming pool to shopping centre on the Disney private bus fleet - and unlike ACTION buses - it's free! Now you know why the hotel rates are so expensive. Considering how much the ACT government, opposition, media, public (of course there is a facebook hate page) - even the auditors - bleat on and on about how difficult and expensive it is to run the ACTION fleet, those hotel rooms are starting to look cheap.

Here's a short video - yes of buses! Believe it or not, this is not as creepy as the videos made by the bus-spotting crowd. (Although someone did film and edit this video - not of shows, not of rides - but buses. That is a small amount creepy. What does it say about me showing it to you??) If you can cope with the rather energetic soundtrack you can watch buses - in action! at bus stops! from the front - from behind!

Walt liked public transport. Whilst he particularly loved steam trains, he installed the first monorail in the USA, refurbished historic paddlesteamers, and had a lovely little wooden horse drawn trolley.

For that 100 ft walk to the Castle in 2.28 mins
When Epcot park was built the Disney Imagineers thought that the trip around World Showcase was so long that it needed a bus fleet inside the park.

The entire fleet chugging its way through the crowds
pictures sourced from yestercot at
Not the smartest idea really. Whilst they are delightful looking machines with that ye olde timey feeling, if you think about it for say  ...ummm..... 1 second .... you'd realise that they couldn't have quite the same speed as the Disney Bus Fleet or even an ACTION bus. Traversing pedestrian areas meant that they had to go very slowly. And Mum and Dad had to keep an eye on little Johnnie to make sure he didn't become an instantaneous speed bump. One was able to walk faster than these things. They didn't last very long.

But I think Disney missed an obvious opportunity with these buses. They could have had a great tie in once you got around to the UK Pavilion.

"I'll get you Butler......
to your Princess lunch reservation at the Norway Pavilion"
The Epcot buses are long gone and when I was there in 1993 they were being used to transport characters around for meet and greets.

Donald doesn't carry the same gravitas as Blakey
Now they are flogging the poor thing off - for a cool $400,000

Source: It's still available, Disneyfans!
But despite the wonders of the Disney guest transit system, who wants to sit around in the 40 degree heat waiting for the right bus to show up. I'll be driving my hire car and be anywhere in only 15 minutes.