Flew into Tampa which is a lovely clean and easy airport to navigate. Car rental next to baggage reclaim. No queues so straight onto I275 to Orlando for 4 Days at the Hilton Grand Vacation on International Drive. Nice place to stay with good facilities and great pool. Did not like the screen on the balcony or the building work that was still in progress but overall it was an excellent stay and the staff were nice. If you see this place cheap take it because it is really good value.
During the stay we ate with friends a few times but when we went out I tried to cross off the places you all had recommended :-
Texas de Brazil. excellent and just as everyone had predicted. The amount of meat was too much for me because I had gone large on the lovely salad bar. Good wines at reasonable price - impressive. Great value and well worth a visit but you must book to make things easy. I registered on their loyalty club and the reservation went thru Open Table and that all worked well.
Cheescake Factory was brill - I loved the cakes and the foods and the salads. Could never finish what they served me it was really well done and the servers have got their act just right. They were pleasant, polite and showed a sense of humour ... and served well.
This year I was shocked by the very few places that serve water with your meal as standard - I usually got it ... but I had to ask ... I just love that Florida water.
We shopped for days on end and lay by the pool for the rest ... except when we went to Sea World. It is a wonderful Park and I am glad we went there instead of Disney. We were given free tickets for Disney but did not use them because we wanted to do SeaWorld. I am glad we did because the whole day was excellent. We went back to HGVC for a swim, sun and some Premier outletting and then returned back for Shamu Rocks which was very impressive. The Americans do that sort of spectacle better than anyone. I think SeaWorld is excellent value and is one of the parks I would say is a must see. We went to the Busch hospitality suite for lunch and had a fabulous sandwich from the carvery before we did the BREWING presentation . We were very worried that we were wasting our time as we sat waiting to be called thru but it was brilliant - don't miss this. We tried beer after beer in their smaller glasses with cheeses and chocolates they suggested went with the taste. It was a really good experience - glad I had my ID.
After a lot more shopping at Millenia where I got the Discount voucher that was spent on getting money off some Diana Von Furstenburg dresses for Mrs V . We went to Buena Vista Outlet to get Lee Jeans and other stuff for me. I love Lee jeans and they were $18 each. They also sell Reef clothes and Wrangler among others - I never understand why more people do not use Vanity Fair for the denim, t shirt and Chino stuff. The weather was pretty rough during the time in Orlando and we worried that we would be hit by storms but after that first blip it was just VERY hot for the month of August.
I really enjoyed the shopping at the Premier Outlets and I am glad Belz has gone ... there is a new outlet in its place and will be opening up next month (I think) so there will be a lot of competition between the two places at each end of International Drive. On the way back from Millenia we stopped at Fuddruckers and had a huge burger each that stuffed us for the rest of that day. Good product in good surroundings - we will go there again.
Both confrontations with IHOP and Hilton Timeshare staff came to nothing after I had hyped myself up for days.
After all the shopping of things - we set off for our condo on the Gulf. It teemed down 'Florida' rain during the journey but became very hot as we travelled over the 'Courtney Cox' Bridge ( as we call it) and stayed that way all the time we were there. A storm hit Jamaica in mid August and caused huge damage in Mexico but we saw nothing of it because of the high over Florida that gave record temps. 95f with humidity giving a reading of 105.
I am sorry it is a ramble that will be done in parts but I did not want to make it ... well you know.