Orlando – where it was also cold

You always associate Florida and Orlando in particular with being a warm and uncomfortably humid place. Well let me tell you that it isn’t always so. I had some friends from the Orlando area staying last week and they said it was definitely warmer in England. It doesn’t get exactly freezing but it gets to nearly that there, just a couple of degrees above and enough to discourage you from being a smoker. For those that don’t know, you are banned outside to smoke just about anywhere in the States now.

We were staying at the Orlando World Center, a Marriott property (as the Americans like to call them) south of the city and north of International Drive. It’s a strange characterless area with these vast hotel and golf complexes dotted around the Kissimmee area centred on the Disney and Universal tourist attractions. You only realise just how little there is in terms of civilisation out there when you have a room high up and can look out across this vast flat expanse of flood plain, pretty much at sea level having been drained and reclaimed in the 19th century. High rise hotel and resort complexes appear out of the landscape in isolated pockets of development. It’s really quite eery. And the whole place is make believe. From the shopping malls, to the hotel complexes, to the fantasy attractions, it is home to a constantly changing, transient population of tourists, visiting with the sole intent of having fun. As always in life, when that is the sole contrived objective, it never really works. Personally I hate the place. That’s not to say that there aren’t really nice parts of Orlando, where normal people live out their daily lives, just like anywhere else in the world. Well, maybe not quite like anywhere else, but I think you get the point.

To be honest I have only ever done the conference thing in Orlando hotels, so I do not know what it is like as a family holiday destination. But I guess there’s an excitement to any really large hotel if you are there on holiday. More restaurants than you can imagine, pools of every variety and all the usual big hotel amenities. Conferences revolve around massive ballrooms that seat hundreds of people and endless supplies of coffee, carbonated drinks and unhealthy snacks. Like so much in the US it is larger than real life. Alcohol when it’s served invariably comes in disposable plastic containers and outside, where it’s either uncomfortably humid or, as in this case, too cold. But the event must go on regardless.

The bedrooms are tired and don’t feel very clean. I think it’s a visual thing rather than anything else, to do with the dark wood finish and slightly grubby carpets. There’s never anything better than a low level foot bath and the showers are always badly pressured and alternate between being too hot and too cold. Mind you, if you’re taking a shower in what must be nearly a thousand rooms, then I can imagine that’s going to be some kind of plumbing miracle. And of course there’s the inevitable connecting door to an adjoining room, which you could always go to reception and get changed, but you’re in some tower on the umpteenth floor and frankly it took twenty minutes to get there and anyway if you turn on the air-conditioning it will be so noisy that you can’t hear the television properly let alone anything from the next room.

I did go to Disney and Universal once. With some clients. The company insisted I take them over one weekend. After seven hours on the first day at Disney they begged me, please, no more. It was the weak bottled beer and the frozen margaritas that did it I think. There was so much frozen stuff and so little tequila and a chemical green tinge to everything. It sounds a bit like the start of a bad joke, but honestly, there was a Turk from Istanbul, two Nigerians from Lagos, a Pole from London, a South African from Munich and a German, also from Munich. So on the second day I promised them we would only do the really good rides at Universal and then I’d take them for a special treat in the evening. So we raced around Back to the Future, Terminator and Jaws, followed by a long lunch. All of which I have to admit was quite fun for a first time experience. The treat in the evening? Well, I am now ashamed to admit that it was an evening at Orlando’s very own little strip club, Rachel’s. A sort of feast of silicone and peroxide. They told me it was the best part of the trip.

It really isn’t my thing these resort hotels.

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