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2023 - November - Florida - Day 12

We woke up to a not great weather forecast with rain in the air and our first day without any real firm plans. As it was supposed to be dry all morning, we decided to head out reasonably early.

The first stop was at Walmart on Old Lake Wilson Road. It was quite quiet, well stocked and well-staffed all of which made for a pleasant change. We managed to pick up the bits and bobs we were looking for as well as a few that we weren’t. Miraculously we all found each other again quite quickly and made our way out of the store.

Then we headed back to Celebration to get Karen another coffee. It seemed that many other people had the same idea as the car parks were very busy. They were still preparing Main Street for Christmas with the big metal Christmas Tree being constructed in the middle of it. The boxes to made it snow each night were already up. Sadly, we will be back in the UK for the big switch on which takes place on December 1st.

Lots of people were gazing into the Lake as there were lots of turtles near the edge and to Neil’s delight a small alligator.

We found a seat outside of Starbucks and enjoyed our drinks whilst chatting. Even Neil admitted it was quite pleasant doing so. On the way back to the car we stopped again by the Lake where the small alligator had been joined by an even smaller one. Then the larger of the 2 scrambled out of the Lake to bask in the warm air.

Back at the villa we had lunch – I cooked myself some Mahi Mahi in Old Bay Seasoning which was delicious.

At 2.30pm we headed out again just as the misty rain started. We headed up the I4 for 25 miles to the outskirts of Winter Park to the original Gideon’s Bakehouse. The only other store is in Disney Springs and has received cult status. We have never been in as the queue is never shorter than 45 minutes to do so. They only let a few people in the shop at a time. It has no windows and the heavy doors remain shut in between people being allowed in, to add to the mystery. The cookies which are about £5 each do look fantastic though.

On the 50-minute journey I realised that I had had too many drinks before leaving and needed the toilet badly. By the time we turned off the I4 I was bursting. In the end I had to pull into some gardens to park and run behind the nearest tree to relieve myself. It's no fun getting old as I never use to have that trouble. Karen reminded me that I should have remembered that I had had a tea at Starbucks earlier and that always has this effect on me. In the past I have mentioned it to my GP but his response was just don’t have drinks that have that effect on you – sad, but true and not that helpful.

We arrived at a strange looking building that said it contained Gideons Bakehouse. Eventually we found a small counter in a small market type area on the ground floor. There was no queue. After a quick chat with the girl serving (who was from Manchester) Karen & Neil made their selection of a Triple Chocolate Cookie and a Banana Bread Cookie. They both looked and smelt amazing.

I looked up Gideons Bakehouse later. This original store and the Disney Store are the only outlets. It is owned and run by one chap who now has 29 staff. The name comes from the name written in the back of an old cookbook he found with cookie recipes handwritten in it. What a gamble to move from a small tucked away counter in an anonymous building North of Orlando to a prime large store in Disney Springs. And how it has paid off. The cookies have won numerous awards including best cookie in all of America.

We then drove into the centre of Winter Park and parked for free at the train station that crossed the Main Street. As we got out for a walk the misty rain seemed to get heavier which took some of the pleasure of walking away although it was still very warm.

In the Williams Sonoma cookshop I was sorely tempted to buy a tin of the original peppermint bark even though I cannot eat it for now. Karen dissuaded me though as it cost $30. I looked it up afterwards and not only was that price reasonable but it is supposed to be the best you can get and all others manufacteurs try to copy it.

I purchased a ‘Life is Good’ T shirt in the Synergy shops sale before we walked now to the Taffy Shop. This has the biggest variety of taffy we have seen including some vile flavours like Pickle or Cinnamon. We decided to buy 8 different ones to take home for Barry & Ellie. The lovely guy in the shop decided that he wouldn’t charge us for them and so we put some money in the tip jar for him instead. Karen only allowed to put in the bag flavours she thought they would like although I did slip in a Mango & Chilli one. The trouble was afterwards we could only remember 6 of the 8 flavours to tell them, they will have to guess the last 2.

On the way back to the car both Karen & Neil resorted to putting on their cagoules against the misty rain. It still wasn’t proper rain but annoying nevertheless.

Then we drove to the nearby Cheesecake Factory which was pleasingly very quiet and had no wait. The meals as always were huge. I was going for a Caesar Salad but then saw that the breakfast brioche bun had the same number of calories, was much cheaper and looked far more interesting. It was very acceptable. Neil had Spaghetti and Meatballs whilst Karen had an Omelette. They both ordered some Cheesecake to go (Key Lime & a No added sugar one). They planned to eat them tomorrow lunchtime.

The drive back was not bad apart from the alert on the overhead signs telling us to beware of a car that was driving the wrong way down our side of the road. The carriageway was 4 lanes wide and was chocka full of cars so how it was getting through I was not sure. Fortunately, we never saw it.

At the villa Karen & Neil tried their cookies and can confirm they were as good as they hoped and the reputation that had preceded them. Neil and I sat and watched some of the Monday Night Football which featured the Buffalo Bills. I must admit I understood the game a bit more and appreciated some of the moves. Karen put on my headphones and giggled to herself watching Strictly on the laptop. And with that we ended the day.

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