The Blog

Orlando Hope and Glory

Ah, Orlando... brimming with the American Dream. And judging by the cuddly Yanks surrounding me, most of them dream about cake. The American Dream takes the biscuit and every other fattening snack. It leaves you star-spangled in bed the following morning, covered in feathers with a rictus grin pressed against the duvet.

Ah, Orlando... brimming with the American Dream. And judging by the cuddly Yanks surrounding me, most of them dream about cake.

Posters; impossibly friendly taxi drivers; Goofy; soft-focus adverts and super-sized Tater Tots packaging are all screaming at you to be what you want to be; do what you want to do and dream your tits all the way off.

The receptionist at the box-fresh Ramada Plaza Hotel greeted me like a long-lost daughter, smiling with every lip in her possession and just falling short of clutching me to her bosom. It was emotional.

But that was just the tip of the peak of the stub of a very large iceberg. I normally dust off the abacus to count my lucky blessings if I get so much as a chocolate on the pillow and a guarantee that Lenny Henry has not fallen backwards onto my bed. So imagine the circumference of my eyes when they were met with a suite so sexy and massive, it could have comfortably accommodated my entire flat in its cutlery drawer, complete with a lounge, kitchen and jacuzzi.

Naturally in the world of giant dreams, only two, enormous beds would do - wouldn't want to risk wearing my mattress down with all that dreaming. Free snacks and bottomless drinks were then delivered directly to my stomach on the Ramada's rooftop pool and Jacuzzi, overlooking the perfect, Disney toy-town below, where nobody swears, litters or takes Mickey Mouse's name in vain.

Everything is so sugary-sweet and massive that a diabetic would be taking his life in his hands to so-much-as gasp within Disney's freshly painted, candy-coloured walls. You can see everywhere from Mexico to Germany, Japan and Morocca at Epcot ... although Mickey doesn't appear to have discovered Russia, just yet. Truly the American Dream in action - no need for pesky passports, new languages and flights. You can waddle around the world in the time it takes to gnaw a giant, turkey leg. It's a small world, after all.

Can't decide between a hamburger or a hot dog? Then have both, with a giant skewer down the middle. My flabber was gasted by it all, as we tottered from the Osborne Family Lights - the bastard offspring of Christmas and the Northern Lights - a life-size and entirely edible gingerbread house and a gospel choir which made the cast of Ben Hur look like Tom Hanks and his lonely coconut.

This dreamy wholesomeness wins over and regresses even the most withering cynics, as I found when I looked over at my fiance sitting cross-legged, licking an ice cream the size of his head with a melon wedge grin, while Sully and Buzz Lightyear marched by in the Disney procession.

Can't dive? Who cares? This is America, remember? And you can do whatever the chuff you like, as we found out at Discovery Cove where anybody with a head can experience the amazing colours, creatures and weightlessness beneath water, thanks to their extraordinary SeaVenture experience. It's an underwater walking tour similar to poncing around a very floaty and fishy moon. You step down a ladder wearing a wetsuit and natty, 70 pound dive helmet, which is connected to the air supply above. And as long as you keep your noggin upright, the compressed air means you don't even get your barnet wet. Dream on that, sucker.

Probably the biggest example of the American Dream - or Soviet Nightmare - in action, was JFK setting the seemingly ludicrous challenge of putting a chap on the moon within a decade... sticking it to those pesky Russians (who don't exist in Epcot or the moon) while they were at it. Twenty per cent of the world's population watched Armstrong step onto the outrageous Babybel we knew from the movies, within just eight years.

So unsurprisingly, Kennedy Space Center was my highlight and a compelling argument for aspirational sheep counting. Only twelve men have ever landed on the moon and they have ALL been American. The flag planted on the moon was the Star Spangled Banner. By the end of the trip, even I was happy to gloss over the fact that JFK died before his goal was met; Armstrong botched his lines; and that it came amid an unsavoury period of race riots, war and the murder of Martin Luther King.

TV screens are filled with grinning children and astronauts repeating mantras - with all the delicacy of army drill sergeants - like: "Work hard in school and you can be whatever you want to be. Maybe even an astronaut!"

"The best stuff is still in front of us."

"When we stop exploring, we will falter."

It was all so intoxicating, I was close to shoving a stick of dynamite up my derriere, pulling on a crash helmet and stretching my fists to the sky. At the risk of sounding a bit, well, American, it really was inspiring.

Looking at a piece of the actual moon, inside a glass box; seeing bonafide space boots worn away with specks of naughty lunar dust; launch pads; giant rockets; gazing down upon the iconic Launch Control Center, which oversaw all 152 launches including the Apollo launch and the Space Mirror Memorial, honouring the 24 astronauts who gave their lives for space exploration.

It's difficult to match Kennedy Space Center's patriotism, but an American basketball game comes desperately close.

In Blighty, the crowd's focus is on the beautiful game - there are few distractions, apart from the odd, growled chant which neatly rhymes "quick" with "dick."

A giant, cow mascot would receive a swift, roundhouse kick to the udder if his furry head obscured the pitch. Not so in America. They're used to fireworks whenever they flush a loo, so require endless distractions during a big game to maintain their diminutive attention spans.

And as somebody who would rather eat her own knees with rusty cutlery than sit through a load of hairy old men skipping around a green square, I am all for this.

So I was a big fan of the Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors NBA game. An unfeasibly tall man fired t-shirts into the crowd with a large gun; cheerleaders flaunted their undercrackers; a troupe of dads performed Gangnam Style; the camera and giant screens shamed anybody not whooping a lung out onto their Orlando Magic vests; rude hot dogs doubling as draft excluders are rammed in your face along with giant, dustbins of fizzy beer and cuddly mascots leap around the crowd like salmon in the spawning season.

Meanwhile, cuddly fans - surrounded by wives, children and grannies - live sporty success vicariously through the heroes on the court. Occasionally, if you squint and concentrate with all the patience of a whale watcher, you might catch a tall man briefly shooting balls through hoops. Awesome.

The American Dream takes the biscuit and every other fattening snack. It leaves you star-spangled in bed the following morning, covered in feathers with a rictus grin pressed against the duvet.

So it's lucky they provided two beds.