Tiny Travelling Tales: A Note on the Summer of Covid

Holiday and conference season are done, so it’s time to take stock of how things went in a year when the press have been full of stories of travel nightmares.

In total I made three round trips by plane this summer, to Miami, Tunis and Chicago (for those new to this blog, between 3 and 5 trips a year is about normal for me, so, despite my saying I would cut back after covid, this clearly is not happening).

Of those, the most disrupted was the outbound trip to Tunis, with the outbound trip to Miami running it second. Both of them were going through Heathrow, which I suspect isn’t a coincidence (third place is the inbound trip from Tunis, but the disruption was entirely down to me lacking knowledge of local culture, of which more later).

The problem on the Miami trip was that the flight was delayed for four hours. Which initially didn’t bother me much, as I didn’t have any real tourism plans for Miami (it was a conference) so I might as well write papers in the airport lounge as anywhere. As the delay crept up to the four-hour mark, though, I realised that this would take me past the point where the hotel would hold my booking, so wound up making a series of panicked phone calls literally on the runway and terrified that any minute a flight attendant would come and tell me to put my phone away (they didn’t, and I’d like to shoutout to Yotel for holding my booking till midnight).

The outbound trip to Tunisia involved a two-hour-long queue for the security queue at Heathrow. This was at a point where defenders of the travel industry were blaming delays on large numbers of people going on post-pandemic holidays. However, when I got to the front of the line another narrative became obvious: they had too few staff to run the X-ray machine and search the bags, so they would run a few bags through the X-ray, search anything that needed searching, and so on. The second leg of the trip, through Rome, was trouble-free and fast, and clearly the Italians were not having as much trouble handling the numbers of people, large or otherwise.

The delay coming back from Tunisia? It was down to two things. First, that most of the people in the passport queue were doing it in large groups, stationing one member of each group in the queue, and then, when someone got to the front, the rest of the group would join them, meaning a very small queue would suddenly get very large very quickly. And second, that when I got to the front of the line the passport checker sent me to the back for not filling out my customs form. Available from a very small box on the other side of the room, with no signage to indicate what they were or that one had to fill them out. So as I said– lack of knowledge of local culture.

Time Travelling to Disneyworld

I’ve been on leave from work this week, which has meant I’ve been looking for fun travel-substitutes to do while in lockdown. And my main activity has been a time-travelling visit to Disneyworld.

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What does that mean? It means, I’m watching ride-through videos from Disneyland Florida and the EPCOT Center. But the catch is, I’m only watching vintage videos from rides which are either no longer in operation, or have changed substantially from their original conception.

If this is something you’d like to do too, I’ve compiled a little tour of the best ride-throughs I’ve been able to find (will update if I can find better), plus some useful documentaries and sites on the history of Disney theme parks that I’ve picked up along the way.

Disneyworld

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Snow White’s Scary Adventure

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride (this one’s USP was that you get a slightly different ride on each track, unlike other dual-track rides; the linked video goes through each multiple times).

America Sings

Original Space Mountain post-show, The Home of Future Living (straight ride-through here) (compilation here)

EPCOT Center

Journey Into Imagination

Captain EO

Horizons (straight ride-through, with a little bit of documentary footage; ride-through without the documentary, but lower quality, here)

Horizons (extended ride-through complied from multiple sources)

Universe of Energy (straight ride-through; poor visibility warning but this is literally the only copy of the original version of the pre-show and ride I could find)

Universe of Energy (extended ride-through complied from multiple sources)

Kitchen Kabaret

El Rio del Tiempo

Maelstrom

And to conclude your day, the IllumiNations fireworks show from 1991….

 

Background Stuff

Martin’s Tributes to Universe of Energy and Horizons (with background and history as well as ride-throughs)

The Mesa Verde Times (behind the scenes on Horizons)

Defunctland

 
Now, go stand in a shower with the heat on full blast, eating an overpriced hot dog and drinking a Pepsi, and buy a T-shirt with mouse ears or the CommuniCore on it or a stuffed toy of Figment, and your visit to Florida in the 1980s will be complete.