If I thought clambering into the car was acrobatic, I hadn't seen anything yet. The first morning of our stay we decided, for no other reason than Emma's mum suggested it off the top of her head, to visit Sea World.
Now I am sure that not so long ago this would have been a unique experience. Clearly Orlando leads the way in this kind of thing, but by now it is by no means the only place where you can see the full range of sea creatures without getting even a little damp. Only two years ago we were in Lorro Park in Tenerife watching two enormous killer whales perform leaps and gyrations from a distance Robert Shaw would have balked at (ok so that was a man-eating, rubber shark but you take my point). As close by as Ellesmere Port you can look upwards from an enclosed walkway and see some fairly sizeable sharks devouring an unfortunate squid.
None of which is to say that I did not enjoy the experience. I'd never seen Beluga Whales up close before, nor a polar bear. Albeit a sleeping polar bear. Certain people in our party had suggested that the polar bear would not be real and so decided not to visit the section to find out. I couldn't comprehend the pointlessness of exhibiting a fake polar bear and so took a leap of faith. I can confirm that it was real, even if it was about as likely to move in public as the Queen's bowels. In all honesty it probably does not enjoy the confinement relative to the freedom of the wild, but it was an awesome sight nonetheless.
Traditionally, and as with any of the other Sea Life Centres I know of, Sea World's centrepiece attraction is it's Killer Whale shows. 'Shamu Rocks America' the T-shirts proclaim, and again without trying to poo-poo your poo-poo it seems that this is something of an exaggeration. Shamu does not so much rock America as cause it to endure a steady ripple.
The show was understated in comparison to even that at Tenerife, with leaps and gyrations in shorter supply. This may well be linked to the recent deaths of handlers unfortunate enough to have got into the water with a Killer Whale having a bad day. Seems reasonable. To compensate the handlers are the new acrobats, dressing up in bright, sparkly costumes to perform death defying leaps and twirls, but at a safe distance from grumpy old Shamu and company. It's still magnificently entertaining, and a good deal more impressive than a biff getting into a hired car with the aid of a stategically placed handle.
Staying with the watery theme it was here that I experienced my first taste of the erratic Orlando weather. Emma and I were on our way back to meet the others (who had long since given up) when the bright blue sky turned grey and the heavens opened. I have never seen rain come down that fast. Stalls were hurriedly disassembled, shelter desperately sought. We ended up near a cafe with a covered forecourt, along with what seemed like 90% of the people who had visited the park that day. Any young lady caught in the downpour for more than a few seconds quickly replaced Shamu as the main attraction. The deluge lasted for around half an hour, but such is the heat of the sun when it reappears that it could not have been out for more than ten minutes before everything dried up again.
The obligatory mug safely purchased and packaged, we moved on to the next adventure.