Sunday, 6 March 2011


Warning: Epic post
As anyone reading this is likely to know, Iain won another Nokia competition recently. This time he got to take me too! His winning entry:

Friday: Got up ridiculously early (4.30am) to catch a flight from Edinburgh airport to Gatwick. Have some leisurely coffee and croissants in Gatwick then fly to Orlando, Florida. Second flight in particular had epic leg-room, about 6feet for Iain! Exit seats are good :)

Arrived into Orlando about 6pm and Iain recognised Frank in the queue and met Mike. Wandered round Orlando airport until we found our driver! The car was massive. It was like being enveloped by a huge leather sofa! An hour later we got to the hotel, met some of the Nokia/WOMworld people in reception and checked in. Our room/suite was also massive (this seems to be a recurring theme in America). Big bedroom, with kingsize bed, big living room/kitchenette thing, bathroom, balcony overlooking the atlantic ocean. It was dark when we arrived but we could just about make out the crashing waves below. The thing that baffled me about the hotel was that the *double* room had *three* sinks... (and two tvs, and two games consoles).

After an hour or so to settle in, we met most of the other Nokia people in reception and had a walk to a barbecue restaurant. I think it must have been obvious we were foreigners, in the mile long walk to the restaurant, we saw *noone* else walking. Restaurant place was what we expected; pick an animal and sides (most of which seemed to be deep-fried). Then utterly fail to eat even half of what was on the plate. It was very nice but given we'd been awake for 24hours by this point we were starting to flag! I went for beef with Hush puppies (ordered out of curiosity, they were deep-fried corn bread rather than shoes), deep-fried okra and sweet potato chips. Even the drinks were massive - I had a bucket of coke that I needed two hands to lift.

All the other people there (N8 producers winners, Nokia/WOMworld people and the film crew) were lovely and from all over the world (Britain, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, France, USA, Canada, Brazil, Philippines, South Africa - via Finland).

Following the meal we went back to the hotel, and slept. At least for about 4 hours until we woke up at 3am thinking it was time to get up. Few more hours of attempting to sleep we gave up and watched the sunrise from our balcony:
Florida Sunrise

Once the sun was up we went for a swim in the outdoor swimming pool, went for a paddle in the ocean (pelicans kept flying past and fishing - they're huge!) and then went for breakfast. Buffet full of tastiness! Wonderful eggs, bacon, French toast and a waffle machine!

Pelican Beach

Saturday was the day we had all been waiting for - Zero gravity flight! We all loaded onto the bus to the venue. There we got our own flight bags with flightsuit, special socks, t-shirt and wristband. Watched a video of what we would experience, and got told hardly anyone gets ill. Then we had a second breakfast and got taken to the flight strip!

We were in 3 groups of about 8 people each led by a trained member of the zero gravity company. The plane was like any normal plane except the engines were on the tail rather than the wings. Also there were only about 50 seats at the back of the plane, the rest was stripped out and padded. Once the plane got to normal cruising altitude we were taken forward of the seats to lie down in our groups. The pilot then took the plane into parabolic dives and rises so that we could experience weightlessness. The first gave us the experience of Martian gravity (1/3 of Earth gravity), the second and third were Lunar gravity (1/6 of Earth gravity), we then had two dives of zero gravity.

Zero gravity is hard to explain, it's like no other experience. We were lying on the floor of the plane, then suddenly we would lift up off the floor and float around. There was no "lurch" or feeling of dropping. We just went from normal weight to weighing nothing. The closest thing is floating in water, except that there is no resistance. Any push against the floor or wall (or ceiling) would cause you to career off in the opposite direction. This led to bodies flying everywhere and colliding off each other and the walls - great fun! The guy in charge would then say "Feet down, coming out" and everyone would attempt to get their feet beneath them for when gravity suddenly came back. We would then all lie down still for while the plane regained altitude - experiencing about 1.8G. We had been told that the heavy gravity was the bit that could make people feel queasy so tried to stay motionless to reduce any effects.

We had 12 goes of total weightlessness and the team leaders set up various things for us to do - handfuls of sweets and globules of water to chase after. Several people began to feel ill and were taken to the back of the plane with sickbags. Most people had a great time though. It was all over very soon and were taken back to have a buffet, get our certificates of weightlessness and generally recover from the experience.

Zero-gravity plane

After a couple of hours in the hotel we all met up and went to the bar next door - Lou's Blues (confusingly not a Blues bar...) We all seemed to be the youngest by quite a way but it was fun to relax with a couple of beers and some more deep-fried food.

Sunday morning was more swimming in the pool and the ocean, more buffet breakfast then Universal Studios. It was fun out of season but I can't imagine what it must be like in the height of Summer (a steady 28C was plenty for me!) with lots of people. It was great being able to just walk on to rides rather than queue for hours. Especially for the Harry Potter ride - it took us a good 10 minutes to walk through without stopping, bypassing the majority of the queuing pens!


Sunday evening, those of us who were still awake went back to Lou's Blues bar. I tried my first ever oyster - surprisingly nice, like a slightly oceany custard but much more refreshing and tasty than that sounds! There was then much competitiveness over the foosball table, then an hour or two singing round the piano - much to the delight of one of the bargirls. Apparently noone ever plays the piano, especially not with vast quantities of interesting, young singing foreigners!

Monday was a day to relax, buy chocolates from the massive Walmart across the road (it took me about 10 minutes to find the food section, it was so big), and try surfing. For me this mostly involved wading out with the surfboard, struggling onto it, cruising along on my stomach for a bit then losing me balance, getting splatted by the board and crashing my knees on the rocks. It was fun though! Shortly after we stopped attempting to surf we saw a dead shark on the beach. Am glad we saw it *after* getting out! It was about 4 or 5 feet long and could have given me a good nibbling!

We then proceeded to eat the majority of the buffet in preparation for travelling, then sat chatting to the WOMworld guys in reception. It was a bit of a mac-fest. They all had macbook pros or airs. Iain had his ipad and I felt slightly outclassed with my ipod touch... Iain got some very exciting news from Heriot-Watt and then we got a taxi back to the airport.

All in all a wonderful experience with some great people, vast quantities of food and many pretty Mustangs and Corvettes to lust after :)

Now I just need to work out how to get my hands on a Nokia N8!

Nokia have uploaded the first unofficial videos from the trip at: