My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 3: “Wait, how are we getting there?”

All right! All right! All right! We’re in for the real thing now! Thank you all for putting up with me getting me sea legs under me by talking about boring errand running with my mom to get to the main part of the trip, I got to go back home!

Monday, March 22: Arrival Day! Pool Bars! Disneybound!

Waking up sort of early to get a little bit of work done despite being on vacation was probably the best decision I made all week, because it did make my reentry to the real world a week after this a good deal more smooth. But I digress, by 10:30 AM, we were on the road, and by 1, we’d gotten our bags checked at both The Walt Disney World Dolphin (Mom and Dad) and The Disney Beach Club (Me!) though none of our rooms were ready. We also grabbed some quick sandwiches at Hurricane Hannah’s. (I do not recommend this, although it served our purposes)

I had seafood salad sliders and a froze, Mom had an Italian Sandwich on Ciabatta and a Bannana Cabana, and Dad had a Turkey Sub and a Budwiser. Really, I’ve had worse and less thought out first meals on a Disney trip and in less fun atmospheres, because Hurricane Hannah’s is the pool bar and the absolutely lovely Barefoot Bay pool complex at The Yacht and Beach Club. Which, rules you guys, it is the best.

After lunch, we took a walk around the Crescent Lake region. Popping into the gift shop at The Boardwalk Hotel before heading back to the The Dolphin to get my parents settled. This lead to my favorite brand of conversation from the whole trip.

“How are we getting there?”

We had a dinner reservation at The Grand Floridian, so Dad got a little panicky. (If you don’t know Walt Disney World has a largely fantastic public transportation system that is free to everyone who’s on the property. But it doesn’t run hotel to hotel, you have to transfer.) I suggested we take a bus to The Magic Kingdom and then the monorail to the Floridian. This settled him down quite a bit.

I headed back to The Beach Club, and settled in the “member’s lounge” and did some more work. (I wish I was kidding. I’ve become one of those people now) before getting the text that my room was finally ready. I settled in, took a shower, got dressed and then Mom called asking if they should head over to meet me for the bus.

I said sure, and then turned on the TV and learned that OMG Must Watch Disney and the delightful Stacy have been replaced by probably actually entertaining Cartoon Shorts. Again, I say probably because I was too busy being outraged that my friend Stacy didn’t welcome me and yell at me about “HOW COOL IS SPLASH MOUNTAIN?” and I was quite put out.

Anyway, we had a late dinner reservation, but I wanted to check out the Enchanted Rose lounge at The Grand Floridian, having not visited since my beloved Mizner’s was converted to the trendy Beauty and The Beast style bar.

Enchanted Rose is gorgeous. And the drinks are good and the bartenders are, like all Disney Bartenders, top notch chatters. While I will always mourn when a wonderful simple hotel bar goes away, I can’t deny that at least this replacement is super worthy. I also wore a Belle Disneybound and Mom and I did a little photo shoot of me in the dress with the bar. (This room was completely empty, which is why I took my mask off. If there had been even one other group of people there I never would have. There was a level of irresponsibility even going on this trip, I certainly followed every single rule while doing so).

We also made some friends while we were having drinks who were also heading over to Narcoosee, where we were eating, so we all walked over to the restaurant together. We got a great table right by the windows, and I was thrilled when Mom gasped in happiness when The Electrical Water Pageant went by. She was probably the one most preemptively bummed out by the lack of things like parades and fireworks, (I later realized how odd and hollow the experience felt without them) so she was happy.

Narcoosee is meant to be a classic Florida restaurant, so you know what that means! MORE FISH! (I ate so much fish this week it was delightful) We started with a cheese plate which I very much enjoyed. We also ordered a bottle of Silverado Zinfandel. I suggested the Silverado as it’s the Disney Family’s Winery. It was good. I rarely choose ZInfandel, but for fish, it makes sense.

I had The Surf and Turf with Shrimp, Mom had the Porkchop and Dad got Lobster I think? I should have taken pictures. We had the first of a series of truly excellent and attentive servers. Seriously in nearly 30 years of going to Disney World and a decade of these regular adult trips, I had the best service experiences this time. Pretty much every Cast Member was enthusiastic, chatty and exceedingly helpful. The Cast have always been such a huge part of what makes Disney World special and at the moment they are working around masks, face shields and distancing requirements, a shoestring staff and a guest population that’s deeply on edge, and they’re still sunshine in a bottle.

After dinner, one of my all time Dis-nerd dreams came true. I timed this trip around my mom’s birthday, which also happens to be my parent’s wedding anniversary. (They got married on Mom’s 24th Birthday, a move she now describes as, “so romantic at the time, but kind of a pain in the ass as we grew up.”) I enlisted my siblings to give them a specialty cake for the occasion.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the Disboard Cake Chatter Thread and as such had a good idea of how to get exactly what I wanted and was very, very excited to see and taste the cake.

After dinner Dad excitedly asked what our transportation options were, and I said, “Oh, it’s midnight, unless you’re at Disney Springs, the option is Uber.” So we Ubered to the Dolphin, made our plans for the morning, and said goodnight.

I walked back to The Beach Club, Crescent Lake was eerily quiet, but it was lovely.

Tomorrow! I finally get to Batuu, long afternoons in the sun prove a bad call, and I fall in love with a gondola! Stay tun

My Big Florida Escape Trip Report!

Hello All!

I apologize for my lengthy absence, but I wasn’t feeling much like writing or watching Bond movies, so I decided taking a few months off was worth it. I’ve always said that the minute anything on this blog starts to feel like homework it goes!

I haven’t exactly been slacking, entirely of course. I did a bunch of work over on The Marina Chronicle, I’ve been very active on Twitter, and well, I got to go Home again.

Yes, friends, I finally got back to Walt Disney World!

But not before a few very relaxing days in Jupiter, Florida, where my parents now live.

Having not really travelled in two years, I’m out of practice on writing up a trip report, but here we go! This one should take up quite a few weeks, if I post one a day.

So, we begin!

Thursday, March 18 – Newark NJ – West Palm Beach

I had a lot of anxiety about going to the airport and flying. We are, after all still in a pandemic. But the whole experience was very organized and well distanced and I didn’t feel unsafe. I also managed to get a full work day in, so that was nice too! And I wound up sitting next to a woman who I’ve known most of my life, the mom of a girl who went to middle school with Mary. (She’s a nurse so was fully vaccinated! So that was also reassuring!)

My flight was at 2 PM, so I landed in West Palm Beach around 5:30. My mom picked me up and we drove to my parents’ new house in Jupiter, Florida.

My Uncle Denis has been in Jupiter for well over a decade which is why my parents chose the town. It’s a lovely house that they have a lot of plans for, but for my purposes on this trip included a kitchen and a pool, so all good on this end.

Rather than go out in a rush, Mom made Corned Beef and Cabbage and we stayed in and drank wine. It was a lovely start to my trip, if I do say so myself!

Friday, March 19 – We Get Fancy, Mom Eats Spicy Fish and Go To The Lighthouse

I wasn’t yet officially on vacation here. I was working in the morning, but there’s a world of difference between working at my tiny little cafe table in my apartment and working poolside. One is a good deal more pleasant. However, after the morning of working, Mom and I headed down to Palm Beach to go to High Tea at The Chesterfield Hotel.

Pretty much anytime we travel, Mom and I say we’re going to go get High Tea at whatever fancy hotel has it. And then we always forget and don’t do it. So, this year for Christmas I gave her a gift certificate for the High Tea at The Chesterfield.

If you find yourself in Palm Beach (and if you can swing a long weekend, I highly recommend it, it’s a very fun and different place to check out) go to The Chesterfield’s Leopard Lounge. We have every intention of doing this every time I’m down there now (not always tea, we’ll probably just grab drinks) The room itself is themed around exotic animals. (This is a British owned fancy hotel, bits of colonialism are a given.) I love a hotel bar, especially when it feels different from other Hotel Bars, and The Leopard Lounge, uses sleek blacks and animal print rather than the traditional dark woods and red velvets.

The tea itself was good. We had to take half of the sandwiches home with us since it was a Friday in Lent and we couldn’t eat meat. But the pastries and scones, which are the real reason for going to tea, made the whole thing worth it.

We then walked around Palm Beach a little, but my stomach was hurting from too much sugar and having my period so we quickly headed back to the house and I took a nap and felt much better.

That night we’d planned to go to this awesome outdoor waterfront bar that the whole family loves, called Guanabanas, but there was two hour wait for a table, so, no, we didn’t do that. Instead we headed to a place called The Bistro, which is where we used to eat at least once every trip, because when we called they said they could seat us as soon as we got there.

Again, it was a Friday, and also it’s Florida, so we all got fish. I got a thin sliced salmon dish, Dad got crab cakes, and Mom got a snapper cooked in paper, and it was made with sweet chili. Now, my mother does not eat spicy food. Ever. She’s a real baby about it, even too much black pepper will ruin something for her. But she very much enjoyed this. I was proud of her. One of these days I will get her to eat Thai food!

After dinner, Mom suggested we head back to the waterfront, and grab a quick drink with a view of The Jupiter Lighthouse. I smilingly agreed, I’d go anywhere, this was their portion of the vacation. We parked the car and walked into a “divey” (as divey as anything in this area of the state gets, it’s a pretty chichi area) and hanging behind the bar were more moscow mule mugs than I thought existed and “Don’t Stop Me” by Queen blaring over the speakers. I was thrilled. We ordered drinks and headed out onto the dock and saw the beautiful and Iconic Jupiter Light House, before going home and heading to bed.

That’s the beginning. Tomorrow, we’ll cover the weekend! I go on a boat! And eat dinner at a serendipitously named restaurant with a coincidentally named bartender! Very exiting stuff! Hooray!]

(I thought I had pictures for this post but i got a new phone and now I can’t find them and it is very frustrating)

California Here We Come Part 1: Heaven Is A City Much Like San Francisco

Hey everyone! So I’m nearly a month back from my trip to Northern California, my first time on the west coast, and just an absolutely transformative experience, and full of learning and family bonding etc.

So, I figured, let’s write about it!

The trip started on February 22, when I left work at lunch time and headed to Newark Airport for my first cross country flight. I’ve flown to Vegas, but I had a Layover then, so I was nervous about the length. It wound up not being bad at all. I didn’t sleep, but I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Few Good Men, so that was pretty cool.

After I arrived, I grabbed my bags and hopped in an Uber to the Sheraton at Fisherman’s Warf, where Mom, Mary, Dad and I were staying. The hotel was nice, a chain in a tourist area, so a little bland, but nice, clean, the room was big and the breakfast buffet was sufficient the next morning.

The only thing I didn’t totally love about San Francisco is that the town shuts down relatively early. Even the wharf, most restaurants shut their kitchens at nine. (Even in the tourist no mans land of  Midtown Manhattan you can get a burger at midnight!) Since I didn’t even LAND until 8, this was a struggle, but we wound up at The Tonga Room, a tiki bar in the basemant of the Fairmont Hotel.

It was the kind of “secret touristy” kind of thing that I’ve always loved, plus I’ll always take Asian fusion food and a rum drink.

We had a great time, and I lost my phone, but I was exhausted and figured that I’d be able to get it back. I’d recommend the Tonga Room for sure. It’s a big place, and there’s live music, so it was pretty great. Also it was nice to see the Fairmount. I have a certain soft spot for big old hotels. (Can’t imagine why!)

In the morning, we had plans to take the Love Bus tour, but first I had to retrieve my phone, so Dad and I grabbed an Uber over to the Fairmount to get it. That was quick, and easy and we had a chatty fun Uber driver.

BY the time we were back at the Sheraton, Mary and Mom were having breakfast, but we still had a bunch of time before our plan for the day, so we mostly just sat around the hotel room, before wandering down to the corner of fisherman’s wharf, where we would be picking up The Love Tour.

Dad found the tour online, basically a painted VW bus picks you up and you get driven around different San Francisco neighborhoods and taken to a few really good photo spots.

I very much enjoyed the tour and it seems like everywhere in that city has the most amazing view you’ve ever seen.

After the tour we went to lunch. I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant, because it was great. My dad found it. (Dad was in the driver’s seat of this whole trip, which was hard for me, normally the trip planner. Really hard.)

After lunch we gathered our things at the hotel and got on a ferry to Napa County. There was a bar on the ferry, so Mary and I obviously befriended the bar tender which was great, because it got us to the top pours on our wine! (YAY!)

The ferry went from Fisherman’s Wharf to Vallejo, and our house was in Fairfield. We got an uber, (SO MUCH UBER this trip!) and got to the house. After unpacking, another Uber took us to a shopping center where we ate a Thai restaurant and then bought snacks and stuff at Safeway. I got a pumpkin curry that was delicious but waayyyy too spicy for me. Well, just the curry and chicken were, when I actually got a bite of the pumpkin it cut the spice perfectly, but there wasn’t a lot of actual pumpkin pieces in it.

We were all completely wiped at this point, jet lag being what it is, and being on our feet most of the day. So we basically just went back to the house and crashed. Just, completely passed out.

Next up, we start our day drinking, light eating journey through wine country. It’s amazing.

Merry Dapper Day: Hotel Review and Favorites

OK, so, the trip went really well, so it’s time, obviously, to talk about staying at Pop Century, and my favorites from the trip.

So, we stayed at Pop Century and it was pretty great. We were in the 80’s section in one of the newly renovated rooms. (We requested it. I also requested a top floor room, this was a mistake that I felt bad about the whole trip.)

The resort is great, huge, and well laid out, with a great food court, and a good gift shop. The new rooms though, are the real reason to stay here. (besides price, the price really is great.)

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The rooms feature a queen bed, and a queen sized murphy bed that when it’s folded into the wall is a small table for two. This allows for extra space when you’re not sleeping and a table is a great way to make that space also functional. The rooms also feature linoleum floors instead of carpet which also allows the room to look sleek and modern.

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Also there’s cool pop art of Mickey and Pluto.

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Given the choice, I’d spend the little bit extra to stay at Riverside, just because having a proper lobby bar rather than just the food court is something that’s important to me. But I was a tag a long this trip, so I happily tagged along and really enjoyed Pop!

Favorites:

Ride:

Fligth Of Passage holds on to the top spot, it’s so special and beautiful and amazing and wonderful. Runner up goes to Dumbo, which after 30 years on this earth I have finally ridden and really is quite magical.

Show:

This was a tough call between The Very Merry Christmas Parade and Festival Of The Lion King, and I think I have to stick with the parade. It’s a beautiful tribute to the Christmas spirit and the costumes are absolutely divine.

Meal:

Tusker House takes the cake, not just because of the characters. I loved the food and atmosphere and service too. Le Cellier was great, really, and I’m glad to have done it, but in the future, if I’m going to spend that money, I’d rather go back to Jiko or California Grill, or try one of the signature restaurants at a resort that I haven’t tried yet. (I still have to do both Narcoosee & Citricois, plus Artist Point and Flying Fish and Yachtsman Steakhouse.)

Drink:

This one does go to Le Cellier, the Coudoulet de Beaucastel Grenache Blend I drank with that dinner was divine. I’ve even passed the label and name on to the wine shop that I go to, so that they can keep an eye out for it and let me know if they order it. I know just enough about wine to know what I like and what pairs well with different meats, and this fit the “good with steak,” and “I like this,” bills quite well.

Snack:

Pongu Lumpia for the win! Sweet, tangy and a cool texture, this was for sure my favorite thing I ate the whole trip.

Special Bonus: Holiday Favorite

It was really cool to see the parks all done up in their Christmas finery, but I have to say that my favorite park Holiday decorations were at Studios. They fit with the Hollywood motif perfectly, and really make it look like something different for, ahem, that time of year.

Disney Cousins Fall Trip: Hotel Review & Favorites

Alright everyone! We’ve made it a month and we’re still talking about this trip. Sorry it took so long to get everything written up.

But it’s time to talk about Port Orleans: Riverside, and specifically The Royal Room!

 

As I’ve mentioned, we weren’t even supposed to stay here. The original plan was for French Quarter, for a couple of reasons. French Quarter is largely regarded by the blog community to be the more efficient choice, and the theming of Riverside squicks me a little. The division into Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou, that is, large opulent antebellum mansions and “rustic” cabins respectively, feels, mmm, how do I say this…KIND OF REALLY GROSS? I mean, Gone With The Wind is in my top 10 favorite movies, so I’m normally OK about compartmentalizing such things but a hotel built in the 90s having it feels off, and super weird.

“I’ll think about our culture’s problematic relationship with slaveholding society tomorrow, at Tara!”

BUT, anyway, we wound up in the Royal Room, which was, kind of insanely great and also completely ridiculous and insane.

TADA!

 

The rooms are probably great for families, especially princess obsessed little girls, and since that’s what I am on the inside, well, it worked out. The portraits of the princesses, the electric headboard, and the note from Tiana are all very fun touches.

Light Up headboards: Excellent for drunken giggling and applause.

Some princely appreciation (Not much but it’s there)

Tiana, welcoming us. (Helping to sooth my weird guilt about the theme)

The rest of the resort really felt nice. I’ll reevaluate after staying at Pop (and there’s a possible Coronado Springs in a few months!), but I think I may have settled on really enjoying the moderate resort experience, when it comes to saving money. River Roost is a fantastic lounge, not just by Disney Bar standards, but by hotel bar standards, with a good mix of seating options, (arm chairs by a fireplace for the win, ALWAYS!) a friendly and well informed staff, (not really a huge deal at Disney, but still, always pluses the experience) and some good food options.

I didn’t get time to walk around as much as I would have liked, but what I did see was really pretty, Fulton’s is definitely the better laid out of the gift shops I’ve seen so far. Riverside is definitely going to be a repeat spot. It’s hard to beat the price and it’s a beautiful resort with two other types of rooms for me to try out. (Regular Magnolia Bend Room and Aligator Bayou Room).

I should note, I’m a fast walker, so me not minding the sprawling moderate resorts because it doesn’t take me long to get around should be taken with a grain of salt. I have long legs, and I’m from a metro area where strolling is basically considered a hate crime. (Seriously, if you’re visiting New York, DO NOT WALK SLOWLY DOWN THE SIDEWALK. EVERYONE HATES YOU.) So when I say, “it only took me a minute or two to get to the lobby/main bus stop,” that might be a longer walk for people who are less crazy.

Favorites:

Ride:

Pandora Flight Of Passage is REALLY really good. The 3-D is beautifully rendered, the pre show fun and a little bit awkward (as all the best pre shows are) and the queue spectacular. It wins this trip, for sure. It’s stunningly beautiful, thrilling, and really, really special.

Show:

Illuminations. I love it so much, and while Boo To You and Hallo-Wishes are great, seeing my old favorite from a new (and incredible) angle really made it feel special. (Also the drinks.)

Meal:

Frontera Cucina was definitely the showplace “big meal” of the trip. It was a really good one too. I’m leaning heavily on new things being the favorites, but in general, with restaurants I try not to over repeat. (It was very weird to not go to Be Our Guest this trip!) But I’ll always love Mexican food, and I’m getting to the point now where I’ll be able to really give strong recomendations on where to eat at Springs. (Given the choice? I’d pick Homecomin’ over Frontera, both are excellent but Homecomin’ blew me away)

Drink:

You know it wouldn’t be a favorites post without me talking about what bit of alcohol made me happiest. It’s going to The Snakebite at Rose and Crown. I’m still drinking these. Seriously, I asked for one at the Bar and Grill where my family and I meet for dinner once a week. (Tom thinks I should request they call it “Reenie’s Snakebite” there, but you know, I’m not pushing it)

Snack:

This is a tie! I don’t usually allow ties, but since I had to choose between something seasonal and special and something that I make sure I eat every trip because I love it so much. The choices are the Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and the Spice Road Table Hummus Fries.

The ice cream first. I love all things pumpkin spice. (You know, much like how I adore my Uggs, Rose Spritzers and feel that Taylor Swift just “gets me.” I’m a white girl.) So when it came time to grab a snack while Tom and I waited on the fireworks, well, I grabbed a scoop of this. It was perfectly balanced between good creamy ice cream sweetness and the sort of pumpkin pie flavor that makes up the best pumpkin spice flavored things. 10 out of 10 would snack again.

Now onto my latest rhapsody to the hummus fries. It’s fried hummus. But Reenie, you might say, isn’t that just a falafel? I mean, kind of. But there’s something in the texture about these which makes them BETTER than falafel, also the dipping sauce is really yummy, and it gets eaten in easily my favorite restaurant in Epcot! So you know…I love them.

Guys, I’m going to be back in Disney World in a few weeks. Seriously, so soon. If you want more details on that trip, you should check out Juli’s blog Random Spirited Ramblings. She took the lead on the planning this time (which was nice for me! I love Disney planning, but it was nice to step back a minute.)

Disney Cousin Fall Trip: 9/18/2017: “See You Real (Like REAL REAL) Soon!”

Monday morning I woke up and decided that rather than go to the park, I’d head over to Disney Springs and do a little shopping. Tom was on a much earlier Magical Express than I so we parted ways.

First I stopped by the food quart, as I’d realized it had been three days and I hadn’t eaten anything shaped like Mickey! The SHAME! So I got a Mickey Waffle and some bacon, and also some grits, (because I’d spent three days south of DC and hadn’t had grits.) It was way too much food. But all quite good.


I hopped on the boat to Disney Springs. It was only 10 AM so most stuff wasn’t open yet, but I did some shopping, was hoping to get a wine slushy, but Amorette’s wasn’t opening until noon, so that was a non starter. (My ME was at 1:30, AND I had a work call at 12:30, so I couldn’t swing that.)

I hopped on a boat to Saratoga Springs, to get my Saratoga Springs Ornament (In November I’m going to try to get over to Animal Kingdom Lodge one afternoon…and obviously I’ll get a POP one while we’re staying there.) So I’m halfway to my plan being finished.

Then I had to boat back to Disney Springs, then back to Port Orleans, just in time to grab my bags hop on the bus. HOORAY!

Seriously, it was much better than running back and forth to a park that morning. The work call was much easier tucked into a corner of the Saratoga Springs lobby than anywhere else. (I’m not going to lie, if I’d been in a park, it would have been AK, and I’d have likely settled at Nomad Lounge. While not have a Night Monkey probably made the call better and more productive, it sure was a bummer for me.)

Then it was back on the bus and to the airport. My flight wound up delayed (OMG!) but at least I wasn’t stuck all night, just a few hours, and while a margarita and some Mexican food filled that time (plus finally finally finishing The Stand) 

So, next week we’ll talk about the hotel and go through favorites. And this time next month I’ll be back in Disney! YAY!

Disney Cousin Fall Trip: 9/16/2017 Part 2: “Well, that was worth it!”

I’m a big fan of the 2 hour afternoon hotel break on a Disney trip. It’s not something we ever did growing up, because we weren’t rope droppers, so there was less need for it, and we always went in November when it’s not quite so hot.

But now that I’ve gone during hotter times of the year with a “get to the park early & then stay late” touring style, I love my post lunch hotel room time. Time to regroup, have a cool drink, lay down and maybe nap is absolutely necessary now, ESPECIALLY if you’re doing more than 1 park in a day. Which we were!

So, after our Animal Kingdom adventure, we enjoyed about an hour and a half in our room, and then did some shopping.

Tom was looking for a very specific pin, legendarily the only piece of Kingdom Hearts merchandise in the parks. And there it was, right in Fulton’s General Store, the gift shop at Riverside.

Hooray!

We then boarded our Epcot bus, and off we flew to indulge in plenty of food and wine. (Actually it wound up being mostly beer…)

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First, of course, we stopped by Soarin’, which is such a delightful ride. I’m always happy, everytime I ride it. We had a fastpass, so we pretty much walked right on. After Soarin’ we hit the Festival center, where I claimed my free annual pass food and wine stuff (Button with Remi on it, and a button that say AP.) And did some more shopping and general gawking.

Then we hit Spaceship Earth, which I adore and always will. I am curious how it might transform again, with Seimens pulling out their sponsorship, but who knows if it will at all. I just know that it’s the best.

After that we began questing around the World for snacks and drinks. We didn’t stop for munchables or potable at every country (skipped: Norway, Japan & Morocco), but we did a decent job. Specifically, when Tom raised an eyebrow at waiting 20 minutes at La Cava, I implored him to trust me, and lo and behold “Well, that was worth it!” became the theme of the evening.

Then for Norway, we explored a bit while we drank our Margaritas, moving quickly to China, where we watched the acrobats and I got pot stickers. Then we moved on to Germany where we got beer, and Tom got a Brat. We settled in by the water and enjoyed, and then headed in to shop a little in the Christmas store specifically. I considered purchasing a Pickle ornament. (This is an important tradition…I’m like a sliver German, and it’s a thing? I guess? I dunno, but I know that my tree will need a pickle.) I reconsidered and we went to Italy.

Since I am constitutionally incapable of not going to Tutto Gusto when in Italy, we stopped there. (Also, our dinner reservation wasn’t until 8:40, it was about 5, we needed an in between). Sparkly wines and refreshing small plates held us over, and we were on to America. I went for a Sam Adams Octoberfest, and Tom went for a Yuengling. Then came Japan, and rather than grab Saki, we nursed our beers and walked through the department store, where the epic discussion of lack of merch began.

Tom found another piece of Kingdom Hearts merchandise, you see, and then we looked at the Myazaki stuff, and he declared “THIS IS RIDICULOUS! No Face has more representation in the park than actual Disney characters in this game!” (He then made it clear that this is not to take away from how awesome No Face, is.) We explored the rest of the store, talking about other favorites that are weirdly not in the parks (Wall-E? Why no Wall-E?) before heading to Morocco, where again, just exploring happened.

It is important to note that by this time, we had a good buzz on. I pointed Spice Road Table out and explained that if I hadn’t managed the Pub reservation, that would have been where we were eating.

“Can we eat there anyway?” Tom asked. I shrugged and said it would make for good brunch, and popped into My Disney Experience and made us an 11:30 AM reservation. We thought this was the greatest plan of all time.

Then France, where I began babbling in drunken Franglais, and I think Tom was done with me. (Bless him) While in France I helped myself to some Boeuf Bourgenioun and A Kir Royale, while Tom had a glass of Cabernet.

Once we crossed the channel, Tom had some cheese dip at the Ireland booth, I hopped to Canada quickly and grabbed a bowl of the cheddar cheese soup. (YUMMMM!!!)

Then we checked in to Rose & Crown, I mentioned that I was hoping for a patio table. The hostess smiled and nodded, and we headed into the pub, where I tried my new favorite drink ever, The Snakebite. It’s half Strongbow, half Harp. It’s delicious, and I think I had three of them.

We were seated at an AMAZING table outside, and our waiter (Kevin? I think?) immediately brought us more drinks, and gave great recommendations.

Now, I love Illuminations, I’ve enjoyed meals and watching it from LA Hacienda De San Angel and Spice Road Table.

But I’m converted. If you’re going to sit and watch the show, it has to be from Rose and Crown. WOW, the view is spectacular. The food’s not bad either. I had a shepherd’s pie that did the trick, even if it didn’t blow me away.

After the fireworks we walked out to the Boardwalk and right into Jellyrolls.

Ah, Jellyrolls. There’s never a bad moment in that place. The cover is annoying, but the music and crowd are always great and it’s the cheapest beer on property. Hooray! There was a lot of dancing, laughing, singing along to 80’s music, and a surprisingly poignant conversation about how gay men of our generation don’t need Cher as an advocate anymore. (Though she should still be loved and celebrated, because she’s awesome.)

A car ride home and a few drunken watches of the electric headboard later, we passed out.

To be continued!

Disney Cousins Fall Trip: 9/16/2017 Part 1: “In The Valley of Moara”

The main even of this trip was always going to be checking out, at the very least, the rides over at Pandora: The World of Avatar. We didn’t get a chance to explore much in The Valley of Moara, that is, the stunning portion of Pandora where you are transported for this land, BUT, we did see a lot of it, even without a calculated walk around because of how the line for Flight of Passage is set up.

Anyway, onto the narrative. I awoke before the sun, at 5 AM, due to my bladder have none of this “sleep without emptying me” foolishness. I was annoyed, because while I had planned on being up between 6 and 6:30 (also before the sun), that extra hour can mean a world of less crankiness from me. But alas, it was not to be.

Even more annoying though, was that River Mill Food Court didn’t open until 6:30. so not only was I up, I was up an hour and a half before coffee was an option. Plus Tom was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him by turning on all the lights and moaning about how there was no coffee.

So I surfed Facebook on my phone. (OBVIOUSLY) I looked at our Touring Plans (Touringplans.com, if you’re planning seriously, WORTH THE SUBSCRIPTION!) made some tweaks, and figured out some timing. I also got ready.

I wore a new Rapunzel Themed Disneybound, that is FOR SURE getting worn again for the November trip with Juli and Dom, because it was a huge hit. Also, it’s very comfortable, so it’s a win.

Once 6:30 hit, I went to the food court and got my Lorelai Gilmore on, (came just short of shouting “COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE!” at the poor cast member checking me out.) I picked up a chocolate croissant (Disney Food Court Pastries = love) and a cinnamon roll, which we picked at as we got ready.

We were at the bus stop by 7:15, and the turnstiles for Animal Kingdom by 7:45, about 5 minutes after that, we were brought it to a pathway to check in as resort guests.

Then we were held for the remaining ten minutes, until we could move towards Pandora.

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Walking in was a little bit of a gust of wind. The floating mountain is very cool, and the fauna all around you a bit much at first. I wasn’t sure if I was going to cotton to everyone’s gushing over this place. Once we got in view of the waterfalls, however, I was sold. I also can’t wait to see it at night!

The best part about waiting on line for Flight Of Passage is that it curves you through most of Pandora. You see almost everything on this line, which makes further exploration kind of moot. You also see a Navi cave, a science lab, and an elaborate pre show explaining what banshees are the way that you’re going to ride one.

And then there’s the ride itself. It’s not exactly a secret that Pandora was built as an answer to The Wizarding World and that Flight of Passage is meant to stand in for Forbidden Journey, and from what I remember of Forbidden Journey, Flight of Passage is WAY more impressive as a ride, even if the queue, despite it’s loveliness will never measure up to walking through Hogwarts castle.

But the ride on the banshee is incredible.

Next we hurried ourselves over to the Navi River Adventure (or whatever unweildy name it has), which is beautiful, and the shaman audio animatronic is really really cool. That also has a fun queue (a large woven structure.) After the river cruise, we decided to head into AK proper and take a safari, and while it wasn’t the best ever (February still gets that), it was pretty good, followed by an early lunch at Satuli Canteen.

I went for the chicken bowl, with sweet potato hash and vinagrette dressing, and I had the Grog Ale. Both were delicious.

After lunch there was some shopping in Pandora, and then a quick jaunt up Everest, which, showed a 40 minute wait time that came in closer to 20. (You’re going to notice a theme this trip.)

Then it had reached the ungodly hot portion of the afternoon, so we went for our bus and headed back to the hotel room for water, relaxing and AC…before moving on to Part 2 of our day…Epcot, for Food and Wine, Soarin, the history of communication and yelling about under represenation of stuff in merchandise. (That third one was mostly Tom…I’ll explain!)

Oh, and before THAT I had a photo shoot in my Rapunzel Disneybound!

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Stay tuned!

 

Disney Cousin Fall Trip: “I’m So Glad You’re Here” 9/15/2017

Hey everyone! I was back at Disney World this weekend, and it was (as usual) amazing. I was joined, by my cousin Tom, and we fit in all four parks and a lot of fun. Arrival day, however, proved tricky.

If I’d been by myself, I’d have simply changed, and headed to a park for the evening. But, Tom only had a 2 day park hopper, so it left us trying to figure out other things to do. I’ll get there.

I had a noon flight and left my apartment at quarter to nine, and was settled in with a mimosa and a basket of chips at the airport bar by 10:30. Lovely. I boarded a quick and comfy flight at 11:30 and landed in Orlando at 2:30.

It was, to almost the minute, two hours from touch down to the resort. A record for me on Magical Express. It was an hour and a half from disembarking. My past two experiences have been longer. I got to Port Orleans Riverside, I’d gotten our room notification before even boarding, but I wanted to make sure we were synched in properly, due to the many reservation changes over the week and the hurricane, so I went to the front desk, got directions and made sure I was good to go.

I changed, and decided to head to the bar. I knew Tom was on the bus so I had some waiting. I chatted with my bartended, the lovely Spencer, who also gave us a ton of drinking tips (seriously, she was awesome, if you find yourself at River Roost, tip her big.) When Tom arrived, he also had a beer and then we headed back to the room so he could changed and we discussed our dinner and evening options.

We wound up at Disney Springs for dinner, Tom eager to try Frontera Cucina.

Guys.

Guys.

This food! We skipped drinks, due to neither of us having eaten much and deciding that we wanted to Trader Sam’s later. But we immediately ordered the Queso Fundido. I then went with the Shrimp Mojo and Tom had the chicken tacos. I also ordered the mashed potatoes, because I can’t help myself.

All of it was incredible. Rick Bayless is one of my all time favorite Top Chef judges and when he won Masters my mom and I actually cried. To finally get to eat in his restaurant was very exciting and that it is so good, is just another layer.

Also, even though I’d forgotten my card, the waitress gave us the 10% AP discount, which was very nice of her.

We then walked around Springs a bit, hit World of Disney to get a baseline for shopping and then hopped a bus to the Contemporary, because it was there and that way we could ride the monorail to get to The Polynesian.

Trader Sam’s was full, so we sat on the terrace and ordered drinks. I had the Krakatoa Punch, and Tom had a Dark And Stormy, and we got to watch a bit of The Incredibles playing by the pool and catch all of Hallo-Wishes as it burst over the Magic Kingdom.

After about 40 minutes on the terrace we were welcomed to the main bar where we switched to beer, chanted to appease the Tiki Goddess Uh-Oa, and overall admired the kitch and fun of the place.

We took a Lyft back to our delightful Royal Room, which we have decided is both absurdly tacky, and amazing at the same time. (Tom supports my “Disney as a viable alternative to Vegas for non gamblers” theory, thus, a tacky themed room totally fits.)

Overall, it was nice to not feel like I needed to rush around, and to have someone else to decided where to eat. (I 100% would have wound up eating food court tater tots because I couldn’t decide if Tom hadn’t said that he wanted Mexican.) And Trader Sam’s is always a good time.

We were quite proud to have clocked a boat, bus and monorail before even setting foot in a park too.

We then settled in and I wrote this report and we got ready for our big trek to Pandora in the morning..

Disney World Weekend Preview!

I was suppose to go to Walt Disney World tonight! However, there’s kind of a huge hurricane heading to Florida, so I’ve rescheduled for next week. I’ll 100% do a trip report. (You guys seem to like those, and they fill up space here, and I love writing them, so WOO!) But I thought it might be fun to talk about the stuff that I’m looking forward to doing.

This trip will be different, (they all are), but also, I’m going with my cousin Tommy! You all know Tommy from our Holiday nerd discussion topics, and this trip is my graduation present to him. (Oh god, I didn’t PAY for the whole thing…but like, planning it, and I paid for parts…)

Animal Kingdom:

PANDORA! The origin of this trip was so that I could see Pandora without being bogged down by the other things that Juli, Dom and I want to do in November. Then Tom decided to tag along and the rest of the trip took shape.

But I’m hugely and unbelievably excited for Pandora. For the rides, for the atmosphere, for the food. Because of how often I’ve gone to Disney in the past few years, I’m psyched for something that’s completely new to me to be on the agenda.

But I’m also excited (as always) to try to convince anyone of the greatness of Animal Kingdom. I lovvvveee it!!!

Epcot:

FOOD AND WINE! It’s food and wine festival, so we’re planning to spend Saturday evening at Epcot. Graze for dinner and we HAD a late reservation at Rose & Crown, that I sadly wasn’t able to duplicate, but I’m goinna try for a table there anyway. If we can’t get one, chances are my old friend Spice Road Table will probably be able to take us.

Since we’re likely to wind up in Epcot at Lunch Time on Sunday too, I’m not too stressed about getting everything I want at Food And Wine.

Hollywood Studios

I’m hoping to Rope Drop Sunday’s EMH so that we can get the rides in early without many lines. Since there are only like 5 rides open over there right now, I don’t see this as a problem area.

Mostly, I’m excited to do Star Wars stuff with Tom. Much how I was excited to do Star Wars stuff with my siblings and Joe in February. Star Wars is important to us, the movies and lore filled our childhood.

Also, I’m going to be wearing my Poe Disneybound…so….I have to take a picture with BB8.

Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! This worked out really well. My original plan was to fly home Sunday night so I didn’t have to take a day off work. This would have meant no real Magic Kingdom time. (I probably would have hopped over and ridden Haunted Mansion and Pirates.) BUT once Tom decided to come, and we learned it was a party night, this seemed a no brainer.

When Juli and I went to the Halloween party, we had a great time, but missed a lot of it because of our dinner at Be Our Guest.

While I don’t regret this, I’m excited to actually walk around and see the party this time. Plus the short lines it provides means plenty of rides.

While I had inititally planned on a reservation at Skipper Canteen, due to me really enjoying eating there before, and Tom and I both being affeciandos of pun based humor, but again, I wasn’t able to get a reservation (Bummer) but again, we’ll try for a table.

I’m definitely dressing up. Torn between Party Poe (the difference between Party Poe and Poe Disneybound? Chest piece!) and Dapper Haunted Mansion Outfit…it’s a very difficult call…

Other Things:

We were booked at Port Orleans French Quarter, with a River View Room, when rebooking I wasn’t able to get that, or anything, which was at first a huge bummer. BUT THEN! A second call got me rebooked! And not at French Quarter in a regular old room, but at Riverside, in a ROYAL ROOM!

Ordinarily these cost about $100 more a night, but because of the rebooking, it won’t. Also, it’s princess themed.

I’m kind of freaking out about it.

My plane gets in at 3 on Friday and Tom’s gets in at 4:30. He doesn’t have a park pass for that day, so I have some ideas about how to occupy ourselves that evening that don’t involve the parks. Disney Springs is a possibility, I mean, it always is.

But this is also a prime opportunity to do a low pressure, tons of fun Monorail Bar Crawl.

When I did this before I was on schedule because I wanted to be back in the park, and had a Fast Pass. This time, however, no schedule, which basically means lots and lots of time to hang at Trader Sam’s, and to even try to get up to California Grill to watch the Fireworks. (Which will be Hallo-Wishes, which we will also see on Sunday…but you know, beggars and choosers ETC.)

Overall I’m really excited and while the date change is causing us to fly by the seat of our pants a little more (something I’m not great at.) I’ve planned and gotten to know the resort enough that I’m not overly anxious.