Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How I spent my summer vacation...

I've already shared the Give Kids the World parts (here and here) of my Orlando trip -- I wanted to recap the "vacation" part of my trip, too.

I think I have already mentioned this, but I am a bit of a Disney nerd. My family didn't get to take many vacations, but when I was in middle and high school we took an annual trip to Orlando for as much Disney fun as we could squeeze in, and we REALLY cherished these trips. I took a bit of a hiatus from Disney parks for quite a few years, but I've been making up for lost time -- last week was my 6th trip to the World in two years. Hooray for Annual Passes!

I like how at Disney you're not an adult, you're just "10 or older"
What this means is that I don't feel the need to see and do everything on my trips. Our trip was scheduled during a fairly hot and crowded time of year, and my traveling companions (mom and brother) don't really have the same kamikaze attitude I do about touring. In general I just tried to go with the flow.

So, the highlights....

Loved the hotel!

We've stayed at Disney's Beach Club before, and I think this is my favorite resort on property. I LOVE being in the Epcot area -- it is so nice to be able to stroll over to the World Showcase, and I love being a short walk/boat ride to the Swan and Dolphin Hotels and the Hollywood Studios. The theming of the Beach Club is also great. It is reminicent of a New England seaside resort -- lots of white clapboard, rope trim, sea creature motifs, etc. The rooms are light and bright and just scream "vacation" to me.

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I loved our stay, though it was not without a few hiccups. First, a reminder that Disney service is just not what it used to be: our internet service refused to work, and it took multiple calls, several trips to the Front Desk, and a lot of patience to get it fixed. And what was sad was no one really cared -- there was a lot of shrugging shoulders and passing the blame. Not the Disney I remember from years ago.

Also, you may remember I was considering my workout options in case I felt the need to get some exercise in during my trip. I needn't have worried. Our room was quite a hike from the elevators -- more than 160 steps (I kept losing count). Not so bad in the morning, but sometimes that walk after a long day in the park was brutal. Also, *some* people in my family (everyone but me) got lost in the maze of corridors that led to our room.

I am very happy to say that during this trip, we really got to take advantage of the amazing pool at this resort: Stormalong Bay.

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This 5-acre pool is really like a mini-water park. There's a slide, a lazy river, games -- so much fun! On the last full day of our trip we had croissants by the pool and then floated in the lazy river for hours. The pool was miraculously empty that morning, and it was heavenly.

Loved the food!

A trip to Disney isn't complete without some great meals, and this visit was no exception. We had a fantastic first dinner at the Cape May Buffet, right in our hotel. This buffet is meant to be an old fashioned New England Clambake -- I'm not a seafood eater, but I definitely didn't go hungry. Chicken, beef tenderloin, pasta, salads, potatoes, corn on the cob, and at least 100 pieces of cornbread. I really liked the cornbread. We hit a few other favorites, like the Crystal Palace (with hugs from Winnie the Pooh!), Pecos Bill (love the burgers and taco salad), and Sunshine Seasons (definitely a change of pace from typical fast food).

I was also glad to introduce my family to Chefs de France, one of my favorite restaurants in Disney. It is pricey, but the prix fixe menu helps make it a little more reasonable. I went with the chopped salad (too hot for French onion soup, unfortunately), braised short ribs, and creme brule. Heaven!

I love the quality of light in this restaurant at night, so Parisian! This photo does not help you see that at all.
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Loved the attractions!

Despite the crowds, we managed to hit a lot of parks and a lot of rides during our trip. I won't recreate our plan completely, but most memorable were...

Tower of Terror: my favorite ride, hands down! A good day is when I can ride this about a dozen times. We managed 2 rides this time, but I loved each one.

Buzz Lightyear Space Rangers: I finally beat my brother! He ALWAYS wins, but this time we made a dessert wager. I guess that was the motivation I needed to rally and out-shoot him. 417,000 points! Certainly no major record, but a great score for me (hint: aim at the hands of the big robot on the left-hand side of the first room -- each hit is 100,000 points). And my reward was delicious...

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Animation Academy: This is one of the best kept secrets at Hollywood Studios (though this trip brought the biggest crowds I've seen here, so I guess the word is getting out). A Disney animator teaches these 25 minute classes, taking you step by step through the process of bringing your favorite characters to life. You DON'T need to be an artist, they really make it easy! My characters always come out looking like they've been slightly squashed by a steam roller, but for me that qualifies as a success.

We drew Dale! Can you guess which one is mine?
Miyuki the Candy Lady: The Epcot World Showcase offers plenty of live music and entertainment throughout the various pavilions, and Miyuki is by far our favorite performer. She is an amazing candy artist who performs regularly in the Japan pavilion, and her work is AMAZING. She takes a simple ball of rice dough and transforms it into beautiful and playful animal-shaped candy. They're miniature sculptures, really -- she's so talented! I believe she is the only woman trained in this ancient art, and her performances are so captivating.

It was a great trip, but I am quite happy to be home. I have a busy summer planned -- marathon training for sure, and perhaps a few other big things in the works. There have been so many things that I've been waiting until "after I get back from vacation" to do, and now I'm ready to get to work!

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