Monday, December 29, 2008

A Disney Winter Break

Our next Disney trip begins in just 3 days. We'll be at Walt Disney World from January 1 - 9 for a much needed winter getaway. After Siamese #3 spilled a full glass of diet coke all over my Macbook Pro keyboard, I'm ready to just walk out the door and get on the next plane. Grrr. So, there will be an Apple Store visit before we pack and head to the airport. Grrr.

Anyway, here's the plan:

We fly out on JetBlue on January 1. This will be our first time using JetBlue, but who could resist the Even More Legroom seats (38" pitch!!), 30+ channels of Direct TV and 100 channels of XM radio for budget prices? We'll see how it works. Given that I never did earn my 16th credit for a free Southwest Ticket, I'm starting to regret not flying Southwest this trip. I start to lose credits on Jan 14. :(

This will be a split stay, with the first 3 nights at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort (which is our DVC home resort), and the next 5 nights Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas (our favorite resort). We're really looking forward to breakfast on the balcony with the giraffes again, but staying at SSR is always nice, too.

For those who know me, you won't believe it but this is the most unplanned Disney trip we have ever taken. So far, we're spending more time and energy on connecting with friends than getting to the parks.

Our first night will begin with a progressive dinner with David and Sommer, local friends we met on a Disney cruise in 2006. We'll start off with appetizer's at Citrico's in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort, then move to Artist Point for entree's at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. The evening will end with dessert at the California Grill on top of Disney's Contemporary Resort and a view of Wishes, the nighttime fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom.

Then, we'll pop around for a couple of days doing various things as they catch our fancy with and David and Sommer, and trying to catch up with a few friends from MouseOwners.com who will be vacationing at the same time. Somewhere in the first few nights we hope to dine at Marrakesh in Morocco in Epcot and see Illuminations, our "church" away from church.

Ironically, a classmate who lives nearby and whom we rarely get to see, will be vacationing at Disney with his family while we're there, so we're going to meet up for dinner at Boma on Sunday night, when we transfer over to Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas.

The rest of the time we'll just take each day as it comes. Obviously we'll try to work in dinner at Jiko at some point (our personal favorite) and try out The Wave in the Contemporary. I'd like to have breakfast at Boma, and Kona Cafe in Disney's Polynesian Resort but there are only so many meals in a trip!

The big complication this trip is that I have a stress fracture in my right foot, which developed right after I had surgery for a torn meniscus in my left knee. The left knee is fine now, and the right foot is healing slowly, but walking gets painful at the end of the day if I'm not careful. We'll do what's necessary to prevent further injury, but Disney has always been an active experience for us so we'll have to see how it goes.

More to come!

Dirk

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Giraffe Romance


While waiting for dinner at Jiko, we enjoyed this bit of Giraffe romance on the savannah at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge:

Dinner at Jiko

Clearly I'm having too much fun vacationing to be too attached to the computer!

Tuesday night we had our 15th anniversary dinner at Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was amazing.

We had two flatbread appetizers, a cheese plate with 5 different kinds of cheese from goat or sheep, and corn/sweet potato souffle mix. All were delicious, though Leslie and Katie each liked the cheeses the other didn't like. With a new chef, they've changed some of the dishes around - and the flatbreads show more variations as a result. Tuesday night's was an artichoke feta combination with a few other tasty treats woven in. The chefs get to design a new flatbread every week, and we had this week's choice.

I had an asparagus soup with pistachio nuts and Jim had the cucumber, tomato, red onion salad. Both were great.

Entrees included two order of Chermoulah chicken, one pork tenderloin, and one filet. The chicken has been redone a bit, as has the pork. I've had the chicken before and like both versions. The pork was tender, medium rare, and well spiced. It was served with vegetables and yukon gold roasted potatoes. Having had pork now from both Citrico's and Jiko, I like both but for different reasons Definitely a difference between Mediterranean and African/Indian influences.

The filet came with the usual macaroni and cheese made from Jiko's signature blend of asiago, fontina, gruyere, and provolone. Yummy as usual.

We were treated to a pistachio chocolate creme brulee for our anniversary offering and then we ordered the year of a million dreams specialty dessert, which was basically a white chocolate moussee on a bit of a pound cake.

With dinner, we enjoyed a bottle Warwick pinotage 2005. Oh, and I had my first martini ever before dinner. Jim's favorite blend, which he enjoyed vicariously since he no longer drinks alochol: Tanquerey Martini straight up with a twist. I'm now officially in the martini club.

Our server was great, but a little slow sometimes. She knew her stuff and knew we cared about good food and wine, so she helped us tremendously. A 3 hour dinner, which gave everything time to digest before the next course came on!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Afternoons

Are made for the pool.

Lunch!

Yeti!

We are in the middle row

Expedition Everest

Our day starts with a visit tobtje Forbidden Mountain. What a way to
celebrate the 15th anniversary of our first date!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rock n Roller Coaster

It's our happy place

Block Party Bash

Jim took this one of the Toy Story float at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Block Party Bash afternoon parade. He is so proud!!

A mother near us dressed her 3 year old son in matching purple polka
dot jumper. He was not happy. We suspect he'll put a therapist's son
though college if his mother keeps this up.

Lunch at Sci Go Dine-In

We're still here!

For those of you who know Disney, you can visualize our tracks:

Saturday - left Epcot after a brief walkabout - hot & crowded with long waits. We did ride Spaceship Earth and give it two thumbs up. While we miss a few things from the Jeremy Irons version, we like the overall experience of the new one. The tribute to Walter Cronkite, was nice, too. :)

We took a bus to Downtown Disney to shop for a gift bag and card for David & Sommer's anniversary dinner that evening, and exchange a coral Mickey polo that I love but bought the wrong size of. Enjoyed a Wetzel Pretzel. Took the launch to French Quarter to walk around, then strolled back to Riverside to get ready for dinner. We really liked French Quarter and will stay there the next time we need to say on cash before a DVC stay.

Dinner at Citricos was out of this world. The servers gave us a few extras because of David & Sommer's anniversary, so we essentially ended up with 7 courses over 3 hours. I'll write more later, but the Roast Pork was awesome, and they gave us an amuse bouche with lobster on hummus with a couple of stray chick peas and a garlic crouton. Yummy.

After dinner, we went out on Seven Seas Lagoon for a Wishes Fireworks Cruise - that's the way to see Wishes, and we've been spoiled for all time, now.

Sunday, we went to Epcot to meet David & Sommer. Got Soarin' Fast Passes for later and went on Living with Land, then thoroughly scoured every square inch of the Seas with Nemo and Friends. While there, David & Sommer talked Jim and I into getting SCUBA certified since we might back to south Georgia and in Panama City area later in the summer.

After Seas, back to Spaceship Earth. The monitors didn't work right, but the ride was still great. Then monorail to Grand Floridian for Garden View tea. After a nice 2 hour tea with questionable service we said farewell to David & Sommer and took the monorail back to Epcot.

This time, we rode in the front with the pilot. He was an absolute riot, and loves his job with a passion. We all got complimentary Monorail co-pilot licenses. :)

We tried Spaceship Earth again, only to find the monitors were still wonky. Then, it was time for Soarin' Leslie and Katie have motion issues, but Katie took it really well while Leslie's eyes were shut for the whole attraction.

Then, strolled through World Showcase to the best Illuminations spot ever. I got Jim a bratwurst from Sommerfest while Leslie and Katie rode the 3 Caballeros attractionin Mexico. I had my usual Illuminations caramel apple from Germany, but with a diet coke instead of a Riesling given the two glasses of sparkling wine I had at the Tea.

Drove home, and dived into the hot tub. Our room at Saratoga Springs is as close to the quiet pool and hot tub for our area as you'll find.

So - that's what we've been up to.

Today - Hollywood Studios followed by a resort evening.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Today's Plans

We're starting the day with our usual parfaits, then Jim and I will head to Epcot to check out the Flower and Garden Festival.

At some point, we'll meet up with our friends David and Sommer. Today is their anniversary, and we'll join them for dinner at Citricos at Disney's Grand Floridian. We first met David & Sommer on the cruise in 2006 and try to catch up with them every Disney trip. They're a lot of fun, with a great (and realistic) love for Disney.

For the Foodies

Last night's dinner at Raglan Road began with appetizers:

The Dalkey Duo, which is a sausage wrapped in dalkey batter and dipped in a mustard sauce
And Forest of Scallops - fried scallops wrapped in bacon and speared on a forest of forks, with a tartar sauce.

I had a Penfold Cab/Shiraz blend. Jim had diet coke. Leslie had iced tea. Katie had hard cider.

Entrees:

I had a modern take on bangers and mash with a drop of Guiness stew added in, with a creamed corn side dish. All very good. The creamed corn side dish was HEAVY with cream, which is the point, but it also had a garlicky tartness that was interesting.

Jim had the "It's not chowder" chowder, which he loved.

Leslie had the Paddy's Pork. It wasn't her favorite - a little dry, but the sauce was wonderful. She also had creamed corn.

Katie enjoyed the "Salmon of Knowledge", fresh salmon fillet topped with smoked salmon, baked and served with a maple.

We were tempted by dessert, but too full to really worry about it at the moment. So we strolled through World of Disney and made a couple of small purchases followed by a stop at Ghiradelli. The soda fountain side was still closed for refurb (hopefully opens Monday), but the ever most important chocolate side was open, and sampling a new Ghiradelli milk chocolate/peanut butter blend. Yep, I found dessert!

The boat ride between Port Orleans and Downtown Disney was a lot of fun. Taking it in the late afternoon when the sun is low, but still hasn't set, creates a beautiful atmosphere and puts the scenery in its best lighting. On the way back, in the dark, there are parts of the river where you feel like you are 10,000 miles from civilization. It is so peaceful and relaxing.

The boat pilot did drop a little bomb shell of a rumor when he reported that the Tree House Villas were not only being torn down and rebuilt (that was already known), but he said that they would also become part of the Disney Vacation Club. That was the first time I've heard a living person rather than DVC chat-board screen name ponder such a rumor. Interesting .. . .

Friday, May 2, 2008

Dalkey duo appetizer

At Rdglan Road Irish Pub

And shopping!!

Hmm. What's for dinner

Our Day Thus Far

We've learned flexibility is the key for us at Disney. Since I've been anointed the Uberplanner yet am also chided for my Prussian ways, it's been a good growth experience for me. ;)

So, yes, today's plans have changed. It was to be Typhoon Lagoon followed by Epcot with dinner at Teppan Edo in Japan. However, Typhoon Lagoon was so wonderful, we didn't break away until almost 5:00. Thus, tonight's plan is now to get cleaned up and take the boat from Port Orleans - Riverside to Downtown Disney for shopping and whatever food we can pick up. It's Friday, so all ressies are long gone, but Raglan Road Irish Pub says there's still hope with walk-ups. We'll see. I've also wanted to try Earl of Sandwich, so I can be flexible. Really. Honest.

They payback is that Sunday in the MK after Tea at the Grand Floridian has been replaced with Sunday at Epcot after Tea at the Grand Floridian. Jim has to have Illuminations! (And I do, too.) We'll be losing Spectromagic parade for the trip, but we'll still get Wishes later in the week.

Typhoon Lagoon was wonderful - temps were high 80s with virtually no humidity, so you dry off in a reasonable time. After grabbing a nice location for our stuff in a shady area, we hit the wave pool - world's largest when first built and still pretty big. The six footers run every 90 seconds for 30 minutes, followed by rapid 2 footers for 30 minutes. We decided we like the smaller ones for bobbing around better. Water was chilly, but we got used to it quickly enough.

Then, when Jim finally acclimated after a 30 minute progression, Leslie, Katie, and I made our way to the Lazy River for two full circuits. Can we say relaxing? Not too crowded, either. Katie and I visited the shark reef for snorkling while Leslie watched. She thinks salt water is slimey so she wouldn't go near it. It was fun snorkling over the nurse sharks, but nothing to write home about. The provided goggles and snorkel were excellent, though.

We bumped into Jim at lunch time (good timing, eh?) only to find he had been continuously bobbing in the wave pool for almost 2 hours and was nearly mistaken by Del Monte for a prune! We had the usual healthy fair of hot dogs, barbecue pork sandwiches, fries and soda (However, still no Disney burger even on Day 3 of Disney) and then headed back to the chairs.

We read while Katie napped. Leslie, Jim, and I then took our two circuits on the lazy river while making sure Leslie hit every water gun and waterfall in sight. As Jim says, "Have you met my demon?" as he laughs maniacally! We then got back to the chairs as Katie still napped. At that point, I knew the energy was gone for Epcot because the sun was baking us and we weren't ready to go (still needed more wave pool action), so we made our adjustments. Then, Leslie and I hit the wave pool while Jim and Katie did the lazy river.

We thought they needed bonding time together. As Leslie says, "Yep. Bonding time for the two of them is going around twice together and not saying a word to each other." And so it was. Only Jim can turn the frenzy of a water park into a zen like meditative state. It's the water that does it.

We left at 5, and are now cleaning up for the evening shopping and food. Maybe a few pictures of the boat ride in the late afternoon sun as we cruise pass French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs.

Cheers!

Dirk

Photos are uploading to SmugMug!

Jammin' Jungle Parade photos are here:

http://carolinayankee.smugmug.com/gallery/4843917_FGPxo#288394553_eikzW

And the Safari Grand Gathering photos are here:

http://carolinayankee.smugmug.com/gallery/4843919_FwEjN

(or will be, in a few minutes).

Off to Typhoon Lagoon for a swim!

Dirk

Another shot

Good Morning

Doing my usual breakfast run to Riverside Mill food court at Port
Prleans Roverside for yogurt parfaits.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Recap of Day 2 at Disney


Animal Kindom was at it's photogenic best today, and I've really decided that afternoon is the best time to be there. Photos will be on SmugMug in the next day or so, and I'll post a link here.

After a good night's sleep, we had yogurt parfait to go from the food court (our favorite Disney breakfast) and a relaxing swim in the main pool capped by a hot tub soak before heading out to Animal Kingdom. The wather is absolutely perfect - mid 80s and low humidity. Perfect Disney weather.

We met Katie and Leslie at AK and are starting to think about taking the Backstage Safari tour sometime next week. We did Wild By Design last time and loved it. AK is really our favorite park - way too much eye candy everywhere you look and the music is so relaxing.

We just made it to the 1:45 show of Finding Nemo: The Musical. Very well done, but Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure is still my favorite. This is every bit as good, though - easily Disney's best or second best effort at a show in the parks.

We went to Expedition Everest at 2:30 to find a 40 minute wait and fastpasses gone for the day. Harrumph. Katie didn't mind, though. ;) So, we strolled around, did some shopping, snacked a little, and then It's Tough To Be A Bug. That was our first Disney 3-D, so it's always a fave. Katie's only seen it once and still hasn't gotten all the surprises down, so watching a newbie jump makes it all the better. :) (As Jim says, 'Have you met my demon?' )

The parade is coming up. Leslie heads to the locker to clear out the stuff there while Katie joins us for a stroll the Pangani Forest. We plan on catching the parade on its return. A few of the animals are out, but late in the day isn't the best time for the Pangani Forest Trail. Leslie is cut off from us by the parade.

After it clears Harambe, we grab chocolate shakes and sit at Tamu Tamu lounge waiting for it's return. Hardly any one is around when it gets back so we almost get a personal parade. The view and angles are perfect and the sun is perfectly positioned. I'm happy! Again, photos to come. Imagine the Jammin' Jungle soundtrack running through your mind.

It's time to meet up at Flight of Wonder with the other folks from MouseOwners for our Grand Gathering Safari. Our group is the largest (20), so we're put up front and labled the Lions. Mama Dacia (Mama is Swahili for 'woman in charge' and Dacia is 'purple flower') comes out greet us and set the mood. We think she's the same person who plays the mother in Festival of the Lion King. She's great.



We then head to our safari jeep and head out at 6:00. We get a drive and a guide. The safari is 30 minutes instead of 20. We don't really stop, but move significantly slower and get a lot of culture history and folklore about how the animals are integrated into African thought. A lot of fun. Again, perfect lighting, and I get a shot of a Cheetah for the first time ever. Photos will be posted in the next day or so.

We arrive at Tusker House for dinner at about 6:45. Great food and personalized service. The buffet included roast pork, prime rib, roast chicken, various vegetables and starches (yummy Yukon Gold potato wedges with African seasoning), samosas, pearl couscous, and so forth. I did snitch a couple of corn dog nuggets from the kids' section. Yummy.

All the while, an African trio entertained us with folk music. Afterward, Rafiki and Timon came out to dance with the kids, and then we were treated to animal exhibits of a Brazilian tarantula and an Australian Horned Dragon.

Each table was then given a dessert tray and tasty chocolate cake - even better than the usual chocolate cake we pick up from Wegman's for Sunday evenings. Mama Dacia posed with us and raved about Skype when she learned our group was from an internet chat forum. She kept working that into her hosting all evening - we must have impressed!

By the time we left, the sun had set and we were the only ones in the park - the lighting was awesome. Alas, we had a car in the parking lot, which was quite a hike since the trams weren't running . I tried to tell Katie and Leslie that a bus would be better, but . . . :) Anyway, we did make it back safe and sound and are resting up for tomorrow.

Morning is Typhoon Lagoon and afternoon/evening is Epcot with dinner at Teppan Edo, the new table service in Japan. The nightcap will be Jim's first shot at Illuminations this trip. He'll be happy. (as will we all).

Dirk

Animal kingdom entance

Jim

Day 2 Animal Kingdom

We began the day with breakfast in the room and a nice swim and hot
tub soak. Ofln the bus now to Animal Kingdom. Tonight's fun is an
after hours ride on Kilomajaro Safaris and dinner at Tusker House for
the MouseOwners Spring Fling Grand Gathering.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Summing up the Day

We had a good day, but a rough beginning. The FAA hold in Philly got us in 30 minutes late. Magical Express had a bus delay problem, so it took us another 25 minutes to board the shuttle to Disney. Port Orleans decided our request for Alligator Bayou was meaningless because we aren't a party of five, and the first CM treated Leslie with much disdain for even requesting AB.

When I got there, I pointed out that no one told us AB was reserved for large families when we made our reservation requests, and we chose Port Orleans Riverside precisely because of the AB. Well, the new CM bent over backwards and got us really great rooms in AB, so we're happy and found some real CM magic. Not only are we near each other, but in connecting rooms!

Depsite all of this, we were only 20 minutes late to Whispering Canyon. We chose the barbecue skillet all the way around because we each needed protein having not eaten for 8 hours.

Took the boat to MK, which Katie decided was the only way to arrive at MK. Mosied up Main Street, saw the Dapper Dans, had our photo taken (see previous post), then went to Monster's Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club, Buzz Lightyear, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Haunted Mansion. Monster's Inc used a joke Leslie texted in, so we were proud!

After some shopping, we headed back to Port Orleans, settled into our rooms and then Katie went to the pool while Leslie joined us for dinner. Now, time for much needed rest. Good night.

Main Street USA

On property!

We've landed!

35 minutes late due to FAA hold in philly, bit we didn't have to pull
over for extra gas in Jacksonville like last time.

Now where ate Leslie and Katie??

Sent from my iPhone

Waiting at the airport

So far everything is running smoothly! The famous PHL security lines
were almost non-existent.

A fellow Disney passenger on the shuttle had her luggage pop open.
Her husband said we did not have to worry because they were ok another
airline.

Turns out he forgot to zip her bag. Last we saw, they were headed to
Disney and husband was consigned to flight to Topeka.

Southwest flight departs at 8:50, so we should be in Mouse Town in 3
1/2 hours!

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Here we go!

Wow! It is really happening

We're going to Disney!!

April 30 to May 9.

Stay tuned for live updates on this blog and in-depth reports at www.carolinayankee.net

.