Our Florida Vacation

We called 2017 the “Year of Repositioning” and many of you followed our journey from Las Vegas to Florida and the fits and starts along the way.

2018 is the “Year of Adjusting,” and I’ve really been struggling lately, actually even before the one-year anniversary of arriving in Florida. The first 7 months were spent in an apartment in North Orlando while we house hunted and then built our home in a beach city we’d never lived in before. So the adjustment period started all over again, although we might have been further along in our adjustment if we hadn’t had to split our time. But, then, this is our third time in Florida and I always get homesick. Hence, the upcoming birthday trip to SoCal, a short cruise to Mexico, and a couple of days at Disneyland Resort. I can’t wait to touch down once again!

Just for kicks, I looked at some pics of our Las Vegas home and the surrounding area and am so thankful we’re out of the desert – the best thing about living there was that feeling of home and being only 4 hours from Disneyland/SoCal childhood. I miss that! Sometimes I can’t believe I’m so far away now. How did this happen? 🙂

Anyway, here are two pics that show the contrast of living in Las Vegas and living in Florida – no wonder I struggle to adjust – it’s a huge change!

The back of our Vegas house – solar screens are popular as a way to block out some of that hot desert sun. We also had blackout drapes on the back side of the house for that intense afternoon sun.

This morning’s view from my screened Lanai where I sip my coffee every morning – glorious!

Two different worlds for sure!

Saturday, we shopped for the trip in the morning and then had our lunch at La Fiesta, which is so authentically Mexican, we’re there practically every week. At least the weeks we’re not at Disney. The Margaritas are amazing!! Growing up in Southern California surrounded by Mexican culture, margaritas and tacos are a taste of home.

Tequila, take me home!

Halfway through eating lunch. 🙂

We were shopping at Target the other day and we picked up some food items like tortillas, black beans, rice, tortilla chips and salsa and the clerk said, “Are you having a Mexican Fiesta?” I just looked at her and said, “Every night is a Mexican Fiesta for us.” The thing is nobody would say that to you in California or the West Coast or the entire SW. In this day of the Food Network and food education, I’m a bit shocked even somebody in Florida said it.

No doubt we’re having a blast in Florida, enjoying frequent trips to Disney and the beach – what a welcome change from the desert. Our house is wonderful, the golf community is gorgeous – both a dream come true. But it’s not home. And, as always, it’s starting to feel like we’re on another extended Florida vacation.

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day Two (Final)

We were unsure where to have breakfast this morning, but, in the end, we chose France for our favorite beignets and champagne. We’d told ourselves we should boat in but our room was located near a walkway leading to the Yacht Club, so we walked over to International Gateway. We saw where the gondolas will go and couldn’t help but add to the cries of those of us who love the International Gateway and know it will change forever once the hordes arrive from other hotels.

We arrived at rope drop and were admitted onto the walkway leading to France. We each got a beignet, shared a coffee and a champagne, but because I woke up in need of some protein, we shared a quiche. Awesome way to begin the day! We just might have to make a special trip just for breakfast sometime soon. 🙂

Filled with energy, we decided to walk over to Mouse Gear to pick up the Donald Annual Passholder magnets, which are just like the Mickey ones but with Donald in a different color and just as huge – lol! Rich also got a cool shirt – we had found a Mickey journal I’d spied at the Contemporary on Easter so we got that for me the night before at the Screen Door.

We enjoyed the beautiful morning, the breakfast, and just being out and about, snapping some pics. We walked back to the boat dock. Of course, a boat had just left and we were wondering if we should just walk back but decided to wait for the boat. We ended up getting off at the Yacht Club and walking back because it was probably about the same distance to our room as the boat dock would be.

We packed, checked out, and drove home, wishing we weren’t so far from Disney. But the distance does justify an overnight, which is so awesome and we were really happy with the Dolphin.

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part Three

This was our first stay at the Dolphin and it was very nice. Because Starwood has merged with Marriott, we were upgraded to a Park view King room, instead of the basic view. We were able to watch fireworks from Illuminations from our room.

The bed was super comfortable, there was a nice couch, and the shower was a nice standup shower, rare on Disney property, unless it’s a DVC room.

After a nap from our busy morning, we headed out to the Boardwalk for something to eat. We ended up at Big River Grille, one of our favorite hangouts when we lived just two miles from WDW in Windermere.

We shared a Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich (they nicely cut it and served it on two plates for us), and we each had a beer. We enjoyed people-watching, then headed for our usual walk around the Boardwalk, stopping at the Screen Door where we picked up a bottle of wine and some Mickey chocolate caramels.

We enjoyed peeking in at the Flying Fish, reading the menu and noticing it didn’t seem quite as pricey as when it first opened. Perhaps this will be Rich’s birthday dinner?

Our next stop was Apple Hills Creamery – I thought I was too full but Rich asked if I would help him out with a dish of Butter Pecan Brittle and it was so amazing, I definitely ate half of it. 🙂

We made our walk around the Boardwalk, remembering so many times we did that when living nearby. In fact, we did it so often, it’s really taken ten years for me to really enjoy it again. 🙂

It started to sprinkle but we made it back to the room without getting too wet, enjoying the company of a family playing “Red Light Green Light” with the kids.

Today’s steps came to nine miles altogether and we were soooo tired. Thankfully, the miles were broken up so we didn’t get too sore.

We opened the wine, poured into the nice wine glasses provided, ate a few caramels, and then watched the fireworks from Illuminations before dozing off.

 

 

 

 

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part Two

Lunch at Skipper Canteen

We were ready to eat, but it was about half an hour before our Skipper Canteen reservation. We decided to check-in at the restaurant anyway, and we were seated in about 10 minutes. We had a cozy table for two in the main room, the Crew Mess Hall.

The theming of this restaurant is fantastic. It starts with the perfectly-themed outside covered reception/waiting area and extends through the whole restaurant, although we were glad we were seated in the Crew Mess Hall since the other two rooms were small and not as well themed. But, in the middle of a busy, crowded park, it really feels like you’ve been transported to the jungle. Absolutely wonderful!

Note from Kathy: And, for the first time, we ordered an alcoholic libation in the Magic Kingdom! This is what Blue Bayou at Disneyland needs – if you’re going to pay those prices, you should be able to have a glass of wine or beverage of your choice with it.

Our Menu

Drinks

Kathy: King Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (King Estate Winery, Eugene, Oregon)<

Rich: Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale – Draft (Concrete Beach Brewery, Miami, Florida)

African-inspired deep amber ale, brewed with a special blend of spices.

Appetizer (Shared)

Jungle Green Salad

Iceberg Wedge with Shishito Peppers, Radish, Hearts of Palm, Cucumbers, and Pistachios, Aji Pepper-Yogurt Dressing

Entrees

Kathy:

Perkins Thai Noodles

Chicken, Tofu, Seasonal Vegetables, and Rice Noodles, Tossed in a Spicy Soy-Chili Garlic Sauce

Rich:

Hardy Har Char Siu Pork

Char Siu Marinated Pork With Seasonal Vegetables and Jasmine Rice

Dessert (Shared)

Kungaloosh!

African-inspired chocolate cake with caramelized bananas served with cashew-caramel ice cream topped with coffee dust.

Let me say, as perfect as the themed atmosphere was, the food and drink were even better. Every bite was exquisite.

I had to have a Kungaloosh beer (on tap). It was a medium-bodied beer, expertly spiced, well balanced and refreshing — especially since we just escaped from the heat and humidity.

For an appetizer, we shared the Jungle Salad. I love iceberg wedge salads, and this was one of the best. The lettuce was fresh and crisp, and the other ingredients played ideally with it. This salad was so good, we created our version of it at home.

The entrees were just as good. Kathy’s Thai Noodles were flavorful and abundant. My pork was tender, somewhat sweet and sour, and a perfect match to the jasmine rice.

As we got the check, Kathy mentioned that she was craving chocolate to counteract the spicy noodles she had. We asked our server if there was a chocolate dessert we could have. Of course, there was — the Kungaloosh! This was a rich, sumptuous indulgence, and the perfect ending to our incredible meal.

As you may be able to tell, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Skipper Canteen. Its theming, food, drink, and service are fabulous. It’s the perfect respite in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, taking you to whole new, delicious world.

Skipper Canteen Ceiling and Wall Decor

The Kungaloosh tasted as good as it looks

Rich enjoying his Kungaloosh Beer

Kathy’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Wedge Salad

Rich’s Entree (Pork and Rice)

Kathy’s Entree (Pad Thai)

Kungaloosh Dessert – yum!

After lunch, we were ready to leave the MK and check into the Dolphin for a much-needed rest before heading out for the evening. We definitely needed a break from the heat, humidity, and six miles we walked – always more challenging when it’s hot. This time we took the monorail and enjoyed sitting next to a cute family from Illinois. The little girl was the one to speak up to tell me I could sit next to her. :)<

Prepping for Disneyland at Disney World at the Dolphin, Day One Part One

So we chose to do an overnight at the Dolphin as our pet sitter test trip before going on a cross-country Disneyland and cruise trip. As it turns out, we were testing a lot more than the pet sitter – we were doing a whole test run for the bigger trip. Btw, the pet sitter is totally awesome!

We left home at 7 a.m. Friday morning to get to the Magic Kingdom by rope drop at 9 a.m. We got into some traffic on I-4 due to an accident (what else is new) but we detoured at Altamonte Springs and made it pretty much on time. We parked at the TTC, took the tram to the ferry and ferried over. We had two fastpasses: one for Pirates (eager to see the new “Redhead” scene especially as Fresh Baked had a detailed comparison to the before and after at Disneyland) and for Haunted Mansion. We also had lunch ressies at Skipper’s Canteen.

A beautiful morning at the Magic Kingdom

Before our first FP window, we rode the People Mover and then Carousel of Progress, two rides no longer at Disneyland, obviously. Rich hadn’t been to the MK since we lived here last time about six years ago. I’d popped in last summer to ride Mine Train, which I was not a fan of. In the meantime, we’d been to Disneyland numerous times of late so the layout seemed all wrong to us – lol!

We stopped to get breakfast: Mickey Bar for Rich and Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich for me – nothing better than that – lol!

Rich and his Mickey Bar

Then it was time for our FP window for Pirates. On our way, we passed  the Skipper Canteen, which I call the Skipper’s Canteen, maybe because our oldest cat is named Skipper. I’d taken this photo when I saw it for the first time last summer, but this was Rich’s first view of it. We were both looking forward to lunch.

Skipper Canteen

We were a bit disappointed that really the only change for Pirates at WDW was the redhead scene – we were all geared up to notice the differences like at Disneyland but, of course, the ride is so different here at WDW and so less than. You get used to it but when you’re used to Disneyland, it seems like more of a non-ride.

A bit blurry so here’s a shot from the internet (we forgot the camera at home. Tip #1: pack camera for next trip)

We also stopped in to watch Country Bears, which is no longer at Disneyland

Country Bears, no longer at Disneyland

Second FastPass window for Haunted Mansion was open

I used to be more excited by this version with the stairs but after the Disneyland HM recently and with the holiday overlay, I noticed it was no longer a favorite.

We wandered through Fantasyland and noticed It’s a Small World had a very long line and Peter Pan was 70 minutes. Not surprised by thought we’d take a look anyway. We made our way through the Castle and was rewarded with the Fairy Godmother.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and friends

Then we headed for Skipper’s Canteen, although we were about half an hour early. We took a chance that they could seat us early, which they did. Rich will write about our yummy lunch next.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report) Updated

So excited, I’m jumping up and down! We’ve been going back and forth with how to celebrate my birthday in SoCal. Longing for home, we’ve booked and unbooked hotels near the beach, near Disneyland, and then finally booked a cruise. But I started to miss Disneyland. So, here are the latest plans:

Wednesday:

MCO to LAX, check into Anaheim Hilton. Dinner at Napa Rose

Thursday:

Drive to Huntington Beach, breakfast at Norm’s, then drive up PCH to Long Beach where we will board Carnival cruise ship at the new terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.

Friday:

Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch, Chef’s Table birthday dinner

Saturday:

Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.

Sunday:

Return to Long Beach. Drive to Disneyland – get park hopper – do Disneyland in the morning, check into Anaheim Hilton for afternoon rest, and then back to DCA for the evening – Dinner at Carthay Circle (martinis and amazing biscuits, here we come!)

Monday:

LAX to MCO

I’m so stoked about getting to do Disneyland, the beach, and a cruise for my birthday! In the meantime, we’ve got a little overnight trip planned for Epcot and the MK as a pet sitter test run. She seems really great and was recommended by our visit but it’s always good to do a short trip close to home before flying across the country and going out to sea. Just in case anything needs to be ironed out.

 

Rosé Tasting with Master Sommellier at Wine Bar George and a Walk Down Memory Lane

Oh my, my, where to begin? Well, when I saw the special event posted on Instagram, well, I had to forward it to Rich and he immediately bought our tickets for Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. It soon sold out and we noticed that in addition to the Friday afternoon event at the same time, a new event was created for 1:00 p.m. before our tasting. Nice to see the popularity of such an event. As you will recall, we ate lunch at Wine Bar George on the first full opening day a couple of weeks ago. We were so impressed, we knew we’d be back, but not so soon and at a special event.

Loving wine, vineyards, wineries, and anything related to wine, having grown up in a family’s Central Valley vineyard, living near Napa/Sonoma/Livermore and even a few years living near the Willamette Valley vineyards, well, let’s just say neither of us can resist such an event.

George is amazing, so friendly, knowledgeable, sef-effacing, and a great storyteller. We’re not that into Rosé but he made it an awesome event. And we came away with a new respect for Rosé.

We were divided into groups of six at five tables. We managed to sit next to the woman who won the little contest identifying all six wines by region – she identified all six correctly, a feat nobody had managed at the two previous events. She’s quite the Rosé drinker. 🙂

Each table also had a charcuterie/cheese/bread board – amazing! What’s not to love – food, wine, good company, and Disney?

So stoked after the event, we decided this was the time to walk over to Saratoga Springs for the first time since we’ve been back in Central Florida. We used to do this walk often when we lived in Windermere. In fact, this was my “go-to” place to celebrate (i.e., let off steam) the release of my books.

We noticed the new boat dock and shortcut to the walkway leading to Saratoga Springs, which was a great improvement. We stopped in at our favorite pool bar and Rich asked about bartender Rich to see if he was still there. He was, much to our surprise, but he wasn’t working that day. Well have to go back and say hi.

In the wine mood and a bit hungry after just a few snacks during the tasting, I found a table and Rich ordered two glasses of Cab and a cheeseburger flatbread. It was a bit warm sitting here, so we found our way to some shadier chairs on the other side of the pool near the Agapanthas, a flowering bush found all over California, including the Disneyland resort. After our meal, we stopped in at Artist Palette and the gift shop for old times’ sake.

 

We walked back and made our way to the Orange garage, and ended up walking 4.5 miles again. But this time, unlike at Epcot, whenever my hip started hurting after about 3-3.5 miles, we sat down and took a break so I was able to make it back to the car without any problems.

We stopped off to listen to some music reminiscent of what we used to hear at Downtown Disney near the Grand Californian. Disney Springs has so upped their vibe, Disneyland is going to have to work hard to keep up. 🙂