Monday, 18 March 2013

When Food Meets Art; dinner at Victoria & Albert's

OK so here is the blog I promised with details of our dinner at Victoria & Albert's, the only 5 star restaurant in Orlando, which is in the Grand Floridian hotel.

Dinner actually started 4 days before we left on the trip, as they called me to ask for menu details to personalize our menus. They removed any reference to anything remotely close to be considered seafood for Tracey.

Menus were literally "personalized", as they had our names printed on them and we took them home.


The prix fixe menu was $135 each, with extra charges for anything listed on the menu with a price beside it. I declined the $210/oz. caviar.

We also added on the wine pairings for an extra $65 each.

It started with the best champagne I have ever had, Piper Heidsieck Cuvee 1785 NV Btut


We didn't get pictures of all the food but I'll include what we have below. Keep in mind that neither Tracey nor I EVER take pictures of food in restaurants, but this was special.

For our first course, I selected Mango Crusted Gulf Shrimp with Ponzu Vinaigrette. This was paired with a fabulous off-dry Reisling from Poet's Leap, in the Columbia Valley of Germany. Fabulous.

This was Tracey's first course:


Preserved Artichokes, Roasted Eggplant with an Olive and Black Garlic Aioli. Paired very nicely with Paco & Lola Albarino Rias Baixas, 2010. Yeah I don't know what that is either but it was excellent.

For our second course:

 
The nearest dish is Tracey's Poulet Rouge with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Gnocchi. Mine is a Diver Scallop with Fennel, Leek and Minus 8 Verjus Vinaigrette. I am not a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc but that was what was paired with this course and it was terrific (Jules Taylor, Marlborough, 2012). Tracey's pairing was a fantastic Italian Ceretto Rossana Dolcetto D'Alba.

My next course was a Braised Oxtail and Cherry Ravioli (because when you think Oxtail, you think cherries, right????). It was absolutely incredible. It came paired with a 2008 Highflyer Centerline, a red blend from California. Outstanding.


This was Tracey's next course:



Mangalitsa Pork with Roasted Beets and toasted Caraway Vinaigrette. This one was the only wine pairing "fail" of the night, as it came with a Malbec that she didn't like. However, the fail turned into a big "win" as they offered her a choice of any other wine to replace the Malbec (and left the Malbec for me!). She got a glass of the Cabernet Sauvignon that I had with my next dish, which was this one:


I had the choice of the steak on the left, which was Austrailian Kobe Beef (a $35 surcharge) or the beef on the right, the KING of steaks, Iwate Japanese beef ($90 extra). Since I couldn't decide, they offered to split the difference and bring me half of each!

I've had Kobe beef before, and it was just as amazing as I remembered. The other one, however, was something that I cannot describe. It was so good, it probably ruined me for Kobe beef!!!! Unreal.

As if that wasn't enough, the wine that came with it was absolutely the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have ever had. It was from Silver Oak, in California, from the Alexander Valley (2008). I've looked this one up and we can get it here, for $100 a bottle. The winery also makes a "better" one, if you can believe that, from the Napa Valley, which is $135 a bottle. Our server told me this is a very collected wine. I will be finding a bottle for a special occasion.

The fifth course was a palate cleanser, and Tracey selected the following:

Sottocenere Al Tartufo, Parmigiano Reggiano, Colston Basset Stilton, Gouda Reypenaer XO. I honestly don't even remember what this was, but I know she liked it. It came paired with a Portugese Port from a winery we are quite familiar with, Quinta do Crasto. We have a Douro from that winery quite often.

I had a White Chocolate Gelato, paired with an incredible Moscato from Italy. Simpy sublime.

Now it's time for dessert.

Tracey's:


Hawaiian Chocolate Souffle

Mine:


Carmelized Banana Gateau

Both desserts were compelling and finished off this incredible meal in the most perfect fashion possible.

Oh, and one other little added bonus:



Every lady in the restaurant was given a rose as she finished her meal.

If that wasn't enough, we were serenaded by a harpist, about 6 feet beside our table.

This was the food experience of my life, and it is an absolute "must do" when in Orlando.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Dean

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Orlando Day 15

8:35 AM - I'm up and finishing packing. Tracey has already begun The Process as we prepare to leave the resort. All the details have been finalized for checkout, we just need to drop the room keys with security on the way out. Flight is scheduled to leave at 6:45 so we have lots of time to have one more fun day before departing the Sunshine State.

9:50 AM - We are off and the resort portion of the vacation is officially over. We are headed to Epcot but first stop to play some mini golf. I won't say much about the golf because Tracey had one of the all time bad games that someone could have at Disney mini golf.

It wasn't all sunshine and roses for me though. This is me digging the ball out of the lake.



And this is me....well, you can tell what I'm doing.


Not sure exactly how the ball even managed to get in there, it seems to have defied the laws of physics.

How bad was it for Tracey?

See this fence that really isn't in play?


She manages to hit that fence, the ball ricochets back, nearly hits me in the nuts, and comes to rest here:


Good luck on your next shot, honey.


We leave the car there and walk to the Boardwalk, which is very nice, and do a little shopping. Next we are off to Epcot so we hop onto a boat that takes us right there. The BEST way to get into the parks! They have boats that can take you to three of the four major parks. Awesome.

When we get to Epcot we have a little time before our lunch reservation so we hit up a couple of the pavilions for some wine flights. The dessert wine flight from Germany was fantastic! Tracey also has a sample of Gewürztraminer and its very good. Who would have thought Germans could make Gewürztraminer??

We have lunch at San Angel Inn, inside the Mexico pavilion. Best authentic Mexican meal I've ever had. The only thing that Tracey's first husband (who was Guatemalan) left her with (thank Christ) was a fondness for Mexican food. This place is slightly better than my usual Mexican place, El Taco De Bell-o.

After lunch we meander back to the car and head to the airport. It has been a fabulous trip but time to get back to balmy Chilliwack, and 9 degrees and rain. Yee-freaking-ha.

5:40 PM - Sitting at the gate waiting to board. Tracey is thirsty so I offer to get go us drinks. My bad. She chooses something from StarSucks. I actually have to go up and order a "Venti Black Tea Lemonade Half Sweet". I feel like such an ass.

I get the only thing I would drink here, a bottle of water.

I will seriously never understand the success of this company.

6:00 PM - On the plane and we notice there is a menu for our dinner, we get the choice of Pork Tenderloin or Beef Wellington. We both select the Welly. It comes with a beautiful salad, mashed potatoes, and something called "Chocolate Decadence" for dessert. The best meal I've ever had on a plane. After dinner, we are presented with warm nuts (insert your own "warm salty nuts joke here") and a hot towel. I LOVE Alaska Airlines.

2:15 AM - Yeah I skipped a bit because we are finally home and time for bed. This was an absolutely fantastic trip.

Tomorrow I'll be posting all the pictures and details from our incredible dinner at Victoria & Albert's, so check back then.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Orlando Day 14

9:00 AM - the penultimate day of our adventure begins a little earlier than I would have liked. Since I don't expect to see the wife awake for some time, I'll have to find something to entertain myself for a while.

11:00 AM - Tracey stirs, makes herself some tea, and begins The Process while I get her pancakes ready.

We noticed yesterday that our jacuzzi tub stopped working, so I call maintenance to have them look at it, as well as at the leak that seems to have materialized under or behind the stove. When I pick up the phone I notice that the phones aren't working either. No wonder its been so quiet here the last few days! Oh well I guess I'll have to head up to the desk and report it in person. I almost turn around when I get there and see there are a half dozen people ahead of me, but they are all little issues and they get to me quickly.

We head to the pool while maintenance comes to fix the tub and leak. Maintenance guy is very friendly but has such a thick accent I can't understand a word as he tries to explain the issues to me. Not that I really care, they get fixed and I'm not really worried about the phones since we are leaving tomorrow morning anyway.

I go back and forth from the townhouse to the pool a couple times. Tracey puts in a full day. What she finds "relaxing", I find "mind-numbingly-boring", but she has to go home to a job and I am going home to nothing so she gets to relax all she wants. Next time we come down here I will bring my golf clubs and go play golf while she chills out all day.

4:30 PM - I'm back at the townhouse to finish the bulk of the packing before we head to dinner. We are going to brave the crowds of Olive Garden, which probably means we won't get seated until 9, but at least we know what we will get.

The weather is brilliant today; actually it's been very nice all trip, but we were spoiled on our last visit in 2011. Not a drop of rain, and no wind or humidity to speak of, for the entire two weeks. That is the vacations against which all other vacations will be measured for weather. It's nearly impossible to get such great weather for two full weeks down here.

5:30 PM - I drop Tracey off at Olive Garden while I go put a little gas in the car, aware that we will be waiting a long time. There are already people waiting outside the door. By the time I get back, she is already seated!! Amazing.

We have a very good dinner, and as we are leaving, there are about 40 people waiting outside for a ttable. I overhear someone say "two hours". Apparently everyone eats a late dinner in this town.

8:44 PM - Just back to the townhouse after one last late night pool/hot tub adventure. An absolutely perfect night to cap off a fabulous vacation!

But I'm talking like the trip is over! Not so; we have a late flight so we are still going to be doing some stuff tomorrow, including a few afternoon hours at Epcot. Loyal readers can expect another blog post at some point tomorrow.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Orlando Day 13

8:30 AM - interesting fact: as I am writing this, it is currently one degree warmer back home than it is here. Accuweather says it is 8 in Sardis and 7 here. It warms up quickly today though so that makes dressing a bit of a challenge. If we dress for cold, we will be way too warm by the mid morning. I guess we will have to put up with the cold for an hour or so. Virtually no wind today so that helps.

Another interesting fact: TONS of Ontario plates here, and a few from Quebec. Leads me to the unscientific conclusion that Easterners drive more than we do. We don't see anywhere near that many BC plates in Cali.

Second day in a row that the wife has to "take one for the team" as she slept better last night but still not enough. We have breakfast reservations this morning so we are out the door shortly. This is our last visit to the Magic Kingdom this trip so we have a few things (Space Mountain!!!!!!!) left to do but hopefully we can get home early so Tracey can catch up on sleep.

On the tram, a kid asks his mom where they speak French. It takes her a while (too long) to come up with "France". Next question is "where do they speak Spanish?" She immediately answers Mexico, and Argentina. Both correct of course, but only in America would the first answer not be "Spain"!

10:00 AM - Breakfast buffet at Crystal Palace. Visits from Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet only add to a damn fine buffet. All the usual buffet fare plus something called "Pooh puffed French Toast" (in the immortal words of Jessica Simpson "I dunno what it is but I wan it") and "Breakfast Lasagne" which I think is illegal in most countries. It involves layers of pancakes, waffles, pound cake, strawberries and bananas, topped with custard and sugar. Holy shit.

1:00 PM - We are done what we came here to do and it's time to leave the MK for the last time this trip. Four visits here (albeit not full days) was the perfect amount to see just about everything.

We were able to get pictures with Tiana, knocking my Princess List down to one: the White Whale, Pocahontas. It could be argued that she doesn't need to be on the list as she is not technically a Princess but I'm making the judgement call to leave here there. And then there was one.

2:15 PM - off to our local pool. Clearly the wife hasn't had enough "relax" time yet. Oh and did I mention that tomorrow is a "relax-in-other-words-don't-do-a-darn-thing" day??

5:20 PM - Tracey returns from the pool. While she was there I went to Target and picked up some more pasta sauce to make spaghetti for dinner. Trying to use up all the food we bought before we leave. In that vein, we sacrificed and ensured that all the Pop-Tarts and Apple Jacks were eaten tonight. No Pop-Tarts get left behind!

9:30 PM - off to bed. We are going to get up when we get up tomorrow. Tracey mistakenly thinks that we will be able to get chairs at our favourite pool area when she gets up sometimes around noon, but she will discover the truth tomorrow :)


Thursday, 14 March 2013

Orlando Day 12

10:30 AM - up and well rested for another big day.

11:15 AM - Tracey is up but had a terrible sleep. Going to be a very long day for her.

1:00 PM - She lays down for a mostly unsuccessful nap. She's keeping up a brave face so as not to mess with our plans but she's really tired.

2:00 PM - we are off to Epcot. It's windy today so we brought our jeans and sweatshirts to make sure we aren't too cold after dinner. It's not too busy today but we aren't planning on any rides anyway. We are here to roam and do the "wine walk" (2 samples from each of Germany, France and Italy).

As we walk through the gates a kid screams "BEST VACATION EVER!!!!!!!!". Guess he had a good day!

We go to a show at the US pavilion which is good, but during the closing montage there is an image of Lance Armstrong. Yeah, might want to edit that one out!!!

We have lunch in Morocco. Food is pretty good but the rest of the area doesn't interest us much. Definitely the best thing about Morocco is Princess Jasmine (who is outside the pavilion posing for pictures in her cute little outfit). Me-ow.

7:00 PM - dinner time at Monsieur Paul's, the nicest French restaurant at Epcot. We get seated by the window, the perfect spot to watch the fireworks. Tracey has literally the best seat in the house. Dinner is fabulous, and our waiter is excellent. I try to speak French but I quickly realize I need a refresher on that. Pretty sure at one point I ordered French Onion Socks.

9:00 PM - as the fireworks are just beginning we get dessert, an orange soufflé with ice cream and Grand Marnier sauce. Best. Soufflé. Ever.

Wow. So good.

Gotta give my wife mad props, she made it through the day despite being half asleep all day. What a trooper. And we are up early tomorrow for our last foray into the Magic Kingdom, starting with a breakfast buffet. Hope she gets some sleep tonight!!!!




Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Orlando Day 11

11:05 AM - Wow I can't remember the last time I slept in until 11 unless I was sick. That immediately makes me wonder, AM I SICK!?!?!? Hmm no I don't feel sick.

I pick up my iPad and it says that it's only 10:05. So much for the epic sleep in. Seems as if the "daylight savings" setting on the alarm clock kicked in but it did so a couple of days late, after I had already manually changed it.

10:30 AM - Tracey is still asleep, I hope she feels better when she gets up. I know she won't screw up the rest of the trip but it will be harder for her to enjoy things if she's under the weather.

11:15 AM - She's up and although she's not really feeling better, she isn't feeling any worse and she got a good night's sleep so that's something. After breakfast we are headed to the fitness centre and pool for a few hours before heading back to the Magic Kingdom this evening.

After our workout we are dismayed to find that the pool area is packed, not a lounge chair to be found.....so we head back to our local pool and spend some time there.

4:00 PM - Back to the room getting ready to head to the MK. No specific plans for tonight except for the Main Street Electrical Parade which starts at 9. The wind is making it a little chilly tonight so we are actually going to GASP leave the shorts at home and wear jeans tonight.

10:00 PM - Home from a nice but crazy crowded day at MK. 105 minute wait for the Jungle Cruise. No that is not a typo. Needless to say that other than the parade, we didn't accomplish a heck of a lot tonight. We still have a few rides to tackle, so we will be busy on our last visit to MK on Friday.

We're sitting in a restaurant having dinner and a family comes and sits down next to us. A guy with his wife, mother. 2 daughters (ages around 8 and 13). The jackass is wearing a T shirt that says the following:

"Heads I get tail, tails I get head".

Stay classy, Orlando. Jesus. I'm not sure I'd wear that shirt to a Vegas strip club, let alone a Disney park with my family.

Off to bed, tomorrow back to Epcot for dinner at Monsieur Paul, the signature restaurant in the France pavilion.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Orlando Day 10

8:35 AM - Tracey's new streak of being up before me ends at one.

9:40 AM - I look outside and realize that at some point last night I was magically transported home. It's raining! Not really a shock, the forecast called for morning showers, but I guess with the weather we have had so far I just don't believe it.

4:05 PM - big day today. TV and naps dominating the day. A nice relaxing day with no plans and even less activity.

Tracey has a bad cold so I go and get some medicine so she doesn't feel lousy for the rest of the trip. Today's lack of plans may have worked out perfectly.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Orlando Day 9

10:20 AM - Tracey comes into my room and wakes me up. TRACEY IS UP BEFORE ME!!!!! After quickly checking for other signs of the Apocalypse (no locust swarms or raining frogs can be seen), she goes to make us breakfast. This has happened once before, during "the great sleep in of '03". I remember it well.

After breakfast I head down to Publix to replenish our waning supplies while "The Process" begins. She insists it only takes one hour. That's pretty funny.

1:00 PM - The Process ends after about an hour and a quarter ( which is pretty good for my Medium-High maintenance wife) and we are off to the Magic Kingdom. This is an exciting day for meals, we are having lunch at Cinderella's castle and dinner in the all-new Be Our Guest restaurant inside the Beast's castle in New Fantasyland.

2:05 PM - we get our seats for lunch in the castle. The food is always great here and today is no exception. As a bonus, we get visited by Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and Jasmine. Well, Jasmine actually skipped us as she was ambushed by a little girl at the next table but whatever, we have lots of pictures with her from various places. As usual, the food is superb.

Between lunch and dinner we have lots of time to explore the park and we do just that. Lots of pictures taken including a few of the construction of the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride, the last attraction in New Fantasyland, which opens next year.

8:45 PM - we complete our day of  "castle hopping" as we arrive for dinner at Be Our Guest, in the castle owned by The Beast. Spectacular. I'll post pictures when I can. We do two things we've never done before:

1. Have alcohol in the Magic Kingdom, and
2. Send back a bottle of wine

First bottle we ordered, a bottle of French Bordeaux, tasted great at first but then got really weak, as if the air made it regress badly. I've never experienced that in a bottle of wine. They were very understanding and we exchanged it for a fabulous bottle of California Pinot Noir.

The food was first rate, and very reasonable as well. Our bill, including tip, was $180, which includes  the $75 bottle of wine, two appetizers, entrees and dessert. It all includes pictures with The Master (Beast) after your meal.

12:00 AM - Finally home and off to bed. Today was a fabulous, but long, day.Tomorrow we have no specific plans, except to sleep until whenever.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Orlando Day 8

9:48 AM - well that feels like a lovely sleep in but of course it's pretty false what with the time change. Had a bitch of a time getting to sleep last night for some reason. I'm going to make a bold prediction that the wife doesn't get up this side of noon unless I disturb her.

11:04 AM - Wife makes a liar out of me by 56 minutes. I am forced to publicly apologize for disparaging her good name.

11:45 AM - After breakfast in the blazing sun on our patio, The Process begins.

4:18 PM - The Process completes.

I'm going to pay for that one I'm sure.

1:00 PM - The Process is actually over and we're in the car on our way to Downtown Disney.

First things first, a visit to Haagen Dazs for our "usual"; a mint chip dazzler for me, a cup of peanut butter and chocolate for my lovely wife.

Hold on.

Cancel the rest of the vacation.

No sign of peanut butter and chocolate!!!!!!!

Oh the humanity.

This is devastating.

I am feeling farklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I'll give you a topic. Rhode Island is neither a road nor an island. Discuss.

Ok better now. Tracey bravely orders a cup of cookies and cream instead, which she describes as "better than nothing".

After this near apocalyptic turn of events, we turn our attention to the shops and pick up a few nice items. Since the last time we were here they have opened up a shop called "Mickey's Pantry" full of cooking items, including some beautiful teas, spices, salts and sugars. We pick up a few of these including one called "sweet onion sugar" which is supposed to go brilliantly on grilled asparagus. I'll be trying that soon after we get home.

4:30 PM - after perusing the wares, we head to a restaurant on Pleasure Island called Paradiso 37, so named because the menu takes inspiration from 37 different countries in North, South, and Central Americas. Ok; looks pretty much like a menu at your average Mexican restaurant but whatever. The food is good. Tracey has a salad and I have a burrito, which comes with cilantro rice as an accompaniment. I think cilantro is pretty overrated but the rice is OK; Tracey, who would put cilantro on Frosted Flakes if she could, tastes the rice and I'm pretty sure she's going to leap across the table, push me out of the way, and lick the rice off my plate.

9:00 PM - after a short workout and a couple hours of swimming and hot tubbing, back to the townhouse to relax for the evening. The weather is amazing now, it's still over 70 degrees!


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Halfway point!!!!

BOOOOOOOOOO the vacation is half over.

YAAAAAAAAAA the truly "Florida" weather has arrived!

9:00 AM - I head up to the biggest pool area to reserve a cabana for the day. For the first time, it's "pool appropriate" weather at 9 AM. Don't get me wrong, the weather has been beautiful so far, but the mornings and evenings have been chilly. No worry of that today as it is already over 70 degrees. Tracey is still asleep but I have booked the best available cabana and left my pool and workout clothes up there just in case anyone comes along to try to scoop it from us.

God it is spectacular here as long as you aren't being bombarded by a hurricane or attacked by alligators.

9:20 AM - I get back to the townhouse to see a large bird, a stork I think, standing at the doorway to a neighbour's townhouse. Just standing there like he wants to get in. Guy comes out to see what's up and the bird seems very interested in his morning coffee.

The wildlife is plentiful here and very well behaved. Squirrels and tiny lizards are everywhere and these birds are always walking around on the patios and roadways. Thankfully no gator sightings yet.

11:00 AM - We settle in at our cabana and hit the lazy river. Frosty beverages cannot be far behind.

We order a snack and notice that the food here is SOOOO much better than the comparable food we ate at TGIFriday's early in the week.

Oh, and the frosty piña coladas have arrived in spades.

I love going to pools here, it's great for my self-esteem. I am, like, the 400th fattest person at the pool here today :)

4:00 PM -  Back to the townhouse, which is good timing because 5 hours at a pool, even a nice one, is about 3.5 hours more than I can normally handle.

Ordered pizza from the resort pizzeria and it was possibly the worst pizza ever. Yuck. We opened up a bottle of Chardonnay that was almost as bad as the pizza. Tossed it away and opened up a very nice bottle of Cab Sauvignon instead. Much better. Having said that, it still pales in comparison to the Cab Sauvignon we had at Victoria & Albert's.

Just looked up that amazing bottle of Cab Sauvignon and the good news is we can get it in BC! The bad news it's $100/bottle. Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. They also have one from the Napa Valley which our waitress said is even more collectible which goes for $135. Alert the media, we love a wine that is $100+/bottle.

9:30 PM - After watching about 10 episodes of The Big Bang Theory it's time for bed. Tomorrow we are going to hit Downtown Disney for some shopping.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Orlando day 6

7:30 AM - alarm wakes me up from a deep sleep, pleased to report no Lou Ferrigno sightings last night.

8:01 AM - The Process comes to a screeching halt as Tracey's hair dryer stops working. Panic ensues when she goes to the other bathroom only to find that the one provided by the resort doesn't work either!

Thankfully a full five-alarm emergency is prevented temporarily when she is able to get the resort dryer working. A trip to Target to replace her personal dryer has just been added to the itinerary.

9:05 AM - we arrive at Universal's parking structure and notice it doesn't seem too crazy busy so far. An illusion or good omen?

Not too big a crowd at the bag check either. Certainly it looks less nuts than our last trip where everything had at least a one hour lineup and they were closing off access to the entire Wizarding World of Harry Potter area because it hit capacity.

As we head into Islands of Adventure, we are greeted by a worker who asks if I don't mind answering a couple of questions. Sure no problem. By the time I answer about the 73rd question on their computer, I thought Tracey was going to lose it. We are both picturing getting shut out of WWOHP and standing in line 4 hours for Spider-Man. I'm expecting to see fists flying. Thankfully we avoid an international incident as the survey finally ends.

We double time it to the Spider Man ride, one of the best rides in Florida, which I have heard has been redone and improved! We get a shock when we get to the line and see it only says 50 minutes! Hang on, that's not 50, it's only FIVE!?!?! We walk right on, no waiting at all. STUNNING. The ride has much improved, and it was great to start with.

Over to WWOHP and I grab a couple of Butterbeers while Tracey hops into line for the main attraction. The lineup for this only says 30 minutes, which in Universal-Speak means 45, which is still pretty good. After that, and more Butterbeer, we wander down Diagon Alley and take in the sights before we decide we should head over to the other park and hit the good rides there too. Save us from coming back here later next week.

The first one is a brand new simulation ride based on the very funny movie Despicable Me. It's very much like the Simpsons Ride. Fun!!!

After hitting the other key attractions here, we are done and stop at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch before heading back to the resort. Tracey announces she has become "five-theme-parks-in-four-days" tired. I agree. Sounds like a nap is in order.

It will be a couple years, maybe 3, before we are back here, which should give them enough time to finish the rather large expansion of the WWOHP area that has begun. Exciting!

5:15 PM - good nap. Tracey is up and we have dinner before hitting the lazy river for the evening. "Lazy" pretty much sums up how I'm feeling.

7:42 PM - I feel silly complaining about the temperature of a hot tub, but it was so hot it was impossible to sit in it for more than a couple minutes at a time. Beautiful scenery though.

A guy gets into the hot tub with the biggest man boobs I have ever seen. At one point the tub had about 15 people in it and his boobs were maybe 3rd or 4th biggest. He was the definitive candidate for a Manzere.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Orlando, day 5

9:45 AM - nice little sleep in this morning. It's almost like I'm on vacation. Oh and please don't feel the need to point out that I'm on vacation from nothing. That's the way I like it.

10 AM - the wife stirs. I make some pancakes for breakfast while The Process commences.

11:28 AM - The Process has been ongoing long enough that now I'm having lunch while the final stages are underway. Tracey isn't hungry enough for lunch so I make her a sandwich to take to the park with us. Definitely the first time we've ever taken food into a Disney park but lots of people do it. Eating every single meal in a Park would bankrupt most EU nations. At least the ones who aren't already bankrupt.

12:15 PM - we arrive at Disney's Hollywood Studios and are pleased to find that nobody had left a dirty diaper in the tram. Sad that this is our new standard.

We get to hit the Tower of Terror (still the only ride that truly scares me), the Aerosmith Rock N Roller Coaster (twice), and Toy Story Midway Mania. The most important piece of information is that I wrestled back the title of Toy Story King from my wife who was 2-time defending champion. I beat her like the red headed stepchild that she is.

She didn't much appreciate my celebratory dances, but that's just being a sore loser, IMHO.

We also stumble upon Wreck-It-Ralph and Venelope Von Schweetz who are posing for pictures so we hop into that line. I actually forgot they were Disney characters. Very cool.

5:30 PM - we have reservations at Mama Melrose's Italian Ristorante at 6:10 but they are able to get s in early which is good as we are hungry. Dinner is excellent, and we have a wine flight of so-so Italian wines, and a carafe of Sangria, to ensure we leave the park happy, as if we weren't already happy.

7:55 PM - back from the park and its time to wind down and get some sleep before tomorrow's big day of Butterbeer. Park opens at 9AM which means that Tracey has to get up at around 2:15 to get ready.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Orlando Day 4

7:30 AM - the alarm wakes me up just in time as I was dreaming I was about to have an unpleasant encounter with the Incredible Hulk. Lou Ferrigno's version. And he wasn't green, he was grey.

Paging Dr. Freud.

Anyway after a quick breakfast, we are off to Epcot.

8:50 AM - interesting day for weather today; not a cloud in the sky, but windy as Hell, which makes it really cold. We have to head straight to a store to get Tracey a sweater so she doesn't whine all day, er, I mean so she isn't cold all day. Even though the park just opened there is already a 30 minute wait for Soarin', but we have lots of time so we hop into the line. In true Disney fashion, the actual wait isn't anywhere as long as the posted time; it was maybe 20 minutes.

12:00 PM - After a few other attractions we arrive at the China pavilion. First things first, we knock another off the aforementioned "Princess list", getting pictures with Mulan. As far as I know this is the only place on any Disney property in North America that she appears.

After perusing the shops in the China area (and sampling a pineapple flavoured pop that reminded me of the good old days when Pineapple Crush was available), we head to the Nine Dragons restaurant for lunch. Last time we were in Disneyland we bought a Disney cookbook that featured a recipe for their Honey Sesame Chicken which I have made a few times, so we wanted to see what it was actually supposed to taste like. Not to toot my own horn, but mine tasted pretty damn close. It was excellent. Tracey also had some potstickers, I had a couple of egg rolls, and some Kung Pao Chicken. Everything was fabulous, I highly recommend this restaurant.

After lunch we head into Germany and try a couple of wine flights, one white and one red. The red weren't anything special. The whites were all Rieslings, and to nobody's surprise I preferred the sweetest of the three. Tracey actually preferred the middle one. Either way, none of them were as good as the German Resling we always get back home.

Since we are going to be back here at least one more time, maybe twice, we decide to call it a day and head back. Guaranteed the next time we are here the wind will be less intense and it will be more pleasant.

2:45 PM - Back at the resort to relax and just chill for a while. Not sure what the evening will bring; probably depends on the wind and the temperature.

6:30 PM - after dinner we decided to walk down to the local pool and hit the hot tub, only to find that it has been drained and is being cleaned. That's it, we are leaving this crappy resort!

OK perhaps that's a bit hasty. I suppose we could go to one of the other dozen hot tubs if we really wanted to, but we decided to just head back to our townhouse and chill for the night. Tomorrow we are headed to Hollywood Studios to partake in a few thrill rides and I can't be tired for that! Need to be at my most alert to kick my wife's ass at Toy Story Midway Mania!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Orlando Day 3

9:17 AM - feels good to sleep in a little. Yes I know it's only been a couple days and my body still thinks its 6:17 but just go with it.

I grab a pop and head out to the patio to enjoy the morning sun. I am immediately greeted by the cutest lizard you've ever seem, no bigger than my thumb. I'm waiting for him to try to save me 15% on my car insurance but I think he just wanted food. I showed him the sign and he looked up at me as if to say "hey idiot, do I LOOK like an alligator to you???" , and then he went on his way.

10:00 AM - Tracey is up and I'm making bacon and eggs for breakfast while she checks out the pictures from last night's amazing dinner. I tell her to hurry up and get ready to go because indeed some fun and frivolity today....because you know, yesterday wasn't any fun :)

11:30 AM - updating the blog while I wait for the conclusion of "the process". You can't rush perfection. Believe me, I've tried many times.

12:10 PM - off to the Magic Kingdom! It's a spectacular day today, high of 26, so the convertible top goes down and away we go.

12:45 PM - onto the Monorail and into the park. Not crazy busy today but busy enough to make sure my legs are bruised from having strollers rammed into me. I literally had to kick one away after the third time a guy rammed his double wide into my leg, without so much as a "sorry" or "excuse me".

I'm going to campaign for "Stroller land". All strollers are quarantined there. Once your kid is old enough to get out of the stroller, he/she can explore the rest of the park. For goodness sake, there are parents wheeling around 8 year olds in strollers. Memo to parents: if your 8 year old is too tired to walk, time to take them home.

Next time we come here I'm going to bring my knee brace and rent a wheelchair and see if the strollers still want to try to ram me :)

We have a wonderful day, and hit a bunch of key rides. Still lots to see, including everything in the New Fantasyland, but we have lots of time, we will be back at least twice this trip, probably 3 times.

5:10 PM - dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. One of the great things about DisneyWorld is the myriad of dining choices. There is no way to emphasize the difference between tonight's dinner and last night's. From the most upscale, finest-of-the-fine dining, to ultra casual (pretty sure a couple of the patrons weren't even wearing pants). From a 7-course, nearly 3 hour meal featuring 7 different wine pairings, to a sit-down-at-the-trough-and-see-how-much-comfort-food-you-can-consume-in-45-minutes adventure. From a meal beginning with an amuse-bouche, to a meal where most of the patrons couldn't pronounce amuse-bouche.

And both were wonderful in very different ways. The folks at the LTT sure know how to fill that trough! Great food, and slightly less expensive than last night's meal (and when I say that I mean, no exaggeration, it was 1/8th the price).

As we are leaving the park we notice that there are characters posing for pictures inside the Theatre, and one of them is Rapunzel. Time to cross one off my "Princesses we have no pictures of" list!

Something interesting happened, Rapunzel came (sort of) out of character! Tracey had mentioned that we were Canadian and Rapunzel asked us if we were from the real Canada or Epcot's Canada! Then she proceeded to talk to us about the fireworks show and her favourite things to do in the park. Definitely not something that the Characters would normally talk about.

We also got pics with Aurora and Cinderella, they were in the same area, and then we were done for the day.

When we get on the tram to go home, Tracey finds that someone decided to leave a dirty diaper on the tram. I am not kidding. I am well aware that this person is not likely reading this blog, bit I'm going to say this anyway: FUCK YOU, YOU IGNORANT PIECE OF GARBAGE. You are a waste of carbon. You are incorrect when you assume that the Disney cast members get paid to clean up your kid's shit. Next time if you feel the need to change your kid on the tram, maybe you could walk the 30 feet from the tram to one of the many garbage cans and dispose of the diaper? The rest of humanity would appreciate that, fucknuts.

8:15 PM - home from the park and off to the nearest pool. Sitting in the hot tub, staring up at the stars and the palm trees. I wonder aloud why we don't live here.

Oh yeah, the little matter of not being able to get jobs, 6 months of hurricane season, and alligators as wildlife.  I knew there had to be a good reason.

8:45 PM - back from the pool and to bed. Going to hit Epcot first thing in the morning.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Orlando, day 2

9:22 AM - I am awakened by a phone call. Recorded voice on the other line says this is a "very important call from Orange Lake resort" and someone would be with me shortly. I wait about 15 seconds and hang up, and leave the phone off the hook. That will be just about enough of that.  Seriously what are they thinking waking up vacationers at 9:22 AM? Not to mention they know we just flew in from the West Coast so it really feels like 6:22 AM to us??????? Morons.

10:45 AM - After pancakes and French toast for breakfast, we are off to explore the resort. It has been just about four years since we last stayed here so our memories are a little cloudy. It's a beautiful day so we hop in the car ( yes this place is so big you have to drive to take a shuttle to get around) and put the top down. This is supposed to be the coldest day of the fortnight we are spending here but it's still warm enough for a convertible.

We walk to the closest pool to us which is only about 100 yards away. It's perfectly nice but it's just a pool and hot tub. The next pool complex is much bigger, with a huge pool, slide, and a bar and grill. All of the large pool complexes, four of them in total, have a full restaurant, or bar and grill, or both.

The next complex is the best, and features a couple nice hot tubs, huge pool and a lazy river. We are going to rent a cabana and spend a day here later this week. Gorgeous!!

We hit the fitness centre for a while ( going to make sure I don't gain more than 20 pounds while I'm here!!) and then head back to our townhouse for lunch.

We take our lunch out onto our private patio and I notice this sign:



That's a bird, a raccoon, and AN ALLIGATOR????? Are we seriously considering alligators as wildlife that we have to worry about feeding? Good grief. OK, OK I promise not to feed the alligators. Fucking rules.

1:45 PM - Tracey heads to the closest pool while I hang back to relax for a while before dinner.

5:15 PM - we arrive at the Grand Floridian, the site of our soon-to-be epic dinner. What a beautiful hotel!! Totally different than the Grand Californian, but just as nice, with a Victorian feel. Piano player in the lobby belting out an amazing version of  "My Guitar Gently Weeps" as we peruse the gift shops. We will be staying here on our next visit for sure.

I will post more details, with pictures of the food, once I am home and can upload pics from my camera. It was, without a doubt, the best meal we have ever had. Stunning food, stunning service, a Harpist playing 7 feet away, and a special menu for waters of the world. You read that correctly. A separate menu for the water.

Everyone has heard of wine pairings with the courses, but this is the first time I've experienced a "bread progression ". Yes, different bread accompanying the various courses.  Unreal.

And our car was waiting for us when we got downstairs, without us having to ask valet for it.

9:15 PM -  Home from dinner, and I'm off to bed. Tracey is going to experience the whirlpool tub before bed.  Tomorrow we hit the Magic Kingdom!!





Sunday, 3 March 2013

It's WHAT time??

4:43 AM - Jesus it appears as if the plan to get ourselves on Eastern time worked a little quicker than expected! Our flight doesn't leave until 9:05 so I guess we are going to have a little time this morning. Too much time actually.

It was a bit chilly in the room last night so my lovely wife turned the heat up. Apparently she turned it to "broil" as its so hot in here I'm checking for fires. Pair that with the fact that those sleeping pills wear off after exactly 8 hours and here we are. My wife hasn't seen a time beginning with a 4 on a non-work day since, well, ever.

7:35 AM - at the airport, already had breakfast and are sitting at the gate. Still an hour before we are supposed to board. I guarantee when they call for the First Class passengers to board I am going to get up and Tracey is going to have to hold me back.

8:30 AM - we board right on time and take off a little early. I'll tell you, this IPad is the best travel aid  EVER. Four and a half hours on a plane, in COACH nonetheless, and it went very quickly. I watched The Descendants, played some games, and we had arrived before I knew it. Possibly the best flight I've ever had in Coach.

On the plane was a little 2-year old girl from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, travelling with her family on her first flight, on her first Disney trip. Sounds great until you consider why she would qualify for a Wish. Two years old. Heartbreaking. I hope she has an amazing time. Maybe we will run into her in the park. It will be easy to recognize her by the 50 pink balloons they gave her!

4:45 - as we land they tell us to pick up our luggage at carousel number 3. We head down there only to find that the bags coming into that carousel are (according to the sign, anyway) from 2 flights from Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro. Since I'm pretty sure we didn't come from either of those places, I'm not that hopeful we are going to be getting our bags here. An announcement comes on the PA that tells us they are still going to be at number three. I'm skeptical, since the last time we came here we ended up with a lost bag. Of course that was on Delta, the World's Worst Airline. Alaska knows what they are doing, as our bags arrive promptly on carousel 3. The sign never does change.

Tracey points out that even though I brushed my teeth and took 2 extra strength Frisk mints, she can still smell the cayenne on my breath. 2-3 more mints do the trick. Of course now my mouth is numb. Fabulous.

6:30 PM - after waiting 20 minutes for our rental car because it was being washed, and driving a bit of a scenic route because I must have somehow missed a turn, we arrive at our resort. It's been 4 years since we stayed here and I had forgotten how big and beautiful it is. Looking forward to exploring tomorrow!

7:45 PM - off to dinner at Olive Garden! mmmmmmmmmm breadsticks!!

7:46 PM - Jesus Christ. Lineup out the door, so well settle for going across the street to Applebee's.

7:46:30 PM - don't even get out of the car, just drive through the parking lot and head down the street to someplace we've heard of that isn't lined up. It's 8pm on a Sunday night, doesn't anyone in this town work tomorrow??????

We find TGI Friday's. Long story short, another crappy meal. My Cajun shrimp were bland. They should have borrowed some of the cayenne from last night's meal. Potato skins also bland. The Jack Daniels shrimp tasted OK but were overcooked and rubbery. Best thing I was served was, no lie, steamed broccoli. STEAMED BROCCOLI!!!
Tracey's meal was better than mine but only marginally. Definitely wont be back there.

11:00 PM - Back at the resort after picking up our groceries at Super Target. Target rules. Looking forward to our Target opening in Chilliwack later this year. Noticed that the Flames beat the Canucks
 tonight, that means I don't have to whine or pout and I'll sleep like a baby. :)

Saturday, 2 March 2013

We're off to see the Wizard.....

...no, we aren't heading to Oz (although how cool would THAT be?), but we begin our journey today to Orlando, where there will be lots of wizards and muggles at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Oh, and this little theme park(s) called Disney World as well. Our flight leaves at 9:05AM tomorrow morning, from Sea-Tac, so we are on our way to Seattle this afternoon. We are staying at the Red Lion Inn, a perfectly comfortable-but-cheap hotel, which also includes parking for the car for the two weeks. Anything to avoid paying SeaTac's parking rates. We'd need to take out another mortgage to afford those.

So, I present to you:

Orlando Vacation Blog 3: The Return of the King

Presented to you in Mind-Blowing 3-D!

This is our third trip to Orlando, but the first time we've been able to procure direct flights so that's exciting......it's bad enough I have to spend 5.5 hours on a plane without also having to get off that plane, spend a couple hours in another airport, and get on another plane. Faithful readers may also recall that our last trip home from Orlando included stops in Atlanta (sleeping in the airport overnight), Cincinnati and Minneapolis, all due to us missing our connection in Atlanta due to weather. Fun times.

We know that we are flying First Class on the way home, as that was all that was actually available, but we are scheduled to fly Coach on the way down (oh, the horror!!), so we're hoping for an upgrade. I will check us in online in about an hour and hopefully they will have some FC upgrades available. We'll see. I haven't actually flown Coach in a long time, probably since the last Orlando trip, and I'd just as soon not have to go back to that at this point!

Monday night we are starting the trip off in style, at the only Five Diamond restaurant in all of Florida, Victoria & Albert's, which is in the Grand Floridian Hotel. Personalized menus (in fact they phoned yesterday to ask about dietary restrictions, etc), a waiter for each of us, and best of all, NO FREAKING KIDS!! That's right, this restaurant doesn't allow anyone under 12! Love it!!!!!! Wish that Disney had more spots like that but this is a good start.

No luck on the upgrade unfortunately, we will have to actually fly Coach. Barf.

Leg 1 of the trip is over, we have arrived in Seattle. Had a very mediocre lunch at Bob's and we are planning on having dinner at the hotel restaurant so I'm not very hopeful that it will be much better. Oh well, many good meals await us for the next two weeks!

I wasn't wrong about dinner. We figured we would order something they couldn't screw up, so we started with nachos. They were perfectly fine, if unspectacular. Tracey had meatloaf for her main course which was just average. I ordered Cajun chicken fettuccini, and it was the spiciest thing I have ever eaten. I had about three bites and sent it back. They must have dumped a whole bottle of cayenne in that mofo. Awful. Tracey said it was the first time she had ever seen me sweat while eating. Gross.

Back up to the room, going to take a sleeping pill and get to bed early. It is already 10:30 PM in Orlando so we might as well try to get acclimated as soon as possible and lessen the jet lag!