Welcome to my blog. I write mostly about travel and in particular my love of Disney, with a few tidbits such as musings about movies or theater thrown in for good measure. I have stories dating all the way back to 1997 so be sure to explore! I don't post regularly, so if you want updates be sure to join and follow this blog (links below). Feel free to share, and if you want you can also click the Facebook or Twitter links below. You can also follow me on twitter. And be sure to comment letting me know what you think!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review - HARVEY on Broadway with Jim Parsons

Charlotte and Elwood
Last night (Wednesday, June 13) my daughter Charlotte and I saw HARVEY on Broadway with Jim Parsons (of TV's "Big Bang Theory") and Jessica Hecht. Charlotte and I made an evening of it with dinner at Sardi's and a stroll through Times Square. I'll start out with a quick review of the show and then relate a few thoughts about the rest of the evening.

For those not familiar with Mary Chase's Pulitzer Prize winning comedy, HARVEY is the story of Elwood P. Dowd (Parsons), a kind, gentle mild mannered man who makes friends with everyone he meets. This causes a bit of a problem when he befriends Harvey, a 6-foot 3-inch white rabbit who is, of course, invisible to everyone else. Fed up with her brothers odd behavior, Elwood's sister Veta Louise Simmons (Hecht) decides to have Elwood committed. When the doctor at the sanitarium mistakenly thinks it is Elwood's sister who needs to be committed, hilarity ensues. HARVEY opened on Broadway in 1944 with Frank Fay as Elwood and Josephine Hull as Veta. The role of Elwood was later played by James Stewart who recreated the role in the 1950 film (which also starred Hull who won an Oscar for her performance.).

Those who do know the film often think of it mostly as a star vehicle for Stewart, but in reality it is very much an ensemble piece. To that point, this is a wonderful ensemble cast. Every performance was strong, and in fact the actors playing the two smallest roles (Elwoods "Aunt Ethel" and a cab driver) both received enthusiastic applause when their scenes were over. The stars of the show - Mr. Parsons and Ms. Hecht - both gave terrific performances. Both actors are somewhat younger than the roles are normally played, which brought a certain energy to the show that it might have otherwise lacked. This also meant that the cast was able to play up the shows many sexual double-entedres, greatly enhancing the humor. One standout scene was between Parson's Elwood and veteran comic actress Carol Kane (of TV's "Taxi") as the wife of the head of the sanitarium. The way Mr. Parsons and Ms Kane played off of each other was priceless.

One of the reasons I was excited about seeing this show was that it gave me the oportunity to see another actors take on a role that I myself had once played. I played Elwood a few years ago in an amateur theater in Connecticut. This experience was quite fascinating to me as Mr. Parsons somewhat twitchy approach to the role, while very much an approach that maintained the integrity of the character, could not have been more different from the approach I chose to take. Speaking of having done the role, my familiarity with the play meant that I noticed a few additional lines toward the end of the play - not in the original text - which nicely capped the story arch of two of the minor characters. A very nice touch.

Speaking of nice touches, I have to give kudos to director Scott Ellis for his wonderful handling of the ensemble cast as well as David Rockwell's ingenious set which broke apart and came back together like a giant origami. This is a first-rate revival of a classic commedy and I recommend it. The show opens tonight (June 14) - the performance we saw was the final preview.

Living the dream!
As I mentioned earlier, this was the cap of a very nice evening for Charlotte and I. After getting off of work I picked Charlotte up at Grand Central and we walked to Sardi's. While it would have not been my first choice, Charlotte wanted to go to the restaurant with "the pictures of all the famous people". And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Charlotte had cheese ravioli which she absolutely loved. I had a bite and it was, indeed, quite tasty with a simple yet delicious cream tomato sauce. I hade a club sandwich which was quite good, and the french fries were cooked perfectly. Simple food, yet well prepared.

After dinner we walked to the theater via Times Square. We stopped in the new Disney Store and looked around. One thing we saw was a mannequin with a dress for Merida, Disney's newest princess. Upon seeing the mannequin Charlotte exclaimed "that mannequin is living the dream!" If you want to understand that refference, you'll have to read about our 2010 trip to Walt Disney World.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kirk Catch-up

Well I have been horribly remiss keeping this blog up to date and, as a result, have not posted anything about my yearly outings with my good friend Kirk. Look at earlier blog entries for blogs on our earlier trips as well as an intro which describes the history of our friendship.

Kirk Intro

2001 Part 1
2001 Part 2
2001 Part 3

2002 Part 1
2002 Part 2
2002 Part 3
2002 Part 4


2005 Catch-up

With this post I hope to catch up on what we've been up to. I don't know how much I'll remember - I do have some notes and I've also been in the habit of keeping receipts from trups to help jog my memory (Kirk's suggestion, actually). I'll do my best, but I can promise that there will be stand-out experiences that I remember which I will write about here.

Well... here goes...

In 2005 we went to Las Vegas and Anaheim. While in Las Vegas we stayed at the Tropicana and while in Anaheim we stayed at the Anabella. Staying at the Trop was a big treat for me because, while it is now somewhat old and worn out, the Trop was "the place" to stay while in Vegas when I was young and I never got the chance to stay there. I still recall the commercials for "The Island of Las Vegas" narrated by Geoffrey Holder. The age of the resort aside, their pool is still first rate. One highlight for us on this trup was "The Star Treek Experience" at the Hilton. Neither Kirk nor I are big Star Trek fans, but I had done this some years earlier and I thought Kirk would enjoy it. I pride myself in my ability to figure out the way they do illusions in theme park attractions but I can't for the life of me figure out how they did the floor in this attraction.

We drove with my brother Todd (who lives in LV) to Anaheim. Unfortunately something came up for Todd not long after we arrived (we had actually just gotten into Disneyland) and he had to leave suddenly. Another unfortunate thing was that I got sick the last day we were there, plus the temperatures turned somewhat cold, so I was miserable the last day. On the plus side it was Kirk's first visit to California Adventure which was fun. Still, we decided we would have to come back again and sort of re-do this trip.

In 2006 we went to WDW staying at the Hampton Inn. I honestly don't recall much about the trip except to say it the first time on Expedition Everest for both of us. What ana amazing ride EE is! And we even got to see it with the Yeti working! Yeti or no, it's still one of my favorites. As I say to people - it's a roller coaster with a plot twist.

In early Spring of 2007 we went to Tampa. The highlights of the trip were going to a Spring training game at Legend's Field (now George M. Steinbrenner Field) and a trip to Busch Gardens. A particular highlight at Busch Gardens was the coaster SheiKra, which has a pretty much vertical drop. Awesome ride! Additionally we had dinner at Ruth's Chris - one of my favorite steak houses. I had a Kobe NY Strip that was quite possibly the best steak I've ever had. Of course I had to take out a second mortgage to pay for it...

We skipped 2008 but went back to WDW in January 2009, staying at Saratoga Springs. Kirk and I had started a sort of tradition - on our first day at the world we head to Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS). We get to the park right at openig and go straight down Sunset Blvd where we get one FastPass (FP) - usually Rock 'N Roller Coaster (RnRC) and we ride Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TXToT). If it's a slow day we may even ride TZToT as well and if we're really lucky we might even get a second FP. Once we're done with Sunset Blvd we head over to the ABC Commissary for breakfast. It's funny, folks often dis the commissary on different Disney blogs and podcasts I listen to, but they never talk about breakfast. IMO the breakfast at the commissary is among the best of any of the in-park breakfasts - at least in terms of counter service.

This was a four-day trip, the 10th through the 13th. On the 10th we went to DHS in the morning and the Magic Kingdom (MK) in the evening. On the 11th we went to MK in the morning and Epcot in the evening. On the 12th we went to Animal Kingdom (AK) and went to The Boardwalk in the evening. While at the Boardwalk we ate at the Big River Grill. This was a pleasant surprise with very good food. One mistake I made was to order one of the house beers. I just don't like specialty beers. The only beers I like are lite, crisp and simple. I also like stouts - like Guinness - which I guess is a little odd. Anyway, on the fourth day we went back to Epcot where we had lunch at the San Angel Inn.

In September of 2009 we re-visited Las Vegas and California.We arrived at LV on the 15th and stayed 3 nights at the Hard Rock Hotel. I have to say that the HRH was a lot of fun. We flew to John Wayne Airport for the California leg of our journey. We stayed at the Portofino Hotel in Anaheim for 3 nights - the 18th to the 22nd. We did the obligatory Disneyland trip - 2 days in this case - and also went to a game at Dodger Stadium.

A little side story here. I love the show Diners Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network. Any chance I get I try to go to one of the restaurants featured on this show. A few weeks before this trip I was watching DDD and the host - Guy Fieri - says "next time you are going to a game at Dodger Stadium be sure to go to Mom's Tamales!" needless to say this got my attention. Se, we went to Mom's on our way to the stadium. One problem we had was that they took forever to serve us, but once we got our food it was excellent. the tamales were great, but I also ordered a chile relleno and it was the best I've ever had.

I hadn't been to a Dodgers game since I was about 13 so I was very excited to go back to Dodger Stadium. It's a really nice stadium built right into the rolling LA hills. One thing about the stadium is that the LA haze and the bright sunshine actually can make it hard to see the ball. This was a bit disconcerting for us because we were right along the first base line and on more than one occasion we did not see a hard hit foul ball until it was already past us. But, we made it through without getting hit...

In January 2011 we returned to Walt Disney World. We stayed at the Pop Century Hotel for 3 nights, January 20th - 23rd. We did a couple of things differently on this trip. First, for the first time I worked with a travel agent for a Disney trip - Dreams Unlimited Travel. Our agent Marla did a terrific job. I highly recommend working with Dreams Unlimited. Also, for the first time Kirk and I took advantage of the Disney Dining Plan. Personally I think the dining plan is not a great deal in most circumstances - but for 2 guys like us who would use every dining credit we were allowed it was actually a good deal. Also we really used our credits well - as an example we had lunch one day at Le Cellier - which costs 2 dining credits at dinner for what is essentially the same menu.

Another highlight of this trip - for me at least - was doing the American Idol Experience (AIE). A friend of mine had told me about how she and her son did AIE, but didn't get past the first audition. Anyway, I went to an early audition and was selected for the show. At first I planned to do Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" but I ended up doing Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie". It was a lot of fun to do the show, but when it came to do the show I found that I was up against two 14-year old girls. Needless to say, I did NOT want to win! And, luckily I didn't.

The only other thing about this trip to highlight was our trip to the new Hacienda de San Angel. We enjoyed it in general, the food was pretty good though honestly the menu was a bit... odd. I ended up ordering from thr appetizer menu. I love Mexican foos but I wish Mexican restaurants would include at least some basic combinations - I mean the only tacos on the menu (outside of the appetizers) were shrip tacos - and that's not what I wanted. Our biggest complaint, however, was that we waited over 45 minutes for or seat.

Anyway, that brings us up to date. Kirk and I went on a long planned trip to Washington DC this year and I will be posting that as my first "new" blog post soon. Woohoo! I'm all caught up at long last. I hope you enjoyed and will check back with the blog on occasion.

South East Florida January 2012

Well, this is my first "new" blog since starting this site (everything else was either copied from my old site, or about something that had happened some time ago).

My daughter 18 year-old Natalie is going back to college at the end of January, so my wife Andrea and I decided it would be fun to take a small trip to someplace warm before Nat leaves again. For this post I'll write a bit about the trip in general, and I'll get into a bit of detail about where we stayed while in Florida as well as a couple of places we ate.

We wanted the trip to be cheap, so we booked cheap flights for the four of us (including Nat's 14 year-old sister Charlotte). We flew into MIA on Friday night, January 13. Our flight was delayed a bit so we didn't get to MIA until about midnight. We spent the first night at a Hilton in downtown Miami (using Hilton points) and the remaining 3 nights we stayed at the Palm Beach Shores resort about an hour and a half north of Miami. PBSR is a timeshare property and we paid for our stay there using Disney Vacation Club points.

We wanted to go to southern Florida to escape the New York January chill. Turns out it had actually been a very mild January, And while we were in Florida the weather was chillier than usual - not really beach or pool weather. Still, it was warmer than New York, it was a nice relaxing trip and it's always a treat to stay someplace right on the beach.

Restaurants: While in Palm Beach we had 3 memorable meals. Everyone in my family are vegetarians (except me) and Natalie is a Vegan. So, we had to find places that cater to vegetarians. For our first night in Palm Beach we went to Ta-boo, which is apparently a fairly well known. It is in a very upscale shopping district in Palm Beach. It's a fun place with a retro tiki-style decor. The food was good, though their vegetarian selection was limited. We also felt a bit under-dressed, though nobody else seemed to care. Funny thing, there was a party next to us with a gentleman that Nat commented looked like a heavier version of Al Gore. After our meal I was waiting at the valet for our car and I heard "Al Gore" apologize to the others in his party for the "lousy food". After that we joked that we liked Ta-boo, though Al Gore didn't.

The next night we went to Seasons 52 which was right up the street from our hotel. We loved this place. So much so that we came back the next night. The name of the restaurant comes from the fact that they have a seasonal menu that changes weekly. The decor is very nice - elegant and contemporary with wonderful views of the inter-coastal waterway. The food was very good, and much to the delight of the others in the party they not only had a separate vegetarian menu, they even had a vegan menu. I would highly recommend Seasons 53 - and it should be noted they have several locations.

Palm Beach Shores Resort: PBSR is a timeshare resort with about 275 (by my estimate) one and two bedroom villa suites. For those of you unfamiliar with timeshares, one big different in the rooms is that they pretty much always have separate bedrooms as well as full kitchens. The rooms at PBSR are not an exemption.

Overview: PBSR is a pleasant property with a great beach location. It's a bit "tired" (as an Australian gentleman on the elevator said), but well maintained and fairly well appointed. It has a small gym (which we did not use - although I did go out for a very pleasant and long walk one morning), a spa (which we also did not use) a restaurant (where we did have lunch one day) and a nice pool with a pool-side bar and a Jacuzzi. I would rate all the amenities as average with the exception of the restaurant which was well below average.

One thing we noticed was that there were a LOT of timeshare tours coming through. And I mean a LOT. There were always folks in the lobby or touring the property accompanied by a sales person. They also take every chance they can to get you into a presentation. As an example, when you check in you have to take your parking voucher to another desk to get your parking permit. Here they try to sell you on a sales tour by offering free lunch and a $55 coupon you can spend at the resort. We simply declined.

 Overall I would give the resort 3 stars out of 5.

Rooms: We had a one bedroom suite. As is typical of timeshare properties this was a true suite with a separate bedroom and a full kitchen. The room was pretty spacious and tastefully decorated. The bed was unusually comfortable for a hotel. The one complaint I would have about the room was the bathroom which was... odd. Partly resulting from the room layout, the bath was bigger than it needed to be. This allowed for a separate bath and shower. This is usually a good thing - except the bathtub was just a plain and simple tub. Not a Jacuzzi, not a soaker, just the same sort of tub you would expect in your typical hotel with a shower/tub combination.

Location: This is where the resort really shines. It's location right on the beach is absolutely spectacular. This was especially true of our unit. We were very fortunate to have an end unit - room 501. These units are right on the beach and have fantastic views. If you stay at PBSR try to get an end unit - from what I could tell these would be room numbers ending with 01, 02, 49 or 50. On the other hand, Palm Beach itself was not a location we were crazy about. If you're in to golf or high-end shopping - neither of which we are - then I suppose it's a terrific spot. It just wasn't really our cup of tea. Given that, I give the location 4 out of 5 stars - I would give it 5 if you like Palm Beach.

That's it. hope you enjoyed the post.

Trip to Orlando, August 2010 - Intro and Day 1

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Well over a year ago I showed my 2 daughters (Natalie and Charlotte) a press release announcement from Universal Orlando about a proposed addition to their Islands of Adventure theme park - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP). The girls and I are all Harry Potter fans - the girls more so than me - and we have all read all of the books and seen all of the movies. We even went to midnight "release parties" of the final three books. So, when the press announcements were made for WWoHP there was, needless to there was a good deal of excitement in our house about the prospects of visiting the park.

Once the proposed opening dates were announced for the park I suggested that we go in the summer when the kids were out of school. Knowing that more than 2 days at Universal are more than enough we thought it would make sense to combine it with a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW). My wife Andie suggested that the girls would have more fun if they each had a friend along for the trip so we told them to both invite somebody to come. Once we decided on this, Andie (not a big theme park fan) decided to beg out of the trip, so it was going to be me and four teen-agers. I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious about this prospect but as you will see my concerns were unfounded.

As the date for the trip approached we finalized plans. I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and my home resort is the Boardwalk Villas (BV). I booked us in a 2 bedroom villa with a Boardwalk view for 6 nights, arriving on Sunday and leaving on Saturday. Our flight - JetBlue - left La Guardia at about 7:00 AM with a 7:30 PM departure from Orlando. I purchased 3-day park hopper passes for WDW and 2-day multi-park passes for Universal for all of use using a site called "Tickets at Work" that I was able to connect to through my work benefits site. The passes were discounted ($265 for the WDW passes and $139 for the Universal), but more importantly each had additional days bringing the WDW passes to 5 days and the Universal passes to 4 (although we only intended to go to Universal for 2 days anyway).

I looked into renting a car but the car rental costs were unbelievable - about $500 before taxes and fees. Instead I signed us up for the Disney Magical Express service (DMX) which would get us to our hotel, and I figured we would not need a car while at WDW. The only time we'd need a car was to get to Universal. I had heard about the Mears shuttle previously, but someone else who had recently organized a trip to Orlando for a large group recommended Lincs. I called Lincs and decided to go with them, mostly because their schedule was a bit more flexible. I figured I'd arrange to use them the first time we went to Universal and if they didn't work out we could use Mears the second time.

The only other real issue with not having a car was that we could not go grocery shopping. One of the benefits of stating at DVC - or any timeshare property for the matter - is that you have a full kitchen and can prepare some of your food in your room. This can save a lot of money, plus it means you end up eating at least a bit healthier. Even if all you do is eat breakfast in your room it's such a treat to be able to do it at your leisure and not have to worry about getting up and getting dressed first. Anyway, I poked around online a bit and found a site called where I could order groceries online and have them delivered. Very convenient, although the choices were a bit limited.

I had also made some dining reservations - but only three - two in Epcot at the World Showcase (WS) and one at Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS - although Charlotte insisted in referring to it as MGM).

Now, I'm a bit of a planner. In fact, half of the fun for any trip (especially a WDW trip) for me is in the planning. Sometimes I worry that others in my party will think I'm planning too much - more about that later. Still, my approach is simple - the idea behind having a plan is mostly so that you don't waste a lot of time deciding what to do. You come up with a plan that makes sense and then, once you get there, you see how it goes. If the plan continues to make sense, go with it. If not, abandon it. Also, I told the girls that they need not feel they had to stick with me the whole time. If they found something they wanted to do on their own - go for it. I did want the younger girls to stay in the same park with me, but they did not have to stick with me if they didn't want to.

OK, so, here is the schedule I came up with for our visit:

Sunday: Epcot. Dinner reservation at the San Angel Inn at the Mexico Pavillion, 7:30. This way we would be nearby the hotel when we need to check in and get our groceries.
Monday: DHS in the morning. Extra Magic Hours (EMS) at DHS means we can get in early at 8:00. 12:25 reservation at the 50's Prime Time Cafe (PTC). Evening at the Magic Kingdom (MK). I always think that MK at night is the best way to see it for the first time.
Tuesday: Universal. Dinner somewhere on CityWalk.
Wednesday: MK in the morning. Dinner at T-Rex in Downtown Disney (DD). Evening at DHS which has EMS until 10:00.
Thursday: Universal. Dinner somewhere in Citywalk.
Friday: Disney's Animal Kingdom (AK) in the morning. MK at night - EMS hours means MK is open until 3:00AM.
Saturday: Epcot - lunch reservation at Merrakesh in the Morocco pavillion.

Orlando August 2010 Part 1

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Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Day 1, August 15 - Arrival, Check in and Epcot

In August 2010 I went to Walt Disney World (WDW) and Universal Orlando (UO) with my 2 teenager daughters Natalie and Charlotte along with Charlotte's friend Gabby and Natalie's friend Marie. Although we would be spending most of our time in WDW, the main impetus for the trip was the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP) at Universal Islands of Adventure (IoA). All of us are big Harry Potter fans and were very excited about visiting the new park.

OK - a confession. It is now nearly two years after the trip and I am finally getting around to writing this blog. I am working from pictures, notes and memory. There were some specific highlights, memories and observations that I'll point out but this is probably won't be a real detailed blog.

First, I should say how I ended up on a trip to Orlando with 4 teenage girls. Like I said, we are all HP fans and wanted to go to WWoHP. If you look at my other blog posts it's obvious I'm a WDW fan, and my kids enjoy The World, but my wife Andie is not a big fan. She enjoys it when we go, but she can take it or leave it. So, when we planned this trip Andie opted to stay home.

I bought our tickets ahead of time through my job. Using "tickets at work" I was able to get 5 day Park Hopper passes for the price of 3 day passes. This saved about $100. I also bought the UO tickets there getting 4-day passes for the price of 2-day passes. This did not really save anything as we were only planning on visiting UO for 2 days but I figured I may as well get the 4 day passes in case we changed our mind.

I decided that I wanted to avoid renting a car on this trip. Getting to and from WDW was no problem - we would just use Mickey's Magical Express (MME). I used my Disney Vacation Club (DVC) ownership to book 6 nights in a 2 bedroom villa at Disney's Boardwalk Villas (DBV - 258 points). I had queried the girls what they would want for food and order the groceries online to be delivered to our villa at Garden Grocer. As for getting to UO, I arranged a car service. More on that later...

Before the trip I told the girls that they did not have to stick with me if they didn't want to. I told Nat and Marie that they could pretty much feel free to do whatever they want. They didn't even have to come to the same parks with us if they didn't want to. For Gabby and Charlotte I told them I wanted them in the same park with me, but if they wanted to go off on their own while in the park that was OK.

We had a ridiculously early 7Am flight out of LaGuardia. The bad news was that we had to rise before the sun came up to catch our plane. The good news was that - if all went well - we would have pretty much a whole day in the parks our first day. We had breakfast at the airport, getting pastries and fruit at Starbucks. The flight was no problem. One of the great things about MME is that Disney sends special tags for your luggage so that all you have to is check your bags and they will be in your room when you check in. So after our flight landed we looked for the MME boarding area and took the bus straight to DBV. Once we arrived I went to check in and asked about getting the grocery delivery. I was concerned because we had some refrigerated items and I wanted to know when they arrived. I was told not to worry about it - it seems that at DBV has a refrigerated closet and that they would put the groceries in the closet when they arrived. So after we checked we headed out to Epcot and were at the World Showcase entry at 10:40.


Gabby, Charlotte, Nat and Marie

The first thing on our agenda was to get FastPasses (FP) for Soarin'. We were also all hungry so I figured that, while we were in The Land pavilion, we could have an early lunch at The Garden Grill. We got our Soarin' FPs just fine, but Garden Grill was closed. So, instead of Garden Grill we ate at Seasons. I have to say, as counter service eating locations at WDW go, Season's is one of the better ones.

After eating we hit a bunch of the Future World (FW) attractions including Nemo, Spaceship Earth and Ellen. We got a FP for Test Track (TT) went on Soarin' using our FPs. We headed to the World Showcase (WS) and turned left toward Mexico where we road the Grand Fiesta after which we went to Norway and road Maelstrom. While there we also got some pastries at the Norway pavilion. After (around 3:30) that we headed back to FW to use our TT FPs. At my suggestion we got additional TT FPs. The kids did not think they'd want to ride TT again but my attitude is it doesn't hurt to get the additional FPs even if we don't use them.

We then decided to go back to BWV to check into our room. The BWV staff had our luggage and the groceries delivered to our room so we settled in. I felt a little guilty taking the main bedroom with the king-size bed while making the kids share the second second bedroom with the queen-size bed and fold out couch. But not too guilty. And the kids decided to split up anyway with two taking the second bedroom and two taking the fold out in the living room. Since we were staying there 6 nights they agreed to swap off half way through our stay.

We hung out in the room for a while. I went to the pool and was joined by Nat and Marie while Charlotte and Gabby watched a movie in the room (they watched "The Goofy Movie" which ended up playing frequently on The Disney Channel while we were there - and they ended up obsessed with this movie, watching it several times during the stay.)

We all napped a while and, as I suspected, nobody was interested in going back to use out TT FPs. If FW were to stay open past 7:00 we might have gone back - we had a 7:30 reservation at La Hacienda de San Angel (LGdSA) and we headed back to Epcot just in time for the reservation. We had been to the San Angel Inn previously, but the Hacienda had recently opened and I wanted to try it out. I picked the 7:30 reservation time specifically so we could watch IllumiNations after dinner. Unfortunately we waited about 45 minutes to be seated. Luckily the lobby at LHdSA is very pleasant and I was able to keep myself occupied with a margarita.

We were finally seated. The menu at LHdSA is a bit odd - not really your typical Mexican fare. Several of us, including myself, ended up getting appetizers. I got the Ribeye tacos. The food was quite good and the margaritas were excellent (of course I needed a second with dinner).

By the time we finished dinner it was 9:15 and IllumiNations had alreadyy started. We watched the show while making our way back to the International Gateway (IG) on the other side of WS. I should say a bit here about how much I love staying at BWV and what a great location it is. It is a short walk to IG in Epcot and a somewhat longer - although very pleasant - walk to Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS). You can also take a boat to either location - also a wonderful and relaxing way to travel. And of course there is bus service to pretty much anywhere. I've also walked from DBV to IG and through Epcot to catch a Monorail to The Magic Kingdom (MK). Interestingly I recently heard a discussion on the DIS podcast ( where they claimed it was faster to catch a bus to Epcot if you want to go to the front. Of course in that case I would just catch a bus to MK if that's where I was going. Still, interesting. And still, even on days when we're going to Epcot before FW opens I prefer to walk or take the boat, it's simply more pleasant.

Anyway, we walked to IG and the boat was right there so we caught the boat back to DBV. The kids all settled in for bed while I went out on the Boardwalk and sat sipping a glass of Scotch. Absolute bliss. A great way to end a fun first day.

The view from our room

Orlando August 2010 Part 7

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Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Day 7 - August 21 - Epcot and return

Well, this is it. That inevitable day. Our last day at WDW.

Sorry - I put this one in out of order... this is actually the last post...


The night before I had a bit of an issue with Delta Airlines. One of the perks of Mickey's Magical Express is that they will take your luggage and check it for you. In order to do that you have to pay any checked baggage fees. On the way out I checked us in online and paid the fee. I tried to do this for the return trip but they only allow you to do this 24 hours ahead of time. I had not brought a computer, so my intention was to call Delta the night before to pay the fee. They may have changed their policy since, but it turns out that at the time there were only 2 ways that Delta would let you pay the fee - either online by checking your bags online or at the airport. Since you could only do it online 24 hours ahead of time, that meant my only option was to pay at the airport which also meant we had to bring our bags with us and could not use the pre-check option. I was non too happy with Delta.

Still, on our last morning I went down to the MME kisosk and asked about it. They said "no problem" and they were able to help me get the fees paid. They were very helpful. Honestly I was still a little annoyed because their sign made it sound like you had to pay before checking your bags, but all's well that ends well. We checked our bags and confirmed our pickup time of 4:20.

Gabby, Aurora, Charlotte
Nat, Aurora, Marie
We caught the boat to Epcot and arrived about 10:40. We headed straight to Soarin' to get a FP (2:15). After riding Journey to Imagination with no wait we headed back to the World Showcase to explore the country pavillions. We visited Canada, England and France and ended up in Morocco in time for our lunch reservation at Marakesh ($116 with tip). After lunch it started to rain pretty hard suddenly so we ducked into the France pavillion. While we were there looking around, a little girl with curly hair and glasses nonchalantly looked at me and said "you know, Sleeping Beauty is over there..." I looked where she indicated and sure enough, there was Princess Aurora standing by herself. I quickly rounded up the girls so we could visit her and take some pictures.

After our unexpected princess encounter the rain had let up so I suggested we dash over to Test Track to see if we would have enough time for one last ride. The line was too long, however and the FP time was after when we needed to leave, so no luck.
Instead we went back to the World Showcase and headed off in the opposite direction. We got as far as Norway and decided to ride Maelstrom. Our FP time was now up for Soarin' so we haded over there for one more trip on the giant hang-glider (actually Nat begged out and did some shopping instead). We then left to go back to BWV to catch our MME bus. As we made our way over I started to worry that maybe my time estimate for getting back was off and we would be late. So, I once we left the park I made everyone pick up the pace. Turns out there was no problem and we got back in plenty of time. Good thing too - with all the concern over getting the bags packed I had left our MME vouchers in my suitcase. Oops. Not a huge issue, though. The folks at the kiosk wrote up new vouchers for us so we got on the bus with no problem.

Well, that was it for this trip. I'm pretty proud of myself at how much I remembered. I've been to Orlando many times, and I have to say this was absolutely one of the most fun I've had in the parks. The girls were a joy to be with - fun, funny, adventurous and never complaining. So much so, in fact, that I said that I would love to repeat the trip in a few years. We'll see...

Orlando August 2010 Part 2

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Day 2 - August 16 - Disney Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom

For day 2 the plan was to go to Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS) in the morning and Magic Kingdom (MK) in the evening.

The view on my walk
One of the things I really enjoy about staying at Disney's Boardwalk Villas (DBV) is that I like to take a walk in the morning and the walk from DBV to DHS is a beautiful and pleasant walk. So, our first morning at Walt Disney World I was very much looking forward to that walk. As always the walk was beautiful... but not so pleasant. Orlando. August. Even at 7:00 in the morning it was HOT! I made it to DHS and back, but barely.

I got back to the room and made breakfast for the kids. Another great thing about staying at  DBV (or any DVC property for that matter - actually any timeshare resort) is the kitchen. I love being able to get breakfast and coffee without leaving the room. Anyway, we had a nice breakfast and were out of the room by 8:00. We went down to the boat dock and caught the boat to DHS. We were in the park at 8:30.

One thing I had really been talking up to the kids was Toy Story Midway Mania (TSMM). After we entered the park I suggested we go straight to get FastPasses (FPs) for TSMM. As we were walking there one of the kids said "Did you say Toy Story midway Mania? Because there was a sign that said it was closed." I asked a Cast Member (CM) who was taking pictures and she confirmed TSMM was closed. I asked for how long and she said 2 weeks. Bummer. No TSMM this trip.

"Understand the Gravity of the Situation"
TSMM or no TSMM, as always the first order of business is to go on as many rides as possible and get as many FPs as possible. We turned back and headed down Sunset Blvd toward The Hollywood Tower Hotel and G-Force Records. We picked up FPs for Rock 'n Roller Coaster (RnRC) and rode Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (TZToT). After riding Nat and Marie found it necessary to by matching T-shirts in the gift shop. I should point out that I find the TZToT gift shop to be one of my favorites and I always spend at least a few minutes there after riding. We then hit The Great Movie Ride (GMR) and headed back to use our FPs at RcRC. I should point out here that Gabby had always been hesitant to ride roller coasters. RnRC is a pretty radical one for someone who is not a big coaster person but she rode it and loved it. After some deliberation (another RcRC FP or a TZToT FP?) we got FPs for RnRC. The line was short at TZToT but Charlotte and Gabby were not interested in riding again, so while Nat, Marie and I did that Charlotte and Gabby went into full regression mode and visited The Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure (HIStK).
It was now about noon and we were getting hungry, so after we finished TZToT we collected Charlotte and Gabby from HIStK and headed over to The 50's Prime Time Cafe (50sPT). Our reservation was not until 12:25 but were were pretty much able to get in right away. Though the food is mediocre I've always felt that the main attraction of 50sPT is the "show" not the food. As always we had a blast and the kids really enjoyed being "abused" by the CMs. The cost of lunch was $73 including tip.

After lunch we rode RnRC again, then enjoyed the shopping along Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd. We left the park about 2:30 and headed back to the room. We napped, relaxed, swam and, in the case of Charlotte and Gabby, watched "The Goofy Movie". I can't tell you how many times over the course of the next few days that I heard one of them say "The leaning tower of CHEEZ-A!" followed by much laughter. 

On Main Street
 We had dinner in the room, left about 7:15 and started on our way to The Magic Kingdom (MK). We arrived at about 8:00. It was a hot night and the park was crowded, but there's just something about showing up at MK for the first time on a trip and seeing Cinderella Castle again that just puts a smile on your face. I actually purposefully made sure our first time in MK for the trip would be at night because there is something especially magical about the park at night. For everyone in our party except me it had been a while since their last visit and I really wanted to see their faces light up when seeing the park for the first time, in all it's night-time glory. Actually - I have not mentioned this yet - this was Gabby's first trip to WDW. We had been seeing the celebration buttons all over ("It's My Birthday", "It's Our Anniversary", etc) and we realized we needed to get Gabby a "1st Visit" button - so we went to Guest Services and got one. And of course the rest of us got the "I'm Celebrating" button (which, to me, is a bit like those "I'm With Stupid" shirts...)

Anyway, we headed to Adventureland where we went on Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) and Haunted Mansion (HM). On our way our of Adventureland we stopped and got Dole Whips. (I recently read that D23 had a survey of the favorite WDW snacks and the Dole Whip won, I mean... what else?) Anyway we headed over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain. We also did the Autopia - which is especially fun with a group (OK I know that's not what it is called but it will always be Autopia to me).

Finally we went to Main Street for some shopping, and I stopped at Casey's Corner for a "Grand Slam" hot dog. We headed out of the park about 11:00 and went back to our hotel.