Friday, December 31, 2010

Oh good grief

I haven't finished my posts about the April 2010 trip.

I know this.

I will remedy this very soon.

Perhaps even before the end of 2010.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Downtown Disney and some Florida storms. Oh, and a flood.

Sunday, April 25th

We were all up bright and early today....excited to get packed (again) and head to Downtown Disney for the day and then to (yet another) hotel for the night.

Originally, this was going to be our "arrival day" but since we had arrived a day early, we now had a full day to spend exploring Downtown Disney and relaxing at our next hotel (Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort). I didn't know much about this resort, other than it was recommended by one of my trusted Disney planning sites - and we were able to get a great price for one night. And, it was located INSIDE the Walt Disney World Resort area.

Back to the day's adventures...

After a free breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express (one of many reasons I always LOVE the HIE), we packed the car and decided to stop at the Best Western (even though it was only 10:30 a.m., we thought maybe they would let us get in our room..we were wrong). So, rather than getting into our room at the BW, we made the very short drive to Downtown Disney.

The girls were SO excited to see DTD!

First stop - the World of Disney Store. You must see this place. It is the biggest Disney character store on the planet! The girls loved the "spitting Stich" and we took pictures with the princess statues:

After the girls rode the train and the merry-go-round and we visited many of the shops (but somehow managed to NOT buy anything), it was time to eat lunch. We had decided to eat at The Rainforest Cafe - a new experience for all of us!

Little did we know (until we were walking in and being seated) how LOUD it could be. See, every 30 minutes or so it STORMS in the rain forest. As in thunder! lightning! and all the "animals" get a little crazy too. Olivia thought it was very cool...Emma did not. (See, Emma has very sensitive ears - she has tubes in her ears - and loud noises are very upsetting to her). So, for the 45 minutes or so that it took for us to eat lunch, Emma cried and covered her ears. It was not our best parenting moment.

Even during the 'quiet' non-storming time, she covered her ears. We only had one storm during lunch, but another storm 'hit' as we were walking out. Ooops.

Overall, I really liked The Rainforest Cafe - Kevin and I shared a huge appetizer sampler (best chicken fingers!). And the atmosphere was so unique....I would definitely go back.

After some more shopping (and was HOT!!), we decided it was time for ice we made our way to the Ghirardelli ice cream shop. Seriously, you MUST stop here every time you visit DTD. The ice cream is so yummy....I really wanted to get a sundae, but decided to 'be good' and I only ordered mint chocolate chip in a homemade waffle cone. Still delicious!

At around 2:15 we decided to call it a day and head back to the BW and check in. (We knew the 'official' check in was 3 p.m., but you can ALWAYS get in early. Or so we thought.) Kevin goes in and they tell him we can't check in until 3 p.m. but we're welcome to sit in the lobby. For 45 minutes. With two very tired little girls who just want to nap and swim (not necessarily in that order).

I am not happy about this.

As we are in the ladies room, Olivia says "mommy why can't we get in our room?" and I say to her "well, because the people who run this hotel are stupid and don't know how to run a hotel and you can bet we'll never stay here again." (Yeah, not my best parenting moment, but it happens).

And then...out of the other stall walks A HOTEL EMPLOYEE! She looks at me rather sheepishly and quickly walks out.

We head back to the lobby and the girls and I sit down and prepare to wait. And then suddenly....the same woman who told Kevin (and three other families) that we had to wait until 3 p.m. suddenly waves Kevin up to the desk and SHOCKINGLY our room is suddenly ready.

[I'm not sure if my 'complaining' caused this or not....but I guess sometimes being, um, 'vocal' has its advantages].

So...we get to our room and it's nice, but I have to say...the rooms at the Holiday Inn Express are much nicer. After swimming, naps and dinner (Pizza Hut ... in the lobby... very convenient!], we settle in for the night. We're under a tornado watch and there is a huge complex of severe storms coming, so we decide we'll just go to bed early and be refreshed for Monday - and our first day at the Magic Kingdom.

The storms roll in and roll out, the kids fall asleep and then suddenly I'm awake at 1 a.m. because I hear an alarm in the hallway. Or maybe it was in the stairwell. Either way, I think at first "Oh my gosh! It's a tornado siren!" and then I think "Oh my god! The hotel is on fire!" And then I hear what sounds like rushing water. At this point, I'm totally confused and wake up Kevin.

What follows is a true story. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

Kevin looks outside in the hallway - he says people are screaming and fighting and bleeding and I think "Great! We're surrounded by people who are fighting at 1 a.m. Where the heck are we?!?" I tell him to close the door.

And call the front desk.

He calls the front desk and they inform him that someone* on our floor has broken the sprinkler in their room and the alarm we hear IS the fire alarm because the fire department is on their way to turn off the sprinkler.

I look in the hallway and see people who are soaking wet and covered in some weird bluish-black "inky" stuff. And then, I see this:

In case you're wondering, yes that IS water ... flowing down the hallway. At 1:30 a.m. All we needed was some dramatic music and Kate Winslet yellling "Jack!" and it could have been a scene straight out of Titanic. Without the ship and the icebergs, of course.

The water continued to GUSH for a very long time. Firefighters came up the elevator. And they went down the elevator. Several families moved out of their rooms. And the water just kept coming. Olivia was awake for the entire 'flood' and she was very scared. I think she thought the water was going to reach our room (as did I)...Emma on the other hand, slept through the entire event.

Finally at 3 a.m. Kevin called the front desk and they moved us up ... to a much higher floor. Far away from the water. They were going to give us a 'free breakfast' for "our troubles" but Kevin said "no, you will do better than that" and so, we ended up getting our room at no charge. (I mean really...a free breakfast does not 'erase' a flood in the middle of the night!)

After finally getting back to sleep at 3:30 a.m. - we were up (again) at 5:30 a.m. ready to head to Pop Century and start our week-long adventure at Walt Disney World! (Oddly, I wasn't as tired as I thought I'd be.)

The moral of this story: sometimes, it rains inside when you're in Florida.

*The genius who broke the sprinkler head in his room? Um yeah...he was HANGING A SHIRT ON IT!!!! Are. You. Kidding. Me? That's what closets are for!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Disney we come!

Olivia "meets" Scarlett O'Hara at Georgia Welcome Center

Saturday, April 25

I am awake before the sun is up.
How can I not be???
I'm headed to Orlando today!

We get the kids up, pack our things, grab some breakfast (you have to love hotels that offer free HOT breakfasts!) and hit the road just as the sun starts to rise. We have a long day of driving ahead of us and we know that the weather in Georgia could get stormy.

Thankfully, I have The Weather Channel app on my BlackBerry so every now and then as we get close to Georgia, I am checking the radar. So far, so good. No rain until south of Atlanta.

Yeah, right.

It ALWAYS rains in Atlanta when we're driving through. Always. Never fails. And this time was no different. There was not a speck of rain on the radar, but sure enough, as soon as we were just outside the city the rain came down. In buckets. It was a deluge. I almost cried out of sheer terror because you could NOT see the car in front of us. It was raining that hard. And suddenly as it started, the rain stopped.

However, the radar was showing some VERY nasty storms just south of Macon, I made an executive decision (which, as The Navigator, I am allowed to do!). We would stop in Macon for lunch (a real, non-fast-food lunch) and by the time we were done eating the radar would be clear.

That was the plan.

And I am happy to report -- it worked like a charm. We stopped at Cracker Barrel (normally I would say 'ick' to CB, but I had pecan Georgia - home of the pecan! and they were delish), enjoyed a somewhat leisurely lunch, and 45 minutes later we were good to go. When we got back on the road, the radar was CLEAR. The sun was shining all the way to Orlando!

Let me say this - ever since I was a kid and we would drive to Florida every summer, the BEST part of the drive down was stopping at the Florida Welcome Center.

It's really the first time you see palm trees! And then there's the sign "Welcome to Florida" and of course, you can't go wrong with free sample of REAL Florida orange juice! I was so excited to see the Welcome Center I nearly jumped out of the car and ran inside! Olivia was excited too -- she picked up every single tourist brochure and book that had anything to do with Walt Disney World.

Oh. My. Gosh. We were in FLORIDA!!!
(It was at this point when I said to Kevin, "We should just move to Florida. I love it here.")

Now the anticipation was growing but we had one problem -- we had nowhere to sleep that night in Orlando. Our hotel for Sunday night (Best Western Lake Buena Vista) was booked for Saturday night. So, I did what any Neurotic Disney Mom would do ... I started looking up resorts in The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2010. We considered staying on property, but knowing we'd have to move off property Sunday and then back on Monday was a bit excessive - even for me.

Then the lightbulb went off!
Hold the phone!
I would call the Holiday Inn Express where I stayed in February (the last time I had to arrive early because Mother Nature was wreaking weather havoc). The rooms were nice. It was SO close to Downtown Disney. And, I remembered it had a POOL! (Not to mention free breakfast with really yummy cinnamon rolls).

As Kevin drove, I called and hoped they had rooms.
We were in LUCK!
They had rooms!
We had a place to stay when we arrived in Orlando.

For whatever reason it seemed to take FOREVER to actually get to Orlando! We just kept driving and driving. The girls were getting cranky (as was mommy!) and we were all tired and hungry and just wanted to GET THERE ALREADY!!

And then, I saw it.
The gates to Walt Disney World.
Oh my gosh.
I was HOME!!!!!
I shed a few tears of sheer joy as we drove through the gates and saw the signs to the parks and resorts. (We were taking a 'short cut' through property to get to our hotel. My choice. I just HAD to see property!)

A short time later, we made it to the Holiday Inn.
All Olivia wanted to do was SWIM! .... but we needed food.
We grabbed a quick dinner and then it was time to decompress.

And dreaming of what magical adventures were waiting for us.....