Friday, May 24, 2013

Walt Disney World... Let the Memories Begin!

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So as I wrote yesterday, we spent last weekend at Disney World. Joel and The Baron joined me and it was our first 'big' trip we all took together that involved flying a plane. Aside from that, it was both Joel and my first trip to Disney World. Patrick went about 30 years ago so it was just as exciting for him to come back as an adult.

The trip started off super early... like it's still dark out and I was up late packing and too excited sleep early. Our flight was at 6am so that meant we needed to be at the airport no later than 4:30am. We got up {well, The Baron and Joel as I didn't sleep at all} at 3:00am to get ready and then head out to the airport. It was a smooth direct flight and thankfully I was able to take a short nap. Joel, on the other hand, was wide awake and thoroughly content with playing on the iPad the entire flight.

When we got to Orlando, we had the Disney Magical Express transport service take us directly to the resort. It was easy to find and relatively quick to board and start the Disney experience. The motorcoaches were well equipped with monitors, clean, comfy and even had a bathroom similar to ones on the plane. Joel chose our seats in the very back since it was the only single row of three - a seat for each of us. At this point, Joel was bouncing off the seat with excitement. We watched the monitors which was very informational and entertaining. They covered details and fun facts about Disney, the resorts, the various parks, etc. Then for a moment, I looked over to where Joel was sitting because I didn't notice any rustling or hear anything from him. I was surprised to see that Joel knocked out and fell asleep. {This is a reoccuring theme throughout the weekend, as you'll soon read on lol.} I guess the excitement of being on a bus to 'Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse' was just too much for him!

And then we finally arrived. We stayed at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and it was beautiful. When we disembarked from the bus, we were happily greeted by name no less, by cast members dressed in beautiful Victorian garb. As we walked into the gorgeous doors of the hotel, we walked into a light and floral aroma of stargazer lilies, which continued to waft through the air. It was definitely my favorite smell in all of Disney World! Check in was a breeze and our room was already ready for us at 10:30am. We settled in and then headed off to pick up our Park Hopper Tickets.

Once we had our Park Hopper Tickets, we headed to the Magic Kingdom {MK} by monorail - which was very convenient since it was only one stop away from the Grand Floridian resort. A tip we were given was that the fastest way to MK was to take the monorail and the fastest way back to the hotel was by boat. I loved that we could access the parks and resorts by multiple modes of transportation... that alone showed me how much thought was put into the accessibility of guests visiting.

Once it at MK, we had our picture taken by a lovely couple... only to cut off Joel from the shot since he was in his stroller. It was unfortunate and I was especially happy with the picture I took of the two of them! Oh well... at least it made for a great picture of me and The Baron.

As we entered through Main Street, the first area inside of MK, we were just in time for a parade and got some great pictures right up front and center of the parade route. Joel loved seeing the lively, colorful and energetic show, which made for a great first impression! Joel's first request was to ride the Walt Disney Railway, which had a station stop just about the entrance of the park. We got aboard and it took us through Adventureland, Frontierland and then through the new Fantasyland section where we got off.

Of all the sections in MK, Fantasyland was probably the most accommodating for Joel in terms of rides and attractions. We spent a majority of our time in MK in this section where we rode the Prince Charming Regal Carousel, took a boat ride on the It's a Small World attraction, saw Mickey's PhilharMagic 3D concert movie, watched a clown performer and even came across a few characters from Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella's stepmother and step sisters.

After walking through Fantasyland, we found ourselves at Liberty Square which was themed as if we were stepping into the colonial area of America. There were some fun shops, such as Yankee Trader. There, I picked up some Chef Mickey pasta and a Mickey Mouse cookie cutter as a foodie souvenir. The attraction we enjoyed in Liberty Square was the Liberty Square Riverboat. This relaxing boat ride on board the 3 tiered Liberty Belle riverboat took us around the Tom Sawyer Island and it was nice to get off our feet and enjoy the sights and sounds.

After the boat ride, we noticed the main walkways were being sectioned off in preparation of another character float parade coming through. Rather than waiting for another parade, we opted to check out Adventureland's Aloha Isle for something sweet to cool down with. Those familiar with Walt Disney World know where this is going... we got our hands on the ever popular Pineapple Dole Whip! The line was a little long but definitely worth the wait. Dole whip is a sweet, creamy concoction of pineapple juice and non dairy cream whipped into a beautiful soft serve. This was clearly our favorite treat at the parks. A tip: The Polynesian Resort has a 24 hour eatery called Captain Cook's where you can get all the Dole Whip you want because it's self serve!. Yes. Self. Serve. 24 hours a day. {You're welcome.} I found a recipe online and I'm planning on giving it a try this weekend - I'll let you know how it goes and will post it if it's nearly as good as the real thing lol.

Well by the time we got our Pineapple Dole Whip floats {which is the Dole Whip served with fresh pineapple juice}, Joel was knocked out. Again. Sadly, this was just before we were about to enjoy our first character dinner buffet at Crystal Palace which was just on the border of the Adventureland and Main Street sections. Although we had reservations, we still had a 15 minute wait to be seated inside the restaurant. Once seated, we noticed Winnie the Pooh making his way to the tables. And of course, when he got to ours, Joel was out like a light. nothing was going to wake him up. Even the mention of Thomas the Train didn't work! So he continues to sleep... then thankfully, just as Eeyore was coming up, he starts to wake up. Once he refocused on his surroundings, he was back to his happy go lucky self and was thrilled to get pictures with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and his all time favorite - Tigger the Tiger. Tip: If you're visiting and celebrating a birthday, let the folks know when you're making your reservation or as they seat you. They'll put their Disney magic into your experience and present the celebrant with a small cupcake decorated with a candle, have some Mickey Mouse confetti on the table and have a colorful birthday card signed by all the characters!

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel by boat so I could attend the Food Blog Forum welcome reception and the boys could relax after such a long day. There at the reception I met up with my dear food blogging friends I've met in the past such as Michelle of Domestic Mama & Village Cook, Denise of Creative Kitchen, Leslie of Hungry Housewife, Jessic of My Baking Heart, Vanessa of Chef Druckman: French Foodie Mom, and Diana of The Chic Life. And I also had the opportunity to meet long time blogger friends who I've followed or communicated with for years including Amy of The Nifty Foodie, Stephanie of Macaroni & Cheese, Jennifer of Savor the Thyme, and Babette of Bakespace. Other ones I've met and chatted with include Joanne of Fifteen Spatulas, Kasey of Kasey's Kitchen, and Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures.{I know I'm leaving some out because there were so many...so I apologize if I missed you!} And because I hosted the National Foodie Swap, I got to meet and learn from many more food bloggers which I'll be highlighting in another post!

My biggest regret was not taking as many photos with all these amazing people because I was too busy hugging, chatting and laughing with them all lol. Gah. Note to self: take more pictures with everyone at these conferences!

While at the reception, I also met Heather of Heather Likes Food who I learned attended a previous conference I attended in Portland {IFBC}. We got to talking and then since we had no plans after the reception, we decided to go to MK for a little bit. I went back to my hotel room to check up on the boys and Joel was up for another nighttime trip to MK. The Baron was zapped of any energy so he went to bed early.

So off we went to MK - Heather, Joel and I. We had a bit of a delay because there was some traffic holding up the monorail so we sat for probably 10-15 minutes waiting. Once we finally got to the gates, I realized that I only brought my hotel key card and not my Park Hopper tickets. We were then directed to Guest Relations to wait in line. Finally it was our turn at the window and I was told that because our Park Hopper tickets were purchased through a third party and not directly from Disney {because I received it with my conference package}, they could not locate me in the system and was unable to enter. I felt so bad that I took up so much of Heather's precious park time waiting for nothing! But I guess if anything, it gave us a chance to get to know each other! So after saying goodbye to Heather, Joel and I headed back to the boat launch to go back to the hotel. As the next boat arrived, we were then told that the boat is out of service and we need to wait for the next one. Wonderful. It was the night of waiting and more waiting lol! Thankfully Joel and I got to enjoy the quiet time just sitting, taking in all the energy and fun of simply being here at Disney. We ended the night after a long shower and snuggled up in our comfy hotel room... with The Baron happily snoring in the background lol.

The next day, I spent it at the conference while The Baron and Joel ventured off to the Animal Kingdom park. I wished they brought a camera to take pictures of what they saw and did! But from what they said, the park was great. Joel and the Baron went on the Kilimanjaro Safari where they got to see a giraffe, lion, elephant, hippo, ostrich, and many more other animals. I guess after the safari, Joel fell asleep again. {How come he doesn't sleep this often at home or on weekends?!} While Joel slept in his stroller, The Baron found a comfy bench in the shade and enjoyed people watching. Then back to the hotel they came for a quick lunch and to rest up a bit. In fact, they came to meet me during my conference break and I surprised them with some large cupcakes decorated like Minnie Mouse {a chocolate cookies & cream flavor) and a character from Monsters Inc. {a stuffed blue velvet flavor.}

Then it was off to the courtyard pool for them.The Grand Floridian resort had 2 pools - the courtyard pool is the larger, central one and the other is the beach pool that is themed and has a rock waterfall, waterslide and a kiddie waterpark area. If we had more time I would have liked to check out the beach pool - it just looks like fun!

After the conference, I headed to the Grand Floridian lobby to host the National Foodie Swap {more on this later, as it deserves it's very own post lol.} The swap took about an hour once everything was all done and then I met up with my boys to go to Epcot. We boarded the monorail which took us to the transportation hub. There we boarded another monorail that took us directly to Epcot. At this point, we were starving. And maybe even a little crabby lol. Starving crabbiness isn't good, especially when you're surrounded by so many people lol. Everything felt like it's taking abnormally long or just overly annoying when you're starving crabby - lines, walking, looking for places. Once we were inside of Epcot, we made a zipline to the World Showcase where the various countries are represented. On the way, we passed some amazing topiaries in the likeness of various Disney characters. As much as I wanted to take pictures, my hunger was getting the best of both of us so we moved on.

We finally get to the France area and managed to find Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, a French bakery. I was so looking forward to this place and I was thankful to finally try it out. It was delicious... so delicious! It reminded me of the time I was visiting Paris, France several years ago! I ordered a Jambon Beurre {a ham and cheese, dijon mustard butter on a demi baguette} and a fresh strawberry tart. The Baron ordered a Dinde BLT {a turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and garlic aioli on a demi baguette} and a vanilla eclair. Joel was still sleeping so I got him another Jambon Beurre to enjoy later. 
Even after that, we still were a bit hungry so we continued walking towards the Germany area. There, we went to the Bier Stand and got ourselves a bratwurst with sauerkraut. The Baron loved his and this was the place he was looking forward to the most at Epcot lol. When we were finished, it was just in time to snag a spot by the water to watch the IllumiNations fireworks show. It was a nice show with some decent fireworks. Sadly Joel slept through it and finally woke up after it was all over! Poor guy.. his timing is just all off on this trip lol! When the fireworks were over, we headed back to our hotel, with a side trip to the Polynesian Resort for a late night Pineapple Dole Whip fix.

Joel wasn't feeling for the sandwich I got him so while at Captain Cook's inside the Polynesian Resort, he ended up getting a kid's sweet and sour chicken meal while we helped ourselves to healthy servings of pineapple Dole Whips. {Man, we love that stuff!} After that, we were back in our hotel for our last night. I ended up staying up late packing up all our goodies  There was just so much swag from the FBF conference and treats from the Nat'l Foodie Swap! It's a good thing I packed a large duffle bag inside my carry on suitcase to bring home everything. I ended up checking in 1 small luggage filled with food and food items because there were some liquids I couldn't carry on the plane! Thankfully it arrived safe and sound by the time we got to Chicago.

The next morning we had our last character breakfast buffet at the 1900 Park Fare, located inside the Grand Floridian. Once we arrived, we had our picture taken and then were seated. The place was decorated in the same Victorian theme as the hotel and it was all very good. Joel got to see Winnie the Pooh, Tigger the Tiger, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins and the Mad Hatter at the breakfast. Because I mentioned it was his birthday we were celebrating, he was presented with a decorated cupcake with a candle for him to blow out and a colorful placemat with everyone's signatures.

After breakfast we had a few hours to kill before going to the airport, so we went back to MK. Of course, we rode the Walt Disney train again, walked through Liberty Square and because we couldn't get enough, had another Pineapple Dole Whip. We also caught the Dream Along with Mickey show at Cinderella's Castle and Joel loved seeing all of the characters dancing on stage. He especially liked the fineworks ending! Our last stop was to get Happy Birthday Mickey Mouse ears as a souvenir for Joel. We picked this up just steps from the main entrance and there, Joel also collected 2 more fun Disney buttons to wear.

I hoped to have gotten one last picture of Joel, The Baron and myself at the front of the Magic Kingdom... but by this time, Joel was over making memories and The Baron was getting tired. At least I managed one last pic of Joel ready to go lol.

Then it was one last boat ride back to the hotel... a ride on the bus towards the airport and then we were back home after a slight delay due to storms.

All in all, it was definitely a memorable and magical trip for all of us. Although we didn't have much time, we certainly felt like we did a lot, saw plenty of things and ate quite a bit! I hope we can go again next year... and so does Joel. I absolutely loved that we had the opportunity to make such memories!

Here's a little video capturing all the things I mentioned above since everything is better with a visual!

9 comments:

Laura said...

I love Disney! So jealous you got to stay at the Grand Floridian. I've only been there to eat, and the GF Cafe was one of my favorite meals ever. Thanks for sharing memories!

Krystal Regueiro said...

Ate, you have the mind of a steel trap to recap such a power-packed weekend!!! What an exciting weekend of food, fun and bloggers. I wish I was there to share a couple moments with you, glad to hear the three of you made some magical memories. ;-) XXOO

That Girl said...

So we moved to Florida when I was a little over 2 - I grew up going to Disney World and eating Dole Whips. (And visiting the Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion) I can't wait to start sharing these memories with my guy.

Leslie said...

So great seeing you again!!! Loved the video...precious!

Denise said...

JoElen,

It was great to see you again!! I loved reading your recap & seeing how much fun your little guy had. It was an incredible weekend....one I hope never to forget. It was a blessing to experience the stay at the Grand Floridian.

xoxo,
Denise
Creative Kitchen

Girl with a Goal said...

The smell that greets you inside the Grand Floridian is my favorite!! I wish I had been as smart as you guys were about getting my fill of Dole Whips (I only had 1). :(

Jessica of My Baking Heart said...

Love the video, Joelen! Such a great way to fit in all the photos (and practice with Animoto!). So great to visit with you and finally meet Joel and the Mr., too! I only wish we'd be running into each other again at BHF. Enjoy the summer, sweet friend! :)

Joelen Tan said...

Thank you friends! I cannot wait to get my Pineapple Dole Whip clone up. It's close but of course, never as good as the original! :)

Macaroni and Cheesecake said...

It was so great meeting you in person finally!:)

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