Monday, March 31, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 5: Escape from Orlando

On Day 5 we really were going to get out of Orlando. With our Chrysler 300 (not getting any smoother), we motored west to Tampa Bay.

We checked in to our booked-last-minute hotel, the North Sunrise Motel in Clearwater Beach.

This place was the ultimate opposite from the mega resort time share at which we stayed in Orlando.  This place was small, quaint, uber friendly, and homey, but with an I-am-definitely-not-in-Utah kind of feel.  We loved it.

The pool at North Sunrise Motel.  The beach is on the other side of the five-story hotel in the background.

Our room. Small but comfy.

Drew lived in Florida during his Navy days.  He spoke fondly of the Tampa area and Gulf coast. I see why.  Laid back. Sunny. Nice beaches. We walked on the beach a lot.

Who needs fish when you have a fish eye lens.

Chilly and breezy but mostly sunny. Better than Salt Lake's pollution inversion!

You can't go wrong with giant turtles.

We grabbed some late lunch of grouper, a tasty buttery fish that I had never eaten, at Frenchy's.

Then sunset on the beach.

Before a wonderful dinner at The Columbian restaurant.

 You can say you had a good day when you end with flan.  Gotta love flan!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 4: Stalling out above Orlando.

By day 4 we were done with Orlando and Disney.  The plan was to head to the airport, ditch the rental car and jet to Key West.  At the "jet to Key West" part we were thwarted by a full Southwest plane. So, after several about 6 hours of trying, we finally gave up and rented a different car (Chrysler 300 - horrible ergonomics and gas mileage) and chilled out for another day in Orlando.

Since we had some time to kill, we grocery shopped at the most amazing Whole Foods on the planet.
There was ...    A BAR.     INSIDE.

Complete with gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and local microbrews    ON TAP!  The real bars in Utah don't even have those.  I didn't see any riff raff or hooligans or un-upstanding people either. Maybe the Sugarhouse Whole Foods could copy? Ha. Not in my lifetime.

Other than grocery shopping, I spent a not insignificant amount of time trying to stream Olympics to the iPad, Kindle and my phone.  Fairly frustrating but I finally saw some inspiring events.  Isn't everyone's dream to be an Olympian? Too bad I can't get there by drinking microbrews at Whole Foods.

So that was pretty much Day 4.  Relaxed.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 3: Recover from Disneyworld

Seems funny to be writing about our February escape from winter vacation to Florida when I was gardening today, but alas, I am a slow blogger and I have been extremely busy with work and volunteer commitments, so here we go.  I have a post scheduled for every day at 7 PM for then next few days, so you'll be caught up. Oh, and I changed the privacy settings of the videos of Disney in the last post so you the readers can see them now.  Go take a look if you want.

Non-Disney Water Park Day
After Disney, we needed to rest.  I don't say that figuratively because our brains were overloaded from the extra stimuli. I say that literally because I had shin splints!  No kidding.  We walked so darn much on that concrete that I was crippled.  So to enjoy a very lovely 80 degree and sunny Florida day, we hung out by the pool.
Drew was under the shade caonopy across the pool. I was enjoying some Vitamin D.

Then we checked out a paddle boat on Big Sand Lake, the lake on which the resort is built.

It was pretty relaxing paddling around, checking out the backyards of the residents across the lake, and playing with my camera.

Loooong camera feet.  The building above our feet is where our room was.
Wear your life vest!!!!

Technicolor toenails.

 After the paddle boat, we tried to work out. Really we did.  We went to the spa/workout facility.  It was kinda lame and they really only wanted to sell us smoothies.  We barely broke a sweat.  We went back to the room and got ready to go out for sushi.

Sushi in Florida is different than sushi in Utah.  Fresher perhaps?!  Yum city!!  Really great rolls and an even greater date partner.
Super relaxing day. This is vacation!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Escape to Florida Part 2: Lucy becomes an American

Did you wonder from the title of this post if I was not a U.S. citizen?  Never fear; I am full blooded American. However; I had never been to Disney World OR Disney Land and I always thought it was one of those things all Americans should do. (I grew up 2122 miles from Disney World, so the chances of a family vacation for our family of 9 to Disney Land were about as likely as a trip to the moon.)

So for days 2 and 3 of our Florida Vacation, Drew and I were going to see Magic Kingdom and Epcott Center.

After a shuttle ride and the monorail and then a boat ride, I had finally arrived at Disney World.


My Disney coach (my friend Elena, who goes with her family to D World or D Land at least once a year) instructed us to use our Fast Pass to do the big rides.  First stop: Space Mountain.

I did not realize this was a roller coaster in the dark. It was pretty trippy and exciting.

Then we hopped on a little train to get over to the next area.

 That turned out to be quite enjoyable and we should have ridden the train more to save our feet.

Instead, we stood in line FOREVER
 to go on the ultra cheesy Jungle Cruise, complete with animatronic alligators and a tour guide that told bad jokes.  She singled us out for not laughing. 

The one thing Drew really wanted to do was go through the cool Swiss Family Robinson tree house that he remembered from his childhood visit.

 I had to admit, it was pretty cool to walk through the big tree.  There were just so many people everywhere.
By this time, we were getting tired and honestly, very fed up with commercialism.  I mean, I knew there would be a lot of "Buy Disney" but I thought there would be bigger rides, more Disney characters milling about, and more cool things to do without having to stand in line for eons. At this point, we decided to bag our 2-day Disney plan and do both Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center in one day.  By adding a second park to a one day pass instead of going back for day 2, Disney would only get $262 of our money for this fake fun land adventure instead of $368.

But in the middle of my cynicism, the parade happened.  I don't know if they do it every hour or what but out come these big floats with the Disney characters on them and fun young people in costume dancing around to happy music.  
We were this close to Woody from Toy Story!

 The guy in blue on the right was not so sure about stilt woman. Ha Ha Ha!

I sort of got into the dancing part.
The parade, it turns out, was probably my favorite part of the day.  I could feel the happy energy, especially from the little kids dancing with the characters.

After we killed some time dancing and walking around a lot, we did Pirates of the Caribbean.  It was pretty lame.

Our final Fast Pass ride was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  

This ride I actually really liked as you can tell by my giggling on the second video.

17 second video of Big Thunder Mtn Railroad.

1 minute video of me screaming my head off on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

After that, it was 4:30 PM and our feet hurt so bad all we wanted to do was go soak in the hot tub, but we really wanted to see Epcot Center and we really didn't want to come back the next day.

We stopped long enough on the way out of the Magic Kingdom to watch this very talented brass band.

1 minute video of band playing at Magic Kingdom.

After the trek out of the park, the boat ride, and the monorail again, it was 5:30 before we hit Epcot.

We were seriously tired and I suspected I had shin splints from all the walking on concrete.  We tried to go on some of the rides, but we had used our Fast Passes and wait times were over an hour, so we just walked around.  We walked around the World Showcase to all the different countries, saw some good performers, and went on one super cheesy boat ride at Norway. 

I was so tired by this point that you can imagine my elation at Germany.

Germany took much longer than the other countries.

By the time we left Germany for Morroco, it was dark!

We waited around for the fireworks with some more time to kill so we went through "Characters" I think it was called.  You walk through and get your picture taken with your favorites. 
Goofy had probably been getting his picture taken for 10 hours straight, be he still had the goofiness to joke around with Drew as to who was taller.

Christmas card picture right here!

 The fireworks were very nice.

 And I was pleased with how my new camera handled fireworks shots.

Finally at 10:30 PM it was time to bid farewell to Walt Disney World.

So now I am a true American because I have seen Disney World, or at least given my money to the king of commercialism. How American of me.