Last weekend we went to the wedding of a friend in UF dominated Gainesville, Florida. It was quite an event, and we felt quite welcome — even saw a friend or two from years past in the USAF or with TASC and Northrop Grumman. Beyond that we gave the area a quick look-see as a possible future residence. It is too early to be making any decisions, and what sort of sailing/boating we do and where will have a lot to say as to where we settle. We just don’t know nor do we need to know yet.
Checking out at noon last Sunday, we headed south for DISNEY WORLD! Did I shout? Well 47 sq miles of Disney World sort of shouts its presence. (San Francisco, Ca and San Juan, Puerto Rico are each 47 sq miles as well.) We stayed at Marriott’s Grande Vista resort in a newly refurbished 850 sq ft villa for less per night than most tired motels in the DC area. The property was excellent and the Disney people friendlier than I remember — we first came to Disney World in 1973 while living in Cocoa Beach, and it was much more of a carnival than an all encompassing experience. We have visited multiple times since. The growth and increasing use of information technology has been evident with each visit.
This time, Janet wore a Disney-supplied Birthday button and must have have received 250 “Happy Birthday” greetings from all manner of Disney personnel in four days. It was four days because Disney offers a four day “park hopper” to military personnel at a very, very nice price. Four days at Disney in August temps is a long time. We did the usual things we like to and then sought out an air conditioned spot to await the next. We added some new things, and most worked out well. It was hot and rained heavily for short spells on Day One. Day Two was hot but dry and pleasant. Day Three we went toward Tampa to scope out Riverview and had lunch at a small strip-mall place called Little Habana — Mariquitas, Lechon Asado, and Ropa Vieja. Cinco Estrellas!
Day Four was hot and damper. And Day Five was hotter than h**l. Epcot attendance seemed to reflect the +90° F temps. All told, we had a great time. By getting Fast Passes early and using Disney’s and Undercover Tourist’s wait time apps on my phone we never waited much more than 20 minutes for anything which left us plenty of time for cooling off in restaurants and shows.
Some observations. The Magic Kingdom needs to be shut down for a couple of weeks and given a thorough disinfecting scrub and paint. It is tired and worn in quite a few spots. The restrooms were horrendous from the first of the day on. But the post sunset light show projected on the face of the castle is spectacular. And they have finally gotten the torture of listening to “It’s a Small World After All” under control. It seemed they were using sound cancelling technology, and even the employees seemed less stressed out.
Epcot continues to be well cared for and clean. We always like Soarin‘ (where we received birthday Fast Passes and sat on the front row). Now Raytheon has a design your own thrill ride that allows you to assemble blocks of code that are used to guide a Six-axis simulator for either a bobsled run, a roller coaster, or a jet aircraft flight — neat. We ate excellent meals at Marrakesh (5th time) and Tokyo Dining (1st time). We would have gone to some other recommended restaurants, but we were worn down by the heat and opted for easy. Both places delivered good value (within the context of overall prices at Disney), and we really enjoyed our conversations with the Moroccan and Japanese interns who work there. We would hate to be trying to do the same in their home countries. Thank you Soumia, Anis, and Eri!
Animal Kingdom seemed to have tightened up its act a bit. It was less preachy than past visits, seemed to have more animals in the Safari section (The poacher melodrama on the radio is gone!) and was kept as clean as Epcot.
The Lion King Festival was very enjoyable, and the talent was Broadway/Cirque du Soleil class. However the rack of ribs offered by the Flame Tree are a definite “miss.” They required vise grips or a scalpel and hemostat to prise the minimal meat from the bone.
After the mid-afternoon parade and our pre-parade chat with some Scottish visitors who were positively wilting from the heat, we beat feet back to the Marriott and some wonderful Happy Hour Thai Crunchy Shrimp and Pizza Hut delivery pizza — some of the best delivery pizza we have ever had.
We used the last day to finish up Epcot (including the Japanese meal), but by the time “Off Kilter” (Canadian Bluegrass – Rock synthesis with Bagpipes). completed their show, the 97°F heat had wilted us like the Scots, and we went back to our villa.
Returning to the resort, we ate at “The Grill” at the golf academy, and the food was a surprise (my shrimp and grits were better than at 82 Queen in Charleston), the Sielo Blu Pinot Grigio (well balanced green apple and citrus flavors. Light bodied) was delicious and Jorge’s service was excellent.
We wended our way back to Brunswick going through Mount Dora and Deland. In Deland, we had a great Greek lunch at Santorini Greek Cuisine at 210 N Woodland Blvd. (Spanakopita, Doulmades, Pistachio and Moussaka) Pénte Astéro̱n!
When we returned to the boat, as usual it was too hot to spend any time below, so we fired up the A/C and headed out for dinner (I know it sounds like all we do is eat, but time does pass between meals). We found the Blackwater Grill on St Simons. They seated us on a cancelled reservation, and we proceeded to have a great meal capping a great trip. I just hope the excellent Triple Tail I had wasn’t caught in our marina…
It’s a good life we live. A blessed one.