Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to home we go…….

But what a trip it has been.

9:45 AM – Made a concerted effort to stay up later last night and hopefully sleep later this morning as we transition back to Pacific Time. I guess it worked. Today is gonna be a long day, as it will be around 2 AM by the time we get home, which is gonna feel like 5 AM. Will be interesting to see just how late we sleep in tomorrow morning (or afternoon).

Looking at the weather forecast we are clearly leaving the best place in the country right now, traveling to one of the few other places not experiencing a bunch of crappy weather. Travel is going to be a nightmare for a lot of people today, but unless something unexpected happens, it should be fine for us. It’s really windy in Seattle this morning, but by the time we land tonight it should have dissipated enough to cause us little to no grief on our descent. Fingers crossed.

Dean doesn’t like turbulence. Turbulence and Dean kinda clash.

2:00 PM – Packed up and ready to go, and just finishing up this beautiful bottle of wine.

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We get to the security lines, which don’t seem particularly long. There is a fork in the line (and a sign that says “use both sides please”). What the sign should have said is “Hey, Jackass, if you take the left line, it actually splits into four more lines that you can’t see right now. If you take the right line, it’s just ONE LINE and there is only ONE SECURITY POINT for that line. Choose wisely!”.

I chose poorly.

Oh, and did I mention that the damn security machine broke down for 10 minutes when I got close to it???

Getting through security took a half hour. If I had taken the right line? About 7 minutes.

Good times.

Anyway, luckily we were a bit early and we had lots of time to hit up one of the lounges, have a bite to eat and a bevy or two, and relax before the flight.

Another smooth boarding process, and very enjoyable flight. Our meal tonight consists of warm salty nuts, carrot and ginger soup, spinach salad, braised beef with mashed potatoes and a roasted carrot medley, and a multigrain bun. Oh, and ice cream for dessert. First Class is the bomb.

OH OH OH speaking of bombs, I got a little extra security on the way through as my carry-on actually had some bombs in it. Bath bombs. I guess that triggered some extra screening.

8:15 PM (Pacific Time) – About an hour more left in the flight and I’ve been watching Netflix most of the flight. Love it. Service has frozen a couple of times but given that I am on a plane, I am not going to bitch too much about that. Great way to kill a few hours.

Nothing else to report. Smooth end of flight. Smooth drive home. Smooth pickup of parcels waiting for us in Sumas. Smooth border. All went well.

2:00 AM – In bed and ready to sleep, but the cats are not down with that scenario. I can’t remember when I have seen them so happy. We are home, AND we didn’t bring the damn dog home. I am picking up the dog in the morning. For now, going to SLEEP IN!

7:30 AM – SIGH. Not exactly my definition of sleeping in. Oh well, I guess I’ll go get the dog and do some grocery shopping.

That’s it for this vacation. Hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we enjoyed having it!

Until next time.

 

 

 

The last full day in Orlando – shop ’til you drop is on today’s menu, along with some absolutely spectacular wine!

8:15 AM – That’s pretty good sleeping for me, and it comes at an important time as we prepare to transition back to Pacific time in a couple of days.

Today, we are totally winging it. Off to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) for the day, as much shopping as our wallets and feet can handle. We also might pop into the Magic Kingdom for the last time, that totally depends on how the day goes.

11:15 AM – Off to Disney Springs, not totally knowing what to expect. We know there has been a ton of construction, and we probably won’t recognize the place…but we have no idea how much it has changed. We do a ton of browsing and shopping, and then it seems like it’s time for lunch.

WINE BAR GEORGE.

Gee, that sounds like a place we might enjoy to have lunch. Sorry that it is sideways, but this is the wine list, most of which is available by the glass, and a bunch of the really special stuff by the ounce.

We order a cheese plate, some meatballs, and a ridiculous amount of wine. Three ounces of some, double that for a couple. Wow, what an experience.

Not often do you get the chance to have a bunch of First Growth Bordeaux by the ounce, or by the glass, and how about a 20+ year old wine from Lebanon???

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It’s probably a good thing we leave tomorrow, or we’d be broke if we were here much longer. Our lunch bill was just under $400….and we barely ate lunch!!!

5:15 PM – Back at the resort to have some dinner, a little more wine and start to pack up for tomorrow’s trip home.

With our fettuccine and meatball dinner, we had this one, the last red from the case that we had shipped here.

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Well, that’s it for today, and that’s basically it for the trip. But not so fast, true believer, we have some time tomorrow to relax and still have a couple of bottles of wine in the fridge, so there will be at least one more report.

We never did make it back to the Magic Kingdom, but that’s OK.

We have seen it all.

We have done everything.

We are no longer traveling during Thanksgiving or Black Friday.

We are very, very sad to be leaving tomorrow, but are very, very glad that we are leaving tomorrow.

Until tomorrow……

 

 

Back to Epcot for the last time, our penultimate (maybe last?) theme park appearance as the trip begins to wind down

4:00 AM – Oh good grief.

So it seems like I got bit by something at the Magic Kingdom the other day. I count four distinct bites, three on my ankle and one on my inner thigh, suggesting I got bit by more than one something….or one something that was really pissed off at me.

It was irritating yesterday, but it went to a whole new level of itchy overnight, actually waking me up to scratch it.

Unfortunately it also woke up the wife. Luckily for me that it did, as she knew where to find the creme and bandages that she so smartly brought along on this trip, just in case.

After patching me up, we both went back to bed, hoping to get another couple hours of sleep.

10:48 AM – Say what??? “Couple hours” became more than six??

And if you sleep for, like, 10 hours during the night shouldn’t you wake up feeling at least slightly rested? I could barely drag my ass out of bed.

Wife is still asleep. Good thing we have no plans today until heading back to Epcot for the evening.

11:30 AM – I have to go in and wake her up so that she has time to get it together for breakfast (and, actually lunch!).

I get an Email from Alaska Airlines confirming our flights for Friday morning; it comes with a link asking if we want to move our flights to earlier?

Wife and I look at each other…..hmm. We have already had a spectacular trip. There is not a ton left on our itinerary for this week. We had planned on spending some time in the pool, but it is getting cold enough at night here that the water is pretty damn cold. So maybe we look at leaving a day or two early, and having a nice long weekend at home instead? AND, most importantly…avoid traveling on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.

………

Done! New flights leave late Wednesday night, instead of Friday morning. Fantastic. Now to rearrange the things we still have to do……….

Done!

Exciting! Now we just have to find time to drink all the wine we have left 🙂

That got a bit easier when one of the big reds we opened up this afternoon was corked. We are down to one red, which we are going to have with pasta and meatballs tomorrow, so we moved over to a favorite rosé.

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5:30 PM – Time for our dinner at Monsieur Paul, the fancy French restaurant near the France pavilion. The proprietor of this restaurant is Paul Bocuse, who some consider The Godfather of French cuisine. We are huge fans of Anthony Bourdain and his show Parts Unknown, and Paul Bocuse was like a God to him.

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Paul Bocuse and Anthony Bourdain, filming an episode of Parts Unknown in Lyon, France, in 2014.

Bocuse passed away in early 2018, and of course it’s no secret that Bourdain also passed away, just 5 months later.

Tracey orders from the a la carte menu, I go with a Prix Fixe menu, which starts with this lovely chilled beet soup.

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As appetizers, Tracey had a fingerling potato salad with sausage and cheese, and I had an Oxtail broth with black truffles in puff pastry. Sorry I missed those pictures.

As our main courses, Tracey had Strip Loin with potatoes and fried pearl onions and I had Lobster Thermador. Both were outstanding.

Given our food, there was really no wine on the menu that would have paired perfectly with everything, so we decided to order a beautiful white and Tracey ordered a glass of a  red Bordeaux blend to go with her steak.

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I also forgot to take a picture of my dessert, which was something along the lines of an apple crisp, served in a glass cup with a sheet of sugar on top of it. The waiter then poured warm caramel on top of the sugar, melting it and blending the flavors. Beautiful.

Another wonderful meal, punctuated by great wine. This has been a hell of a food and wine trip. Oh, and theme parks too. So many theme parks. 🙂

We also got to see the Xmas version of Epcot for the first time this trip. As with the other parks, they put up a gigantic tree.

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A ‘trick shot’ in front of the tree, where the ornaments all look like little Mickeys

8:15 PM – Back at the resort to wind down, watch a little TV and prepare for tomorrow, our last full day in Orlando.

Sunday Funday Football, Rasslin’ and Wine.

Today is all going to be about great wine, some NFL, and some WWE. There was an event last night while we were at the Magic Kingdom, and we are intending to watch that this morning. First though, off to Target to replenish our supplies, and by “replenish our supplies”, I really mean “buy more wine”. A bit surprisingly, we are going to be through the case we had sent here so we need to pick up another bottle or four.

12:30 PM – Finally get around to putting the NXT event from last night on. We were also very much looking forward to WWE Survivor Series tonight, but then the damn NFL flexed the 49ers/Packers game into Sunday Night Football, meaning they are on at the same time. We will have to watch football tonight and catch up on the wrestling tomorrow.

First wine of the day:

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After finishing up this wine and the NXT show, I’m exhausted and need a nap. While I am getting some sleep, the wife hops into the tub and enjoys this one. And I do mean enjoys, she loves it so much she drinks almost the entire damn bottle!

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The last wine of the day, paired with a maple-waffle coated chicken dish that we picked up from Target.

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Great day of nothing but easy drinking wines. We’ve managed to keep a couple of our big reds to pair with more appropriate fare for later in the week.

Tomorrow, back to Epcot for our last visit there this trip, and our last really big dinner of the vacation: Monsieur Paul!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to move to Florida, hike my pants up to my elbows, start having lunch at 10 AM and complain about the government full time.

That’s right, I’m 50 today. I am reminded of the below SNL sketch.

Sally O’Malley and Dottie O’Donegan

Sadly, I feel a lot closer to Dottie than to Sally. If I tried to kick or stretch like that, I would have just two words for you: groin injury

I like to sit. I like to nap. And I like to sit. I’m fifty.

8:30 AM – I guess that’s about as late as I ever sleep in, so that will have to do. The wife is awake too, although she is hoping and expecting to go back to sleep.

11:00 AM – Wife is up and making me pancakes and bacon for my birthday breakfast. Sounds pretty damn good to me.

We have nothing planned until we head to the Magic Kingdom in the late afternoon. I am guessing there may be another soak in the jet tub for me in the not-too-distant future. With wine. And snacks.

You only turn 50 once and I am damn sure going to take advantage of it.

So, yes, about 1.5 hours in the bath, with my iPad and a pretty great bottle of wine. That’s a pretty decent afternoon, especially since the evening is going to be spent at the Magic Kingdom, with my birthday dinner at Be Our Guest!

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3:15 PM – Ready to go and spend a wonderful evening in the Magic Kingdom. I cannot imagine anywhere else I would rather be, or anyone else I would rather be with, to celebrate my 50th.

Got a “Happy Birthday” text from a friend who complained that is is only 2 degrees back home right now. I will not complain that is it only 27 here now 🙂

First up, we head to Guest Services and get Tracey a ‘disability pass’. This is something that Disney offers for guests who might have trouble standing in long lines. It basically works as a virtual queue; you show up at a ride, and get a return pass that is good later in the day. How much later depends on how long the line is; if there is an 80-minute line, then your return pass is valid starting in 80 minutes.

It’s an excellent system; the downside is that it is no-questions-asked, so you know that there are some scumbags out there abusing it. Oh well, it certainly helped us tonight.

We head into the park and knock off all of our Fastpass rides: Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion and Ariel’s Undersea Journey. A little sightseeing here, a little shopping there, and it’s getting close to our dinner reservations. On the way to the restaurant, we stop at the queue for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – the only ride we wanted to experience this trip but could NOT get a Fastpass for – and get return passes. Pretty perfect timing, as they will be active just about the time we are done with our dinner.

8:15 PM – Finally time for our dinner reservations at Be Our Guest. This is a beautiful, immersive experience, that really seems to be taking place in the Beast’s castle. We don’t come here just for the experience, though, the food is universally good.

It used to be a la carte, but apparently too many people booked reservations just to come in and have virtually no food but get a picture with the Beast, so a couple of years ago they changed to a prix fixe menu. $62 per person for dinner, three courses.

Tracey’s order:

Mine:

 

Given what we were ordering, this seemed like a logical choice off of their improved-but-still-moderately-small wine list.

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And, then dessert. This is the same for everyone, and EVERYTHING on this plate (except for the candle) is edible. Even the paper. Which, ironically, tasted a bit like paper.

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Raspberry Macaroon, White Chocolate ‘Chip’ cup with The Grey Stuff, and Dark Chocolate Truffle

The Grey Stuff is delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.

Just superb.

After dinner we head to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride and hop in the car……and why are we still sitting here?? Uh-oh, both of the operators are on the phone.

ANNNNNNNNNNND, the ride just went down while we were next to go. One of the cast members mentions that she doesn’t think it will be an extremely long delay, so we wait around. She was right, we get to re-board in about 10 minutes. No huge deal. It’s a spectacular ride, and well worth the wait.

10:30 PM – It’s late, we are tired, so time to head home. Down Main Street we get a ton of great pictures.

We came here at this time of year for several reasons. Sure, my 50th birthday, but we could have just as easily gone to Disneyland for that. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival, yes, but we didn’t really know how excellent that was going to be.

To be honest, we came here for this. The Magic Kingdom, after dark, during the Xmas season. And it did not disappoint.

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That is one huge, beautiful tree in the background. How huge?

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Tracey doesn’t even reach the BOTTOM of the tree!

What a perfect, perfect way to celebrate my 50th birthday.

As we head out of the park, we are feeling a little melancholy as, although we are back at the MK one more time this trip, it won’t be during the evening, so we won’t see these incredible decorations lit up again. Well, not until our next trip here, anyway…..

Oh, and on a totally unrelated note, something I forgot to mention. You remember when I ordered that crazy expensive glass of 1908 Madeira at Victoria & Albert’s? Well, it was a toss up between ordering that and a bottle of water. Yes, water. They had water from a 5000-year old Norwegian glacier. The price?

$129 a bottle.

Next time.

That’s it for tonight; tomorrow is Sunday and we are going to relax at the resort, which a boatload of football and drink some great wine. Stay tuned!

 

A Seinfeldian day of nothing, punctuated by some of the greatest wine we have ever had.

7:00 AM – Meh. I’m awake, I’m up, but I’m not really feeling like I should be getting up yet. I suspect there will be a nap in my future today.

10:35 AM – I sneak into the bedroom to make sure Tracey is still breathing. Really. And she is.

Sleeping past 10 AM used to be her thing, but she hasn’t been doing as much of it lately. But she knows this is supposed to be a day of relaxation….a day to recover from the last 6 days of madness…..and she is clearly going all in. As a wise man once said,

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10:39 AM – She must have heard me mocking her as she is stirring.

10:42 AM – Nope, false alarm. I hear snoring through the door.

She’s up, and I’m down. I am exhausted and need a nap, but can’t get myself to get back to sleep. I guess I’ll have a bath instead. That is still pretty damn relaxing.

3:30 PM – Neither of us has left the room today. And I suspect we won’t.

We are well into the wine already, and this is gonna be a really exciting day. I say that because I know what we are having with our Filet Mignon for dinner.

The first wine is one I have enjoyed and rated before, Twomey Sauvignon Blanc. You can see the review here.

Up next, a special little Pinot from one of our favorite producers.

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That’s a pretty awesome wine. Know what makes it seem even better? It’s not the best wine we had tonight.

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That’s a pretty damn good day of “pre-birthday” wine!

Tomorrow is the day that I leave my 40’s, and we head back to the Magic Kingdom to celebrate!

 

From a spectacular hotel to a spectacular resort to a spectacular ride. Not a bad day.

8:15 AM – I wake up and am greeted by “Good morning, babydoll!!!”. OMG there is someone else in the room, and she knows my nickname!

Oh, false alarm, the wife was just awake before I was. I haven’t seen that happen since the early Aughts. Freaked me out.

Time to pack up and leave this incredible place. It’s so much easier to leave knowing that our vacation isn’t over, we are just relocating back to a beautiful, comfortable 2-bedroom townhouse. When we are in Disneyland and stay at the Grand Californian, leaving is always so difficult because we are almost always heading home at the end of a great trip.

10:15 AM – Back in the resort, re-unpacked and settling in for a few hours before we head back to Animal Kingdom to finish off our list of things to do there. We plan to spend some time with the animals, hit the huge Pandora ride, and a couple others. Then, home in the evening to watch the Colts and Texans, in one of the biggest games of the year so far.

And maybe we are just gonna have to open up a bottle or two of the wine that is still here, waiting for us to return.

They fixed the hole in the roof where the panelling fell down while we were gone, of course. Hope they found a home for the raccoons. Shouldn’t be too tough around here.

1:00 PM – Off to Animal Kingdom for our last time this trip. As I mentioned previously, we packed our first week with tons of days in the theme parks because the crowds are going to be WAYYYYYYYYY worse next week, as US Thanksgiving approaches. This is our sixth straight day in a park, and we are looking forward to it but also looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow.

2:05 PM – Our Fastpass for Avatar: Flight of Passage is up. It takes us about 5 minutes to get to the front of the queue. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice it to say that the landscape of theme park rides has been turned on its proverbial head.

This ride is the best we have ever experienced. Game changed. Life changed. Absolutely unreal.

Stop reading this, get on a plane and get down here and experience it. Seriously.

We have another wonderful day. What a special trip this has been so far. Usually, we say “this vacation has gone SO FAST!”. This trip, for whatever reason, has been the opposite. I can’t believe we still have more than a week to go! Awesome.

Bittersweet as we leave the park, knowing we will not be back here for, probably, 2.5-3 years. The Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary comes up in October, 2021, and they will be having a years-long celebration, which is the reason for the plethora of construction going on across the parks. It is going to be something else, and we expect to be here sometime in 2022.

We had basically already decided that we would go back to our normal Florida visit time, which is late March/early April. Traditionally the weather has been excellent then, particularly for outdoor activities like lounging by the pool. But the weather this trip (outside of the first two days) has been PERFECT for theme park days. When you add in the amazing time we have had at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, which takes place around this time every year, it’s going to be hard to not come back in November 2022. We’ll see.

Oh, and this was (I believe) the first time they have ever put up Xmas decorations in this park. Christmas has come to all the parks (except Epcot) so far.

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7:00 PM – We stop at the grocery store to pick up a few more provisions and then head back to our resort to turn in for the night and watch some football. And yes, of course, there is wine. We still have 9-10 bottles to knock off this week. I don’t think that is going to be much of an issue.

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That’s all for today! Tomorrow is a resort day, no parks, no schedule, no nothin’.

One thing you can count on? Some very, very good wine. Trust me on this.