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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epcot, part two; Food and Wine and Frozen, oh my!

8:07 AM – Cannot remember the last time I slept this late. Wish I could make this a habit.

8:15 AM – Cannot remember the last time the wife woke up this early. Wish she could make this a habit.

8:45 AM – Off to the cafe in our hotel for breakfast, where we have a wonderful meal but are reminded why there is an obesity problem in this country. I order lobster Benedict which is delicious and a reasonable portion.

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Tracey orders this monstrosity:

IMG_3674The picture probably doesn’t do it justice, but the chicken is huge, probably twice as big as it should be for any normal human being. Tracey can barely eat half of it, with maybe 1/4 of the waffle. It is delicious, but enormous.

After breakfast, back to the room to begin the “let’s do nothing this morning and afternoon” portion of the day.

We do virtually nothing. Tracey naps. I have a bath. I lay down for a while. We do a whole lot of Jack Squat. It is glorious. We actually intended to go to the pool but we spent too much time doing other nothing to do pool nothing.

1:15 PM – We head down to the Club Lounge for a bite or two. We only want to eat enough to get by until we get to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival where we are going to eat a little bit of everything.

3:15 PM – We arrive at Epcot and head directly to the Mexican pavilion to start the food and wine portion of the day. We eat a ton of great food, have a ton of pretty decent wine (especially given that it was all served in plastic cups), and the weather is absolutely perfect.

The French pavilion is selling 3-ounces of Dom Perignon for $45. Not unreasonable, but I am drawing the line at drinking Dom Perignon out of a plastic cup. Not gonna happen.

Every time we come here, someone tells us that we MUST GO TO THE CANADIAN PAVILION AND TRY THE CHEDDAR SOUP!! Being Canadian, it doesn’t seem like a huge priority.

But this time, we get to do it; they are serving it at one of the booths outside the pavilion as part of the festival.

They were right. It is freaking outstanding.

I also order a glass of a Vidal Icewine from somewhere in Ontario. I love me some Icewine, and I love me some sweet Icewine, but this is sickeningly sweet. Too much.

One of the shops actually has a bunch of half-decent wine they sell for $8 a glass, and I tried out this pretty respectable Amarone.

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We wander amongst the pavilions, meandering along, taking our time as we have only one thing on the schedule for tonight. We eat everything. We drink all the wine.

And I get ID’d.

I kid you not. Three days before my 50th birthday, I get carded.

She is, maybe, 25. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I think I look much younger than I am, except for one small thing: My incredibly grey hair. It’s been gray for a decade.

But tonight, we are outside, it is dusk, and my hair probably looks dark.

BUT STILL…… 🙂

7:05 PM – The time has come.

Three and a half years in the making.

THE FROZEN RIDE!

We missed the Grand Opening of this damn ride by two and a half weeks on our last trip. Today, we finally got to do it.

And it was a disaster.

Kidding, it was delightful, exactly as anyone would expect from Disney. A huge improvement over the previous ride in the Norwegian pavilion, which was called Maelstrom. Apparently there is quite a bit of special stuff going on here on Friday, which is the official release date of the movie Frozen II.

On the way out of the park, we also get a non-Fastpass ride on Soarin’ Across The World. It is so quiet tonight, we are through the line in 10 minutes. We love this ride.

This is our best ever day at Epcot. The weather is perfect. The food and wine festival is awesome. The crowd is nearly non-existent.

Almost perfect.

What is keeping it from being perfect?

My poor wife is in so much pain.

Her disease has been attacking her feet all day. She was in pain when we got here four hours ago. At this point, she has her cane out and is still in so much pain she can barely walk. There isn’t a ton we can do about it at this point, except to make sure that she walks as little as possible on our way back to the hotel.

We are able to stop and get this pretty cool picture on the way out.

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Tracey is so much stronger than I am. If I was in this kind of pain all the time, I would be a blubbering mess. As it is, we haven’t had a single sighting of Grumpy Bear this entire trip. And there is so much more fun to come.

9:00 PM – Back to the hotel and we stop for another “cordial” or three and back up to the room to unwed and get to sleep.

Tomorrow, we have to pack up our stuff and head from this amazing hotel back to our amazing resort. Boo-hoo, I get it. It has been amazing being here, but no complaints. It will be nice to get back to our townhouse and do some laundry and cook some meals.

Another relaxing morning tomorrow once we get back to our resort, then back to Animal Kingdom where we will see some animals, and hit a few of the top rides, including the E-Ticket ride in Pandora!

Vacation continues with a character breakfast, some R ‘N R, and Avatar!

7:05 AM – I’m up and head out to our balcony for a little morning Zen. This is the first day this trip that it has been pleasant enough for my morning ritual; one little issue this morning, though, is that the sun is right in front of our balcony, making it impossible for me to read or even relax with it shining right into my eyes. Sigh. First world problems.

8:30 AM – The wife is up and getting ready to head downstairs to 1900 Park Faire for our character breakfast.

9:10 AM – They take us in, right on time. We see a handful of characters. Pooh, The Mad Hatter, Alice, Mary Poppins…and Tigger. It is explained to us that Tigger is “extra bouncy today” so he is not making the rounds; he is, instead, off in an alcove where we can go and get a picture with him after breakfast. We do, of course.

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The buffet itself is fine. Honestly, it’s below Disney’s normal standards. Nothing special.

We only get to see one more character, as we got a bit unlucky with our seating and they had just moved past us. We could have stayed longer to get them all, of course, but we were finished eating and it wasn’t that important.

Was this guy ever in character. He spent about three minutes with us, spewing illiterate gibberish. Mad as a Hatter, for sure!

So, this, folks is a Gingerbread House. Gingerbread. Big enough to hold two employees inside it, selling off Gingerbread and other treats. The flowers and accompaniments on the house are all icing.

 

Oh, and you see that giant tree behind it?

This one?

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This tree was NOT HERE when we left Citrico’s last night. Man, those were some busy Elves overnight.

After a little shopping in the shops in the hotel, it’s time for a little rest before our busy park evening. Very excited to get to Pandora and check it out. We aren’t going on the #1 ride today – that happens in a couple days – but we are going to spend some time in the land, taking it in, and going on the Na’vi River cruise.

Noon – Uh-oh, it’s nap time.

2:00 PM – Since we are going to need a bit of sustenance in advance of our 7:30 dinner reservations, we head down to our Club Level for snacks. They have lots of good stuff, highlighted by some spectacular vegetable soup. Yesterday’s soup, Italian Wedding, was equally fantastic. You know, we just don’t eat enough soup.

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3:00 PM – We are off, back to the bus station for the ride to Animal Kingdom. It is almost a half hour ride, so hopefully we get a couple of comfortable seats!

It’s almost a private charter as there are only 3 people on the bus to the Animal Kingdom. Lots of great photo opportunities on the way into the park, as Xmas has come to the Kingdom in a big way.

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So, over to Pandora. It’s pretty cool in the daytime, but a whole new world once the sun goes down.

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They have done an amazing job on theming this land. Look, it’s not Star Wars, for sure, but it’s impressive.

We didn’t get to the big E-Ticket ride tonight, that comes on Thursday. But tonight, we took a ride on the Na’vi River Journey which was gorgeous. A slow boat ride, a la Pirates of the Caribbean, but in the world of Avatar. Impressive.

We head to the newly-build auditorium to watch the Rivers of Light, a new show combining water, projections, and music. It’s nice, kind of a “Poor Man’s World of Color”.

By the time this show is over, I am freaking cold. Shorts and a T-shirt were great while the sun was up, but now it’s not enough. Gotta buy a jacket of some kind before spending tomorrow night at Epcot.We had dinner reservations here tonight but when we looked at the menu, it was not very Tracey friendly. I am sure when we had booked this, she was looking forward to the short ribs; but she had short ribs last night, and even my wife can only eat so many short ribs. We cancelled these reservations, and just grabbed some pizza to fill the void for now.

And on the way out, some of the same photo ops, with darkness to add a little gravitas.

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8:15 PM – Back at the hotel and we head upstairs to Enchanted Rose, the new Beauty And The Beast inspired lounge that just opened up last month. So beautiful. Oh, and wine. Did I mention wine? As if last night’s by-the-glass menu wasn’t enough, this one blows it away.

Yes, you are reading that correctly. That is 1995 Chateau Mouton Rothschild by the glass. Hell, BY THE OUNCE. First growth Bordeaux by the ounce. I am just going to move in and have my paycheques signed over to this lounge. $310 for a 5-ounce glass.

NO, I did not order that.

Maybe tomorrow.

Tracey orders a 2015 Tignanello, which we have previously had and loved, and I order the Barolo. We have a cheese plate as an accompaniment, because only a lunatic orders a Barolo to sip without food.

Hmm, Tracey is not as over-the-moon about the Tignanello as she should be. I get up and go check out the bottle, and it turns out it is actually 2016! Well, the ’16 is also supposed to be really great, but it falls a bit short of the spectacular ’15.

Interesting fact: Apparently I (and everyone I know, and all the wine experts that I know at stores in Vancouver) have been pronouncing it wrong all along. Our waiter tonight pronounced it Teez-a-nell-o. I was preparing to mock his absurd pronunciation, until he explained that he got that pronunciation from the buyer of the wine who got it from the winery family themselves, so I am going to assume they know how to pronounce it. At this point, I go to the Googles to confirm that I have been wrong all along, only to find out that, according to the internet (which is never wrong), that we are BOTH wrong and the G is silent, and it should be pronounce TEEN-YA-NELLO. Alrighty then. Maybe I’ll just start calling it “that Tig wine”.

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On the way back to the room, we stop at our Club Level to see what they are pouring at “cordials” hour. Tracey grabs some Bailey’s. I ask about the wine, and yes, they have wine. And it’s good wine, and it’s free. Jesus we could have saved a bunch of money if we had just come here first! LOL.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, we sleep until we sleep, we nap when we nap, and we pool when we pool. Tomorrow is supposed to be the nicest day of the week so we are going to take it easy and enjoy the hotel during the day, before heading back to Epcot for evening festivities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vacation blog continues at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! Oh, and another amazing dinner.

7:45 AM – Oh man, this is early given what time we got to sleep last night. Dinner was close to 5 hours, so it was after Midnight by the time our heads hit the pillow. Anyway, we need to be up early today as this is our only visit to Hollywood Studios this trip, and we need some time to hit up Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Also, we have not been here since Toy Story Land opened, so we have lots to get done.

As we were waiting for the bus, a little kid, maybe 3 years old, starts running around in a circle, Around and around and around and around. Just keeps running around. Tracey looks at me, totally deadpan, and says to me: “And we think Sidra is an idiot”.

ROFLMAO. Gold.

Oh, and it’s still pretty cold this morning. The cast member at the bus stop is dressed in full “Nanook of the North” gear. Toque, scarf, gloves, the whole nine yards.

Our bus arrives and we are through security and into the park 20 minutes before it opens! We rule!

Sadly, there are about 1500 people who rule much better than we do, and we cannot even see the front of the crowd waiting for them to drop the rope so we can all stampede to each of the two new lands.

9:00 AM – Here we go!

The cast members are incredible. Since it is, no exaggeration, a stampede to the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride, they create a human rope line, keeping everyone from running over each other and herding us in an orderly fashion to the ride.

The theming of this land is second to none. If it were not for the number of guests wearing Disney apparel, it would be completely reasonable to believe you had actually transported to a planet in a galaxy far, far away.

The posted wait time for Smuggler’s Run is 80 minutes but it takes us, maybe, half of that. So efficient.

You are put into a group of 6 people, and the 6 of you have to fly the Millennium Falcon on a mission. Two pilots, two gunners, two engineers. Tracey and I had the misfortune of being the engineers, at the back of the ship. Our crew? One lady and her three young grandchildren. Suffice it to say we did not do that great, considering that our gunners were probably 12 years old, combined.

I loved the ride. Tracey made some good points that your attention was often distracted by having to press buttons as part of your duties on the ship. It might have been better if they had put the buttons in front of you instead of to the side.

Either way, I was thrilled.

Up next, over to Oga’s Cantina for a bite and drinks. Their food menu is very limited in the morning. We both had cinnamon buns. I could not resist the Blue Bantha (blue milk) made famous early in the Star Wars series. It was actually really good, although it tasted little like milk.

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A very cool experience. They have gone all out to make this land everything it can be.

Some other random theming in the land:

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On our way out of the land, we walk by the entrance to the upcoming E-Ticket ride, Rise of the Resistance. It opens on Walt’s birthday, December 5th.

We leave here on November 29th.

Six freaking days.

That is hard to take.

They are testing the ride, I can hear it from beyond the ropes. It’s killing me.

Six days!

We have a Fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania, so we head over to Toy Story Land. I know that today is going to be a short day, as my wonderful wife is in a tremendous amount of pain. She is doing her best to not disappoint me, but she forgets that I am more disappointed in her being in pain than I ever could be in leaving a theme park early.

Anyway, we get to the ride and we begin the competition. Dean (Green) and Tracey (Yellow) in a toy battle to the death.

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Dean has re-captured the title of Toy Story Champion that was so viciously ripped from him so many trips ago.

Ah, the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

That seems like a pretty great place to end our day, so we head down Hollywood Boulevard, do a little shopping and take a couple pictures.

As we head out of the park, Tracey is struggling to walk. Thankfully our bus pulls up just as we get to the stop, and we get to sit down and enjoy a relaxing trip back to our resort.

We both start to grin as we turn the corner and the hotel comes into view. It is just so beautiful, so impressive, it is hard not to be excited every time you walk through the doors. So incredibly special. Love this place.

As the bus approaches the stop, we come to a sudden halt. A kid has run out in front of the bus. Some parent lost control of her kid at a bus stop. Thankfully the bus driver was on the ball and there was never any chance of an incident.

As we get off the bus, we notice it is just one woman, with four kids, ages between 2-7 (or so). Perhaps she was trying to cull the herd a bit. Good grief. One parent, four young kids, at Disney. The Seventh Circle of Hell, right there.

2:00 PM – Tracey hops into the bath to rest her aching joints while I update the blog. She is so tired, after the bath it’s time for a nap.

4:30 PM – Time to wake up the wife who is going to do a “Mini-Process (TM)” to get ready for our dinner at Citrico’s, the other fine dining restaurant in the hotel. This is a more traditional restaurant, no tasting menu, just a la carte.

Citrico’s has a world famous wine list, including many eclectic wines by the glass, and even by the ounce. This is gonna be a pretty cool evening 🙂

5:30 PM – We arrive at Citrico’s, a very nice restaurant but about 3 notches below V&A’s from last night. The star of the show here is the wine list, not only a spectacular list of bottles, but a great list by the glass, and even by the ounce.

OPUS ONE BY THE OUNCE!!!

This is gonna be expensive.

We start off with a nice celebratory bottle of Champagne. Kind of Dom’s little brother.

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We are both hungry, and figure that we can both handle an appetizer and a main. Of course, we forgot about the size of the portions in the US.

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Stuffed Risotto Cone with Smoked Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Herb Aioli
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Florida Gulf Shrimp with house-made Gnocchi Sardi Pasta, Spicy Puttanesca Sauce, Baby Spinach

After these delicious but filling appetizers, it was time to start in on the “by the glass” menu of wine. Tracey was busy finishing up the Champagne, but I ordered a lovely little Chardonnay.

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About now it was time to order our main courses, and the wines that would pair with them.

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Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, potato puree, brocollini, Cipollini jam, bordelaise sauce
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Red-wine braised beef short ribs, tagliatelle, exotic mushrooms, spinach

With my dish, the Filet, I decided not to screw around and go right to the big boy.

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Tracey went a bit more understated.

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I felt bad for ordering such a classic wine, so after my Opus was gone, I scooped her Caymus and ordered her a glass of Opus to enjoy.

Both of our meals were very good, but nothing particularly memorable. Too much food, for sure. Neither of us could finish.

They had two more Chardonnays on the list, so we ordered a glass of both of them so that we could have a little three-way comparison (I had not finished the Far Niente yet). Three quality wines, but very, very different in style.

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I guess they don’t often get guests going this nuts on the ‘by the glass’ menu, so the restaurant Manager came to our table to thank us and chat about wine for a while. He gave me his card and made a few off-the-wine-menu suggestions for our next visit. Very cool.

8:15 PM – Back to our room to unwind and watch Monday Night Football. Tomorrow we sleep in a little bit before our breakfast reservations, and will hang out at the pool or do a little shopping in the hotel. It’s a late afternoon park day for us tomorrow, as we head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for our first experience in Pandora, the World of Avatar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria & Albert’s. The oldest wine we have ever tasted. Oh my.

Before I get into the meal, I forgot to mention this wonderful exchange we heard in the Magic Kingdom yesterday.

Mom, trying to organize her kids into a straight line for a photo:

“Line up alphabetically!”

Kids, confused, start to do that.

Mom: “No, I said alphabetically! Alphabetically by height!!!!!!”.

Dean: Smacks forehead. Alphabetically by height. Those poor kids just don’t have a chance.

Anyhoo, let’s get on to the main event of the trip, our third visit to Victoria & Albert’s, the only restaurant in Central Florida to be honored with AAA’s Five Diamond rating every year since 2000.

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The author and his lovely wife. This is the last time tonight you’ll notice empty plates.

As always, they called us a week or so ago to go over our allergies, likes and dislikes, to custom tailor a menu specifically for us.

 

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Disclaimer: All of the wine that I have reviewed below was part of our “wine pairings”, with the exception of the one at the very bottom, so the prices I have listed are guesses based on internet prices unless other specified. I am not sure how much bottles would be in your local market.

Our Amuse-Bouche came with this wine.

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Costa Rican Heart of Palm with Alaskan King Crab, Imperial Caviar and a vanilla aioli

Tracey’s dish was the same as mine, minus the crab and caviar. We both absolutely loved this dish, and the pairing with the champagne.

What a treat that was, and the next course was even better.

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Colorado Bison with beef cracklings with pumpkin spice, black radishes, daikon and a passion fruit reduction

 

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Same dish as above, substituting New Zealand Langoustine for the Bison

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We both agreed that this was probably the food and wine pairing of the night. It accomplished what so many pairing set out to do, and so often fail at: It elevated both the food and the wine. Just superb.

After cleaning up her plate, she pointed to it, looked at me and said, “MAKE THAT!!”.

Yeah, right.

Up next, we got to chew on some glass. Literally.

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Glacier 51 Tooth Fish and Nantucket Scallops with roasted fingerling potatoes, lemon and dill sauce and Potato Glass
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Roasted Poussin with roasted fingerling potatoes, lemon and dill sauce and Potato Glass

Yeah. Potato Glass. Our waiter explained how it is made, it is a 24 hours process, and I can’t remember enough of it to share it with you. The roasted fingerlings are under the meat. Tracey’s meal, the poussin (free-range chicken), was a combination of white and dark meat, put together and baked in it’s own skin.

I liked my dish (tooth fish is a type of cod) more than Tracey did. I fact I loved it.

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Tracey and I both agreed that this wine cut into the “dilliness” of the dish. I love dill; she likes dill. So, we disagreed about whether or not this was a good pairing. She liked that it cut into the dill flavor; I did not. To me, this was the only poor pairing of the evening.

Next up was one of the optional add-ons, which I selected. Even my fish-hating wife loved this one.

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Wild caught Portugese Turbot with spinach leaves, fennel seaweed and preserved lemon

Next up was a ‘surprise’ dish which wasn’t on our menu. A second “Amuse-Bouche” if you will.

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Braised short rib in blackberry sauce, Romanescu cheese and cauliflower dusted with chorizo oil

This was tasty, but since the wife is the short-rib lover in the family, I gave her half of mine.

Up next, we get into the red wines.

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Maple glazed Manchester quail with chestnut gnocchi, root beer leaves, and Brussel sprouts

DEEE. LISH. US.

So good, and another terrific wine pairing with the below, my all-time favorite of this varietal.

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Bring on the red meat!!

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Texas wild boar filet mignon and cheek, grilled corn and baby corn with chipotle butter

Parts of this dish were a bit spicy for Tracey, and I was pretty skeptical that this wine could stand up to the heat. I was so, so, so wrong. It went with the dish perfectly.

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OK so now let’s get serious. And I mean ridiculously serious.

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Top: Pasta wrapped Mac n’ cheese, cippolini onion rings, gouda foam. Bottom left: Australian Kobe-Style Filet Mignon Bottom right: Miyazaki Japanese Beef Strip Loin

Everything on this plate was delicious, but let’s talk about the Japanese Wagyu. Our waiter had some incredible information about this beef.

  1. The cows cost around $100,000.
  2. They know the lineage of the cow, as if it were a Thoroughbred racehorse
  3. They have the cow’s nose print. Read that again. You can’t make this up.

Don’t believe me? Here it is.

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So, how was it? Incredible in a very small dose. Honestly, I cannot imagine sitting down to a whole steak made from that beef. Even if this weren’t the eighth course of the evening, it is just too rich for me to consume in a large quantity. Both of us preferred the Australian Kobe-style Filet.

The wine pairing was excellent with both cuts of beef.

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OK that’s it, enough food, let’s go home.

Ooooooooooooh, three more courses????

We joke that during dinners like this, you come in hungry (unless you are a fool), and early in the meal you are usually anxious for the next course. By the fourth or fifth course, you are begging them to give you a bit more time.

By the eighth course, I am begging them to shoot me.

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Vanilla Gelato, plum compote, white chocolate shavings
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Assorted cheeses, peach cake and raisins
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Candied pistachios, brie, cranberry cake, honeycomb

The wine was a real treat and paired lovely with everything on this plate of “pre-dessert”.

Oh, you thought that WAS dessert? Oh no, true believer.

Another off-the-menu bonus treat.

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Corn flan terrarium with blue corn cake, açaí, creme fraiche, guava pate free and candied sugar sticks

Delicious, of course. But at this point I am pretty much ready to tap out, except that we are not quite done yet. NOW, it is time for dessert.

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Avocado gelato, hibiscus crystals, Ancho Chile infused dark chocolate, caramel and goat’s milk in cone

OMG so good. EVERYTHING was so good.

We were done with the wine pairings, but I figured we had not quite spent enough money tonight, so I took a look at the after dinner wine menu and decided to try something that I can’t imagine too many people have ever had. I am not going to give it a score since it was pretty much a curiosity instead of a normal glass of wine. Tracey tried it and hated it, but I thought it was pretty good. It was certainly a special birthday treat.

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Well, that was the end of a fabulous evening, and a pretty damn good start to my birthday week of great wine and food. This was the pinnacle, for sure, but won’t be the last great meal we have this trip.

Yes, this is the new clubhouse leader in the “most expensive meal we have ever had” contest, surpassing the meal we had during our last visit here a few years ago (which was equalled earlier this year at Eiffel Tower Las Vegas), but it was worth every penny. No regrets at all.

Next up: An early morning tomorrow, as we head to Hollywood Studios and get our first view of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!