Drivin’ My Life Away

We bid adieu to Nashville. Our next destination was a mere twelve hours away! Can you tell I’m getting road weary? Thankfully we had some kinfolk at the halfway point who were kind enough to let us breeze in, mess up their spare bedroom and zoom on off in the morning. The next leg took us through some beautiful vistas.

I wish I was in the land of cotton!

A close-up view.

An even closer-up view.

Friends, I must admit that I not only had never seen a cotton plant before, I didn’t know how it worked. Inside the poofs of cotton are their seeds. The puff will eventually breakaway and roll about like a tumble weed awaiting a fertile purchase. That is, of course, if they are not first wrenched from their mother plant by a combine and processed into fabric. I may have taken a ball or two as a souvenir. If your new Fruit of the Looms seem a bit threadbare, It’s because of my filching.

Our record of poor eating continued. However, I did not regret this stop one bit.

Know where we’re at?

Chick-Fil-A! Oh my I enjoyed this immensely.

For our last night of the journey I booked a bonafide hotel. I just wanted a safe place to land in case our Air BnB experience was harrowing. It was not, but this hotel also worked for us because they were willing to hire us to play in their lounge. Bonus!

Clean and neat.

Very spare.

All the necessities.

These soap dispensers didn’t do their job very well. I just opened the tops and scooped it out with my paw.

 

All set up to Rock at the Chesapeake Aloft Hotel!

This gig met my expectations. The hotel manager was gracious enough to hire us to play on a Monday night, but this also meant that the bar was pretty well dead most of the evening. However, we got to hang with our dear friends Ashley and Sam. This was essentially the whole goal of visiting Chesapeake. You may recall them from our  October Walt Disney World visit. We had a blast hanging out and catching with up these guys.

Aren’t they the cutest?

Being that we finished up after 10:00pm, our choices for food were limited, so we ended up at Buffalo Wild Wings. This may have been our lowest culinary point. We ate fried cheese curds with…caramel sauce. We need a salad! STAT!!!!

We rested easy at the Aloft Hotel and gathered up for our final trek home.  Now, when we went north for our last tour, I knew full well that we would be driving over the Confederate Bridge which spans the twelve miles between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. This meant that I had had plenty of time to hand-wring and be all kinds of nervous about being stranded in the middle of the ocean. It could happen! However, I had not one clue about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel. People, this a twenty-three mile bridge with not one, but two mile-long tunnels under the freaking ocean!!!

Guys, why didn’t you tell me?

Sweet Baby Cheezits.

It was pretty, I guess.

Land!!!!

We were about ready for a rest and some lunch by the time we got near Delaware. I set about scouting a suitable watering hole.

This’ll do!

“Woman, would you please stop taking pictures of everything!”

The place was HUGE!

Adjacent dining near the bar.

This brewery was in a waterfront district comprised of converted old factory buildings, a lot like many of the areas we visited. I just love when cities can pull together and re-imagine desolate areas and make them vibrant again.

Beautiful, well-groomed plantings.

Gorgeous waterfront pathways lined the shoreline.

These kids were quite rude. They wouldn’t say hello.

A secluded bench for resting.

This was another discovery where we would have spent more time if we had it. On to lunch!

At last! A Salad!

The pizza was merely ok.

We headed back on the road and made a pact that if either one of us had had enough, we would find a place to crash. The miles wore on and before we knew it we were just a couple hours from home. A quick bite in Providence was just what we needed to carry on.

Federal Hill is always a good bet.

We made it just before the kitchen would be closing. Whew.

Sheesh, how ’bout doing some dusting? JK, it was still Halloween.

One XL glass of wine, please.

A trio of Tacos. Delectable!

So there you have it. The Joneses’ second tour has come to an end. There’s no doubt that we had an absolute blast. There’s also no doubt that these endeavors are totally exhausting!  It was wonderful to see friends and family along the way and I thank everyone who hosted us, joined us for food and drinks and especially those who came to our shows. We’ll do it again I’m sure, but in between then, I need a vacation where we lay in a lounger  drinking rum from a coconut and stay in the same zip code for week!

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Down on Music Row

Up and At ’em and six hours later, you know the drill, we arrived at our next destination, Nashville Tennessee. Ok, not quite. Our room was in Murfreesboro, about thirty minutes away. We chose this spot because my daughter stayed here the previous August during the  eclipse. This was the whole reason I gained confidence in staying Air BnB. She just loved the space and her hosts.

High end hotel quality room.

In-room water and snacks.

Unlike the rooms I had reserved on my own, this one did not have an ensuite bathroom. We had to share with another guest. Not a tragedy, but not what I was used to. Also, we could have stayed a lot closer to Nashville if I had chosen for myself.  These inconveniences however, were totally negated by the kick-butt coffee station provided by our hosts. Finally, we get some coffee!!!

Are you kidding me?

Flavoring, for those inclined.

This, my friends was a game changer.

The Nepresso machine made the best cup of coffee topped with an amazingly creamy foam. Delicioso! We may have gone back for a second cup.

We took a  little rest and then headed off to a date with Jeff’s sister, her husband and their adorable son. These guys live in Indiana, about two hours from Nashville. We were so looking forward to meeting up with them. We planned to have dinner at the Opryland Hotel, a place I’ve been dreaming about visiting for decades. We had made our plans weeks before to meet on this Saturday night. So, picture our complete horror a week beforehand, while we were still back at home, when  Jeff’s sister Sarah texts us saying they were ten minutes from the hotel!!! Oh My Gawd! We gave them the wrong date. They drove two hours to meet us and we were still in Massachusetts! We felt just horrible. They not only forgave our blunder, but were willing to make the trek again just a week later. The Opryland Hotel was beyond my imagination! I won’t burden you with commentary, the pictures speak for themselves.

 

There are so many choices for dining here, but this spot was just perfect. A nice view of the conservatory along with an enticing menu.

Ravello Italian delights!

I didn’t require the other members of the party to take pictures. Luckily, Sarah and I had the same dish. Here’s our very well chosen entrée.

Orrechiette Pasta, pancetta, mushrooms, carrots,  mustard greens, poached egg.

Jeff’s selection.

Angel Hair Vongole white wine, garlic, lemon, clams, shrimp

Update on my dish:

The breaking  of the poached egg!

We had a tremendously good time catching up and enjoying the glorious environs of the Opryland hotel, but it was time to bid adieu. We had enough steam to get a quick preview of the famous music row in downtown Nashville.  There were three very good reasons why this was a terrible decision: 1. It was a Saturday night, not intentional, just a bad timing. 2. There was a hockey game at the local arena that just finished minutes before we arrived. The streets were flooded with disappointed fans. Lastly, it was Halloween weekend. Oy vey.

We circled the block for nearly a half an hour before we found a spot that we were reasonably sure wouldn’t get us towed.  Finally we set about to see the Holy Land of Country music! Dreams do come true!

Update: It was a nightmare.

A musician friend who now lives in Nashville recommended this Honky Tonk for an authentic country music experience. This was helpful seeing that many of the bars had bands blasting Bon Jovi or Guns and Roses. Not what I came to Music Row for! However, there was no earthly way we were getting in any of these places.

Maybe next time, Bob.

We had to go by the famous Tootsies… and go by we did.

The neon was impressive anyway.

We stayed long enough to see a drunk girl throw up on the steps of the historic Ryman Auditorium.

Probably not what Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe had in mind.

We walked far enough off the main drag to find a much more chill bar, with some live music!

Puckett’s

Not insane, yet a good crowd.

The music was alright, sort of a Robert Johnson blues vibe. We enjoyed a beer and some chit chat and moved on.

Probably an IPA

We made one more stop back in Murfreesboro at a bar we accepted a gig at and then declined after we discovered that this was a smoking bar. Ew. Now, we would normally never even set foot in here, but because of an unfortunate event in the town square which forced all the small businesses to close earlier in the day, we wanted to patronize the bar. Not only CAN you smoke in here, EVERYBODY smoked in here.

The place stunk.

Beer was knocked back quickly.

The next morning, we said goodbye to our BnB host and trekked back to Nashville. We would have had the whole day to explore and tour around all the sights if….the New England Patriots weren’t playing. Yes,  once again this football team has kiboshed my plans. Grrr. Our friends, Rachel and Joe had been, ahem, good enough to find a bar where the game would be playing. At least there would be beer.

Said Bar.

A warm welcome…

Turns out, this bar wasn’t just throwing on the game, this was the home of the “Nashville Patriots Fan Club”. EVERYONE was here to watch the Pats.

The place was shoulder to shoulder.

These folks mean business!

This Joseph Gordon Levitt look-a-like is the president of the club.

Addressing the fans.

Despite my whining about being out of tourist commission for several hours, we really did have great time. Watching the game with such rabid fans in a state thousands of miles from home was a real hoot.  I had a distinct vision that this bar was a mirage meant for Jeff and would soon disappear after we left. They won, by the way.

It was fun, I guess.

Ok, it was pretty awesome.

After the game, Rachel and Joe indulged me and came along to the aforementioned Robert’s for a beer and some real country music.

The more financial looking type area.

If we had more time…

These boots are made for walkin’

That’s just what they’ll do.

One of these day these boots….

Honky Tonk!

The grandest of country music legends!

After we finished our dranks and good times music at Robert’s, Rachel and Joe recommended taking a stroll on the Cumberland River Bridge, for some stunning views.

Stunning views indeed.

My impression of Nashville was a wee bit conflicted. I was so stoked to finally see the Holy Land of country music! But Music Row was not what I had anticipated. To be fair,  it was crazy crowded and a weird weekend for an optimal visit so I guess l could give it some grace. Plus, if we had had some more time to explore museums and other points of interest we may have had a better more rounded experience. I guess the take way is that we should try again for a longer visit??

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Mayberry RFD

We had a good night’s sleep at our Air BnB, but there was no coffee to be found.  A quick visit to the local Starbucks and we were off on a six hour drive to our next destination, Mount Airy North Carolina.

On the road again…

We drove through the most beautiful vistas.  However, there weren’t many  safe places to pull over and take pictures. This spot was pretty, but not nearly as majestic a scene as we encountered previously.

A safe place.

Just like that, a mere six hours later, we rolled into our next stop, Mount Airy North Carolina. We will be playing at a brewery here later tonight. We procured this gig through a musician friend and really knew nothing about the area. Turns out, this is Andy Griffith’s hometown. Yup, essentially this is Mayberry. 

Mayberry RFD. A town preserved in amber.

I don’t think the boy himself worked here.

From what I’ve read, textiles, more specifically socks, were one of the chief local exports. More recently wine (shock horror) and the highly impressive World’s Largest Open Face Granite Quarry. 

A good representation.

I had in my notes to have a famous fried pork sandwich from Snappy’s Lunch, a place Andy himself used to frequent. There were two problems. One: we couldn’t seem to find it although the town center was barely a 1/8 mile long. Second: there would be no beer there, so that idea was abandoned.

We ducked down an alleyway to find the “Loaded Goat”.

This goat seems to make poor decisions.

Speaking of bad decisions, This trip’s food consisted of 85% french fries. Vacation is all about food for us, but from the time we left Baltimore, we just seemed to be grabbing a burger or something fried. I’m not proud.

Pulled Pork Sandwich and Tots for Jeff.

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich for the lady.

We strolled down the main drag after our cholesterol laden lunch.

Of course he found a music store.

For all your Radio Flyer needs.

For the sweet tooth.

There seems to be a duel meaning to this.

Freeze! You’re under arrest!

Oh, the reason we couldn’t find Snappy’s? It was right behind us.

It was time to get settled into our next Air BnB. This was by far, the most pricey location we stayed at. Most likely due to the scarcity of homes. However, it was just beautiful.

The house was unassuming.

Bright and airy living room.

The owner is also a touring musician.

Beautifully appointed room.

Meticulously clean bathroom.

Nice details everywhere.

Cute accsesories.

Jeff didn’t enjoy the paint scheme on the closet door.

We freshened up and trucked on over to the Thirsty Souls Brewery. This was so brand new, they did’t have proper signage out yet. The place was super cool.

A recently converted garage space houses the brewery.

It was a little to chilly to open the bay by the loungers.

What’s happening.

Beautiful patina on brick walls.

Yours truly, curated the perfect song list.

To say the founders of this brewery were interesting would be the most major of understatements. This beautiful couple immigrated from Slovakia. They are both physicians. He runs sleep studies and she works for a teaching hospital. They are parents, she teaches yoga and oh, they run a working farm. Even with all this, they decided to open a freaking brewery! We had such a wonderful time getting to know Maria and Jan, and their wonderful friends.

Not a great photo of any one of us. Oh well.

We had a good night’s sleep, then it was time wash, rinse and repeat. Another six hours on the road to Atlanta Georgia. No BnB this time though, tonight we’d be slumming with friends.

A Georgian home.

We met our hosts up in Massachusetts when they lived there for a time. They have two adorable children.

We booted this one out of his own room. Sorry, Charlie.

I have no idea what we were doing here.

Tonight’s show would be in another old factory that had been reclaimed.

Tannery Row

This place was huuuuge! It was hard to take a panoramic photo. The main dining area could easily hold over 1,000 people. There was another, smaller space as well.

Just a portion of the room.

This gig had several challenges. It was way too big for an acoustic duo. The bar wasn’t even within view of the stage and oh, the world series was on this ginormous TV screen behind us.

You guys like music?

An artful shot during a commercial. Thanks, Carl.

We got through the night just fine, plus we had the pleasure of meeting up with friends and family in the area. It just wasn’t ideal.

In the morning we shared coffee and homemade banana bread while watching a bit of Spiderman with Charlie. As we said our goodbyes we asked if there was one quick thing we should see or do before leaving Atlanta. They suggested the Ponce City Market.

Yup, another factory.

This one formerly housed Sears and Roebuck up until 1987. It’s two million square feet of indoor/outdoor commercial space.

It’s a bit raw above, but swanky stores throughout.

Our friends suggested this as a great place for lunch and a view of the city.

On the roooof.

This young man gave us the deets about the place on the way up. He just played on his phone on the way down.

It’s getting colorful in here.

Yup. So far as I’ve seen.

So, up on this roof top you’ll find a fully functioning mini-amusement park.

Put Put.

The grandest view.

A whirly thing that whips kids around.

So you have to pay to get up on the roof, but that goes directly towards lunch, if you choose to have it, at Nine Mile Station.

This place was hip.

Formidable beer selection, but why do I need to know what’s next? Just tell me what you have.

This beer is one of those on the “right now” list.

I take back my french fry lament from earlier. I forgot about this delightful, semi-healthy meal.

Caesar Salad with Succulent Grilled Shrimp.

Smoked Turkey, Tomato Jam, Pesto, Young Pecorino Panini.

We really enjoyed our lunch. Everything was tasty and well presented.  If it had been a just smidgen warmer we would have dined outside. I can see that this place would really be hoppin’ in the summer.

Lots of lovely planters.

another city view.

Getting loungey.

I’m trying to be creative here.

Beautiful fall blooms.

This place worked overtime on the plants.

If only I had a big enough purse…

It was a whirlwind forty-eight hours of gigs, but our next leg of the journey will be strictly for fun!

Up Next: Music City U.S.A. 

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Baltimore to Washington Part II

This morning we were planning to have coffee in the room and then truck on off to our next destination, Washington D.C. However, we couldn’t get the coffee maker to work for us. Not to worry! This gave us an excuse to check out a diner that a friend was telling us we absolutely HAD to visit.

The Blue Moon Café

Funky Menu

Our friend suggested the Captain Crunch French Toast. That seemed a bit too intense for me, but it looked dang good.

File Photo, for your ocular pleasure.

Normally, I’m not too much for sweets, but I spied a gorgeous tray of humungous cinnamon rolls behind the counter. This immediately brought me back to the long gone old Main Street Bakery in Walt Disney World. I just had to get one, even if we just had a bite or two, you know for nostalgia. I wish I put a coin or some other object next to it for reference. It was basically the size of a toddler’s head. This thing was absolutely HUGE! I figured we’d each have a bite or two and then wrap it up, but it was so light and fluffy we just couldn’t stop. We didn’t finish it, but it was close.

I regret nothing.

Being that were were in Baltimore, some more crab was in order. Jeff got the Lump Crab Benedict. It was lovely, but the star in my opinion was the hash brown potatoes.

Would you look at the crust on those spuds???

I went with over easy eggs and bacon, and some fresh fruit because, you know, I’m being healthy and all.

The fruit salad was cut on the spot.

I chose a biscuit instead of toast. It was again, a fluffy masterpiece.

Size reference: the head of a newborn.

Now that we’ve had our ahem, coffee, we were ready to hit the road. Within  just about an hour, we were in our nation’s capitol. Jeff had been once, but I’ve never spent any time here. We found a choice parking spot and headed to the Lincoln Memorial.

The weather was just perfection, by the way.

We climbed the steps and paused at the spot where Martin Luther King made his “I Have A Dream” speech.

A view across the mall.

If we only saw this, I’d would have been happy. It was a moving moment.

A look back at the city from the monument.

We walked across the mall towards the World War II Memorial.

This was just stunning.

The Greek goddess Nike heralding the dawn of a new era of peace.

Looking back towards the Lincoln Memorial.

Atlantic and Pacific pillars flank each side of the memorial.

The inside of the Atlantic pillar from the ground.

The fountains are beautiful and add a peacefulness to the whole area.

Each state is represented here.

 

This was, for me, the most powerful part of the memorial. Each star on this wall represents 100 Americans killed in WWII; there are 4,048 stars total. “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

The Washington Monument

Black helicopters were about today.

There was some sort of an event at the White House on this day. I could find zero info about it, but a great deal of the area was shut down and redirected because of it. We saw some sharp shooters atop the buildings in addition to the helicopters sweeping around the area.

There were shooters way up top there, honest.

We took a stroll around and admired the majestic architecture and statueary. Let me point out a few for you:

There’s this one…

…this other one…

…this guy here

Oh, and this white one.

As we continued our loop around the district, I spied something that made my heart skip a beat. Ever since I was a middle schooler I have been fascinated by true crime stories. I used to tote around thick paperbacks by Anne Rule and Joe Mcguinness to read between classes. This was probably not appropriate reading for a twelve year old, but I digress. Recently I started listening to a true crime podcast hosted by a couple of lady comedians that has become wildly popular. It seems that there are literally millions of women obsessed with serial killers and unsolved crimes, just like me! Who knew? From this group I learned of this amazing woman, Frances Glessner Lee. You can read more about her HERE. In her time, women were not welcomed into criminal justice or the sciences. However, she managed to apply her specialized skills in a unique way that changed forensic detective methods forever. You’ll never guess how…

“Murder is Her Hobby” was on display at the Renwick Gallery at Smithsonian. Squee!

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Frances Glessner Lee meticulously crafted what may, at first glance, seem like doll houses, but upon closer inspection you’ll find something more macabre. These tiny rooms and houses were loosely based on real-life crime scenes. Frances constructed these “Nutshells” beginning in the 1940s to teach investigators to properly canvass a crime scene and to effectively uncover and understand evidence. The Nutshells are so effective that they are still used in training seminars today at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore. I strongly suggest you read more about this amazing woman and take a look at more detailed photos online.

Parsonage Parlor (23 August 1946)

Barn (15 July 1939)

Striped Bedroom (29 April 1940)

Blue Bedroom (3 November 1943)

The lady herself hard at work.

It was getting on into the afternoon and we needed to think about getting ready for our first gig of the trip! I snapped a few more anonymous government buildings along the way.

Head drove just a bit farther to Fall Church Virginia and our next Air Bnb.

Seems homey.

Comfortable bedding.

This room also had a private ensuite bathroom.

Shower was fine.

The room fit the bill, but the hosts didn’t mind the details like the previous spot. This was less like a Bed and Breakfast and more like crashing at your cousin’s house. This family had at least three small children, so they didn’t have time to carefully fold towels or put out basket of snacks and bottles of water. All in all though, nice people and a good stay.

We made our way to the Open Road Grill & Icehouse for our first show. So, did you know what an Icehouse was? Neither did I.  My research (Googling for 5 minutes) didn’t really clear things up: An icehouse is an open-air beer joint, a cross between a saloon and a convenience store. I didn’t see any loaves of bread or milk, but there was lots of beer!

Open Road Grill & Ice House.

Music every night!

The area we played was indeed, open air.

Hardcore decor.

We are always pleased when friends take the time to come out to our shows at home. But we were just thrilled when someone came out to see us in all the way in Virginia! This lovely lady, Tania, is actually a friend of a friend. Her sweetheart is someone we met through music and he let her know we’d be in the area and she showed up! Amazing!

Our new friend, Tania.

We had a really great show here. It started out slow but thanks to a couple work gatherings and birthday parties, it really started hoppin’! After a great night, a burger and a couple of beers, it was time to crash.

Cheers, Falls Church!

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Baltimore to Washington

We enjoyed our mini “International Tour” last year immensely. We have many friends and family dotted along the southern corridor, so it made sense to head that way this time. We fixed on dates and began the task of calling, e-mailing and messaging prospective places where we could play some music and drink beer. This proved much more difficult than expected. Let’s just say that the “Southern Hospitality” of lore wasn’t readily availing itself. We nearly gave up but through some friends connecting us and some random good luck we were able to book enough gigs to subsidize a (working) vacation!

Over the next seven days we’ll be playing four shows, driving through twelve states, staying in four different Air BnB’s and crashing with some very gracious friends and family.

We loaded up the car with gear, luggage and an obscene amount of snacks and headed out. Our first stop was chosen simply because of its location. We would drive about seven hours and land in Baltimore for an overnight rest.  Strategically this made sense. However,  the only knowledge I had about Baltimore was from watching  “The Wire”, which wasn’t so glowing. I chose an Air BnB in a seemingly safe area and hoped for the best.  This was the first of many delightful surprises awaiting us on this journey.

The neighborhood was…adorable!

Ok, so this isn’t our Air BnB. I forgot to take a picture, but it was just as cute as this, I promise.

Front door facsimile.

To say I was nervous about staying Air BnB would be an understatement. My daughter recently had a great experience, which made me lean towards going for it, but I had also heard some real horror stories. Our first stop on the list put me at ease. My priority for booking rooms was to have a private room and bath. For this stay, we had the whole lower level to ourselves. It was clean comfortable and had nice touches from the hosts.

Coffee Station

Snacks and Water

Nice appointments.

Mr. Jones approves of the bedding.

Clean and modern bath.

Plenty of clean towels, and bath amenities, if needed.

Now that we were settled in, we set out to explore the city. I had no idea what we would discover. This area was just beautiful! It reminded me of my favorite seaside city, Portland Maine.

Stunning views.

Cafés abound.

Wine Bar!

Maybe you shouldn’t use “Lush” as a descriptor.

It doesn’t get much more glorious.

We savored our wine until the sun disappeared over the skyline and took a walk about.

Stoic brick store fronts.

You are *Here.

An unseasonably warm fall allowed for the window boxes to continue to thrive.

More flowers and a funky stained glass art store.

The Baltimore state flag is among the coolest.

Just before our trip I met a super nice lady from Baltimore. I asked her where we could get some stellar crab cakes and she set me up with a short list, one of which is right here in the neighborhood. This was a Tuesday night, post tourist season, yet it was insanely busy! We put our name in and hopped next door to the bar to wait it out.

Gorgeous refurbished factory bar.

Artsy as all get out, right?

We just barely downed our local beers when our text sounded.

Another well composed shot. I may be getting good at this.

Our table was not great. We basically were surrounded by waiting customers. I’ll deal with it.

Thames Street menu. We knew what we were after.

Cast Iron Crab Cake

Pickled Cucumber Salad

We must have gotten the last of the summer menu, because our accompaniments were quite light. The crab cake was satisfying, but less “Lump” than I hoped. The wee bit of sauce was watermelon, weird but it worked. The current menu listing is served with squash and brussels sprouts. I’m glad we got this version.

The lobster roll was supposed to the the kicker, but it overshadowed the crab, by a mile.

Gorgeous, unadulterated lobster meat in a perfectly buttery toasted roll. See the little cups, the one on  the left is more butter!

Look at this! Look!!!

Our adorable server cleared our empty plates and asked us if we were up for dessert. I started to give our pat answer of “no, thank you” when Jeff shut me down. What? We never get dessert!

We sipped a bit of Grand Marnier whilst we decided.

We went with this masterpiece: Vanilla Bean Fritters, Brùléed Banana, Guava Ice Cream, Toasted Coconut Sorbet, Pecan and Coconut Praline, Rum Caramel. Whew!

This was just a dream. My only regret was having the super sweet Grand Marnier with it. An Espresso Martini would have been perfection!

We took a stroll and circled back to  check out a couple bars that advertised live music, enjoying the beautiful city along the way.

The Pendry Hotel. Wow. Check it out HERE.

This joint touts live music from open ’til closed, EVERYDAY!

See.

We just stumbled upon the place, but it turns out it has quite a HISTORY, Including the fact that it was Edgar Allen Poe’s last stop before he fell ill and died days later.

The man himself watching over the bar.

It seems like the may have over ordered on the Jack Daniels…Just kidding, it’s a Bottle Club.

We enjoyed a couple beers at the Saloon and stayed through two music acts, so we got to hear “Wagon Wheel” twice! Seriously, we had such a great time here. We will no doubt be back sometime, and plan to do more eating, drinking and maybe playing some music too.

We’ll be moving on to Washington D.C.  in the morning, so we best get some rest.

Goodnight, Baltimore.

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Constant Craving

We were pleasantly full from our tour through the St. Lawrence Market. I had read about the “Distillery District” being a must visit section of the city. I really didn’t have a grasp of what we would encounter, but we all assumed there would be, well…distilleries.  There weren’t. There were, however, very cutesy shops and cafés to roam through.

Adorbs Bakery

Adorbs Bakery

Stratified paint.

We came across a clever display of “Love Locks”.  You may be aware of the origins of this practice. In Paris, visitors would attach these padlocks along the bridge of Pont des Arts. The romantic notion being that you would write something sentimental (presumably regarding the love of your life) on the lock, attach  it to the railing, and then toss the key into the river immortalizing your love forever! 

Love Locks in the Distillery District

In Paris, this was considered charming at first. Soon the thrill wore off for the locals as sections of fencing on the Pont des Arts crumbled under the locks’ weight! The bridge carried more than 700,000 locks with a weight roughly the same as 20 elephants.

Au revoir, Love Locks!

Toronto’s heart shaped, non structural art installation seems much more practical, don’t you think?

A little more browsing around!

It was a bit chilly for this lovely outdoor space.

We found a remnant of the old guard.

 

We dipped in to a fancy shmancy chocolatier.

Meghan treated us with a sampling.

We were about ready to have a cocktail and rest our weary feet. I had read nothing but excellent things about the Cluny Bistro.

I stole this picture from the website. Good detectives could tell right away.

The place was gorgeous, and decidedly French.

The raw bar in the foreground and a peek at the kitchen.

We landed at the bar, of course.

Fanciful Menu Art

Those baguettes! Mon Dieu!

We finished whatever froo froo drinks we got and poked around some more shops.

Crazy expensive cookware.

An olive oils tasting room. The sales lady there was super chatty.

The fire pit was raging at the outdoor area we passed earlier.

We waited in the courtyard for an Uber to take us to dinner.

The place I chose for our last evening was  called Boralia.  Here’s the description from the website:

“Boralia celebrates the historic origins of Canadian cuisine. Our menu draws inspiration from traditional Aboriginal dishes, as well as the recipes of early settlers and immigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries.”

Discreet signage.

The place was super tiny and dark. The only interior pic that came out was this funky light fixture.

Matt’s Beer choice.

Some gorgeus bread to start.

Boralia Menu

Because this place is seasonal and changes its menu regularly, I was SOL getting proper dish descriptions for you.  That’s what happens when you procrastinate writing your blog for ten months. Just a lil’ lesson for my fellow journalists. Anyhoo, a couple of the dishes stayed on menu. You’ll be able to tell which ones they are…’

Deviled Chinese Tea Eggs c.1860

I have no recollection of this.

Pigeon Pie- Roast Squab Breast, Puff Pastry, Mushroom Duxelles, Spinach, Shaved Foie Gras c.1611

Egg and spatzel?

Some sort of venison dish, probably.

We enjoyed all these tastings very much. They were delectable and beautifully presented. The thing was, it was getting pretty expensive and we would need to spend way too much money to get properly full.  We settled up and decided to go directly, yes, directly back to our very first stop on this trip: Bar Hop.

This is what they call a “Call Back” in the biz.

Fried Pig Cheek Mac & Cheese Smoked Cheddar, Parmesan & Mozzarella With Crispy Brussel Sprouts & Pickled Apple Salad

Falafel Sandwich** Black Bean Ball, Pickled Fennel, Tomato, Garlic Sauce & Apple Slaw on House Made Naan

Thai Basil Mussels

My friends, I would drive the 800 miles in a heartbeat for this food. Everything we had here on both visits was just phenomenal. Now, I like fancy food just as much as the next guy, and the meal we had at our previous stop was splendid, but this lovingly prepared, abundant comfort food is exactly what we needed to wrap up this trip.

The next morning we prepared to make our way to the airport. I hadn’t noticed until then that our room overlooked a school playground. I thought this shot was pretty artsy.

Maybe not.

You may recall that my choice of Poutine didn’t go over well with the family. The kids wanted to experience the real deal before we left. The boy did what the millennials tend to do, took to Reddit. It was unanimous that the best poutine in Toronto is at…wait for it… A GAS STATION.

Yup we did it.

This was legit a gas station but it was also cute as all get out.

To go bags lined up under the hand written signage.

Some homemade pastries in the case.

Canada has all the good chips. I need clam and tomato potato chips!!!

Alas, the Reddit was right. This poutine was bomb!

Look at those curds!!!

One last look our fair (gloomy) city.

This trip was quickly planned and poorly thought out. The weather, while not being as bone-chillingly cold as expected, was pretty grim. The big, bucket list event, seeing Niagara Falls, was a complete bust. The splash-out restaurant I chose was just not the experience that I had hoped for. And yet, we had the most amazing time. We spent three days talking, laughing, eating, drinking, playing games, and simply enjoying each other. I couldn’t imagine any vacation better than that.

 

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The CN Tower

Today we would be setting about to see more of Toronto proper. The weather had cleared up a bit, but would continue to be somewhat of a challenge. But first, I had promised to show you more pictures of our hotel. It was pretty sweet indeed. Check out this swanky indoor pool:

Ooh la la!!!

Beautiful, stained glass ceiling panels.

It looked gorgeous but still had the fetor an over-chlorinated indoor pool.

The hotel entrance in the daylight. Very Grand, indeed.

Our destination was the CN Tower. This is one of the top tourist attractions in Toronto. Those of you who own Drake’s latest album “The 6” may already be familiar with this structure. We enjoyed the scenes of the busy city workday as we made our way over.

Financial District

Pretty, nearby square.

 

The Fairmont Hotel

Toronto Train Station.

It was surprising how long it took us to find the thing, considering it is the the third tallest structure in the world!

CN Tower. hidden in the clouds.

Impressive.

We stepped into the ticket area and were met by a friendly, yet bleakly pessimistic security guard. He straight up told us that venturing up to the top would result in a zero visibility situation. We went outside a mulled it over. This was an expensive proposition. Tickets are $26 US dollars a piece! At least the Falls didn’t cost us any more than gas money a some ponchos. After some consternation, we decided that just going up to say that we’d been there would be worth it. The unrelenting guard was so negative we thought for sure that  there would be absolutely no view and a punch in the face when we reached the top. At least there would be a bar.

Here we go!

The journey begins in a glass floored elevator.

When we reached to top, we were pleasantly stunned by the view!  Yes, the visibility would have reached farther on a clear day, but what we saw was just spectacular!

For those who visit the CN Tower during warmer (normal) times of the year, there is an additional activity available to you, that is if you are stark-raving mad.

As if life isn’t scary enough, how ’bout I hang my tukas over the ledge? Nope.

The netted, open air walk was enough for this lady. It’s cool to be outside, but this is a level lower, and the views are, as you can see, obscured.

We decided we could just as easily take in the view from the restaurant bar.

Drinks menu. I see that they were going for here but CN Tower + corkscrew = sperm with a syringe on it’s head.

View from our table.

These folks continue to challenge those with fear of heights with glass floors. I took me a few attempts to make myself walk over these.

This gave me the willies.

Sharks!

Even the elevators are against you! Back down to terra firma.

Meghan made a new friend.

A bonus look at the tower.

Continuing on with our touristy points of interest, we sought out the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Must be close…

Hockey Hall of Fame facade.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is located adjacent to the Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place which is a combination of glassed-in historic buildings, along with new shopping areas. This is a great place to spend some time out of the weather.

Take that, winter!

 

This 1845 Bank Facade with salvaged and relocated here in late in the twentieth century.

It took us some sleuthing to find entrance to the museum, but we prevailed!

Score!

We all really enjoyed looking around here despite the fact that only one of us was actually a hockey fan. There were endless displays of vintage uniforms and memorabilia.


We were looking forward to seeing the Stanley Cup. Turns out it’s not the one that the players actually drink victory champagne from, that one travels around. This one stay put in the museum. Jeff felt a bit gypped. Let’s take a look any way.

This way!

This section of the Hall of Fame is housed in the original bank building.

Gorgeous architecture.

There were etchings of all the NHL players, along with all manner of trophies and such.

There she is!

A sad entry.

 

Only so many bands can fit on the cup. The retired ones land here.

Next we checked out the more interactive section of the museum.

The set up.

He shoots. He scores!!!

Yup.

We lastly looked around at some of the more kitschy memorabilia.

Lunch boxes, beer cans, bobble heads…oh my!

Waka, waka, waka!

All the tickets.

Great.

Having consumed all the hockey knowledge we cared to, we set our to consume lunch!

Cool mural along the way.

St. Lawrence Market is a food mecca located in the centre of downtown Toronto. This place was named the “best food market of 2012”  by National Geographic magazine. It is advisable to wear your stretchy pants and bring your appetite to graze your way through

 

St. Lawrence Market

The one must-eat delight here is the the world famous Peameal Bacon on a Bun from the Carousel Bakery. On a typical busy Saturday they will sell over 2,600 of these sandwiches. That’s one sold every 15 seconds! I got that off the website. I can’t do that kind of math.

A little honey mustard and you’ve got a little piece of heaven.

This was amazing, as advertised. We shared two among us so we had more room to snack around and have dinner later. This market was simply immense. I became immediately envious of all the Torontonians living within walking distance of this marvel.

Here’s all the pictures:

We still had more exploring and eating to do, but we’re getting a bit long in the post here.

Next Up: We continue to eat Toronto. 

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A Change of Heart

We are hitting the denouement of our Girls’ Trip. We packed up our bags and made our way to the front of the resort. This was the first time we actually got to see the grounds of Port Orleans Riverside in the daylight. It was quite serene.

A leisurely walk to the main building where we would be checking out.

We checked our luggage to be picked up later, then headed to our first mode of transportation. When I had planned this trip, I wanted the moms to have the best experience possible in three short days. In my eyes, Magic Kingdom is the must see for any Disney virgin. Of course, one has to experience my absolute favorite, Epcot. In order to have the most intensive experience, and keeping in mind that we weren’t going to be taking in many thrill rides like the ones that are found in Hollywood Studios (not to mention it’s a construction mess right now) or be wanting to do too much extra walking in the very spread out Animal Kingdom, I planned an extra day at Magic Kingdom to round things out. After day two we had a confab and decided that the ladies had seen all that they needed of Magic Kingdom. On a whim, this lady changed all of our reservations, plans and fastpasses and we instead went to Animal Kingdom. I’ll let you ruminate about how big a deal that is for me while we have breakfast at the Polynesian.

After some monorail transportation issues, we landed by boat at the rear of the resort. A new view for me.

Boat dock at the Poly.

New lobby’s still a hit with me.

The menu had changed a bit since our last visit. No more Pulled Pork Hash. Boo! Thankfully, my fave pancakes are still there!

Pancakes – with Macadamia Nut Butter, Pineapple Sauce and Spiced Ham (yup that’s spam)

Polynesian Egg Platter – two eggs-any style with fresh fruit poke, bakery-fresh muffin, and home-fried potatoes with your choice of spiced ham, bacon, or sausage

Tonga Toast – Banana-stuffed French Toast rolled in Cinnamon Sugar and served with a Strawberry Compote and a side of  fruit poke.

Creamy Grits – with smoked gouda

I don’t remember who had what cause we all shared. Everything was splendid as usual. The service was friendly but molasses slow. What are you gonna do? We made our way to the lobby to catch our bus to Animal Kingdom when we had a classically wonderful interaction with a cast member. She gave us all flower leis and took some photos of the girls. I believe her name was Karen. I did not take her picture, true to form.

Thanks, Karen (I think)!

Flora looking splendid.

Yo!

We made it!

While we were on the bus we learned from another guest that the Animal Kingdom Park would be closing early due to a soft opening preview of the new Pandora-World of Avatar. This would be bad news for those who were staying on for a few more days. One would want to get in a full day at any one park, especially if you didn’t have the hopper option. We however, would have to be leaving by 5:00pm anyway to catch our ride to the airport.

Sorry, folks. The moose outside shoulda told ya!

This revelation turned out to be what we Disney nerds refer to as a bit of pixie dust. Normally this park is  quite close and congested, one of the reasons I had ruled it out. We practically had free rein the whole day!

Breathtaking.

Pandora sign, newly in place.

I got to work right away making fastpasses, which was easy peasy since everyone else bailed. We made our way to Africa to take in Kilimanjaro Safari.

Gonna take a lot to take me away from you…

You guys, we were the only ones on our safari vehicle. This day was going freakin’ awesome!

Look how happy they are!

Mom, getting all the pictures.

The animals made a pretty good showing, though my pictures don’t reflect it.

After the Safari we were trying to make the next show of The Legend of the Lion King Musical. We somehow ended up on another nature trail that took us the long way around.

Excuse me, sir. Can you point me to the…sir?

Almost there!

We had just minutes to spare. Arlene was enjoying some live music from a couple singers outside and I know she wanted to stay and listen, but I coaxed her away because I knew how much she would enjoy this show!

Hakuna Matata!

Due to traveling with someone in a scooter, we got to sit right up close. By no means does this mean you get a  “free ride” by traveling with someone who has any sort of challenge. I have read and heard a lot of snark from people in the Disney community over the years about this. I can say from our experience that Disney is superb at accommodating everyone. I would also say to those able-bodied people who gripe about scooters getting on busses first or being up front; be grateful that you have the blessing of being free to move about at your will. There is no “advantage” that trumps your health. Done rant.

Wow! I can’t even wear heals.

Tumble Monkeys!

Big Finale!

We had no other plans for attractions but we decided to take a nice stroll around to some of the other lands. It was so amazing to essentially have the walkways completely empty. Just to give you an idea of how remarkable this was, here is what we encountered…

Look out for the tumble weeds!

…and here’s what was in store just a few days later!

All the nope.

We made our way to Asia. I love all the details here. Prayer flags hang all throughout.

Shrines surrounding Everest.

Maybe I’ll stay here next trip.

The clouds were rolling in. More about this later.

It was getting close to closing time. We were walking past Expedition Everest when  Meghan noticed there was just a five minute wait. She announced that she was just gonna hop on and headed over. Hey! I love Everest too!!! Wait up!

Made it just in time!

Whilst we were on the coaster, knowing our moms/grandmoms were waiting outside, we saw that storms rolling in. We got off the ride and rushed over to them but it was too late. We were all exposed and just stuck in the wide open as a freaky wild storm blew through. We got our ponchos on and tried to buckle down but moving anywhere undercover was not an option. I couldn’t document this because I stuffed my phone down into my pants…any port… but here’s a view into the kind of rain we encountered:

Again, because of these new circumstances we made some changes. I wanted to have a late lunch at Sanaa in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. However, we were drenched, so I cancelled our reservations. We all decided that some warm, dry clothes, a cocktail and  some snacks back at Port Orleans while we waited for our transit would be a better call.

Our home, sweet temporary, home.

My mom dipped into the gift shop to burn some gift cards. She scored the cutest ever jacket!

My minnie momma!

We settled into some cozy seating at the River Roost Lounge. Disney aficionados know that this is home to Yee-Ha Bob. This is also home to some tasty bar snacks. Just what we were after.

Bayou Buffalo Wings – served with celery sticks and blue cheese

Mardi Gras Fritters – house-made pimiento cheese fritters with pepper jelly

Our snacks met our immediate need but the girls craved some sweets not available at the tavern.  We reached out to the quick serve for dessert.

A magic cookie bar, Mickey Brownie, Red Velvet cake.

I am not a sweets person, but the magic cookie bar is something that is of legend, so I tried it. Oh my! So buttery good!!!

Now’s the time to say goodbye!

Before we knew it, our coach had arrived. This trip was unique to be sure. Meghan and I got such a thrill sharing such a magical place with the moms. I hope they had as good a time as I did. I’m so grateful for all these ladies in my life!

kwaheri!

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In Full Bloom

Day two is upon us. Today we will be truckin’ on over to Epcot to experience the Flower and Garden Festival. This would be my second experience with this festival, but it has vastly changed since 2009. Now, it’s pretty much a mini Food and Wine Festival. Disney must have figured out that they don’t make extra money from the people just looking at the pretty flowers. Food and booze is where it’s at. I’m all on board.

Food and Flower and Garden and Wine Festival

All gussied up!

Figment is back!

All the Ladies!

We had fastpasses for the newest version of the Soarin’ attraction. No pictures to take here, but this was a favorite of the moms. This ride works for all ages hence, it’s always crazy busy. You must have a fastpass!

Next we had a leisurely boat cruise on Livin’ with the Land.

With a couple Future World attractions down we made our way to World Showcase to take in the floral vistas…and find some grub.

Mickey says it’s this way.

Peaceful path to the butterfly garden.

This tapestry of flowers is simply stunning.

This bright color scheme wound  throughout the festival.

A place for the kiddos.

Cabbages tucked in with the flowers.

On to the food. We started in Canada. Meghan got a sort of dessert/cocktail. It was yummy, but I needed some real food.

Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whiskey

But first, beer. This flight is from one of my favorite breweries, Unibroue.

The Beer Flight:Unibroue Maudite Amber Ale, Unibroue À Tout Le Monde Saison, Unibroue Éphémère White Ale

My first bite of the day was exceptional. The brown butter vinaigrette was bomb.

Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Buttered Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette and Apple-wood Smoke Bacon

If you can’t say anything nice….

We strolled around the grounds of Victoria Gardens. This is always spectacular year round. These plantings are not just for the festival.

Victoria Gardens

Stunning

I’m running out of adjectives already.

We were going to watch the Circle Vision movie while we were there. Some folks were murmuring about it being down so I hustled down to check it out.

The view along the way.

They had a young man stationed wayyyy down the end of a long bridge to tell us it was closed. Put that man up at the front, S’il vous plâit!

One last peek at Canada.

With a little Pixie Dust from Peter and Tink, we flew all the way to the U.K. !

Here we go!

Tink!

Her Faery House.

The band was set up but nowhere to be found.

We were doing pretty well with crowds.

Would you like a spot of tea?

We found no offerings of food to our liking in the UK so we moved on to France.

Loved the signage on this Kiosk.

We had our  very favorite taste of the festival here, It was a savory delight! It was like thanksgiving wrapped in a flakey, buttery crust! We all agreed we would loop back around and get another taste, but sadly, it never happened.

Tarte à l’Onion Alsacienne Alsatian Onion Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Puff Pastry Crust

Santé

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is a creepy relationship.

Still working on this for my backyard. I’m at 0%  completion rate.

We took a stroll through me *favorite Pavilion, Morocco. No food here that we partook in.

A sweet escape is waiting for you in Morocco.

 

Empty tables in the shade. People, you need to seek out these treasures.

Keeping it artsy.

He thinks he’s better than me.

There is intricate tile work throughout.

Our next stop would be in the good ole US of A. We’d been to the American Adventure show here in the past few years, but I hadn’t heard the Voices of Liberty since our honeymoon, 28 years ago. I knew that the moms would love it!

The Voices of Liberty

This acoustically perfect rotunda allows the music to soar. Here’s a sample for your listening pleasure…

All smiles, and a couple of emotional tears.

After Voices, we saw the theater show (read: took a short nap) and headed back out for some victuals.

Hey howdy hey!

It smelled so fantastic out here.

Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw. Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños .

Yes, they are classifying that humungous pulled pork sandwich was billed as a slider! Both of these selections were excellent and a good value. Speaking of value, there are certain websites out there that are dedicated to all things Disney Food. While they post a lot of pretty pictures and such, some are so deep in with perks and exclusive invites from the mouse, that their reviews cannot be relied upon.  Josh from EasyWDW, however, has no such loyalties. Really, he’s as cynical as all get out. On our October trip and this latest one I followed his reviews for all our choices. He not only rates on taste, but value for what you get. Without exception, everything recommended was spot on. Thanks, Josh for eating and drinking all the things for us!

I wanted to.

Next up was Italy

Ciao Bella!

You may recall that I previously stated that I would never set foot in Tutto Gusto again. It is a cool and intimate respite from the bustle of the park but it is insanely over priced. However, when Meghan wants to go somewhere, you just do. I did think Arlene would love it. I sucked it up.

It does have its charms.

Some sort of Italian cocktail.

Ladies and gentleman, a TEN DOLLAR cannoli.

Yeah, it made me grumpy too.

With that business behind us, we made our way to Germany.

The Platz.

We did a walk through of The Karmel Kuche simply for the aromas.

Oh my goodness.

Just heavenly.

I felt well guarded.

Germany is always great for a Beer and a Bratwurst, tasty and reasonably priced. For the festival, there were some other tempting options.

Currywurst with Paprika Chips – Roasted Bratwurst with Curry Ketchup and Paprika-spiced Chips

Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce

The Currywurst and chips were pretty straightforward and awesome. I just wished they put the ketchup to the side so I could regulate the ratio. Just nitpicking here. The potato pancake paired with  applesauce was a surprisingly savory delight. The herb laced pancake paired a low sugar apple sauce made for a perfect  coupling of savory and sweet.

A dunkel, I believe.

I failed to notice the violent thunderstorm headed our way. I see it now.

No trip to World Showcase is considered valid without the consumption of a School Bread from Norway. It’s in the charter.

Norway’s Stave Church.

Meghan ran inside to purchase our pastry when all heck-fire rain broke loose. She was stuck undercover, but we had to find refuge in a bathroom doorway. We made fast friends with all the other folks seeking shelter.

Meghan did a superb job protecting the goods.

The rain left as quickly as it rolled in so we were good to move on to Mexico.

Gorgeous orchid displays.

Keeping it gallery quality on the pics.

We just did a quick loop around. The tequila bar was too packed after the rain to be considered and the Three Caballeros ride seemed a bit tough to board.

We did get to see Mexican Donald. Olé!

Three Caballeros in floral form.

More fantastic topiaries and the from of Worldshowcase.

I need these guys to work in my garden.

Sunset was looking brilliant at this point.

We decided to loop back around to the UK to have a pint and regroup.

Cheers!

We discussed our strategy for the rest of the evening, specifically watching Illuminations. We were getting a bit weary, so I decided to try and snag a reservation with good viewing. I was able to get us in to La Hacienda, however they stuck us in a windowless section of the restaurant. Boo! We ordered our food and drinks, then when the show was about to begin I made the girls hustle out to see the show. It worked out okay I guess. It was pretty remarkable how hungry we were after grazing all day, but here we are!

Taquiza – taco sampler featuring grilled chicken with green tomatillo sauce, grilled steak with roasted chipotle sauce and rajas poblanas, pork chilorio served with queso fresco, and a battered fish served with a mayo-chipotle sauce topped with cabbage

Queso Fundido – melted cheese with chorizo, poblano and serrano peppers, avocado-tomatillo sauce, and flour tortillas

Pork Empanadas (no pic of those. Just the beans. dang it)- corn dough empanadas stuffed with pork, and black beans; topped with mole sauce

I had hoped to do a late night stroll but we were all plum tuckered out and the ladies already got a full Epcot experience. You can’t for better than that.

G’night, muchachos.

Another successful outing. Thanks, Epcot!

*They’re all my favorite.

Up Next: This uber planner throws the itinerary away. Yikes!

 

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Your Mother and Mine

The end of a Disney trip is always sad, that’s a given. The only thing that alleviates the slight depression of that inevitability is the hope that someday, even years in the future, we’ll be back again. You can imagine my pure joy, when while we were yet still in the middle of our epic nine day October trip,  Jeff suggested that we plan another trip just six months in the future! This however, would be a much different situation. Neither my mom or Jeff’s had ever been to Disney World. We decided there and then that this was the time to do it, even if it put us into debt (it didn’t). We also decided that this would be a Girl’s  Only Trip. Sorry, Jeff. We got my daughter Meghan on board and as soon as we returned home I began to make plans for a three day jaunt down to the most Magical Place on Earth!

I broke from my usual Pop Century Resort and instead went with Port Orleans Riverside. The rooms are slightly bigger and have queen beds as opposed to full. It also has pretty grounds that I felt the moms would prefer over the cartoonish Pop theming.

Port Orleans

Some pretty plantings.

Grand Reception Area

Moderate resort=fake flowers. We’ll see real ones later.

My mother-in-law has been struggling with bad knees for sometime now. Surgery is in the future, but for this trip we arranged for a scooter.

Is she not the cutest?

Our flight was in the wee hours of the morning, so we were at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom before 11:30 am.

Back home.

I got some buttons hoping the moms would get some special attention.

Main Street looking fine as ever.

We got to see a bit of the Trolley Show.

The new garden areas are such a nice addition.

Crystal Palace

Hibiscus Blooms

We headed over to Adventureland for our first attraction of the day.

Adventureland

I wanted to do something classic right out of the gate, so I chose the “Jungle Cruise”.

We got such a great skipper!!!

“Let me point out some of my favorite plants. Those over there, that one, this other one.”

“Anyone know what kind of snake this is? Starts with a P? Yup, plastic.”

“This head hunter’s business is shrinking.”

“The backside of water!!!”

 

This guy loves all the corny jokes.

The moms seemed to enjoy this one. Whew. I was really impressed by my first experience touring with someone in a scooter. With all the times I’ve been here, I really hadn’t taken notice of the logistics of these situations. The cast members were great every step of the way. Each attraction was a little different. Sometimes there was a completely different entrance, other rides just required a helping hand. Fortunately Arlene was able to transfer off and on the scooter, but they even have contingencies for those who can’t. We quickly learned what worked and didn’t for us in particular. Low light in winding queues proved too much of a challenge so we simply avoid them. All in all the scooter was such a blessing!

Next up was one that I thought the moms might bail on, Splash Mountain. We stood in front and let them see the big drop and decide for themselves.

The big drop!

I was kinda surprised that they both decided to go for it!

We got to enter through the exit on this one.

We got totally soaked and they loved it!

A quick castle pic.

We moseyed back to Main Street because we had other business to attend to.

Main Street, gorgeous from any angle.

Look at her go!

 

Artsy angle

 

Ok, now she’s just leaving us in the dust.

We made our way to the stunning Grand Floridian Resort where we would be having High Tea. Please reread that sentence in your best Buckingham Palace accent.

A stunner.

Couldn’t you spend all afternoon on one of those couches?

I have never experienced tea and the Grand Floridian. Frankly, it really didn’t interest me. I’m more of a cocktails kinda gal (loyal readers just uttered a collective “yeah, you are!”) and it’s pretty pricey to boot. Anyhoo, Meghan adores tea and I knew the moms would be smitten with this gorgeous resort.

Mrs. Potts greeted us at the Garden View Tearoom.

More pretty designs.

We arrived for the first seating and scored a window table over looking the fabulous grounds.

Look closely, friends. Thats Cinderella’s coach right there.

Weddings frequently take place at a pavilion here at the resort. If you are interested in getting married here, I suggest you elope. It’s crazy expensive. Case in point:

Arrival in Cinderella’s coach complete with miniature white ponies and costumed footmen costs a mere $2,950.

Back to our tea. The tables were set beautifully.

Beautiful, fresh flowers.

Elegant little touches.

Oh, I guess I did have a tipple too.

Veuve Clicquot Champagne. A good value at $15 a glass considering a bottle ranges from $40-$80.

Keeping cozy.

The tea service consists of different packages including sandwiches, desserts, scones etc. You can go all out with champagne and caviar or just do the bare minimum, but everyone at the table is required to order a set selection. I wish you could share, because even the barest package is too much food.

My mother-in-law chose a set that included a fruit and cheese plate. It looked lovely and she really enjoyed it. The only trouble was that our server waited until she was completely though with that extra course before presenting our teeny sandwiches. At this point, we had only eaten the crackers that they give you on the plane, so we were all pretty dang hungry.

Selection of exotic fruits and imported cheeses.

Finally the sandwiches arrived!! All of these were quite tasty. Loved the onion tart.

Tasty selection of tea sandwiches included: Egg salad, Curried Chicken, cucumber with cream cheese, goat cheese and roasted tomato, and a lovely little onion tart.

A fluffy, warm scone served with lemon curd, clotted cream, and apricot jam and a side car of a jam tart.

I lapped up that curd even after the scone was gone. So good!

Desserts! Make note of the Macrons, that’s my only shot of them even though they were my favorite.

Trifle

A cream puff swan along with a juicy chocolate dipped strawberry.

The desserts were by far our least favorite. All the other girls ordered the trifle pictured above, so there were three of those! I chose the plate with the macron, swan and strawberry. The trifle just tasted like jello pudding. Not worth the calories, though the presentation was beautiful. The strawberry was a strawberry, fine. The swan was chewy, obviously filled way ahead of time and refrigerated, not good for cream puffs. However, the two tiny macrons were just perfect. Crispy outside with a nice soft chew. If I ever do this again, I may try to trade the lot for a half dozen macrons.

We were stuffed. We lingered in the lobby for a bit enjoying some live piano music.

I’d hate to cross paths with the bird that escaped this cage.

Flower arrangment.

These are real. That’s what you get when you go deluxe.

A teensy sitting area for the kiddos.

We made our way back to the Magic Kingdom for a few more attractions.

The clouds start a rollin’ in.

We started in Tomorrowland. Keeping it classic, we went right to the Carousel of Progress. Some yahoo stood up during the show so they had to reset it. This meant we got to watch a very long show scene twice through. I’m two for two on fails at C.O.P.

Tomorrowland. The least of the lands.

We also hit Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. No pics, sorry. This show is always a hoot. It got a bit squirmy when one of the character actors in the show innocently asked a gentleman how he knew the lady next to him. His response? “She’s my lover.” EEEWWW!!!! You’re in Disney for Pete’s sake.

Tomorrowland Speedway, still open.

The Little Mermaid attraction. This is where we discovered that dark and windy queues were our enemy.

Believe it or not, it was time to get ourselves to our dinner destination.

The sky was starting to look pretty ominous.

We stopped for a little ragtime piano. Support live music!

We hopped on a boat for a pleasant ride over to the Wilderness Lodge.

Beautiful sunset happening.

Oh my. Those clouds.

My goal here was to show the moms as many of the deluxe resorts as possible. This resort is just as impressive as the Grand but with a wholly opposite design esthetic.

The rugged landscape of Wilderness Lodge.

A lovely spot to perch yourself on a late spring afternoon.

Hot Springs

This lobby.

I hoped we’d have time for a cocktail in the lounge but we were just on time for our dinner reservation at Artist Point.

Artist Point Entrance

The art deco design is warm, yet elegant.

As soon as we were seated comfortably at our table, the heavens ripped open with the most intense rainstorm. We dodged disaster by mere minutes. On to dinner!

Signature restaurants at Disney have been nailing the bread.

And salted butter.

Meghan ordered herself an Old Fashioned. I thought that was a capitol idea!

A perfectly crafted cocktail.

I’ll tell you right off the bat that our dinner was superb. Even beyond that, our server was simply delightful. She was warm and attentive yet gave us our space. As usual, I neglected to take a photo of this cutie pie. She was a doll.

I was not yet super hungry so I ordered and appetizer. This turned out to be wise as it turned out to be an entrée size portion. The Israeli Cous-Cous, not listed on the menu description, made it quite hearty.

Steamed Mussels and Clams Lemon, Huille d’Olive, Spring Herbs, Artisan Bread

Both moms had these scallops. Raves all around.

Seared Diver Sea Scallops Charred Broccoli, Petit Potato, Hibiscus, Blooms

Meghan went the appetizer route too, a soup and salad to beat the band. Look at the glorious composition of these Land Greens! The smoky mushroom soup is an Artist Point classic.

Land Greens: Florida Peaches, Radish, Seed Granola, Goat’s Milk Cheese, Peach Vinaigrette. Smoked Mushroom Bisque Wild Nettle Pistou, Sunflower Seed, Salsify

What phenomenal meal! Perhaps we should end with a cognac?

Perhaps not.

Let’s make it a beer. Bear Republic Racer 5.

He made our way back to the dock to catch our boat and begin our journey back to Port Orleans. We had a sprinkle or two but no real damage considering the Typhoon that occurred during dinner! We even caught a bit of the new Happily Ever After fireworks. It was an exhausting, but a good first day.

A good day indeed.

Up Next: Flower (Food) & Garden at Epcot!

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