Friday, July 6, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Birthday America!  It's hard to believe that it is already July and we are on the downward slide of 2012.  I just returned from Disney and honestly I am having serious withdrawal.  The truth is that my favorite month to visit Disney is July.  Everyone thinks I'm crazy but I love the heat and the ridiculous amount of people all visiting my Happy Place at the same time.  When I was little we always went to Disney in late July and it sort of symbolized the big Summer Finale.  But Disney anything is great and I was very thankful for my trip in June.  And I came back with a so much exciting news to share with y'all!

It seems to me right now, Disney is really pulling out all the stops at improving the Resort.  But before I get into all that, I'll share a little about the trip and all the "new" places we went to eat.  For the first time, we went to Disney with our fellow Disney lovers, the Faheys!  This is the third year in a row that we have been together the same two weeks, but never at Disney.

 2010 - Disney's Vero Beach Resort
 2011 - Italy - The Colosseum 
2012 - Walt Disney World and Vero Beach

#1 New Thing - Animal Kingdom Lodge
Dad had wanted to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge since they announced there would be such a thing. The Faheys have stayed there before so we all decided to book our Disney World stay at the Animal Kingdom Villas.  I was not all that thrilled about it, honestly.  Not that isn't a great place to stay, but it is very far away from the most of the Parks, other hotels, and shopping.  But I was pleasantly surprised how nice it was.  We had a two bedroom villa with three bathrooms.  It was ultra-spacious.  We did not splurge for the "Savannah View" of the animals, but surprisingly, we had a balcony the length of our entire Villa that had a view of the animals. 
The Lobby of the Kidini Village at Animal Kingdom Villas

The Master Bathroom with a little Lion King motif backsplash

 The Tile work in my bathroom (2nd Bathroom)

Our non-"Savannah View" savannah view - a nice treat! 

Will we stay here again?  Probably -   since I'm checking availability for my December trip and it is the only place open.  I just wish it was a little closer to all the "magic!"

#2 New Thing - New Restaurants
Sanaa - I was really uneasy about this restaurant.  It is at Animal Kingdom: Kidani Village.  {FYI Animal Kingdom Resort has basically two separate "hotels".  The Lodge or Jambo House with regular rooms and Kidani Village that is all Villas}.  Sanna is billed as an African restaurant with Indian influences.  Neither of these sounded appetizing.  But we went and I think overall we enjoyed it.  It is located on the bottom floor in Kidani Village so it is even with the Savannah so at any one time, you can look at the window and see a giraffe just strolling by!  Our waitress was very kind and knowledge, not only of the menu and food, but also the animals.  I don't think this is a restaurant you want to go if you are in a hurry though.  It was probably about 30 minutes between the time we sat down and the time we ordered, just because she explained the menu to us a couple of times and then had one-on-one Q&A sessions with us if we had any other questions.

Me and the Fahey boys waiting on dinner

 Hard to see but just a giraffe walking behind Pat's head on the other side of the window

Indian Bread Service.  About 3 different types of breads and 9 different sauces/butters to put on them.  

Dad got the Fresh Fish of the day

 This was someone's slow cooked meats in gravy. You got to choose 2 meats from a selection of about 6 to 8 different meats

Dylan opted for the traditional "American" steak and potatoes!  

 This was my dessert.  I can't remember how it was worded but something like a banana sundae/split.  I wasn't expecting this, but it was good...Interesting.  The white square was a banana sorbet (not really sure but that would be the closet description) with chocolate sauce on top with a side of strawberries, cherry sauce, and a dehydrated slice of pineapple. 

 Dylan was not adventurous and just got a cookie sandwich

 Liberty Tree Tavern is technically not a new place for us, but it might as well been because it has been at least 15 years since we had eaten there.  Since the last time we were there, the character dinner has been replaced with just a family-style meal.  The meal is billed as Patriotic Food.  There was a salad with a great homemade dressing, and then gobs of turkey breast, roast beef, and pork with dressing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables.  I found the turkey to be the best meat and I think I had about 7 servings of vegetables.  They were great.  For dessert was a apple/cranberry cake - it didn't sound good, but it was very good.

Via Napoli is the newest Italian restaurant in the Italy Pavilion of Epcot.  I'm always down for some good Italian and Via did not disappoint.  This was another laid back meal.  We had late reservations (7:45 pm) and we knew that the park would be closed by the time we finished dinner, so we were very relaxed and again took our time - which the Italians love!  I have traveled to Italy five times and one of the first things you learn from their culture is their love of food and meals.  As they say in Italia, "Italians live to eat and American eat to live."  So when we sat down out our table and spoke a little Italian to the waiter (the cast members in the Epcot pavilions are from the respective countries) he knew that he could take his time with us and we would enjoy it.  The first thing that caught my eye was Arancini which was fried risotto balls.  Risotto happens to be my favorite food and I wasn't sure if the fried-ness would ruin risotto, but I was up for a challenge.  And thank goodness I was...I think all of us decided it was one of the best things we had ever eaten and definitely the best on the trip.

There was only 3 in an antipasti (appetizer) so we got 2 orders and then added another order after we tasted them!  Most of us got something different. Although Dad and I both got Chicken Parmigiana.  I ordered it because it was served with roasted potatoes, another thing that Italians know how to cook well.  Actually if you don't know much about the Italian cuisine culture, there are three courses: antipasti (appetizers), primi (first course), and secondi (second course).  The pasta is served in the primi course; it's not even the main course like it is here in the good ole' USA.  The secondi is the meat and potato course.  There are also 3 large pizza ovens that cook non-stop.  Dylan got a pizza and again it was traditional Italian style, which means to us thin crust and about the size of a medium to large pizza and that is one serving.  It was also great.  If you go, you must venture out and try the zeppole di ricotta which is fried ricotta balls.  Dad had these and while they were very different, they were great and not heavy at all.

We actually left Disney for about 5 nights and went to the beach, but then returned for a night and we went to another new restaurant Il Mulino New York Trattoria which is located in the Swan hotel.  We actually were having a semi-family reunion and they were so nice to accommodate 17 of us. We had our own little room which was closed off with huge sliding doors.  It was very posh and definitely made me feel like I was in some swanky restaurant in Manhattan or Las Vegas.  The food here was also Italian and portions were large.  Several people shared entrees and salads.  I got the risotto con funghi - risotto with mushrooms - and it was delicious.  Hopefully I will get to eat there again.
Our "private" room at Il Mulino

#3 New Thing - The New Fantasyland
Well if you have been living under a hole, well maybe if you just aren't up with your Disney news, Walt Disney World is currently doing the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history.  {This is big, people!}  It has currently being going on since 2009.  Several rides under went under some minor upgrades - the line in Winnie the Pooh has turned "interactive".  But mainly the large part of it was the removal of the land known as Toon Town - actually it changed so many times, I don't know what it's name was when it closed).  For many trips now, I have stared at those construction walls wondering what was going on on the other side.  Wondering if I could somehow convince someone at Disney to just let me take a little peak.  Well this time, I saw progress.  Not only progress, but two rides where opened.  If you have been to Magic Kingdom ever, you probably are aware that Dumbo is in the middle of Fantasyland behind Cinderella's Castle and Carousel.  Well it has been moved over to the new area, which is roughly between Mad Tea Party and the Tomorrowland Motor Speedway.  There will actually be two Dumbo rides now, one going clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.  The clockwise Dumbo ride was opened, although we didn't go on it.  The other ride that was opened was The Barnstormer with the Great Goofini.  We wanted to ride this since it was a newer ride.  It was like a little child's roller coaster. We liked it, however we will say that the seats were made for an adult and child, not two adults and that it lasted approximately 22 seconds.  But it was cute.  Actually that same day, they also opened Casey Jr. Splash and Soak area which was a mini water park for kids.  

After walking in a little part of the "New" Fantasyland, I cannot wait until the whole thing is opened.  Disney has a completion date of 2014, so there is alot more work to do.  Hopefully when I go in December, I will be able to try out the new table service restaurant "Be Our Guest."  In the end, there will be a Snow White mine ride - Snow White's Scary Adventures closed May 31, and a Little Mermaid ride that will open.  It looks like work just began on the mine ride.  Enjoy the pictures.  

This is the model of the New Fantasyland.  The model can be found at One Man's Dream at Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

The model of the Little Mermaid ride.  After looking at this, I expect that this will be a ride similar to the Nemo ride at Epcot

Part of the track going up with the Mine ride

Walking into the "Storybook Circus" part of the New Fantasyland

The Toontown train depot had closed during construction but it is now reopened

In line for the Great Goofini!

Cast member costumes in the Storybook Circus part of the New Fantasyland

The Great Goofini

#4 (Not) New Thing, but haven't done in awhile thing - Blizzard Beach
We went to Blizzard Beach for the first time in a couple years and had a blast.  The Fahey boys braved the Blizzard and went down Summitt Plummitt - a ridiculous slide that is straight down, while the Hunters took the ski lift to the top of the mountain and did Teamboat Springs - the longest family water slide ride in the world - five times.  Sometimes it is easy to forgot how much fun a water park is.  So if you ever need a break from the parks or the heat head to the water parks.  They are just as much fun and cooler!  

Well it is now July 6th and this post took much larger and is much longer than I thought.  So I will have to save some more vacation news for later.  Enjoy this heat!  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Return from My Blog Hiatus...

Well, it has been awhile.  Now, one of my friends does a monthly resolution to follow, so my April resolution is to blog more.  No this isn't a April Fool's joke!

So what I have been up to? Well since my last blog post, I've been to Disney again.  Mom had a meeting in Disney and was gonna be down there for 5 days and I just couldn't let her (and my Dad) be there without me so I flew down for a little more than 48 hours.  I know - why bother for such a short amount of time, but that is just enough for me to get my "Disney Fix".  I had never been down to WDW in February so I was interested to see how the crowds were and what the weather would be in the "middle of winter"!  Well I stepped off the plane about noon to a balmy 92 degrees.  The temperature did set a record high that day, so I can't promise that it will always be that nice in February.  Personally, I thought the weather was perfect.  Friday was a little hot, but not humid, while Saturday and Sunday were in the mid 70s and sunny. It was perfect.  

After a dip in the pool, we headed to EPCOT for the evening.  The EPCOT Flower and Garden Show had not started yet, but the Horticulture Staff had started placing the topiaries.  They are simply breathtaking.  Everything on the topiaries is strictly alive, sans the support wire.  

For dinner, we tried a new restaurant, Nine Dragons in China.  It was very good.  Most of us chose the prix-fixe menu with a soup course, main course, and dessert.  I had chicken consomme with pork dumplings, honey-sesame chicken, and red bean ice cream.  It was delicious.  And if you ever go there don't shy away from the red bean ice cream.  I had had it before at the Quick Service Restaurant in China and it will remind you of Strawberry Ice Cream.  I would argue that Disney World has collectively the best food in the world.  It is easy to find your favorite restaurants and always book reservations there.  (I'm guilty of that).  But most of the times that I try different restaurants, I am amazed how great the food is, so if you don't get into your first choice restaurants, don't get discouraged.

After dinner, we watched Illuminations and then did all the rides since it was an Extra Magic Hours night.  The next morning, Dad and I got up early to head to Animal Kingdom.  We love to go on the Safari and then trek through the walking areas to see the animals.  One of the reasons we love AK so much is because it is different every time we go.

After Animal Kingdom, we headed to Magic Kingdom.  Awww...It felt good to be home!  We did a couple of rides, but it was actually very busy.  It was a "half-marathon" weekend and there were tons of people there.  Disney does several half-marathons throughout the year and one marathon in January.  I wasn't aware of how large a draw that is for people! I need to get on the marathon band wagon.  By the time we had done our Adventureland rides, caught the afternoon parade in Frontierland, and waited more than a half an hour (twice) for The Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World, it was time for dinner.  Again we were trying a new place - Tony's Town Square which was at the very front of the park.  We were amazed again by another new, delicious restaurant.  We tried the "Toasted Cheese and Garlic Bread" as well as the "Chicken Parmigiana."  Tony's was a little loud, but what can you expect from a Theme Park restaurant.

The Flag Ceremony in Main Street USA

After dinner, we boarded the train to view (or at least try) the progress being made on the New Fantasyland.  Well I saw a lot more of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad refurbishment, than Fantasyland, but oh well!

 After a few more rides, we decided to call it a night.

Sunday was dedicated to Downtown Disney and Wolfgang Puck, who never disappoints!  All in all, it was a great weekend getaway.