If I'm correct, this is week 4 (well, the very beginning of week 5) of the new year and I'm on my fourth post! I think I can keep this up!
Russell and I spent the weekend in Orlando and had a fabulous time. I needed some warm sunshine in my life and as always, we love trying new restaurants and experiencing new communities.
Before I go any further, let me say- we're going to have to learn to take more pictures if I'm going to keep blogging. Sorry for the verbose and picture-lacking post you are about to read...
I'm sure your first question is- "Ooh, how was Disney World?!" and the answer is "We did not even drive by it". As many close to me may know, I HATE Disney. Does that make me a terrible person? Maybe, but I sure hope not. For someone who loves children as much as I do, one would think that I would inherently love Disney as well. However, I pretty much dislike everything about it. Sweaty, large people in fanny packs, Goofy hats, and souvenir t-shirts- once angelic children screaming and morphing into terrors- giant characters- long lines to wait in so I can ride a roller coaster that I don't care for- $15 chicken strips- overall just not my idea of a good time. Sadly, Russell longs to be one of those tacky tourists.
Good friends of mine, the Rickels family, had a tradition that when each child reached mid-childhood (8 years old, I think) they got to go on a trip with their dad. I'd say each trip was memorable for each kid as they still talk about their Dad Trip to this day. Russell and I think this is such a cool thing and hope to carry to start this tradition our own children someday. This will be the perfect way for Russell to hit Disney World multiple times in his adulthood and I'll NEVER have to step foot in the Magic Kingdom again :)
Now, on to what we actually did in Orlando- Russell arrived on Thursday evening and had a marathon interview for most of the day Friday. I arrived Friday evening, we met up at the airport and headed to our hotel. Although I haven't blogged about pre-2011 events, I'll take a short moment to tell you that we spent a weekend in Pittsburg and stayed at a hotel with debatably the WORST service in the industry. Ok, back to our trip- We stayed at the Hilton Orlando. We loved it! Fabulous, friendly service, clean room with a great view of their expansive pool, reasonable prices, a new fitness center and the list goes on. We HIG
HLY recommend this hotel to non-Disney travelers. Even better- for some reason American Express sent us a free Hilton Honors card for one year so if we wouldn't have been dumb, we could've used it to have an Executive room for no additional charge and access to the Executive Lounge (whatever that is).
Our first (and only) stop was dinner at Season's 52. Season's 52 is a Darden Restaurants (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze, Capitol Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse) chain. That's right- Katie and Russell Bloodworth sought out a chain restaurant on vacation. Write that down; it will probably never happen again (we prefer local flavor). It's a great concept- seasonal food, some of it local with reasonable prices and a fabulous wine list. There are only a few of these restaurants for now, but I have a feeling they'll roll more of them out soon! We had a flatbread for an appetizer, Russell had pork tenderloin and I had scallops both with unique sides. The best part is, all items on the menu are under 475 calories. This means that the portions are really just made for one adult (not a football team) and that the meals a
ren't totally drenched in sauce. We loved course 1 and 2. Dessert is a cute concept that we feel isn't working out for them. They serve double shot desserts (mini indulgences) we had a chocolate cake and a pecan pie conglomeration. They tasted very "boxed" and weren't on par with our meals. We were sad to leave with that taste in our mouths. Overall, we give the restaurant an A- in the chain restaurant field.
Saturday we spent the day in Winter Park, a lovely suburb of Orlando. If Russell and I ever make the move to Orlando, there is no doubt that this is where we'll live. The main streets are all brick paved, there are many parks, beautiful houses and friendly people. Park Street is where most of the action happens. It's a great blend of shopping and dining with something for everyone. We ate at a little bistro where Russell had a delicious cheeseburger and I had surprisingly good chowder (tomato based, not cream based). We arrived at 11am and sat behind four 60-somethingwomen who were downing martinis at what appeared to be a "book club meeting" (is that what they call it these days?). We walked around the town for almost 3 hours popping in and out of shops and browsing menus. We stumbled on a Farmers' Market which was said to be the best in Orlando. The people were very friendly and learned about the local dog park- multiple acres with ponds. What a wonderful place for our furry friend! We followed up our walk with a drive through the residential part of the neigborhood. It borders a lake and their are many monstrous homes that surround it. Fortunately there are "regular people" houses too in many shapes, sizes and styles. The best part is the mature trees that form a canopy over the streets and give privacy to the homes. Hands down, one of the best neighborhoods we've visited in awhile!
That evening we ate at the Ravenous Pig, a gastropub. We intended to get reservations but we quickly learned that you needed to call on Monday for a Saturday reservation. Quite the interesting policy they have- open seating is first come first served. Literally. They don't take your name and seat you as seating comes available. It is up to you to scope out a table and then begin hovering when it appears that the current diners are finishing up. Awkward you say? Yes. Very. Anyway, our food was good, but a little on the salty side. The beer list was small but carefully chosen (note the beer picture on the right...sadly I don't remember what they were, only that they were really good beers...view Russell's Facebook reviews and I'm sure he'll write about them) and our dessert- my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Banana bread pudding with cinnamon ice cream. It definitely brings the restaurant grade up a bit! Overall, we give it a B+ in the realm of gastropubs.
Wow...I didn't realize I had written so much....just a little more...
Sunday, we brunched in Celebration. Celebration is a Disney property and it's a little too Disney for my taste. It's most definitely a retirement community and it's very safe and clean. Both great aspects of a community. We just felt that it was a little too planned for our taste. We spent a few hours walking through the neighborhoods and ended our walk on a trail. The best part of the day was seeing some adorable otters playing in one of the ponds. I don't think I've ever seen them in the wild before! I could've watched them all day. The wildlife in Celebration was definitely the highlight!
...and that's all :)