Hallowversary 15: This Time It’s Boring

Two years ago, for our 13th Halloween wedding anniversary, we went to Disney World on a super spontaneous, ultra last minute trip and rode the Haunted Mansion 13 times in one day.  Last year, for our 14th, we dressed up like Tyler Joseph, the lead singer of twenty one pilots, and bombed around the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party.

This year we listed our condo for sale.  And it rained.  A lot.

Okay, wait, back to the condo part.  “But hey, wait,” you may be saying to yourself.  “Didn’t you just renovate your condo?  And wasn’t it kind of hell?”  And the answer would be yes to all of those queries – we did just finish it, and it was its own very special kind of hell, but it was time to move on.  Onwards and upwards and outwards!  In fact, here’s the tour video our agency shot; hope you like the place. 🙂

Anyhow, in light of that bit of major adulting (lord, how I HATE that term) we’re having a pretty low key anniversary – regrettably no Disneying this year. 😦  Instead we went to the lumber yard for some last minute “I’m selling my house” items and ate sausages and veggie dogs, standing up in the end-of-October drizzle, in the parking lot.  It actually wasn’t terrible – this guy certainly looks pleased with himself!

But because I can’t ever let the opportunity pass to look backwards in fondness at my life, I created this little video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, about the year we rode the Mansion 13 times in one day.  Two years on, it remains pretty well the coolest thing we’ve ever done, and I wish with all my blackened heart and soul we were there today.  This fun little video will have to suffice for now.  Happy Halloween, friends, and happy 15th to us.

Vlogging Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts

When I’m wearing one of my many other social media hats (actually, there’s not that many chapeaus in my closet; I Facebook and Insta and that’s pretty well it) I’m a Disney vlogger.  I wouldn’t say this is a tremendously serious effort on my part.  If it were, I’d be running around Disney World with a monster vlogging rig, filming the newest and the best and the shiniest.  But I actually like to enjoy my vacations, and the thought of being chained to my camera when I should just be carpe diem-ing is nothing I wish to do.  I also have a really terrible habit of singing along – badly, loudly, and probably off-key – to whatever music is playing.  This actually becomes a very big problem when you can hear me singing the Fall Out Boy version of What is This? from The Nightmare Before Christmas – complete with a lot of bluesy, Patrick Stump-esque vocal runs – right over top of the fireworks soundtrack (seriously, I had to bin just about the entirety of my footage from last year’s Jingle Bam show because I could NOT shut up.  Somebody tell the broad down front to can it!  And maybe not drink five cocktails immediately preceding the show.  As a for instance.) 😉

But one thing I do enjoy filming when I’m on vacation is footage of whatever incredibly themed Disney resort we’re staying at on that particular trip (small, incredibly lame confession in these bizarre, social media-driven times: despite having favourite resorts, we stay at a different one every time because a) there’s a lot of gorgeous resorts, and we like explorin’ ’em, but mostly because b) we like to vlog it.  There, I said it!  I feel so dirty now.  I’ll just go and stand over here in shame by this Instagram wall.)

Ahem.  As I was saying, I like filming footage of our resorts – the landscaping, the architecture, the pools, the food, the rooms.  I recently put together a video that incorporates multiple stays at two of our favourite Disney resorts, the Port Orleans French Quarter and, just on down the river bend, the Port Orleans Riverside, and I thought it turned out really well – a solid vlogging effort!

And so I’m sharing it with you!  Hopefully you’ll find some useful information here to help you if you’re in the midst of planning your next Disney vacation.  And even if you’re not, it’s just fun to scheme and dream, isn’t it?  Happy Disney-ing, friends!

Down, But Not Out

Snacks Collage

Goodest of mornings, friends, from the Reno Zone, population: still my husband and I!  But against all odds, we had a lovely long weekend – thanks in large part to the great, Fishbowl-enhanced time we had at the wedding of a couple of old friends (I’ve known the bride since grade 6!) – so despite the fact that everything is still quite torn up (you try navigating a floor full of ceramic tile clips at 3 am, especially if you’ve been drinking something called a Fishbowl!) we’re feeling slightly more optimistic about the renovations.  There’s even been appreciable progress made on the bathroom, and at the risk of jinxing things further (but really, could we get more jinxed?) we may have a semi-functioning bathroom by the end of the day.  Yup, totally jinxed it!

Cheryl's Wedding

But I haven’t been so out of it that I haven’t had a bit of time to work on another Fave Food of Disney video for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish! – need something to occupy my time whilst tiled into my livingroom for the next five to seven hours of adhesive-setting time (I now know far too much about ceramic tile adhesive and underlay materials – wasn’t exactly an area I felt I needed a lot of edu-ma-cating in, but I suppose it’s always nice to learn something new.)

And so here’s the five-minute result of all that time-wiling!  As always, I hope you enjoy this video and don’t become too fixated on some Disney nibble that’s only available at the Magic Kingdom for Five Days in May – that’s a Blue Rodeo joke, and one of my favourite songs – because that’s totally Disney’s jam.  But these snacks are available all the time, so, you know, just a hop, skip and a jump down to central Florida, no big. 😉  Thank you – always – for watching!

On a Not-So Lazy Sunday Morning

I’ve been a very busy bee this morning – no day of rest for this little worker, who is already feeling anxious about tomorrow’s BIG START to our renovations.  I may have mentioned a time or 20 that I’m not the best at dealing with stress; I can turn myself into anxiety-ridden knots over things that should really be NBD (although I suppose completely gutting and renovating your bathroom – your only bathroom – and replacing all of your flooring qualifies as an actual big deal.)  So I’ve been up for many hours removing framed photos and other artwork from the walls, stashing boxes of our belongings on the balconies, and making two raspberry cream cheese pies for a celebratory, kick-off to the renos dinner we’re having this evening with my mother, who has been acting as our in-the-know general contractor (we have a contractor, actually, but my mom has a lot of experience in the area of construction and home renovations, and we couldn’t have arranged ANY of this without her invaluable assistance and oversight.)  So it’s been a bit of a busy day, and it only just turned noon!

I accidentally tore off three of my four “good hand” nails the other day pulling up the last of our flooring, so I’ve been looking for other blogging and vlogging ways to occupy my online creative energies.  Enter a couple of short videos I made for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!, all about some of the delicious food we’ve enjoyed at Disney World over our last number of trips – just try not to fall ravenously hungry looking at all this yumminess.  Happy watching, and bon appetit!

The Director

That’s me, the Scorcese of hotel room tour videos!  You know, just with fewer brutal gangland murders, epically long tracking shots and Rolling Stones cues.

But I don’t know what to tell you – I really like putting together these room tour videos, everything from the filming to the editing to the nitpicky little adjustments that have to be made before it can see the light of streaming day.

And I positively LOVE getting the opportunity to stay in these fabulously themed Disney resorts.  I’ve always been a little enchanted by the Disney hotels.  We all know the biggies across from the Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and the A-frame Contemporary.  These resorts have been there since I was a kid (and in the case of the Polynesian and the Contemporary, there since my parents were just kids themselves, vacationing at the brand new World of Disney in Orlando, Florida in 1971.)  I can’t have been more than three years old, but I remember my parents taking me over to the Polynesian during the blazing heat of a July afternoon for a fortifying nap.  Before conking out with my head on my dad’s lap, I remember thinking of the palm tree-shrouded pool, “That pool is awesome and I want in there with all those kids!”

Polynesian prices being what they are (A LOT) we’ve never stayed there, even though it remains a pretty major item on my Disney accommodations bucket list.  One day, gigantic passholder discount willing.

But for now we’re quite content to work our way through the moderate resorts that also occupy space on our bucket list, like the Port Orleans French Quarter, where we recently stayed.  This is one that I’ve wanted to stay at since it was built over 20 years ago, and I’m delighted that it lived up to my admittedly pretty high expectations (that’s what happens when you dream about something for two decades!)

And our room was lovely, so I filmed a video of that for our YouTube channel, Park or Perish!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed filming it, and also getting the opportunity to stay at the French Quarter. 🙂

Bust Out Your Jazz Hands at Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort

French Quarter Collage 1

During our last Disney trip (the one we took three weeks ago and which I very much wish I was enjoying right this moment instead of hiding out in my home from another weekend of Eastern Ontario Nightmare Snow) we stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter, a resort I’ve wanted to stay at since it opened nearly 30 years ago.  A sister property to the exquisite Port Orleans Riverside, which is just on down the river bend, and at which we have stayed twice, the French Quarter shares its sibling’s incredible attention to detail in its (deeply sanitized) presentation of Louisiana, here with architecture, food, entertainment and an overall design aesthetic modeled after The Big Easy herself.

I lamented in an earlier post the unfortunate experience we had at Pop Century during our last trip.  In short, it was a gong show of noisiness, uncleanliness and general mismanagement.  We wound up cutting our stay short by four days and moving over to Coronado Springs to see out the remainder of our vacation.

No such drastic measure was required this time, because our stay at French Quarter was perfection, everything I had hoped it would be when I first spied its colourful wrought iron balconies in travel brochures many, many years ago and thought, “I want to stay THERE.”

Like both Coronado Springs and the Riverside, the French Quarter is a moderate level resort, meaning it sits at about the mid-way point in terms of room rates and offered amenities.  Being on the smaller size (1,000 rooms to both Coronado and Riverside’s 2,000) it doesn’t have its own table service restaurant, although its food court, the charmingly-named Sassagoula Float Works, named after the meandering little river that runs along the back side of the resort, is outstanding – efficient, nicely laid-out and featuring some of the best Cajun grub you’ll find outside of N’Awlins itself.  I continue to have nostalgic thoughts about the sweet-and-spicy fried chicken on a biscuit I had twice, wondering if maybe I should have replaced one of those biscuits with a steaming bowl of shrimp and grits.  Or maybe just had both.  Ahh, now we’re talkin’!  Followed up by pillowy, powdered sugar-dusted, Mickey-shaped beignets, because the French Quarter is the only place in the whole of the Walt Disney World Resort that has them.

French Quarter Collage 2

Every resort that we have stayed at (four now, three moderates and a value) seems to have prioritized one element of its service above all others.  At French Quarter, this was everything surrounding food and beverage service, from the actual food and beverage (oh, that chicken!) to the service itself, which was always prompt and friendly.  Zero complaints about the lack of a “proper” restaurant; if anything, I liked the food I had at Sassagoula Float Works better than the meal we had at the Riverside’s similarly menu’d restaurant, Boatwright’s.

French Quarter Collage 3

But there’s so much more to the French Quarter than its fluffy beignets, and thankfully, their exemplary approach to food extended to nearly all other areas of service, including maintenance and cleaning, groundskeeping and landscaping, check-in (fuss-free and speedy, a Disney resort first for us) and both boat and bus transportation.  The French Quarter just really seemed to have its act together on all fronts, and I liked it.  THIS is the Disney vacation experience I always hope we’ll enjoy – a virtually seamless one.

Port Orleans 9

Not to say there aren’t a few nit-picky little things I’d change about the French Quarter.  While I loved the free-form, Mardi Gras-themed pool featuring a giant sea serpent water slide (loved zipping down his tongue into the pool even more!) I found myself wishing for a second, smaller pool, a quieter spot for more lap-oriented swimmers to work off the last of the day’s amusement park energy.  Even with its smallish footprint, it’s odd that the French Quarter only has one pool; the Riverside has six!

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And while I really liked our recently refurbished and redecorated room (it felt solid and well-insulated, like our own little bubble amidst the low key hustle and bustle of the rest of the resort) I didn’t care for the lighting, which was all of the sallow, overhead variety.  I HATE OVERHEAD LIGHTING!!!  Always have.  I’m a real low lighting, desk lamp kind of person.  Even the shaded sconces above our beds cast an odd light (nasty little LED lightbulbs at work, I’m sure; I hate those things, too!)

But in all areas where it actually counted – and a lot where it didn’t – the French Quarter knocked it out of the park.  The architecture is gorgeous, a picture perfect recreation of the cleanest and most charming bits of New Orleans – wooden slat shutters, grand balconies, brick pillars and wrought iron everything.  The entire resort is laid out like a small city, with painted wrought iron balconies framing brick-edged streets dotted with hitching posts and streetlamps.  As you near the lobby, jazz music drifts through the air, beckoning you inside, where you can relax in the plush, chandelier’d lobby, or perhaps over by the soothingly trickling fountain, or maybe even inside Scat Cats’ lounge, something like a Sloe Gin Fizz in hand.  The pool was beautiful and overseen by some of the most attentive lifeguards I’ve ever seen.  The cast members we dealt with were friendly and helpful.  The buses ran frequently and on time.  The food was delicious.  Our room was quiet.  Again, excepting the One True Pool issue and my own hangups about overhead lighting, zero complaints!

Port Orleans 15

One morning a couple of days out from our flights home, I couldn’t sleep (side effect of being terrified of flying) so I slipped out of our room and took myself on a solo, 5 am walking tour of the resort, which I filmed!  Because of course it’s the new normal to be walking around at 5 in the morning talking to yourself through a small camera.  Weird world, man.  But I do hope you’ll check out this video, if not to see this lovely little resort for yourself in the (mostly) still and quiet of a balmy Florida morn, then to lend legitimacy to my whole, “See, I really was talking to someone and not just myself!” argument.  Thank you. 😉

Where the F*@! You Been?!: A Disney Vacation Explainer

Ah, friends, I am so sorry – I went and did the thing that annoys the ever-loving stuffing out of me when other bloggers do it, which is drop completely off the grid with nary an explanation for the prolonged absence.  And so I apologize, with the weak justification that I was at Disney, because of course I was at Disney!  Just trying to wring as much value as we possibly can from our annual passes (and at 20 in-park days, including a whole host of other little discounts, I think we’ve done quite well on our investment.)

Rainy Day Collage

We stayed at the Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, a quaint little resort styled like the very cutest and cleanest bits of New Orleans.  I’ve wanted to stay here since Disney built it and its much larger sister resort, the Riverside, nearly 30 years ago.  We somewhat recently soldiered on through a Disney accommodation debacle at Pop Century; the poor experience had actually soured me a bit on all Disney properties, so I was feeling a little nervous about what we might encounter at this smaller, older resort.

Resort Collage 1

I really needn’t have worried, because we wound up having a fantastic stay, and we loved every minute we were there.  The French Quarter’s older, meticulously maintained buildings and grounds – densely arranged, and occupying a fairly tiny geographical footprint – make the entire resort feel solid, protected and a little hidden.  I liked its sense of small city intimacy and the attendant quiet, both in terms of between-unit noise (virtually nil, but for the faint flushing of those insanely loud air toilets) and the general level of ambient hotel noise.  Plus it was just an adorable little cityscape to call our home for seven days, and the sea serpent water slide at the pool was bitchin’.  Also, powdered sugar-dusted beignets, fried chicken on a biscuit at the food court and swingin’ jazz gators in the streets.  Who wouldn’t love staying here when all that goodness abounds?

Resort Collage 2

We spent six days doing all of our favourite Disney things, and also trying out a number of fun new experiences.  We ate some incredible meals in-park, at our resort and, of course, at Disney Springs, which is basically a theme park of food, alcohol and merchandise.  We always try to hit up Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for night one cocktails and southern vittles; our vacations never feel as though they’ve really started until we’ve cozied up out on the screened-in porch with a basket of hush puppies and a couple of moonshine cocktails.

Homecomin' Cocktail Collage

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We tried out a number of new eateries and lounges.  We ate – and mostly enjoyed? – a lot of weird snack food.  One afternoon we wiled away a couple of rainy hours in an honest to goodness tequila cave – La Cava del Tequila – in the Mexico Pavilion.  The queso and quacamole were excellent, as were the margaritas.  And yes, I do fully cop to a Disney margarita problemo – I’m powerless in the face of vacation cocktail hour; does your sanity good!

Tequila Cave Collage

Lest you think all we did was eat and drink (and that’s certainly what both our waistlines AND wallets are currently suggesting) we also rode a record best 21 rides one cold and rainy day.  We hit up the Haunted Mansion five times over two visits and improved our scores on Toy Story Midway Mania over four total rides.  We rode Slinky Dog Dash, the newest and hottest ride in any of the parks, twice, including a last-call ride that put us in the second last dog of the night.  I had a small stroke when I saw that my favourite part of the Peter Pan ride – it’s not even part of the ride, just a small teddy tea table tucked into a corner as your flying pirate ship heads out of the waiting area and into the Darlings’ bedroom – had been removed and replaced with a jumbled pile of toys.  I burst into tears at the sight of it.  I’ve been fascinated with that little table arrangement since I was a very small child; its absence was genuinely upsetting.

Rides Collage

We met a number of cool characters, including Edna Mode of The Incredibles and Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc.

Characters Collage

Our favourite meet-and-greet, though, was with Vanellope Von Schweetz and Ralph of Wreck-It-Ralph.  Vanellope was SO excited to check out my new Wreck-It-Ralph ears, and Ralph was just excited when my husband commented that he looked as though he had lost a few hundred pounds. 🙂

Ralph Collage

Hmm, let’s see, what else?  I got You’d by Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios (I was sitting by a window having a little break when I looked up, and Darth Vader was just staring in the window at me.  I threw him a nervous little wave, and he spun around and stalked off.  That entire family is so freakin’ WEIRD, man.)

One morning when I couldn’t sleep (I get frazzled about flying days out from my actual flight, making sleep in an unfamiliar place pretty much an impossibility) I got up and filmed a solo walking tour of our resort.  Look for that video on our YouTube channel sometime soon.

We watched some phenomenal stage shows (the Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom is incredible; live music, acting and puppeteering at a level that will make you question how you can be seeing something so beautifully produced and performed in a theme park) and incredible fireworks displays.  Much to Mr. Finger Candy’s delight, we played a solid 10 or more hours of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, completed two games and amassed over 20 free packs of cards.  That’s what you call dominating, kids!

Rainy Sorcerers Collage

So that’s where the f*@! I’ve been, once again with apologies for just up and disappearing on you.  I promise now that I’ve gotten that Disney out of my system for the time being, I’ll settle down and get back to the serious business of nail art, literary takes, bath, beauty and wax reviews, and of course planning for our next Disney vacation, perhaps once again at the French Quarter.  And hopefully by that point the teddy tea table will be back. 🙂