Monday, January 28, 2013

A Drive to Remember

It's time to stop procrastinating and write a real update around here. Unfortunately for both you and  I, I like my blog neat and chronological, and I still have a long list of "must shares" before I can even get to this week's happenings. So, let's get this party started, shall we?

Speaking of which, at the end of last year, it was our 15th anniversary, and since we didn't do anything really special for the 5th, or 10th, or any of the others before, we decided to buy ourselves a nice little vacation outside the city and for once, NOT in Niagara Falls. I was thinking Hawaii, but when we started adding everything up, it was definitely way too high for our tiny budget, so we looked at places where we wouldn't have to fly to (that saves about $3000 right off the bat). Second criteria was that it had to be warmer than Toronto. Like a LOT warmer because I am already sick and tired of my Raynaud's and I just wish it wouldn't bother me, at least during this time. The most logical and reachable destination was going to be Florida and since we were going to bring two easily bored pre-teens with us, we settled on Disney World and Universal Studios.

This was going to be a first, so in order to prepare ourselves mentally, we also chose to make a first step on our way there in Philadelphia, where an awesome bunch of talented, kind and loving souls happen to live, which makes it my favorite city in the US to visit.

Renewing the contract for another 15 years
We left on the 26th of December and spent 3 days in Philly, mostly resting, watching movies on SyFy (don't, they're horrible!), eating gelato and walking around downtown because it's pretty small after all and going to the liquor store only takes 2.2k each way. It was the best "pit stop" we could have made, we had great food (as usual), great company and lots of photo opportunities.

Last but not least, we managed to do the "Rocky steps", a bucket list item for sure. We walked, we ran, we jumped, we posed, we Facebooked, Tweeted, Instagrammed and everything else that could make it history. Damn well you should know that some things stay forever on the Interwebz.

Rocky and I
Jump here
It can't get better than this
We left the city with a heavy heart, but excited about what was yet to come. Oh the warmth! I couldn't check the weather reports often enough and for some reason, they kept on changing every hour just to tease us, I'm sure. 

To torture our minds even further, we also made the trip last with the challenge of stopping to find a geocache in each state that we crossed: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida. A few hours after leaving Philly, I was making my 400th find (in total, not that day!), the most humongous ammo box I've come across, complete with a turn-around into a US Marines base by mistake. Never a dull moment with us.
Biggest ammo can ever!
After one more stop overnight we finally made it to Orlando where we parked the car, the bags and our money at Pop Century Disney Resort.

Open Sesame
Room was in this building, behind the Play-Doh

The first picture with the boys trying to open the door should describe well enough the first three days at the resort. The door lock had a software bug and it was late by a day, so no personnel at the resort could understand why our keys would not work. It took countless of trips between the room and the concierge desk to have technician after technician come to unlock, change battery, reprogram the lock, and most likely cross fingers and toes and pray so we can get back to our room on our own. Have you ever walked around those resorts? That's a lot of kilometers added on a daily basis just to go get a coffee or take a dip in the pool. Am I complaining? Not about the distance, but about the unnecessary travel when I could have relaxed, absolutely. Oh well, at least they credited us back a night and gave us a few fast passes. This is all fitness related folks, believe me... I'm getting there.

Anyway, shortly after, we changed into our Florida attire and started visiting the parks. On December 30, when we arrived, we decided to spend the evening at Magic Kingdom. It ended up being the greatest decision ever since there were going to be the exact same shows as on the 31st, with a lot LESS people. It was still crowded, don't get me wrong, but at least we could move around without fearing a stampede.

As soon as we arrived, of course, we were stunned by the lights and the "magical" feeling of the place. Totally surreal and fake, stucco everywhere. Well built though. We got to see the castle light up and blah blah blah, some story was going on (Cinderella?) but we wanted thrills instead, so we didn't bother listening. We walked on.

Okay okay, one more look. Pretty, eh? Wait until you see it in daylight, totally meh. The night was a constant blur, I know we walked, then we waited, we sat for 2-3 minutes, then we repeated the drill. We stopped for coffee at least 3 times. There were two fireworks shows, totally AMAZEBALLS. I am a sucker for fireworks and the midnight show was by far the best I saw, this life, in like... ever. I was almost crying, it was really overwhelming. Good thing is that we stayed 3 more hours after that and I could manage to regain my composure while walking, waiting and riding in tiny cars again, and again, and again. The "Magic Hours" were the best deal that night, we did almost everything we wanted at least once (huh? alriiiight).

The next morning we slept in, d'uh. At 3pm we went to Universal Studios for the Blue Man Group performance (Shake Your Booty, yeah! - I even took a video), then spent the rest of the night at Universal walking, waiting and eventually riding in tiny cars that shook the hell out of our insides. Again, that's right. Just like at Disney, but a bit more violent and at least 4D!

At midnight they had the New Year's show with lights, water, lasers and music, only missing were the Crazy Horses ;-). By then, we were really tired and cranky, but I think we kissed anyway. And I did one more ride because everyone else was busy leaving the park. Here's some footage from the show, it was rather spectacular.

The next morning we slept in, d'uh. This post sounds a bit repetitive, doesn't it? Well, that's because every day was almost the same. Either we woke up really early, at 5-6am so we can get in the park by 7am, or stayed up late and went to be at 3-4am to be able to fit as much fun as we could in our schedule. The lines were always a nightmare, but I don't think we waited more than 1h30 for any attraction, by choice. If it was longer than that, we'd skip it and come back to it later.

This is what 40min of waiting time look like
Sometimes, we stopped for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine, that was a must, and I am extremely grateful for those rare moments.

Lounging by the pool
Water park with fake snow and ski lifts. Why not?
The days went by fast, but overall it felt like we ran a marathon in slow-motion. By my calculations, we walked for over 20h and 30 miles that week. It may not sound that extreme, but our legs were jell-o when we left. We visited Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom (we should have spent way more time there, it was a very photogenic place in its whole fakeness, tree of life, little Asia and all), Holywood Studios, Blizzard beach, Downtown Disney and both Universal Studios parks and their downtown area. The only park that we skipped entirely was Epcot, I am afraid to say that we wanted to leave some for next time... In 15 years, maybe, because overall it was an exhausting trip and it barely qualified as "rest".

Plus, we totally hated the food. We hated it with a vengeance, by the end of the trip, the lack of healthy choices was taking its toll on our mood. The only place where we found affordable and healthy greens was a restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes, but since it was outside the resort, it was not very convenient. The point of staying at the resort was to avoid taking the car out of the parking lot, so there was that. We settled on the croissants, the chicken fingers, the burritos and the tie-dye cheesecake that left our mouths and teeth blue for the rest of the day (hint, eat it before going to bed). In a week we took three trips to Sweet Tomatoes and one to some Argentinian All You Can Eat Meat Buffet to feed the animal in us. There was no way we could have done better with the time we had. I think we all went a bit cuckoo by the end.

How else would you explain this??
Oh well, what can I say, it was indeed a trip of a lifetime. Boys said it was the best Christmas present ever, but I am still dreaming about Hawaii. Maybe if they pick me at the Kona lottery... I should start saving NOW. Anyway, let's go back to our adventures in Mickeyland. Not sure what else I can say about it, maybe I should let the pictures speak for themselves.

Twilight Zone!
Some disturbing looking dudes
As much as I like Hulk, this one had way too long waiting times
Early morning Magic Mist
Hide and seek
Monster hug
Maybe the perfect picture to sum up this trip:

Magic no more
Sad, not. Overwhelmed, yes. Even though here I just couldn't keep my eyes open due to the sun, the feeling was there. I don't know how some people do this every year. I think I'd like to go back there some day, maybe to run those back to back half and full marathons, more for the medals than anything else. Also, if we go back, we won't go as the same time as the half of the planet, the winter holidays are probably the worst. It was well worth for the fireworks, but man... life is too short to spend it waiting in line. Ok, stop bitching already. We asked for adventure, we got it. We asked for warm weather, we got it. We asked for family time, we got it. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves and have no regrets whatsoever. Plus we got to see our friends in Philly and cross so many states, I can brag that I've seen at least a tenth of the United States. :-)

Happy Anniversary to us!! Happy New Year to you!!

Where to next? There is more, oh yes... come back later this week and you will see. 


  1. HA! Great and true post! I want to do Disney with the boys... I feel like its a right of passage as a SWOnt kid, but I don't know if I can handle the obsessive planning and detail and crowds and ohmigodidontwanttomissthisssssss. Someday.

    Great photos and trip!

  2. Wow, you have been busy. I followed the trip to Philly because we had just visited and I was wondering how much more you would see than we did. We were there for the Army Navy game and the only time we were not busy it poured. We got to see very little of the city. Glad you got to enjoy it.