We left Beltsville at 5:15 p.m. to go to BWI Airport for our 7:40 p.m. flight. There was no traffic and we were there by 5:45 p.m. The line inside the airport to check bags looked kind of long and there were not many people at the porter desk, so we checked our bags with a porter outside (who is a Southwest-authorized independent worker, whom you are supposed to tip, unlike the full time Southwest agents behind the counters inside the building). I had heard that there was a new, large Hudson News near the D concourse, outside the security gates, so we went in search of it. I was trying to find one more "made in Maryland" souvenir. We did find a Hudson News (or two), but it was nothing different or special. Note that there is an interior walkway where most of the stores are.
Our flight left 1/2 an hour late. Another flight left out of the same gate before us and people from our flight were mistakenly queuing up to go to Long Island, Islip -- quite different from Orlando. Even as the flight to Long Island was boarding, the Southwest agents said, "This flight is going to New York, NOT Florida," six or seven times. I wonder if someone still sat down on that plane and asked, "Where is this plane going?!!?"
We boarded without trouble, despite the plane being full. We were thankful that the flight was short, because it was awfully bumpy. The seat belt sign was only off for a very brief amount of time. The food was peanuts and 100 calorie packs of cheese nips.
The Orlando airport was incredibly busy at 10:30 p.m. By the time we got our luggage, we arrived at the Budget rental car counter around 11 p.m. I was surprised to find a longer line than I have ever seen at a rental car counter. It turned out their computers were down, so all the paperwork was being completed by hand. It seemed like everyone had some problem with reservations, too (questions about the rate they thought they booked, type of car, inclusion of GPS, the cost of child seats, and on and on). I was shocked by how many people did not have printed copies of their reservations. Most people had only brought along their confirmation number. I bet some, if not all, of the problems would not have existed if the people had brought a printed copy of their reservation receipt with them (so much for a paperless society, eh?). I think it was Midnight when I got up to the counter. I had a printed copy of my reservation with me, so she copied it by hand on to her forms. I had my keys in a little less than 10 minutes.
The drive was uneventful. It was 10 miles on the Beachline Expressway (which is a toll road, like many roads in Florida) from the airport to the turn to get on to I-Drive to get to Horizons by Marriott. Check in was uneventful.
We unpacked a few things, but went to bed very soon after getting to the condo. I looked at the clock as I went to bed: 1:30 a.m.
We got out of bed at 8:30 a.m. We slowly finished unpacking and looking around the condo. A week before the trip we had discussed whether or not to make reservations for a fancy Sunday brunch at The House of Blues or The Boheme. We took in to consideration that we were going to be spending a lot to get in the theme parks, plus we wanted to go out to a top notch restaurant for dinner one night. Therefore, after tons of research and much discussion, we figured a zillion good reviews couldn't be wrong and went to the I-Drive Golden Corral (GC) buffet. It was further up I Drive than I thought. We had to go to the other side of the convention center and the convention center is huge.
Our biggest mistake was that we got to the GC at 10:45 a.m. We arrived during the breakfast to lunch transition, because lunch begins at 11 a.m. We knew we were surrounded by other people on a mission to get breakfast. We queued up in the line and waited (somewhat) patiently. We could only wonder if the pancakes, eggs, and bacon would be all taken and replaced by lunch food by the time we got to the cooks. We got our turn and took a little bit of everything. Pancakes were at the end of the buffet line, in short supply, and the cook at the griddle couldn't make them fast enough. A woman from the dining room walked up to us and politely, yet firmly, said, "I just want a couple of pancakes, nothing else, so I'm just going to get a few...." The man behind me and my husband said, amazingly calmly, "Oh! No, ma'am." She stood up perfectly straight and said, "Excuse me! Even if I only want this one thing?" He replied, "Ma'am, I have waited to get pancakes, so you should step back." Several other people in line were nodding vigorously in agreement. She was majorly outnumbered, so she sighed heavily and stomped off. All we could do was laugh. Those people were serious about getting their breakfast food!
We found a booth towards the back of the restaurant, next to the dessert preparation area. There were only two booths there, so you'll see where I'm writing about if you go, and I think those two booths are the best seats in the house. You're out of the flow of traffic and it's much quieter than sitting in one of the large, open dining rooms. I enjoyed watching the woman making coconut cream pies and cutting cakes. We weren't in a hurry, so we took our time and went back for a few nibbles of lunch food. I got broccoli, collards, and brussel sprouts.
We could see I-4 from the restaurant, so when we left, we followed the signs and got on I-4 west. There are two grocery stores near Horizons: a Publix and a WalMart Super Center. My husband wanted an extra pair of inexpensive shorts and we needed groceries, so we decided to go to Wal-Mart. We bought breakfast food, sandwich fixings, some snacks, plus beer.
After putting away the groceries, I logged on to the Internet through the free wireless connection provided by Horizons. I purchased our tickets to go to Sea World the next day (the tix are a few dollars less expensive online), then called the front desk to find out where their business center was to print the tickets. That's when I found out that Horizons does not offer a business center. The front desk will print an airplane boarding pass for you, but that's it. We were told to go to the Marriott Residence Inn, which was the next hotel up the road. We decided to go swimming for a while, then drive by the other hotel on our way to dinner. Horizons has two pools. Both have water slides and are decorated with a pirates theme. There are good photos on the Horizons web site.
We got to the Residence Inn and we found the business center quickly, but we needed a room key to open the door and our condo key would not work. Luckily, there was already one young lady in the room using a computer and she opened the door for us. We were running late for our dinner plans, so I did not waste any time logging on to my e-mailbox and printing the tickets.
We went to the home of friends for dinner that night. We had an excellent dinner of steak, salad, veggie casserole, potatoes, and cheesecake with cherries.
We got back to the Marriott around 10:30 p.m.
We got up at 8 a.m. and had a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and cantaloupe. The cookware available at the condo was good, heavy stuff, but we didn't have a non-stick pan. Making eggs in a regular skillet is challenging. I called our liaison and left a message with her, just in case we were supposed to have one and it was missing for some reason. I had to leave a message, but she did call back later to say, yes, we were supposed to have one and a staff member would bring one to us. We packed up snack foods and bottled water to take in to the park with us.
We left at 10 a.m. and drove to Sea World, which is very close to Horizons. There was a slight wait (I think we waited through a traffic light for about three cycles), then we had to wait in line to pay for parking. It did not take us too long to get through security. I noted that the family in front of us had to remove the small external straws from their kids drink boxes (something about the wrappers and straws being harmful to the animals). We walked in to the park at 10:45. We had read in guide books that you should get to shows 20 - 30 minutes in advance, so we studied the map and quickly walked to the arena for the 11:30 Shamu/Believe show. We were 3/4 of the way up in the seats, but at least we were in the shade. I liked our seats. While we waited for the show to begin, we studied the park map and the other show times and discussed various plans to see things in the park. The show started exactly on time and was wonderful.
We left the Believe stadium at Noon and went directly to the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center. I have two words for you: free beer. Well, I guess it's not really free, considering that the entry fee to get in the park was $65, plus $8 for parking. But, it seemed like free beer nonetheless. We also made our reservations for the tasting at 12:45 p.m. We had a few minutes to spare, so we thought about going to the tower in the middle of the park to make reservations to go up inside of it. As we were walking there, we were discussing the fact that the observation deck, which usually goes up and down the tower, didn't seem to be moving. We realized it was probably closed due to the fact that it was a very windy day, so we turned back around and spent time in the hospitality center looking at the museum-like exhibits near the entrance.
When you are called to go in to the tasting room, you are first taken in to a living room area that is a nice respite after being in the crowded park. There were only four of us, plus two well behaved children. Then, we were called to go in the tasting room, which was well decorated and it also had a children's room with an attendant off to the side (there was a video playing on a TV, but they also had coloring books for the kids, and some legos). We went through the tasting with a couple from Canada. I remember trying the lime added beers (such as Landshark) and the Redbridge sorghum beer. The young man describing the beers and the history of Anheuser-Busch also gave us little bites of cheese, olives, and dark chocolate, depending on what we were drinking. We tasted very sweet malt beverages first, then light beers, then medium-body beers, then very dense, dark beers.
After the tasting, we sat out at one of the many tables in front of the hospitality center to eat lunch. We took in pre-packaged tuna fish salad kits, which we had purchased at the grocery store. I think we were kind of lucky to find a table quickly, because the area seemed very popular. After we ate, we walked through the clydesdales barn.
We looked at the clock and tried to get in the sea lion and otter show and arrived a solid 5 minutes before the start time, but we missed getting a seat (you really do have to get to the arenas at least 15 minutes before the shows start). Instead, we went through the nearby shark exhibit, which was great. You walk through a tunnel, so the water is above you and to both sides of you. Then, we rode Kraken, which is the only roller coaster in Sea World, not counting the log flume. There were many 50 cent lockers available right at the entrance for the roller coaster. The roller coaster does go upside-down and sideways, so it is not possible to take hats, backpacks, or purses of any kind on the ride. It's not wise to wear glasses or earrings, either. Then, we went back to the sea lion show. I like that you get to see an extra animal at the end of the show: a gigantic walrus. It had been a long time since I had seen one of those. From there, we headed over to the other corner of the park and saw the manatees and visited the sting ray petting area. We also stopped by the dolphin area for a while. We were lucky there, because we did not go to the show, but we were walking by the arena as the show was ending. We saw the performers (several of whom where carrying large birds, such as huge parrots) walking around to the side of the arena to go back on to the stage. Finally, we walked by the sea turtles on the way out.
We went back to the hotel for about 45 minutes. We tried to go to Kitty O'Shea's Pub for the St. Patrick's Day celebration. I had done a bit of research about St. Patty's Day celebrations in Orlando before we left Maryland. I had convinced myself that everyone was going to be at Pat O'Brien's in the Universal City Walk. I thought Kitty O'Shea's would be busy, but that it would be a little hole-in-the-wall bar for locals. I was not prepared for what we found. It was in a shopping center that had several restaurants, including a Hooters. Kitty O'Shea's pub was in a courtyard and they had roped off the whole courtyard to accomodate the crowd, as well as a couple sky blue porta-potties. The simple fact of the matter is that we couldn't find a place to park. If we had been able to park the car, we might have gone in to the party. But, we circled anxiously for a few minutes and decided it wasn't worth it, so we went went back out to the main road. We drove up the road and noted that we passed Giordano's, which I had read about on the Internet. We kept driving until the commercial area ended and a residential area began, then we turned around and went back to Giordano's to look at the menu. The menu looked very similar Ledo's pizza, which is a place we visit often in Maryland. We ended up eating at Joe's Crab Shack, basically across the street from Giordano's. It's a chain restaurant, but we had never been to one, so it was worth a try. I got the steamed mussels appetizer for dinner and my husband got fish and chips. The atmosphere is casual and noisy, but fun. I think the music was a little too loud, but I liked the songs which were playing, so it wasn't a problem. The food was good.
We had another breakfast of bacon and eggs. We left the condo at 10:30 a.m., after making sandwiches and packing just enough clothes to fit in our backpacks for an overnight stay. We were on our way to Crystal River, FL. We stopped at Ft. Cooper state park to eat lunch. We were not in a hurry, per se, but our friends were expecting us to arrive at 1 p.m. It was a windy day, so instead of choosing a picnic table as close to the lake as possible, we sat in a covered picnic pavilion nestled in the trees a few hundred yards from the lakefront. We could still see the water and it was very peaceful. We took a few pictures and talked about walking over to the ruins of the fort, but we decided we didn't have enough time.
We arrived to the home of our friends, had a beer and chatted for an hour, then left for Homosassa State Park, which is a wildlife rescue facility. We took a pontoon boat over. On the ride over, we saw egrets and herons and a large alligator. We saw the manatees feeding at 3:30 p.m. and listened to the presentation by the ranger. There is also an underwater viewing area built down in to the cavern created by the springs; it's really a sight to see.
We walked around the loop trail in the park and saw a wide variety of animals, most of which are native to that area of Florida. I particularly liked seeing the owls and foxes. I highly recommend this park. The rescue and preservation work they do is commendable. We took the tram ride back to the visitor's center, where we bought some postcards in the large gift shop.
We ate dinner around 5:30 p.m. at Dan's Clam Stand. It's a casual restaurant that our friends described as a "shack," but it's not that bad. I thought the ambiance was fine. Our server was fast, yet attentive. There were several televisions showing news, weather, and sports. Most Floridians love to watch car racing, so there were various posters adorning the walls about all kinds of car racing.
We had a wonderful dinner of stone crab claws, steamed oysters, fried shrimp, hush puppies, and salad. Our friends asked what we thought of the seasoning. They said most restaurants in that part of Florida use very little seasoning in food. Since we are from a place that coats most seafood with Old Bay Seasoning, I had to agree that everything was rather mild.
We went to Fort Island Gulf Beach in Crystal River, FL, to see the sunset. It's a park managed by Citrus County, Florida. The beach was closed, due to bacteria problems, which is awfully sad. We could look down in the water and see oyster beds. Our friend said the water is calm and great for kayaking. Never mind the fact that he thinks swimming there gave him an ear infection that took two rounds of antibiotics to cure.
Back at the house, I used their computer to print directions for Wednesday. We sat out on the lanai, had a couple of beers and muscadine wine (from Pine Knolls Winery) and chatted. We heard what sounded like quail in the woods. Went to bed around 10 p.m.
We woke up around 8 a.m. and wrote postcards. Breakfast was granola cereal and fruit juice. We sat and visited for a little while, then left at 11 a.m. We drove in to Inverness to see the Old Courthouse, but we did not have time to go inside. My husband ate a sandwich and I ate some chips in the car as we continued to drive eastward. We arrived in Eustis around 1 p.m. We drove directly to a house we wanted to photograph, then we took a picture of the high school. We drove to the Eustis theater, which is now the home of a theater troupe called the Bay Street Players, and parked the car. We knew someone who worked at the movie theater which was in that building in the 1950s, so we took lots of pictures of it. We ate lunch at the Lake Side Deli. We split a muffaletta, which was excellent. A train from the Florida Central Railroad came in to the station when we were almost done eating. It was the Inland Lakes Railway, which is a tourist train line that offers a lunch trip.
We had heard that Orlando has a rush hour, so we were worried about getting back to the city between 4 and 6. I really wanted to at least set foot inside the Clifford House, though. It just happened that we walked in as a tour was beginning. The house is beautiful and the curator has done a wonderful job decorating it.
We drove back to Orlando and got there around 6 p.m., without hitting any traffic. We went to Publix and purchased a ribeye steak, mussels, and a box of au gratin potatoes (we already had salad from earlier in the week). We also took the opportunity to purchase some gifts. Grocery stores are great places to buy "made in whatever state" inexpensive gifts. We purchased two bottles of Pat's Ho-Made BBQ Sauce, two bottles of orange blossom honey from a nearby apiary, a bottle of Everglades Seasonings seafood spice mix, and a grinder bottle of Alessi olive oil dipping spice. There were many beautiful jars of orange marmalade, but they were all rather large and heavy, so we didn't buy any. Back at the condo, my husband grilled the steak and I cooked the side dishes. Horizons provided the propane grill. The grills were well maintained. The grates were clean and the ignitor lit the grill without any trouble. The one hint I must provide is that you should wear bug repellent when you go to use the grill, because the grills are close to the marshy edge of the lake, so the mosquitoes are alive and well. It had been windy and somewhat cool, so my husband neglected to put on any spray or lotion and his ankles had several red polka-dots when he came back.
Before going to bed, we put a couple of bottles of water in the freezer, in anticipation of having them in the backpack to keep our lunch cold at Disneyworld.
I can hardly believe it, but I (semi)willingly got out of bed at 6:15 a.m. while I was on vacation. That's not when I opened my eyes; that's when my feet hit the floor. It was pouring rain, so I went in the other bedroom to turn on the tv and watch the weather forecast. The weather lady said the rain would definitely be out by 11 a.m., if not earlier. That sounded great to me. We got ready for the day and packed a lunch of turkey and provolone sandwiches, a side bag of lettuce and mustard packets (which we had picked up for free at the deli counter at the Publix), and sun chips.
We left the condo at 8:15 a.m., which I feared was too late, based on the advice of guide books. We had no wait to pay for parking and got a place in Pluto 13. That still required taking a tram to the transportation and ticketing center. The rain stopped just as we were getting on the tram. We walked up to the ticket counter, only had one person in front of us at the bag check, and walked in to the park. We had studied the park map in guidebooks before we left Maryland, so we knew how to walk over to Space Mountain very quickly. The sign informed us that there was a ten minute wait. It didn't feel like a wait because we were walking through the "mountain" the whole time. I would also like to note that it was not a problem for my husband to take his backpack on the ride with him. Space Mountain is a great roller coaster, but it's not a modern coaster that goes upside-down or even sideways all that much. Nevertheless, it's a great ride. From there, we walked directly to Micky's Philharmagic 3-D, then Peter Pan's Flight. Next, we went to the Indy cars. The cars aren't particularly thrilling for adults, but my husband has fond memories of riding in them as a child, so on we went. The final "must do" thing on my list was to go in Minnie's country house. I have visited over 40 historic homes, so I figured I was going to count Minnie's house, too. Plus, I had read that there is a gazebo in back with a photographer who will take your picture (with your camera), and it's supposed to be rather romantic (I have read that many marriage proposals have occurred there). Well, we went right around Noon and it was anything but romantic. We waited a long time and there was a couple behind us whose children were rather unruly. It wasn't that they were being obnoxious, but there was a toddler who kept walking away from them and *I* was really stressing out that they were going to lose that child. Anyway, we got through the house, but once we got out back to the garden, the line snaked around several more times before getting to the gazebo with Minnie in it. We had already been there about 30 minutes and guessed it would take us 20 or 30 minutes more to get to the gazebo. We bailed out and left the garden. Interestingly enough, there is a flower covered arbor over the exit and my husband was able to take a picture of me under it. There was no one around us at the time, so it's a photo of just me and the flowers. It turned out to be one of the better pictures of me from the trip.
We were debating what to do next when the train to Frontiertown pulled in to the station. There was hardly anyone in line, so despite feeling a bit rushed, we made a snap decision to get on the train. One thing I read in several guidebooks that I will reiterate here: if you are at Disneyworld and you see an opportunity that wasn't in your original plan, go the direction that unexpected opportunity takes you. Once we got on the train, we realized we were pretty tired already and we really appreciated the chance to watch the world go by and simply rest for a while. We decided to get off in Frontiertown and we could tell the park was starting to get crowded. We got a Fast Pass for the Thunder Mountain roller coaster, which gave us a window from 12:45 - 1:45 p.m. It was time for lunch, so we were on a mission to find the "secret" lunch place that I had read about in a guide book. We ate lunch sitting on a bench behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe and it was surprisingly quiet. People did walk by us, but it was significantly more peaceful than the boulevard in front of the the shop. As an aside, I will write that there are also nice tables to sit at on further past the reproduction of the Liberty Bell, somewhat close to the entrance to the haunted mansion.
After eating, we decided to take it easy and browse through the shops along Main Street USA. As we started to walk over there, we saw a family sitting rather conspicuously in a corner near a bridge. There was a white line on the pavement apparently delineating an acceptable waiting area, and there was enough room left for us to stand behind the family without intruding on their space. My husband guessed that they were camped out to watch the afternoon parade. Most of the guidebooks tell you to go on rides during the parades and, normally, I would follow such advice. In fact, I had told myself in advance I would definitely not watch a parade. Furthermore, my husband wasn't too interested in the parade. But, I had never seen the parade and it was another one of those opportunities I just couldn't ignore. We stood there patiently, leaning up against the rock divider. We probably waited about 25 minutes. Here again, we passed the time by discussing our strategy for the rest of the afternoon. The parade was great. My husband got some of his best photos of the trip. I would say you should definitely experience it if you have not, but, I guess I would have been okay with missing it, too.
After the parade, we went to the entrance to the Haunted Mansion, but there was a 45 minute wait and no option for a fast pass. We went over to Thunder Mountain to use our fast pass we had picked up before lunch. Even the fast pass line seemed a bit long to us, but it was obviously way better than waiting 45 minutes w/o a fast pass. I guess it took about 15 or 20 minutes for us to get on the coaster. Then, we went to walk around Adventureland. Everything was getting very busy. In the vein of visiting historic homes, my husband had hoped to walk through the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, but the line was forbiddingly long. The crowd simply walking along was huge. I happened to see a cart that had add-a-link bracelet charms (sometimes called Italian charm bracelets). I focused on that for a while and temporarily ignored the plethora of humans surrounding us. In case you are curious, I purchased Mickey and Tinkerbell links. It was a tough choice between Tigger and Tink.
We shopped on Main St., but didn't buy anything. I will note that we had one of those unexpected opportunities while we were shopping around. We went in a gift shop that sells some of the high-end merchandise. I don't recall reading about it in any of the guidebooks, but there is a full-fledged forge built into the place. We watched a glass blower give an excellent demonstration of making a multi-colored glass vase. It's amazing to see a man standing in front of huge, black cast iron furnace, which is obviously scorching hot. He calmly opened the small door to put his molten glass inside. All we could see was a blaze of orange-yellow light. We lingered for a while and kept walking. Just as we were preparing to leave the park, a train came in to the Main Street USA station and we hustled up the steps so my husband could take a picture of it. I told him I would be sitting on a bench in the station. He was gone a long time and I was starting to worry, so I got up to look out on the platform. He was talking to a train conductor. We talked to him for 10 or 15 minutes until the next train came in. The guy was originally from Huntingtown, WV, so he was familiar with the Maryland train lines and we were familiar with train tracks in West Virginia. It was fun to talk to him. Back in the station, we walked around and looked at the train memorabilia. There were several old penny Mutoscope machines and my husband wanted to watch one. I had a feeling it was a real antique, so I was nervous, but it worked. We watched a short flipbook movie of train-related drama. Otherwise, there were things like old maps of rail lines in the U.S., train advertising posters, and descriptions of the trains in use at Disneyworld.
Around 3:30 p.m., we left the park and took a short boat ride to the Polynesian resort to look around. We got something to drink at the tiki bar next to the swimming pool, then sat on the beach for a while and relaxed. From the Polynesian, we took the monorail back to the car around 4:30 p.m. The first tram that came up to go back to the car was full and we had to sit apart, because we didn't want to wait the five or ten minutes for the next one.
We left the condo at 6:40 p.m. to get to Vito's for our 7 p.m. reservations. All of the entrees sounded huge, so I talked to the server about getting an appetizer and a side of pasta. I ended up ordering shrimp and scallop scampi and a side of oil and garlic angel hair pasta, to be delivered at the same time, as my dinner. My husband got the pork chops DeVito. The pork chop dish ended up being an obscene amount of food. It was two gigantic bone-in pork chops. We definitely should have split an entree. I asked the server about it and he said people split an entree all the time. The restaurant does not charge an extra plate fee or anything like that. We shared a bottle of 2005 Redrock California Merlot, which was great.
I was exhausted when we got back to the condo and went to sleep immediately.
We both woke up late. We ate breakfast around 10 a.m. My husband made a cheese omelet and bacon, plus we finished the rest of the cantaloupe.
We drove to the Premium Outlets to do a final bit of souvenir shopping. We circled around the totally full parking lot and were starting to get frustrated. We followed the signs to the parking garage. I thought that would be full, as well, because people would want to park their cars out of the sun. Much to our surprise, it was mostly empty! That's definitely the place to park. It's a very short, easy walk to the mall. We went to the Disney's Character Premier store. It's an official Disney store which seems to have a mix of full priced products and products that are probably things which were not selling well at other stores. For example, they had some merchandise from the 2007 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. We got my niece a Disney sweatshirt and got out of there quickly. The mall is set up as a loop, so we walked around the loop once, but didn't buy anything else.
Back at the condo, my husband wasn't hungry and wanted to rest, so I had a lunch of leftover steak, potatoes, and salad around 2 p.m. Then, I put on my swimsuit and went out to the pool. I sat out in the sun and wrote in my travel journal for an hour. When I got back to the room, I took a shower, then we went to play mini golf. It was $5 per game, or $25 for the week. We purchased one game each. My husband won, 49 to 42. The place wasn't too busy, but we were slow.... We let three sets of people play through. We had leftovers for dinner: pork chops, seafood scampi, potatoes, and salad. After dinner, we packed and cleaned the kitchen. We spent some time, unsuccessfully, trying to find a city or county recycling center. I walked to the front desk to ask and they said they don't offer recycling, but were in the process of trying to find a contractor and set up a program. I surfed the web for a while and couldn't find an answer, either. When I posted the question to a forum, the only decent response I got was that Disney recycles, so we should take everything to a Disney resort and put them in the containers there. Alas, Disney was in the opposite direction from the airport and we didn't have the time or desire to go back. We put our bag of cans and bottles in the corner of the kitchen with a sign on top that said, "Please start a recycling program. Signed, M. Earth."
We woke up at 6:15 a.m. We had a light breakfast of cheese toast, bacon, and yogurt. The food we ended up leaving there included a can of chicken noodle soup (could have taken it home, but didn't want the weight), a sealed cup of yogurt, a few eggs, a whole Dulcinea watermelon, and a package of mussels in the freezer. We threw away a 1/2 full bottle of salad dressing and a couple of pickles. We took home the rest of the box of tea bags and sun chips. We actually froze the butter and took it with us (crazy, maybe, but it made it back in good shape).
We left the condo at 8 a.m. It's ten miles from the intersection of I-Drive and Rt. 528 (The Beachline) to the airport. Things at the airport were slow, but steady. There was a bit of a wait at the rental car return, a rather long line to check our luggage, then a VERY long line at security. We got to the gate around 10 a.m. for our 10:25 a.m. flight. It began to board immediately after we got there. Every single seat on the plane was full, but we were amazed at how quickly and orderly everyone boarded. The plane actually left a few minutes early.
Our flight had very little turbulence and we made good time, so we arrived in to Baltimore very early. Once again, it took what seemed like forever to get our luggage. But, once we got it, we left the airport without any trouble and there was no traffic on I-95.
I have seen a recent surge in questions on travel review sites about clothing. I have realized that I write very little about clothing in my travelogues. It was certainly challenging to pack for a trip which departed from cold, rainy Maryland in March to arrive in sunny, warm Orlando, FL in March. We had to plan for 72 degree days, 52 degree nights, and buildings that are renowned for being air conditioned to sub-artic temperatures.
I have tried ordering expensive clothes from Travelsmith and from the L.L. Bean Travel catalog. I have a few pieces from those places that I like, but I have also had significant problems, on many different levels, with what I have ordered from them. I have had good luck with travel clothing that I have purchased at REI, Target, and Sears. I have had the best luck and received the most compliments on the clothing I have purchased from Sears. When I was a kid, you would get laughed at for wearing Toughskins jeans or dresses of thick polyester. Somehow, the purchasers and designers for Sears seem to have found a happy medium. Sears sells nice outfits, often made of poly-cotton blends, rayon, etc. which are lightweight, water and stain resistant, wrinkle resistant, plus they have deep and sometimes hidden pockets.
Could I have and should I have packed less? Maybe. But, I wore everthing I took at least once. Here's the list:
These pieces are from the Sears Apostrophe collection:
Brown blazer/sport coat
Brown mid-calf a-line skirt
These two pieces are from the Sears Covington collection, but they match the brown from the Apostrophe pieces:
knit shirt with sunflowers
knit shirt with a brown and blue floral design
Royal Robbins khaki travel skirt from the Maryland REI
NorthFace green short sleeved shirt from a NorthFace store in Bar Harbor, ME
brown poly-cotton t-shirt from Target
Brown Keen Sidney II Mary-Janes from the Maryland REI
green t-shirt with Maryland written across the front
Loose fitting tencel (denim-look) bermuda shorts
Helly Hansen raincoat, purchased on sale at REI. I can admit that it's almost fluorescent green.
very small travel umbrella
khaki baseball cap I got in Islamorada
white baseball cap I bought at Target
beige crocheted hat I bought in Finland
two silk nightshirts
Various undergarments and socks
small JGiles travel purse (took it to SeaWorld and Disneyworld)
large Lisabee Designs satchel (took it on the plane and everywhere except SeaWorld and Disneyworld)
insulated backpack (took it to SeaWorld and to the west coast of Florida)
My husband took a green NorthFace backpack, which is what we took into Disneyworld.
We went to Disneyworld the Thursday before Easter weekend. By all accounts, the week before Easter and the week after Easter are the two busiest weeks for Disneyworld, as well as the surrounding tourist areas. I didn't start looking at guidebooks and web sites until about a month before the trip. I still thought I had time to get reservation for dinner at the Calfornia Grill at the Contemporary resort. The view is supposed to be great at sunset, and the Contemporary has a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The reservation agent didn't laugh at me, but she might as well have laughed. She said they the restaurants begin accepting reservations 180 days in advance. I later learned from a colleague that Disney "commandos" (people who are way serious about planning their trips) sign up for e-mail reminders that send them several reminders so they don't miss the 180 Days mark. After reading more reviews, I realize we probably could have eaten at the bar area of the California Grill, but we were just as happy to go back to the hotel at that point.