Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 1: AKA October 14 AKA Travel Day

It certainly felt strange setting my alarm for 2:30AM that night before our departure. I've only gotten used to getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 every 3 weeks for the last few years. The original plan was to fly through Denver at a reasonable hour. However, Air Canada had different plans for us...

Back in August, I received an email about an itinerary change. In the past, I've received this type of email for a 12 minute change. So I opened up the email, not expecting anything too drastic. The first thing I see is the time. We've now gone from leaving around 8:30, to leaving at 5:30. Umm, there was a reason I didn't choose that 5:30 flight, I didn't want to get up that early! There are worse things, it did mean we'd be arriving in Orlando 4 hours earlier (which is a good thing). Next I see we're flying through Toronto. At first I was a bit annoyed by this, I hate having to clear customs in other Canadian cities, but the last few times it hasn't been so bad. I definitely tried to think positively.

It really all worked out nicely. The flights were all on time and very smooth. Because we flew all AC on the way there, we didn't have to pay for bags. We arrived in Orlando and at the resort in the daytime. However, there are downsides to leaving so looking like this in the airport...

I'm not sure why I made that face. Perhaps I was worried Tamara would be using the flash?

So we arrived at MCO, and started the great search for the Magical Express bus stop. We failed to read the instructions on the pamphlet in their entirety, and MCO is designed with 2 sides that look pretty much the same. We stepped out onto the "A" side, only to learn that we needed to be on the "B" side. Why the airport doesn't allow you to get from A to B, we'll never know. One would think it'd be a giant circle, but it doesn't seem to be. We didn't really stick around to find out if you could actually get from A to B without backtracking. We found the bus stop and waited all of 5-10 minutes for the bus and after a non-eventful bus ride, we arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge around 3:00.

There were only 2 families getting off at Jambo House, and we were greeted by name by a member of the concierge staff! Although our room was ready, we decided to go through the whole check in experience in the lounge and get the mini tour. Our original dinner reservation was for 7:55 (as it was based on a 6:00 arrival time), so while we were in the lounge, we got that changed to 4:55. Our home for the next 10 days became room 4225. It was fairly close to the main entrance and had a great view of the Savannah.

Here's a small glimpse into our room, I didn't end up taking very many pictures of the room. Tamara took this picture shortly after we arrived. She had bought a present for me to be waiting in the room upon arrival, a lion. The room was a decent size. The bathroom was pretty standard, there was a 2 sink vanity with additional shelf and magnification mirror. The beds are queen, with a faux mosquito screen, real head boards and frames and the softest sheets I've slept on at a hotel in ages. You know that awkward, fleecy blanket that all hotels have. Here, they place it between 2 flat sheets, so you never have to touch it! So great! I hate touching those fleecy blankets.

Once we were mostly settled, we decided to go on a bit of an exploration of the resort. Here are plenty of photos of the ambiance. We started by checking out the immediate hallway. Every 5 rooms are so, there is a small viewing area of the Savannah. That's where all that sunshine is coming in from.I really love all the details that Disney puts into its resorts. After spending our time at a deluxe, I can see how it would be really difficult going back to a value, even possibly a moderate. There were daily activities planned, an inviting lobby, fire pits, and more.

These shield like light fixtures are quite eye catching at the top of the lobby. There is also a pathway on the fifth floor that is designed to look like a suspended rope bridge. We walked across, it doesn't sway. That's probably a good thing though, as I could see children (and adults) abusing it.

As we did our walkabout, we found the pool, 2 hot tubs, the restaurants and lots of animals. This is a bird that we came to call Zombie Duck. It was the only one of its kind.

There was a lot of African artwork in various forms around the resort. One of the outdoor viewing areas had some animals carvings, like this giraffe.

There were also wooden animals located all over. You'll be seeing a lot more giraffes, you might as well get used to it.
Here's a tapestry that was hanging on the wall near the elevators on the 4th floor.

There are all sorts of comfy, cozy seating arrangements everywhere. Here's a fun group of rocking chairs on the first floor.

And it couldn't be a walk outdoors, without at least one photograph of a flower. I have no idea what type this is.
It was finally time for our early dinner at Boma. We were very hungry at this point. Breakfast at 3:00, followed by a lunch of sorts at 9:30 and a few small snacks in the afternoon make for 2 very hungry people. We were given a pager, but were seated almost immediately after. It's a buffet, so I didn't bother taking pictures of our plates. They weren't the prettiest. We weren't exactly concerned with the aesthetics of plating. I did however take a picture of these lights directly above our table.

We started our dinner with soup. I had the ham and split pea, with a small sampling of breads and hummus. Tamara had the peanut soup. For my next course, I took more small samplings of the salmon, a tiny falafel (which ended up being quite spicy), watercress salad, coconut rice, chakalaka and green curry. For the next course, I had loads of fruit, a watermelon rind salad, avocado with lime dressing salad, and the chicken (due to Tamara's recommendation). The final course was dessert. I had to try the much raved about Zebra Dome (it was really rich, I'm not sure how people can eat more than 1 in a sitting), a passionfruit dome, a cinnamon chocolate mousse, some sort of peanut butter dessert, and a banana bread pudding with vanilla cream and caramel. These desserts were all pretty much bite-size and a lot of them were somewhat gelatinous. I guess it's easier to serve those types of foods, since they can be consistently presented and keep well.

Once we got back to the room, we did a bit more animal watching. We nicknamed more of the animals. These two became Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We didn't actually see much more of these two throughout the week. This Roan Antelope was deemed Ziggy. He found a fallen palm frawn, and ate the whole thing without dropping it. He was very close to the balcony, and you could really hear the crunching of the leaf. Here's a slight progression of the event.

These animals are 2 of the 3 Red River Hogs. They are pretty hilarious to watch. When we first saw them, they were all running together in a large circuit around the Savannah. It was very entertaining. We would see more fun from them later in the week.

That concludes our first day. By 7:30 we were pretty much spent. We settled into bed, watched The Big Bang Theory, then went to bed just after 8:30. The next day was to be a full day at Magic Kingdom!

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