January has been jam-packed full of crazy. Work has been more than a little overwhelming for me, and Bret has been traveling for interviews, plus teaching, dissertating, you know. It’s a temporary season, thankfully, but so far these 2015 days have been non-stop exhausting. I’ve been on an endless reel of work late, help Bret prep for his next interview/presentation/class, crash and wake up early in an attempt to work on my novel (…but I usually just started working on work). It’s not our preferred pace of life. That’s probably why I ended up with the flu.
I didn’t want this busy season to pass us by with nothing pleasant to remember it by. So. A few weeks ago, I realized Bret and I would both have MLK, Jr. day off of work, so I suggested spending this 3-day weekend in Disney World. (This is our last few months as Disney Annual Passholders, and I don’t want them to go to waste!) Originally, I thought this was going to be a good time for a trip. I thought that things would slow down a bit, but they didn’t. When the actual weekend arrived, I wasn’t sure how Bret was going to react to having this mini vacay sandwiched between so much travel and craziness.
Well, I should have known… he would be thrilled.
After Bret flew in at midnight on a Friday, we slept in until about 7:30 on Saturday, and then hit the road. Being able to hop on the road and drive to the happiest place on earth is one of our favorite Florida things. I just can’t describe it.
We arrived before check-in, so we left our things in the car at the hotel, and walked over to Epcot.
Yes, walked. I got a found discount staying for two nights at the Swan which is within walking distance of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A dream come true, I tell you.
I had everything planned out. We say we’re spontaneous with our Disney days, but truthfully, once we get there, we so often end up doing our same favorite things over and over. That’s fine – I think – but it kind of makes all of our day trips run together. This time, I wanted us to try new things and make new memories, so I’d made a list of a few attractions and dining options we hadn’t tried before, narrowed them down, organized them by park, and made a Fedule. (This is what my sister and I call a “fun” “schedule” — a fedule.”)
We had lunch somewhere we’ve been wanting to try for a while: the Spice Road Table! Most of the restaurant is open-air (or, at least the part we had seen before was), but we got to sit inside which was really pretty and really nice.
We considered each getting a “small plate.” They range in price from $7-$12 and include thing like mussels, omelets, greek salad, brie fondue, hummus and pita… Nicole food, basically. I was hoping to sample a few things, so I was really happy that Bret was interested in sharing a the Mediterranean Vegetable Platter which included:
- Harissa Hummus Fries,
- Rice-stuffed Grave Leaves,
- Mixed Olives, and
- Baba Ghanoush served with Pita Bread
It may not look like a lot, but it was surprisingly filling and not too expensive since we shared it. We were happy to spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the countries at Epcot. We realized we had never watched the Circle Vision movie in China, so we did. We wandered around the Japan store because Bret loves it. It was relaxing, fun, perfect. Then we went back to the hotel to check in, relax, and get ready for dinner.
For the most part, we kept our meals light (and cheap): sharing a Mickey pretzel and lemonade or eating a burrito out of a food truck at downtown Disney, but I picked one special dinner that we were really looking forward to: BOMA!
Boma – Flavors of Africa is a huge buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
I wanted to go to Animal Kingdom, we didn’t really have time, but I did REALLY want to check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge and this was the perfect way to do it. We took a bus from our hotel to the Animal Kingdom park, and then from the Animal Kingdom park to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The whole exterior is lush greenery and it just makes me feel happy and peaceful. Check out the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby:
I’d read that there were tons of vegetarian options, which is always a big selling point for me, but I was especially eager to get to try and sample a bunch of new flavors without having to pay for an entire plate that I may not like. I love buffets. I was excited to graze on brand new flavors and… also… I wanted to go to the gift shop.
I love giraffe hugs.
Here’s a quick sampling of the menu:
- Butternut Squash Soup
- Zanzibar Crab Soup
- Chicken-Corn Chowder
- Seafood Gumbo
- Curry Cauliflower Soup
- Carrot-Ginger Soup Mulligatawny (Spoiler alert: I thought I would like this. I did not.)
- Watermelon Rind Salad
- Chicken Salad with Chili Cilantro
- Tabbouleh Spinach and Quinoa Salad
- Pearl Couscous Salad
- Avocado, Grapefruit, and Papaya Salad
- Lentil and Hearts of Palm Salad
And of course there were tons of delicious entrees. They had familiar stuff like: Pork Shoulder, Ribs, Roasted Chicken, Beef Striploin, and one of my favorites: almond-crusted roasted Salmon. I was intrigued to see a variety of stuff I’d never heard of: Mater Paneer, Fufu, and Pap and Chakalaka – a south African vegetable relish that I dipped everything in. It was so good!
I know that just looks like a heaping pile of food. That’s the thing with buffets, I just pile everything on. It was just so good! Except for the soup.
Here’s the thing, because there were so many choices, I encouraged Bret to only get one pour of a soup, to try it, and then go back and get more if he likes it. Did I take my own advice? No. Why? Some guy warned me about the soup as I was filling my bowl. He said it was terrible. I thought – I’m sure I’ll like this. Too bad you don’t have an appetite for things that are good for you like carrots and ginger.
It was horrible. I don’t even know why. It was just too ginger-y for me, and I love ginger. It was awful. I ate most of it, anyway, because I felt wasteful leaving it there. That was the ONLY non-delicious thing I tasted, though, and I washed it down with my delicious jamberry wine.
Of course, the unlimited desserts were also so yummy. We decided to share this whole plate…
And that was our whole night.
Bret realized the Magic Kingdom was open until 1AM, so I became SO EXCITED. I was SURE I was finally going to get to ride this 7 Dwarfs Mine Train ride I’d been trying to get a Fast Pass for for 3 months. Unfortunately, there was still a 110 minute wait. Two hours. At 11PM. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! It was not a joke.
I was a little bummed, but you could still find us frolicking around enjoying everything from the Flying Dumbo ride to a spontaneous dance party:
…Actually that dance party was at Epcot from the next night. I just thought the pictures went together so I put them next to each other and rewrote history.
The point of it all, we were happy:
And that was just the first day!
Next came my other favorite day, Magic Kingdom day. You see, Bret’s idea to go to the Magic Kingdom was not on the Fedule, so, we got to go TWICE! We ate some snacks in the room for breakfast, and then we caught a bus over to the Magic Kingdom.
We rode the People Mover and watched a happy little castle musical. And we rode The Little Mermaid.
For lunch, I’d read about this “hidden gem” – a sit down restaurant with counter service prices called The Plaza. What a dream! The thing is, you HAVE to have a reservation… so I made one make one the day before. It was completely, completely, completely worth it.
The 100th customer of the day got a free dessert. We were not the 100th customer, so we bought our own dessert. Banana Split!
It was so good. We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the park.
Then we walked over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (we walked about 20,000 steps this day), used our Fast Passes to ride Toy Story, went back to the hotel and then…
…spent the night at Downtown Disney!
We basically never go to Downtown Disney and I’m so glad we did. I don’t have any pictures, but we enjoyed walking around and popping into all the shops. I got a free sample of chocolate …or two 🙂 We found this little food truck area and ate some burritos while we listened to this awesome guitar player sing and take requests from the crowd. This little 3-year-old sitting next to me ran up and requested, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and I just about crid.
My favorite part of the night? Well, other than that kid’s song request? We went in the Christmas shop and bought our souvenir: a 2015 Disney Ornament to hang on our tree!!! I already packed it up for next year, but I love it. I can’t wait to see it hanging on our tree in our new home in our new city.
It’s been a week. We’re back home and things are still busy and uncertain and kind of crazy most of the time, but I’m so glad we got away for this special trip. I hope, next year this time, when I’m thinking back to January 2015, I’ll disregard the flu and the work stress and Bret’s job search uncertainty and, instead I’ll think of this epic Disney weekend.