Notes on D-World 9-15-08 Monday

My beloved mentioned late last night as rode the shuttle back to our home cabin that she might check out the spa at the Grand Floridian Hotel in the morning for a massage session and perhaps even further spa treatment.

It was the first sign that today would be The Day Without Theme Parks. Even though it was the first morning without headache concerns holding us back, and all of us arose by 9 am, we tarried about the place until close to 11 because we knew further travel would only find us scurrying to make their noon appointments at the spa, which Jen committed to upon arising. A boat across the lake and a monorail about the resort area finally found us at the Floridian with enough time for them to motivate over to the spa.

I undertook a search for a proper place for later lunching, and took the opportunity to both give myself a self-guided missile tour of the Floridian and its neighboring cheese-with-a-Z-fest hotel, the Polynesian, and also gain such much needed walking exercise at my normal swift gait. I carbed up first at the Gasparilla Grille on the far side of the main Floridian building, where easy snacks and drinks can be had without table service, purchasing and downing a croissant and regular Coke before shredding the pavement. I circumnavigated every building at the Floridian, checking out the menus of each and every restaurant and lounge contained therein, passed the spa itself in which the ladies had situated themselves, and then sped over to the Polynesian, a mix of Brady Bunch-style Tiki wackness and nostalgic South Seas flair. I would love it if I were still six -- which I am on occasion -- but I wouldn't actually want to stay there now. None of the food there bespoke any especial quality, so I discounted it outright. It's tough when one third of your group is vegetarian, and unbudgingly so. Each restaurant at both hotels is without veggie specialty, but all would attempt to whip something up if simply asked. I decided, though, that the Floridian would perhaps best cater to her needs.

I get to the spa at 12:25, hot, sweaty and ready for the ladies to be done, because I am starving. They, however, are still in their sessions, and so I spend the next hour in the company of Tori, the desk clerk who is going though massage therapy school and a Puerto Rican girl whose name I never actually catch. She is the very definition of fiery, determined Latina, and she is talkative, opinionated and wonderful. Her husband is in getting a massage, and we spend much time castigating the macho of the male breed -- he refused, "like a whiny baby" she says, to let a man massage him -- so she finally relented and let a girl do it. We discuss manicures, pedicures, fallen arches, lumbar support, chiropractic medicine, health insurance, traffic jams, Alaskan weather and snow, fjords, glaciers, and Spanish and English as second languages. I almost hated to have it end. It was the sort of small talk session I usually despise, but somehow I really enjoyed it. And it wasn't sexually inspired in anyway because I found neither of the women sexually attractive and I am certain they wouldn't find me that way either. It was just three people having a good conversation to pass the time.

Lunch at the Floridian with Jen and Sande. A headache hits me on the way from the spa, and jumps behind my eyes once we get our table. I buy Advil on the way in to the place. A Coke washes the 600 mg of ibuprofen down. Our waiter -- Robert from SF, CA -- is effusive and pleasant. He is amused when Jen orders the Rustic Chicken Sandwich without the chicken. I say "Why didn't you just order the Rustic?" Soon, the kitchen staff will be amused by my girl's order. Sande orders the sandwich regular, while I get the Grand Sandwich -- turkey, bacon and ham, open faced with a marvelous sauce I couldn't even beginning to figure out. Also, an added bonus of shoestring onions that are amazing. It is the best food -- outside of my French onion soup at Epcot on Saturday -- that I have eaten thus far.

We head back to the cabin. I have taken too much sun, my head is splitting, and I want to lie down for a bit. Jen, too, needs a nap. We decide to relax - after all, isn't that what vacation is all about, no matter what you do? I sleep for just over an hour, take a shower, and type this while waiting for Jen to wake up. Earlier in the day, we moved our reservations for our dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge from the 5:20 to 7:20, and we will need to take an extra shuttle from the Transportation Center to get there. We will also explore the Lodge while we are there for the first time...


We are each in love. I don't think it's a matter of degrees. The Animal Kingdom Lodge is just flat-out gorgeous. There is no way that we won't be staying here sometime in the near future, barring disaster, accident or complete economic collapse. While perhaps a bit too immersed in darkness inside for it to be good for your eyes for long, the lobby is probably one of the most intricate and cool places into which I have strode here. While I loved the Victorian air of the Grand Floridian earlier today, it was like walking into a giant dollhouse, and really held no appeal -- SORRY, just saw on the news that Richard Wright from Pink Floyd died -- outside of an immediate impulse. Plus, the birdcage theme is kind of weird, and I don't really get it. Nothing to ponder regarding the Lodge. African in design and inspiration, organic in intent, the place is beautiful and mysterious. We jumped right into wandering about, and then swung outside to see the Ankole cattle and zebras. We totally got confused trying to find the Overlook to see the giraffe, and once we ended up back in the lobby instead, we laughed and decided it was time to check in at Jiko's for our dinner reservation.

And now, here is the best place to eat in the area. At least, this far into the trip. We started out with drinks, including a gin and tonic for me, which was not particularly strong, but I didn't want particularly strong in this case. I wanted to enjoy myself, not get soused. We had already decided on the Kalamata olive flatbread with the four cheeses including goat cheese before our waiter recommended it to us, so he was pleased with that choice. We also took for an appetizer the Samosas, tasty little pockets filled with potatoes and spices, and matched with a charming chutney. I wish we had more than just three, but no matter, because I had more than plenty of entree ahead of me. I got the Spice-crusted Pork Tenderloin, which held about double what I needed of the main ingredient, and teamed up with some potatoes, mushrooms and a sweet onion jus. I was surprised that they asked how I wanted my tenderloin prepared, because I thought you were supposed to cook pork straight through. Sande seemed surprised as well. I ordered medium, and sure enough, it ended up a little pink in the middle. Incredibly tasty, and if I wanted to be waddling about in pain the reminder of the night, I would have finished the meal somewhere well past the midway point where I did stop.

With the rain starting to drip down mildly upon us, and without popping out the umbrellas, we strode about for a bit trying to see some of the animals in the now descended darkness of the evening. Not much to see except many people cavorting about the pool, until we found a spot for Night Vision viewing. We never got near the goggles offered up by a hotel guide (most of the people working in the hotel are from Africa), as there was a group of children monopolizing them, but we didn't need them. I listened to the instructions of the guide, and found the area in which he was pointing out giraffes. Sure enough, once a leg moved slightly (about a hundred yards out) I had the giraffes made out for good, and could see them fairly well from then.

A very long trip back via shuttle to Downtown Disney, and then to the Outpost. I stop in the Outpost for WiFi instructions, and then am surprised to find the girls waiting for another Settlement Purple bus. The first was packed full, so I caught them just as the second pulled up. Home, some readning, and then Letterman before I crashed for the night. Tomorrow: Epcot for the day.


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