Food & Wine Festival – Epcot

This year the Food & Wine Festival runs through to Monday 14 November.  Over the years the festival has been expanded and now features additional ‘happenings’ including Beverage Seminars, What’s Cookin’ with, Mix it, Make it, Celebrate it, Cheese seminar and Culinary Demonstrations in the Festival Centre plus Festival Dining Events in the World Showcase.

I think the majority of visitors attend to stroll around the world sampling the festival exclusive foods and wine.  There are an additional 38 marketplace stands as well as the usual eateries.  This year features 5 new marketplace stands including the Chocolate Studio and the Islands of the Caribbean – where we got a rather nice frozen mojito!

We also enjoy the Eat to the Beat series of concerts and have been lucky enough to catch Chaka Khan and Boyz II Men.

The only downside if there is any is that you may find your waistline increases and your spending money decreases – as there are a lot of tasty temptations along the way.

One of our favourite annual Disney events – we definitely recommend it

2 girls, 1 week in a holiday villa in Orlando – Disney Springs

On our last full vacation day, we headed to Disney Springs to check out the changes.

We parked in the multi-storey Orange car park – undercover so keeping the car cooler for our return, lots of spaces and good location into Disney Springs by the bowling at Splitsville and the new Coca Cola World.

Starting our visit on the terrace of Coca Cola World (3 storeys of Coke branded products) we took in the view and got our bearings.

We made our way through the new undercover shopping arcade – to the outside stores.  What an absolutely fabulous setting, fountains, palm trees with pristine shop fronts.  We had a quick browse in Kate Spade before making our way to The Boathouse for our lunch reservation.

Lunch at the Boathouse was everything we had hoped for – great service, good quality food, nice selection and the crafted cocktails were the best!

After lunch we made our way to the Disney and Lego stores before going back to the new stores including Under Armour, Sephora, Zara and Ugg.

Taking a mid afternoon break, we went to Sprinkles for a cupcake desert.  I had been looking forward to trying the cupcake ATM out, however, it was out of order.  We went in and order a cupcake sundae – a cupcake cut in half with a scoop of ice-cream in the middle. For us, the product didn’t live up to the hype – I’m not sure we would return – particularly as there is Ghirardelli which serves amazing ice creams.

All shopped out and appetites well and truly satisfied we headed home, just ahead of a very  nasty storm!

2 girls, 1 holiday villa in Orlando, on a road trip!

We thought we’d have a change of scenery and with easy images coming to mind of cocktail drinking on fine white sand beaches we headed over to Sarasota on the Gulf coast.

Just 1 hr 40mins  along the I4 and I75 and we arrived at our destination – the Hyatt Regency.  We were able to check in early and then set off walking to funderstand somewhere nice to have lunch.   It was hot, the traffic heavy and noisy with a lot of construction.  After going round in a circle with sidewalks closed, our enthusiasm was fraying so we headed into the Ritz Calton to lunch as Jack Dusty’s overlooking the marina.  A mojito and lunch later we felt better.

Unfortunately we heard that all the beaches along the Sarasota area were affected by Red Tide which is an algae that kills fish and affects humans breathing – it also stinks.  The beaches are littered with dead fish.  With this in mind we headed off to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens instead.

What a haven, not massive but absolutely beautifully maintained with lots of interesting gardens and play areas – greenhouses, waterfalls, tree hugging, mangroves and wildlife – we while away a couple of hours.

Then buoyed up we decided to risk it and head over to the shops, bars and restaurants of St Armands Circle.  When we gor there we couldnt smell the red tide (although I was a little wheezy) and free parking was abundant.   Reminding us a bit of Winter Park but in a circle with statues we had a little stroll and browse before heading back to the hotel.

We ended the day with room service and sitting out on the balcony looking back across the marina towards Jack Dusty’s.

Winter Park – Orlando

Taking Exit 87 off the I4 and head along Fairbanks Avenue to the Orlando suburb Winter Park.  It has some excellent independent shops as well as some chains, nice bars and some wonderful restaurants.  Add to that some museums and an entertaining boat ride and you have a good half/full day of fun away from the Theme Parks.

Heading along Park Avenue you will see plenty of shops, trendy wine bars and restaurants.  Some of our favourite stops include Alex and Ani – which is an American brand jewellery store which specialises in eco-friendly handcrafted expandable bangles, chain necklaces & rings, Peterbrooke Chocolatier and the Ancient Olive.  My partner also likes to visit Performance Bicycle which is actually over by the Winter Park Village shops.

Restaurant wise we have tried a few a couple of favourites being Luma on Park, Park Plaza Gardens and Prato (best pizza in Orlando?).

Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour will show you the wealthiest sections of Winter Park – running since 1938 it’s part nature tour and part local history lesson – always entertaining.  It can get very hot so make sure you bring a hat and some water.  It departs from Morse Street which is about 15 mins walk from Park Avenue.

On Saturday mornings the Winter Park Farmers’ Market is more of a social gathering than a serious farmers market with dirty vegetables!  Good fun though and worth a visit it does sell vegetables as well as potted plants, preserves, baked goods and fast food.

Happy Canada Day – Epcot

A few years ago we were at Epcot on Canada Day – it was wonderful to see all the Canadians celebrating their day – they were going around the World Showcase testing all the different beverages – it was all in good nature and was fun to see.

Canada in Epcot is very well staged.  It has O Canada a Circle Vision 360 film which lasts 14 minutes – once seen is enough – but it can be a nice break from the sun/heat!  Canada also has beautiful gardens – the Victoria Gardens which are based on the world famous Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island and Rocky Mountain staging plus a beautiful steakhouse called Le Cellier.

Le Cellier is one of the more expensive restaurants in Epcot and if you want to dine there you are well advised to book in advance (you can book up to 180 days in advance) as on the day bookings in peak holiday season are rarely available.  Offering great steaks, prime rib, seafood, chicken and some vegetarian dishes.  The cocktails, wines and beer are also very good.

There is also a resident band in Canada called Off Kilter – it is a rock/bagpipe band – that plays up to 5 times a day with their CDs also available in the Northwest Mercantile.