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

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota

Situated at 900 S.Palm Avenue, Sarasota, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens are a little oasis very close to downtown.

William and Marie Selby moved to Sarasota in the early 1920s.  Marie loved nature and wanted to keep Sarasota beautiful and green.  When she died in 1971 she bequeathed her home and property to the community with the aim of forming a botanical garden and just 2 years later Selby Gardens were founded and opened to the public in July 1975.

We entered through the Welcome Centre, purchasing our admission.  From here we went into the Tropical Conservatory which was awash with many varied and beautiful orchids.  We went on to the Bonsai Exhibit – all labelled with when they were born! and then onto the Cycad Display.  Following the path we saw the Fern Garden and stopped to admire the Koi – with the buddhas and the Japanese bell.  We passed the Bamboo Garden and then onto Banyan Grove which was one of my favourites – the roots of the Banyan tree are absolutely huge, beautiful and fascinating.  We both hugged the hugging tree and explored the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden which had lots of colourful animal sculptures, bridges and steps, waterfall – great fun for all with an adult swing seat to sit in while watching the children play.

From here we continued along the short circular pathway, admiring the Desert garden, on to the Gazebo and then along to the Baywalk which hosted another large buddha and had lovely views across the Bay to Sarasota and Armand.  In the Mangroves we saw several birds including Pelican, Osprey and a Belted Kingfisher.  We rejoined the pathway and passed the palm and then on to the Payne Mansion where there was an exhibit of old botanical books and paintings plus living plants in jars which are used for research purposes.

We saw the display gardens – although it wasn’t really the right time of year to fully appreciate the Butterfly Garden.

A couple of hours soon passed by in a leisurely relaxed way.  There is a little shop selling garden themed items and plants.  There is also a little cafe for coffee and cake.

At just $20 entry for an adult we would highly recommend it.  For more info go to Marie Selby

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!