Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 May--vacation to the Sunshine State

Day 1 in Orlando, May 17:

We were up bright and early for our 8:40 non-stop flight for Orlando. Our take off was delayed when the tow bar wouldn't come loose. Finally they got it off and we didn't have to be towed all the way to Orlando.

We arrived in Orlando about 1pm eastern time and picked up our Budget rental car (a Chevy Impala---pretty nice car!). It was pretty nice weatherwise at that time---blue skies and lots of puffy clouds, but soon a cold front moved in and the deluge started.

We got to Orange Lake Country Club too early to check in, but we were able to pick our unit---3rd one was the charm (1st was unrenovated, the 2nd was in a highrise, 3rd was a beautiful renovated golf villa in the West Village). We killed time until we could check in by running over to the brand new Target.

By then the rains had started and has pretty much looked like this since!

About 6 we headed to the OLCC reception "party" where they had some raffle drawings and free snacks (nachos and veggies and dips) and drinks. It was a fast "party" since they wanted to get out of the rain.

For dinner we headed to Giordano's---home of the world famous Chicago stuffed pizza:
The place was busy, service was slow for 8pm at night, but the pizza was great. We didn't actually get the stuffed pizza, though, we got the "thin", which is still thicker then most thick pizzas in St. Louis.

That pretty much took care of day 1.

May 18, Day 2:

Awoke to more rain and temps in the 60s. Since there were no golfers to watch, we watched tractors running around the golf course in the rain.

Also marveled at all the agapanthus growing all over the resort.

Since it kept raining, we decided to go shopping and headed to the Prime Outlet Mall. I offered to let Ken stay at the villa, but he chose to go. Guess he wanted to make sure I didn't go too wild.
After that we decided we might as well go swimming in the rain. I was very disappointed to find that they've closed the West village jacuzzi and stage pool for renovations, so we decided to check out the North Village pool and jacuzzi ---only to find they don't have a jacuzzi there. So we headed to the East Village and hung out there for a couple hours.

On the way back to the villa, we saw this guy in one of the resort ponds. I don't recall ever seeing a flamingo outside of a zoo!

Here are a few of the resident birds in that pond.

For dinner we decided on a bar b q place named Westgate Smokehouse Grill. Wish I had my camera with me then! Ken ordered the combo dinner which came on a platter larger then any serving platter I have at home! It had a 1/2 slab of ribs, 1/4 white chicken, about 1/2 lb of pulled pork, a large piece of skirt steak(sort of like round steak), ear of corn on the cob, bowl of baked beans, mashed potatoes, bowl of slaw---not to mention the salad and rolls and corn bread that came before that. I got the baked potato and skirt steak and brought half of it back to the villa. Needless to say, Ken brought half of his dinner home, too. It was excellent and a great deal at about $32 (including 25% off for a coupon we found).

Day 3, May 19: Iron Chef of OLCC!

The deluge continued today. The news said about 5 inches of rain has fallen here in Orlando so far. Even had pretty hard spells today. So, what do you do when it rains all day on vacation? We started by doing the 1 hours "owners" presentation for the new Holiday Inn points system they're trying to convert all the owners to. Of course, their hour really equals 3 hours, but we didn't have anything else to do so let them talk to us and cart us around the resort for awhile. Then we got our $40 in OLCC gift certificates . With cookies and doughnuts from the tour being our breakfast, we were ready to head off to another pool. Today we went to the River Island complex. It was only about 68 degrees for the high today, so we didn't have to share the pool complex with many others. We hung out there for about 2 hours, then came back to the villa to get ready for the Iron Chef competition.

It cost $15@ to attend the Iron Chef competition, but it was raining so we figured, why not. Turned out to be the best $30 we've spent so far. Along with the competition, between 2 high ranking chefs of Orange Lake, there was a wine tasting (all the wine you want), plus appetisers of cheese, veggies, dip and hot wings. They also chose a helper for each chef and 3 judges. Here is one of the chef helpers flambaying for the audience. Turns out she had just graduated culinary school in Canada. She obviously knew what she was doing---even came up with the winning presentation for the appetisers.

Yep, I was picked as one of the 3 judges. That turned out to be really neat. The announcer was hilarious and made the 45 minutes contest time go by really fast. The plates in front of us in this picture were the Original Iron Chefs concoctions. The surprise ingredient was lobster. His appetiser was chunks of lobster over asparagus and covered with a fantastic butter/wine/garlic sauce. His entre was loster lomaine with a vinegar/honey/soy sauce/garlic/salt/pepper/.... sauce. Also had mushrooms and red and green peppers in it. Loved the noodles!

The other chef (Viet) had this great presentation for his entre---lobster in lobster with a cream sauce and garnish on top over fried ginger infused potatoes. His ginger potatoes were amazing! I wasn't too thrilled with his appetiser---a sweet and sour lobster. The sauce was made with catsup/vinegar/honey/pineapple/???/ .

In the end, the original iron chef won by 4 points. I had him winning by 1 point. AFter we tasted our dishes, a waitress placed the remainder of our dishes on a table behind us. I let Ken eat the rest of my 4 dishes. I came out of there feeling dinner was served! Even Ken liked it.

That's it for today. Now to go watch the pouring rain some more.

WEd. May 20: Blue skies!!!

That was just a tease!!! By the time we had breakfast and headed to the pool, lightening started. So we sat by the pool for a little while in the sun, but with lightening all about. When we decided it wasn't going to blow over, we headed back to the villa.

Didn't take long for the skies to open up again and we had heavy rain and continuous thunderstorms the rest of the day and night. The news here keeps talking about all the flooding now and how the rainfall amounts for the last 4 days are record breakers for those days. Aren't we lucky!?!

We tried to take a casino cruise excursion tonight, but the storm cancelled it.
So we settled for dinner at Logan's which was very good then came back to the villa and watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs on ESPN.

Thursday, May 21:

Rain stats are up to about 8 inches here in Orlando. Only got about an inch today, but it was mostly in the early morning and late night. The day was cloudy, but dry. So we spent about 3 hours in the pools this afternoon. Actually got a bit sunburnt---not sure how, though, since there really wasn't a lot of sunshine today. We tried to do another resort activity---the not so Newlywed Game, but the resort staff never showed up.

We spent the evening in the resort sports bar watching the Cardinals beat the Cubs again.

Friday, May 22:

It looked as though we might have another relatively dry day today, so we decided to play tourist and head to Bok Tower about an hour away from Kissimmee. We hit rain along the way, but it stopped for a short while when we got there. It is set in a really nice gardens. Bok Tower Gardens is 250 acres of botanical gardens with the carillon tower being the feature. The tower was built in 1927-28 to house the carillon (bells) and for the private use of the Bok family. The garden was developed as a bird sanctuary. The tower is now a National Historic Landmark.

At about 300 feet high, the grounds of the garden are the highest measured elevation in Florida. Of course, a thunderstorm rolled in shortly after we got there and unlike these ladies, we were without umbrellas. So we were stuck in rain shelters within the gardens a couple times.
When the rains finally quit, we continued through the gardens. Ken even tried feeding a couple swans.

It was a great place to see some flora and fauna of Florida.
Here is one of the colorful ducks in the "window on the pond" area.
On the way out, I got a kick out of seeing trailers full of oranges.
Now we're heading to the Sports Bar again.
Foiled again, they say they can't get the Cardinal game tonight.
Saturday, May 23:
Last day---we're throwing in the umbrella! If only we had one to throw! We actually did see a little sun today, even though it was mostly cloudy. We spent about 3 hours at the pool. When we were out for dinner, we got caught in the rain again. Probably got an inch of rain just going from the restuarant to our car. I wouldn't actually call it rain----it was more like a waterfall! So ends our vacation.