Monday, 30 September 2013

Disney's Old Key West Resort

Old Key West is beautiful. It's a deluxe Disney resort in the Downtown Disney area, and it covers a bigger area than any other Disney resort. Old Key West is Disney's recreation of the Conch Flats in the Florida Keys, and it's one of the most relaxing and striking places I've ever had the pleasure of staying in.

We arrived in Old Key West after a long flight, a delay at baggage claim and a bus trip in the rain on Disney's Magical Express, so we were very relieved to have a quick and easy check-in experience in the pristine lobby.

The staff were all friendly and informative, but I'd expect nothing less in a Disney resort. All the best customer service experiences I've had by far have been in Disney World! We were directed to our block of 'flats', or Vacation Homes as they're called in Old Key West, and I had a lovely Disney welcome...

Such a nice touch!

I'd read a lot of complaints about the rooms in Old Key West before we went on holiday as people thought they were dated and shabby. What planet were these people living on? The rooms are immaculate, spacious and even have a little kitchenette in each one. What more could you possibly want for a holiday where you don't even spend much time in your room? The view from the balcony was absolutely beautiful... I'm still missing it! A lot of people would complain about being on the second floor because they needed to climb some stairs, but I was very grateful for the lovely view and the peace and quiet.

Our block was only five minutes away from the Hospitality House, which is the central hub at Old Key West. The Hospitality House consists of the lobby, gift shop, main bus stop for the resort, Olivia's restaurant, Good's Food To Go, the bar and the entrance to the main resort pool. Although I had a lovely breakfast and dinner at Olivia's, my favourite food from Old Key West had to be these amazing onion rings from Good's Food To Go. These were no ordinary onion rings, believe me!

What more could you possibly want for lunch?

Olivia's restaurant

The iconic lighthouse and the main resort pool

We stayed in Disney's Coronado Springs resort last year, in the Animal Kingdom resort area. Although I loved Coronado, I felt as though Old Key West was even more 'Disney'. There were little Mickeys everywhere and in the most unexpected places, and the whole atmosphere was relaxed and 'magical'... typically Disney! There were a lot of small children staying here with their parents so the resort had a real family-friendly feel about it, yet it was still extremely tranquil. 

Our block of Vacation Homes

Little Mickeys on the balcony!

We didn't actually go the main resort pool as we had a little quiet pool just around the corner from our block. As Old Key West is so sprawling, there are a few quiet pools situated around the resort so that people don't need to walk for fifteen minutes to get to the main pool. Although we only went to the quiet pool once as we were so busy, it was a lovely setting and was actually quiet. There was also a hot tub next to the pool which was strangely relaxing, even though the humid climate begs to differ!

I loved the way staff members said 'Welcome home' every time you set foot in the resort after being out for the day. Yet another nice touch which you probably wouldn't get anywhere outside of Disney. The staff in Olivia's, the bar, Good's Food To Go, the gift shop and the luggage attendants were all equally friendly and welcoming, which added to the beauty and serenity of the resort. How many times has a nice hotel experience been ruined for you because the staff were rude? It wouldn't happen in Disney!

You even get a nice welcome when driving in to the resort!

One of the best thing about staying in a Disney resort has to be the Disney transportation system. If you're a Disney resort guest, you can catch a free bus to any of the Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach) and to Downtown Disney. All day, every day! You can then catch a bus back to your resort from the parks whenever you feel like it. Old Key West is massive so the buses did take a while to travel around the whole resort, but I'd much prefer to be sitting on a free bus than trying to negotiate the Disney park car parks.

As Old Key West is in the Downtown Disney resort area, you can also catch a boat to Downtown Disney if you fancy a break from the buses. We caught the boat once during our stay and it was a lovely experience... a short boat trip is always going to a bit nicer than a bus ride!

I don't think I could ever praise Old Key West enough, but hopefully I've given you a flavour for what a fantastic place it is. I'll leave you with some more images from the resort... it really speaks for itself!

Has anyone else visited Disney's Old Key West Resort? I'd love to hear about your experiences!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

My Disney engagement!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I recently got engaged in Florida. Although I briefly described the proposal and the aftermath in my previous blog post, I thought I'd write an entire blog post on the engagement as it was such a special and exciting occasion. Also, it's not something that happens every day! Hopefully not, anyway...

Neil and I had been vaguely talking about getting married for a while, but I had no idea that he'd propose while we were in Florida. He'd successfully put me off the scent, so I thought he'd be asking nearer to Christmas or even next year. I also didn't think he'd had any opportunities to buy the engagement ring or to speak to my parents, so I'd definitely decided that it wouldn't be happening while we were on holiday.

We went to the Magic Kingdom on our first day in Florida, which was something we'd planned to do since we booked the holiday nearly a year ago. It's my favourite of all the Disney parks and the atmosphere is just amazing. It's a great place to start your Disney holiday as it just epitomises everything everyone loves about Disney. It also contains the spectacular fairytale castle! I'll be writing a separate blog post on the many merits of the Magic Kingdom, but let it be known that it's probably my favourite place in the whole world.

We had a great morning at the park and blitzed all the most popular rides fairly early on. Space Mountain was amazing as always... probably one of my favourite rides in Disney World. I loved the Dumbo ride and Splash Mountain is always a lot of fun, even if you do get a bit wet. I would probably have been slightly more concerned on these rides if I'd known that Neil was secretly carrying such precious cargo in his pocket!

Splash Mountain...

We had lunch reservations at the Plaza restaurant for 1pm so decided to take a break from rides at around 12:15. Neil suggested that we sat down in the little pavilion in the Plaza Rose Garden, near Cinderella's Castle. My feet were tired by this point (Disney parks are massive!) so I was happy to have a break. The rose garden is a very pretty area and is always quiet as it isn't on the main pathway. We had the pavilion all to ourselves, apart from a few inquisitive ducks!

We sat down and started chatting about how good the day had been so far. I still had no idea what was coming! I was mostly too busy thinking about what I was going to eat at the Plaza. I'm sure you can all guess what happened next by now... Neil got down on one knee, asked me to marry him and presented me with this very beautiful ring!

My initial response in my head was 'Are you serious?' as I was so surprised. Luckily, this isn't the response that came out of my mouth. I obviously said 'yes', in a very shaky and quiet voice. My voice is quiet at the best of times, so I'm amazed he even heard me. I then phoned my parents to tell them the good news, even though they already knew it was coming as Neil had been to see them a few weeks ago. It was a very well kept secret!

After all the excitement, we went to the Plaza for lunch where I had a burger and the most amazing New York strawberry cheesecake. You've just got to have a big burger on your first day in America.

After going on a few more rides, we made our way back to Old Key West at around 4pm when it started to rain. There was another surprise waiting for me back at the resort... a Disney engagement gift set! Neil had ordered the set a few weeks ago and had arranged for it to be delivered to the resort in time for our return on the first day. The gift set included Mickey and Minnie teddies in wedding outfits, a lovely framed photo and personalised greeting from Mickey and Minnie, personalised bridal ears with a veil and tiara, a Mickey chocolate box, Lindt chocolates and a bunch of amazing flowers. As Neil said, he couldn't have chickened out of proposing on the first day as the gift set would have been a bit of a giveaway...

So I was massively surprised for the second time in a few hours! It was such a nice way to follow up the proposal, and something I definitely didn't expect. It also made the engagement even more Disney-esque! 

You can probably expect a few blog posts on wedding planning in the next few months, but I need to write a few more blog posts on the holiday first... keep checking back to see which aspect I cover next!

Has anyone else got any lovely engagement stories to share? Send me some links!

Monday, 23 September 2013

I'm back! With some news...

I'm back from Florida! This holiday was my most eagerly anticipated holiday yet...  you'll already know this if you were following my Frantic about Florida posts. You'll all be pleased to know that it definitely didn't disappoint. This was my second visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando and I can confirm that I want to visit another 164 times during my lifetime. I could never ever get tired of it!

We stayed in Disney's Old Key West Resort, which is in the Downtown Disney area. The resort is beautiful and peaceful, sprawling across a massive piece of land. Just like everything else in Disney World, everything is immaculate and the service is always spectacular. I'll be writing a separate blog post on the resort, but here's an image to give you a vague idea!

So what was my main highlight?

There are always going to be masses of highlights in such an amazing place so here's a quick snapshot:

Space Mountain, meeting Duffy the Disney Bear, my four Ghirardelli's sundaes, Portobello, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, feeding a giraffe, Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain, the Cheesecake Factory, the Magic Kingdom night show, the World Showcase, Sea World's dolphin show...
However, one special event stands out above all the others. I'll give you a clue...

Can you guess?

Neil proposed on the first day of the holiday at the Magic Kingdom (probably my favourite place in the whole world), and I said yes! As his father said, it would have been a very quiet holiday if I'd said no. I'll be writing a more detailed blog post on the engagement in the next week or so, but here are a few photos to whet your appetites! 

The venue...

The gifts...

And more gifts!

So as you can probably guess, I'm a very happy lady at the moment! I also have a wedding to plan... I've obviously already bought my wedding planner. 

I'll be writing a few more posts about Florida during the next few weeks so keep an eye on the blog. Posts will include the engagement, Disney's Old Key West Resort, the various theme parks, the food and the shopping! I'll probably still be blogging about this holiday in December. 

Have a magical day!

(I wish people actually said that to me every day rather than just when I'm in Disney World.)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Idyllic Images #13

Beautiful congratulatory flowers from Edwina 
as a result of passing my marketing course :)

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Thursday, 5 September 2013

I love packing... no really, I do!

I love packing, mostly because it enables me to write lists and to be super organised. I've already blogged about my packing method so I won't go in to detail, but just thought I'd post a few photos from my packing fun ready for Florida! I always start packing two or three weeks before I go on holiday to make sure I've got everything sorted in time. I am a massive stress head so I could never leave it until the last minute. 

Here are a few photos from my meticulous packing process...

I have a lot of flowery clothes, apparently.

And a lot of flip flops and bags...

Minnie Mouse poncho and shower cap!

Most important items in my hand luggage... apart from passport and money. 
They're not exciting so I didn't photograph those!

Does anyone else love packing? I can't be the only one, surely?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Frantic about Florida #10

This is the final instalment of my Frantic about Florida series as I'm off on holiday very soon! However, I'll be publishing a few blog posts on my favourite locations and restaurants when I get back so you haven't quite heard the last of Florida yet.

Here are the links to the rest of the posts in the series if you want to have a look:

Frantic about Florida #1
Frantic about Florida #2
Frantic about Florida #3
Frantic about Florida #4
Frantic about Florida #5
Frantic about Florida #6
Frantic about Florida #7
Frantic about Florida #8
Frantic about Florida #9

So here goes... here are the last five things I'm looking forward to!

1. Cinderella's castle in the Magic Kingdom

An amazing spectacle. 

2. Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney

Lovely food and cocktails, and fantastic authentic interior!

3. Flight of the Hippogriff in Universal's Islands of Adventure

Nice simple ride with a great view of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade

4. Kangaroos in Busch Gardens

Most docile animals ever!

5. Manta in Sea World

Fantastic ride... actually feels like you're flying. Scary but exhilarating! 

So it's time to conclude my Frantic about Florida series... hopefully you've all enjoyed it as much as I have. You probably didn't enjoy them quite as much as I did though, let's be honest here. More Florida posts to follow in a few weeks! 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Restaurant review: Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is the newest restaurant in the St David's 2 food court, so obviously we had to try it. We've walked past and looked at the menu on a few occasions but have always chosen somewhere else at the last minute. However, we decided to pay a visit last weekend as we were looking for somewhere healthy to eat and Mount Fuji is probably the healthiest option in the food court.

Mount Fuji always looks very quiet which isn't necessarily a good sign, but at least it means you get seated and seen to straight away. The menu is fairly limited compared to other Japanese restaurants I've been to (like Tenkaichi on City Road), but there were still a few options I could have gone for. We chose Chicken Teriyaki for our starter, and I went for the Yakiniku (beef) stir fry for my main course. Those aren't the exact names for the dishes... I didn't write them down and there's no menu available online to find out the authentic names!

Chicken Teriyaki

The chicken teriyaki was extremely tasty and I couldn't fault it at all. The chicken was very tender and the breadcumb coating was amazing. The sauce itself was lovely too, and it was a massive portion. I'm very glad we ordered one portion between the two of us! I must admit that I didn't eat many of the lettuce leaves... why waste valuable stomach space with lettuce when you can eat real food?

This is actually Neil's pork stir fry... the waitress got them mixed up 
and I took the photograph before we realised!

My main course was delicious too, although it didn't score quite as highly as the starter did. Although it was very tasty, everything was cooked to perfection and the portion size was just right, the beef wasn't quite as good as the beef I've had in Tenkaichi. It was slightly too chewy for my liking, but that might have been their intention. I've just been spoilt by my frequent visits to Tenkaichi and their amazing Yakiniku! 

This meal was very reasonable at approximately £22 for two main meals and a massive starter, and I would definitely visit again. The staff were very friendly and there was a nice general vibe in the restaurant. Has anyone else been to Mount Fuji yet? What did you think?