Day 4: New Year's Eve '08 Edition
Friday, January 2, 2009 (Our Last Day)

Last year this day included a mid-morning flight home and plans for a walking tour of SSR. It was freezing cold that day and we had spent it huddled in Artist's Palette looking at photos of our trip. This year, I planned a night time flight home and a visit to the Magic Kingdom resorts to see the decorations. I've long heard rumors of the gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian but never saw it. And it seemed the weather was cooperating. It actually got sunnier and warmer as the day progressed.

We began by packing up and leaving our stuff with Bell Services. Then GM caught up with me in the long breakfast line at AP. When Esther heard us debating breakfast, she started dishing it out exactly as we had decided. No need to ask us. She knows us.

When I stopped off to use the rest room, Manager Lindsay is just inside. She's another Maryland transplant who I made friends with last trip. We catch up a bit and when GM joins us he joins in. CM Jim from AP sneaks up behind GM and hops in his scooter just to tease. GM shows off his walking ability (by walking backwards and earning a chastisement from me... he keeps forgetting walking backward is what got him a broken leg in the first place). It becomes a fun meeting of familiar faces and new friends.

But we have little time to stay chatting. There is resort hopping to do.

First we hop a bus from Grandstand to Magic Kingdom. A bus manager is at her post busily working the dispatch. Seems they had a glitch that morning and no busses had shown up for a long time. By the time we got there, things had cleared up. She had been hard at work straightening the bugs.

We meet a young family from Tennessee and talk more football. And on the way off the bus, a passenger from behind stops me. I guess she's overheard enough of our conversation to realize she's heard some of it before. Turns out she's another DISer and wanted to say hi (MJFamily, right? Hi back!). I seem to be running into a bunch of them these days.

From the Magic Kingdom lot, we walk across the street to the Contemporary. It's the last leg in my hemming and hawing about the resort. See I've been wanting to add-on there for some time. I just wasn't sure it was worth it. But a trip to the 4th floor concourse, seeing the new placement of the food court there, combined with the newer subtle interior design and our previous day's tour of the model rooms have pushed me over the edge. I call Ricardo and tell him I'm greenlighting the add-on. We'll settle details when I get home. Even GM, who hasn't been so keen on the place, softens when he sees the food court. it won't be a large add-on. Just enough for 3 days in a studio, but a nice addition to our portfolio.



Inside the Contemporary we also discover the first of our gingerbread sculptures. It's Gepetto's toy shop all decorated for Christmas with roaring fire and stockings hung overhead.


 We pop outside to see the construction progress and take pictures from the overlook. Then we hop the monorail to the Polynesian.

Inside the Poly we find another gingerbread house. This one of the royal palace. We've missed the Christmas tree however. A CM tells us it disappeared overnight.

Then we stroll the walkway along the beach to the Wedding Pavilion and the Grand Floridian. The sun gets warmer and reaches a pleasant mid-70's. The one thing I had been regretting all trip was not making dining reservations. Counter Service food was nice but one whiff of the fried chicken dinners at 50's Primetime Cafe and I never stopped salivating. So I thought perhaps we could stop off for a high tea the day we left.


We had to be back at SSR by 6pm to catch our Magical Express. I gave us until 4:30 to resort tour before finding transportation back to SSR. At 3pm, the Garden View Tea Room had a spot just for us. And it was right next to the windows overlooking the garden. Three Grand Teas with champagne, duck patte and a selection of sandwiches and we had a perfect close to our trip.

Oh and that Gingerbread House I've been waiting to see at the Grand Floridian. It is truly all that it's cracked up to be. Before you see this small playhouse sized creation you can smell it. Across the lobby, even catching a whiff through the automatic sliding doors to the terrace. And it was also celebrating it's 10th Anniversary of creation. Here's a few pictures of the grandest gingerbread house I've ever seen:


We made it back in plenty of time to catch our bus. Southwest was a bit backed up at the ticket counter but probably the only hassle we had was at Security. Unlike in October, they were shorthanded at the wheelchair line. One guy trying to vet two wheelie occupants and sending our stuff through the regular Xray queue with everyone else's. I lost sight of my prescription sunglasses and case and never saw them again. (Fortunately Lost & Found recovered them once I got home and is sending it to me.)

We departed Orlando at 9:15pm and arrived in Baltimore just after 11pm. As expected it was a chilly 37 degrees.

It was a nice little respite from the Holiday buzz and pre-winter blues. Now we have the football post-season to keep us busy and some Rosetta Stone Spanish to learn. Writing this on Sunday night, I'm happy to report our Ravens survived their first post-season challenge. Poor Miami. We even had a nice party of Ravens fans join us to watch the game. But we'd most like a return trip to Tampa next month.

And to all the friends we met, new and old, be safe, enjoy your travels and may we meet again very soon. "Y?" "Because we like you."