Monday, August 20, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

     Once upon a time in a land far away...well, okay it was about 25 miles away from where I sit now...a very young couple was married. The year was 1947, she was 18 and he was 20, and they were very much in love and beginning a new adventure. The adventure would take them to several homes, jobs, joys and problems and bless them with 2 daughters, 6 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

     On their 50th wedding anniversary, the did what was unusual for most, but typical for them. They treated their family to a few days at a beach house in Vero Beach, Florida. It was surprise when the printed invitations arrived in the mail months ahead of the trip. It was a surprise when they presented my sister and I with a gift for their wedding anniversary and it was a wild, crazy trip. I'd love to tell you that it all went perfectly, but it didn't. The youngest, my niece was a year old and never stopped screaming. My sister was stressed about it and it showed. I was angry at her for being so stressed out and the weather wouldn't work with us at all. We had a family picture taken in rain and terrible wind that made us all look like ghosts in the white shorts and t-shirts my mom made us all wear. The kids were 15, 14, 13, 12, 9 and 1. You can imagine the chaos and craziness, and yet we all look back on that trip and smile now. It was fun even if it was crazy. It created memories, funny stories and while it wasn't as blissful as my mom planned, she loved having all her "chicks" together. She always said we would do it again on their 65th anniversary.

     As my loyal readers know, my mom died 2 years ago just days before their 63rd wedding anniversary. Many things have changed since she died, in truth, everything has changed. However, my dad still wanted to take the trip that they planned for all of us and this was the year we returned to Vero Beach. We opted to stay at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa rather than the resort where we stayed 15 years ago. Our kids no longer were of an age to all sleep all over the place and we could have two, 2-bedroom suites and make it work. We were missing 3 of the grandchildren, who couldn't get away from work, but my niece blessed us with a new son-in-law in the family. This trip was very different than 15 years ago. The weather was perfect. I think we got a fairly good picture (I don't have my copy yet) and we had a great time being together at such an amazing hotel.

Dad's bedroom

     My husband and I were the first to arrive and from the minute we pulled up, we were treated like royalty. Check-in was easy and within the first 24 hours we were being greeted by name when we walked in and out of the hotel. My husband, daughter and my dad shared one of the suites. The staff knew why we were there and within the first hour the concierge came to room to greet us and brought my dad a bottle of wine, a cheese and fruit platter and a lovely card. I thought it was so thoughtful because an anniversary celebration without mom was truly bittersweet for him.

Living room, fold-out sofa for my daughter, wet-bar.

     We were impressed when we first saw the hotel and entering our suites we were thrilled. The gentleman who brought up the bags was more than helpful. He told us about area shops, the best restaurants and arranged for us to have an extra mini-frig in the room. 

Our bedroom

Large bath, walk in shower and soaker tub

Look at the robes!

The view from our balcony

     I had to take a picture of the morning coffee service for all the bloggers reading this. I loved the way they labeled the cream, milk etc. How cute is that? They also had complinmentary water with oranges in it in both the lobby and at the pool. In the afternoon they would put out freshly baked cookies and at 5, wine, rum punch and an appetizer.

     The private beach was perfect. It was the first vacation I've had in a long time that we spent hours sitting on the beach and by the pool. Waiters appeared frequently to take drink orders, the restaurant at the pool had great food and snacks and the sun was shining all week. Perfect! The guys spent some time golfing and we had some girl time sipping cold drinks and catching up with our feet in the sand.

     The White Orchid Spa is part of the Vero Beach Hotel. I don't normally allow myself such a luxury, but my sister insisted we were getting massages and she informed me of what time I was going. Bliss. I didn't take any pictures inside the spa, but it was beautiful and so peaceful. My sister and my youngest niece (the one who cried the entire trip 15 years ago) each had wonderful massages. I also came home with one of the candles they had burning in the spa. It smells better than any I've ever had and makes my house smell amazing even when it isn't burning. It is Soy Delicious, Island Mango. If you can find it somewhere, buy it!

The pool area.

The water side of the hotel.

The firepit.

Outdoor Dining at Cobalt.

     We had two meals at the hotel's main restaurant, Cobalt. We had one dinner and one breakfast and both were excellent. We had snacks and the Sunday BBQ at the pool restaurant, Heaton's Bar and Grill. Again, the food was delicious. We also ate at a few other delicious places while in Vero Beach and I'll share some food pictures in a later post.

We also celebrated my dad's birthday at dinner one night.


     We spent our days in the sun and our evenings, eating, visiting and watching old home movies. My dad was playing in the ocean on a boogie board the way he did when we were kids! It was fun, sun and family. The Vero Beach Hotel and Spa is my new favorite place. In fact I'm trying to figure out how to spend a couple of days there when we are in Orlando in December. It is truly hotel perfection...and I'm very picky.

     My dad made a toast to my mom and while it breaks my heart that she didn't get to be there with us, I have no doubt she was there in spirit. I think she would be proud of all of us for following through with her dream of this trip and of the way we have only tightened our family bonds without her. Cheers mom! You taught us well!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cars, Lion King...Bring on the Kids!

     I told you in my last post about our stay at Disney's Art of Animation Resort in the Finding Nemo section. You can read about it here. I promised I would share pictures of the other two parts of the resort that are open (Little Mermaid opens in September). The pictures will speak for themselves, but I wanted to add a few bits of information. The Cars buildings have their own pool, smaller (and quieter) than the large pool of the resort that is outside of the Finding Nemo building. My pictures of the Lion King were taken prior to the opening last week and you will see that it isn't finished when I took the pictures. There is no separate pool for these buildings, but the large pool is very close. They do have a play area for kids. Both areas are family suites with 2 bathrooms and can sleep 6.

Lion King


The game room that is in the main building with the gift shop.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where Have I Been?

     You know the song lyrics, "I've been everywhere, man. I've been everywhere, man. Crossed the desert's bare, man. I've breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I've had my share, man. I've been everywhere". Well, I haven't been everywhere...but it sort of feels as if I have been.

      I have been really excited to share the pictures of one of our stops. This resort is very near and dear to my heart because my daughter is on the opening team and has been involved from the very beginning, every step of the way. She and her team members have been in everything from business wear to hard hats and work boots. They have worked long hours, given up vacations and days off and are exhausted. They have also bonded in ways that they can't explain, laughed, cried and they take such pride in the new Disney Art of Animation Resort. It is the experience of a lifetime for my daughter and we have loved listening to her talk about the details. When we decided to visit her we knew we had to stay a few nights at "her resort" and we loved every minute of meeting her friends/co-workers and seeing the results of all their hard work.

      Currently, you can stay in family suites in the Finding Nemo, Cars and as of last week, The Lion King sections of the resort. They are working to finish The Little Mermaid, which will have standard guest rooms. We stayed in Finding Nemo, because I love anything water related and I love the movie!

     The first thing you notice when you enter the lobby of the resort is COLOR! Everywhere. My pictures simply don't do it justice. This resort is considered a Value Resort, but believe me...the detail and thought that went into the planning of this resort makes it feel anything but. We have stayed at the most expensive Disney resorts and some of the moderately priced and I was still very impressed. In fact, I felt like a kid again as I was experiencing something new!

This chandelier has actual animation sketches attached to it.

I loved the "paint" theme of the gift shop.

     There is a large food court with sitting areas divided by themed lighting and paintings. This is The Lion King area. The food was interesting and everything we had was delicious. They had everything from Mediterranean food to create your own pasta, burgers and salads. The gelato and pastry area had delicious desserts and breakfast was excellent. Remember if you are going to Disney to purchase one of the refillable mugs, you will more than get your money back.

     One of my favorite meals, the Surf and Surf sandwich. A perfectly made crab cake topped with fried shrimp and sauce. No calories here!

     The resort is designed to make you feel as if you are part of the scene. Everything is oversized and you do actually get the feeling of  "swimming" among the creatures. This is the outside of our Finding Nemo Building.

Note the size of the sea creatures.

     The view of the pool from our room. The pool is the largest at a Disney resort and while it isn't deep, it is pleasant for adults and wonderful for kids with the showering jellyfish and water play area. I'm not sure you can tell from my pictures, but even the trees and plants are designed for each area. The palm trees are slightly bent and the plants all look as if they are the kind you would see under water. The landscaping is entirely different surrounding each themed area.

     The rooms are so much fun. They sleep six people. I will say that sleeping six adults would be pushing it in my opinion., The main bedroom has the above queen size bed (don't you love that headboard). It also has its own bathroom.

     The "dining area" has this cute table and chairs. Yes, those goodies awaited us when we checked in, but we got a bit of special treatment from our daughter. I know they often make Disney Magic happen for families, but I don't think you always get an autographed photo from Mickey Mouse!

     Surprise! Remember that table and chairs from the last folds down into this bed. The headboard even has a night light to add a glow to Nemo. So cute.

     This is the living area (sorry this picture is a bit dark) and the sofa also makes another bed. There is a second full bath off of the living area.

A small "kitchen" area is really a nice touch.

In the main bedroom.

The bath off the living room area.

The bath off the bedroom.

Nightly movies at the pool.

     It has been a little while since we have stayed at a Disney Resort. When your daughter is a manager at one of them, you try to get her some down time by staying somewhere she doesn't feel "on" all the time. One thing about Disney employees is that they are always at work, even when they aren't at work when they are anywhere on Disney property. I see her pick up trash, answer questions and scan for problems even when she is "off duty". The cast here was wonderful. Our room was spotless, all cast members spoke to us in the hallways and most of them had no idea that we had even a slight connection to the resort. They are well-trained and enthusiastic. From the custodial workers to the General Manager they really do put the guests first.

     With so many pictures in this post, I will save Cars and The Lion King for my next post. Here is just a hint of what you will see...