Monday, March 23, 2009

Destination: Orlando, Florida!!!!

March 11th, 2009

Well, I survived the initial leap. The flight to Orlando went off without a hitch. My lovely husband kindly dropped me at the curb at Des Moines International 2 hours prior to my flight and I was on my own. Considering it was a Wednesday afternoon and I was flying out on a discount carrier (Allegiant Air) on their only flight to Orlando that day, check in was a breeze!

After spending maybe 10 minutes in line and checking in, I was off to explore the airport. I was exploring for two reasons, 1-I haven't been to Des Moines' airport for years and 2-just for the purpose of movement, exercise, whatever . . . I just can't handle sitting around for two hours! Well, come to find out, Des Moines International can be walked from the furthest check in through all terminals in approximately 25 minutes, and this was just a notch up from a snail's pace. So, I walked it all again but this time took a few detours to check out the gift shops and such. I would say that airport gift shops have to be the ideal place to buy that corny gift that speaks to the place you're visiting . . . there were the "Corn Fed" t-shirts, cow pies, corn nuts, if it spoke to anything corny or stereotypical about the state of Iowa, they had it. And I loved it. You can hardly ever find such a plethora of fine giftage all in one place!

I have to hand it to Allegiant, they promptly start boarding half an hour before take-off and that paid off with no delays or issues. I selflessly gave up my window seat for a pre-teen little girl and her mom (because they were already there) and had a smooth flight. A short couple hours later and I arrived at Orlando Sanford airport. . . and was shocked to find another airport possibly smaller than Des Moines' airport in a much larger city. Of course, this isn't Orlando's primary airport and I did like coming in during the evening to an airport that wasn't swamped!

15 minutes after landing in Orlando I had my bags in hand and walked my first wonderful steps out into the balmy and breezy night.

It was after 9 o'clock by the time I got to our hotel and settled in so we headed down the street to Kobe, a Japanese steakhouse. My friend mentioned that she had never been to a restaurant like this so we had to try it out. To our amusement, we were seated at a table full of Japanese tourists. What a hoot! They were having a blast and we were having a good time watching them!! The food and the service were excellent by the way.

A great start to a wonderful trip!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Catch up time

I've got some serious catching up to do here. I've been back from my quick jaunt to Orlando for a week now and finally getting caught up at home (although there's still a few items straggling around in the suitcase still sitting on the floor). But now it's time to sit down and do some writing. I'm hoping to get my posts caught up this week from the Orlando trip and also get cracking on our upcoming family vacation in July. I kindly reminded Brock the other day that it's only 4 months away!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Final Countdown . . . and the days until then

My blessed trip to Florida is finally only a week away. With an airline ticket, a hotel reservation and absolutely no agenda I am ready for a few days in the sun.

In the meantime, my husband and I have started dating again . . . dating each other of course! We had found though, that in the short two years since we got married, all our priorities had gotten jumbled and we put "taking time to go out and have fun together" on the back burner, like the furthest back burner there is!! So, we've now committed to regularly going out and two weeks ago we actually went out together on Friday AND Saturday night; this was quite a feat and an improvement!

Friday night was pretty laid back, just a dinner out at a new chain restaurant we hadn't tried. We had been hearing soooo much about the incredible salad bar at the new Ruby Tuesdays that we thought we'd give it a try. To start off, the place is pretty deceptive because the building really isn't as big as it appears and the layout inside is horrible! The salad bar is directly behind the host/hostess station so once you make a pass at the salad bar you are forced to back-track where you came from between the line of people going through the salad bar and the throngs of people lined up beside them waiting for a table, or make a u-turn between the host station and the front door! The salad bar did not dissappoint though, it was great as far as salad bars go. Lots of selection and it was constantly being refilled . . . literally, I believe 2-3 people came out to restock things during my first trip.

Now, Saturday evening ended up being quite a treat. Some friends suggested we meet up at J. Benjamin's, a local neighborhood joint. I'm embarrassed to say, it's only about a mile away and in six years we had never been there before. It turned out to be a great, quaint little casual restuarant with a great menu and wine list, but I was definitely glad we had a reservation. Once we were seated at our table right inside the front door the masses started to pour in. And wait and wait they did, right inside the door where no good waiting place was available. As we started with bruscetta and moved on to lasagna, scallops and chicken florentine these waiting patrons made small talk and asked for our recommendations on the menu. This didn't bother any of us in the least but the waitress and owner felt we were owed their apologies for dealing with the location of our table and the crowd all evening so our table was graced with a complimentary slice of chocolate cake and peanut butter cheesecake for our trouble. Trouble me any day, they were delish!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Roughing It

I just saw this article in the TravelPod forums and loved it!! The author puts really good perspective and definition to roughing it and pushing our boundaries.

I like the idea. Especially as I look down the road and to potential solo trips, it would be good for me to start getting outside of my comfort zone and also simplifying things. My upcoming trip to Orlando is hardly what you might consider roughing it but I'm trying to think of some ways to scale back . . .

**Our suite has a kitchenette so we'll only likely be eating dinners out at local restaurants. Once we get there we'll be able to hit a local grocery store for lunch and snack items since the hotel does provide breakfast; we'll see what that amounts to!

**We've made the decision to rent a car (much more cost-effective than cabs and I've heard Orlando's public transportation isn't great). Now, while having a car handy is convenient this will definitely put us in a position to bust out a map, figure out the city and GO WITH THE FLOW.

**I do have one rule in place when I travel and that's that I won't visit any chain restaurant than I can have at home. This forces me to open up to new menus and I'm also hoping on this trip to get to some great local fare . . . thinking seafood, mmmm!

**Ok, well this might be a big one but I am going to totally trim down my cosmetics and toiletries!! Ahh, what can I chop out? Maybe one of the 3-4 creams/serums/moisturizers I slather on every day? Maybe the option of 4 interchangable eyeshadows? This one will be a challenge.

Travel Books

An unseasonably warm winter afternoon coaxed my son and I out of the house and to our local Barnes & Noble store (to read up on blogging, yikes, the 11-year-old wants his own blog like mom!). While he's in the teen section to find some info geared for his age I, of course, head straight to the travel section. I'm incredibly disappointed with what's available for my upcoming trip but then remind myself that I'm going to Orlando to relax, soak up some sun and have a hell of a good time with my girlfriend! I am reminded that Orlando's identity is centered around the one and only Walt Disney!! Well, at least I know there's a plethora of information out there for when I plan a family trip to International Drive. I picked up a book "The Other Orlando" thinking, awesome, tell me something different than about the over-the-top theme parks . . .well, guess what, it was pretty much about the other parks that are not Disney!!! Good grief!

So, this got me thinking of some of my favorite travel guides, essays and books but also curious about what others read either to plan a trip or while you're on the road.

**I must say that I am a HUGE Bill Bryson fan. I've yet to make it through any one chapter of any of his books I've picked up without cracking up at least once.
**Falcon Guides puts out some good hiking guide books, even for Iowa, which is a quite a find since we're not really a typical "hiking" state.
**"Solo Traveler" is also a great book that I've found helpful in looking at pretty much any aspect of traveling alone.
**In general I never leave for a trip without at least two novels in tow and preferably one of them somewhat related to where I'm traveling, either the setting or the author (i.e. last summer in the Outer Banks I read Nights in Rodanthe, rather fitting I thought)

So, what are your favorites?

My Saving Grace

Aww, my dear, dear girl pulled through, booked her flight and will be joining me in Orlando! It was a very happy day for this lady. She'll be coming from Denver so I do still get the small adventure of getting to Florida on my own and of course, my first girls getaway. I know for some of you seasoned travelers the thought of this being a big deal is probably entertaining but it will be a huge accomplishment for me, a person that likes to know what to expect around every corner. This is a feat I hope to overcome in my life because I sure know things would go much smoother if I could just "go with the flow".

On a Wing and a Prayer

Sheesh, well, girl#2 bailed on us as I sent out the final email of the day yesterday. She just cannot see how she can drag herself away from work until maybe this fall. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! It's two days away from the freaking office!!!!

What's a girl to do? Of course, I did what any insane, relaxation-starved, travel-hungy woman does~~I booked the damn vacation for myself. I would love it if some of my friends would decide to join me (I did reserve a suite with two queen beds, just in case) but to hell with it. I'm about $250 over my budget but I'll have it by the time the plane's in the air.

Hello Orlando Florida~~I'll see you come March.

Defining Decisions

Well, I have embarked on something new that's for sure! My first ever girls getaway . . . theatrics included. There were four, and now there are three. Within 48 hours of the planning process beginning, one of our travelmates quietly bowed out. We tried to make a ruckus. We tried to get her attention and let her know how much we want her to go, but nothing . . . not a single word.

Have I mentioned we're planning this awesome excursion via email!?!? With three (two now) of us in different locations in Des Moines and the other in Denver, it's the best we can do. But, I've taken a simple approach and we've nailed down some basics:

Who: Well, we thought this was the simple part to have the four of us to keep costs down but since losing one we may try to find a replacement.
What: Our primary goal is to get somewhere warm, preferably with a beach!
Why: Ummm, because it's freakin' cold here and we deserve a getaway dag nabit!
When: Spring Break, unfortunately I'm the only one with a school-age kid so I'm being the pain and making the other girls work around me so that my son can go to Granny's for a few days.
Where: Well, this is still pretty broad. We had generally discussed somewhere in Florida or California and we're also taking into consideration our want/need to go somewhere that a "discount" airline flys to.
How: This is definitely a trip we'll fly to in the pursuit to get the most relax time for our buck. We're also considering "how much" and hoping to get to our destination and get lodging for $500 or less per person. All the other stuff is completely discretionary and can be easily controlled (i.e. food, drinks, activities)

Taking off now to hit the web some more . . . checking out visitor, airline and hotel websites. I love this part, but I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't lose any more of my girls! I can't really afford this trip on my own but it may just have to be if it comes to that!!

Random Roamings

Random Roamings . . . a discovery quest of everything beyond my front door.

I love to travel . . . all of it, every single bit! From planning, to packing, to hitting the road. There are invaribly those moments along the way that give me pause to reflect, appreciate and sometimes just laugh (or cry). But here's the skinny, I'm in my early 30's. I have a young son in 5th grade. I have a decent job but I'm not rolling in the dough and I don't yet have the luxury to pick up and head off whenever I like.

Yet, I still yearn to get out and see the world. And this is my outlet, my motivation, to get outside of my routine and forget about my comfort zone and be creative with my resources and see the world, even if it starts down the road or across the country. I truly believe there are beautiful moments everywhere!