Early on Monday morning, Dan and I grabbed our luggage and headed out the door on the way the-the supposed happiest place on earth. And let me spoil the surprise....it really, really really was.
The trip started out slightly less than ideal since our flight was about two hours delayed getting off the ground due to de-icing at the airport. But, since FOR ONCE we didn't have a connecting, we weren't too fussed. We had lots of time to spare, and it was nice not really to have to stress out too much and just lie back and wait for things to work themselves out.
After flying to Phoenix or LA so often, this 3-hour flight felt like nothing at all. The views of the ocean as we flew in were incredible since it would be the only time we saw the ocean while we were in Orlando. The Orlando airport is Disney themed from the moment you step off the plane and makes you feel like you're already in Disney despite not even take a step outside the terminal.
We were on our way to get the Magical Express, a giant Disney run bus that runs to and from the airport to all the Disney-run hotels in the area. We hopped on the next one set to depart from the terminal, loaded out luggage and got seated.
The bus ride took about 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel since we had to make a few stops on the way at other Disney hotels. The bus was a neat way of seeing all the different properties along the way, in case you wanted to stay somewhere else the next time you visit.
We were staying at Port Orleans, Riverside. The last stop on the bus. Port Orleans Riverside is made to look like the backwoods of rural Louisiana. Instead of the New Orleans bright and part time atmosphere of the French Quarter, Riverside is made up of old looking stately white-columned mansions which face onto the picturesque Sassagoula River.
From the minute you step off the bus, you don't feel like you're in Orlando, but are stepping into an old-timey town in Louisiana. Our bags had made their way to our rooms on their own (although didn't arrive as fast as we did) so all we had to do was check into our hotel with only our carry-on bags.
The lobby for the hotel is as grand and opulent of as the outside. It kept that Lousiana style of architecture going on inside. The tall white columns stretch up high above your heads, and the ceiling was topped with elegant chandeliers and huge swinging fans. These were much more realistic for the period but seems less functional that a regular spinning ceiling fan would have been. It wasn't anything close to hot while we were there so I felt like that touch of realism helped the immersive feeling you get at these resorts when you stay there....but I can see how in the summer you might want something a little more functional.
Even the carpets had little details, like this fleur-de-lis, which added to Louisiana style. Since Louisiana was occupied by the French their artistic styles and symbols made it into so many aspects of the Louisiana architecture.
After getting registered, we received our MAGIC BANDS! The bands were one of the most exciting moments. These little things acted as our rooms keys, credit cards and park tickets the entirety of the trip. It is not only so cool to not have to carry all that around with you the entire time you're there but super fun to be able to open your door with nothing other than a wristband. Dan and I each got to choose the colours of our bands. I went with pink since it seemed like my colour of the moment and Dan went with a bright yellow! After putting on our bands, they gave me a big "Happy Birthday Laura" pin as we were there celebrating my birthday! Since I had been so so sick on my actual birthday, this pin and all the "Happy Birthday" shouts and congratulations I received while in the park, really made the entire experience all the more lovely!
We had a quick peek around the-the resort before head off to our room. Every inch of this place was themed along with the Port Orleans atmosphere.
The River Roost Bar is a lovely, warm and comfy place to grab a drink or listen to some fantastic live music on certain days of the week.
After poking around the lobby area for a bit, we headed out to find our room. We were staying in the Parterre Place, one of the mansion houses along the river. We headed over the bridge from the lobby over to the guest area.
Although it was still a little chilly out, the sun was shining on the water and the wind was blowing a welcoming breath of fresh air.
Each of the mansions along the river has a different feature with makes them unique. The Parterre Place's feature is the-the rose garden. Unfortunately, when we were there, the roses weren't all blooming but even still the gardens themselves were a beautifully designed and arranged. Each one named after a different Disney princess.
Finally, it was time to go to our room. Our suite was right on the front of the building, giving us a stellar view of the river. We held our Magic band up to the door where there would be a key and magically, it unlocked!
Seeing as it was my 30th birthday, Dan went all out in getting us the best suite they had! And it was unbelievable. The entire room was fit for a prince and princess. Tiana is the hostess of Port Orleans and when we stay in one of the Royal Rooms you get a little scroll written by her inviting you into her home for the length of your stay. The room is covered in pictures of the princesses, different pieces of furniture designed off ones from the films like the magical carpet from Aladdin and the footstool from Beauty and the Beast. Even the faucets are designed to look like the magic lamp!
One of my favourite pieces were the silhouettes of the princes on these banners along the wall. The princes so often get overlooked, and I loved their little featured here.
the towels were shaped in Mickey mouse ears on our beds when we arrived and throughout our stay, they would frequently be hanging from the ceiling in the form of a monkey or other such fun shapes.
My family had left a little gift for me when we arrived as well. A little plus Minnie mouse held in her hands an envelope filled with a few gift cards to make our visit a bit more special!
But my favorite thing about the room has to be the beds! In the light, they have a beautiful painting of a Louisiana bayou, but when the lights turn off, and you activate the button on the side of the bed, it launches a very special fireworks show on the headboard! If you've seen " The Princess and the Frog", you'll know that this is not just fireworks but a firefly show. It is one of those little additions that just adds that extra touch of magic to the room. On countless nights after a long day, I would kick up my heels and lie back just staring at those twinkling lights.
After settling in, we decided to head out to see Disney Springs. Disney Springs is primarily an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex set along Bay Lake. To get there, you could easily take a bus or taxi, but we decided on the most scenic mode of transport, the boat!
We were lucky enough to have our resort set along the river which leads into Bay Lake, so to get to Disney Springs, all you had to do was hope on one of the free boat shuttles located in the center of the Riverside resort.
Once we set off, we traveled along the river and passed by the colorful Port Orleans French quarter, our sister resort bu adjacent to us. It was a breathtaking resort full or color and action, but I think we very much preferred ours. It was more quiet, more quaint. It felt like a hidden away cottage in the middle of nowhere.
As we traveled along the river, we passed several other resorts and got a taste of the natural environment around Florida. It is so unique and sometimes a bit haunting. Their southern oak trees are iconic and have large hanging Spanish moss which looms down above you, like giant cobwebs. It was both eerie and fantastically exciting all at the same time.
When we pulled into the dock on the west side of Disney Springs, we saw old fashioned cars driving around in the water like tiny boats….everything in and around Disney is all that more zany and there seemed to be always something just a little bit different wherever you went.
After we deboarded the boat we set off in search of something to eat. We had grabbed a quick bit before leaving the airport, but we were starving for something a little more substantial.
The whole place was a little overwhelming; there were so many people out and about, so many neat stores I wanted to run into, but we were on the search for food first and foremost. Disney Springs is divided into four areas: Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. Each neighborhood reflects its function and it's period when it was developed.The Marketplace focuses on those unique Disney inspired shops that are well known for Disney lovers. The Landing is made up of some upscaled dining situation along the river with some of the best views in Orlando. The Town Centre is made up of mostly parking for the visitors, and the West Wide is where you can find some brand name shops as well as various kinds of entertainment. As we wandered through the Marketplace, I spotted Earl of Sandwich right away and since I’d heard such good things about this place we thought we would give it a try.
Dan settled on a roast beef sandwich, and I grabbed the mac and cheese and a tortillas soup to help warm me up. The food was delicious, hot and cozy, like something home cooked. Just the right thing we needed to power ourselves through the rest of the day.
We next stop had to be “World of Disney”. The World is Disney one of the largest Disney stores in the world. It is approximately 51,000 square feet of retail space and offers the greatest selection of Disney character merchandise in the world! I knew there were going to be various souvenirs I would buy along the way but instead of spending time in the shops while in the parks, I thought by coming here you could get it all done in one shot. Everything offered in the park is also on offer here, so this is a one stop shop. But one very very large store.
The inside of the shop is a wonder in itself. Along the ceilings in every room are sculptures of various Disney characters, hanging down above you, twinkling in glowing lights. There are also numerous stained glass paintings throughout depicting scenes from the films. It feels rather upscale, the dark wooden beams, the richly colored walls. Instead of just seeming like a store for children, it does feel like something truly glamorous.
Towards one end of the store, you’ll find the princess-themed salon called Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Their children can be made up like princesses or pirates. And what I LOVED seeing is that they had boys being made up as princesses and girls LOVIN being made up pirates! Well done Disney, well done. I was sad to see they didn’t offer it for adults, but I’m sure that’s somewhere in the works.
After finishing up at World of Disney we wandered along the rest of Disney Springs. We stopped in at the Arribas Brothers, a shop that specializes in jeweled collectibles, figurines and more. There was craftsman in the store making these products as we walked around. They created masterpieces of Disney characters right out of glass. Nothing here would have been something we bought, but we did have fun trying on Disney princess themed tiaras and admiring the handcrafted sparkling wonders.
The art of Disney was a great store for window shopping. There you could find limited edition hand-painted art, lithographs, giclées, cels, canvas paintings, and sculptures of your favorite Disney characters.
The Lego store is a favorite along the strip. Inside You can find literally anything Lego related with master builders on hand to teach and help the little ones. Outside there is always different creations made by the Lego craftspeople.
The wall of colored Lego was one of the highlights of the store for me....so many lovely colours.
My favorite shop was the Pin Trading store. I love the Disney pins; they add something special to any outfit and this store had EVERYTHING! I chose a variety of specialty pins and carefully added them on to my pinned out knapsack.
The last stop on our tour was, of course, the candy store. The candy cauldron was such an interesting shop,m themed like the evil queen's cellar. We didn't buy anything, but we certainly enjoyed walking around the store. After wandering around Disney Springs, we set off to Target! It might not sound like an exciting trip o you, but we love American grocery stores and the treasures they hold. We gathered up a few treats for breakfasts and some snacks for our days in the park. Dan grabbed a few beers to enjoy after a long day, and I found a few interesting drinks to enjoy myself.
Once we got home, we were entirely exhausted and had a long day ahead of us tomorrow. We settled into bed with our treats, and Dan found that CNN was covering lots of the American election, so he would be deep into that anytime we were home. I slowly drifted off to sleep, the sound of angry announcers discussion American politics off in the distance...