Monthly Archives: November 2010

Dear Santa–A Traveler’s Christmas List

Our tree from last year, inspired by the (day) trip featured in photos below...

All of this holiday cheer–and the fact that my husband and I just got back from a holiday shopping marathon–has made me wonder why there is not an easier way to buy me presents.

Wait…let me rephrase that.  It sounds greedy.  Ahem…why is there not a better way for me to get what I actually want for Christmas?

Nope…that was greedy too!  What I meant to say is–how do you buy gifts for a person (me) who prefers doing things to having things?  Of course, my husband wants a Christmas list from me–so do a few relatives.  But I don’t know what to tell them.  Making an attempt would look something like this:

Dear Santa,

For Christmas this year, I would really like to go to the Keys with my husband for a long weekend in May.  If you can’t swing that, Vegas would be fine too.  Or, if the economy is as bad on the North Pole as it is on the East Coast, I’d settle for somewhere within driving distance.  Colonial Williamsburg, perhaps.  Or Berkley Springs.  Though it might be too cold there in the spring.  So scratch that–Florida or Vegas.  I wouldn’t kick Universal Stuidos out of bed, either.

Additionally, we have one week in June when we can go somewhere, before my husband’s summer job begins.  I’m hoping for a cruise to Bermuda.  I’d prefer Norwegian Cruise lines, as I like the smaller ship better.  I realize it is going to be a bumpy trip, but I’m ok with that.  You would be too, Santa–I bet that sleigh is a pretty wicked ride.

Then, after my husband’s summer job begins, I have a whole month with nothing to do.  I’d really like to visit my friend in San Francisco.  I told her I’d be there soon, and that was several months ago.  Santa, I’d really like to get out to visit her if at all possible.

And while I’m on the subject of sunny (or, in the case of San Fran, foggy) California, I was thinking maybe I could rent a house in the Napa or Sonoma area for a few weeks.  But sometimes it is cheaper to rent by the month…so I’d be ok with a four week rental, too.  If there’s extra room in my stocking, you can slip in round trip tickets for my husband to come out and enjoy the wine country as well.  He’s done with his summer job the third week in July, so any time after that would be great.  I’ll chill some wine and have it ready for him when he arrives.

Thanks Santa, for taking the time to read and consider my requests.  Don’t bother with wrapping any of the above items–I’d be happy with an email itinerary.  Don’t forget the confirmation numbers!

Happy Holidays!


Longwood Gardens, Christmas 2009


And on the Seventh Day…

I’d like to interrupt my posts on my last trip (to Disney World) to share the details of my next trip (to…ahem…Disney World).

Yes, that’s right, while I did not return with a Mickey tattoo or a Disney time share, I’m going back (and contemplating that time share!)  Exactly seven days ago we were on the plane home, and as of a few hours ago the next trip is completely booked–flights, hotel, dinner reservations, and ‘special experiences’.  Done and done.

You may recall me talking about a mother-daughter trip.  You may recall lots of contemplation of where to go next.  You may recall that we settled on Napa.  Well, after all of that, my mother looked at my Disney photos and decided–to Disney I shall return.

But I’ve not yet shared the best part.  You see, we are both very busy people, my mother and I.  She travels for work and I teach, both of which create a bit of a challenge when planning vacations.  I only have three personal days, so the time period had to be over a weekend, and she cannot travel the first week of the month due to some magical thing that happens to accountants during the first week of the month.  We also were trying to stick with a low crowd-level experience.  So we sat down with our crowd level calendar, our respective work calendars, and the AirTran website and tried to figure out when we could go.  Only after settling on dates and booking the airfare did we realize–we’re going over Mother’s Day.

How cute is that?

So at that point I decided that this has to be the best trip for her ever (more on why later), and set out making plans that include as many special experiences as possible.  I’m not going to share them here–I know she used to read this blog, and I’m trying to keep the secrets secret–but just know they are awesome.  And add to the awesomeness the fact that I was able to (almost) book everything I wanted to do for (almost) exactly when I wanted to do it.

The one non-surprise–as she had to know about this for several reasons–is the Wanyama Safari we will be taking on our first full day there.  It’s a tour of all of the Savannahs at Animal Kingdom Lodge, with up-close-and-personal animal encounters, followed by a private dining experience at Jiko (complete with wine parings–god I love wine parings!)  We will also be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a choice I never would have made but for how very excited she got about it when she saw it online (we actually originally booked the Dolphin, and then canceled it 24 hours later and booked Animal Kingdom Lodge.)  And now, of course, after much research, I’m SUPER excited.  It looks awesome; my only concern is our possible reluctance to leave the hotel to venture out into the parks!

But more on this later–now to continue my slew of ‘how great our last trip was’ posts.

Oh–and my husband and I are going to Napa for our summer trip.  So really, it’s a win-win situation.  Hell–I’m going to Disney in May, somewhere else with the husband later in May (likely Key West) and Napa in July/August.  That’s win-win-win-win-win…I could go on…!


The Magic Kingdom

Upon returning home from our NCTE Disney trip, I made a photo book on one of those photo book sites.  I subtitled it ‘Doug and Tracy vs. The Happiest Place on Earth’, and my husband laughed at that title, even though it was beyond fair.  After all, after hating Paris, how could I like Disney World?  The answer to that–very, very easily.

arriving at MK 30 minutes before opening

We arrived at the Magic Kingdom 40 minutes or so before it opened.  There were no lines.  We walked up to the ticket office, got our pre-paid tickets, used the very clean and very empty restroom located outside of the park (for our convenience, thank you Walt Disney) and stood in ‘line’.  There were fewer people waiting to get into the Magic Kingdom than there were waiting for a cab at Gare du Nord (ok, I promise that was my LAST Disney vs. Paris comparison!)  Maybe ten minutes before ‘opening gate time’, there was a little show, and Mickey and Minnie came out on the train with several overly-enthusiastic sidekick dancers, and then they let us into the park.

I swear to god I cried as I entered the park.  It was just all too overwhelming; it was like being ten years old again, except this time I actually liked it there, and could move about freely (seriously, the park was creepily empty).

We half-jogged down Main Street, pausing only to take a million or so pictures of the castle.  My whole ‘plan’ for the day was

Right after entering park, me with castle.

‘enter park, walk down main street, turn left’.  Really–my only plan was ‘turn left’.  Anyone who has been reading this blog for any amount of time will know how very non-OCD that was of me–and imagine this:  it worked!  We entered whatever land that was–Adventure Land, maybe–and encountered the opposite of lines.  There simply wasn’t anyone there.  We rode the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the sort-of-lame Aladdin ride with no lines whatsoever.

All alone on the Aladdin Ride

We then made our way to Frontier land, and jogged yet again through the ‘line’ for Splash Mountain.  I had no idea how wet we’d get on this ride, but…well…brutal honestly alert:  I had to wring my underwear out after.  But for the underwear wringing we’d have gone on a second time–it was a great ride.  But instead we looked at Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, shuddered in fear, and made our way to Fantasy Land.

We rode everything in Fantasy Land in under an hour, minus the Pooh ride, and then checked out my most highly anticipated event, the Teacups.  I don’t know why I was so excited about the teacups, but I was, and they did not disappoint.  I loved the teacups.

This is THE picture I wanted. YAY!

By this time we were nearing our lunch reservations, but decided first to check out

The husband in front of splash mountain, pre-splash!

the Haunted Mansion.  And then we circled back to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad…but chickened out again.  So we decided to ride the train, thinking it would be scenic (it wasn’t).  Anyone reading this who knows anything about Disney knows that all of these things are moderately far apart, and should take a significant amount of time to experience, but as there were ZERO crowds and ZERO lines, we completed this entire paragraph in under 45 minutes.  In fact, I specifically remember being on the train at the main entrance stop at 1:15, with lunch reservations at 1:30 in Liberty Square.  We rode the train to Frontier Land, got off, rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (finally–and it was great) and MADE OUR RESERVATIONS.

After lunch we walked out of Liberty Tree Tavern and walked onto the Steam Boat which was about to depart.  I could not have planned it better.  After said steam boat ride, we disembarked to find everyone lining up for the afternoon parade–again, no planning.  We viewed the parade, continued on to Tomorrow Land, were

Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road as viewed from the Steam Boat

completely freaked out by Space Mountain, thoroughly enjoyed something about Buzz Lightyear, and then backtracked to ride our three favorite rides yet again (the teacups, the Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad).  This was all before 5:30, when my husband had to leave for his meeting.

I stayed after he left and shopped (more on that later) and checked out the castle lit up at night for Christmas (awesome).  I honestly cannot

Random parade at night; photo taken to text to husband, who had left for meeting!

remember ever having a better day.

Have I mentioned that I LOVE Disney world?

Up next…my solo trip to Animal Kingdom!

I am a Disney Convert–Post 1 of Many

I never wanted to go to Disney World.  When I was ten years old my parents took me on a family trip to The Magic Kingdom.  I am sure they spent thousands of dollars to do this.  I was there for forty five minutes and demanded to be returned to the safety of the hotel pool, safely away from the crushing crowds.  It was the worst vacation ever.
As time went on, I became anti-everything-mainstream and shunned Disney for a number of reasons:  it was too commercial, Walt Disney was a communist, princesses are so not feminist…and so on.  But it seems, like so many things in my life (Paris, I’m looking at you…again) I was wrong.
Disney is awesome.  It is clean and beautiful and everyone is nice and there are ample public toilets everywhere.  Even the giant hoards of children aren’t screaming or mewling, as they are entertained.  It is cheaper than Vegas, more fun than D.C., and more convenient than, well, anywhere I’ve ever been.  I love Disney World.
We only managed to visit two parks–the Magic Kingdom one morning and Epcot one evening.  I visited Animal Kingdom for a little over two hours one morning as well, before the pre-convention sessions.  I cannot decide which park I liked more–Epcot was a food-and-drink-filled adventure, Animal Kingdom was amazingly well designed, and the Magic Kingdom was everything I’d hoped it would be and more (the ‘more’ being ‘freaking unbelievably empty’).
Our hotel–Disney’s Beach Club Resort–was hands-down the nicest place I have ever stayed and likely the nicest place I will ever stay.  I looked at the regular, non-convention prices upon returning home and there’s just no way we’ll ever be able to afford to stay there on our own.  But I’m glad I’ve had the experience at least once.  My actual words, upon returning to the hotel lobby on our third day there, were: “there’s something wrong with anyone who can find fault in this hotel”.  It was perfect.  There was a man in the lobby who’s only job was to look you in the eye and say “have a magical day”.  I mean come on, how great is that?
I cannot believe we’ve been back for almost a week and I’ve not posted detailed trip reports, but to be fair I’ve been crazy busy.  I’d like to do individual posts for each park, and I absolutely will…as soon as I get a free moment.  As for today, I was busy booking my next trip back, which is officially 159 days away.  Seriously.  But more on that later.

EDIT–This awful formatting is what you get when you start something on a PC, email it to yourself, finish writing it in Pages on your mac and then copy/paste it into WordPress.  Sorry!!!!  It’s killing me, but there’s nothing I can do about it!

If You Have to Go to a Convention

Stressed? Who's stressed?

Our ‘Disney Trip’ needs quotes around it because really it wasn’t a Disney Trip, it was a convention trip that happened to be in Disney World.  The fact that it was one of our best trips to date shouldn’t be surprising—after all, I loved last year’s convention so much.  But this year the convention did not shine, and not (only) because it paled in comparison to the location.

The NCTE convention is a great experience.  I feel I learned a lot about teaching English last year.  As last year was my first trip, I also learned a lot about how to attend such a convention.  None of those lessons helped me this year, however, as putting the convention in Disney World changed a great many things.

The main issue with the convention was that it was at two resorts—Coronado Springs and the Yacht and Beach Club.  No big deal, right?

The line for the shuttle. It turns left and goes out the door.

Well, it wouldn’t be in the real world where there are sidewalks and street signs and things are close together.  Disney is NOT a pedestrian-friendly area.  It was not possible to walk between resorts, so convention go-ers were forced to stand in insanely long lines for shuttles, typically missing at least one session each time one changed locations.  This made for some pretty tricky planning, and some pretty frustrating moments.

The resorts are also not set up to handle the meal-time requirements of conventioneers as well as vacationers.  Lunch was simply not an option, and by day two I was walking around with a $12 bag of beef jerky in my backpack to keep my blood sugar up (we know from the Europe trip how I get when I’m hungry!)

All in all it wasn’t the best convention experience, but it wasn’t the worst either.  The pre-convention session with Teri Lesesne was great, and I got a lot out of one session on Reinventing the Teaching of Essay Writing (I fully realize how boring that sounds to any non-teachers, but trust me, it was great!)  Additionally, I discovered a way to teach research in an extremely authentic way that fits in with my fiction writing unit.  I am very excited about the changes I will be making in my own classroom based on the convention experience…I just wish it had been easier to get to more sessions in a reasonable amount of time.

To use my favorite phrase…to be fair, this was an amazing trip.  If one has to go to a convention–nay, if one gets to go to a convention–better that convention be in sunny Florida than anywhere else I can think of.  For example, here’s where I sat, outside of the convention center, looking through the phone book sized program:

But now that the boring stuff is over, I must get on to writing my next post, which I shall title something like ‘Why I Now Love Disney World’.

Worst Case Scenario

As my husband and I prepared for our trip to the NCTE convention in Walt Disney World, I expressed concern.  What if, horror of horrors, I actually liked Disney World?  What would that mean?  What would I do?  Who would I be?

My husband’s reply:  Oh yeah–it would totally suck if you actually enjoyed yourself on a trip!

Well, guess what?  I loved Disney.  Convention and all, it was one of our best trips ever.  Definitely in the top three.  Definitely.

More later, after I’ve unpacked.  For now, here’s a thousand words or so…

Tracy Teacups

Have I mentioned…

…that I have the best husband ever?

I think I may have.

But it won’t kill me to say it again–I have the best husband ever.  Right now, this very minute, as I’m supposed to be packing (but clearly am not as I’m typing this) he is out at the video store renting Disney movies for us to watch today to ‘gear up’ for our one day in the Magic Kingdom.

Seriously–could he be any more awesome?

I can’t wait to see what he brings back!