Monthly Archives: September 2011

‘Destination Saturation’ and My New 10-Day Travel Rule

By day 15, I liked this guy's shirt a lot!

Phase three of my Extended Disney Research Trip was a bit challenging–and not because it was the solo portion.  As you may know by now, I love being on my own.  I can go wherever I want, do whatever I want, and stay as long as I want.  Heck, I drove to St. Augustine just because I could!  No, it was not the alone-ness that got to me during phase three.  It was something I’m calling ‘Destination Saturation’.

After a while, a place ceases to be somewhere you are visiting and it becomes the world in which you live.  This happened to us in Paris for sure (and really, what was I thinking?  Two weeks in a place I’ve never been?)  It happened to us on our road trip in certain locations, and it happened to me in Walt Disney World.  Destination Saturation doesn’t have a set-in-stone time frame–it might take a week in, say, London, but only two days in, say, Halifax.

It took ten days in Walt Disney World.

The symptoms of Destination Saturation also vary a bit from place to place, but typically it manifests in the following ways:

-extreme exhaustion at onset

-general lack of enthusiasm

-annoyance at all the little things that used to make the destination ‘special’

-extreme annoyance at all the little things that make the destination inherently annoying

-increased use of social media as a form of destination escapism

In Paris, this ailment created a serious problem.  In Disney World it wasn’t so bad–until my final day there.  I swear, if I had to take one more tram to one more monorail to one more happy fun park…I was going to scream.  And don’t even get me started on trying to feed myself.  That became a feat in and of itself–though that rant shall remain unwritten.

Why?  Because I now know that this malady isn’t the destination’s fault.  It is the fault of Destination Saturation.  I love Walt Disney World.  I love it on day one and two and three…all the way up to halfway through day ten.  And then I need to go home for a little while.

And so, all future Disney trips shall be ten days or shorter.  I think that’s fair (and fiscally responsible!)  In addition, all future single-destination trips shall be ten days or shorter.  Road trips can, of course, be longer–but we won’t stay in the same town more than three or four nights in a row.   In this simple, cost-effective way, I shall forever prevent another outbreak of Destination Saturation.

I hope!

Up next–I continue with my road trip posts and share our adventures on Cape Breton, PEI, and in Fundy National Park and Portland, Maine.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are still reading this blog at elbodans.wordpress.com, please come on over to The Suitcase Scholar, where all posts are being duplicated.  I now have added the option of subscribing to that blog–and eventually I will stop posting here all together.  Thanks for making the switch!

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St. Augustine: A Reasonable Day Trip from Disney World

I drove from Disney World to St. Augustine yesterday–not in spite of the fact that it’s a five hour round-trip drive but because it is a five hour round-trip drive.  You see, my rental car is really comfortable…and it has air conditioning.  Oh–and there are zero screaming children there, too.  After almost two weeks in Walt Disney World, five quiet hours by myself in my comfy, cool car sounded lovely.  And it was–minus the rush hour Orlando traffic (in both directions) and the crazy Florida weather (sunny and pouring–huh?)

I had planned to go for a day and a night but it just didn’t work out that way.  Yet I still wanted to go if only for a day trip–not just to enjoy five hours of air conditioned comfort in my rental Chevy.  I went to check the place out for future reference.  Could I have spent more time there?  Definitely.  Which is why I’ll consider visiting as part of a longer southern road trip.  With my husband.  Maybe next summer…?

St. Augustine is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for years now–after seeing a friend’s vacation photos–and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  It was super touristy–but again, I’m a tourist–and had everything I’m looking for in a tourist destination:  many restaurants, lots of bars, a little history and an adequate amount of….

…and you know how important public restrooms are to me!  It was almost Disney-esque in this (and several other) respect(s).

So what did I do on my whirlwind tour?  I strolled the pedestrian streets–lined with shops.  I did venture in to a few shops, if only for the AC.  The prices were reasonable–but I wasn’t actually in the market for anything, so browsing was all that I did.  But even the tacky shops were cute…

I walked down to Flagler college which is way more beautiful than any other college I’ve ever seen.  I felt kind of creepy wandering the campus with my camera given the fact that students were also milling about–but whatever.  They go to a school with amazing architecture.  I’m sure they are used to it by now.

After taking seventeen dozen photos of Flagler College I was pretty hungry, so I checked out ‘the oldest restaurant in Florida’, the Columbia.

While my meal was only average, I think it was a case of poor ordering–all of the other food I saw come out looked fantastic (I had the half of a cuban sandwich and cup of soup–to be fair, the gazpacho was quite good.)  But the restaurant could not have been more beautiful if it tried–sadly I got very few interior photos, as it’s awkward enough dining alone in a mostly-empty tourist town.  Pointing your camera at the waiter just makes it worse.  But here’s one I clicked very quickly…

I do have to say that I am beginning to be proud of my ability to walk into the nicest restaurant in any town and proudly ask for a table for one.  Yes, I’ve been doing it for years, but now I don’t even think twice about it.

But I digress.

At this point you should be thinking ‘gee–she really should head back to Orlando now, to avoid rush hour traffic.’  And you’d be right.  But of course that’s not what  I did.  Instead I walked over to the fort–because I’ve never seen a Spanish fort, or a fort surrounded by palm trees (not surprisingly, there aren’t any palm trees near the Citadel in Halifax or outside of the tower of London!)

At this point I really should have gone home…but of course I was lured by something I’d read about–and then seen on the skyline from the fort.  And it was….a lighthouse!  You know how I feel about lighthouses, right?  Or didn’t I post enough lighthouse photos from our last road trip?  Well, here’s one more…

The not-cool thing about this lighthouse was that it wasn’t on the water (strange, right?) and that it was kept in this little protected lighthouse ‘reserve’ that prevented you from even taking a photo of it without paying the $10 ‘lighthouse museum’ entrance fee.  Clearly I paid it–as you can see the photo I took above.  But the admission also came with the extra added ‘bonus’ of being able to climb the steps to the top of the lighthouse–all 219 steps.

I did not actually enter or climb any of the lighthouses on our Atlantic Canada tour.  No–that would be silly.  Why climb a lighthouse when it is 62 degrees out?  I’d much rather wait for a nice 92 degree day with 100% humidity and heat lightening–wouldn’t you?  Yeah–it was an insane idea, but I did it anyway.  Here I am, at the top…

Just over 24 hours later, my legs still hurt.  In fact, they hurt more and more with each passing minute.  Though walking around the Magic Kingdom today likely didn’t help.

I am very, very glad I made the trip to St. Augustine.  It’s yet another lovely touristy town–worthy of at least a two night stay.  I regret not doing any of the guided tours, but to be honest, the place was so dead (on a random Thursday in September) that I feared I’d be the only one on the tour.  Plus the trolley tour looked suspiciously like a Walt Disney World tram–and that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid!   But I’ll definitely take my husband here at some point–after all, it’s only a three hour drive from Savannah, which is on our must-do road trip list.

And really, what’s three hours?

Extended Disney World Trip: My New Travel Buddy!

One of my main complaints about being a grown-up is how difficult it is to make new friends.  Because I don’t sit next to anyone in homeroom anymore, I simply don’t know where to look.  Who knew I’d find a new forever friend…on a Disney message board?!?

Neither Melissa Sue nor I remember exactly when we started being ‘virtual friends’, but we know that we ‘met’ on the Passporter Forums, a Disney message board ‘community’.  I think she found me on Facebook–possibly through my blog–and since then we’ve been friends in the virtual world.  We met once, for lunch, earlier this year–maybe in May?  So she knew that I wasn’t a crazy person when she agreed to join me here in Florida for a long weekend.

Sadly, that long weekend is already over.  But we had a great time!  We spent one day in the Magic Kingdom followed by Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that night.

Day two took us to Animal Kingdom where we spent some time with the animals–including the new baby elephant on the savanna–and then some resort touring (in the photo below we are at Pop Century Resort) and dinner at celebrity chef Cat Cora’s restaurant Kouzzina.

Our last full day was spent at Hollywood Studios.  Neither of us particularly loved this park in the past, but with a little help from an awesome Imagineers guide we both had a blast!

Because Melissa Sue is a trooper–and a true Disney fan–she even managed to log a good deal of park time on her departure day.  We broiled in the sun at Epcot for a good six hours before I had to take her to the airport for her flight home.

So what did I learn?  Get ready for this…that it can be fun to travel with someone else (someone not my husband, that is!)  I have to admit to being a very typical only child–it’s typically my way or…well, there’s just no other option.  But I found a friend that I don’t mind sharing with.  Imagine that!

And more than that, I definitely had a better time than if I’d been by myself.  Why?  Most of the things I listed above simply would not have happened if not for Melissa Sue.  I wouldn’t have been brave enough to conquer the crowds at Fantasmic, I likely would have done little to no resort touring, and I definitely wouldn’t have stopped to watch the parade at Hollywood Studios–which was, I must admit–a highlight of the day for me.

But the best part wasn’t the things we did and saw–it is the things we will do and will see.  Because, you see, it is my hope that now that we’ve successfully ‘traveled’ together, we can do so in the future.  I have hopes that Melissa Sue will accompany me on a short trip to Vegas next summer–and after that, who knows?  We’ve talked about doing a couples trip back to Disney–though don’t tell our husbands because we haven’t shared that plan with them as of yet! I feel truly blessed to have finally found not only a wonderful new friend, but a travel buddy as well.

A travel buddy that doesn’t mind waiting for me to use the restroom every 45 minutes!

Extended Disney World Trip: Phase One Complete

I’m looking at this trip in three phases: phase one, with mother. Phase two, with friend. Phase three, with self.  And phase one is already over, as my mom flew home yesterday.

It was an interesting first phase–and probably the most stressful.  First I had to learn my way around, which I’ve never had to do before as I’d always just taken the free Disney transportation.  Plus I had to do all of this learning with my mom watching.  I love her, but she doesn’t seem to understand that I’m not a just-learning-to-drive 16-year-old anymore!

I also had to balance trying to do research with trying to make sure that mom was having fun.  To be fair, it would be really hard for my mom (or anyone) to not have fun in Disney World.  But still–it was something I was aware of.

So how did it go?  Pretty well I think.  I got a lot of things crossed of my ‘to research’ list, my mom had a good time, and I didn’t get a sunburn.  That’s the very best possible scenario that I can think of!

So far I have…

  • Spent a day at Animal Kingdom with my mom, where I got to see the new baby elephant on Kilimanjaro Safari and she got to watch Finding Nemo the Musical…again.
  • Located a Super Target, grocery shopped, and learned my way around the kitchen in my condo.  I made tilapia with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes for our first meal here.  It was quite good!
  • Spent one very hot, very sunny day in Epcot.  We planned to stay open to close, but pooped out around 3:00.  It was really, really hot walking around World Showcase in the sun.

    In Epcot's World Showcase with mom--you get why this is funny, right?

  • Showed my mom The Boardwalk Inn, as she’s staying there on her next visit (in a little over a month–she learned it by watching me!)
  • Took my mom to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to ride Forbidden Journey.  We also did the highlights of Universal Studios–Shrek, The Simpsons, and Men In Black.

    Mom in the Wizarding World!

  • Spent a day in The Magic Kingdom, where my mom and I watched Mickey’s Philharmagic twice and checked out The Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, which I’d never experienced.  It was really cute.  We also rode Buzz Lightyear…

    She said she 'let me win', which I believe...because I suck.

  • Spent a solo day walking around Epcot’s World Showcase taking notes…and having some relaxation time, too.

    You know what they say about 'all work and no play', right?

  • Spent another solo day–supposedly my ‘day off’–taking photos in Animal Kingdom.  I also finally had a meal at Flametree BBQ, which was delicious–even though there is no inside seating area.  Ribs and coleslaw in the 90 degree heat?  Sure!
Which brings us to Phase Two, as my friend Melissa Sue is arriving tonight!  In fact, she’s likely boarding a plane right now.  Yay!  Our schedule is jam-packed for the next four days, but if I have a free moment, I’ll attempt to write a phase two update…or even continue sharing my Epic Road Trip stories.  Up next in that thread is ‘Cape Breton Island’, one of the highlights of the trip (though really, they were all highlights!)
I’m thinking it is kind of funny that I have so much to write about now…but come October or, worse, November and December, I won’t be traveling at all.  Or…will I?

Day Trip from Halifax: Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg

It’s been so hot here in Orlando that I actually want to write about the coldest, most miserable day of our road trip–our day trip from Halifax.

I originally planned three full days in Halifax–two to enjoy the city and one to do a road trip.  But I lost one to Cape Breton.  Yet I still wanted to ‘do’ Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg.  Travel Tip:  When you start thinking in terms of ‘doing’, you’re probably planning too much.

We woke up to a steady sideways rain, yet still pushed on with our plans.  There was one point, maybe ten minutes outside of the city, where we contemplated just turning around.  We’d stopped for gas and it was raining so much we were even getting wet under the little gas station roof thing.  But we continued on.

Peggy’s Cove was our first destination.  I was wearing a black dress and sandals.  That was quickly–yet awkwardly–remedied.  My hiking boots were in the car, and I threw on a pair of my husband’s jeans–in addition to an old waterproof golf shirt that I brought along on the trip ‘just in case’.  I looked super hot.  Here I am…

Peggy's Cove in August is cold!

I realize I’m really little, but my husband has photography issues.  I’m also wearing ‘the hat’–but it’s around my neck a this point.  I’ve never looked more stupid–but I was happy because it briefly stopped raining long enough to take some photos, which was my main goal for this stop.  I wanted a good lighthouse photo, damnit, and I was willing to stand in the rain for really long periods of time, waiting for that one moment where there wouldn’t be another tourist in the photo.  Here’s one of the results…

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse, looking very postcard-esque.

We then continued to Lunenburg, a good hour farther away.  Of course it started raining as we drove, but we eeked out maybe 45-minutes of sightseeing in the town itself before the weather became unbearable again.  Is Lunenburg beautiful?

Lunenburg--maybe more quaint than beautiful. But I love quaint!

Yes.  But so is Paris–and I didn’t like it there, mainly because I made everything we did into a checklist.  I feel that this portion of the trip suffered the same fate.  Because we had such limited time–and so many things we wanted to do–AND such crappy weather…it turned into a Louvre-like march to check things off of our must-do list.  Mona Lisa?  Check.  Winged Victory?  Damn it is surrounded by tourists…but check.  That’s how we approached Halifax–and it was the wrong way.  But it taught us an important lesson–and we did not repeat this mistake for the remainder of our trip.

And really, that’s the best kind of lesson.  The kind you actually learn from!

You Know You Have A Travel Blogging Problem When…

…you have to leave on your next trip before finishing your posts about your last trip.  I guess that’s why I really should have been posting from the actual trip, huh?

I hate to do it, but this post is out of order. And by that I don’t mean ‘it doesn’t flush’! You all know that my OCD pretty much demands that everything be orderly, and I really wanted to finish posting about our road trip before I left for my next trip. But, well, that’s not going to happen, as I still have five road trip destinations to write about…and about three hours before my plane leaves for Florida!

If you're looking for me for the next three weeks, this is where you'll find me!

Did I mention that I’m leaving for Orlando for three weeks? Because I am–tonight. Which is insane, because I feel like I just got back from our last trip. I actually took things directly out of my road trip suitcase and put them in my carry-on backpack!

I’ll be in Orlando mainly to do research in Disney World for my hopefully-coming-soon book, The World is Your Classroom.  I’ll be spending twenty days visiting the various Disney parks, resorts, and restaurants.  While I will have company for the first half of the trip, the second half will be truly on my own.  But that’s ok, because I have a lot of work to do.  Nose, prepare to meet the grindstone!

Of course this doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up sharing my adventures and lessons from our road trip.  It just means that they will be interspersed with ramblings about Disney, Orlando, and the surrounding area.  I’m hoping to take at least one day ‘off’ and do a road trip to St. Augustine–so expect a post about that as well.  But I also have to finish telling you about Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, Fundy National Park, and Portland, Maine!

Between all of that and the writing I’ll be doing for my book, I see a serious hand cramp in my future!

Halifax: Rain and Forts and Pints and Pitchers

The day we arrived in Halifax the weather was amazing.  Little did we know it would be the last amazing weather day for the next two weeks!

I had not really planned much for Halifax, as it was supposed to be a stop for my husband.  And my husband only wanted to do two things–see the Citadel and check out the local bars.  So that’s what we did.

Fortunately the weather held out for our Citadel visit, and we arrived just as they were shooting off the noon cannon.  Because of my love for guided tours, we then met up with the very first guided tour of the day and learned all about the Citadel from a nice man dressed in a funny costume.

Our tour guide

Things we learned about the Citadel:

  • Even in the 1800’s, the media affected the real world.  Because of the ‘invention’ of photojournalism, the barracks were made ‘nicer’ so that they wouldn’t get any bad press that may prevent enlistment.
  • The best offense is a good defense–the fort was never attacked.
  • Working in the powder battery was scary, as you could blow up at any time.  No one ever blew up, though!
  • Old habits died hard–they still tried to use the flag/mast system to transmit messages, but weather in Halifax often made this impossible.  Fortunately the telegraph was soon invented.

After the tour we decided we were cold, so we walked along the ramparts to warm ourselves up.  There were lots of kids running around up here, which I thought was funny.  It was almost as if parents went here just to let their kids loose for a while.

View from the ramparts

By this point my husband was getting hungry, so we went off in search of food…er, really, beverages.  We invented a fun activity–rain hopping.  We’d find a pub that my husband wanted to visit and stay there until the rain stopped…and then hurry to the next one before the rain started up again!  It was great exercise, and my husband had a little too much fun. Watch him get progressively…happier…as the day progresses:

Our first stop--random waterfront pub

At Alexander Keith's--best bartender ever, by the way!

Our final stop--thank goodness!

By the end of the afternoon I’d decided hey–if you can’t beat ’em…

Joining him at Maxwell's Plum

We had an absolutely disgusting meal at this last bar that I think counted as dinner.  Here’s a travel tip for you–when something is called ‘the best burger plate in town’…it probably isn’t.  We made it back to the hotel just in time for the skies to really open up–and they remained open for the duration of our stay.

Did the weather stop us from driving to Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg the next day?  Nope!  Up next–quaint seaside towns…in the sideways rain!