We checked out of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando around 5:30 a.m. and begun our drive north. We were making pretty good time and our first stop was going to be in South Carolina. We made it to the Carolina Cider Company. Once inside we purchased goodies for us and friends. We got jams, pork rinds, fry sauce, and more.
We just pulled out of the store and headed to the gas station when my car notified us that one of our tires was low. We pull over to add air and sure enough there is a nail in my tire. It's 11:45 a.m. and we start looking up garages/tire stores. There is one that is only 12 minutes away but they close at noon! Finally we decide to go to Walmart in Beaufort S.C. which is about a half an hour back from where we came. We arrive at Walmart and check in. 2 hours later they finally had time to look at our car and tell us that the nail is too close to the edge and needs to be replaced. A few minutes later they tell us they don't have the tire nor size we need. The technician trying to help us out call another company that's just down the road but they don't have it either.
We finally call around and NTB in Charleston S.C. doesn't have that tire but they can give us 4 new tires in the next size up. Knowing that we were still a very long way from home we realized we didn't have any other options. We then drove the half an hour to that shop and checked in.
While waiting for our car to be fixed we tried to have lunch at Ruby Tuesday's nearby. We waited a few minutes for someone to seat us. The waiter who welcomed us tried to seat us but kept running into dirty tables. Finally he found a clean one near the bar. I decided to run to the restroom but found it beyond disgusting. I came back out and told Greg that if the tables are all uncleaned, and the bathroom is unclean then what does the kitchen look like!! Needless to say we left the restaurant without eating.
Walking back up to the shop we decided to get coffee and a bagel at Dunkin Donuts. The staff were very friendly and let us hang out there until the car was ready. Once the car was done we got back on the road to home. We were going to be too late to our planned stop to the Pee Dee State Farmers Market in Florence S.C. so we opted to cheer ourselves up with food. We headed back to Sweatman's BBQ. We opted for 2 plates to go and saved them for when we got hungry.
At this point Greg was wired and ready to be home so we drove straight home only stopping for quick breaks. We made it to my parents house around 10 a.m. and picked up our little Fred. Our next stop was to Whole Foods because we knew if we went home first there was no going back out! Finally we got to go home and crash!
This definitely wasn't the ending to our vacation that we hoped for but we have both learned that it's best to just roll with things and try to make the best of it!
On our last day in Florida we spent the first part of the day relaxing at the resort. We opted to walk over to the Hilton for breakfast. We ordered coffee and fruit and noticed the differences between the two properties. We both agreed that the Waldorf seems to be maintained better.
We then walked around the property, enjoyed the pool area, and opted for room service when it was lunch time. The Waldorf room service is top notch. The staff are warm, understand food allergies, and set a lovely table.
In the afternoon we had plans to meet up with friends in Oviedo FL. We stopped at a Whole Foods just up the highway from us to buy flowers for our friends. We sat in a good amount of traffic but finally made it to their house. We were able to spend some time chatting and enjoying a cocktail at their house before heading out for dinner.
We met another person at Carmel Kitchen in Winter Park. We were seated right away and had a nice table surrounded by their wine cabinets. We all ordered drinks (sangria, wine, and Stella Artois). Greg ordered the Seafood Risotto while I ordered the Moroccan Chicken. Both of our entrees were very good. The surprise of the night was how my friend thoroughly enjoyed Polenta and White Bean Ragout. My friend doesn't go vegetarian very often and she loved this dish!
After dinner we drove back to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and got packed for our long ride home.
Today was all about relaxing! We slept in and eventually made it down to the Peacock Alley for some coffee and fruit.
After breakfast we decided to spend the day by the pool. We were greeted right away by the pool staff even though they were helping some one else. We found a couple of chairs with an umbrella and the staff put covers and towels on them for us.
A little while later we decided it was 5 'o clock somewhere and we ordered a round of drinks. We both enjoyed the Preserved Bulleit. When it came time for lunch we were still enjoying our time by the pool so we ordered from Aquamarine. We started with Shrimp Cocktail and then I enjoyed the Asian Chop Salad with Shrimp and Greg enjoyed the Tuna Tacos.
In the late afternoon we decided to head to Disney Springs earlier than our reservation time at Morimoto Asia. We did a little shopping for friends and family. We bought some toys, some vinyl dolls for Greg to paint, and some Guinness Glaze. While we were shopping inside Raglan Road we decided to enjoy a drink and watch the singers and dancers.
Finally it was time for our dinner at Morimoto Asia. We had a reservation booked through Molly for the Omakase. When booking the Omakase you need to email or call for a reservation, provide your information, and then leave a 50% deposit. Our experience was amazing however it didn't start out that way.
We we arrived at the restaurant the first check in desk didn't have our reservation. The second check-in desk didn't have our reservation either. 10 min later and only a small apology we finally got seated. However now the staff didn't know about my allergies and I had to explain them to our waiter. Sadly the restaurant doesn't offer a sake or wine pairing but our sake flight was a generous pour.
The next small disappointment was when I was given a Dirty hand towel. Our waiter was very busy so it took a few minutes to get his attention but it was finally replaced. Our waiter was very fun. Chef Yuhi Fujinaga's and Chef Alex were wonderful to us. All of the dishes we received were beautiful, innovative without being to flashy, a perfect balance of flavor profiles, and abundant in portions. Our Omakase included:
Gooey duck, Oysters Caviar and Uni, Skipjack, Clam, Snapper, Another sushi (can't remember which), Smoked raw fish (can't remember which one), Lobster soup, Braised fish, Scallop and Peeking duck, Yellowtail rice stone bowl, Wagyu beef, Yuzu palate cleanser , and Matcha panna cotta, My dessert wasn't originally planned. there was a miscommunication about my allergy to the pastry chef. I was given the panna cotta but then our waiter and I spoke up about my allergy. I was then given Strawberry sorbet, watermelon soda, and boba. Unfortunately it was sweet upon sweet, upon sweet.
This meal has surpassed all of our other Omakase experiences (Morimoto NYC, Nobu, Oishii, O Ya, and Zuma Miami). We would go back and do it again in a heartbeat.
Today we got to sleep in a bit since we wanted to miss the rush hour traffic heading south. Once we were ready we called down to the Valet and had our car brought around. We decided to get some breakfast on the road so to Starbucks we went! I ordered my usual Iced Green Tea unsweetened and the pumpkin bread (which is dairy free).
Back on the road we made the drive down to Miami. Our first stop was Wynwood Walls. We were enjoying the warm weather and loved seeing some new pieces in the area. Sadly a store that we visited last year didn't offer many unique items this time around.
For lunch we went next door to KYU. We were seated right away even though we didn't have a reservation. We ordered a couple cocktails and took a few minutes to peruse the menu. Our waitress was nice, unobtrusive, and was cautious with my allergy. For our meal we ordered the Thai style cripsy pork "guy", Tuna tataki, Shishito peppers, and the Thai fried rice stone pot with king crab. Everything we ordered was outstanding. Each dish was beautifully presented, and had some many different layers of flavor.
After lunch we fought traffic to visit Little Havana. Our next stop was to visit the Romero Britto gallery's (one of my favorite artists of today). Romero Britto also happened to be out front of his gallery as we were entering. We enjoyed a couple of drinks outside and just relaxed for a while. Our last stop in Miami was to The Bazaar. We loved this restaurant last year and had high hopes for this visit. We received an offer from the manager to book our next reservation directly through him (via Tripadvisor). The Bazaar was in fact our main reason for driving down to Miami for the day from Orlando. Unfortunately we were utterly let down.
We were seated right away but we ended up being next to a staff door to outside area. The door was constantly being slammed closed. Our waiter was friendly but more definitely more rehearsed and not personable. We would hear the same speech given to the tables around us. I was completely disappointed that on this visit I was given a dairy free menu. This is one of my pet peeves. In a high end restaurant items should be made to order (just like they were last year). The coconut rice we loved last year apparently now contains dairy. The waiter seemed perturbed but did ask the chef to make it dairy free.
After a very long wait we ordered the Japanese tacos, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota 'Fermin, Oysters with caviar, Coconut rice, Potatoes sofrito, and King crab. There was no guidance from our waiter, no suggestions, no mention to pair drinks. Rather than making an experience for their guests the restaurant seems very streamlined now. During our meal we had to ask for another drink and he never asked how we were doing. The items we ordered were just okay. The coconut rice was watery, the oysters were just salty without other notes, and the king crab ruined my taste buds by the addition of tarragon. The highlight of the evening was a man named Dobie Charles. Dobie made us our complimentary Caipirinha with liquid nitrogen. Dobie has a great smile, loads of personality, and entertained us and those around us including the staff. $360.00 later we left feeling lackluster.
We definitely won't be returning again. We will go ahead and try one of the many other restaurants in the area.
After dinner it was time for the long ride back to Miami. It was a good day but definitely no the day we had hoped for.
This morning we got up and ready and left the hotel and headed west. We stopped at Starbucks along the way for coffee and breakfast.
Our first stop of the day was Wat Mongkolrata Temple in Tampa. We only wandered around the exterior property and took some photos. From there we drove to St Petersburg to visit the Dali Museum. During the short drive I happened to see a billboard for the museum and I was ecstatic! Not only would we be viewing works by Dali but there just happened to be a Frida Kahlo exhibit!
We entered the museum and decided to visit the Frida Kaho exhibit first. Not only was the exhibit about her art but also her life. We were deeply moved by the artwork, photographs, and pieces in her own words. While the exhibit was simple in design the combined pieces flooded us with a variety of emotions.
The works by Salvador Dali made us emotional, curious, amazed, and excited. We were truly inspired by the depth, thoughtfulness, and level of detail in each piece. Later on that evening we had a spirited conversation about how he painted, how amazing his brain worked, and what would took away from it for our own paintings.
Finally we visited the garden and the gift shop. The day was beautiful and the weather perfect for wandering around the maze.
Driving to St Pete Beach we hit a good amount of traffic. We tried to go to a restaurant recommended by my brother in law however the parking was very limited. We drove a little further down the road and decided to try The Salty Rim. We opted to sit on their deck with the beautiful scenery. The staff were all really friendly and helpful. Our drinks were also very good. The portions are huge! We ordered Conch fritters, grouper bites, fish and chips, and sesame seared tuna steak. Everything was good well and was delicious.
Luckily the ride back to Orlando is very pretty because we hit rush hour traffic! A while later and we arrived back to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. Sadly my friend had to head back home since she was working the next two days.
After she left we decided to sit down in the lounge (Peacock Alley) and enjoy a few rounds of Manhattan's along with some snacks. We ended our evening back up in our room relaxing with a nice bottle of red wine.
This morning we had tickets for the three of us to go to Epcot. For breakfast we opted to go to Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria. I was thrilled to see that they offered fruit cups as well as dairy free coffee options.
We drove to Epcot and opted for the premium parking. The small added cost is well worth it. There was a rather large line for getting into the park. Luckily none of us had bags so we got to bypass most of the crowds. Once inside the park we decided to see if there were any rides that the lines weren't to long. Our first ride was Mission Space. We decided to go the less intense green team since my friend gets motion sick. The green team worked in our favor as the wait was only 5 minutes! We then tried to get on Test Track and Soarin'. Unfortunately, the waits for those rides was over an hour each and the fast passes weren't available until the evening hours.
We gave up on going on rides and decided to go to the World Showcase. Our first stop is always Mexico. We head down to La Cave del Tequila for some margarita's. We spent a relaxing and fun time having a couple of margarita's along with chips and salsa. My favorite is the Cucumber Margarita (Tequila blanco, orange liqueur, caramelized pineapple juice, muddled fresh basil, agave nectar, muddled cucumber, served on the rocks with a Tajín chili powder rim).
Next we wandered through each of the countries checking out their stores, bars, and restaurants. A couple of the highlights were the Beijing style candied strawberries, buying perfume in Italy, and seeing the lovely garden sculpture of Tink/Peter Pan.
We decided to have lunch at The Rose & Crown. We did have reservations and were seated right away. For lunch we enjoyed beer, cider, scotch eggs, potato leek soup, and oven roasted fish and chips (dairy and gluten free). The service is friendly, I was offered the option to speak with the chef, my allergies were accommodated, and the food was very good.
We continued on our way around the World Showcase. I don't know how but my friend who is originally from New England has never tried maple candy! Luckily Canada was nearby and so we purchased some for her to try. Naturally she loved it! Who doesn't!!
We left the park and headed back to our hotel to cool off and get changed for dinner.
We took a car from our hotel to Disney Springs. Tonight we decided to sit on the outdoor deck of Paradiso 37 for before dinner drinks. We had no idea that we would end up having a lovely experience to go with our drinks. I ordered a Pineapple Caipirinha. Next thing we know the Caipirinha cart pushed by a lovely woman came our way. They custom make your Caiprinha in front of you. On our 2nd round the bartender suggested combining fruit flavors. I opted for a pineapple and mango Caipirinha and it was amazing!!
For dinner we had reservations at STK. We walked over to the restaurant and were seated right away at an outdoor table. Our waitress was wonderful! She was funny, vibrant, professional, and cared that we were happy with our meal. To start our meal we ordered the wedge salad and the beef tartare. The tartare was amazing with it's bright flavor, hint of heat, and crips to enjoy it on. Our entrees came out and my Dry Aged Delmonico came out cold. Our waitress took it back right away. A few minutes later and someone else brings my plate back. I look down and my $63 steak was cut in half and reheated. I called the waitress back over and she agreed that this shouldn't have happened. A few minutes goes by again and the manager comes out and explains that he asked for it to be rushed and that's why the chef cut it in half and reheated it. I explained that this was awful service, a disservice to me and to the steak. Once I received my new steak it was hot, tender, and delicious. Our waitress took $20 off of our bill for our inconvience which I thought was really nice. We ended up adding that $20 to her 20% tip since she was so wonderful.
We left Brunswick early in the morning so that we could maximize our time in Orlando. 4 hours later and we pulled up to the Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
Our reservation was for 6 nights in a Deluxe Suite. Before our stay we contacted the concierge department in regards to booking a pool cabana and ordering a fruit platter to our room. I wrote them back and on Saturday I received a response saying that they were closed on Saturdays. On Sunday we didn't receive a response nor did anyone say anything while we checked in. Needless to say we didn't receive our fruit platter nor did we decide to purchase the cabana.
It was around 11 a.m. when we went inside to check in. Our room wasn't ready yet so we visited the Peacock lounge for a drink and snacks. We received a text that our room 930 was available. We were pleased to find out that we got an upgrade to a luxury suite. This was our third stay at the property and our first upgrade. The room was a lovely layout and very clean except for the sofa bedding which had a bright red stain on it. Our friend met us at the hotel and we opted for lunch poolside. We ordered the Asian salad, tuna tacos, and Caesar salad. The food was good however the drinks were just okay. We decided to relax back in our room for a while. That evening we went out to dinner. When we arrived back at the hotel around 11 pm. We walked into our room and were instantly disgusted by a fried fish smell. We called downstairs and were told that someone would come by to fix it. Housekeeping called us and said that could spray air freshener. We found that the scent was coming from the vent near the front door (air freshener won't solve this problem). We called again and couldn't get through to the front desk. We decided to walk down stairs. After a long wait we were given a room on 4th floor which would be larger. We felt it was a little odd though when the Bellman escorted us to make sure the room would be okay. During our walk to the new room the bellman was the only person who finally admitted that room 930 was above the kitchen. The new room was handicapped, very narrow layout, and felt claustrophobic. We went back downstairs to explain that this wasn't acceptable. Finally we were given a a room smaller than we had and 100 credit. We packed our stuff and made our way to the new room. The new room was fine but it was on a lower level than the room we originally booked, lower than the upgraded room, and did overlook a rooftop.
The next morning housekeeping rang our doorbell at 8:30 and wanted to know when we would be out of the room. The housekeeping manager Angie called during the day to express an apology for our experiences. We came back to a bottle of red wine, chocolates, and extra amenities. The next day someone else called to check on our happiness. Unfortunately the staff are all trained to ask what would make you happy to correct the issues. We agreed that we felt that this question is inappropriate.We were the ones wronged, you know the value of our loss, and yet you want me to tell you what I want? Okay comp all my extras, give me back my 130k points, etc. We would never ask for compensation however if you ask how our stay is going we will tell you (especially for this being our 3rd stay and for 6 nights). The other offering is a free breakfast. I have a dairy and gluten allergy and never eat breakfast. In the end Angie called again to check on us. We explained our feelings about their procedures and she went above and beyond by working with the front desk staff to remove our daily fees.
The highlights of the Waldorf Astoria is valet staff are definitely efficient and friendliest of the resort, the women at the coffee bar are always smiling and warm, the coffee is very good, peacock lounge is always a nice spot for drinks, pool chair attendants are fast and friendly, and room service is lovely.
We checked out of the hotel very early in the morning and the process of bell service, check out, and valet was nice and smooth.
We would still return to the Waldorf Astoria thanks to the beautiful surroundings and the special staff like Angie.
This evening we went to Downtown Disney for drinks and dinner with our friend. We first opted for the Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar. The drinks were delicious. We ordered the Himalyan Zing - Gochujang Pepper Sauce wings. While the wing sauce was flavorful and not too spicy things wings themselves were unappetizing. I'm not sure if it's because of my allergies but the fat wasn't rendered and the skin was very chewy.
For dinner we had a reservation at The Boathouse. We opted to sit outside on their beautiful deck. The wait staff were definitely some of our favorites! The staff was warm, concerned about guest happiness, and a few of them were hilarious! The chef did come out to discuss options for my dairy allergy. Our octopus appetizer was chewy and stringy and our waiter sent it back when we weren't in love with it. A new one was sent out and it was much better. Our entree's were fried fish, swordfish, and tuna. They were all prepared well, very flavorful and were large portions.
This is how it usually goes when figuring out what time to leave for a road trip to Florida.
Me - What time are we leaving?
Greg - Early.
Me - What's early?
Greg - 3 a.m.
Me - Okay.
Day before we are set to leave
Greg - why don't we leave tonight after we finish packing and have dinner.
Me - I knew it! Okay sure.
Naturally we left for Florida at 9 p.m. on Friday night instead of the planned 3 a.m. on Saturday. After taking a longer route through CT, and traffic in NY we didn't want to make any big stops along the way.
In Holly Hill SC we stopped at one of our favorite BBQ restaurants. At Sweatmans BBQ we ordered one small and one large plate to go. The plates come with BBQ pork in their mustard sauce, their amazing hash over rice, a pork rib, pork cracklin, cole slaw (or green beans for a dairy free option) and a slice of white bread. We just had to dig into some of our meal! Both of us agree that our favorite part of the meal is the hash.
Back onto 95 south we made our way to Brunswick GA. Before stopping at our hotel for the night we visited a local liquor store. We happened to meet a nice couple and chatted about our favorite Bourbons. We ended up purchasing an everyday sipping Bourbon.
Our stop for the night was the Hampton Inn Brunswick GA. When pulling in to the parking lot we were able to watch the nearby airshow featuring The Blue Angels. The sights and sounds were amazing! Another first for me!
We had previously stayed at this Hampton Inn unfortunately this visit didn't stack up to the previous. Things started out poorly when we couldn't select the room type we reserved while trying to check in online. We checked into the hotel and the person at the front desk was nice, welcomed us as Diamond Members, and offered us our bottled water. The room appeared to be clean however once we pulled back the sheets and checked the shower we noticed hairs all over it. We called down and were told someone from Housekeeping would be right up. It took 30 minutes and 2 people arrived and weren't very friendly. The switched the linens and left. In my opinion we should have been offered another room but we were too tired to truly complain. The other issue we encountered was the WiFi being very spotty.
A few days after we checked out we received a survey. After filling out our comments we did receive an email from the General Manager. Nelly Quinon did offer us 10K points back from our stay. This was an appreciated offer.