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Disney Wine & Dine ½ Marathon Weekend Part One – The Trip

First of all, I just want to say…we had the BEST time this weekend in Florida. Truly, truly…it was so wonderful. I can’t tell you how many times we stopped to look at each other throughout the weekend and reiterate how great a time we were having. It was one of the best weekends…EVER!

Thursday we arrived in Orlando after a fairly uneventful trip through Memphis, in the early evening hours. It was warm and sunny and we were tickled to be on our way to our Disney resort. Now, neither Matt nor I have ever been super crazy about Disney. I mean, sure, when we were kids we liked certain Disney characters (and I could probably still sing every song from the Little Mermaid) but we weren’t really interested in the Disney park experience. Going to Disney to run this race, obviously wasn’t the motivation for me…it was running in honor of Matt…and the warm, sunny location was a happy side effect. We just planned to take it easy and have a relaxing weekend away (oh, and run a half marathon), but who knew that Disney World is the PERFECT place to do both!??

Thursday night we met up with my cousin Libby and her fiancé, Neal. They moved to Orlando earlier this year and we were happy to have family close by to spend a little time with. They drove us over to Downtown Disney and we found a spot for some supper. We sat outside and chatted while we ate – it was a lovely warm evening. We hadn’t seen them for a few years, so it was really nice to meet up and hang out with them!

Friday we had two main items on our agenda - #1) we had to head over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports park to pick up my race packet information sometime in the afternoon and #2) we had a pasta dinner to go to with the rest of the Train to End Stroke team at 7:30. Other than that – we had NO agenda…which was just perfect for us! We slept in a bit, wandered over to our resort food court and grabbed some breakfast, and then decided to take a water taxi to Downtown Disney. We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort which, true to its name, had a New Orleans style theme. The buildings were all built with porches; there were brick sidewalks, and iron fences and gates. It was really pretty! And the landscaping? So gorgeous! Our resort backed up to the ‘Sassagoula River’ where they run complementary water taxis to and from resorts to Downtown Disney. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the water taxis were completely wheelchair friendly and the boat captains were more than accommodating for us each time we got on and off the boats. We spent a few hours wandering around the shops downtown, specifically checking out the candy store (weird, right), and had a late lunch at Planet Hollywood. It was sunny and warm and fantastic!

After a lunch, we took the water taxi back to our resort for a quick stop and then boarded the bus down to the ESPN Park to pick up the race info. We wandered a bit at the Health and Fitness expo, checking out the goods, grabbed my stuff and headed back for the bus. Once back at the resort we relaxed in our room a bit and cleaned up to go out for our pasta party with the Train to End Stroke team.

We boarded another bus – which let me just say – Matt did an awesome job of. I know he doesn’t like to make a fuss…but the whole weekend, walking on and off buses and airplanes – he did a fantastic job! Traveling always presents its challenges, but he’s a trooper through and through. Our bus took us to a backstage, behind the scenes, VIP entrance into Epcot where we met our guide who directed us to our private area along the lake. It was SO nice! We had our own little buffet line, with a chef preparing the pasta, away from the hub-hub of the park overlooking the water. It was a beautiful evening spent getting to know one another a little bit and enjoying the yummy food. After dinner we had a front row seat for the Illuminations display over the water. I don’t know if I can truly do it justice with words or pictures…it was simply awesome! Fireworks, laser lights, music, dancing fountains lit with various colors…all perfectly timed to take MY breath away! I loved it so much, I barely, and I do mean barely contained my excitement. If I weren’t in the presence of so many strangers I KNOW I would have been shrieking in delight! As it was, I couldn’t help but let a few gasps and ooohs escape as I took it all in. Matt said I ‘did pretty well’ at not embarrassing him with my love of fireworks this time. It was the perfect end to a near perfect day. We curled up that night, in our giant king size bed (waving to each other from opposite sides) and drifted off to sleep thinking of the happy memories we’d made that day.

Saturday we had all day to do as we pleased – since I didn’t need to meet up to board the bus for the race until 7:30. We took our time again, moseying around the resort. We decided to take the water taxi to the Port Orleans Riverside resort, which was next to ours, and visit their pool just for fun. We sat poolside for a while soaking in the sunshine and fresh air. I took a few dips in the water and Matt enjoying hanging out in the chaise lounge. We took our time walking back and spent a few hours in the hotel room trying to rest up for the big night and watching a little football.

And then I ran a half marathon.
Ok…more details on that in Part Two.

Sunday morning we slept in a little extra, to recuperate from the crazy night and then met up with George and Sandi to take the water taxi back to Downtown Disney for a late lunch and a little shopping. We had a great meal at House of Blues and checked out the candy store…again (also weird, right?). I will say – we ate well. Very well, all weekend. I was a little worried about stepping on the scale when we got back home…but I guess all that walking and, oh yeah the half marathon, might have helped burn off some calories. I had the most divine frosted cupcake – you know the kind where there is more frosting than cupcake. Oh, it was just so amazing! Matt had the most enormous chocolate covered rice crispy treat I’ve ever seen. But, I digress…we had a great afternoon with Matt’s parents meandering around downtown and riding the water taxis. It really is a very relaxing way to travel. Shady, breezy, warm and wonderful. I loved every single ride.

We had a quick little happy hour with our Train to End Stoke group at the pool bar that afternoon to see how everyone’s race went, and then Matt and I spent some quality time lounging poolside. Knowing that we had a frost advisory back home that night, I just couldn’t pass up the chance to swim in a pool and soak in the sun one last time. I loved every minute of our pool time! Matt was content to lay in the chaise lounge again and watch me swim around. I thought I might tempt him into the pool…and I ALMOST did…but he decided not to try it just yet. (However, he IS looking forward to getting in the ocean when we go to Hawaii next spring.)

That evening we took the water taxi up to the Port Orleans Riverside resort for dinner at their restaurant. The four of us had another great meal and spent the evening chatting and smiling – really…we just had the best time. I think it must be Disney…I can’t really explain it. I’m sure once you go, you get it, but the people who work for Disney are a different caliber of worker than you get at the average restaurant, or shop. I’m sure it is because they are selling an image of family fun…but let me tell you…it’s not all smoke and mirrors! We had the absolute best service everywhere we went at Disney. Service with a smile. Service that went above and beyond to make sure we not only had fun, but had everything we needed and that everything was as easy for Matt as possible. Being in that kind of atmosphere for several days…we were all just HAPPY!! It sounds silly to say it – but we really were. Matt was already talking about going back again someday – not to do the Disney park thing…but to do the Disney resort thing. It was THAT good!!! Two thumbs way up from these Karwoski’s – and I suspect 2 from the elder Karwoski’s too!!

After dinner we walked back from the Riverside resort, along the river…it was a beautiful night and we strolled ever so slowly back to our resort, talking and taking it all in one last time. We stopped for a late night shake (for Matt, of course) at our resort and finally decided to call it a night well after 10:00. None of us wanted the night to end…knowing we’d have to leave Monday. But, Monday came and we readied ourselves for our trip back home. We made it back home safe and sound Monday afternoon and picked up the doggies who were MORE than happy to see us, and their back yard!

We got settled in and happily watched the Hawkeye homecoming game we had recorded from Saturday night – can you believe we made it all the way home without knowing the score or anything!? We were so excited! It was a great way to cap off a great weekend…at home…watching football.


Emily said…
It's so corny, but Disney definitely makes everything feel magical. I'm guessing that visiting Disney's version of New Orleans is probably far more pleasant in smell and safety than the real place! :)
Matt and Emily said…
Having been to the real New Orleans - I can confirm that! Safety and in particular smell were not an issue at Disney! (I've never smelled anything as bad as Bourbon Street!)

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