View Full Version : Sans Friends - SSR Check-in, Seasons 52, Raglan Road, Bongos

05-14-2009, 07:59 AM
Sunday, 9th November

I wake in the night. I’m guessing it’s around 3am as six hours is the longest I ever sleep in one stint and, sure enough, I’m right. I manage to dose off after an hour or so, eventually waking at 6.40am. That’s okay, though, because I’m keen to get to Saratoga Springs before 10am to check in. The only keenness Matt manages to muster revolves entirely around staying in bed.

We find ourselves having to physically check out this morning. Our early night last night meant we missed turndown and, more importantly, the two complimentary mini bottles of Fiji, forcing me to crack open one of the $7 bottles in the room. Linda (the same woman who checked us in two days ago) struggles to persuade the computer to add it to the bill. Just as I’m about to suggest that it’s a sign ($7 for a bottle of water?!) she cracks it and we’re walking to the car by 9.10am.

We drive straight to our home DVC resort of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. We’re anxious to get check in out of the way, besides which we believe we’re more likely to have our requests met by doing so early. We’ve booked a one-bed villa and have requested Grandstand (the newest section and the one at which we’ve stayed previously), and a non-ground floor location at the extreme of a unit (the buildings are all laid out in a squared-off “u” format and those at the "ends", or "tops" if you like, of the "u", don’t overlook other buildings). There’s no line as we enter the Carriage House (Matt mumbles something about everyone else being in bed), but checking in is the most peculiar affair. I’m not sure whether the CM in question is thrown by our accents or is just plain weird, but she has no interest in any kind of interaction, barely speaking two words to us during the entire process, and failing to welcome us home. I ask two questions and receive a nod and a shake of the head respectively. At one point she seems on the verge of cracking a smile, but it's such a fleeting expression, I figure it must be wind. In her favour, she deals with everything at lightening speed and that’s not to be underestimated as it can often be a bit of a drawn out process. She confirms that we’ve been allocated a unit in Grandstand and we’re to call back later for our room number.



We hadn’t planned on visiting Premium Outlets this trip, but since our arrival in Orlando, the local news channel has reported the opening of a new annexe and 50 new stores, so we take the short drive there arriving at 9.50am. The parking lot is relatively empty, but there’s a steady stream of cars arriving and a fair few people milling around awaiting the 10am opening time. We’re keen to see the new stores at the back of the complex and head off in that direction. As we pass by, Lucky Brand Stores is just opening its doors (it’s one of the new stores, but located in an existing unit), so we take the opportunity to check it out as I want to look at the baby stuff for our Grandson. The staff congratulates us on being their first customers. I enquire about prizes, but it seems they haven’t thought that far. To my disappointment, I learn that they won’t be getting the kids’ range until next week, but I take a look around anyway and end up buying two vest tops. I like this store – it’s a true bargain outlet, unlike some others which are barely discounted. Lucky is expensive at full retail prices and my purchases are down to $14.99 each from $44.95 and $29.95 respectively, plus they have a permanent “buy one, get second 50% off” promotion on almost all merchandise. Lucky! (See what I did there?)



We carry on, stopping to browse in various stores. We both want some comfortable shoes and I take a look in Skechers, but this is one of those which doesn’t seem that cheap. We buy both Kenny Chesney’s and Brad Paisley’s new albums in Music For A Song. They’re marked at $14.99 each, but we haven’t a clue about the regular price of CDs these days, so don’t know whether or not we’ve scored a bargain. Matt manages to find a pair of trainer-style shoes in the Timberland store for $59.99. They’re not as nice as the Merrills he saw at Mall at Millenia, but, then again, those were well over $100, so he bites the bullet with the Timberlands.

The plan for today was always to make our way to Edwin Watts (albeit for browsing, rather than keeping them in business as we have done on previous trips) then to head to Corona Cigars and Seasons 52 at west Sand Lake Road. We leave Premium Outlets at 11.30am.

Whilst driving around a few days back, we spotted a new store – Golf Galaxy – next to the new Whole Food Markets at the junction of Turkey Lake and Sand Lake Roads, so we decide to check that out before going on to Edwin Watts. As we drive up, though, there’s an “opening soon” sign outside, so it’s clearly not meant to be. Edwin Watts has seen a refit since our last visit in January this year and is sporting a new driving simulator. We spend some time browsing, but leave with just a new Trion-Z bracelet for Matt.

Next up is Corona Cigars at Sand Lake Road. Matt’s jotted down the names of some high-scoring, yet cheap, award winners from Cigar Aficionado magazine and manages to track down a few of them (although not the $5, 94 pointer, which he’s told has been discontinued). He settles for a box of 24 La Gloria Cubana Serie R No 4 which scored a very respectable 90 points. Although this is a huge place, stuffed to the rafters with some pretty impressive cigars, he knows he’ll also want to buy some from Sosa at Downtown Disney, so he leaves it at that.


I’m particularly excited to be visiting Seasons 52 for lunch. [Despite its rave reviews, it had never really appealed, but we found ourselves in the vicinity and at a loose end during our last trip in January and immediately fathomed its popularity. It’s a gorgeous space with just the right combination of glamour and laid-back ease. Notwithstanding its “healthy” tag, the food is tasty and creative.] We elect to sit at the bar which clearly isn’t a popular choice for Sunday lunch as, whilst the restaurant is fairly busy, we’re the only patrons at the bar. The restaurant boasts an award-winning wine list and I waste no time in ordering the ZD chardonnay. Matt has a Sierra Nevada.

(We didn't have the DSLR with us, so the shots aren't great. I'm not quite sure, either, what caused the maniacal look on my face...)




We take our time perusing the menu and I eventually settle for two appetisers - Small Plate Baby Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese, Pear and Pine Nuts followed by the Goat Cheese Ravioli in a Tomato Broth with Rosemary and Parmesan Flat Bread. Matt opts for Barbecue Chicken Skewers and Grilled Flank Steak Sandwich. The bartender is working the entire bar area and, on his return from attending to a couple of diners in booths, expresses surprise that our appetisers aren’t out. We’ve been happily chatting away and haven’t noticed an overly long wait. He disappears off to the kitchen and is soon back with them, telling us that they’re on the house. We insist that it isn’t a problem, and that we’re just happy to be sitting there chilling out, but he’s equally insistent that it isn’t up to their usual high standards, so we don’t press the point. I have another glass of the ZD and Matt fancies a shiraz. The bartender recommends a couple – the Woop Woop (Australian) which we’re familiar with and know is at the lower end of the price range, and the Sequillo (South African) which he says is expensive, but worth it. After taking a moment to check the list, Matt decides on something else altogether as the Sequillo isn’t listed as being available by the glass. We’re surprised to learn that, actually, all their wines are available by the glass and even more surprised that there’s no premium (a 175ml glass costs a quarter of the bottle price). I make a mental note to pay attention at other restaurants in a bid to discover if this is usual policy in the US. At home, it’s considerably cheaper to buy by the bottle.






05-14-2009, 08:00 AM
We need a few provisions for the remainder of our stay and had planned to hit Albertson’s and Whole Foods, both of which are just a short drive away. Feeling rather languid after lunch, though, it now seems silly not to simply walk to the Publix next door. I’ve been inside a fair few in my time, but this is better than most. Not hugely different, but definitely nicer. It’s nearing 3pm as we leave and I briefly toy with the notion of stopping off at Whole Foods as, bizarrely, it’s something I’d been looking forward to in the build up to this trip. I know that Matt won’t be thrilled at the suggestion and we’re both keen to get to Saratoga Springs, so I accept that now just isn’t the time.

We take the back route via Turkey Lake Road/Palm Parkway and Winter Garden Vineland Road, avoiding the ever-busy I-4/Apopka-Vineland Road/Hotel Plaza Blvd combination. As we pull up outside the Carriage House, we exchange a grin – an unspoken acknowledgement that we’re both excited to be here. Matt waits outside whilst I nip in to get our room number. Again, there’s no wait at check-in, but the encounter couldn’t be more different. The CM is dealing with some paperwork as I approach the desk, but she immediately looks up and is cheerful and helpful, asking if I need directions and bidding me a very warm, “welcome home”.

Our room number - 8303 - confirms that all our requests have been met and, having found a parking spot near the entrance to our building, we make the decision to check it out before unloading the car. Whilst we'd been willing to overlook the shortcomings of the room at the BoardWalk earlier in the trip, we're not going to be so forgiving here. Having satisfied ourselves that we’re happy with it, it takes two trips to unload first the luggage and then the shopping (and just a further ten or so for the alcohol :D). We unpack and take some photos before sitting on the balcony for half an hour, soaking up our surroundings and basking in mutual contentment. Although moving around isn’t a problem for us and the accommodations this trip have been absolutely perfect for what we’ve wanted to do, it's so nice to be in this spacious suite knowing that we're settled for the rest of the trip.









I take a dip in the whirlpool tub and Matt gets the washer and dryer earning their keep, before we set off in the direction of Downtown Disney. Our intention is to walk across and sit at the bar at the T-Rex Café. There’s a slight nip in the air – not unbearably cold, but certainly not balmy – and, seeing a boat approaching as we pass the dock, it seems sensible to take advantage of it. After depositing a couple of passengers, the Captain informs the assembled crowd that he’s OKW-bound and that the next boat will be along in 6 minutes. Damn it, man! Do you not appreciate it’s been almost 10 minutes since we last had a drink? Not wanting to hang around, we revert to plan A. As we cross the bridge, we watch in disbelief as a second boat passes underneath and heads towards the dock. D’oh! We hurry back, managing to snag the last two seats.

T-Rex is mobbed, both outside and in, and there are no free seats at the bar. We're keen to try this place because it’s new, but it doesn’t have to be an evening undertaking. A less frenzied pace would suit us better, so we agree to try again at lunchtime tomorrow. We opt instead for Raglan Road and, even though Downtown Disney itself seems very busy, this has to be the slowest we’ve seen it at this time of day (7.30ish).

My ice-cold A by Acacia chardonnay slips down nicely and Matt seems to enjoy his Murphy’s Red. We order a cup of the Chef’s Soup of the Day (blended potato, cabbage and bacon), some crispy onions and the Dalkey Duo. It seems to be a long time coming, but we’re not unduly concerned. At one point I spot a server headed our way with what appears to be our order, but he passes on by and I think no more of it. Five minutes later he approaches from the opposite direction looking perplexed, and the bartender points him in our direction. By this time, the food's barely warm, but Matt quickly plows into the sausages (which I’m not keen on anyway) and the soup is just about warm enough to eat, so I get on with that. There’s nothing worse than cold onion rings, though, so as soon as I’m able to attract the bartender’s attention, I ask for a replacement. She quickly returns with a fresh batch and we take the opportunity to order more drinks – another glass of wine for me and a Yeungling for Matt. (Somewhere along the way, he’s also managed to fit in a Guinness). This time the onions are stone cold. Although there are 3 bartenders around, they’re all busy serving and by the time we’ve finished our drinks, the idea of the onion rings has lost its appeal. This particular visit to Raglan Road hasn’t been stellar so, rather than order more drinks, we decide to move on and I ask for the onion rings to be removed from the check. We make up the Tables in Wonderland 18% auto-gratuity to 20%+, on the full pre-onion-rings-fiasco amount. It’s only a couple of dollars difference, so hardly seems worth it, but, remembering our conversation with the bartender at the Belle Vue Lounge a few days ago, we do it anyway.





We wander through Pleasure Island, stopping to take some photos of the Adventurers Club for posterity. It seems that a private function is in full swing inside. *Sigh*




As we head on into West Side, we decide to check out the bar at Bongos. We ate here once, many years ago when the girls were quite young, but haven’t been back since. Row upon row of glasses already containing mint and limes makes my choice easy – a dark rum mohito, please! In actuality, it should have set alarm bells ringing and it’s the most disappointing I’ve had all trip. It’s hard to go wrong with Matt’s choice of Makers Mark on the rocks and the bar has some some very funky drum seats, but it somehow lacks atmosphere, so we settle the check after one drink.






We scope out the Virgin Me****ore for a shopping trip later in the week. Afterwards I suggest a drink at the House of Blues, but Matt doesn’t seem overly bothered (although that’s possibly in the knowledge that we have around half Milwaukee’s annual production back at the room). We walk back to SSR, narrowly managing to avoid a drenching in a duel with a couple of enormous, not to mention erratic, sprinklers. It’s before 10.30pm when we arrive back at the room, but we’re both tired and decide to call it a day.

Postscript: Fine and sunny. Temperatures in high 70s.

05-14-2009, 08:04 AM
$7 for a water :scared1: SSR check in area looks lovely, as does the food. I loved the Premium Outlets when we went last year. :goodvibes

05-14-2009, 11:52 AM
Dear Debbie,

This comment is about the timing of your lengthy and beautifully illustrated report. What the heck?!!! You couldn't have taken my schedule into account because if you had you'd either have posted this much earlier or waited three weeks. I don't have time to read this now--and yet I want to read it more than anything else I'm supposed to be doing!

Here at school I'm swamped with end of the year work and have no time. At home I'm trying to get things organized for my own WDW trip and really should be ironing and packing instead of reading about the fun you and Matt had last fall. You know I wouldn't have this problem if you'd taken me along on that trip--or waited to go with us on the trip that begins next week. I await your apology. Miffed though I am, here's a hug. Susan

05-14-2009, 03:38 PM
All right now--after complaining bitterly a couple of hours ago about the timing of these new installments, I've somehow managed to read this one by running into my office a half dozen times and making it through a few paragraphs at a time then darting back out to do the job they pay me to do. Absolutely worth the risk to my job as it's another beautifully done report. Terrific photos of smiling faces, surroundings, and food that looked far better than the humble ham and cheese on whole wheat that I was wolfing down while I was reading about your Raglan Road dinner. BTW, you just put a lie to the old saying: There's no free lunch. Your free lunch at Seasons 52 looked great. Susan

PS In that shot of Matt at the computer, were you capturing him as he wrote his "real time" trip report?

05-15-2009, 04:05 AM
Another relaxing day, though the food service left a lot to be desired.

05-15-2009, 08:19 AM
et day Deb, your room at ssr looks lovely :thumbsup2

05-15-2009, 08:41 AM
$7 for water :scared:

05-15-2009, 02:08 PM
I was starting to worry about you - starting the day off with a water :rolleyes1 But you made up for it as the day progressed :)

05-16-2009, 04:12 AM
what a lovely day, the pcitures are brilliant, I so want a one bedroom doodah at Saratoga

05-16-2009, 08:48 AM
$7 for water !!! :eek:

Another great day, and fab pics. SSR looks like a lovely resort to stay at :)

05-16-2009, 09:28 AM
fab day, your lunch looks very tasty indeed. accom. top notch:thumbsup2

05-16-2009, 11:36 AM
so great to see our wonderful saratoga home again.