Sans Friends - Strolling SSR, T-Rex, The Wave

Discussion in 'UK Trip Reports Board' started by UKDEB, May 14, 2009.

  1. UKDEB

    UKDEB <font color=CC33FF>Found the Tag Fairy's hangout<b Moderator

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    Monday, 10th November

    A slow day was always on the cards for today, and, even though we’re up by 7.30am, it’s gone 11am before we’re ready to leave the room. We abandon the scheduled activity of a walk over to Old Key West as, after yesterday evening’s aborted effort, we’re keen to get to T-Rex in good time.

    Although this is our third stay at Saratoga Springs, we’ve never had an opportunity to have a proper look around. On top of that, whilst we’ve walked from the resort to West Side (leaving SSR adjacent to the Turf Club and hitting DTD between Cirque du Soleil and House of Blues) many times, we haven’t walked the route from the opposite end of the resort into Marketplace. We’re agreed that today provides the ideal circumstances to do both.

    We head first to the main complex. The Carriage House is home to check-in, the Turf Club Bar and Grill, Artist’s Palette Food Court and Marketplace (resort shop). Also in this central area is The Spa and the main swimming pool, High Rock Spring (there are an additional 3 quiet pools throughout the resort).

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    Although we’re familiar with most of the facilities here, I want to take a look at the spa. I’ve always been reluctant to book treatments here (likewise at the Grand Floridian) because, of the few photographs I’ve been able to find, none fills me with enthusiasm. For that reason, my onsite spa experiences have always been at the Mandara Spa at the Dolphin. The SSR Spa is as I’d expected – pleasant enough, but far too functional for my tastes. I like a good dollop of luxury with my spa encounters. [I only managed to get a photograph of the foyer – the other areas were all in use and I thought it would be rude to start snapping away.]

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    We also pop into the Turf Club Lounge as we’re intrigued by the blurb in the DVC pack we were given at check-in yesterday which describes it as having “panoramic views over the golf course and the lights of Downtown Disney”. Not unless it’s had a major makeover, it hasn’t! Sure enough, it’s the same old view of the golf club car park, and a vague glimpse of Cirque if you crane your neck.

    The plan is to walk the path along the length of the water’s edge opposite Downtown Disney, so we head off in the direction of Congress Park (one of five neighbourhoods and very popular thanks to its views over DTD). We take our time, soaking it all up and taking photos along the way.

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    The path eventually brings us out onto Buena Vista Drive and into Marketplace next to the bus stop.

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    We head straight to T-Rex and are taking our seats at the virtually empty Shark Bar shortly before noon. Needless to say, we’re aware this is Rainforest Café with dinosaurs, but what we haven’t picked up on from photos we’ve seen is just how similar the two are. Here there’s an open kitchen and, even with the Build a Dino franchise at the rear, the gift shop is considerably smaller than the RFC at Animal Kingdom, but other than that the footprints are almost identical and the environment is almost indistinguishable – right down to the storms, animal cacophony and air con pumped up to the max.

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    I order a cocktail – a Lava something or another – which is almost a dessert: a fruity, creamy affair that I would have loved at one time, but which is perhaps a tad on the sweet side for my grown-up palate (still good, though!). Matt has a Sam Adams. Tonight we’re planning to head back to The Wave (definitely this trip’s find), and, as RFC regulars, we know the food here will be plentiful, so we choose to order from the appetisers menu – Colosso Nachos (seasoned beef, pico de gallo, black beans, green onions, Cheddar cheese, queso sauce and sour cream) for Matt and Footprints Flatbread (warm flatbread topped with Cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan and goat cheeses, rotisserie chicken and caramilised onions, drizzled with a balsamic glaze) for me. They’re both enormous and we could easily have shared either one as an entrée. Matt manages to do justice to half his nachos, plus a slice of my pizza, whilst I know, even as I’m eating it, that my fourth slice was a slice too far. Will I never learn?

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    Both dishes are really good. [I’ve always been impressed with the food at RFC, particularly the pizzas which seem to be made from scratch with fresh ingredients, and I’ve never understood why it receives such a high percentage of poor reviews. In my experience, it can seem comparatively expensive, but armed with the knowledge that the portion sizes are huge, it’s easy enough to get value for money.]

    We leave feeling more than satisfied – with the food, the overall experience, and having succeeded in our bid to eat there – and take a stroll around Marketplace, taking a look inside most of the shops there.

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    As Matt’s been a good boy, with not even a hint of a rolled eye as I drag him into yet another store crammed to the rafters with Disney merchandise, I suggest a stop at the Sosa Cigar Bar at the Marketplace end of Pleasure Island. He tries his best to appear nonchalant, but only succeeds in looking like the cat who got the cream. Before settling at the bar with a Red Stripe and a Fess Parker chardonnay respectively, Matt chooses one of Sosa’s own offerings which scored 90 points in a recent edition of Cigar Aficionado. We discover that the cigars he bought at Corona Cigars yesterday cost $10.50 each here. There they were $6.50 and, after the discount he received for buying a box, worked out at just $4 each. We haven't previously noticed that Sosa is particularly expensive and we wonder whether this is a one-off. It’s certainly not incomprehensible that its price could become inflated once a cigar appears in CA. As a very recent subscriber to the pleasures of this particular indulgence (he doesn’t smoke cigarettes), he’s only ever bought the odd one or two during previous trips, so it’s altogether possible that we simply haven’t paid that much attention. We both always enjoy our sojourns here and sit at the bar chatting away with each other, the bartender and other patrons. My only grievance is the cigarette smokers who seek refuge here. Cigar bars should be places for like-minded individuals to share their appreciation of an occasional treat in a relaxed environment, not somewhere for cigarette smokers to partake of a quick drag in a bid to get around the recent bans. Cigar bars on cruise ships have been commandeered in the same way. I know that’s probably a completely unprincipled view, but cigarette smokers never used to inhabit cigar bars. I don’t quite understand why, if cigar bars are legal, there couldn’t also be cigarette bars.
     
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  3. UKDEB

    UKDEB <font color=CC33FF>Found the Tag Fairy's hangout<b Moderator

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    We move on through Pleasure Island before taking to the water’s edge to take a few more photos. Arriving at West Side, Matt wants to take a look in the Sosa cigar shop. Armed with our new knowledge, he doesn’t buy anything, but jots down prices for a return visit to Corona Cigars.

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    Unlike last night, Matt’s keen to imbibe at the House of Blues bar. Although we’ve been here several times before, we’ve never really taken the time to absorb it all and the theming is actually very cool, both inside and out. From our vantage point middle and centre at the bar, I see things I’ve never noticed before.

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    Now replete, we head back to SSR, skipping the scenic route by the water’s edge and opting instead for the shortcut across the car park. Back at the room, we spend some time chilling on the balcony before I take a dip in the whirlpool tub. Whilst we’re out on the balcony, the phone goes and it’s Vernon, an old friend from the DISboards and now a DVC employee living in Orlando, who we always manage to hook up with at some point during each trip. We make arrangements to meet him on Thursday evening at the Orlando Ale House at Lake Buena Vista.

    I can’t believe I’m about to type this (and those of you who know him would never have this down as a phase which would leave his lips), but as we get ready for dinner at The Wave, Matt declares that he wants to get the bus to Magic Kingdom and walk to the Contemporary from there. I’m a bit togged up and not at all comfortable with that, so I manage to convince him that we should walk up to the Carriage House and get a cab from there. Even there, everyone who comes and goes as we wait, stares at me (have they really never seen anyone at WDW not wearing a character t-shirt and Mickey ears?), so I’m relieved I don’t have to endure an entire bus journey of gawping. The fare is the best $16.40 ($20 with tip) that we’ve spent.

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    We arrive at around 7am to find a packed bar. Happily, two women are settling their check as we approach, so we’re soon seated. Alan, our bartender from our lunchtime sally last week is here, but is now assisted by two others and Bob is on duty at our end of the bar. I start with the Wolf Blass Gold Label chardonnay which isn’t chilled nearly enough. Similarly, Matt is sure that his Corona can only have made a brief encounter with the fridge. Not a good start. Nevertheless, we enjoy watching the coming and goings and, in less than half an hour, the pre-dinner drinkers move on and there are a good dozen empty seats. We ask to see the dinner menu and I order a Grey Goose martini, whilst Matt settles for a Yeungling.

    I enquire about the Chef’s Soup of the Day and I’m told it’s “a kind of seasonal vegetable”. Bob seems very vague and the look on my face must suggest I’m expecting a more detailed description. He mumbles on about Yankee beans, but doesn’t seem at all sure. I decide to risk it and Matt orders the Navy Bean Soup which is described as containing ham hock and being accompanied by crackling. For entrees we opt for the Grilled Beef Tenderloin and the Grilled Pork Tenderloin respectively.

    The soups are out in minutes and Bob departs to get bread.

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    The soup in front of Matt is broth-like and we can see sweetcorn and carrots floating around. Mine is dark and thick with what looks like black beans and is accompanied by a corn muffin. Neither sports anything resembling crackling. We decide we’ve been given the wrong ones and swap them over, but wait for Bob to return, telling him we’re confused. He looks at them and apologises, saying he’s got it wrong and that the one now in front of Matt is the soup of the day. We tell him, no, we’re the ones who’ve got it wrong and swap them back. However, as we begin to eat, we’re more confused than ever. Both contain what appears to be ham or bacon. Matt’s so-called Navy Bean is full of vegetables, but contains no beans. Mine has plenty of beans, but nothing much which could be described as a seasonal vegetable (well, not this season at least). The more we think about it, the more we’re convinced that Bob’s got himself into an almighty pickle. Maybe Yankee beans and Navy beans are the same thing, although, as only one of them contains beans, maybe he just got the soup of the day wrong. The presence of crackling in either one of them would have sorted it out once and for all. In the event, we eat half of what’s in front of us before swapping, and we don’t have time to ponder it any longer as the entrees are brought out just as we’re finishing up. [I always find that even more annoying than an overly long wait between courses – I hate to be rushed.]

    Both are very good, particularly Matt’s – meltingly soft pork and a very intense black bean sauce. I really enjoy my celery root (celeriac to us) mash, which is surprising as celery is one of the very few foodstuffs I’m not overly fond of.

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    As the crowd continues to thin, Alan, who has been working the other end of the bar, spots us and comes over to chat. Matt takes the opportunity to order a Wild Turkey on the rocks whilst I peruse the cocktail menu searching for inspiration. All the bartenders have now joined in the conversation and Mark asks if I like margaritas. Is the Pope a Catholic? I’m dubious about his claim that his are the best, but order it anyway. Apparently, he doesn’t use sweet and sour mix, but freshly squeezed limes and agave “from the plant”. Knowing that agave is the plant used to make tequila (for the uninitiated that’s the main ingredient in a margarita), my interest is piqued and I’m suddenly looking forward to trying it. He adds a great big slug of the stuff to a cocktail shaker, along with a healthy measure of Patron tequila. The group which has just turned up next to us gets curious and each of them orders one. Mark passes around samples of the syrup in paper cups. The general consensus is that it tastes like honey, but that’s way off in my view. Matt correctly identifies it as caramel. As the conversation develops, it seems entirely possible that Mark may well have invented this particular variant of the world’s most popular cocktail. I consider whether or not it deserves the “best ever” accolade. Let me tell ya, it aint bad! [Since returning home, I happened across agave nectar in the ‘whole foods’ section of Tesco (it’s a natural sweetener) and we’ve been using it in place of sugar syrup in all our cocktails – it’s very sweet and a little goes a long way.]

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    We stay on for an hour or so, chatting to Alan, Mark and Bob, and ordering one last drink – another Wild Turkey for Matt and a Sweet Manhattan for me. I order mine on the rocks, but it’s served straight up. It’s really not Bob’s night! Nonetheless, it’s very good.

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    Getting a cab from the Contemporary is much easier than it is at SSR as they’re lined up outside (at SSR, they have to call them down from Port Orleans), and the valet guy has us inside one and on our way in seconds. Matt and I are chatting about the benefits of the Tables in Wonderland card, which we used to good effect tonight, and not really paying attention to the journey. As we turn into Victory Way, though, we look at one another, perplexed. I tell the drive that our destination is SSR. He’s beside himself, claiming that valet at the Contemporary told him Pop Century. After collecting his thoughts, he switches off the meter (which is at $18.70), and turns the cab around. He’s clearly rattled and we get the impression that this isn’t going to be good for him. He constantly switches the meter to “vacant” and, at one point, gets a call which we suspect is from control asking him what he’s up to. When he finally drops us off at SSR, he asks us for $18. Because he didn’t try to stiff us, we give him $25 and have never seen anyone look so relieved or express such gratitude.

    Back in the room, we attempt to watch some TV, but we’re soon both nodding off and are in bed by around 10.30pm.

    Postscript: Another glorious day with highs in the 80s.
     
  4. Jets fan

    Jets fan DIS Veteran

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    Your trip report makes for great reading and the photos are brilliant, the food and cocktails look delish. :thumbsup2

    Thanks
    Tina
     
  5. gemmybear83

    gemmybear83 <font color=royalblue>I would blame it all on Bob<

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    Love the photos - I cant wait to try the Wave and T rex!
     
  6. jackieleanne

    jackieleanne DIS Veteran

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    Great pictures and story so far can't wait to hear more.
     
  7. wicket2005

    wicket2005 <font color=deeppink><marquee behavior=alternate>H

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    Another laid back day. We intend to do this in the autumn when we go without the lads for the first time. Nice as you say just to savour the atmosphere instead of rushing round doing rides all of the time.:thumbsup2
     
  8. natalielongstaff

    natalielongstaff <font color=deeppink>I need a cup of tea and a big

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    I must remember to order pizza at T-rex it looks fab :thumbsup2
     
  9. Chilly

    Chilly RIP Tag Fairy

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    Poor taxi man
     
  10. Tammy Stringer

    Tammy Stringer <font color=red>I love babies - all milky and baby

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    Deb

    Glad to see you have carried on with your trip reports as they are such fun.

    Great pictures as always and the descriptions of all the yummy food and drink always make me drool :rotfl::rotfl: (so attractive!!)

    Can't wait for the next instalment

    Tam
     
  11. SusanEllen

    SusanEllen DIS Veteran

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    Excellent report of a wonderful day. May I say that in addition to your deft descriptions of the food you enjoyed, your illustrations display a remarkable talent for food photography. Imagine that!?!!

    About the lovely (and flirty) outfit you wore to dinner at The Wave--The thought of you running to catch a bus wearing those stilettos conjures strains of Kirsty MacColl singing "In these shoes? I don't think so!"
     
  12. Pegasus928

    Pegasus928 DIS Veteran

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    A great trip report. Full of detail and some fantastic pics.
    I know what you mean about the size of the portions in T-rex. When we go we normally order the nachos to share between 4 of us.
     
  13. Kevin Stringer

    Kevin Stringer <font color=blue>Chat Host<br><font color=brown>Od

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    Great to see the trip reports resumed Deb.

    Some excellent photos.

    We're really looking forward to trying The Wave this year.

    Kev
     
  14. saratogagirl

    saratogagirl <font color= CC0066>I need books, and wine and Ian

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    What a wonderful day, a jaunt to DTD, relaxing on the balcony, sounds like my sort of day. You looked lovely to go to The Wave. We are quickly approaching our seven month window, and we were thinking of trying to change, but your perfect pictures of home make me start to have doubts!!
     
  15. mandymouse

    mandymouse <font color=red>If It's Not A Bahama Mama Then I'm Moderator

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    What a lovely relaxing day. Lots of nice food, and even more great drinkies, what more do you need ? :)
     
  16. tony64

    tony64 <font color=blue>Should've been a Cowboy<br><font

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    Lovin' catching up on your wonderfully discriptive reports debs. :)
     
  17. irongirlof12

    irongirlof12 <font color=blue><marquee>Am I the only one who lo

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    fab piccies can't wait to try t-rex.
     
  18. mark&sue

    mark&sue <font color=teal>I keep trying to convert everybod

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    great idea about ordering starters instead of mains. do this at hard rock cafe and will try to remember when we go back to wdw as could help not put on soooo much weight


    susan
     
  19. Cyrano

    Cyrano Moderator Moderator

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    Great report as usual :)

    Appreciate the tip about starters at T-Rex since we are planning a visit to this restaurant :)
     
  20. fraggle1_rs

    fraggle1_rs Mouseketeer

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    great pics & info, want to try t-rex when we go in sept, do you need adr for t-rex??
     

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