View From Table 9

February 18, 2008

New York Like a Native

We visited New York City this last weekend.  This time it wasn’t quite a vacation as we were there for some family events.   I did want to post about a sweet little B & B apartment in Park Slope Brooklyn though.  It’s owned by a French couple, Jean-Jacques and Leslie Bernat, who also run a nearby restaurant, Provence en Boite.   One block away, they have a “two bell” (NewYorkSpeak for two apartment building) they own. One apartment they live in; the other upstairs unit they rent by the night, with breakfast at the restaurant as an optional service.
The apartment is lovely, in a comfortable, feels like you’re visiting a friend’s apartment way.  There is a kitchen area, with sink, full refrig, microwave, coffee pot and small table. Then the living area with a futon couch, chairs, coffee table and a TV that currently doesn’t work.  Full bath and two bedrooms, one with queen bed and one with single bed.  The beds are not for people who like soft fluffy mattresses.  We did find out that the second bedroom (single) rents separately so we’ll be sure to pay extra to rent the *whole* place.

The location was quiet,  1 block off the canal, on a pretty block.  The hosts were wonderful, and as part of the rental they provide a delicious breakfast at the restaurant.  We ate there and thought the Challah French Toast with berries was divine!

To reserve the B & B, call the restaurant and ask for either of the Bernats.  We’re looking forward to going back again and enjoying their hospitality!

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February 7, 2008

Our Trip to the World of the Mouse Part V: Tips & Suggestions

Our last day at Disney was rainy and chilly, so we decided not to spend any money on expensive park admissions, instead spending our day running around the hotel, playing in the game room, etc. It was a good break from the hustle of the week.

Overall, it was a fun trip. One activity I didn’t mention before was a 2 hour Pirate Adventure DS went on. While the weather didn’t permit them going out on a boat, he still had a blast running around the Grand Floridian with a bunch of other kids in Pirate Mouse hats saying “Argh” and looking for treasure. It was well worth the $31 we paid.

Disney’s PhotoPass was well worth it, the photographers were all over the parks and many took the time to capture candids and extra shots rather than just take one and done. You can pre-purchase a photo CD at discounted rates risk-free as it’s fully refundable if you decide not to buy the disc. (By the way, this works even after your trip and pictures have been taken – we “pre-purchased”, got our redemption code, then bought our pictures using the code in about 10 minutes, saving us $25).

A friend gave us this idea a little too late for us this trip. About 2 months before your trip, go out on on eBay and buy inexpensive Disney pins. There are literally thousands for sale. Then, when you bring your kids to the park, let them trade them for others. Cast Members have to trade pins with children, as long as they don’t have the exact same pin, and there are many other enthusiastic traders of all ages at the park who will also trade. Their kids had a blast trading pins, even going to a ‘pin trading event’, and look forward to doing more on their next trip.

We couldn’t say enough good things about the site MouseSavers as a resource for tips, recommendations and information. They have a great monthly newsletter, hot deal announcements, and forums.

Lastly, despite not being able to check our bags at the hotel because we flew Southwest, I’d fly them again. Their new numbered boarding system rocks, and the crew as usual were fun and helpful.

Where to next? Who knows, but wherever it is I’ll write about it. 🙂

February 3, 2008

Our Trip to the World of The Mouse Part IV: Epcot

Of all the days we planned on this trip, this was the one I was most excited and interested in for two reasons. First, because the last time I had been to DisneyWorld, Epcot was nothing more than a sign in a field saying “Coming in 1982 – EPCOT, the World of Tomorrow.” Second was the fact that I was going to go SCUBA diving for the first time since becoming a Mom almost 6 years ago.

When we planned the trip originally we figured we’d have to leave Orlando for a day to dive someplace else like Devil’s Den or Weeki Wachee (another fun place to dive BTW and a seriously old Florida kitschy show). I was really thrilled when I found out we could dive at Disney! Better yet, our son and my parents could watch us dive. Coolness. So, our day would end with a dive in the Living Seas exhibit through the DiveQuest program.

Now I had heard that Epcot wasn’t as impressive as it seemed or wasn’t as fun for kids, it was more of a display than a park. Because of that, we only planned 1/2 day – my mistake. We were quite surprised at just how many cool things there were to see and do. First up, we got to participate in the “soft opening’ for the Spaceship Earth ride/exhibit – the one that’s inside the giant golf ball. It’s a cool ride, we all really liked it, and the interactive games after the ride were really very fun. Oh and the survey you take on the descending part of the ride was pretty cool too. Of course there are many many opportunities for Siemens (the company who ‘brings you’ the exhibit) to tell you all about themselves, but we didn’t really mind that much.

Next off to Mission: Space, which was super fun. We had to skip Test Track b/c the lines were decently long and FastPasses were for after DH and I were to go diving. We then headed over to The Land where we got FastPasses for Soarin’, a seriously cool ride, then hopped on the boat tour. Surprisingly, DS LOVED the gardens we rode through, really getting excited at all the plants he could spot and how they were growing.

Next we went over to the Innovention pavilion and rode the Innovention ride there which DS especially loved, even the stinky smell part (or especially, I should say). He also completely loved the interactive exhibits after the ride.

At this point, DH and I left DS in the trusty care of my parents to prepare for diving. They would meet us at the Living Seas in about an hour – or rather view us through glass. We headed over to the meeting area, met the other divers an the Disney Dive cast. I’d have to say it was one of my most fun dives, and the staff were really great through the whole experience.

Disney provides all the equipment, you are only allowed to bring your own personal mask, which we forgot. The prep was not excruciatingly long as some can be, and the facilities are super clean with great equipment. The dive itself is really cool – temp 78 degrees, 25′ depth maximum.

I was a little disappointed to learn the tank is completely enclosed – no natural light – meaning no live coral and therefore no abundance of coral-loving fish. What more than made up for it were the magnificent fish they had and the opportunity to get close to a Loggerhead and Green turtle. Both are endangered and in the wild would not come near you. Since they are hand-fed in this tank they are completely unafraid of people and had no problem coming right up to us. Coolness!

My other unexpected experience were the people watching us. First time I ever was watched while diving and it was pretty neat. There’s a restaurant that views the tank, so we swam by that a number of times. DH and I even did a little tango for one group, which got great applause. There’s also the observation deck where people come to look at the fishies and us. DH got called over by a group to be in a pic and I got to play patty cake with a young girl among other things. Lastly, we were thrilled that DS got to watch us, though he got itchy and didn’t stay long enough for us to interact with him through the glass. He wanted to go on the Finding Nemo ride, which he loved.

They tape most of the dive, and there’s a small diving bell we each went into so we could take off our masks, smile and wave at the camera. We bought the video, and I think my goofy not-being-able-to-get-my-mask-off may make their ‘best of’ clip this year (duh).

My only complaint of the experience was that there was no citrus to suck on when we surfaced to get rid of the salt water taste. Next time I’ll bring my own tin of pineapple rings or something. Other than that, I highly recommend the dive, it was definitely worth the cost.

After the dive, we went around the World Showcase, which was pretty cool, except we were hungry so we were most concerned about eating. Thanks to a kind cast member who was herself interested in diving, we got in at the German Oktoberfest restaurant. Food was decent, buffet fare. The show was fun, a bit loud for us but thankfully not too long.

By the time we were done eating, the park was closing and we got to see one of the singularly most impressive fireworks and laser show we’ve ever seen (brought to you by Sylvania, a Siemens company, in case you weren’t sure – these guys are all over the freakin park!) Stay for it if you can, as it’s seriously cool.

Highlights:

DiveQuest

Soarin

Spaceship Earth

Disappointments:

Not enough time!

One more post about the trip coming soon…

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