Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Orlando 2007, Part One: The Port Orleans Hotel and Downtown Disney

If history serves me well, I believe Mark Twain stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel when he wrote Tom Sawyer. The rooms were about average and there was not an internet connection, but the period design of the outer hotel and the maze-like landscaping made it enjoyable. The rooms were grouped in about 20 two-story buildings, each with about 20 rooms or so. In between each building were pools, ponds, bridges and lots and lots of greenery.At the riverside entrance of the main lobby is a dock to rent little motor boats and family-sized bikes, as well as a place to catch the riverboats to Downtown Disney, etc., which run every 15 minutes all day and into the night.The free shuttle boat and the Sassagoula River made going to Downtown Disney unique and fun. The rustic ambience was thorough. The colonial architecture and the spinning water wheel, whose wooden sprockets, cranks and shafts were the centerpiece of the dining hall, put you in a Dixie state of mind. The scene was such that the ferry boat might as well been on a tributary of the Mississippi and Downtown Disney might as well have been the Big Easy herself. It was a pure Orleans moment when I was mugged buying a burger and fries at Downtown Disney prices. Ol' Man-made River, he just keeps rolling....Although the river didn't actually flow into anything, the boat did take us past several of the other Disney lodgings, so that we could see how the Port Orlean Riverside stacked up to more luxurious places. There were some nice hotels, but the most enjoyable place to stay appeared to be the tree house lodges, which, the obnoxious boat guides routinely noted, were no longer open to Disney guest, but rather used to lodge the international students working at EPCOT. Unfortunately, we did not get any pictures of the tree house lodges.We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, where the interior looks like a jungle with waterfalls and a jungle canopy complete with rain and animal sounds and animitronic elephants and monkeys. The waiter explained that the robot monkeys were preferrable to real monkeys as they tended fling less scat at the diners. Here's a picture I found online of the dining area, which was roughly my vantage-point during the meal... Since this table was very near the entrance of the restaurant and we were deprived of the full atmosphere of the dining area, Lady T____ and I took a leisurely stroll through the rest of the restaurant after our meal to soak up some of the flavor.The elephants would come alive every 15 minutes as an artifical rainstorm thundered and poured around us. Lady T____ and I celebrated animal diversity and Mother Gaea by ordering a triple beast feast: baby-back ribs, a steak and some speared fried shrimp. It came on a bed of fried potatos that could have comfortably padded three hungry hobos for the duration of our 4 day Magic Your Way passes. By the size of our two caesar salads, it seemed likely that two acres of land had gone into the harvesting of them. Of course, the restaurant expected an acre of our own lettuce in return. I must note that Lady T____ generously treated me to this meal - which fed us for most of two days. It was an experinece.
The rest of the Downtown Disney consisted mostly of shops and restaurants, but also had a multiplex and a circus. My favorite shop (granted, the only one that I wanted to see) was Lego Land, where I befriended a family of lego people...Next stop: EPCOT, MGM, The Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom....

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