In Which Jenn Thinks The Swolphin Is…

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!


I’m not really going to do a full review or overview of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Lots of other websites have already done one, almost certainly better than I could’ve done and probably frequently updated, too. 


Instead, I’d like to discuss my impression of the hotel in the pantheon of Disney lodging options and why, even with its many advantages, it is probably not for me in the future.


But first, let us be objective: the Swolphin (as I and others generally refer to it) is a great hotel. It has tons of dining options, from full-service fancy-pants restaurants to grab-and-go coffee shops. The pool complex is extensive and includes a slide and hot tub (I am never warm enough). There’s even a gym!


My personal interactions with the staff were all excellent, and the rooms were nice – although being a Starwood Preferred member didn’t seem to garner me any special treatment as my view kinda sucked. Amenities were certainly a step up from a value resort, with free water and a coffee maker in-room. Views from the hotel’s general area were by contrast largely great, and of course the location – with easy walks to Epcot, the Studios, and the Boardwalk – can’t be beat.

Much is often made of the price; depending on the time of year the cost can be comparable to that of a Disney moderate resort. Of course, the Swolphin tacks on a resort fee and does not include the Magical Express, so you’ll have to pay to get yourself to the resort, too.

All the same, from a purely practical perspective, the Swolphin can’t be beat – except that it falls down, hard, in one key area.

Theme.

What I love about Disney resorts – hell, you could argue what I love about Disney general – is its ability to create a sense of place. I love a good theme. I could sit in the village of Harambe or Serka Zong all day because they both evoke lands beyond. (Psst. DAK is the best park.)

This particular skill of the Imagineers extends to the resorts. For all our complaints about it, Port Orleans Riverside beautifully conjures the bayou. The Polynesian takes you away to a faraway island. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a freakin’ safari. Even the value resorts, with their colorful statues and terrible puns, create a sense of whimsy and irreverence.

The Swolphin’s theme is: a very nice hotel.

Yawn.

Much of what I love about Disney parks is that wonderful ability to rip me away from reality. Themed resorts are less showy than theme parks, but they too create a story that, when done well, weave me into the tale. While I can’t say for sure I’ll never stay at the Swolphin again, for now I’m content to pay a little extra for Disney to take me far away from the real world.


Have you stayed at the Swolphin? Am I overreacting or what?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Has Ample Hills Ice Cream For Lunch

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!

Picture it: lunchtime. The final day of the conference. I’ve just left my last session of the trip. I walk out of the Swan resort and into the bright sunlight and think: I simply cannot stare down one more conference buffet lunch. I have had all the build-your-own-salad and chicken in chafing dishes I can take for one week.


Lucky for me, I was on Disney’s Boardwalk, a shopping and dining complex featuring no small number of food options. I could sit down for a burger at Big River Grille. I could get a fresh caprese sandwich at the Boardwalk Bakery. Does Flying Fish even do lunch? I could find out.

Or I could skip the whole nutrition portion of the meal and proceed straight to ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery. Jackpot!

My original thought was that I’d get one of their fancy sundaes, probably one of the kind with “gooey butter cake,” whatever the hell that is. Whatever; I like gooey desserts AND butter, so how could I lose?

However, upon being met with a dizzying array of choices and a dearth of understanding of what flavor would even go with gooey butter cake, I decided on an ice cream flight instead.


Having made this selection, a Cast Member dutifully deposited mini-scoops of ice cream into a specially designed plastic clamshell. Even with six slots, it was hard to narrow it down. My particular CM was generous with her scooping, and my clamshell could hardly close!


I tried: 
  • Sweet Cream ‘n Cookies
  • Ooey Gooey Butter Cake (so that solved that problem)
  • PB Wins the Cup (with homemade peanut butter cups!)
  • Baked/Unbaked (featuring both dough and baked cookies)
  • Sally Sells Seashells (WDW-exclusive flavor)
  • Malty Salty Pretzel Punch
All six were delicious, as you would expect – sweet, creamy, and of course, fast-melting. My personal favorite was PB Wins the Cup; you could really taste the difference in those homemade peanut butter cups. 


That being said, I would not recommend an ice cream flight. GASP! Why? Because with my spoon bouncing from sweet and chocolate-y scoop to scoop, the flavors ran together until all my tongue was getting from any of them was a general sort of creamy sugar taste.

No, I recommend instead making the hard decision and selecting one, maybe two flavors. Make it a sundae if you like. But really focus on your choice. Savor it. Come to understand it. Once you have become one with that flavor, only then you may try another. Oh, darn; I guess you’ll have to go back!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Does Training Runs On Disney’s Boardwalk

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!

I knocked out a 14 mile run in the gym of the Dolphin resort because I knew that I didn’t want to mess around with Florida’s heat and humidity for that amount of time without character stops, y’know? But for two subsequent training runs, I dragged myself out of bed in comparatively cool hours of the morning to run Disney’s Boardwalk.

How can you complain about an early morning run there? If you’re early enough, the string lights on the Boardwalk might still be up. The sun rises over the Yacht & Beach Club as you crest the bridge and take your first steps onto the boards.


The Swolphin offers run route for one mile, two miles, and a 5K. We covered the 5K in my recap of the conference race. For my training five milers, I eked out the mileage with some doubling back. I said hello to the Tower of Terror twice and, the second morning, did a few loops in the vicinity until the gate to the International Gateway was unlocked and I could take what turned about to be a scant few steps there.


So yes, I think we can all agree the Boardwalk is an excellent place to run because of the location. But as it turns out, the Disney magic creeps into the people too.

One my two training runs, there was an older gentleman taking a walk around the Boardwalk at the same time. Every time I passed him, he cheered and clapped for me like a spectator at a legitimate race, with sincere enthusiasm. The second day, the last time I passed him, I turned around to offer a high five, which he met with vigor. 

See, even awkward weirdos like me can make friends while running! Truly it is a magical sport in a magical setting.

Drat, just missed it.

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Attends A Private Party In Epcot

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!

Somewhere up there in Conference Heaven loves me: not only was my conference at the Swolphin, but there was a wrap-up party… IN EPCOT!!!! I know! It’s like they planned it just for me!

Our evening began by entering Epcot via the International Gateway, our badges being our ticket in. We were herded over to World Showplace, the cavernous building between the UK and Canada that’s exclusively used for private or hard-ticket events. The only thing I can think of that it hosts on the regular is the hard-ticket Party for the Senses during the Food & Wine Festival, so I was hella jazzed to get a look inside.

Not that the building is designed with much beyond “get a bunch of people in there” as far as I can tell; it wasn’t much more decorated than any ol’ hotel ballroom. There was a stage for the band, accompanying screens, and some vaguely interesting sculptures hiding the bathrooms, but that’s about it.


Nevertheless, the Disney magic began almost immediately. As we entered the area, waiters stood scattered about offering trays of drinks. This is not uncommon in the conference and wedding functions I’ve attended; if you can get most people to take a drink you’ve already got, they won’t crowd the bars immediately. 

But this time was different. Because among the alcohol offerings… was SCHOFFERHOFER GRAPEFRUIT BEER! Yes! The same delicious beer-grapefruit juice hybrid with the cult following that I myself have paid actual money for at the Germany pavilion! And they just GAVE IT TO ME!

Alas, I wound up drinking only one. But that’s only because when I later approached the bar for a second libation, I saw they had POG juice with rum on tap. I had specifically earmarked this as something I wanted to try from DAK’s Dawa Bar in November. Now I didn’t have to wait! Or pay money for it! (Although I just read they changed up the mixers on this one at Dawa, so I’ll need to give it another go on my next trip. You know, for science.)


It was with slow delight it dawned on me: all the catering was from standard WDW menus, too. Some things I sampled in between flailing and screaming out the provenance of every dish to confused onlookers, I ate:
  • a cheeseburger egg roll from the cart in Adventureland (actually as good as they say! Who knew?)
  • a potsticker from the tea kiosk in China, I think?
  • butter chicken and naan from Sanaa (although – sacre bleu! – my Indian coworker told me that while it was good Indian-spiced chicken, it was not what she’d call butter chicken, and now my worldview is askew)
  • Cobb salad from the Hollywood Brown Derby (it… was… a Cobb salad? To be honest I don’t get the hype)

There were other selections too that never made it to my personal plate, including meatballs from Mama Melrose. But we had earlier been informed that the desserts would be bonkers good, and I was paralyzed with fear. What if I ate too much of the savory items and was too full for, say, unlimited school bread???


I needn’t have worried – if the desserts were from any area of WDW in particular, they eluded me. There were coconut and watermelon sorbets, some sort of panna cotta with berry topping, and an admittedly rich and delicious chocolate cake pop. Yet my expectations had been cruelly raised by those cheeseburger egg rolls, and I was wholly unsatisfied by the lack of signature cupcakes, ‘Ohana bread pudding, troll horns, homemade ice cream sandwiches, etc.


No matter – after drowning my sorrows in several more POG juices with rum, it was time to head over to our private viewing areas for IllumniNations! They had a Canada viewing open for us but also the central location in front of the bridge to Futureworld; I led my group to the latter as I know that the show was designed to be ideally viewed down the middle.


There were bars set up for us in the viewing area, so we grabbed glasses of wine and headed over to the railing to watch the show. IllumiNations isn’t my favorite nighttime spectacular (hello, Happily Ever After!), but it still gives me the warm and nostalgic fuzzies. In particular I love the parts where the lights go out at the very beginning, and then when the string lights around the pavilion buildings start to go on in the middle. My heart was very happy as the show ended.


But wait, there’s more! Some conference sponsors were paying to keep a couple rides open for us. I managed to talk my coworker SM into trying Soarin’ even thought she is staunchly anti-thrill ride. Admittedly she started screaming when our gliders began to rise, but ultimately she was fine.

She was a firm no-go on Mission: Space and Test Track, though, so just new conference buddy JR and I went through those too. We did Mission: Space on the orange side because we are more intense, although can I just say that Gina Torres does an extremely lackluster job introducing the ride? I miss Gary. :/

Figment says he misses Gary too.

After that it was about 11pm, and while those three rides would be open for one more hour I allowed myself to be talked into going back to the hotel. Part of me regrets that, but the other part of me knew that I planned to run in the morning and needed to go to sleep. Both versions of me loved wandering back to the Swolphin from the International Gateway – I can see why you Epcot resorts people love it so.

TL;DR: GRAPEFRUIT BEER! POG JUICE! CHEESBURGER EGG ROLLS! THAT WHOOSHING TORCH NOISE!

Visit again soon – I still need to tell you about my training runs on the Boardwalk!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Earns Her Minnie Ears

Since I spent most of this WDW trip in a conference, I won’t be doing a traditional trip report, but I definitely still have a lot of stuff to tell you about that will be loosely collected under the July 2018 trip keyword. Read on!


I don’t usually put post-WDW trip haul posts – not because I don’t think they’re interesting, but rather because I rarely get enough to warrant the dedicated word count. I just don’t generally buy more than a souvenir at a time lest the percentage of my salary I give to Disney yearly dips from “inadvisable” to “unhinged” territory.

I’m going to make an exception this time, though, for two related reasons:
  1. I have been chasing these items for the better part of a year now because
  2. I am sometimes what in the modern parlance we call a “basic bitch.”*
*IT’S NOT MY FAULT PINK HAS BEEN COMMANDEERED BY THE YOUTHS

And that’s why I, yes, I, urbane and eccentric and unique though I obviously am, have been chasing those stupid rose gold Minnie ears across time and space. For the longest time unsuccessfully, because apparently millennials are obsessed with rose gold and everyone went nuts and bought them immediately? I don’t know about that; I just really like pink and colors adjacent to pink, cultural zeitgeists not withstanding.

Anyway, these have been so popular that even on three separate trips I’ve never been able to get my hands on them. I’ve just never been in the right gift shop at the right time. UNTIL NOW.

You see, the world has moved on. They now enjoy millennial pink and iridescence more instead (or so the official Disney blog assures me, and they have no reason to lie…?). Thus supply finally outran demand, and the rose gold ears can be readily had all over WDW property.

So I set out on my free night to Disney Springs, where I finally got my hands on these shiny shiny wonders. I bought my mom a pair too so that next time I bring her along we can match and be REALLY infuriating.

And just to really drive down the hammer on my basic bitchiness, I picked up a rose gold spirit jersey too. It’s BEAUTIFUL and I regret nothing.

I said I WASN’T unhinged.

Well, I do regret one thing: on my way home I discovered that both items were in the Disney airport store the whole time. I could’ve picked them up on my way into Orlando and had them all trip.

Ah well. What is beauty but pain?

P.S. While slumming it in the Springs, I also got some solid shampoos and conditioners from Basin. I’ll let you know how they work out!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Runs A Boardwalk 5K

Hello from Orlando International Airport! My flight took off three minutes ago. Haha, just kidding! It was supposed to take off three minutes ago. Now it takes off in two and a half hours.

Clearly I have some time to kill, so I’m going to tell you nice people about the conference 5k I ran.

This race is always a fun run with no chip times, just approximations, plus they don’t even promise it’ll be exactly 3.1 miles, but I like to participate every year anyway because hey, free race!

In this particular case there was the added incentive of running amok on Disney’s Boardwalk. It was enough of a draw to get me out of bed and hanging out at the Swan lap pool before 6:30am, 78 degrees and humid or not. Truly the magic of Disney conquers all.

The start was informal, and the pack set off with no real preamble or organization beyond: okay, go! The course matched the Swan & Dolphin’s suggested run route exactly, so we saw pretty much all there was to see of the Boardwalk.

First we set out across the bridge headed for the Yacht & Beach Club, curving around Seabreeze point where a breakfast buffet was being set up for a private event (an Epcot wedding, maybe?). Then we passed by the pirate ship – WDW Marathon deja vu! – and curved around to pass by the Boardwalk area proper, with ESPN and Ample Hills and Boardwalk Bakery and all that jazz.

From there we veered onto the path toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios – so, now in reverse of the marathon course. Luckily for my sense of cognitive dissonance, we were turned around at the top of path right before the bus stops and sent back down the trail, now in full accordance with marathon proceedings.

It was a blurry day.

After that it was one more loop of the Boardwalk before hitting in the finish, back where we started by the Swan. There was water and some Kind bars, plus plenty of cheering conference spectators. A couple of them were even cheering from swan paddle boats out on the lake!

As for my performance, it wasn’t too bad for all that. It was hot and muggy (aka Florida), and at the start I had to dodge around some slow people and a briefly narrow course, but I brought the whole thing in under a 9 minute average mile. All in all I wasn’t displeased.

Mostly I was just happy to be running at WDW again – and proceeded to do so twice more before I left. But that’s a story for later…

Have you ever run the Boardwalk? How do you feel about it?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Is Coming At You LIVE From The Swolphin

Hello! I am in Walt Disney World! RIGHT NOW!

I’m conferencing at the Swolphin, and it is going very well. I’ve walked on the Boardwalk, chilled in the hot tub, and seen the tippy-top of the IllumiNations fireworks over Crescent Lake. Can’t beat that.

I’m only halfway through the trip, and I know I’ll be mining this trip for lots of content (just WAIT until I hit Disney Springs, kids – I have cocktails in my sights and a shopping list in my head!). In the meantime, check these photos. Anything else you want to see? Let me know!

Have you ever stayed at the Swolphin? What do you think?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!