Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Meet me at the Derby

The art deco period in Hollywood was pretty wild, with important people in important meetings doing important deals. There was lots of money, lots of flappers and lots of luncheon.

And yet in this day and age, we can step back in time and have an immersive experience of just what Hollywood must have been like - thanks to Disney magic.

The infamous Mickey's Sorcorer Hat - the view used to be of Grauman's Chinese Theatre until that monstrosity arrived.
Disney's Hollywood Studios brings back the golden age of the twenties and thirties - when it was all bootlegged liquor and cuban cigars ...... oops - sorry - seems like Disney is thinking of another 1930s Hollywood - one that was all ginger beer and little cakes.

The road to the Tower of Terror! Do you dare?!
Hollywood Studios replicates a special version of art deco Hollywood. And yet the young actresses of the time, like today, were hounded by the paparazzi tracking their every move.

Mobile phone addiction was just as much a problem back then. Except it was confused with crack addiction as young women attempted to get their fix by snorting their phones - and straight off the pavement
And infamous past-it actresses clutching their one and only Oscar got their personal chefs to parade them around town, as they searched for new pool boys to keep their cabanas well stocked.

Dara Vamp, with her driver Ben Appetit, offered a gold lame thong as the uniform for her cabana boys
When needing to do that important deal, the only way to do it was over lunch at The Brown Derby, where everyone who was anyone needed to be seen.

You knew you had made it to the big time if your caricature was hung on the wall.

Hundreds of faces, benevolently smiling down at you. And I was checked in by a young man from Bankstown, Sydney!
The interior of the Hollywood Studios Brown Derby is very similar to the original. In addition to the hundreds of caricatures lining the walls, there are the leather booths and the chandeliers.

I had seating up on the "people watching" raised level that surrounds the main floor. 

I have no idea what the average flapper cum actress ate back then - IF they ate back then. I like to believe it was cigarettes and mint juleps. I bet it was not this menu.

Brown Derby lunch menu - rather YUM!
As it was only lunch time I kept it light. (although my memory fails me I probably had a 32 course dinner the night before and a character breakfast meal).

I just had an entree and a dessert! (and the free bread rolls; and a fruity cocktaily thing - so - really - quite a lot!)

Crispy phyllo napoleon of bleu affinee, wild mushroom duxelles, grilled portobello, golden chanterelles, and a fig reduction
This was fan-freakin-tastic! I should not have been surprised that the blue cheese would blend so well with both the mushies and the fig, however I had not had that combo before, so it blew my tastebuds. I love wild mushrooms and these were technically cooked beautifully. Still some bite and buttery goodness flavour.

Sitting there feeling very pleased with myself, my dessert arrived.

Grapefruit cake with grapefruit cream cheese icing
The famous Brown Derby original! One of my favourite things and it is the only dessert I have whenever here. If citrus is your thing, this is the thing for you. A soft sponge with a hint of grapefruit sandwiched together with rich, creamy, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth grapefruit flavoured cream cheese and drizzled with grapefruit sugar syrup. And grapefruit segments on the side. What you don't see in this picture is that I already ate the wafer thin, dried grapefruit slice that decorated the top of the cake.

Oh - for the love of all that is citrus! How good is that?!

So feeling extraordinary pleased with securing a wonderful luncheon, I give this meal 2 Mr Creasotes (although 3 Mr Creasotes is very possible at this place). I managed to contain the volume.

However, because I licked the plates clean, this The Brown Derby lunch deserves 3 spoonfuls of sugar.

Then it was back out on the wild mild streets of Hollywood.

Where Officer Percival Peabody has retreated to his garbage can in his touching, and pre-emptive, dedication to Oscar the Grouch.
Pop culture question: What famous salad was accidentally invented at the original Brown Derby as a midnight snack? 


Friday, 5 April 2013

How Orlando Hotels made me a better person

Ha! That's a pretty bold claim.

I was reading an article about research from Cambridge University that showed how one's Facebook likes have a strong correlation with personality traits and attributes such as IQ.  So I took the automatic profiling test: "You are what you like" and .... well .....discovered what I already knew - a mix of what I really do like and how I think I want to project myself to others.

So the little app described me as:

Mrs Banks Zonta personality
All this just from liking The Colbert Report

Using the same logic I bet I could come up with the same result just from what I "liked" at different Orlando hotels!

So starting in Lake Buena Vista, the red-circled tag is the Marriott World Centre Resort, where the ZI Convention will be held.

Zonta international convention venue location
Almost as many hotels as golf courses
I have already posted on the Marriott World Centre and it being the largest convention room in the USA. Go back and look at my pictures.  You'll see a fairly mundane functional hotel - like a squillion others around the world. Given that it is large and business-like I'm gonna give it my "well-organised" tag.

Here's a bonus video taken from that fancy lift on the front that goes up 28 floors in 18 secs - and looks out over the flat flat Florida landscape.

I also went to visit the Ritz-Carlton! Possibly the most upmarket hotel in Orlando. On my little map, go off the top RH corner and keep going. This place REALLY, so desperately, WANTS to be swanky.

Zonta international convention ritz carlton
Reminds me of the Premium Outlet Malls. (source; ritz carlton site)
Despite having a HUGE golf tournament going on, and a convention centre full of mobile phone talking, wheely bag pulling be-suited middle aged men, inside was very quiet and plush.

ZI Int Conv Ritz Convention Centre
Convention Centre foyer - compare that to the Marriott's stone floored train station approach
There is a massive spa and apparently one of the better ones in the region so I tried to score an appointment, but, once they discovered I was not staying in-house, suddenly nothing was available.

Zonta convention Ritz Foyer
Italian marble and over stuffed chairs in the foyer
It was a whole other world to me - perhaps fun for a while but I felt like I would be role-playing a different being whilst staying here. So it gets the "traditional and conservative" tag which was NOT on my Facebook profile.

UPDATE: I have just caught up with Samantha Brown visiting the Ritz-Carlton, Naples Florida saying that Travel + Leisure have named this the No.2 hotel in the USA and the No. 3 in the world. And the spa is among the best in the USA. You could use this as a base if you are going to the Everglades.

Zonta International convention Ritz room
Many many pillows
Back to my little map and in the bottom LHS at the No. 2 is the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

Zonta International convention Waldorf Hotel
All very American polished. (source: waldorf astoria site)
This place is fairly new - only a few years old, and happens to be placed in an oddity of Disney land purchasing - in that it is surrounded by WDW but not actually on WDW property. So as close as any Disney resort! The Waldorf is putting itself up for direct competition against the Disney Deluxe hotels and have been undercutting the Disney prices. So you could have upmarket luxury at a decent price, whilst staying very close to "the magic"

I stopped by the Waldorf for a look. It is jammed packed in among a bunch of other hotels - a Hilton, Wyndham etc and driving down the street reminds of those new tech/uni/industrial parks that house big corporates & IT companies these days.

Zonta International Convention Hotels
Off - over there - in the distance ..... what? well - yes - sometimes I didn't have both hands on the steering wheel.
Inside is all upmarket posh marble too but not as over the top as the Ritz.
Zonta International Convention Waldorf Foyer
Foyer with Reception in back.
This time I scored at the Spa - walked in, and they offered to look after me immediately. So I was ushered through and enjoyed a massage from a large, young Brazilian man! (ummm ......). Sorry no photos.
Zonta International Convention Waldorf Bar
Is it G&T time?
The Bull and Bear steakhouse here is supposed to be one of Orlando's finest (but I haven't been!).
Still, it's very upmarket and comfortable, competitively priced, friendly and inviting. I could be very happy and feel special here. I give this my "calm and relaxed" tag.

Zonta International Convention Waldorf Room

However, the Waldorf demonstrates why I strongly recommend staying at the Marriott during the ZI Convention period. Have a look at the drive to get to the Marriott.

Zonta Int Convention map
The two hotels LOOK like they are across the road from each other - but follow the blue line route. The freeway system - you've gotta love it. Really! You'd better love the freeway cause you are gonna spend a LOT of time on it.
The other big player in the area is the Gaylord Palms Resort. It is located in the centre-bottom of my little map above.

It looks like your average, albeit large, resort - it has pools, gym, spa, convention centre, restaurants etc.
Zonta Int Convention Gaylord
Nothing to see here, keep moving.
The pricing is very competitive - in their sale periods it is possible to get rooms around the $100/night mark. It is very popular with families on vacation.

Zonta Int Convention Gaylord room
Standard and very nice rooms
But when you step inside ......

Zonta Int Convention Gaylord swamp
The Old Hickory Steakhouse in the "Everglades" theme
.... there are 4.5 acres of themed gardens representing different Florida highlights! Including the swampy "Everglades" area; St Augustine area with an Italian trattoria;

Zonta Int Convention Gaylord castle

tropical gardens with waterfalls and koi; and finally - the Florida Keys area with a yacht!

Zonta Int Convention Gaylord yacht
"Would the owner of a blue yacht, please see reception - you are blocking the jetski ramp"

How amazing! So the Gaylord represents my "liberal and artistic" side.

So here are 3 other hotels you could stay at whilst holidaying in the period before Convention begins - each offering a different experience and price tag.

And can you see how you can find out about your personality just from visiting Orlando hotels?

Which one is your preference? Which hotel would you prefer to visit?

All images are mine or from the hotels' official sites. Click the pictures for full size