Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The simplest way to make the best of your Australian smart phone in Orlando

Australians have proven themselves to be hopeless in using their mobile phones whilst overseas.

The beautiful stories have gone on for years about Aussies jumping on planes - using their phones in the air, using them in foreign countries and then coming home to discover - surprise surprise - none of it was covered in their data pack.

Some people just seemed to think they could keep using the phone, the same as at home, and hey - it's not going to be THAT expensive?! Well - guess what suckers? IT IS!

"A student received a bill for $8265.57 after a two-week holiday in Malaysia. When she called her telco to ask them to switch on global roaming before the holiday she was not informed of the high cost of making calls and using data when overseas"

Australians are SOOOO bad at this we have had at least two Federal Government enquiries and late last year the Australian Communications and Media Authority instigated rules on all the carriers.

" One small businessman reported receiving a $9000 bill from Telstra after using international data roaming for one day in Singapore."

And the carriers will just continue to adjust their plans (like Telstra's 500% adjustment) and pricing structures to work around this - as long as Aussies WON'T TURN OFF THEIR FREAKIN' PHONES.

"Sydney student asked Telstra to unlock his handset so he could buy an international SIM but they failed to do it. Telstra promised to waive the bill but after two months in the United States he was sent a bill for $25,000. After a battle, Telstra dropped the bill."

Aussie TV show The Checkout now shows what I'm talking about in pictures and talky bits!

So I am going to make this REALLY easy for you.

Buy a pre-paid USA phone sim card.


I like to purchase from Travel Gear - you can purchase a variety of SIM cards - as a rule of thumb AT&T is recommended for the iPhone and T Mobile for android. These cost roughly $30 for the card and phone number and then $2 or $3 / day, including calls, SMS and internet data. Maybe $100 all up if buying a 1 month bundle. Far cheaper than the thousands of dollars the hapless and lazy pay.

NOTE: AT&T and T Mobile are the only two networks in the USA compatible with Australian purchased handsets. The USA mobile network is different in technology and transmission frequencies than Australia, and also between each USA carrier company. (Unlike Australia where all carriers operate the same and phones are interchangeable). Other carriers are incompatible with our phones. It's HORRIBLY complicated, and changes all the time. eerrkk.

So you can buy one of these sim cards in advance, get a USA phone number, and on arrival in the USA, just pop the card into the phone and they work immediately. Also buying a carrier sim card means they work just like a normal phone - just start dialing.

Another option is to buy a non-carrier card - like this Woolies one:

There are heaps of these kind, sold everywhere - TravelSIM, Australia Post, GO etc. These work slightly differently - you have to dial their special number, the phone hangs up and then calls you back,  and then you can connect to the number you want. So complicated at first but they are also cheap and easily available.

On Facebook, Janette asked - "are there any good apps for staying in contact with each other during convention?"  Nice question.

So after my thorough research I would say  ... no... sort of.  You could always SMS each other, and most phones will let you send a message to multiple people. If you have one of those unlimited SIM cards, you may as well use your allowance.

The Princess Bride is not a Disney Film (source: texts from dog)
Did someone mention Facebook? Oh it was me! well - Facebook messaging is also as good as any app. You can have multiple people involved in the message and, if all your group are on Facebook, you don't need to know anyone's phone number.

You can also do instant chat through Google using Hangouts or Gmail. I have used their video conferencing and whilst a bit shaky - it works and is FREE! You can have up to 10 people in one conversation.

Finally, for those going to Disney, you get free WIFI all over the resort - in hotels and in the Parks. Disney have done a deal with AT&T and have expanded the network and are claiming SPEED FOR ALL!

Also the Walt Disney Company is 51% owned by Apple - so you'll see lots of iPhone support and Disney themed accessories for sale. (Tough luck those of us on Samsung - no Mickey phone cover for you!)
(source: disneyeveryday.com)
The Marriott World Centre is not so generous. They have free wifi in the public areas - but when I was last there it was so poor I was unable to use it. They charge $15 or $18(high speed)/day for wifi in your room. I think I will be using my phone as a hotspot and taking advantage of the datapack on that sim card.

So how connected are you? Addicted to the interwebs? Have to stay in touch with everyone, all the time? or do you like to turn everything off when on holiday?

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Kill, Refurb or Marry - World Showcase Counter Service - FOOD! YES!


Mouse on the Mind and This Happy Place Blogs have delightfully been the inspiration for half of my posts over the past 6 months. And here they are with a FOOD CHALLENGE!


This time we are eating around the world - World Showcase in Epcot.

Creme brulee on the lagoon - does it get any better
I am going to set my own rules - only permanent counter service locations - not the moveable ones that appear during Food and Wine Festival and the Flower Festival. And I am also going to put aside all the drinks vendors - I know you love getting smashed on the margaritas and the grey goose slushies - but I am all about the food.


Disney counter service just has so much not going for it! At least in World Showcase the bad food is themed for your entertainment.
I tend to avoid counter service cause it can kill YOU!
and guess who I think is in need of a good fire?

Tangierine Cafe!
Maybe some people think this is exotic. Let's not embarrass them here. But felafel wraps, hummus and tabbouleh are - let's say it out loud - late night drunkards food.  The donor kebab shop in Sydney is famous for the late night munchies, wacky tobaccy and brawls with cab drivers. But you do get the next day off work recovering from the food poisoning. Even the freakin' parsley can kill you in these places. I go to Disney to get away from the real world for a while - not to have it follow me in all its bacterial glory.


This is sooo difficult. So many places come with the promise of the great street food of their homeland. With just a little tweaking and being more authentic, they could become wonderful. Just when you think - "Wow! Disney's discovered okonomiyaki!" you bite into it and discover it is greasy and stodgy. And yes - I lay the same complaint at the Yorkshire Fish and Chip stall (sacrebleu!).

The place I think holds the most promise for a menu refurb is ........
Liberty Inn
This place does the olde worlde "publick" dining thing - with roasted meats? corn cobs? pumpkin pie? NO - none of that olde worlde crape here! Liberty Inn serves USA ALL THE WAY burgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets!  Really? Really? Rise up to meet your theming and take pride in your slow food heritage.


you know what - I'm gonna stay single 

STREWTH - did I just ... break the rules!!

C'mon - maybe the custard inside the school bread at Norway? but the cafe is cramped and mostly boring. Tacos and Nachos? Am I Beavis or Butthead?

There just isn't anything left that justifies standing in the queue at Town Hall to see the mayor (even Mayor McCheese).

Oh well - please excuse me whilst I go back to my Chateaubriand - oh - and don't get saucy with me Bernaise. (that joke doesn't work when written)

OK - now GO GO  and check out the other blogs and the other recommendations  - that will slowly populate below over the next few days! learn more about World Showcase than I could ever have taught you!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Survival and food in the great wilderness

Come with me, like Mr Peabody, into the way back machine to the early 1800's to discover the story of Col. Ezekiel Moreland, and his daughter Genevieve or Jenny.

You see, the Col. in 1823 set out to explore the USA Pacific Northwest. A war veteran and recently widowed he went looking for a new life. Then he stumbled upon the most beautiful valley, with a small creek running through it and beautiful forest surrounds.  The Col. named this spot Silver Creek Springs.

The Col. and his party decided to remain at Silver Creek Springs for it provided everything he needed - protection from the worst weather, plenty of food and fresh water and beautiful surrounds. Over a two year period the Col. made his fortune in beaver pelts and other furs and soon was settled enough to invite his daughter Jenny to come out and join him.

And with her, she brought a small troop of men to build a permanent lodge - resting place for all the other travellers moving west. 

Jenny built the lodge following the design and style of the great lodges of the north west national parks, particularly Yellowstone and Yosemite. Using lodgepole pine from Oregon, they created a huge 8 story atrium.

They installed a beautiful fireplace, using the local stone that was stratified, just like the Grand Canyon.

The continuous supply of fresh water gave them security and constancy, and made their lodge one of the most popular places to stay.

The success of the lodge allowed them to expand and improve, always drawing inspiration on their local surrounds.

Jenny, also appreciating the beauty of the landscape, invited out an Austrian artist: Frederick Alonzo Gustaf, to both capture the beauty in art himself, and support a visiting artist programme.  Gustaf's favourite place to paint was from a large rocky bluff, where he could get a clear view of the landscape.

(source: onlywdworld.com)
Of course, there is a funny story of how one day the earth beneath his feet trembled and Gustof discovered he was standing on a geyser! He and his easel fell backward, but he kept returning to this spot time again to paint more. 

As the lodge become more successful Jenny hired an ex-army sergeant, and opened a formal dining room, named after Gustof, as Artist PointArtist Point still operates today, and in the same way Jenny envisaged. And with Gustof's murals around the walls and ceiling.

(source: walt disney company)

The basis of the menu is locally available and seasonal foods, cooked in a fresh and simple manner to enhance the main ingredient.  You can read the current menu on the restaurant website.  However, there are some dishes for which this restaurant is famous, and guns would be drawn at their withdrawal! Items like the Smokey Portabello & Shiitake Mushroom Soup, Buffalo striploin steak with wild game sausage and Penn Cove mussels.

I enjoyed 3 of their all time favourite dishes:

Mixed field greens, with shaved stone fruits, sunflower seed granola, blue cheese, candied walnuts and ice wine vinagrette

THE signature Cedar plank roasted King Salmon with lemon butter sauce, accompanied with sour dough bread and black sea salt butter
and of course dessert - and, of course, the signature dessert has to be a seasonal fruit cobbler.What else to have in the wild west?

mine was berry with black raspberry ice cream
I admit I entered Artist Point at the end of the Food and Wine Festival and was already in a Mr Creosote state. In fact I started the meal with peppermint tea in an effort to aid my digestion throughout. So I chose a standard meal. It is however possible to go totally Mr Creosote style if you have no restraint - just go read that menu again.  So I will give the restaurant 2 Mr Creosotes for the ability to constrain one's consumed volume.

but for yumminess, and the potential for even MORE yumminess, Artist Point has to have 3 spoonfuls of sugar.

We will be visiting Artist Point for dinner on Saturday, 28 June. If you are coming to Convention and would like to join with us, please contact me asap - preferably via the Mrs. Banks Facebook Group 

If you would like to see more of the dishes available at Artist Point, the Disney Food Blog has two very good reviews, and the Disney Tourist Blog has beautiful photos.