Last weekend Joanie and I brought our daughter to Walt Disney World to start her Disney College Program session. We used the opportunity to sneak away to the parks while she was busy with CP activities. What was great about the time alone as a couple is that we enjoyed the parks at a different level than when we there with the kids. Usually is we are up early and out the door to be at the parks when the rope drops. Over the years we have used some of the great tips from the “Unofficial Guide To Disney World” as well as personal experience to maximize the amount of fun we have during our stay whether there are crowds or not. On this trip we took things at a slower pace. EPCOT World Showcase is a great place for couples with a relaxed atmosphere, great sights and so many food and drink options that make it easy to enjoy time alone. On this trip we entered the park from the Boardwalk Resort (parking across the street from the resort) area or Beach and Yacht Club, where we stayed for two of our days. This significantly reduces the amount of walking from the front of the park and we really enjoy the ambiance in the EPCOT Boardwalk Area.
We started two of our days at the French Pavilion, arriving shortly after the rope drop for World Showcase (a much more reasonable start time of 11am). We really have a soft spot for France with me visiting many times associated with work, Joanie visiting as a teenager and then Joanie and I on a trip that included the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race, Orleans, Angier and Paris and a second trip with three of our kids. Of course with our wine hobby, France is a recurring topic. We have enjoyed lunches and dinners at Les Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris that includes a funny (but very expensive) story at Bistro de Paris with a party of nine when we thought they were on the Disney Meal Plan but were not (now Bistro de Paris is on the Meal Plan). On all our trips to Walt Disney World we make it a point to stop at Boulangerie Paitisserie, the pastry shop in the French Pavilion, for anything from a delectable French pastry to a simple baguette with cheese. On this visit we wanted a late morning snack to hold us over to a mid afternoon lunch (to avoid the crowds). We picked a turkey and Brie baguette to share and went across the alley to La Maison du Vin to get two glasses of wine (see previous blog post). What is great about the pastry shop and wine shop being across the alley from each other is that you can put together desert, lunch or dinner selections with a broad variety of wines to satisfy most cravings you may have. We like to take our food and wine out to the tables along the walkway next to the kiosks along the lagoon and people watch as we enjoy our meal. One of the kiosks sells wine and Grand Marnier Orange Slush if you want to skip the food.
We stopped into Rose & Crown Pub one evening and had a great time. We have always wanted to see the Hat Lady play her “raucous pub songs’ while enjoying a proper lager or ale. With our normal busy family Disney trip itinerary we always have missed her performances. On our way to the Mexico Pavilion for our margarita and chips fix, we decided to stop in the pub and there she was. Just as we walked in, the table next to the piano opened up and we made ourselves comfortable. Joanie had a Newton Red Label Chardonnay (which is always very good and a great value) and I decided to have a Black and Tan (this time with Guinness Stout and Harps Lager – technically called a Half-and-Half to be exact). The Hat Lady does put on a great show and interacts with playful patrons of all ages. Watching the patrons at the bar is almost as entertaining as the show. Definitely make it a point to stop in during one of her show times (on the EPCOT daily schedule sheet). If you miss her, you will still enjoy the atmosphere of the Rose and Crown Pub.
A few years ago, the La Cava del Tequila opened up inside the Mexico Pavilion. The La Cava del Tequila is a welcome addition to EPCOT and has become one of our favorite destinations when we visit EPCOT. The La Cava del Tequila is small (seating around 30 at the most) and has a very cozy atmosphere that is relaxing and fun. Their extensive Tequila selection is their specialty as well as wide range of margarita variations. We have tried their Avocado, Jalapeño and Blood Orange Margaritas, which are all very good. But our favorite is their San Angel Inn Margarita, which is the classic margarita recipe including Blanco Tequila, agave syrup, lime juice and orange liqueur. Their guacamole is freshly made and their chips are addictive. They have a variety of non-alcoholic drinks that the kids enjoy. One a hot summer day, ducking into the La Cava del Tequila will refresh you and your family so you can continue your journey around the world.
In Downtown Disney the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is a great place to spend the evening. They have a fairly extensive menu that reflects current culinary trends in Ireland, which combines Irish traditional dishes techniques and flavors from around the world to put a new spin on things. We have gone to the Raglan Road several times with our family and have enjoyed it each time. We had the opportunity to visit Ireland with my family and visit the village where my grandparents originated from and there is a soft spot in our hearts for the country and its people. Though we enjoy the food, the draw for us has been the live music and dancing. During lunch and dinner peak periods, your chance of getting a good table to enjoy the entertainment is fairly low (especially if you have seven in your party). On Sunday night Joanie and I dropped in about 9pm. We were able to get a table in the main room as the dinner crowd was thinning. The live music started and the place came to life. We split an appetizer of Calamari City (salt ‘n’ pepper fried calamari) and Salmon of Knowledge (baked salmon with a maple glaze). Both dishes where great and perfect for a late night dinner. Joanie had a great glass of Penfolds Shiraz/Caberbet Blend Rawsons Retreat while I had a Guinness Stout. My experience with Guinness has changed since touring the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Drinking a Guinness Stout in the circular bar overlooking Dublin is unforgetable. Before the visit to Dublin, the Guinness Stout I had was either bitter or heavy and thought these characteristics were typical. When we had it in Dublin, it was light and sweet, a far cry from what I was used to. It appears that the further away you get from Dublin (and if the Stout is not properly maintained) it changes the character of the Stout (much like wine). I mention this because the Guinness at the Raglan Road was light and was not bitter. We enjoyed the great music, the talented Irish dancers that put on a great performance and wonderful atmosphere. I would highly recommend the Raglan Road especially after 9pm.
During our next visit, Joanie and I are going include other great places including the California Grill for California wines and great west coast inspired dishes, Sushi and Sake at Tokyo Dining restaurant at the Japan Pavilion , Italian wine and antipasto at Tutto Gusto in the Italian Pavilion, South African wine and great food at Jiko (one of the largest South African wine cellars in North America) in the Animal Kingdom Lodge as well as many other great places.