Monday, 16 November 2015

Medical Tourism

I am a Canadian, who needed an MRI. If you think our "free health care" makes that simple, you would be sadly mistaken. It takes about 4 weeks to even have an appointment booked, and that appointment is months away.

So, since I felt I needed a diagnosis *this* year, I packed up The World's Greatest Husband™ and we headed to Buffalo for a medical weekend. The Border Guard waved us through when Husband said I was getting an MRI. I guess they are used to it. It should be noted that I did need my doctor to fill out a request and send it to the company in Buffalo. But I got the appointment for when I asked for it, about a week after my phone call (I wanted that Saturday, so Husband could come with me). It was easy, and I only waited as long as was convenient for me.

We spent Friday night at the Courtyard by Marriott in Amherst. Yay points! Our stay was free, except for the cocktails we purchased to take back to our room, and, of course, the tip for the housekeeper. It was a spacious room, with nice toiletries, and a comfy couch and coffee table.

I found the indoor pool a little cold, but the whirlpool was lovely, and the ambience of the pool room was quite pleasant.

After that, it was off to Buffalo MRI, for the fastest $600CDN I have ever spent. I don't resent it, though. Having a diagnosis will be worth every penny. The tech was very pleasant, and I got my choice of music during the procedure, which was very claustrophobic and noisy.

Nice Waiting Room at Buffalo MRI

After I got my CD, we crossed back into Canada, and checked into the Radisson Fallsview. Yay points! The room was also free. They warn you that points rooms are on a low floor, with a city view. In fact, they gave me a stunning East-facing room on the 13th floor with an excellent view of the Falls. It also had the Best. Jacuzzi. Tub. Ever. The thing had to be 6 feet long, and was deep enough to properly submerge. The hotel, itself, is very nice, with all the amenities you would expect. Just one note: the whirlpool is a physical part of the pool and shares the water, the posted temperature of which is restricted to between 80 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. So, the jacuzzi makes a lot of sense.

Stunning Sunrise View from our Room

We headed home the next morning, after a walk around the town. There are so many Falls based attractions that the Falls Park has the above sign to thank you for actually seeing the Falls. We found it hilarious.

One last note: at this writing, I still haven't received the letter informing me of my appointment date in Canada. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Walt Disney World 2015 - Part I

So let's get to the good stuff! I was at Walt Disney World from the 26 Sept - 4 Oct 2015. I went solo, and found it a rewarding experience. It was nice being able to do my own thing, at my own pace, and not feel like I was slowing anyone down.

Getting There

I used Disney's Magical Express to get from Orlando Airport (MCO) to the Beach Club Resort. The lineups were long, but I think I only waited about 15 minutes before I got on the bus. And my luggage was picked up off the plane, and delivered to my room later.

Disney's Magical Express Lineup

The Bus - They showed Disney and Resort themed Programming

The Main Gate - At Last!

Beach Club Resort

This is a very nice resort, with an excellent location and pool (well, waterpark), but it's not my favourite. It seems a little, well, sterile is the word that comes to mind, and I am not sure why. One thing I do know was that my room was quite distant from the elevators. Almost as far as you could get. And there was this one very long hallway. I was quite impressed when walking along it once, a boy who could not have been more than 10 echoed my thoughts exactly: "This is like that hallway in The Shining!" It's nice when you run into kindred spirits.
My Spacious Room - with Balcony

My View 

The resort is sistered with the Yacht Club, so they share all facilities, and this may be part of the problem: the lounge and most dining options are in the Yacht Club, and after making that huge haul to the elevators, it just doesn't seem that convenient (don't judge me; I was using the cane for a lot of this trip).

First Day in Walt Disney World

Once I was settled, I thought I would head over to Epcot for some Food & Wine.  I had received my Magic Band at checkin, so I was already to go, with my park tickets, room key and fast passes all on my wrist. 

I have covered an overview of the Food & Wine Festival previously, so I will just say this: Don't go Saturday. It's ridiculously busy. It took me half an hour in line to get a beer at the Outpost. All the lineups I saw were dauntingly long. So, I bailed. Call me a coward, but the crowds were much larger than what I had been expecting. I had planned to go over to the Magic Kingdom after my Fast Passes, but since the system was new to me, I wasn't aware of how to cancel my FP's so someone else could use them. I did learn later that you could go to a kiosk and cancel or change them, or get a new one after your previous ones had been used or expired.

So, after a long digression, I jumped on the monorail, and transferred at the TTC to the Polynesian Resort. They have a new themed lounge called Trader Sam's  (after the Head Salesman on the Jungle Cruise), which I had been itching to try.

Passing the Magic Kingdom
I arrived 2 minutes after opening on Saturday, and was put on the waitlist and given a pager, so I went to the patio.

Patio at Trader Sams

Water Feature at Patio at Trader Sams

Shrunken Zombie Head 
The patio has the same menu as inside, but it doesn't have the same experience. Re: the menu, the poke was good, but I didn't care for the salmon sushi. It didn't seem fresh to me. The dumplings were good, though (I went a couple of times and needed something to absorb the cocktails).

After I had received food and libation my pager went off (about 35 minutes?), and I went inside. It is dark, or there would be pictures. I don't want to be that person who annoys everyone with her flash. It is interesting that there are rituals associated with the fancy cocktails (the server doing a zombie shuffle with the Shrunken Zombie Head, and various animatronics and special effects for other drinks, but I don't want to give it all away).  I should mention that your place on the waitlist entitles you to a seat. You may be seated with others. Your party may not be all at the same table. If you are waitlisted for 2, they will let you in when 2 seats open up, even if one is at the bar, and one is at a table occupied by 3 others. But the atmosphere is convivial, and lends itself to people being friendly.

Recommendation? A must see. After a few more drinks, I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Hours (park only open to resort guests -makes for short lineups). 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How to Walt Disney World - Part VI

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - is one of the special ticketed events that is run after hours (normally from 7pm until midnight) in the Magic Kingdom. By after hours, I do mean they shut the park down earlier than normal to accommodate party goers. Usually, possessors of these tickets are permitted entry into the Magic Kingdom at 4:00, without using a day off a regular admission ticket.

It should be noted that this is one of the few times adults are permitted to wear costumes at the Magic Kingdom.

Non-ticket holders are usual encourage to leave at park closing, and are not permitted access to rides after this, or to participate in various party activities. For example, a wristband proving ticket purchase, is required to ride the rides, or trick or treat at the Halloween party. This means that most rides have very short lines. For some inexplicable reason, Peter Pan seems to be the exception to this. Also, the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is busy as well.

The Park seems Rather Festive

In the Short Line for the Haunted Mansion

They Light up the Haunted Mansion Beautifully

The Haunted Mansion is especially wonderful during these parties, with the Cast Members in ghastly makeup, pulling out all the stops.

More Mood Lighting

It's My Favourite this Time of Year

The Castle also Gets the Treatment

Hallowishes is the fireworks display which is put on during the party. It is fun and spooky, and the Castle plays a part in the display.

The Boo to You parade is preceded by the ride of the Headless Horseman. The parade itself is more spooky fun, than spooky, and everyone seems to have a good time. The gravediggers dance is a must-see.

It poured rain off and on, when I attended, but it is made clear that this is a rain or shine event. I had a poncho, and it wasn't too bad.

Monday, 9 November 2015

How to Walt Disney World - Part V

Staying Concierge -- if you can swing it, do this! It's so nice to be spoiled. I stayed Club Level (Concierge) at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at the beginning of October and I really felt it was worth every penny. Not only can they make bookings for you, and help you with enquiries, etc, but they also offer food and drink during the day from breakfast until late evening in the Lounge.

Tusker Beer - Brewed in Kenya!

Sorry it's blurry, these are the hot hors d'oeuvres.

The cold buffet

Evening Desserts with Liqueur in Cappuccino
In the morning, there is a nice continental breakfast offered.

During the day, there are small snacks, and beer and wine are available upon request.

From 5-7, hot hors d'oeuvres, as well as cold tasting spoons, cheese, etc. are available. Along with a pleasant assortment of African wines.

Late evening, they present you with desserts, and liqueurs for a pleasant nightcap.

The service is impeccable, and the staff is very friendly. They also show a variety of Disney movies, and shows in the lounge to keep you entertained while you enjoy your snacks and beverages.

At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Club Level rooms all have Safari views, I am told. They also have nightly turndown service. And of course, you tell someone outside that you are staying Club Level when you arrive to check in, and they escort you to the lounge, where you get a beverage and sit at a desk to be checked in.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

How to Walt Disney World - Part IV

Dining/drinking in Walt Disney World can be as cheap or expensive as you like. I was recently there during the Food & Wine Festival, when food can be really affordable, especially if you're more of a grazer than a diner.

Hawaii - Kalua Pork and Big Wave --Delicious

Wine and Hard Pumpkin Cider

Tzaziki Martini - Better than it sounds

Mimosa Royale 
Most selections were between $3 and $8US. Here's a complete list of the offerings:

My personal favourites were the Kalua Pork Slider with a Big Wave beer (Kona Brewery), and the Peking Duck Steamed Bun with Tsing Tao.  I also really enjoyed the Irish Cheese Plate and Bunratty Meade Honey Wine  If you can, I would definitely recommend going to Epcot for this festival.

I would also like to do a special shout out for a couple of my favourites which are always available at Epcot - Safari Amber at the Outpost, and Viking Coffee in Norway.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

How to Walt Disney World - Part III

You have your room and your tickets. You have probably gotten a link to My Disney Experience, and instructions to customize your Magic Bands. Here's what's going on: Magic Bands are wrist bands which have RFID chips. They allow you to access your Disney account at Disney World. Your Disney account is the other end of the My Disney Experience link. You can store resort reservations, tickets, dining reservations, plans and fast passes on your Magic Band. When you stay onsite, you can also pay for things with your Magic Band (then charged to your room account), and use it as the key to open your room door.

If you don't stay onsite (I wouldn't recommend this), you can buy a MagicBand and link it to your account. So, you still have the convenience of having all your park media at your wrist.

The Magic Band has two modes: contact (you have to touch things with it -- this applies to almost everything), and proximity. The proximity mode uses a battery, so there is a shelf life on Magic Bands. Don't buy one now for your trip in 5 years.

Most functions use the contact mode (for paying for things, you also need a PIN). The one that doesn't is the bits where Disney keeps track of you. This is helpful for emailing you later to take a few last shots at selling you your ride photos (I never look good in mine, so that's a no-go. Sorry, Disney).

This is what a Magic Band (grey) looks like next to a FitBit, on the wrist of a hand holding a beer in Epcot.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Off to Disney

When I get back, I will continue with my series, "How to Walt Disney World" with freshly verified material.

In the meantime, here is a picture of one of my plans:

Watching the Giraffes while Drinking my Morning Coffee.