Travel articles you can use.
Top

Don’t Miss Frosty in ICE at Gaylord Palms

December 27, 2013 by · Comments Off on Don’t Miss Frosty in ICE at Gaylord Palms 

Back in the days before  On Demand viewing or even VCR recorders, Christmas specials came on one of three national television stations once a year.  We waited for Charlie Brown, the Grinch and Frosty almost as much as we waited for Santa. TV watching in December was really special.

Frosty-&-Gang-in-ICE

Frosty-&-Gang-in-ICE

 

So, I have fond memories of Frosty and my children do, too. Today, my grandchildren know him well because they grew up watching the video over and over.

 

Debi and Frosty

Debi and Frosty

I live in Florida and there is no chance that Frosty or snowmen making is going to happen around here. And, don’t even think about those big inflatable creatures!

 

However, lucky for me, I was invited to Florida’s Gaylord Palms and ICE : a frozen fantasy within the hotel’s convention center.  Every year 40 Chinese artisans from Harbin, China are brought to Kissimmee (near Orlando) to create ice sculptures. They make an entire village and huge ice slides.  I have visited the attraction each year for the past three years and each time I grow fonder. It’s just plain cool.

 

ICE is a temperature controlled spectacle for kids and grown-ups. The attraction provides visitors with parkas, but remember to bring your own hats and gloves.  The frosty air hovers  around 10 degrees.

The hotel is a fabulous place for a multi-generational weekend or in my case, a girlfriend getaway. My girlfriend and I sat out by the pool to warm up after our tour through the frozen world of ICE. We ended up staying for lunch.

 

 

Gaylord Palms 2013-10When we had enough sun, we headed back inside for the fun of decorating a gingerbread house.  At ICE, you get a pre-built house and a container with all sorts of candy adornments.  Simply apply frosting as glue and create your own masterpiece. We sang along with a rendition of “Gingy Bells”  as we worked.  Gingy is one of my favorite characters from the Shrek movies. She pops into the gingerbread decorating area from time to time.

 

Gaylord Palms Holiday Show

Gaylord Palms Holiday Show

Gaylord Palms 2013-12 Gaylord Palms 2013Before dinner we enjoyed the musical and light spectacular performed at  Gaylord a few times each day. The presentation includes stunning acrobatic routines and a drummer who plays music while suspended over the stage. If you like Mannheim Steamroller type of music, you will love this show. Best of all, it’s free.

That evening, we holed up in our wonderful room and sipped wine.  That’s just what girls do on a girlfriend getaway!

Next morning, we ate breakfast with Shrek and his pals and went on a scavenger hunt trying to locate all the hidden reindeer with the immense Gaylord Palms interior.  Immense is an understatement; the giant indoor arena feels like a botanical garden on steroids.  I’ve written before that the hotel atrium reminds me of a biosphere; a place one could live inside of for days and never miss the outdoors. There’s even a pool of alligators in the atrium.

Breakfast with Shrek

The girls enjoyed Breakfast with Shrek

 

Hidden Reindeer Scavenger Hunt

Hidden Reindeer Scavenger Hunt

Gaylord Palms also has a fabulous top of the line spa. I toured the facility and wanted to try the “Fire and Ice “facial but unfortunately ran out of time.  Guess I’m just going to have to return again!

 

If you are looking for a holiday treat that you’ll talk about for years to come, visit Florida’s Frosty and ICE or better yet stay overnight and take in all that Gaylord Palms has to offer.

 

 

Disclosure:  I attended an event for media sponsored by Gaylord Palms.

Baby, It’s Cold Inside: My Night in the Ice Hotel

December 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Baby, It’s Cold Inside: My Night in the Ice Hotel 

“YOU are going to sleep in a hotel made of ice,” questioned my friend Colleen?  “But, you’re always cold, even here in Florida.”

 

Icy-Bed in Hotel de Glace

Icy-Bed in Hotel de Glace

“True,” I said. I never wear shorts to the movies and always carry a sweater into the grocery store so I don’t shiver in the frozen food aisle. But, I’ve become quite an adventurer and staying in Quebec’s Ice Hotel sounded like a challenge.

 

I arrived at the Hotel de Glace (as say the French speaking Canadians), a 44-room “icetablishment”, along with three others at 8:45 p.m. Not a time I would ordinarily check-in at a hotel, but rooms don’t open for overnight guests until 9 pm.  In retrospect, why sit around a frosty 10-15 degree Fahrenheit bedroom?

 

Ice-Chapel

Ice-Chapel

My group decided to explore the annually constructed attraction on the grounds of Quebec City’s former zoo. Construction takes a team of 50 people working day and night for six weeks. They start by making 15,000 tons of snow and laying the foundation. Then, snow is blown around arched or dome shaped metal molds. After three days the molds are removed. Finally, 500 tons of crystalline ice blocks arrive to be carved into furniture, columns and sculptures.

 

We meandered around and soon discovered a vaulted chapel with a stained ice-glass window and etched ice altar. Apparently some die-hard brides get married inside the frozen sanctuary, arriving like the Snow Queen on a sleigh pulled by white horses. Might be picturesque, but shivering through vows doesn’t sound like a good start.

Next, we hit the disco and bar where pulsating music and neon lights bounced around the snow encrusted walls. A glass enclosed fireplace flickered near the corner drawing me to the flames like a true thin-blooded Floridian. But, I realized it didn’t emit any heat. Of course not, the bar would melt if wood burning embers produced warming rays.

 

Ice-Hotel-Bartender

Ice-Hotel-Bartender

Bartenders in fur hats served drinks in oversized ice cube glasses with holes drilled three-quarters through the center. I ordered a Nordique – a combination of vodka, blue Curacao and lime juice. The glass chilled my already numbed and gloved fingers and proved awkward to sip, but the libation slid a welcoming blaze down my throat. I could have sipped another, but I was going to sleep in a room more comfortable to a polar bear than human. I didn’t want to leave my sleeping bag for a bathroom call.

Ice-Drink

Around 11 pm, we attended a training class, a requirement for all overnight guests held in Celsius, the hotel’s heated lobby, locker room and dining facilities. The instructor explained the secret to staying warm was to start warm. I was told to take a 15-20 minute hot tub (in an outdoor spa, no less) and then dash into a dry sauna. This two-step process would warm my body before donning sleepwear and hopping into a specialized sleeping bag as quick as possible.

 

Hot-Tub-and-Sauna

Hot-Tub and Sauna

Easier said that done. “Make sure you are very dry before putting on your PJ’s,” she coached. I used the locker room blow dryer to thoroughly dry my piggys before putting on high-tech fiber socks. The hotel sends notice to bring breathable synthetic fabric clothing and emphasized a no cotton rule because damp cotton would freeze.

 

Once clad in my outfit, I threw on my jacket and boots and raced down the snow carpeted pathway to my room- at the opposite end of the complex.  I entered an alabaster world; a white arched ceiling and open space dominated by a bed of ice. The bed was topped with a thin piece of plywood, a small mattress and brown fuzzy bedspread. The mattress added some softness but felt stiff from the below freezing temperatures. So, how did I survive?

My Ice-Bed

My Ice-Bed

Guests receive sleeping bags which contain a liner made from material resembling eyeglass cleaning cloths. You finagle your way into this thin shroud before getting into the mummy shaped outer bag. The process is tricky because you must stand on the bed or your stocking feet will get wet from the floor. Once in, you pull the liner up and tighten the sleeping bag’s face straps to completely encase your body.

 

I tugged and twisted but couldn’t get the straps snug against my head, so I put on my spare ski hat with ear flaps and tied it under my chin. The only thing exposed to the arctic air was my face.

 

And, baby it was cold. I’m sure my schnoze looked like Rudolph’s with frostbite. I tried to add a scarf around my eyes and upper nose for warmth, but it kept falling off. The North Pole like air chapped my skin and I fought with myself to relax and go to sleep.

 

So, I lay still and tried slow meditative breathing. However, lying in this inhospitable dark environment made me feel very alone, an emotion magnified by my recent divorce. “Debi,” I thought to myself, “you must be strong and tenacious.” Eventually I ignored the discomfort, managed to let go and nodded off.

 

Who knows what time it was when I awoke in total darkness. I could see nothing. Had I freed my cocooned arm, I could have turned on the one light bulb in the room. But, I knew I was in snow cave. I had no need to see. Instead, I hummed a song that came into my head, that rather annoying tune from The Poseidon Adventure: There’s Got to be a Morning After.”

 

Ice-Hotel-Hallway

Ice-Hotel-Hallway

The next time I awoke I questioned hallucinations. I swear sunlight was creeping into my room. How could that be? My room had no windows. I rolled from a side lying fetal position onto my back and looked up. There, off to the right side of the bed, gapped a hole in the roof. Snow was gently falling as if Tinkerbelle was shaking fairy dust down the opening. The sight was mesmerizingly beautiful, but only for a minute. I was chilled and my bladder was full.

 

Alas, a thought occurred to me as I scampered back to warmth; I’d slept the night in the Ice Hotel. I survived persistent cold and raw aloneness and if I could withstand that, I must be resilient. What next?

www.hoteldeglace-canada.com

Shopping in Quebec City

Shopping in Quebec City

Revisiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm

December 3, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Before I moved to Florida, I would have expected a place named the Alligator Farm to be a tacky tourist trap. But, not so at the St. Augustine site which is official known as the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. It was founded in 1893 and is one of the oldest zoos in the country, and also accredited with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

 

The American Alligator

The American Alligator

One of my earlier visits came in 2007 when I took my 4-year-old grandson and 2-year-old granddaughter. RJ, my grandson, wanted to have his photo taken with an alligator and we agreed. Don’t know if that experience turned him onto reptiles but he is now the proud owner of a leopard gecko named Percy and a walking encyclopedia on the creatures.

 

RJ and the Albino Gator

RJ and the Albino Gator

Since I now live in St. Augustine, I buy an annual membership to the Alligator Farm because I love to photograph the birds that return to nest. Seems the gators keep their predators away and birds flock here by the thousands between February and May. So do photographers from all around the world- that’s part of the fun.

 

RJ with a gator and snake.

RJ with a gator and snake.

 

 

 

But, RJ and Kyra were in town for Thanksgiving and they wanted to see the animals. We watched and listened as a zookeeper feed some of the biggest gators and then followed him down to the swamp where everyone got to throw large pellets of alligator food into the water.  The area under the walkway churned with gator jaws and tails. It was pure mayhem. You might think it was frightening, but most of the people loved the show. The trainer threw in a pumpkin as an object for enrichment. Gators don’t usually get this kind of treat and many of them seemed intrigued, others totally ignored it.  For a while the squash bobbed around like a greased watermelon, and then one gator took a big chomp and scurried away with it in his mouth.  Eventually the pumpkin was shared by others.

 

Kyra makes a new friend

Kyra makes a new friend.

We also observed a female Komodo dragon down a Cornish hen. Now, that’s something you don’t see everyday. She had a little trouble getting the whole thing in her jaw, but once she did, she swallowed it whole! Amazing critters.

 

Komodo Dragon eats a Cornish Hen.

Komodo Dragon eats a Cornish Hen.

We continued through the Land of the Crocodiles where all 23 species of crocodilians in the world are on display.  Most of these animals were simply lazing in the sun or in the water.

Gators grabbing at a Pumpkin.

Gators grabbing at a Pumpkin.

 

We also saw some exotic birds and good old Maximo- a 1,250-pound saltwater croc. On the way out, RJ bid good-bye to the two albino alligators (one was the former little one he had held in 2007.) Indeed, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is a wild and fun place. We’ll all return again.

Bottom