Sunday, March 22, 2020

2020 Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival

Unfortunately not many people are going to get to experience Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival this year.     It was only running for 10-or-so days before Walt Disney World parks shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19.  Our trip was booked months ahead of time and the concept of social distancing was coming into play towards the end of our trip. Luckily we left Orlando for home on schedule, before the announcement of the park closures.

Overall impressions:  Same festival, different year.   With Epcot's construction a few things were out of place and there wasn't the usual grand display at the park entrance.  The butterfly house was between The Land and Imagination.

Things we experienced
  • We played Spike's Pollen-Nation Exploration scavenger hunt game.
  • Enjoyed the temporary entertainment in Canada - Marc Angers and FriendsThis is the best act we've seen in the Canadian Pavilion since the departure of Off-Kilter.
  • Took in 3 Garden Rock Shows:   Peabo Bryson in the front row, The Orchestra featuring former members of ELO, and The Guess Who.
  • Ate or drank something from most of the festival food booths.   
  • Had dinner with friends at Takumi-Tei, the newish restaurant in the Japan Pavilion.  We had excellent service and food.    Our table enjoyed the omakase (tasting) menu along with wine/sake pairing.

We put together a 20 minute video from our festival experience which includes all the locations of Spike's hiding spots, some topiary characters, Marc Angers and Friends, and bits from the three Garden Rocks artists we watched.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Brewery Hopping Brooklyn and the TWA Hotel

During our time in New York at Christmas we made plans with friends to spend a day in Brooklyn brewery hopping.  The day of fun would be capped off with a stay in the newish TWA Hotel at JFK Airport.    We’ve had our eye on staying here someday and Christmas vacation was the perfect time for a visit since we were all ready in New York.    Usually we drive from Illinois to visit our families, and were planning to do so again this year, but then we came to the realization that our last night of the trip was going to be spent AT AN AIRPORT so why drive? 

We met Rich and Amanda at the hotel before venturing off in an Uber-filled trip around Brooklyn.  Dave grew up near New York City but never ventured into Brooklyn.  

Breweries visited:

Interboro:  Kinda what you want and expect from your first Brooklyn Brewery experience.  Graffiti style art in a light industrial area filled with garages and metal shops.  Music inside was edgy hip-hop and you could see into the whole brewing section. Beers were very good and the staff was nice and patient with us as we obsessed over building perfect flights.

Grimm:  A few blocks away was the polar opposite of Interboro.  Grimm was in a bright and airy building with large communal tables, high ceilings, and an overall cheery feel with some colorful artwork.   Alt-Indie was the music choice and beers were served in stemmed glassware. 

Arrogant SwineNot a brewery…. Arrogant Swine is a bar/restaurant in an industrial section that looks to be going under some slow gentrification.   Holly and Dave requested this stop because they caught it on a food show that put the spotlight on their waffle-iron mac and cheese.   Atmosphere was similar to Interboro’s but with less appealing bathrooms.    Most of the food was excellent.

KCBCOf course Dave loved the place because they had a reggae DJ spinning.   Great spot that had a neighborhood hangout kinda feel with a modern coffee shop d├ęcor (subway tile and wood accent walls).   Beer was great and ran the spectrum of styles.  This was the kind of brewery we could kill a whole afternoon in.

Folksbier:  After a very long car ride (distance and traffic) we finally made it Folksbier.  Their focus was traditional styles of beer with a twist here-ot-there.   The tap room was in the style of a small neighborhood German beerhall.  We ate some hipster brand popcorn they were sell because the BBQ lunch had finally worn off.

Other HalfThis is where the people were.   Other Half had a open floorpan filled with people.   The lighting was low, the place was packed, and they were pouring a ton of beer.  Their beer choices were many and we enjoyed almost everything we had – Dave ordered a taster of some over-flavored barrel age stout that just stuck in your mouth.

TWA Hotel

The old TWA terminal in New York’s JFK airport was transformed into the boutique TWA Hotel in 2019.  The Eero Saarinen designed building is reason enough to visit with its curved lines, little hidden alcoves, and tunnels accessing wings of the property.   The flight center opened in 1962 and everything is crafted to bring as much of that period to life as possible.   Staff had replica period uniforms, there were rotary phones in the rooms, and the music in public areas was all 1960’s. 

Check-in occurred at the old airline check-in desk with either an agent or computer terminal.  We arrived before our room was ready and our checked luggage was put on the conveyor to store in the back room.  We booked runway rooms and looked over the International Terminal. We watched planes come and go all hours of the day and night.   It wasn’t noisy since they use the second-thickest glass in the country (The Pentagon has the thickest).    

Branding is everywhere.   The gift shop had a ton of fun merchandise! There is no chance you will forget you are at the TWA Hotel.  One odd item in our room was the trash mat.   Yes, a mat on the desk for your trash and recycle items.    Yuck!   Dave works in the hotel supply industry and passed the photo around the office.   No one has seen this before and thankfully it does not appear to be a trend.  There are plenty of TWA souvenirs to buy in the gift shop.

There’s a lot to do here for a day.   We noticed many people were visiting the hotel just for drinks on a date night. You can look at several old cars around the property, play in the Twister Room, get pictures texted to you from the photo booth, look at the replica 1960’s living room and Howard Hughes’ office. You can dine in the Sunken Lounge and watch the old departure board create pixelated art every few minutes.  

The public spaces were designed with Instagram in mind.  Many people were at the hotel just for a date night.

We were excited when it was time for our reservation at/in Connie – an old airplane converted into a cocktail lounge.  Of course they ran out of the plastic TWA wings that came with the martini.  

In the morning we braved the cold and watched the airport action from the rooftop heated pool (note:  Not a hot tub so not too comfy in 30 degree weather.  Also, we didn’t bring our phones to the pool in the morning so we only have the night photo.).  For food, the hotel offers a full-service restaurant, a quick service counter, and an intelligentsia coffee stand.

This was a very fun hotel stay and we recommend checking the public spaces next time you’re at JFK.