Archive For May 31, 2016

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens – Winter Park, Florida

 

Entrance to Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens – Winter Park, Florida

 

 

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens — National Register of Historic Places

The older I get the greater appreciation I have for ‘old’ things!  For me, the aging process has invoked a desire to seek out historical places, oftentimes a serene paradise of beauty and tranquility.  These special spots of Americana seem frozen in time, just waiting to be discovered.  Since May is National Historic Preservation Month it seemed fitting to tell you about a fabulous Florida historical find, right here in my own backyard.

It was during my birthday weekend in Winter Park, Florida when I came across The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens.  The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Hubby and I spent hours exploring the compelling world of renowned artist and sculptor Albin Polasek.  Our Polasek experience featured the famed artist’s home and studio and a 3.5-acre lakeside sculpture garden, an outstanding oasis of peacefulness and creative artistic genius.

 

Framed Certificate from May 2, 2000 Stating that Albin Polasek House and Studio was Added to National Register of Historic Places

May 2, 2000 – Albin Polasek House and Studio Added to National Register of Historic Places

 

 

Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios (HAHS) — National Trust for Historic Preservation

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that prior to my visit I had never even heard of Albin Polasek.  Thank goodness for the endeavors of the Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios (HAHS), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  The national consortium is dedicated to helping American art-related historic sites preserve their buildings and collections so that people like me can be introduced to people with remarkable talent like Mr. Polasek.

If you have any interest at all in American Art, you should check out the organization’s website at http://Chesterwood.org.  From New York to California, and everywhere in between, the extraordinary HAHS Sites host a half million visitors a year (plus 2, now that we’ve gone!), allowing them to step inside the intimate living and work spaces of American artists across the country.  It’s one thing to read about artistic talent, but when we get to explore the actual places where painters had set up their easels and sculptors positioned their modeling stands, it can profoundly enrich our understanding of the creative process. There are at least 33 HAHS Sites nationwide that tell amazing stories of these artists’ lives.  There’s probably a few in your State!

There are benefits of becoming a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

  • A one-year subscription to the National Trust’s quarterly magazine, Preservation
  • Special discounts and packages for hotel stays at participating Historic Hotels of America
  • Worldwide travel possibilities with National Trust Tours
  • A personalized membership card which will outline further benefits as a member of the organization

 

Who was Albin Polasek?

Mr Polasek was born in 1879 in Frenstat, Moravia (modern day Czech Republic).  He apprenticed as a woodcarver in Vienna prior to immigrating to the United States in 1901; he was 22 years young.  He spent 4 years in the Midwest working as a woodcarver, then began his formal art training in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  His teacher and mentor was the sensational sculptor, Charles Grafly. Under his guidance, Mr. Polasek learned the traditional techniques of sculpting, while developing his own distinct style. Two of Albin’s best-known sculptures were also his earliest.  He created Man Carving His Own Destiny in 1907 and Eternal Moment in 1909, both as a student of the Pennsylvania Academy.

After touring the Albin Polasek Museum it’s difficult to choose a favorite sculpture as they were all spectacular specimens of a creative mind, but the Man Carving His Own Destiny certainly captured my attention and would be a top-pick for me.  It was located on the front lawn prior to the Museum’s front entrance.  It was a visual work of art, but for me, the intellectual purpose could not be overlooked.  It was a vivid reminder that every person is responsible for carving out his own destiny.  After a few minutes of staring down this magnum opus, I received this interpretation: Our purpose in life doesn’t just happen! Most often it’s a long painful process, whereby we chisel a path one grueling step after another — just like the sculptor did when he chiseled this masterpiece out of a chunk of cold rock.  How he did it was beyond me, and how you and I reach our destiny despite adversity is no less dramatic.

 

Man Carving His Own Destiny - Limestone Sculpture by Albin Polasek 1961 (Original 1907)

Man Carving His Own Destiny – Limestone Sculpture by Albin Polasek 1961 (Original 1907)

 

In 1909, while still a student at the Academy, Albin Polasek became an American citizen.  One year later, Polasek won the Prix de Rome competition, thus receiving a 3-year fellowship at the American Academy of Art in Rome.  During his studies in Rome his Sower sculpture received an Honorable Mention award at the 1913 Paris salon.  After completing his studies in Italy he came back to the United States and set up a studio in New York City.  At the age of 37 he was invited to head the Sculpture Department at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He was best-known for his tenure there, where he remained for nearly three decades.

In 1927 Polasek was elected an Associate Member of the National Academy of Design, an honor that cannot be applied for, only conferred.  The honorary degree is reserved for America’s top sculptors, painters, architects, and printmakers — the creme de la creme.  In 1933 he received full academician status and was able to place the coveted N.A. after his signature (meaning he’s a member of the National Academy, a goal many aspire but few obtain).

 

Albin Polasek Self Portrait, 1933, in Bronze

Albin Polasek Self Portrait, 1933, Bronze

 

Albin Polasek would go on to do large public commissions, both stateside and abroad, capturing international attention.  In 1942, his Mother Crying Over the World sculpture created a world standard for depicting the horror and grief of the Second World War.  The sculpture was included in our tour, and was heart-rending, to say the least.

 

Albin Polasek Retires in Winter Park Florida

At the age of 70, Albin Polasek retired to Winter Park, Florida where he self-designed his home that remains on beautiful Lake Osceola.  Just a few months after retiring he suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed on his left side.  The rest of his life was spent in a wheelchair — and although his health and physical strength was cruelly taken away, his passion remained.  He was still able to draw, paint, sculpt in clay, and carve wood with his right hand.  As we learned during the tour, he even continued carving stone with the help of an assistant.  (See photo below of Polasek in his wheelchair carving limestone with the help of an aide.)   In fact, 18 major works were completed after the stroke.  One of them, the politically motivated Victory of Moral Law, received world-wide acclamation.

 

Even a Wheelchair Couldn't Keep Polasek Down!

Even a Wheelchair Couldn’t Keep Polasek Down!

 

In 1961 the Albin Polasek Foundation was set up to share his life’s works with the public.  The Polasek Museum is a 3-part experience — the artist’s home, the private chapel, and the meticulously manicured sculpture gardens.  On the day we attended, parts of the Museum were undergoing routine maintenance. We were given free admission since part of the tour was not accessible.  Usually, docents guide guests through the Museum offering informative commentary about the life and times of Albin Polasek, but they were not available during our visit.  Just as disappointing, we missed out on seeing the chapel interior, as it is only available with a docent led tour.  (But hey, what do you want for free, right?)  Even though our self-guided tour was an abbreviated version of the guided-tour, we were not let down.  How could we be?  In his lifetime Polasek created more than 400 impressive works, half of which are currently on museum property!  With creativity around every corner, there was still ample space to explore with flashes of instant inspiration over Polasek’s ingenuity.

 

Albin Polasek Residence Turned Museum - Winter Park, Florida

Albin Polasek Residence-turned-museum in Winter Park, Florida

 

Artist Albin Polasek's Private Chapel in Winter Park, Florida

Artist Albin Polasek’s Private Chapel – Winter Park, Florida

 

Albin Polasek Lakeside Sculpture Gardens - Winter Park, Florida

Albin Polasek Lakeside Sculpture Gardens – Winter Park, Florida

 

Albin Polasek died in 1965 and was buried in Winter Park’s Palm Cemetery, with his own 12th Station of the Cross (1939) as his monument.  Since then, many contributions have been made by The Polasek Foundation to the City of Winter Park and Central Florida including various sculptures and art scholarships.  In 2000 Mr. Polasek was named a “Great Floridian” by the state of Florida — only those who have made significant contributions to the history and culture of the Sunshine State are recognized and given this special distinction.  (He’s in good company with people like Walter Elias “Walt” Disney… remember that guy?)  In 2004 Polasek was inducted into Florida Artists Hall of Fame, which honors individuals who have made sizable contributions to the Arts in Florida.

 

Stations of the Cross - Albin Polasek - Fiberglass or Bronze 1945

Stations of the Cross – Albin Polasek – Fiberglass and Bronze 1945

 

As you can imagine, the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens are a popular destination for weddings and other special events.  The radiant flora of the Polasek gardens coupled with the backdrop of lazy Lake Osceola can create some impressive photography.  Here’s a few of my favorites…

 

 

Pilgrim at the Eternal Gate (Bronze) - Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden, Winter Park Florida

Pilgrim at the Eternal Gate (Bronze) – Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden, Winter Park Florida

 

A Serene Scene at Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, Florida

Serenity at the Albin Polasek Gardens – Winter Park, Florida

 

Bright Red Seasonal Blooms at the Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden

Radiant Flora at the Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden

 

Wasserman/King Under The Sea - Concrete 1962 at Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden

Wasserman/King Under The Sea – Concrete 1962 – Albin Polasek

 

Beautiful Bamboo Trees with a Burst of Bright Blue Adirondack Chairs!

Hubby Found Some Beautiful Bamboo… With A Burst Of Blue!

 

Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens Overlooking Lazy Lake Osceola in Winter Park Florida

Albin Polasek Gardens Overlooking Lazy Lake Osceola

 

Winter Park Boat Tour As Seen from Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens

Winter Park Boat Tour As Seen from Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens

 

   

Beautiful Bamboo-lined Walkways at Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens

Beautiful Bamboo-lined Walkways at Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens

 

Albin Polasek - The Victorious Christ, Bronze 1939, (This Cast 1978)

Albin Polasek – The Victorious Christ, Bronze 1939, (This Cast 1978)

 

Albin Polasek was said to have been a deeply religious man, and elements of his Christian faith were visible throughout the tour of the Museum and Gardens…

 

Inspirational Quote by Albin Polasek Regarding His God-given Talents!

Inspirational Quote by Albin Polasek Regarding His God-given Purpose!

 

Quote by Albin Polasek Regarding the Spiritual Side of Man

Quote by Albin Polasek Regarding the Spiritual Side of Man

 

The Polasek Museum gallery also features rotating exhibitions by contemporary artists as well as historical collections.  On our visit we ‘stumbled’ upon Byron Walker, a native Floridian artist who resides in Winter Park.  He specializes in sculptural art and landscape development.  He told us that the intent of his work is to assemble and display materials in ways they were not originally designed to function.  Most of his current works are created from recyclable materials such as windshield glass, wood, steel, plastics, stone, organic matter, and plant life.  I took his picture (see photo below) with a piece that was on display in the Polasek Gardens — an oversized chair made from 1,255 feet of garden hose.  Pretty creative, huh?  I told Byron I had seen a smaller, similar version during Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival a few years ago, and to my amazement he said he was the artist that created it for Disney!  It’s a small world after all… (pun intended!).

 

Artist Byron Walker With His Huge Garden Hose Chair

Artist Byron Walker With His Garden Hose Chair

 

Winter Park Paint Out — A Plein Air Festival

For 8 years the Polasek Museum has hosted the Winter Park Paint Out, an annual plain air festival. En Plein Air is a French term meaning “in the open air” and describes art works painted out­doors with the sub­ject directly in view rather than in a stu­dio.  Since the event takes place the last week of April, they were busy making last minute preparations during our visit.  If you’ve never been to the Museum, this is a fantastic time to go.  Free admission is offered during the week-long festival, along with oil and acrylic painting demonstrations by 25 nationally acclaimed artists.  What could be better than a front-row seat to creativity?  In addition, the Saturday Night Garden Party is a special paid event that allows you to mingle with the artists (a sell-out every year) and purchase their one-of-a-kind artwork.

 

UPCOMING SPECIAL EVENT:

9th Annual Winter Park Paint Out

Host: Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens

Where: 633 Osceola Ave, Winter Park, Florida 32789

When: April 23 – 29, 2017

For additional information check out the event page on the Albin Polasek Museum website!

 

 

An Angel Trumpet Shrub in Full Bloom at the Albin Polasek Sculpture Garden

The Natural Beauty of an Angel’s Trumpet

 

Albin Polasek Gardens — Heaven on Earth!

As I was leaving the Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens, contemplating my next stop at The Morse Museum (with the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany Glass in the world!), I couldn’t help but notice the exquisite beauty of this Angel’s Trumpet shrub.  The exotic beauty of its large trumpet-shaped fragrant blooms were a showstopper for me, and a reminder of what a heavenly day I had at the Gardens.  It was enough to make my heart sing.  What a great birthday celebration I had in Winter Park… it was almost as if Mr. Polasek and the angels themselves were smiling down upon me!

 

Have you been to the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park?  Please share your experience or helpful information with our readers.  Or perhaps you have a question? Simply reply in the comment box below — I’ll try my best to answer it!

 

 

 

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Marriott Grande Vista Orlando Florida – Review and Photo Tour

 

The Sandy Beach Area at Marriott Grande Vista Resort - Orlando Florida

Marriott Grande Vista Resort – Orlando Florida

 

Marriott Grande Vista — A Home Away From Home

Marriott Grande Vista Resort in Orlando Florida has become my ‘home away from home.’  I go there frequently to host out-of-town family and friends.  Grande Vista is a Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) property, although you do not have to be a timeshare owner to stay there.  The majority of their reservations are booked through timeshare exchange companies, but anyone can go to the Marriott website and make a reservation, just like you would for any Marriott hotel.  In fact, many people book Grande Vista not even realizing it is a timeshare resort (the Marriott.com website doesn’t make that clear). Some of them are ultimately disappointed to find a humongous, busy facility where kids are plentiful and the noise level in the villa units can, at times, be bothersome.  But again, Grande Vista is a family oriented timeshare resort, not an upscale full-service Marriott hotel.  There is no room service (other than Pizza Hut delivery), room upgrades, or other perks that savvy hotel travelers have come to expect.

I’ve been a Marriott Vacation Club owner since 1991, currently celebrating my 25th year with them. Although timeshare is not for everyone, it was one of the best vacation decisions my hubby and I have made.  It has, and continues, to serve us well.  (Since this article is not about the pros and cons of timeshare ownership, I’ll save that for a future publication.)  Marriott has a total of 13 Vacation Club properties throughout the state of Florida; I’ve been to all but 3 of them, and most of them multiple times.  Each one has its own flavor, and activities and amenities can vary significantly between them. Some are peaceful and relaxing like the ones that are ocean-front properties where the repetitive lapping of the waves and cool ocean breeze can be nothing short of therapeutic.  Others, like Grande Vista, are less tranquil and more difficult for the mind and body to unwind and decompress, but serve a purpose nonetheless.  Grande Vista’s close proximity to the Central Florida Theme Parks and attractions is, in my opinion, its number one asset.  And that’s what we primarily use it for.

For the past 17 years I’ve been a Florida resident.  Back then, when we moved to our active-adult community, we also downsized our home.  Now with only a futon in the spare bedroom (technically, it’s my office) we have very little space to host overnight guests.  But when you live 40 minutes from ‘the MOUSE‘ you have a continual flow of visitors from out-of-state family and friends.  That’s when we rely heavily upon Grande Vista.  It’s not unusual for us to go there 3 or 4 times a year.  Grande Vista has become my favorite place to host our visitors, for the following reasons.

 

  • The Lock-off Feature:  A 2-bedroom lock-off villa is essentially a 1-bedroom villa that is connected to a deluxe studio villa, so we get 2 very separate quarters.  There is an adjoining door that we can choose to keep open or closed.  (In the photo below, the lock-off door is closed and located between the kitchen and dining room on the left-hand side.)  For us, the connecting door provides an extra level of privacy when we’re hosting another family.  (The door is usually only closed at night while we sleep or during the day when someone is getting dressed, taking a nap, making a phone call, etc.)  The 2 bedrooms are on opposite sides, nicely separated with the main living quarters in the middle.  Each bedroom, of course, has its own bathroom, sitting area, and private balcony.  Each section also has its own front entrance door, so families that choose to do separate activities can enter and exit the villa without disturbing the other family members.  Additionally, the lock-off has its own mini fridge and microwave, allowing those midnight snack people to indulge without making noise by going into the main kitchen.  And last, but certainly not least, is the separate thermostats in each unit.  That may not sound like a big deal to you, but here’s why it’s important to me — without exception, all of our Northern friends and family who come to Florida want to set the air conditioning in the low 60’s.  They freeze me out!!!  Most Floridians keep their inside temperatures higher, not only because we’re more accustomed to the heat, but the heat and humidity outside is better tolerated if the inside temps are not too low.  Separate thermostats in the lock-off villas allow everyone to be comfortable and happy.

 

Marriott Grande Vista 2-bedroom Lock-off Villa Layout

Grande Vista 2-bedroom Lock-off Villa

 

  • Grande Vista is the Largest of All Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare) Properties:  Because of its size, Grande Vista has an amazing activity schedule that is second to none.  The daily calendar is jammed-packed from morning till night with offerings for toddlers, kids, teens, and adults.  From beach campfires to Vacationology classes, there is literally something for everyone.  (Note: some activities require a nominal fee for food or supplies.)  On a recent visit we enjoyed the Butterfly Release, the Florida Reptile Encounter show-and-tell presented by Gatorland, and a poolside movie after dark, (all freebies) just to name a few.  Donna, my best friend with an adventurous spirit, was brave enough to hold a baby alligator and hip enough to try the unusual hair braiding techniques (small fee required) being done at the main pool.  Hubby always manages to squeeze in a round of golf (fee required) on the short 9-hole course that meanders throughout the property.  Boredom is not an option at Grande Vista!

 

Holding An Alligator at the Gatorland Reptile Encounter Show

Gatorland Reptile Encounter

 

The Butterfly Release Activity at Marriott Grande Vista Resort

Yes, There’s a Butterfly in There About to be Released!

  

Poolside Wraps and Hair Braiding Offered at Grande Vista Resort

Poolside Wraps and Hair Braiding

 

A Little Girl Watching the Saturday Night Dive In Movie at the Main Pool

Saturday Night Dive In Movie at the Main Pool

 

Here’s a list of the fun on-site activities and events during my last visit May 2016:

(a dollar sign ($) represents a required fee)

 

Crayons and Cereal Craze

Lemonade Bar

Paint and Swap Social

Dive In Movie (always family friendly)

Teen Basketball Shootout

Salt Scrub $

Texas Hold ‘Em

Treasure Adventure

Photo Scavenger Hunt

Viva Flamenco

Play-dough Making

Ping Pong Tournament

Gatorland Encounters

Dueling Pianos

Science Lab

Pickleball

Moscow Mule Making $

Teen Ping Pong Tournament

Kids Basketball Shootout

Jelly Bean Tasting

Marriage Madness

Stuff-A-Buddy $

Blind Chocolate Tasting

Karaoke

 

Lil Chef’s Kitchen $

Jackpot Bingo $

Survival Bracelets $

Kinetic Sand Sculpting

Family Feud

Tequila Tasting $

Wine Social $

Tennis Match Free Play

Craft Beer Tasting $

Teen Challenge Emoji Wars

Bead Buddies $

Tie Dye $

Margarita Making $

Ice Cream Making $

Coffee Cup Creations $

Poolside Crafts

Kids Night Out $

Fishing Derby $

Name that Tune

Dodgeball

Nineties at Nine

Poolside Activities

Scavenger Hunt

Teen & Tween Social Hour

 

 

Cornhole Competition

Sangria Making $

S’mores Galore Campfire

Ceramic Craft Hour $

Salsa Making $

Salsa Dance Lessons

Bedtime Stories & Snacks

Kids’ Candy Bar Bingo

Wine Glass Etching $

Campfire

Bocce Ball and Brews $

Dirt Cups $

Duct Tape Wallets $

Barstool Trivia

Barstool Bingo

Soda Floats $

Polynesian Revue

Gator Races

Wine & Design Workshop &

Blackjack

Sidewalk Chalk

Boathouse Happy Hour $

Cocktail Creations $

***Grande Vista also offers a complimentary group wellness schedule with activities such as Aerobics, Strength Conditioning, Nature Walks, Power Walks, Cardio Workouts, Senior Wellness Options, Yoga, Zumba, Juicing Demonstrations, and Smoothie Sampling. The Wellness Wagon offers rental supplies like yoga mats, healthy cookbooks, pedometers, and resistance bands.

As if that were not enough, additional recreation activities include Fishing Rentals, Boat Rentals (sun loungers, chaise loungers, kayaks, paddle boats), Tennis Program (with tennis pro Bob Newsome), Scuba Lessons, Marriott Golf Academy (private lessons), FootGolf, and The Spa At Grande Vista (massage and beauty services).  WARNING: You may have to go back home to get some rest!   

With such an outstanding array of activities, it’s no wonder children sometimes prefer to stay at Grande Vista rather than tackle the crowds and notorious long lines at the Central Florida Theme Parks.  In fact, during my stay in May, my visiting family had two 5-year-old girls who they treated to a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  To my surprise, they were back at Grande Vista within 4 hours.  Even though they had paid a premium price for the Disney tickets, the small girls were miserable and not able to handle the heat and people-packed Disney park.  Kind of an expensive lesson learned.  The young girls were happier at Grande Vista than the “Happiest Place on Earth!”

 

2 Little Girls Posing in Colorful Matching Beach Attire

Grande Vista – The Happiest Place on Earth for These 2 Beach Babes!

 

3 Children at the Grande Vista MAZE Activities Center

The Girls and My Grandson at the MAZE Activities Center

 

3 Small Children Out for an Evening Stroll at Grande Vista

Enjoying the Family Oriented Atmosphere at Grande Vista

 

  • Grande Vista Has 5 Different Food Outlets On Premise:  Very different then most Marriott Vacation Club properties is the selection of food outlets at Grande Vista.  I appreciate the option to dine without having to drive off-property.  Yes, they’re a little pricey as with all resort food, but sometimes a burger just tastes better in a bikini!  The convenient choices include:
  1. The Grill at Grande Vista (a full-service clubhouse-style restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  2. Copa Loca Bar and grill (poolside fare like burgers, fish tacos, quesadillas, salads, etc. open for lunch and dinner)
  3. The Grande Cove (a casual food court with sandwiches, pasta, rotisserie chicken, Pizza Hut Express, etc. open for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  4. The MarketPlace (a small convenience store and deli with snacks, fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Starbucks and necessities)
  5. Lighthouse Sweetery (whimsical ice cream parlor and candy shop)

 

Lighthouse Sweetery Ice Cream Parlor at Grande Vista

Lighthouse Sweetery Ice Cream Parlor

 

Best Friends Making Memories at Marriott's Grande Vista

Making Memories at Marriott’s Grande Vista

 

The Negative Aspects of Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort

As with any resort, restaurant or attraction, there are pros and cons.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the negative aspects of Grande Vista.  Certainly, the good out-weighs the bad, but here is what I dislike about Grande Vista:

 

  • The Check-in Process:  Just as the huge size of Grande Vista can be a benefit when it comes to amenities and activities, I’ve found that it also becomes its weakness.  There are usually very long lines at the check-in counter and the lobby becomes lively with children who have been cooped up in planes, trains and automobiles for many hours, looking to release stored up energy.  On more than one occasion we have had issues with the check-in process.  During a visit in 2015, it was so bad we had to summon the intervention of a manager.  In all fairness, the manager was extremely apologetic and offered her assistance in the future, but… the incident should not have occurred in the first place. Also, because Grande Vista is a high volume resort, parking by the front lobby is always challenging.  There are designated employees for traffic control, but typically hubby drops me off then searches for a hard-to-find parking space.  Of course, these issues become more pronounced during prime check-in times of 3:00 – 6:00.

 

  • Maintenance Issues:  I’ve been to Grande Vista probably 15+ times, and it’s a rare occasion we don’t have to call for the maintenance team to come fix something.  We’ve dealt with replacing the mini-fridge, broken shower doors, patio sliding doors that won’t open and everything in between.  As a Marriott Vacation Club owner, I fully understand they have a prescribed schedule for routine maintenance and about every 7 years the villas get a complete make-over.  But again, because of the shear volume of guests (and an abundance of hard-playing children) this facility seems to have more maintenance issues than any other Marriott Resort we have frequented.  For instance, during our May 2016 visit, we had the luxury of being placed in a newly refurbished building.  My family had two 2-bedroom lock-off villas.  Even though they had been renovated within the past few months, both villas had to call for maintenance.  We had a broken kitchen cabinet door, broken master bathroom vanity door, shower door issue, and broken kitchen faucets in both units.  All of these items were present upon check-in.  And yes, these were newly remodeled units!  One would expect issues as the units age and especially as they approach the 7-year period for renovation, but it came as a surprise in these units that were newly updated.  My personal opinion is that oftentimes Marriott does a temporary fix so as not to disturb and interfere with the guests’ precious vacation time, rather than take the [extended] time to fix it right.  Although, as a customer service advocate, the latter solution would produce a much higher guest satisfaction rate!  On a positive note, every time we call for maintenance they respond very quickly, sometimes within minutes.  And, as with most Marriott employees, they are always friendly and apologetic.

 

Enjoy the Photo Tour of Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort in Orlando, Florida

 

 

Marriott Grande Vista Resort Map of the Property

Marriott Grande Vista Resort Map

 

DID YOU KNOW…

Marriott has over 50+ Resorts in their Marriott Vacation Club Portfolio!  Here’s a complete list of Marriott Vacation Club properties worldwide.

FOR YOU LOWCOUNTRY LOVERS…

I’ve recently returned from one of my favorite Marriott Vacation Club destinations… SurfWatch on sensational Hilton Head Island, South Carolina!  Here’s my Review and Photo Tour of Marriott’s SurfWatch Resort.

Do you have a question about Marriott’s Grande Vista Resort? Please ask using the comment box below — I’ll do my best to answer it!

 

 

 

 

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River Lily Inn Bed and Breakfast – Excellency in Daytona Beach Florida!

 

River Lily Inn - A Luxury Bed & Breakfast in Daytona Beach Florida

River Lily Inn – Excellency in Daytona Beach Florida

 

River Lily Inn: A Deliciously Different Destination in Daytona Beach

While planning my hubby’s 75th birthday celebration I stumbled upon the River Lily Inn.  This milestone event had to be special, so an ordinary hotel hiatus was out of the question.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been to a multitude of fantastic upscale resort hotels but I wanted this occasion to be unlike any getaway we’ve ever done.  I was searching for something new, fresh and unfamiliar; something deliciously different. My preference was something small and quaint, without the hustle and hurriedness of a large hotel or busy resort.  Perhaps because we’re getting older, I don’t know, but I didn’t want to be required to move rapidly to catch an elevator or rush through long lobby lines to catch a valet.  My thoughts turned toward a small boutique hotel or better yet, a B&B, something we hadn’t done in decades.

For days I foraged the internet for the finest B&B’s in the entire State of Florida, and was flat out amazed to find one of the highest rated ones right in my own back yard.  The River Lily Inn was only a short 90 minute drive, and in the most unexpected place… Daytona Beach!  Daytona Beach?  Yep, right there in the middle of the Spring Break/Party Capital of the World, was a tranquil retreat that felt like we were a million miles away from the high-energy vibe and sardine-packed beaches that Daytona is famous for.

***TIP for Booking Any Bed and Breakfast Inn

We spent four fantastic nights at River Lily.  I booked my reservation over the phone, speaking directly with the Innkeeper.  As with all Bed and Breakfast reservations, it’s beneficial to discuss the booking with someone even if you have the option to book it online.  The reason?  Based on the occupancy levels, the Innkeepers may offer special unadvertised incentives for additional nights.  For example… when I spoke with Polly (the Innkeeper) on the phone, I asked if there were any current promotions.  At first she said no, but then changed her mind and offered me a “buy 3, get the 4th night free” deal.  Wow!  For me, that was a major blessing since I was about to reserve the ‘best’ (and priciest) room in the house.  [She didn’t know it, but I had intended to book 3 nights anyhow.]  Had I booked online, I would have missed out on that deal. Making a phone call saved me $215 + tax!

River Lily Inn — Home Sweet Home

The Innkeepers at River Lily Inn, Art and Polly Cappuccio, offer outstanding personal service.  Once you walk through the front door of the Inn, you are no longer a stranger, as they immediately adopt you as part of their family.  Polly is usually waiting at the door to give you one of her ‘signature’ hugs and a personal tour of each room of the Inn before escorting you to your reserved room.  Art and Polly are masters at making you feel as if their home is your home, not simply a hotel to lay your head at night.  In a word, the welcome mat on the front porch said it all: “Home!”

 

Welcome mat at the front door of River Lily Inn

Welcome mat at the front door of River Lily Inn

 

Breakfast at River Lily Inn — A Gastronomical Delight!

To me, one of the best things of a Bed and Breakfast Inn is, of course, the breakfast!  When choosing a B&B, I automatically eliminate those which include a light ‘continental’ breakfast.  Come on, if I wanted that I would have booked a Fairfield Inn for the night.  Part of the ambiance of a B&B is the full, hot, more-than-you-can-eat, over-the-top, gourmet breakfast.  Oftentimes, as in this case, sharing a table with other guests staying at the Inn.  Sharing a meal is a great way to get to know people and an added benefit is the exchanging of vacation stories along with travel tips, recommendations and advice.  (Traveling the world, after all, can be full of pitfalls!  One wrong step and your vacation could be ruined.)  During breakfast, we made new friends and even exchanged emails in an attempt to keep in touch long after our stint at River Lily had ended.

Even before breakfast, which was served daily at 9:00am, we awoke to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that was placed conveniently in the hallway right outside our room at 7:00am for early risers — or, for those like me, who are not coherent until after a generous jolt of java.

 

Freshly brewed coffee right outside our door!

Freshly brewed coffee right outside our door!

 

Each morning of our stay, Art prepared a true gastronomical delight.  Breakfast was served with a smile by Polly (and sometimes Jennifer, the Assistant Innkeeper).  The selections varied every day and attention to detail was evident.  The hot entree was always accompanied by coffee/tea, juice, fresh fruit, and sometimes an additional pastry item.  It was always more-than-enough (but I don’t remember leaving anything on my plate).   Breakfast was so plentiful it carried us through until dinner each day.

 

Our 1st Breakfast

Our 1st Breakfast

Our 2nd Breakfast

Our 2nd Breakfast

Our 3rd Breakfast

Our 3rd Breakfast

Our 4th Breakfast

Our 4th Breakfast

 

Art the Artist!

Art not only excels in the kitchen, but as breakfast is being served, he serenades the guests with subtle background music as he plays piano and guitar and sings from an adjacent room.  You see, ‘back in the day,’ Art was a session musician who played with Billy Joel and other well-known rock stars of the 60’s and 70’s.  As if that were not enough, Art is also an artist.  (Why is it that some people have more than their fair share of talent?)  Virtually every room in the Inn includes original artwork painted by Art.

 

 

Painting of Billy Joel Artist: Art Cappuccio

Painting of Billy Joel on display at River Lily Inn Artist: Art Cappuccio

 

Painting on display at River Lily Inn Artist: Art Cappuccio

Painting on display at River Lily Inn
Artist: Art Cappuccio

 

Artist Art Cappuccio draws inspiration from his former "rocker" days!

Artist Art Cappuccio draws inspiration from his former “rocker” days!

 

Painting by Art Cappuccio on display in our room at the River Lily Inn

Painting by Art Cappuccio on display in our room at the River Lily Inn

 

Painting by Art Cappuccio on display at River Lily Inn

Painting by Art Cappuccio on display at River Lily Inn

 

Original artwork by Innkeeper/Artist Art Cappuccio on display at River Lily Inn

Original artwork by Innkeeper/Artist Art Cappuccio on display at River Lily Inn

 

 

Polly’s Tea Room

During our stay Polly hosted one of her very popular ‘Afternoon Tea’s.’  The Tea’s which occur several times a month consistently receive rave reviews from guests of the Inn as well as locals from Daytona Beach and surrounding areas.  Polly spent two days in the kitchen preparing pastries and mouth-watering little morsels for the event.  Oh my goodness, words cannot describe the sweet aroma that penetrated our upstairs room and every nook and cranny of the Inn.  We were not able to attend due to a previously scheduled day-trip, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity during our next visit.

 

Upon check-in we received this advertisement for Polly's Tea Room

Upon check-in we received this advertisement for Polly’s Tea Room

 

The tables were elegantly set for the Afternoon Tea

The tables were elegantly set for the Afternoon Tea

 

Polly hard at work in the kitchen making the blueberry scones and lemon curd for Polly's Tea Room

Polly hard at work in the kitchen making the blueberry scones and lemon curd for Polly’s Tea Room

 

River Lily Inn — A Holly Hill Historic Landmark

The River Lily Inn is located on the Intracoastal Halifax River in a section of Daytona known as Holly Hill. The Inn dates back to 1888 and is a Historic Landmark.  It is almost 3800 square feet with an adjacent 2-story carriage house.  The one and a half acre property is adorned with ancient oak trees (hundreds of years old) and Florida’s signature palm trees.  It has a unique oversized heart-shaped pool that was built in the 1950s and modeled after Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield’s pool.

 

River Lily Inn - A Holly Hill Historic Landmark

River Lily Inn – A Holly Hill Historic Landmark

 

Heart-shaped pool at the River Lily Inn

Heart-shaped pool at the River Lily Inn

 

Art and Polly purchased the old plantation style home in September of 2007 and after major renovation (that they did themselves) opened the doors in Spring of 2008 as a Bed and Breakfast Inn.  There are six guest rooms each with a private bath that vary in size and price.  During our first night the other rooms were not occupied thus allowing us to peek inside.  After touring each room, I’m confident I would be happy and comfortable in any one of them.

 

 

The River Lily Room — Elegance Redefined

Our accommodations were in the premiere room, named after the Inn itself — The River Lily Room. Simply stunning!  Every aspect of the spacious room projected an aire of elegance, from the twin chandeliers right down to the luxury linens and bedding (cozy, comfortable, upscale bedding is a mandate when we travel). The soaring vaulted ceilings made our special space truly ethereal and the dual skylights provided an extra measure of brightness.  We enjoyed our morning coffee in the sitting area perfectly positioned in front of the extra-large palladium windows, characteristic of neoclassic styles.  Watching the sunrise over the Halifax River was a breathtaking display of radiant colors.  I’m not typically a morning person, but it was worth waking up early to witness the sun’s brilliant rays glistening off the golden accents in our room!

 

 

River Lily Inn — The Ritz Carlton of B & B’s!

As an amateur photographer, I was in my glory!  Inspiration is one of the most important aspects of my photography, and at the River Lily Inn it was easy to be inspired.  Since architectural photography is one of my favorites, I found this Historic Inn to be extremely photogenic.  Even on a rainy day, she smiled! Needless to say, our stay at the River Lily Inn both met and exceeded our expectations.  In fact, I’ve nicknamed it “the Ritz Carlton of B & B’s!”  This Florida find was a real gem and we’re already planning a return trip.  River Lily had everything we were looking for; beautiful property, excellent location, and something you will not find in any other Bed and Breakfast Inn… Art and Polly, the Grand Poohbah of Host’s!

 

Art and Polly Cappuccio - The Grand Poohbah of Host's!

Art and Polly – The Grand Poohbah of Host’s!

 

River Lily Inn — Daytona Beach — Photo Tour

 

Art and Polly Cappuccio, Innkeepers / Owners
558 Riverside Drive, Daytona Beach, FL 32117
Telephone: (386) 253-5002

The River Lily Inn Has Received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence!

Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence!

 

Calling All B & B Enthusiasts…

Please share your thoughts or questions regarding the River Lily Inn in the “comment” box below.  Or, perhaps you have a favorite Florida Bed and Breakfast Inn (name and location) that you can share with our readers!  

 

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2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Food Photos

 

Frushi from Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Frushi from Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

 

Epcot Flower & Garden Features International Flavors from Around the World

Woo hoo… this year Disney has increased the length of the super-popular Epcot Flower and Garden Festival from 75 days to a full 90 days.  That’s perfect for me, as I always visit multiple times throughout the dazzling display.  Not only am I captivated by the horticultural genius of the Disney topiaries and spectacular bursts of color as far as the eye can see, but it takes several visits just to sample the fantastic food made especially for the festival — food offerings that are not available any other time of year.

During the Flower and Garden Festival, Outdoor Kitchens are erected around World Showcase Lagoon. These temporary kitchens (pictured below) are small kiosks which look a lot like the Marketplace Booths at Epcot’s Annual Food and Wine Festival (one of my favorite events of the year!).  They feature delectable little morsels served on small plates that would be similar to an appetizer portion or tapas-sized menu item.  Keeping in line with the theme of World Showcase, each Outdoor Kitchen features food from a different country.  It’s a great and inexpensive way to try international flavors and cuisines from cultures you may never have the opportunity to visit.

 

Epcot’s Outdoor Kitchens Around World Showcase Lagoon

 

Primavera Kitchen - Representing Italy at Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival

Primavera Kitchen – Italy

 

Jardin de Fiestas - Representing Mexico at Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival

Jardin de Fiestas – Mexico

 

Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market - Representing Germany at Epcot

Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market – Germany

 

Hanami - Representing Japan at Epcot's Spring Flower Festival

Hanami – Japan

 

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews Representing America at Epcot

The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews

 

Lotus House - Representing China at Epcot

Lotus House – China

 

Pineapple Promenade at Disney's Epcot Theme Park

Pineapple Promenade

 

This year the International Flower and Garden Festival included 13 Outdoor Kitchens, with most menu items priced between $3 and $8.  Hubby and I have gone twice thus far, and spent an average of $50 each visit.  Not bad for a date night out, including dinner!  Of course, entrance into Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival requires a Disney Theme Park Ticket.  (We use our Florida Resident Weekday Select Pass, which is an incredible value for us.)

TIP: For those of you participating in the Disney Dining Plan, many of the food items from the Outdoor Kitchens are available as a snack credit, a welcomed addition to the typical snack choices at Epcot!

Here’s What We’ve Sampled So Far at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival…

 

 

Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro

Jamaican-braised Beef with Pigeon Pea Rice and Micro Cilantro

 

Tacos de Camaron Tempura Shrimp with Hibiscus Flower, Caramelized Onions, and Habanero Sauce

Tacos de Camaron
Tempura Shrimp with Hibiscus Flower, Caramelized Onions, and Habanero Sauce

 

Vegetable Spring Roll with Orange Sauce

Vegetable Spring Roll with Orange Sauce

 

Gaoli Beef Bun at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

Gaoli Beef Bun

 

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños

Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapeños

 

Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw

Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw

 

Frushi Fresh Pineapple, Strawberry and Melon Rolled with Raspberry Coconut Rice, Sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream on the Side

Frushi
Fresh Pineapple, Strawberry and Melon Rolled with Raspberry Coconut Rice, Sprinkled with Toasted Coconut and Whipped Cream on the Side

 

Tarte a l'Onion Alsacienne Alsatian Onion Tart with Sauteed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Puff Pastry Crust

Tarte a l’Onion Alsacienne
Alsatian Onion Tart with Sauteed Onions, Fresh Thyme and Rosemary on a Flaky Puff Pastry Crust

 

House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare

House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare

 

Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing

Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing

 

Florida Larder Board Orlando-made Ricotta Cheese, Cahaba Farms Micro Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic, Country Pate and House-made Pickles

Florida Larder Board
Orlando-made Ricotta Cheese, Cahaba Farms Micro Onions, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic, Country Pate and House-made Pickles

 

Currywurst with Paprika Chips Roasted Bratwurst with Curry Ketchup and Paprika-spiced Chips

Currywurst with Paprika Chips
Roasted Bratwurst with Curry Ketchup and Paprika-spiced Chips

 

Chicken Fricassee with Green Asparagus and Peas Served with Uncle Ben's Rice Pilaf

Chicken Fricassee with Green Asparagus and Peas Served with Uncle Ben’s Rice Pilaf

 

Pineapple Soft-Serve at Disney's Epcot

Pineapple Soft-Serve: A Refreshing Ending

 

The Garden Passport: A Great Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Souvenir

A fun thing to do (and a great souvenir as well) is to pick up a free little booklet called “Garden Passport” available at each Outdoor Kitchen location.  As you embark on your mouthwatering foodie mission around World Showcase Lagoon, you can have your Passport “stamped” every time you purchase food or drink from the corresponding country.  It’s a wonderful reminder of all the delicious goodies that you tried. Since hubby and I are local and attend the Flower and Garden Festival often, we do not usually bother with the stamps, however, we rely heavily on the Garden Passport to pre-plan our dining choices along the way.  The Garden Passport includes a complete listing of all the Outdoor Kitchens along with their respective offerings.  Each kiosk typically has about 3 food items and 3-8 unique beverage choices.

When you plan your visit to the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, be sure to factor in time to try at least a few of the Outdoor Kitchens.  It’s kinda like gourmet globe-trotting.  Trust me, you will not regret it!

TIP: Standing in line is not usually my favorite thing to do, but in regard to the Outdoor Kitchens, it’s not a bad thing.  Whenever there is no line, the food is almost always dried out from sitting in the warmers or under the heat lamps.  For example: during our 2nd visit to the Flower & Garden Festival we repeated 2 of the same food items that we especially liked during our 1st visit.  The Shrimp Tacos from Mexico and the Onion Tarte from France were both somewhat disappointing the 2nd time around because they had been warmed.  Do yourself a favor and choose an Outdoor Kitchen where people are waiting in line.  The food will likely be freshly prepared and worth the wait!

 

The Garden Passport from Epcot's Flower & Garden Festival

The Garden Passport

 

Hey Disney Foodies…

The dates for Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival 2017 have been announced!

March 1 to May 29, 2017

Have you been to Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival?  If so, what was the highlight of your trip?  Please share your experience or any helpful tips for our readers in the “comment” box below!

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