Wherever you go in Orlando, you can’t escape the spectacle of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
As you drive around the city on any given evening, you see bursts of colorful light shooting up into the air. Then, they quickly cascade as though electrified streamers are raining down on passers by. Finally, the sparks disappear into the darkness as if they were never there. Those flashes of hope bring me back to central Florida again and again.
Nostalgic for Wonder
Even if Disney is too expensive, too commercial, and too corporatist (and it is indeed all those things), it brings me back to my childhood. A visit to the theme parks or one of the resorts reminds me of my wonder. My father, an Italian immigrant, was a workaholic. He never missed a day’s work, not for illness, not for anything. But when the season turned to winter and his landscaping company was on leave, he would take us to Disney World. The first stop would be Peter Pan’s Flight. The second stop would be the fireworks. He considered them awe-inspiring. They reminded him of the elaborate fireworks he would see from Buceto, the woods in Ischia, Italy, where he regularly camped out as a kid for certain religious feast days.
So, we return to Disney. Today, we watch Happily Ever After from the top of California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The flurry of images projected onto Cinderella’s Castle cast a spell on us. Hearing the rush to silence from the sea of onlookers is magnificent. That booming launch of fireworks dancing in the sky, in beat with the music, stays with a person.
Standing on that rooftop with fireworks shaped like hearts dissipating before us, I clutch my little boy. His jaw sits practically on the floor. “I never want it to stop, Mommy,” he says. And I respond, “I know. I know.” Truth is neither do I.
Bridge to the Generations
My own parents sit right inside the doors of the restaurant. They preferred to watch the show from our table. Certainly, they long ago held onto my siblings and me in the same way. They too wished upon a Disney firework that we would stay little just a little bit longer. Of course, they longed to make our innocence and sense of security and cherished moments endure as long as possible. Now, they are doing the same for their grandchildren. As the fireworks enlighten us, we must accept that these years vanish in an instant – and there’s no way to get them back once they’re gone.
I love Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The first picture that comes into focus is when the pink horizon that is distinctly Floridian meets the spire of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom. You step onto Main Street, which represents America’s greatest potential and sweetest charms. It just may be an America that never was, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it ever had been? If it ever could be?
Mickey balloons whip against each other in the wind. The handlers carrying them seem almost as if they may float away at any moment. Cotton candy, popcorn, and Casey’s hot dogs leave the delicious scent of childhood hanging in the air. Newcomers have no idea where to train their eyes. Yet, the magic isn’t as obvious as many presume. It’s subtle, but you are still immediately aware of its presence.
The Power of Pixie Dust
I love Disney World. My people worked the land as both a way of life and a way of making a living. My father is an old-school Italian, a bit of a curmudgeon from birth. He’s a hard worker with busted shoulders to prove it. He has always been a homebody, who preferred his house to a restaurant, his routine to thrills. But he never missed a chance to bring us to Disney World when we were kids. He was a father most of all at Disney. That’s not to say he doesn’t love us at home. He does. But on vacation at Disney World, he was devoted to us. Us alone. There were no landscaping clients or employees or headaches about this and that.
A big fan of Michael Jackson and early MTV, my father could hardly wait to see Captain EO. Right outside the theater, we kids would try to catch the water from the dancing fountains. When Hollywood Studios arrived, we would look forward to seeing the Golden Girls house facade and feeling the burn on the Backlot Tour. One time my brother and I rode the giant bees and made a video as though we were the stars of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
No attraction captivated us as much as Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom. My mother hated it. She did not like any ride that made her feel as though she was flying. In fact, she still begrudgingly joins us on this one, closes her eyes, and clutches my father until the ride is over. My father, on the other hand, still loves it explicitly because it allows him to fly. And he spreads his wings over Neverland, a world with no cares and no responsibilities, a world of fantasy and whimsy. It is a world we could never really know except in our wildest imagination. But soaring over the wide-mouthed Tic Toc Crock and Hook, the neon flashes, and those Lost Boys, you feel as though it is all too real. You feel as though you are somewhere else.
Indeed, that is the magic of Disney World. Once you step on property, you can completely shut out the rest of the world. You get the rare opportunity to open up the corners of your mind that you long ago locked in the name of becoming a grown up. So, you can visit beloved stories of princesses or pirates, talking animals or lovely mermaids. There are superheroes and jungle cruises and the chance to ride an elephant. You can take a leisurely walk from one country to the next, all the while sampling their food and chatting up their natives. Living in this world for but a moment, you can twirl and spin and roller coast. You can step into a favorite movie and sing at the top of your lungs with a Dole Whip in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. It’s marvelous. And indeed you can fly. Oh yes, you can fly.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is the coolest concept for a resort, perhaps, in the history of family travel. In the middle of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., you’ll find giraffes, zebras, and ostriches in your hotel’s backyard. Maybe I’m exaggerating because some kids would argue in favor of Legoland’s life-size brick creations in the bedrooms. And there are those hotels with rooms underwater, overwater, on ice, and in trees that offer some pretty stiff competition, I’ll admit.
Still, I was moved every day of my stay at AKL, every time I saw a majestic zebra walk toward me as I sipped my morning tea or caught a glimpse of a giant giraffe nibbling on leaves as I inched toward the elevator to my room. Friends, who were traveling with me, paid the extra fee to have a room with a balcony with the animals in full view. They would roll over in bed and look out the window to see Mother Nature in all its glory. Now, that’s a vacation if you ask me.
And oh how the children delighted! They could not turn away from the lovely animals, the ones they’d seen in books, behind cages in traditional zoos, and in all those Disney movies that gave animals a voice and personality. This was their chance to observe them from a safe, yet short, distance. They looked at what they ate and listened to the experts walking the grounds educating visitors about their natural habitats, diets, and tendencies.
Beauty is everywhere. It does not only come from the sight of the animals but also the look of the environment, their habitat, which is made to be as close to what they’d find in nature as possible. There are about 200 animals in four savannas. The buildings are built to form circles to kind of fence in the animals as they do in Africa. The resort itself is divided into two parts – Jambo House and Kidani Village, which is newer and encompasses the Disney Vacation Club villas. Although I’ve spent significant time in both, I actually stayed at Kidani Village.
Pros and cons of the resort are easy to surmise. Obviously, the ambiance and theming are over the top. In fact, this might be the best themed of all the hotels, and many a blogger has made such an argument. Those who have lived in Africa often say that every detail is authentic. In fact, the works of African artists are on display throughout the resort, as are popular African sayings. In addition, African construction workers were brought in to make the thatched roofs in the tradition they do back home. The famous imagineer Joe Rohde led the design of this resort, and has told guests about the smallest of details including the animal trim that runs atop the wall in the lounge and how they are all facing in the same direction to make it look as though they are running toward the window looking out on the savanna. That’s dedication, folks.
I try not to get too hung up on rooms when I visit Disney because I hardly find time to chill in the hotel anyway. But the deluxe resorts, which include AKL, have pretty nice rooms. In the outside world, they would hardly qualify as luxurious, but they definitely are at Disney World. In the outside world, they wouldn’t cost as much either. However, we rented DVC points, which brings down the price significantly. In fact, it’s often the equivalent of the price of one of Disney’s moderate resorts. Otherwise, you have to pay full price for a deluxe resort stay, which can run up to around $500 per night or more.
One of the greatest pros to staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the food. There are some exceptional restaurants on the grounds, including the signature dining experience at Jiko – The Cooking Place. Offering guests some genuine African flavors in a sophisticated atmosphere Jiko also has some of that Disney magic. Twin wood-burning ovens that look like African cooking pots are the centerpiece of the show kitchen. The lighting changes from warm shades of red, orange, and gold t o mimic the African sunset. Then, there’s the food. I traveled with my parents, who are not adventurous when it comes to eating. It’s Italian or bust. My father is more open than my mom. Anyway, I had my doubts. While this was not their favorite place, they found items to eat. And I am still dreaming about the steak with a red wine sauce and topped with macaroni and cheese. I’ll admit some of the spicier food wasn’t my favorite, but I enjoyed sampling it and just being in such a warm place made the advanced dining reservation (ADR) worth it. This one meal was the equivalent of 2 on the Deluxe Dining plan. If you pay out of pocket, it’s significantly more expensive. Wine lovers rejoice; Jiko offers the most South African wines in one place than anywhere outside of Africa.
For a less costly meal, AKL also offers the sit-in restaurant Sanaa, which serves “African food with an Indian flair,” according to the Disney Website. I never ate here, but this place also has a great vibe. The windows that run from top to bottom allow diners to watch the animals on the savanna as they eat. The Indian-style bread service gets rave reviews from foodie bloggers.
Boma – Flavors of Africa, which offers a casual buffet at breakfast and dinner, is a fan favorite. Again, the African theming will blow you away down to the elephant statues, dark wood tones, and look of the buffet. I’ve heard great things about the dinner, but I have never eaten it. I’ve been to the breakfast buffet three times. Two out of the three times I had one of the best meals ever. The first time was in December 2009, and it was packed with people, service was poor, and the buffet was completely picked over when we got there. The last two times have been divine. The M&M pancakes are a big hit. The waffles feature the Lion King instead of being Mickey shaped, which was a novelty my son appreciated. African dishes, including 0ak-grilled asparagus and tomatoes, are mild enough to attract even picky eaters. The French toast bread pudding is the stuff of legend. Finally, there’s always The Mara, the on-site quick-service restaurant, too keep you refreshed and satisfied. It’s famous for its zebra dome and other themed cupcakes.
If the animals and the food are not enough, there are lots of activities at the hotel. As to be expected with Disney, there are outdoor movies, campfires, and some chances for the kids to do arts and crafts. But you can also meet people from Africa, who will share their own story and regale you with the continent’s history. There are experts on hand to help you better understand the animals, who live there. Sometimes, they have free cookie decorating for kids. Guests can get closer to the animals by paying for the Wanyama Safari (in a truck) and Dinner at Jiko. It is listed on the Website as being more than $60 per adult. There is another Night Safari at the hotel for an additional fee, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about that one. There are people who have taken it and say you can’t see the animals, so it’s not worth it. With Animal Kingdom itself offering night safaris now, I’m not sure if this is still an option anyway.
In the end, I loved Animal Kingdom Lodge, and I’d be happy to go there again. Of course, I’d only go if I could pay the fee for renting DVC points because it’s far too expensive – animals or not – any other way. For the right price, I’d highly recommend this beautiful place because it’s more than a hotel. It’s an unforgettable experience for adults and kids alike.
Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort is the crown jewel of accommodations at the Mouse’s House. (See below for more photos.) Some would argue that the honor really goes to the more sophisticated Grand Floridian or the Contemporary with the monorail moving right through it. But the Polynesian is not as stuffy as GF, nor is it as modern as the Contemporary. It’s the perfect balance of luxury and whimsy. It reeks of nostalgia, and it’s just plain pretty. That’s probably why it’s always called to me, but it always seemed too expensive to justify.
Until February 2016, I had only ever stayed at the resort once – for a weekend that I gave as a wedding gift to my husband in 2008. Frankly, if it weren’t for the discount of my relatives (who worked at the resort at the time), I never would have been able to afford it. Disney is expensive. Really expensive. And the Polynesian is among its costliest accommodations. (There are different categories of hotel, with the most affordable being value resorts, and the most expensive being deluxe resorts or villas, which are the most expensive.) Polynesian is a deluxe resort.
Without any promotions, the cheapest rooms are upward of $600 per night. In the last few years, the Polynesian has added longhouses (those are the complexes where the rooms are) that are part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). These are known as villas. If you’re not a DVC member, you can still make reservations directly with Disney for one of these rooms, some of which have kitchens and multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. The Deluxe Standard room is actually $456 per night for the first week in December at this moment, which is not a bad price considering how much money it costs for rooms in the rest of the resort. The bungalows – those fancy villas on the water – cost between $2,100 and $2,900 per night.
Right about now, you’re thinking, “Hey, crazy lady, I can never afford this. How could you?” Well, that’s a good question. I actually rented DVC points from the DVC Rental Store (which I will tell you about in a future post). For now, you should know that it’s a viable option and it’s significantly cheaper than going directly through Disney.
Why did I waste so much space in this review writing about cost? Well, I want you to know that I believe a stay at the Polynesian (if it fits in your budget via renting points) is well worth it. Here’s why:
Location, location, location – The Polynesian is on the monorail line, which means getting to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and any of the Magic Kingdom resorts is super easy. When you have little ones or you make lots of dining reservations at the hot spots in that zone, this ease makes all the difference. It means having a more relaxed vacation. Whenever we stay at non-monorail resorts, which I’ve done many times and will probably do again, I have a great time but I feel like I need another vacation a week later after all that running around. While many people want pool views or castle views, I was perfectly fine to have a view of the parking lot because it meant I paid less for my room and was conveniently located within walking distance of the Ticket and Transportation Center, the hub for getting to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT or the resorts. (If you get the monorail outside the upstairs lobby of the Polynesian, you will have to transfer at the TTC to get to your ultimate destination.) We literally would roll out of bed, get dressed, walk to TTC and get wherever we wanted to go. And we could come back for a break during the day or before dinner whenever we wanted. We took Disney buses to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, all of which were on time and comfortable.
Food, glorious, food – Some of my favorite restaurants are at the Polynesian resort. Ohana, with its dumplings and wings and all you can eat salad and shrimp and beef, and that delicious bread pudding is a must do. Although I didn’t have a great experience at breakfast there, you do get to meet and share photo ops with Lillo & Stitch (more on that in another future post, so there’s lots to which you can look forward). Kona Cafe and its Tonga Toast and sushi are the stuff of legend. And, hello gorgeous, you can get the Dole Whip, which only available at the Polynesian and Magic Kingdom and nowhere else. That alone might be reason to stay here. The luau is awesome and includes a fire eater. Yes, a fire eater. No need to say more.
The pool is cool and so is the beach area. It’s in the shape of a volcano. If theming and kitsch are important to you, then the pool makes this place a winner. I’ve always loved the nearby beach area. Toward the end of our stay, we spent an afternoon playing in the sand and indulging in S’mores (at the fire pit). I imagine real Polynesia is way better, but this fantasy version is still a delight. There have been complaints that the pool area is crowded during the high season. I can’t comment on this but imagine it to be true because of the smaller size compared to other resorts. I have only been in the pool once, that first time I went to the Polynesian in 2008, and no one else was there because it was December, not exactly pool weather. This last time in February, it was too cold to bear the thought.
The room rocks. The deluxe standard room has a pull-out couch and queen bed. Plus, a small pull out bed, fit for a child. My son kept promising to sleep there, but he usually ended up in bed with us. We left the couch closed. But what we loved most about the room was the double bathroom. There was one room with a tub, sink, and toilet and another with a shower and sink. It made getting ready easy, and they were both simply beautiful. One downside was the water in the shower would always – I mean always – end up on the floor no matter where you moved the shower head. Small price to pay, especially since there was a seat in the shower. Heaven!
If it wasn’t for the price, I’d say everyone should just go to the Polynesian. Since it’s so expensive, I say you should try to make it a Disney bucket list item. If you get to go more than once, all the better. The best news is that you can go to visit the Polynesian for a few hours (not the pool but the resort) for free. Just hop on the monorail and go. You can grab a bite or just walk around and take it all in.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I have a close relative who works for Walt Disney World, and she has helped me get discounts and entrance to the parks, but I paid in full to rent DVC rental points to stay at the Polynesian deluxe standard room and to get Deluxe Disney Dining privileges throughout this stay. And her position in no way influences my opinions or writing.
There’s something supremely American – not to mention innocent – about spending the day bowling. But the game, once among American’s favorite pastimes, has lost some of its shine. Certainly, it’s not as popular as it once was. I remember attending bowling birthday parties on a regular basis, grown-ups being in leagues, and even watching bowling on TV. Now, there are few alleys around. In my neck of the woods, there is only one still standing. My son’s first school field trip was to that bowling alley. So, when we were staying at Universal Studios’ Cabana Bay, we just had to play at the resort’s Galaxy Bowl.
This is no old-school joint. It is made to look like something out of the 1950s, but it’s fresh and functioning. Despite it’s retro appeal, it has a modern feel. I really liked the colorful lights that lit up the lanes and the black and white photos of bowling alleys of yesteryear on the walls. The mid-century modern tables and chairs were kitschy and played well into the theme.
Since this was all about my 4-year-old son having fun, we immediately asked for bumpers for the gutters and a ball ramp, so he could more easily handle the ball. Like other players in the alley, we were able to order drinks and food and have it delivered to our lane. My son really enjoyed the chicken fingers, of which he is a true connoisseur, so his endorsement really means something. My husband sampled them, too, and said they were among the best he ever had. They weren’t at all greasy and they had a subtle seasoning that popped with flavor.
Because my son was having such a good time, we both kept giving up our turn for him. Regardless, we had the time of our lives. My son laughed. High fives were given all around. And we enjoyed the snack. For a moment, I felt like we were that perfect, wholesome American family. I was tempted to don pearls, June Cleaver style. Then, my husband got a gutter ball (despite the bumpers) and I heard, “Vafa…” and remembered we’re not even completely American, never mind one of those Golden Age TV families.
But I digress. The point is Galaxy Bowl is a cool place to spend an afternoon. Whether it’s worth it is debatable. As much as I enjoyed it, the diversion is on the expensive side. With the food and the game and renting shoes, we ended up spending at least $60. It’s not terrible, but the Orlando theme parks are already costly. We were in the area a weekend before our Disney trip was set to begin, so we had nothing else to do and it was within our budget. Still, I can’t deny that I felt a little taken advantage of. But on every vacation, don’t you find yourself dipping deeper into your wallet for stuff that you’d never invest in back home? After hemming and hawing in my head, I just tell myself to shut up and enjoy. It works. Frankly, if it doesn’t wipe out the bank account and helps my son create memories and bond with us, his parents, then it’s priceless anyway. Right?
We had been on Disney overload for a week, and my husband and I were experiencing a food hangover after Disney Deluxe Dining (also known as the triple D), replete with its three-course dinners, character buffets, and zillions of snacks. So, we were looking for something low-key to do while we killed time before leaving for the airport for our flight back to Newark. And my sister had the.best.idea.ever. Seriously.
She suggested we head to the Crayola Experience at the Florida Mall. There, we found 25 interactive exhibits dedicated to art and the wonder of color. It was the cherry on top of a perfect vacation, and it made me wish Crayola would open one up in our neck of the woods. (There are only two others – in Easton, Penn. and Minneapolis, Minn. – but not in my NYC or Paramus, N.J. Just sayin’.)
For the cost of $18.99 (for anyone ages 2 and up, including all the adults in your party and only if you buy the tickets online ahead of your visit), you receive tokens and a plastic bag to stash all your art work. We came away with some great souvenirs, including spin art made with melted crayons, my son’s drawing cut into a puzzle, and numerous crayons we made ourselves in the shape of cars, seahorses, and sharks. At the start of our journey, we also made a traditional crayon that my son was able to customize; he picked red and named the color Spiderman Enzo. He even got to watch the crayon get wrapped. Older kids might also enjoy getting a tour of a crayon factory. But I can’t attest to how good an exhibit that one is because we skipped it.
What was most interesting to me were all the options for combining art work with technology. Early on in the day, we colored on a touch-screen and when we were done, our images were projected onto the wall with those of other people in the room. Together, our coloring book pages made a scene in outer space that was simply riveting to watch, especially the rockets as they blasted off. Later on, we colored cars and fashion models, and then we watched the cars race and the models strut their stuff on the runway. We also created print outs of coloring book pages with our own faces in them, and awesome digital images featuring characters we colored, backdrops we chose, and our own faces in the scene, which we were able to email to ourselves and friends and family (see photo above).
All this and my son was able to use the tokens to purchase markers and modeling dough, which he used to make dinosaur fossils and could even color on the walls and the dog (relax, it was a dry erase statue) without repercussion. Plus, he nearly killed mommy when she chased him through the tunnels and slides in a rainbow of color.
Needless to say, my boy threw a fit when it was time to leave. It was no wonder. He had to say good-bye to my sister, his beloved Zia, and all the wonder at the Crayola Experience, not to mention the Disney withdrawal. At least for one more day, we were able to color our world with fun.
As you learned in yesterday’s post, Sea World is often atop my list when vacationing in Orlando, Fla. One of the reasons I love going there is its Fun Pass. You pay the price of one day’s admission and choose the Fun Pass option (at the electronic ticket sales booth at the entrance). This allows you to use that same ticket – without paying anything extra – to enter Sea World as many times as you’d like for up to one year. Yes, it costs exactly the same as a one-day ticket. The goal, as I see it, is for visitors to keep coming back and spending money on the extras – food, special shows, souvenirs, etc. My family and I went twice during my recent trip, and we bought lunch and drinks both times. And I still have my ticket, which will work until the end of the year, in case I find myself back in the area. It could happen. I could win the lottery. You never know.
Everyone goes to Orlando for Disney World, myself included. But there are many other theme parks in the area. One of my favorites is Sea World. It’s gotten a bad rep over the years, especially after the recent tragedy when one of the animal trainers was killed by a whale in the Shamu show. While that incident was awful, the park has done what it can to get back on its feet and implement preventative measures to keep that from happening again – at least from what I, a tourist, could tell. On my last visit just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that there were far fewer Shamu shows than before, for instance. I assume that gives the whales more rest time.
Still, my family enjoys a day at Sea World. From the flamingos that greet you near the entrance to the wild Manta roller coaster (which I would never dare take a spin on but was popular with hubby and my sister), there’s something for everyone. The highlight of the park is the shows featuring the animals. Even though my sister finds it cheesy, the dolphin show with the acrobatic stunts by both man and beast and bright, lively costumes has always taken my breath away. “Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island” has sea lions performing tricks and humans participating in silly banter and antics on a pirate ship. Of course, there’s always Shamu, the star of the park. The one disappointment was that the penguin exhibit was closed for renovation. We actually went there because Baby boy loves penguins, and we wanted him to see them up close. Alas, he couldn’t. We did find other entertainment, though, and just walking through the park is a pleasure on a nice, sunny day.
Nowadays, there are also all sorts of concerts for the little ones, including a popular stage show with Elmo and his mates from Sesame Street. Baby boy bopped to the beat while other babies were literally dancing on tables during that one. That wasn’t even my favorite Sea World moment. Baby boy and I had been waiting for my husband and sister to feed the dolphins and we were by the observation pool. A dolphin literally came face to face with Baby boy and it was as though they had a conversation, talking back and forth to one another. Baby boy got so excited, he could barely contain his giggles. If only I could hold him up to the pool and take a picture or video at the same time. I’ll just have to keep this priceless memory locked in my own brain.
We just finished a fantasy vacation at Walt Disney World. Granted, there was the usual amount of temper tantrums, neatly doled out among grandparents, parents, and baby in attendance. There was a bit of constipation and diarrhea, typical for any family vacation. And there was an altercation with an aggressive six-year-old who pushed my one-year-old out of Pluto’s view on the dance floor at Magic Kingdom. Still, overall, the vacation was a dream. And I learned a few tricks for parents thinking about taking their infants to the happiest place on Earth. Here goes:
Do the Dining Plan – The Disney Dining Plan, which is available to those staying at Disney resorts, makes it cheaper and easier to plan your meals. We do the Deluxe Dining Plan because my husband and I enjoy eating at the finer restaurants in the evening and taking in the character breakfasts in the morning. You will spend more on tips and alcohol on Deluxe Dining, but it is still far cheaper than buying these meals without the plan.
Stay at the Value Resorts – Disney offers a range of resort experiences, but the cheapest ones are the value resorts. We stayed at the All-Star Music, and we have stayed in the past at the Pop Century resort, all of which were wonderful. While they don’t afford the luxury of the monorail (like deluxe resorts, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Grand Floridian), they include bus transportation to the parks and the rooms are pretty much the same size and layout as the ones in the more expensive resorts.
Go in January – January is the slow season for Florida and Disney. People flock to the parks to see the decorations and activities during the holiday season and once the kids get off for winter break in February, which means January is the sweet spot. We barely ever had to wait in line more than 10 minutes. When we did, we simply got a fastpass and bypassed the line, which is necessary when traveling with a one-year-old.
Bring the grandparents – My parents traveled with us. They were a big help, and we made beautiful memories that we will all keep in our hearts forever.
Listen to Your Kid – Baby Boy is not talking much yet – especially with the two languages – but he let us know when he was tired or hungry and we made his schedule our schedule. That’s the best way to keep him – and all the rest of us – happy.
Savor Every Smile – The one above was one of my favorites of the trip.
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Chapter Twenty-One – Harmless Flirting?
Roberto enjoyed living the life of a bachelor while on vacation in the United States, probably never more so than in the week we spent in Orlando, Fla. with my brother and his friends. The only problem was that Roberto had a girlfriend back in Italy. “I’m-a, how you say, flirting,” he would tell me. “No problem.” Still, he was leaving out the stories of flirting when he would finally get on the phone with his girlfriend Lisa.
By day, we would sleep in before heading to the Disney theme parks with either my brother or one of his friends. By night, we would either go out to dinner or eat at my brother’s house with his single buddies. One evening, we all headed to a bar. Tony and I went home early with one of my brother’s roommates. The three of us were all older than the others and had long outgrown the bar scene. Tony, who works as a bartender in Ischia, hardly wants to hang out at a bar or nightclub when he’s on vacation. But Roberto never left. My brother had his new girlfriend by his side, so he left Roberto unattended most of the time.
You’d think that would be okay, given he was 22 at the time and supposedly in a committed relationship. Another night, my brother had the boys bring the drinking to the house instead of going out to a bar. People were coming in and out. But I stayed locked in the guest room with a good book. Tony would come in and out of the room until about 10 p.m., when I drifted off to sleep. The next morning, I would discover that I missed all the fun.
Tony described a buzzed Roberto zooming around the house and talking to everyone in English. He zeroed in on one girl, who actually had a boyfriend who was at the house. And he walked over to her and said, “I like your big-a bobs!” Not boobs. He said, “Bobs.”
“Fantastic,” I said to Tony. “What do you think Lisa would say about this?”
“Non sarebbe contenta,” he responded. “She wouldn’t be pleased.”
Later on in the evening, Roberto had another encounter with her. She had just chugged a beer from a can, which women in Italy don’t do. And this all-American burped like she was a bull frog croaking in front of everyone in the room. “Now-a, that’s-a real woman,” Roberto said. “Real woman-a.” Moments later, she left with her boyfriend. Nothing more happened between Roberto and her, but his “flirting” made for cute anecdotes later.
Although Roberto was looking and not touching – barring his attempted kiss with Addy, which she thwarted – and his flirting appeared harmless on the surface, I kept thinking that if I were Lisa, I’d be bothered by this behavior. Who wants to hear that their boyfriend complimented another woman’s breasts? Or was scoping out the singles scene abroad? Then, I quickly realized I could be Lisa. I wondered how Tony would act when he returns to Ischia, which was only a couple of weeks away. Would he be “how you say flirting,” too? Should I be worried? Do all Italian men cheat? Was I ruining my life by getting involved with a real Italian?
Some names and identifying characteristics of the real people involved have been changed.