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Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report - Completed

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been one big sour lemon.

For those that did not read my Pre-Trip report; my entire family (Val-wife, Alex - oldest daughter, Sterg - son, Toni - youngest daughter) has recovered from the Covid-19 virus. Myself, Val, Sterg and Toni got it in March and Alex in April while working as a nurse. Val had it worse with a fever for a couple days and flu like symptoms for about a week. The rest of us were either asymptomatic or had minor symptoms.

Add to that the mental stress of living in a society dealing with this pandemic, Toni missing out on a big chunk of her High School Senior Year and her last dance recital (where she was going to take on a major role as Jasmine), work reductions for Sterg and high stress work conditions for Alex on the front line. Yes, 2020 has sure been one big sourpuss.

But, as the saying goes; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

It just so happened that last year I made a reservation to attend the annual AHEPA convention in Walt Disney World, just as I did in 2017. We were going to stay at the Grand Destino Towers but that seemed very much in jeopardy when AHEPA (which is a charitable organization I'm involved with. Like a Greek version of the Knights of Columbus or Lions Club.) cancelled their convention. Soon after however, I received an email that Disney would honor our reservation in July. This was pretty tempting since we had convention rates and discounts on tickets. Long story short, we decided to go. We felt that having already had the virus gave us an extra level of protection and we knew that Disney would handle the health risks properly. In addition, we later found out that our rooms were moved from Grand Destino to the Contemporary in order to accommodate the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sterg's and my dream of playing Marco Polo with the Greek Freak and LeBron James in the pool were quickly dashed. But who could say no to staying at The Contemporary for $175 a night?

We were a go! It was frustrating however because although we had a resort reservation we did not have park tickets. We also didn't have a "park pass" which was needed during this reopening of WDW. We had to wait for all that to open and I had serious doubts it would by the time our first day at the resort (July 20th) rolled around. I decided to book flights without tickets or park passes. Southwest had roundtrip flights from Philly to Orlando for $90 plus if you had to cancel you got that credit for a future flight. No brainer. This was turning out to be the cheapest Disney trip we have taken as a family! Soon after I was open to buy tickets and book Park Passes. We had started to squeeze that lemon and add it's juice to our pitcher of cold water.

Now for the Cast of our adventure.

Myself - Chris/Fractal. A lover of Disney Parks for the many memories it has given me over the years with my family, the way it helps me completely unwind from my job, and how it taps into my creative side and challenges my skills as a photographer.

Here I am with my crazy kids at Christmas.

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Val - my beautiful wife. Not the biggest fan of Disney but in the end she was on board. I think secretly she likes it more than she lets on. I will make it up to her with a trip more to her liking.

Here she is with Alex.

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Alex - our oldest. Now a traveling nurse. Alex is like me in many ways but as she's getting older and more responsible I'm starting to see her take on a number of Val's traits. She's a good mix and always a delight to be with.

From a trip to Colorado we took last year;

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Sterg, aka Fractal Jr. One word to describe Sterg - catalyst - he just makes things happen. He creates reactions both good and bad. He graduated last year from Penn State. He was a captain on the Swim Team but not without drama. He had to miss his promising senior year of swimming when a series of concussions (all outside the water) forced him to medically retire. PSU handled it very well as he helped the team from the sidelines. He now works as a digital marketing consultant as well as helping his cousin get his music career off the ground. Never a dull moment when Sterg is around!

with our dog Prince (Charming).

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Toni - For long time readers of my reports you know that Toni and I have a special Disney connection. Many times she would be the only one up early with me to tackle the parks at opening. We have had many great adventures together in the Disney bubble. She's now technically an adult (how did that happen?) so I was going to find out this trip if the magic was still there. She's going to attend Clemson University starting next month and I couldn't be prouder.

Toni in front of the Theater her Recital was supposed to perform at.

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So Covid-19 made our family suffer in many ways, but we took that lemon, squeezed it's juice out into our water pitcher, now we just needed a little Disney sugar to make our Lemonade complete.

Coming up - Our trip begins with a WDW meet-up before our flight even leaves the ground!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
You truly have an amazing talent!!! Thanks for sharing!! The tree with the moss is incredible!! I love them all!!

I know it has been said before but I will say it again. You could really teach the Disney photographers a thing or 100!!

Thanks @littleroo ! Much appreciated! The moss was very cool.

Wow....amazing photos. Can you tell me what settings you used? I found some really cool trees in a nature park a few blocks from my house and I'd love to take some pictures...also of the highlander cows that graze there.
The eagle and hawk I shot @ f/2.8, 1/500 sec, ISO 800. I wanted some background separation but also wanted to keep the entire bird in focus. There heads were moving quickly so 1/500 sec was able to freeze most of the shots - their shelters were in the shade which required ISO 800 but the original files were a bit overexposed so I could have shot at ISO 400. The snake was @f/6.3 at 1/500th. ISO was on AUTO and went off at 1600. The "dreamy" moss I was shooting right into the sky so ISO100 @ f/2.8 again at 1/500.

Honestly, I didn't even know I got the Momma gator until I went to edit the shot. That shot is probably cropped 70-80% - that's when I found her. :)
Loved all your pictures especially the baby alligator!
Thanks @lindawdw! Me too!
Spanish moss is one of my favorite things about old Florida trees. The photos in black and white make them look like Ansel Adams. Gorgeous!
I don't deserve that compliment but I'll take it anyway! :D Loved the Spanish moss! Thanks @cgersic!
Great pictures as always! I’m glad you were able to resist molesting any alligators!

Thanks sir! Thankfully the sign restrained me. :D


Lol!
The snake comment cracked me up...!!!!! :hilarious:

All the ladies in the crowd couldn't believe how "smooth" the snake felt!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
This place was packed - food was acceptable.

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I really enjoyed this beer, but wasn't cold enough. I had to add a few ice cubes.

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Sitting right behind me.

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Later that night, through the miracle of streaming, we watched our High School alma-mater (Reading) beat a top 10 team in the nation to pull off a stunning upset and win their second PA State Championship in the top division in 4 years!! It was extremely exciting!

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Awesome pictures from your trip! Sorry we couldn't connect this time but..... I'm sure..."there is another"-Yoda

Yes, definitely next time!
Great pictures! I've had that Reef Donkey beer as well, it was fairly tasty. I don't remember mine being cold enough either, maybe places should put the glasses in the freezer for us so we at least have frosty mugs.

Agree on that!


Laughing Out Loud GIF by memecandy


yeah, didn't see any "don't molest the turtles or birds signs" which one would think would need more protecting!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Every morning I would go for a long walk or run then have coffee on the screened in patio. This guy joined me one day.

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We did make it to the beach a couple times but I didn't bring my camera. I did take this shot with my Pixel 2 at Pass-A-Grill Beach (next to St. Petersburg).

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Our Sunday was spent exploring Ybor City in Tampa - a 5 or 6 square block "little Cuba" area with a Bourbon Street type vibe.

We started out touring a Rum Distiller.

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Which self admittedly had a Pirates of the Caribbean theme going.

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We started at the bar testing 6 kinds (lowest to highest quality) of rums. Breakfast of Champions!

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The bartender/tour guide did a good job of explaining the rums and their differences.

Keep 'em coming...

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Val was happy!

I tried to convince her there was a boat ride in the dark at the end of the tour but she didn't buy it.

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The bartender had to put a stop to our "tasting".

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
I enjoyed all the different pirate flags and what they represented.

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A few more photos...

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As the saying goes...

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Plus we were starting to get hungry. We took the bartenders recommendation on where to eat and began our walk there; not realizing what a real treat we were in for!
 
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Songbird76

Well-Known Member
Some more nature shots...

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Val getting a photo of this bird.

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Mine came out better. :)

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Tunnel of moss.

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This gopher tortoise was grabbing a quick lunch.

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Before too long, so were we...

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I love love love that picture of the tunnel of moss!! That is STUNNING!! That would be amazing framed up and hanging in a gallery somewhere! Or in some fancy home...anywhere really.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Columbia Restaurant was our destination. Sorry @cgersic

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This restaurant was the size of the entire city block and included over a dozen separate dining rooms.

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The bar room was pretty cool and packed.

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We sat in the fountain room.

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The staff were all dress in "black tie". Our waitress was amazing, something I really appreciated and enjoyed.

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We even asked her to be in the group photo with Val, her parents, their friends and myself.

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I ordered an Old Fashioned and it may have been the best I've ever had.

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Everyone enjoyed their meal and after I took a few more photos we were off to explore more of Ybor City.

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Beautiful tile work...

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And now I'm off - about to start my 10 hour drive to Clemson to pick Toni up and move her home for the Summer. Her first year is in the books and I'm happy and proud to report, with excellent grades!
 

Songbird76

Well-Known Member
I thought of you tonight. We have this running joke in our family. My husband and I and our daughter are all very proud to be "nerds" and considered "weird" by other people, because what fun is it to be "normal". Our son is autistic, and his experience with being considered weird isn't a positive one, so he calls us "weirdo" about 50 times a day, but swears he's NOT weird. So he comes in, my husband says "Hi, weirdo!" to which he says "Are you talking to mom, dad?" So I said "who's momdad?" He clarifies "I'm asking dad if he's talking to mom!" and my husband says "Hi, asking dad if he's talking to mom! I'm dad!"
 

ajrwdwgirl

Premium Member
Columbia Restaurant was our destination. Sorry @cgersic

DSC08951-X3.jpg


This restaurant was the size of the entire city block and included over a dozen separate dining rooms.

DSC08954-X3.jpg


The bar room was pretty cool and packed.

DSC09030-X3.jpg


We sat in the fountain room.

DSC09015-X3.jpg


The staff were all dress in "black tie". Our waitress was amazing, something I really appreciated and enjoyed.

DSC09023-X3.jpg


We even asked her to be in the group photo with Val, her parents, their friends and myself.

DSC09035-X3.jpg


I ordered an Old Fashioned and it may have been the best I've ever had.

DSC09022-X3.jpg


Everyone enjoyed their meal and after I took a few more photos we were off to explore more of Ybor City.

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DSC09029-X3.jpg


Beautiful tile work...

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And now I'm off - about to start my 10 hour drive to Clemson to pick Toni up and move her home for the Summer. Her first year is in the books and I'm happy and proud to report, with excellent grades!

Nice choice on the Columbia restaurant, they have great food and the mojitos are fantastic! Glad to hear that Toni's first year of college went well I'm sure you and Val are looking forward to having her home again for the summer.
 

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