It all started last Friday when hubby and I headed to Gainesville to try to finish up our Christmas shopping. We almost got it done. We had planned to meet daughter #2 and grand daughter #3 for lunch at our favorite - BJs. We were having a lovely lunch when we looked up and were surprised by grand daughter #1! She has such a busy schedule that we didn't think we would get to see her but she knew how much we would love her surprise and it was so nice to sit and catch up with both girls.
We got back to Ocala just in time for me to head to daughter #3's house - with a bag of recently baked Christmas chocolate chip cookies for a taste testing. I had a short visit with the kids and their friends and neighbors - who are always at their house on Friday evenings as there is always a big fire going in the outdoor fire pit and usually the makings for s'mores. Then, Jennie and I were off to the Historic Ocala Preservation Society Holiday Home Tour. We got to go through homes in the historic district and then we ended up at the historic Seven Sisters B & B and two other homes on Ft. King. There were carolers and bell ringers at each location so it was a festive night and good for helping with the Christmas spirit.
The next morning found us in the car bright and early and heading to the Gaylord Palms in Orlando to meet up with daughter # 1 and grand daughters # 2 and 4. We found them and got all of our stuff settled in the room and then headed out to explore this magnificent hotel - it truly is a destination in and of itself!
We started by eating lunch at Sunset Sams. The restaurant is in the middle of the atrium and the view is beautiful!
After lunch we had reservations at ICE and all I can say is if you ever have the opportunity to attend, make sure you snap it up. The experience consists of more than two million pounds of ice hand carved into sculptures and 4 ice slides. It is really just a sight to behold but bring your gloves and hats - they provide warm, comfy parkas.
I love slides and am willing to try them wherever we are. This one was no exception but my dismount was not all that graceful - although the lady working there assured me she had seen many worse! Of course, it is kind of hard to get up when you are laughing so hard your ribs hurt!
Here we are "warming our hands" - on fire made from ice.
I just noticed that our noses are getting redder as we progress through the displays!
This huge ice nativity in a dark room with "stars" twinkling was really breath-taking. It was my absoloute favorite part!!
We spent over an hour at ICE and then headed out to their warm and cozy Holiday Hall where we had cookies and hot chocolate while we thawed a bit and then enjoyed shopping in their Christmas store - a commemorative ornament is always a must!
I came so close to getting a picture of these two with Santa this year. They have decided that they are too old to do this any more even though I told them even grown-ups have their pictures made with Santa but, heaven forbid, anyone they know walk by and see them! But, since we were where no one would know them, they agreed to do it for Nana. Unfortunately, Santa was on a milk and cookies break so I will have to settle for this - still kind of cute and I am going to blow one of them up and put it in a frame for ALL to see - haha.
After we left ICE, we explored a lot of this beautiful hotel. Many of the paths through the atrium made you feel as if you were roaming the streets in Europe. There was a lagoon of alligators, several areas where turtles, fish and local snakes snakes were displayed. There was a small replica of Castillo San Marcos and just beauty everywhere you looked.
After we walked off the cookies, it was time for some wine and thoughts of dinner. We headed to the concierge to make reservations in one of the "fine dining" restaurants only to be told that they were all totally sold out for the night! I guess this place has diners coming from all over, not just those of us staying at the hotel - although the hotel is large enough it could probably fill every restaurant too. There were also a number of weddings and private parties going on - it was fun to people watch and see everyone so dolled up for the special affairs.
Since we didn't want to leave the grounds, we checked out the menu at Wreckers and decided none of us would go hungry if we ate there, so off we went. We had to wait in the sport bar area for our table so we decided on an appetizer and bottle of wine and enjoyed this view...
...you really can't tell here, but this was a SERIOUS sized wall of TV screens!
By the time we finished dinner, it was the Gaylord after dark. So beautiful - and so many lights! The stage under the tree was filled with musical entertainers the rest of the night and the Christmas spirit permeated everywhere - even Scrooge would have had a smile on his face!
The next day, we ate breakfast in the courtyard and had this view...
After breakfast, we did a little more exploring and then headed outside. What a statement this place makes!!
Only in Florida will you see snowflakes and flowers in the same garden!
I think I started this blog (many, many pictures ago) by saying that if you ever get the chance to come to this place, say yes! It is amazing and we are hoping to go back again!
Our weekend of "play" actually continued on through yesterday. I had a doctor's appointment in the Villages and the weather was picture perfect so decided we weren't yet ready for re-entry to the real world. We decided to make another day of it. Had a long, leisurely lunch and got to do more shopping - what more could a girl ask for?
We are now home and getting back to routine. I have a few more rooms to show you so stay tuned.