Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Mickey asks – Can You Eat a Kitchen Sink?

My family thought we were up to the challenge. En route to Hollywood Studios, we got off the boat from Epcot, and popped into the Beach Club resort, with eyes on Beaches and Cream.

The “kitchen sink” is actually served in a dish that resembles a kitchen sink. And it comes with 8 scoops of ice cream (different flavours – we know there was chocolate, mint, strawberry, and more) , every topping you could imagine (stawberries, bananas, cherries, big servings of brownies, cut up chocolate bars, pieces of sponge cake, full size oreos, chocolate+strawberry+ peanut butter+ caramel toppings), plus a whole can of whipped cream.

Yes – a whole can!

The message gets underlined when the dish is delivered to you. The lights are dimmed, the waitress announces your delivery to all, saying what’s in it, and everyone in the restaurant answers back “not a whole can!”

We started off with great anticipation…. sure we could do the deed and eat the whole thing.

But, despite giving it a valiant effort, we didn’t come close to finishing all.  Apparently, they just had a food eating contest, and one guy finished the whole thing himself in 9 minutes – and then polished off a cheeseburger. 

Guess we’re not cut out for food eating contests!  How about you?

June 25, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

Mickey Cooks Up A Mexican Feast at San Angel Inn

Whenever we spend the day at Epcot in Walt Disney World, we try to ensure there’s a meal planned for the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion. It’s a Disney dining experience that is always a terrific treat.

The San Angel Inn restaurant is inside, but has been built to make you feel like you’re dining under the stars in Mexico. You can see the pyramids, and enjoy the Mexican music while you snack on tortilla chips and peruse the menu.  The three caballeros are throughout the pavilion, and add the Disney flavour to the restaurant and shops.

Speaking of flavour, there is plenty.   DD11 enjoyed the beef tacos. Despite being in Mexico, DD5 still wanted chicken tenders.   DH had rib eye tacos. While I had pollo a las rajas.  Very tasty.  The meal, with a couple of draft beers, came to $84.67 before tip.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

New Disney Dining Promo

See the latest from Disney Travel Agents’ announcements:

Memories Vacation Package Plus Free Dine

The Recipe for a Great Vacation – Free Disney Dining PlanNow through Sept. 24, 2011, book the new Memories Vacation Package for 5 nights and 6 days at select Disney Moderate, Disney Deluxe or Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts at the Walt Disney World® Resort for arrivals most nights Aug. 28 – Sept. 24 and get the Disney Dining Plan** FREE!**Offer Details:
The New Memories Vacation Package Includes:

  • Accommodations
  • Magic Your Way Base Ticket for each member of the traveling party
  • One 20-page Disney’s PhotoPass® Photo Book***

Booking Window:
May 2 – Sept. 24, 2011

Travel Window:
Aug. 28 – Sept. 24, 2011

Sample Pricing:
Book 5 Nights and 6 Days with FREE Disney Dining Plan for US $86* per person, per day, for a family of 4, at a Select Disney Moderate Resort in a Standard Room (valid for stays most nights Aug. 28 – Sept. 24, 2011). That’s a total package price of US $2,047.

Ask about packages in other resort categories and for other lengths of stay.

Booking Information:
Call Sheila 613-837-0699 or email her at sheila.gh@vision2000.ca !

For Disney Value Resorts, please select “Memories Package FREE Quick Dine-Value” from the product drop-down menu.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

A visit to Napa – Auberge du Soleil

I’ve just booked a client’s vacation at the Auberge du Soleil in Napa, California. What a beautiful hotel!

http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/

I’ve checked into their rental of bikes while visiting – so they can ride the http://www.silveradotrail.com/ . They can visit the vineyards that way… and/or maybe have a driver/ tour guide for the vineyards as well as private tastings. I’ve also checked into making dining reservations for them at the nearby 3* Michelin restaurant The French Laundry… http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

…that’s if they want to leave the Auberge at all.

The hotel is absolutely gorgeous. As a recent press release notes:

RUTHERFORD, Calif. (February 8, 2011)
 – 

Auberge du Soleil, the iconic Michelin-starred restaurant and premier luxury resort opened as Napa Valley’s first fine-dining venue in 1981 and for the next 30 years, helped transform Napa Valley into the must-see destination it is today for food, wine, and the beauty of wine country. 

http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/press/media-kit 

 

 

Read through the list of some of their recent awards: http://www.aubergedusoleil.com/press/awards-and-accolades

 

 If you find the need to go check it out yourself, give me a call! I can certainly help get you sorted!

 

 

 

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2010

# 5 – Top 100 U.S. Hotels

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report – September 2010

#5 – Top 20 Hideaways

Travel + Leisure – T+L World’s Best Awards – August 2010

# 10 – Top 100 Hotels, Continental U.S. and Canada

Condé Nast Traveler – April 2010

# 14 – Hotel Spas, North America

Travel + Leisure – T+L World’s Best Hotels – January 2010

#1 – Hotel Napa/Sonoma

Condé Nast Traveler – Gold List – Best Places to Stay – January 2010

 

Condé Nast Traveler UK – January 2010

#1 – Hotel for Service – Americas and the Caribbean

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2009

#8 – Top 100 U.S. Hotels
#81 – Top 100 in the World

Travel + Leisure – World’s Best Spas – October 2009

#16 – Top 25 U.S. Hotel Spas

Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report – September 2009

#2 – Top 20 U.S. Resorts
#3 – Top Food & Wine Resorts

Travel + Leisure – July 2009

#7 – World’s Best Awards – Top 50 U.S. Hotels

Travel + Leisure – June 2009

#10 – Top United States Hotels for Service

Wine Spectator – June 2009

Napa Valley Getaways – Cover Feature

Travel + Leisure – T+L 500 World’s best Hotels – January 2009

#1 Napa/Sonoma

Condé Nast Traveler – The Best of the Best – November 2008

#7 – Top 100 in the United States
#63 – Top 100 in the World

Travel & Leisure – July 2008

#7 – Top 100 Hotels Continental U.S.
#37 – Top 100 World Hotels
#7 – Top 100 World Spas

The Restaurant

Michelin 1 Star
Mobil ✭✭✭✭

The ROBB Report – May 2008

Top 100 U.S. Resorts

Travel + Leisure – January 2008

500 World’s Best Hotels

Condé Nast Traveler – January 2008

Gold List World’s Best Places to Stay

Michelin Guide – 2008

1 Star – Auberge du Soleil Restaurant

Travel & Leisure – January 2008

500 Worlds Best Hotels

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Spa Lovers Getaway for Ottawa Folks!

Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario is interested in getting Ottawa folks to come check them out!  Few people in Ottawa are aware of this treasure we have just 3 hours away – Ste. Anne’s is Canada’s #1 spa, and it is in the top 100 spas worldwide. 

So, Vision 2000 Travel Group is partnering with Ste. Anne’s to introduce more Ottawa folks to the spa.

And we’ve put together an exclusive package that will enable you to go for a day, or two, to check out the fabulous spa and its offerings.

Relaxing. Rejuvenating. Exclusive.

What’s better than exclusive train rates, exclusive room rates, exclusive shuttle from the train to Ste. Anne’s, and a future spa credit?

The fact that you also get to spend hours relaxing and rejuvenating at Canada’s Favourite Spa, and one of the Top 100 Spas of the world.

Ottawa, what are you waiting for?

So, on March 2, 2011, grab a girlfriend, grab your honey, or just grab yourself – and head to Ste. Anne’s for a day or two.  (And remember – Valentine’s Day is around the corner. This would make the perfect gift for your special someone, or for yourself!)

See the attached flyer to see what Vision 2000 has put together with Ste. Anne’s. 

Give me a call – and let’s get you booked, asap.  Believe me, you won’t regret it!

jan20-SteAnnesSpa

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels | Leave a comment

Food Allergies? Beaches will treat you right!

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about Disney being able to handle food allergies right, and take away the cares of parents who have to contend with allergies.  Having specialized in Disney vacations for years, my clients’ concerns have ranged from lactose intolerance to severe milk allergies (yes, it exists) to gluten to kiwi to peanut and every other kind of allergy. I have always taken comfort sending people to Disney because I know and trust their system for dealing with allergies. This week, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Beaches chain is similarly equipped to deal with food allergies.

As a new specialist with the Beaches brand, I’m growing my knowledge of how they can respond to situations. And I got to see how they treated food allergies up close this week. I was thrilled with the response. (And families who must constantly guard against these issues will be thrilled to know that their vacation options are widening.)

My clients have a young family, and their youngest is anaphylaxic to Sesame and Tree Nuts. They have never vacationed as a family because of their need to be vigilant, and to be constantly monitoring their daughter’s exposure. When we were choosing a vacation spot for them, Disney certainly made the short list, but they were intrigued more by Beaches Turks and Caicos. The thought of a luxurious Caribbean vacation with fun, sun, surf, and a multitude of  family activities just spoke to them. I’ve sold Beaches with confidence to many families, but I’d never had to enquire about their treatment of allergies before. And, in this client’s case, the allergy was severe – there couldn’t be any margin for error.

I got some initial assurances from the Beaches Special Services team that they indeed could handle such situations. That offered some comfort, for sure, but I wanted to get additional info for the family.

You can imagine how much worry was alleviated by the following email sent from the Beaches T&C executive chef to my clients.

It will be my pleasure to be of assistance, firstly we will do our very best to ensure you guys have a fantastic vacation and enjoy all your food all over the resort,

We run a very successful food programme where I ask you to let me know your chosen restaurant one meal period in advance with the order for [xxx]’s chosen dietary restricted food, we simply remove the restriction and prepare and cook the food to suit her requirements, time is very important to me as I require the necessary time to prepare and cook safely and avoid any form of cross contamination,

Dietary restrictions are very common on property we are dealing with sometimes 20 families per day asking for special requests and food restrictions, this morning I have 14 families on the food programme, some are personal preference, some medically diagnosed and some are life threatening and some very severe like [xxx],

I fully understand your case and understand your daughter has very severe allergies to sesame seeds and tree nuts, I will in fact include all nuts to be 100% safe, we will do our very very best to ensure you are all very well looked after, I would like to be able to safely offer your daughter as much choice and selection as possible so if you are fine with this proposal let’s meet when you guys arrive and we will very carefully go over your daughters food requests and requirements, I feel very comfortable dealing with your request and I am sure we can do many many happy meals for [xxx] and the whole family all over the resort,

We are looking forward to your arrival, should you have any more question please feel free to drop me an email and I will reply as soon as possible…

Warmest Regards Chef.

Think my clients are going to Beaches Turks and Caicos with a clear heart?  You betcha!

Food allergies?  Beaches will treat you right!

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Kids | 5 Comments

Food Allergies? Disney will treat you right!

Today’s families have to contend with issues that I don’t remember from my school days. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone with peanut allergies, and despite oodles of my mom’s homecooked options, one of my brothers lived on a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches. He would’ve starved if he couldn’t have taken pb&j to school.

Today, food allergies are almost the norm.  But they are also quite lethal. Last year, both my daughters’ schools had children with severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, kiwi, shrimp, and other foods. Photos of children are pasted to the wall with extra epipens attached, and parents are sent notices not to bring any of the restricted items to school. One of my daughter’s had a classmate who was severely allergic to milk – not lactose intolerant, but allergic. (Once, his soy milk was refilled in his sister’s milk cup, and her milk refilled in his soy milk cup – just touching his lips to the cup caused them to swell.)  This is scary stuff.

My sister-in-law who teaches in Toronto was just telling me about Sabrina’s law http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/healthyschools/anaphylaxis.html and the rules that teachers and schools have concerning food at school.

Obviously, no one wants to put a child at risk.

Parents who live with these allergies have to be vigilant about monitoring the risks to their children. I’m fortunate to not have to live with the day-in and day-out worries with my own kids, but I’ve worked with many clients that have this as their reality. So, finding a vacation spot that can help them deal with these issues is sometimes tough.

But – Disney does it up right!

I often make advance dining reservations for my clients at WDW restuarants. Before I do, I always ask about allergies. Disney dining has the systems set up to deal with all allergies.  Dining reservation systems (whether on the phone, or online) are structured to handle info about allergies.  Each allergy and/or concern is noted on each reservation.

At destination in a Disney restaurant, the chef will also come out to speak to the parents, and instruct them as to which items can be eaten from a buffet, or which cannot. Also, special items can be prepared. 

In addition, I can get parents the phone number to the restaurant, and we can speak to the executive chef or Food and Beverage manager to address all concerns. 

I’ve dealt with oodles of client food allergies, and Disney really knows how to respect the concerns, and address the allergy issue with the parents. 

Everyone wants to relax when they’re on vacation. If your family has to contend with food allergies, rest assured that a Disney vacation will work for you.

November 21, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Kids | Leave a comment

The Art in the Cuisine at the CuisinArt Resort, Anguilla

As a foodie in training, I love Artisan bread. My friends at C’est Bon Cooking tell me that Artisan means the Art Is In the bread.  And this newbie foodie loved her visit to the CuisinArt Resort in Anguilla in June. To me, CuisinArt means the Art is in the Cuisine.

The CuisinArt Resort is owned by Leandro Rizzuto of the Conair Corporation and its subsidiary company, kitchen appliance manufacturer CuisinArt. When I tell clients who want to visit Anguilla about the CuisinArt Resort, their first reaction is often: why would I want to stay at an appliance spot? But, it’s easy to turn the name around. The Art is in the Cuisine.

And the award winning CuisinArt Resort delivers on the promise- big time! Here are just some of the recent awards and accolades the CuisinArt has received:

  • Wine Spectator • August 2010 Award of Excellence
  • Condé Nast Traveler • January 2010 Gold List: Top Properties in the Americas, Atlantic and Caribbean
  • Condé Nast Johansens • January 2009 Most Excellent Spa Hotel Atlantic, Caribbean and Pacific Island
  • Condé Nast Traveler • January 2009 Gold List: Top Properties in the Americas, Atlantic and Caribbean
  • Travel+Leisure • January 2009 T+L 500: The World’s Best Hotels
  • Condé Nast Traveler • November 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards – Top Caribbean Resorts
  • Spa Finder • 2009 Readers’ Choice Award Best Spas for Romance
  • Wine Spectator • August 2009 Award of Excellence
  • Travel+Leisure • June 2009 World’s Best Service – Caribbean Bermuda and Bahamas

I had some fabulous meals in Anguilla, but the best by far was at Santorini’s at CuisinArt (photo of me with Dave Lyon of CuisinArt, and fellow Anguilla Travel Connoisseur Laura Sangster).

The CuisinArt Resort offers some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, and can boast about its own hydroponic garden. They even offer 2 hour cooking classes with either their assistant or their executive chef on Tuesdays and Fridays. What more can a foodie want?

The CuisinArt is on the island of Anguilla, a little strip of paradise just 8 km from the island of St. Maarten. CuisinArt is a five-star beachfront resort with 93 rooms. Its architecture is inspired by the Greek island Mykonos, and the white buildings are offer a striking framing of the turquoise ocean.

So, if you’re tempted to leave the award winning restaurants, the heavenly Venus spa, the gardens, and the infinity pool, you can move to the idyllic white sand beaches to rest and relax.

I was unfortunate enough to break my camera while at destination, and while my cellphone pictures aren’t bad, they really fail to capture the beauty of the place. 

Have a look at their website to see just how stunning this resort really is. http://www.cuisinartresort.com/index.php?catID=33

Let me help you plan your getaway to the CuisinArt Resort. The Art is in the Cuisine.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | , | 1 Comment

Wishes Dessert Party at Disney – Death by Chocolate

I just read that Johns Hopkins has done a study to determine that dark chocolate doesn’t only taste good, it’s good for the brain.  Ok. Check.  Needed a reason to like it. (Yeah, right!)

http://www.futurity.org/top-stories/how-dark-chocolate-protects-the-brain/

I like to indulge in the dark chocolate every now and then (uumm, yeah… any chocolate nearby right now?). And for anyone who likes chocolate, I’d heartily recommend taking in Disney’s Wishes Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom.

My family took in the dessert fest last year when we attended the Mickey”s Not So Scary Hallowe’en Party (MNSSHP). The “Wishes Dessert Party” event isn’t run every night, so you have to call and check if it’s on during your Disney visit (or call your friendly neighbourhood travel advisor – ahem), and right now is scheduled only up to the end of December. The event is often on during special ticketed events (e.g., MNSSHP or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), but is also offered on non-ticketed events.

You have to head to the Tomorrowland Terrace for the chocolate smorgasbord, so the added benefit is that you get primo seating to watch the Wishes fireworks display. (Not a bad seat in the place.)

It was certainly fun to go the night of the MNSSHP. The self-serve buffet is full of every chocolate dessert you could imagine (and some other bits and pieces for those weird folks that don’t like chocolate… things like fruit, cheese and crackers, and rice crispie squares.)

The cost is currently $23.42 USD/ adult and $12.77 USD/ child. You have to make an advance reservation, and prepay for the feast. (And, no, it’s not on the dining plan.)  http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/tomorrowland-terrace-cafe/

I didn’t snap many pictures at the party (too busy eating), but I can tell you that there’s nothing like an all-you-can-eat dessert buffet trough, especially after trick-or-treating through Magic Kingdom park, to tire a kid out (or at least make her annoyed at mom for snapping pictures when she’s trying to eat).

Check out the party. Chocolate lovers will be glad they did – oh, and you can say Johns Hopkins sent you.

October 22, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment

Chef Mickey’s at WDW – a Family Tradition

 “Hi, my name is Sheila, and I’m a Disney-holic.” Ok, it’s true. But I’m not really interested in stopping, so forget the 12-step program!

We’ve been to Disney (WDW) 18 times now. We love it. It’s a great way to spend time as a family, get lots of exercise walking, and be applauded for generally acting goofy all day long. Where else can that happen?

Each time we go to Disney, we HAVE to visit Chef Mickey’s. It’s part of our tradition. We get a photo taken of the family each time, and have them proudly framed on my office wall. It’s a really neat way to see how much the children have grown from one trip to another.

So, this September’s visit to Disney was no different. We were at Chef Mickey’s for breakfast.

Character meals at Chef Mickey’s are generally during breakfast and supper hours, and sometimes, in busy times, they add a lunch.  But my brood prefers the breakfast – it’s a great way to start the day before hitting Magic Kingdom park. You can visit with the characters for photos and autographs (so you don’t have to queue up later), you sing a “Celebration” song and dance around, and you fill your tummy from their fantastic buffet, so you are fueled for the day ahead. 

(One hint, though, if you go for supper, the natives can be a bit restless. Tired and overstimulated kids, and tired and now alcohol-imbibing parents, can raise the noise level and lengthen the meal time. It can get a wee bit crazy.)

We find the breakfast meal the best. There’s always a bountiful spread at the buffet – for your fruit, oatmeal, yogurt crowd; as well as your eggs, bacon, sausage, heavy cheese omelette crowd. There’s breakfast pizza, and, of course, Mickey Mouse waffles. There is also a lovely assortment of hot and cold non-typical buffet fare too. And then there’s a dessert buffet (what kid doesn’t like rice crispie treats for dessert – especially in the morning!)

Of course, the characters are the main draw here, as with all character meals. And Chef Mickey’s is one of the few places to get Mr. and Mrs. Mouse together these days. 

We saw Chef Mickey, of course, but also Minnie – Ceili’s fave character….

And we saw Donald Duck…

 

And Goofy…

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Pluto – Ciara’s fave character.

Breakfast buffet came to $94.75 for the 4 of us, before tip… and this would’ve counted as one table service on the Disney meal plan.  We also purchased the imaging package of the photos (continuing the tradition), and that was $29.95.

Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s is synonymous with visiting Walt Disney World to my family. It’s part of each visit!  Once you go, you’ll understand the excitement. Don’t miss it!

 

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Food, WIne & Spas | Leave a comment