Every year, Firehouse Subs Headquarters, the franchisees and their families head down to Orlando for an annual “Family Reunion,” and this year I had the opportunity to tag along since Jimmy now works for Firehouse HQ. And we would be staying at Disney. Of course this would be fun for anyone, but I hadn’t been to Disney World since I was four years old, so I was pumped! I could write out and describe very amazing moment that happened over the course of these four days, but I figured a photo journal would be much more fun (and less to read)!
DAY 1 | SATURDAY:
We drove down on a Saturday afternoon. After what should have been a 2.5 hour drive (but ended up being 3.5 hour drive because of rain and traffic), we finally made it. This sight will make anyone’s headache vanish.
We stayed at the Disney Beach Club, which is walking distance to Epcot. The hotel was great and our room was adorable. Not to mention I LOVE getting these cheery little surprises on the bed every morning :).
We quickly got ready and headed to the Convention Center next to the hotel for the HQ dinner and cocktail reception. It was supposed to be by the pool, but Tropical Storm Debbie didn’t like that idea too much.
After dinner, Jimmy and I headed to the Disney Boardwalk to see what was going on and explore the area.
On our walk, we saw something super fun:
No, the hotel’s not on fire. It’s the fireworks from Disney’s Magic Kingdom!
We strolled along the “beach” behind our hotel and, of course, I have to have a picture. Thanks to the kind lady who stopped to take this phto of us with the Disney Boardwalk in the background.
We spent the rest of the evening walking the Boardwalk, watching magicians and street performers, and people-watching at the Video Dance Party inside one of the dance clubs. I could do that for hours.
DAY 2 | SUNDAY:
The next morning we decided to order room service for breakfast, because A: We’re on vacation (and you have to order room service on vacation), and B: It was Sunday (which means brunch in English). Our order arrived promptly at 10 a.m. (waking me and scaring the CRAP out of me … Jimmy didn’t budge). And so did Martin. Martin is a former butler from England, who has been with Disney for 20+ years. What a nice man! And boy, did he take Bloody Mary preparation seriously.
He walked us through each step, taking his time and cracking jokes, while Jimmy and I sat in the bed watching, still half asleep.
Thanks Martin – you’ve officially made us the best Bloody Mary’s we’ve ever had.
Jimmy ordered the Mickey Waffles. (Jimmy? Waffles? Shocker…) I can’t lie – they were cute, and I was jealous.
After breakfast, we quickly got ready for our afternoon at the park. We hadn’t really planned on going to the parks, especially because the weather wasn’t playing too nice, but a friend was kind enough to provide us with complimentary park-hopper passes (thank you!!). We grabbed ponchos at the hotel souvenir shop, braved the rain and made our way to Epcot.
And since this is what it looked like outside….
Since the rain didn’t seem to be going anywhere, we sucked it up and headed to Jimmy’s favorite attraction, SOARIN’. The good thing about the weather: The park was next to empty and nothing was very crowded. Except SOARIN’. Apparently everyone else wanted to head indoors, too.
We stood in line for an hour and twenty minutes before it was our turn, but it was worth it. That thing was awesome! Now I want to go hang gliding, for real.
It was actually really neat! It’s a 14-minute boat ride that takes you trough different parts of the country, and shows how new technologies permit food growth while preserving the environment.
I’m so sad we weren’t able to make to the Magic Kingdom, but I didn’t want my first memory of the park to be engulfed by a Mickey Mouse Monsoon. We will just have to go back again soon!
By this time, our breakfast had worn off and we were starving. We drove around trying to find something for lunch, but nothing sounded good to either of us. Until Jimmy spotted Giordanos, one of his favorite deep dish pizza joins from back home in Chicago. He was a happy boy.
One piece of that = nap time.
Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for the evening’s Firehouse reception. This time, it was for everyone, not just HQ. The luau was supposed to be out by the “beach,” but again, the rain won and it was moved inside. The location, however, didn’t stop this group for having a good time! We enjoyed a delicious tropical-style dinner and a few drinks, and the roaming ukulele player made us feel like we were in Hawaii.
And caricature artists lined one of the banquet halls. Jimmy and I sort of have this tradition of getting a caricature each time we go on vacation, and they’re all hanging on the Wall of Caricatures in our apartment. We were pumped we were able to get one (at no cost!) at Disney.
And we couldn’t leave without getting tattoos!
Don’t panic, Dad. It came off two days later.
The reception came to an end and we headed back to the hotel. Before calling it a night, we walked to the old-fashioned ice cream parlor for a nightcap. We both ordered our favorite, a chocolate malt. Yum. (Yes, my diet was put on hold for this trip…)
DAY 3 | MONDAY:
Monday was quite the day. I had a big meeting, so I woke up at 5:30 a.m., got ready and headed back to Jacksonville for a normal work day, while Jimmy spent his day at the Firehouse conference. Work crept by – it seemed like time just stood still. I know it was because I was looking forward to that evening. Finally, at 6:30 p.m., I was finished with work duties and headed back to Orlando. Why would I go back, you may ask? Two reasons. 1: I had a work meeting in Orlando the next afternoon. 2: Huey Lewis and the News were putting on a free show at the Universal City Walk Hard Rock Cafe for the Firehouse attendees. I HAD to be there! And I made it just in time.
Huey put on an incredible show. I didn’t realize how many of his songs I actually knew! We worked our way to the front, and sang and danced along. Huey was extremely kind to all of the fans, shaking hands and signing autographs.
Kerry was extremely excited about this concert for weeks in advance, and drove up from Jacksonville just for the night for his show. You better believe she was standing front and center that entire show, and he WOULD touch her hand! And he did.
After the concert, a group of us headed to Margaritaville at City Walk for a few cocktails before heading back to the shuttle bus and going back to the hotel. What a night!
The entire trip was awesome and completely unforgettable. Jimmy, brownie points for you for leaving a boring bank job and landing this awesome job with Firehouse Subs, complete with great perks and great people. I already can’t wait for next year’s reunion!