If you have to go on a business trip, I would say that April in Orlando is one of the more perfect destinations at the most perfect time. The weather is mild, the tropical breezes are refreshing, and the flowers are lush and beautiful. Just standing outside is a delightful treat.
Last week I attended a conference in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. Just like its over-sized and imaginative counterpart, DisneyWorld, the OCCC is impossibly huge. Its massive size is hard to comprehend and even more so when you realize that there are not just one, but two gigantic buildings. I wandered around the North-South building trying to find my conference's registration desk before realizing that the East-West building (where I had to go) was hidden behind a zig-zag of elevated walkways behind me. By the time I reached my designated area, blisters had started to form on my poor feet. No, I did not think to bring sensible shoes!
The conference was like most conferences, meetings and learning sessions in various chilly classrooms, lots of breaks with rivers of coffee, exchanging of business cards and buffets galore. But this particular conference had a special dinner celebration at Epcot. Really, who can compete with that?!
We were loaded onto 4 buses that drove us to a back entrance of Epcot, somewhere between France and Germany I believe. We were led through an enormous gate by uniformed guides holding blinking batons and into a large building where servers held trays of wine and beer. Four appetizer stations were set up with cocktail tables scattered throughout a darkened room. Servers passed more appetizers on trays and regularly brought refills of wine and beer. After we had our fill, an enormous curtain began to open and the song "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast boomed through the speakers. We were led into an even larger room with formal dinner tables, long buffet and carving tables placed in strategic corners and a DJ playing dinner music. The food was scrumptious: roast beef au jus, tender chicken with wild mushrooms, wild rice with shrimp, scalloped potatoes, steamed vegatables, pasta salads, creamy cheeses, fresh fruit and more!
But it wasn't over yet. The DJ announced that we were moving to a private viewing area of the Illuminations fireworks show for dessert and coffee. The guides showed up again with their blinking batons to lead us around the front of the Epcot lake. Finger-sized desserts of all kinds were beautifully stacked on outdoor tables. Coffee urns with every fixing you could possibly imagine were placed in various corners. The show was spectacular.
It was so weird being at Disney again after having just vacationed there last summer. I felt like we had been plopped right down in the middle of it all. Normally, there is a buildup of events; getting to the parking lot, taking the trams, going through the ticket counters and jostling through the crowds. It was such a surreal feeling to just be there, seemingly with the snap of a finger! I managed to duck into a gift shop for a few souvenirs before the buses departed.
The rest of the conference was the norm and on the final day, I headed back to the airport in a state of exhaustion. Would you believe that my flight was overbooked? They asked for volunteers to bump to the next day with compensation of a free dinner, hotel, and breakfast along with a $400.00 airline travel voucher! I couldn't refuse, especially with an upcoming vacation to Vermont where the flight tickets are busting the budget. So I stayed an extra night. Luckily the hotel had free amenities like a toothbrush and comb, as my suitcase was on its way back to Raleigh!
Business trips (and trips in general) can be so interesting. Everyone has a story. As I sat on the airplane traveling home, I thought how funny it would be if everyone could tell their own. Wouldn't that make a trip go by fast!
See more of this trip on Sunniviews under the posts Florida Foliage in April, Orange County Convention Center (N-S) and (E-W), and Epcot Extravaganza.