Winner’s Weekend Part Duex

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Well the Friday of Winner’s Weekend was a very long day for us.  It was a fantastic day and an amazing visit to the Dream House.  It was tough to leave but it was getting late and we knew we had a big day the next day.  We finally got back to the hotel around 10:15 PM and having missed our dinner reservation at Norman’s we headed upstairs long enough to change clothes (mainly shoes), and then meet downstairs in the lounge for a drink and dinner.  We wound up having a variety of appetizers and drinks.  We finally headed off to bed and I barely remember my head hitting the pillow.

Saturday we had to leave the Ritz-Carlton and transfer to a Hampton Inn for our day at Universal.  Originally thIMG_3428ey had us scheduled to fly home on Saturday but I asked if we could stay to do Universal.  They agreed but there were no rooms at the Ritz so after finding no rooms in any of the Universal Hotels, I made reservations at the Hampton Inn.   We headed there and because it was so early we had to leave our bags at the desk since we couldn’t check in yet.  We had like a five-minute wait and then boarded the shuttle to Universal and were at the Park by 10:00 AM.

IMG_0453We were mainly interested in the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter,’ primarily because my daughters are huge fans and my wife and I are fans, while not as intense as Kate and Carolyn.  Kate goes back to reading the first Harry Potter book before it was published in the US.  My niece and nephew brought a copy back from England and Kate had heard about it so she started the series.  I think the experience surpassed their expectations.  We started in the Diagon Alley side and they had a great time.  I couldn’t participate in the rides due to the location of my new kidney.  It is in the front and slightly below and to the right of my stomach and the nephrologist told me to avoid the rides since the safety harness, when secured, IMG_0470would press pretty intensely against the kidney.  Considering the alternative, I do not think I missed anything as compared to having a working kidney.  While they did the Escape from Gringotts ride I scoped out the rest of Diagon Alley which included lots of shops, and I saw 3-4 mini shows that were very interesting.  I also spent far too much money on souvenirs and considering how much it cost just to get into the park, they should have given me the stuff!  After having our fill of Diagon Alley we headed to Hogsmeade via the Hogwarts Express.  It was a cool ride that I could do.  We had a nice lunch at the three broomsticks.  I wasn’t feeling well so I had a salad with some Cornish Pasties and my problem tuned out toIMG_0499 be that I was low blood sugar and just needed food.  After lunch we headed to Hogwarts Castle and they all did the rides there while I explored Hogsmeade and at one point wound up taking a wrong turn and entered The Jurassic Park section of the park.  There was a lot of shade in this section so I took a break and rested.  I also had to log onto Southwest and register for the cattle call for the flight home on Sunday afternoon.  That done I went back to Hogsmeade and explored the shops and watched a couple of performances.  Once everyone was done doing the Harry Potter stuff we headed on to the other parts of the park.  Overall it was a very nice day to visit a theme park in Florida.  It was overcast and not too hot so we didn’t get too overheated.  Occasional rain came down but I’m told that is normal for Florida.  The rain that fell was very light and would last only a few minutes and afterwards it would clear and the sun would come out and dry most of what had gotten wet.  We then took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley side of the park and did that side.IMG_3439

After finishing in the park we headed to the City Walk outside the park to look for a drink and some dinner.  We wound up at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and had Margarita’s and some Nacho’s to start and then dinner!  It was a great end to a long but exciting day!  We finally left around ten and headed back to the hotel and fell into bed for a great nights sleep.  Sunday we could sleep late since we weren’t flying out until the afternoon.  Carolyn had to leave earlier than the rest of us as she had an earlier flight – at least that was the plan.  Her ride to the airport came at 10:00 AM and she left but texted us like 5 minutes later cause her flight to Philadelphia was delayed and she would now miss her connection to Ithaca.  She made it to the airport and was working with a ticketing agent when her flight was “voided” whatever that means.  We had contacted the travel coordinator who organized the travel for the whole weekend, not just us but also the sponsors and the HGTV Execs and he eventually got Carolyn on a later flight thru Detroit and then Ithaca.  By the time we made it to the airport Carolyn was all set,  she just had to spend the afternoon in the airport which is half mall and half food court – kind of like heaven to a 21-year-old girl.  Our flight and Kate and Kenny’s flight flew on schedule and we even landed like 10 minutes early.  Even stopping for an early dinner at Katz’s Deli on the drive home from the airport, we arrived by 7:00 PM totally exhausted but having had a once in a lifetime weekend!   Thanks HGTV!!!

 

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                                          At The 2016 HGTV Dream House Sponsor Dinner

 

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HGTV Winner Weekend in Florida!

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Pool At The Ritz Carlton

So this past weekend we all went to Orlando for the HGTV Dream Home Winner Weekend!  We stayed at the Ritz Carlton (WOW!) and had some free time the afternoon we arrived so we took a walk around the property and then relaxed at the pool.  That evening there was a cocktail reception followed by a dinner for the Sponsors of the Dream Home.  There were representatives of the various companies that donated materials, i.e. the flooring, faucets, paint, Quicken Loans and GMC etc…  There were also some Execs from HGTV and the Scripps Networks Senior Management as well.  Part of the program included the story of my transplant as well as the ambush that happened at church on Palm Sunday.  They then showed a short video clip of the ambush when Tiffany Brooks announced me as the Winner, which was very exciting to see.  I also said a few words of thanks to the sponsors and HGTV.  After the dinner I met as many of the sponsors as I had time for which was very nice.  After the dinner Kate, Kenny, Carolyn, Meg and I went to the lounge in the Ritz Lobby.

IMG_0386At The Sponsor Dinner

Friday we had the morning and early afternoon free to ourselves.  Meg and I had an early morning walk around our hotel grounds and over to the Marriott in the same complex then to the golf course and back to the Ritz and then had the buffet breakfast.  As we finished the rest of our crew texted that they were finally up and had we had breakfast.  We stayed for another cup of coffee/tea while our crew had breakfast.  After breakfast they went off to try out the pool at the Marriott and we  did some window shopping at the Ritz and Marriott and then went to relax at the pool.  At 3:00 PM we headed to Merritt Island to tour the Dream House.  It was about an hour drive to Merritt Island where we stopped about 15 minutes from the house to get miked up and have some make-up applied.  Then we headed to the house stopping just short of the driveway so they could install go-pro camera’s in our vehicle and make sure everyone was in place at the house.  Once everyone was set and in place we drove the last 100 yards and turned down the drive to the Dream House.

IMG_0399It was an amazing experience!  There were like 80 people in the driveway and I was greeted by HGTV Host Tiffany Brooks when I got out of the car.  I was brought over to the GMC Acadia Denali  where the GMC Executive gave me the keys and the keys to the Bryant Speranza Boat.  Then Tiffany brought me to the Quicken Loans Executive and he presented the big check for $250,000.  Then Tiffany introduced me to the project manager and contractor for the Dream House and they presented the biggie – the Keys to the HGTV Dream House!

IMG_0412We approached the house and I was introduced to the designer, Brian Patrick Flynn and he took me to the door and we opened it a crack and then time stopped for  about 45 minutes while the crowd dispersed and they moved the camera and sound crews inside the house and re-set everything after the tour they gave the sponsors while we drove to Merritt Island.  During this time we hung out in the brand new three car garage that is probably bigger than my whole house in Connecticut.  It was so beautiful I probably would be afraid to put a car into the garage.  Once we were all set again we went back and did the big dramatic entrance into the Dream House.  It is hard to describe but fortunately we will all see it on May 27th!

The house is amazing!  The photo’s on the web site are impressive but in person the Dream House is much more impressive.  The sheer scope and magnitude are hard to imagine or describe and the attention to detail is amazing.  The floor to ceiling windows in the Living Room allow amazing access to the million dollar view.  My family was the first to actually sit in the furniture and touch all the furnishings.  It was also fun to hear Brian

IMG_0426Patrick Flynn tell stories about why he choose different pieces in the house, or dis-agreements with contractors about the back splash in the kitchen (which he won and the back splash goes to the ceiling).  We toured the Living Room, Kitchen, Dining Room, Media Room, and the two down stairs bedrooms – the Terra Cotta Room (which on the web site looks Coral or even Orange) and the Blue Terrace Bedroom.  Each room seems to be more impressive than the previous room.  Even the bathrooms are amazing and huge – we actually had six of us plus a camera operator or two and a photographer comfortably in the bathrooms.  Then Brian took us up to the Master Bedroom – WOW!  It is hard to describe.  It has a huge bed and a sitting area in the main room and two leather chairs at the foot of the bed.  Off the bedroom is the bathroom, which is bigger than my living room in CT.  It has a shower that like 10 friends could shower in together (not that that is ever going to be an option).  There is also a large soaker tub and lots of floor space.  There is also a giant walk-in closet.  Almost forgot there is also a deck off the master bedroom so that you can enjoy the view.

After the bedroom Brian had to leave to catch a flight but we stayed and toured the back yard which includes a Lanai, Outdoor Kitchen, Patio, Pool, Luxury Dog House – it goes on and on!  Then there is the dock and the Bryant Speranza 21 foot Speed Boat.

We ended the outdoor tour with a sunset toast to our new Dream House!

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I Won’t Ever Tire of This View!

After the toast on the back deck we had to get inside as a storm was coming across the river.  Once back inside we did final interviews in groups.  First Meg and I were asked questions in the Kitchen, then Kate and Kenny in the Living Room and finally Carolyn in the Media Room.  I hope they got everything they need for the Reveal Show.  We finally left the Dream House around 9:00 PM, and got back to the Ritz at 10:00 and had drinks and dinner in the Lounge.  I am sorry for not having more pictures to share with you but they did have two photographers there and they will get me their pictures in time.  The weekend didn’t end then for on Saturday we did Universal Orlando but that is a story for another time!