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Shopping in Orlando

April 30th, 2008

As a repatriated foreign national, I am often ‘lucky’ enough to have both the near and extended family come stay with me for their summer holidays - a season we are on the very brink of now.

Aside from host, tour guide, butler, chef, chamber maid and free lodging, one of the main duties I fulfill is personal shopper, a role that my fiancée is far suited too, but I have picked up a few tips along the way….

Apparently one of the main shopping outlets in Orlando is the 4th largest tourist attraction in the State of Florida, a little scary, but not as scary as your average ‘door buster’ sale at your local Walmart…

So, for those not familiar with where to shop in Orlando, or even that there was such a prominent non-Theme Park pastime, here are some of the basics.

Bargains, and name brands.

No question, hands down winner is the Premium Factory Outlets in Lake Buena Vista. Very prominently located next to Interstate 4 and just off of Hwy 535, it’s easy to find and well worth the visit. You’ll find here all of the main brands that you would like to see, some obvious (Timberland, Nike, Reebok etc etc), but some not so obvious, Juicy Couture, Lacoste, Burburry and the like.

A couple of caveats; it’s BUSY! You’ll need a little patience for parking, especially at the weekends.

There’s a reason it’s cheap – most of the stores feature factory seconds, imperfect goods. Try anything you’re interested in on before you buy (did you know you are entitled to 30 days to return items with a receipt?).

Not everything is cheaper. Yes, if you are from almost anywhere overseas (thanks Mr. Bush), inevitably it will be cheaper than your home shopping venues due to the incredibly weak Dollar, BUT, just because it says ‘factory store’ doesn’t mean it is cheaper than a regular store (Bose for example, same price, less warranty).

Next up, the massively re-vamped Prime 1 Outlets at International Drive. Formerly known as Belz Factory outlet, up and coming and worth a look. Make sure to check ‘Neiman Marcus Last Call’ and ‘Saks Off Fifth’.

Still going strong;

Florida Mall is still a contender, it is home to some strong anchors such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy’s plus has a good variation from high end to unusual to cheap and cheerful. If you’re travelling with young kids, then the Build-A-Bear Workshop I think is a sure hit where the kids choose and build their own themed Teddy Bear!

Located on Sand Lake road, everyone knows where it is.

A little more up market.

Mall at Millennia. Near World Class shopping, including the Bloomingdales, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus department stores. This Mall is a little nicer than many with some excellent spots for a glass of your favorite refreshment or a spot of lunch (Cheescake Factory is great).

While you’re there, don’t miss the periphery stores, apparently they didn’t build it big enough – there are a ton of great stores and eateries sprouting all around it.

Located on Conroy Road, easy to access via Interstate 4, and is just a couple of miles from the main entrance of Universal Studios.

pkitching Tips, Travel, Travel Guide , , ,

Oahu Hawaii, Two Years in Paradise

February 29th, 2008

Oahu Hawaii

So am I lucky or what? I have recently returned to my ‘home’ in Orlando Florida following a two year stint in paradise - Oahu, Hawaii.

I say home above, which is in itself subjectional as my native home is England, but I have lived in the US for about 15 years.

So how was it? Beautiful, tropical, exotic, perfect climate?? Yes, and more, but different too.

If you ever have the chance to visit, you simply must. There is a certain magic in the air that’s hard to describe, a mixture I think of the pure uncontaminated light and ambience (it’s a small island, any man-made pollution is quickly whisked away by the tradewinds). Geographically, anywhere on Oahu Hawaii you can see the Ocean (Makai) and the mountains (Mauka), and it’s hard to be more than a few minutes away from the beach - pretty much anywhere on the island.

Oahu Hawaii

 

Weather is warm to hot year round, warm is 70F and hot is 85F but there is no humidity. What’s not so cool is that air conditioning is not common in private residences (ours too), so during the summer it is hard work to stay cool!

Oahu Hawaii is where the majority of the people (Kama Aina - resident) live, in fact 85% or so of the entire Hawaiian population lives here, and the vast majority of these in or very close to the city of Honolulu. Honolulu is home to numerous historical locations, more recently to of course Pearl Harbor.

Big Island of Hawaii (yes that’s it’s name) is home to some of the most diverse regions on the planet, and home to the world’s Kilauea the active volcano. This is a must see, though don’t get too seduced by the idea of seeing live hot lava - this will require a heli trip.

Maui and Kauai are my favourites, particulalrly Kauai which has I think the most laid back and non commercial feel to it, as well as some spectacular scenery and locations. If you make it, check out Princeville Resort, I reccomend booking a lunch or dinner there, the main restaurant has a view to die for.

So why back to Orlando? I think you have to be a certain kind of person to really embrace the islands, or rather the island lifestyle. It would also be very beneficial to be indepently wealthy (I’m not) as this is an expensive place to live day to day and to get established. So for now, we’ll ‘make do’ with the Sunshine State and all it’s virtues and sins….

pkitching Travel, Travel Guide