Picture an oasis. You have seen the movies. A handsome stranger rides through the harsh dust storm carrying a beautiful maiden.  Winds howl like fiends and before the death knell the riders crest a hill and there it is.  Palm trees sway in the wind around the shimmering water. 

The Peabody Orlando's
lobby is a downtown oasis.

I have such fantasies often.  Mostly when passing through a large city and the crush of civilization assaults me.  I am a country girl by history and by choice.  I need wide open spaces as part of my daily sustenance.  Not for me Hollywood or high rises.  Give me a desert or a beach where fellow travelers are welcome and the joy of quiet conversation in the flickering light of a campfire is unmatched.

So how did I find myself in Orlando?  Serendipity perhaps; I was here to create a wildlife story. I envisioned my accommodations as a rustic lodge tucked into a corner of the Everglades or hidden under an ancient mossy oak, or even a little bed and breakfast in the middle of the orange groves.

“You have e-mail.”  The computer talks to me and tells me: "Peabody Hotel".  Hmm . . . quaint sounding place, I think.  I recall another Peabody Hotel from Little Rock, Arkansas.  Isn’t that a really elegant hotel built in the days when “Hotel” was more than a generic name for a place to stay between interstate exits?  The sort of place where deals are struck among titans of industry and policy.  Where the loudest sounds are the well-oiled whispers of luggage wheels and the walls hold secrets of important and notorious souls.

I jump on the Internet.  Indeed, the Peabody is one of those places. Awards of every kind have been bestowed upon it. It is perfectly operated by people whose resumes are as impeccable as the clientele that stays there.

We pick up our rental car at the Orlando airport and we are told that the The Peabody Orlando is minutes away.  Not far if we could decipher the Florida Tollway system.  We make several circles before finding our way to International Drive.  Just as we begin to wonder where we are going The Duck appears high atop The Peabody.

The garden is indoors.

It is the practice of Peabody management to pitch in as needed.  No one walks by and ignores random coffee cups or dishes left empty on tables. They are picked up by whoever notices, regardless of position. Management recognizes both the effort and the value of the staff and it shows.  Smiles were ever-present and genuine.  No detail was too small to be perfectly attended to.

It is no accident that the Peabody is a first class hotel. Some of these awards stretch back 18 years. The Peabody’s awards include the Mobile 4-Star Award, AAA Four-Diamond Award, Condé Nast Travelers Best 500 Hotels in the World, Travel and Leisure’s World’s Best Business Hotels, and the list goes on.

The motto of service at the hotel is “Live or Die Excellence”. It shows. The Peabody is an elegant hotel in the old tradition where you are surrounded by lush greenery and stunning flowers.  As part of the mission to influence culture the works of many contemporary American artists and antiques and artifacts are on display.  A stunning two-story waterfall graces the atrium.  This is a major spot to meet and greet.  It is a huge room bathed in sunlight and graced by flowers. The bedroom alone is lovely enough to find a moment of tranquility to smooth the day.

The duck motif runs throughout
The Peabody Orlando.

But there is more.  There are the ducks. They are a huge part of the Peabody legend. They are trained and attended by Duck Master Eric Anderson in his gold-trimmed crimson jacket.  Instead of a baton he directs with a brass duck-head cane.  It is a symphony of the heart and the little creatures play it well.  The ducks are seasoned stars and enjoy their 90-day stint in the limelight.

Every day at 11:00 a.m. they make a grand entrance on the red carpet to the music of John Phillips Sousa’s King Cotton March.  Every day at 5:00 p.m. they march back to their home, a $100,000 Royal Duck palace.  The duck march is always well attended and well photographed.

Peabody’s Director of Public Relations, MaureenBrigid Gonzalez invited my daughter and me to enjoy dinner at the hotel's Capriccio Grille.  Our reservations were for 6:30.  I go from good golly to good as it gets in 30 minutes, so I tripled the time needed to dress for dinner to avoid any chance of lateness.  There was plenty of time for a long swim before dinner, so we headed to the pool deck.

The lap of luxury - pool laps!

The Peabody pool looked wonderfully inviting from our 27th floor window.  We are passionate water babies and judge hotels largely by the scope of the pool.  This one was huge and nearly Olympic in length, perfect for some serious laps. We headed poolside wrapped in swimsuits and plush Peabody bathrobes.  The pool plaza is BIG and full of cozy peaceful places to dream.  Lounge chairs abound for sun bunnies and shade sleepers alike.  Private cabanas are available with Internet access or massages and numerous staff await your pleasure.  Lisa and I played dunking games and raced awhile then she napped in the sun while I floated and watched the clouds.  When my daughter sauntered over to tell me she was going to dress for the 5:00 p.m. duck walk I blew a kiss and fell back into my reverie.  Body and soul rested I finally emerged to towel off.

Our VIP Suite at the Peabody.

Walking to the elevators I realized I did not have a room key.  “No problem,” I thought, “if Lisa isn’t back yet I’ll knock on the door or wait in the hall.” Inside the elevator I pushed the button to the 27th floor.  Nothing happened.   I remembered too late that the three floors of the Peabody Club are accessible with a room key only.  I stepped off and looked for a house phone.  No answer in the room.  I hung perilously far over the railing at the tail end of the duck walk trying to spot my daughter.  There were camera clicking duck watchers in droves but no daughter.  Dinnertime was fast approaching and here I was hair in a towel, body in a robe and no access to my room.  A new key was not an option, the first class Peabody security requires photo ID.  Pacing about as discreetly as is possible in a hotel lobby dressed, as it were, for the shower, I begin to feel a full-blown panic attack coming on.  I was about to promise God my firstborn when she appeared and rushed me back to the room.  With five minutes to spare we stepped into the lobby ready for our dining adventure.

Jared commands
the cuisine at the
Peabody Orlando's
Capriccio Grille,

There is something about exquisite cooking that draws you in.  It is a totality involving all the senses, taking knowledge to fuse art and passion and food.  It is not a skill I possess.  So on the rare occasions I enjoy a great meal it is like a glass of ice water to the parched palate of a desert traveler.  Future diners, suspend your diet at the door.  Food like this must be experienced with greedy abandon.  Not here the counting of carbs and calories.  Not this meal shall you gulp glasses of water trying to trick your stomach into satiety.  Capriccio Grille is an event and each course lovingly offered is a treasure, seasoned by an artist.

Jared Gross is Chef at the Capriccio Grille and he takes precious time to welcome us to his domain and we quickly see that we are in the hands of an expert.  Jared has been at the helm for two years after attending culinary school and then an externship at the Peabody. His food is innovative and fresh.

Laura Ardron, our waitress, guided us with a rundown of the menu highlights. Laura offered a choice of wines suggesting a white Pinot Grigio, which was light and fruity.

The Capriccio Grille Bar has
a tremendous wine selection.

The Capriccio Grille is an Italian Steakhouse recently launched in all three of the Peabody Hotels.  The finest prime steaks and chops in the country are served here along with wonderful pasta and fresh seafood.  The wine list includes offerings from the world’s great vineyards, with exclusive vintages such as Opus One-Napa '96 and Cristal Louis Roederer Champagne, France '97; order by the glass allowing you to experiment.

Laura presented our choices for appetizers and as we waited we munched on different breads presented in a silver spiral holder.  Warm, slathered in butter, the sour dough and cheese flatbread whetted our appetites.

An "A" list of gourmet choices!

My daughter chose crab cakes to start. The jumbo lump crab cakes smell otherworldly and I cautiously take a bite. Lightly battered and accompanied by stone ground mustard the crab cakes melt in our mouths.  It only gets better.  A huge chunk of lettuce smothered in bleu cheese crumbles and red wine vinaigrette is placed before me.  Bleu cheese is one of my guilty pleasures.  I eat it as often as possible and am on a constant quest to find the good stuff.  The search is over.

Lisa enjoys the chicken vegetable stew.  Tiny pieces of carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes, and mushroom flavor the chicken pieces.  It is a proven fact that chicken soup is a great healer and we certainly see why.  We are full already and wearing goofy little grins and still the food comes.

Steak is a winner in our home.  It is a winner at the Capriccio Grill also.  A melt-in-your mouth filet mignon is placed before my daughter.  She takes a bite and smiles.  I have made a severe tactical error — she will never again let me travel alone. 

The well-massaged
dinner - Kobe beef!

Kobe beef is my pleasure this evening. With the first tender mouthful I am forever hooked.  Tender enough to cut with a butter knife and marbled to the highest Japanese standards, this beef lives up to and beyond all my expectations.

The storied beef were first bred in second-century Japan in the Kobe area and are renowned for their flavor and tenderness.  In Japan they are fed portions of beer to increase their appetite and they also are massaged as part of their regimen.  The beef at Capriccio Grille comes from Snake River Farms, Idaho.

Dessert shooters!

Then siren known as Laura calls with a visual feast of dessert shooters — tall, narrow glasses filled with layered nirvana that vary from chocolate mousse to strawberry cheesecake.  We each find room for this last bite.  Coffee settles it down a bit and along with the drink of gods Laura urges us to try the hot Godiva chocolate cake.  I am truly finished and manage a weak "no," but Lisa is determined to experience it all.  The dark chocolate cake comes dripping with hot Godiva sauce and topped with freshly made ice cream from the Peabody kitchens.

Capriccio means desire in Italian, as in object of desire and fulfillment of the same.  This is a restaurant intended to satisfy.

Peabody Dream Beds are found in
the standard rooms, and in the . . .

Presidential Suite.

The Peabody Dream Bed by Simmons Beauty Rest is a whole new level of comfort.  I realize my mattress at home is soft as a rock in comparison and I resolve to budget for one of these babies.  The pillows are a 50/50 combination of feather and down, though not, I might add, from the resident ducks.  Continuing the duck theme are tiny duck soaps and toiletries — much cuter than a rubber ducky, though you can get those and more in the boutique downstairs.

Our beds are already turned down and we nibble the chocolates left on our pillow. 

I snuggle off to sleep while my daughter enjoys television.  This is not your ordinary television.  It doubles as an Internet portal and my high-tech teenager surfs the web.  Those of you that aren’t ready to escape completely can stay as plugged in as you desire with the phone and TV in the bathroom.  Room service is available 24 hours a day.  A complimentary newspaper is delivered early for the news hounds.

The Peabody Club where we stay occupies the top three floors of the 27-story hotel.  Complete privacy and security are assured.  Only guests staying on these floors have access.  The Club Lounge has concierge service available daily from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and the lobby staff is available 24-7. 

Continental breakfast is served daily and will entice even the sleepiest.  Fresh fruit is as sweet as it looks.  We start with pineapple, melon and orange juice then progress to freshly baked banana bread and bagels.  Yogurt and cereal are available for the calorie conscious.  We sit by the window and enjoy the sunshine as we plan our day.   Normal life is a hundred yard dash.  They make the spoiling here extra special.  The concierge staff is unobtrusive but very alert. Our coffee cups are kept hot and fresh and our dirty dishes disappear quietly.  Note to self — this is what a real vacation feels like.  This is where you will find a perfect morning.

From 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. a selection of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres is served in the Peabody Club.  Sadly our schedule did not allow us to indulge.  The offerings range from coconut shrimp, stuffed mushroom caps, various cheeses pates, petit fours, and more.  It looked so good as we rushed through to another engagement.  Nor did we have time for the honors bar, available from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. nightly.  One more reason to return.

Other special services for the Club guests include complimentary valet parking, nightly turndown, deluxe European toiletries, and Express Checkout.

The Peabody Athletic Club.

Serious fitness buffs have all they need at the Peabody. After the indulgence at the Capriccio Grille we certainly need this.  The Peabody Athletic Club is the only Nautilus Certified Training Center in Florida.  It was named among the nation's ten best hotels for fitness for business travelers. You can choose between 17 Nautilus stations, four treadmills, two life steps, three Stairmasters, and four stationary bikes.  A personal trainer can be scheduled to tweak your workout if this isn’t enough. The lazy among us can enjoy the king-size whirlpool.  If you overdid it or just want extra pampering, massage specialists can take care of you. 

Tennis lovers are accommodated with four lighted, hardtop courts.   A Tennis pro is available for lessons (with prior notice), and the Athletic Shop can assist groups in arranging matches and tournaments.

Captain’s Choice Golf Services will plan your golf getaway.  Many of Orlando’s top courses can be booked through this service.  You can play with as few as two or schedule a large tournament.  The staff at Captain’s Choice, avid golfers themselves, has you covered.  A fully stocked pro shop includes Nike and Mizuno top-of-the-line clubs.   Several other shops stock sports and leisurewear, including The Peabody Athletic Club and the adjacent apparel shops and lobby boutiques.  If you forgot something, The Peabody didn’t!

If you absolutely must leave the hotel, all of Central Florida’s main attractions are just a short ride away.  The Orange County Convention Center is across the street.  Shopping is in all directions, as are theme parks.  The bus leaves every hour with a round trip ticket costing $6.00 and the final bus returns when the parks close. You can easily book your theme park tickets at the Peabody.  NASA's Space Center and the Atlantic ocean beaches are within an hour's drive.  Then there are museums and art galleries.  Boredom is not an option.  If you want a little more freedom than the bus shuttles the Peabody has a Hertz car rental desk. If you time it right, guests on the upper floors can watch the nightly theme park fireworks. Alas, we were too busy dining on Chef Jared’s cuisine; ours was the better treat! 

B-Line for '50s favorites!

Dux for the formal dining event.

There are many other places to dine at The Peabody.  Time didn’t permit us to sample them, but all are special in their own way. Below are just a few choices.

The B-Line Express offers sandwiches, pastries and drinks when on the run.  Turn the corner to the B-Line Diner for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  The décor is fifties era chrome and marble but the food is contemporary.  We never made it past the patisserie and cake shop with its homemade bounty of cakes and desserts.   Cheesecakes, pies, tarts, and éclairs are baked in the Peabody’s own shop; the ice cream is homemade

Dux is the signature restaurant of the Peabody Orlando.  Chef de cuisine, Joseph Trevino, reigns over Orlando’s only Mobile Four Star restaurant; each month the seasons' best is featured. Afternoon tea in the English tradition is a must after a long day spent shopping.  Scones, sandwiches, and clotted cream with strawberry preserves are some of the treasures that accompany the lovingly presented service on English bone china.

Many special packages are offered throughout the year.  Whether you need a vacation or just a weekend away this is your venue.

The Ballroom for special occasions.

“Will you be forever mine?” is a package that any woman would love.  Your man can request expert help in choosing a diamond just for you, escort you to a magnificent dinner at Dux, and follow it up with a romantic candlelit cabana with a strolling violinist to serenade you.  A special white chocolate box made especially by Executive Pastry Chef, Alain Vergnault, holds the beautiful diamond.

The Peabody Touch of Romance" Orlando Hotel Package is for you and your sweetie and you are pampered with champagne, flowers, and welcome cocktails, plus dinner at Capriccio Grille.  Wake up to breakfast in bed. 

The Boardroom is
for serious business.

The Mother’s Day package is perfect to honor that special lady and you can even come along.  A night’s stay, breakfast, massage, and Mother’s Day brunch are features of this special.

Far more than a vacation site, The Peabody Hotel has a premier convention center, with 891 hotel rooms and 57,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. The telecommunication capability is state-of-the-art and will meet any need.  It provides videoconferencing connection anywhere in the world. Fiber optic and Cat-V connections are available in most meeting rooms. The banquet facilities are unmatched.

The duck tradition began, as many great things do, quite by accident.  Frank Shutt, General Manager of The Peabody, was an avid duck hunter.  In the 1930’s live ducks were used as decoys.  One day the party decided to picnic first and hunt later.  The picnic had as its beverage of choice good Tennessee whiskey.  As time went on the picnickers became somewhat overcome by the whiskey and went back to the hotel without hunting.  When they reached the hotel Mr. Shutt, told his assistant to put the ducks in the fountain and he went to bed.  In the morning, when he awoke, he remembered the ducks.  Downstairs he found a crowd of people surrounding the ducks.  Apologies notwithstanding, he found that the crowd loved the ducks and asked him to keep them there.  Shortly thereafter a trainer was found and the red carpet and music began along with the tradition of the Duck Master with the daily duck walk.   The magic of the ducks continued and was expanded to the other hotels in the Peabody Group. 

Vegas Neon BlogThe ducks were marching in on the morning we said our goodbyes to the Peabody.  We had spent a wonderful but too short time enjoying a world-class hotel that was perfect in every way.  The ducks seemed to encapsulate what I felt was the Peabody experience.  The ducks symbolize the Peabody's personal touch and our last glimpse is the duck on the hotel tower in our car's mirrors as we pulled away.