I’m walking back to Park Avenue yesterday afternoon after the media event at the new Alfond Inn and two twenty-something guys exit a shop behind me, eating ice cream, conversing. Their conversation catches my ear as one says, “I LUV this area, dude.” The other reassuringly responds, “Oh, it’s nice, no doubt.”
I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but hey, I wasn’t trying to listen. Happens. And I do enjoy over-hearing such remarks, identify with them. Though I don’t often use the word “dude”, I say this often. I make no secret of my own enthusiasm for this community, living here.
As I traipse southward on Park Avenue I consider their comments, all I’ve just seen at The Alfond Inn, ponder how The Alfond Inn (can I just start calling it ‘The Alf’ already?) is likely to change the community a bit (or more), accent it, help steer its course. I think of that scene from Jerry Maquire: “You complete me.” It seems appropriate, works to me. It does, I think, complete us, in a broad sense.
The absence of a large, modern hotel in the immediate area has figured into many conversations I’ve had with friends, with visitors, with those planning to visit. The Mt. Vernon is certainly comfortable and I, for one, am going to miss it when it’s gone, for what it’s been for the community for so long, for the memories so many Locals have had there. Rick Frazee is a class act and this community has tremendously benefited from The Mt. Vernon’s presence, his stewardship of this Local stalwart. Park Plaza Gardens is surely an amazing spot on Park Avenue, but it’s not going to work for any large groups coming into town and while its charm is without question, we’ve had a certain type of upscale accommodations missing in Winter Park, much needed. Enter The Alfond Inn.
My tour yesterday started with a surprise . . . my guide, Melanie Sell, is from Adelaide, Australia. It was like they tailored the tour to just me! I LUV Aussies, always say ‘Aussie’ is not short for Australia, but AWESOME. She was a delight. She had me at “pillahs”, referring to the absence of pillars in the expansive ballrooms.
The entire tour was a delight, actually. How do you produce a venue which is both warm and contemporary, eclectic but comfortable, relaxed yet impressive? Ask those behind The Alfond Inn, for that, to me, is what they have created. It’s not formal, yet it is elegant. Shorts and flip flops will not seem out of place here, yet neither will tuxedos and ball gowns.
The Art collection is extensive, surely offers something for everyone, from neon and mosaics to photography, metal, MORE. At least a bit of vintage, an original Pan Am flight bag, thrown in.
Hamilton’s Kitchen is certain to be a new must for Local foodies. I’m not the cook in my house, but I can eat. And EVERY dish I enjoyed was nearly as delicious as the first. I was dining with a woman who claimed not to be fond of sweet potatoes. Yet, I cajoled her into giving them a try. Her eyes widened, and she was off to get her own. Chef Chris Windus, who is a Winter Park native, and recently at bluezoo, Todd English’s restaurant at Disney’s Swan & Dolphin Hotels, is destined to make a significant mark on Winter Park, its food scene. That I will guarantee.
Honestly, I am sort of blown away by the hotel. I’m a bit of a design enthusiast, LUV the decor. I did think the front desk could have a bit more of an impact, will be anxious to see the pool area when complete — hoping to see the interior color palette brought outside — but if Imm looking for items to critique, that’s about it and it’s an astonishingly SHORT list.
The staff was all friendly, helpful, ENTHUSIASTIC, even as I exited and damaged a door! Yeah, I can’t take me anywhere. But maybe The Alfond Inn.
Welcome, Alfond, WELCOME.
I do believe you complete us.