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December 12, 2011

December to Remember - Day 4

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Today was the final day of "December to Remember" events - it has gone so fast!

It was another early morning for us - we got up to attend the Team AllEars® Run/Walk/Wog Yer Buns Off run, which started at 7:00. Team Captains Michelle Scribner MacLean and Mike Scopa and several other members of Team AllEars were there, as well as several other AllEars readers who came out to run with us! Most of us went around Crescent Lake and out to the entrance to the Studios and back - there was one overachiever (cough, Lee, cough) who did it twice.

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Ray Sharpton, who has been so supportive on the Facebook page, and with his attendance at most, if not all, of the events, was our official starter.

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Afterwards we enjoyed some well-earned pastries from the Boardwalk Bakery. :-)

This afternoon was the event Deb Koma and I had planned together - the Around the World CHOCOLATE Challenge. We were very fortunate that the rain showers held off until AFTER our event - whew!

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For those of you who don't know, the idea for this event grew out of something Deb and I and two other chocoholics did back in 2000, where we attempted (in one short afternoon) to eat something chocolate at every pavilion in World Showcase. You can read the article Deb wrote about it - Chocolate Around the World.

We had a special gift for everyone who was there - chocolate, of course, but the kind that melts in your mouth and not in your hand!

December to Remember - Day 4

Thank you to the ~90 of you who attended - we hope you had a good time. Even if it apparently wasn't quite as much of a "challenge" as we had anticipated. You're all just too smart for us!

December to Remember - Day 4

Tonight was the final December to Remember Grand Finale event. There was an Illuminations Dessert Party. Originally we were supposed to be at area in front of Italy, but it was supposed to rain, so we were moved inside to the upper floor of the American Adventure building! That was actually really a nice place to be! From the windows we could see the Candlelight Processional.

December to Remember - Day 4

There was a very nice dessert buffet provided by our sponsors, Orlando Attractions Magazine and MEI Travel / Mouse Fan Travel.

December to Remember - Day 4

The promised rain arrived, and it had been raining just before everyone entered, but fortunately it had stopped by the time we went out to see Illuminations at Italy. The holiday finale of Illuminations is one of my very favorite things, and I really enjoyed seeing it up close.

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Afterwards it was time for another surprise - we all walked towards the front of the park where we rode Soarin'! Just our group - no other guests.

And then it was time to say goodbye to all our company....It has truly been a December to Remember, with so many wonderful moments. It just went way too fast!


December 9, 2011

December to Remember - Day 2

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Today (Friday) started really early - we had to be at the entrance to the Studios by 6:30 for the Toy Story Maniac Eat and Play Meet. What a fantastic event! A huge thank you to our sponsor, All Star Vacation Homes. I so wish that we had not had to limit it so much so that more of you could have shared it with us, but the very nature of the event meant that it had to be small.

Sarge from Toy Story met us outside the turnstiles and marched us all up Hollywood Blvd do the Sorcerer's Hat, where we took a group photo (only our two official photographers were allowed photos because the park was not yet open, so I don't have any photos of that).

We went back to the Prop Shop for a buffet breakfast. Just being in the Prop Shop was a treat - there were so many interesting things from all sorts of Disney movies displayed on shelves around the room and overhead.

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We had a really nice breakfast - fresh fruit and pastries, hash browns, two kinds of "family omelet" skillets, turkey sausage, and bacon.

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Deb spoke to us briefly, as did Steve and Sarah from All Star Vacation Homes.

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Then Sarge came back. He posed for pictures with everyone, made some people do push-ups, sit-ups, or jumping jacks, and was really a hoot. "Sir, yes, sir!"

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At the end he demonstrated some of his best "Green Army Man" poses - this one was my favorite.

December to Remember - Day 2

At about 8:45 we walked over to Toy Story Mania and right onto the ride! Great fun riding it with so many friends.

The park had just opened as we exited the ride - and it was really amazing watching all the people come down the street and descend upon the ride entrance and the fastpass machines. The line stretched waaaay back past Little Mermaid. Wow.

It was a great morning - another moment to remember from this December to Remember.

But it didn't end there! Tonight we were back in the Studios for Sweet Bites and Street Lights. We started with a dessert buffet in the Animation Building, where we were joined by a very dapper Mickey and a very glamorous Minnie!

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And after the park had been cleared of guests we went back to the Streets of America, where Deb Wills flipped the switch to turn on the Osborne Lights!

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They are just so beautiful, and we had the streets to ourselves.

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The lights danced to several songs, but all too soon it was time to say goodbye.

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Another fabulous event - thank you to our wonderful Mouse Fan Travel sponsors!

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What a terrific day it was!


December 8, 2011

December to Remember - Day 0

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Lee and I are back at WDW for the All Ears December to Remember events. 15 years - congratulations Deb Wills and Deb Koma and all of my other fellow All Ears team mates! And thank you to YOU, all of our readers - All Ears wouldn't be what it is without you!

I'm not planning to do my usual descriptive blog about this trip, but will share a few photos as I have the time.

The new Katsura Grill opened at Epcot today, in the former Yakitori House restaurant. Lee and I had dinner there. The menu has most (if not all) of the items from Yakitori House - teriyaki chicken bowls, beef curry, and noodles, but also has some new items, like the Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese pancake, a chicken katsu sandwich, and the Tsukemen Salad, a cold ramen noodle salad. Unfortunately, we didn't try any of those - it was a very chilly evening at Epcot (cold front going through, and very breezy), so we had the Udon Noodles - with tempura shrimp for me and with beef for Lee. Both really good. My only complaint is that the bowls they use do not insulate well at all, and my soup cooled off much faster than I would have liked on a chilly evening.

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December to Remember - Day 0

Katsura Grill Menu

They didn't make the restaurant any larger, but they moved the ordering counter back and added a queue and another register or two so it's not quite as chaotic and crowded inside. They also lightened the color of the decor inside so it seems larger.

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I'm sure you'll be reading a much more detailed review from Jack Spence soon - we talked to a manger who saw Lee's AllEars hat and said that he had talked to Jack earlier today. :-)

Something I had NOT heard about at all - there's a new sake bar/drink stand - it's on the same side of Japan as the Katsura Grill, approximately across from the steps leading up to Tokyo Dining. (It used to be a merchandise cart). They offer several kinds of sake, sake cocktails, frozen sake beverages, beer, a seasonal smoothie, green tea, and soft drinks. I don't know the name, though. It was chilly so we didn't try anything, but I want to return to try one of the sake cocktails - or even the Amasake frozen beverage if it warms up enough.

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We treated ourselves to a Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake from the stand next to the American Adventure. It was really good!

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I thought these projected snowflakes were really pretty.

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From our balcony at the Boardwalk we could see the Illuminations fireworks - this is part of the holiday finale. While I love seeing it up close, I think it looks a little better from a distance.

December to Remember - Day 0



December 14, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 6

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RADP Day at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was COLD today. Windy all day, and I don't think the temperature ever got above 45. How cold was it? It was so cold that the gardeners were covering a lot of the plants because they are expecting a hard freeze tonight.

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It was so cold that I think everyone (even the Canadians!) was wearing at least three layers.

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It was so cold that a priority seating was not to be had anywhere in the park, and even the ABC Commissary had a 30+ minute line to order.

And, if you can believe this, it was so cold that there was a line to get into Sounds Dangerous!

Still, about 20 of us braved the cold and came out for the Rock'N'Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror meets at 9:30. The line for RnRC was 10 minutes when we went in, and 40 minutes when we came out. And it was chilly in the building when we were zipping around in that super-stretch limo. My fleece earband really protected my head and neck on those corkscrews, though - usually I get banged around a lot on those.

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Our group of 14 had its own library room on the Tower of Terror - that was fun. We didn't get our own elevator, though - we felt a little bit sorry for the 7 poor unsuspecting folks who had to ride with us.

Because of the cold, several of the meets we'd planned were canceled or changed. We were supposed to do the Backlot Tour, but that sounded like torture on a cold day. So a lot of us went into One Man's Dream instead - I hadn't seen the current version of it. Some of the exhibits were different, but the movie was still the same. There was a family behind us who all fell asleep during the movie - a couple of them were even snoring!

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Lee and I went to Mama Melrose for lunch with some of the group. It was inside, and, bonus, the food was really good, too! We had a very nice meal. I ordered the goat cheese ravioli and Lee ordered the Chicken Parmagiana, and we shared. They were both good. We also shared a half carafe of Sangria - it tasted good even if it wasn't warm. :-)

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A couple of our table mates ordered this Tomato Mozzarella salad - doesn't it look wonderful?

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After lunch was the "Bad Santa Tacky Gift Exchange". This was another meet that was moved indoors - even though the sun was out it was way too cold and windy back at the Backlot Cantina. So we went to the ABC Commissary instead. Which was busy, but we managed to find a place for most of us to sit. The idea was to bring a tacky white elephant type of gift, preferably from your hometown. So we had snowglobes from Pennsylvania and Nashville, keychains and magnets from Cape Cod, a shot glass, some chocolate candies, and even a couple of souvenirs from Canada. It was fun.

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Afterward we posed with some of our gifts at the statue of Betty White, who has a special place in our hearts after one of those "you had to be there" meets two years ago.

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Most of us went to the Great Movie Ride - it was indoors! Not much of a wait, and we got the cowboy side, which I prefer.

Every time we went back outside after being indoors for a while it felt colder! We had some time before the last meet of the day so Lee and I went to the Backlot Cantina, which is selling some specialty drinks for the holidays, and we got the Captain's Hot Cider - hot apple cider with a shot of Captain Morgan's. It tasted really good - but even in an insulated cup it didn't stay warm for very long! We wander along the Streets of America, where the Osborne Lights are, while we were drinking it. Even during the day when the lights are off there were some things to see. We found this Jack Skellington-themed ornament - appropriately enough it was outside the office of the Funeral Director. :-) We also found the Halloween cat that they place somewhere different every year.

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The final meet was the Toy Story Mania meet, where we used the Fastpasses that we'd all gotten when we arrived that morning. The standby line was 120 minutes!!! Maybe at that point people didn't mind standing in line for two hours as long as they could be inside where it was warmer.

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It was even colder when we came out (the sun was completely gone by then), so several of us went to see MuppetVision. Ahhh...warmth! Sean and Pam had the idea to have a quick dinner at the Tune-In Lounge and then go to the Osborne Lights - but lots of other people had that same idea and it was packed. So we went back to the Backlot Cantina for some more holiday cheer (Lee got the Bailey's Coffee this time, though), and then went onto the Streets of America - it was less than 10 minutes until the lights came on. It started snowing - it was cold enough tonight that it really could have been REAL snow!

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We also found Catherine and Amy back there - one positive thing about the cold is that it really keeps the crowds down!

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By that time it was 38 (wind chill of 29) and it wasn't really getting colder, but we'd been out in it enough that we were feeling it a lot more, so after watching the lights "dance" several times we called it a day. We walked over to the Dolphin with Amy and Catherine (that was a LONG walk in the cold!) and had a nice mellow dinner at Picabu. There were very few people in there so it was quiet. And the food was pretty good (and the 20% DVC discount is nice, too).

The usual final RADP meet is for miniature golf, but I think it was a unanimous decision that mini golf would be No Fun tonight. So after dinner we walked over to Kimono's in the Swan, where part of the group had gathered, and were planning to sing Karaoke later. Even that short walk between the Dolphin and Swan felt very cold! But it's really windy along that causeway. I said my goodbyes early but Lee decided to stay. And it's been over two hours and he's still not back, so he must be having a good time. :-)

It's hard to believe that the RADP Meet is over, and that our trip is also over - we leave tomorrow. :-( It went so fast! It was wonderful to spend so much time with terrific friends who are so much fun to be around. It would have been nice to have weather that was a little warmer, but I know that the joy of friendship warmed all of our hearts over the last four days. I enjoyed the meets, and the impromptu get-togethers, and the opportunities to spend time with some people that I didn't know quite as well.

Each RADP meet is different, and they all have their special and memorable moments - I'm sure we'll all remember the cold weather this year, and the Mediocre Presidents meet, and of course Kevin and Lee appearing as Santa Claus, and how good baby Anthony was on his very first trip to Walt Disney World. Until next time, my friends!

We'll have a little bit of park time tomorrow, but not much.


December 13, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 5

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I think this is going to be short - it's been a very long day and I'm tired!

Today was Magic Kingdom day. The day started off absolutely beautiful, with a cloudless blue sky.

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First meet of the day was Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Fortunately they had turned off most of the real excessive splash effects. We had 19 of us on Splash Mountain, and we walked right onto the logs - there was no line even though it was almost 10:00 by then.

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There were 25 of us for Thunder Mountain - several people who didn't want to do Splash Mountain joined us.

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We had time before the Hall of Presidents meet so we're walking, we're walking over to Haunted Mansion. Notice that it's still sunny. When we came out of Haunted Mansion 20 minutes later (no line, but the ride stopped 6 times while we were in there!) it was completely overcast and the wind had really come up - and the temperature had dropped.

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Instead of doing Hall of Presidents we opted to have an early lunch, hoping to beat the crowds who would descend on Columbia Harbour House when it started raining. And it started raining just as we headed over there so our timing was good.

The theme of the meet was "Hall of Mediocre Presidents", so we were all charged with cheering for various not-so-well known presidents when they were introduced, like William Henry Harrison, Millard Fillmore, and Calvin Coolidge.

It was raining when we got out of there, though fortunately it never rained all that hard. Our next meet was Pirates of the Caribbean, followed by a stop at the Dole Whip place. We had 29 for our ride on Pirates - we filled several boats. There were actually a number of takers for the Dole Whips - though several of us opted for egg rolls instead.

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Lee and I did a little shopping before meeting back with the group at Stitch's Great Escape. (We did a LOT of attractions today!) The group kept getting smaller every time - the rain had stopped by then, but the temperature kept going down, too. Quite a few of us defended the galaxy against the Evil Emperor Zurg. I've gotten so used to the lasers in California (that are not fixed to the console) that it was hard to use the ones here.

The TTA (now Peoplemover) Ride-a-thon was next - the idea was to go around 5 times. Lee did twice, and I did three times - I think there were only seven people that went around all 5 times.

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We'd gotten Fastpasses for Space Mountain before riding Buzz Lightyear, so we did that. I don't think Lee and I had ridden it since it was refurbished. It seems a little smoother than it used to be.

Kevin, Lee and I wanted to see the Castle Lighting show at 6:15 - we were able to get a very nice spot in front of it - there weren't a whole lot of people. It's a beautiful castle...much more impressive than the one we have at Disneyland.

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It was really getting chilly...We took the first bus that was going back to any of the Epcot Resorts, which happened to be Yacht Club/Beach Club. Walked over to the Dolphin where we had dinner with Kevin at the Dolphin Fountain again - it was early enough that we were able to walk right up and be seated. We were all interested in something WARM - no one had ice cream this time! :-)

Lee and I came back to the room to put on the warmest clothes we had before going to Epcot. Yikes, it was cold in the wind!!! We did a little shopping, and found a Christmas Mickey sweatshirt for Lee that we'd seen at the Magic Kingdom, but not in his size. Then we met up with the faithful (or foolish) few who had braved the elements to come out for the RADP Illuminations Meet. There were only six of us. We started at Norway, but the wind was blowing straight at us so we moved to Germany...and so did the wind. We stuck it out anyway - it really was a great spot. We had a very moving sing-a-long of "We Go On" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth" - when we weren't dodging fireworks shrapnel. :-)

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That holiday finale is still an insane amount of fireworks.

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Tomorrow is Studios day - and is supposed to be one of the coldest days of the year. Down to the 30s tonight, and supposed to be windy and barely in the 50s tomorrow. This is Florida??? (It was 80 in San Diego today!)


December 12, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 4

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RADP - Day 2 - Epcot!

Actually we didn't make the early meets at all today - we *really* needed to get out and run this morning (since we have this pesky marathon/half marathon coming up in four weeks!), so we went out and ran for 45 minutes or so this morning. If the weather is like this in January (~50 degrees) I will be pretty happy.

So we didn't make it into Epcot until after 11:00. We were walking around World Showcase and went by the new Karamell Kuche in Germany.

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For a change it didn't have a huge line when we went in. As annual passholders we were able to get a free small sample of caramel corn, but also got a bag of it and a big chocolate caramel cookie. Yummy. I love Storck's chocolates (Riesen is my favorite), so I'll have to get back there again and see what they have that I haven't tried before. The stuff in the display case looks really decadently delicious!

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Today's weather was beautiful - sunny and in the low to mid 70s. Definitely the nicest day we have had. Not quite shorts weather for me, but it was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans - and actually I was getting too warm when just standing in the sun.

We went to the "It's 5:00 Somewhere" Meet at the Cava del Tequila in Mexico, only to find that it didn't open until 12:00! Sean, Pam, Julie, Kevin, Lee and I decided some food would be a good idea first, so we went over the the newly remodeled cantina. We were able to eat inside the dining room (because the table service restaurant wasn't open yet). It's really quite nice, and the tables on the water side should have a good view of IllumiNations!

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The menu is quite a bit different. We had the Emapandas de Queso and the Tacos de Pollo. They were both pretty good.

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When we got back to the "Cava", the tequila meet was in full force. :-) The menu has all kinds of different (and unusual) types of margaritas - avocado, cucumber and jalapeno to name a few. Lee stuck with beer, but I had a pomegranate margarita that was very good - pretty strong, though.

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We'd already eaten, so we didn't have any of the food, but others said that it was pretty good. We had a very good server, David, who seemed to really enjoy our group. So let's just say that it was a very happy group that left there about 90 minutes later. :-)

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The "Big Meet and Greet" (BMAG) was at the International Gateway at 1:30 - I was told that there were 52 people there. We missed those of you who couldn't make it. And I think most of us thought of our friend Randy Birbaum, who passed away several years ago.
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(Click on the photo to see a larger version of it.)

The BMAG is always a time to connect with people you haven't seen in a while, or to finally meet in person people that you've been talking to on-line for years, who seem like old friends once you finally meet face-to-face.

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It was about 3:00 by the time the meet broke up. Lee and I decided we really needed an afternoon nap, so we went back to our room - it was very nice to have a break, and yes, we did take a nap! We left again about 5:45 and went back to Epcot, which was a LOT more crowded than it had been any other day this week. Warm weather and it being a weekend day will do that, I guess.

The 5:15 Candlelight Processional had just gotten out right before we arrived, so we felt like salmon swimming upstream as we tried to get to the Japan pavilion. And the people were lined up all the way to Morocco waiting for the 6:45 show. And those were the people with the Candlelight packages, who were guaranteed entry to the show.

We had dinner at the Yakitori House - the evening had cooled off a fair bit already, and something hot tasted good. I had the Tempura Shrimp Udon. Lee had the Japanese Curry, but that really does not photograph well...it looks like mud.

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Our friend Tony was singing in the Cast Choir at the 6:45 Candlelight Processional - we didn't even try the standby line, but instead stood all the way at the back, like we did the other night. There were a lot more people doing that, too! Whoopi Goldberg was tonight narrator, and I think that was also a big draw for people coming to the park. For the most part she played it straight, though at the beginning, when she said the line about Caesar Augustus' decree that "all the world should be taxed" she paused and then added "What a surprise". :-)

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Our friends Kevin and Lori found us back there and watched the show with us.

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The show was terrific - as we had noted the other night, there are some differences in some of the arrangements this year. And the Candlelight Overture has several changes (we hadn't arrived early enough to hear it until tonight).

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We'd planned to go the Magic Kingdom afterwards, since there was a RADP Meet to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, but Kevin and Lori were getting Facebook posts and text messages which made it sound like MK was wall-to-wall people. So we decided to go have something to eat instead. We started off at Beaches and Cream, but it was going to be an hour(!) wait, so we went to the Dolphin Fountain instead, and were seated fairly quickly. Kevin, Lee and I ordered milkshakes - don't these look yummy?

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Lee and I had eaten earlier, but we were hungry again and decided to split the Salmon Salad, and that was very good. I've always been pleased with the food I've had at the Fountain. Kevin and Lori enjoyed their "Build-Your-Own" Burgers, too.

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We said goodbye to Kevin and Lori - Kevin was headed off to Magic Kingdom anyway, since it's open until 1:00 a.m.! As we walked back to the Boardwalk we could see IllumiNations going, so we stopped along Crescent Lake in front of Jellyrolls to watch the finale and the holiday finale. I think you actually see the holiday finale better if you are a little further away - it's SO huge that you really can't see it all if you're around World Showcase Lagoon. It's still very impressive, and one of my very favorite things about the holidays!

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Tomorrow is Magic Kingdom day - that's always fun. I'm getting to bed early enough tonight that we should be able to make the morning meets this time.

One more photo from the Iluminations holiday finale:

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December 11, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 3

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Friday - the first day of the official RADP meets. Today was Animal Kingdom Day. The RADP Meet is really not about riding rides and doing things - it's about spending time with friends that we might not see more than once every year or two. We have a good time being silly. The cast members seem to enjoy it, too, when we do something that involves them.

The first meet this morning was for Kilimanjaro Safari. Lee and I were a little late, and I arrived just as the meet photo was being taken. But I wasn't too late to be in it! :-) (Lee was off getting us Everest Fastpassses for later, so he missed it.)

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I mentioned the cast members - one of them walked us around the back and to our own safari vehicle! Though with 27 of us, we were going to almost fill one up anyways. Our driver asked if it was a first safari for any of us - nope. So then she tried to stump us with questions. And the first thing she asked actually got us: "What does Harambe mean?" None of us knew that it means "working and pulling together". But we knew about reticulated giraffes, the difference between horns and antlers, what rhino horn is made of, and the shape of the island occupied by the flamingoes.

It was a pretty good safari with quite a lot of animals out. One of the interesting things was seeing the observation platforms that are under construction for a new Wild Africa Trek that opens next month.

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And we also saw some baby sable antelope.

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And we saw the newest baby elephant.

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After the safari was an unscheduled "photograph the gorillas" meet, since two of the bachelors were out in full view.

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Oh, I guess I should give today's weather report - it was warmer - in the upper 60s, and mostly sunny. I still wore a light jacket just about all day, though. The park seemed a bit crowded to me today, more than I would expect for an early December day.

A smaller group of us took the train to Rafiki's Planet Watch:

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Unfortunately(?) we had missed the 10:30 veterinary procedure - a toad enema.

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But we got a group photo with Jiminy Cricket!

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We got to spend a little more time with DebK before she had to leave to catch her flight home. :-(

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Most of us had lunch at Yak and Yeti - I don't really care for the food there, so I had a chocolate muffin from the nearby Tea Shop. There's a nutritious lunch for you! After lunch we went to the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

We saw these blackbuck mock-fighting:

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There was lots of activity over where the white-cheeked gibbons are - it's a family group with mom, dad, 10-month-old baby, and 3-year-old daughter. The baby was initially clinging to mom, but we also saw him swinging on the ropes on his own!

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We were supposed to ride Expedition Everest at 2:00 but it was down. REALLY down, as in they had to walk people off of it - even the ones who were in this train!

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Some people went to find Nemo - Lee and I wandered through Dinoland and Camp Minnie-Mickey - I always enjoy seeing the character-themed Christmas tree they have there at this time of year. (This is Pocahontas' tree.)

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We met the group back at the Dawa Bar, and watched Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade from there.

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I hadn't noticed the "Naughty" and "Nice" lists posted on Santa Goofy's float - interesting that Donald seems to have made both lists, and Stitch is definitely on the "Naughty" list!

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Tonight was one of the highlights of the meet - the Open House hosted by Charlotte and Jan at Old Key West. They put out quite a spread, though other people bring some food and drinks to share, too. But they (and their husbands!) do most of the work. There were about 45 people this year, and we all had a wonderful time.

We had an unexpected surprise this evening - an appearance by Santa Claus! Kevin, one of our RADP friends, is Santa at his local mall, and he had brought his costume with him. Most of us took turns sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what we wanted for Christmas.

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The "Santa-razzi" were in full force! :-)

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After a while Santa said goodbye, but a little while later Kevin came back - but so did Santa! I didn't know who it was until he spoke, and then I realized that it was Lee! He was a really good Santa, too.

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It was a great day - it's so much fun to get together with this terrific group of friends.

Tomorrow is Epcot day.


December 8, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Are We There Yet?

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December - must be time for our annual trip to Walt Disney World! I think this might be my very favorite time of year to visit - the weather isn't hot, the crowds are relatively light, and all of the holiday events are in full swing. This year it looks like we're going to have colder than usual temperatures for our visit - mostly in the 50s and 60s during the day, and 30s and 40s at night! We'll be sipping hot spiced wine instead of frozen margaritas.

As I write this, it's the day before our trip and I haven't even started packing yet - but I'll be packing the long-sleeve shirts and jeans rather than the tank tops and tees! Better throw in some gloves, too.

The main reason for this visit (apart from the holiday festivities) is the RADP Meet December 10-13 - it's an annual gathering of some of us who know each other from the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup. That's how all of us Disney fans communicated with each other in the days before the World Wide Web, discussion boards, and Facebook! This is the 15th holiday meet - you can read more about it at http://meets.radp.org/radp15.

It's a great group of people and we have a lot silly fun together.

But we're also doing something new on this trip - Lee and I are going to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. We're going on Thursday, and are hoping the early December mid-week crowds won't be too bad. I've heard a lot of good things about that area and am looking forward to seeing it for myself.

I am planning to post a blog daily - though some of them might not be as detailed or photo-filled as I might like depending upon how much time I have to work on them. I do have to sleep sometime! :-)

On a different topic...not too long ago I posted a blog about A Little Disney in Your Decorating. I'm sure a lot of you incorporate some Disney in your holiday decorations and I thought I would get a fair number of replies, but the response has been, well, underwhelming. :-( It's not too late - I won't be putting that particular blog together until after I return from Florida, so if you'd like to share, please use either the Feedback Form link or the Comment section below. I really hope to hear from more of you - and thank you to those who have already replied.

The next time I post it'll be from Florida!


December 14, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 6

Our last day - I can hardly believe it! As usual, it's gone way too fast, and we're left with a list of things that we *didn't* have time to do.

But we got most of a full day today - instead of having a flight in the very early afternoon it wasn't until 6:00, so we had time to go to two theme parks before leaving for the airport.

We actually got up EARLY (for us, at least) - it wasn't even 8:00 yet! We enjoyed the pastries that we got at Kouzzina yesterday morning - the coffeecake was especially good, and there were actually two pieces of that! We also had a "sweet bread" cupcake, a mini-croissant, a small blueberry muffin and some dried fruit.

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And what a difference a few hours makes - by 8:00 it was already about 10 degrees warmer than it got all day yesterday!!! There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, but we had blue sky and sunshine for most of the morning - it was a lovely, comfortable, beautiful day!

We got our bags packed and were out of the room by about 9:00 for the drive to Animal Kingdom. After we parked and were walking up the aisle we saw Chad, Kerry, and Kevin ahead of us, so we walked in with them. Unfortunately that meant that we were both distracted and neither of us noticed which row we were parked in! Oops. (But when we came back later we did actually go down the correct row.)

Back at Harambe Fort the AllEars meet was already in full force - there was a Hidden Mickey seminar, conducted by Steve Barrett, going on, and a lot of other people were standing around chatting. I had the chance to chat for a while with Kitty (who writes about vegan and vegetarian dining for AllEars) and Rocky and I really enjoyed that - I had been hoping that I would get to see them. We all love cats and Disney, and we're also Crescent Lake Snobs - we just needed Steve Russo there for a "Crescent Lake Snob" photo. (That's kind of an inside RADP joke.)

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Somehow Rocky got designated to take a photo of those of us who were still around at the time we decided to take a group photo - and then people kept handing him cameras. :-) He must have taken 7-8 at least!

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And we posed for an AllEars team photo as well - I think there were almost more people taking pictures of us than there were people in the photo, LOL!

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After that it was time to do the videoing for the AllEars Holiday video that Lee will be putting together - Coming Soon to a Youtube Channel near you. :-) Some of us did it in one take, some weren't happy with the first and wanted to do it again...and of course those of us watching weren't helping matters. It was really a lot of fun.

We had a Team lunch at Tusker House, where 13(gasp!) of us descended upon the place. Fortunately that was not an unlucky number and we had an excellent meal with a great server. I think I like Tusker House even more than Boma, though I think Boma has better desserts.

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We laughed and shared stories - most of us live quite far apart from each other so the chances we have to get together and socialize as a group are rare. And we missed all of you who weren't there with us!!!

Lee and I had to say our goodbyes to everyone after that since we were starting to head home. :-(

But we still had a couple hours, so we went back to Epcot to do a few things that we had missed, with a stop in the lobby of the Boardwalk to get our boarding passes printed - something we hadn't had time for in the morning.

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All week we'd been planning to see Joyful, the gospel singing group that is performing at the stage behind the Epcot fountain, but the timing had never worked out. We missed the first 10 minutes of their 2:15 show but were able to hear them perform several songs - they were pretty good, and brought a nice energy to the stage.

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We had time to catch one more set of the Voices of Liberty - this time they performed two songs we hadn't heard - Angels We Have Heard on High and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

While we were there we went into the Liberty Inn to see the life-size gingerbread house they have in there. I like the "glass" on this one.

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And the very last thing we did was to see the World Showcase Players perform their version of A Christmas Carol. We thought Lee was going to get selected to play Bob Scratchit, but at the last second they selected the guy standing next to Lee instead. Both of the audience "volunteers" were pretty good, though, and we enjoyed the show.

Now it was time to say goodbye...we had an uneventful trip to the airport, and I think we encountered the shortest lines at security that I've ever seen there.

We're cruising at 36,000 feet as I write this - should be an on-time arrival in San Diego.

It was a good trip, but looking back on it I think we did the fewest attractions that we have ever done - just two! Kilimanjaro Safari on Tuesday and Hall of Presidents on Friday. LOL! Some people would probably interpret that to mean we had a really bad trip, but it's not at all about the attractions for us. We actually spent a lot of time in the parks but we were wandering around doing things other than riding rides. And we spent a lot of time hanging out with friends both in and out of the parks - and that was really the best part.

Thanks to everyone for reading - I'll have some final thoughts about things I didn't have a chance to write about coming soon.

December 12, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 5

Got up (at about 8:45 again) to a cloudy and chilly day - no sun expected, and high was only supposed to be about 67 - and I'm not sure it ever got even that warm.

We decided to have breakfast at Kouzzina - we'd had dinner there back in October with the Koma family and really enjoyed it. There were a surprising number of people having breakfast at 10:00, but we waited less than 10 minutes for a table.

There were a number of items on the breakfast menu that looked good - we could definitely eat here again, and I'm sure we will in the future. Lee really wanted waffles, so he had the Classic Golden Waffle which came with a large spoonful of whipped mascarpone cheese, honey, and chopped pecans. He also got a side of the sweet potato hash.

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I was torn between the Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Scrambled Eggs and the Create Your Own Yogurt and Granola, but I finally chose the latter. It came with Greek yogurt (which I really like) and granola, and then with some fruit and sugared nuts and honey. I was disappointed in how little fruit there was...for $10.49 I expected a little more, but it was good.

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Just about the time our food arrived Linda and Deb came by our table - they had just finished their breakfast. But they joined us while we ate and we had a great time talking to them and catching up a little bit. They are a couple of special ladies, that's for sure!

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We'd gotten some Kouzzina pastries to have for breakfast tomorrow, when we know we'll be rather rushed in getting out of here, so we dropped those back in our room and then headed out to do a little more Christmas decoration resort hopping. First stop was the Yacht Club. They have the usual tree decorated with nautically-themed ornaments (like ships!) in the lobby as well as the alpine village train set, which has all kinds of things going on around it.

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Over at the Beach Club it is the 10th anniversary of the gingerbread carousel.

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They had a rotating gingerbread castle on one corner, with Snow White on one side and Belle on the other:

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And an the opposite corner was a rotating version of Chip and Dale's treehouse - they seem to be the "mascot" of the carousel, though I don't really understand why. There's also a special carousel 10th anniversary pin that has Chip and Dale on it.

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This is the first time I remember them selling gingerbread in a shop in the lobby. One of the pastry chefs was hard at work decorating Mickey-faced gingerbread cookies.

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Then we were off to Epcot for Mike and Masayo's Kaki-Gori meet. The temperature really wasn't very conducive to ordering a kaki-gori, but I saw a number of people who are apparently far more hardy than I am, and ordered them anyways.

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Masayo brought bags of origami cranes and swans that she had made - I think she said there were about 200! Wow...I can't even imagine how much time that took to do...they were both pretty intricate.

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Here are all of the AllEars team members who attended (except Mike, who had to leave early for his podcast, and Barrie, who arrived after we took the picture) - Linda, Jack, me, Erin, Deb, Michelle, and Fred.

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And here's Jack, Lori, Kevin and John - they were trying to keep Lori warm, I think!

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After people had mostly dispersed several of us who were more the RADP folks hung around visiting, and eventually decided to go have lunch at Yakitori House. One of the things I enjoy most about RADP meets is the small groups that break off after a larger meet, and go off and do something like eat, or get our picture taken with Mickey, or some other activity where we get the chance to just visit for a while. We were with Jack, Julie, and Kevin, and we had a really good time just being together. Luckily we were able to sit inside and eat, since it was still quite chilly outside, and the wind had come up a little bit.

Kevin, Julie and I all had the Shrimp Tempura Udon, which I enjoyed very much. Kevin and Julie ate it with chopsticks - I'm afraid I am not that accomplished. :-)

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Jack had the teriyaki chicken, I think, and Lee had the Japanese Curry - it doesn't look very appealing in the photo, but fortunately it tastes a LOT better than it looks!

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After lunch (it was after 3:00 by then) Lee and I headed over to Magic Kingdom via monorail, though we stopped at the entrance to Epcot to take a few pictures of the holiday topiaries.

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At Magic Kingdom we went back to see the Hall of Presidents - our timing was great because a show was just a couple of minutes away. This is the first time we'd seen it since they changed it and added the new President Obama figure. It focuses much more on the presidents and how even someone from humble beginnings (like Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson, who was labeled a "barbarian") can become president. I enjoyed it, though I didn't think the Obama figure was that realistic. But I liked how he looked back at his "notes" (or maybe it was a teleprompter) before making his speech. I have to say that during his speech I thought back to the D23 presentation I saw on the making of the Hall of Presidents, and how the Imagineers who went to talk to Obama and record his speech sort of ran wild on their tour of the White House - sounded like they had a lot of fun! :-)

We got out just in time to make it to Erin's "Remembering Walt Disney" meet at 4:30 - we were meeting out by the floral Mickey.

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Erin did a great job with this - she had lots of stories to tell us about Walt and Roy Disney and other things that went on as they tried to build the Disney Studios, and then of course Disneyland and Walt Disney World. I don't know how she remembered everything she did since I never caught her consulting any notes!

She'd originally planned for us to wander around the park as she spoke about various topics but because the weather was so chilly we went to Pinocchio's Village Haus and co-opted several table and she talked there. That was very considerate of her - a cup of hot chocolate tasted pretty good by then!

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The meet ended just in time for us to get to the front of the castle for the Cinderella's Holiday Wish show (aka the castle lighting ceremony) at 6:15. It would be nice if they did this more than once each evening like they do at Disneyland...but at Disneyland there's no characters involved, just the soundtrack and the lighting effects. Still, it's awfully pretty as it lights up!

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The park was getting ready to close since there was a Christmas party tonight, so we joined the hordes of people exiting the park. But instead of going back to the Epcot area we took the boat to Ft. Wilderness, because we wanted to see some of the Christmas displays over there that we had heard so much about. There are quite a few really large ones that are not too far from the Settlement House which is where the boat dropped us off. Some of these have lots and lots of different inflatable figures, as well as lights and other decorations.

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I thought this one was nice - not as cluttered as some of them were:

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And this one had both a monorail and a train set!

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We managed to make our way out of Ft. Wilderness and our timing was great because when we got to the Outpost an Epcot bus was waiting - it ended up being pretty full, too - but I'm sure that's because it was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot that evening, and Magic Kingdom had closed early because of the party. It was a little after 8:00 when we arrived at Epcot, and our first order of business was FOOD!!! We went to Seasons in the Land mainly because it was indoors. Though we also enjoy the food there. It was still fairly busy, and that is never a quiet place to eat. I had a bowl of vegetable soup and a salad, and Lee had the cashew chicken and chow mein, which came with a big side of steamed broccoli - I helped him eat that. :-)

We'd originally planned to stay for Illuminations but that was still almost 45 minutes away, and we didn't feel like standing out in the cold for that long, so we decided to get some hot spiced wine and then head back to the Boardwalk and watch Illuminations from our balcony. That decision was reinforced when we walked out of the Land only to find that it was raining lightly. Hmm. So instead of getting glasses of wine we got a whole bottle - two glasses was $12, and an entire bottle was $13-something - and there's a lot more than two glasses in it - I wish we'd gotten one before this. Oh well, we'll remember for next year. (By the way - it warms up just fine in the microwave!!!)

It had mostly stopped raining by the time we had bought the wine, but we still were anxious to get "home". And as we had thought, we had a pretty good view of the fireworks from our balcony - they were going off right over the ESPN Club. It's still a terrific show, even from 1/2 mile away!

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We fly home tomorrow evening, but we have a busy morning since we have to finish packing before we head off to Animal Kingdom for the AllEars meet that starts at 9:30. That means we have to get moving earlier than we have any other day this week...but hey, I'm done with this blog and it's not even midnight (but close!), so I'm ahead already. :-)

I probably will not have a blog on tomorrow's events ready to publish on Sunday morning since we don't get home until late Saturday night. But who knows, maybe I'll be able to take advantage of free internet access on our layover in Houston and get it done then...but probably not.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading and letting me know that you are enjoying the blogs!

December 11, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 4

We get up this morning...the morning that we are LEAVING Kidani Village...and of course all of the animals have suddenly found our savanna. Sheesh...they are as uncooperative as cats! The nyala (which we had not seen at all until this morning) were out grazing:

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And a pair of waterbuck were camouflaged in the brush:

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And we had one of the okapis, though it was about as far away as it could be and still be in view. The impalas were out there, too. What was going on - "Laura and Lee are leaving - time to move back to the savanna!" :-)

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Or maybe it was the weather...black, black clouds out there, and it started raining about 10:30. Oh great...the day we are switching resorts and have no "home" to hang out in, and it rains. Sigh. Hard to plan based on weather when you make reservations 11 months in advance! Though I remember the last time I scheduled a trip where we had to change resorts in the middle - and I said to myself: "Self, this is really not a very good idea - what were you *thinking*?" And then I went ahead and did it again this year. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but I think in the future I will limit myself to one resort per trip - it's just such a hassle to move.

After we'd loaded our bags in the car we went to the lobby to hang out in the library for a while in hopes of better weather. And I wanted to take a video of the moving butterfly ornaments on the tree - I received a message from the Baines Family asking me to video it. So this is for you! :-)

I didn't count the number of butterflies on the tree but there were more than this. Many of them apparently had "damaged" wings and weren't moving very much - these two were still doing pretty well, though.

The rain had apparently stopped, so we headed out to the Boardwalk - but it started up again - not hard, just steady. We arrived at the Boardwalk about 12:15, and, wonder of wonders, our room was actually ready!!! Even the Cast Member who checked us in was surprised. We have a one bedroom with a Boardwalk view up on the 5th floor. Ahhh. You know, I liked Kidani Village, but coming back to the Boardwalk really DOES feel like coming home. One of the first things I noticed is how much lighter and brighter the room is compared to Kidani. Of course the decor also isn't as exotic, and it doesn't have two full bathrooms like Kidani, but still, it's comfortable and familiar and feels like home.

By about 12:45 it had stopped raining, so we went into Epcot - I wanted to see the Voices of Liberty doing some of their Christmas sets. We took umbrella and rain jackets, though. The weather had *really* cooled off - it was almost 75 at 10:00 in the morning, but all it did was get cooler after that. I'd changed into long pants and even with a light jacket I was sometimes chilly.

On our way in from the International Gateway we passed the Kim Possible station and discovered they were still recruiting, so we volunteered to be agents - we had time to see the Voices of Liberty before saving the world, though. :-)

We saw the 1:15, 2:40, and 3:10 performances of Voices of Liberty - they are really incredible. We even heard a couple of songs that were new (or new arrangements). Here's a couple of them...the first is one of my favorites, Joy to the World, and second one is one of the few numbers I've seen them really do for fun - I don't know the name of it, but it talks about "What a merry Christmas tree", so that's what I call it.

In between Voices of Liberty sets we dealt with killer robots, monkey ninjas, and secret rocket bases on our Team Possible missions. The park was not very crowded, but there were a lot of other people doing them, too - we had to wait behind three other parties before we could trigger the final effect in China!

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We were also in Mexico and Japan. I think that Germany, which we did back in March, is still my favorite, though. It is really a lot of fun to see what the Imagineers have come up with as interactive bits in the various pavilions - there are a number of pretty clever things. The robot "bebe" in Japan was pretty good - a robot brat who needed to be burped, apparently!

We also tried something that Erin had recommended - the hot spiced wine in Germany. That tasted really good on a chilly day!

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While we drank our wine we sat on a bench and listened to the Holiday Storyteller in Germany, and saw the giant nutcracker come out and join her - that seems like the kind of thing that would give children nightmares!

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It was after 3:00 and we hadn't had anything other than spiced wine since our (late) breakfast, so we stopped by the UK to get an order of fish and chips - with plenty of malt vinegar, of course! It's really nice that they have moved the ordering station away from the pick-up window - I think that makes things go a lot faster. Though there really wasn't a line today - just two other parties in front of us.

After we walked out back out the International Gateway we did something we have never done - attended the DVC "Merry Mixer". It's a holiday event that DVC puts on several times during December for members - there's entertainment, characters, the opportunity to buy exclusive merchandise (the line for that was HUGE), refreshments, and of course you could learn more about DVC and buying more points if you wanted to, though they really didn't push that at all. We didn't stay long, but we did get this holiday photo taken!

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It was oh, 4:30 or so when we came back to our room to rest, work on photos and video, and that sort of thing - it was nice to have a short break today! This evening we decided to go to the Dolphin Fountain for dinner - they have good soups, sandwiches, burgers, and flatbreads. They are better known for their ice cream but neither of us felt much like having ice cream tonight!!! Even Lee was cold as we walked over there - the wind blowing over the water made it seem a lot colder than it really is.

The place was busier than I've ever seen it and pretty noisy - next time I think we should just get take-out and eat in our own room! But it was good - I had the turkey burger, which I think was a handmade patty and not a pre-made frozen thing, and Lee had the Cuban Pork Fladen (flatbread), which was basically a big open-faced ham and cheese sandwich. We both enjoyed our dinners, and were both members of the clean plate club!

It was after 7:00 but we decided to walk over to see the Osborne Lights - this time at our OWN pace, unlike last night. The park was open until 8:00, since that's when Fantasmic! started, but we knew the lights would be on for quite a while after F! got out. We weren't sure how crowded it would be back there but it was VERY nice - the least crowded I have ever seen it, except maybe for one night I was there when it was raining and a lot of the lights were out. But tonight was dry and almost everything was working (the big globe wasn't spinning).

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We were there for at least half an hour and saw/heard three of the "dancing" numbers: Jingle Bells by Barbra Streisand, and Nutcracker Suite and Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, both by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Sarajevo is one that we really love - it was the first song that Lee choreographed for our Lights of Winter at home (and we used it several years before Disney did!). Lee also took some time to see how the Disney people did the connections on some of their lights...

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Quick stop back at the room to pick up Lee's video camera (the room is pretty much on the way to Epcot anyway!), and then we went into Epcot to see Illuminations again, though we probably could have seen most of it from our room. We went to Germany for a little dessert, though - one of their gingerbread cookies with chocolate Mickey ears. That's one of my favorite holiday treats, and it was good.

And then we saw Illuminations again. The holiday finale is still spectacular, and I am always grinning like a fool at the end when all of those shells go off and light up the sky!! It is just amazing.

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I can't believe that tomorrow is our last full day!!! We want to do a few more things in Epcot tomorrow, and will be going to the Magic Kingdom tomorrow afternoon for a tour that Erin is doing - which concludes by watching the castle lighting ceremony that we didn't see last night.

December 10, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 3

It's been another long day (it's after midnight right now as I'm starting to write this!), so we'll see how much I get done tonight...you may get a "Part 2".

So...another morning...another animal-free savanna. Sigh.

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It was another beautiful day - except for a rain shower as we drove from the airport to the resort on Monday night the weather has been beautiful, with highs close to 80, and still warm in the evening, too.

We decided to take the bus to Animal Kingdom rather than drive...in hindsight that was a bad idea because between the wait for the bus (saw 2 MK buses and 3 Epcot buses in that time, though Studios was worse off, with no bus at all!), loading an ECV, and the extra stop at Jambo House, it was 45 minutes from the time we arrived at the bus stop until we were at Animal Kingdom. Yikes. But we saw my RADP friend Brian - he got on the bus at Jambo House, so we chatted with him on the ride to Animal Kingdom.

They only serve breakfast at Pizzafari until 10:30, and we thought we were out of luck since a cast member was taking the breakfast sign inside when we got there, but the nice ladies at the cash register said "oh, no, come right ahead!" Whew. And as a bonus we got a coupon on our receipt good for 20% off merchandise at Island Mercantile until 12:00 p.m. It was good at places in other parks, too, like MouseGear, and the Emporium, but there was no way we were getting to any of those by noon! We took a quick shopping trip - I found a shirt I liked, but Lee didn't see anything. LOTS of people had those coupons, because Island Mercantile was busier than I have ever seen it.

Animal Kingdom itself seemed very busy to us - the standby lines weren't bad, but it seemed very congested - lots of people around.

We stopped to see the otters on our way back to the Safari ride - there were two of them out. One was swimming laps, and I guess the other one was coaching from the island - he was certainly sitting up there doing a lot of chirping! So cute...I love otters.

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We had gotten Fastpasses for the safari ride before breakfast, so we got through the line pretty quickly, though the standby was listed as less than 30 minutes. Saw a fair number of animals - quite a few on the savanna, and mostly on the near side rather than the far side, which is unusual in my experience. They called these white rhinos...but they looked red to me. :-)

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Normally we walk the Pangani Forest Trail after our safari, but there were tons of people headed there so we passed it by and went over to Asia to the Maharajah Jungle Trek instead. We expected that the tigers would all be sleeping, but several of them were up and active - that was a very nice surprise! We knew that there were six, all females, but learned that they are 12 years old, and some of them don't get along very well. Which isn't really surprising in a family of six females...We saw two of them over in the viewing area that you see from the suspension bridge - I've never been able to see them from the bridge (not that close, at least) before. I could inundate you with tiger pictures, but I'll just share this one: My, what big teeth you have!!!

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We wandered over to Dino-Rama (20-minute standby for Primeval Whirl). I'd never noticed the way that this brontosaurus(?) looms over the area...good thing it looks friendly!

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There was a character greeting area there that I don't remember seeing before, so I don't know if it's just for the holidays or not.

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Over at the Tree of Life we discovered a path that I don't think we've ever been on before! Some very nice views of the Tree looking up, but there's an awful lot of scary big-toothed critters carved into the roots in that area.

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At the end of the path (which came out behind the tattoo stand) there was this strange-looking fish - it's called a Paroon Shark-Catfish - I think you can see why. It's pretty big - close to 3 feet long, I think.

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It was about 1:30 and we headed out of the park - we had a late lunch scheduled at Sanaa. Fortunately the bus ride back was quick and efficient - Kidani Village was the first stop. It sure is a looooong way from the bus stop to our room, though.

We had the last lunch seating at Sanaa. The restaurant wasn't full, but there were a pretty good number of parties there. We got a window table which was great, because the windows in Sanaa look right out onto the savanna, and the animals come to within 10-15 feet of the restaurant! We saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and Ankole cattle while were were eating - two of the zebras were in view most of the time, and the giraffes went by two or three times. It was really cool! Of course, it helps that they feed them in front of the restaurant - a keeper came by and dropped off some hay and most of a banana tree while we were there.

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Lunch was really good - I'll write up more of a review eventually, but we both really enjoyed what we had, and I'm sure we'll be back here again in the future. We had an excellent server, also. She performs in the Cast choir for the Candlelight Processional, and we talked about that a little bit, since we would be seeing it later in the evening.

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Made a brief stop back in our room, and in all fairness I have to say that there was an okapi and several waterbuck on our savanna. And when we returned tonight there was the herd of impala and a couple of waterbuck. Of course you couldn't really see them in the dark, but they were there. Though it was interesting that it was so quiet that we could hear them as they wandered around and chewed on grass.

Then it was off to Epcot, where we were doing the new Holiday D-Lights tour. Mike Bachand has already written a terrific blog about it which you can read HERE, so I'm not going to go into much detail, except where our tour differed from his.

We also had Mark as one of our tour guides, and he was really good - very knowledgeable about a lot of the techy stuff that we like. Our other guide was Dena, who also did a fine job, but not so technical.

As Mike stated, we started off by visiting the Decorating Support building which is over near the Magic Kingdom. I thought our next stop would be Magic Kingdom, but instead we went over to the Studios to see the Osborne Lights. When I asked Dena about that she said that the Studios was closing early, at 7:00 (the tour actually got underway a little after 5:00), and so they had to take us there early.

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They pointed out the "black cat" that's in a different place in the lights each year - it was a Halloween decoration that somehow got thrown in with all of the Christmas lights (there are about 5 million of them now, most of them LEDs), but the Imagineers decided to put it up anyways. :-) I guess last year it was an alley cat...this year it's a cat on a hot LED roof. :-)

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I felt we were rushed getting through the lights, though - we only got to see one performance of the dancing lights - they were starting Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas in Sarajevo (which is one of the musical number we use with our lights at home) as we had to leave. :-(

Our early stop at the Studios unfortunately meant that we missed the lighting ceremony for Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom - it was already fully lit by the time we got back there. I was disappointed in that. We also got caught by the SpectroMagic parade, so that was going on in the background when we were trying to listen to what Mark had to say - even with our earphones that was a little difficult. The castle was this funky orange color for most of the time we had a really good view of it (which seemed much more appropriate to Halloween than Christmas!).

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Of course after we had to get out of the way of the parade it started changing colors again...

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Lee picked up a few lighting tips that he wants to try on our roof "ice" lights at home, though.

As Mike talked about, we finished up the tour at Epcot with the Candlelight Processional. I think we had better seats than he did, though - our tour was only 26 (full capacity is 40), so they put us closer to the stage, and not so blocked by trees. Andy Garcia was the narrator, and he was pretty good. His favorite song is also one of my favorites - They Rejoiced with Exceeding Great Joy. He tried to get them to perform it a second time. :-)

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We really enjoyed the tour, though I felt gypped because we did not get to see the castle lighting. Seeing it already lit wasn't really that special. But we both felt that for the price ($179/person!) the experiences should have been a little more exclusive/special - we were pushing through the crowds at the Osborne lights with everyone else, though at least we had reserved seating for the Processional.

The tour ended not long after the Processional - they took us out of the theater and took back our headsets and gave us our pins (limited edition of only about 250!), and then strongly encouraged us to watch Illuminations - especially the holiday finale. Though Mark wouldn't give us exact numbers, he said that there are as many fireworks in the four-minute finale as they are in the rest of the show!!! I believe it, though...that last 30 seconds is insane.

Anyway...we found a decent spot to watch it. Both Lee and I noticed that the images on the globe seem a lot more clear and distinct than we've ever seen them - and we were here at the end of October, so I'm not sure what's changed since then.

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The holiday finale...WOW. That's really all I can say. I think that is my very favorite thing about the holidays at WDW. It blows me away every time I see it - and I have seen it a number of times over the years. I can't believe the number of fireworks they shoot into the air - as I said before, it's just insane. As we've often said: "Nothing says 'peace on earth' like shooting off a bunch of explosives!"

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Wow...I actually did finish this - and it's still only about 10:00 - west coast time, that is.

Tomorrow we're moving from Kidani Village to Boardwalk Villas - it'll be nice to get back there again. I think we'll try to see the Osborne Lights again without feeling so rushed, and definitely will be seeing Illuminations again!!!

By the way...for those of you who have submitted comments - thank you, I'm sorry that I haven't replied and gotten them published yet, but I'll get to it as soon as I can. I'm glad you are enjoying the blogs!

December 9, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 2

Still on west coast time, so went to bed about 1:30 a.m. and got up about 9:00 this morning. We still have a mostly animal-free savanna, but did catch a glimpse of these impala as they migrated across and out of view.

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We didn't really have any plans for the morning - Lee suggested going resort-hopping to see Christmas decorations, so that's what we did. We drove over to Wilderness Lodge first - that's one of our favorite resorts at Christmas time. On the road in we saw this topiary display.

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The tree in the lobby is always very impressive - it's so tall!

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And they use antlers in all of their decorating. :-)

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Whispering Canyon was surprisingly busy for 10:00 in the morning, but even without a reservation we were seated in less than 10 minutes. Luckily they put us in the back room by the fireplace which is a little quieter - and we knew better than to ask for ketchup! :-) Lee had the breakfast skillet which he enjoyed, and I had the standard 2 eggs, bacon, potatoes, and biscuit, which was fine.

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We thought about going to all of the monorail resorts, but we've been underwhelmed with the decorations at the Polynesian and the Contemporary in recent years, and haven't heard that there was anything new there this year, so we went straight to the Grand Floridian instead. There's always plenty of decorations at the Grand!!! Lots of beautiful wreaths and small trees and the big lobby tree - though of course the gingerbread house is one of the most outstanding things.

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Poor Lee...little does he realize what lurks above him, waiting to launch an attack...it'll be years before he goes near the Grand Floridian's tree again! :-)

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There were also many beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers - I thought this one was especially nice.

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As we were driving away from the Grand I noticed something along the edge of the golf course that I was very surprised to see...

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A flock of wild turkeys - either that, or the Thanksgiving rejects. There must have been at least a dozen of them. That was really a treat to see them!

On the way back to Kidani we stopped at Coronado Springs - they always have very nice Christmas decorations - nicer than some of the deluxe resorts, actually!

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The tree in the registration area was very pretty.

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And then there were these characters outside...

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Back at Kidani we checked out the lobby in the daytime...aren't these really cool chandeliers?

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And then our Kidani Village room search adventure began. Those of you familiar with the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) newsgroup will know who Keane is - Keane and his PiC (Partner in Crime) are also staying at Kidani, and we were going to his room to have a drink - also meeting Steve Russo there. We knew from Keane's room number that he was staying in the other half of the building, but what we didn't realize is that the only place that the two halves connect is on the second floor where the lobby is. So we had to go down to the second floor, walk across to the other part of the building and then take an elevator up. At least on his half of the building the room numbers make sense - 74xx is on the 4th floor, 75xx is on the fifth, rather than our side where the fourth floor is 78xx. We eventually found it, though - but not before Keane called us to find out where we were. :-)

Keane has a great view looking into the center of the big savanna - we saw giraffes and eland wandering around. I was jealous. :-)

It was nice to meet Steve for the first time, and good to spend more time with Keane - I'd only talked to him briefly at last year's RADP meet. Keane has taken some amazing panorama photos, and his ulterior motive was to get us up to his room to show us some of them. No, not at all like etchings. :-) They really are beautiful and he insisted that we choose one. Very generous of him, and a tough decision! You can see some of them (and see how big they are!) in this photo.

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And here's a photo of Steve, me, and Keane.

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By then it was after 3:00. We went back to our room briefly, where we found a few more animals on the savanna - there were several female waterbuck. They seem rather odd-looking to me - sort of donkey-like.

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I guess we'd put it off long enough...it was finally time to go to a theme park. :-) We were meeting Erin, one of my fellow AllEars teammates, in Epcot at 4:30. It was very strange to drive to the front of Epcot - we are so used to staying behind it and walking in from there! The walkway between Future World and World Showcase looks so strange without the Lights of Winter...they even got rid of the lighted dove decorations in the planter in front of it. Waaaaaa!!!

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Lee and I had had a late breakfast but nothing since then, and we wanted some food before we started drinking frozen margaritas. :-) The food booth that was in front of the Mexico pavilion during the Food and Wine Festival is still there, though now they have a different menu: beef taquitos, a chicken quesadilla, and guacamole and chips. We got the quesadilla and the chips, which were both pretty good.

I don't remember now how Erin and I decided that we needed to meet for margaritas in Mexico, but it's something we've been looking forward to for months and we had a lot of fun. After we got our Fiesta margaritas we wandered around World Showcase.

Erin had done several of the Kim Possible Adventures, but hadn't done the one in Germany. We wanted to show her one of the effects at the little train in Germany, but wouldn't you know it there wasn't any one doing the Kim Possible thing - normally people are practically tripping on top of each other! But finally a family showed up and triggered the effect - it still makes us laugh. You can see it in this photo if you know what to look for - I'm not going to spoil it for those who haven't done it, so instead you can enjoy this photo of the village all decorated for Christmas. I always enjoy seeing how they decorate the train area for different events, though I think Christmas is when they decorate it the most.

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We completed our circle around World Showcase and stopped to chat for a while near the entrance to World Showcase. I thought the sunset behind the Eiffel Tower was pretty nice.

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Erin walked out of Epcot with us and we said goodbye, though we will see her later this week. Our next stop was Old Key West, where we were invited to a Fish Fry at Charlotte and John's (more of our RADP friends - even though we missed most of the meets, between mini golf last night and the Fish Fry tonight we have been able to catch up with a lot of the people we would have seen, so that's been very nice). John had actually caught the fish, a saltwater trout, himself, so that was very special. He'd also fried up some hush puppies to go with it (yum!), and there was lots of other food as well. It was really a fun evening catching up and enjoying some really good food. Lee was really happy since he got to sample Jan's coconut cake and bread pudding, which are two of his favorite things.

Here Jack serves up some of that Southern home cooking!

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We have no plans for tomorrow until late afternoon, when we are doing the Holiday D-Lights tour. That goes from 4:45 until about 9:15, so we're going to eat a late lunch...based on Keane's and PiC's recommendation today, I think we'll try Sanaa. We may have to actually do an attraction tomorrow! :-)

December 8, 2009

Holidays at WDW - Day 1

We're back at Walt Disney World for our usual "see all of the holiday stuff" trip.

This day was a lot different than our usual first day at WDW though...for one thing, we are staying at Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) and not at Boardwalk Villas - it seemed really odd to drive past the entrance to the Boardwalk!

And instead of going to Epcot on our first night we had dinner at Mara, and then went to Fantasia Gardens to meet the RADP group for a round of mini-golf. We could hear (and see a little bit of) the Illuminations show from Epcot, though.

We arrived at Kidani and walked into the lobby - it's like a scaled-down version of Animal Kingdom Lodge, so it looks a little odd. The room numbering is also really odd - all of the room numbers here are four-digit numbers starting with "7". So you'd think our 4th floor room would be something like 74xx, right? Nope...it's 78xx.

Another odd thing about Kidani Village is that guest parking is *under* the building.
There are multiple elevators so you can park fairly close to your room - providing you know which section of the building to park under! They didn't actually tell us that, but we figured it out from the room map. Good thing, because we're at the far end of the building - had we parked at the entrance to the parking garage it would have been a loooong walk to our room. It was kind of spooky down there, though - there were some areas that had no cars in them at all, and even where we parked there weren't very many cars.

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The room is really nice, though it seems very dark - not helped by the fact that we arrived after dark, of course. And we had a terrible time finding the light switches in the dark. We have a view of the Pembe Savanna...which seems to be the smallest one, and there haven't been any animals out there yet, but hopefully tomorrow in the daylight we'll see some.

One of the nice touches in the room is the wall paintings in the tile in the tub and shower areas.

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There's no quick-service dining location here...we didn't have enough time to eat at the service restaurant, Sanaa, and still get to the mini golf meet, so we drove over to eat at Mara at the "old" Animal Kingdom Lodge instead. It was pretty busy - it took over 20 minutes to get our food!!! But it was good - I had the falafel pita with a side of couscous (which they forgot to give me, and I had to go back for), and Lee had the butternut squash soup and a vegetable flatbread pizza.

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We drove over to Fantasia Gardens where quite a crowd had already gathered for the mini-golf meet. I think we ended up with 24 or 25 people playing.

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We played with Tracy, Jack, and Kevin, and were the final group out. I think we all had at least one hole-in-one (mine was an assist from Kevin - thanks, Kevin!), and we had a good time.

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The course was not too tough and had some pretty interesting holes - I think the cavern with the "Night on Bald Mountain" theme was my favorite.

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After we'd finished our round we noticed a bunny rabbit in the shrubbery - it really didn't seem too concerned about all of the flashes going off as several of us took pictures of it!

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I'm sorry I missed out on most of the RADP fun over the weekend, but I'm glad we were able to join them for the final event of the weekend!

Not sure exactly what we're doing tomorrow morning...we'll be at Epcot tomorrow afternoon, though.

November 30, 2009

Epcot's Lights of Winter

As I'm sure most of you have heard, Disney decided not to put up the Lights of Winter arches at Epcot this year. This is one of our very favorite things about the holidays at Walt Disney World, so Lee and I were both very disappointed to hear this. We always ended at least one evening of our holiday visits by sitting on the planters near the arches and watching a full set of the light choreography, which took about 20 minutes.

So, in memory of the Lights of Winter, I found some of my favorite Lights of Winter photographs over the last few years and thought I'd share. I wish I had video, but this is the first year Lee would have had the HD camera there, so I guess that is not to be. Sigh.

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December 20, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 6

Tuesday - departure day for me. No Mousefest or RADP events on the schedule, either.

I packed and did a little email and got my boarding passes at Lobby Concierge on my way out to the car. I left for Animal Kingdom around 10:00.

I was still able to park in the last row of Unicorn - and the park didn't seem very crowded at all. Back at Everest my friend Kenny was working the Fastpass distribution area - it was very interesting to see the kinds of things that he deals with. And I learned some things I didn't know about Fastpasses - though not the kinds of things that will let me circumvent the system. :-)

I took an expedition on Everest after that - the backwards-in-the-dark didn't disorient me as much this time, so maybe I'm getting more used to it. Is the animatronic Yeti ever working these days? I think in my three trips this year I've seen it in the strobe effect every time.

It was another beautiful day - sunny and in the low 70s. Pretty much perfect weather in my book! I wandered around the park and I noticed a lot of holiday decorations in Dinoland that I hadn't seen before.

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Caught a little bit of the Village Beatniks doing their holiday set. They are very entertaining, and they performed Carol of the Bells, which is one of my favorites.

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I went to visit the otters - they had found a nice grassy sunny spot and they were napping and doing a little grooming. Otters are just way too cute!

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Back to the Boardwalk where I parked the car and went to Epcot to start my World Showcase Holiday Marathon. Don't try this at home. :-)

I saw the 11:55 Pere Noel storyteller in France. Looked to be the same actor I saw two years ago - though with the beard it's hard to tell!

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Then I hot-footed it over to China to see the Monkey King at 12:10. He has a new stage in front of the rock (which he uses).

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At 12:30 it was time for the first performance of the Voices of Liberty, which is always one of my favorites. This was the first chance I'd had to see them this trip, since I haven't been in Epcot very much during the day.

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After that it was over to Japan (though at least that's the next pavilion!) for the 12:50 Daruma seller. This is the first time I have ever seen a man performing the role - every other time I've seen it it has been a woman.

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I was starving by then so I had lunch at the Tangierine Cafe - a chicken wrap. I ate the whole thing plus the lentil salad and couscous, too - though it seems like those side servings have gotten a lot smaller.

At 1:30 I saw Papa Noel in Canada - he came out dressed more as a lumberjack and introduced himself as "Noel", and then he started putting on this Santa garb - the fur-lined boots, gloves, and long red coat. I felt sorry him having to wear all that on a warm day!

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There was a break in the storyteller action while I went to the front of the park to see the decorations at the entrance. I very rarely get to the front entrance of Epcot these days since we stay at the Boardwalk - in fact I never got to the front at all when we were here in October!

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I wanted to send some Internet postcards to people from the IBM kiosk in Innoventions but that area is closed for refurbishment!

It was about 8 minutes before 2:00 by then and I wanted to see the Italian storyteller, La Befana, at 2:00. Ok, so not even *I* can get from Innoventions to Italy in 8 minutes (by my GPS watch it was almost 3/4 of a mile). :-) But I only missed a couple minutes of her show. It hasn't really changed.

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Last on my agenda for the day were the almost back-to-back performances of the Voices of Liberty at 2:40 and 3:10.

I made the mistake of sitting down on one of the benches in the rotunda at 2:15 and suddenly everything caught up with me and I got really tired. That's what happens when you stop moving!

I actually wrote some of this blog on my Palm Pilot while I was waiting for the Hanukkah storyteller at 2:25. She was pretty young, and seemed like she had some World Showcase Player experience from some of the things she said. (I never managed to see them at all on this trip!)

The Voices of Liberty were great and I heard a lot of songs over the three sets. Though they all started with Christmas in the Air and ended with We Wish You a Merry Christmas and included the same old Hanukkah medley (can't they find any other Hanukkah songs???)

After that it was time to say goodbye to Epcot and walk back to the Boardwalk parking lot. Sigh.

At the Orlando airport they were really scrutinizing the x-rays for liquids - or at least the lane I was in did that, because it was moving very slowly. I'd dutifully separated all my stuff and they still ran my daypack and my ziplock bag through twice.

When I arrived in Atlanta for my connecting flight I discovered we were playing musical gates - they initially told us our flight was departing from B21, then B29, then B27, and then back to B21 again. When they finally started boarding the plane they only got to Zone 2 before announcing there was a maintenance issue, and then offloading everyone. The pilot came out and made an announcement that there was an issue with the pressurization system, and he wouldn't sign off on the plane. Hey, if the pilot doesn't want to fly it, I certainly don't want to be on board!!! So then they had to find us a new plane. We waited another hour and the pilot came back on to say the mechanics had fixed the problem and we were good to go. We ended up leaving over 90 minutes late, so of course it was almost midnight (11:55 to be exact) when we landed in San Diego. Where it was rainy and cold! I think this is the first time I've ever returned from Orlando when the weather has been way better there than in San Diego. Normally returning to San Diego isn't much of a hardship. :-)

I had a wonderful, wonderful trip, though 5 days was not enough time. As you can tell if you've been reading these blogs, I had a great time with all of my RADP friends (old and new!), and on the scavenger hunt with my AllEars team, and spending quality time with my friend Deb, and a nice but all-too-brief visit with Ilene and Paul.

Our next trip will be the end of January - Lee and I will spend a couple of nights at WDW before we go on our Disney Magic cruise to the western Caribbean.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

December 15, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 4

Sunday - Magic Kingdom Day for RADP/Mousefest.

It was a very late night for me, so I wasn't up very early - 8:30. Left the room about 9:30 and waited less than 5 minutes for the bus to the Magic Kingdom. It went straight to the MK without stopping at the Swan and Dolphin, which was nice, and there were only about a dozen passengers.

I hadn't been to the MK yet on this trip - it is (as usual) very festively decorated for the holidays - I took a few photos on Main Street. As I was going down Main Street I ran into Charlotte, John, and the other Laura who were also going back to Frontierland for the first RADP meet of the day (the first in the park - a number of them had already had a breakfast meet at Trails End at Ft. Wilderness). It was the start of the RADP Mountain Meets - we got Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (BTMR) and then took a trip to the Laughing Place at Splash Mountain. There were 24 of us - three logs full. There was no wait - we walked through the queue and onto the logs. Jack was my ride partner.

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The temperature was a lot warmer today than it had been - in the low 70s. But fortunately they still hadn't turned on the water cannons on Splash Mountain so we didn't get too wet.

For the BTMR portion of the meet we picked up some more participants - 37, I think? Enough to fill a train and then some. The line was short enough that we really didn't need our Fastpasses. I rode with Steve, who is in the Disfriends community.

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Then it was on to the Haunted Mansion where we filled up much of the stretching room. I don't think we got a count for that meet. Again there was almost no line even though it was after noon by then. Kevin and Leonard the Leopardasaurus (who has been dutifully attending all of the meets!) were my ride buddies. I have to say that it was strange seeing the Haunted Mansion not decorated for Christmas - I'm so used to seeing it that way at Disneyland at this time of year!

I don't think we left anyone behind to become the 1000th Happy Haunt...

I had to leave the RADP group to go meet some of my AllEars team mates for a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by Tagrel.

There were 6 on our team - DebW, Linda Lou, Andrea, Glo, Lisa, and me. Each team had a designated photographer (which, not surprisingly, was Lisa for our team). We all received the same list of photos that we were supposed to take around the park of our team (and occasional other innocent bystanders - but no models were harmed in the taking of the photographs). Most were specific to a "land" but there were some general ones, too, like taking a picture with a Dream Team member, or taking pictures of all team members wearing some kind of Mickey ears. Some of the other assignments were taking a picture with a character in Fantasyland, getting CMs and/or guests to do a chorus line in front of Country Bear Jamboree or getting a Fastpass for Space Mountain. We also had to find a CM who had the same name as one of our team members - fortunately early on we found a Laura!

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Linda Lou was our score keeper (for lack of a better word) and she did a great job keeping us organized and focused.

Our team had its own paparazzi since Mike and Michelle were following us around and taking even more pictures than Lisa did. :-)

It was really a lot of fun to be silly and run around all over the park. We didn't win (we didn't have time to get to Toontown) but we had a very good time. Thanks very much to the people who organized it!

Afterwards we had a late team lunch at the Plaza Restaurant (not the Plaza Inn as Lisa and I kept calling it, since we're more familiar with the Disneyland restaurant that is similarly named). I had the vegetable sandwich - mozzarella, pesto, lettuce, tomatoes, red peppers and cucumber on foccacia. It was good but not exceptional. But it was very good in that it was the first meal on this entire trip that I have eaten at a table service restaurant - it was nice to have someone bring it to me! Deb and Linda treated us - thanks, ladies. :-)

After lunch Andrea and I went to find the RADP group - via cell phone we learned they had split into two groups so Andrea went one way and I went to Toontown to find the ones that were in line to get their photo taken with Mickey. They are doing that in each park this year. Jack and I missed the one at Epcot yesterday since we were at the MMM. I wasn't quite sure where they were but I called Jack (how did we do RADP meets before there were cell phones?) and he directed me into where they were waiting in line.

There were 15 of us and probably 6-7 cameras, in addition to PhotoPass cards. We lucked out and found that both Mickey AND Minnie were posing for photos - and in fact Mickey and Minnie were helping the two photographers to pose our group. They all did a great job in handling our party, and we all got hugs and kisses from Mickey and Minnie (ok, the men didn't get kisses from Mickey!)

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The group dispersed in various directions after that. Steve and I were both planning to stay in the park to see the Castle Lighting ceremony (which wasn't until 6:30), so we wandered around the park together until I decided to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which he'd visited with the group earlier in the day, so we said goodbye. It was nice to meet him - I hope he comes to RADP events in the future!

I wandered around rather aimlessly - ran into Chad, Kerry, Kevin, and Andrea in Adventureland, and was able to give goodbye hugs to Chad and Kerry, who were going back home tonight. Took some holiday photos and hung around until the Castle Lighting Ceremony, which I watched from the hub.

I wasn't at WDW last year, so I hadn't seen the lights on Cinderella Castle except in a couple of youtube videos. Wow....it's so pretty. I could do without the rather silly show that precedes it (where the characters try to decide how to decorate the castle, and the Fairy Godmother tells them they should ask Cinderella, and she wants it to sparkle like her glass slippers), but the lighting itself is awesome.

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Took awhile to make it out of the park since there was a Christmas party tonight, and a lot of people were also coming *into* the park. My bus to the Boardwalk was just about to pull away when I got about 30 feet from it, but I waved my arms and started running and the bus driver kindly waited for me. I was really happy to make that bus, especially since it came straight back to the Boardwalk, and that gave me a little more time back here in my room before tonight's events.

Tonight's events which I have now returned from. I was invited to attend the AllEars Illuminations Dessert Party event in Epcot - which had another extra-special surprise event tacked onto the end of it.

I was happy to see a number of people that I knew there - several of my AllEars team mates, some of my RADP friends, my friend Masayo from Japan, and Jeanine from California who has written blogs and helped me with other Disneyland info.

There was a nice selection of yummy-but-not-too-messy desserts set out on tables for us. I wish they would sell those chocolate drizzled chocolate chip cookies in the parks - those were incredibly good. (Maybe it's a good thing they don't - I would eat waay too many!)

We were down in the waterside area right behind the fish and chips shop in the UK - I think that's got to be just about the best location to watch Illuminations. Towards the end of the show I heard a lot of giggling behind me, and turned to find this unruly crew passing around a pair of the 3-D glasses from the Osborne Lights which they were watching the fireworks through. :-)

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Not long after Illuminations ended came our special surprise - once they started walking us towards the World Showplace I was pretty sure I knew where we were going, since I'd read Deb's blog about this event last year...and as it turned out the event lanyard, which I hadn't really looked at because it was dark, was a dead giveaway. :-)

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They walked us backstage for a while (I'd been on that road before during the marathon and half marathon - when it was also dark!!!), and then took us through a rather non-descript door - which brought us right into the loading area for Soarin'! So we got our own private ride on that attraction. I'm not sure how they managed to make that happen for us - but thank you to whoever was responsible!!!

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Since I'm from California, I have to say that it's a little strange for me to be flying over California (especially the San Diego and Disneyland scenes) when I'm in Florida. :-)

They had CMs to walk us out of the park to either the main entrance or the International Gateway. I said goodbye to Deb and Linda at the IG, since they will be leaving tomorrow and I won't see them again for a while. It was really nice to have not just one but two fun events with them today!

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I think Mousefest is pretty much over at this point, but RADP still has one more day tomorrow in the Studios.

December 14, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 3

Saturday - the day of the Mega Mouse Meet, and lots of other meets too. It was a long and very busy day, but fun, too!

The Mousefest Mega Mouse Meet (MMM) was held in the Yacht and Beach Convention Center this year. This is the first time I've been to Mousefest, so it was also my first MMM. Deb had asked that any AllEars team members who were available come over early to help set up our tables - I was fortunate enough to not arrive TOO early, because things were almost all set up by the time I got there. :-)

Once everything was set up, but before the doors opened, we took an AllEars Team Photo. There will be better versions of this which were taken with much better cameras than mine, but here's a first look at it. Don't we all look neat and pretty? :-)

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As I said, I've never been to a MMM before, so I was not quite prepared for what happened when the doors opened and everyone started pouring into the room. Over the course of the next 3 hours there must have been well over 1000 people who came through the room to chat and visit with all of the various web site and travel agency representatives, authors, Disney fan communities, etc.

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At the AllEars table we had a very nice selection of giveaways, if I do say so myself (and I don't know why I shouldn't, having had nothing to do with the procurement of said items. :-) ) There were lanyards, pens, sewing kits, zippered pouches, buttons, postcards, etc. My favorite, though, was the "Emergency First Aid Kit" in the small plastic box. It actually does have a number of useful items in it (like Tylenol and band-aids) but the reason it was my favorite was because of our wonderful AllEars teammate Erin, who was explaining to people what was in the box. (It was sealed inside a plastic wrapper.) It was like watching an infomercial, only more entertaining. "But wait, you also get..." That girl could sell ice to Eskimos. :-)

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MEI Travel and Mousefan Travel sponsored a "scavenger" hunt where they gave out a list of things people had done (like going on an Adventure by Disney, staying in all of the monorail resorts, etc.), and they were supposed to get a signature from someone who had done each of those things - but you could only have a person sign for one thing. Some of them were not too uncommon in a room full of Disney fans, but a few of them were harder to find, so we had fun pointing people in the right direction when they needed help with various things. I think Deb and Linda Lou had done *everything* on the list - I think they signed an awful lot of the "Panama Canal cruise" and "5 or more Disney cruises" boxes. :-)

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Thank you to all of you who stopped by to tell us how much you enjoy AllEars, and who thanked us for our contributions to the site. We do this because we love it, but it's always wonderful to hear that our work is appreciated.

MMM was over at 1:00, and JackM and I left soon after to go to our first RADP event of the day, which was the RADP Big Meet and Greet. This is the 13th year for that - it started as a small meet near the Epcot Fountain back in 1996. We met outside the International Gateway at Epcot. It wasn't as big as it has been in the past, but it was good to see everyone. I think we all thought about our RADP friend Randy Berbaum, who passed away suddenly earlier this year. Randy always took the meet photo by taking pictures of small groups, and then compositing them into one large photo - sometimes putting us in a place we hadn't been, like in front of the Main Street Train Station. :-)

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A larger version of the photo is here.

For those of you reading this who are familiar with the RADP newsgroup, Keane was able to attend the big meet - he's on the left in this next photo.

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And pretty much all of the usual suspects were there, too.

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I guess I haven't mentioned it, but it was another brisk and chilly day - only 40 at 8:30 in the morning, and it didn't get much above 60 the rest of the day. The sun was out in the morning but disappeared by early afternoon. Gee, I'm so glad I brought that selection of my Disney holiday t-shirts that no one has actually been able to see yet...I *have* gotten way more use out of my Tigger holiday hat than I ever have in the past, though - normally it's just too hot to wear it!

DebK arrived in time to be in the group photo, and eventually the two of us went off to Japan to have a very late lunch before going to the next RADP meet - "What's Your Problem" in Innoventions west.

This is a comedy/game show about the wonders of Velcro. Our group comprised about 80% of the audience, so it wasn't too surprising when Chad and Kerry were chosen for the "packing" game. Kerry had to put items in bags and then stick them onto Chad who was wearing a Velcro cape. They did very well! Jack was selected to play the "Bringing up Babies" game because the host thought he looked like Colonel Sanders, and had come up with all sorts of chicken jokes to tell, but he refused to play (c'mon Jack, you had to know that was going to end up in the blog!), so instead they chose a guy who looked like Santa Claus but without the beard. I hadn't seen the show before but it was fun.

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Deb and I walked over to the Studios after that because we wanted to see the Osborne Lights. Deb hadn't seen them since they started doing the dancing lights, and I hadn't been there in two years. It was pretty crowded, and we were doing the usual "Osborne Shuffle" in getting through there. They are using a lot more LED lights than they were the last time I saw this - they are much brighter and more vibrant. We heard 4 different songs - two by Trans-Siberian Orchestra that I had heard two years ago, and also March of the Toys and Feliz Navidad, which is not one of my favorites.

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We ran into Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean several times, as they were enjoying the lights, too. I *finally* saw Mike wearing a jacket there - we'd seen him earlier and he was still in short sleeves while I was bundled up in my fleece sweatshirt and Tigger hat. Ahhh, the difference between the hardy New Hampshire native and the thin-blooded Californian! :-)

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Deb and I went back over to Epcot (I must admit by that time we both thought that taking the boat back looked pretty good, but the line was too long) and had dinner at Tangierine Cafe. That's always one of my favorites. Though we were sitting "inside" the doors were open and it felt like a wind tunnel, so we were kind of chilled after we finished. Deb suggested going some place warm and we went into the Tin Toy exhibit in Japan. I love those old tin toys!

Our friend Kenny was in the Cast Choir of the 8:15 Candelight Processional performance, so we went to watch him. The theater was packed, but we were able to stand at the back. It took awhile, but we finally spotted him in the choir. Monique Coleman (who I'd never heard of, but Deb told me she was in High School Musical) was the guest narrator - she did a nice job with it. The music was wonderful and even standing at the back we could hear it just fine. It seemed like there were an awful lot of choir members that had to be escorted off-stage during the show, though. :-(

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We went inside the American Adventure to sit and rest our feet after standing for almost an hour - it was nice and quiet (and warm!) in there.

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We'd talked about seeing Illuminations and the Lights of Winter, but it had been a very long day and we both decided we were just too tired. As we were walking back by Morocco we noticed Kenny walking in front of us, so we caught up to him and told him we'd been able to see his performance (he was also in the 6:45 show). We saw enough of Illuminations to determine that yes, the globe WAS working tonight, and then said goodbye to Kenny when we went out the International Gateway. We watched the finale of Illuminations AND the special Holiday finale from the bridge, and then Deb and I had to say goodbye since we won't have a chance to see each other before she leaves tomorrow. She's my oldest and dearest RADP/AllEars friend (sorry Jack! ;-) ), and I was so glad that we were able to spend so much time together this weekend - she has a lot of AllEars commitments to work around.

This has been quite a commando pace for me the last few days, and I have to admit that I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, since the first RADP meet I'm attending doesn't start at the Magic Kingdom until 10:30.

December 13, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 2

Today was Animal Kingdom day. And it was pretty chilly - only in the 50s at 9:00 in the morning - brrr!!! It was a brisk walk in from the parking lot. :-) It never did warm up very much (only about 63, and that's cold by California standards!), but at least the sun came out in the afternoon.

The AllEars Team was hosting a photo scavenger hunt back in Harambe Village, and had quite a good turnout! Lots of people came by to say hi and/or to participate - each person/team received a sheet of paper with five thumbnail photos on it - they were supposed to go out and find each image, and then take pictures of them on their own cameras and then return and show the photos to one of us. Each team received a prize for completing it successfully. Here DebK explains the procedure to one of the participants.

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Everyone seemed to have a good time doing it, and it was nice to meet a lot of new people.

Lisa chose an elevated vantage point to take pictures of the proceedings (coming soon to a photo blog near you, I'm sure!)

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After everyone had finished scavenging, JackM and I headed off to Dinoland to join the RADP crowd at their meets. There were quite a few people there that I hadn't seen in several years, and I had a great time talking to old friends. And I met several new people who were also from California! Kevin was there with Leonard the Leopardasaurus, which he had won earlier at one of the games in Dino-rama. It was decreed that Leonard must attend all RADP meets this weekend (I suppose that means Kevin has to come along, too. ;-) ).

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We got in line for Dinosaur - it was kind of interesting keeping a group of twenty-odd (and I do mean odd) people together, but Charlotte, the meet host, managed to do it. We were in three different jeeps. For the ride photo we were all asked to do the "Home Alone" pose (hands on either side of face with a look of terror). The photos turned out pretty well!

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Quite a few of us went to Flame Tree Barbecue for lunch after that. Somehow Jack apparently managed to offend all of his tablemates, because they suddenly got up and left - Jan, Sean, Pamela and I were at a different table and are not quite sure what happened. :-)

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Next on the agenda was a group photo with Mickey at Camp Minnie-Mickey. The people behind us in line were quite relieved to learn that we were one large group. When we met up with Mickey, we all sang Happy Birthday to Charlotte and Laurie, who have birthdays coming up soon.

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It was kind of funny to watch the CM juggle six cameras as she took our photos, but the photo turned out well, don't you think? (There's a larger version of it here.)

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Most of us went to Festival of the Lion King after that. We were in the elephant section. It was a great show - but it always is.

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Our group got a smaller after that, but 12 of us went back to Harambe to do the Safari. Several of us had gotten Fastpasses earlier in the day that we hadn't had time to use yet. The CMs were just closing down the FP machines when we got there, but they gave us enough for the rest of our group and we were able to all go right away. The CM at the Fastpass line told us her mom was a big AllEars fan.

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The CM we had on the safari was just ok - but the running commentary we got from Kevin, who was sitting behind me, was a lot more entertaining. :-) We saw a fair number of animals, and I even was able to take a decent photo of two cheetahs!

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Some people headed for Everest, some were staying for the parade, but JackM, Kim and I left the park at that point - it was about 3:30 by then. I really had a great day with all my RADP friends - and it wasn't over yet! :-)

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I had time to come back to my room and take a first pass through my photos from today before going to Old Key West, where I'd been invited to Charlotte and Jan's Open House. They have been doing this for a number of years, but I've never managed to be here for it - I've heard what a good time it is, though. So I was really happy that it worked out for me to attend this year! They went to a lot of work and prepared a whole bunch of food and invited many of us to come over and eat and hang out. I was able to see even more folks that I haven't seen in a while. It was a really nice party, and fun to see everyone outside of the parks for a change.

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Jan takes her homemade bread puddings out the oven (they were terrific, especially the one with pecans and coconut!)

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Jack signs the guest book (he even said something nice!).

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So that was my very full day. I had a wonderful time, though - it was so much fun catching up with all of the people that I haven't seen in a long time.

Megamouse Meet and RADP Meets at Epcot tomorrow!

December 12, 2008

Holidaze at WDW - Day 1

So here I am, back at WDW for the holidays (which is my very favorite time of year to be here!). I'll be blogging about the various Mousefest and RADP Meet events that I'm attending, and whatever holiday stuff I do.

Lee stayed home this time (he needed some quality time with the cats :-) ), so it's just me - well, me and all of my RADP and AllEars friends!

I landed in Orlando at 4:15, and I was in my studio at Boardwalk Villas by 5:25. Not bad, huh?

I called my friends Ilene and Paul (if you recall, Paul is the Tables in Wonderland guy from our October trip). Tonight was their last night here, so it was the only chance we had to get together. They were in Epcot, so I quickly got myself together and met them at the International Gateway.

From there we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Sunshine Seasons in The Land and then monorailed over to the Grand Floridian.

My friend Kenny is in a bell choir, and they had two performances at the Grand Floridian tonight, so that's what I wanted to do, and fortunately Paul and Ilene liked the bell choir idea, too. We arrived about 10 minutes into the first set, but saw all of the second set. They had some instruments other than bells, and they also made different sounds on the bells by tapping on them or striking them gently on the table. Really interesting, and we enjoyed it.

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Kenny had his own set of groupies - there was a group of us from RADP (the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup) that came to watch him. He avoided looking up at us, though. :-)

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Here's a short video I shot of the choir playing Silent Night.

The Grand Floridian is beautifully decorated for the holidays, as usual, and we wandered around a bit between shows.

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Ilene pointed out to me that this is the 10th year that they have done the huge gingerbread house - there's also a sign to that effect on the house. It certainly smells good enough to eat! (But I don't recommend the gingerbread from there - I've tried it two different times and it was awful!!!)

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It had been a long day for Paul and Ilene so I said goodbye to them - but I'm still on west coast time, so it was only 5:30 for me.

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Deb Koma (one of Kenny's groupies!) and I decided to go to Epcot to see Illuminations, and took the monorail back over to Epcot. Since it starts at 9:30 this time of year we had plenty of time to get there and get all the way back to one of my favorite spots in front of Germany with about 5 minutes to spare.

So, you know the boring part of Illuminations, where the globe comes out and spins and shows all of the pictures of animals and people and balloons and art, etc? Well, the globe came out...but there were NO lights on it at all!!! And that part of Illuminations is even MORE boring when you can't see the globe. It came on very briefly, but then went dark again. At least we could see the Magic Kingdom's fireworks off in the distance during that part so there was something to look at...but we both felt badly for the people who had never seen the show before.

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The very best part about Illuminations at this time of year is the special holiday finale. All I can say is "WOW!!!" I've seen it a number of times now, and it still blows me away every time - they shoot off SO many shells!!! One of the launchers that shoots off the perimeter fireworks was just a few feet to the right of us, and that was quite a surprise the several times it went off during the regular show and the finale.

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It was a great way to end the evening. Deb and I said goodbye as she headed to the Beach Club and I went the other way to the Boardwalk - but I'll see her again tomorrow. Or later today, technically, since it's after midnight (still only 9:30 on the west coast!).

I stopped in the Boardwalk lobby to enjoy some of the holiday decorations - I think they have changed the trees and garlands since I was last here during the holidays, though they still feature all of those old-fashioned glass ornaments that I like so much.

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Stay tuned...there's lots more to come over the next few days! Animal Kingdom tomorrow...or later today, actually. :-)

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About Christmas Holidays

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Christmas Holidays category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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