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January 10, 2016

Walt Disney World - Epcot Changes

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos. In early December I wrapped up my 2015 Disney Parks World Tour back where it all began for me at Walt Disney World. During 2015 I was able to visit all 11 Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Orlando. It had been a year since my last trip to WDW and as I walked around I looked for changes as I always tend to do. I have put together a series of posts for AllEars.net of some of the changes that stuck out to me as I roamed the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. As always if you want to see my full picture & video sets and read my thoughts & observations visit my site disneygeek.com.

This posting takes a look at Epcot.


Starting off in Future World. The American Music Machine performed on the Fountain Stage during the Christmas season alternating sets with Joyful.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Colortopia opened inside Innoventions, while much of Innoventions West and a portion of the East is behind walls now.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A new seating area between Innoventions west and Imagination.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


In World Showcase a new sign on the Mexico Pyramid stating what should be obvious.. no climbing.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A closer look.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


The Gran Fiesta tour has a new sign out front.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside the Three Caballeros have been added. These are the original figures from the Mickey Mouse Revue at the Magic Kingdom. They replaced the animated versions during the finale of the attraction.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Next door in Norway construction continues on the Frozen Meet and Greet


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


And on the Frozen attraction.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Inside the American Adventure lobby the Capitol gingerbread was joined this year by the Washington Monument.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


A new effect to kick off the Holiday tag on Illuminations: Reflections of Earth


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Here is a video clip of the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth finale and Holiday tag this year.



Monorail Black features an overlay for Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Video of Monorail Black pulling into the TTC



Epcot Center Drive has construction going between Buena Vista Drive and the edge of the property.


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from December 2015


Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of some of the changes I noticed at Epcot since my last trip in 2014. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full picture sets I posted on my site, http://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







March 31, 2012

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

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Our Fantasy Maiden Voyage trip actually starts with a short trip to Walt Disney World...if we have to fly all the way across country we might as well visit the parks!

This time we are staying at Animal Kingdom Kidani Village, in a savanna view studio. We figure what's the point of staying at Animal Kingdom if you don't have a savanna view? We are overlooking the Sunset Savanna, though these next few photos were taken from the Sunset Savanna Overlook outside Sanaa.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Sunset Savanna has zebras, and they are bullies. This ostrich is all riled up because the zebra on the left had just charged at it, even though the ostrich was minding its own business and not bothering the zebra.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We had dinner at Sanaa. It was really a wonderful dinner, and our server, Rico, was really good, and we had a lot of fun with him.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0


The towel animal in our room was a butterfly, and the card says: "A family is like a forest, when you are outside, it is dense, when you are inside you see that each tree has its place." Yeah, I have family members like that... ;-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Despite the three hour time difference we managed to go to bed and get to sleep at a reasonable time, and were up this morning in plenty of time to make it to Animal Kingdom a little before it opened at 9:00. We got Fastpasses for the Safari - knowing that now that the rules have changed, we would actually have to be back BEFORE our Fastpass window expired. We did a quick ride on Expedition Everest - that'll give you an adrenaline rush and wake you up in the morning!

We usually have breakfast at Pizzafari, but this time we tried Tamu Tamu instead. Lee had the breakfast flatbread, with egg, cheese, and ham, and I had the yogurt parfait. The flatbread was not what we expected - instead of flat and baked, it was folded in half like a sandwich, and the contents were only barely warm. It tasted ok, but I think we'll go back to Pizzafari. The yogurt parfait was about what I expected, except that I was hoping for fresh berries and got strawberries in syrup - ick. Mushy and way too sweet.

Once we got on the Safari we had a LOT of delays...we'd move a bit, then stop and wait and then move some more. What normally takes 20 minutes took about 40 minutes. We think some of it was because of animals on the road - this giraffe was right next to the road, and was checking out all of the trucks as they drove by. Gave us a really good look at him/her, though!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

But the delays had really affected the lines - the Fastpass line was all the way back to the entrance and then into Harambe! And the Standby line was way out into Harambe, also, and was at least an hour.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We went looking for animals - no otters in sight and the lemurs and cotton-top tamarins weren't cooperative. Got this view of the Tree of Life, though - there are lots of different animals depicted in this section!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

On the Maharajah Jungle Trek we saw this unusual bird - the Bar Headed Goose. It can survive at higher altitude than any other animal on the planet - it migrates over the Himalayas and flies at altitudes of 30,000'!!! Climbers on Mt Everest have reported seeing them - and in this case seeing a flying goose was not just a symptom of oxygen deprivation...

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I don't remember what kind of deer these were, but there was quite a herd of them on the Jungle Trek - there were 4-6 others that aren't in this photo.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The main thing I wanted to see today was the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot - we used to get to that almost yearly, but we haven't been in quite a while now.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

So from Animal Kingdom we took a bus to the Epcot Resorts, and went into Epcot via the International Gateway - which brought us in right at the UK. The topiaries of the characters from Winnie the Pooh were right there.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

As was the very colorful Twinings Tea Garden.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

For lunch we had Fish and Chips. This squirrel really wanted to help us with some of our lunch...he was cute, but we didn't feed him. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Canada Pavilion has the Victoria Gardens, "inspired by the spectacular Butchart Gardens". Inspired yes, but as I was just there last May, right before our Disney Alaska cruise, I can tell you that this just doesn't compare with the real thing.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

It was a picture-perfect day at Epcot - sunny and in the 80s, but not really humid, and there was a nice breeze most of the time. Really nice to be outside most of the time.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I'm not going to show you pictures of all of the topiaries, but will share some of them. I guess this is American Gothic Mickey?

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Mexico pavilion had their traditional, but always lovely, orchid display. These were so pretty! I took lots of pictures - there were so many beautiful colors and patterns! But I'm only going to share a couple of them here.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And there were several "orchid trees" that had been beautifully decorated with orchids.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

I thought this field of flowers outside Akershus was very pretty and colorful.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And the topiary pandas at China were really cute!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

This topiary dragon was very impressive. The spines on its back are pineapple plants with pink pineapples...the Festival had several displays with pineapples that were unusual colors.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The German train village was decorated for the Flower and Garden Festival and it had some miniature topiaries...and some zombie villagers. :-) (I hope when the Agent P adventure replaces Kim Possible that they don't remove the zombie villagers!)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We had a chance to catch a set of the Voices of Liberty. They sang one song I hadn't heard before: Strike up the Band. Their closing number was a really moving version of You'll Never Walk Alone, which I've only heard once or twice before.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Alongside the American Adventure was the Toy Story Alphabet Garden. I really enjoyed this.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

A large Lotso topiary was in the center.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Around the rest of the area were pots with letters in them, and in the pots were plants whose names began with that letter. (I though they kinda cheated on Q and X, though.) M was marigold and milkweed.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

There were a couple of lizards hanging out on the sign. :-)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Lightning McQueen and Mater topiaries were in front of Japan, which I thought was an odd place for them. I guess it ties in with Cars 2, though.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The Giant Apostle's Iris was very popular this year, and we saw it in lots of different places.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Cinderella and Prince Charming were in front of France.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

The second time we went past Canada, Off Kilter was performing. Though Jamie, the bagpiper was missing, and they had a violinist instead. They still sounded good, but it wasn't quite the same.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Bambi, Flower, and Thumper are in Bambi's Butterfly Garden. This is much bigger than it used to be, though it didn't seem like there were as many butterflies. Or maybe they just weren't as concentrated since it was a larger area.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

Lots of beautiful flower beds!

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

We also went through the Pixie Garden. This is Fawn and her animal friends - there's a deer, a bear, and a cougar in this photo. (And in the background is a balloon that Tinker Bell built. But since pixies can fly, why would she need a balloon?)

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

My camera battery went dead at that point, so I don't have any photos from the Festival Center or the front of Epcot. It was about 5:00 when we caught the bus back to Kidani - we actually had good luck with buses today, and pretty short waits.

For dinner we walked over to Mara at Jambo House. It's not really that far - less than 1/2 mile. After dinner we went to the Arusha Savanna Overlook. There were a LOT of animals out there - we saw oryx, wildebeest, waterbuck, crowned cranes, a giraffe, and this Patterson's eland came over to where we could get a good look at her.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage - Day 0

And tomorrow we'll be on the Disney Fantasy for her Maiden Voyage! You can be sure that @AllEarsDeb and I (@AllEarsLaura) will be tweeting from the ship while we are in port...Let the Fantasy begin!


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.

December to Remember - Day 2

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

December to Remember - Day 2

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

December to Remember - Day 2

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!"

December to Remember - Day 2

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!

December to Remember - Day 2

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!

December to Remember - Day 2

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

December to Remember - Day 2

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

December to Remember - Day 2

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

December to Remember - Day 2

What a terrific day it was!


October 23, 2011

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

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Friday, October 21 - another beautiful but chilly morning in Orlando! We decided to take a trip to Animal Kingdom - our second favorite WDW park (after Epcot). We had just missed a bus, but caught one less than 20 minutes later, and there were only 5 of us on it! Too early for the Blizzard Beach stop, so we went straight to Animal Kingdom.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

It was still Extra Magic Hour, so we needed to show our room key to get into the park. There were a fair number of resort guests there! We did our usual drill - get Fastpass for the Safari, and then have breakfast. We miss getting breakfast at Tusker House now that they have turned it into a character meal (grumble, grumble). Pizzafari is the only counter service breakfast option, and I was very happy to see that they have expanded the breakfast menu since I was last here.

Lee got the Bounty Platter, which included scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuit, potatoes and two sticks of French toast. He said it was very good, but it was on the expensive side - $8.29.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

I had what I think is one of the best bargains at Disney - the oatmeal with apples, raisins and brown sugar, for $2.79. At that price I was expecting a pretty small cup, but it was a large cup, and covered with chunks of fresh apple, golden raisins, and Craisins. They didn't overdo the brown sugar, either. It was really yummy, and very filling - I'd ordered a fruit cup along with it, but I really didn't need that.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We stopped to have a look at the otters before going back to our safari - there were two of them chirping and running around and playing in the water. Otters are SO cute - if they don't put a smile on your face there's something wrong with you! They were moving too fast for me to get a good photo, though.

It was still a cool morning, so we didn't see as many animals on our safari as we sometimes do, but some of the views that we did get were outstanding. Our driver actually stopped the vehicle several times which allowed us to get much better photos. We saw more giraffes than I have ever seen before - there were six, of two different species.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

And we saw an entire family of mandrills, including mama carrying a baby. (On the bottom on the far left - there was another young one, too, that you see in the center.)

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

Another baby that we saw was a baby elephant and his mother - our driver said he is about a year old.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

There were three cheetahs - one of them was up and moving, but the other two were sitting in the center of their enclosure with their heads raised so that we could see them! That was the best view I think I've ever had of them.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

At the Flights of Wonder show we saw a different "Guano Joe" than we have seen before - he was very good. We have to laugh at how they talk about "exotic birds" and then have chickens running around on stage. :-) But they do have a lot of interesting birds, though we didn't see my favorite, Sluggo the lizard-smashing sureiama, this time. Poe the raven came out twice - first he stole Joe's flag, and then he returned and took the stick, too! ;-)

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

The Maharajah Jungle Trek was disappointing - despite the promise of the sign we didn't see the "dragon" (too cold) or the bats (too cold), and only two of the tigers (probably not too cold for them - they were just lazy that morning).

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We just missed a bus back to the Epcot Resorts (literally - we watched it pull away) and then had to wait 15-20 minutes for another one. I'm still not sure why they have only one bus stop for all five Epcot resorts, but whatever. This was one time that I missed not having a car - we almost always drive to Animal Kingdom.

We'd hoped to meet up with some of our friends from the RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks) newsgroup at Epcot, but only a couple of them were able to make it - but we had fun wandering around with them and trying some more foods.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

I don't think I mentioned this before - something new that they are doing this year is a Food and Wine "passport" (since this year's theme is "Passport to a World of Flavor") - it's a small pamphlet and inside is the menu for each food booth and a space for the custom stamp from each booth. And it's FREE! No purchase necessary at the booths, either - they were happy to stamp them at the registers, and I saw a fair number of kids who were just collecting the stamps. They had them available at most of the food booths, so you could start anywhere. I was having fun getting them - by the end of the day on Friday we had visited (and purchased from) 24 of the 29 food booths. (We won't talk about how much money we put onto the F&W gift card to do that...)

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We took a short late afternoon break back at our room to get off our feet and change clothes before the 3D Dessert Discovery event that night. Back in Epcot we met a couple of friends for "The Orchestra" concert - featuring "former members of the Electric Light Orchestra". Really, that's how they introduced them! We found that very funny. It was an ok concert, but I was surprised at how short it was - it started right at 5:15 and ended promptly at 5:45.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

It was Friday night and the crowds had really picked up at Epcot - lots of locals coming in for the evening, I guess. It was a very nice evening - not as chilly as the previous night. Before eating a bunch of dessert we wanted some food, so we revisited a couple of our favorites - the lamb slider from New Zealand and the chipotle chicken sausage with polenta from Canada.

The 3D Dessert Discovery event was held in the World Showplace (which will always be Mil Vil, aka the Millennium Village, to us), and ran from 7:00 until 8:30, though it also included a reserved viewing area for Illuminations afterward. It was $55/person. I'll have a full review on the AllEars web site later, but in brief, it featured a number of stations with different desserts, as well as cheese, fruit, bread, and even some "savory" items like a ham and prosciutto platter, cranberry polenta, and a chocolate chile muffin. There was quite a selection of dessert beverages like port, late harvest wines, sweet sparkling wines, and liqueurs available as well.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

It wasn't overly crowded, and we found several empty "standing" tables, and there were unused places at some of the regular tables, too.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

At 8:30 they started walking us over to our viewing location for Illuminations, which was World Showcase Plaza between the two gift shops. We think that's the best viewing location for the show, since you can see all of the country pavilions from there and you're fairly close to the flame barge and the globe.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

They had given us cardboard 3D type glasses when we walked into the dessert event - but they were really "Mickey" glasses, which turn a light source into Mickey heads. People were wearing them for the fireworks and really giggling and cheering about it - it really did look pretty cool. I took a photo through the glasses, so you get some idea of what it looked like.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

It was a very nice evening and we had a good time. I was disappointed that there wasn't more chocolate, but we enjoyed the desserts and the wines.


Saturday, October 22

It figures, just as we've adjusted to this time zone, it's time to go home. Another beautiful day in Orlando, but still only 53 at 8:00 in the morning! It wasn't as windy today, though, and it warmed up a lot faster.

We got everything packed, left our bags with Bell Services, and went over to the Dolphin, where we met Deb Koma and her husband and Jack Marshall and his daughter for breakfast at Fresh. They don't seem to have quite the food selection that they did the last time I ate here several years ago, but it was still good - the roasted potatoes were especially tasty. The line for made-to-order omelets was rather long, but most of us did that anyway. Lee enjoyed the Mickey pancakes, too.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We said goodbye to everyone (though we'll see them again in December at the December to Remember events), and went into Epcot, even though we knew it was going to be very busy. I still had six more stamps to get in my passport! Since we were at the back of the park moving forward the lines were still short/non-existent at the places I needed, China, which was the last one, and closest to the front, had the longest line. Of the last six stamps we only got food/beverage at three of them, but we had just come from breakfast so we weren't that hungry. (Note what the cast member is doing behind Lee. :-) )

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We hadn't been to the Food and Wine Festival in a couple of years, and there were some things we noticed this year that seemed to be helping to improve the flow of people.

A lot of the booths that expected long lines had queues set up to try to keep people a little more organized.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

A few of the very popular booths, like Australia, Canada, and Craft Beers actually had lines on two sides. We found that the line on the end closest to Future World was the most crowded, and if you went to the other side it was a lot shorter.

Today, when it was so busy, they had a cast member at the front of many of the lines that directed guests to the next available register.

Something that I understand is new this year are these utensil kiosks - press a lever and it dispenses a fork, spoon, or knife. I think they hold a lot more utensils, and certainly seem to be a lot more efficient than the bins of utensils they have had in the past.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

We went back to the Festival Welcome Center where I got the final "completion" stamp in my passport. There was nothing extra, though.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

I needed to renew my Premier passport, and the only place that you can do that is at Guest Relations at one of the theme parks (or Downtown Disney in Florida). There was a long line at Guest Relations, but fortunately they had people working the lines and directing people who could go to a regular ticket booth, or to Guest Relations inside the park (which had more people working) and that helped...but still, we were in line for 20 minutes. It took a while, but I finally got a new Premier passport, with an expiration date a year from when my old one was going to expire, instead of a year from today. The Premier passports are a great concept, but even after almost two years they still have some problems - I still don't understand why we can't renew them by mail or on-line like we can with the other annual passes. And I have commented many times on how they don't scan at the registers for their discounts. It will be interesting to see if mine works at Disneyland the next time I visit - and whether or not they still have a photo on file for me, or if I will have to get a new one taken.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

When we went back into the park Epcot was still very busy. We wandered through Innoventions east and west, and saw the Fountain of Nations shooting water high into the air.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - October 2011, Part 2

It was getting to be time to head back to the Boardwalk for our pickup by Magical Express, so we left. World Showcase was VERY crowded, and lines at the food booths were very long. Lee said that for a change it was actually a relief to be leaving Epcot! We had time to stop along the Boardwalk for chocolate milkshakes and a slice of pizza.

The bus, or MOTORCOACH, as the driver informed us, picked us up promptly - actually a little bit early. We were the last stop, so went straight to the airport. We had a very entertaining motorcoach driver, so that made the trip go quickly. Once we arrived at the airport it wasn't very crowded, and getting through Security didn't take long at all.

We had a really good trip - it would have been nice to have another day at Walt Disney World, but we had time to do just about everything we wanted at the Food and Wine Festival.

Thanks for following along - I'll have a couple of food blogs coming - one on the Dream, and one on the Food and Wine Festival.


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.

March 12, 2009

Princess Half Marathon - The Rest of the Weekend

I'm back home now, but thought I'd finish writing about the rest of the trip.

So, when we left our heroines they had just completed running the Inaugural Disney's Princess Half Marathon. We pick up our story after they have returned to the Boardwalk and showered.

Breakfast (a bagel) had been hours before, and since it was almost noon we were really ready for some real food. I visited the Menus pages on AllEars looking at the menus of the various restaurants in the Boardwalk area (yes, we do refer to the site ourselves!), and we decided that The Fountain at the Dolphin sounded good.

We were able to walk right in and sit in a booth - we chose the booth because it had seats that were more padded than the chairs! :-) I'd made Pam wear her medal (and I was wearing mine) and our server noticed them and congratulated us - and he was very good about keeping our drink glasses filled.

When we were looking at the menus, one item that had really intrigued us about the Fountain's menu was something called "Griddled Fladen Breads". (Pronounced flaw-den.) Pam ordered the Spicy Chicken Fladen and Lee ordered the Albacore Tuna and Cheddar Melt. It was interesting - Pam's came folded over and sliced into triangles like a quesadilla, while Lee's was served open-faced like a flat bread pizza. The Spicy Chicken one was the favorite, though the albacore was good, too.

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I had a cup of the roasted tomato soup with croutons, and a turkey burger. Both were quite tasty - though at that point even cardboard might have been tasty. :-) Although the Fountain also has a very nice selection of milkshakes, ice cream, sundaes, etc. we skipped those. We were able to use our DVC member card to get a 20% discount, so that was nice.

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Pam and I were tired (gee, I wonder why?) and just wanted to relax so we headed back to the Boardwalk and Lee went into Epcot to wander around. Pam and I went to the hot tub at the quiet pool and put our feet in front of the jets - ahhhhhhhhh....foot massage. We went back to the room and planned to nap but I couldn't sleep - I was tired but not sleepy. That happened to me after the marathon, too. So I worked on my race day blog entry instead.

Lee came back about 4:30 - he'd had a nice afternoon in Epcot wandering around, watching the Voices of Liberty, drinking a beer, and people watching.

We had dinner reservations at Jiko, so we left for Animal Kingdom Lodge a little after 5:00. They've gotten strict about checking people in again at the resort entrance - I told them we had reservations at Jiko and they actually checked the list to make sure.

At Jiko we were seated after a short wait - they put us in the Wine Room. It's a little quieter, but rather out of the way. We were the first seating of the night, so it's not like the main part of the restaurant was full! But they were seating several other parties in there, too.

We shared a couple of appetizers - the Barbecue Chicken Flatbread and the Curried Samosas. The restaurant has a new chef de cuisine since we ate there in October, and I thought the barbecue sauce had more of a kick to it.

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The menu hasn't really changed very much since our last visit, though. Pam and I, of course, were thinking about the same two entrees - she eventually ordered the Maize-Crusted Halibut and I ordered the Chermoula Tanglewood Chicken.

I had the halibut in October and it was great - and it was wonderful this time, too. Pam shared, and we all got to enjoy it. It was served with "Vegetables of the Moment", which seemed to be a mix of lima beans, pea pods, spinach and slices of something that looked like onion but didn't taste like it.

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The chicken was fine - it was moist and flavorful, but the thing that had most intrigued me about it was the Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes that came with it. I couldn't taste any goat cheese, though. It was also served with some micro greens. It was fine, but I probably wouldn't get it again.

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Lee ordered the Pan-Seared Scallops - with Butternut Squash Gratin, Apple Slaw, and Apple Vinaigrette. He enjoyed that, and the apple slaw was quite good.

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We decided to pass on dessert, since what we really wanted was ice cream, and we had several choices for that back at the Boardwalk - Seashore Sweets, Beaches and Cream, or the Fountain.

It was 7:00, but thanks to the time change it was still very light outside, so we went out to the Uzima Savanna overlook to see if there were any animals. We got a special bucking giraffe show. :-) There was a giraffe eating from one of the feeders, while one of the Ankole cows came up behind it, moving closer, and closer. The giraffe apparently thought those big horns were getting TOO close, because suddenly it turned and started bucking and charging toward the cow. The cow quickly moved away and the giraffe went back to eating...and the cow started moving closer again. :-) Eventually the giraffe finished and moved away, and the cow was able to move in and start grazing on whatever the giraffe had dropped.

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We saw five other giraffes out there, too, in addition to more Ankole cattle, some impala, and a nyala in the distance. Fun to see them.

After we returned to the Boardwalk Pam went to the room while Lee and I went in search of dessert. I obviously had not logged nearly enough miles that day, because what I really wanted was gelato from The MarketPlace in the Beach Club - which is completely on the opposite side of Crescent Lake. We walked over there and I got my scoop of chocolate gelato. This has got to be one of the bargains at WDW - it was a VERY generous scoop, and was only $2.55! And it's *so* good.

Lee had his heart set on a milkshake, so we went to Beaches and Cream next. The server started to give me a bad time about bringing ice cream into Beaches and Cream until I told her it was gelato - and then she understood. :-) We walked the rest of the way around Crescent Lake and back to our room - my gelato lasted just that long. :-)

Finished up my race day blog and went to bed - we were all looking forward to a better night's sleep than we had the night before, now that the race was over.

Monday morning we had to get up and pack. Unfortunately Pam had started feeling unwell the night before with a cold or allergies, and she was really feeling rotten that morning. :-( She got some cold remedies in the Screen Door General Store, and we left her sleeping in the room while Lee and I went off to have breakfast at Picabu.

That was a pleasant surprise - I had their bacon, egg, and cheese ciabatta sandwich and it was really quite good. The egg and cheese were cooked like an omelet, and then served on a nice soft ciabatta roll (not tough and chewy like they usually are) with slices of bacon on top. It also came with lyonnaise potatoes.

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Lee had the quiche (spinach and onion, I think?) which also came with potatoes, and that was also good. And we again got our 20% DVC discount.

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It was getting close to check-out time (11:00) by the time we got back to the room. Pam really didn't feel up to going anywhere, so after we put our bags in the car she went to the quiet pool to nap on one of the lounges while Lee and I went into Epcot for a while. We wandered around Future World first and saw the Jammitors.

And we also admired a lot of the topiaries and plantings that are already in place for the Flower and Garden Festival. It seemed awfully early for that, but I hadn't realized that it was starting so early this year - March 18.

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We wandered around World Showcase clockwise - saw a lot of people with their "Kimmunicators" who were enjoying the Kim Possible Adventures. There were more families with kids this time. In Germany I was able to get a better photo of the final effect we had for our adventure than I did at night on Friday.

By the time we'd gotten back around to the International Gateway it was time to leave the park and head home. We collected Pam at the pool, where I think she'd been able to sleep a little, and headed off to the airport, where we said goodbye to Pam just before we boarded our flight. It was great to see her, and wonderful to be able to run with her, I'm just sorry that she ended up feeling so poorly at the end. :-(

Our flights were uneventful and we were at home about 8:15.

November 16, 2008

Epcot Food and Wine Festival - Days 7-8

(This is what happens after you get home from vacation - it takes a long time to get back and finish that trip report!)

So Tuesday we started our day at Animal Kingdom. A cold front had moved in and the weather had turned chilly, even though it was sunny - the high was 63 that day, and it was breezy, so it felt very cool.

We sent Lee to get Fastpasses for the Safari while Jim, Sherry and I had breakfast at Pizzafari. It's not Tusker House but it's not bad - and they still have the giganto cinnamon rolls that Tusker House used to have. It was nice and warm in there, too. :-)

After breakfast, once again we headed off from Harambe on our two week safari. And once again those blasted poachers messed it up for us. Sigh.

We had a really excellent safari, though - Jim and Sherry were really good luck on this trip! A great variety of animals and many of them available for photographs. We saw this mama and baby elephant...awwww.

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Lots of animals on the savanna, too, and several rhinos, and we could even see three cheetahs! I've never seen them sitting up the way they were - unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the jeep and didn't get a photo. But we also saw the lion posing majestically - he was actually awake!

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Our friend Kenny collected our Fastpasses when we went through the line for Expedition Everest - it was fun to see him. Sherry and Jim were sitting behind Lee and me, and Sherry saw us with our arms up and yelled "You're crazy!!!" :-) She managed to keep her eyes open on the second ride, though.

We said goodbye to Animal Kingdom and went back to the Boardwalk and on to Epcot for a last day of eating around the world. I think it's really best to visit the Food and Wine Festival during the day on weekdays - it's not nearly as crowded, as you can see from this photo.

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Sherry had requested another meeting with Crush, so we headed off to the Seas pavilion. Went in through the gift shop so we didn't have to do the clamshell ride again. We had to wait a few minutes for the show - Sherry amused herself by playing one of Mr. Ray's quizzes. The show was fun - I think this Crush didn't have the accent down quite as well, but was a little better at the improvisation. He went over to a little girl and asked her name, which apparently freaked her out and she started crying and went to find her parents. He looked up and said "I totally did not mean for that to happen". Duuuuuuuude. :-)

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I wanted to visit the Festival Center (over in the old Wonders of Life pavilion) so we went over there. It's sad to see everything shutdown in there.

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We wandered around looking at the gift shop items, and I had a glass of the Prosecco (a mildly fizzy wine - not as bubbly as champagne). It was a little dry for me - I prefer the Martini and Rossi version.

There were no food or wine demonstrations going on while we were there - in fact there were no food demos at all that day. They had some nice areas set up for them, but with everything so close together I can see where it would get noisy, as Deb Koma and others have commented.

Outside one of the demo areas they had this paper display set up - I thought it looked neat.

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Oh, one thing that struck us...before we left we went to the restrooms...notice anything different about this sink?

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If you said "You have to turn it on yourself!", DING, DING, DING - give yourself 10 points! It was very odd to see that - I hadn't had to turn on a sink in a public restroom all week - even the airport restrooms are automatic now. Speaking of which...Disney should find out who supplies the automatic faucets for the Atlanta airport and change over to those - they put out a really nice stream that doesn't splash all over the place like too many of the Disney ones do.

Let's see...we took Jim and Sherry into Club Cool, but we couldn't get them to try Beverly. Lee even tried saying how good it was, but they read the description, and got to "bitter" and said "No thanks!" :-)

So then it was time to do some more eating around the world again. Lee tried the Spicy Beef Empanada from Chile, and he enjoyed that.

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Then we popped into the Mexico pavilion to take a ride on "it's a small mexico"...I mean the Gran Fiesta Tour. We'd warned Jim and Sherry that it was pretty lame - they vaguely remembered the old version from their trip 18 years ago. Apparently it was a much rougher voyage than usual, because someone in the boat in front of us got seasick - we got stuck and had to wait within sight of the dock for about 5 minutes while they cleaned that up. That boat was taken out of service! Ewwww.

We kind of wandered around World Showcase trying various things - some that we'd had before, and some that were new. I tried the Durban Spiced Chicken on a Skewer with coconut milk-infused root vegetables, which was pretty good - though I can't say I tasted the coconut milk!

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I wanted to try the three-cheese plate at The Mouse Catch, but they were out of the Dorothea cheese from Holland, so I had the Asiago from Italy and the Manchego from Spain instead. (They had these same cheese selections in the Festival Center - but they were more expensive there!)

Since it was still a chilly day, Jim thought the idea of something warm, like the Seafood Gumbo sounded good. Warm *and* spicy. :-)

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I got another lamb slider from New Zealand - that was one of my favorites. Lee and Jim had some more beer from the Sam Adams booth. We saw Miyuki, the candy artist in Japan. She wasn't nearly as animated as usual - it looked like she wasn't feeling well. :-( Her creations were still beautiful, though.

It was still chilly, and the sun was going down so we headed inside to see The American Adventure. Always a good show. For dinner we went to the fish and chips place at the UK, though I had to go to the beer place next to Rose and Crown to get my favorite Woodpecker Hard Cider. British Invasion was performing and lots of people were watching so there was no place to sit - we walked down to Off Kilter's stage and used the benches there, since they weren't performing that day.

Jim and Sherry decided to head back to the room after that to get out of the chill, while Lee and I made another trip around World Showcase. I wanted to try the Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee in France. They had a chocolate creme brulee several years ago that was awesome. Unfortunately this one didn't measure up - I couldn't taste any chocolate in it at all. Very disappointing.

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On our way around World Showcase I also bought a cheese plate from Ireland - it comes covered with plastic wrap, and I thought that would make good airplane food the next day (and it did, though I took out the chutney before I traveled with it!).

It was getting too cold for me, too, so we also headed back to the Boardwalk. Since I'd been so disappointed with the chocolate creme brulee, I consoled myself with a piece of chocolate mousse cake from the Boardwalk Bakery. That was MUCH better! :-)

Wednesday morning we had to get up and get to the airport early enough that going to a park was out of the question. We thought we'd have a nice breakfast at Spoodles instead, since we'd enjoyed the one earlier in the week. We had a pretty awful server, though. First we didn't see him for almost 10 minutes, and then once he showed up at our table he put his pad down on the edge and basically said "Whaddaya want?" (He didn't actually say that, but that's pretty close.) No "good morning, sorry for the wait" or any kind of pleasantry. We had to point out to him that we only had two coffee cups on the table and he sort of stomped off to get two more. Now, he *did* have several tables at once and he seemed a bit overwhelmed, but still.

Fortunately the kitchen was efficient (and fortunately it was not our server in charge of delivering our food to the table!), so that part went ok. And once the people at two of his other tables left he was a little more attentive and pleasant. Still not Mr. Personality, though. I had the waffle and Lee had the French toast, and I think Sherry also had the waffle and Jim had "The Italian" - two poached eggs on top of toasted focaccia with Italian sausage, tomatoes, peppers, onions, parmesan cheese, diced potatoes and fresh tomato sauce.

One our way back to the Boardwalk we stopped at the lobby to get our boarding passes - unfortunately they weren't able to give Jim and Sherry the passes for the third leg of their flight, but we got ours ok. It would have been very easy to check our bags, too, but we weren't quite finished packing by then, but we'll keep that in mind for the future - it would be very nice to go to the airport and just head straight for security. Especially since I've seen the bag check lines be *really* long. Fortunately we didn't have that problem this time.

Our flight was about an hour earlier than Jim and Sherry's, so we said goodbye to them at the Delta counter where they were still trying to get their boarding passes straightened out, and went to our gate. We had a good flight home - we had a newer 757 on the Atlanta->San Diego flight, and I was able to play trivia again. I didn't have much competition this time, though, so after posting several high scores I retired. :-)

It was a great trip - we survived the Tower of Terror 13K, got to do Toy Story Mania 4 times, ate our way around the world, had a great time at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, had two animal-filled safaris, had great dinners at Jiko and Marrakesh, enjoyed at lot of good wines at City Tastes - Spain, Soared over California, talked with a turtle, and had a blast sharing a place we enjoy so much with good friends.

Oh, by the way, I found my watch - it turned out that it was in my trick-or-treat bag! When stuff started flying out of the basket and the bag towards the end of Space Mountain I was grabbing in the dark and throwing what I thought was candy into the bag. Well, obviously I grabbed my watch and an AA battery and threw them in the bag, but didn't find them until I opened up the candy bag a couple days after we got home. :-)

October 29, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 6

Considering our late night Sunday night we got up fairly early on Monday, since we wanted to be at the Studios when it opened to try to get a couple of rides on Toy Story Mania.

It was another absolutely gorgeous day - clear and sunny, but a little bit cool - most of us were wearing jackets in the morning, but didn't need them the rest of the day.

We arrived on Hollywood Blvd just as the park was opening. As expected, most everyone headed for Toy Story Mania. We went straight to the Fastpass machines, which had pretty long lines...in the time we waited, the return time went from 9:45 to 10:15! Unfortunately Toy Story Mania was not yet up and running, so we couldn't ride it then. :-(

We wandered into One Man's Dream instead. The video on some of the exhibits wasn't working, and some of the sound in the movie was really awful - and the worst of it was Julie Andrews' narration - which was not something recorded over 40 years ago like the various excerpts of Walt's voice.

Over at the ABC Commissary we had breakfast. The last time we did that they were still serving stuff like eggs, bacon, french toast, etc., but they have really cut down on the menu - there was a bagel sandwich, hot or cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, and pastries available. Which was actually ok for us, but anyone wanting a more substantial breakfast would have been very disappointed!

The next Voyages of the Little Mermaid show was seating when we went by so we went into that - Lee and I hadn't seen that in a couple of years - not because we don't enjoy it, but mostly because the queueing and pre-show areas are so unpleasant - they pack you in like sardines. Which I guess is appropriate giving the theme of the show, but still. Anyway...this show was not full, and we walked straight into the pre-show area, and didn't have too long a wait before the doors opened. I really enjoy the puppetry, especially in the "Under the Sea" song. I think whoever plays Eric must have one of the easiest jobs in the parks, though - he's on stage for what, 3 minutes maybe?

By then it was time to use our Toy Story Mania Fastpasses - fortunately it was up and running by then. We had a longer wait in the Fastpass line than we did the other day, but it still beat the 60 minute standby line.

Lee had read some tips on the web the night before on how to score higher on the ride by cooperating, so we tried those - we were successful with one but not with the other. Overall it hurt our scores, though, and we didn't score as high as we did the other night.

Prince Caspian was hanging out in his meet and greet spot when we walked by - he wasn't too busy, so he was spending a lot of time with the kids (including the not-so-little girls!) that came to see him.

We went over to Epcot after that to eat around the world again and do a little sightseeing. We saw Serveur Amusant in France - or Sherry and I saw it, at least - Lee doesn't like it - he says it makes him nervous - and Jim was off getting some Crawfish Etoufee from the Louisiana booth. They have changed the chair-stacking routine a bit since we last saw it. The guy who actually does the balancing used to appear to be a tourist who was pulled out of the audience, and now he is one of the "waiters", and obviously a part of the show.

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Ran into an AllEars.net reader at the Tokyo booth - she saw my AllEars hat and asked about it. I'm sorry I didn't get your name, but if you're reading this, it was nice talking to you!

I was very disappointed to look at the entertainment schedule and find that Voices of Liberty was not performing at all. :-( That's one of my very favorite things at Epcot. Lee and Jim and Sherry consoled themselves with food (and beer) from the Hops and Barley booth, and then they went to the Beer School, which they enjoyed. While they did that I saw a cooking demonstration down at Italy - the chefs were making petate - the Italian version of fried dough balls. They looked pretty good, but unfortunately we didn't get to taste them. :-(

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As we ate our way around the world we explored a couple of the other entertainment options, like the two Circle-Vision films in China and Canada. I've only seen the Canada film a couple of times since it started showing - Martin Short's narration is fairly amusing.

Things we tried on our eating adventure around the World:

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche - France

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Crawfish Etoufee and Pecan Praline Bread Pudding - Louisiana
Lamb Slider and Bay Scallops -New Zealand

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Spicy Tuna Roll - Japan

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Lobster Roll and Crabcake - Hops and Barley

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Boxty and Cheese Plate - Ireland

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It was a bit after 4:00 by then, and we had a 5:30 reservation at Jiko so we made our way back to the room to get a chance for a short nap before dinner. Lee set his alarm for 5:00 - good thing, because otherwise we would have all slept too long!

We still arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge in plenty of time. Something that was new to us - when we went through the guard shack the guard gave us a parking pass on which he had written "Jiko". So I guess they are cracking down on parking a bit more now? Since we had some time we wandered around the lobby a little, and down to the Arusha Savanna - saw some birds and a zebra, but that was all.

At Jiko we were quickly seated at a nice table next to the window. And we had a wonderful dinner. Jiko has changed their menu quite a bit since we were last here a year ago, and I think it's even better. We shared two appetizers - the BBQ chicken flatbread and the vegetable samosas. Both were great - the samosas were especially good. We'd had samosas at the Food and Wine Festival and at Tusker House the day before, but these were SO much better!

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Our waiter had recommended a wine made from South Africa's pinotage grape and we shared that bottle. It was also really good.

For entrees, Jim and I had the maize crusted halibut, served with vegetables of the moment, and that was wonderful. Lee had our server's favorite - the beef short ribs with crushed potatoes and garlic. He'd told Lee it was so tender it would fall off the bone, and that's exactly what happened. Sherry had the Swahili Curry Shrimp with coconut rice - we all got to try some of her shrimp. Lee, Jim, and I cleaned our plates - our server told us he was going to show the chef how clean how plates were. :-)

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We were pretty full, so we decided to split two of the desserts - again, we went with our server's recommendations and had the Pistachio Creme Brulee and the Tanzanian Chocolate Cheesecake. They were both quite good. The cheesecake had a great chocolatey flavor but was not too rich. It was served with lavender ice cream, though we really couldn't taste any lavender.

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It was really a great meal - definitely the best of our trip. Jiko made a good impression on Jim and Sherry - whew. :-) (Yeah, because they have been SO hard to please this week...NOT!)

After dinner we went outside to see if there were any animals visible on the Uzima Savanna (the one next to the pool) but we didn't see any.

We headed back to the room after that - it was after 8:00 by the time we got back. We were all pretty tired after a couple of late nights, so no one was interested in trying to go to Illuminations or Downtown Disney.

October 24, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 2

Day 2 of our Food and Wine Festival trip.

We got a late start this morning - still on west coast time. I'm actually trying to STAY on west coast time until after the Tower of Terror 13K race Saturday night - my body will be much happier (ok, so "happier" isn't really the right word) running if it thinks it's 7:00 at night than if it thinks it's 10:00 at night.

We made the loooong walk (NOT!) from our room at the Boardwalk Villas to Spoodles at 9:00, where we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast. I hadn't eaten breakfast at Spoodles in years, and then it was a buffet. I think it has a very nice breakfast menu now - frittatas, breakfast flat breads, french toast, etc. You can find the menu on AllEars HERE.

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We had a very nice breakfast, and sat around chatting for a long time, until we realized that it was after 11:00! Our server came around a couple of times to check on us and make sure we didn't want anything else. :-)

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Eventually we said goodbye to Paul and Ilene and got ourselves together and into Epcot. The forecast for the day was heavy rain, though it was still looking ok at that point, and was actually very pleasant outside! But we brought our rain jackets and umbrellas with us. Jim was the group pack mule today - Lee did it yesterday. :-)

A performance of the World Showcase Players was just starting in the UK as we walked by, so we stopped to watch that. They've changed it a bit since I last saw it - they've included a third tourist in the cast - a woman to play the Evil Wizard Pelham. It was great fun, and the guy who played Galahad did a really good job. They even had a few new, but still bad, jokes. (Lee would have made a MUCH better King Arthur than the one they selected, though!)

Sherry had been asking to go on a ride, so we finally did one - Journey into Imagination. (They only get better from there, right?) After that, we steered them toward The Land pavilion and Spaceship Earth, and Lee and I went back to the UK, where we were meeting one of my long-time RADP IRC friends (and fellow AllEars staffer) Jack and his wife Judy.

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We got a few cold beverages and went back into the garden in front of British Invasion's stage to have a nice long chat. It was good to see them, and I'm glad our trips overlapped a little bit!

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Back in Future World we met up with Jim and Sherry again - they had just ridden Spaceship Earth and played a few games in Project Tomorrow. Sherry wanted to do the "Power" game, so we had a short wait for that, and Lee did it with her. They had a good time and did pretty well!

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We got Fastpasses for Soarin' (not good until 7:51 that night!) and went over to the Seas pavilion. Fortunately the ride through the aquarium, featuring Nemo and friends, was a walk-on, but wow, that is a looong queue!

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Our timing was perfect, and when we got off the ride they were just getting ready to let people in to the Turtle Talk with Crush show. Dude! It's so totally awesome!!! (Sherry wants to know how they do that. I wish we could tell her!)

We went upstairs to see the manatees, and talked to one of the Cast Members for a while about them. The two they have now they are still hoping to reintroduce to the wild. They eat romaine lettuce as the main part of their diet, since that mostly closely resembles the nutrients they would be eating in the wild. For treats they get things like apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

We wandered around the rest of the aquariums - I noticed this Mickey head on the bottom of one of them.

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From there we went over to Mission Space, where we did the "Green" side. (As I did not wish to *turn* green I chose that instead of the orange side!) Since there were 4 of us we were one complete team, and that was fun. (Sherry was our commander, though, so we thought we would be doomed!!!)

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As we walked into the Mission Control area they were just starting a Space Race game. We were the crew of the Orion - our four challengers on Team Triton were 4 pre-teen boys, so we figured we were doomed. And we were right - though we only lost by 2% - they had 97% and we had 95%. Which wasn't too bad. I'd never done the crew thing, though I have been one of the Mission Control players a lot of times. It took a little while to get the hang of it, but once we did the crew part was fun, too.

We had a 6:30 reservation for Marrakesh, and it was about 6:00 by then. Lee and Jim wanted beers from the Barley and Hops Market at the American Adventure pavilion, so we took the long way to Morocco. It was still a very nice evening - cloudy, but not raining, and still a comfortable temperature. Crowds were still not bad - none of the food booths seemed to have much of a line at all.

Marrakesh wasn't too busy at that time, and we got a table close to the middle of the restaurant. We all decided to order the Royal Feast, which included Harira Soup and Beef Brewat roll as appetizers, and then Lemon Chicken, Roasted Lamb Meshoui, and Couscous with Seven Vegetables for an entree, with assorted Moroccan pastries (which ended up being three kinds of baklava) for dessert. It was all good. The baklava was quite good - not syrupy sweet like some are. Sherry and I both had a white wine named Ksar with dinner - it was a very nice crisp, clean wine that I really enjoyed. Jim had a Casablanca beer, and Lee had a Marrakesh Express.

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The restaurant offers entertainment while you're dining - belly dancer accompanied by two musicians. We were there for about 2 hours, so we saw them twice. I think the guys enjoyed her act more than Sherry and I did. :-) Don't get me wrong, she was very talented and graceful, but just didn't have quite the same appeal to me. :-)

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We saw people coming into the restaurant who were wearing ponchos, so it looked as though the rain had arrived while we were eating. But it had stopped before we left the restaurant, so we started making our way to Future World to use our Soarin' Fastpasses. We got to the UK, and it started raining, so we broke out the umbrella (mine) and rain jackets (everyone else). And then it started to REALLY rain...we all ended up with squishy shoes and wet shorts/jeans, though it stopped raining just before we got to the Land.

At that point I'm not even sure we needed Fastpasses - looked like Soarin' was almost a walk-on. Jim and Sherry had never ridden this before, so I requested top row, center section - might as well maximize their first experience, right? :-) I think it was a little bit more exciting than Sherry expected - I heard a lot of gasps and screams out of her, and I think she had a death grip on the handles beside her seat. :-) She still enjoyed it and wants to do it again, though!

The rain had not restarted while we were inside and Illuminations was over, so people were streaming out of the park. Since we were headed back towards the International Gateway we were going opposite most everyone else, and felt like salmon swimming upstream until we got past Canada.

Jim and Lee went to Big River Grill to have a beer, while Sherry and I came back to the room to finish drying out. It started raining again about 20 minutes later...and rained for over an hour, though it sounds like it has stopped now. I hope it gets it out of its system tonight!

It was a great day, though, if you can believe it, Sherry doesn't seem to have gotten this whole "ride" thing out of her system, and wants to go on MORE rides tomorrow!!! :-) I think we're going to the Studios tomorrow, and tomorrow night we'll be attending a Food and Wine Festival event, City Tastes - Spain over in the World Showplace.

October 23, 2008

WDW Food and Wine Festival Week - Day 1

Hi everyone!

We have left the west coast for a week, and are here at WDW in Florida - mostly doing the Food and Wine Festival, but we'll be visiting all the parks, too, and running the Tower of Terror 13K on Saturday night.

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We're here with our friends Jim and Sherry, who haven't been to WDW in 18 years! So we're looking forward to showing them all the things that are new since their last visit - like Animal Kingdom - a whole new theme park!

We have a two bedroom villa at Boardwalk Villas - it's SO nice to be at the Boardwalk during the Food and Wine Festival given its proximity to Epcot.

Today was our travel day, and the travel part actually went quite smoothly! We were on two Boeing 767s for our flights - I'd never been on one of those before. It was really nice - it seemed to have quite a bit more leg room than a lot of the smaller planes. But my favorite part was the personal entertainment units - one of the things passengers can do is play an in-flight trivia game against other passengers. I had a lot of fun with that...and I won a few games. :-)

Jim and Sherry's flight landed not long before ours, and they actually had their bags by the time we met them in Baggage Claim. We landed at 3:50 and were in the rental car headed out of the airport by 4:30.

We checked in and went to our room, and Lee said that they'd given us the wrong room, because for a change it is NOT all the way at the end of the hallway! :-) And fortunately, even though it overlooks the main pool area, we can't see the scary clown that vomits children. The room DOES have the dreaded swans glaring into it, though.

After we unpacked we (what else?) walked to Epcot for our first round of Eating Around the World. The weather was just great - warm enough for shorts, but comfortable if you were wearing jeans, too. I really hope it'll stay like this at least through the race on Saturday. (But there's a high probablilty of thunderstorms the next two days.)

We made it all around World Showcase in a couple of hours, and between the four of us, we tried items from 13 different food/wine/beer booths.

As you can see, sometimes careful study of the menu was required... :-)

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Things we tried:

Cheddar Cheese Soup and Maple Glazed Salmon from Canada
Spanakopita from Greece
Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies from Poland
Plantain and Beef Casserole from San Juan, Puerto Rico
Chilaquiles and Chorizo Quesadilla from Mexico
Chilled Tomato and Garlic Soup from Barcelona
Pork Pot Stickers from China
Samosa, Red Curry Shrimp and Mango Mousse from New Delhi
Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash from Melbourne
Spaetzle with Mushroom Ragout and Apple Streudel from Munich
Cream Puff from Bologna, Italy

And the guys had beer from Belgium, Ireland, Mexico, and Australia, and I had wines from Barcelona and Munich.

A couple of the standouts: the guys really enjoyed the Plantain and Beef Casserole from Puerto Rico - which was also a VERY generous serving for only $2.75!

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And one of my perennial favorites, the Chicken Chilaquiles from Mexico, was back again this year. That's also a pretty good-sized serving, for $4.00.

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The Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie was another hit, and I really liked the Pepperberry Prawns with Sweet Potato Hash.

We didn't try too many desserts, and nothing was really outstanding, though the Mango Mousse from India was good, and Sherry said the Cream Puff with Mascarpone and Gianduja Chocolate was very good.

Though we made a pretty good start, there's still a lot of booths that we didn't hit at all - good thing we're here for another 6 days! :-)

We ended our evening by watching Illuminations - the park wasn't crowded at all, and we got a great spot in front of Italy only 5 minutes before the show started - there were people in front of us, but they were short enough they didn't block our view.

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It was a great day - we're looking forward to tomorrow! Lots more Epcot - not just the Food and Wine Festival - we want to hit Future World, too - there's a number of attractions there that will be new to Jim and Sherry.

May 11, 2008

My Bonus Trip to WDW - Part 5

You can blame commando Lee for the fact that there was no blog entry yesterday. Since it was his only day to play in the parks he made the most of it - we got a short afternoon break back in the room, but that was it.

We started our day with a three mile walk around the resort area - it was warm and muggy already. After breakfast (and after he did some work stuff) we drove to Animal Kingdom. It was a lot more crowded than when I was there on Wednesday - the standby lines were double what I experienced.

After we got Fastpasses for the Safari we visited the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Where we learned the first of several new things that I learned that day: Never get into a staring contest with a Komodo Dragon. They only close their eyes to sleep or to protect them from the sun.

The tigers were doing what tigers do best - sleeping. Though at least they were sacked out right up against the windows of the viewing area so people could see them.

Over at Expedtion Everest we asked for our CM friend - and of course he was on his break. A nice CM went and found him, though, and we had a brief chat before he had to go back to work. Lee and I went to see the Flights of Wonder show. Which we've seen many times, but we still enjoy it. There was a new (and much younger) actress playing Guano Jane this time. And even a few new jokes and puns. We also saw some different birds - instead of the crow who usually does the dollar bill schtick, it was a parrot. And this particular parrot was fairly new, and hadn't mastered the part about returning the money - he kept putting it back into the trainer's pocket. :-) Eventually Guano Jane had to take it back, doing her best flapping her arms bird imitation. Which was pretty scary, actually.

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And here we learned a second new thing...there was a grackel who had taken offense at some of the birds in the show and was dive-bombing the owl and the Harris hawk when they were out - even though they were much larger than he was! The trainer said this behavior is called "mobbing", and the birds do it in defense of their nesting areas. It didn't seem to bother the larger birds very much, though.

The standby line for the Safari was approching an hour - we're used to zooming right on with Fastpasses, but even the Fastpass line was backed up quite a ways. Once we got to the point where the Fastpass and Standby lines merged it stopped completely, since there were no jeeps showing up! After about 10 minutes they finally announced that there was a "wildebeest migration on the savanna" that had delayed the jeeps. One finally showed up...and then there were no more for another 10 minutes. It was definitely the longest I've ever waited for a safari when I had a Fastpass!.

The safari itself was just ok - not as many animals as we sometimes see, though quite a few on the savanna. Where we learned something else that was new - the male sable antelope are darker, almost black, while the females are the lighter brown color.

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In Pangani Forest the four gorillas in the bachelor troop were all out and moving around - that was quite a treat to see all of them!

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One of them picked up a branch and carried it around before sitting down to strip the bark off and eat it.

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Before we left the park we rode Everest (where our friend collected our Fastpasses!), and then had ice cream from the colorful truck there. It was melting pretty fast on such a warm day! I think they have the best soft-serve in the parks.

Back at the room we relaxed for a little while and made a late lunch out of the cold pizza Lee's coworkers had insisted we take the night before. I went through some photos and we took a short nap before leaving again around 5:00 - this time we took the bus.

We didn't have to wait too long for the bus and soon were on our way to the Studios. We noticed that the pre-recorded bus spiel that plays automagically when you get close to the park still talks about the Stars and Motorcars Parade, which is no longer running. Oops.

I'm not quite sure why Lee wanted to go to the Studios, since it's our least favorite park, but it was his day to do what he wanted. Lines here were pretty minimal - posted 10 minute standbys for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Though the queue for Rock 'n' Roller Coaster completely stopped moving not long after we got in it - no explanation as to why, but after 5-10 minutes it started moving again and we rode with no further incident. We were starting to think we were a jinx! (Why does everyone feel like they have to run their hands over those glass doors at the ride's entrance? Does anyone else find it as annoying as I do?)

After we'd twisted and turned on the streets of L.A. and made a visit to the Twilight Zone, we walked around the park a bit, and rode Star Tours, which only had a 5 minute wait. As we headed out of the park there were a lot of groups of kids coming in - there were signs posted for some kind of Disney-Josten's Grad Night event. Even though it was 7:00 by then the sun hadn't gone down and it was still quite warm. Very different than the weather in California where it just doesn't stay hot all afternoon and evening!

We walked to Epcot from there - it had Extra Magic Hours that night and would be open until midnight. And besides we'd only walked about 8 miles so far that day. ;-) It seemed very strange to be walking past the Boardwalk and not going into it, though.

Once inside Epcot we got our Extra Magic Hour wristbands and caught Off Kilter's final set of the evening and got dinner from the Fish and Chips shop in the UK pavilion. They seemed to have changed the brand of malt vinegar they use - it didn't have much of a bite to it at all. We sat on a curb and listened to British Invasion while we were eating. They performed several songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I think British Invasion has been performing together longer than the Beatles did.

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After the show an AllEars reader (who noticed the logo on the shirt I was wearing) came over to talk to me for a few minutes. Unfortunately I forgot to ask her name, but if she's reading this, it was nice chatting with you!

Over in France we got in line at the Patisserie to get something for dessert before Illuminations. We both had the chocolate mousse, which was pretty good. There were a lot more people in the park than when we were here Monday night, but we still found a spot in our favorite area near Germany, and the people in front of us obligingly remained seated on the ground for the entire show!

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Most people were headed out of the park but we went into the Seas pavilion and rode the Nemo ride. Man, that is a looooong queue!!! Fortunately it was pretty empty, and we just kept walking all the way to the loading area. The ride is cute - I liked the starfish that's up against the glass at the end who talks to you - one of her comments was something like "I saw 18,352 people yesterday!" Lee wanted to "talk turtle" so we went in to see "Turtle Talk with Crush", and that was fun, as always.

From there we Jouneyed into Our Imaginations. And watched the fountains outside, which were very pretty at night.

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At 10:30 at night Spaceship Earth actually had a line, though it was only a few minutes long. There were several people in line with us who did NOT have wristbands, but the CMs weren't checking, and let them on anyways (we noticed that at Imagination, also). So much for a "Resort Guest Only" event...Once we got on the ride we discovered we'd apparently managed to break another ride...though we could hear Judi Dench's narration, the rest of the audio soundtrack was silent. So no music or instructions, and it was sort of eerily silent when Judi Dench wasn't talking.

The computer in the Project Tomorrow area wasn't as good with its facial recognition this time and we had to tell it which photo was ours. A photo I would have included here, but it doesn't seem to have been emailed to me - which is what happened with the first one, too.

It was almost 11:00 by then, and we were tired, so we headed to the bus stop. The Port Orleans bus was there, but there was a line - I thought there was no way we'd get on but we did - and there were even 10-15 people who got on after we did. Standing room only of course, but it's a pretty short ride. We were back at the room about 11:15. Kind of a long park day for us, though! But it's all Lee's fault. :-)

We walked about 13 miles yesterday.

So today was departure day...sigh. We went to breakfast at Boatwright's. Lee had the Sweet Potato Pancakes and I had the French Toast. The French Toast was actually *real* French toast, made with thick slices of French bread. Of course then it was battered and deep fried and coated with sugar...but it was really good. :-)

Since we only had carry-on bags I suggested we get our boarding passes printed at the resort. This took a lot longer than I thought it would because of some problems with people ahead of us in line, and Lee was grumpusing at me for wanting to do it. But I looked like a genius when we got to the airport and the Continental check-in line was insanely long.

By the way...I was not real happy with Advantage Car Rental - they are off-site and we waited over 15 minutes for the shuttle to the airport - and there were people ahead of us that had waited longer than that. They couldn't get everyone who was waiting on the bus, either. They said that they only had two shuttle buses. Not good.

Some final thoughts...

It was very nice of Lee to take me with him to enjoy myself while he worked - thank you, dear. :-)

Though I missed being within walking distance of a theme park, I really liked a lot of things about Port Orleans Riverside. It's a lovely setting, and the paths around the resort are nice for walking/running - just not quite long enough. Lee and I thought there should be a path all the way along the river that connects it to Old Key West, and then to Saratoga Springs and Downtown Disney. The room was comfortable, though it was very inconvenient to have the outlet for the internet connection behind the nightstand rather than over next to the table. And I could've done without the annoying sound of the turbo-toilets flushing overhead - we were on the bottom floor, and one night I think I heard it 8 times between midnight and 7:00. The bus service was good - I never waited more than 10 minutes, and usually it was less than 5 whether I was at the resort or a theme park.

The Food Court was great, though - SO much better than anything available at any of the DVC resorts. There was really quite a selection with all of the different stations - you could order an omelet made-to-order at breakfast, and pasta and salads made-to-order the rest of the day. There were sandwiches and pizza and grilled items available, also, and I already raved about the turkey dinner. The bakery section was pretty good, too - the cinnamon rolls were especially delicious. And I thought the prices were very reasonable, also. And I enjoyed using my refillable mug. :-)

It seemed to be a good time to be at WDW, at least from a crowd standpoint. Mid-week (Monday-Thursday) the crowds were minimal - even at Magic Kingdom. The weather was pretty good, too. Not even a hint of rain, and the heat/humidity was not too bad, even for this wimpy southern Californian (though it got progressively warmer as the week went on and by yesterday afternoon I was starting to drag.) It is very nice not to even have to think about carrying a jacket at night, though!

I enjoyed the displays of Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival - there were a lot of topiaries that were new to me. Though I was disappointed in the Rose Walk this year - there didn't seem to be as many rose bushes, and not as much of a variety of roses, either. I enjoyed the Flower Power concert I attended. And I really wish our trip had been one day longer - I could've seen Davy Jones (I hear he puts on a great show), and we could've gone to the Toy Story Mania Annual Passholder Preview. Oh well...it'll be opening in California next month.

Speaking of Flower and Garden Festival...AllEars reader Susan tells me: "As part of the Flower and Garden Festival trolls have been hidden all through Norway." So that explains the ones that I noticed. I'm glad that I haven't just been unobservant all these years! :-) Thanks for the information, Susan!

It was really cool to get "dreamed", and to be able to attend the "Special Park Dream Time Event- event at the Magic Kingdom!

As usual, I didn't have nearly as much time to relax as I thought I would...though every day it was my plan to be back at the resort by 2:00 I never made it - though I came close on Thursday. There's just never enough time to do everything.

Thanks for reading!

May 9, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 4: We Got Dreamed!

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry, Lisa and I received lanyards entitling us to admission to some kind of after-hours event at the Magic Kingdom last night, but we didn't actually know what it was going to be.

Lee didn't get back to the room until after 7:00...we decided to eat here at Riverside instead of at the Magic Kingdom (we wanted to get to the MK in time to see the fireworks at 9:00).

We both decided to have the roast turkey dinner - it was *real* turkey breast, carved right before our eyes, and served with corn bread, and choice of two sides: mashed potatoes, corn, or mixed vegetables. It was actually really quite good - we both had the potatoes and the veggies. The corn bread was just a little sweet and had pieces of corn in it. And the price was quite reasonable, too - $8.99.

It was almost 8:00 by the time we got out to the bus stop, and found a bunch of other folks waiting for the MK bus, also. Apparently they had been waiting for a while, since the bus got quite a cheer when it arrived. Fortunately we all fit on the bus, though it was standing room only.

We staked out a spot about half way between the hub and the ice cream shop for Wishes - we could have gotten closer but we know from past experience that it's possible to be *too* close. This turned out to be a really good place.

What can I say...Wishes is a wonderful fireworks show. So many different kinds of fireworks, and the beautiful light show that goes on on the castle iself is great. I think Disneyland's Remember...Dreams Come True is a little bit better, in terms of the integration of the castle lighting projections, music, and fireworks, but Wishes is a whole lot more reliable - barring something like a hurricane I don't think it gets canceled.

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We waited for the traffic to subside before going to Tomorrowland, which was where we were supposed to be for the start of the Dream event. We arrived just as they were counting down to the start of it (it started at 9:30), and people starting streaming out of the fenced-in area.

Apparently if you arrived at 9:00 like they told you to (but we wanted to see the fireworks) they put you in a fenced-in area once you showed your lanyard. There was a stage and a DJ playing music, and Mickey and Minnie were there, too. I assume they told people about what was going to happen, and what would be open, but we missed that part. Fortunately, Cast Members were handing out a special event Entertainment Schedule (just like the usual ones you pick up in all of the parks) which had information on the event - including important details on how long it was (9:30-10:30) and what attractions were open.

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Lisa and I were told earlier in the day that only Tomorrowland was open, but that wasn't the case - there were attractions open all over the park! That's a lot of ground to cover in just an hour. Lisa had called Mike Scopa earlier who did some Googling and found that they only give out 9600 lanyards the day of the event, and of course not all of those people attend, so the park seemed pretty empty.

Our first ride was Buzz Lightyear, since Lee hadn't yet done it this trip...and it actually had a line, and we had to wait for at least a minute to get on. :-) We *really* miss the removable laser cannons that they have in California.

Remember that I said the park seemed pretty empty? That made things even spookier over at the Haunted Mansion. One nice thing about it was that we could hear all the sounds coming from the mansion, which you normally can't hear over all the noise from the people. Wolves howling and stuff like that.

We split up after that - Lee and I rode Thunder Mountain, which seemed especially fast and more of a thrill than the one in California (which we just rode on Sunday). Or maybe it was because we aren't used to the ups and downs and turns here like we are there. It was fun. Lisa went to Pirates of the Caribbean, and after we finished on Thunder Mountain Lee and I went there too - that was our last ride of the evening since it was just after 10:30 by the time we got off. Sigh...the hour went much too fast! And hour and a half, or even two hours, would have been much better!

On our way back to Main Street we saw this:

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Who knew that they let homeless people sleep inside the Magic Kingdom? :-)

On our way out of the park, Mickey and Minnie were waving goodbye from the train station, and some management type was talking and thanking us for coming, etc. It really was a nice event - just too short!

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We said goodbye to Lisa and went to our respective bus stops. Lee and I stopped at the Food Court on the way back to our room to pick up some dessert - I had ice cream and he had a brownie. They aren't as good as the brownies from the Boardwalk Bakery, though.

So that finally brings us to today. After breakfast Lee dropped me off at the Boardwalk and I walked into Epcot via the International Gateway. I called Lisa, who was still finishing up with her packing (since she was going home this evening), but she said she'd call me when she arrived at the park.

So I wandered around the park enjoying the flowers and the topiaries, and taking some pictures. Over in Norway I noticed something I'd never noticed before...look closely at the upper window in the right hand side.

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There were trolls in this window, and in many of the other windows around the Norway pavilion. I didn't realize that this was a troll couple until I unloaded the pictures off my camera! There was also a troll couple perched on the Stave Church.

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I did another (successful) training mission at Mission:Space (green, non-spinning side, of course!), and Lisa called me after that. We sampled some beverages in Club Cool, and as we were walking back towards World Showcase we noticed they were setting up for some kind of a shoot. Lots of people and cameras and lights. It was a promo for the High School Musical - Get in the Picture thing that is touring the country - we saw the setup they had at DCA last weekend. Lisa pointed out Nick Lachey - good thing she knew who he was, since I never would have known. :-)

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We wandered back towards the UK pavilion, taking pictures of flowers and topiaries. We went into one of the shops in the UK and noticed a quiz posted next to the cash register, with questions like: "Name 5 Disney movies set in the UK", and "Where does the P.M. live?" The Cast Member there gave us a "Certifiable Magical Moment" certificate for participating in the UK Quiz, and told us there were additional quizzes in the other UK shops.

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We checked in at Rose & Crown where we had a lunch reservation. Lisa had the Fish & Chips - the chef came out before her meal to discuss her dietary restrictions, and then he personally delivered her meal to the table! He was pretty cute, too. :-) I had the Vegetable Curry, and that was pretty tasty.

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After lunch we visited the other UK shops and found two more quizzes - one of them had a list of American words, and we were supposed to come up with the UK equivalent. Like "elevator" is "lift", and "vacation" is "holiday". Some of themn we had no clue about, like "pacifier", "eggplant" (eggplant???), and "bun". Unfortunately the CM in that shop wasn't into it at all - she just told us what the answers were, and didn't offer to give us a certificate.

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I said goodbye to Lisa then, and went back to Riverside for some relaxation time. It seemed hotter today than yesterday, and I was getting a little too warm.

It was nice to have several relaxing hours to nap and read! Lee came back and picked me up and then we both went back to Coronado Springs where one of his co-workers was having an impromptu pizza and beer party on the beach behind the cabana he was staying in. I really like Coronado Springs, even though I've never stayed there. I was hoping we'd get in there this time, but it was sold out of conference rooms by the time we booked.

Lee doesn't have any conference events on his schedule tomorrow, so we'll spend the day doing whatever he wants to do since it's his only day to play...AK and Epcot for sure, maybe the Studios.

May 7, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 2

Lee got up bright and early at 7:00 (which is VERY early when you just came from the west coast!) and kissed me goodbye when he left for his conference. I'm trying not to gloat too much about this whole "you're working and I'm not" thing... :-)

I actually got up not too long after he left and went out for a walk around the resort area - it was a very *bright* morning, but really comfortable for walking. I brought my runner's GPS with me on this trip, and I know that I walked 3.5 miles (you can walk a lot of miles on all of those serpentine paths in the Alligator Bayou area.

It was really a very nice walk - I saw a fair number of joggers on the main paths, and lots of bunnies and ducks. And I enjoyed the reflections in the Sassagoula River.

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I walked down to Port Orleans French Quarter, also - I'd never noticed King Neptune riding the sea serpent at the pool before. Of course, that may be because he was hidden by palm fronds...he may be King of the Ocean, but apparently he has no lordship over trees!

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I did something this morning that I have never done before - I bought a refillable mug! We're usually at the Boardwalk where it just isn't convenient to use one. We'll see if I get my $12.50 (plus tax) out of this one. So far I've gotten two drinks.

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And then I did something else I hardly ever do...took a bus to Epcot! That just seemed so wrong somehow. :-) I waited maybe 10 minutes. Though it was weird that the first three buses that came by were all going to Blizzard Beach and Animal Kingdom. Not too many people riding any of the buses at that time of morning (about 11:30). The Port Orleans bus stop at Epcot is one of the closest ones to Epcot's entrance.

The Flower and Garden Festival has a surf theme this year, and the topiaries inside the front entrance reflect that. And I loved the background music - it's all Beach Boys songs! I couldn't help singing long as I walked through there - and I wasn't the only one.

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At Epcot I did something else I've never done - got a Fastpass for Mission:Space - I'd never ridden it before. I had about 50 minutes to kill so I rode Test Track using the Singles line - I walked right into the briefing room (briefing was almost over) and then had just two other Singles in front of me, so that certainly didn't take long. I was watching the speed indicator on my GPS, which was kind of freaking out during the speed loop. :-) It thinks that my fastest pace today was a 51 second/mile pace - so that's pretty consistent with the 64 mph maximum speed you supposedly get on the ride.

I visited Minnie's Butterfly Garden, which is always one of my Festival favorites. Not too many really colorful/unusual butterflies were out at this time, though.

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After I rode Journey into your Imagination it was time to use my Mission:Space fastpass. Interestingly enough, it was the first time for all four of us inside my pod - two other ladies were a bit nervous about it, but we all worked together and it was a successful mission. I was the Navigator. I really enjoyed the ride - even without the spinning the motion simulator sensations were interesting.

I always enjoy playing the Space Race game in the post-ride area, and a game was just starting when I got off the ride. I uploaded 19 fixes, which I think is a new record for me - I came within about a second of getting to 20. My team, Orion, won the race. :-)

I had about 20 minutes to get from there to the American Adventure pavilion, where I wanted to see Voices of Liberty at 2:00. Which reminds me...The weather was really great today - it was supposed to be 90, but I don't think it got higher than 85, and it wasn't very humid. I made it with 5 minutes to spare - even stopped to take a few pictures on the way.

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And the crowds were fairly minimal, too - 20 minute standby lines for Test Track and Mission:Space, though of course Soarin' had a 60 minute wait, and Spaceship Earth, since it was still morning, was 35 minutes.

The Voices of Liberty performed America the Beautiful, Yankee Doodle, Oh Susanna, and, one that I'd never heard from them before, Old Man River. Oh my...that was awesome, and gave me chills. About half the singers were new to me, including the bass who sang the solo on Old Man River. Incredible voice.

I did something else I'd never done - ate at the Liberty Inn. I had the Vegetable Wrap with apple slices - and I threw on some more tomato slices and lettuce from the topping bar. It was pretty tasty - it was lettuce, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, shredded carrots, a big slice of zucchini, and mild roasted red peppers wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. It needed some dressing, though...I put some mustard in mine.

The Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps was just starting their set as I was finishing eating. In addition to some other patriotic tunes they played a medley of all four of the military service anthems - The Caissons Go Rolling Along (Army), From the halls of Montezuma (Marine Corps), Anchors Aweigh (Navy), and Wild Blue Yonder (Air Force).

By then it was 2:40, and I had planned to see the Block Party Bash parade over at the Studios at 3:00. Not even I can make it from the American Adventure to the Studios (over 1.5 miles) in 20 minutes - but I did it in about 25.

Unlike any of the other Studios parades that I remember, this one starts from the end of Hollywood Blvd near Sid Cahuenga's, rather than from Star Tours. So it effectively blocks the entrance for people trying to come into the park. They were routing people over to Sunset Boulevard via the super-secret gate by Oscar's Gas Station (normally used by people who have the Fantasmic! dinner package).

People were lined up at least 2-3 deep all around the parade route - I never saw it that crowded at DCA (which is where it came from), even when it was new. Nice to see people in Florida enjoying it. I think it was pretty much the same as the version in California, though it seemed a little shorter, but I couldn't tell you why.

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One cool thing I noticed before the parade - Cast Members had different activities set up along the parade route before it started to entertain the kids - I saw hopscotch, a limbo contest, and bubble blowing, among other things.

Lisa Berton called me as I was on my way to the bus stop - she'd also seen the Block Party Bash, so I just missed her at the Studios. We're going to try to meet up tomorrow, and for sure plan to get together on Thursday.

I took a short break back in the room - downloaded photos and worked on this blog entry mostly. Lee's conference had a private party at Animal Kingdom tonight, but he came back to the room to change clothes and drop stuff off. On the way to Animal Kingdom he dropped me at the Boardwalk and I walked back to Epcot from there. It's almost exactly 1/3 of a mile from the Boardwalk lobby to the International Gateway.

I arrived at the America Gardens theater about 10 minutes before The Tokens took the stage - there were still PLENTY of seats left. And who are The Tokens, you might ask? I wondered that, too. They are best known for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", a song they recorded about 40 years ago! They really put on a good show, though most of the songs they performed were hits they produced for *other* artists, like The Chiffons (He's so Fine and One Fine Day) and Tony Orlando and Dawn (Candida). They did a really fun version of Wipeout (pictured) where they all put on surfer shirts. The show was 30 minutes long, but didn't seem that long at all - I wish they could have played longer.

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While I was walking up towards Future World I took this sunset photo...

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Dinner was from Sunshine Seasons - I had the rotisserie chicken dinner, and picked up some chocolate mousse cake and a chocolate brownie that Lee and I can share later.

According to my GPS I walked about 11 miles...It was One Fine Day!

May 6, 2008

My Bonus Trip to Walt Disney World - Part 1

I'm blogging live from WDW - and a couple of months ago I certainly didn't expect to be here right now!

Lee is attending a conference for work at Coronado Springs, and back in January asked me if I wanted to come with him. But I had work commitments - at that point in time we had the roll-out of a new system scheduled for the beginning of May, so I knew I wouldn't be able to go. But in March we found out that it had been delayed, so yippee, I could come along, too!

So I get to be a conference spouse and play in the parks while Lee works all day. It's a tough life. :-) The Flower and Garden Festival is going on at Epcot, which is one of my favorite events. If you've seen any of my trip reports you know that I love flowers. And the topiaries and bonsai and other garden displays around Epcot at this time of year are very nice.

We're staying at Port Orleans Riverside - the only other time I stayed here was December of 1997 when it was still called Dixie Landings. We're so used to staying in DVC resorts that this is going to be a little different, though the main thing that's going to be so shocking to me is that I can't walk to a theme park. We usually stay at Boardwalk Villas, and I'm very spoiled by being within walking distance to Epcot and the Studios.

As this trip approached I found myself looking forward to it and getting more excited about it than my "usual" WDW trips - I think that's because it was an unexpected bonus. It's also very unscripted - apart from getting together with Lisa Berton I have NO plans at all, so I'm free to indulge whatever whim takes my fancy - I can wander around and amuse myself or maybe even relax a ittle bit. Relaxing on vacation...what a concept. :-)

So...we've arrived and checked in - we're in the Acadian House in the Magnolia Bend area. Very few cars in the parking lot - we're not sure if that's because the resort is empty (hard to believe) or if there's just not as many people renting cars these days, and instead are relying on Disney transportation to get them from/to the airport and the parks.

It's our first night, so of course we had to go to Epcot! We didn't get there until almost 7:00, and first thing we had to do was get a new Annual Pass for me, since mine expired in November. It's very nice having the DVC member discount on that - saved us about $100!

Our first stop was Spaceship Earth, since we haven't seen the new version of it. I've seen a lot of less than favorable reviews of it but I thought that it's not that bad, and actually some of the narration made us chuckle - like the reference to the first "backups" provided by the Jewish and Middle Eastern scholars. We thought the whole interactive section at the end was kind of fun, though I can see that it would get old quickly. We ended up vacationing in spaceships in the future, as you can see below. Though the coolest thing was when we went to email the postcard to ourselves, and the face recognition stuff actually picked out our correct photo all by itself!

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The games down underneath looked fun - we played the "shuffleboard" energy game, and Lee tried the game that tested his reaction time, memory, and hand-eye coordination. It's a lot harder than it looks!

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And Lee wants me to point out that we were riding attractions at Disneyland yesterday and at WDW today.

On the way into World Showcase we passed the Stitch topiary - the first of many that I will photograph this week. :-)

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Since today was Cinco de Mayo we HAD to stop and get frozen margaritas at the stand in Mexico. It was really a very nice evening to be outside in shorts and t-shirt - while I wouldn't want to be doing vigorous exercise, it was quite comfortable for walking - even walking at our (fast) pace.

We had dinner at our traditional first night spot - Tangierine Cafe. They no longer have the Shawarma sandwiches, but I think the wraps are just as good. I had a chicken wrap and Lee had the lamb platter. We sat outside where we could hear Mo'rockin's last performance of the evening - could even see a bit of them.

And of course it's not a first night at Epcot if we don't watch Illuminations! There weren't too many people in the park, and we got a pretty good spot in Norway about 5 minutes before the show started. We love that show.

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Afterwards it was very strange to be walking out to the *front* of the park...normally we're walking out the International Gateway! There's a lot more people who go out the front! :-) And we saw a number of Cast Members wearing Mickey gloves who were saying good night and waving goodbye to people as we left.

So tomorrow...who knows what I'll be doing tomorrow? There's a good chance Disney buses and theme parks will be involved, though. :-)

November 1, 2007

Walt Disney World - What's New?

New to us, that is - since we haven't been here since last December. That's one of the things we really enjoy about Walt Disney World - it seems like every time we're here there's always something that's new, whether it's a new attraction or exhibit or live entertainment group.

Contrary to what you might think we aren't just eating around the world, though in the first four days of our trip it seems like that's about all we did (well, there was that little 8 mile run on Saturday night...) We did actually get out into the parks and try a few new things that weren't food-related.

Our first night here was Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, so in addition to eating, we had the opportunity to see all the new (to us) things at Epcot. First was the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion. While I don't miss the annoying street vendors at all, I do miss the narration in the first section when you were floating by the pyramid, and they talked about the ancient civilizations. Now it's basically "it's a small mexico" with the Three Caballeros. My favorite part was something Lee pointed out to me - the "it's a small mexico" kids whacking away at a Donald Duck-shaped pinata. :-) I'm not sure it's really an improvement over the previous version, but in any case it's not something we'll be in a hurry to do again any time soon.

We also visited the Epcot 25th Anniversary Gallery behind Club Cool. (We recognized the room - it's where they originally held the Segway Training sessions!) We had the exhibit all to ourselves, and enjoyed seeing the concept art and the original costumes and the various models. If you're interested in more information, as well as lots of photos, see Linda Mac's excellent blog entry on the Gallery, which is HERE.

At The Seas with Nemo and Friends we rode the clam-mobiles. We had done this before, but I hadn't seen it since I'd ridden the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, which employs similar technology in producing the visuals of Nemo and Friends in their underwater environment. I think it's much better here at Epcot - especially the section where the Nemo gang appears to be out in the tank with the *real* fish. The clam-mobiles are also a lot more comfortable than those cramped submarines!

What was new since our last visit was the new (and much bigger) theater for Turtle Talk with Crush, though the show itself isn't very different. We lucked out and arrived just as they were loading the theater for a show. Crush always makes us smile. Awesome, dude. :-)

At Disney-MGM Studios (or is it now Disney Hollywood Studios?) we did a couple of new things - saw the Jedi Training Academy on its new and permanent stage - though it was the same Jedi Master we'd seen 2-1/2 years ago. And we watched Mulch, Sweat, and Shears on the Streets of America. They're a "Rake n' Roll" band working as landscapers while they wait for their big break. They put on a good show, performing songs by the Rolling Stones, Eagles, etc.

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During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party on Tuesday night we had a chance to do the two new things at the Magic Kingdom - and we were glad for the excuse to get out of the rain, too. I'm not enough of a Haunted Mansion aficionado to recognize many of the changes that were made during its recent rehab, but we noticed the creaking of the stretch room as it starts to stretch, the glowing eyes in the wallpaper, the glowing footprints overhead, and Madame Leota's floating crystal ball. And of course the creepy bride in the attic, with the husbands disappearing from the wedding portraits. Nicely done.

The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor Comedy Club was fun - I'd heard some not-too-positive reviews of it, but we enjoyed it. (I have to say that there were members of the audience who seemed to be enjoying it a little TOO much, though - both kids and adults. At any other park I'd blame it on alcohol, but since it was Magic Kingdom during the Halloween party I'll attribute it to sugar overload.) Like Turtle Talk With Crush, this show also features real-time animated characters who can interact with the audience. (Disney is getting a lot of mileage out of that technology!) Most of the jokes are pretty corny but it was fun - and part of the fun is laughing with the audience members that they pick on and show up on the big screen. There are some truly awful puns, though.

Today (Wednesday) we finally made it to Animal Kingdom. The only new thing that I'm aware of there is a new spiel for Kilimanjaro Safaris - I'd heard they eliminated at least some of the annoying elements. The entire "Warden Wilson Matua" recording is different - it sounds like it could be the same voice, but I can't tell. That silly Miss Jobson, who doesn't realize that Thompson's gazelles are called "Tommies", is gone, though - as is the whole "Tommie" thing, which I always thought made Wilson sound like an idiot. No more Big Red and Little Red either - just a baby elephant that the wardens found which had gotten separated from his mother. But Wilson is still chasing poachers, and towards the end our mission (which we weren't even given a choice to accept!) was to help drive the poachers towards him. I have to say that it was less annoying than the original, but I still wish they would offer a poacher-free safari. We DID learn something new from our driver, though - elephants frequent the red clay pits because they rub their tusks in the red clay and then eat it - it gives them extra minerals, apparently.

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Coming up...More Food and Wine Festival, our thoughts on our first stay at Animal Kingdom Villas, and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party - not necessarily in that order. So many things to write about, so little vacation left!

October 31, 2007

Eating Around the World - Day 1

This blog entry is a bit late, since up until now I've been concentrating on writing about the Tower of Terror 13K - but I think I've said all that I have to say about that now. :-)

This is only the second time we've been to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival - the first time was two years ago, and we had a great time. But we love early December and all of the Christmas festivities, too, and we can't really justify two trips to Florida within 4-6 weeks, so we've decided to alternate the two.

We arrived at Walt Disney World on Friday evening and checked into the Boardwalk - always a great choice when you're planning to spend a lot of time at the Festival! Hard to get during F&W, though - I made our reservations almost 11 months in advance.

We'd planned to meet Deb Wills at the Festival, but she wasn't feeling well and had to cancel. :-( It was an Extra Magic Hours (EMH) night at Epcot, and it turns out the F&W booths were open during Extra Magic Hours, too!

Since it was Friday night the park was quite crowded, between the locals that had come in for the evening and the resort guests who had come for EMH. We stood in some fairly long lines (10 minutes or so) for food at a few places.

Our first stop was the Canada booth, where we tried the Maple Glazed Salmon with Roasted Corn and Arugula and the Cheddar Cheese Soup. Both very tasty, but not really new to us. That had a long wait because there had been a salmon run (pun intended) and they were grilling more. While we were waiting, one of the Cast Members asked us questions about Canada, and gave a glass of wine to the adult who answered first. I knew the Canadian dollar was called the "Loonie", so I won a glass of the Mission Hill SLC Chardonnay. This must have been aged in steel barrels instead of oak because it didn't have that dry buttery flavor so many chardonnays have which I dislike so much and I thought it was pretty good - especially for the price! :-) I made the mistake of giving it to Lee so he could take a couple of sips, and he finished it!

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The Dominican Republic booth was new this year, and we'd heard good reviews on the Pastelon de Platanos Amarillos, and we also tried the Mofungo. I couldn't really detect any banana flavor in the Pastelon - it was a veggie-type casserole topped with cheese and guacamole - and was quite tasty, though I couldn't really tell you what flavors were in it! The Mofungo was mashed yucca with pork cracklings, served with two shrimp. It had a very interesting flavor and I liked it - it was also quite filling. The shrimp were only so-so - a bit overcooked, I think.

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Lee tried the Beef Empanada at Argentina - this is another item that hadgotten really good reviews. He said it was quite good. (Quite a few of the highly rated F&W selections this year are some kind of beef, which unfortunately I can't eat, so Lee sacrifices himself and tries them for me. :-) )

Mexico again has Chilaquiles this year - something we both really enjoyed two years ago, and it's just as good this year. It's basically a chicken enchilada casserole with green (tomatillo) sauce. Really yummy, and still ranks as one of my favorites, and it's also a fairly generous serving. We also had the Conga Juice, and Lee had a Dos Equis.

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At Ireland we pretty much said "give us one of everything!". And it was all good. The Boxty is a potato pancake topped with bacon bits, caramelized onions and garlic butter. Very tasty. The Potato Leek Soup was served with a cheese breadstick - it had a nice flavor but we both thought it would have been better warm than chilled. The Irish Cheese Plate came with three slices of Irish cheese, some apple chutney and brown bread. The cheese was good, but we didn't think it worked with the chutney. The brown bread was more like pound cake than bread - LOTS of butter. We tried the Meade Honey Wine - and that was delicious - sweet but not syrupy.

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We tried the "one of everything" tactic again at India - but they were out of Samosas, so we had to content ourselves with the Curried Butternut Squash soup and the Coconut Indian Rice Pudding. The soup had a little bit of a kick to it but was quite tasty, and Lee really liked the rice pudding. I'm not much of a rice pudding fan but I enjoyed it also - it had some little bits of pineapple in it, too.

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It was getting close to time for Illuminations, but we wanted some dessert, so we tried the Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce at (where else?) Germany. I also had a glass of the wine recommended as a pairing with the strudel - the S.A. Prum Riesling Spatlese It was a bit sweet (but I like sweet!) and I enjoyed it.

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Stay tuned - there's lots more Food & Wine Festival eating to come! Though we have been doing some other things, too...

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About Epcot

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

Disney's MGM Studios is the previous category.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.