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December 12, 2011

December to Remember - Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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

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.

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! ;-)

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).

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.

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...)

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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. :-) )

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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. :-)

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About Illuminations

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

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