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January 15, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 6

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2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Three down, one to go! But we haven't even done half of the mileage yet...we have completed 22.4, and still have 26.2 left!

It was VERY hard to get up at 2:00 this morning...we both really, really, really wanted to go back to sleep. But today was the first real test of this whole Dopey Challenge thing - at 13.1 miles a half marathon is much more of an endurance test for most of us.

We again drove to Epcot, leaving our resort at a little after 3:00, and again we had minimal traffic. Even including parking it only took about 12 minutes. But that's because we left EARLY.

Before I go any further I want to say a HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers and cast members who get up even earlier than we do to man the aid stations, direct traffic, answer questions, and probably a thousand other jobs that we might not see, but that are absolutely necessary. I don't know how they manage to keep doing it with smiles on their faces, and words of encouragement, but they do, and we are SO appreciative and grateful. This is Andrew, who we also saw the morning of the 10K. Notice his duck hat, and his gloves, which had glowing fingers - he told us to touch them for a burst of power. :-) (I did - every little bit helps!)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It had rained during the night and it was quite humid. The temperature was about 67, so it was our warmest race so far. Showers were expected about 9:00, and thunderstorms later, so we were hoping the rain would hold off for the race. At least the overcast kept the temperature down while we were running. (The showers never materialized, though we did have thunderstorms and heavy rain that night.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We again gathered for a pre-race meet and photo. (Thank you to Phil DeLuccia for the photo!)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And then it was off to the start corrals, which are about 1/2-3/4 mile from the pre-race area, mostly on a fairly narrow road. This often entails shuffling along, shoulder-to-shoulder, for what seems like hours. This year we headed out about as soon as they opened the corrals and it wasn't TOO bad, but still a bit congested. That's one thing that was so nice about the 5K and 10K - we didn't have that long crowded walk to the start.

One thing that runDisney did this year to try to help with the course crowding was to add more corrals, but put fewer people in them, and start the corrals at different intervals, depending on the number of people. There were 16 this year - I think there's been 8 in the past.

We started in Corral K with a group of Team AllEars runners. We couldn't even SEE the start line, and once our corral started moving it was still a pretty long walk to the start! Most of the corrals got a nice fireworks display when they counted down to the start but ours didn't. :-(

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Our corral started about 6:05, which was 35 minutes after the race started. The elite runners were halfway done by then, and we saw the first ones heading back when we were less than 2 miles into the race.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Mile 1 - only 38.3 to go!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We ran with a different group than we did yesterday - they were doing 30:30 intervals. That was very different for me - I train with a longer run interval. But I have to say that I never had time to get out of breath, and since this was all about getting through the half and surviving to run the marathon on Sunday, it worked out pretty well.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Near the Contemporary we have to run under an overpass. There's always a DJ up there talking to us - and he has these huge Mickey hands (which unfortunately you can't see in the photo). This overpass is actually the waterway that connects Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, so he told us that we were running under water. :-) Running under means that it's downhill at first, but then uphill on the otherside...this is always a slow part of the race because it's narrow and then uphill.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

At about mile 5.3 we entered Magic Kingdom! It's always a lot of fun to run on Main Street. We stopped for a photo with the castle.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And we had to stop to greet our AllEars Cheer section at the hub. They are the best!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The lines for the first few sets of characters along the race course (the pirates and the Nightmare Before Christmas characters) had been really long, but the lines in Magic Kingdom weren't quite as bad. Lee and I wanted to get character photos so the rest of the group went ahead. I was very excited to see Tigger in Liberty Square - in all of the Disney races I've done I've never gotten a photo with Tigger! The line wasn't very long, either.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

After leaving Magic Kingdom we get to my least favorite section of the course - we call it "Cone Alley". It's from Magic Kingdom to past the Polynesian. The road is only two lanes, and since they need to allow outbound traffic from that area they restrict runners to one lane with a seemingly endless line of orange cones side-by-side. Even though we are 6+ miles into the race by then everyone gets really bunched together and it's slow going. Sometimes it's completely blocked by walkers and it's very frustrating.

There were a few characters in this stretch, and we stopped for a couple of photos. I was surprised NOT to see Mary Poppins at the Grand Floridian - no characters at all there, which was unusual.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We saw this character, though - Laura is our craziest Team AllEars cheerer. She loves sweaty hugs, and thinks toenails are for sissies. :-)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

At one point we ran past Dr. Dribble - he was dribbling two basketballs for the entire course! (He did it Sunday during the marathon, also.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We caught up with our teammates around mile 9.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Our friends Gail and Julian were out cheering at mile 9.7, and it's always wonderful to see them out there!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

This is the first time I've seen Disney Cruise Line cheering - they had a cruise line bus and some banners and an officer or two. Someone was announcing runners like they do when you board the ship: "Disney Cruise Line welcomes ...!" It was fun.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

At mile 11.1 was the main Team AllEars section - it's always wonderful to see them, and not just because it means we are almost done. :-) I don't know how any of them have voices left after the weekend. (Actually I saw a number of them on Sunday night and many of them were pretty hoarse.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Yippee! Backstage at Epcot is my favorite sight - the gospel choir. It means only .2 miles to the finish! We were still feeling pretty good but I told Lee there would be NO sprinting to the finish. "There's no sprinting in Dopey!"

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We crossed the finish line - Lee even got a shout-out from race announcer Rudy Novotny.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

After we got our Donald medals we got our third (and last) wristband. Though you see all three in this photo, I was only wearing one of them - the others I had cut off but then wrapped around my wrist. I only had the one 1/2 marathon band on the final day.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I've complained about the contents of the silly runDisney box but I hadn't taken a photo - here's what we got every single day. (They did have bananas every day, too.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

But one thing that was available in the finish area was champagne!!! That seemed to me like a fine way to celebrate completing the half marathon.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

On the big monitor at the finish area we had watched a number of our teammates cross the finish line and we caught up with them after they exited the race area. Everyone did just great! Several of them were having not-so-good days (Lee and I call them "rock days", because our coach tells us: "Some days you're a diamond, some days you're a rock."), but they toughed it out and finished strong anyway.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We are happy that the half is done, and are feeling pretty confident about getting through the marathon tomorrow. That's a lot of miles, though. I saw a runner with a t-shirt that said: "Why couldn't Phidippides have died at mile 20?" :-)



January 13, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 5

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2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It's official! We are Dopey! Great experience, but I am SO tired.

We lucked out and had absolutely perfect weather today - sunny, in the 50s and 60s, not too humid, and with a nice cool breeze. It was like running in San Diego. Really comfortable for running.

The course was the same as last year, so we had the lap around the Walt Disney World Speedway, and went all around the Wide World of Sports complex again. I didn't think there were significantly fewer people in the marathon but the roads were less crowded, especially in the narrow parts, and the lines for character photos were shorter.

Before the race we gathered for one final team photo. (Thanks to Alex Armas for the photo.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The walk to the corrals wasn't even a shuffle this morning - we could just walk normally! That was really nice. We sat down in our corral to wait for our wave to start.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

There were fireworks for all of the corrals, which was nice.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Our corral started about 25 minutes after the race started. We were at the front, which was nice.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Mile 1 - only 25.2 to go! (At mile 1.9 we were exactly half done with the 48.6 Dopey distance.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I was running with my friend and teammate Linda, and we had a great time when we reached Magic Kingdom - the lines for most of the character photos weren't too long and we stopped several times.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

As I said the crowds weren't too bad - even on "Cone Alley" as we call the one-lane section from Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian. We saw our friends Gail and Julian cheering near the Grand Floridian and stopped to say hello to them. They come out and cheer just about every year, and it's wonderful to see them!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I saw several groups of Team AllEars runners out on the course - it was fun to run with them a bit.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Backstage at Animal Kingdom the keepers bring out some of the animals - that's always fun. This adorable little owl is named Finn - but he wouldn't look at the camera.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And I had to get my photo taken with Jiminy Cricket - he's not a character you see very often.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Outside Animal Kingdom was Mickey Mouse!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The stretch from Animal Kingdom to Wide World of Sports is long and boring. Our Team AllCheers group always sets up a cheering section there - they are such a welcome sight!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

As I was coming out of Wide World of Sports about mile 19 I found some familiar faces! Lee was running with a different group, and they had started in an earlier corral. They'd been having fun along the coast taking their time, and posing for photos - they even took a ride on Expedition Everest! So I was finally able to catch up.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

They were having way too much fun, so I joined them for the rest of the race. At about mile 22 Eddie and Lee did pushups for Sarge. Lee was feeling so good he did clapping push ups.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We eventually made it to Epcot. Aladdin told me I needed to be careful, because Abu likes to steal shiny things. :-) I was surprised that there weren't more characters out in Epcot - I only saw Aladdin and Mulan.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

In Mexico we stopped and several of us got frozen margaritas. Let me tell you, that was a great way to end a race! :-)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

At mile 26 is my favorite sight of the race - the gospel choir. They sing us home.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

No new wristband today - instead they gave us three medals! Clank, clank, clank. :-)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge
2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge
2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The Dopey Challenge has been a really special experience, especially sharing it with teammates, and I'm glad I did it...but this may be a "one and done". The lack of sleep really caught up with a lot of us today, I think.

The recap of the half marathon is still to come. For now I'm going to call it a night, and I'm very glad that I am NOT getting a 2 a.m. wakeup call tomorrow!


January 11, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 3

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2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Two races down, two to go! Unfortunately it's the two SHORT races, so we've only done 9.3 miles and have 39.3 left. Yikes. We're feeling good, though - we took it very easy in today's 10K and had a good time running with some of our teammates.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

This was the Inaugural Walt Disney World 10K. It was Minnie's race, and she's the one on the 10K medal. The medal is very nice, and as my friend Eddie pointed out, it has my favorite word on it: Inaugural. :-)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

This one started at 5:30 instead of 6:15, so we left our resort at 4:00. There seemed to be more people this morning, or at least more people driving, though we still never hit stop-and-go traffic on our way in. We were parked in row 17 rather than row 14 like we were yesterday.

It's probably a good thing I'm blogging each day because otherwise all of these race mornings are going to seem the same after a while. :-) We met our fellow Team AllEars members and posed for a team photo, and then eventually dispersed to our corrals. (Click on the photo below to see a larger version. Thank you, Tom Troost, for the photo!)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

This time a group of teammates dressed up as Avengers characters - here's Iron Man and Pepper Potts.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It was odd...there seemed to be more people at the race, but fewer people in the corrals - there were just as many corrals as yesterday - A-E.

Today we ran with some of our teammates, and that was really fun. They were doing 2:1 intervals, which I hadn't done before, but it worked really well - a nice steady pace. And that's what I wanted today - actually that's the goal for the whole weekend.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We started in Corral C. The race started right on time with Corral A, but then there was 12 minutes before Corral B started. Fortunately we started only 5 minutes after B. Apparently there were long waits after we started because we heard later that by the time Corral E started, some of the elite runners had already finished!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Mile 1 for today, 4.1 for Dopey! 44.5 to go!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The first three miles of the course looped around the perimeter of Epcot - some of it out on the roads and some of it in backstage areas.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

This time we came into World Showcase between Norway and China - yesterday it was Mexico. There were several characters in Epcot (though no Dopey today), but the lines were pretty long and we didn't stop.

The mile 4 sign was near the American Adventure.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

While running by we noticed that the construction walls came down last night from the new Spice Road Table restaurant in Morocco. It's scheduled to open tomorrow (Saturday).

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I always enjoy running through Epcot in the dark...so pretty.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We went out the International Gateway again, but this time we did a loop around Crescent Lake on the boardwalk. It was nice to see Team AllEars there to cheer us on!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

After the loop we went back to the International Gateway and backstage at Epcot, entering Future World next to the Imagination Pavilion. We went across Future World and backstage at the usual place and then covered the last .25 miles to the finish line.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We got our Minnie medals, and today there wasn't a line for the Dopey wristbands. We had one volunteer tell us we didn't need to keep wearing the wristband from yesterday and another tell us we needed to wear both of them, so we went to the Dopey tent and talked to a runDisney person, who verified that yes, we only needed to wear the most recent wristband. (Some of our teammates are still wearing both of them, though. :-) )

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

In the refreshment tents we received another silly runDisney food box...apparently we're going to get four days of the same crap. We scoped out a concession wagon next to the finish area that has bagels, muffins, fresh fruit and chips for sale. The same things that MOST races would offer their finishers in the refreshment area.

We walked over to cheer spot near the finish line where some of Team AllEars was cheering on the rest of the runners. We saw lots of really great costumes - loved this woman dressed as Kevin from "Up". I'm sorry it's not a very good photo, but it was a wonderful costume!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We saw our entire Avengers team finish - they looked fantastic!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Some thoughts on the new race...Lee and I ran our first 10K race at the Disneyland 10K in September, and we really like that distance. I really liked the distance this time, too, though I'm not wild about the course. The first 3.5 miles or so are pretty boring - nothing to see and not much entertainment, either. Once we got into Epcot, from then on it was good. The size seemed about right - it was not overly crowded. Just a few places that we had to slow down, but we never had to stop and walk (except where we wanted to!).

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It was hard getting up at 3:00 this morning - and it's going to be harder still to get up at 2:00 tomorrow and the next day. Running the half marathon tomorrow will be our first real test. We are again planning to take it pretty easy. I'm hoping to get in some character photos during this one.



January 10, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 2

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2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

One race down, three to go. Of course it was the easiest of the four, and we still have 45.7 miles to go. But it's nice to have one of them done!

We had never run the WDW 5K before. It's a MUCH smaller race, and a whole lot more pleasant! With the influx of 7500 Dopey runners this year it was much larger than usual (around 10,000), but there's a huge difference between 10,000 runners and 25,000+ runners like there are in the WDW half and full marathons.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The 5K started at 6:15 (all of the other races this weekend start at 5:30). We planned to leave at 4:30, and scheduled a wake-up call for 3:30, whereas with the marathons we plan to be on the bus at 3:00! So it was almost civilized. Ok, relatively civilized.

We drove our rental car to the Epcot parking lot. We weren't sure what to expect as far as traffic went but there wasn't any - it took us a whole 9 minutes to get there and park!

Because it was such a short race we didn't have any bags to check - good thing, because there is a security bag check outside the pre-race area for anyone with bags. (I suppose it's a necessary precaution after Boston.) I can't imagine what the lines for that are going to be like on Saturday and Sunday when there are way more runners. So, if you're going to be running this weekend and will have a bag, allow time for that!

It was a little bit chillier this morning than we expected - since we've been here the expected temperatures for the weekend have continued to drop. That's a good thing as far as running goes, but because we were expecting warmer weather we didn't bring as many throwaway clothes. We both had brought mylar sheets we'd saved from previous Disney races, and those kept us warm enough.

We met a whole bunch of Team AllEars people before the race - I think just about everyone on the team who was in Orlando came out to either run the 5K or cheer for those of us who were running it. And there were another 8-10 who missed the team photo. (Thank you to Tom Troost for allowing me to use his photo. If you click on it you'll see the larger version.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Some of our teammates ran in costume - this group was superheroes:

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And Bryan dressed up as Buddy from Elf. He had the hat, too, though he wasn't wearing it in this photo.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

There were six start corrals for the 5K. We were in B. Looking around us, we saw almost all Dopey bibs - but since Dopey runners were about 3/4 of the total I guess that shouldn't surprise me.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The race started right on time, and we were off about 5 minutes later.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I was pleasantly surprised that the course wasn't too crowded. We ran backstage around Epcot, and came into World Showcase next to the Mexico pavilion. The mile 1 marker was maybe 1/4 mile before that - 1 down, 47.6 to go...

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It was still quite dark, but World Showcase was nicely lit.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The lines were long, so we ran by the photo ops with Flik, Daisy (in Norwegian costume), and Dopey - Dopey had a HUGE line. Not surprising, considering all of the Dopey runners! There was a relatively short line for Remy and Emile in France, so we stopped for that.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

After we went over the bridge from France we went out the International Gateway, then backstage behind the UK. Then back into World Showcase between the UK and Canada and through Future World to the park entrance, then a U-turn up the other side, then backstage again and out into the parking lot to the finish line.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

After we got our Pluto finisher medallions we had to get our Dopey wristbands - that's how we prove we have completed each race. There appeared to be a huge line for that, but it turned out it wasn't really the line, and cast members and volunteers got us moving more efficiently so we could get our wristbands fairly quickly. We think that we get a new wristband every day and can then get rid of the previous one. I hope so, because I really don't want to have to wear three wristbands on Sunday!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge
2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

They had the usual silly runDisney food boxes...though after just a 5K we didn't really need much to eat right away.

It started to drizzle a bit after we crossed the finish line, and kept that up for a while. Not really raining though, so that was nice. We went to the spot near the finish line where some of our teammates were cheering, and cheered as the rest of our teammates finished the 5K. Good job, everyone! There were a number of people who walked it together, and it was fun to watch them finish.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

As we were walking back to our car we walked past the start line, and they had already replaced the 5K banner with the 10K banner they will need tomorrow!

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The 5K was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. We took it very easy since we still have three much longer races to get through. The theme was fun and it was nice to see Pluto get a little love, too, since the rest of the Fab Five all have their own races and medals this weekend!

It'll be another early day tomorrow, but I hope I'm tired enough tonight that I sleep a little better.



January 9, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 1

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It's Marathon Weekend again at Walt Disney World, and Lee and I are back here again to fill our suitcases with bling and race shirts. :-)

Disney has added a new race and a new race challenge this year. On Friday, the Inaugural WDW 10K will take place. Like the other three races, it also starts and ends at Epcot.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And now that there's a fourth race, Disney has again thrown down the gauntlet (or Mickey glove) and challenged those of us crazy enough to do all four. It's beyond Goofy to want to do that, so this one is appropriately called The Dopey Challenge. And there are 7,567 or so of us signed up to do it. (Thanks Chris Mushrush for that info!)

It's four races, on four consecutive (very early) mornings. 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and marathon on Sunday. A total of 48.6 miles of race courses. Those who successfully complete it take home *six* medals - one for each race, one for completing the Goofy Challenge, and one for the Dopey Challenge. Even by my standards, that's a LOT of bling!

Because the first race is on Thursday, the Race Expo began a day earlier, on Wednesday. We arrived at Wide World of Sports this morning just about 10:00. The Expo was scheduled to open at 10:00, but they opened early - very nice for those who were waiting!

On the walkway to Wide World of Sports they have banners for each of the races set up, which makes for a very nice photo.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge
2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We walked right in when we arrived. The last two Disney race expos I attended (Disneyland and Princess) were nightmares, but today I didn't experience any problems. I don't know if there were fewer people there early because the races are spread out over four days, or if they just learned from some of last year's mistakes (probably a bit of both), but we didn't encounter much in the way of lines at all. Though there was a VERY long line, and long wait, for those trying to buy the New Balance Disney shoes.

Almost all of the packet pick-up is in the Field House - the exception is the pick-up for the kids' races, which is at the stadium. Goodie bag pickup varies, depending on what races you are doing - for Goofy and Dopey it's also in the Field House, though for Dopey we still had to go to the Josten Center to pick up our 5K shirt. Odd - I don't know why they wouldn't put it in the bag with the rest of them.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I really like the shirts this year! The designs and colors are great. And they have FINALLY given us a women's cut shirt - so a small actually fits me! The fabric is a lighter weight tech fabric, and they got rid of those awful gusseted sleeves which were so tight. My only complaint (you knew I had to have one, right?) is that they are still long sleeve. Now, I know I'm from California, where we rarely need long sleeves, but even in other parts of the country most runners don't wear long sleeves more than a few months out of the year...and we hardly ever need them for the races here in Florida. I'm going to cut the sleeves off and turn them into short sleeve shirts.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge
2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge


I'd pre-ordered a Dopey pin - so I had to go to the "commemorative items" line to get that...that was the longest line I had.

There was a small merchandise area in the Field House, but it had a pretty good selection of items - most importantly I was able to get a Dopey magnet to add to my collection (still bummed that I missed out on the Dumbo Double Dare magnet). There were actually several designs of Dopey magnets.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I think this was my favorite shirt - it's more of a generic Marathon Weekend shirt, but it has the five medals on the back. (I guess the 5K medallion, since it isn't metal, doesn't count. Poor Pluto.)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge


The merchandise area in the Field House wasn't too crowded, and the checkout line moved very fast (but if there's one thing Disney knows how to do, it's take money).

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Next we went over to the Josten's Center, which is where goodie bag/shirt pickup is for most of the races. There's also a much bigger Disney merchandise area there, as well as all of the non-Disney vendors. It was more crowded, but not totally jammed.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

The I Did It shirts for all the races were over in the Josten Center. The Dopey shirts are tech shirts and not cotton t-shirts - I'd rather have cotton. They came in a men's and women's cut, but the women's cut are PINK...so I have a men's shirt. My favorite part of the I Did It shirts is the map on the back.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It seemed like there was quite a bit more Goofy merchandise this year than in the past, and a nice selection for the new 10K, also.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It seemed like this year they had the same types of merchandise available for all of the races (except the 5K). Shirts, magnets, headbands, mugs and glasses, and pins. Cast members were standing by to replenish it, so I hope they won't run out of Dopey/Goofy merchandise the first day, which is what has happened in the past.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

I was disappointed in this year's Coast-to-Coast shirts - in addition to being a tech shirt, I just don't like the design - it seems pretty generic.

We checked out the runDisney booth, and saw the selection of medals - we should have almost all of these by the end of next weekend! (The Tinker Bell 1/2 and new Tinker Bell 10K medals are on the right.) We asked if they were signing people up for the Disneyland Half, like they were last year, but no, registration opens at the end of January.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

There were lots of other vendors and we wandered around and spent some more money. It's my tradition to buy new sunglasses here, and I did, and Lee got a new race belt.

Near the exit, Florida Hospital was doing a body composition analysis, with a device that measures weight, skeletal muscle mass, and fat mass, and they compute your body fat percentage. Didn't take long, and it was kind of interesting.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

We saw a number of our fellow Team AllEars folks wandering around - like our Team captains, Mike and Michelle.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

And MaryJean and Nancy, who were picking up bags for teammates whose arrival has been delayed by the horrible weather. (We also saw Joe, who was doing the same thing.) We were concerned that some of those running Dopey might not make it for the 5K tomorrow, but as I write this, I believe we've heard that everyone is either here or on a plane. Whew.

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Tomorrow starts our first of four VERY early mornings...though the 5K doesn't start until 6:15, unlike the others that all start at 5:30! We're looking forward to getting the Challenge started!



June 5, 2013

On the Move: Aulani Disney Resort

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So it happened to come about that I traveled around a bit back in April. I started off with a one-way ticket to Hawaii that I had to use before it expired, and then somehow the whole thing expanded to include the Tokyo Disney Resort, Walt Disney World, and the Disney Fantasy.

Because various members of the hard-working/good-looking AllEars Blog team have already written extensive blogs about all those places, I figured the most efficient way to share some of the highlights of my trip might be to hit some highlights and show some photos.

First stop: The Aulani Disney Resort at Ko Olina, Oahu. This was of necessity a brief visit of a few hours, as I only had a couple of days total in Hawaii and was not staying there.

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Top Ten Things I Noted at Aulani:

1. It takes about 20-30 minutes to drive from Waikiki to Aulani during low traffic.
2. Parking is 35 bucks a day. $35! And they only validate at the big restaurants or at the spa, and only for spa services--not for retail purchases.
3. The lobby is nice and airy, and reminds me a great deal of the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
4. The big restaurants close between lunch and dinner, so if you go there between 2pm and 5pm, you may not be experiencing them that day.
5. You can currently tour the DVC model rooms which are beautiful and seem to have a layout a little like what I remember of the Bay Lake Towers rooms at the Contemporary.
6. The friendly CMs there have a general sense of expecting future resort expansion down the beach, but no one would cop to knowing anything specific.
7. There is a developing shopping/eating complex across the road from Aulani which should provide more choices for retail consumption.
8. The lagoon in back of Aulani is very pretty, however it was closed while I was there, secondary to some environmental spillage in the area.
9. The menehune are terribly cute and appear to figure in an interactive discovery game, similar to the Agent P Adventure at EPCOT, available to resort guests.
10. DVC members get two free parking spaces per room, so try to be one of those.

January 15, 2013

2013 Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - Marathon

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We did it! The 2013 Goofy Challenge, and the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Though Sunday wasn't quite as hot as they thought it might be (81 instead of 84) it was still a tough day to be running 26.2 miles. Very humid, too, and sunny, without the clouds I was hoping for, which just made it seem even hotter. It was a beautiful day if you *weren't* running a marathon. I was really happy to cross the finish line! I actually had a pretty good race, and although I didn't push it, I still ended up with a personal best time of 5:22:07. There must be something to this whole training thing because I wasn't totally dead after the race, and today (Monday) I feel pretty good. A little stiff if I sit too long, and slightly fatigued, but otherwise good!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Race day began, as it always does, much too early at 2:30. At least we slept better since we were tired from the half marathon. :-) There was a longer line for the bus and we had to wait for the third one (they were stopping at some of the other Epcot resorts first, so were arriving 1/2-2/3 full) before going on our way. There was more traffic so it took 20-25 minutes to get to Epcot - that's more normal than the 10 minutes it took the day before.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

There were 25,000 people entered in the full, not much fewer than the half, but it seemed like there were a lot more people in the staging area. We again met up with Team AllEars, and there's a group photo floating around somewhere, but I don't have it. I think there were almost 40 of us in the marathon - that's very cool, especially for the first-timers like our intrepid co-captain, Michelle Scribner-MacLean.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

After the disaster in getting to the corrals the day before they tried something a little different, and the first call was for those in Corrals A and B. Makes sense, since they start first. Then after about 10 minutes they called C and D. This time there was no huge non-moving mass of humanity - we were able to walk continuously to the corrals. Not a fast walk, but better than the shuffle I've seen before.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Of course the disadvantage is that we arrived in our corral with over 45 minutes before the race started, and over an hour until we were due to start. The advantage was that we were able to see all of the pre-race "show", featuring Disney race announcer Rudy Novotny (and a couple of others I don't know) and their interviews with Jeff Galloway, Frank Shorter, and Joey Fatone.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We were waaay back from the start line, but they had huge screens up by each corral so that we could see what was going on (sorry that the pictures are grainy - but that's why).

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Several times we were cautioned about the heat - don't go too fast, drink lots of water and electrolytes, don't go for a PR...(And I didn't! It just worked out that way!)

Mickey, Donald and Goofy came out and "spoke" to us, we heard the national anthem, and then it was time to countdown to the start of the race! The wheelchairs went off at 5:30 and Corral A followed at 5:35. We again had a good fireworks display behind us, but each corral got their own start and fireworks over the start line.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We were near the front of Corral D and so once we got up to it we had a better view of the start line than we had the day before.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

At 5:52 we were off! There were a lot of people still, but the course didn't seem quite as congested as it had been the day before - these were more experienced runners who understood (and practiced) race etiquette. So while there were still people walking (us included!) they generally weren't walking 2-3 abreast in the middle on the one-lane sections like we had seen the day before.

Still it was crowded enough that I didn't take any photos in the early going. There were the same character opportunities there had been the day before like Jack Sparrow and the pirates and Jack Skellington, but the lines (while shorter) were still too long.

It was a new marathon course this year. At the beginning, instead of going around and through Epcot like it has in the past, this year the marathon course was identical to the half marathon course for the first 8 miles, which meant we headed straight for the Magic Kingdom, and reached it about mile 5.5 At mile 6 we were in Frontierland in front of the Country Bear Playhouse.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The first new part of the course was just after mile 8, when we went onto the Walt Disney World Speedway. There was a steep hill going down under the speedway and then back up the other side which was a little treacherous.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We ran on the flat part of the track for about 3/4 of a lap.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

On the track itself were a bunch of classic cars that the owners had come to display to us as they cheered us on - very much like what we saw at the Disneyland Half Marathon last September. It was great to see them out there.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Mater and Lightning McQueen were also out there.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

After we came off the speedway we took the familiar Bear Island Road towards Animal Kingdom. The sun had come up by then and it was starting to warm up. At least that helped reduce the humidity, which was pretty close to 100% for the first 90 minutes or so. Along Bear Island Road there are a lot of tall trees that shaded us, and there was also a cool breeze so it still wasn't too bad.

Once we got close to Animal Kingdom we had some more character sightings, though most of them still had long lines (the one I was sorry to bypass was the villains). It was still Christmas there!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

With the new course we arrived at Animal Kingdom about mile 13 instead of mile 16. I have to say that messed with my head a little bit - I'm used to thinking that I'm about 2/3 done by then instead of just halfway through, and I was a little discouraged to only be half done.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Outside Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite photo stops - the Haunted Mansion gravediggers. Alas, the race had been too much for Lee...(he said he was tempted to lay there a little longer!)

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We had Team AllEars and Team AllCheers people cheering us on throughout the race, and they are terrific! Some of the most welcome places are in the second half of the race where there are some long stretches of road without much in the way of entertainment or spectators (because it's hard to get to!) and several of our cheering sections had set up in those areas. So a HUGE thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on - it helps so much!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

There were a couple of sets of characters out there and we didn't have to wait long for photos with them - that's what usually happens in the second half of the race.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Near mile 17 we entered the Wide World of Sports complex. This was another new part of the course. The best part: they gave us wet sponges!!! That gave me some relief - I was very hot and very sweaty by then, and it felt good to sponge myself off a bit. Ahhhh.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We ran around most of the complex, which included running on the nice cushy running track. I've heard mixed opinions on that - some people (like me) thought it felt good, while others didn't like the feel of the surface.

At this point Lee told me to go ahead - he was doing ok, but I was having a better day than he was, and he didn't want to slow me down since he knew he would be walking more. It was a tough day with the heat and humidity.

We ran on concrete paths throughout the area - I didn't like that very much because it's quite a hard surface. It was also winding and relatively narrow - it's a good thing the runners had gotten fairly spread out by then.

They had the Mickey balloon on one of the fields.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We ran around the inside of Champions Stadium. This wasn't nearly as cool as running through Angel Stadium, though. And this also got mixed reviews - we were running on gravel and apparently a lot of people got it in their shoes.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

After we left Wide World of Sports we arrived at the Mile 20 Spectacular. Or the "not-so-spectacular", as it was dubbed.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

They had music and a bunch of the big character puppets, like Lumiere, Sebastian, Genie, and Tigger.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

There was also a raised stage with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto on it, where people were getting their photos taken.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

And over the road was a huge Celebrate 20 Years sign. A lot of people didn't realize that was mile 20, and further down the road I heard several people asking where mile 20 was, and I told them we'd already passed it. :-)

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

So yes, it was a nice diversion, especially since otherwise that was a pretty uninteresting part of the course, but "spectacular?" Not so much.

We had more Team AllEars people near mile 21 - it was really good to see them!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

At about mile 22.5 we entered the Studios. And by this time people were hot and tired and just wanted to be finished so there were almost no lines for characters from that point on. I took advantage of that, and had my photo taken with the Incredibles and Wreck-It Ralph.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We were staying at the Boardwalk again and our room looked out over the course very close to the mile 24 sign. That section was a bad part of the course, though - the path along the canal is not very wide and a lot of people were walking by then. I was still (mostly) jogging and I kept having to weave around and through people - it was frustrating. Once I got to the bridge that goes over to the Yacht Club it was wider and wasn't too bad the rest of the way.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

More Team AllEars folks just beyond the bridge - I got a big hug from Deb Wills, and that helped get me the rest of the way to the finish!

There were a number of characters at Epcot. These two were just outside the International Gateway. I recognized the Fairy Godmother, of course, but who is the one in pink?

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

There were more characters out in World Showcase. World Showcase was open to guests by the time I got there, but priority was given to runners, and in a couple of places guests had to wait for me to get my photo taken first. I thought that was very appropriate.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

At the mile 26 point was the gospel choir. I LOVE seeing these people. And not just because it means I'm almost finished. They sing with so much energy and passion that it flows into me and I can finish strong. I don't know the name of the group but they are awesome!!!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

At the finish line I got to high-five Mickey just before I crossed!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

And then a wonderful volunteer gave me my Mickey medal, and another wonderful volunteer gave me my Goofy medal!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

They still had those silly runDisney food boxes...come on, I just ran 26.2 miles and that's what I get??? Oh, yeah, there were bananas and packets of gummy candies, too. In preparation for that I'd put a package of mixed nuts into the bag I'd checked, and I was glad I did. (To be fair I have to say that I talked to a woman on my flight home who liked the change to the boxes, and thought the snacks in there were better than the bagels, orange slices, and bananas they usually have.)

Lee was not too far behind me, so I waited for him and we exited the runner's area. We made a pass through the merchandise tent just to see what they had - there wasn't a whole lot left by then.

We were pretty tired and took the bus back to the Boardwalk rather than walking - I hope they give all of those seats a good cleaning after marathon weekend... :-) When we got back to our room I could still see some people out on the course.

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

As you can see, Donald isn't lonely anymore - he has plenty of company now!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Thank you to all of the terrific volunteers and cast members for a wonderful weekend. And thank you to all of the spectators who came out to cheer us on, and all of the bands who came to play for us. I'm sorry that I didn't have the energy to acknowledge everyone who cheered for me, but please know that I appreciated you, and the energy you brought to the race, and in turn passed to me, so very much.

Marathons are hard - I'm going back to halfs for a while, though we have our eye on Goofy in 2015, since it's the 10th Goofy Challenge. Our next race is the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland, which is this Sunday. And yes, that means we'll earn our Coast-to-Coast medals in a week - and we won't be the only ones doing that!

Thanks for reading!

2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon


January 12, 2013

2013 Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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*** Update - we finished this morning's half marathon in 2:32:58! Faster than we had planned, but we only stopped for one character photo because the lines were so long. We feel good - now we're resting up for tomorrow.

We arrived in Orlando Thursday evening and headed straight to the Expo from the airport. We'd been seeing Tweets and Facebook posts from our teammates all day about the Expo, and how they had been able to register for the new Dumbo Double Dare - the 10K and half marathon race pair at Disneyland over Labor Day weekend. Another chance to earn three medals by running two races! Registration doesn't officially open up until January 22, but we wanted to make sure that we got in. Lots of fellow Team AllEars people will be there, too.

2013 Marathon Weekend

The Expo closed at 7:00, and we arrived on the floor at about 5:50 where we went straight to the runDisney booth to sign up for Dumbo. The line wasn't too long (compared to reports we'd seen earlier in the day), but it still took half an hour.

2013 Marathon Weekend

And then we went over to the Field House (different building) to actually pick up our race packet and bib number. No lines there, and lots of very helpful and friendly volunteers. Like last year, those of us doing Goofy only get one bib and not two - which means we have to re-use our kind of icky bib on marathon day, too. I don't really understand that...it would still be easy to give Goofy runners distinct (but separate) half marathon and full marathon bibs. Lee suggested it's because of the RFID timing chip on the back.

2013 Marathon Weekend

Then we went back over to the Expo to pick up our goodie bags, containing our three shirts and some other things. In this photo is the race program, a "20" button, and a set of 2013 Walt Disney World MARATHON shoelaces. For some reason I received three shoelaces rather than two. :-)

2013 Marathon Weekend

The shirts are the usual long-sleeve Champion tech shirts. Lee thinks the fabric is a lighter weight this year, but it feels the same to me. I don't like the sleeves - I have to get an extra-small so that I don't swim in the shirt, but then the sleeves are too tight.

2013 Marathon Weekend

2013 Marathon Weekend

2013 Marathon Weekend

I really wish they would offer a choice of unisex or women's style shirts like they do for the Princess and Tinker Bell (and other races, too).

We had about 10 minutes to shop in the "official merchandise" section. I was disappointed that there wasn't much of a selection of Goofy shirts - I would've liked a short-sleeve cotton t-shirt, but they were almost all tech shirts - and the one cotton shirt only had XLs left. They did have a women's short sleeve version of the "I did it" shirt in cotton, but it was *pink*. No way. The unisex version was a long-sleeve cotton shirt, so we both got that and I'll cut the sleeves down. :-)

So in an hour and 10 minutes we registered with two more races, picked up all of our registration stuff and did some shopping. Not bad. :-)

Today (Friday) we went back to the Expo, since we didn't really get a chance to look around last night. We drove over from Animal Kingdom about 12:30 - lots of traffic, and we were parked out in the overflow lot that's across Victory Way! We don't mind walking, so it wasn't that bad, but we definitely arrived at a very busy time of day.

Outside the entrance they had some photo backdrops set up - one for Goofy, one for the half marathon, and one for the 5K.

2013 Marathon Weekend

And near the Field House (packet pick-up) was one for the marathon.

2013 Marathon Weekend

The Mickey Mile kids' race was finishing up as we stood in line to get *in* to the Expo.

2013 Marathon Weekend

It is unseasonably warm in Florida, and Disney posted these signs and warnings in a lot of places. It's expected to be 62-63 at the start of the races, and probably in the high 70s, maybe 80s, by the end of the marathon. It's pretty humid, also. So definitely not optimal running conditions, especially since most of us have been training in much cooler weather. So the idea is to run slower and hydrate - but not over-hydrate.

2013 Marathon Weekend

Given the line to get in, it's not surprising that the Expo was quite crowded - it was tough to move around in places.

2013 Marathon Weekend

We went back to the merchandise area, and I was surprised at how much was GONE compared to last night. Very little Goofy merchandise at all, and they were out of some sizes in the women's "I Did It" shirts. There was still another day and a half left of the Expo!

2013 Marathon Weekend

We made our way around the Expo floor - there were some things we would have looked at a little more closely if it hadn't been so crowded. But Cigna was doing something cool - they took our photo against a green screen and this was the result:

2013 Marathon Weekend

They had various props we could use - like the Mickey and Goofy medals we are wearing, as well as a tiara and ear hats. Fun.

Lots of traffic getting away from Wide World of Sports - it took a while. We won't see it again until Sunday, when the marathon course takes us all around the complex!

We tried to take it somewhat easy the rest of the day...it'll be a short night since we'll get up about 2:30 in the morning. By the time most of you read this we'll probably be done with the half marathon! I'll post a follow-up with our time. You can also follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura.

Do you have any questions about Marathon Weekend? Use the "Comment" or "Feedback" links below and I'll do my best to get the answers for you.

January 10, 2013

2013 Marathon Weekend - Preview

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It's that time of year again - Walt Disney World Marathon weekend! Lee and I are "going Goofy" again, and will be participating in the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. We've had a good training season, and we're as ready as we're going to be.

This is the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon, so there are some special things this year. And of course, the one that is most appealing to me, all-new bling! It's a striking and rather different Mickey medal this year.

2013 Marathon Weekend

There are two spinning elements in the center. The Mickey head features a more contemporary Mickey on one side, with a black and white pie-eyed Mickey on the other. The ring around it also spins. On one side it says: "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." And on the other side: "I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - it was all started by a mouse."

The marathon course is also slightly different this year - it still starts and finishes at Epcot, but rather than going around Epcot for the first few miles, runners will head directly toward Magic Kingdom. After leaving Magic Kingdom we'll take a lap around the Walt Disney World Speedway. We'll also be running through the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, including the stadium there (I wonder if we'll be on the Jumbotron like we are when we run through Angel Stadium during the Disneyland 1/2 marathon?). You can see a map of the marathon course HERE.

There's also going to be some special entertainment at Mile 20, though according to the map the entire mile from 19-20 is the Mile 20 Spectacular. I'm looking forward to that - that's usually the point in the race where things get pretty hard for me, and a little diversion and something to put some energy into me will be appreciated!

Later that day from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. is the Downtown Disney Cool Down Party at Downtown Disney Westside. It's open to anyone at no charge and will feature the awards ceremony and entertainment.

It's not just the marathon going on this weekend, though - there's a number of other events, too. Thursday-Saturday is the Health and Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. That's where all race participants pick up their registration packets and goodie bags. At the Expo you can buy all kinds of running merchandise - including lots of things you never knew you needed! :-) There's always a pretty good selection of official runDisney race merchandise as well - we never seem to escape with less than a couple of shirts...

On Friday there's the Family Fun Run 5K at Epcot at 6:30 a.m.. On Thursday afternoon and Friday and Saturday mornings are the Kids Races at ESPN Wide World of Sports. There are events for kids 13 years of age and under, with variable-length "dashes" open to specific age groups (including a Diaper Dash for crawlers!), and the Mickey Mile which is open to all kids.

Saturday morning is the half marathon, starting at 5:30 a.m., which will include somewhere between 27,000 and 30,000 participants.

One of the highlights of the weekend for us will be hanging out with our fellow Team AllEars members. This is an amazing group of people - so inspiring! The Team Meet on Saturday, where we'll all get together, and often meet each other in person for the first time, is a really special experience. That's also when Deb Wills will unveil how much we have raised in the fight against breast cancer. This is last year's team photo (click on the photo to see a larger version):

2013 Marathon Weekend

Read more about Team AllEars.

I'll have more as the weekend progresses - and you can also follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura.

Do you have any questions about Marathon Weekend? Use the "Comment" or "Feedback" links below and I'll do my best to get the answers for you.

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 18, 2011

December to Remember - The Food

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We had the opportunity to dine at several restaurants during our trip, and try some new restaurants and new dishes.

Of course we started with an established favorite, breakfast at Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom on Thursday morning. I had my favorite breakfast bargain - the oatmeal with apples, brown sugar, and raisins, for just $2.79. They weren't quite as generous with the apples as they were the first time I had this, but it was still good and pretty filling.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee had the Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata, for $6.99. It came with breakfast potatoes, but was not quite as much food as he wanted, so he went back and got a side order of bacon. (There's a lot more food on the Bounty Platter - eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, french toast, and biscuit, and it's only $8.29 for all of that.)

December to Remember - The Food

We had lunch that day at Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney - that's another bargain (each sandwich is only $5.99), but the lines are so long...I didn't take any photos, though. I had the All-American, which is turkey and cheddar with cranberry sauce, and Lee had The Original, with roast beef and cheddar. I also had a bowl of the broccoli cheese soup ($2.99), which was really good. I remembered to bring my AAA card, so we got 15% off with that. I wish we had an Earl of Sandwich in San Diego - though it would be really crowded here, too.

On Thursday night we ate at The Wave at the Contemporary, with DebK. We didn't have a reservation, but were seated within 10 minutes after our 6:45 arrival.

Deb and I both had the soup of the day, which was a yellow split pea soup with bacon. It was ok - it had an odd spice in it that we couldn't identify, but that neither of us cared for.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee had the Fall Harvest Salad with apples, candied walnuts, Midnight Moon cheese, and an ice wine vinaigrette. This looked really good and he liked it, but we thought it was a very small serving for $6.99.

December to Remember - The Food

My entree was the Oven-roasted Chicken - with potato waffles and black-eyed peas and rice for $18.99. The chicken was very good. I wasn't sure what to expect from potato waffles, but the taste and texture was pretty much like regular waffles.

December to Remember - The Food

Deb had the "Lacquered" Pork Tenderloin. It was served on a bed of smoked and pulled pork with boniato bread pudding and corn succotash for $22.99.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee went back and forth between the Flat Iron Steak and the Grilled Beef Tenderloin, but decided on the tenderloin. It was served with planet carrots, mashed potatoes, and a poblano chile ring for $29.99. The chile ring wasn't what any of us expected from the description - it was more a deep-fried entire chile than a ring.

December to Remember - The Food

We had good service and it was a very nice relaxed, laid-back dinner.

For lunch on Friday, eight of us from AllEars had lunch (celebrating a birthday!) at the Brown Derby. We had a wonderful time with a good server and one of the managers who made it a special celebration for our birthday girl. Most people had the Cobb Salad for lunch. I actually had two appetizers - first was the fried prawn, served on a bed of polenta and wilted greens. It was very good.

December to Remember - The Food

I also had the Bibb Lettuce Salad, which was a very healthy serving, unlike the one Lee had the night before. It had cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese with some cracked peppercorns - I enjoyed it, but it's not for someone who doesn't like pepper.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee and a couple of others had the Udon Noodle Bowl with with Wok-fried Coconut Tofu, Soy Beans, Sugar Snap Peas, Bok Choy, and Shiitake Mushrooms in a Red Curry Broth. They said it was very good, though the noodles were doing a good job of eluding the chopsticks. :-)

December to Remember - The Food

On Saturday evening Lee and I had dinner at Sanaa at Kidani Village. We'd had lunch there before, but not dinner. We arrived early enough that it was still daylight outside and we could see a few animals out on the savanna, but soon it got dark. I don't know - maybe if we'd had a window table we still could have seen something, but from where we were we could no longer see outside.

We both tried one of the Wine Flights. I had the East London flight, which included one white blend and two red blends. The white blend was really good - it had viognier, riesling, and sauvignon blanc. Very refreshing and a little sweet. The middle red (Bordeaux blend) was my least favorite - it wasn't bad, I just didn't like it as much. I had actually expected that I wouldn't care for the third wine, the Pepper Pot, but it was very good.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee's flight was three red wines, and he enjoyed all of those as well.

The Sanaa menu is always challenging for us because there's so many things we want to try! We started with the bread service. There are four choices of bread and you're supposed to choose three - I don't know why they don't just give you some of ALL of them. We really enjoyed the fresh naan and the papadum, which is kind of like a crisp tortilla cracker, only it's not made with wheat or corn. It had an unusual flavor but it was very good. We also chose three accompaniments - red chile sambal, mango chutney, and red pepper hummus. It would be very easy to fill up just on the bread!

December to Remember - The Food

We ordered the appetizer sampler, which came with potato and pea samosas, lamb kefta, and roasted cauliflower. I really like samosas, and these were good, and not too spicy. The lamb kefta (spicy lamb meatball) was a little bit hot to my taste. The roasted cauliflower was good - Lee let me have almost all of that. :-)

December to Remember - The Food

Ordering entrees was difficult! I decided to do something from the Tandoor oven part of the menu, and had the Tandoori Lamb with five grain pilaf. It was ok - it was pieces of lamb and some of them were a little bit tough.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee ordered from the "Slow Cooked in Gravy" section, where he was allowed to choose two - he had the Spicy Durban Chicken and the Coconut Curry Lamb, with Basmati rice. They were both excellent - both fork tender and nicely seasoned.

December to Remember - The Food

It was really a good dinner, but we passed on dessert - nothing sufficiently indulgently chocolatey for my taste.

Sunday afternoon we returned to the new Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion to try a couple of the new menu items.

We were very intrigued by the Okonomiyaki: "savory grilled Japanese pancake with vegetable topped with a tangy sauce". I really wasn't sure what to expect. But it was good - it was somewhat remiscent of a potato pancake (though it wasn't potatoes) topped with a layer of cabbage and then the sauce. We both thought the sauce was a little bit overwhelming, and would have preferred less of it. (But you can scrape it off.)

December to Remember - The Food

We also tried the Curry Chicken Cutlet, which was pieces of breaded fried chicken (Chicken Katsu for those of you who have traveled to Hawaii) topped with curry sauce served over steamed rice. The chicken was very moist and flavorful and the dish was really good and very filling. It was not a spicy curry at all - it had some veggies in it and was very mild.

December to Remember - The Food

Our final meal was breakfast at Kouzzina with our friends Ilene and Paul on Monday. We had a terrific server (also named Laura) and it was a very nice meal. They introduced some new items on the breakfast menu not too long ago. Paul had one of the new items - the French Toast Baklava. This is made with grilled fig and anise bread with honey, walnuts, and cinnamon, and it had cinnamon apples on top. He said it was very good but very rich. It was served with choice of bacon or chicken sausage.

December to Remember - The Food

Lee had one of the other new dishes, the Breakfast Skillet, with eggs, Pequillo peppers, Nueske's bacon, onions, and Greek cheese on Sweet potato hash and topped with arugula. He commented on having salad for breakfast, but I think he ate all of it! :-)

December to Remember - The Food

Ilene and I were more conventional, and had the American Breakfast with two eggs (scrambled), potatoes, and choice of bacon or sausage. It was good, but I suppose there was nothing remarkable about it. :-)

December to Remember - The Food

We bought a new Tables in Wonderland card at the beginning of this trip, and as you can see, we got some use out of it! It hasn't paid for itself yet, though. :-) (For those not familiar with it, it costs $75, but gives you 20% off at most table service restaurants at WDW.)


December 11, 2011

December to Remember - Day 3

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Today's big event was the Open House at one of the Grand Villas at Kidani Village. We arrived about 10:15, but other All Ears team members were already there and hard at work.

December to Remember - Day 3

The villa is two stories - there's a nice living room area at the top of the steps on the second floor.

December to Remember - Day 3

Here's the view out the huge picture window from the second floor balcony.

December to Remember - Day 3

We covered a lot of the horizontal surfaces with All Ears swag!

December to Remember - Day 3

In the dining area there were refreshments - here are some of the sweet treats provided by babycakes nyc (and some Mickey krispie treats, too).

December to Remember - Day 3

Fruit, cheese platters, drinks, and other snacks were provided by our sponsor, Orlando Stroller Rentals.

December to Remember - Day 3

Owner Shannon Tanner had a couple of their strollers on display.

December to Remember - Day 3

I think everyone enjoyed themselves - they could chat with All Ears team members, or take a Kidani Village tour with Jack Spence, or a Hidden Mickeys tour with Steve Barrett.

December to Remember - Day 3

There was quite a market in All Ears trading cards upstairs, as well as pin trading downstairs.

December to Remember - Day 3

Every half hour or so there was a raffle for prizes like t-shirts, hats, or bags.

December to Remember - Day 3

Thank you to all of you who came by and joined us - we hope you had a good time!

(For those interested in seeing more photos of the Villa - Jack Spence took a bunch of photos, and those will be making their way to AllEars soon.)



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!


December 8, 2011

December to Remember - Day 0

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

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

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

December to Remember - Day 0
December to Remember - Day 0

Katsura Grill Menu

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

December to Remember - Day 0

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

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

December to Remember - Day 0

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

December to Remember - Day 0

I thought these projected snowflakes were really pretty.

December to Remember - Day 0

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

December to Remember - Day 0



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.


October 22, 2011

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

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Our last moments aboard the Disney Dream this morning...the final morning of a cruise I always find to be a let-down - everyone is in such a rush to get us off the ship by 9:00.

It was a beautiful morning in Port Canaveral - but chilly!!! Only 57, and it was only supposed to get up to 71-72 today...that was NOT the forecast when I left home (they were saying low 80s). I'm glad I brought a light jacket!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

At about 7:30 we were in our cabin finishing our packing when suddenly the voice of the duty officer came on overhead - like right OVER Lee's head. I think he jumped a foot off the ground, and I was very startled, too. I don't think they intended that, because she just got a couple of sentences into the spiel about the Disney Dream being cleared by customs, and then it stopped. But if we weren't awake before, we were awake then. Yikes.

On our other cruises breakfast on the last morning has been pretty quiet, with a LOT of empty tables, but the dining room was pretty busy at 8:00 this morning. Only four of us at our 8-person table, though. Even our servers seemed a little subdued. They were great, and we will miss them.

We're used to just walking right off the ship after breakfast, but this time the Atrium was packed and people were lined up and waiting to get out. We twice heard the "everybody has to get off the ship" announcement before we were finally able to get off. It was not very pleasant, especially compared to our other experiences. But I guess that made it a relief to get off?

It didn't take too long to clear Customs and get out of the terminal and onto a bus headed back to WDW. We were the third stop, and the only passengers to get off at the Boardwalk. It was about 11:30 by then, and our room was actually ready!!! That was a very nice surprise.

I don't remember if we've been in a Studio since they changed the decor - I don't care much for the yellow and pink color scheme it has now.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Our room has one of the malevolent swans glaring down into it...though we are somewhat hidden by a big bush.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

BTW, we have free wireless internet service here, too, just like we did at Saratoga Springs. It's really very nice! I understand that for now this is a trial service - I sure hope they keep it. It works very well and has been very responsive, too.

We love staying at the Boardwalk - it's a pretty short walk to Epcot - the operative term being that you CAN walk - no need to hassle with waiting for a bus (or driving and parking). And since it was Food and Wine Festival time and we were ready for lunch...off to Epcot we went.

Lee's pass didn't work at the turnstile - it's a Premier pass that he renewed at Disneyland in May, and we'd both forgotten that he hadn't been to WDW since then, so they needed to activate it at Guest Relations. Fortunately that didn't take too long - though we wondered why he even had to do that. (The answer, apparently, is that they are two different ticketing systems. The Premier card stock comes from Disneyland, so it is pre-activated for Disneyland if you buy it at WDW, but if you buy it at Disneyland you have to have it activated at WDW before you can enter a park for the first time here. Though I don't remember having that problem with my Disneyland-purchased Premier pass last year.) So the Premier Pass thing continues to be somewhat frustrating - it's a great concept, but in practice it doesn't all work nearly as well as I think it should.

But we finally got into Epcot. It was really a beautiful day - totally clear skies. But a little bit cool (not even 70 at noon) and breezy - if I got into the shade I was chilly, even with a jacket. Not what I expect at this time of year - but it beats 95 degrees and 95% humidity!

The park was a little more crowded than I expected for a Thursday afternoon in late October, and there were short lines at most of the food booths, but not bad - and they got shorter as the afternoon went on. I'm going to have to do a separate blog on everything we tried, otherwise I won't get this one done in time to post tomorrow.

A shout-out to AllEars readers Katie and Dan from Seattle, who recognized us and came over to say hello and tell us how much they enjoy the web site and the newsletter. Thank you!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Today's standouts: Shrimp Cake from Singapore (Laura), and Beef with Smashed Sweet Potatoes from South Africa (Lee). Biggest surprise - Poland, where both the pork stuffed cabbage roll and the kielbasa and potato pierogi were very good. Best dessert: the Pastel from Portugal (a flaky pastry cup filled with egg custard). We would never have tried it but the ladies at the New Zealand booth told us how wonderful it was. (The Shrimp Cake is pictured below.)

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After one circle around World Showcase lagoon we took a break and went back to our room for a nap. We ARE on vacation, after all! And went back to the park around 5:30.

At the Desserts and Champagne booth I had a glass of the Moet and Chandon Nectar Imperial. It wasn't quite like having Steven serve me a champagne cocktail in Pink, but it was very good.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We saw the cranberry bog they have set up in the area between Future World and World Showcase (what is that area called, anyway?). Talked to the guy in the bog about cranberries and how they are harvested. We didn't realize that Craisins were actually developed to make use of what remained of the cranberry after the juice was extracted. And that cranberries are grown from seed - it takes 3-5 years after a bog is planted until it can be harvested...but after that, they keep producing - there are some cranberry bogs that are 130 years old!

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We wandered down to the Festival Center (former Wonders of Life pavilion), but there wasn't anything going on that late (it was almost 7:00). Continuing our tour of Epcot (have to work off all of those calories somehow!) we went to the front of the park - pretty at night.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Since we had dined with Crush the night before, it seemed only fitting that we visit the Nemo and Friends pavilion.

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

We saw one of the tanks that had a number of seahorses in it. (Seahorse means starboard! ;-) )

Disney Dream - October, 2011, Part 5 and Epcot Food and Wine Festival

It was around 8:00 by the time we went back to World Showcase, and there were hardly any lines at the food booths. The park was fairly empty since the evening was a little bit chilly. We tried a few more food items, and then watched Illuminations before heading back to our room for the night. We started the day on the Disney Dream, and finished the day at Epcot - not too bad!



June 28, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 3.)

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A late start was in the cards for the next day, as the midnight Star Tours Meet Up was that evening, and I was attempting to keep my candle from burning out at both ends. That afternoon I visited the Magic Kingdom to check out the new Mickey Mouse meet-and-greet location recently installed in the Town Square Theater on Main Street.
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The conceit behind it is that Mickey is performing a magic act at the theater and you, like some overzealous groupie, are going backstage to accost him in his dressing room.
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The detailing in this whole area is impressive and seems frankly out-of-proportion for what is more or less a photopass set up. Virtually all the items reference other films or places in the Disney canon, with particular emphasis on the Pixar short "Presto."
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On his dressing table: A bill of sale for a motorcar Mickey has apparently purchased from Badger, in the name of J. Thaddeus Toad Motors; and a bag of birdseed for the occupant of the cage just out of frame on the right. The label on the bag marks it as "Tuppence" brand seed and, if you could zoom in on it, displays a tiny bird--a wren, for architect Sir Christopher Wren, who built St. Paul's Cathedral, which is of course, where the old bird-woman sits and sells the bird seed in Mary Poppins. THAT'S how deep the detailing goes.
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On another shelf, sits some innocuous items that, when considered a moment, represent the other three parks' icons: The Hat, The Tree, and The Ball.
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Even his trunks (holding canisters of "Magic Feathers) have stickers from all the different parks around the globe, from the Mira Costa hotel at Tokyo Disneyland Resort, to Club 33 in Anaheim. His magic rings hang in an interesting formation...
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Leaving the Magic Kingdom for the Disney-sponsored Star Tours Meet, I headed over to Blizzard Beach, where we were to check in and board buses to Hollywood Studios. At the parking lot were some DJ's playing music out of the back of their van, asking trivia questions, and generally trying to entertain people waiting in a long line to register.
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Once arrived at the Studios, we were ushered in from backstage through a fog-filled tunnel into the immediate vicinity of Star Tours.
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On the other side of the tunnel were a plethora of aliens from the Star Wars canon.
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The ride was open for all to experience, with a a combination of new and old elements in the queue, and 50-odd different flights around the galaxy. Just not with Captain Rex.
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Outside of the ride, there was an ice cream sundae bar, various props, and a stage where some Imagineers were available for Q&A.
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At the end of the night, all participants were given one of four posters depicting four theoretical Star Tours destinations. Fifty people drawn at random were given all four, signed by two of the artists that drew them--a great souvenir!
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The event ended around 2am, and although some people went straight back to the front of the park to sit in line until opening, the less-persistent of us went home for a few hours of sleep. Then, it was back again the next day to see the opening ceremony for Star Tours--featuring Bob Iger and George Lucas.
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There was, of course, the usual copious amounts of merchandise for sale.
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The rest of the day was spent in attending the many specialty shows they had going with that weekend's Star Wars celebrities. The first was Behind the Force with host James Arnold Taylor, Ashley Eckstein, and Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni.
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Then Inside the Ackbar's Studio with Anthony Daniels and Daniel Logan...
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...Followed by Anthony Daniel's solo show Inside the Saga.
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The day's presentations wound up with James Arnold Taylor's high-energy one-man cavalcade of voices in Obi-Wan and Beyond.
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At night they had their traditional Hyperspace Hoopla which was moved to the central Hat stage instead of the little area they usually use right outside Star Tours. While it was a vast improvement over everyone trying to squish themselves in to get a view, the visibility was still pretty poor secondary to everyone putting their young (and not-so-young) kids up on their shoulders*. For some reason, even though they had a number of large video screens around that area, they didn't put any of the show on the screens, so they weren't much help.
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It was a reasonably corny but enjoyable show, and irreverent enough to make a fitting end to the Star Wars-filled day. The next day I flew home.

Next up: Everything Opens at Disneyland.


*By general consensus, I think we agreed that if your kid is a) driving, or b) wearing a bra, they might not need to be up on your shoulders anymore.

June 23, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 2.)

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So after the end of Destination D, I ran over to the Magic Kingdom to catch the new interactive headstones over in the Haunted Mansion queue.

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They're amusing enough, but it's true that they don't do much to maintain the genuine air of suspense and disquiet that some find an integral part of this attraction.

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While the technology they use to make the structures react to your touch or vocal responses is impressive, I'm not sure I find them sufficiently compelling to seek them out.

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If you're a fan of the interactive elements they installed in the Winnie The Pooh queue recently, you will doubtless be entertained with these. Everyone else can probably stand to take the bypass line after seeing them once.

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The next day I headed over to EPCOT to take in the residual of the Flower and Garden Festival that had unfortunately just ended the week before.

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Ah well, at least most of the topiary was still up. The weather was exceptional that day--possibly the best ever, in all my time at WDW.

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It's amazing how much more pleasant it is to wander around World Showcase when you're not dodging in and out of buildings, trying to escape the stifling heat and humidity.

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Eventually the sun set, as it usually does...

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...and we gathered around the fire. It was a lovely day.

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The next day I tried out an eatery completely new to me: The Fountain at the Swan/Dolphin resort. I had a shake and a burger.

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Honestly? Color me unimpressed. The shake came out quickly and was appropriately sweet and chocolate-y and bad for you, but then the burger took approximately an eon to get made and delivered to the table...and this was with the restaurant pretty much empty. It was a decent-enough burger, but a trifle overdone and with a bun totally inadequate to contain the contents. I'm not sure whether it had sat awhile and the bread had soaked through, but it basically disintegrated under the weight of the patty in pretty short order. Given that you either have to walk over from the Boardwalk or pay the Swan/Dolphin's pricey parking fees to get there, I'm not going to be rushing back anytime soon.

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The rest of the afternoon I spent over at Animal Kingdom, taking in some shows, and eventually ended up at Hollywood Studios, exploiting the Star Tours II soft openings, where photos were forbidden.

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As a measure of how empty the park was, Fantasmic! was only about a third full, allowing me the first chance to see it in probably over a year.

The next day: Star Tours/Wars excitement ramps up.


June 22, 2011

How I Spent My Spring Break: D23, WDW, SWW, DL, and Various Other Acronyms (Part 1.)

While I attended a multitude of events and places last month, most of them have already been covered in depth erstwhile. Here then, for your perusal, is a more superficial accounting of what you might have seen had you been in my slightly-tired shoes recently.

Last month saw the publication of Dick Van Dyke's new autobiography "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business," with the man himself participating in book signings in various cities around the country. I attended the one in West Hollywood, where he appears as hearty and spry as ever.

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A few days later I hopped a plane and, after some alarmingly inconvenient flight cancellations, made it over to WDW to attend this year's D23 Destination D. Jack Spence has done a great job reporting on the events of those days in his blogs, but here are some personal highlights:

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The comic stylings of the always-knowledgeable Becky Cline and Paul F. Anderson as they gave us even more Weird Disney--WDW style.

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More fascinating details about Walt's proposed City of the Future as presented by Steven Vagnini and Paul F. Anderson.

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Rob Klein and Tim O'Day showing us some of what surely must be the trippiest footage of WDW ever committed to film, including a Grad Nite film that cannot or should not exist on the resume of anyone connected with it.

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The hilarious, high-energy presentation of Jason Surrell, Alex Wright, and Jason Grandt on some of the many different manifestations their obsessions with Disney and detailing have taken. This presentation got a warm reception from all the audience, as they recognized kindred spirits in geekery.

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Marty Sklar's panel of stars, including Debra Browne, Orlando Ferrante, Bob Foster, Bob Gurr, and Ron Logan. Anything with Sklar is aces, and Gurr is a party all by himself.

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The absolute pinnacle of the weekend however, was the Magic Journeys concert that closed out the event. It began with a concert and reminiscence with Richard Sherman and really only built from there.

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As he began to enter in on "One Little Spark," the original Dreamfinder and Figment came out and joined him for a few choruses. The room exploded in a swell of WDW nostalgia.

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After a performance of Golden Dreams by some long-standing Entertainment CMs, the WDW Cast Choir Encore! came out and did a medley of all those old EPCOT songs that everyone still wishes they were using today.

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It was a phenomenal show, and a great way to cap off the weekend.


December 15, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 7

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All good things must come to an end...and today was the last day of our trip. It went way too fast!

This was our coldest morning yet - 28 degrees at 8:00 (but felt like 20!). Still, it was a beautiful clear sunny day - hard to believe it was so cold until you went outside. Not nearly so windy as yesterday, though, so if you were in the sun it felt a lot warmer.

We packed our bags (bought lots more stuff this time than we usually do - but some of it is Christmas gifts) and lugged them out to the car - it was up to 30 degrees by then. Then we met our friends Paul and Ilene for breakfast at Flying Fish. They have been serving a scaled down version of the Kouzzina breakfast menu while Kouzzina is closed (it opens tomorrow - we were very disappointed to miss it).

I'd tried to call for a Dining Reservation but they said nothing was available - but the restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived. So maybe they just never managed to get it completely into the system since it was for such a short time. Paul, Ilene, and Lee all had the American Breakfast - eggs any style with bacon or sausage and toast or croissant. It also comes with breakfast potatoes, but Lee and Paul asked to substitute the sweet potato hash instead.

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I had the scrambled eggs with feta, tomatoes, and spinach. Those were quite good. They came with bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes, and a croissant.

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We said goodbye to Paul and Ilene, who were headed to Animal Kingdom (cold day for that park, since there aren't very many indoor spaces), and we walked into Epcot, since we wanted to do some shopping. Something we hadn't done much of because it had just been too cold at night - once we got back inside the room we didn't want to go out again!

As I mentioned it was a beautiful day, end even though the temperature was not much about 34 by then, it felt pretty good if you were in the sun - as long as you had some kind of jacket on. But the temperature dropped a LOT if you got into the shade.

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A lot of the ground coverings and the topiaries had been covered to protect them from the cold - the white covering looked like snow from a distance. But it was strange to not see any of the topiaries - and I'd never gotten a photo of them on this trip, either. Oh well.

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I was surprised that the fountain was going - though I don't think it was as high as usual.

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We finished our shopping, but still had about 40 minutes before we needed to be back to our car, so we wandered the long way around World Showcase, and I took some photos along the way. It didn't seem to me like some of the pavilions were decorated as much as they have been in the past.

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We saw the outside of the new Via Napoli restaurant in Italy.

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And the big gingerbread house inside the Liberty Inn.

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But all too soon it was time to leave for the airport. Along the way we went through one toll station that was showing some holiday spirit.

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It seemed like a very quick trip, with so many things that we didn't get a chance to do - we never had a chance to resort hop and see the holiday decorations at the monorail resorts, and didn't even spend as much time (or take as many photos) in the Epcot resorts as I usually do. We never saw the Voices of Liberty - I think this may be the first trip that I've never seen them at all!

Despite all we didn't do, we still did a lot of things, and had a wonderful time with friends - and that was really the main purpose of this trip - the parks are just an excuse to get us all together.

Lee and I will be back in less than a month, since we are doing the Goofy Challenge on January 8 and 9. Hope the weather will be a little warmer than it was this time!


December 14, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


December 13, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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That holiday finale is still an insane amount of fireworks.

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


December 12, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 4

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RADP - Day 2 - Epcot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more photo from the Iluminations holiday finale:

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December 11, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 3

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

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

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

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

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And we also saw some baby sable antelope.

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And we saw the newest baby elephant.

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

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

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

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

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But we got a group photo with Jiminy Cricket!

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

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

We saw these blackbuck mock-fighting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow is Epcot day.


December 10, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 2

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Big day today - instead of getting up and going to a Disney park, we actually left Disney property (gasp!) and went to Universal's Islands of Adventure Park. Different experience in many ways. Our main objective was to visit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

For those of you who don't want to read a lot more detail I'll summarize here: we were pretty impressed. They put a lot of thought and detail into this area, and there are many small surprises, too. It's very faithful to the books, with lots of little things here and there that we looked at and said: "Oh yeah!" If you're a Harry Potter fan I'd say it's definitely worth a visit.

Ok, back to a somewhat more detailed version. (I still don't have enough time to write about everything, or share all the pictures I'd like to.) We arrived about 8:30 (the park opened at 9:00). It was a chilly gray morning, but fortunately the sun came out later, and although it never got very warm, it was quite comfortable in the afternoon. The crowds were much less than I had expected, so we were very happy about that. Forbidden Journey (the ride inside Hogwarts Castle) was never more than a 30 minute wait. The longest line seemed to be for the Ollivander's Wand experience, but we never did that. Lines weren't too bad in the other shops.

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At the park entrance we had to do something we NEVER do any more - buy a ticket!!! Major sticker shock, too - a one day, one park ticket was about $88 with tax. Yikes. They were a bit pushy about upselling - "adding the second park is only $30 more" - uh, no, I'm only going to Islands of Adventure - and "you can buy the express pass for another $29.99" - uh, no, I'm not expecting huge crowds today.

This park is really beautifully themed and I kept having to tell myself NOT to stop and take pictures because we really wanted to get back to the Harry Potter area as early as we could, and there would be time for the others later.

You enter the town of Hogsmeade, where you can see Hogwarts Castle in the background.

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And there's the Hogwarts Express. (There was a conductor hanging around providing some interesting "atmosphere", too. :-) )

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And there's all of the shops, like Zonko's and Honeydukes (I knew I could spend a lot of money there...and I did), and Dervish and Banges. And the restaurants - the Three Broomsticks and the Hogshead Inn (which had a moving snorting boar's head behind the bar).

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We pretty much went straight back to the castle to ride Forbidden Journey, which had a 10-minute wait at that point. You must leave all bags and backpacks in a (free) locker before you go on the ride. I carried my camera in my pocket, so I was able to take some pictures inside. It's really wonderfully detailed, and the queue goes through so many areas of the castle that we've all read about - the herbarium, the entrance to Dumbledore's Tower, Dumbledore's office itself, a gallery with (talking) portraits of the former headmasters and headmistresses of Hogwarts, and the Room of Requirement. It's kind of a blur and I don't really remember. Dumbledore talks to you, as do Harry, Ron and Hermione.

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The ride itself is very cool - it's more moving simulator stuff, and there's a lot going on - everything from riding a broomstick in a Quidditch match to getting chased by flaming dragons, spat upon by spiders, whomped by the Whomping Willow, and accosted by dementors. There's a lot of motion - though it really didn't bother me, I also knew that riding it again immediately would not be a good idea. If Star Tours bothers you, I'd think twice about this one.

Next we did Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a pretty small roller coaster - a little longer than Goofy's Barnstormer - but not much. It was cute, but the best thing about it (other than seeing Buckbeak and Hagrid's Cottage) was the view of Hogsmeade.

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Lee did the Dragon Challenge roller coaster. That one is too violent for me, so I just went through the queue with him - that's another one where bags must be stored in a locker, though since I wasn't riding I could hold onto his. The queue offers a great view of the castle. And there's also banners supporting the candidates in the Tri-Wizard Tournament.

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We had an early lunch at The Three Broomsticks. It offers things like ribs, roasted chicken, shepherd's pie, and fish and chips. Because we were eating early we walked right in - there's actually a queue to get into it, so obviously it gets pretty busy. Lee had to try the butterbeer (which is like cream soda).

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I had the pumpkin fizz, which I really liked - it's pumpkin juice with a bit of carbonation added. The pumpkin juice is more like spiced apple juice (and apple juice is the main ingredient, though it does have some pumpkin and apricot puree). It was really good.

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One of the extra touches - occasionally places on the walls would like up and show the shadows of house elves at work. Hard to get a picture of them, though, but it was a lot of fun to watch for it.

Other fun things - this snowwizard and his owl. And, in the restrooms (or "Public Conveniences", we could hear the voice of Moaning Myrtle. Also, the cast members (I'm not sure what Universal calls them) were pretty into it - I heard one of them say when they were posing for pictures that they had to stay very still for Muggle cameras. :-)

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Later in the day we saw the the Frog Choir - this was four Hogwarts students and their frogs. They were very talented - the frogs were singing the bass part. I have some video, but I don't have the processing power or the bandwidth to get it uploaded right now. There was also a Tri-Wizard Spirit Rally, featuring Dumstrang and Beaux-Batons students, but we kept just missing that.

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We also visited the rest of Islands of Adventure. Seuss Landing was my favorite the first time we visited, 11 years ago, and it's still really good with lots of charming details. They are doing Grinchmas right now, so everything is decorated for Christmas.

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There's a special live How the Grinch Stole Christmas show. Only about 30 minutes long, but it told the story very well, and had some clever dialog and fun moments. (The Grinch realizes he's talking in rhyme - and he hates that!) Max the dog even appears on stage a few times. Though one very non-Disney thing about the show - it's held in a soundstage behind the park, so you have to walk through some backstage areas to get there. They try to hide it with some plants and stuff - but that doesn't really work.

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I think The Lost Continent is one of the most beautiful areas of the park. We did not do the Poseidon's Fury show, but we saw The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show - which was pretty cheesy. Disappointing since up until then everything we'd experienced had been quality entertainment.

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The other half of the park includes Jurassic Park, Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon. We didn't do any attractions other than Spiderman - mostly because the attractions in the other two areas involve large amounts of water - and it was not a day we wanted to get wet! Too chilly for that. We found some fun photo ops in Toon Lagoon, though.

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The park closed at 6:00, but we left a little after 5:00 - it was starting to get chilly again, and we'd done everything we wanted to do. We made a pretty quick stop in our room before going to dinner at the Garden Grove Cafe over in the Swan hotel. It's a buffet, but they have different themes depending on the night of the week - tonight it was Mediterranean. So we had Greek salad, hummus, couscous, pasta, and antipasto, along with roasted chicken, salmon, and a beef dish. My favorite part was the desserts, though - one of the nicer (and tastier) buffet dessert selections I've ever seen. Two pretty decent chocolate desserts and one that was really good. (The really good one was a chocolate tart, which is not pictured, though.)

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After dinner we walked to Epcot, planning to get some Gluhwein at Germany, but we got sidetracked when we went by the America Gardens Theater, where the Candlelight Processional was just starting. Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel) was the narrator, and she was excellent. We ended up watching almost all of the show - there's just too many songs that I like.

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So by the time we walked to Germany the kiosk selling the bottles of wine had closed for the night...oh well. Maybe tomorrow!

We didn't stay for Illuminations this time, though we could have had just about our choice of spots - the park was pretty empty. It seemed a little warmer to us than it did last night, though!

It was really a good day - I'm so glad we went to Universal. It was really a nice change to go someplace new, and do things that we *haven't* done 20 or more times. Yes, it was an expensive day, but I felt I got my money's worth. I really enjoyed taking photos - I wish I'd brought my better camera, but I didn't feel like carrying it around with me all day, especially since I knew I wouldn't be able to have it on Forbidden Journey.

RADP 15 officially starts tomorrow, so we will be at Animal Kingdom for most of the day. Looking forward to seeing lots of friends again!


December 9, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Part 1

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It's late, and we have to get up fairly early (especially by west coast standards) to go to Universal tomorrow, so this is going to be a bit short...

Had a very easy travel day today - smooth flights and minimal waits for our bags and rental car. We were at Disney's Boardwalk Villas just about an hour after we landed in Orlando!

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First order of business after unpacking was going to Epcot's International Gateway to upgrade Lee's Disneyland Annual Pass to a Premier Pass that is good for both Disneyland AND Walt Disney World. Problem is...they do so few of those that they don't have the printer at the International Gateway - it's at Guest Relations at the FRONT of Epcot. Kind of hard to get there from the back of Epcot! After a bit of consultation they decided to have a manager walk Lee in, with our promise that we were going to the front of the park to get his pass. Which we did. (I was pretty happy because my Premier Pass, which I had not yet used at WDW, worked just fine the first time I used it at a turnstile - I wasn't sure it would.)

It was a chilly evening, so we had dinner at Seasons in The Land - partly because it was indoors! We both had the "Sustainable Fish - Nicoise style". The fish was salmon, so not very exotic, but it was pretty good - I'd do that again.

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We also shared the Yukon Gold potato soup with bacon. That was really tasty - and would have been quite filling on its own.

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After dinner we walked back to the American Adventure where we met up with Deb Wills, Deb Koma, and Mike Scopa. We were sort of listening to Jodi Benson and the Candlelight Processional, but mostly we were chatting.

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Mike and DebW left just before the show ended to avoid the crowds, but Deb, Lee and I stayed for Illuminations.

It was a bit, umm...nippy there alongside World Showcase Lagoon. Lee had kind of scoffed at me before we left our room when I put on most of my cold weather clothes (heavy jacket, gloves, and hat) and he went much lighter - but I think he was wishing for something a little warmer by that time. :-)

The show was incredible, as always. The extra holiday tag that they add at this time of the year is just awesome. We had a little bit of a "bonus" experience - we were actually downwind of the fireworks (not good planning on our part!), and in addition to smoke we also had bits of cardboard "shrapnel" showering us several times during the show. Either Deb or Lee got hit by a piece that was about 2" x 2". (She declined to keep it as a souvenir. :-) )

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We walked back to the Boardwalk and enjoyed some hot chocolate and coffee in the lobby before heading to our respective rooms. It's always great to spend time with Deb - I don't get to see her nearly often enough!

Tomorrow will be a very different day for us - it's been 11 years since we last visited Universal's Islands of Adventure, so obviously there have been some changes other than the addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


December 8, 2010

2010 Holidays at WDW - Are We There Yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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