Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 6 - June 12th, Last full day (*sniff*) - back to EPCOT

[Note to my readers: It was extraordinarily hard for me to write this final post for my trip report...sort of like leaving my happy place all over again! But...I powered through and did it…]

So...here’s the deal peeps...since we closed out MK the night before, I wasn’t going to make my family rope drop EPCOT again on our last day. To be fair, what I really cared about were the countries (I love the countries!!) although everyone else was sure excited about re-riding Spaceship Earth (did I mention it’s a big hit with my kids), Soarin’ and Test Track. I switched out our top tier FP to Soarin’ for our last day because we knew we’d be perfectly happy doing Test Track as single riders.

Oh - I Bounded as Village Belle and hoped to get my picture with her but no such luck - the line was too long. At least David snapped my picture as Belle in France!



On June 12th I learned that the second time was definitely NOT the charm for me when it came to Mission: Space (orange, not green). I was a little dizzy after riding it the June 8th, but I felt downright DRUNK on the 12th (and no...I hadn’t had anything to drink...YET). I felt so icky that I skipped the Spaceship Earth FP time because even that didn’t sound fun to me and I decided I would much rather wander around the countries. There were rain showers off and on all day and the weather felt great.

Although I didn’t get to wander the countries as much as I’d prefer, at least we got quite a few family pictures. Sorry but I'm posting four of them here. Because...well...it makes me happy to remember!







David insisted that the kids get a “hanging-flower-pot-on-the-head” picture and found a spot where he could get both of them at once. Score!



As usual...we took plenty of bunny pictures…











And enjoyed the birds who joined us for lunch when we munched on fish and chips.



Tidbits and appreciations from our second day in EPCOT:

- The caramel store in Germany, people...OMG!! The line was longer than some ride lines but who cares? You get to soak up the amazing smells the whole time.

- Take time to enjoy the gardens and flowers. I won’t post a million pictures of them but I will mention that our whole family remembered the miniature train garden in Germany and couldn’t wait to see it again. I felt a bit like Sheldon Cooper when I got annoyed that not only was the train not moving, but one of them was on it’s side. It’s still pretty cool - but they need to hire Sheldon to come in and spruce it up a bit.



- I insisted that my family join me for the a capella singers at the American Experience then watch the movie. I’m so glad I did that, even though that meant they had to practically run all the way to Spaceship Earth and all the way back to make it in time. (It’s good for them...we were eating a ton of food.)

- My son, who loves history just like I do, walked out of the American Experience saying “That was AWESOME!!!” So nice to have a kid who gets into history with me.

- My daughter went up to one of the singers after the show and complimented her. My daughter was just chosen for varsity choir herself and we had a great conversation with this amazing soprano. We learned that one of the singers there has been there from the very beginning!

- I used one of my last sets of little stickers for a very good purpose. In Morocco, I hunted for Jasmine and asked a CM who told me that Jasmine and Aladdin were just finishing up a visit but if I wanted to get in line behind “this sweet girl and her mom” we could wait for the next visit (to start in an hour). The little girl looked blue to have just missed out but she was determined to meet Jasmine! (Who can blame her, really??) I wasn’t going to wait, but I wanted to give her some pixie dust so I gave her a bag of stickers and a glow stick (a.k.a. magic wand). She looked a lot happier after that! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - those gifts for random kiddos were the best $10 I’ve ever spent on a vacation!

- I HIGHLY RECOMMEND counter service in Morocco. Not only was the food delicious, but the building itself is intricately carved - so beautiful. I truly wish we’d had hours to spend in Morocco. This is just a tiny section of the ceiling…



- In some ways, I was a little bit frustrated by this day because I wanted a LOT more time in the countries. There were shows I wanted to see (at least we caught the last 2 songs by Off Kilter!) and more atmosphere I wanted to soak in. If it had been a solo trip, I think I would’ve stayed until they shoved me out the door. As it was, we left on the earlier side (to be fair, we had to wake up at an ungodly hour for our flight back) but at least we got a photopass picture with Olaf as we left - woot!!!!



There’s not much to say about our last day except that we had to be down at the Magic Express place by 5 for our 8:00 a.m. flight. I was impressed. They were able to check our bags for us at the hotel (even that early) and those babies showed up in Austin like a charm.

If anyone is going back to the World in the next year and has room for me in your suitcase, I’m in! Thanks for reading along and I hope all of you get to your happy place with your family (wherever that may be!) very soon.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 5 - June 11th Part 3 (Animal Kingdom Lodge and closing up Magic Kingdom)

When I last updated you, my family was reunited after the ER adventure. Our ADR for Boma was at 6 but I wanted us to have some time to enjoy looking around the resort a bit, so I insisted that everyone get ready so we could get to Animal Kingdom Lodge by at least 5. Grabbing a cab was the best plan and very affordable.

As soon as we walked into the lobby at AKL, I was just overwhelmed with the African art everywhere, the enormously tall thatched ceiling, and the window overlooking the savannah. It did NOT disappoint.



We went out the back door to look at animals and had to laugh a bit because right before we headed out, there were 3 older kids considering going outside but they said “It’s too hot out there.” After they left, Kathryn observed that they were obviously not from Texas because it felt great to us. It was humid, and you could tell it was getting ready to rain, but with the overcast skies and the nice breeze - we really liked it!

Someday I want to stay here so I can look out my window and see the animals. Someday….



We met some very nice young men from Botswana who worked at AKL, had a great conversation, and they took our family picture.



It started to rain and it was time to go in for dinner. We made our way to Boma and were seated immediately in the PERFECT location. It’s a noisy restaurant, but our table was off in a little alcove with lots of windows. Especially with the rain coming down outside, it was a very nice atmosphere. I look really happy, don't I? I had a Long Island Iced Tea.
'Nuff said, right?



Boma was on my list of things I wanted to do for two reasons: first, I’d always wanted to visit AKL and second, I’d heard the food was great. Many people who wrote reviews of it were particularly blown away by the soups. The continuous stream of compliments about the soups fascinated me so we started there.

Whoa. I have no idea how they make such delicious soups, people. The Nigerian fish stew made my tastebuds sing. Needless to say, I think this restaurant will always be on my list although my husband rightfully pointed out that we would not have enjoyed it as much if we’d been in the middle of the noisy dining room. Maybe not….but I would stand in a long line in Texas heat just to get some of that fish stew again. I can only guess that the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld must have made soup like this for people to put up with his abuse. I would totally be willing to be yelled at ("No soup for you!!") to get more of that stew. No kidding!

At the end of the meal, while the rest of the family waited for the bill, I went upstairs to the bar and asked for a glass of any African wine that I couldn’t easily find in the states. The nice bartender provided me with a glass of this and I was not disappointed.



After that we went outside again and I sat in a rocking chair, finishing my wine while David and the kids looked at some interesting snails on the foliage. I was slowing us down a bit, everyone was eager to get back to the MK and attack it with everything we had, but I needed that glass of wine and enjoyed every last drop of it!



Once I was properly wined up, we made our way to the buses and went back to the Magic Kingdom. We all stayed in our matching shirts because we didn’t have any family photopass pictures from today. It was time to change that! I told my husband how much I loved the special Disney balloons-inside-balloons and he got a nice picture for me.



Ok - a good trip reporter would be able to tell you exactly what time we arrived, exactly what rides we rode, etc. But...I’m not a good trip reporter. Too bad for you. ;)

Before Dennis and I left the park that morning, we’d changed our Space Mountain FPs because our whole family wasn’t together. Sadly, the only time available was pretty late - like at 9:30 at night. Or maybe it was even 10:30. I forget - but it was late. That was still our 3rd FP so I wasn’t able to take advantage of the “get a 4th FP, then a 5th FP” plan at MK as I originally planned.

We were, however, able to repeat a number of pictures from our trip 5 years before - such as this lovely one of my husband wearing the hanging flowers as a hat.



One of my goals will be to figure out how to do some sort of fun art thing with all our re-do pictures...to see how we’ve changed in 5 years!

When we got to the Magic Kingdom after dinner, I think the first thing we did was wait in the Under the Sea line for an annoyingly long time. Over and over, I’d read tons of comments about how if the sign said the line was 20 minutes, it was probably just 10 minutes. This ride wasn’t high on my list but I figured, what the heck - the line will be short. IT WAS NOT SHORT. The time was understated and then the ride itself kept stopping. Although I didn’t time it, if I had to guess I think the whole experience at the Ariel ride sucked up the first hour of our time back at Magic Kingdom. Luckily, it was a cute ride and there was an ADORABLE little baby in the clam shell right behind me and Kathryn. No problem, really!

Then we enjoyed some of the other charming sections of New Fantasyland like the gorgeous Tangled bathrooms (I know that sounds weird if you don’t know what I’m talking about but I'm actually ok with you thinking I'm a freak for taking pictures of the inside of bathrooms because they are JUST THAT FABULOUS.)


We were finally able to walk through the Castle together and David took this picture of me in front of the amazingly gorgeous mosaic. (Heaven...I'm in heaven just remembering it...)



We rode Dumbo and it was very nice because the sun was just setting as we were up in the air.



In case you’re curious, it’s very much worth it to get a few lovely sunset castle pictures with your family when you see those PhotoPass photographers…so STOP and get those pictures. Trust me!



Once it was dark, we went to Gaston’s Tavern where we ordered a LaFou’s brew (way too sweet for us) and a cinnamon roll. Then David insisted that Kathryn take our picture like this. Yay for embarrassing your kids at Disney World!!



It was getting dark so I wanted us to head over to Adventureland so we could enjoy the Jungle Cruise at night and hopefully Pirates of the Caribbean as well. As we went by Peter Pan and It’s A Small World, we were able to ride both of those without much of a wait at all. As we came out of IASW, we heard the fireworks and although I tried to rush my family (I had this list of rides I wanted us to try to knock out before 1 a.m.), they smartly insisted that we stay right where we were so we could watch the fireworks.

It was cool, people. My family was TOTALLY RIGHT for telling me to chill out and watch the fireworks. We were near IASM and some of the fireworks were over our castle to our right and some were further back, to our left. Pretty cool. Of course, it's difficult to tell from this photo but I'll try to incorporate the video into our big trip video and hopefully that will give you the feel. If you don't like crowds, it's a cool option!



In Adventureland, Jungle Cruise was a walk on and so corny of course. Pirates of the Caribbean was also a walk on at that time of night. After that it was time for our Space Mountain FastPasses - yea!!!



We were all very excited because, of course, Dennis learned he loved roller coasters on this trip and Kathryn was looking forward to the ride. Too bad the SM cars don’t fit 4 people - my picture didn’t show up at first on PhotoPass but I’d taken the wise advice of many on the advice forums and taken a cell phone photo so I knew my PhotoPass number and they were able to track it down for me. Dennis loved the ride but Kathryn did not like it at all. She said she felt like she was about to fall out all the time and I can see what she means - the walls are rather low on those cars!



I knew my son was very much looking forward to a spin on Carousel of Progress and it surprised me to learn my daughter was as well...so we rode that. And I will spare you the argument I got into with the rest of my family (it was them against me) because after the ride stopped three or four different times and started replaying the last scene for (I believe) the third time, I joined others who arose and tried to exit out of impatience. The very young teen boys running the ride hollered at us over the loudspeaker saying it was our fault the ride was stopped.

What?????

I was not happy (we had rides to do before 1 a.m.) but my family told me I should have been much more obedient and remained in my seat.

I’m such a rebel. Luckily - I was able to access my inner rebel on Buzz because there was no line at all. Kathryn’s gun didn’t work AT ALL and the confused look on her face contrasted with her father’s intent look cracks me up.



My family was ready to start heading out. I was a little bummed we didn’t make it to Monster’s Laugh Factory, but that’s ok...we planned to find ice cream. As we got close to the front I asked if they’d do “one more thing” for me and we rode the carousel - all of us had big smiles.



As I was soaking in the carousel, I noticed the insane line for Elsa and Anna (even at 12:40 a.m.!) but wondered about seeing Cinderella and Rapunzel. They were listed as 20 minutes but I asked the CM - is it really 20 minutes? She shook her head. We followed the line around (passing all the Elsa/Anna people on the other side of the rope) and walked right in. Oh, I”m so glad we did! One of the best parts of the whole experience was the 2 year old boy behind us who told Cinderella “I just saw your CASTLE!!!” It was great.

And I hugged princesses! (They both asked us what our secret was for 21 years of marriage and we told both of them that the kids were our secret to success.)



As we left, we picked up a couple of ice cream sundaes (yum) and my only regret about that is that by the time we got to the front of the park, it was past 1 a.m. so my last minute idea to meet Tinkerbell didn’t work. Oh, well….next time!


We were all very tired, but what a day! We truly did so many rides together at MK (especially considering the fact two of us were at the ER for a few hours, we had a nap, then dinner at AKL). It turned out to be a wonderful MK day, although I’d love to have so many more days there very soon!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 5 cont'd - June 11th MK (when I cover my head with a pillow for a while)

As I mentioned in my previous report, everything turned out ok with my lovely daughter although she and my husband spent quite a few hours at the ER. He entertained her with corny jokes and did a great job of keeping me up to date via text. (In one he texted that they felt sure it wasn’t appendicitis because when they hit the bottom of her feet she didn’t feel the pain all the way up her legs and into her abdomen. Hmmm. Who knew? That’s a handy little tidbit for you guys to keep in the back of your heads, I suppose.) But it took a while for x-rays and answers. 

After the cute pictures Dennis and I grabbed right outside of the First Aid station, we found him a frozen lemonade and one of the new cake cups at Cheshire Cafe. It seems like they are actually “icing cups” (which they sort of are, but how is that a bad thing?) - they were rather tasty, to be honest.




Then we headed over to Adventureland for more SOTMK. My son enjoyed SOTMK until it was time for the two of us to go to Be Our Guest. We had a FP for lunch and I told them at the front it needed to be for 2 instead of 4 since my daughter was at the ER. (I think I was still freaking out a bit and wanted some sympathy. In hindsight, I was telling EVERY SINGLE CAST MEMBER my daughter was at the ER. Can you really BLAME me??) They said that was fine to just be 2 people and the FP option turned out to be highly preferable to waiting in line on the bridge (of course). We still waited in a short line but the building was so beautiful, the knights in armor were really cool, and the food was…..WOW. Super high quality, especially since it’s a counter service meal! In case you’re curious, I had the ever-popular braised pork and my son had potato leek soup. (Both my kids are huge fans of potato leek soup. They are also - apparently - huge fans of Carousel of Progress. I have no idea if those two factoids are related…perhaps someone could conduct a study?)

How’s about if I just insert some various BOG pictures here. You won’t see great food pictures on my TR because other people are SO MUCH BETTER at food pictures than I am. You also won’t see great pictures of the building because I was busy trying to capture video to show my missing family members later. (I failed miserably at that effort.)


 

Can we all just give Dennis a round of slow-clapping for his patience as his increasingly stressed out mom insisted on repeated blurry camera pictures? (Bravo, Dennis.)

The ONE exception I will make in terms of food pictures is the before and after picture of the Master’s Cupcake that I saved for Kathryn. Be Our Guest is so beautiful and the food is beyond scrumptious. It was the only point I allowed myself some sadness that David and Kathryn were missing this part of our day. So...I got a very fabulous to-go cupcake holder and saved my cupcake for her. (That’s right, I didn’t eat the Master’s Cupcake even though I’d wanted one for months and months...what a mom I am!) I was dying to try the grey stuff but I didn’t even put my finger in it! (It was something I could do to show my girl how much I loved her while she was in the ER.)

You may remember the fiasco we had when I tried to save a cupcake in my baggalini at DHS. Well, that was just in a plain ol’ box and I carried it around for hours. In this case, I had high hopes that it would work because we planned to head right back to the hotel and I carried this cupcake in its fancy plastic container. HOWEVER...it was getting pretty warm. And, as it turns out, the Grey Stuff melts when it gets hot. That, in turn, makes the cupcake much less attractive. I wish I’d opened up the container for a better picture, but I think you can still see the change here. Not. Terribly. Attractive. 



Dennis and I did a little shopping as we left Main Street I was still worried at this point that Kathryn might end up with an appendectomy...sooooo... if that happened I wanted to buy a get well soon card and have the princesses sign it for her. Luckily she didn’t need surgery because there were no get well soon cards to be seen. (And the folks in the store looked at me sort of oddly when I asked for one. Maybe I’m the only one who’s ever needed a get well soon card at Disney??) I guess it’s also lucky she didn’t need surgery because that would have… you know... sucked. 

On our way towards Main Street we came across the cool dance party parade (which I know has an actual name...I have no idea what it is right now) and I swear on all that is holy, if I hadn't been so stressed out I would have been in heaven dancing with those characters. That is my idea of heaven on earth! But....that wasn't going to happen. Too hot, too tired, too worried (although even with all of that...I felt the siren song of pop music calling to me...).




I learned first hand how strict Disney World is about the whole “costumes must stay in a certain area” rule when Dennis needed to go to the restroom as I was hunting for a get well soon card or a magnet or something villain-y (I forget which at this point in time) because when we got directions from a CM about how to find the bathroom outside and around the corner, I told him to go on and just come back and find me later. Approximately seven minutes and thirty-two seconds later I regretted that decision with a white hot intensity. 

He’s 11 and, although I’m protective in many ways, I’m also aware that the MK is a super safe place and he’s growing up. NORMALLY, I wouldn’t worry. Of course, NORMALLY my husband and daughter wouldn’t be at the hospital in downtown Orlando. 

So perhaps I should cut myself a little slack that I suddenly began to go a little insane with worry. What if he made a wrong turn? What if something happened? I waited outside the bathroom and he didn’t come out. It probably wasn’t very long but it felt like FOREVER to me. I went back into the store and asked a male CM if he could help me. 

He immediately seemed very, very stressed and said “Let me see if they’ll let me do that.” He came back and apologized, explaining that they can’t go past a certain boundary in their uniforms but he pointed out a custodian and suggested I get his help because the custodians “can go anywhere.” So I got the nice custodian’s help and he informed me that Dennis was in there, he would be out soon, and was fine. I learned that they aren’t kidding about keeping those uniforms in a certain area! (No problem of course - the CM in the special uniform made sure he helped me find someone who could go into the forbidden no-plaid zone.)

In hindsight, I was fading fast. Not only was it warm and we’d gotten an early start, but I was worried about my girl. Right after arriving at the hotel (and happily finding it clean with a towel swan holding Kathryn’s Ariel - picture inserted again below just because it’s so adorable), I got word from my husband that Kathryn was fine and they’d be back in a few hours after dropping by a pharmacy for the necessary medicine.




It was at this point that I put a pillow over my head and pretty much passed out. I was barely coherent when they came in the room a few hours later. I think the rest of my family joined me in napping when they got back but I'm honestly a bit fuzzy about the middle of that day. I know that I managed to get everyone up and going later in the afternoon and we caught a cab to Animal Kingdom Lodge so we could enjoy those grounds for a little bit before our ADRs at Boma.

I do remember them coming in, I remember the big smile on my daughter’s face (and their funny stories) and I remember she was thrilled with the melted cupcake and said it tasted amazing.