Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 4: Animal Kingdom

Today we made use of one of the perks of staying at Club Level-access to a special Sunrise Safari. We received our invitation the previous night for the event. We got up just before 6, checked in at the lounge, then went to wait in the lobby. We were directed to stand by the large yellow mask, we never found that mask. I really wish I knew what that employee was referring to!

Soon enough people started to gather and our guides Amanda and Tim showed up. It was quite a full tour, 2 buses worth. We left just after 7:00 and got to enter Animal Kingdom through a back entrance. While on the bus, we toured along the back of all the animal pens and got off just before the Kilimanjaro Safari ride entrance. The safari itself was just under an hour. The great thing about it was that the driver would actually stop to view the animals, so you could get several pictures, hear lots of interesting facts, and ask questions. Here's a whole slew of animal photos:

Tamara took these first three.
Here are some of mine:

I remember reading about this type of photo, and since I was on the right side, I had to try!

The tour ended around 8:30, then we walked as a big group over to Pizzafari for a special breakfast buffet. There were even place cards set up with the last names.

There was standard breakfast fare, as well as a few dishes with more of an ethnic flair. Some of those included plantains, a ridiculous banana French toast (French toast, coated in banana, then deep fried, rolled in sugar and served with a banana sauce), tropical fruits, as well as some spicy sausages. It was good!Here's a mural from inside the restaurant. I wish that restaurant had a different name, Pizzafari makes it sound like a lame Pizza joint.

We tried to be done by 9:00, since there were already early magic hours (the park opened at 8 for resort guests)- that way we could still fit a lot into the day.

We walked over to Asia and rode Expedition Everest. There was a 25 minute wait, so we picked up a FP, then went to wait in line. The queue is so amazing, it's practically an attraction in itself. The exterior line consists of sculptures, shrines, prayer flags, and bells, as well signs and advertisements.

The interior line is basically a yeti museum, there are so many details, it's fantastic. You almost want to have to wait in line at least once, just to see all the work that went into it. I really enjoyed it for a roller coaster! I didn't actually realize that it made me a bit dizzy until I got off it, and I wasn't really walking straight. I took a few photos while we made our way to another area of the park. You could say I get a little shutter happy at this park...

Next we went over to Dinoland U.S.A to ride Dinosaur. It had a 5 minute wait posted, but it ended up being a bit closer to 10. At that point they were only loading cars from one side, so that explained the slower load time. I was looking forward to riding it again for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't remember the ride at all. Second, it's described as being a clone of Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride (the ride itself, not the theming), so I wanted to compare them. Indiana Jones is definitely the superior ride, there's just more to see during the ride and it's not as stressful of a story. Now, I'm not saying the story stressed me out, it's just this whole race against time thing with Dinosaur, whereas with Indy it's just like you're part of one of the adventures.

We went to the Nemo musical after. It was so cute, it even made me tear up in a few spots. The costumes are so detailed, really beautiful! The songs are cute and go well with the original story.

We made it back to Everest at exactly 11:10 (which was when our FP was due to expire). Tamara wasn't too concerned. It's apparently very rare for them to turn you away for having a late FP. However, I didn't really feel like finding out. After the ride, we picked up a new FP for Kilimanjaro Safari (so we could ride it the "traditional" way) and basically ambled (aka I took pictures while Tamara waited for me) around the park until 12:00.

At 12:00 we headed over to Yak & Yeti for our lunch reservation.

We figured we wouldn't be that hungry (and we figured correctly), so we ordered drinks and two appetizers to share.
Here's my Cherry Shaved Ice Martini.

The Dim Sum Basket for Two (still confused-if it's meant to be shared by 2 people, why aren't there even numbers of everything! Since we had cutlery we just cut the odd numbered ones in half, problem solved, but still!)
And the Lettuce Cups. Since it's a construct your own type of dish, there's only a photo of the finished product.

After lunch we went to use our FP for the safari. The early morning one was definitely better as far as animal sightings go, however, we did get to see the cheetahs this time. Three of them were lounging in the shade.

We didn't quite make it for the 1:30 show of Festival of the Lion King, so we checked out some of the trails.

We made it to the 2:30 showing of the Lion King. The seating was somewhat poorly organized. We were probably in the middle-front of the line, so I expected an okay spot. First we were directed to one section, but then it filled up, then we directed to another, but that one filled up, so when Tamara saw 2 spots at the end of one of the rows we just sat there. They save the one section near the front for late comers, even though it's better seating. I was just a tad disappointed. It was an adequate spot as far as viewing the show, it was a terrible spot for trying to take pictures. It was also a really smelly spot. Someone near us had brutal gas and the floats that come out also smell gross, kind of like an old car garage. I realize this all sounds a bit negative, but the show is really well done, there's great singing, gymnastics, acrobats, and the costumes are great!

Our last ride of the day was It's Tough to Be a Bug. We sat in the 2nd row. I didn't even bother putting on the 3-D glasses, it was way too hard to focus. You can get the general idea from the show without them. It's a really intense show, I didn't remember it being that crazy. There is an awful lot of stuff that comes shooting out at you. I was a little surprised, the two kids in front of me actually did the grabbing at the air thing, cute!

Also, while we were in line, there's a buggy style soundtrack playing. It started playing Tomorrow, from Annie, and a whole bunch of people randomly started singing along. It was a bit strange, as I don't think they were all together.

We managed to leave the park just before the parade and checked out the Rainforest Cafe Shop. I finally found a giraffe that I was happy with! Yay!

We arrived at the hotel just in time for tea time at the lounge. While we were there, we tried to get our dinner reservation changed. We were told that we could just go in as a walk up and we'd be seated. Nice! We walked over to Kidani Village from Jambo House. It seemed short at first, but then we realized it was actually a bit of a roundabout, so it took a bit longer than expected, still under 10 minutes though. There are some really neat decorations at Sanaa.

We started with the Bread Service-Naan, Onion Kulcha, Paneer Paratha with sauces Garlic Pickle, Cucumber Raita, and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus.

For dinner I had Seared Paneer Cheese with Dahl, Peas, and Vindaloo Tomatoes and
Tandoori Chicken with Apricot Chutney and Five Grain Pilaf.

Tamara had Today’s Sustainable Fish (which was Salmon) with Shrimp and Scallops served with seasonal Vegetables in a light Curry Broth.

We decided to head straight to Epcot from Kidani Village. We went to Spaceship Earth first, which was basically a walk on. I still had the 50mm lens on so I took a stab at taking a few more "dark ride" photos.

We decided to venture into World Showcase since both entries didn't seem so bad. It ended up being just as busy in spots though. The food booths weren't that busy, but there were a lot of drunk and drinking people around. I think I'll take families (even ones that stop in the middle of a pathway and consult their map) over drunk, obnoxious adults any day. I still managed to get a few shots along the way. It really is just as pretty at night! Although it's always nighttime in Mexico...
There was a nice sunset over the lagoon.

Italy has some nice architectural features.

In Japan, you have tourists trying to pose like ninjas (and failing, as they cannot maintain any sort of balance.)

Tamara got a few desserts in France. I was planning to get something too, but since Tamara had ordered 2 things, I guess it was assumed that I was with her. They took the next person in line, and then another. I was a little annoyed, so I took a few photos of the display, since I was there, then left. Key Lime Pie anyone?
How about a Cream Puff or Chocolate Pastry thing?

We came back to the resort, I checked out the Mara (the Quick Service restaurant) for a possible dessert, but besides more Zebra Domes, there wasn't anything too special. So we went up to the lounge and enjoyed some of the dessert selection there instead. There were some chocolate mousse in chocolate shells and guava or passionfruit jellies (really good!)

That wraps up another day. Tomorrow would bring the "official" Hollywood Studios day. In case it wasn't obvious, the first few days were pretty much each dedicated to a single park. The second half of the trip was much less planned in that sense.

Here's a little exterior Spaceship Earth to end on!

Day 3: Epcot

Since it was Saturday, we planned on doing more activities in the front half of the park. Despite what the predicted crowd levels were, we figured the World Showcase would be busy with all the foodies and winos.

We left our room by 8:15, had breakfast in the lounge (I think I had quinoa with blueberries), and arrived at Epcot by 8:45. Nothing like a few early morning bus stop shots!

Once the park was opened, it was announced that Test Track was down. Go figure, a GM sponsored attraction that breaks down often... Anyway, so that kind of threw a kink in our plans. Instead of heading to Soarin' like the rest of the park attendees, we decided to amble. Seriously, I don't get the appeal with Soarin'. Maybe I'm dulled to the whole Imax thing since I saw tons of Imax films as a kid. It's just not that interesting to get seatbelted into a theatre seat and dangle above an Imax screen and have the occasional scent blasted out at you. People LOVE it. I did it once back in 2005, when it was new. I also did the Disneyland one last year. They aren't different. It's not the best film either, you flash from scene to scene, with barely any transition. I will never understand the appeal for people to wait over an hour to see it. It's good to do it once, but again and again??

We took a few shots at the fountain, then Tamara spotted two security guards. Once they saw she was going to photograph them, they had to pose.

As we walked towards the Land, we passed by the Character Spot.

Goofy came running to the window and gestured to us. We decided we might as well check out the characters. Here we are with Mickey and Pluto.

There was hardly any line, so we got a bunch of photos with the "fab five". We headed over to do Journey into Imagination- a ride that never has a wait. This fun sign is located just after the ride. I love the gradient of coloured lights and the fun font!

Next up, we headed to the Seas with Nemo. It's a clam style ride, you actually sit in a clam as you go through some ocean scenes. After the ride, we wandered through the various sea exhibits. It's such a relaxing atmosphere, definitely a nice place to unwind...

Or get eaten by a shark. Last time, I had quite the photo with Bruce, so I had to do something similar! I remembered that I had gotten my clothes dirty when I tried to pose, but I certainly didn't recall how high up the mouth is. It's like they don't want you climbing inside and hanging out of his mouth! I actually ended up bruising my ribs a bit from doing this. I had a redder bruise right by my sternum, and another bruise, fang shaped a little lower!

Here's the one from 2005. My pose was a little bit better last time.

Once we were done there, we headed to Living with Land. We had the whole row to ourselves, and were recipients of the oh so exciting time card, our first one so far! Here are some of the Season themed balloons inside the area.

After that we checked the time board. Test Track was back up with quite a wait, so we got a FP then went to Mission Space (green). We did the original version back in 2005, when there was no tamer option available. There is quite a difference between the two versions. I wouldn't do the orange version again, but the green version is just so tame. The queue has some fun space theming though!

We still had time before our 11:30 lunch reservation, so we checked out the Food and Wine Festival center. There was a lot of the same kinds of merchandise available. One of the only things that caught my eye was a recipe book that contained a lot of the booths' recipes. However, I was not about to pay $40 US for it. Oh well!

We walked slowly to Coral Reef, got there for opening, and were seated on the 2nd level. I think the 2nd level might have better viewing than the 1st. You have the chance to see all the windows into the aquarium, versus just one big window right next to your table. The service here was actually too fast. Go figure, I snapped a few photos of some of the lights there!

I had the Seared Rainbow Trout with Warm Salad of White Beans, Arugula, Tomatoes, Crispy Bacon, Aged Balsamic Vinegar, and Brown Butter.

Tamara had the Lobster Ravioli with Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.

After lunch, we decided to venture into the World Showcase. It was scarily busy. I couldn't believe the line ups for the food and wine booths! At this point, I was keeping my fingers crossed that it was simply the "weekend effect"- aka higher local attendance. We made it as far as the Canada pavilion (the first one on the right), so we checked out O Canada. It's definitely better than it was, but it's still disappointing that to have certain parts of the country even mentioned, those places need to pay a ridiculous sum of money. We walked right past Le Cellier. I only even took a photo of it, in honour of a coworker, Joel, who used to work there. He gave me a hard time about not making reservations there.

It was still too early for our Test Track FP return, so we checked out a few stores.

The FP line up for Test Track still took 10 minutes, and we got to be cardholders again, yippy. While on the ride, there's a photo opportunity right before the barrier test. I couldn't remember exactly where it takes the picture. Tamara and I had planned to look freaked out about the upcoming impact. I was way too late and ended up not even looking forward for the photo. Oops! I loved the lighting just after you get off the ride!

At this point, we were getting pretty tired of the crowds at Epcot, so we made our way to the International Gateway to catch a boat over to Hollywood Studios. Here's a glimpse of what we got to walk through, and that's not even the worst part!

We happened to see Mary Poppins without a line in U.K, so we grabbed a quick photo.

I also managed to take a few other photos of the area, while trying to avoid people. It's sometimes easier than one would think to avoid including people in the foreground.

Unfortunately we arrived at the Studios just in time for the 3:00 parade. So we couldn't really fully enter the park to get to the rides. So we watched the parade, and saw this awesome character from Monsters Inc.We checked out the Tower of Tower, got a drop sequence that had us looking out the window 4 times, then took a few photos.We were there for maybe an hour, then we caught a boat back to the Yacht and Beach Club to check out Beaches and Cream. I had no idea where it was located. Luckily Tamara had been there before and remembered, vaguely, where it was. I was a bit tired and sore at this point, and didn't have much faith in her sense of direction, but we made it there in good time. There weren't even any wrong turns along the way! We both ordered burgers with a side of fruit (instead of fries). We ordered a side of onion rings. Now, I was kind of used to the Disney pricing at this point, so for $5.99 I didn't expect that many onion rings. It was a huge plate with SO many on it, monstrous, really. You can't go to Beaches and Cream without ordering ice cream, so we had to leave some room for that. We split the Milky Way, which was really good. We really did eat way too much though.

The original plan was to walk around the Boardwalk area, but at this point, were both just ready to fall over and sleep. I took a few photos as we headed to the boat stop.

We took a boat back to the Studios and caught a bus there. We just missed one, but there was another in about 15 minutes.

We got back to our room around 6:30, sat for a bit, then went to the hot tub. After we headed to the gift shop and bought a few souvenirs. Next we headed to the lounge for tea and a few sweets, then came back to the room for a bit of evening balcony sitting. Apparently we could not only hear some of the fireworks shows, but see parts of them too. We received our invitation for the next morning's Sunrise Safari and called it a reasonably early night.