Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 10: How much can we do today?

Oh, the bittersweetness of the last day of a vacation... You don't really want to go back to reality, but you wouldn't mind being home.

We hadn't actually caught the opening of the Magic Kingdom yet, and really, you can't go to Disneyworld and not see the opening to this park. So we got up early, had our lounge breakfast, then arrived at Magic Kingdom around 8:40. Opening was for 9:00. The mayor comes out, makes an announcement, and then a train full of characters come out to sing and dance. It still ended up making me tear up a bit. What can I say, I'm a suck!

We rushed on over to Big Thunder (this should be a pretty predictable theme by now!). On the way there, we saw this awesome lady! I really wanted to shout "More cowbell!" as we rushed past, but didn't.We even managed to grab a few other shots as we made our way to the mountain. Here's our knowledgeable guide, Tamara, pointing out where we are!

So we got the the mountain, rode it once as the ONLY passengers on the train! So we chose the back 2 seats. Here's a glimpse of the empty train.

We decided to do the "nice" thing and actually leave the ride and come back through the queue to ride it a second time. Once we finished the second ride, they let us stay on for a 3rd ride. We actually could've stayed on for a 4th ride, as there was still no one waiting, but we decided to carry on with our day. We went to ride Haunted Mansion, then stopped by the Main Street Bakery for a breakfast snack. Tamara ordered the monstrous cinnamon bun, I had an apple turnover. We went all the way back to the front of the park, then rode the train the whole way around. It gives you an interesting glimpse of the park.

Next up, we caught the monorail over to the Ticket and Transportation Centre, and caught a bus to the Studios. We headed straight to the Tower of Terror and rode that.

I took a few more shots of the street area, including this delightful street car.

And the evil window display.
After that we took the Animation Studios tour and then checked out the pin store under the Sorcerer's Hat. Tamara had seen a Zero pin earlier in the week, and it was now our personal mission to find it. You see, since that day, we hadn't come across it anywhere else! Thankfully we found it there!

We came back to the hotel and had lunch at the Mara. I had some chicken fingers and veggies. Tamara had a burger and fries. We also picked up some dessert from the lounge (cookies and water). I also finally picked up my taffy from the gift shop. Our timing is truly amazing, we heading back to the room right before it was supposed to be cleaned. We wanted to relax before the ridiculous night ahead, so we settled with not having our room cleaned that day. We put the privacy please sign up so we wouldn't be bothered. It was only one day of non-cleaning, and we were leaving the next day, so it didn't really matter.

We got back to the park just before 7. The lighting was quite lovely, so I got a few shots of the castle:
And of some other signs. While here we headed over to Space Mountain and picked up a FP for 10-11.It was quite busy. October 23 was the start of another promotion, so we were expecting high crowd levels. We used our "free: FP on Big Thunder for our ninth and final ride. Here's a shot from the "rumbly rocks" on the ride.

Next we headed over to Pirates of the Caribbean. It actually had a 20 minute wait (practically unheard of!). So I had lots of time to take photos in the queue.

I also had fun getting a few more shots from the ride itself:

Next we stopped for a snack, enjoying some refreshing fruit bars. By this time it was close to 8, so we staked out a spot on the parade route, although it was already very full. Here is some of the pre-parade madness. Check out the crowds!

And I was just amused by this guy, he's obviously checking out something on the street, but he just ended up looking sad and dejected.
The parade started at 9:10. It was alright, a bit too long actually. I got totally boxed in between curb sitters, children and a stroller. Tamara was stuck directly in front of a garbage can. Some guy kept harassing us to let his kids go in front of us. Seriously, we're both under 5'4''. I don't want your kid in front of me. I had already let one in front of me. And that kid specifically asked me very nicely himself.

I know Disney is more for "kids", but you know what, I have paid just as much to be there (if not more!), and I won't be coming back for a long time. I will not be moving, even if it had been physically possible to do so. Plus, we had been standing there for an hour, you can't expect me to give up my spot when I was very prepared and staked out a spot early, and you decide to show at the last minute.

Anyway, here's a few shots from the parade. It turns out this "retro" parade is actually the same one we saw back in 1995.

After the parade ended there was complete chaos. It took several minutes to move even slightly. I wanted a slightly different spot for fireworks. We ended up basically staying where we were. The show was nice. I always enjoy fireworks, however, I guess I expected more from this show. I think it may just be over-hyped. Here are some shots from Wishes:

We went to Tomorrowland after the show. That took a while... There were SO many people in the hub at that time. We finally made it to Space Mountain (along with everyone else). So even with the FP, there was a bit of a wait.

Next up, we rode the Astro Orbiters. We had learned our lesson from last time, we each took our own rocket. Here are my last few shots from Tomorrowland.

We made our way to Main Street to do a last bit of shopping. We didn't even end up staying for the Extra Magic Hours (which were 12AM-3AM). It was still SO busy and it was a long day. I would've liked to stay and do more, but there wasn't really anything I needed to do. Plus, you really get WAY more done in the early hours versus the evening and it's a lot easier to get around in the day. The parks can be very dark and I'm not the most graceful person in the world! Ha! So we came back to the hotel and headed to bed.

The next morning had us packing, which was entertaining...

We also saw the animal care team catch and cage 4 pelicans. It was quite the interesting process. They would separate the target from the herd, in the water, than launch themselves, grabbed wings and bill right away.

We flew through Denver on the way back. The flight to Winnipeg was SO bumpy, and we were on one of those 24-seaters. Not fun. Also I didn't realize I had been "spoiled" by Air Canada, until I used United. Wow, there's practically no service reps to be found, they charge for the first bag, and there's hardly any entertainment on the flights. I missed the choose-your-own entertainment and the USB charger!

That's all for now, hopefully this post isn't too full of grammar and spelling mishaps, it was a bit rushed.

Day 9: Laidback Kind of Day

This was our latest start to a day so far, we slept in, all the way until 8:45! We had breakfast at the lounge. We started our days much earlier during the first part of the trip and always found ample seating at the lounge. As we started heading to the lounge later and later, we realized that the majority of people start their days late! We had a hard time finding a spot! I know we're not late risers by any means, but I never thought we were that much of early risers compared to other people! It just goes to show you why the parks aren't that busy in the first 2 hours, if you go by the sampling of people at our resort alone, it's obvious that most people aren't trying to go to the parks for opening.

Anyway...we left the hotel after 10 some time. In our typical fashion, we headed to Big Thunder first off. It was already at 40 minutes (no thanks!), so we grabbed a FP for an 1145-1245 return. We browsed a few shops in Frontierland and Adventureland in the meantime. Then we went over to the Pirates of the Caribbean, it was at a mere 5 minutes. Since we were in the area, we went on Aladdin's Magic Carpets right after (which was at 10 minutes).

It was close enough to 11:45, so we headed on back to the mountain, stopping in a few more shops along the way. Sadly, Tamara broke a plastic snow globe. The strange thing was no one in the store really noticed. There was a cast member, but she was busy talking to someone. So, there we are, with glittery water and broken plastic all around us, and no one cares. Oh well!

Here are a few shots from the mountain- the classic entrance sign:

And me, giving a thumbs up!

We made our way to Tomorrowland, via Fantasyland. The wait times weren't that bad, but we didn't bother riding anything. Tomorrowland was pretty manageable, crowd-wise. We checked out the store at Space Mountain, then went to Monsters Inc. The first act was different than the show we had seen earlier in the week. I think I enjoyed the first show better, but both were cute and funny.

We made our way up Main St., checking out even more stores. Keep in mind this was the 2nd last day, so we had to see if there were any other souvenirs we needed to purchase.

We headed out the park and caught the monorail to the Grand Floridian. Guess what, we checked out a few more stores! We had a reservation for tea at the Gardenview Tea Room for opening (2:00), so we had a bit of time to waste. Here's a shot of the lobby there, it's definitely got a Victorian atmosphere. Although Animal Kingdom Lodge's lobby is probably just about as big, it's a totally different vibe. This one was very hush-hush, you could feel the somewhat hoighty-toighty air to it all.

I hadn't taken many shots of flowers yet, so here are some daisy-like flowers from a display.
Once the tea opened, it was very apparent that they were understaffed. There seemed to only be one waitress actually doing anything. There aren't that many seats. The room is quite small and cozy. We both ordered the Grand Tea (sorry, no pictures, I wasn't in the mood for photography, go here if you'd like to see a few). That consists of an assortment of sandwiches- I know there was a Pear and Gorgonzola one, a curry chicken one, egg salad, and a smoked salmon one; scones and jam tarts; dessert (we both went with trifle), a glass of sparkling wine, and of course your choice of tea (I went with the Princess Breakfast Tea- which was a vanilla and strawberry rooibos) Everything was really tasty, and it was such a relaxed, quite environment!

We headed back to the hotel and finally went for a swim (we had only been to the hot tub, and dipped our feet in the pool so far). I also finally remembered to take a picture of these cool lights at the elevators (and almost lost my hat in the process). I dropped it on the ground while taking the shots, oops!
We checked out the hot appetizers before our late dinner at Jiko. There was also some fabulous animal watching today! The giraffes were SO close to our balcony!

Our dinner at Jiko was very tasty! It is beautiful in there. They have these bird sculptures all over, leading the way to the ever changing colours on the wall. The wall represents the African sunset. There are also rings around a lot of the pillar, which are representative of the rings seen around the necks of some tribes.

It also ended up being very dark in there, so it was a little tougher getting decent photos of the dishes. Here's my appetizer- Braised Beet Salad with Smoked Bacon, Goat Cheese, Shallot Marmalade, and Sherry Vinaigrette. It was very tasty, the goat cheese goes so nicely with the beets! I need to remember to do that at home!

Tamara ordered the bread service. I didn't bother taking a photo, it was similar to the breads and dips at Sanaa, just presented slightly differently.

Here's my main course- Roasted Lamb Loin with Heirloom Tomato-Chickpea Salad, Bacon Vinaigrette, and Kottumbari Relish. It was good, it would've been a tad better, had the lamb been slightly rarer. I ordered well-done, because I struggle with describing exactly how I like it cooked.
Here's Tamara's main course- Braised Beef Short Rib, Truffled Potato Puree, Pearl Onions, Baby Carrots, and Cabernet-Tamarind Sauce.

And here's Tamara's dessert- Cheesecake and Blueberries-Creamy Cheesecake with Lemon Curd, Blueberry Coulis,Blueberry Compote, and Sesame “Bee Sting”

And my dessert- Amarula Crème Brûlée with a Chocolate-layered bottom, White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Biscotti. It was very good!
And finally, our last stop before retiring for the night! We picked up a postcard at the gift shop and went to mail it. Is this not the best mail box ever! We specifically bought the postcard for Shauna, as today was her birthday. As far as I know, she has yet to receive it... Boooooo!

After that, we came back to the room, relaxed a bit, then called it a night!

Some observations from the day:
  • It seemed to be super whiny, screeching child day. Now you might say, "you're at Disney, don't you see that everyday?". No. You don't. These kids were crazy. We actually heard one particularly loud child in the hallway right outside our room early in the day. Then there was a temperamental baby on the bus. That got a bit weird, as this man started talking to her in a cutesy voice, saying "you don't want to wake the baby". It ended up working, since she was so confused by the stranger talking that she stopped shrieking. There were also just a lot in the park.
  • On one trip back to the room, there was this kid and his dad. The kid had a ridiculous amount of wooden stir sticks. He kept dropping them, and once he noticed us, he kind of panicked and dropped even more as he tried to rush after his dad. It was hilariously bizarre.
That's all for now, only one more day. I didn't mean for this to take so long, but after editing, then typing it all up, it adds up! After the final trip post, I will start posting general daily-life type posts.

Day 8: Halloween Party Day!

We decided to sleep in a bit this morning. We ended up being ready to go for 8:40. Unfortunately, we just missed the Magic Kingdom bus. Now, when you're using Disney Transportation to get to a park only, it works fabulously. When you're trying to use it to get to other resorts, it's not quite as direct. The next Magic Kingdom bus didn't arrive until 9:05, and our breakfast reservation was for 9:50 at the Polynesian. Keep in mind, the bus would probably get us to the park for 9:25 or so, but then we'd still have to catch something (a boat or train) over to the hotel. Being the time neurotic duo we are, we decided to spring for a taxi. It was a cheap ride, and we ended up getting to the restaurant for 9:20. So they sat us early, which was good, as we were quite hungry by now!

I started off my breakfast with a Mega-Berry Smoothie. It was quite good!

Tamara ordered herself the Kona French Press coffee (which technically serves 2). There are these very cool lights that look like onions in the restaurant.

Tamara ordered the Tonga Toast, which is one of Kona's signature dishes. It consists of Banana-stuffed Sourdough French Toast rolled in Cinnamon Sugar and served with a Strawberry Compote, plus a side of ham, bacon, or sausage. The strawberry compote is these creepy bright pink colour, but it's sooo good!

I went with the Macadamia-Pineapple Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Butter, Pineapple Sauce, and I went with Ham for my chosen side. It seemed like the obvious choice.

This was the only place where someone flat out laughed at me for taking pictures of my food. She wasn't mean about it, just probably thought I was a tad silly. I saw at least one other table take photos, so I didn't feel silly. Disney is one of the few places where I feel pretty comfortable taking pictures of pretty much anything.

Here's some of the bamboo (maybe?) artwork along one of the stairways in the Polynesian.

The lobby there has a lovely waterfall feature.

After breakfast, we caught a bus over to Downtown Disney to do a bit more shopping. We had scoped out the stores earlier, but today was the originally planned shopping day. Tamara picked up a super fun Wall-E and Eve ornament. It's a tradition to get a Disney ornament every year. Oh my goodness, it was the slowest service ever!! The cast member was an older man and he really took his time to wrap up everything. And you couldn't even get mad, because you could see how much he cared about getting everything just so. I got way too impatient, so I started wandering around elsewhere. Eventually I settled on a ledge right outside the store. Here, I captured Tamara's triumphant exit from the store.

We walked to whole strip, I picked up a few Christmas gifts, and we saw these hilarious caramel apples. We speculated about what exactly happened with that 3rd one. Did they just run of out chocolate, did they want something a bit more goofy? Who knows, but we are certainly easily amused.
Our "lunch" plans were set for Wolfgang Puck Cafe. We ended up ordering 2 appetizers which were tasty enough. I didn't bother taking any pictures there. We had the calamari and the spinach artichoke dip. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was just let down from the experience. The atmosphere wasn't terribly interesting, we were seated next to a group of nannies with their charges. The Wolfgang Puck Express was better and had a more interesting atmosphere, considering it's essentially fast food.

We headed back to the hotel around 3:00 and just relaxed. Then we got ready for the party! We ended up leaving around 5:30, got a few looks and comments about the costumes, but not too many.

We walked into the park for 6:00 and got our wristbands, then went to ride some rides. We started with Big Thunder Mountain (of course!), which was already down to a 5-minute wait, considering the park was still open to everyone. The party officially starts at 7, but ticket holders can get let in as early as 4.
While on the ride, we learned that our dresses were quite slippery, add that to sitting at the back of the train, and you get a much crazier ride!

We headed over to Haunted Mansion next, on party nights, the cast members there have extra makeup and look pretty awesome!

I had the 50mm lens on the camera, so I tried a few shots within the mansion. This chandelier is from right before you enter the stretching room.

And this is on the ride, right where the spirits start to get their party on.
After the ride we snuck in for a photopass at the carriage that is set up right outside the mansion. We didn't realize that they had just roped it off, as the photopass director was giving instructions to the other photographers. They let us take a few shots anyway! We went onwards to Fantasyland, where we learned that It's a Small World was officially open, so we rode that. Everything was definitely brighter than I remember.

We decided to start our Trick or Treating throughout Fantasyland, then we walked along the Mad Hatter trail, which had these somewhat eerie rose bushes, and into Tomorrowland.

We rode Space Mountain, here's the take-off part, just before your turn out into the other lit up area. I definitely would not wear a dress while riding Space Mountain again! With the short style dress and the awkward straddled position you have to sit in in the cars, it's a bit uncomfortable. In the photo at the end, I saw that I was showing a bit more leg, than I intended.
We passed by a dance party while enroute to Buzz. There was a bunch of bananas dancing, so that was pretty awesome. I got my best score yet on Buzz- 349,000. Of course, one of the only reasons I did so well, was because we were briefly stopped and I found a really high scoring target. I kept shooting it, then I felt kind of bad, because Tamara had stopped playing, since she thought the stopped car meant that the guns wouldn't work.

We made our way back to Frontierland, via Adventureland, but we were stopped by the first parade. We saw what we could, but we knew we'd catch the second parade. So we went to ride Big Thunder again. Yay! It's even better at night. After that we went over to the castle to try and see some of the villains show. Unfortunately there was a whole brigade of ridiculously tall dads who kept putting their kids on their shoulders, making them at least 8-foot tall visual blocks.
We decided to stake out a spot on the street for the fireworks and parade. Tamara grabbed some food before the show, a hot dog from Casey's. The fireworks were good! It was a very cool show, with music and narration from various villains! On a side note, I really need to stop looking at the amazing Disney photographers on flickr when it comes to fireworks. They tend to capture 30+ seconds of fireworks footage. And although it looks amazing, it's really not an accurate representation of what you see when you're there. You also definitely need a tripod to get those kind of shots, so I just kind of gave up and enjoyed the show instead!

Our parade spot was great! I had so much fun watching the floats and the dancers! At one point in the show Tweedledee (or Tweedledum) came to me to say hi. So did Winnie the Pooh, I felt like a kid. Here are some of favorites from the parade:

The main entrance sign:

Kango and Roo:
Pirate guy:
The gravediggers do this amazing dance, they drag their shovels along the concrete in cool choreography. It even sparks. It was so close to my feet that I quickly moved my feet up.

Here's the float with Madame Leota's creepy tombstone:

Some more ghoul/ghostly dancers, this may have been the lady that shouted out "Denise" to someone near by. It seemed oddly enough, within character, although I think she may have actually been basically saying hi to Denise.

I managed to catch these 2 cowboys' entire spin sequence, but here's just one shot.
Here's Pain and...
Panic. I gather they really aren't seen much at Disney, so it's kind of cool to see them in the parade.
Halloween is definitely all about the villains, here's Cruella:

After the parade, we walked back to Frontierland to see how it looks on a party night. They have different lighting to make it all spooky.

There is also the spirit of Madame Leota on a bench to banter at passerbys. They do a really good job of making her look somewhat ghostly and transparent.

We went through Fantasyland and decided to line up to see the Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters. They are hilarious. The one sister made Tamara spin around and stated to her mother that she wanted a dress just like hers. Ha!

Here's the last photo from the night, taken just outside the entrance to the park. Really, we couldn't have had a nicer night. It was great weather! It's also nice to enjoy the park at a limited capacity, no ride was longer than 15 minutes!

As I'm reading through my trip notes, I see I wrote a couple of hilarious observations from the day.
  • I actually heard someone call their Grandma, Meemaw! Amazing
  • There was the bitchiest, most demanding 6 (maybe?) year old child. She was in a stroller and declared to the adult she was with "I need something to eat, and YOU'RE going to get it for me". The adult looked at her with an "Excuse me" look, I couldn't believe it. The kid was a total crazy!
  • I'm sick of wet toilet paper being left on toilet seats. Seriously, if you feel like lining the seat, have the decency to get it all in the toilet after.
That's all for now, only 2 more Disney packed days left!