Monday, June 25, 2012

The Wonderful World of Disney Part 3

Day 9 – The Boy’s Day Off from Vacation
Today was supposed to be spent at Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure; however, The Boy woke up with tummy troubles and a temperature of 101°. So our plans changed. We’re hanging out in the room watching TV. I'm blogging, updating my Facebook status, playing FarmVille (I know, I know, I’m the last one who’s still playing that ridiculous game), and surfing the web. Mom and Dad went to Downtown Disney for a little retail therapy and a late lunch. When they return, The Captain and I will go while M&D watch The Boy. We’re hoping to be able to go to Universal tomorrow and do Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. My dear auntie texted asking for details on how we liked Harry Potter World and put The Boy on the prayer chain at church instead. It’s nice to be loved.

Day 10 – Hogsmeade and Butter Beer
Ollivander's Wand Shop, Universal Studios'
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Boy went to bed last night fever free and woke up this morning good as new. He was ready for Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s only about twenty minutes from WDW but it took us as long to walk from Preferred Parking (only an extra $5 and well worth it) through the shopping district and to the far right side of the Islands of Adventure park to Harry Potter's neighborhood. We waited in line about twenty-five minutes for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey broom ride through Hogwarts Castle then for thirty-five minutes for the Flight of the Hippogryph (video below). After that it was off to Ollivander’s Wand Shop and the bit about getting chosen by your wand… not worth the hour wait. Of the thirty people at a time they allow inside to be chosen, only one actually gets chosen. We were all very disappointed. However, not disappointing was the Frozen Butter Beer, which we enjoyed while standing in line. The Captain had a regular butter beer, which is like a soda. Mom and I had frozen ones, more like an Icee. We all agreed frozen in the way to go. I found a recipe for butter beer, which I haven't tried yet but thought looked like fun. If you want it frozen you'll have to invest in an Icee machine. Next was the Dragon Challenge, a fast-paced roller coaster with lots of corkscrew turns and loops. How much fun was that??? SOOOOO much fun. The Captain and The Boy decided to wait in the FIVE MINUTE line again, this time waiting for the front row. It took longer to walk through the corridors to get to the line than it took to wait in the line. Amazing! I stayed behind and waited with my parents as I wasn’t sure that butter beer would stay down when tempted a second time.  

Me and Butter Beer
On the way out we waited twenty-minutes for Sneeches In in Seuss Landing. Lame doesn’t begin to describe this ride. We continued on to find The Hulk roller coaster. Although it looked like fun, I decided to sit it out. You see, Mom, The Captain and I had decided to enjoy a second butter beer because we knew it wasn’t available anywhere else. I guess we’ll be able to get some in Los Angeles when Universal opens TWWoHP there but we only get to that area every other year or so. One way or another, we justified a second frozen butter beer. A little bit of enabling may have taken place… hey, they’re really yummy!! By the way, I ordered Pumpkin Juice at lunch. Although tasty, kind of like a juice-thin liquid pumpkin pie, it didn't hold a candle to butter beer.

Most of the storefronts in Hogsmeade are dummies but we did get to go into Honeydukes and Zonkos. There were Cauldron Cakes, Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Licorice Wands and Peppermint Chocolate Frogs. The Boy brought home a Headwig plush toy whose head moves in circles. I was intent on buying him a Griffindor Robe... that is until I saw the price tag. $120. Really??? I would have paid half that happily but -- REALLY??? When we left for the park that morning, The Boy just new he was going to choose either the Elder Wand or Voldemort's Wand as his souvenir. He ended up with a wand that belonged to no one in the books but was instead based on his birthdate. Very cool.   

We’re off to dinner at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Day 11 – NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC)
First off, dinner last night at the Yacht Club was great except for Mom’s and my desserts. We had cheesecake and it just wasn’t good – at all. One bite was all it took. The waiter offered to bring us something else but we passed. Otherwise, great and fun to see yet another beautiful Disney Resort Hotel.

This morning it was The Captain’s turn to stay home with a fever and aching belly so he missed KSC. He would have loved it too. We just didn’t dare put it off another day. He’ll have something to look forward to the next time we come to Orlando.

If you haven’t been to KSC, it is very well worth the time and money ($45/adult). We spent an additional $40 or so to have lunch with Astronaut Roger Crouch who was funny and engaging. Even The Boy was interested and I was certain he’d be bored to tears. The buffet lunch offered the best veggies we’ve had since we arrived in Florida along with grilled chicken, fish, and raviolis; oh, and the first cloth table linens we’d seen for a while. (Okay, we’ve had cloth napkins but no tablecloths.) This lunch beat the heck out of the $7 hot dog they were offering at the fast food counter, which was the only other option at the main complex. Included in the price of admission is a two-hour (or more depending on how long you like to hang out) tour of a tower overlooking the launch sites and a museum. The museum stop had everything from original astronauts’ suits, moon rocks, equipment, and memorials, as well as the rockets themselves – some suspended from the ceiling. It is open from 9 to 6 and we arrived closer to 10:00. We spent about six hours there and could have spent more time – would have spent more time had we not been anxious to get back to The Captain. We skimmed over or skipped several things we’d have liked to do but there just wasn’t time. A second day would have been warranted.

We spent that evening at Downtown Disney where we enjoyed Disney Quest, a five-story arcade – no quarters needed after paying the $44 entrance fee. Our tickets included Disney Quest and the water parks, as well as a round of golf, which we never even considered because there wasn't time. I left early with my parents because I thought it was my turn to have tummy issues. The Captain and The Boy played for a bit then went to see The Avengers.

While sitting in the room NOT having tummy troubles (apparently I was just hungry), I was listening to the rain getting heavier and the thunder getting louder and closer to the lightening strikes. We were in the middle of the most significant electrical storm since we’d arrived in Florida. And my boys were not safe and sound with me at the hotel. Later The Captain said at first he thought the thunder was noise from a neighboring movie but soon realized that wasn’t the case. The sky was alight for a good two hours. When The Captain and The Boy left the theater, the storm had subsided but left tree limbs strewn about their path. The next morning’s news reported more than 20,000 lightening strikes.

Day 12 – Animal Kingdom and Packing
This morning we had our last of five character breakfasts at the Ohana Restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The food was served family-style and we loved the scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage (mmm), potatoes, biscuits, sweet breads, Mickey waffles, and passion-orange-guava juice (or was it papaya). Anyway, we all enjoyed it and since we had a 10:30 reservation, we didn’t eat again until dinner… okay, we had an ice cream about 2:00.

The Captain and The Boy in matching Mickey Aloha shirts
on our way to Animal Kingdom via Disney shuttle
After breakfast we were off to Animal Kingdom since we were rained out the last time. Today was hot. No rain. Not even any clouds. Nope, not one cloud to shade our sweaty, little bodies. Finally we were able to go on Expedition Everest, which we’d been looking forward to for months after watching a Netflix program about WDW. Unfortunately, we were all a little disappointed. After the Dragon Challenge at Universal, Expedition Everest was left wanting. The line for Kali River Rapids (water ride) was too long to interest us and I really didn’t want to soak my shoes through again – this time by choice – and they wouldn’t let me ride without them.

The stage production of Finding Nemo is well worth waiting for. It was so hot out that the air conditioning was very welcome and would have been worth it even if the show wasn't great... which it was so go see it!

Back at the room, packing our suitcases went much more quickly than I expected considering the number of items we were taking back. However, I had the foresight to pack a smaller suitcase into a large one on the way out knowing that we might fill them all on our return. It was brilliant (if I do say so myself) and we even had room for several of my parents’ extra items.

Time to sign off now. It’s almost midnight and we have to be up and at  ‘em at 05:45. Not really sure why I feel the need to sign off; I never sleep the night before traveling. Oh well, one has to try! Nightie night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Wonderful World of Disney Part 2

The Boy and my Dad the Pirate inside Cinderella's Royal Table restaurant

Day 5 – Oh, Oh, Oh, It's Magic, You Knooooow
Today we slept in and went back to the Magic Kingdom for the day arriving around noon. We had a fabulous day of rides, parades, and shopping. The highlight of my day was dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table. The food was really good but what was even better was the atmosphere. We had an amazing table at the window overlooking Fantasyland. We met Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Ariel, and Belle. Ariel was a riot. She started off by scaring The Boy then ended by saying, “May the Force be with you.” My dad and The Captain were disappointed that Jasmine wasn’t included (they like her bare tummy…). But even if the food had been mediocre and we didn’t have a great time meeting princesses, the room was so much fun just to be in. Like walking into the Great Hall complete with banners and coats of arms. Such a surprise. To top it off, we were each presented with a gift. The Lords received swords and the Ladies received wands with stars at the end. FUN!!! Made us all feel about seven years old again.

Day 6 – Typhoons, Planned and Unplanned
It was Typhoon Lagoon water park day! To surprise mom and dad we rented a cabana (#9) complete with cabana boy who got our lunch and treats, extra towels, advice and information. It was nice to be able to bring as much stuff as we wanted and not have to worry whether it would fit into a locker. We got a prime piece of real estate too! No one had to walk through our space to get to theirs, which wasn’t true for most of the cabanas. About 2:00 the skies started looking ominous. Sure enough they made us vacate all the water rides and pools for about an hour while the electrical storm passed. It was the first time I’ve been cold since arriving.

The entertainment provided during dinner.
Sorry, Mom. Not a great pic of you... as for
The Boy's face? No words.
Mom and Dad showing off
 German Mouse Ears
We went to dinner afterward at Epcot’s Interna-tional Showcase Germany in the Biergarten. It was a buffet and there was so much to choose from. I like German food --   A LOT! Not surprising really since that is my heritage. Bier runs through my veins. There was also a show and they encouraged us to get up and dance. We decided that we’d stay put as our feet were already tender and we had just arrived for the  evening. ...I may have flapped my wings during the Chicken Dance.

Me and The Captain enjoying our bier. I didn't even temporarily entertain
getting that enormous beverage he's holding. Not even sure I could pick it up!
As per usual on this trip, it started raining, except it didn’t start until after dinner. I didn’t want to get my shoes soaked through again so I took them off and wandered barefoot for at least an hour. I know, so classy; but I’m telling you, I didn’t want to miss out on wearing those shoes for the next two days while they dried out. They’re just too comfy. Good thing, too, because today my second pair of shoes are soaked and drying out.

The Boy started collecting stamps in his Kidcot Passport ($10 at any gift shop in Epcot's International Showcase) from each country in the showcase. He has all five from the left side: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, and the USA in the middle. We’ll collect the other five on Thursday. We rode Mission: Space and have decided that Extra Magic Hours (for WDW hotel guests only) are wonderful. No lines to speak of. We only waited ten minutes for Mission: Space and we walked onto Spaceship Earth.

My bed is going to be well used tonight! I have it to myself. We have two beds in our room and where The Captain and I have a king size bed at home, we have to share a full-size here. (I don't know how this escaped me when we were planning the trip.) So we’ve been swapping. Every third night we get to sleep alone, the other two we have to share. I don’t mind sharing with The Captain. We’ve been doing that for a very long time; however, sharing with The Boy is a special treat… he takes his half out of the middle – and he likes to cuddle. The only thing I’m used to cuddling with is my body pillow. The Captain runs too hot to snuggle even in winter so this Florida heat isn’t at all conducive to sharing -- even with the a/c and ceiling fan running.

Day 7 – Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
We started the day arriving at Animal Kingdom at 9:00. We wandered through the park with Africa as our first destination. We had an early lunch reservation at the Tusker House with Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy, and Mickey. We wandered around Africa reliving memories from The Captain’s days living and flying hot air balloons in Kenya. Disney got the architecture spot on. A little Muslim influence, a little Indian influence, a little native influence. And all in need of maintenance. The Florida humidity certainly helped the overall atmosphere, especially when thinking about the time we spent in Lamu on the Indian Ocean.

We toured the Savannah in a large bouncy vehicle looking at the animals. There was a beautiful lion and lioness lounging, which is what lions do best. In so many pictures we took in Kenya the lions are either eating or sleeping – mostly sleeping. While walking through the aviary, we saw Weavers and their nests. The Captain used to know all the native birds so he could point them out to the wageni (Swahili for visitor) on his balloon flights. However, he's been back in the States for fifteen years so he was grateful for the bird identification cards the park provided. There were a bunch elbeejays in there... I'll tell you about them another time.

After heading over to Asia to try to get on Expedition Everest and realizing that The Boy was just too tired to wait that long, the family headed back to Africa to catch “The Festival of the Lion King,” a live stage performance. The sign for the show is in Africa but the theater is actually in the section of the park called Camp Minnie Mickey, a fair distance where little tired feet and bodies are concerned. However, we all made it and were rewarded with a fairly spectacular show with lots of high energy, acrobatics, and great music. The Boy had one more character signing line in him and he didn’t have Balou’s autograph and picture from this trip yet so we waited a short time to get our photo taken with Balou and King Louie from The Jungle Book. Apparently King Louie doesn’t sign autographs because, well, his arms are too long for the poor person inside to make it work without destroying the ruse or freaking out some poor child when a human hand pokes out of the monkey arm. J

After that we were heading back to the park entrance to go home when we were caught in a pretty significant downpour and had to stop and pull out our ponchos, which, in the end, didn’t help us much. When we got back to the room, I had to change all of my clothes, even my delicates. The term “soaked to the skin” is apropos. That’s the second time this week my shoes have been sloshy, which is a really icky feeling to me. I wish my Teva’s were more comfortable; then I wouldn’t care if my feet got wet. That or that my Clarks flip flops had a strap across the back (making them sandals) so I can wear them for long periods without getting shin splints.

We’re halfway through our trip and my feet are tired. The Boy has blisters that we are keeping track of and treating as kindly as possible. He only complains about them when he’s tired.

After dinner tonight at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Boma Restaurant, we came back to the hotel and headed for the pool. The Boy fell asleep quickly and we have a relaxing morning planned.

Day 8 – Poor Guy!
The Captain and The Boy headed out for Typhoon Lagoon water park this morning. They called to say there was virtually no one in the park and had gone on all the slides since there was no waiting. They finished the afternoon by completing all the slides at the other water park, Blizzard Beach. The general consensus is that the slides are better at Blizzard Beach but the wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon is the bomb. I agree about the wave pools but didn’t do enough slides at either park to make an educated decision.

My Glowing Berry Martini -- or what's left of it!
As per all of our experiences at Epcot this year, it was raining – hard. Dinner was at Le Cellier in the International Showcase’s Canada. We all enjoyed an excellent meal. The Captain had a beer flight of three Canadian beers, my mom enjoyed a flight of three Canadian wines, and I got the martini flight. Of the four different steaks we ordered, we decided that the New York strip and the filet were the best. The kitchen was very willing to work with The Boy’s requests. At ten, he’s an adult on the Disney Dining Plan and has a healthy appetite and a bit more sophisticated palate, more than the little ones their kids menu targets at least. He enjoyed a modified soft shell crab appetizer and the mac and cheese with mascarpone from the adult sides menu. It was more than plenty of food; both were rich and the portions were generous. There was so much to choose from on the dessert menu. The Captain and my mom both chose the maple crème brulee. The Boy chose the chocolate trio, which was excellent. Dad had cheesecake gelato, which was part of a more complex dessert but more than he wanted after steak and potatoes. I had the white chocolate cheesecake with shortbread crust. Finishing it wasn’t an option. Before dessert arrived, I ate less than half of my 12 oz NY Strip and was already full from my cocktails.

Post-dinner walk through Epcot's France...
In the rain but with happy faces -- due in part to our shoes (I'm a slow learner).
We were all grateful for the walk through Canada, England, France, Morocco, and Japan where The Boy finished his Kidcot Passport. Our evening was complete with the fireworks show over the lake. Gorgeous. It was especially beautiful with the Japanese arch in silhouette. The rain had cleared up by then.

Before dinner The Boy was complaining of a tummy ache, which we decided was probably because he was hungry. As dinner went well and he was feeling better, we finished the evening at Epcot. Just after midnight things took a turn for the worse. He spent the next three hours throwing up. Poor guy!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Wonderful World of Disney

The Boy and me at Disney's Blizzard Beach in the wave pool

Day 1 -- All Roads Lead to Disney
Our latest Disney adventure began this morning at zero-three-thirty (that’s 3:30 AM to non-maritime folks). The Captain sprang out of bed as he always does. His work schedule is such that he can be called to the helm at any given time of day or, as often as not, night. So getting up early and sleeping where and when he can is no biggie. I, on the other hand, found out long, long ago that I am not a morning person. Another thing I know about myself is that a shower does more to wake me up and get me going than caffeine. So not only is it 03:30 but I had my shower at 21:00 (9:00 PM) and wasn’t able to go to sleep until after 23:30 (11:30 PM). Therefore, I’m working on about four hours rest. Ugh.

The house is clean (okay, okay, it’s straightened up and I swept and vacuumed but, to be fair, it wasn’t all that dirty to begin with). We had our clothes laid out before bed. The luggage is packed. The cats are outside. All we have to do is brush our teeth, make our beds, and go. My brother-in-law picks us up and we drive to the airport where we arrive in record time. There are minimal lines at security. Our wait flies by. The layover in Albuquerque is almost non-existent but gives us time to grab a sandwich for the next flight and board the plane.

Just about the time I get up to use the loo, the Fasten Seatbelts sign goes on and I have to sit down. So I need to use the facilities and I can’t because the plane is being jostled around like a cat toy. No, I’m not uncomfortable… Go ahead. Tickle me. I can take it. The last time I was this uncomfortable on a plane was on a red-eye between Paris and Nairobi on my way to meet The Captain when a young French couple curled up around each other and slept most of the eight-hour trip. I was at the window. Yes, I could have awakened them and taken care of myself but I’d rather suffer then bitch about it later and call them a silly name like The French Pretzel.

What is keeping me distracted are thoughts of the warm, sticky weather that awaits us, settling into the hotel, finding my parents who have been visiting friends on the east coast for two weeks, and dinner, our first of five character meals scheduled over the next twelve days. This one should be a kick. It is at the Grand Floridian Hotel and hosted by Cinderella and her Wicked Stepsisters. I understand that Cinderella’s Stepmother is known for trying to set up the gentlemen diners with her daughters. It’s a good thing The Captain, The Boy, and my dad have a good sense of humor – and are comfortable with their masculinity! Later in the week we have dinner scheduled at the Castle and the theme is more princess than pirate. Hey! It’s my vacation too!! J

Right now I’m just begging for the pilot to turn off that dad-gum light!!! Wish me luck.

(By the way, dinner at the Grand Floridian hotel was great. The food was really good and we got to meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, Anastasia, Drizella, and Lady Tremaine. The hotel was beautiful, had live orchestra and piano music in the lobby, and some great shops.)

Day 2 – A Wee Bit of Rain
Due to the Gay Pride celebration being scheduled at the Magic Kingdom today, we decided to spend the day at Epcot to avoid the numbers of people. It started out as a lovely day – until skies opened and it poured down on us for HOURS; I’m not exaggerating. I haven’t seen rain like that since we lived in the Philippines. We were prepared for it to rain. We had our ponchos with us. We put them on right away expecting to put them back into our pack within a half an hour. But, no, we have finally retreated to our hotel after six hours of unrelenting heavy rain. Our shoes and socks are sodden. I’m wondering how many days it will take to dry them out and am grateful I had the foresight to bring five pairs of shoes. The Captain isn’t laughing at me now.

It isn’t supposed to dry out until 10:00 tonight. We have to be back at Epcot by 7:00 for dinner at The Land’s Garden Grill. At least that’s inside and not too far from the entrance.

Day 3 – Hollywood Studios Star Wars Weekend
Oh, The Boy was in heaven. It was ten year old Star Wars geek nirvana. He got to have a light saber duel with Darth Maul. He collected more character signatures than you can shake a stick at. He convinced his dear Mama to go on the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster (he didn’t have to try very hard; I love roller coasters). We feasted on comfort food at the 50s Prime Time Diner. It was a good day. And it didn’t rain even a little.

Me, The Boy,  The Captain, and Mickey!

Day 4 – Water Slides and Old Friends
Today we spent a couple of hours in the morning at Blizzard Beach then went to a BBQ at the home of my dad’s old Army Lieutenant in Vietnam War (now a retired general) and his wife and family. After a full day of fun, we just couldn’t stop. On to the Magic Kingdom for the evening! Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise were all we could fit in before the Electrical Light Parade (which is The Captain’s favorite), the light show on the Castle, and the fireworks.

I have to give a bit of info about the light show on the Castle prior to the fireworks. It was introduced stating that we would be viewing photos of guests taken that day at the park. My first thought was that I was not the least bit interested in looking at photos of strangers. However, in typical Disney fashion, it wasn’t just photos. They transformed the Castle colors, textures, even shape with lights and lasers. I didn’t dare look away for fear of missing something spectacular. The transformations continued for ten minutes or so before the fireworks. Well worth the wait.