This time we were staying off property (NEVER AGAIN!!!) and the off property location did not have internet access (well, they DID, but not Wi-Fi)...what irked Shawn and I was that it was a freshly built location. How do you not plan that stuff into your building these days? Also, due to staying off property, we couldn't just hop back to the hotel for some downtime during the day like we (Paul and I) are used to so even if I COULD update y'all, it wouldn't have been convenient.
Day 1 - Magic Kingdom - I was anxious to get to the airport...got there a half-hour early. They were all late due to inclement weather. We got on the plane just fine though and made good time to Florida. We quickly found the rental car (with some slowing down for the first of MANY stops for cigarette breaks!!!...There was a lot of hurrying up to just have to come to a complete dead stop on this trip for smoking and bathroom breaks. AGAIN: NEVER AGAIN. When we all are on property, I won't have to worry about splitting up the group to do what we want. I'm not going to be forced to be tied down to the "group mind" by one person). The funny thing is, I've travelled with the girls before and don't remember them being this way before. I don't want to blame their (well, to be honest, her), bad attitude on their menstrual cycle (though they were both getting it).
We get to the hotel/timeshare thingee, put our bags down and get to the park(s), after a slight mishap with the GPS not working in time to stop us from taking a wrong turn to begin with, running a red light, AND running a toll booth 'cause we had no change.
There's a big drag at the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) and we take a half-hour to get to the Magic Kingdom upon arrival there (for a trip that should normally take about ten minutes). At noon, we finally arrive at the gates and have to stop for a picture with "Mickey". Sure, I have done pictures with characters, but generally only with the obscure ones 'cause they may not always be around.
We get into the parks and STOP to buy pins at the pin trading place. I run inside the confectionary for sour gummies (the best candy!).
After many quick stops to get our picture taken in front of the castle and to pin trade with the cast members (which I'll admit turned out to be a blast most of the time), we FINALLY get to our first ride (the TTA - Tomorrowland Transit Authority) at 12:50pm. Are you kidding me? Paul and I would have had most of Tomorrowland done by then.
We then go onto Buzz Lightyear (we'd grabbed a fastpass upon entry to the land) and have the ride stop which got me a score of 390,000. This was followed by Space Mountain (a walk on and immediately get on...we notice at this time that the wait times are half the posted times...). We then eat. I suggest burgers at Cosmic Ray's. Good burger...maybe better than Electric Umbrella for fast food burger on property. Good fixin's bar, too!
We hop onto Carousel of Progress and the girls say they don't remember it. Kim grumbles 'cause it "tries to teach you stuff". We pretty much unanimously decide to skip the Stitch Encounter (which is just a ghost of the old Alien Encounter attraction) and head into Fantasyland).
In Fantasyland, we all bypass the teacups as probably the ride most likely to make us ALL nauseous. We get fastpasses for Pooh, hop onto Snow White (not really so great, I gotta say...not enough Snow/Dwarves...too MUCH of the Witch), get onto Small World (colors are very vibrant and there seem to be animatronics that we just don't remember being there...still wears out its welcome and grates on a person's nerves towards the end), Mickey's Philharmagic (great 3D movie...wish there was more of the classic Disney flicks and not so much of an emphasis on the post-Little Mermaid movies), Peter Pan's Magic Flight (stood in line behind an obnoxious family...bratty kids, loud teenager, mother who bent down and displayed hairy plummer's crack when getting food out of cooler for kids), and went back for Pooh.
Headed over to Liberty Square for Haunted Mansion. Classic Ride. It's perfection.
Frontierland had me filled with trepidation. I'm deathly afraid of birds and usually when we are there the entire area is a carpet of seagulls. They were nowhere to be found this time (everywhere in the park traditionally covered with them...this was the case, including American Adventure in Epcot and the Boardwalk). This meant nothing kept me from getting on Splash Mountain (we had about a 40 minute wait posted but got on in just a little over 20). We then headed to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and that was also an immediate walk-on with almost no line whatsoever.
We skipped Country Bears and that's fine, 'cause I can always do that in October when Paul and I are there.
When we got to Adventureland, we shopped in the pirate store and encountered one of our first "social flypaper" cast members, as Shawn put it (great phrase). She just wouldn't stop talking! I understand that she was being friendly, but it just crossed over a bit into annoying...
We hopped onto the Jungle Cruise. Skipper Steve was awesome. He did some jokes that I'm sure were not "official", but they were great nonetheless. Probably one of the best skippers I've had in a few trips or so...
Since we were in Adventureland, I decided that I would grab the opportunity to have a Dole Whip. I saw the difference in portions to patrons ahead of me had between the regular whip and the pineapple float and saw that you got substantially more in the float AND got juice to boot...so I got the pineapple float version instead. Still very refreshing.
By this time all of our stomachs were starting to rumble (this will happen when you are making your way through these parks). Kim wanted to go to Epcot to get fish and chips in England, but it was already after 8:00 and Epcot would close at 9:00, so we asked a few cast members what the best counter service was (I'd suggested "Columbia Harbour House" earlier in the day). When three different cast members said that their favorite place to eat for counter service on property was "Columbia Harbour House" I had to say I told you so. The girls got the kid's meal of mac and cheese with grapes and cheese crackers on the side. I got the chicken strips (knowing that Ricky Brigante from "Disney - Inside the Magic" raves about them), Shawn got the fish and chips. Not bad. Filling and worth the price (reasonable for park prices, too).
By this time it was both starting to get dark AND there was a parade about to start. This meant that Main Street was cut off from us unless we found an alternate route (we'd have to get there post parade if we wanted to see the fireworks....yeah, yeah, they are supposed to look fine anywhere in the park, but we wanted to be able to see Tinkerbell flying off the castle). I suggested we head to ToonTown to catch the train to the front of the park.
We ended up missing the last train to the front and had to get to Main Street from Tomorrowland...BUT, there was no crowd back there (since most of the families flock to the front for the parade) and we walked through both Minnie and Mickey's houses without any hassles. We also got our picture, again, with Mickey (don't ask me why...I don't quite understand the girls' obsession with getting their photograph taken (with or without the characters)).
We made into Main Street just in time and watched the fireworks from the center of the street. Probably the best view of them I've had yet. That left shopping for damn near an hour until the park was near closing. None of us really found anything on this trip. It was mostly just window shopping.
We got back to the hotel thingee and all collapsed.
Day 2 - Animal Kingdom/MGM - We got up fairly early and quickly assembled ourselves. After a couple false starts finding the park, we arrived at Animal Kingdom. Dawn and I pretty much took over with one mission in mind: we are not stopping for ANYTHING on the way to ride Expedition Everest. We can smoke, pee, eat, shop, trade pins after we ride that one ride.
We hauled ass out to the mountain at the back of the park (that you can see from the parking lot) and got on this ride. I'll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible...the queueing area is incredible with lots of neat stuff to look at (including authentic Nepalese artifacts). The ride itself is extremely smooth for a rollar coaster. The main lift track is very steep and high up. You can look to your left and see Spaceship Earth AND the Tower of Terror in the distance. I'm sure if I could turn my head far back enough I might even be able to see the castle on a clear day (this was not...it was cloudy). It's really an A-Plus attraction. I wish I could say the same for the after ride merchandise in the store. I found it a little cheesy/tacky. We were so exhilarated, we headed immediately back onto the ride with very little wait time.
The gentleman who seated us asked us how many in our party. We were like "four...don't you remember us? We were just here!" He laughed and as we were strapping into our train, he handed us a special pass for the four of us that allowed us to come back anytime that day to re-ride (we saved it for the end of the time at that park).
Enroute to the Safari after that, Shawn and Dawn grabbed coffee (and were disappointed 'cause it wasn't this amazing coffee they'd both raved about from their last trip there) and I grabbed a bagel. We then got onto the safari, but the beginning of rain really deterred the animals from being out much this time and they were well away from the truck (oh well, I guess I'll try again in October). However, I did get to see both of the baby elephants and they were adorable. I just wish they would abandon the "storyline" about the poachers attacking the elephants and just let our driver focus on showing us the animals.
It really started pissing down, so we jumped into a store. Shawn bought himself a poncho. When we were stepping out, it wasn't so bad, but while the girls were taking a potty break, it started coming down pretty hard, so I went back into the store to get myself a poncho. BIG MISTAKE. Should have gotten it earlier.
I ended up stuck behind this soccer mom desperate housewife CUNT who decided that she had to purchase everything she was buying separately (even though there was a huge line forming behind her)...and she was paying with traveller's checks, so that meant that for each of these transactions, she's spend time filling the dumb things out...she wouldn't do it ahead of time while the cast member was ringing her up. I watched her hand him a single souvenir for her one child. He rang that up. She did the whole traveller's check rigamarole. She did it again for her other child. (who each, of course, required separate bags, 'cause God forbid their plushes or mickey hats or whatever should touch in a single bag, the world would end!), then do it again for a couple more items for, I assume, gifts for home. I gave up and walked out, steaming mad, grumbling about "fucking customers" under my breath.
I had no idea where the others had gone by that point (they were probably off trading pins) and I called Shawn's cell and said "just meet me at the bat cave along the tiger trail". By the time they'd gotten to me, they'd all bought ponchos. We quickly worked our way through the trail (I was starting to freeze from the rain at this point, but wanted to see the tigers). The animals were again mostly in hiding. A great cast member stationed there pointed out tons of hidden mickeys throughout that whole area to us.
I got a poncho outside the safari trail and we walked over to Dinosaur land. I got a (as it turned out pretty blurry) photo of the new construction between Everest and Dinoland. Don't know what it is. Have heard there would be an Asian fusion sit-down restaurant here, but think this building looks a little big for just a restaurant. Perhaps, there is another ride coming here in the future?
When we got to Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama, I was excited 'cause I'd never ridden "Primevil Whirl" before. The crowds/lines were minimal thanks to the now pretty steady rain. I'm glad to say I've ridden it, but don't know if I would get on it again unless I was promised a seat in the middle. I got crushed while this thing was spinning. Put the smaller people on the inside and the larger people on the outside!
We then got onto Dinosaur! (which Shawn initially got confused with Ellen's Energy Adventure because of the extended dinosaur sequence in that attraction).
We finished the stuff we had to do with taking in "It's Tough To Be a Bug" and a final ride on "Everest". By this time, we were starting to get hungry, but the group consensus was to eat in MGM instead.
We drove to MGM and found out where Chicken Little would be appearing. We waited about forty minutes for him to come out near the BIG ASS HAT. We all got our pictures taken with him and proceeded into the (not so) "Great Movie Ride" (again, the major attraction I vote most in need of a MAJOR rehab...not just redressing/painting...gut the fucker and start over again with a different selection of films and skip the stupid gangster/cowboy crap storyline).
From there, it was decided that we were all a bit peckish and Dawn said that a client or friend of hers really liked Pizza Planet. We all got the pizza there and settled down (they were just personal pan size, not enough to spoil our appetite for "50's Prime Time"). The pizza wasn't bad but it wasn't great. This is understandable, since it has to appeal to a child's palette. We soon got into Muppet-Vision 3D. We didn't necessarily try to do this, but I think it's neat that we saw this movie on the 15th anniversary of the attraction!!!
We managed to squeeze in one ride each on the Tower of Terror and RockNRoller Coaster at this time and then it was time for us to do our dinner.
We ate at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. We were served by "Cousin Patty". The girls thought she "wasn't mean enough", but I thought she was pretty snarky and managed to stay in character fairly well. I had a peanut-butter/jelly milkshake with the fried chicken (which Shawn also ordered). Dawn had the grilled tuna over mixed greens and Kim had the seafood penne pasta (with shrimp and scallops). The girls split a s'mores for dessert (it's humongous).
We did some light shopping on Sunset Boulevard. I primarily went into the confectionary next to the Villains shop and picked up a caramel apple (my traditional "Fantasmic" snack). I must say that I was greatly disappointed that what was usually the coolest shop on property was now a ghost of it's fomer self. The candy part of the store was still spectacular (including all kinds of new goodies), but the villain merchandise was greatly lacking and was primarily replaced with Jack Skellington/Nightmare Before X-Mas stuff. If I wanted that, I'd head to my local Hot Topic for it. Where's my Maleficent/Ursula/Cruella/etc. stuff? Kind of shoved in a corner and hardly anything left...! I hope this situation changes, 'cause I love my villains!!!
From there, it was time to get a move on to head over to the amphitheatre in the back of the park to catch "Fantasmic" We were kind of shunted off to the side. I would have preferred a seat in the middle, but it was already fairly crowded (and Kim was grumbling earlier when I was saying that it would be time to get in soon). I ate my caramel apple while waiting for the show. Kim grumbled about the pre-show and the pre-show wait time. She should have just stayed out and shopped or whatever else she expected to do at that point since the rest of the park (with the exception of the stores) had closed.
After the show, I was saying that I wished that they'd update the show. Pocahontas, as a historical figure, doesn't really belong in the show with not only fictional but primarily magical-based characters. She was only there because that happened to be the movie that was coming out at the time. Her sequence could easily be replaced any number of magical-based characters who were still primarily action based characters. Heck, if they wanted to keep the Native American theme, they could even use Brother Bear (though I think that Hercules would work best in that section of the show)...of course, Kim had to chime in with "most people don't know that Pocahontas is real and think of her only as a Disney character"...I sure hope not!
That night there was some kind of mishap with Dawn's camera or memory card when Shawn tried to upload her pictures to his laptop. Though both his and mine transferred without a hitch, her pictures seemed to disappear. They were on the camera before he plugged it into the laptop, but they were gone afterwards. This meant that not only were various and sundry other pictures lost (some of which were duplicated), but the first picture we took with Mickey would be gone and so would the shot of Kim with Chicken Little (which Kim was obsessed with...never mind that Shawn swore he took a shot of that with Kim's disposable).
Day 3 - Epcot - We started the day with a poorly planned breakfast trip to the Grand Floridian (a Magic Kingdom resort) on a day that we'd scheduled for Epcot. This meant we'd arrive at Epcot fairly late in the morning. But, since we were going to be leaving from Epcot and WEREN'T STAYING ON PROPERTY that we'd have to decide where to park...I'd suggested the TTC, since there would still be monorail service there at the end of the day, but it was decided by the others that we'd park at Epcot which meant cutting it really close to make it to breakfast (considering that riding the monorail from Epcot meant a tranfer to a different monorail when we arrived at the TTC).
When we finally got to the hotel, at least it was fairly simple to find the restaurant (1900 Park Fair) and we were relatively quickly seated (after getting to meet "Cinderella"). Appearing in the restaurant, making trips to each of the tables were Pooh, Tigger, Alice (from Wonderland) and Mary Poppins (whom the girls kept calling "Sherry Bobbins" behind her back because they are fanatical about "Simpsons"). The food selection was pretty good. I had blueberry pancakes, LOTS of bacon, spanish scrambled eggs, regular scrambled eggs, a "design your own omelet" at the omelet station, loads of fruit, a bagel and more.
We soon got onto the monorail back to Epcot (after I quickly obtained a pressed penny of Gus-Gus and Jacque from "Cinderella" (I collect what little Gus-Gus merchandise I can find)).
Upon arrival at Epcot, we quickly made our way to the Land Pavillion to catch Soarin. Seeing a long line and fastpasses for an hour and half, we decided to get fastpasses. Then one of the girls decided we should just stick it out...so we spent a half hour waiting for Soarin' on probably the single most boring queue line I've seen (though it starts pretty great with BIG tele screens with various science/geography trivia questions, it quickly gets dull when you turn that first corner). This was the first time I can say I've gotten nauseous on a ride. It was only for a split second, but it was when we were "flying over" the ocean filled with surfers so perhaps it was the suggested motion of the water "beneath us" that did it.
We quickly went into the Imagination Pavillion and rode the Figment ride (which is actually borderline annoying). We then headed across the park to Ellen's Energy Adventure, but got sidetracked by entering the Flower and Garden Festival main building (inside the building that formerly housed the Pizza Pasta restaurant). I took pictures of the four giant replicas of new postage stamps done in flowers and grabbed a guide to the happenings around the park for the Flower/Garden thingee (which I recommend checking out if you like the topiaries around the park...these were spectacular).
We got onto Ellen and Dawn guided us to the far left and far front. Next time, I must remember to go to the center far back, 'cause I think that's the best seat for the movie portion. I walked by the Wonders of Life pavillion and sighed as we got off the attraction 'cause I knew there would be no more Cranium Command...ah well.
Shawn and I got onto Mission:Space (Kim wouldn't ride it, 'cause she's claustrophobic) and then we all hit Test Track together (and MAYBE saw a few unintentional hidden mickeys in there).
We then trecked into "Club Cool" and boy was I disappointed. Maybe even more than by the lack of villains in the Villain shop. Where did all the sodas go? There were only three flavors available when we got there: Krest Girnger Ale, Kinley Lemon and BEVERLY (ugh!). What happened to my Smart Watermelon (from China) and my Lychee Mello (from Thailand, which wasn't even listed on the machines...though many of the other flavors were (even though they were out of them)).
I also didn't like the new atmosphere in there. I miss the igloo!!! This was a change for the worst.
Shawn then decided that before he would head over to World Showcase, he would put his backpack into a locker. They were located at the front of the park. We all stopped for potty breaks and Dawn went into the photo shop next store to check the photos on our photo pass(s). She was happy to discover that though our version of the Mickey photos were gone, the ones that the cast members took were still intact (she'd sworn that no cast member took our picture at either location).
Shawn and I then took in Spaceship Earth, which seemed to be slightly sharper than the last time I saw it (perhaps with the help of the new sponsor?). The girls again avoided anything approaching education.
From there, we found the new Butterfly garden on the map and enjoyed a few minutes surrounded by nature.
From that point on, we headed into the World Showcase and started our descent into hell which is called "Drinking Around the World". Not only were we already hot and tired, we were going to be drunk, too. The real us was going to be coming out.
We took our margaritas onto El River Del Tiempo in Mexico and no one said a word to us about it.
We had sweet wine in Norway.
We had Chinese beer in China (Shawn snacked on a pair of egg roll, I got a bowl of beef fried rice). Shawn and I saw the circle-vision movie while the girls shopped.
We explored Germany (I had a lovely strawberry juice/wine thing), Italy (a bellini), America (nothing new to bother trying), Japan (found some packages of Hi-Chew, the girls got pearls fresh from oysters and I shared another beer with Shawn). By this time, I was well and fully soused and not very hungry. When we got France, both of us boys were full and done with the drinking and were starting to get pretty much our fill of the girls (well, Kim, who now drunk was getting surly). We stayed on the bridge 'tween France and England for the beginning of the fireworks show. The girls headed into England and Canada and we'd meet them at the Mouseworks store (the BIG shopping spot in Epcot...open up to an hour after the rest of the park closed). We discussed life, the universe and everything, but mostly I gave him the reader's digest version of our housebuying story and he told me about his adventures trying to get his pool installed (I can't tell you how many times during the trip that the contractor would call him and ask for directions...he'd give them to the guy and the next day, or even sometimes the next hour, he'd be calling for them again).
We made our way to the store and he wanted to look at watches, so I suggested he try the jewelry store on main street in Magic Kingdom before we left for home.
We got back and all pretty much slept well...
to be continued in the next message...I ran out of space!