Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 7

There are few sadder sights...
Unfortunately, the seventh day of our trip to Walt Disney World was also the last full day.  The next day we would be leaving the resort at 9 am, so we woke up to the Magical Express envelope on our door.  We had no morning plans, and the only thing we knew about that day was that James' brother and his boyfriend were coming, and James' brother hadn't been to Disney in 15 years!

We started off our day by going to Epcot, as we were becoming accustomed to doing.  Unfortunately, the half marathon was going on, so it took us an hour to get there.  This wasn't terrible for us since we were in no rush, but I did feel bad for another family on the bus who thought we would be arriving before rope drop.  We finally got there at around 9:30.  We went straight for Soarin', expecting to only get Fastpasses, but the line was so short that we basically walked on!  Next we hit up Test Track single rider, and soon it was almost time for World Showcase to open.

Who can resist this photo op?
I remember that they let us in the line for Maelstrom before 11, but they didn't actually start running the ride until 11:05-ish.  We then toured around the World Showcase for the bazillionth time (but it never gets old!) until it was time for our lunch reservation at Le Cellier.  I was nervous that it wasn't going to be as good as I'd remembered, since our lunch at Via Napoli the day before was a disappointment.  I'm very pleased to say, however, that it was absolutely not the case.  Le Cellier dazzled again.

The famous Le Cellier mushroom filet.
Our waiter was excellent, and once he realized that we clearly favored the pretzel bread, he brought us three sticks fresh from the oven.  He also let James order a mango smoothie as a drink on the dining plan, like they had at Yachtsman Steakhouse.  We were not told this was a possibility last time.  James chose to order off of the three course menu, while I stuck with just an entree and dessert.  I honestly can't remember what James got for an appetizer, but he got the big burger there for his entree.  I decided to try the "famous" mushroom filet, even though I loved the New York Strip last time.  I was in the mood for something different, I suppose.  I don't even really like mushrooms, but I'm glad I ordered this dish.  The risotto was very good, and the steak was excellent.  I'd probably order the Strip again next time, but the filet was awesome.

James' giant burger!
For dessert, I had the famous maple creme brulee, which was awesome!  James had a sorbet trio, which I believe he liked as well.  If I had to rate all of the meals on our trip, I have to say, this was probably the second best.  And we ate at three signature restaurants.  As much as I hate to say it, I do believe that Le Cellier could go for two credits.

After lunch, we tried to avoid exploding, since James' brother and his boyfriend had arrived and were at the Studios.  We took a Friendship Boat over (SLOW again, but my knee was still bothering me), and we went into tour guide mode.  We knew they only had one day with us, and they were going on the highlight tour.  It was around 1 pm, so Toy Story Mania was out of the question.  We started at the Great Movie Ride, and next we hit the Muppets.  James and his brother wanted to see the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, since it was one of the few things they remembered as a kid at Disney.  It was awkward walking through all the small children, but they just wanted to see if it was like they remembered.  Apparently it was.  After that, James' brother and his boyfriend went on Tower of Terror while James and I shopped.  After they got off, I got us free Fastpasses for Rock N Roller Coaster (which I proceeded to chicken exit from, of course) because it was my birthday.  Then we decided to head over to Epcot, since it was around 4 already.

 At Epcot, we continued our highlight tour, starting at Test Track single rider.  The newbies weren't as thrilled as I'd hoped: one has a convertible.  Next we headed over to the Land pavilion, and we let them use Soarin' Fastpasses we had gotten earlier.  Next we hit up the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and finally the icon:  Spaceship Earth.  At this point it was a little past 6, and we decided we'd end the day with the park of all parks for newcomers:  the Magic Kingdom.

We got to the Magic Kingdom turnstiles around 6:50, and we quickly realized we needed to get across Main Street fast if we wanted to beat the 7 o'clock parade.  Luckily, we made it, and we arrived at Pecos Bill's just around 7.  I had the bowl of meat, but I don't remember what the others ordered.  We had assumed when we were done eating around 7:30 that the parade was done, but lucky us, it had just started where we were in Frontierland.  So our Disney newbies got to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Then we high tailed it over to Main Street for Wishes. 

I think Wishes was a hit, and luckily the Magic Kingdom was open until ten.  So we had time to ride stuff too!  We started at Adventureland, which was completely empty right after Wishes.  We went to Jungle Cruise first, and I was amazed to see that our skipper was the same skipper we had in August.  Only then he was earning his ears, and honestly, he wasn't a great skipper.  This time, however, he was awesome!  And he was totally amazed that I had remembered him from the first time.  Luckily we had a boat that was really into the jokes, so we had a good time.

After Jungle Cruise, we rode Pirates, which is always a hit of course.  Big Thunder was very crowded because Splash was closed, so we went right into Liberty Square.  Unfortunately my favorite, the Haunted Mansion, had a 20 minute wait, and we were on a time crunch.  We passed through Fantasyland, which was pretty busy for so late at night, and we headed into Tomorrowland.  Here, we rode one of my favorites: the TTA!  It was quite cold, but it was still a good time.  And the last ride of the trip was Buzz Lightyear, which was less than a 10 minute wait.  Not bad at all. 

After our rides, we wandered down Main Street, and I stopped in the Confectionery for a cupcake and another chocolate caramel apple to take home.  And at the Confectionery, I was Twitter recognized by a cast member that was working there!  It was totally awesome!  I felt famous!  Finally, before we walked out of the park, we saw the kiss goodnight.  I had never seen it before, so it was a fabulous end to a fabulous trip.  We rode back over to All Star Movies, where James' brother and his boyfriend were staying, and we hung out until we were quite tired.  Then they drove us back to our resort, where we got ready for bed.  The next day, we pretty much woke up, did some last minute packing, and left.  It was a great trip, however, and definitely a memorable one.

Friday, January 28, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 6

Only a great boyfriend would wear these in public... after much begging from me and badgering from Twitter friends.
Since our trip was seven days long, it was starting to come to a close at this point.  But that certainly didn't mean that we were done celebrating!  This day was James' 21st birthday!  Of course, this meant that he got to call all the shots, and his first order of business:  sleeping in a little later than usual.  That didn't mean that we didn't get to Epcot just after rope drop, however, and we went straight to Soarin' as usual.  We were too late to ride stand by, so we grabbed Fastpasses for later and headed to Test Track.  We rode together since the single rider line wasn't even open yet (this is the first time that we encountered this phenomenon), and then we hung out a bit by the exit waiting for Alison who was touring solo this day.  Soon we found her, and we rode Test Track again, this time single rider. 

Neither of us really cared what we should do next, so we somehow decided to head to the Seas and then the Land.  At the Land, we only did Living with the Land, since the Soarin' stand by line was too long, and Alison didn't have a Fastpass.  James didn't want to see Captain EO (shame on him), so after Living with the Land, we decided to tour World Showcase.  We started in Canada, and along the way, we even passed Alison's parents on their Segway tour!  Once we got to Italy, we separated for a while.  James and I wanted to eat lunch at Via Napoli, but Alison was having dinner there later that day.  She went off to do her own thing, and James and I used the Nate Parrish ADR method to get seated immediately sans reservation... at noon!  It was awesome!

Unfortunately, the pizza at Via Napoli was less than awesome.  Maybe my expectations were way too high, but I absolutely loved our lunch there in August.  This one wasn't anything like that one.  Sure, the service was great, but the pizza just wasn't the same as the first time we were there.  James agreed, so I know it wasn't just me.  All I can say is that almost once a week after we ate there in August, I declared that I was "in the mood for Via Napoli."  Unfortunately, I haven't thought that once since we returned from our January trip.  My Margherita pizza didn't look anything like I thought it should have (red sauce with clumps of cheese and basil on top... there wasn't even any basil!), and James said his quattro formaggi just wasn't the same.  I won't be doing another review on this one, since I did one back in October, but bear in mind that the quality seems inconsistent.

My pizza in August - so good!
My pizza in January - quite a bit bigger for the same price, but nowhere close in quality. It doesn't even look the same!
Delicious chocolate caramel apple!
After that unfortunate disappointment, James and I continued wandering the World Showcase until I decided that I was hungry enough for the chocolate caramel apple I had been craving all day.  At that point, we headed to Karamell Kuche and bought one.  They even cut it up for your easy eating!  A full review on this delicious new addition to the World Showcase may be coming in the future on this blog.  We chose to eat it in the semi-indoor seating that Germany's counter service offers.  It was actually too cold to sit outside and eat.  It was delicious!  I was recently introduced to chocolate caramel apples, and I must say, they are a brilliant invention!

After munching on our after lunch treat, we met back up with Alison and continued exploring the World Showcase.  We proceeded to almost capsize on the Gran Fiesta Tour because, for some reason, all of the adults were seated on the right side of the boat.  I swear we were an inch or two away from taking on water.  After that, we capped off our early afternoon with a ride on Spaceship Earth, and then we headed back for a nap.

After our nap, I was really unsure on what I wanted to wear to James' birthday dinner at Bistro de Paris.  I obviously wore a nice outfit, but it was so cold that I actually considered wearing my winter coat over it.  I decided to settle on a sweatshirt that I would remove once we got to the restaurant.

James at Club Cool!  Obviously that's not Beverly in his hand!
We arrived at Epcot a little a early for our 6:30 ADR, so we decided to check out Club Cool for a few pre-dinner refreshments.  Beverly was as disgusting as usual, but some were quite good.  I love trying the different sodas, and I especially love watching unsuspecting newbies taste what they expect will be delicious.  Soon, however, it was time for dinner, so we headed around to the World Showcase.

We got up to the Bistro de Paris podium, and the first thing the hostess said to us was "Are you on the dining plan?"  My first instinct was yes, to which she promptly reminded me, "We don't accept the dining plan here."  Realizing that I did know this, but caught off guard, I awkwardly responded with, "I know," and she proceeded to check us in.  After about five minutes, we were taken upstairs.

As with all the other table service restaurants that I have not yet reviewed, a full review of Bistro de Paris will come in the near future.  In the mean time, I will say that the food was quite good but not outstanding.  Although the bill was comparable to California Grill, we would return to California Grill over Bistro de Paris any day.  We certainly weren't displeased, but we weren't wowed either.  It was nice for James' birthday dinner, as he loves French food, but I'm not sure we would come back for a normal dinner.

My delicious dessert!
James started with the escargot, and I opted out of an appetizer.  We both chose the beef entree, and it was quite good.  The mashed potatoes had bits of shredded meat inside them, which was interesting.  I remember enjoying the asparagus as well.  For dessert, James opted out this time, but I ordered a delicious dish that came with four different things to enjoy.  There was the creme brulee that I had so recently come to love, rice pudding, caramel upside down cake, and a bit of delicious creme brulee ice cream.  I would 100 times order this dessert again if I could.  Yum!  And even though James didn't order anything, our waiter brought out a plate with "Happy Birthday" written on it with chocolate.  A lit candle was in a little bit of fruit in the corner, and after James blew it out and went to the restroom, our waiter came back and lit it again while he was gone. 

James' birthday surprise.  It would have looked better with the flash on, but he refused to take the picture with flash.

After dinner, James stopped at the drink stand to have his first legal alcoholic beverage:  the Grey Goose slushie.  He said it was good, but dang that small cup was $9.50!  We didn't really care if we saw IllumiNations, since we had already seen it twice this trip, so James decided he wanted to use our Fastpasses from this morning.  I was very glad we were big Disney fans at this point because many people don't realize you can use Fastpasses past their time windows.  Our Fastpasses said "10:18 - 11:18 am" on them, and the cast members let us through at 9:10 pm (there were extra magic hours that night) without blinking an eye.  After riding Soarin', we were quite tired from James' big day, so we headed back to the room to go to sleep.  The following day would be our last, but we'd also be meeting up with James' brother and his boyfriend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First Wordless Wednesday

I've never done a Wordless Wednesday before, and I'm not sure if I'm going to make it a "thing" or not.  That said, this is my first, and I should probably stop with the words...

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 5

Hooray for Hollywood!  Christmas tree and billboard outside of Hollywood Studios!
Choosing a turnstile to wait at is like playing a game. A who do you trust more not to screw up the easiest task of the day game...  We were obviously having a great trip, but at this point, I was going to freak out the next time someone needed to try all ten fingers to get through the turnstiles.  We got to Hollywood Studios nice and early on this day because we had a mission: to ride Toy Story Mania and not wait 90 minutes.  (Not that we would... we had a Touring Plan of course.  I swear they don't pay me; I just really love them.)  We were let through the turnstiles about 10 or 15 minutes before park open and crammed into the park waiting for the rope drop skit.  While we were waiting, Ray spotted us, and we chatted a while.  Finally, lights, camera, action, and we were let into the park.  Ray was also headed toward Toy Story Mania, so the three of us rode at the same time.  James got the highest score in our car.  Afterwards, Ray was headed to the big scary rides, so we split up.

James and I headed to the Great Movie Ride where we had an extremely perky tour guide, and then we headed towards MuppetVision.  James was pretty amazed when he spotted Pizza Planet.  He never knew there was a "real" one.  He was disappointed that there was no spaceship shaped claw machine though.  Anywho, I love the Muppets.  How does one become a Muppet fan because I want to be one.  We walked through the Muppet store after the show, and I considered buying a shirt but ultimately chose not to.  Next we briefly stopped in the Writer's Stop, and we went to the new and improved Walt Disney: One Man's Dream.  The exhibit is even better than the last time we saw it (pre-refurbishment), and I love learning about Walt and Roy.  We watched the short movie, and soon we headed to eat at the Studio Catering Co.

Me at One Man's Dream
I didn't love Studio Catering Co.  I had a turkey club, but I got it without cheese because I don't like swiss.  I guess the cheese was necessary because the sandwich was dry and bland.  I didn't love it.  Anyway, we cut our losses at lunch and tried to meet up with Cheryl because she was hanging out at the Studios as well.  After missing each other completely, we finally met up, and we decided to ride Toy Story Mania again.  Despite Cheryl's expertise, I got almost the same exact score as the first time, but this time Cheryl got best in car.  

Hot AND fresh!

Next we did the Tower of Terror queue, but only James rode.  Cheryl and I chicken exited.  It was nice (and a little scary!) seeing the queue, though!  We considered doing the Rock N Roller Coaster queue, but we decided to go see Indiana Jones instead.  First we stopped at a popcorn stand, and James and I got free snacks for our birthdays!  Thank you, friendly snack CM!  Indiana Jones was cool as usual, and afterwards we decided to head our separate ways.  Cheryl left to go to Epcot, and James and I went to take some naps before dinner.

Kona sticky wings
After our naps, we weren't sure if we should head to Epcot or Magic Kingdom before our reservation at Kona.  The Disney bus system chose for us, and we went to the Magic Kingdom.  After exploring the shops a bit, we saw some of the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It parade/show.  I thought it was really cute and danced, but James wasn't into it, so we headed to the TTA.  After a quick (and quite cold!) ride, we went to take the monorail to the Poly.  Dinner at Kona was good, but as Cheryl had warned us, the service wasn't excellent.  We started with the sticky wings, and then I had the teriyaki steak.  James had some type of seafood dish.  And then I had an awesome fondue for dessert!  Yum!

On the floor of the Grand Floridian
I had planned to watch the Electrical Water Parade on this day, but since we had seen it the day before (and it was FREEZING), we chose to skip it.  I wanted to see the big gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, so we monorail hopped over there to find that it had been taken down three days prior.  Although we were disappointed, I had never been to the Grand Floridian, so I was still excited to explore.  It was absolutely beautiful, but I think I might feel out of place if I stayed there.  It was quite cold, so we were pretty much ready to head to the resort.  After attempting (and most likely failing) to work the Disney transportation system in our favor, we finally got back to our room and went to bed, ready for James' birthday in the morning!

Friday, January 21, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 4

With my backstage pass!
My birthday present from James was for us to go on the Keys to the Kingdom tour, and this day was it!  We were scheduled for the 9 am tour, so we woke up at 7.  Soon we were ready, dressed, I wrapped my knee, and we were at the bus stop.  Once we got to the Magic Kingdom, we headed to the breakfast reservation line to get in the park before it opened.  After a little scare (I momentarily thought I lost my Key to the World card, but I found it), we were in the park and headed to wear we the tour meets:  package pick up.  We "signed in," got name tags and temporary backstage passes, and we ordered lunch.  We got to order from the full Columbia Harbor House restaurant, and I chose the BLT salad.  I'm not enthused by the choices at Columbia Harbor House, but that's a blog post for another day. 

After all of our fellow tourers arrived (there were 19 of us total), we were given headsets to wear so we could hear our guide the whole time.  These were extremely helpful in hearing our awesome guide, Kate, and they worked great.  I don't want to go too much into the details of the tour since I want to do a separate blog post about it, but I will say that it was AWESOME.  It lasted until roughly 2 pm, and during the tour we rode two rides (Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion) and went backstage twice (three times if you count entering the Haunted Mansion through the "crew's quarters").  One of these times was in the Utilidors, which was very interesting to see.  Of course, about halfway through, we had that lunch that we had ordered earlier.  And here's something interesting, one of the people on our tour was a contractor for New Fantasyland and was doing a site visit to the Be Our Guest Restaurant the following day!

My new shirt!
During the tour, I had seen an awesome Haunted Mansion shirt that I really wanted (the Mansion is my favorite attraction, of course), so we took the Railroad over to Frontierland from where our tour ended on Main Street.  We then walked to the Haunted Mansion, bought the shirt, and headed toward the park exit.  Before we left, though, we stopped by Guest Relations to fill out a guest appreciation card for our awesome tour guide, Kate.  Kate said her dream was to one day have Meg Crofton's job, so hopefully the many appreciation cards that I'm sure she gets will help her get there!

We went back to the resort to take a nap, and soon it was time to get ready for our dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse (yet again, a full review is coming in the future).  Since we were taking Disney transportation, we decided to use a few skillful maneuvers (can you say Friendship Boat?) to get to the Yachtsman.  Of course, the boats are SO slow, and at one point we wished we walked, but my knee was still bothering me, so I was glad to be sitting.  Soon we arrived at the Yacht Club, and after a little getting lost... um, exploring... we were at the restaurant.

James' 24 ounce steak.  So big!
Turns out at the Yachtsman, they personalize menus, so we were given special Happy Birthday menus to take home with us.  So nice!  Our waiter was really nice, and he told us that on the dining plan, we get a nonalcoholic beverage, and that virgin daiquiris and pina coladas were included in this.  I felt like a kid who was just told she could have a Slurpee with dinner, and I ordered the daiquiri.  I also ordered the 8 ounce filet (what our waiter called the "lady steak"), and James ordered lobster bisque as an appetizer and the 24 ounce Porterhouse as his entree.  I was glad not to order an appetizer because I ate a TON of the onion bread that we were served.  I ate so much bread that I only ate about half of my filet.  Since James ate about 20 ounces of his steak, I joked that we could share one next time, and it would be perfect!

Yummy creme brulee!
After dinner, James had an interesting sorbet trio, and I had the first creme brulee of my life.  Although, as it turns out, I would also have the second and third creme brulees of my life on this trip.  It was SO good.  I couldn't believe I had never had it before!  Once I had eaten my fill, we left and James changed into "street clothes" from his more formal ones.  Many tweeps had been hanging out at the Studios all day, so we decided to see where they were.  But here was the problem:  they were at the Contemporary, but the Magic Kingdom was closed.  This is a nightmare for someone using Disney transporation...

Image from Nicole.  3/6 of #collegestudentsunite, as she said!
It took us a whopping HOUR to get from the Yacht Club to the Contemporary, especially since I'm not sure we did it the quickest way.  We entered Epcot's International Gateway, and speed walked through the park.  At the front, we hopped on the Tronorail to the TTC.  At this point, we probably should have walked to the Contemporary, but my knee was still bothering me, so we took the resort monorail which took FOREVER.  Finally, 55 minutes later, we made it to the Contemporary and met up with Nicole, Todd, Cheryl, Alison, Chris, Megan, and Shane.  We met in the Contempo Cafe, and it was awesome to meet people I have been talking with on Twitter for so long!  Many hugs were given!  Megan, Cheryl, and Nicole were staying at Bay Lake Tower, so we snuck in to the Top of the World lounge to wait for the Electric Water Parade to come around.  The lounge was awesome, and we hung out outside and all chatted for a while.  (The picture to the left is from Nicole's phone.  I think James has a camera quality one somewhere, but you get the point!)

After the Water Parade, some of us exchanged numbers, some went to bed, and the rest of us were driven back to our resorts by the very generous Todd (although his chauffeur services were actually offered by Cheryl who, incidentally, was not part of the carpool).  But really, thanks Todd!  Otherwise we would've had to get a taxi, I suppose!  Once back at our room, we pretty much conked out.  We were tired, and we had a fun filled day at the Studios ahead of us!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 3

Who doesn't love a picture of the Main Street Train Station?
I'm not sure if any day I've ever had could match up to my 19th birthday, but the rest of our trip was certainly awesome as well.  And that awesomeness continued at the Magic Kingdom.  We had an 8:30 am ADR at Crystal Palace for breakfast, and I was very excited to get into the Magic Kingdom before it opened!  We arrived at the park at around 8:05, and we took our time walking up Main Street, stopping to take plenty of pictures.  We even stopped to take some castle photos with a Photopass photographer, but honestly, the one she took with my camera came out just as good as they one they're trying to sell to me. 

Crystal Palace is a beautiful building
By 8:15, we were at Crystal Palace, and by 8:20 we were sitting down.  A full review of Crystal Palace is coming in the near future, but in the mean time, I will say that it was quite a good breakfast!  It is a little pricey, like all Disney buffets, but the character interaction is awesome.  The food is quite good as well!  They have all your normal staples like scrambled eggs and bacon, but they also have some different foods like chocolate Mickey waffles, breakfast pizza, and puffed French toast (okay, those last two were from the kid's buffet... so sue me).  We got to meet Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and, of course, Winnie the Pooh!  We got some great pictures, and at one point, the kids did a parade around the restaurant... very cute!  We also got free cupcakes for our birthdays!

James and I on Buzz!
By around 9:15, we were ready to go, and we were just a little behind on our Touring Plan.  We skip Space Mountain anyway, so we headed straight to Buzz.  After James beat me (again), we went directly to Fantasyland.  We saw the new Winnie the Queue, which was cute.  The honey wall was cool, but I did have a "I can't believe I'm touching this" feeling.  I try not to think about how germy it probably is.  Anyway, we waited 15 minutes for Peter Pan afterwards, a certain sign that we were a little lagging on our Touring Plan.  But I love Peter Pan, so I didn't mind too much.  Next we hit the new-and-improved (I mean the loading system, of course) it's a small world, and soon we were over in Liberty Square for my all time favorite attraction: the Haunted Mansion! 

Magic Kingdom Christmas tree
The line for Big Thunder was crazy by this time (presumably because Splash was closed), so we grabbbed Fastpasses and headed to Pirates.  I love Pirates, but I absolutely hate when people use flash photography on it.  I mean seriously, I'm sure you're not getting good pictures anyway.  Please don't ruin my time because you want some blurry photos.  Ranting aside, we enjoyed Pirates and headed to Jungle Cruise next.  Our skipper wasn't bad, but she didn't really have any jokes I've never heard before (then again, I've been on the ride so many times, I may have heard them all).  Next we headed back over to Frontierland to ride Big Thunder Mountain with our Fastpasses.  James was amazed at the efficiency of the Fastpass system because we walked right on the ride.  And then we were ready for lunch at good old Pecos Bill's.

Christmas at the Magic Kingdom
James had the big burger with the onion ring on top, and I had chili cheese fries for lunch, since I wasn't terribly hungry.  I proceeded to essentially break the self-serve kiosk with my Disney gift card (apparently they have to restart the computer when you put one in... but it doesn't say that anywhere!), but soon we were eating and planning our next moves.  We decided to hit Mickey's Philharmagic and then head into Tomorrowland for the TTA and the Carousel of Progress.  And then some pixie dust came into my life, and I met Push!  I had always heard about Push, but I had never seen him in real life.  But on this day, somehow I was just walking along, and suddenly a talking trash can was in front of me!  He sang happy birthday to me, and he asked for a hug.  And gosh darn it, I gave that adorable little trash can his hug.  At this point, all the children in a half mile radius had surrounded us, so I left Push with them.  I must say, Push stays very close to his "bodyguard," but when you're talking to him, you don't even notice.  Push is one of those very Disney things that I just love.  They don't have to do that, but they do.  I love it.

Nothing puts you in a Disney mindset like a picture of Cinderella castle
At this point, we were exhausted, so we headed back to the resort for a nap.  Unfortunately, at this point, my knee was killing me.  To make a short story shorter, I have tendonitis in my knee from running.  I haven't run in months because the tendonitis acts up after about half a mile.  And on this, I made a fatal error in our trip:  I skipped down Main Street USA.  Which caused my tendonitis to act up.  And it turns out when you walk three to eight miles a day in a theme park, tendonitis doesn't go away.  I popped some Advil, hoped I would sleep it off, and when we awoke, we decided to go over to Epcot.

Me with our piggy at the Great Piggy Bank Adventure
We started at the Great Piggy Bank Adventure (so cute!), and we decided to have dinner at Sunshine Seasons.  I thought it was good but not phenomenal.  (At this point, my knee was bothering me so much that I almost decided to go to First Aid and try to get some kind of knee brace.  But I didn't want to waste our time going all the way over by the Odyssey, so I chose not to.)  Next we headed into James' favorite store, Mousegear, and we hung out a bit with our favorite Mousegear employee, Jillian!  She had to skedaddle after a while, though, and we decided to tour the World Showcase. 

Turns out that many of the pavilions in the World Showcase have a quiz about their country, and James and I got a kick about going to all the different pavilions and seeing how much we knew.  We did alright on Canada, well on the UK, aced the American Adventure, and totally failed at German knowledge.  Along our travels I also got a kaki-gori in Japan, and by the time we got around to Norway, it was 8:50, so we settled down for IllumiNations.

Afterwards, we decided not to rush out of the park, and we hung out, listening to the Tapestry of Nations loop.  I don't think I ever got to see that parade (I certainly don't remember it if I did), but I love the music.  When the loop ended, we finally walked out of Epcot and got on a bus to go back to the resort after another great day.  (For those of you that are wondering, though, World Showcase is never a good idea with a bad knee, and I was really hurting when we were on our way out of Epcot.  It was so bad that I actually looked up wheelchair rental prices for the following day, although luckily we didn't have to do that!  If you ever have a bad knee, ice and rest it, not run it ragged like me!)  Although we didn't get to our resort until past 10:30 that day, we went to bed right away because we had Keys to the Kingdom the next morning to look forward to!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 2

Two weeks ago, it was my birthday.  And I don't think there are many things more magical than being at Walt Disney World on your birthday.  I sort of felt like I was in a dream, and I never wanted to wake up!  James and I woke up at 7 (my birthday, my rules, and I wanted to be at Epcot for rope drop!), and quickly got ready.  When I woke up, I already had a few birthday wishes from my fantabulous tweeps, and got quite a few more when I excitedly tweeted, "YAY it's my BIRTHDAY and I'm at DISNEY WORLD!"  I was very happy.  I put on the birthday ears I had purchased the day before, and before I knew it, we were headed to the food court.  For my All Star breakfast at the All Star Music, I had the All Star Bounty Platter, of course! 

Once we got on our bus, the magic had already started.  There were only six or seven of us on the bus to Epcot, and our bus driver put an announcement over the speaker system on the bus that it was my birthday!  It was so awesome!  We arrived at the turnstiles at around 8:30, and then the wait began.  Luckily, we decided to wait at the open turnstile most to the right, so when they opened more to the right of us, we scurried over and were the second group in line!  Christmas music was playing instead of the normal Epcot entrance loop (which is one of my favorites), but I didn't mind.  

At around 8:50, they opened the turnstiles, we scanned through, and then we did our "Soarin' walk" up to the next holding area.  At 9, the characters came out, welcomed us to the park, and soon we were doing our Soarin' walk to Soarin'!  We requested to be in the top row, and we were in the middle section... so awesome!  Soarin' really takes my breath away, and it's my second favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World.  I absolutely love the score, the smell... I wish I was there right now!

Anyway, like any good Touring Plan follower, we headed to Test Track next, and we walked right through the single rider line.  I love the part outside, but I absolutely hate the part with the truck right before you get to the break away doors.  After Test Track, we decided to skip Mission: Space, so we headed over to the Seas pavilion.  It cracks James up every time that the queue for the Nemo ride is SO long, but the ride is seemingly always a walk on.  It takes five minutes just to walk through the line!  Once we found Nemo (in the biiiig bluuuue world), we managed to get into Turtle Talk right as the show was about to start.  Perfect timing, and Crush was awesome!  He kept saying "totes," which reminded me of Katie and kinda cracked me up, and he was the funniest Crush I've ever seen in the show.  A+ to that Crush.

We are here to change the world!
Next we headed back to the Land pavilion for Living with the Land.  I enjoy the attraction, but the seats on that darn boat are so uncomfortable!  Then we hit Journey into Your Imagination and Captain EO!  James fell asleep in Captain EO (Mike would consider this a travesty), but I loved it as usual.  The only thing about Captain EO is that you can never truly believe that you're watching Captain EO.  You always know you're watching Michael Jackson, and they don't let you forget that.  Not that I'm complaining, just observing.  This time I actually left my feet on the ground instead of keeping them up on the seat, but I didn't like the whipping effect.  Next time, I'll probably keep my feet elevated again.  Thanks for scarring me, Honey I Shrunk the Audience...
Epcot Christmas tree

After some brief pre-lunch refreshments at Club Cool, I decided I wanted to have my birthday lunch at the new-and-improved Cantina de San Angel.  James and I both ordered the tacos de carne, and I thought they were good.  I would definitely have them again, but I might try something different next time I went before resorted back to them.  I had churros for dessert, and while they were good, they certainly weren't anything I couldn't get at any other park (except apparently the Magic Kingdom less than an hour before park closing, as we learned the day before...).  Next we rode the Gran Fiesta Tour (donde esta Donald?), Maelstrom at Norway, and we were on our way around the World Showcase!

Kim Possible Recruitment Center in Future World
We stopped at a Kim Possible Recruitment Center along the way, and by the time we made it to Italy in our touring, it was time for our mission!  We did the Japan and France missions this time, and we have done the Germany and UK missions in the past.  So far, Japan is my favorite!  Some of the effects are really cool, and it was actually a little bit of a tough mission!  After we saved the world from two of the seven villains, we decided to let some other agents finish up and continued touring the World Showcase sans Kimmunicator.  Our last ride of the day was Spaceship Earth, where we thanked the Phoenicians, smelled Rome burn, and were welcomed to our future!  Then we headed back to the room for a nap before dinner.

Dressed up for my birthday dinner!
Once we were refueled and ready to go, we got ready for my birthday dinner at California Grill!  After much deliberation, I finally decided that is where I wanted to eat on my birthday, and I was so pleased with that decision.  We took a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then got on the monorail to head to the Contemporary.  James loves the Contemporary, so he was very pleased.  After wandering the lobby and gift shops for a bit, we decided to head downstairs to check in.  We were given a buzzer for our table, and then we were escorted upstairs in a special elevator (this was awesome, by the way).  Our buzzer actually started buzzing while we were in the elevator, but once we got to the top, I requested a window table with a Magic Kingdom view.  The host offered us an Epcot view in the wine room, but I told him I would wait for a castle view.  Any other time, I wouldn't have minded, but this was my birthday, and I wanted to see the castle while I ate.  I made my reservation two hours before the fireworks intending to wait for a Magic Kingdom view.  I did not have to wait, however, as our host pulled some strings and sat us at a table for four (even though it was just James and I).  I kid you not when I say I sat down in my seat at the table and was looking directly at Cinderella castle.  I swear we must have had the best view in the whole restaurant.  It was perfect.

The view from my seat
Our waitress at California Grill was excellent, and soon we had ordered.  We were on the dining plan, so our meals only included a non-alcoholic beverage, entree, and dessert (for two table service credits).  That said, it was my birthday, and I was not limiting myself to that.  For our first course, James and I shared a three cheese flatbread that was delicious.  Then for our second course, James had mussels, and I had ham covered rabbit.  That is a huge step out of my comfort zone because I'm a very picky eater, and I honestly didn't like the rabbit, but I'm very proud of myself for trying something new!  Next, James and I both had the oak grilled filet as our entrees.  It was excellent, and a more detailed review of this restaurant is certainly coming in the next few weeks.

At this point, it was approximately 7:30, and our entrees had just been taken away.  Only dessert was left, and there were only 30 minutes until the fireworks.  It was absolutely perfect timing.  I was worried initially that two hours would be too long to spend at California Grill, but as Alli and Sam had assured me, it was just right.  Especially since we ordered all those courses.  Dessert was chocolate molten lava cake with eggnog ice cream (though we chose to have vanilla instead) and peppermint bark.  And mine came with a happy birthday sign on a piece of chocolate!  So awesome!  Just as I finished dessert, Wishes began, and we had a perfect view from our table.  Everything was just so amazing.

After we paid, I had the crazy idea that we could possibly make it IllumiNations for an epic night of double fireworks.  So we got on the monorail and attempted it.  And I wore heels because I accidentally brought along two left flip flops.  We had just gotten on the monorail to Epcot with 18 minutes to go, and we arrived at the park with just five left.  I was running in my heels like it was no one's business, and we got to World Showcase Lagoon Plaza with about a minute to spare.  Nevertheless, I was able to see almost everything from our spot (the water portions were all I couldn't see), and it was amazing as usual.  As I tweeted at 9:26 that night, "Epcot, California Grill, Wishes, AND IllumiNations. Best birthday EVER!"  And then it was back to the room to prepare for the next day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January Trip Report, Day 1

It's true, everyone!  What you've all been (hopefully) waiting for is finally here!  My trip report!  It's hard to believe that a week ago today (last Thursday, that is), I was hanging out with Cheryl in Hollywood Studios or eating sticky wings at Kona Cafe, but I was.  And now it's finally time to tell you about it!  Starting from the very beginning, of course, at day one.

I would be lying if I told you I didn't tear up when our gate attendant at the airport said the words "your plane will be diverted to Baltimore."  I was not at Baltimore.  I was in New York, and I wanted to get on a plane, gosh darn it!  Alas, it was too foggy for the plane we were supposed to get on to land, and it was all I could do to ask for pixie dust on Twitter and play games on my phone until we knew more.  Luckily, a while later, we were told that our plane was diverted to Albany instead, and just to fill up before returning for another try at a landing.  And finally, two hours later than scheduled, we got on an airplane to Orlando International Airport.

The plane ride was mostly uneventful.  James and I watched Beauty and the Beast, and I did some crossword puzzles.  We ate peanuts and airplane shaped crackers.  Oh, and our pilot told us our 2.5 hour flight would take almost 4 hours due to wind.  Awesome, right?  So yes, if you're keeping count, the plane that was supposed to arrive at 12:30 didn't land until 4pm.  Woohoo?  All that really matters is that we made it, I suppose.

Soon, we were on Disney's Magical Express, and we were on our way to the most magical place on Earth!  The DME video was the same, but there was a short Let the Memories Begin video that prefaced it.  I teared up a little then too, but I bet you would too.  Much faster than I expected, we were on Disney property, and I didn't even get a chance to take a picture of the entrance!  Nevertheless, we had arrived, and after short stops at Coronado Springs and All Star Sports, we made it to All Star Music.

We checked in, James and I got birthday pins, and soon we were throwing stuff in our room before heading to Hollywood Studios.  A short note on the check-in:  I had elected not to do online check-in both for the purpose of research for this blog and because last time when we did online check-in, we got the second to last room in the last building.  This time, in regular check-in, we got a room in the middle of the second to last building.  So take that as you will.

Anywho, I had distinct plans on making it to Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Lights, and gosh darn it I was going to see them no matter how late our plane arrived.  I thanked my lucky stars that we had arrived (only?) four hours later than planned, and we got to the Osborne Lights around 6:15 pm.  Later than the 5:30 I was hoping for, but we got to see them, so no matter.  The lights were amazing (and it was snowing!), but we only stayed for one song at first, since James was starving.

We headed over to the nearest counter service we could find, which was ABC Commissary.  I had never eaten here before, and honestly I probably never will again.  James had a chicken and bleu cheese sandwich, and I had a surf and turf burger (aka a burger with three fried shrimp on top, which James ate for me).  James said his sandwich was okay, my burger was bland, and he didn't like the shrimp.  The meal was the ultimate meh, though the chocolate mousse for dessert was good!  After quickly finishing, we headed back to the Osborne Lights to wander a bit, see one more song, and search for the infamous black cat (we found it, by the way!).  After a while, the flashing lights were giving James a headache, so we headed back over to the shops on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards.  After a bit of window shopping, we decided that we weren't quite ready to leave the parks, so we chose to hit up the Magic Kingdom.

Hollywood Studios Christmas tree
The line for the Magic Kingdom bus was extremely long, so we used our knowledge of Walt Disney World to walk right on to the bus to the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian.  Even smarter versions of ourselves would have walked to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary, but we wanted to ride the monorail instead.  Finally we made it to the Magic Kingdom, and we headed straight to the TTA.  We also grabbed Fastpasses for Buzz for later while in Tomorrowland, and then we asked a cast member where the nearest churro stand was.  Obviously I should have asked Twitter instead since she gave us an incorrect answer (she made us go to Frontierland, while we later found there's one in Fantasyland).  And thus began the Great Churro Adventure of 2011.

Giant wreath at the Contemporary
After walking all the way from Tomorrowland to Frontierland (right before a parade, mind you... the cast members weren't pleased with us walking in the middle of the street), we simply couldn't find the churro stand.  Cast members were sending us up and down the street for this mystery stand, until finally we spotted the only stand that was closed.  I asked the cast member at the neighboring stand if that's where they sell churros and, what do you know, Magic Kingdom stops selling churros one hour before park closing.  Regardless of extra magic hours.  So here I was at 9:10 pm, knowing that there were extra magic hours until 1 am, yet ten minutes late for a churro.  To make myself feel better, we headed to Sleepy Hollow, and I got an ice cream soda.  And, bonus, we got to see the Main Street Electrical Parade while we ate.  Everything was right with the world again.

Before leaving, we hit Buzz with our Fastpasses, and then we were ready to get a good night's sleep before my birthday!

No icicle lights after January 1, unforunately.  Luckily the castle is still beautiful all year round.
To see all the photos from our trip to Walt Disney World, click here!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January trip photos!

Unfortunately I'm back from my January trip, but fortunately, I took some photos for everyone to see! I didn't take as many as I was planning since I got caught up in the moment quite a few times and didn't remember to take any photos. But hey, it happens. My trip report will begin on Wednesday, but in the mean time, here are my photos to whet your appetite! To see them, simply click on the thumbnail above, and you'll be taken to the album on Picasa.  Hope you enjoy!