We coordinated our 1997 and 1998 annual Fall trips with friends and family to maximize the use of our DVC park passes (the "free" ones that came with our DVC purchase) and to minimize the cost of park passes. We decided that Brian and I would buy annual passes (with the Wiedbrauks and my family covering the cost) and the others could use the DVC passes. That way, we'd have enough passes to go around and considerably reduce our costs. Of course, this required us to schedule our 1997 and 1998 Fall trips within one calendar year. This wasn't a major problem, but it did require some coordination and scheduling.
After all was said and done, the big advantage of this pass situation was that Brian and I had APs that will be valid from Mid-October 1997 through the same time in 1998.
The Trip South
The trip plans aren't completely solid. We were planning on leaving Saginaw after Brian gets out of work on Friday, May 8th, but he decided to take another vacation day on that Friday, so we'll leave in the morning instead. We'll drive about half-way down to WDW on the first day. We'll stretch it a bit if we can, so the second day with a toddler in a car seat will be shorter than the first day. Sweetwater, TN is almost exactly halfway from our home to WDW, so we'll go that far for sure, but Chattanooga or Northern Georgia would be nice (that will shave an hour or two off the second day's journey).
We have reservations for the Comfort Inn in Lake Buena Vista for Saturday the 9th. It's not on-site, so it won't be themed. It won't be as nice as a Disney resort, but we will be getting in late so we don't really need anything but a crib and a bed. Besides, we can still go on-property for dinner if we get the itch.
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
The vacation really begins when we check in to the Boardwalk Inn Resort on Sunday the 10th. We are planning on staying at the BVR for five nights (Brian extended the back end of the trip a day, too.) We're really looking forward to our first stay at the Boardwalk.
One of the main reasons for this trip was that we've wanted to visit WDW during Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival ever since we found out about this special event a few years ago. I'm looking forward to the special effort that the Disney horticulturists put into the park during the Spring event...and the special lectures and other events that we'll be able to enjoy.
We'll also spend at least part of a day at Fantasyland...Daddy has a hankering to take Allan on Dumbo. We also hope to get over to the new Animal Kingdom park for a quick look-see.
Callaway Gardens and Home
After our time at WDW, we'll drive up to Western Georgia for a visit to Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain. We visited Callaway a few years ago in the Fall, but I'm excited to see the place during the late Spring when it will almost certainly be more interesting.
After we leave Pine Mountain, we'll drive home at a leisurely pace to make sure Allan doesn't get too car-seat-bound.
Our Plans Change in March
Since the last update for our plans, things have changed dramatically. In March, Brian went to Santa Barbara, CA on a business trip. Needless to say, I felt the need to join him. All that is relevant because we were able to take a bump off our plane in exchange for $700 travel vouchers - one each! We decided to change our plans for this trip and fly instead of drive. We extended our time at WDW to use up the planned driving days. This almost doubled our time on property!!!!
Now we are planning to fly out of Detroit (flying from Saginaw was alot more money) to Orlando on May 9th. We'll stay offsite at the Comfort Inn in Lake Buena Vista that night, then move into the Boardwalk Villas on Mother's Day. After five nights of luxury, we'll return to the Comfort Inn for three more nights.
The time is drawing nearer...and we can't wait!
Saturday, May 9th - Travel Day
At last! This day has finally arrived. It seemed that it would never come. We drove to Detroit Metro airport, and left from there. We were a bit apprehensive about flying with Allan at 20 months. Brian frequently comments that Allan has the attention span of a gnat, so the 2 1/2 hour flight was kind of scary. He really did great on the plane, though, even falling asleep for the last hour. He doesn't have too much time to hug these days, so I thoroughly enjoyed the pre-Mother's day blessing of cuddling with my precious son.
We arrived at Orlando airport without incident. When we got to the National Car Rental area we expected to use our Emerald Isle membership as usual. (Among other benefits, Emerald Isle members are supposed to be able to simply choose a car, load it, and then do a quick check out on the way out of the lot.) Instead of that, we had to wait in line, then deal with a clerk that was incredulous that Brian, a GM employee of almost 17 years, was insisting on driving a GM car. She finally issued us an Olds Achieva. We loaded our car and took off with great anticipation.
A few side comments about traveling with small children
First of all, a car seat carrier for the airport is a great help. Before we left, Brian's mom found us one. It's a canvas bag, with a rubberized bottom that has straps and zips right up around the car seat. It was a breeze to pack it and check it right through with the other luggage. It also provided a great place to pack an extra package of diapers sitting right in the car seat inside the bag. The bag cost around $20 and was much more inexpensive than renting an awful car seat from the rental agency (we saw some examples of the rental car seats that National had and we were NOT impressed). Besides, Allan had a great seat that he was used to. All in all, we think it's the way to go.
Second, for anyone with small children, I highly recommend a Combi stroller. Brian's parents bought us a Combi Spirit - a Carriage Stroller - when Allan was born. It is a great stroller, and was indispensable when we took Allan on his first trip to WDW at 21 days old. It has many great features, which make traveling with an infant simpler. Just prior to this trip we bought Combi's version of an umbrella stroller. It's called a Savvy. It folds to a very compact size easily, and fits in the overhead bin of an airplane. It also has a carrying strap, a sun visor, and weighs only 7 lbs! Very nice for lugging onto those Disney buses and boats.
To conserve Vacation Club points, we stayed off-site the first night at Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista (off 535). The hotel isn't anything to get too excited about. It was a decent room (both tonight and later in the week), but just a typical room. The price was reasonable, even with all of the local and Florida taxes, and it was close to WDW. The hotel also had a sundries shop and a restaurant, both of which did a hefty business (at least every time we were in the lobby, which wasn't often).
We were assigned to a first floor room, about 4 feet from the gate to the pool. Since it was 88 degrees when we arrived, swimming seemed to be a great idea. (By the way, the new 'Lil Swimmers diapers by Huggies are wonderful. They don't absorb water from the outside like most disposable do.) After a cool, relaxing swim, we got ready and headed to the Magic Kingdom. Hurrah!!!
As always, after a recent trip to Disneyland, everything seemed so huge. There is just no comparing the two castles! Thank goodness it isn't pink anymore! It was past dinner time when we arrived at the MK, so we went in search of food. We are attempting to be more fiscally responsible on this trip, so we went to Columbia House in Liberty Square. It's been a long time since we've sampled fast food, Disney style, but we were pleased with the experience. We found a table quickly, and had plenty of food. Brian had a fish and chicken basket and I had a fish basket. (Allan will share most meals with us.) Brian enjoyed the fish very much, and I liked his chicken even better. We left the meal with only two negative observations. 1). Free refills on drinks which we are accustomed to are not available at "fast food" restaurants. 2). Something I ate caused me major gaseousness an hour later. (My apologies to the 10 or 15 people behind us in the Pirates line.)
After dinner, we checked the Yankee Trader shop for character cookie jars. I had been collecting one each trip for several years. Last year we were unable to find them. They still did not have any, so we headed toward Fantasyland. We're spoiled as far as crowds go since we usually go in the fall. Everything was crowded, so we walked right through to TomorrowLand, where we took Allan on the people mover. He seemed to enjoy it; he is watching everything around him very closely now.
Our next stop we thought was going to be Pirates - Brian's all time favorite. Instead, we were intrigued by the "new management" at the Tiki House and decided to stop in. We missed the pre-show, but were able to walk right into the theater. There have been conflicting opinions about the new show, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a definite improvement. Adding Zazu and Iago added some personality - something that was lacking before. The music selections have also improved dramatically. The show does end rather abruptly, and could have been made even better, but that's just my opinion.
That detour finished, we headed for Pirates. The wait was only about 15 minutes, but it was longer than we have waited for a long time. As always, we thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Allan did get a little tense during the flume drop at the beginning, but survived just fine. He bobbed his head with the music when we got to the pirates singing "Yo Ho."
We decided we were ready for some ice cream and headed for Main Street. It was still an hour and 20 minutes before Spectro, but Main Street was already crowded. The line at the Plaza Ice Cream Shop extended way into the middle of the street, and we didn't want to wait in line. Since we had parked at the Contemporary, we decided to grab the monorail and have Ice Cream over there. Alas, the only Ice Cream available in the whole resort was ice cream bars - not exactly what we had in mind.
We got our car and drove to the Poly. We knew wed seen an Ice Cream soda counter there. There was a long line at the check point to get in. The guard (Bob) was really quite a jerk. We heard him rudely tell the car ahead of us that there were way too many "visitors" going into the Poly and they all "claimed" they weren't going to the MK for Spectro. Clearly, he was suspicious of everybody! When we told him we were just going in for ice cream, his reply was"We don't sell it here!" Apparently the ice cream shop has been gone for 8 months. I'm sure he thought we were going to the MK too. Brian asked him several questions about where to get ice cream on property, and he was rude with just about every answer. We left, figuring we probably knew more about it than he did anyway.
Even though it was a major detour, we eventually made our way the Beach Club resort and went to Beaches and Cream. Brian ordered a Mud Slide which had brownie, chocolate ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge, and Oreo cookies. Yumm! I had a Root Beer float, and lots of Brian's Mud Slide. Allan helped by eating 2 of the Oreo's and smearing the other one all over his clothes. It was a perfect end to our first day at WDW.
Upon our return to the Comfort Inn, we found that a second crib had been delivered to our room and had been left outside the door for us. Since we had the one inside already, we left it there and just called the front desk about it.
Sunday, May 10th - Mother's Day, Lunch at Cantina de San Angel, Dinner at Le Cellier
This morning Allan and Daddy both presented me with Mother's Day cards before I even got out of bed. Allan's included a button that said, "I am the Mother of a Super Fantastic Son!" I proudly wore it all day.
After packing up our things we checked out of the Comfort Inn and went to Boardwalk for pre-check in. Valet and Bell Services made it a breeze! We had requested a 3rd floor Boardwalk view studio near the elevators, and though we couldn't get in yet one had been set aside for us. (Actually, the room was assigned before we arrived. Brian had called the room assigner several days before we arrived to make our specific requests...and it seemed to have worked.)
Since my excitement for the Flower and Garden Festival was mounting, we went straight to Epcot. (I think this was the beginning of our Blister problems, but you'll hear more about that later.) We were greeted at the International Gateway with a "Happy Mother's Day" and a carnation for each mom to wear. Neat touch! They also had 3 or 4 stations around Epcot where each mom could get a family photograph taken. We did ours in front of Canada's Victoria Gardens. They will be mailing it in a few weeks.
After our picture, we walked through the Festival Center area where many of the gardening workshops take place. They also had several vendors of gardening products there. I'm sure we will be back often.
We went straight through to Journey Into Imagination. Brian always says this attraction is like a LSD trip. Maybe that's why Allan likes it so much He was mesmerized by the colors and sounds, even interjecting the occasional "Wow!" He has a stuffed Figment character Daddy bought on our last trip. Just as we got off, the ride was being closed for technical difficulties.
From there we went to the Land, one of my all time favorites at Epcot. The wait for the boat ride through the greenhouses was 15-20 minutes - longer than I think we've ever waited before. (Almost too long with a hungry toddler, not to mention his hungry mommy and daddy.) The ride was worth it though; I always love seeing what they're doing back in the labs.
Next we walked over to the Baby Care Center to change Allan. These are wonderful havens for tired parents to change and feed young children. They are air-conditioned, kept clean and neat, and provide feeding rooms complete with rocking chairs. Also, any item you might need from a new outfit to diaper rash ointment is available for purchase. Disney gets major points from this mom for their Baby Care Centers! (I got to know them all intimately when Allan was 3 weeks old.)
At last - lunch time. For 2 or 3 trips now we have talked about eating at Cantina de San Angel - the "fast food" at Mexico. Today was the day! Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be so exciting. All the seating is outside, and this was the windiest day we can remember being in Florida. We had to hold everything to keep if from flying away while we were eating. Also, the chairs are all bolted to the ground, so there was no easy way to bring the high chair close to the tablechaos with a 19 month old! I ordered a Burrito and Brian had a chicken taco salad. The food was good, but the whole dining experience detracted from it.
It was about 1:30, time for our normal afternoon break. We walked back to Boardwalk, fantasizing that our room would be ready. It was not. We had packed swimming suits in a separate bag for this occasion. We went to retrieve the bag from Bell Services, but they couldn't find our stuff. Brian had to go back into the storage room and find our luggage. On the way back to the lobby, the bellhop pointed out that the wrong storage bin number had been marked down next to our name.
No big deal...so we headed for the pool. The themeing of this pool area is really nice. It really has the feel of Coney Island and the old amusement parks. The Keister Coaster is the centerpiece water slide, and the pool bar is decorated as a lovely carousel.
Swimming cooled us off, but we encountered a few problems along the way. 1) The restrooms did not have changing areas accessible. 2) When we wanted to walk back to the lobby, we couldn't enter the door right off of the pool - the easiest way to get in the building with a stroller (the elevators are just down the hall) - our hotel key was not yet activated since our room wasn't ready. We ended up waiting until someone else opened the door and following them in.
Our room wasn't guaranteed to be ready until 4:00, but by 2:20 or so we had had it at the pool. Hoping some of that Disney Magic had readied our room, we stopped by the front desk just to check. Our room was ready! Bell Services had a hard time finding our luggage. Brian had to go back to the storage room to help again becuase the bellhop from the last time didn't bother to correct the storage bin notation. Even so, we were at last headed for our own retreat.
The wait turned out to be well worth it. Our room, #3053, is beautiful. We have a larger deck than other floors do. It faces the ESPN half of the boardwalk. The view in the evening is awesome. I love rooms where the shower and toilet are in their own room, with the sink and mirror outside. It's so convenient for getting ready to go. Other than that the studios here are very similar to those at Old Key West. Oh, our second bed is actually a pull out couch. I like that better than the two Queen beds at OKW since we only use one bed anyway.
A few notes about the themeing here. The halls are carpeted with a pattern that looks like the boardwalk. There are "rugs" worked right into the pattern every few feet. Also the fabric for the curtains is reminiscent of old time boardwalks, complete with ferris wheels and signs that read "Disney's Boardwalk." I love those Disney touches.
After a wonderful break we got ready to head out for dinner. To commemorate Mother's Day, Brian made reservations at La Cellier in Canada. We had enjoyed it as a buffeteria and now were anxious to try it in it's new incarnation as a steakhouse. Brian had a Yew York Strip, and I chose Prime Rib. Not wanting to share here, we ordered Allan a children's meal of chicken fingers and fries that was $4.95. It was so huge that I don't think I could have even eaten the whole thing. I really wish Disney would make their kid's meals smaller portions and less expensive. It will be better when Allan has a sibling. (We're working on adopting another baby.) We'll just order one meal for them to shareand probably still have lots left over. Anyway, Brian enjoyed his steak - although he is the master griller of steak at home so it's hard to find something comparable when we're out. My prime rib was excellent. For dessert Brian had a Chocolate Mousse that was served on a maple leaf shaped wafer, and I had strawberry shortcake. Overall observations: the food was good, the service was terribly slow, and the restaurant was much busier than we've ever seen it before.
After dinner we strolled back through England, checking out the toy store (All Pooh - yuck!). OK, I know there are a lot of Pooh fans out there, but I'm sick of him being EVERYWHERE!!! IT seems there is more Pooh than Mickey merchandise available. That has to be a travesty of justice!
Leaving Pooh behind for those who care, we walked back to Boardwalk. We have made the walk to and from Epcot only twice now and the blisters are already beginning. It's nice to have the back entrance into Epcot, but it really is a long walk that way! When we got settled in our room, Brian went down to the candy store and bought some Taffy. You would think that to be a must for a stay at BW, but it turned out to be disappointing.
While Brian was gone, I made a schedule for the week from the Flower and Garden Festival booklet. We usually avoid planning our days here, but with the F&G F being our focus this trip we are doing things a little differently. There are so many different workshops in various places at different times that a schedule seems to be the only way to guarantee getting it all in. Tomorrow is the first real day for workshops. Can't wait!!!
Monday, May 11th - Flower & Garden Festival, Lunch at Yakatori House, Dinner at Marrakesh
Today was the first day we really focused on F&G F things. We got a leisurely start, strolling the Boardwalk to Epcot. The first workshop on my schedule didn't start until 10:45, so we walked through part of Future World all the way to the front entrance. I had read that there was a tribute to the opening of AK in the form of a heard of life-sized topiary giraffes. They were awesome!
After snapping some pictures, we walked through to the area in front of horizons that had been turned into the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) garden. There were several very large bug sculptures there, as well as an area with live bugs for demonstration. Several times a day they allow kids to help them release lady bugs there.
We rode Horizons with no wait, then walked back to the Festival Center for the first workshop - 12 Bedding Plants. The workshop was almost 45 minutes long, so when it was done, we were ready for lunch. We decided on fast food - Japanese style at Yakitori House. We had strips of beef in an oriental flavored gravy, and chicken in a differently flavored sauce. It was ok, but nothing like you get at Teppanyaki Dining Rooms. Allan went on a hunger strike, and refused to eat anything.
After lunch, or next destination was Germany for a workshop about topiary. Brian has been running interference for me with Allan so I can absorb the workshop info. Before this one even started, Allan started getting crabby. He was hot and tired. We made plans to meet back at the room. Brian and Allan went back, cooled off, and started to rest. I stayed for the end of the workshop, thoroughly enjoying every word. I am determined I am going to do some experimenting in this area when we get home. They gave out a sheet of sources for topiary tools and frames.
One tidbit, is interestingeven for non gardeners. There was a full sized topiary of Snow White in the Germany area. Her vest is traditionally blue and was made of carnationswhich do not grow blue. They are added to the topiary, then spray painted blue, and must be changed out every 3-4 days. What an amazing amount of work.but worth it!
Since I'm adding info from my notes, this might also be of interest to some of you. Walt Disney first got interested in topiary by visiting European gardens. In 1963 he introduced topiary to Disneyland, but they were all general ones, like a tree pruned with a ball on top. The first character topiary was Dumbo, who made his debut in 1967. I thought that was some neat history to know.
When it was over, I went backed and napped with the guys before heading out for the 4:45 workshop I had scheduled on plant propagation. It was run by the University of Florida, and was very well done.
We had visited Marrakesh on the Food N Fun program a few years ago, and loved the food. We decided to go back for dinner tonight. We were eating a little early, so the place was pretty empty. We had a great table up on the "balcony" part of the restaurant. We have always loved the food, and this time was no exception. The thing that was exceptional was the service! Our waiter was friendly, polite, very efficient, and fun. He and Allan were playing a lot. Allan even charmed him into free dessert.
From there we walked back to Mexico, stopping to admire the Lion King topiary's in the African Outpost. They were amazing. There were several, including Mufasa, Zazu, and Rafiki holding up the baby Simba, which is the characteristic image of the movie. It was interesting to see how they used different plant matter to make Scar look more sinister than Mufasa.
We took Allan on the ride in Mexicohe supposedly has a little Mexican blood in him. I believe thathe loves Mexican food and music. It's really cute when he gets his head to bobbing with the music.
We walked back through Germany so we could buy some chocolate. Our intention was to save it for post Allan's bedtime, but the CM handed him the bag when we were checking out. Fortunately, he's still at the age where the bag is just as interesting as what's in it, so I took the chocolate out, and let him hold the bag!
As we walked through France, we stopped at La Pattisserie to check for Mocha Cream, a fantastic dessert Brian got here once. They did not have any, so disappointed we headed "home" to Boardwalk.
Tuesday, May 12th - More Flower & Garden Festival, Lunch at Mama Melrose's, Our First Visit to DAK!
We got moving very slowly this morning. We have been having breakfast in our room since Allan is accustomed to eating as soon as he gets up. Then we were off to Epcot. On the way through to the part of the park that was open, we stopped in the English Pooh garden to take some pictures while it was empty. Yes, I know I don't particularly like Pooh, but the craftmanship that created the topiaries was exceptional - especially the stripes on Tigger.
We walked down the Rose Garden Path past the Festival Center to the Land. There is a store called the Green Thumb Emporium inside that I wanted to check out. They always have some neat merchandise in there. Allan and Brian waited outside for me.
Then we went to the Living Seas, where we walked in the "Exit" at the Hydrolators. This way we still had the stroller with us as we walked around the aquariums. We watched the Manatees for quite a while. One swam right by us, causing a few "Wow"'s to escape from Allan.
After leaving there, we ambled though Innoventions with no intention of doing anything but cool off. I know they draw lots of people in there with the cranked up air-conditioning!
Then it was back to the Festival Center for my next workshop. It was on Hanging Baskets. This was one of the better ones. Some of the secrets of all those beautiful baskets you see at Disney are amazing. They grow 5000 hanging baskets a year, and have 1500 out on show at all times.
After changing Allan, we took a bus to the Studios to have lunch at Mama Melrose's. That is a tradition for every trip, and we weren't sure if we were going to plan time for the Studios since we were spending so much time at Epcot this trip. Brian had the Bottomless Pasta, which is cool because you can change your sauce choice with each serving. I usually have a pizza that has pepperoni and mushrooms on it. It was missing from the menu this time, so I ordered a four-cheese pizza and had them add mushrooms. Our waiter, Steve, was great. Allan thought so too, since he brought Allan his second free dessert for the trip. It was a huge rice-krispies treat.one of mommy's favorites. I helped him with it...I told him it was too big for him. He believed me...love those 19 month olds. Another interesting thing - we actually saw "Mama Melrose" for the first time on this trip. She was visiting with guests at the tables.
On the way back for our afternoon siesta, we stopped at Guest Relations to update our Annual Passes to include Animal Kingdom. It only cost a little over $8.00 to update BOTH of them. What a deal! We took a boat back to Boardwalk for a change of pace.
Tonight we took a bus and visited AK for the first time. Allan's "Wow" seems to be the most appropriate thing to say. They have done a fantastic job with this park. Disney always seems to be able to top themselves with each new project and they have definitely done it again. The plant material and planning that went into this park is astounding.
The first attraction we thought we would do is the "It's Tough to Be a Bug" 3D movie. There are several special effects, like in "Honey, I shrunk the Audience." It looks like it will be a great movie. We're not sure, because Allan only lasted about 2 minutes before he was freaked out. We'll have to try again, and do the Baby Swap.
We were hungry, so we went back to DinoLand for dinner. Since McDonalds has invaded the world of Disney, we went to Restaurantosaurus to experience that. Brian had promised a co-worker to bring her back a happy meal toy for her collection that was only being offered in that one restaurant. It will probably be worth a fortune some day, and we'll wish we hadn't given it to her. At this restaurant, the only things that were actually McDonalds food as we know it were the fries and the Mc Nuggets. I would not consider this meal a highlight of the trip, unless it falls under the heading of "Worst Overall Meal Experience." The service was unbelievably slow, and the CM's clearly had no idea what they were doing. Several people who had ordered behind us got their food before us. When Brian pointed this out, they said it was because they were waiting for our fries to come up. The problem was that all those people that got food firstalso had fries. As we got farther into the meal, I started wishing that the burgers were also McDonalds' standard fare. My burger was the most tasteless, dry, awful thing I have ever had. We're also hoping that somebody writes some more songs about dinosaurs soon because the same 3 songs played over and over again while we ate. We were glad to get out of there when we were done.
From there we decided to visit a highlight of the park, Countdown to Extinction. It is modeled after the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland that is so good. We had to do the Baby Swap here, so Brian went on ahead, while Allan and I waited. After we had both ridden, we compared notes. We both feel that, while it could have been an awesome ride, it didnt quite get there. There were far fewer special effects in CTX than in the Indy ride. Also, the story line isn't quite followed all the way through. Dont get me wrong, it is a great ride. We just think it had lots more potential.
We walked around for a while, just getting the lay of the land. We know where everything is in all the other parks after our many trips, so it was a little weird to be reading signs and maps. We ended up in Harambe, a recreated African village. The effects designed into the buildings here are awesome. Also, the Killimanjaro Safari leaves from this area, so we decided to try it. It was about 7:15 p.m. and we had heard that many of the animals were more active at this time than earlier in the day. This ride is very, very well done. We were ushered right into the front seat, directly behind the driver. Before we got very far at all, we had already seen black rhino's, alligators, antelope, and ostrich's. One ostrich was standing right in front of our vehicle and we had to wait for him to cross the path. A ways later it happened again, only this time with a giraffe. It was eating from the tops of some trees, and not interested in moving. We were close enough to it to literally reach out and touch it. We ended us sitting behind the giraffe for probably 5 or 6 minutes. The driver had to call it in on his radio because it was messing up the normal timetable for tour vehicles. It was so cool to be so close, and right in the same habitat he was in, rather than looking through fences like you do at zoos. We missed seeing the cheetahs and the lions. They apparently sleep 18-20 hours a day. Overall impressions: an awesome experience. We will probably have to do it again on this trip.
We headed back toward the front gate, since the park was closing. As we walked we passed one of the Balzac stands that are everywhere. (They are a cloth cover that holds a blown up balloon. Actually they are very neat. They come in several patterns and sizes.) Anyway, the CM was playing with a ball - what a job - and Allan started saying "ball", "ball," over and over again. The CM bounced a big ball to him and Allan pushed it back. Then the CM put out his hand for Allan to "give him 5." Not distracted, Allan still wanted to play with the ball, and kept saying "please." The CM told him that if he "gave him 5" he would give him a ball of his own. Allan did, and he followed through and gave him a ball. It was really cute. Let's see, that's 2 desserts and a ball Allan has charmed out of CM's so far. He ought to go on a professional circuit!
We took a bus back to Boardwalk to rest for the rest of the evening. We stopped at the sundries shop at Boardwalk to buy a souvenir pin with the resort logo on it. We have a tradition of buying a pin for every park, resort, or special event at Disney that we attend. We have a 35" stuffed Mickey we bought on our 5th anniversary. We bought him a child size t-shirt from Vacation Club and he proudly wears all our pins. Everytime we stay at a different resort, we make a point of getting a pin for Mickey.
After our brief shopping foray, we returned to our room and took time to compare blisters. I am winning nowmine is 3/4" long. Brian's is a minute 1/2".
Wednesday, May 13th - More Flower & Garden Festival, Lunch at the Lotus Blossom Cafe', Dinner at Harry's Safari Grill
We've been using Allan as our alarm clock every morning. Today he didn't wake up until 8:10how blissful! We got ready and had breakfast in our room at a very slow pace. It was 10:00 before we made our way toward Epcot. On the way, we checked out the laundry facilities. That's going to have to be a destination either today or tomorrow. As always, the machines are complimentary to DVC members - a great feature when you travel with little kids!
This morning's workshop topic was "Right Plant, Right Place." Brian and Allan went to Innoventions for a while, rather than endure another 40 minutes of lecture. Brian has been enjoying them, but Allan is not quite so patient. We set up a place to meet when I was finished.
This workshop was disappointing compared to the others. It was 15 minutes long, instead of 30-45 minutes as most of them had been. It also was VERY basic in content. The focus was more for beginning gardeners. Most people that come specifically for the F&G F already have developed an interest in gardening. I'd like to see some more detailed workshops added in the future. Perhaps they could be labeled for the beginner to the more experienced.
After the workshop I had a half hour to kill before meeting back up with Brian and Allan. I did look at Innoventions where they were going to be, but was unable to find them. So, I found a park bench near the meeting area, sat, people watched, and worked on this report.
Brian and Allan visited Innoventions for a while, stopped to watch a brass band for a few minutes, and checked out the Centaurium gift shop. Brian always buys a book every trip and found this year's there. It's about the making of Animal Kingdom.
On the way to lunch we stopped a few minutes to let Allan run around. Then we ate at the Lotus Blossom Caf in China. It was inexpensive, yet very good. Allan especially enjoyed watching the birds that would fly right up close. He kept calling them "kitties." I guess we'll have to work on that one.
OK, here it isconfession time. By this point in our trip, I have developed a very real respect (you could call it awe) for those of you that faithfully record your trips for the rest of us to enjoy. I thank you, and appreciate those reports all the more since I have attempted my own. You must all be blessed with more patience than I am because I gave up on Wednesday afternoon trying to keep up with all the details. I feel like my fingers are going to have blisters that rival those on my toes soon. I will be glad to pass trip report writing responsibilities back to Brian after this trip. In the mean time, you will probably notice fewer details from now until the end, as I am writing the rest from memory after we have arrived home.
After lunch we went back to the room and donned swimming suits. Brian took Allan directly back to the quiet pool in a courtyard a bit further South than the themed one. I made a detour to start the laundry. I didn't want it hanging over me, so I just got it done. We enjoyed the pool for as long as Allan's attention span allowed. Then Brian took him up for a nap and I stopped to change the laundry loads. When Brian tried to enter our room, a maid kicked him out, and demanded his key like he was a criminal. She put the key in the door to prove that he was the rightful guest in that room. Although he understood the need for security and a check of the key, he was very disappointed by the way she treated him -- assuming that he was a criminal, instead of a guest! By the time I got there all was well. We finished the laundry, then went back to our room to change out of our bathing suits.
For dinner tonight, we walked over to the Swan and Dolphin resorts. We had a coupon for $50 off a meal at any of several restaurants in those resorts from Rita Aero's "Walt Disney World for Adults, and Families Too." After checking out the menus, we decided on Harry's Safari. We had an excellent meal there. I had a steak; Brian had grilled swordfish. We were very pleased though, especially to leave having paid only $20, including a tip. One side comment: At a table near us there was a 6 foot tall gorilla propped up like he was eating. Those of you who faithfully read Brian's reports may remember that last year we had a huge confrontation between Allan and an audio-animatronic gorilla at the Rainforest Cafe. We had all we could do to keep him in his high chair. Anyway, after part of our meal was complete, they brought the gorilla and set him in the 4th chair right at our table. I thought we were really in for a nightmare, but this gorilla didn't make noises or turn his head, so Allan seemed to tolerate his presence.
After dinner, we strolled back, enjoying the part of the Boardwalk that we hadn't seen on this trip so far. DVC was having an open house, so we went upstairs to check out the 1- and 2-Bedroom and Grand Villa's at this resort. They all seem to be a little smaller here than at OKWR, but there is certainly a different atmosphere here than at Old Key West.
We both were interested in dessertand Allan always is, so we walked back to Epcot to La Patisserie in France. My blisters were trying to decide if this was a good plan or not, but we did enjoy dessert. Allan had a little of all of them. It's so great to be a kid! On the way back, there was a band playing in the gardens of the England pavilion. They were portraying the Beatles, and singing many of their best - loved songs. We stopped and listened for a few minutes, before their set was over and they went on a break.
Thursday, May 14th - Flower & Garden Festival, Lunch at the Sunshine Food Fair, Dinner at Tusker House
Today was our last official day full of planned workshops. We went to two of themone on indoor gardening that was very good, and one on butterfly gardening that was excellent.
We also spent some time picking up some souvenirs of the trip. Today we picked up an F&G F pin for our Mickey, as well as a polo shirt for me that is embroidered with the emblem of the F&G F. We had seen t-shirts all through the trip with it, but only seen the polo shirts on cast members before today. I was trying to figure out how I was going to talk one of them into getting one for me. Then, just when we were looking, there they were. I debated for a long time about the size. Brian talked me into an X Large. From there, we walked to the American Adventure area where they had a topiary frame of Mickey for sale. I bought one, determined to give it a try.
We had lunch in the Sunshine Food Fair in the Land pavilion. It is really a pain to navigate with a family who all have different food preferences. It is set up like a normal food court. After what Disney did with the Pepper Market at Coronado Springs, I know they can do much better. (At the Pepper each person gets a card and takes it with them to the different counters. When you choose something, it gets stamped on the card. Then, when youre leaving, you give the clerk all of your cards and you pay for everything at once.) Maybe they'll change the SFF to that system soon we can only hope!
After our break, we went back to the AK to explore some more. We looked for a place for dinner first, and ended up at the Tusker House in the village of Hammerabi. Brian had a grilled chicken dinner, and I had a fried chicken dinner. Mine was much better than his even Allan thought so. As we ate, we marveled at the architecture and planning that went into making this building seem to be right at home in a very old village.
We rode the train back to Conservation Station. We never got off back there, just rode back around to Harambe. CS is supposed to have an up-close animal area, the animal hospitals, and some other hands-on experiences. Guests also have access to the animal nursery. We'll have to spend some time there in September. While on the train, we could see the housing buildings for the animals you see on the Safari ride. They are all brought in at night, so they can be fed, checked, and taken care of. As you can imagine, the elephant building is huge.
For the last event of the evening, we decided to go on the Safari again. This time we were treated to a rare sight. The lions were out and about. It was mesmerizing to see the amazing strength and majesty as the male stretched himself out on a rock ledge. It looked like a scene right out of Lion King. He was staring down some animals on the other side of our vehicle that would have been his natural prey if they were really in the wild. Disney has done a terrific job of making guests feel that they really are!
On the way out, we did some shopping. Brian bought his Making of Animal Kingdom book, and we picked out an AK pin for Mickey. We're going to have three new pins for him when we get home!
Friday, May 15th - Lunch at the Plaza Restaurant, Dinner at Wolfgang Puck's Express
This morning we checked out of Boardwalk. It was such an easy experience because of the terrific bell and valet services. We checked out, had the valet's pick up our car, loaded up, and drove over to the Contemporary to visit the MK.
Because of the crowds earlier in the week, we still hadn't done any Fantasyland rides with Allan. This morning we started with Brian's favorite Fantasyland dark ride - Peter Pan. Then we went on to Small World. We considered Dumbo briefly, but the line was huge, so we walked back to Toon Town. We let Allan run around in one of the little kids "park" areas there. There was one really big boy (probably twelve or thirteen years old) in there who was being very rough, so that didn't last long. We walked around the back side of Toon Town, passing the Grand Prix Raceway. We stopped and watched the cars go by for a few minutes. Allan seemed to get a kick out of the fact that most of the drivers were little kids. I think it will still be a few years before he is tall enough to drive one.
We continued walking through TomorrowLand, and ended up at the Plaza Restaurant for lunch. It is one of my favorites at MK. They have a Chicken and Rice Soup that is delicious. Their sandwiches are great too, with very large portions.
After lunch, we were ready for a break, so we went to the Comfort Inn to see if by any chance they had a room for us yet. They did - a first floor right near to the pool again. Perfect. We called for a crib, and one arrived within a few minutes (less than a half hour, I'm sure).
After a nap, we spent some time resort hopping. From Dixie Landings we took a boat over to the Marketplace, where we strolled several of the shops, and stopped to listen to a school band that was playing. When we got hungry, we chose Wolfgang Puck's Express. It was a neat choice. It's set up kind of like a buffeteria. I had a pizza, and Brian had some Pasta - both made right in front of us. After dinner we stopped at the Gourmet Pantry. We were really checking for cookie jars, but ended up buying some chocolates for Brian, and a really big, chocolate-covered rice krispies square for me.
We took the boat back to our car at Dixie Landings. I love this boat ride. It is a very slow-paced form of transportation through some beautiful scenery. When we got back to the room, we were ready for a relaxed evening.
Funny thing, we had a spare crib waiting for us when we returned again. There obviously is something within the system at the hotel that tells housekeeping to deliver a crib that was requested...even when the customer (Brian) called to get one early.
Saturday, May 16th - "Food Among the Flowers" Brunch, Dinner at Pinnochio's Village Haus
This morning we headed off to Epcot for the last time. We had reservations for "Food Among the Flowers." It was a breakfest buffet that also included a lecture by some Disney horticulturists. It was rather pricey, and dissapointing over all. The food was pretty exotic, but delicious. The time with Disney horticulturists was not all it was advertised to be. They had a form of interactive "Jeopardy" style game with questions and answers about Disney gardening. We really didn't learn much that we didn't already know. We did receive souvenier bags from the F&G F that included some seeds, a pot, some fertilizer, and a gardening magazine. As I looked at all that stuff, plus the other things we had already purchased, I started wondering how it was all going to fit in the 2 small suitcases we had packed for this trip. Oh well, I don't have to worry about that for 2 more days.
After the brunch, and an afternoon break, we went to Mk for the evening -- driving to the Contemporary to park as we so often do. This was going to be our only opportunity to see Spectro. We had dinner at Pinnochio's, finding it to be crowded, loud, and the service very slow. We probably won't repeat that one any time soon. After dinner, we kind of strolled the parade route to scout a good place to sit. We ended up walking for quite a while, then grabbing a place to sit just as the CM's were setting up the ropes in Liberty Square. It was a perfect place. The parade passed directly in front of us, with the castle as it's backdrop.
We did wonder how we were going to keep Allan occupied while we sat still doing nothing for a little over an hour. That turned out to be easy, because a little girl from England who was sitting next to us took it upon herself to entertain him. I'm not sure if she entertained him, or he entertained her, but either way, they were very patient with each other.
As the parade passed, Allan just stared at all the lights. When Mary Poppins passed, she stopped right in front of him, kissed him, patted his head, then blew him kisses as she walked away. All he could say was "Wow!"
When the parade was over, we joined the melee trying to reach the exit. It took a while, and was nice to have the walkway to the Contemporary all to ourselves. We got our car, and headed back to the hotel.
Sunday, May 17th - Lunch at the Hollywood Brown Derby, Dinner at Artist's Pointe
This morning we headed over to the Studios. Except for lunch at Mama Melrose's we really haven't done anything else here. Neither of our passes would allow us through the gate, although no one can really explain that. We did finally get in. Right away we went to guest relations.remember that XL shirt I bought? It was way too big. I wanted to exchange it, but those shirts were only available at Epcot, and we weren't planning to go back there. To make a long story short, Danielle at Guest Relations at the Studios called several places at Epcot, found the right size, and had them send it up to Guest Relations at Epcot, so we just had to run in to change it later. She was even sweet enough to not have us wait around while she made all these arrangements. She suggested we stop back on the way out rather than sit there waiting. When we did stop back, she had everything all set to go. Another example of excellent Disney service.
In the mean time, we went back to make reservations at the Brown Derby for lunch. I think this is one of Brian's favorite restaurants at WDW. From there, we took Allan on the Great Movie Ride. Then we went over to the Animation Studios for the tourone thing we enjoy every trip. It was gone for renovationdissapointing, but it's supposed to be bigger and better the next time.
We still had a little time before lunch, so we went to the Little Mermaid show, then looked through some of the shops before going back to the Brown Derby. Brian had a cobb salad, their specialty. I always have a difficult time finding something there that I would like, so I opted to share a kids meal with Allan. This was our most awful meal with Allan. He had zero interest in eating, or even sitting quietly. It was a challenging meal. One other note, Allan's meal was supposed to have ice cream with it. We reminded the waiter, and he brought us some. After we got home, we noticed on our receipt that he had charged us for it.
When we left, we drove over to Epcot, and went in the handicapped parking entrance for a few minutes to change my shirt. The CM didn't even ask for a handicapped license, Brian just waved as we drove by...and the CM just waved back. I ran to Guest Relations (the one outside the park, not in Future World), and changed my shirt without even having to enter Epcot. Hurrah for Danielle! Then we returned to our hotel for a brief break.
After our break, we headed for Coronodo Springs to check out the menu at the Maya Grill. We decided against it, but did walk back by the pool area, just to check out the themeing. We left there, and went over to Wilderness Lodge to go to Artist's Point, one of my favorites in all of WDW. Without doubt, the best steak in all of WDW can be found here. Usually. When we got our menu, it wasn't there. I was trying to figure out what to have instead. Without fail I have always ordered steak here. I did choose an alternate, but when the waiter came to take our order, Brian asked him if the New York Strip was still available. It was...just not on the menu. I ordered the old stand by, and Brian ordered maple glazed salmon grilled on a piece of cedar wood. As always, all the food was excellent! Allan must have used up all his impatience at lunch today , because he was adorable at dinner.
When we were finished, we took a boat from WL to the MK. The park would only be open for another hour or so, but we just wanted to end the trip there. We went back and went on Pirates first, then stopped to ride the Jungle Cruise. There is such a difference of quality of the skippers on this ride sometimes. This time we had a great one.
As we walked back toward the front gate, we stopped in several shops, searching for a duffle kind of bag that would carry our extra stuff," and easily be checked at the airport. Nothing that we saw was what I had in mind, so we decided to try off-site on the way back to the Comfort Inn.
We caught a boat back to WL where our car was right away. The fireworks over the castle started while we were on the water, and the driver put the boat in neutral so we could see the whole show. It was perfect to view it from the water. What a way to end our time on property!
On the way back, we did drive through the Crossroads to see if we could find a bag of some kind. Nothing was open that looked like it had possibilities, so we kept driving down 535. We found an Eckerds drug store and decided to try there. Apparently people have our problem all the time, because they had a whole isle devoted to suitcases and duffel bags. We picked out a nice sturdy one that was only $19.99.
When we got back to the room and opened it up, we just laughed. It was huge. It was so huge that I packed our small suitcase, then put it INSIDE the duffel bag, then packed tons of stuff around it. When I was finished packing it, it weighed a ton. Thank goodness for those Smart Carte things available in airports!
Monday, May 18th - Travel Home
This was a rather dull day. The end of a vacation always is, I think. It's depressing to think of all the things there are to catch up on at home. The flight home was OK, but complicated. We ended up seated in a row with three seats. No one came to claim the third seat for a long time, so my hopes were getting up that Allan might end up with his own seat. Those same hopes were dashed to the ground, when a lady traveling with a nine month old came to sit down at the very end. We ended up with all 5 of us in that same row for 3 people. What a trip.
Oh well, at least when we get home there is always lots of planning and day-dreaming to do about our next trip....See you in September, Mickey!!!