View Full Version : Elizabeth Smock -- May 2000 -- Dixie Landings, Port Orleans

Trip Reports
01-07-2007, 07:50 PM
Elizabeth Smock -- May 2000 -- Dixie Landings, Port Orleans

May 6-14, 2000

First, a warning. This will be another epic trip report, along the lines of Kevin Stringer's report. (Kudos to Kevin: I enjoyed his report so much, I'm following in his footsteps!) This will not be a hit-and-run report. This will be a Micheneresque work, with extreme detail--so, if you don't have time to read, don't start this report!

Cast of Characters (all from the Kansas City, Missouri, metro area):

Me, Elizabeth: 33, charming, sarcastic, too educated for my own good (and that of my bank account), and a long-time Disney fan. I come by it naturally, since my folks took us to Disneyland several times ('68-'70 or so) when my brother was a newborn and I was just 2-after all, when the grandparents came to California to see the new baby, we had to have something to do, didn't we? Previous trips to WDW were in '72, '83, '95, and '99.
Art, my DH: 44, charming, sarcastic, a real smart-alec, and too handsome by far. He will be adding comments to this report, too. He started his Disney career at the 1964 NY World's Fair, where he saw Carousel of Progress and It's a Small World. His family took 2 trips to DL, one in '69 (there at opening of Haunted Mansion), and one for Christmas '70 (BIG surprise for the 4 boys!), and he went to WDW in '81, '88, '89, '95, and '99.
Marlene, or MIL (mother-in-love): mid-60s, charming, sarcastic (are you seeing a trend here? Just assume this is true for all 4 of us!). She's the reason we got to take this trip-she really wanted to visit WDW, and we got to go along as "guides."
Arthur, PapaB, or FIL: early 70s. Couldn't care less about most things Disney, but willing to fork over the bucks so 3 of his favorite people could have the time of their lives. What a guy! He had some fun, but mostly because we all had a blast!
MIL & FIL are frequently referred to as the 'rents. They are the "founders of our feast" and we are very grateful to them. This was their first trip to WDW, although the DL trips Art took were with them.

Day One: Saturday, May 6, 2000: Travel Day

We're flying Southwest Air, and our plane leaves Kansas City International at 7:30 am. Since we want to be early enough to get decent seats, we need to be at the airport no later than 6:15 to check in and get our boarding passes. I love SW, but I really hate the boarding pass system. Why in the world would it cost extra to assign seats? Oh, well, we just have to get up early. This would be no problem, except I had a surprise job interview Fri. afternoon, and I slept poorly Thurs. night anticipating it. Then, I rushed around to make sure we had everything we needed packed, and slept poorly again Fri. night anticipating the alarm at 4:15 am. Oh, well, I'm sure I'll sleep sometime-like after we return home from Florida!

The 'rents are picking us up at 5:30-we had hoped to have a shuttle, but FIL decided he wished to drive. Okay, so he has to park in satellite parking & shuttle in to the terminal-we can still check in and leave him to it, so that's fine. The trip is a quiet one, and we have no problems getting to KCI in plenty of time to check in. I am among the first to get boarding passes, so that's good. I want to sit in an exit row, since I'm 5'9" and all legs (with bum knees, no less, so I hate being crowded or having my knees bumped). However, when we get on board, we realize this airplane is one where the exit row seats face each other-and they don't have extra leg room! Art & I decide to go sit elsewhere, and the plane leaves on time. We touch down briefly in Nashville, and then it's on to Orlando!

We get in to Orlando a little later than scheduled, but that's okay. The 'rents are a little surprised by the monorail to the main terminal, since they've never seen an airport set up like Orlando International, but they like it. We go pick up our bags & find Dollar's counter to get our car. We had an upgrade coupon, but Dollar is out of the mid-size cars. Bummer-I was looking forward to trying the Stratus. Oh, well, the Neon will be fine. We ask for something NOT white-last year, we had a white Neon, and so did everyone else in Orlando! We got a lovely taupe one, and I tied on the antenna-flag I brought from home (I found a length of large, bright orange chenille rick-rack in our Wal-Mart fabric department, and since MIL's favorite color is orange, this seemed the perfect locator device)-it worked wonderfully.

We took off for Celebration and lunch at Max's Café and Coffee Shop. Art & I had eaten here last year and really enjoyed it, so we wanted to go back. The 'rents love the place, too. MIL & I have the salmon burger, which is really good-fresh salmon flaked together with herbs and formed into a patty, then served with an herb tartar sauce. What a great meal! Art has a cheeseburger, and says it's fine, and FIL enjoys his clam chowder with 1/2 a turkey sandwich. He especially likes his sandwich after he gets my extra herb sauce! We all enjoy this meal, with the 'rents saying they understand why we returned this year.

We had planned to go to Publix & pick up a cooler and some bagels, juice, etc., but then the maps were not clear, and we decided to go to Goodings instead, since we were familiar with it. However, after lunch, it hits me that we had no room in the car for a cooler, and we had to check out of Port Orleans after one night anyway, because they were full the rest of the week. We decide it would be better to go to Goodings after Animal Kingdom tomorrow, when there won't be luggage in the trunk (and we will be staying in our rooms the rest of the week). We go on to Port Orleans and check in to 2 lovely corner rooms on the 2d floor, then get our park passes at the guest service desk. The wonderful ladies here are so helpful-they don't mind repeating themselves for FIL at all, and he is very pleased that they're so patient. We love PO! We especially enjoy seeing the photos on the walls-PO decorates with old photos of family members of cast members. Our room had someone's grandmother and someone's great-uncle on the walls-great old black-and-white (now brownish) photos of people dressed in their Sunday best. What a great idea! Dinner is at 7:30 in Bonfamilles at PO, so we rest a little and meet for dinner, when we tell the folks about these antique photos. MIL thinks it's a great idea, too.

Bonfamilles is lovely, with brickwork and big wooden beams. We all find several things that look good on the menu, and our server seems nice. We get our drinks and order food (the server helped here, by asking FIL if he liked spicy foods. FIL doesn't, but would like to try the jambalaya anyway, so the server promises to keep the spices light), and the bread comes out. Then we wait. And we wait. The food comes out, but no server to refill our water. Hmmm. The food is good, anyway-my scampi, which is delicious. Art says his apple-chicken is very good, MIL enjoys her trout, and FIL even likes his jambalaya. Finally, we get refills on our drinks, but then we wait and wait for the check. Art gets annoyed and goes to ask a hostess if she can track down our check for us, since we're exhausted. Lo and behold, our server appears with the check, and we can go find our beds! Long day today, and Animal Kingdom early tomorrow, so we need sleep.

Day Two: Sunday, May 7, 2000: Animal Kingdom

We wake up early to meet the 'rents for breakfast in the food court-we've heard so much about PO's beignets that we all really want to try them. AK opens at 8, so we want to be in the car no later than 7:15, so we meet at 6:30. The beignets are really pretty bad-very heavy and doughy. I really should ask my New Orleans friend to send some French Market beignet mix so I can whip up some real ones for everyone!

We're in the car by 7:15, as planned, and pull into the AK lot at about 7:35. Then MIL starts rummaging in her purse and tells us that her park pass is in the pocket of the pants she had on last night. They're in the room, back at PO. Oh, well, nothing for it but to turn around. Of course, the pass is just where she thinks it is, and we head back to AK, making it to the turnstiles at about 8:10. We hurry the 'rents back to Kilimanjaro Safaris, telling them that if they can just hurry there first, the rest of the day can slow down. They make it, and the safari is a big success. We see 2 lions, 3 cheetahs, and lots of zebras and other animals. MIL is excited because she's been to Africa but she's never seen an okapi until this safari. Hurray! Disney magic works again! (She says the safari is strikingly like Africa, although of course she saw many more animals on her safari there, which does not surprise her. But, since she saw the okapi, she's happy-and she said the ride would have been good anyway.)

After the safari, everyone wants to try Dinosaur (signs are obviously tacked on over the old CtX signs), so off we go. We walk right on this one, too, but it's too loud & bumpy for MIL and she doesn't really like it. You win some, you lose some. After this, we go see ITTBAB, which I worry may also be too loud in some places for MIL. Besides, she absolutely loathes spiders, but she's fine with Chili, the Chilean tarantula. She really likes this attraction, so we're back on the winning side again. FIL isn't commenting much, but he's holding up, so off we go again. (Art says he thinks his dad liked ITTBAB, so that's good.) It's time to see the tigers!

MIL has also been to Thailand, and she loves Anandapur. Again, like in Harambe, she says that Disney has the "feel" right, even though it's not exact (much cleaner, for one thing). The tigers are snoozy, but one young one is lying close to the wall where we can get a good look at her-she's lovely, and she knows it! The bats are also a big hit, although MIL prefers to look through the wire. One of the CMs comes out with a plastic spray bottle with raspberry essence in it-he explains that he noticed some bats inside really liked the scent, and he wanted to see what the outside guys think about it. They seem to like it, too, becoming more active and going to sniff the places he sprays. This makes them fly around a little more, so I'm pleased.

By now, we're hungry and rather tired, so we trot back to Harambe to have lunch at Tusker House. Art & I had lunch here last year & really liked the food, so here we are again. The 'rents don't want to eat too much, so they split a rotisserie chicken meal and say it's excellent. I get the turkey on focaccia with tabouli, which is just as delicious as I remember from last year. Art tries the grilled chicken salad in a bread bowl, which he says is really good, but very small, since the bread bowl is not scooped out. All they've done is cut the top off a small round loaf and layered a bit of salad on top. Luckily, he gets enough to eat, and the bread is very good.

Art & I have now picked up a second wind, but the 'rents are still tired, so we decide maybe we'd better get FotLK done before we have to leave. We have 20 minutes to show time, so off we go to Camp Minnie-Mickey. We make it just before they start seating, and we go in to the Warthog section and sit on the top bench, where we can lean against the railings. Why in the world can't Disney put backs on their benches? Those backless wonders are SO hard on the back, especially after trotting hither & thither in the park. Sea World's benches are so much more comfortable! Anyway, we're ready for the show. The man chosen to make the warthog sound makes kind of a roar, not a squeal or a grunt, so most of our section doesn't make any sound when we're supposed to. Bummer.

The show is fabulous, and FIL absolutely loves it. He especially loves the Tumble Monkeys (how can he not?)-he tells me that way back in his boyhood, he did a tiny bit of gymnastics/tumbling himself, so he really appreciates the work these guys do. Hurray! Another win. Finally, we find something FIL really enjoys seeing for himself!

We still haven't seen Pangani Trail this year, and Art & I do NOT want to miss it. The 'rents are exhausted, though, so we show them Pizzafari, and ask if we could meet them there when we're done watching gorillas. This plan works, so away we go. The gorillas are wonderful-the big silverback is very coy, hiding behind a sapling, and the babies are playing all around him. The 2 yo boy decides to play tough-he stands on a fallen tree and beats his chest, but as often happens to boys who play tough, he falls on his face. Literally. Of course, he's fine. He just bounces back up again and starts a game of tag with his little sister (1 yo) all around his daddy. They're so cute! We're watching them, and we smell this weird smell, kind of skunky and moldy at the same time. The guide tells us that the younger silverback across the path in the bachelor troop is announcing his presence. Sure enough, we turn around, and all the younger males are running across the clearing on their side. The guide says the silvers release this musk when they're moving through their territory, and the younger boys get out of their way. Fascinating!

We finish the Pangani Trail, and head back to Pizzafari. Everyone's pooped, so we troop back to the car to go check in to DxL, get showers, and rest up for dinner. Oops, it's only 2:00, and we're afraid DxL won't have our rooms ready. Let's go have dessert at the Kona! We head over to the Poly and go in, but the Kona has just closed. What a pain-we'll just have to make sure to try again. Hey, let's go to tea at the Grand Floridian! We've heard so much about this that we had planned on trying it if we could fit it in, and this seems perfect. So, off we go to the monorail to the "Flo," where we walk right in for tea. We get a lovely couch & 2 chairs for our group, and we're all terribly comfortable. Art & I are pretty hungry after all that walking, so we order the Buckingham tea, which comes with tea sandwiches; a scone with butter, Devonshire cream, and strawberry jam; a jam tart (also strawberry), and a choice of trifle, 2 pastries, or strawberries & cream. The 'rents aren't that hungry, so MIL just gets a scone and FIL the trifle-and he's not a tea drinker, so he has a glass of wine. Because the Buckingham is a 3-course tea, we spend about 2 hours here, but we're very comfortable, and the choice of tea is lovely-I have Darjeeling, and Art & MIL share a pot of the Flo's special blend. Both are very good, although my Darjeeling gets bitter very quickly, thanks to the long steeping time caused by tea leaves in the pot. Oh, well, next time I'll get something less sensitive-and there will certainly be a next time! The service here isn't great, but the food is wonderful, and the atmosphere is so relaxing!

We head out to the DxL at about 4 pm, ready to shower & rest before dinner. We check in, but our bags are not at Bell Services like they're supposed to be! After the DxL bell services call PO several times, PO finally tracks down our bags and brings them to us-we've only waited over 30 minutes for our bags! I guess the Disney magic doesn't work all the time after all. (Big : ( from Art here.)

I park, check my building map, and head off. There's Alligator Bayou 18, but where are our rooms? We end up walking around 2/3 of the building, with all its weird zig-zags, and finally find our rooms. They're quite close to the river path to the food court, but there has GOT to be a better way to get here from the parking lot! The rooms are okay, but not as nice as PO (Art says it's a close thing). I think that's now my favorite resort. At least DxL still has the fun old family photos on the walls, like PO does. (Art wants everyone to know that we don't like full-size beds! We want queens, at least! He also says the beds at DxL are a little harder than the ones we had at PO. Luck of the draw, perhaps?)

Dinner is at the Yachtsman, at the Yacht Club,. We're pretty hungry, and this should be a good meal, since the rating is so high for this restaurant. We make our way to the resort, take advantage of the valet parking, and away we go. We're right on time for our PS, and are seated immediately. It's a lovely restaurant, very comfortable; the chintz curtains set off the rich wood very nicely. We all order steaks, of course, and PapaB gets a bottle of very nice wine-I believe a cabernet. Art wants a salad, but I'm saving room for that Jack Daniels cake I've been hearing about! My filet is perfect-exactly medium-rare and fork-tender-as are all the others, according the sounds of pleasure everyone is making! Our server is extremely attentive, without being smothering. Our water never goes dry, and if we need anything at all, it's there nearly as soon as we ask for it. This is definitely a keeper!

The cake is really more of a mousse, and it's good, but nothing like what I had been expecting. I can't really taste the whiskey, and I think perhaps I'll stick to dessert at the Kona Café after this. If I want chocolate, that's the place to go!

It's late, we're tired, and tomorrow is early entry at the MK. We all waddle to the car and go back to the hotel, to sleep off the food and get rested for tomorrow.

Day Three: Monday, May 8, 2000: Magic Kingdom

We wake up early to meet the 'rents for food court breakfasts at 6:30, and much to our surprise, DxL doesn't serve real food until 7 am! Who dreamed up this stupid idea? Our early entry is at 7:30, so we can't possibly wait until 7 to get our food, and still get parked, out of the TTC, and to the gates by 7:30. We'll just have to make do with bagels and cream cheese, but this is really annoying. I knew I liked PO better! Okay, I'm calm. I've had some (yucky Nestea) tea, and by the time I start my bagel, my lovely husband has grabbed an egg, bacon, & cheese biscuit for me. Okay, time to go. Does MIL have her pass today? Yes! So, we pile into the car and head to MK, or at least the parking lot. MIL expresses surprise that the parking situation is so strange-parking in the "back 40" (she doesn't realize how close we really are), then taking the monorail to the park entrance. We make it just as the gates open, and we trot off to Tomorrowland. FIL wants to ride the Speedway, which is open for early entry, and the 'rents certainly do not want to ride Space Mnt or Buzz Lightyear; we tell them we'll meet them at the park bench outside Merchants of Venus when we're done with our rides, then we can all go to Fantasyland for the rest of early entry.

We walk right on to SM, and we see there's no real line (about 5 min.) for Buzz yet, so on we go. As we hop in the "line" we see the 'rents head for their bench, so after we kill a bunch of nasty Zurg-aliens, we trot over to the bench. No 'rents. What happened? We look in the shop (where Art has to buy a Skippy from AE-he's been sad all year that he didn't get one last year), then the restrooms, and still no 'rents. Hmmmmmmm. Finally, we see them, and we head into Fantasyland. MIL says the regular park opens at 9:30, & she wants to ride IASW before she heads with us to try Splash Mountain. She's not too crazy about getting wet, but she thinks we love it so much, maybe she should see it. She & FIL pop into IASW, and we look at the lines for Pooh (35 min) and Peter Pan (30 min). No time. Then I realize that the park opens at 8:50, and it's nearly that now! What do we do? If we don't get to Splash right away, the lines will be really bad, but if we go now, MIL won't know where we are. Okay, don't panic. We have the radios. We'll just call from Splash right before we get there, and maybe the 'rents will be out of IASW already. Let's go!

We join the herd to go past HM, through Frontierland (hey, what are those flags? Oh, the Millenium Dreamers are here today. Were they at AK yesterday? I think I remember seeing them), and back to Splash. We made it! We're in the first 25 or so to ride this morning. Hey, where'd that squirt come from? They've added more water to the ride, we think, since we never got this wet last year! It's a good thing we rode this before MIL got on, because she'd hate it! Off we go-we didn't have time to use the radio before the ride, so we start ringing as soon as we're clear of the exits. No answer. We walk all the way back around to Fantasyland, still ringing. No answer. Finally, we put the radio away, since we're nearly to the bench where we were supposed to meet the folks 30 minutes ago. There they are, & MIL has her radio out. Seems she just decided to try to find us, after we'd given up. Oh, well, here we are, soaking wet, and she's glad she didn't go on Splash with us. Let's all do Haunted Mansion, then see what happens.

We get a great CM at HM, who sneaks up behind me and quickly grabs my shoulders in the shrinking room. Since I didn't notice her, I squeak, which of course scares most of the other "bodies" in the room-except for Art, who watched her do it, and laughs at us! As we leave HM, we look for the "ring" embedded in the cobblestones. We explain the story to MIL, who thinks it's fun & helps us look. (The HM story includes a wedding ring which becomes "mysteriously" permanently embedded in the paving stones of the driveway. ) We can't find it, so we go ask the CM at the front gate of HM; she laughs and tells us it's between the 2 brick pillars at the "end" of the "driveway." Woo-hoo! There it is!

After HM, we decide to hit the Pirates, because MIL loves them, so off we go. They're fun as always, and Art & I are singing along with all they "guys" while we're riding. We may have embarrassed the 'rents a bit, but too bad! We leave the Caribbean and decide to see what the schedule looks like for the Tiki Birds-next show starts in about 5 minutes, so we head on in and only stand about a minute before the waterfall opens and William and Morris start yacking at each other about the new show. We point out the names to the folks, and they're suitably pleased. The show is funny, and we all enjoy it. Art & I loved it last year, the way Disney has kept just enough of the old beginning to let us "old" folks remember the song, then in comes Iago to shake things up. What fun! Just watch out what you say about the Tiki Gods!

We take off again-we'll meet for lunch. Art & I go ride BTMRR, then it's already lunchtime. There wasn't really a wait, the morning's just gone by with lots of unplanned breaks. So, we meet at the Liberty Tree Tavern for an 11:30 PS. The tavern is just opening, and when they call us, we're the "Smock Family from the State of Missouri"; I'm a bit disappointed that they don't say something like "from the Missouri Territory"-but then only one host says "Colony of Massachusetts," so I guess he understands the general idea of the theme better than the rest of the hosts do! That's okay-we're seated in the Ben Franklin room, which is lovely, with sort of a cranberry and wood theme. MIL wants the turkey dinner, and the rest of us try the pot roast. Wow, what a great roast! It's so tender, it melts in your mouth, and the mashed potatoes & gravy are great-I never thought a meal like pot roast with mashed potatoes would make me want to wax poetic, but this is quite a meal. We'll certainly keep this on our list! Art & I also have the house salad, as we're feeling the need for greens, and the house dressing, a strawberry vinaigrette, is fantastic. It's everything the ratings said it would be. We're definitely happy.

After lunch, we split up again-the 'rents know where the busses are, so they're not worried. We'll meet up again later for dinner-remember, guys, this is Pleasure Island night, so go home & rest soon! We head off to the Carousel of Progress, one of Art's old faves, since he first saw it at the '64 NY World's Fair. While we're standing, waiting for the doors to open, Disney is showing the old original intro to the attraction, the one they played at the Fair. Art comments on it, and the lady next to us was at the Fair, too-she went when she was 10, while Art was 8 that year. Too cool-and Art looks much younger than just 2 years! We love CoP, but we're both so sleepy after that big meal, Art drops off 4 times during the show, and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open, too. We'd better head back to the hotel & nap awhile.

We take showers, nap, then freshen up, and it's time to grab the folks & head to the Portobello Yacht Club. We have 5:30 seatings, and we're running just a bit late-luckily, PYC has no problem seating us, and in we go. The restaurant is nice, but it's freezing! The server cuts the AC a little, which helps-unfortunately, it's about all she does for the evening. She's nice, but has a really whiny voice, and she's hardly ever around, but the food's very good. Art & FIL have the sausage pasta, I have a shellfish pasta, and MIL tries a different shellfish pasta. We all really enjoy our meals, but that server is SO slow! We head out to the Adventurers Club, which was the point of going to PI tonight. Art & I really think FIL will enjoy it-but he's not laughing. MIL is having a great time, but after a quick show in the treasure room, she takes FIL home, because he's not having any fun at all. They know we're meeting to go to breakfast at the Castle in the morning, so we'll see them then. Art & I stay for several shows, and we really enjoy the competition for the Balderdash Cup. We've seen the radiothon & the talent show, but this is our first time for the Cup, and it's great. Watch out for Rodan! Of course, tonight, we both score during the talent show-Gabby wants Art to call her, and Hathaway wants me to call him. Hurray! But, I'm tired after the big day (not that the Kungaloosh we shared has anything to do with it), so we head home. We make it to the room around 12:30, and fall into bed after quick showers again. At least tomorrow we can sleep in a little!

Day Four: Tuesday, May 9, 2000: Character Breakfast & Epcot

Today we have breakfast with the princesses at Cinderella Castle at 9:50, so we can sleep in a bit. We decide to park at the Poly and walk to the TTC, because it's at least a prettier walk than the MK parking lots! We meet the folks at 8:45 and drive to the Poly, and everyone agrees that the walk past the different buildings at the Poly is quite nice. A short monorail trip later, we're walking up Main St. to our PS at the castle. Art & I didn't even go through the castle yesterday, so we make sure to look at the stepsisters' faces (one is green with envy, the other is red with rage) in all the mosaics-what fun! I had never noticed this particular touch before-seems I'm always rushing through the castle to other things, so it's nice to just stroll through.

We check in at the podium and go in to the waiting room, and there's the Fairy Godmother, on a beautiful throne. Of course, we have to get an autograph & picture, so I go sit next to her with our autograph book. She's just wonderful, and I'm so pleased to have finally met her. We don't wait very long before we're called to go upstairs, so up we go. This castle is really beautiful! The staircase is gorgeous, the waiting room was lovely, and the dining room is fabulous! Art & I say that we'll do our house this way, with a grand foyer like the waiting room. His mom just laughs at us. Oh, but when that Powerball jackpot hits!

We sit down and order drinks, and Prince Charming is the first to arrive. He is, naturally, charming, and sets the mood for our meal. Aside from servers, he's the only man in the dining room-we see Cinderella and Princess Aurora, then Alice is around but stops at the table next to ours where a girl is celebrating her birthday. Alice then goes around us to another table with children, and we figure she'll be by later. Since Alice is MIL's favorite character, we can't miss getting our picture taken with her! We have a wonderful meal, and Alice continues working her way around the room. At the far side, she starts to wave goodbye, so I call "Alice, Alice," and she realizes she missed us! She runs over and apologizes very nicely, and we get our picture after all.

After we're stuffed, we head back to the gate and we decide to just ride the monorail all the way around to the Poly. Since the express to the TTC is closed, we would have had a longer ride anyway, so off we go to enjoy the ride. From the Poly, we're driving to the Beach Club to park and enter Epcot through the International Gateway. Tonight is Illuminations 2000 night!

At Epcot, the 'rents are showing their weariness. We decide it's best to split up-we'll meet outside the Rose & Crown at 7:15 for our 7:40 PS. The last we see of them, they're sitting on a park bench near the lake, looking at a map and deciding what they want to see now. We head for France, thinking that we should get over to the far side of the Showcase and work our way back around in time for dinner. I have to stop in France, though, because Esmerelda and Quasi are signing autographs near all the posters, and I've never seen them before. Just as we line up, Esme leaves, but Quasi's still here, and the line is fairly short. After getting a hug from my favorite hunchback, off we go again.

Whoa, more Millenium Dreamers-are they following us, or are we following them? At least these kids are well-behaved. They may be a bit of a crowd, but we never have a problem with them.

Art decides he wants to pop in to Mexico to see the shops, so I figure I'll come along & get a stamp in my autograph book. The kid's station is set up outside the pyramid, under a nice shade tree, and I have a nice chat there while my book is stamped & signed. Norway next, to ride the Maelstrom. Oh, bother, look at the line. I like the trolls, but not enough to stand in the sun for the next 30 minutes! We go in the shops instead, get another stamp & autograph, then continue around the circle.

Oddly enough, after that huge breakfast, I'm getting hungry again, so when we reach Germany, we get some brats at Sommerfest. While we're there, it starts raining. Hard. Wait a minute, we're supposed to watch Tapestry of Nations & Illuminations today! It can't rain! We putter about in Germany, and the rain eases up enough for us to make a mad dash to Italy. They've closed their kid's station, and I can't find anyone in the shops who knows where I might get a stamp. Oh, well, maybe when we come back to Epcot on Fri.

We end up just looking through shops and such, even though Art had originally said he really wanted to see the different films & such this year. He changed his mind, I guess. I don't mind. One of these years I may want to see "Wonders of China" again, but I love just strolling the World Showcase, too-not worrying about timing things, and just seeing what we see. We happen to be in China when the acrobat school performs, and these boys are amazing! Unfortunately, we miss our favorite Epcot act, "Off Kilter," because they're not playing on Tues., Fri., or Sat. Those are really the only days we can spare for Epcot, and we may not make it in Sat., depending on what else we want to use that day to see. Oh, well, the guys are great, but we can still buy their CD. We already have it, but a friend of ours wants a copy, too. So, we work our way around to Canada & get stamped & our CD purchased. Let's see, it's starting to sprinkle again. Hey, let's go to the Millenium Village & see what that's like!

Art's really gotten into pin trading (actually, he's traded very little. What he is into is pin BUYING), but since it's raining, we pass up the pin station (miracle!) and head inside. Brazil is silly, but fun, and we don't go play soccer. Scotland has a computer that looks fun, but we don't want to play golf to get in to Scotland-the golf looks really boring to us (no, we don't play at all). Then I see there's a computer at the far end where people can stand outside and still play, but it's not nearly as neat as it looked. The design-you-own tartan program is pretty dumb, actually-you can't really do anything with it. Bummer.

Saudi Arabia has a very nice young man writing names in Arabic, so we get our name cards and go in. There's a sort of flying carpet pop-out book show under a tent, but it's not really much, and the Spirit Oasis is closed for a little while. Phooey. Art decides he really wants to go to Jerusalem, so we head off to Israel and see if we can figure out what all the fuss was about when they built this exhibit. I really am not interested, but Art really wants to do this, so we stand and wait for them to open the doors. The first intro. film is much better than I expected (Art reminds me that the film was REALLY LOUD, so much so that he was quite uncomfortable. I am usually the one to fuss about loud sounds, so this should warn you of just how loud it was!), so I'm actually looking forward to the simulator ride through the city-it's really cool! The simulators are much smoother than Body Wars or Star Tours, and the movie is neat. I don't understand why people would fuss, really, except it's true that the movie doesn't really talk about the whole Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't miss it, actually! It does address the fact that 3 major world religions consider Jerusalem to be a holy city, and there's not even too much emphasis on the Judaic point of view, other than historically. We leave Israel feeling really good about the whole thing.

Okay, most people don't like the Swedish seasons eggs, but we want to walk through anyway-true, there's not much to them, but they're still kind of fun. Art says he wishes the Autumn egg were clearer, and some cute young thing in a mini would walk through! I smack him (lightly) for being a piggy voyeur, but he just gives me his best dirty-old-man leer. I told you he was a smart alec!

It's nearly time for Tapestry to start, so we head out. It's not really raining anymore, although there's a fine mist every once in a while. We check out the parade route again, and realize we're on a bench about 15 feet past the end of the parade-this will never do! We move into England, and there's a clear patch of curb next to a nice French family. Art bought a poncho earlier so I wouldn't have to get my backside wet on the bench, so we spread it on the curb and offer to share a bit with the French family, who gladly take us up on our offer. They're really funny-their little boy is about 2-1/2 or 3, and he's at that "running-away" stage where he wants to run away from Mommy & Daddy, then turn around and run back. His folks are watching him, there's not much traffic in the street, and the parade is still quite a ways away, so they let him run. No problem here, except his big sister, all of about 5, is frantic that he might get run over! So she gets hysterical, her parents try to calm her down, and all the time the little boy is trying to play his running game. We had a great pre-show, and then here comes the parade! Of course, the kids settle down, and we start watching & snapping pics right & left. What a beautiful parade! I understand when some people have said this parade is worth admission-it seems really simple when you see photos of some of the puppets, but there is so much going on. It's really indescribable-the music is cheerful & makes you want to dance, the drummers are dancing & turning around to wave & play with the crowd, the puppets are dancing, swaying, & playing with people-it's just amazing. We're so glad we got to see this.

We still have a little time before dinner, so we head back to the Village to see what else we see. Not much, actually. I think we did it all before! So, we take a look at the pin station and head back into England. We check in for our PS, and request an outside table to watch Illuminations. Sure, like everyone else in England tonight! And, because of the rain, there is very little outside seating. They say they'll do their best, and they'll buzz me-if I'm really willing to wait a while, maybe they can find a terrace table for us. The 'rents are nowhere around yet, so waiting is just fine by me. I'm getting worried about them; they're never late, and they're going to miss Illuminations if they don't show up for dinner. They can't be lost, but it's just not like them to change plans like this. We've been calling them on the radio about every 2 minutes, but no luck. Oh, well, I find a chair outside the pub to sit and watch the crowds while waiting for our beeper to go off, and Art disappears. After nearly 10 minutes, he shows up again-with a Black and Tan for me! What a darling man-just what I wanted. Quite some time goes by, and it's nearly 8 pm, and no folks, and no beeper. Our seating was for 7:40-I, being a worrywart, start to think that perhaps the beeper is broken. I go back to the podium and ask, and they do a trial buzz for me; nope, it works. We turn around to head back towards the side of the pub, and the beeper goes off! We head off to a perfect table, on the higher terrace under the canopy, facing the lagoon. What a wonderful place! Still no 'rents, though. Where could they be? Art finally says, "Look, they're adults. If they want to miss a great fireworks show, they can miss it. Let's enjoy dinner!" He's right, of course, so I finally chuck my worries and settle down.

I've been wanting to try the fish & chips, but I also really like the idea of the pie sampler. Art has known for weeks that he's getting the prime rib & Yorkshire pudding, so I finally ask our server what she'd choose. Paula says she loves the pie sampler, so I decide on that. Our food doesn't take long at all, and she's right-it's wonderful. The shepherd's pie is a little peppery for me, but the chicken & leek and the steak & mushroom are absolutely fabulous. Art's beef is perfect, too, and tastes wonderful. Again, a keeper. We'll be back. We're still eating when the show starts, and after the rain, it's cold out here with that breeze blowing. We decide to get some tea to keep warm, and Art "complains" that it's awfully hard to finish his dinner with fireworks going off all around-he can't stop watching long enough to eat! Poor baby.

I'm actually somewhat disappointed with the new Illuminations. I mean, it's pretty and all, but if this is supposed to be "celebrating the future, hand in hand," why did they take out the different countries' roles? I really miss being greeted by each country's citizen, and then having each pavilion light up for a moment. Art says that he thinks Disney did this in order to show the importance of the world working together, but I still miss that part! We agree to disagree-we both enjoyed the show, after all!

After the show ends, we finish up and head back to the car. Tomorrow is early entry at MGM, so we certainly don't want to be up too late. We get back to the room for a quick shower & sleep and we find a note stuck in the card slot in the door-MIL says she'll explain in the morning what happened, and she'll see us at 6:30 in the food court; we can call her if we have other breakfast plans. We don't, so beddy-bye time!

Day Five: Wednesday, May 10, 2000: Disney-MGM Studios

We're up early and meet the 'rents a little after 6:30 for bagels & such, then off we go to MGM for early entry. I tell them our plans for the morning-we're trotting straight down the boulevard to the RnRC first thing, then into ToT. We know they won't want to move quickly, so they can use the time to meander down to the Chinese theatre, where we'll meet them in about 30 minutes to ride the GMR together. They like this idea, so when we get in the gates, we're off! We walk right in to RnRC, which we've been anticipating since BEFORE we knew we were definitely taking this trip! We saw a little of the construction last year, but what really convinced us was that we heard so much about RnRC before we got here, so we knew we were definitely riding. What a cool ride! I usually don't do well on inversions, because they hurt my head, but this one is so smooth! We want to shop, but we need to scoot over to ToT to scream some more-we can always come back (like we won't ever come back to RnRC. Yeah, right.)

In ToT, we remember to look for the letters in the bottom of the marquee-sure enough, "EVIL TOWER" is spelled out. When we start our first fall, Art yells, "Abby, I forgive you!" We rented the "Tower of Terror" movie a few weeks ago & really enjoyed it, so Art decided he was going to do this! Like anyone is going to hear him while they're screaming their heads off! ToT is again wonderful, just like always-it's hard to decide which attraction we love more. We finally decide that they're both our favorites, depending on our mood. Lucky for us they're right next door to each other, right?

We head over to the GMR and there are the folks, out front. They've been looking at the map and making their decisions for the day, so that's been good time for them. MIL still can't get over that we're there in only about 35 minutes from when we walked in the gate, and we remind her that this is why we love early entry so much! We walked right on to the 2 biggest attractions in the park, as far as long lines are concerned.

The 'rents seem to like GMR okay, but nothing thrilling. We had a fun time though-especially because TJ-Cop was in the seat in front of us! He didn't have his button, but he commented on ours, and pointed out the hidden Mickey in the window. Thanks, TJ!

Fine, we're off again. We'll see the folks at the Sci-Fi at 11:15 for lunch. Art & I go hit Star Tours while it's still quiet, and we get out just a little before 9-looks like we have just enough time to hit Little Mermaid before the rest of the crowd shows up. We walk right in to the theater, missing the preshow-that's fine, we saw it last year. It's no big deal. The show is wonderful as always, but I don't notice any mist on my face during the storm scene. Oh, well, can't have everything. Maybe I'm just sitting too far to the side. It's still lovely, and very cool, "under the sea."

About this time, I realize that I made our dinner PS way too late if Fantasmic! starts at 8:30 (I was told by CRO that it would be 9, but these things do change). I start to panic, and Art, bless his realistic soul, suggests we just go to the Derby and ask what they can do! They very kindly move us up to 5:40, which will push us, but should be okay. Hurray for Disney Magic! We haven't had anything but wonderful CMs this trip. We'll just tell the folks the new plans at lunch.

Oh, look, more Millenium Dreamers-we are definitely on the same schedule! One young man from Holland wants to trade pins with Art, so we stop to chat a bit. What a nice boy, and his family is so friendly, too!

We definitely don't want to miss the Muppets, so we head back across the park and catch the show. This time, we know to look for the key under the mat at the "box office," and sure enough, there it is! Some guy sees Art looking and goes to look, then walks right around the lady handing out the "safety goggles." Luckily for him, he realizes what he's done and goes back. Again, we walk in and miss the pre-show-I kind of like this show, but again, we saw it last year, so we'll survive without it. I love this attraction!

It's pretty much lunch time, so we go to the diner, and the folks are right out front. FIL has this thing about menus-he reads them all. I mean ALL. So, he's right in front, reading the menu. We know this place is not rated well, but Art's been wanting to try it a long time, so of course we all join him. We check in, then wander the gift shop for a while. The gift shop looks really run down-the headsets for listening to CDs are all broken, and things just look not-right. What a pity. I understand the diner being a bit dingy-looking, since it's supposed to be a drive-in, but the gift shop should really be nicer, especially since it's really not a part of the Sci-Fi, it's just attached. We're seated in one of the cars (we get the front seat, the 'rents in the middle, and later, some other couple gets the rumble seat) in about 20 minutes, and order. Art gets a burger, I have a salad and some feta cheese dip, and the folks each get ice cream-they say that's all they want because we're having a big dinner that night. The server is pretty slow -we all go dry at least once during this meal. Oh, well, the movie trailers are fun, and wonder of wonders, we actually finish our meal BEFORE the circle starts again. The servers around us are responding to the films, and it's really funny. It's like being at Rocky Horror all over again!

After lunch, we head over to the Villain Shop. The folks missed it earlier, and we really HAVE to hit this store. This is my real shopping vice here at WDW. I can go without buying much at the giant DS in Downtown Disney, but I cannot seem to resist the Villain Store! MIL really likes it, too. Before we left home, I had told Art I wanted a sweatshirt this trip, and here's the place to get it! There is a wonderful Fantasmic! shirt, and Art finds a great Fantasmic! ball cap, with a collection of glow-in-the-dark pins on it (this is the only way to buy these pins, so he's thrilled!). After we spend way too much money, we split again-we'll meet the folks for dinner. I remind the 'rents that they probably want to head back to the room for a rest, since we're watching Fantasmic! tonight. We head over to RnRC to get FastPasses, hoping the wait will be long enough we can digest our lunches a bit before we go. It's about a 2-hour wait on the passes, which looks perfect to us! We wander over to New York to take the Backlot Tour, but the wait is 35 minutes. We don't want to wait that long, so we start to cut across NY to go see the animation tour. The stunt show is going on, though, so we have to hoof it all the way back across the park. I realize that MGM is not really that big, but we've been criss-crossing it just a bit already today! I'm certainly getting my exercise on this trip!

Hey, there's Tigger in front of his trailer! I have his autograph and I don't want to stand in line, but I love the trailers, so I have to get a shot. I get pictures of Piglet and Pooh in front of their trailers, too, plus one of the "sign" that renames this "Tigger Avenue."

Oh, man, another line. Everything we have left has a really long line. Can we just go? I'm really tired. Oh, yeah, FastPasses. Art tells me to just ignore the passes-if I'm this tired, I'm not going to enjoy things anyway, right? He's right, of course. We can always come back in time to ride again before dinner, if the pass times are okay. We're hoping to meet Stefan from Germany in front of ToT anyway-he's here today, and we thought meeting him at 5 for a ride would be fun (I "met" Stefan online, at RADP, even. He was asking for advice on what else to do when he's in Florida, so I answered, and we've been corresponding for about 5 weeks). That still gives us time to meet the 'rents at the Derby at 5:30 for our new seating time. So, we go home for a rest.

We head back into the park at about 4:15 and go straight back to ToT for FastPasses. There's no line now, but we want to wait for Stefan, so we grab our passes and head for the RnRC. The line is about 20 minutes, which is okay for timing-we can get on the ToT at 4:55 at the earliest. After the ride, it's getting close to 4:55, so I head over to try to meet Stefan. Oh, shoot-were we meeting here at the FastPass gate, or up by the actual gate? I have my RADP button on, as promised, but no one comes by who looks even slightly like Stefan's pictures on his web page. We wait until nearly 5:10, but we really have to get going, so we do. I guess I'll just have to call Stefan's room and try to arrange another meeting place, since we missed him here. As we show the first bellhop (at the gate) our FastPasses, we say, "We have reservations at the Tip-Top Club," (this is from the movie), he answered, "Very good." He obviously knew the reference, and we're getting a lot of fun from that movie rental!

The lines in the boiler room are pretty long-we're going to be late for our seatings! No help for it now, we'll just have to be late. One of the bellhops notices our buttons as he lets us off the elevator, so that's fun. We don't have time to shop now, either, so I guess we really will have to come back to MGM Sat. That's okay-Art wants to see what the special edition Star Wars weekend pin is! So, we scoot over to the Derby and grab the folks, getting in just about 5 minutes late for our seatings. Everybody is tired and cranky, but we're hungry, too, so maybe food will help. Art & I, at least, are really looking forward to the show, and I've been wanting to try the Derby for quite a while. We wait nearly 15 minutes to be seated, but then the server is fairly quick. Art gets a steak, MIL gets the salmon, and FIL & I have the almond grouper. While we wait for our dinners, we realize the pianist is playing some really fun songs. He starts in with the theme song from "The Addams Family," and I start snapping along with my arms crossed like Morticia. The pianist sees this (I'm the only one with my arms crossed) and grins at me. I love fun musicians!

Art's steak looks good, but, man, this grouper is wonderful! I'm very pleased with it. Art & MIL both say their meals are very good, too. Art gets done and heads out early to try to get seats, since it's nearly 7 now. We have our radios, so I tell him I'll be there in a few minutes. I've been dying to try the grapefruit cake, and I'm not giving it up now!

The cake is not as good as I'd hoped. It's okay, but nothing really special. However, Art's been asking for paper menus from all the restaurants so we can help Deb update the WDWIG's menu section, so I ask for a copy of the dessert menu, which is separate here at the Derby. The nice server brings it, and also a copy of the recipe for the grapefruit cake. Hey, it was good enough to have again-just not the phenomenal dessert I'd been led to expect by other people's comments.

Just to let you know, WDW people are perfectly happy to give you a copy of the menu. As a matter of fact, the Rose & Crown people let Art take their regular menu-laminated and all! He's getting a pretty good collection going.

The folks are still finishing up, so I go ahead to go help Art save our seats. We know this isn't really proper behavior, but we just can't hurry his folks any more, so we save the seats. I buzz Art when I get close, but it takes a while before we can really hear each other clearly. These little radios do not do well with a lot of concrete and steel around! But, as I head up the hill into the amphitheater, I reach Art, and we chat until he can see me, and I spot him. The people around him have been very kind in allowing Art to spread out and save seats, so I sit down to help him. I hope the 'rents hurry, though-I'm going to need a run to the ladies' before the show starts!

Here they come-they get settled in, and I can take care of business. Man, is it hot tonight! All these people crowded together don't help much, either. Finally, the bellhops come down with their ladder and start the preshow-we enjoy it, but FIL is snoozing and MIL is too hot to care. What a bummer. Of course, once the real show starts, I quit paying attention to anything else. If they don't like it, too bad-I love this show!

Getting out after Fantasmic! is the usual fun-Disney is so good at crowd control, it's hard to imagine why they made this amphitheater with only one entrance/exit. So, we mooove along like a herd of cattle, step by step, inch by inch, and finally get to the tram and to the car. We find out neither of the 'rents cared much for Fantasmic!-too loud for MIL, and just not interesting to FIL. Can't win them all, I guess. MIL admits that she's just heard so much about the show, she was expecting more. Since that's how I felt about Illuminations 2000, I suppose it's fair.

Tomorrow is Sea World day, so we decide to knock on doors at 7:30 and drive up to PO for breakfast, just for a change. See you in the morning, folks.

Day Six: Thursday, May 11, 2000: Sea World

Today is Sea World day, and if we're not at the ticket windows right at 9 am, it's not that big a deal, so we sleep in just a little. About 7:30, we're all ready, so off we go to PO for breakfast. Last night, I realized that we could have just met the 'rents at DxL's food court, since there would be real food after 7 am, but the plans had already been made. Art tells me just to stick with the PO idea, because he likes the idea of a croissant sandwich, which we can't get at DxL. Okay, that's fine. So, we get our breakfasts and head off to Sea World. Last year, there was a great deal of construction going on which really messed up our route to Sea World, but this year, we take the first exit and head right into the parking lot (last year, we took the first exit and ended up on the detour from hell. Took about 30 minutes to get back to the access road-through construction sites, red clay "roads," and so on. NO FUN!).

We get our tickets at about 9:15 and plan to meet for lunch at Chicken 'n' Biscuit about 12:30 or so. Art & I head off to check out the feeding times for the dolphins and rays, then realize that we need to make the 11:00 Clyde & Seymour show if we're going to see it today. We missed it last year, so I really want to see it this trip-we wander through the turtle exhibit and over to the coral reef area-the animals are, as always, beautiful. I especially like the Weedy Sea Dragons from Australia-they're really neat! Unfortunately, we have about 8 different school groups here today, and the kids are mostly loud and pushy. What a pain! The Millenium Dreamers were a large group, but the kids were all quiet & well-behaved whenever we saw them, so they were really not a problem. These kids, on the other hand, make it impossible to talk to each other.

Time to head for "Clyde & Seymour Take Pirate Island," which is hilarious. The mime before the show is great, just like when we saw him 5 years ago. The show starts up and we start laughing-it's silly, of course, but very funny, and we even enjoy the silly voice the otter "speaks" with (a funny, squeaky voice says things like "Ha, I've got the map, now" during the show). We both catch the name of the ship (the HMS Pinniped) and get a chuckle over that (we're both at least mild fans of Gilbert & Sullivan).

The show's over-wonder what the folks are doing? Let's buzz them. MIL answers, but is breaking up. As we get out of the stadium, we can hear her fairly well, but she says she can't hear us at all. They're sitting outside the penguins, if we want to catch them. Of course, we head over, and as we round the berm, MIL comes in clearly-just too much earth and concrete between us and the 'rents! They're pooped-MIL wants to go home at 1, which is only a little over an hour from now. Man, we've got to rush if we're going to see anything else!

Admittedly, we're a little annoyed-I was planning on making this an early day, but only 4 hours in the park? That's a bit much! No help for it, the Mother has spoken. We take off to at least see the Terrors of the Deep & the penguins. No way we can see another show, but we have to at least stop by the orca viewing area. On the way, we can see the new Kraken roller coaster being built-Art says it almost looks TOO scary. Not for me! I think it looks great-but his comments are: big, bad, and SPOOKY. I know he'll ride it next time we're here, though.

We get through the sharks & penguins, then cut around to the orcas-only the baby (born last June) is in the viewing area, but the others are all in one of the big holding tanks, waiting for the show that starts in about 50 minutes. We look at each other and abandon the Arctic exhibit-we have to spend some time with our Sea World faves, the orcas. The arena is open, so we go in and find a shady bench where we can watch all the orcas playing. One of the trainers comes out and throws a couple of big balls out in the water, and of course the orcas start playing with those. One keeps pushing the ball up on the ledge, then crying until the trainer comes out and pushes it back into the deep water for him (okay, probably her, but let's not worry about it, please)-the big silly is doing this on purpose! Just who is training whom, here? It's pretty obvious that the trainer loves these guys-pretty soon, another orca pushes his ball under a gate into another tank, and he can't get it! Sure enough, the trainer dives in after the ball, and we've had a quite wonderful 30 minutes just sitting and watching. We haven't seen nearly enough, and we didn't get to ride Atlantis, which we loved last year, but that's just the way it goes with a bigger group. On the way to meet the 'rents, we stop by the dolphin nursery. They have two young ones, one born the same day as the baby orca, and they're having a great time playing with each other and the crowd. They obviously know the people are there to see them, since they keep getting close to the edge of the tank & splashing everyone!

We head off to meet the folks at the front gate, and they're not there. Hmm-maybe they're in one of these shops? I want to find some Sea World pins, anyway-after all the pins Art's bought, I figure it's my turn! Only one shop, the one nearest the front gate, has anything at all, but these are nice. They have Shamu leaping out of blue waves over our names. I really like them, but all the registers are messed up. It takes nearly 10 minutes to buy 2 pins. Art keeps popping out to check on the 'rents, but they're still not around. We end up splitting up to watch for them, and here they finally come. MIL comments that we're not wet from Atlantis, and we tell her no, we didn't have time to ride it. She offers to sit there on the bench and wait for us, but we don't want to just leave them sitting for as long as it will take to hike back to the ride, wait in line, ride, and hike back. So, off we go.

My plan is to meet again at about 5 to go to Pebbles in the Crossroads Shopping Center for dinner, then we can catch a game of mini golf at Fantasia Gardens and head to the Kona Café inside the Poly for dessert. This meets with approval-as a matter of fact, FIL grins and tells us we better gear up for defeat. Supposedly, he plays a mean game of miniature golf! So we head into our rooms to rest. I head for a quick dip in the pool, then back to the room. After a shower, Art tells me that he really didn't want to leave Sea World, but the resting is really nice! I agree. I hated leaving, but curling up, clean, in air conditioning to read a while is awfully comfortable. We know we'll go back to Sea World sometime! We certainly will be back in Orlando as soon as we can be-hey, how's next Feb. look? (Like we won't have the money, but we can dream, right?)

At about 5, we knock on the 'rents' door, and MIL tells us to come on it, but be quiet. FIL is snoozing and doesn't want to go with us. After all that talk? Maybe he just doesn't want to humiliate us. Anyway, off we go. We walk right in at Pebbles, and are seated immediately. This place is really pretty, and our server is wonderful. I want a glass of wine with my seafood pasta, but I'm not sure which to choose-our server offers a taste test for me. She asks me whether I prefer drier or sweeter, and when I tell her drier, she comes back in about 2 minutes with 3 bottles and 3 wine glasses. She asks, "Do you want to see the bottles, or would you rather do a blind test?" I think a blind test sounds fun, so she lines up the glasses and pours a small amount in each one. The first is kind of flat, without much bouquet, depth, or finish. The second one is better, but the 3d is fantastic! So I get my wine, and dinner comes just about now. Art loves his steak (anyone notice what a carnivore this man is?), which is perfectly cooked and very tender. My pasta is wonderful, and MIL loves her fish. We all agree that this restaurant is a definite keeper-looks like we'll be doing Pebbles each time we come to the area!

We've had a slow dinner, and it's now about 7:45, just time for a quick game of Fantasia golf before dessert. On the way, I start to worry about what time the Kona may close-if it's 9, we're in trouble. If later, we're probably okay. When we get our clubs & balls at Fantasia Gardens, I ask if the attendant there has any idea how late the Kona stays open, and he says, "No, but I have a book here which tells me everything!" He pulls out a huge notebook and pages through it to the "Restaurant" section, asking, "that's at the Poly, right?" I agree, and he finds the hours for me-open 'til 10. Great! We start our game.

We love this course, but it's looking pretty run-down. One of the holes has a broken sign, and several greens have "divots," even though they're artificial grass! There are holes and compressed spots in the teeing areas, which is really not like Disney. I hope they fix this soon-MIL doesn't notice, but we certainly do.

Fantasia Gardens is not a sissy miniature golf course-these holes are tough! At least a few of them are really hard. We all have trouble on the ones where we have to shoot up a steep incline, but we're having fun. We get to about the 9th hole, and I look at my watch. It's already 8:45! At this rate, we won't make dessert. I mention this to Art & MIL, and they say they don't mind hurrying a little, but they want to finish. Okay, we play, we just don't dilly-dally between holes or between players! We finish up at about 9:15 and jump in the car. When we get to the Poly, Art & MIL get out to go get a table while I park the car. When I get inside, Art's at the Kona, but where's MIL? He says she stopped at the pin cart at the gift shop! Hey, whatever works-we're here, and we made it before closing.

Our server is pretty slow, but the desserts are great-Art & I have been wanting a kilauea tort since we left WDW last year, so we each order that, and MIL decides she really doesn't want chocolate after all-she'll get the cheesecake. We all enjoy our desserts, even if we do have a tough time getting refills on our water! Some year, Art & I say, we'll have the money to stay here at the Poly & have dessert at the Kona every night, if we wish. I've always wanted to stay here, and after the time we spent here last year at the restaurants and hanging out in the lounge watching a storm, Art decided he would really like to try it, too.

It's about 10:15, and we're pretty tired. Tomorrow is early entry to Epcot, and we suggest to MIL that perhaps they would rather be on their own. She says she was just thinking that might be a good idea. On our way back to DxL, we remind her of our dinner plans tomorrow night-Chefs de France. She feels that she & FIL will be able to find that, so we plan to meet then. We get back in our rooms, and Art & I set the alarm for our early morning tomorrow. Don't want to be late to get on Test Track!

Day Seven: Friday, May 12, 2000: Epcot

Today is early entry to Epcot, and Art & I are on our own, having made plans to mee the 'rents at dinner at Chefs de France. I really don't feel like just a bagel this morning, so I suggest to Art that we pop in to the food court right at 7, so we can get some real food. We can eat in the car and still make it to the gates by 7:30. The breakfast burrito is actually pretty good-what a pity DxL doesn't serve it before 7 am. We make it to the gate before opening, and we go through to join the crowd on around the base of Spaceship Earth. There is a short welcome ceremony, after which the doves fly out around SE and we're all free to head our different directions.

We head directly to TT, of course, and walk right on. Woo-hoo! This is probably our 3d-favorite ride in WDW, although old faves like Pirates and the Haunted Mansion will always be important to us. One problem-why does TT have the camera as the braking test? None of the pictures look cool at all, unlike at RnRC (which takes your pic just as the ride shoots you out of the "merge lane"). It might be fun to see what we all look like going over the blocks, or maybe during the ABS maneuver. Oh, well, I'm not an Imagineer.

The Living Seas isn't open for Early Entry, which is strange-we thought it usually is. It's probably good for us that it isn't, though, because we usually spend too much time in LS to make it work well for EE. So, after TT we head over to Body Wars and Cranium Command in the Wonders of Life. Art has always liked BW more than I do, but we both love CC-Buzzy is so much fun! (Art says he really likes the cute, sweet girl, too.) After this, it's time for Ellen's Energy Adventure. Bummer. Not open yet. Okay, we'll go across to Imaginations.

I know, JIYI is going to be awful-but we have to try it. If I had never ridden the original Journey, with Dreamfinder & Figment, I probably would have enjoyed this more. Neither of us feels that JIYI is as bad as we've been reading, but we're not overly impressed, either. Where's the fun? Where's the whimsy? If Disney wanted to change this, why not make it more educational, or more interactive, or more ANYTHING (except louder. It's quite loud enough, thank you.)? So, on to the really good side of the Imagination Institute, so we can get sneezed on by a dog! We love all the 3-D movies, so we walk out grinning. We really rush through all the interactive stuff here-actually, one of us rushes while the other tugs, and it's not always the same one doing the tugging, either. Finally, we remind ourselves that we'll be back later, and we need to get going to see more before the crowds get bad.

We're right by it, and the park is now open; let's go see what the Land looks like. Oh, man, what a line. I know the line moves quickly, but this is ridiculous. We both decide we've been on the boats the last 2 trips, we can give this up. We take a quick break in the Farmer's Market to get some caffeine and a little chocolate for me. The Millennium Dessert here is really good-kind of like tiramisu without the coffee (to which I'm allergic, so I'm happy to have chocolate mousse with sponge cake and NO coffee!).

We head over to the Living Seas, and there's a bit of a group there. Looks like more school kids. Oh, no!!! They're really not bad, and the line is moving right along, so we go ahead. Good thing, too-when we get to the manatee area, it's feeding time! Art loves manatees, and we didn't get to see them yesterday at Sea World, so we spend some time watching and taking pictures here. They probably won't come out well, but Art has to try. Before we leave, we glance through the gift shop, but don't see anything we want-except another pin!

Out of the Seas, we head back across to UE to see what's up with Ellen. The next show is just 15 minutes away, and I really don't want to wait in the sun, but Art loves the new show, so we stop. He remembers seeing something about a butterfly release soon, so he goes to ask when & where while I hold our spots. In a minute or 2, he calls me on the radio and tells me to leave UE, the release is right away in the butterfly garden. He directs me there, and just as I walk in and find him, here comes someone carrying 2 glass-and-wood "conservatory"-styled boxes filled with butterflies of all shapes & sizes. She asks if anyone has a birthday today. No one? Anything? I say, "Our 5th anniversary is tomorrow, if that's close enough." She smiles and says, "Sold. Come here," to me, and I get to help release the butterflies!

After we're done, I'm really hungry, and the fast food places are packed, plus nothing looks really good. Let's go back to the UK and get some fish & chips. We do, & we're seated almost immediately inside, near the back of the restaurant. Our server, Peter, is just as wonderful as Paula was the other night for dinner here. My fish & chips is just wonderful-the fish is a huge chunk, perfectly cooked, and chips are okay, too. Art was kind of thinking a sausage would be good, so I remind him he could try the bangers & mash. He does, and loves it. He said it was really a great meal, and we'll definitely be back at the Rose & Crown, probably each time we're in WDW. Art finishes everything on his plate but the garnish, so when Peter comes by for the plates, he jokingly asks if we need anything boxed (I have maybe 4 chips left, myself). Art says, "Sure, but don't bother boxing the garnish. I don't need it." When Peter returns with the check, he has a plastic box with Art's garnish in it! He grins when we start laughing, and then when I pay & start to get up to follow Art outside, Peter tells me, "Now, don't leave your watercress. That stuff's expensive!" I tell him I think he was probably a terror when he was a child, and he lifts his head, gives me a VERY smug grin, and says, "Oh, no, not me. I was an angel." What a server!

Time to head back to Future World to pick up the rest of our tour. We get FastPasses to TT, and go through Innoventions. Rotten children won't let me play at the Sega area. I don't like video games much, anyway, but the Bass Fisher looks kind of fun. This one brat is hogging the game. The monitor says he's been playing for 17 minutes, and when one game finishes, he turns around, looks me right in the eye, and then starts a new game. Fine. I go find a bench and wait for Art to finish his auto racing games.

Innoventions is fun, especially sending e-mail postcards and videos, and we still need to go play in the Imagination pavilion. I kind of want one of those silly WDW photos, where they superimpose your picture over one of the castle, or put you in a group with Pooh & his friends. Oh, there's Ice Station Cool-can't miss that! It may just be a big Coke ad, but we love tasting all the different flavors. As we walk into the icy blast at the entrance (the snow room), we see a teenage girl with half an inch of ice on top of her head. She says she's been standing there for 45 minutes! I guess she likes the cold!

The international flavors are: Smart Watermelon (China-I like this one-kind of like Jolly Ranchers, but more refreshing! Art says it's fair at best), Kinley Lemon (Israel-I also like this one, as does Art), Guarana Tai, diet (Brazil-what is this stuff? Tastes kind of medicinal-nasty!!), Vegitabeta (Japan-better than it sounds. I was afraid it would be like bubbly V-8, but it's sweeter-wouldn't buy it, but can try it), Lift Apple (Mexico-our favorite, hands down-yummy, carbonated cider-taste, also very refreshing), Mezzo Mix (Germany-supposed to be a mix of many flavors, but sort of like a flattish Pepsi), Beverly (Italy-an apperitif-bitter lemon-but not that bitter. It's actually okay, just has a bit of a bitter aftertaste), and Krest Ginger Ale (Mozambique-just ginger ale). As we leave, Art notices that you can buy anything in the world with the Coca-Cola logo, in multiplicities of languages, but not a single thing with Diet Coke (or any other Coke product) labels. Diet Coke is his drink of choice, but if one did not know, it would seem Coca Cola creates only Coke for the US, then these other flavors for other countries. Weird. Once I get to Innoventions, I can't decide which photo background I prefer, so I never get one. We have fun playing with things, but we're both VERY disappointed with the CD stations. We were really thinking about splurging on a CD, maybe even 2, but the song selection is not very good at all. The music from Splash Mountain is all various instrumental interpretations of the songs, with nary a single piece from the actual ride! We really want a copy of "How Do You Do?" but we certainly can't get it here. How short-sighted of Disney! We would have happily forked over the bucks for a CD, but one of the main songs from one of the most popular rides is not even available!

We head over to TT, where we discover that they're having to crack down on people who try to sneak in on the FP (or single rider) line. An announcement is made that if anyone in the single rider line asks to sit with a particular person, he or she will be escorted to the end of the stand-by (long) line. I laugh to Art about this, and the near-by CM confirmed that this has been a real problem, hence the announcement. He says, "We're not joking around about this. We really will throw a person out of the ride!" Wow. We also saw an older couple get turned away from the FP gate-they seemed a bit lost, so we think they got in the wrong line by mistake. Poor people! Not everyone reads signs or maps well, but we certainly don't know what else Disney could do. I just feel sorry for them. They stood in line (even just a few minutes is long when you get turned away) for nothing.

After TT, it's nearly dinner time. For once, maybe we'd better head over early, instead of late! We never did get around to Ellen, or the Making of Me, but I guess we got to do Innoventions this time, and we usually don't spare the time for all the interactive things in Future World. WDW is certainly a place of trade-offs!

We meet the 'rents outside of Chefs de France and the guys go off to look at the menu or something. MIL tells me that they've been puttering around Germany, Italy, and France, mostly doing wine tastings (FIL loves wine, especially German wine). They didn't get to Epcot until about 3, so they really haven't been here long, and they really enjoyed their day of rest. They think maybe they'll come back to Epcot tomorrow, too, but they aren't sure yet. I tell her we're definitely heading back to MGM, because we missed all the tours, and we want to ride RnRC and ToT again. She just shakes her head in disbelief-not only that we want to ride such things, but also that we've been here in Epcot since 7:30 this morning, with no breaks.

Dinner is okay, but nowhere nearly as good as it was 5 years ago. The menu is much reduced, and we feel it's a definite change for the worse. I'm guessing we won't be back, unless we see a better menu. Then again, the restaurant was really crowded and loud, too. We're used to some noise at Disney restaurants, but this is crazy-so loud we can't talk comfortably. Our server is cute, and winks at me when I practice my French, but he's not very fast. Of course, the restaurant is packed, and they look really understaffed. What a pity. We're seated in the covered porch area, and we watch one of the living statues for a while, then we can watch most of the Tapestry of Nations from our table, too. Art & FIL have some sort of beef rib dish, MIL gets lamb, and I get a pork chop Cordon Bleu. The pork is extremely dry, which is really disappointing. We all want to try dessert (we're certainly not very full-we're none of us very impressed with the food). Our server suggests one of us try his favorite, the profiteroles. They're cream puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. That's mine! MIL tries the chocolate mousse cake with vanilla sauce, and Art & FIL get the crème brule'e. We're all VERY happy with our desserts-the profiteroles are marvelous. The chocolate sauce is very rich & full of cocoa-flavor. Hurray! The evening is saved!

Illuminations has begun, and I warn the folks that if we don't hurry, we're going to be caught in another herd, similar to what we experienced after Fantasmic! the other night. They really don't like that idea, so when we leave Chefs de France, we trot as quickly as we are all able, through the crowd, and to the front gate. We make it to Future World just before the end of the fireworks, so we're able to slow down a little and still be among the first to the parking lot. Another lovely day! Tomorrow is catch-up day, and we're eating separately. Art & I are celebrating our 5th anniversary, and the 'rents thought we might like to have a meal by ourselves. We have seatings at the California Grill and they've decided on Olivia's for dinner. We decide to meet at the Town Hall in MK to watch MSEP together-with the warning that if we get caught up in a nice dinner, we may decide to watch the 2d parade instead, so they shouldn't worry. The folks say that's fine-they'll look for us, but if we don't meet up, we'll see everyone for Sun. brunch with Mary Poppins! So, we all head back to our rooms for showers and sleep.

Day Eight: Saturday, May 13, 2000: Catch-Up and Main Street Electrical Parade

Today is not only a catch-up day, and the only day we can possibly watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, it's also our 5th anniversary, so we're really in a great mood when we wake up. We have no plans to meet the 'rents until 8:45 tonight, so we're on our own all day! We know we want to hit MGM again, so we need to be there around 8:30 or so. We decide to have breakfast at Boatwright's for lack of a better idea. We both get the hunter breakfast, which is good, but the service is lousy. Cross this one off our list! The food isn't good enough to constantly wait for tea & water refills all the time.

We finish up and head for MGM. We go grab a FastPass for RnRC, then go hit the Backlot Tour while we're waiting. As we're watching the first part, where they show us how they do special water effects, I tell Art, "Hey, we should have come in earlier and told them it's our anniversary. I bet they would have let us drench each other!" He agrees, but he doesn't seem to mind that we're watching, not participating. On the tram, we head right for the left side, the really wet side. I've never been drowned during the flash flood, so I'm not too worried. Catastrophe Canyon doesn't do more than sprinkle me this time, either (although I do take the precaution of scooting over to the right a little just before the big flood hits). When we head off the tram into the exhibit, Art goes nuts. Two of the actual cars used in one of his all-time favorite movies, "The Great Race," are on display. He of course has to shoot pics of both the Leslie Special and the Hannibal 8, so I wander through the rest of the exhibits waiting for him.

It's time to go ride the RnRC-looks like we'll be criss-crossing MGM again today, since our 2 must-rides are in one corner and all the stuff we missed last time happens to be at other ends of the park. We go get FastPasses for ToT and ride RnRC. This time, we shop, and Art wants a RnRC shirt. No problem! It's nearly time for our ToT passes, so I suggest we go to the Tower shop while we wait. Art likes this idea, and meets me there. I see a couple of shirts I like, but since I bought so much in the Villains Shop the other day, I decide against them. I still have my "I suggest you take the stairs" t-shirt from last year, after all! Of course, having a Maleficent t-shirt from last year didn't keep me from buying a new one this year, but I have to draw the line somewhere. Art tells me he thinks I'm going to be sorry I didn't buy the shirts, but I hold fast.

After another ride on ToT, we still need to see the Animation Tour, and we haven't even hit the Star Wars area yet, the main reason we had to come back today. We decide we'd better go check it out, before we get too exhausted to have fun. The place is packed-there are Jedi lessons for kids right in front of the At-At, some guy dressed up to look like Mark Hammill in the first movie, 3 aliens from the cantina scene, and Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca. Man, this guy is huge! I always sort of assumed that the Chewie suit had extensions on the hands & head, but no, this guy is really that tall! And his hands are some of the largest I've ever seen! Wow. We hit the shop, looking for a birthday present for my younger brother, who is a real SW nut. The Star Wars Weekends t-shirt is really cool, so that's what he's getting. Art buys a couple of special edition pins & heads out to have them signed, but Mayhew is taking a break and his assistants have closed the autograph line. Art snaps a few pictures, and then we're ready to head for the animation tour. We're kind of in a time bind, since I want to go to Downtown Disney and get Buzz Aldrin's autograph for my dad. Aldrin is at the 2 Rs bookstore just between 2-4 this afternoon, and since Dad worked at NASA from June 1966 to sometime in early 1968 (I was born in the Cocoa Beach hospital), he was there when Aldrin made his first flight. Aldrin is signing his new book, so I know what Dad's getting for Father's Day!

However, this means we cannot possibly do everything we want to do. We got to ride RnRC & ToT again, and we made the Backlot Tour, but we can't fit the animation tour, the Making of Star Wars, and the Backstage Pass tour all in before 3. We decide the animation tour is more important, since that's where we can learn about upcoming movies! We can do that and still hit the Making of Star Wars, which we REALLY want to see! Besides, the Backstage Pass was really great last year with 101 Dalmations, and we don't think doing just TV shows will be as much fun for us. Maybe we're wrong, but we really don't want to miss Buzz Aldrin! So, we head off to see the animation tour, and the next one starts at 2:30-it's a 40 minute tour, they say. Well, we can make it, we'll just have to rush right out of the park. We have just enough time for Star Wars before the animation tour starts. Star Wars was pretty cool, but we wish they had had more of a "Backstage Pass" feel to it, with movie sets, costumes, and such. This was just a movie, which we'll probably see on some Collectors Edition or Director's Cut version of the DVD! But it was good-it explained how Star Wars I was created, from scribbles on a yellow pad, to computer animation, to casting. It really was interesting.

It's just time for the animation tour, so we head in. The tour is fun, and we do learn about the next 2 big animated movies to hit. One is set in Mayan or Aztec Mexico, it looks like, and one is set in Hawaii or Polynesia. The tour guide tells us (just us, because we ask her!) that she can't say much, but she can point to the story boards for the Hawaii-Polynesia film. Then she tells us that there's a website, http://www.animationartists.com , that has some sort of connection to a leak at Disney. It has quite a bit of information on the upcoming movies, she says, so I make a note of the URL for future reference.

We get through the tour and decide to skip the video at the end-we enjoy the "History of Disney"-sort of compilation that they show, but we really need to get to the 2 Rs! So, we take off through MGM for the last time this trip : ( and drive to Downtown Disney. I seem to remember that 2 Rs is on the far east side, so we park as close as we can and head in. We make it by about 3:40, and there's not much of a crowd at all. I purchase a book and go have it autographed-I chat just a bit with Mr. Aldrin, hoping that maybe he'll offer to personalize the autograph for Dad, but he doesn't. I don't really mind, it just would have been fun, since they were both at NASA the same time-it's not like they knew each other! Dad was in Telemetry, not where he worked directly with the astronauts. He'll enjoy just getting an autographed book, with a copy of the picture Art took of me with Buzz.

So, we made it and we have the autograph. Now, we're starving! We don't want McDonald's, so we decide to give Wolfgang Puck's Express a try. Man, they're closed! How short-sighted! Nearly all restaurants in shopping centers at home are open all day, they don't close between lunch & dinner! So now what do we do? We decide to head back to the hotel-we're so close to the food court, we can go grab a snack of some sort and rest a little before dinner. We have PS at the California Grill for our anniversary-which is why the 'rents aren't meeting us for dinner. They thought maybe we'd like to celebrate by ourselves tonight. They're such wonderful folks! So, we'll try to catch them at 8:45 in City Hall to watch MSEP with them.

After a rest, we head off to the Contemporary. We decide we'll just park the car here, and take the monorail to & from MK tonight. It's certainly as easy as parking in the MK lot! Our PS are for 7:40, which should make it easy to have a nice meal and just get to the MK before MSEP starts at 9. We head in and are seated right away, on the far side of the lake from MK-we have a lovely view of the old Discovery Island, and we can just see the boat docks for Ft. Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge. This is really nice, and since the MK is west of the Contemp., the blinds are down on that side of the Grill anyway. We look at our menus, and I am really not happy with the selection. I realize this is "California" dining, with a new menu each day, but this doesn't look very good, really. Well, the smoked pork looks okay, and I like polenta, so I'll try that. Art decides to try the rotisserie chicken. I forget and order iced tea, which I have to send back. WDW is a Nestea affiliate, and I really dislike Nestea, even brewed. It just doesn't taste right to me, so I haven't had much decent iced tea this trip! (Pebbles was good, though. And I had good hot tea for breakfast because I went to the grocery store and bought some Lipton!) The server very nicely takes the tea back and removes it from our bill. Our food comes, and it's really just okay. My smoked pork is WAY too smoky-pork has such a light flavor, and this tastes of nothing but smoke. I kind of think the CA Grill may use mesquite, too, which is really too strong a flavor for pork (remember, we're from Kansas City, where BBQing means smoking, not grilling!). Anyway, it's okay, but even the polenta is super-smoky. I finish the meal, but I certainly don't want to come back. Desserts don't even look good, so we actually have one of our cheapest Disney meals here at the Grill!

We get done by 8:30 and take the monorail around to the MK gate. As we're sitting down, Art says something about how cool it was that we ate dinner with Chewbacca-what? I didn't see him! Art says, "Yeah, don't you remember I said he was sitting behind you?" I explain that I heard him say there was a really big guy wearing a Chewbacca t-shirt at the Grill, but I didn't realize it was Peter Mayhew! Art says, "His wife, or girlfriend, or whoever was there too-she had on a different Star Wars shirt!" Bummer-I missed them!

On the way, I tell Art I'd really rather skip the first parade. We never got to ride Pooh, and I think maybe the lines won't be so bad if we go at 9, because most of the people with kids will watch the 1st parade so they can get to bed. Art likes this idea, but he's worried about his folks. He says we have to try to meet them, so we head in to the biggest crowd we've seen this whole trip. It seems that everyone is here for MSEP, since it's the 1st time in May it's being shown. We go to City Hall and start calling on the radios, but there's no answer. It's just a little before 8:45, and Art says we have to wait at least until then, since that's when we're supposed to meet the 'rents. 8:45 comes around, and still no 'rents, and no answer on the radios. Okay, fine, we tried. We're going to Pooh!

Ever see the movies about salmon going upstream? We struggle against a huge stream of humanity trying to get a good viewing position on Main St., and we finally get to the corner and decide it's much faster to cut around through Tomorrowland than it will be to try to get through the Castle right now. Off we go, and we trot around to Pooh in only a few minutes. The line is still 30 minutes, but we decide it's worth it. We really want to see what this ride is like! We start chatting with an upper-middle-aged couple (is that PC enough for everyone?) behind us, and the minutes just fly. The woman says she's just hooked up to the internet, so I give her my e-mail address and the URL for RADP, and her husband laughs that he knows what she'll be doing when they get home! We actually end up in a honey pot with them, and we all enjoy the ride. It's cute, and we'll probably want to ride it some other time when we're at WDW-it's not amazing, but it is fun.

It's about 9:30 when we get out of Pooh, so we decide to trot down Main St. to see if we can still get a decent viewing spot for the fireworks & MSEP. Plus, we still need to get 3 sets of ears for our servers at TGIFriday's back home-they know we're in Orlando, but they don't know we're bringing ears back for them! We finally find the shop where they embroider names on Mickey ears, and while I get the ears, Art goes to get something for us to drink. The line at the cart is really long, and he radios me to ask what I want-lemonade or water? I tell him both. I'll drink the lemonade now & have the water during the parade! I pay for our ears and Art still hasn't made it to the cart, so I go join him. Main St. is a madhouse! We end up just standing in the middle of Main St. to watch the fireworks; I've never seen Tinkerbelle do her thing, so I'm really glad we're here for this. The fireworks are beautiful, but we don't really have a place to watch MSEP. Art suggests we hike back to Frontierland and watch from there. I don't really want to walk, but he wants to get some good pictures and needs to be at the front of the crowd, so off we go.

We make it in short order, and although the benches and rockers along the street are all full, there's a place on the rope that is empty, so we sit on the street to wait for the parade to start. Of course, since we're tired, MSEP is late tonight! Even allowing for the fact that it starts near the front gate and works its way back to Frontierland, it's late. I'm really exhausted, but when the lights finally dim and we hear the music, I'm alive again. I've never seen this-I've never seen any of the night-time parades-so I'm really excited. Art is worried that maybe he's talked too much about it and I'll be disappointed, but I'm not. Not at all. What a wonderful parade! The floats are beautiful. Oh, look, there's the Cheshire cat, and he fades out of sight-except for his grin! And when Pete & Elliot show up, Elliot is breathing steam, and just as they get past us, Elliot disappears! Pete (a young woman) kind of slaps at Elliot's neck, saying, "Elliot!" He of course reappears. It's really fun-I'm so glad this happens right in front of us!

The parade finally ends, and now begins the long hike back to the front with all the thousands of people. At least this time we're all going the same way! We're done with the parks, so with a bit of a sniffle, we pick up the monorail to head to the Contemp. & get our car. Good-bye, Magic Kingdom! (See you next trip-whenever that is.)

Tomorrow is our pack-up and leave day : ( but at least we have breakfast at 1900 Park Fare to end our trip. We can sleep in a little, pack our things, and head to breakfast-our seatings are at 10, so we'll have plenty of time to sleep after this late night!

Day Nine: Sunday, May 14, 2000: Departure Day : (

We wake up and start packing, since we have to check out this morning. We really could stay another week or two, we think, but it's just not in the budget-financial or time! So, we get ready to head out, and we check the door. Sure enough, there's the express check-out envelope, which Art takes to his dad. FIL is really pleased with this idea-he's never been anywhere that prints out the entire itemized receipt from his stay! He says it looks fine, and so we don't have to check out. We just pack the car & disappear! Off we go to the "Flo" for breakfast.

I think I'll just park myself, since the valets look a little busy, but self parking is way around the parking lot and then back out the gate and across the street! Forget this! When we go back through and get to the valets, they don't look nearly so busy-just 2 minutes' time has really cleared out a crowd! So, a very nice man takes my name and my keys and tells me to enjoy my breakfast, and we all head in. We check in at the podium and receive a goliath pager-this thing is the size of a CD Walkman, and has flashing red lights all over it. It looks like I should be able to call Mars on it! While we wait, we look all over for the mouse hole that is supposedly somewhere near the bird cage in the lobby, but we don't find it. Art even goes to ask at the Info desk, and the nice CM there is intrigued. She starts calling people, and her boss comes and tells her to look in the "Hidden Mickey" area of her computer, but there's nothing. Perhaps it's just a "what-if" rumor? So, we start back across the lobby, just in time for the Walkman-pager to start flashing and talking to us-it says, "Your table is ready. Please check in at the desk." It repeats this while we walk to the podium, flashing the whole time! What a wild pager.

The restaurant is even noisier than last year, I think, and MIL comments on how loud it is. Right about that time, the calliope starts, so I laugh and tell her that the conversational noise isn't enough!

The server is really good, and we get plenty of tea & orange juice this morning. Breakfast is buffet, with made-to-order omelet stations. Yum! I get an omelet, then go grab a cheese blintz with some blueberry sauce. Double yum! The omelet is good, but the blintz is wonderful! (Art says his omelet is fantastic. Seems he wasn't even going to get one, but as he went by a different omelet station than the one where I got my omelet, the chef asked him what kind he'd like. The man was so friendly, Art had to go ahead & get one! He said the chef was one of the best he'd ever seen, too-hardly ever used his spatula!) While we eat, the Mad Hatter comes around-he's just perfect, too, and I've never seen him out and about before today. He stops for a photo, but he doesn't sign my book; I think maybe he doesn't see it. I'll catch him in a bit. There really aren't many characters this morning. Mary Poppins is of course here, and so is Alice, but they and the Hatter are it. Oh, there's Mickey! Yay! Mickey comes over for hugs, photos, and an autograph, and when he leaves, Art leans in to everyone and says, "Mickey's a girl! I know a female hip when I hug one!" We all get a kick out of his comment, especially when he admits it was a very nice hip he had his hand on!

We all enjoy our breakfast (Art says he thinks this is the best breakfast in the World) and head out to the car. We've decided to finish the trip by heading to Downtown Disney for some shopping, and Art & I want to try DisneyQuest. We drop the 'rents off at the east side of DD for some shopping, and tell them we'll meet them at 2 at Ghirardelli's. It's nearly noon now, but we have our MKC card and our AmEx, so we'll get a discount on DQ.

We go park in the west lot and trot in to DQ, where we get a discount that amounts to a child's ticket for each of us-it's about %20 off the regular price, so that's good. I really don't think there will be much here for me, since Art likes video games much more than I do, but I'm sure I'll find something to do for a couple of hours. We go in and get oriented, and decide to take the raft cruise first. We get in line and the guy needs a party of 2 to fill a raft, so off we go. We're in the front, and the couple in the back doesn't seem to know how to paddle. We end up working really hard, and we still hit canyon walls sometimes. It's fun, though.

We head over to Agrabah to see what the flying carpets are like. We both think this looks fun, so we get in line to get our "safety helmets and goggles" (virtual reality helmets/goggles). Once we get on the cycles we ride, we head off, but this VR stuff kind of hurts my head! We don't do very well saving Agrabah, and when we hand in our equipment, Art says his head really hurts, and his stomach is very upset. My stomach is kind of queasy, too, so we're not going to be doing this thing again! We go find some quiet things to do while we recover. I really enjoy the various photo-type stations, where I can change my face or paint a cartoon scene. I head up to the Cyber Cafe to see what it's like, but my e-mail server is down! Bummer. When I come back, Art tells me I HAVE to try the songmaker. We go in to a booth, and I pick out a song style (pop, country, hard rock, latin, etc.), a singer, and then a song title. After this, the singer starts singing & I pick out song lyrics. What fun! We actually make a couple of songs (there isn't a line outside the door), but we decide we don't want to spend $10 for one song on a CD. It was fun, though, and my first song was really pretty good! Art now decides his stomach is okay, he wants to build a roller-coaster, so I go watch him. I'm not riding the thing, though! He can come find me at the "paint" stations again! He comes out laughing, saying he purposefully built a fairly tame coaster, but there was one inversion. I ask him how they do that, and he says, "They invert you!" Seems the simulator actually turns you upside down, so you have to clean out your pockets before the attendants let you in! Art loved it, though, and I think maybe next time, I'll build a wimpy coaster myself to try it out!

It's about time to leave, so we have just enough time for a walk-through of the arcade area. This looks like a place Art could spend hours-next time, I'm going to have to spend more time in the Create Zone so he can play old video games. Nothing is very busy, though, so early afternoon seems a good time to be here in DQ. We really hadn't expected to have this much fun at DQ-I especially didn't think I'd find anything to do-but we had a blast! We'll definitely do this again.

Time to head out-we still want a little time in the colossal Disney Store. After all, they might have pins! Of course they do-Art has to be careful not to buy too many. We pick up a couple more antenna toppers, too, since we've never seen them anywhere else, and what if we should lose ours somehow? As we're finishing up, Art sees his mom near the door that leads out next to Ghirardelli's. She had sent FIL over to wait for us there, but she wanted to stay in the store, since Ghirardelli's was really packed. I head over, and after I try the 1st door, I head into the crowd at the 2nd. FIL isn't here-oh, there he is, near the 3rd door! This place has too many doors! I grab him and we head back to the others, and then to the car. Time to leave WDW for another while. It's been fun, but we have a plane to catch.

Dollar is super-easy and super-fast about checking the car in, and we're in the airport itself in no time to check our bags. As we're in line at the baggage check, I realize that Southwest is beginning to hand out boarding passes NOW. Oh, no, I forgot that we needed to be at the airport not 1 but 2 hours early, so we could get low-numbered boarding passes. Phooey. MIL tells me not to worry. We're at the airport early enough to get seats, and she doesn't really care where she sits! I calm down-she's right, after all. Art & I go on ahead of the folks to the gate. Of course, it's at the very end of the concourse! We get our passes-up in the hundreds-and begin waiting again. Art heads off to find a coke, and I'm kind of hungry, so I need to find some food. Once the 'rents get to the gate, they can help watch our stuff and I can go back to Burger King and grab something to eat.

MIL & FIL are here, and they're happy to guard our carry-ons while we're getting lunch/ drinks/etc. The BK is an absolute mess, so I barely make it back to the waiting area at the gate before they start boarding the pre-boarding passengers. Wow-I scarf down most of my burger, and we load up. When they call the final group, Art & I start down the plane's aisle to discover that there are VERY few seats left, and no 2 together yet. We keep going, and finally, in the very last row, the whole row is open. The 'rents aren't with us any more, so I guess they found seats they liked. I know they boarded behind us, so I'm not worried about them making it home! We arrange ourselves and wait for take-off, which comes pretty quickly. This is a direct flight home, so we'll be back about 6:30, Kansas City time (Central).

The flight goes well, and the flight attendants (and pilot, too) are hilarious! I've never heard so many smart-alec remarks from a professional flight crew! When they're explaining how to use the oxygen masks, and start the speech about traveling with children, they say, "If you're traveling with small children, we're sorry." Then they go on to explain that you should put the mask on yourself first, and only then help your children! The entire flight is like this-the pilot tells us that 2 of our 3 flight attendants are the best in the company, but of course he doesn't tell us which 2! (We think they're all 3 tops, FYI.) I don't think I've ever enjoyed a flight so much.

When we land in KC, MIL, Art, & I go to get the bags while FIL goes to pick up the car. We all go out to the sidewalk to meet him, and here he comes. Wait, there he goes! Oh, here he comes again. Seems he felt that something was wrong with the car, so he was paying attention to that, not to where the SW gates were. So, we all load in, and head home. We pull in our driveway before 7:30 and unload the bags. The kitties are EXTREMELY glad to see us, and we go check to see if our house-sitter has left any notes for us. We're home-when do we get to go back?

Now it's time to start work on the TR and start planning our next trip!

Thanks for coming along for the ride-please feel free to e-mail me with any comments, questions, and so on. I'd love to go into more detail anywhere you want!!!

Stay tuned for the upcoming website. As soon as I find a host I like (free, lots of room, easy to find-you know, perfect!), we're going to start our own WDW site, with lots of pictures! Until then, if you have something particular you'd like to see, e-mail me. If I have a picture of it, I'll send it on to you.

Elizabeth Smock