Oct 15 Epcot, Ursula's birthday!

Well we had heard much of the crowds that turn out for Food and Wine, especially on the weekends, but it was Ursula's birthday and we had ADR's at the Coral Reef. We decided to risk it in the morning and head home or hop parks after lunch if the crowds got too bad. 


Doctoring my poor feet before we start our day's journey


We took the friendship boats to the International Gateway. Ursula says “LOVE the boats and will miss them sorely. It was beautiful cruising by the fancy hotels and Boardwalk. Never did make the 1/2 mile walk to Epcot as the boats were just too easy (and easier on the feet).” Too true-- we wanted to save as many steps as possible because we were only a few days in and already getting pretty bad blisters.


The Boardwalk




Lighthouse at the Yacht Club, and a reflection off the glass, sorry.



Messing about with the settings on my camera. I like how my necklace and purple hair are accented



I was still messing with the color but I like the way the Boardwalk turned out



Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club



The dock at the International Gateway



I like the plant...uh...sculpture as seen from the dock



The only good picture I have of a friendship boat



Saw this fun "tourist" on our way in and it made me laugh.


Having learned my lesson from Animal Kingdom the day before, I took plenty of pictures of the World Showcase sans crowds as we walked through the closed part of the park toward Future World. We got some fun pictures of the F&W displays. 


United Kingdom is so quaint and picturesque without a crowd!



Looks like a fairy tale village







Love how inviting it all is!





During my research I found out the phone numbers to these boxes, but we never called them



Mexico, across the lagoon






Morocco, across the lagoon



Ursula knows how to be interesting in a photo, whereas Stitch does not.



Love the shots of the Monorail and Spaceship Earth!



Trying to get Stitch to pose properly



Like this! I should have specified "Try to look happy!"



Ursula knows how to look happy! 



I'm pretty good at it, too



Walking toward Future World there is a large cranberry bog. Why?





The game plan was for me to get Soarin' fastpasses then meet up with the fam over at Test Track. On the way over I couldn't help but to try to get some monorail pictures as it zoomed by, and a few other interesting things. I also got distracted by a little squirrel.




Mosaic on the way into The Land


Fun balloons liven this place up


I'm interested in geology and art so this mosaic is really fascinating


Would have been better with a Monorail cruising through the picture but I couldn't wait for one


These kite things are new since we've been here. Kind of a cool effect.

I hadn't been in The Land building in 15 years was surprised that the FP booths were downstairs next to the entrance. Up to this point I had been very careful about choosing which line to get in for the fast passes, but here I made a fatal mistake and ended up behind a tour guide getting 1,000 passes. This seems like such a rude thing to me, I can't believe they are allowed to get so many at one time. I don't know how to solve this problem, but it seems like a 10 ticket cap per person would make things a little more balanced. You need 100 for all the brats in your group? Fine, go to another machine, stand in the line again, get the next 10 tickets. Standing at one machine for 20 minutes as you get them all and then count them all is just so irritating! I looked at the other machines and saw the same thing happening at each one-- tons of people lined up behind one guide who was getting a ticket for every man woman and child in the park.

By the time I finally got my three passes and hauled it over to Test Track almost half an hour had elapsed. I couldn't see my people anywhere and they weren't responding to my texts. I thought they had already gone in, choosing to go ahead with the 5 minute wait since I'd been gone so long and people were pouring in. I hovered outside the entrance for a few minutes, then finally went in. Just then I spotted my good old, trustworthy family walking toward the entrance from no-man's-land on the side of the building. Breathing a sigh of relief we entered the queue together and I told them of my harrowing experience with the tour guides. 









Misc. car stuff and auto shop setting. Didn't do much for us but was better than the movie!

This ride was being safety tested when we were last in WDW, but there was already some merch in the shops-- we bought an articulated goofy test dummy. It was still walled off in 1997, but you could hear the zooming car sounds as you walked by. I imagined it to be like Autopia only with faster cars, so that is what I was expecting as we joined the line. None of us are particularly into cars, so the theming here was pretty dull. The first part was ok, but by the time we were near the pre-show doors it was a total snooze fest. The pre-show was also stupid and went on way too long; the wait pre- peri- and post-show seemed much longer than the posted wait sign. The shoes that I wore all summer and were perfectly broken in had caused my pinky toes to blister horribly, and my heels were hurting too as we stood in line. Not fun. I know the others were experiencing foot pain too, but they are a lot more stoic than I am. So once we finally got seated I was relieved! The ride was okay. We liked the outside part and definitely had some smiles as we roared around, but overall we were unimpressed with Test Track. We didn't bother going on it again, mostly so as not to suffer through the terrible pre-show. 

Next up was a ride that Ursula was excited for-- Mission to Mars! 









Why are empty space suits so very creepy? 

I wasn't worried at all when I read reviews about the orange vs. green sides--I knew I'd be up for going in the orange side! Ursula had protected herself from motion sickness with a scopolamine patch and a klonopin for claustrophobia, and Stitch and I were au natural. But as we entered the queue the more warning signs I saw, and I started to get more and more anxious. Not in a panic-attack way, but in the “maybe this wasn't such a good idea,” creeping dread way that slowly comes over a person as they walk alone into a dark basement. I asked the stranger guy that shared our capsule if he'd ridden before and he said he had ridden over 100 times. I looked at his face and I believed him. Getting shut in the capsule was fine. It was small, sure, but that wasn't too concerning. Stitch and I messed with all the fun levers and buttons, but once we started moving I had to just focus straight ahead of me like the instructions said to do. Oh dear. I'm actually experiencing a mild sensation of queasiness right now as I write this. I broke out in a cold sweat and kept swallowing hard.

Doing my little job was a quick distraction but I did it at the wrong time, and the guy next to me goes “great, now you've done it, we're all dead!” It was meant to be funny but I got that “I effed up” feeling as I tried to brush it off. My body's chemistry had taken over and I wasn't rational anymore. I just wanted the ride to be over. I'm not sure if I would have pulled an emergency stop cord (is there one available in this ride? Now I can't remember), after all I didn't want to ruin other people's good time, but I wanted it to stop and I wanted out. But there was no option. I had to hang on. We had almost landed and I felt like I might honestly lose it. And since I'd never been on the ride before I didn't know what to expect or how long it would go on. Should I reach for the vomit bag? Just hang on Danger, just another minute or so. And We landed! I was so glad when we got to Mars and the ride was over! If we had to turn around and do the same thing as we returned to Earth I would have been a goner. I haven't actually barfed because of motion sickness in forever, maybe since I was a toddler and Mum took me on a road trip, but I was dangerously close this time. Too close. I will not be riding this again!

Ursula LOVED it! She was really thrilled! She is a space lover and it would be a dream come true to do a space mission. She was so happy at the experience. “I panicked a little internally when they shut me up in that coffin....er...spacecraft. As soon as they turned on the viewscreen I was ok.”

Stitch said she could feel the G forces on her face and seemed to really enjoy it, but she didn't ever feel like going on it again. I wanted to sit down for a while immediately, but we had to move fast through the noisy arcade section. We were waylaid by a machine that would send us a postcard from Mission Space though, and then again in the dump shop where a CM dressed as Darth Vader was harassing... I mean entertaining... people as they streamed out. I tried to get a couple pics of Darth and Stitch but they didn't look too great.




For some reason we lingered in the store for a while and possibly someone even purchased a shirt or something. I just wanted to sit down in the fresh air and maybe have some water. No benches in the shop and I didn't want to complain too much and ruin Ursula's fun on her big day.

We finally got outside and shared a cinnamon soft pretzel and a regular salty pretzel with cheese dipping sauce between us. As we were sitting there a janitorial CM came up and chatted with us for a few minutes about our food. There was popcorn all over the ground at our feet, and I wanted him to know we hadn't made the mess. He didn't mention the popcorn as he swept it up, instead pushing the variety of food over in the World Showcase. He outlined a few of his favorites and even told us the prices. He clearly thought we were wasting out time and money on pretzels when there was shrimp on the barbie to be had. After we parted company we discussed that he seemed a little strange. Nice, but strange. Ursula's comment in her running trip report was “got lectured by an oddball floorsweeper CM about how we really should be eating shrimp on the barbie from the food booths and not pretzels.” So clearly I am not the only one who remembered the event this way.

It was nearing time for our reservation at Coral Reef so we made our way over there. We had time to do the Nemo ride first and loaded up into the giant clam shells after a brief wait in line. When walking through all the empty switchbacks in the queues I am ever so glad to be skipping the line that would fill them up. Especially for a ride like Nemo. It was okay, but I wouldn't wait 45 minutes to see it. The only thing I really remember about it is the clamshell seats. Now those are cool! 




Love the anemone lights
(my pic didn't turn out)

Coral Reef was just opening its doors as we went inside to check in. I spoke with the CM briefly about mother's 50th birthday and we were granted the wish of being seated in the first row right next to the tank. I was impressed not only with the giant tank but also the layout of the restaurant. It was much nicer than I had imagined it (think leaky basement with cement floors). I read complaints of a fishy or damp smell but I didn't notice any of that. It was lovely. 


Even the check-in desk is perfectly themed!


Pic from disneyfoodblog that shows the dining room



You can see we got the best seats!



The shark was pretty fast and I never did get a clear shot of him, even using my gorillapod.



The low lighting was tricky to deal with when trying to photograph stuff. We loved the place though!



The shark came by several times and we saw plenty of fish. It was great being so close, and since it was early in the day the place wasn't completely filled. We didn't have kids pushing behind us to get closer to the tank or anything like that. I set up my gorillapod and got some decent pics of the tank.

Our server was very nice and seemed amused but not rude about our odd dining manner. We ordered boozy drinks for me and Mum, and Z got a Buzz Lightyear drink with the light up figurine. I asked if I could have a light up figure too and he obliged me with a Tinkerbell! Cool! Then we ordered a few appetizers to share, skipped the entrees, and ordered a few desserts to share. We had crab cakes that were to die for, fried shrimp, and lobster bisque, all very tasty. Then we moved right along to the chocolate wave, cheesecake Napoleon with berries, and Bailey's and Jack Daniels mousse. Everything was very good! Stitch and I had discussed that we were going to pay the bill as our gift to Mum on her birthday, and it ended up being quite the happy surprise for her! I urged Ursula to get another drink or something but she held off at one. 


My drink looks like the pina colava, which was as delicious as it looks. See my glowing Tinkerbell?



Am thinking this might have been a Godiva Chocolate Martini. Not 100% sure though.



Baileys and Jack Daniel’s Mousse



Cheesecake Napoleon with berry compote



The chocolate wave with raspberry sorbet, yumm!



The sea turtle finally showed up as we were leaving! 


We deliberately planned to skip the entrees so that we would have a bit of room to sample some of the F&W booth morsels on our way out of the park. Plus we really wanted to be able to enjoy the desserts, and after apps and a meal there is just never enough room for dessert. So the plan all along was to leave after lunch, but we just couldn't resist going to see Figment first, and there was no line. Though the show has changed a lot since we saw it last with Dreamfinder, we still enjoyed it. Figment is adorable and we had fun playing the games and stuff after we got off the ride. We even got one of the fun cheesy pictures of the three of us riding in the front of the monorail! I decided it was time to do a little shopping as Ursula put in the order for our photos, so I bought a sunglasses case and my first pin of the trip: an old fashioned TV set with a lenticular Mickey Mouse club logo on it. I took full advantage of the premium annual passholder's 20% discount, too! You better believe we worked that discount everywhere we could, it saved us hundred of dollars over the course of our trip. 


You can see Figment's playground place was mobbed.



Stitch and I goofed around with all the games and things



It was certainly aimed at a younger audience, but Stitch still had fun.





I love the "futuristic" stylings of the pretzel cart. Ah Epcot retroland!


It ended up that the photos took kind of a long time to print, so we went next door to see the Captain Eo show in the meantime. My eyes still didn't like the 3D glasses and I ended up snoozing though much of the movie, even though I was trying desperately to stay awake. I thought we'd get back and see it again but we never had the chance. After picking up the photos and exchanging the pin I'd just bought for one that wasn't broken we were all set to leave the park for the day. Except that we needed frozen Cokes. So we ended up at Club Cool, where I was happy to try all the different beverages they have there, even the Beverly. I told Stitchy she would really like it, too and gave her a cup to sample before she could read the description. Priceless!





Ursula and I got frozen Cokes, and then we headed next door to the ice cream shop that used to be called the Fountainview, and got Stitch an ice cream sundae. She's crazy because she won't drink caffeinated beverages of any kind, but walks around like a zombie all day when she hasn’t had 16 hours of sleep. So no frozen coke for Stitch, though she of all people really needed one. I chased away a guy who was loitering at the outside tables when I asked him if we could share his table. I didn't really mean to make him feel like he had to leave, but it was a big table and it was pretty busy. I'm used to restaurants with communal seating and small coffee shops where strangers share tables, but I guess not everybody is used to that. I felt extra bad after he scurried off and another table opened up with a better view of the fountain, so we didn't even use the table I'd chased him away from.




View of the fountain-- too bad we couldn't really hear the music very well


Mum got a Happy Birthday phone call from my aunt, who also notified us that she was on her way down to Washington to wait for her second grandson's birth. There was a debacle later when said aunt thought Mum agreed to take some of her shopping luggage back to Alaska, when in fact Ursula had steadfastly told her no, she had 3 bags of her own and couldn't bring anybody else's luggage on the airplane. Family. Feh.


So we formulated a plan: we were to go to a store just inside the World Showcase, get our F&W bracelet gift card things loaded, (so we didn't have to fuss with cash or cards) then head back to The Swan via friendship boat, stopping at any food booths that looked interesting on the way. Once we crossed over into the World Showcase the place was packed! We did get in and buy our bracelets after standing in line forever; in the time we were waiting Stitch managed to find a sketchbook she liked and maybe a hat or something (she loves hats and has many of them). I eyed some of the F&W merch but wasn't too interested in anything except the Minnie pin. I didn't buy it at that point but eventually did pick one up, and I'm glad I made up my mind to get it!


Shortest line of them all


Once back outside I stood in the shortest line (only about 10 people ahead of us) got the dessert trio at the Champagne booth, but we were underwhelmed after the deliciousness we had at the Coral Reef. All the other lines were really long, Ursula estimated between 30 to 60 people, and they were not moving at all. We skipped the rest on our way to the International Gateway. We were too busy dodging noisy, bositerous drunks to really appreciate anything, and I was really glad I'd been able to take pics in the quiet morning because it was uber crowded. We decided that if we wanted to have food booth foods we'd come back right as they opened and on a week day to find the shortest lines.



Utterly forgettable dessert trio doesn't have anything on the chocolate wave! Cute presentation though!



Things settled down once we reach the IG, and we happily hopped our boat back to The Swan. After stopping briefly at the room and looking over our dining options there (we even considered room service but decided it didn't look that interesting) we decided to go check out The Dolphin. We looked around and it was busy and bustling-- Mum and I both preferred the relative peace and quiet of The Swan. We decided to have dinner at a little cafe-style restaurant called The Fountain, where we had an excellent server who went to get us drinks from the bar while we dined. Zailey got an orange cream soda and Ursula got a Bailey's/Kahlua drink that had been recommended to her by a former bartender friend. I either got a Bailey's and coffee or just skipped the booze altogether (I had a paper I needed to write that evening). Ursula wasn't terribly impressed with the drink but it was much better once added to my coffee! Our meal was pretty good, it was burgers and sandwich fare, but fast and tasty. Stitch had a smoothie and Ursula got a dessert to bring back to the room and have later-- apple pie a la mode that landed upside-down on the floor the next morning when she pulled it out of the mini fridge. Disaster! “At least I ate the whip cream off the top immediately so it wasn't a total waste.”


Cute swan boats!



The Dolphin



One of my favorite photos-- the friendship boat coming in from under the bridge!



Stitch and I went down to the beautiful pool and played around for a couple of hours, in and out of the hot tub, from one end to the other of the pool. Ursula was wiped from our big day and climbed into bed to read her book. Of course she immediately fell asleep, and snoozed until after we got back. I wanted to stay longer at the pool but had that stupid paper looming over my head, so I eventually told Stitchers I had to go and she opted to come back with me. I got a quick shower and changed into lounge clothes. Ursula slept on. 


View from the balcony at night



It all was much brighter in real life, with ambient lighting it was all lovely



It was a gorgeous view even at night, we loved our room and balcony!


As I was sitting at the desk writing the paper, Stitch worked on her homework on the bed. I got up to use the restroom or perhaps to take a break and admire the view on the balcony and Stitch took a glance at my paper, which had the assignment description cut-n-pasted above it for me to refer to. “You know that's not due until next week, right?” she says. WHAT? I looked closer at the date and sure enough, she was right. I was so stressed trying to get it done at the last minute on a Saturday night and it wasn't even due until the following week! Well by that point I had most of it done so I deemed it good enough for now, knowing that I could finish it up in an hour or so at a later time. Mum heard this interaction and she suggested I just finish and turn it in now, but of course I wasn't interested in doing any more work than was absolutely necessary! Since I'd already showered I decided not to go back down to the pool (though a hot tub soak sounds so lovely to me now on a cold winter night I'm kicking myself for not returning when I had the chance). I got in bed and wrote a little in my trip journal. We started to hear some muffled popping and hissing though, and I leapt out of bed to the balcony to see if we could see the fireworks from our room. No luck, we could hear but not see the fireworks, and since it was after 9pm I think it must have been from Fantasmic? Ursula stirred a bit when she thought she might be able to see fireworks from the balcony but after Stitch and I assured her she wasn't missing anything she went back to sleep. I'm not sure her eyes even opened at all the entire time-- she would just say things to me or Stitch seemingly out of a dead sleep. I think it was a good birthday for her, though. Happy 50th! 


All tuckered out from her big day!