My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 6: “So, What’s The Plan?”

March 25: “What Are We Looking For?”

While a day at The Magic Kingdom needs to be almost meticulously planned lest you find yourself hanging around the hub saying, “What do we want to do?” and then you wind up eating the sub par chicken nuggets at Tortuga Tavern and seeing The Country Bears 4 times because all the other lines are too long, trying to over structure an Epcot day is in exercise in futility.

So I try not to overthink it with Epcot. What I hadn’t considered, with Epcot’s COVID hours is that those first two hours walking around in Future World and getting all the rides done are pretty key in that lack of structure. But we’ll get there. I started the day around 8, knowing that Epcot wasn’t opening until 11, and knowing that I was just going to get a coffee and a pastry for breakfast anyway, I decided to take The Skyline (MY LOVE) over to Art of Animation and get my coffee and pastry there.

I love it so much. The transfer station at Carribean Beach is well organized and signed and my god, the ride from Caribbean Beach to the Pop Century/Art of Animation is wonderful. When you dip down over Hourglass lake it is just so magical. I’ve always pushed Port Orleans over Pop and Art, for my own preferences, as it’s usually not much more expensive, but I think the Skyliner changes that calculus quite a bit.

I got a coffee cake and a cold brew. (Me to the nice lady getting my coffee, “Is, is there almond milk?” Her response, “Oh my goodness! Yes!” I was so relieved. I don’t like asking for it when it isn’t clear, but not starting my day with a giant swig of dairy is much better on my stomach) I then got on line to head back to Epcot, and the line was long, it took about 20 minutes to board. Then the line to transfer at Caribbean beach was another 10. I was getting stressed as my parents were texting me that they were heading for the boat.

I got back in time to head to my room and get cleaned up and we still made out 11 o’clock opening, and I’m very glad I did the Skyliner ride, but I probably should have considered the loading delays.

We scanned in at International Gateway and got Mom’s wheelchair and headed towards the front of Future World. Unsure of what the deal was going to be with the wheelchair, our first step was Spaceship Earth, which has a back entrance and loading. We happily rode our time machines and then headed to The Seas, visiting with Nemo and then walking around the tanks and looking at the various fish.

We had a lunch reservation at The Garden Grill and then decided to ride Living With The Land before checking in. I love Living With The Land, it’s such a fun time capsule of what they thought they were doing with Epcot, and probably the last of that strange, boring and silly thought experiment. Then we checked in for a lunch at Garden Grill.

Mom had requested a character meal if they were happening. This seemed a good choice, with it’s traditional American Menu and social distancing wise, having Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale walking around on one rotating platform while we sat on the other made for a fun and more spontaneous experience than I could have even imagined.

But let’s talk about the food. My god, this is a wonderful meal. Roasted turkey and beef, stuffing, seasonal vegetables, a big old salad, macaroni and cheese, and then a berry cobbler for dessert. (Also a cupcake for the birthday girl.) All incredibly executed and served quickly and effeciently. Plus, it’s a slowly rotating platform and you get to see all of the Living With The Land biomes again! (Or for the first time if you didn’t ride the ride.)

After lunch we got on Journey Into Imagination and then Mom declared she wanted a nap/pool time. I was still raring to go, and decided to head back over to Studios to do some Star Wars based shopping. Wandering back into Battuu I felt giddy, and I headed to Doc Andar’s Den of Antiquities to get myself a holocron, and to pick up a couple of Kyber Crystals for Jess. She also requested a First Order pen and while waiting on line I decided to get a Green Milk. (I went green rather than blue because I will always pick citrus over berry) and then found a bench at Ronto Roasters and just, looked around and watched people.

It was pretty great. Because I was with company most of this trip, my quiet moments where I could just be in the parks were fewer this time. I do love them though. It’s a big part of what brings me back over and over again.

Aside from the rides and restaurants and good service, these are incredible spaces to simply be in. After that I hoofed it out to the boat dock, and waited a little while for the boat and quickly hopped in the shower.

My hope for the evening was to do a little mini “Drink Around The World” crawl, hitting Italy for Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, Mexico for La Cava and UK for Rose and Crown before our dinner at Chefs Du France. After a misunderstanding about timing. (I’d said I wanted to be back in the park at 6:30, which my dad took as, “get to the boat by sometimes around 6:30.”) ANYWAY, while I waited for my parents I decided to head in and check out the lines for the bars. La Cava was wrapped all the way around the pyramid, so I decided to hop on.

After fifteen minutes and finally hearing from them, I was only just in the lobby and we were told that because of a sanitation need, it would be another 15 minutes before anyone got back in.

After checking in with my parents, we opted to meet in Italy instead. Turns out Tutto Gusto CLOSES at 7. I was, not happy, to put it mildly. We landed on grabbing an outdoor cafe table and get wines from La Bottega Italia.

This is part of why I don’t make strict plans for Epcot when I’m with other people. (When I’m by myself it’s because there’s such a fun sense of discovery when you’re just wandering around) I always wind up disappointed and pouty. This is not helped when I’m with my father, who was trying to coax me out of my pout. I assured him I would be fine a minute, I just wanted to be disappointed for a minute and needed to rethink the evening.

We decided to keep the same trajectory, but stick with the outdoor bars. So after finishing our wines, we headed over to Mexico to go to La Choza De Margarita (good as an alternative, but not nearly as interesting a menu as La Cava) stopping to admire the Topiaries for The Flower and Garden Festival as we went.

At La Choza, I got the Mint Cucumber Margartia (delicious), Mom got the Mango Frozen and Dad got the classic Frozen. A Good time was had by all, as we perched on a ledge outside of the patio.

Our final bar crawl stop was Rose and Crown, which had no line and we walked right up to the bar, and then found seats on that patio, where we talked with a couple of girls about my age, who were visiting from Queens. Dad got a Guiness, Mom got a Harp and I got my traditional Rose and Crown Snakebite. Watching the sun set over Showcase Lagoon is wonderful, but seeing the braziers remain unlit hurt my heart a little.

I’m never going to super miss Fantasmic, I’m always happy when I go, but it’s not a show I go out of my way to see every time. Yes, I cry every time “Touch The Sky” kicks in while I’m watching Happily Ever After, and I missed that, but sitting with a beer in the dark in Epcot without the stirring strings of Illuminations (Or whatever Harmonius is going to sound like) really drove home how strange this trip was.

After finishing our beers, we went and checked in to La Chefs Du France. I’m a fan of this restaurant and was happy to return, even though, were it not for my mom’s birthday, I might have pushed for a different venue where I haven’t yet eaten. But we had a wonderful meal, complete with another fantastic server.

After dinner we contemplated our next move. It was just about 10 o’clock, and the park was open for another hour. I suggested we could either go on Soarin’ or, if we wanted, we could walk over to one of the bars at the hotels for a night cap.

“We could go back to Abracadbar!” Dad exclaimed, and laughing Mom and I agreed, so off we trotted, grabbed the exact same table and got our whiskey’s and enjoyed being in until last call (11).

I assured both of my parents that there was no reason for us to rush to Animal Kingdom in the morning, I was not interested in rushing to pack before 7 AM, in order to check my luggage and head to the bus stop in time for an 8 o’clock opening. We decided to aim for getting to the stop around 8, rather missing the opening for a smooth check out experience.

We parted ways and then headed back to our respective hotels for bed.

Tomorrow! We head to Animal Kingdom, and head back south.

My Big Florida Escape Tip Report: Part 5: “When Did You Last Eat Something Green?”

March 24: It’s a Small, Small, World

There is just no way to fully describe the feeling I get when I walk through the tunnel from the entrance of The Magic Kingdom onto Main Street and see Cinderella Castle at the end. It just takes my breath away every single time.

It’s just incredibly warm, and beautiful and intrinsically happy for me. It wasn’t different this time, but again, let’s start on the morning. Slept better this time, and met my parents at the bus stop. I was very proud of them. While we were late because of the bus, we were still in the turnstiles by 8:15 for an 8:00 opening.

My mom is currently in treatment for a hip injury and will be getting surgery this summer. But because of that, she can’t walk very fast, and she is often in a lot of pain when she’s on her feet. She really thought she was going to manage this trip but after being on her feet and walking all day on Tuesday she agreed to rent a wheelchair for the rest of the trip.

She really loved me taking this picture, I promise, she wasn’t annoyed by me at all!

While I would much much have preferred my mother to be healthy and comfortable the whole trip, there are some, let’s say, compensations, for someone in your party being in a wheel chair. We got to cut a few lines, got return times even though fast passes aren’t active right now, and she was in a much better mood at dinner.

So, we headed towards Adventure Land, stopping for some pictures in The Plaza in front of The Crystal Palace. We observed that those main thoroughfare Photopass photographers were not as frequently posted. We assumed this was to prevent gathering and crowding which made sense, but well, it was strange. Anyway, after the pictures, we got right on line for Pirates Of The Caribbean (wheelchair accessible) with about a 10 minute wait. Then Splash Mountain with about 20 minutes (Partially accessible). I was, of course, committed to my TouringPlans app, but after the “wait 2 hours for Tower of Terror” situation, Dad was understandably skeptical.

I always love this Magic Shot

None the less, we tromped past The Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain to walk on to our private wheelchair accessible boat on It’s a Small World. Then we decided to do Peter Pan and got our first return time. About 35 minutes later. We decided to head to Tomorrowland, and learned that you cannot have multiple return times at once. But the wonderful Greg, saw Mom’s Birthday Buttons and let us through even though we really shouldn’t have been allowed through. (Cast Members are always the best! But as I said a few days ago, we really felt so well taken care of this trip.) Then we headed to Buzz Lightyear, before walking through the castle to get to Peter Pan. That was followed by The Haunted Mansion and a snack while we waited for that return time.

Liberty Market is the best hidden snack spot. We got Pretzels, but you can get fresh fruit or yogurt, usually churros, and there are tables. ANd people just walk past it, which is silly, because at 11, sometimes you just aren’t ready for lunch yet, but a pretzel in the shape of Mickey’s Head will do you.

After Haunted Mansion, we still had a good hour before we could check in for our reservation at Be Our Guest, so we rode The Little Mermaid and got our return time for Big Thunder Mountain. The Seven Dwarfs line had grown to long at this point, so we decided to skip it.

Finally getting to wear this dress in the park was the highlight of the trip, frankly.

On to Be Our Guest! I keep saying that I don’t need to come back here. And I maintain that. I’ve now eaten at this place six or seven times. Given my choice from the big themed restaurants built in the 2010s, I’m going to pick Skipper Canteen every time, but other people always want to check out Be Our Guest, and I do love it, so I go back.

Mom in her Belle Disneybound

Be Our Guest is currently only serving their 3 course Prix Fixe menu that’s been in place for dinner the last few years. I understand why with COVID this was the right call but I hope it doesn’t stay. I was a big fan of the Be Our Guest lunch menu and for the world to lose a good Croque Monsieur is a tragedy. We enjoyed out meal anyway. I got the lobser bisque, the roast chicken and we all got the sampler. Dad and Mom both got the French Onion Soup, and Mom also got the chicken and I believe Dad got salmon.

Once again, we were treated to something special for The Birthday Girl, this time, an extra plate of the Grey Stuff, that we were all a little bit too full to enjoy to the full extent. We were discussing our stomach troubles when we realized it had been a few days since any of us prioritized getting some vegetables. So we agreed to order salads from now on.

But first, this dairy based sugary treat! Excellent for upset stomachs!

After eating, we walked to Big Thunder Mountain and rode the Wildest Ride In The Wilderness before walking down Mainstreet to head back to the hotel for a nap and some pool time, and we were greeted by The Dapper Dans beginning a performance from the Train Station Balcony. We were thrilled, listening to them harmonize and sing MOm and my favorite weird Disney song, “Walking Right Down The Middle of Mainstreet USA,” and it was just the kind of random magical moment that we’d been talking about how we missed.

This was my first real relax in the afternoon moment of the trip and it is one of my favorite things about a Disney World Vacation. I lounged out on a chair on Barefoot Bay, lay in the lazy river for a few laps, read about Francesca Bridgerton’s sexual frustration after being widowed at 23, and then grabbed a prosecco from the Market to drink while I got dressed for our evening at Disney Springs.

This is just a nice picture of my parents

I have to thank Jess for her reccomendation here. I’d floated doing either another hotel restaurant or Disney Springs for a light lounge type dinner this night, knowing that we’d all still be pretty full from the 3 course Be Our Guest feast. We agreed on Disney Springs, since it really is a place we know we don’t spend enough time on these trips, despite loving it. Jess and Alex had just gotten back from a trip and Jess clued me in that Jaleo, Chef Jose Andres’s restaurant offered some really great dinner deals on Wednesdays.

We grabbed the bus, and decided to check out World of Disney before our reservation (snagged last minute via Open Table rather than The Disney System, some of the Springs spots are on Open Table, so you should always check), but the wait to even get into the store was a half hour so we bailed on that, and took a stroll along the water and across the bridges to get to the other side of the complex to go to Jaleo.

This is just a fun picture of me!

We checked in, but it was still going to be a while for our table, and so we went across the way to Splitsville to grab a beer and wait, but of course as soon as we ordered, I got the text our table was ready. So we didn’t even get our beers. But we then were settled into this cute little banquet and were once again treated to a fantastic server.

So, the Wednesday deal, let’s talk about it. All bottles of wine are 1/2 off. We went with a Tempranillo, because, Tapas. And there’s a limited “Taste of Spain” menu for $40 a person. We did a 2 person take on that, and it was still too much food. So if you had 4 and bought for 2, you’d probably be golden. Jaleo is a really excellent spot and I’m adding it to my “you must go there if you want good food and to avoid children” list.

After Jaleo, we walked back over to the landing, and saw that the guitar guy was still playing outside of Raglan Road, so we settled in at a table, ordered some whiskey’s and sang along. Then we went to wait for our bus, and a nice bus driver even changed destination to get us back early enough.

Monday (I’m taking the weekend off)! It’s Epcot Day! Also more Skyliner! And a return to The Spires! Looking forward to sharing it with you all

My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 4: “TO THE SPIRES”

Alright, here we go! No preamble (Except to Apologize for the lateness, this took longer to write than I thought it would)

Tuesday, March 23: “Bright Suns, Traveler!”

I didn’t sleep super well, I was pretty stressed out about getting to Hollywood Studios early and also getting us on Rise Of the Resistance. I woke up around 5:30 AM (as you may know from previous trip reports or your own experiences, it is not really possible to get coffee or breakfast that early, I was able to MAKE coffee in my room though, so yay?)

Anyway, after drinking coffee and showering, and then running down to The Marketplace to get some biscuits (preorder on the app! As recommended by social distancing guidelines!) I set my countdown for Rise of The Resistance boarding groups.

I didn’t get it.

Womp womp.

Relaxing then, I texted my parents to check in on their timing, and was told that they would be ready to get on the boat at my “8:00 or I’m leaving without you” timeline. So I began walking over to the Dolphin, and got to their room.

We were to the boat dock at The Swan and Dolphin by 8:15 and at the turnstiles by 8:30. And thank God we were.

Hey, y’all, if you’re going to Disney World while the reservation system is still in place? Make sure that the reservation covers your whole party. Because our reservation just covered me.

So, we were then sent over to guest services where the wonderful Rachel did some clicking on her magic tablet and got all of us into the reservation. It was a very stressful and guilt inducing fifteen minutes. But Rachel was great and were it not for her, we would have had a much more difficult week.

Once we arrived back at the turnstiles and got through we headed straight on back to Galaxy’s Edge and got right on line for Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. I did manage to keep it together, sobbing wise as we walked through but then, oh, then we got to the room where the Hondo animatronic was talking to Chewie and I just lost my shit. As a Star Wars fan and a theme park fan this is an incredible moment. The robot is perfection, moving with ease and smoothness that is nearly human and it’s Hondo! Who doesn’t love that guy?

Then you board the Falcon. Mom and I were pilots and Dad was a gunner. We did not score well, but I did almost poop my pants when I learned I was the one got to “punch it” as Chewie does. Seriously, it’s a magical moment. The ride is, I agree a little bit too short and relies a little too heavily on the video game mechanics, but there’s enough good about it that it’s still super fun.

This is probably my 5th? Version of Poe. Sorry Not Sorry

After that we walked around Batuu, as there wasn’t enough time to get on another ride before my build a lightsaber appointment. We did a few Photopass stops and I cried a few times and Mom and walked through the market place, while Dad attempted to buy a coffee. (He couldn’t because Ronto Roasters requires the app, and my father does not put apps on his phone)

I love Batuu, it really does feel like you stepping into Star Wars and it’s awesome. Then my lightsaber appointment came up. Once again I miscalculated and it turns out each builder is only allowed one witness, so Dad came with me, and Mom once again went in hunt of some caffeine for Dad. (Wound up with a Diet Coke).

Saavi’s Lightsaber Workshop was probably the Galaxy’s Edge experience that had been most hyped up to me. Every blog praised it. Jess and Margarita both talked about how it made them cry. When Melvin and Lora got back from their trip, Melvin practically tripped over himself to show us his.

It did not disappoint. The Imagineers did a wonderful job of using that nuclear grade John Williams music to set you in the mysterious and powerful zone of the Force, and The Cast members guide you through your experience with calm and excitement.

After this we decided to grab lunch at Docking Bay 7. Mom and I both got the chicken and dad got the ribs.

Once again, a huge hit. The restaurant itself is very cool and full of ambience and the food is fabulous. It’s also a reasonable portion, which for a theme park, is a big deal, because you are usually either given way too little food or like a giant pig trough. This is actually the correct amount of food for a grown adult to eat. Fascinating and great.

After lunch we got on line for Slinky Dog Dash, and while waiting tried for Rise of The Resistance again. We didn’t get it. It’s fine. It’s a reason to go back. I really very much enjoyed Slinky, but I’m always going to like a Disney Coaster. I like harder and more intense Coasters too, but there’s something just so great about going just fast enough for a thrill, while also getting a cool view and something of a story. The final moment where Wheezy sings, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” is about as fun a moment as any.

After Slinky, we headed to try out Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. *Sigh* Here’s the deal kids. This is a good ride. The trackless vehicles are fantastic. The mix of screens and animatronic show scenes are great. There’s a really incredible moment involving often neglected Mickey & Friend’s character Daisy Duck. (I stan The Duck crew, but you all know this) but it’s not good enough given what it replaced. It simply does not live up to the magic and perfection of The Great Movie Ride, which, if it were in another park would have been considered an untouchable classic, I’m just saying.

After that we decided to get in line for tower of terror which was 2 hours and OMG, I love that ride but 2 hours is way too long to wait for it. However we were killing time before we headed to our ultimate destination, Oga’s Cantina. So it worked out.

But Oga’s! It’s very fun! I got the Bespin Fizz (I was dressed as Poe, so I got to rep my other fave, Lando, this way) , Mom got the Fuzzy Taun Taun, Dad got a beer. (Unless it’s mostly gin, my dad is not really a cocktail guy) We walked around and luckily stayed long enough for the music to loop around to the Cantina Song. I definitely want to head to this place with fellow nerds. While Dad was awed, and I am the Star Wars fan that I am because of him, I can only imagine how much fun I’d have had in this space with my friends.

After that, we decided to take a break, before dinner, our reservation at Toppolino’s Terrace at The Riveria, with a meet up at The Abracadabar on The Boardwalk. Watching my Dad fall in love with a Disney bar warmed my heart. I like Abracadbar fine, though it will never replace River Roost in my heart, it’s a lot of fun and has the location going for it. After drinks, and Dad making best friends with our server (AND LETTING ME PAY!) we walked over to get on The Skyliner to The Riviera.

Please note that I did not realize my mask was upside down until we were on the boat back

Is it possible to enter into a monogamous romantic relationship with a transportation system? Because I think it’s true love between me and The Skyliner. The veiws! It’s so fast! And comfortable! It takes you to International Showcase, which I love! Just, I adore it. We’ll talk even more about my love of it in a few days.

“I give to you and you give to me, True Love, True Love…”

We arrived at The Riviera and walked around a little before getting on the elevator to Toppolino’s Terrace. While I still need to check out Dahlia Lounge but I would pick Toppolino’s over California Grill, if I was ranking rooftops. The view, of the entire resort and even out to I-4 is incredible. The menu is limited but beautifully executed, we had some good wine and even a free champagne toast. (Those Celebration buttons really will do you good.)

After dinner, we decided to take a quick stop over at Epcot. We got on Frozen Ever After and then headed back to the hotels. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but it was nice to take a walk around World Showcase at night, and to have Frozen Ever After Knocked Out.

TOMORROW! Mom realizes not being in constant pain is worth more than her pride, we find a world of laughter and world of tears, plus Dad tries The Grey Stuff, which is as advertised, delicious!

My Big Florida Escape Trip Report Part 3: “Wait, how are we getting there?”

All right! All right! All right! We’re in for the real thing now! Thank you all for putting up with me getting me sea legs under me by talking about boring errand running with my mom to get to the main part of the trip, I got to go back home!

Monday, March 22: Arrival Day! Pool Bars! Disneybound!

Waking up sort of early to get a little bit of work done despite being on vacation was probably the best decision I made all week, because it did make my reentry to the real world a week after this a good deal more smooth. But I digress, by 10:30 AM, we were on the road, and by 1, we’d gotten our bags checked at both The Walt Disney World Dolphin (Mom and Dad) and The Disney Beach Club (Me!) though none of our rooms were ready. We also grabbed some quick sandwiches at Hurricane Hannah’s. (I do not recommend this, although it served our purposes)

I had seafood salad sliders and a froze, Mom had an Italian Sandwich on Ciabatta and a Bannana Cabana, and Dad had a Turkey Sub and a Budwiser. Really, I’ve had worse and less thought out first meals on a Disney trip and in less fun atmospheres, because Hurricane Hannah’s is the pool bar and the absolutely lovely Barefoot Bay pool complex at The Yacht and Beach Club. Which, rules you guys, it is the best.

After lunch, we took a walk around the Crescent Lake region. Popping into the gift shop at The Boardwalk Hotel before heading back to the The Dolphin to get my parents settled. This lead to my favorite brand of conversation from the whole trip.

“How are we getting there?”

We had a dinner reservation at The Grand Floridian, so Dad got a little panicky. (If you don’t know Walt Disney World has a largely fantastic public transportation system that is free to everyone who’s on the property. But it doesn’t run hotel to hotel, you have to transfer.) I suggested we take a bus to The Magic Kingdom and then the monorail to the Floridian. This settled him down quite a bit.

I headed back to The Beach Club, and settled in the “member’s lounge” and did some more work. (I wish I was kidding. I’ve become one of those people now) before getting the text that my room was finally ready. I settled in, took a shower, got dressed and then Mom called asking if they should head over to meet me for the bus.

I said sure, and then turned on the TV and learned that OMG Must Watch Disney and the delightful Stacy have been replaced by probably actually entertaining Cartoon Shorts. Again, I say probably because I was too busy being outraged that my friend Stacy didn’t welcome me and yell at me about “HOW COOL IS SPLASH MOUNTAIN?” and I was quite put out.

Anyway, we had a late dinner reservation, but I wanted to check out the Enchanted Rose lounge at The Grand Floridian, having not visited since my beloved Mizner’s was converted to the trendy Beauty and The Beast style bar.

Enchanted Rose is gorgeous. And the drinks are good and the bartenders are, like all Disney Bartenders, top notch chatters. While I will always mourn when a wonderful simple hotel bar goes away, I can’t deny that at least this replacement is super worthy. I also wore a Belle Disneybound and Mom and I did a little photo shoot of me in the dress with the bar. (This room was completely empty, which is why I took my mask off. If there had been even one other group of people there I never would have. There was a level of irresponsibility even going on this trip, I certainly followed every single rule while doing so).

We also made some friends while we were having drinks who were also heading over to Narcoosee, where we were eating, so we all walked over to the restaurant together. We got a great table right by the windows, and I was thrilled when Mom gasped in happiness when The Electrical Water Pageant went by. She was probably the one most preemptively bummed out by the lack of things like parades and fireworks, (I later realized how odd and hollow the experience felt without them) so she was happy.

Narcoosee is meant to be a classic Florida restaurant, so you know what that means! MORE FISH! (I ate so much fish this week it was delightful) We started with a cheese plate which I very much enjoyed. We also ordered a bottle of Silverado Zinfandel. I suggested the Silverado as it’s the Disney Family’s Winery. It was good. I rarely choose ZInfandel, but for fish, it makes sense.

I had The Surf and Turf with Shrimp, Mom had the Porkchop and Dad got Lobster I think? I should have taken pictures. We had the first of a series of truly excellent and attentive servers. Seriously in nearly 30 years of going to Disney World and a decade of these regular adult trips, I had the best service experiences this time. Pretty much every Cast Member was enthusiastic, chatty and exceedingly helpful. The Cast have always been such a huge part of what makes Disney World special and at the moment they are working around masks, face shields and distancing requirements, a shoestring staff and a guest population that’s deeply on edge, and they’re still sunshine in a bottle.

After dinner, one of my all time Dis-nerd dreams came true. I timed this trip around my mom’s birthday, which also happens to be my parent’s wedding anniversary. (They got married on Mom’s 24th Birthday, a move she now describes as, “so romantic at the time, but kind of a pain in the ass as we grew up.”) I enlisted my siblings to give them a specialty cake for the occasion.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the Disboard Cake Chatter Thread and as such had a good idea of how to get exactly what I wanted and was very, very excited to see and taste the cake.

After dinner Dad excitedly asked what our transportation options were, and I said, “Oh, it’s midnight, unless you’re at Disney Springs, the option is Uber.” So we Ubered to the Dolphin, made our plans for the morning, and said goodnight.

I walked back to The Beach Club, Crescent Lake was eerily quiet, but it was lovely.

Tomorrow! I finally get to Batuu, long afternoons in the sun prove a bad call, and I fall in love with a gondola! Stay tun

Magical Movies Tour: The Princess And The Frog

Isn’t it nice when the stars align and an important movie is also a good one?

The Princess And The Frog earns the first distinction, “important,” by being the last hand drawn animated feature from Walt Disney Animation and for it’s black, working class leading lady. Tiana is a waitress for New Orleans, who after being raised by a bus driver and seamstress, has worked her whole life to open her own restaurant.

She crosses paths with Prince Naveen who is transformed by the wicked Dr. Faccillier into a frog and then because they didn’t follow the rules explicitly (Tiana is not a princess) she turns into a frog rather than him turning back into a man.

It’s, more than a little convoluted when you write it out, but presented visually, Tiana and Naveen’s journey through 1920’s Louisiana is a delightful rom-com, opposites attract romp, punctuated by super fun character designs, and some catchy tunes by Randy Newman.

I really love this movie, and every time I watch it I’m only more enamored. There’s some stuff that I think could have used another pass. (There’s no real connection between Tiana and Dr. Facillier, for example, this feels like an odd error.) And as I get older and more interested in social justice narratives in popular culture, I am in awe of the decisions made with this film. Tiana is in complete control of her destiny from minute one, but this doesn’t prevent conflict or growth. There’s a variety of black faces and bodies on display, the music, that slow New Orleans style jazz is so much fun.

I’m generally on board with The Princess And The Frog getting more attention whenever possible, and am thus super excited for the upcoming retheme of Splash Mountain to a Princess And The Frog ride. I think it’s a brilliant decision that also means we’re going to get Louis Audio Animatronic, which I think fits into Imagineering’s sweet spot perfectly. Also, replacing an attraction based around something super racist, with something based around a strong and exciting Black female protagonist sends the right message.

Next time we continue down the path of magical princesses ,and see the light with Tangled. 

 

Magical Movies Tour: Dinosaur

Wow, Dinosaur is boring.

The thing it has going for it, the photo realistic dinosaurs are kind of cool, but their appeal is exhausted after the first twenty minutes. After that there’s still like an hour and a half of movie.

The plot, such as it is, involves a baby dinosaur who is orphaned and raised by monkeys, who one day finds a heard of his own kind who are escaping a comet and moving to their nesting grounds. His monkey guardians are psyched about this, because they were very worried their adopted dino son was never going to meet a nice girl and mate. Luckily, there is a nice girl dino of his own species. She’s got a dickhead brother though who’s stubborn belief that he’s right is going to get them eaten by a Carnosaur.

Anyway, then they walk to the valley and our lead dino and dino girl have babies of their own.

Look, this movie is visually stunning and is definitely a technilogical marvel, but it is so dull. There’s just nothing exciting or interesting that happens. Even the few chases involving the Carnosaur are over quickly and don’t hold much suspense.

This did inspire a fricking TERRIFYING ride at Animal Kingdom that I have vowed to never ride again.

Anyway, next week, we’ll enter the hilarious cartoon world of The Emperor’s New Groove

Will Turner Is Trash And Other Pirates Thoughts

This week, drowned in Cinco De Mayo Tequila and Boredom and sadness that I wasn’t in Disney World as planned, I made a decision. It might not have been a great decision, but that decision was to watch the Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. 

That wasn’t the mistake, that movie is great. It’s fun, and funny, and effects are cool, and the performances are great, and it has my second favorite sword fight in any movie ever.

The mistake came when after watching The Curse Of The Black Pearl, I thought, “I wonder if the sequels are as bad as I remember.”

And in truth, the first three sequels, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and On Stranger Tides are not as bad as I remember. They’re still fun to watch. But that fifth movie, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is possibly even worse than I remembered it, when I reviewed it here.

But here are some things that came to mind, watching the series again.

  • Boy, after that first movie, Will Turner sucks. Not Orlando Bloom’s performance which is always a little bit dull but fine. I mean the character as written. The creators got it in their heads that Elizabeth and Will were going to have a tragic star crossed romance no matter how much it ruined Will as a character. He backstabs everyone and everyone is still like, “Will’s the good guy!” NO! Will is not the good guy! Will sucks.
  • In On Stranger Tides Ian McShane plays Black Beard and if you punctuated each of his lines with “Cocksucker,” “son of a whore,” or any of the other colorful profanity of Deadwood it would basically be the same performances Al Swearangen and I am 100% OK with it. Ian McShane chewing scenery is the best.
  • People think that Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is what’s great about these movies. And it is an incredible performance, but what makes them great are the supporting cast, which is why the last two movies are not so good. Jack Davenport, Kiera Knightly, Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Lee Artenberg and Mackenzie Crook and Jonathan Price, are what made the first three movies really really special. The sequels loses these actors and characters and are poorer for them. (Except Rush, but they kind of run Barbosa into the ground)
  • I am particularly obsessed with Jack Davenport as James Norrington and I hate that Mary was right about this because he was always her favorite. I didn’t make the connection about him being great until I watched Smash where he played the awful director Derek Wells. (TEAM IVY!)
  • It is incredible how Jack goes from an actual performance to straight schtick. It’s also really annoying.
  • Kiera Knightly is super cool.
  • Barbossa is even worse than Jack when it comes to an interesting performances becoming Schtick. It takes a little longer, Geoffrey Rush makes it through the first three movies, but by the fourth, there’s nothing left in the tank.
  • I am, as it turns out, much more attached to these movies than I thought I was. I think it’s because that first trilogy came out while I was in high school and they were like Acceptable? nerd movies. I didn’t have to pretend I only liked them because of Hugh Jackman.
  • In retrospect it is incredible how necessary Will and Elizabeth are to the plot and spine of the films. Part of what hurts the last two m”ovies is that you lose them and their naivete and sense of discovery about the world and none of the characters brought in to replace them quite hit the right tone.
  • I still love Brenton Thwaites, even though that fifth movie sucks. He’s still Dick Grayson
  • The whole Mermaid subplot in the fourth movie adds absolutely nothing
  • Will Turner only came ashore 1 of the 2 chances he had to see Elizabeth, which again, links back to the title of this post he is straight TRASH and she is THE FUCKING PIRATE KING, (and it is, it is a glorious thing) and she deserves better than his ambivalent complacent ass.
  • The fifth movie totally wastes Javier Bardem and that should be a goddamned crime. Nothing about his character makes any sense.
  • Johnny Depp is likely a terrible person, I don’t feel like passing judgement on that here.

ANYWAY! I’m really excited that I got five posts in this week, and I’m already on my way to three for next week, so we’ll probably get five in next week too. YAY!

 

Magical Movies Tour: Melody Time

I’ve mentioned that I’m holding everything to the standard of Fantasia and by that standard, Melody Time comes up incredibly short. It is a sort of mid century pop version of Fantasia, using vocal music, jazz and story telling in a series of shorts.

I liked a few of the shorts, “Little Toot,” performed by the Andrews Sisters is irrestiably adorable, and “Johnny Appleseed” is gorgeously felt, if not really particularly interesting. “Blame It On The Samba” reunites Donald and Jose, so, I’m happy for it to be here. (Donde esta Panchito?) And I’m also happy to have watched “Pecos Bill,” as I have very much enjoyed eating chicken tacos in his establishment in Frontier Land.

The two long pieces, “Johnny Appleseed” and “Pecos Bill,” are just both from a branch of Disney obsession that have never held much interest for me, the retelling of American myth for the sake of Americana. I never appreciated the treatment of Twain’s work by the studio (I’m a little precious about Twain though, it’s a flaw.)  But I also don’t love the Paul Bunyan stuff, and “Johnny Appleseed” and “Pecos Bill” fit into that mold. There’s a “John Henry” short that got paired with “Princess And The Frog” that I’m also meh on.

Not loving this branch of story telling from Disney, means that this movie was held together by something I’m disinterested in, which gave it a it of an uphill battle. I enjoyed it well enough but it just wasn’t going to hold me interest.

The animation is uniformly great in these shorts, again, not up to the Fantasia and Bambi standards, but still pretty good.

Next week we get back into some long form with The Adventure of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, that is two stories not quite long enough to be a feature, but still just two stories.

My Top 10 Random Spots In Disney World

So, I spent this weekend pricing and doing some Disney research. I’m not planning a full on trip in the next year, but I have decided that I’m going to do a weekend, (taking either Friday or Monday off from work) to see Toy Story Land and see Illuminations one last time since it’s likely going away soon.

But I’ve been trying to avoid reading and researching much to try to off set that urge I get to just book a trip and head off. (For one, I can’t afford it, for another I have other travel plans for 2019…)

But during this research I started thinking about the trips I’ve taken in the past few years. (8 in the last five.) (Again, I totally don’t have a problem…) and the park exploration and the random spots that I’ve found and loved in the resort in that time. Some of these are weird out of the way spots, others are really really obvious, and others only make sense if you’re me.

10. The Waiting Areas At The Jungle Cruise: Skipper Canteen

I love the Skipper Canteen, I think it’s a wonderful restaurant with an even more wonderful menu, and fun service filled with puns. But my favorite part of eating here has very little to do with the meal and is actually while you’re waiting for your table. There are two spots that you wind up waiting, the first is the porch, where large rocking chairs sit beneath giant fans. The second is actually inside, where a few tufted chairs and a water cooler, filled with cold h2o and various fruits await you, plus a letter from Henrietta Falls and a portrait of Doctor Albert Falls hang on the wall. Both are quiet and relaxing and phase you into the great themeing of your dinner perfectly.

9. Outside Patio At Backlot Express

I actually love everything about Backlot Express, it’s a big ass quick service restaurant with a basic but well executed menu and  lots of air conditioned seating (as a quick reminder this is where I ate Star Wars themed Chicken and Waffles, and got my BB-8 souvenir cup.)  But I especially love taking some time to eat your lunch on the patio here, in view of the At-At at Star Tours and watching the Jedi Training show. It’s a nice little moment of Star Wars themed joy, which is always appreciated, when you’re me.

8. Any of The Side Gardens In Pandora

Like half this list is going to be spots in Animal Kingdom, just FYI. But wandering around Pandora, at any time of the day, but especially at night, it’s worth wandering into weird corners and seeing the plant life. But be sure to follow the trails, because if you don’t do that, you never find this particular spot.

7. Top of The Stairs In The Canada Pavillion

I think that Canada might be the most underrated of the World Showcase Pavillions, but there’s a spot right up at the top of the stairs, that looks over a waterfall and has some benches and it feels like you’re far away from the chaos of the park below you. It’s also the spot of my favorite picture of Mary, maybe ever?

6. The Rose Gallery At Be Our Guest

To be honest, there are not going to be many Magic Kingdom spots here, because I very very rarely stop to smell the roses in that park. (This is also proof that I rarely spend ENOUGH time in Magic Kingdom), but I love The Rose Gallery, if all of Be Our Guest were just this room, it would still be spectacular. (The West Wing and The Ballroom are also spectular and it makes the whole place magical) I love the music box, and the “paintings” and banquette tables. It’s the only room that really feels like a French bistro. And fun fact, I wrote the scene where Lefty and Marina dance for the first time while eating my Croque Monsieur here.

5. The Patio At Spice Road Table

Spice Road Table is my favorite restaurant at Disney World, and sitting on the patio, drinking Sangria and eating hummus fries while watching Illuminations is probably my favorite thing to do while at Disney World. (Besides ride The Haunted Mansion) It’s a thing I gently manipulate everyone who joins me at Disney into sharing at least one part of this experience. (no one has been disappointed..btw…)

4. The Porch At The Nomad Lounge

Nomad Lounge might be my favorite bar in the parks. (Not on property, we’ll get there) and sitting on the porch, with a beer, (while Mom and Kristi pussied out and drank tea…) is easily one of my favorite moments I’ve ever had. It’s just a solid and beautiful space, with a great view and excellent drinks and a pretty good menu. Although it changes a lot and the fish tacos that I adored are now gone…but still, grab a Night Monkey (this is a rum drink that also has espresso in it!) or a Safari Amber and watch the water good past.

3. The Terrace At California Grill

Watching Wishes at California Grill was one of my top ten favorite moments of my big Disney year, but it’s also a beautiful spot, with an incredible view no matter what, and to quote Gonzo, I’m going to go back there someday.

2. The Aviary On The Mahrajah Jungle Trek

To explain the incredible moment of magic that was walking into this room right after feeding time when Juli, Dom and I were there is impossible. It was so incredible. And the other times I’ve walked the Trek, this is still a beautiful space full of gorgeous creatures.

1. The Fireplace Chairs At River Roost

I’ve now stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice, which makes it my most stayed at Disney Resort, and I will likely stay there again. I like the rooms, and the food court and the proximity to Disney Springs, but I really really love River Roost lounge and those big leather arm chairs by the fireplace where Tommy and I sat, laughing about our adventures while drinking wine remain my favorite place in the whole resort.

Cosplay Corner: Dapper Day Disneybound Figment

OK, so this is truly the last you’ll hear about this Disney trip, and it’s not about the trip quite so much as one of my outfits on it.

Hooray!

Anyway, planning Dapper Bounds is easily my favorite part of Dapper Day weekends. (To the point that I’m considering going down for Fall again…if I can swing it…just because of the Animal Kingdom outing…swoon)

And while my Figment bound is an achievement in both ‘bounding and just in general Disney Park nerdery, as Figment be crazy obscure, y’all, I was mostly happy with how nice it looked and how comfortable it was.

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The dress is a cotton poly blend, purchased from Amazon, which is also where the belt came from. The crinoline, which is bright orange and probably won’t have any other uses…came from Wish.

Seriously, Wish.com, it’s been incredible to me these past few costume seasons.

I wore my hair in my now kind of signature (whatever, let me have this delusion) Usagi style pigtail buns, as it’s gets my, too long for it’s own good (but I love it) hair off my neck, and gave a nice nod to Figment’s horns. I added the bows for cuteness. I also wore my saddle shoes. (For my effusive ode to saddle shoes, see my Cinderella ‘bound post)

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Coming up in Cosplay Corner…A Han Solo casual cosplay, the return of Wonder Girl, Ren Faire prep, and a possible jaunt of the Enterprise. Who’s excited?