Monday, November 4, 2013

Disney: Day 2

Food, motion sickness and crowd anxiety

Wednesday was Epcot - namely, Wednesday was the Food & Wine Festival! Snacks from all over the world, a checklist of a billion new and fun things to taste? That's so right up my alley it might as well be running behind my house. (Tangent: I miss living in neighborhoods with alleys.)

We were up bright and early - 9:00 a.m. FastPasses for Soarin', which the Internet told me was The Ride of Rides at that particular park. After we hiked through the half mile of people-corral, we waited for a just a little while as they finished whatever magic they have to do to get things ready in the mornings. We were very much charmed by it - and yes, raised up our feet to avoid dragging them through the pounding surf. It being so early in the morning, we rolled the dice and hiked back through (seriously, the queue areas are INSANE! Everywhere, but it seemed particularly notable in Epcot.) and got to sit on the front row this time - no feet dangling in our faces - next to the sweetest family with three little stair-step girls. I think we watched their faces more than the video on the second time! Precious, precious girls - it was a little like being in one of the ads they run...they were just transfixed and completely delighted. (Which is point one in my completely childless opinion on How Old Children Should Be to Enjoy Disney.) We followed behind them (sweet family, but c'mon - it's rude to walk five abreast, even if three of them are tiny) on our way over to Livin' with the Land, which I found to be highly enjoyable. Again, I'm kind of an old person, and very drawn to dark and cool when it's more than 90 degrees outside. But I absolutely loved getting to ride through the greenhouse. I kept thinking, man, if only I could build a geodesic greenhouse in the back yard with lovely clinically-defined growing areas and twirling helices of lettuce and herbs...if only. But all that pining aside, there was lettuce growing in the shape of a Mickey head.

I know it's not the best angle, but we weren't allowed to stand up. And I am a safety rule-follower.

As we left The Land pavillion, I saw the monorail racing across Spaceship Earth and hustled-then-waited for the perfect shot - I'm a little in love (read: obsessed) with mass transit in general, and magic trains at Disney World? It's all over for me. Anyway, that perfect shot never came (when I was prepared and paying attention), which led to much shaking of fists as the sweet train rode above me yet again. Anyway, our frantic dash had led us to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Not to be critical, but this is a terrible name for an attraction. Sorry, Disney corporation. The MINE seagulls stand out front, and squawked into action every few minutes. As they are clearly the best and most eminently quotable part of that movie, they deserve to be seen here. But I don't have a good picture. I think I was TOO delighted - the moment must have slipped away from me somehow...apologies, MINE birds. After hiking through more and more queue (an amazingly themed one, but wowzers, I would have made that opening section a little more crowd-flexible - it was me and about five other people, and I'll bet it took us a solid minute and half to wind through all those lovely rail dividers. 'Tis silly.) Silly name and ridiculously long queue aside, this was definitely the best ride I've ever been on in an aquarium. And the clam-mobiles were exceedingly comfy and wonderful for to put up your barkin' dogs.

Enough about that - we trekked through the sudden mass of people that had materialized (I'm realizing in this moment that they all showed up for the opening of the Food part of the park. Duh.) and stopped to admire the beautiful dancing fountain and to be entertained by the sublimely ridiculous Jammin' Chefs, who were dropping some wicked beats, yo'. And I assure you, the whole of the second part of that sentence is both appropriate and accurate. We had a few minutes before our next FP+ appointment with Mission: Space, so we sat in the courtyard in the sweet, sweet shade. SO. HOT.

If you were to go into this picture, ala Mary Poppins, and behind the Earth globe, then hug the dividing wall, you would find the shade of which I speak. But that would be the only way to find it.

I love spinny rides. I love the feeling of my organs floating up on a nice drop on a roller coaster. I can generally shake it off pretty quickly to boot (I missed my calling - and didn't like math enough - to be an astronaut). My sweet Kate does not share these loves with me - or at least her body doesn't. Poor thing. I made a grave tactical error by choosing the Orange side of the ride, and she paid for it. Poor, poor thing. But hey, she got to be the commander on our crew while I had to be the silly engineer (deploy landing gear MY EYE), so clearly it was worth it. (If-You're-Not-Kate note: It was not worth it. She was very sick and I make light so she doesn't have to relive how very miserable she was. Poor thing.) It was kind of awesome though, if you aren't prone to motion sickness - I really want to figure how they manufactured that pressure, but again, not so much with the math. We sat for a while outside the ride in the fresh air to see if she'd feel any better, and after a few minutes, she gave me the thumbs up and we headed toward The World (it's The World Showcase, but doesn't it sound more important if I just call it The World?). 

First stop was the cranberry bog - and free packets of Craisins! Mmmmmm, Craisins... Hey, Ocean Spray, how about Craisin Bran? That would be amazing. Sorry, digression...What we're really here for is the food! We drifted to the right, as I knew we'd be spending time on the Mexico/Norway side in the evening, which led me straight to the Scotland booth. Huzzah! I knew they had vegetarian haggis (ugh, what's the point of that even?) with neeps and tatties, so I snagged it and ate it and it was wonderful, despite being pointless and Americanized. Mmm, neeps. It was standing right next to the Hawaii booth, so I got a very generic pulled pork slider - it was on the good King's Hawaiian sweet roll, though, so that was...something? It was fine, it was just boring. I have no time for boring food! 

We floated a little further and saw the Greek booth - nothing speaks to my soul like good Greek food. I should say authentic Greek good - if it's real, I'll love it even if it's not great. (If you don't know my full life story, my family was stationed in Greece in the late 80s, which was not always an awesome time to be there and be American, but I have many, many happy memories of being fed by amazing, stereo-typically exuberant men and women, who always yelled when I'd finish my plate and brought me something sweet. Aside from the set-up for unhealthy eating patterns, incredible.) 

The booth, and people unaware they're being immortalized. OPA! (To speak of the infectiousness that stereotypical attitude has, the Canada booth workers and whoever was next door to the right here would yell it back every time it was shouted. It was funny in the moment, but I'm realizing doesn't really transfer via words. Such is life.)

I went a little crazy here - got their sampler (a mixed bag, unsurprisingly) and the griddled cheese with honey and pistachios (YUM) and about a teaspoon of ouzo (for $3.50 - highway robbery) for old times' sake (aside: hadn't so much as seen the stuff since I was six years old, when a old man brought some out mixed with water "for the baby." I miss Europe.). While I was chowing down on all of that glory (and the chicken - yech), Kate was on the phone with her husband, who had important and wonderful news for us. Turned out, a friend of his at work has a brother that works for Universal - a senior VP, no less - and this friend had called his brother and we were to call him and let him know what time we could meet him to get waved into the park on Thursday. I think the question is more appropriately, what time can we meet YOU, oh great and beneficent stranger?! So Kate tried several times to get in touch with this wonderful, wonderful human, only to discover that we were reading the number wrong (because of course we were), which led to more phone calls and trying to figure out and wrangling and etc., but as you'll read in the day three report, it was all totally worth the ten minutes of headache...

I think I may have mentioned this, but it was hot. It was, in fact, SO HOT. We trudged along the path to the Canada pavilion, which was charming and had a gorgeous garden but had no shade. C'mon, people. This is Florida. Apparently it's hot here. So we went down into the belly of the place, following the water in very instinctual fashion, and thought we'd catch the O, Canada film while we tried to make some more calls. Well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back - "the camel" in this instance being Kate and "the back" being any comfort the poor thing had remaining. Bless it, but she was miserable. And I was (again) hot. So time to return to the room for a little siesta and shower. Hallelu.

Doin' ya proud, RBG! 

Now refreshed (until we stepped back outside) and ready to go, we headed back to the park with a spring in our step! We went to the Character Spot first thing (so, so smart to have those waits inside in the air conditioning - for visitors and the characters, I'm certain) and we met Mickey and Goofy and Minnie, all of whom were wonderful (but especially Goofy). From there we looped around to the Mexico side of the pavilion - I knew there was a Donald greet there, and I had been at Disney World for more than 36 hours at this point and hadn't met Donald yet. This needed to be to be resolved. 

The view from our waiting area. Could be worse, right?

I have always loved Donald. I can't tell you why - I just latched onto him from a very young age. I remember my mom telling me in one of my flares of temper (which were frequent) that I was acting just like Donald and needed to stop. Of course, that was probably the wrongest thing you could possibly tell me, but I appreciate the point she was trying to make. His were my favorite cartoons, if he was on his own, with Daisy or the nephews, with that silly bee, Chip and Dale, or his infrequent cameos in Ducktales. Didn't matter. I loved him. And I always loved that Donald had his own full length animated classic - Mickey didn't even have a full-length! So to see Donald strolling down the path in serape and sombrero, just like in The Three Caballeros, was enough to make me turn five all over again.

He was waving at ME!

I can't really put into words how big a deal this was for me - thankfully, Kate knew this was my rock star moment, and sidled up to the photographer, who got what might be my favorite picture, as I was telling Donald about Mom calling me out for my Donald-like temper:

He played so embarrassed, but I think he was secretly proud.

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing about my feelings at meeting cartoon characters, so I'll push on and talk about how awesome the Mexico pavilion is: so awesome. The whole thing inside? And dark? And cool? With pretty lights and a restaurant and a ride and a tequila cave? It is the happiest place in the happiest place on Earth. 

Seriously. Breathe in the relaxation.

The remainder of our pre-dinner evening was spent power walking the pavilions - we wanted to see as many as we possibly could, but it was so, so very crowded and my anxiety levels were through the roof. (Touring Plans - one of the very helpful sites I frequented in getting ready for this trip, claimed that the crowds would be at a 1 on a scale of 1-10. They were very, very wrong. By the time we turned back around to try and get back to Norway, I was quite literally elbowing my way through the crowd. I was exceptionally rude. Sorry, mullet dude in the Star Wars tshirt - that's all me.) We did get to sit and enjoy Norway for a little while, though. Stopped in the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe and I got a lefse and a troll horn, both of which were essentially butter and sugar and made me quite, quite happy. (Also, credibility claim: totally guessed that the lefse was a potato bread. Because I'm the Rain Man of food.)

Norway! Which should be said in a terrible, terrible accent. (You can't see the sod roof here, but there was a sod roof and it was wonderful.)

We had another FastPass+ for Maelstrom (filed under Things People Really Don't Need) and did that - it was fun - a little rowdier than we expected, and delightfully cheesy. From there, straight to dinner, and the yelling woman who didn't understand that having a reservation was NOT the same thing as being the most important person in the world and being able to choose your table. People. I will save my breathlessness for the hypothetical food reviews, but just let me set this right here...

Grilled pork rib eye, served with carrot puree, caramelized onions and plum sauce.

We had an excellent-if-imperfect view of the Illuminations: Earth fireworks show - it was pretty spectacular, from everything I could see. And bright as day out there, too...

Being fed and with some relief from the heat, we decided to hit a few more rides, as we had the extra magic hours in play for the night - one of the only rides we waited for the whole week was Test Track after that amazing dinner, and I have to say I was rather underwhelmed. Based solely on the amount of people queued up and raring to go, I was expecting...well, more than an anxious driving experience. If I want to swerve and accelerate too quickly, well, I know plenty of people I could ask to chauffeur me somewhere...we got to see some pretty amazing new Chevys in the post-ride, pre-store area, though, so let's say it was worth it.

Our last stop for the evening was to catch Spaceship Earth - what a wonderful way to end the day. It was one of those classics I'd always heard described as pivotal to the experience, but I had no real idea what to expect. It was kind of a heart-filling experience - the excellent story-of-man narrative (Dame Dench!) and the honestly amazing animatronics. I had to really peer at one of the men in the Greeks area - he was definitely in that uncanny valley. 

Next up: Universal! And Magic Kingdom again! And my poor aching feet...