Laura and Lee's Spring Fling

April 28-May 4, 2002
Part 1

It's our annual spring trip to WDW! This was a late trip for us, since Easter was relatively late and we were hoping to avoid Spring Break as much as possible. It also gave us a chance to see Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, which didn't start until April 19.

This time we stayed our first three nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, in a room with a Savannah view - it was cool seeing giraffes and gazelles, impalas, etc. outside our balcony. Our next four nights were at Boardwalk Villas in a one bedroom unit - we really like having all that space even though it's just the two of us!

The only thing that's "new" to us this time is the new "Primeval Whirl" rollercoaster at Animal Kingdom, but we enjoy old favorites, too. And both of us had been working hard lately so were looking forward to having a chance to get away where we have NO responsibilities.

Some of you may remember our spring trip back in 1999 (Laura and Lee's April Adventure), where I commented several times that it was rather...ummm...HOT. So I have just three words to say about this last trip: Record-Breaking Highs. Instead of the mid-80s that are typical for April-May, we had over 90 every single day. I really don't like hot weather...I'm not used to it and it makes me tired and grumpy and very uncomfortable. I purposely *don't* go to WDW from mid-May through October precisely because it *is* too hot for me. Lee handles the heat quite well and it really doesn't bother him that much, so we had several afternoons/evenings when I went back to the room and he went off to do something else.

So this is only the second time (the first being 1999) where I've actually been anxious to get back home - where the *high* temperature was *lower* than the *low* temperature in Orlando!!!

Let's see...crowds. There were a lot of people around on Saturday and Sunday, but the rest of the week seemed relatively light - we were told by several cast members that hotel occupancy was going from near 100% down to 80% after Sunday, and that the reason for the "late rush" was Spring Break for the state of New York. I don't know if that's the reason, but there were significantly less people Monday-Friday.

Saturday, April 28 - Fly, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Epcot

The flight to Orlando was relatively uneventful, though both flights were completely full - the airlines keep announcing all these horrible business losses, but our experience has been that just about every flight we've been on since 9/11 is completely full. The airlines are providing less flights, and almost no food service, and are obviously saving money there, and then they have those full flights, so we're not quite sure *where* they are losing all this money.

And a notable event occurred in Orlando...MY BAG CAME OFF THE PLANE BEFORE LEE'S DID! In 15 years I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened. (And it *didn't* happen on our return to San Diego.) Hey, I'll take my victories wherever I can get them! :-)

Lee took us on a slight detour on the way to WDW - he wanted to drive around Celebration a little bit. It's a very pretty place - there are some HUGE houses!!! Many of the houses remind me of those in the small town in the midwest where my parents grew up - with pillars, porches, bay windows and features like that. There was a lot of variety, so we didn't see the same 3 or 4 house models over and over.

After that we finished our journey to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. This hotel has only been open about a year, and this was the first time we had stayed there. It's themed to be an African "Safari Lodge", and the beds even have mosquito netting draped across the headboard. :-) The main feature of the Lodge, though, is that it has three separate savannah areas populated by various types of hoofed animals and birds, and most of the rooms have balconies that overlook one of these savannah areas. I was able to get an annual passholder discount for a very good rate on a Savannah-View room.

When we got up to the room assigned to us, it smelled pretty bad - like mothballs. I called the Front Desk and they assigned us a new room...though that meant a trip back down to the front desk to get new room keys. Our new room didn't smell, but it was on the second floor with a somewhat obstructed view of the savannah...not bad, but not as good as many of the other rooms. (Though I think we had a better position and more interesting animals than we would have with our original room.)

One thing about the weather, it certainly went along with the was hot. Africa-hot. We were hungry, since all we'd had for lunch was an Auntie Anne's pretzel in Dallas, so we headed over to Epcot for the evening. Actually parked in the main parking lot instead of at the Boardwalk, too! :-)

The FIRST competition (an annual robotics competition for high school students) was winding down - there was a huge set of bleachers and other facilities set up in one section of the Epcot parking lot. And we saw quite a few of the competitors in the park later that evening - there was a private event for them in Future World.

We had dinner at the Tangierine Cafe in Morocco - one of our favorite places to eat. We both had the Shuwarma Platter - Lee's with chicken and lamb, and mine just chicken. It comes with Moroccan bread, and side dishes of tangierine tabouli, hummous, and a parsley/tomato salad. It tasted *so* good!

After dinner we walked around World Showcase - it was getting dark by then, so we didn't have a good view of the displays added for the Flower and Garden Festival, but at least had an idea of where they were. :-)

By then it was close to 9:00, and time for of Earth. We found a pretty good spot in front of Italy - there was a private party in the area like there usually is, but they weren't taking up much space so there was still unobstructed viewing of the lagoon.

It's been quite a while since we left Epcot at closing via the *main* entrance...there was quite a crowd to get through! On our way back to Animal Kingdom we decided to stop at the Yacht Club and go to Beaches and Cream for a couple of chocolate milkshakes. We just beat the crowd, and enjoyed our milkshakes as we sat outside by the pool.

Sunday, April 28 - Animal Kingdom, Jiko

Thanks to the three hour time difference between east and west coast, we got a not-very-early-start. We had breakfast at "The Mara", the food court/fast food place at the Lodge, and then took the bus over to Animal Kingdom. It seems strange that the Lodge is SO close to Animal Kingdom, yet you can't actually walk there - you have to take some sort of transportation. At least it's a VERY short bus ride! :-)

There were actually quite a few people at Animal Kingdom - the tail end of the FIRST/New York Spring Break crowd, I suppose. We got a FastPass for the safari (which was actually only about an hour in the future, so not too bad) and took the train over to Rafiki's Planet Watch (the former Conservation Station). On the walk from the train station over to the "Planet Watch" building are several exhibits on how YOU can provide backyard habitats for butterflies, birds, bats, etc., as well as information on things you can do to be "habitat friendly". One of the things they recommended was eating more chocolate! I must admit that's something I can *really* support. :-) But we didn't really understand how cutting down forests to plant cacao was going to be GOOD for we asked a Cast Member. :-) She told us that since cacao grows on trees, then it means there ARE still trees, even if they cut the original forest down to plant the trees. And the additional income from the cacao helps the local economy.

Inside "Planet Watch" we got to see an African Hedgehog and hear one of the Cast Members talk about him - cute little guy. :-) There wasn't anything going on in the vet center or nursery or food preparation areas, though, nor on any of the live "Animal Cams". Still it was nice to be inside in air conditioning for a while! :-)

After we took the train back, it was time for our Safari FastPass. The FastPass line was longer than I have *ever* seen it - it probably took at least 20 minutes before we were on a vehicle, instead of the usual <10 minutes. Still, it sure beat waiting in the Standby line!!! We had a pretty good driver from South Africa. One thing we have noticed at Animal Kingdom a LOT lately is there there are lots and lots of vultures hanging around. Evidently the local vulture population has discovered it's a good food source. A lot of times we've seen them actually surrounding or on top of the hippos that are not in the water! Which doesn't look very good. :-)

We wandered over to Dinoland and got a FastPass for the new "Primeval Whirl" roller coaster, then went over to "Restaurantosaurus" for lunch. Or Lee had lunch...I wasn't hungry and just enjoyed the air conditioning. :-)

Once we finished it was FastPass time...Primeval Whirl is a "wild mouse" type of rollercoaster with a (literal) twist. :-) After you're about halfway down, when you go around the curves your car actually starts spinning around as it continues down the track! It was a lot of fun.

By this time it was 2:30 or so...and I'd had enough heat for the day. We caught the bus back to the Lodge and I changed into my swimsuit and went down to the pool - Lee stayed in the room to nap and play with his new Imac. There weren't very many lounges by the pool that were actually in the *shade*, but I found one - I wasn't interested in more sun! The pool temperature was very warm so the water wasn't too refreshing, but once I got out the evaporative cooling worked pretty well. I read my book and enjoyed a berry/tropical smoothie, and took another dip in the pool later. It was a nice relaxing afternoon! :-)

We had dinner reservations at Jiko, the fancier restaurant at the Lodge, that night. Everyone I know who had been to Jiko had really enjoyed it, but anytime I'd looked at the menu I'd thought "Well...I guess I could have the roast chicken..." :-) But we REALLY enjoyed our much that we had dinner there a *second* night later in the trip! Our server, Chad, was excellent, and very helpful in explaining the dishes and making recommendations. We had the smoked bacon and onion flatbread appetizer, which was *excellent*. And we tried the Maize Tamales. Those were different, and we're glad we tried them, but not something that we would order again. I had the Pan Roasted Monkfish as an entree...served with "vegetables of the moment". :-) I wasn't quite sure what those were, but it ended up being new potatoes, squash, and carrots - VERY tasty. I really enjoyed the dish. Lee had the Beef Tenderloin, which was served with macaroni and cheese(!). Though it was very RICH macaroni and cheese. It also had a red wine reduction sauce - he said between the sauce and the rich cheese, the mac and cheese was a little too rich. He really enjoyed the beef, though he still prefers the Tamarind Beef Filet at California Grill.

For dessert I had the Honey Nut Briouates (BREW-ahts) - kind of like crisp dumplings stuffed with cinnamony ground almonds, and served with a honey sauce. They were very good, but expensive - there were only 3 of them, and they weren't very big. Lee had the Chai Tea Rice Pudding, which is rice pudding flavored with cinnamon and cardamon - Chad warned us that if you liked Chai tea you'd like it, otherwise probably not. But Lee does like Chai tea, and he enjoyed it. It was a very generous serving, too!

After we rolled ourselves out of there we went out to the Arusha Rock area to see what animals were hanging out. We saw Ankole Cattle, gemsboks (beautiful and very striking coloring!), wildebeest and zebra - even an eland. This particular savannah had the widest variety of animals - or at least animals that we *saw*...there were also giraffes there (we later learned there are giraffes on all the savannahs, though.) Very peaceful and quiet out there - you could hear the animals eating the grasses.

Go to Part 2
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Go to Part 4
Go to Tigger's Disney World Day
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Text and photographs copyright © 2002 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 5/19/02