Our friends Laura and Dave (see Jeff's, Laura's, and Pam's Disneyland Trip Report) are getting married at Walt Disney World on May 8, and we're going to the wedding!
We again have the laptop computer and the digital camera with us, and we plan to update this trip report while we're down there - if nothing else we'll get a picture of the happy couple on-line as soon as we can!
It's Saturday morning. We haven't had time to do the full trip report yet, but just wanted to say that the wedding was fabulous - it was really a wonderful party. And, as you can see here, Laura and Dave make a wonderful couple. Congratulations, you two!!!
Ok, now it's Sunday...this trip report hasn't been as "live" as the last one...but hey, we've been *busy*! And I'm at least caught up with the events of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday!
Now it's Monday...I'm caught up with the text, but not the photos - we'll at least get parts 1 and 2 on line so people can read about what we've been doing - but check back later this week and we'll have LOTS more photos of the wedding and the RADP meets - we promise! :-)
Time to get up and fly to Orlando! :-) Lee doesn't have as much vacation time as I do, so I flew in a day early. The flights were fine - they even both arrived a bit early, and the Mears shuttle got me to our hotel, the Beach Club, fairly efficiently, though I was the third stop of four.
Our trouble with checking in at Disney hotels continued, though - we had a room, but it showed that it hadn't been cleaned yet, and it took about 20 minutes to finally get someone up there to check it and make sure it was clean (it was).
After unpacking and settling in a bit, I called Jeff Spencer, another IRC friend, to see if he had arrived yet...he had, so we met for dinner at Beaches and Cream - sort of an old-fashioned malt shop that's at the Beach Club. I had a very nutritious dinner of strawberry shortcake. :-) Jeff had a hamburger and chocolate shake. After dinner we took a walk around the Boardwalk - it was a very pleasant night, though I got two mosquito bites. We arranged to meet the next day at Epcot, and said our good-byes.
I slept in late...hey, I'm on vacation, and it's three hours earlier where I came from...but still managed to meet Jeff outside Epcot's International gate *without* being late. :-)
Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival is going on now, and we enjoyed walking around seeing all of the different flower exhibits and topiaries. I especially like the Pooh character topiaries in the UK pavilion.
We had lunch at San Angel Inn - I'd never eaten there before, and it was really good - I had the Ensalada Mixta, which was a very nice selection of greens with avocado, tomato and cactus. The cactus was pickled, I think, and it was really good. Jeff says the atmosphere inside reminds him of the Blue Bayou restaurant at Disneyland - except that there's a volcano instead of fireflies, and there are NO monte cristo sandwiches. :-)
We went to the American pavilion and saw the Voices of Liberty perform, and then saw the American Adventure. We caught a performance of the World Showcase players in the UK - King Arthur and the Holy Grail again. It's always fun, but I *still* haven't managed to see "Romeo and Edna" yet. We walked up towards Future World and did a few things up there - the park was pretty uncrowded and we didn't have any lines.
After walking back out via the International Gate I headed back to the hotel and Jeff headed back to Ft. Wilderness to get ready for the first of the wedding events that evening.
Lee's plane arrived early, and the shuttle service dropped him off at the hotel right around 6:00. He had just enough time to unpack and change before we walked down to the rehearsal dinner. What great hosts Laura and Dave are - they invited all the guests to the rehearsal dinner, too! :-) It was held on top of the snackbar at Stormalong Bay, the pool at the Yacht and Beach Clubs.
Laura and Dave introduced us to their family and friends - we'd never seen so many "Joizy People" in one place before! :-) We got everyone to tell which exit they lived off of. :-) But everyone was great, and we enjoyed meeting all of them. And we had fun talking to Jeff, too. :-)
We had a terrific BBQ buffet, with fried chicken, bbq pork, beans, corn, cole slaw, fruit salad, corn bread, apple pie, and huge chocolate chip cookies. I've probably forgotten several things. Here's Jeff in front of the food table :-)
It was great to see Laura and Dave again - we'd last seen them on our trip to Disneyland in September. They have been down at Walt Disney World for over a week finalizing wedding details, and had been having a great time, too - taking friends and family to the parks, visiting the new Animal Kingdom Park, hanging out at Stormalong Bay - and they had done the Epcot Divequest adventure the night before with Laura's dad and one of her sisters.
Jeff had to leave to go pick up the rest of his family at the airport, but a fairly large group of us decided to head over to the Boardwalk and Jellyrolls for the evening. First off, though, we got a tour of Laura and Dave's room - they had checked into one of the Yacht Club's suites a couple days before. Dave now says that they're never staying anywhere else again, though. Laura says he'll change his mind when he sees the bill. :-)
It was a beautiful room, with a living room, a bedroom with a HUGE bed, and a large bathroom with a jacuzzi tub. There were two balconies (one off the living room, one off the bedroom) which overlooked the lake and Epcot, and we were up there just in time to see the grand finale of Illuminations. Very nice!
We walked over to Jellyrolls and found that most of the group was already there and had secured a table right in front. Lee and I had never been to Jellyrolls before but we really enjoyed it - it's dueling pianos and sing-a-long. The pianists play quite a variety of music, and they take requests - our group gave them quite a few of those.
It didn't take them long to find out that we were all there for a wedding, and they got Laura and Dave onstage and sang them a rather embarrassing song - I'm sure the rest of us enjoyed it a lot more than they did. :-)
The pianists were competing "your side" against "my side", so we were encouraged to make as much noise as we could. There seemed to be a lot of regulars on "their side", and we tried, but couldn't quite match the noise level. Though they did a one-on-one competition between a member of each side, and our side, represented very well by Dave's friend Dennis, definitely won that one.
Lee and I had a great time, and it's definitely a place we'll have to go back to again. We left before the rest of the group, since we wanted to try to get to Animal Kingdom fairly early the next day - we found out later that the rest of them closed down the place at 2:00.
"Fairly early" is a relative term when you're still on west coast time. Still, we managed to get up, walk over to the Boardwalk to grab some pastries at the bakery, catch the bus to Animal Kingdom, and arrive there by 8:45. We had to upgrade our Annual Passes to include AK, and that took time - the lady at the ticket booth we went to (Dorothy, who was, in fact, from Kansas), was unfamiliar with the procedure, and had to go in the mysterious back room to find someone to tell her how to do it. For a whopping $11 (total) our APs were upgraded...woo hoo! :-)
We're so used to knowing where we are going that it was strange to walk into a totally unfamiliar park, and have no idea where *anything* is. Having to read a guide map??? How...touristy! :-) The park is beautiful, and it was interesting seeing signs and benches and other things of the type we had seen under construction on our backstage tour in January, when we visited the Central Shops area.
We had read on the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) newsgroup that Animal Kingdom was uncrowded in the morning, but we certainly didn't find that to be true - there were lots of people around. The centerpiece of Animal Kingdom is the huge Tree of Life - it is really quite impressive. As you get closer, you can see all the animal sculptures carved into the bark - the detail (especially considering how large it is) is exquisite.
Our first stop was the Kilimanjaro Safari, which actually takes you back into the African Savannah where you can see the animals roaming around. The hoofed animals and birds have free range, and access to the road - we had a zebra cross the road right in front of us. Safari vehicles can be delayed, and require a keeper's assistance to convince an animal to get off the road. :-) Some of the animals, like the lions and cheetahs, are separated from the public and the animals that would normally be their prey, but the enclosures are constructed in such a way that it isn't obvious that there is a separation - it looks quite natural.
There's an anti-poaching story that goes along with the safari, and I found that rather contrived, but the ride through the savannah itself was quite enjoyable. Some of the animals just weren't in viewing range as we passed by, but we still saw a pretty good variety - elands, Thompson's gazelles, hippos, giraffes, zebras, elephants, ostriches, hornbill cranes. One of my personal favorites was the lioness perched up on the rock - the whole scene looked very natural.
And my other favorite was this rare two-headed ostrich :-)
After the safari we found Stroller Hell - the area outside the train to the Conservation Station. It was pretty amazing - the Cast Members were working hard to keep them all organized, and did a pretty good job.
We rode the train over to the Conservation Station, which is an area to learn more about how the animals are cared for, and to give people a better appreciation for saving endangered species. The train ride goes behind the scenes at AK and you can see the buildings that the animals are housed in at night.
Lee went to the restroom, and was laughing when he came out, because above the urinals was the "Whiz Quiz" with questions like "How many gallons does an elephant pee in a day?", etc. (Here are the answers.)
We tried one of the interactive computer exhibits, and learned a little bit more about mandrills and how they are cared for - did you know that crickets and meal worms are high in fat??? :-) We listened to the "Sounds of the Rainforest" in the sound booths - that was an interesting experience. And we saw some baby possums - they certainly are a lot cuter when they're babies. One father told his kids "that's what we see dead on the road at home". :-)
The train ride back took us past the area where "Asia" is still under construction. We enjoyed the signs for the "Tetak Logging Company" - with slogans promising that logging brings prosperity - and then graffiti on the signs defaming logging and the destruction of the rainforest. We thought it was clever. :-)
We walked around a little bit more to try to get our bearings, and then got in line for the Festival of the Lion King show. We were seated in the "Warthog Section" - I would have rather been a giraffe or elephant or lion, though. :-) We thoroughly enjoyed the show - the singers and dancers and acrobats were all quite talented. I especially enjoyed the trampoline/gymnastics/tumbling/trapeze act of the monkeys.
When Lion King got out, we were just in time for the Pocahontas Animal Show. I wasn't too enthusiastic about this one, but it was much better than I expected - the animals just did their thing with no real prompting from humans. And besides, it featured Meeko, the raccoon. :-)
We headed towards Dino Land, noticing as we did so that the line for Countdown to Extinction was only 15 minutes. Woo hoo! Actually, I think we waited a little less than that. The track and ride vehicles are exactly like Indiana Jones at Disneyland. This was well done, but it was just too dark - there are lots of things to see inside, but you can't see them. Lee commented that they need to take some of the darkness out of CtX and import it into Space Mountain, which has too *much* light. :-) Tigger was brave, and scared the Carnotaurus away.
We walked through the some of the fossil exhibits and then went to find something to eat - we decided to try the Flame Tree Barbecue. It sounded better than it was. Lee got a BBQ beef sandwich, which had a lot of fat on it. I ordered a vegetarian wrap, which was 90% parsley, as far as I could tell...I suppose technically parsley *is* a vegetable but certainly not what I was expecting to find as the primary ingredient. Oh well. From the eating area, we had a decent view of the "March of the Animals" parade. We were especially interested in the bumblebees, because we had seen some people rehearsing the choreography for the "head whip" on our backstage tour.
Next stop was the Jungle Book show. It was ok - but what's with Baloo's blue costume? It looked quite strange. The puppets and the representation of Shere Khan were interesting to see, though. Still, this is not something we're going to rush to do again. Actually, I think we got the biggest kick out of seeing the McDonalds french fry cart that is right outside the theater (it wasn't open, though) - there has been a lot of opposition on the newsgroup to McDonalds having a presence in the parks. Frankly, we really don't care.
Our last stop was the "It's Tough to be a Bug" 3-D show. The queue for this winds down around the "roots" of the Tree of Life, which gives you great opportunities for viewing many of the carvings. It was interesting to both find and identify all the animals just in the roots - as I said earlier, the detail is incredible. Once we got into the pre-show area, I got a kick out of all of the signs advertising the bug versions of Broadway shows - like Antie, Beauty and the Bee, A Cockroach Line, A Stinkbug Named Desire, Web Side Story, and My Fair Ladybug. In the show area we were serenaded by bugs "singing" songs from the various shows, too.
The movie itself was pretty good, with several surprises, which I won't spoil. It can be rather intense for people who don't like bugs, and there was one hysterical little girl in the row behind us when the show ended. We sat in the second row, which was too close - I had problems seeing any of the "in your face" 3-d effects, and instead saw two images.
It was getting a bit late in the afternoon, and we still had a big night ahead, so we did a little shopping and headed back to the hotel.
It had been a pretty warm and humid day (by our standards - hey, we're from southern California where it doesn't usually get that warm, and when it does, it's *dry* heat), and we were feeling a little parched. We put on our suits and headed down to try out Stormalong Bay, which is kind of like having our own water park right at the hotel. We tried out the water slide, and the sinking sand, and just floating along in the current. One other interesting thing about Stormalong Bay is that there is sand in the bottom of the pool. It was a nice break, and quite refreshing.
(For those of you who want to see ALL the wedding photos we have, here's a link for you.)
We went back to our room to get showered and dressed for the wedding, then walked down to the Wedding Gazebo at the Yacht Club. The wedding wasn't supposed to be until 7:00, and we arrived about 10 minutes before that, only to find that the groom was already standing outside. We got seated and the bride's party showed up and the wedding started just a couple of minutes later! When have you ever known a wedding to start *early*? :-)
The wedding ceremony was very nice but very short - 10 minutes, and they were married. Why waste time, I guess? :-)
The wedding had several uninvited guests who were a bit obnoxious - several male ducks who were chasing one female duck, and being pretty noisy about it. The staff shooed them away several times, but they kept coming back, at one point flying back to the exact place they'd been before. It was pretty funny. We also had a lot of onlookers from the balconies that overlook the gazebo - and Laura and Dave got some nice applause from them.
It was also quite windy in the area at the time - Lee was wondering if Laura's veil was going to suddenly fly off her head - and we definitely wondered how she had managed to attach it so securely! Fortunately the wind died down later.
Laura and Dave wanted a photo of everyone, so one of the photographers got up on one of the balconies and arranged all of us and took a lot of photos - there should be at least one good one in there. :-)
We said hello to the rest of Jeff's family, who had gotten in unexpectedly late the night before - but I'm sure you can read all about that on their web page. :-) Susan told us they got a lot of strange looks as they were walking around Ft. Wilderness before the wedding - I guess suits and dresses aren't the usual attire that they see down there. :-) (For those of you who want to see Jeff in a suit, here's a photo of the whole family. Sorry about the smudge - we discovered Sunday that Lee's camera lens had a big smudge on it, and it affected ALL the photos we took Friday night and Saturday. :-(
The wedding/reception was scattered over multiple locations, and our night of "follow the lady in white" began as we followed Laura and Dave to the dock and boarded a boat which took us over into the Epcot lagoon. After a tour of the World Showcase lagoon we docked at Morocco and followed the lady in white over to the French Arm for our private cocktail party. Laura and Dave got lots of applause and congratulations from park visitors as they walked by - it was really very nice.
We had some great hors d'oeuvres and Laura and Dave also broke out the Dom Perignon champagne and the Opus One that they had brought with them from California. We kid them a lot about being "wine snobs", but the wine (and the food) was fabulous.
At 9:00 we had prime viewing for Illuminations, and then we waited for a while until the park cleared out. Then we all followed the lady in white again over to the area in front of the Italy Pavilion, where our dining area was set up. And who should greet us but Mickey and Minnie, dressed in their finest evening wear! After mingling with the guests and posing for pictures they danced with the bride and groom.
Laura and Dave put a lot of thought and effort into planning the wedding, and there were so many wonderful details that I can't remember them all, but here goes. The wedding cake was gorgeous - topped with a replica of Cinderella's castle made out of white chocolate. In addition to the cake, there was a dessert tray with a wide selection of pastries like chocolate eclairs, cream puffs, truffles, and a few things I didn't recognize. At each of our place settings we had a set of chocolate Mickey ears wrapped in cellophane. All of the tables were decorated with a beautiful floral centerpiece.
For entertainment, there was a terrific dance band (they made sure that it was NOT going to be another "cheesy wedding band" :-)), and when the band was on its break, we were entertained by the quartet that usually performs in the Italy pavilion, I Cantanapoli. So we had music all night long!
Dave's dad made a lovely toast to the bride and groom, and they danced their first dance to A Whole New World, from the Disney movie Aladdin.
We were served our salads, but dinner was an Italian buffet, with pasta, and shrimp scampi and chicken and beef and rice and potatoes and bread and vegetables - as you would expect, it was all very good. There was a ton of food, way more than we could eat.
The two musical groups continued to entertain us during dinner, but after dinner they kicked up the energy level a bit and we got down to some serious partying. :-) Brian Spencer was the hit of the dance floor - as usual there were way more women dancing than men, and Brian danced with *all* of them - sometimes several at once. :-) The ladies just loved him, and he called them his "chicks". (Hey Brian, you can get away with that because you're 10, but you better find another term soon. ;-) ) He invented a new dance move and had everyone doing it - including the band and the Italian singers. Katie Spencer didn't have as many partners to choose from, but she confiscated Lee for most of the night (hmmm...I've been supplanted by a younger woman), and also danced with her dad and Minnie Mouse. (And here's Jeff dancing with the bride.)
It was really a great experience being inside Epcot when there was *no one* else there - except for the army of Disney people assisting with the wedding, of course. :-) All those walkways are nice and broad when you don't have to share them with thousands of other people. :-)
At 1:30 it was time for the last dance, and the party came to an end. To transport us back to our resorts, there was a bus waiting for us back behind the American Adventure. As we all got off Laura and Dave thanked us for coming - we felt more like we should be thanking *them* for including us in such a wonderful and memorable day in their lives - not to mention throwing us such a fantastic, wonderful, terrific, fabulous (I'm running out of adjectives, here :-) ) party. It was really indescribable. Even the Disney people were impressed - Laura and Dave didn't at all do the "run-of-the-mill" Disney wedding, and their wedding got a lot of attention from the Disney folks.
We finally got to bed, totally exhausted, at about 2:30. :-)
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
Tigger's Whimsical Wedding Wanderings
Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation Page
Text and photographs copyright 1998, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.Laura Gilbreath, email: lgil at lgil dot net