Laura and Lee's December Digression

December 6-13, 2000
Part 3

Monday, December 10 - Epcot, Blizzard Beach, Studios

It was raining when we got up...hmmm. So much for our plan to go to Blizzard Beach (a water park) first thing. It had stopped and was clearing by the time we got out of the room, though. We had breakfast at the BoardWalk Bakery, then walked into Epcot via the famous International Gateway again. :-) We sent a couple of Internet Postcards from Innoventions (like the one at the beginning of this trip report - yep, waaay back there!), and traded pins with some very nice Cast Members, who helped us find some pins that we had been looking for. (Cast Members seem to have other pins available in the back, and we found that if we were looking for specific things and asked them about them, they would sometimes go in the back and come out with that very pin on their lanyard. Or they would point out someone else who had it.)

By then the weather had cleared up, and it was getting warmer, so we headed over to Blizzard Beach. We didn't get there until around 11:00, but there weren't too many people there, and we had a wonderful time. We did the big "family raft ride" several times, though we found that you don't go up nearly so high on the sides when there are only two people in the raft. And we did the tube slides several times - including a couple of times when we both rode in a double tube. We found that their timing is a bit off with the doubles, and both times we actually caught up to the person who was in front of us, and almost ran them down! It was a little scary, but fortunately it worked out ok. We floated all around in the Lazy River, which was very nice until Lee maneuvered me under the icy cold water, and I started to get cold.

We were only there a couple of hours, but we'd had fun, so we changed clothes and had lunch there at Lottawatta Lodge. It's counter service, but the food is actually quite good - we both had the chicken quesadilla, but there were several other things on the menu that looked good, too.

After a short stop back at the BoardWalk we took the walking path from the BoardWalk over to the Disney-MGM Studios. This path has not been open for very long, but it's generally much faster than taking the boat over there. I'd guess it's a little over 3/4 of a mile, and was a very pleasant walk for us - took about 12 minutes. (We tend to walk fast. How's that for understatement? ;-) )

There were short waits for the Tower of Terror and Rock 'N Roller Coaster, so we did both of those, then went in to watch the Beauty and the Beast show. This is not one of my favorites, but it's ok - especially since I hadn't seen it in a couple of years. We missed most of the pre-show, though, and that's usually the best part.

We saw a sign for "Belle's Enchanted Christmas" celebration, and we wondered what that was - it turned out to be a procession of kids who had somehow been selected from the crowds and then dressed backstage as ornaments. They walked down Hollywood Blvd escorting Belle's carriage, which had two OTHER kids in it along with Belle. They went down Hollywood Blvd to the tree in front of the Chinese Theater, and then the Beast and Lumiere and Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts came out and Belle sang "As Long As There's Christmas". The characters went into the theater, but everyone else went back down Hollywood Blvd the way they came - except that the parents got to ride back with the kids in the carriage. We enjoyed seeing it.

Then it was time to head to the Backlot Theater for the Hunchback of Notre Dame RADP Meet - especially since I was one of the hosts! :-) *We* were early, and there were still several people there already. Mickeymom had managed to arrange with a Cast Member to get VIP seating for our group - that was great!

There were many qualified candidates, and it was a terribly difficult decision, but we managed to select a new Queen of Fools, who was crowned, with full ceremony, by last year's King. (Ok, so what REALLY happened was that Randy, last year's king, drew a name out of my Tigger hat. Of course we ALMOST had no contest for the King of Fools title because Jeff Spencer, who had custody of the crown, had forgotten to bring it to WDW with him, despite my reminders to him ahead of time. But he redeemed himself, and avoided the rigors of royalty, by finding an emergency backup crown at a shop in the Magic Kingdom.)

Our new Queen, Laura (no, NOT me), greeted her loyal subjects, bestowed a Duchy or two, and then we all went in to watch the show. The Cast Member had reserved three rows for us up towards the front - they were wonderful seats.

(standing) JudyS, Andrea, David, Katie, Mike, Jan, Jeff, Laura, Lee, Susan,
Debbie, Mickeymom, Jessica, TonyP, Rachel, JD, Sorceror Rob,
(kneeling) Randy, Dave, Jennifer, Laura
(Additional meet attendees who were missing at the time of the photo:
Sean, Janine, Donna, Larry, Mary, Czar Jim, Brian, and Amy)

(There are additional Hunchback Meet photos on my RADP Photo page.)

During the show it started to pour down rain (what IS it about Hunchback that it seems to rain whenever I see that show in December???). It had mostly subsided by the end of the show, but while we were going through the Osborne Lights it started again, and our group broke up as everyone started ducking for cover. Some of the lights weren't working (probably because of the rain), but it's still a pretty overwhelming display.

We stayed undercover chatting with Rachel and Randy and the Spencers and a few others until the rain had stopped, and then tried to help Rachel look for the rest of her party, since they'd gotten separated in all the confusion. :-(

Eventually we went back to BoardWalk - we decided to chance it and just walk back along the path again, and it stayed dry. (That turned out to be a good decision, because we heard later that the lines for the boat were REALLY long.)

After a quick change of clothes we went to Epcot - we had a last dinner at the Mill Vill Food Court (it closed on January 1), and then finally did the "Jerusalem" simulator - something we'd never taken the time to do before. I thought the motion was quite mild. Probably not something I'd rush back to do again (and of course now that isn't even an option) but it was interesting to see.

We went to the "secret" path beside the Rose and Crown - we'd been fortunate enough to win an invitation to Kingdom Magic Travel's private Illuminations dessert party. Deb Wills was checking people in, and at first pretended not to know us, but eventually she let us in. :-) Great inroads had been made on the desserts already by the time we arrived (a HUGE container of whipped cream was *gone*...we wondered just *what* had gone on before we arrived???) but there were still some delicious cookies and strawberry shortcake left. We helped ourselves and visited with folks for a while, and then Illuminations started.


I don't think I *ever* want to watch Illuminations from anywhere else ever again!!! Completely unobstructed viewing of everything, and MUCH closer than from anywhere else I've ever watched it. It was absolutely marvelous. We feel very fortunate to have been able to do that - thanks again to Rick and Leslie of KMT!!!!

Once we got over being blown away by Illuminations we chatted for a while longer, but the party was breaking up, and we eventually walked back to the BoardWalk.

Here's some links to some other Illuminations photos from that night:

Tuesday, December 12 - Studios, Epcot

After breakfast at the BoardWalk Bakery, we walked over to the Studios. The weather was looking kind of iffy - it had rained in the early morning. We went to see the refurbished Indiana Jones stunt show - it looked about the same to me. It was raining when the show got out, but we were able to quickly duck into Doug Live just as the show was starting.

We'd never seen this show before, though I'd had a number of people tell me that it was very cute - even if you didn't know *anything* about the cartoon it was based on (and we didn't). It was well done, though I'd have to say that the Quailman part was my favorite - that was very silly and made me laugh.

It was still raining when Doug got out, so we tried to dodge raindrops as we went over to the Animation Courtyard to catch the next Animation Tour. The Disney-MGM Studios is my favorite park if it's raining - just about everything is inside or under cover, and all the shows are pretty long, so you have that much better a chance that the rain will STOP while you're inside.

And yes, the rain DID stop while we were on the Tour. Hurray! :-)

At the end of Hollywood Blvd they have this nice model train set up, with a miniature version of the Santa Fe(?) train station - the windows even had little garland on them for the holidays.

It was lunchtime, so we went over to the ABC Commissary. They just changed their menu in November, and it's quite a bit different than what they used to have - more Asian-type cuisine, though Lee had a South American beef stew/chili dish, which he liked. I had a stir-fried chicken and noodles dish which was ok, but it was VERY bland - it really needed some additional flavors to make it more interesting. All that was available for condiments was soy sauce, though.

Lee had seen a t-shirt at Tatooine Traders that he wanted to buy, and I caught sight of a CM with a lanyard. He was trading with a woman who had her back to me, and when she finished and walked away, he saw my name tag and said "Hi, Laura, do you want to trade?" The woman heard my name and turned - and it was my friend Ilene!!!! We were both pretty surprised to see each other. :-) We talked for a little while and then Lee and I left the park.

Or we *intended* to leave the park. :-) I saw two CMs with lanyards at the souvenir kiosk just inside the park entrance, and we talked to them for a while - we were looking for a couple of specific pins, and they actually went off to the pin storage area to look for them. Then the one CM, Milton, we talked to for quite a while - and he told us all sorts of interesting things. Like that the Studios really do NOT have a park icon like the other parks (the Earful Tower doesn't count), and that they will soon be building one that will be visible from the main entrance.

Eventually we took the path back to the BoardWalk again, made a quick stop at our room, and then went to Epcot - we'd hardly had a chance to see any of the World Showcase entertainment! At the America pavilion we saw American Vybe - a singing group accompanied only by a bass player, who sing more modern songs than the Voices of Liberty do. They sang 525,600 Minutes from "Rent" first (the only decent song that was *in* Rent, as far as I'm concerned...we really did not enjoy Rent at all). And then, since it was Christmas, they sang a Christmas song - Santa Baby. And Lee was selected to play Santa. :-) He was very good - he even got to dance a little. And I think he even remembers what was on her Christmas list - a fur, a car, a yacht, and a ring. I'm much more of a bargain - I only ask for Christmas trips to WDW. :-)

We wandered around for a while, just kind of enjoying the holiday decorations (this miniature train layout at Germany was delightfully decorated for Christmas!), before going back "home".

Our final night (sigh) dinner was at Artist Point - one of our favorite restaurants. The cedar plank salmon was delicious, as always, though we were disappointed that they no longer bring it out on a flaming cedar plank. Fire regulations or something. :-( While we were eating Debbie Wills walked by our table - she was dining there that evening also, and we talked to her for a while.

I had previewed the dessert menu and already knew what I was having - Mary's Triple Chocolate Cheesecake. Our server called it "Two Bite Death". ;-) It was easily the BEST dessert I had on the entire trip, and I'd have to rank it way up there among my all time favorites. Artist Point has not had much in the way of chocolate desserts before now, but this was awesome - I sure hope they will keep it around for a while!!! (Especially since we are staying at Wilderness Lodge Villas in'd be great to pop over to Artist Point late in the evening for dessert...) Lee shared it with me - but while he enjoyed it I think he agreed with our server that it deserved the "Two Bite Death" reputation. :-)

After we finished we walked over to the other side of the restaurant and visited with Deb and the rest of her party for a while. It was a very nice evening.

Wednesday, December 13 - Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Home

Our last day already??? Where did the week go??? A week always seems like such a long time, but it goes awfully fast.

While we were packing at about 8:00 we heard fireworks. Huh???? Sure enough, we looked over towards Epcot and could see the Illuminations fireworks. It sounded like there was a different soundtrack, that had some Christmas melodies mixed in, but it was hard to tell. Our best guess is that they were rehearsing a new version of Illuminations - maybe something for Christmas or New Year's?

We packed everything in the car and went to Animal Kingdom - we were early enough to park in the closest section (Unicorn) so we just walked to the entrance instead of waiting for the tram (and got there long before the tram did!).

Did the usual drill of getting Fastpasses and then having breakfast at Tusker House. The safari was fine - nothing too extraordinary, though I think we did see both of the lions (sleeping, of course). We went on the Pangani Forest Trail and there was quite a bit of activity at the savannah overlook - several meerkats, a couple of gerenuk standing on their back legs reaching up for tree branches, and two of the large birds whose names I can't remember now. Ahh...a marabou stork was one, and the other was one of the heavier flighted birds. (And now I've remembered that one, too - the Cory Bustard. It has kind of a buzz haircut - looks to me like a cross between Bart Simpson and a roadrunner.)

We found this statue in the eating area behind the Flame Tree BBQ - this is just plain weird. And it seemed in rather questionable taste to have it right behind a bbq place. :-)

We made a quick trip over to Asia to see the tigers one last time, but they were sleeping. We saw the Flights of Wonder bird show - I think there were a couple of different birds this time - but the bald eagle they bring out at the end is always impressive.

And then it was time to leave AK - but not without the obligatory flower photos... :-)

We drove over to Epcot (and of course entered via the International Gateway again...we never did park in the Epcot lot on this trip), and decided to have lunch at the Tangierine Cafe in Morocco. It was really delicious - this is definitely a place we'll come back to again! We each had the Shawarma sandwich - Lee had the lamb and I had chicken - which were very good. We noticed other things on the menu that we want to try on future visits. There was no one else in the place, and we noticed a lot of people look at the menu outside and then move on. They don't know what they are missing!

We went over to Innoventions then, because a very helpful Cast Member (Marian) had arranged for me to meet up with a couple of other Cast Members on their breaks to trade some pins that I'd been looking for. After we'd done that and chatted for a while, it was time to leave...sigh.

Southwest's check-in line was pretty long, and curbside was quite disorganized, but we eventually got straightened out and walked to the gate to pick up our boarding cards. Since Southwest does NOT feed you, and we knew we'd be flying during dinner time, we bought a sandwich to eat later.

We had a good flight, and arrived on time, and my brother picked us up and took us home.

Thus ends (finally!) another December trip to Walt Disney World. Thanks for making it this far! :-)

Some Final Comments

The Good...

The Bad...

The Ugly

Part 1
Part 2
Tigger's Florida Festivities
Lee Rocks Around the World
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Text and photographs copyright © 2000, 2001 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 1/5/01