Laura and Lee's 2004 New Holiday Stuff
at Walt Disney World Vacation

December 5-11, 2004
Part 3

(Has anyone noticed there haven't been any flower pictures yet??? Here's some, in case you were missing them!)

Thursday, December 9 - Epcot, Candlelight Processional

Yacht Club tree
Yacht Club's Christmas Tree
I got up around 7:00 and went running for about an was in the high 60s and humid...I hope it'll be cooler for the half marathon in January!

Lee had had a small pre-breakfast at the Boardwalk Bakery, but after I showered we went over to the Dolphin and had breakfast at Fresh. I really like their breakfast buffet - everything is very, well, *fresh*. :-) They serve made-to-order eggs and omelets - I had a tomato, spinach, and feta cheese omelet that was excellent. They also cook up pancakes and french toast for you - the "regular" kind, or specials that change daily - this day the choices were strawberry pancakes and chocolate chip cookie dough french toast. Though we didn't have room to try those. There's also a great selection of fresh fruit and pastries, as well as cereal, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and potatoes. Lee noticed that the so-called "orange" juice was very pale in color but it was fresh-squeezed and really tasted good. Hmmm...maybe it's those waxy cartons that turn the juice bright orange? Or maybe orange dye #5. :-)

The only negative was our waitress - she never brought the water I asked for when she took our beverage orders, and she never came back to check up on us. She brought the bill while we were at the buffet, and then we had to track her down to get the DVC discount applied to it. I wanted to leave no tip, but Lee wouldn't do it.

It was another beautiful warm day, so we walked off our breakfast by touring the Epcot resorts and looking at their Christmas decorations.

The Yacht Club has a wonderful new "Alpine Village" this year (yes, that would be another New Thing!). There's a working gondola with cars that move up and down the cables, and a train (Disney's Yacht and Beach Railway Co.) that goes all the way around. Signs around the display advertise various establishments around the Yacht and Beach Club areas, like Periwigs, Cape May, Yachtsman Steakhouse and Beaches and Cream. It even has its own "Earful" Tower.

The Beach Club had its usual gingerbread and chocolate carousel - it smells yummy. :-) I wonder whether they really make those chocolate carousel horses new every year, though.

We also went to the Beach Club Villas to check out their Christmas trees - no gingerbread display there but the trees are pretty.

We continued our walk into Epcot and went into Future World - I hadn't tortured Lee yet by making him go to Innoventions and send internet postcards. :-) While we were there we checked out a New Thing - the "Where's The Fire" exhibit. Lee spent some time taking a close look at the big shiny red fire engine. Boys never seem to outgrow their fascination with those. :-)

Innoventions was just full of New Things - but that's as it should be. We played "The Great American Pizza Game" - it was us against another couple. Before the game starts they show you a map of the 50 states and each state has pictures of pizza ingredients that come from that state - like Hawaii had pineapple and onions, and California had a bunch of things - like cheese, pineapples, tomatoes, cotton, and onions. When the game starts they turn off the pictures, and the object is for each team to take turns picking two states, and if the two states have one (or more) matching ingredients, it gets a point for each match. The other team got a double match to start, and we got off to a bad start, though eventually we made it close, and only lost by one. It was kind of fun, even so.

We went over to Innoventions East and toured the "House of Innoventions". I think I can live without the whirlpool bathtub with its own plasma TV and surround sound. :-) Then we checked out the (Attention: New Thing alert!) new "Fantastic Plastics" exhibit - at the entrance was a pre-show where the cast member talked about some of the plastics we use in our everyday lives - did you realize that polyester leisure suit you wore in the 70s is really made of plastic? :-) As is Silly Putty? From the pre-show we could go into an area where we could computer design a plastic robot and then have it compete in a simulated game against other robots. Or in the next room there are bins of robot parts and you can build your own robot.

We didn't have time for either, as we were planning to see Epcot Vybe's next show, and it started in just a few minutes. We heard White Christmas and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town again, as well as two songs I don't remember. It's always entertaining to watch them perform.

From there we went to Mexico to see the holiday storyteller there - yet another New Thing. :-) In past years there have been three storytellers, "Los Tres Reyes Magos", but this year we saw a single actress accompanied by a cast member who was from Mexico. They talked about Las Posadas and pulled some of the children out of the audience, gave them hats to wear, and did a re-enactment of Las Posadas. Lee and I got to participate as the Martinez family, who told them we had "no posada", and then they moved on. I think the audience enjoyed this new version.

Since both the Germany and Mexico storytellers were different I was curious if any of the others had changed - I seen bits of several that I knew were the same, but I wanted to check out the Taarji in Morocco. I was quickly making my way there (Lee was taking his time because of the knee) when I ran into Andrea and Donna...and while talking to them I realized that Tigger had lost his Santa hat somewhere between Mexico and Japan. Andrea and Donna said they'd look for it (though they didn't find it) and I went on to Morocco - I saw enough to see that the Taarji was still the same. Lee caught up with me and we saw a bit of Pere Noel in France, who was also unchanged.

We were getting tired so we headed back to the Boardwalk for our first extended break of the trip. We were a little hungry and picked up a turkey sandwich at the Boardwalk Bakery to share. It was pretty good.

And since we had been touring the Epcot resorts, this is as good a place as any to talk about the Christmas decorations at the Boardwalk, even though we'd been seeing them all week. :-) They had their chocolate/gingerbread amusement park like we've seen in previous years. I really love the garlands and all the beautiful glass ornaments on the trees.

We read and relaxed and napped for several hours before going back to Epcot around 6:00. It was the evening of our Candlelight Processional dinner package. I'm amazed at how long the line is to get in the theater for people who have the was most of the way through Japan when we got there around 6:15 for the 6:45 show. And that's for the people with packages who were guaranteed a seat. But we got in ok and found reasonably good seats - not behind any trees, at least.

The guest "narrator" was Marlee Matlin, whom we had seen several years ago. She signs the various readings and her "voice" speaks them. He did a pretty good job, and it was interesting to watch her.

I complain every year that I wish they would do some new songs so I'm happy to say that Candlelight has a New Thing! They have added a new song, Gesu Bambino, and also changed "What Child is This" a bit, and sing part of it in Spanish. Since "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is the Illuminations finale (you remember...that song about peace accompanied by all the explosives) they didn't perform it during Candlelight.

After the show we went to Chefs de France to check in for our dinner. We got separated in the crowd - I zigged and Lee couldn't zag to follow me (bad knee), and when I turned around I didn't see him. Fortunately we both knew we were going to Chefs de France, and I saw him walking just a little ahead of me near there.

We waited about 20 minutes for our table - which was all the way at the back of the restaurant against the wall. But it was fine and at least our waiter didn't ignore us. He didn't speak English very well, though, and we had a hard time understanding him.

We had an excellent dinner. I had the tomato and goat cheese tart for an appetizer - I would have called it flatbread rather than a tart, though. It was the size of a dinner plate and would have been dinner all by itself for me - I only ate about half because I knew I wouldn't have room for the rest of my dinner if I ate it all. Lee got a bacon, onion, and cheese flatbread for his appetizer, and enjoyed that.

For dinner Lee had a steak with au gratin potatoes and green beans (French cut, of course!), and I had the snapper - it was pan fried and served over cheese ravioli. It was excellent and I really enjoyed it. We both selected the wine pairing recommended with our entree. Mine was a rose' - not sweet but not too dry, and it really did complement the entree. Lee had a red wine that he enjoyed - it wasn't as "oaky" as a lot of reds. I had a sip and it was ok - I'm not a red wine fan, but I could have drunk this. (Coming from me that's high praise! :-) )

For dessert we both had the chocolate mousse with coconut sorbet. It's one of the better chocolate desserts I've had in a while. The mousse was very thick and sat on some kind of pastry/biscuit. The scoop of sorbet was actually chocolate and coconut and very refreshing. We didn't quite lick our plates clean but it was a near thing. :-)

Illuminations started a few minutes before we left the restaurant - we could see a little of it from our table. The park was not crowded at all and we found a good viewing spot near the Tori in Japan. Wow...that finale is still incredible! It overwhelmed Lee's camera - all he got at the end was a big blur of light.

To work off our dinner a bit we kept walking around World Showcase counter-clockwise and sat in the plaza to watch the Lights of Winter for a while. It's amazing how many people walk under it without seeming to notice it. It was a pretty calm night and the Fountain of Nations was also dancing to the holiday music.

Eventually we finished our loop around World Showcase and walked back to the Boardwalk. My mosquito bites were really itchy so I made a couple of ice packs and iced them down and that helped. I re-froze the ice packs because I knew I'd need them later.

Friday, December 10 - Animal Kingdom, Studios, Epcot

I needed those ice packs sooner than I expected...I had to get up around 4:00 and ice the bites because they were itching so bad I couldn't sleep. #$?*! mosquitoes!

The Weather Channel said there was a good chance of rain that day so we went to Animal Kingdom prepared with poncho and rain jacket. For the moment it was still pretty warm (we were both in shorts) and the sun was in and out of clouds.

We did our usual "get a Fastpass for the Safari" thing, then went to the safari entrance where 70+ Mousefesters were gathering for the Safari meet. We said hi to Jack and Jan and Deb and Dotti and Andrea and Cathy and Kevin and Brian and JD and Lori before heading off to have breakfast at Tusker House.

I really miss their cinnamon rolls - they used to serve them fresh out of the oven in the morning, and now they are obviously baked elsewhere and are cold. Oh well, they still taste ok.

After breakfast it was time for our safari fastpasses. We didn't see a whole lot of animals, but did see one of the baby elephants. As usual, the stupid poacher story got in the way, and when we were near the end the chase was heating up so our guide didn't have time to tell us about the scimitar-horned oryx, eland, and ostrich we saw. But hey, Little Red was OK, and that's the important thing, right? %-]

We went down the Pangani Trail and ran into several of the Mousefesters who had just finished their safari - they had an ECV with their group and for some reason Disney made them wait 20 minutes and they didn't get to go with the other two jeeps. :-(

Pangani was a lot more crowded than it had been on our evening visit - we couldn't even get close to the hippo tank. The gerenuks were putting on an impressive demonstration of their ability to stand, though. And several of the gorillas were out.

It started to shower while we were at the gorilla area but then it stopped. We'd missed Flights of Wonder so we went to Camp Minnie-Mickey to see the character Christmas trees. This year we found the Lilo, Stitch, and Nemo trees - I don't remember seeing them last year. We liked Stitch's tree - it had both "good Stitch" and "bad Stitch" ornaments - like a surfboard with a bite out of it. :-)

We were headed for the Discovery Island trails when it started to rain in earnest so we ducked into a store and put on our rain gear. Fortunately they were already seating people at Flights of Wonder and it's under cover. We saw a new (younger) Guano Joe this time - he wasn't old enough to make the joke about seeing birds riding bicycles "in the 60s", so had to settle for being in a malaria fever instead. :-)

It had stopped raining by the time the show ended, but started up after we got a pretzel - pretzels DO get soggy in the rain. We were able to walk over the new bridge between Asia and Dinoland and see all the construction on the new Expedition Everest roller coaster. It's supposed to go 70 miles per hour, and open in 2006. I was hoping it would open next year.

Lee noticed on the schedule that there was a 12:55 Pocahontas training session that we could make if we hurried. And the rain had stopped again. The bad knee slowed him down but we made it. We didn't see very many animals this time - a pair of pigeons, an opossum, and a raccoon. All of them did what they were supposed to do. It's much more interesting when they misbehave. :-)

Since it wasn't currently raining we wandered around the Discovery Island trails a little bit - one of the ring-tailed lemurs was moving around a little bit and even posing...maybe this is the lemur version of the infamous Burt Reynolds' Playgirl pose. :-)

We went to Pizzafari and shared a pizza, then went to see if DebK needed any help with the Mousey Mindboggler meet. She had things well in hand. Unfortunately it was still showering off and on, but that didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the participants. Lee went off to see Tarzan Rocks and I hung out and visited with Deb and others.

The meet ended after Mickey's Jingle Jungle parade started. Deb and I waited for it to pass, then met up with Lee and went to Harambe where we could see the whole thing. We got there just as the parade did.

After the parade we did an almost animal-less safari. The storm had blown through but the temperature had dropped significantly (so much that I was wearing Lee's rain jacket for warmth), so I guess the animals were off someplace where it was warmer - being smarter than the average tourist. :-) We did see a black rhino eating, and also saw a cheetah up and moving around.

The three of us went back to the Boardwalk and up to our respective rooms before meeting back in the lobby a short time later. We'd hoped to have time to see Turtle Talk, the Osborne Lights, eat, see part of Candlelight and watch Illuminations but bummer dude, we realized that we just didn't have time to talk to the Crush-man *and* make the Osborne Lights. Deb did see it later in the weekend and said that "it totally rocked!". (And yes, we do tour commando-style...why do you ask? :-) )

So we headed over to the Studios. There was a huge line at the turnstiles, and that concerned us, but once we got back in the park there were fewer people viewing the lights than the first time we'd seen them! No need for the "stop-and-shuffle" dance tonight! :-) We ran into Donna who was taking pictures. She asked if we'd noticed the one shop that was NOT decorated. We hadn't. It was Scrooge McDuck's Pawn Shop. :-)

We walked back over to Epcot in search of dinner! Tried the Yakitori House in Japan but the line was out the door so we went to Tangierine Cafe instead where there was no line. (Have I mentioned that we really like that place? :-) ) We enjoyed our Shawarma platters and watched the line for the 8:15 Candlelight Processional package holders stretched almost all the way through Morocco before they started letting people in. I'm glad we saw it when we did.

After dinner we walked over to the America Gardens Theatre and saw most of the Candlelight Processional. Again, Marlee Matlin was "narrating". We were standing outside the back of the theater so the stage was a long ways away but the sound was still good. And we got a special musical serenade - several teens who had been in one of the guest choirs the previous night were standing near us and singing along - they said that after rehearsing for so long they couldn't help themselves. :-)

When the show was over we walked to Italy - during the Food and Wine Festival I'd read several trip reports (Hi, Sue!) that talked about a wine called Rosa Regale, a *sweet* red sparkling wine from Italy, and I wanted to try it. Deb had had it and she recommended it, too. A glass of wine and two small pieces of chocolate were $6.50, so Lee and I both got a glass. was excellent, dude! (Oops, sorry, it just slipped out. ;-) ) I have no idea if I can find it at home but I'm going to look. (And since I originally wrote this I found the wine at Costco just a few days ago! That was a nice surprise.)

For Illuminations we went to our favorite spot near Germany. Deb had not yet seen the special holiday finale and was looking forward to that - and I think she was not disappointed. As for us, we saw the Illuminations fireworks every night of this trip - three nights at Epcot and three nights from our balcony. I think that's a record for us. In some ways I think the finale is better viewed from a distance - it's so huge it's hard to see it all.

We walked back to World Showcase Plaza to watch the Lights of Winter before walking back to the Boardwalk. We had to stop at the bakery so I could get one last brownie, though. :-)

We said goodbye to Deb - since we were leaving at noon the next day and she was busy with Mousefest events we knew we wouldn't get to see her. :-( It was great to spend the afternoon/evening with her and I'm glad the timing worked out for both of us.

Finished up the day by icing my mosquito bites before bed...they were at least less red and swollen, but still itchy.

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Tigger & Stitch's Holiday Escape
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Text and photographs copyright © 2004 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 12/20/04