Wining and Dining Around the World - Part 1

Trip Report - The Short Form

We came, we saw the new things (Soarin', Cinderellabration, Lights, Motors, Action!), we ate lots, we ran 15 miles, we ate lots with friends, and came home.

Longer Version...

Since we were running the WDW Marathon on January 8, we decided that rather than doing our usual early December trip to WDW, and then returning again less than 4 weeks later, we would take a trip in November instead, which would give us the chance to experience Epcot's Food and Wine Festival for the first time.

We stayed in a one bedroom unit at Boardwalk Villas - we like having the living room to relax and kick back in.

Wednesday, November 9 - Fly, Food and Wine Festival Round 1

We had an uneventful flight on Delta. The movie between San Diego and Atlanta was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - the new one with Johnny Depp. Lee liked it, but I thought it was creepy...give me the old Gene Wilder version! Though the Oompa Loompa guy was pretty funny.

Renting our car in Orlando was a pain - I'd reserved through Dollar, and although the line looked short it didn't move since everyone at the counters was taking an inordinate amount of time to do whatever they were doing. Finally got out of there after waiting about 20 minutes. Lee looked at the contract when we got to the garage and discovered that they'd charged us for their high-priced insurance - the agent had asked if Lee wanted "Maximum or minimum" - Lee told him "minimum", which he assumed meant "None", which was not the case. We did NOT want to go back inside since the line was huge, but fortunately the woman at the kiosk was able to call inside and straighten it out....or so we hoped - we'd find out for sure when we returned it...Make your predictions now on how that worked out...

Anyway...we *finally* got to WDW about 7:00 and checked into our villa. It was on the ground floor, which I don't really care for, but at least it was non-smoking! (We had a bad experience with that on our previous trip.)

The first order of business, even before unpacking, was FOOD!!!! My Annual Pass had expired in February, so I needed to get a new one, and was able to take advantage of the $100 DVC discount. Nice!!!! There was no line at Guest Relations at the International Gateway, and soon we were inside the park, and had a Food and Wine brochure in hand. Oooh...Spain...that looks good! And Australia...yum! And Italy...and France...and Morocco...So much little time! :-)

Rather than describe what we had each time we ate our way around the world, I'm just going to do it at the end. One thing that surprised us was the crowds - we're used to Epcot being very UNcrowded in the off season, but there were LOTS of people there - most of the food booths had lines all the time, and there were some pretty bad choke points behind the America Gardens Theater and in front of Mexico (though Mexico ALWAYS seems to be a choke point).

Illuminations Wednesday
Illuminations Wednesday
Sooo...after one round of World Showcase we went to The Land just to see what the line for Soarin' was like (at 8:30 at night). It was still 50 minutes, so we passed - figuring we'd get back early enough one day to get a Fastpass. Yeah, right. :-)

We watched Illuminations from the area to the right of the French Arm (the French Arm pit? :-) ) - it's usually blocked off for private parties. This time it wasn't, but it wasn't a very good spot - the globe and water fountains were obscured by trees on the island. It had a good view of the fireworks, though. The flame barge is still non-operational...the show seemed a little strange to us, but other people around us who didn't realize there was anything missing seemed suitably impressed. :-)

On our way back to the villa we stopped at Seashore Sweets for chocolate milkshakes. Yeah, we didn't get quite enough to eat at the Festival. What's your point? :-) Did you know that a chocolate milkshake made with chocolate ice cream tastes a LOT more chocolatey than a chocolate milkshake made with vanilla ice cream? (One guess as to which of us ordered chocolate ice cream...)

Thursday, November 10 - Animal Kingdom, F&W Round 2 & 3

Got up fairly early for us given the whole west coast/east coast thing...because our marathon training program called for a 30 minute run that morning. Our trainer didn't cut us any slack just because we were going on vacation!!! Sadist. :-) We went down and used a couple of the treadmills in the gym and got it done. We don't have a treadmill and aren't used to running on one...that feeling that you're still moving once you get off of it is pretty weird! I'm sure there's a scientific term for that...vestibulitis treadmillitus, or something like that.

AK Opening
Mickey appears during the "Awakening" ceremony
We were up and finished with our workout and showers so early that we made it to Animal Kingdom before it opened at 9:00, and actually saw "The Awakening" ceremony at the Tree of Life for the first time. The only problem with that is that Tusker House doesn't open for breakfast until 9:30...we got Fastpasses for the Safari and wandered around Pangani Forest for a while, and THEN had breakfast. We were pretty hungry by then!!!

After breakfast it was time to use our Safari Fastpasses. We had an excellent safari and saw lots of animals - many more animals on the savannah than we typically see. In fact the vehicles kept stopping because so many animals were crossing the road - we had a wildebeest that crossed right in front of us. ("Why did the wildebeest cross the road?" "To see what was gnu."). No cheetahs, but both lions were out and posing, and we also saw the mandrills, zebras, and several elephants. There were a couple of white rhinos in with the scimitar-horned oryx, but that was when the stupid poacher story was heating up, so our guide didn't have a chance to point them out to anyone. Have I mentioned that I really hate that stupid poacher story and wish Disney would get rid of it? I think I'm required to say that at least once per trip report...

Over on the Maharajah Jungle Trek we saw the tigers, but they were sleeping. Ooh...BIG surprise there. :-) There were some bats that were engaged in some rather...uh...*interesting* activity, though. And they were quite vocal about it! :-)

Everest queue
Expedition Everest queue
We took the path between Asia and Dinoland to check on the progress of Expedition Everest - looks like they are putting some of the final touches on the queue itself. We've heard they are going to start previews in January, so it must be close to finished. It looks like it'll be really cool!

In the Flights of Wonder show we saw Guano Jane rather than Guano Joe, and saw the usual selection of birds - talking parrot, hornbill, vulture, African crowned crane (though we wonder how much longer the name "Frasier Crane" is going to mean anything to the audience), Harris hawk, owl, and bald eagle. I always enjoy that show...which is kind of funny, because I find bird aviaries to be really boring, and we either bypass them or go through them quickly.

On our way out of the park we visited the otters - there are actually three of them now! They were playing in the water - it looked like two of them were trying to drown the third one. They must be siblings. :-) Unfortunately they were at the far side of the enclosure so we couldn't see them real well.

Epcot's Christmas tree
Epcot's Christmas Tree
We were getting hungry - must be time to go back to Epcot for more food!!! We'd driven over to AK, so drove back to the Boardwalk and parked and walked into Epcot. The crowds were not as bad as they had been the previous evening, but still larger than usual. But it was the last weekend of the Festival, plus Veteran's Day, plus some kind of New Jersey vacation, plus Super Soap Weekend and Festival of the Masters were coming up on the weekend. (Note to self: In the future, don't schedule a WDW trip during New Jersey vacation days.)

We were VERY surprised to see that the Epcot Christmas tree in World Showcase Plaza was up...we're pretty sure that it wasn't there the night before!!! Seems like Disney was getting an early start on the decorations this year - the AK tree and lots of wreaths were up, too, and the background music was Christmas songs with an "African" beat. Come's barely the second week of November!!!

We made a couple more circuits around World Showcase before we walked back to the Boardwalk to take an afternoon break. Yes, we actually DID get a break on this trip!!!

New York Street
Christmas decorations on New York Street
After our break we walked over to the Studios - we'd planned to see the new Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show, but the last one was 4:00, and it was 4:30. Oh well. Their Christmas tree and decorations were up, too...and they were also playing Christmas background music. They had a LOT of the Osborne lights already up on New York Street, though of course they weren't lit yet. I like a lot of the little touches that you can't see so well at night - like the gargoyles with candy canes in their mouths and the snowman in the phone booth.

We saw MuppetVision and then were just in time for the last Indiana Jones Stunt Show of the day. We hadn't seen that for several years. It hasn't really changed very much. :-)

We were hungry so we walked back over to Epcot for takes a couple of hours to eat your way around the world! The crowds were larger than they had been during the day, too. We finished around 8:30, but decided not to stay for Illuminations, and went back to our room, where we finished off our chocolate creme brulee while watching CSI. Now, I don't watch CSI, but Lee turned it on, so I watched it...and then it ended up being part 1 of a two parter, which meant I had to watch the next one the following week.

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Text and photographs copyright © 2005, 2006 by Laura Gilbreath. 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 lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 1/31/06