Laura and Lee's Holiday Hijinks

November 28-December 5, 2001
Part 2

Saturday, December 1 - Animal Kingdom, RADP Meet, Epcot, Studios

My friend Lauri, whom I've known since 9th grade, has been working in Miami for several months, and she drove up Saturday morning to spend the weekend with us - she hadn't been to Walt Disney World since just after the Studios opened back in 1989.

So the first place we had to take her was Animal Kingdom, a completely new park to her! We were doing a whirlwind tour, since she only had two days, and there's LOTS of stuff to see, particularly at Christmas time! We did the safari (saw more animals this time), the Maharajah Jungle Trek (the tigers were more cooperative!), walked around the Tree of Life, and saw Festival of the Lion King. Unfortunately the "bird woman" must have been out that day, so "bird man" had to do a solo dance - it's not nearly as good as watching the bird woman fly! Ah well.

I left them at Animal Kingdom because they wanted to see Tarzan Rocks, and I was heading over to Epcot for the big RADP (rec.arts.disney.parks) meet - they were going to meet me there later.

This was what they call the big "Meet and Greet" part of the RADP Meet - there were many other smaller meets happening during the several days before and after the "Big Meet", but this is the one with the most people - around 150 this year. I saw a lot of people I knew (but more that I didn't know! :-) ), including some that I *hadn't* expected to see, like gardenia (looking wonderful after her surgery) and Bartender Sam. Tigger saw lots of his pals like Gale and Julian Robinson and Deb Wills, and he has two new buddies - Aruna and JD the penguin, from the Netherlands - JD is a travelling penguin and has his own website, too! (And Aruna, if you read this please send me email, because I can't find the piece of paper with JD's web address on it.) It was fun seeing everyone - but I'm not even going to list everyone because I know I'll leave people out!

I'd met up with Jack Marshall, who was doing the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package with us on Monday, and we wanted to pick that up so we'd each have our badges (which get you 15% off merchandise on the day of the package) giving Jack all day Monday to spend/save his 15% without trying to find us first. :-)

Once Lauri and Lee arrived we went into Epcot and got the dinner package all taken care of. We said goodbye to Jack and arranged a time for Monday, then the three of us went and had lunch at Yakitori House in Japan - Kenny and Bartender Sam were just leaving as we went in. It had been kind of strange - even though a lot of people that I knew were around the parks, up until that day I hadn't seen anyone that I recognized - but after that we ran into someone we knew several times a day.

We wandered around World Showcase and saw one of the holiday storytellers (La Befana in Italy - she's always fun), and eventually ended up down by the African Outpost just as they were raising the bridge to bring in the Illuminations barges. It's pretty strange to see it go up - we never realized it was a drawbridge until we'd seen it go up a couple years ago! Since it was almost time for the parade, Tapestry of Dreams, we found some chairs and had some refreshments from the Refreshment Outpost.

Tapestry of Dreams is similar to Tapestry of Nations - only without the Sage of Time majestically stalking the parade route. :-) The main part of it is still the puppets, and the best part is still watching the Cast Members who are wearing them. We were sitting at a table under an umbrella, and twice two of the Cast Members who had puppets with "hands", came by and spun the umbrella. :-) Lee made the comment that "Someone is having waaay too much fun", and the one guy laughed and smiled.

We went the rest of the way around World Showcase and walked back to the car (parked at Boardwalk) and drove to the Studios. Lauri was getting blisters from her shoes, but she still wanted to see the Osborne Lights, so she limped on. :-( Before we saw the lights we had to ride Tower of Terror - that wasn't there when Lauri last visited. We walked right on with almost no line. She LOVED it. :-)

We headed back to Residential Street to see the Osborne Lights, which took us right by the BAH - Lauri agreed that it really *was* a BAH. :-) Even though it was after 6:30, there were still many more people than there were the night before - we were doing the slow shuffle to get through. Lauri enjoyed seeing them, though - they really are pretty impressive!

Had a long walk back out to the car - Lauri was REALLY hurting by then - and drove over to Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we had priority seating for dinner at Boma. Neither Lauri nor Lee had been there before, and they were suitably impressed (though Lee also agrees that it looks like Wilderness Lodge!). We only had a short wait before we were seated, and then had a terrific dinner. Boma is a buffet, and serves foods that are at least somewhat inspired by African foods and ingredients, though not terribly authentic. They have several different kinds of meat, and lots of side dishes, salads, and soups. And their dessert buffet is really awesome - I think the Zebra Domes (striped chocolate and vanilla mousse hemispheres filled with mocha mousse) are still my favorite but they had several other delicious desserts, too.

When we came back from our first pass through the buffet I discovered that Gail and Julian Robinson were sitting at the table right behind us. :-)

After dinner Lauri sat in the "lobby" (if you can call that HUGE open area a "lobby") on one of the many sofas and rested her feet while Lee and I explored the resort a little more. The Lodge has its own savannah areas (NOT a part of Animal Kingdom) where you can see the animals - we saw giraffes, wildebeest and zebras. We're going to be staying at the Lodge for several nights (with a Savannah view) on our next trip in April - we're looking forward to that!

We'd thought about going back to Epcot to see Illuminations but it was late and we were all tired, so we went back to OKW, and took advantage of our jacuzzi tub to soak our tired feet. :-) That felt really good. (We won't talk about the "ring around the tub" we had after that, though... :-) )

Sunday, December 2 - Epcot

Lauri had some work she needed to get done before we could go play in the parks, but after that we were off to Epcot for the day. We had breakfast at Fountainview - but they no longer have pecan croissants! I was very disappointed...had to settle for chocolate instead. There was a VERY brave (or obnoxious, depending on how you look at it) squirrel who was trying to help himself to any food that was around - we kept shooing him away - the cast member who was cleaning the table flicked him with her towel, but that didn't discourage him for long! He was pretty cute, though.

We rode Test Track using Fastpasses - should have just gone with the Singles line, because we had to wait 20-30 minutes even with the Fastpasses. After that we did Universe of Energy, and saw Carol Kelley, who was one of the scavenger hunt participants (one of the RADP events was an all-day scavenger hunt), trying to find answers to a bunch of questions. ("Deodorant" was one of them. :-) ) In the Wonders of Life pavilion we saw Cranium Command, but Lauri passed on "The Making of Me". :-) We noticed that the new Space pavilion seems to be coming along nicely.

We went over to the other side of Future World (seeing Amy (Improvgal) and Julie who were also on the scavenger hunt) and into The Land to have lunch - the vegetable wrap at the soup/sandwich/salad place was really good! We watched the "Circle of Life" movie - Lauri commented that Disney has certainly gotten its mileage out of Lion King at the theme parks, between all the tie-ins at Animal Kingdom and Epcot - and she didn't even see "The Legend of the Lion King" at Magic Kingdom! None of us were really interested in The Living Seas, and Journey into the Imagination is closed for yet ANOTHER rehab (hopefully this one will be an *improvement*!!!) so we left that side of Future World (did show Lauri the talking water fountain, though), and did Spaceship Earth. It's so much nicer in the afternoon when there's almost no line than it is in the morning!

As we were headed back towards World Showcase we walked by Ice Station Cool, and we had to go in. In all fairness, we had warned Lauri that one of the drinks was really bad, and that it was from Italy. Ok, so we *didn't* actually tell her the name was Beverly...and when that was the first thing she poured, we just looked at each other and tried not to laugh and didn't try to stop her...I wish I'd had my camera out, because the look on her face after she tasted it was priceless. I think she said "That's just *NASTY*!!!" But fortunately the rest of them are a lot better - I really like the Lift Apple and the Krest ginger ale.

We stopped to watch Off Kilter - and I saw Rusty Wyatt, another of my RADP friends, watching, too - I hadn't realized he would be in Florida! After the show we talked for a while. At some point we also watched "Cast in Bronze", which is the group that features a carillon - such a portable instrument you know - just two tons of bells... :-) While there I saw my friends Paul and Ilene walk by - we'd already arranged in advance to meet at Animal Kingdom the next day, but it was nice to see that they'd arrived ok!

We drove over to Downtown Disney since Lauri hadn't been there before, and had dinner at Bongo's (Gloria Estefan's restaurant). It was pretty good - definitely plenty of food! I really like the tostones (fried green plantains) and Lee prefers the maduros (fried ripe plantains). Lauri ordered a very interesting drink - a CHOCOLATE martini! It was really good - but one of those things that's dangerous because you can drink a lot of them without realizing they are alcoholic! :-)

We'd eaten here several years ago but had an inside table with a VERY loud band playing about 30 feet away from us - I didn't enjoy that aspect too much. This time we had an outside table and NO band, and it was much nicer (except for the guy smoking at the table next to us - evidently outside tables are NOT non-smoking).

Throughout this trip we learned that at this time of year (when most of the parks close around 7:00) that eating dinner at about 6:00-7:00 is a really good idea, because things really start to fill up after that - when the parks close, people go *eat*! :-)

We wandered around Downtown Disney a little before going back to Epcot - we saw just a little bit of the end of the Candlelight Processional with Robbie Benson. It was late enough that mostly we just wandered around - we saw this life-size gingerbread house inside the Liberty Inn - and found a spot to watch IllumiNations/Reflections of Earth (in front of Morocco). Lauri hadn't seen this one, and enjoyed the show - we always like it, too. And so we closed another park! :-) We stopped at the Boardwalk Bakery on the way back to the car and sat and ate some goodies - and as we were walking by the Boardwalk we saw Jeff and Jen and several of the Scavenger Hunt participants - they all looked exhausted.

Part 1
Part 3
Tigger's Magical Moments
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Text and photographs copyright © 2001, 2002 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 1/3/02