Lisa and Andy's Excellent Adventure
October 1-8, 2001
Anniversary Trip to Walt Disney World
Well, it all started thirty-three years ago when I kidnapped Andy at the corner of State and Randolph, under the Marshall Field's Clock. I have not been sorry and I don't think Andy is either. [I'm definitely not sorry, best kidnapping I've ever experienced.] (This and following comments in brackets are Andy's.) Actually, we were planning on going in the fall and Andy suggested we go back to around our anniversary, October 5th, instead of Labor Day. We could leave after our big dance competition in Atlanta and have a great time. What a deal!
I called our wonderful travel agent and she told us that there was no room at the Inn (Boardwalk Inn) except on the Concierge Level. It was a bit pricier than a normal Boardwalk Inn room but we do love it there and said yes. [Actually, we had our choice of the Boardwalk Inn Concierge Level or a regular room at the Yacht Club. When asked I opted for the Yacht Club as it was less expensive (still not cheap mind you) and was promptly overruled. Why did she ask? In my opinion, concierge is nice but not worth the extra $$] After all, we could get breakfast, snacks, tea, wine and cheese, and desserts and cordial. Basically, there were snack foods available all day and a very willing and helpful staff to help us have a very Mickey time, which we did.
Everybody ready? Here we go!
Monday, October 1: Left the house at 9:15am. Not bad since the target time was 9am. We decided that leaving earlier just doesn't buy us anything since it takes so much longer to get through Atlanta during the rush hours. The drive down to WDW was a snap. We are so used to it that we saunter along at about 75mph. Andy's not interested in setting land speed records and I am resigned to it taking THAT LONG to get there. We did stop in all our usually spots, had lunch at the Visitor's Center in Florida, like we usually do and our last stop at the Disney Information Center in Ocala. We did realize that it's 60 minutes from Ocala to the Boardwalk Inn. That's new information.
The outside of the Boardwalk is "under renovation" so the pretty signage over the entrance to the building is down and the place looks a little down on its heels currently. The big wraparound porch facing Crescent Lake was also a part of the renovation but on the last day they had finished painting and it was usable but no furniture on it yet. Check-in was a breeze. Andy went and self parked Blanche (that's my car's name, thank you). And he was back before I completed the registration process. There was no one in line. Now, this is the unbusy season but the downward shift in the economy and the 9/11/2001 Terrorist attack have impacted the crowds too. We were assigned a room and headed up to the Concierge Level for our first brush with the rich and famous. We opened the door to the room and I backed out faster that I went in! The room was full of mildew and I am highly allergic to that and mold. I went right to the Concierge Lounge and Jackie immediately assigned us a new room, right across from the lounge (4235). It was better as long as we kept the AC at "hang meat" levels. Seems the rooms had been done due to the renovations and they had not gotten this under control. I had to call for the complementary robes which was not a problem but very necessary since I slept in it everynight. Remember the room was very cold. We had a very nice view of the Boardwalk and Crescent Lake. The room was right over the entrance to the Bakery. I can't say enough nice things about the Concierge staff. They did everything they could to make sure we were cared for. I needed a microwave for a medical treatment; there was no problem and it was there when we checked in. Change reservations for dinner, no problem. Anything else, no problem. They knew it was our anniversary and arranged special treats for that too.
After we were settled, unpacked, etc., we headed over to Epcot for dinner. Our first meal is at the Rose and Crown. [This is something of a tradition with us.] We both had the fish and chips and I had the required Guinness to start the vacation off right. [I passed on the Guinness this time; just didn't feel like it.] We had a lovely table outside and the Tapestry of Dreams Parade was underway on the far side of the World showcase. [Looks a lot like the Tapestry of Nations parade from this distance and much of the music is the same or similar.] We never did get to see the parade. It got windy that night so the second show was canceled and we never got back to Epcot on a calm night to see it. We tried on the last night but it was very windy so both performances were canceled. It's on the list for February… After dinner, we wandered over to Future World and I rode Test Track. It was great! [I've ridden this a few times, but it just doesn't thrill me. I rather watch the crowds, what a hoot.] It was dark out with a full moon and I loved it. I did the single rider line and got to sit with a family from Connecticut who drove down for 10 days rather than fly. Their children were very relucatnat to fly after the 9-11 attacks but they were staying at the Wilderness Lodge and having a ball. The attraction stopped so we got to see more of the inside before our high-speed loop outside. I found Andy [I was not lost however.] and we found a place to watch Illuminations, Reflections of Earth on the lower level by the bridge between France and England. [Only Disney can bridge the English Channel.] The upper level was closed for a private function but the lower level was wide open. We found a spot next to where the boats park to watch the show. It was a great place to be! I enjoyed seeing the show from ground level this time. You could really feel the heat.
Tuesday, October 2: Beautiful Weather. Sunny shining, moderate temps. Little white fluffy clouds. All I need!
I got us at 7:30am, [this is late for her] got ready and left the room to let Andy get ready. He sacrificed and got up at 8:15am [I usually get up at the crack of 9.] and he was ready for breakfast by 9:15am. We headed out around 10:15am. This was no commando vacation for us. We headed to the bus stop and took the first bus to a park. Turned out to be a training bus to Magic Kingdom. Perfect ride. The new bus driver got a hand when we got there and she was very happy. The crowds were not bad. When we were at WDW in July the place seemed empty but this time; there were more folks but not a lot of the stroller brigade. We headed over to Tomorrowland and Buzz Lightyear was a WALK ON! [I was chosen to carry the red card Disney uses to measure wait times. What a thrill :-) The actual time in line (mostly walking through the zig-zags) was about 3 minutes.] That's a first. I almost did as well as Andy. [I had a defective gun-honest.] He controls the joystick and somehow whirls the car around and I don't have a chance then [I moved the car very little this time.] but I did a personal best and was very happy. I rode Space Mountain. [I have ridden this once and discovered I'd need a padded steel cup to avoid pain, so I no longer ride it, being averse to pain there.] It was a walk on too but I used a Fast Pass since I don't like the path that standby takes. After that we did Indy Cars [guided go-carts]. OK we are both well over 10 years old but I don't remember ever going on this one. Maybe we did it once with the kids but not since then. Andy let me steer too. After that we dined al fresco. We got a turkey leg and a Caesar salad and shared those. Then I headed over to the Enchanted Grove and got my favorite, Strawberry swirl. It's Strawberry sorbet and vanilla soft serve ice cream. Yummy. We shared that too. It was a lovely picnic lunch. Then we strolled over to Adventure Land and rode Aladdin's Magic Carpet, NO LINE here either. It was fun. Andy enjoyed the joystick here too and managed to get us over the spitting camel the second time around. We left the park before the parade started to go back and rest up a bit. We headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to have dinner at Jiko's. We drove there since taking Disney transportation would have been a mess and we wanted to head over to Downtown Disney afterwards. We arrived plenty early and took advantage to look at the animal life on the three savannas. We talked with the guides [she did, she's the people person] who are very knowledgeable about what's going on. We were watching a young female marabou stork that was protecting a rock. She's too young to lay eggs yet but she likes to pretend [Marabou Barbie?] and occasionally one of the males will bring here sticks and they will build a little nest but that's all. She's too ugly to love yet. [Not to another marabou stork I'm betting if guys are already coming around.] There was another large dark colored bird, which was patrolling the edge of the savanna. The guide said that they have a time keeping the birds in since beak and feathers act as insulators so the electric fence doesn't effect them. There were a couple of young giraffes in this savanna and a couple of Thompson's gazelles too. Then we walked over to the savanna by the pool and saw a herd of Bongos parked under the trees, like in little Bongo garages. Then the keepers came by in a truck and that attracted the attention of one giraffe. This one knew there was food in the back of the truck and followed it wherever it went, eating from the bale of hay in the truck bed! Very funny to see.
We love Jiko's. We had dinner there in July and really liked it. Andy was looking forward to the sea bass and I was looking forward to trying something new. Ron was our server and he did a splendid job for us. He had been at Spoodles prior to coming to Jiko's. He was very knowledgeable about the cuisine and wines. We started out with the flatbread special which were four cheeses and kalamata olives and it was so good. They had just changed the menu and the featured fish was not sea bass in a banana leaf but black grouper in a banana leaf. It was good but not as good as the sea bass since it was a little on the dry side. [A touch fishy, and could have used a bit more seasoning.] Ron took our comments to the chef and she was aware of the problem. I had the roasted chemoya chicken with mashed potatoes and it was stunning. We each got a glass of a pinotage wine ["old vine"] and it was perfect. For desert we had crème brulee which was also very nice. The cardamom candies were still there but we opted for something different. We left very happy and not stuffed.
Nothing special at Downtown Disney. We walked a bit and shopped in the World of Disney. Andy found a shirt he liked [the basic 100 Years of Disney Magic in blue] and a new hat [Mickey with the American flag]. I got a Magic Moment button, which lights up during parades and in some attractions [also if you touch it; there are several styles]. It is very cool. That was about it for Downtown. This trip was not about shopping at all. We stopped by the Ghiradelli store for our free chocolate and headed back to the Boardwalk Inn for the night.
Wednesday, October 3: Another perfect day. What can I say? The mildewiness was better but then the room still had to be kept on frigid, I mean COLD! The beds are very comfy and triple sheeted so it was cozy sleeping [but might nippy after a shower!]. The turn down service was nice too. We accumulated quite a stockpile of salt-water taffy candies. [I have since eaten them all.] Today we headed to the Animal Kingdom to play. We always head to the safari first. We got Fast Passes but didn't really need them. The standby line was only 10 minutes but I wanted to wait. We went on the Pangani Trail but only saw one of the bachelor gorillas out. He was heading down to the creek and playing in the dirt. [A couple of the young gorillas were over by windowed viewing area, but it was packed with guests.] The safari was pretty good too. We managed to snag seats on the truck for the wheelchairs. I like this one since they don't cram a lot of folks into each seat. I actually have started asking for the last row since you have a less obstructed view and no one behind you. We headed back to the hotel to towel down and gather up the stuff for our Fantasmic! seats. We had dinner reservations at Mama Melrose's and lots of time so we opted to take the boat to MGM. It was hot and we were pooped. In honor of the 100 Years of Magic Celebration being held to celebrate the birth of Walt Disney 100 years ago, they have installed the biggest Sorcerer Mickey hat on earth in the middle of the MGM Park. It's something else. The hat is over 100 feet tall and completely obscures the view of the Great Movie Ride. The Great Movie Ride is housed in a building that looks like the original Mann's Chinese Theater but you can't see it real well because of the hat. I hope it's not there forever. It's not ugly but just in a very bad spot. Dinner at Mama's was great. I had the Pasta with chicken and broccoli in cream sauce and Andy had pork tenderloin, which he loved. We were given special passes to Fantasmic! with the special seating. We got there around 7:30 and Andy proceeded to read his book until the show started. [The people watching here is not as good as out on the streets.] He had been dragging the backpack all afternoon with our seat cushions, jackets (in case it got cool, it didn't) and his book, all five pounds of it. I We enjoyed the laser, and fireworks show. Our seats were in the far right section and even with light crowds they filled the arena to standing room only. After the performance we walked back to the Boardwalk. I love the path along the water and it's faster unless the boat is sitting there waiting.
Thursday, October 4: Another perfect day! Getting warmer. Crowds building a bit. This was another piddle around day; no commando. We went to the Magic Kingdom and just did what we wanted to do. We did Haunted Mansion and I did Big Thunder Railroad on a Fast Pass [to high a nausea factor for my tastes] and we did Pirates, and Tiki birds. Tiki birds was almost a private showing; there were only about 50 people there and of course two people had to sit right in front of me. I moved, they moved. I moved, they moved. Finally they settled down, sigh. All those empty places… We rode the train around the park and then we found spots for the new 100 Years of Magic Parade. We like the curb in front of the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, right next to the trash bins. [Covers one flank from encroachment.] The new parade is just darling! It's a big bunch of Disney characters all in Snow Globes. And the floats stop and the characters interact with the little kids or big kids. It's a fun parade. We found the take-home-sized globes in the gift shops but I did not get any. I figure they will be there the next time too. There were six of them at 75-80 bucks each. I liked the one with Mickey the best, but the Princess one with three globes on one float is very cool. [This one appears to only be available in the MK shops. I did not see it at World of Disney nor shops in other parks.] Andy liked the Villains the best. We headed back to the hotel and then went to Porto Bello Yacht Club in Downtown Disney for dinner. This is one of our favorites and we try to dine here often. We also had a certificate for an extra 100 points on our frequent eater card so that's another reason to eat there. We each had a lovely glass of wine and a salad and I had the calamari appetizer for my main course, which was a huge portion, and Andy even snagged some from my plate. [For the life of me, I can't remember what I had. So, by definition it wasn't memorable and therefore can't be remarkable.] We sat on the patio and again it was a lovely meal. We skipped desert this time. Guess we were not in the mood for that.
Friday, October 5: Another day in paradise. It's getting hotter but no complaints from me! It's our 33rd Wedding Anniversary Day.
After our usually morning routine (I get up, get ready and get out and then Prince Charming gets up [hey, I need my rest after hard days of experiencing attractions and feasting]), we headed out to MGM to just do stuff. Remember, there was not plan for this trip expect dinner reservations. We never spend enough time at MGM. It's such a special little park to us. We both like it at dusk when the lights are coming on and the music is easier to hear and people are promenading. We did Indy and RocknRoller Coaster and I did Tower of Terror [another high nausea factor attraction] and we did the Muppets. I rode Star Tours [ditto; though I like the story line, so I've ridden this one more often]. Then we went back to the hotel to clean up for dinner at the California Grill. We had reservations for 5:45p. It was either that or 9:15pm, which would never work for me. I'd be asleep before the first course. [I can vouch for that.]
The dinner at the California Grill was spectacular. We arrived on time and the restaurant was barely open. We were shown to the wine room on the far side of the restaurant and introduced to our two servers, Bill and Gary. This room is directly opposite the Magic Kingdom and I was wondering why we were "stuck" here; well, the service was great! Seems they like to keep this room for adults. It is very loud in the main dining area. We had plenty of time to discuss wine. Gary is a wine steward and keeper of the wine inventory so he was very knowledgeable. We each had a glass of a wonderful Pinot Noir, Frei Bros., Russian River, '99. We shared the flatbread special, four cheeses and sundried tomatoes. While the flatbread was being prepared, Gary took us out on one of nearest rooftop observation walkway and we sipped wine and watched the sun setting. From this area we could see Epcot and Downtown Disney. Gary called us back in for our flatbread and we shared the Goat Cheese ravioli in sundried tomato nectar, which was also spectacular! The kitchen divided it for us too. Then we settled on the main courses. Andy selected the signature Grilled Pork Tenderloin with polenta and mushrooms. I opted for the Tamarind Barbeque Beef Filet with buttered spinach and crushed Yukon golds. Once that was put into the kitchen, Gary took us to the other rooftop walkway, which faced the Magic Kingdom and we waited there, with our wine, for the main course. By then the restaurant was filling up! At no time were we ever hurried though any part of this meal and the wine room was also filling quickly. Almost too quickly since Gary and Bill were becoming very busy and they clearly focused on personal service. The main courses were outstanding. My filet was so tender I cut it with the table knife [they had no steak knives in the restaurant] and there was no salt and pepper on the table. Jiko's is the same. For desert we selected the new soufflé in honor of Walt's 100th birthday, Walt's Lemon Meringue Pie Soufflé. Since it was our anniversary and the Concierge staff had let them know that, we also got a very nice ice cream treat to accompany the soufflé. It was a magical meal and we will do it again and I would ask for Gary. [This was by far the best dining experience I've had at WDW (but not the most expensive!). It was equal in quality though quite different than the California Grill at Disneyland Paris (which is pricier).] As we headed out the whole restaurant was buzzing. The lounge was full and there were many diners waiting for tables. Again, we were never hurried. Gary said they had 650 reservations and would serve around 800 that night. We then went down from that wonderful experience to wait for a bus to go see La Nouba, the Cirque du Soleil permanent show. The bus service was not very good and we had a long time to wait, and I was starting to get concerned that we might be late for the performance. We weren't but it was a concern. The performance was magical. It's hard to describe too. It's basically circus acts, acrobats, aerialists and some people with special talents. There are two clowns who open the show and periodically appear to provide comic relief in wonderful ways. There are four harlequin clowns, dressed in white, that seem to be responsible for focusing the audience and making sure that the right reaction is gotten. They were wonderful. The performance takes place on a multi-level stage and there is a whole other stage under the main stage which sends tables and additional props up through the stage floor. The end includes the most wonderful trampoline act. I really am not doing much justice to the show. Save your money and go see this! Cheap it ain't! [I agree mostly. Most of the "main" acts were standard circus performances, nothing particularly daring or elaborate. But, all the side activities were what make this worth the price.]
Saturday, October 6: Warmer, still the beautiful blue skies and fluffy clouds. Today was perfect too except a large convention had appeared overnight and there were more people there. It was starting to look crowded! Oh my. Well, it's good for the stockholder in me and I like seeing people having a good time and spending money. We knew that a large convention was coming since the parking lots at some of the Epcot hotels were being consumed by very large tents. I think I read that this convention brought 15,000 people for the events and that's good!
We went took the boat over to MGM/Disney Studios for the day. Of course that's once we got up and going. We had friends joining us today. They would be there around 3pm and we would fool around and have dinner. This was the first time we would actually get to sit down and really get to know each other [before it was a quick hi or short conversation between events at a dance competition]. At MGM/Disney Studios we headed to Millionaire and got a Fast Pass, then hit Muppets. Andy did real well at Millionaire. At one point he was in second place to get into the hot seat. What a deal! It's such a fun attraction. At some point we went through the Walt Disney tribute and enjoyed that a lot. There was so much to see. We need to do that one again. Lunch was fast food at the ABC Commissary and then we headed back to the hotel for a short lie down and clean up. I needed another shower. It was pretty warm out and I was sticky.
Our friends arrived and we spent some time in the Concierge Lounge and decided to have dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Of course the wonderful Boardwalk Inn Concierge staff took care of the reservations for us. None of us had ever been there so it was a new treat. We then headed out on the Cubbon's Monorail Tour of the Magic Kingdom Resorts. Our friends live in Lakeland and come to dine but never stay at the resorts. We self parked at the Grand Floridian toured it and rode the rails to the Contemporary. We took them up to the California Grill and went out on the rooftop walkways to see the view of the Magic Kingdom. Then we looked around the Polynesian and back to the Grand Flo to get the car. We had a devil of a time finding a parking place in the self-park at the Boardwalk. It was packed. Andy was heading across the street when we spotted one and raced to claim it. Beat out an old lady to do it! [:-)] When we got back to the Boardwalk Inn, it was time for evening snacks so we all had a glass of wine and then headed out to the Steakhouse. We walked there and that was a good thing too. We had a wonderful meal. Our friends treated us to Champaign and we had a fine bottle of wine with the meal. We all tried something different. Andy got the Black Angus steak and I had the prime rib. Since it was our anniversary, we got a dessert sampler for the table and then each couple got a chocolate gooey cake. We were stuffed so we shuffled down to the Epcot International Gateway and watched Reflections of Earth from the cheap seats. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening.
When we returned to our room, we found a wonderful gift from the staff at the Innkeeper's Club; it was bottle of Fairy Tale Cuvee Champaign and some Boardwalk chocolates and a Mickey and Minnie photo frame. It was so special and I am very grateful for the acknowledgment.
Later we found out that the Magic Kingdom was slammed with people. [So full in fact, that Main Street was at capacity and they had to route guests through cast member areas to Tomorrow Land!] This was the only time that week that the evening parade, Spectromagic, and fireworks were being performed and the guests were crowding to get in. Disney actually extended the hours and ran a second parade that evening. Good on them! I love it.
Sunday, October 7: Weather same as before. Not boring but getting warmer and more crowded. We decided to spend the morning in Epcot and then head to Animal Kingdom for the new afternoon parade and a trip on the safari.. We had to be back at Epcot at 6:30p for dinner at the Bistro de Paris. That was a great plan and we did it all. But first we had breakfast at Spoodles. We have always enjoyed our meals there and it was not a great loss to us to not have the buffet available I got the semolina pancakes and they were outstanding. Very dense pancakes with this candy almond granola and some very sweet honey if this was not sweet enough. Andy got a ham and cheese omelet with some very highly seasoned fried potatoes. We were both very satisfied and the cost was about the same for us as the buffet but neither of us felt like we had to keep eating and eating and eating. We actually did one safari as a walk on since the standby line was very short, watched the parade in Harambe Village and then did our Fast Pass trip too. The animals were very active on both trips, which was surprising since it was very warm out. [The only animals that were missing this trip were the black rhinos. Did not see them on any of the safaris.] I got the last row both times by just asking. The parade was so cute! Lots of really neat floats and I was pleased to see so many families participating in the parade on the floats. Well done.
Dinner at the Bistro de Paris was OK. It was not crowded and the service was fine but nothing as special as the California Grill or the Yachtsman Steakhouse. We each had the mahi-mahi. Wish I could rave about this but I can't. We chose the blackberry crème brule as desert and it was fine too just nothing special. I think that we were expecting something like the meal we had at the California Grill in at Disneyland Paris and it just wasn't up to that level. We headed out to stroll the World Showcase. [Crowds were noticeably heavier.] We had not seen the new Epcot parade and didn't get to see it this evening either. It was pretty windy and there was no way those puppets could handle the wind. We found a new excellent spot to watch Reflections of Earth. We were standing on the bridge by the bad-boy flamingos and there was an open "leaning" place and it proved to be a totally unobstructed view. Since the events of September 11th, I see this performance differently and love it even more.
Monday, October 8: Today was another perfect day except we are going home. Well, we will be back. After breakfast at in the Innkeeper's Lounge, we packed up the car and headed over to Downtown Disney for one last shop. I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts and a magnet and Andy got a pin and we ordered the Snow White DVD. That was it. We headed over to Wolfgang Puck's Express to get a take out lunch but it was too early so we just headed out to 192 and up US27 to the tollroad and on to I75. We stopped at Publix in Ocala, got chicken and a salad and headed back up I75. We finally stopped at Florida rest area just north of the wildlife prairie (wetlands). Not as nice as their Welcome Center but OK. The car smelled of fried chicken and I was starving by then. We did luck out on the weather. Usually when we stop on our way back it's cold, windy and rainy but the sun was shinning and it was pleasantly warm. I dumped the trash and then saw the sign: Beware of Poisonous snakes! WHAT!!!!! [She's deathly afraid of snakes of any kind so "poisonous" wasn't the critical factor here.] Yes, that's what it said. I will not be stopping there again. Gives me the shivers even now. We were home before it got dark and that was nice. We already have a list started of what we want to do in February 2002. Nice to know you can go back.