Saturday, September 22, 2007

Disneyworld, part 2: EPCOT - Princesses are cool.

Yeahhh, I meant to update the blog yesterday, but I sewed a dress instead. Slacker. Anyway, Day 2 of our Disney vacation was the one I was probably looking forward to the most, because EPCOT is really cool. We started out the day by having our picture taken in front of the big silver ball. We only spent about 2 hours in Future World - the front half of the park - but had plenty of time to do everything we wanted. (World Showcase doesn't open until 11 a.m., and that's where we planned on spending most of our day, but like every other park we arrived at EPCOT within minutes of its opening. Porter waking me up at 6:30 or so every day was beginning to pay off.) The ride we were most excited about was The Seas With Nemo & Friends, wherein the animated characters from Nemo are actually projected into a real aquarium, and you ride in a "clam-mobile" and get the songs from the movie stuck in your head. There was no line whatsoever, so we rode the ride 3 times in about 20 minutes.
By that point we were actually getting a little sick of it, but fortunately the building housing the ride has lots of other cool stuff. You can pose inside of a giant shark
and see manatees and look through a periscope and walk inside of a giant aquarium (cool for Matt and the kids; not cool for me) and kill time until Turtle Talk with Crush opens at 10 a.m. (It was very surreal, actually having to wait around for an attraction to open - which also happened at Magic Kingdom. I was worried that we wouldn't have enough time to do everything we wanted.)

The other big attraction we did in the Future World side was Soarin, which simulates the experience of hang-gliding over the state of California. (You would have loved it, Mom - orange groves and everything.) Because you are actually suspended about 40 feet in the air, there's a height requirement, so Porter couldn't go. That was the only time in the whole 4 days that we did a 'baby swap' which basically consisted of Porter and me eating a Rice Krispy treat while Matt and Betsy rode, and Matt and Porter eating Cheetos while Betsy and I rode. (We had a lot of snack credits with the dining plan.) The ride was really cool - lucky Betsy got to do it twice - and I was able to overcome the fear of heights by reminding myself that it was all totally fake. Which I think was not what the Imagineers had in mind, but it worked for me.

After Soarin' we made our way into he World Showcase, which is probably my favorite part of all the parks. Featuring a whole bunch of countries - Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, American and the U.K. (did I miss any?) - it's great for someone like me who flat out can't afford to travel to interesting and exotic places for real. World Showcase has a reputation for being boring to small children, to the extent that a lot of guidebooks actually suggest that you skip it altogether. I was pleasantly surprised, because there's actually a lot for little kids. Model trains, character greetings, a whole exhibit of tin toys, street performers (the drummers in Japan were sweet), plus each country's pavilion had a little craft for the kids. Give Betsy a die cut Viking ship and some markers, and she's pretty much happy.
One of the other reasons we were looking forward to EPCOT is the food. And not just the food, but the character dining. See, at Norway's restaurant you can eat lunch with princesses. I booked lunch for Betsy and me pretty much the day we decided we were going to Disney (and unlike Cinderella's Castle, you do not need a complicated game plan to get reservations). She was really looking forward to it. I let Betsy wear her dress with princesses and her indulgent parent (hint: not me) had gotten her a sparkly princess crown for the occasion. On our way into the restaurant we met Belle, who told Betsy that their names start with the same letter. Hooray for B!
I think the princess Betsy liked the most was Sleeping Beauty (since she'd picked a Sleeping Beauty toy the day before, and spent most of the evening forcing Matt and me to pry the rubber dresses on and off with glitter-covered hands). That was the one she interacted with the most, or maybe she went into Princess Overload after the first two and couldn't handle Jasmine, Ariel, and Cinderella too. Anyway, in lieu of an autograph book, Matt had picked up a book of princess stories at Half Price Books, so that each princess had a story or at least a picture on the frontispiece where she could sign. Sleeping Beauty's signature was the best: "To Princess Betsy, Love Princess Aurora. [little heart] Sweet dreams!"
In all, Betsy got to meet five princesses at lunch. (If you are lucky enough to get into Cinderella's Castle, you only get to meet one.) She didn't really eat much of her lunch beyond a few squares of Jarslberg cheese. (I asked if they had any Venezuelan beaver cheese, but no such luck.) But all of the princesses were really sweet. They all asked her name - Cinderella asked her if the mice made her dress - and one of the princesses (I forget which one) said "Bye, Princess Betsy" when she was walking back through - we were seated by the doorway - after she had finished making her rounds of the room. Now, the princess must have met 15 little girls in 10 minutes, so I was really impressed that she remembered my daughter's name. We will definitely do this meal again if we go to Disney before Betsy becomes too old (and therefore too cool).
I loved the food. Holy cow, it was good. You wouldn't think that chicken salad with orange marmalade in it would be good, but it was the best chicken salad I have ever eaten. And the desserts... ohh the desserts. (The princesses were gone by then so Betsy had no trouble concentrating.) I'm not generally a cheesecake fan, but the lingonberry cheesecake was awesome.
While Betsy and I were swooning over princesses and smoked salmon, Matt and Porter were eating at a different venue. They went to the Garden Grill, a rotating restaurant with some of the more standard Disney characters like Chip and Dale. But I don't have the pictures yet because I had to give Matt a disposable camera for that, and it's not developed yet. Matt spoke very highly of the whole experience; he said their waiter was good, the food was Delicious, Porter was good company for once, and Mickey Mouse was broken. Actually, that last bit may have been Porter's opinion.

So, after gorging ourselves silly, we had about 5 hours to see the rest of World Showcase before gorging ourselves silly again at dinner. (I'm telling you, the free Dining Plan thing was insane. I have never eaten so much in my life. And I liked it.) I did take some time out to meet up with my Internet buddy Cid, whom I met via an NCIS website.

Cid's worked at Disneyworld for almost 20 years, so she had lots of interesting insight and trivia into the World. (Plus, she sent autographed pictures of Cinderella & Buzz Lightyear to the kids before we left, AND had personalized ears left at the front desk when we checked in. Porter likes to wear his and announce, "I Mickey Moushe!") I was really glad I got to meet her and wished we could have chatted longer. And I didn't bore Matt by just talking about NCIS the whole time.

EPCOT has lots of character meeting stations scattered throughout the parks - Mulan in China, Pooh in England, Aladdin in Morocco, etc. In the Germany pavilion we got to meet Snow White and Dopey without even having to wait in line, so Betsy got the coveted sixth princess signature for her book, and Porter finally met someone who has less hair than he does.

We had time to see and do pretty much everything in the World Showcase, like watch the 360-degree Canada film and the Audio-Animatronic tribute to America. (Nothing could be more Disney. Porter hated it, though.) One of the best experiences was when we were in the Japan pavilion, which has a great big department store instead of just a gift shop. There was a whole room of beautiful kimonos, and the adorable saleslady helped Betsy dress up in a little pink one - complete with hair comb, parasol, everything. Betsy loved it. (I would have bought her a kimono if I could come even close to justifying it, but there are only so many times a 4-year-old girl needs to wear one. Such as, none.)
We did managed to get rained on - in the evening, not in the afternoon - when we were waiting for our dinner reservation at the Rose & Crown Pub. But it had been a pretty hot day, so the rain wasn't too bad. I had gotten us a 7:30 dinner reservation in the hopes that we could watch the Illuminations fireworks show at 9 (the restaurant's patio is supposed to be a great viewing area). We were seated about half an hour late so it was no problem watching the show, which was really great - and I swear, we were so close I could feel the heat from some of the giant fireballs. And the food was, as expected, excellent. We had a cheese platter to start - I had some cheese for my English friend who is sadly lactose intolerant - and some chicken skewers, and Matt had fish & chips and I had bangers & mash and Betsy had shepherd's pie. By the time the fireworks were done and it was time for dessert, both of the kids were asleep and we were fully stuffed, so we got our fresh berry scones boxed up and had them for breakfast the next day. (They were delicious.)

We actually left the restaurant after the park had closed, which meant that everyone who had been in EPCOT that day was waiting in line for the buses. And, apparently All Star Sports was a very popular resort that week. Fortunately, Matt had done some exploring the day we arrived and figured out that we were right across the parking lot from All Star Music, which had virtually no line at the bus stop. Good call, Matt!

This was my quest when we were at EPCOT: (Because it's important to have goals in life.) I bought candy and/or cookies at every country in EPCOT. Except for Morocco - disappointingly, I couldn't find anything suitable to buy there - and in the America pavilion, because hello, I do know what American candy tastes like. And it was a very interesting quest. I learned that, for example, Mexican candy has goat milk in it. Mmm, goat milk. And I learned that Japan apparently has a sweet tooth: they had a huge display of candy, all in brightly colored packaging. I ended up settling on something called Sweet Candy (Fruit Drop"S") which came in a cute little tin. My favorite so far are the Italian fruit gems, whereas the Chinese White Rabbit candy is kind of gross (perhaps because it contains real rabbits?!) We've been gradually sampling the goods over the past week. It was a very cool souvenir, if a slightly expensive one. (I did try to keep each individual piece under four dollars. I was tempted to buy a box of Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles in the UK for six dollars, and I was glad I didn't because I saw them at Meijer this week for $2.89.)

So that was EPCOT. It was a great day, but exhausting. But there's no rest for the wicked, as that was only Day 2.

2 witty remarks on "Disneyworld, part 2: EPCOT - Princesses are cool."

susan opel on 5:41 PM said...

Wow! That was SOME day at Epcot.

My favorite parts - that the princess remembered Betsy's name (who wouldn't remember that adorable child?) AND that you met someone from ann NCIS website. You are obsessed!

Hope things are groovy in Coltsland!

newmommy said...

you should have gotten the kimono. besty is just old enough to celebrate "shichi go san" (7-5-3)...well close enough.

it's a Buddhist celebration for 5 yr old girls and 3 & 7 year old boys. 7-5-3 are auspicious ages for kids in Japan.

she looks adorable, btw


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