Friday, October 2, 2009

The Last Days

A quick summary since the Crystal Palace breakfast on Monday.

Monday - Jim sleeps. Dirk swims and takes pictures of resort. Two
hours in Epcot then dinner at resort and bed.

Tuesday - Jim very sick. Dirk opens Animal Kingdom, swims and does
laundry. Allanage to do the full Halloween Party and have a great
time. Jim nearly dies (exaggeration) on walk home.

Wednesday - Jim sleeps. Dirk swims. Meet Leslie and Katie for lunch at
Whispering Canyon and then afternoon at Urgent Careand evening in room.

Thursday - Jim sleeps. Dirk sleeps. Make it to epcot by 2 pm for
awesome final day.

Friday - getting on Disney's Magical Express and heading to the airport for the flight home.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Animal Pics

When you get up early and get yourself over to Disney's Animal Kingdom, you can see the animals at play before the decide to sleep in the mid-day sun. Today, one of the tigers was being especially entertaining. Sadly, it was just for me since Leslie, Katie, and Jim are all sick and our other friends Kim and Eric have been sick awhile. I'd call it the Disney crud, except we all have a habit of having dramatic vacation health issues.

Anyway, here's the tiger rolling in the clover. It really makes me want to say, "Nice kitty!" and rub the furry belly.



Monday, September 28, 2009

Decorations

Main Street Halloween decorations.

Anniversaries

So, Winnie the Pooh didn't know Jim was sick and couldn't join us. He
had this Mickey confetti heart laid out on our table to celebrate our
anniversary.

Breakfast

We're waiting to be seated for breakfast at Crystal Palace with this
wonderful view. Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore will join us.

Sadly, Jim won't. And there may be an urgent care visit for Tamiflu.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Options are awesome!

The sky fell as I left the Studios (Jim left earlier to crash). The
bus to the Contemporary was loading a wheelchair, while about 40 folks
waited in the queue getting drenched.

I saw the bus to the Ticket and Transportation Center was empty and
about to depart so I quickly hopped on. The rain stopped by the time I
got to the TTC so I switched to theonorail to the Contemporary and
stayed dry the whole way!!

H2O

Icky wet rainy day in the Studios. You need SCUBA to breathe.

Oh, and Florida has to be the birthplace of global warming.

Empty

The Rapture happened and took everyone except is from Disney Studios.
Oh, wait, that means I got left behind. LOL.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Epcot Summary

Our luck with Disney transportation continues. Mousekeeping, not so much, but that's another story.

We left the room bout 8:05, and took the monorail from the Contemporary to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where we transferred to the Epcot monorail. No more than a 3 minute wait for trains. We were in line to enter Epcot at 8:40, and the turnstiles opened at 8:45. Final rope drop at 9:00 (by the Innoventions fountain), and we were on Soarin' by 9:05. Great way to begin an Epcot visit, but it made me nosalgic for the many wonderful California trips we've taken!

Leslie called to say they were in the parks (Yay!), so we met at the Pin Station by the Innoventions Fountain. After a little pin shopping/trading, we went to Test Track for a 9:45 ride (posted 30 minute wait, more like 20) and then a quick snack before Ellen's Energy Adventure. Leslie was a little bummed she missed the apartment sequence of the pre-show, but it still was a nice 45 minute nap, er respite from the heat, er awesome Disney attraction!

Since Leslie's mother Janet has Aiden convinced that the Tomorrowland Transit Authority is Space Mountain, I wonder if she can convince Aiden that Ellen's Energy Adventure is actually Dinosaur! from Disney's Animal Kingdom. LOL.

Leslie and Katie needed protein, and we were hungry, too, so it was fortunate that the Food & Wine booths had opened. We sampled 3 or 4 of the 30+ booths so there are likely to be more Epcot trips. Some pics and details are in an earlier post. However, in addition to those, Leslie and Katie also sampled a scallop dish from New Zealand, and Katie had a cheese, bread, and Irish butter sampler from Ireland.

They love the Voices of Liberty a capella group in the American Adventure, so we went to listen to them and get another break from the heat, and then saw the attraction itself. Unfortunately, because of that, we missed a voicemail from our friends David & Sommer saying they were near by and didn't get it until it was too late.

We took the boat across the World Showcase Lagoon to head back home, but Jim had to stop for his favorite beverage Beverly from Club Cool in Epcot's Future World, where several of Coca Cola's international flavors are on display. I swear, Jim would plan a trip to Disney just for Beverly.

Leslie and Katie went on Spaceship Earth, while we shopped a bit, then we took the monorail back to the resort to rest a spell and get ready for tonight's dinner at Victoria & Albert.

Bay Lake Tower Lobby

Jetsonianian chandileer in lobby, overlooking fountain that leads
through bamboo forest to pool.

Rooftop Views

Magic Kingdom from the roof top balcony of Bay Lake Tower.

It's so cool being here. It's my first time back at this particular
resort (well, the Contemporary) since 1977 when Mom brought me for a
week to celebrate her earning her PhD.

Yummm

This is the maple glazed salmon with lentil and corn relish that Jim,
Leslie, and Katie all loved.

Epcot food and wine festival

I really enjoyed this spicy smoked chicken sausage with polenta, while
Jim and Katie had smoked salmon with maple glaze from the Canada booth.

Leslie and I also sampled the Chicken Souvlaki from the Greek booth.
They are tapas sized portions so you get to sample different ethnic
cuisines without pigging out. Good thing, too, since we are going to
Victoria & Albert's tonight for our second anniversary dinner!!

Epcot!!

We're in line for Test Track with Katie and Leslie.

New Day, New Friends, New Food


We woke up to the a very placid sunrise view from our room. This makes getting up early all worth while (but tries to lure me to the pool rather than the park).

We had drinks, then dinner last night with Kim and Eric and Katie and Leslie at Jiko. I'm glad we ordered one each of all desserts rather than one each of all the wine, but I did my part to help 4 people finish 3 bottles!!

Chocolate Block by Boekenhoutskloopf wasn't on the wine list, but they still had bottles in the house. Everyone who tried it really enjoyed it so that made me happy. We also had a swaartland white table wine which was refreshing but with a bitter end, and a pinot noir whose origin in South Africa escapes me.

We were similarly adventurous with appetizers. Nearly one each on the list to share for the table - plus two cheese plates which had Kim and Katie purring quite contentedly. When it come to the entree, we were all pretty much in synch - 5 Kenyan short ribs, one filet and mac, and Jim did his blend an appetizer thing for his entree.

Darleen, our server, was very patient and humorous with us. I would request her again in a heart beat.

Today, we are taking Katie at her word that she wants to open Epcot. We'll be there, but will Katie & Leslie? Hmmm. . .

Tonight, it's Victoria & Albert for dinner. Then, the remainder of our meals are very tiny and reasonable by comparison. (Good thing, too, because I started having visions of Monty Python's "Meaning of Life" at last night's dinner table!! Don't worry - we respected the food and wine (actually, more like worshiped and adored.)

Dirk

Friday, September 25, 2009

Water Journeys

Leaving the Polynesian on the launch to the MK after breakfast at Kona
Cafe.

Lunch at Sanaa

Sanaa is the newest restaurant at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas. It primarily serves the DVC wing at Kidani Village. We had lunch planned for 1:05 yesterday, but weren't ready to leave the park yet so blew off the ressie. Then, after Kim and Eric showed us around Kidani Village, we were all really hungry and decided to have lunch there together. We got in about 2:30 and left at 4:00.

The flavors are Indian Ocean, featuring blends of the Indian subcontinent and East Africa/South African coast. My favorite blends

Most Disney menues switched on September 22 so things look a little different than from the published menus in the interent, but most items were there.

Jim started off with pomegranite Lemonade, his new favorite refresher drink. By the way, Disney has standardized the drink menu across all the resorts. Very sad. Even the portfolio is the same in each place. So much for vaunted theming and uniqueness. But, the food and service are still good.

Then, he had a tomato soup with paneer cheese, which he loved. He said it was a tomato soup like no other and it didn't matter that it was a hot day. This stuff was tasty in any season. His main course as a salad sampler, because he was being sensible, you see? :) The sampler is a choice of three salads. He chose a mango mix, a beet mix, and a carrot salad. He loved each of them.

We both split a bread basket, which is a choice of three breads and three choices. We chose Naan, Paratha, and Roti. The sauces were a tamarind chutney (yummy), raita (always my favorite) and a mango chutney (for Jim). I ended up blending the tamarind chutney with the raita for what I considered to be a perfect sauce.

I chose the lamb kefta for my entree - about 8 oz of ground lamb flavored with endian spices and grilled, served over tomato, onion, and minted greens with raita, all on top of Naan. Awesome. Truly Awesome.

Kim had the same thing, and Eric chose the Chicken tandoori, which was basically the same thing except in tandoori spices and served with basmati on the side. The lamb kefta was new to the menu, and I hope it stays.

We were full, but were tempted by dessert. Kim wanted the cordamom butter bread, which was just taken off the menu - so we ended up being desertless. That's OK. It's Disney - desserts abound.

Sanaa is another new favorite, along with the Wave. Disney dining is only getting better in my book!!

A New Day Dawns

Sunrise is beautiful at Bay Lake Towers - so beautiful that Jim pulled the curtains tight to make sure he wouldn't be tempted to get up with the sun!!

Our plan was a leisurely morning with breakfast at Kona and then figuring it out by the hour. Well, since Jim had the curtains pulled tight, we're now rushing to get ready for Tonga Toast or Blueberry Pancakes at Kona, but I suspect we'll still play it by the hour afterward. :)

We'll either check out MK or Epcot and to meet up with Leslie & Katie when they arrive, and perhaps David & Sommer, too. Tonight is dinner at Jiko hosted by Kim and Eric with Leslie, Katie, and us.

There are attractions at Disney World? It's not all about the food, friends, and monorails?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Images from Day 2

We had fun at Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safari, meeting up with Kim and Eric, the animal trails, Expedition Everest again, touring Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge and having a great lunch at Sanaa at Kidani (lamb kefka).

More details later because, well, I'm on vacation and am not supposed to write richly detailed trip reports according to our friend Susan in Oklahoma. ;)

After we got back to the room, we rested (yes, even I); plotted some details for tomorrow with Leslie (deciding to play it by the hour - yes, even I); swam, and ate a suprisingly tasty quick service dinner at Contempo Cafe in the Contemporary.

So, the promised pictures:

My favorite Animal picks from Disney's Animal Kingdom today

A sleepy hippo - he comes up for air every 2o minutes or so then drops back to sleep.



Awesome pose. We love the tigers.

And the view from our room at Disney's Bay Lake Towers:


Afternoon view from our room complete with rainbow


Sunrise view - it's really fun to watch the boats get into position for the day.

Waiting for Opening

At Disney's Animal Kingdom

Today's Plan:

We're up already (by 6:15 AM thank you very much).

Bus to animal kingdom around 8:15,
Meet up with Kim and Eric over there when they are ready
Check out Kidani Village - the new DVC wing of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Head back to resort and figure out evening plans: (SpectroMagic, Illuminations, or Wishes again from the "Top of the World" lounge)

Dirk

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summary of the First Day

All in all, this was a very good day.

We were up at 4:30 to be ready for a 6:00 am departure to the airport courtesy of our friend Susan. There was only a little bit of commuter traffic, so we were at Philly and through security in normal time. In fact, security only had 2-3 people in line in front of us 7:20 for terminals D & E. We like the new security set up.

We were 2nd and 3rd in line for Southwest's open seating boarding. That meant we had a reasonable chance at the Exit row. Unfortunately, Jim got pulled by TSA for random screening at the gate, but I boarded anyway. It's not kosher to save seats on Southwest but the flight attendant guarding the exit row and I chatted a few minutes until Jim came up.

Using Disney's Magical Express worked fairly well. We bypassed the counter check-in and were put right in line for the Magic Kingdom resorts (Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary). We boarded after 5 minutes, and kicked back after another 5 minutes. That was convenient enough for me. Unfortunately, the stops were also in that order which meant about 25 minutes between the first and last (our) stop. We should have hopped off at the Polynesian and taken the monorail to the Contemporary. It would have saved us a whopping 10 minutes!!

Check-in was smooth, and our room was ready. I had requested a higher floor in our category (Lake View). We got right at the center of the "C" that is Bay Lake Towers on the 12th floor. We are very happy. That the room was ready at 1:00, was a huge bonus!!

Bay Lake Tower is very nicely done (and I'll say more on that later). Of course (Janet), that assumes I finish the trip blog for this trip. ;) At any rate, we crossed over from the Contemporary to the Bay Lake Tower via the curvy pedestrian bridge and took the elevator to our floor.

The room (a studio) is certainly smaller than most DVC studios, but we like the look and design. At first, the plans for BLT left me cold, but I think this particular resort will be in my top 2-3 resorts.

By the way, for those who care about the things (and you Disney-ites know who you are), the beds have duvets instead of bedspreads! Unfortunately, the used older duvet from the previous guest was left on the chair by Mousekeeping. A quick call got rid of that pronto. I later discovered a half-finished bottle of Sprite in the fridge. Hmmm. Not a good sign. Other than that, the room is very clean and orderly, and the staff have been at their Disney best.

We unpacked our groceries and Owner's Locker (things we leave in a locker stored locally) and plotted our afternoon. Having been awake since 4:30 am and then walloped by the Florida heat and humidity, we decided on a leisurely afternoon. We were hungry and thought about cancelling dinner at The Wave restaurant at 5:30 in favor of a late lunch in the park. However, we decided not to and I'm glad. (Wave review coming up in another post).

We strolled over to the Magic Kingdom as the remnants of tropical storm/depression/hurricane Fred spit on us from above. We might as well have had snorkel gear. Hot and humid and we weren't ready for that! Anyway, we go the MK and picked up our Tables in Wonderland card (20% dining discount card for Annual Pass holders) and our tickets for Tuesday night's Halloween party and then went into the park.

I didn't have time to get my hair cut before coming, so we stopped off at the Main Street Barber Shop. Three kids and one adult were ahead of us, but the wait wasn't too bad. The 3:00 parade came by while we were waiting. I'm not impressed. I generally don't like the day parades (except for Animal Kingdom's) but the old Share a Dream Come True parade still holds a fond place in my heart. I'm not sure the changes since then have been real improvements. Unfortunately, during the parade, an older man with autism got over-stimulated by the people and parade music and lost control of himself. Management dealt with him kindly but they quickly removed him from the scene. Well, not quickly enough for a few people nearby, but hopefully he would have a better evening.

Overall, the crowds were very light after the parade, and the waits around 5-10 minutes. We kept our focus on Fantasyland, beginning with Buzz Lightyear. I scored 75,000+, Jim 20,000+. I had asked him if I should let him win in honor of our anniversary or give it my best. He told me to give it my best but that he would sulk on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority if he lost! Well, Jim doesn't sulk well. It only took minimal encouragement to get him back into a Disney mood.

Since Space Mountain is under refurb, we saw just how ugly the dome and building are on the inside with the houselights on as the TTA cars move through. It's amazing what darkness and black light can do to improve a scene!

As we exited the TTA, Jim made a bee-line for his favorite - Carousel of Progress. I suggested we might want to save that for Leslie or some of the others we'll meet up with, but he assured me it was a repeatable attraction. So, we had our tour of progress through the 20th century. Apparently we went from hope and possibility at the turn of the last century to burned turkey at the turn of the current century.

It was time to head back to the resort if we were to keep our 5:30 reservations so we meandered down Main Street and back to BLT. Our luggage had been delivered to the room during our absence (Disney transfers your luggage from the airport if you pre-tag it before departure and take their Magical Express bus service - all complimentary). We unpacked, changed, and went to dinner at the Wave - a restaurant in the Contemporary featuring alternative cuisine (basically, eco-friendly foods with a twist). It was good - I'll give a full review later.

Our server, Barbi, had been at Boma for a number of years before moving over to The Wave. She had been to South Africa for a month recently, so we spent a lot of time discussing SA travel strategies!

We started with crabcake appetizer's - which were huge and 100% crabmeat coated in panko breadcrumbs and grilled. Yummy. I mean, yummy.

For entrees, Jim had linguine with rock shrimp and little neck clams in a chunky tomato sauce. I had the bee filet with white bean mash and kale in a cabernet sauvignon reduction. Double yummy! I also ordered a side of warm fingerling potato salad. Couldn't pass up alternative potatoes.

I was uncertain whether to match the filet a Brampton Cab Sav from South Africa or a Ned & Henry's Shiraz from Hewitson winery in Australia that Barbi recommended. She brought out both and let me try. The cab sav was very old world and earthy. I just wasn't in the mood, but the shiraz was an excellent option and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dessert was complimentary for our anniversary. We shared a trio of cheesecake with raspberry coulis, coconut panacotta with passionfruit, and a chocolate and passionfruit mousse. We managed to share well and were amply full at the end.

Let me say this: The Wave is my number one favorite regular dining option at Disney now. Jiko is still my favorite Signature, but I think The Wave compares very favorably to the Signatures.

Dinner lasted about 2 hours, which put is in perfect timing to go to the Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Towers. The lounge offers an amazing 360 view of the area, but concentrating on the Magic Kingdom for fireworks viewing. Attendance is reserved to DVC Members who are Bay Lake Tower guests. Well, that was us - so we went up. Capacity was about 500, but only about 40 were in the lounge and another 30-40 on the balcony. Great views, music was well-piped, and we very much enjoyed Wishes that way. I'm sure will be back to take and share proper pictures (better camera and tripod. The iPhone just can't cut it in low light).

So, a great first Disney day comes to an end and we anticipate getting to Animal Kingdom at opening tomorrow and meeting up with friends Kim and Eric.

Wishes

We are about to see Wishes from Top of The World Lounge at Disney's
Bay Lake Towers.

On Magical Express!

For those who care about such things:

Deplane 15 minutes early.

10 minutes to Magical Express line.

5 minutes in line.

Loading bus now and kicking back as I type!!!

Rain for Next Disney Trip

It may never rain in Southern California, but it's raining in Philly
and it's supposed to on Orlando. But a soggy day at WDW is better
than a dry day anywhere else!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chicken Dinners

We've grown bored with parlientary debate (especially since it looked
like things would go our way. We're now waiting in line for Mrs.
Knott's chicken dinner at Knott's Berry Farm. It's the 75th
anniversary of the chicken dinner.

General Convention

We are observing the debate in the House of Deputies of the General
Convemtion of the Episcopal Church on D025, which expresses our
commitment to the Anglican Communion and reaffirms the supremacy of
our Constition and Canons regarding equal access to all orders of
ordained ministry.

Saturday - General Convention and Urgent Care

Jim and I got moving surprisingly quickly on Saturday, so we decided to check out General Convention to see what's happening. Once we found our way in (like many Episcopal churches, not obvious, unless you know), we discovered all the hoopla that surrounds the third largest convention in the United States (only the Democratic and Republican parties hold larger conventions than the Episcopal church - yet our Convention represents only 2.4 million people, so theoretically, we're more representative than the parties).

All we really wanted to do was to scope out the exhibition floor. For a $15 day pass, we had the privilege of shopping and purchasing. You know how small the Episcopal church is when you every time you move 20 feet, you bump into someone you know. It's all fun, though, and we caught up with some old friends we haven't seen in awhile. We'll be back Sunday for the Convention Eucharist.

As we left Convention, we came across 3 scraggly Fred Phelps protesters announcing that we were all going to Hell. I took a picture, and someone commented that they'll pose wiht you if you go up to them. Nah - I'll pass.

However, as we left, it became very obvious that my sore throat was going to be an extreme problematic. I asked at the front desk if there was an urgent care near by. They recommended the MinuteClinic inside a CVS but gave me the wrong number. The MinuteClinic website said they accept insurance if you call to get pre-approval. I called my carrier, and was told to call back on Monday (?) ! Then, I checked my carrier's website and discovered that they recommen Concentra Urgent Care for walk-in needs. All you need to do is notify yor primary care phsicians as soon as possible after.

Well, there was one across from the Anaheim A's stadium about 10 minutes away, so we all headed over there. I was in line with 6 people awaiting drug tests. Since I was urgent care, I was bumped to the top of the list and seen by a surgeon who wanted to get home quickly since he came in for a lacerated finger earlier. He did score points for ask if I was an Episcopal or Roman Catholic priest, rather than assuming Catholic. Then he asked if I knew former Father Cutie. Oy! It turns out his son-in-law is a Methodist minister and he liked that the fact that Episcopal clergy not only could marry, but could marry any human being. Apparently he's going to Hell with the rest of us if the protesters are right. :)

So, my throat is fire engine red, my lungs are clear, my glands slightly swollen. A prescription for a Z-pac for probably strep and I'm on my way. The co-pay will be billed to my home address so I'm not even poorer for experience.

After finding a CVS to fill the scrip, we head back to the hotel to change for the parks and get in exactly at the time we planned.

Since I wasn't in commando mode, Katie (!) took the lead. I had just taken a double dose of antibiotics on an empty stomach, so I was ordered to eat while they shopped. Lunch/Dinner was at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland - a pulled pork sandwich with fruit salad, and a strawberry shortcake for dessert. Jim had a garden salad and cheesecake.

Leslie and Katie revisit Pirates of the Caribbean while we eat, then we joing up for the Haunted Mansion, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh has the best gift shop. Unlike WDW, where Pooh is highly visible, here, there it is tucked back in Critter Country so no one ever finds it. The gift shop has a great candy section, and pretty good merchandise. So, we deciced to use Jim's brithday gift card here on a pith-helmet Eeyore and pith-helmet Pooh to join our pith-helmet Tigger at home. We also picked up a couple of pins, and a new Mickey coffee mug for Jim.

Then, Leslie decided she really needed that "fresh from the microwave" flavor of Disney Pizza, so the closest place to find cheesy dough was at Pinocchio's Village Haus in Fantasyland. After we were seated, I continued my new klutzy tradition and upended my hot tea all over Jim. No scalding took place. Our first day here, I upended my diet coke all over Leslie, so I guess it's Katie's turn next.

While getting my refill of tea, I had a Disney moment. Two Arab kids (language, complexion, t-shirt), were ordering a kids meal to share - they were about 8 or 9 and the older one knew enough English to interpret for the younger one). However, after they ordered, they left - instead of going to the counter to wait for delivery. Their number came up right before mine - I recognized their order and told the server to hold a sec while I soped out the seating area for them. I found them and gestured for them to get their food. They were happy, the server was pleased, and I had hot tea so my throat was happy. Actually, the two kids reminded me of the novel the Kite Flyer.

After dinner, we went to Snow White's Scary Adventures with its abrupt ending (witch pushed off cliff, "and they all lived happily ever after." Yet, Snow White is still in her deep sleep without her Prince? Hmm. Fractured Fairy Tale). Then Jim and I rode the Tea Cups, which are really fun on antibiotics! Alice in Wonderland dark ride, and a massive search for more water to soothe my throat as we make our way to check in for the Fantasmic Dessert Package.

After our seats were assigned, we had enough time for another ride-through at the Haunted Mansion - it's really fun after dark, with slightly moodier cast members and screamier guests. Then, back to be seated for the show.

The Fantasmic Dessert Package is reserved seating for a cost in a prime viewing area along the Rivers of America in New Orleans Square. People campt out for the show as much as 4 hours ealier, so it's worth spending the money if you want at least one stress-free experience of watching Disney's best night time show ever. We're seated 30 minutes before show time, and given drinks of choice (hot chocolate for me as hot beverages really soothe the throad), and tehn a pre-packaged dessert box that Jim calls Bento Dessert. It's a mix of sweets, cheese, crackers, cookies, and fruit and way too much to eat in one seating so we have yummies in the hotel room.

After the show (which Katie and Leslie both pronounced excellent), we were allowed to stay in our seats for the fireworks. While they are focused on the castle (which you can't see from our vantage piont), this particular story isn't so castle dependent so it was a pretty good vantage point.

Afterward, we ambled out along with 30,000 other people and caught our shuttle back to the resort. It wasn't lung before I was off to sleep.

All things considered, it was a good Disney day.


It's Sunday - So Here's Friday's Report!

Every trip has its kinks and ours showed up yesterday for our second full day of vacation.

(I didn't take many pictures yesterday because of general malaise, but I do have some and will add them to his report later.)

The day started with Dirk nursing an increasingly severe sore throat and cold, Katie noticing some muscle issues and potential blisters, and Jim and Leslie as the perky ones. Already a scary sign.

We made it to the 10:00 opening of California Adventure just fine. Our strategy was to head back to Toy Story Mania, while grabbing fastpasses for California Screamin' roller coaster and spend the morning knocking out the Paraide Pier attractions. Unfortunately, the California Screamin' Fastpass machine would accept the tickets but not issue fastpasses. The fastpass attendant was quite blunt there was nothing he could do. Some of the Walt Dinsey World experienced among us mentioned that they can usually open the Fastpass machine and free the pass (if it was jammed) or do an override. The attendant thought that idea was rediculous and suggested that some of might enjoy vacationing at WDW a bit more than here.

That dump-truck load of anti-pixie dust set Dirk off, so the last Leslie, Katie & Jim saw of him was the blur of his sneakers as he head to guest services, confident there was better way. Otherwise, our tickets would be frozen for future fastpasses for a couple of hours as the machine assumed we had received them even though it failed to print them out.

Guest Services were very, very helpful. They understood the situation immediately and issued a blanket fastpass for up to 6 of us for California Screamin' to be used once any time that day. So, having been made whole, we once again attempted to get on with out strategy.

The wait for Toy Stoy Midway Mani was 15 minutes - not long at all. The queue is very different than at WDW - definitely themed to a Victorian row of carnival games. We were loaded into our ride vehicles and had a blast - well, many blasts, considering you are basically shooting a laser canon at 3-D projects of midway games themed on the Toy Story movies. Very fun. Probably the most fun interactive attraction at Disney.

While Leslie, Jim and I made our way to California Screamin' standby, Katie decided to stick with Toy Story Midway Mania. No evil fastpass person was in site and the standby line was 15 minutes, so my plan of riding once standby and again with a fastpass seemed to work well. Leslie loved the coaster - this was her first ride - and I found it did wonders for my mucuous clogged head. Round 2, with fastpasses (due to a now 25 minute standby line) brough us into direct contact with Evil Fastpass Guy, who dutifully acted like he had never seen me before, we were waved right on through and rode the attraction again.

(In fairness to Faspass Guy, he was probably having a bad morning two with 4 of his 6 machines not working and frustrated guests asking questions. Disneyland Resort cast members are also famously touchy any time you mention WDW even exists. I also need to be clear, this is th eonly negative Disneyland cast member contact I have had in 5 years of visits - which is why I ceased arguing and went straight to guest relations because I knew they were the only ones who could do something.)

While waiting for us, Katie did Toy Story two times in the single rider line and then went off to First Aid for bandaids to deal with blisters from Birkenstocks that had not been as well trained as she had hoped. Once reuinited, we did Toy Story again, and then rode Mickey's Sunwheel. It was pleasant and cool, but seriously lacking given the lake is drained for construction of the myuriads of pipework for the new evening light and water show "World of Color" set to debut next year.

The temporary absence of water also meant the park was baking without a single cool breeze to temper the hot sun. Even the locals were commenting on the unusual humidity. So, Trenton is cooler than noremal this year and Anaheim is hotter and more humid than normal. Once again, a mis-timed vacation!

By now, we were ready for lunch. Dirk was depressed at the closure of the Corn Dog Castle since he loves corn dogs. Jim wanted a turkey leg. Leslie wanted healthy roll-up, and Katie a salad, so was just picked up cart food along the way until we all ended up with the lunch we wanted. By the time we ready to settle, we were at picnic tables right next to a milkshake stand. Now, that's pixie dust (and desert).

After lunch, we headed into the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of the California Adventure to get fastpasses for Tower of Terror and check out the times for Aladdin - the Musical. Leslie and Katie decied on a mid-day break but we wanted to see Aladdin, so we decided to meet up for dinner later.

The Aladdin show is a 45 minute musical version of the animated feature. The stagecraft is very well done, but the acting was a little sub par for this based on our prior experience. The show didn't feel as fresh. As usual, Genie took most of the laughs and applause, and his humor was as topical as ever. All in all, it was great to see, but I doubt we'll repeat it this trip.

We briefly flirted with the idea of using the 4 fastpasses we had for Tower of Terror amongst ourselves, but realized that wouldn't be fair, so we shopped a bit, rode the Monsters, Inc. dark ride and trundled on home for an afternoon break.

As can tell from the length of this post, I was able to internect connection in the lobby, but not in the room. The staff did their best though, and this morning, I have somewhat reliable access in the room with my PC netbook, but Jim's Macbook can't get a signal. Sigh. 21st century technology with 1940s war-time reliability.

For dinner, we ate at a California chain -Mimi's. Known for comfort food and oversized portions, but reasonable prices. I had Country Fried Steak - a one-time must for me in Calfironia; Jim had a cobb salad with very fresh and tasty avocado, Leslie had pot roast, and Katie had french dip. It was the kind of ending the day needed - except,

Leslie and I realized we would have to drive past the entrance to Disneyland on the way back to the hotel and we still had these 4 Tower of Terror fastpasses. Leslie though she could just get out and experience Tower four times in a row. I reminded her that one of them was mine, so WE could experience Tower 2 times in a row. She agreed, so off we went while the others went to veg in their rooms.

Tower of Terror in California Adventure is different than in Orlando - it's definitely smaller and less richly themed around the actual building, but there are some different effects so it really is a worthy member of the Tower pantheon. With now 4 Towers in Disney's "Terror Hotel" chain around the world, I believe each is different, sometimes, quite significantly, from the other. That's the way to copy an attraction!

Well, we strolled out just as the Electric Parade was ending, so we were expecting to beat the masses to the buses. Then, Leslie gets pulled for a 5 minute survey, which lasted 15 minutes, so we strolled out with the masses. But we did get to see the Disneyland fireworks from outside the park, which was fun.

Off to bed, and plans for a slow Saturday. We meet up mid-afternoon and have the Fantasmic Dessert Party reserved seating Saturday. Whoohoo!



Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jim with a wicked look on the tea cups.

Getting potested at General Convention

Jazz in New Orleans Square

Saturday

We went to General Convention this AM, and then to an urgent care
center. Correlation does not imply causation.

Diagnosis: strep. We are now experiencing an eerily silent Dirk

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lunch at Blue Bayou

My computer connection in the hotel room is virtually nonexistent, so
I'm going to be limited to brief updates from the iPhone until the
hotel fixes it.

OK, after the subs we saved the universe from the Evil Emperor Zurg on
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and then introduced Leslie to the
marvel that is Disneyland's Space Mohntain. I'm sure Paris' is best
but we only know Orlando's version. Anyway, it was smooth, fast, and
sense altering. What more do you need?

We discovered the wait time for Pirates was only yen minutes so that
gave us time to enjoy the original classic before lunch. Katie and
Leslie pronounce it far superior to Orlando.

The Blue Bayou is Disneyland's best restaurant (for the park, not the
whole resort) and it's inside the Pirated attraction, inthe bayou
scene - hence the name.

They were able to seat us by the water with minimal wait so we think a
truck load of pixie dust was just delivered.

The started us off with crusty warm rolls reminiscent of German
broetchen or pretzel bread. Jim, Leslie, and Katie were determined to
go with the Monte Christo classic even if it would put them into a 5
hour stupor. Dirk thought he would be wise and go wig a pepper-crusted
steak that was very much like a prime rib. Alas, it was 20 ounces (or
so), which justified the price but wasn't practical. Dirk had
suggested to Jim that they just split a monte cristo but Jim looked at
him like he was Zurg's apprentice.

We were all given a slightly spicy and reasonably sized cup of gumbo,
though Jim opted for a salad. All dishes had the same sides of Blue
Bayou potatoes (basically an au gratin) and a vegetable mealy of white
asparagus and broccoli rabe. The cristos came with a raspberry jam for
dipping, as well.

We skipped the desserts but they brought out a chocolate mousse in
honor of Jim's birthday that we all split for that sweet ending we
believe every meal needs.

Afterward, we waddled to the New Orleans Square train depot and picked
up a train to Main Street. We missed the 2:15 shuttle home so we
hoofed it back rather than wait 30 minutes for the next one.

An afternoon of snoozing should prepare us for an evening of
fireworks. So far, the natal feast of James of Ewing ( do dubbed by a
classmate of Dirk's in honor of Jm'd birthday) has been pretty amazing!

Waiting For Nemo

Jim in the queue for the Nemo subs.

Morning In Fantasyland

So far we've achieved early entry at 7:00 am with the "Just In Time"
girls Katie & Leslie. Rode Peter Pan, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride,
Ponocchio's Daring Journey, Alice in Wonderland, The Matterhorn (Yay
for Katie's roller coaster courage!!), Storybook Land Canal boats,
Small World, Roger rabbit's Cartoon Spin, and we're in line for
Finding Nemo's Submarine Voyage, and have Fastpasses for the best
Space Mountain in the US. Lunch will be at Blue Bayou inside Pirates
of the Caribbean.

Have a Magical Day everyone!!

It's Jim's Birthday!

And he's ready to party with Mickey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We are finally at Disney!!

Fish Tacos!

Katie was super excited to be back in the land of good fish tacos, so we decided to stop and get some for lunch. After much research on Katie's, part, it was decided to try Senor Baja, which has the reputation for outstanding fish tacos.


Jim odered some as well, but Dirk went with a chicken burrito. Everyone was happy with their meal, and the place (though appearing to be something of a dive) had a clearly loyale Mexican clientale and the food was well done. Very fresh cilantro. Definitely recommend a quick stop if you're a fan of the quick Baja Mexican cuisine. . .


Katie & Leslie very happy after their lunch.
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Getting Settled



The Long Beach airport (LGB in IATA speak) does look kinda cool, though it feels like you stepped back into the 1950s. Modern bus terminals are glitzier than this - but it was all easy to negotiate.


The front view of the airport. It's Jetblue's West Coast hub, but limited to 41 daily flights for noise and neighborhood reasons. B6 (JetBlue in IATA code), has maxed out its slots and will have to expand to other regional airports. Still, it's much easier getting in and out than LAX would be, and it's a little closer than Orange County.


My first sighting of California vegetation in the LGB parking lot.


Our plane dwarfing the baggage claim area and coffee kiosk (really the only vendor at the airport!). All of this is a little freaky because we will have a 2 hour layover for our connecting flight from SFO (San Francisco) to IAD (Dulles).
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We're on California!

At Dulles

Leslie getting off the Super Shuttle at Dulles. We are at the gate and
appear a go for an on time departure. About 7 hours until Katie gets
a genuine west coast fish taco at Senor Baja. Dirk just wants a hotel
room after three hours of sleep last night.

Jim, as always, is type B mellow.

Waiting for the super shuttle

So, we're packed and waiting for a 5:10 Super Shuttle pick up to
Dulles for our flight to California. Listening to Fantasyland Dark
Ride Suite from the Disneyland 50th Anniversary music collection.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

OK - So Here's The Plan

When the Episcopal Church announced that our triennial General Convention would meet this year in Anaheim, Jim and I knew that there would be a trip to Disneyland and we knew that our colleague Leslie and friend Katie would tag along.

So, at 5:15 am tomorrow morning, Super Shuttle will pick us up in Arlington, VA and take us to Dulles for our JetBlue flights to Long Beach. We booked these months and months ago, taking advantage of credits received for a super-late departure of our January flights to WDW, and we have the Even More Legroom seats so it should be a comfy flight - what with 30 channels of Direct TV and 100 channels of XM satellite radio. Who needs a window to look out?

We're staying at the Candy Cane Inn - a rather kitschy sounding name for a highly regarded boutique motel right outside the entrance to Disneyland and across the street from the Anaheim convention center and General Convention. With free expanded continental breakfast around the pool and a short walk to the Disneyland entrance, what could be better?

We hope to meet our friend Valerie, coming down from Stockton for General Convention, for dinner tomorrow evening at Ralph Brennen's Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. They are family owned and the food is still based on family recipes. Yummy!

We'll celebrate Jim's birthday Thursday at Disneyland with lunch at the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The rest of the time will be spent bouncing back and forth between General Convention and Mickey. Of course, with GC charging $30 for a day pass, we're likely to spend more time with Mickey. :)

Then, we split off from Katie and Leslie and head to Bakersfield to see friends and family in Taft, Corcoran, and Bakersfield, and then up to San Francisco to see Dirk's brother and catch up with a friend from Corcoran who wasn't in Corcoran but will be in San Francisco.

Well, that's the plan. Stay tuned for photos, food descriptions, and more!

Way station on the way

Jim discovers that recliners aren't evil at Leslie's.

On Our Way

Favorite rest stop on the way. Yes, didn't you know Maryland was on
the way to Anaheim?

Packing For Anaheim

Sophie is ready to be packed.

Friday, January 9, 2009

At the Airport

And the plane is at the gate ready to go. Well, if we have to end
vacation on time, at least we have good family to pick is up and 3
cats waiting to cuss us out and then nuzzle us to death.

We're still here! Well, not really . . .

We've kept up with Disney fun, but with the the usual twist. Jim's regular travel cold finally hit, but hit with a vengeance so we've been slightly off schedule. More details will follow, but . . .

Tuesday began with breakfast at Boma, a lodge morning for laundry, and then left the room with the intention of going to Epcot but decided to go to the Magic Kingdom by the time we got to the bust stop. More planning on the fly! We covered what we wanted to do, with the exception of Splash Mountain, which is down for refurb, and Space Mountain, which is in such bad need of a refurb we don't minding waiting (especially since we love the Disneyland version).

The magical moment was exiting the Peter Pan attraction at precisely 8:00 (Park closing) and hearing the music for the fireworks begin. We watched them, with about 30 other people, from Fantasyland. It was amazing - not how the show was designed to be seen at all, but the fireworks are shot off all around you and you are literally in the middle of them.

We made it to Epcot just before Noon and again covered our desired territory. We ate dinner at Rose & Crown, with Collin as our server. He was from Wick, Scotland and was excellent. Jim began with the creamy pea soup appetizer with bacon and sour cream, followed by Scottish salmon with a potato pancake. Both were excellent. I had the potato-leek soup, followed by the lamb with barbecure sauce over a chedder potato au gratin and a shandy to drink. The barbecue sauce complimented the lamb surprisingly well and the potatoes were excellent. It was the lamb's last night on the menu so I think they sent it out with an extra flourish. I couldn't help but notice the increasing influence of the Indian sub-continent on the traditional British menu at the Rose and Crown. :) Samosas and curries, oh my!!

It had been a rough day for Jim given his lack of sleep so we headed out before Illuminations so we could enjoy the resort a little before bed. Our viewing of Illuminations really was perfect on Monday night, so we knew we wouldn't have it any better anyway.

Thursday, our last full day, began with opening Disney's Hollywood Studios for another couple of spins on Toy Story Mania and a must-see visit to Muppetvision 3-D. Even though it's the oldest 3-D movie for the parks, right now, I still think it's the best.

After a little shopping, we took the bus to Animal Kingdom and rode Expedition: Everest on standby, had lunch (not recommended) at the Yak & Yeti counter window, strolled through Majarajah Jungle Trek to see a suprrisingly active Komodo Dragon and fairly active tigers, followed by another spin on Expedition:Everest. We then shoppped a little and visited Rafiki's Planet Watch. Nothing much was going on since the animal exams are done in the morning, but it was our first visit there in several years so it was a nice change of pace.

We met JimP, his wife Debbie and daughter Kim from MouseOwners.com for drinks at Victoria Falls Lounge and then had a light dinner (our first) from Mara, the quick-service restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

So, we're packed. The bags are checked-in through the Resort Airline Check-in Service, and the Owner's Locker is on its way back to its undisclosed secure location to wait for our next visit. We're enjoying fresh baked muffins and our beloved Disney yougurt parfaits before we get the car and head back to the airport. So far, flight home seems to be on time. It would be . . . :(

I'll have reviews of the lodges, and dining and a few more posts as we wind down from the trip.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Recap of Monday, January 5

Just some brief notes - more details will follow.

Up and out at 8:00 to catch the bus to Disney Studios. Bus trasnportation has slowed down dramatically at Animal Kingdom Lodge/Villas. We use to wait about 10 minutes max. Today, during peak travel time, we waited 25 minutes. Finally, 2 buses pulled up at the same time, and we go to Studios in time for rope drop.

Grabbed a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania (return at 9:50) and rode standby (10 minutes). Great attraction! Standby up to 40 minutes when we got off (9:20) and Fastpass up to 2:00 pm return already. Wow. Jim outscored me, which made him happy.

Rode Rock 'N Rollercoaster (always fun) and then Tower of Terror before heading back for our Fastpass return for a second run on Toy Story Mania. Then, a tour of the Great Movie Ride followed by lunch at the Studio Catering Company. We had considered returning to the room for a relaxing afternoon, but our stamina was great and we accomplished a lot by 12:15, so we decided to catch a friendship launch to Epcot and just keep going.

Once in Epcot, we decided to stay until closing. See, we really have been making it up as we go along this trip. First, we hung out with Marry Poppins in England, followed by some cavorting with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. Disney's Photopass photog snagged those photos, so it will take ma while to get them up. :(

Jim again enjoyed a Beverly break at Club Cool. Obviously, it's an apertif and supposed to taste bitter, but it is still the most unexpected Coke flavor ever. Jim wishes we could import it, though! We kept moseying on until we got to Spaceship Earth, and then through Innoventions.

Two new attractions were a lot of fun. One is based on learning bout recycling. The other was a simulation of a home in hurricane hosted by Jim's hero Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel, which taught us about propery building techniques to withstand strong storms.


Jim is pushing his Waste Management truck
as we go from station to station to learn about recycling technology.

We foolishly decided to wait 40 minutes in the standby line for Mission: Space, but the centrifugal force of the "orange" version (higher risk of protein spill) pushed my back into alignment. Then, on to World Showcase for dinner at Tangierine Cafe in Morocco and shopping. We were looking for napkin rings and small vases. None were to be found in all of the World Showcase pavilions. Oh well.

We found the ideal spot for viewing Illuminations after standing next to two rather chatty woman who drove me nuts. I bailed on Jim and then sent him a rescue call when I discovered our location was available. I'm afraid the location has to remain a secret.

Again, an interesting bus trek on the way home. An able-bodied woman in her late 50s decided to cut in front of a girl in a wheelchair in the bus queue. The women insisted she did nothing wrong, but the whole line called her on it and shamed her mercilessly until she relented and let the girl in the wheelchair through. We were right in front of the girl's family and were furious with the woman for cutting in. Good grief. Anyway, the girl got on the bus with her family and the line-cutter was forced to wait for another and endure the smouldering rage of her highly embarrassed teenage children. Yet another case of parents needing to be raised by their children (I've seen that a lot at Disney).

So, home by 10:30 after opening Disney's Hollywood Studios and closing Epcot. Tomorrow will bring laundry, breakfast at Boma, pool, and whatever park catches our fancy.

Mary Poppins

Practically perfect, in every way.

Picture of the Day

Jeff's daughter Morgan saw this shot while we were looking over the Arusha Savanna waiting for dinner at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Rcap of Sunday, January 4

Today we switched friends as we bade farwell to David & Sommer over breakfast at Kona Cafe (Tonga Toast!) and then joined Jeff, Sheila, and their kids Morgan and Austin at the Animal Kingdom. (The Animal Kingdom appears to be our friend pick-up joint this trip.)

We got up early to make our breakfast reservations. I drove over to Animal Kingdom Lodge to check us in while Jim packed up Saratoga Springs. I'll have comments on the switch to Animal Kingdom Villas later, but I'm still not pleased with the responsiveness of the front desk staff there. I still love the resort, and the rest of the staff are wonderful, but the front desk always seems understaffed so the lines build and what should be short process takes much more time than expected.

Anyway, we ate breakfast at Kona. It's Jim's and my special place as it was the site of our first Disney meal together in 2003. We don't get there for breakfast as often, but I love their breakfasts, and this was the first time we got to try Tonga Toast. Basically, each two slices of french toast with a banana mix in the middle covered in syrup and strawberry compote. Yummy. Discretion prevailed and we split one while each having our own fruit cup, which we also could have split!

Afterward, we pin shopped for a few minutes and then headed over to Animal Kingdom to catch up with Jeff and his family. By the time we got there, they were finishing lunch at Pizzafari and wanted to wander through Maharajah Jungle Trek. We spent so much time catching up, I only vaguely remember the animals! The kids were quite sharp and enteraining, too.

Afterward, we went to see Finding Nemo: The Musical and then saw "It's Tough To Be A Bug" before heading over for the Kilimanjaro Safari. They had already been on the safari early in the morning, which is good because the animals were quite invisible this time around.

After a little shopping, we headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Boma. Jeff and Sheila were quite impressed with the Lodge and the food, which was as good as always. After they left, we unpacked our room and are now contemplating what tomorrow will bring. As long as we decide on a plan before bed time, I'll be happy.

More comments on Boma later. It was great, but I just don't have time to write up a mini-review right now.

peace, love, and Mickey . . .

Rundown of Saturday, Jan 3

We're having an awful lot of fun, so the posts are going to likely be briefer.

Anyway, here's a recap of Saturday.

Finally, a full night's sleep so we woke refreshed. I took some photos of the pool area, and then we had breakfast - again sharing a yogurt parfait from Starbucks we picked up at the Airport on Thursday and a Pop Tart. David & Sommer were meeting family in the Animal Kingdom and invited us to catch up with them.

We checked out the World of Disney store for a couple of short sleeve shirts (it WAS supposed to be cooler down here when we packed), and then we met them for lunch at Rainforest Cafe at the Animal Kingdom - another new experience for us. We were full enough that Jim and I each had soup and split the quesedilla appetizer. It wasn't bad, and we had some good conversation so it was 3:00 before we knew it.

After lunch, we each went our separate ways. We wanted to watch the parade and walk the animal treks and they wanted to see shows. Our initial plan was to then head out to Epcot and mosey through some of the shops in the World Showcase while waiting for Illuminations, but on the way over, Jim said, "You know, a resort night would not be a bad thing." I decided to not argue, so we went back to Saratoga Springs, parked and walked over to Downtown Disney to pick up salads from Earl of Sandwich and check the Pin Station.

I found a series of monorail pains, in which each pin is a car of the monorail with a Disney character on top. I've tracked down the 3 middle cars and the rear car, but haven't found the front car yet. Well, 5 days to go.

After eating our salads on the patio of our room, we took a dip in the pool, tried out the hot tub and then crawled into bed and caught up on some of the world events on CNN before falling asleep.

It was again a good day, but showing that this trip is virtually plan free - with us just doing a little bit here or there as our fancy catches us. Oddly enough, I think we'll still get it all in this trip even by being so spontaneous in our touring.

The lobby of the Polynesian

This is why Jim loves the Polynesian Resort and Disney.

Now, we're off to the Animal Kingdom to meet other friends - Jeff ,
Sheila, and their kids.

Tonga Toast!!!

Breakfast at our favorite place!!