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!!