Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Snacking Norway

Chocolate pound cake with raspberry and cream pastry with berries from Norway. Mmmmm.

Breakfast at Boma

A hearty start to the day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Haunted Mansion

A ghoulish delight.


Waiting on Main Street for the Halloween fireworks.

Space Mountain


Halloween Party

Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party just started! We're in the queue for our first ride on Space Mountain since its refurbishment last year.

Ironically, it was left off the Party list of open attractions! It looks like they copied last year's list when it was closed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Food, glorious Mexican food

Jim and I were invited to a gratis testing of the new La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot.

Weveach had pork tacos in side tortillas topped with cilantro and pico de gallo on the side accompanied by corn tortilla chips (multi-colored).

The other options included a meatless empanadas, chicken tacos, and a very nice looking nachos. They will alter the menu in a few days, but this is to give them an easy start and customer feedback.

For dessert, we had churros with a caramel dipping sauce. This place will be the no. 1 hangout for Illuminations.



Disney's Boardwalk Inn from Friendship 7 n the way to Epcot from Disney's Hollywood Studios. We were surrounded by 10 Argentine teen girls who appear to be models for Tuboos, an Argentine urging company.

Well behaved for teenaged girls, but still teenagers!

At the Studios

Walk-on! (or Walk This Way)

Another pool morning

Very refreshing!

California Grill - Sushi and Fireworks!

We met David & Sommer at Epcot for a late lunch at Via Napoli and then mosied around Italy and Germany for awhile.  The park was empty!  The Unofficial Guide rating was .3 on a scale of 1 - 10.  Yes. that's right:  0.3 for Epcot.  

This was our second visit to Via Napoli.  Jim, David & Sommer had the minestrone, which looked VERY good.  It was rich and hearty, a marked improvement over Mama Melrose, which appears fairly thin.  Sommer said MM's version was good, but not as hearty.

We then decided to visit Captain EO, which Jim and I have never seen and David & Sommer haven't seen since it's return.  Technically, it seemed pretty good, but the 3D experience was a little painful - everything seemed consistently out of focus, which surprised me since Muppets was sharper than I had remembered.  I'm not a Michael Jackson fan, so I probably won't be back, but it was fun to see it.

We then went over to Living Seas, so David & Sommer could say Hi to their finned friends (they dive here frequently).  Dinner had been up in the air because Jim and I were considering staying for Illuminations, but storms clouds were up on the horizon making that seem a risky proposition.  It was also David & Sommer's last night, so we wanted to spend some final relaxing time with them.

David suggested we try for seats at the Sushi Bar at California Grill and watch Wishes.  They were able to get us in without much wait at all, so we had (an unnecessary, except for hobbits,) dinner watching Derek and Gabriel, the Sushi chefs, work their magic.  It was fascinating and we ended up ordering several plates of sushi.  I just sampled from Jim's but I think we'll be back.

I'm very intrigued by the Yellowfin Tuna Three Ways . . .Poke, Tartare, and Tataki.  It was the tataki which got me.  It's spiced and then very lightly seared so only the outer millimeter or two are cooked and the rest as raw as it was in the ocean.  It really looked yummy.  The Poke and Tartare are cute because their shaped by a square ice cream scoop so you have these sushi cubes to pick from - and then there's a cube of rice in the middle of the plate. It's fairly popular, and watching it get prepped, I see why.

Jim and Sommer each had the Yoshie's Deluxe Sushi Platter, which is a sampler of nigiri and maki (1-2 pieces of 3 different types).  The tempura maki was very tasty, so Sommer ordered a full tempura maki as her dessert!  It's wrapped in soy paper rather than nori (seaweed), which gives it a different flavor. I sampled Jim's tempura maki and had Jim's ebi (shrimp) and maguro (tuna).

We also watched them prepare the Spicy Kazan Roll, which is something else I think I would like to try. It's a roll with crab, shrimp, bay scallops, and tuna covered with a fireball sauce (which Derek says has a very nice bite to it) and topped with shredded ginger.  I really wanted to dive into that!  

I did stick to my original plan for dessert, which included the Tanzanian chocolate creme brulee (absolutely to die for) accompanied by a Fonseca 20 Year Tawny Port.  If that was the port we used for communion, attendance would definitely soar.  David had the "Sweet Celebration" dessert, which was a Florida Peach Crostata with brown sugar sour cream and white peach ice cream.  I'm normally not a fan of the themed desserts each restaurant develops, but that looked REALLY good.

Note to self:  If California Grill is even remotely on the horizon, don't eat during the day.  Actually, I told the group that the next time Sommer wants lunch at 3:30, we should just toss her a couple of gummi bears and bottled water.  :-)

Well, the fireworks came about on time, but not the ones we were expecting.  A huge thunder storm blew up overhead and we were treated to about a 30 minute thunder and lightening show from 8:50 until 9:20 that was among the fiercest event the California Grill staff have seen.  The good news is that the storms validated our decision to skip Illuminations, but they also meant Wishes was either delayed or canceled.

By 9:30, the rain had stopped so we lingered until 10:00 to see if Wishes would start since it was an Extra Magic Hour evening.  Still nothing by 10:15, so we went down, got the car and headed back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  From our review windows, we saw the Wishes volleys kick in about 10:40. D'oh!!

Oh well - it was still a wonderful evening.  We showed David & Sommer around Kidani Village and they were really impressed.  We then said our farewells, and now we're off to another day of tossing our plans and making it up as we go along


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Segway tour of Mt Dora

For the full gallery, visit here.

Our friends David and Sommer suggested we take a Segway Tour of Mount Dora to mix things up a bit. David needed to pick his Segway up, so it was really killing two birds with one stone. But we love Segway, so we're game. Mount Dora is a picturesque old Florida village on a scenic lake sort of North of Orlando. There's not really a mountain, but it is a little hilly with elevations up to about 200 feet. In Florida, that's dating something!

For, Jim a Segway is like flying.  After being in water, he's happiest on a Segway.

The Segway shop is in what must have been a former bookstore. Because the shop facade is made up of reliefs of book spines and covers. There's even a Disney connection because Mr. Toad is above the main door frame.

The tour itself requires about a 15 minute safety speech and Segway test drive for each person. Then we leave the shop and head around town. First we visit the park and light house for a little scenery and off-roaring experience, then we go through some dirt trails and a narrow(!) boardwalk along the shore and over a little bit of wooded swamp. The boardwalk was a little risky because it's not much wider than the Segways and has some sharp turns, but we were fine.

Then, we went through some of the older neighborhoods with Victorian B&Bs and shore front houses. I don't have too many photos because the Segway really needs two hands, but it's easy to go back later with your car or just for a stroll. About 90 minutes after we left we came nvm to the shop and sadly turned our Segways in.

This was our 5th time on a Segway. We've done the Epcot tour twice and California Adventure once. We also rented two units once in Monterey for 4 hours and got to go on our own. That was the best! The Mount Dora tour is about $50, which is very reasonable, and it's an easy 55 minute drive from Disney. There are plenty of antique shops, ice cream and coffee ships, and good restaurants to make it a fun way to spend half a day. We had lunch at the Goblin Market which had great hamburgers, but also many wonderful salads and sandwiches in an old tsp story house and garden converted to a restaurant.

Jumping Back to Friday

Disney's Hollywood Studios

If the BAH (Big Awful Hat) weren't bad enough (though I can get use to it), the High School Musical stage is a travesty. If neither were there, you would see a beautiful approach to to the facade of Mann's Chinese Theatre which serves as the entrance to the park's Signature attraction, The Great Movie Ride.

Our friends David & Sommer are in town, so it's harder to keep up with the updates. We met them on our Disney cruise in 2006 and have the great pleasure of catching up with them when we come down since they live about 90 minutes away.  They know the food scene at Disney very well, so nice meals usually frame our time together.

We want to play Toy Story Mania at Disney's Hollywood Studios.  Unfortunately (because we are night owls), opening the park is the only way to do this.  At 9:02, Fastpass return time is already 10:30 and the standby line is 30 minutes! However, it's the only place we really encounter lines in the parks this early in September, so we can't complain.

David & Sommer stay at the Omni, so they picked us up on their way in and we get there just as the opening ceremony begins.  It's kind of cute - a German director and his assistant come out to "film" a crowd scene starring "us!"  One of the best features of the park is the streemousephere characters - actors who personify characters from the "Hollywood that never was and always will be." The wander the streets, interacting with guests, and perform routines throughout the day.  It's a lot of fun to watch them.

Well, at 9:00, we're off with 75% of the guest to one attraction.  We get our FPs and hop into the standby line.  Green Army Men from Toy Story monitor everything to make sure guests aren't cutting, running, or causing any other kind of unauthorized mayhem.


It looks like they were drafting this troop of Boy Scouts as assistant crowd control guards today . . .

After our first run through, it's 9:45 and our FP return time isn't for another way, so we head over to Starring Rolls cafe for a caffeine infusion.  It's fun to take the time to catch up with one another while the street scenes unfold around us.  I can have as much fun in the Studios feasting on the eye candy of park design and people-watching, as I can on the attractions themselves.

After our second round on Toy Story, we head over to MuppetVision 3D.  I think it's the best written of Disney's 3-D films, and theatre is so well done with Muppet Mayhem.  

After the film and touring the gift shop, it decides to rain on us.  Just one lonely cloud above, but it's full of water and dropping it all over us.  It's time for lunch so we grab a bit in Mama Melrose, the only table service restaurant in the Studios we haven't tried.  It gets average reviews, so it wasn't on our list, but I've always been curious.  I like basic Italian, and they didn't disappoint.  Jim and I shared a calamari appetizer and split a penne in Vodka sauce for the entree.

Afterwards, we decide to take a resort break before catching up again for dinner.  Unfortunately, on the way back to Kidani Village I discover our server never gave me back my Tables in Wonderland discount card.  This card gives us 20% off of our table service meals, so It's very important!  Since a replacement is $50 I head back over to the Studios to retrieve the missing card while Jim relaxes.  Unfortunately, by now the sun is at it's brutal Florida peak of 3 PM so I'm baking as I hurry through the park to Mama Melrose (which is as far from the entry gates as you can get).  I'm dying for a tasty Disney milkshake to cool me off on my way back, but every place that sells them between the restaurant and the exit is closed.  Darn you September and your low crowds!

Well, the review of Narcoossee's will have to come later.  The pool is calling us . . .

This is the view outside of our room.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Segway Tour

We're not at Disney today, but in Mount Dora with friends for a Segwaytour of this quaint Florida town.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dinner at Kouzzina

We concluded our Cirque du Soleil evening with dinner at Kouzzina by Kat Kora at Disney's Boardwalk resort. We never got here when it was Spoodles so we're doubly happy to have finally dined here now. We live Greek, and the flavors were awesome.

We started with the sampler appetizer. This had a skewer of the juiciest grilled chicken we have ever had and a skewer of lamb Meatballs, which were spiced similarly to the lamb Kefka at Sanaa. That's my favorite flavor so I was very happy. There were also olives, spiced walnuts, hummus, tzatztiki sauce and pita.

For mains, Jim had the sampler with cinnamon stewed chicken, a lamb burger, and Greek lasagna or pastitsio. I had the full portion of cinnamon stewed chicken, which was served over orzo.

For dessert, we had a press pot of Kat'z signature coffee and shared a galaktoboureko, which is a semolina custard on phylo with a praline ice cream. Yumm.

In addition to all that, I also had the wine flight of three Greek white wines. I liked the first, which was a blend from Santorini, but the rest I could pass on. I should have gone for the Mythos beer that a fellow MouseOwner recommended to me.

Just another reason to go back!

Let's Party!

Which is what La Nouba means. It was a great show, much more interesting than Quidam.

The scary part was watching the clowns Sergey and Balthazar and then looking at each other to say, "O dear God, that's us!"

We definitely be back.

Animal Kingdom Report

This has to be one of our best visits to Disney's Animal Kingdom ever.  We certainly didn't do everything, but the quality of the experience was great.

We're also slipping into anti-commando mode in our touring style.  Yes, we'll get up and open a park, but we aren't rushing - a very much needed break (and the lack of crowds are taking the pressure off anyway.


For the Disney geeks who read this (and other than family, who else would?!), wait times were no more than 5 minutes for anything - including Expedition Everest.  Even if the wait time was posted as longer, everything was basically a walk-on.

In addition to the low wait time, we really had a great ride on Kilimanjaro Safari.  The driver was animated and knew his stuff, and we were able to stop and take several photos. A normal 25 minute tour turned into 40 minutes, and we were very appreciative of that.

Aside from the usual savannah activity, we were fortunate to see one of the newest baby elephants with his mother out today.  There were also a very active young giraffe who enjoyed following our vehicle around on his part of the savannah!

The cheetah were hidden in the back of their woods in the shade, but we do have memories of our cheetah walk in South Africa to remind us how graceful and wonderful these great cats are!

 After the safari, we left Harambe and took the train to the Rafiki's Wildelife Station. I wanted to get there early enough to see if they were still doing any procedures on the animals.  This is a back-stage area that teaches about conservation as well as gives the guests peeks into their animal care rooms.  Today, a plover was being checked out to see if an adhesion on her beak had healed properly.  Every animal at the Animal Kingdom makes its way into the lab at least once a year for a check-up - from elephants (well, they won't fit into the lab) to the tiny plovers.  Wow.

However, the neatest thing we saw was this hawk with her trainer Julie.  The hawk has lived at Disney for 28 years since being rescued after surviving a gunshot. She's blind from her injury, but gets around just fine (no flying, though).  She's one of the remaining birds from Disney's old Discovery Island attraction in Bay Lake and Julie has been her trainer for 15 years now.  Oddly, her favorite meal is quail, so that's what she gets nearly every day.

After returning to Harambe, we made our toward Asia and came upon DeVine hanging out along the pathway.  We haven't seen her in several years, so this was a nice treat.  At first, she really was hidden well along her tree, the revealed her face and a wonderful, winsome smile.  Finally, she moved along her way to find a child or two to snare.


After DeVine, we came upon a group of Thai musicians and artists in Anandapur village in Asia.  I'm not sure of the name of the instrument, but the music was wonderful.


Expedition Everest was in good enough shape today. Most of the waterfalls were running, and the hawk is back at the scene where the Yeti has ripped up the tracks.  However, the Yeti itself is in "B Mode," which means he doesn't reach out and grab at you, but just snarls in the strobe lights as your train hurls by.  At least his mountain is safe from all those

We also benefitted from low crowds by walking into the Finding Nemo: The Musical theatre 5 minutes before show-time.  You normally have to wait in a long hot line a good 45 minutes ahead of time.  The theatre was nearly fall, but definitely not packed.  The production has held up well, and does a good job of telling the Nemo story in 37 minutes, and I don't quite have "Big Blue World" stuck in my head.  Dammit.  Now I do . . . 

We had lunch at Restaurantosaurus in Dino-Land.  Since McDonald's left, Disney has been tinkering with the menu.  They've added shrimp po-boy, which was really tasty for me, and Jim enjoyed the vegetarian sub with sweet-potato fries.  The omni-present Disney Angus Burger with fries is still around, but I'm glad to see a variety of sandwiches pop-up at these quick service places. 

Several Disney dining management staff were sampling the full menu at a table next to us.  As they broke up, one of them asked our feedback on the meal.  Since our mouths were full, we gave them two thumbs up.  

So, it's hot, and we need to do laundry before we head to Downtown Disney for La Nouba and then dinner at Kouzzina at the Boardwalk.  Oh, for a 1 bedroom with its own laundry instead of a studio, but at least the laundry room isn't too far away (relatively speaking, for the 1/4 miles of hallways at Animal Kingdom Lodge) and it's free.

This is the best park to take photos in!

Whiz Quiz

This is Disney's way to educate you on Wildlife AND condition you for proper hygiene! Proof that ignorance is unsanitary.