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November 08, 2013

Walt Disney World - Where Dreams Come True

A warning: This blog post is incredibly long. Like, behemoth-size. Good news, though: if you don't want to read it, no one's holding a gun to your head! Ta dah. This blog post was just as lmuch for me as it was for anyone else. This marvelous trip must be remembered, and, therefore, well documented. If anything deserves this level of attention, it's Disney!

If you share Gaston's aversion to reading, do not fear! There is an abundance of pictures in the post.

Also, Eric and I tried to take a good amount of pictures, but sometimes we fell short. So I've supplemented some of our own pictures with other people's pictures.

It's been five weeks since Eric and I went to Disney World. The whole trip was really indescribably phenomenal; and as a result, I've been in a pretty bad slump of melancholy ever since. 

Mostly I miss being there, obviously, but I also miss having something so amazing and fantastic to look forward to and plan for. I mean, I guess there's Christmas, which I love, but as Eric so aptly put it: "[I've] had plenty of those."

Oh, how I miss the countdown ticker on the WDW (Walt Disney World) website and planning out my WDW activities. I'm considering making it a hobby of mine to plan random vacations (that may not actually amount to anything) just because I miss doing it for WDW so much.

Before I begin reliving our magical vacation in blog form, let me begin with a preface to those jaded curmudgeons who can't comprehend why two adults would want to go to WDW, a place "for kids".

First of all -- who hurt you?

Second, I don't think you jaded curmudgeons understand how much fun can be had at WDW (period, but also...) by adults!

In terms of attendance, WDW is by far the most widely visited amusement corporation in the world! In 2012, it had an attendance of 126 million. That is Japan, people! Canada is only a measly 34 million! The next closest attendance for an amusement corporation in 2012 was only 54 million. WDW is clearly head and shoulders above any other amusement corporation.

So do you really think that the bigwigs of Disney would let the attendance of adults (and their money) go to waste? Of course not! There is a plethora of activities for adults! You can do basically any recreational sport that doesn't require snow! Golf, tennis, water skiing, tubing, parasailing, horseback riding, archery ... You can visit a spa, enjoy "nightlife" on the Boardwalk or Downtown Disney or even some of the parks, watch live entertainment, go shopping, indulge in a cornucopia of delicious foods and goodies. And it's not like all of the rides in the actual parks are only for kids! Far from it! Honestly, WDW is basically Las Vegas without the "Sin City" part. Yay, morality! And everyone is so happy and nice at WDW! It really is such a feel-good place.

In conclusion, the only people that think WDW isn't for them are stupid people! WDW is for everyone!

Trust me, I am not trying to convince myself that WDW is amazing. I've loved Disney for as long as I can remember. There are few things I love more in this world than Disney. Disney was basically my third parent. I don't say that to diminish my parents' roles in my life; Disney has simply played a large part in shaping who I am. I really can't put into words how much Disney means to me and the consistent happiness it brings to me. And honestly, if you don't like Disney, I may have to reconsider my relationship with you...

But enough introspection. Without further ado, I present our Disney World Excursion:

We were flying out of Calgary on Saturday, the 5th of October. Sometime at the end of September I had started feeling a tickle in my throat. I just knew that in a cruel twist of fate it would turn ugly right before we left for WDW, and I was absolutely right. I think it was the Tuesday of the week we were leaving that it became more than just a throat tickle, and by Wednesday it was a full-blown cold/flu combo. While I was captioning my first job on Wednesday, I thought I was either going to pass out or throw up. Work was amazing enough to get rid of the rest of my jobs for the day so that I could try to recuperate. I've never put more effort into getting better in my life. I was drinking absurd amounts of fluids, willing my body to sleep and sleep and sleep, neti potting every few hours, taking meds... Sometime that week Eric gave me a blessing (his first ever!) for me to feel better, and basically the minute we got to Orlando, I was completely and entirely cured! Hallelujah! The church is true!


Day 1 - Travel and Arrival
All packed and ready to drive to the airport at 3:30 a.m. Woot!

Destined for the Grand Floridian!

Eric has an extreme fondness for American fast food. The options in the States really are so much more substantial than in Canada. So during our layover in Houston, he insisted we try Popeyes. I was happy to oblige as I love Southern food. It was very satisfactory and the chicken was delightfully crispy. 


At our gate in Houston, you could tell practically everyone was going to WDW. There were a gazillion kids and lots of people had Disney paraphernalia. If you're going to WDW, though, you'd better cleanse yourself of low-tolerance for people and kids. You're going to be seeing a lot of them. Eric and I were horribly delighted by all of the excited kids. We didn't even mind that we were sitting in front of a group of little girls that kept kicking our seats throughout the plane ride. Before the plane took off, these girls did ten-second countdowns for about five minutes straight. I kid you not. When they finished one countdown and the plane hadn't taken off yet, they'd start all over again. We found it hilarious.

In Orlando! Yay! Done with flying!

So essited!

Our bus service from the Orlando airport to Grand Floridian. The beginning of every single thing being Disney-theme! Huzzah! My dream world!

From the minute I stepped outside the airport and anytime I was to be outside for the rest of my time in Florida, this was me:

Eric and I do not do well in heat, especially humid heat. I've been to Florida once before when I was 15 as it was the departure port for a Caribbean cruise my family and I went on, but that was sometime in the winter. Of course it was still brutally hot and humid that time, but not nearly as bad as this trip. I thought the fall would be reasonable with its temperatures, but it turns out it was as bad as the summer temperatures! Vindictive, evil weather. It was usually somewhere around +33°C, feeling like +42°C. 

Arriving at the most wonderful hotel ever! The Grand Floridian.

It was so fun and delightfully grandiose.

The air conditioning and the smell when you walk into the lobby are sensational! There's oftentimes either a pianist playing a grand piano or a band playing on the second floor, with most of the songs they play being Disney. Sigh. I miss hearing Disney music everywhere I go.

The design details throughout all of Disney World just blow me away. And so much Disney is incorporated into those designs. 

Eric looking somewhat stunned by the grandeur of it all. Fair.

When we checked in, we were given these anniversary buttons. It must be drilled into any Disney World employee that when they see any of these buttons, or similar buttons for special occasions, they must bestow the wearers with much praise. I couldn't have kept track of all of the anniversary well wishes we received throughout the trip.

We were also fortunate enough to have gone at a point when WDW was in the process of testing their new MagicBands for select resort guests.

They were awesome. The bands are your admission to the parks, your room key, your method of charging goods to your credit card, and your FastPasses. So you pretty much don't need to carry anything around with you. 

This is the type of scanner at the entrance to a park.

For the entrance scanners, you hold your MagicBand to the Mickey ears and put your finger on the part to the right of the Mickey ears. When the scanners are happy and satisfied with you, they glow green. It makes you feel like you're special and you have been chosen.

The MagicBands are still quite new, and when we were there, they were still working out some kinks. For you to understand how Eric and I got to cheat the system a little, I first need to explain FastPasses for those who have never experienced them.

The old method, which is still available for those without bands and those not staying at resorts, is done by using a ticket. Let's use Splash Mountain (my favorite ride) as an example. You go to the front of Splash Mountain at 9 a.m.

At which point, the FastPass booth is distributing tickets for 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

So now you can go do something else until you go back to Splash Mountain between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. When you do go back, you get to go in the FastPass line, which has far fewer people, thereby moving you through much faster. You basically skip ahead in the line.

Now, with the MagicBands, you can get your FastPasses online, but you are limited to three FastPasses per day, and at only one park. I don't know if you're limited with the old method or not. They must have still been working out glitches with this online method because when Eric and I had used one FastPass, we were able to go on our WDW account on his phone and select another one. This only worked for the first couple days we were there, so they must have got wise to our little scheme. Yeah, see. Yeah. Yeah. 

But by using this method, along with the legitimate FastPasses, and the fact that we were there in the off season, meant that the most we ever waited for a ride was probably 15 minutes (excluding a stupid ride at Blizzard Beach. Oi. More on that later). And there were many rides that we basically walked right on.

When we got to our hotel room, we found an incredibly enchanting and delightful present!

Tabea and Wayne, Eric and I both agree that this is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for us! We absolutely loved our anniversary gift basket. It made the dream vacation even more fantastical!

The basket included numerous goodies that lasted us for the duration of our stay. There was also non-alcoholic sparkly drink, which was delicious! And which included two champagne flutes with Mickey ears.

We also got an anniversary card signed by Mickey and Minnie. Boom. That's right. The man and lady themselves wished us a happy anniversary. :)

Our room was very charming and Victorian, as was all of the Grand Floridian.

Aren't they just the cutest at Disney?

We ended up getting a fancy room with a sitting area that was used not at all. But it's the thought that counts.

There were awesome antique bird houses and trinkets throughout the Grand Floridian. That's a second TV in the armoire that was also used not at all.

Our spectacular view. The building closer to the left is Narcoossee's restaurant, which we unfortunately didn't get a chance to try. Sadly, we had to continuously face our human limitations throughout this trip and come to terms with the fact that our stomachs can only fit so much food in them.

The Contemporary Resort across the lagoon.

Down by the harbor and the 24/7 restaurant, Gasparilla Grill. You could go here and watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom, which we did our first night there.

More room.

"Sink part" of the bathroom. The shower and toilet were in a closed off area that we consistently flooded by accident because of the dumb shower curtain.

Disney is everywhere, naturally!

Dapper Mickey lamp.

We got there later in the day on day number 1, so we just played around at the resort. We went to Gasparilla's Grill a little bit before the fireworks were starting and both had some very satisfactory flatbread pizzas. 

At the harbor our first night, waiting for the fireworks. That purple speck off in the distance is Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Not my own picture, but here you can see what the fireworks look like from the Grand Floridian harbor. Our room unfortunately just missed out on the view of the Magic Kingdom and the fireworks. But it was in no way a hassle to go to the harbor to watch them.

We could see the water parade from our room, though.

There were certain goodies that appeared over and over online as "must-tries". The Mickey Premium Bar was one of those. I thought what's the big deal. How could it be that much better than a Revello bar. Oh, how wrong I was. They were delicious. Häagen-Dazs-quality.

We also eventually got a Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich, another must-try. Also better than your typical ice cream sandwich.

Day 2 - Magic Kingdom

The second day was our first day to go to a park. We had to get up pretty early (which, of course, was made even worse by the time difference) because we had an 8:35 a.m. breakfast reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table (a restaurant inside Cinderella's Castle! AH!). Luckily the monorail goes from Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom. So it only took about 5 minutes to get there, if that.

I woke up like I normally would: with a complete aversion to getting out of bed, but it only took me a split second to remember where I was, and then I sprung out of bed.

It must have rained that night because it was more humid than usual that morning. I had initially straightened my hair, but as soon as I walked outside that morning, it was a frizzy, fluffy mess. This was the point I gave up on my hair. Just my appearance in general, really.

We armed our pale, Canadian skin with a very liberal helping of sunscreen and we were off to Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom didn't open until 9:00 that day, which is the usual opening time, but sometimes there are "extra magic hours": Each day, one of the four WDW theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to two hours after regular closing time. So because we had our 8:35 reservation, we got to go into the park before everyone else, except other people that also had breakfast reservations. The park was so empty. It was wonderful! It was such a perfect way to be able to see Magic Kingdom for the first time!

Fun Halloween decorations!

We got matching (corresponding, really) shirts in preparation for WDW! It's what all the cool kids do. They are in reference to the Pixar short, The Blue Umbrella, that played before Monster's University. It is enormously adorable.

This is the best quality video I could find of it online.

The shirts were pretty obscure, which I like because I'm pretentious like that. We got a good number of comments and nods/smiles of recognition, though.

My husband goes to WDW and wears cutesie shirts with me. He's the best of husbands.

Eric knew.

Ugh. My hair got so flopsy. It really was mein kampf during this trip. I can't decide if having long hair at WDW would have been better or worse. My short hair really just cut me out of the decision-making process and did its own thing, but at least it was off my neck.

Just going to have breakfast in Cinderella's Castle. No biggie.

The moat.

The middle walkway through the castle seemed to often be closed during the day, but it was open when we were there that morning. It has really awesome murals of Cinderella but done with more of a Renaissance feel.

Ha, I love Lucifer.

Entrance to Cinderella's Royal Table. We got to have a meet-and-greet with Cinderella before we were seated.

Look who I found in the meet-and-greet room.

Jaq and Gus!

Our complimentary photo book featuring a picture of Cinderella's Castle and our picture with Cinderella. Fortunately, this "professional" picture was my worst of the whole trip! Yay!

The castle at night.

You'd think it would have been me that got all giddy and silly when I saw Cinderella (and trust me, it was), but when she saw our shirts, she got a little squeeish as well.

Cinderella was all:

So I was all:

The fact that Cinderella was so tickled pink by our shirts made my day, and it definitely made the shirts worth it.

Ugh, I'm not saying this to be all self-deprecating and receive reassuring praise -- I have self-confidence flowing out my ears -- but this picture of me is really quite awful. My hair was frizzing away and I was all hot, sweaty, and red faced. Oh, well. At least I got a picture with Cinderella.

Not my own picture, but I think this is the exact place we sat.

More of the restaurant.

Eric got a little sword and I got a little wand to wave around.

Surprisingly delicious and moist pastries. Normally when I see pastries like this, I expect them to be hard and not especially good, but these pastries totally surprised us! They unfortunately filled me up pretty effectively, which didn't help anything because I already have a very low appetite in the morning, and for our time this was 6:35 a.m.!

After the pastries, I definitely wasn't feeling that hungry. So I just got a standard breakfast, which was as to be expected: standard. We didn't go here for the food, though. It was entirely about the experience. And it was so fun having this be pretty much the starting point of the trip.

Eric got caramel apple stuffed toast. Yom!

Well, at least I've got my flopsy bangs out of the way now.

Some of the princesses are at the restaurant and they mill around to different tables and chat for a bit and take pictures. The first one that came over to our table was Snow White. She was a little flighty and erratic, which made sense for her character, but I think it was a little unsettling for Eric. All of the other princesses asked me if I wanted to take pictures with them, but Snow White didn't ask -- or maybe she did and I couldn't understand her because of her skittish voice -- and since she was the first princess at our table, I didn't know I could get a picture with her.

So I got a picture with every princess except Snow White, and it was honestly my biggest regret of the entire trip! It just vexed me so much that I missed out on my chance! I kept thinking that I'd see her later and get the picture then. I eventually saw her at the German pavilion in EPCOT, but again, I thought I'd see her later. So I didn't do it then either. And then it never happened! It frustrates me to no end.

Me and Aurora. She was much more calm and steady than Snow White. They all kept asking Eric if I was his princess, and they'd ask if we were celebrating anything, and then they'd gush over us about our anniversary. We got doted on a lot in WDW. It was pretty great.

Ariel was my favorite. We bonded over the fact that our "princes" were both Erics. We had a good giggle about it. We're good buds now.

Me and Jasmine, the last of the princesses there that day and the last of the pictures (except with Snow White. Grumble).

We were done breakfast a little after, 9 a.m., which is when the park opens. We had FastPasses for all the mountains (Splash, Space, Thunder) that day, but they weren't until later, and Thunder was the first. I really wanted Splash Mountain to be first ride we went on, though, because when I went to Disneyland when I was 7 years old, it was by far my favorite ride. I have literally been waiting 17 years to ride it! So we thought we'd just go get in line for it first and then go to the other FastPasses after it.

First we took a detour to the Rapunzel bathroom. I love that this much effort and level of detail goes into even the bathrooms.

Eric was very amused by these flyers around the bathrooms.

Because it was so early in the day, there was essentially no lineup. It was amazing! We were able to run right to the front of the line, and then we got to sit at the very front of the log! I'd say both mine and Eric's highest peak of excitement during the trip was this first Splash Mountain ride. The two smells I miss most from WDW are the Grand Floridian lobby smell and the smell of Splash Mountain. Sigh.

It was just as good as I remembered. So full of glee and whimsy! And sooooo cool and refreshing! I felt so good to get splashed multiple times and then be in a cool, shaded area. And I love the multiple drops. Our picture at the end was hilarious, but we didn't buy it because it costed a gagillion dollars more than it should have. And even though I'd read that they don't care if you take a picture of the actual picture, we forgot to.

I think it's too bad that Br'er Rabbit is so obscure. I used to have a Br'er Rabbit book, which I loved. So I always knew what Splash Mountain was about. And I've actually seen Song of the South because you can find it on the internet. But lots of people, especially kids, don't even know what's going on in Splash Mountain. I won't get into the controversy behind Song of the South because I can see valid points on both sides, but I think it's too bad that the actors, animators, and everyone else who worked on the film won't have their work recognized. And there are some awesome songs from the movie!

Right after we were done Splash Mountain, our FastPasses for Thunder Mountain had begun. So we ran right over to it (it's right beside Splash Mountain) and, again, basically ran to the front of the line. 

Just one of the many random parades throughout the day.

I don't know how they don't die of heat stroke.

Yay! Robinson! When I was little (and still), I was so proud that I had the same last name as the Swiss Family Robinson. I loved that movie, and I was so jealous of their awesome treehouse and fun animals. "He's got his tiger." And maybe I had a crush on Fritz and Ernst.

By noon, and after quite a few rides and much merriment, we were dying of heat. It was becoming a game of going in and out of air-conditioned, fanned, or shaded areas. So we went to get another must-try treat: Dole whip. I've been wanting to try this for years.

We got the Dole whip floats. You can get either vanilla, pineapple, or orange ice cream, and for the float liquid, it's pineapple juice. Aw, drooool. So amazingly delicious.

I got pineapple and Eric got vanilla. It really hit the spot and helped with the muggy heat.

I'm ready to pass out from heat back there.

After our Dole whip break, we continued with the rides: Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lighyear's Space Ranger Spin, Space Mountain, It's a Small World, Teacups, Under the Sea. All of them were enormously delightful. There were a few rides we were saving for another day, but also some we just didn't care to go on. For example, the driving one because once you can drive yourself, it kind of loses its appeal. Maybe it would have been fun for Eric, though (burn).

While wandering around in stores, we happened upon this, which never ceases to amuse me; a list of Eric's girlfriends, starting with the winner, of course.
After watching an afternoon show in front of the castle, walking around stores, sharing a churro (another must-try) and taking in a large dose of sun, we were exhausted and ready to be put down for our afternoon nap. So by around 3 p.m. we picked up some Mickey/Minnie ears, which are a must at WDW, and got some final signature Mickey/Minnie ear  pictures in front of the castle and then headed back to the hotel for nappy time in our air conditioned room. Mmm.

Evil, evil sun.

After our nap, we made our way to Hollywood Studios. We had a Park Hopper pass, which means that we weren't limited to one park a day. We could go to as many parks as we wanted. And the bus transportation at WDW is really easy to navigate and free!

We were going to Hollywood Studios that night so that we could see Fantasmic, which is a a nighttime fireworks, pyrotechnic, and water show. I think there was a 7:00 show and a 9:30 show, or something like that. We were initially planning on going to the 7:00, but we didn't have a FastPass, and the lineup was already pretty crazy. So we were fine with waiting for the later show, especially because it was after hours. So only resort guests would be able to go. 

So we went and got dinner, which was another must-try. I give you, the turkey leg!
Ha ha, look at it compared to my baby hand.

 When we were in the Houston airport with all of our fellow Disney-bound comrades, I saw someone with this shirt on:

Now, I'd seen stuff about the turkey legs online before going to WDW, but I had no idea that they were big enough of a deal to merit merchandise. But after I tried it, I understood. It's delicious! I think they're smoked, and they taste all glazy. There's also something really satisfying about biting into a big hunk of meat! Just one fed both of us for dinner.

Ate it down to the bone.

 After eating the turkey leg, we wandered around the park. We didn't do any rides or anything because we were going to come back to Hollywood Studios another day. Before we went and stood in line, we grabbed a piece of grapefruit cake from the Brown Derby restaurant to enjoy while in line. They were nice enough at the Brown Derby to box the cake for us. 

The cake isn't really on the same must-try lists as the must-tries I've been mentioning because the cake is from a restaurant and the other ones are "quick serve". But there was definitely lots of mention of the grapefruit cake online.

It was very good. I love grapefruit. So it's kind of up my alley. 

We were those lame awesome adults sitting at the very front for Fantasmic. It's the splash zone! I couldn't resist! I love splash zones! Especially when I'm in Florida. The show was just good, clean fun; my favorite! 

Water is shot up from the moat surrounding the stage, making a wall that they project images on. This water wall misted us whenever it was up. Wonderfully refreshing.

That's the water wall:

And when fire was shot on the water, we could feel the heat. So fun!

Such a fun first full day at WDW! And then we collapsed and allowed ourselves a sleep-in-day the next day.


It took us a while to get moving the next day, but eventually we made our way over to EPCOT. As we were riding the monorail to EPCOT, it started pouring. It was the only day we got rained on. I was slightly apprehensive when going to this park because we had FastPasses for Mission: Space, which we had read online could be a little iffy for people prone to motion sickness -- that's me. I had done surprisingly well with my motion sickness the day before at Magic Kingdom. I felt a little woozy after Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, but it subsided quickly. And Eric insisted we go on the Teacups, which I didn't oppose because how can you go to WDW and not go on the Teacups? And Eric wanted to turn the wheel as much as we could; which, again, I couldn't oppose because of my competitive side. You can't go on the Teacups and be a weenie! I just stared at the inside of the Teacup the entire time, and after I wobbled around for a while when the ride had ended, I felt fine.

We weren't sure if we were going to make our FastPass on time. So we were kind of wavering on whether or not we wanted to go on Mission: Space. Once we realized we could make it, and since Eric wanted to go, I bucked up and we went. We had gotten soaked with the downpour, and I think it helped a lot because it kept me cool during the ride.

Mission: Space has two versions: Green, which is the less intense version, and Orange, which is the more intense version. In the Green option, the centrifuge doesn't spin, thus eliminating the forces of lateral acceleration.

Now, WDW introduced the Green version in May of 2006. Do you know why? BECAUSE A 49-YEAR-OLD WOMAN DIED IN APRIL 2006 A DAY AFTER RIDING THE ORANGE VERSION! WHAT!? To be fair, she apparently had pre-existing conditions; as did a 4-year-old boy who died after riding Mission: Space in June 2005. Also, this information is all from the internet, so who knows.

I was in no way worried that I'd die from going on this ride, but I was worried that I'd be saying hello to the turkey leg from the night before. But again, I wasn't being a weenie and doing the "baby" version! So onto the orange walkway we went.

Pardon the French, but this is what my insides were doing:

Don't look at me! It was my insides that were saying it!

Mission: Space is attempting to simulate space travel. So first we got a little instruction and pep talk from Gary Sinise, whom I like to call Lieutenant Dan.

Then Lt. Dan assigned us positions. I was the engineer. Ooh! Aah! All this meant was that I pressed a pretend, lit up button when Lt. Dan told me to. ... OR WE ALL DIED!!!

This is what our little strap-in area looked like:

In all honesty, the ride didn't end up being that bad. It was nice that I was already wet from the rain and getting air blown on me at my station; it helps my motion sickness if I can be cooler. It did, at times, feel kind of neat. But I wouldn't exactly call it fun. I've always much preferred the feeling of being dropped to being spun and tossed around. That's why I like rides like Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror (which will come up later).

It did take me a while to recover after this ride, though. So we just sat in the shade (it had stopped raining) for a good while until I felt I'd adequately de-dizzified. Then we went to Soarin', which was our next FastPass. This ride had seemingly mixed reviews online. Seems like people either love it or hate it. I'm sorry, Disney, but I hated it. If we hadn't had FastPasses, I would have raged because the regular stand-by lineup was huge! As it was, the FastPass line was still pretty big itself. It was so boring! The ride, I mean, not the line. Although, that was also boring.

For the ride, you're strapped into these swingy seats:

Then you get hoisted up and swayed around while images of California play in front of you. The only fun parts of the ride were getting hoisted up and that when you "soar" by an orange grove, you can smell oranges.

We also had FastPasses for Test Track that day, but it also had mixed reviews online. So we decided to forego that ride; I was still a little woozy anyway.

So we headed over to the World Showcase. The Food and Wine Festival was going on when we were there. So it was pretty busy. And there were so many delicious food choices! But we didn't want to overdo it because we had reservations for the Canadian restaurant Le Cellier. Ha! Go Canada, eh!? I know, lame, but it was one of the highest acclaimed restaurants at EPCOT.

We'd heard tell of delicious school bread at the Nowary pavilion. So we headed over there. 

School bread: A sweet bread roll that is injected with vanilla pudding or custard, then covered with sweet icing and toasted coconut. Delicious! It was the first thing we'd eaten that day too. So it was much appreciated.

Hom nom. Delicious custardiness.

We then decided to go on what, I believe, is the only ride at the World Showcase: Maelstrom. This isn't actually my picture. So the stand-by line was probably more around 10 or 15 minutes when we were there. But we had modern technology on our side! Eric got on his phone, got us a FastPass, and we went immediately on the ride! It felt like we were cheating, and maybe we were, but man was it great!

This ride was hilariously dinky! It was a flume ride, complete with Norwegian trolls, Vikings, and polar bears. At one point, you go hurtling backwards. 

And when you are leaving the ride, you can sit down and enjoy a delightful promo video for Norway in the '80s!

Don't worry, Norway; you sold me with your advanced computers and trendy models.

I liked the Norway pavilion, though, because I feel a kinship with Norwegians due to my Scandinavian great grandmother (Swedish). I like any hardy civilization that ekes out a living in a beautiful but cold and treacherous land.

Then we continued on, only briefly browsing here and there. You see, by this point my feet we requiring much maintenance and assistance. By the end of the week, I needed somewhere around five band-aids on my feet. Weak, little baby feet. That's what happens when you sit and watch TV for a living. I was wearing Toms, which typically wouldn't have given me a problem, but because they'd gotten wet, they were rubbing the backs of my heels raw. We were going to be doing lots more walking, so I needed to stymie this rawness. 

Enter these beauties:

They were a complete impulse buy to save my heels. The heel part was so squishy; it was like I was walking on jello. This is how I felt at first... 

But as I sadly discovered in the next 10 minutes or so, while the heels of the Crocs were like a pair of dreams, the thongs were evil and pinchy! So I really couldn't win with my feet that day, and I just gave up.

We mostly just took a quick look around at the different pavilions until we got to the German pavilion (and saw Snow White. Grumble) and saw the Werther's store.

Uuuh, so much caramel and chocolate goodnesses. We got some treats there to enjoy later at the resort. I got chocolate covered pineapple, which was so, so good. Eric got a salted chocolate caramel or some such thing, and we got a chocolate covered pretzel to share.  

We eventually headed to the Canadian pavilion and had a good laugh at the "rocky mountains":

Just like home...

Can't go to Canada and not get poutine! It was so awesome, but such a mistake because it filled me up so much.

Eric got the mushroom filet mignon, which he said was the best steak he's ever had.

And I got dry-aged bone-in rib-eye, which was so very tasty. I was so sad that I was already really full from the poutine. So I got what I couldn't finish packed out of principle, and it sat in our hotel fridge for the remainder of our stay.

Eric's showing some chest. Ow, ow.

We considered going to IllumiNations, the fireworks show at EPCOT, but we would have either had to wait around at EPCOT for hours or go to the resort and then come back to EPCOT. So we decided against it because we were tired, we had to get up early the next morning, and my feet hurt. So we went and got a Napoleon cake from a French bakery, Boulangerie Patisserie, on our way out of EPCOT so we could eat it later at the resort. 

Tons of people raved about the Napoleon cake online, but we were disappointed. Anytime I've had a Napoleon cake before, it's been cake-like, but this was really pastry-like, and a hassle to eat. I don't know which is the "correct" way to do it, but I prefer the cake way.


Day 4 was an early beginning because we had to get to Animal Kingom for our Wild African Trek. Animal Kingdom was the farthest park from our resort and our Trek was at 8:45 a.m., but we needed to be there early.

Again we got to go inside the park before opening, which is such a delightful change compared to the usual hustle and bustle in the parks. And we were there during the off-season. I really can't imagine what it's like during the on-season.

We got to the park, scanned in, and then met up with two workers that were supposed to lead us to our starting point. It was probably easy for them to identify us because they knew it was our anniversary and we were wearing our anniversary buttons. So they confirmed we were Paige and Eric and then proceeded to tell us that we were the only ones who had reservations for the 8:45 Trek!

We got to do the whole Trek by ourselves! When the groups have a maximum capacity of 12! Our own private little tour!

We walked through the empty park to our lockers. Once there, we met the three lovely ladies that would be our tour guides, Abbe, Megan, and Dani. Three guides just for little ol' us. We then got suited up in our harnesses and other necessary gear. As soon as we left the area, I proceeded to promptly break my water bottle they gave me. Can't take me anywhere. They were nice enough to give me a new one at the end of the Trek, but we couldn't fit it in our luggage for the journey home anyway.

As part of the Trek service, they take pictures for us! Since Eric and I both hate taking pictures, this was perfect! And since we were the only ones in the group, the pictures were all of us! Huzzah! Capital service! So I haven't been very choosy with the Trek pictures on this blog post because they're all good quality. So there are many, many pictures.

Starting out on our little journey.

Checking out the monkeys.


Looking at the Okapi.


Though striped, the okapi is closely related to the giraffe, not the zebra.

Looking at little critters. Eric and I clearly think the little mice are adorable.

Cute little African striped mice!

Megan was postulating with us about how she thinks the mouse Scar tries to eat in Lion King is an African striped mouse. I love how everyone that works at Disney is as big of a Disney nut as me. They are my people.

Golden weavers. Pretty golden birds that make fun, little nests all over the trees.

Constructing the nests

This guy's a pro.


If you'll recall, I love meerkats.

I could have sat there all day.

THE MEERKATS HAVE A BUNNY FRIEND!!! DAH!! Bunny friend better be careful, though; meerkats will eat just about anything.


They're the best.

We got to meet up with a worker that was feeding the hippos.

Hippo's having his noms.

This tickled me pink! The hippo has a duck friend! Everyone's so friendly at Disney!

Delicious lettuce.

A picture of me taking a picture of the hippo. How meta. Since the guides were taking pictures anyway, I gave up on pictures after this.

A model of how big a hippo mouth/jaw is and how far it can open. They could easily eat me whole.


The suspension bridges we got to cross.

The regular safaris would occasionally drive by us, and they'd stare at us with envy while we looked all cool and important.

More hippos.

Crossing the bridge.

Nothing like a very forced, very uncomfortable artificial thigh gap.

Crocodiles below.

Eric crossing the bridge.

Just chillin'.

Many crocodiles.

Crocodiles ho!

Dani giving us instruction on the crocodiles.

Not as wide as a hippo, but much more jagged and pointy.

Megan, Abbe, Croc face, Eric, me.

Off to the safari truck.
Masai giraffes, a subspecies of giraffe. Reticulated giraffes have the typical polygonal brown spots, whereas Masai giraffes have more splotchy, unpredictable spots.

Dah, little baby giraffes. Ha ha, it's sucking the tree.

They gave us icy cool washcloths, and it was heavenly. Also, you like our granny strings on our glasses? We had to have them for walking across the suspension bridges. But actually, they were pretty convenient. Wise grannies.

Delicious bark.

Some ungulate with fun horns.

More ungulates.

More ungulates.




Baby elephant!

Reticulated giraffe.

Zebra and Rhinos.

Taking a break so we can have a little African snack while we watched the wildlife around us. It was so tasty and refreshing!

We had a delicious orange juice (sweeter than regular, breakfast orange juice); fig cake with almonds; slices of bresoala (dried beef) and prosciutto; smoked salmon roll with jicama slaw and lime vinaigrette. Tin No. 2 had Brie and dried apricots; pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon salad in a mint dressing (it's different in the picture below, which isn't my picture. Instead of a salad, they are balls in the picture. But same idea); and strawberry yogurt with granola and dried cherries.



I have no explanation for this random pose I'm pulling.

Baby elephants playing.

Back on the truck.

Kill me, it's hot!

Muddy rhino.

Cheetah! Kitties are my favorite!

I appreciate the laziness of kitties.

Dos rhinos.

How cute are they?

Lion kitties!
Kitties are also anti-social. I love them so.

More zebra.

Very endangered ungulates. Poor little ungulates.

Our fun, awesome guides: Abbe, Dani, Megan. Kwaherini is Swahili for goodbye.

When our trek was done, we had to wait around for our FastPasses for Expedition Everest. I'm not sure why we didn't just get in the stand-by line because it probably took just as long to wait around for the FastPasses, if not longer. It's probably because we thought we would be able to go sit someplace air conditioned. How wrong we were. Of all of the parks, Animal Kingdom seemed the worst for getting you out of the sun. 

By the time we got in the FastPass line, it's quite possible that I was in the early stages of heat exhaustion; however, I didn't know it at the time, and I thought: as soon as I get in line, I'll be in a shaded, air-conditioned space. Wrong. The line was only shaded, with some fans here and there, and we went through the line so fast that we weren't even in that area for very long. 

I think in theory the ride would have been really fun, but I was already not feeling too hot; and by that I mean I was feeling entirely TOO hot! Reh, reh, reh.

So after Everest, we tried to recuperate me, but to no avail. This was by far the most lousy and nauseated that I felt on the trip. Luckily, there was only one other ride (Dinosaur), we were planning on going to at Animal Kingdom. So we were kind of sad to miss it, but we heard it was just like Indiana Jones in Disneyland. Both Eric and I had gone to Disneyland when we were kids. So at least we have the general idea.

So after I lied around on a bench for a while, we decided to go back to the resort and rest before our dinner reservation that night. I bought myself a stuffed animal to make myself feel better, and then I stood around in the air conditioned (finally!) store for a while before we got on the bus.

These are the adorable, old school Mickey and Minnie stuffed animals Eric and I got. They're very adorable and look crocheted. It's my rule that when you go to Disneyland/World, you get at least one stuffed animal, no matter how old you are.

Pictures in front of the Tree of Life before we left.

Minnie doubled as a pillow for me on the bus. So thoughtful of her. 

Random side note: There were teenie, tiny, little lizards all over WDW. There were a gazillion of them at the bus stop at Animal Kingdom. This picture makes it look big, but they were super teenie. I thought they were cute and enjoyed seeing them everywhere.

Luckily, the buses at WDW were pretty well air conditioned; otherwise we could have been in trouble. Still though, when we got into our room, it was like claiming sanctuary against the heat and sun.

Within a few minutes I had chugged a big bottle of water and passed out.

When I woke up, I was recouped. So we headed off to dinner, which was all the way back by Animal Kingdom. It was at Jiko, a restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was very fun and tasty. We got an appetizer called "Taste of Africa", which was African dips with pappadams and naan bread. 

For entrées, I got West African "jerked" scallops, 
and Eric got spicy Botswana-style "Seswaa" beef short rib. Both were delicious.

After dinner we wandered around Animal Kingdom Lodge for a bit and then went back to our resort and to bed.

Day 5 - Rest Day

Day 5 was our actual anniversary, and we decided to make it our rest and relaxation day around the Grand Floridian. We were initially considering having this be the day where we went to Hollywood Studios for the rides, but we decided to push that over to another day so that we could be lazy and get pampered on day 5. 

We slept in late, and when we woke up, we went to Gasparilla Grill and had some more of the flatbread pizza for lunch. A couple hours later we had our couples massage reservations at the Senses Spa, still at the Grand Floridian.

Neither of us had ever had a professional massage before. What a mistake it was. Now I want massages always. I never want to stop having massages. 

After our massage we got ready for a super fancy dinner reservation at Victoria and Albert's, only the swankiest restaurant in town! So swanky that it has a legitimate, guys-must-wear-a-dinner-jacket dress code and a live harpist! It's at the Grand Floridian. So we didn't have to leave the resort the whole day. 

Dining room.

And we even took it a step further by getting a reservation for the Queen Victoria Room: a room partitioned off from the dining room. It only has four tables, and the night we went, there were only two other couples besides ourselves.

The cutest of royal couples. My buds, Kate and Will, are a pretty close second, though.

For the dining room, it's seven prix fixe courses. But for Victoria's Room, it's ten prix fixe courses!

Some nice roses at our table. They gave me a rose at the end of the meal as well because it was our anniversary. Seriously, the doting that went on while we were at WDW! It was stupendous! 

I've posted a picture of our menu so you know what everything is without me having to go into great detail. It would be very redundant to go through and say how amazing everything was. So let me just state it now: everything was absolutely amazing! Definitely the most thorough and satisfying meal ever! And the service was impeccable.

Caviar and lobster. First time we tried caviar. Loved it.

First bread.


Smoked lamb. My favorite item of the night. They brought it out with a lid on and smoke still inside so that when they pulled the lid off, smoke spewed out. Very cool presentations throughout.

Second bread.

Poached egg.

Third bread.

Kobe-style beef.

Selection of cheeses with honeycomb, almonds, and spiced walnuts.

Apple dessert.

Chocolate dessert

Bonbons that we got to take home with us.

We took this picture after the dinner, which was stupid of us because we were super full and bloated and wanted to be in comfy pants.

And ye, we did get into comfy pants.

Day 6 - No-Rest Day

It's a good thing that we had the rest day on day 5 because day 6 was our no-rest day. It was the day where we had to try to jam as much in as possible so as to not miss anything. 

First up was the water park Blizzard Beach. It was fun, but not much different than most other water parks. I also got pretty banged up at Blizzard Beach. The first incident happened on the Double Dipper ride, which had a lineup that took more than half on hour and the ride itself took literally 6 seconds. I wanted to punch someone. During this thrilling 6-second ride, I slammed my foot on the bottom of the pool and roughed up the bottom of my foot.

I also pulled a leg muscle pretty bad -- stairs are a young man's game. It actually was from squatting under a partition rope, but I'm sure all the stair-climbing only aggravated it more.

I then banged myself up further on the Summit Plummet. 120-feet, plunging you down 12 stories. I wasn't too scared to do Summit Plummet, but that's because I'd done the tall slide at West Edmonton Mall. Still, though, it's quite a shock when you put your feet over the edge. However, lots of other people were clearly scared of it because as you'd be waiting in line on the stairs, people would lose their nerve and have to do the walk of shame, passing everyone as they walked down the stairs. This ride definitely gave me some bumps and bruises that I felt the next day. 

Not my picture and not me.

This blurry picture is the best one I have from Blizzard Beach.

We had some hot dogs for lunch at Blizzard Beach and then we made the journey to Typhoon Lagoon water park. We had to ride the bus all the way back to Grand Floridian and then to Typhoon Lagoon because there wasn't a bus that went from Blizzard Beach to Typhoon Lagoon.

Now, there was basically one reason we were going to Typhoon Lagoon: the Crush 'n' Gusher. It's a "water-coaster", meaning that at times you go up the slide! We also just wanted to be able to say we'd visited all four theme parks and both water parks. So we made this whole journey for one ride.

Crush 'n' Gusher was pretty fun, but it was way too short. Luckily the lineup hadn't taken us too long. So after that one ride, we were heading out again. We were all water-parked out.

Now it was Typhoon Lagoon that didn't have a bus to our next destination: Hollywood Studios. Yup, going to Hollywood Studios in our swimsuits. I had a sundress and Eric had a shirt. It was actually quite nice, though, because since we were slightly wet still, it kept us cool. 

So we took a bus to the Swan Hotel, which was within walking distance of Hollywood Studios, apparently... Either we kept getting the wrong directions, or we're idiots and couldn't follow instructions. So we just kept wandering around the Disney Boardwalk. We ended up having to ask three different people for directions. And we needed to rush because our FastPass for Tower of Terror was almost up. In the end we had to just take a ferry, which was a really roundabout way to get there. This wasn't a good day for transit, but all of our other experiences with the transit on different days were successful. 

By the time we finally got to Hollywood Studioes, our FastPass had ended. So we just got in the standy-by line, which really didn't take that long. But it was still a bummer, especially because we ended up having to be by an annoying, boisterous group. Annoying, boisterous people are the worst. Regardless, Tower of Terror was still amazing!

The themeing and story were really fun too. All cobwebby and worn.

And the short version of the story is that people mysteriously disappeared from a hotel elevator under the influence of some supernatural element many years prior.

It was my second favorite ride, coming after only Splash Mountain. I wish we could have ridden it many more times. If I go to WDW or Disneyland again (which I think is highly likely), I'm going to ride it multiple times. 

We only wanted to ride one more ride from Hollywood Studios: Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. I was pretty worried this would make me sick. I had read it was one of the more intense Disney rides and that it had loops, which can often be my undoing. Also, you take off at 60 mph. But I couldn't pass it up. And we had FastPasses to take advantage of. When you're in line, you can see the roller coasters take off and hear everyone scream as it bolts off. Oi. 

And there they go.

But it actually wasn't that bad, and it was really fun! When you take off, you don't even have time to comprehend what's going on because you're going so fast. And then it slows down a bit and is just a fun roller coaster. I was a little wobbly afterwards, but that's to be expected, and the recovery time wasn't too long.

By this point in the day, Eric's phone, our only camera at the time, died. So we have no pictures of ourselves at Hollywood Studios, which was really frustrating because up until this point we had gotten a picture in front of all the iconic landmarks at each park (Magic Kingdom's Cinderella's Castle, EPCOT's Geosphere, Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life, and the signs at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon). So here's a picture I didn't take of the Sorcerer's Hat at Hollywood Studios:

We then had another turkey leg for dinner and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our next outing: Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba and Downtown Disney.

Neither of us had seen a Cirque show before, and we kind of didn't get what the big deal was. What fools we were! It was amazing and so entertaining! 

They defy reason! Human bodies can't actually do the things they're doing. Someone should probably let them know.

La Nouba and the treat we had after the show made the day 5 night one of the biggest highlights of the trip! Which was a surprise to both of us. So much so that we're considering going to Las Vegas (a place I was never, ever interested in going to before) because of all of the Cirque shows in Vegas and the fact that Vegas has the shop where we got our delicious treat that night, the Downtown Disney's Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop.

I present the best dessert I've ever had. That's right -- I'm saying it! Even better than the Tom Douglas doughnuts (blasphemy!). The warm brownie sundae:

How was it so amazingly good!?

Eric's Gold Rush, a peanut butter hot fudge sundae. If you know Eric's love of peanut butter, chocolate, and ice cream, then you'd know this was the most perfect Eric dessert of all time.

And then we went back to the hotel and died of exhaustion that night. 

Day 6 - Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

We let ourselves have another sleep-in day on day 6. It seems our sleep-in days were every other day. How accidentally brilliant of us. That morning, because I wanted some Mickey waffles and had never had room service before, we decided to order some. Breakfast in bed!

Then we made our way over to Magic Kingdom to finish off some of the rides we missed: Jungle Cruise, Winnie the Pooh, and Dumbo.

Jungle Cruise was too darn hot! And I know it's supposed to be a little silly and lame, but our driver wasn't very good at striking that fine balance between funny and lame. But we went and got dole whip floats again after this ride, so all was well.

The Winnie the Pooh ride was horribly adorable! You ride around in a "hunny" pot! And when it's a blustery "windsday", your pot blows around; when Tigger comes into the story, your pot bounces along; and when the "rain, rain, rain came down, down, down" it feels like your pot is floating along.

Not my picture; none of these people are me.

And Dumbo's so classic. You've got to do Dumbo!

We color coordinated with the Dumbo ride.

Then we went back to the hotel to get ready for Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween. You have to buy tickets for it, and you get to dress up, go to Magic Kingdom after hours while most everything is still open, and go trick-or-treating around the park.

Our costumes for the night: Mickey and Minnie! Again, my husband is the best of all the husbands!
I had brought heels to look cute with the costume, with the intention of bringing a purse/backpack to the park, and I'd switch the heels out for flats as soon as I'd been in the park for a little while. Even that plan seemed laughable by this point. So I just took a couple pictures with the heels in the hotel room and then switched to flats for the rest of the night.

Our stuffed counterparts.
Yay! Flats! Even they hurt. But by that point, anything hurt. So I just sucked it up and pranced around Magic Kingdom through the pain.

Magic Kingdom during the Halloween party.

Cinderella's Castle at night.

We were both pretty rundown by this point. Not only are you forever walking, but you are constantly receiving so much stimuli at WDW. So we kind of took it easy this night. We got some standard chicken nuggets for dinner and a Mickey soft pretzel, another must-try. Mmm, I love soft pretzels; so doughy and salty.
We didn't really do any trick-or-treating, although I'm sure that would be a blast for kids. We really did not have any need of candy by that point, though. We mostly just went on some rides and walked around. There are tons of fun costumes to see. There's also some parades and the fireworks. Eric and I didn't have great spots for the fireworks, but still we both agreed they were the best fireworks we've ever seen.

One of the first things we did after eating was ride The Haunted Mansion; it seemed appropriate for a Halloween party. But it stopped halfway through and we had to sit there for a minute or so before it started going again. I didn't mind. We just got to sit and chill in our seat and look around at the decorations some more. However, this was not to be the last time a ride stopped in the middle. I wonder if glitches are common with rides after hours. That's what we came to assume.

We rode Thunder Mountain once and Splash Mountain twice that night. You could basically walk right onto the rides. It was pretty grand. But Splash Mountain had some less than ideal places for the ride to stop running. For example, right by a waterfall that's splashing you. One of the times we were on, the log in front of us got stuck right beside the waterfall and they got soaked. Ha. We were lucky to only get stopped by something like the waterfall for a few seconds. 

The last time we went, we asked if we could sit in the front, and this resulted in us getting to not only sit in the front, but also having the whole log to ourselves! It was awesome!

As you can see, I'm pretty stoked about it. By this point, I'd gone on Splash Mountain once before and gotten soaked, as is the way with Splash Mountain. So my hair was yet again being silly. 

A picture Eric got while the log was stopped. There were more, but they were really blurry.

Finally we got a picture of one of our action shots. Got the log all to ourselves. Woo hoo!

Yeah, we're pretty cool.

The Halloween party was fun, but we were too exhausted to really take advantage of it. Also, I think it would have been better if it hadn't been a Friday night. The rides weren't too busy, but the park in general was pretty crowded. 

Day 7 - Leaving Day

We were going to go to Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort for breakfast this morning -- it has something that sounds amazing called Tonga Toast: 
Banana-stuffed Sourdough French Toast rolled in Cinnamon Sugar and served with a Strawberry Compote -- but we both decided we wanted one last serving of Ghirardelli's ice cream before we left. So instead, we went to Downtown Disney and got ourselves more ice cream! I got the same warm brownie Sundae and Eric got a sea salt caramel sundae. Uuuuuugh, they were good.

We got a good look at Downtown Disney when we were walking from La Nouba to Ghirardelli's on day 5, and it looks like there's some pretty fun stuff around there. We even saw some people going on hot air balloon rides, and there's a restaurant, Rainforest Cafe, and the outside is shaped like a volcano that erupts with fire and smoke.

Before we left Downtown Disney, we went and looked around one of the stores. We kept seeing the stuffed peas from Toy Story 3 in different stores around WDW, and they amused us to no end. So by this point, we decided just to buy them. The amount of glee they produce in us completely made them worth it. We even named them on our bus ride.

I give you: Penelopea, Priscilla, and Peggy.

Then we got on our bus to the airport, flew home, and I've missed WDW ever since. Luckily we got to have Canadian Thanksgiving with my family as soon as we got home. So that was lots of fun, and at least I didn't have to go back to work immediately when I got home.

I've been watching copious amounts of Disney movies ever since we got home, as well as listening to tons of Disney music; I'm listening to it now, in fact! I've also been formulating plans in which to give up real life and whisk Eric and myself away to live out our lives working at WDW.

I so wish that I'd gone and worked at Disney when I was younger with less adult responsibilities. It's a place where being short is an advantage because of all the short characters! I could'a been a contender!

I'm very dissatisfied with what I like to call my "marriage weight" (I don't mean Eric. I'm very satisfied with that marriage weight).

And it had been my intention to lose a good amount of it before WDW, but that didn't amount to much. So in joking, I asked Eric if we could go back to WDW as a reward if I got down to my weight goal of my pre-marriage weight, a lofty target. He said yes, so I'm holding him to it! Let the dieting begin!

In all honesty, it is nice to be home and getting back to normal. We also miss little Abbotsford when we're away. And writing this novel on our trip has given me some semblance of closure. Still, though, if the chance to go back should present itself...

1 comment:

  1. Oh my lanta! That was a most enjoyable read, my dear Paige! I have such a great love of your gifs as they are always so very appropriate :) Looks like you had the most fantastic, most memorable, most awesomest 3rd anniversary ever! I have great jealousy of your many adventures and must start planning my own fake vacation very soon :D On a side note, if you do decide to go to Las Vegas just to see Cirque, I highly recommend Ka. It's the one that we saw last time we were there and it was stupendous!