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Lou’s September WDW Trip Report – EPISODE III

k.a. Princess Marion’s First Trip “Home”

Part 3

Day Four- Monday, September 20th

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Day

(Yawn)… Ahhh.. it´s only Monday… Gotta love it!

Buon Giorno, girls! Time to get up! We´re going on a safari today! Although when I tried to get a PS last night for Breakfastosaurus, I decided to give it a shot anyway. I received a call from Jenn (my friend from work) who said she was going to DAK today as well, and had a PS for breakfast and would look for us there. We got to DAK around 8, and since it was an early entry day, I walked in to the park, not even trying to “check-in” for a PS at Restaurantosaurus (since they were marking guests off a list). When we made our way over to Dinoland, the rope was still up for guests to enter that area of the park. I confidently walked up and stated that we were there for our PS reservation. Security has been breached so far… Don´t let them see you sweat, Lou. When we got to the restaurant, the check-in line was pretty long. Lou picks up Marion from the stroller… cute kid may help us along the way. Things were a little hectic at the podium, so I just said that I was there for my [8:30] PS. They took my name and gave me one of those blinking vibrating thingies. We were in. Nice. Now, I don´t condone this type of behavior, I just did it for “research purposes.”

When we were called, we lined up for the photo shoot in front of the sign, and were brought to our table. Not far from the buffet. Cool. I´m starving. The buffet was great, with everything from eggs to some type of cheese-hash-brown concoction that, although was clogging my arteries just at the sight of it, tasted delicious. All three helpings of it. There was also a cold buffet that some lunatic-tree-huggers must like, `cause it had some type of thing called “fruit” and some other stuff they said may have been.. ummm… what was the word? Oh, “healthy”. Dunno. Never heard of it. I need more pancakes. Our waiter (Adam from Long Island, I think) was the best! He was telling jokes and having a great time with us all. He came over with a tray of “hot coffee”, which he help right over the baby in her high chair. He tripped and spilled the cups right on top of her. Oh, did I mention that they were empty? After my brief hear attack (and I hadn´t even eaten the biscuits with sausage gravy yet), we had quite a laugh.

We were visited by Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Mickey, and noticed that Jenn was just a couple of tables away, giddy as a schoolgirl at the sight of the characters.

From breakfast, we waddled out fat butts over to Kilimajaro Safaris. It was still pretty early and cool out, so we were looking forward to seeing lots of animals. And we couldn´t wait to let Marion see them as well. The line was relatively short, and me, Deanna, Marion, Jenn and her boyfriend and Tara and her fiancé took the last three rows. Our “tour guide” had a little problem with the English language, but that was OK – we were there for the sights more than the sounds. As we approach some of the first viewing areas, we are excited to see so many animals out an about. Marion… look! Giraffes! Three of them! Right next to the truck! Marion? Marion? Aw, come on… sleeping again. Sheeesh. That´s OK… We´ll be back… again and again. Well, those of us who stayed awake saw lions, elephants, tigers and a whole bunch of other animals I just don´t recall. We picked up the stroller and headed into the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Not really much to see here in my opinion, although maybe it was jus the day we were there, as it was starting to get a lot warmer – and fast. I did see a gorilla´s hand, though. Sorry – no pictures.

Well, Marion decided to wake up, so I wanted to take full advantage of it, so we headed over to the Wildlife Express RR to Rafiki´s Planet Watch for some up-close animal action. Hmmm… looks a little dark in the sky way over there… ah, we should be OK.

We headed right for Conservation Station and decided to give Marion her lunch. As if on cue, the skies opened up and exploded in a typical Florida rainstorm. We headed inside to watch some of the exhibits, and I was ecstatic to see characters inside. You would think that the sight of the lovely Pocahontas would make Lou happy, but it was Stanley from Playhouse Disney that made me giddy. I almost forgot the rest of my family to go get on line to see him! The rain let up a bit, so we went outside to pet the animals. By now, it was pretty gross out, so we didn´t really pet as much as gawk. Uh oh.. here comes the rain again, so it´s time to duck inside. Mind you, I brought ponchos with us that we had purchased last year, and left them in the room. Still raining out, so now we´re stuck here. Well, it´s time to make a run for it, so Lou plunks down another $12 for more ponchos and we decide to head out. In keeping with the Disney magic, as soon as we stepped outside, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out. Ponchos off, and back into the bag. Nice work.

After getting off the train, we basked in the sun as we trekked over to Festival of the Lion King. I personally think that this is the best show in WDW – hands down. Marion was up, which was perfect. We got great seats in the Lion section, and appreciated that now the theatre is air-conditioned (unlike last August when it was 100 degrees and no AC in there). Camera out. Video camera ready. Marion falling asleep. I can´t win. Oh well, I still loved the show from beginning to end (and had to even pick up the CD before we left!).

Well now we´re starving, but we thought we´d try the Character Greeting Trails. Marion was now awake, but no characters in sight. Forget it – I´m starving, so it´s off to the Flame Tree BBQ (a DAK must-do). No need for the menu, m´am – Pulled pork sandwich for me, please.

From here, we hit It´s Tough To Be a Bug. Marion actually stayed awake for it, and loved it – “acid”, stinkbugs and all! As soon as we got out, it was time for Mickey´s Jammin´ Jungle Parade. It was pretty crowded, but we were about 1 person deep from the street. Marion saw Mickey and started clappin g like crazy. I love it!

It´s been a pretty long day, since we were up so early for breakfast. Rather than wipe the girls out, we called it a really early night and headed back to OKW. We thought about eating at Downtown Disney, but opted for some take out from Olivia´s, the restaurant at OKW. Well, let me tell you – the food was outstanding!! We started with the Shrimp & Artichoke Dip served with Baked Tomato Basil Chips, Traditional Conch Chowder and Fresh Mozzarella Salad. We each had the Penne Pasta and Asiago Cheese with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Baby Spinach, Olive Oil and Garlic with shrimp and it was absolutely delicious. Even if you aren´t staying at OKW, Olivia´s food is excellent, and the riverside atmosphere is lovely at night.

Day Five – Tuesday, September 21st

Magic Kingdom Day

I was lucky enough to be able to change my PR for Chef Mickey´s to today, so we headed over to the Contemporary Resort at around 7:30 a.m. We sat by the window in the back, after getting our picture taken by the Chef Mickey´s plate near the entrance. We were visited (more than once) by Chip, Dale, and Minnie. It was great to see Marion take to them so well. She even let Chip hold her. (tear welling in eye again). OK… enough stuffing our faces… we have to get to the parks, troops! Oh wait… there´s Goofy. Time for one more picture! Cool. To the monorail, people!!!

We got to Main Street and had a CM take our picture (again). Before we went any further, though, we had something we had to do.

We headed over to the Chapeau store to get Marion her first pair of Mickey ears. From there, we found “the spot” where I had my picture taken on the Main Street curb 33 years ago, and then again this past February. We plopped Marion down and recreated the same picture. She sat there like a supermodel and we got a great picture of her. Priceless. (tear welling up in Lou’s eye).

I needed a HM fix on the way to Fantasyland, so we headed for Liberty Square. A CM at the entrance saw my shirt and told me to wait, as he had a question he wanted to ask me. When he couldn´t think of it, he said he´d meet me by the exit. He remembered the question and asked me when the Electrical Water Pageant debuted. I thought for a second… unsure of the exact date. I guessed October 25, 1971 (the day the MK was dedicated). I was off by one day – it was the 26 th. At least I didn´t lose all credibility and totally blow it. Now, get out of my way, I gotta go see Snow White!

We hit Snow White, then Dumbo, which I hadn´t ridden in years. Marion loved the wind in her face and I loved the view of the old 20,000 Leagues lagoon. I was sad to see it filled with dirt and full of trucks, but happy to see my daughter enjoy it. Purple Dumbo, Marion. It was your first.

We FP´ed Pooh, since the wait was the longest of any ride during our entire stay – about 35 minutes. We went to Fairytale Garden next to the Castle for Belle´s Storytime. While we were waiting, we gave Marion some lunch, and I actually found a new Hidden Mickey! (I met Steve Barrett later in the week and was thrilled that he didn´t know about it! I´m not a big HM guy, but I was sure to take pictures of it so I can send it to him). Storytime was nice, and it´s great to see kids´ faces.

We headed over to Toontown and decided that Marion would not get a lot out of the houses, so we went right to Mickey in the Judge´s Tent. She went right to him again, unlike the kid in front of us who threw a fit – screaming, yelling and rolling on the floor. That´s what memories are made of.

Well, I´ve been here long enough – time for a Pecos Bill´s burger! We had lunch there, then did some browsing on Main Street, USA before heading back to the Contemporary to pick up our car.

We drove to the Boardwalk Inn and walked through the resort to the Boardwalk, sad that we weren´t able to stay there (quite a difference from OKW). We walked to World Showcase, and headed over towards France, where we were happy to see some Disney Princesses, all with no wait! We met Aurora and Belle before heading over to Morocco, where a CM told us we could find (gulp) Jasmine. As Lou weaved in and out of the crowds on the streets of Ville Nouvelle and the Medina heading towards Jasmine, made sure his family was still with him. Whew. We were the last family before she left. We also met Genie before he took the rest of the night off.

On the way out, we stopped to listen to Mo Rockin´ and I had some baklava and a Tangerine Daiquiri. Both were delicious (especially if you love honey – try the baklava!) and gave me a little much-needed sugar boost. As we headed towards the good old US of A, we got Marion an ice pop from a cart.

We went to Japan, (the pavilion, not the country), where I was happy to see Miyuki, the candy artist, finishing up her show. I waited to see her and speak with her when she was done. I took out a copy of the Trivia Book (one that I happened to have handy) to show her that she had her own question and descriptive answer. She was SO excited when she saw it! She said she felt like a celebrity and was famous. I signed a copy of the book and gave it to her, and she made Marion a candy cat and gave me a signed picture of herself. We shopped a bit in the store, and purchased some green tea and dried peas. We sat by the Torii gate and gave Marion dinner before heading to Italy, where we waited for the living statues to come out (hoping the dark clouds would stay away). Deanna took Marion over for a picture, when one “sprung to life”. Marion was unfazed (as usual) and actually went to the statue´s outstretched arms! The gathered crowd was hysterical! But, alas, the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed… oh wait… wrong song… Anyway, it started getting dark, so we decided to retreat home rather than stay a few hours for Illuminations. It was only Tuesday, anyway. We walked back to the Boardwalk and headed home. (Am I babbling too much? Is anyone still reading this?)

Day Six – Wednesday, September 22nd

Downtown Disney and Epcot

We decided to take a break from the parks this morning and do a little browsing at Downtown Disney. We went to Once Upon a Toy (I need lots of time for the World of Disney store, so this was like a little “warm-up”).

We went to EPCOT Center (for those of you who remember when it was called that), around 2:00 p.m. and went right to Spaceship Earth (after deciding that it was pointless to try and find out little picture on the Leave a Legacy tombstones.. I mean sculptures).

From there, we went to Mission: Space, all ready to do the baby swap. No need. There was no line. You read that right – no line. At all. Sweet. Deanna rode first and loved it – she was actually surprised based on the amount of warnings that she saw prior to riding it. While she thought it was incredible, she thought the warnings were scarier than the ride itself. She came out of the exit smiling from ear to ear and we switched off. I went through on the single rider “line” (or lack of same) with no wait at all. When I came off, Deanna had befriended a young girl from England whose family wouldn´t ride with her. Being the good-hearted, noble person she is, she volunteered to ride with her. What a sport. Never have I sat in the exit area and seen it next to empty. There were maybe a total of 7-10 people playing the games and sending video postcards.

We unfortunately missed our PS at The Land. Deanna had no idea about the surprise “Re-Hitching Ceremony” I had arranged for us. No matter, though – our anniversary was a week ago anyway. So, we opted for a turkey leg (nowhere near as good as eating in Frontierland) and a hot dog with chili.

We headed across the park to the Living Seas and parked the stroller (a new ritual I must endure). I wasn´t feeling the movie, so before it started, I showed Deanna where we could duck out and bypass it altogether. No Sea Cabs, no movie for me. Been there, done that (yawn). We got to our hydrolator and took the long ride deep into the research facilities. We were first hit by a stand filled with Nemo plushes. Once we got past that, we were surprised to see so many (about half) of the exhibits closed and walled off. There were only two areas where you could see into the tanks, and the lack of fish was noticeable. Unless you liked looking at some man-made coral, there wasn´t much to see. The Living Seas was a huge disappointment (especially since my daughter loves looking at fish). The only interesting part was a small area where you could look in and touch some sea rays. The rest of the room had some sparsely-filled tanks with Nemo signage above them. Unless Disney has something big planned for the pavilion (i.e. bring back Sea Cabs and get a Nemo theme in there ASAP), I wonder what may happen to this beautiful, yet very boring exhibit.

We met up with Jenn outside the pavilion, and headed over to Living with the Land. I pointed out the murals outside the pavilion and bored them with some facts and trivia before going in. Again, no wait for the ride, but it was clear that it was off-season, as all of the fish tanks were empty and being refurbished for our future enjoyment.

Time to kick things up a notch. Here we come, Test Track. Jenn and her boyfriend watched Marion while Deanna and I rode together. The best part is the acceleration test outside the building (be sure to take a look around while out there – you can get a nice view of Epcot´s backstage areas!). We came out to find that Marion had a “mommie moment”, but was fine otherwise.

I got a call from Steve Barrett, the author of Hidden Mickeys and the Hassle-Free guide to WDW. We had corresponded by email and spoken on the phone previously about getting together for dinner and we were finalizing plans. His wife made a PS for us at Le Chefs de France in World Showcase at [7:30]. That gave us time for a quick pit stop at the Baby Center at the old Odyssey restaurant building.

We waited for Steve and Vickie outside the restaurant while Marion napped. I recognized Steve from his author bio picture in the book right away. We exchanged introductions and were seated right away at a table by the window facing the promenade. Let me tell you – the Barretts are two of the nicest people you could meet! We spoke about everything from WDW, to our books, like we had known each other for years.

Our waiter, who happened to be from Italy but working in France (?), was outstanding. I ordered the Cabillaud en croute de pommes de terre – (Stuffed, baked cod fish wrapped in potato slices with a lobster demi glace, served on a bed of leeks. OK. I had to look at the menu to get all that down right. Deanna had “The French Menu”, which is French Onino soup, topped with Gruyere cheese, half of a farm raised rotisserie chicken, pan fried red potato and braised tomato, with Creme brulee for dessert.

Our waiter was fun, personable, and made the meal even more enjoyable. He told us stories about his experiences at WDW, when he worked on cruise lines from Italy and the Love Boat, and even how he met and married his wife. (I gave him a book, too.)

We had planned on leaving in time for Illuminations, but were so engrossed in conversation that we just watched and listened to it from our table. They dimmed the lights a bit, and we could hear the music quite well. Still an incredible sight even from inside the restaurant. Having just returned from another trip, the Barretts, were quite tired, so we called it a night. We spent some time chatting with our waiter, who told us more stories about his background, personal life, etc. Be sure to look for the only Italian waiter in France next time you go to World Showcase! He´s exactly the way a CM should be – fun and friendly.

With Illuminations having been over for a little while now, we excited Le Chefs de France to an almost-deserted World Showcase. Steve and his wife went through the International Gateway to the Boardwalk where they had parked, while we made our way (slowly) to the Future World entrance. To me, this is the best time to visit World Showcase – at night. And when the parks have almost closed, and there´s no one really around, it is so peaceful and beautiful here (plus, no hot sun beating down on you!). The weather was perfect, and the pavilions looked beautiful all lit up across the lagoon. It was nice to feel like we had the entire park to ourselves! We took a relatively long time walking to the exit, and remembered at the last minute about picture up the pictures the CM took of us as we walked in. The CMs were happy to help us, even as they were closing up for the evening. Good thing, too, as we got a classic shot of Marion by SSE. Yawn. Long day. Time to head back and get some rest.

See more pictures in our Photo Gallery Here

Be sure to read Day One, Part Two , “Episode III” and The Final Chapter