DAY 4 - TUESDAY 2ND MAY 2006.
My sleep patterns are all over the place and I wake before the alarm at 3am. We shower and pack, and check-out by 4:15.
You can’t pre-book yellow cabs, but the night porter calls one for us and I tip him a couple of dollars. The cabbie, Ahmed, drives like a lunatic through virtually empty streets and we arrive at Newark in about 30 minutes.
The airport is also deserted. Continental have a whole terminal here for their domestic flights, and we obtain our boarding passes from one of the automated terminals. The security gates are also empty, and within 15 minutes we are enjoying a coffee and muffin at our departure are, Gate C125.
The plane arrived on stand at 5:45, and shortly afterwards around 20 passengers and a crew appeared to join us. We board without incident at 6:20, a 757 (3+3 seats) and we have our row of three to ourselves (16A & B).
The plane is half empty. It starts to taxi at 6:50, takes off smoothly at 7:05 and, after admiring the views across Manhattan, we read for the duration of the short flight to Florida (A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby for me, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro for Amanda)
The flight path follows the coastline south, through clear skies, and the crew serves breakfast at 7:25 (muffin, OJ and a coffee). They show episodes of ‘Joey’ on the cabin screens, and although I accept another set of headphones I can’t be bothered to watch, preferring to doze in between chapters of my book.
The view below starts to become more familiar, and we land at 9:20. The taxi takes a while, but we exit quickly and present ourselves at the deserted Alamo desk by 10:05. There is a minor confrontation when the attendant tries to charge us for the premier service we’ve already paid for, and although I make a call to our UK agent, Val, it resolves when the lady realises I won’t give in. Her attitude leaves a lot to be desired though, casting the first sour note of the trip.
Never mind. We change into T-shirts in the restrooms and select our car from a row of Chrysler Sebring convertibles in the garage opposite the terminal. It’s hot and lovely as we exit the airport, roof down, bandana and shades in place. I prefer the north exit and the direct route along the toll road 528, to I4 west. Traffic is light, and we arrive smartly at the Boardwalk Villas lobby by 10:35 to be welcomed ‘home’ (I love this DVC package!) and take up the free to members, valet parking.
We leave the luggage with Bell Services (our room won’t be ready til 4pm) and walk out onto the Boardwalk. Honey, I’m home!
It’s a lovely day, with people strolling both ways around the lake. The resort hotels across the water look wonderful in the sunshine.
We take a few photos and wander, smiley faced, towards Epcot.
There’s a bit of a line at the International Gateway (Epcot’s ‘back door’) as we enter just before 1100am, and, after a fruitless venture into the store to buy suncream (ours is in the car, doh!) we mount the small rise to the bridge. The World Showcase is just opening – before 11am you can only walk through the UK and Canada pavilions – and we bear left, through these two ‘countries’ towards the Land Pavilion, to see if there are any FastPasses left for Soarin’.
We pause at the entrance to the World Showcase to admire the stunning floral characters, created for the Flower and Garden Festival.
It’s very busy in The Land, (does anyone else think that Soarin’ deserves its own, dedicated entrance from the plaza, eliminating the almost certain congestion created by making people enter the Land, and go down to a lower level?) but we are successful and secure a 2-3pm slot for the ride. Satisfied, we head over through Innoventions to Mousegear in where we buy some sun block. We cream up in the Breezeway (sounds a bit mucky that, doesn’t it?!) and walk to Mission Space.
The Standby time is posted as 20 minutes, so we join the line at 11:35. It’s more like 10 though, and we ride and exit by 11:55. Still a favourite, this, for me. Amanda enjoys it, but doesn’t think it as special as I do.
Next stop, TestTrack. Now, when I was here two years ago with Scott, for my 40th, we were given some ‘anytime’ FPs for TT, after it went down several times in one day. I kept them, somehow, and present them to the bemused Cast Member (“we haven’t had these for ten years or so!” Yeah, right!) He lets us in, and we bypass the 40-minute SB line to ride within 5 minutes! Result! Two of the biggies done in an hour, and FPs for the 3rd in our pocket. We exit through the GM display area, where I note with delight that the huge, GM Explorer van I admired two years ago has returned. This beastie has leather armchair seating for 7 and a 2ft LCD TV in the back!
We’re hungry now, so we return to the World Showcase, via Innoventions Plaza. Kristos, a trio of acrobats, comprising incredibly limber mom and her two bulky sons, are just starting their act on a raised podium near the fountain. Surprisingly there are now four of them – presumably sis has flown over to join them?
We carry on, through Mexico
….and Norway to China,
….where we lunch in the Lotus Blossom Café. Chicken thingy for Amanda, beef for me. It’s lovely, and costs $20 or so.
It’s after 1pm now, and we do a (Mike) browse through the China store. They carry similar stock to previous visits, and still don’t have a ‘squashed penny’ machine to complete DS’s collection. Sorry son.
We do the Circle vision attraction before leaving – ok, but a bit sanitised, particularly references to Tianaman Square – and we continue our clockwise tour of the world. Next stop, the coffee stall just before the US pavilion, I order a regular black coffee for Amanda and a “red eye” (black coffee with an espresso shot) for moi. We walk back to Italy and sit in front of the pavilion to enjoy our drinks.
Onward to Japan. Matsuriza (drummers), one of my favourite shows, are just setting up on the temple steps. We join the crowd for the act.
I see one familiar face in the group, comprising today of three women. They are first class, as always.
We have time for a brief wander around Morocco before returning to The Land pavilion at 2.45pm for our Soarin’ fast pass slot. We are both impressed by this ride and hope to do it again. We exit at 3.10pm into bright and warm sunshine and stroll back to The Boardwalk, walking the full length to Jellyrolls before returning to the hotel and checking in at 3.45pm.
The CM on reception is Anita from upstate New York, who smiles winningly and again welcomes us “home”. I can see us being easily persuaded to sign up for DVC before this week is out! Our room is number 5058, a studio on the top floor, overlooking the Luna pool, Swan Hotel and MGM’s Tower of Terror in the near distance. It is pleasantly spacious, particularly after our NY base, having a king size bed, kitchenette two sofas and a full bathroom.
We phone the kids while we wait for our bags to be brought up.
We unpack essentials only before leaving at 4.15pm, collecting our car from the valet station and driving, top down, to Crossroads at Downtown Disney for supplies. The Goodings store here is well stocked, if a little pricier than Publix or Walmart. We purchase beer, wine and water and are back at the apartment by 5.15pm.
It takes us two attempts to reach The Boardwalk as one of us forgets her sunglasses, and we head for the BW Bakery for tea, splitting a huge turkey and mango sandwich and a bottle of water ($9). The tables outside the bakery are busy so we park up on one of the numerous benches overlooking the lake to enjoy our meal. It is hot and wonderful (the weather, numpty, not the tea!)
On the way back we check out the quiet pool at the resort – it is, er…..quiet! We return to our room just after 6pm and freshen up for our meet at 7pm.
The venue is The Belle Vue Room, conveniently located (for us at any rate) just off the lobby of the BW Inn & Villas. The bar is pleasantly busy and we spot our fellow board members outside on the terrace. It’s great to see John and Jules again, and to meet (mc) Paul & Sue. The next couple of hours passes in an extremely convivial fashion as we prevent some of the excellent wines and spirits from going sour! Unfortunately, whether due to camera error or operator intoxication, most of our photos failed to impress – this blurry image is about the best of the bunch!!
Sadly we won’t see John and Jules again this trip, but we are booked into Teppanyaki (Japan Epcot) with Sue, Paul, Bob & Dawn next Sunday. Amanda & I leave at 8.45pm, returning to Epcot for Illuminations, my favourite Disney spectacle.
It takes us a few minutes to enter the park as a couple of resort boats have just landed and offloaded a few dozen guests, so we take up viewing positions on the bridge between France and the UK. The show is fabulous, as always, although this particular spot could do with a slight increase in the volume of the sound system.
Very relaxed and contented, we wander back to the BW and enter Jellyrolls at 9.40pm. We were half tempted to see if our friends were still partying at the Inn, but decided on the piano bar.
I love this place. (I have given a more detailed description of the venue and a 'typical' night in my 2008 trippie, linked below). It’s busy tonight and initially we are seated on the lower level, against the side, without benefit of a table. Fortunately, a party leave soon afterwards and we leap into their seats at a table in front of the stage. The pianists (four of them each evening, in pairs rotating on the hour) are in fine form and offerings include “Buttercup”, “It’s My Life”, “Crocodile Rock”, “In The Middle Of The Night”, “If I Had A Million Dollars”, “Joy To The People”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Losing My Religion” and “American Pie”, interspersed with ritualistic audience participation ( humiliation?). We start to fade early, at around 11:30pm – it’s been a seriously long day – and we pay the $40 bar bill before heading for bed.
It’s been a great day.
Mike & Amanda
Tomorrow: Boma, Animal Kingdom, Celebration, Epcot and MK for WISHES