DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY 3RD MAY 2006.
We wake at 6.00am, after two, earlier disruptions, at 3.00 and 3.45, when the room alarm clock went off! Thanks, last guest, really amusing!
A quick peek outside confirms another fine day in prospect and we shower before taking a look at the (now daylight) view from the balcony. There are already a couple of people in the pool. We descend to the lobby and present our car receipt to the attendant (Paul, ex USAF) at the valet station. He summons a driver and we chat while we wait (at this time of day the valets have to walk, or run, down to the car lot, as there are few vehicles arriving to be parked) and he asks if we are Australian? Laughing, we say no, British, but ask him why he thought so, as I have been asked this before and wonder if it’s the Lancashire accent? He smiles and says, partly, but mainly that we look ‘kinda adventurous!’ As I’m dressed in a vest and bandana, with exposed tattoos I can see where he’s coming from, but wonder if this isn’t straying slightly into racial stereotyping territory?
We natter about the UK – v – US weather (well, you have to, don’t you?) and say goodbye when our car arrives a few minutes later.
It’s Boma day today, so off to the Animal Kingdom Lodge at 06.55. Security wave us through when we show our WDW room key, and we self park before entering the impressive lobby at this luxury resort.
It’s early yet, so pretty quiet. We walk down the stairway to Boma reception and check in at around 720, and take our pager off into the gardens and pool area for a look round.
I love this hotel, but would feel a bit isolated after the convenience of the BWV. You’d have to drive everywhere else in WDW, or take the (sometimes infrequent) buses, as it is well over to the far, left side of the World and not within walking distance of anywhere except perhaps AK itself, which we only tend to visit once each trip.
We do the tour of the pool area and check the nearest savannah sections for wildlife, but only flamingos and a distant giraffe neck are visible.
Returning inside, we walk through the lobby and the covered balconies with their rocking chairs, overlooking the outdoor firepit (there’s another one inside th lobby) when the pager calls us to feast.
We are seated close to the buffet stations and after ordering frunch and Kenya AA coffee press, we mount our assault.
I am determined to extract reasonable value from this meal, and return three times to the buffet, working my way through fruit, bacon, eggs (fried and scrambled), sausage, potatoes, roast pork, ham, bobotti, breakfast pizza and a greedy selection of pastries, including bear claws. Lovely! Amanda does the same, but in a much more modest fashion. However, we are both pleasantly stuffed, and pay the check ($50 or so, incl tip) before restrooming and taking a quick browse around the store.
Ready for Everest now dear? She groans! We head off, roof down, for the (theoretically) short trip to Animal Kingdom, but, as always, I miss the subtle (I know it’s signed, but the sun was in my eyes!) turning first time and we have to do a U-turn further up towards Epcot. We park in Unicorn 22, a modest distance from the entrance, and follow most of the other guests as they walk in preference to waiting for the tram.
It’s already quite warm, with clear blue skies.
It’s 8.40 now and there’s a significant crowd at the main turnstiles. We push through these for another wee stop, and then I pull the ace out from my sleeve…. I guide a slightly puzzled Amanda into the Rainforest Café, walk through the vast store, and into the small garden beyond. Here there is another turnstile, and there are only 4 people ahead of us. We are admitted within seconds, and enter the park about 50 yards ahead of the main crowd! Result!
We stand about 10 feet back from the rope drop at Discovery Island, and witness the (new?) opening ceremony, comprising of Goofy, Minnie and Pluto on a safari truck, with Scout Mickey up near the Tree of Life. Yeah, whatever! The rope drops and we follow two CMs towards Asia and Expedition Everest.
Another crowd are approaching from Dinoland USA, probably thinking they’d cut the corner, but they too are restrained by CastMembers. I quickly grab two FastPasses for another ride, (9.45 – 10.45) and we enter the standby line. This moves swiftly, and after passing through the exotically themed queuing area, we are seated for our first time within 5 minutes.
Verdict? Superb! A really great attraction, a bit like the Mummy at Universal blended with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Smooth as silk and exciting.
We stroll around the island….
… to Harambe (Africa)…
…. and check out the standby time at the Safari. This is 20 minutes, at 9.25, so we decide to walk through the Pangani Trail instead. This is normally crowded later in the day, as the Safari disgorges it’s guests straight into the entrance, but not many have completed the safari yet and it is peaceful and pleasant. We enjoy the trail, seeing a good many animals including a gorilla drinking from a waterfall and one chasing a rabbit!
Out at 9.45, we can now get more FastPasses, so after obtaining two for the Safari (return time 10.25 – 11.25) we return to Asia. The lines for Kali River Rapids are posted as 20 minutes, but we discover it is nil and walk straight on. Not my favourite raft ride this, as I think they could have tried a bit less with the ecological message and a bit harder on the drops and length, but worthy nonetheless. Great fun, and, as I forgot a change of shorts, I am pleased that we escape a major wetting.
My glasses need cleaning after the ride – there must be chemicals in the water, as they get smeared after every water ride in Florida – so we visit nearby restrooms and go back to Everest at 10.15 for a second great trip. I see a lot more detail this time.
Moving on around the park, into Dinoland USA (what a daft name, and doesn’t this 1950s themed park clash with the rest of this beautiful place?), intending to use FastPass for some of the rides, we discover that Primeval Whirl and Dinosaur are both walk-ons and so get both these under our belts. Two good attractions, in our opinion, but neither worth a long wait.
We leave Dinoland at 1045 and, as our current FastPass slot for the safari is open, we can have two more, stopping at Tough to be a Bug for these. We stroll along the walkways, admiring the lovely views over the water…
….back to Harambe, where the crowds have increased incredibly, and we fight our way through top the Safari. It’s a pity that this area gets quite so packed, inevitably I suppose, given the appeal of the Safari, as it is beautifully themed.
The standby line is 50 minutes now, and we walk smugly past the long line to be seated within no time. It’s 11.00am now.
A fun ride, not one I’m sure I’d do every visit anymore, but Amanda’s first and she enjoys it. Quite a good one this year, with lots of animals – I have ridden in some conditions when virtually nothing was visible.
We rescue Little Red – again – and are at the Tusker House Bakery window asking for coffee by 1130. There’s a pleasant, shady spot between Africa and Asia, off the now crowded walkways, and we sit there for a while to enjoy our drink.
Next stop is the Maharaja Trek in Asia.
This is a splendid walk-through, with superb buildings and loads of detail even if the animals are quiet. The giant anteater still looks dead – it certainly hasn’t moved in the last year, but the tigers are wandering around a bit. The photos were poor, being through glass, and this is the best… bit subtle though, there is a tiger here, honest!
Our final attraction is ITTBAB, below the Tree of Life. Again, the walk out across Discovery Island ensures lovely aspects….
Our Fastpasses ensure easy access, and we endure the giant bug show in good spirits. Great fun.
Time to go. It’s 1245 as we set off to the exit. Not sure we will easily walk the right way to Unicorn, we take a tram and are soon heading away via Sherberth Road for the 192. We turn east, and after a couple of miles, make a right turn to Celebration.
One of my favourite coffee spots in Florida this. For anyone unfamiliar, (and why haven’t you read my earlier trippies in that case! Tut tut!) ..this is a lakeside town built by the Disney Corporation in the early 1990s, as an attempt to create the perfect community. Did they succeed? Hmm.. not sure. It’s beautifully scenic, certainly, with a compact centre overlooking a lovely lake and hotel, having a mix of gift shops and tastefully arranged restaurants and sitting areas, plus (continually growing) residential areas of lovely, wooden houses and apartment complexes. But it is a bit too neat, and some have compared it to Stepford (Wives)!
However, we’re not moving in here today, just visiting for a light lunch and a coffee on the rocking chairs overlooking the lake. We park a short distance from the shops and cinema, and walk back in, past the lively, interactive fountain and along the lakeside, with superb views across the water to the Hotel and Market Street.
There’s a 3 ft alligator basking in weeds at the side of the lake…
After our mega brekkie, we expected to skip lunch, but we both admit to being a bit peckish. Across the road from the rockers is the Market Street Café, an excellent eaterie with a pleasant, almost art-deco interior and covered seating on the sidewalk.
We elect to eat outside, and are given a pager with the expectation of a short wait. We browse along the street, but are paged within 5 minutes and led to excellent seats with a fine view of the hotel and lake. It’s 1.30pm.
Amanda chooses the healthy (egg-white) omelette,
… and I go for meatloaf, (pic looks a bit anaemic, but it was lovely!) both accompanied by iced water.
The meal is lovely, just enough. No desserts, thank you! The check is $17 + tip – excellent value, for the position alone.
Shortly after 2pm we walk the short distance across the road to Barnies coffee shop,
…where we have a red eye for me and a latte for Amanda. They were forbidden from receiving tips last year, but a cup is on the counter now, so I leave a couple of dollars. They have some lovely cups, and I wonder about supplementing my Starbucks collection at home with some new Barnies mugs, but decide I haven’t the room in the cases!
Next to my favourite, Celebration pastime – coffee on the lakeside rocking chairs! Most are taken, but we bag a couple on the lower level, next to the water. We note that there is a new plaque, naming the Lake ‘Rianhard’ after ‘Dick’ a local dignitary, presumably recently deceased.
We watch the birds and the odd terrapin in the flat waters of the lake and enjoy our coffee. I text my mate Steve, ("mapman" from another forum) - a bit of a ritual, as he’s another rocker fan, but sadly I hear later that he doesn’t receive the message.
The day is hot and peaceful. We can hear the attractive sounds of the fountain a short distance away, and the kids splashing in and out of it. I spot what I think is another turtle, but Amanda reckons it’s an alligator, away to our left. It is a gator, on closer inspection, and I walk over and film it as it starts to creep towards a few grakels drinking at the water’s edge. One bird sees it, though, and an alarm call sends them all scurrying. The gator turns and swims lazily away – it’s a good bit larger than the 3-footer earlier, close to 6 feet I reckon.
Coffees finished, we take a stroll around the shops and boutiques on the adjacent streets.
Most sell regular, tourist stuff, if of a decent quality. Around the corner there’s an estate agency, with local offerings including a 2 bed apartment for $380,000 and a 4 bed house for $800,000 or so… a touch beyond us, I’m afraid.
There’s a neatly laid walkway around the lake, starting in the centre of town at the rear of the Celebration Hotel, so we head over and make the circuit.
It’s clean and well provided with benches and wastebins. The views back over the hotel and town are appealing.
The walk ends up in the local park and sports club, near the cinema end of town, close to our car, where we see a proud duck with her fearless offspring… if they rush up to gators the way they dashed over to us, it’s a wonder any have survived!
Very hot now, and we drop the roof to head home. We reach the Boardwalk at 3:30pm, with the car thermometer reading 91 degrees. A beer would go down rather well, so we valet park and return to our balcony to watch the happy, noisy scenes below as families play in the pool. It looks like a good spot on a warm day, so we change into swimwear and head down.
There’s a belting waterslide in the main (Luna) pool, but only kids seem to be using it. Undeterred, we climb the steps and throw ourselves down, repeating several times until the climb becomes a bind. We must have removed a concern for some of the adults in the pool, as many of them now start to play on the slide too!
Off in search of the quiet pool around the corner… we swim, lie for a while – and are bored! Come on, there are theme parks next door! We go back to the room, shower and set off around 5pm for Epcot. I love being able to walk there!
It’s 5.15 as we enter through International Gateway We browse the UK and Canada pavilions and stores…
… then continue round, past and through some of the Flower and Garden displays, to Mexico.
This is a beautifully-themed pavilion, especially the twilight village square inside the pyramid. The shops are soon explored, and we take a peaceful ride on the boat along El Rio del Tiempo, the River of Time. Bit dated now, but worth the effort if you don’t (rarely in my experience) have to queue.
We exit and wander next door to Norway.
Now, there frequently IS a line for this boat ride, Maelstrom, but not at present, and we jump on board. This has changed a bit, I think… haven’t they reversed the direction of travel at one point? Good nonetheless.
We leave through the (expensive!) store without being tempted to a $60 bobble hat, although we pause at the giant troll…
..and continue on to China,
…where we catch the last part of the Dragon Legend Acrobats. Just the girls performing today, it seems, and they are as unbelievably bendy as ever!
Germany next… beautifully crafted, but the shops are so DULL! Nothing engages us here, and we soon proceed, along generally quiet walkways, to Italy.
Much prettier tatt here, according to my companion!
We stop for a glass of wine in the square, by the fountain (two Pinot Grigiot, $4 each) before ambling onwards into the US area. I grab a cookie sandwich (around 1000 calories, be warned!) from an ice cream cart.
The daily concert has kicked off at the US outdoor arena, and seems well attended. The Liberty Inn restaurant (burger bar really) is apparently closed for refurb, and the area around seems artificially quiet as a result. We wander into the store, which always seems a bit lightweight to me, given the status of the host country, before moving on to Japan, my favourite pavilion.
We tour the pretty, Japanese gardens…
.. and browse through the store. I like this shop, but rarely buy anything. On leaving, we bump into Miyuki, who has a stall where she makes candy animals to order for the children gathered around the show. They can be eaten, of course, but they are really minature works of art and her patter, in pigeon English, is wonderful.
Matsuriza are into another set, so we stand to enjoy. I never tire of this act.
You know we like ‘people-watching’, right? For fashion tips etc.? Here’s one we saw earlier… (apologies if it’s someone’s gran!)
Right, off to MK for WISHES now. It’s around 8pm as we leave the park, past the superb F&GF displays,…
… riding the monorail to the TTC and then electing to take the boat to MK.
We are virtually the only passengers and enjoy the lights of the Kingdom and the resort hotels around Bay Lake as we steam across.
We arrive at 8.25, not bad for this transfer, which has taken me an hour at peak times. Now, we’d intended to have a wander around MK, perhaps doing a few rides so we wouldn’t need to spend a day here later, and then watch the fireworks at 1000pm. However, I should have checked a timetable, as Wednesday is a quiet day and WISHES is at 9pm tonight! Oh well, not to worry. The park is pretty quiet, and we could have had viewing spots on the station platform, looking right up Main St to the Castle, but we prefer to wander.
We stroll to Tomorrowland, and see that Buzz Lightyear is a walk on. In we go… great fun this one (not as good as MIB, but acceptable) and we wipe out a few targets. Scores? Amanda 23,500 (which she insists was 235,000!) and Mike 79,000.
It’s nearly 9pm now, so we take up station on the bridge out of TL, with open views to the Castle.
The fireworks are not centred over the Castle from here., being more to our right, but they are stunning regardless and we see Tink close up as she launches the show. A lovely spectacle, softer and cuddlier than Illuminations, of course, but none the worse for that. We both pronounce it excellent and join the throng leaving at 915 or so.
The buses run directly from MK, which I didn’t realise, thinking we’d have to go back to the TTC, but we line up at 9.25 and are on a bus by 9.40pm. It stops at the Swan first, so we jump out and take the pleasant, short stroll round to the Boardwalk.
We park our weary bodies on a bench overlooking the lake. Amazingly, we are both hungry (all that walking I suppose!) and so we buy a beef sandwich from the BW Bakery. We have a mind to try Spoodles for breakfast one day, but on checking we find that they don’t start serving until 7.30am by which time we’re usually hoping to be off to our adventures.
Back to the room, we open a bottle of Zinfandel and eat our sarnie on the balcony. The pool is open until 1200, and there are still a few swimmers below. We chat about the day, both very satisfied, and finally fall into bed at 11.15pm.
Goodnight all… see you tomorrow!
Mike & Amanda
Tomorrow: Seaworld and La Nouba!