DAY 8 – SATURDAY 6TH MAY, 2006. We had a veritable lie-in today – up at 630! Popped the TV on to see if any overseas news – nope, but nutter David Blaine in his fishbowl back in New York featured! We’re off to MGM today straight from breakfast, so we take our showers before leaving for the Boardwalk Bakery at 7.15. Coffee and buns again, and we sit outside Seashore Sweets today as the BWB tables are all taken (that’s what you get for staying in bed until an indecent hour!) There’s a noticeable increase in the volume of joggers padding round the boards too – it must just be the hardcore ones who are up with the lark! We set off for MGM along the waterside path at 730. It’s a very pleasant, 20 minute stroll along neatly manicured borders, leading us to the MGM bus station area. There are quite a few guests already here for the EMH session. (The weather’s getting terribly predictable, too, and it’s warm n’ sunny again today!) We are close to the front at 7.55 and are admitted to the traditional rope barrier at the top of the street where the roads split in front of Mickey’s Hat. We listen to the “Hollywood that never was and always will be” guff and then the rope is dropped… only to be carried by two CMs, right, towards Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster land, ensuring a brisk if dignified pace is maintained among the following guests. We didn’t expect the FastPass machines to be operating before 9.00, and had intended to do both rides as standby entrants, but they are working, and I grab two FPs for ToT (return time 8.40 – 9.40) and we leg it round to RnRC. This is effectively a walk-on and we are out before 8.15 and marching swiftly back into the building for another ride. I have always enjoyed RnRC, and Amanda is impressed too. We exit by 8.30, and, as soon as the first FP slot opens at 8.40, we grab another one for ToT, and then enter with the first passes. We note that the sun has become very hazy, and it looks as though cloud id building around the park… hope it doesn’t break on us today. First timers on ToT are always good value to watch, as the different visuals and effects occur. Amanda proclaims this a cracking attraction, and, due to the random drop sequences, I never tire of it. We linger in the ToT shop long enough to buy DD some ToT-themed Stitch stuff, and then leave… the sun seems to be winning the battle with the cloud and I relax about the possibility of storms for now. We stroll back to the centre of the park, asking a guest to take our mandatory picture in front of the hat/. Sadly the results aren’t wonderful, this is the best one: Star Tours is to hand, and is a walk-on. This is still good value, if a bit dated and bumpy (like Seaworld’s Wild Arctic ride, or Universal’s Back to the Future attraction) and possibly due a significant rehab? Out by 9.20, with the park filling up as regular guests start to filter through, and off to the Muppet 3D theatre. A show is just about to start and we walk straight into the pre-show area, about halfway through the presentation. A sweet moment, as a kid aged about 6 asks his mom “is this while the Muppets are getting dressed for the show?” Awww! We both exit in good spirits – I know the Muppets are old hat, but I was a great fan as both child and young adult, and it still feels fresh to me. It’s 945 as we leave, into firmly established sunshine. New York Street (aka Streets of America) is close by and we walk through, enjoying the scenery, including the brilliant, forced-perspective painted skylines of the older Manhattan end, and the more recent, San Francisco Street. Passing through the Studio Catering outlet, we restroom before continuing along Mickey Avenue with its silver, character vans, mercifully quiet at the moment. (I’ve memories of seemingly endless waits here to get character autographs and pictures of the kids with their fluffy favourites!) Our first ToT Fastpass slot for 1000am is open now, and we get another for 10.35 – 11.35 before riding this superb attraction for a second time. Better than the first, for both of us! This time we spot a flashing torch affair in the gift shop, ideal for DS. Coffee time – there’s a stall opposite the store exit, and we buy two, regular black coffees from the morose vendor (one of only a tiny handful of miserable CMs we meet this trip), taking it to a bench nearby to enjoy. It’s seriously warm now, with barely a cloud visible! We check the Rock n Roller Coaster FP return times, but the slot would clash with the stunt show later, so we bank another couple of ToT’s (for 1110 – 1210) and ride for the 3rd time at 1040. Just as good as the earlier rides, although I questioned the wisdom of the parents who rode with their small, quickly terrified tots…. Exit at 10.50, and we return to the lagoon (Echo Lake) area, past Hollywood and Vine, and decide to try ‘Sounds Dangerous’ as I’ve always bypassed it before. It’s ‘ok’, just: light-hearted fun, but probably missable in the future. As it’s 1115 when we leave, we decide that it will be a bit too much of a rush to return for another ToT ride before taking seats at the Lights Motors Action stadium in time for the 1150 show. Instead we buy a couple of (huge!) muffins from the Writers Stop store, and wander back down the Streets of America/New York Street to the show. It’s filling up quickly, and we grab two of the last seats in the centre section. I saw this show in rehearsal last year, and they’ve obviously fine-tuned things a bit since then… it’s much more slick and polished. There’s an entertaining pre-show ‘tribute’ with one of the original ‘Herbie’ VW bugs – or is it two of them? The main event is exciting and noisy, performed by the stunt drivers with exceptional skill and application. If you haven’t seen this in Paris or here, make sure you do so on your next trip. We leave with several thousand other people at 1230, most of them heading back up the ‘street’, so we bear left and enter the Backlot Tour, which has just started. The first part, ‘Harbor Attack’, including guest participation (they get soaked, naturally!) is a bit dated now in my opinion. We soon move on to the trams for the Catastrophe Canyon finale, which is more fun, especially when Amanda, seated unwittingly at the left of the car, gets wet! There’s a Power Ranger or similar character greeting session under way as we leave – it feels like Universal IOA – and we escape the waiting lines quickly, heading for the exit. It’s 1.35 as we walk out of the park, where there are many hundreds still pouring in! No thanks! We’re tired again, and need a rest. It takes 15 minutes or so to reach the hotel, and we grab a couple of hours sleep, waking, much refreshed, just after 330pm. After showers and a quick tidy up, I phone the kids back home and then ‘ring ahead’ to the Outback Steakhouse at Formosa Gardens on Highway 192. This system allows you to skip any walk-in diners by simply telephoning them with your name an hour before arriving. We recover our car from the valets. My brain must still be asleep, (the temperature is reading 94 degrees in the car) because we make an unintended tour of the AllStars Resort on the way to Sherberth Rd and the 192! My protestations that I just wanted Amanda to see more of the WDW hotels results in a knowing smirk, so I continue, wounded pride and all, arriving around 435pm. It’s too early for the pavement tables to be full, but they are doing brisk business inside the restaurant. However, we are seated immediately and Ryan, our server, introduces himself. We ask for iced water, a draft Bud and a white Zinfandel. He soon returns with these, and a plate of soft, warm bread with butter to kick proceedings off. We decide that a blooming onion will suffice for starters (and as it turns out, it would probably have done for entrée and dessert too!) followed by a 14oz New York Strip (rare) for me, and a 9oz Outback fillet (rare) for Amanda, both with Aussie Chips (skin still on) and lobster tails on the side. “And do you want salad or soup with those?” asks Ryan. Oh dear, I’d forgotten the freebies and portion sizes here…. We elect for House Salad for Amanda, Caesar for me. The onion arrives after a short delay – it’s huge! The mustard/garlic dip accompanying it is lovely. We do our best, but can’t finish, and turn down Ryan’s kind offer of more bread – I think he’s worrying about us passing out from low blood sugar levels later! The salads appear next… they are excellent, and potentially healthy, although both have the usual pound of grated cheese on them! We leave about half each, in the sure and certain knowledge of our ‘super size’ steaks imminent arrival! The steaks are wonderful – perfectly cooked and tasty. Both are more or less consumed in full, but we have to decline desserts on the grounds that we will need carrying to the car! We ask for the check, but Ryan looks horrified – “you haven’t had your second drinks yet!” Puzzled looks from us, he explains that it’s 2 for 1 Happy Hour at present… we concede defeat and allow him to serve more beverages. The check is secured shortly after, and is a very reasonable $67 + tip, so I leave $80. We stagger back to the car – it’s still blazing hot, even though well after 6pm, and we drive slowly back to the Boardwalk for around 630. The temperature remains above 90 degrees. After valet parking we walk through the lobby to the Boardwalk itself, passing a happy if perspiring wedding party on the way. We wander over to International Gateway and enter our favourite park again at 645. Guest numbers are fairly light, and we elect to stroll anti-clockwise towards France, where we check the gift shop – usual touristy stuff, and although you can never have enough Eiffel Towers or silk ties, we resist temptation and carry on to Morocco. On the way we stop to admire “The Ultimate Backyard Garden Party”, a display from the F&GF. There we find a lovely swing bench with comfortable cushions, so we lounge for a few minutes to chat about the day and plan the rest of the evening. Onward to Japan, just in time for the 7.15 Matsuriza show. It’s a different set from ones already watched earlier in the week and very enjoyable. After the show we carry on to the US Pavilion, stopping for two espressos at the stall nearby. We wander into Italy with the drinks and sit at ‘Fontana di Nettuno’ to enjoy them and watch the other guests, our favourite Epcot pastime. Time to go – we fancy Jellyrolls again tonight – so off back the way we came, stopping to watch the passage of a ‘mature’ and enthusiastic marching band (called “Second Time Arounders”), comprising a cast aged 50 – 60 upwards … hmm. Whatever floats your boat I suppose! We leave the park at 8.15 – there’s a mildly entertaining ‘cart-rage’ incident at the gate, as two guests on those electric buggies refuse to give way to each other! The CMs restore calm and one gracelessly allows the other to pass. The Boardwalk is busy, with entertainers and families promenading. We make a brief stop at the room to leave some gear, before returning to the BW and walking to Jellyrolls for 8.40. Although it’s early, pre-Illuminations, the floor tables are all full so we sit on bar stools at the counter overlooking the floor, adjacent to the right hand bar. There’s a large party of teachers from somewhere or other, probably 15 – 20 of them, taking up several tables on the lower level, hence the shortage of seats so early. The two pianists banter with this group on and off all evening. We order beers from one of the servers and she keeps us topped up all night. I make my usual notes of the songs and distractions, but to be honest the server is so efficient that much of my recall is a blur, and my notes, scruffy and hard to read at the best of times, soon descend into illegibility! Here are the bits of my trippie notes I can decipher: “Wonderful Tonight”, “Great Balls of Fire”, (9pm change of performers) “Mustang Sally”, some obscure (to me) Ozzy Osborne track, a “What Time is it?” interlude (audience participation with silly dance routine!), “Rocket Man”, “Werewolves of London” (AH-WOO!!!), “Space Cowboy”, “Run-around Sue”, then the ritual humiliation of a ‘batchelorette’ party, bride-to-be, where the performers coerce half a dozen drunken lads to serenade her, whilst seated on the piano, with “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”!! Great fun! A young couple next to us offer to take our photograph… not a great image, but I think it shows our relaxed state quite well! One for Amanda – Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, then 10pm change, but all four join in the first new number, “Give Me the Beat, Boy”, followed by “I’m a Believer”, “8675309”, The Beer Song (audience participation time) and then…. “Proud to be an American” - which I requested – and the crowd goes WILD!! “Moving Out”, “Rolling Down the River”, “I’ve got a Brand New Pair of Rollerskates”, another “What Time is it?” session, with a Jellyrolls first-time visitor doing the tree song on stage! “Obladee, obladah”, “American Pie”… 11pm change over, then “Devil Came Down to Georgia”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Joy to the World”, a Def Leppard track, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, “Brown Eyed Girl”, “Crocodile Rock”, several more I can’t read now… another change at 12 midnight, on with Dexy’s “Come on Eileen!”, the Teapot Song performed by one unlucky punter, and the last one I recorded and could actually read was “Margaritaville”… I ask for the check at 1.05 am… it’s close to $100 with a tip – oops! The fresh air hits us like a sledgehammer, but I remember my duties and try to take a night time shot of the deserted Boardwalk…. We stagger giggling back to the room and collapse into a coma. ZZZ…zzzz…. Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: EMH at Blizzard Beach, Epcot again, Teppanyaki with Sue, Paul, Bob & Dawn, Illuminations and BW Inn’s Belle Vue Room for drinks!