What a Carry On! Part 14 – Saturday 30th August 2008. I start the last full day a little grumpily at 4.00am when I receive a joke text from my darling sister in the UK. (It was a rubbish joke too!) However, it doesn’t take long for me to drop off again, and I sleep until the alarm wakes me at the more civilised time of 6.15. When we go down for breakfast half an hour later, Bethany is already up (and on the laptop!) followed shortly by my parents. I make coffee for all and we sit outside as usual to enjoy. It looks like another pleasant day ahead, with blue skies, occasional fluffy clouds and a couple of hot air balloons floating in the distance. I wake Adam up at 7.00, and everyone gets ready for the parks; (did I just say ‘parks’? What I actually meant to say was “park! Obviously, we’ll only be going to Epcot today!) The troops are ready at 8.15 and away we go. This journey has become familiar over the last two weeks, and remains pain-free, with only light traffic on the 192, and none to speak of on Sherberth Road and within WDW. We arrive at Epcot by 8.35 and park up near the Kennel Club area to the left of the entrance and monorail. There’s been a slight deterioration in the weather since we rose, and the sunshine is hazy as we walk across to line up at the turnstiles. We are admitted at 8.45, but only as far as a rope drop in Innoventions Plaza. Once again we (ok, I!) wait impatiently for the (unnecessary, IMO) character parade to open the park proper. As soon as we are allowed, we stroll across behind the nominated Cast Members to the Land Pavilion for Soarin’. It’s popular, as always, but we make steady progress and are soon walking on to front row seats, ready for launch! The front row is a distinct improvement on the lower/rear one we had the other day: the view is much improved without the dangling feet of co-riders above us. It’s only 9.20 as we exit, satisfied, and head over to the opposite side of the plaza (via a restroom stop, you’ll not be surprised to read) for Mission: Space. Mum, Dad and Adam are dispatched to secure FastPasses for Test Track while Bethany, Amanda and I ride MS. There’s no wait at all, and we walk straight through training and complete yet another successful mission to Mars! We are back outside again by 9.50 to find that the clouds are burning off, and the other three are waiting for us, having already had a ride on Test Track and obtained FPs. We wonder if we can all ride again without waiting for the FP slot (15-20 minutes away, at 10.10 – 11.10) but when we walk across, the standby line has grown to a 30 minute wait. I suggest we try the re-vamped Spaceship Earth in the interim, and so we venture that way. There’s a longish line, but experience suggests it will be deceptively short, as SE is a continuously moving attraction, with seamless loading, and so it proves – we are climbing into the ride vehicles inside 5 minutes. I always enjoyed the old version, and am looking forward to the changes. Overall, I feel it has been updated just enough to appear contemporary, but I suspect it won’t be many years before the technology details need tweaking again. It’s fun, especially the personalised questionnaire and (tacky!) graphics at the end. We make our way back towards test track, and find the Jammitors just starting a set in the Breezeway. A couple of the guys look familiar, but a new one has obviously replaced the shorter fella who was a constant crewmember up until 2 years ago. Also, it looks like they’ve shed some of their props, as they aren’t accompanied by the large cart we saw them using last time. As the set ends, they hand out Junior Jammitor stickers for the kids, and I shamelessly secure one for me! We enter Test Track at 10.35 and are soon FastPassed to our car. Same old ride, feeling dated now, but still raises a smile – until we find that large raindrops are pelting us during the fast, outdoor finale! It’s still quite bright when we leave the ride, but raining, so after a swift restroom, we adjourn to Mousegear for a mooch, during which the kids choose a gift to take home for their mum. That seems to have done the banishing trick for now, and the rain has stopped, leaving higher humidity levels as we stroll across to the (former Living) Seas pavilion. This has also been changed sometime over the last 2 years – the ‘Finding Nemo ride now appears to be mandatory, unless we missed a bypass entrance somewhere. It’s not a problem, though, as there are no lines, and we enjoy this simple and cleverly constructed attraction before browsing the rest of the levels including the manatee tank and main aquarium. It’s 12.05 as we exit the pavilion. The clouds are thicker and if anything, the heat and humidity have increased: I suspect it may rain on our parade again before much longer. We split up and head off into the World Showcase for lunch: Adam, Amanda and I move off in the direction of Mexico while the other three take the anti-clockwise route towards Morocco. It starts to rain hard by the time we reach Mexico. We share some cheesy nachos under an umbrella outside, and then splash round to China for shrimp fried rice. By 12.45 we continue round the lagoon and meet the folks at America – I’m happy to report that the rain has eased for now – and then make our way to Italy where my dad is looking for a new wallet. He doesn’t find one, but I take some photos of the wonderful masks for Bethany to help her with a school project she is doing back home. It rains. It stops again. I guess showers are to be expected for the rest of the day – typical, on our last full session, especially after writing off so much time during Fay last week. Ah well, I’d still rather be here in rain than at home in the sunshine! Without much hope of success, the wallet search moves into Germany, where we find the same old, dull selection of clumpy crystal and teddy bears, now complimented by German football shirts. The rain returns with a vengeance as we reach China, so we dash inside the store and pass some time dripping on the silk garments and other souvenirs. There’s nothing new to discover, and, between cloudbursts, we continue to Norway. After the obligatory tour of the store, my sweet tooth demands satisfaction, so I herd everyone into the bakery. The sight of the cakes in the coolers works as nature intended, and we all order something sticky and calorific. We sit at a table on the covered patio and enjoy our pastries… and then it starts to really rain! Even though we are in the centre of the dining area, well away from the open sides, we get splashed due to the ferocity of the deluge. People are dashing under cover from all directions, most soaked to the skin within seconds! I had wanted to head over to Japan for the 2pm Matsuriza Drummers show, but it seems pointless now, as I’m sure it will be washed out. After 20 minutes it has calmed down a bit, so we dodge our way back towards the exit, calling in stores for shelter along the way. By the time we reach Club Cool, where the kids enter for free soda, it has more or less stopped again – and in the distance I can hear the Drummers start their set! Poo! Amanda records me recording my disappointment! We drive away around 2.30 and make our daily stop at Winn Dixie to make sure the staff haven’t been worried about us, and to buy a couple of bits for breakfast tomorrow, before arriving home at the villa by 3.00pm. After checking that our flights are still ok for the morrow, Amanda and I brave the showers to soak in the spa with a beer until 4.00ish. Bethany is a bit ‘off’ (all that sugar perhaps?) and retires to her room, saying she wants to stay in bed this evening. The rest of us get ready to leave for 4.30, before taking my parents to Celebration for the vigil mass (for non- Catholics, this gives them a waiver, allowing them to skip church tomorrow, Sunday!) at 5.00pm. Adam, Amanda and I carry on down into the town for a bit of a wander around the shops and a coffee from Starbucks. I also buy a souvenir Orlando mug. Someone has moved a couple of the rockers under the large gazebo, which we choose instead of the more exposed ones below, on the lakeside, as the rain threatens to return. A good move, as it transpires, when, 5 minutes later, we are using my brolly to keep the downpour blowing in on our shins! Adam is apparently dozing, so I try to recreate the ‘mole’ scene from Austin Powers ‘Goldmember’ (a family favourite!) by prodding a large zit on his chin with a twig I’ve picked up…. but he jumps up and legs off out of reach! At 5.45 we drive back and pick Mum & Dad up, before returning to Celebration for dinner. We decide to try the Town Tavern for a change and ideally would have sat outside on the covered patio, but all the tables are taken or reserved. There’s plenty of room inside though, and we are seated without delay. Nick, our server for the evening, brings our drinks (wine x 3, Celebration Ale for me and a Coke for Adam) before taking our food order: Surf n Turf for me, Fried Seafood Platter for Amanda, Ribs for Adam and Cajun Chicken x 2 for the folks. We chat while waiting for the food. I reckon that if we win the Lotto, I’d buy a house in the town here. Mum and dad would be happy visiting, as the local church community has made them very welcome. Our dinner appears at 6.45, comprising generous portions and accompanied by side salads. Overall it was very good, apart from my steak being a bit overdone (I like them mooing whenever possible) but I can eat it like this and hunger overcomes any initial impulse to send it back! The damage is $175 including a tip. We are done by 7.20 and head back to the 192 so I can top up with fuel before we go home tomorrow. I find a 7-11 and pop $10 in the tank. We continue on to Epcot, parking near the front at Journey 5, at 8.00pm. The car thermometer reads 77°, and although there is standing water around, it feels as though it should remain dry for the evening. As we join the short lines for security and admission, I dwell a little sadly on the fact that this is the last time we’ll be here this trip, and, realistically, for the next couple of years or so. The bag check is unusually thorough – my expression may have appeared menacing rather than sad! – and we walk through to the restrooms (naturally!) next to Spaceship earth before continuing into Innoventions Plaza, where, delightfully, the fountains are playing. We stroll onwards into the World Showcase. Mum and Dad want to have a look at the store in Canada, …where we find the predictable, maple-leaf themed goodies, before moving on, anti-clockwise through a busy UK pavilion and an even more bustling France. People are taking up viewing positions for the fireworks, and we hear the 8.30 pre-Illuminations announcement. ‘Mo’Rockin’ (cringe!) are just starting a set as we progress through Morocco… they are loud, if a little cheesy, and not to our tastes, so we carry on, to Japan, where we trawl the store, looking for a pearl set that Amanda spotted (and should have bought) at Blizzard Beach yesterday. She can’t find it, sadly. We stroll a little further, to Italy, and take up similar viewing positions to the other night, standing a little back from the ‘canal’ area in front of the pavilion. The announcer declares that Illuminations will start in 10 minutes, and asks us to take small children by the hand, but the two I select run screaming to their parents for some reason. The lights dim, and the narrator blows out the torches for the last time on our vacation… …the show is wonderful, as always, but tinged with sadness that I won’t be watching it again for a long time – if ever? There’s a fair to middling chance that it will be replaced or superseded before we return. We walk out, slowly, enjoying the atmosphere and the sounds of Kellie Coffey’s ‘Promise’ and the ‘Way- La’ song from Tapestry of Dreams… it’s a lovely, balmy evening and a perfect end to the holiday. Our journey home is trouble free, and we arrive chez nous at 10.00pm. Beth is still up, and shows us a desiccated froglet she has discovered in her room – nice! Both kids get off to bed, and the adults sit out in the 81° warmth to finish off the wine stocks. The conversation drifts a little, from what we are doing tomorrow, to previous days and earlier visits. Suddenly, around 10.45, there’s a heavy cloudburst that continues for quite a while. Mum and Dad take this as their cue to depart, leaving Amanda and I to booze on alone until 11.45. It’s still raining softly as we retire, which fits my mellow mood to be honest. Mike & Amanda Tomorrow: A morning at the Animal Kingdom, then the long journey home…..