Monday, April 15, 2013

Part I: Vacation! (An old one.)

Last year I went on vacation!

Not really surprising given I would probably give up many luxuries in favour of travelling. The upside of taking on as little responsibility as possible in the form of permanent housing, offspring, money sucking investments, etc., is that I've been very fortunate to travel to many wonderful places with friends, family, or solo.

This past November, a friend and I booked the ultimate family vacation (except we aren't family and we don't have any children) and went to Florida, followed by a cruise, followed by more Florida. I told myself, "I'm going to make brief notes on vacation so when I come back I can write a hilarious trip report, be loved by internet dwellers, and have a lovely record for years to come."

What I actually did was write a few notes about Belize on a Carnival Cruise provided notepad while napping by the pool. I then put that notepad in a book. So I have one day of notes, shoved into a book. I'm not 100 percent sure where that book is and, of course, I never wrote a humourous trip report that was to be a launching pad to my getting-paid-to-write-on-the-internet career.

So, in the interest of at least partially meeting a portion of my goal, here is a "brief" (I'm never brief! except in height) summary of Vacances du novembre, 2012. Or, since we were in Spanish speaking land, Vacacione de noviembre 2012.

Note: this is long and detailed. When finished, I'll add links so you can jump to whatever part might interest you most should you be looking for something specific. So far we have:

November 5 - Arrival
November 6 - Universal Studios
November 7 - Disney & Charlene's Birthday

Monday, November 5 - Arrival

"Up" with vacation!
Vacation! Lovely Boyfriend dropped me off at the airport at the beautiful hour of 5:00 am. I went through security and sat in a wee daze and realized I had forgotten my Disney World pass at home due to a last minute purse change. Luckily my parents get rickets if they don't go to Florida at least twice a year and were going to be arriving a week after me and would deliver my pass to our final accommodation. Annoying problem, simple solution. My parents saved me $100, and a lot of self scolding.

Upon arriving in Orlando, I took public transportation to a friend's house as, apparently, I'm still a backpacker at heart, i.e., frugal. (Quote friend who didn't know a public bus went by his house, "You know we have taxis, right?")

After eventually finding the door into his building (I got lost in the parking garage! Come travel with me! I'm so fun and responsible!), I ditched my luggage, changed into appropriate clothing, and took a short cut to a main bus hub for a late afternoon, public-transit adventure. My "short cut" indeed saved time, but involved walking on Orlando grass. The grass was weird and crunchy, as Orlando grass is. The road didn't have a sidewalk because trying to walk somewhere in America, outside of downtown cores, is hilaaaarious. LOOK AT YOU ON YOUR FEET! WALKING! LOLZ. WHERE IS YUR TRUK?

I took the public bus to Downtown Disney and ate at Earl of Sandwich, which is one of the not-well-kept secrets of a successful Disney vacation. I don't remember what I had, but it's safe to assume it was delicious and worthy of a high five.

Early supper was followed by a walk, contact with Host du jour, and an adventure to an outlet mall to find and surprise my co-traveller. It wasn't really that surprising though, since she knew I was arriving that day and would be meeting up with her later. A better surprise would had been dressing up in a bear suit, ambushing her, and tossing a delicious key lime pie her face. Surprise! Now you don't love me anymore.

Host Derek picked us up in the Lake Buena Vista's worst parking lot, and we went to a bar that somehow manages to squeeze by the smoking laws of Florida and allow smoking indoors. Although we smelled terrible afterwards, there is something very special about buying chilli nachos, a couple of beers, leaving a tip, giving the government its required tax, and having it cost only $15 instead of, like, $30 at home. Those are the memories that last a lifetime. Oh, and happy times with friends/ohana (less a missing member) who live far away. That is also memorable.

Tuesday, November 6 - Universal Studios

Harry Potter-land day!

Derek dropped Charlene and I off at Universal Studios before work because "chauffeur" is listed as a special talent on his resume. (He's so good at it!) Charlene is a travel agent and had acquired a free, multi-park ticket for Universal! I took advantage of her travel agent skills and got a slightly discounted single-park ticket.

Who will win the triwizard tournament?
The Magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios (to be called HP-land from now on), opened in 2010 and I had not yet visited. I had seen photos of it and it did indeed look rather impressive.

Surprise! It was impressive and a lot of fun. HP-land is set around the timing of book four in Hogsmeade. The addition of this land seems to have improved the park as a whole. Charlene and I looked at each other confused at one point wondering, "When did Universal employees get so nice?" Everyone we met was super friendly, helpful, and other positive adjectives. Apparently they now receive more training than Disney cast members. Additional plus side: HP geeks (and I use the term 'geek' lovingly) now get to live their dream by wearing wizard robes to work, selling wands, and claiming to be the conductor of the Hogwarts Express. Being a HP geek in Orlando pays (probably about $8.50/hr).

The park wasn't very busy, which is nice. Even the main HP attraction "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" had a line of only 20 minutes. We really should had rode it twice, I have no idea why we went on it only once. Most other rides had lines of 0 - 10 minutes. Wanna have a theme park heavy Orlando vacation? Go in early November. Weather was still mostly pleasant and crowds were minimal.

Other important Universal things that happened: I think Cyclops tried to hit on me. We also met Popeye and Olive Oil who are, perhaps, among the most entertaining character I have ever come across. Charlene and I watched the Sinbad stunt show as she had never seen it before. After finally experiencing this attraction, there is a good chance she'll never need to experience it again.

Post park, Charlene and I went to Bahama Breeze, a required stop for me when in select US states.

Wednesday, November 7 - Walt Disney World

A special day - Charlene's birthday! I gave her the most precious PEI gift of them all - chocolate covered potato chips. We also received a precious Florida gift - free entry to Disney! Hurrah for still having cast member friends! We were delivered to Epcot and jaunted off to Soarin' so we could smell orange groves. Since we were in the area, we went on Living with the Land. Line length? Six people. High five.

This turtle agrees that it is a big blue world.
We backtracked and went to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Wait time: the length of time it took to travel through the queue to our seashellmobiles. This ride makes me smile, and also makes me hum "Big Blue World" for the next two hours. Sort of. I know, like, three words of the song: big, blue, and world. Then I just make musical noises when the other lyrics pop up.

Also awesome in The Seas pavilion? The sharks and turtles. More wonderful? The manatees! So large and gentile! They were floating about in their tank eating romaine lettuce. So, question, how much lettuce would one have to have per day when you weight over 1,000 lbs? A lot.

We eventually thought, "Hey, maybe we should do something else other than watch injured turtles and manatees float around and eat?" So we went on the Imagination ride (wait time: 30 seconds).

More hurrah for the day: it was Food and Wine Festival time! It holds a special place in my heart since I was one of the few (not bragging, pretty sure the selection was completely random) people who got to work at the Canada F&W kiosk. There I worked absurdly long hours, met wonderful people, somewhat got over my fear of hot things (although I turned out to be Health & Safety right when I correctly said the soup was too hot), and ate waaaay too much fudge and salmon. Also determined I am the only person who does not like the "famous" cheese soup.

We walked through Mexico and saw Donald (!) et sus amigos. When I was wee, I never had a chance to get my picture taken with Donald. It was like he had retired, was on strike, or was backstage suffering from a protein spill every, single, time. Now every time I see Donald somewhere I get giddy and HAVE to get a picture with him because I didn't as a tween/teen. Despite the fact that after 13 months of living at Disney World I have numerous pictures, you really can never have too many pictures with Donald.

Donald et sus amigas

I had my usual over-the-top debate in Germany about spending my life's savings on chocolate bars and eventually talked myself out of it. I would be eating lunch soon (and appetizer-ing on F&W food) and the chocolate bar would probably just melt in my bag, even though it was probably wasn't even 20C that day.

Fake Hawai'i
I didn't get much at the F&W festival, but I did have the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise from Hawai'i (Hi, copying and pasting from the Internet). It was delicious and I probably annoyed Charlene by talking about it for the next thirty minutes. How I wanted to skip lunch, eat four of those instead, and then roll around in the fountain being all full of deliciousness. I can't even write this paragraph without making some sort of noise of desperate hunger even though I'm not hungry.

(Note: after looking back at Charlene's pictures I am reminded that I also had a perogie from Poland. Clearly it was not overly memorable. You really can't win when competing with Hawai'i.)

Instead of eating thirteen more pork sliders, we waited in a curiously cold queue to ride Spaceship Earth - the longest line of the day,15 entire minutes. More high five for short lines! The ride remains a favourite and brings forth happy childhood memories. It's also good for closing ones eyes for a rest at the end of the ride, although it can be startling when you suddenly panic and must rush to exit your wee space car.

Post Spaceship Earth, we departed and headed to the Disney Vacation Club portion of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There, it was time to check another restaurant off Charlene's list: Sanaa. Although located in an African-inspired resort, the food there definitely skews Indian. Some random explanation is given on the top of the menu as to how Indian food totally belongs in an African theme resort. Regardless of awkward geography, the food was good, but I feel no better than your average Indian restaurant. However, not available at your average Indian restaurant? The opportunity to sit outside in rocking chairs and watch animals roam while waiting for a table. It was critical to sit in the sun due to the surprising dash of cold in the African/Indian air.

After lunch we had a very special destination: the Magic Kingdom with an intention of getting into a New Fantasyland sneak preview.

First we wandered through refurbed/repainted former Mickey's Toontown Fair, part of the New Fantasyland but not really that new. Not having children, the area doesn't really hold much interest. For some reason, Charlene and I separated briefly at this point. I think we were both tired and needed a solo wander. It didn't really last long though as we basically ended up taking different routes to the exact same destination and were excited to see each other again.

Solo, I decided to wander to "real" New Fantasyland. There was a rope up, with a cast member keeping
Cutest Ariel Ever
watch as people walked in. I rattled off in my brain the various means I would take to ensure I would get in. In the end, I just walked in along with everyone else. I had been completely mislead by the promotion of the Beast's castle. I thought it would be large and accessible, but it was actually placed on top of a 'mountain' in the forced perspective distance. The base of the mountain housed Be Our Guest restaurant, which was not yet open. Then, magic happened. I can't recall if we saw Gaston leaving, or if we saw his character handler waiting, but we were told he would be returning in a half hour. We became giddy. Sure he's a vain villain and we aren't supposed to like him, but he's so much more fun to meet than, say, Cinderella. (BORING.) We went to the new Little Mermaid ride. After looking up it's actual name, apparently it's "Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid". Despite The Little Mermaid having many memorable songs, I found myself humming "My Heart Will Go On" in the queue. Apparently anything to do with a shipwreck is now copyright Celine Dion.

The ride was good, but given we had already been on the Finding Nemo ride earlier that day, it almost seemed like a clone of that ride. We're in seashells! We're under water! SONGS! That being said, easily the worth the, like, four-minute wait. We also met Ariel afterwards, which turned to be very important as she was the cutest Ariel ever. Charlene and I contemplated bringing her to Key West with us. Unfortunately this was Mermaid Ariel (pre legs) so it would had been difficult logistically.

Gaston has unique taste in his decorations
We still had minutes to kill pre-Gaston, so we went to the merch shop and Gaston's Tavern for some browsing. Many photo ops and lots of new merchandise! The tavern was selling Disney's new drink (clearly inspired by Harry Potter's butterbeer) "Lefou's Brew". Charlene got one and I got a cinnamon sticky bun thing. The sticky bun thing smelled way better than it tasted, though it was still easily edible. The brew was good, quite sweet, and would taste excellent with a dash of vodka or amaretto.

We wandered back outside and got in line to meet Gaston. Not surprisingly, the line was mostly giggling women. We fit in very well.

Gaston emerged with much excitement! He also wandered around trying to build up more attention before tending to the line of giggling women. He walked into his tavern to declare his presence, stopped to check his reflection in a window, and posed a few times. People were walking up to him to get his photo and autograph, and the many women in line started to stress. "WHY ISN'T HE COMING OVER HERE?"

Because he's Gaston, and inconsiderate of your feelings.

Eventually he did come over and he was great fun to meet. I kept looking at his chin trying to figure out how much was real and what was make-up, but I couldn't tell. (I may had been busy giggling.)

Charlene has much better photos with Gaston than I. Self portrait!

And that's the end of the most important things that happened that day. The rest is less stand out. I believe we went to the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean  and I'm pretending Charlene bought a dolewhip even though I don't think she did. My memory was giggled out, I suppose.

So then Derek picked us up and we drove to Miami. End part one.


Kalena said...

When will we see part II and III of vacation?? For some reason, I feel the need to read about it, even though I was there!!

Jen said...

Haaaaa. I actually have had a draft of part ii in my draft folder for ages! I will finish it soon :) (at this point I may need your help remembering things :S )