Saturday 30 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - All Over

So this is the final post in my diary of events recalling our visit to Walt Disney World in the Summer of 2013.

Our final day, or our day travelling home, was spent saying goodbye to the Wilderness Lodge; we had breakfast one last time sitting out in the sunshine and vowing that if we could afford it in the future this resort would be top of our list!

We made our way to Downtown Disney to take advantage of the airline check-in desk there (we were with Virgin Atlantic), before doing some last minute shopping, having lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express and then watching Monsters University at the cinema.

Then the airport beckoned and so began the long trek home; 9 hour flight followed by a 3 hour car journey.

So the vacation was over, and although we don't know when we will be able to visit again, we do have some fantastic memories to keep us going.  This vacation more than any other wasn't just about the parks it was all about the experiences we had and the people we met and the new friendships was about the Disney Magic.

As I write this post I have friends waiting to return home from their first family vacation to Orlando; they have had a fantastic time and are vowing to start the big save and head back in 2016.  That's how this place gets you; it leaves you with an indescribable feeling and an urge to return as soon as possible.  Not visiting this year has been tough with so many people I know able to make it. But I have enjoyed seeing the photos and the Facebook status updates, and yes there's even been a touch of jealousy on occasion but I know we will be back...maybe not soon but we will get back 'home' someday.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - Day 14

Well here we are on our last full, proper day at Walt Disney World...always a bitter sweet day as we try to make the most of those final hours whilst knowing that we will be going home very soon and not knowing when we will get the chance to return.

So this morning we took the boat and headed over to the Contemporary Resort...

...where we had breakfast at the Contempo Cafe.  As we finished breakfast the kids went off to the arcade to use up their credits which gave me some time for a little shopping!
Bay View Gifts
Well to be fair it was a necessity as my sunglasses had broke the day before so I couldn't survive without a pair of shades now could I?!!
Trying on shades...this is the pair I bought
When it came time to make our way over to the Magic must do park for our first and last days of our vacation...the kids wanted to jump aboard the monorail but we decided to make them walk!! Honestly you'd have thought we were making them walk miles when in fact the walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom is only a few minutes and a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the monorail.
 Leaving the Contemporary Resort.

Some views along the way...we had it all to ourselves!

We obviously needed refreshment after such a long walk and headed straight to The Main Street Bakery (otherwise now known as Starbucks!)
Although we did take the time to admire all the Halloween decorations...I shall post some more photos at a later date.

We then headed over to Big Thunder Mountain where the kids went off for a ride by themselves.  We then had a little Disney Magic as a family gave us some of their unused Fastpasses for Big Thunder, and as there was more than we needed we decided to pass on the magic and gave the extras to another family.
Kids on Big Thunder Mountain...honestly they are on there!
We had a late lunch at the Columbia Harbour House (one of my favourites) before jumping on It's A Small World (has to be done on the last day!).  We also managed to see The Hall of Presidents and The Enchanted Tiki Room before the kids had a go at playing 'A Pirates Adventure - Treasures of the Seven Seas' in Adventureland.  This was another interactive game which we all loved getting involved with;
Molly activating something in the basket!!!
We also had chance to play some more of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom...
The kids dragged us onto the Tomorrowland Speedway (their choice not mine!) before we dropped in to see Mr Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe while we had a bite to eat.
Me with Sonny!!
As the day began to draw in we headed back over to Big Thunder Mountain for a ride in the dark...
before heading over to the hub to watch Celebrate the Magic for the last time, followed by Wishes...there was not a dry eye tonight :(
Goodbyes are hard to say
But we had time for one last selfie on Main Street;

Monday 25 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - Day 13

We have now reached the penultimate full day of our vacation, day 13.

So what did today bring us?  Well it started off with a boat trip across Bay Lake to the Contemporary Resort...
Waiting for the boat at Wilderness Lodge dock that we could hop aboard a monorail to the Polynesian Resort...but why? Two words...

At Capt. Cooks enjoying our breakfast of Tonga Toast - yummy!!!!
So for anyone who doesn't know what Tonga Toast is let me explain.  It's a THICK slice of sourdough bread that is stuffed with bananas, deep fried and then coated in cinnamon sugar and it is AMAZING!! We chose to visit Capt. Cooks and had breakfast there but you could, if you wanted, push the boat out and eat at the Kona Cafe but as we had the Quick Service Dining Plan we were more than happy with Capt. Cooks. It also reminded Simon and I of the year we first stayed in a Disney Resort (Port Orleans French Quarter) and on our first morning we had breakfast here at Capt. Cooks, although back then we were unaware of the lure of the Tonga Toast!  But from now on this will be a must do for all of us.

After we had stuffed our faces we decided to have a wander around the Polynesian and soak up the atmosphere...

A little shopping!!
Enjoying the beautiful surroundings
We then hopped back onto the monorail and headed off in the direction of Epcot.  We decided to head over to the World Showcase with a little detour first to get Fastpasses for Test Track later in the day.  We headed over to The American Adventure and were lucky enough to catch a performance by the Voices of Liberty; this is one of my favourite attractions and a must do every trip.  We were lucky enough to do the Backstage Magic tour a number of years ago that took you behind the scenes at The American Adventure which really gives you an appreciation of all that is involved with an attraction like this.
Beautiful day at Epcot
As it was now about lunch time we headed to one of our favourite counter service restaurants - Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion.
Enjoying lunch at Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion
After lunch saw the kids partaking in yet some more Phineas & Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure.  This time we headed to the United Kingdom pavilion, although the kids were rather perplexed at the choice of tea during one of the clues...chai tea...mmm perhaps not our choice for a typical British tea!!
Kids playing Phineas & Ferb in the UK pavilion and being somewhat perplexed by the choice of tea!!
And of course whilst in the United Kingdom they just had to have their photo taken in the traditional red telephone box...after all the chances of finding an operational one in the actual United Kingdom are few and far between.  We do have one where we live but it has been turned into a tourist information point and has leaflets and maps on the surrounding area but no telephone!
When in Epcot!! Only chance we Brits get to experience one of these nowadays.
It was then time to head over to Future World and use our Fastpasses for Test Track followed by a ride on 'The Seas with Nemo and Friends'.  We had a quick walk through Innoventions before making our way over to The Land pavilion and Sunshine Seasons for a spot of something to eat, which for me consisted of some lovely grilled salmon and strawberry shortcake - yummy!
Inside the Land Pavillion, looking down onto Sunshine Seasons
We then took the monorail from Epcot to the TTC (Transportation & Ticket Centre) and then over to the Magic Kingdom.  It was 'Extra Magic Hours' this evening and the park would be open until 3.00am!!!
Arriving at the Magic Kingdom, all decorated for Halloween!!
One thing we had not yet tried but that was on my 'to do' list was the cinnamon roll over at Gaston's Tavern. Now previously the Main Street Bakery had been THE place for cinnamon rolls but since the re-vamp and Starbucks take over the rolls had been removed from the menu but had emerged on the menu at Gaston's Tavern in New Fantasyland.  They were as yummy as ever but I swear they've grown in size!!
Now THAT'S a cinnamon roll!!
Had to take some photos of the inside of Gaston's Tavern because the theming inside here (and all of new Fantasyland) is fantastic!

Even at 6 foot 2'' Ethan couldn't fill this chair!
Interior decoration Gaston style
The rest of the evening was spent with a ride on the Haunted Mansion and plenty of shopping!!  Although when it decided to rain the shops did get rather busy and put a bit of a damper on my shopping experience!  But thankfully the rain cleared so that we were able to watch that evening's premier performance of the Halloween version of 'Celebrate the Magic', which included a number of Disney villains!  The advantage of taking our vacation at the end of August meant that as we were now into September (the first to be exact) we got to experience a little of Halloween Disney style.

We finished the evening off by riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover during a performance of Wishes.  We eventually left the park at 12.15am well and truly worn out from our day.
Arriving home after a long day....but with shopping!

Thursday 21 August 2014

WDW Summer 2013 - Day 12

I thought it was about time I got back on the case with writing up our last vacation to WDW, can't believe it's a year since we were last there! But at least writing this blog helps to re-live the memories and keep me going until we can next visit (I have no idea when this will be yet!!!)

So here we are at Day what did we do?  Well the mad one in our family, my husband Simon, decided to get up and out early and go for another run between the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campground; not a long run by his standards but enough to keep him in training as he had a half marathon to run only a couple of weeks after we returned home. But after that the day started with breakfast in the sunshine; what better way to start the day?!
Mmmm pancakes!!!

We then headed over to Animal Kingdom to catch up on a few things we hadn't had chance to do yet.  Our first stop was to take the Wildlife Express Train over to Rafiki's Planet Watch and visit Conservation Station.
This was an area of the park that we had never visited before and is an area that you can choose to spend as little or as much time there as you like.  It gives you a greater appreciation of all the work being carried out on a daily basis to look after and nurture all the animals within the Animal Kingdom.  It is also a less crowded area of the park and along with the train ride is a nice diversion from all the hustle and bustle elsewhere.

So after finding out about the behind the scenes at the Animal Kingdom we thought we would jump aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris.  This was the first time we had rode this attraction since the storyline of 'poachers on the reserve' had been dropped...and I have to say I enjoyed it so much more!  The guide we had was great and it really felt more like a trip around the outback somewhere with the pace of the journey much more dictated by the animals that we could see.  We all really enjoyed our trip and managed to see a good array of animals, with some good close-up experiences of rhinos, ostrich, elephants and some baby giraffes.
On safari!
By now the kids were itching for some thrills so off they went to get soaking wet on Kali River Rapids whilst Simon and I decided to just have a wander and soak up the atmosphere, which at Animal Kingdom is truly exceptional.  It also gave us chance to take advantage of our Photopass+...
The kids were into full thrill mode now and headed off to Expedition Everest...

Trust me the kids are on both these photos!!

But whilst we waited for them we took a walk over into Dinoland USA and had a little perusal of the shopping opportunities.  I finally picked out a new phone case (I'd been looking at them every time we went into a shop and been struggling to make a decision!) and when Simon returned from paying for it he'd bought me a couple of Cutester Vinylmations as a surprise - ah!!

By now it was time for lunch and we headed over to Pizzafari in the Discovery Island section of the park.  It was our first time eating here (our usual 'go to' tends to be Flametree Barbecue) and actually we were quite impressed.  We had a mix of salads and pizza and chocolate mousse and cheesecake and we all really enjoyed what we had. The restaurant wasn't overly busy so we were able to grab a table in a relatively quiet corner and really enjoy our time there; we loved the bright and bold decorations throughout; in fact the room we were in seemed to have a theme of animals that hang upside down with painted murals of sloths, bats and monkeys - absolutely fantastic.

After lunch we headed back to the Wilderness Lodge and while the kids chilled out at the hotel Simon and I decided to go exploring and walked part of the route Simon had gone running along between the Lodge and the Fort Wilderness Campground.

Views walking from Wilderness Lodge to Fort Wilderness Campground
We had a lovely wander around Fort Wilderness taking in the dock area, Tri-Circle D Farm and the Meadow Trading Post shop.

Some of the wildlife we encountered
View from the dock at Fort Wilderness Campground, looking towards the old Discovery Island
And look what we saw on our walk back to the Wilderness Lodge...
...and then we arrived home...
...just before the rain came!!

So we decided to wait out the rain before taking a boat to the Magic Kingdom; we had a bit of a wait for a boat (which was very unusual) so ended up jumping aboard one headed for Fort Wilderness Campground that then went over to the Magic Kingdom but it was great just to take the time and get chance to show the kids where the campground was and to point out the old Discovery Island!
Beautiful view as we travelled over to the Magic Kingdom
Over at Magic Kingdom we headed for New Fantasyland...

and in particular Gastons Tavern to partake in a pork shank... I do have photos of me eating said pork shank but none were flattering enough to put on here!  And the verdict...yes it was nice, but it was basically a messy way to eat roast pork and is just the pork version of the turkey leg!  Personally I've tried it but won't be bothering again!

As we'd shared one pork shank between us we headed over to Pecos Bills for more substantial food before jumping onto Big Thunder Mountain which by this time was 'in the dark'! The kids then managed two rides on Splash Mountain back-to-back as there was no wait at all and we then all went back on Big Thunder Mountain to ride it during Wishes, which was much so we rode it again!
Roller Coaster buddies :)
As we made our way round from Frontierland we managed to catch the second showing of 'Celebrate the Magic' from the bridge leaving Liberty Square.  Turned out to be a nice view and we caught details that we'd missed on our previous viewing.  As the park was busy we thought we'd take our time and exit through the shops but they were just too busy to be able to meander through so we decided to make a break for the exit.  The queues for buses and the monorail were heaving but we walked right up to the dock for Wilderness Lodge, got straight on a boat and were heading off before we knew it!