6 Nov 2009

Florida WDW - Oct 09 - Day 5 - MK

It's Early Entry in the MK this morning so we're on the motor coach bright and early and without a breakfast. We have a cunning new plan to have a lovely relaxing breakfast on Main street. Its a bit of a gamble because we don't actually know if the words "relaxing" and "breakfast at Main Street" are compatible but the parks have been that quiet it should not be a problem. The Main Street Bakery soon fixes our hunger needs with a breakfast croissant for myself and a slab (slab being the operative word, there's enough cake in this portion to last a week) of hot cinnamon cake for Jackie. The cake in three words is de-lic-ious.

The Halloween decorations are looking very lovely in the bright sunshine. Now I have to admit this park does slightly disappoint me for various reasons. Main Street is looking bright and beautiful, having a slightly grander scale than its counterparts around the globe. However from then on it all seems to go a bit wrong. The 'Lands' seem to lack the careful transitions and theming that the other parks have. I have always put it down to it being the second park built; perhaps there was more of a rush and a sense of let's just make a vague copy of the original rather than the careful Imagineering that developed over time originally in Anaheim and then in the wonderful (spend whatever you want) planning stage at Paris.

I can't help looking for those mysterious hidden streets of New Orleans from Anaheim, or the secret paths and bazaars of Paris with its storytelling theming in the lands themselves. And I can never get over why Fantasy land looks like $10 was spent on the exterior building's theming and it looks like it's just dumped on a car park.

My biggest gripe has to be: What happened to the classic rides, has someone stolen the other 3/4 of Pirates of the Caribbean? It seems wrong to me that the most popular MK in the world only has a half baked version of one of Walt's favourite creations and a Haunted Mansion where a silly design issue in the planning stage means you don't enter through the front door.

Oh dear I sound a grump and a half. But I still walk around with a smile on my face despite all this. Especially after a quick FP ride on the River Cruise, a ride that sends you into familiar territory as you say the script in your head before the CM actually says it, but it's all part of the charm. Anyway the sun#s shining, all the CM are smiling and the good news is in a few years time it should all be fixed up, well Fantasyland should be anyway, Here's a rendering of Eric's Castle from the new Little Mermaid section.

Fantasyland does contain one of my all time favourite attractions though, Philharmagic. So far it exists in Hong Kong and Florida but it is such a classic piece it really should be in all the Parks. I personally think it's the best use of the 3D system combined with that wonderful theatre whose screen eventually envelopes you without you even realising it. Simple but with such beautiful musical pieces and well executed 3D effects it's a beautiful showcase of both the art of animation and the modern 3D technology.

Before lunch we have ridden the Jungle Cruise and traded my head for two of his, got wet on Splash mountain and dried off on Big Thunder Mountain. Flown across London with Peter Pan and fled from the Wicked Witch in my fave dark ghost ride "Snow White". We have then been moved by Philharmagic, missed the Tiki Show (grrrr, I love this) and started to think about lunch itself.

Lunch today is at The Wave in the Contemporary Hotel and consists of a sharing a huge Crab Cake (thanks to Dirk and Jim for the recommendation) lovely and crisp on the outside and full of 100% wonderful juicy meat inside, perfectly spiced and seasoned it's washed down nicely with a crisp Marlborough Sauvignon our server, Michelle, is rather excited about serving. My main is a simple Tuna salad which again is nice and spicy on crisp leaves. Jackie takes a nice fillet of Salmon with a salad. The Wave is a much better experience for lunch than previous offerings in the Contemporary and the decoration, theming etc and attention to detail from the napkins to the cutlery is classy, just a pity it has no windows at all. The dinner menu looks nice as well, definitely one to try in the future.

The afternoon is spent back in the MK which is still rather quite, I don't think I have ever walked onto Autopia before with such a small queue. We take a car each and Jackie is given a driving licence by the CM which she will no doubt mix up with her real one. Space Mountain is closed for a refurb which reminds me that I have not mentioned Haunted Mansion's refurb. We love it, the staircase is a superb addition as is the new attic section and everything just seems to look and sound one hell of a lot better.

Tommorow land's latest addition "Monsters Inc Laugh Floor" is a bit of a disappointment. Using the same technology as Stitch Live, Turtle Talk ec etc.. its all a bit flat; the biggest problem being it relies on what I would call minor characters from the film, and the premise that it's going to be funny... It wasn't. I suppose it still needs some fine tuning and really depends on the audience but it's a pity they couldn't have squeezed in the Monsters Inc Dark ride from California Adventure .

Eventually its time to head back after riding everything but it's a Small World, please don't make me get that tune stuck in my head. Tonight we have dinner arranged at Bistro de Paris, World Showcase, Epcot. Mmmm.

4 Nov 2009

Florida WDW - Oct 09 - Day 4 - Eve Coral Reef

As dusk falls we make our way over to the Coral Reef restaurant via Spaceship earth. It's actually a couple of years since we last rode this iconic ride which I am so happy to see is now straddling the entryway in full unmarred glory as intended. The Mickey Arm appendage has finally been removed which seemed to not only give the impression there was an unfinished bit of scaffolding permanently attached to the side of the geodesic sphere, but also seemed to reduce the scale from an impressive 18 storey to Mickey's golf ball.

We are also absolutely delighted to find the refurb has also given the timeline ride inside a whole new breath of fresh air. Dame Judi Dench is a perfect host for us English peasants. The new lighting, animatronics, and projections (the wall paintings in the cave in particular being a superb piece of visual story telling). Also the new music, general clean up, re costume and extra scenes (the Greek classroom fits in seamlessly) work beautifully. This has to be the most sympathetic to the original - breath of fresh air I have seen injected so far into a classic Disney piece of ride history; and they have done so without changing the fundamental nature of the ride; nor felt the need to introduce characters. Well done.

The artwork above is a rendering from the WDI archives showing the Michelangelo and Sistine Chapel section. I really hope most of these original imagineers are still around to ride this restored version.

We make our way over to Coral Reef for dinner around 7.15, we're a little early but looking at the amount of people hanging about in reception I doubt dinner at 7.20 is going to happen. In fact, they're running at least 20 mins behind which does seem to be a recurring theme in all restaurants for dinner despite the fact the parks seem pretty quiet. We take a seat under the trees outside as its a barmy night and wonder what's going on behind the portable hedge that has now appeared between us and The Living Seas and the passage way to Soarin. In fact we were only allowed in this section of the park because we had a reservation tonight. Technically Epcot is closed but they normally allow you to wander around and take photos. There are a lot of security personnel (who all seem to be at least 80) about as well tonight and it seems they are setting up portable bars and DJ booths, when I get past the hedge to take the picture above. It turns out Microsoft are taking over the park for the rest of the night for the Launch of Windows 7. Let's hope they don't spot that all of the tills and reservation systems in Epcot still seem to be running XP.

Eventually we are seated. The Coral Reef is a restaurant we have visited on every trip though oddly never at dinner always at lunch. I have never heard of Tile fish and Margie our server, describes it as a snapper like fish so that's ordered for myself, Jackie orders the Sea Trout. I have to say the menu does seem a little more varied than it was previously though sadly the Lobster starter seems to have disappeared. There seemed to be rather a lot of Southern influenced dishes in previous years which was fine the first time but Blackened catfish and grits did start becoming about the only white fish on the menu some years when we visited. Now there's a good choice of fish and meat dishes, though perhaps it's just more varied at dinner.

My only small criticism with the Coral reef is that I do find it an extremely noisy restaurant. Always a slight problem in some American restaurants anyway where for some reason a game of who can shout loudest seems to be a common table game; for some reason this venue does seem to be one of the worst. Perhaps those glass aquarium walls bounce the sound around even more.

When the food arrives there's a little confusion as the busboy describes my dish as snapper. Well I suppose Margie did say tile fish looked like snapper! Anyway Margie arrives sorts out the dishes and brings the wine, a nice bottle of Casa Grand Pinot Grigio. The Tile fish is served with a dark red wine and port sauce which works quite well, it does have just a hint of sweetness to it from the port but the meat's quite firm and strong and can stand up to it. Jackie's Sea trout is cooked more simply with a buttery sauce but is delicious all the same and nicely seasoned. We finish with the baked cheesecake and strawberries for myself and Jackie has the Creme Brulee.

Tomorrow its time to head to the MK for the first time this trip. We're looking forward to seeing the how the refurb work has gone in the haunted mansion.

2 Nov 2009

Florida WDW - Oct 09 - Day 4

We are up at six thirty in the morning and I'm soon joining the joggers around the lake at Saratoga Springs. Actually this is more in the literal than physical sense but I do walk quickly across the bridge and grab some cereals from the store for breakfast. Dinner finished so late last night we really can't face a cooked breakfast so Special K and Frosties suffice in the room. It's noticeably warmer today and looks set to stay this way for the rest of the trip.

Today's bus trip to Epcot sees a discussion on the merits of driving versus flying. A family from Tennessee explaining to a family from New York who would not dream of bringing the car that it's all relative and is an easy drive. I think I'm with the family from New York; the family from Tennessee has two young children and his mother in law which must have been a fun drive.

We are soon at Epcot and making our early entry to the park. After negotiating the graveyard (you got rid of the horrible Mickey arm recently, well done; can you bulldoze this next please) and passing under the iconic spaceship earth we turn right for the traditional early morning Soarin. Despite riding this on countless occasions both here and in Anaheim I think this is the first time we have actually been on the front row; I like the feeling of being higher and not having some annoying foot waver hanging in front of me. I still think the ride lacks repeatability and it does need a new film and a clean of the projector. This doesn't of course stop us grabbing fast passes on the way out, it's just one of those things you have to do.

Crossing all the way over to the opposite side we head straight onto Mission Space and Test Track grabbing extra fast passes for test track again as we exit. It has to be said though that today Epcot is nice and quiet. I manage to leave my Porcupine Tree baseball cap on Testrack after taking the care to sit on it so it didn't blow off. Luckily for me its been handed in next time I ride it so an international burnt head incident is avoided for the rest of the day.

Suddenly out of nowhere (and I seriously mean nowhere as its hard to find a grey cloud in the sky) a small shower starts so we take cover In Ellen's Universe of Energy. I think fellow Bloggers and TR writers Dirk and Jim sum it up best when they describe this as " a nice 45 minute nap, er respite from the heat, er awesome Disney attraction!". In our case it was a quick escape from the rain, though I do love the Ellen pre show sequence and it does make you all nostalgic. I remember first riding this in 1991 and being amazed. When we exit its blazing hot again.

The FP window for another Soarin has arrived and we get the top row again which is nice, though I'm sure the only smell they have turned on is orange, they must have run out of pine scent. Next up is the cutesy Nemo ride which is also empty today; last time we rode this it was brand new and we lined up for almost an hour. I like how each park has its own unique Nemo ride; from the restored Subs in California to our favourite the Crush Coaster at the Studios in Paris. Looking at the plans for the developing Little Mermaid ride I have a suspicion this Floridian Nemo Shell transport system is it's backbone. On exiting the ride we spend some time in the aquariums as it's feeding time for the Manatees; boy there really must be a lot of iceberg lettuce growing wild in the Everglades.

It's approaching time for the World Showcase to open up which means it's fast approaching early lunch time (we breakfasted lightly remember). Today's lunch will be a leisurely stroll around various continents sampling various delights, and no we're not going to the Princesses Buffet.

In no particular order (and bearing in mind some of these portions are only small) we have Lobster and Scallop Fishermans Pie (Ireland),Grilled Lamp Chop with Red Wine Sauce and Murray River Sea Salt (Australia), Escargots Persillade en Brioche (France), Parmentier de Boeuf Braise au Cabernet (France), New England Lobster Roll (USofA), Kefta (Morocco), Lamb Slider with Tomato Chutney (New Zealand), Seared Sea Scallop (New Zealand), Sukiyaki Beef Roll (Japan),Red Snapper Escabeche (Spain).

If we had to pick a couple of winners without doubt it would have to be Ireland's Fishermans Pie and from France the Parmentier de Boeuf Braise au Cabernet which is like a steak pudding :- beautiful rich beef rib meat and a strong wine gravy inside mashed potatoe. As is usual in Epcot both Wine and Beer were both varied and seemed better than ever, as was the entertainment. Whilst we wined and dined our way around we watched the Drummers in Japan, the child acrobats in China, and all the other varied street entertainers in Italy, France and the UK.

And then to top off the whole day we had an absolutely wonderful show from none other than Sister Sledge as they performed in the Americans Gardens Theatre for the "Eat to the Beat" concert series to a highly appreciative audience. They may be looking older but their band was tight and they sounded really good.

Also had plenty of time in between courses to ride the boat rides in Norway ( Maelstrom) and Mexico, and some of the pavilions in more detail. Always seems to be a tradition now to buy incense from Japan. Tonight we have a 7.20pm ADR for the Coral Reef but won't bother changing, we simply single rider Test Track and end up in the same car anyway.

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