Saturday, February 28, 2009

Florida, Day 2: Epcot

Awoke to another beautiful Florida day, and realized we could see Epcot (and some of the other parks) from our balcony.

Got showered and out the door to the hotel shuttle to Epcot. Jennifer, Jonas and I had been here before, but it was once again new for Nellie, Tristan, and Zoe.

Based on a recommendation from Alex and Ella, we went right to Soarin' and secured FastPasses for later in the day. We then located Andy via text message and headed over to Test Track. We had Tristan and Zoe surprise Alex and Ella by walking up to them and talking to them. They didn't know that we'd also be in Florida with them. Wearing their best Prizer, they were completely unphased by the surprise turn of events.

We made some tentative plans to meet up later, and headed into Test Track, followed by World Showcase. We skipped Mexico since we can see that every day at home, and went right to Norway.

We rode like Vikings through Norway where Andy and Shelley, being much more Disney-experienced than us, schooled us on some very cool stuff.
(Jennifer getting schooled by Shelley)

First; the kids could collect these paper masks, and get them stamped, decorated, and festooned with a unique paper cutout at each country.

Second; the park had a Kim Possible-themed spy game that included communicators and missions and all kinds of international intrigue. And third: Epcot is the only Disney park that sells booze, and that maybe an alcohol-around-the (Disney) world is a pretty cool adult alternative to collecting masks and stamps. We quickly adopted that new mission, followed by some plum wine from China, and some Danish beer from Norway. (Denmark, Norway. . . all of Scandinavia is exactly the same anyway, right?)

Most of the rest of the afternoon is somewhat of a blur, not due to the alcohol, but rather to the wandering all over creation, hitting countries like China,

Chinese Sunset




as well as completing Kim Possible missions, eating Disney food, and riding on stuff like the aforementioned Soarin' (which the kids absolutely loved) and Mission Space, and meeting a buttload of Disney characters for autographs and pictures.

Miss Gilmore Goes to Germany

Jonas Deutschland

We had made reservations and plans in advance for everyone to eat dinner together in Morocco. This was kind of my idea, and everyone else was cool to go along with it. I wanted to go to Disney Morocco because a) I really like Moroccan food, and know something about it, and b) having visited the real Morocco six months previous, I was really curious to see how the Disney version compared.

We got there a little early, so there was plenty of time to take pictures. And I must compliment Disney on their architecture. They did a great job of making it look like the real thing, in my opinion.

Disney Minaret (Epcot)
Not Koutoubia

Real Minaret (Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakesh)
Koutoubia Mosque

Real windows
Walking on Glass

Fake windows

Pretty close, I'd say.

We even got to meet Aladdin, Jasmine, and Genie, who, not surprisingly, found Morocco the most appropriate of the Epcot World Showcase countries to hang out in.

Dinner was kind of a disappointment. The chef was alleged to have worked for King Hassan II, and the food was just okay. The decor was very realistic, but the food was overpriced, and the service wasn't very good at all. It was still a fun dinner with the ten of us, and it was great to have that opportunity to have that much extended family all in one place.

We got back outside just in time to watch the big multimedia light/sound/fireworks/fire show in the world showcase lagoon. It was impressive, to say the least. Here's Ella, still small enough to watch the show from Andy's shoulders.
Ella at the End of the World

We said our goodbyes to the other Roths, and made our way back to the bus parking lot near the entrance.

This spot holds a special place for me. It was here on February 12, 1985 that the Owen J. Roberts High School Marching Unit spent maybe three hours hanging out in this parking lot due to the fact that the charter bus company only sent one of our four buses to pick the 130+ of us after our long day of travel from Pennsylvania, and hanging out at Epcot. How can that be fun, you ask? When you're 15 years old, and on vacation with a hundred of your closest friends in Florida in the middle of winter, even hanging out in a Disney parking lot is better than whatever you would've been doing back in Pennsylvania on a cold February Tuesday night.
Epcot  Bus Parking
Epcot Remote Bus Parking 2

Next up, Day 3: The Magic Kingdom
Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Land of the Mouse

In lieu of not being able to go to Spain for Christmas, we took advantage of some fortuitous coincidences, and made plans for a short trip to Orlando, to finally get the kids to Walt Disney World before they got too old for the magic not to work on them.

What were the aforementioned fortuitous coincidences, you ask? Well first, my youngest brother Andy and his family were already planning to be in Orlando at the same time as us. It also turns out that Jennifer's youngest brother Jonas and his girlfriend fiance Nellie Gilmore were also planning to come east from Lake Tahoe to check out WDW. And if that wasn't awesome enough, since Jonas and Nellie are both Hyatt employees, they offered to share with us their free rooms. What could be more wonderful?!

Friday night we flew from Raleigh-Durham to Orlando (with two carry-ons and a camera bag) and met Jonas and Nellie (for the first time ever) in the airport Hyatt, which is literally in the airport. We stayed there (for free) that night.

Saturday morning, we hired an SUV to take us over to the Hyatt Grand Regency, near the Disney property. We checked most of our gear with the bell boy or bell hop or porter or whatever you call him, and rode the free shuttle to Disney's Hollywood Studios.

This was the first trip to this park for all of us, and the first visit to Walt Disney World for Nellie, Tristan, and Zoe. So immediately after entering the park, we went to guest services to pick up first timer pins for those three.

As you can see, Tristan's arm was still in a cast and sling, so we were kind of curious about the things he'd be able to do at the various parks.

Our first attraction was the Toy Story ride/game

The kids were impressed, as this was the first serious theme park they'd ever been to, and up until this point were only familiar with rides at the North Carolina State Fair. Needless to say, the permanently-installed attractions of Disney are a much higher quality than those that are regularly assembled and staffed by carnies.

Right outside the Toy Story ride was an autograph and photo spot for Toy Story, including live-action Buzz and Woody. Tristan was a huge Toy Story fan as a younger kid, and had planned ahead by bringing a notepad and pen with him to get as many autographs as he could. He could not have been more excited to meet Buzz and Woody.
Buzz Tristan Woody

We hit a bunch of other stuff during the day, but most memorable was Tower of Terror. Tristan elected not to go on this, even though he would've been fine with his arm like it was. So Tristan and Jennifer did other stuff while Zoe, Nellie, Jonas, and I got in the long queue for the ride. (If you find yourself at Hollywood Studios, do yourself a favor and go right for the FastPass for this one.) Zoe was absolutely thrilled with this ride, complaining that it was too short, and wishing we could go again. It was pretty awesome.
Tower of Zoe

We had to split a little early since we had tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show over at Downtown Disney (formerly Disney Village.) We took the boat from the park over to the Boardwalk resort, and from there got the Disney transit shuttle to Downtown Disney. We hauled ass across the whole thing to get to the giant Cirque tent on the other side, arriving right at showtime.

The theater people over there were pretty clear about photography being a no-no, so not wanted to get chucked, I kept the camera in the bag. It's a shame, because the show was absolutely incredible. Words don't really do it justice, but in my opinion, it was the best show I've ever seen. . . of any kind. . . anywhere. Go see it.

After the show we wandered around Downtown Disney, eating dinner at a Disney-priced McDonald's, and checking out a few of the stores.

Not least of which was the Lego store
Another Lego Brick in the Wall

and the Harley Davidson store
Biker Chick

Making our way back to the shuttle stop, we took a bus to Swan and Dolphin where we gave up on Disney Transit and took a taxi back to our hotel.
Bus Go

We all shared a room Saturday night, with Tristan and Zoe sleeping on the floor, pretty warn out, but ready to see what Sunday held in store for them: Epcot.
Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bits, Random

It's been a long time since we've posted anything new here, and rather than waiting to do a proper write-up of everything I could possibly post here, I'm just going to make a Brunswick Stew of sorts with the events of the past few months.

Now, where was I. . .


It was our year to not travel to Pennsylvania at Christmas. We also did not travel to Barcelona like we had been planning, due mostly to government bureaucracy in Jennifer getting her automatic raise for the degree she completed five months prior. We did get a lot of sleep though, so that was nice.

And I finally replaced my Canon 40D DSLR that was stolen out of an Avis rental car at the Philadelphia International Airport. My new camera is a Canon 50D. It is choice.

With any new camera, it is my habit to make img_0001 a picture of the kids.


As you can see, Tristan has is right arm in a cast and a sling from when he broke it on the last day of school before the break (no pun intended). What you can't see are the four pins in his elbow and one in his wrist. So here are some X-rays!


Wrist, showing the drill putting the pin in place.
Wrist Fix

The rest of the vacation was not nearly as exciting as the beginning. We did the usual Christmas stuff; baking, concerts, church stuff, gifts, and parties.

Here's the New Years Eve party we went to at the home of some of our nameless friends, who may not want search engine results showing this picture.
Jeff and Jenn
(one of the people in the picture may or may not be a teacher, and teachers can sometimes be funny about their students seeing that they actually have a life outside of school)

We also made it back to Pilot Mountain State Park for a little wintertime hiking.
Pilot Mountain Pioneers

So that takes us up through mid-January.

Next installment: Florida!
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