“If you can dream it, you can destroy it for profit.” – Not Walt

A mere twinkle in Epcot's eye. Interestingly, no mention of building snowmen.

A mere twinkle in Epcot’s eye. Interestingly, no mention of building snowmen.

For the most part, I try and stay out of the fray – trying to refrain from being labeled either a duster (“everything’s magical!”) or a foamer (“I’ll hate anything you do, because you’re not Walt”). I’m the Switzerland of the Disney Online Community.

Until now.

Disney, you’ve gone one step too far. Shutting down a beloved classic to make way for last year’s hit, this pathetically last-minute move to try and keep current whilst simultaneously continuing the depressing erosion of the park’s original intent and glory? Fuck you.

Does Epcot need some love, attention, and fresh new attractions? YES. Is closing Maelstrom to make way for more Frozen regurgitation the answer? FUCK NO.

The exasperating thing is that not only has Disney decided to entirely ignore the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but they’ve decided to couple that ignorance with a new philosophy of “if it is broke, just leave it.”

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Maelstrom. Could it use a coat of paint? Maybe. Is it the most thrilling ride in the park? No. Does it need to be completely obliterated from existence? Hardly.

Maelstrom is one of only two rides in all of World Showcase. Meanwhile, Future World sits by ignored, outdated, with an entire pavilion shut down and used only for festivals as a glorified gift shop. Captain EO is shockingly still in existence and gets its own FP+ status, while Innoventions West turns into an even bigger and more abandoned character meet-n-greet, and the Wonders of Life pavilion sells booze three months out of the year. What about the Odyssey Center? Does Epcot really need a first aid center of that size? And what of all these “spaces” where additional pavilions could be created?

So many “broken” things, yet you choose to fuck with the functioning and beloved Maelstrom.

Why? Ah, yes. Frozen. A perfectly fine movie that I quite liked… until it started poking its carrot nose where it didn’t belong – in Norway.

What frustrates me even further is this feeling that Disney is in a panicked frenzy of trying to do anything to divert attention from Universal’s success with Diagon Alley. But why the frenzy; what 7-figure-earning exec did not see this coming? Did Disney genuinely believe that their roughly $2B investment in MyMagic+ would be enough of a draw to compete with Harry Potter? Are they now shocked that kids are more interested in picking out wands than using a bracelet to open a hotel room door? Or did Disney honestly underestimate Universal’s ability to knock HP out of the park? Were they utterly dumbfounded to see the numbers roll in, now so desperate to compete that they’re willing to photocopy their Frozen Get Out of Jail Free card over and over anywhere and everywhere – including Norway?

Look, no one is denying that Frozen will bring in the crowds and give Disney those numbers that it craves. But why Maelstrom??? Do something in the so-defunct-we-no-longer-care Hollywood Studios. Or just a few tweaks could turn Avatarland into Frozenland (what? Just paint everything blue and white. Done).

Picking Maelstrom because “Norway inspired the fictional land of Arendelle” is just plain lazy. For a company made famous by its groundbreaking artistic vision and genius, this is sad, cheap, money-grubbing, ignorant, and LAZY.

People are comparing this move to shoving Nemo into the Living Seas, or the Three Caballeros revamping Mexico’s Rio del Tiempo boat ride, or the oft-fantasized about Ratatouille ride making an appearance in the France pavilion.

A) Nemo at least takes place in the seas, and it wasn’t replacing any existing ride.
B) The current Caballeros film still takes place in the nonfictional Mexico.
C) Ratatouille takes place in the it’s-a-real-country France -– and it would be adding a much-needed ride to the World Showcase.

Are any of these moves a perfect creative and cohesive fit to the overall vision of Epcot? Not really. But if we’re assigning a letter grade to each of these decisions, I’d give Nemo a C+, Donald and friends a B-, and Ratatouille a B. Frozen in Norway? D-.

Frankly, the only way I could envision a true F would be if Disney decided to level Morocco in order to make room for its newest pavilion: Star Wars Land. Sadly, even then, you’d have idiots online applauding the move of “something fresh and new in Epcot!” and “I LOVE STAR WARS!!!!!!!!!!OHMYGODIWETMYSELF.”

Disney, stop letting these people steer your decisions. Your bottom line and artistic integrity are not mutually exclusive; stop selling out the latter to pad the former. You can have both. Or maybe you forgot the recipe that has established your multi-generational success:

Step 1: Imagineering Genius
Step 2: Pixie Dust
Step 3: Profit

For the love of Walt, stop shoe-horning in steps 2b and 2c: Whoring and Laziness.

January Trip Report Day Seven, Part 1: Battling Boats and Time Warps

Number of Pins traded for: ???
Number of Miles Walked: 6.83

Friday morning presented us with quite the quandary: Do we eat breakfast in our room from the foods we specifically packed to be our breakfast? Do we choose from any one of the umpteen leftovers that had made their way into our lair? Do we keep the stash intact and head to see what offerings the Concierge Lounge may have for us?

The dusting.

The dusting.

We went with the obvious option D: None of the Above. Why eat free, available food when you can pay money for it instead? #EconomicRegrowth #You’reWelcome

We missed the boat to the Magic Kingdom by mere seconds, which kept us even farther from eating breakfast. Once we finally arrived, we leisurely shopped our way down Main Street (but first: PIXIE DUST!!!!), ultimately making our way into Tomorrowland to use our FP+s on Space Mountain. After that, it was time for Operation: Find Food.

Obligatory Pixie Dusted Selfie

Obligatory Pixie Dusted Selfie

Obligatory Castle Picture.

Obligatory Castle Picture.

Pro-Tip for anyone looking for a good, quick service breakfast spot in the Magic Kingdom: Go back to your resort.

Cosmic Ray’s? Not open before 10:30. Cheshire Cat Café? Cake Cups are not breakfast. Liberty Square Market? I will throw your overpriced dried fruits at you. Columbia Harbor House? Not open before 10:30.

My Mother finally gave in to the Market’s trail mix and a piece of fruit. I opted to starve myself until lunch, thus providing some plausible rationale for consuming over 1000 calories during that meal (which, let’s face it, was likely to happen regardless of what I did or did not have for breakfast; such is the “Disney Diet Plan” according to Rhiannon).

We enjoyed the rest of our morning at the Magic Kingdom taking in the usual sights and attractions. I decided to use our FP+ for the Haunted Mansion as my first real opportunity to flex the power of my brand new camera while photographing dark rides. Behold THE POWER:

I missed my calling in life.

I missed my calling in life.

Can’t win ‘em all.

We meandered on, taking in the Country Bears and the Enchanted Tiki Room before I ultimately found my breakfast: a Citrus Swirl (so much for my Diet Plan). We debated whether or not we would have time to use our FP+ on Thunder Mountain and still able to make it to our lunchtime ADR at Trail’s End. I, of course, having impeccable time estimation skills, said we’d be fine. My Mother, ever on the realistic overly-cautious side, said we would not. I strong-armed the operation.

Is it just me, or is there a hidden tiki god in this picture?

Is it just me, or is there a hidden tiki god in this picture?

Look, in my defense, I did volunteer to sprint the final distance from Main Street Square to the docks to hold the boat for us. And, in my defense, I did arrive at the dock before the boat pushed off. It’s just, in no one’s defense, the captain decided to pretend not to see me, only acknowledging me after he’d pushed off. You’re not fooling anyone with that coy little smile and faux-apologetic shrug! YOU HAD THE POWER, AND YOU ABUSED IT.

So there we sat, waiting for the next boat to bring us to lunch. Of course, I’d purposely made our reservation for the very last lunch seating of the day, 1:50, in order to maximize our time at the Magic Kingdom. Never had it occurred to me that this tactic could really backfire in the event that we arrived late.

We waited… and waited…

A boat arrived!!! To go somewhere else…

And another!! To go to the same place, because clearly the empty line of people indicated a high demand for that location.

Finally, our boat arrived.

…And then we got to await a change of captains.

…And then we got to await ferry traffic.

As hunger and impatience consumed me, my guilt over eating a Citrus Swirl prior to lunch was starting to wane.

After what felt like a lifetime at sea, the Fort Wilderness dock was within view. And just in time for the rain to begin! I again volunteered to run to the restaurant, flailing my arms while screaming, “we’re here!!! We’re here!!! Don’t lock the doors and liquor cabinet!!!”

Okay, that’s not exactly what happened, but there was running involved. There was also a very confused expression on the face of the CM as I arrived at our destination, soaked, tired, hungry, and nervously asking, “are we too late???”

It was 1:56. We had exited Thunder Mountain at 1:25.

Walt Disney World really does do a great job at suspending reality.

Trail’s End had come highly recommended by folks claiming it to be some pretty authentic southern comfort food with portions enough to intimidate. Sadly, I can’t say I uphold the recommendation.

We were seated in the dining room, which had all the potential of being a no-frills down-home cookin’ spot: rather dated looking rustic fare sans flare. It walked that line of “we did this on purpose! Isn’t it quaint and country?!” to “yeah, we just haven’t gotten around to refurbing since 1987, but fuck it.”

Given my choice ADR time, there were only two other families in there as we were seated, and both were finishing up their desserts.

I had it in my mind to explore what their themed cocktail offerings may be, but one glance to the dark, abandoned bar area made me order a Blue Moon when asked what I wanted to drink. It was only sometime between courses that our waitress asked if we wanted another beer, “or maybe a cocktail?” Hmph.

All that running in the rain and lack of moonshine-based drinks gave me a craving for jalapeno poppers, so we opted to split those to start. The menu advertised these as, “Smoked Cheese-stuffed Jalapeños – wrapped in Country Bacon with Peach-Pepper Jelly $7.99.” These aren’t your local Chili’s poppers!

In case this was starting to sound exciting to you, allow me to be your little black rain cloud: $7.99 (plus tax) will buy you three jalapeno peppers, sliced in half, each with some variety of decidedly non-smoky cheese inside, then loosely wrapped in what appeared to be your average under-cooked grocery store bacon. But hey, the pepper jelly wasn’t bad!

I took this picture today, too. It doesn't suck THAT bad, right?

I took this picture today, too. It doesn’t suck THAT bad, right?

But seriously, if you’re going to lack quality, can you at least make up for it in quantity? I WAS HUNGRY.

Luckily, we also opted to try the oft-raved about cornbread. Unluckily, it was only okay. A little on the dry side, if you ask me. Maybe it was baked for folks dining earlier than 2:00 PM?

For our entrees, My Mother went with their fried catfish, which emerged so inundated with grease that it was largely inedible. I tried the pulled pork sandwich and potato fries. I ate almost all of it, but given my hunger level at this point, that doesn’t necessarily equal high praise.

It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t anything to write home about. An okay flavor to the pork, but a little on the dry side – made all that much drier by the pathetic teaspoon of BBQ sauce that was added to the sandwich (I ultimately asked for WAAAAAY more on the side, and was kindly obliged). Bun was on the staler side (is all of their bread only fresh until 1:00??). But fries were decent and plentiful.

We left full and ready to mosey on. But where to? We’d never been to Fort Wilderness before, and while I know we could’ve taken the boat back, it was raining, and we weren’t having that much luck with boats so far. We opted to stop in to their store, because stores. And while in there, we asked a CM about perchance finding a bus to the Wilderness Lodge.

“But of course!” she replied, and told us to aim for a horse pen or some such malarkey. All I know is, we passed a horse pen, yet still needed to consult another map before ultimately finding a bus stop for the intra-FW buses – none of which were claiming to go to WL.

But wait! Another map that showed a different bus stop – one that would take us to WL! So off we went, ultimately passing yet another horse pen before finally arriving at… um… nothing. A road. And a lot of forest. Good #theming, Fort Wilderness!

The rain had let up by now, and the gravity of butter, cheese, bacon, fries, and pork was starting to set in, so we figured, “screw it – we can just walk.” After all, I had seen some “trail” mentioned on a map back at the Wilderness Lodge that linked to Fort Wilderness. We couldn’t have been far off from that, right?

Wrong.

Hitchhiking at Fort Wilderness does not yield great results.

Hitchhiking at Fort Wilderness does not yield great results.

To this day, I don’t know where that trail was. All I know is we ended up on an unmarked, paved path that goes alongside a private road linking Fort Wilderness to the Wilderness Lodge (hey – our cabbie that day was on to something!). I don’t know how long we walked, but it felt like miles*. All through the central Floridian swamp. I felt a new found respect for Walt and his vision for The Florida Project – to see this endless expanse of trees and moss and mosquitoes and picture the Magic Kingdom – that was the real magic. Just when we’d almost given up hope and turned back, fearing we may end up on the evening news (“WDW tourists go missing; judging by the amount of food in their hotel room, we estimate it’s a party of 7”), we finally saw signs of civilization: an unmanned security booth! And with that, shoes soaked through to pruny toes, we’d found the back entrance to the Wilderness Lodge and ambled our way to its resplendent entrance. We were home.

*It was roughly 1 mile.

What can I say? That WDW – it’s a time and distance vortex.

At this point, sopping wet, shoes squeaking as we walked, full from lunch, there was only one obvious destination: The Concierge Lounge for afternoon snack time.

Kill, Refurb, Marry: Songs from Disney Animated Movies

Kill Refurb MarryWelcome to this month’s edition of This Happy Place Blog and Mouse on the Mind‘s spectromagical Kill, Refurb, Marry. This month’s theme is Songs from Disney Animated Movies. Seeing as my most-used Spotify playlist is DISNEY SONGS (yes, it’s in all caps), I was excited to play along. Let’s dive right in…

Kill

“I Got No Strings” from Pinocchio. DIE DIE DIE!!! Seriously. Just die. Die in a fire, die in a yacht crash, die from eating one too many double A batteries. I don’t care; I just want it gone. The song is as melodically soothing to me as listening to horses being tortured. And now it’s stuck in my head. Great. Let’s move on…

I'm in more pain listening to this than Pinocchio is from falling on his high-pitched face.

I’m in more pain listening to this than Pinocchio is from falling on his high-pitched face.

Refurb

“My Own Home” from the Jungle Book. For those of you not familiar, this is the hypnotic song that the little chick from the village (as opposed to Kaa the snake) is singing when Mowgli comes upon her at the river and falls instantly in love, deciding once and for all to abandon his animal friends and embrace humanity instead.

The problem here? The lyrics! Behold, here they are:

An eight-year-old temptress with no dreams.

An eight-year-old temptress with no dreams.

My own home, my own home
My own home, my own home

Father’s hunting in the forest
Mother’s cooking in the home
I must go to fetch the water
‘Til the day that I’m grown
‘Til I’m grown, ’til I’m grown
I must go to fetch the water
‘Til the day that I’m grown

Then I will have a handsome husband
And a daughter of my own
And I’ll send her to fetch the water
I’ll be cooking in the home
Then I’ll send her to fetch the water
I’ll be cooking in the home

I know Mowgli was raised by bears, so he doesn’t have the best basis for comparison, but I’m pretty sure even bear chicks have higher aspirations than this little girl. For fuck’s sake — society yells at Disney’s princesses for being anti-feminist abhorrent role models but let’s face it — they’ve got nothing on this broad.

And this is where my refurb comes in. Keep the same lulling tune, keep the love at first sight between eight-year-olds (ew), but let’s just change that message a little, shall we?

New lyrics:

My own home, my own home
My own home, my own home

Father’s cooking in the kitchen
Mother’s banking on Wall Street
I must go to the best prep school
‘Til I get to Harvard Law
‘Til Harvard Law, ’til Harvard Law
I must go to the best prep school
‘Til I get to Harvard Law

Then I will have a fancy degree
And a business of my own
And I’ll pay help to fetch the water
I’ll be floating in my pool
And I’ll pay help to fetch the water
I’ll be floating in my pool

Marry

I'm usually in a world of my own.

I’m usually in a world of my own.

This was the hardest category for me, as I would gladly marry at least 67 different Disney songs. My gut reaction is to go with Alice’s “In a World of My Own,” as I’ve been obsessed with it for decades, know it inside and out, and even at 31, it pretty aptly describes what’s going through my head at any given moment. Cats and rabbits should most definitely reside in fancy little houses. And if my cats would let me, they’d have shoes, hats, and many trousers.

However, I decided to take this opportunity to spotlight one of my other very favourite Disney songs — the lesser known, “I’ll Try” from Peter Pan 2: Return to Neverland. Have I seen it? No, I have not. Do I want to? No, I do not. I have a strict policy against straight-to-DVD movies: not to be graced by my eyeballs. Nevertheless, this song appears on some “Best of Disney” CD that I was once given by my sister, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

A movie I have never seen.

A movie I have never seen.

Actually, I started listening to it right around the time I had to evacuate New Orleans after Katrina (and was then unable to move back due to umpteen circumstances). Not going to lie — there were many nights, alone in a bubble bath, a bottle of wine, and me hysterically crying as I sang along to this song, with its lyrics like:

My whole world is changing
I don’t know where to turn
I can’t leave you waiting
But I can’t stay
And watch this city burn
Watch it burn

I’ll just go ahead and leave you with that mascara-stained visual and call this post done!

January Trip Report Day Six, Part Two: Tiaras and Courvoisier

I'm going to eat ALL the animals.

I’m going to eat ALL the animals.

When last we left our heroes, they had been mysteriously upgraded to Concierge Level at the Wilderness Lodge and were sitting in their one-bedroom suite, dumbstruck and taking obligatory pictures of the free chocolates.

After waiting a bit longer for our 27 bags of food to make their way from bell services to our remote room, we took a few moments to unpack and settle in before embarking upon our next great adventure: a quick trip into the Magic Kingdom for the sole purpose of eating lunch at Be Our Guest!

(Why do I feel like my approval rating just went down?)

Look, I know BOG gets a bad rap because of their allegedly heinous dinner service, but lunch is good! Really good! And due to scheduling woes, if I wanted to show My Mother the inside of Beast’s castle (and I did!), this was our only real window of opportunity. So by noon, we were headed over to the Magic Kingdom, begrudgingly ignoring all of its other temptations, and instead heading straight to the back of the park for lunch. Thank goodness, too, because all that time spent transferring food and then plotting about how to be at the Club Lounge as often as possible to get more food really left me hungry.

Okay, we did have time to stop for a picture. Status update: still wet and cold.

Okay, we did have time to stop for a picture. Status update: still wet and cold.

My hunger turned to hanger as soon as we arrived at the castle and saw the hour long fucking line. Of course.

It was a rookie mistake to show up to the least recommended park at noon and hope to waltz into BOG. But you know what?? I don’t care, and I’d do it again. And for those wondering, yes, My Mother also agreed that the lunch was very tasty, fresh, and a pretty good serving size, too. So there, haters!

After lunch, we exited MK as directly as we came in and headed on over via monorail to our real destination park for the day: Epcot.

Because kale.

Because kale.

The crowd level difference was obvious. To anyone still holding out on listening to/planning around crowd calendars, you may want to rethink your stance. With Epcot listed as the “Most Recommended” park that day, we were roaming freely and quickly. After our FP+ at Soarin’, we hardly “needed” our FP+ at Living with the Land, but we used it anyway. Just to be obnoxious. #ClubLevelStatus

Sadly (or not?), our next stop was to Mouse Gear to buy sweatshirts because it was still fucking freezing outside and raining. But it’s like Disney was just as shocked as we were that the temperature dropped below 75 degrees, because the options for a real, thick sweatshirt or jacket were few and far between. I ended up with a hoodie that still required being paired with at least three other layers of clothing, one of which being an unbreathing, plastic poncho.

Guess what: still wet and cold. Now with sweatshirts.

Guess what: still wet and cold. Now with sweatshirts.

After making and donning our purchases, we braved the cold for 20 feet to head into Innoventions East to ride Sum of All Thrills for the first time ever. I was pretty excited, though admittedly skeptical. How could rolling around in a simulator thingy really make me feel like I was moving quickly? Does it also blow wind in your face?

The answer is: science? I don’t know. There was no wind blowing, but I definitely felt like I was on a coaster. My favourite part was going upsidedown. I recommend going upsidedown a lot.

My least favourite part? That panic-inducing moment when they close the contraption over your head and you suddenly feel like you’re in a really futuristic coffin. Have I mentioned that I’m pretty fucking claustrophobic? I managed to breathe through the rising inclination to claw my way out; I also reasoned with myself that vomiting in this small of quarters would not be a pleasant experience. Luckily, the “ride” starts up quickly, and the imagery and sensations of being on a real roller coaster were enough to distract me from screaming bloody murder.

Final verdict? HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

We emerged (admittedly a little weak-legged) outside, only to realize that our new sweatshirts weren’t going to be enough to keep us warm; it was time to start drinking. And so we headed to the Rose and Crown for refreshments. We were able to snag a table in the otherwise crowded bar area and sat for awhile enjoying both our drinks and the hat lady (what are we calling her now?). We watched around us as able bodied people repeatedly swooped in on tables as soon as they emptied, leaving this one sad and frail looking elderly couple stricken with exasperation. As we were ready to leave, My Mother physically blocked the vultures and ushered this weary couple to our table. My Mother loves the elderly.

We do not know this child. Yes, we're creepy.

We do not know this child. Yes, we’re creepy.

We decided to back track and stroll clockwise around World Showcase. I got to introduce My Mother to Two Tipsy Ducks in Love, which she loved, obviously, because she is a human being with functioning taste buds.

Once in Germany, I made the long-overdue adult decision that it may be time to retire my Minnie Mouse ears. Why? Because I needed a fucking tiara like I need sriracha and democracy. I hemmed and hawed for literally about 30 minutes in that shop, trying on every tiara at least twice, agonizing over this life-altering decision. Finally, finally, I picked out my new signature accessory. And you know what? BEST PURCHASE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. And that includes discounted bottles of Woodford and my cat.

Wait, I take that back. My cat probably wins. But what if we put the tiara on him?!?! Best of both worlds.

I'm starting a "Caption That" contest for this photo.

I’m starting a “Caption That” contest for this photo.

By now, I’d wasted so much precious time waffling over rhinestones that we were running late for our ADR at Les Chefs de France, so we high-tailed it in that direction with no time to explore the other pavilions in between.

Quick pause for a question: So, before the upstairs French restaurant was called Senor Paul’s, it was called Le Bistro de Paris. And the downstairs was/is called Les Chefs de France. Yet the upstairs was/is way fancier than the downstairs. So why the hell was the upstairs ever called a “bistro”? Now, I’m no French scholar, so I’ll defer to my resident expert, Wikipedia, who defines a bistro as, “a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting.” It even states that the origin of the bistro concept “likely developed out of the basement kitchens of Parisian apartments where tenants paid for both room and board.”

So what does any of that have to do with an up-scale, 5 star, white linen table clothed, second floor restaurant? Why not call Chefs de France a bistro? I demand answers. Or, you know, they’ve already changed the name, so what’s in the past ought to stay there just like mini-backpacks and the majority of my 20s.

Moving on…

We arrived a mere five minutes late for our 7:30 ADR and were told to wait and have a seat. Luckily the jog over warmed us slightly, so we didn’t mind having to wait outside. But you know who did mind waiting outside? Mrs. WayMoreImportantThanYou and her party of nine who kept complaining to the hostess that they had an ADR for 7:30, and they could not for the life of them understand why the fuck other parties were being seated ahead of them.

Allow me, demure little French hostess, to respond for you.

This is what my tiara looks like in French lighting.

This is what my tiara looks like in French lighting.

A) It’s 7:36, six minutes past your ADR. Try dining at the Yachtsman sometime if you want to know what a real wait is.
B) You’re a mutherfucking party of nine. You’re lucky we’re even willing to move tables together to seat you all.
C) Those people being seated ahead of you had ADRs too. For 7:15.
D) Now sit your ass down, you self-entitled American stereotype.

When we were seated a few minutes later, I’m happy to report that she was still fuming outside, completely baffled by this grave injustice. It’s a small miracle she found eight other people willing to break bread with her.

Dinner was… okay. This is my second time dining at Les Chefs, and both have been… good. What more can I say? It’s loud. I think it’s a little overpriced for what it is (but then again, this is Disney we’re talking about, so I’ll just go ahead and slap myself for thinking otherwise). It’s decent food, but nothing that had me wishing there were more room in the minifridge back at the hotel to stash leftovers. (Incidentally, we actually did bring leftovers home with us; we opted to each do the prix fixe three course menu, and neither of us had room for our crème brulee by the end of the meal. That, or our hoarding instincts kicked in and required us to bring some kind of food back to our nest).

So much awesome.

So much awesome.

Apres dinner, while we were timed just right to view Illuminations, we shiveringly decided to head back to the warmth of the Wilderness Lodge. I know, I know, consciously making the decision to skip Illuminations is sacrilege, but we had concierge lounge access. And only until 10:00 PM, at that. So we beat the unwashed masses back to the busses and made our way home, straight up to the seventh floor for some Courvoisier and all you could eat free Magic Bars (is Jamie reading this? Jamie should probably know about this), all with a sky-high view of the tail end of the Electric Water Pageant.

I dare you to be more baller.

This is what my tiara looks like with free Courvoisier.

This is what my tiara looks like with free Courvoisier.

January Trip Report Day Six, Part 1: Dreams really do come true

Number of Miles Walked: 7.71
Number of Pins Traded for: 15

Thursday morning ushered in the first actual morning of our vacation with our work days officially behind us. So what better way to kick off the relaxing long weekend? Why, waking up at 6:30 AM after only five hours of sleep, of course! Hangover? What hangover?? I was likely still drunk.

I didn’t mean to be awake that early, but like a kid on Christmas morning, I was too pumped to sleep. However, the early rise wasn’t entirely in vain, because we did need to pack up our crap. WE WERE MOVING! — from the Boardwalk to the Wilderness Lodge, our new home for the next five nights.

I’m somewhat of a packing aficionado, or at least, I like to think so. Being a seasoned traveler means you have that shit down to a routine. From start to finish, it probably took me about 15 minutes to get dressed, groomed, and have all clothes, toiletries, shoes, and pins packed up and ready. If my stay at the Boardwalk were a relationship, I had one foot out the door at all times.

Check out what I found on a CM lanyard: all the way from Japan!

Check out what I found on a CM lanyard: all the way from Japan!

Why, then, did it take a full hour beyond that to finally vacate the premises? What, praytell, could’ve been so plentiful and cumbersome to pack other than hundreds of pins? Oh yeah. MOUNT FOODIOUS. Sadly, this is not a new travel conundrum for us. My grandmother is so infamous that the local Fort Myers food bank knows her by name thanks to her generous donations after each of her annual Captiva vacations. My parents returning home after a month in the Adirondacks can sometimes mean taking a second car to schlep the amount of food accumulated.

And now, with just the two of us, minimal bags, no cooler, and only a taxi to shuttle us, we had to make some hard decisions.

In the end, the decision made was to figure out a way to carry it all. That’s our motto, damnit: NO FOOD LEFT BEHIND.

The walk from our room to the Boardwalk cab stand felt like walking from Biergarten to the Epcot bus stops after one too many tankards. Also, like, if you were carrying half the buffet with you.

But we managed to get there, got us a minivan cab (no, I’m not making a joke here), and told the driver to head to the Wilderness Lodge, post haste, before the perishables start to get sad!

Full disclosure: I’ve only been to the Wilderness Lodge a few times, and only one of those times was I driving myself. So it took me a little longer than it should’ve to realize that the cabbie was headed in the wrong direction. But I’m not the kind of person to start barking orders at people and assuming I know how to do their jobs better than they do, so I kept quiet, assuming he knew some magical backstage shortcut.

No, no shortcut, he just ended up trying to deliver us to Fort Wilderness.

“Um, we said Wilderness Lodge; this is Fort Wilderness,” I piped up.

“Oh, okay,” he replies, as if I had asked, “can you pull a little closer to the curb?”

Dude, you took us to the wrong resort.

Next thing you know, he is trying to take some backstage shortcut between the two properties. At this point, fed up and worried about my room temperature rib eye, I did speak up and said, “sir, I’m pretty sure you can’t go that way.”

“No, no – it connects to the Wilderness Lodge!”

“Um, yeah, for authorized vehicles. Not cabs.”

I was promptly ignored, and several minutes later, sure enough, he’s being ordered by Disney security to turn around and exit the resort like all other non-Disney vehicles. I would’ve said, “I TOLD YOU SO,” but I didn’t want to next be dropped off at the Contemporary, so I kept my mouth shut. By the time we finally arrived at the Wilderness Lodge, there were no apologies nor offers to deduct a certain amount from the meter. I sure hope he wasn’t expecting a tip.

By now, my still-drunkenness had most certainly turned into a full-fledged hangover, and I was feeling the effects of only getting 5.5 hours of sleep. If one more obstacle presented itself between me and my room… watch out, fuckers.

After emptying ourselves and our 27 bags of food out of the cab, we stood at the entrance to the Wilderness Lodge and were approached by one of the iPad-handed CMs to begin the check-in process. After I gave her my name, her response was, “alright – just leave your bags with bell services here, and follow me.” Uhhh… why???

I tried to protest, “No, that’s okay -– I already checked in online in advance. And we have our MagicBands. We’re all set!”

“No, ma’am, you still need to come with me. You can leave your bags here -– we’ll deliver them to your room.”

I was starting to get nervous. What was wrong? Why is she being so adamant that we abandon our belongings? Was I on a watch list? Was this gingerbread-related??? What was going on here?!

We need one of these in our mountain lodge.

We need one of these in our mountain lodge.

Finally, she uttered a sentence that rendered me speechless and stunned:

“All check-ins for Club Level are handled upstairs. Follow me, and I’ll take you up there.”

Club level?!?!

What Blue Fairy/Genie/Ursula/Dr. Facilier had finally heard my prayers?!?!

From there on out, my hangover had magically been cured, and I happily kept my mouth shut.

We were led up to the card-key-access-only seventh floor of the Wilderness Lodge, their Concierge Level. After taking in the views looking down upon the grand lobby, we were checked-in* and given the grand tour of the Old Faithful Club with its free food and drink offerings throughout the day. Yes, that’s just what we needed! More food!!!!

But when are we supposed to go to the parks?

But when are we supposed to go to the parks?

*This actually took a little while to sort out. Lesson learned: if you’re doing a resort swap, make sure you actually check out of the first one and/or do not attempt to check in to your second one until after 11:00 AM. Apparently, Disney does not want the same person checked in to two resorts simultaneously. Which, when you think about it, is a little odd. I mean, I could totally envision a scenario in which I win the lottery and then decide to book myself rooms at the Poly, the Beach Club, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge all for the same week so that I’m given stumbling distance options depending on where my mood takes me. It could happen! I shall keep praying to Ursula.

Oddly enough, our room wasn’t actually on the Club Level. Rather, it was a “Club Level” room on the first floor. Now, I’m going to state the following, but please know that I’m not complaining! There is absolutely nothing I could complain about regarding any of this situation. But, just as an observation: damn, was our room far away from that lounge. Please refer to exhibit A. Note that this exhibit was not made public during the time due to certain individuals threatening to hang out in bushes and peer in windows (you know who you are).

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Meanwhile, it was plain as day why this room was still considered Club Level. We had a one bedroom corner suite with a terrace staring out onto Bay Lake. It was also so close to the pool that I could’ve yelled my drink order to the pool bar and they’d have heard me. (Come to think of it, I probably could’ve done that from our room at the Boardwalk, but that clown. Ugh).

Our lovely suite and its circular floor plan.

Our lovely suite and its circular floor plan.

Our lovely view.  On a lovely rainy day.

Our lovely view. On a lovely rainy day.

Stay tuned for part two of this trip report. Cliffhanger: How long before I’m asked to stop yelling at the pool bar???

January Trip Report Day Five: ALL THE MEAT

January 29, 2014
Miles walked: 5.18
Pins traded for: 2

Today started out looking pretty dismal: thanks to work actually expecting me to work (weird?), I never once left the hotel room until “5:00” (read: 4:15, but fuck it).

Brrrr.

Brrrr.

My Mother also freed herself from work obligations about then, and despite the rain and 43 degree temperature (WTF, “Florida”?!?!), we headed for a quick jaunt into the Magic Kingdom before our 7:50PM ADR at my personal temptress, the Yachtsman.

(Wait, if the Yachtsman is a man, then would the correct term be “tempter”? “Tempterer”? “Lead role in fantasy where I whisper sweet nothings into the ears of steaks, realize they have no ears, and then eat everything in sight while moaning erotically”? Whichever.)

Meanwhile, back at the Magic Kingdom and meat-free for the moment, I looked at my watch (not my MagicBand, as that does not tell time, no matter how often you glance at it expecting to see otherwise) and saw the hour turn to 5:00PM: I was officially on vacation!!!!! This was a cause worthy of celebration and running through the streets with joy!

Wet partners.

Wet partners.

And running through the Magic Kingdom I could’ve. You know what a Thursday in January with an EasyWDW.com crowd calendar rating of 1, combined with rain and 43 degree weather results in? A most wonderfully deserted theme park. We used our FP+ for Space Mountain, and then walked right on to Buzz Lightyear, Pooh, It’s a Small World, and Pirates – mix in our other two FP+ for Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan, and we’d hit up almost all of my favourite attractions in less than 1.5 hours.

Feels crowded

Feels crowded

We would’ve done even more, but it was time to head back to the buses in order to have enough time to shed our soaking wet clothes (and that was with both ponchos and an umbrella, thank you very much) and get into something more appropriate for dinner.

I was trying to argue that we were allotting way too much time to Waiting For A Bus and should instead exit slowly through the Emporium to pin trade (do you know how hard it is to stalk outdoor CMs for pin trading purposes when they’re wearing coats?! It’s like they care more about their own comfort than my ability pillage their pins. Inexcusable), but I was overruled.

And wouldn’t you know it, we stood in the cold for a good 30 minutes waiting for a bus to the Boardwalk. Hell, we saw four buses come and go for the All Stars in the time it took one bus to arrive for us. Is that any way to treat Deluxe guests?! I’m composing my indignant, rage-filled entitlement letter to management right now.

Some longer-than-anticipated period of time later, we finally arrived back at the hotel with barely enough time to find dry clothes, let alone take a whack at blow-drying. And, as I don’t associate 43 degree weather with “Florida,” the outfit I had packed for this dinner was a short, sleeveless dress and jellies. I’d say “FML,” but I was about to be eating at the Yachtsman, so I’m assuming that I don’t deserve all that much sympathy here? Maybe?

We took off on foot to speedwalk our way to the Yachtsman in order to meet up with my aunt and eight other coworkers of hers and my mother’s. In exchange for the use of my Tables in Wonderland discount, I was getting a free meal expensed to their company. (I feel your well of sympathy starting to reach drought status.)

Meanwhile, my aunt and the others had never been to the Yachtsman before, so part of my day stuck in the hotel, between work nags, was spent on hand-drawing maps of Crescent Lake and the Yacht Club Resort (incidentally, this was the exact same thing My Mother was doing at the convention — though she had the assistance of a white board for her renderings). Given no other aid in finding the restaurant, it was a real toss up of whether or not my aunt and crew would even be there when we arrived, five minutes late.

Seems accurate, yes?

Seems accurate, yes?

Huzzah! They had made it and checked us in! All present and accounted for for our 7:50 ADR. What’s this? Oh, they’re not entirely ready for us? No problem – I enjoy drinking at Crew’s Cup. And so we headed there, me and a bunch of Frenchmen, because that’s how I roll. No, really – half of our party were dudes from the company’s French office. Because that’s how they roll.

There was a bit of a language barrier; “Tables in Wonderland discount” and “Annual Passholder” weren’t translating all that easily. Each time I asked if they understood, my favourite and Frenchiest of the bunch, Francois, would reply, “yes.” After awhile, the one who spoke the best English finally confessed that Francois did not understand and is just going to reply “yes” to anything I said. Give me another Manhattan, rewind the clock to 2007, and I’d be breaking out the only French I know: “Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”

Luckily for My Mother’s ability to show her face at work the next day, it was 2014, and I’m a spoken-for lady.

Well, at least two out of three of those descriptors are true.

Interestingly, the Frenchmen were in utter disbelief that I didn’t speak French. I’m not sure why they’d assume that all Americans spoke French as a second language, but they did. So much so that they started speaking to me in French, assuming I’d know what they were saying because I’d clearly been playing a practical joke on them this entire time by “pretending” not to understand them. Silly Frenchies.

After one round of drinks, still wet and cold and at this point ravenously hungry, I went to check on the progress with the ADR. Nope, still waiting. Time for round two. And then another check on the progress. Still not ready. At this point, we’d been waiting over an hour. Luckily, we had in our party a man far more assertive than myself. He ascertained that there was, indeed, a screw-up with our ADR, and he made sure to speak to someone in charge. We were eventually seated at about 9:30 and told that dessert was on the house.

NOW LET THE FEEDING FRENZY BEGIN.

For reasons that I don’t entirely remember (perhaps because by that time I was already on my third cocktail and a severely empty stomach or because this was five months ago now and I didn’t take very good notes), we didn’t seem to get appetizers until 10:07PM. Hell, the bread service didn’t even appear on our table until 9:50. By now, the offer for free desserts would’ve probably best been altered to “free breakfast,” as that would be more in line with the timing of events thus far.

All I have to say is, crazily enough… it was all worth the wait. Holy. Fuck.

I bow to thee.

I bow to thee.

I mean, first of all, when the bread (which was apparently baked just for us, at least I’m assuming so based on how long it took to arrive) is served with roasted garlic on the side… I give in. You win. I’ll do whatever you want. You own me. And then there was my charcuterie board that had me high-fiving each individual piece of meat before I ate them because I wanted to properly celebrate their awesomeness.

MEATASTIC!

MEATASTIC!

Sadly, I don’t think My Mother was having quite the same bromance with her meal, but that’s probably because she doesn’t eat red meat. I would assume, if any place were going to turn a (semi-)vegetarian into a meat lover, the Yachtsman would have that power. But alas, My Mother was not looking to find Meat Jesus that night, and instead asked the chef what he could whip up for a vegetarian (he was already at our table to talk to a gluten-phobic member of our party). I guess he missed the memo that she also loves seafood and chicken, because they next thing you know, she’s being served what’s probably the world’s most expensive pasta dish with steamed vegetables. I guess the chef is a one trick meat-centric pony?

Regardless, my ribeye was to die for. Perfectly cooked (nice and rare!), juicy, full of flavor. Then again, it’s hard to go wrong with any dish that comes with a side of bone marrow. And bleu cheese butter?! Throw some bacon on that shit, and you’ve got heaven (or a heart attack. But that could lead to heaven, depending on your religious beliefs?). I had been tempted to order the 28oz porterhouse, but I wimped out. Also, it didn’t come with marrow. However, the skinniest dude at our table did order it, and he practically licked the bone clean. It’s always the ones you least expect…

Meanwhile, I may have gotten a smidge carried away with the bread, garlic, the dude next to me’s truffle fries, and my charcuterie, because there was no way I was finishing my meal. Or touching that “free” pumpkin cheesecake that somehow made its way in front of me somewhere around the near-witching hour of 11 o’clock. No matter – that’s what mini-fridges are for! And as you know if you’ve been following our journey from the beginning, we most certainly needed more food in our room.*

*This is blatant sarcasm. Just thought I’d help you out in case you weren’t keeping up.

Random picture of balloons to break up the wall of text.

Random picture of balloons to break up the wall of text.

I had been curious all along to see what a tab for a party of 11 at the Yachtsman plus cocktails and non-shitty wine choices would come to, but when we finally got the bill at 11:30PM, I was way too drunk tired to remember that I cared. So your guess is as good as mine. I’m going to go with “a lot.” In fact, I’m pretty sure my 20% TiW discount more than paid for my share of food and drink. Which is why I snagged the rest of one of the bottles of wine we’d ordered. What?! No one else was calling dibs on it, and it goes against my religious beliefs to waste alcohol.

The healthiest course of action right about now would’ve been to roll one’s self home and pass the eff out, but oh no. We had obligations elsewhere. My mother and aunt’s boss was expecting the group to join him at Kimono’s for karaoke and drinks. “More drinks?!” Yes, more drinks. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could fit the sheer volume of liquid inside of me at this point, but I was peer pressured to give it a go.

I ended up with a cocktail that boasted lemon-infused ice. While I envisioned ice cubes delicately concocted of lemon juice, what I ended up with was a high ball glass (and teeth) full of lemon zest as my drink melted. It felt like I had just eaten corn on the cob, but with better breath afterward. Good concept; poorly executed.

After a few painful renditions of European tourists butchering Disney classics, I tried to call it a night, but I was talked into staying a bit longer because one of the coworkers was to be going up to the mic next. Well, I’m glad I stuck around. Why? Because dude was a former professional opera singer. Nothing seems to command the attention of a bunch of drunk convention-goes like someone not assaulting your eardrums with their take on “Piano Man.”

However, even melodic genius couldn’t keep me awake, so around 1:30AM after song #3, I bid my adieu to everyone and the French and hoofed it back to the Boardwalk alone with my doggie bag of steak, cheesecake, and half bottle of merlot. My Mother stayed out for another round; she’s far cooler than I am.

I believe when she ultimately returned, I was found asleep on the pull out couch, cuddling a now empty bottle of wine. I may not be cool, but I do know how to warm up.

He watches you sleep.

He watches you sleep.

I can’t.

Insert your own meme here.

In this case, what I’m “I can’t”ing about is trying to figure out a way to have a fun, relaxing, enjoyable weekend with Mark in WDW on a budget of $17.35 and given approximately 32 hours total.

Let’s take a closer look at the tangled web of crap that floats through my brain, shall we?

(Click to enlarge.)

Flowchart

Le sigh. I suppose I just won’t be able to get to Disney that weekend, and will instead have to wait… Wait and wait and wait…

Waiting two, whole, agonizing weeks until my trip with @WonderlandNerds.

Oh, did I not mention that? My bad.