Thursday, October 25, 2012

Food, Alcohol, and a Few Attractions

If there is one thing that the folks at Disney can entice their adult guests to accomplish, it's this : 1) Get as stuffed as possible, and 2) Get as drunk as possible. Although the advancement of ride technology and learning is apart of EPCOT, I think I will fall back on my first statement. Even though the event is later in the trip, this park is the setting of  EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival. We had ourselves armed with our dining plan snack credits and a taste for a few adult beverages.

There is food everywhere here! You can even learn about it! They tell you where it grew, how long it took them to grow it, and even where you can eat the food! It is true The Land pavilion exists to tell all who enter that preserving the planet is important for all, but in the end we still have to eat.

Eric enjoying his crop inspired cruise.

Rey and Brandi are getting even more hungry!

Throughout the course of our trip we must have ridden Living with the Land at least four times. I think everyone was a fan. Was it just chance that we all enjoy our food too? After our trip down the canals of interior farmland, we had a huge appetite. The first country we would hit has margaritas and food....Mexico!

Thanks to the magic of iPhone 5 technology, I give you our panoramic shot at La Cava de Tequila. That is the name of the bar inside the Mexico pavilion. One fun fact about this shot is we didn't have help from a sixth person. After the humid air outside the temple, this was just the drink to cool us down. We would soon chow down on a Mexican dish, but we couldn't help noticing that guests received a discount on shots if you were following the bar's Twitter account. Well it just so happened we already had done just that! The result was being treated to $5.00 shots from Ricky!
I love the interior of this place so I threw in another shot!

We decided on the water front food location outside of the temple. Our Disney Dining Plan was going to be stretched to the limit! The dish I chose was Cheese Empanadas (type of fried quesadilla) w/chips and Churritos for dessert. The other dessert option was a type of frozen fruit bar so we all ordered the Churritos. Some locations don't have enough dessert options. I would like to see at least three options. As you can see in the photo, we all had our Churritos. They were tasty!

Churritos came with a dipping sauce. Dipping is fun!

If you haven't been to EPCOT you must know that walking is something you can't avoid. To get an idea of just the size, The Magic Kingdom can fit in the parking lot. With all that walking, all this food is needed. Something also needed are hats! To fit in with Ricky and his Perry hat, Eric and I had to get shopping!



I can't say that I have ever joined in with the rest of the vacationers and bought a silly hat. Sure, this one isn't big and purple, but it was the most obnoxious one I was going to buy. And who knows? I may wear it on July 4th and the one after that!

Now, it seems for this day I lacked to take a lot of food photos. We weren't "falling down drunks" but the excitement must have put my head elsewhere. We did have a nice drink that evening in France. It was a Grey Goose, orange liqueur, Grand Marnier concoction that we all loved. To me, it tasted like a 50/50 bar! There are a few shots with that drink during another day of this trip.

As we drank around the World Showcase, we had two more friends arriving back at the hotel. It would be their first time to the resort. Would they get lost or stay at the hotel? I can report that as we closed down the park, the two of them went to Downtown Disney twice! What troopers!

iPhone 5 shot of Space Ship Earth

Does anyone reading this have a favorite lounging area in EPCOT? I believe ours became Mexico, for obvious reasons. Or maybe you have a favorite place to eat at the park? Please share in the comments below.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hogwarts in Los Angeles and Mormons Knocking on Your Doors

Taking the 10 Freeway to Whimsic Alley, we pass Downtown LA

What a Sunday it was! We headed an hour North to the Los Angeles area to see the Broadway hit, and Best Musical winner of 2011, Book of Mormon. Since we already were to be headed in the direction of The Pantages Theater, Eric wanted to stop by a store called Whimsic Alley. This location carries all items relating to Harry Potter. It is very near the LA County Museum of Art and La Brea Tar Pits. All photos today are brought to you by my iPhone5. (hope they aren't too blurry)

The store was in an older LA building that had a hint of art deco style. The sidewalk was quiet and it almost made the store look closed, but luckily that impression was wrong. This store really had an explosion of everything Potter! The interior makes it look as though the customer is walking down Diagon Alley from the books. The store facades are on either side of you as you enter. There is the book sore, candy sore, hat shop, and robe shop. The names are generic names for copyright purposes I imagine.

Just take a look at this Luna Lovegood costume. Yes, the Lion cap isn't exactly as it is in the film, but you can get the idea of who she is. I love Luna because she is from the same house I was "sorted" into on the site, Ravenclaw. I didn't think the Quidditch robes, shown above, were authentic but were definitely a nice quality. If I didn't already have a Halloween costume I definitely would have made a purchase of that Ravenclaw (blue) costume here, even the goggles!

I got so into browsing that I lost track of Eric for a bit. As mentioned, since it is divided as though the sections are their own store, it's easy to get lost. Once I found Eric he was in the wand shop. They had a huge selection of wands in there. There were also wands made from other companies around the country. Eric really was hoping to find a wand stand for the ones he has purchased at the Wizarding World in Orlando, Florida. They didn't have quite what he was looking for in the stands.

For birthday parties they have a small replica of the great Hall.

Hermione's purse

If someone can't quite make it to the East coast, but is from the LA area, this is a good alternative for now. There obviously aren't any attractions, but everyone there seemed to enjoy themselves. I still witnessed customers who were all excited about the robes, scarves, wands, and books they found. I think this is a place we will have to return if we want to browse or show fellow Harry Potter fans.

Blurry, but it shows how each section is its own "store".

My favorite colors. Blue for Ravenclaw!
After Eric and I made our purchases (he bought a Hufflepuff sweater and I a Ravenclaw beanie), we decided it was time to head to Hollywood for the show. It was going to be quite the gathering of pals and acquaintances, thanks to our friend Ricky. Besides his co-workers and family, we would see our friends Josh, Natalie, and Daniel.

All were very excited for the show! I didn't really know what to expect from the musical. I knew that since the creators of South park were behind this it was sure to be hilarious. Ricky had already seen this show three times, so we knew it had to be good! I don't know if any of you have been to this theater, but it is very immaculate on the inside. This theater has a little sentimental value for Eric and I because it is where I took Eric on our first date back in 2002. We saw The Lion King. But, this day we were here for some new memories and laughs with our friends.

Eric and Natalie

It is always an exciting moment for us when it is time to head into the theater. I don't want to sound too "cheesy" but it's a place where many things can happen. In fact, anything can happen on the stage. I also love knowing how excited the performers must be, and how hard they all worked for the show to come together. Then, we are all there to give them instant gratification! Anyway, enough on my feelings about theater.

Pantages Lobby

It certainly is hard to walk into this glorious lobby and not have the feelings I just spoke about. You know you are about to see something we thought.

Let me explain what happened to us. It just so happened that our seats were right behind a man that was as big as a gorilla. I wouldn't really say he was just plain fat. He was a gentlemen of size all around (think John Goodman). He was tall, wide, and had huge hair. He was blocking Eric's seat 100%. I had Eric switch with me because I just knew Eric wouldn't be able to get around those shoulders and head at all. I watched the first half of the show behind this guy and missed some jokes. I know there were facial expressions and gestures I wasn't able to see. It sounded funny.

The lyrics were smart and the actors were great. The show laid out what the Church of Latter Day Saints is all about. I think it was up to the audience member to decide if the belief system was funny. As the spectator, you either feel it's funny to hear The Garden of Eden was actually in the USA, or you get offended because you believe it actually was in the USA.

Here is the view we had to work with. At intermission Eric switched seats with me and he dealt with "the head". It is the next day as I type this and our necks still hurt. We aren't trying to be "whiners" but it really wasn't what we had looked forward to all that time. Luckily it's an isolated incident that doesn't happen for every theater experience. The content of the show was still fun. We would like to one day see it again without dealing with "Fred Flinstone" blocking our view.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Disney World Food, Fast Pass Woes, and a Flight Through Space

Arriving at the airport one starts to ask himself, "Do I want to sleep the rest of the day or get going to the parks?" In the past we have slept a few hours after an overnight flight. For this trip we just dropped our stuff off and left the room to eat. We wanted to dive into our Disney Dining plan before leaving the hotel. Our group had never used the plan before. In fact, of the five travelers that arrived this day, two had never been there before. Rey and Brandi would be taking in this whole new experience and the dining plan??? That was quite a lot for them to swallow! But seriously, I was very excited for the two of them. Our friend Ricky also arrived with us on that first day and we all were hungry! You see, that is what happens when Airlines stop feeding their customers on an airplane.

We had all signed up for the Quick Service dining plan. That dining plan amounts to the following : 2 quick service meals a day comprised of 1 drink, 1 entree, and 1 dessert per person. We also were able to get one snack per day and a re-fillable mug that could be used at the hotel. For that first meal I grabbed a Chicken Quesadilla with a side of rice and beans. It was very good and was exactly what I needed after our flight! The pastry I chose wasn't anything special but still a tasty cupcake. Everyone was satisfied, but also ready to get on our way to Magic Kingdom. We were so jazzed to get started that the only shot I took was of this scary looking grasshopper from my iphone 5.
We had Fast Pass Plus reservations at the Magic Kingdom. The test for the new technology was ending that day, so this would be our last chance to partake in this. By the time we were on our way to the park, it was getting close to 6:30PM, park closed at 9 PM. At this point we had already missed out on two attraction uses. As I noted in a previous post, our inbound flight landed at a time that basically rendered two passes as void. There is no way we would skip eating so that we may use this new Fast Pass system. Our next available Fast Pass usage was for Big Thunder Mountain. That coaster is literally the farthest from the from entrance and the Electrical Parade crowd would be in the way of getting there. Eric and I had a quick "one on one" meeting and decided to just toss the whole thing out the window. It really didn't make sense to try and push our exhausted party so that we could use a Fast Pass. And, we wanted our friends to take in the park for what it is and not run past it all.

Here we have Rey, Brandi, Eric, and Ricky that are ready to continue our long day in the Magic Kingdom. We had all been awake since about 4 AM that morning and it was now around 7PM. Even though we only had about 2 hours in the park, we experienced a decent amount of attractions. And, that was with having a leisurely time and not running from one to the other. We moved from Haunted Mansion through Fantasyland to see the Storybook Circus area, then took the connecting pathway from Fantasyland to Space Mountain/People Mover. At this point Rey and Brandi were pretty sure there was a big difference between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. 
Rey and the rest of us flying through space!

I think I want to bring up an online debate in regards to Disneyland's Space Mountain and the coaster at Magic Kingdom. I have to say that they are two different coasters altogether. Florida's version is more of an elaborate "mouse coaster". It has more drops, is rickety, can hurt your neck (hurt mine for a few days), and can feel faster. The version at Disneyland is a smoother experience, has superior effects, onboard audio, is a little more dramatic in it's story, and it doesn't usually injure your neck. I have to say that I love both of these attractions and I recommend them to everyone who enjoys thrilling theme park experiences. During the course of our trip, we rode Space Mountain three times. We were lucky enough to ride the same track all three times. For those who don't know, it has two separate paths like the Matterhorn at Disneyland. The track we rode (right side) each time seemed to have more drops than the other loading area. Can anyone confirm this?

Ricky and I can't decide why they use Orange for a "castle" color.

We ended our attraction riding for the night by being one of the last groups on the People Mover. We even had a fun view for the Wishes firework show. Eric noted that the narration for this attraction seemed a bit "young" and up beat, not a bad thing. The narration was just different than from what we remembered. A favorite part is the slow pass through the Space Mountain show building. We were all surprised how quickly the fireworks ended during our People Mover trip. This show really made Disneyland's firework show seem so much longer.

Ricky looking like a Muppet needing animation.

I should note that if anyone reading this visits Disney World, it is best to find creative ways to wait out the long queues for the hotel buses. When the firework show ended, the crowd jammed all walkways toward the main gate. We certainly were in no hurry to deal with that, so we took our sweet time browsing. Speaking of sweets, we even stopped at the bakery to use a snack credit on a slice of chocolate cake. As one can see from my panoramic shot, the park was pretty empty when we made it to Town Square. I think we were all ready to go back and fall asleep for at least six to seven hours.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Heat, Friends, Food, and Joys at Disney World

After a year of not visiting Florida, Eric and I returned with six others. As expected we found a steamy weather pattern that blanketed the area in what felt like 100% humidity. Although that weather is well known as what Central Florida has to offer, we took a chance on this tail end of Hurricane Season. To our luck we had no hurricanes. We did have an encounter with a downpour not ever experienced by this California native and a few distant lightning strikes. It goes without saying that even with this weather we had a great vacation that I'm excited to share. I have many photos to sort through from my regular camera and iPhone 5. A few of these are from the panoramic feature that I went a tad crazy using.

It may be a bit much to recount all of the 8 days here. As of now I want to focus on our version of Epcot's 30th anniversary, Islands of Adventure, the Dining Plan, Twilight Zone 10 miler, and of course various attractions at Disney World. We had a few "first timers" and I think all four of them left with a good impression. The trip wore them out, but I feel they really enjoyed themselves and had many laughs. I hope those laughs get them through rush hour traffic or a bad day at work. I'll be posting more very soon!