Now I know you think we were crazy for taking a red-eye from Honolulu to LA and then getting right on a plane to Orlando, but it actually really helped us reset our internal clocks from Hawaii Standard Time to Eastern Standard Time FAST! At LAX, we had just enough time for an aggressively mediocre breakfast at the Gladstone’s Express (where they were inexplicably blaring disco music at 7am) before our Virgin America flight to MCO departed.
I’d debated finally using Magical Express on this super-short trip, but I just couldn’t get over that feeling of helplessness we Angelenos feel when we don’t have wheels. So we went with the cheapest rental we could find, which turned out to be Budget… which turned out to be no Alamo, that’s for sure! The pickup process took forEVER, and they got snippy with us for refusing the extra insurance, and they didn’t let us pick out our own car. Boo!
And then, we were off to Walt Disney World!
We were staying at the Contemporary because that’s where Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings’ bridal showcase was this time. (In case you’ve forgotten in the months it’s taken me to tell this story, the whole reason we cut short our anniversary trip to Hawaii and flew straight to Orlando was that bridal showcase.) Originally I’d booked a screamin’ deal for a Garden Wing room, but I got to thinking about how much more convenient my last stay in the main tower was compared to our honeymoon stay in the Garden Wing, so I ended up cutting a day off our trip so we could have a Lake View tower room instead.
I don’t know if you can tell in the photos, but that fancy new decor they’d just installed when we stayed at the Contemporary on our honeymoon is starting to look a bit worse for wear now, five years later. We had disintegrating baseboards, marks on the walls, and a sagging bathroom door that would pinch your fingers off if you pushed it too far back on its track.
It IS really really cool to stay in the main building at the Contemporary, if only because you can watch the monorails right outside your door. The Garden Wing just feels like a Moderate resort that’s putting on airs…
We followed our traditional first-night plan of dinner and IllumiNations in Epcot. I wanted to shoot the show from the Canada Overlook dessert party spot so I could see if the overhanging trees obscure your view of the show. For dinner, I picked Biergarten to make it up to Patrick. He’s always wanted to eat there, and I never let him because I don’t like Disney buffets. And the one time we did make reservations there—with the Roots, no less!—he ended up having to leave Florida early to work (thanks a lot, Pee-Wee Herman!) and never got to try it.
What made this dinner even more special was the reunion with our pal Fran, a Disney bride and fan of my book who generously invited us to her wedding in the Germany Pavilion after meeting only once, at D23 Expo. As it turned out, she and her now-husband are both librarians, so they had LOTS to talk about with library-puppet-show vet Patrick—we all got on like a house afire! And someday, I promise, I will write a report about THAT trip, because it was super-awesome to finally get to be a guest at a Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding.
Anyway, it was quite fitting that she joined us for dinner in Germany!
As it turned out, Fran and Patrick also share an adorably nerdy love of space exploration, so they were chattering like magpies for most of dinner. Which looked like this….
…. for somebody who wasn’t me. Holy pickled EVERYTHING!
Actually, I ended up really loving Biergarten’s food the second time around, mostly because I discovered the Smorgasbord of Starches—namely, warm potato salad, mac and cheese, potato balls, and spaetzle! My first helping of pork loin was also quite tasty, but when I went back for seconds, the new one they’d put out was dry. So maybe I just hit all the dud replacement dishes last time I was there.
As an experiment on behalf of my pals on the DISboards’ Cake Chatter thread (and also cuz most of Biergarten’s desserts are sullied with fruit), I ordered a “podium” celebration cake—the kind you can get just by asking when you check in for your reservation. I was curious to see if the ones at Disney-run Epcot restaurants were still the glorified Easy-Bake Oven deals that taste like stale Twinkies (R.I.P.) covered in crappy whipped cream. They are not!
I’ve since learned (for those of you following along at home) that Epcot now employs a real pastry chef and has stepped up their game with custom cakes too. Hooray!
Before we headed off to Canada, I asked Patrick to try and get some better shots than the ones I have of the dessert party location in Germany. This is always when I wish I had a fancy DSLR and the talent and patience to take really good photos.
I also had him attempt to get shots of the Mexico dessert party location, but it was being used by a group that night, so he had to shoot over the dang rope.
Canada Overlook is that little turnout around the corner from the Canada Pavilion as you head toward Future World. It is one of the places they stick smaller groups who want to do private events at Epcot, and I’ve always been troubled by the overhanging trees that would seem to obscure your view of IllumiNations. As it turns out, if you stand up against the fence, you don’t really see the branches as you watch the show. But if, say, someone were taking your photo in your wedding threads in front of the show, most of the high fireworks would definitely be behind the trees.
I can just imagine the clueless Disney “suit” hovering over a consumer products designer as she sketched the concept for these…
Suit: “Make that goblet more magic-y!”
(Designer adds fleurs-de-lis to base)
Suit: “No, MORE magic-y!”
(Designer adds fleurs-de-lis to cup)
Suit: “Not magic-y enough!!!”
(Designer adds crown trim to cup)
Suit: “MAGIC-Y, I say!”
(Designer adds banner motif with icons)
Suit: “What part of ‘magic-y’ don’t you understand?!!”
(In exasperation, designer draws an ENTIRE CASTLE around the stem)
Suit: “…Yes, but can you make it light up?”
In Future World, Patrick attempted to stamp out all the ground lights…
We accidentally got back to our room just as the Electrical Water Pageant was starting—and we had an excellent view!
And then we dropped dead from sheer exhaustion. The End!