Our first full day at Walt Disney World was full of plans with friends, which was a new experience for us cuz we’re used to being the only people we know in Florida! Jennifaerie and Rob, whom we’d enjoyed stalking on their honeymoon in September, were in town for one day following their Disney cruise. And Nathan & Jensey, who shot our wedding and did an amazing “just married” shoot with Jennifaerie & Rob, were going to join the four of us at Animal Kingdom.
Unfortunately, we woke up an hour earlier than we needed to because I’d set my alarm clock wrong when I did the time change. And when you’re already getting up way earlier than you’re used to on the West Coast, this is a huge bummer. Fortunately, we survived. And we got to Animal Kingdom just after rope drop.
While we waited for everyone to arrive, we knocked out some of our favorite rides. We rode Everest twice and then hit the Safari, which was so much fun that we rode it a second time (this would later come back to haunt us…).
On the first trip, we ran into a group of frisky Ankole Cattle, one of which charged right at our vehicle!
We also saw several other animals a lot closer than we ever had before.
Then something went horribly wrong and our group was called on to chase down a band of marauding poachers, which lead us through these deadly hot geysers!
Somehow we managed to save the day without ever laying eyes on said marauding poachers and were dumped off at a loading dock in the middle of the jungle.
There’s this really pretty little area on the way back to the front of the ride that I’d somehow never noticed before…
Our second trip on the safari ride felt different, just like everyone says. For one thing, in honor of our anniversary, we were given the back seat all to ourselves – and the view is great! You can see the whole savannah, with no obstructions.
The coolest part of this trip on the safari was being chased by a white rhino! Since Patrick and I were in the back, I think we’re the only ones who noticed him sneak (if something as large as a rhino can sneak) out of the bushes and come trotting after the ride vehicle! As in any photo, he looked closer in person than he does in this picture!
After routing another band of evil poachers (really, I think the nature preserve needs to get stronger gates or something), we set off on the African animal trail.
In the, uh, Small Critter House, we discovered a litter of naked mole rats that had been born that day! The Cast Memebr standing between the railing and the mole rat nursery offered to take a picture for us when she saw Patrick struggling to zoom in.
So when we got to the area where the meerkats hang out, we saw the goofiest looking thing….
Reemerging in civilization we suddenly felt compelled to EAT!
Along the way to EAT we took a detour through the Tamu Tamu Courtyard, where Nathan & Jensey recently shot a fabulous wedding reception.
We finally got to see DeVine! She’s the performance artist dressed like a bush who freaks you out when she starts moving….
And we visited our owl buddy outside the Flights of Wonder show…
Almost to lunch…
I dunno why we went back to Yak & Yeti after our mediocre meal there on the honeymoon. Maybe cuz the atmosphere is so cool? And we like table service? At any rate, with lowered expectations and a firm grasp on our wallets, we managed to have an OK lunch.
We got to sit upstairs, in this room. I dunno if I’d like eating downstairs where there are no windows…
We each got the wonton soup and split the appetizer sampler platter.
During lunch I sent and received a flurry of text messages as I tried to coordinate Jennifaerie & Rob & Nathan & Jensey. It’s always funny to me how we spend so long typing out messages to each other when we could just phone. But I guess then you have to do all the pleasantries, like hello and goodbye, instead of just blurting out the pertinent info like you do with text messages.
Jennifaerie & Rob were having a dickens of a time getting a room at Animal Kingdom Lodge that was made up, so Patrick and I wandered around some more while they waited.
We paused to take a glamour shot of the anniversary mouse ears Patrick made…
… and of this snail.
Then I decided we had to take a bazillion pictures of the Eel Pavilion near Flame Tree BBQ for DISer Wazzo, who was considering holding her rehearsal dinner there but has since changed her plans, probably to keep me from sending anymore &$*#@! pictures of the Eel Pavilion…
Then we took some more pictures…. (I’m sorry – is this boring anyone else?)
Along about here…
…the strap on Patrick’s brand-new Crocs broke. This was especially frustrating because, by gum, we’d held out against Crocs as long as we could before giving in and buying them for their comfort and waterproof…iosity. And then they went and broke on the second day of our vacation!
Fortunately, Patrick persevered in order to bring you these photos:
By this time, Jennifaerie & Rob had been given a room, so we made plans to meet them at the Tree of Life.
My little Eagle Scout took a photo for a solo traveler.
And then we spotted them!
Jennifaerie & Robifaeire! (Looks like we aren’t the only ones to milk our wedding for all it’s worth in free desserts!)
She’s gonna kill me for posting a mid-speech picture, so let us all erase the memory by turning our gazes to this:
Jennifaerie & Rob had just gotten off a fabulous Disney cruise, and what’s more, she won at bingo on her birthday! And apparently they give you real money!!! So we pressed her for details and surreptitiously tried to pick her pockets while wandering around the base of the Tree of Life.
We had half an hour til Nathan & Jensey were due to arrive, but the four of us were doing that polite thing where nobody makes a decision about what the group should do. Finally Jennifaerie ventured to say that the safari was her absolutely mostest favoritest ride in the park, so off we went!
We saved the game preserve from still another band of marauding poachers just in time to get back to the Tree of Life to meet the Roots – hooray!
When Nathan & Jensey arrived, it was like old home week (I don’t even know what that phrase means, but I use it all the time…). Jennifaerie and Jensey and I were chatting giddly and simultaneously while the fellas all slugged each other in the shoulder, or whatever it is boys do. Then there were a few more minutes of that polite murmuring about what we should all do (“We’ll do whatever you guys want to do!” “No, we’ll do whatever YOU guys want to do!”) until a small voice could be heard chirping that the safari was her absolutely mostest favoritest ride in the park. So off we went – some of us for the fourth time that day!
As our merry band of adventurers passed through Africa, who should we run across but Lacey and Eric, whose wedding the Roots had shot just days before!
I couldn’t believe it – I think we had ripped yet another hole in the space-time continuum as three Root Photography couples converged on the same spot. Thank gawd somebody remembered to bring a camera….
Then, as introductions were made all around, Patrick and Eric were involuntarily drawn together by the magnetism of their pin lanyards. It turns out that Eric is as new to pin trading as Patrick and they share similar taste and pin-trading style (i.e., cast members only and trade for what looks cool, not what’s rare/valuable). And then, in an even crazier turn of events, the two of them were approached by the same Cast Member who, on our last trip, tried to offer Patrick three pins from his personal stash for one limited edition pin Patrick had lucked into (this is a Disney no-no).
Finally we let Lacey and Eric get back to their honeymoon, and the six of us hopped on the safari. This time, I will let the Roots’ photos tell the story…
After the safari ride we were wandering the path between Africa and Asia when it began pouring rain. We quickly ascertained that Patrick was the only one who had any interest in remaining in Animal Kingdom and decided to hotfoot it for Jennifaerie and Rob’s warm, dry hotel room at the Lodge to kill time til dinner.
When we got to the Lodge, Jennifaerie went to handle check-in, while I went with Rob to retrieve their luggage from Bell Services. Well, he had his “Just Married” button on and I had a “Mrs.” Hat on, and you can pretty much guess what the bellboys thought.
“CONGRATULATIONS!” they beamed, to which I leapt about two feet away from Rob and stuttered, “Ah, no, uh, you see, we’re married, but not to each other, heh heh heh [gulp!] What’s that over there?!!!” [sounds of running, car door slam, squealing tires]
The next thing I knew, we were meeting Disney bride Natalie, who works in Concierge at Animal Kingdom and had spotted Jennifaerie in the lobby. I love running into people from the online community at Walt Disney World, and it was especially fun to meet someone who’s on the inside of all the magic! I just wish I’d had the presence of mind to get a picture with her (guess I was still recovering from that mistaken identity scare of a few moments before).
After we got Jennifaerie & Rob’s luggage to the room, the six of us went to the lounge above Boma to kill time until the Jiko reservation I’d made. Originally it was just me and Patrick. Then, a few months before, I’d strong-armed Jennifaerie & Rob into joining us even though they’d only been to Jiko once and had hated it (bad server, boorish patrons). So now we had a few minutes to work on Nathan & Jensey, who were ultimately convinced to come to dinner too – my evil plan was WORKING! Muwaaahahahahaha!
We were a highly connected bunch with four smartphones among us, so while we waited, Nathan, Jensey, Jennifaerie and I decide to Tweet simultaneously (“BINGO!”). Trust me, this was high-larious.… I guess you had to be there… or be a nerd…
Dinner was really fun!
Jennifaerie & Rob split the Barbecue Chicken Flatbread with grilled onion, apple, African barbecue sauce, and four cheeses.
Patrick and I split the Chef’s Specialty Flatbread with lamb merguez, Cheddar, Neuske’s bacon and lemon aioli.
Nathan & Jensey passed on the flatbread, but then Orlando, or Walt Disney World at least, seems to be the Flatbread Capital of the World (the only item I’ve seen on more menus there is crème brulee). Maybe they’d had flatbread for lunch. And breakfast.
For dinner, Patrick and I split the Maize-crusted Sturgeon with Vegetables of the Moment and Tomato-Butter Sauce, which was amazing, as always. I pretty much inhaled my half.
And I ordered a side of the macaroni and cheese so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out on the filet with macaroni and cheese. The mac ‘n’ cheese was actually kinda dried out that night.
Jennifaerie had the Nantucket Scallops with Butternut Squash Gratin, Apple Slaw, and Apple Vinaigrette.
I won’t venture to guess what she thought of them, but I think it’s safe to assume they were better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick….
Robifaerie had the Wood-fired Lamb Loin with Spiced Lentils, Baby Carrots, and Lemon-infused Demi-glace.
I don’t know what he thought of his dinner because we are most certainly NOT married.
Nathan had the Kenyan Coffee Barbecue Beef Short Ribs with mushroom Sadza and Onion-Garlic Sauce.
This looked amazing (in person – in picture, not so much), and I wish I’d had a telescoping fork on me so I could’ve stolen a bite.
And Jensey had the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon with Macaroni & Cheese and Red Wine Sauce.
My second-most-favorite thing on the menu!
At the end of the meal, our server did the sweetest thing – she brought out three FREE pistachio crème brulees, one for each celebrating couple! Yessss!
After dinner, Nathan & Jensey had to go back to work, so we kidnapped Jennifaerie & Rob and brought them back to our place to watch Wishes over the Dumpster—er, I mean over what we could see of the castle. When we got in the room, we discovered the staff had given us turndown service without us even requesting it!
It was kind of a foggy night, so Wishes looked a little blurry from our deck.
After the show we forced Jennifaerie & Rob to listen to our yammering until their heads began to droop, and then we bundled them in the car for the trip back to their hotel. On the way out of Wilderness Lodge, we spotted two armadillos foraging by the side of the road! This was, like, the coolest thing I had ever seen – I didn’t know they had ‘dillos in Florida! I made Patrick flip a U-turn so we could look at them again.
Finally we got to AKL and bid Jennifaerie and Rob good night and safe travels home. By the time we got back to Wilderness Lodge, even the ‘dillos had gone to bed!