My journal entry for Day 5 starts, “Well, today didn’t turn out quite like I’d expected.”
The plan was not grand – just to spend the morning splashing around at Stormalong Bay, the afternoon on the Disney Vacation Club tour, and the evening at Hollywood Studios. I guess I was sort of hoping to replicate the first day of our honeymoon, when we had so much fun at Stomalong Bay, capped by a lovely lunch at Beaches & Cream.
But when we woke up, Patrick said he felt funny and disappeared into the restroom. While he was recovering, I blathered motivational things and wrung my hands for a bit until I finally thought of something useful I could do – free laundry!
One wash load later, Patrick said he was feeling better, so we decided to stick to the plan. One-third of Stormalong Bay was undergoing a rehab, but we were probably better off not doing the slide or the whirlpool that day anyway.
We floated in the lazy river, cruised like crocodiles just below the surface on the fringes of the sandy beach, and spent a little time in the one open Jacuzzi. Patrick said he felt pretty good.
By 11:30 I was starving and had my heart set on a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake at Beaches & Cream. We got out of the pool and were drying off when Patrick had another “episode” right there by the lounge chairs… and in the bushes…. The poor guy was so embarrassed, and the CM who was checking wristbands at the gate came running over to see if he was OK. I was actually really touched by her concern – I’ve been with someone in a similar situation before, and usually the employees who come running up don’t give a hoot about you, they just want to hustle you out of the public eye ASAP. She seemed genuinely concerned about his welfare and not at all concerned about the rapidly withering bushes. She offered to go get us first aid, water bottles, etc., but Patrick just wanted to get the heck out of there.
Of course, now, he said, he felt much better, and he even said he’d accompany me to Beaches & Cream – talk about fortitude!
So, I felt kinda weird making him sit there while I ate my cheeseburger, fries and a frosty peanut butter-chocolate milkshake, but I’d also really been looking forward to them, so I guiltily scarfed them down.
After (my) lunch, we went back to the room and Patrick took a nap. I finished up the laundry and puttered around the room until he told me I shouldn’t feel like I had to stick around, and to go walk around or do something. I was kinda going stir-crazy. So I grabbed the camera and went out to get shots of nearby Disney wedding and reception locations.
As I got farther from the Beach Club, I got a little bolder. Maybe I could go just a little farther and duck inside Epcot, I thought. I could go to the perfume shop in France – I never like to drag Patrick in there, so I’d be doing him a favor. (Side note: Patrick just phoned and told me a woman in the bank was wearing “the perfume from France” and when he got a whiff he was suddenly back in Epcot! Which means I must have, at some point, inflicted the perfume shop on him….)
Well, of course, once I got inside Epcot, I couldn’t just stop at the France Pavilion!
Oooh, and maybe I could take a picture of the infamous high wall at the Morocco Dessert Party locations!
I got as far as Italy (they had perfume there – it was legit!) before I started feeling really guilty about being in Epcot without Patrick and turned around. As I passed through America, whom should I spot but honeymooners Lacey & Eric! They were waiting to get a picture with Perla (Suzy?), but every time one group left her, another would swoop over in front of them. We had a nice chat about their wedding and what they’d been up to since, and then I took a pic of them with the giant mouse before releasing them to enjoy the rest of their honeymoon. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to get their contact info. I just sort of assumed I’d see them again, and it turns out I was right!
As I passed the pin cart in America, I thought sadly of how Patrick would be magnetically attracted to it were he with me, and suddenly I found myself doing the unthinkable: I bought my first pin! But it wasn’t for me, so don’t get the wrong idea. I wanted to cheer Patrick up with a souvenir.
As I was browsing, who should turn up but Lacey & Eric (this time they were doing the stalking!), and I discovered the Eric started pin collecting around the same time as Patrick. We talked about how, like Patrick, he was afraid to trade with real people and only approached CMs. And how they both pretty much collect like kids, looking for appealing designs rather than limited-edition or rare stuff. I picked out one of the few Wall*E pins I could find, and Eric approved!
It started getting on toward 2pm, and the DVC van was supposed to pick us up at 3pm. Originally, we were gonna have them pick us up from the DVC booth at American Adventure because then we would have gotten a ride backstage! But we chose the front of the Beach Club once we saw Patrick wasn’t gonna be leaving the resort much that day.
Here’s our deal with the Disney Vacation Club tour (I’m hoping this will help explain why I behaved like such a bad wife): We had this card from Jennifaerie & Rob’s Animal Kingdom Lodge room that said we’d get a $100 gift card for taking the tour. (Eventually we got one at Wilderness Lodge too, so I gave one to Lacey & Eric, who were experiencing a decided lack of honeymoon freebies!) Well, I’m never one to turn down free money, but this time I became almost obsessed by the idea because our $125 in Sunshine Rewards gift cards had not arrived in time for our trip, and I’d been counting on them to help us out. So here was a chance to make up for part of that.
Well, when I got back to the room, Patrick was still a little woozy. But I was intent on doing the DVC tour, so we called and pushed it back to the last time slot that still qualified for the gift cards. He did think he should probably eat something, so I ran down to the BCV market and got him a banana and crackers and applesauce on the recommendation of a nurse at Disneyland. That’s right, this has happened to us before at Disney, and the kindly nurse there taught us the “BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce & Toast)” trick for knowing what to eat.
(That experience was a doozy because the Grand Californian wouldn’t give us a late checkout, so we got turned out of our room. Poor Patrick wobbled from bench to bench around Disneyland until it was time for our reservation at Club 33, where he promptly tossed his cookies in the wastebasket. So, really, once you’ve lost your lunch in the hallowed lobby of Club 33, nothing else fazes you.)
After Patrick had a little bite to eat, we took a nice, easy stroll to the front of the Beach Club and waited for the DVC van to come get us. Nobody else was waiting, so we had a private ride over to Saratoga Springs Resort. It’s the one Disney resort I’ve never been to, just cuz I’ve never been interested in the theme. But it was a lot less like a bland condo complex than I’d imagined, and I’ll bet if you get a room with a view of Downtown Disney, it’s pretty neat at night. (I have no pictures.)
The DVC preview center is very impressive. At Disneyland, all we have is part of a converted office shared with Disneyland’s tiny Weddings department and a veritable trailer converted to look like a Saratoga Springs room (OK, I think they’ve since added a Grand Californian Villas model). So it was a treat to see a real, free-standing building with soaring ceilings and attractive conversational groupings of sofas and chairs.
Just behind the reception desk is the room where you can help yourself to watery lemonade and a picked-over assortment of Pepperidge Farm cookies. The murals have a neat light-up pixie dust effect that couldn’t be captured by our aging workhorse of a camera.
(Sorry the pix are so bad today – Patrick was out of commission as trip photographer!)
Patrick collapsed on a sofa while I ran around taking crummy pictures.
Eventually our guide came out and gave us the intro spiel, which turned into a kind of elaborate game of showing us how much she already knew about Mr. & Mrs. Lurkyloo. We’d taken the tour at Disneyland almost 2 years ago (once again, because they dangled a $100 gift card in front of us!), and they must’ve still had all our details on file. But I couldn’t figure out how she knew we’d been married at Epcot in Morocco. I mean, it couldn’t be because I blab about it all over the Internets and in person to anyone who’ll listen! (Patrick thinks I prolly opened my big yap during the Disneyland tour).
When she asked how much we knew about DVC, I let her know that I’d just edited a book on DVC for PassPorter, so she got to skip the basics of the sales pitch. The next step was to tour the models, which we were actually pretty excited about. I was dying to see the Treehouse Villas and the new Bay Lake Tower. We’d already stayed in Animal Kingdom Villas, but they were only converted hotel rooms, so I was interested in the model of the regular DVC rooms too.
We got outside and were headed toward the model building when Patrick paused and asked where the nearest restroom was. As our guide started to point waaaaay back toward the preview center, he turned away and lost his lunch right in front of our guide!!! (Fortunately I’d made him bring a shopping bag this time…)
Understandably, she freaked. She was like, “I’ll get the van!” and ran to a door in the side of the building where the models are, hollering into her walkie talkie. When she opened the door, I saw half a dozen official-looking DVC cast members in some kind of secret operations center, walking around with clipboards and headsets. They all kind of huddled around her and tried to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, Patrick is outside waving perkily and saying “It’s OK – now I feel GREAT!”
The poor woman kept saying “I just don’t feel comfortable continuing this tour!” and we, with visions of 100 clams slipping through our grasp, kept assuring her “No, it’s OK! He feels great now! He hasn’t felt this good all day! [DH does a few one-armed pushups in the background] Please, can we see the models? Pleeeeeeeeeease?!”
Finally she said she guessed we could just quickly see the models. I was bummed that they only had a scale model of the Treehouse Villas, not a full-size replica, but I guess that would be kind of huge. It was actually pretty cool, if somewhat… brown….
We forgot to take pictures, so DISer Desnik has kindly leant me the great shots she got of the model in January.
Our guide also made a point of telling us that you can get one of these 3-bedroom bad boys for the nightly point-cost of a two-bedroom villa. Considering we can barely afford to rent points for a studio, we may never get to see inside a real Treehouse Villa.
Next up was the Animal Kingdom Villas model. Once again, we forgot to take pictures, so these come courtesy of Allears.
The studio part definitely felt larger than the converted hotel room we stayed in on our honeymoon, but the whole place was so dang brown! The bathroom, especially, looked straight outta of a Best Western circa 1979, and the kitchen was like the one in every bad L.A. apartment built in the Seventies.
Granted, the tubs were probably a lot smaller in the ’70s…
When you leave the AKV model, you step into a Contemporary resort hall, which is trippy and cool. And when you open the door to the Bay Lake Tower model, you’re in a whole different world…. the World of the FUTURE!
We really liked the BLT model. I wasn’t knocked out by the Contemporary’s makeover, and from what I’d seen of the BLT decor in pictures, I thought it was gonna look like an IKEA in there. But it really did feel, well, contemporary!
Of course, all the rooms had fake views of the Magic Kingdom with fireworks overhead, even though only something like 20% of the resort’s rooms will actually have that view. But a Bay Lake view wouldn’t be too shabby either!
When we returned to the DVC preview center after the model tour, we didn’t get to go back to any of the pretty conversational groupings in the main area. Instead we were taken through a warren of passageways lined with doors to tiny, windowless rooms. Our cell had just enough room for a loveseat, a table and a console with a TV on it. We didn’t have to watch the video presentation because we’d already been on the tour at Disneyland.
Our guide laid out the DVC financing plan and incentives and gave us a preview of the points charts for Bay Lake Tower, since that’s the one we were most interested in (well, the one we’re MOST interested in is Beach Club Villas, but they don’t like it when you ask for properties that they consider “sold out”).
It always sounds sooooooo reasonable: Just a couple hundred dollars a month and you too can own a piece of Disney! But the things that were hard for me to remember in the haze of my excitement were: 1) We’d be paying a couple hundred dollars a month for TEN YEARS for something that we would only get to take advantage of for a week or so in each of those ten years; 2) Membership only covers the cost of your room, not meals and tickets or (in our case) rental car and airfare from the West Coast; 3) In order to stay where you really want to, you have to make your plans 11 months in advance. And if you decide to go at the last minute, you’ll end up at Saratoga Springs cuz there’s never any availability anywhere else; 4) The low-ball figures they give you are for the minimum number of points required to buy in, which only works if you want to go once a year or once every couple of years and can get into the cheapest category of studio – which everybody and their brother is also trying to do in order to maximize their minimum number of points.
However, I willingly admit that I would love to own DVC just from an emotional standpoint, knowing that I can (theoretically) go back to WDW any time I want! Plus, I am dying to just once in my life sit in the Jacuzzi tub of a one-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower with the interior window open so I can see through the exterior window to the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom!
But, to me, ownership only makes sense if you can afford it outright. And as long as we can continue to rent DVC points for less than the cost of staying at a Moderate resort, we’d be fools to buy!
Anyway, at the time, in that tiny room, Patrick was the only one with his logic chip on. He was thinking “Well, we definitely can’t afford this!” while I was sitting there planning which Lush bubble bath to use during Wishes in October….
Our Guide left the room so we could stew over things.
When she came back, we had to break the news that we wouldn’t be buying, even though, by rights, she was owed at least a 100-point Saratoga Springs contract just for having to watch Patrick toss his cookies.
I felt bad enough about that as it was, but then she got kinda snippy with us and was like, “Well, just so you know, you’ve already done two tours to get gift card incentives, so you can never get an incentive again.”
I was thinking, “So, um, does that mean we can’t do it again for free ice cream either?” but didn’t want to say it and make her even angrier!
So we were unceremoniously dumped out into the hallway with vague directions to the exit and warm wishes that the door not hit us on the way out… just kidding! The wishes weren’t warm….
I think we found somebody to point us in the direction of the van waiting area/ice cream parlor, where I insisted on getting a sundae just because I could.
It was pretty much just Edy’s ice cream with Hershey’s syrup on top, but it was free!
I was under the impression that we were waiting for our ride back to the resort, but when we decided to get Patrick out of the too-sweet-smelling ice cream parlor, we discovered a row of vans at the ready. We got a ride straight back to the Beach Club, where he decided to call it a day and crawl into bed. Of course, he told me to keep our reservaiton at Brown Derby and have some fun, but for the first time in my whole entire life (that’s right, my whole ENTIRE life), I felt trepidation about going out by myself.
This was very weird. When I was single, I did tons of stuff solo – including eating in restaurants and spending the weekend at Disneyland – and really enjoyed it. In fact, I prefer doing stuff by myself to doing things in groups. But for some reason that night I was really reluctant to go out at safe and fun-filled WDW by myself. It felt so daunting and unknown and scary.
In my mind, I started cycling through all the people in the area I knew and thinking about who I could impose upon. I seriously considered going crying to the Roots like a little sissy-baby, and Lacey & Eric were just lucky that I didn’t have their phone number!
Heidi & Tom, however, were not so lucky. I suddenly remembered the Roots mentioning that the couple (who’d had a gorgeous vow renewal at the Wedding Pavilion almost two weeks earlier) were still in town and interested in meeting up. So I had their room number at Saratoga Springs! Poor suckers…
I left a message and headed off to DHS for a few rides before my Brown Derby ADR.
The first thing I discovered about being at WDW by yourself is that it’s really hard to take a novelty shot with one hand, on an iPhone.
The second thing I discovered (well, remembered) is…. SINGLE RIDER LINE!!!!
I still had time to kill after my thrilling backstage experience at an Aerosmith show, so I hit Tower of Terror. As I waited in line, I used the Magic of the Internets and my iPhone to arrange to meet Heidi & Tom at Ghirardelli after their dinner at Narcoossee’s.
On the way out, I got a good look at the gift shop’s display windows for the first time ever. They have some really cool stuff in them!
I headed over to the Brown Derby for their last seating. The waiter seemed kind of disconcerted to be serving a solo diner – he was really chummy with the huge group across from me but always seemed uncomfortable when he came over to my table. Come to think of it, he was pretty chummy with the guy dining alone behind me…. maybe I had something in my teeth?
I got a nice table for two up above the main floor.
When we ate here on our honeymoon, I had been surprised by the quality of the ingredients and interesting menu items, which were closer to those of a resort Signature Restaurant than a theme park place. This time, however, not so much…
This was nowhere near as good as the raviolo I had at California Grill. The pasta was tough and the filling bland, and the veal stock reduction was separating into greasy globules.
This was pretty dang good. It was the white cheddar mustard spaetzle and onion-pomegranate relish that sold it. The pork tenderloin was just OK – but at least it was actually cooked medium rare.
At one point my waiter must’ve warmed up to me, because he offered to bring me the restaurant copy of a book about the original Brown Derby and its caricatures. However, it turned out the guy behind me was reading it, so the waiter ended up bringing me a 300-page book to read with the bill! I skimmed.
After dinner I lingered a little in the empty park. I’d booked our ADR for park closing time so we could enjoy the strolling the empty streets together, but now it was just me and my cameras…
The good thing was, it was super-easy to get out of the parking lot, so I hopped in Clementine and whizzed down Buena Vista Drive toward Downtown Disney. I had two hours to kill before Heidi & Tom got there, so I poked around in the shops, bought a ginormous Oreo cookie at Goofy’s Candy Co. (for later, of course), and sat at the new Marketplace amphitheatre and replied to comments on my live blog.
First they pick up an Oreo [vanilla for me!] the size of a saucer….
Then they dunk it in white, milk, or dark chocolate [milk] and bury it in your choice of topping [Oreo crumbs]….
And then they drizzle it with the chocolate of your choice [milk].
Then I wandered around the Disney Gallery snapping pictures of things I thought Patrick would like…
Even the oft-ridiculed (by me) pin shop suddenly held a nostalgic connection to Patrick for me. When I discovered a blind-item pin series based on the blind-item Vinylmation toys, I grabbed one for Patrick as another consolation prize. As it turned out, I’d made a good choice – one of the pins was the Kermit one, his favorite!
Finally, around 10:30pm, it was time to meet Heidi & Tom at Ghirardelli! I was so excited to finally meet them in person that I couldn’t hold the iPhone still, resulting in their Conehead-esque appearance here…
I was also too excited to take any pictures of the ice cream we got – talk about ditzy! I am sorry to have failed you, dear readers…. We had a great time chattering like magpies (well, me and Heidi – Tom chatters like, um, a manly American Bald Eagle, but without the bald part), and I got to hear about their fabulous wedding! I also got to hear about how they bought DVC when Heidi came to WDW for her wedding planning session, and I was green with envy….
The only bummer was that Patrick couldn’t be with us – I think he and Tom would have really hit it off!
Maybe one day they’ll come visit us at Disneyland!