Today was even better than yesterday! For one thing, I got to sleep in. Eventually I moseyed over to Epcot on a Friendship Boat to meet Carly for more wedding location shooting.
Epcot’s International Gateway seemed unusually crowded to this off-season Walt Disney World visitor.
I stopped in at Guest Services and finally got my Tables In Wonderland restaurant discount card.
Looks like I also got a locker, prolly for my backpack and tripod…
Then it was off to Canada to meet up with Carly here:
While I’d been sleepin’ in and moseying, Carly had been enjoying an exciting morning of sneaking into Epcot’s private wedding venues—and getting thrown out! Her mission into Living Seas Salon had been a success along the lines of our visit to Atlantic Dance Hall the previous day. But when she tried to get into the Norway VIP Lounge, a CM with a little bit of authority and a whole lotta free time had hassled her about being an escort-less member of the media and confiscated her bag! She eventually got it back, but not before learning the valuable lesson that you will get a lot further with Disney as an ordinary tourist that you will as a member of the media…
Undeterred, she next tried to get us into Le Cellier for lunch without a reservation—talk about gutsy! Although we were shut down by the hostess, it didn’t really matter because, just a few steps away, Canada’s Food & Wine Festival booth was slinging cheddar cheese soup and maple-glazed salmon for the masses at better prices.
Each emboldened by the other, we then sauntered right into Bistro de Paris, which was closed but full of people getting ready for a Food & Wine Festival seminar. You’d be surprised how far you can get if you act like you’re supposed to be there—we even earned friendly waves and calls of “Bonjour!” from the staffers as we snapped and filmed away.
To celebrate, we stopped by the Australia booth for a snack and took a break by the water in the Japan Pavilion. Tip: The Yakitori House only gives out small cups of free ice water, and they are not at all impressed if you ask for it in Japanese!
It was pretty hot, so as we continued on around World Showcase, Carly picked up a slushy and I went for cookies ‘n’ cream gelato.
In Norway we took a break to ride Maelstrom. On the way out, Carly showed me where the “secret” entrance to the Norway VIP Lounge is…
Tip: Kringla Bakery gives out ginormous cups of free ice water!
Then it was time for another break (did I mention that Carly was pregnant? Cuz that was totally the reason that we kept taking breaks—it had nothing to do with my wussing out in the heat…), so we sat on a bench at the back of the Mexico Pavilion and swapped stories about meeting our spouses. Carly’s is fabulous because she and her future husband were both on the college program at Walt Disney World. Even though they didn’t start dating right away, it must be nice to have so many reminders of that exciting time whenever they go back.
I had a bit of time to kill before I could check in for Party for the Senses, so when Carly decided to go shoot venues in Hollywood Studios, I rode the Friendship boat there and back so we could visit a little longer.
Such a pleasant way to travel!
Back at Epcot, I headed straight for American Gardens Theater to check in for Party for the Senses. They give you the option to check in there or in front of World Showplace Plaza, but since they were giving us a special seating area for that night’s Eat to the Beat concert, it made the most sense to check in at the theater.
I wasn’t particularly interested in that night’s act, Taylor… Hicks (not Swift), but I wanted to see how good the Party for the Senses seats are. They are good!
You’d never know how uninterested I am in Hicks’ music by the number of photos I took—I was just so excited about the view!
After the show, an event guide leads the Party for the Senses attendees back over to World Showplace for the start of the party. I’m not very good at walking slowly, so I kinda zipped on ahead, thinking I’d be first in line at the door…
OK, so, for those of you not familiar with Party for the Senses, it’s a 3-hour food, wine, and entertainment event where you circulate among tasting stations offering exquisite small bites (usually around a different theme each week) created by a bunch of famous chefs. Except the chefs get less and less famous and more and more yanked outta Disney restaurants every year. I don’t begrudge the Disney chefs their chance to step out of the steak/chicken/salmon box their restaurants put them in, but I do find it galling the way PFTS ticket prices keep rising as the star power keeps falling.
Apparently they used to have full-on Cirque du Soleil shows going on during PFTS. This year it was a big deal because they brought back Cirque du Soleil performers after a year’s absence—or should I say “performer,” cuz the show was one lady in a metal cage. Oh, plus a mopey musical trio of pseudo-mimes…
Also, a couple years back they introduced the Wine View Lounge, a $215 ticket that gets you a reserved seat, early access (15 minutes), a premium bar, and an artisanal cheese selection. I decided not to spend the extra $90 because I don’t drink or need more than the 2 ginormous artisanal cheese tables already included at PFTS. The party is billed as an extravagant experience, so I felt sure the Wine View Lounge would be gilding the lily.
My first inkling that “regular” PFTS is no longer a VIP experience was this…
…a line of people streaming into World Showplace ahead of the rabble who’d merely paid $125 each for the party. Leave it to Disney to create an even more expensive experience out of an already over-priced one!
When they finally opened the gates for the rest of us, it was chaos. We were held again, this time at a curtain just inside the building.
Pity the fool (me) who didn’t grab a wine glass and a portable plate on her way in and had to sacrifice her place in line to go back for one…
When the curtain dropped, the crowd cheered and poured into the room like Dickensian orphans overrunning the Savoy Hotel buffet. More chaos!
The place was PACKED, and lines were already long for all the stations in the front half of the arena. Fortunately, all of the offerings were duplicated in the back half of the space, so the smart folks headed there for food and tables.
I immediately wished I had access to the Wine View Lounge (note that I did not wish I had paid for access)—yes, it is possible to find a few open tables on the fringes of the room, but if you’re flying solo, every time you leave to get another taste, you give up your table and have to go hunt for another. In the lounge, you get a reserved table all night. But, holy crap, $180 extra per couple just for the privilege?! I dunno, man…
Meanwhile, the freaky mime band serenaded us with lugubrious French ballads…
I’m going to show you the sign for that one so you can see how dreadfully copyedited most of them were. What’s a pork “belly-fig”? They must’ve left the job up to the notoriously grammatically challenged Disney Parks Blog food writer…
The dessert stations were pretty disappointing—it was all fussy fruit- and liqueur-laced stuff…
I noticed what looked like it must be the warm-up act for this promised Cirque du Soleil spectacle (or possibly a one-woman stage version of Girl, Interrupted and stopped to take a picture or twenty—she wouldn’t hold still!
….And then it was over and we all realized that THAT had been the Cirque du Soleil show. Huh.
Meanwhile… the mimes, they were a-changin’!
I like cheese. I just don’t know very much about cheese. And I certainly didn’t know you were allowed to put HONEYCOMB on cheese—where has this been all my life?!
Overall… I dunno… I’ve heard Food & Wine Festival vets say they’d rather take the $125 and eat at Victoria & Albert’s than hassle with another Party For the Senses, and I kinda have to agree. Nothing I ate knocked me out, and the experience of fighting my way through crowds, constantly hunting for tables, juggling a bag and a camera and plates and glasses… it’s kinda like eating at a food truck festival, but without the cheesy mac ‘n’ short rib sandwich!
The final insult was the shwag bag you picked up as the door hit you on your way out. I have the Internets. I have seen the kind of stuff that used to be in these bags. This year, unless they paid the extra dough for Wine View Lounge, all the $125-paying rabble got was a cheap prom-style wine glass and (I kid you not) a red foam clown nose. Nice. On another note, watch the blog for the upcoming red foam clown nose giveaway!!!
I made my way out of Epcot and caught a boat back to the Swolphin to see if I could watch IllumiNations from my room.
The Swolphin’s Food & Wine Classic was still in full swing when I got back.
Pieces of a Dream were still smoothly, gently tearing the roof off the mutha…
I decided that a peanut butter shake from The Fountain would be the perfect accompaniment to my in-room IllumiNations party.
It was… just OK.
I was surprised how much of IllumiNations I could see from my room. It wasn’t close, but I could see many of the low effects on the water.
A lot of my shots are out of focus because my camera thought I wanted a fix on the greasy smudges on my window…
Up Next: First full day of Food & Wine seminars, plus interviewing Sam from Disneymooner.com for my podcast!