I woke up knowing today was going to be a very exciting day for two reasons: 1) I was getting a tour of Disney wedding venues at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and 2) Patrick was arriving that evening!
But first I had to get out of bed. And pack up. And lock myself out of the room while loading the car. And walk to Hospitality House to get a new key for the last 5 minutes of my stay at Old Key West.
Then I drove over to Franck’s to meet up with a bunch of people from Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings who were also going on my Hollywood Studios site tour because they wanted to learn more about the event venues there too! And so it was at Franck’s that I shot my first photo of the day…
OK, true, most people planning Disney weddings will probably not care what the handicapped stall in the bathroom at Franck’s looks like, but this is the kind of extra-mile reporting that I am becoming infamous, er, known for.
Also, that mirror needed to be documented because it is quite possibly MAGIC — it made me look skinnier than any other mirror I’ve encountered on Disney property. I’m telling you, man, when you pay for a Disney wedding, they think of EVERY detail!
To complete the collection, here is a picture of the sinks.
Before we left for DHS, I took a bazillion more photos of Franck’s. In this trip report I have already subjected you to more pictures of Franck’s than you’d ever want to see, so for today I will give you this shot and a link to the page on my site where all the rest live. Just in case you can’t get enough…
Click here for a whole lotta shots of Franck’s…
Off we went to Hollywood Studios in the oh-fish-all Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings Caddy! As we pulled up backstage and tumbled out of the car, I was delighted to see that our host was the same friend of Jensey’s we’d met last Christmas at the DIS Boards’ Toy Story Mania party.
Our first stop was the Backstage Prop Shop. I was interested in this location because you can use it while the park is still open and it is relatively inexpensive ($300 venue fee, food and beverage minimums start at $520 for lunch). It used to be part of the backstage tour but now is only open for private events. I’ll spare you most of the bazillion pictures I took—you can see them all HERE if you’re interested.
While it was exciting to be in a venue not usually open to the public, I was kinda disappointed by how gloomy the place was. It’s SO dark in there, and the maroon carpet and black furniture aren’t doing it any favors. Figure on plenty of money for lighting and décor in this place! Also, while it’s neat to see actual props used in the parks, none of them are particularly memorable (unless you were obsessed by the 1992 parade starring the puppets of the Dinosaurs TV show).
Along the way to our next stop, I noticed that they’d already begun stringing the Osbourne lights for Christmas (it was Oct. 12).
Next on the agenda was the Hollywood Hideaway, which is in the back of the American Idol Experience building and behind the former location of the Star Wars speeder bike photo op.
This is another location that can be used while the park is still open and has low minimums ($300 venue fee, food and beverage minimums start at $400 for breakfast). The décor is very early ’90s—brushed chrome, blond wood with black accents—but at least the place gets some natural light. It also has a couple of levels and a patio, so it could be good for a couple different kinds of reception.
More photos can be found here.
Our next stop was Theater of the Stars, where you can have a reception on the set of “Beauty & the Beast.” Unfortunately, the cast was rehearsing so I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. However, I got some of the show on my most recent trip, so you can see what the stage set looks like HERE.
The only part we were allowed to take pictures of was the “lobby” area, but it turns out they use this for special events too!
Then it was on to Tower of Terror. The park was open by then, so it was hard to get good people-free location shots. We started in the Courtyard, which has a hefty $2,000 venue fee and an $850 food and beverage minimum. Don’t even ask what it costs to keep the ride open…. OK, I’ll tell you: $6,500!!!
My absolute favorite spot in DHS is the terrace at Tower of Terror, so I asked Tim if it had ever been used for a private event. He was pretty sure it had, so we got to go up there too. As I shot my bajillion photos, the beginnings of a plan for our anniversary party began to percolate in my mind…
Next we got to do what I had attempted unsuccessfully on a previous trip, and that’s sneak into the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater while it was closed to take pictures. The only catch was that the stage wasn’t show-ready, so I couldn’t take any pictures that show what the Fantasmic! view from the party areas looks like.
On the path back out to the gate, we learned that DHS even does events on the path! This is when it dawned on me that Disney will rent out basically any corner of this park.
After the tour it was back to Franck’s in the DFTW-mobile, where I was turned loose with absolutely no idea what to do with myself next. But I did have a camera, wheels, and my singular devotion to documenting obscure corners of Walt Disney World, so off I went to Disney’s Palm & Magnolia golf courses to snag some pix for PassPorter’s Festivals & Celebrations guide.
I wouldn’t say I felt out of place at the golf course, but it was definitely the least “Disney” place I’d been on property. The clubhouse building is done in the sort of anonymous style you’d find in any suburb.
That only ate up about 20 minutes, so I decided to drive over to the Beach Club and see if I could check in early. As it turned out, I was really glad I’d done this, because it gave me plenty of time to kick up a fuss about the first room they assigned us. In fulfilling our request for a king bed, they’d stuck us in a dark, narrow train car of a room along the back path to Epcot.
Call me spoiled, but my main beef was the lack of divided bathroom—the sinks, toilet and tub were all in the same cramped room. When I hopped on the phone and mentioned this to the desk agent, she said she didn’t know they even HAD rooms like that…
She very kindly put me in touch with an actual room assigner, those mysterious men and women behind the curtain whom they usually won’t let you talk to when you call to make your room requests the week before because you don’t trust the phone agent who made your original reservation. He got to work looking in the inventory and offered a king room on the ground floor facing the volleyball court. As I headed out to the car to get my luggage, he called me back and breathlessly informed me (several times) that he was able to give me some “pixie dust” in the form of an upgraded water-view room as long as I was OK with having 2 queen beds. I went for it.
The new room was GORGEOUS! OK, it probably doesn’t look much different in these pictures, but in addition to having separate bath and vanity areas, it was larger and filled with light from a balcony overlooking the lake. Plus, it was at the very end of the wing next to Epcot, which meant a long haul from the lobby but just a few steps down to International Gateway via a back staircase. You don’t get THAT in the Villas wing…
As I unpacked and prepared to head to Epcot to make lunch from the Food & Wine fest booths, I realized that this, indeed, was The Life. If Patrick had been there, it would have been perfect!
In France I started lunch with the Parmentier de Boeuf Briased au Cabernet.
It was heavy but tasty. A nice lady let me sit with her on a bench across from the entrance to Bistro de Paris, and we chatted about how we love “fake” Paris even though we’ve both been to real Paris. After “Lunch, Part 1” I made my usual circuit of the Givenchy and Guerlain shops. I don’t know why I do this, since I refuse to pay full price for makeup and get most everything from eBay. It’s almost self-torture…
My next stop was Japan, where the not-very-descriptive menu at the food kiosk was probably driving away more diners than it enticed.
Tuna Sensation turned out to be ahi tuna on avocado in soy sauce, while Wafu Ribettes were a sort of yakitori pork.
The ribettes were tough, but I liked the Tuna Sensation cuz I could eat around the avocado. Plus, it was one of the only hot-weather-appropriate dishes on any of the Food & Wine Festival menus. I mean, it was pushing 90 degrees for most of our trip, but almost all the booths were serving hot, heavy, stick-to-your-ribs food — kind of a missed opportunity if you ask me!
Case in point: Italy, where the main dish was a gooey, melty, greasy mess of pasta, meat and cheese…
I probably would have loved this if it were 55 degrees out, but in that weather? It hit my tummy like a brick!
I’d been looking forward to trying out Werther’s new Karamell Kuche—finally someplace interesting to go in Germany! The fact that they were handing out free samples at the door made me love the place before I even got inside it….
I’m not, like, a huge fan of caramel, but everything looked (and smelled) sooooo good!
I couldn’t resist the siren song of the mile-high cupcake.
Actually eating the cupcake was another matter altogether. Its natural defenses were being completely top-heavy and covered in sticky strings of caramel—definitely not something you can just take a big ol’ bite out of (unless you don’t mind looking like you just got a pie in the face).
I ended up getting a plate from the counter-service restaurant and slicing the dang thing in half. As I was wrestling it into submission, another guest approached me to ask where I’d gotten it and whether it came with a forklift.
So, remember that one time I found a Disney cupcake that was too sweet even for me? Well this thing was its sumo-wrestling cousin… I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the cake-to-frosting ratio was all wrong—way too much frosting for even that dry cake, and it tasted like solid sugar-lard. And this is coming from the person who will happily eat supermarket cake—that mutha was just TOO sugary!
But did I learn my lesson? No. As you will see in photos, over the course of the next week I kept going back to the Karamell Kuche, hoping to find something that lived up to its appearance. I got ANOTHER cupcake (this time chocolate), a peanut butter-chocolate chip cookie, and even the caramel corn, but none of it was very good. You’d think I would have learned by this point that Disney desserts are never as good as they look, but something about the charm of the Karamell Kuche and its cheery cast members continued to lure me in… SUCKER!!!
Off to Mexico!
OK, I tried to get a picture of this trio of adorable tots in oversized sombreros, but I didn’t want to freak their mother out by stalking them for the perfect shot. I’m sure she’s MUCH happier that instead of posting her children on the Internets, I am posting her posterior!
I had no more success taking a vertical panoramic shot of the pyramid.
My losing streak continued inside as I stood in line (yes, a LINE!) for the Gran Fiesta Tour…
I did get some pretty-not-terrible shots from the boat though!
I think I took all the same shots on my Disney Weddings/Social Media Moms trip a few weeks ago, though, so let’s hope you forget them between now and that trip report!
I was in a documentary sort of mood that day, so I took a bunch of bland shots of the new counter-service spot in Mexico.
At the entrance to World Showplace, I paused for a refreshing lemon slushy. I wish these were still electric blue!
Eventually I couldn’t take the heat any longer, so I staggered back to the Beach Club.
I had a nice long nap on the couch but woke up FREEZING as the AC continued blasting. It was actually a relief to open the sliding glass doors and let some hot, humid air in! Just then, Patrick called to say he’d landed and was sitting on a Magical Express bus. Hooray! I showered and put on the amount of makeup that celebrities always tell magazines is all they wear: concealer, mascara and blush. Yeah, right!
I wasn’t sure how long it would take Patrick to get to the Beach Club on Magical Express, so I decided to wait for him in my favoritest part of the resort—the Solarium. I’d figured out that the shortest route to the lobby was actually to go outside along the lake, so I got to shoot more pictures of the resort.
As usual, the TV was blaring to an empty room and there was no remote in sight. I don’t get why they feel the need to mar the peace of that lovely room with a huge loud TV that no one watches… When the Magical Express bus finally pulled up, Patrick was the only one on it. I guess he’d had to stop at something like four other resorts along the way, poor guy. I went running out to meet him shrieking, “Patriiiiiiick!” like a crazy lady. It was very exciting. I was very happy to see him!
We made a quick stop at the room to drop his stuff, and I was compelled to take even MORE pictures of the view.
It was so nice to be able to just walk down the path to a fabulous dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse—a great first-night-at-WDW kind of activity.
I have no shots of the food or the room or the view or anything cuz I was just enjoying our reunion. We prolly split the porterhouse steak and stuffed down two or more baskets full of onion popovers as usual. And of course the only way to follow up a gut-busting meal at Yachtsman is with a gut-busting dessert at Beaches & Cream!
We even got to see them making a Kitchen Sink sundae!
Up Next: First-ever visit to Islands of Adventure & The Wizarding World of Harry Potter!