According to my journal, today was fun even though D23’s Sip & Stroll turned out to be pretty lame. It sounded good on paper: Meet at the new Hacienda de San Angel for an early breakfast, followed by presentations in The Odyssey Center and then sipping and strolling around World Showcase. In the evening we’d all get back together again for reserved seating at the Eat to the Beat concert (Howard Jones!) and an IllumiNations dessert party.
One thing they did right this time was to let us enter Epcot through the International Gateway. At Magic & Merriment the previous year, they made all of us staying at the Epcot-area resorts drive to the front of the park to check in. So this time we had a nice walk through an empty World Showcase to Hacienda de San Angel.
When we got to La Hacienda de San Angel, we had to wait a while because they weren’t ready for us yet. This later became a theme for the event. We passed the time chatting with DISers Andrea and Brian. AllEars.net’s Deb Wills passed the time by tweeting an unflattering picture of me pawing through Patrick’s pocket…
When they finally let us in, we all made a beeline for breakfast, which consisted of two fruit-sullied varieties of Mexican pastry and nothing else. There was probably coffee, and there might have been juice, but there was no hot chocolate (contrary to what D23’s Jeffrey was announcing to everyone on the way in) and they didn’t even have water to drink! Huh.
The next head-scratcher was where to sit. The restaurant is kind of L-shaped, and it was not clear where the presenter would be standing, so we made our best guess and took seats near the window with Andrea and Brian. I managed to find a server who scrounged up two cups of tap water, one of which I promptly spilled all over our table. This was not my morning…
Meanwhile, Patrick was dashing around shooting the place as fast as he could before it filled up—I love me some empty location photos for PassPorter!
A representative of the company that owns the Mexico Pavilion’s Hacienda de San Angel and San Angel Inn stood in the “elbow” between the two dining rooms and gave a short presentation about the idea behind the new restaurant (authentic modern menu items, more upscale) and its décor, which was interesting and insider-y the way you want a D23 presentation to be.
Then the D23 folks announced that we were all going to get a special souvenir of the event, and it was…. a patch…?!? Not only that, but we’d be collecting more patches later at each stop on our stroll around World Showcase.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: What is D23’s deal with patches? What the heck are you supposed to do with these things now that it’s no longer the denim-obsessed 1980s? They used to give us pins, which actually have value because you can trade them for other pins or sell them to crazy pin collectors on eBay. All I can think is that patches are cheaper for them to produce than pins (why else would the card that came with our Rocketeer Anniversary event patch refer to it as a “pin” unless the budget demanded they switch gears at the last second?).
However, waving any kind of collectible in front of a Disney fan is like red to a bull, and the moment Jeffrey’s mouth snapped shut he was swarmed by D23 members grabbing for patches. We managed to wriggle our way through the crowd and took off like a shot for the Odyssey Center so we could get good seats for sleeping through the PowerPoint presentation.
Again there was a delay before they let us inside, probably due to the patch mob back at the Hacienda. The D23 staffers eventually straggled in, their hair mussed and clothes torn, and then made us wait another 10 minutes for good measure.
Once inside, we discovered tables set up instead of the rows of chairs at Magic & Merriment. Surely this meant we were finally going to get real food!
In what was surely confirmation that D23 uses its post-event survey results solely to paper Donald’s cage, the first presentation was another snoozerific PowerPoint presentation like the one at Magic & Merriment. Something about Givenchy ad campaigns through the centuries or something…? Lots of photos of magazine ads, plus I think maybe a video of a TV ad? I had actually been looking forward to this part of the event because I love cosmetics and thought maybe we’d get to see a demo or a makeover, although I wasn’t sure how any of it fit in with sipping and strolling. We did get bunch of perfume samples, but really the whole thing was another head-scratcher…
Next, Steven Clark introduced two German guys from some brewery. They were utterly charming and managed to keep even those of us who don’t know a lager from a loogie entertained. They also passed out free samples, which we teetotalers passed on to our surprised and soon-to-be-soused tablemates.
By the time it was over, D23 had plied attendees with 2 beers and 1 glass of wine on virtually empty stomachs, so I think we weren’t the only ones who were glad to see some real food arrive in the form of an appetizer sample from the Disney Dream. The Executive Chef at Victoria & Albert’s did a cooking demo of a crepe for Remy, the swanky restaurant on the new ship (in yer FACE, Palo!!!), and at the end we all got one to try. Hooray! Breakfast at last!
Victoria & Albert’s maître d’ provided some background on the restaurant and interviewed the chef while he worked.
At the end of the presentations, D23 gave us unwieldy beer steins to haul all over Epcot as we sipped and strolled. Patrick and I spotted our DIS pals Trish and Christine for the first time since lunch at Le Cellier and ran over to get their take on the event so far. Turns out we weren’t the only ones feeling underwhelmed!
From there we were turned loose to wander the World Showcase until it was time to collect the next patch, in Italy. We dashed off to the member lounge in the American Adventure Parlor so we could get people-free shots for my Disney wedding book. The American Adventure Parlor/Dining Room is on the third floor of the pavilion and used for smaller receptions.
When we got to the pavilion, the Cast Members were a bit confused about what we were asking for and where we should go, but eventually they found someone who’d heard of D23, and he escorted us to the elevator. We had the place all to ourselves!
The parlor is nice enough, but the windowless dining room is a bit grim.
Here’s a more flattering shot the Roots took at one of their weddings:
The dining room is at the end of the hall nearest the elevator. The other end of the hall houses the Secret Bathrooms and a couple of small boardrooms. I was very excited to get shots of the bathrooms because Disney’s Fairy Tales Weddings likes to pretend they’re not there. When you rent out the American Adventure Rotunda downstairs, they make your guests go all the way outside and around the building to the public restrooms there. If you insist, they will grudgingly charge you an arm and a leg to open the restrooms upstairs in the Parlor.
We decided to go down to Italy Isola a little early and start the line for the patches, and we were glad we did. When the D23 staffers finally breezed in, they seemed to have no idea of where to set up or how to efficiently distribute 200 patches in the middle of a Saturday-afternoon Food & Wine Festival crowd.
One thing they were sure to do was hole-punch our badges so we couldn’t try to get more than our fair share of coveted patches.
After that we dashed back to the member lounge for more lemonade, a Secret Bathroom break, and a little maniacal moustache-twirling in front of the fireplace.
Then it was off to make our own meal from the Food & Wine fest booths around World Showcase.
The next stop on the Great Patch Hunt of 2010 was France. This time we were lying in wait for the D23 staffers so we’d know exactly where to stand to be first in line for patches. Mercifully, they chose a shady spot this time.
Back to strolling!
In Canada, we had to get one of everything on the menu.
I was inordinately excited to see a Nanaimo bar on the menu—a friend brought these to our at-home wedding reception, and I’ve been cracked on them ever since. I think it’s cuz there’s frosting inside!
We backtracked to the UK to collect the last patch. When the D23 staff eventually sashayed in, they seemed to be having the best time of any of us. They kinda tried to fake us out by picking a spot and then moving it a couple times, but by then we were all patch-stalking pros.
What we didn’t know, as we leapt in the air to catch the patches being flung at the mob in a desperate act of self-preservation, was that we had just paid for our tickets to Sip & Stroll. It turns out, D23 patches DO have eBay resale value, and when we later sold two complete sets, we actually ended up making a couple bucks more than price of our admission!
I’m looking at our pictures for the middle of the day, and it seems we have a Festival o’ Food & Wine Festival Booths! I think I thought it would be helpful to have Patrick shoot every single kiosk’s menu and that it would be interesting to have a shot of every single sign. Actually, the signs are pretty cool. I love the typography they came up with for some of them!
In Mexico we decided to take a break from the sun and made a beeline for (where else?)….
Back to “work”!OK, that didn’t last long… We stopped in at Maelstrom to use the free FASTPASSes D23 gave. Yes, that’s right, we used our FPs on Maelstrom. Well, we weren’t gonna wait a whole 15 minutes to get on THAT ride!
Ever since Carly had been thrown outta Norway for trying to take pictures of the event space known as Norway VIP Lounge, I’d been scheming about how I could get us one.
As Patrick and I exited Maelstrom, impulse grabbed me and I yanked him into the alcove across from the FASTPASS machines and up the stairs. I wrenched open the door to the loft, shoved him inside and barked, “Quick! Take a picture!” Technically, I still haven’t been inside the dang thing!
Here it is… the event space Disney doesn’t want you to know about… Norway VIP Lounge!
It’s not as ‘80s-lookin’ as it used to be—you can see older pics of it here, if you’re curious. Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings didn’t want to show me and Carly this space, maybe because they really only use it as a rain backup location. But it’s too bad, because the lounge is really not as horrible as everyone thinks it is—and maybe if they could actually see it, brides wouldn’t be so terrified of getting stuck there if it rains on their Epcot dessert party!
At that point we did something I always advise but rarely do: We went back to the hotel to swim! GREAT idea! We were all sticky and yucky from the heat and humidity, but 45 minutes in Stormalong Bay fixed us right up! Then it was back into Epcot for more noshing before Eat to the Beat.
Continuing where we left off…
In China we ate a delicious… say, wait a minute!
When we hit Germany, we were spotted by DISer Erin_W, who was visiting with her fiancée and mom to plan her Disney wedding (shot by The Roots!)!
We were all headed for the same place—the Karamell Kuche. Yes, even I was lured there despite my earlier disappointment with their cupcakes. It’s just so dang inviting! Everything looks like it’s going to be delicious, at least…
Sadly, the caramel corn was no better than the standard packaged stuff Disney sells all over the resort, and it was not even as good as the Arclight’s caramel corn! The peanut butter caramel crunch cookie was dry and bland, with barely a hint of peanut butter. Patrick thought his chocolate-covered strawberry was OK, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Karamell Kuche off my Top 10 Most Overrated Disney Desserts list!
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out Howard Jones would be performing the night that D23 got us seats to Eat to the Beat. Not only would I actually pay to see him, I already have! I was a HUGE Howard Jones fan in my youth, and I have fond memories of the day my Dad drove me all over Sacramento looking for a Howard Jones poster I could see in my mind’s eye and was convinced must exist! (Sadly, not enough other people in 1989 were huge Howard Jones fans to merit the creation of such a poster—or any poster of HoJo…)
Patrick and I got to America Gardens Theater in time to catch the end of his first performance, which got me even more amped.
D23 got us much better seats at Eat to the Beat than at last year’s Candlelight Processional. We had the front of the middle-middle section, and some of us *may* have gone to stand at the back of the very front section later in the evening when everyone else was on their feet…
When we got there, Tricia and Christine were sitting next to none other than AllEars Deb!
I’ll try not to bore you with all 7 bazillion photos Patrick took of the show, but I’m kind of excited about how many good ones he got!
Howard Jones played all his big early-career hits but not as much stuff from his late-’80s revival for my taste (but that’s just cuz that was when I discovered him). Bless his heart, though, he didn’t inflict any new stuff on us!
People started standing in the aisles about two-thirds of the way through the show. This is when Trish, who is also a longtime HoJo fan, grabbed my hand and dragged me up to where everyone was dancing awkwardly at the front. I, too, danced awkwardly.
It was a ton of fun! I’ve never really gotten that into a concert at Disney before, and it was a little surreal to have my old music-loving hipster lifestyle coincide with my new Disney-loving dork lifestyle. But the dorkiest part was still to come…
After the concert, we were escorted next door to Italy Isola for the capper to D23’s Sip & Stroll, an IllumiNations dessert party!
This was one of the main reasons I bought tickets to the event—Italy has one of the best views of the show. (Interestingly, the 2011 Sip & Stroll dessert party will take place in France, which doesn’t have nearly as good a view—could this be one of the reasons the event has yet to sell out?) Unfortunately for those of us with less refined palates, D23 decided to bring in a bunch of the same desserts we’d turned up our noses at the previous night at the 3D Disney Dessert Discovery party. There were a lot of weird shots of liqueur and coffee-flavored stuff.
With nothing to speak of to eat, I had time to dash back to American Adventure to make a pit stop. As I headed back toward Italy Isola, the crowd suddenly parted, and there, walking straight toward me, was Howard Jones! I should have known by his pace that he had somewhere to be, but I couldn’t help myself, blurting out, “YOU’RE Howard JONES!!!” He kept walking, so I pathetically began walking backward to keep pace, stating the bleedin’ obvious for good measure: “You’re going somewhere, aren’t you? Well, um… great show!” I stammered and then bolted in the opposite direction. D’oh!!! Totally embarrassing. Thank gawd he forgot the moment as soon as it happened.
Back in Italy, my shame was somewhat mitigated by knowing I had secured THE best view of IllumiNations from the Isola for all of us.
After the show, we bid farewell to Trish and Christine, but not before Trish took this picture of us. Patrick was looking diabolically dapper as ever…
This turned out to be one of those marathon Disney days that just keep going. Trish was off to shut down the Magic Kingdom, while we had a date at Beaches & Cream for Second Dessert (first for me!) with our pals Jonni & Taz!
You may remember Jonni from my first solo trip report, Wedding Crasher: 4 Parties in 3 Nights with 2 Cameras and 1 Fabulous Hat!. She and Taz have a home near Walt Disney World, so it was easy for them to meet us at the Beach Club for a frozen nightcap.
This was our first time getting to sit down with Jonni and Taz and really have a conversation with them, and it was a blast! We had so much in common, we were chattering like magpies. Hungry, ice cream-eating magpies… AND I got French fries and a peanut butter chocolate milkshake—what could be bad?