August 2016 Trip Report: Part 2

by Brittany DiCologero

If you haven’t read part 1 of our August trip report, you can catch up here!

We were up bright and early on Tuesday morning for our breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe at 9:15 am. Though I’ve recently come to love this restaurant for dinner, breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe will always be my favorite. In addition to serving classic breakfast dishes, brunch entrees with upscale twists, and specialty cocktails before 10:00, the Grand Floridian Cafe is home to what we believe is the best French Toast we’ve ever had.

The Brioche French Toast at the cafe is made using Madagascar Vanilla Bean-Butter and is served with a choice of bacon or sausage. At first glance at the menu, it may not stand out against options like Lobster Benedict and Steak and Eggs, but it is always our go-to choice at this location.

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After breakfast we spent some time wandering through the shop at the Grand Floridian, where we probably didn’t purchase anything worthwhile since this was definitely a low-budget trip. (I mean, I might have left with a pin or two but we definitely didn’t walk out of there with a new Dooney and Bourke bag or anything crazy).

Though I very rarely buy anything specific to the resort at the Grand Floridian, I love the atmosphere of the resort and have no issues spending time leisurely walking through the shops and the lobby. It’s a beautiful resort so it’s no surprise that we tend to take our time walking between breakfast and the monorail platform.

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Once we reached the monorail platform, we were off to the Transportation and Ticket Center to switch monorails and head to my favorite park, Epcot! Spaceship Earth was first on the agenda, as we still managed to make it to the park early enough that there was virtually no line. (And even if there is a line I don’t usually mind waiting since it goes so quick).

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After doing some time traveling on Spaceship Earth, and running through Mouse Gear (where Theresa bought her first pair of ears!) it seemed like as good a time as any to go to both Starbucks and Club Cool. Starbucks because caffeine, and Club Cool because, well… free soda. But alas since we’ve both already suffered through it, we couldn’t trick anyone into trying the Beverly– the insanely bitter and unappetizing Italian soda that no one in Italy has actually ever heard of. (If you haven’t tricked someone into trying the Beverly have you really been to Club Cool?)

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Once we had our caffeine and soda fix, we decided to go over to the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. We were still mourning the loss of Captain EO, especially Theresa who had not been to Epcot since EO’s closure, but the Short Film Festival is still fun. All of the films work extremely well in 4D, particularly Get a Horse, but in my opinion the attraction has a sort of temporary feel to it– and I say that while writing this in 2017, where these films have now been shown for almost two years.

It sounds like Epcot will be getting revamped in the relatively neat future, and I guess in the grand scheme of how theme parks work “temporary” can turn out to mean a couple of years, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Next up we headed to Mexico, with no expectations of doing all of World Showcase that day. We primarily went to Mexico so we could eat churritos (despite the fact that breakfast honestly wasn’t all that long ago, and we did just have Starbucks and soda samples– it’s a vacation, don’t judge us). Aside from the delicious churritos as our primary motivation, Theresa had also not ridden the Gran Fiesta Tour since the animatronics had been added to the last scene.

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Of course we stopped a little bit to shop while we were inside the pyramid (and no, Theresa did not actually purchase that sombrero. How would you get that home anyway? I’m not sure a sombrero is worth paying for shipping). Had we not already at french toast, pancakes, churritos, and at least three drinks each, we probably would have stopped at La Cava del Tequila, but by now it was only about 12:30 and we still had the rest of the day ahead of us!

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We had Fastpasses for Test Track that we wanted to make sure we used before leaving Epcot for the day, so we made our way over there while discussing how we would design our car. Every time we go on Test Track, we try to come up with some way of designing the most ridiculous looking car we can think of. We might be bad people (or we might just be hilarious, you decide) but on this ride on Test Track we decided to design a hearse.

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Hopefully you appreciate our dark sense of humor. If not it’s probably a good thing you weren’t sitting with us during the ride as the death puns were flowing from start to finish. What? I was just dying to design this car. It’s too bad we lost and our car came in dead last though. Okay, okay I’ll stop…

We decided then that going back to the resort for a bit to relax by the pool would be a good idea. We were definitely planning on spending the evening at Animal Kingdom, and since it was August we didn’t want to wear ourselves out too much on the second day with the heat and humidity. On our way our of the park though we did stop to meet Baymax.

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This meet and greet was a first for both of us, and we absolutely loved it! Baymax is so huggable (and with that air conditioning I could have stayed there all day!) The fact that I really enjoyed the Baymax meet and greet so much makes me wish I had met him during my college program when he was meeting guests at Hollywood Studios with Hiro. I’m terrible with character meet and greets in that I love meeting characters but it usually isn’t a priority so I often end up putting them off until later… which is fine, until the next time you come when Hiro no longer meets with Baymax. Oh well…

Back at the resort we got lunch from the food court and had a couple of drinks by the pool. Disney has the best Mai Tais– I don’t know what it is, I’m thinking they actually use a variety of fruit juices whereas bars near me in Massachusetts tend to use pre-made mixes. It makes all the difference because the Captain’s Mai Tai is now my drink of choice at the pool bar in Disney, and if I want a drink with dinner at the Polynesian.

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I also love hanging out at the pool bar at All Star Music because one of the bartenders there (named Gaston ironically enough) used to live in my hometown in Massachusetts, and now every time I’m there he remembers me. It’s nice having a familiar face outside of my group of friends from the college program, and he makes great drinks!

Sometimes a couple of hours by the pool is just what you need to re-energize yourself during a summer visit to Walt Disney World. It’s also nice when it’s so hot out to be at your resort sometime in the afternoon in case you want to shower before going back out to the parks.

When we arrived at Animal Kingdom, we spent some time going through the shops around Discovery Island which are actually some of my favorite shops at Walt Disney World. While a lot of the merchandise is typical to the rest of the resort, most of it is Animal Kingdom-specific, which often comes with cute animal prints and other designs you don’t see in the other parks. Though Epcot probably has the most unique shops with all of the countries in World Showcase, Animal Kingdom (and Animal Kingdom Lodge for that matter) are my favorites in terms of the park’s unique spin on otherwise generic Disney merchandise.

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We got a quick dinner at Flame Tree Barbecue, which has consistently been one of my favorite quick service restaurants since it opened. Per usual I had the half rack of St. Louis ribs, and Theresa had the pulled pork sandwich. I swear someday we’ll stray from our usual meals here and have something different… someday…

After dinner we went for a ride on Expedition Everest, before meeting up with Aly, my friend from the college program who had recently moved back to Orlando to work for Disney. Aly’s location was actually Rivers of Light (which as you are probably aware during the time of this trip report was The Jungle Book Alive with Magic instead), so we decided to meet her in the park on her night off to watch the show with her.

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Before heading off to watch the show however we stopped by the Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks (right next to Expedition Everest) to try the Himalayan Ghost at Aly’s recommendation. The Himalayan Ghost is a mix of Snow Leopard Vodka, Guava, and Odwalla® Lemonade, and it is absolutely delicious!

Once we had finished our drinks, Theresa and I went for one more ride on Expedition Everest while Aly visited some of her coworkers by the show. When we arrived back at the show to take our seats with Aly, Nora, another one of my friends from my college program, had met us to watch the Jungle Book as well!

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As for the show itself, I think the Jungle Book had a bad rep without much warrant for it. Was it the best nighttime show at Walt Disney World? Not by a long shot. But was it actually bad? Of course not. If guests went into this show expecting an Animal Kingdom-eque Fantasmic, they may have left disappointed. But I felt that if you went into it understanding that it was not the show that was originally intended for this theater it was fine if not very enjoyable.

The major flaw that I felt when seeing The Jungle Book Alive with Magic was that the sets just did not seem well-suited for the space. I would have loved to have seen more of the dancers coming together, but it was just an odd stage for that kind of performance. That being said, the music, dancing, and water projections were spectacular, and I loved the laid back feel the show had, while still portraying the park’s unique culture to guests.

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After the show we had planned on going right back to the resort since we were going to be back in Animal Kingdom early the next morning anyway, but we stopped when I recognized a former LMA (Lights, Motors, Action!) cast member working exit greeter for The Jungle Book. Have you heard the bee sting story? No? Oh boy here we go…

Super Bowl Sunday 2015: I was working at merge (the point where the Fastpass and standby lines are merged together and parties traveling with wheelchairs are separated) at LMA when out of nowhere a bee/wasp/hornet/any other flying object with a stinger flew behind my sunglasses and stung me under my eye. It was honestly the strangest thing. Everything was going really smoothly at merge (which NEVER happens) then out of nowhere: STING.

So this other cast member, we’ll call him Matt (I unfortunately haven’t kept in touch so I’m not sure if he wants his real name thrown around the internet), tells me to go to the bathroom and check on my eye. I was probably in the bathroom for about thirty seconds when I came out and my eye was so swollen that I couldn’t open it at all. Matt called for one of our managers and I ran backstage to our break room to meet them there.

Long story short- my manager called the paramedics, they examined my eye and removed what they could of the stinger (THAT WAS STILL STUCK IN THERE) with tweezers, but some of it was broken– and I don’t think the last pieces fell out until that summer. But when I was walking behind the show with my manager to get a ride to the cast services building so I could catch the bus home, Matt gave me a hug and told me that it was going to be okay and he was glad I was going home to rest.

Until that night when we saw the Jungle Book show, the day of the bee sting was the only time I had met or had any interaction with Matt. He didn’t usually work at LMA, he just picked up a shift for that day, and could easily have seen my crazy bee sting incident as not his problem, yet he spent the rest of his stint at Merge trying to make sure I was okay. When I saw him at the Jungle Book that night, I asked if he remembered me (and he did!) and I was able to thank him for taking care of me the day of the weird eye sting ordeal.

Later in the trip we actually saw him again, this time working in the Magic Kingdom, and though we just haven’t kept in touch I’ll always remember how caring he was during a randomly hectic (and painful) time at LMA. Especially when I put makeup on every morning and put concealer over where the stinger was.

That’s all for this leg of the trip report, up next a morning in Animal Kingdom, lunch at the Lodge and an evening at one of my favorite places: Jellyrolls!

Click here to go to part 3!

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