Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow….Or EPCOT!

WARNING!!  Heavy use of pictures ahead!

Our first full day at Disney World!  I’m surprised I was able to sleep!  Being the good travel agent that I am, I had already planned out all our days according to the projections of crowds during our time there.  While most people prefer to go to Magic Kingdom first, I prefer to go where the crowds aren’t and for our first day, that was Epcot!

On the bus to Epcot!

On the bus to Epcot!

Do you know what Epcot means?  It means “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”.  That was Walt’s origin design for the park.  He had planned a community that was self-sufficient, but unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see his dream come true.

Most people either love or hate Epcot.  I’m actually one of those that loves Epcot.  One of my all-time favorite rides, Test Track, is at Epcot.  I also love the World Showcase with all the beautiful buildings and countries that are represented there.

A quick Photopass shot before we head to the rides!

A quick Photopass shot before we head to the rides!

We had our FastPasses already scheduled– Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth.  We could have passed on Spaceship Earth, but it was the only one of the remaining choices that we would have gone on.  I wish you could choose ANY ride at Epcot like you can at Magic Kingdom.  I’m not a fan of most of the rides at Epcot, but I do enjoy Test Track and Mission Space.  I rode Soarin’ when it first opened in 2005, but it made me sick, so I haven’t gone on it since then.  I wasn’t planning on riding it again this year either.  We always ride on Spaceship Earth when it’s really hot outside and we’re tired.  The ride is about 20 minutes long and it’s air conditioned!!  We ride it to take a little nap and cool off…lol.

The Bryant ladies waiting in line for Test Track!

The Bryant ladies waiting in line for Test Track!

We arrived just as the park opened, but I had to stop and rent a locker to store my camera equipment that I’d need later in the evening so I could take pictures of Illuminations.  My girls ran on ahead so they could get in line for Test Track.  We knew we could get one ride on it before it got too busy and before we had to use our FastPass for it.  I rented my locker, stored my stuff and got in line at Test Track.  The wait wasn’t too long (about 20 minutes), but we feel it’s worth the wait.  When we went in 2012. it was closed because they were refurbishing it.  We were really excited to see what the new one was like.  We were not disappointed!  You begin by building your own car.  You are in teams and you design a car from the ground up.  It was a lot of fun to design a car.  Once the design is done, you get on the ride to test your design.  There are several performance tests you go through and they score how your car would have performed.  At the end of it, you get flung outside, going over 60 mph on a round test track.  I love this ride!!

After Test Track, we headed over to Mission Space, which we had scheduled as our first FP.  There are 2 versions of Mission Space:  Green and Orange.  Green is pretty mild, while Orange pulls a few G’s and spins.  I don’t do well spinning, so I always opt for the Green side.  It’s a simulator, so it can make you sick if you don’t do well in simulators.  You are broken down into groups of 4 and each one of you is given a role in your mission.  You are basically just pushing buttons and I don’t think anything really happens if you don’t push them, but it’s fun to be an astronaut for a few minutes.  If you are prone to motion sickness, I would probably skip this ride, but if you want to give it a try, at least stick to the Green!

By this time, it was time for us to use our Test Track FP, so we got in the FP line and got to ride for a second time of the day!  It was just as fun the second time around, and this time we knew when the ride picture was taken so we had preplanned poses for the picture!  (Since I am a professional photographer, my children are expert posers!  They pose for any and every picture ever taken of them!  I think we’re the only ones that actually plan what we’re going to look like in our ride images!)

And we're off!

And we’re off!

After Test Track, we were hungry so headed over to La Cantina de San Angel for a quick service lunch.  We get the Dining Plan, which I think it totally worth every penny!  Not only is it convenient, but we don’t have to look at prices and we can order what we want!  La Cantina de San Angel has wonderful QS meals.  I love the shredded beef tacos, but the nachos look delicious too!

We met up with the other half of our family after lunch.  They didn’t want to get up early like we did, so they had just arrived at the park.  I don’t really advise this because you can get more rides done in the first hour of park opening than the rest of the day.  However, my family does not listen to me so what can you do??!?  They were just getting ready to start on their FP rides, so we went and used our last FP, and to take our cool little nap at Spaceship Earth!

This happens at Spaceship Earth!

This happens at Spaceship Earth!

Be sure to stop off at Club Cool before heading into the World Pavilion.  You can try different kinds of soda beverages from all over the world.  Be sure to try Beverly—she’s a favorite!

We try to do all the rides in the morning, so that we can dedicate the afternoon to walking around the World Showcase.  There is a lot of great entertainment in the World Showcase, so be sure to pick up an Entertainment Guide at the front of the park (or inside any store in the park) so you can plan which entertainment you want to see.  Most of the entertainment and characters appear periodically throughout the day, so you usually get at least one chance to see them all.

One of my all-time favorite acts is Off Kilter.  Off Kilter is a Celtic rock band.  I bought their CD back in 2005 because I loved them so much!  They are still the same guys that have been performing since then, and they sounded even better this year.  Yes, the wear kilts (I love a man in a skirt!!) and they sing songs with a rock beat and bagpipes!  They perform in the Canadian Pavilion, so don’t miss them!

My favorite band at WDW....Off Kilter.  I must admit to a small crush on the bass player on the far right....I love a man that can pull off a kilt!

My favorite band at WDW….Off Kilter. I must admit to a small crush on the bass player on the far right….I love a man that can pull off a kilt!

The Canadian Pavilion is one of my favorites because it’s so beautiful!  Be sure to check out the whole pavilion.  There is a beautiful garden and lovely waterfall if you walk far enough back.

After the Canadian Pavilion and Off Kilter, is the UK Pavilion.  I think it’s probably a tie for me between the UK and Canadian Pavilion.  Walking around the UK pavilion is like stepping into the English countryside.  There’s even a little fish and chips shop!  In the UK Gardens you can catch a band called The British Revolution.  These guys sing songs made famous by British bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  These guys are fantastic!!!  They sing a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that is almost better than Queen!  Don’t miss them!

There are 11 countries in all in the World Pavilion, and they are all spectacular!  All the people that work in each pavilion, all the food and all the souvenirs are actually from that country.  If you’ve got kids, you can get an Epcot passport, and take them to each country, where there is an activity the kids can do.  At each stop, they will get a stamp in their passport.

Dinner this evening was at the Rose and Crown in the UK Pavilion.  I have wanted to try this restaurant since I heard they served Bangers and Mash!  Last year, we went to the Biergarten in Germany, which was delicious, but we wanted to try different restaurants this time.  Since there were 15 of us, they had to put us at separate tables, but they were gracious enough to put us next to each other on the patio overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon.  A storm was brewing so it was a little chilly and windy, but not too bad.  I finally got to try my Bangers and Mash!!  For those of you that are wondering….bangers and mash are English sausages served over mashed potatoes with a shallot gravy.  It was delicious!  Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, which ranged from fish and chips to Indian Style Chicken Marsala.  Dessert comes with the dining plan, and most of us opted for the dessert that was offered on the children’s menu because they were really different!  We were glad we tried this little restaurant!

Following dinner, we finished walking around the World Showcase, just waiting to claim our spot for Illuminations, the evening show at Epcot.  As a professional photographer, I can say I waste an inordinate amount of time claiming a spot to stand in to get the best pictures of the evening shows or parades.  To get a good spot to watch any of the big events like this, most people start claiming their spots about an hour early.  I knew that I wanted to shoot from the deck in the Japan Pavilion and I knew I’d need to get there early.  I got in position around 7:45pm to claim my spot.  I set my camera up and did some practice shots.  I had never used a tripod to shoot these shows before, and my girls had just given me a shutter release cord and app for my iPhone for Christmas.  I was anxious to use so hadn’t really read the directions, so figured I knew what I was doing.  Note to self:  Read the directions before using any electronics that will record an event that you won’t get a second chance of shooting for another year or two.

 

Illuminations began at 9pm.  I had a decent vantage point, but with a new camera and new electronics to work with, my pictures weren’t that great.  I was really disappointed.  The show was still amazing, though.

Illuminations….

Illuminations....

Illuminations….

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When the show was over, the exodus began.  Everyone swarms to the buses to go back to their resorts.  You don’t have to do that!  The buses run for at least an hour after a park closes.  Take your time.  Shop at this time instead of during the day when you should be riding rides.  I hung back, while my girls went back to the resort.  I wanted to get some night shots of some of the pavilions.  Because I didn’t have a good understanding of how to use my shutter release, my images were not what I had hoped for, but it was fun to walk around the World Showcase when it was fairly empty of any people!  Here are some of the images I was able to get…

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Japan….

United States

United States

Italy...

Italy…

Germany...

Germany…

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Norway…

 

China...

China…

One last look at The Lands...

One last look at The Lands…

A bit of pixie dust to send you off...

A bit of pixie dust to send you off…

By the time I got to the bus stop, I was the only one on the bus so had a quiet ride back to the resort.  I was exhausted, my feet were aching and I had developed a blister on the bottom of my foot!!  How many times do I warn my clients about breaking in new shoes before they go to WDW?!?  I thought I had broken them in, but apparently wearing them for two weeks off and on is not breaking them in….ugh!!  I was so glad to see my bed!  And even more glad that I did not have to walk the death march all they way back to the back of the resort….did I mention the extra cost for a preferred room is totally worth it?!?!

Tomorrow….Animal Kingdom!!

Until then….have a magical day!

Monica

All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014.  You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

Free Day at Disney World!

Day 5 –  Free Day!

On Day 5, we always have a free day.  We use this day to head back to any parks that we might have missed something at our first time through.  The only way you can actually do this is if you purchase the Hopper Option with your tickets.  This allows you to go to any or all the parks in a day.  You can basically “hop” from park to park in one day.

Since we had Fastpasses scheduled in the afternoon at Magic Kingdom, we decided to head over to Epcot first because my daughter wanted to ride Soarin’ and hadn’t been able to on our Epcot day.  We knew the key to riding Soarin’ without a FP and without waiting an hour or longer in line was to be there before Epcot opened, and run directly to the ride!  I did not even stop to put my camera in a locker!  We just followed the crowd right on over to Soarin’.  We were pretty lucky that this day was not a busy day at Epcot so we only had to wait about 5 minutes to ride it!  The last time I rode Soarin’, I did not have a good experience.  I don’t like heights and I don’t like rides where my feet dangle!  This ride had both!  I decided I’d try it again, and maybe this time I’d be able to keep my eyes open!  (Since it’s a movie, if you close your eyes, you don’t feel the sensation of flying so you don’t get sick.)  I made it almost the whole way through with my eyes open but must admit, I did have to close them occasionally!  After Soarin’, we headed over to Test Track for one more run there since this is one of our favorite rides.  The wait was a little longer than I would have liked (about half an hour), and my feet were killing me, which didn’t help!  But it was worth it for one more ride.  We headed to the World Showcase after Test Track to go through a couple of the countries that we missed the first day.  We also decided to try riding Maelstrom when we were in Norway.  While it’s not exactly a thrill ride, it was a cute little ride, but I probably won’t waste time riding it again.   For me, it’s one of those rides like The Haunted Mansion—I rode it once, but won’t do it again.

On this day, we decided to go to the Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles…the French bakery!!  Oh, my!  They had so many delicious things that we wanted to try so we just used all of our remaining snack credits ( 5 of them!) and bought 6 different goodies to share between the 4 of us.  Oh. My.  They were delicious!  We tried the quiche, an eclair,  biscuit chocolate(chocolate chip cookie), paun au chocolate, chocolate brioche and a chocolate tart! (Do you see a pattern here?!?!?  They were so rich and delicious, we could not even finish them!  I highly recommend making a stop at the Boulangerie and trying a pastry or two…or 6!  People will stare….I guarantee it!!  Lol…

 

It was about time for our first FastPass at Magic Kingdom, so we jumped on a Friendship and rode it back over to the entrance to the World Showcase—mostly because our feet were killing us and we didn’t want to walk!!  Since we were in a hurry, we asked a CM what would be the quickest way to get to Magic Kingdom.  Now, I thought that the only way to get to Magic Kingdom directly from Epcot was to get on the Monorail, but sometimes it can take forever because you have to go to the TTC (Ticket Transportation Center) and then switch over to the Magic Kingdom monorail.  When we went in 2005, we stood in this line for almost 2 hours in the beastly heat of the Florida day!!  I did not want a repeat of that but we’d have to go to a resort, then wait for a bus to Magic Kingdom!  If we did that, we’d probably miss our FP time.  The CM that we asked told us that there was a bus that went directly to MK, and it was the quickest way to get there.  I thought “Fabulous!!  They must have changed the bus system!”  We ran out of the park and got to the bus stop…no bus to Magic Kingdom!!  We had to turn around, go back through security and jump on the monorail!  Ugh!  I do have to say that sometimes the CM’s are not the most knowledgeable!  I don’t know if it’s because some of them are seasonal workers and just don’t have enough experience or what, but I wish they all had the same information!  Thankfully, the monorail trip was pretty quick, and it’s actually a lovely way to see a good part of the Disney property!  I do recommend you try riding on it at least once while you’re there.

First stop for the girls was Space Mountain.  While they did that, I thought I’d run over to Pirates of the Caribbean since I didn’t get to ride it the first time we were there.  There’s nothing that special about Pirates, but I just always feel like a visit to WDW is not complete without a ride on Pirates.  I walked over to Adventureland to get in line for Pirates, but after a few minutes I realized that my daughters also wanted to ride it, so figured I’d wait for them.  I just walked around Adventureland and took a few pictures while I waited for them to get done at Space Mountain.  We got in line and the wait was FOREVER!!!  The posted wait time was 20 minutes when we got in line, but I’m fairly certain it ended up being 45 minutes by the time we finally got to ride it!

Next up–FastPasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train again!  It was just as fun the second time although it’s much more fun to ride at night!  Next we decided to go back to our resort to swim and rest a bit because we were just so exhausted!  I think next time we go to WDW, I’m going to take my own advice and go back to the resort after lunch and go swimming and rest!  You don’t really get a lot of rides done between 1pm and 4pm, and it’s also the hottest and most crowded time of day in the parks!  It felt so good to our hot, tired bodies to just go sit in the swimming pool!  We went back to our room, showered and grabbed a bite to eat at the resort restaurant, then headed back to Magic Kingdom for our last time watch Wishes!!  Boo!

We got there just as the Main Street Electrical Parade was winding down, and it just so happened that we walked onto Main Street right behind the last float, so we just walked right behind it, right up Main Street… felt like we were in the parade!   By following it, we ended up right smack in front of the castle for Wishes!  I do have to say that being right in front of the hub, smack in front of the castle is NOT the best place to view Wishes!  You just can’t see the fireworks as well as you can further back.  Next time I go back, I will stay further back.  You just can’t see the full display of fireworks as you can see in my pictures.

After Wishes, we rode a few more rides–Big Thunder Mountain mostly, then we started heading back to Main Street to do a little last minute shopping.  On our way, I realized I still had not had  Disney Dole Whip!  Let me stop a moment to tell you about this glorious dessert called “Disney Dole Whip”.  It’s pineapple soft serve ice cream, and it’s heavenly!  Ask for a Dole Whip Float(the soft serve in fresh pineapple juice), and it’s really the nectar of the gods!!  If you find yourself at Magic Kingdom…you must stop in Adventureland and get a Disney Dole Whip!  You will know the place when you see the line that is longer than the line to see Elsa and Anna at a tiny building across from the Swiss Family Treehouse!  So worth the wait!

Mmmm...my favorite thing to eat at all of WDW!!  A Disney Dole Whip

Mmmm…my favorite thing to eat at all of WDW!! A Disney Dole Whip

We spent some time shopping, then slowly and sadly, made our way to the buses for one last trip back to our resort.  There is something so sad and depressing about walking out of Magic Kingdom for the last time.  I hate it!  My feet, on the other hand, breath a sigh of relief….

I leave you with a few parting images of Magic Kingdom…

 

Have a magical day!

Monica

All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014.  You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

 

The Rock'n'Roller Coaster

Hollywood Studios….Here We Come!

Day 4…Hollywood Studios

Back in 2005, when I went to WDW for the very first time, this was my favorite park.  Being a movie buff,  I loved everything about this park–the rides, the shows, the buildings, everything!  Now, it’s changed a bit for me.  While I still love a lot of the rides, I feel that the shows need to be updated a bit.  I mean, how many times can you see the Indiana Jones show?!?  It’s been the same since at least 2005!  Of course, Disney must have heard my inner thoughts as word has just been released that they will be closing this show by 2015.  I’m excited to see what they come up with to replace it.  Word on the streets is that it will be Star Wars, whatever it is.  I’m OK with that….I’m a BIG Star Wars fan (the originals, not the newer ones…)  Anyway….

Day 4 brings us to Hollywood Studios.  Normally I wouldn’t go near this park with a ten foot pole during Star Wars Weekend because it is crowded!  I mean wall-to-wall crowded.  And not just regular people. but strange looking people!  Star Wars fans really take their fan-dom to a whole new level!    Lol….  Since I have a brother and 2 nephews that are really big Star Wars fans, I knew we had to be there this weekend.

Part of my family started their day out with the new Star Wars Hollywood & Vine Star Wars breakfast.  I chose not to attend because I’d rather be riding Star Tours and shooting targets at Toy Story Mania rather than eating breakfast.  From the report I got back from them, the breakfast was “out of this world fun” and totally worth the price.  I mean, it’s not every day you get to have breakfast with Darth Vader and Boba Fett.

My kids had FP’s for the Tower of Terror, but I don’t even go within walking distance of that ride I hate it so much(there’s something about my butt lifting off the seat a good 8 inches that I just don’t care for…), so they headed there while I head back to the Backlot Tour.  On the way back there, I stopped to take some pictures along the way of the Streets of America.

Last time we came, we tried doing this attraction 3 times, but every single time we’d get in line, we had to get out for some reason or another.  I was determined to get on it this time!  I have to say I was a little disappointed in this ride.  There just wasn’t much substance to it.  I think this is one of those rides at HS that needs to be refurbished.   They also used to pick audience members and have them participate in a re-creation of a battle scene from Pearl Harbor.  It’s actually where my Dad made his film debut two years ago when we were there!  I’m not sure I’d ride this again and I certainly wouldn’t waste FP on it.

After the Backlot Tour, our day seemed to unravel a bit. We spent a great deal of time wandering around.  I really wanted to go to the Animation Academy, but when we got there, one had just started and it was going to be another 30 minutes or so before the next one started!  This would interfere with next FP’s, so we decided to go back later.

Our next FP was for Lights! Motors! Actions!.  Now this isn’t really one I’d ever get a FP for again.  The only reason we did, was that HS does not have a lot of great rides to get FP’s  on their  second tier.  The only one on the second tier that I really wanted was Star Tours, which is my absolute favorite ride at HS.  The seating area for LMA is huge, so really no need for FP’s, but we got them anyway….  I really enjoy this show, even though I’ve seen it so many times.  Little boys will love it!  Heck my girls even love it!  It’s a backstage look at how the movie industry creates all those amazing car chase scenes.  It is pretty much the same thing I’ve seen every time I go, so I kind of wish Disney would shake it up a bit.  Nonetheless, it’s a great show, and if you don’t hurry out of the stadium, you might get to meet the stunt drivers!

After LMA, it’s time for lunch.  During Star Wars Weekend,  HS serves these amazing cupcakes called Darth Vader cupcakes.  We had them last time we were there, and knew we HAD to get them again, so we headed to the Backlot Express for lunch because we knew they served them there.  This is not by any means a 5-star restaurant, and it’s kind of small inside and the lunch is OK, but the cupcakes are to die for!  This year, they added the Master Yoda cupcake (my name, not theirs…the Yoda cupcake just didn’t sound appealing) As soon as we found a spot to sit down and eat, the sky opened up and poured rain….in buckets!  We hadn’t really had any kind of rain while we were there this time, so we felt kind of fortunate!  We decided to just take our time eating and let the rain pass.  That’s one thing about Florida rain…it really doesn’t last long!

After lunch (and when the rain stopped), we headed over to Pixar Place to ride Toy Story Mania.  I had never done this ride so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.  First off, let me say that the queue for this ride is adorable!!  Very bright and colorful!  All of the elements took me back to my childhood—Etch-a-Sketch, Tinker Toys, Checkers, etc…it was all there!  I was not sure how this ride worked, but you catch on pretty quickly—and oh, how fun it is!!  I can see why this is one of the top attractions in all of Disney World!!  It was a hoot!  You wear designer 3-D glasses, get in a little buggy and you shoot at things!  Way too much fun!  I actually scored pretty high for my first time…a 98,000!

After we were done at TSM, we headed back over to the Animation Academy.  Once again, we got there at an off time so we weren’t able to attend!  (Just a friendly note from your Disney Travel Agent-me!  If there are scheduled attractions that you want to attend, pick up a schedule at the front of the park when you enter.  It’s so much better to have a plan instead of aimlessly wondering around like we did.  I knew better, but thought I could just wing it.  Disney is not the place to wing it!).  We knew we’d miss out time for our Star Tours FP if we got in line for the Animation Academy, so we figured we’d try again later!  We got over to Star Tours, and the line wasn’t too long, so we decided to just get in line and ride it one time before it was time to use our FP’s for it.  This is a ride I could ride over and over and over again……actually I have done that before!  It’s a simulator so it can make some people sick with all it’s bumping and moving around, but I love it!  Once again…the queue for this ride is amazing!

After we had a little fun in the Star Tours Gift Shop, the girls all wanted to go see Beauty and The Beast live stage show.  We knew we were cutting it pretty close for our evening dinner reservations at Whispering Canyon Cafe, but we decided to try anyway.  After we found a seat and got settled in for the show, I started worrying about our reservations so I decided to get on a bus and head over to the Wilderness Lodge to make sure we didn’t lose our reservation.  I knew the other half of my family would be late since my nephew’s weren’t able to get into the Jedi Training Academy until about 3:45.  I hopped on a bus to the Wilderness Lodge and then got a text from my brother that the training was canceled due to the rain so they were heading to the buses.  Of course, now the girls would be late so I texted them to let them know they needed to get over to the Lodge as soon as they could!  What did we ever do before cell phones!??!   We arrived at Wilderness Lodge with time to spare, which was great since the girls didn’t arrive for a while.  The Wilderness Lodge is amazing!  You feel like you really are out in a mountain retreat somewhere.  We pulled up some rocking chairs and sat in front of the huge fireplace and just rested and talked about our day.  By the time the girls got there, it was time for our reservation!

I had been wanting to try the Whispering Canyon Cafe for a really long time!  I heard it was a fun family restaurant and they had great food.  Well, all the rumors were true!  We laughed and had a great time.  We had a great waiter name Najeeb who was from Morocco.  He did a great job taking care of our family of 15.  This is one of the few restaurants on the Dining Plan that offers unlimited milkshakes as your beverage!  I encourage you to order one, too…they were delicious!  I debated about whether or not to show the pictures of some of the fun that is had at Whispering Canyon Cafe, but decided against it.  It really is something to be enjoyed first-hand!  By the way…even if you don’t need it, I highly recommend asking for some ketchup!!

Following dinner, we headed back to the park for the evening fireworks show.  Since it was Star Wars Weekend, they have a special fireworks show they do, so once again, instead of riding on rides (which we could have just walked on since everyone was at the Star Wars show) I was getting a position and setting my camera equipment up.  I was mislead by a Cast Member as to where a great spot would be to shoot the fireworks because once they started, I realized it wasn’t as great a spot as they had thought!  I had a big tree in my way and it just wasn’t quite as magnificent as I had imagined!  Oh, well….what can you do?

After the fireworks, it was time for Fantasmic!, another one of WDW’s amazing fireworks/pyro shows.  I will see this show no matter how many times I go to WDW.  To me, it’s always worth seeing.  It’s an amazing blend of fireworks, pyrotechnics and shooting water!  I’m still not totally sure what the story is, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless!

When Fantasmic! was over, the park had already closed.  Now what that means is that the rides close down, but you can still wander through the parks a bit.  I find this a great time to shop or to just look around since the parks are pretty much deserted.   At Hollywood Studios, they aren’t quite as friendly about letting you roam around as the other parks were.  They stationed a CM at the end of every street so you couldn’t go back into a different part of the park.  This was a little disappointing to me as I wanted to take some pictures of the park after dark.  Next time I know to be at the back of the park when they close so I can more leisurely stroll out of the park!  I did manage to get a few shots as I was walking out of the park, though…

Have a magical day!

All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014.  You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

Where the Magic Began….Magic Kingdom!

(I apologize again for the picture overload….I’m a photographer…I express my words better through images!  You also might want to get a bowl of popcorn and a beverage…this could take a while!)

Day 4 – Magic Kingdom!

I love Magic Kingdom!  It’s my favorite park of all of them.  This park really is magical!  I think it’s more magical to me because it truly was a park that Walt Disney himself created, even though he never lived to see it finished.  There are touches all around of Walt—from the perspective he required of all buildings (bricks are larger toward the bottom, and get smaller as you go to the top—it makes it appear that the building is actually taller than it is!) to the fact that most of the store windows are designed so that children can see in them without being lifted up!  Who doesn’t get a thrill when you walk down Main Street USA and see this….?

Walt and Mickey in front of Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World.

Walt and Mickey in front of Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World.

Our day at Magic Kingdom didn’t start as soon as I would have liked.  We were a little tired and overslept.  I was not happy!  I really like to see the opening of Magic Kingdom.  The Cast Members do a nice little opening number that includes Mickey Mouse, welcoming you to his park!  We arrived just as this got over and they opened the front gates.  As per my usual recommendations, I headed straight back to the new Fantasyland, where I was planning on getting in line for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, but when I got there at 9:22am (the park had opened at 9am), the line was already 120 minutes long!  Yikes!  Not a good way to start out the day!  Since I had a FastPass for it later in the day, I opted to hop in line to ride Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride.  This was a new ride since we came last, and since the line was almost non-existent, I decided to check it out.  Disney really does a great job of keeping your eyes busy while waiting inline queues, and Under the Sea did not disappoint!  The ride was very much like Nemo at Epcot, but it was cool and such a cute little ride.

After checking my handy-dandy touringplans.com Wait Time app, I decided Big Thunder Mtn. Railroad was my next stop!  On my way, I ran into my brother and his family, who also just happened to be heading to BTMRR.  After a short time in line, we boarded the ride.  This is another ride that has some amazing details in the line queue.  Be sure to check them out next time you’re in line!  Last time we were at WDW, I made several attempts to ride BTMRR, but for some reason, it was always broken down, or broke down, while I was in line!  I love this ride!  It’s probably one of my all-time favorites!

Big Thunder Rail Road

Big Thunder Rail Road

After BTRR, we noticed that the lines for Splash Mountain weren’t too bad, so we headed next door to jump in line.  Splash Mtn is another ride that had alluded me last time we went to WDW.  While it’s a pretty sedate ride, the drop at the end is a 4-story drop!  And you can get pretty wet, depending on where you are sitting!  I love the ride through Splash Mountain!  The ride is based on the movie “Song of the South”, so you can find all the Brer characters:  Rabbit, Fox, Bear as well as all the other wonderful characters from this classic movie.  I rode next to my sister-in-law….you know the perfect one that got soaked on the Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom!!??!  Yea….she got wet again!  Lol….good times!

After Splash Mountain, my brother’s family had FastPasses for Big Thunder Rail Road, so they went to ride it, and I decided to take a little time to take some pictures of Frontierland and Liberty Square.  While I love Fantasyland with all it’s castles and magic, I adore this section of the Magic Kingdom!

By the time I finished my stroll through Frontierland and Liberty Square, it was time for our FastPass lunch at Be Our Guest, Magic Kingdom’s newest dining sensation.  This restaurant is so popular that you can hardly get a reservation for the evening meal!  I had a little special knowledge on how to get a lunch time reservation FastPass to BOG.  Check in was super easy.  I gave them our name, let them know we were all there, and they gave us a beeper to call us when they were ready.  When our beeper went off, we were escorted inside to place our order.  The lunch menu has some delicious sandwich choices as well as a quinoa salad or braised pork.  What else is on the menu?!?  Why the Grey Stuff, of course!!  The braised pork was very tender and tasty, and was served with green beans and mashed potatoes.  It was a huge portion so I ended up sharing it with my dad, the human garbage disposal!  For dessert, I had a triple chocolate cupcake, but my daughter had The Master’s Cupcake, which was frosted with the Grey Stuff.  I got to try some of the grey stuff and it was quite delicious!  Almost everyone in our party had one of the sandwiches and they looked quite delicious–they were also HUGE!  They are served with “pomme frites” (french fries).  I would give the lunch an “A” for the food and the atmosphere!

Following our delicious lunch, we headed across the way to ride the Dumbo ride!  I love Dumbo!  The Dumbo ride is one of the most popular rides in all of Walt Disney World!  With the expansion of Fantasyland, Dumbo was moved from it’s original spot, and they added an additional Dumbo ride!  With the additional ride, they also added the cutest little play area for the kids waiting in the queue.

Next up was the Haunted Mansion!  Now, I must admit I have never ridden the Haunted Mansion, and wasn’t really interested in ever riding, but I was encouraged to ride this classic by none other than my boss!  He was appalled that I had never been on the Haunted Mansion, which is a Disney classic ride, just as Dumbo is.  Well, I had to prove to him that I was not a scaredy cat!  We didn’t think the line was that long, and it was posted as only a 30 minute wait….that is until we got in line, when it suddenly moved up to a 45 minute wait!  All told, I believe we actually spent more like an hour in line for this ride!  Once again, the queue is rich in details, and has a lot of fun things along the way.  Getting on the ride was like trying to herd 300 cattle through one chute!!  You had to basically go from 10 people wide to jumping on a moving walkway, and then jump into a car!  By the time I was safely ensconced on the ride, I was hot, I was tired and my feet were killing me!  To tell the truth, I was not at all impressed with this ride.  I don’t understand why it is a classic ride!  I kind of feel that I wasted an hour of precious Disney time!  Oh, well….I can now say I rode the ride and won’t ever have to do it again!  Lol…

By the time we got done with the Haunted Mansion, it was time to use our FastPasses for the day.  First up–Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road–again!  Next, the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride, the Magic Kingdom’s newest roller coaster!  This ride had only been open for a few days, so we felt pretty special getting to ride it the third day of it’s opening!  The queue for this ride was amazing!   So many details!  The cars of the coaster actually swing individually like a real mine train.  I really liked this ride—it’s a lot like Big Thunder!  This is one of the only stop-action roller coasters in the world.  Once you go through half of the tracks, the coaster slows down and goes through the mine, where you will see the Seven Dwarfs and all the jewels they are mining.  It is absolutely stunning!

Next up…my girls’ FP’s for Space Mountain (I’m not a big fan of it!), and time for me to go get my camera set up for the new Festival of Fantasy Parade!  As a photographer, I spend an inordinate amount of time finding the perfect spot to set up, and then waiting around for the event to start.  Although it was only 2pm, I knew I had to get set up about an hour early in order to get a prime spot.  Even at that early, I still didn’t get as good of a spot as I wanted.  The new parade is dazzling with colors and detail.  It’s almost an overload for the senses.  The parade starts in Frontierland, and makes it’s way up Main Street USA, ending at the Fire Station.   Of course, while the stars of this parade are Anna and Elsa from Frozen, I feel the real star is the huge Maleficent dragon!  It’s a big, metal, fire-breathing dragon!  Very cool.  While the parades at WDW are crowded, hot and hard on the feet, they are SO worth it!

After we finished Pirates, it was dinner time!  Dinner tonight was at Tony’s Town Square.  Tony’s is based on the Italian restaurant that featured the famous scene between Lady and the Tramp, eating spaghetti.   I didn’t really get too good of a look at the inside, as they rushed us right in, through the restaurant and out on the patio.  Can you believe I didn’t even take any pictures!?!?!?   The food was good.  I ordered the cannelloni.  It wasn’t fantastic Italian food, but it was pretty good.

After dinner, we headed back to the resort just to rest for a bit before the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes.  We went back to MK about 8pm so I’d have time to get set up to shoot both of the events.  I love the MSEP and Wishes…. This time I positioned  myself right in the middle of the hub by Roy Disney and Minnie.  It was a great spot to view Wishes!  After Wishes was over, we rode some rides because the park kind of empties out after that even though it was open for a few more hours.  I also took some more pictures!  It was a long day filled with rides, lots of picture taking and fun!   I leave you with some final images….

All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014.  You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

Animal Kingdom…rooooaaaarrr!

Warning!- Picture overload….again!

Day 3 of our trip took us Animal Kingdom.  Last time we went to WDW, I wasn’t able to go to AK because I had to stay back at the resort and make sure everyone was checked into the airline for our flight home the following day, so I was excited to go back to this park since it had been 9 years.

Since we had FastPasses for the Kilimanjaro Safari almost first thing, there would be no sleeping in this morning!  All 15 of us got on the bus to AK, ready to start the day!  When we arrived, the crowd really wasn’t too bad so we were able to get right through the gates.  Of course, first we had to stop for a picture….

Me and my daughters at Animal Kingdom.  We used one of the PhotoPass photographers for this image, and it was included in our Memory Maker package.

Me and my daughters at Animal Kingdom. We used one of the PhotoPass photographers for this image, and it was included in our Memory Maker package.

Then a few of us had to stop to check out the tarantulas….ick!!

Keep those tarantulas in the box!

Keep those tarantulas in the box!

We had to stop to gaze at the Tree of Life, which has over 300 species carved on the massive trunk!  It’s truly magnificent!

 

We still had a little time before our FP’s at the safari, so we stopped at a little shop outside the ride entry…

I want to take some time here to talk about my dad.  He is the reason we all got to take this wonderful trip.  He is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever known.  I don’t ever remember a time that he was out of work, or stayed home from work.  Even if the man is sick, he goes to work!  He doesn’t usually take a lot of time to just sit down and enjoy his surroundings, so when I saw him, sitting on this bench, I had to capture those moments!

Now, I need to stop a moment to talk a little bit about this park…. Disney did an amazing job on this park.  If you were taken blindfolded into this park, and weren’t told where you were being taken, you’d swear you were actually in Africa or Asia!  The details are amazing!  The buildings look old and run-down, the vegetation is perfect and the entertainment is so much fun!

As I said, our first ride was the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.  This ride has been refurbished a bit since I last rode it in 2005.  I think it’s a much better ride now.  I’ve never actually been on a safari, but this is how I imagine it would be.  I’ve heard a lot of stories of how there are hardly any animals out when you ride this, but that was not the case for our ride.  There were animals around every corner!  I just missed seeing the lioness as she was hiding behind some rocks so all I was able to get was the top of her head!  The giraffes were aplenty and we even got to see a wart hog!  This is a can’t miss ride at Animal Kingdom!

After we finished our safari, we had a couple of hours before our next FP, so we decided to head over to Dino-Land to ride Dinosaur!  I had never been on this ride, but I had decided that this year, I was going to try some new things!  Let me tell you…this ended up being one of my favorite rides in the park!!  The ride is cheesy, bumpy and dark, but it’s a whole lotta fun!!  We laughed and screamed like crazy.  We rode it quite a few times because the lines were so low.  They do take a picture while you’re on the ride, so once again, all of us posers planned what we’d be doing each time the camera snapped a picture.  With the Memory Maker, you get to have copies of all the ride photographs so we were really excited to see what we could come up with!  What fun!

Time for lunch!  When you travel with 15 people, it’s hard sometimes to make a command decision for everyone.  I had made all the dining reservations, and had given everyone some choices for lunch. Of course half didn’t want to eat lunch yet, and half did.  I think we spent a half hour trying to decide what to do!  (I really hate indecision!)  Well, I was starving so decided that I didn’t know what anyone else was doing, but I was getting lunch.  We ate lunch at Pizzafari mostly because my kids are picky and they offered not only pizza(which they mostly like) and some nice salads, which I was in the mood for.  We weren’t sure how things would go by eating before riding Expedition Everest, but we did it anyway!  By the way…the pizza was delicious according to my kids, and I can safely say the caesar salad was also very delicious!

Expedition Everest!!  The one ride I swore I’d never ride.  You see, I’m not big on thrill rides…I don’t like to be tossed upside down, or dropped 7 stories, or spun around like I’m in a washing machine…that’s just not my thing!  However, my kids talked me into riding Expedition Everest.  All I knew about it was that the coaster went up to the top of that mountain, and it came down backwards in a spiral!  Once again…not my thing!  I decided that once again, I was going to put on my big girl panties and give it a whirl–literally!  I think I started to hyperventilate a bit as I got in the seat.  I was holding the lap bar in a death grip and I believe at this point my knuckles were void of any blood flow due to my grip!  As soon as it started, I believe my only words were “Oh, crap, oh, crap, oh, crap…”  Then the moment came….the coaster started it’s ascent up the mountain.  I knew what was coming next….the coaster stops.  Then, it starts going backwards and it whips you into a spiral!  I loved it!! What a fun ride!!  I was ready to ride it again!

No time to ride it again because it was time for our next FastPass!  Kali River Rapids!  The Kali River Rapids were my favorite ride in the park when we went in 2005.  I couldn’t wait to ride it again because it was hot out and I was ready to cool off!  I just didn’t realize how “cooled off” I’d get!  We boarded the boats and my sister-in-law was seated next to me.  Let me tell you a little about my sister-in-law.  She is this gorgeous woman, that never has a hair out of place and her make up is always perfect!  While we were all sweating our make up off, and our hair was out of control, she was perfectly coiffed!   Imagine my delight when we came to the big drop on the rapids, and our boat shifted just ever so slightly….so slightly that she and I got the brunt of the huge wave the proceeded to come up over our heads and basically drench us!!!  When I opened my eyes and looked at her…she was soaked!!!  We all just started laughing uncontrollably!  Of course, her make up stayed put and her hair just got a little wavy, but it was fun to see her wet!  Lol….Unfortunately, there are only 2 known images of her wet….this is one of them with the 2 of us right after we got out of the boat.

Kali14_IMG_2121By the way…it did take most of the day for us to dry off, even in the hot, humid climate of Florida!  The funny thing is that almost no one else in the boat got wet!  Yes, they got a little bit of splash, but we were the only ones that got soaked!

Finding Nemo the Musical was next on our list.  This little show was like being at a Broadway production except the seats are SO uncomfortable!  You are literally sitting on a wooden bench for 30 minutes!  The colors are spectacular and the talent of the performers is first rate.  Once again, I highly recommend seeing this little gem!

By the time this show was over, those of us that wanted to ride Expedition Everest again decided we had time to get it in before our dinner reservations at Rainforest Cafe, so we went to get in line.  The line was pretty long, and by the time we got about half way through, it had started raining and thundering.  Thunder at Disney World is not a good thing.  Any time it thunders or they spot lightning within a mile or so radius, they have to close down the outdoor rides!  They made the announcement that the ride would be closing due to the weather and that we could stay in line in case it opened up, or we could leave.  We opted to stay.  After about 20 minutes, we realized it probably wasn’t going to open again in time for our dinner reservation, so we got out of line and headed to the front of the park to eat dinner.

Our dining reservations were at Rainforest Cafe right at Animal Kingdom.  There are 2 locations at WDW–the other is at Downtown Disney.  This is the only dining reservation we made that we had eaten at the last time we went.  This was everyone’s favorite meal, and when I was choosing restaurants, all the kids begged to go back there.  The restaurant is super loud–there are mock storms, gorillas, monkey’s etc…and they all make noise!  If you’re looking for a nice, quiet meal, this is not the place!  The best thing about Rainforest?!?  Volcano!!!!   They offer a dessert called the Volcano, which is a luscious chocolate brownie with ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream!  It is the best!   The last time we ate there, it was served with sprinklers in it and everyone yells “Volcano” as it’s brought to your table.  This year there were no sprinklers–boo!  But everyone still yelled “volcano”!   You can get the Volcano as your dessert choice on the Dining Plan, but it does require 3 adult dessert credits…and it does feed 3 adults….or more.  Try it next time you go there.

By the time we were done with dinner, Animal Kingdom was closing for the night.  We ran back to Expedition Everest in hopes that maybe we could get one more ride in, but no such luck!  While most of our party headed back to the resort, my kids, sister-in-law(different one) and her kids got on a bus to Magic Kingdom!  We weren’t quite ready to call it a night.

This was our first time to go into the park since we got there, and this is always the most exciting time for me.  I can’t describe the thrill I get walking onto Main Street USA.  One tip I give all my clients, is that if they don’t care about seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade, or watching Wishes, it’s a great time to ride the rides that are normally super popular!   Most people will go watch the parade and Wishes, which leaves the lines pretty low.  Sometimes there are 2 Main Street Electrical Parades, so I say go ride the rides during the first one, and pop over to watch the second one after Wishes.

Since my main goal was to get pictures of the MSEP and Wishes, I knew I’d have to find a primo spot, so I found a great spot right by the statue of Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse, in the hub at the front of Main Street USA.  I set up my tripod and camera so I wouldn’t be in the way of anyone wanting pictures with Roy and Minnie, but ready to scoot over there when the time came!

Let me just vent a bit here….when you’re at WDW, it’s easy to think that you paid lots of money to be there and you should be able to cut in front of other people or do what you want.  Well,the fact of the matter is that everyone else paid just as much and sometimes more to be there as well.  It’s not nice to cut in front of people, or crowd people over because they’re in a great spot.  It’s not right to shove your children in front of other people that have already staked out a place to sit or stand.  We all want to see the fireworks and parades.  When it came time for the fireworks, a family walked up next to me, and their little girl began to climb all over Roy and Minnie, right in front of the lens of my camera!  There was no way they weren’t sure that I was going to be shooting from that position.  I thought maybe they were just letting her climb before the parade and fireworks, but they’d pull her over when it all started since it was quite obvious that I would be taking pictures!  Well, parade starts, and the little girl decides she wants to sit on Roy’s head!  Not cool!  I held my breath for a moment, waiting for the parents to get her out of the way and it became pretty obvious that wasn’t going to happen.  The grandma even looked over at me and then looked away!  At this point, I decided I needed to say something since I had set up long before their arrival.  In my most courteous tone and being very polite, I asked if they wouldn’t mind keeping their daughter off of Roy’s head which was in my line of sight.  You would have thought I was asking them to kill their daughter!!  The grandma was very rude and said they were there too and she could stand where she wanted to!  Are you kidding me!?!  (And they say Americans are rude! They were from Australia, I think)  I got a little more firm and very nicely told them that I had been there before them to set up to take pictures and the little girl was fine to sit on Minnie’s head if she so desired.  The dad finally pulled the little girl over, but then grandma handed her a lighted wand that she continued to swing around over Roy’s head (and in front of my lens) through the whole parade and fireworks!   Not only that, but then a guy a few feet in front of me decided to put his son on his shoulders to see the fireworks!  So, needless to say, my fireworks pictures have a little boy on his dad’s shoulders and a little lit wand swinging through the image!  My advise??  Take note of where you are.  Take notice of who’s in front, beside and behind you. We have all paid money to be there, and we all want to see everything.  A lot of people decide to choose a spot early and forgo rides so they get great seats.  If you don’t do this, you shouldn’t expect them to move or make room for you.  End of rant…

Anyway….I knew I’d have a few more nights to shoot the pictures, so just did the best I could.  Thankfully, I’ve got some Photoshop skills and was able to remove the little boy from the pictures!  Of course, I’d never be able to sell these images because while I’m very good at Photoshop…I’m not perfect!  Here are the images with little boy removed…

After fireworks, we went  to walk around the park some more since it was open until 1am!  We even got in a few more rides!  (Note to self:  Big Thunder Mountain is much more fun when it’s dark!)

Have a magical day!

Monica

 

All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014.  You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

The Hellem-Bryant Family takes Disney by Storm!

My Trip to The World And Back…

Last week I went to Walt Disney World!!!  Yippee!!!  I love, love, love Disney World!  As a Disney Travel Agent, I feel that it helps me be a better travel agent if I can make a trip to Disney every once in a while just to check things out!  Lol…

As some of you know, I went to Disney World exactly 2 years ago with my WHOLE family—all 17 of us!  Well, this year, 15 of us went since my brother and nephew were unable to go due to soccer. (Seriously!??!  Who skips Disney to play soccer?!?!)  Anyway… Disney has a whole lotta new stuff that wasn’t around when we went 2 years ago, so I was so excited that I was able to head out to Florida to experience some of this new stuff!

A lot of my clients are wanting to hear about my trip, so instead of just one post with the highlights, I’m going to do a series of posts, with details on what I did every day!  So, sit back and relax while I relive my trip to Disney World!!

 

May 28th – Departure Day!

I don’t know about you, but it’s impossible for me to sleep the night before I head out on vacation—especially when that vacation involves mice and princesses!!  Since we were flying out of Denver, and our flight left at 8:01am, we had to all meet at 5am to caravan up to the airport.   You’d think after being up for 22 hours straight, I’d be a little tired, but knowing that in about 5 hours, I’d be at the House of Mouse just kept my adrenaline going!

Do you hate flying!?!!  I don’t hate the flying so much as the going through security at the airport!  Do I take my keys out of my purse?  Do I have to take all my jewelry off?  The questions are endless!  Thankfully, one of the TSA guys saw our family Disney t-shirts and started talking to us—-I just asked him straight up what I needed to take out of my carry on and what could stay in.  Note to self:  you don’t really have to take everything out of your carry on or bag! (…oh, and don’t wear a belt to the airport….just take my word for it!)

We made it to the airplane just as they were boarding.  No time for a group picture this time!  We all found our seats and off we go to the land of magical memories!  We knew we were in Florida when we walked out of the airplane and were blasted with heat and humidity!  Ugh!

When you stay at a Disney resort, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get to your resort.  Disney offers this nice little service called the “Magical Express”…a beautiful bus that picks you up and takes you directly to your resort.  Got checked luggage!??!  No worries!  Get off plane, go directly to the Magical Express check in desk and board your bus!  Your luggage will magically appear in your room 1-3 hours after your arrival.   It’s a good thing!  (Unless of course, you forgot to take the things you’ll need immediately in your carry on luggage).

We had a few issues with our check in at the Magical Express.   For some reason, Disney did not get our reservation for the ME, even though I made ALL of the reservations at the same time, but apparently they only received one of them!  After some swiping of the MagicBands and some fancy footwork (there really was no fancy footwork—just swiping of MagicBands…) we were finally squared away and on the ME to our resort!

Can I just say that there is something so magical at that moment when you see the WDW arch that says “Walt Disney World…Where Dreams Come True”???  It’s a sight to behold!

WDW14

I am home!!

Since our bus driver was aware that there were 15 of us—most of the people on the bus—he tells me that he’s going to take us to our resort first instead of the usual stop at Coronado Springs Resort.  What a sweetie!

We pull up to the front of All Star Music Resorts and all 15 of us pile out of the bus.  It looks like an invasion of some sort…..all 15 of us wearing the same t-shirt!  It was a sea of blue!  We all head to the front desk to check in.  Now, I had previously done the online check in, but for some reason, they once again did not have us checked in!  After about 45 minutes of switching rooms, figuring out where everyone needed to be and some further instructions from the fabulous Todd (his description), we were off to our rooms.

Last time we went, we stayed at the All Star Music and our rooms were WAY, WAY, WAY at the back of the resort.  I swear every time we got off the bus from a park at 1am, that walk to the back of the resort was like a death march!  There were some days I was just going to sleep on a lounger by the pool because the walk was so far.  This time, we got preferred rooms, which meant we were closer to the front…worth.every.penny.  Our rooms were in the Calypso building, right behind the lobby/restaurant.

All of us went to our rooms, freshened up a bit then headed to the bus for Downtown Disney, which has now become a tradition since we’ve done it twice in a row!  As soon as the bus took off and we were on the road, I realized I had forgotten our reservations to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue, which is where we were going to dinner right from Downtown Disney.  So, when the bus let my family off to start their Disney vacation, I got to stay on the bus and go back to the resort!  After about an hour and a half round trip, I made it to DD just with enough time to go activate my Memory Maker and purchase a pair of earrings.  I didn’t even have time to visit the Disney Christmas Shoppe…my favorite store at Disney World!  Ahhh…the injustice of it all.  Note to self, and others:  Remember to take all documentation that might be needed for the day when you head to the bus!

A quick side note on the Memory Maker:  I had to go pick up the actual card and activate it at Downtown Disney in the photo store because I had waited so long to purchase it.  I didn’t realize they have to have time to send it to you, or you have to take the time to do what I had to do.  So, if you are planning on purchasing the Memory Maker, do it about a month prior to your date of arrival.  This should give you time to get it in the mail so you don’t have to waste time picking it up once you arrive.  I wasn’t super paranoid that all 15 of us wouldn’t be linked and only a few of us would get our pictures when we returned home, but the Cast Member at the photo center assured me that all was well with it.

We headed to the bus stop to get on a bus to the Hoop Dee Doo Revue, which is at the Ft Wilderness Campground.  Now, when hopping on a bus, be aware of what bus you are getting on.  Some of my family members were not aware that there is a Ft Wilderness and a Wilderness Lodge.  I could not, for the life of me, figure out why they were all running to stop #3, when I had already checked and knew that Ft. Wilderness was stop #4!  When I noticed that the bus they were boarding said Wilderness Lodge, I had to chase them down to prevent them from making a long detour around the world!

Let me take a moment to talk about getting around Disney World.  WDW has an internal bus system.  You don’t ever need a rental car or any other mode of transportation.  However…you need to know how to get around the World!  In simplest terms….there are buses that run every 20 minutes from the resorts to each park.  There are not, however, buses that run from every resort to other resorts.  There also aren’t buses that run from every park to every park.  There is also a monorail, but it only runs between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, as well as the resorts on the monorail line (Grand Floridian, Polynesian and the Contemporary).  You cannot ride the monorail to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.  Epcot and Hollywood Studios are very close—so close that you can take a boat between the two, but you can’t take the monorail.  There is a bus available between HS and EP, but not between EP and MK!  There are buses to all parks from Animal Kingdom, though!  The moral of the story, is know what your mode of transportation is going to be while you’re at WDW!  And don’t always listen to the Cast Members!  We had one tell us at Epcot that we could catch a bus to Magic Kingdom and it would actually be quicker than the monorail, so we ran out of Epcot to the buses, only to find there are no buses that run between Epcot and MK!  We had to turn around and go back through security in order to get on the monorail to get to MK!!  *sigh*

Now back to Ft Wilderness and the Hoop Dee Doo Revue….

 

Once we arrived at Ft Wilderness via the bus from DD, we had to wait for an internal bus for the campground!  (Yellow or Purple are the colors you look for!)  Once we boarded the internal bus, it took us to a bus stop that was a short walk to the Hoop Dee Doo and Trail’s End Restaurant.  We got in line to check in to the HDDR, which automatically put us in a line for a fun group picture!  We were quite a challenge for the Photopass photographers, but they did a great job of posing us all and the picture turned out great!  We had to wait about 20 more minutes before we could go into Pioneer Hall.  Once inside, we were led to our tables to start eating.  Dinner was fried chicken, bbq ribs, salad, cowboy beans, mashed potatoes and beverages in mason jars!  The meal was fantastic, but the entertainment was a real hoot!!  There was entertainment through most of the meal, and although it was corny, it was fun and the kids in our party thought it was more fun than any other place they’ve been at Disney.  The whole meal and entertainment lasted about 2 hours, but the time just flew by!  I highly recommend the Hoop Dee Doo Revue!  It was definitely worth 2 Table Service Credits!

Our whole family at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue!

Our whole family at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue!

To return to our resort, there were 2 ways we could go:  back on an internal bus to get to an external bus or take a boat launch to Magic Kingdom and catch a bus from there back to our resort.  Since we were all still pretty geared up, we decided on a fun boat ride to Magic Kingdom!  We had missed the fireworks, but the park was still open and that first glimpse of the castle from the boat was like seeing “home”.

Once we got back to our resort, we all said good night and headed to our rooms.  As we were getting ready for bed, I noticed something moving next to my suitcase.  Upon further investigation, I discovered a cockroach had decided that our room would be a lovely spot to spend the evening!  (It’s a good thing I’m a single mom and have been faced with such ferocious creatures!  I knew just what to do!)  I called the Front Desk to report the unwelcome guest and they said a pest control person would be up shortly to remove the little guy.  Well, 45 minutes later, it was midnight and I was tired (I’d only been up about 43 hours straight so I’m not quite sure why I was so tired….) so I took control of the situation, grabbed a kleenex and killed the beast myself!  I then called the Front Desk to cancel pest control, and went to bed.  I slept like a baby, knowing that in the morning, I’d be heading out to Epcot for our first full day of magic!

Tune in tomorrow for a report on our first day at WDW….

Have a magical day!

Monica

Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location?  Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com .  Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .

 

Jesus Loves the Little Children

How I Came to Sponsor a Compassion International Child

This weekend was New Life Church’s annual production of The Thorn The Thorn is this amazing play about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I am proud to say that we have seen it just about every year since it’s inception (I had tickets last year but I was in the hospital during the show!).  My two oldest daughters and I were actually in it about 15 years ago.  Most recently, I have had the pleasure and honor to take pictures during the performances both in Colorado Springs and Denver.  I look forward to it every year.

The Thorn

The Thorn

About mid-way through the show, a pastor from the church does a little pitch for Compassion International .  Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults. (from their website).  They have partnered with The Thorn as a sponsor, and so on the seats are little packets of information on a child from a third world country, that needs help.  The hope is that the people that come to watch The Thorn will become sponsors for these children.

Now since we have been just about every year, we, of course, have heard the appeal from one of the pastor’s at New Life, for everyone to consider sponsoring a child.  I have never done it because it does require a monthly commitment of $38.  I was of the mind that I did not want to start sponsoring a child, then after a few months, not be able to continue to support them, leaving them high and dry.  I am a single mom, and just don’t make a lot of money.  I wasn’t sure I could keep up with that kind of commitment.  This night was different though…

This year, we bought tickets for this past Saturday night.  Upon arrival, we found our seats and noticed that there was a big ole’ video camera with large seat attached right in front of our seats.  There was going to be no way we would be able to see around this camera!  One of the ushers asked us if everything was all right and I told him that our seats were right behind the camera and we wouldn’t be able to see, so was there any way we could get different seats?   He immediately took us to the lady that was in charge of tickets and explained that our seats were right behind the camera and could she get us different seats.  She started looking for new tickets for us, and even told us that she was going to get us even better tickets!  Yea, us!!  Sure enough, the seats were great seats and we were excited to see the show.

When the time comes for the annual appeal, a young man comes to the stage to talk of his experience as a recipient of a sponsor through Compassion International.  This young man had lived in poverty in India, but was given a chance at life from the people that sponsored him.  Through that sponsorship, he was able to complete his college education and even got a job at IBM.  Now he has his own company and a staff of 6!  All because he was given the chance of a better life through someone that sponsored him.

The pastor then asked everyone in the audience to open their packet and consider sponsoring the child in the packet.  I picked up the packet that I had laid on the ground, turned it around to open it and there was a little African girl staring up at me.  I glanced over at the name of the little girl, and miraculously, her name was Issabella Bryant!!  Really?!?!?!  What are the chances?!  My last name is….Bryant!  I showed it to my daughters and they got really excited and asked if we could sponsor her.  They decided amongst themselves that they would each give $10 a month to help sponsor her.

I don’t think this was fluke.  I don’t think it was a coincidence.  I think it was a confluence of events that led up to a miraculous event.  What are the odds that our original seats would be where they were and that there would be a big camera in front of us?  What are the chances that these 4 amazing seats, that were actually more than what we paid, would be available and we’d end up there?  What are the chances that Issabella Bryant’s packet would just happen to be placed on a seat where a Bryant was going to be sitting??

No “chance”.

No odds.

Sheer miracle.

I am now the proud sponsor of a little girl named Issabella, that lives half way around the world in Africa, who happens to share my last name.

And that’s my story of how I came to sponsor a Compassion International child….

Jesus Loves the Little ChildrenJesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…

 

A Year Ago Today…

A year ago today, I woke up after just having been released from the hospital the night before.  It had been a whirlwind, crazy two weeks of ER trips, being admitted to the hospital, having surgery, being released again, going back to the ER, being re-admitted, more surgeries, etc…  I was finally home, and hopefully, everything was in working order and my life as I knew it, would resume. 

Not hardly.

I was really weak as I walked down the stairs that morning.  I just figured that since I’d had 3 surgeries and been living on Dilaudin for two weeks, that the weakness was to be expected.  I ate a little breakfast (the first in two weeks), watched a little TV, got on my laptop and caught up on some of the work I’d missed in the past two weeks.  By mid-day, I was still feeling a little week, so ate some homemade soup from a friend and headed upstairs for a much needed nap.

After a couple of hours of naptime, I went back downstairs to see what my girls were up to.  They were fixing dinner.  Mashed potatoes for me-yum!  I had a small bowl of them, then headed back to bed.  After about an hour, I started feeling REALLY BAD!  My stomach was a little distended and I wondered if I had eaten too much.  I called the doctor to ask if maybe something was wrong.  I got an on-call doctor who said he didn’t know my case so couldn’t say for sure, but if I didn’t start feeling better, I might want to go to the ER again.  I took some medication for pain and laid down.  By about 8pm (I think–I lost track of the time), I had to use the restroom, but could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone walk to the bathroom.  I had my cell phone lying next to me and all I could do was type “Em help” and send a text message to my daughter, who was downstairs washing the dishes.  She came running up and helped me to the bathroom.  I won’t go into detail but there was an awful lot of blood involved!  I knew things were heading south pretty quickly, so I told her I needed help.  I knew that once I stood up, I would pass out because of the blood loss.  As I thought, as soon as I stood up, I passed out and Em caught me and gently laid me on the ground.  She called 911. 

I actually remember quite a lot of the events that evening for almost dying. 

I remember…

Trying to crawl into my bedroom because I thought the paramedics wouldn’t fit into the bathroom. (they couldn’t!)

Emily leaning over my mouth, listening for my breathing

Trying to calm Natalie down by telling her I’d be all right (even though panic was setting into my heart)

My bedroom full of men trying to stabilize me for transport

Passing out while being carried down the stairs

Seeing the brightest light I had ever seen (while being passed out), and thinking “Lord, I’m not ready to die!  I still have children to raise.  Please don’t take me home!”

Waking back up as they were carrying me out the front door

An Australian male voice telling me that everything was going to be OK

Being in the ambulance and having a strange man telling me they had to drill a hole in my shin!  I remember saying NO! I also remember him telling me that if they didn’t do it, I would die right in the ambulance.

The sound of the drill as they started it, and the subsequent scream that came from my mouth as they drilled the hole in my shin

The cold air as they rushed my gurney into the ER doors

The rush of doctors and nurses to start taking care of me

The pain of the nurse shoving a tube  up my nose and down my throat to evacuate my stomach

More bleeding, and hearing the nurse say “That’s an awful lot of blood”

The look on Ashley’s face as she stood next to me, quoting Bible scriptures

The nurse asking me if he could cut off my nightgown because it was impeding progress (I still think my children paid them to cut it so I would no longer be able to wear it!)

A nurse named Lorenzo poking me all over, trying to get an IV in me

Lorenzo telling me he was so sorry that he couldn’t get an IV in

Another nurse telling me they’d have to put a central line into my neck because they couldn’t find a vein anywhere else

The doctor telling me that I had to hold really still or he might puncture my jugular vein (yikes!)

Thinking that “I wish they’d close that curtain because every person that walks through that door outside my room is looking right  up my gown!”

Finally being taken down to the Critical Care Unit at something like 4:30am to wait for the surgeon to come in and take me to the operating room to find the cause of the bleeding

Having a discussion with Ashley that now was the time to call my parents and let them know that I was back in the hospital

Laying there by myself, half asleep and then feeling the cold hand of my pastor, resting on my head

I felt peace

Being taken out of my room for surgery, and telling my pastor that I didn’t think I’d be at church the next day (Somehow, I retained my sense of humor)

My mom crying as I was wheeled to the surgical unit

Talking to the anesthesiologist and telling him “we had to quit meeting like this” (this was the 3rd time he would be my anesthesiologist!)

Being wheeled into the operating room for the 4th time in two weeks, and hearing my guy saying the happy juice was coming.

Waking up in Recovery, hearing the doctors at the end of my bed, talking about “calling legal on this one”

Being told they could not find anything, but the x-rays had shown a nick on my liver, but no evidence once they went in!

I remember thinking “God healed me!  That’s why you can’t find anything now!”

A year ago today, I almost died.  I was 10 minutes from going into Eternity.  I wasn’t scared.  I just had this fear of leaving my children without me to be there to see them grown up, getting married, holding grandchildren, etc…  For me, dying was not an option.  I am so glad that I serve and believe in, a God that heals.  I believe that God healed my body sometime between the ER and the surgical unit.  I’ve often thought “Lord, why did I even have to go through it all?”  The answer?  I don’t know.  I just know that on this Earth, we will face things that the devil tries to throw in our way.  We will face unpleasant things, but we will face them with a Savior that loves us.  We all take life for granted.  I know I did.  Every morning that I wake up, and I’m alive and breathing, I just thank God for this life.  A year ago today, I was given a second chance at life…and I’m so very grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little drama for the camera...

1964…The Year of the Mustang…and Me.

The year was 1964.  Lyndon B. Johnson was President of the United States, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy just 6 weeks prior to the new year.  Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in South Africa.  America became fully involved in the Vietnam War with the stroke of a pen when Congress approves the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

It’s been 50 years since The Beatles stepped foot on American soil, and changed music as we knew it.

It’s been 50 years since “Mary Poppins” made her “practically perfect” debut on the movie screen, Eliza Doolittle became a lady in My Fair Lady, and James Bond saved the world one more time in Goldfinger.

It’s been 50 years since Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts showed up on grocery store shelves, a doll named G.I. Joe was manufactured by Hasbro to give Barbie a run for her money, and Diet Pepsi was introduced to a new world of dieters.

50 years ago, Bewitched twitched her nose for the first time on TV, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer made his debut as one of the first Christmas specials, and Jeopardy! started it’s run as the “thinking man’s game”.

50 years ago, Rob Lowe, Sandra Bullock, Chef Bobby Flay and Sarah Palin were all born.

And 50 years ago, the first Mustang rolled off the Ford assembly line in Dearborn, MI.

Last night, in the still of the evening, a fire in the fireplace, my children all snug in their beds, there are so many thoughts running through my head.  You see, yesterday I turned 50.  Fifty!  The big 5-0.  Half a century!  All of these things, and many more, I have lived through.  I’ve seen music go from LP’s to 8-tracks to cassettes to CD’s and now to digital files.  I’ve seen TV’s go from weighing 50+ lbs to flat screens that weight less than 20 lbs.    I’ve seen computers go from the size of a building to one that fits in my pocket!  It’s pretty amazing what I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Your 50th birthday is a good time to reflect on your life.  You see, I’ve been anticipating….and dreading this day for a year now.  30 years ago, I had big dreams for my life.  I dreamed of a happy life, being a happy wife with a happy husband and happy children.  I dreamed of a beautiful home, yearly vacations to some exotic locations and giving my children the best I could give them.  Somewhere along the line, my dream shattered.  I didn’t have the happy marriage I dreamed of.  I didn’t have a happy husband, and I certainly was not a happy wife.  My children were sullen and withdrawn.  This was not the life I dreamed about!

Turning 50 made me look back at my life, and there were so many things I was not proud of….but there are so many more things I have to BE proud of.

I have 3 beautiful, awesome, Godly daughters.
They have not gone to the left or the right, but have stayed on course.
They have not felt the need to dabble with sex, drugs, alcohol, tattoos, weird piercings or anything else of this manner.
My children walk with God and there is nothing more that I could ever dream of for my children.

If NOTHING else, I could be wholly thankful for that!

I have so many wonderful friends–some old, some new, and some that have gone on to be with the Lord.
I am blessed with friends that love me unconditionally, and stand and support me when needed.

I have a wonderful job—I have 3 wonderful jobs!  When so many are out of work, I am blessed with work!  God has given me talents that I am only now discovering and who knows if I would have discovered them if I had not been pushed to discover them?

I have a beautiful home that I am proud to say I have been able to make mortgage payments on…by myself…. for the past 6 years! 

I am alive.
The other day, as I felt the depression of this birthday coming upon me, my wise daughters reminded me that I almost didn’t reach this milestone.  That my life was almost taken away last March.  They reminded me that I should be rejoicing that I get to celebrate this birthday.

God has given me 50 years….He could have taken me home on that evening in March when I was 10 minutes from death.  He must have so much more for me to do.

  This year, I will choose to live a life more worthy of Him.

I will choose to seek God and His will for this next chapter of my life.

I will ask the Lord for new dreams….dreams that He can make come true.

And I will choose to be thankful that I am now 50 years old….

If I Were Miley Cyrus’ Parent…

Unless you live in another universe, or a hole somewhere, I’m sure you’ve heard of the spectacle that Miley Cyrus recently made of herself on the VMA’s.  I did not witness the live performance, but when all the hubbub about it started, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  So, I did what every other human did that didn’t see it—I googled it!   My eyes will never be the same!  After watching just part of it, I felt like I had been dipped in a vat of filth!  I’ve never known what pornography looked like and I’ve never attended a strip club, but now I feel like I’ve seen both!  What was she thinking?!??!!? 

My thoughts immediately went to “What would I do, what would I feel if that was my daughter up there on stage?”  Many answers came swiftly, the first one being—Get up on that stage, grab her by the little knob on her head, drag her home and throw her in the basement! was my  first thought.   My second thought was I would be so embarrassed if that was my child…. 

How sad.  I never thought there would be anything my kids could do that would embarrass me to that level, but I’m pretty sure that would do it!  I wondered how her parents are going to deal with it.

I used to admire Billy Ray.  I would see him in interviews talking about his faith, and how he was raising his daughter to not let all the success go to her head.  Where did he go so terribly wrong?  I found the answer in an interview I saw of him recently.  In the interview he stated something along the lines of he wanted to be best friends with his kids. 

Come on, folks….I understand wanting to have a friendship with your kids.  I understand the need to be able to talk to your kids and have fun with them.  What I don’t understand is wanting to be best friends with your kids over being their parent!  It’s all good and fun to be able to share things with your kids—I know, I have 3 daughters and we have a great relationship, but one thing they know is that I can switch from friend to mother in the blink of an eye!

There’s a time and a place to be a friend to your child.  That time and place is not all the time.  Our children need our guidance, even when they are 20 years old!   Our kids also sometimes need our guidance when they are grown and married!  I still find myself seeking my mom for guidance about things and I’m almost 50 years old!! 

So, what would I do if Miley Cyrus was MY child?!?! 

1)  Talk to her.  Another recent interview with Billy Ray revealed that he hadn’t spoken to her in a while.  Well, it’s time to man up, put your big boy pants on and have a talk with your daughter, Billy Ray!   Questions need to be raised–What were you thinking?!   Why did you feel the need to perform like that?  What do you need that you obviously aren’t getting?!  Maybe she just needs her daddy to be her daddy….

2)  Pray for her.  I hope her parents are already doing that, but if they aren’t, I’d start now—heck I would have started the other night!   I would ask the Lord to send people down her path that would keep her from the road of destruction she’s on.  I would pray for friends that would be a friend to her and tell her what an idiotic thing it was that she did–a friend that would be REAL with her and not just be a “yes” friend.  I would pray that she would realize that what she did was not only distasteful but not the path she wants to be on.  I would pray that she sits down and takes a long, hard look at where her life is going.

3)  I would be her parent.  I would quit being her friend for the moment and be her parent.  God gave us a responsibility to raise our children.  We don’t just let them go because they are now over 18!   I would sit her little behind down and have a serious talk about the implications of what she’s doing.  I would tell her I love her and want what’s best for her and this ain’t it!  I would remind her that she also has siblings that look up to her and what are her actions telling them?  I would remind her that although I love her very much, I will not support that kind of lifestyle or actions.  Pure and simple.

Sometimes when our kids graduate from high school, go to college, get jobs, whatever, we forget that they are still our children and we are still their parents.  I know a lot of people that think that since they are now adults, that they no longer need our guidance.  That is so not true!  How many times do we see kids that go off to college or move away, and their lives go down the drain?!?!  A lot of it is because their parents dropped them off at college and quit parenting!   You don’t stop being a parent just because your child is now an adult. 

I feel sorry for the Cyrus family, but I hope it’s a wake up call for them….