Day 5 (Wednesday, April 26)
One Day, Four Continents
Flowers in bloom
A delicious visit to Morocco
The sights and sounds of Japanese gardens
Back to face the yeti again
Staying fit in style
(Click on any photo to see a larger version. Click on links to see additional information or photos.)
Yesterday's presentation by the Disney surveyors was the reason for my trip, so with that event successfully concluded, the rest of my time here is icing on the cake! Unfortunately, my body still doesn't understand that it's on vacation, and I woke up this morning at 6:30. I finally managed to get back to sleep, and woke up again about 8:30. I dozed, read, checked out the weather forecast on TV, and got organized for the day. My plan was to finally make it over to Epcot, my favorite park at Walt Disney World.
I caught the bus to Epcot a little after 10:30. The driver, Brad, saw a couple running toward the bus just as it was finishing loading, and jokingly closed the doors on them. Of course, he opened the doors again a few seconds later, and everyone laughed.
Then, after he did the mandatory safety spiel, he said, "Okay, just sit back and relax, and we're going to Disney's Epcot!" There were scattered shouts and applause. But not enough for Brad! He said, "You folks don't sound awake yet, and it's 10:30! Let's try that again. We're going to Epcot!!" This time, we gave him wild cheers and applause, and that satisfied him. :-)
When I arrived at Epcot and walked from the bus stop to the park entrance, I stopped to take a photo of a peacock topiary and a nearby Disney benchmark. The annual Flower and Garden Festival just began a few days ago, so Epcot is decked out in even prettier than usual landscaping, including a number of temporary topiaries.
I entered the park about 11:00 a.m. and stopped to pick up a map and a schedule. I was surprised and pleased to see that the back of the schedule gave the times for the various performers at the park: Off Kilter at the Canadian pavilion, the Voices of Liberty at the U.S. pavilion, and so on. It's a great idea, and one I hope the other parks will imitate (if they haven't already).
As I walked by Spaceship Earth, I took a photo of the new sponsorship sign for a friend who used to work for Siemens. I veered to the left around SE so that I could photograph another benchmark. Then I headed over to the main bridge to World Showcase. Here, I not only photographed a benchmark, but also got out my GPS receiver and set a "GOTO" for it so that I could determine the distance as I walked away from it. Nick and I had found out about another possible survey mark a certain distance and direction away from this one.
Before I started walking toward where the survey mark should be, I waited for the monorail to come by so that I could get a photo of it going above a beautiful flower "quilt" along the water. There were also beautiful flowerpots in the water.
I then walked the specified distance and direction, only to find a cluster of soft-drink carts, rubber mats, plastic boxes, etc. The cart wasn't in operation at the time, so I couldn't ask the attendant whether there was a benchmark under there somewhere. :-)
So, I continued on counterclockwise around World Showcase Lagoon. I browsed the shops at the Canadian pavilion, saw a guy being made king outside the U.K. pavilion, took a photo of the Tigger topiary nearby, and stop briefly to inhale the aromas of the perfume fragrance garden at the French pavilion. I arrived at the Moroccan pavilion about 11:50, a bit ahead of my lunch reservation time at the Marrakesh restaurant. So I browsed the shops there for a few minutes, then returned and was seated immediately.
I chose the combination lunch, which began with a green salad plus one beef brewat roll (ground beef in a flaky pastry roll, with cinnamon and powdered sugar on top). The entrée was chicken kebabs (chicken, of course, plus green pepper, onion, and cherry tomatoes, grilled in a tasty tomato sauce) with rice. To drink, I had the appropriately named "watermelon delight," which included both watermelon and cranberry juices, as well as orange water. Very refreshing.
I asked the waiter when the entertainment would be starting. He said it would be shortly, but I asked him to hold my dessert for a few minutes anyway. It turned out to be about 20 minutes.
One of the musicians came into the stage area in the center of the room at about 12:45, checked a few things, then left. He came back about 10 minutes later and started tuning up on a zither-like instrument that he played with metal fingertip guards. Then he switched to a drum.
But after a couple minutes of that, he stopped playing, turned on some prerecorded music, and left. That's when the belly dancer appeared. I was sorry not to get more live music; perhaps they only do that when the restaurant is busier.
Anyway, the belly dancer was fun to watch. She got a few kids to join her, making for much photo-taking and videotaping by proud parents. While she was dancing, the waiter brought my dessert, which was a tasty apple crepe with almonds.
I left the restaurant about 1:15 and started heading toward the Japanese pavilion to see what they had installed for the Flower and Garden Festival. But as I was leaving Morocco, I spotted Jasmine, so I got my photo taken with her.
When I reached the Japanese pavilion, the first thing I came across was the bamboo clacker (shishi odoshi) garden. It was absolutely delightful! There were a number of different setups that did various things when the water levels in them tipped the delicately balanced bamboo pieces.
Some of the shishi odoshi hit rocks, one hit a drum, and a couple of others were designed to hit gongs. One of the latter wasn't quite working, but the other one was. I not only took a bunch of photos, but also put my camera in movie mode and got brief movies of the drum and gong fountains. Click on the photo to see the movie of the gong shishi odoshi.
After I tore myself away from the mesmerizing shishi odoshi fountains, I wandered through the bonsai exhibits. Some were within the gardens of the Japanese pavilion, while others were on the shore of World Showcase Lagoon, near the bright red torii gate. Although most of the bonsai were shrubs and trees, a few were flowers, including some gorgeous bougainvilleas.
I wanted to catch the 2:30 show by the Canadian musical group Off Kilter, so I walked back to the boat dock near the Moroccan pavilion and took the boat to Showcase Plaza, arriving about 2:10. Since I had a bit of extra time, I walked through the water gardens that had been set up for the festival along the path to Future World.
On my way back to the Canadian pavilion, as I walked past some booths selling flower-and-garden-related items, I was taken aback to recognize some familiar decorative tiles/trivets at one booth. Sure enough, they were by Sonoma artist Claudia Sanchez. I have her Garlic Cat design on a t-shirt and a tile, because it shows a blue British Shorthair cat very similar to my own Portia.
Off Kilter, a Celtic Canadian band (you haven't lived until you've heard a bagpipe version of "It's a Small World" :-)) was a lot of fun to watch. I had, however, arrived too late to get a seat in the shade, so I left about 15 minutes into their set because the hot sun was getting to me.
I knew there was a butterfly garden somewhere in Future World, so I set off to find it. It turned out to be near Test Track. The butterflies were beautiful, and some of them were even landing on people's hands.
Last time I'd visited Epcot, a year and a half ago, I had sent a couple of video postcards from Innoventions that had never arrived. :-( So I went looking for that kiosk again. The one in Innoventions East was no longer there; dunno whether there's one in Innoventions West.
But I'd heard of another video postcard location in Mission: Space, so I went over there and found it. (Without going on the ride! I know that I would not get along well with a centrifuge. [Disney has since inaugurated an optional tamer version of the ride that I may try sometime.])
These new video postcards turned out to be the kind where your face is inserted into a preexisting background, and they don't record your voice. So they aren't as personal as the others. But I went ahead and sent a couple, and they arrived at their destinations fine this time.
While I was in this area, and on my way out of Epcot, I found and photographed a few more benchmarks. I'll have several to log on Waymarking.com now!
I exited Epcot about 4:15, and caught a bus to Animal Kingdom. Today, Disney was offering evening Extra Magic Hours at AK for their hotel guests, and the extended time would be starting at 5:00. I figured I'd go over and scope out the Expedition Everest situation, then decide how long to stay and what other rides to go on before heading back to my hotel.
I arrived at Animal Kingdom about 4:30, walked into the park, got an EMH wristband, and headed for the Asia section of the park. I was afraid that everyone else arriving for EMH would have the same idea, given that Everest only opened officially a couple of weeks ago and is a very hot ticket at the moment, but it wasn't that crowded. When I arrived at the ride at about 4:45, there was only a 20-minute wait posted, so they weren't even running the FastPass or single rider lines. So I got in the regular standby line. That worked out well for about 10 minutes. :-(
I had just gotten into the yeti museum when an announcement came over the loudspeakers that "some of the expeditions have encountered trouble" and there would be a temporary delay. I'd never noticed before that even the delay announcements at Disney's parks are themed! In fact, the wording of the announcement was so cleverly tied to the expedition theme of the ride that someone near me asked, "Is that part of the ride?" I had to break the news to him that it was a real delay announcement, just done up in Disney style.
Luckily, the breakdown only lasted about 10 minutes this time. (See my April 24th and April 25th reports to find out why I said "this time.") Double luckily, I was in the air conditioned yeti museum, not outside in the sun. About a dozen people from various places in line ahead of me did bail out, since they had no way of knowing how long the delay would last. I, too, had been weighing my options on how long I was willing to stick around. But we were moving again in about 10 minutes, and I was on the ride by 5:15. This time I kept my head up and my eyes open the whole time, so the photo came out acceptably and I bought a copy.
After leaving the Serka Zong Bazaar, I went over and found a shady spot near the mani wall to sit and consider what to do next. I had a nice chat with a lady who was waiting for some friends to get through the ride. They subsequently invited me to join them on Kali River Rapids, but since I had decided to leave the park shortly, I didn't want to get into that wet-clothing-on-the-bus situation again, so I declined their kind offer.
I had originally thought of heading back to my hotel for dinner, and got myself a fruit-flavored slushee to hold me until then. But then I remembered the good things I had heard about the Flame Tree Barbeque, so I checked an EMH times guide and discovered that indeed, that restaurant was staying open a couple of extra hours today.
I headed over there about 6:00 p.m., ordered the BBQ ribs dinner, and found a spot on the lower patio right next to the lake, with lovely views across the water toward Mt. Everest. There's also an area (not publicly accessible) with steps leading to the water that's themed as a ritual bathing area.
After finishing my meal, I wandered around the Flame Tree area for a few minutes taking photos of the birds, the ponds, and the flowers. I was amazed to see an egret sitting on the railing of one the restaurant's patios, not more than two feet from where people were eating!
Then I started making my way out of the park. I came across Mickey and Minnie in their finest safari garb doing photos with kids, and stopped to watch them for a few minutes. I finally exited the park about 6:45 p.m., just missing a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, and got back to the hotel about 7:15.
I had intended to hop straight into the shower, but that was before I did my mandatory savanna check. The wildebeest--which I hadn't seen for a couple of days--were back, along with zebras, giraffes, and elands. So photograph first, shower later. :-)
Then it was off to the Zahanati Fitness Center a little before 8:00 p.m. for another circuit on the Cybex machines, followed by a leisurely swim in that beautiful pool. Is this the life, or what? :-) I dipped into The Mara to get a salad, a Mickey-shaped krispie treat, and a soft drink in my refillable mug, and was back in my room by 8:50. My plan was to watch "Lost" while editing the rest of my photos. I did that, although this week's episode turned out to be a "clip show" synopsizing all the various storylines with scenes from previous episodes. I'll be glad when May TV ratings sweeps start next week and we get new episodes of all the shows!
Then, for the first time on this trip, I got online. I wrote a long note to family and friends about my trip so far, attaching a photo taken from my balcony (one of those little "eat your hearts out" reports :-)). After signing on and sending that message, I read email until a little after 11:00, read my Jasper Fforde book for a while, then went to sleep.