Day 6 (Thursday, April 27)
Fun and Food Outside the Parks
Surfing the 'net
Celebrating South African Freedom Day
A culinary visit to Ireland
Adventuring at Pleasure Island
(Click on any photo to see a larger version. Click on links to see additional information or photos.)
I woke up a few times, the last about 7:30 a.m. Still in bed, I opened the drapes and looked out at the animals. (Life is tough here!) Then I got on the computer and composed a couple of lengthy email messages for sending later.
About 9:30, I went to The Mara, got some cereal and milk and a banana, brought them back to my room, and ate them on my balcony. The animals were off the savanna for their daily checkup, except for the birds. (Including an egret who presumably stumbled across the place while flying around Disney World and said, "Whoa, this is pretty nice!") I worked on my email some more, writing a report to my benchmark hunting buddies about the conference and the questions we got answered by the Disney surveyors.
Last night, I had used my dial-up account to send message to my friends. But today I had bigger plans: I was going to spring for one day ($9.95) of the high-speed Internet access at the hotel so that I could back up all my photos to my Internet-accessible storage space. So I hooked up a cable between my PowerBook and the Ethernet outlet near the table. (I had brought my own Ethernet cable, but later discovered a packaged one hanging in the closet. A new must-have item in hotel rooms: hair dryer, iron, refrigerator, coffee maker, Ethernet cable... :-))
I wasn't quite sure how this worked, so I opened my web browser and tried to connect to my own website. Instead, I got a splash page for the hotel's high-speed Internet access (HSIA) service. It's the same service available at other WDW hotels, but was customized with the AKL logo and a photo of the hotel.
Something good to know: You can access the Walt Disney World website--plus another site for WDW business travelers--without signing up for the HSIA service. In other words, you can view lots of helpful Disney World information for free. There are links to both sites from the HSIA splash page. So before I clicked on the button to start the paid service, I browsed the passholder section of the WDW site for a few minutes and saved the information on passholder benefits in case there were any I could take advantage of during the rest of my stay.
I finally signed on to the service about noon. I checked a few things, sent my email messages, and then started uploading my photos from the past several days. That was at 12:40 p.m. I had already noticed that although the service is definitely better than dial-up, it's nowhere near as snappy as my cable modem at home. So I figured it was going to take a while to transfer the 360MB of photos. (I had noticed the speed issues even when viewing a web page, and I knew that many ISPs restrict uploads to even slower speeds than downloads.)
While the computer was doing its thing, I went down to The Mara to get some lunch. I really appreciate the unusual items available at that restaurant, and today, I took advantage of that by getting a tandoori chicken pizza and a soda. I took my food outside and ate within view of the pool. When I returned to my room about 20 minutes later, I found that the maid had already cleaned it up in that short time. I checked the status of my file-transfer session (still going!), then got ready to head to Downtown Disney. I had a 5:30 reservation at Raglan Road, the new Irish restaurant, and planned to visit the Adventurers Club again after that. It was only 2:00 p.m. now, but I wanted to spend some time shopping at World of Disney first, because I could use my Annual Pass to get a discount on purchases there.
As I walked to the bus stops, I saw a notice about a celebration of South African Freedom Day taking place at 3:00. I considered staying for it, but was concerned that I wouldn't have time for my errands at Downtown Disney before dinner if I did. So I continued on to the bus stop and got on a bus for Downtown Disney.
Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this celebration was a unique event at the hotel, just the sort of thing I had wanted to take advantage of during this trip. I also realized that I could do my shopping after dinner and go to the Adventurers Club a little later than originally planned. So I decided to go back to the hotel as quickly as I could.
I got off at the first Downtown Disney stop (the Marketplace), and decided to wait until 2:40 p.m. for a bus back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I figured that if one didn't arrive by then, there would be no way to make it back to the hotel in time for the celebration. I wasn't sure how long the event would last, but I thought it probably wouldn't be very long.
A bus for Animal Kingdom Lodge showed up 25 seconds before my Mickey Mouse watch reached 2:40! Unfortunately, by the time we left the Marketplace, drove to the Westside/Pleasure Island stop, loaded there, and stopped at Typhoon Lagoon, we didn't get into the home stretch to AKL until nearly 3:00 p.m. I was beginning to think that my indecision had cost me a wasted trip back to the hotel. :-(
We arrived at AKL about 3:10, and I quickly strode from the bus stop to the lobby, down to the first level, and out around the pool to the area behind the Uzima Springs pool bar. I found a group of about 25 AKL employees in various forms of dress singing what I presume was the South African national anthem. I whispered a question to a woman standing near me, and she said they had just begun. Whew!
The celebration only lasted about another 10-15 minutes, but it was delightful. They did a couple of dances (at one point drawing in some guests), read a poem about South Africa written by a former cultural representative at AKL, sang another song, then danced off into the hotel to the beat of some drums. I got not only photos, but some brief movies, and was very glad that I had taken time to return to the hotel for this special event.
After the South African CMs danced away, I went back upstairs, downloaded my photos and movies of the celebration to my PowerBook, ate a leftover zebra dome, and left again about 3:50 p.m. The bus arrived about 4:05, and I was back at the Marketplace before 4:30.
I still had an hour until my dinner at Raglan Road, so I began browsing the shops for stuff to buy after dinner. I particularly wanted to visit Disney Tails, because I couldn't find any pet treats during my visit to Disneyland several months ago, and I figured I'd better not go home empty-handed again! My cat was very disappointed when I failed to come back from Disneyland with the promised cat treats. I found plenty of cat treats at Disney Tails, plus various cat toys. There was also a good selection of treats and toys for dogs. I took notes about the stuff I wanted to get later in the evening.
A little before 5:30, I walked over to Pleasure Island. Raglan Road, as its name implies, is actually a cluster of stores built to resemble a streetful of shops in an Irish town. In addition to the main restaurant, there's the Cooke's of Dublin fish and chips shop, a gift shop, and two outdoor bars.
I was seated immediately, and after browsing the menu, I ordered the "Pie in the Sky" (chicken and wild mushroom pie). I was underwhelmed with that item; it was very bland. And this from someone who usually forgets to add seasoning to the dishes I prepare! So it isn't as though my expectations for strong flavoring are high. I actually added some salt and pepper to the pie, but still found it dull.
The bread and butter pudding, however, with its crème anglaise and butterscotch sauces, was delicious.
I left Raglan Road shortly after 6:00 (if you want to see the entertainment at the restaurant, you'll have to eat later than I did) and walked back to the World of Disney store. I was hoping that I could find here--where my annual pass would give me a discount--the same pet items I had seen at Disney Tails. Indeed, I was able to find most of them. I also browsed as much of the store as I could without being too late getting to the Adventurers Club. Again, I took notes for when I'd come back later to make my actual purchases.
I arrived at the Adventurers Club about 7:20. The characters started appearing about 7:30, going in and out of the Main Salon. At 7:50, club president Pamelia Perkins held an event in the Mask Room. That was followed at 8:00 by a new member induction ceremony in the Salon.
About 8:15, I attended a show (Samantha's cabaret?) in the Library. We were treated to Samantha Sterling singing "Those Were the Days," Fletcher Hodges doing "The Thing" (I'm old enough to recall Phil Harris' original version...), and Emil Bleehall singing "Bessie the Heifer." Then it was back out to the Main Salon, into the Treasure Room for a while, and back into the Library for a radio broadcast.
By now it was about 9:15; I decided to do my shopping and head back to my hotel. But I had an important stop to make first! On my way to World of Disney, I detoured via the Ghirardelli soda fountain. :-) I got a hot fudge sundae with one scoop of vanilla ice cream; yummm! It's nice to have this outpost of the Bay Area in Orlando. Then it was back to World of Disney to do my souvenir shopping. I had everything shipped back home rather than having to take it on the plane with me.
I left World of Disney around 11:00 and arrived at Animal Kingdom Lodge about half an hour later. Some folks on the bus with me mentioned that when they'd checked in to the hotel that day, they'd been informed that the power was going to be turned off for a while overnight so that the Reedy Creek Fire Department could conduct a regular inspection of the hotel's electrical system. Sure enough, when I got back to my room, there was a message on my phone to that effect.
Taking advantage of my 24 hours of high-speed Internet access, I read my email and looked for online Tibetan dictionaries to find a good name for my new yeti, then logged off and went to bed about 12:30 a.m., half an hour before the power was supposed to go off.
Right about 1:00 a.m., I heard a noise. I crawled to the edge of the bed to look outside, and saw that part of the hotel was dark, but the rest still had lights on. So the savanna was not dark as I had expected. As I was going back to bed, my smoke detector beeped, obviously annoyed at the lack of AC power. I was concerned that the smoke detector might complain about that all night, but luckily, it only beeped that one time. So it didn't keep me awake, and I fell asleep a while later.