Walt Disney World Trip
Day 7 (Thursday, Jan. 11)
Fun and Food on My Final Day(Click on any photo to see a larger version. Click on links to see additional information or photos.)
A "dream" surprise at Conservation Station Chatting with a talking trashcan Visiting Celebration A farewell dinner inspired by Africa
Before the scheduled meetup with my friends at noon, I wanted to get back to Animal Kingdom to look for the street entertainers I had missed yesterday. Last night, I checked the schedules given to me by the nice CM at AK Guest Relations, and determined that I could see Pipa, DeVine, and Wes Palm and still have time to catch a bus to Pop Century before noon.
I left my room at 8:15 a.m., got some toast and yogurt at The Mara, and ate them on the Arusha Savanna public balcony near my room. There weren't many animals in sight; just one large antelope (maybe an eland?) and a couple of zebras.
I had hoped to catch the opening ceremony at Animal Kingdom, but by the time I got there, walked from the bus stops to the park, made it through the bag check and the turnstiles, and walked to Discovery Island, the CMs were just taking up the ropes from the opening. Oh well, some other time.
Although I needed to head to Rafiki's Planet Watch soon to see Pipa, the talking trashcan, I figured I had time for a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris. The posted wait time was 20 minutes, but as with Expedition Everest yesterday, I could see that the line wasn't nearly that long. Indeed, I was on a truck within eight minutes. Like other ride queues at Walt Disney World, this one is fun to take a closer look at, such as the safari office shown in this photo.
Upon my return to Harambe village, I got on the Wildlife Express Train to Planet Watch. In true Disney style, the train station and the train itself were delightfully themed, including fake luggage atop the train cars.
The train to Planet Watch takes you past backstage areas of Kilimanjaro Safaris, offering sights of buildings called "Warthogs," "Cheetahs," "Giraffes," etc. This is where the animals receive their meals and checkups; I think they also spend the night here. The train conductor explained that each building is designed especially for the needs of that type of animal. For example, the elephant building has one big area rather than individual stalls, because elephants prefer to stay with their family groups.
It's about a five-minute walk from the train station to the Conservation Station at Rafiki's Planet Watch, depending on how many stops you make to view the animal displays or read the educational signs about how everyone can help conserve habitats (such as putting up bat houses).
When I arrived at Conservation Station, people were being asked to step inside the building, where three CMs were standing. Not having been here before, I thought maybe there was a scripted presentation by the CMs before we'd be allowed to explore the building on our own. But that wasn't the case...
As soon as one of the CMs began speaking, telling us that we had arrived at Conservation Station at just the right time, I kicked myself for not having realized who they were. Their blue shirts and white vests that said "Year of a Million Dreams" should have tipped me off, duh!
The CMs were, indeed, one of Disney's Dream Squads, and they proceeded to give us all Dream FastPasses for Animal Kingdom. These would allow us to enter the FastPass line any time we wanted today for Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids, and It's Tough to Be a Bug. Nifty! I just hoped that I would have time to use some of them before I had to leave Animal Kingdom today. (No, sorry, they weren't giving away yetis. :-) I took that photo of Big Groggy holding my FastPass after I got home.)
I looked around the exhibits inside Conservation Station for a few minutes. It was interesting to control the cameras to see the bats on the Maharajah Jungle Trek; a number of other animal cameras were also available. Rafiki and Jiminy Cricket were greeting guests, so when the kids finished, I had my photo taken with both of them.
But my main reason for being here, as mentioned, was to see Pipa, the talking trashcan. He came out right on schedule, first interacting with guests inside the building, then later outside.
The interior provided excellent camouflage for the CM operating him; the CM was able to watch Pipa out of one corner of his eye while pretending to look at the exhibits. At one point, the CM apparently used me for cover; I heard him talking very close behind me. I, of course, kept my gaze fixed straight ahead of me on Pipa. I didn't want to risk giving away the game by turning and looking at the CM.
After several minutes of chatting with people indoors, Pipa went up a ramp toward the doors, and I started to open one for him. But he said he was going to stay inside for a while longer.
He did, and then surprised me with a trick I hadn't seen before (because I'd only seen his cousin PUSH in outdoor environments): he leaned against the big button that people in wheelchairs can use to open the doors. Sure enough, the doors swung open, and Pipa rolled out to the patio and started chatting with people there.
When there was a break, I asked him about his name. He said that Pipa is Swahili for "trashcan." Pipa is actually a recycling bin, but evidently there's no word for recycling in Swahili yet.
I asked whether he knew that his cousin PUSH in California had recently moved from Disneyland to California Adventure and had a nice new outfit. Pipa replied that he didn't know that, because PUSH was very bad about writing to him. :-)
The success of these talking objects depends on the ability of the CM to ad lib. This guy was doing a good job. When Pipa spotted a woman wearing a sweatshirt that said "HENDRIX," he asked where it was from and she said, "Hendrix College." Pipa responded, "Is that Jimi Hendrix College??"--and launched into a rendition of "Purple Haze." Very cute. :-)
After getting a bunch of photos and short movies of Pipa, I decided it was time to leave. For the first time, I looked past Pipa to his controller, who was sitting on a bench about 25 feet away, and mouthed a "thank you." The CM raised the free part of his microphone hand in response.
I caught the return train to Harambe village, but before I went off looking for DeVine, I took some photos of the theming of the train station.
I realized that DeVine was due out at any time, so I dashed past the Tamu Tamu ice cream shop to look for her. My timing was perfect, as she was just coming out from backstage. She crossed the path and wrapped herself around a tree, looking just like a part of it. If you've never seen DeVine, it's a woman on stilts covered in a costume that looks like, well, vines. She even has green makeup on her face so that she blends into the foliage better. When she holds still for a while, people walk by without noticing her, and are then startled when she begins moving.
After watching DeVine for a few minutes, I debated whether I might have time to use my Dream FastPass on Expedition Everest and still make it to Pop Century by noon. But I realized that even with a FastPass, the whole thing would probably take close to half an hour. I was still a good 10- or 15-minute walk from the bus stops, and I couldn't predict how long I'd have to wait for a Pop bus. So I strode through Asia and DinoLand to Discovery Island and out of the park.
When I got to the turnstile area, it was nearly 11:30, and I assumed that I had missed Wes Palm's 11:10 am. show. But there he was, chatting with a couple of little boys. I literally only saw about one minute of his performance; he was just wrapping up and heading "back to the greenhouse for a drink of water." I didn't even have time to spot his CM. Still, it was fun to see him.
My luck was good at the bus stop, as a Pop Century bus showed up within a few minutes. After waiting a couple more minutes for more passengers, the driver closed the door and pulled away, so I had my own personal bus. :-) We chatted during the drive, and when I mentioned that my friends and I were going to Celebration, he recommended the Town Tavern for lunch.
We pulled in at Pop Century about 11:50 a.m. I took a seat inside the lobby, and Nick arrived just a minute later. Meg and Lloyd showed up a bit after noon. We then all got into Nick's car and headed for Celebration.
First, Nick drove us around the town for a while. He'd been here before, but the rest of us hadn't. The town has condos and apartments as well as single-family homes, in a variety of architectural styles. The town is pretty in its way, but none of the architecture really grabbed me. Interestingly, that was even true of the new Artisan Park section, which features Craftsman homes, a style I normally really like.
I don't want to leave the impression that I didn't like the town at all, though. The extensive greenbelts with walking trails, the neighborhood community centers, the numerous electric vehicles, and other aspects of Celebration certainly intrigued me.
I've put up a separate page of Celebration photos. I'm sure there are much better photo essays of the town available elsewhere, but these will give you a little idea of what it's like.
We took my bus driver's suggestion and ate lunch at the Town Tavern. I had a delicious lobster quesadilla and some lemonade, and my friends also enjoyed their meals. After lunch, we went looking for geocaches. The first one turned out to have some "muggles" (non-geocachers) nearby, so we abandoned that idea and went to the next place on Lloyd's list. That one was easy to reach, so after we found it, we all signed the log, and Lloyd left one of his and Meg's "geocoins." (I, unfortunately, had forgotten to bring any of my signature crystal snowflakes with me to Florida.)
With our geocaching goal satisfied, we headed to the northern part of the Walt Disney World property to look for some non-Disney survey marks. I'm not quite sure why Lloyd picked that area, but it turned out to be an interesting choice, because we ended up right near the main administrative area for WDW. So we drove around those buildings for a while (yes, Virginia, there really is a Dopey Drive!) before going in search of the benchmarks.
The benchmarks in that area turned out to be elusive, apparently due to sidewalk/storm drain reconstruction in the past few years to better handle the rainfall from hurricanes. We finally gave up on the ones in the sidewalks and went to Apopka-Vineland Road, where we successfully found an Orange County benchmark.
By now it was late afternoon. Nick drove us back to Pop Century and popped into his room for a few minutes to change clothes for dinner at Jiko. He then took us to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Meg and Lloyd were on the move again, so they needed to check into AKL.
Nick and I followed them way down the Zebra Trail to their assigned room, which we all quickly realized was a smoking room. Meg and Lloyd decided that they would prefer to have a non-smoking room, so Lloyd called the front desk and was given a room number on the Ostrich Trail. He'd need to go to the front desk to get new room keys, but the rest of us could go wait outside that room.
So Nick and Meg and I grabbed their luggage and proceeded toward basically the furthest corner of the hotel from the first room. Shortly thereafter, Lloyd showed up and said that that room had already been assigned, but they'd been given a non-smoking room on the Kudu Trail. We were certainly getting the grand tour of Animal Kingdom Lodge! (The photo is of the carpeting at AKL, which we saw a lot of as Lloyd and Meg moved from room to room. :-) Do you see the Mickey heads?)
Off we went to yet another wing. This time, all was well--at least, with the room. We had some computer and BlackBerry problems trying to get logged onto Yahoo Groups so that I could find out whether the Adventurers Club was opening late tonight. We didn't get all that sorted out until 20 minutes before our reservation at Jiko, so I scooted back to my room for a quick shower and change of clothes. I made it down to the Jiko podium just a few minutes after 7:00, and we were seated within 10 minutes.
We began our meal by sharing the Taste of Africa appetizer selection. It had Kalamata olive hummus, Durban tikka masala, and Malay spinach-lentil dip, plus three breads to dip in them: lentil papadam, whole-wheat lavosh, and flax-seed naan. I'm not a hummus fan, but I liked the tikka masala (spicy!) and the spinach-lentil dip. I love papadam, and managed to end up with most of it. :-) I sampled the naan and lavosh, too.
We also got the Artichoke and Peppadew Flatbread appetizer. As Meg commented, it was sort of an African pizza. The baked flatbread was topped with goat cheese, arugula, and a cilantro-yogurt drizzle. Very tasty!
For my entrée, I chose the Durban Curry Shrimp. I typically avoid curries, because in America, the term is usually applied to dishes prepared with a standard spice mixture called "curry powder," which I can't stand. But I had faith in the head chef at Jiko. Sure enough, she had developed a dish that didn't at all resemble those boring American curries. It was delicious.
Lloyd had the lamb shank, Meg got the jumbo scallops, and Nick chose the filet mignon. We shared tastes of our entrées, and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to order any of those other items in the future; all were very good. For dessert, both Meg and I ordered the Pistachio Crème Brûlée, which was delicate and sophisticated in taste. Nick got the flourless chocolate-mocha cake.
But the best part of the meal was that Meg treated everyone. :-) I guess she was thanking Nick for driving us around today, thanking me for cheering on Lloyd in the marathon, and congratulating Lloyd on finishing the race. Whatever her reasons, it was very nice of her!
Our original post-dinner plans were to head to Downtown Disney, with me introducing Meg to the Adventurers Club while Lloyd and Nick went to DisneyQuest. However, it was nearly 9:00 p.m. by the time we finished dinner, and I still had to pack for my departure tomorrow, so staying out late didn't seem like a good idea. Therefore, I begged off the DTD trip, went back to my room, finished most of my packing while watching television, and went to bed by 11:00.
Steps today: 20,715 (approx. 6.3 miles)
Planning | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 8
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Last updated 2/11/07