If someone told me I would die tomorrow, there are two places in this world that I would desperately want to visit one last time. With the people I love the most.
One is the beach. Specifically, the emerald green water/white sugary sand beaches of South Walton. Call me a Redneck all you want, but the Redneck Riviera really is bucket list worthy.
And the other would be Fort Payne, Alabama. The Sock Capital of the World.
I'm kidding. It would be Walt Disney World. Specifically, Epicot.
How we feel about that place is well documented. In short, we love it more than a fat kid loves cake and on one particularly hot and muggy day last June, we were pretty doggone excited about the prospect of spending the entire day in the best park around.
The day began like so many other days on that trip. We all got up, grabbed a quick breakfast, and I helped my family get ready for the day. Then my husband and our kids made a beeline to the arcade downstairs to allow me to finish getting ready in peace. It was a win/win situation and those early mornings in the arcade with their dad turned out to be something the kids looked forward to every morning. I didn’t mind the calm that descended on the room the minute the “Could we BE any Louder?!” crew walked out the door either.
Soon enough though, I was craving the craziness once more and we were off for the day.
One thing about this trip: we slowed down the pace a good bit. We would’ve normally been stressing to get to the gates as soon as the park opened. But not on this trip, thanks in part to a little sump’m sump’m called the GAD Fastpass.
Because we had enough Fastpass cards for everyone for each of the four parks, we knew we were going to ride all of our favorites. There was no question of that. We may not be able to ride them over and over again. Like Nelly and Tim McGraw. But we were secure in the knowledge that we would be riding what we wanted to ride without any hassle. As long as the ride wasn’t down due to technical difficulties.
That made our trip SO much more enjoyable. It meant that if the kids wanted to linger in the arcade a little longer in the morning, we could allow them that. Something we never would’ve DREAMED of doing without the knowledge that we were good to go with the rides. If we wanted to enjoy the stroll over from the Yacht Club in the morning and stop to take 1,000 photos of the same thing along the way, we could allow ourselves that. Instead of power walking and stressing each other out. In a race to nowhere.
And that’s just what we did that morning. We enjoyed lingering and took in our surroundings as we made our way over to Epicot via the International Gateway. To yell and scream and laugh and play.
One thing I will never forget is how cool it was to walk through World Showcase with ABSOLUTELY no one around. It doesn’t open until 11, so the place was deserted as we cut through on our way to Future World.
Normally it’s packed as you walk through England, but on this day, we spread out and took up the entire path. Because we could. While our son, with one year of a foreign language elective under his belt, tried to read the guide map to us. The French guide map. He was practicing for his eventual date with a Les Chefs’ dinner menu.
As it turns out, he would need A LOT of practice. Beaucoup. Practice. But more on that later.
We explored Future World, watched the fountain dance, drank free little Cokes from different countries, stood around laughing at newbies experiencing Beverly for the first time (that never gets old) and rode everything we wanted to ride with plenty of time to spare that morning.
Yes, all the Fastpasses for LIVING WITH THE LAND had been given out before lunchtime. Making it an unscorable ride unless you were packin' the GADs. Living with the Land. Who knew it was a stud Fastpass?
The Tron monorail. I was skeptical at first, but it did look pretty cool....
Is it Test Track or is it Living With the Land? Will the doors open in time or will we crash into the wall going 65 mph?! I know I'M scared, are you?
They should definitely put a Test Track spin on Living with the Land the next time they do a refurb there. Because how much fun would a 65 mph boatride through a garden be?
I always take pictures of the same icons each year, so this year I spent a little bit of time looking for random shots around the park, shots that I don't normally take but still capture the feel of a day at Epcot, and I came home with a few that I still like pretty well.
ZZUB has assured me (more or less) that he will provide a prize (this is ZZUB so I'm using that term loosely) for anyone who can correctly identify where this 'P' is located. We'll call it P for a prize. NOFergie.
I’m also pretty sure we ran into Mel and MellyMan. That day. There was some doubt there for a little bit. On my part. But upon closer inspection, I'm now CONVINCED it was them.
No trip to Epcot is complete for our family without a trip to Biergarten. We discovered the place on our first trip back to the World after the honeymoon and we liked it so much that each trip since has included a meal there.
We like to go mainly for lunch. Less chance of being pulled out of the crowd and embarrassed then, so says the man who has yet to make peace with being blindfolded and having knives thrown at his head by a gaggle of clowns. Who speak only through a series of whistles. Other than that, it just always seems like the perfect ’cool down and rest’ break from the hot temps in the park during the day. And it was VERY hot on this day.
Plus nothing gets us pumped up and ready to tackle the second leg of the ole itinerary like a couple of Brats and a mouthful of juicy sauerkraut.
Followed by a BIG WET kiss afterwards.
Okay, I think I even grossed myself out there.
Sauerkraut is some kinda nasty! Just the thought of it makes acid build up in my mouth.
And not in a good way.
We made our way to Germany, got in line to check in at the podium and were oh so pleased to discover the person in line in front of us was trying to nail down a walk up reservation for roughly half the country of Brazil.
She was dressed in Disney CM garb and apparently it was her job to make sure the party she was representing (who apparently had done zero planning) was seated before we were. Her party wasn’t there and had no designs on rushing to be there anytime soon (according to her cell phone conversations) yet we still had to wait for them. For her. Because she was in front of us, and that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
The tour guide (?) CM would talk to the Biergarten people, then call half her people, then talk to the Biergarten people again, then call the other half of her people, then beg the Biergarten people to accomplish the impossible, then assure all of her peeps that she had this. Which all boils down to the fact that we had to wait for ALL of this to go down before we could even check in. Because her problem was apparently so big that it required the attention of all of the Biergarten check in crew.
In all the years we have been going there, we’ve never had to wait longer than just a few minutes for a table. The wait on THIS day was nearly unbearable. The party in front of us all finally sauntered in, looking very uninterested and bored with the whole thing, and they were seated. We were seated soon afterwards. But not before thinking we might be better off just grabbing a couple of Brats and a heaping mound of juicy, stinky sauerkraut from the counter service place nearby and making out in front of everyone. Just to pass the time.
Not a moment too soon, we were escorted to our table and despite the sour mood from the long (did I mention it was HOT that day?) wait, we found ourselves delighted that we scored a spot right beside the dance floor. And very close to the show.
We have been enjoying the show and food at Biergarten for many years. And even though we’ve seen the show plenty of times, we always get just as excited about it each time as we did the first time we saw it. Plus we really LOVE these guys….
They’re awesome, and although we have no idea what their names are and we know nothing about them, we do know that our experience at Biergarten just wouldn’t be as much fun if we didn’t see their faces there each and every year. They pretty much make that show for us.
After another great meal, we decided to head back to the resort and spend some time getting to know Stormalong Bay a little better.
But first, we would get to know Yacht Club’s gift shop a little better.
The girl had a gift card burning a hole in her pocket and begged me to take her to the gift shop on the way to the pool. So she could quench her thirst for overpriced souvenirs. So while the boys headed to SAB, the Girl and I took a detour and checked out the gift shop.
I have been in lots of different Disney gift shops and each one pretty much reflects the mood of the resort in which it’s situated. But I have NEVER felt the least bit awkward in any of them. Until that day.
We’re dressed in our bathing suits, cover ups and flip flops and here we come. We walk in the door and I’m immediately impressed by how pretty it looks there. Very nautical. Very pretty. I’m checking things out and in the process, nearly trip down a small set of steps that I did NOT see. On the way in. Good thing I regained my sense of balance in the nick of time and avoided a wipe out. Can’t imagine being sprawled out in the middle of the floor in my bathing suit in THAT place. Other places, yeah. Been there, done that. Nothing new for me. But that’s the kind of thing that might get you shunned there. Well, that and carrying around four six foot long noodles. While slapping fellow guests in the face with them.
So we walk (stumble) into the joint and the second thing I notice is how QUIET it is in there. It’s more like a library than a gift shop at Disneyworld. I found myself whispering. Quietly. For no good reason. Other than the fact that it just seemed like the thing to do. Whispering and standing up straight. Walking with your nose pointed upwards. Not touching anything. These are the things I felt like I needed to be doing while I was there. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because we seemed to be the only patrons there at the time, I don't know. But the atmosphere was SO weirdly… quiet.
So the girl whispers and points slowly at what she wants. I nod my approval, because I don’t think I should be talking. We walk in slow motion (Ninja style) to the cashier, pay for our purchases, and I lean in and ask her how to get to the pool from there. In a hushed tone. She answers back. In sign language. Somewhere in the distance, a pin drops. We all slowly turn our gazes toward it and give it the stink eye. Silently. With our minds.
Having paid for our Disney goodies, we turn around to leave (quietly and slowly) and on the way out, I knock over a Mickey shaped dish. It bangs around loudly on its way to the floor, creating such a ruckus that the cashier chases us out of the shop. With her silent stares.
I have a feeling there’s a Polaroid of us still hanging behind the counter to this day.
We finally made it safely to the pool. The lovely, wonderful, vast azure blue piece of paradise otherwise known as SAB.
We caught up with our men, who had already taken Gold in the Waterslide Olympics.
In celebration, we visited Hurricane Hannah’s for some icy cold refreshment and spent the next few hours floating and enjoying the feel of the sand beneath our feet and the coolness of the water on our sun warmed skin.
Despite the stifling June heat, it turned out to be a very cool day indeed.