Disney again!

Today I wanted to go back to Hollywood Studios. We were going to start with a show but the line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride was really short, so we went there instead. I just love the attention to detail that Disney puts into their attractions. The area around the ride is part of the fun experience!
But the ride, of course, is the best part. I don't know why I love this so much, I still shut my eyes through much of it!
To recover from that, we walked down the main street and watched some street performers who were really good.
We watched the March of the First Order again. If they don't have a tall woman playing the part of Captain Phasma, then the guy who's doing has a woman's swagger down pat! 

We had a fastpass to Beauty and The Beast today because that's the only way to get in on the weekend. Good show!
Then, because we wanted to have lunch at Epcot, we took the Friendship boat across the lake. We got off one stop early, though, and walked the rest of the way because we had time to spare and wanted to work up an appetite. We had reservations at the Biergarten for later in the day, but fortunately they were able to get us in when we arrived. Biergarten offers a smorgasbord, and was in full Octoberfest mode. They had salads, beets, pasta, spaetzle, bean soup, rolls, etc. But the menu leaned very heavily toward meats: sliced pork, pastry-wrapped meatloaf, beer sausage, brockwurst, bratwurst, salami, chicken, salmon, meatballs, and a few other things I didn't get around to trying. 

For dessert we had fruit compote, pineapple, apple strudel, cinnamon pinwheels, mini black forrest cakes, mini cheesecakes. We drank a concoction made of Coke and Fanta, which was surprisingly good.  I overate so bad that I promised myself to never overeat again. 

The entertainment was a small German band playing accordian, tuba, horn and drums. But they also did a special number with cow bells, and I finally got to hear alphorns, those wooden horns that are longer than a man is tall.  They have a deep sound (not surprisingly) but what did surprise me was that, without holes, the musicians can make different tones. I think it has something to do with breath control. 

Disney's Animal Kingdom

I love animals so I really enjoyed Disney's Animal Kingdom. The big draws here now, of course, are Pandora's Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na'vi River Journey. And there was a 2-3 hour wait for those, so we passed. Someday we'll be able to get Fastpasses, but right now they are completely booked. If the Floating Mountains are anything to judge by, they should be pretty great.
So we moved on, through the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trial and the Conservation Station, where a lizard was being treated. Apparently he just wasn't feeling well, and they were checking if he was sick. How do you tell if a lizard isn't feeling well?
We took the Kilimanjaro Safaris, which rides through the area with the big animals. They have lions, cheetahs, several different kinds of antelopes, Nile crocodiles, elephants, wild dogs, hippos and rhinos.  Most animals have their own area, but sometimes different species can share digs.
The young giraffe was aware of us, but kept close to Mama while she snacked on palm leaves. 
We had lunch, then went to see Finding Nemo and It's Tough To Be a Bug. The Bug show was fun - they've added to it over the years. And there is a lot of creative work in the Nemo show. They borrow a technique from Lion King's stage performance, with players moving the characters. Randy knew a guy at the gate, who got us great seats close to the runway to center stage. How close? This close!
The play was a real spectacle with actors playing the part of fish and coral, and singing almost every line. 
In scenes in the dentist's aquarium, the pelican was a huge puppet, with just his head fitting onstage. 
Lots of fun! And someday we'll be back for the Pandora rides.

Disney - Food - Disney

We went to Hollywood Studios on October 2nd. In the morning and at intervals during the day, Captain Phasma leads a contingency of storm troopers down main street in the "March of the First Order". With somber background music and her voice amplified for everyone to hear, Captain Phasma has presence.
We went on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, which is still one of our favorites. And it did not disappoint!
Next we walked around and learned that Disney's version of Grumman's Chinese Theatre has authentic celebrity footprints in it's concrete, and that Hollywood Scoops has reasonably priced ice cream. We also took the Star Tours ride, saw a movie about Walt Disney, grabbed a quick lunch at the Backlot Express, then went to the Indiana Jones Stunt show.
Later that evening we went to the Cheney Brothers Food evening event, where we nibbled on snacks and treats. They put us up in the Renaissance Hotel and provided bus service to their event location. The next day we returned to the Food Show for the serious stuff. And I mean serious. They were out to impress their potential customers and they were offering samples of everything. Oysters, scallops, and mussels. Every kind of cheese, including gorgonzola, provolone, English cheddar, and French brie. A bounty of Italian meats like prosciutto, mortadella, capocollo, pepperoni, and salami. Sashimi and sushi, lots of pasta dishes, some really good pate, and macaroni and cheese made with lobster. And a few desserts. 
One of the best things I tasted was the Peking Duck. It was so good that I didn't even mind how it looked.
We took a couple of days off to get a few things done at home, then it was back to Disney. This time we went to the Magic Kingdom, where Main Street is decorated for fall and Halloween. 
It rained on and off all day but we just put on our ponchos and kept going. We went on the Liberty Square Riverboat, then to the Haunted Mansion. They have added several things to the outside of the mansion, including a large mausoleum with musical instruments "sculpted" on its side. When kids press the instruments, they make music. Dark, somber music of course. 
Nearby we found the "It's a Small World" ride so we did that one. For an old and easy-going ride, it sure was busy! Afterwards we climbed up and through to the Swiss Robinson Family's tree house. Then we headed to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. They have dressed it up a bit with references to the movies, but much of it remains as it was originally created. We also went on the Jungle Cruise, with a nice young lady boat captain who was witty and clever, and could pilot the boat from behind her back.
By the end of that ride it was time for the early afternoon parade. Each float was themed for one of the famous Disney cartoons, like Frozen, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Brave, Peter Pan, and Beauty and the Beast.
But near the end of the parade, just before Micky Mouse's float, came a big, lumbering dragon. I, of course, with my fascination with metal creations, loved it. One of the best things was that, unlike the other floats which just floated along, this thing walked! It took slow, tromping steps with it's big metal-banded legs. 
After the parade we went to the Monsters Inc comedy show. It was cute, and it used a feature that is showing up in more of their presentations, where the creature on stage or screen interacts with the audience. They ask questions and craft their presentation around the answers they receive
We still hadn't seen Tomorrowland so we went there next. That was sort of disappointing. We went on the People Mover ride which, like the Liberty Square Riverboat and Jungle Cruise, is a slow-moving, low-key ride. But this one felt very dated and uncared for, with views of uninteresting scenes and blank walls. The nearby Carousel of Progress has a lot of good animatronics but it too seems dated. 

And the next afternoon we went back to Epcot. We were there for the fireworks and while we were waiting, we tried a few more of the Food and Wine samples. We started at The Chocolate Studio with a Dark Chocolate Raspberry Torte and a Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle. It was good, although Randy and I disagreed about the effectiveness of the nitrogen-freezing. 
We also tried a small Cheese Tart at The Cheese Studio, and at the Wine and Dine Studio we had Pulled Duck Confit. The duck was good but I expected more intense flavor from a confit dish. At the Irish stand the Warm Chocolate Pudding with Cream Liqueur Custard smelled so good that we had to order it. And it was good, but nothing today was so good that we need to repeat it. 

We went to the American Adventure Theater for an animatronic presentation, then to the Canadian show, which is a film in the round. At 10 pm the fireworks started. Epcot fires them off from the center of the lake, around the big globe, and uses the globe for a light show. We were tired by the time it was over but it was worth staying for.

Doing Disney like a local

Since we are Floridians now, the annual Disney pass is the way to go. We got ours and joined Pete and Donna for our first Disney trip of the season. Once inside we separated because Randy and I were headed to the food section, while Pete and Donna wanted to explore another area. On the way to the food area we paused to take the Spaceship Earth ride. It eased down a corridor banked with automatic figures from time; Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling made me instantly nostalgic for the real thing. And it was funny to see the start of the computer age depicted with tall banks of machines with spinning tape drives and rows of flashing lights, right out of old science fiction movies! During the end of the ride we answered a few questions on-screen, then got a quick slide show of ourselves in the future, doing cool stuff. Apparently everything is better in the future except photography!
Next it was time to do what we really came for - eat!  At the Almond Orchard we shared a serving of Cauliflower Risotto with pulled chicken, artichokes spinach, Parmesan cheese and aged balsamic dressing. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t special, either. Risotto should be creamier and they seemed a bit light on the add-ons. 

No matter, the Scottish booth was nearby, where we couldn’t make up our mind so we got 2 items: Potato Pancake with Scottish Smoked Salmon and herbed sour cream, and Scottish Lamb Stew with Neeps and Tatties. Neeps, it turns out, is a root vegetable called “Swedes”, which is a lot like a turnip. It was OK but the smoked salmon was better.
We snacked standing up, surrounded by the lovely, well maintained grounds. One area did seem to be a little less picked-up, but hopefully that is not a sign of things to come. 
In this area several characters were signing autographs for youngsters. We got a kick out of how determined Rafiki (from Lion King) was to sign his autograph, regardless of having almost no field of vision and big floppy hands!
We walked over to the Rose and Crown Pub for a Guinness, and this time we saw how they get a design in the foam. They pour a glass of beer, set it aside to settle a bit, then slowly add a little more beer, using a very small stream and moving the glass  to create the design. In the past it was Micky Mouse; today it was a clover leaf.
In the French area we watched an acrobat balance on top of 4 chairs, which balanced on top of wine bottles, which were setting on a table. Then we stepped over to the Belgium area for a mini-waffle with warm chocolate ganache and whipped cream. The waffle was light enough to soak up all the chocolate but it was a far, lonesome cry from the waffles we had in Belgium

The Japanese area has a couple of gorgeous statues of soldiers on horseback. 
I expected to find more historic displays inside but instead they have a room full of Kawaii memorabilia. Kawaii is the cult of cute that has overcome Japan for the last few decades. Doesn’t interest me; oh, well, at least the coy were beautiful.
Italy was set up to mimic a lot of Florence, which was lovely but we moved on to Spain before buying more treats. The Charcuterie in a Cone caught our attention there, and we were glad it did. On top were a couple of thin slices of Spanish ham. One was Jamón Jabugo , which is my absolute favorite! I haven't had this since I left Spain. Underneath was a collection of olives, salami and hard cheese with with a little vinaigrette.
At the India stand we got Indian bread served with coriander pesto, pickled garlic, and mango salsa. The pesto was a little bitter and the garlic was unremarkable, so the mango was our favorite. 
Then we went to the FastTrack ride. While waiting in line, everyone gets to design a car. Ours was fast but impractical, but when designing a fake car at Disney, practicality is not a consideration. The actual ride was fast and fun, and at the end your car design is judged against the designs of everyone in your ride buggy. Ours won!
We walked to the building with the Soarin ride, which is my new favorite ride. The car doesn’t move much, just enough to enhance the feel of the movie, but the movie screen is huge and we were so close that it felt like we were gliding over the Himalayas, Polar cap, Pyramids, Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, herds of elephants, Monument Valley, and African waterfalls. Air currents and strategically-timed puffs of scents enhance the sensation - it was lots of fun!

That was so good that we went to the nearby “Living with the Land” boat ride, hoping it would be similar. It’s not, but it was interesting. The first half of the ride was normal scenes of animatronics but the second half was about edible plants. I learned that Dragon fruit grows on succulents. 
And they raise fish here - sturgeon , catfish and Tilapia. The catfish and Tilapia sometimes go to the Disney restaurants, but these fish grow so big that they aren’t good for single servings. I learned that sorghum grows like top-heavy wheat. And they grow a big monster of a mellon called Winter Melon. Later a docent explained these taste a little like cucumbers. Here they are grown on overhead trellis and hang down; they look like the pods from "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". 
For some reason they like to grow watermelons overhead, too. 
And they grow lettuces, herbs and flowers in tall hydroponic tubes. 
The fluted pumpkins were interesting. According to the docent, the very large seeds inside taste like potatoes. 
About this time we joined back up with Pete and Donna to check out The Nemo ride. It turned out to be just right for little children, but nearby was a large tank with two full grown manatees, busy feeding on full stalks of romaine lettuce. One manatee's tail was almost completely chopped off - he just had a couple of stubs. But he was swimming well and it makes it easy to understand how he came to live here. 

Around the corner were several lovely, smaller aquariums holding a variety of sea life. 
Jellyfish were kept separate, since they are such predators. And the Moray eels were comfortably entwined in their coral home. Most were yellow with big brown spots all over them, looking like sea giraffes. The large groups of coral quivered like they were in a strong wind. I know they are feeding, but it makes them look so much like plants! The big Lion Fish was beautiful, and we all liked the graceful little seahorses. 
Bright red shrimp crawled along the bottom, not bothered by the pretty chocolate-chip starfish. 

We stopped to watch Turtle Talk, then went back to Soarin with Donna because we all liked it so much. Afterwards we took her on the Living with the Land exhibit. By then it was time to go home. It's just an hour away, so we should be able to get here often!

Something to do on a hot day

Randy decided it was time to take out one of the roots from the tree behind our house. The thing snakes under our house like a big ol' anaconda. 
In order to get it out, Randy had to crawl all the way under the house. This is not his favorite thing. 
 What a monster root!
Next we re-tied the tarp over the boat. It made it through the hurricane but lost some ties. And then he took a look at the boat motor. It won't go down. Perhaps one of those big limbs bumped it.