Year of a Million dreams. MGM, er, Hollywood Studios

During our Disney trip, WDW was in it's "Year of a Million Dreams" campaign. There were all sorts of give-aways going on around the park from shopping sprees, to the deluxe, super-special prize: a Night in Cinderella's Castle. I have to confess that I was campaigning for the night in Cinderella's castle prize. When I was waiting to get into the Magic Kingdom, I tried to look very enthusiastic and excited and wonder bread-ish. Since I wasn't with a family, I probably wasn't going to get that prize, but a girl can dream, right?

I digressed. So, anyway, Friday morning of our trip--that would be day five--we woke up tired, but the adrenaline of being at Disney (with an agenda) got us up and going. We caught the shuttle to MGM and were there when the gates opened. I didn't have a lot of pre-concieved notions about Hollywood studios (as it is now called), but we had our trusty guidebook with us and knew that first and foremost the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror must be ridden. We bee-lined to the TTTT and got in line. We were one of the first groups and the ride wasn't quite ready--we saw one area lit up that shouldn't have been, but honestly, I wouldn't have known it. I was hesitant about this ride--you travel to the top of this huge tower and get dropped several times--free-falling in an elevator shaft, people! The decor and ambiance of the ride won me over and the ride itself sealed the deal. I LOVE THE TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR!!! We rode it once, then ran to get Fastpasses for something and then went back to that area--Tuan wanted to do the Rock'nRollercoaster. After Space Mountain, I wanted none of that, so I decided to go back to the TTTT. As we entered the antechamber to watch the pre-movie, some Disney folks shuffled by me. When the little movie ended, they stopped us and said we were lucky visitors to the park, because we had won Dream Fastpasses!!! A dream Fastpass gives you one clear shot into each of the main attractions without waiting. I was pumped, but at the same time, I thought--"Oh, no! Tuan's not going to get one!" Nevertheless, getting that was pretty awesome.

I re-met Tuan and told him about it. Even though he didn't have the DF, it worked to our advantage nonetheless because I could still get regular Fastpasses, which meant he could use mine and we could double up on FP for him. (It made sense, trust me).

Hollywood studios was and is a bit of a blur because I never got my bearings about where things were. It was one of my favorite parks/days, though. We did the great movie ride which has scenes from Mary Poppins (!!) and The Wizard of Oz. So fun. My favorite surprise, though, was suddenly coming up on a Pixar Street. It was very Toy Story themed with monkeys, crayons and army men all over the place. That was just amazing.

There was a Prince Caspian show/exhibit (you could actually meet Prince Caspian--cheesy), but you were able to go into Aslan's How and see a short film about Prince Caspian followed by an exhibit of costumes and props from the movie. We could have stayed in there for a while--WETA's work is so cool.

For lunch, we ate at Pizza Planet--being a Pixar fan, it was just so cool--the coin machine Aliens were all over the place in there--so fun! We found Luigi's garage where you could have your photo made with McQueen and Mater--we did it from a distance to avoid the line. (for Johnny, of course)

We rode Star Tours, watched the Stunt Driving show, toured the backlot, watched Muppet Vision 3-D. One really cool thing was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play ground. It's going to be fun to take Johnny in there! The Toy Story Arcade is the newest and most popular thing going right now. The avg line was NINETY MINUTES! I can't imagine holding out for that and thanks to the Fastpasses, we didn't have to. The waiting queue was pretty phenomenal. You were literally in Toy Story land and everything was from the perspective of being a toy. The ride was great, too--you go through a virtual arcade and shoot a gun at different games hosted by Toy Story characters. It's amazing, amazing, amazing.

The Indiana Jones Stunt Show was amazing, as was the afternoon's parade which had a lot of Pixar characters. We actually finished up our main rides at the Indiana Jones Stunt Show--when it ended, the temperatures had dropped and it was getting dusk. This worked out splendidly because it was time for the Osborne Family Christmas Street Pary (not those Osbornes--I was concerned, too). This family in Ark had a lights display that wore out it's welcome with the neighbors and Disney bought it and plunked it onto one of their fake streets. It was amazing--when night fell, all the lights came on and there was this giant Christmas block party happening. Music was playing and the lights were twinkling and the snow was falling--yes, indeed. Disney had seven snow machines dropping the fluffy white stuff on us. So cool! (So, for all of you who gloated, we had snow, too--and it was dry and warm).

Our day at MGM ended with watching Fantasmic--a crazy lights/water/character/fireworks show in an outdoor lagoon amphitheater. The premise of it is cheesy: Mickey is threatened by all the villains and somehow by wishing and dreaming he defeats them. The execution was incredible, however it was scary. I was surprised that there wasn't a disclaimer, because I would have totally freaked out had I seen that as a kid.

As we left the park, we were completely in a mass of people exiting. It was after eight, which meant suppertime. We trucked over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are two African themed restaurants there. Jiko and Boma. Jiko was the upscale one where we had reservations, but when we saw Boma, we asked to switch and our very wish was granted. Boma was an African Buffet and so fabulous! There were Hummuses galore, fantastic foods that reminded me where a lot of our southern cooking comes from, great soups, and of course, divine desserts. The southern influence got us tickled when I was eating a corn and spinach souffle/casserole. "Tuan, this is amazing--it's like cooked cornmeal" "Paula," replied Tuan, "You're eating grits." It was actually very close to a corn casserole. I highly recommend Boma to anyone who enjoys fun, adventurous food. The kitchen was open behind the buffet and you could see the food being prepared. We so enjoyed our meal, and I pitied the man who sat next to us and ate spaghetti and meatballs (Disney offers bland options for the unadventurous). What a marvelous meal he was missing.

We had to engage in the whole "you can't get there from here" bus shuffling and caught the shuttle to Downtown Disney. We walked around a bit there before heading back to the room. I think we got in around eleven. Tuan and I had been in constant motion for fifteen hours. Our feet ached, but we'd had a blast--and one day remained!



So, I just happened to discover what "Bodene" means, according to the Urban Dictionary. Ugh, ahem, I feel sort of awkward. I got the name from my MIL who calls us all nicknames like bodene, bubble-tweet and whatnot. I'm wondering now if anyone caught this and has been too nice to tell me? It's kind of like the time a friend and I used "bloody" over and over because we wanted to sound British--then we found out what it meant. Cringe.


Epcot, Mohammed and a lot of Rain

We woke up Thursday morning with a three-fold purpose: get packed and have our bags transferred to our new hotel, get to said hotel to pick up tickets and then bust it on over to a park for some more fun and adventure.

Because the conference had ended, we had decided to switch to a more value friendly location. The only resort with availability was the All-Star Sports resort. Getting from one hotel to another is tricky at Disney, because the shuttles just run to parks, Downtown Disney and the Transportation and Ticketing Office. We could have caught a cab, but opted to save money, so we caught a bus to Downtown Disney and then to the new resort. As we were waiting for our shuttle, another family was with us. We smiled at their adorable kids and said the obligatory hellos. After a few minutes, the mom piped up, "Do y'all still work at Twin Lakes?" (!) (?) We answered yes, and next thing 'ya know, we found out several connections: the family was from Jackson/Madison, their kids were campers at Twin Lakes, and the Dad worked with Harper Keeler who is an officer at the church and maybe even on our board. It's a small world (after all!).

We caught our shuttle from downtown to the All Star Sports and because it was early and we were the only ones on the bus, our driver took us directly to our hotel--so cool! This was only one of many traveling providences we were blessed with on the trip. In the midst of all this transferring about, we were trying to decide which park to go to. It was raining and overcast, which sort of dampened our plans to go to Hollywood Studios. We decided to visit Epcot again and once we checked in and got our tickets, we were off!

Having been at Epcot the night before, we were not in a big rush to do the big ticket rides, but ready to enjoy a few attractions in Future World and wander all over the World Showcase.

We started off with "Living with the Land." It was fascinating in a nerdy, green-thumb kind of way--I really liked it. Then, because it was pouring, we sort of rushed to the next available thing which was The Seas. We did the Nemo Ride: you sit in a clamshell and travel through an aquarium while being entertained by Nemo and friends who are in the water, too. It was pretty neat. The Seas exhibit was also fun. After, I wanted to experience Honey I Shrunk the Audience. Gotta admit, it was lame, so I won't even discuss it.

We finished off our Future World time with a trip to Innoventions and the Club Cool. Innoventions was just fun and exploratory: little boys, especially would enjoy it. Club Cool is like the Coca Cola museum: you get to try all sorts of Coke products from around the world. They didn't have our favorite: Sprite Ice (minty Sprite from India), but Beverly was on tap. Blech. What nastiness!

From there it was on to the World Showcase. What fun! We were hungry and had decided to eat lunch in Morocco, so we whizzed past Canada, the UK and France. The Moroccan restaurant was amazing. We had lamb, tabouleh, hummus, and this wonderful bread, followed by baklava. I'd never tried Baklava before; it is what I always imagined honeycombs to tasted like. Such goodness--we highly recommend that eatery. We explored Morocco a bit, then went to France (where we saw Belle and Sleeping Beauty), then the UK. The UK was one of my favorites. There's a conglomeration of British architecture and fun shops. Those of you who know me, will also understand that the experience was only heightened by rounding a street corner and seeing Mary Poppins and Alice popping into a shop. I probably squealed. My loving husband allowed me to chase after Mary Poppins (yes, I know she's not the real Mary Poppins), and we found her and Alice posing for pictures. Tuan offered to let me have my photo made with her, but I reluctantly decline: there was a long queue forming. (See, instead of "line", I offer up the use of "queue" because it was in the UK).

We did not taste any food in the UK--because who wants to eat English food? (except fish and chips) Instead, we trekked onward to Canada. Canada was a really neat place and we saw the attraction "O Canada!" The theater is in Circle Vision--you stand us and the film surrounds you. It's very similar to IMAX. The film was marvelous. Martin Short narrated and you really got a feel for what life is like for our Northern Cousins. I always thought that once you entered Canada, everything was the same and sparsely populated (kind of like how I thought everything North of Jackson was the Delta), and was so delighted to find out otherwise. It's one of the best experiences at Epcot.

From Canada, we traveled south to Mexico. We were actually hungry again by that point, so we enjoyed some Nachos from the Mexican restaurant and took the Grand Fiesta Tour. It's in the Mexican pavilion (which is inside, so you feel as though you were in a Mexican City at night--very cool, but was an odd attraction.

From Mexico, we went to Norway (logical, eh?) where we rode Maelstrom. Then to China.

China led us to Germany, then to Italy. The buildings were very fascinating. At that point, it was getting dark and we were tired. The pavilions circle a lagoon and I believe the perimeter is over a mile. It was a great time to visit the good old US and see the American Experience: it's an audio-animatronic show that covers the history of the US--so moving, so patriotic and a great place to rest your weary feet.

After America was Japan. Japan had wonderful shops with great prices. We spent a lot of time shopping there. There was also a hidden attraction: a Tin Toy exhibit from the collection of Jon Lassiter. It was so cool! Japan brought us back to Morocco.

We had made dinner reservations at Les Chefs de France for 9:30 and had some time to kill, so we went back through the UK--still so fun and went to Future World to look at the Christmas lights and get ice cream. Epcot's lights were my favorite of all--so stunning and beautiful and such great music. We shared a mint chocolate chip ice cream and watched the lights and the fountain--a lovely breeze was blowing and all seemed right with the world.

That time passed too quickly. Soon, Tuan decided we needed to meet our reservation, so we hiked back to France. It was no short walk. We timed our reservation so that our dinner would end after the park closed. It gave us time for a long dinner and smaller crowds exiting. Les Chefs de France is a French bistro. The atmosphere was just amazing and our waiter, Mohammed (from Monaco) made our meal even better. Imagine being waited on by a fellow who speaks broken English with a French accent and bears an uncanny resemblance to Prince Charming. Oh, yes, it was fun. Tuan ordered duck and I had a filet. Anthony Bourdain talks about how much the French love food. I could tell. Mohammed was teaching fellow diners how to eat certain things and he was thrilled when I ordered my filet rare.

In the middle of the meal, the restaurant lights were dimmed so that we could see the spectacular fireworks show--amazing. We ended our night with coffee, creme brulee and cream puffs. Marvelous, simply marvelous.

Getting out of the park took a while, but we savored the lights and sights and sounds as we left France and hiked to the buses. When we returned to our hotel, we were looking forward to hot showers and a good night's rest. We weren't disappointed. Because our resort was full of high school groups, we ended up with a handicap accessible room. Our bed was huge and so comfy and our shower was out of this world--it was just this generously sized room with a fold-down bench and adjustable sprayer. I really thought we were going to flood the lower room or have Disney put water usage restrictions on us. Sleep came very quickly that night. We needed the rest: two more days in the park remained.


Disney Hopping

Wednesday, I woke up hungry. Through a lot of weird circumstances, I did not eat supper the night before which left me irritable and grateful for the danish and milk at the resort bakery. It is very important when at Disney to eat regular meals. You walk so much and there is so much to do that you just have to make yourself stop and eat. I attended a seminar with Tuan, but realized that the speaker's head was not supposed to grow and shrink while he was talking, so I bee-lined for the bakery and a place to sit. The resort had these fun, cushioned booths adjacent to the lake and it was a wonderful breakfast spot.

Tuan and the guys had meetings in the morning, so I decided to go resort hopping. I'm a total visual junkie and couldn't wait to get out and see some of the upscale resorts. I hopped on the shuttle to Epcot and where I got on the monorail. I had dumbly assumed that the monorail was one single continuous line--it's actually several different routes, all distinguished by the stripes down the sides of the cars.

After a switch, I was on my way to the Contemporary, MK, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. The Contemporary looked a bit dinky (lots of construction), so I skipped it. In the car with me where some retirees from New York/Jersery area. They were quite fun and knew Mississippi because of Philadelphia and Pelahatchie. Small word (after all). As we talked, I found out that they were resort hopping as well.

The Polynesian was very eighties, but so cool. My favorite however, was the Grand Floridian. Not in a million years could I afford to stay there, but I could certainly dream! There was a near-life-size gingerbread house in the lobby and gingerbread scent was actually being misted over the building. The shops were neat and it was just a beautiful and happy place! I wandered around and was just preparing to sink down into a leather chair when Tuan called to make lunch plans. He, Zack and Andrew were at Downtown Disney and wanted to eat at Rainforest Cafe.

In one of God's incredible travel providences, I caught the bus for Downtown Disney just in time and made it to DD.

Walt Disney World is a neat place. It's an expensive vacation for sure, but I have friends who have taken their kids to the resort, ridden the monorail and visited DD, then called it a trip. Crazy as that sounds, you really could do that with young kids and save some money. DD is a free downtown area that has neat shops and attractions. There is a gigantic Lego store, toy store, shops and attractions aplenty. The Rainforest Cafe is akin to eating on the Jungle Cruise. The food was great and the atmosphere quite fun. There are animatronic elephants that trumpet and every now and then it rains in the restaurant. (you stay dry) I highly recommend it. We ate a marvelous meal and strolled around before heading back to rest.

We were scheduled to visit Epcot that evening with the conference attendees, so we grabbed a quick rest and caught the shuttles to Epcot. It was Andrew and Zack's only chance to be in the parks, so we followed them. Andrew walks fast. : ) Our first stop was Mission: Space. It's a space flight simulator hosted by Gary Sinise. You know you're in for a crazy ride when every few feet is a warning (adviso!) encouraging you to try the less intense version. Given the traumatic Space Mountain experience of the previous day, I was leery, but really wanted to ride with Tuan.

Mission: Space was very, very fun with lots of crazy G-force. I survived fine, but Zack was left queasy and opted to sit out of Soarin'. I had really looked forward to that ride and it was nice, but not spectacular. We also did the Test Track, which is a vehicle road test simulator. I was excited about it until I realized we were in a Buick. : ) No, really, it was very fun.

We wrapped up our evening with the Candlelight processional and the fireworks show in the World Showcase Lagoon. Very impressive. We didn't eat supper at Epcot, so Tuan and I (having learned from the previous night), decided to order a Papa John's pizza. We waited for over an hour and discovered that the driver had our number wrong--argh!!! Once we worked it all out, Papa John's comped the pizza which was very nice of them. We went to bed with sore feet, but very excited about the next day: In the parks, all day, just us!


Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow

So, Tuan is in Peru and I'm staying with my grandmother, Mama Sue, for the week. I absolutely love it here. Spending time with Mama Sue is nice, but as a bonus there are two guest rooms. I have a lovely, wonderful bed with cable TV and wireless and the house is so kid friendly. I've been watching Jon and Kate + 8 tonight (finally!) and reading blogs.
I'm disappointed when folks don't update their blogs, but I am way behind, too, so I thought I'd get cracking.

We went to Disney World in early December. I had never gone before, but had obsessively watched this Disney promotional video as a little girl and was just longing to actually visit this wonderful place. When we found out CCCA (the camping/conference organization that Tuan is a part of) was going to have their annual conference there, it just made good sense to go on and plan our trip around that.

We flew out of Jackson on Monday with Andrew and Zack. I was kind of hoping to see WDW from the plane, but didn't. The "magical express" service whisked us to Coronado Springs which was where the conference was held. CS was a really lovely, beautiful place. The main conference center sat on a lovely lagoon and the rooms were all around it. There were also hammocks in various places around the lagoon. The pool was really neat, too, but there was no time for swimming. I was giddily, giggly excited to just be at a resort. By the way, if you're thinking about going to WDW, I highly recommend staying there--it's so nice and easy to get around!

Monday night was a welcome banquet and worship/general session. I wasn't planning to attend those meetings, because the spouse fee for the conference was steep. However when Matthew ended up going to the Urkaine, I got his place and was so glad I did! James Ward led the singing portion of the worship and was just great! Then, a fellow named Stuart Briscoe spoke. He was a wise, humble deliverer of God's word and I felt so blessed to have attended the session! His wife spoke the next morning, but I missed out on that because . . . .

I was heading for the Magic Kingdom!!! I'd already purchased my ticket, not knowing that I'd be able to attend the conference. Okay, so I was an absolute nerd--I bought a great guidebook: Mini Mickey by the folks at touringplans.com. It gave you specific plans for touring each park so that you could get as much as possible done in a day. Per their instructions, I caught the bus and arrived outside the MK at what I thought was an hour before opening. With the time change, I was actually much earlier, but was so hyped up on adrenaline and giddiness that I didn't care.

While waiting for the opening, I met a woman who blogs for Disney--that was cool. Disney is like the south: you talk to everyone there. Or perhaps my southern-ness was just magnified by Disney, because I talked to everyone there and met so many folks!

Well, the gates opened and Mickey Mouse arrived on the train with lot of my favorite characters--very fun. He sang and danced and we all go to go in. Following the plan, I busted it to Fantasyland, racing past racing moms with strollers who were trying to get somewhere. The strollers at Disney are insane! In retrospect, I'm not even sure how I found Fantasyland--somehow I got there and was so excited that I was there early and could just walk into any ride that I dropped the plan completely and hopped on Peter Pan's magic flight. It was strange, but fun and then I ran over to It's a Small World. That was just wonderful blissful happiness there! It's a Small World helped me re-focus and I stuck to the plan after that. I highly recommend it. The park attendance that day was very slow and I finished most everything I really wanted to do before two o'clock, which left ample time for rambling. Here are the rides I hit (in a rough order) and my thoughts:

Peter Pan's Flight: very dark and hard to see, but fun

It's a Small World: Out of this world fun and total eye candy for the visual junkie I am

Winnie the Pooh: ho hum. I think if I loved Pooh like some, I would have enjoyed it more.

Snow White: Scary!

The Haunted Mansion: Super fun! I think I did it twice on that day!

Splash Mountain: YES! YES! YES! It's actual, it's factual, it's satisfactual!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: One of my faves--so, so , so, fun!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Fun, fun.

Swiss Family Treehouse: very cool--realization of a childhood dream, for sure.

Jungle Cruise: First time I rode it, the line was illogically long given the crowd. My guide felt awkward. The second time was a
blast! (at night)

Country Bear Jamboree: Loved it

Enchanted Tiki Room: Bizarre. I actually wanted to get out of there in the middle of it. Once was enough for life.

Mickey's Philharmagic: Very fun and remniscent of Jr. High: there were great Disney sing-alongs

Mickey's Toontown Fair: quite fun! Just toured Mickey and Minnie's houses--they're great.

Tom Sawyer's Island: It's a really cool place, but I realized once I rode over that I really wanted to do other things more and felt frustrated at having to wait for the raft to get back.

Space Mountain: no. It was horrible (for me). I got on it with no pre-concieved notions and once it started realized I'd made a
mistake. I basically held my neck steady, closed my eyes and clutched the car and prayed for it to end soon. Yep, I'm a wuss.

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress: Cheesy, but catchy and worth seeing.

Tommorrowland Transit Authority: one of the best kept secrets of Disney. It's basically this open car you sit in and you ride all over Tomorrowland in it. It has this great narration, you go inside of Space Mountain and you get great views of the castle. There's also no wait and the folks working it let me ride it over and over. It's the perfect place for a rest and zone out. I loved it and still have the narration stuck in my head.

Well, I somehow got bogged down in Tomorrowland--the TTA notwithstanding--and wasted a lot of time there. Still, I was able to get back to some rides like Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and It's a Small World again. : ) Thanks to the touring plan, I had lots of time left and meandered to Main Street before closing for some Ice Cream. Of all things I ran into a lady from our church: Cindy and her son Warner at the ice cream parlor! We got to snack together and I left the park soon after.

In the bus back to our hotel, this man noticed my Twin Lakes shirt and asked if it was the same TL as the one in MS. Then, we started talking and found out he was from Franklinton, LA and worked with one of our former maintenance guys! Small world (after all)!

At the hotel, I cleaned up and went to find Tuan. The walk from the room to the conference area was long--nearly a mile-- and I went the wrong way, but was pleased to find a hammock along my path. I gratefully stretched out in the hammock, rested my aching feet and enjoyed the balmy breeze and night sky. It was a great end to a most wonderful day!