|A seven year old redhead|
outside the Haunted Mansion
It all started in Mrs. Feero's 3rd and 4th grade classroom. Holly was going to Disney with her parents, and Mrs. Feero was giving her tips. I was green with envy.
Then it got worse. Holly came home with amazing stories, pilot wings and exciting travel became synonymous with Disney. I was obsessed with the Haunted House and the hypnotic effect of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights. I may have even developed a crush on Kurt Russell.
Years passed and my Disney obsession sank to the back of my psyche. I grew up and traveled around the world but my path never led to Disney. As a matter of fact, I kind of forgot about it - after all, I don't have children. But something was gnawing at me... I had never been to ANY Disney Park. I had been in Pharaohs tombs in Egypt; shopped in Istanbul; eaten countless breakfasts in Paris; been to weddings in both Italy and Belarus; taken a madcap taxi ride around Hong Kong Island; gotten tipsy at the Christmas Plaza in Munich; frolicked in the snow at the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia; taken a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow; swam with Sting Rays in the Caymans... but I had never seen Cinderella's Castle.
Then one day, the KDLP family were planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World and I asked if I could tag along. All of a sudden, it was like I was 7 years old again (well, a re-do on being 7). I would be seeing WDW with good friends and their three kids (9, 7 & almost 4) that I adore. I cashed in some frequent flyer miles, booked a room at the Disney Beach Club Resort, bought my park hopper passes from Under Cover Tourist and counted the days until I would meet the KDLP's at Disney.
Getting there: I packed light. Just a backpack and a shoulder bag. I took a month's worth of immunosuppresives just in case (when you are living with a kidney transplant you have to plan for disasters), a couple of changes of clothes, a swimsuit, plenty of sun screen, camera, Blackberry and iPad (loaded with Disney apps for wait times and dining).
Since I traveling carry on, luggage wasn't an issue. I found my way to the MCO basement level check in for the "Magic Express" and that is when the "Curse of Anna Traveling" hit. Yes, I am cursed; but, since so much has happened over the years - Buildings being blown up in London `96; sixty two tourists being shot in Egypt `97; Ambassadors being thrown out of Belarus and riots at McDonald's in Minsk `97; closed borders and skirmishes between Ethiopia and Eritrea `98; Mid-Air "Correction" over the Atlantic Ocean `98 (the ONLY time I ever thought I was going to die); Cairo Muslim Brotherhood protest march `05 - well, the curse is more like a badge of honor at this point - and that is not mentioning the countless delays/diversions/unexpected stopovers/mid air medical emergencies that have happened (maybe I am a thrill seeker after all...). I am amazed when a trip goes right, and if it seems too smooth, I am always worried about what disaster is lurking around the corner...
I was the only person that the greyhound bus/"Magical Express" was taking to the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, so I was piled onto an "after hours" bus that was making all stops. It took well over an hour for me to get to my hotel and I was the last person left on the bus. I was exhausted and hungry and maybe a little bit cranky.
When I checked in, I asked that my room be as close to the KDLP's as possible. They were in room 4577. There was much confusion. The desk clerk "Cast Member" was from Bangalore, and I think that there was some language difficulty. He put me on the other side of the hotel on the second floor, wrote my room number on my key card and sent me off to wander the halls looking for my room - cheerily calling out "don't worries, they are just a few floors above you!" I was not impressed.
Then I went to wander the identical halls of this 500+ room resort. By the time I found the room number written on my key card case, I was not surprise to find that my key card didn't work, and my cranky ratcheted up to furious. In exasperation, I called the phone number on the key card itself, and threatened to set up camp in the hallway for the night. I was told that the "Cast Member" had written the wrong room number on my key card. Seriously, the wrong room number. It wasn't even a transposition. I was way over on the "other" wing of the second floor. The magic just wasn't happening that night.
When I got to my room, I dialed room service and asked for a cheeseburger and a coke to be sent up. It arrived what seemed like hours later (but was just 45 mins). I was shattered, but feeling generous, so I tipped the waiter $5 for a $14.99 cheeseburger. After he left, I realized that Disney adds an 18% gratuity to all of their room service orders, and a $3.00 delivery charge. My cheeseburger and coke ended up costing me $30.00. OUCH.
Early mornings were my favorite at Disney. Not much is open yet, the crowds really haven't descended, and for a brief hour, you feel like you have the park to yourself. This was the one and only morning that I felt that way, because Epcot was closest to our hotel. We even entered through a side entrance called the "International Gateway". although our little Princess MM was drawn to every gift shop that she could see, she was a trouper and skipped along looking at the sights and brightening up the crowd by wearing her Princess Dress from Tuesday's visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
We had reservations in Italy for lunch, so we wandered around Epcot counter clockwise. I was distressed to realize that my quest to find Mickey, Goofy and Tigger is more like a military operation with intelligence apps for the iPad and GPS coordination, and then, infinite patience to stand in line for a picture. I am the laziest stalker in history, and although we had the technology, I am glad that none of us had the patience to stand in line for a photo op.
The kids had already "met" the characters at a special breakfast, so stalking was no longer a priority. I did stumble upon a topiary of Tigger and I snagged a Blackberry picture of Goofy in the "Meet the Characters" pavilion at Epcot.
This is when I have to fess up to not "making the most" of my time at Disney. I am a lazy traveler. I would much rather be with people I care about and just soak in the sights around me, than attack anything full force and "do everything". I don't care about getting my money's worth and I don't want to be wiped out at the end of the day. We simply strolled, did what we could, coordinated out "must see's" and just had a great time together. Also, because am living with a kidney transplant, I am no longer riding roller coasters or anything that has a tight lap bar. My boy kidney is grafted in my lower abdomen and it isn't protected by anything but a layer of fat; so there won't be any roller coaster stories, no "Tower of Terror" for me.
"Kidcot Fun Stops" are a nifty way for kids to create at Epcot. They are interactive coloring/activity stations sponsored by Sharpie. Everything is "sponsored" in one way or another at Disney. The kids had their Epcot Passports stamped at each Country's Pavillion, and they colored in their Bear fan, had their names written on the back of the fan in the native language of each country that we visited.
In one morning, we went to America, Japan, Italy and France. VDLP joked to the kids that this gets him off the hook for a European vacation. They can consider themselves world travelers now. VDLP is efficient, I'll say that.
I get teary a lot more now that I am older. It could be the combination of age and steroids from the transplant, but aside from a few pre-kidney failure crying jags (drive to Bangor`80; Holly & Tim's Wedding`8?; one night in Palmer Massachusetts, `87; Sea World `90; The Secret Garden play, Boston `92) I have always been a stoic (I am shocked that I can count the times that I had cried on one hand). Of course, since I started dialysis, all bets are off. I am writing about crying now, because when we got to the American Pavilion, I looked to see the line of drum and fifes, and I lost it. Happy tears... nostalgic tears... just tears. I had been watching the kids, and thinking about everything that has come before- drums, fifes, history, just to be right there, at that moment, alive, surrounded by faux America while standing in one of the icons of American Culture. This was one of those "Magical Moments" that Disney promises - but I don't think that those marketing men had my reaction in mind. I am good at stealth crying, and my Sophia Loren sunglasses help to hide my emotion. (Note to self: get meds checked!)
wine blog where I have reviewed 41 (and counting) bottles of Italian wine. We had reservations at the pavilion's Tutto Italia Ristorante. The kids were troupers and they tried a bit of food outside of their comfort zone, but, in true child like abandon, it was pasta all the way. I can't rave about the food. But I will rave about the experience. Each person was Italian out of Central Casting. From the "prego's" to the "mangiare" to the "Buon appetito" - I smiled to myself and thought "just go for it". I wasn't transported back to my beloved Pimonte, but I was having an authentic Disney experience.
Japan was sobering for me. It was just a few days after the earthquake and tsunami. Just to look at the people who staffed the pavillion and shops, I wondered about them, what they were feeling as life went on, and their families. Even though they are in America, and this is their home. Home and "homeland" are two different entities. Home is where you love and live, and homeland is who you are.
C & I gave V a quick lesson in Japanese Manners: Arigato& the proper bow; we were subdued as the kids played and interacted. MM & P colored at the sharpie table and V had a quick lesson in origami. When it was time to leave the Japanese pavilion, we stopped on the bridge to take a picture. Then V showed off his warrior hat origami.
After Japan, we were off to Morocco. This was my favorite pavilion. The weather just suited it: Bright, hot sunshine streaming through the wooden slats and it wasn't very crowded. MM decided that she waned a henna tattoo and V decided the same. I preempted P wanting a tattoo by getting him hooked on the penny machines. He collected a few pennies this trip! : )
By the time we got to France, we were fading. The carb load of lunch had kicked in. The Florida sun had reminded us that we were 1000 miles closer to the equator than we were, and it was time for an air-conditioned movie. VDLP, V, MM & I waited in the theater while C & P went to find a bathroom. We watched a beautiful surround movie of aerial views of France, and then we walked back to the hotel. It was a nice, scenic along the Lagoon, and then we went to get some ice cream.
I had the kids come and hang out with me in my room. Well, in theory. The kids were coming to my room, but the truth was, when I went to check into my new room down the hall from the KDLP's, but the whole reservations system for Disney was down. (new computer program) I was roomless. Steven, the front desk "castmember/manager" was able to get me a key to my new room and he walked me to it. But, when we got to the door, we heard voices. There were people there. He knocked on the door, and a man answered the door. They had been checked into the room that afternoon. The curse struck again. Steven was horrified. Speechless actually. I went back to the KDLP's room, and waited for him to sort it all out.
A while later, he came back to the room with another key. Stephen, C and I walked to my new room, and lo and behold, it was mine, all mine. C, being the amazing lawyer that she is, "negotiated" my pain and suffering. Which came to $120.00 credit (than you Stephen!). The kids came to help me unpack. We ordered some room service pizza (shudder) and a good time was had by all while VDLP & C were in the hot tub ; )
Martha's Vineyard sadly my idea of a wine bar does not correspond with Disney's idea of a wine bar. I ended the night with a Mai-Tai.
Next: Day Two: Hollywood Studios