Day 3, Sunday 3/18/01
This was a day that we spent entirely at Epcot. That is, Debbie, Nick, Patti, and I did. Jan met with some friends she had in the Orlando area, that she hasn't seen for a long time.
The day started off good. We were up very early, dressed, and called the bell desk to pick up our luggage. They were quickly. We went down to the front desk at the All Stars, and had a very smooth checkout. Jan and Patti had avoided charging things back to the room, so everything on the bill was mine, I paid with my MasterCard, and we were gone. We were standing at the bus stop by 7:30.
We took the bus to the MK, and then the monorail to the Poly. The Poly check in also seemed to go very smoothly, including the cruise paperwork. I left my briefcase (where I always keep my traveling papers) at the bell desk at the Poly.
We took the monorail to the TT&C. I realize we could walk from the Poly to the TT&C, but with Patti recovering from he knee problems, I was concerned it would be too far. Regardless, taking the monorail to the TT&C and then switching to the Epcot monorail was really painless. We were at Epcot just shortly after rope drop.
We were happy to see that they had plenty of ECV's at the rental place at Epcot. We were there about 9:30, and Patti had her pick. The first one they wanted to give her had a cracked fender, which she wasn't comfortable with. Ironically, the second one gave her battery trouble and had to be returned later in the day. At the time she did this exchange, there were hardly any ECV's there. So, you don't have to be there at rope drop, but by midday these things are gone. If you need one, plan on being there as early in the morning as you practically can.
I'll no doubt mention it again, but these things were a life saver for Patti on this trip. She probably could have managed without one, but it increased her level of comfort and enjoyment enormously. It basically let her keep up with the rest of us without being in constant pain from her knees. And we found Disney to be very, very accommodating of people with physical limitations.
Right after we picked up the ECV, we went on what turned out to be our first and only Spaceship Earth ride this trip. SE remains my favorite attraction at Epcot, and Epcot is my favorite park. Nick and I were together, Debbie went with Patti to the handicapped loading area. Nick and I whispered a little on the ride about the history that we were viewing. This was a great deal of fun. He is so much more aware of these things now. I look forward to him being even more curious and cognizant on our next trip.
I always get caught up in the epic story and emotion of this ride. Of course, it is self-serving to AT&T, because they are in the business of communication. But, they have a point. Communication technology is constantly reinventing our society. And now is the most exciting time in history, from a communications standpoint. These newsgroups, trip reports, and web pages all illustrate that don't they? From the mundane to the sublime, we have all of this knowledge laid at our feet. Not only you can find out anything you want on the net, but you can find someone else who wants to talk about it and learn about it with you. It's one of the most exciting things about the 21st century.
We got disconnected from Debbie and Patti because they went in the other entrance. But, Nick amused himself in the Storyteller Phone Booth, while I scouted for them (occasionally poking my head in to add effects to the Haunted Mansion).
Well, we got all joined up in the Global Village finally, and went outside to have breakfast over at the Electric Umbrella. A nice, quick fare of some type of egg/bagel sandwich.
Next, we did Ellen's Energy Adventure. We had all seen it before, but it remains such a good show. Now that Nick and I have taken to watching old Bill Nye reruns on Noggin, Bill is much more noticeable in this show. Pretty much the same character as in the TV show. He is amusing, the general story is pretty good, and, of course, the animatronics are first rate.
We had nice weather (a little cold, but no rain) until late in the evening. It seems like when the rain started to fall, our luck changed. But, more on that later. This portion of the day was outstanding.
We hit Test Track next. After all that I had read in the newsgroup about the poor maintenance here, I was a little concerned. But, I found the ride to be fine, and it is still a lot of fun. Nonetheless, our video screens in our car were not working, and that's kind of sad. Overall, though, this was a good experience for us. Patti bought the photo.
I should mention that we had pulled a Fast Pass for Test Track after Spaceship Earth and before the Electric Umbrella. The timing was just right, as we had a chance to eat and do Energy while *NOT* waiting in line. Sorry, guys, but Fast Pass is terrific. Instead of standing there waiting, we are ticking other things off of our to do list. The only small drawback here is that the Test Track queue is a really cool one. Not worth waiting in line an hour to see, though.
After Test Track, the ECV battery was ready to give up the ghost. It
had been acting funny most of the morning, and was definitely getting worse.
Patti piloted it over to the rental place, and it died completely just
as she arrived.
|While we were waiting for Patti to come back, the three of us hung
out near the Cool Wash place. We got pizza and frozen coke at the little
stand near there, kind of a non-lunch. It was good, though, and Patti returned
shortly. Then it was on to Honey, I Shrunk The Audience.
Honey, I Shrunk The Audience remains a great show as well. There were a couple of folks behind me who had not seen the show before, judging by their reaction to the surprises. It's kind of a kick to hear someone react who hasn't been through this before. The older woman, though, did not seem thrilled with the mice.
Nick was busily trying to figure out the magic before and after the show, studying the little fan contraption in the seat in front of us, and looking underneath for the wires which provide the mice and lion's claws.
Since we were at the Imagination Pavilion, we did both Journey Into Your Imagination and the Image Works.
I liked Journey Into Your Imagination better this time, though it is still pale compared to the original. In the queue, I noticed the distinctive video screens overhead. Those were pretty cool, and I don't recall them from before. The ride isn't all that bad overall. Is there more Figment in here than right after the rehab?
At first, Nick just ran through the Image Works, and was waiting near the exit. That was rather disappointing. This has always been a favorite of his, but he must have been in a strange mood. Debbie and I messed with a couple of contraptions, then I went to find Nick, who was near the exit with Patti. At this point, though, he wanted to go back in. I wasn't quite satisfied myself, so we went back inside for a few minutes. We conducted the orchestra, and he played around at the colored sounds area. Then he picked up a ball in the gift shop that flashes and makes sounds when it hits the ground. Debbie and I really looked hard at the crystal which has your photo engraved by a laser in the center, but somehow convinced ourselves it was too pricey (compared to the other crazy things we were doing this trip?). Overall, Image Works still turns out to be a lot of fun.
We headed into Innoventions, and Nick played Toon Tag once. Is this thing still not ready for the net? I thought it was coming soon. Still, it's fun to watch the kids in this arena environment. We meant to come back and let him play again while exploring this side of Innoventions, but we never made it. Four days on property (with full passes) just isn't enough, in my opinion. We ran out of time to do a lot of things that we intended.
After the one Toon Tag game, we made our way to the IBM booth, and sent a number of Internet postcards. Not as many as usual, but we hit several of our friends, including some folks back at RMNAAFA. I get a big kick out of sending these, and always add my copies to the end of the video tape of our trip. IBM in Innoventions is the best place on property to do this sort of thing.
We decided to try and have lunch at Le Celier in the Canadian Pavilion. That didn't work out, they had just stopped serving lunch a few minutes before (it was pretty late in the afternoon). I thought we all decided that we really needed a snack more than anything. Patti and Debbie went up to the UK Pavilion to grab some fish and chips (I figured they'd go to the sidewalk stand that's there now). I led Nick over to the beaver tails stand in Canada. None of us had ever tried these things, and I thought Nick and I should try them out. I ordered a strawberry and cream one, and he a chocolate. We sat down on a bench on the sidewalk near the Rose and Crown, and started to enjoy them (they were fabulous, by the way, a little sweet and messy, but very tasty).
But, we had just begun to eat when a friendly young woman with a British accent came up and began to talk to us. OK, she was also wearing a CM outfit from the Rose and Crown. She told us that she was sent to get us. We turned, surprised, to see Debbie and Patti waving at us from the patio of the Rose and Crown.
So, we went over to join them at their table. Apparently, they had gone ahead and ordered fish and chips for the three of us, and something for Nick as well. I asked if they hadn't gone to the (Harry Camden's) sidewalk stand. They said "What sidewalk stand?" Evidently, we hadn't understood the same thing when we talked about fish and chips (I was certain to point out the stand to them later, though).
In any event, the unexpected lunch at Rose And Crown was wonderful. We had the great service that we have always expected at Rose and Crown. Nick and I endured a great deal of ribbing about eating our deserts first (we, of course, had to bring the beaver tails to table with us). It was the same great meal we have always had at Rose and Crown in the past, and the fish and chips were very good.
Unfortunately, later that same day we had the only bad experience we have *EVER* had at Rose and Crown. Yes, two meals in a row at the same place, but that's because we *ALWAYS* have one late diner at Rose and Crown on every trip, with the plan to see Illuminations form the patio.
We caught the World Showcase Players (the comedy troop which performs
in the street) in the UK. This is the first time we have sat through a
whole performance, usually we just catch bits and pieces. These three were
hilarious. Of course, the play revolves around a very loose interpretation
of King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail (Grail, Grail, Grail umph!)
I think that the BBW who is kind of the "lead" has been doing this for
years, but I don't recall seeing the other two (but we've never really
sat and watched, either). We all agreed that the thin guy looked a bit
like Ryan Styles. The audience participation was very amusing, and I got
a particular chuckle when they asked us to make a lot of noise so that
we could annoy the French. Of course, if anyone asks what we really thought
of the play, the proper answer is "It's rubbish!"
|We left the UK and went to France. After walking around the streets
of France for a bit, we caught the World Showcase Players in France (a
different troop)! They were doing something loosely based upon Cirino De
Birgerauqe (HAH! My spellings not even close!). I thought this was good,
but the performance over in Britain was better. Regardless, I got a good
chuckle when they encouraged us to make noise in order to annoy the British.
We also watched the living statues in France, and got a picture with Nick. Sadly, this is no longer spontaneous as it was when it started. Of course, I guess the cat is out of the bag now, and no one is really fooled into thinking this is a statue. Now they are escorted on and off the courtyard by another CM, much as the characters at a meet and greet. Too bad, but inevitable, I suppose. I'm glad we caught it (or got caught, really) when it was still a big surprise. Nonetheless, the performance was very good, and people's reactions are still a lot of fun to watch.
Crossing between France and the UK, I paid particular attention to the
International Gateway, and noted how easily you could see the Beach Club
from here. I'm kind of hoping to spend some DVC points there once the villas
(under construction when we were there) are finished. But, I think the
Boardwalk will be nearly as cool.
Nick kept wanting to go into Morocco while we were in France. He was hoping that Aladdin and Jasmine might be around for the sake of his autograph book. But, instead, we caught a little bit of the acrobat troop here, which was very good. We walked around the back streets, taking some nice pictures, and poking in an out of the little shops. This is really a beautiful and exotic pavilion.
I was again sorry that I missed taking a shot of the Epcot sign over SE when on the monorail. The back end is not finished, and the letters are not really visible from this side. I did, however, get an interesting shot of the crane, which makes it look like Mickey's hand is holding a gun. Probably not what they intended.
We drifted past Japan, not really stopping, but admiring the architecture.
We stopped in the American Pavilion, and all went to see the American Adventures show, which is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, we missed the Voices of America singers, which was very memorable on our last trip. But, I thoroughly enjoyed the AA show. It is so patriotic and moving, capturing the spirit of what America has been about, and where that spirit can still take us. And, of course, the animatronics and the theater are both exceptional. Nick didn't even fall asleep this time. It may be because Ben Franklin has that starring role, and Nick just finished a biography project on him.
The show, once again, was very accommodating of Patti's ECV. We took
the elevator up to the second floor, with the assistance of a friendly
CM, and all sat in the very back, where there was a good place to park
the ECV. The show was great from back there--I don't think there are really
any bad seats here.
|We got to the edge of Germany, admiring the train set, and taking some
nice pictures. Then, Tapestry of Nations started, and we were enjoying
a nice curbside view, until it started to rain. At this point, our evening
slid downhill, and ended with a pretty sour note. The rain was kind of
ominous, I suppose.
This really is a neat parade, isn't it? The way that those dancers bring their puppets to life is just amazing. Is it my imagination, or have they removed the words at the beginning about the sage of time coming every 1000 years? I guess that's appropriate, since this isn't a millennium thing anymore. But, it is a small rewrite, in any event. And it's still a great parade.
Patti got a lot of attention from the giants as they went by.
Well, the rain caught us without our ponchos, so we ran into the shopping
area of Germany to buy some. The young women working in these shops were
exceptionally friendly, and we were soon outfitted for the weather.
|In the process of searching for ponchos, Nick found a toy car in Germany.
What is really serendipitous about it is that Nick swears it is just like
a purple car he lost years ago--I mean *YEARS* ago, when he was about 3.
We were on a day trip to a town up in the Colorado mountains, and it got
left behind. Strangely, he remembers that to this day, and is certain this
car (regardless of the color) is the same type.
So, there you go. A little Disney magic to make up for the rain.
But, then that ominous rain took it's toll. We headed over to the Rose And Crown (weren't we there for lunch?), for our PS that I made 60 days ago, and the first ever bad experience we have had at the Rose and Crown.
We ended up waiting interminably in the drizzling rain. But, what made
it difficult is that I had the feeling we weren't in good hands. Obviously,
with the weather, they were doing a lot of walk up business, and a lot
of people make PS's here as well. But, we got there early, and waited long
after our PS time had expired. And we were sitting on a bench close enough
to the entrance that I could see the comings and goings. I saw several
parties of four or less walk up to the podium, and be seated immediately.
No exchange of the little buzzer thing, so it wasn't simply a matter of
my missing their first trip to the podium. And a couple of parties who
got their buzzers, and came back and got seated while we were still waiting.
Nasty. They seemed very disorganized, as if the person who should have been running the show was missing.
Anyway, we were seated so late that we were just starting our main course when Illuminations started. And at the end of the show, we were one of the last two parties to leave the restaurant, so desert was pretty well out of the question.
I had the pie sampler, which I have had before, but didn't really enjoy it this time. I'm chalking that up to my mood more than anything. Patti and Debbie both had the prime rib, which looked great.
All was not lost. Illuminations was as fabulous as I remembered it. The lasers, the fireworks, the music, are all spectacular. Then there is the highlight for me, that amazing globe with the 10,000 LEDs showing the movies on the continents. Breathtaking. And the finale', where the globe opens to reveal a lit torch. This is a wonderful show. Patti was suitably impressed.
Oh, we'll be back to the Rose And Crown. It's just too bad, because this is one of those things I look forward to each trip. I'm kind of glad we had our unplanned lunch there, so I got a little bit of the atmosphere and service we usually expect.
Unfortunately, our bad luck wasn't over. We had a nice monorail ride back to the Poly (I really enjoyed being at a monorail hotel). But...
What a lousy room we had. It was not badly appointed, but I don't think it could have been farther away from the lobby. I realize that faxed room requests are merely requests, but the only thing we wanted was to be close to the lobby, and we were as far away as possible.
I'm actually tempted to blame AAA at this point. AAA somehow got the idea in their heads that they should use my first name, which I never use, and is never on any of my travel documents, not even the signature on my passport. Naturally, I used my middle name when I checked in, and when faxing our requests. I wonder if things got scrambled because of this.
I also wonder if that is why they lost our luggage. Ten thirty at night when we first made it back to the room, and not a piece of luggage in site. In not too pleasant a mood, I called the front desk. They apologized, and evidently began a mad scramble to find it.
15 minutes later, they called back and said that all they could find was my briefcase, which I had checked at the Poly that morning. We explained to them that there were a set of bags that were coming from the All Stars, and also detailed the possible naming mix-up. It was another fifteen minutes before the bags showed up, with appropriate apologies from the bell man.
The next day, Patti went down to the front desk, and explained her situation to them completely--with her recovering from therapy, this really was a medical issue. I was really glad that they moved her and Jan to a room close to the Great Ceremonial Hall. It was a pity that we were clear across the Poly from each other after that, but it wasn't that big a deal. Still, the frustration of the first night hung with us for the rest of the time at the Poly.
Mistakes happen, but the poor room assignment, the luggage mix-up, and the fact that we never got to use the pool really took the edge off of the Poly for me. I had been looking forward to it, but really didn't enjoy it that much. And although the rooms are large and tasteful, I didn't really see the justification for the price difference between this and the Port Orleans, where we have been staying lately. I also found the walls to be pretty thin, and the family that occupied the room after Patti and Jan moved out had a couple of enthusiastic kids.
It's not that it wasn't fun--I love staying at a Disney property. But, dollar for dollar, I would have just as soon have been at the PO.
We'll probably be doing the Wilderness Lodge and the Boardwalk on upcoming trips, and I'll see if these premiums are any more "worth it".
I did want to mention that before we left Epcot, I found our pictures (one of Debbie and Nick one of I and Nick) on the Leave a Legacy sculpture. I know a lot of people have bad mouthed Leave A Legacy here on the newsgroup, but I am tickled to have our photo on there and forced Debbie, Nick, and Patti to look at it before we left Epcot. The picture faces the front gates of Epcot. But, if you stand looking at the picture, and take just half a step to the left you have a magnificent view of Spaceship Earth. It's a shame I can't trade places with that etching.
I didn't get a good photo of the Epcot sign over Spaceship Earth. While we were there, the front half of the sign was completed--all sparkling and glittery, but the back side was still being filled in. So, the only photo op I had was coming in on the monorail, and I missed it.
Overall, I suppose I'll get used to the Epcot sign. In and of itself,
it isn't that unattractive. The real problem with it is that it detracts
from the purity of a landmark that is universally associated with Epcot
and, in fact, all of WDW. It kind of ruins the statement that SE made standing
there in it's simple glory. But, I think I can get used to it, and I don't
think we have a choice.