Posted in My Travels

Walt Disney World April 22- Day 7

Day 7 

Disney Park: EPCOT (open till 9PM)

The forecast for this day was iffy.  Our weather apps all stated thunder showers with intermittent sunshine; so we grabbed our ponchos and headed to EPCOT!

——-

**This post is going to take a quick personal turn before I get back to my trip details.

When I initially arrived in Orlando on this trip, I had gotten word that one of my cousins from England was in the area visiting Florida with all her family. Her daughter and I are connected on FB, so I had shared my itinerary to see if any days overlapped to meet up while we were there in the same city.  Her daughter texted me during dinner at Art Smith’s the night before that they would also be at EPCOT till 2PM this day.

‘Well, I thought you were Italian?’

Here is a little back story to explain my English family..

I have mentioned a few dozen times how I am born to immigrant parents from Sicily, Italy.  Living here we have had just ourselves, no aunts, no uncles, though I have a pretty huge family; a total mix of 17 aunts and uncles. Most of my aunts and uncles live in Sicily, with the exception of five, one of whom, on my mom’s side, moved to the UK as a young man.  This uncle, one of my favorites, married an English woman and had five children together.  Though my mother was always very close to her brother, and would always be on the phone, skype, or receiving letters and photos of everyone often, we never had many chances to meet as kids or anytime really. I am the third youngest first cousin on my mother’s side, the second youngest on my father’s, and with such a large family the age gap is big; most of my first cousins average about 15-20 years older than me.

Well, I had the luck as a child to meet my uncle three times; he traveled to America twice.  He visited once when I was 4yo with his son, and again when I was 9yo with his wife. Then at 13yo my mother and I stayed with him at their sister’s house during a vacation in Sicily.

When I was 23, my husband and I were freshly engaged, and I took a chance to fly to London with him on a work trip. At that point, my uncle with most of my family lived in Cornwall, about 9hrs away by train from London.  I couldn’t take that trip, but one of my first cousins lived right outside of London with his family. A cousin I had never met but always felt I knew through the countless photos we had fawned over growing up. So we stayed with him for a day. I got to meet his daughters, my two beautiful second cousins and spend such a lovely time together.   Just a funny fact about this cousin, he is featured in the first scene of the 007 movie, A View to Kill, just a split second.  He worked as an actual Royal Guard for the Palace in real life, and in the movie he is the guard on horse going by the screen in the first seconds after the credits.  (Not sure why I am sharing this but I love that he is in this movie with his suit on!!) 

In the early 2000’s one of my English second cousins came to visit.  Then after I got married I had started to make some mental plans to visit my family in England, but my uncle got ill and passed away; I was devastated for a long period. BUT, let’s fast forward to my sister’s wedding in Sicily in 2007, the only two English cousins I had met attended. And that was it from England, I had met my uncle and aunt, one cousin when I was 4, another at 23.

Then this day happened, of all places at Disney . I got to meet a third cousin from England!

My cousin, guys!

 

So, I am a pretty emotional person about family, probably because I always fantasized what life would’ve been like living in Sicily with everyone close by or with anyone here at all.  So meeting my cousin was absolutely surreal for me.  We talked about meeting at Mexico in the Showcase.  When we got there, it was a bit of a seek game. I looked outside, no one.  The I went inside, no one.  My second cousin texted me that they were outside and as I walked out to check again, I saw this little woman standing across the way who looked just like my mom.  And my uncle!

It was her!!  I screamed in joy and hugged her right away.  I was very happy to make this happen. I got to meet her with her whole family- her husband, my two second cousins, and one third cousin!! People I had only seen grow up in pictures. She got to meet my children and husband. My girls loved all their accents and to finally meet extended family. They knew this was important to me.  Just surreal.

We caught up as much as we could about our families. We jumped topics but we talked about my sisters and parents, and my uncle, who had passed away, and her mom and siblings. The time flew, all I could do was dwell inside my head of how much family I have missed in my life AND how she looked like my mom and our family. We talked about a lot, but they had to move on to their next destination as they were traveling with my second cousins partner and family.

Just crazy right? It was an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always hold close.

——

Just as we were parting ways, it started to rain.  We threw on ponchos then head along with our plans.  We started with a bite of school bread in Norway, which we still think they changed the recipe because of the renovations to the bakery. It just had a whole different consistency.  As we were in Norway the rain came down heavier, and we were on our way to seek refuse in Frozen Ever after, where we were headed because the lines were super low.  WERE.  As soon as we were walking over, the whole world walked over and the lines popped up to 45 minute wait in minutes.  We shrugged it off because we made a fast pass for it at 5:15PM, and decided to make our way to Germany to grab some fun foods and drinks.  The second we walked away from Norway the sun came out and the skies turned blue.   …which was awesome!

We grabbed a potato pancake (because I love to eat potatoes all the time) and a berry strudel.  The luck is that seats opened up in Germany to chill out in the sunshine.  The girls were promised a game of Agent P in Germany, and while they did that with Daddy, I grabbed a champagne at the Weinkeller.  When I got back, my husband ran to grab some caramel popcorn, which I think we ate in three minutes flat.  haha  We spent a lot of time chilling in Germany enjoying the weather and Agent P. We always had great memories of playing Agent P with the girls from our last trips.

I can’t say that I didn’t think about meeting my cousin while I was sitting with everyone, or how that it left me feeling empty.  It had for some reason. I even shed a tear under my sunglasses.  I don’t know why I felt so sad, but I did.  My husband saw me upset, and tried to cheer me up.  He understands me better than I do myself.  So we decided it was time to get up to walk around more, and I suggested we grab slushie drinks in Japan.  We liked those drinks a lot, and my kids would never say no to more sugar  haha. This time, however, my husband grabbed a frozen foam Kirin beer from a different location within Japan. It was super cool looking, and even though I am not a beer fan, it was fun to drink!

We walked over to Morocco.  We had planned to grab another drink here, but the machines were broken. Womp, so off to walk through the bizarre.  The styling of the space is so beautiful, and unique to the showcase.  The girls, at this point, saw the KidCot stations in n alley and decided to flake us to color Duffy..and rehash their obsession with talking to each KidCot station representative while coloring.  Which is great, but how they didn’t see this our first day is funny.

So. Enter rant here...   My only complaint about the Showcase is that they go through a lot of trouble to be authentic with the feel of each country, till you get to the shopping.  They don’t really sell unique items in these countries that make you want to drop cash like you should on vacation.  I know I am advocating more money to spend, but I am serious.  I like shopping, I do it all day, and most of the things I like to buy are quality things that make me happy.  They don’t sell any and it’s a shame.  Like Morocco, for example, where we are a the moment. Such a missed opportunity.  If they sold things that were real imports I would have bought them! Like some of the decor around the space were more intriguing than the actual items to buy…like one store we went into last was selling the same stuff the other stores had, the ornate dresses, the flashy fashion jewelry and shoes, etc, except they had a table set up with obscure Moroccan hair products in the window.  On the table was a small assortment of hair care things, even incense oddly enough, but there was this sole bottle of green colored shampoo that looked like it had been there for a LONNG time..I grabbed it because the label was a throwback to the 70’s.  IT WAS OLD SHAMPOO!  and it smelled disgusting to boot!  Here is an opportunity to actually sell the most coveted hair products in the world, the middle east is known for their amazing beauty products, and you are selling crappy hair shampoo and oils? Why?  And each store had the same merchandise, such a missed opportunity, guys!!

Bbah, I should be a buyer for EPCOT.  The stuff I saw was so weak everywhere.

Ok rant over.

We arrived in France.  I love this little corner of the Showcase so much because out of all the countries, this one actually feels like parts of Paris.  My husband asked us to chill by the fountain, and he grabbed tomato tartes with two la vie en rose slushies, which I didn’t know they were both for me. haha  I really loved them so I was happy.  We took a walk around the area.  The kids wanted to find the KidCot table to get stamps and color their Duffys some more.  It was inside the store/Pattiserie.  As I was shopping around, the girls were coloring and my husband disappeared; only to emerge calling me with his special whistle.  He was behind me with treats and a table for four in the corner. He grabbed Napoleons for him and the girls, and a beignet filled with hazelnut chocolate for me.

I am insane for Nutella, so this was definitely received with a smile.  🙂

Once we finished our treats, the girls decided to hit the KidCot again for more coloring, and my husband went to check the line for Aurora outside.  Within seconds I got the text that he was in line so we shuffled out and made it for the girls to meet Aurora.  We leisurely walked through England and Canada.  Weird thing, it’s a huge joke for us in the house that we had never, and YES NEVER, seen Oh Canada! with Martin Short.   Well, we rectified this and made it up the stairs and down the mountain to see it.  It was actually not as annoying as I thought it would be, on the account that Martin Short can sometimes be annoying.  And by sometimes, I mean usually.

After our journey through Canada, we trotted back over around the Showcase to Norway to get on Frozen Happily Ever After. Ok, so here I go…  I loved the Maelstrom, it was one of my favorite rides, especially the part where you thought you’d fall out of the building, and I love the changes they made for this ride.  The theming through out and the animatronics were great.  I actually liked it more than I thought I would.  The only stinky thing was we all sat second row, behind some jackass who kept using flash photography, and some dufus behind us, too! What are you taking a photo of in the dark!??!  Well the woman behind us stopped after two flashes, but the guy in front of us wouldn’t stop.  During each display the CMs kept having to slow down the ride to yell at him from above.  He was so annoying!!

But the ride was fun, we all got to sit on one row together which I like, and we even got a little wet.

After the ride, we decided to dry off by walking through China while the kids were at the KidCot table. China is pretty.  I remember loving China during my first trip to EPCOT with my husband in 2002. I made him sit there with me for so long so I could soak up the sights. We ate and hung out for like three hours or something just talking.  haha  So silly.

Finally, FOOD!  We made it to our reservations at Via Napoli in Italy starving because we hadn’t eaten in like five minutes.  The weather by the time we had our reservations was absolutely perfect.  It was hot but breezy, so we opted to sit outside.  We wanted to take a long break for dinner, so we grabbed a margherita pizza with some drinks and just talked about all the fun we have been having and made plans for the night.  We snagged some FP for test track and a character meet up…we still hadn’t met up with Mickey this trip!  (I had made a Mickey Mouse character meet FP that we had cancelled, and I was upset over it, so this FP was for me. haha)   After dinner, the kids wanted to color more and get a stamp from KidCot.  As I was hanging out with them, I noticed the CM in the space was from Sicily, so we started talking.  Then a local elderly gentleman came over to join in on the conversation, who was originally from Sicily.  He reminded me of my father; how he physically used his hands to explain things, so I enjoyed talking to him.

After this we walked over to the Character meet.  We didn’t choose to hang out for Illuminations again since we had seen it last time, and we had other plans.  The character meet was so much fun, it made up for the fact that we had to cancel the one at the MK.  Mickey is such a gentleman, and Goofy, man, I swear Goofy flirted with me!  haha We all had such memorable interactions with the group.  Minnie was my youngest daughter’s favorite she said, because she was so polite and loved all of their shirts. 🙂  So cute.

Right after that fun time we hopped on Test Track.  What great timing we had because as soon as the ride broke loose to the outside track the fireworks from Illuminations were going off in the sky around us and it was so amazing. Truly magical.  We all couldn’t believe our luck!

We left Test Track to look for a few things in Mouse Gear, then made our way to grab a Mickey sandwich for the girls.  Walked slowly to the bus.

😦  Our last full day at EPCOT.

Posted in My Travels

Annnnnnd…. We Are Back!

We had a magical time …and made amazing memories! I still cannot believe it is over! 😦

AND, I cannot believe today is Valentine’s Day!  Where’d the time go 2014!!?!?  Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!

We did have an amazing trip, which was so needed.  We started off on February 1, and from the second we landed till the moment we got back to Boston we had a blast.  Initially, the thought of 11 days seemed like too much to me, but it ended up being the perfect amount of time for us to really get into vacation mode.  Usually, when we go away it feels like right when I am really relaxing (around day 7) forgetting the world I have to get packing!!  So, this time, the extra three days left us enough time to run around at the parks and to relax poolside or in the resorts.

Weather..  The sunshine over the first handful of days was amazing. It felt so great to be in the sun again, and my skin was so happy.  😛  We kicked off our trip in the 80’s!  Yes, the 80’s! It wasn’t all peachy, though, because we got stuck with three days in a row where the weather wasn’t my personal favorite and we had to wear jackets and hoodies. It was in the mid to low 60’s, with a light rain at times, and even one night it got into the 50’s.. bah. This doesn’t sound so bad to most people, and my husband and children loved it..but this sunny heat seeker was not so pleased.  Thankfully we packed for the weather accordingly and never skipped a beat having fun!

Resorts.. The resorts we chose were a lot of fun. One we were familiar with and one which was new to us. We stayed at The Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary for the first half. The BLT was just wonderful, and we had park view from our room. The view of the park was amazing! And, the view of the park at night..during Wishes (fireworks) was insane.  We were so close to the Magic Kingdom that we walked twice! The monorail system out of there was super convenient, too!

Then we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the second half. That resort is so beautiful, and we had savannah view again this route.  The attention to detail is just spot on throughout the resort.   We stayed there two years ago, but it wasn’t enough time. The resort is so special for us, and we definitely made use of it this time around. The amenities for the kids were the best part, and we loved the sights, sounds and smells of burning wood.  Agh, I love that smell.

Wait Times at the Park…  We ended up being at the parks during their off-peak time.  But, while there the HS cheerleaders across the country had a competition.  So, there were some great wait times and not so great.  But, we didn’t have much issue as we got lucky with most wait times.  So we didn’t experience a huge disturbance in our fun. Also, being at the parks for the amount of time we were, we weren’t in a rush to wait long for something since we would be back a couple more times in the week…and some of the time that day at Extra Magic Hours!  The worst consistent wait times were for some of the character meets (like Cinderella, or, Elsa and Anna!) and Peter Pan (why?? idk!), Test Track or Soarin. But we used our FP when we could and skipped out on stuff if it wasn’t a terrible big deal for the girls to go the next time.

MagicBands and FP+…We had no issues with the magicbands or FP+.  The bands were a lot of fun to use and more convenient than I had ever thought.  Having the kids using them was a little bit of a daunting thought… I don’t know why, but my mind was just nervous about them with their own access everywhere…like the kids would just go around using them without asking, or they would fall off one of their wrists during the trip, but they were sturdy and a HUGE convenience.  Especially, when they wanted to run ahead to our rooms.  And, the sound of the magicband when you entered into the parks or rides was so sweet, too!  We had heard a lot of chatter before our trip about the FP+, and everyone having their bitch sessions about it.. but other than being restricted to make 3 FP reservations a day, we had zero issue. We did use our My Disney Experience app a ton to switch out the FP+ reservations, as we were spending days at the parks, to flip things around or change them for the kids; which was über convenient. Phew!

My one observation, that I found odd, was the insane lines for the FP+ kiosks/areas to talk to or change-up FP reservations.  I saw a line wrapped for a while placed inside the corral where they usually have Aladdin and Jasmine set up in Adventureland!! CRAZZZY! 

——Now we are to the review of our time at the World.  My girls thought it would be fun to add-on a section here called:

OUR DISNEY WORLD REVIEWS!

We sat together at the end of each stint at the parks discussing the places and things we liked the best. I think this was my favorite part of our time together, snuggling in the big bed talking about our days.  We spent varied days at the Parks: Magic Kingdom (3 days), EPCOT (3 days), Animal Kingdom (1), Hollywood Studios (2 days). And, at the resorts: Bay Lake Towers at The Contemporary (4 nights) and The Animal Kingdom Lodge (6 nights).

Here are our reviews of what we liked on this trip!

OUR DISNEY RESORTS

The Bay Lake Tower at The Contemporary Resorts
The Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House

THE DISNEY PARKS

The Magic Kingdom
EPCOT
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Other

 – Around Disney

If you haven’t been to Disney World, you just have to ..at least one time in your life.  There really is no place else like it around.  The parks. The rides. The resorts. The people. The attention to detail. It is all, well, so Disney!

AND….one more thing!

A Daily Photo Recap of Our Trip!

I couldn’t let a trip go by without smothering you guys with my photos, now, could I? 

Day 1   Day 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 6  Day 7  Day 8   Day 9   Day 10  Day 11

ALSO!

As for my fears about the party girl in me coming out to eat and drink everything in sight.. Well, for the most part, I kept myself in check daily. I did make room for an occasional Mickey Bar, a super yummy, slushy booze (and wine, lots of wine), fries, or funnel cake. I mean, I was on vacation..so I hadta have some fun stuffing my fat face!!!

I did weigh in on the morning of the 12th.  Yes, stupidly, one day after coming back home, but I was dying to see!  To my surprise, and delight.. I gained 1 lb.   This is such a MAJOR relief.. I did a jig cheering on the scale when I finally had the courage to look at the number!  PHEW.  I already started my family on a detox eating only my home cooking! Lots of vegetables and unprocessed foods!

I am hoping to shed this pound before the end of this week, and get my head back in to the dizzying reality that is …la vita mia!

xoxoxoxo

Happy Valentine’s Day, again!

Posted in My Travels

Feb 6- EPCOT

How cute are they? They were on the balcony drawing animals waiting on me getting dressed.
How cute are they? They were on the balcony drawing animals waiting on me getting dressed.
Our oldest wanted to take our pic.. aren't we adorable?  :)
Our oldest wanted to take our pic.. aren’t we adorable? 🙂
Ohhh hot espresso...not enough to warm this girly up  :(  But no worries..still an awesome time!
Ohhh hot espresso…not enough to warm this girly up 😦 But no worries..still an awesome time!

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NEMO! Talking with Crush was hilarious!
NEMO! Talking with Crush was hilarious!
Agen P was a huge hit!  They spent a lot of time doing these all over the showcase.
Agent P was a huge hit! They spent a lot of time doing these all over the showcase.

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Oh, it was chilly and drizzly, but they didn't care!
Oh, it was chilly and drizzly, but they didn’t care!
Our second night in EPCOT
Our second night in EPCOT

Posted in My Travels

Feb 3- EPCOT and dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

My family on our first day at EPCOT.
My family on our first day at EPCOT.
Latte time at EPCOT.
Latte time at EPCOT.
My princess.
My princess.

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My youngest was so scared on this ride, didnt remember it last time, so I consoled her the entire ride!
My youngest was so scared on this ride, didn’t remember it last time, so I consoled her the entire ride!
Possibly my favorite ride ever.  I wish it lasted longer!!
Possibly my favorite ride ever. I wish it lasted longer!!
Well, well, hello there Puddy. We meet again...  hehe  (uhm, I lerv him)
Well, well, hello there Puddy. We meet again… hehe (uhm, I lerv him)
Before heading to dinner we hung out around China.
Before heading to dinner we hung out around China.

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

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We went to the Storybook Dinner at Akershus, which we had on our last trip.  This time around was way more fun, at least for me, and the girls were so into every character!
We went to the Storybook Dinner at Akershus, which we had on our last trip. This time around was way more fun, at least for me, and the girls were so into every character!

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Ending the night watching Illuminations.
Ending the night watching Illuminations.
Walking out of EPCOT at night is magical.  :)
Walking out of EPCOT at night is magical. 🙂
A nice delight was the water pageant viewed from the bridge connecting the resorts.  It was so much fun to watch it from up there!
A nice delight was the water pageant viewed from the bridge connecting the resorts. It was so much fun to watch it from up there!