Day 57- Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at Epcot & Building Homes for Veterans

Today is cool and the high is almost 70 degrees! It is overcast and perfect for the last day of the Food and Wine Festival. The band for tonight’s Eat to the Beat Concert is Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

As we arrive, we see it has just rained, and we are on the far end of our row for parking. That makes it good for finding our car later, and since we are at the very end of the row, we decide to walk. From where we are parked, the walk to the Epcot entrance is about the same as the walk down the row to catch the tram. Those are some really long parking rows! I enjoy our walk and we get to the gate in about 10 minutes.

We get our bags checked, scan our MagicBands, and I see all of the excited faces of first time visitors to Epcot. Their smiles are always amazing, it reminds me of our first days at Epcot! Everyone is full of excitement, ready to explore all that Epcot holds within its dreamy borders. I see a lady sitting in front of one of the Food and Wine signs; her husband is taking a picture, so I ask if he would like to be in the picture. She begins talking to him in another language, and soon he agrees, thanks me and sits by his beautiful wife. 1, 2, 3, smile! They laugh and thank us for their picture. I love getting to help.

Now, I am checking to see if the Friendship boat is at this port near Mexico at the World Showcase Plaza. Yes, it is! I ask if they are still boarding, the First Mate looks at us, chuckles, and says that they are! Do I look too happy and excited to get to cross the World Showcase Lagoon on the boat? We go aboard and it is mostly full. Soon we are off, crossing over to Germany. As we are docking the boat, I see that they are letting people in for seating at the American Gardens Theater for the concert. Oh, my, it is so very crowded as we cross through Italy. I love Italy!

People are still being seated as we walk to the back of the theater and wait for the ropes to drop. We sit fairly close and have a great view. We waited to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy until tonight, the last night of the Food and Wine Festival, in hopes that the crowds would be less on a Monday. And, sure enough, the crowds are perfect at the concert.

The first song is finished, and the announcer comes on stage to honor our veterans. He calls for those who have served to stand and the audience explodes with cheers and clapping as we look around at so many people who have sacrificed and served our great country. Then, he announces that they are giving two military families their own mortgage-free homes. It is the coolest thing to see as the families come on stage and are given the homes from Building Homes for Heroes.

The concert was a blast and listening to the music is almost like stepping back in time!

After the concert, Twinkie and I get a Kaki Gori to eat on the way to France. Oh, it is getting really chilly and this shaved ice is so cold! But, they are so good that it is worth being extra cold on this chilly night!

We go to Guerlain and find they have a new perfume called French Kiss. It is so perfect, so soft, and so on my Christmas list! Our friend is working tonight; she is an amazing lady, always so positive and encouraging when we get to talk. She was asking how our move is going and how wonderful God is when he moves us into the right place. I love her friendship so much! We hug and say our goodbyes for now.

We make our way back through France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and to the front gates. The breeze is perfect and I am glad we brought our warm jackets as we walk to our car. What a fun, chilly evening!

Day 42- Epcot and San Angel Inn Restaurante

Today is an absolutely beautiful day! We are off to Epcot to have lunch in Mexico. The trams are running at a quick pace as the parking lot is filling up quickly.

I love seeing all the happy faces as we scan our MagicBands and enter into Epcot! There are people lining up to get their photo taken with Spaceship Earth and the Food and Wine Festival display in the background. It is busy today.

We pass by several Food Kiosks on the way to Mexico and the air is full of delicious aromas. We have reservations at San Angel Inn Restaurante. As we walk into the indoor marketplace and there is a young lady painting one of the handmade animals that are for sale. I have never seen someone paint these before. There is so much detail in that little painted animal.

While we are waiting to be seated, we noticed the line for the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride is the longest line we have ever seen. However, the line is moving quickly.

Soon we are seated, and it is like you are sitting in the courtyard between the buildings, under the night sky. There is a river that runs beside the restaurant (a part of the Gran Fiesta Tour), flanked by Mayan ruins and a volcano! If you sit by the river, you can see the boat full of people go by periodically. Oh, look, the volcano is erupting! It is a bit dark in this area, recreating a beautiful night in Mexico.

The waitress is really great and soon we have our tortilla soup. Even the chips here are gluten free! Yay! Oh my gosh, it is so very good!

We walk up the ramp to the main area, toward the exit; it kind of looks like the museum in Mexico City. Now, we exit the building toward the World Showcase Lagoon. The area is so busy.

I love being so close to Disney World that we can go and grab a bite of lunch there!

Day 36- Smash Mouth at Epcot!

What an absolutely fabulous day! Epcot is in our sights and the sun is shining. It is busy, but nice! There is a steady stream of people arriving during lunchtime.

Smash Mouth is playing later today and we got reserved seats with the Eat to the Beat Dining Package. We chose Teppan Edo for lunch! This is a place we have never been and I am looking forward to seeing the Hibachi Chef cook at our table! We are seated at a table with a young family of four. Of course, I have to ask, “Where are you from?”

They were a very nice family, and as we talked, I found out that their son is going to be 10 soon! The waitress overheard us talking about his birthday, which made me very happy! You see, if it is your birthday they celebrate with you. Today, the boy was given a Chef’s hat, a candle in his dessert, and a song with the table across from us! He was so very happy! His sister has a birthday soon, too; her dad said that she wanted me to know!!! She was so cute and sweet! I loved getting to visit with that family.

After lunch, we have a little time, so we grab a Kaki Gori in Japan and sit in the American Adventure Pavilion to eat our shaved ice with sweet milk.

It’s almost time for the concert; we have our tickets, and get in line about 30 minutes early. The lady behind us is really nice, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk with her. She was from New York and worked with special needs kids. I thought I knew what that meant, but I am totally impressed with her heart for the kids she worked with. She is an amazing lady. Then, a lady behind her began talking, too. I like when people enjoy talking to each other!

Yay! Time for the Smash Mouth concert! We sit on the front row and it is so fun!

Great concert!

Now, we make our way from The American Adventure through Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada, and out to our car. What an amazing, beautiful day!

Day 34- Epcot & Captain EO

Today is a pretty day, so we are off to Epcot! We are parking in the Wonder parking lot; I have never seen this area! As we pull in, the tram is filling up quickly and is taking off as we get out of the car. We have about 3 minutes before the next tram comes and it fills up quickly, too! Off we go! Soon, we are at the entrance and getting off the tram. A quick bag check, a scan of our Magic Bands, and we are in Epcot!

Our first stop is Captain EO! I am surprised that we have never see this. I really liked the 4D and the story line of “Change the world!” He, Captain EO, was freeing the people from the dark side with his music. It was a fun 4D experience!

We headed toward the exit as a young girl found a lone pair of sunglasses and tried to catch the owner, but she lost him. I suggested maybe she could turn them into the cast member that was down front. Her family seemed pleased to know what to do with a lost/found item.

My favorite jumping water fountains are just outside Captain EO. I watch as so many kids, young and old, try to catch the water as it jumps over the sidewalk. There are little ones trying to jump up and catch it. A sister uses her brother’s ball cap to catch the water as it jumps over! Then, her brother has to try to catch it with is hat! Funny stuff!

We decided to sit for a minute as we were going towards the World Showcase Lagoon. As we were sitting there a guy came up and put his hand out running past us saying, “One for the home team!” We don’t know what that means, and as we sat there looking at him walk off, he yelled back, “Is it because of Ebola?” We laughed and said, “No! Food Allergies!” EW!

After our laugh over the awkward situation, we head towards Canada! There is the new Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, but the shows stop at 5:15pm. Again, we sit to decide what we want to do next. As we watch the floods of people go by, we find ourselves enjoying watching people that go by. There are so many people and so many accents! It is fun hearing so many different people talk, and watching as kids see Twinkie’s Frozen backpack and smile at her! The Food and Wine Festival is in full swing; all of the countries are so packed with people eating and drinking their way around the world.

As we head toward the front of Epcot, we catch the water in the fountain dancing to the music! It is spectacular! We look at the new pin releases on our way out. The new Snow White pin even has red rhinestones! We had a wonderful early evening at Epcot!

Day 21- Magic Kingdom & Goodbye to Maelstrom at Epcot

Happy Sunday Morning! Happy Sunday Morning! After eChurch with T.D. Jakes of the Potter’s House in Dallas, we are off to Magic Kingdom to grab coffee on our way to Epcot. It is a beautiful, cool day.

I believe everything happens for a reason. We were running a bit behind today, but we finally got on the Monorail heading for Magic Kingdom. We started talking with a lady and she was fascinating! She is in her 3rd day of retirement and is a wonderful conversationalist. Come to find out, she had to go back to her car once, and there we were, chatting and having fun! We exchanged info and found that she was a Colonel, a gun-shooting wonderful lady! I was totally blown away, but so honored to have the pleasure of meeting her! She said that she believes everything happens for a reason. I totally agree.

The thing I remember about going to Disneyland when I was little, were the flowers in the entry that are shaped like Mickey Mouse! Here, at Disney World, Mickey Mouse is in his fall colors.

We did some pin trading as we headed for our Starbucks, only to realize that the Festival of Fantasy Parade was going to begin, so we sat on the steps in a doorway next to the Main Street Confectionary as the parade began. As the music was beginning to play, I started to gently cry. I had the realization that one man’s dream started this beautiful Disney dream and I get to be in these parks. The floats and all of the characters in the parade are beautiful in their colors and detail. The characters are gorgeous and there is such high energy; it is just beautiful!

After the parade, we headed for the Main Street Bakery and then did some more pin trading. We were in front of City Hall in our way out, and I noticed a family getting their picture taken, but the dad was not in it since he was taking it! I offered to take their picture, but realized I didn’t know how his phone worked. “Would you like me to take a picture?” “Oh, yes! Thank you!” “Here, Tooti!” The laughter started as they saw me hand off their phone to Tooti! It was pretty funny.

Then, we were off to Epcot to ride Maelstrom on its final day.

As we were heading to Canada, we found that a friend of ours was going to be at Epcot, so we got to see them and have dinner in Morocco. I feel so refreshed getting to visit with friends.

We headed home and found that we can see fireworks so clearly at the end of our street! So we grabbed the pups, and headed back to see the fireworks! It was such a beautiful, cool evening.

Day 19- Epcot & Starship

Epcot is in our view; we are headed for the American Gardens Theater in the American Adventure Pavilion. During the Food and Wine Festival, there are plenty of concerts for those who like music. Tonight’s band was Starship. That sounded familiar, so we went. This time I chose to ride the Friendship Boats from the Showcase Plaza to Germany and walk from there. On the way, I saw a group of people trying to get a photo. I offered to take their picture so they could all be in it together. I like helping visitors who want a group photo, so it is normal for us to offer to take pictures for people!

After we got seats in the theater, Twinkie was sweet and got some Kaki Gori shaved ice to keep us cool in this heat while we waited for the concert to begin. I looked up, and there was a rainbow in the clouds! Here, it seems that we see the rainbows before the storms! It did rain a bit near the end of the concert. The theater was packed as the music began. It has been years since I’ve heard these songs, except for the one that is in the movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.

After the concert we went back to the Kaki Gori stand to see the tiny origami Yoda that one of the cast members had made! She let us take a picture of him; we were so excited to see it!

Now, we continue our walk through Japan, Morocco, France, Canada, and the UK. Oh, we must stop and see the Downton Abbey merchandise room! I love the Tea Caddy shop; there are glasses in there that I want! We walk on through to see the British candy and teas! I like this shop and all of the British teapots and aprons.

As we are leaving the World Showcase, we see there is another rainbow (a double)! It is so vivid you can even see the purple in it, so beautiful.

Now, as we are leaving, it seems that there are just as many people coming into Epcot as there are leaving; it is bustling and busy.

Day 17- Happy Birthday to Magic Kingdom & Epcot!

Magic Kingdom and Epcot are both celebrating their birthdays today! Magic Kingdom opened October 1, 1971! Epcot opened October 1, 1982! Happy Birthday to you both!

We decided to go to Epcot first! Celebrations began with eating soup in France. Les Chefs de France has the most wonderful French Onion soup. The chefs there are amazing and make a great Gluten Free soup for us!

Next, we are going to see the Air Supply concert in the America Gardens Theater. It was great; the weather was cool.

We enjoyed the 1.1-mile walk around the World Showcase Lagoon.  Magic Kingdom is our next stop, so we grab the Monorail from Epcot and head over to the Transportation Center to catch the next Monorail to Magic Kingdom. It is so beautiful this time of the evening.

We arrive as the Main Street Electrical Parade is happening. We make it to Starbucks and get a couple of hot drinks to warm up before the fireworks. We have FastPasses to watch the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks show from the Rose Garden. It was beautiful to see Cinderella’s Castle light in the Celebrate the Magic projection show before the fireworks. The Rose Garden is a wonderful place to sit on the wet grass and watch the projection show and the fireworks! Spectacular!

We have met so many people from Texas all during the day. We waited in the longest lines for the Monorail tonight; people waiting to get on seem to be very restless tonight. We go to the last car and began to get on as a nice gentleman said to me, “I was saving this seat for you.” How kind. I was talking to his wife and found that they had friends in North Texas! They both were so excited that I had lived there; their best friends live there and the couple goes there often! How cool! They got off at the first stop and another family got on. As I was talking to the wife, she said they were from Texas, in Louisville! We met fellow Texans all day! It was good to have that camaraderie with nice and kind folks! A good ending to a wonderful night!

Day 11- Disney Character Outlet & Epcot

It is a beautiful, cool, cloudy day and the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet is in sight!  I love going to the outlet.  There are so many fun items and it is always changing!  The clothing, beach towels, figurines, trading pins, shoes, jewelry, and other items are a very good value.  There are two locations in Orlando- one at the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue (our usual stop!), only a few minutes from Downtown Disney, and another at the Orlando Premium Outlets on International Drive.

Now, off to Epcot to enjoy the beautiful day.  Epcot is busy and the tram is quick to pick us up and take us to the gate.  I enjoy the faces of those who are arriving for the first time.  The excitement and anticipation is in the air, the music is lively, and everyone is trying to get a picture as they enter Epcot.

As we get into the park, we head for the Terra booth for watermelon juice.  Patagonia has two gluten free dishes, the roasted Verlasso Salmon with Quinoa, and the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri sauce and Boniato puree.  They were both delicious.  Somehow the clouds have moved; it is 87 degrees today, and of course the humidity is high!  Shade!  Lunch is pretty busy and the crowds are pretty thick today.  Australia was next and we enjoyed the Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies!

Mexico has a Rib-Eye Taco that is really tasty.  Now we are off to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour ride.  There you will find The Three Caballeros leading the way through the ride!  It is really fun and the line moves so fast!  I love this ride!  Located inside the Mexico pyramid, which is a good place to explore, the ride is nice and cool.  After the ride, as we leave Mexico, we see the mariachi band!  They asked where I was from, and I replied, “Texas! I saw the Mariachis when we traveled and visited Mexico City when I was 12!”  Pretty funny, that was 44 years ago.

Now off to Farm Fresh for Griddled Yard Bird with Braised Greens and House Made Habanero Sauce.  Tasty!

It was a fun day!

Day 9- Epcot

Yay, we are headed for Epcot!  When going to Disney, remember, no matter what day it is, there is a possible rain shower waiting to fall!  Be prepared with rain gear, we choose shoes that can get wet, umbrellas or ponchos.  It is just a way of life here, it rains, it usually clears off and it is sunny again. It is just the way Florida is.

We headed for Epcot in a full-blown gully washer.  Texas way of saying it was a monsoon!  I was told that it rains every day in the summer, but now?  It is hurricane season, so it rains a lot!  We parked in the first parking lot and walked right up to the bag check and right into Epcot.  The rain is still heavy as we get close to the Festival Center.

We looked around at the Ghirardelli Chocolate area while waiting for class to start. They had the most amazing displays (made of chocolate!) that different bakeries around Disney made. It was fascinating!  We had our class and headed out, it was once again raining cats and dogs!

No problem for me, we just headed over to Mexico for dinner. We decided to go to San Angel Inn for dinner and were seated by the water. The food was fabulous! Oh, it is nice to have a light sweater for inside dining, it can get a little chilly.  I loved watching the Gran Fiesta Tour boats glide through the water.  The kids and I got to meet an Imagineer in July for Tooti’s birthday lunch and she called us the “The Three Caballeros”.  If you get to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour ride, be sure to look for Donald Duck, Panchito and Jose’ Cariocas!

We decided to get dessert to go so we could see the fireworks!  Even with the light rain, the fireworks were beautiful.

Day 3- Epcot

We headed for Epcot today and had a perfectly wonderful afternoon and evening.  The day is cooler with cloud cover and the park was less crowded.

The first ride we went to was Maelstrom in Norway!  So, after passing through Future World, you go past Mexico and before China, you find Norway!  The line was pretty long and with the FastPass+, you just walk up, scan your magic band and walk in to ride the ride.  Best thing ever!  We took pics and enjoyed Twinkie’s favorite ride.  Maelstrom will be closing down for refurbishing and a redesign into a Frozen themed ride that will open in 2016.  We are SO excited to see what it looks like!

On the way to France, I stopped and got a strawberry shaved ice (Kaki Gori) with sweet milk in Japan.  We took pics for couple that asked as we passed by them… just a part of being at Disney.  Fun!

There are the most amazing crème brûlée in many of the restaurants, but if you don’t have a reservation, then Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie (in the France Pavilion) is a great choice!  The chef came out and made us some freshly torched crème brûlée. There are many beautiful desserts and breads to choose from, so we ask for some that have not been near any of the other bakery treats.  If you are gluten-free or have food allergies, you totally understand… The chef there is wonderful!  After great thanks and appreciation for our special sweets, we headed out!

We took a break and sat by the water fountain in France and a little girl was going to throw pennies when her mom and grandmother said they were out.  “Oh, I have some!”  So, I pulled out my change and found 5 pennies!  She readily took them and had fun throwing them in as her grandmother and I talked, she said that she usually has to give her quarter and dimes.  I told her a story, “when mine were little, we would get a roll of pennies and go to the mall.  Of course, they shared most of them with the other little kids there, but it was a lot of fun!”  She said that that was really a good idea…  we smiled and said our goodbyes.  Cute little kid!

The sun was beginning to set so we started back to Spaceship Earth, i.e. the Epcot ball.  That ride is packed in the mornings, but in the evenings you can just about walk straight up and get on quickly, just a hint if you plan on riding that ride.

We are looking forward to the opening of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival that opens on this Friday, September 19 and runs until November 10, 2014. There will be feasting, festivities and special events, including awesome concerts.

Finally, here are some of the places to eat at around the world…