Day 182- Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

Today there are blue skies and fluffy white clouds. It is going to be another hot day, near 90 degrees, as we get to Epcot this afternoon. We park fairly far out, so we catch the tram and ride to the entrance. We get our bags checked, MagicBands scanned, and enter into the Flower and Garden Festival. The sun shines bright as we walk toward Spaceship Earth. It is busy, but not too crowded.

My first stop is to get something cold to drink, so we walk on around to Fountain View, which houses Starbucks. It is amazing how 88 degrees seems a lot hotter on such a sunny day. Iced tea lemonade sounds nice! As we get to Starbucks, I think a lot of people need a cold beverage since the line is somewhat long. It takes a little while, but I have my drink and we head for the Festival Center to see the displays.

Before we get to the Festival Center, we have to stop and get a picture with the Buzz Lightyear topiary. It looks really great when you see it with Mission: Space in the background. Love it!

Now, we are off to the Festival Center. As we walk up, we begin to see all of the flowers. As you enter there is a wall filled with all sorts of plants, orchids, ferns, and various other tropical greenery. It is truly incredible!

When we leave the Festival Center, we hear some sort of music… Drums? Or is it something else? Oh, how fun! The Jammin’ Gardeners are playing all sorts of trashcans, shovels, buckets, ladders, and even the ground as percussion instruments! They are so much fun and so entertaining to watch!

I need to get something to eat, so we walk back through toward Starbucks and go around the fountains. We stop for a picture, trade a pin, and head off toward the World Showcase Lagoon, turn right, and backtrack a little to the Urban Farm Eats booth. We order the Kale Salad with dried cherries, almonds, and goat cheese with white balsamic vinaigrette and decide to share the Ghost Pepper Dusted Tilapia with crisp winter melon slaw and mint oil featuring The Original Sauce Man’s Kick it Up Rub. The tables are in the sun, so we walk toward Canada and find some benches under umbrellas. There we sit in the shade and enjoy a very late lunch. The gluten free kale salads are really good. We had these the other day, and they are so filling and so yummy! The tilapia is tasty, but we found that the main spicy punch comes from the winter melon slaw. The winter melon slaw was Twinkie’s favorite part of the tilapia dish.

There is a steady stream of people passing as we enjoy our lunch.

Now, off to The Tea Caddy, Mr. Stephen Twining is there today. As we enter the edge of the United Kingdom pavilion, Twinkie finds some pins to trade. Then, we continue on to The Tea Caddy where we check on one of our favorite teas. We find that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Tea is gone, and Mr. Twining is on a break. We walk through the gardens behind The Tea Caddy and then we enter into the Lords and Ladies shop to look at the Downton Abbey items. We make our way through The Queens Table shop and back through The Tea Caddy. Mr. Twining hasn’t returned yet, but maybe next time we will be able to meet him. We did get to meet him last year, which was really neat!

Now, Twinkie is going to trade another pin on the edge of the United Kingdom pavilion before we head to the front of Epcot. We are enjoying the day, it is hot, but I think we are doing good drinking tea and water to stay hydrated. That sounds funny since it is only March, but in Florida, it is like the early part of summer weather. The clouds have gathered overhead and it is nice to have some shade as we get to the front gates, catch the tram, and walk to our car!

It has been a lot of fun today. The colors and combinations of flowers are so refreshing! I loved today and being at the Flower and Garden Festival!

Day 154- Epcot

It is a beautiful day; a little windy and cool, but beautiful! We are heading for Epcot today. It has been busy this weekend and we are hoping that Epcot is less crowded than the other parks. As we get to the parking lot, we realize it is going to be very busy. We hop on the tram and head for the park. We get our bags checked and wait in line to scan our MagicBands.

As we get into the park, we can already see how busy today is going to be. We get close to Spaceship Earth where we can see that the line and wait time is really long. Even the Fastpass+ line is rather long today. We walk around the walkway and carefully make our way through the crowds of people.

I think we will drop into the Artist Shop. It is so beautiful to walk into the shop and see the talent that goes into each of these creations. From the sculptures to the paintings, there are so many beautiful things to see here!

Now we are off to Starbucks to get coffee and tea to take with us as we make our way around the World Showcase. As we walk toward the World Showcase Lagoon, see the flowers that are being laid for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival! I cannot wait! I love seeing the artistry that is put into all of these lush gardens. We walk on around and stop in France to see the beautiful design of the shrubs. I love these. Twinkie stops to get a picture, and then we see that there is a quiet place in France to sit. On the way, I must stop in and see what is new in Guerlain. As we exit, we sit where we can watch the Friendship boats as they come and go. There is a quiet serenity in this spot. I look up just as a lady is taking a picture of us. I realize by her expression that she recognized my kids from being on the Steve Harvey Show.

We sit for a few more minutes and soon, two men who work on the Friendship boats walk by. We realize that the sun is beginning to set and it is getting really chilly fast! It has been so peaceful here sitting and watching the boats come and go, but we must head out before the temperatures drop. It will be chilly tonight! As we are leaving, we can see the different areas being prepped for the Flower and Garden Festival! I am so excited to see how beautiful all of the flowers will look in the next few days!  

It has been a fun visit, and I am so happy to see all of the new flowers!

Day 86- Epcot: Chefs de France & LeVar Burton at the Candlelight Processional

We are going to have a full day at Disney’s Epcot! I am so excited to get here early and enjoy looking around before it gets really busy. We arrive, park, and walk to the front gates. There are plenty of security guards to check our bags and a pretty good line to get our MagicBands scanned. It does move quickly, and soon, we are walking toward Spaceship Earth.

Oh, that mom looks like she might want to be in the picture with her kids! I ask and she is so happy. We stop and my kids take the picture. The mom is so thankful, and we are happy to help. I love seeing how happy people get just with a simple offer to take a picture. It is a future treasure to have the whole family in one picture. I know that, and it is important to me to get that treasure to them.

We do some pin trading at several shops. We make it out to the World Showcase Lagoon and then back to Starbucks for Twinkie’s coffee. I going to check the Port of Entry shop and as I get close, I hear Tooti say, “Would you like to be in the picture with your family?” I turn and have to take a moment to see her doing what we do best, helping someone have a wonderful Disney experience of kindness.

As we begin to make our way around the World Showcase, we spy Duffy in his Santa suit! Wow, the line is very short and we’re also in our Christmas attire! Picture? I think so! Along the line, there are cute open storybook-type displays telling the story of how Mickey went on a trip, and Minnie gave him a teddy bear, Duffy, so that Mickey wouldn’t be lonely on the trips; so sweet! Duffy is too cute and so fun to meet! He gives us hugs and complements our outfits. How fun to meet a teddy bear that hugs you back!

I am so excited to see the Candlelight Processional again tonight. LeVar Burton is there tonight, and I cannot wait to hear him read the Christmas story. So, we have chosen Chefs de France for our lunch reservations. This is one of our most favorite places to eat. The décor is so French, from the tin ceiling, to the windows framing the passersby; everything is so picturesque as you look out towards the World Showcase Lagoon.

The Chef is amazing and the food is served with excellence. We usually have gluten free French onion soup. But, today, we are going to enjoy a feast. Chefs de France has a wonderful selection that is gluten free. We are quickly served gluten free bread and butter with our tea and cappuccino. Next, I am having the goat cheese salad and the kids are having the cheese board. The salad is wonderful and the goat cheese that accompanies the salad is so delectable. The cheese board is amazing. Tooti and Twinkie are very pleased with the amazing assortment of cheeses. This is one of their absolute favorite cheese boards in Disney World. They are really smiling as they taste each cheese, and they love all of them!

Soon, we are served our beef ribs with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. Twinkie has the roasted chicken with the same sides. Oh my goodness. The beef ribs are cooked to perfection, boneless, and oh, so delicious. They even bring us a side of the specially prepared Cabernet sauce… it is especially scrumptious on the potatoes! Twinkie’s chicken is absolutely incredible, cooked to perfection, and even better than she remembered. Our waiter, Max, was wonderful, attentive, and courteous. Soon, it was time for dessert. What would we like? Crème brulee, please! The crème brulee comes out with perfectly caramelized sugar, and it is fantastic, the perfect ending to an incredible meal. We receive our passes for tonight’s Candlelight Processional, and then we are off!

We walk towards America and look at the shops there. Then, we decide that it is a little over 2 hours until the Candlelight Processional begins, so it’s probably a good time to get in line. We are there for a while and then a kind couple joins us. It is quite a while until others begin to get in line, but we have a wonderful chat with them until we are seated over an hour later. They are a very nice couple, and it was the wife’s birthday today. Happy Birthday!

We make our game plan as they are letting the wheel chairs and scooters enter the theater. I would love to be on the front row, right up close, and near the orchestra. We are so excited. We get the OK to be seated and are instructed to stay to the left until we get down near the front. Sure, we can do that! We walk in and it is so exciting to get to sit at the front. It was so worth the wait! I hear the delicate harp sounds and see the beautiful lady playing. We see the orchestra begin to filter in, and soon the orchestra plays the sounds of Christmas. The choirs are gathering and the trumpets are sounding. Then, LeVar Burton is there. Geordi LaForge in real life! He is amazing. He greets us and says that Walt Disney himself actually began this Candlelight Processional tradition, and this is LeVar’s favorite thing: to get to read the Christmas story. He begins reading, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…” I love hearing this story read. I have heard it my whole life, over 50 years now, and I still feel the excitement of this Christmas season well up inside of me. The entire Candlelight Processional is spectacular, and the ending of the Hallelujah chorus is magnificent.

Day 81- Epcot & The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Now this is funny: today is our 81st day and the temperature today is 81 degrees!  I love this double number day! Even with the temperature being 81, it is nice outside since there are clouds and a great breeze. I even heard a man walking near us on the way to the front gates say, “It actually feels kind of cool right now.” It’s amazing what clouds and a nice breeze can do to cool off a Disney park.

We are park at Epcot and head for the front gates. We arrive and are looking forward to the new Holidays Around the World. Each country has a presentation for their holiday celebration, explaining the holiday traditions for that country. We have been looking forward to seeing these, but first, we have a FastPass+ for The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Today it is nice and the wait time for the Nemo standby line is just 10 minutes! I might want to go back through, since there is so much to see. We scan our MagicBands and enter the line queue. There is a short walk before we scan our MagicBands at the second station and go on through the maze of railings. We walk right up to the short line, step onto the moving sidewalk, and are seated in our “Clamshell” vehicle. I love shell rides! It makes me happy to have my own shell to sit in.

As we exit from the Nemo ride, it is beginning to rain. We are head for Starbucks to get out of the drizzle. As we order and wait for our drinks, we find that the rain has stopped. Yay! Let’s find a place to sit and drink our tea and coffees. I love sitting near the Christmas tree, and watching all of the beautiful ornaments sparkle in the sunshine, as the gray clouds float by. We have a nice visit as we watch people go in and out of the Port of Entry shop.

The park is busy, but quieter today. It seems like it was a perfect day for riding rides and seeing the countries, but we will need to make this a short day today! I love seeing how much joy and happy smiles happen when people get their picture taken with the Christmas tree in the background.

It is a good day, and a perfectly wonderful cool night! Happy Christmas month at Disney, where dreams come true! Thank you, Mickey Mouse.

Day 79- The Candlelight Processional with Neil Patrick Harris

Tonight we are sitting at the Candlelight Processional. The orchestra is beautiful as they begin playing the stringed instruments. In a sudden burst of festiveness, the trumpets sound their joyful call.  The conductor led the orchestra and the music was so beautiful. I see the choir as they begin to come in from the sides of the stage. The choir comes in and fills the green Christmas tree, complete with a giant star on top. The Voices of Liberty, dressed as carolers in red, stand in front of the Christmas tree choir. Then, the beautiful golden choir comes down each aisle, and passing by all of us in the audience. They are beautiful as they enter the stage, flanking each side of the Christmas tree choir. It is a beautiful sight to see the choir all singing as the men take their places, and then the ladies.

When everyone is in place, Neal Patrick Harris is introduced, and comes out onto the stage. As he begins to read the Christmas story, you can feel the atmosphere as it changes and a sense of awe comes into the American Gardens Theatre. I can feel the peace, and I feel my eyes welling up with tears as I hear the story of Jesus’ birth. The Christmas songs and the reading of how God spoke to Mary and Joseph was beautiful. I am going to go back to another Candlelight Processional; it was so amazing that I cannot fully absorb all its beauty.

When the singers finish the Candlelight Processional with the Hallelujah Chorus, my heart is full. It is so beautiful as everyone in the audience stands and sings along. What an ending to a wonderful processional!

We are not in a hurry to leave as the choir is finishes and the orchestra is done. We watch as everyone leaves, and then we move toward the back. The choir is almost gone, and people are leaving. I am forever changed.

It was so beautiful that it made me forget all about the rain this afternoon, my soaked clothes, and our dinner. We did have a marvelous dinner at Biergarten in Germany. We found that if you plan to go, it is best to choose the Candlelight Processional dining packages, since it guarantees you a seat for the show. A couple of days ago, we checked to see if there was any possibility of finding an opening at any of the restaurants; we found we could have lunch in Germany at Biergarten today (Tuesday).

So, we get checked in at the restaurant and wait for a bit. In a little while, we are called, and then another family is called. There will be a table for eight: our three and the family of five. Later, we find that it is a family of 4 and their family friend, they were so nice! Biergarten is a really fun place to eat. There is music, Christmas skits for the holidays, wonderful stories, Christmas tree lightings, and hand-bells! Oh, it is just fun! The gluten free options are many! I especially loved the fruit dessert. It is a wonderful buffet.

The Candlelight Processional is worth everything. I loved hearing the Christmas Story read by Neal Patrick Harris, and celebrated with the powerful voices of the choir. It is a must if you can get a reservation for lunch or dinner. The dining package line for tonight’s first Candlelight Processional was past Morocco into France, and it took 35 minutes for everyone to be seated. When I looked around about 10 minutes before it began, people were still being seated and the theater was almost completely full. I am so happy to see so many people coming to celebrate the Christmas story.

Day 77- Epcot

The sun is shining and the day is warm! I think we will head for Epcot! Neil Patrick Harris is at the Christmas Candlelight Processional and that would be amazing to see!

As we arrive and park, we are at the far end of the row, away from the tram. That means that it is almost as close to walk to the front entrance as it is to walk to the tram. These rows are very, very long, but if you are here for the first time, the tram is a great way to make it to the front entrance.

We get to bag check and the security guards are really nice as we go through the line. Twinkie overheard the security guard say that people were lining up to see Neil Patrick Harris at 1:30 today, even though the first Candlelight Processional doesn’t start until 5:00. Apparently, the line was so long, it wrapped from the American Adventure, through Italy, and all the way down into Germany! Wow!

We scan our MagicBands and I laugh with the cast member as she welcomes me. I am laughing because at this very moment there are so many places open to scan my MagicBand! I love these moments!

As we enter, we are talk about wanting to see the Candlelight Processional, especially with Neal Patrick Harris. So, we need to see if there are reservations left for one of the Candlelight Processional Dining Packages. We want to make sure we get to see the Candlelight Processional, and it sounds like this will be the best way to get good seats. Neal Patrick Harris is amazing and we’ve enjoyed watching him throughout his career, even back to Doogie Howser, M.D.!

As we talk to the cast member in Guest Relations, her trainer says that she’s worked at the Candlelight Processional, and she really loved hearing him. He was her favorite! We are so excited, and they begin the search to see if we are able to find a lunch or dinner open. As we explain the restaurant and time we want, they both are so surprised that they have a reservation open. We smile really big and are thankful that there is one available. They completed the reservation, and again reemphasized how surprised they were that there was one still available. We smile and laugh with them and know that it will be an amazing night!

We grab a drink at Starbucks and head for Canada! Oh, Tooti sees a mom that is taking her daughter’s picture and asks, “Would you like me to take a picture of you both?” She was elated, and thanked us several times. We were so glad to get to help!

We are doing a lot of pin trading today. The kids are off and finding cast members to see which pins they have. I love pin trading; we find pins that I have never seen. We find a few and decide to see if we can find the bunny rabbits that live in the gardens in Canada. We see the beautiful gardens and it is so peaceful, but the rabbits must be hiding in the flowers. We continue around, cross the rope bridge, and climb the stairs. It is beautiful, and the waterfall is amazing.

We stop at the Northwest Mercantile shop to see the new items. Twinkie points out the raccoon hat with its plushie head and tail still attached. Then, she finds a little round critter with a Canadian Mountie hat on. They also carry Moose Spit, Bear Breath, Beaver Butt, Sasquatch Sweat, Ferret Farts, and these are soaps by Goat Mountain Soap Company! We do have to chuckle about these. Check out their lip balms! We love those names too!

As we are leaving and walking down the stairs, we can hear the new Christmas music coming from the Mill Stage. Oh, look! It’s the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs playing Christmas music! How fun!

We are going to back track and see if we can do some more pin trading on the way back to the entrance. We do stop at Pin Central to see the new Christmas Pins. We trade a couple of pins with the cast members and we are off. As we get close to Guest Relations, we stop and enjoy watching little kids dancing with the cast member, she has a bubble gun. Then, we notice that there is a remote controlled yellow car running in huge circles! I noticed that there were stickers attached to the top, with a little note that says, “Take one!” It is the funniest, coolest thing! A little dude walked up and got a sticker. I want one! We all got a sticker and the car took off.  I hollered back at two little brothers, “Hey, do y’all want to get a sticker?” They looked up at their dad and he said, “Sure!” They were hopping and happy when they got them as they headed toward the front gate!

I love Disney and all of the fun things they do. We had a wonderful afternoon of pin trading and enjoying the beautiful flowers. It was a good day!