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 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 73- Epcot’s Italian Flag Throwers

It is beautiful today! There are blue skies on this nice 70-degree, breezy day! We are going to Epcot and see the new Flag Throwing Show, Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro, in Italy. I love the Italy Pavilion with all of its beautiful buildings and detailed architecture. There are even a few statues and a fountain. It is so pretty.

Here we go! We get to the parking area and park way down on the end. So, we decide to walk to the entrance. Some other families are heading for the tram, but it is about the same distance to the tram as it is to the entrance today. We arrive at the front gates, get our bags checked, and scan our MagicBands. We find that it is not very crowded for a holiday week. It is very busy, but there is still plenty of room to walk.

We go to the right and walk beside Spaceship Earth! It is crowded and we have to stop a couple of times really quickly as little ones suddenly stop in the walkway. I laugh, we tease that you should be quick on your feet, ready to dodge and jump aside for those moments since people will sometimes stop without warning. It is good to be kind, it seems that the visitors who are aware and nice to everyone have so much more fun!

We stopped at Starbucks, the kids got to talking to the cashier. Seems she was from Texas too! It was nice to meet a fellow Texan!

The Christmas tree at Epcot is beautiful; we head for it on our way around the World Showcase Lagoon. Now, we go to the left and make our way around through Mexico, China, The Outpost, Germany, and now we are almost to Italy. As we are getting closer, we hear the whistle! Sergio the mime is there and it performing a really a good skit! He is so interactive with the crowd, and kids love this! Even the adults are clapping and laughing, it is so fun! We watch behind the line of people.

In just a few minutes we hear the new Flag Throwing Show, Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro, starting. They march in with a drummer and two trumpeters on their way to the stage in Italy. The show is absolutely incredible! They twirl, throw, and battle with the flags. Wow! This is truly a must see!

Tooti lets me know that we have already walked 2.3 miles to Italy in that short time. After she show, we are off to France. We leave Italy and pass through The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, and arrive in France. Our friend we’ve made at Guerlain is there today, so we stop for a moment to say, “Hello!” She is one of the sweetest ladies you will ever meet.

Now, back to making our way around the World Showcase Lagoon. We cross the bridge into the United Kingdom when we see HIM!! It is a penguin from Mary Poppins! I have never seen him, ever! We start toward the line and find that he is supposed to leave soon. We totally understand, and are disappointed, but find that he will be back out in 45 minutes. We walk around the United Kingdom Pavilion for a few minutes and decide that we will stay and wait because the penguin is rarely ever here! I am so glad we got to wait!

As we saw the penguin coming over the hill, the attendant smiled since we waited and soon we met the penguin! It is so fun to get penguin hugs, and he is adorable! After our hugs and pictures, we thank the penguin and all wave bye!

We go back through the United Kingdom on the way to Canada, and then walk through the Showcase Plaza, by the Christmas tree. It is really cold and breezy. Now, back to the entrance and out to our car.

We had a blast today, and we took so many pictures for so many people! Sometimes one right after the other! But, with all of the fun, we walked 3.8 miles today (and that was a really short afternoon)! I love days like today, and am so happy we got to meet the penguin!

Day 69- Epcot and Chefs de France

Today is overcast with a light, drizzly rain. It is in the lower 70s with a light breeze. So, we grab our lightweight rain gear and debate on which shoes to wear; sandals or sneakers? We are going with tennis shoes, since cold, wet feet are not fun!

As we get to Epcot, we see that we get to park close! We are close enough to be within the Monorail track! We hop out, walk to the entrance, get our bags checked, and scan our Magic Bands. The Mickey and Minnie Christmas topiaries are so beautiful. People are taking quick pictures in the rain. When it rains, the PhotoPass Photographers stand under the entrance awning to keep the cameras out of the rain. The front garden is so beautiful!

I was timing how long it took us to walk to the France pavilion. Since we parked fairly close, it took us 5 minutes to get to Spaceship Earth. From there, it was a 5-minute walk through Canada and the UK to get to the bridge that crosses over to France. From the bridge, it is only three minutes of semi-fast walking to get to Les Chefs de France.

We have reservations for Les Chefs de France and are seated quickly. We love Les Chefs de France. We are seated beside the windows, our favorite! I love watching people walk by. Our waiter is great. He brings us our drinks and takes our order. He brings us gluten free rolls with butter to enjoy. Soon, our French onion soup is served. They have the best gluten free French onion soup. The French onion soup is topped with Gruyère cheese, roasted to perfection by the master chef. I forgot how wonderful this soup is – I love it!

We finish our delicious soup and get back into the misty evening. There is the perfect amount of people to be busy, but not too crowded. It is nice. We go to Guerlain to see what is new. We love this shop!

On our way to the bakery, we see the new Christmas decorations. I love these glittery snowflakes! We went to Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie to get a crème brulee for me and Tooti, and a macaron for Twinkie. We sit for a minute and enjoy our desserts. As we come out of the bakery, the ice cream parlor, L’Artisan des Glaces, is so cute!

As we pass the The Tea Caddy in the UK Pavilion, we hop inside to take a quick look around. We decide on some of Twining’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Loose Leaf Tea Blend in a cute little blue and gold tin to brew when we get home.

We make our way back to the front entrance. As we are leaving, we are shed our rain jackets; the air feels warmer tonight than it did earlier. It a pretty night, complete with a light, misty rain.

Day 49- Epcot: La Hacienda de San Angel, Canadian Lumberjack Show & Spaceship Earth

Happy Sunday Morning! It is cool and breezy on this sunny day, so we threw on our ugly sweaters and headed for Epcot!

We arrive at the park and ride the tram to the front gates, check in at bag check, scan our MagicBands, and head for Mexico! We have lunch reservations at La Hacienda de San Angel. We are seated quickly and look at the menu. Tooti has been talking about the Queso Fundido cheese dish at La Hacienda de San Angel. We are served chips and 2 salsas, the red one is hot, and the green one is not. Soon, we have our tacos and Queso Fundido, gluten free. It is a nice lunch.

There is a concert tonight with 38 Special. I was not the right age for this group, but the concert is packed out with people standing along the edges! We took a minute to listen and see the huge amount of people watching. Already, the line for the next show is growing.

Our next stop is the UK Pavilion for a Chai, and next-door is the Canadian Lumberjack Show! I have tried for a couple of weeks to be here at the right time to get to see them. It is a great show, and very fun! At the close of the show, they said they are going to be available for handshakes and pictures. The kids got a picture with them!

Next, we have a FastPass+ for Spaceship Earth! It is a very chilly walk, and I am so glad that the ride is much warmer inside. I really like Spaceship Earth and the story of how communication began and transformed over the years. Then, near the end of the ride, they put together a little video specific to you and your choices to the multiple-choice questions they ask. It is really cute and fun.

Now we are off to the front gates, it is dark and even cooler outside. The tram is very full, to the point the tram attendant said, “We are full, so full that I have to say there is no more boarding, since there is no more room.” I agree, we have 3 of us already in out row, and then a very tall, large couple got on our row, and kept scooting us over. I put my arm behind Twinkie, and the lady kept pushing me over, saying, “Excuse me!!!” I had to not laugh, there was room for 1.33 of them and they were 2+. We kept ooching over until they both fit. If I had the breath to chuckle, I would have. I did enjoy the family behind me, and I had to tell the grandmother, “I love your accent!!!” She was bashful and said, “It is not much of one,” in a very thick British accent, “It is not very good, not very sophisticated.” I said, “I am from Texas and this is what I have!” She laughed so hard, “Texas?” “Yes, but we moved down here in the summer!” “Oh, so you are living the dream!” she said. We laughed and then it was time to disembark! We all shouted, “Have a wonderful evening!” and we were off to walk to our cars. Nice to be in the warm car on a cool 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 14- Epcot & Last Day of Frozen Fireworks at Hollywood Studios

It was pouring as we headed out for Epcot. Then, it stopped, poured, and stopped again as we neared the park. We parked on aisle 50 once again! How do we keep being directed to that parking aisle? No problem, I looked over the top of the trees for Spaceship Earth. Found it. Now, what’s the quickest path from point A (us) to point B (Spaceship Earth)? We found a new walking path and headed in. As we entered the park gate, there was a lady from South Africa that loved the kids’ Frozen shirts! As we talked, she was so nice that we asked if we could have a picture with her, and her son jumped into the pic too! Fun!

Off to the America Pavilion to watch Hanson, but the line was amazingly long. We waited for a little while and realized that the number of people in line already exceeded the number of seats in the theatre. We ducked out of the rain to sit in Italy for a few minutes. While we were there, we met a really nice couple with two beautiful daughters. It was fun talking and visiting with them!

This reminds me about the other night at Epcot. As we were leaving, I saw a little girl with a frown and tears rolling down her face. “Are they putting up your ‘carriage’? Oh! You’re a little princess and they are putting up your ‘carriage’.” She smiled and hugged the little railing near her and nodded. I had overheard her grandparents telling her to stop crying as they pushed the stroller away, but I knew that in her little heart she saw the stroller as her “carriage.” Thank you, Molly A., for letting me learn that little treasure from you and your family!

After Epcot, we planned to head to Hollywood Studios for the final Frozen Fireworks of the season! Frozen Fireworks it is.

We made it to Hollywood Studios and enjoyed the bustle of people waiting for the show to start. While we were waiting, we met another really nice family. The mom mentioned that the kids didn’t want to stay, but she was hoping the fireworks would be worth it. I told her they are absolutely worth it! When my kids were little, they would tell me, “I don’t want to do something,” and I would tell them, “That’s just fine, but I want to!” She laughed! They did stay and it was so worth it!

As the fireworks came to an end, it was snowing! All the way from Mickey’s sorcerers’ hat to the front gates it is snowing! I love meeting so many people.

Heading home, we realized we had six minutes before the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party fireworks started; we could make it to the parking lot, catch the ferryboat over to Magic Kingdom, and see the Not So Scary Fireworks from the Ferry! It took me eight minutes; my kids can walk faster than fast. They made it to the entrance of the ferry and they were going to wait for me. I hollered, “See if they can wait for me!” I was a little ways back, but the deckhand teased me and said that my kids had told me to shut the gate; don’t let mom in! Funny guy!

We hurried onto the ramp and up the stairs to the front of the ferry and watched the Not So Scary fireworks from the stem of the boat!!! WOW! This show even has panoramic fireworks! It is so beautiful!


Three parks and two fireworks shows! I love Disney!

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…