Friday, October 5, 2012

Visiting Disney - Part IV


Epcot Pins

Day three of our Disney adventure found us at Epcot.  Epcot is an interesting park and not everyone's favorite.  Epcot is really two parks in one.  The front part is FutureWorld with all kinds of exhibits for techie fans and environmental fans while that back part is for fans of traveling.  The World Showcase is there, featuring such countries as China, Japan, Mexico and Canada, Norway, Morocco and Africa (which they call the Outpost), France and Germany, Italy and England.  Oh!  And the United States!  I don't think I'm forgetting anyone, but I apologize if I am.  Each of the countries has food offerings and a shop where you can buy things typical of that country.  Also, each area is staffed by young people native to that country who are bilingual.  They're very nice and it's great for practicing your language skills!  We decided to use our snack allotments here and snack our way around the world!

For some reason, we always turn left out of FutureWorld and head into Mexico.  Because of that, we've never really gotten to enjoy Canada and England!  One of these fine days I AM going to turn right and start with them.  Mexico, we usually bypass as we live so close to Mexico and can visit any time we like.  Next up is Norway, and this is the place for breakfast!  We each had a yummy pastry and juice while waiting for the Maelstrom ride to open.  It's a water ride and some people think it's getting long in the tooth, but I still love it.  After your water adventure, you exit in a small "village."  There's a small sailboat tied up to the dock on the "river."  As nearly as we can tell, it's a real sailboat.  The buildings in the village are adorable, but what excited me was looking up to see an SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) placard over one of the doors.  A dear family friend recently retired from SAS, so this one is for him:

After our adventure in Norway, we went next door to China.  (No, I have no idea how they decided who would be next to whom.)  This one really made me think.  As we approached what looked to be a beautiful temple, a lovely young lady in native dress beckoned us in for the movie, Reflections of China. This is a 360, Circle Vision film that is just this side of IMAX.  You start your tour of China on the Great Wall with one of the ancient poets as a guide.  I had no idea just how beautiful China is.  Perhaps someday I'll be able to visit there.

After visiting China, we passed through the African outpost (after all, we're STAYING in an African outpost!) and had our mid-morning snack in Germany.  Throwing caution, and possible repercussions to the wind, I made George order our pretzels, his beer and my water in German.  I thought he did quite well!  Of course, this meant that if we ate in France, I'd have to do the ordering!

Now the World Showcase lets me indulge my love for architectural photography and sketching, so here we go! Patience, please!
An adorable shop in the German area
After Germany, we found ourselves in Italy, but we didn't stop for all that long.  We pushed on to America.  There's a replica of Independence Hall there where they have a wonderful film and animatronic show, a concert given by the most incredible a capella choir, and a show given by a Colonial fife and drum corps.  Of course, we had to stay for that.  The show, The American Adventure, is hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. It's a bit corny, maybe, but I love it, too.  The choir is simply awesome.  They do American folk songs and patriotic numbers.  They end with a version of the Star Spangled Banner that never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

After America, we visited Japan.  This is one of the most beautiful areas of Epcot.  My feet were really giving me trouble, so I didn't take photos here.  We listened a bit to the Taiko drummers while my wonderful husband gave me a foot rub, we looked around the shop and then headed to Morocco for lunch!

Morocco is my favorite of all the countries represented in Epcot.  The architecture is wonderful!  It's probably the most complex of them all being a bazaar area with all kinds of twisty little turns and places to lose yourself.  This is normally my favorite place to photograph and sketch, but we were ready for lunch, so we devoted our time to a magnificent lunch at the Tangierine Cafe (what a wonderful pun!).  We would have loved to have stayed and listened to Mo'Rockin but we realized that we needed to go get ready for our Adventure of the Day!

Dive Quest

George and Me
The Seas in FutureWorld (the front part of Epcot) is a 6-million gallon salt-water aquarium.  There are all kind of viewing windows onto it and the wonderful restaurant, Coral Reef, has windows into the aquarium.  The aquarium is home to lots of sea life, including three species of shark, sea turtles, eagle rays and many, many more.  The coral in the aquarium, however, is all man-made.  Because the aquarium is completely enclosed and receives no natural sunlight, coral cannot grow.  The Disney Imagineers have created very authentic-looking coral made of concrete.

There are several extra events you can do in The Seas, but for certified scuba divers,  you can go on a 40-minute dive in the tank.  The entire event is two hours and you see parts of Epcot that no outsider ever gets to see. We all met outside the park and were taken in hand by our tour leader, Andy - a guy with the most positive attitude and the greatest sense of humor.  After a quick tour of what most visitors see of the Seas and our safety briefing and release-signing, we received our wetsuits and booties and headed to the lockers to change. We were then led to the aquarium itself to meet our divemasters and get started on our dive.

Both George and I are certified divers, but neither of us has done any diving in 10 years or so. We decided that this dive would be a good way to get back into it.  I was concerned about my left ear as I had an ear infection in it several years ago.  It has never been as easy to clear pressure in that ear since the infection.  I had a couple of problems at the beginning.  I didn't have enough weight in my BC, a situation our divemaster quickly saw.  I surfaced (actually, I couldn't keep from surfacing).  She surfaced with me and as she was confirming that I needed more weight, I was hit hard from behind by what I thought was another diver surfacing.  Nope!  It was one of the sea turtles.  We all signed releases that we would not touch the turtles, but we'd been warned that they don't sign the releases and sometimes they touch us!  I hadn't been prepared for just how much mass one of those creatures has!  I felt terrible about the encounter, but I don't think I could have done anything to have avoided it.  After our divemaster got my weights straightened out, I descended, yes, having trouble equalizing the left ear.  After a little coaxing, it equalized and off went for our dive.


I think we enjoyed playing with the humans the most.  We would swim up to the windows and wave to the visitors, both in the observation area and in the Coral Reef Restaurant.  However, I wound up doing some serious observation of the sharks.  Let me be very clear here.  I am deathly afraid of sharks.  It almost kept me from getting my scuba certification.  On my very first ocean dive, I saw a shark.  I've gradually come to realize that they have a beauty of their own, although I really don't want to get all personal with one.  While laying on the bottom of the tank, watching the marine life swim by, George and I had a very large, maybe 8' shark swim straight for us.  I decided (fearfully) to hold my ground and see what he'd do.  He broke and swam away from us, but not before I had time to decide what  stupid idea that was!  I'd never do it in the wild.  I swear those things have more than two rows of wicked-looking teeth.  I think their entire mouth is full of wicked-looking teeth!  Yikes!

Anyway, after our 40 minutes of bottom time, we surfaced, turned in our equipment and headed to our wonderful hot showers.  After meeting up again, we updated our dive logs and bought our copy of the video from the dive.  The stills here are taken from that video.

 What a fun thing to do!  I probably wouldn't do this again, as I would the Wild Africa Trek, but I'm glad I did it once.  Next time (given I get over my ear problems) we're going diving in the Keys!

We ended our day with supper in the France area of the World Showcase and yes, I had to order in French.  I think I did quite well, thank you!

After supper, we found places to watch the fireworks, Illuminations of Earth.  This has been my absolute favorite fireworks show in all of Disney.  But yes, there were changes to Epcot, many of which I wish hadn't happened.  Remember the loud music in Animal Kingdom?  There is a loud Celtic/rock band in the England area of the World Showcase.  Sigh.  And the fireworks are maybe a third of their original length.  What a disappointment!

Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios)
Hollywood Studios Pins

Our fourth and last day at DisneyWorld was at Hollywood Studios.  This is home to three of our favorite rides. As we arrived, I decided to do the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  This has been George's favorite ride and I just couldn't make myself do it last time we were here.  This time I decided that two minutes of anything probably wouldn't kill me, so off we went to get into line. Yep, this is definitely one where you don't want a FastPass.  The line snakes through the "grounds" of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  They are beautiful as is the interior with all its interesting things to see!
Hollywood Tower Hotel
Okay, here's my last architectural photo:

Angel Statue in the Courtyard of the Hotel
After viewing the Twilight Zone preshow - yes, it's Rod Serling, but the voice is an incredibly talented impersonator - we went to the service level to take the elevator up to our "rooms."  We were lucky the first time to get seats in the front row.  (This is truly where you want to be.)  After fastening our seatbelts, the elevator took us upstairs... to see the ghosts of the five former visitors who entered the Twilight Zone beckoning us!  Then the doors closed and we went up again... and out of the elevator shaft into the Twilight Zone.  As the lights go out and you have ample time to regret ever doing this... You're suddenly weightless!  I was simply not prepared for what a beautiful, peaceful feeling weightlessness is.  The Tower of Terror is a wonderful, wonderful ride!  My first thought was that I wanted to do it again!

We ran around to the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster to get FastPasses (yep, you want them here) and then ran back to do the Tower of Terror again!!  This time we had to sit in the back (sigh) but oh such fun!

After our second Terror experience, we rode the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster.  Okay, this is my absolute favorite rollie.  Yes, it's mostly in the dark.  Yep, it does two (some people say three) inversions, the first of which is immediately after it catapults you up to 60mph.  But it's smooth and awesome and I adore it.  They say it pulls 4 G's on you, but I swear I don't feel it.  One thing.  Do put your head back into the cushions when you get into the car and keep it there.  Your head's coming back into the cushions one way or the other, but it's best that you put it there yourself.  And me, yes, I sing the Aerosmith songs at the top of my lungs while riding the coaster.  Such fun!!

And yep!  We rode the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster twice!  PS, don't eat just before this one. Just sayin'.

And our last ride was the Great Movie Ride.  I love this silly thing!  Your guide takes you through all kinds of classic movies, Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and many more.  This is a must-do for all movie buffs.

Since this was our last day, we watched the parade and then left to go do a little shopping at Downtown Disney.  We also booked a wonderful dinner at Jiko.  If I hadn't been coming down with what I now know was an ear infection, I would have enjoyed it even more, but Jiko is always awesome!

And there you are.  Our trip to Disney, just two adults, with strong child-like leanings.

I hope you've enjoyed this small tour through a very magical place!

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