Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 7

Ked and I have a few minutes before our table is ready for our final dinner here at Animal Kingdom Lodge. He's putting in a bit more reading time before vacation is over and it's back to real life where he doesn't have nearly as much time to read for pleasure. I'm going to put in some more time here, finishing up this little travel log. Not that I think it's really of interest to anyone beyond Ked and myself, but it's nice to have a record of the memories, with all their highs and lows, and I hope, since you are here now, that this can entertain you enough to make it worth your time. Anyway, the trip wound down nicely, with some lovely Florida weather in our favorite Disney park--Animal Kingdom. Because of our health issues this week we never made it to Disney's Hollywood Studios, nor Magic Kingdom (let alone the other places we considered going this trip, Sea World and Kennedy Space Center), but Animal Kingdom was just the right place to finish our vacation. We ended it on a high note, in a place we knew we'd like a lot. After the week we've had, it would not have done at all to have had a bummer last day!

We started off with a little snafu. Last night we forgot an important camera imperative--always check your batteries!! Both our cameras were shy on battery juice today, and, technology being what it is, of course both of them have proprietary battery systems, so we couldn't just go locate a couple of AA Duracells. For most of the day we had to be content just to enjoy the park and let our minds capture the memories, rather than the shutter. While we do both love taking pictures of the things we find interesting or beautiful, it was kind of nice to just focus on having fun, instead of how to frame the perfect shot. We did snap a few, most of which we'll share below, but the selection is limited, so we'll have to be content mostly with boring people shots, rather than cool and amazing animals doing cool and amazing things.

Today was the first day both of us felt up to a little more up tempo adventure, and since it was warm enough today that we didn't fear a little water (or a lot, as it turned out), we decided to brave a ride that we didn't make it onto last year when we were here--the Kali River Rapids. It's a lot like the Grizzly Rapids ride in Disney's California Adventure Park, but perhaps a little shorter we thought. Despite it's relative brevity, though, we loved it. Beautiful surroundings, and because it was so warm today, we didn't mind a bit getting soaked to the skin. (Well, okay, I didn't mind getting soaked.) Even Ked, who's usually a fur hat and parka kind of guy this time of year (small exaggeration alert, albeit very small), walked around in shorts and a T-shirt for the whole day, and well into the evening--even after the drenching!

Needless to say, other fun was to be had throughout the park, although some of what we did reminded us that we're not as young as we used to be, and that we might want to reconsider some of the more thrilling rides the next time we are tempted to defy gravity. For today, though, we took our turns with great enthusiasm (at least until they were over), on Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. (Ked did not like plummeting backwards in the dark!) We mellowed as the day went on, and had some milder Disney fun watching "Nemo the Musical," and "It's Tough To Be A Bug." We tried to catch a few of the animals as the day went on as well. We bid farewell to the tigers just as they were retiring for the night, and wandered down a few paths that we had missed on our previous visits, discovering a few nice views and heretofore unnoticed beasties. It was lovely. A good time was had by all--or both, if you want to get technical.

After being sick for days, I had eating to catch up on! We had snack credits to burn, so the first stop of the day for me was the popcorn stand. It satisfied the salt craving, but Kedley's popcorn kicks on the theme park variety. He makes it in a pan on the stove, with olive oil and just the right quantities of butter and salt. Still, I was in a junk food mood today, and this popcorn definitely fit that bill.

Part of our wandering took us past these primates of indeterminate variety (indeterminate at least as far as we were concerned, and we never saw an explanatory placard to fill in the knowledge gap). I turned the camera on and quickly snapped this photo, ever conscious of the waning battery, but I just had to get a picture of the baby clinging to Mama for all it was worth. Mom swung from pillar to post, and baby never slipped an inch. It's amazing what those critters can do with a "grabber" on all four limbs.

This is Ked after Expedition Everest, which definitely hit the "we're getting too old for this" nail with the hardest hammer. We walked by this expedition gear and started thinking about how the next vacation really ought to be a camping vacation. Lots of hiking, beautiful scenery, nothing turning us upside-down...

Here's one of those giant tortoises that live to be over a hundred years old and grow to six hundred pounds. You can't see it in the photo, but I'm working on my own six hundred pounds, with the strawberry Haagen Daz I have in hand just out of this shot. I told you I was in a junk food kind of mood, and ice cream was my next junk food choice-of-the-day.

Winter follows autumn. Spring follows winter. There are drums. Ked plays them. It's a simple fact of nature.

Here are our last shots before we put the camera away for good this trip. Ked's on one side of one of those habitat "ruins" that Disney does so well. I'm on the other. We thought they merged together rather nicely.

Later: We just got back from our last dinner here at AK Lodge's African buffet restaurant, Boma, and I've gotta tell you, I have never been so disappointed to be a food lightweight as I am tonight. This might very well be my favorite restaurant of all time (at least top three), and definitely so in terms of the value related to other restaurants here at D-World. I highly recommend the experience if you are ever in the neighborhood (especially if you aren't prone to getting full after the first eight bites.) The cuisine is all interesting and exotic, without being the least bit strange, if that makes any sense. Yum. (Oh, the really good part--they hand out recipes!)

Well, that sums up this Disney adventure. We have to be up tomorrow at 4 in the morning to catch our early flight home. We should be cruising into Portland around 11:30, which works out to about a six hour flight once you adjust for the time change. If you are one of the people we love at home, and are kind enough to be here reading about our little adventures, we'll see you soon. If you are a stranger just cruising by the Meow, may your journeys be pleasant ones. Goodnight.

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 6

Day six was a day of ups and downs. My health gradually improved as the day went on, which was a blessing for which we were extremely grateful, and the lovely warm sunshine lifted our bodies and spirits in tandem. However, we also got some very bad news from Portland fairly early on in the day, and it was difficult for us to process our emotions and thoughts while in a place that is so far from home, and so entirely focused on frivolous and very worldly things. Rest assured, nobody died or anything, except perhaps a few of our cherished hopes and dreams. Actually, even that last statement isn't true, because our hopes are not rooted in people or circumstances, but in the One who is above them all. It just took us a while to remember that. Remember we did, though, and after walking, talking, and praying together, our minds and hearts settled into a somewhat subdued, but peaceful state.

We did enjoy our last day at Epcot. We didn't go on any of the more adventurous rides, or push my physical limits too much. We were mostly just satisfied that I was out of bed and we had such nice weather. We shopped a bit and bought some small gifts for the children of the friends who are providing our airport taxi service for this trip. (We live very near the Portland airport, and are often called on to do taxi service. We are always glad to do so, and it is generally no trouble for us, being so close, but it is usually more of an effort for the people we ask, because none of them live at such an easy distance as we do. We are very grateful for friends who will put themselves out for us like that, and know that while they would refuse any token for themselves, they will not turn down Disney trinkets for their children. We feel quite tricky and self-satisfied at this method of getting around their reticence to being properly thanked!) One of the highlights of the day for us was watching the newly updated circle-vision movie about Canada. They've got the always amusing Martin Short serving as tour guide, and have cut in new footage with the old to bring the movie into the 21st century. We love circle-vision movies anyway, but the upgrade made it all the more fun.

Okay, now we come to the whiny complaint portion of what is turning into a rather lengthy trip journal entry. Here it it. "Wah! I wanted French Food!" That in a nutshell is my chief gripe for the day. Let me explain: We bought into the Disney Dining Plan, which pre-pays for meals at some rather nice restaurants, and because the restaurants are very popular, requires advance reservations to get a table. No problem! We booked our tables well ahead of our trip, through the Disney Dining reservation center. The trouble is, you never really get a chance to look at the menu before you choose where you will eat. This is a leap of faith for me, because I have some rather annoying dietary restrictions (no wheat) that make it a bit of a crap shoot whether there will be anything at a given restaurant that I can eat. Some restaurants are easy--I can always eat Mexican and most Asian food, and Italian is almost always out, unless I make noodles at home from scratch. The Disney website assured us, however, that all their restaurants could handle dietary restrictions, and, thus assured, we planned to expand our dining horizons by venturing into a highly-touted French restaurant. When we actually sat down to look at a menu and talk to our waitress about what I could have, however, it boiled down to "anything without the sauce." What?! The whole point of French food is the sauce!! They said I could have escargots in burgundy sauce--without the sauce--a.k.a. dry snails. They said I could have a beef fillet in peppercorn sauce--without the sauce--a.k.a. slab-o'-meat, and they said I could have green beans. I could not, however, have any of their potatoes, including mashed. I ask you, who puts wheat in their mashed potatoes? You'd think fancy French chefs could whip up an alternate sauce using corn starch--heck, even I could do that! We just couldn't bring ourselves to pay $50 dollars per person for dry snails, a steak and some green beans, so we left. We spent the next hour walking around looking for a restaurant with an open table, and found not a one. (Sometimes I just hate what my stupid dietary needs put my husband through. He could have had the French food, and I started thinking I should have just eaten the stinking boring green beans and meat slab.) Eventually, though, we had a breakthrough. We called the magical Disney Dining central office, where they see the reservation lists for all the D-World restaurants at once, and the operator saw that there had just been a cancellation at the Mexican restaurant across the way. We jumped on it, and within half an hour we were happily dining on tilapia with guacamole sauce. Margaritas further improved our mood.

That pretty much sums up day six (at some length I might add). On to a few photos...

As we were leaving Animal Kingdom Lodge for the day, we passed by this watering hole. It was rather picturesque.

Ked and I had fun playing with lots of sciency stuff at Epcot. The techno-gizmo pictured above measured our reaction time, memory, and hand-eye coordination. We were, of course, outstanding in all categories. We got to play a fun driving game, too, in which I qualified to be a secret agent!! I was so excited, I immediately called up the CIA to see what my pay-grade would be. They said they'd get back to me...

Here's Ked in "Canada." Made us a bit homesick for the Pacific Northwest. Good thing we're heading home tomorrow!

We had an enjoyable stroll through "England" as well, and saw a really fun street play about King Arthur, which drew in volunteers from the audience. I really wanted to play the evil wizard. Oh well, maybe next time.

Personal disclaimer: I did not want to post this picture. I felt tired and grungy and highly un-photogenic, but my dear husband likes it, so I comply. It would, perhaps, have been better for me to comply without the disclaimer, but vanity, alas, has won the day. The disclaimer remains.

Here is Kedley at the restaurant where we did not eat, in France. I show it to you, however, because you might like to dine there yourself someday. Other than the fact I couldn't eat anything on it, the menu looked terrific!! I hope your day is a lovely one. We are off to say our farewells to Animal Kingdom. Especially the tigers. We like the tigers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 5

The title here is highly misleading, since there are no Disney World pics for day 5. There was nothing interesting enough in our hotel room to warrant the posting of pictures, and the hotel room was where we stayed. Ked read a good book (Jane Eyre), and I slept--a lot. While generally I would say that if I'm going to be bed-ridden, I'd rather do it at home where I have familiar things and my favorite comfort videos, all-in-all the Animal Kingdom Lodge isn't such a bad place to be laid up (once you get past the fact you're spending hundreds of dollars a day just to lay around sneezing). Ked and I took one of the mattresses off the bunk beds that occupy one corner of our room, and placed it by the sliding glass doors that lead to our balcony. (I still love that we have our own balcony. I'm really very easy to please.) This placement gave me easy Internet access, and also allowed me a view of the outdoors, where the giraffes and ostriches cavorted for our amusement.

Giraffes really are fascinating, extremely graceful creatures. Did you know that when they walk they move both legs on the same side at the same time? Most other four-legged animals alternate sides so that at any given point they have a tripod of support underneath them, but not so the giraffe. One wonders how they stay balanced, but they not only stay upright, they stay upright with dignity and panache. They are really beautiful when they run, too. A few times yesterday we saw them chase each other in play, or chase one of the ostriches in earnest. (We haven't figured out what they have against the ostriches, but it was quite diverting to watch.) Of course, at none of these times did we have a camera to the ready, so we can't share the visuals with you--not that a still photo could have captured the moment properly anyhow. Another interesting bit of yesterday's animal observations was the ongoing mournful bellow of one of the ankole (pronounced an-coal-ee) cattle. He was wailing long into the night, and continues as I type this. I choose to think that he is moaning his sympathy for my poor pathetic excuse for a vacation, locked in my room as I have been.

Oh well, the flu seems to be letting up a bit today, and the sun is shining. I think we'll be heading out of doors again and re-familiarizing ourselves with the taste of fresh air. Perhaps the sunshine will perk us up, eh? We might even take a few pictures...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 4

The flu attacked again in force today, slamming back down on me with swift and brutal determination. I tried to stay in the fight for a few hours this morning, but eventually succumbed to the increasingly urgent call of my pillow and bed, some orange juice and a couple of Nyquil Liquicaps. Hopefully a good night's rest will put my depleted body in a little better shape, and then we can pick up where we left off. Today's plan was to visit Animal Kingdom in the morning, and then Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and evening. We never made it past the animal part of the scheme, but maybe we can go see Mickey tomorrow. I don't have much to show you today. We only got a few snapshots taken before misery got the better of me, but what we did get I'll pass your way now, before I say goodnight again. There are a few lovely birds, most of which shall remain nameless, and another interesting creature or two. One thing you will not see, however, is the elusive Giant Red-Eyed, Red-Nosed Kat. It's dripping season for the Kat, and that's a time when the breed becomes particularly camera shy. The Ked too becomes scarce at such times, as it is only the lure of the Kat which draws him out into the open. Trust me when I tell you that right now the Kat is not very alluring...
We don't know what variety of bird this is. We just decided to call it "Pretty Birdie."

This is the same bird, but for lack of a better moniker, let's just go with "Pretty Birdie II."

Though not quite in focus, we thought the iridescence of this little beauty warranted its display here at the Meow.

This proud bird, all decked out in her (his?) Easter bonnet is an African Crowned Crane. Finally, a bit of actual information!!

This fellow (or lady) is a Military Macaw--the name having something to do with the color of Spanish soldiers' uniforms from some previous century or other. (While in my influenza-induced stupor, I take no responsibility for tracking down more specific information than that. If you'd like to research the topic more thoroughly and then educate us in the comments, please feel free to do so. Otherwise, we must all choose to live in unapologetic ignorance. Apologizing would be pointless.)

Here parades a Giant Anteater of some sort. I can't remember the entire name, but I do remember that it's the biggest variety of anteater. Giant is an accurate description, too. The brush on his back stood up about three-and-a-half feet, and he was probably seven feet strung out from tail to snout (or, tail to snot, as I originally typed it. I think I have a mental theme going here somewhere.)

Here's a Nile Crocodile, who looks so jolly we think someone must have cracked a funny right before Ked snapped the photo. Let's guess what it is, shall we? I'll start: "A crocodile and anteater walked up to a game warden and said, 'Did you see that Military Macaw that flew by? His tail was so green....'" This is where you come in... or not. It really is a lame idea, isn't it? I blame the Nyquil.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 3

Ked and I had another lovely day today. After a VERY leisurely start to the morning, we headed on over to Epcot for some rainy-day fun. Most of what we did was of the indoor variety, which was a good thing, since every time we emerged from our sheltered pursuits we saw fresh evidence of the teary weather. Actually, though, we had very good timing for most of the day, and while we frequently trod on dewy pavement, we seldom saw (or felt) the showers that kept the sidewalks glistening. We popped from experimental greenhouse to aquarium, aquarium to ride, and so on, and barely noticed the weather--other than a experiencing a vague sense of homeyness, since rain reminded us of what it was like to be home in the Pacific Northwest.

I'm not going to babble much at you tonight. It's very late and we're both still sick, but I do have a few pictures to send your way, so here goes:

Just like the last time we were here, in January 2007, we couldn't resist climbing on board a couple of Segways and taking them for a spin.

We also enjoyed taking another tour of the experimental greenhouses where Disney magicians grow giant fruits and vegetables and work on new and innovative ways to increase product yields. The picture above shows some of the different ways their produce gets its start. One of the things they're working on is a way to grow plants with no soil, just water and nutrients sprayed right on the roots. They're hoping that maybe someday the folks at NASA can use this method to grow food in space.

We spent quite a bit of time around the aquariums, watching dolphins race by and manatee munch on romaine lettuce. We also had a look at some of the smaller aquatic scenes, such as the vivid tank pictured above.

We saw a few of Nemo's friends and family when we peered into their watery homes.

This Nemo wannabe tried to convince us he was our favorite little clown fish, but he couldn't fool us--not enough stripes!!

If this wasn't Dory, though, she was doing a pretty fair imitation.

I don't know what kind of creature-fish this is, but the whole scene, fish included, was such an intriguing combination of ugliness and beauty that I just couldn't resist giving you a glimpse, even though the picture is a little blurry.

On our way out of Epcot in pursuit of our dinner, we made our way through Canada and England, and headed off to enjoy what will almost certainly be the food highlight for the week. We ate at Flying Fish Cafe tonight, and it was stellar. The food, the service, the atmosphere, all of it added up to a great memory. The waiter was everything a waiter should be. The chef came to talk to us not once, but twice, and all that attention didn't even hold a candle to the wonderful food, so you can imagine what a fine meal it was.

Here's a sample of the decor. As you can see, the fish are flying.

I'll leave you with the images of our delightful repast. On the left is Ked's monkfish, followed by my potato-wrapped snapper, and a beautiful cheesecake with a walnut crust. Mmmm, cheesecake...

Good night.

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 2

After a leisurely morning spent posting pictures here at the Meow for the entertainment of friends and strangers alike, we headed over to Epcot on Friday for a day of fun and frolics. Most of our day passed pleasantly away, as we wandered from country to country in Epcot's World Showcase. We chatted with some singers from the Voices of Liberty (an absolutely amazing A Capella group performing at the American Heritage Gallery), and discovered that one of them was from our hometown of Portland, and we had acquaintances in common. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Small World," doesn't it? The day was full of highs, very few lows, and one or two surprises. I think my favorite moment of the day, though, was when a six-year-old came up to me and asked me very sweetly and innocently, "Are you a teenager?" Talk about your Disney magic! This really is the happiest place on Earth!! I love that child. I truly love that child. On that note, on to the photos for the day. (Please be kind and refrain from commenting about how only a six-year-old could mistake me for a teenager. We are here to indulge in a little fantasy after all.)

Here's the ultimate landmark in Epcot. The big hollow ball behind me is one of our favorite rides, called Spaceship Earth. It's a gentle ride through human history, with a few tweaks since the last time we were here. They snap your photo at the beginning of the ride, and now at the end of the ride you get to see yourself zip around in a cartoon world of the future. It was so much fun we went around twice.

Ked insisted that we post this picture of me wandering around China. I decided to indulge him on this one. After all, it is his vacation too.
China kept us fascinated for quite a while, and these ladies were one of the highlights. Last year it was quite cold when we were here, so the acrobats performed indoors, but this year the weather is smiling, so we got to see the troupe contort out here in the open. No matter where they do their thing, though, it all looks equally impossible.

This gentleman had his work cut out for him when the wind kicked up. Despite the stiff breeze, though, he still managed to catch five bowls at a time on his head, while balancing on that teeter-totter.

I've been hitting the treadmill pretty regularly lately, so after a while Ked started thinking that borrowing that power chair beside him might be a good notion, just to keep up with Power Kat.

We just love all the interesting architectural details in Epcot, and Japan kept our cameras close to hand. I was thinking it might be of some use to have mine surgically implanted. Maybe once nanotechnology advances far enough that'll be an option, eh?

Scenes like this lake view panorama were what kept prompting the shutter-bug.

Here you get the flavor of the Moroccan souk. It was all incense and color, and crowds of bustling shoppers, just like the real thing--complete with the eager salesman who really, really wanted to make a sale--any sale.

The mosaic tile work throughout the Moroccan quarter is simply amazing. It's not a style that I would necessarily want to use to decorate my home, but you can't help but appreciate the intricacy and beauty of the designs.

Ked found the musical instruments fascinating.

He jumped at the chance to get "hands on" with some nearby drums.

Here's the atmosphere inside the Mexican temple where we ate our dinner. Our very, very yummy dinner.

This mariachi band kept the wait for our table lively. Disney musicians are soooo good!

Here's a shot of the World at night. Beautiful, isn't it? We'll leave you with this one--until tomorrow. Have a great day!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Disney World 2008 Pics Of The Day--Day 1

Hello from the Magic Kingdom, or thereabouts. We caught a red-eye flight late Wednesday, so that we could hit the ground running on Thursday morning. Trouble with that plan was that both Ked and I have the flu, so it was more like we hit the ground limping. We were still going to stick to the plan, though, because our room here at the Animal Kingdom Lodge wasn't supposed to be ready until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Our plane landed at 6:15 a.m. and we got to the hotel around 7:30, got checked in and all set up with our park passes, when what miraculous thing should occur? Our room was already available! It beckoned loudly, and thither we went. We slept for about 4 hours, and then wandered around Animal Kingdom for about three hours. You'd think after the long nap we'd have been up well into the night, but after a lovely dinner at Boma we crawled into bed at 7:30am. I didn't wake up again until 8:30--that's thirteen hours later for those of you who don't like math. Any of you who know me know that it takes a good bout of the flu to keep my eyes shut that long. Hopefully today we'll be a little more energetic.

Well, you didn't come here to read my drivel about sleeping and fluing. You came here for pictures! We will oblige. The sucky news is my camera was in a lousy mood and deleted most of the photos I took yesterday (most likely caused by my flu-induced stupor--I was not a happy camper when I discovered my own ineptitude). Believe me when I say some of the pictures I took were INCREDIBLE. It will make me feel better if you do believe me, and neither of us has any way to disprove the theory, so let's just run with it, okay? Despite my photographic mishaps, the good news is that since we are both snapshot junkies we are a two camera family, and we have lots of Ked's snaps to pass your way. Without further whining and other assorted forms of ado, I give you Disney World--Day 1. We'll start with the view from our balcony:

We didn't get one of the spendier rooms here at the Lodge, so imagine our delight when we found the pseudo-Savanna right outside our balcony (we have a balcony!), populated by giraffes, zebras, nyala antelope, ankole cattle, ostriches and various other bird life. At one point this morning we saw three zebras chasing an ostrich, while the giraffes looked on with amusement and the ankole cattle shook their heads in dismay. (You want to stay out of the way when the cattle shake their heads.)

This is one of the ankole cattle I mentioned. Those giant horns are common to both the males and females. They look like they can hold their own in a brawl, don't you think?

These were also outside our balcony. (We have a balcony! Sorry. I'm just very taken with the fact we have our own little nature observatory right here in our room.) We're not sure what these are--maybe some kind of crane? Any bird watchers out there in the know? Anyway, we figure it must be mating season around here with all the bird ballet that's going on.

From here we move on to the Animal Kingdom park. These Hyacinth Macaws were among the first residents to greet us. They, like the birds surrounding our lodgings, seemed awfully affectionate as well.

This East African Crowned Crane only seemed interested in food.

These Scarlet Macaws seemed both affectionate and hungry at the same time. We distinctly heard one of them say, "Hey! My beak is not your food!!"

This tiger looked quite self-satisfied and regal. Definitely not a cat with troubles on his mind.

Apparently, these macaws thought that tiger's look of satisfaction meant he wasn't too hungry.

"So, anyway Joe, I says to him, 'You don't scare me Old Stripes. I'm fast. I can out-fly you any day of the week. Come on, try and get me! Just see how far you get.'"

"I wouldn't mess with Old Stripes if I were you, Red. He's a lot smarter than he looks."

"Mmmm, once you get past the feathers, those red things are delicious. I wonder what other tasty morsels are wandering around this place?"

"Oh Lord, please don't let the tiger out of his pen. Please don't let the tiger out of his pen..."

"Hey Baby, leave it to me. I'll protect you. I think I can take the tiger.... maybe."

"Sorry I can't be more helpful, old chap, but I find hiding to be the best way to avoid death-by-tiger."

"Just send a little fire my way, and old King Louie here can fix it for ya."

"Hey, don't look at me. I may look scary and evil, but I'm just a fruit bat."

Well, that's it for today. We're off to Epcot for some low-key adventure. We won't be riding into space, or anything stomach-churning like that, but I'm sure we'll have fun just the same. Oooh, maybe there'll be science stuff to do. We love science stuff....