Gran Fiesta Fireworks

Gran Fiesta Tour

Yeah, that’s a Disney thing.  What isn’t these days?  It’s a ride, actually, in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion – the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Cabelleros, a classic dark boat ride featuring state of the art animatronics and a number of dicey cultural stereotypes.  Also fiber optic fireworks on the ceiling.  Very cool, although not as pretty as the fireworks in our headboards!  Maybe I should have called them Headboard Nails.  Although in retrospect, that might attract a very different kind of reader than the kind I’m typically used to…

Fireworks Beds

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Takin’ My Time on My Ride

There’s truly nothing more attractive than an on-ride photo, is there?  Those are the pictures theme parks snap of you at the minute and a half mark of a two minute ride when your hair is either all up in your face or swept back like you’ve been electrocuted, or maybe you nearly tossed your cookies three loops back and now you’re hanging on for nauseatingly dear life.  I have a particular knack for emerging from all rides looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger on Mars in Total Recall.  As a society, we should really begin using these photos for our government-issued ID; it would certainly beat the “Hello, I’m a blank psychopath!” pics currently in circulation, would it not?

But back to life on Mars.  The other day I discussed the Memory Maker photography package my husband and I purchased during our Christmastime trip to Disney World.  This package afforded us unlimited digital access to the hundreds upon hundreds of photos we had taken of us by Disney’s official in-park photographers, as well as the character meet-and-greets and, of course, these laugh-inducing on-ride pics.  Next year’s Christmas card is legitimately a toss-up between the one where I’m pretending to Force-lift Mr. Finger Candy into the air (or am I pretending…?) and this one on Space Mountain where he looks like he’s about to hurl into his tri-cornered pirate hat.

On Ride Space Mountain

To be fair to my husband, who looks to be in far worse shape than I in that picture, Space Mountain, an indoor roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom that takes place in hugely disorienting near-darkness, is a rough, rough ride.  “Um, Sandra,” you may be saying to yourself, “didn’t you say at Halloween that Space Mountain kicked your ass so hard, you’d never ride it again?”  Hey, you sound just like my mom, who rightfully questioned whether her daughter and son-in-law had terrifically short memories, or were just a couple of idiot masochists.  Little from column A, little from column B, I think!

We did it all over again the following day at Hollywood Studios with a first-thing-in-the-morning ride of Aerosmith’s Rock’n’ Roller Coaster, presented by Hanes.  Mr. Finger Candy and I have concluded that they are the Rock’n’ Roller Coaster’s sponsor primarily because if you aren’t ready for that 0-60 MPH in 2.8-second launch, you’re probably going to shit yourself and will absolutely need an additional pair of Hanes.  And here’s where we get into that Arnold Schwarzenegger thing.  Like, where even ARE my eyes?!

On Ride Rockin Roller Coaster

I redeemed my cool outside somewhat by paying homage to Steven Tyler’s formerly missing fingers.  Bit of an inside Disney joke here – in a little pre-ride show segment, the band addresses you, the audience, noting that they’d like to bring all 50 or so of you along to their upcoming show, but there’s just not enough room in the limo.  That’s when Steven Tyler, struck with inspiration, throws up an enthusiastic Sign of the Devil (you know them better as metal devil hands; see above) and declares that they’re gonna need a super-super-super stretch limo, and extra quick.  I’ve never paid a bit of attention to the gesture beyond “Oh, that kooky Steven Tyler” and I never really thought anyone else did either, but apparently Disney thought enough about it that after something like 15 years of Steven Tyler rawkin’ out, they digitally added in two new middle fingers three or four years ago.  Lame.  Unclench just a smidge, Disney, it would do you some good.

Rock'n' Roller Coaster

As always, Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom was good for a hosing.  There are these adorable warnings posted all throughout the line suggesting that you MAY get wet, like it’s not some sort of foregone conclusion when your boat arrives and you sit down straight into the two inches of water the previous occupants left behind.  Also when you’ve been condemned to the front row of a flume ride that concludes with a 52-foot nosedive into a brier patch.  We got soaked!

Splash Mountain Collage

Here I am on Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom practicing a wise friend’s advice that if you’re screaming, you can’t throw up.

On Ride Expedition Everest

I came perilously close to disproving that theory, however.  Turns out this pretty hardcore coaster, a first-time ride for both of us (which concludes with a huge Yeti animatronic swooping down from the cavern ceilings) GOES BACKWARDS for what is probably only 10 seconds, but really feels more like two hours.  I don’t backwards bueno AT ALL, and neither does my husband, who later told me that he thought we were going to go upside down whilst still hurtling backwards.  Just typing that is making me feel ill. 😦 Here we are beforehand posing by Fauxverest in a cute enhanced photo.  Look how confident and oblivious and not vomiting we look!  We just have no idea what we’re walking into.

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Here we are riding Frozen Ever After at Epcot, which also goes backwards, although I submit it’s far more pleasant toodling backwards along a gentle boat ride based off a beloved animated movie than it is hurtling (or is that hurling?) through the semi-darkness in reverse at 45 MPH.  Just one nauseated person’s opinion (I regrettably had a lot of trouble this trip with motion sickness, a surprisingly unwelcome new addition to my aging constitution.)  Frozen Ever After was great (the Elsa and Anna projection animatronics were jaw-droppingly next level) but short, short, short!  Maybe a minute and 45 seconds from start to finish?  That’s perhaps a tad too short to justify this ride’s perpetual two-hour wait times.  I’d say outside of Flight of Passage at the Animal Kingdom, Frozen Ever After is Disney’s second most popular attraction.  I managed to make 9:40 pm FastPasses for this one, and I was glad to have them.

On Ride Frozen

And now how about a little Terror time?  The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an old favourite, more so now that you receive these cool after-ride videos!  We had an awesome elevator full of fellow doomed souls on our way to the Twilight Zone – everybody was having a goofy good time (look at the guy on the left who’s thrown himself up against the back wall!) and nobody’s shrieking or flipping off the camera (that’s the number one way to get kicked out of the parks, by the way.  I thought it would have been having sex behind the little Dutch kids on It’s a Small World, although neither seems advisable.)

It’s also one of the most gorgeous buildings on property.  On Christmas Eve when we visited, the early morning mist was just beginning to clear around the top of the building; it was breathtakingly gloomy.

I’ve no idea why this picture from Pirates of the Caribbean is surrounded by this ornate frame, but it really adds to my laid back swagger and my husband’s enthusiastic “Yaaaarrrr!” (which yes, is coming across here sort of like he maybe recently ate too much cheese.)  The frame also takes away from the fact that that cool skeleton captain in the background is a real animatronic, and a badass one at that.  I was sort of afraid of that thing when I was a kid; way more scared of it than anything I encountered on the Haunted Mansion.

Getting cocky on dual rides of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

And finally, here I am getting flashy with my hands on Dinosaur at the Animal Kingdom.  I know exactly where the camera is on this ride, and I wanted to do my very best impression of a terrified movie heroine, but my timing was off by a fraction of a second.  Too much windup!

I hope you enjoyed this peek at some of the on-ride fun we had on our Disney vacation.  That is if you’ve stopped laughing at the myriad of elongated insanity faces I can apparently make over the course of five-plus days.  Thanks for sharing in the magic. 🙂

Dining at Disney, Part I

I think the general belief when it comes to Disney cuisine is that it comes in two – heh – flavours: Expensive, or churros (or Premium Mickey Bars, or turkey legs, or Dole Whip, or Mickey pretzels, or popcorn – lots of snacks ’round the parks.)  Sometimes it can be both; this dinky little cup of Dole Whip (an iconic Disney dish, and I do not know why, because it’s nothing more than pineapple-flavoured soft serve) was $7!

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But it doesn’t always have to be uninspired park fare.  Although it will always be expensive, because there is no other way at Disney.  However, even after making your peace with the fact that theme park pricing does not in any way resemble our Earth pricing, a $7 cup of ice cream is still a tough nut to crack (I was going to go with the slightly more food-friendly idiom of “bitter pill to swallow,” but this sweet, tropical soft serve was actually quite easy to swallow.) 😉

From a cost perspective, there are a number of dining plans available through Disney; I saw a lot of families with young children taking advantage of the counter service options (I suppose when your little one will only eat chicken fingers or mac and cheese, there’s not much point in going with a more fulsome and varied table service plan.)  Mr. Finger Candy and I have never availed ourselves of one of these plans before.  We looked into it briefly as we were planning this Christmas trip, but ultimately concluded that owing to our eating habits, as well as the rather lengthy list of new-to-us restaurants we wanted to try, we’d be better off going our own way.

And as we were marveling the other day, we actually did better than better, enjoying one of those ultra rare vacations where every dining experience was a winner.  There isn’t a single thing we ate, save perhaps that $7 Dole Whip, that I thought afterwards, “Aargh, I really wish I hadn’t wasted money and/or calories on that.”  Winner winner, excellent dinners!  And so in a sea of memorable meals, here are some of the highlights from our trip.

Breakfast and Dinner at Be Our Guest

Lumiere

Fun fact about Mr. Finger Candy?  He loves Beauty and the Beast, and he loves eating at Be Our Guest, a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, even more.  We kicked off the first park day of our trip with an early morning breakfast reservation (you don’t always need reservations to get a table at this very popular restaurant, but I wouldn’t chance it during the holidays.)  When we visited Be Our Guest at Halloween, we dined in the West Wing.  This time we nabbed a cozy table over by the grand ballroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows, outside of which gently falling snow drifted down onto a craggy, snow-peaked mountain scape.

Be Our Guest Collage Again

Be Our Guest 2

As at Halloween, I enjoyed the Feast a La Gaston, your standard (but quite yummy) bacon, egg and roasted potatoes platter.  Also going with the same delicious order he had last time (Croque Madame Without the Ham, as we call it) was my husband, who…who just is.  Man, I don’t even know with this guy sometimes!  Also, this is absolutely not the last photo you will see of him shoving a plate of food directly into his face, usually to the total amusement of everyone around us.

Be Our Guest 4

Then late on Christmas Day (10 pm!) we returned to Be Our Guest for an intimate, French-inspired meal hosted by the Beast himself.  Quite hospitable for a reclusive shut-in, really.

Be Our Guest Evening

Dinner at Be Our Guest is a bit of a different experience than breakfast, which falls under the quick service banner.  Dinner is a proper table service meal overseen by a fussily attentive waiter.  Everything feels quite lovely and luxurious, even if you’re sitting there in dorky mouse ears, half-comatose from having spent the past 15 hours running around a theme park, holding a rose-shaped napkin.

Be Our Guest Dinner

After dinner (herb butter-topped steak frites for me, a lovely little cheese plate and a salad for my far-more-responsible-than-I husband) we tried the Grey Stuff!  And it was…all right, I guess?!  Wait, I don’t think that’s the right answer.  I believe the dishes would say it’s delicious, but I thought this cookies and cream-flavoured flan was just sort of okay.  I am, of course, the completely wrong person to assess the merits of a dessert; not much of a sweet tooth, me.  Sorry, dishes. 😦

The Grey Stuff

Then after dessert the lord of the castle himself received us in his study!  My husband bowed and I curtsied.  Not the least bit ashamed to out ourselves as massive wieners here. 🙂

Dinner with the Beast

Dinner and Drinks at La Hacienda de San Angel

With a bit of an emphasis on the “drinks” part of that title. 😉  Not that dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel, housed in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot, was not stupendous on its own merits.  I absolutely loved the taco sampler I ordered, particularly the crispy fish and barbacoa tacos, and Mr. Finger Candy is never not pleased with any place that considers a skillet of melted cheese and peppers to be an acceptable thing to eat as an entree.  Queso Fundido, it’s what’s for dinner!

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Oh, but the drinks…so despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m not much of a drinker.  I’ve never been great at holding my liquor (my intoxication trajectory, if you will, is pretty much a straight up and down line) and as I’ve gotten older, I find it’s a buzz I just don’t care to seek out that often.  But I do love the taste of alcohol (wood barreled things in particular) and when we dine out (which in our non-Disney life we do very, very infrequently) there’s nearly always a delicious-sounding cocktail that catches my eye.

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And so it went at La Hacienda de San Angel, where I ordered an absolutely fan-freakin-tastic Orange Mango Fire margarita to accompany my meal, only to find myself, some hours and two additional margaritas later, attempting to parkour off the bridge leading to “Old Montreal” in the Canada pavilion.  It did not go well!

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I blame the Orange Mango Fire margaritas, which were far, far, far too delicious and absolutely lethal.  Somehow not as bonkers as the Habanero Lime margarita I enjoyed from Boatwright’s the first night we were at our resort (I took a sip and slapped myself across the face) but quite close!  Disney cocktails don’t screw around, particularly the ones laced with ginger liqueur, Tabasco sauce and Tajin chili-lime seasoning.

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Seriously, this juicy, fruity, sweet-and-heat cocktail was so absorbing (more like being absorbed into my bloodstream) I barely noticed the gorgeous sunset taking place right outside the lagoon-facing windows.  Next time we visit we’re going to see if we can time our dinner reservations to Illuminations, Epcot’s evening fireworks show that takes place right over top of the lagoon.  Also not get so tispy that we fail to notice that day has turned to night.

San Angel Sunset

After dinner we salsa’d our way out of the restaurante and directly over to the Choza de Margarita, an outdoor margarita stand roughly 20 Latin dance-infused steps away from the San Angel.  There we grabbed another on-the-rocks marg, this time a Guava Pink Peppercorn margarita (I’ve really got a thing for the spicy and sweet, tequila-based cocktails, don’t I?) and set out on a leisurely stroll around the World Showcase (because you can do that now, just wander around Disney with open alcohol; my, how the times have changed in the era of Food and Wine.)

But all margaritas and then even more margaritas make Sandra something something, so we stopped for a wee sit-down and a giggle in front of the Epcot Christmas tree.  This is actually one of my favourite moments of our trip – squiffed at Disney, sitting on a bench with my husband in front of a 30-foot Christmas tree in a short sleeved tee on Boxing Day, giggling our butts off.  Okay, so he has abysmal table manners.  But we do have fun. 🙂

Drunk at Disney Collage

I think I’m going to leave things off right here for this first installment of Drunk Dining at Disney. 😉  Join me next time, won’t you please, as I talk about the amazing Christmas Eve dinner we enjoyed at the 50s Prime Time Cafe and more drinks, drinks, dranks at our favourite Florida hangout, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.  Until then, bon appetit!  Oh, and cheers!

Manatee Mani (31DC2014)

A Manatee ManiThe general consensus on water marbling, the aggravatingly hit-or-miss nail art technique, is that it sucks, so take pity on the poor nail artist in your life who is soldiering away at the 31 Day Nail Art Challenge right now, because today’s theme is water marbling. The hows and whys of its suckage are vast and varied (it’s messy, time consuming, wasteful and fussy) and unless you’re preternaturally gifted at the art of coaxing intricate designs out of nail polish floating on the surface of water, a crazy act in and of itself, nine times out of 10 you’re going to have major difficulty.

So recognizing my own limitations when it comes to water marbling, I decided to forgo the struggle and make what I knew was going to be a flawed effort work for me. I started off thinking that I’d like my water marble to indeed look quite watery. The free form nature of tides and waves is a perfect fit for my highly imprecise water marbling skills, and the occasional tiny bubble, the result of insufficiently “quiet” water (really), just adds to the underwater effect. Using similarly toned colours in a few different finishes (here I’ve got a turquoise-hued duochrome and a shimmery frost over a sea blue metallic) also made things easier, as the polishes almost bleed into one another, blurring any harsh edges or glaring imperfections. Finally, in keeping with my Disney mani sub-challenge, I chose a favourite water-based Disney attraction, The Living Seas at Epcot, to inspire a bit of nail art in the form of one deranged looking manatee on my ring finger. I also added one well camouflaged hidden Mickey somewhere amongst that watery looking water marble, just to keep things squarely on the right side of my Disneyfied, make-work-for-myself sub-challenge.

A word about The Living Seas, which since the last time I visited has been rebranded as The Seas with Nemo and Friends: It’s awesome, and one of the loveliest, coolest, quietest places in the whole park to unwind as you watch fat, farting manatees for an hour and a half, much like my husband and I did on our honeymoon. Burnt out from a solid week of theme parking and finding ourselves on the wrong side of the safety warnings on Mission to Mars (actually, that was just me; my husband was fine, but I came ever so close to having to use the on-ride vomit bag – a first), we weren’t up for much more than just sitting quietly before the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked into the manatee area, calmly watching one old, heavily scarred manatee and his buddy contentedly toot and float and otherwise act like the most adorable, gentle sweeethearts in the seas. It’s one of my favourite memories from our honeymoon, actually. That and the Night of the Banging Geckos, but that’s a perverted animal story for another time. 🙂

Spaceship Earth (31DC2014)

Spaceship EarthDid you know that’s the name of the giant geodesic sphere at Disney’s Epcot theme park? I knew that was the name of the stunningly boring and kind of creepy ride that resides within the sphere (it’s a super slow moving, 25-minute journey through the history of human interaction and communication, complete with dead-eyed animatronic figures that will haunt your dreams, and riding it is basically an excuse to sit on your butt in air conditioned darkness for half an hour), although I had no idea that was the name of the sphere as a whole. Which is information I could have used before I did a Google search for “big Epcot ball” that led me down some very dark Disney paths! For real, some Disney fans are fur-eeks, man.

I was inspired to do these freehanded Spaceship Earth nails by day eight’s theme of metallic in the 31 Day Nail Art Challenge. My nail art pen (name withheld) was misbehaving, as always (I haven’t had a whole lot of luck with nail art pens, although you can’t beat them for precision) but despite that, I’m especially proud of the detail work I did on my index, middle and pinkie fingers where I tried to capture a bit of the sphere’s triangle-studded (and – trivia alert! – water draining) surface.