Disney World Blitz: Parklife Part III

“They see me ridin’/my Buggy/Magic Kingdom ’cause I’m just a nerdy girl at Disney/just a nerdy girl at Disney/look at me, I’m a nerd at Disney!”  No, not how that song goes?  Huh, strange. 😉

Welcome, friends, to the third and penultimate installment of my is-it-ever-going-to-end? series on our recent anniversary trip to Disney World.  Today we finally get down to the good stuff, the rides!  If you’re at all interested in hearing me blather on about our stupendously gorgeous accommodations and the tasty nibbles we picked up whilst running the theme park gauntlet, you can find those posts here and here.

Outside the Mansion

First, as detailed in this post, we rode the Haunted Mansion 13 times on our 13th wedding anniversary, which falls on Halloween.  HUGE, crazy accomplishment, this – a lifetime bucket list item nicely checked off (one that’s been cooling its heels on my list since I was a wee, weird little lass of just two years old.)  We actually rode the Mansion 16 times over two days.  It’s my favourite spot on the planet; sounds a bit a lot strange, but nestled in the dark in a jittering little Doom Buggy, passing the hall of endless staircases as the Ghost Host intones not-so-dire warnings about the restless spooks who inhabit the Mansion, I am complete.  Giant goober alert here, but our last ride, I cried.  It all felt very overwhelming.  See, Disney nerd!

That was our second day at the Magic Kingdom.  Thirteen runs through the Haunted Mansion ate up the majority of the day, but we did find time to squeeze in a couple of non-Mansion rides, in addition to a mid-day repast at Gaston’s Tavern.  I wish the big tool himself had made an appearance; Gaston’s just the worst, and I love him for it.  But this lady waits for no man, not even the super bulgy, dim bulb variety, and I had places to be, bucket lists to conquer!  Next time, Gaston, next time.  Maybe we’ll even sit in your chair together.

Throne Alone

But our first day at the Magic Kingdom, we hit it HARD – 8 am to 11 pm, TAKE! NO! PRISONERS!  You know, except for the 40 minutes or so we were held hostage on a broken-down Pirates of the Caribbean, but more on that (surprisingly fun adventure) in the next, final installment!

Smudge Out Castle Shot

Our first day at the Magic Kingdom we banged out 17 rides.  We also dropped in on a couple of stage shows, caught the midday parade, watched most of the evening’s fireworks display, shopped up and down Main Street, got stuck on Pirates for the better part of an hour AND made our inaugural visit to Gaston’s.  So how did we cram all that fun into one day?  Well, here’s a few tips:

1: Be as serious about your footwear AND care as Lieutenant Dan screaming into Forrest’s face about fresh socks.  You won’t get anywhere if you’re hobbling around with sweaty, blistered tootsies, so plan ahead and pre-game your feet – comfy shoes (Vans for me, Chucks for the Mr.) and adhesive callous pads applied to known trouble areas kept us up and comfortably pounding the pavement from rope drop to park close.

2: Abandon any notion of sleep or peace or rest.  That goes double for you lazy sods all crashed out in the middle of the day on the Hub grass.  You’re at Disney – why are you napping?!  Just come to terms with the fact that to experience all that Disney has to offer, you’re going to have to temporarily sacrifice the routines and comforts of home.  We certainly did – I don’t know what else you call being up and on your feet from park open (8 am!) to close (11 pm the first day) each day.  Bonkers?  Yeah, that works!

487

3: Work those FastPasses.  Disney hands out a large – but limited – number of jump-the-line passes every day for nearly every attraction in the park.  You can book three FastPasses per attraction, per guest, per day; a particularly useful little perk for those rides with stubbornly long wait times (Peter Pan’s Flight, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) that hold fast throughout the day.  And not everyone knows this, but after you’ve used your third and final FastPass of the day, you can then begin booking additional FastPasses, one at a time.  And once you’ve used up that fourth FastPass, you can then book a fifth, and so on, until they’re shooing you out the front gates with brooms!

4: Most importantly, stay flexible.  If you roll up to the Mine Train at 9 am to find it offline, with a two-plus hour lineup already snaking around the entirety of the ride, say, “Oh, bugger this, we’re not starting our first day in a friggin’ two-hour lineup!” (actual quote) and move on.  With the exception of one 30-minute wait for the Mansion on Halloween, we never waited any longer than 15 or 20 minutes for any ride, and many of them were virtual walk-ons.  But we maximized our ride time precisely because we were willing to move – as in move on to something with a slightly more manageable wait time.  And invariably, we’d come back a short while later to find the wait time halved or better.  This is also how we wound up walking at least seven miles our first day; we crisscrossed the park more times than I can count!

Magic Kingdom Docs

5: Also, in as much as you can, stay out of the sun, particularly if you are of pasty, Celtic-Canadian descent.  I ended our first day at the Magic Kingdom with a chest redder than Sebastian the crab and Merida’s hair combined.  Wear sunscreen.  Buy some dorky matching hats, if you must (and we really did!)

Need Sunscreen

Jack and Sally Hats

Okay, so it would seem I didn’t actually get around to really talking about any of the rides this time, but I think I’ve given you a good overview of how we accomplished so very much in such a short amount of time (“Really dragging this out, ain’t you?” some of you may be thinking.  And the answer is yes, YES, I AM!  I had the very best time on this impromptu little trip, and I’m going to storytell it into the ground, yo.)  Next time – the last time, though definitely not the last Disney time – we finally go ridin’!

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Disney World Blitz: Parklife Part I

Sick of hearing about my recent whirlwind, spur-of-the-moment anniversary trip to Disney World?  Too bad, ’cause you’re getting more!  A lot more, actually.  This was our amazingly fun trip, in a few different installments.

First, we shall never speak of the flights – both those to and from Philadelphia and then on to Orlando and home – ever again, beyond noting that my husband is really too tall for cattle class, and I’m now apparently that woman that sits there in an ice cold sweat, thousand yard stare barely registering over the edge of an at-the-ready vomit bag.  Truly one of my life’s great fears, guys, getting physically ill in public, and I was *right* on the verge of it for five-plus hours.  Je n’aime pas.

Resort Collage

But do you know what I aime‘d very much?  Our absolutely gorgeous accommodations, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort.  I stayed on-property about 20 years ago – one of the value resorts, and it was serviceable, though nothing special – but the Port Orleans experience was something else altogether.

It goes a little something like this: Book yourself into a Disney resort, and from the moment you step off the plane in Orlando and check in with an always-friendly cast member (that’s what they’re called, cast members) Disney takes care of the rest.  You’ll be ushered aboard a waiting bus, part of the Magical Express fleet, by a relentlessly – yet somehow still genuinely – upbeat dude, who will congratulate you with high-fives on your 13th wedding anniversary.  You’ll think your face might break from grinning so hard.  You’ll take goofy (Goofy?) couple selfies that match the ones you took on your honeymoon 13 years earlier.

Then and Now Collage

Your driver will then usher you and a busload of your new! best! friends! (because you’re all goin’ to Disney, yaaaayyyyy!) to your resort, where you will stand gobsmacked beneath a gorgeous raftered cupola while your husband immediately steps off the bus and begins petting a horse, before charging over to you, declaring that you just gotta get over there and see that bucket of manure!  What the hell, man?!  You’re so weird. 🙂

Will and the Horse

The resort was stupendously gorgeous, impeccably themed and absolutely spotless.  There were something like 10 different restaurants on property, six pools, an early morning fishing hole, a running path and half-hourly boats to and from Disney Springs, Disney’s shopping and entertainment district.  The first night we were there we took a wonderful, albeit freezing, in-the-dark boat ride down the Sassagoula River to Disney Springs for dinner at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming.  Snuggled together for warmth, bobbing down the river as jazz music drifted from the speakers and the resort’s sister site, the French Quarter, drifted by, it was the perfect way to kick off our little trip. 🙂

Down By the Dock

We didn’t spend a ton of time at our resort using its impressive assortment of amenities, but we popped in on the fun from time to time.  The night we arrived they were hosting a cool BBQ fest out by the sawmill and down by the docks, and when we returned from our dinner much later that evening, they were just wrapping up a Halloween dance party.  And on Halloween night itself, they had candy stations set up along the resort’s considerable network of paths for kids and old kids alike to get their mini Snickers fix.  And the candy-hunters probably cleaned up, too; the resort was absolutely massive.  Here’s the map the woman at check-in handed us with directions on how to get to our room.  Directions.  To our room!

Resort Map

I took precious few photos of the interior of our room because we were hardly ever there (we slept just 16 hours in four days) but I assure you it was as beautifully appointed as the exterior.  Our corner room featured an inviting little window seat, log frame beds, grain sack curtains, carpet printed to look like roughhewn floorboards, lantern light fixtures, two Queen beds outfitted in ultra soft and luxurious linens and 48 solid hours of Hocus Pocus on one of the innumerable Disney television channels.  Our room even came with a raccoon, a chubby little devil that saucily waddled across our porch in welcome.  It seemed quite fitting that two Canadians were being greeted in the faux Louisiana bayou by an animal that shows up in my parents’ Ontario backyard nearly every night.

Our Room Collage

Speaking of entering your room, that is done via MagicBand, Disney’s RFID-based tracker tech.  When you book a Disney vacation and stay at one of their resorts, you’ll be sent your MagicBands – which you will use for everything from getting around your resort, to entering the parks, to setting up dinner reservations and FastPasses, to paying for purchases – a few weeks before your trip.  If you plan and book your vacation with two days to spare like we did, you’ll be given your Bands at check-in!  And if you lose your MagicBand the first afternoon you’re in the park, like my husband did, they’ll give you a temporary card at Guest Services, and then a replacement MagicBand back at the hotel later that evening (the pink was Mr. Finger Candy’s stylish choice.)

Magic Bands

Visiting the Magic Kingdom’s Guest Services centre was a Disney first for me, and our minor issue was dealt with with all the efficiency and friendliness you come to expect from Disney.  We even snagged these cool celebration buttons – another Disney first! – honouring both our anniversary and our individual lifetime trips (just entered double digits, I did.)  When you wear them around the parks, random cast members will just shout out congratulations and other tidings of goodwill as you pass; it’s really cute.

Celebration Pins

Think we’ll leave things off there for this first installment.  For such a little trip – just an intense few days! – there’s so much more to discuss, including the food we ate, a very cool experience at Be Our Guest, and, of course, our two fabulous days at the Magic Kingdom.  Thank you for sharing in the fun, and I hope you’ll join me as I continue to dance down Recent Memory Lane in a cloud of post-vacation happiness. 🙂

September Band of Bloggers

BoB Sept 2017

Welcome back to the September Band of Bloggers! It’s that time of year again. School is starting back up. Trees are starting to turn. North America is recovering from the apocalypse brought on by the eclipse. Wait, what?

The eclipse that visited most of the United States on August 21st has been described as a once in a lifetime experience. The next eclipse to cover the US from coast to coast will not come until 2045.

That brings us to our question this month. What is your once in a lifetime experience?

Fifteen or so years ago (so another lifetime; in the case of my friends with children, many lifetimes) I was floundering.  Fresh off a journalism degree I wasn’t using and wracked with grief over the end of a four-year romantic relationship, I had moved downtown with some dear high school friends for a fresh start.  Except (probably much to the annoyance of my friends) I was having a terrible time starting over, at least for the first couple of months.  I’ve always been one of those serial monogamy types, and this was the first time since I had started dating at 16 that I didn’t have a boyfriend.  That the relationship had never been a grand one was totally besides the point, and despite the best efforts of my too-patient pals and parents, I was determined to be lonely and miserable, and I was obviously going to die alone and then be eaten by wild dogs.  It was all so very Bridget Jones.  I clearly needed to get the hell out of town.

At the time I was working as a court reporter.  Bored, terminally frumpy woman (they’re always women) clacking away in the corner of the courtroom?  That was me (except I liked to think I was fashionably frumpy.)  I worked out of an office that acted as a sort of neutral courtroom for the lawyers and their clients doing pre-trial examinations – that’s the deeply boring, paperwork-intensive side of the law.  They’d also frequently send reporters on out-of-office cases to such exotic locales as three blocks away, but sometimes to places a bit farther flung.

And THAT is how I wound up standing in the pitch black, -25 degree chill of a frozen Iqaluit afternoon three days before Christmas, contemplating the seriousness of the gigantic “DO NOT FEED THE POLAR BEARS!” sign that greeted me on arrival.

Iqaluit, for the unaware (and that would be everybody; Canadians barely know it’s there) is the capital city of Nunavut, a territory in the far north that used to go by the name Frobisher Bay.  It’s Nunavut’s largest city – nay, its ONLY city – and bears a population of about 7,500 people, most of them employees of the Government of Canada (that’s why I was there, to take the testimony of some people involved in a lawsuit with the GOC.) Despite sitting well outside the Arctic Circle, Iqaluit’s climate is a tundra one – lots of snow, little vegetation and no trees (the permafrost won’t allow their roots to take hold.) During the winter months (so everything that’s not June, July and August) it’s not unusual for the temperatures to dip into the -30s or -40s, and when I was there at the end of December, the sun had set to full black by two in the afternoon.  There is an ice road that leads out of town that is literally called The Road to Nowhere.  It is, by virtue of the unforgiving climate and its remoteness, a rather ugly city.  Also, there are apparently polar bears, and we are not to feed them.

Road to Nowhere

So what once-in-a-lifetime things does a fish out of Ontario water do when she’s thrown head-first into the frozen, turquoise waters of the far north?

Well, I did my job, for one, but even that came with its own “Only in Iqaluit” moments, such as when I stood outside the courthouse in the deep, snow-muffled silence of an early Arctic morn, sharing a cup of coffee with the courthouse clerk as he explained how this frozen spit of land had captured his formerly city-dwelling heart.  Or when I glanced out the window of the courtroom later on that day and saw a mangy dog dragging a severed caribou head down the street.

Three photos

In hindsight, the entire trip was an exercise in surrealism.  My flight in was a delight, the likes of which I will probably never enjoy again – totally empty plane, save for maybe nine other passengers, three seats to myself, a really fantastic lunch, nice little post-nosh tipple(s) and a low, low approaching altitude that allowed me to gaze out the window at the wonder of all that neon turquoise water showing through the cracks in the ice and snow.

I walked the town in snowpants and Kodiak boots for three hours until I realized I had already seen everything.  I bought a $9 bag of potato chips at the North Mart (not making light of the very real problem of food deserts in the far north.)  I stood in a 6 a.m., two-person scrum (which itself was considered quite the turnout) as an accused murderer was brought to the courthouse.  I watched the sun rise at 10 am, cutting a weak, low path across the horizon, before setting to pitch blackness again three hours later.  I sat in my hotel room one night, blissfully crunching overpriced chips and watching silly teen movies on cable, and put together a scrapbook gift for a friend.  Every cab ride in the city cost $5, no matter where you were going or how long you were in the vehicle.  I shared a delicious breakfast of Arctic Char eggs benedict with a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in the diningroom of a four-star hotel at 6:30 in the morning.  Later on that day we marched up to the Subway together for lunch; at the time it was the best performing franchise in Canada, and was a top five contender for all of North America.

Hotel

On the day I headed out of town, two days before Christmas, I joined a city-wide exodus of bureaucrats fleeing the frozen north for (barely) warmer holiday climes down south. It seemed like the entire city emptied out in about five hours.  After checking my bags and securing my seat home, I spent those five hours in a nearby coffee shop/karaoke parlour/tanning salon, where I sipped tea, ate a scrumptious blueberry scone and contemplated asking the proprietors if they’d be willing to rename their establishment the Fake ‘n’ Bakery.

On the flight home – no empty plane this time, that’s for sure – through a massive snowstorm, I experienced turbulence so extreme, I really thought my end had come.  I suppose that’s normal when your plane is bucking wildly from side to side and dropping what feels like 20 feet at a time.  Also when the cargo hold is packed full of howling dogs and screaming cats and the flight attendants suspend all food service when your chicken cordon bleu flies up to the ceiling and then just sticks there.

My favourite part of the trip, though?  Like everybody, coming home.  Seeing my parents’ smiling, relieved faces at the airport, and then walking through the door of my apartment late on the evening of the 23rd to find that my friends had prepared an amazing holiday dinner and decorated the molting ficus.  Home really is where the heart is.  No place like it, as Dorothy might say.

Christmas on Cooper

That, coincidentally, was the moment I decided to drop my whole “woe is me” romantic bullshit and rejoin the human race as something other than a mopey dick.  The people I loved were making every effort to boost my fragile self-esteem, and I could certainly do likewise.  Besides, I had just conquered the far north!  Severed caribou heads, man – that kind of thing changes a person!  Four fun-filled, glorious, halcyon months later I met Mr. Finger Candy, and the rest is happy history.

So there we have it, that once-in-a-lifetime event that I was actually fortunate enough to experience firsthand.  Never saw a single polar bear, though. 😉

If you’d like to play along at home, please feel free to answer this question in the comment section below, and we hope you’ll visit these Band of Blogger blogs and help support the blogger community!

Amanda at Thrifty Polished

Jaybird at The Candle Enthusiast

Julie at The Redolent Mermaid

Lauren at LoloLovesScents

Liz at Furianne

Sandra – me! – at Finger Candy

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