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31 December 2010 @ 11:59 pm
The Florida Adventure: Day Five  
We woke up super, super early this morning. We had to - it's New Year's Eve! Disney's parks fill up to capacity today! I expected insane crowds, so I figured that if Seanie and I wanted to go on any rides at all, our only hope was to do them while everyone else was still fast asleep.

As we walked through the Caribbean Beach Resort, on our way to the Customs House to pick up a pair of 'Just Engaged' buttons, Seanie spotted several hammocks dotting the beaches scattered throughout the resort. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. Sean LOVES hammocks; I had to get a picture of him jumping into one:


Sean and the Hammock: A Love Story

But no time for relaxation - on to the parks!  We had decided to go back to Epcot today in an attempt at crowd control - since it's the largest park, with the widest boulevards, it was my hope that we would avoid being smooshed by the crowds.

When we got off the Disney shuttle, we made straight for Soarin' - it's our favorite ride at California Adventure, and I'd heard that the line gets long, fast.  It was crazy - we got there first thing in the morning, and the Fast Passes for Soarin' were practically gone.  We snagged two of the last ones for 11:25 pm.   Is that nuts or what?

Much of that morning was spent riding boats.  We went on the following:
Living with the Land: A ride about farming?   REALLY? This was so much cooler than I expected.  Yeah, the beginning of the ride was pretty hokey - you float down a river through some dusty dioramas of the American Midwest.  BORING.  But the second half of the ride takes you into a series of greenhouses, where scientists are growing all sorts of exotic and strange plants.  Fruit and vegetables that grow in mid-air instead of underground, for example, or HUGE tomato trees, or Mickey-shaped pumpkins...it was just crazy to see all this science-type work going on in the middle of a theme park.

Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballeros: When you first climb into your boat, you drift in the dark by a huge pyramid.  It looks really cool.  "All right!" I thought as we drifted along, "We're gonna see some sights!!!"  Eh...not so much, it turns out.  The pyramid's the most impressive part of this ride, hands down.  The Gran Fiesta Tour was recently refurbished to star Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles and Jose Carioca.  Donald, it seems, has wandered off somewhere so Panchito and Jose have to find him.  Along the way, they take riders on a tour of Mexico.  Animation of the three characters is played over footage of Mexico's most famous sites.  In some areas, It's A Small World-like dolls line the walls.  Not the greatest ride, but it's pretty and at least you do something, unlike most of the Pavilion attractions.


Maelstrom: What a weird ride.  You start out in a boat - again, always cool - and float through a rather cheesy-looking series of scenes featuring Vikings, forests filled with trolls, and...oil rigs???  Very weird, Norway!  There's some cool aspects to the ride, like a backwards waterfall, but at the end there's an educational film talking about how wonderful Norway is.  The contrast between fun ride and educational film makes for a weird visit.

By the time we disembarked from Maelstrom, most of the ride lines were over an hour long.  No thanks!  Seanie and I opted to watch a series of films instead:

Reflections of China: China makes the most of its beautiful country in this film; it made me want to hop on a plane RIGHT NOW and fly to China so I can climb all over the Great Wall and The Forbidden City.  CircleVision movie theaters sure are weird...I was never sure which way I should be looking.

Impressions de France: Wow, France.  Way to make a boring film.  I guess that's pretty mean, but seriously, the film looked dated and didn't seem very interested in enticing viewers into learning more about France.  "We're France, we're great, now shut up and go away."

O, Canada: Oh, Canada, indeed.  You have such a weird sense of humor.  I actually liked Canada's little film, even though I have no idea who Martin Short is, or what films I could have possibly seen him in.  (Apparently, he was in Arrested Development.  Huh.)

Watching the movies wasn't the most exciting way to spend NEW YEAR'S EVE, but since Seanie and I were trying to dodge crowds it was a good strategy overall.

In the early afternoon, we ate at The Rose & Crown over in the United Kingdom Pavilion.  I totally messed up our reservations time - we had a lunch table at 12:20 but we showed up at 1:20 - but they were very kind and seated us anyway.  I had a Scotch Egg and salad while Seanie enjoyed Shepherd's Pie.  Our server was this totally adorable Scottish guy who just seemed so happy; pretty amazing considering how crazy hard he must have been working.


Scotch Egg


Apple & Stilton Salad



Shepherd's Pie
I also fulfilled a childhood dream by getting my picture taken with Mulan over in the China Pavilion:


Mulan: Why does everyone keep asking me to do this with my hand?

We also watched an acrobatic performance while in China.  It was children performing - the oldest couldn't have been more than ten or twelve, max.  It was a great show, but part of me kept thinking, "Shouldn't these kids be at home, in China, in school?"

Around four o'clock, someone EVIL started handing out free noisemakers to the crowds, and a horrible din began to fill the entire park.  Add the fact that a lot of people had been 'drinking around the world' because each country offered a special New Year's cocktail, and it was a noisy clusterfuck of confusion.  I felt like such an old lady when I turned to Sean and complained that those dang kids were being WAY too noisy.

We happened to be passing the Italian Pavilion just as it hit midnight back home in the REAL Italy.  Instantly, Italianshop and restaurant employees streamed out of their workplaces and ran to the disco that had been set up in the middle of their square.  As we watched, the giddy Italians began dancing in a conga line, celebrating the New Year's back home.


Happy New Year, Italian Style!

We were getting pretty tired, so we found a quiet corner in Morocco and ate our leftovers from lunch.  It was still hours until we could go on Soarin', so we went back to the front of Epcot and waited in line for Spaceship Earth.  After we finished that, we went back to The American Adventure to see the audio-animatronic show.

Spaceship Earth: Not at all what I expected.  For some reason, I thought it would be some sort of science-y space flight.  (I must have been confusing the ride with Mission: Space.)  Instead, the ride is a leisurely stroll through time, looking at dioramas themed around communication.  So we see cavemen painting on cave walls, Greek orators debating with each other, and monks working on manuscripts.  Weird, huh?  I actually really like rides like that, though - Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, after all - so I was pleased.

The American Adventure: I was trying to figure out how such a large cast of actors could put on a half-hour musical constantly at Epcot...it turns out that it isn't so bad when the actors are all animatronic!  This made everything all the more fascinating, because even though you know the actors aren't 'real' they can move so convincing that all I can think is, "How do they do that???"  Animatronic technology has gotten really good over the years!  The version of American history told here is very cheesy and patriotic, which would certainly appeal to Seanie's family.  Heh.  (That's not a dig at them, honest.  His parents really eat that right up.)

At this point, we were so tired we could practically sleep standing in line.  We staggered over to Soarin', and it was awesome.  By then it was only half an hour 'til midnight, but we couldn't make it.  We went back to the hotel so we could go to bed.  Just as we were getting off the shuttle, we realized we could see the midnight fireworks show for Epcot from the hotel!  As we stood there, watching the colorful lights in the sky, I looked left and realized we could see Hollywood Studios' fireworks, too.  A third park - probably Magic Kingdom, I don't think they'd do fireworks at Animal Kingdom - could be seen, too!  So instead of just watching one fireworks show, we saw three.  I got to see tons of rainbow explosions, but since we were back at the hotel we didn't have to fight the crowds of people struggling to leave the park.  It was a perfect end to the day.

Happy New Year's!