Technically, MouseFest 2008 begins tomorrow, December 11th, 2008. But Enchanted Rose and I wanted to get to the Walt Disney World Resort® a day early so we could feel like we got some activities accomplished that didn’t have to be squeezed in around a tight schedule of the MouseFest Activities.
Our day began bright and early at 5:45 AM and we immediately reset the alarm for another 15 minutes. The previous night I had to work pretty late trying to finish up some stuff (which didn’t get done and was tabled until I got back) and good ole Enchanted Rose was doing her best impression of Belle from Beauty and the Beast by having her nose buried in a book, unable to put it down. The book she was reading was the second book in the Twilight series of books. She kept telling me, “one more chapter”. Eventually she put it down and started packing.
Needless to say, we were exhausted when the alarm went off again at 6:00AM. But we quickly threw our toiletries in the luggage that was eagerly waiting by the door and climbed into our freezing vehicle in the garage (it was 22 degrees) and made our way to the airport.
Fortunately, we don’t live far from the airport and were able to get to the parking garage by 6:35AM. We had to look really hard for a parking place, but were eventually successful.
Our trip through security was uneventful and we didn’t have to wait long to get on the Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando which involved a switch of planes at Houston Hobby Airport. The plane seemed to be fairly new. The person on twitter who represents Southwest Airlines swears that the newer planes don’t have rows that are closer together, but I fly a lot, only 5’3”, and have a very athletic frame. So, it’s not normal for me to not be able to keep my elbows in my own space. I felt like I was crammed in there and started to get claustrophobic. Plus, my knees were really close to the seat in front of me.
We had a 1.5 hour layover in Houston which allowed Enchanted Rose to devour a few more pages of her book, Eclipse. We did make a quick stop off at Wendy’s to try and get some breakfast food, but nothing appealed to me. So, I got a medium Coke® which looked like a large when I got it. Enchanted got the French Bread Sticks.
Enchanted Rose bought me a new camera for Christmas. It is a Nikon D300 and it has more buttons and knobs than the control panel of our ride vehicle on Mission: Space. While Enchanted read her book, I decided it was a good time to get out the manual for my camera and external flash unit she bought me and read up on it. After all, I didn’t want to be fumbling along at Walt Disney World. If, at the bear minimum, I could make the same setting adjustments as I did on my old camera, I’d be fine.
Since we were both reading something engrossing, it didn’t take long for our flight boarding time to arrive. Unfortunately, it arrived 20 minutes late because our plane was late arriving from Dallas.
As one would expect, a flight to Orlando would have a lot of children on it. Our flight was no exception and there were quite a few pairs of feuding male siblings which, being one half of a pair myself, knows is par for the course.
Instead of sleeping this leg of the trip, I decided to keep reading my manuals and Enchanted Rose kept reading her book. I noticed that I had a lot more wiggle room in my seat, so I feel justified in my belief that the other plane’s seating areas was built a bit more cramped.
Unfortunately, that large Coke® was working it’s way through my system and it wasn’t easy to get out of the row so I decided to just hold it. Well, that made for a very, very uncomfortable flight since I thought I was going to die.
We eventually arrived to Orlando and I’ve never seen so many people try to rush the front door to get out. There were a lot of excited family going to what I supposed was Walt Disney World®.
The first stop was to the restroom. The second stop was to the baggage claim.
We knew were were back in our second home when we heard the spiel on the tram to the baggage claim area.
I waited for the luggage while Enchanted Rose headed to Alamo to get our rental car.
I didn’t have to wait long because our bag was something like the 3rd or 4th bag off the plane. So, I headed over the rental agency to meet her.
When I got there, quite a line had developed so it was a good thing she went on ahead. But, the line was moving slowly. There were only a couple people working the desk and one person was tied up by a couple who was asking a million and one questions. I think they had never rented a car before.
This time, we were prepared with lots and lots of quarters. When we came to Walt Disney World in September, we got lost and ran out of quarters. Our GPS system, once again didn’t want to lock in on a Satellite but I decided to give the iPhone a shot. It had a bit of trouble locking in on us when we were still in the parking structure.
So, I looked carefully at the signage and this time noticed a sign I must’ve missed last time because it became quite apparent how we went wrong last time. We went South instead of North.
So, this time it only cost of $2 in tolls and we were to the Downtown Disney area in 20 minutes.
At this point, we were both so hungry we swore a hole was being worn in our stomachs. So, we decided to divert from our previous plans and go to Downtown Disney to get some food from Wolfgang Puck Express and get our new Annual Passes.
After looking for awhile to get a parking spot (Downtown Disney was really crowded), we made our way to Guest Relations to get our Annual Passes. We had the most friendly Cast Member who managed to drive home the point to Enchanted Rose that we were finally back at Walt Disney World.
After getting our Annual Passes, we headed over to Wolfgang Puck Express. There wasn’t a long line and the dining room was practically empty. But, once again we were in a line that didn’t seem to want to move. From the sounds of the conversation occurring at the cash register, that involved several employees and someone that appeared to be managerial, a Dining Plan snafu had occurred.
I didn’t point out how warm it was outside. We were coming from 22 degree temps with freezing rain and snow. So we decided to just eat indoors. We probably should’ve eaten outdoors because the air condition was freezing us out. It was so cold, I was only in the mood for one Coke.
After eating we decided it was time to go check out the 25 Days of Christmas. It wouldn’t be a trip to Walt Disney World if we didn’t get to check out our favorite store for acquiring Christmas decorations.
The trip was quick because we were meeting a friend later at Epcot and we still needed check into the hotel.
We had no problem finding our way to Port Orleans Riverside and got ourselves checked in. Then it was back to the car to drive to our “Mansion” building. We were a bit shocked to see that our building was inhabited by Pop Warner cheerleaders. We were hoping that we weren’t going to experience the nightmares we’ve heard about when it comes to sleeping near these rooms.
But, if it did happen we were only here for one night and moving to Port Orleans French Quarter the next day.
After dropping our stuff off it was over to EPCOT. It turns out that the semi-annual SALSA (Spend a Little Save Alot) sale was occurring while we were here. You need to know a cast member to get in and we knew one so we went and did some shopping. Our total came to $340, but after the discounts were applied, the final tally was $88.
Now it was time to go to EPCOT and walk around.
After getting a bit turned around trying to find our way back to the “regular” EPCOT parking lot (the SALSA sale was in a far off corner of the EPCOT parking lot), we finally found our way to a parking spot.
We made our way through security and met our friends on the other side of the ticket gate. This was the first opportunity I had to take out my new camera and give it a go.
I decided my inaugural shot was going to be of Space Ship Earth. It was already dark and the geodesic sphere was all aglow. I must say, on the LCD screen it looked fabulous. Only time and a larger monitor will show the truth.
One of our party needed food, so we headed to the world showcase so they could get some eats. They decided some Chicken Nuggets from the McDonald’s stand would suffice. We took a quick respite in the art gallery in the Morocco Pavilion. I never knew this was here and it made for some good photographs.
When we decided to resume walking we decided that we were going to complete the circuit and then head to Space Ship Earth, then to get some ice cream, then see Illuminations.
When we got to the America Pavilion, the Candlelight processional was finishing up. So I decided to see what kind of pictures I could get with the maximum zoom on my new 18-200mm VR II lens. Then we resumed walking.
The walk was nice, but I was glad when we got to Space Ship Earth because my feet were killing me.
I also wanted to see what kind of pictures I could get inside SSE. I was still using my new zoom lens. On another ride through, I’ll switch to my faster 50 f/1.8 and see how it does
After disembarking, Enchanted Rose informed me that she almost fell asleep in the ride vehicle so she needed sugar if she was going to make it to the end of Illuminations.
At this point, our friends needed to go home because, unlike us, they weren’t on vacation and a job was waiting for them in the morning.
So, we they went home and we went to the Edy’s Ice Cream Shop. We both got hot fudge sundaes.
We finished around 8:50PM and knew we needed to get moving if we were going to find a good viewing position by 9PM.
We decided to plant ourselves in one of the lower areas near the water near the French pavilion.
9PM came and went and Illuminations hadn’t started.
At this point I decided to start asking people on Twitter, what was going on. It was at this point, that I found out that IllumiNations was starting at 9:30PM when the Candlelight processional is going on so as to ensure the final show isn’t ruined by fireworks.
I must say that if you are only given the ability to see Illuminations once a year, I’d try to make it during the Holiday version. They final, holiday tag, is just phenomenal. The amount of shells that end up in the air, just causes the ground to rumble under your feet.
When Illuminations ended, we knew the night was over. So we gave people some time to head out before we joined into the throng migrating back to whatever mode of transportation that was taking them back “home”.
On our way out of the World Showcase, I wanted to try and take a picture with one of the Christmas Trees near the entrance to Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion. I took a couple pictures of Enchanted Rose and a guest came up to me and asked if I’d like to have my pictures taken with my wife. I told her that it was a new camera so I was just taking practice shots. She insisted, so I handed her the camera and went to stand next to my wife so we could get our picture taken.
We got into our car and headed out. As usual, we got lost trying to go “home” from EPCOT. But we easily got ourselves pointed in the right direction and made it back to Port Orleans Riverside.
Tomorrow, is going to be an early day because we have to move rooms. So far, as I’m writing this, the cheerleaders have been quiet except for the occasional teenager sprinting past our room.
I dumped my pictures off my Compact Flash card while I wrote this. So far, the pictures look good. Hopefully some of them will make it to this post. If you cannot tell, I’m writing this before I go to bed. Sleep is calling me. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in months. So with that I bid you adieu, until tomorrow