DAY TWO: EPCOT & Downtown Disney
I have some great birthday memories. Getting my He-Man Castle Greyskull set when I was very young, going to Showbiz Pizza with a group of friends in 2nd grade (thanks Mom!), and hanging out with good friends in more recent years, and on and on. But nothing and I mean nothing has ever been as good as March 5, 2009.
I woke up and headed down to the buses about 8:30. I walked up and the EPCOT bus came right away, whisking us away but not before the driver punched in some sort of code that played an announcement: “Ladies and Gentleman, we have someone very special celebrating their birthday with us!” How nice!
I made my way over to the Will Call window to get my Birthday Fun Card; the cast member tried to talk me into the fast pass or the one day ticket but I held my ground. . . “show me the money!”
Armed with $75, I was now ready to start my day. I was in no hurry with absolutely no agenda, so I sauntered over to the nearest line and waited to get into the park. They did the countdown and the turnstiles opened. I made my way up to the Pin Station as I was sent on a mission by friend Connie to get a couple of pins that were released today. I found them, bought them, and sat and watched the opening ceremony.
Usually, I’m lined up ready to race to Soarin’, but today I had no agenda. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto were all for the opening and I decided that it would be great to get my picture taken with all of them first thing. So, I went into the Character Connection and posed with the Fab 5. The attendants and photopass people were so great and everyone was having a great time helping me celebrate.
The weather was beautiful and I headed over to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. I rode through, browsed the aquarium a little, and thought I’d go check out the Soarin’ line and if it was too long I’d just ride Living with the Land.
Well, I nearly walked on to Soarin’ even at 9:45 AM and being by yourself sometimes has great advantages as they were looking for smaller parties to move up front and I got to go right into ROW ONE! YEAH!
After Soarin’, I rode Living with the Land and headed over to Journey Into Imagination. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it; I guess my expectations have been significantly lowered. I messed around for a bit in the Photo Lab after the ride and sent a few emails to folks back home with my picture.
It was nearing 11:00 and I had lunch reservations at 11:30 at Le Cellier, so I headed back to the World Showcase. Now, I think that the birds at Disney World have it in for me. I have admitted before that I am terrified of them. Yesterday at Animal Kingdom, two ducks landed right in front of me and were attacking another duck before a lady swatted them all with her guide map to get them to stop. I couldn’t do anything due to being paralyzed with fear, of course. So . . . today, the stupid seagulls at Epcot were harassing me by flying awfully close. One duck even stared me down so bad I took a picture of it to prove it!
Finally, the Canadian Pavilion was opened and I browsed the shop and took some pictures of the beautiful landscaping. I walked down by the waterfall and saw a rainbow. I checked in at Le Cellier for my lunch reservations and waited on the bench out front while reading my book. I checked my email on my phone and so many people sent such nice birthday greetings via email and Facebook that I was truly humbled by it. Cast members continued to wish me a Happy Birthday throughout the day, by the way, and it was crazy I never once was annoyed by it.
I didn’t realize that when Le Cellier does not open until the serving staff has sung “O Canada” followed by a “Let’s Play Hockey!” That was neat. I was seated in New Brunswick, which was an area I’d not sat in before. My server, Emily, was great. She didn’t bore me with her spiel as she knew I had been there many times before, but simply and efficiently took my order. My soup came out and it was almost perfect; it could have stood to be a few degrees hotter. It was still great, though.
Then, my steak came and I don’t know that I’ve ever had a better steak in my life. I got the New York Strip and it was juicy, tender, and almost melted in my mouth. For dessert, I got the chocolate “moose” and Emily had them decorate the plate for me. She even handed me a birthday card signed by the staff of Le Cellier! What a nice treat.
After lunch, I decided to check out the “O Canada” 360 Circlevision film. It was pretty good and Martin Short was as least annoying as I’ve ever seen him. It was a nice little diversion and I’m glad I did it.
I headed through the World Showcase and realized that The American Adventure show started in a few minutes so I hurried to America. The Voices of Liberty were performing in the rotunda and they sounded incredible as always. I really enjoy the American Adventure show; I sat fairly close to the stage in the center and I got chills.
I went back towards Morocco because I thought I might be able to get a picture with Aladdin and Jasmine. I made it into the line before they closed it, I think solely because it was my birthday. They were fun and the pictures turned out pretty good.
I then went to France, hoping to get a shot with Beauty and the Beast, but only Belle was out. I still got a few pictures with her, though it would have been nice to have the Beast in there, too. I continued walking around the lagoon, browsing here and there and just taking in the weather and sights. I got to see a little bit of the Chinese Acrobats and was going to do the Maelstrom, but there was a 20 minute wait so I skipped it.
I headed up into Future World and rode Test Track. I walked right on in the single rider line. I was getting ti
red and so I walked into MouseGear, trying to decide what I wanted to buy with my Birthday Fun Card. I was torn about a few things so I decided to wait until later. I also stopped at the Art of Disney store, and looked at the wonderful things in there, but they were all out of my price range. A guy can dream, though.
On the way out of the park, I had a PhotoPass photographer take my picture and he was wonderful, as well. Everyone I encountered was either very nice or delightful; it seems some of that Disney magic has returned or maybe I was looking for it in different places. Regardless, I’ve fallen back in love with Disney World again not that I ever fell out of love with it.
So, I went back to the room about 4:30, took a brief nap, and then headed to Downtown Disney about 6:00. I had dinner at Planet Hollywood, since I had a $15 voucher. It was crowded and it took awhile to be seated, but the staff was wonderful about it. They kept asking me to go to the bar but I really wanted a table. They accommodated me and the food was delicious. At the end, the waiter brought me a free ice cream sundae to celebrate my birthday!
I walked through Pleasure Island to the Marketplace and it was very busy. I hit all the usual stops, but it wasn’t the same without Connie and with all the people there, I didn’t stay long. I never did settle on a birthday present for myself, either.
When I returned to the Pop Century, I went into the gift shop and decided to get a Mickey and Minnie bobble head statue as well as a watch. Lots of things were on sale, including watches at 25% off. I still had $10 left even after these three items, and I could easily pack them in my suitcase, so I was satisfied with this.
I went to my room and went to bed reveling in the tremendous day I’d had. It was the best birthday ever and Disney really knows how to help you celebrate!
TOMORROW: Magic Kingdom, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Yachtsman Steakhouse