Day 2: It's a Big Big World

Monday, October 5, 2009

I had plans of getting up to walk the resort this morning. Our itinerary (duly posted on the fridge) doesn't call for us to be anywhere until 2pm. But with the move yesterday and late night trip to Walmart, I'm just opening my eyes around 9am. It's getting bright and hot outside. Weatherman calls for a high of 92. The last thing I want to do is drag poor ol' Uncle C out on a blazing hot summer trek through the notoriously spread out SSR.

I get up, head to the bathroom for my shower and overhear GM greeting his brother over the morning coffee pot. Seems Uncle C has beaten us all to the punch. He woke up an hour before and had already taken his own "brisk" walk around the resort! No moss grows on this man's feet. Even Aunt C is up and getting ready for breakfast.

Cuz is dragged out of bed (no Vampire hours for him this trip) and volunteers for the morning drink run. By the time I'm dressed everyone is sitting around the table eating cereal and sipping the coffee/tea/hot chocolate beverage of their choice. Our guests are eager to get started, so I advance our plans a bit. We'll pile into the van and drive over to TTC.

I want to show Aunt & Uncle C. that Disney World is more a resort town than just an amusement park for kids. First stop is the hub of transportation. Stepping into the TTC instantly immerses you in the sights and sounds of a bustling city. You hear ferry whistles blow, monorails zoom into the station overhead and conductors call out schedule info on the parking trams. It's only 12:30pm so I direct our small group up the monorail platform to EPCOT. My goal is to have us make the round trip where our Newbies can see a bit of EPCOT without actually going into the park. The journey takes up about 30 minutes and instantly has them intrigued.

"When do we go in that park?" Tomorrow. Today we're exploring more of the world outside the parks.

At the TTC we transfer to a resort monorail and head to the Grand Floridian. We have a high tea scheduled for 2pm in the lobby. Cuz and I have been itching to get Aunt C to this place certain the Victorian style and all those beautiful rose gardens are right up her alley. We arrive at GF by 1:15pm. The tea room isn't even open yet but there's plenty to see.

Disney is busy refurbishing the lobby floor. The old rose-patterned carpet is giving way to an intricately designed and hand-placed marble floor.

Cuz can't resist peaking in on the workman comparing shop notes on the process. GM ushers his siblings upstairs to those private verandas overlooking the beach and pool. Along the way we stumble into a wedding party gathering for a reception.

The bride is beautiful in her flowing ivory gown and sparkling tiara. The elderly doorman insists on helping her make the grandest of entrances by poofing her train a bit. The bride tries to wave him off, but he has a mission in his heart. The veranda doors open, the couple's name is announced and the doorman (dressed in his Victorian finery) gives just the right flick of the hand to make her train sweep gracefully behind the bride. I doubt the bride realized just how perfect this little touch was, but as the doorman swept by me (his one mission done for the day) I complimented him on his perfect poofery. With a wink and jaunty grin, he tells me "It's all in the wrist, my dear."

I turn to my Aunt and note this is a usual occurence at the Disney resorts. Sweet little touches by dedicated staff who live to make the most magical moment for guests.

When we sit down to tea, we're place at a table by the window. GM, Cuz and I make sure we give Aunt & Uncle C the best window views of the garden. Heather (our server from past trips) welcomes us back and notes that these are the guests we raved about bringing on our last visit in May. (Cast Members have good memories.) As we go over the menu the heavens open up outside and it pours. A long torrential downpour. Aunt & Uncle C worry this means the end of our dry weather day, but we don't even need to look up to know better. It's a Florida storm, we tell them. Wait 10 minutes and the sun will be shining. In an hour you won't even know it rained.

Heather is happy to see me because I know the menu drill well. I go over the usual explanation spiel. Figure out what tea package you want (breads & tea, cheese & tea, full 3 courses & tea, etc.) then pick your blend. GM orders his favorite Jamaican Spice, while I opt for Nobo Wholefruit. Our guests are more traditional and go for English Breakfast and a pot of Oolong. Heather brings along our tea pots & cozies, along with a plate full of sandwiches. We're just in the middle of our second bites when Aunt C (who I've always known to be a tea connisseur) reveals this is the first real high tea she's ever been to. She's loving every minute of it.

The maitre'd notices my birthday pin and brings along one long stemmed pink rose with our second course of white raisin scones & strawberry tartlets. The conversation turns to our (GM and my) memories of past high teas around the world. GM's first experience with High Tea was in Ireland near 10 years ago with my mom. There the sandwiches and sweets are doled out in abundance, but sugar is used sparingly. GM learned true Irish like their tea bitter. Then came the High Tea in Charleston where Mom insisted GM would leave his meeting to attend while I was convinced it was too "girly" for him. And finally the many teas we had in London, with the best being the one at the War Cabinet Museum.

By the third course (dessert) the sun is shining outside again and we are almost stuffed. Uncle and Aunt C. opt for strawberries & cream assuming it will be a small bowl topping off their meal. But Disney doesn't skimp here. Each gets a towering bowl of fresh ripe strawberries and thick whip cream. Cuz, GM and I (the veterans in the group) opt to take a couple sweets home instead.

We're having such a good time I completely forget to request my tins of Nobo Wholefruit for the cold winter months at home. (Sweet Nobo tea with a hot chocolate muffin is the perfect palliative to a dreary January day.)

After tea, we walk off our excess pounds with a long meander through the rose gardens. Uncle C. notes the ferries on the lagoon. He's sure he saw them earlier that day on his walk around SSR. No, we tell him, these are different ferries and a completely different lagoon. (Why do newbies always think they can ferry from SSR/OKW/Port Orleans to Magic Kingdom?)

We walk over to the Wedding Pavilion where another wedding party is getting under way. Then on to the Polynesian. By the time we pass the luau the heavens open up again. We take shelter in the Grand Ceremonial House. Within a matter of minutes Aunt & Uncle C have gone from the elegant world of Victorian Florida to an exotic tropical paradise. I'm wondering if they are still believing Disney is all kiddie rides and characters.

The rain stops just in time for us to walk out to the beach. It's only 6pm but this is where I expect we'll return to watch the nighttime fireworks and Electrical Water Parade. That is assuming our Senior Newbies have the energy to stay out a few more hours.

Uncle C. notices the big ferries sailing out of TTC. I point out the Contemporary in the distance trying to tempt them with a ride over there to see the iconic Disney resort. But then the stream train whistle blows. Uncle C is drawn like a kid to a Christmas morn. He loves steam trains. Can't we go on that? he asks.

It's in the park. We'll be going on it another day this week, I tell him.


When we go into the park to watch fireworks.

Do they have fireworks tonight?

Yes, every night. We'll see them from back here so you can get a feel for them first.

No, I want to see them up close. How long does the train run?

Wait, I realize, you want to go into the park now? The Magic Kingdom park where they have all those characters and kiddie rides you hate from the commercials?

But they have a steam train!

I look at Aunt C, expecting to find her kabashing this idea by saying she was tuckered out. Instead she smiles and says "You lead, I'll follow."

So my careful plan to ease the old folks into Disney, diligently avoiding a first day headlong rush into parks, especially the kiddiest park of all, is instantly abandoned.

We hop the ferry at TTC, buy them tickets at Guest Services and head straight for the train station. I take them out to the balcony so they can see Main Street and the Castle with all it's Autumn splendor. The train whistle blows and I usher everyone on board the Walt E. Disney. GM must leave his scooter behind so we plan a round trip. Uncle C is in 7th heaven as we chugga chugga past AdventureLand and FrontierLand.

A check of the time shows we're nearing 8pm. Spectromagic begins soon. From the looks of the crowd on Main Street I'm expecting a mad crush up the street. Aunt C asks for a rest break. So I propose a change in plans. GM continues back to Main Street to get his scooter and I hop off with the rest to take the Toon Town/Tomorrowland walkway. We meet in Noodle Terrace for a bathroom break. From there we go looking for a good parade spot.

As predicted the crowd on Main Street is sardine-like. There are precious few good spots left. The wheelchair reserved spot is full around the circle so I lead the group over to Liberty Square. I take them on a little shortcut path by the shops knowing this will get us out of the crowd the fastest. And we arrive in plenty of time for good seats at the parade. GM and I are placed at the rope line by the CMs and the rest find seats on the wall behind us. We're there 5 minutes when another wheelchair party joins us. I look up and realize the party includes none other than TomandRobin, fellow Marylanders and forum debaters. I knew they were coming that weekend to take in the F&W fest but they were staying at Boardwalk with friends so I never expected to see them this trip. I should know better. When TomandRobin are in Disney they always seem to find us. I think they're Disney plants (or may have GM & I secretly tagged). We talk football and commisserate over the Ravens loss until Spectro begins.

After the parade, I lead my little group back through the shops to my failsafe fireworks viewing spot. We get there with 30 minutes to spare and wind up with an even better spot than usual. The PhotoPass fellow is not manning this beauty spot tonight. GM gives up his scooter seat to Aunt C so the poor lady doesn't have to stand any longer. We're secretly worried we've overdone it for her, but she wouldn't think of complaining. As for Uncle C, he's busy trying to take more pictures of the castle. An impossible task given the night time lighting.

Promptly at 9:30pm the fireworks begin. I warned them that fireworks in Disney are nothing like the fireworks you see elsewhere. Disney fireworks are computer controlled and perfectly timed to music. What's more they are used to tell a story, like everything in Disney. My favorite bit of Wishes comes with the Sleeping Beauty music. That part where the 3 white sparkle fireworks shoot up on each side of the castle in time to the orchestra's crescendo? Uncle C likes the Sorceror Mickey number complete with castle lighting. Aunt C can't seem to figure out where to look. Fireworks are near everywhere for her.

When the show is done we tell them they are now completely ruined for fireworks elsewhere. The park is closing now but I advise we just hang out and wait for the crowd to clear. Instead we talk about their impressions of Disney World. In just the first day they realize this place is not what they expected. Instead, they put themselves in our hands as if we are the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat guiding Alice. Somehow the conversation turns to shared remembrances of Disney storytelling. Uncle C is a longtime fan of Snow White. He remembers seeing that movie when it was first released in 1938. He was 11 and walked to the movies with friends.

GM remembers that time too. He was 6 years old and had a cold. His mother (my long-gone and legendary "saintly" grandma) would not let him go. GM tells us all he was standing on the front porch watching his brother go off to see Snow White and assuring their mother he was well enough to go. But no matter what, she would not let him leave. GM declares, in his most passionate little boy wronged voice, "I never forgot that!"

We all laugh. GM has seen the movie dozens of times since then, even seeing it again in theaters as a child. But, he insists, he didn't get to see it when he was 6. No, he had to wait a whole 7 years, when he was 13, for Disney to rereleased it. Oh my saintly grandma. I think that was the first time I ever heard any of her kids diss her. The agony poor GM must have been put through not to see a Disney movie at 6 years old.

On that note, we make our way to the TTC and drive home to SSR. Tomorrow: EPCOT.