November 23, 2009: First EPCOT Day

Today is only the second full day in Disney World and already everyone is completely exhausted.  The plan had been for everyone, except for me who has to work, to be up at the crack of dawn so that they could make it to rope drop at park opening.  That did not happen at all.  Instead by noon no one had even left the hotel yet!

Dominica were able to eat lunch together at the hotel restaurant, grilled salmon salads.  The girls went swimming which they had really wanted to do yesterday. Even yesterday the parks were wearing them out and they were looking for time to relax.  Being eight and nine the walking in the parks is pretty exhausting for them.

Everyone, except for me, was off to EPCOT around two this afternoon.  No one was too excited, except for Dominica, about going to EPCOT.  EPCOT is really more of Dominica and my kind of place.

I worked until the end of the business day and then traveled in to EPCOT to meet up with everyone and go to the Odyssey Restaurant, which I have not eaten at since my family’s trip to WDW in 1987 when it was just a normal restaurant that you could eat at at any time, for the Grand Gathering dinner affair which is only open to parties of eight or more and only with advanced reservations.  The old Odyssey Restaurant was very similar to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe but its position near Mexico kind of off to the side of EPCOT did nothing for it and its styling was very strange and it fell into disuse as the Electric Umbrella took over its business very nearby in the hub of Future World.  The Odyssey was really poorly positioned with the Electric Umbrella servicing the counter service needs of western Future World and The Land Grill Room handling the east side and all of the World Showcase being centered around its amazing food offerings leaving the Odyssey with no real purpose in life.  So Disney shut it down and now uses the building as a place to host special events right in the heart of EPCOT.

When I arrived in EPCOT everyone was just leaving The Land and walking over to Journey Into Imagination for one final ride before going to the restaurant for dinner.  So I raced through the park and met up with them just as they were getting ready to go in.  So I got to take Liesl through the ride which, for the most part, she really liked except for the really loud bits.  That is one of my biggest complains about WDW, Disney just has no concept of appropriate volume levels and there is just an uncomfortable level of noise that never ends.  The buses are all set to blare painfully loud and mostly useless announcements constantly and half of the rides have sudden sounds so loud that you feel compelled to spend you entire vacation wearing earplugs because no one who works for Disney will point out that the volumes are insanely loud.  I avoid some rides entirely because they are so loud.  And heaven only knows why they do it.  It just makes people really irritable, but it goes on so much that people begin to forget why they are getting pissed off.  It also completely removes the ability for babies to sleep or adults to have conversations.

After the ride we played in the jumping water fountains for a few minutes and then it was off to dinner.  The Grand Gathering event at the Odyssey turned out to be really awesome.  The food, a sampler from all over the world showcase, was really excellent and there was entertainment too which I did not really realize.  There were also characters, notably Goofy, who arrived to lead a kid’s dance party.  The announced Liesl’s pending birthday as well as Bennie and Francesca’s tenth wedding anniversary.  Bennie and Francesca had to go down to the stage with three other couple celebrating anniversaries this week in WDW and had to talk in front of the packed restaurant.  It was great fun.

At the end of dinner we were all given exclusive Illuminations collector pins that served not only as very hard to get Disney pin trades and souvenirs of our Grand Gathering dinner but also served as special passes to get us into the after gathering VIP seating and dessert area from which we would watch Illuminations later tonight.

After dinner, which took quite some time, we went over to the VIP seating area and got dessert and coffee.  Strawberry and peach shortcake, delicious.  We were fearful that Liesl would be unhappy with Illuminations because it is fireworks and they scared her so much last night at Wishes but we were hopefully that because she was awake tonight and would not be getting woken up by the fireworks that they might not be so scary.  We had made plans for me to grab her and run to the far side of EPCOT, by the big fountain where the white noise would help to drown out the fireworks, should they prove to be too much for her.

Unfortunately, Liesl fell asleep minutes before the fireworks started so we will never know if she would have been okay.  As it was, she was quite scared.  I grabbed her after the very first burst and we went as quickly as we could down to the fountain.  She was quite unhappy.  We got to the fountain but Disney’s reliance on the cheap, loud fireworks meant that the fountain wasn’t enough to drown out the booming.  So we went into Mouse Gears and stood in the middle of the store where all of the apparel was enough to keep her from being scared, but we could not venture too near to the doors!

It took twenty or thirty minutes after the fireworks had ended before everyone made their way down to the fountain to meet up with Liesl and I.  By this time she had fallen asleep and was ready for bed.  It was coming up on ten o’clock.  We got out of the park and stood in the very long line waiting for the buses.  It took six or seven buses going to our resort before we made our way to the front of the line and were able to get onto the bus.

We were all really exhausted by the time that we got back to the resort.  We were ready to collapse.  Liesl, of course, woke up by then and wanted to crawl around as she normally does before going to bed.

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