Monday, March 27, 2017

All Day at Epcot ~ Festival of the Arts, Spice Road Table

We love Epcot. We took the family there earlier this year and spent one day there. Since we were here in Florida for a cruise, we decided to spend a day and do a more slow explore.

We have a friend that is actually a Cast Member here in Epcot and since it was his day off we had arranged to meet up with him partway through the day.

Epcot love festivals, and we were visiting during the Festival of Arts.

This turned out to be a really fun time to visit Epcot.

First thing we did, after we drove in....

....was ride Frozen.

Yes, I know this is a kid ride, but we love all Disney and wanted to experience it.

The line was not that long and we liked the ride. It does have a fun twist in it.

And now of course, we had Let It Go stuck in our brains for the day.

Next up, we headed to Soarin'. When we had visited earlier, this attraction was being renovated. It had been updated to include all of the world and not just Soarin' over California.

The change was good, and we really loved this ride.

At this point in the day, we met up with our friend, J.

He had some Fastpasses for Test Track so we rode that next.

We than walked around a bit, and saw lots of art. Throughout Epcot, many artists had set up booths. We really liked this one:

There were also street artists scattered around, doing art right in front of you. Here someone was copying a piece using chalk art.

This artist had taken a break from their work for a bit:

At the different places where the characters would meet you, if they weren't there, there was a painting like this one. This was in Norway, where Snow White was usually hanging out:

There were also different famous works of art that you could pose inside of:

Mona Lisa

Edvard Munch's The Scream

Leutze's Crossing of the Delaware

And Renior's painting

We really had a lot of fun posing in them. Disney Cast Members are there to take photos for you with their camera, or they'll happily use yours.

There was also lots of music in different areas. Here were the Taiko drums in Japan.

There was also lots of music at the main stage too. When we were walking by, there was a group that was doing excerpts of popular songs, singing them in Acapella. They did a really great job.

And if you want to have an interactive part in the arts definitely stop and do the color by number. We were each given a small container of paint, a brush, and a number.

We went to the wall and painted five squares each.

When we left, a Cast Member handed us a postcard of what the finished wall would look like. Each day they start all over again, with a different design.

On the advice of J, we got to the America Pavilion in time to see the Voices of America. This amazing Acapella group sings in the rotunda in the America building.

Here, they sounded AMAZING. It was a treat to be here, listening to them sing beautiful patriotic songs.

We walked a bit more and decided to stop in France for lunch. The counter service in the back looks so yummy!

Desserts are incredible.

My Sweetie and I decided to split a Croque Monsieur. This is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but ours was incredibly dry and not very good at all.

Our friend J got a Dinde BLT that he said was good, so we just chose the wrong thing.

For dessert we got a Duo au Chocolat. This is white and dark chocolate mousse cake.

This seriously made up for the sandwich we had.

After lunch we headed to nearby Canada and saw O, Canada! Which was a Circle Vision attraction. Martin Short did a good job of making it fun and entertaining.

At this point we said goodbye to our friend, it was great to meet up with him and have him show us parts of Epcot and tell us about his adventures as a Cast Member.

We had Fastpasses at Mission: SPACE so we headed that way.

My Sweetie, in a moment of bravery, decided to do the Orange Line with me. In case you don't know, this means that not only do you experience the ride in motion, but you get the full 3G's+ effect. (as in, spinning in a centrifuge.)

Yours truly loved it, as I always do, but after we got off we took a bit of time to sit, and give My Sweetie some time to recover from the ride.

We decided that a nice quiet ride was going to be next. We had missed this one the last time we were here so went on Living With the Land. This was a really neat ride, lots of it through a working greenhouse.

These were dragon fruit bushes.

This was the fish farm area and here was a mess of tilapia.

An obvious hidden Mickey.

They had some great looking plants and produce and a whole area devoted to hydroponics.

We came out right near the giant ball so we went on Spaceship Earth. This ride goes through history and shows how man has adapted. You go all the way to the top of the ball, where you feel like you are flying through the night. On the way back down, the seat in front of you turns into an interactive display, and you can choose how you would live in the future.

Here we are:

We also got our Happily Ever After buttons.

We headed back to World Showcase. On the way we stopped in at Club Cool in Future World. Here you can taste Coca-Cola from different parts of the world.

I really liked the Fanta Melon Frosty from Thailand, and the Fanta Pineapple from Greece. But the one that we both actually, surprisingly liked was Beverly from Italy. It is a bitter non-alcoholic aperitif. I tend to like things that are more bitter and it had a unique flavor to it.

One of the neat things they did during the Festival of the Arts was have artsy food at different kiosks. In Mexico, we got this: Huarache. It was very, very good.

The sun was starting to go down at this point and the lake was so beautiful.

We stopped in at shops as we slowly meandered around the world. On vacation we are not shoppers, but it was so darned cold out there that we would go in them just to thaw out.

We hung out for a bit in Japan and at the store there, Mitsukoshi. We found a friendly Cast Member who was here for 10 months in the international program and she practiced her English on us. We talked about food - my Japanese mother in law has taught me how to cook many Japanese dishes - and she said we really got her mouth to water when we talked about the different katsus.

Our friend J had recommended that we go to the Broadway show in the American Pavilion, so we braved the cold and went out there.

It was really well done! There were two Broadway singers that sang different Disney songs. Their voices were really good and we enjoyed the concert.

It was about time for our dinner reservation - tonight we were eating at Spice Road Table in Morocco.

{Photo taken earlier in the day}

This was a very neat restaurant. I had the Mediterranean Vegetable Platter, which came with hummus, rice stuffed grape leaves, couscous salad, babaganoush and a couple of other things I didn't note in my journal. 

My Sweetie got the mixed grilled skewers and we shared everything, like we always do.

We had a later reservation and it was getting close to 9:00. We were just finishing up and our server came by and told us that the fireworks were going to start soon, and to move over to the empty table by the window for a good view. 

She was not kidding, they were setting them off right in front of us!

We couldn't hear the audible program parts, but being this close the fireworks was really, really neat.

Goodnight, Epcot.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Kennedy Space Center & Dinner at Morimoto's

I really love the space program. I have memories of waking up early in the morning when I was young, to watch the shuttle launches. Space exploration has always fascinated me and so visiting the Kennedy Space Center has always been one of my goals.

So we headed out to Cape Canaveral from Orlando, which was about an hours long drive.

I knew that highway 528 was a toll road going that way, and after researching, expected that we would spend about $7 to get there. What I didn't know was that unlike toll bridges in California, toll roads in Florida work both directions, so we paid a whopping total of $14 to travel on these glorious Florida roadways.

We made it out to the Cape right around when the Center opened at 9 am.

The first exhibit we went to was Atlantis.

You walked under the rocket to get into the Atlantis exhibit.

One of the neat things about the Center was that to get into all of the exhibits, you went through an "experience". Basically, this was an interactive movie on a big screen. At first, I didn't like being restricted in this way, but after a bit I really appreciated the history and background that was given before entering the exhibits.

We watched a well made large screen movie for about 15 minutes. First, the video showed us the history of the shuttle. I did not know that they began to conceptualize the shuttle in the 1960's! Next we learned about the SRB's (shuttle rocket boosters) and the massive fuel tank.

Before entering Atlantis, we also learned that it flew for a total of 33 times, and took its place in history as the final shuttle mission.

The screen went up and we saw this:

How amazing to see it right in front of us! The bay doors were open and we could see them as we walked by.

The size of Atlantis was impressive. When we got to the back, this is what we saw.

This was the closest I had ever come to a space shuttle. The other time I was close to one was the flyby of the Endeavor, years before.

The rest of the exhibit had some fun interactive things:

This tunnel, if we were a bit younger, we could have crawled through, to see what it is like on the ISS  (International Space Station).

As we went through the whole exhibit,  this wall mural was one of my favorites.

On the ground floor we came upon the Shuttle Launch Experience.

It was a fun ride, but not as much like a real space ride as I thought it would be.

After we went through Atlantis, we headed to the bus tour. This tour takes you to the launch sites and to the Apollo/Saturn 5 Visitor Center.

You can see the map of the entire area below. The tour takes about 25 minutes, and ends at the Apollo/Saturn Center. 

Seeing the VAB, or the Vehicle Assembly Building, was a dream come true for me.

As you can see it was rainy, and was one of the four cold days in Florida a year. (Less than 60 degrees.)

All along the roads we drove on were the tracks that the shuttles went on to the launch pads.

There are multiple launch pads all over the Cape, and these tracks lead out from the VAB.

One of the pads.

This was a neat sight: Space X is the future of space exploration, and has really advanced what we can accomplish in launches and rockets. Just a few weeks after we were here, a rocket launched from this very spot.

We made our way to the Apollo/Saturn 5 Center.

Before we entered, we watched an exhibit of exactly how mission control functioned during Apollo 8, the first time that man circled the moon. Before us was the actual Mission Control at that time, and as we watched the broadcast of the launch, each of the station that responded in the recording, lit up in front of us.

We exited the theater to the main exhibit room. This was right in front of us. We asked one of the docents here (who was in the control room during much of the Apollo project) and this was the Saturn 5 rocket that was meant for Apollo 18, which never blasted off.

As you can see, the rocket is positioned sideways.

We were able to walk below it the whole length.

This was an amazing exhibit. The entire vehicle was here. First was the Saturn 5 and all three stages of the rocket. They were all separated so we could see each in their entirely.

The lunar module was next, and then the service module.....

....and finally the command module. So neat to see these things in real life!

Also in this building was a small piece of moon rock.

It was smooth - has probably been touched by millions of people.

Here is the Apollo 14 crew capsule. We saw Alan Shepard's space suit, training gear, and other items.

We decided to stop for lunch here. It was cafeteria style - you picked out food and then paid at the end.

Here is what we had: Chicken tenders and fries, and a turkey sandwich.

We got back on the bus - they arrive about every 15 minutes or so - and headed back to the main center.

It was FREEZING at this point. We decided to head somewhere warm so went to the IMAX movie theater. We watched Journey to Space which was well done. I did not realize that Space X has been able to guide the used rocket boosters back to the actual launch pads for future use.

When we left the IMAX we found it was now raining again. Are we really in Florida? So we headed to the newest exhibit, Heroes & Legends. To get there we went through the Rocket Garden.

To get in we all donned 3D glasses for the opening experience. We stood in a circular room at a railing, with the screen all in front of us. This was one of the best opening experiences. It showcased the different astronauts through the years and was really neat.

In this large exhibit hall there was all sorts of information about the astronauts.

There was a replica of mission control too.

One of my favorite stories is of the Mercury 7.

I love these covers of Life Magazine - the seven astronauts and their wives.

We really enjoyed our time at the Kennedy Space Center!

We left the Cape at around 3ish. We did have reservations later that night and we felt we had seen most of the Center.

We went straight to Downtown Disney. We wanted to see if we could get into one of our favorite places from our last visit for appetizers.

Raglan Road. And we found seats right at the bar.

Here is my Moscow Mule.

My Sweetie had a beer. We split the Dalkey Duo - battered sausages on forks with a yummy dipping sauce.

Bad photo, but we love the entertainment here.

We left Raglan Road and headed to Morimoto's, where we had reservations for dinner. We happily followed the hostess (who was from the Bay Area!) to these amazing seats, right in front of the glass windowed kitchen.

We started with Spider Rolls - soft shell crab, asparagus and spicy mayo.

We were dipping our sushi in wasabi and soy sauce, and we noticed that the wasabi was floating to the top and not completely mixing in. I tasted it and realized we were eating real wasabi, as our waiter later confirmed. Lots of people don't realize it, but most of the wasabi in the States is not real wasabi but green colored horseradish.

For our entree we got the Peking Duck.

You take some duck, sauce, scallions and cucumber, wrap it up and taste. This was so, so good.

We left Morimoto's quite full. The sky was beautiful as we walked across Disney Springs.

We first headed to Art of Disney. We are planning a remodel in our bedroom this coming year and had decided to decorate with some Disney prints. We had been told to visit this shop because they offer a very neat service. In a corner of the shop, two artists draw from a collection of characters. There are 5 or 6 artists total, and after comparing styles, you can commission one to draw a character for you. This sounds pricey, but really isn't - we got each print for under $50.

After choosing our prints we commissioned Fidel from Cuba, to sketch for us. He was going to start it soon and so we walked around a bit to kill time. We made it back in time to see him start the first one.

There is a big screen behind the artists where you can see their work up close.

Our project.

It was going to take him a while so we said goodnight; we did have them shipped home so that we didn't have to worry about damaging them on the plane ride home.

Around this time, I realized that my camera was missing. Yikes. I re-traced my steps, back to the restaurant, Disney Store and Starbucks we had visited after dinner, and nothing. I really wasn't panicking, each night we were removing photos, but I was still bummed I had lost my camera. The last place I tried was Lost and Found. A lady went to check in the back and there was my camera!!

Being Disney they document everything so the sheet with it said that a Cast Member had found it on a shelf at Art of Disney a couple of hours before. I must have put it down when we first were in the shop, choosing our prints and artists. I was quite impressed with Disney's Lost and Found, and an attentive Cast Member!

On the way out we saw the moving piano - this was a guy playing the piano on a stand that slowly moved through Downtown Disney. And what was he playing? Piano Man.

These guys were also totally hilarious. They looked like their eyes were closed, but when people would come up and pose with them, they would do funny things behind their back. Here is our photo with the golden couple.

And that was the end to a very fun filled day!