The Bear and the Bow: Christmas with the Mouses - Update 9/11
So I was planning this elaborate, amazing introduction all through two days of driving home. Then we hit Kansas and everything got lost in the severe ennui that everyone gets trapped in during a day of travel across Kansas (also may have gotten lost in the four loads of laundry I did yesterday!). Instead I'm reposting my introduction from the pre-trip report, with a few edits when necessary. Please, if you don't mind, imagine this to be a sparkling gem of an introduction post, shining with wit, humor, and irreverent pop culture references.
Seventeen days ago, we packed up a rented Chevy Cruse with two cats, a hedgehog, and as many pieces of luggage as humanly possible. We had one stop - the vet's - before hitting the road to begin a Grand Tour of middle America, with stops in the great tourist stops of Hayes, Kansas; Columbus, Missouri; and Peachtree City, Georgia. Destination? Tallahassee, Florida.
Okay, maybe not the final destination. But it was the first stop on a whirlwind tour of Florida, including Tallahassee, Ocala, and - of course - Orlando. We'd be spending a day at Universal, five at Disney, and five in Ocala. With those spoilers (whaaaat, we actually ended up in Disney?!? Surprise!).. onwards!
First, who are we?
1. Merida (or.. the bow. Also, this is the worst movie name change in the history of ever. Cool and evocative to Mel Gibson rip-off? Definite downgrade. Anyway! I’m a grad student in atmospheric science and 23. I love science and stories and parantheticals).
It’s possible that there was some artistic license here, maybe. But I never take pictures of people – especially me. Will this ever change? Stay tuned!
2. Bear (the boyfriend, also a grad student and as old as the hills (or 24ish))
Okay, maybe not quite that Bear. Mix that bear with some of this..
3. Our clan: 2 Siamese (of varying degrees) cats and a hedgehog.
Eventually I will have pictures here because all I do is take pictures of our animals.
What about the Disney (i.e., interesting) portion of the trip? We were officially on Disney property from the 15th through the 20th of December and enjoyed free dining and all the comforts of home at Port Orleans Riverside!
Sources: Merida screenshot, Bear concept art, and my gif folder!
Chapter Links (or a shortcut through my painstakingly slow recount of our Disney extravaganza)
1.2: Travel Summary
1.3: There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: Future Adventures
2: December 15th
2.1: Port of Entry
2.3: Finding the Lost Continent
2.4: In Which We Finally Leave the Islands of Adventure
2.5: Our Home Away from Home
3: December 16th
3.1 Being Fancypants at the GFlo
3.2 Entering the Land of Adventure
3.2 A Whole New World (or jk, NOW we're in Adventureland)
3.3 At Some Point, I Will Do Actual MK Touring
3.4 Breaking the Rules
3.5 You Mean You're Still Doing Things? (Are you sure you didn't get distracted somewhere??)
3.6 We Knew It Was Too Good to Last (or a meditation on the breezeway in Cinderella's Castle)
3.7 You Know You Like the Crocodile Best Too
3.8 Meet Me on Main Street
3.9 999 Scary Adventures
3.10 At the Plaza
3.11 Taking the Plunge
3.12 Dhatura Extract
3.13 A Very Merry Christmas to You
3.14 Cinderella Castle: A Retrospective
4: December 17th
4.1 Beware of the Yeti
4.2 Heaven on Earth: Dinoland
4.3 Esteemed Safari Guests
4.4 Ducks/Merida: OTP
4.5 You Can Never Have Too Many Dinosaurs
4.6 Friends and Family
4.7 Space Agriculture: The Final Frontier
5: December 18th
5.1 Flight Crew Only
5.2 Why, We Use Our Imagination!
5.3 Still No Cheddar Cheese Soup
5.4 World Showcase's Newest Attraction: Turtles
5.5 Around the World Part One
5.6 Around the World Part Two
5.7 On Spaceship Earth
6: December 19th
6.1 I'm Ready for My Closeup, Mr. DeVille
Joining in!!!! Your description of Bear being as old as the hills made me laugh - I am less than 2 months older than Wingnut, and he LOVES to go on about how OLD I am. And that I will always be older. And did he mention old? :rolleyes1
Can't wait to hear more!
I'm joining in and can't wait to hear about your trip! Ahhh! You've got me so excited for our trip in a week. I kept thinking you guys were closer to the same day as us but I guess it was a little bit further off. :goodvibes
YOU HAVE A HEDGEHOG AND CITED YOUR SOURCES BE STILL MY BEATING HEART
Totally agree on the name change for The Bear and the Bow, by the way. Did you hear that since they've started working on The Snow Queen again, they've changed the name to "Frozen"? I don't like this trend of using generic one-word titles for Disney movies, but idk maybe I'm just being dumb.
I'm excited to hear about your trip! c:
Joining in! Can't wait to hear about your trip! Oh, and I'm totally jealous that you have a hedgehog! :cool1:
First, to all my new followers:
I hope everyone is having an enjoyable New Year’s Weekend; our healthy new year started out with a day of cinnamon rolls, popcorn, and smoothies while FINALLY going to see the new Muppets movie. We both really enjoyed it but it definitely won’t overtake Muppets Christmas Carol as my favorite Muppets movie. It falls somewhere after Muppets from Space (the opening sequence is so cute in the Muppet House) and Muppet Treasure Island as a generally good film, but not outstanding. We’ve moved on to our traditional Star Wars marathon for today (4-6 only; I can’t watch the new trilogy for the same reason I can’t commit fully to Harry Potter – too many simple mathematical mistakes in timelines, etc. Things like Ben Kenobi or Charlie Weasley’s age really jump out to me and I spend far too much time rationalizing things. At least Harry Potter is of an overall higher quality than the new Star Wars trilogy).
I’ve been going through my pictures and trying decide what to do for our travel days. Despite our lengthy trip, I have maybe 60 pictures from the road (my camera was stored in the back so I only had my 3GS as well. As much I love my phone, the camera isn’t much to write home about). When the two of us travel, Bear drives and I either sleep or read. I hate highway/freeway driving and Bear gets nervous when I drive, so we don’t take turns. Since entering grad school, I’ve had very little time for personal reading since there’s so much assigned reading to do. So when faced with about 8 hours (due to sunsets) of prime reading time, picture taking fell by the wayside. I was averaging about 2.5 books a day and quite a few of the 60 pictures are pictures of pages in lieu of sticky notes or annotation as reminders.
Pretty much the only other thing I’m good at on a road trip is making commentary on the pop songs that come up on the radio. I can’t navigate from a map (I get turned around when trying to decide if the map and I are facing the same direction) and I can never make a quick decision if we should stop to eat, get gas, or stretch our legs at a rest stop. I also tend to want to get out at the worst rest stops.
So Bear was usually the one to identify things like trains, cars pulled over for speeding, roadkill, interesting license plates, and other traditional road trip imagery. Not that there was very much in Kansas! I was working my way through a book of con artists and looking up every once in a while when we passed a field of windmills. The two of us also play a half-hearted game of Zitch Cow during these trips and I was continually looking up to make sure Bear wasn’t cheating (I’m pretty sure some of those cows were actually the small shrubs that are the native Kansas tree).
The only other interesting part of Kansas was watching new windmills being installed. While the trucks containing parts were usually right next to the freeway, the actual windmills were further back (in the background of the picture). I always forget just how large the windmills are, especially since they are so serene and peaceful when in operation. I love watching windmills and I probably spent the third largest chunk of my time in Kansas watching them spin since we tend to drive on blustery days.
Most of our stops were out of necessity since I had packed a small mini-mart’s worth of snacks in the back seat of the car. Sometimes, like a memorable gas station/Quizno’s combination store in Missouri, were themed interestingly. For some reason, the town had a Wonder Woman/Superman theme that extended to even the smallest details, like the bathroom. The Quizno’s was excellent but gas was steep $3.49/gallon and we were more in the $3.09/gallon price range that extended throughout most of the freeway.
Finally making it out of the Kansas/Missouri/Illinois area into Tennessee/Georgia was possibly the best moment of the car trip. The explosion of color occurring outside our car made me check to see if the road had changed into gold brick; Baum knew what he was doing, making Dorothy’s home state Kansas.
However, even the verdant plantlife and sporadic horse farms (the only road trip game better than zitch dog is zitch horse) couldn’t hold my attention forever and I again buried myself in books. Along the way to Tallahassee, we stopped in Peachtree City, GA to visit a college friend of Bear’s. He works for the National Weather Service and gave a quick tour of the town. Although he disparaged the surburgatory nature, the town has golf cart lanes. How cool is that? I would love to live in a place where I could motor along in a little golf cart versus a normal-sized car. We stopped briefly in Tallahassee to pick up a different friend, we’ll call him Mr. T(eddy Bear), who would be touring Islands of Adventure with us.
We finally pulled into Orlando at around eight that night. We were staying off site for the night of December 14th and had tentative plans to explore downtown Orlando before turning in early (we had gotten very little sleep in between Peachtree City and Tallahassee) and then head out as soon as possible to check in at Port Orleans. We ended up heading out for drinks and appetizers at Bear and my favorite restaurant, Cuba Libre. Bear tried to orient me to my location, but all I knew was that we were incredibly close to the Peabody and I couldn’t go in and see the ducks. Instead we watched the Christmas lights, looked around the shopping center Cuba Libre was in, and (on my end) watched everyone take the exits to Disney.
I couldn’t convince Bear to take the Disney exits and it was a long night and one disappointing continental breakfast later until I finally saw this. We were finally at Disney.
Woohoo an update! :cool1: Wow! Georgia looks so much brighter and more vibrant than Kansas. I hope the drive wasn't too terrible. I hate driving long distances and I love to read (I use most of my spare time reading) but for I can't read in the car because I get nauseous, so lucky you! :) I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip.
That's awesome that you're able to read in the car - I used to be able to when I was a kid, but now I can barely read a sentence without getting nauseous! Glad that your drive didn't seem to be too bad!
Yay for making it under that Disney arch!!! :cool1::cool1:
IF THEY MESS UP SNOW QUEEN I QUIT LIFE. Seriously, Snow Queen and Twelve Dancing Princesses are my favorites and they are perfect just as they are. And calling it 'Frozen' misses the whole point, I think, because it makes Snow Queen sound like Frozone-turned-evil when she's so much more than that. And quite frankly, the strength of the Snow Queen story is Gerda (I mean really, who has strong feelings about Kai? NO ONE THAT'S WHO) and the movie's focus should be on her.
You know, everyone I know seems to get motion sick when reading! I've never had any problems. Of course, I fall asleep really easily in any mode of transportation so I don't read as much in the car as I would like.
Too bad we'd be driving back underneath it like an hour later. :(
December 15th - Morning
My plan for the morning of the 15th was to get up early, scarf down some waffles at our off-site hotel (which had been very nice! We had a lovely pool view but I can’t remember the name. Bear does most of our non-Disney planning), and quickly run over to Port Orleans and check in before making it to Universal for rope drop (or their equivalent).
Needless to say, this didn’t quite work out. We were pretty much on time up to the waffles; post-waffles turned out to be a bit of a mess. Bear likes to use Tom Tom for traveling and our Tom Tom really does not like Disney. It took us a few tries before ending up at Port Orleans (though that was really Bear’s fault, not Tom Tom’s). Check-in also took ages despite us being in an incredibly short line. There were maybe three windows open and it was forever for one of them to open up. Of course, once we got called up by Darrell for our check-in, we probably hung out there for twenty minutes or so, getting paperwork, asking about room requests, and getting our room charges and dining plan worked out. The original plan called for us just leaving everyone’s luggage (ours and Mr. T’s) in the car until we came back from Universal. Darrell, however, was a super-awesome-amazing Cast Member and found us a room that was ready which put us further behind schedule.
Having gotten directions to Magnolia Terrace, we dashed back to the car and reloaded everyone. We weren’t entirely sure where to drive or park once reaching Magnolia Terrace and the loop was deceptively long. This, along with an inauspicious lack of elevators and directions to our actual room, combined to give us a sense of foreboding about our room. I was happy we were in the mansion section but Darrell hadn’t shown us exactly where the room was and we were in too much of a rush to determine exactly where we were in Riverside. But we loved the room interior and rationalized that we would only use the elevator twice – when loading and unloading our luggage – so we didn’t really need to know how to get to the elevator. Given that it was close to 30 minutes past the time we had wanted to be at Universal, we closed up the room and wandered back over to the car. Even running late, it was just too tempting to admire Riverside’s landscaping.
Being conscientious travelers, the three of us had all bought Islands of Adventure tickets the night before. Bear’s and my tickets were the electronic Will Call, which took approximately 30 seconds to collect from the terminal.
Mr. T, on the other hand, had a Florida resident ticket waiting for him at Will Call and needed to stand in a really long line. Bear and I stood around waiting awkwardly in the little courtyard before the turnstiles.
The entrance to Islands of Adventure is probably my favorite part of the park. I love the theming choices here, the architecture and all the signs and finally being away from Citywalk.
I thought that Citywalk was supposed to something similar to Downtown Disney but… it wasn’t. There was some not-very-exciting restaurants (a Burger King burger bar? Really?) and you had to pay for parking. I think. It wasn’t very clear because Tom Tom got us lost on the way to the Universal Parking Garage of Death (I’m pretty sure it’s about as large as the Sahara Desert. Large numbers of people have to get lost in there annually).
I honestly could have spent a lot of time exploring Port of Entry, especially because it emptied out very quickly. Thematically I liked the entrance better than Main Street – Main Street doesn’t really ‘connect’ to the other lands but it makes perfect sense to go through the Port of Entry to get to different Islands of Adventure.
The lighthouse isn’t quite as dramatic an icon as Cinderella’s Castle but I’m not sure that anyone actually realizes that it’s supposed to be. I mean, it looks like a tower, but… it’s not a very effective lighthouse. Where would the Keeper live? Where are the jagged rocks that endanger ships? Can ships even fit in the lake? Also, those steps seem like they’d be very dangerous in a storm which is when you’d want the lighthouse light to be lit.
Plus, there are tigers. Magic Kingdom would greatly improve as a result of adding more animals.
Anyway, I was dragged through Port of Entry, primarily by Mr. T, who was incredibly concerned about us getting to Harry Potter World late. Touring with – and actually being with – a third person was slightly disconcerting. Bear and I sort of tagged after Mr. T for most of the morning until I realized this would mean we got nothing done.
I can’t decide if I like the view of Hogwarts across the lake. It looks so ominous and foreboding and… that’s not what Hogwarts is supposed to be? I mean, it doesn’t need to be sparkly and white but it definitely doesn’t fit in the skyline and give the same feelings as in the book. Maybe if there was something else there with it? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the park quite yet.
That's awesome that the CM was able to find you an available room when you checked in! But I'm sure you guys definitely just wanted to keep to your schedule!
I agree, Hogwarts really doesn't seem to fit in with the scenery there, but I'm sure that the designers wanted to make sure you could see it as much as possible, continuity or not!
and this goes on for, like, five minutes...
and then we have a room! Yes!
Yeah, that seems to be the theme with Universal/Islands of Adventure. Individually the theming was pretty good but it didn't flow together as a whole park. Everything was competing for your attention and you were very aware of all the theming instead of it being an immersive experience, in my opinion.
Also: has everyone heard the Mumford & Sons cover of 'Not in Nottingham?' I wish there was more Robin Hood (also more from the Bill Peet films) in the parks!
Mr. T, even as a Florida resident, had yet to go to Harry Potter World (I will never remember the full name, it’s awful!) and was starting to get worried about crowds and timing (hint: there were no crowds today). He hurried us along through Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent, insisting there would be time for pictures and exploring later (this would come true; I think we spent the most time that day in those two sections!). The one thing I noticed on our madcap journey through slow walkers, strollers, and Whovians was how jarring the transitions were in Islands of Adventure.
I know there isn’t much in common between Harry Potter, the Lost Continent, and Dr. Seuss, but they could’ve tried. I didn’t notice any “breaks” between the lands to emphasize the ‘island’ part (Bear assures me there was, I only remember the one between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park) but I feel like this would be helpful. A nice, solid bridge and river would be a nice palate cleanser especially between the incredibly stylized Seuss Landing and the Lost Continent! It wasn’t so bad between Lost Continent + Harry Potter, except for the whole “snow” thing in Hogsmeade.
But we were inside – finally! With a glorious Hogwarts Express (best part of the whole series, let’s be real. A magical train? With awesome snacks? Sign me up!) I loved the details around this part of the park as well – even going so far as to put up a train schedule. However, overall, I think that the new 'Harry Potter World London' expansion (also, Gringotts train ride! I love that all theme parks are listening to my pleas for trains-based attractions. MORE TRAINS!) is sorely needed. The Wizarding World is cramped and just.. lacking.
I’m not sure what, but it doesn’t seem like Hogsmeade. A lot of this is because it seems to be a bit of a mishmash between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade; adding a ‘London’ branch should clear some of that up, hopefully. And really, the theming is amazing. There’s just not enough. The stores that are open (which is disappointingly few) and cramped and crowded. Beautiful, yes, but I couldn’t enjoy any of it because there were always people everywhere – and this was a relatively low crowd day!
To be honest, my favorite part was the cat in the Gladrag’s window. Adorable and it moved! The inclusion of technology here was very well done and very subtle as well. It didn’t jump out and scream ‘YES TECHNOLOGY AREN’T WE COOL’ but instead enhanced the shop windows.
We headed up towards the castle and the ride; unfortunately Mr. T (who is incredibly tall) couldn’t fit in the ride seats comfortably. This definitely gave us a negative bias to the ride – why wouldn’t they make this more accessible? Since the queue was only 30 minutes, we decided to explore the castle and Mr. T would hop out of line at the normal point.
Again, it felt just a little more forboding in here than would be my preference. There were lots of neat details, but it was definitely Movie Hogwarts and not Book Hogwarts (especially the House points jars, but I’m still bitter about the scene in the first book/movie where Slytherin has totally won and then the staff/Dumbledore are jerks and are all ‘lol We like Gryffindor better, you lose.’ How silly to do that to children! Give Gryffindor the points in private, don’t make a large group of children excited to win and then take it away in public).
Ironically, the homiest part of the castle was the classroom. I liked all the knick-knacks scattered around because it looked well-used and like people were there! The castle tended towards sterile at times, but that’s the nature of the beast. Again, the moving portrait technology was nicely implemented, even though we rarely sat through a whole ‘scene.’
The castle walkthrough was much better than the ride for us. Bear and I went on it alone together (if that makes sense..) and neither of us were very impressed. It was like the ride designers decided to throw in every major plot point from 7 books into a two minute ride. It didn’t work. It was frenetic and impossible to keep up – there needs to be a ‘down’ point to really emphasize a climax. Plus it seemed scary for the purpose of being scary. Any one of the “villains” would have made an excellent ride, the designers just needed to simplify. Also – enchanted benches are no doombuggies. The ride vehicles could’ve done with better designing but the movements were fun.
We headed back towards Hogsmeade, wanting to stop for lunch and a drink. I finally found my pigeons – I remembered there being quite a few more – and followed it around the street as Bear and Mr. T purchased their butterbeers. Both enjoyed them but confessed that mainly for the foam.
We checked out the Three Broomsticks but no one was really feeling British-type food at the point. It seemed too heavy after our Cuban-heavy day the day before. The Three Broomsticks also filled up quickly and no one wanted to stand in line for food that they didn’t want.
Luckily there was more of Hogsmeade to explore. The Hogsmeade specific shops were well-done – Honeydukes was probably my favorite. The boys had their butterbeer which made navigating narrow aisles filled with rambunctious children difficult.
Chocolate Frogs in Window
I tried to keep my shooting to a minimum as Mr. T and I walked Bear through more Harry Potter lore. Bear and I usually have a book we read together at night (we just finished up Narnia recently, Percy Jackson is up next. I have a ridiculous amount of children/YA fantasy at my disposal) and we may just have to add Harry Potter to the list!
It was kind of embarrassing to be standing in the middle of Hogsmeade explaining chocolate frogs, it seemed as though most people there were diehard fans (going by the robes they were wearing; Gryffindor was the most popular).
Given that they are both larger gentlemen, Bear and Mr. T pushed me quickly through Zonko’s, eager to get back outside. The dragon kite was probably my second favorite thing and Bear had to navigate me around more than one stroller as I tried to frame it correctly. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the shot and ended up stepping on at least one child. Can’t win ‘em all!
(I'm sorry this isn't more exciting, it's been a long week and this took me exactly fifteen minutes to put together while watching one of Bear's disaster shows. Next time!)
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