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Weekend Update

Walt Disney World Update; Photogenic Magic Kingdom; Scenic River Trip in France

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by , 02-17-2012 at 06:22 PM

Before we get started on our Weekend Update trip around the world, I wanted to take a moment to explain the conspicuous absence of one of our most prolific contributors. My fellow MiceChatter and dear friend SummerInFL has had some momentous changes in her life recently. Despite everything going on in her life, she managed to regularly share her unique reports on her many travels around her home state of Florida. Over the years, I have come to have a better appreciation of the many historic and cultural landmarks throughout the state thanks to Summer's reports.

Summer finally ran into something that stopped cold her reporting capabilities. And it's a wonderful thing...she and her husband Phil are going to have a baby! We want to take this opportunity to thank Summer for everything she has done for MiceChat and the Weekend Update and wish her well on the upcoming blessed event!

We may not have Summer's photo reports for awhile, but Denise Preskitt keeps on coming through for us with reports on her activities around the Orlando area. This week she updates us on new construction on Disney properties as well as some news from Universal Orlando.

We continue to enjoy the beautiful images that came out of Rya86n's honeymoon trip. The Magic Kingdom has never looked so good!

What could be better than a river trip in France titled Burgundy and Provence on a ship called The River Royale? We get to tag along with Scarlett Stahl as she sails through some scenic French towns.

Merci de visiter le Weekend Update! Google Translate

Disney's Art of Animation Resort is coming along nicely. Photos and video of this and more from Denise Preskitt.

We have been all over the place again this week, so the photos run the gamut (well, still mostly Disney!)

We spent a few hours at Animal Kingdom last week, and I didn't have a good seat for the safari, but I still managed to get a few decent photos.

And we rode Expedition Everest twice!

Our Expedition Everest ride video:

I have been working on my Resort Photo Walks again, here are a few photos from this week! At Fulton's General Store at Port Orleans Riverside, Donald Duck looks dumbfounded:

A frog fountain at Port Orleans French Quarter:

And one of many alligators at Doubloon Lagoon, Port Orleans French Quarter:

I took this video of Doubloon Lagoon (Jeff edited):

The Rainforest Cafe is under a lengthy rehab, the volcano will eventually include lava:

But one of the popular birds was out in front of the construction...:

While a squirrel ate the bird's food:

We went to a special preview of the Blue Man Group's newest segments:

Miniature golf is coming to Universal:

And signs are going up around Disney's Art of Animation Resort:

Crush and Dory:

Our Art of Animation Resort video:

Denise has been hard at work at her website recently. If you haven't visited lately, you really ought to check it out:

Share your vacation photos with the Weekend Update

Rya86n continues his honeymoon theme park tour at the Magic Kingdom!

This week, I'm sharing some of my Magic Kingdom photos.

One of our many return trips to Magic Kingdom coincided with Thanksgiving, needless to say, the park was very busy!

But we were still pretty excited to be here.

Parade Time.

Our friend and host.

Throw in a shot of one of my favourite rides, those who know me, know I'm pretty addicted to Disney Pirates.

Someone else's favourite ride. Well she's pretty proud of her score at least.

There are so many Magical locations and photo opportunities here, unfortunately my chances were limited by crowds (but we will be back!)

Loved seeing The Magic The Memories and You for the first time. Such cool technology, and great images! Especially the extra holiday themed magic.

It can't be a Disney Day without fireworks!

Scarlett Stahl takes us on a trip on "The River Royale"

One of my best friends, Nuala Cullen, accompanied me on a River Cruise entitled Burgundy and Provence, which sailed from Lyon to Arles, France. On Sunday at the Air France Arrivals Area in Lyon Airport, we met with the Uniworld representative, who was holding the Uniworld sign and escorted a group of us to a bus, which took us to our boat, The River Royale, docked on the Rhone River in Lyon. We were supposed to be taken to the boat, docked on the Saone River in Chalon but due to high and dangerous waters from rain, the Saone River was closed to all boats. This necessitated a change in our planned schedules, at least for the first couple of days.


This photo shows a building that appears to have balconies, etc but EVERYTHING is painted on the building and is not real. Trompe-l'úil, which can also be spelled without the hyphen in English as trompe l'oeil, (French for 'deceive the eye',is an art technique involving extremely realistic imagery in order to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects appear in three dimensions.

After arrival on the boat, we were pleasantly surprised with a buffet lunch served in the Renoir Lounge, with a variety of delicious foods such as hot soup, salad, cheeses (after all this was France), sandwiches and choice of desserts. This was only the beginning of lavish three meals a day for the week long cruise. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style with a breakfast chef preparing omelettes to order, along with French toast and eggs Benedict. Dinners were more elaborate with table service and wine. On the first day, cruise guests, who had gone to Chalon to join the boat there, not knowing of the change to Lyon, were given fifteen euros for lunch there and then were bussed over to Lyon to join the boat.

Dining on River Royalle. Pictured are Nuala Cullen, Scarlett, Annaik and Charles Eichel.

Shortly after lunch we were allowed access to our cabins, where our luggage was awaiting us. The Sun Deck was on the top of the boat, with a Jacuzzi and no cabins. Below it was the Azure Deck, with the most expensive cabins. These cabins were not any larger than the ones on other decks and were in fact slightly smaller. The main reason for the higher price was that when the boat was docked in port, cabins at the top would still have a view while the lower decks might be facing a wall or another boat as they often docked side by side in port. Also there were ceiling to floor windows, which gave a better view. But one disadvantage to the higher deck was that you had to walk down to the reception area, where the Renoir Lounge was and another deck down to the Cezanne dining room.

French Village. Scarlett with Annaick Eichel and Nuala Cullen.

I liked our cabin located on the Burgundy Deck (directly below the Azure Deck). It was more convenient to go to both the reception area and Renoir Lounge as well as the Cezanne dining room. Our cabin was bigger than the ones on the deck above and due to the high water there was no problem facing a wall while in port. The Champagne Deck was below us but I didnít go there so I canít tell you anything about it. You could lie in bed as the window was bed level. and look directly out to the water and the scenery. Nuala and I jokingly said that the cabin must have been designed by a woman as everything was so convenient for us with drawers under the beds as well as two small end tables by the beds and hooks on the cabin door as well as the bathroom door for our robes. Not only was there a clothes closet but also another closet from floor to ceiling with shelves for storage. Bathrobes, hair dryer and umbrella were provided in the cabin for our use during the cruise. Toiletries from a famous French firm, LíOccitane, were also provided. Everything was a touch of class. Awaiting us when we arrived in the cabins were folders with a description of our ports of call along with the activity sheet, which we received daily.

Cruise Director, Christian with Scarlett.

After settling in, we joined the other cruise guests in the Renoir Lounge to meet our Cruise director, who informed us of the planned activities for the next day. The average age of the cruise guests was a minimum of sixty years and older. Possibly the reason that the cruise members are older is that these cruises cost around five thousand dollars per couple for a week cruise and the younger people could not afford it or possibly the younger people just havenít caught on to River Cruising yet.

Personally I LOVE River Cruising as it is wonderful being on a luxurious floating hotel. I love to watch the river and usually left the curtains open at night so I could look out as we sailed along. It was wonderful not having to pack and unpack and sleeping in the same bed every night and having the same crew serve you daily while making new friends. As the boat only accommodates a little over 100 guests, you find it easy to meet people. Also as this is a flat bottom boat that can not sail in the ocean and only on rivers, you never get sea sick. Each day you wake in a different city for a new adventure. And each day you are taken on a tour of the city with a local guide with time afterwards for exploring on your own. I liked the slow walking tours as there was more time for photos and was more relaxing. We were lucky to have the same guide for the first three days as he was quite an actor and a clown, but also so knowledgeable that he could have been a teacher. There was a hair dresser on board as well as a masseuse and also a little gift shop with specialties native to the region such as lavender sachets, wines, etc. Most popular were tee shirts picturing the ports on the river that we were visiting with the shipís name River Royale. Most of the officers were French, while the crew members were mainly from Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania, as well as the Czech Republic. They were all wonderful and helpful and worked really hard to keep us happy.

On board one day there was a demonstration of handpainting on silk scarves, which were also available for purchase. Another day was a slide show re French chocolates and samples to taste as well. Our cruise director gave a talk entitled Meet the French, which was a humorous but informative talk on getting along with the French. Basically he suggested being friendly and pleasant yourself, which makes common sense and also using a little French, which shows respect for their country. The Hotel Manager gave a nautical lecture on the Rhone and Saone Rivers. Another day he gave a talk on safety, convincing all of us to leave our passports, wallets and valuables in the safe provided in our cabins. He suggested only taking one credit card, small cash and a copy of our passport, which he would copy for us if we did not already have a copy. He stressed that this was especially important in the Southern part of France due to the gypsies. Another day we had a visit to the kitchen and a sampling of a French crepe.

Vincent Van Gogh.

Yet another day there was a slide show of paintings and pictures of Vincent Van Gogh, the Impressionist painter, who made our last port of call, Arles, famous with his paintings there. We visited the Cafť Nuit in Arles which was called Starry Night in his famous painting of the cafe. Nightly there was piano music to entertain the guests.

Wine chateau.

Monday was a full day tour to the Burgundy village of Beaune and a visit to the Hospices de Beaune, once a former hospital from 1443 to the 1960s, which is now a museum dedicated to the history of healthcare. We were also taken to a Burgundy wine Chateau in the afternoon, where we could see what life would have been like in an old Chateau, as well as enjoying wine tasting. Tuesday was a city tour of Lyon, which is really a beautiful city in the center of France. Lyon is the second largest city in France, with Paris being the first. It is nestled between the Saone and Rhone Rivers with a lovely cathedral at the top of a large hill next to a miniature Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately there appears to be a problem with graffiti on the walls and buildings there. Whenever asked, the people of Lyon always say they speak a little English but their English really is limited. However they truly are kind and try to be helpful. Wednesday was a walking tour of Tournon, where there was a medieval castle and then across the river to Tain LíHermitage and a visit of the Ferraton cellars for more wine tasting. Thursday was a guided tour of a historic town, Viviers, with organ music at the top of the village at the church. Later was a visit to the City Hall, the former Bishop Palace, with some local ladies selling hand painted scarves as well as lavender sachets and wines. There we had a picnic style lunch with an assortment of white and red wines with finger foods. Not too many people live in Viviers as they prefer to live in homes in the countryside, where the streets are straighter and not as winding as in Viviers. It is because of the Mistral winds that the town has winding streets to block the fresh or cold, often violent dry winds, which blow from the northwest through the valley of the Rhone River to the Mediterranean. In fact there is no hotel in Viviers. Friday was a guided tour of Avignon, a truly beautiful ancient walled city. I chose to take the little train, which was a wonderful way to see the city and a view of the surrounding countryside from the hills above the magnificent and large Papal Palace. Each day got better and better with our ports of call and weatherwise as well. During the cruise we only had two days of showers at the beginning though rain had been predicted daily. Saturday was a guided city tour of Arles, which is a unique medieval town, where Vincent Van Gogh was most productive and his paintings were most tranquil. Sunday was the day to say au revoir as they say goodbye in France and to take the busride of about an hour and twenty minutes to the airport in Marseilles for our homebound flights.


I enjoyed all of the trip but preferred Lyon, Avignon and Arles as destinations rather than Beaune, Tournon & Tain LíHermitage as well as Viviers. The first threeís beauty and historical significance coupled with their being larger cities with more to see and also some shopping made them irresistible. I also wish we had been taken one day on a tour to Marseille, in place of one of the lesser significant destinations.


Truffle dog.

Large truffle in a jar.

Please note there were a couple of optional tours but I chose to only take one as the prices were about 58 Euros each tour, which would be about $87 in U.S. money, too pricey for me to do more than one. I chose a visit to a winery, which was not a real draw for me as we had already visited more than one winery. The real interest for me was the visit to a truffle farm. Now I had never tasted a truffle before but had heard that they are a form of mushroom and considered to be an expensive delicacy. It was a beautiful sunny day to walk in the fields. The owner of the truffle farm did not speak English but our tour guide translated for us while the owner, a great actor, performed for us. Due to a cold spell truffles were not in season, but he had dug holes and planted several for his little dog, Lady, to hunt and find. In former times, muzzled pigs were used to locate the truffles under the trees but nowdays dogs are used. As he told us, a truffle hunting dog is worth their weight in gold and Lady's mother was a truffle hunting dog herself. Lady was popular with us as she was so friendly and came for pats from all of us. She did her job well, finding the truffles and letting the owner pick them up, while he rewarded her with a dog biscuit. However she showed her youth as she accidentally ate half of the fourth truffle.The owner endeared himself to us all as he kissed her on her nose and gave her a dog biscuit instead of scolding her. Later while we drank rose wine and ate híordeuvres of truffles and black olives, he showed us a jar that held the largest truffle he had ever found on his land and said that it was worth $2000!!!!! The truffles tasted okay but maybe it is really an acquired taste as I wouldnít go out of my way for them, anymore than I would for caviar.


Until next revoir to you, my friends.

Might we also suggest that you visit these fine MiceAge/MiceChat attractions for even more Disney and theme park fun:
  • MiceTube - Introducing MiceChat's new channel on YouTube. Kevin Yee and MiceChat Sarah have been uploading entertaining videos weekly, along with many other of your MiceAge and MiceChat favorites.
  • Dateline Disneyland which is packed with great news and photos from the Disneyland Resort.
  • Orlando Parkhopper featuring news and photos from Disney World and Orlando area theme parks.
  • In The Parks offers news, updates and tips from Disneyland and other Southern California offerings.
  • SAMLAND - Your weekly look at some interesting tales from Disney history.
  • MiceDeals - You won't want to miss out on these great deals for Orlando and Anaheim!
  • Vacationeering - Every Sunday, we feature articles designed to help you create magical family vacation memories!

And that brings us to the end of another week. Our photographers have just enough time to reload their cameras before we see you all again next weekend. Thank you to all of our wonderful readers, and as always, a huge thank you to our amazing team of global photographers, spies, and gossips:

Denise Preskitt
Scarlett Stahl

Your Editor - Rixter

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Updated 02-18-2012 at 11:27 AM by Weekend Update



  1. rya86n's Avatar
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    Great update from around Orlando Denise; love seeing AK photos; we very much wanted to see BMG at Universal, but just couldn't fit it in. Hopefully it will still be there later this year when we come back!
  2. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Thank you for the update everyone! Loved all the WDW photos this week. And Scarlett's river cruise adventure was a real treat!!!

    Have a great weekend everyone.
  3. nbodyhome's Avatar
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    Thanks Ryan! We enjoyed the BMG, it was the first time seeing them. I hope you get to on your next trip!

    Dusty - have a great weekend.

  4. Disneylandfan85's Avatar
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    Donald Duck looks like he met Kaa the snake!
  5. MJM's Avatar
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    Congratulations to SummerInFl. All best wishes to you!

    Great weekend update! Denise, I also enjoyed Blue Man Group. Ryan, great pics of your honeymoon. Scarlet, I always enjoy your go to such great places!
  6. MrTour's Avatar
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    Fro all the plucking, that Macaw looked like a nervous bird!