Well, I've been back a couple weeks now, and everything has settled back into routine. I don't usually do trip reports - just the highlights (and lowlights). So here's a tale of fun times, some good and bad food, and a rare Disney injury!
Flight - I had more fun than usual on this flight. I was in a window seat, a 9 year old girl was in the middle, and another Disney fanatic that I'd just met was in the aisle. We had a lot of fun telling this girl stories, trivia, hidden Mickey stuff, etc. She seemed to have a good time, but she probably couldn't wait till the plane landed so she could get away from these 2 freaks!
Lodging - Budget forced me to save money on hotel, so I tried the Pop Century for the first time. I've stayed at the All Star Sports once before, and really didn't like it. I couldn't get over the idea that I was staying in Disney's version of a Motel 6. Vacations are for pampering, and I just didn't feel it at the ***. Surprisingly I didn't have this same experience at the Pop. The property is nicely landscaped, the food court is as good or better than most of the moderates, and the room was very clean and comfortable. I asked to stay in a room as far away as possible from the Pop Warner kids that were in town, and Disney did a good job for me - nicely quiet the entire time. And I did see plenty of towel animals in the windows, so I guess the housekeeping staff there still retain the talent.
Christmas stuff - You just can't beat WDW during the holidays. They were shooting the Christmas day special in the MK, so Town Square was totally taken up with the Regis & Kelly stage. But they had traffic organized nicely down Main Street, and the large crowds watching the taping meant much shorter lines on the rides. The Lights of Winter in Epcot is one of my favorite special things at Christmas. I like to stand near the Christmas tree end and look back towards Spaceship Earth and the fountains. The programming that they did on the Nutcracker piece (Dance of the Flowers?) is really incredible! I enjoy the Osborne lights, but I'm not gaga over them. I think there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and this light show is pretty close to that for me. It was much better when spread over the houses in the back lot. Still, very pretty.
Food - I had some great meals and one really sucky one. The Liberty Tree Tavern puts on a fine pot roast. The California Grill is still the king of all dining spots, not just in WDW but just about anywhere else. That beef tenderloin in tamarind BBQ sauce is truly the best there is. I also had a sushi appetizer that was excellent. The San Angel Inn in Epcot's Mexico pavilion was just so so. Not bad food, but those Tostitos with out-of-the-jar salsa is almost a slap in the face. They try to fool you by heating up the Tostitos in an oven, making them crisper. But they're still Tostitos, right out of the bag. Very lame. Dinner in Alfredo's was pretty tasty, but they have about 1/3 too many tables in that area. Very very crowded, very noisy. I was so close to the table next to me that for all intents we were sharing a dining area. They were a couple of nice ladies, though, and we had a nice chat during dinner. The surprising disappointment of this trip was Chefs de France. I enjoyed the escargot appetizer, but the entre, a beef tenderloin in a puff pastry, was just about inedible. Very raw, very tough, not very tasty, the pastry was soggy - not at all acceptable. I should have sent it back, but I didn't feel like a fight that night. I've had great meals here in the past, so this was a sad surprise.
Entertainment - I really enjoy the Voices of Liberty at Christmas time. There is a large-ish blond lady that is a really incredible soprano - much stronger and wider range than average. They use her to good effect in the Candlelight Processional as well. I got to see the Processional with Cicely Tyson as the guest speaker. I can't say enough about her performance. She was totally into the drama of the dialogue, and was most charming in her opening comments. I've seen a few different speakers over the years, and she was by far the best. The renovation that they did in the past year of the back side of this theater really improves the standing room area out on the esplanade. They've put up small speakers, so you can clearly hear as well as clearly see the show. Well done! Speaking of the VofL, has anyone noticed that one of the two directors, the older guy with the thinning hair, is now a Dapper Dan? I asked him if this was a promotion or a demotion, and he said "after 21 years of doing the same thing, what would I be looking for? A PROMOTION, of course!" He fits right in, yukking it up much more than he could with the Voices. And he'll never have to say "Those are the banjos" again!!! I caught a set of Off Kilter, and was surprised to see that they were just kinda sleeping through the set. They've been there a long time - perhaps it's time for a change? Pam Brody, the pearlie piano player at the Rose & Crown pub, was out sick this time, so I never got to perform my famous Irish tenor rendition of Danny Boy. I hope she's ok - she's really a neat lady.
Fireworks - IllumiNations has always been one of my favorite shows, second only to DL's Fantasmic! This was the first time for me to see the new Christmas finale. It was great to hear the incomparable Walter Cronkite's voice again. And the final 30 seconds (where they shoot up over 150 shells!) was mind blowing - much bigger than any other finale Disney has ever done!!! I had one bit of too much excitement during my second viewing on Sunday night. I was enjoying the show, gearing up for that big final 30 seconds, when I felt a sharp pain on the top of my forehead. I reached up and found that my head was on fire!! I spent the finale slapping myself stupid, putting out the fire (a neighbor guy said that I had some pretty good flames for a second!). I'd had a few martini's, so I didn't really know if I was hurt or not. I stopped off at first aid, and they did the ointment and bandage thing. They said that this was a first! The wind was blowing right towards my position in front of Canada, and I guess one of the Christmas shells hit just right. I watched closely over the next couple of viewings, and indeed some of the embers get mightly close to the ground. What do you think - class action, anyone??? Now, 2 weeks later, the blisters are mostly gone, but there are some mighty short hairs up there!
Summary - This was yet another great Disney trip, with one exception (well, other than the bad meal and the burning head). I don't know if I'm finally getting old, or if I had some kind of bug. But I just couldn't get my energy going this time. I'd be in a park at opening, and within a couple hours I'd be dragging along, waiting for lunch and a trip back to the hotel for a nap. I'm sticking with the bug theory - I don't want to start slowing down (I'm ONLY 49!). Maybe I just need to train better for a trip - longer walks, get off the tail and away from the desk, pretend like I'm more active than I really am!!! Next trip will be in September for my 50th birthday. With luck (and training) it should be a killer time!