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June 1st, 2003
June 2nd 2003, Day Four We don't have much time today as we have to be back at the hotel by 1PM to checkout. But while we sit in the lobby and eat our fast breakfast (Scott donuts and me a croissant), Scott argues with the clerk because the previous night as we came back from dinner, we ask if we can have a late checkout of 2 pm and the girl readily gives us till three. But our key card didn't work after that and the previous night we were locked out and had to get if fixed. We walked back and they reprogram it. It still doesn't work. Hot and tired and not wanting to walk out the building and across to the lobby, we call them to come. The guy takes a while. We call again. Finally it's in and he comes back in 10 minutes with it programmed right. After Dinner I want to do laundry, but the washer is broken and on the way home on the bus, I had sat in a "wet" seat. So Scott's NOT happy we can't stay ONE more hour free (see we needed this hour because of the bus times and that's the earliest we could get back!). Plus, I want to wash a little and use the restroom before heading to the airport. So he argues and gets an extra hour without being charged for a full day or a $30 fee. The maid doesn't come till 4 pm earliest anyway, so WHY does it matter!
After arguing with the guy; we decide to let it go and at least they hold our luggage so we can go out for a couple hours. So we leave and hop on the shuttle, steering clear of that wet seat... and get to the ticket/transportation center and run to the monorail which goes to Epcot. We get on just as the doors close. We have VERY limited time! We decide the best thing to do is pick what sounds interesting and do that. The place I want to go it the International Gateway with "lands" of other countries. It doesn't open till 11 am though and we will have to speed walk through it to be out by 1 pm. We pass through "Leave a Legacy". This reminds me of the Vietnam wall in Washington DC. Only it's names and faces of people visiting Epcot. You can have your face here too, for a price (unsure of price). With a little time to kill before going in, we want to go inside that big golf ball...it's a ride called "Spaceship Earth". it's slow-moving time travel through the dawn of man through PC use today. Cute, but not exciting. No photography allowed, but I snapped one shot (see below).
With time to pass still, we just wander and end up deciding on a no wait event entitled "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" though a fast pass ride, there's no wait and we go right in. Scott sighs, seeing it's another 3D glasses event. He's like oh well, it's at least air conditioned. I too think everything is the same now, but it turns out to be really neat. A new effect we've not had before emerges and even scares Scott for a second. You, the audience, become the center of the show. I don't take a photo and you are not allowed to anyway.
Now, we head for the gateway, but it's still closed. We walk through Canada anyway going through a Grotto and I elect not to snap a photo as I've been to Canada a few times and I am worried my chip for the digital camera might run out. We buy diet sodas from the only place open and walk to the United Kingdom where we drink in the shade and look in shop windows. I want to go into two shops here (Twinings Tea shop) and a Beatles shop. There is also a small shop for China etc (but I have some Royal Dalton already) and a toy shop. The fish and chips places is closed. That's basically the entire UK! These lands are small and there are NO RIDES. There appears to be one stage in each town. What they do on the stages I don't know. Probably costumed individuals talk/sing/dance I imagine. We wait and they allow us finally to cross the bridge to the other lands. We go to France and snap only one photo. Scott said "don't take photos etc as we are boycotting France!". I have to remind him we aren't IN France actually, but the USA. I snap a photo anyway.
These lands look larger in the photo than they are. Some of the 3D effects are cutouts/facades. A typical land has just a stage or show (can be inside or outside), one restaurant, one snack place and several shops. A couple may have a small area for historical art/commentary. Each land has some food indicative of that land and the people that work there seem to be from those countries, or trained to talk English using a very convincing accent. From France, we go to Morocco and see a small museum area with about a dozen pieces of Jewelry/pottery/glass. The walls are neat and the courtyard is pretty. I look in the brass/pottery shop and decide If I buy something, I'll have to start a new decor, so I pass. I snap a photo in Morocco.
The next stop is Japan. Scott remembers his sister and her family who are stationed there. We go into the shops which have GREAT items, but I say no again though tempted by a fan (because it's HOT) and some pottery I see that's hand-painted. It's reasonably priced, but do I need it really? nah. I snap two photos. Next stop is U.S.A. I see it's set up like small town USA and has some federal style building and a gazebo from like Main Street USA, but I've seen this a gazillion times before and elect NOT to take photos. We decide maybe to eat here, but decide to be more exotic. We breeze by U.S.A. unimpressed that they'd put that here. I guess maybe it's because Orlando is not indicative of small town USA or Washington DC, nor does it reflect the whole country and it's history. So I guess it's there for non US citizens. That's fine. I remark to Scott at the arrogance of putting it in the CENTER of the International community. Interesting.
After the debate over food, we decide to eat in Italy. But it's expensive and a lot of the stuff is made with stuff Scott doesn't like. I like the statue and take a photo of Scott near it and look in the shops. Expensive handbags, wine and some statuary. Nothing thrilling. I snap a couple photos. While walking to Germany, we discuss sauerkraut and bratwurst before we get there and decide to pass. Scott's mom is German and loves this stuff, but not for me! Plus, I think it does things to your system not good on plane rides... But we go into a shop and see steins, clocks and chocolate...tempting, but don't feel like carrying that back. I think to myself that this is a stereotypical view of Germany and I wonder how idealized it is. We snap two photos and we press on.
From Germany, we stroll into China. I love Fried Rice, pepper steak, chow mien, etc, but it's shrimp rice and I am not a shrimp fan; non of my other favorites are here, so Scott suggest we wait till Mexico and eat there. The shop here is very enticing. Fake and real jade, lacquer, carved boxes and other items like silk scarves tempt me. I see a few items I like but decide the only thing I WANT is something that is too large to bring home. So again, I am empty handed. I LOVED the topiaries in China; especially the Pandas, so I take some photos. Time is running out! We have only two lands left though, so we trudge on. Next stop is Norway. I think of my chat/email buddies at this point. Lars is from Norway and Holger form Germany and Dave from the UK. Aurelien in France too. With Tracy in Japan, we should ask all these people if these photos are just idealized or what. I've been to Canada and Mexico and the US so I know those. That just leaves Italy and Morocco to find out about! Norway is cute. I forget to check out the food though. I should have because I am not familiar with the menu. I do see a pastry stand though. The shops hold trolls and sweaters/heavy clothing (ok, I see why in a way, but who'd buy it when it's 90 plus degrees outside!). I snap a photo and we race to Mexico because we are starving.
The last land to visit is Mexico. We eat here and I am glad we did. I had something similar to a chicken fajita and it was good! Scott gets his usual Nachos and they give black beans on the side. He likes his too. It's more authentic tasting than in Virginia and other states we've lived in. I go into the shops where blankets, wood carving, and pottery are being sold. Having had a lot of Mexican items before, I pass, but look at a replacement blanket. I paid $10 in Mexico for mine, but here it's $37 and I decide it's not worth it. Besides, I've given up Southwest decor and my blankets are overflowing as is. But I snap one photo of Mexico and also of a bird that was inches from us while eating. They beg for food and are scary because they have long beaks and snap real fast. It was soooo close to my butt I got nervous! I snap a photo of him too.
Well, our trip is about over. We have to head for the bus. We go to the monorail and catch the city bus back to the hotel (the hotel one only comes next at 4:30 which is too late). We get back to the hotel, get the bags and wait in the lobby for about 45 minutes. We talk to a British couple who've been waiting there since 11 AM! I don't think they knew that the bellman would care for their bags and they weren't ready to argue to stay longer like Scott did. I talk to the woman who we realize we share a common interest: cats. We are both concerned and want to return home to them. The husband doesn't say a word at all. He's not happy it seems and I don't think they had a great time as expected. I strongly suggest that people from other countries NOT look to one place as being "this is what the US is like". Florida, is MUCH different than the rest of the country. For one thing, it's all touristy there and expensive. Next, only states with palm trees are Florida, California and Hawaii. The heat index in Florida is high with lots of humidity. So don't judge just on that. Just like I told my friend not to judge by Detroit Michigan which is dirty and factory ridden. If you want a typical view of US, go to some smaller cities or larger towns in Iowa, Virginia, Kansas or something. Best fun place to visit for kids may be Florida (Disney) but best place for adults I think is Las Vegas, Nevada. Best quiet places would be Hawaii. Best cultural place to learn about US history etc is Washington DC.
Things we missed at Epcot: Universe of Energy (it's a ride going through dinosaur era). Wonders of Life (a ride called body wars where you ride though an immune system- a second area, Cranium Command, after the ride let's you see the working of a human brain through eyes of 12 year old boy and a third area is there called "The Making of Me" a film about the birthing process.). Test Track (this is a high speed ride where you sit in a race car-there's also some stuff to see in and out about racing). I wanted to do this, but alas, no time! Innovations (playground for kids with technology as the playground). The Living Seas (underwater exploration-a tank of some sort. Not sure what it is exactly, but not a ride. It's a movie or something). The Land Gardening (things to look at and buy, and Living with the land, a ride through greenhouses/fish production facility and crops from around the world. with two other areas with one being called "The Circle of Life" which explores the Lion King and man's relationship to the Earth; appears to be a film. The last area is Food Rocks where dancing characters teach you about nutrition), Lastly, Imagination! (where the Honey I Shrunk the Audience show is; also Journey into Imagination with Figment This is a journey through the 5 senses, but I am not sure what it is other than it's NOT a ride. I think it's an area like a museum with things to look at and "hands on" experiments and such) and lastly, "ImageWorks-Kodak "what if" labs" (A playground of various things to experiment with).
Depending on how much time you have, i think you can do all this in one and a half days. If you would let little ones play in some areas a long time (climbing and such) then two days max. I'd of been able to do the rest in the one day I think, skipping play areas and films.
Left to Right: 1) Entrance to Epcot 2) France 3) China 4) China 5) China; sculpted pandas
Left to Right: 1) Germany 2) Germany 3) Scott in Italy 4) Italy 5) Mexico
Left to right: 1) Japan 2) Japan 3) Norway 4) Norway and 5) a Bird that bothered us while we were eating.
Left to right: 1) England; Winnie the Pooh 2) England 3) England 4) On the Spaceship Earth Ride 5) Morocco
Sites other than Disney you might like to visit: