An Extended Stay in Florida – Epcot

Sleep does not come well at all when you have to share a bed with your mom.

To keep prices down, we had booked a single room with two full beds. When the booking was made, for some reason I assumed it was Queen beds. So the night was awkward and mostly sleepless. I would have been better off sleeping on the balcony had it not been chilly outside.

Needless to say, I was tired when we woke up and got around to see Epcot.

Taking our time, trying not to wake Brian and Kristin, we got around. While showering, I noticed that not only were the handles for the shower loose, but they’d come off completely. Rodeway Inn 1, Hilton Marina 0.

Breakfast was simple. Inside the hotel was a counter with breakfast sandwiches, bagels, fruit, etc… We grabbed some stuff to eat on the way to Epcot as it would be a 3 hour drive. The 3 hours btw is accurate based on Florida driving standard of 80mph. The Camry, even being a 4 cylinder, was able to do this with ease and comfort, no less.

Within the 3 hours we made it to Kissimmee and then Lake Buena Vista. Getting around Disney, to me, has always been a little confusing. I could never remember which park I’d come across first or which road intersected what. Knowing that I used the navigation on my phone to get us to the park. Get us there it did too! The employee parking as a matter of fact! There in front of us was Spaceship Earth (the big, silver, futuristic, golf ball). Just within reach, but we’d have to find guest parking first. Turned out that it was just a little bit up the road.

The first thing you see when you pull into Epcot is once again, Spaceship Earth. This is followed by the lot gate agent who collects the parking fee, then followed by numerous people who direct you where to park. It is particularly organized here as it needs to be. Once parked you can walk or take a ride on the tram to the gates. With Mom, we obviously took the tram that waited just the right amount of time before bringing us to the ticket booths and park entryway. We purchased passes at roughly $100 each, passed through security (with very friendly staff I might add), and were free to bask in the greatness that is Epcot. The least Mickey-Mouse of all the the parks and one I would enjoy specifically for that, plus the food, drink, and cultures.

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This wasn’t my first time at Epcot, and wasn’t by far, Mom’s first time there either. We pretty much had what we wanted to do figured out within 3 minutes of arrival. Off the bat, first order, was the Chevrolet Test Track. This would be followed by dining and drinking around the World Showcase, where I would enjoy as much as I could without going overboard. Since it was Sunday and the park closed a little earlier, we’d try to get in some other rides afterwards.

I remembered the Chevrolet Test Track ride well from the last time I was there over 10 years ago. It was then the GM Test Track. Lines were ridiculous, but the ride was worth the wait back then. Would it be now? Well, for starters because it was in the 50s, not as many people were at the park that day. Lines were fairly short by Disney standards. 45 minutes for us to go together, or if we went as single riders, 20. We joined the single line, fingers crossed that we’d get put in the same car. When we walked inside, the Test Track waiting area was much different from what I remembered. It used to be like an automotive testing ground or laboratory. Now it was like a design studio where you would design your own car that was more along the lines of something Hot Wheels would make. Appealing to the kids in all of us. There were only a couple of things that were actually automotive on display. Two engines, one being a version of GM’s turbo Ecotec.

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When we made it to the actual ride and cars, we were lucky enough to be seated in the same car, but separate rows. After bucking in, our car set off. The ride was drastically different from the original and in my opinion not as good. They had taken away the more “realistic” testing phases and replaced them with a somewhat tacky Tron-like test drive. Electric mountains and fluorescent outlines of big rigs. It’s like they took all the 80’s tackiness from Spaceship Earth and put it here. The really good bit of the ride was still there. At the end of the indoor portion, the doors opened and you were whisked-away onto the open test track, going around corners and accelerating to 70mph before going in a big loop around the building. Yes! They kept the best part the same!

After Test Track, it was time for lunch. That meant it was time for the World Showcase! Yes to culture, food, and drink!

The first stop was Mexico. There were several places there you could dine, but we were only interested in one, the San Angel Inn Restaurant inside the temple. I remembered the inside of the place being really, really, cool and the food being about the same. It was indeed the same when we walked in. The look of a Mexican village at night with a jungle backdrop. Carts selling Mexican (made in Mexico) souvenirs were on the first terrace. On the lower terrace, the restaurant. We had made our minds to have lunch there from the outright. There was literally no wait and we took our seats right away. I enjoyed some Tecate Beer while having some chips and mild salsa. Mom ordered enchiladas that looked really good and I had the red snapper which was a little disappointing. Sabor on the ship had clearly spoiled me and set an awfully high bar. After dinner we took the Tres Caballeros boat ride inside the building as well. Never figured Donald Duck as a good fit for them, but hey, birds of a feather? After lunch and the ride, we purchased a couple souvenirs and Mexican candy before continuing our walk down the World Showcase.

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Knowing I would need to skip a few places, we passed both Norway and China. Norway was currently under construction to include elements of Frozen. Neither of us were particularly interested in China.

Our next stop was Germany. This meant some Bier (spelled their way) and chocolate! One of the big things was carmel pop corn. People were lined-up for this stuff! All I wanted was to have some chocolate. We stood in line while half of Florida got their popcorn fix before eventually getting away with our candy. I bagged some chocolate-covered caramel with bacon.

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Next up was Italy. Man, I wanted some pizza, but instead I would opt for a glass of wine before purchasing some stuff for friends back home. There was a marching display going on the time we were there.

Moving along, we came to America (United States). Although loving our country, we kept it short here too. At a stand outside the copy of Independence Hall, I ordered a Hard Root Beer. It was great and also very troublesome because I could barely even taste the booze in it. As we walked along I took note of the really good vocal performances coming from the Theatre across the way. Disney doesn’t skimp on talent at it’s parks, and it showed.

After America was one of my favorites, Japan! I wouldn’t drink here, but this was a place to buy some really cool stuff! I also would have loved to had some sushi too if my guts could handle it. Mom and I headed into the very large Mitsukoshi store on site. Packed inside were all sorts of Japanese pop culture items to buy. From anime clothing, incense, robes, swords, candy, and figurines. It was all there and all really cool. I could have bought everything in the store! I kept it simple though, buying candy that looked like tiny tree stumps and a Lucky Cat figure to put in my tool box. My integrity had won out and I only walked away with a little.

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Morocco was after Japan. First thing I purchased here was an Efes Beer (Turkish). Walking around the plazas and shops, this was easily the most visually appealing of the showcases. I would have bought a lot here, had I not planned a trip to the Mediterranean for this coming Autumn.

France. How could we pass France without having some wine and pastries. The line in the Patisserie was long but for good reason. After making room, we had to order something the way that everything looked. The smell of the baked goods was equally intoxicating. I really don’t remember what Mom ordered, but I was very much enjoying macaroons and a glass of wine.

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We stopped briefly at the United Kingdom so Mom could look for tea. I passed on the chance to have some warm beer and we both wound up passing Canada altogether (sorry Canadian friends). It was beginning to get a little late and we wanted to see some other parts of the park before the earlier closing (it was Sunday in the off season).

I wanted to see what Spaceship Earth was like now that it was no longer 1986. In my first visit, I could remember the smell of the 80’s and look of that decade’s idea of sci-fi on the ride. First change I could see was the cars were now silver and the audio was updated. The 80’s smell had ceased. As we progressed, a photo was taken of us that would come into play later. The first part of the ride went as it had all those years ago, but the later half had been updated in such a way that kind of had an open ending as opposed to what was foretold decades ago. It was a nice way to end the ride itself. After stepping out of the cars, you walked through and area where you customized your ideal space type vacation, using the photos that were taken of you on the ride. Note that areas of low contrast tend not to get picked up by the camera.

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After Spaceship Earth, Mom wanted to look inside a shop for some Disney gear for a while. I took it upon myself at this time to go to The Seas with Nemo & Friends. While Mom shopped, I was riding around in an aquarium that featured holograms of Finding Nemo characters among the fish. You would ride around in a chain of giant sea shells while peering into very large tanks. There was a very trippy part of the ride featuring the sea turtles in the current. After the ride you were welcome to walk around the site and see the various aquariums full of many fish, huge rays, sharks, and crustaceans. I looked around for a little while before going to get Mom.

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By the time I had gone back to get mom, it was beginning to get dark. The ride section of the park would be closing down. Despite being the big Disney fan she was, she only walked out of the store with some Mickey-Mouse shaped rice crispy treats.

With a 3 hour drive back home, we headed off to the parking lot to get in the car and head back south to Ft. Lauderdale. It had been a pretty good time at Epcot and with all the driving, I was beat. Once finally back at the motel, I went to sleep pretty quick. The next day would be a little less ambitious and a little more local.

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