We made our way back to Epcot and took the requisite row pic so we wouldn’t be spending 25 minutes trying to find the car at closing.
Being a Friday evening, I warned everyone that the crowds might be a little higher than usual with the locals descending on the park to start their weekend off right. Still, it didn’t seem too bad as we hopped on the tram towards the entrance. We flew through the turnstiles again and booked it to the Chew Lab.
The queue line to order moved relatively quickly; the food pickup line, though…that was a different story. We ordered a couple of the New York Strips with Parsnip silk, Balsamic Glaze, and Arugula Foam (without telling Eric anything other than “steak”) and a couple of the nitro truffles. The strips came out in a couple of minutes, but the word had gotten out about the awesomeness of the truffles, because it was a good 10+ minute wait to get them. It was a combination of high demand for them and the time-consuming process it took to create each plate. Yes, folks, they actually froze them with liquid nitrogen.
Was it worth the wait?
YEP! Oh, and all 4 of us nearly cried when we lost about half of one of the nitro truffles off of a plate and onto the ground.
I contemplated just sticking around here and getting seconds…and thirds…and…but we made the (tough) decision to trek on and seek out new foods and wines. We resisted the urge to stop at the Cheese Studio and Wine Studio kiosks and eventually found our way back into the World Showcase. A quick left-hand turn, and we were entering unseen kiosk territory. Eric was again famished, as I think he was onto us with the enhancements to the strip steak at Chew Lab. He only had a bite or two and also was the one who lost half of the nitro truffle (I’ll take the blame…I did something that made him drop it). Anyways, he was withering away, according to him. When he gets this way, though, he can’t make a decision on what to actually eat as he’s afraid he won’t like it and prolong his agony. We heard rave reviews of the Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese at the Farm Fresh kiosk, but Eric was quick to read what was included with “loaded”…peppers and green onions. That put the kibosh on that idea quickly; it was a good thing, too, because it was about 6:20 and the line there was loooooong!
Now nearing the stage where he had to be dragged on the ground to go anywhere, Eric started writing his will (he was going to bequeath everything to our cat). Sheri and I saw the Tropical Delight drink at the nearby Port of Entry Coffee Cart (Frozen Mango with Coconut Syrup and Grey Goose Vodka) and just about hopped in line for a drink or five (“go on, boys…you’ve been here enough times…just meet us at Spaceship Earth after Illuminations…make sure you stay for ‘We Go On’ though because you know how much it drives me crazy when people leave before it ends”). I bet we could have gotten away with it, too...Aaron's tall for his age - he could probably pass for a 16 year old.
Eventually, we stumbled upon the Patagonia kiosk. Let’s see here…we sampled North America (U.S. with Chew Lab and also Canada), Europe (Greece, France, and Ireland), and now, with Patagonia, we’re sampling South America (look it up…it’s South America, folks). All we need is Asia, Africa, and Australia, and we’ll get continental Bingo! Eric, about to succumb and let death take over his body, agreed to try something from the Patagonia Kiosk, and we got a couple of beef empanada orders to share.
He’ll make it…he’ll live at least until we get to another kiosk. That kiosk was Mexico! Dos Dos Equis, uno Chilaquiles de Pollo, y uno Tacos de Camaron, por favor!
Okay…we were all fed and likely to survive. We decided to hop into the Mexico Pavilion, which is another of my favorites to visit. By instinct, I started to turn right after descending the stairs to get my tequila flight and salsa fix at La Cava del Tequila, but Sheri steered me back towards Gran Fiesta Tour. The line was long-ish, but we were on in about 5 minutes and floating past the folks dining in San Angel (that is soooo cool). We had the usual traffic jam at the end of the attraction, and I felt confident that I was fluent in Disney Spanish by the time we got off; I now know the monorail “por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas” spiel and the last room conversation in Gran Fiesta.
We strolled around Mexico for a bit and then moved over to Norway, where the crowds were somewhat lower than usual, though, with Maelstrom closed, it probably should not have been much of a surprise. We bypassed Norway (as a tear trickled down my cheek) and decided to give China the time it deserved. This was a pavilion that we have always seemed to bypass every trip, for one reason or another. We went in and found out that we had a good 15 minutes before the next showing of Reflections of China. This gave us some time to get to know the pavilion a little better. Most people consider Reflections of China to be the primary attraction; I beg to differ, though. The architecture and the symbolism throughout the entire pavilion trumps everything else…it’s not even a contest. Inside the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest, I showed the boys the rotunda and told them about the acoustic qualities of the room. I couldn’t remember the significance of the columns or the colors used in the area (gold, red, blue, and green, which all symbolize something in the Chinese culture). While the boys marveled at the tomb warriors exhibit, I looked up at the ceiling for the first time and simply stopped in my tracks. I didn’t take any pictures because the area almost exuded an aura of reverence. If you haven’t taken the time to visit this pavilion, do yourself a favor and slow down here! I would love to tour this area with someone knowledgeable with the culture to help point out just how well the imagineers captured China. The dragon paired with the phoenix…the nine center stones under the rotunda…the (rather morbid) homage to Prince Min…the detail of this pavilion is simply awe-inspiring.
After we finished watching Reflections, we looked around the House of Good Fortune for a bit.
We thought about grabbing some pot stickers from the kiosk and getting our passports stamped; however, the line was about 15 deep. Still, we were jonesing for pot stickers. The Economist in me looked at the Lotus Blossom Café…same pot stickers with no wait? SURE! We trekked into Lotus Blossom, grabbed some pot stickers and some Tsingtao beer for me and some plum wine for Sheri (hey, it’s called the Food and Wine Festival…not the Food and Beer Festival).
It was getting to be around 8:30, and while Illuminations ranks up there as one of my favorite night-time shows, we had a long day today and a long one planned for tomorrow at the Magic Kingdom. The vote was 3.5-0.5 (I couldn’t completely vote against Illuminations), so we started making our way out of World Showcase towards Spaceship Earth.
We decided for one last attraction, though…we had to find Nemo.
Aaron caught the above pic with his phone.
With the shirt I was wearing...you know we had to get this one:
One of my quirks in the parks is to always tell the icon "goodbye" was I exit (well, I don't do that so much for Hollywood Studios, because there really isn't an icon there, other than the Chinese Theater). We all turned and grabbed one last shot of Spaceship Earth...
Have I mentioned that I love this park?
We had a hilarious tram announcer on the way to our car; I wish I would have gotten his name to pass along to the Disney Parks folks. He had everyone in stitches...he started out with a tour of the parking lot like a Jungle Cruise Captain would and then went into some obscure trivia to see what answers we would shout out. Luckily we were the last stop on the ride, so we got to hear the most. I made sure to give him a thumbs-up and a "Thanks...you rock!!" as we walked by.
Illuminations started as we made our way South on Epcot Center Drive towards the exit. There are rumors still swirling of a new show in the works for Epcot...that means we're going to have to come back to see Illuminations a couple more times before it's gone!
Back at the resort, it was a little easier convincing the boys to hit the hay. They weren't too worn out, but they definitely had a lot going on.
Oh, just wait, kids...I had an insane plan for the Magic Kingdom the next morning muahahahahah.