There’s a long history of me being fortunate enough to spend my birthday in WDW. I can’t remember a bad one and today’s events, as yes, it was my birthday, ranked very high on the all-time list.
Touring World Showcase has been a regular event to celebrate my body ageing and resembling a deflating balloon just a little more, and again, we had Epcot planned. Today, however, had a little more meaning than usual, as this would be the last time that I would be watching Reflections of Earth on a birthday.
ROE has been a huge part of our family trips over the years. Indeed, it started on October 1st 1999, which was just a few days before the first visit for the girls, so for that, and many other reasons it has taken on a very special place in our lives and of course our trips.
This birthday started regrettably early at 5am. I refused to leave my bed until 7, reading and internet browsing until that time. I made my way downstairs eventually to be greeted with cards and presents and some football on the telly. I enjoyed some breakfast and Man United failing to win in equal measure and at around 9am, Facetimed my Mum & Dad back home.
Half an hour later everyone was loaded into the van and we made our way to Epcot and Discover 12. It was a short tram ride to a drop off point that led to a walk to the entrance which was longer than the tram ride. Once through security and the finger scanning I took the chance to commemorate the occasion with an “in front of the ball” photo with Freddie.
Today’s FastPasses, having not been made on the morning of our park visit, were in much better shape, represented by Soarin’ being our first. We set up baby swap and Rebecca and Tom sat out first having a drink and some cake in the food court in The Land.
The rest of us made the long walk to the ride.
I have never used the standby line for this ride so I always try to see, with interest, what the interactive stuff is over in the muggle line. I am interested, but not enough to actually queue up to ride.
We enjoyed, as we always do, Patrick’s safety briefing and then the new film for Soarin’. It’s just an excellent ride.
We took over care of Freddie, finished off the cakes Rebecca and Tom had bought, and Louise got some breakfast having failed to prepare by getting some back at the villa. It was a breakfast croissant and some potato things, the latter of which Freddie ate most of.
Once we were all reunited we made our way out over to Nemo. Walking out of The Land, I did so with Freddie walking beside me, holding my hand. It’s these lovely little things that stick in my mind.
It was a walk-on and a welcome sit down. We had a look around the fish and stuff, which I suspect are not their formal Latin species names.
By the time we left, it was 11.50 and time to execute my extra cunning piece of very cunning cunningness that I teased in a pre-trip blog weeks ago. I do fear that I oversold this as some stroke of planning genius, but I shall reveal all now, as long as you promise to keep it to yourself.
One thing that we don’t enjoy about watching Reflections of Earth is the crowded shuffle all the way down to the main entrance, followed by a wait for a tram or a long walk to the car. With that in mind, we always try to tie a viewing of the fireworks at Epcot with a dining reservation somewhere around the Boardwalk so that we may park there. This allows us to leave Epcot via International Gateway, which is not only better than the other option, it is actually a pleasant experience and a lovely stroll.
This year, on this birthday, having lunch or early dinner in any of those locations was not an option as we very much wanted and had booked to eat at Via Napoli. So, bending the rules ever so slightly, I made a rogue ADR for two at Ale and Compass at the Yacht Club.
The idea was that, now, Emily and I would power walk back to the car, drive it round to the Yacht Club, using our ADR to get access to the parking, and then walk back into Epcot to continue our day. Doing this of course does mean that there is a fair chance that you may get charged the $10 per person for missing your ADR, but frankly, that cost is bearable for the six of us to be able to have a leisurely stroll back to the car after ROE, rather than the battle to the main entrance with a stroller and a tired Freddie.
So there you go. If you want to use that trick you can, although, I did find a better trick that we used later in the trip. If I tell you now, you will have no incentive to keep reading, so try not to lie awake thinking about it.
When we arrived at the little house where the security guards live at the Yacht Club, I had my photo ID to hand, and a quick scan of my Magic Band confirmed to him that I did indeed have an ADR and we were waved through. It worked better than we thought as the self-parking at the Yacht Club was pretty full, and he directed us to the Beach Club parking which is that little bit closer to International Gateway.
As we always do when visiting here, we take photos as some sort of homage to how much we love it.
I think this photo has featured in more trip reports than I have.
When I’m having to endure a cold, bleak, work-filled day at home, sat in meetings that make me question my career “choices”, that photo above is where I wish I was instead.
It’s open now of course, but at the time, I had to lift my camera above my head and the boarding to sneak a photo of the new Skyliner station just outside International Gateway.
We discovered that everyone else was down near Mission Space so Emily and I made our way down through the UK and Canada to meet them.
It was a skin crisper today. Not so much hot, as human barbeque.
In another example of ninja levels of planning, just as we met up with everyone, our FastPass for Mission Space, booked 30 days ago, became active. I’m not saying I am good at this stuff, I just let my record speak for itself.
Louise sat out in the unbearable sun watching Freddie who was having a snooze in his shady stroller. As we often tend to do, we waited a little longer than we should have due to some lightweight leaving their lunch all over the ride. We entered, praying that we weren’t sat where the vomit just was.
After a successful mission, and a moment’s silent mourning that we no longer see the wonder that is Gary Sinese’s hair in the now-departed briefing video, we left to find Louise and Freddie.
It was very much lunchtime now and because we knew it was about to get bulldozed, we chose Electric Umbrella just in case it never returns. I didn’t mobile order here for some reason and instead stood staring at the board like it was the first time I had seen words, or food, blurting out numbers to the order taker. Yes, I’m one of those that order here by number.
Alas, the number I got wrong was the members of our party and when we got to our table, I realised, that as I often do in these situations, I had ordered for everybody other than myself. I really couldn’t be arsed queuing again so Louise and I shared a cheeseburger and a few choice words about my incompetence levels.
To make amends, as everyone was finishing up, I left the table and power walked around the corner to the Joffrey’s coffee stand and got us some dessert in the shape of three doughnuts. They are a size of which I approve.
Rest assured, Freddie shared that with his Dad and that means he didn’t get that much of it. These things are awesome and delicious in all sorts of ways. Get some.
We did some wandering around Mousegear and then made our way over to Journey Into Imagination. It will not surprise you to learn that this was a walk-on. After riding I finally had to admit defeat and go to a restroom. I can only hold it so long. The rest of the party took Freddie up to the dancing water fountain things, with which he was fascinated.
Our next FastPass called now, at Spaceship Earth.
It was a walk-on. I await my refund from Disney for this insult.
After riding, Tom went to retrieve the stroller from the ride entrance and Freddie did some modelling whilst we waited.
Onwards to Turtle Talk with Crush next.
I captured some photos of the area, knowing that it was about to be changed forever in just a few days.
Freddie enjoyed Crush and sat through the whole thing pretty well. With that done, it was time to make our way up to World Showcase. The plan now was to say our goodbyes to O Canada, as we had recently heard of an impending revamp and I was very much not OK.
I had checked online before leaving the UK that it would still be open on my birthday and I had, I’m sure, seen that it would be. Upon arriving, a cast member was stood at the top of the steps informing guests that it was now down for refurbishment until January.
I rugby tackled him to the ground and opened several cans of whoop-ass all over him. It made no difference and he point-blank refused to open up the show just for me. I have to say that I was very upset not being able to see this one last time. Please, just give me a moment…….and please appreciate one more time the glorious majesty of this song.
We continued up to the UK and across the bridge towards France as we were now on our way to Via Napoli. As some sort of representation of my distress, we experienced one of the weirdest rain storms we have ever seen in Florida. The skies cried at the demise of O Canada. We’ve seen all sorts of rain over the years but most of it gives you some sort of warning of its impending arrival. This one, as we were halfway across the bridge, came on as if we’d turn the shower on. There was no slow build-up or a few drops at first, but instead a complete downpour of torrential rain from nothing. We started at speed in search of cover. I wrestled the two umbrellas I had liberated from the villa out of Ryan and handed them out.
We sheltered eventually outside the perfume shop in France but by that time we were already soaking wet.
It lasted for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to mean that we now had to get a wriggle on and get to Italy asap, without stopping anywhere on the way.
Those familiar with a Floridian summer will not be surprised to see this next photo and how unrecognisable it is weather-wise from the previous ones.
I power-walked ahead a little, allowing others to restroom and checked us in. We were seated as soon as everyone caught me up.
We ordered various cocktails and with it being my birthday I even ordered myself a beer flight.
To start we ordered some salad and garlic bread.
It pleased us.
But not a much as the pizza did.
Louise, Emily and I ordered individual pizzas, but Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza……and it was good.
Emily’s looked like this
Freddie looked excited…..
and we all tucked in, delighted with our choices. This is good pizza.
Service was a little slow, but we honestly didn’t mind. We were just enjoying the sit-down, the lovely food and drinks and making the most of my birthday. To pass the time, Freddie got his hands on the camera and took about three hundred photos that I would need to delete later. He managed a couple that survived the cull.
We ordered some desserts even though we were full beyond all bounds of sensible eating.
Whilst we waited Freddie enjoyed one of his favourite films.
That was quickly abandoned as soon as his ice cream turned up.
I shared a Tiramisu with Emily.
I was so busy eating it that I didn’t take any photos as Louise enjoyed some large chocolate balls. Probably for the best. Tom had ice cream too. If you hadn’t noticed yet, he is quite keen on the odd ice cream.
The bill was large as expected, but worth it. We loved it again. We waddled out into the dusk of World Showcase, which as you know, is one of favourite times and places on the earth.
Inevitable restroomery meant that we loitered here for a while and I didn’t mind one bit. During the meal, I had managed to secure us a Test Track FastPass so we made the long walk there now. It was only as we got within earshot of the ride that Emily pointed out the lack of the distinctive ride noise. I consulted the app, and yep, it was down. Collective weeping at the wasted energy our legs had exerted transporting our very full bodies ensued. It was, of course, my fault and I was forced to walk back up to Mexico, naked, whilst Louise rang a bell shouting “Shame”.
To try and rescue the situation I took us into Mexico as the ride there is just as good as Test Track, right?
Well, Freddie thought it was great!
We then started our journey around the lagoon to our traditional ROE viewing spot on the bridge between France and the UK.
We got there with half an hour to spare and spent that time just being there and loving it.
My camera fails to capture this as do my words.
As I was stood looking out across the lagoon, with *that* music playing, a warm breeze blowing making the temperature just perfect, the lights twinkling aside the flaming torches, this, I recognised, was one of those moments.
All sorts of memories and thoughts came to me, brought to mind no doubt by pizza, beer, my birthday and the impending loss of Reflections of Earth. All the years I have stood here with the girls at various ages, the thought that my Mum & Dad wouldn’t see it again and alongside all of that, the anticipation of what’s to come, the possibilities of Freddie’s life in front of him and all of the trips, experiences and memories we would make together. My heart and belly were full, and that’s the way I like it.
I captured a few moments of it here…
Then, the torch was extinguished and the fireworks began. I captured that too.
There were tears at the end of course. Emily cries at everything, but even Rebecca shed a couple tonight, but I just had something in my eye and I think that pizza had caused the lump in my throat.
We slowly made our way out towards the Beach Club. After such a beautiful, magical evening, it was only fitting that we ended it by waiting half an hour for Louise to have a poo in the Beach Club.
I drove us home. It won’t be the last birthday I spend here, but if it were. it would have been a good way to finish.
Till the next time…….