The travel process for this trip began with so much more excitement than usual! Some background first: Elizabeth lives in Annapolis, and I live just outside of DC, but our respective sets of parents live outside Baltimore a) within three minutes' drive of each other and b) about 10 minutes from the airport. Therefore we both spent the night at our parents' houses.
I woke up at 5:45am to a confirmation text from Elizabeth that she, too, was awake. Good. I dressed, threw together a few last-minute items, and went downstairs to grab my luggage - at which point I received a phone call from Elizabeth: she had forgotten her wallet in Annapolis. To reiterate, we were currently just outside Baltimore.
ELIZABETH: The moment I realized I didn't have it is definitely in my top ten "awful sinking feeling" moments.
We briefly pondered what alternative means of passing airport security might be available, but ultimately decided that the best course of action would be for Elizabeth to drive back to Annapolis, grab her wallet, come back, and see if she could make the flight. "If I go fast I can make it in 35 minutes each way," she said. "Without her license...?" my dad said. So that was the plan.
ELIZABETH: See how dedicated I am to making my flight? Willing to risk license suspension! Seriously, though, at this point all I could think was "Oh god, I've messed up my own vacation AND JENN'S. THIS IS TERRIBLE."
In the meantime, it was determined that I would proceed with the flight as planned - should Elizabeth miss it, it would be much easier to find a new flight for one person rather than two. My dad dropped me off at the airport and I quickly made it through luggage check and security. I grabbed an egg sandwich from the Potbelly outside my gate and waited for the plane/Elizabeth.
Alas, it was not to be - she didn't quite make it, thanks to a long line at security. A quick phone call cemented her plans to shoot for a standby flight, and she promised to text me while I was in the air so that I would know what was up when I landed. In the meantime I snagged myself a window seat toward the front of the plane with a bunch of ladies on a girls trip to the Food & Wine Festival. They all ordered vodka cocktails, and it was pretty amusing to listen to them discuss their food plans while I did the magazine crossword.
I landed to the good news that Elizabeth had made it via standby onto a 9:15am flight, so she was only about an hour and a half behind me. Not too shabby. Thank God Southwest runs like 18,000 flights to Orlando daily. One small problem: I had Elizabeth's Magic Band (and luggage tag, but no use for that now). Luckily the Magical Express people assured me that if she just gave her name at the podium upon arrival she'd have no trouble boarding.
ELIZABETH: I ended up sitting next to a teenager with headphones and a middle-aged woman who didn't say anything to me on my flight, so it was a bit boring, but I did get to read a bit and take some calming breaths after the stressful morning. The moment when they called my name from the standby list is now in by top ten "blissful relief" moments.
The Magical Express dropped me off at Pop Century in due time, where sadly my room was not yet ready. I left Elizabeth's Magic Band at the desk and wandered off. It being HOT AS BALLS in Orlando (what happened to the cool weather of last year?!), I changed into shorts and a tank in the bathroom before checking my carry-on at luggage assistance and snagging a bus to the expo.
Bib pickup wasn't too crowded - I had my bib pretty quickly - but the exhibition hall was INSANE. I briefly ducked into the official merchandise and briefly pondered a wine glass, but ultimately decided the crazy-long line wasn't worth it. Had quite enough of that at MCM, thank you very much. I took a quick spin around the rest of the expo but nothing exciting was going down. Much better to get the hell out and hit up Epcot.
I picked up my own bus to the Boardwalk area resorts and walked to the International Gateway to enter EPCOT! YAY! In a celebratory mood, I made my first stop of the Food & Wine Festival the Desserts & Champagne kiosk, where I bought the cheapest champagne available. I sipped it slowly while wandering around looking through gift shops. I had arrived.
ELIZABETH: I think it was around this point that I texted you saying that I would be needing a drink once I arrived...
By my count Elizabeth should be showing up soon, so I decided to kill time by charging my phone at the Mission: Space wall outlet. My friend! I plugged in and watched CMs attempt to recruit people for that post-ride Space Race video game - they were even successful once or twice.
And then ELIZABETH ARRIVED! YAY! I directed her to my spacey location and we wept and hugged and spoke of the terror and uncertainty that had tainted our solo journeys. Or we just high-fived. Something like that. Anyway, we were just in time for our first FP+ reservation for Soarin' so we hightailed it over to the Land and took in a ride before it all closes down in January - in the top row, no less. Looking forward to that additional ride bay as well; even the FP+ line for this one seems to take forever.
By then it was waaaay past lunchtime (and you know you need to eat when a single glass of champagne makes you just a trifle loopy). Time to get serious about the Food & Wine Festival. Indeed, we got SO serious we skipped our remaining FPs (just for Spaceship Earth and Mission: Space so whatever).
ELIZABETH: Beer was far more important to me than rides at that point. :)
Incidentally, I want to share our payment strategy in case anyone else ever travels with people they want to share food with but not a bank account. We got a gift card from the gift shop outside Soarin' and each put $50 on the same card. We used this card for all our F&W purchases. Warning, though: while the card we got is attached to a wristlet, ours somehow fell off. Luckily I noticed at the time and was able to rescue it, but I'd keep an eye out if I were you.
Our first stop: Mexico for sweet corn cheesecake and chicken chilaquiles. The latter I had last year (and was on the list) and if anything it was BETTER than a remember - not too sweet and a unique cross between a flan-type dish and more traditional corn pudding. The chilaquiles were fine but kinda limp and boring in my opinion.
Next up: craft beer in The Odyssey. Where I got carded! ("You look twenty" said the CM. Score.) We got the Craft Beer Lovers Craft Beer Flight, which included a blonde ale, a tripel, a vanilla espresso porter, and a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout. The blonde ale was forgettable; the tripel spicy and up my alley; the vanilla espresso porter was good but INTENSE; and the bourbon aged stout was pretty good but I find I don't remember it too well either. Overall a fun experience.
Our next nibble was in China, where we split the Peking duck in a steamed bun. The duck was very good and crispy, but the steamed bun - and I LOVE steamed bun - was rather stale by my estimation. I'd get it again, though, in the hopes that we just happened to get one that sat out a little too long.
ELIZABETH: Yeah, the bun kind of seemed like an afterthought. The gyoza bun (from Japan) that I had later was much better, in my opinion.
On to the dish I was most looking forward to: pao de queijo from Brazil. And guys, it was good. It was really, really good. I enjoyed it immensely. But... somehow it wasn't as revelatory as I remember. It was bready cheesy goodness but it didn't blow me away as it did last year. Change in the recipe or change in me? Things to ponder...
ELIZABETH: The best part was watching the gentleman who was serving them be constantly enveloped in mist. I think I remarked something along the lines of "Gee, I wonder which one is the nitrogen-cooled dessert?"
For our first act, we went straight to the FastPass kiosks in Fantasyland. We were briefly confused by the way MDE insists on showing you everyone you know's FPs in addition to your own, but managed to figure out a FP for Splash Mountain.
While waiting for our time slot to open up, we wandered around New Fantasyland. The wait for The Little Mermaid was pretty minimal, so we hopped in line. The ride is cute, but we wound up stuck just outside the Under the Sea room. CUE EAR WORM. Why couldn't that have happened in front of Ursula? I WASN'T DONE SINGING ALONG.
We knocked out a quick Storybook Circus walk through purely for the sights before heading back toward Splash, stopping on the way for a line-free ride on the Haunted Mansion. Like the Tower of Terror, the Haunted Mansion lists 13 minutes when there's no wait; with the help of a Cast Member who suggested I use flash, I was able to get a photo of this phenomenon.
ELIZABETH: I forget how long the ride is! I blame other theme park splash rides that just bring you up and drop you. There's no suspense.
Time for my new favorite strategy: watching the fireworks from the Tomorrowland bridge before bolting over to Space Mountain before everyone else shows up. This does not provide for the most perfect view of the fireworks, but I got distracted halfway through when I suddenly realized I couldn't remember if I'd packed my face cleanser and then I couldn't concentrate anyway.
If you have the time, you can't ride Space Mountain and not also ride the Peoplemover. Gotta love the Peoplemover. We took a relaxing spin, and as we passed by Space Mountain we saw the wait time was up to 45 minutes. STRATEGY.
On the way out...
ME: I kinda want to stay for the 8:30pm parade...
ELIZABETH: Is it different?
ME: No. I'm just crazy.
Nah, we'd had a long day and we were too tired for a double-parader. But know that I am the sort of person who would've.
Dinner was followed by a brief wander through the gift shop so that Elizabeth could get a postcard for her grandmother, and then it was off to our room for unpacking and the like. I showered and typed up notes for this report, and we fell asleep to the dulcet tones of the ending of Footloose (the original not the remake, because we remake?).
Fun fact: our room number was 1402. You may recognize this as the same number as the haunted hotel room in Steven King's novella/movie 1402. Are we murdered by the paranormal during this trip? Tune in next week to find out!
Don't forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn's dailymile here and Moon's dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at email@example.com. See ya real soon!