It’s time for another trip report! Yay! I LOVE trip reports! This time around we’re covering the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Quarter Marathon trip. I’ll be including reviews of my Food & Wine Festival purchases within the trip report itself, but restaurant reviews will be in their own separate posts. Commentary from Elizabeth provided in red. Onward!
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.
Meanwhile, I got a text from Disney informing me my room was ready. I let Elizabeth know; she assured me she was on the bus and would meet me shortly.
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.
Skipping past a bunch of kiosks with major lines (HELLO GERMANY), we moved on to Japan, where we both got spicy hand rolls. Being a sushi person, I love these, but I kinda wish they were regular tuna instead of spicy – the spiciness kinda masks the deliciousness of the fish.
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…
By that point we’d traversed most of World Showcase. We were hot. We were sweaty. We needed something good and cool. So we impulse bought the sugar cane cocktail in the Dominican Republic. This reportedly contained rum but to me it mostly tasted citrus-y. The sugar cane stirrer was an interesting novelty but that’s all. I wouldn’t order this one again.
Our last F&W item for the day was a doozy: the nitrogenated or whatever chocolate truffle thing from the Chew Lab. This was good – cold on the outside, creamy chocolatey moussey goodness on the inside. Once you get past the presentation, though, it was really just chocolate mousse. Good, but maybe not worth doing more than once.
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?”
We were right next to Club Cool, so we ducked in so Elizabeth could try the new sodas. We both mourned the loss of China’s watermelon soda together. After that we caught a ride on Nemo in The Seas, then headed out, grabbing the monorail series to the Magic Kingdom; we had decided to eschew IllumiNations in favor of MK’s parade and fireworks.
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.
The line for Splash Mountain was listed at only 10 minutes, but whatever, we had FPs and we might as well use them. I was extremely amused when Elizabeth forgot which drop was the big one again.
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.
Our original plan had been to catch the 8:30pm parade, but as we walked back toward Fantasyland and saw all the empty spots in Frontierland we decided to grab a place for the 7pm iteration. Elizabeth held down the fort while I ran into Adventureland and found a cart that could sell me some Powerade (no red, only blue, sadly). The Main Street Electrical Parade went by in all its glory and was awesome as per usual. Still kinda miss Spectromagic, though.
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.
Space Mountain was all but a walk on when we got there, though, so it totally worked – AND we got the left side track in the back car, my favorite combo.
Friendship tip: you know you’re simpatico with someone when you scream in perfect unison on Space Mountain.
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.
We grabbed a bus back to Pop, retrieved my bag from luggage assistance, and grabbed sandwiches from the food court. Elizabeth got a pulled pork sandwich she said was fine, and I got a vegetable sandwich that was also fine but VERY oily. Props to the CM who served it to me for repeatedly referring to me as Princess, though. When you’re applying the term to the adults (“adults”) you know you’re dedicated.
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 FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email email@example.com. See ya real soon!