Fi's Mutterings

Disney, running, swimming, living with disability, challenges…


Why was it fab?

We went to Walt Disney World for the February half term and when we came back everyone asked how our holiday was. I said it was fab, wonderful, fantastic – all those words which I usually use.  My mum asked me “Why was it fab?”  I was stumped.  I can’t explain why it was one of the best holidays we’ve had.  WDW, or any Disney holiday for that matter, is always a good holiday.  It’s why we keep going back.  It’s hard to put it into words but, for us, it really is like coming home.  So, why do we keep going back?  So much so that we decided to join Disney Vacation Club back in 2009 so that we now only have to worry about finding money for the air fare, park tickets and food?

Could it be the fact that as soon as you arrive at Orlando International Airport and check in for the Magical Express we are definitely feeling the Disney difference?  No driving to the resort for us.  Just as well, the last thing my husband or I want to do is to drive after a 9 hour flight, on the wrong side of the road, not knowing where we are going.  We’ll leave the hire car for a couple of days later.

Maybe it’s because the cast members welcome you with a smile and explain everything carefully.  They also don’t mind that my son it picking up a copy of every leaflet they have on display and is constantly pointing things out to us while they are trying to explain our check-in papers.

On this last trip there was also some new stuff for us to see following the Fantasyland expansion in Magic Kingdom and the re-imagined Test Track in Epcot.  We also tried some old attractions which we’d never looked at before because my son wasn’t ready.  I can’t think why we never really looked round Innoventions at Epcot.  I liked the new disability guest assistance pass/system they have now introduced.  On previous trips, we have been able to get a Guest Assistance Card and use it to go through the Fastpass entrance to most attractions.  Now, you have to go and get a return time and then go back through the Fastpass entrance.  I think it’s better because I think it is fairer to those who haven’t been able to get a Fastpass time and have to wait in line.  We now have to wait the same length of time as the main queue but we can wait somewhere more suitable for our son, even if it isn’t very far from the entrance to the attraction.

The main reason I think this trip was fab is because we were all relaxed.  We had planned to take part in the runDisney Royal Family 5K and went to the Expo – that was brilliant and if I hadn’t had to fit everything in a suitcase, with a weight limit, I could have spent a lot of money!  We had also booked Cirque du Soleil – awesome!  We need to go again because I’m sure I missed loads.  Finally, we also went on the Wild Africa Trek.  We had been planning to go to Kennedy Space Centre but my son picked up a leaflet about the Wild Africa Trek and my husband wanted to go.  It was amazing.  We had two guides behind the scenes of Kilimanjaro Safari.  We went over a rickety rope bridge over the hippos.  We also stopped off for a light lunch/snack.

Finally, we had a lot of character meals as we had the dining plan on this trip.  I wouldn’t usually get the dining plan as it really is too much for us – my son and I could have shared a pizza at Via Napoli but as we were on the dining plan we had to get one each.  We tried some new restaurants – some we will definitely go back to (Liberty Tree Tavern) and some we won’t (1900 Park Fare, Sci-Fi Diner).

Oh, and one more thing, we upgraded our hire car to a Mustang 😀

P1010224

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Window

One of the things I really enjoy when we go to Walt Disney World is looking at the window displays of the Emporium on Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom.  The gallery below is the window displays from Christmas 2009.

This post is in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge


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Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I really wanted to enter and run in the Disney Princess Half Marathon next February when we are going to be at WDW on holiday anyway.  Unfortunately, circumstances have conspired against me and there are no places left 😦  I knew I would be cutting it fine by leaving it so late to book but I wanted to make sure that we had the hotel and flights booked before I spent all that money on the run.  There are some places left on the Family 5k run though so maybe I’ll try to book places on that for myself, my husband and my son.

Oh well, I will do a Disney half marathon one day and, you never know, maybe I’ll do 2.  I would love to be able to get the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge medal which you get if you complete a marathon/half marathon at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland within the same calendar year.  As it costs a lot to travel to the USA, I thought it would be an impossible dream for me until someone mentioned to me that the WDW Marathon weekend and the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland are one week apart in January.  So, in theory, I could complete the half marathon at the WDW marathon weekend and then travel cross-country to Disneyland for the Tinkerbell half marathon.  Phew! That would be tough but so worth it for the bling, don’t you think?  I would then treat myself and the to a few days at Aulani in Hawaii too though.  After all it would be a shame to travel that far without making it worthwhile.


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Animal Kingdom: Top 10 Things to Do

After 4 weeks, here we are at the last of my Top 10’s for the main parks at Disney World.  After I’d finished the first one for Epcot, I looked at my 101 in 1001 list and realised that I only needed to list 5!  Oh well, I listed 10 for that so decided that I should also list 10 for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios too.  The lists for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot were fairly easy, the one for Hollywood Studios was not.  So, here I am with the Animal Kingdom and I am going to try to get to 10.

Animal Kingdom Entrance

  1. Go on Safari at Kilimanjaro Safaris
  2. Get soaked, if you are unlucky like me, on Kali River Rapids.  If you go in Winter take a waterproof, if it is hot and sunny don’t bother, you’ll dry in no time 😀
  3. Go hunting for the Yeti on Expedition Everest
  4. Watch the Jingle Jungle Parade
  5. Go to see the Festival of the Lion King Show
  6. Go and learn lots of neat stuff at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  7. Meet the characters at various locations around the park
  8. If you can get to the park in time for the Rope Drop show, go and see it
  9. Go and see Flights of Wonder bird show
  10. Go for a stroll around the Pangani Froest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek
Wishing Watering Hole at Rafiki's Planet Watch (Conservation Station) in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Wishing Watering Hole at Rafiki’s Planet Watch (Conservation Station) in Disney’s Animal Kingdom


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Magic Kingdom: Top 10 Things to Do

Following on from my Top 10 list of things to do at Epcot, thanks to a Daily Post prompt last week, I decided to follow up with my top 10 things to do at the Magic Kingdom.  Please note that this list does not include the new, expanded Fantasyland as the last time we visited Walt Disney World was in 2011 before the new Fantasyland opened.  I’m sure my top 10 will change when I finally visit again and see the new Fantasyland.

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My Top 10 Things to Do at the Magic Kingdom are:

  1. Have a meal at Crystal Palace.  You can choose between breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet and see Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet when they come to see you at your table.  If you go for breakfast and have bacon, please don’t do what my step-daughter did and offer some to Piglet – Oops!
  2. Tackle the 3 mountains – Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain.
  3. Relax on It’s a Small World – there is a reason why it is a classic, and my Mum’s favourite ride.
  4. Watch the Parade at least once.
  5. If you can stay up late enough, watch Wishes (firework show).
  6. Go and see at least one show on the Castle Stage or, if it is still on, the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! parade which stops in the hub on Main Street USA for a boogie.
  7. Visit the Hall of Presidents 
  8. Go and see Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  9. Browse the shops on Main Street USA
  10. Get your photo taken by the PhotoPass photographers in front of Cinderella’s Castle  

Magic Kingdom - September 2011


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Daily Prompt: The Satisfaction of a List

This is my first Daily Prompt post for a while, in fact I think the last one was in January, but I am trying to get myself back in to the swing of blogging as I have actually been missing it. Today’s prompt was to make a list and as I have a challenge on my 101 in 1001 list to make a list of my top 10 (I think) things to do in each of the Parks at Disney World, I thought I’d get a head start on that.

EPCOT Entrance in 2006

 

So, here we go with my top 10 things to do at Epcot:

  1. Take a ride on Test Track.
  2. Take a ride on Soarin’ – this is one of my top 10 rides at Disney World. I find it relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. Look out for the golf ball as you go over the golf course 😉
  3. Go around the World – take your time and make sure to speak to the cast members in each country. You can find out all sorts of information.
  4. Have dinner at the Garden Grill. This is a character dinner with Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale. We have eaten here on our last 2 trips to Disney World and enjoyed it both times. In fact, on our last trip my step-daughter asked Dale if he’d like to come home with us and he said he would but had to stay to work. My step-daughter then asked that if her Dad could do his job would he like to come back with us? Dale said yes but the training of Dad didn’t go very well so Dale had to stay. It was very funny though and made a lot of the other diners smile too. I also danced with Pluto 🙂
  5. Learn about the history of communication in the Epcot ball, narrated by Dame Judi Dench.
  6. Visit Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore in the UK. They are my favourite characters so I’m not going to give them a miss.
  7. If you are there at Christmas, go and see the Candlelight Processional to hear the Christmas story.
  8. In the Land Pavillion, take a ride around Living with the Land to discover what they can do with different plants to help them grow in harsh environments.
  9. Go and see the manatees in the Seas Pavillion and while you are there go and have a chat withCrush too.
  10. Last, but by no means least, go and learn about energy with Ellen De Generes.

 


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

This week’s photo challenge from Daily Post:

Do you have a photo which invites the viewer to look beyond? Are there hidden depths in the background? Is the focal point just a framing for the rest of the picture? If it’s not clear why we should look beyond, tell us! Lead us through the story in your photo. 

In a new post specifically created for this challenge, share a picture which means BEYOND to you!

I love photos taken at Disney especially those taken by the PhotoPass photographers because they frame the photo in such a way that whilst you know the focus is the people there is nearly always something which draws your eye in the background too.

Magic Kingdom - September 2011

The focus is the birthday girl in the middle but we also see the Castle and the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse

Magic Kingdom Entrance

 

The entrance to the Magic Kingdom

 

Epcot

Next to the fountain in Epcot but you can’t help but be drawn to the Epcot Ball too.

 


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Writing Challenge: Map It

Thank you Daily Post for the new Writing Challenge.  This is the first one I’ve done so please bear with me.  The challenge this week is to include a map in a blog post.

My first thought was that I could blog about my runs but I haven’t done any outside runs for a while and I don’t want to publish my running routes on here anyway.  Then I thought about using one of the suggestions which was made on the Writing Challenge post and produce a map of the places I’d like to go, if I won the lottery and could afford to take the time off work to go round the world.  Finally, I thought about doing a map of my virtual walk from home to Walt Disney World.  This is quite hard as I can’t actually walk, or drive, to Walt Disney World from home as there is a little problem of the Atlantic Ocean in the way.  However, I can get directions from home to the west coast of Ireland and then get new directions from somewhere in Canada down the east coast of America to Walt Disney World.  So, that it what I am going to do, I hope.

This is the planned route for my virtual walk. However, as I have calculated the distance “as the crow flies” for my challenge this isn’t entirely accurate but I wanted to be able to walk through towns and cities and, if I ever find the time, be able to say “I’m now in …”.

I calculated that the route from Mary’s Harbour, NL, Canada to Disney’s Animal Kingdom was 4,334 km so I would need to start the American leg of my walk after I completed 2,548 km.  The York to Keel leg of my walk was 452 miles (723 km) – oh the joys of having different measurements for different legs of the journey!  So my Atlantic crossing was only 1,825 km when I know it should be *a lot* more.  I use km on my pedometer, treadmill at the gym and running app which is why I chose to measure kilometres for the walk.

As at 1 January, I had completed 2,695 km up to the 31st December 2012 leaving 4187 km to complete.  Therefore, I am now on the Trans-Labrador Hway/NL-510 on my way to Blanc Sablon where I will get the ferry to St Barbe.

For the UK leg of the walk I went from York through West Yorkshire and Lancashire to Liverpool to get the ferry to Dublin.  From Dublin I went through Co Meath, Co Westmeath, Co Longford, Co Roscommon, Co Galway and Co Mayo.


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Disneyland Paris

This post is a couple of months late but at least it is here which is more than I can say for the post about my 40th birthday trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) which still hasn’t materialised!  Anyway, my husband and I planned a surprise trip to Disneyland Paris (DLP) for my son’s 18th birthday and this is my blog about it.

First, just a bit of background. My son has a learning disability so, even though he is 18, his development is around that of a 6-7 year old. Keeping this a secret from him was really hard and I nearly slipped up more than once!

OK, so here is the story of my son’s 18th birthday surprise. At the beginning of the year (2012), we asked my son if he wanted to go away for his birthday and, if so, where he wanted to go. As we had been to WDW for my birthday the previous year he said he wanted to go back to WDW. Sorry, but much as I would have loved to be able to pull that one off, it wasn’t going to happen – we can’t afford to go to WDW two years in a row and my son’s birthday is in the October half term holiday which means we only get a week, not two. So, he decided that he’d like to go to London and go to London Zoo, the Science Museum, Buckingham Palace (actually go inside not just see the outside) and the Transport Museum. That was OK, I could let him keep thinking we were going to London while planning a trip to DLP as we could get the Eurostar from St Pancras which just happens to be next door to the station we arrive in to when we get to London.

My son’s birthday actually wasn’t in half term, officially, but his school had a teacher training day on his birthday which meant that he had a day off. So, we got the train to London on the evening before his birthday when he had come home from school and stayed in a B&B near the station overnight.

On the morning of his birthday, he opened the few presents and cards we had taken to London with us and then we packed the cases up again and headed out of the B&B. We had told him that we were changing hotels after the first night in London to one which was a bit nicer and closer to where we wanted to visit. My son loves transport so we had asked him if he wanted to see if we could have a look at the Eurostar before we got the tube to the new hotel, he said yes so we took a walk over to St Pancras. When we got to the Eurostar area, we were told that you can’t see the Eurostar unless you are travelling on it. When we found this out, I asked my son if he wanted to go on the Eurostar. He said “No, London Zoo”. Oh boy! I was praying that I hadn’t just made the biggest mistake of my life by planning this holiday. I then asked my son if he thought I was being silly and he said yes which was why he had given the response he had. I got my holiday file out and sat down with my son to show him that we did, in fact, have tickets for the Eurostar and asked him if he knew where the Eurostar went. He said DLP and I asked, again, if he would like to go on the Eurostar. Thankfully, this time, he said yes! I wish my husband had been ready with the camera to catch my son’s reaction because he was so shocked that I thought he was going to cry.

The journey on the Eurostar was great. They provided and activity pack for children under 12 but I went to the information desk and explained that my son had a learning disability and asked if he could have one, they said yes.

The journey on the Eurostar takes around 2 hours 30 minutes to get from London to Disneyland Paris and it went so quickly. When we got to DLP we decided to walk through Disney Village to the hotel rather than wait with everyone else for the shuttle buses. DLP is very small and it took about 20 minutes to walk from the station to the hotel through Disney Village pushing the suitcase. I’m glad we did decide to walk because the check-in area at the hotel was deserted. Check-in was really easy and the cast members very helpful.

We then went to our room and unpacked before going down to the Disneyland Park for a quick look around before our next surprise (dinner). When we got in to the Park, we went straight to City Hall to ask if they did a Guest Assistance Pass like they do at WDW. They do! The cast member we spoke to was very helpful and gave us lots of tips on what to see and do. She also gave us a booklet with maps of each area of the Parks and marked on the disabled viewing areas for the parades in both Disneyland Park and Studios. By the time we had done all that it was 4.30pm and the parade at DLP is at 5pm so we decided to find a space to sit down and watch it before having to leave for our 6pm dinner reservation. When we had found our spot, one of the Cast Members spotted my disabled guide and asked if we wanted to go in to the disability area. I said that we were fine where we were but thank you. The parade was lovely and, as always, had a great catchy tune.

After the parade we left the Park to go to the Disneyland Hotel as we had dinner reservations for a character dinner in Inventions. The interaction with the characters was great but the food wasn’t right for us as it was mainly seafood although the blurb which I had read about it said that there was roast meats too so I had thought that it would be OK. My husband found plenty to eat but my son and I didn’t so that is a lesson for next time, we’ll probably try Cafe Mickey in Disney Village instead. That said, the puddings were amazing! I certainly made up for not having much of a main course with those 🙂 and, like I said, the interaction with the characters was brilliant.


There were birthday wishes from Mickey, Pinocchio, Chip, Dale, Pluto and Tigger.


Tigger was very funny. My son has a tuft of hair which always sticks up at the back (we can’t get it flat regardless of what we try) and Tigger came up behind him and started to flick the tuft of hair before my son knew he was behind him. It made my son’s evening and he is still talking about it now, 2 months later! Finally, as they do in WDW, they brought my son a slice of cake with a candle in it and played a celebration song over the loudspeaker system in the restaurant.

That was just the day we arrived! We stayed for 4 nights and had a blast. The parks are very small and we could have done it in 2 or 3 nights rather than 4 but it was still a lot of fun. The organisation for meet and greets with the characters has improved greatly since we were last there 10 years ago. I also liked the way they helped those with disabilities. At WDW, if you have a non-physical disability you are able to access the attractions through the FastPass entrance. At DLP all disabilities access the attractions through the disabled entrance. I found this worked really well. With some of the rides you just queued in the disabled area and in others you were asked to book a time to come back as they were only allowed to let so many disabled parties in at any one time. It worked great for us.

All in all, it was a great trip and a wonderful surprise for my son. He went back to school absolutely buzzing and actually spent 20 minutes telling his Pastoral Group about it with the help of the Park map. They usually have to encourage him to speak about his weekend/holiday.

My son did get his trip to London Zoo too as we had an extra couple of nights in London when we got back from DLP.


Virtual Walks

I haven’t updated anything on here for a while so I thought I’d just give a quick update on my virtual walks.  I am currently doing 2 virtual walks, one as part of my 101 in 1,001 challenge – walking from home to Walt Disney World – and one which I set for myself as part of the build up to the Olympics and Paralympics – walking from Athens to London.

I started my walk from home (York) to Walt Disney World (WDW) on 26th December 2011 and have until September 2014 to finish it.  As the crow flies, it is 6,882km from York to WDW.  So far, I have completed 2,060.79km.  The monthly breakdown is as follows:

Monthly total Total done Left to go
Dec-11 22.14 22.14 6859.86
Jan-12 169.38 191.52 6690.48
Feb-12 185.27 376.79 6505.21
Mar-12 227.80 604.59 6277.41
Apr-12 162.76 767.35 6114.65
May-12 251.99 1019.34 5862.66
Jun-12 219.26 1238.60 5643.40
Jul-12 286.85 1525.45 5356.55
Aug-12 272.54 1797.99 5084.01
Sep-12 262.80 2060.79 4821.21

I have 33 months to complete my walk which means I need to average at least 208 km per month.  Thanks to walking to work during the Summer I think I’m on target to reach my goal.

My other walk, from Athens to London in celebration of the Olympics doesn’t feel like it is going anywhere fast.  I think that is because I am following the progress of this one using a Google Map and am on 603 km stretch from Brindisi to Pescara, the first leg through Italy.  I have completed 1,307.57 km of 2,883 km.  Oh well, hopefully I’ll finish this walk by May next year and can maybe think about walking from London to Rio de Janeiro in time for the next Olympics in 2016!  Hmm, I wonder how far that is?  As the crow flies of course.