Trip Report – Beach Club Villas, Food & Wine Festival (October 2008)

[This is a trip report from October 2008, being included as a new post as part of the site redesign]

Introduction and Travel

October 4-8, 2008

This was going to be our first ever Food and Wine Festival trip. Although we are not really wine drinkers, we have been looking to try some new foods – and getting our kids to try some too (they can’t have chicken nuggets every meal!) DD#1, who is now 8, agreed that she would try new foods as well.

With the kids in tow and it being a relatively short trip, we didn’t plan for any of the special F&W events. We did however manage to score a one-bedroom villa at the Beach Club Villas, so we were an easy walk over to Epcot any time we wanted. We did book a couple of ADRs (Sci-Fi Dine-In and Cape May breakfast). Also, given time constraints, we planned to skip Animal Kingdom on this trip – our next trip will be longer and at the Animal Kingdom Villas and we’ll definitely be hitting AK then.

We once again booked flights on JetBlue out of Boston, with a direct flight leaving a little later than last time so we hopefully would have less of a rush. We were still scheduled to get to Orlando before noon. We also booked another vehicle from Payless as it was easily $100 less than the competition.

Everything went great getting to cheap jerseys the airport, and we boarded on time for our plane, “Blueberry”. However, we stayed put for a while, and some maintenance engineers came on the plane – apparently the intercom phone at the back of the plane didn’t work, and they were replacing the handset. We ended up taking off about an hour late because the attendant at the back of the plane couldn’t talk to the front of the plane.

We arrived in Orlando about an hour late as well, got the Payless shuttle pretty quickly, and had to stand in line for a bit to get our car. I don’t remember what it was, but it was plenty big for the four of us and our bags – not cramped like the van last time with 6 people.

From there we had planned to get something to eat on the way in as well as stop at Winn-Dixie for some supplies. Our intention was to go to the new Fuddruckers on 535 first that was somewhere in the vicinity of the Goodings plaza, although we didn’t know for certain where. We couldn’t find any sign for it though, and ended up at Winn-Dixie. We got our supplies, and were ready to give up on Fuddruckers and go to McDonalds instead, but I drove back into the Goodings plaza itself, and there it was – no signs at all and not visible from the road. But we got good burgers.

After that we headed straight for the Beach Club Villas. I’ve forgotten our room number, but it was on the 4th floor midway down the “stem” of the Y that the building forms, and the view was towards the world showcase facing towards Morocco and France, unfortunately and an angle such that we couldn’t see any of Illuminations.

As soon as we were settled, it was time to hit the parks. Our first port of call would be…Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We had heard that weekends were pretty crowded for Saratoga Epcot for Food and Wine, and figured we’d wait before going over there.

Day 1 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We decided to walk down to the Studios, and we’d take the Friendship boat back when we left. So we walked past the Yacht Club, between the Swan/Dolphin and Boardwalk, and along the river – about a 20 minute walk.

On arrival, we check out the hand-written time board. It tells us that Tower of Terror was 13 minutes, Rock’n’Roller Coaster was 30, and Toy Story Mania was 70 minutes. We didn’t expect to be able to get on TSM, and planned to hit it the next day in the morning instead. So we went over to TOT/RNRC first. The ACTUAL listed wait times were TOT, 30 minutes, and RNRC 70 minutes. However, we were able to walk right on to TOT, which was DD#2’s first ride – she would be turning 4 in a couple weeks, and was saying how she wanted to ride it. She had no problems with it and loved it. DD#1 however likes to get herself worked up before a ride almost to the point of panic…We also got Fastpasses for RNRC, but they weren’t good until 6:20pm.

We walked on the Great Movie Ride and Star Tours. And yes, the line was long at TSM. We decided to keep the day short given that we were up early and all the travel, skipped the Fastpasses for RNRC (which gave me a new one to scan for the FASTPASS info page), and hopped on a Friendship boat and returned back to BCV. We’d be back the next day.

Day 2 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Boardwalk

This time the total focus is on Toy Story Mania. We arrive before rope drop, and we’re about 8-10 people deep from the rope. With an almost-4-year-old in tow, we plan that DW would take DD#1 and go straight to TSM and grab Fastpasses, and when I arrived with DD#2, we’d then ride via the standby line so we’d get to check out the hot new attraction twice. We see the rope drop ceremony with the director, actor, etc., and then the rope drops, and the throngs of people start to move – with about 90% of them heading the same way.

DD#2 and I walked briskly but not terribly fast. Along the way we noticed that they blocked off the area by the Great Movie Ride where there were a couple of small pathways down to the path that would take you towards TSM, forcing everyone to take the same but much larger path, which was a good idea. We got to where the Fastpass machines were, and DW was standing in front of one, but apparently they were all having some issues. She came away a minute or two later with 4 passes for about 45 minutes later. Then we headed in.

The queue area is pretty cool – all the toys and games you remember as a kid (and a few seen in Toy Story) decorate the area – a giant Scrabble board, a barrel full of monkeys, etc. And if you are waiting in line for a bit, you may get some entertainment from Mr. Potato Head – a large audio-animatronic figure that talks, and even takes his hat off.

It didn’t take us long to get past this area though. After wrapping around, you come to where the Fastpass and standby lines meet. At this point, there is one line which goes up a set of stairs, down a hall, wrap back again, then takes a left down another hall with windows down to the loading area. You then take a set of stairs down to the loading area. It seems to me that even Fastpass riders could have about a 10 minute wait in line.

The ride vehicles have 4 seats, arranged back-to-back, so two people load facing forward, and two face rearward. Each has a “blaster” of sorts, which can be aimed, and instead of a trigger like on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, there is a pull cord out the back which you pull to launch whatever virtual items there are in a particular game. Since TSM is a 3D experience as well, you get a pair of polarized 3D glasses to wear.

As you enter the midway area in your car, the cars twist and turn until you are facing essentially sideways on the track. On either side are projection screens where you see the 3D midway games. There is ring toss, paintballs, darts and balloons, etc. Targets are worth different amounts of points, and you compete directly with your partner in your side of car for the targets. When the time is up for that game, you spin around and move into the next area for the next game. I found the best way that works for me with the pull cord is to hold it between the index and middle fingers, almost like a bowstring, keeping the tension, and then pulling just as necessary to trigger it, giving a fairly fast fire rate. I scored around 145,000 the first time. As you exit, there is a “high score” board showing the high scores for that day so far. Alas, the high score SARL was in the low 200k range. I don’t think you get anything for getting a high score though…

By the time we got out, it was only 15 minutes until our Fastpass time, so we checked out some of the merchandise (set up across the way from the entrance) and waited for our time. Then we went and rode again. The second time I only scored around 132k – I found that my hand actually got tired.

After that, we checked out the updated Narnia exhibit, along with pictures with Prince Caspian, who was very friendly and engaging with the kids. The new exhibit (given what it is, I think that’s a better name than “attraction”, which more people associate with a ride), like the old one, isn’t anything significant – essentially an on-set trailer for the movie, but it is neat. You are in Aslan’s How, where the broken stone table is in the middle, and screens around the perimeter show scenes from the movie as well as some special footage recreating some of the scene in the How. After that you enter another small room that has props and costumes from the film.

From there, we went into “One Man’s Dream”, an exhibit and movie about Walt Disney, from his childhood through creating Disney Studios and the parks. There are several models of the parks, the multiplane camera, early and later animatronics. Then you can see a brief film on Walt. We had seen the exhibit last trip, but couldn’t stay for the film. If you are fan of Disney at all, this is a must see.

We next hit the Tower of Terror/Rock’n’Roller Coaster combo, where the wait times were reasonable. We had to do a Rider Switch pass for RNRC as DD#2 still isn’t tall enough to ride, so it took a little while.

Right before our lunchtime reservations, we managed to catch the Jedi Training Academy outside Star Tours. DD#1 didn’t want to volunteer, but enjoyed watching. The Jedi teacher was very good. There was one boy who did seem a bit too into it though, working ahead of the direction and I almost thought he might be a problem but seemed to do fine.

It was then time for our reservation at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. It seems to get panned a lot, but we like it in general, and DD#1 really wanted to see all the Sci-Fi films – although she thought there would be the actual movies, not just teasers. I had a rack of ribs that were very tasty (apparently using a cola-based glaze), along with a Space Monkey (chocolate shake, Malibu rum, and banana liquor). DW had the angus burger and a Marsha’s Martian (chocolate and vanilla shake with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua), and the kids had the mac and cheese. The food was decent but expensive (but what isn’t at Disney?).

We then staked a claim for the new Block Party Bash parade. While waiting we heard that TSM Fastpasses were out – this was about 2:30pm, and the park didn’t even seem that busy. The new parade certainly had far more energy than the previous parade, which was pretty much characters riding in cars. This one had lots of dancing on the floats, encouraging the spectators to dance along – but it had far less characters.

I had also made a comment that the parade was coming the opposite direction than it did before (from the entrance towards the backlot), and a gentleman “corrected” me that the parade ALWAYS went that way. I guess my pictures and videos and memories of the regular and Christmas versions of the Stars and Motorcars parade are all flipped then…

After that we decided to head back to the resort and then a quick run over to Downtown Disney, at which time it started to pour rain off and on so we darted from storefront to storefront over on the Westside, and then headed back to the resort and went to the bakery over on the Boardwalk for some dinner. There was a long standing line for tables at the ESPN Club, but DW decided to take the kids back to the resort so I could sit at the bar and catch the end of the Patriots game and the start of the Red Sox playoff game (which was on TBS – not carried on the resort TVs). I only had to wait a few minutes for a seat at the bar, in which time I almost got tackled when an obviously inebriated large gentleman recognized a couple friends standing next to me and decided bear hugs was appropriate. Other than that, I enjoyed sitting at the bar and drinking a few beers despite the noise level which usually bothers me, but since I wasn’t trying to talk to or listen to anyone but the bartender, it wasn’t a problem.

Day 3 & 4 – Epcot and the Food and Wine Festival, Magic Kingdom

Now, the reason why we were here – the Food and Wine

Rockstar Festival! We skipped it on the first two days to avoid the crowds and have a better shot at the foods. Of course, things wouldn’t start until 11am when World Showcase opened, and we were up for rope drop, so we had some Futureworld stuff to do, including the usual Soarin’ dash!

As before, rope drop for the International Gateway was right before the bridge that leads towards France, so the people at the main entrance had a head start, but by the time we got to The Land, it didn’t seem like all that many got there before us this time. We grabbed our Fastpasses and hopped in the standby line, rode, then got breakfast at Sunshine Seasons (our typical Epcot morning routine), after which our Fastpass time was up and we rode again.

Next up was our first ride on the updated Spaceship Earth. I believe near the start you are supposed to look at a camera, that will take a picture of your face for a later part of the ride, but it appears for some reason it didn’t work – perhaps because DW wasn’t looking at the camera, or the kids were too short or something. I saw it work for others though. Some of the ride is unchanged, but other scenes were changed significantly – notably the “garage computer” scene. Judi Dench’s narration wasn’t bad, but I think I liked Jeremy Irons better.

During the descent, is where that picture comes in to play. On the touch screen in front of you you select one of several possible visions of the future, which features an animation utilizing your faces (if it captured them) and a bit of humor as you go about your chosen future.

After this we grabbed Fastpasses for Test Track and rode Mission: Space. Since we had time afterwards before our Fastpass, and it was now after 11am, we decided to head over to the edge of the World Showcase and try a few things in lieu of lunch.

One of the goals of F&W was to get DD#1 to try new foods – she’s a very stingy eater, but had agreed and was eager to try various foods. We didn’t need to remind her – she probably tried about 80% of the items we got. Also, we are not wine drinkers, so we were more after the food ourselves. We didn’t plan any of the special events as there were none that particularly interested us during our stay, and having the kids in tow would make it difficult.

It was a bit disappointing that the newly named “Tables in Wonderland” card (formerly the Disney Dining Experience card) couldn’t be applied to the “Cities in Wonderland” theme of the festival. Could have saved us quite a few coins. The portions in most cases were quite small – nothing more than an appetizer sized portion, which at $2-$7 adds up when you are sharing and trying to make a meal of it.

For the complete details of what we had from the Food and Wine Festival, see below.

After a few “appetizers” from F&W, we headed back to Test Track, rode, and then went back to the resort for a break and a little swim in Stormalong Bay. Unfortunately our swim was cut short as a storm moved in. So we got dressed and headed back for more Food and Wine Festival goodies.

Then it was back to the resort to rest up for a short day at Magic Kingdom and then back to Epcot.

For Day 4, we intended to have a relatively short day at Magic Kingdom. We wanted to take the monorail at some point this trip, so we drove to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Upon reaching the monorail platform we asked if we could ride in front. The Cast Member said that we might have to wait a couple of trains, but that was fine with us – we weren’t in a hurry. Apparently there was some training going on wholesale jerseys so the cockpits were full. We only had to wait for the second train anyways, although there were a couple of looks our way like we were in trouble for something, made to sit to the side…it turns out that we only just missed rope drop anyways.

The crowds were relatively light. We pretty much were able to walk on everything we wanted to do today, which was meant to be a short day at MK. Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, It’s A Small World, Mad Tea Party, and Space Mountain were all short waits, and we only needed to do a Rider Switch for Space Mountain. We even took a Land spin on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and still got out pretty early – but the crowds were definitely starting to pick up.

We went back to the Beach Club for a bit – still no Art to be seen! I’ll have to ask when I get a chance.

Then it was back to Epcot for more Food and Wine goodies, and then unfortunately our last day this trip.

The Food and Wine Festival

What follows is a combined account of what we had from the Food and Wine Festival over Days 3 and 4 – mainly because my memory is faulty over what we necessarily had when, so here is a complete list.

First thing we bought was some cheese at “The Mouse Catch” – a plate of Asiago, Manchego, and Dorothea cheeses. For DD#1 to try cheese is not a stretch, but these were definitely new to her. If I remember correctly, the Asiago was a bit dry, but the Dorothea was good and our favorite of the three.

We got two other entree items – the spicy beef empanada from Santiago, Chile and the Grilled Beef with Chimichurri sauce from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also from Chile we got a bit of Dulce de Leche wholesale mlb jerseys for dessert. All were delicious – DW especially liked the beef and chimichurri.

After a short break we headed back to the World Showcase to continue our food trek around the world. I stopped at the Brewers Collection and had a Scottish beer who’s name now escapes me. We then stopped at Montreal, Canada for the Cheddar Cheese Soup (more please!) and Maple Glazed Salmon with Arugala and Roasted Corn, which was delicious. In Athens, Greece, DW had the Spanikopita, which she said was “too spinach-y” (I’m not a fan of spinach at all). At Krakow, Poland, we got the Kielbasa with Potato Pierogies and Caramelized Onions. DD#1 now loves pierogies. We passed 01 by San Juan, Puerto Rico as nothing appealed to us. We intended to get the Pistachio Baklava from Istanbul, Turkey later, but forgot.

Just then the storm moved in again and it poured out, so we ducked into the stores at the front of the World Showcase for a while until it started to let up, which was a bit of a wait.

We then shot past the booths we had already visited and next hit Mexico City for Chilaquiles and Quesadilla con Chorizo – on the latter one, it needed more Chorizo – it was fairly light on the meat, but DD#1 said this was her favorite food. Next was Madrid, Spain and the Seared Tuna Loin with Spice Red Pepper Coulis and Garlic-Herb Ciabatta. The tuna was two cubes about an inch wide – not much to go on. We also got the Churros and chocolate sauce – they seemed a bit stale.

Next up was Vienna, Austria, and Beef Goulash with Bacon Dumpling and Tafelspitz (a form of boiled beef). The former tasted like a typical beef stew, with the latter being somewhat bland.

In Shanghai, China, we got the Chicken Sha Cha, Pork Pot Stickers, and Ginger Ice Cream. All yum.

New Delhi, India had Red Curry Shrimp over rice. DD#1 did try it, but it was too spicy for her, so I had it all to myself. It was on the spicy side, but well within my tolerances.

I don’t remember why we skipped Cape Town, South Africa or Munich, Germany other than we probably figured we’d hit there on a second pass. Melbourne, Australia had a big setup between the two as a “featured” city. DW was going to skip but I couldn’t resist Grilled Lamb Chops with Caramelized Onion Jam, DW instead opted for the Pizza w/Sausage from Bologna, Italy – yup, they had pizza. DD#1 liked it, but DW said it was just…pizza.

While passing through the American Adventure Sam Adams had a booth set up with a variety of their beers, including an exclusive Festival beer they described as “medium”. It tasted like a fairly standard ale and nothing remarkable, which unfortunately means I can no longer describe it. We skipped San Francisco (we wanted things other than American food), and stopped in Tokyo, Japan for some California and Spicy Tuna rolls. They were pretty decent, but nothing super special.

Wellington, New Zealand had a Lamb Slider on a Brioche Roll, which was delicious and simply far too small! They also had some Bay Scallops with Baby Greens and Cranberry Vinaigrette – I don’t like the taste of cranberry, but the greens still tasted really good.

Marrakesh, Morocco offered up Kefta (grilled beef) with Hummus in a Pita Pocket, which was really good but could have used more beef. They also had Chicken Brewat Rolls, which are like spring rolls, which were also very good.

Again, we skipped over Louisiana as it was getting late and we were getting full, and we had one last thing we HAD to get – the Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee from Lyon, France…DD#1’s second favorite food. Too bad they were small cups…

Day 5 – Cape May Cafe, Epcot, Going Home

For our last day, we booked the character buffet breakfast at Cape May Cafe, which we had not done before. It was similar to Chef Mickey, except a LOT quieter, with a similar though perhaps smaller food selection. It featured Minnie, Goofy and Donald in beach attire, hitting all the tables and giving time for autographs and photos and occasionally a little goofing around.

A nice touch is that they give the kids crayons, but rather than draw on placemats, the tables themselves are covered in paper and the kids can draw on them. Unfortunately I don’t believe the kids can take the drawings…and probably don’t want to after being covered with food…

We headed back to the room to get our bags Cottage to pack in the car for the trip back to the airport. Still no Art! So I asked where he might be, since we missed him our last trip as well. One of the managers said that Art had the week off so he could have a medical checkup – they want to make sure he stays well because so many people want to see him! Especially after his bout with pneumonia last December. He said he would tell Art that we had come by, and we said we’d make sure to stop by again next April.

From there we headed over to Epcot. Soarin’ had only 20 minute standby time (shortest I had ever seen beyond rope drop), and Test Track had a 20 minute time posted, but it was more like 40 minutes.

After that we headed over to the World Showcase and grabbed a couple of Food and Wine items that DD#1 would eat again – the Quesadilla con Chorizo and the Brewat Roll. We also stopped in the Liberty Inn for something a bit more substantial (burgers) and something for DD#2 (chicken nuggets). Along the way we stopped in for the boat ride in Mexico. I noticed that the tequila bar that was announced about a year before and even mentioned in early announcements of the Food and Wine Festival still has not appeared.

We still had a little more time to kill, cheap jerseys so after a little picture taking around the world for DD#1’s presentation she was going to make at school (they REALLY don’t like us taking kids out of school for vacations around here now, so we are making it more educational), we went over to the Boardwalk again to stop in the bakery for some chocolate covered pretzels and Klondike bars, and the candy store for some ear-popping plane ride supplies. We also checked out the Luna pool, as DD#1 Villas always called it a “scary” pool because of the giant freaky clown face on the slide. It doesn’t look as large in real life as it does in the videos.

We took our snacks back to the Beach Club and hung out in the lobby while eating on the round couch. Eventually, the manager had to ask us to move as they needed to take the couch apart to remove it to make room for something they were doing. Alas, it was time to leave anyways…

The drive back was typical – we dropped the car off at Payless, got right on the minibus to the terminal, and started the check-in process. It seems that they’ve made it more confusing at the T?hsil JetBlue counter to check in now. It was completely unclear where we needed to go, since we had our itinerary and only needed to check in our bags. We finally figured it out after asking. They still only weigh the bags at the counter – you still need to drop them off at a roped-off area nearby where security takes them and runs them through scans before they get back to where they normally go. Apparently wholesale mlb jerseys they can’t fit the equipment behind the scenes yet.

Our plane this time was called “100% Blue” – but DD#2 insisted in calling it “Blueberry” again. She apparently liked the name from the trip down. This time our flight left on time and landed on time. And I even remembered where I left the car. 🙂