Thursday, November 29, 2007

Orlando 2007, Part Three: EPCOT, MGM & Animal Kingdom

How I wish we were able to get a clear shot of Cinderella's castle. As you can sorta see, they draped the castle in tinsel-lighting and projected a blue color on it, which changed to purple and red every 20 minutes or so. It was quite impressive. Looking back, we missed a lot of photo opportunities - partly because I was always in a hurry to get to the next ride. Also, we experienced some camera issues at the Animal Kingdom. In the spirit of disclosure, eight of the pictures below were found online and are labeled thus.


Spaceship Earth was closed! The centerpiece of EPCOT was not taking visitors. We still managed to hit the Innovation pavillions, The Land, Journey Into the Imagination, Mission to Mars and the Test Track - not to mention the world pavillions. (online pic)This blurry shot of The Land agriculture ride shows one of the neatest things about EPCOT - exhibiting current science.Such as trees with hanging roots. (online pic)But I must say that both Toe and I found the Innovation pavillions and the Journey Into the Imagination as being a little confusing and underwhelming. The Test Track, too, was underwhelming, though it had a fun line and a few moments of exhileration during the ride. But EPCOT has the flip side of its country attractions. Much of this is designed around dining. I don't think the Japanese pavillion had more than a couple of restaurants and a gift shop, though other countries had rides and short films to promote their lands. The French film (on a 180 degree screen) was one of the more enjoyable movies we watched. The Norway film was the weakest. The most notable attraction, however, was the boat ride at the Mexican pavillion. It was similar to It's A Small World, but with the Three Caballeros. And similar to The Pirates of the Caribbean in Anaheim, the ride goes past the dining hall of an atmospheric restaurant. The indoor shopping area and restaurant can be seen, fuzzily, below:Not much else to say about EPCOT that hasn't been said before. It's one of the most interesting theme parks since it does not focus on thrill rides. I found a couple of aerial shots of the Disney parks here, which might be of some interest. My Disney geography is not complete, and I wish I knew what the area was above EPCOT in the photo. EPCOT meals: Toe and I each had a burger and fries at the Electric Umbrella one morning. The smallest burger option involved two patties, and the burger was too big. It was all $$$. For the most part, we split meals and drinks after that. We also ate some reasonably priced sushi rolls at the Yakitori House as we watched Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.


The MGM park seemed smaller than the others, perhaps because it did not have a body of water in the center. Most of it harked back to Hollywood of the 20s and 30s. Instead of large mice and dog like creatures, the MGM park featured vaudeville style performers and imitation film directors and Hollywood agents. It was a noble effort, but alas, the MGM park was the lesser of the Disney parks - much like it's centerpiece, Mickey's Fantasia magic hat, is the least impressive of all the other centerpieces in the other parks.
The first ride we chose was a tour of movie history that started in this replica of Grauman's theater. It was a fun idea, but the animatronic characters were some of the least realistic I'd seen on a Disney ride. On the flip side, the line to the ride wove down a theater showing the movie trailers of the films referenced on the ride. It was a masterstroke of "in line" entertainment which Disney excels at. With the lines of Disney rides, there is always something interesting to look at. (online pic)And no theme park, which has a giant AT-AT is bad, though the Star Wars rides was nothing more than a virtual reality flight that any other theme park could do just as well. (online pic)
Here's the entrance to the Aerosmith Rockin' Roller Coaster, which is perhaps the most wild of all the Disney coasters. Toe was not expecting the coaster to launch from 0 to 60 in two seconds. It was a thrill. MGM meals: I think we only ordered some fries and a drink here from Fairfax Fries.


Animal Kingdom offered the most shade all the parks. There seemed to be a forest canopy overhead no matter where we walked. The first thing we did was get a picture with the below monkey. I'm think it was from The Lion King, though I can't place it. All I know is I thought it was kinda cute at 10am in morning (when the picture was taken). But througout the day, as I saw it on several occasions with the exact same expression, it started to scare me. I half expected to see later that night in a dark alley in Orlando. After the picture, the monkey wanted to hug me for some strange reason.
Toe's favorite area was the DinoLand USA.
The worst part about Animal Kingdom? It closes at 5pm every day. Outrageous!

Animal Kingdom meals: we split a order of chicken lomein and a tea at a place in Africa.


The Magic Kingdom is still magical to me. I've been to Disneyland three times and to the Kingdom in Orlando twice before. Toe had been to Tokyo Disneyland two dozen times, and to there was nothing particularly surprizing with this park. Yet, it still strikes me as the most interesting of all the parks. I could easily spend two or three days just at this park. We paid little visits to the Kingdom throughout our stay, usually after spending the day at another park. Saturday night the park stays open until midnight, so we untilized that after the Animal Kingdom.

Someday, I'll have enough money to shop on Mainstreet USA - but I'm not there yet. I think I only bought two souveniors for friends here. Still, I love Mainstreet USA. May it never change. (online pic)
Since we were usually at the park at night, we didn't get many daytime pictures. I was comforted to know that, what had been converted to a Tarzan treehouse in Anaheim, was still the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House in Orlando.
Likewise, the Country Bear Jamboree, which is about the finest musical review I've ever seen, is still in tack in Orlando. The last time I was in Anaheim, the show had been changed to a 50s Rock theme. Horrible. I want my Liverlips McGraw singing "I Gotta Woman" the way he was meant to.

Magic Kingdom meals: lats of sweets including a churro. We also bought a big honkin' turkey leg and soda.

Another aerial shot from the site above.Well, that's the short version of the trip. I'm sure Toe and I will return. But until that day, thanks Walt and Mickey! (online pic)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Orlando 2007, Part Two: Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure

So what if the Universal theme parks are sorta knock offs of what Disney created? Disney raised the bar for everybody. I applaud Universal for their Orlando efforts. We did both parks in one day, which was about right, though, to our disappointment, both parks closed at 6pm - far too early for the ticket price. Still, we moved at a brisk counter-clockwise pace through both parks, starting with Universal Studios at 10am before moving on to the Islands of Adventure around 2pm. Although the parks closed at six, our shuttle was not due to pick us up until eight, which left us at the mercy of City Walk, the entertainment area in front of both parks. There you could find liquor, food, coffee and souveniors at astronomical prices. But I'm getting away from myself. Our first stop was the Universal Studios park. Note that Lady T____ is sporting a comfy fleece-like pull-over and long pants. I was forced to wear a t-shirt and shorts. Unfortunately, the morning cold in Orlando that day never warmed up and I was chilled most of the day.As previously mentioned, we moved in a counter-clockwise pattern, hitting first the Shrek 3D adventure, one of many 3D films we saw during our vacation. That was located at #3 on the map below. From there we headed through Kidzone and World Expo in search of the interactive Men in Black ride. On the way there was a construction obstruction fence with all the Simpsons characters.After the interactive MIB ride (no pics), we went on past the Fear Factor attraction (no pics) to the Jaws ride (no pics). It should be noted that Odie was right, the Jaws ride sucked. The charming part about the old Jaws portion of the Universal tour in California was that the animatronic shark appears only once, to great affect. The Orlando Jaws ride has an animatronic shark every few feet to the point where it just gets boring. Our tour guide was panicking way too much about the robot sharks and I wanted to toss him overboard and take control of the vessel myself just to have a more soothing ride, but alas, I noticed that he wasn't actually steering the boat.

After Jaws, we stopped in at a burger place with the below statue and enjoyed a $10 burger and fries with a $3 coke.We then made our way to the Mummy rollercoaster where we ran into these towering Egyptians. They were amazingly agile and refused to talk. The actual Mummy coaster was pretty decent. It launches you forward, stops, goes in reverse, makes you think it's over when it's not and then sends you through the flames of hell....and yet, it's still too short.

After the Mummy coaster, we went to the Twister attraction and experienced a F-5 or something. The winds did not quite pull my arm hair from my arms, but it did manage to spray me with a fine mist of simulated rain. Ironically, although several rides warned that passengers would get wet, this was the only one that lived up to that promise - though we were simply standing in one place. (We avoided most rapid style rides that threatened to drench us.)

Although Universal Studios was enjoyable enough, I couldn't help but think the Islands of Adventure was where the real fun was at:Okay, so this wasn't our picture (it was still daylight when we left the Studios park), but it conveys the obvious, that Islands of Adventure has more rides. So that's where we had to go.For details, click on this map for a detailed view.Again, we proceeded on a counter-clockwise course, going through Seuss Landing - a place that would produce innumerable "oohs" and "awes" from American girls, but which the Japanese girls find frightening. Lady T____ was pretty freaked out and disgusted during our time in this land and refused to climb on any rides. We didn't stop long enough to take many pictures, so I found the one below online:Though she still wanted her picture taken. The next land was The Lost Continent, which had the most overwhelming atmosphere, particularly the Poseidon's Temple attraction (again, photo found online).I call it an attraction instead of a ride because there was nothing to really ride. The audience moved from chamber to chamber as the guide went through an adventure between the Greek god and a made up evil rival. The setting was great, but the rest of it was ultimately pretty dull and silly.Later, we rode one of the highlights of the park: the Dueling Dragon coasters. There were two coasters which, at synchronized points, came within a couple of feet of each other. It was the type of coaster where the seats hung below the track, and unfortunately, Lady T____ had to clench her toe-fingers desperately throughout the ride to keep her heel-less sneakers from flying off her feet. (online photo)In between the Dueling Dragons and the Hulk coaster (below), we rode a dinosaur gliding thingy (no pics) and a Jurassic boat ride (no pics) with a log ride type free fall at the end. The latter was well worth it and, despite the warning sign, we did not get wet. We barely made the Hulk coaster, though, as the park was closing. It was, perhaps, the most outrageous coaster of the trip with several loops and the most to offer in g-forces.
After the hulk, there was only enough time to roam around admire some of the scenery. Betty Boop is some dame.As I mentioned, the park closed two hours before our shuttle picked us up. It was cold at that point and we both wanted a place to sit, which led us to the Starbucks for a cup of joe and a hot chocolate. Sadly, the two hours we had to kill before our ride put a slightly frustrating end to an otherwise pleasant day.

NEXT UP: EPCOT, MGM, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom....really.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Orlando 2007, Part One: The Port Orleans Hotel and Downtown Disney

If history serves me well, I believe Mark Twain stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Hotel when he wrote Tom Sawyer. The rooms were about average and there was not an internet connection, but the period design of the outer hotel and the maze-like landscaping made it enjoyable. The rooms were grouped in about 20 two-story buildings, each with about 20 rooms or so. In between each building were pools, ponds, bridges and lots and lots of greenery.At the riverside entrance of the main lobby is a dock to rent little motor boats and family-sized bikes, as well as a place to catch the riverboats to Downtown Disney, etc., which run every 15 minutes all day and into the night.The free shuttle boat and the Sassagoula River made going to Downtown Disney unique and fun. The rustic ambience was thorough. The colonial architecture and the spinning water wheel, whose wooden sprockets, cranks and shafts were the centerpiece of the dining hall, put you in a Dixie state of mind. The scene was such that the ferry boat might as well been on a tributary of the Mississippi and Downtown Disney might as well have been the Big Easy herself. It was a pure Orleans moment when I was mugged buying a burger and fries at Downtown Disney prices. Ol' Man-made River, he just keeps rolling....Although the river didn't actually flow into anything, the boat did take us past several of the other Disney lodgings, so that we could see how the Port Orlean Riverside stacked up to more luxurious places. There were some nice hotels, but the most enjoyable place to stay appeared to be the tree house lodges, which, the obnoxious boat guides routinely noted, were no longer open to Disney guest, but rather used to lodge the international students working at EPCOT. Unfortunately, we did not get any pictures of the tree house lodges.We ate at the Rainforest Cafe, where the interior looks like a jungle with waterfalls and a jungle canopy complete with rain and animal sounds and animitronic elephants and monkeys. The waiter explained that the robot monkeys were preferrable to real monkeys as they tended fling less scat at the diners. Here's a picture I found online of the dining area, which was roughly my vantage-point during the meal... Since this table was very near the entrance of the restaurant and we were deprived of the full atmosphere of the dining area, Lady T____ and I took a leisurely stroll through the rest of the restaurant after our meal to soak up some of the flavor.The elephants would come alive every 15 minutes as an artifical rainstorm thundered and poured around us. Lady T____ and I celebrated animal diversity and Mother Gaea by ordering a triple beast feast: baby-back ribs, a steak and some speared fried shrimp. It came on a bed of fried potatos that could have comfortably padded three hungry hobos for the duration of our 4 day Magic Your Way passes. By the size of our two caesar salads, it seemed likely that two acres of land had gone into the harvesting of them. Of course, the restaurant expected an acre of our own lettuce in return. I must note that Lady T____ generously treated me to this meal - which fed us for most of two days. It was an experinece.
The rest of the Downtown Disney consisted mostly of shops and restaurants, but also had a multiplex and a circus. My favorite shop (granted, the only one that I wanted to see) was Lego Land, where I befriended a family of lego people...Next stop: EPCOT, MGM, The Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Liverputty has returned

Life has meaning once more. Photos pending.

Farewell to John Howard

He's been one of the finest leaders on the world stage, as far as I can tell, and while he was in power, nobody had our back more than the Aussies, on a variety of issues. He leaves behind a strong stance against terror, a sober stance on global warming/destruction, and a booming economy. Conservatives will miss him. Good luck to the victorious Kevin Rudd and his Labor Party.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Liverputty staff will return Sunday, November 25th

We have been on holiday for the past week or so & will eventually return.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


A nice contrast to the knuckleheads who destroyed the Buddha relief below.

The Iraqis asked me [Michael Yon] to convey a message of thanks to the American people. "Thank you, thank you," the people were saying. One man said, "Thank you for peace." Another man, a Muslim, said "All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother." The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mohamattan vandals destroy another Buddhist statue

They failed in September, but kept at it in their ongoing jihad against impressive sculptures. It was a pointed statement against the intolerant Buddhist crusaders that slaughtered Mohammattans in the land of Swat back in the olden days. My history may be a bit fuzzy in the details but the larger point stands: the giant relief was just asking for it.