Saturday, January 09, 2010

Day 8 and coming home

We woke up early this morning and the first thing I thought was “oh man, we have to go home today!” I really didn’t want to go home. We’re having such a wonderful time! This has really been a time to reconnect as a family, time to appreciate the little things in one another that make us special and that make our family work. And going home means going back to school, work, extra-curricular activities, phones, televisions and video games. It also means going home to our pets, all 8 of them (each with a Disney-character name), whom we do miss and do want to see. So there’s the one upside.

We trudge out of bed this morning and hurriedly dressed. We packed all of the last bits of dirty laundry, found a bag to store all the hoodies and waited for bell services to arrive. They knocked right on time and quickly escorted all of our bags out of the room, to be safely stored for our pick-up later in the day.

This morning is early Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom and we’re going to take advantage of them to finally ride all the Fantasyland attractions. We arrive to the Magic Kingdom in plenty of time to watch the park opening, the throwing of the pixie dust and the dropping of the ropes to let us once again wander in this magical place.
We stride up to the castle and wait in it’s pathway for the rope to drop, hurriedly getting in line for Dumbo. We’re on the 2nd group of Dumbo riders. The boys decide to ride together and Carissa on her own. For the first time, I am sitting out of Dumbo. Too many icky feelings after riding early in the mornings have made me wary. But the kids are excited. The boys choose an aqua Dumbo, Carissa chooses the coral one. They spin around up in the air, going higher and lower and I stand there watching them, snapping pictures and wishing this day could last forever.

Next up is Cinderella’s carousel, which we board right away. The kids watch the previous ride ending and carefully pick out their horses as it passes. When the gates open they head right to their chosen mounts and are ready to go. We’re in and out of this one in no time too so decide to head to Peter Pan. The sign says it’s a 10 minute wait but it’s more like 5. We find some hidden Mickey’s in the queue, even without Chase toting around his book (which is packed until we return home).

Brian and I ride in our own flying pirate ship, while the kids share one behind us. I love this ride, love how the city below you is so small, how the story is brought to life. All too soon the ride is over and we’re moving on, this time to see PhilHarMagic one last time. We walk right in, sit down and enjoy one of our favorite shows in all of Disneyworld. And look what we found while waiting for everyone to sit... another hidden Mickey!
We've now hit everything we needed to in Fantasyland and really in the whole park. By the time we get done it’s not quite 9am. The only other thing on our agenda is to visit Mickey in Toontown and finally get a photo with him, but Toontown doesn’t open until 10am. Brian mentions that maybe we should just head to Downtown Disney and spend the rest of our merchandise credit. Since we have to spend it somewhere, we decide to forego Mickey and make our way out of the Magic Kingdom. I’m a little sad that we never got to see him in his Mickey clothes this trip (we did see him in his Chef outfit at Chef Mickey’s) but I think waiting around an hour doesn’t make much sense either.

On the way out we make one stop in Tinkerbell’s Treasures so Carissa can wake up Tinkerbell (if you look carefully you can see that the bell used to wake Tink is clutched in her hand). She saw a girl do it the day before and wanted to do it herself. The cast member today wasn’t as into it, finally allowing her to do it but not even offering up a magical sprinkling of pixie dust. I remind her that she still has some left over from her previous sprinkling and that helps. We head back down Main Street towards the exit.
Walking towards Main Street I see an ice cream cart and realize that I still haven’t had my Mickey head! I just can't leave Disneyworld without having at least one. It may still be breakfast time, but I’m doing it anyways! We grab 2, one of which the kids devour, the other which I savor a bit more slowly. YUM! I realize later that I’ve actually dropped a big chunk of chocolate on my hair and it’s melted both on my hair and to my shirt. I go to the bathroom and wash most of it out, but now I’m bringing some chocolate Mickey goodness home with me!

My family cooperates with me and we stop for a few pictures of Brian and the kids in front of the castle. A couple comes up and offers to take the camera from me so we can all be in the photograph. Again, I love how considerate the people here have been. We also grab some Photopass photos on the way out, smiling for one last time with the castle behind us.
When I walk through the gates and out of the park I am sad but don’t cry, not like last night at least. I’m sad to see it go, sad to know that we may not ever make it here as a family again, but happy to know that it exists, that it’s there if we ever make it this way again and that we have so many happy family memories to look back on.

A boat arrives at the dock just as we are leaving so we decide to hop in it and ride it to whichever resort it’s headed towards.

We end up at the Grand Floridian again and marvel at how huge and beautiful it really is. We keep walking and make it to the bus stop to catch a bus to Downtown Disney. They have nice benches here and we take a load off, commonly being interrupted in our reflections by the animated station attendant and his not-so-funny joking attempts. We sit and wait … and wait … and wait. By now Brian is thinking that it wasn’t such a great idea to leave the parks and head to Downtown Disney. We toy around with the idea of heading back and just going to our resort, but in the end decide to wait for the bus. It finally arrives about 30 minutes after we get there and we quickly board, hoping for a speedy ride to DTD.

Once at Downtown Disney we take a few photos at the Christmas display, which we’ve passed many times this trip but never stopped at.

We then hurry our way to Earl of Sandwich for one of my favorite meals. Our last trip I had the Hawaiian BBQ Sandwich here and fell in love! It was soooooo good that I took a picture of it and completed a scrapbook page about it. This time I got it again and it was just as good as I remembered. Even better, it came with a yummy brownie which I saved for the trip home. Brian got a meatball sandwich, which he liked, Chase had a chicken salad, Tristan had a pizza sandwich (cheese and pizza sauce) and Carissa had a cheese sandwich. Everyone got dessert and I bagged those up for the plane ride home. We never did eat them on the plane, but enjoyed them a day or two after we got home. Those brownies were so delicious! After eating we decided to use some of our left over counter service credits and both Brian and I got a sandwich to eat on the plane. He got roast beef and I got – surprise – the Hawaiian BBQ.

Time was quickly running out, as we really needed to leave DTD by 11:30am. We traversed the now-rainy DTD and went to Once Upon A Toy. The kids shopped for a bit and picked out gifts for one another for Christmas. Chase happened upon just the most perfect Webkinz – a dragon for Tristan and a guinea pig that looks exactly like Koda, Carissa’s pet guinea pig. He grabbed those while Tristan snuck in an Imagineering book for Chase.

Meanwhile, Carissa was playing with the make-your-own lightsaber. The boys and Brian all got one last trip but she didn’t and she really wanted one. Sadly, she was out of money but she just had fun playing with it. Brian and I planned it well though, and Brian sneaked it to the register while I distracted her. It’s now safely wrapped under our Christmas tree. After all that we had finally used all of our merchandise credit. $1000 in 8 days. WOW! But seeing as how we didn’t pay near face value for it and we’re coming home with loads and loads of goodies to show, I think it was a good deal.

Holy moly, it’s 11:15 already and we still have snack credits to use! We go to Goofy’s Candy Company, where we each pick out one snack credit item. The boys each do the make-your-own marshmallows, but Carissa and I decide to pass when we’re told they only have dark chocolate right now. ICK! I end up with a huge piece of English toffee while Carissa and Brian each choose a decadent looking cupcake – vanilla with vanilla frosting for Brian, chocolate with chocolate frosting for Carissa. And the frosting is piled high on these things… it’s like a huge bouffant of frosting. I convince the cast member to box them up for me and we head on our way to the bus stop, moving as quickly as we can with all the new bags and food in tow.

It takes only a few minutes before a bus for Coronado Springs arrives and whisks us away to our resort. We arrive in plenty of time and go see the concierge to check whether we’re used all our meal credits. We have 3 more counter service credits, which we use to get individual pizza’s to go for the kids. We also have 2 snack credits so grab a cinnamon roll and one last chocolate croissant (I think I ate 3 or 4 this trip… yum!) to go.

By now we’re loaded down with food, drinks and snacks and have emptied out our credits. We have nothing left to do so head to the luggage room and check our luggage out. We spend some time repacking, as we have 6 drink bottles that can’t be carried past security at the airport and have to be packed. Then there’s all the toys we purchased at Once Upon A Toy. It takes some work, since we’ve purchased so much this trip and all of our bags are stuffed, but soon we’re all packed and ready to go.

A Disney’s Magical Express bus arrives at about 1pm, but it’s the 12:45 bus and we’re on the 1:15 bus so we don’t board. We wait and wait. Another DME bus arrives but it’s dropping off. Then another one, then another one, all dropping off. The clock ticks and no bus. The cast members just keep saying “it’s coming” but we just keep on waiting. And waiting. And waiting. By the time 2:00 rolls around I am scared that we’re going to miss our flight. A cast member in a suit walks by and we mention it to him. He says he’ll figure it out and let us know. While he does I call Disney’s Magical Express myself and ask about the bus. I’m put on eternal hold and hang up at 2:10, when our bus finally rolls up and we board. Brian loads the luggage (we’re flying Southwest so have to check our own luggage) and the kids and I grab seats right up front in the bus. We are on our way home.

Along the highway we see why our bus never arrives. An accident has blocked the highway. We count at least 6 Disney's Magic Express busses in the backup, along with 6 Disney Cruise line busses and hoards and hoards of other tour company busses. I never realized just how many busses there were here! LOL

By the time we get to the airport it’s 2:40 and we leave in just under 90 minutes. We have to grab our luggage but forego the man waiting with a luggage cart, who would haul us up to curbside check-in but would then expect a tip. Since we have no time to wait in the counter line we know we're going to have to hit the skycap and tip them and we don't want to tip twice for so many bags. Instead we each grab 2 pieces of luggage, our backpacks, food and carryons and run for an elevator. We run to curbside check-in, thankful that we purchased earlybird check-in and have good boarding numbers.

Next we run for security and things come to a screeching halt. Someone checks our ID and airline tickets and then we get in this huge cattle-call line of people shoulder-to-shoulder, no lines, trying to get through the security scanners. Holy cow! I have serious questions as to whether we’ll make our flight or not until a kind stranger mentions that they have a family security line, makes room for us and lets us pass to that line. Thank you kind stranger, whoever you are! We had no idea there was a family line and it saved our bacon. We got in and out of that, although it was a huge pain in the butt, as it always is. I swear, the airport is the most stressful part of the vacation for me!

Once through security we all sit down, put our shoes on, catch a train to the terminal, find our gate and then finally sit down to breath a sigh of relief. We made it. We go purchase drinks and then eat our not-so-hot-but-free food. Our plane boards and we get great seats towards the front. We stow our carryons, including all my breakable Mickey-head ornaments, and hope that they make it home in one piece. Thankfully they are all perfect when I unpack them at home. YEAH!

The flight to Denver is uneventful. We watch the sun slowly set, as we’re flying west towards the setting sun. When we arrive in Denver we’re a bit late but not too bad… until we’re told that there is a problem with the plane. Thankfully they don’t tell us until after we’ve safely landed, but our gyro meter isn’t working and apparently it’s pretty important. We’re let off in Denver for a few minutes to use the restrooms and when we return we’re told that we’ll have to change planes. We disembark with all our gear and wait for an hour or so before a new plane comes. Then we wait for them to refuel and do all their checks and such. By the time we leave it’s about 2 hours later than expected. But we arrive in Portland safely, albeit very late.

We quickly collect our luggage and head out. It’s a balmy 10 degrees and we’re all in shorts and capris with just hoodies to keep us warm. Thankfully my Mom meets us at the airport with our warm van and the coats inside. It’s 10:30 Portland time, 1:30 in the morning Florida time. We’re tired and chilly, cranky from the long flight and delays and, by the way, the dash lights in our van quit working while we were gone. Welcome to the real world… I think I prefer Disneyworld!

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