Flower & Garden Festival ’05 at EPCOT in Walt Disney World
Who: Rich and Kathy
Dates: April 16-17, 2005
Resort: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
This was the third time we had visited Epcot during the Flower & Garden Festival. It’s a beautiful time of year, the weather was perfect and with the added flowers, shrubs, trees, and whimsical character topiaries, it’s a special time to experience the park.
But it was crowded. With Easter in March this year, we expected the spring breakers to be done by now but not so. Spring break seems to take place throughout March and April, no matter when Easter occurs.
With plans to also attend the Annual Passholder Sneak Preview of Soarin and lunch with a couple of online friends from Alabama on Sunday, we chose to stay over at the Caribbean Beach Resort—our first moderate resort. We’ve always stayed in the deluxes and now we know why. More on that later.
Day 1 — Saturday, April 16, 2005
Who: Rich and Kathy
Plan: Check in Caribbean Beach, ride Tower of Terror at Studios, ride Soarin at Epcot, nap and swim at resort, evening at Magic Kingdom
Actual: First of all, when we’ve arrived early in the morning, the deluxes have always been able to accommodate an early check-in. Not so with the moderate. Yes, it was busy but somehow the deluxes seem to be able to still pull that off. We were given a room card to charge any of our purchases to our room and a phone number to call about the status of our room.
Anyway, after checking in but not getting an actual room assignment, we hopped on a bus headed for Disney Studios just to ride Tower of Terror. Kathy thought the drops were even more dramatic than before. Rich loved his front and center seat. We stopped off, as usual, at the Starring Rolls Bakery but it had been remodeled and was now the Starring Rolls Cafe, with sandwiches, candy and a few breakfast rolls up for grabs. We didn’t like this setup and probably won’t be back.
Then we boated over towards Epcot but got off at the Yacht Club stop and finished walking over to Epcot, via the International Gateway, one of our favorite strolls. It was nostalgic walking past the Yacht Club and Stormalong Bay again. Once inside Epcot, we strolled around World Showcase, looking at the Flower & Garden exhibits. One of our favorites was this Panda in front of the China Paviliion:
We then pushed on to Mexico for lunch at the Cantina de San Angel. For today’s lunch, we had:
Entrees: Tacos al Carbon – flour tortillas filled with grilled chicken, onions and peppers, served with black refried beans and Mexican salsa (Rich), Ensalada Mexicana – tortilla shell filled with chicken, black refried beans, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese and Mexican salsa (Kathy)
Beverages: Coke (Rich), Diet Coke (Kathy) — too tired for our usual margaritas
We wandered through Future World and got in line for the AP Sneak Preview of Soarin. The ride was fun but mostly nostalgic for Kathy since the ride at Disney’s California Adventure is called Soarin over California. Since they’re just calling it Soarin at WDW, we’re assuming they’ll eventually change the movie location. After Soarin, we wandered over to the Flower & Garden Festival Center and bought our Mickey Flower & Garden Souvenir:
We didn’t see the F&G emblem on the bottom of Mickey’s foot (how can you miss it?) so we headed back into World Showcase to the F&G tent and bought a TinkerBell pin and Rich posed for this picture (if you can make it out):
The last time we had called the front desk, our room still wasn’t ready but we thought we’d bus over there and wait by the pool until it was. While waiting for the bus from Epcot, something we had never done before—we had always been able to either walk, boat, or monorail from Epcot, we discussed our evening plans. By this time, we were all bussed out and wasn’t up for bussing over to the Magic Kingdom tonight. It was getting late and our chances for a nap were being greatly reduced. So, we decided we’d go to dinner. Rich called Guest Services and got an 8:20 PS at Jiko; a first for us.
From the pool area, we made more calls to the front desk of our resort about whether our room was ready or not. Not. But, we were finally assigned a different room. While we waited, though, we got our beach bag from our car trunk and changed into our swimsuits in the public restrooms, and swam in the pool. It was heated and the water started relaxing us immediately. Eventually, we checked into our room and took a brief nap before getting ready for the evening at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge was just as impressive as we had remembered, if not more so, because last time it was during the day and the Lodge took on an even more exotic atmosphere during the evening. The desert landscaping reminded Kathy of the deserts in California and Arizona and she found herself longing to visit the desert again—or, at least, stay over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge on a future trip.
After wandering around the Lodge a bit, viewing the animals outside and sitting briefly by the firepit, we headed to the main lobby lounge, Victoria Falls. It was a lively bar as people were stopping in for a before dinner cocktail. Kathy had a Vodka martini and Rich had a Scotch and water.
As it got closer to our PS time, we headed over to Jiko. It was packed. We discovered later that it was the 4th anniversary of the opening of the restaurant. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up with our beeper. They had written the wrong number down next to our name so we ended up waiting 45 minutes before the error was discovered. Lesson learned: when it’s busy, keep checking with the desk regarding your table. Don’t assume you should just wait patiently. Eventually, we were seated and had a wonderful meal with great service and outstandingly flavorful food.
Appetizer: Kalamata Olive Flatbread – with four cheeses, and Laura Chenel’s soft goat cheese (Rich and Kathy)
Entree: Tamarind Braised Beef Short Ribs with Idaho and Sweet Potato Gratin, and Tamarind-Onion-Garlic Sauce (Rich), Pan Roasted Monkfish – with vegetables of the moment, crispy sweet potatoes and tomato butter sauce (Kathy)
Dinner Beverage: Rust & Vrede Shiraz Stellenbosch ’01 (Kathy), Delheim Cabernet Sauvignon “Grand Reserve” Stellenbosch ’00 (Rich)
The Kalamata Olive Flatbread was one of the most amazing taste-sensations we’ve ever experienced.. The Short Ribs were so tender and flavorful and Kathy surprised herself by ordering the Monkfish but she was up for adventure and the Monkfish turned out to be quite delicious—especially with the tomato butter sauce. We couldn’t dine here at Jiko without tasting a couple of glasses of South African Wine, which were both quite good. But we were too full for dessert. Maybe next time.
Day 2 — Sunday, April 17, 2005
Who: Rich and Kathy, Bob and Larry
Plan: Walk around World Showcase, have lunch at Le Cellier with Bob and Larry
Actual: Ice station cool, tour Flower & Garden exhibits at the UK and Canada, lunch at Le Cellier with Bob and Larry
We slept in late, although the bed was not very comfortable at all. We are so spoiled by our waterbed. We were still full from last night’s dinner so we just made a pot of coffee in the room, packed, checked out, and headed for Epcot. Since we had already walked around World Showcase yesterday, we just headed straight for World Showcase, with one brief walk through Ice Station Cool to wet our whistle with a couple sample colas from around the world. Then on to Canada with a brief detour to neighboring UK, where we took pictures of the Winnie the Pooh characters: Pooh, Tigger, Eyeore, Piglet, and Rabbit. Pooh was especially cute:
Then on to Le Cellier, where we arrived ten minutes ahead of our PS. Bob and Larry were waiting so after greeting them, we headed into the restaurant to claim our table. As all 4 of us are avid Disney fans, we mostly discussed past, present, and future trips to Disney, getting Bob & Larry’s food recommendations for some of the top Disney restaurants. Today’s lunch consisted of:
Soup: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup – smoked bacon and Moosehead beer (Rich, Kathy, Bob and Larry)
Entree: Cast Iron Seared Lake Trout – mixed greens, tomatoes, red onions, bacon with herb vinaigrette (Rich), Beef Tenderloin Salad – beef tenderloin tips, mixed greens, asparagus noodles and a tarragon vinaigrette (Kathy), Le Cellier Grilled Steak Burger – topped with your choice of Cheddar, Gruyere or Blue Cheese (Larry), Sliced Prime Rib “French Dip” Sandwich – French onion roll, caramelized onions, Canadian cheddar, and horseradish cream spread accompanied by beef jus (Bob)
Lunch Beverage: Coke (Rich), Chateau St. Michelle Syrah (Kathy), Ravenswood California Zinfandel (Bob and Larry)
Dessert: Canadian “Moose” (Larry), Inniskillin (Bob, Rich), coffee (Kathy)
It was fun getting to attend a special Annual Passholder sneak preview attraction. We enjoyed the Flower & Garden Festival, although Food & Wine is our favorite and we cannot wait. We discovered that we’d rather go less often and stay at a deluxe resort than to ever stay at a moderate again. We’ll do day trips instead. April is too crowded, even if Easter lands in March. April is still considered spring break. We loved the Animal Kingdom Lodge and want to stay over on our next overnight. We’d like to try eating at Boma, the buffet, because of the variety of flavors we’d like to sample.
Looking back on this trip years later, I smile. It was such fun getting to see Bob and Larry on these trips and they truly made us feel more at home in Florida.