Monday, June 29, 2009

A Special Visit to See Mickey (and Minnie!)

Even though I was smack dab in the middle of teaching the first summer session, I had to squeeze in a long weekend in Orlando earlier this month. You see, my cousin Mandi and her partner Ashley were having their commitment ceremony, and if that weren't exciting enough, they were doing it at their very favorite place in the world, Epcot! Having never been a part of a Disney wedding, I just HAD to be there. Moreover, my family is from Georgia, and they are very conservative Southern Baptists. I was extremely worried that no one from the family would be there to support my sweet cousin as she crossed this major threshold in her life. So I was determined to be there for her!

Of course, if you're going to go to Orlando, you HAVE to have some theme park fun while you're there! So my plan was to leave Friday, hit the Magic Kingdom (my favorite!) on Saturday, Animal Kingdom (I had never been there) on Sunday, the wedding at Epcot on Monday, and then fly back that night so that I could be back in class on Tuesday. A whirlwind tour, to be sure, but a lot of recreation could be squeezed into a few days. However, I needed to compel a friend to join me, because where's the fun in doing Disney alone? Even though she was enduring a frightfully busy time at work, I talked my old roomie, Cyd, into meeting me in Orlando for the weekend. A perfect plan, right? As it turns out, not so much.

Things started out well. Cyd and I arrived around the same time in Orlando Friday evening, and after spending some quality time in Disney-like lines at Hertz, finally got a rental car and got on the road. We found our motel, got checked in, and then sought out some Cuban food for dinner. There were a lot of recommendations for a place called Havana's Cuban Cafe, so we went a checked it out. The food was very good, very authentic, and very plentiful. We started with some mariquitas (plantain chips) and mojo dipping sauce. Then we shared a "Camaguey" combination platter of grilled skirt steak, pork, and chicken, along with black beans and rice. We were so full after all that that we did not have dessert, but Cyd enjoyed a demitasse of rich and frothy Cuban coffee. When we got back to the motel after dinner, it was past pool hours, but the nice lady at the front desk told us we could swim anyway! So we spent an hour in the pool, cooling off before hitting the hay. All in all, an auspicious start to our mini-vacay! The next day was where it all derailed...

I made sure we were up and ready to go bright and early, grabbing a quick breakfast and heading directly to the Magic Kingdom to be in line before it opened. Now a couple things should be noted before I continue with my story. One, it was HOTTER THAN THE SURFACE OF THE SUN! (Orlando in June is no place to be if you have a choice about it!) Secondly, you should know that Cyd is afflicted with motion sickness, so we know to keep her off spinning things (teacups) and motion simulators (Star Tours-type). After the cute opening number and the mayor welcoming us in (I'll admit it, I got choked up!), we jumped the train for Frontierland, and headed to Splash Mountain first. Other than Cyd losing her hat on the big drop, it was very fun. Then we went next door to Great Thunder Mountain. Though we had been in the park less than an hour, this is where it all went horribly wrong. We weren't on the ride two seconds before Cyd started screaming (not in a good way) and begging me to make it stop (like I had the power). When we got off the ride, she was ready to hurl.

So we rested for a bit, and then walked slowly over to Liberty Square to one of her favorite attractions, the Haunted Mansion. I figured it was cool and dark in there, and the ride was slow enough. But afterwards, she was still not looking so good. So we rested a while longer, and then walked slowly into Fantasyland where I thought Small World would be a good choice. Again, it is a cool, dark, long, slow, gentle ride. But when I looked over at her as we floated along, her head was back and her eyes were closed. We got off the boat, and headed toward the exit. At the door, I turned around and realized that Cyd wasn't behind me, so I walked back up the ramp to discover the poor thing in a terrible state. I won't go into unpleasant detail, but I'm not sure that the Small World moat will ever be the same! :-(

Once again, we sat outside for a good long while, hoping she would feel better. But all she wanted to do was lay down and make the world stop spinning. I explained that she could NOT lay down in the bushes in Fantasyland or authorities would be notified. Hence, there was no choice but to begin the long, slow, arduous trek in the horrible heat from the very back of the park, via planes, trains, automobiles, trams and monorails back to the hotel where she promptly passed out on her bed in the life-giving, air-conditioned room. Though I had lost a couple of hours in my carefully-crafted Magic Kingdom touring plan, I sure wasn't going to miss my chance altogether to enjoy Disney World, especially since I had already bought my terribly overpriced one-day ticket! So I hauled my cookies back to the park and did the Magic Kingdom all by myself until late that evening (BOO HISS). I kept hoping that my friend would eventually feel better and rejoin me, but no such luck that day. How very tragic it all was...

The next day at Animal Kingdom went better. It was still hot as blazes, but most of the park is shaded by trees and bamboo, plus it's smaller, and is not a park that takes all day to do. However, once again, Cyd seemed determined to vex me by wearing inappropriate footwear and giving herself MASSIVE blisters, making it nearly impossible for her to walk. So we had to take it VERY slow and take frequent breaks, but we managed to see most of the attractions, and even though Cyd wasn't up for many rides, I did persuade her to try the Dinosaur ride at the end of the day without any, er, upheaval. Yay! By early evening, we were exhausted. So we grabbed some dinner on the way back to the motel, and then enjoyed another swim in the pool. We tried to get to sleep at a reasonable hour, because we planned to enjoy that old Southern favorite, the Waffle House, for breakfast before heading to Epcot for the wedding at 10am. At least, that's when I THOUGHT the ceremony was!

I got up about 7am, started getting ready and packing up my stuff. Then about 7:30am, I checked the invitation on a whim and realized to my horror that the wedding was at 9am--it was the reception that started at 10! YIKES! I screamed for Cyd to get up, and we flew around like crazy, getting out of there by about 8:15. We were only ten minutes from Epcot, but we still had to park and hike to the gate, and you must remember, Cyd's feet were thrashed, and she had to go very slowly. When we got to the entrance, not only were we late, but nobody seemed to be able to tell us how we were supposed to get to "Italy" for the ceremony. (The park doesn't open until 9, and the countries don't open until 11.) By about 8:40, as I was sobbing hysterically at the thought of missing my cousin's wedding, Guests Services finally managed to contact one of the coordinators to come and escort us to the ceremony. Apparently, not only did I get the time wrong, I totally missed the instructions that the brides sent out telling guests not to go to the park directly, but to catch a shuttle bus from one of two Disney resorts. SHEESH! But thanks to a wonderfully helpful Disney special events coordinator who ran us over to the wedding in a blissfully air-conditioned van, we made it right there right as the bus with the rest of the guests arrived, so we blended right in!

The ceremony was brief but lovely (which was probably a mercy in that merciless heat), and I was SO pleased and touched that my cousin, Dianne (Mandi's aunt), her two grown sons, Todd and Brandon, and even my Aunt Jean (Mandi's grandmother) were in attendance! I know that it was a bittersweet day for them, as they have different values and world views, but it was so amazing to me that they put their love for Mandi first and were there for her on her special day! As my aunt put it in her plain-spoken elegance, "You don't give up on family just because they don't do what you think they should do!" Amen, Aunt Jean, amen! Still, I never thought I'd live to see my 78-year-old Southern Baptist aunt dancing the chicken dance and the Hokey Pokey with Minnie Mouse and the brides at a lesbian commitment ceremony and having a ball doing it!

The visit by Minnie was the highlight of the reception that was held in a GORGEOUS room in the Living Seas Pavillion that had huge windows that looked into a giant aquarium, so that massive fish and sea turtles and such swam past us as we were celebrating. SO COOL! And being Disney, they didn't miss a trick in the fabulous brunch spread. When we first arrived, they had a coffee and tea bar for us, along with yogurt, fresh fruit, and an assortment of pastries. We sat around for awhile, soaking up the ambiance, meeting other wedding guests, and I caught up with my family, as we ooh'ed and ahh'ed at the marine life swimming past us in the beautiful under-the-sea reception room.
Then we were invited into the next room to our tables, guided by our "place cards" that were little blue boxes of chocolates with our names and table assignments, all with an aquatic theme, of course (my table was "Nemo"). Once we were seated, toasts were made, special songs were sung, the brides greeted all of their guests personally, and then it was time for brunch! On the great table, there was fresh fruit, smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar and red onion, roasted vegetables, mashed Yukon Golds, mushroom spaetzle, smoked bacon, and maple-glazed sausages.
There was a carving station where they were serving roast beef tenderloin, a made-to-order omelette bar, and also a crepe bar where they served chocolate crepes filled with Nutella or vanilla crepes filled with cream cheese and berries, both of which could be topped with a vanilla bean creme anglaise. YUM!

After we polished off the second wave of food, Minnie Mouse arrived to get the party started! She took a million silly photos with the guests, led the dancing (with a Disney d.j. spinning the tunes), and even helped the brides cut the cake. The cake was AMAZING--one of those topsy-turvy, whimsical affairs with wonderfully bright shades of blue, as befitting the wedding colors. And the cutest touch was the two pair of Minnie Mouse ears on top! The inside was just as magical, with two flavors of cake--one was dark chocolate with a sinful chocolate mousse filling, and the other (given the brides' southern roots) was a red velvet cake with cream cheese filling.
As if that weren't enough, there was yet another buffet table with a variety of other yummy desserts, including angel food cake squares with whipped cream and strawberries, little cream horns, a miniature jelly roll, small cannolis, and tiny fresh fruit tarts with little flower and star-shaped melon cut-outs on top. I don't know how we did it, but we managed to sample some of everything. My favorite of the miniature desserts was the raspberry jelly roll which was so tender--almost ethereal. And though we found both kinds of wedding cake to be extremely delicious, we had to give a slight edge to the lusciously tangy red velvet layer!
Before we knew it, the reception drew to a close. Minnie Mouse gave the brides her very moving, though pantomimed, benediction, I said goodbye to my family, the other guests re-boarded the bus, and Cyd and I started our flaming-hot hike out of Epcot to the car and ultimately to the airport. We were exhausted and heat-stroked and battered and blistered from the Orlando experience, but overall, we had a great time. I've missed my friend so much, and it was wonderful to be able to hang out with her for a few days, in spite of all the mayhem and mishaps! But mostly, it was so special for me to share in Mandi and Ashley's commitment to each other. They are just delightful young women, so bright and motivated, with such happy and hopeful attitudes, a wonderful sense of fun, who are obviously very much in love with each other. I wish for them a lifetime of happiness together!

5 comments:

Randi said...

how sweet and funny at the same time. I grew up in FL, so I know how freaking hot it can get. Poor Cyd.

Anonymous said...

For starters, who in their right mind takes someone with motion sickness to the most nauseating place on earth?

And secondly, since when are Crocs NOT appropriate footwear? They're made out of rubber! How was I to know it was flesh- eating rubber?

Fill a person full with a greasy McDonald's breakfast, take them out into 100 degree temps and thrash them around at 90 mph (and that was before we even reached the park!) and you tell me what's gonna come of it!

God will deal with you.

JoyBugaloo said...

Dear Cyd ("Anonymous"):

Who in their right mind KNOWS they have motion sickness and will be going on amusement park rides but does not bring or take Dramamine like they said they would?? Furthermore, you rode Big Thunder Mountain in Anaheim in 2000 without incident, so who knew?

I wore Crocs for 12 hours at Disney World that day and for at least 9 hours the next, and hiked a good way through Epcot the day after that. I had ONE small blister on one toe which was easily managed with one Band-Aid blister ampule. Maybe if you wore the right sized Crocs to fit you, and hadn't worn NEW sandals the first day, you could have walked around theme parks like a normal person?!

I ate the same crappy breakfast and suffered just as much in the heat (having arrived from the even cooler North Country of NY), and I was just fine. You are a big baby, and God will deal with YOU for abandoning me and making me do Disney World ALONE!

Phhhhhttttthhhhhpppp!

Stacey said...

Now, who is that adorable little girl in the blue dress, oh right, that's my little girl!!! :) What cute pictures! If you have any more of Kate, I know she was a posing fool and tried to steal the show, her mamma taught her well, I would love if you'd share - stacey (at) staceybarney (dot) com. :) Come visit me at my blog and you can see our trip report. I'll follow you and hopefully you can find me!! :) I'm Ashley's cousin!

Pardeep Wensil said...

it is very cute and wonderful at that time....i really appreciate it...