Orlando: January 11, 2013

We traveled to Disney World after work the evening of January 10th.  Our flight was delayed about 15 minutes, and we got into Orlando very late.  The Disney Magical Express was convenient.  I knew I was in good, organized hands as soon as I saw the Disney desk.  I didn’t have the paper tickets we needed, but they were able to print us a new set.

The lines were divided based on the resort you were going to.  We didn’t have to wait very long to board the bus to the Contemporary, but we did have to wait a long time until the bus took off.  They were playing old school Disney cartoons, so at least we had some entertainment while we waited.

On the drive there, they played a video about Walt Disney World, which made me giddy with excitement to be going back to the parks.  We stopped at the Wilderness Lodge and then we were the next stop.  Apparently I missed the online check-in, but our check-in process was quick and painless.  My only disappointment was that I did not realize we were staying in an extra “wing” of the Contemporary – not the part of the building that the monorail goes through.  We got settled in and went right to bed!

The next morning Maggie and I headed straight to the expo, while Pat went to Animal Kingdom, where we would meet him after the expo.

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We got there just after the expo opened.  It felt like there were crowds of people already, but we were able to get right in.  It sounds like there were long lines to wait in later in the day.  Since we were picking up Goofy Challenge packets, we got to go to a different room than everyone else, and there was no one in line for our race numbers.  It was quick!

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We then headed next door to pick up our shirts and check out the expo.

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We didn’t spend as much time at the expo this year.  I couldn’t find my running belt at home when I was packing, so I knew I wanted to buy a Spi Belt.  I picked out a red and white belt to have a touch of Minnie.  Maggie was looking for the free yogurt, but they had run out and didn’t get anymore before we left.  We walked by a few other samples and then made our way out, picking up a couple of pretzels to snack on for breakfast.  Carb-loading?  They were delicious.

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We took a few pictures, I signed up for race tracking, and we were off to Animal Kingdom!  There was no bus directly to the park, so we took a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, and then took a second bus to Animal Kingdom the park.

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I was so happy the Christmas tree was still up!  I love Animal Kingdom.  Beautiful scenery and playful animals everywhere.

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We headed straight to Expedition Everest to get a Fast Pass and meet up with Pat.  We were hoping to get a quick ride in, but the roller coaster actually shut down while Pat was on it.  He got stuck for awhile, and when he was finally getting let off of it, they closed the ride down.  So, we went straight to lunch.  It was already after 11am!

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We ate at Yak and Yeti last year and loved it, so we went back.  I ordered the same thing as last year – sweet n’ sour tofu.  Maggie and Pat had the lettuce cups.  Disney does tofu well.  Our server acted like she was impressed that we were running the Goofy Challenge, but let it slip that she had run Boston.  I was probably more in awe of that!

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Luckily Expedition Everest was open after we ate!  Yay!  We walked right on with our Fast Passes.

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As a side note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of this ride without beautiful clouds behind it.  Also, look closely at the cloud just to the right of the mountain.  Does it look slightly like Mickey ears?  I am now convinced the Disney creates its own clouds.  After facing the Yeti we headed to the Pangani Trail.  This was something we had missed out on last year.

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We saw more Disney magic.  It seems like so many animals are awake and playing at any given time.

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Except Pumba – he was sleeping.

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It was a fun trail!  I can’t believe we missed this last time.

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The best part was the gorillas.  There was a mom, a dad and a 3-year old that acted like a toddler.  The baby gorilla ran up to the dad and he ran away!

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The 3-year-old gorilla was so adorable.  He was doing somersaults and climbing trees.  At one point he climbed a tree and you could see the branch he was on slowly bending backward until he fell all the way back to the ground.

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After walking the trail, we met up with two of our cousins to watch Nemo the Musical.  It was fun to see them at Disney too!

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After the show we went for another quick ride on Mount Everest via the Single Rider line.  The Single Rider line is an amazing thing.  I can’t believe how few people use it.  Pat and I even got to ride together because we got paired with two other people who were on their own but waited in the normal line!

We wanted to ride the Kilimanjaro Safari before leaving.  It was close to 5pm and the sun seemed to already be setting.  I was worried in the beginning that a lot of animals had already left for the day, but we still got to see quite a few.

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It was a fun day!  There was a lot of walking, though.  After our day at the park, we met up with our cousins again for dinner at Boma.  I was so excited to try this restaurant.  We ate at Jiko last year and loved it, but were curious about the buffet across the hall.

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I was so impressed with the buffet.  I am trying to make the transition to vegan, and had called ahead to share my dietary restrictions.  When I checked in, they told me that the chef would come out and walk me around the buffet.  And he did!  The chef was awesome.  He told me what I could eat on the buffet, and told me what else he could make a vegan version of for me.  I put together a plate of what I could already eat while waiting for the rest.  I had a half marathon to run the next day, so I was loading up!

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My favorite thing on this plate was the watermelon rind salad.  I’ve never had anything like it before.  It had an interesting sweet taste.  I also had some avocado and citrus salad and greens with a mango vinaigrette.  My special salad plate was quickly brought out.

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My favorite was the eggplant salad in the right-hand corner.  There was more watermelon rinds, spinach with quinoa and tomato and artichoke salad.  I loved everything, but the eggplant was the only item where I finished the plate clean.  Eating vegan would be so easy with a personal chef every night!  He also brought out two types of hummus and a special chip.  I almost finished both bowls of hummus.

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I apparently forgot to take a picture of my main course.  It was so delicious, I dug right in!  It was rice, a tomato curry type dish, and tofu.  Just perfect.  I was so stuffed at this point, though, and ended up packing up most of the tofu.  But I am never too full for a little dessert.

The rest of my group got to choose from lots of little cakes on the buffet, so I asked if there were any options I could eat.  They treated me very well:

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Sorbet and fresh berries!  We were a very full and happy group.

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It was awesome catching up with our cousins over a meal with plenty of carbs and protein for the next day.  They were also very nice to give us a ride back to our hotel in their rental car, which meant we got to go to bed even earlier.  Thank you, Kim and Jason!

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