Veeka had been nagging me about visiting DisneyWorld (watching Disney Channel on cable will do that to you as they run non-stop commercials extoling a visit to this place), plus I had wanted to get out of Jackson for spring break. And so I decided to treat her to three nights in Orlando, as I myself had not been to this resort in 30 years. And lots has changed. I got here in the spring of 1983, shortly after I moved to south Florida. Epcot had just been built, so there were very few buildings encircling the lake plus we were on a treeless plain. Thirty years later, Epcot is ringed by trees and gardens and when we were there Monday, it felt like another planet.
Our first stop Sunday morning (yes we did skip church) was of course to the Magic Kingdom, the most crowded and oldest of the Disney properties. After letting Veeka admire the castle, we headed off for various rides, including a new Ride Under the Sea for the Little Mermaid. Because of my broken foot, I was in an ECV, a moveable wheelchair that got us to the front of the line several times. In fact, we’ve not been in a regular line the whole time we’ve been here thanks to the ECV. We rode Dumbo (a letdown of a ride), visited It’s a Small World, visited the Disney princesses (Cinderella, Rapunzel and the Sleeping Beauty) in the Town Square Theater, met Minnie and Mickey somewhere and…you get the idea. A lot of things were either too cold to do (ie Splash Mountain) or Veeka was too scared to do. We had just gotten to Frontierland to eat lunch, when a typhoon hit the area and sheets of rain came pouring down. The downpour – and it was a huge one – kept us in the restaurant another hour. Afterwards, I got Veeka a Cinderella wand, which cheered her up a bit but set me back $20.
Which is the Disney story, it appears; getting parents to spend lots of money, even on those ridiculous autograph books that kids need for the characters to sign. Must say the characters have lovely handwriting! Sunday night, we had dinner with a friend, Kevin Flynn, who I had known 30 years earlier when we both lived in Hollywood. Now he’s hitting 60 and a lawyer while I’m not too many years behind him and have switched from journalism to academia. We both wondered how often one can reinvent oneself and we decided: Once every 20 years.
Even though I came to the park equipped with The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2013, it was obvious that we would miss quite a few things, either because we didn’t get there early enough or we just didn’t have the energy or desire to do them. Another time, I guess. Our next day at Epcot was far more pleasant. Although colder, thanks to a late snowfall that hit the upper East Coast (Washington DC got snow on March 25, the latest I’ve ever heard it happen. When I lived there, I never saw snow after March 15), the weather was in the 60s while at Epcot, meaning we really had to bundle up. I’d brought all summer clothes down here – not the best decision as it’s turned out. Anyway, our visit there was much more fun for me. Veeka got to meet Mulan and Aladdin and Jasmine – after that, she got sick of standing in lines, so passed up a chance to say hi to Alice in Wonderland – while we wandered through the various pavilions and later in the afternoon sat on the grass while she practiced cartwheels and somersaults. I talked her into staying late to see the light show over the water and she was delighted to find out that fireworks were not so scary after all. So in all, it was a good night, especially after I bought her a Cinderella dress, which will be her Halloween costume for the next zillion years.
Our last day there was miserable. We spent it at Animal Kingdom, which was crowded to the gills. All the crowds we seemingly missed on Sunday and Monday had arrived with a vengeance by Tuesday and we could barely push through the mobs. We enjoyed the Kilimanjaro safari ride but got soaked during the Kali water rapids ride to the point we were too miserable to remain in the park, especially with temps in the low 60s. So we exited, taking 45 minutes to locate the Florida turnpike, then hoofing it to Hollywood (where I used to live ages ago just north of Miami) in three hours. We met up with an old friend, Julie Kay from my Sun-Tattler days, at an Italian bistro on the Intracoastal, then repaired to a funky hotel on A1A, the Ocean Inn, for the night. Today (Wednesday) is gorgeous Greek-Mediterranean-style blue skies outside, so we’re headed to the beach.