Our first full day at Disney, and after staying up too late looking at pins, we didn't push to get out very early. We ate breakfast (granola and yogurt for me) in our rooms before setting out for Hollywood Studios. First stop was the ride Toy Story Mania, but alas the line was long and FastPasses were already for mid-afternoon time slots. We grabbed FastPasses anyway but didn't end up using them. So, we wandered a bit (any time I say "we wandered" or "we shopped", just assume we were also grabbing any cast members we saw with pin lanyards and seeing if we wanted to trade) and ended up at Starring Rolls café for coffee and a snack. I had a latte, K and L split a bagel and got coffee. We wandered some more, enjoying a couple of the Hollywood Studios street vignettes with small groups of actors. Got back to the Rockin' Rollercoaster (K and L wanted to ride and I was thinking about whether my stomach could tolerate it) but again the line was long. HS was looking like a wash for the day. We stopped in at the shop with somewhat upscale clothing options, then caught the boat to Epcot.
The boat brings you into the countries part of Epcot (the World Showcase) through what's called the International Gateway, and as we were ready for lunch that was perfect. Yakitori House in Japan, a counter-service restaurant that's a few steps up from the main walkway and thus somewhat overlooked, was a good option, and
I had a bowl of udon noodles in broth with 2 tempura shrimp on top. I'm still not sure about the approach of putting something fried onto a soup where the coating immediately goes soggy, but nonetheless it made a nice light lunch. The broth was salty but not over the line for me--someone who likes things with very little salt would probably complain.
The ginger cake I chose for dessert was unmemorable, and I left half of it in favor of better-spent calories later.
We stayed in the Japan area for the candy making demo, which is always impressive. The procedure has changed a little in that the demonstrator doesn't give away the resulting figures any more, but this does allow for post-show photos of all the candies at once. (left to right: tiger, chicken, dragon, flamingo, sea turtle, cheetah, and owl) We walked by Germany and admired the large model train layout decorated for the Food and Wine Festival, and also passed through the new Karamell Küche (Caramel Kitchen) to scope out future indulgences. Of which there are many, caramel being a major weakness of mine. We walked by the Mexico area to ask about timing for our reservation for the evening to try to ensure a window-side seat for the fireworks. They recommended that we show up at 7:15 for our 7:45 reservation.
That info in hand, we wandered back into Future World to shop in Mouse Gears (and pin trade). Their pin board was out--this is a largish board of pins that can be traded under the same rules as for cast members, which means 1-for-1, and a maximum of 2 trades per person. There were actually several things I was interested in plus some I knew Krissi wanted, so I grabbed 2 then found K to let her know to go look. Pin boards can be found in some retail locations, and park Guest Relations and most resorts tend to have pin books that you can trade from. Sometimes these seem crammed full of pins you don't see other places, and other times they are completely blah. The Magic Kingdom pin book was totally blah, for instance.
We saw the Captain Eo revival, a Michael Jackson feature with some effects like the auditorium floor bouncing at times. Good retro. We made the annual Figment visit, and I bought a long sleeved t-shirt featuring Figment. Pin Central, a booth in the main plaza, had their blah board out--it's smaller, too well picked over in that central pin trading spot.
We were low on energy from the long day of walking/standing in temps in the upper 80's with lots of humidity, so we went looking for more things to do in air conditioning. The boat ride in Mexico absorbed some time. We watched the sun set over the lagoon from a bench between Mexico and Norway, also admiring the green roof--it's grassed--on a building in Norway as we did so. We were out of low-energy options at this point, so we went to the restaurant desk early, maybe a little before 7, and made our request to get a window table. After a short wait, they seated us at a window table with a wonderful view of the lagoon.
As we planned to take up that table through the 9:00 fireworks (and were seated around 7:15), Krissi and I ordered an appetizer to share, La Botana. I forgot to snap a photo of it, but it's pictured on the Disney Food Blog about the restaurant. It was three little bites--a chicken taco, cholorio sop (marinated pork), and a mini cheese empanda. We all got the pork with molé as an entree, which was a very nice plate of pork tenderloin slices with a good molé on a bed of roasted corn kernels, a small amount of vegetable mix including (I think) sliced cactus leaves, and served with small corn tortillas, rice, and black beans. For dessert I had an apple empanada with a small scoop of (if I recall correctly) dulce de leche ice cream--it was a caramelly flavor, anyway.
The empanada was basically a Pepperidge Farms-style puff pastry turnover--not a bad thing in my book, but not exceptional. K and L had the dessert that apparently replaced the churros with chocolate sauce that got negative comments in early reviews, a chocolate custard with little fried, sweet, flour tortilla strips.
We had a rather involved conversation going, so it was no effort to stretch our meal until time for Illuminations, the Epcot fireworks show. At time for the show the restaurant lights dimmed and the show music was piped in, so we could enjoy the full effects. We had a magnificent view of the show, all from our comfortable chairs with (in my case) decaf coffee to sip. This is the way to go for the Epcot fireworks as far as I'm concerned!
I almost forgot: sandhill cranes! When we set out I spotted a pair of large birds on the lawn area towards the lake (our rooms are pretty close to the lake, though facing the parking lot). First thought was great blue heron, as they looked dusky because the sun was behind them. Nope, sandhill cranes, and totally unafraid of humans. They were looking for breakfast in the grass, and eventually walked right past us (within arms reach) and out into the parking lot where one of them scored a grasshopper. I know the sandhills are much more common these days, but it's still a thrill.
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