Catch up with parts one and two of my Disney Adventures here.
When it comes to dining at Disney there are only so many restaurants that I like to go to over and over again and one of those restaurants is Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Years ago, when I was just starting to have the flames of my addiction fanned by people I met online, I would have never even known that there was anything of value going on outside of any of the theme park walls. I would probably still be buying pretzels and burgers and thinking I was getting gourmet dining. Not that I find anything wrong with a good burger and a $95 dollar Coke, but sometimes it just gets a little tedious.
I found out about Sanaa from the good people on the Touring Plans website. They talked about bread, and chicken, and bread, and rice, and bread…it’s like we were speaking the same language or something. We had made a point to try it years before and always made time to work our way over for some good old…bread. This trip was not going to be any different. After our wonderful half day of touring the Animal Kingdom we hiked our way to the buses and got ready to wait.
I’m not really sure if you’ve heard or not, but the buses from Animal Kingdom to Animal Kingdom Lodge have something of a reputation. When you make the commitment to wait for the bus, you make a commitment. I knew that we were either going to be very lucky and catch a bus right away or we were going to have to set up camp for a good wait—and the odds weren’t very good that it was going to be the former. I didn’t even try to make Greg walk fast. I was willing to leave my fate to the Disney spirits and roll the dice. We were about 45 minutes early for our reservation anyway, so it didn’t do us any harm to sit on the concrete for a while. Lo and behold, the bus arrived just as we were getting there. I almost didn’t know what to do with myself.
Except I really did. I immediately jumped onto the Disney website and moved my reservation for Sanaa up 30 minutes. Might as well get in as soon as possible—the bread wasn’t going to eat itself. Ten short minutes later (we still had to wait for some of the people that didn’t have lunch reservations get on the bus) we were happily ensconced inside of a towering log structure with just about some of the best theming I have ever seen. We took a second to look over the savannah surrounded by hotel rooms (and when I say a second, think of Clark Griswold looking over the Grand Canyon) and then rushed our way downstairs to the restaurant.
Everything was going so smoothly and we were so happy to be in such a nice environment. We asked for a window table and actually got one! (Not that it was a big deal or anything, since it was only about 11:45 am and the restaurant wasn’t even half filled to begin with.) The smells. Oh, the smells. It was lovely. My stomach gave a gigantic rumble and we quickly dove into our menus to see what we would order. I was pretty sure that it was going to be bread, but I had to go through the motions. Yeah, bread.
We met the very nice cast member in charge of filling our bellies and put in an immediate order for the bread service. I looked out into the savannah and thought about how close I was to actual perfection. The animals were eating, our co-diners were eating, we were soon to be eating…but then we waited and we waited and…nothing. I noticed that our area was starting to really fill up with people and that our bliss of a quiet meal was slowly melting away. I wasn’t very frustrated yet, but my stomach had quite a different take on the matter. Where was the stinking bread?!
I looked over to my left and noticed that a group that had just been seated not more than a minute before were being served a hot pile of bread. Our bread, I just knew it. I could hear the conversation between our server and one of the guests at the table and how they all knew the bread wasn’t for them. My stomach was ready to go and snatch the food away from their table but, I kid you not, one of the people in their party had already reached in and grabbed a piece. Even though he knew that it wasn’t their order. They hadn’t even looked at their menus yet. I was little angry and extremely annoyed. Our server (is it server or wait staff or cast member—I have no idea) never even came over to say anything to us. If I hadn’t overheard the conversation I would have never known. But now I did know and I wasn’t taking it very well.
Greg was blissfully ignorant of the entire exchange (of course he was) and never knew that anything was amiss. I couldn’t have that, so I told him what was up. He looked at the table beside us, shrugged his shoulders and took a drink of his beer. So much for that commiseration! I slumped in my chair and pouted until our new batch of bread arrived. No more hangry for me. The cast member was spared the stare of death.
I suppose I could write a few paragraphs on how awesome everything was, but I’ll just spare you the details (for once) and tell you that, yes, it was a really great meal. We ate, we enjoyed, and we paid the bill so we could get the heck out of Dodge. There was still had a good half of a day just waiting for us. Look out Hollywood Studios!
I was happy and (very) well fed and ready to hit the road so I was in a great mood and ready to take on any delays that may happen in our quest to find the correct bus. I mean, I had expectations of at least a twenty minute wait. But for some reason luck was with us (again) and a bus pulled up just as we were getting to the stop. I rather sheepishly stepped onto my ride and tried not to make eye contact with the few people that seemed frustrated that they weren’t the winners of the lucky bus. We turned the corner out of the Lodge and were on our way.
Hollywood Studios is by far my favorite park at Disney World. I will give it a lot of leeway when it comes to having construction and a smaller amount of experiences simply because those experiences are so great. I was practically squirming in anticipation of getting there and Greg was rather chill about the whole thing. Which kind of bothered me, now that I think about it. Boy needed to get up and start showing some Disney excitement already. We still had a half a day to go.
Of course, it took forever for the bus to go round and round to our bus stop but it was a fairly close drop off to the gates. Neither of us had any bags upon us so we just skirted our way in as fast as I had ever done so before. I stopped at the beginning of street and stared at the Chinese Theatre. (Well, I tried anyway—way too many tall people walking back and forth.) I was so unbelievably psyched to be there. I was ready to tear that place up. I looked at Greg, Greg looked at me, and we immediately pointed to the restrooms. Business first, play second.
Once we were actually out and ready to go, we made our way over to the Aerosmith coaster. Admittedly not my favorite—I mean, on the last trip I single handedly created the most hideous ride photo of all time (main picture)—but one that couldn’t be missed. In all the days in all the times we had been to Disney World before, this was the one consistent ride that Greg has wanted to go on. I had to give the man his due. We bobbed and weaved our way to the back corner of the Studios and got in the fast pass line. There’s nothing like the feeling of passing up dozens (nay, hundreds) of people on the way to the front of the line. Go ahead and stare, people–I was Queen of the World!
We quickly got to our stretch limos and lucked out into a seat near the back. We had no bags to worry about so I was ready to just jump in and go. However, I had forgotten that Greg still had his hat and his sunglasses and he was really, really worried about both of them. I wasn’t quite as worried about the one pair of actual prescription glasses that I brought on the trip and couldn’t understand his distress. There was a bag to hold stuff right there in front of him. Just put it in there and let’s go! He threw his stuff in there but then wanted me to put my glasses in there too. Now, I know that it’s the wise thing to do, but when I don’t have my glasses I can’t see anything. I just wanted to see the darn ride. So I kept them on. The car lurched to the tunnel and Steven Tyler got us going for the countdown. Then dummy here decides to take off her glasses. I whipped them off, and instead of just putting them in the bag (like a normal person), I thrust them at Greg just as we started taking off.
Speed. Darkness. Screaming. Thrills. Bright colors. Whiplash. Hollywood Sign. Giant doughnut. Broken eardrums. Tangled hair. Brakes. Lurching. Stillness. I pushed up the harness and looked over Greg to see how he had liked the ride. It turned out that his ride wasn’t so great. He was so worried about my glasses that he couldn’t enjoy it. And, to make things worse for his anxiety, he had dropped my glasses by his feet right around the beginning of the ride. He spent the entire ride worrying that he lost my glasses! Yes, I felt terrible. Yes, I told him I was sorry I shoved my glasses at him. Yes, it was a fun ride for me anyway. (On the bright side, at least it’s good that at least one of us did.) He pushed up his harness and reached down to the floor in a desperate search and—yes, he found my glasses. Thank goodness and yippie-kai-yay! I promised I wouldn’t do that to him again. And, so far, I haven’t.
Completely bummed out about his first ride, Greg was not in the best of mood to take in the greatness of our next ride—The Tower of Terror! I, however, was bent on go, go, go, and kind of prodded him over to the massive structure. But our fastpasses weren’t ready for another forty-five minutes. What was a person to do? Well, if you’re a person that had been researching Disney World for at least a year prior (and you have a lot of online “friends” that also like to talk and share about cool Disney stuff) you know that you are able to modify your fastpasses to find more suitable time frames. As we bobbed and weaved our way to the tower (slowly, because I was walking and planning with the Disney app—not a great combo) I moved our time up. The minute we got to the entrance we were ready to go.
Did I take a minute to take in my surroundings? No. Did I take a second to smugly look at all of the people that were waiting in the standby line? No. I continued walking and planning and moving up my next fast pass. I guess I expected the line to eventually stop, but we actually walked into the first room without breaking stride once. A creepy cast member encouraged to get a little tooclose to our neighbors and then closed the door. Greg gave me his death eye stare and I put the phone in my pocket. Sigh. Fine. The television played and the lightning boomed and we were soon walking our way to the elevators. A group of cheerleaders had managed to make their way to the front of the group and did not leave us feeling great about who we would be sitting with on the ride. We eventually came to a fork in the road (or just another alternative route) and we left that group of merry revelers behind. I guess it didn’t occur to me in that moment that I actually have more fun when the group is a little rowdier. Oh well.
Our turn finally arrived and we were soon buckled into the elevator. It never fails to give me a thrill when I am sitting at the beginning of the ride. The first time I had actually gone on the ride and felt the elevator floating forward I thought that I had been smoking something really strong. It flipped me out completely. As much as I love the rest of the ride, the beginning will always be my favorite. We inched our way forward and into the other elevator shaft. I began to wiggle in my seat. Greg started shifting in anticipation. The doors closed behind us and we…waited. And waited. And waited for what seemed like a good twenty seconds. And then…Whoosh! Screams and tummy tickles and more screams. Up and down and up and down and up and up and UP, and then down, down, down. It was so much fun!
Barely recovered and still trying to catch my breath, I followed Greg through the Haunted Mansion store and back into the wilds of the park. By that point we were about one hour ahead of what we originally thought our schedule would be. The ability to modify our passes on the go changed the game completely. I was really loving it—the hubby, not so much. He didn’t care much for the zig zag game we had begun to play around the park. Since we had just finished the two rides on one far side of the park, we now had to make our way over to the other side of the park for Star Tours. We both knew it was worth the effort, but I was much cooler about the fact that it really was going to be quite interesting making our way over there.
Because by this time we were melting. And the Studios never felt so big. Plus there were billions of people there and none of them were moving in any kind of cohesive direction. I pulled Greg by his arm and pulled him the right way. Left. Right. Left. Hop on the sidewalk. Right, back on the street. Watch out for the balloons. Oh shoot, we just got in someone’s picture. Don’t turn there! Turn there! You’ll go to Toy Story if you go there! Left! LEFT! I see now that I was actually rather lucky that Greg didn’t trip me, laugh over my prone body and tell me to kiss off. Yeah, I wasn’t at my best.
We finally made it over to the other side of the park and to my beloved Star Tours. The most times I have ever ridden it in a row was five. I had wanted to do more but my body had other ideas. For this trip I had somehow built it up in my mind that I was going to be able to do more than that. Uh, no. Too many people and I was touring with someone that would probably walk away and never come back if I tried to talk him into it. I was content that I was able to get him across the park and into the ride at all.
We jogged (I didn’t want to but there were some very insistent people behind us) past droids and space luggage to the 3d glasses. By this time I just wanted to book another fastpass. We still hadn’t done Toy Story and I was really wanting to do that before the day was out. But I knew the chances weren’t good, since we were working on it being about 4 pm already. Those passes were probably out. We finally got settled into our row and waited for our time to get on our shuttle. I typed faster than I had ever done before (and with as few errors as I had ever had before) and tried for the Toy Story passes. It turns out that they still had some for about 7 pm, but we knew we would be long gone by then (back to Animal Kingdom for the new Rivers of Light show) so I just kept trying to modify. Nope. Try again. Nope. Try again. Oh, here’s two for 6 pm. Grabbed it. Try again. Nope. Try again. Nope. Here’s 4:45 pm. Perfect. Grab it! Oh wait, it’s time to go to Kashyyyk (maybe)…
The ride was awesome as always, but no Wookies. Oh well. We did get Jakku and Finn though, so I was well satisfied. As we were shuffling out I wondered what in the heck it took to get picked as the Rebel Spy. I have always secretly hoped to be picked, but it has never, ever happened before. If anyone has any ideas or tricks please let me know. You will hold a special place in my heart forevermore.
We sucked in our stomachs and slithered our way through the insanely packed Star Wars store and decided to take a little break via the Muppets. Greg and I are Jim Henson fans from way back and love on that ride so very much. We laughed along with Fozzie and Kermie and followed the exploits of my beloved Bean Bunny. But, I have to say it, my show is getting really old and I would love it if it could get a little face lift. The Muppets are a national treasure and they really deserve to have a little more spit and polish applied.
As much as we would have liked to stay and linger it was now time to make our way to Toy Story Midway Mania! A favorite of ours since the first time we ever rode it, it’s just the kind of attraction that you just can’t walk away from. A terribly simple game with so much entertainment value. We happily used our fastpasses to avoid the longish standby line and worked our way to the front. I was always used to having to go up and down the staircase to get to the loading zone, but this time we were led over to the all new third track (oooooooooooohhhhh) and the fun shenanigans that were going on there. Not much to report other than it was nice and shiny and freshly painted. Game was still as awesome as always. Greg kicked my tail on points. But, I’m guessing you probably already knew that. And if you didn’t, you probably should have.
So, by this time, all the biggie rides were done. Neither of us was interested in Indiana Jones (just too long and loud for us), Beauty and the Beast was closed, and The Great Movie Ride was really just something we would go on if there was truly nothing else to do. So we decided to watch the Imperial March show? Maybe…Or the other show where they highlight different characters from the movie…or something like that. I probably would have paid more attention, but by that time I had decided to hunt down this amazing thing I had heard of (a frozen rum and coke) and I was drifting away from the action. Greg wasn’t interested, so he decided to meet me back at the show. No problem. Fifty billion people around and I’ll just come and find you…Find a tree to stand next to!
I snagged my delicious drink and dug in to find my missing hubby. Lo and behold, he had listened—and was standing by a bench next to a tree. I do so love it when he listens to me (which is approximately once every 5-6 years). I took a long drag from my straw and began to saunter over. Plop. What the??? Plop…Huh? Plop, plop, plop. In my quest for power and glory (and a darn good alcoholic beverage) I had managed to disregard the fickle Florida springtime weather and the huge cloud that was just beginning to drop copious amounts of rain over our (pathetically) uncovered heads.
To be continued…
Read Part 4 here.
photo: ©DRB 2017