It's Too Hot! (April at Animal Kingdom Lodge)

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The rest of the Wild Africa Trek photos are mine.

The Wild Africa Trek entrance is beside the standby entrance to Kilimanjaro Safari. We were told to arrive half an hour early; upon arrival we checked in and were told to return 15 minutes ahead of departure time to get fitted with our gear. On our return we locked up all loose items in free lockers, were weighed and fitted into our jacket and harness, and had cameras (with a wrist or neck strap only) secured to our jackets along with a water bottle. Nothing was left loose aside from our eyeglasses, and if they'd been loose they probably would've insisted our eyeglasses be strapped on also. We also were given individual audio systems so we could all hear what the guides were saying, even if we were at the opposite end of the line. They took safety very seriously; every time we were hooked up to a safety line our harnesses were rechecked.

We started out on the walking trail along with everyone else - the "homo sapiens exhibit," our guides called it - before heading through a gate and off the paved walkway. We got a really close look at several animals and were always hooked up to a safety line before venturing closer.

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The first photo depicts a father and son pair of hippos; Dad is using Junior as a pillow. It's not common for male hippos to cohabitate, and eventually the staff think Dad will kick Junior out. But for now they're happy together.

The rest of the photos in this post depict the rope bridges. There were two with a platform in the middle and one at each end. And of course we were all strapped in. There was also safety netting underneath the rickety boards. It looks scary but wasn't really. I took the last photo of the three halfway across the first rope bridge.

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The photo of hubby shows his audio earpiece, which was connected to a receiver buttoned into his jacket.

And then CROCS! I took the first croc photo on the second rope bridge right above the crocodiles! The rest were taken on an embankment overlooking their enclosure (we were all hooked up to the safety line, of course).

While on the trek, we were able to see the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles pass nearby in several spots; the final photo shows one passing by while a member of our trek group crossed the second rope bridge.

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The hiking portion of our trek concluded shortly after we crossed the rope bridges and observed the crocodiles. We got out of our harnesses and jackets, which everyone appreciated (especially the men, lol), and boarded a special safari vehicle that enabled us to stand up and walk around while the vehicle was stopped. We partially followed the same "roads" that the regular safari vehicles follow, but sometimes pulled off onto separate roadways so we could stop and get a better look at the animals. In both of these photos you can see regular safari vehicles passing nearby.

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After a couple of stops to view animals, our truck brought us to an open-air, elevated, covered structure they called a boma, which I guess is where the restaurant at Jambo House gets its name. We had a beautiful view of the savanna section with lots of animal photo opportunities.

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The Wild Africa Trek also includes what is billed as light snacks but is actually a nice little lunch (or breakfast if you go in the morning). We each got a two-tiered metal container of food; the top tier had dried meats, curry chicken salad, and fruit salad along with an edible flower; the bottom held a wrap (top) nestled on some sort of shredded veggie (sorry, but after a week and a half I can't recall the details of this particular item), hummus, and spiced shrimp along with three little pita breads (I had already eaten a pita and some hummus when I took the second photo). The little wooden spoon helped spread the hummus as well as scoop up anything that wasn't finger food.

It was ALL delicious except for that flower; I took one bite and left the rest. I doubt that a picky eater would appreciate most of it, but if you are not a picky eater, the tour is worth taking for the food alone. They do accommodate special dietary needs; one person in our group got a shellfish-free serving. There was also some kind of tropical juice to wash it all down.

After we left the boma we toured a little longer but saw nothing else worthy of a photograph. Most disappointing, none of the lions or cheetahs were visible. Still, we had a fabulous time and highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek; it is worth every penny.

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Prior to the Wild Africa Trek we stopped to listen to the music.

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Here are two more photos from the Wild Africa Trek taken by our tour guides so you can see the containers the food came in and get a bit of a look at seating in our safari vehicles.

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A few photos of our savanna-view studio. Sorry, these were taken after the Wild Africa Trek; thus the unit had been slept in a night and is not just-walked-in-the-door pristine.

We don't like studios. I cannot understand how people manage to cram four or five people into one of these units (and share one bathroom). I would never sleep more than two adults in a studio, and while kids aren't an issue for us, I don't think more than one small child would work well. Don't get me wrong, the studio is manageable for the two of us, but we like having a separate living room so if one of us wants to go to bed or get up earlier than the other we can do it without inconveniencing the other. And of course having a washer/dryer in the unit is an advantage. We will stay in studios again, but we'll get a one-bedroom whenever we can manage it.

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The view from our studio unit - left, center, and right.

We were right off the elevators nearest the lobby in the wing closer to Jambo House. You can't see it in the first photo, but the savanna observation area and the windows of Sanaa were visible from our balcony.

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Later Sunday afternoon we went to Disney Springs to meet RobynPrincess, her husband, JoAnn, and a bunch of British Disney fans at the margarita bar near the huge Disney store. No photo other than the one of JoAnn and Robyn that I've already posted. I had a hard cider and it was GOOD. The weather was already hotter than I like, although not nearly as hot as it would get midweek. And after a somewhat cloudy day, the sun came out, and there was not enough shade in the outdoor seating area of that bar, so those of us who needed it scrounged up a little shade wherever we could.

After the meet-up, hubby and I went with JoAnn to Blaze Pizza, which I have already described.

And finally it was back to Animal Kingdom Lodge and time to call it a night.

Next up, our first visit to Epcot for the Flower and Garden Festival.

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Monday, April 24 - Before I get to Epcot, I'm going to post a few savanna photos taken from our balcony in the afternoon.

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Our original plans for Monday were to meet JoAnn at Epcot and spend some time with her, then meet Robyn, her husband, and several friends they were spending the day with to see the Flower and Garden concert featuring members of the Electric Light Orchestra. But over the weekend I got a text from Robyn asking whether we might be interested in a Wishes cruise? Well, duh! So the ELO thing was out and a cruise was in.

We met JoAnn outside the Land pavilion since we had FastPasses for Soarin'. JoAnn said that Robyn and her whole group had FPs for roughly the same time, so we met up with them inside the pavilion and got in the FP line. Soarin' is not an attraction I was in the habit of frequenting due to motion sickness problems; I rode the old version once (with Robyn) and had to keep my eyes closed through most of the ride. But the last time hubby and I went to WDW we rode the new version, and I discovered that it was pretty easy to tell when the video was relatively still and when I needed to close my eyes - when the seat stops moving, quick take a look and then close the eyes before the seat starts to swoop around again. This time, my second attempt at the new ride, I was able to keep my eyes open for several seconds at a time and got a really good look at almost everything. In fact, Soarin' is now my favorite Epcot attraction; it beat out Test Track.

After Soarin' we all visited the DVC lounge to get out of the heat and grab a free beverage and snack. Then it was time to hit the Flower and Garden Festival Outdoor Kitchens. We went counterclockwise and started with Urban Farm Eats, where hubby and I shared the watermelon salad and the seared pork tenderloin. Both were good, but not my favorites, and hubby got most of the salad since it had feta and I am no fan of cheese. At this point we also split off from Robyn's group and JoAnn because they weren't interested in that booth and also needed to make their way around in time for a Frozen FastPass.

Our next stop was Northern Bloom near Canada, where we shared the beef tenderloin tips and the seared scallops, again both were quite good but not my favorites. At the Cider House near the UK pavilion we shared the pear cider-brined shredded corned beef and a lemon scone, and I had some McKenzie's black cherry hard cider, which I need to find somewhere closer to home because it was delicious! This was definitely one of my favorites, even more so than the pomegranate kir over in France, and I love that kir. Speaking of which, there was nothing food-wise that appealed to us at Fleur de Lys, and since I'd just had cider, we skipped it for drinks. We also bypassed Florida Fresh because we knew Taste of Marrakesh and Hanami were close by and we wanted to keep our appetite for those booths.

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I've already posted photos of the merguez "hot dog" sausage and chocolate baklava we got from the outdoor kitchen near Morocco. At Hanami, near Japan, I got the ahi tuna poke and hubby got the beef teriyaki udon. We didn't share much of this; I had a bite of the merguez sausage, which was too spicy for me, and that was it. On Monday I kept forgetting to take photos except when hubby reminded me in Morocco, but I have a photo of the ahi tuna poke that I took later in the week and I will post it here. I liked the poke well enough to get it twice, but it didn't measure up to the poke I've had at the Hawai'i booth during the Food and Wine Festival.

And that is everything we ate at the outdoor kitchens this day. We did, however, manage to try everything we really wanted to have, first time ever at any festival that involved food (except for the new Festival of the Arts last winter, but that was because there wasn't a lot that really appealed to me).

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Once we'd finished eating we headed back to Kidani Village to cool off - it was another hot day. That's when I got the photos of the animals on the AKL savanna. However, the hot weather was about to break, if only for a couple of days.

Around 6:00 we bused to the Magic Kingdom and caught the monorail to the Grand Floridian. We've never stayed at GF or even boated there, aside from taking the resort boat that stops there on the way to the Polynesian, so we had to ask where to go, but found it without any difficulty once we realized we were going to where boats are rented and not to the resort boat dock. We found JoAnn already waiting and our boat skipper, Mike, getting our pontoon boat ready for our departure. Soon Robyn, her hubby, and her friends joined us and after the children got their flotation vests on we set out. The photos below show the people participating in our little cruise.

By the time the cruise started, the temperatures had dipped, and Mike offered the kids and the women blankets to keep warm. I declined since I was thrilled to have refreshing cool air instead of beastly heat, but everyone else who was offered bundled up. Guess he didn't have enough for the menfolk; one of them could've had mine, but nobody asked for it.

Mike showed us all over, including the new Copper Creek section of Wilderness Lodge as well as the original sections, the old Discovery Island (or whatever it was called), Fort Wilderness, the Polynesian bungalows, and of course the moldering River Country pictured previously. He told us lots of stories, not sure whether all of them were true, but it was still quite interesting.

In addition to having a prime viewing spot to see Wishes, we also got a close-up of the electric water parade, which Mike said is the oldest parade at WDW and still totally low-tech. It was an amazing way to spend an evening and view the fireworks, and thanks to Robyn for arranging it and inviting us to join her and her group.

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Tuesday, April 25 saw us back at Animal Kingdom since all we did Sunday was the Wild Africa Trek. We arrived around noon and had a reservation at Tiffins after 1:00 but decided to try our luck with an early arrival. Well, it was no problem at all, the restaurant was mostly empty at noon. We were seated almost immediately in a beautiful room filled with amazing art, including light sculptures based on some of the floats in the new Rivers of Light water show. The first three photos below show the dining room where we were seated, followed by the bar/lounge, one of the wine coolers, and finally the other dining room. The whole place is beautiful.

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Now, for the important stuff - the food!

I think I mentioned that we made this last-minute reservation because we checked the menu Sunday and discovered the small plates lunch option (which is not available if you're doing the Rivers of Light dining package). This really appealed to us because we like to try lots of different things (the reason we love all those Epcot festivals that have food booths) and we don't have gargantuan appetites. Our server explained that the two entree samples each of us would get were equivalent to half a normal entree, which with appetizers was perfect.

We started with their bread service, very different from Sanaa's but still quite good, and apologies that the photo below was taken after we'd eaten a bit; hubby also ordered the lobster popcorn Thai curry soup, which he enjoyed but I didn't care for at all (I'm generally not a fan of soup). For our entrees I got the crispy fried lionfish and 72-hour beef short rib; hubby ordered the market vegetable curry and marinated grilled octopus. We shared everything, although I only had a bite of the veggie curry not because it wasn't good - it was amazing - but because I'd had my fill by the time I got to that dish. Everything was delicious; I liked the beef short rib best and hubby liked the octopus, but I could happily eat any of these dishes again.

Hubby actually had room for dessert; he got the South American chocolate ganache, which was fairly petite but incredibly rich. I confess I found room for a couple of small bites.

All in all, we were so impressed by Tiffins that we have already booked an ADR for our autumn trip.

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After lunch we headed over to Africa so hubby could visit the tobacco attraction. I wandered the food court while he smoked, thinking we might stop there for dinner before our Rivers of Light FastPass (more on dinner later). The whole area smells heavenly and while I didn't actually see any of the food, the menus looked interesting. Once I'd made my way through the food court, I decided to take Rafiki's train and texted hubby, who met me at the station. On the way to Planet Watch hubby spotted a lion lounging on the backside of the rock-like area in the lion section of the Kilimanjaro Safari, but I missed it so we took the round trip twice just so I could finally see a kitty. I had no idea from the safari that the backstage animal buildings were literally right behind those orange-ish rock-ish things you see on the safari.

Our first FastPass this day was Finding Nemo - The Musical. We were on our way to our usual seats on an aisle near the front when hubby spotted a nice little two-person bench directly behind the center aisle that goes from the standby entrance door on the left of the theater to the exit door on the right. Because we were on this center aisle, no tall people were going to sit in front of me, and aside from when the standby crowd passed by we felt as if we had our own private little seating area. Also, when cast members played in the seating area we got a good look as they passed by, and Dory actually stopped right in front of us. Next time we'll see if there's a similar bench on the right side of the theater.

After the show hubby again went to smoke and I got a box of popcorn and a bottle of water and found someplace shady to munch and wait. Right around this time I got a text from Robyn - their friends with the two kids (see the Wishes cruise previously described) had been unable to use all their dining credits, and Robyn was inviting us to dinner courtesy of their friends! Unfortunately, we still had our Festival of the Lion King and Rivers of Light FPs to use with not enough time between to leave and get back, not even if Robyn and her hubby decided to dine at Animal Kingdom. I suggested they go to a signature restaurant, but none that had last-minute availability appealed to Robyn. So we made plans to dash out of Rivers of Light as soon as it ended, race-walk to the guest pick-up area of the AK parking lot, and quick drive to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner wherever Robyn could find a late reservation.

Festival of the Lion King was up next, and the flying blue bird woman was back (she wasn't there when we went in January). Now, how to kill nearly two hours between Lion King and Rivers of Light? We headed over to It's Tough to be a Bug, but it was closed for the day - what is the point of keeping the park open late if hardly anything is open? So hubby went off to smoke and I found a seat over in Africa where we could just chill for a while. Around 7:45 we headed over to Rivers of Light expecting to line up before our FP window opened at, I think it was 8:00, only to discover the stands were already half full! So we joined the crowd. At this point I'm thinking the show would start at 8:30, but no! It started
at 8:45 and we had nearly an hour to just sit and wait like bumps on a log. Booooorrrring. Not even striking up a conversation with some Canadian dairy farmers (hubby grew up on a dairy farm) helped make the time pass quickly.

And then...well, it's worth seeing once, but I will never wait an hour to see Rivers of Light again. It's pretty, and there are lots of images of big cats along with a tiger light sculpture, but that's all I can say for the show. It doesn't live up to the hype.

Right as the show was ending we dashed up the stairs and hurried through the exiting crowd for the park entrance. We had no trouble finding Robyn and her hubby, and soon we were at AKL, where Robyn had booked a reservation at Boma. She and Simon had never eaten there before, but figured this was a great time to give it a try. I have no photos, but I tried a delicious pork dish, had a nice slice of medium rare roast beef, got some Durban chicken, and discovered corn dog nuggets that had been given some silly name to make them seem like something more interesting than corn dog nuggets. I realize they were mostly for children, but dang, I do love corn dog nuggets. (Hubby was not impressed.) I also got an assortment of veggies and saved a little room for a zebra dome and two or three other desserts. Thanks very much to Robyn, Simon, and their friends for the lovely dinner.

We ended the evening by inviting Robyn and Simon up to our room, where we hung out on the balcony overlooking the savanna for a bit talking about this and that and even got to see a meteor light up the sky for a few seconds. It was a great way to end a great evening in spite of there being no animals visible.

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WOW, that was a lot to catch up on!

The Trek is on my bucket list. Maybe we can fit it in this October!!!

I had that cherry cider to, LOVED IT!!!!!!!!

You also have made me really want Tiffins, can't until October... Maybe find a way to do it in August!

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I love your trip report! So glad you got to experience the Wild Africa Trek-we just loved it! We are thinking of taking our friends on it when we return in December. Glad you are back home to cooler weather! Here in Michigan we got frost last night!

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WOW, that was a lot to catch up on!

The Trek is on my bucket list. Maybe we can fit it in this October!!!

I had that cherry cider to, LOVED IT!!!!!!!!

You also have made me really want Tiffins, can't until October... Maybe find a way to do it in August!

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"It seems to me that we have a lot of story yet to tell."

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That Wild Africa Trek looks amazing is on our must do list as soon as Penny is old enough. I think the age minimum is 8 though so we still have quite a ways to go! laugh Glad you liked Tiffins...we have that on our list for January.

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wow what a busy day! we found the same with Rivers of Light we went for the start of the Fastpass window and it was already so full, we were also near the top and the height between the floor and the seats wasnt big at all my knees were nearly up to my chest! we are hoping to have a dining package in September hoping we dont have to wait too long for the show then!

keep it coming!

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I'm back...

So I left you all with us having dinner at Boma with Robyn and Simon. On to Wednesday, April 26.

Wednesday morning I woke up early by my standards, around 7:30, so I did some laundry to kill time since we weren't due at Hollywood Studios till noon-ish; we had a Toy Story Mania FastPass with Robyn, Simon, and a friend of theirs and weren't planning on meeting till near the end of the FP window.

Hubby and I arrived just as one of the Star Wars stage shows out in front of the Chinese Theater was beginning, and there were plenty of good vantage points, so we stopped to watch. This was the whole Star Wars retrospective, not the one that focuses on the First Order. Well, I'm an old Star Wars fan since the original movie was known simply as Star Wars, and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. Should've taken a few photos, but I didn't.

We arrived outside TSM around 12:45, but Robyn's group were delayed at bag check. Robyn told us to go ahead and get in line, then they arrived just after we did, so we found a corner in the queue and waited for them to catch up. Since we were a group of five, I magnanimously volunteered to ride alone (and get all the high-scoring targets to myself, hehehe), so of course I got the kitty!!!! However, if I recall correctly, Simon had high score for our entire ride vehicle this time. (Robyn got it another time, I think.)

After the ride I stopped for popcorn and hubby stopped for a carrot cake cookie, then we took our snacks over to the Beauty and the Beast show, getting near front-row seats since Robyn and Simon's friend, Ali, uses a scooter. Beauty and the Beast threatened to conflict with a Little Mermaid FastPass we women had (men were going to Tower of Terror next), but Robyn was able to change that to a later time using My Disney Experience. And then after the Little Mermaid show the women did the Great Movie Ride. We had a good female gangster, but the ride stalled just past the temple where the gangster bit the dust. As we waited for the ride to resume, we could hear the car behind us doing their temple scene, and meanwhile our tour guide was trying to keep us all entertained telling corny jokes. Since we were just inside the Tarzan scene, the tour guide asked us all to try out our Tarzan ape calls. Silence. She asked again, still silence. She was getting a little desperate, so what the heck, I let one rip. Heads turned. She asked me to do it again, so I did. And she said I sounded more like Cheetah. But hey, it got everyone's mind off the delay. I did quite startle Robyn and Ali, though, since I gave them no advance warning. Finally the ride resumed motion and we were able to get out of there. I have never had a ride stall on GMR before this time.

The only photo I have up to this point is the guys on Tower of Terror.

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We rejoined the menfolk outside the Frozen show's FastPass entrance. Again, since Ali was using a scooter, we were shown to the wheelchair entrance - originally the one in the back, but Robyn requested the one up front, so we had front row seats. The advantage, of course, is no heads blocking our view; the disadvantage that the show is, well, up. See photos below.

This was hubby's first time seeing this show; every time we go just the two of us, he does Tower of Terror and Star Tours while I do the Little Mermaid and Frozen shows. I cannot say how well or even whether he liked it, although I can report that he did not sing along. The show was as awesome as always and worth seeing no matter how many times you already have, since it seems half the jokes are brand new every time I go. At one point the male "historian" cracked a joke that didn't garner much of a response; one woman applauded and the guy said that they needed her over at Rivers of Light. I guess nobody is thrilled with that show, since everyone laughed at that joke. All through the show, Robyn was making little finger hearts at the male historian, her favorite of the cast members who play that role, and from the way he responded I know he appreciated it.

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Love Dan's picture on ToT! laugh

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Love the TOT picture! muchlove

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LOL it's not just Tower of Terror, hubby tends to do everything deadpan.

So, once the Frozen sing-along was over, we headed back to Toy Story Mania after snagging an extra FastPass while we were waiting for the Frozen show to begin. This time Robyn rode alone, and this is when she got high score for the entire vehicle. But I got another kitty so I didn't really care.

While the ladies were doing the Little Mermaid show, the gentlemen got stuck on Tower of Terror due to a malfunction, although if I recall correctly they were nearly done with their ride when the breakdown occurred. Anyway, they got paper FastPasses good for I think five or six people - enough for all of us, at any rate. However, Robyn and Simon had dinner plans and had to leave without using the FastPass, but it was good through the end of the month so it did not go to waste. However, if we'd realized how tight time was getting we would've just used the paper FastPass on Toy Story Mania.

On our way out of the park we caught part of the same Star Wars show hubby and I saw when we arrived. We were stood off to one side and could see a few stormtroopers waiting to go onstage. Robyn, being the flirt she is, started making eyes and little finger hearts at the stormtroopers; one of them responded while staying in character and totally shut her down, an experience I think Robyn is not accustomed to experiencing.

Kitty!

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At this point we parted company and hubby and I headed over to Epcot by boat to graze around the World Showcase for dinner. As soon as we arrived, hubby headed straight for a smoking area while I headed up to the Fleur de Lys booth in France for a kir pomegranate (no photo, but it was delicious). Once hubby rejoined me, he got another Merguez "hot dog" sausage at Taste of Marrakesh, then we got all three of the savory selections at the Smokehouse. Hubby had the beef brisket burnt ends hash to himself, since it had cheese on it, but we shared the pulled pig slider and the smoked pork ribs. I liked the ribs best, although frankly we have a place here at home that makes better ribs - and for that matter, I make better ribs in my smoker at home. But it was all good, even the cheeseless bit of the hash I was able to sample.

While we were eating, a heron or egret (not sure which since they have white herons and egrets in Florida) made its way around the picnic tables begging for food. I've seen squirrels and ducks beg, but this was the first time I saw one of these birds. And it wasn't the least bit shy, winding its way between the tables and getting quite close to people.

After our barbecue, hubby headed for the next smoking area while I wandered a bit and decided to try the strawberry tiramisu at the Primavera Kitchen booth (no photo, but again, quite tasty). We passed by the Bauernmarkt in Germany on this pass and next stopped at Lotus House in China for the veggie spring rolls (always delicious) and the spicy chicken lettuce wrap, which was tasty but too huge to eat as a wrap, so I forked the chicken and ripped bits of lettuce to eat with it. And that was the last of the festival food for us this evening.

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Once we'd finished eating, hubby decided to return to Kidani Village for the evening while I headed over to Top of the World Lounge to rejoin Robyn, Simon, and yet another friend of theirs (they have loads of friends). I thought I was running early, so I decided to hop on Spaceship Earth on my way out, which was a mistake. I just missed a monorail train and had to wait a fair bit for the next one, then after I had boarded the resort monorail they announced there was a mechanical failure on a train at the Polynesian and we would have a bit of a delay. After a bit anyone who was going to Magic Kingdom (and presumably boarded at the Contemporary) was advised to switch to the express monorail. But I was sick of walking, so I waited some more. After a bit longer, we were all advised to take the express and walk or boat wherever we wanted to go, so I reluctantly switched to the other train. Wishes started right after I had boarded an express train, so although I didn't get to hear the music, I did see a fair bit of the show from the monorail, and then while walking to Bay Lake Tower on my poor aching feet.

Up at Top of the World, I ordered a sangria and we chatted about Disney Cruise Line with Robyn and Simon's friend, who is a crew member on the cruise line. She either sells future cruises or DVC on the ships, I forget which, and was in Orlando for training - and had an expense account while she was in town, so she kindly bought all our drinks. Thanks very much!

When it was time to leave, Robyn and Simon very kindly offered to drive me back to Kidani, which was very much appreciated after all the walking I had done this day.

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