Disney

Kick up your heels at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

Exterior

TEDDY’s RATING: 

For quite a few years now, I’ve been in love with Celtic music – Irish, Scottish, even Canadian bands like The Chieftans, Solas, Altan, Leahy, Off Kilter, The Corrs and the Celtic rock band, Enter the Haggis.

Irish dancersWhat does this have to do with travel and food? Well, Raglan Road is an authentic Irish pub in Downtown Disney where you can enjoy a traditional Irish meal and be entertained by traditional Irish dancers and musicians. Two of my favorite things: great music and great food.

Raglan Road was constructed using salvaged pieces of Irish taverns and churches. The four bars are each over 130 years old. All of this adds to the authentic atmosphere and charm of Raglan Road.

Now, the Irish aren’t that famous for their culinary creations, but Raglan Road’s updated menu of old world favorites is definitely worth tasting. And there are a lot of choices on that menu. Master Chef Kevin Dundon has taken classic Irish dishes and pumped them up with a contemporary flair. It’s more Sod the Stewthan corned beef and cabbage. The menu includes Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips, chicken and wild mushroom pie, bangers and mash, beef stew and several lamb and seafood options. For dessert try the amazing Strawberry and Apple crumble, the bread and butter pudding, Triful Sinful or the Black Forest Kiss.

I couldn’t decide between the Shepherd’s Pie and the Stew. I opted for the stew because the pie contains lamb, which I’m not that crazy about. But I am going to try the Shepherd’s Pie next time for sure. The stew was full of beef, carrots and potatoes and flavored with a hint of Guinness. For dessert, the crumble with vanilla ice cream was quite delicious.

Irish DancerAnd don’t forget the libations – beer, wine, specialty drinks and a wide variety of whiskeys. You can even have flights of beer or whiskey, a great way to try new flavors. I had Jay’Gail Sangria which was a blend of Magners Cider, Peach Schnapps, fruit liqueurs and juices. Yummy. With dessert, I asked for an iced Bailey’s coffee, not on the menu, but they made it for me. Also, yummy.

The service was exceptional. Our waiter, Todd, was very knowledgeable about the different beer offerings as well as the dinner menu. Our food arrived piping hot and very quickly.

Of course, since Raglan Road is part of the Walt Disney World Resort, you can expect high prices. But I think the delicious food is well worth it, plus you get free entertainment. There’s live music and Irish folk dancers “river dancing” seven nights a week. I think the price is quite reasonable for dinner and a show.

Date of Visit:  February 2013

http://www.raglanroad.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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The Architecture of EPCOT

Japanese Torii

TEDDY’s RATING: 

For those of you who have been following my blog for the past year, (Wow! A year already. Thank you to everyone!) you know that my favorite Walt Disney World theme park is EPCOT. And my favorite part of EPCOT is World Showcase. I’ve always loved to travel and around World Showcase you can visit 10 foreign countries all in one afternoon.

To pay tribute to those countries around the lagoon and to give you a taste of what those countries are really like, the Disney Imagineers did a beautiful job of recreating the architecture of each country when they designed the different pavilions. I’ve gathered some photos from both EPCOT and the countries to give you a comparison. EPCOT photos on the left, real places on the right.

Canada is patterned after a 19th century French chateau in Quebec City.

Canada Pavilion            Canada Quebec City

The toy store in the United Kingdom pavilion is designed to look like Hampton Court Castle.

UK Toy Store    Hampton Court Castle

And, of course, there’s Paris, France’s iconic Eiffel Tower.

France Pavilion  Eiffel Tower

Morocco features a replica of the Koutoubia Minaret in Marrakesh.

Morocco pavilion            Minaret in Marrakesh

Japan’s pagoda is representative of many pagodas of the Far East.

Japan Pavilion           Pagoda in Japan

The US pavilion’s colonial-style was inspired by Independence Hall, Boston’s Old State House, Jefferson’s Monticello and Colonial Williamsburg.

American Adventure      Independence Hall

Italy looks just like the Doges Palace in St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

Italy Pavilion     Italy Doges Palace

Germany’s architecture pays homage to the German town square, or Platz, from the 16th century.

Germany Pavilion   German village

The centerpiece of China is the Temple of Heaven. The original is in Beijing.

China pavilion            Temple of Heaven Beijing

Norway harkens back to the days of Vikings and includes a Stave Church.

Norway pavilion            Stave Church

And Mexico was designed to look like the Aztec Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

Mexico pavilion            Aztec temple

I’m sure a lot of people don’t really consider the architecture of the theme parks, but when these buildings were designed, as with all the buildings at Walt Disney World, a lot of thought was put into them to make them as realistic as possible, giving park guests a truly immersive experience.

Dates of Visit:  Various

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/destinations/epcot/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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The New Fantasyland

Prince Eric's Castle

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I know that this is old news. So many people have already posted about the opening of the new Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. But I wanted to wait a while before heading over to check it out, wait for the crowds to die down a bit.

The Magic Kingdom has been open for 41 years (Wow!) and this is the largest expansion it has ever undergone. Fantasyland will now be twice its original size, now 21 acres. It was built on the site of the original 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction.

The new Fantasyland is opening in stages. This first stage includes the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus.

In the Enchanted Forest, you’ll be immersed in the worlds of the Disney films Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. The centerpiece of the Enchanted Forest is the Beast’s Castle, high atop the mountain. Gaston’s Tavern, Bonjour Village Gifts and the Be Our Guest Restaurant are also in the Beauty and the Beast area.

Beast's Castle          Be Our Guest Restaurant

The Be Our Guest Restaurant has three unique dining rooms, all featuring themes from Beauty and the Beast. This restaurant serves French-inspired cuisine, like salad Nicoise, croque monsieur and French onion soup. It is also the first restaurant in the Magic Kingdom to serve alcohol.

Attractions within the Enchanted Forest are Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, where you board giant clamshells and ride through Ariel’s world; Ariel’s Grotto, where you can meet all the characters from The Little Mermaid; and Enchanted Tales with Belle, a doorway into the story of Belle and the Beast.

Ariel's Grotto          Gaston's Tavern

Storybook Circus is now where you can find The Barnstormer roller coaster and the new and improved Dumbo ride. There are actually two Dumbo rides now, one that goes clockwise and the other counter-clockwise.

Mine train artwork

The next stage of the new Fantasyland, opening in 2013, will include Princess Fairytale Hall where you’ll be able to meet all the Disney princesses. And then, in 2014, you can experience the thrills of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a roller coaster that swings side-to-side while the train is in motion.

Dates of Visit:  December 2012

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/magic-kingdom/new-fantasyland/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Get a Taste of the World

TEDDY’s RATING: 

It’s time once again to tempt your taste buds at the 17th annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival going on right now through November 12th.

If you’ve never been, it’s definitely worth going to try some of these culinary creations. I love having the chance to try new foods, which are in tapas-sized portions. I’m not that courageous when it comes to foreign dishes, but over the years I’ve enjoyed some interesting and yummy things at the Food and Wine Festival.

        

More than 25 booths, or marketplaces, are set up around Epcot’s World Showcase. This year features two totally new food stops: Terra, where you can partake in vegan treats like Trick’n Chick’n Curry; and Florida Local, which features the Sunshine State’s local flavors like Zellwood Sweet Corn Salad.

Other new exhibits include The Chocolate Experience: Bean to the Bar, hosted by Ghirardelli where you can try their drinking chocolate; The Mr. Food Watermelon Patch; and the Festival Center Wine Shop.

          

My favorite foods and drinks are Canada’s Cheddar Cheese Soup, the Caribbean’s Bacardi Frozen Dragon Berry Colada, Morocco’s Mimosa Royale, Ireland’s Chocolate Lava Cake with Bailey’s Ganache, Belgium’s Belgian Waffle with berries, Australia’s Lamington cake and Scandinavia’s Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry sauce. Oooohhhh, I’m so hungry.

I tried a couple of new things this year: the Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter Sauce in Canada and Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Clam Chowder at the Hops & Barley place. Both were good, but unfortunately, not great. I had hoped to try the Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Sorbet and Coconut Foam at the new Terra marketplace, but by then I was stuffed.

There are also celebrity chef demonstrations and wine seminars throughout each day. HGTV hosts home entertaining seminars featuring their celebrity designers.

“Eat to the Beat” is a concert series that takes place at the American Gardens Theater each evening of the festival. In addition to regular bands like Air Supply, Gin Blossoms, Survivor, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, there will be some new performers appearing this year: Smash Mouth, Blues Traveler and Dennis DeYoung from STYX.

Here are some fun facts about the festival:

Each year more than 3,000 gallons of Canada’s Cheddar Cheese soup are made. I eat about half of that!

The Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie dish is one of the most popular menu item at the festival. I concur.

The lingonberry is a staple food in Scandinavian cuisine. I compare it to cranberries, but not as tart.

More than 100,000 desserts are eaten at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Of all the dishes I try, most ARE desserts!

          

One big change to the Festival this year is the use of Earth-friendly food containers. I completely understand Walt Disney World’s dedication to recycling, but these containers tend to make the food look much less appetizing.

Dates of Visit:  Various years

www.epcotfoodfestival.com

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Happy 30th Anniversary, EPCOT

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I’ve posted before that my favorite of the four Walt Disney World theme parks is EPCOT. There are lots of reasons, but mostly because you can travel around the world, visiting 11 countries all in one day. When EPCOT first opened 30 years ago, I never thought I’d still be visiting the park today, having just as much fun there as I did the very first time I went.

Back in 1982, before EPCOT even opened, you could take the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT’s construction site to get a sneak peak of what was to come. At that time, it was the largest construction project on the face of the Earth. Back then, the park gave out a full color artist’s rendering book with artwork depicting each pavilion and attraction. I still have that book and have included photos from it here.

        

        

It’s very cool to look at it and see how the park turned out. It’s pretty much as the Imagineers envisioned. Although, some attractions never made it past the “coming soon” stage like World Showcase pavilions for Israel, Africa and Spain. (Africa is represented by a refreshment station, but is of course a huge part of Animal Kingdom now.)

EPCOT is an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Although it’s not called that anymore, it describes Walt Disney’s original vision for the site that is now the entire Walt Disney World Resort. He envisioned a community of the future, even before the Magic Kingdom was built. But after his death, the company decided to take another direction and give EPCOT a feeling more like a World’s Fair.

So, here we are approaching October 1, 2012, when EPCOT will celebrate its 30th anniversary. I do admit that some of the attractions are a bit outdated, but they are refurbishing and reimagining new attractions all the time and I’m sure will continue to do so.

Card Walker, the CEO of Walt Disney World at the time of EPCOT’s opening, said at the park’s dedication, “May EPCOT Center entertain, inform, inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.”

I hope EPCOT has done that at least a little bit. To me, it’s more than a theme park. It’s an opportunity to learn about different cultures through the people, the music, the food; to look at the future and see something positive. Okay, that may sound corny. But for sure, I always have a fun time when I visit EPCOT.

Happy Anniversary!

Dates of Visit:  Various from 1982 until present

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Bagpipes and Belly Dancing

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you like world music, take a stroll around EPCOT’s World Showcase and get a taste of tunes from Canada to Mexico, Japan to Morocco.

In my opinion, the musical entertainment at the Walt Disney World theme parks is always first rate. I’ve rarely seen a show that’s not at least very good. And no matter what your taste in music, you can find something worth seeing, and hearing, at EPCOT.

MEXICO: Mariachi Cobre, a 12-piece Mexican Mariachi band, performs at the Mexico Pavilion. Originally formed in 1971, the group has been performing at EPCOT since it opened in 1982. With 3 guitars, 2 trumpets and 7 violins, they bring to life sounds of Mexican folk music.

GERMANY: Oktoberfest Musikanten performs traditional Bavarian music inside the Biergarten restaurant and outside in the courtyard of the Germany Pavilion. This 6-member group, decked out in German lederhosen and playing accordions, tubas and guitars, frolic to the oom-pah sounds of Germany.

UNITED STATES: The United States Pavilion features both the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps as well as the Voices of Liberty, inside the rotunda of the American Adventure building. The Fife & Drum Corps is a colonial-era band that plays the spirited patriotic music of early America. The Voices of Liberty is an 8-member a capella group that sings classic American songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Ol’ Man River,” and “Amazing Grace.”

JAPAN: Matsuriza performs on the huge Japanese Taiko drums at the Japan Pavilion. This percussion troupe was formed in 1998 and they play traditional works as well as their own compositions. You know when a Matsuriza performance is going on. You can hear it and feel it all the way across the World Showcase Lagoon.

MOROCCO: Mo’Rockin’ is a 6-person group that plays music from the Middle East, Africa, Spain and America. With traditional and modern instruments, they create original high-energy sounds that keep your feet tapping. And if you feel a bit adventurous, join the belly dancer and wiggle your hips to the beat.

UNITED KINGDOM: The newest addition to the EPCOT World Showcase musical groups is the British Revolution. They replaced the British Invasion who performed the music of the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and the like. The British Revolution performs hits from bands like Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Rolling Stones and the Police.

CANADA: I save the best for last. Off Kilter is a kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing Celtic rock band. I just love these guys. I have several of their albums. If you never thought a bagpipe could be part of a rock group, think again. These guys put on a kick ass show. They’ve been performing at the Canada Pavilion since 1997.

Next time you’re at EPCOT, why not take in a show or two? You may be surprised at what you hear. And maybe you’ll develop a taste for some new music.

Dates of Visit:  All the time!

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Tops in Topiaries

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Every year I love to go to the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. 2012 marks the 19th year of the festival and I think I’ve been going since the beginning. Though there are many facets of the festival that I like, I think the marvelous topiaries are at the top of my list.

This year’s show features over 100 topiaries, 75 of which are Disney characters. This is the largest collection of Disney character topiaries in the world (of course it is, it’s at Walt Disney World) Now, I didn’t count all of them, so we’ll have to take Disney’s word for it. Here are just a few:

                    

                   

                  

There is always a brand new showcase topiary display at the park’s entrance. This year it’s Fantasia. This scene is actually made up of 28 topiaries including three ostriches, two hippos, eight mushrooms and of course Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Disney topiary specialists created this display with both new materials and recycled pieces from past years.

                  

The topiaries are made up of many different plant materials including grasses, mosses, lichens, ficus, air plants, palm fibers and various flowers like begonias and impatiens.

                

               

              

The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival runs March 7th through May 20th and is included in your park admission.

Dates of Visit:  March 2012

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/special-events/epcot-international-flower-and-garden-festival/

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It’s Blooming Magical at EPCOT

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Spring has sprung early and it’s already time for the 2012 EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival. It starts today, March 7th!

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to the festival, but since this is the 19th one, I must have gone 18 times! And I know that I will definitely keep going for years to come. There’s always something new to see. The displays are beautiful and you can’t help but take a million pictures. (Alas, not all million are posted here!)

Every year the entrance to the park and the entrance to World Showcase are redesigned with topiaries that showcase Disney characters or movies. This year will feature Fantasia at the park’s entrance.

In the past, they’ve featured Toy Story characters, Cars characters and our favorite Disney standards. The Disney landscapers and horticulturists always do a fantastic job designing over 100 different topiaries that are featured throughout the park. I’ve just included a few here, but will highlight more in a special story about the festival’s topiaries later this month.

I always take the Rose Walk, which goes between World Showcase and Future World.  If you time it right, there are hundreds of roses in bloom of all different varieties and colors. It may be a cliché, but I do always stop and smell these marvelous roses.

Make sure you take a stroll through the butterfly house which has grown in size over the years. Hundreds of butterflies all flying freely around you. It’s lovely.

HGTV will have their cavalcade of stars at the Designer’s Stage in the Festival Center including Jason Cameron from Desperate Landscapes, Monica Pedersen from Designed to Sell and Carter Oosterhouse from Million Dollar Rooms.

The Flower Power Concert series will feature performances by music legends from the 1960s and 1970s: Jose Feliciano, The Guess Who, The Turtles, The Spinners, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits and more.

This year we will surely miss the beloved and extremely entertaining Davy Jones of The Monkees, who passed away last month. He usually opened or closed the Flower Power Concert series. He was scheduled to appear May 18 through 20. We love you and miss you Davy!

The festival runs every day at EPCOT from March 7 until May 20, 2012. Flower Power Concerts take place at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:15pm, 6:30pm and 7:45pm each Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the festival.

Dates of Visit:  Yearly

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/special-events/epcot-international-flower-and-garden-festival/

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An Extra Day to Enjoy the Magic of Walt Disney World

For the first time ever, Walt Disney World kept the gates of the Magic Kingdom open for a full 24 hours. What a special way to spend that extra day of this leap year!

I have a weekday season pass, so I can go to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks pretty much anytime. I thought it would be a fun to check out the Magic Kingdom on this special day, this extra day of the year, to see what it would be like and who would be there.

Now, I’m not one of those diehard, mouse ear-wearing, pin collecting Disney fans, so I wasn’t there at 6:00am with plans to stay the whole 24 hours, although I’m sure there were many people who did just that. They were probably the ones walking around in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers. No kidding, I saw several people dressed like that.

11:30pm – Arrive at Magic Kingdom.

I was very surprised to see so many people still at the park. And not just adults. There were little kids wide awake and raring to go. I did catch some people sneaking in a few yawns, though. Most of them were weary parents.

Some of the rides still had long wait times. But since it was a special day, I waited 30 minutes to ride something I had never ridden before, the Astro Orbiter. Flying high in a spaceship – whoohoo! From there, back down to earth on the PeopleMover. It was kind of a long wait for that too.

It had been quite a while since I’d seen Mickey’s PhilharMagic 3-D movie, so caught that. Took Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. And then ventured into the Enchanted Tiki Room. I can’t even remember the last time I saw that show. But I tell you, it’s pretty surreal watching those animatronic birds at 2:00am!

Before heading out, rode Pirates of the Caribbean, which was only about a 5 minute wait. The Haunted Mansion is always a favorite, but the wait was 35 minutes, even at 2:30am. And believe it or not, at that time of night/morning, the wait for Peter Pan’s Flight was 40 minutes.

A special commemorative t-shirt saying “I Took a Leap and Didn’t Sleep. I Pulled an All-Nighter at the Magic Kingdom” was for sale, but when I was ready to buy one, they were sold out. The shirts would be available online, but only through March 1, 2012.  I put my order in!

3:30am – Leave Magic Kingdom

So, a mere four hours of extra magic for me. But it was a fun experience. If this turns out to be successful for Disney World, which I’m sure it was, there are plans to do it again in four more years. Let’s start the countdown…

Dates of Visit:  February 29 – March 1, 2012

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Port Orleans Resort

TEDDY’s RATING:

With Walt Disney World being so close to Orlando where I live, it’s easy to drive down to the theme parks just for the day. But sometimes, it’s nice to get away for a short Disney vacation and stay over for a night…or two.

One of the nicest, of the modestly priced resorts at Walt Disney World, is Port Orleans, nestled along the banks of the Sassagoula River. The resort is made up of two distinct sections or parishes: Riverside and The French Quarter. For both of our visits, we stayed in the Riverside section. Riverside consists of the Southern plantation style mansions of Magnolia Bend (where we stayed in 2010) and the rustic cottages of Alligator Bayou (where we stayed in 2011). The architecture of the French Quarter is, of course, inspired by the famous area in New Orleans.

This picturesque waterfront resort is a wonderfully quiet change from some of the other busier Disney resort hotels. It really feels like you’ve stepped back in time or at least away from the hectic life you left behind.

There are a couple of restaurants and shops on property and plenty of things to do if you want to take a break from the theme parks. The Riverside Mill Food Court serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Depending on what building your room is in, it can be a bit of a walk to Riverside Mill Food Court, but it is a nice quiet walk through the property. We had breakfast there every morning where I enjoyed a Mickey Mouse waffle! For a sit down dinner, there’s Boatwright’s which serves steaks, prime rib and seafood. Fulton’s General Store carries Disney merchandise, snacks, beverages and sundries.

For recreation you can swim in one of the many pools around the property, rent bicycles or boats, take a guided fishing excursion or board a horse-drawn carriage for a romantic ride through the resort.

Port Orleans is on Disney property, but not directly connected by boat or monorail to any of the theme parks. However, bus service is easily available to take you to all theme parks and water parks.

There is also a riverboat that can take you to the Downtown Disney Marketplace and West End. This tranquil, scenic ride is quite lovely and relaxing and stops at both Riverside and The French Quarter. If you get a chance to take the boat back at night, you might see rows of herons lined up on the banks of the river. They wait for the riverboats to churn up the water and bring fish to the surface. It’s a pretty interesting sight to see all these white birds waiting to catch their dinner!

There’s no question that the next time we plan a Disney World getaway, we’ll book a stay at Port Orleans. For the money, it’s the best deal going.

      

Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/port-orleans-resort-riverside/

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