Posts Tagged With: vacation

Take in the view at the Bayfront Inn

Bayfront Inn sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I had intended for my next four-day weekend getaway to be on Marco Island, Florida. Now, Marco Island is a lovely place, but after some research, I found that there was much more to do in nearby Naples. (I’ll be writing about all those fun activities in weeks to come.) And I also found I could book a really nice hotel in Naples at an affordable price. That hotel was the Bayfront Inn on 5th Avenue.

Bayfront RoomThe luxury bay view room indeed had a wonderful view of the bay. The pillow-top beds were very comfortable. (Premium luxury rooms have Sleep Number beds.) And the huge shower was great.

There’s complimentary on-site parking, even a small parking garage. There’s a lovely heated pool and spa, although the pool seemed rather cold to me. And the Bayfront Inn is within walking distance of touristy Tin City and the upscale shops of 5th Avenue. This 5th Avenue is similar to its namesake in New York City with many posh restaurants and quirky, fun stores.

The Bayfront Inn is less than a mile from the beach. They have a 12 slip marinaBayfront Pool where you can dock your own boat or charter or rent one. The Naples Trolley Tour has a pickup/drop off point on site and you can catch a water shuttle right outside the hotel. Segway, kayak and bicycle rentals are also available.

The restaurant, The Bambu Tropical Grille, is a covered and open-aired dining area where you can sit by the marina and grab a bite to eat or sip your favorite tropical drink. And in my opinion, they make those drinks nice and strong.

Bayfront ViewI do have to say there were a few negatives at the Bayfront Inn, dropping the rating down from 5 to 4 paws. The landline phone was not working, but the front desk did send someone up to repair it right away. And unfortunately, there are a few little things that bothered me that are out of the hotel’s control. The Bayfront Inn is located on a major roadway, so there was a lot of noisy traffic. And the hotel is directly in the flight path of Naples Municipal Airport. Also, though it’s great that there’s weekend entertainment down near the marina, the music was quite loud and could be heard even though the windows were closed on our 4th floor room.

But overall, the Bayfront is a great place and I would stay there again. The staff was very friendly and attentive. The room was clean and comfortable and the location centrally located to all there is to see and do in Naples.

Dates of Visit:  June 2010 & March 2011

http://www.bayfrontinnnaples.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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Sanibel’s Song of the Sea

TEDDY’s RATING: 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about beautiful Sanibel Island and how much I love visiting there. It’s the perfect place for a short romantic getaway, especially if you stay at the charming Song of the Sea.

This small, intimate inn is right on the beach. The 30, newly-renovated guest rooms are decorated in a French country motif. All have kitchenettes, a full refrigerator, microwave, flat screen TV and screened in porches. Our room overlooked the heated outdoor pool.

          

Where other hotels charge for certain amenities, many are complimentary at Song of the Sea. Parking is on site and free. You have use of their bicycles – ideal for touring around the island. Beach umbrellas and chairs are at your disposal. Breakfast, including fresh-made Belgian waffles, is free. And you’ll find a complimentary bottle of wine in your room upon check-in.

          

I was very pleased with this hotel. Cheryl, the manager at the front desk when we checked in, was extremely friendly and helpful. She provided us with maps and a coupon book to use on the island. The only thing that I wasn’t crazy about was that the room had tile floors which tended to be a bit dirty. I had to wash my feet before bed each night! But I would stay at Song of the Sea again. It’s very reasonably priced for all that they offer, plus it’s right on the beach. We got a great deal through AAA.

            

Song of the Sea is one of four properties in the Sanibel Collection. The others are the Sanibel Inn, Sunset Beach Inn and the Seaside Inn.

Dates of Visit:  October 2012

http://www.theinnsofsanibel.com/songofthesea/
www.sanibelcollection.com/song_of_the_sea

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

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Sun, Sand, Shells — Serenity

TEDDY’s RATING:

Living in Florida, you kind of take the beach for granted. After all, there’s so much coastline, hence a lot of beach! I love living in Florida, yet I’m not a die hard beachcomber. I never have been one to sit for hours in the sun and bake. But I do enjoy walking on the beach or sitting under the protection of an umbrella or cabana listening to the surf and gazing on the beautiful blue water.

There are so many places in Florida I haven’t yet been, but I certainly plan to do a lot more exploring and blogging about the wonderful places to visit in this great state of Florida. Of the places I have been, there is one place in particular that I love so much I never tire of going there. And that is Sanibel Island.

Sanibel is a small crescent-shaped island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just west of Ft. Myers. I first visited there almost 13 years ago, but it’s such a wonderfully peaceful beach destination, I keep going back. Sanibel Island is a short four-hour drive from my home, so it’s a great place to spend a long weekend, or a long week.

Sanibel Island has a rich and colorful history. It is believed that Ponce de Leon discovered the island in 1513 on his way to find the Fountain of Youth. He named his discovery Santa Isybella after Queen Isabella. In the 1800s, the Gulf Coast barrier islands became known as “The Buccaneer Coast,” because pirates were attracted to the area. One notorious pirate in particular, Jose Gaspar, is rumored to have buried his stolen treasure on Sanibel. Then, to house his female prisoners that he kept for ransom, he built a prison called Isle de los Captivas, hence the name of Sanibel’s “sister” island, Captiva.

There are no more pirates or prisoners on Sanibel or Captiva. There are also no traffic lights, high rise condos or sprawling shopping malls. In fact, much of the island is a wildlife refuge.

In 1935, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling visited Sanibel Island. He fell in love with the area and campaigned to get federal protection for the island’s fragile ecosystem. About ten years later, more than 6,000 acres of mangrove forest and wetlands became the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. You can explore the refuge by biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking or on the guided tram. Here you’ll find dolphins, manatees, alligators, ospreys, herons, egrets, pelicans, almost 400 different species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.

                     

In addition to being a famous wildlife refuge, Sanibel Island is also famous for shelling. The beaches are abundant with “treasures from the sea.” Because people are often seen bending down as they look for seashells, this posture has become known as the “Sanibel Stoop.”

                   

Sanibel Island has something for everyone, every recreation imaginable: fishing, golfing, tennis, boating, biking (over 22 miles of bike paths), canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and windsurfing. And of course there are a variety of great restaurants. (I’ll be posting on some of them in weeks to come.) And many charming shops, boutiques and art galleries.

So, if you live in Florida, on the Gulf Coast, or anywhere in the world, Sanibel Island is definitely a place worth visiting. You may find you love it there as much as I do.

            

Dates of Visit:  January 2000 & 2002, October 2012

http://www.sanibelisland.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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Explore Asheville on the Red Trolley Tour

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina before, or even if you have, taking the Red Trolley Tour is a great way to spend your first couple of days in town.

The fully narrated tour takes you to some of the best of Asheville, a city that’s more full of history than you might expect. The Red Trolley Tour is run by Grey Line, a worldwide leader in city tours. The drivers are very knowledgeable about the area and some of them are very entertaining.

       

What’s great about this trolley tour is that it’s a hop on/hop off style tour. You can get off at any of the 9 stops and spend as much time there as you’d like. Grab a bite to eat, go shopping, stroll around. Then, just hop back on when the next trolley comes around. With trolleys stopping every 30-60 minutes, you have a chance to explore the stops at your leisure or just stay on the trolley for a one and a half to two hour tour of the city.

The ticket price includes two full days of unlimited riding privileges. You can catch the trolley and buy your ticket at any of the stops, but the best place to catch the trolley is at the Asheville Visitor’s Center where they have free parking and restrooms.

       

Here are the 9 stops on the Red Trolley Tour:

Stop 1: The Asheville Visitor’s Center. Here you can get all kinds of information about the area-hotels, restaurants, activities. And there’s a gift shop!

Stop 2: The Grove Park Inn. This legendary hotel is a must see, even if you don’t stay there. The views of Asheville and the surrounding areas are beautiful from the Grove Park Inn. You can also visit the Grovewood Gallery and the Estes-Winn Antique Car Museum on the property.

       

Stop 3: Thomas Wolfe District. Your Red Trolley Tour ticket includes free admission to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Historic Site. (Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit the Thomas Wolfe House, though I had wanted to. We ran out of time!)

Stop 4: Pack Place, Pack Square. This is right in the heart of downtown Asheville. From this stop you’re within walking distance of some great shops and restaurants.

Stop 5: Haywood Park Hotel. This is another stop in downtown Asheville, close to the St. Lawrence Basilica.

Stop 6: Grove Arcade. The Grove Arcade is a lovely shopping area with some great restaurants and shops.

Stop 7: River Arts District. Asheville has a rich art community and the River Arts District is at the heart of it. Painters, potters, jewelers, sculptors, furniture makers, glass-blowers, photographers, all have studios in this area.

Stop 8: Biltmore Village. This historic area outside of the Biltmore Estate is a collection of cottages, galleries, shops and eateries.

Stop 9: Grand Bohemian Hotel. This stop is also inside the Biltmore Village.

And if you’re more daring, why not try the Haunted History & Murder Mystery Ghost Tour? This 75 minute tour takes you through “the dark side” of Asheville where you’ll hear ghostly stories about the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn, the mystery of the WhiteGate Inn and the child spirits at the haunted hospital. This tour departs from Pack’s Tavern on the weekends. Check the website for dates, times and prices for all tours.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

http://graylineasheville.com/

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

Categories: North Carolina, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yum, Yum, the Asheville Food Tour

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Asheville is quite a culinary town. It’s even referred to as a “Foodtopian Society.” There are so many restaurants to choose from. No matter what your taste buds crave, you’ll find something to please your palate.

One of the best ways to sample all the fantastic food Asheville has to offer is to take the Asheville Food Tour. As their slogan says, “Asheville Food Tours introduces you to the city bite by bite.”

It’s a two and a half hour walking tour of downtown, stopping at 7 to 10 different restaurants and/or specialty food shops to savor their flavors. We went to a total of 8 places, each of which gets a separate mini paw rating from Teddy.

Our guide’s name was Chris. He and his wife created Asheville Food Tours. And what’s great about it is that you get to sample more than just a few bites of food. You get to try items right off the restaurants’ menus or dishes specially prepared for the tour. By the time the tour is done, you’re full! And you get a discount card to use when you visit any of the stops at a later date.

Here are the 8 stops we made:

The Chocolate Fetish (3 mini paws) http://chocolatefetish.com/
Here we tried three different samples of chocolate: truffle, caramel and plain dark chocolate. And we got to see behind the scenes of their chocolate making process. It’s a nice place with lots of exotic chocolate options, but I still love the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The owners, Bill and Sue Foley, are very nice people and they led the tour through their shop.

The Green Sage Café (3 mini paws) http://thegreensage.net/
This is one of Asheville’s “Green” restaurants. They recycle all paper products and compost all leftovers. And they pride themselves in being a restaurant that buys locally from local suppliers. We had zucchini soup and a vegetable hummus wrap.

Strada (3 mini paws)
http://www.stradaasheville.com/
This is one of the newer stops on the tour. Strada is an Italian bistro. We were served goat cheese pizza and a fig stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, along with red wine.

Olive & Kickin’ (2 mini paws) http://www.oliveandkickin.com/
This was a most unusual stop. This shop sells different types of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. And to taste the different olive oils, we did shots of them. Yep, shots of olive oil. Pretty odd. No dipping bread in the oil, just drink it up.

Mr. Frog’s Soul Food and Creole Kitchen (3 mini paws) http://mrfrogsavl.blogspot.com/
This was another fairly new restaurant. The chef talked at length about his history and why he started the restaurant. We had cucumber water, ribs, an oyster, and a Cheerwine truffle.

Chorizo (3 mini paws) http://www.grovearcade.com/shopping-dining/chorizo/
I’m not big on Latin food, but the pork quesadilla and fruit drink were very good. After the trip, I made the fruit drink (orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and club soda) at home, adding in some pineapple/coconut rum.

Karen Donatelli Cafe (3 mini paws) http://www.donatellicakedesigns.com/
By the time we got to this bakery, we were already pretty full of food. We sampled a pecan caramel square. Karen Donatelli mostly creates cakes, but she has some very creative desserts available as well. Wish we weren’t so stuffed!

The Spice & Tea Exchange (3 mini paws)
http://www.spiceandtea.com/north-carolina-asheville-ezp-17.html?chapter=1
The final stop was the Spice & Tea Exchange. They feature a huge variety of spices, teas and flavored sugars. I bought an orange creamsicle tea sample to try along with maple syrup sugar and raspberry sugar.

Overall, the tour was great fun. Great experience, great food, great town. I’d do it again since Chris doesn’t necessarily go to the same stops each time.

Some things to keep in mind about the tour. They are held rain or shine. Wear comfortable shoes. There are no substitutions for dietary restrictions. Tours are limited to 12 people, so book early. Tours are held March through November, Tuesdays through Fridays at 2pm. The tour costs $39 per person.

There is a second tour offered that takes you through Biltmore Village, a quaint collection of shops and restaurants just outside the historic Biltmore estate. We plan to try that one next time.

Dates of Visit:  May 4, 2012

http://www.ashevillefoodtours.com/

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

Categories: Eat, North Carolina, Play | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Getting away from it all at Abner’s Cabin

TEDDY’s RATING: 

If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all on your next trip to the Asheville, North Carolina area, Abner’s Cabin is a nice little place to stay.

This quaint, cozy cabin was built in the 1920s by Abner Gwaltney. At the time, it was only a one bedroom cabin with no running water and an outhouse. It may still be rustic on the outside, but inside, after renovations, there are two bedrooms, a full kitchen (with running water), a living room and yes, a full bathroom.

      

Even though Abner’s Cabin is off the beaten path, tucked away in the quiet hills near Weaverville, North Carolina, it’s still very close to all there is to see and do in the Asheville area. And less than a 10 minute drive to downtown Asheville. So, it’s a great central location for your Western North Carolina vacation.

      

There are a few things about Abner’s Cabin that kept it from getting a higher rating from Teddy. The cabin had been closed up for some months, so it smelled a bit musty. Even airing it out for a while didn’t help much. When we first arrived, there was static on the phone line and the internet didn’t work. (An internet connection is listed in the amenities section on their web page.) There are limited electrical outlets in each room. There are some minor repairs that need to be done on the interior: the ceiling is cracked in one of the bedrooms, the bathroom tiles and linoleum are discolored and the front screen door is coming apart which let in a lot of bugs.

On the positive side — the landscaping around the property is very nice. One of the beds has a pillow top mattress, so it was very comfortable. And the owners, who are very friendly, provide some food in the fridge (milk, eggs, cereal, coffee) in case you arrive too late to do any shopping. The owners have also stocked the cabin with plenty of brochures about the area and easy to read maps. And Abner’s Cabin is very affordable. We shopped around and you couldn’t get a two bedroom cabin of this size for the price. It was less than $100 a day (plus tax) if you stay  seven nights. And there are no extra fees, unless you bring a pet.

Overall, our stay was pleasant. I think I might look at some other places in the area for our next visit, but Abner’s Cabin was still very comfortable.

Dates of Visit: May 3-10, 2012

http://www.vrbo.com/144742

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

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A Yank’s Tour of the BBC

In 2005, for my 40th birthday, we took a trip to London. In addition to all the other great stuff to see and do in London, we were anxious to see if we could get a tour of the BBC. At the time, I had a great fondness for British TV and watched quite a few shows, but not as many as I do now. I guess now it’s an obsession. (See my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com/.) We found out that, yes, the BBC does offer tours of their facility. So, we booked one.

The BBC Television Centre is located very close to the White City tube stop in West London. It was opened in June of 1960 and is considered one of the most recognizable TV facilities in the world. It’s been featured in the background of countless British TV shows, including Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which was shot inside the studios.

I wasn’t able to take any photographs inside, so I just have a few of the outside. Unfortunately, you can’t see the unique shape of the building from the ground. It’s actually shaped like a Question Mark. Supposedly, the building’s architect drew a question mark on a piece of paper thinking that it would be a perfect shape for the site.

Our tour started at 10:45am. Our tour guides were Debbie and Ollie. They were very entertaining and very knowledgeable. There was a lot of walking involved, up and down lots of stairs, down long hallways. The facility is huge. Being in the TV business, I had a lot of questions to ask. Basically, they do things the same way they do here. Freelance production personnel are sometimes hired for shows.

The tour included the newsroom where BBC World News is broadcast and two studios, seen from up above through the lighting grid. Top of the Pops was schedule to be taped later that day to air that night. The crew was setting up the stages and prepping for the shoot. Dr. Who, Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous are among the many programs taped or filmed in the studios.

They had a silly little weather center demonstration with a blue screen. Several members of our tour stood in front of it and played weatherman.

We saw the dressing rooms and heard some stories about celebrities that had stayed there. Unfortunately, I don’t really remember what stories they told us, but I do remember they were about a lot of the “divas” that would come to perform. They would have outlandish requests for things. Not unlike the “only green M&Ms” rumors you hear about rock stars.

Then there was a wacky quiz program that the tour was involved in. I was forced to be a contestant. They showed clips of shows and we had to answer questions about them. No knowledge of the show was needed. Just an observant eye. What color was Nigel’s shirt in that scene? Stuff like that. I won. My prizes, a BBC coffee cup and pen. Woo hoo!

From what I’ve read, the tour is pretty much the same today.  But they’ve added some props and memorabilia from BBC shows, including the Tardis from Dr. Who.   If you’ve never seen a TV studio before, it’s kind of fun to see behind the scenes and learn about some of your favorite TV shows. There are also opportunities to be a part of the studio audience during a show taping.   I would recommend the BBC Studio Tour, if you’re ever in London.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/tours/

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EPCOT-A Journey Around the World and Beyond

Spaceship Earth at Disney's EPCOT

TEDDY’s RATING:

Sometimes I think that EPCOT is probably not the most popular of Walt Disney World’s theme parks.  Even though, based on attendance numbers, it is the fifth most popular theme park in the world.  I think kids prefer the Magic Kingdom.  Other adults may like Disney’s Hollywood Studios because of the rides or the Animal Kingdom for the, well, animals.  But I like EPCOT the best.  Maybe it’s because I love to travel and while at EPCOT I get to travel to 11 different countries, under the sea, into space and back in time in just a few hours.  And maybe it’s because it’s never too crowded.

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.

Journey to Imagination at EPCOTAs you probably already know, EPCOT is divided into two distinct sections, Future World and World Showcase.

In World Showcase, the architecture of each pavilion is inspired by real buildings from each country.  They really are quite beautiful. I usually spend most of my time in World Showcase experiencing the sights and sounds and meeting people from around the world.  Most of the cast members in World Showcase are from outside the US.  I do enjoy meeting and talking to them.  They usually have great stories to tell about their countries.

Then there’s the music.  Pretty much any day of the week you can hear music from Morocco, Norway, Germany, Japan, Mexico and Canada.  One of my favorite bands is Off Kilter.  They’re a Celtic Rock band that play in the Canada pavilion. You may not think that a bagpipe can rock out, but it can.  These guys put on a great show.  I have all their CDs.  The British Invasion, in the United Kingdom pavilion, was another favorite.  But sadly, after 15 years, they stopped performing in 2011.  Plans are in the works to get another band to replace them.

Mexico pavilion at EPCOT

And then during the annual Flower and Garden Festival (Spring) and Food and Wine Festival (Autumn) the American Gardens Theater hosts all different kinds of musical groups.  The Flower Festival’s “Flower Power” concert series includes music from the ‘60s and ‘70s like Davy Jones from The Monkees, The Grass Roots, Chubby Checker, and Jose Feliciano.  The Food and Wine Festival’s “Eat to the Beat” concert series includes performers like Taylor Dane, Starship, Jon Secada and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  All concerts are free with park admission.

And don’t forget the food from around the world. I especially enjoy Les Chef De France which has delicious French onion soup and desserts only the French can make.  I just recently discovered a fabulous alcoholic beverage in Japan called Tokyo Sunset, a blend of coconut rum, peach schnapps, banana liqueur and pineapple juice.  Super yummy.

But when it comes to the food at EPCOT, the best is experienced at the Food and Wine Festival.  You can partake of delectable delicacies from more than 20 countries.  I never miss the Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Maple Fudge in Canada, Belgium’s Belgian waffles, and Sweden’s Swedish meatballs.  All are served tapas style so you can sample up to 75 different dishes during your trip around the world.

Italy at EPCOTOn October 1, 2012, EPCOT will celebrate its 30th anniversary.  Now, some of the attractions are a bit outdated, but they are refurbishing and reimagining new attractions all the time.

On the Future World side, Spaceship Earth has been updated with a new interactive ending.  The old World of Motion attraction was revamped into Test Track.  Horizons became Mission: Space.  The Land pavilion was overhauled to include Soarin’, an attraction that became very popular at Disney’s California Adventure.  The Living Seas became a showcase for the movie “Finding Nemo.”  The Universe of Energy was retooled by adding an amusing introduction, “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” with Ellen DeGeneres.

Around World Showcase, Canada’s Circlevision 360 film “Oh, Canada” has also been revamped and now stars actor Martin Short.  New restaurants have been added to Italy and Mexico.

There are a few things I do miss from the original list of attractions.  The first 3-D movie at EPOCT, called “Magic Journeys,” was amazing.  Maybe it’s because that was the first 3-D movie I had seen that really blew me away.  Kitchen Kabaret in The Land, although pretty silly, was fun.  And the entire Wonders of Life pavilion is no more.  Although I wasn’t a big fan of “Body Wars,” I did like some of the other parts of the Wonders of Life.Norway at EPCOT

Before EPCOT even opened, the park gave out a full color artist’s rendering book with artwork depicting each pavilion and attraction.  I still have that book.  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.

I would have to say that my favorite parts of EPCOT, besides the music and munchies, are Spaceship Earth, the Dinosaur portion of the Universe of Energy, Soarin’ and Mission: Space, but not right after a meal!

Dates of Visit:  Various from 1982 until present

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

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