Thursday, June 25, 2009


(written by J)

EDITOR’S NOTE – To get maximum enjoyment from reading the 2009 trip portion of the blog, please click on the 2009 link on the right-hand side of the page. Then read from the bottom starting with Savannah, GA up concluding with the epilogue.

Well, it was another excellent trip. It was nice to not bounce around from city to city and hotel to hotel like we did last year on the Montreal/New England journey. But we still logged over 1650 miles driving over the course of the vacation.

The purpose of the epilogue is to kind of sum up the vacation talking about the things that we really enjoyed and the moments that stuck in our memory banks for one reason or another.

Let’s start with the things that we really enjoyed about Disney World that have not been previously mentioned in the blog. The first one was the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan that we purchased as part of our vacation package. We purchased the hotel, park tickets, and dining plan as a bundle and it was an incredible deal. We got a total of 32 lunches or dinners (2 a day for the 4 of us) which included an entrée, dessert, and drink or an entrée and 2 drinks. Plus we also got 32 snacks which we could use on food items such as ice cream and bottled water. Not every restaurant was included on the plan but there were plenty to choose from and the portions were plentiful. We don’t exactly know how much we paid for the dining plan but we are sure that we more than covered the cost because every meal was over $40. Plus the best meal we had, at Wolfgang Puck Express, was over $60 and it was on the plan. You are a fool if you don’t use the dining plan. The next thing that we really enjoyed was how every time a Disney employee saw B, they would say to her “Hi, princess.” It’s just something little but it made B feel so special. One more highlight of Disney World had to be their extensive network of squished penny machines. Every time we travel, Z and B see the penny machines that turn a penny into a souvenir from wherever you are at that particular point in time. The kids have pennies from up and down the East Coast and as far west as Minnesota. Disney World had penny machines everywhere – in the theme parks, in shops at Downtown Disney, even in our hotel. Z and B added 12 new pennies and also a squished quarter.

What rides and attractions did we really like best? Here’s the rundown.
Z – Mission Space, Expedition Everest
B – Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
H – The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Toy Story Midway Mania
J – Expedition Everest, Toy Story Midway Mania

Now it is time to conclude this post with some fun facts and awards.

Fun Fact Savannah – On our trolley tour, our tour guide pointed out the bench that Tom Hanks sat on in the movie “Forrest Gump” where he would incessantly talk about Jenny. Doesn’t that make you want to eat a box of chocolates?

Fun Fact St. Augustine – One of the major streets in the town is Avenida Menendez which is named for Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles who founded the town – not for the infamous Menendez brothers, Lyle and Erik.

Fun Fact Charleston – Charleston probably leads the nation in art galleries per capita. While walking around the downtown area, it seemed like every other building was an art gallery.

The Most Entertaining Moment on the Road Award – This goes to the gentleman at the gas station in South Newport, GA who was at the gas pump in front of us. We watched him open the hatch of his car and see everything in the back of the car fall out onto the pavement. J really had to restrain himself from laughing out loud while pumping gas.

The Disney Character Who Most Needs an Attitude Adjustment Award – This goes to Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame at the Magic Kingdom. B was melting down while walking with H to the restroom when H spotted Alice out of the corner of her eye. Hoping B would stop screaming, H said, “Look, its Cinderella.” Alice shot back “Oh, no, I’m Alice” in a tone that implied that H was an intellectual lightweight. You try to recognize similar looking Disney characters at a glance while dealing with a screaming child sometime, Alice!

The Best Game in the Hotel Arcade Award – This goes to the huge spinning wheel (a la the Price is Right) that gave out tickets based on where the wheel stopped. Both Z and B won 80 tickets on 1 spin. It was quite impressive seeing the game just shoot out ticket after ticket. You would think that winning 80 tickets would earn quality prizes but in the end, the kids just ended up with candy. The conversion rate of tickets to prizes is comparable to the conversion rate of the Japanese yen with the dollar, Euro, or British pound.

The No Soup for You Award – This goes to the strict employee at the Fastpass area of Kilimanjaro Safaris at the Animal Kingdom. We arrived 2 minutes before our scheduled Fastpass reservation time and she turned us away. Without rules, there’s chaos.

The Welcome to Our Town Award – This goes to Charleston, SC. Interstate 26 ends inside of the city limits and deposits you onto the mean streets of town before you get to the historic picturesque downtown area. There was a Church’s Fried Chicken in the blighted area which prompted H to say “You know that you are in a bad area if there’s a Church’s Fried Chicken around” (Just like Richmond International Raceway).

The Most Ridiculous Catch Phrase Award – This goes to “Have a Magical Day.” This award is a no-brainer. Disney World is obsessed with magic and their employees, it appears, are forced to conclude every conversation with the tourists saying this phrase. It is fine, we guess, for the cashier to tell you “Have a Magical Day” after you fork over cash for food or souvenirs or as you are exiting a ride. It loses its impact though after midnight during a phone conversation when you are calling to complain about raucous hotel neighbors as mentioned earlier in the Day 1 post.

That’s it for this vacation. We hope you enjoyed reading the blog as much as we enjoyed going on the Disney vacation. Have a magical day!

Charleston, SC

We woke up to a thunderstorm, thinking that we might have to scrap the city completely, even after driving out of the way to get there. Luckily, it stopped raining by the time we were ready to checkout. We drove down to the Battery area of the city with picturesque views of the water and beautiful, huge plantation-style houses. After parking in the French Quarter, we stopped and walked for awhile, seeing the Old Custom House building (from the outside… didn’t think the kids would handle even a short tour at that point) among other historic homes (some of the neatest with lanterns burning out front), buildings, and churches and stopping to read some of the historical markers along the way. H found the old gravestones fascinating… J thought that was morbid. We also passed a lot of art galleries… guess we didn’t go far enough for the shopping district, although it was so early when we first got there that most wouldn’t have been open. By 11:30am, we were all ready to head for home. On the way out, we had our first Starbucks of the trip (why is it that when you go north, they are all over the interstates, and when you travel south, you rarely see them?).

(written by H)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Disney World - Day 5

(written by J)

This was our last day in the Disney complex (actually supposed to be half a day) as we had hotel reservations in Charleston, SC for the evening. Mapquest advised that it would take 6 ½ hours to get from Disney to Charleston so we figured we would leave town no later than 2 PM. That would be plenty of time to check out the few rides that we had scheduled for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. J and H pretty much concluded that we would not be able to get the mini-golf in that was washed out by thunderstorms the previous night. Maybe the kids would have so much fun at the park that they would forget about the mini-golf. The rides that we scheduled as must for the Studios were the Tower of Terror and Star Tours. We also had the Great Movie Ride (yawn) and the Backlot Studio Tour as possible options. Our first stop was the Tower of Terror. J was hopeful of a good Fastpass time. If the available return times were after 2PM, we would just have to suck it up and wait 60 minutes or more to ride. J was not really pumped for that option. Luckily, the return time was 11:50 AM-12:50 PM so we snagged our final Fastpasses of the trip. Next up was Star Tours, a Star Wars based flight simulator ride. Add Star Tours to the list of rides that B did not enjoy. After that we just walked around the park for a little bit. The Hollywood Studios doesn’t really have a lot of rides and shows but it does have character. It is set up to look like a bunch of movie sets, some current and some old-timey, and it gives you a flavor of Hollywood (minus the tattoo shops and Scientology buildings that the real Hollywood has – we know, we’ve been to the real Hollywood). After our stroll through the movie sets, we decided to check out an attraction called Toy Story Midway Mania. It had a 50 minute wait and Fastpass returns were after 5 PM so we ventured into the line. We didn’t know what this attraction was. The Hollywood Studios map mentioned that it was a 3D adventure but we couldn’t tell if it was an actual ride. We did know that B would not wear her 3D glasses. The line took forever and J was very concerned that we would miss our Fastpass reservation for Tower of Terror which would pretty much ruin the day. We made it onto the ride around 12PM and it was probably one of the most imaginative, entertaining rides in all of the Disney parks. It was a ride that spun you from one computerized shooting gallery to another and another. It was great fun earning points for hitting targets and at the end of the game, the ride gave you a virtual prize based on your score. J and H “won” rabbits, Z “won” a beaver, and B “won” an armadillo. J is also happy to report that we made it to the Tower of Terror ride in plenty of time. J loved the multiple ups-and-downs of the ride. B was not a fan of this one as well – she really had a tough day with the rides. Surprisingly, Z also disapproved and told J that he would not ride it again unless he was J’s age. This concluded the park portion of our trip. It was about 2 PM when we left but not without a little drama. B saw another stuffed animal that she had to have, a Sorcerer Mickey. H told her that she had a Sorcerer Mickey beanie baby at home so B could have that one then. B didn’t like that answer and screamed “Mickey, Mickey” as we departed. We drove off to get gas and start the journey towards Charleston. Z then asked if we were still going to play mini-golf. We said that we didn’t have time and he started to get sad. J didn’t want 2 sad kids leaving Disney (B was still screaming about Mickey) so he said that we didn’t have any plans for the night in Charleston so let’s play golf. It was a fun and challenging course based on the movie Fantasia. The course also sold Sorcerer Mickey stuffed toys as an added bonus in the area were you picked up your clubs and balls. To promote a scream-free playing atmosphere, J let B get the Sorcerer Mickey. She happily carried it around the course and even now, it is probably the favorite of all of the animals she got on the trip. J, H, and Z shot pretty well in spirit-crushing heat and humidity. Z, in fact, had his best round ever. B got tired of playing about 2/3rd’s of the way through but she still had the most memorable moment of the round. There was a water hazard on the 15th hole. Midway down the hole, water would occasionally shoot up from holes in the ground like at our hotel. B stood right over the holes and up came the water. It soaked her but even worse, it soaked Mickey. She was inconsolable about Mickey getting wet. We finished up the round by 3:30 PM, got onto Interstate 4, the major artery in Orlando that connects to Interstate 95, and eventually left the city over an hour later because of 2 separate accidents. Ugh. We finally made it to Charleston at 11PM and immediately went to bed.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Disney World - Day 4

(written by J)

This was probably the best day we had in Disney World. It was jam-packed with entertainment. First up was the character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. The character breakfast is the easiest way to see all of the Disney characters. H was actually originally unsuccessful getting reservations about 2 months ago for Chef Mickey’s. A friend of hers suggested she try again closer to our trip and a couple weeks ago, H did manage to secure reservations for a 7:05 AM seating. It was by far the most expensive breakfast we ever ate (in excess of $100 with tip) but seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Pluto came out of the kitchen one by one to say hi was well worth it. After a hearty breakfast, we then got on the monorail for a quick trip from the Contemporary Resort to the nearby Magic Kingdom … or so we thought. The monorail made an unscheduled maintenance stop at the next station, the ever exciting Transportation and Ticket Center. After what seemed like an eternity (actually 10-15 minutes) we were on the move again. Then at the third station, the Grand Floridian resort, the conductor told us that the monorail would be taken out of commission at the Magic Kingdom. We were ecstatic to finally make it to the Magic Kingdom but J wondered why they didn’t test the monorail before starting it out on its morning run. The monorail looks so sleek and cool when it zooms into the hole in the Contemporary Resort but riding on it was a bit of a disappointment. Once inside the Magic Kingdom, we bought the kids Mickey (for Z) and Minnie (for B) ears hats with their names embroidered on them. While H waited for the embroidering on the hats to finish, J raced with Z and B back to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. H noticed the other day that there were some 3 person cars on the coaster which made life much easier this time around. J, Z, and B got the front car of the coaster this time and it was fabulous. Other rides and attractions that we all went on this day at Magic Kingdom were Splash Mountain (only a 30 minute wait at 9 AM … woohoo), It’s a Small World (again, it never gets old), Dumbo the Flying Elephant (always the slowest line in the park), Mad Tea Party (Z and B loved sending our tea cup spinning), the Barnstormer in Mickey’s Toontown Fair (B said that the ride was too short), visits to Minnie Mouse’s house and Mickey Mouse’s house in Mickey’s Toontown Fair (for some reason, the line to walk around Minnie’s house was much longer than Mickey’s house), and Peter Pan’s Flight. We got a Fastpass for Peter Pan’s Flight because that line is always long. It doesn’t make much sense why this is the case. You are just in a boat flying through the story of Peter Pan but it is wildly popular. We took our stroller to the Magic Kingdom because B would frequently say that she couldn’t walk and it gets tiring carrying her all over the park. Why is this information important? Let us explain. We had to park the stroller in a large stroller parking area around the carousel and then we got in the Fastpass line for Peter Pan. The line and ride took about 10 minutes yet when we retrieved the stroller, H noticed something was missing from the back pocket of the stroller. Someone had stolen the embroidered Mickey and Minnie ears that we purchased earlier in the day. We went back to the stroller area and a very nice employee named Lena helped us resolve the situation. She helped us get new embroidered ears hats at a nearby store free of charge and she also gave us a cut-to-the-front-of-the-line pass for any ride in the park and a voucher for free ice cream. Lena certainly won the Employee of the Trip award for her actions. H asked the kids what ride they wanted to go in with this pass and of course, they said Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We started the Magic Kingdom day with Big Thunder Mountain and we finished it off in style the same way. The next activity for the day was going to Fort Wilderness to let the kids ride ponies for the first time in their lives. B loves horses so we knew she was excited. Z also was pumped to ride a horse. The pony rides closed at 5PM and we arrived at the entrance to Fort Wilderness at 4:20 PM. Fort Wilderness is huge so we were a bit concerned that we wouldn’t make it in time to the pony farm or that the line to ride ponies would be so long that the kids wouldn’t get a chance to ride. Fortunately, Disney buses run constantly at the fort and we quickly got on a bus and made it to the farm with 20 minutes to spare. B got to ride a white horse named Jester and Z got to ride a brown horse named Levi. J and H were responsible for holding onto the pony’s leash guiding the horse around a marked path. The kids absolutely loved it. And we didn’t step in horse poop around the path which was excellent. Nothing ruins a day like stepping in horse poop. The next stop on this tremendous day was a trip back to Downtown Disney to eat dinner at a dinosaur themed restaurant called T-Rex. It was like eating back in the Mesozoic era. We actually ran into one of B’s preschool classmates at the restaurant… so weird to see someone you know hundreds of miles from home. We wanted to play mini golf after dinner but a huge thunderstorm rolled in so we called it a night.

Interlude 2 - Pictures of our hotel - Disney's Pop Century Resort

(written by J)

Here are some pictures from the hotel. One word describes the decor - CHEESY!

Interlude 1 continues - The 3rd Annual J's Road Sign Mania

(written by J)
Here are some more signs. The blogging website wouldn't allow me to include them all in one post. The first 2 signs are more South Carolina signs. The state has not even come close to changing all of their signs from the old boring square/rectangle to the new rectangle saying South Carolina along with the state outline and the Palmetto tree. The other 2 signs are from Florida. First is a county road sign in St. Augustine and second is a sign in the Disney complex. They use totally different purple signs than the standard green ones you see on the interstates. Notice on the Disney sign as well that the top of the state of Florida is not geographically accurate as the top of the state is shown as just a straight line.

Interlude 1 - The 3rd Annual J's Road Sign Mania

(written by J)

We couldn't have a travel blog without the road signs. This year's crop was outstanding. From top to bottom, it is Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Previous mania winners were Minnesota and New Hampshire. This year's winner is ... Florida. The state shape is not conducive to put route numbers inside it. Yet Florida thought outside of the box and found a way to incorporate the state shape. Congratulations, Florida!

Disney World - Day 3

(written by J)

We were very excited about the potential for day 3. We were headed to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of the Disney theme parks. For some reason in our minds, Animal Kingdom has a buzz that the other parks maybe don’t have. Perhaps, it is because it is newer (only 11 years old) or because of the scenery such as the exquisitely constructed Tree of Life or the unique combination of wildlife and amusement (i.e. Kilimanjaro Safaris). Here was the reality of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It seemed 30 degrees hotter and 1000 percent more humid than at any other spot in the Disney complex and it was incredibly crowded. It was a challenging day for us to say the least. Once we saw that we were going to share the park with about a billion of our closest friends, we started strategically planning what rides we were going to get Fastpasses to ride. J figured that the three legitimate candidates for Fastpass were the previously mentioned Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest (a roller coaster based on Mount Everest), and Dinosaur (a high-speed turbulent thrill ride that takes you back to the time of Dinosaurs which Z was very excited about). We headed out towards Dinosaur first because all of the crowds were heading towards Kilimanjaro Safaris. Dinosaur had the best wait of the day, only 5 minutes. J took Z and B on it. B asked J in the line why H couldn't ride Dinosaur. J said that it was because of the baby inside of H. Then B asked, "Why is the baby afraid of dinosaurs?" It was very funny. The kids love dinosaurs and they also love roaring like dinosaurs so they would love the ride, right? Z seemed to like it. B did not – darkness and big dinosaurs coming at you roaring was not a good combination for her. She gave it a thumbs down saying that it was too scary. After that, we headed toward Expedition Everest which had about a 20 minute wait. H said that we should just ride it and not worry about the Fastpass. But after seeing how we missed out on Test Track and Soarin because we didn’t get Fastpasses in a timely fashion, J wanted to experience the thrill of Fastpass where you get on rides with minimal wait instead of waiting a minimum of 20 minutes and possibly much longer. It was about 10AM at this time and J popped in the park tickets into a machine to get a Fastpass to return to Expedition Everest between 10:50 AM and 11:50 AM . With this exciting reservation in hand, it was off to Kilimanjaro Safaris to pick up another Fastpass. We arrived at the safari ride and this time, Z wanted to pop in the park tickets to get the Fastpass. The available times that we could get at that time were between roughly 12 PM and 1 PM which would work out great. Z put his ticket in and out came another Fastpass reservation. This one was slightly different though. It said “this is not a valid Fastpass ticket. Come back at 10:50 AM to pick up your next Fastpass.” J was not pleased with this scenario. J, of course, didn’t ride the fine print of the rules which plainly said to check your Fastpass ticket for the time when you can get another ticket. Clearly, H was right when she said that we should just get in the regular line and ride Expedition Everest. We were concerned that once 10:50 arrived, the tickets would either say to come back between 5 and 6PM or that there were no more Fastpasses available for the day. The wait at 10:15 AM was already 80 minutes and that is way too long to wait in any line for any ride. We killed the remaining 45 minutes until we could pick up the next Fastpass by waiting in line (most of the 45 minutes) for and then eventually riding a train J and Z then raced over to Expedition Everest to make our scheduled time while H and B got the safari Fastpasses. Expedition Everest was an outstanding roller coaster. It was a classic coaster with a twist. It made its way up a fake Mount Everest until you reached the top. Then it stopped and went quickly down the hill backwards. Good stuff. When J and Z reunited with H & B after the ride, Z couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved the ride. J was hesitant to ask H if she was able to get the Fastpasses for the safari but he did anyway. Fortunately, she got them at a still favorable time, between 2 and 3PM . Then all four of us rode Triceratops Spin (like Dumbo but with triceratops instead of elephants) and saw It’s Tough to Be a Bug (another 3D movie) inside the Tree of Life. Because it was 3D, B again refused to wear the 3D glasses. Next we baked in the sun eating lunch and after that bought more Webkinz animals for the kids because B was screaming “ANIMAL” and “CHEETAH” as we got closer to our scheduled safari time. To avoid a screaming safari ride where animals might possible freak out and charge our jeep, we decided to cut our losses and buy them more Webkinz. This haul was a cheetah for B (which is actually a leopard but she is convinced that it is a cheetah and thus named it Cheetah) and a key lime dinosaur for Z. Then finally, it was safari time. We saw lots of African wildlife including giraffes, elephants, antelopes, and a sleeping lion. That concluded our Animal Kingdom adventure as the temperature by mid-afternoon there approached about 500 degrees. Later that night, we went to Downtown Disney for quality dining at Wolfgang Puck Express and quality shopping. Z got the Legos that he had been talking about for weeks (a police helicopter and police car) and B added a stuffed “Lady” from “Lady in the Tramp” to her exponentially growing stuffed animal collection.

Disney World – Day 2

(written by J)

We spent Day 2 in the Disney complex at Epcot Center. Epcot is a fascinating park with 2 distinctive and totally different parts – Future World and World Showcase. Our first ride was The Seas with Nemo and Friends. This was a cute ride based on the movie Finding Nemo which the kids enjoyed watching multiple times on DVD in the car on the way down to Florida. At the end of the ride was an aquarium where you could see real fish that looked like the Finding Nemo characters plus other sea creatures. The kids were especially fascinated by the manatees. Then on our way out of the ride, of course, we had to go through a gift shop. It is amazing how many Disney rides exit into gift shops. The kids immediately saw their intended targets to plead us to get for them … Webkinz animals. J & H were kind of stunned that the Disney parks would feature Webkinz. We thought they would only have Disney character stuffed toys. The kids begged and because we had just gotten them Webkinz animals in St. Augustine yesterday, we told them to wait and see if they saw other souvenirs in the park that they would like better. Z and B weren’t terribly thrilled with this verdict but they accepted it. We checked out one more ride in Future World, Journey into Imagination, and then we set off for the marathon that is the World Showcase. It is fascinating to traverse the World Showcase pavilion and see all of the different countries. We kind of did a drive-by on most of the countries. The only ones that we actually stopped in were Mexico to eat lunch and go on their boat ride, China and Canada to watch their Circlevision 360, and England because J & H love England after going to London in 2001. J wanted to check out the shops in the England pavilion and once inside, we were thrilled to see that they sold real English candy in there. Our favorite from the London trip was the Nestle Mint Aero chocolate bar and low and behold, it was in the shop. We bought a couple and ate them quickly outside before they melted in the 90 degree heat and humidity. By the end of the World Showcase, B was tired and angry. She wanted the Webkinz that she saw earlier. Z sympathized with her plight and begged for one as well. We relented and headed back to The Seas with Nemo to ride it again so they could get the animals. There was no wait to ride it this time (all of Epcot was either in the line for Test Track or Soarin, the new hang gliding adventure, both of which had waits of an hour or longer with no more Fastpasses available for the day) and soon enough, Z and B were the proud owners of a manatee and pelican respectively. Incidentally, B named her pelican “Goose.” We concluded our Epcot day with Mission Space and Spaceship Earth, the big globe that is the famous Epcot landmark. J and Z rode Mission Space because B wasn’t tall enough. This ride simulates a rocket launch into space and you could choose either the more intense or less intense launch. Like heroes, J and Z chose the more intense launch. Inside, the video that comes on before the launch says to keep facing forward, keep your head back, and don’t close your eyes or you will become disoriented. J thought “Uh-oh, what are we getting ourselves into.” In the end, Z loved it and J was a tad nauseous for a little while. Z is one tough 6 year old. We finished off the evening with water activities at the hotel. First was going in the “Hippy Dippy” pool , a huge 60’s themed flower shaped pool. Then there was a little area with Goofy by our room where water randomly shot up from holes in the concrete to get kids wet. Z and B loved every minute of this area. They were running, giggling, smiling, and splashing. It was fun to see them having so much fun.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Disney World - Day 1

(written by J)

We arrived inside the Disney World complex around 3PM and checked in to our hotel, Disney’s Pop Century. The hotel is a salute to U.S. Pop Culture from the 1950s through the 1990s. It was a huge hotel and it was very popular considering that it appeared that 30 million people were staying there while we were there. We will post pictures of the hotel in a later blog entry. After unloading the car, we headed off to the Magic Kingdom. The kids were extremely excited as we rode the bus from the hotel to the Magic Kingdom. Once we arrived at the park, we didn’t even make it inside before B wanted to see Pluto who was standing outside of the entrance. B and Z hugged Pluto while H took pictures and then we were inside. We found coin books for smashed pennies inside the Emporium for the kids and then we were off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the ride Z had wanted to go on for months. It seemed pretty crowded so we were delighted that the wait time for the ride said only 10 minutes. J and Z rode it (Z loved it!) and then J took B (H can’t ride roller coasters because she is pregnant) hoping that she would be tall enough to ride it. The ride minimum height was 40 inches and B was 41 inches (yea!!!! – there would have been quite a meltdown if she was not tall enough). Then J and B rode it and B loved it as well! Incidentally after J and B got off of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the wait time for the ride said 80 minutes. We got really lucky with that ride. We all rode the Haunted Mansion next which B did not like at all. She said that “it was a little bit scary.” Next was a much more kid-friendly ride, It’s a Small World, which was a big hit. Other attractions that we went on included Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic (a 3-D musical adventure where B refused to wear her special 3-D glasses). We debated whether to see fireworks but it was a long couple of days and the kids were ready for bed so we left around 9PM catching a little bit of the Spectromagic parade as we walked out of the park. Incidentally, that is the best way to see a parade. Why get to a perfect spot an hour early sitting in the heat and then have people plow in front of you minutes before the parade starts?

Once we got back to the hotel, it was bedtime (or so we thought). The kids fell asleep pretty quickly around 10 but J and H were awakened by the people in the hotel room next to us. They got back to their room after 11PM and they were incredibly loud – laughing and shouting probably after a night of adult beverages. Once they belted into a chorus of Reo Speedwagon’s Keep on Loving You, J was at his breaking point. J called the front desk to complain about the noise and the lady who answered the phone said that she would ask security to check out the situation. At the end of the call, the Disney employee told J to “have a magical day.” J was dumbfounded by this response and groggily hung up the phone. Fortunately, the commotion stopped and we got to sleep.

St. Augustine, FL

(written by J)

We started Day 2 by driving into the town of St. Augustine, the oldest town in the United States. It is a very pretty town with many old buildings inspired by Spanish architecture. The first building we visited was the Oldest One Room Schoolhouse in the United States. We had to buy tickets in the gift shop where the kids spotted Webkinz, those adorable stuffed animals that have virtual lives on the Internet, with their eagle eyes. Z and B already have 4 Webkinz but they wanted more. We told them that if they were good seeing the schoolhouse, they could each buy one. Z was very good and enjoyed the school (probably because he could relate it by just finishing Kindergarten). B did not enjoy it as much and kept whining “Springer Spaniel” for the Webkinz dog she wanted. Highlights of the school included the animatronic boy who was wearing a dunce cap and the special dungeon area for kids who misbehaved. Z even rung the schoolhouse bell before we left. After the schoolhouse, Z got a Webkinz turtle and B got the springer spaniel that she so desired. We then took a very brief look inside the Oldest Drug Store which just seemed to want to sell you new things. The next stop on our visit was the Fountain of Youth. J thought that we would just walk up to the fountain, take a picture, and depart. Instead it was a 45 minute presentation which started inside a tiny planetarium to see how the stars looked the night before Ponce de Leon arrived ashore at St. Augustine (Z was mesmerized by the show… B didn’t like the dark) and ended with our tour guide, a bald man with a large tattoo on his arm, advising us that we could buy beer at the concession stand. We all got to drink water from the fountain which was cool. The fountain itself was very plain, it was just a well. But hey, the fountain is from the 1500s so you wouldn’t expect it to be ornate. Next stop – Disney World!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Savannah, GA

We left home at almost 4am this morning. J drove a whopping almost 4 hours before we stopped (incredible since H is pregnant and there are two relatively small kids in the car... luckily, they went back to sleep once we got on the road!). We only stopped one other time before arriving in Savannah... so that the kids could get out of the car and run for a few minutes because Z's leg was hurting him from so much sitting (these are NOT kids that are used to sitting still!). Once in Savannah (about 11am, people... that's why we always leave so early!), we ate lunch at an awesome old pirate haunt, The Pirate's House. The building was preserved incredibly well, the artifacts were interesting, and the food was good. The kids received pirate hats to wear and said a lot of "argh"s while we waited for our food. After lunch, we took a trolley tour of Savannah. We had no idea it was such a small town. The city was one of few that was not burned by the Union in the Civil War, so there were many old houses still standing (build a brick house if you don't already have one... it should hold up at least 150 years). Although I couldn't really see spending more than a weekend here, there were a lot of shops by the river, and walks through the neighborhoods and many museums would be a relaxing time. Not fabulously, the heat index was about 105, so we roasted. Z proclaimed the tour boring and slept through a lot of it (totally zonked because of getting up so early), while B kept standing up on the seat (luckily we were in the back of the trolley) and seemingly tried to fall out of the window (she didn't). So much for encouraging them to learn the histories of the places we visit. We arrived in St. Augustine, FL around 5pm and will be visiting the Nation's Oldest City for a couple of hours in the morning before heading to the only place the kids want to go on our trip.

H signing off for now (that's right... my first blog post since Chicago two years ago, I think!).