Aware that our time in Orlando was coming to an end and that our autograph book was seemingly empty, our mission for the last day in the parks was to meet as many characters as possible. Heading to Magic Kingdom, we first queued up in the Town Hall to meet Tinkerbell. Mickey Mouse also does meet and greets in the Town Hall but we got there twenty minutes after opening time and the queue was already fifty minutes long. Not many people know that he also does a meet and greet in Epcot, thus meaning the line is always considerably shorter, so we came to the conclusion that waiting until later in the day when we planned to head back to Epcot would make more sense. Next stop was the Princess Hall, where Cinderella, Elena, Rapunzel and Tiana make their appearances. Unfortunately, Tiana was unavailable, but Snow White was there instead which meant one less character to meet at Epcot. Neither of us actually knew who Princess Elena was, which was kind of awkward when she started asking us if we’d seen her sidekick (whose name I don’t even remember), so we listened to some of the excitable kids who were waiting in line close to us before we went in. Turns out she’s a princess from a Disney Channel show! Who knew?
Next on our journey was Merida, one of my favourite princesses. Since I was wearing honeymoon Minnie ears, she knew that we had somewhat recently got married and asked what I had made Sam do in order to win my hand. She was seriously disappointed when the answer was not archery! Just around the corner from Merida was Peter Pan. Since we had met Tink, it was only right that we stopped to see Peter too! I must say, the actor played his character perfectly; he was exactly like an excitable child, darting around here, there and everywhere and getting easily distracted. He asked us what we wanted him to write in our book before telling us that he only knew how to write his name anyway, and then he told us his favourite joke: “Where does Captain Hook go to get new hooks? The second hand shop”
As we walked into Adventure Land, we saw Jasmine and Aladdin, but unfortunately the queue was closed for their break. We decided not to wait as Jasmine is also in Epcot, so we headed to Gaston’s Tavern. We had already missed him once and the cast member had closed the queue again but took pity on us and let us sneak on the end. It’s amazing how rude some people are to the cast members when they tell them that the queue has closed but they can come back in x amount of minutes – they’re just doing their jobs! Gaston, being the only villain you can meet at the moment, had a lot to live up to. His character was perfect and I must admit I swooned a bit! Him and Sam made plans for storming the castle again after determining that his downfall the first time was that he was chanting “kill the beast” all the way there so Beast knew he was coming – he won’t make that mistake this time!
After lunch, we took the monorail back to Epcot. We decided to take break from meeting characters, so we first headed to the Short Film Festival where they played Mickey Mouse in Get a Horse, Feast and Piper (my favourite short). We then made our way to World Showcase to meet the rest of the characters, mainly princesses, and explore the countries in more depth.
Canada was our first destination. No characters here but there was a weird film in a circle theatre. The screens are all the way around the room, and it leaves you feeling a little off balance. The film shows you all the best bits of the country. Outside is full of wooden skiing huts and totem poles. The Canadian menu comprises of Canadian Cheddar cheese soup and Le Cellier wild mushroom filet beef mignon.
The next stop on our world tour was the United Kingdom. They have the most amazing representation of English including a Yorkshire fish shop serving fish and chips and Victoria sponge cake, a Twinings Tea shop full of different teas and British chocolates and sweets, and a park bandstand with a live band playing the most famous British anthems. As well as the English chippy there are also takeaway stands with Irish and Scottish dishes to choose from. The Irish menu features roasted Irish sausage with potatoes and onion gravy, warm Irish Cheddar cheese and stout dip with Irish brown bread and warm chocolate pudding with Irish cream liqueur custard and the Scottish menu features potato pancakes with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream, traditional Scottish lamb stew with neeps and tatties and the Tipsy Laird cake (whiskey-soaked cake with lemon cream and toasted oats). In the United Kingdom you can meet Alice and Mary Poppins. Sadly, Mary Poppins does very limited appearances and we couldn’t make it to her, but we did manage to catch Alice.
The third destination was France. Complete with Guerlain and Dior counters, you can buy your expensive French cosmetics and perfume here or dine in the fancy restaurant situated next to a mini Eiffel Tower. The French menu comprises of warm goat cheese pudding with spinach, escargot croissant with garlic and parsley, Boeuf Bourgignon with mashed potatoes and creme brulee with homemade raspberry jam. You can meet two princesses in France: Aurora and Belle.
We then moved on to Morocco where you can meet Princess Jasmine (but not Aladdin, sadly). The Moroccan menu comprises of kefta pockets, spicy hummus fries with tzatziki and chocolata baklava. When you walk through Morocco, you feel like you’re walking through the streets of Agrabah surrounded by off-white buildings with colourful bulbous tops, complete with belly dancers performing in the street.
Japan is probably the most beautiful country in World Showcase. Both myself and Samuel both love Japanese culture and architecture. All the buildings are traditional pagoda-style with lots of elaborate decoration, and there’s a huge shop that sells toys, home accessories and decorations from the most popular Japanese shows such as Pokemon and Hello Kitty, as well as traditional Japanese clothing and foods. There is also a live pearl display – you pay a certain amount and you pick an oyster out of the tank in front of you. The staff then remove and clean the pearl for you to keep. It’s fascinating to watch and it doesn’t actually harm the animal either, they are simply placed into a tank in the back so they can grow the next pearl. Attached to this huge shop is also a anime convention room that features Japanese pop culture in a museum-like fashion. There are no characters to meet in Japan, but the architecture and decor is amazing to look at. The Japanese menu comprises of salmon BLT sushi rolls and teriyaki ginger pork.
In the centre of World Showcase is the American Adventure. Obviously this is the biggest and most detailed country in the showcase, but to be quite honest, we skipped by it! I think there’s some kind of anamatronic feature in there.
Next comes Italy, which is decked out to look like the Vatican Square. You could honestly picture the Pope hanging out of the one of the tall windows! Once again, there are no characters to meet here. The menu features crispy calamari, beef stew with Parmesan creamy polenta, Absolut penne and chocolate cannolis with sweet ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit.
From Italy, you move on to Germany. Again, there are no characters in this area but a lot to look at included a miniature village and working train line, a shop filled with Haribo and other German chocolates and sweets and of course a Bratwurst stand. The buildings are all very castle-esque, complete with turrets and wooden beams, and the sound of yodeling fills the area as a lederhosen-clad band perform nearby while the smell of sizzling Bratwursts fills your nostrils. The German menu features schinkennudeln, roast bratwurst and apple strudel.
Next to Germany is China (who was in charge of geography for Epcot?!). Having visited China, I loved this section as I would love to go back one day. I love Chinese culture just as much as Japanese culture. The building were all red and gold pagoda-styles and there was a huge fountain with acrobats performing around. Inside the shops you could purchase traditional Chinese dresses, bonsai trees, oriental fans and wall hanging and fortune cookies amongst other things. The Chinese menu comprised of Beijing roasted duck in a bao bun with hoisin sauce, spicy chicken in a bao bun, black pepper shrimp with garlic noodles and chicken pot stickers. I’m gutted I didn’t get to try any of the Chinese food as it’s my favourite cuisine, but Sam is more of an Italian man! In China, you can also meet Mulan.
The penultimate destination is Norway which is hugely popular with children at the moment due to the connection to Frozen. Wooden cabins decorated with antlers sell a variety of Frozen merchandise, and there is a Frozen ride (which we didn’t go on, due to the queue being almost two hours long) and a meet and greet with Anna and Elsa.
The last country to visit is Mexico. There is a lot of emphasis on the day of the dead festival and you are immediately greeted by an eight-foot tall day of the dead bride, groom, cat and dog. The whole atmosphere here is amazing. The restaurant inside the Mexico feature is simply beautiful; candlelit table settings next to a huge lake creates a romantic setting for couples to dine. There is also a small slow-paced ride featuring Donald Duck. The Mexican menu comprises of rib eye taco, tequila chipotle shrimp and cajeta mousse.
As well as these main countries, there are also smaller features for other countries. These also have their own menus, listed below:
Hawaii – Kalua pork slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise, grilled tuna tataki with seasonal salad, pickled cucumbers and wasabi cream, teryaki-glazed spam hash with potatoes, peppers, onions and spicy mayonnaise, passionfruit cheesecake with toasted macadamia nuts
Patagonia – beef empanada, grilled beef skewer with chimichurri sauce
Islands of the Caribbean – Jamaican beef patty with mango salsa, mojo pork with black beans, cilantro rice and pickled red onions, quesito
Australia – grilled sweet and spicy bush berry shrimp with pineapple, peppers, onions and snap peas, grilled lamb t-bone with mint pesto and potato crunchies, lamington cake
New Zealand – steamed green lip mussels with garlic butter and toasted breadcrumbs, lamb meatball with spicy tomato chutney, seared venison loin with wild mushroom sauce
Brazil – layered meat pie with mashed yucca, crispy pork belly with black beans, tomatoes and onions, Brazilian cheese bread
Belgium – beer-braised beef with mashed potatoes, Belgian waffles with warm chocolate ganache or berry compote and whipped cream
Spain – charcuterie in a cone with a selection of Spanish meats, cheeses and olives with a herb vinaigrette, traditional Spanish paella, seafood salad, sweet olive oil cake with powdered sugar and lemon curd
Africa – Berbere-style beef tenderloin tips with onions, jalepenos, tomato and pap, spicy Ethiopian red lentil stew with yogurt and quinoa, spinach and paneer cheese pocket
India – warm Indian bread with pickled garlic, mango salsa and corriander pesto dips, madras red curry with roasted cauliflower, baby carrots, chickpeas and basmati rice, korma chicken with cucumber tomato salad, almonds and warm naan bread, pistachio cardamon bundt cake
Thailand – marinated chicken with peanut sauce and stir fried vegetables, seared shrimp and scallop cake with cold noodle salad, red hot thai spicy beef curry with steamed rice
Greece – loaded Greek nachos, stuffed grape leaves with lemon dill sauce, grilled octopus and feta dip with warm pitta, spanakopita, bougatsa
As well as touring the world in the Showcase section of Epcot, we also headed to Future World to meet Mickey Mouse, Baymax and Joy and Sadness. Baymax doesn’t talk or sign but he’s inflatable and squishy and does fist bumps. Joy and Sadness were played particularly well with Sadness using my veil to wipe her tears and Joy being over excited wanting to twirl in our dresses.
The day we were flying home! The whole two weeks had seemed to fly by; although we had done so much every single day, it almost felt like we’d not even been there for five minutes! After packing our cases and checking out of our room, we relaxed by the pool in the sunshine for a little bit before heading to Red Robin for lunch. Our flight was an overnight one, meaning we didn’t have to be at the airport until late afternoon. Red Robin has such a lovely relaxed atmosphere; the staff were really friendly and helpful and the food was delicious! I got good old fish and chips while Sam had a burger. As well as refillable drinks, Red Robin also offers refillable chips, which means baskets of chips keep appearing on your table until you tell the wait staff to stop! We were certainly full after that meal!
A taxi took us to the airport, and when we got there we were informed that there was a problem with the Virgin system, meaning we wouldn’t be able to have seats next to each other. Thankfully the return flight was only eight hours long, as opposed to the nine and a half hours it took us to get there, but I wasn’t happy about the thought of spending eight hours sat with complete strangers and it definitely made me a little anxious. However, with it being an overnight flight, I slept quite a lot and the couple I was sat with were actually really nice too.
The food on this flight wasn’t as good either; we still got unlimited drinks and a bag of sour cream and onion pretzels to begin with, but the options for main meals were not as wide. We both had teriyaki chicken with rice and the other options were spicy beef chilli or mushroom pasta. All the main meals were served with a ciabatta roll and butter, crackers and cheese and a red velvet cake, as well as bottled water and your choice of red or white wine. As it was an overnight flight, we were served ‘breakfast’ an hour or so before landing which consisted of warm pan au chocolat, fresh fruit and a yoghurt.
I was thoroughly disappointed to find that since our outgoing flight my favourite album (That’s The Spirit by Bring Me The Horizon) had been removed from the entertainment system. I had to make do with other music; I shouldn’t be complaining – I think I listened to Foo Fighters and You Me At Six, so still good choices!
We were so jet lagged when we landed. Thankfully we got through checks and could claim our bags rather quickly, with it being our home country, and my auntie and her wife were there ready to drive us home. I’m super happy I convinced Sam not to drive and park at Gatwick while we were away because there’s no way on this earth he would have been able to do the five hour drive home after that flight!