Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Final Hours at Walt Disney World

Sunday 1 June 2016. We've done it. We've reached the final article in this series which has lasted twice as long as the holiday itself! If you can remember from the previous article, we are having our final day in the Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella's Castle. Despite appearances it is not made of individual bricks, but is mostly reinforced concrete over a steel frame. Construction took 18 months and it employs forced perspective. The higher you look, the smaller the features such as doors to balconies and windows, which make it appear higher than it really is.

It is fairly tall anyway. Most sources quote 189 feet but that's measured from the foundations which are six feet beneath the moat. It's a bit of a mix of styles, looking like a medieval fortress castle, all sturdy windowless walls at the bottom, but Gothic Revival above.

Along one wall of the archway through the ground floor is a series of mosaics telling the story of Cinderella. Five panels set into Gothic arches were filled with over 300,000 pieces of hand-cut Italian glass and marble and rough glass traditionally used to make tesserae (mosaic pieces). Over 500 colours were used and some tiles are coated in silver or 14 carat gold.

The second and fifth panels have doors in them so the mosaic picture is concentrated to the space over the door with decoration to each side of the door. Here in the second panel, the Fairy Godmother does her stuff.

It went a bit busy for a while so I've had to include a couple of blurry people passing the mosaic on the third panel which shows our heroine fleeing the ball and losing her slipper on the steps as the clock chimes midnight.

Some license was used with the colours. You may have noticed that the Fairy Godmother was a touch purple of face. This helps explain her "other worldliness" as much as being due to her concentration levels. In the fourth scene of Cinderella trying on the glass slipper note the Ugly Sisters, one of whom is red with anger whilst the other is green with envy!

Oh... and I couldn't get a pic of the final panel which contains the door to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where you can pay around $230 including tax for the basic package to have your daughter pampered for somewhere between one to two hours as she is transformed into her favourite made-up and coiffured, be-gowned and sequinned princess. You can pay extras for things like shoes. If you have a little girl who can't sit still or who gets fed up quickly then I'd forget it and just cringe at the state of someone else's kid...

As we emerge from the castle archway we are in Fantasyland. It has a medieval European feeling and facing us is Prince Charming's Regal Carousel. With a bit of artistic license, the Sword in the Stone can be found standing in front of it.

Gable ends and turrets and half-timbered buildings abound. They house merchandise, food outlets and rides. Most of Fantasyland is off to the right, but to the left you will find (darn, there goes that song again!) It's A Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, and Mickey's PhilharMagic, which is a 3D film with some good special effects.

At the back of Prince Charming's Regal Carousel is one of many stroller parks to be found in the park. You can leave your pram (or stroller as the Americans call them) here whilst you go on a ride or for however long you want. As prams are collected, leaving others standing isolated, they are moved to the nearest remaining prams by attendant Cast Members, which must make it fun for anyone trying to find their pram and finding an empty space instead. By early afternoon these parking lots can be fairly large!

It says ice cream, but if you are looking for something else, it's always worth checking a menu board. All the outlets sell a range of drinks from water to fizzy drinks and tea/coffee.

We head out of the park and across the ferry to the landing at the Grand Floridian where we have a meal booked at Narcoossee's Restaurant. They served bread with the starter that was just ordinary bread, not the sickly sweet stuff we have been given to leave untouched for the whole fortnight. Oh Bliss! But then the butter pats came with sugar crystals sprinkled all over them... The meal though was lovely.

Afterwards Gill and Eddie decided to take Grace back for a rest. It would certainly be a long day tomorrow. We caught the ferry back to the Magic Kingdom and headed into Adventureland.

It was starting to go dark and all the lights were coming on. The park takes on a different aspect in the dark, though the sky is still only just starting to lose its brightness.

We cross into Frontierland. Put the people in western dress and it would look really authentic!

It may be approaching evening, but the temperature is still way up there. We pass the Shooting Gallery and cross back into Fantasyland in the top corner of the park. The queue for Peter Pan's Flight is only 35 minutes and we head in there.

Yeow... The temperature of so many people in the small corridors of the queue takes the temperature up to sky high proportions. Like the Winnie the Pooh ride, the queue is full of cool things. You wander through the Darling children's bedroom. On one wall you can see your shadows, but there are also the shadows of lots of butterflies jigging about. If you are quick you can make your shadow catch a butterfly and it will then sit on your hand for a while! Then the butterflies turn into bells and your shadow can hit them and you hear them ring!

This is a very long 35 minutes... The guy before us in the queue was totally ignoring his wife and small daughter and was watching a baseball game on his phone. Something must have happened, requiring the ride software to be reset perhaps. We were in the heat of the queue for an hour. Then the two-minute ride and we came out into a darkened park.

We reached Prince Charming's Regal Carousel again. The number of prams in the parking area had reduced to a small number.

For some reason the sky at twilight always looks bright on photographs, probably because it is bright compared to things around you. But the carousel looked really good all lit up and I took a photo which looked like broad daylight with a totally white sky... Luckily I managed to bring the light levels down to something more like what we were seeing when I got home to my computer and PhotoShop. I don't agree with purists who insist photos should be straight from the camera. Cameras lie.

We came back through Cinderella's Castle and I took this photo looking down towards and along Main Street U.S.A. Only a few minutes separate this photo from the one of the carousel, but we must be looking towards the darkening sky here.

We wandered around the park for a bit as I wanted a chance to photograph the castle in darkness. But - wimps that we are - we were really tired and the thought of waiting another hour for the fireworks and then facing the crush of people waiting for buses to the resort didn't really appeal.

We gave a mental and heartfelt salute to all those Disney Imagineers and Cast Members who had made the Florida experience such a memorable one and walked out of the park for the last time.

Monday 2 May 2016. The following morning we had to be out of our rooms by 8:00am. We had ordered a taxi to take our luggage to the resort's Customs House where the front desk was, but we had to chase the firm up before they arrived.

Then a final breakfast and whilst the ladies looked round the shop for the last time Eddie and I tried out the machines in the small arcade. I won at pinball - he won at basketball...

I found a few minutes to sketch another bit of Barefoot Bay round by the side of Centertown. A cheerleader came jogging round and said "That's really pretty!" as she passed.

Then a small Japanese woman came to talk. She was a Cast Member and was waiting for a party to arrive for their bus to the airport. Although the time had been specified in the brochure, she said the bus would have visited several other resorts first and might arrive anything up to 15 minutes early. They had refused point blank to arrive any earlier than the stated time however - to the point of getting angry at her and she was worried the bus might not wait.
"The brochure time is the time the bus is due to leave, not the time they should turn up!" she worried. I guess there are stupid people the world over... "What is it you're doing?" she asked and I showed her the almost finished sketch. "Oh..." she said, then, "Oh! Is that the water???" You win some, you lose some...

We all congregated ourselves in timely fashion and caught the resort bus for the Customs House where we were reunited with our luggage very efficiently. On time, our bus arrived and we set off for the airport.

Orlando International is - as could be imagined - a very busy airport. There were long queues and frequent hold-ups because there were far fewer security gates than the preliminary security desks feeding them. Other queues may well have gone quicker, but I've long since reconciled to the fact that getting frustrated at airports only winds up yourself and the people in your party. So when another stop came just as we reached the front of our queue, I just shrugged and began to chat with the chap on the desk, as did the man at the front of the other queue that he single-handedly had to cope with.
"It's tough knowing that everyone is staring at you, believing you are just not working fast enough," he said, "but luckily at the moment I've got two friendly faces in front of me!"

We got onto our plane with no problem and then came the long flight home. I hope you've enjoyed this trip as much as I've enjoyed reliving it whilst writing the blog. Fourteen days holiday became twenty five blog articles over the space of thirty one days.

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