Day 3: Epcot

Wednesday was Emma’s special surprise day.  Whenever she tried to guess what it was, she would say, “Oh!  I hope it’s a souvenir shop!”  She really wanted to find that pirate dog again…

Emma’s surprise was actually a luncheon with five of the Disney Princesses, but we had a lot of Epcot to see before lunch!

Our trip coincided with Epcot’s flower and garden show – throughout the park (and other parks) there were topiaries of Disney characters.

We first made our way through Pixie Hollow, where Emma directed Joel and his phone to the fairy houses she wanted him to photograph.  There were also some small playground features.  We also visited Bambi’s butterfly garden and had fun seeing some common and new-to-us species.

Epcot has two parts; Future World and World Showcase.  Because our lunch was in the country of Norway in the World Showcase, we headed on our tour of the world first.  We were sidetracked by iced coffees and pastries for just a bit, then found ourselves walking the streets of Mexico, surrounded by bright colors, peppers drying on adobe houses and mariachi music blaring from speakers.  We visited a mercado, where Aedan fell in love with a set of bongos that were out of his price range.  The poor guy was heartbroken through much of Europe, but eventually recovered.

Norway was the next country on the map, and also featured a ride on the Viking ship Maelstrom.  We had plenty of time to ride, find our restaurant and peruse neighboring China.  Mulan greets guests in China, and we were able to catch a glimpse of her but were told by her handler that they were closing the line.

It was soon time for lunch, and we took Emma to the check-in location.  She read the signs and knew she was doing something with royalty, but could never figure out the word buffet.  When our reservation time arrived, the greeter called, “Now seating the Royal Althoff Family, party of 4!”  That was pretty cute.

The entryway of the small castle displayed a book providing more clues about our activity, and Emma understood that we were attending a royal feast.  When we rounded the next corner she was surprised to see Belle posing for pictures with families and signing autographs, and even more surprised to see Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella and Ariel sashaying from table to table in the storybook finery.

After our photo session with Belle, we were seated and instructed on the menu.  The restaurant served “traditional” Norwegian food for kiddies and adults, along with some favorite kid’s menu items.  All of the diners were invited to begin with a cold buffet of meats, cheeses, salads, breads and fish.  As we ate our appetizers and later our entrees (meatballs for Joel and mushroom stuffed ravioli for me – both delicious!), the princesses walked from table to table for photos, autographs and small talk.  It appeared that each princess had a handler with a map to help the royals remember which tables to visit.

The girls were wonderfully in character; Snow White skipped between the tables with her skirt in one hand and talked in a very high-pitched voice.  She complemented Emma and her choice of dress and made her pose with her skirt in one hand for pictures, just like Snow White.  Cinderella told Emma that the mice had done a very nice job on her hair.  Ariel and Emma joked about Sebastian getting into trouble in the kitchen and having close encounters with the chef.

At one point during the lunch, a special announcement was made and all of the children were invited to line up with the Princess nearest them for a parade.  Each of the Princesses carried a basket or bouquet of flowers and joined with the other lines to form one large procession.  Aedan sat this one out – he had nothing to do with the girls!

A plate of desserts ended our royal luncheon, and we were soon on our way to finish our tour around the world.

It warmed considerably while we were tucked away in Norway; a stop in shady Germany for reapplication of sunscreen, a German beer for Joel and a visit to Snow White’s topiaries helped us ease into the heat.

After Italy we turned around to walk back to China, knowing that Mulan was due to return.

Emma brought her newly purchased Mulan doll to Epcot, and told Mulan that she had purchased the doll because she though Mulan was quite brave.  I often worried when Emma greeted characters because she chatted so much and seemed to generate so much interest and conversation from the characters that I was sure people in line behind us were annoyed.

Mulan, though, acted like she had all the time in the world to discuss war and women’s rights and hair combs with Emma.

Canada seemed like Nebraska-we only glanced at it as we were walking through.  The UK, though, had several sets of characters that we saw but did not visit.  We were on a mission to see Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco, just past France.

Jasmine and Aladdin were adorable – each time a greeter left they would join together and clasp hands while they awaited the next family.  Aladdin noticed that Aedan was wearing a pirate hat and told him that he must be a street rat like himself.

Lightning McQueen and Mater topiaries awaited us in Japan, and then we began our backtrack around the world.

We stopped in the UK for snacks – Bass for Mommy and Stella for Daddy, and another pastry for the kids.  There was an amazing band playing, and we found a shady spot nearby to dance and relax.  (at least three people said “Go Hawks!” to Joel when he wore this shirt on Wednesday)

Aedan made a penny flute from a stick…

…and Emma danced her best jig.

The crowd thinned considerably by the time we rounded the corner into Future World.  We decided to ride Spaceship Earth and The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and enjoyed them both with very little waiting.

We rode the shuttle bus back to our hotel, ate and went to bed knowing that Thursday would require an early rise!