Honeymoon Trip Report: EPCOT World Showcase Pt. 1

Of the two “worlds” of EPCOT, World Showcase may seem less entertaining on paper – especially if you are only looking for attractions – but it actually offers a lot more than meets the eye. This trip was the first time that either one of us really took the time to explore all of the countries.

We had both walked around World Showcase plenty of times before. However, we had never gone in to as many shops and restaurants as we did this trip.

The biggest dilemma when entering World Showcase is which direction to head. Clockwise will start you off in Mexico and end in Canada. Counter-clockwise offers the opposite.

If you want to eat sooner rather than later, head to your right and start with Canada. If you want to “be on a boat” a couple of times head to the left: Donald and the Vikings await.

Since I like to eat and be a rebel, I’ll start the report in Canada and work my way to Mexico going counter-clockwise.

Canada

The best shot I could find of the pavilion as a whole.

Canada offers beautiful landscaping and delicious food but not much in the way of shopping or attractions. Ashley and I have yet to watch “O Canada” the Martin Short, CircleVision 360 show.  One of the reasons being it’s hard to actually find unless you walk all the way to the back of the country and take the stairs down into what looks like an abandoned polar bear exhibit in a zoo. Apparently, there is a theatre somewhere under the Canada pavilion, or maybe its above Le Cellier, I’m not sure. Add that to the “List of things to explore when at Disney next.”

A big rock

The vegetation and colors there are wonderful

The shopping leaves a little to be desired as far as number of shops. There is essentially one shop – the Northwest Mechantile – that has multiple doors and offers a wide variety of, you guessed it, Canadian themed merchandise: real maple syrup, hockey stuff and lots of moose. In addition to all of that sweet swag, the shop also has the absolute BEST Mickey Ear hat available anywhere on Disney property.

OK. I get the hockey ear and the maple leaf ear. But, are beavers so prominent in Canada that they would be featured front and center on the hat?

Also, Canada has arguably the best restaurant on Disney property in Le Cellier. Yes, there are many restaurants we haven’t been to at Disney so it’s hard to rule them out. Yes, there are restaurants we went to that we may have had one bad experience at and should probably visit again because they are good. And yes we were on the dining plan and got to experience a lot of restaurants in a way we probably never will again; free dessert and whatever entrée we want? I can handle that. BUT, Le Cellier was so good we went there twice, I’m just saying.

“The Cellar”

We actually changed our plans – which had been in place for many months and had been combed through and tweaked hundreds of times – so we could eat their twice. The filet mignon with mashed potatoes was the best meal I had on our entire trip. I actually had a steak a couple of days ago for my birthday and it was so average that I didn’t enjoy it. Le Cellier has ruined steaks for me: I am spoiled, what can I say? The berry cheesecake I got both times for dessert was also delicious. Ashley opted for the Chocolate “Mouse” both times. It’s safe to say poor little moose fared better the first time around even though he got devoured.

It may not look appetizing but this cheese soup was delicious. Especially with pretzel bread dipped in it.

My fruit cheesecake. I got it as my dessert both times. I wasn’t adventurous enough to try the maple creme brulee.

Ashley’s chocolate “moose”

 

This was my cheesecake the second time we went. This time we got a white chocolate congratulations.

Ashley’s second chocolate “moose.” This time to go.

Well, Mr “Moose” didn’t fair to well in the Florida heat.

Also, the theming and atmosphere of the restaurant are phenomenal; it really does feel like you are in a wine cellar somewhere eating the best steak of your life.

The mood inside the restaurant is incredibly relaxing

The restaurant itself is not very big. Because of this it is very quiet.

United Kingdom

NOTE: Because I wasn’t intending on writing about our trip I didn’t take ANY pictures of the UK pavilion. easywdw.com and tombricker.smugmug.com have lots and they are of much higher quality than anything I would have taken anyway.

After walking past Off Kilter rockin’ the bagpipes you enter United Kingdom. I’ve never been to the UK (Actually, I’ve never been to any of the countries in World Showcase except the United States and an extremely brief visit to Canada) but, as usual in World Showcase, the theming is amazing. From the telephone boxes to the cobblestone streets to the fish and chips, the United Kingdom pavilion is a lot of fun.

Yorkshire Fish & Chips is always a good place to grab a quick bite, which I helped myself to on our trip. Although you only get two pieces of fish, they are reasonably big and the entire portion is enough to keep you full until your next meal. Rose and Crown is on our list of places to eat at Disney World; it looks like a lot of fun and they have a lot of beer, which I am a big fan of.

The shopping is decent here. If you want a soccer (football) jersey, look no further. Well, if you want an EPL jersey, look no further; the number of non-UK jerseys was a bit low. I was a bit disappointed in the amount of London 2012 merchandise though. Since they had just hosted the games a couple of weeks before our trip I figured there would be more Olympic stuff. Unfortunately the only thing we found was the Yo Gabba Gabba knock-off mascots: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Sport/Pix/pictures/2010/5/22/1274541178201/Wenlock-left-and-Mandevil-006.jpg. I suppose this makes sense though. The amount of licensing involved in all of that would be insane and Disney makes enough money selling their own merchandise so why bother selling Olympic stuff too.

While there, I led Ashley on a 10-minute search for the “Secret Gardens” I thought were “hidden” in the UK pavilion. Well, either I’m crazy (probable) or was thinking of something else (doubtful) but we never found such gardens. We found a nice little garden in the back with a fountain and flowers and benches but I certainly wouldn’t call it “secret.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bChCRga3djw

And in case you are counting, so far we are 0 for 2 on attractions at countries going counter-clockwise. Besides shopping and eating there isn’t a whole lot to do in United Kingdom, although there are a lot of street performances that are entertaining and should definitely be checked out. We didn’t watch them this trip but I’ve seen the comedy skit in the past and it’s hilarious – Of course I am a huge fan of British humor so the show is right up my alley.

France

Ashley modeling France for me 🙂

A quick jaunt over the channel (literally) brings you to France. If you like to eat and/or drink, head right to France, do not stop at Canada and do not stop in the UK.

Our batting average remains under the Mendoza line as we are now 0 for 3 on attractions, unless you count Impressions de France (Impressions of France for all my non-French speaking cohorts). However, I think the abundance of superb food and drink overshadows this fact. It’s kind of like when a short stop is a phenomenal fielder but a terrible better: there are eight other guys on the team to pick up the slack in batting but you need his glove on the field so you keep him in the lineup (Side Note: I’ve never been to the Wide World of Sports even though I have been to Disney about 10 times).

Even though Disney was apparently expanding it while we were there, the Boulangerie Patisserie (I like to think the italics make it sound French) was open and DELICIOUS. I had never been to it before our previous trip when Ashley “opened my eyes” but now I’m a big fan. Oh my. It’s like French Heaven. There are so many good-looking things to eat there I don’t know if I will ever be able to try them all. So far, the chocolate croissant is my favorite but there are some others that could potentially dethrone it. Full disclosure, I didn’t actually get anything from here this trip. Ashley did, I did not. Instead, I opted to try Tangerine Cafe for the first time (later in the post).

We didn’t go to either of the other, fancier restaurants but they do look appetizing. Bistro de Paris was actually being refurbished for our enjoyment while we were there so even if we would have wanted to go we would have been denied. Chefs de France just didn’t make the cut when it came down to which table service restaurants we visited this trip.

My wrinkled neck blocking the Eiffel Tower

My wrinkled neck not blocking the Eiffel Tower. Too bad this intrusive family RUINED our picture.

Our “Mini Drink Around the World Tour” started in France. I got the Grand Marnier Orange Slush and Ashley got the Grey Goose Slush. Well, I actually ordered both for us to share but since Ashley didn’t like the Grand Marnier one I got stuck with it. I’m not complaining though. You will see more “Mini Drink Around the World Tour” references to come; please try to contain your excitement.

Expensive but yummy

The shopping in France looks like it would be very extravagant if I were interested in any of it. Too fancy for my pants. They do have a lot of shops though and there were a lot of people buying a lot of things in them.

Morocco

NOTE: Once again, blogging fail on my part. Only a couple of picture taken in Morocco and they were with my phone so the quality is even worse than the rest of the pictures…

As a child this was my least favorite country. I just didn’t get it I guess. Maybe it was the natural architecture that looked boring compared to the big, colorful, “normal” looking buildings in the rest of the countries. Maybe it was the fact that my parents weren’t interested in the shopping or the dining options so we usually sped past it. Maybe it was the time we got trapped in the bathrooms during a torrential downpour. Who knows?

Reminds me of a prison

This trip I was set on visiting Morocco because I had to check out the Tangerine Cafe. I had read a lot about it on various Disney sites and knew this was a place I had to eat at. I’ve never considered myself an adventurous eater but compared to the rest of my family I look like Andrew Zimmern.

Coming from France the bathrooms from Hell are the first thing you see. While not exactly pleasing to the eye nor something you want to see when you first arrive in a country, they certainly aren’t a dump. Anyway…the Tangerine Cafe is the next thing you see. The towering building is quite impressive when you stand next to it. The lack of doors on what appear to be every building in the pavilion actually make everything quite inviting; you can just walk right in and go about your business.

I ordered the Lamb Shawarma platter. The $15+ total after a drink and dessert would have really hurt the wallet, especially for a quick service meal, had we not been on the dining plan. Because of this I was not only happy with the mound of food in front of me but also with Disney’s generosity in providing my wife and I “free” food. The platter had a very healthy portion of lamb, a nice, warm, fluffy pita bread disc, the best humus I have ever had, some sort of rice dish (couscous) and some NASTY greens (tabouleh). I don’t know what they make tabouleh out of but I’d rather not have it again.

I concocted my own Moroccan burrito/taco/gordita: Lamb covered in cucumber sauce, onions, humus and couscous wrapped in pita. Easily one of the best things I have eaten at a Disney quick service location.

Ashley’s baguette and croissant. You can almost see my food on the left.

After gorging myself and watching Ashley hoover her ham and cheese baguette from France, we did a little shopping (read: looking). There was a lot of things to look at, especially jewelry. I found a fez and wanted to buy it but cooler heads (Ashley) prevailed and I did not purchase one. Although, I got a nice picture wearing one 🙂

Fez’s are cool. I was in full Dr. Who garb this day.

Still sitting on a goose egg as far as attractions go: o for 4.

Japan

I actually took a picture of most of a pavilion. I may be learning something here.

Japan wins the award for “Largest gift shop I have ever been in oh my God this is redonkulous.” For real though. Holy crap, it’s huge. The Mitsukoshi Department Store feels like it is larger than some of the other pavilions. Though we didn’t buy any substantial items we had quite a time in the back of the store perusing the food and drink section. We scored some shrimp flavored fries (chips) which smelled like fish food and didn’t taste much better, a can of Dragonball-Z soda which I gifted to my brother, a couple pair of chopsticks which still haven’t been used and almost bought a giant can of Koala Yummy’s – I don’t actually know what these are called but the normal size packages are much smaller than the ones at this store. You can see the size comparison between the huge box on the left and the normal box on the right in the picture below.

Rough translation: YUMMY

We also saw this shirt. I suppose the only better kind of party would be of the sexy variety.

Aesthetically, Japan is one of the most beautiful pavilions in World Showcase. The torii gate facing the lagoon is the obvious focal point but there is so much more to soak in. The blue-roofed buildings and all of the natural streams and ponds make the pavilion the most relaxing of the bunch. The Taiko drummers are also very entertaining and put on quite the show.

As far as eats go, we didn’t partake in any of the fare while in Japan but discovered the coolest spot in Disney. The Katsura Grill has such a wonderful atmosphere I almost got something to eat even though I had just stuffed myself with Tangerine Cafe. There is a nice garden outside with ample seating. The paper lanterns normally associated with Japan and Japanese decor hang amongst the monkey trees and even the decor inside is calming. This is all after you walk up a nice little stairwell lined with lush foliage and coy ponds. I don’t know if the food is any good but the atmosphere sure won me over. In fact, it won me over so much I didn’t even take a picture!

We continue to go hit-less as far as attractions go (o for 5 is a normal day at the office for Ryan Raburn) but there is a nice art gallery in Japan. We opted not to look at any of it but from what I could see walking past the entrance it looked pretty baller.

…And once again, laziness has set in and I am going to split World Showcase into two posts. I know, I know, just get it over with so we can stop the torture. Believe me, I wouldn’t willingly read my own writing either. At least you can look forward to some patriotism (which I promised last time I know, broken promises plague my life), more amateur picture and that “celebrity” that hasn’t shown up yet!

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