Sunday Reflection: Gaston’s Tavern

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Front of Gaston's Tavern

Just a couple of magical British care givers

Gaston statue

Impressive

Gaston's Hearth

Cozy

Gaston's Tavern Walls

Tiny fake heads

Le Fou's Brew

Le Fou’s Brew

Gaston's Chair

The comfy chair

Roasted Pork Shank and LeFou's Brew at Gaston's Tavern

Roasted Pork Shank and LeFou’s Brew (with extra foam)

Look at my pork shank!

Look at my pork shank!

 

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Live Tweeting Escape From Tomorrow

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Hi friends,

Here’s the geekiest, silliest blog post I’ve ever written. I watched the new film Escape From Tomorrow tonight on demand, and decided to “live tweet” my thoughts during the flick. (Any time you want to chat with me live, you can find me on Twitter at @MouseChow. I’m almost always around.)

If you missed it, here’s the play by play. Feel free to follow along as you watch it for yourself. It’s not a great movie – don’t say I didn’t warn you. And yes, there are spoilers.

Here goes:

Opening montage – Big Thunder Mountain #EscapeFromTomorrow

Quick images of SSE interspersed with Big Thunder montage. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Uh oh – Haunted Mansion images in the open sequence – spooky. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Opening scene – our hero is staying at the Contemporary, overlooking Magic Kingdom. Obviously disturbed. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Sweet kids locked Daddy out on the balcony while Mom keeps sleeping. Good thing Dad has his cell phone. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Every guest at the Contemporary has SARS and is entering the monorail. Monorail Gray obviously. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Photopass of family with the castle – wonder if the photographer was an actor? #EscapeFromTomorrow

Family is going on Snow White’s Scary Adventure. I’m jealous. #EscapeFromTomorrow

OK seriously, Winnie the Poo is totally scary, even not in black and white. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Hubby’s trying to get some on Poo, and my husband is saying, “See, it’s not just me!” #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim is freaking out on It’s a Small World. Uh oh. Familiar feeling. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I wonder how many people have actually freaked out on Small World for real? I bet Jim’s not alone. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Somehow Jim and his family went from Florida to California in the span of seconds. This IS a freaky movie. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim has very bad language in front of the child. No wonder he’s the Bad Seed. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim is mesmerized by the tween ‘ho’s at the Tomorrowland Speedway. This is unrealistic – kid thinks the cars are fast. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Yea! Tiki Birds! Nothing bad can happen here, right? Hey…that water spout is sort of suggestive. I never noticed. #EscapeFromTomorrow

No wonder he doesn’t dig his wife – she’s wearing multiple fanny packs. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Oh no! Jim is ditching his kid in Push the Garbage Can! #EscapeFromTomorrow

Dad “made” me go on Space Mountain. Yeah, right. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Little girl didn’t eat. I know why – they’re in Magic Kingdom. Girl has taste. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I’m really jealous of all of these people on the raft headed to Tom Sawyer Island. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Bringing back memories of chasing my 4-year-old through those caves. What a friggin’ nightmare. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Poor Sarah almost got run over by an EV! It’s just like @JKDisneyHip and @KJDisneyhip ‘s daughter all over again. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Does this nurse know something we don’t? That was some amazing acting. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Where did Jim get that tiny turkey leg? Definitely not at WDW. #EscapeFromTomorrow

This lady on the bench is creepy. Hypnotizing Jim with her bosom jewel. Ew. #EscapeFromTomorrow

OK – just turned way creepier. Find my hidden Mickey! #EscapeFromTomorrow

Somehow they took a Friendship boat from Epcot to the Contemporary. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I don’t recognize this pool – maybe one of the small pools at the Poly? Better not let the resort police catch you! #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim’s wife is kind of a bitch. I’m pretty sure she’s got good reasons considering Jim’s wandering penis. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I really see nothing wrong with the wife’s demeanor. She’s pretty much me at Disney. 10 minutes, Jim! #EscapeFromTomorrow

OK, the balconies at the Contemporary do have a pretty awesome view. Probably greatly improved by several beers. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Wow, I’ve never thought SSE looked like a giant testicle. Man is disturbed. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Finally, Jim is acting normal. Getting drunk in Epcot and trying on the fez in Morocco. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Yea! Jim got a giant beer at Biergarten. Why don’ they have another family at their table? #EscapeFromTomorrow

These princesses have better costumes than the real ones. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Grand Fiesta Tour! Nothing crazy better happen here. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Mary Blair makes Jim hallucinate. He shouldn’t have stayed at the Contemporary. #EscapeFromTomorrow

OK, wife now seeing freaky stuff. Must have had a bad margarita at @cavadeltequila #EscapeFromTomorrow

Just so you know, you might not want to use the hand dryers in the men’s bathroom near the Mexico pavilion. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Poor Jim. He found out he lost his job while at Disney. At least my company waited until the day I got back. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Disney seems to bring out the worst in this family. My husband says he’s never going back. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Hey, they’re leaving before Illuminations! #EscapeFromTomorrow

Yeah, Soarin’! Nothing creepy better happen on this ride. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Wait, I don’t remember that scene…#EscapeFromTomorrow

Is this the version of Soarin they play during Illuminations? I’ve never seen it. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Why is creepy Jim into this little 13 year old girl? SSE is imploding before letting him do something nasty with her. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Where’s Sarah? Did she go ride Livin’ With the Land? #EscapeFromTomorrow

Wow those CMs tazed Jim’s little spaceship earths. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Ooooh, is this the true inside of SSE? I always suspected that Siemen’s was doing something evil in that ball. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Does the scientist with the yellow tights and black go-go boots work in this lab? #EscapeFromTomorrow

This must be the “climax” of the movie. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Weirdly, I can smell Illuminations just watching it. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I don’t think I like this new Illuminations soundtrack. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim just took the friendship boats over to the Swan and Dolphin. This must be where the “Presidential Suite” was. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Sarah makes a very cute Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is creepy. #EscapeFromTomorrow

I’m not surprised that this nasty lady was a former Sleeping Beauty. She has the teeth for it. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Back to the Contemporary. This day really was hellish. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Jim is sort of sweaty. Maybe the air conditioning doesn’t work at the Contemporary. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Those turkey legs are catching up with Jim. @GoTeamMegan , you’re right I should have stopped. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Elliot is a mama’s boy. Jim shouldn’t have made him ride Space Mountain. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Wow, that cat flu is nasty stuff. #EscapeFromTomorrow

These Disney CMs are serious about cleanup. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Dammit, I KNEW those pins were evil. #EscapeFromTomorrow

Rope dropping Epcot…this is the happiest movie ever! #EscapeFromTomorrow

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH The End. A dream is a wish your heart makes…  #EscapeFromTomorrow

@EscapeTomorrow So I was snarky through the film, but truly it was fun. Quite a feat, too. Thanks for a good time! #EscapeFromTomorrow

So that’s it! Hope you had fun following along.

Super brief review: In general, I think for a low-budget “horror” movie it was OK. No Blair Witch Project, but I have a soft spot for WDW which helps it a bit. The high point for me was probably the Gran Fiesta Tour scene. Low point – the nurse.

The comparisons to David Lynch are waaaay overpromising. If you really want a David Lynch movie, watch a David Lynch movie. In fact, I think I may need to rewatch Blue Velvet to see how it’s really done.

So what did you think?

A Solo Introvert at Walt Disney World

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Inspired by episode 51 of the Disney Hipster Podcast, I started thinking back to all of the times I’ve been to Walt Disney World by myself. Over the past 5 years I’ve probably been to Disney alone more than 5 times, and I have to admit, I sort of love it.

I’m a total introvert, and generally enjoy being alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and nothing makes me happier than hanging with my family. But there is something fabulously decadent about being alone in my favorite place on Earth, with time to do exactly what I want on my own schedule. So back in January when I found myself traveling to Orlando for a conference, I took the opportunity to travel a day early to visit Disney.

So first question – where to stay? My friend Disney Hipster Andrew posited that maybe it is somewhat bourgeois to stay at a deluxe resort alone. I say, LET ME EAT CAKE! So I booked Disney’s Beach Club Resort for my solo stay. I’d never stayed there, and it’s an easy 5 minute walk to Epcot’s International Gateway. Plus I had a great off-season rate for a room with a view of the parking lot.

A Foggy Beach Club

A Foggy Beach Club

My inexpensive Beach Club room with the lousy view

My discounted Beach Club room with the lousy view

I arrived at the Beach Club at around noon, checked in, dropped my bags, and headed to Magic Kingdom. My agenda? (1) Eat lunch at Be Our Guest, and (2) Experience attractions I’ve never ridden before.

So first thing I did when I entered the park? Walked right up to the Walt Disney World Railroad train station, and hopped a steam train to Fantasyland. (I’d never ridden the train!) Is there anything more charming than riding a steam train around Magic Kingdom? No there is not.

Town Square from the Train Station

Great view of Town Square from the Train Station

Steam Train Magic Kingdom

Riding the rails

My first stop was Be Our Guest for lunch. Now listen up, all of you who won’t eat alone in restaurants. You can do it, really. I’ve dined alone for the tasting menu at Fleur by Hubert Keller – you can sit alone anywhere. Just keep yourself busy if you’re at all self-conscious. I know you have a smartphone. Take pics of your food and look like you’re busy uploading them to Facebook. Tweet your whereabouts so everyone can be jealous. Read email. Eavesdrop on the tables near you. You’ll be fine. (If you need more encouragement, here’s one of my favorite songs – Dine Alone by Quicksand. Listen to it to get pumped before dinner.)

At Be Our Guest, I busied myself by taking tons of pics and checking out the menu while in line.

Line for Be Our Guest

The line for Be Our Guest was about 30 minutes

Gargoyle at Be Our Guest

My friend the Gargoyle

Be Our Guest menu page 1

Front of the menu

Be Our Guest menu page 2

Back of the menu

Cast member

Random cast member that chatted with me at the entrance

Oh, and another great thing about being alone – you can choose to wait in line or not wait in line for as long as you like. When with kids you might be tempted to avoid a half hour line for lunch because they’re hungry, and therefore end up somewhere that you didn’t really want to be. Or you might be stuck with a group who really wants to wait when you would rather do something else. When you’re alone, you can just do what you feel like doing. It’s pretty nice.

OK, so after ordering, I wandered around to each of the dining rooms to check them out, and took more pics. When dining alone, I really enjoy being able to sit on a banquette against a wall that overlooks the rest of the dining room. For some reason I feel less self-conscious and just more comfortable. Plus it makes it easier to people-watch.

Quick pics of the food:

Tuna Nicoise at Be Our Guest

Surprisingly lovely Tuna Nicoise at Be Our Guest.

Onion Soup at Be Our Guest

Very cheesy but sort of bland onion soup.

Passion Fruit Cream Puff at Be Our Guest

Passion fruit cream puff. I liked the mousse.

So after eating, I started hitting all of the attractions I’d never before experienced (mostly around Fantasyland.) I finally went on It’s a Small World (wow, why did I wait so long?? It’s a classic for a reason – loooooved it), Mickey’s Philharmagic (from the lens of someone who doesn’t have any nostalgia around this, it occurs to me that all 3D movie attractions are now passé) and Country Bear Jamboree (a rip-roarin’ good time. Wish I’d seen it pre-update.)

Country Bear Jamboree

I can never get my family to sit through this.

Then I proceeded to ride my favorite attractions that my family doesn’t love, like Tiki Birds, Jungle Cruise, and Tomorrowland Transit Authority peoplemover.

A quick stop back at Beach Club to jump in the pool and change for dinner, and I was off to Epcot!

The only awkwardness I experienced at Epcot was at Rose & Crown. I stopped in at the pub for a pint. The crowd was very raucous and much younger than me, and mostly interested in hooking up with the hotties at the bar than chatting. It was sort of a drag. Their conversations weren’t even interesting to eavesdrop on. I finished my beer and left to walk around World Showcase.

I ate dinner at Katsura Grill in the Japan Pavilion. This is a fantastic spot to stop for a bite alone. I sat on the beautiful patio and slurped my noodles (and sake) in peace. It was some welcome quiet after the crowd at Rose & Crown.

Katsura Grill Japanese Curry Udon

The Japanese curry udon were totally delish

Katsura Grill patio Epcot Japan

One of the prettiest spots to eat in Epcot

After dinner I shopped around World Showcase, spending as much or as little time in each store as I wanted. (I loaded up on gifts for my anime-obsessed kiddo at Mitsukoshi. Trip-guilt hits hard every time I’m in Disney alone.)

I ended my evening at Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico pavilion with chips, guac, Corona, and Illuminations.

Chips and guacamole at Cantina de San Angel

Stale-ish chips and meh guacamole. Great view.

The next morning, I was up early for the Segway tour around Epcot’s World Showcase! (Sadly this tour has been discontinued.) Tours are a fantastic way to spend time at Walt Disney World when you’re alone. The groups are typically very small, and everyone is focused on the tour guide and what they’re doing, especially on the Segway tour where the focus for the first hour was just learning how to ride the thing without falling on our butts. No one will think you’re weird for doing the tour alone, and even a total introvert may end up striking up a conversation with others on the tour. I ended up chatting with an older couple from Minnesota who were there without kids or grandkids just because they love Disney. Their friendliness overrode my standoffishness and it was pretty nice.

Segway Tour of Epcot Selfie

Traveling alone is a great time for selfies!

Segway Tour Epcot

Cast members and tour guides make good photographers, too.

After the tour, I headed back to the Beach Club to check-out and grab my bags. But before saying goodbye to Disney and heading to my conference, I made one last stop. Lunch at the counter at Beaches & Cream.

Burger and Vanilla Coke at Beaches & Cream

Riding around on a Segway makes you hungry and thirsty. Free Vanilla Coke refills!

So really – if you have the chance to go to Disney World alone, don’t let your fear of feeling awkward keep you from having a fantastic time. See it as a chance to do whatever you want on your own timetable. Wander, look at details you’ve missed in the crush to ride every ride, chill. Or as I’ve done on other trips (especially at Universal), take advantage of single-rider lines and ride every thrill ride you can. Take a tour, read a book on a bench and soak in the atmosphere, spend as much time as you want in Innoventions.

No one will even ask you to share your school bread.

School Bread at Kringla Bakerei Og

My precioussss

Have you been to Disney alone? What did you do? Any advice?

MouseChow Ratings:

  • Be Our Guest restaurant – 3 mice
  • Katsura Grill – 4 mice
  • Cantina de San Angel – 2 mice
  • Beaches & Cream – 3 mice

A Beautiful Night in Fantasyland Part 2 – Storybook Circus

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You may have seen my recap of our visit to the Beauty and the Beast/Little Mermaid areas of New Fantasyland. As much as we loved it, I think I love this next area even more – Storybook Circus.

Believe and Soar - Storybook Circus WDW

Believe and Soar

At night, the color, detail, and whimsy of this area is eye-poppingly beautiful. I don’t know how anyone could not fall in complete and total love with Storybook Circus.

I was worried that the side-by-side Dumbos would look, well, dumb. But honestly I think it just adds to the fun. The motion of the rides really contributes to the nostalgic feel of the area, and sort of reminded me of hanging out at the amusement park down by the Atlantic shore when I was growing up.

Side by side Dumbos

Side by side Dumbos

Directly across from Dumbo is the entrance to Big Top Souvenirs. Even if you’re not that into shopping, you absolutely should go into Big Top Souvenirs. The theming is so detailed and gorgeous, it’s practically an attraction. Plus, there’s a very cool old fashioned snack bar, with popcorn, baked goods, caramel apples, and other yummy-looking fun stuff.

Big Top Souvenirs - Storybook Circus WDW

Big Top Souvenirs

Calliope outside Big Top Souvenirs

Calliope outside Big Top Souvenirs

Moving past the shop, you come to Pete’s Silly Sideshow, which is Meet and Greet central for Storybook Circus. I can’t even tell you how much Pete scared the hell out of me as a kid. Glad I’m over it now, or this would be giving me some major nightmares.

Pete's Silly Sideshow

Pete’s Silly Sideshow

But I think my favorite spot in Storybook Circus might be this – a simple area to sit under the twinkling lights and just enjoy the atmosphere. I want this in my back yard.

Seating area - Storybook Circus WDW

Best people-watching spot?

And of course there’s Goofy’s Barnstormer, which I forgot to take a picture of. I’m sure you’ve seen it, anyway.

So there you have it, Storybook Circus at night. I can’t imagine a better place to be on a warm Summer night. Or, a chilly Halloween night for that matter. Miss Eglantine Price and Mary Poppins loved it.

Eglantine Price and Mary Poppins at Storybook Circus WDW

A pair of magical British sitters.

Have you been yet? Try any of the treats in the Big Top? Comment and share!

A Beautiful Night in New Fantasyland Part 1

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About a week ago, the lovely ladies of MouseChow got ourselves all dressed up (as the magical British caretaker duo of Mary Poppins and Miss Eglantine Price) and headed over to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We weren’t sure what to expect as neither of us had ever been, but I did have one big hope – that New Fantasyland would be open for dress rehearsals.

We wandered back through Liberty Square and of course went on the Haunted Mansion. Then, despite being told by a cast member that New Fantasyland was not open, we headed back to just see if we could take a peek. As we were taking a shot of the distant and lovely Beast’s Castle, we were invited right in!

Beast's Castle

Beast’s Castle

There was a private party in the Be Our Guest restaurant, so we only were able to peek through the gates.

Be Our Guest

Continuing into New Fantasyland we next entered the square featuring a lovely fountain and statue of Gaston (standing on Le Fou.) And of course, Gaston’s Tavern.

Gaston!

Gaston's Tavern square

Gaston’s Tavern Square (with Beast’s Castle on the hill)

So of course we had to head into the Tavern to check out the food, and much touted Le Fou’s brew. (Basically, Disney’s answer to Butterbeer.)

Le Fou's Brew

Le Fou’s Brew

You’ve probably already read about the roasted pork shanks at Gaston’s. We saw them, but were not up to eating one that late at night. Honestly, they looked less ridiculously fatty and huge than the Turkey Legs, and might actually be an option to share with a few people.

As for the Brew…well, it tastes like the frozen apple juice that it is. If you like apple juice, then you’ll probably like this. The creamy foam on top is very, very sweet and somewhat mango-flavored. I was pretty underwhelmed, and for $4.49 I can’t imagine getting one again. I also don’t understand why anyone would get one of the souvenir mugs – they are hideous.

However the theming inside the tavern is really nice. I couldn’t help but compare it to the Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and it stacked up well. It’s small and cozy, with a faux fireplace, warm lighting, and lots and lots of antlers. (I’m assuming faux as well.)

Fireplace in Gaston's Tavern

Fireplace in Gaston’s Tavern

Antlers and Lighting at Gaston's Tavern

Antlers and Lighting at Gaston’s Tavern

Cozy Spaces in Gaston's Tavern

Cozy Spaces in Gaston’s Tavern

And by the way, Gaston’s giant chair makes for a great photo op. One of our cast-member friends tells us that Gaston sometimes pops into the Tavern and berates guests who are sitting in his chair. I caught a quick glimpse of Gaston, and frankly I don’t think I would mind being the center of his attention…so we chanced it.

Mary Poppins at Gaston's Tavern

Mary Poppins at Gaston’s Tavern

Eglantine Price at Gaston's Tavern

Eglantine Price at Gaston’s Tavern

Finally, I’d had about half of my LeFou’s Brew (and some pre-packaged Sabra pretzel chips and hummus) and it was time to move on from the Tavern. It was great timing, too, because just then the Hallowishes fireworks began. And Gaston’s square is a fantastic viewing spot for the perimeter fireworks. Holy cow.

Hallowishes over Gaston's Tavern

Hallowishes over Gaston’s Tavern

More Fireworks over Gaston's

More Fireworks over Gaston’s

Gaston's lit up like day from fireworks

Gaston’s lit up like daylight from the fireworks

Whew! OK, so after that was over, we continued on to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid. I didn’t want to take pics inside the attraction because it’s very dark, and would require flash, but here’s a lovely shot of the exterior.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Voyage of the Little Mermaid

I didn’t completely fall in love with the Voyage, but it’s a very nice dark ride addition. I haven’t yet been to the one in California, but am assuming it’s similar. If you’ve experienced both, please leave a comment with your comparison!

Finally, we were lured into the enchanted forest, for Enchanted Tales with Belle. We were asked by the cast members not to take photos, so I don’t have any. But seriously, to call this a “meet and greet” is not doing it justice at all. Of course that’s what it is, but the accompanying show is incredibly charming and, well, enchanting. The Harry Potter comparison here is clearly the Olivander’s Wand Shop, and here Enchanted Tales with Belle wins hands-down. As a parent, it’s hard to stand in line for an hour for Olivander’s and then have your child not be the one chosen to participate in the show. At Enchanted Tales with Belle, every child in the group gets a role, and a chance to be part of the show. And then each gets a private discussion with Belle. Disney knows how to come through for kids, plain and simple. (Plus, one of the cast members complimented my Miss Price costume, so he got major bonus points.)

Whew! So that was our night at New Fantasyland. Frankly, we ended up seeing very little of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. But it was worth it.

New Fantasyland’s Grand Opening is set for December 6. What are you most looking forward to? Any questions I didn’t cover? Let me know in the comments! And stay tuned for Part 2 – Storybook Circus!