Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Touring In Tunisia

Tunis, our port city, is the capital of Tunisia. Tunisia is located in Northern Africa and our visit aboard the Disney Magic marks our first visit to the continent. Tunisia is located between the countries of Algeria and Libya. The coast of Tunisia was settled in the 10th century B.C. by the Phoenicians. In the 6th century B.C. Carthage rose to power but was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd century B.C. Afterwards, it was held by Vandals and Byzantines for two centuries and in the 7th century it was conquered by Arabs. The region became known as Ifriqiya and the Berber population was converted to Islam. Successive Muslim dynasties ruled, interrupted by Berber rebellions. The reigns of the Aghlabids in the 9th century and of the Zirids (from 972), Berber followers of the Fatmids, were especially prosperous. When the Zirids angered the Fatimids in Cairo (1050) the latter ravaged Tunisia. The coasts were briefly held by the Normans of Sicily in the 12th century. In 1159, Tunisia was conquered by the Almohad caliphs of Morocco. The Almohads were succeeded by the Berber Hafsids under whom Tunisia prospered. In the last years of the Hafsids, Spain seized many of the coastal cities, but there were recovered for Islam by the Ottoman Turks. Under its Turkish governors, the beys, Tunisia attained virtual independence. In the late 16th century the coast became a pirate stronghold. The Hussein dynasty of beys, established in 1705, lasted until 1957.

We actually docked in La Goulette, not Tunis and our ship was greeted by several camels, their handlers and two bands playing music. Tunis was the only port where we booked a Disney Cruise Line tour. We had not found any private tour guides on Cruise Critic or Trip Advisor with good ratings so decided to stay with the safety of Disney. Our excursion, as I’d posted before our cruise in the blog, was a Jeep 4x4 excursion into Tunisia. All of the Jeeps were in fact Toyota Landcruisers or similar large engine SUVs…there wasn’t a “Jeep” in the lot (thank goodness, since Jeeps aren’t the most reliable vehicles). There were 8 vehicles, each with 5 to 6 guests in them. We traveled in a convoy fashion – always sticking together. Truth be told, we really only needed the 4x4 capability and high ground clearance for 1 spot in the whole trip and that was for a bridge that had either been washed out or was under construction. All other travel was on paved roads or graded gravel. Our first stop was in what appeared to be a “made for tourists” example of a Berber village. There were only a few people there and they seemed to be there only to play a little music, bake a little bread and “populate” the exhibit. I asked our Disney person on the trip if we were going to see a “real” town at some point. He said he didn’t know. Hmmmm? We did enjoy the Berber bread with honey and olive oil and the spiced tea. The elaborate tiled bath area was also worth a look.

We got back in our SUVs and made our way to stop #2. On the way we passed a small pickup truck loaded down with beds – headboards, footboards and mattresses. We expected the truck to turn over at any time given its high center of gravity. We also passed a number of people riding their donkeys or leading one piled high with varying types of goods. I found the Tunisia countryside to be really interesting. There were olive trees everywhere. The landscape (minus the olive trees) reminded me of Arizona or even northern California with the hills and dry land.

Stop #2 turned out to be a real town. Our convoy of SUVs entered the small town square where there was a little market going on – simple things like sheets, blankets and various household items. We were lead to a high point in the town, past the local mosque, where we could take pictures. We also visited a typical house, which had few furnishings but seemed to be well made. Inside was a woman in traditional dress who wove/braided grass into various craft items. Most of the locals were dressed in this traditional manner; however, I was struck when I noticed a few women wearing Crocs – the rubber shoes that have become so popular in the U.S. The younger kids seemed to be wearing more Westernized clothes.

Soon it was time to get back in our SUVs and head to stop #3, which was some Roman ruins. These were pretty interesting but I knew they would pale in comparison to what we would see soon in Rome. We spent about 20 minutes at this third stop before moving onto our final stop nearby where we had lunch.

This last stop was at a restaurant/resort. We had a nice salad, bread, some type of grilled bird (we joked that it might have been crow), cous cous and fruit. It was a good meal. After about 45 minutes, we were on the road again for our 1 hour drive back to the port. All in all, we give this tour a thumbs up but it was a lot of driving.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Day In Malta

The Maltese Archipelago, consisting of the inhabited islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 52 miles south of Sicily. The history of the Maltese Islands goes back some 7,000 years, to the dawn of civilization. Malta and Gozo are the home to mysterious prehistoric temples that pre-date the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in England.

The Roman Empire dominated the islands from about 218 BC. Malta changed hands a number of times after the Roman rule, most notably under the Arabs from 870 AD. Other occupiers included the Byzantines, the Normans, the Swabians and the Arogonese. In 1530, the Knights of the Order of Saint John arrived in Malta. During their rule, the Order fought off the great Ottoman Empire of Turkey in the famous great siege of Malta. The period of leadership under the knights ended in 1798 when Napoleon Bonaparte took the islands, but this occupation was short lived when the Maltese revolted against the French and the islands fell under the protection of the British Empire in 1800. Malta became an independent state within the British Commonwealth in 1964 and became a Republic ten years later. Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, is a small and densely populated island nation comprising an archipelago of seven islands, three of which are inhabited. It has a warm, inviting Mediterranean climate. The main island is 17 miles long and 9 miles wide.

Our tour of Malta started off a bit rocky as we were expecting our private tour provider, Duncan Zammit of UPhotoMalta, to meet us at the cruise ship pier at 8:30 am when the ship docked but he didn’t show up until 9 am. I don’t know if it was my mistake or his but regardless, once the tour started, the hiccup at the beginning was quickly forgotten. Duncan was very knowledgeable about Malta, where he’d been born, raised and still lived. We started off by driving about a few spots in Valletta, including a park across from where the Magic was docked, allowing us to get some great photos. We then headed off to Marsaxlokk, an authentic fishing village. The boats in the harbor were all shapes and sizes, from the smallest one person boat to large boats. Most were brightly painted in blue, yellow, green, red and brown.

From there we headed to Mdina, the old walled part of Malta. However, before entering Mdina, we stopped at a local tea shop/bar for a local pastry filled with peas (pastizzi) and a hot, spicy tea. Both were very good. The Mdina was walled, and where we entered it was about 20 feet thick. The roads were little more than alleyways, limiting traffic to residents and, during certain hours, small trucks for delivery of supplies and goods.

We then drove into what seemed like the interior of the island where there was a distinct focus on agriculture. We saw various types of vegetables being grown. It was interesting that the farmers had to erect greenhouse-like structures, not to accelerate the growing process, but instead to protect the crops from the high winds. From there we visited several overlooks from which we saw beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs and scenery. All the while, we were talking with Duncan, who we found to be very personable and funny. His easy-going nature and willingness to share personal insights about Malta and its people made our half-day tour one we will remember.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Embarkation and Our First Sea Day (plus some teaser photos of Malta)

I'm taking advantage of free internet on the cruise port walkway, down near the far end of the row of restaurants and shops, there is free wi-fi internet.  The wi fi is just past the ATM near a shop called Bristow Potteries and there is another called Sterling Jewelry.  Back to the embarkation day.

Well, somehow I just deleted two paragraphs of typing!  Uggghhh.  How frustrating.  Anyway, from the time we got out of the taxi to when we boarded the ship was just under 30 minutes so I guess we arrived in a lull period.  I heard from other people that boarded about 2:30 that it was busier but they also mentioned some computer problems so that probably contributed to the backup.  Once aboard we walked around to get Brian used to the layout since he'd not been on board since 2001.  At 3 pm, we made our way down to Promenade Lounge where we met up with more than 120 of our fellow cruisers who had been posting on the DIS boards about this cruise for quite a few months, where we've been helping each other plan and research the ports.  We handed out lanyards and chatted until we had to break up to attend the mandatory muster drill at 4 pm (was scheduled for 5 pm). 

The Sail Away party was held at 4:45 pm even though we didn't actually leave the port until 9:30 pm.  I guess Disney decided after its first cruise on 4/24 that more guests would participate if it was held during the day when it was warmer.

The 6:30 welcome aboard show was the typical show, with entertainers giving us a sample of their comedy and magic coming up during the cruise.  Dinner was good and I'm drawing a blank about what we did after that.  I think we crashed, still suffering from jet lag.

The next day was our first sea day where we cruised down to Malta and the seas were pretty choppy. Wave heights were announced at 8 - 13 feet and they were coming across the ship making for quite a side to side rocking motion. We had our first DIS Group Brunch in Palo and it was really nice to be in the private room at one table where we could all chat and get to know one another better. 
After the brunch was a private DIS wine tasting set up by rashdecision (Rob) in the Sessions Lounge.  We had 6 wines to taste, accompanied by white and dark chocolate, which was a nice touch to illustrate how the taste of the wines changed when paired with the chocolate.  As if that wasn't enough drinking, Brian talked me into a beer tasting in Diversions at 3 pm.  We had 5 beers - Stella, Newcastle, Guinness, Sam Adams one other - Beck's perhaps?  Anyway, these were half size glasses so it was quite a "tasting" of beer.  I think after this we handed out some fish extender gifts and then got ready for Formal Night photos and the "Twice Charmed" show.  We took a good 3 or 4 nice family pics so I guess we'll see how they turned out tonight after I get back on the ship.  Susan, Katy and I finished up the night with Heath Hyche's adult show and I have to say Health doesn't suck anymore.  He's gotten better but his routine still included some routines that didn't quite click.  Tomorrow is Tunis, Tunisia for us and it's supposed to be a long day so I'm not sure when my next update will be. 


Saturday, May 15, 2010

We've Arrived!

Things started out terribly for us.  With all my focus on the ash cloud over the last few days I'd neglected to pay any attention to the weather back in the US.  When we arrived at the Huntsville, AL airport on Thursday morning that all changed.  As time for our flight approached, American Airlines notified us we were on an indefinite hold for weather in Chicago.  When I pulled up the weather on weather.com I could see severe storms on top of Chicago with no letup in sight as storms extended from Illinois back southwest to Oklahoma - it was going to be storming for a long time.  I went to the check-in counter and spoke to the agent there and explained calmly and nicely that we needed to get to JFK to catch a flight to Barcelona today so we could make our Mediterranean cruise departing on Saturday.  American came through and got us all moved over to a Delta flight departing in 50 minutes!  Better yet, our original flight was connecting from Chicago to LaGuardia and we were going to have to transfer by bus or cab to JFK.  With the Delta flight, we went to Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. and from there directly to JFK.  The only question I had in my mind was whether or not our bags would make it, but long story short, every one of our bags did make it!

We were able to meet up with DIS family ICollectBelle at JFK and had a nice chat with them while waiting for our flight to Barcelona.  After 8.5 hours we landed in a cool, rainy Barcelona.  Processing through customs was smooth.  Just make sure you find a "Non-EU" line to go through.  Our only hiccup was baggage claim.  It was so slow - we waited a good hour and ten minutes before finally collecting all our bags.  There must have been some kind of break down somewhere.  No biggie - we arrived on time and our bags made it too!  For those reading this that will be cruising later, there are PLENTY of taxis waiting at the airport.  The four of us plus 5 bags, 3 backpacks and a camera bag were fitted (tightly) into what we in the US would characterize as small-medium size vehicle.  I didn't see how the driver could get the bags in there but he did.

We stayed at the Novotel Barcelona City, which is further away from the port that it shows on Tripadvisor.  The good news is that it's a short two block walk to the Glories metro station.  We bought the 10 trip metro passes and we've had no problems at all using the metro to get anywhere we need to go.  It's clean and very efficient.  After a 3 hour or so nap, we met up with fellow DISer "sayhello" and walked Las Ramblas.  We had dinner at Amaya restaurant consisting of a sausage assortment, a truffled cannaloni, sizzling shrimp with garlic and Spanish tortilla/frittata, toasted bread topped with tomato and a pitcher of sangria.

After dinner, we headed to the Metro to see the Monjuic magic fountain show at 9 pm.  We met several other DISers including rashdecision (Rob) and his family, ggleigh (Tina, Andrew and Rachel), ICollectBelle (Donna), Appleguy (Gary) and their family, Pinmeister (Frank & Nancy).  The fountain shows were neat - the third show being all Disney themed.  Definitely well worth a visit!  Tomorrow - the Magic!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tomorrow's D (Departure) Day!

The departure day is rapidly approaching and the only thing standing between us and Barcelona is a ash-belching Icelandic volcano, with a name only two guys (Brynjulfur & Ragnheidur) in Iceland can pronounce - Eyjafjallajokull.  Grrr...

We've stopped our mail, newpaper (yes, we're among the few that actually still do read a newspaper), and will be dropping our dog (Oliver) and our daughter's dog (Bree) off at the kennel this afternoon.  We've yet to put anything into a suitcase yet, but have been working on our packing lists and gathering our stuff together in order to be ready to pack it.  We've also notified the bank and credit card company that will be traveling out of the country so they'll know (hopefully) not to freeze our cards while we're away. 

Our first flight in the morning departs at 6:05 am from Huntsville to Chicago.  We then fly from Chicago to New York (LaGuardia), where we'll catch a shuttle to JFK and then (knock on wood) catch our 8.5 hour flight to Barcelona departing at 6:25 pm.  If all goes well, we'll arrive in Barcelona at about 8:30 am on 5/14.  We're staying in the Novotel Barcelona City hotel.  We have plans to meet up with some of our fellow cruisers from the DISboards.com at the Montjuic Magic Fountain around 9 pm. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

We'll Be In Barcelona in Two Weeks!

It's kind of hard to believe but in two weeks we'll be in Barcelona Spain, touring the city and looking forward to boarding the Disney Magic.  Since my last post, I've gotten to know many more of our fellow cruisers through the DISboards.com thread for our cruise.  To help organize and share the cruise planning information, I set up a website called "Disney Magic Med Cruisers - May 15, 2010".  One of the things I like best about the web site is the Roll Call section where we have posted the names and pictures of many of our fellow cruisers.  This way we get to know each other a bit better before we actually meet on the ship.  As we've done on our last two Disney cruises, we've set up or joined private tours at most of the ports of call.  Below are links to the web sites of each of the tour providers:

Valletta, Malta - UPhotoMalta

Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome) and La Spezia (Florence), Italy - Rudy's Touring Service

Villefranche, France - Dream Tours

As of right now, we're doing our one and only Disney Cruise Line (DCL) tour in Tunis, Tunisia, which is the Jeep 4x4 Experience.  Here is a description of this tour:

On this tour you will:
  • Proceed to the Berber village of Sidi Jedidi, known for its hot thermal waters, where you will have the opportunity to appreciate the beautiful landscape.
  • Enjoy some local food in the "Mtir center," comprised of a complex of traditionally built rooms. Each room is called Dar, and the entire block is called "Douar." Here you will have the opportunity to taste typical Tunisian specialties including Berber bread, olive oil, honey, Tunisian pastries and mint tea.
  • Continue to your second stop, the Berber village of Jeradou; one of a few Berber villages in the Dorsal mountains. The village rests on a mountain pinnacle along the road that leads to the Zawiyya shrine and mosque. There are also some small Roman ruins in a nearby olive field.
  • Drive in an air-conditioned Jeep to Zaghouan.
  • Enjoy a 30-minute guided walking tour of The Water Temple of Zaghouan. Commonly referred to by its French name, Temple des Eaux, it dates back to Roman times and was not actually a temple; it was a magnificent fountain with 12 niches built to hold life-size statues representing the 12 months of the year. Note: This tour includes approximately 1.5 miles of walking at a steady pace, part of which will be on cobblestones and/or uphill, including steps.
  • Lunch at the Dar Zaghouan restaurant.
  • Drive back to the pier. 
I have not yet set up anything for us in the port of Ajaccio, Corsica.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute!  Our plan will be either to take it easy and maybe do one of the bus/train tours and maybe visit a local beach OR I might rent a car so we can drive into the interior of the island and see some of the sites, like Les Calanches.  We'll see.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 Disney Med Cruise Itinerary

Hello!  Jeff here again.  I figured I might as well start blogging a bit about our upcoming Mediterranean cruise on the Disney Magic in May.  Wait, what?  Didn't you guys already do that?  Yes, we did...well at least 75% of us did back in June 2007.  Unfortunately, our son Brian didn't get to make the first trip as he was in summer classes at Auburn University.  Soooo...since we had such a FABULOUS time back in 2007 AND Brian is graduating in May AND Disney tempted us again with those low Category 12 cruise fares, I ask...how could we NOT go?  See, it all makes sense.  :-)

Disney tweaked the itinerary a bit this time, dropping Olbia (Sardinia) - YEA!, Marseille (France) - we actually liked Marseille, but OK, and Palermo (Sicily) - wasn't bad.  In their place they've added Ajaccio, Corsica, Tunis, Tunisia and Valletta, Malta.  So we'll be adding the second largest continent to our travels - Africa.  I haven't made our flight arrangements yet (been watching airfares and hoping for them to drop) but the preference would be to fly out of Huntsville on May 13th and arrive in Barcelona in the morning on May 14th.  Our hotel this time is the Novotel, Barcelona City.  Looking forward to February 14th, which is when we can begin making reservations for Palo and any Disney tours that we might like. 

Here is the cruise itinerary.

Day Port Guest Ashore Guest Aboard
Saturday (5/15) Barcelona, Spain 4:00 p.m.
Sunday (5/16) At Sea
Monday (5/17) Valletta, Malta 8:30 a.m. 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday (5/18) Tunis, Tunisia 8:30 a.m. 4:00 p.m.
Wed (5/19) Naples, Italy (Pompeii) 8:30 a.m. 9:00 p.m.
Thursday (5/20) Civitavecchia, Italy (Rome) 7:45 a.m. 9:00 p.m.
Friday (5/21) At Sea
Saturday (5/22) La Spezia, Italy (Florence, Pisa) 7:30 a.m. 7:30 p.m.
Sunday (5/23) Ajaccio, Corsica 7:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Monday (5/24) Villefranche, France (Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice) 8:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday (5/25 At Sea
Wed (5/26) Barcelona, Spain 7:00 a.m.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Victoria & Albert"s and Heading Home

Hello Everyone!  Susan here.  Last night we got all spruced up for dinner at Victoria & Albert's, Disney's premire restaurant.  I got some interesting looks as I emerged from the Comfort Station at the Fort Wilderness Campground in my cocktail dress.  Of course, the fancy dress with clogs would get some looks  (didn't want to put on the heels until I had to).  Jeff looked very dapper in his suit.  We headed over to the Grand Floridian Resort and valet parked (that's part of the deal with Vicky & Al's), and the valet directed us to the restaurant.  First, let me say that the Grand Floridian is lovely.  There was a pianist playing when we walked in and the band was getting ready to play as we walked by.  The lobby is just a wonderful place to go and relax and listen to music in the evenings.

When we walked into Victoria & Albert's, it was like we had left the normal cacophony of Disney behind and entered a very genteel home.  They took my coat and offered me a cashmere shawl so I wouldn't be chilly.  We were taken to our table which was in a room with a fireplace, near the harpist.  (we swear that she was union - played about 10 minutes and took a 10-15 minute break)  There were two other couples in the room with us.  Our server was Bill and his assistant was Ann.  Ann welcomed us and poured glasses of champagne (part of the wine pairing with dinner) as we looked at our personalized menus.  We had to make six selections for our dinner.  We carefully chose different things from each other in order to maximize our experience (so we could taste each others' food).  Each selection had a wine pairing with it. 

After we ordered, Ann was back with an amouse bouche, compliments of the chef.  The plate was like a work of art, and they only got better as the evening progressed.  Listed below are the remaining six courses we each ordered, along with some additional photos of the wonderful food.


Maine Lobster with Watermelon Radish, Kohlrabi and Vanilla Aioli
Diver Scallop with Zellwood Corn and Chorizo Sauce
Duck Breast, Duck Sausage, and Confit with Salsify, Pomegranate Sauce
Colorado Lamb with Fresh Cannellini Bean Cassoulet (Photo 4)
Thomas Hoe Stevenson Stilton, Couronne Lochoise, 36 Month Aged Parmigiano, Thomasville Tomme
Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Purse with Blackberry-Violet Sherbet (Photo 6)


Colorado Buffalo with Fennel, Olives, Artichokes and Sherry Vinaigrette (Photo 1)
Sake-Soy-marinated King Salmon with Bok Choy and Soy Beans (Photo 2)
Poulet Rouge with Mushroom Truffle Ragout, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and English Peas
Marcho Farms Veal Tenderloin with Marble Potatoes and Sauce Soubise (Photo 3)
White Chocolate Gelato with Tableside Shavings and Micro Orchids
Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle (Photo 5)

After the amazing dinner, we headed back to the camper.  It was cold again, so Jeff had both heaters running.  Not long after we went to bed, he noticed that the power was out.  We had no flashlight, so he used my Blackberry for light as he checked the breakers.  Nothing would work, so he decided to go to Wal Mart for another extension cord and a different adapter for the heavy duty extension cord that we had in the camper.  He also got a couple of flashlights.  I stayed bundled up under the quilts and the extra sleeping bag that he pulled out before he left.  After he returned, he got the heater going again with the extension cord, so we didn't freeze!  Not the best ending to a wonderful evening but it could have been worse!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Recovery Day

Susan here. After a good night's rest and a great breakfast at Fort Wilderness' Trails End buffet, we were feeling much better. Jeff is feeling a lot better today and got his appetite back. Both of us are a little sore, but not too bad. In fact, we could even run some today if we wanted to. Guess that's where the training pays off.

Jeff here.  After breakfast, we walked around what used to be the petting farm at Fort Wilderness but all that remains are some ponies for rides and stables for the various horses large and small used around the Disney property.  The large horses are Belgians and Percherons.  Many of them weigh upwards of 2000 lbs and so obviously they're huge.  Also we noticed that it was so cold out that the ponies had on coats!

Susan here.  Next up was a search for some ibuprofen, as I didn't have any in my purse. One of the items to remember next time! After the visit to Walgreens, we decided to go to Downtown Disney. There is a large movie theatre there, so we decided to take in a movie. We chose "The Blind Side." We really enjoyed it and would highly recommend seeing it if you haven't already.

After the movie we wandered around the World of Disney Store to see if there was something that we couldn't live without, and there wasn't. As we exited, what was in our gaze, but the Ghiradelli shop. Of course, we had to go in. There are always free samples, and free samples of chocolate are always good. We decdided to have hot chocolates and one of their colossal cookies - chocolate chip and toffee. We went outside and found a table in the sun, since it was warmer today.

We wandered around some more, going through the Lego Store, where they have some nice displays made of lego blocks.  Yes, those dogs and family are made of legos.

We're getting ready now for our celebration dinner at Victoria & Alberts, Disney's premiere restaurant.  More tomorrow on our dinner.

Marathon Day!

Susan here.  We were up at 2:30 race morning to get over to the Epcot before 3:30.  Seems awfully early, but when you are dealing with about 24,000 registered runners, there will be traffic.  We got to Race Retreat package again this year.  The promise of a "climate controlled" tent was very appealing.  They just didn't say what the climate would be...COLD!  I swear the "heaters" were blowing cold air.  Everyone was bundled up head and ears inside.  I felt for the folks that had to wait outside.  The folks that drove could wait in their cars, so that was better.  Still...Brrrr!!    We did have some bagels and peanut butter when we got there, and there were "private" porta-potties there, too.  We also took the opportunity for some photos with Disney characters.

Everyone in Race Retreat waited until the last possible minute to head to the starting corrals.  We made it to Corral D just in time.  We had bought some zip up hooded sweatshirts at Sam's, so we had those on at the start.  One of the really nice things that Disney does is to collect all of the clothing discarded not only at the start, but over the entire course, launder it and donate it to charity.  We both had on two pairs of pants, two pairs of gloves (with hot-hands inside), and multiple shirts.

Mickey and his pals counted down, fireworks shot into the air and we were off.  The first five or so miles were in and around Epcot.  It was thrilling to hear John Williams' Olympic Themes playing as we entered the World Showcase, which was lit by the torches used for Illuminations.  Then on to Magic Kingdom.  Along the way, we were serenaded by a couple of local high school and middle school bands, along with their cheerleaders.

It was so cool to run down Main Street USA with all the spectators cheering us on.  We stopped for a couple of pictures there.  On through Tomorrowland and then, with the herald trumpets announcing our arrival, we ran through Cinderella's Castle.  We completed Magic Kingdom with Frontierland, then the long, backstage stretch to Animal Kingdom, where there was little to look at other than the backs of fellow runners.

Jeff here.  I don't know if it was the cold overall, the fact that we made so many stops in the Magic Kingdom for photos and I got cold there, that I had almost no sleep the night before the race, that I didn't eat enough, or a combination of everything, but I got REALLY cold coming out of the Magic Kingdom and my whole body started hurting.  During the run to the Animal Kingdom I grabbed a Tylenol at one of the aid stations to try to dull the pain.  I also ate a raw banana, and I don't even like bananas, to try to get my strength back up.  I also picked up a CLIF gel shot to try to get some energy.

After a half hour or so I started feeling better and was able to run into and through the Animal Kingdom feeling pretty well.  I shot this nice picture of Expedition Everest (roller coaster) there.  Things continued to go pretty well for me through about mile 21.  We were running slower than our normal pace but at least I didn't feel like I was in any distress.  Things started going south again for me as we turned north into the cold wind and did a couple of runs up hill over an overpass and up an exit ramp on our way to Hollywood Studios.  There were volunteers handing out snack sized candy bars in the park and that again seemed to give me a little energy boost and I was able to make it to the 24 mile marker near the Boardwalk resort.  Just over 2 miles to go but it seemed like 10 for me at that point.  I'm not sure what happened but I felt like I had run completely out of energy. 

Susan, bless her heart, seemed like she could run another 10 miles.  She kept looking back, checking to make sure I was still running, and encouraging me on.  Rather than running a mile or two in between stops I was now lucky to run a quarter mile.  I began looking ahead to something (archway, curve, hill, building) and telling myself to run to that point.  Finally, we made it to the back entrance of Epcot - the International Gateway) and we walked again backstage.  I SO wanted to be able to run around World Showcase and finish out the race but I just couldn't do it!  I'd run until I felt like I was about to collapse and then I'd stop and walk.  When I could breathe again, I'd run some more.  FINALLY, FINALLY we were at the front of Epcot and running past the 26 mile marker.  I decided then that I wasn't stopping until I crossed the finish line - NO MATTER WHAT.  If I collapsed, so be it.  Perhaps it's that same mentality that causes marathon runners to have heart attacks at the finish?  No matter - we did it!  Our time was 4:57:10 - about 15 minutes slower than I thought we'd do but neither of us every expected the conditions that we ran in.

Susan here again.  We went back to Race Retreat (it was still cold even with a lot more bodies in there) for brunch.  First we checked our time at the computers, then got food.  Jeff thought that the eggs were the only thing that tasted good to him.  I got some eggs and potatoes, as well as some of the soup, which wasn't that good, but it was warm.  I ate my soup standing up, while stretching my legs at the table.

After that , we went out to the truck and headed back to Fort Wilderness.  I took a looonnnng hot shower and Jeff took a looonnnng nap.  (I took a nap, too)  After we were all cleaned up and rested (and I washed all the dirty running gear), we went to Animal Kingdom Lodge for dinner at Boma, an African buffet.  Jeff was still feeling bad, so he didn't enjoy dinner as much as he normally would.  After a good, long sleep, we are both feeling pretty good this morning.

A side note:  We have seen a lot of wildlife on this visit.  We have regularly seen 4-5 deer grazing.  I saw 7 turkeys at a nearby campsite, and I've seen a *live* armadillo.  I also saw something unusual last night - a cat walking on a leash!  Our neighbors are full-time RV'ers and this is the only way that Scout, the cat, gets outside.  He likes it, too!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cold, Wet Saturday

Oh my, Susan and I felt so bad for the half-marathoners this morning when we awoke at 5:30 am and heard the rain drops pecking at the roof of our camper.  Knowing that thousands of people were milling around in that frigid rain trying to stay warm before the start of the race made us cringe!  Today, after bundling up in multiple shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, pants, coats and gloves (did I say it was COLD?) and grabbed our umbrellas, we ventured out to Hollywood Studios. 

The only good thing about the cold, wet weather is that Floridians don't like to go out in cold weather so there were only die-hard tourists like us at the park.  We were able to ride Toy Story Mania, Rock-N-Roller Coaster and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror multiple times with little or no wait and these attractions typically have lines that are an hour or more.

After riding everything we wanted several times, Susan had the idea to go over to the Beach Club to a cozy little restaurant called Beaches and Cream.  They have an excellent chicken noodle soup that was calling to our chilled to the bone bodies.  Afterwards, we played a few games in the nearby game room.  We then walked over to Epcot where we listened to the Voices of Liberty singing group and watched (snoozed during) the American Adventure show.  We finished up the evening back at Hollywood Studios with a hearty dinner at 50's Prime Time of pot roast (me) and meat loaf (Susan). 

We're now getting our stuff ready for our frigid marathon tomorrow and our early alarm at 2:15 am.  Yikes!

Dreary Friday

Hi all.  Sorry I didn't post about yesterday's activities but Susan and I were pretty busy.  As nice as Thursday was, we knew it wouldn't last - Friday was a coolish, dreary day.  We decided to visit Animal Kingdom as we didn't make it to that park during our previous visit in October for the International Food & Wine Festival.  We did all of our favorite things, including the Expedition Everest roller coaster, Nemo show, Lion King show and the Kilimanjaro Safari ride.  You can see I'm wearing my new FREE sunglasses with free strap though a little while after this picture was taken, it got completely overcast and then started sprinkling.  It continued to mist and sprinkle the rest of the day, hence dreary Friday.

Speaking of the safari ride, Susan was the photographer and she managed to capture the rear end of most of the animals on the savannah.  We got a good laugh out of it.  :-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pasta in the Park

Hello again!  Picking up where we left off yesterday, after setting up camp and having lunch, Susan and I went to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex to pick up our race packets and browse through the merchandise at the Health and Fitness Expo.  Packet pickup was straight-forward and crowds were pretty well managed.  We did have to make an extra trip back out to the parking lot because I'd forgotten our "proof of time" from the Huntsville Half marathon Susan and I had run back in November.  We're in the "D" corral, right behind the "elite" runners so we shouldn't have to deal with passing all the walkers like we did in the half-marathon last year.

We both bought us some new running gloves that were a bit thicker and better at moisture wicking than the ones we already had.  I also got a free pair of running sunglasses.  We happened upon the booth where Susan had purchased running glasses at the Expo last year and mentioned to the person there that one of the ear pieces had fallen off so she couldn't use them.  The lady told her that her glasses were warranted for life so she or I could pick any glasses we liked except for the very best and could have them for free.  Can't beat free!  She also gave us both free straps and free storage pouches for our glasses.

We also taste tested various samples of gel, gelatin squares and power bars and grabbed some samples to take with us to eat early in the race.

After a few hours, we headed over to Epcot where we attended the "Pasta in the Park" event.  We got there a bit early so we decided to walk through Innoventions to kill some time and to warm up (getting chilly after sunset).  As it turned out, they were doing Segway introductions so Susan and I signed up.  We'd done one of the Disney Segway tours 3-4 years ago and really enjoyed it and were looking forward to trying out the newer generation models.  They did seem easier to maneuver than the older units.               

The Pasta Party turned out to be a nice activity.  Things started out with a nice buffet featuring various green, potato and pasta salads, pasta, broiled chicken and brownies.  Also included were bananas, water, fruit punch and lemonade.  There was a cash bar with beer and wine.  There were also character photo opportunities, which we took advantage of.  We met two couples from Canada that had come down to run.  One couple was doing the Goofy Challenge (both half marathon and full marathon) and the other was doing the half marathon.  The third couple at our table was from Birmingham, AL and they were proudly wearing their Alabama Crimson Tide gear.  It was nice visiting with them all.

After a nice couple of hours Susan and I decided to head back to the campground to watch the BCS National Championship game.  We found a TV in Crockett's Tavern and were able to watch through the first half, by which time the Tide had established a commanding lead.  Go SEC!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We've Arrived!

We arrived at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground just after noon and it is fabulous here.  Temps I think are around 60 but with the bright sun shine I'm comfortable in my t-shirt.  Susan and I set up camp on campsite 1734 and we're enjoying it as we're right across from the Comfort Station (showers / restrooms).  Susan fixed us some soup (chicken and herb dumplings) for lunch and we're heading out to the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our race packets and free-bee stuff.  Here are a few photos of our campsite.