Welcome to another installment in what is starting to feel like the trip that is never going to end. Yup – our 16 day trip to Walt Disney World that took place…
Hey, remember the summer of 2021?
Remember the Olympics?
Remember when the Friends cast reunited?
Remember when Keeping Up With the Kardashians was cancelled?
Remember on June 25th when scientists determined that a massive fossilized skull that was at least 140,000 years old was a previously unknown extinct species of ancient human, and called it Homo Longi?
Pfft. No you didn’t.
Let’s just get on with Day 11. I’ll be sure to use small words.
Day 11 – Our day at Epcot with the Hills and we finally get Liam!
So, let’s get this out of the way right now. Day 11 was an EPCOT day.
And at the time of this trip, an EPCOT day meant a later start than a typical Disney day. On Day 11, the park hours for EPCOT were 10AM to 10PM.
I mean, we slept in as much as one does on a Disney vacation. Which meant Nickie and I were out grabbing a coffee at like 8:30AM.
And in case any of you were wondering, the answer is yes.
We are still VERY attractive.
We let the boys sleep in a little bit longer while we went down to put some coffee in our refillable mugs at BoardWalk Bakery.
But coffee wasn’t the only awesome thing on the agenda for that morning. We brought our coffees over to the Boardwalk quiet pool so that we could have a morning soak in this bad boy.
A pretty incredible way to start the day, no? A morning hot tub sometimes feels like, I don’t know, the height of luxury. It’s a rare thing for us to do and it feels like something you don’t normally do so it feels extra special.
You know, like having ice cream for lunch.
Or drinking beer in the shower.
Also, while we were in the hot tub, another couple joined us and we ended up getting into a conversation about an African safari they went on and how they did and all that and like, it sounded pretty cool. They stayed in luxury accommodations throughout, ate great food and…I don’t know. It sounded pretty incredible. So don’t be surprised if we end up switching out Animal Kingdom for, like, THE animal kingdom at some point in a future blog post.
So after we got our soak on, Nickie and I went back up to the room to get the kids up and ready and change into non-hot-tub clothes so we could head to Epcot!
Nickie, Owen, and I were ready lickety-split. Myles. Well. Myles is a 17 year old.
So we made a game out of his inability to get ready in a normal amount of time. Nickie, Owen, and I decided to continue down the whole “relaxing morning” path and take the boat over to Epcot’s International Gateway.
We left Myles behind and then. Boom.
Look at us. We’re on a boat!
As we were on the boat, we looked out and saw Myles walking his way down to the International Gateway. It was neck and neck. Anyone’s race.
Then, Myles won.
I know. That was a bit anti-climactic.
But that means we all got to walk into Epcot together. Like a family. Like a big happy not-competitive-at-all-I-can’t-believe-that-jerk-won family.
We walked through the International Gateway at around 11AM.
When you enter via the International Gateway, you have a choice, just as you do when you come into the World Showcase from the front of the park. You can either head right towards France and into the heart of the World Showcase countries. Or you can go left towards the UK, Canada, and the other entrance into the World Showcase by Mexico.
And like, yeah…heading right probably makes sense to most. But like, I was really hankering for a trip to Mexico. Margaritas really are the perfect start to any day.
At least that’s what my kindergarten teacher always told me.
So yeah, we headed left through the UK first.
And we were met with some more Flower & Garden awesomeness.
These guys kept telling everyone Epcot was so much fun and that people should spend every day here.
But honestly? I think they were plants.
Fine, bad joke.
In truth, I think these guys wanted to get the heck out of there.
But they couldn’t leave.
OK fine. Fine. I know my topiary jokes are getting pretty stale by now.
I should probably branch out.
Beyond the UK, we strolled into Canada. Which is actually where we had lunch plans in about an hour. So it was a quick trip through, knowing we would be back soon.
No time for you, Maple popcorn. Not now.
Into Mexico we went, alive with the promise of tequila.
I know I have said this before, but I kind of love the Mexico Pavilion. It is probably my favorite of all the Pavilions as of the time of this writing (but France is a close second.)
I love the whole “outside-on-the-inside” feel of the whole thing. You walk inside but then it like feels like you’re outside.
It’s muy trippy.
Before hitting up the tequila bar, we noticed there was a short line for the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. You guys know I can’t pass up a dark boat ride.
Especially when there are skeletons involved.
And anthropomorphic rhythmic birds.
Once we disembarked, it was time for the real reason anyone visits the Mexico Pavilion – La Cava del Tequila!
Enough of those rides. Give me tequila.
There was pretty much no line.
Which was shocking.
I mean, it was like 11:30AM.
I bellied up to the bar and ordered a Horchata Margarita.
Which is like one of my top 30 Walt Disney World drinks. And this one was extra special because, as you can see in the picture above, they colored it blue for the 4th of July holiday.
Nothing says “Happy Birthday America” like a margarita with horchata.
As we emerged into the blinding Florida sunshine from the darkness of a starry Mexican night, look at what greeted us!
Wait. Sorry. I mean.
princesses. No big deal.
I prefer football.
Who am I kidding? Belle AND Snow White? My two favorite princesses?
And a rare Mulan sighting?
And also Aurora happened to be there?
Eh, I’m just kidding Aurora. You a’ight.
Anyways, like I mentioned we had lunch in Canada coming up so after our short visit to Mexico we started making our way back over towards the other entrance to World Showcase.
But on the way?
Those wings really bring out the blue in my margarita.
Epcot was really looking hella-pretty on Day 11. I feel like I always, on every trip, take a picture from this vantage point.
I love how it captures so much of Epcot – the water, the monorail track, the pavilions off in the distance. But during Flower & Garden? It’s like even more Epcot-y.
So yeah, lunch. As I mentioned, lunch was in the Canada Pavilion. And those who are familiar with Epcot probably already know where we were having lunch. But for those that aren’t Disney freakos, we were having lunch at Le Celier Steakhouse.
Man, steak for lunch is a lot like morning hot tubs.
A rarified luxury.
We made it to Canada a tad before noon…
…so the restaurant hadn’t quite opened. So we had a few minutes to wait as they were getting the staff prepped for the day.
But guys, I REALLY had to use the bathroom.
So that meant I got to snap a quick empty restaurant pic!
And yeah everything also worked out in the bathroom. Thanks for asking.
Soon enough, we were seated in a nice booth off in the corner and I started off my meal with an Old-Fashioned.
I know. I’m so predictable. Like I am sure you can even guess what the next thing I did was.
That’s right. I drank it. I know. Literally no unpredictability here.
It was a really nice Old-Fashioned though. This one’s called the Windsor Old-Fashioned and it contains Canadian whiskey with muddled fruit, chocolate and orange bitters, and a splash of soda.
Leaned a bit sweet but it was good. Plus, it was cool to have an old-fashioned…erm…Old-Fashioned. You know, with the muddling and all.
Our server also brought us out a bread basket, which included Le Celier’s famous pretzel bread.
And like, nowadays, pretzel bread is as common as oxygen but Le Celier was rockin’ pretzel bread before it was a thing you guys.
They be the PB OGs.
We also ordered up some appetizers to start things off.
First up, the Le Cellier Beef Bourguignon Poutine (Fresh-cut French Fries, Gruyère, Beef Bourguignon Gravy, Garlic Aïoli, Truffle.)
Oooh guys. This was good. Of course it was good. Look at that ingredient list.
We also ordered the Artisan Cheese and Charcuterie Plate. Look at how beautiful.
Up there we have some cheese-and-meat amazing:
- Point Reyes Blue Cheese (aged for 3 ½ months)
- Murcia al Vino (“drunken goat” cheese – goat cheese soaked in wine. What??)
- Canadian Triple Cream Goat Brie (awarded “Best in Class” in the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest)
- Duck Ham (made by maple brining and smoking duck breasts)
- Mortadella (made of ground ribeye, New York strip, Canadian Whiskey, and Pork Fat Pistachios, served with a Minus 8 Mustard Beer Sauce)
- Short Rib Pastrami (I mean…the name kind of says it all. This was amazing.)
Oh and one other thing. That candle, That glorious candle.
This thing doesn’t just make the charcuterie look all kinds of pretty. Oh noooo.
That there is a BEEF FAT CANDLE. Made in the Le Celier kitchen out of slow rendered beef fat flavored with garlic and rosemary, this candle is 100% edible. As the candle burns and melts, the beef fat becomes soft and spreadable.
Stuff. Was. Delicious. Spread over the bread provided with the charcuterie or anything in the basket, this stuff tastes like straight-up – yeah I’ll say it again – luxury. It’s so rich and creamy. Seriously. I know, spreadable beef fat probably doesn’t sound like the most appetizing thing in the world but trust me.
And it tastes much better than those Sugar Cookie candles from Yankee Candle. Don’t eat those.
For our entrée, Myles and I split the USDA Prime Ribeye Steak with Lemon-scented Fingerling Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Shallot-Whiskey Butter.
Yeah, that up there is a half-portion. Perfect size for lunch.
And this steak was very VERY good. Super flavorful. Tender. And that Shallot-Whiskey Butter was bomb.com.
I also ordered a side of their Maple Whiskey-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
And that worked out. On account of the fact that no one else in my family eats Brussels Sprouts. So all those were for me. And me only.
Selfish Sprouts are the best kind of Sprouts.
Oh and we got a side of the Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese for the table.
This I unfortunately HAD to share since everyone in my family DOES enjoy macaroni and cheese.
Owen being some sort of steak monster ordered himself the Filet Mignon with the Truffle Butter Sauce on the side.
And it also came with a Mushroom Risotto as you can see above. And this ended up working out for both Nickie and I. On account of Owen doesn’t eat Mushrooms or Risotto but the two of us do.
Being a parent is all kinds of rewarding.
And yeah, fast-forward to a few minutes later. Owen definitely enjoyed his steak.
Clean plate club FTW.
Nickie ordered the famous Le Celier Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup for her entrée.
Which is always great stuff obvs squad. And it’s super duper paired with that awesome Pretzel Bread.
Guys, this was a pretty stellar lunch at Le Celier. I actually…this is one reason why I enjoy writing these blogs.
Because when I have talked about this lunch since then, I say things like, “yeah, it was a good lunch” or “maybe I would go back to Le Celier” but looking back through these pictures and writing about our experience really brings me back to how awesome this lunch really was. And the company? Well, it was top-notch.
I definitely would like to get back to Le Celier again.
After lunch, it was back out into the Canada Pavilion, eh? It’s was all kinds of beautiful.
So right. Day is good so far, right? Well just you wait….
Because while the awesome we have experienced has been awesome in large part because we have experienced it together, there’s about to be even more awesome. Because there’s about to be even more together.
Because we were meeting back up with the Hills!
Seriously, guys? Is this joke ever going to end?
Anyways, no. Our friends, the Hills (Missy, Eric, and Olivia)! They met up with us after lunch and were planning on spending the afternoon with us. So, yay!
We headed out of the Canada Pavilion and out into the…
Oop. Wait. Actually, not leaving the Great White North just yet. Myles had to make a quick stop at the Northern Bloom Flower & Garden Festival Booth to grab the Maple Popcorn Shake.
Which he obviously liked. As evidenced by the thumbs in the “up” position.
We had a next destination in mind but on the way Missy also wanted to stop by a booth to grab a snack as well – the Honey Bee-Stro Sponsored by the National Honey Board.
Get it? Bee-stro?
She got an order of that Tupelo Honey and Sweet Corn Spoon Bread with Jalapeños, Bacon, and House-made Whipped Honey Butter. Which is like a lot of delicious-sounding words.
Though it was offered, I didn’t try a bite on account of I was still full of beef. But all signs point to it being a pretty good snack.
At least, that was the buzz I heard.
Also, while we were sitting waiting, we were right outside the bathrooms and we heard a child inside one of them screaming its head off. So we of course started joking about it to the people around us, saying things like…
“that sounds like a scary ride”…
and “do they have FastPasses for this ride?”…
and “the screams of children nourish my soul.”
Man, did we get some laughs. Nervous ones. But still.
Since I took one from the other side earlier in the day, I figured I should snap a pic on this side of the water as well.
Yup, still pretty. And this one has Spaceship Earth in it. So.
Annnnnd MORE FUN PICS.
Whenever we have had an Epcot day with the Hills, we always ALWAYS ride Journey Into Imagination with Figment. It’s like tradition and what not.
And we are definitely not ones to break tradition.
So like, let’s journey. You know. Into imagination.
And after the ride was over, the kids spent some time playing in the Imagination Labs. I love how most of the attractions in Epcot have areas to explore when you finish with the attraction. It was good to see these coming back post-COVID.
The, um, kids, had a good time.
Then, it was over to the Land Pavilion to hop on the Living With the Land attraction. Let’s learn about plants!
Funny story that I am sure I told before – Myles used to have this irrational fear of this ride when he was little because he insisted there was a witch in the scene above. He was convinced he saw a witch the one time he rode it and no matter how many times we told him there wasn’t, he would not ride it.
Living With the Land. The ride that goes through the greenhouse. He was scared of Living With the Land.
Anyways. Look. Plants.
I sure did, Disney World sign. I sure did.
At this point, we made the decision to leave the park so we could walk out through the International Gateway back to the BoardWalk to hang for a little bit before the Hills went home.
But before we did? Another tradition. Fun pics!
Myles, Owen, and Olivia have been taking pictures at the super fun pic location in the Canada Pavilion for a few years with the Hills. Like here is one from 2019, for example.
However, this time around, Myles went off to get some sort of snack somewhere so he wasn’t available for the picture.
That empty spot, though. Looks so sad.
Nickie obviously felt the same way. So she volunteered to fill in for Myles.
Myles did end up meeting us on the way out of the park and off we all went to the BoardWalk.
While we are making our way over there, let’s take a minute to talk about an important development happening about 1300 miles away.
We have talked throughout this trip about the impact of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Elsa on our experience in Orlando but it also was having some ramifications back in Boston.
Myles’s (and our) friend Liam was planning to join us for a few days towards the end of our trip and the original plan was for him to be flying down tomorrow night (Day 12). But Elsa was conjuring up a whole different plan for us.
We were starting to get concerned that he would see some flight delays or cancellations if he left on his intended flight. So his parents moved his flight to a day earlier and he was ARRIVING TONIGHT!!
Soooooo. As we were walking back to the resort, Liam was being dropped off at the airport by his dad, Artie.
Exciting stuff, you guys.
We were back at the resort at around 4:30PM and as you can see the pools were kind of closed.
With the Elsa.
So we went to hang out in the lobby while we planned our next move.
And the BoardWalk lobby has a bunch of stuff to see. Like this miniature model of Lucy the Elephant, the roadside tourist attraction in New Jersey.
Lucy (the actual Lucy in New Jersey) has been on our want-to-see list on all of our East Coast road trips but we have never made it.
Sewage plants we’ve seen. But we can’t seem to find time for Lucy.
Oh, our priorities? They make no sense.
So yeah, Lucy is cool. But the real stars of BoardWalk lobby are these murder clown chairs by the fireplace.
Of course I made Olivia and Owen sit in them for a picture.
But they looked much too happy sitting there in the lap of what looked like something from a Stephen King novel. So I asked them reach into the depths of their souls and act like they were scared.
This was what I got.
Leonardo DiCaprios they are not.
As mentioned, the weather wasn’t the best. So we decided to check out what the BoardWalk Community Hall had to offer.
For those who haven’t visited this resort, the BoardWalk Community Hall is located alongside the quiet pool off the path to Hollywood Studios.
We didn’t know what to expect here but guys – this place was sweet.
Owen and Eric immediately made for the air hockey table off to the far right.
Myles sat in one of the chairs in front of this awesomeness.
Nickie (not pictured…where the hell is she?), Missy, and Olivia sat and did some coloring….
And me? I was faced with a dilemma.
Star Wars pinball…
…or Ms. Pac-Man.
Both solid choices obviously. But I had to go pinball.
Both were completely free to play, by the way. This place is like some sort of dream I once had.
There was also cornhole, billiards, and ping pong just outside.
All of which we took made use of at some point in this vacation.
We hung out in the Community Hall for probably like an hour or so, but at around 6:00 the Hills had to get going so we said our goodbyes to the Hills. But don’t you cry just yet. We still have some more time with them later on in the trip.
Being that it was 6PM, we were thinking dinner and we didn’t really have any plans. So we decided to walk over to the BoardWalk Pizza Window to get a couple pies.
The guy working the window told us it would be about 20 minutes before our pizza was ready so he gave us our drinks – 2 Bud Lights, 2 sodas – and grabbed a table right on the water.
Since we would be waiting a little bit, I stopped over at Boardwalk Joe’s to get us some…erm…appetizers, I guess.
A Mickey Pretzel…
…and a Jalapeno Stuffed Pretzel.
Both were good. I mean, a Mickey Pretzel is always a Mickey Pretzel. All kinds of salty, soft yumminess. But the Jalapeno Stuffed Pretzel was a new get for us. And yeah, it’s real good. Stuffed with not only jalapenos but cheese as well – it kind of tasted like it was stuffed with a Pepper Jack cheese.
At this point, we were in regular contact with Liam, who hadn’t left Boston just yet. At this point, it came to our attention that his gate had moved, but well…Liam hadn’t. Turned out he was waiting for a flight to Baltimore.
Which, like…no shade on Baltimore but. It’s no Disney World.
Myles told Liam he had to go find the gate his flight had moved to, but Liam just couldn’t’ get over how rude it was of the airport to do that to him.
Have I mentioned this was the first time Liam was flying by himself?
I feel like that’s an important part of this story.
So yeah, he made his way to the correct gate and eventually did end up boarding the correct plane. So hey, good job Liam!
Back to the BoardWalk…
At around 6:30 our pizzas were ready. And while Disney pizza can be touch and go, the pizza here was very good. A different type of pizza than the also tasty pizza at Via Napoli but both are definitely up there in terms of the best pizza I’ve had at Walt Disney World.
We got a Cheese…
…and a Pepperoni.
Yeah, these were good. It was a really nice dinner. Super casual but I like being able to bounce between the nicer meals and the more casual. We used to do the Deluxe Dining Plan like every trip to Disney but I have found lately I like not having a dining plan. I like having some really nice meals booked at times throughout the trip but I also like having the freedom to grab a counter service or even just a snack for a meal when I want as well.
After we finished up with dinner, we went back to the room to chill for a little bit before Liam arrived. His flight was scheduled to get in a little before 10PM so we had some time.
But, thankfully, ABC had us covered because it was Monday. It was 8:00. It was time for The Bachelorette.
So we spent some time with the quick-to-anger Aaron…
…the large-jawed Blake…
…and the extremely deep-v’ed Connor.
The airport was about a half hour away so Myles and I got in the car to go meet Liam at around 9:30. There was really no traffic so we were at the airport by 10:00 and since Liam’s flight had gotten in at around 9:50, he came down to the pick-up spot pretty close to when we were arriving. I mean, there was a little bit of having to talk him to where we were parked but we found each other.
Guys – look! It’s Liam! He’s in a car!
Now, he’s in our room!
When he got to our room, he called his mom to let her know he was there safe and sound. So we decided to take his picture while he was doing that. On account of he really likes being made to feel awkward.
So yeah, Liam was here now. In our room. Which meant I had to now worry about how loud I would be snoring for the rest of the trip. But I mean, worth it.
I did ask Liam the next day and he said the snoring wasn’t too bad. But I think he was just being nice.
Oh, also. I walked in on Liam in the bathroom in the middle of the night.
This was going to be an interesting few nights.
That was Day 11, you guys. A wicked fun day. And now we have Liam. Plus, we spend a lot of time with Kayce, Bella, and Lani for the next few days.
So you know Days 12-16 are gonna be a good time.