03 August 2015

Traditional French Recipes

There are many places in Walt Disney World that have seasonal bites and meals, entrees and treats that depend on the availability of the freshest ingredients or that change with the wants and needs of guests throughout the various seasons. One place that does this better than any is L’Artisan Des Glaces in Epcot’s France Pavilion where flavors come and go with the seasons and one of their two macaron ice cream sandwiches is reserved for a limited time specialty! Released on Friday, July 31, the current macaron sandwich is Peaches and Cream.

The two macarons that comprise the sandwich are a deep orange, tinged to the peach side, obviously. There is a hint of peach flavor in the macarons. Remember, these are French macarons, not coconut, so there is no blending or competing flavors. Just as you would expect from the light French cookies, the macarons are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

On the ice cream side of things, it is a creamy vanilla with bits of peaches worked in. When paired with the macarons, there is a wonderful mingling of textures and temperatures between the airy macarons at room temperature and cool, velvety ice cream.

The macaron ice cream sandwiches from L’Artisan Des Glaces aren’t as big as some of the other ice cream sandwiches found throughout Walt Disney World. They are the perfect size for an afternoon snack and filled with some of the highest quality ingredients of any ice cream bite in the resort. Head out and grab one of the Peaches and Cream macarons while they’re hot, or rather cold! They’re sure to be gone in a flash!

24 July 2015

Must Dos That You Really Want To Do

Once upon a time, Walt Disney World resort television featured a set of must do attractions, with a list of honorable mentions that covered just about every attraction in every park and resort area. There were different hosts throughout the years, with Stacey J. Aswad being the last to utilize the top 7 must-do countdown before the program morphed into the more destination-based format currently available. It always intrigued me to see what new, or refurbished, attractions were given a spotlight. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Main Street Gazette’s Top 7 Must-Dos for our upcoming week at Fort Wilderness and Walt Disney World.

7 Roasting Marshmallows – Come on, does anything in the world taste better than a marshmallow you’ve roasted yourself over an open fire? Only if it’s roasted during a campfire sing-a-long, with Chip and Dale coming by to say ‘hello,’ and you have chocolate and graham crackers to wrap around said marshmallow.

6 Studios Daydreaming – There are a lot of rumors and questions swirling around the future of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, especially with the dramatic amount of closures and empty spaces scattered around the park. I’m curious to see if guests are even venturing around some of these vacant corners, or steering clear since they don’t believe that there’s anything to see. Looking at a map and thinking about what might be is one thing, but actually getting my feet on the ground, remembering what was, both decades ago and recently, and brainstorming about the park’s potential is an entirely different experience. I mean, you never know when Disney may come to me for my brilliant idea for a corner of the park…

5 Tea Trader’s CafĂ© from Joffrey’s – We’ve been reviewing a lot of Joffrey’s Disney offerings at home over the past year, but as many of you know coffee isn’t really my cup of tea. Tea, on the other hand, is one of my simple pleasures that I cannot do without! I can’t wait to see what this shop offers and what I can find to take home. Who’d like to have a review of Joffrey’s after we’ve given it our fullest attention?

4 Fort Wilderness History – These is a lot of history within the 750 acres of Fort Wilderness and its adjacent areas. A lot of it is now defunct, but it still fascinates me to find the glimpses of the olden days. What’s left of River Country, the Fort Wilderness Railroad, and the Lawnmower Tree? With each passing year there is less and less of what once was Fort Wilderness, but that doesn’t mean the past is entirely gone or forgotten. While much of it is in Cast Member only areas, there are still remnants that can be observed in Guest friendly areas.

3 Exploring Harambe – Okay, so I know that there is a lot of food on this countdown, but this one isn’t all just about food and drinks. Does the Harambe Marketplace offer me a smorgasbord of new options? Sure, but I’m more excited about the details and story that has been fleshed out in Harambe over the past year with the multitude of additions to the land. Someone is going to have to pull me and my camera out of the land before I while away an entire day just exploring!

2 Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – I may or may not have fallen in love with the Trader Sam’s concept at Disneyland back in February. I may or may not have a desire to collect several of the new mugs to add to my burgeoning tiki collect, even though I know that will be cost prohibitive. I may or may not have read as little as possible about the story within the Grog Grotto because I have plans to document as much of this establishment as I can to see how the story links Trader Sam’s, the Adventurers Club, Harrison Hightower III, the Explorers Club, and Indiana Jones together. And I may or may not be so excited that I can get a Kungaloosh again that I can’t stand it.

1 Spending Time with Friends and Family – This is what a trip is all about. There are friends near and dear to my heart that I don’t get to spend near enough time with that I can’t wait to catch up with. Where family is concerned, this will be a unique trip, with new experiences but also a couple of jaunts down memory lane. My sister has never been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and while the missus is concerned I will turn into Tour Guide Ryan, I can’t wait to show her all that the park has to offer. While there is plenty to see and do, the thing that most excites me about the trip is being able to see and do all of these things with the people that mean the most to me in the world.

22 July 2015

Maps & Globes

Tucked away along the backside of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rolling hillside, in the seaside village of Ariel and Prince Eric, sits a selection of merchant shops. Woodcarvers and provision providers can be found among the business residents. Perhaps most importantly to those setting sail for distant, and conceivably unknown, ports of call would be the cartographer. It just so happens that there is one in town who has his shingle out, and his name is H. Goff.

While this may be the fictitious home utilized to house New Fantasyland’s DVC kiosk, there is much more to the story here. This sign pays respect to one of the grandfathers of Imagineering, Harper Goff. One of the designers who dreamed up Disneyland and then made that dream a reality, Goff found a home quickly at Disney in the early 1950s. He was the banjo-man for the Firehouse Five Plus Two, a train enthusiast, and an eye for art that immersed viewers into the world he had created. All of this is well and good, you might be telling yourself, but what does it have to do with New Fantasyland?

Let’s take a closer look around. Goff’s shopfront is in a seashore area of New Fantasyland, where The Little Mermaid has made a name for herself. Long before Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder and their crew made a name for themselves, Disney had another bona fide hit from the ocean realm. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the 1954 live-action film featuring Kirk Douglas and James Mason, had once enthralled audiences with its daring adventures and monstrous squid. It is a silhouette of that squid that clutches to the weathervane atop Goff’s place.

In case you’re trying to tie up all of the loose threads, Goff had at one point in time been asked to create the storyboards for Walt Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. At the time, however, it was supposed to be an installment in the True-Life Adventure documentary series. Walt wasn’t precisely pleased with Goff’s interpretation of the Jules Verne novel instead of documentary storyboards he had been asked to create, but the incredible environments and designs Goff had created sold Walt on the feature film. Among Goff’s many notable accomplishments within the film, he was responsible for the scaly, sea serpent figure that would become known the world over as the Nautilus submarine.

To put a nice bow on the name (H. Goff), adornment (squid weathervane), and the place (New Fantasyland), it is worth noting that the one time E ticket attraction, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Submarine Voyage, once dove beneath the waves, ice caps, and down to the very heart of Atlantis on this very spot in the Magic Kingdom. Those submarines, however, are a story for another day. Not a bad way to remember a legend who gave so much to the Disney world we all know and love today, huh?

20 July 2015

A Real Fast Grower

This weekend I will be getting back into the woods of Fort Wilderness. This was my boyhood home when at Walt Disney World, and while I have never passed up a chance to grab some chicken, sing some songs by the campfire, or just sit on the shores of Bay Lake listening for the motor launches to come in, it has been well over fifteen years since I’ve actually stayed there. It’s an experience that I am very much looking forward to, even if Fort Wilderness isn’t the place I remember.

When I was a child, it was a different age. My sister and I, and occasionally a pair of cousins who would meet us there, were given run of the campground provided we were cautious and polite. We would take our Huffy bikes, I’m still convinced that the black and red design gave my bike an edge in the speed department, and head up to the Meadow Swimming Pool for a dip or a zebra cone. A zebra cone, for those of you not in the know, is what they called an ice cream cone with swirls of chocolate and vanilla soft serve. We would find kids to play tetherball with or to set up fake battles at the playgrounds with. It is worth noting that the playgrounds at that time had wooden forts with interlocking beams and metal teepees all over the place. Also, metal teepees, in the Florida sun, I’m sure we all burned ourselves at least half a dozen times before we learned not to touch or lean up against them. Biking up to the trading posts was also not uncommon, even if just for some window shopping of all the cool items for sale. Especially the post cards, I love the post cards.

Come sundown we would find a stick around our campsite and head to the sing-a-long with our parents. After consuming a godawful amount of marshmallows, I would be thrilled to belt out my rendition of My Bonnie and wait, impatiently, to give Chip a hug. Then we would settle in for a viewing of Peter Pan, The Great Mouse Detective, or 101 Dalmatians. Some nights we would venture over to the Settlement to pay our respects to the Lawnmower Tree and to grab some sand for the Electrical Water Pageant. Late into the night we would sit around our campsite, complete with a tarp canopy and plastic colored lanterns strung between the trees, and play cards and nibble on some fudge my aunt picked up at the trading post.

I should mention we were a resourceful lot. My father had a large, white conversion van for work that had two bucket seats in the front and enough space in the middle to set some crates to make it look as if my sister and I were on a bench seat. When we got close to Walt Disney World we would tune into the AM station broadcasting all the Disney information you needed to know and my sister and I would cover our laps with a blanket so that the person at the entrance plaza didn’t think twice that we weren’t buckled in. Like I said, it was a different age. Oh, and we definitely got to drive the golf cart a time or two (or ten…).

In those days you followed painted lines on the road to your resort, and you only had the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Fort Wilderness to choose from. It was a miracle to see a motorhome anywhere near the campgrounds, we always stayed on Jack Rabbit Run,  upon arrival you always tried to find the trail behind your campsite that led to make believe adventures and the Comfort Stations,  which were a common meeting spot for whatever gang of well-mannered hooligans we were able to corral that week.

So, what’s changed? Why has it taken me so long to return for a stay at the place I love so much in the world?

I can’t tell you for certain. Sure there have been some safety improvements over the years. The underbrush between sites has been cleared away, Comfort Stations require key card/wristband access overnight, and playgrounds are no longer the metal and wood death traps that once inspired daredevil antics. Now tent camping is almost as rare as motorhomes were in my day, and the cost for a spot on Jack Rabbit Run is almost equivalent to a night in one of the All-Star or Pop Century resorts. River Country has been closed for fifteen years, the Lawnmower Tree lost its battle and all but rotted away, and the remnants of the Fort Wilderness Railroad have all been lost to time. That being said, they have Segway tours now and the Meadow Swimming pool has a water slide and a splash and play zone. But nothing here tells me why I haven’t been back.

I understand and respect change in Walt Disney World, especially when it is painful for me to watch something I love go away. I cherish the memories of am extinct place or show a little more, and talk about it with a bit more sparkle in my voice.  Change is the way of the world, and I would hate for my children to inherit the same Walt Disney World I grew up with.

I can’t explain why I’ve stayed away for so long, which means all I can do is head back to Fort Wilderness as quickly as I can. This will be a different trip for me though. We won’t be in a tent, we’ll be roughing it cabin style. It’s a rough life, I know. I’ll be piloting the golf cart legally this time, and there aren’t likely to be many self-exploring bike rides, although some exploring walks may be in order. This will be my wife’s first stay at Fort Wilderness, which means she’ll spend just as much time reigning in my exuberant storytelling of days gone by as she does relaxing and enjoying the woods, pools, and campfires.

I’m looking forward to visiting with Chip, checking in on the seas serpent of the Electrical Water Pageant, grabbing some fried chicken, and soaking in the smell of the Meadow Trading Post. And all of that will only be in the first twelve hours! I can’t go home again, it’s isn’t the same place I left, but maybe it’s a different home for me now and just what I need at this age in my life. Only time will tell. I’ll be sure to share my adventures as we go along!

13 July 2015

An African Folktale

As you make your way through Jambo House, the lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ve likely passed by Ogun’s Fire Pit on your way to Boma, your room in either the Kudu or Zebra trails, or Arusha Rock. The indoor fire pit is a great spot to start or end your daily adventures, but there is more to this fireplace than just a warm place and some comfortable chairs.

Let’s start with its name, Ogun’s Fire Pit. In African folklore Ogun is a great spirit with two primary functions. Primarily he is a craftsman who works with metal to make the earth a better place for people to live in. Ogun is also a great warrior. It is his skill as a metalworker, however, that informs the ornate grate around the fire pit.

The metal screen is actually another piece of African folklore and tells a complete story through its embellishments. Now, you could try to decipher the narrative for yourself, and probably come up with some intriguing stories to tell, but there is an easier way. Imbedded in the floor right next to Ogun’s Fire Pit is a bronze plaque which offers up the entire story.


A poor man traveling across Africa kindly shared his millet with a weaverbird. He gave a passing hyena some meat. With a buzzing bee, he shared his honey, and to a crocodile, he gave water.

A wealthy king set the man four difficult tasks to win the hand of the princess. First, identify the king’s daughter in a crowd.

The grateful bee flew around the princess, revealing her identity. Next, the man was to sort a mountain of seeds. The weaverbird helped him. He was told to devour an ox. The hyena happily came to his aid. Finally, the crocodile and his family formed a bridge so the man could cross the river and retrieve a magical feather.

The man received riches and the hand of the princess, but his true reward was finding friends who repaid his selfless acts.

09 July 2015

Prickly Pals

As Downtown Disney and Disney Springs continues to evolve, sometimes it’s fun to look back at the days of yesteryear. In this case, let’s head on down to Pleasure Island’s Neon Armadillo!

Neon Armadillo was a kitschy country and western nightclub that opened with the rest of Pleasure Island in 1989. It came complete with Navajo patterned decor, a brass chandelier shaped like a spur, cactus iconography, and plenty of the namesake neon. Early in its lifespan the Neon Armadillo even had a pair of food bars dedicated to the sizzling specialty known as fajitas, with the unmistakable smell of charred beef, chicken, and seafood. In 1993 it even played host to a short-lived syndicated television show, Countdown at the Neon Armadillo. The club would shut its doors for the last time in 1998 to make way for the BET Soundstage.

While the real world history of each Pleasure Island club is interesting, the real fascination for me always comes from the island’s crafted history. Merriweather Pleasure had wide spanning interests, and it showed it the various workshops and facilities he constructed on his island. The Neon Armadillo wasn’t always a country and western club, and it certainly wasn’t always the Neon Armadillo. Let’s take a look at the plaque that once stood outside the building:

Neon Armadillo

Constructed to house the vast array of exotic desert plants collected by island founder, a globe-trotter and amateur cactogogist Merriweather Pleasure. Pleasure regarded the Greenhouse has his personal Eden. He nurtured his “prickly pals,” as he called them, with fanatical devotion. After Pleasure’s disappearance in 1941, his Greenhouse was sealed off. When it reopened in 1989, scientists discovered a huge and happy family of armadillos. This inhabitants were immortalized in neon by the Island renovators.