Disney: Going Above and Beyond

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

For over a year, my husband and I had been planning to return to Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village in Walt Disney World, Orlando. What? We’ve been there before? Yes and I never got around to writing about it – sometimes I’m too lazy for words! I’ll talk about that another time, because I want to share about this trip and something that happened there.

As I said, we were planning to return for over a year. My husband had a convention to attend, so I decided to accompany him and take one of my sisters – Laura – along to run through the parks with me. Our older sister, Debi, another Disney fan, had been there with her whole family the previous summer (June 2012), but her cancer came back with a vengeance and she passed away at the end of May, 2013. Before she died, I asked her if Laura and I could take some of her ashes to Disney World with us and leave them near one of her favorite places in EPCOT.  She agreed. A little internet research had shown me that this wasn’t an accepted practice at the parks, but we determined that we could be discreet and most likely avoid being kicked out.

Outside of The Land at EPCOT

Outside of The Land at EPCOT

Debi’s favorite restaurant was The Garden Grill in The Land of EPCOT. Neither Laura nor I had ever eaten there so we decided to find a spot near the restaurant to place her ashes and have dinner afterward. We scoped out the area and found that there wasn’t an exterior entrance to the restaurant, so we decided to put her outside the building in one of the garden areas along the walkway leading into the building after dark, before our dinner reservation.

British phone booth pictures.

British phone booth pictures.

We walked all around EPCOT World Showcase, shopping and taking photos. We both decided we needed to stop at the red British phone booths and take pictures. Naturally, they were posted immediately to Facebook to keep Debi’s family involved in our escapades. We were taking a break from all the walking and sat on a bench, checking Facebook to see if our photos had elicited any responses. It had. Our brother-in-law had posted a picture of Debi in a strikingly similar pose from their last trip. Spooky!

As we slowly made our way to the restaurant, we passed a character “meet & greet” that had a stand-by wait time of 5 minutes. We looked at each other and decided, “why not!” What a score! We got to see Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and Goofy! And we got autographs and photos with all of them!  We hardly had to push any little kids out of the way, either.

It was dark when we left that area, so we went up to the Land and determine where we’d put Debi’s ashes. We sat on the short wall lining the walkway and took turns pouring the ashes from our containers. We took a few photographs of the spot and a man passing by offered to take our picture together.

The characters come right up to the table at the Garden Grill!

The characters come right up to the table at the Garden Grill!

The Garden Grill has a slowly revolving floor and a variety of Disney characters wander around to the tables, visiting with the diners. Food was served family style at each table. Interesting! We told our waiter, Felipe, that we were eating there for a particular reason – to celebrate our sister Debi’s life and told him a little bit about her struggle with cancer. He stopped us and said, “Wait – this story sounds familiar. Was she here in the last year or so with a large group?” We said that she was and showed him a photograph. He recognized her face! It was an amazing coincidence! Felipe made sure he was nearby every time a character stopped at our table so that he could take photos for us. Before he brought us our desserts, he gave us a card signed by all the characters for us to give Debi’s family. Naturally, we burst into tears! It was a very touching and meaningful gesture – one that we will never forget!

A card for our sister from all the characters!

A card for our sister from all the characters!

Next Stop: Aulani Resort in Hawaii!

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We finally did it – we bought into the Disney Vacation Club and booked a vacation at the Aulani Resort for late January 2012! This is a brand new resort that opened this past fall (2011) and, although it is a Disney Resort, it is not “character driven” like the theme park locations (not that there is anything wrong with that!). It looks to have a lot of water/pool features, so I bit the bullet and bought a couple of new swimsuits (and am exercising furiously, but hopefully not futilely!) before our trip.
This will be our first experience as DVC members and also our first trip to Hawaii, so there is much to be excited about! I hope to post before, during and after our trip, so stay tuned! More information about DVC can be found HERE.