Friday, 8 April 2011

Tapestry of Nations

As a result of working in Towers and Glow last summer I got to spend a lot of time in World Showcase last summer.

As a kid there were three things I loved about World Showcase: Maelstrom, the Teppanyaki Dining Rooms (now Teppan Edo) and the buses that took you around the lagoon. There seemed to be so little for me to do and it used to be my least favourite part of WDW and Epcot my least favourite park. Since those days a lot has changed in World Showcase and it has become a lot more kid friendly, the buses though are long gone.

For those that haven't been to WDW or Epcot before here's a quick summary: World Showcase was originally conceived as a different park to the rest of Epcot and was initially designed to be a series of islands that represented each country. Realising that boat capacities could be a bit of an issue World Showcase ended up as a continuous pathway around the world. I'm going to talk about WS going clockwise around the lagoon but you can start at either end.

1. Mexico
Here you'll see everything from margaritas to sombreros. The bulk of Mexico is contained within a giant pyramid, inside which are various shops, a restaurant and a boat ride with The Three Caballeros (Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles). For anyone that has been to Disneyland, the start of the ride is very similar to Pirates of the Caribbean where your boat passes right next to an "outdoor" restaurant after dusk.

2. Norway
Norway is still probably my favourite country in WS, even more so now that I have had the opportunity to work there, awesome considering that I'm not Norwegian! Maelstrom, the boat ride, is like a tamer version of Pirates of the Caribbean except you're in Troll Country. I was based in Norway for approximately 2/3 of my ICP in 2010 and I had the time of my life there. I even found new appreciation for it, including the film that is at the end of the ride. I also spent a lot of time one evening making the Norway Donald plushes look all neat and pretty. I loved taking my glow cart to Norway because you'd see all the princes and princesses heading off to the Royal Banquet at Akershus, the table service restaurant there. If you fancy a sweet treat stop by the bakery, the food there looks amazing.

3. China
This is a pavilion that I didn't really spend much time in last summer, which I'm really ashamed of. Walking past you could see acrobats or Mulan. There's a movie about China as well. I have often had a browse round the shop though. In 2008 they had lots of the Olympic merchandise on sale. No doubt the UK will do the same soon for the 2012 Olympics.

4. African Outpost
This was all that represented Africa in WDW until Animal Kingdom opened in May 1998. There are some drums you can play which is kinda fun and a couple of stores where they sell carvings and the like. One thing worth mentioning is the bridge between China and Africa. For glowers the bridge is very important because it is able to be raised and lowered for the Illuminations barges to get on and off the lagoon. If you were glowing in Germany or Italy you would want to beat the barges to the bridge after the fireworks, otherwise you were left stranded for a while.

5. Germany
Last summer the grassy area in Germany played host to the World Cup attractions. It's home to Snow White, a miniature railway and several restaurants, including a buffet where it is Oktoberfest 365 days of the year. There's also a new store that specialises in Werther's Original treats. If you have a craving for Haribo or chocolate, Germany is the place to go.

6. Italy
If you want gelato, pizza or a mask, Italy is the place to go. Surprisingly, until August of last year the only place to get pizza in Epcot, then Via Napoli opened. I haven't had the chance to try the pizza there myself but it comes in various sizes and is made using water imported from Naples.

7. The American Adventure
I love the American Adventure! It is more open and spacious than the other countries in WS and is home to the various special concerts that happen at Epcot throughout the year like the "Sounds of Summer". It's also the place to hear the Voices of Liberty, an a capella group. But my favourite bit is the show hosted by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. It's insanely American but I love it and you leave feeling completely uplifted like anything is possible.

8. Japan
I mentioned it earlier as being the location of one of my favourite restaurants: Teppan Edo, a photo of which is currently featured in the opening titles of my vlog. There are also some beautiful gardens, the Mitsukoshi Department Store, a candy sculptor and a storyteller.

9. Morocco
This is another country I haven't spent enough time in but it's great to just wander around. Aladdin and Jasmin do a lot of meet and greets here and if you're lucky sometimes you'll see the genie too

10. France
If you want to go character hunting this is one of the best places to go. Belle, the Beast, Aurora and Marie all spend a lot of their time here. If you eat in the Chefs de Paris restaurant you'll have Remy as your chef. This is another place where you can watch a film about a country and don't forget to stop by the various shops which include a perfumery.

11. International Gateway
This is the second entrance to Epcot, located down a hill between France and the United Kingdom, it provides quick access to the Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin, Fantasia Gardens, and Disney's Hollywood Studios via either a walkway or one of the Friendship boats.

12. The United Kingdom
Last summer I ate in the Rose and Crown for the first time and I warn you now it's full of Brits! The food was delicious though and if you do find yourself craving a Yorkshire Pudding, a Curlywurly or a Penguin then the UK will not disappoint. Take some time to explore around the back of the pavillion because there's a lot of intricate detail back there. Mary Poppins and Alice take turns to visit the area and the red phone booths are well worth a visit.

13. Canada
Where can you eat a Chocolate Moose, watch a film starring Martin Short and see Off Kilter? Canada of course! It's the last (and first) country in World Showcase and the food in Le Cellier is to die for and supposedly one of the hardest places to get into for a meal!

14. Towers!
Last but not least (and partly because I didn't want to end on number 13!) is Towers, my home last summer. Spare a thought for those flag-shirted cast members and feel free to point out your home country's flag on their shirt. They're a fun loving lot and are always happy to entertain by dressing up or playing with Stitch. Duffy the Disney Bear recently moved in with them so his meet and greet is right next door. Before you ask "No, those shirts aren't for sale!"

So ends my tour of World Showcase. There are plenty of videos on youtube that show off this amazing part of WDW so if you ever have a spare few minutes go and check them out!

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