Ric - my partner - was a delegate from his church in Berkeley, California to the National Conference of the Congregationalist Churches of America and it was held at the Hilton Hotel in Orlando. While Ric was there for the entire conference, I was present for the last three days.
I took a new camera - a gift from a friend - with me but, unfortunately, neither Ric nor I were able to operate it properly so - sadly - I missed a number of wonderful photographic opportunities. The donor of the camera is the person whom I depend upon when I have computer problems. I was in that situation before I left so he came over here on the evening that I returned. While he was here he carefully guided me through the operation of the device. It does work - and I will have it with me when I go on the boat cruise on Monday (Canada Day) but too late for Orlando and Epcot!
As my computer was down before I left here I missed a number of email messages from Delta Airlines detailing changes in the routing of my flight. Originally, I was to fly to Boston, then Atlanta and, finally, Orlando. While I was at Lester B. Pearson International Airport (here in Toronto) my itinerary was changed at least three times (but not the time for my departure). I flew from here to Laguardia Airport in New York where I had to change to an aircraft that was flying to Orlando.
This was my very first time in any part of New York City so that intrigued me. I looked on a detailed map of NYC trying to pinpoint Laguardia but - while I found where the John F Kennedy Airport is located (the south side of Long Island) - I could not locate the other at first but I have since located it on the north side of Queens and facing Manhattan.
The airport is most certainly older and crowded. As I had more than an hour to wait before continuing on, I wandered around and purchased a sandwich and beverage.
The flights to New York and to Orlando were not that remarkable except for two sightings in North Florida. Before the sun set completely I was looking out of the window and down upon the clouds. Off to my left was a small cumulonimbus cloud and, while I watched, I witnessed lightning flashing all around it. As we began the descent into Orlando Airport the clouds parted and I watched an orange moon rise up from the ocean and - seemingly - to grow in size the higher it rose.
I have mentioned that my computer was down so I missed a final email message from Ric to me which included a voucher for Meares Transport from the airport to the Hilton. As I had not been able to read that, I was lost as to what to do next. Fortunately, a young woman at a nearby counter volunteered to call Ric's number on her cellphone and he told me what to do. I was one of about 12 people in the van taking people into Orlando and I was one of the first to be dropped off. Ric was waiting for me at the door to the hotel and took me up to the room where some food from the hotel kitchen was waiting for me.
The time was after 11:00 PM so we went to bed and I was exhausted!
On the following morning Ric went off to Conference Meetings while I was left to myself. As I had lost my baseball cap (a souvenir from one of the Carnival ships) and, also, as the sun was quite warm, I went looking for a new cap. During the trip from the airport the van had passed a Walgreen Pharmacy so I decided to walk to there to find a replacement cap as well as a tube of denture adhesive. I went to the concierge desk and asked for directions to the drugstore and was handed a map with my walking route outlined.
It was warm and sunny but - still - a lovely morning for a walk and I enjoyed every step of the way. That part of Orlando is quite pretty (green boulevards, lovely trees and impressive hotels). On my way I passed a Disney 'Discount' store and I dropped in there on my return trip to buy the cap.
By the time that I returned to the Hilton Ric was on his lunch break so he showed me how to walk to the park on the other side of one of the streets. This was "Downtown Disney" and it is a magical place - I thought that I was on the back lot of many a Disney film. While walking I saw Mary Poppins as well as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and many other characters, items and scenes from children's movies.
The first building that one sees upon entering Downtown Disney is the Earl of Sandwich which sells sandwiches - what else? I had lunch there with Ric and breakfast (an egg sandwich) on the morning when I left to return to Toronto. There is a lovely dining room in the Hilton Hotel but the menu items are very expensive - a basic breakfast costs more than $20.00!
On Tuesday Ric was able to finish his business at the convention early so we went to the Epcot Center. Buses come by the hotels every half hour to take patrons to all of the Disney parks in the area so we rode one to Epcot and I was very impressed! Admission to any of the Disney theme parks is quite steep and well outside the limit of our budgets so we are grateful for the generosity of friends who purchased the tickets for us. Fortunately I brought the brochure from Epcot home with me and Ric has circled the pavilions which we visited so I believe that my memory will be accurate.
There are 28 pavilions and 'places of interest' at Epcot but time allowed us to visit only four of them - and I do not in the least regret the four that we chose.
The first was the closest pavilion to the entry gate - "Spaceship Earth" - and the route through - on a boat in a canal - was past an illustrated history of human communication devices. It was interesting and the saga was told through droll scenes of 'cartoon figures' operating the various items.
Close by was Mission SPACE. As the journey through that pavilion involved movement and loud noises Ric asked me if I would be comfortable? I replied, "Yes" - but, frankly, I was not sure. Once inside we found ourselves beside a module and, when the door opened, we walked inside where there were 20 or more people already waiting in a queue. Eventually, it was our turn and - by luck - we were the first two who were allowed through the door. The 'audience' was split into groups who were expected to enact the various stages of blast off, orbiting in space, and landing on Mars. We sat in the seats in a row, were buckled in and - after some brief instructions - we experienced 'Blast Off'!
What a strange sensation to experience centrifugal force against one's body! However, that was short lived and then we were 'flying' through space and landing on the surface of Mars. This was not quite as simple as the previous sentence indicates - we had to watch for flying space debris and feel the jolts and bumps as our 'space capsule' settled on the surface of the planet. Then there was the 'fun' of the capsule teetering to the edge of a crevasse while all sorts of space debris flew past us. It was very realistic but logic told me that this really was 'make believe' and that no harm would come to any of us.
Our next stop was to experience 'The Seas With Nemo and Friends' First, we walked through this pavilion going from window to window and looking into sea water and watched all sorts of underwater life swimming past us (one of the creatures that swam by did look a lot like the movie character). Soon we came to where there was a train affair looking much like a midway ride. We climbed into a car and rode through a wonder that - it seems - only Disney would create.
As we approached the end of our ride, a map was on the screen in the front of the vehicle in which we were traveling and we were asked to point out where we were from. Ric left that to me. It was a map of the southern Ontario area (how they came to know that that area is home for me I do not know!). The only name of a city that I noticed was Ottawa so I touched the screen in what I thought was southwest from there. 'Toronto' appeared so I touched that spot. This was just before the terminus of our ride and, as we exited from the car, a mechanical voice wished us "Goodbye" and with a southern Ontario accent!
The final pavilion which we visited was "Living with the Land Presented by Chiquita" - I presume that this is a reference to bananas? This was another ride in a small 'train' which passed through - and by - all sorts of topography. I do not recall how we passed this bit of information but - at the end of the ride (and lesson) caricatures of our faces appeared on the screen and above our names! We had a good chuckle at that!
In the center of Epcot is a large pond (small lake) named 'World Showcase' and we walked all the way around it. Along the shore are sizable pavilions reflecting the architecture of a number of countries. We began that walk in the 'Americas' section and soon walked by a replica of the Chateau Laurier and the Peace Tower which represented Canada. We did not enter any of these showcases but simply noticed the architecture of each. All of these edifices sold food items associated with the representative country. We were getting hungry and looked at the menus but the prices asked for each were outside of the limitations of our pocketbooks! However, we did find a booth where tacos were sold so tacos was our dinner
A view of the evening fireworks was planned so - in order to kill time until dusk - we rode monorails to two of the other Disney sites. I do not recall specifically which sites they were although I know that neither was "The Magic Kingdom" - we could see the turrets of the Fairy Castle in the distance and over the trees.
Once one enters the grounds, one is able to hop on and off the monorails and/ or the shuttle ferries which cross the lagoons which were in all directions.
We watched the time so we could be back at Epcot before 9:00 PM and the evening fireworks display. We found a place to park ourselves close to the water (the fireworks were let off over the central lake) and I went to find the washroom. When I returned Ric was not in sight - everybody along the edge of the lake had been told to move. I knew that, if I stood still in the relatively open space Ric would spot me. Sure enough, he called to me. When I walked over to him there was an Asiatic woman with a small child beside him. He introduced me to this person telling me that she was from Pickering (a Toronto suburb) . The husband also had gone to use a washroom so, when he returned, I held out my hand and said, "Hi Pickering! I'm from Toronto!" He laughed as he shook my hand.
The fireworks - accompanied by a piece of classical music - were magnificent.
When that ended we walked back across the grounds to the bus pickup area where we had quite a wait before the bus to the Orlando Hotels appeared. When it did we hopped on and returned to the Hilton.
We had to rise early the next morning in order to be on the airport bus. At the airport we visited a food court for a light breakfast and then walked to the boarding areas of our respective airlines. As I left the security clearance area there was a bulletproof glass wall on my right and I saw Ric. As he appeared to be having some difficulty with the security guard where he was, I did not try to catch his attention.
For some unknown reason, the gate number for my flight was not on my boarding pass! I thought that it was Gate 79 so I went to that distant area in Orlando Airport. It was not 79 but Gate 59 in the opposite direction! Time seemed to be tight but I was able to reach my flight before it was scheduled to depart.
The flight home was via Detroit (which is one of the hubs of Delta Airlines). I was in the airport for about an hour and then boarded a small regional aircraft for the relatively short hop to Toronto.
Was Toby delighted to see me? You bet he was!