Friday, March 29, 2013

Favorites on Friday: The Stave Church

One of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World is The Stave Church in Norway. Countless people pass by this favorite each day, unaware of the hidden gem that lies behind the wooden doors. Located at the front of Epcot's Norway pavilion in the World Showcase, this impressive structure is a replica of a Norwegian Stave Church, an architectural design popular in Norway between 1100 and 1200 AD.

The attention to detail is amazing, from the top of the steeple all the way to the elaborately carved designs facing out over World Showcase Lagoon.

Stepping inside is like stepping through a gateway to a different world. It's cool, dimly lit, and quiet. Soft music floats in the air as the doors close and shut out the crowds beyond. When I'm inside the Stave Church, I feel like I've been transported to another place and time. It's usually not crowded, as many people don't realize you can enter the church. I have often been the only person there- something that's hard to accomplish elsewhere in Epcot! When's the last time you were alone in an attraction? For those of us who can't always visit during low attendance periods, this is a rare treat.

Glass cases display artifacts and weaponry, some over 1,000 years old. The displays are well-detailed, and I always find it fascinating to look closely at these tools and weapons- the age is staggering, and I can't help but imagine them in the hands of Vikings, sailing the seas.

photos courtesy of Z.S. Swiss

The dioramas showcase Viking exploration. In addition to artifacts, they also include replicas of ships, as well as a few famous Vikings- like King Olaf II.

My sister and I spent a very long time standing in front of this case, staring endlessly, searching for a Hidden Mickey that was supposedly on  King Olaf II's tunic. We were never able to find it. Apparently this is one of the disappearing Hidden Mickeys- ones that are lost, at least for now. Can you see that fold in the fabric, on the top of his right leg? That's right around the spot the Hidden Mickey used to be. Perhaps a Cast Member shifted the garment the last time Olaf was being dusted?

photo courtesy of Z.S. Swiss

I always make a stop in the Stave Church, and I always continue to check Olaf's tunic for the elusive Hidden Mickey. If you happen to know a Cast Member who works with the Vikings- just a small readjustment of the fabric on Olaf's right thigh is all we need....

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Hats

Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop...

This week's theme: Hats, Caps & Bonnets


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped  over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links, and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, March 25, 2013

A few great things about Writer's Stop...

There's a special out-of-the way place in Disney's Hollywood Studios: Writer's Stop. Part food service, part souvenir shop, part relaxation location, Writer's Stop is a hidden gem. It's not technically out-of-the-way, as it's at a busy crossroads. It's tucked away between the SciFi Dine-In Theater and the place where the Streets of America meld into Endor. But it's set back a bit, and the outside is somewhat unassuming. I often hear people say they had no idea it was there.

This is a special little oasis, for a few simple reasons:

1) When it's hot out (and let's face it, that's most of the time), this place has some superior air conditioning. There's a spot near the front of the shop, about halfway between the front doors and the first service counter, where a big duct of cold air just pours right down, full blast. Do not underestimate the power this can have when you're overheated, dragging, worn out, sweating, or otherwise in need of a boost.

If you stood next to this shelf of mugs, across from the service desk, you'd be bathed in cold air...

2) They serve good coffee, and a variety of tasty treats to go along with it. The left side of the shop is a food and beverage service area, filled with tasty delights.

 (This photo does not do the food and beverage selection justice- trust me, or google some images...)

3) This really is a place to stop. It offers comfortable seating, arranged in clusters, with lots of reading material available for perusal and/or purchase.  Music and DVDs are also for sale, as well as a selection of small housewares. A stop here, for a fifteen minute break to refuel and recharge, can do wonders for the rest of your day.

But as is often the case with Disney, the story doesn't stop there. There's another reason why I'll always love Writer's Stop- and that's because of a kind Cast Member.

During one of our trips, my daughter and I had split from my husband so we could each go off to do a few different attractions. We had a rendezvous time and a meetup spot, and we needed to be prompt because we had to make it to a reservation at one of the resorts. We couldn't be late! As things often go, we were having a blast when we suddenly realized we were very late. My husband had no doubt been waiting already, and we needed to fly. But there was a problem: my daughter had her heart set on getting a bag of Chip 'n Dale pretzels that day. This was a major souvenir in her eyes, and she had been talking about them and looking forward to it the whole time we toured the park. I foolishly waited until the end of the day to get them. (Yay, go Mom!). I knew they sold them in the Writer's Stop, but I didn't think we'd have time to go and still make it back within a reasonable window after our scheduled meetup time. We reluctantly decided to go for it, but I warned my daughter that we had to be quick- in & out!  We raced into Writer's Stop, and she went to the pretzel rack (as I stood bathing in the cold air from point #1 above). Bag in hand, she walked to the counter, only to hear the CM say, "Sorry, my register's down- you'll have to bring them to the register at the coffee counter". We turned toward the coffee counter....and saw a line about 12 people deep. My daughter and I locked eyes for a few seconds, she bowed her head, then slowly turned to walk toward the rack to put the pretzels back. The CM watched her, and asked what was wrong. "We're late- we're supposed to be over at Indy, so I don't have time for the line", she said, swallowing back a  tear. The CM shook her head, leaned over, and said, "Take them- they're a present from me".

A simple, kind gesture- but one that I will always remember.

I believe stories like this happen all over the parks and resorts, all the time. The company empowers its employees to make this sort of thing happen, and Cast Members can- and do- spread little bits of magic with guests.

Have you ever had a CM interaction that left a big impression?

Have you visited the Writer's Stop?

Please share your story with us in the comments!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Spring Fever

Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop...

This week's theme: Spring Fever

Spring flowers in the World Showcase


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped  over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links, and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Kalanchoe Chronicle

The Land is one of my favorite places in all of Walt Disney World. In fact, it will have its own tribute post coming soon! For now, though, I'm posting the beginning of my Kalanchoe Chronicle. "Mickey's Mini Gardens" are sold in The Land pavilion, at the desk next to Soarin'. These are tiny plant tissue cultures, cultivated from the greenhouse inside The Land. A few varieties are available. I selected a kalanchoe, based on my understanding that this will be a hardy variety! Inspired by the fine folks at Main Street Gazette, I'm chronicling my attempt at growing this kalanchoe on the Plus the Magic Facebook page. If you've not already visited & liked our page, please do so! You can find our Facebook page here.

Our chronicle begins...

The Land Pavilion, located in Epcot's Future World West, is home to some of my favorite attractions. In addition to the ever-popular Soarin', the pavilion also houses Living with the Land, an agricultural boat ride tour through a fantastic working greenhouse. Sunshine Seasons- one of my favorite quick service eateries- can also be found here.

Just outside of the Soarin' entrance on the lower level, you'll find a counter where you can sign up for Behind the Seeds, a backstage tour of the greenhouses. (I highly recommend this tour- watch for a post dedicated to Behind the Seeds coming soon!). It's here that you will find a display for Mickey's Mini Gardens! These tiny plant tissue cultures, propagated right here in The Land pavilion, are growing in an agar gel and are sealed in glass.

The instructions included in the box will give you information on how your plant came to be, as well as how to transplant and grow it.

Out of the box and ready to grow!

The first step was to prepare a small pot, using a good quality potting soil.

Next it was time to take the little guy out of the glass jar. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. The gel was much firmer than I expected, and I needed a spoon to coax it out. I lost one tiny green leaf in the process.

Carefully rinsing off the gel to expose the roots was our next step. After removing the gel, there were hardly any roots remaining. I hope there are enough to support this little guy. Time will tell...

Week 0

Once planted, a plastic bag is put over the plant to maintain humidity. This will stay on for the first few weeks, and holes will be added shortly to increase air circulation. I hung a ruler next to the kalanchoe, so we can (hopefully) measure growth as the weeks go by.

 Week 1

After one full week, the kalanchoe seems to be doing fine. There's no discernible growth yet. The photo on the right was taken with a flash, so that the humidity inside would be visible.

To follow along on The Kalanchoe Chronicle journey, please visit our Facebook page! Thanks for joining us.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Flowers and Gardens

Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop...

This week's theme: Flowers and Gardens

Glass  flowers from the Land of Oz in Epcot...

Topiary dragon at the China Pavilion


Thanks to Deb @ Focused on the Magic  for hosting the Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop! 

If you hopped  over, I invite you to check out my other posts, and please consider joining the blog or following on twitter.

Check out all the other Wordless Wednesday links, and remember to share some comment love...

Focused on the Magic

Monday, March 11, 2013

Attention to Detail: Lamp Posts

One of the things that sets Disney apart from any place else is the attention to detail given to everything- especially the mundane things that would normally go unnoticed elsewhere. Case in point: lamp posts. The first in a series of posts on Attention to Detail focuses on these luminous structures. These lighting fixtures are found everywhere, in each park and resort. As with most things, though, Disney does it with flair. Each lamp post found throughout WDW is themed carefully to its environment. Each one represents the area it lights, enhancing its surroundings or blending seamlessly with the atmosphere. Below are a few examples. Have you ever noticed the light fixtures around the parks and resorts? Tell us about it in the comments. Can you guess where each one can be found? You can leave your guesses in the comments as well.

Here are a few examples of the beautifully crafted, thoughtfully themed lamp posts found throughout the Walt Disney World parks and resorts...





(close up of  D- one of my favorites)











(sorry, this one got cut off. I must have been focused on that 
sweet castle in the background...)



R (same area as Q, slightly different style)


Just a sampling of some of the many lamp posts that illustrate Disney's Attention to Detail. 

Which one is your favorite?