Around the World in One Afternoon

When we went to Epcot, I knew long before our arrival which part of the park held the most appeal for me.  The front of the park contains the two halves of Future World, but the back holds the World Showcase.  All around the lake, Disney has built a trip around the world.

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There are 12 countries represented, if you include the African Outpost.  We spent our afternoon wandering from country to country, soaking in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the world.

We stopped in Mexico first, right as the World Showcase opened at 11:00.  In Mexico, we rode a short boat ride, hosted by The Three Caballeros, which took us through some Mexican culture.  The ride broke down for a few minutes while we were on it, but nothing major.  Even Disney’s announcements to tell you the ride is malfunctioning stay in theme with the attraction.

We made a quick stop in Norway, but were scared off by some life-size and extremely realistic looking Viking statues.  Seriously, they were terrifying.  We did fit in a quick boat ride in Norway as well, which touched on highlights of Nordic culture from over the centuries.

Next stop: China.  The landscaping and detail here were truly beautiful.  At this point, we were expecting a cultural boat ride in every country.  China did offer a film, but we skipped out on it.  We did, however, take the chance to partake in our first culinary treat on our world tour.  Kevin loves pot stickers, so they were an easy choice.

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Next came Germany.

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Germany offered nothing in the way of entertainment or rides, but we did get another snack there.  We both love bratwurst and there is no better place to get it than Germany…well, probably the real Germany, not the Epcot version.  Still, we enjoyed it.  You can see that we specifically got the sauerkraut on the side.  Kevin ate that half.  We even split the bun so I didn’t have to eat anything that had even touched it.  I have traumatic childhood memories involving sauerkraut.  Ok, maybe not traumatic, but the stuff is gross.

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We were amazed at how many people were filing into the German buffet for lunch.  While we love food from just about all cultures, we could not understand why you would choose German food when you had the option to go one more country over and enjoy some of the best food in the world – Italian!

We contemplated getting cannoli or, my all-time favorite, tiramisù in Italy.  Ultimately, we opted to return later for the tasty treats – and never did.  Had we not already had reservations elsewhere for dinner, I would have chosen one of the Italian restaurants in a heartbeat.  Kevin sadly does not have the same love for pasta that I do; I love their food.  Pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and other cheeses, olive oil, fresh herbs – I love it all.  Since we have Italian food all the time, though, a stop in Epcot’s Italy for food would not have been entirely justified.

We also skipped everything in The American Adventure section.  They do have a show enacting American history.  However, we consider that to be a topic we have a pretty strong grasp on.  No show needed for the Napps.

Japan had beautiful gardens.  We considered getting miso soup there, but the day was far too hot at that point.  No soup for us!  There also were no attraction options in Japan.  We did walk through the shops there and I was struck at how similar even the set up of the goods were to actual Japanese stores.  When I was there in high school, I remember being at the mall and there just being tables packed full of one item (chopsticks, hair clips, etc.).  That’s exactly how Disney had their shops set up as well.  Points for authenticity, Disney.

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We made a quick stop in Morocco.  They had lots of little shops packed in on some winding back streets.  It was interesting even in these small replicas of cultures how small variations changed the feel in each country.  We timed our Moroccan visit just before Aladdin and Jasmine were to arrive for a photo opportunity.  One look at the line of crying children, though, and we were on to the next stop.

Ah, France.  My francophile heart could not contain its excitement as we reached Epcot’s version of the country.  I’ll refrain from gushing about my love of everything French here.  Suffice it to say that I was a happy camper at this point.  We watched a short film containing exclusively beautiful wide-screen shots of life in France.  The majority of the movie depicted the French countryside, which is stunning.  One comment from Kevin, “Forget the cities, that made me want to go to France for country,” renewed hope for the realization of my dream of owning a second home in a village in southern France.

In the afternoon, I got a raspberry line macaron from Les Halles Boulangerie Patiesserie.  Then, later in the night, we had dinner at Chefs de France.  We’ll talk more about our experience with Disney dining in a later post, but for now, you can see pictures of our meal.  We were lucky enough to get a window seat on a crowded, rainy night.  Kevin got Demi poulet fermier roti Pommes rissolees et broccoli (roasted chicken, rissole potatoes, and broccoli) while I ordered Plat de cote de boeuf au cabernet avec pates (beef short ribs braised in Cabernet with pasta, pearl onions, and mushrooms).  For dessert, we had Profiterolles au Chocolat (profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce).

Another treat in France was the Beauty and the Beast topiary display.  They had topiaries of various Disney characters throughout the park (you can also see Cinderella and Price Charming in the pictures above).  They were all incredibly intricate, but only Belle ranked high enough in my mind to take my picture with the display.

We flew through the United Kingdom.  At this point, things were getting crowded and we had no interest in meeting Alice in Wonderland (who was there for a photo opportunity) or watching the street performers.  The UK did have some lovely garden areas, though, which sadly did make it onto my camera.  While I could have sworn I took some pictures, I was getting pretty tired by that point.

We breezed past Canada as well.  I could not figure out why there was a castle in the Canadian area.  They had a cool waterfall, which made sense.  They also had a film about Canada hosted by Martin Short.  We skipped that one, too.

Though not every country had a formal attraction, they all had little shops selling the wares of their native land.  A lot of the countries have traditional headgear offered.  Taking advantage of this, we took a picture of Kevin in every hat we could find.

One interesting thing we noticed was the ethnicity of the workers in each country.  At all of the parks, Disney employees wear name tags with their home town written under their name.  It’s cool to see how so many cultures are represented in their staff.  At first, while perusing World Showcase, we thought Disney had just been super stereotypical in placing their employees.  By Germany, though, we realized that the people working in each area were actually from that country.  They all wore very traditional cultural costumes.  We definitely wondered if they enjoyed representing their countries that way or if they hated the clichés being perpetuated.

Even though World Showcase wore us out – Kevin was very tired of looking in the shops by the end of our tour – we really enjoyed the experience.  For people who love traveling as much as we do, I think it gave us a great sense of quite a few countries.  The architecture and decor in each country was beautiful and very authentic looking.  As with everything, Disney masters the details, giving an immersion experience like few other places.

We did wonder if visiting these countries in Epcot counts enough to scratch them off on our map.  It totally counts, right?

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