One year later, we walked around the world together. The light kissed our cheeks and the breeze tossed our hair. It was a cool day, a good day. A day of food, a day of wine. A day together in the sun.
Epcot’s 2014 International Food and Wine Festival has come and gone. We were there late in the process, a week or so before the finale. It was a cool Saturday, a bit windy. It’s not often we get a taste of autumn around here, even on the day after Halloween.
This was a day for us. It was a day to enjoy the cool temperature, a day to feel young.
We began the morning at the Magic Kingdom, showing up at rope drop, eager to get started, impatient to taste our freedom. Our feet barely touched Main Street USA as we dashed to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The wait in line already was officially an hour, but we boarded in 37 minutes. It was fun.
That night, a fireworks accident set the ride on fire. No one was injured, and it re-opened an hour later.
We rode the Mine Train, then walked onto the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. We thought about Starbucks on the way out, but the line for $6 coffee was longer — by far — than the lines for Mansion and Pirates. So we found seats on the monorail and headed to Epcot.
The two tickets issued by Disney public relations (for review purposes) were park hoppers. That gave us the run of the place, basically, for a day. Why not take it all in, we figured? Why not go for a three-park day?
That would be too much, as it turned out. We would later decide to forgo Hollywood Studios, but that was the beauty of the day — we had options, and those options were limited only by our energy level and ambition.
Instead, we did something we could not have done if our sons had been with us. We ended our day at the Grand Floridian. More on that later.
Before we knew where we would end our day, there was a world to traverse.
We ate this:
While still at the Magic Kingdom earlier that morning, we attached our daily tickets to our My Disney Experience account and secured a Fastpass+ reservation for Soarin’ at Epcot. We landed the 1:25-2:25 p.m. hour, which melded well with our goal of eating our way around the world at a leisurely pace.
At 11 a.m., when the festival kicked off in earnest at World Showcase, we had the place virtually to ourselves. There were no lines at any of the kiosks, which gave us the luxury to stroll from country to country and consider our many options.
Scotland was first. Vegetarian haggis — basically, turkey stuffing with delicious spices. Through Canada, where filet mignon from le Cellier would eventually draw some of the longest lines of the day (Mexico, with its ribeye taco, and Belgium, with its waffles, would rival Canada for line length).
On past the United Kingdom and into France. Around the world we walked. Morocco, Japan, America (.38 Special was on stage that night, but we would miss it). Italy. We paused and watched the shadows shorten from the stairs overlooking the lagoon.
There, I saw my wife as if for the first time, as if she and I were strangers in Venice, thrown together by fate and food. You ever experience that? A moment of revival. The veil of daily life falls away and life is new again, if only for a minute.
That’s what happened when I saw her sitting there on those steps by the water in Italy. She sat on the steps, framed by blue sky and dense greenery. The autumn sun peeked over her left shoulder and teased her shadow toward Spaceship Earth across the lagoon. The breeze took her hair and she smiled. She smiled at me in that moment, there was no one-year anniversary to process, no birthday to celebrate, no crowd at Epcot.
There was her, and me, the sun and the food.
We thought about our options. We were free to do whatever our hearts imagined, if what we imagined involved food, wine or themed rides. There was another thing we could do, and it was Beth’s idea — why not hop aboard the monorail and explore a Magic Kingdom resort?
The Contemporary was a thought, but it had to be the Grand Floridian. We bid farewell to Epcot, where the crowd had begun to thicken and the lines had begun to lengthen. We changed trains at the transportation center, moving easily from the Magic Kingdom-Epcot line to the resort line.
We walked off the monorail and into a Fitzgerald short story. The massive lobby was white, like diamonds piled on silk curtains. A live band played across the way. Patrons lounged and snoozed on the gilded furniture below.
At our window seat in Mizner’s Lounge, we shared our last hour over drinks and a delicious flatbread appetizer. We contemplated a return to the Magic Kingdom. Small World? Hall of Presidents? The night parade? Fireworks?
No. As tempting as it was to stay — it is always tempting to stay — it was time for our walk around the world to come to an end. We had seen what we wanted to see, eaten what we had wanted to eat, drank what we wanted to drink.
We had been who we needed to be, if only for a little while.
Our day in the sun was over. But we will be back in the spring, and it will still be there.