Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been one big sour lemon.

For those that did not read my Pre-Trip report; my entire family (Val-wife, Alex - oldest daughter, Sterg - son, Toni - youngest daughter) has recovered from the Covid-19 virus. Myself, Val, Sterg and Toni got it in March and Alex in April while working as a nurse. Val had it worse with a fever for a couple days and flu like symptoms for about a week. The rest of us were either asymptomatic or had minor symptoms.

Add to that the mental stress of living in a society dealing with this pandemic, Toni missing out on a big chunk of her High School Senior Year and her last dance recital (where she was going to take on a major role as Jasmine), work reductions for Sterg and high stress work conditions for Alex on the front line. Yes, 2020 has sure been one big sourpuss.

But, as the saying goes; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

It just so happened that last year I made a reservation to attend the annual AHEPA convention in Walt Disney World, just as I did in 2017. We were going to stay at the Grand Destino Towers but that seemed very much in jeopardy when AHEPA (which is a charitable organization I'm involved with. Like a Greek version of the Knights of Columbus or Lions Club.) cancelled their convention. Soon after however, I received an email that Disney would honor our reservation in July. This was pretty tempting since we had convention rates and discounts on tickets. Long story short, we decided to go. We felt that having already had the virus gave us an extra level of protection and we knew that Disney would handle the health risks properly. In addition, we later found out that our rooms were moved from Grand Destino to the Contemporary in order to accommodate the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sterg's and my dream of playing Marco Polo with the Greek Freak and LeBron James in the pool were quickly dashed. But who could say no to staying at The Contemporary for $175 a night?

We were a go! It was frustrating however because although we had a resort reservation we did not have park tickets. We also didn't have a "park pass" which was needed during this reopening of WDW. We had to wait for all that to open and I had serious doubts it would by the time our first day at the resort (July 20th) rolled around. I decided to book flights without tickets or park passes. Southwest had roundtrip flights from Philly to Orlando for $90 plus if you had to cancel you got that credit for a future flight. No brainer. This was turning out to be the cheapest Disney trip we have taken as a family! Soon after I was open to buy tickets and book Park Passes. We had started to squeeze that lemon and add it's juice to our pitcher of cold water.

Now for the Cast of our adventure.

Myself - Chris/Fractal. A lover of Disney Parks for the many memories it has given me over the years with my family, the way it helps me completely unwind from my job, and how it taps into my creative side and challenges my skills as a photographer.

Here I am with my crazy kids at Christmas.



Val - my beautiful wife. Not the biggest fan of Disney but in the end she was on board. I think secretly she likes it more than she lets on. I will make it up to her with a trip more to her liking.

Here she is with Alex.



Alex - our oldest. Now a traveling nurse. Alex is like me in many ways but as she's getting older and more responsible I'm starting to see her take on a number of Val's traits. She's a good mix and always a delight to be with.

From a trip to Colorado we took last year;



Sterg, aka Fractal Jr. One word to describe Sterg - catalyst - he just makes things happen. He creates reactions both good and bad. He graduated last year from Penn State. He was a captain on the Swim Team but not without drama. He had to miss his promising senior year of swimming when a series of concussions (all outside the water) forced him to medically retire. PSU handled it very well as he helped the team from the sidelines. He now works as a digital marketing consultant as well as helping his cousin get his music career off the ground. Never a dull moment when Sterg is around!

with our dog Prince (Charming).



Toni - For long time readers of my reports you know that Toni and I have a special Disney connection. Many times she would be the only one up early with me to tackle the parks at opening. We have had many great adventures together in the Disney bubble. She's now technically an adult (how did that happen?) so I was going to find out this trip if the magic was still there. She's going to attend Clemson University starting next month and I couldn't be prouder.

Toni in front of the Theater her Recital was supposed to perform at.



So Covid-19 made our family suffer in many ways, but we took that lemon, squeezed it's juice out into our water pitcher, now we just needed a little Disney sugar to make our Lemonade complete.

Coming up - Our trip begins with a WDW meet-up before our flight even leaves the ground!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Val, Alex and Toni arrived just in time for our reservation. They came via the Skyliner and said it was "really cool".

This was our first time dining at The Hollywood Brown Derby despite hearing so many good things about it over the years. Good friends of ours loves it so much they eat there on every trip.



Making our way to our table.





I've never been to the "real/original" Brown Derby but I was guessing this was a pretty close replica.




Still smiling!





The meal was excellent! Best of the trip and one of our best ever at WDW. My salmon was delicious and everyone else gave "Derby" a big thumbs up! And once again - with drinks and an extra person this meal cost less than our lunch at Be Our Guest. This was also Val and Toni's last night as they were heading back home early the next day. For me it was a special meal as we were all back together again having dinner in a Deluxe Restaurant in WDW.

Before leaving I asked Toni for my camera batteries - she handed me two AA batteries. Uh, this is going to be a problem. Apparently my directions were not specific enough or somebody didn't listen well enough. We argued briefly whether is was the former of the latter.

The girls went back to the Hotel as Val and Toni needed to pack and Alex needed to catch up on some rest. Once again Sterg and I were on our own in Hollywood Studios.

With my Sony camera dead, it was up to the Pixel 2 to carry us through the rest of the night.



We headed right to an Aerosmith Concert.



 

DisneyGigi

Well-Known Member
Val, Alex and Toni arrived just in time for our reservation. They came via the Skyliner and said it was "really cool".

This was our first time dining at The Hollywood Brown Derby despite hearing so many good things about it over the years. Good friends of ours loves it so much they eat there on every trip.



Making our way to our table.





I've never been to the "real/original" Brown Derby but I was guessing this was a pretty close replica.




Still smiling!





The meal was excellent! Best of the trip and one of our best ever at WDW. My salmon was delicious and everyone else gave "Derby" a big thumbs up! And once again - with drinks and an extra person this meal cost less than our lunch at Be Our Guest. This was also Val and Toni's last night as they were heading back home early the next day. For me it was a special meal as we were all back together again having dinner in a Deluxe Restaurant in WDW.

Before leaving I asked Toni for my camera batteries - she handed me two AA batteries. Uh, this is going to be a problem. Apparently my directions were not specific enough or somebody didn't listen well enough. We argued briefly whether is was the former of the latter.

The girls went back to the Hotel as Val and Toni needed to pack and Alex needed to catch up on some rest. Once again Sterg and I were on our own in Hollywood Studios.

With my Sony camera dead, it was up to the Pixel 2 to carry us through the rest of the night.



We headed right to an Aerosmith Concert.



This. An empty entrance to RnRC. 😑😍
 

lindawdw

Well-Known Member
We love the Brown Derby and started going there almost every trip after taking a hiatus to try other restaurants. Glad you got to experience such a great place with your beautiful family before Val and Toni had to leave the next day!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
These pool pictures are parenting dreams!!! When your adult kids chose to spend time with you and are having the time of their lives! So fun!

Thanks @Sillysidewalker ! We do have a good time together (most of the time:rolleyes:)
All those perfect smiles....you all look like a toothpaste advertisement!

Lol! Thanks @Songbird76 !
Toni gives me such a Moana vibe! And those pictures are so much fun it's making me want to be there right now! So glad you all had such a great family trip together 🤩

It was a very fun day!

The Pool pictures ❤; one of those will make the Perfect holiday card.

Our thoughts exactly!
Just be sure to stand up with your drink when they play Dixie!!!! First time on the strip, in an out of the way bar, they started playing Dixie and everyone stood up, but I didn't know all the words. Don't know what would happen if you didn't stand up, LOL.
Love Tennessee, we lived there about 13 years, west of Nashville. The freeway, I40, is pretty scary:jawdrop: with all those trucks!

Congratulations on Alex's traveling RN position:) I have considered it as an RN, but never did it. I think it's a great way to see the country or the world for a young person. Let us know how she is doing out in California with the wild fires, if you can:)

Didn't get a chance to do that. Yes on trucks!

Right now Alex and Val are on their way to Salt Lake City from Denver!

Great pool pictures! Great pictures all around of course, but those fun, bright, smiling faces in the pool pictures are priceless!

Thank you @need2go2wdw !
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Man....the Fractal clan has such great teeth. Must be the water in Pennsylvania....or maybe it's the beer.....????

Everyone but the man that spent $15,000 on braces!

but thanks @Billy6 !
I love these pictures of your family having fun in the pool. So cool that you all really enjoy it other it really shows in these pics!

Thank you @ajrwdwgirl !
I am finally all caught up with your umpteen updates!!! 🤣 I can't even begin to tell you how much I am enjoying all of your photos on this TR! The angles and brilliant colors that you have been able to capture are like none other that I have seen at WDW! I have tried so often to get pictures inside Spaceship Earth and they all come out blurry. I only use my phone camera, and have no photography skills, but I can truly appreciate your skillset. Loved seeing how much fun you all had together back at the Contemporary pool on that fabulous weather day!! Hope you were able to get a BG for ROTR! :)

Thanks for the kind words @lindawdw !
Did you find Shirley's picture at the Brown Derby?

Darn! Wish I had thought of it! 😖
This. An empty entrance to RnRC. 😑😍

Literally no one there!

We love the Brown Derby and started going there almost every trip after taking a hiatus to try other restaurants. Glad you got to experience such a great place with your beautiful family before Val and Toni had to leave the next day!

Yes, it was memorable!


Love the Brown Derby! And love your family. They are so lucky to have a Dad/Husband like you!


Thank you @flowergirl45 !😊
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
We briskly walked up the ramp, into and through the studio, whizzed by the chainlink fence and climbed into a half-empty limo-coaster without stopping.

another fun trip with Steven Tyler and gang!


It was getting close to park closing so we wanted to soak in as much Galaxy's Edge as we could.

Luck and let's just say some "Disney magic" was on our side and we got to experience Rise of the Resistance again. It was another brisk walk without stopping right into the pre-show.


Back on another mission!



It was just Sterg and I. The second time through gave us the opportunity to find and appreciate details.







I put my phone away and just relaxed and enjoyed the rest of this great attraction.

Sterg and I slowly made our way out. Overall is was just an awesome day at WDW from the weather to the family interaction to the great meal and one more battle against Kylo Ren.



The party was still going back at the Contemporary. The "girls" were all packed and everyone was in a giddy mood. We all stayed up much later than we should have considered the next morning's 6am pickup for Val and Toni.


COMING UP - Sunrise over BAYLAKE/ Animal Kingdom with another new lens/ another Beautiful Day!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
My phone's alarm was broken, or at least it seemed to be as it went off way too early for 5am. I had just fallen asleep after all. But correct it was and I rose out of bed to help Val and Toni get their luggage downstairs for the dreaded pickup.

Toni wasn't happy about leaving.

"Hi getting up at 5am at Disney."

"Hi we're the only ones awake."




and to add insult to injury, they didn't even get a Magical Express bus. As their luggage was loaded, they climbed into a large white Mears Van and then they were gone.

Getting back to the room, I made myself some coffee and once again remembering the words of @coachwnh, I went outside onto the balcony overlooking BayLake.

The sun took its time showing up, but was spectacular when it did.



And I (photographically) caught the first boat heading to Wilderness Lodge.



It was promising to be another rare beautiful July day at WDW. Low to mid 80's, clear skies and low humidity.

Today's destination was Animal Kingdom and I was eager to get going. In addition to the 24mm lens I decided to bring "the beast". The beast is my new Sigma 105mm 1.4 lens and it is huge due to it being a telephoto lens with a very fast aperture (f/1.4). It's a special lens - great for portraits and other applications. It's also quite wide and heavy. Instead of my smaller shoulder bag I decided on that day to bring my camera backpack/sling bag to handle the extra load.

I was on track to hit AK at the open. Sterg and Alex decided they would join up later.

The palm trees were ready for the day.



I used the time on the bus to swap out the 24mm lens for the 105mm.

With a backpack on my back, my camera and large lens in my one hand and a coffee in the other, it wasn't the most comfortable setup. I'm sure I also stood out quite a bit. One thing I noticed more this trip than any other was the lack of others with "real" cameras; either mirrorless or dslr's. Not too surprising I suppose as phone cameras have gotten so much better, and the vast majority of people are taking photos to document their trip vs. actually looking for photographic opportunities.

I was mildly scolded by a CM entering the park as I tried to sneak a sip of my coffee without coming to a complete standstill.

We'll 2020 certainly had it's share of "Black Swans" so I thought this was an appropriate first shot in AK with my new lens.



Next stop - The Tree of Life.






Africa was to be my first destination, as I was anxious to try this lens on the Safari.



Still sinking...



Getting closer.





Harambe was nearly desserted.





The queue line took longer than I thought as I finally saw other humans with the same desire to look at animals.

My truck arrives...

 
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WallyWorld

Active Member
You caught a rare sight on Bay Lake. Your pic reveals one of the large ferry boats headed to the TTC!

(The WL boat is much smaller and only has one deck.)


Heading to the TTC....coming from where? (I'm a little confused as to which direction this is facing)
 
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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
The Okapi was out enjoying breakfast. In case you didn't know, the Okapi is a cousin to the zebra. Correction - cousin of the giraffe - thanks @Back!Elbow!Shoulders!





This guy was looking for breakfast.



They looked at me as breakfast.



Another Safari heading out.



One of my favorite shots due to how the moss was catching the sunlight.



Zebra and wildebeests at a breakfast buffet.



The "bachelor" elephant; so lonely.



I think this guy is technically a baboon?



Everyone was out eating!



So far I was happy with the result from my 105mm. It was handling better than I feared as the tripod collar gave me something secure to hold with my other hand. As we continued on I was crossing my fingers that the lions were out.

Would I see lions twice in one trip?
 
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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
LOVE the pics of yall in the pool! So many smiles and happy faces!! :)

OK, tell me about this "luck" that got you back onto ROTR? lol

Brown Derby has been great each time we've gone. I feel it's very underrated!!

Thanks @PolynesianPrincess !

Let's just say Sterg can be a bit of a charmer.

Loved Brown Derby! Getting excited for you and your trip!

You caught a rare sight on Bay Lake. Your pic reveals one of the large ferry boats headed to the TTC!

(The WL boat is much smaller and only has one deck.)

Thanks for the clarification!
That balcony view with a cup of coffee is my favorite way to start a morning at Disney! It's even better in early December. Thanks for sharing!

My pleasure!
I think you meant giraffe instead of zebra. Those stripe-y legs are a red herring. Okapis have similar tongues and knobby horn things to giraffes but those features aren’t as visible. (I’ll show my nerdy self out now...🤓)

Yes, you are correct! thanks!
 

PolynesianPrincess

Well-Known Member
Thanks @PolynesianPrincess !

Let's just say Sterg can be a bit of a charmer.

Loved Brown Derby! Getting excited for you and your trip!



Thanks for the clarification!


My pleasure!


Yes, you are correct! thanks!

OK, I'm gonna need to borrow Mr. Sterg next week haha 😄

I'm getting excited too! we're getting hit with that tropical storm right now. Glad it's happening now and not the end of the week!!
 

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