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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.

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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.

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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;

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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).

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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.

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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!
 

coachwnh

Well-Known Member
Time to get Jr. some lunch.
Interesting. Its amazing how the boys always show up for free food!
We bid farewell to Pandora until our next trip.
Would be great to ride FOP (and enjoy a few drinks) with @fractal sometime between July 6 and July 21, 2021! I know the drinks will happen before then (those Fractal IPAs are cold and ready), but just throwing it out there.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Ahhhhhh, gorgeous!!!! I'm sitting at my computer and yell OMG in reaction to this photo!
And my husband starts yelling, "what's wrong"?! It's just my blog dear.
I've been waiting till you're done with your report to go shopping on your site. (But, I already did some window shopping)!

Lol! Thank you! I'm glad I took the time for those photos.
🙂
Leave it to Fractal to make the ugly paint job castle look GORGEOUS!!

Why thank you!

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Interesting. Its amazing how the boys always show up for free food!

Would be great to ride FOP (and enjoy a few drinks) with @fractal sometime between July 6 and July 21, 2021! I know the drinks will happen before then (those Fractal IPAs are cold and ready), but just throwing it out there.

Always!

Let's Go!


Fingers crossed for all of us! The grass is always greener on the other side! 😂

Indeed!
 

lindawdw

Well-Known Member
What perfect weather you had on this day which worked out great for some pool time with your DD! We love the food at The Contempo Cafe! I knew they closed the Outer Rim but does that mean you can use that area to eat your food from CC there? They have spectacular views of the lake! Your photos of SM and the castle at night are simply beautiful and the colors are so vibrant! Can't wait to hear about your last day before heading to the airport.
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Wishing the best to all the Disney employees out there that lost their jobs recently. It's upsetting to see what this pandemic has done to a place that holds so many great memories for us and to the wonderful people that work there.
I hope you land on your feet soon.




Our last day park would be the same as our first day.

8:45 am we were up and at the front of MK.

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Going in early.

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Weather was going to be a little warmer, but still a beauty of a day!

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Walking up MainStreet!

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Our first family trip in 2000. Somehow we have misplaced the photo album from that trip. This is the only photo I could find.




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And 20 Years later...

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Alex and Sterg darted into the Starbucks line so I just took a few photos;




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Casey's still closed.

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Hang in there! You'll have customers back before you know it (hopefully).

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Also still closed. :(

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I was beginning to get melancholy because even though we were back, the realization hit me that the WDW was not back completely. The fact that we would be leaving later probably didn't help.

I decided to take a quick video. Originally Sterg and I had planned to shoot more video as we did for our 2017 trip, but this time he had to bring work with him so we decided to skip that.

 
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Doc Disney

Well-Known Member
Hi! I'm SUPER late, but I'm here. I also like to say hi to everything :)
I feel like I had so many comments but it took me so long to get through all 30 pages so I forgot most of them!
Your photos are SO stunning - I wish I could take some lessons from you!!
I love the family pool photos - so nice! I've been so bummed that I can't get to Disney right now so thank you for virtually bringing me there :inlove:
Oh also - I love how many WDW Magic meetups you had! So awesome!
 

fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Alex and Sterg had a little surprise for me.

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"I can't drink all that!" I said.

"They're not for you. We just used fractal for the name. ha,ha." Alex replied

"And paid for them with the magic band." Sterg added.

Well at least they're cheaper than alcoholic drinks...I think.

Still love them!

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Our pace was relaxed and we wandered into the Hub.

Good morning Walt and Mickey!

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Starting to get used to the new colors.

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It was soon decided that we head on over to catch the Wildest Ride in the Wilderness, then hop onto a log flume.

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Another trip without going here.

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Will I ever see Magic Kingdom this empty again? Hopefully not.

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The sparse crowds were certainly nice and I loved the short waits for rides. I would trade that all in however for things to be back to Pre-Covid normal.

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NeilHoytPA

Member
I'm sure the low crowd levels are nice for certain things, especially for almost walk-on for most rides. However, part of the Disney "feel" for me and my family is the crowded main street, packed like sardines for fireworks, hustling to rope drop certain rides, FP+, picking out ADRs and quick service meals, and cramming like 1000 things into a week long stay! I'm with you on hoping NOT to see the parks this empty again and we start to see some normalcy again soon. Regardless, you've nailed some ridiculously awesome pictures throughout your trip!!!
 

lindawdw

Well-Known Member
I enjoyed your little video of Main Street with all the sights and sounds. I'm glad you were able to experience the low crowd levels with everything that is going on now. We're going in October and it seems like they're allowing more guests into the park now which means longer lines I'm afraid. Very cute that your kids used Fractal on their Starbucks drinks which made for a great picture! :)
 

Billy6

Well-Known Member
Wishing the best to all the Disney employees out there that lost the jobs recently. It's upsetting to see what this pandemic has done to a place that holds so many great memories for us and to the wonderful people that work there.
I hope you land on your feet soon.
[/MEDIA]
I just got back Saturday, but while I was at DHS on the 30th, I over heard 2 Cast Members(management types) talking about the news and individuals that had "gotten the call"... One was reading a list to the other of CM's on his team. The tone of his voice was clear of the devastating news for those who will be let go.

You could only feel sorry for those CM's, some of which we may have come across in the numerous times we've been at WDW.
 
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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
What perfect weather you had on this day which worked out great for some pool time with your DD! We love the food at The Contempo Cafe! I knew they closed the Outer Rim but does that mean you can use that area to eat your food from CC there? They have spectacular views of the lake! Your photos of SM and the castle at night are simply beautiful and the colors are so vibrant! Can't wait to hear about your last day before heading to the airport.

It was time well spent with Alex! Yes, you can eat in the Outer Rim.

Thanks @lindawdw !

Hi! I'm SUPER late, but I'm here. I also like to say hi to everything :)
I feel like I had so many comments but it took me so long to get through all 30 pages so I forgot most of them!
Your photos are SO stunning - I wish I could take some lessons from you!!
I love the family pool photos - so nice! I've been so bummed that I can't get to Disney right now so thank you for virtually bringing me there :inlove:
Oh also - I love how many WDW Magic meetups you had! So awesome!

Hi being late! Lol! Better late than never and glad you checked in! Always love your reports.

Thanks on the photos and the comments!

I'm sure the low crowd levels are nice for certain things, especially for almost walk-on for most rides. However, part of the Disney "feel" for me and my family is the crowded main street, packed like sardines for fireworks, hustling to rope drop certain rides, FP+, picking out ADRs and quick service meals, and cramming like 1000 things into a week long stay! I'm with you on hoping NOT to see the parks this empty again and we start to see some normalcy again soon. Regardless, you've nailed some ridiculously awesome pictures throughout your trip!!!

Agree and thanks Neil!

I enjoyed your little video of Main Street with all the sights and sounds. I'm glad you were able to experience the low crowd levels with everything that is going on now. We're going in October and it seems like they're allowing more guests into the park now which means longer lines I'm afraid. Very cute that your kids used Fractal on their Starbucks drinks which made for a great picture! :)

Thanks and have a great trip! :)

I just got back Saturday, but while I was at DHS on the 30th, I over heard 2 Cast Members(management types) talking about the news and individuals that had "gotten the call"... One was reading a list to the other of CM's on his team. The tone of his voice was clear of the devastating news for those who will be let go.

You could only feel sorry for those CM's, some of which we may have come across in the numerous times we've been at WDW.

Sad times for Disney and it's CMs.

Will we be seeing a @Billy6 trip report?
 

Spash007

Well-Known Member
This pavilion behind Flame Tree is one of my, if not favorite spots to eat at Walt Disney World. There's usually a nice breeze and you get a great view of Everest.

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We've enjoyed it many times over the years...

This is the lookout area next to it in 2007

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2009

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2011

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2013

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2017

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The only thing missing on this day in 2020 was the rest of my family.

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I caught a glimpse of Rafiki and Timon.

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Here's a glimpse of the 105mm lens on my camera. Look at all that big glass! (sorry for the sour look - I was actually pretty happy).

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As I was enjoying a nice Safari Amber.

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After my delicious BBQ chicken platter and beer (mobile ordered of course), I set foot to explore the rest of the delightful area behind Flame Tree.

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Seeing these Flame Tree photos reminded me I owe you a huge THANK YOU! We never realized the seating area back here, although we always insist on eating Flame Tree. This past trip I got to Flame Tree first, and very confidently told my wife "follow me", and made my way down the path I figured would lead me down to the river. Lo and behold, we got an awesome waterfront table, which only was better due to the character floats on the water. My wife loved the view, my son loved the birds, and my daughter loved the opportunities to get up to wave to the characters. We stayed there longer than we needed to, but it was the perfect chance to see all the characters while we were in the shade. It was exactly the break we needed, and gave me that Dad cred in the family :p

You can't see the joy in her face (and they're not the best quality) but let me tell you, that while these were being taken, she had that pure Disney joy that only kids can have. If we ever happen to be in the world at the same time, I owe you a Kungaloosh!
 

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
The bright sun escaped from a cloud cover and beamed down on us. Looking back into the castle was not an easy task for the camera.

All sorts of strong shadows paired with bright light which made metering and color (white balance) very challenging.

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I liked it better in black and white where many of those challenges started to work for you instead of against.

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If Tom Sawyer Island was open we would have jumped on a raft.

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But not on this day at this time. So as the older two leisurely finished their Starbucks, I regulated myself to taking more photos. Not that I minded.

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The Liberty Belle started it's first voyage of the day and announced it with the blowing of it's booming whistle. This sight and sound was reminiscent of a much simpler, formal and cordial time and gave me a sense of comfort.

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We then started on our own first voyage of the day...

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fractal

Premium Member
Original Poster
Taking all the fun out of mining!

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Common sense rules to follow.

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Alex and Sterg have an interesting relationship. When younger, Alex would more or less "bully" and tease her little brother. He claims he would complain to us but we never listened and that was mostly true. It wasn't until recently when we watched some old family videos that we realized his complaints were valid. Things like pinning him down and pretending to spit on him, etc. That all stopped however when Sterg grew up bigger than her. Today they are very close and have a great time together. I call Alex "Sterg's laugh-track" because she will literally laugh at any of his jokes and antics no matter how stupid they may be. And the problem with that is it only encourages Sterg to continue his comedy show even if it devolves into more stupidity and antics. But it's all in good fun and I love that they maintain a great relationship.

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Getting closer.

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I love all the signs and other details in the "new" queue line for BTMRR.

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Down we go, moving at a fast clip.

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Alex and Sterg on Big Thunder circa 2011 - this picture was taken at 20 minutes till 1am on August 8th 2011. Remember the days when MK would have Extra Magic Hours until 2am? We loved and miss that.

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2020 - another AM ride on BTMRR - this time at 9:15 in the morning. We often joke that Alex looks exactly the same as she did when she was 15. Lol. By the way - Alex is easily the worst abuser of saying "Hi" to everything.
"Hi taking our picture, Hi wearing my new shirt, Hi your light on your camera..." Those were just a few from that day.

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I requested sitting in the back, but just like with Everest - no special requests granted.

No photos on the ride because I decided to take a video of the entire trip up the mountain and back. @Longers I thought of you while doing this. This is your little surprise! I hope your patience is rewarded with this video despite Sterg continuously saying "the wildest ride in the west" and me continuously correcting him. He even tells me I'm number one during the ride! See what his human laugh track does for him? 😁 Anyway - Whenever you, or anyone for that matter, wants to take a ride on Big Thunder with us you can just hit play!

 
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