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Erik & Smisty's Florida Oddventures

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Epcot is a strange park. It has its charms, to be sure. But even if you really, really like it, you have to admit that it's somewhat weird and dated. Of course, many areas have been updated and changed over the years, but that's mostly just served to make the park even more odd. One area that I think has been improved by recent changes, though, is The Seas with Nemo & Friends (formerly, The Living Seas).


The main entrance to The Seas pavilion.


The entrance leads to a queue. Which sounds normal enough, but somehow manages to be weird in this case. Welcome to Epcot.


I really like these railings. (It's the little things that make me happy.)


That's a big butt.


The school of synchronized pointing fish from Finding Nemo direct you through the queue.


Almost to the ride. (Which I'm pretty sure shares the same name as the pavilion it's a part of. Epcot.)


You ride in "clamobiles," which should be fairly familiar to Haunted Mansion and/or Inner Space fans. But while these do turn around corners, they don't turn completely around. (So you constantly face "out.")


The jellyfish bounce up and down. It sort of loses something in this photo.


The scenery is a mix of props, animatronics and video displays.


One of the ride's coolest tricks is projecting animated fish into an area with real fish.


It's a nice, pleasant dark ride. Not quite Haunted Mansion, but above standard Fantasyland-quality.


Erik & Smisty, sitting in a clam....


The ride dumps you (and I use that phrase with love) into Seabase, which is an aquarium, essentially.


"Turtle Talk with Crush" was originally located in the Nemo & Friends area of Seabase, but proved so popular that it was moved to its own larger area.


Basically, an animated Crush interacts with children in the audience, telling them to say "dude" a lot, and such. Honestly, I was skeptical going in, but it won me over pretty quickly.


"Bruce's Sub House," sadly, does not serve sandwiches--but is, instead, a small interactive play area.


When you rub the sharkskin, Bruce moans "Oh, that's nice" in a particularly disturbing way.


No, seriously.


Spin the wheels, line up the animal parts. Pretty standard stuff, really.


One of these things is not like the others.


Well, to be honest, it was sort of a leading question....


A perfect score! It's almost like we were playing a game designed for children!


"Nemo and Friends" features real life (Nemo-like) fish.


Found 'em!


And here's Dory's good friend, Mr. Cuttlefish, who would like to speak to you about doomsday.


Manatees. Like at SeaWorld (and everywhere else), they are very boring.


This exhibit is two stories, so you can experience the dullness in two different ways.


On the second level is a large "undersea" viewing area.


See? Fish.


A turtle and a not-particularly-hidden-but-still-pretty-cool-Mickey.


"Explorers' Club" features fish and educational videos, and is very much the sort of thing The Living Seas was all about.


Fun fish facts.


Looking down from the second floor mezzanine. The exit gift shop is middle left.


Would you like some Nemo crap?? (By which I mean, overpriced plush animals and stuff, not actual fish poop. Although....)


Misty found something she wanted.


And I found something that suited me.


Also note the cool blue-tinged exit doors that suggest being underwater.


Outside is this children's jungle gym.


But we're not quite through with The Seas just yet....


Part of The Seas pavilion, but only accessible through a seperate outside entrance, is the Coral Reef Restaurant.


This place doesn't look like it's ever been updated, which gives it a sort of retro cool.


The menu. As you can see, it's not cheap. But it's not outrageous either, by Disney standards.


Appropriately enough, Coral Reef features aquarium views.


Pretty good table.


Smisty declared this the best salmon she's ever had. So much for "fish are friends."


I opted for the "appetizer for two" as my meal. It doesn't look like much, but it was a perfect amount of food, and quite tasty.


And, of course, I had to have a dessert. This is the "Chocolate Wave" (which, according to our waiter, is one of only two items still on the menu from when they first opened).


One last view of the aquarium from our table. Would I recommend Coral Reef? Definitely.


This sign is cool for two reasons: 1. Water occasionally splashes up on it like a wave, and 2. the animatronic seagulls that cry, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"


"The Seas with Nemo & Friends" is cool for lots of reasons. In fact, it's one of our favorite areas of Epcot.

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Has the Coral Reef restaurant been around for over 30 years? Or was there another similar "undersea" restaurant that existed back then? Because my dad was telling me about when he was at Walt Disney World, there was this restaurant that makes you feel like you were inside an aquarium. I'm guessing he's referring to Coral Reef.

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Has the Coral Reef restaurant been around for over 30 years? Or was there another similar "undersea" restaurant that existed back then? Because my dad was telling me about when he was at Walt Disney World, there was this restaurant that makes you feel like you were inside an aquarium. I'm guessing he's referring to Coral Reef.


My understanding is that Coral Reef opened with the rest of The Living Seas in 1986 (four years after the debut of Epcot itself). And I can't think of anything else he might be referring to, except maybe Sharks Underwater Grill at SeaWorld.



Does this mean I need a new avatar?


Nah. Just paste this into your signature!




But make sure to remove the two ALL CAPS sections, if you want it to come out like this:


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The Coral Reef did indeed open in 1986 with the rest of the pavillion.


If you should hit up Priate's Cove golf on I Drive, say hello to the pirate in the hammock for me. We are very close. So close, that he and I made our way back to our hotel one drunken evening, and he spent the night outside one of my co-worker's room.

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It's nice that they refurbed the old "tank" to a more contemporary theme. I did the DiveQuest and Dolphins in Depth programs that they offered there a few years ago, still the best diving I've ever done to this day. Looks like they still offer it, I may have to give it another go.

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About two hours north of Orlando lies St. Augustine, which bills itself as "America's oldest city." (It's an appropriate slogan: If Orlando is for young families, then surely St. Augustine is for seniors.) The Spanish settled here 1565, and in 1695, they finished construction of a stone fort they named Castillo de San Marcos.


Credit where it's due: St. Augustine has a very attractive parking garage.


Inside the city's welcome center.


St. Augustine's pedestrian-oriented historic downtown area features lots of little shops and restaurants.


These sight-seeing tram things are a big deal here, despite the fact that most of the area is relatively easy to cover on foot.


The downtown area also has some weird little attractions like this one. (We didn't do it. Maybe next time.)


The remnants of the old city gates still stand.


And nearby, the real focus of this update: Castillo de San Marcos.


Never let it be said that this thread is not educational.


The ticket booth is the small, non-stone building on the left. Cost is a very reasonable $4.00 for adults, with children (13 and under) free.


Coming in through the large square opening behind the two randoms, the stairs to the upper level are immediately to your right.


If you like old, non-functioning cannons, you owe it to yourself to come here!


You may fire when ready, commander!


Smisty, modeling this millennium's hottest new sentry-wear.


And down there is the old Spanish pizza oven.


Bowling was the primary pastime back then. (Surely you have heard of the Spaniards' most famous player, The Jesus?)


Back down in the courtyard, I am arrested for that pizza oven joke.


Where those guys sleep. Each bunk held two men. So either they were gay, or they didn't just assume that everything that involves two men touching each other was automatically gay, like we do now. Hard to say.


The latrines. No, really.


This area is where they kept the artillery, or something.


This is the "models and broken cannons" room. Interestingly enough, inside the model of the fort is another smaller model of it.


Sure...but when I say, "Please touch," does she do it? No!


My camera is really good at making it look like it's The Rapture outside.


Let's see what our buddies are up to. Looks like a duel. Awesome. Let's move on.


There are no refreshments in the fort, but there is one small gift shop. How small? So small I could get a fudging photo of it not crammed with people! Not that I'm bitter or anything.


Time to head out. Wouldn't want to miss The Rapture!


Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida. Worth $4.00.

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That fort kinda reminds me of Fort Point in San Francisco. Were they built for the same war? (I don't know much about American history).



Forts generally weren't built in times of war, they were built to protect in area in case war was to break out in the future. Since the Spanish colonized Florida earlier than California, San Marcos is older. Since both areas were colonized by the Spanish (probably within 100 years of each other)the style of the forts should be similar.

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I love the anticipation of waiting to find out where the next update will take place. You never know whats gonna happen next.


Cool. At one point, I was toying with the idea of announcing what the next update would be at the end of each one. Sort of a cheesy 'James Bond will return in: Live And Let Die' kind of thing. But then I thought, maybe it's better to not know. Which is one of the reasons I'm now taking an even more random approach, as compared to the Smoky Mountains thread.



It's been a few years since we have been to St. Augustine but it was kinda fun. I was surprised how "down-market" so many of the tourist attractions were. Did a lot of it still feel kinda run down?


No. I mean, we had not been previously, but that's not the way it struck me at all. I will say that it seemed like there was almost nothing but couples there, which I thought was interesting. But it didn't seem run down.



Isn't there some "pirate festival" in St. Augustine each year? The old town is like walking on the set of a pirate movie.


Actually, I was hoping for more pirate stuff! There was a pirate ship you can sail on, but it was closed when we there. And the local Ripley's Museum did have a special pirate exhibit. (The same one that used to be at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg, perhaps?) But other than that, I didn't see much.



Erik, I request a Gatorland TR.


And you shall have one! I just don't know when yet.

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Today's update is somewhat unique, and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a McDonald’s. And just why, exactly, are we at McDonald’s? For the answer to that, we must first look to Twitter, where two connected conversations recently took place, between myself and Theme Park Review's official Twitter Monkeys.


ThemeParkReview What. RT @TacoBell: New Pacific Shrimp Tacos: Succulent shrimp marinated in spices, lettuce, salsa & avocado ranch sauce


Electerik @ThemeParkReview Cod would be better. Fish tacos rule. Hopefully, this is nation-wide?


ThemeParkReview @Electerik I'm not going to tell you. Nobody should eat this and you should be ashamed.


Electerik @ThemeParkReview And here I thought TPR Headquarters was in California.... Wuss.


Electerik Hey, @ThemeParkReview: Check out what I had for dinner. http://twitpic.com/16nv9y




Electerik Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over. Erik & Smisty's Florida Oddventures: http://tinyurl.com/y9evumo


ThemeParkReview I don't support this. RT @Electerik: Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is over. Erik & Smisty's Florida Oddventures: http://tinyurl.com/y9evumo


Electerik @ThemeParkReview Is it because of the shrimp tacos? I can do a McDonalds TR, if that'll make it up to you.


ThemeParkReview This is acceptable RT @Electerik: @ThemeParkReview Is it because of the shrimp tacos? I can do a McDonalds TR, if that'll make it up to you.


And I am true to my word. But we’re not going to do an update about just any old McDonald’s. No, this is one of only five "Bistro Gourmet" McDonald’s, all of which are in Orlando. And while the "World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s & PlayPlace" is perhaps the one the most people have seen or heard of, Misty & I actually prefer this one:


Bistro Gourmet at McDonald’s, European Café


Two stories tall, just to make it more interesting.


Here's the menu board for the gourmet items. And yes, they do have the full proper McDonald's menu, too. (Not pictured, because...well, I assume everyone knows what a normal McDonald's serves.)


Would you care for some cake with your Big Mac?


Display items. Do not attempt to eat these.


The upstairs area consists of extra seating and arcade games.


Smisty thinks the seating downstairs is a bit more comfy, though.


If I ever have occasion to send out an "Erik & Smisty Bag O' Crap," this will be in it.


Here's your chicken chimichanga, ma'am. Would you like fries with that?


Although I generally try to avoid eating things with the word 'explosion' in them, I have to admit that the 'Peanut Butter Explosion Cake' was pretty darned good.


I'm more of a Taco Bell guy, really. But this genuine Mickey D's quesadilla seems like a good compromise.


Are you feeling intimidated yet? AUTOMATED TRASH CANS!!!


And also, they talk.


And best of all, it's all free!


Actually, the gourmet items are a bit more expensive than the regular stuff. But you have to admit, it's still pretty cool.

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Yeah! Places I've been to!


Did you do the San Sebastian Winery tour in St. Augustine?


We had some sort of wrap at the Sand Lake/I-Drive McDonalds, one time. I didn't realize they had other Bistro locations.


Let me know, if you ever plan on coming up to Jacksonville!

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Are the Bistro Mc-D fries the same fries? They look a bit "browner" in your pics. Its the "world's largest" one- the one at Sand Lake & I-Drive with the animatronic Ronald McDonald?


Not sure why these look browner. But yes, same fries.


I'm not sure I understand your second question, so I'll over-answer it. The "World's Largest" is at Sand Lake & International, and is one of the Bistro Gourmets, but this report was from a different one (which is also on Sand Lake, but a bit south of International).



Did you do the San Sebastian Winery tour in St. Augustine?


We didn't. We're not really wine people. Was it interesting beyond just trying out wines? We did enjoy St. Augustine enough that we'd like to go back and do all the stuff we didn't get to on our first trip.



Thanks for the entertaining thread Erik and Smisty. I have been dropping in often over the past couple of weeks, so I figured that I should finally post.


You should definitely post, even just to say that you enjoyed it. I know it seems silly, but these things often live and die based on the responses. There's nothing more disheartening than posting a trip report (or update) and being met with crickets. Conversely, I get very excited when my phone dings and it's an email telling me someone has responded to my thread. So thank you to everyone who has posted so far, and keep it up!


/Did that sound desperate?

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You should definitely post, even just to say that you enjoyed it. I know it seems silly, but these things often live and die based on the responses. There's nothing more disheartening than posting a trip report (or update) and being met with crickets.


Quoted for absolute truth. Also, I'm extremely happy you get to post some of the lesser-known Orlando attractions; actually being close to them, your reviews could come in handy if I want to do a couple of days on the cheap away from the parks.

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I kid, I kid.


Really though, that is a super nice McDonald's! I didn't see that one when I was there, but I did go to the world's largest McDonald's. It was multi-level, and it had crap ALL over the place, and I actually thought it felt kind of trashy. I almost just said everything that it had in it, but I caught myself. I don't wanna ruin any upcoming surprises. You know... just in case you have that one planned.

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^Good, no spoilers! Forget the theme parks. I'm traveling cross country collecting Mackey-D credits. Might even start a thread, TPR'ers who worked at McD's. Open, close, grill, stock, register, inventory, training, I had it down.

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Gald to see you made it down to Florida safely and are getting yourselves steeped in the local culture. St. Agustine is awesome! I havn't been there since I was 7 or 8. The fort looks much smaller than I remember. Anyway, I look forward to seeing all the cool little out of the way attractions.


Guy "Enjoy yourselves." Koepp

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Ooops, there was a typo in my post that you answered- sorry about that. It was supposed to say "Is the..." not "Its the..."


I worked at the Sand Lake/I-Drive Mickey D's for a short time just before I left Orlando in 1995. Back then there was an animatronic Ronald McDonald & Friends show in the 2nd floor seating area- don't know if its still there. It was also note-worthy for having a robotic arm that made the fries and a machine for drive-thru which made the drinks. It also had a "new" concept called a "Walking Drive Thru." You would place your order at a register set out away from the main counter and then walk up towards the counter to pay and get your food- it was supposed to be faster. I think some of the Disney counter-service locations do/did this as well.


It was such a horrible place to work in some respects. Management was infamous for not being able to get schedules made or posted before the week they were for began. At 3 or 4 am, they would switch over to breakfast and we'd have young people coming in after the bars closed wanting Big Macs and stuff and they would get mad that we had switched to breakfast already. In other ways- it was great to work there- the local franchisee actually had the crew members go through customer service training and we often got free food. We also had items on the menu which had been discontinued at most McDonald's like McPizza and Teriyaki Chicken Nuggets.

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