A travel adventure through Eleven Countries, no passport, customs and best of all, no jet lag involved…that’s Epcot. Instead of a long plane trip across the Atlantic, it was a two hour drive from our home in Vero Beach to the Walt Disney World Resort.
My husband and I joined friends for a short visit to the Orlando area and while there, spent one day visiting the Epcot theme park at Disney World. We stayed at the convenient Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, part of the Disney Springs resort area.
Our day at Disney began with a short, complimentary bus ride from our hotel to the main entrance of Epcot. It was a beautiful, crisp morning with a deep blue sky overhead.
Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show of photos in this post.
Just beyond the main entrance is Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s famous icon in Future World. The silver geosphere is covered with triangular panels that some people say resembles a golf ball. After a short wait, we rode inside the giant sphere enjoying a brief animated story about communications from the stone age to our present computer age.
You could spend hours or an entire day in Future World but we decided to save it for another visit. Instead, we headed to the World Showcase to visit the pavilions of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany, China, Norway and Mexico that surround Crescent Lake.
Having traveled to every featured country except mainland China (although I have been to Hong Kong), I instantly recognized small scale reproductions of historic buildings I’d seen during my travels. You’ll find some kind of entertainment, ride or film about each country’s culture and places to enjoy some of its unique cuisine. Every pavilion is staffed by people from that country who work in the shops and kiosks. They dress in traditional fashions that represent their country and sell imported goods and souvenirs. You’ll also find designated spots where children can meet and have a photo taken with Disney characters at specific times of the day.
We started our visit in Canada. The large building, Hotel du Canada, was inspired by a historic hotel found in Ottawa. Inside, Le Cellar is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the park. The surrounding area has a wonderful garden and high boulders with a cascading waterfall represents the Canadian Rockies.
Next, we walked down the streets of the United Kingdom. The largest building replicates Hampton Court Palace and there is a thatched roof cottage which is modeled after Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Rose and Crown Pub, with a red telephone booth outside, is popular if you want a pint of beer or some fish and chips.
We crossed over a footbridge and were in France with the Eiffel Tower peering above the rooftops. Round kiosks, a sidewalk café and artists works lined up along the water brought back memories of my trips to Paris.
Les Chefs de France, a pretty brassiere with a distinctly French decor, is good for lunch. Try to make advanced reservations for a window table in the sunroom. While the food might not be as authentic as what I’ve had during my travels to France and it’s geared more towards American tastes, I enjoyed the meal. The food was well prepared, our waiter from Lyon was excellent and the surroundings couldn’t have been lovelier.
Morocco feels so authentic, with its colorful casbah, Moroccan music and little passages that take you into courtyards surrounded by olive trees and towering date palms. When it was being developed, King Hassan II sent native craftsmen to help with the building of its pavilion. This is evident throughout the entire area, from the reproduction of a 12th century prayer tower in Marrakech to a mosaic fountain and a tiled gate in Fez.
We walked through a large red Torii gate and entered Japan. It’s very picturesque with a five story blue roofed pagoda, sculptured gardens, footbridges and koi ponds. A replica of the ceremonial halls of Japan’s Imperial Palace house a large gift store. Traditional Japanese drummers perform outside several times a day.
We quickly passed through the United States pavilion which was inspired by 18th century colonial architecture. Gardens are planted in red, white and blue flowers and there are rose varieties named after U.S. presidents.
We entered Italy and found ourselves in Venice with gondolas tied up to striped poles along the lagoon. St. Mark’s Square has a replica of the original campanile and the 14th century pink and white Doge’s Palace. In another area of the plaza, there is a fountain that was inspired by Bernini’s Neptune fountain in Rome.
Germany represents different regions of the country. There is a fountain in the center of the platz with a statue of St. George slaying a dragon and there’s a popular biergarten where you can enjoy a beer and sausages. We spotted Snow White greeting a little girl at a wishing well and there is a working outdoor miniature model railroad that will please boys of all ages.
Enter through the large Gate of the Golden Sun, a replica of one in Beijing’s summer palace and you’re in China. There is a large recreation of the Temple of Heaven and many smaller recreations of buildings found in the Forbidden City. A lotus pool surrounded by typical Chinese gardens with footbridges add to the character of this pavilion.
The main feature in Norway is a replica of the original Stave Church in Gol, Norway. The original church, which dates back to 1212, is one of very few surviving ancient wooden churches left in the world today.
Mexico is either the last country in the World Showcase or the first, depending on which direction you started your visit. Its main feature is a replica of a pre-Colombian pyramid almost hidden by lush tropical landscaping. Whereas other countries have lots of outdoor buildings and gardens, most everything is inside the pyramid including an excellent restaurant.
Over the course of one day, I wandered through eleven countries in the Epcot without experiencing any jet lag…I was tired but enjoyed every moment. The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is held each spring and I’m hoping to return to not only enjoy the flower displays but to see more of Epcot, it was far more than I imagined.