Disney is in the title of this blog. I don’t think it’s a secret that I love all things Disney World. It’s not an uncomplicated love, in that I know there are things that Disney could improve upon, but it’s still a pretty straightforward enjoyment of all things Disney World related.
When I’m stressed and overwhelmed, Disney seems to be my go to. Last week Houston, where I live, had some flooding. We were fine and never saw the water rise nearly as much as we did in Harvey, but I did find myself trapped in a parking lot for an hour waiting for the water to go down enough for me to pick the kids up from school (it did and it was fine, we even managed a stop at the grocery store on the way home). As I sat in the parking lot, watching taller trucks than mine plow through the water, displacing large waves to crash over the hood and roof of the smaller cars coming towards them, I definitely listened to a Disney podcast and took a little mental vacation.
On my mental vacation, I went back to my favorite park (EPCOT) to one of my favorite places, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, and contemplated what it is that brings our family back there on almost every trip.
We first discovered the “wine cave”, as it is known in our family, on a trip 5 or 6 years ago. The kids were very small and we were very desperate for some peace and quiet and a LARGE glass of wine. I had started following EasyWDW – a truly great website – before the trip, slavishly studying the touring plans and fastpass recommendations, and remembered reading something about how the lounges in the pavilions of the world showcase didn’t actually require reservations. On that stressed out day, we stumbled in and discovered Disney nirvana. It was cool, dark, quiet, and blessedly empty. They served a full menu of pastas and pizzas and would bring almost anything the kids might want. Even better, they had full wine tasting flights. As we sat for far longer than we normally would have, enjoying our six glasses (half size of course) of wine, while the kids colored away happily, we found ourselves truly relaxed for the first time on the trip.
We didn’t need to make a reservation or plan ahead, we didn’t need to worry about whether we were taking up space that someone else might want, and we certainly didn’t feel at all aware of the world outside the cave (which is conveniently devoid of windows). We just drifted along, enjoying ourselves and each other’s company. A truly unexpected and unplanned experience in a Disney World that is increasingly intolerant of such desires.
At one point, a group drinking around the world burst into our sanctuary looking to complete Italy with a decent glass of wine at the counter. They were about half way through – clearly working their way towards Canada (we were sure of this because they were checking off each stop on their matching t-shirts – for those not in the know, they had completed five countries and had eight left counting Italy and Canada). They were pretty drunk already, but still in that happy hopeful way that anticipates success. They had not arrived at the the sick and exhausted drunk that occurs somewhere around drink 10 (France). Our Italian waiter, watched them from near our table, he leaned over and offered the girls a wink. Then he said what is quite possibly the best thing we have ever heard on a Disney vacation – “I think….” he began, his heavy Italian accent a shrug followed by an actual shrug of one shoulder, “they will not make it to Canada.”
It’s become our rallying cry whenever we spend time in EPCOT. When we’re overwhelmed. When we’ve set out to do something we cannot manage. Of course, we cannot duplicate his dry Italian fatalism when we say it, but it always brings us back to that day and that moment.
I think I loved that lunch so much because it reminded me of my first trip to Disney World, when I was 10. On an extremely rainy day, my family found ourselves at Hollywood Studios (then MGM studios) wearing our matching yellow mouse ponchos on the backlot studio tour. My poncho, of course, ripped, right along the neck where the hood joined the body, leaving me soaked following our voyage through Castrophe Canyon. We met my grandparents afterward for lunch at the Brown Derby, no reservation because in those days you didn’t need one if you were willing to wait. and I remember feeling so cozy and warm in its wood paneled interior. My dad bought me a mickey sweatshirt in a gift shop and I felt safe and dry. My mother ordered the Cobb Salad. In those days they would bring it out in a giant bowl, the ingredients tidy strips of color over the bed of lettuce, and then toss it table side. I thought this was the height of luxury and sophistication.
That day, too, like the first at the wine cave, felt spontaneous and relaxed. It felt unrushed and comfortable. It was different enough not to feel like home, but not so different that it overwhelmed. It was that Disney magic that it can be hard to track down when rushing from reservation to FastPass+.
SO, if you should find yourself in EPCOT passing by the wine cave, do yourself a favor and stop in – they welcome kids, ours have certainly been there multiple times, and slow down. Allow a trip to Disney to feel like a vacation from ordinary life. I think we often miss that chance to be truly present in a moment without thought to what comes next. After all, who cares if you make it to Canada when you’re truly enjoying Italy?