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The 11 Countries of Epcot - A Bachelor Party in Disney World


sunny 100 °F

10 guys are looking for a destination bachelor party. Vegas? Too cliché. New Orleans? Done that. The beach? Did that too. How about a place that appeals to everyone? Disney World!


10 guys piled into one van and hit the road to head south to Florida. The road trip is half the fun, and we definitely made the most of it. The first stop was the Florida visitor center. Florida is so proud of their orange juice (74% of all US oranges are grown in Florida), they give everyone as much as they can drink for free!



Our next step was a quick drive further south in Jacksonville, the Budweiser Brewery (it is a bachelor party, you know it wouldn't take long for alcohol to enter the picture).


Unsurprisingly, the Budweiser brewery wasn't too much different from the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO and the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee. Just like for the Miller tour, we had a person that showed us around the brewery and gave us the details on how Budweiser is made.

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Malted grains, hops, lager yeast, cold storage—the same basic process that beer makers have been following for centuries. Budweiser's main innovation is using beechwood in the fermentation process to help the lager yeast better process the sugars. After a quick run through the factory, we entered the tasting room. A couple of cold ones later (and 3 bags of pretzels apiece), we were back on the road to Orlando.




So the plan for the bachelor party was to "drink around the world". Epcot has 11 countries, each recreated as authentic as possible (as authentic as a major resort can be). Each country is staffed only by native residents, has authentic food, traditional entertainment, and most importantly, authentic beverages. We pulled into Epcot, eager to start the bar crawl. First things first, we posed with the iconic "golf ball", Spaceship Earth.


The countries are laid out in a giant loop around a lake. We chose to go counter-clockwise, starting with our neighbor to the north, Canada! It was only 10 in the morning, but our Canadian bartender didn't even flinch when we ordered 10 Moosehead beers.


With beers in hand, we walked through the Canadian Rockies, past Niagara Falls, and through an Inuit village. About the only thing not authentic about our surroundings was the Florida heat. We paused inside the Canadian gold mine to drink our beer in the air conditioning.


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On our way out of Canada, we paused to see how many people could fit into a Canadian phone booth. We even had some anti-American talk when a group of foreigners claimed that we could have fit twice as many people in if we hadn't been "super-sized Americans".


The next country was the United Kingdom (UK refers to the union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, while Great Britain refers to the largest island of the British Isles containing England, Scotland, and Wales). Where else to grab a local brew but in an English Pub?


We convinced the barkeeps to serenade us with the British national anthem, God Save the Queen. Interestingly enough, the words to the anthem change when a king rules the country, to God Save the King. It was tough to leave the comfy surroundings of the pub and head back into the sticky, humid heat.

The next country was France, which was located across a channel. Street artists and performers filled the center square, recreating the artistic backdrop of Paris. An acrobatic display was ensuing as a man balanced himself on a stacked table and chairs. A delightful smell made its way to our group, and we headed into the closest pastry shop.


The pastries were delicious, and between our group, I think we sampled one of everything.


While most of us stuck to a French beer, Erik wandered off into a French store, tried on the local garb, and left with a glass of French champagne (champagne refers to wine produced in the Champagne region of France, versus the more widely produced sparkling wine).



We left the artful country of France behind, and entered the more gritty Morocco. Not passing the opportunity to get some Moroccan food, I grabbed lunch to eat in the open air cafe. The lamb, hummus, tabouli, and couscous were delicious, and the open air cafe was surprisingly cool.



While enjoying the Moroccan beer, we noticed a long line forming along the waterfront. Someone informed us that Aladdin and Princess Jasmine were scheduled to make an appearance, so we jumped in line with the rest of the 9 year-olds to anxiously await their arrival. It might have been the beers, but Aladdin's joke to Ryan that "marriage is a whole new world" had us laughing pretty hard.


After talking to Aladdin, I realized that Disney paid attention to even the most minor details. Aladdin and Jasmine never broke character for a second, responding to questions about Abu without missing a beat. The buildings, food, and entertainment were painstakingly authentic, and even the bathrooms were decorated in Moroccan style.

The next country was Japan, complete with temples and Japanese drummers. Several members of the group grabbed some sushi for lunch. Ryan, Greg, and I skipped the Japanese beer for a drink of hot sake (it didn't go well with the 100 degree heat).




We took a break from the bar crawl to head back to the center of Epcot to ride a few rides. Disney has a "fast pass" system that allows you to grab a ticket for a ride and return at a specified time. This way you don't waste time waiting in line, but rather show up and jump on without any hassle. We rode "Soarin'", a simulated hang gliding experience through California. As you pass over the ocean, you can smell the salt in the air and feel the sea breeze in your face. You pass an orange grove and can smell the citrus. Flying over the forest, you can smell the pine trees. All this while hovering 40 feet above the ground in a mock hang glider. It was entertaining, but I'm glad we didn't wait longer than 10 minutes to ride it. After leaving "Soarin'", we passed my favorite Disney character, Figment.


On our way back to continue the bar crawl, we passed the ride Captain EO. Captain EO is a 4D experience (a 3D movie with special effects that make you feel like you are involved in the scenes). Captain EO is a science fiction film that mixes a Michael Jackson music video with Star Wars-like action sequences. A couple members of the group begged the rest of us to wait for the next showing, so we made our way into the theater. The 1980s 3D effects left you with a headache, and Michael Jackson's acting was atrocious, but the overall movie was about what you'd expect. If anything, it saved us from the heat for another 30 minutes. One member of our group, Dave, decided to play in the fountains for a little extra refreshment.



We walked back to the country loop to pick up where we left off. The halfway point around the loop was home, sweet, home, the United States. In America we watched a Revolutionary-era band perform and then ordered a round of Sam Adams. The effects of the beer flowing full effect, we convinced a cute American beer-maiden to take a picture with us.




Our next stop was Italy, decorated in the more modern Italian style of Venice with only a hint of ancient Rome. Here the group had some gelato and Italian beer, and briefly posed in front of Neptune.


We entered Oktoberfest in Germany next, and after breezing through the previous two countries, we took our time here. Some of us wandered through the German beer caves while others chatted with German bartenders. A German woman showed us giant beer tankards and das boot (as cool as they were, I was afraid to hold it for the $200 price tag). I grabbed a warm, German soft pretzel that went perfect with the Oktoberfest beer.



We left Germany and headed into China. The smell of stir-fry and eggrolls filled the Chinese market. All of the workers at Disney had been overly courteous and accommodating to our large group, but the Chinese went above and beyond. They taught members of our group Chinese phrases and posed in multiple pictures. I'm not sure if they found us entertaining in our slightly intoxicated state, or they were genuinely interested in mingling with us. We grabbed another quick bite to eat, drank another beer, and continued on our way.



Norway was my favorite stop. The bachelor party felt most at home in the Viking decorated Norwegian village. Cute bartenders convinced us to take the "viking test", which was to take a shot of Norse liquor without making a face. Jon opted for another pastry, the "Viking Horn". Our party hung out in the viking hall while we finished the Norwegian beers. Night was beginning to fall, but we only had one more country left, Mexico.




It was ironic that the only country located entirely indoors was the one we visited last. Mexico was located inside an Incan temple. Locals were making trinkets by hand while intimidating temples loomed overhead.


Some of the group went straight to the tequila bar, while the rest of us ordered margaritas. Nothing like ending a bar crawl with a hard liquor drink.

A few of us left the bar and went back outside to get ready for the fireworks show. Epcot, like the rest of the Disney parks, puts on an extravagant fireworks show every night. 30 minutes of fire, rockets, and floating displays mesmerized the crowd. It was impressive, but after the show, we hustled out of the park to catch the bus to go out in downtown Disney.




The bachelor party was a load of fun, but some members of the group paid for that fun on the car trip back home.


Posted by Mike.Flynn 13:10 Archived in USA Tagged beer brewery bachelor_party Comments (0)



sunny 80 °F

Bachelor Party Time! A group of guys are looking for some warm weather, nice beaches, and plenty of night life. We also wanted to leave our home state, so we headed south to our more unruly southern brother, South Carolina.


North Carolinians view South Carolina in a special light. Although South Carolina is like a kid brother, it is the spunky, back-woods, stand-up-to-anyone kid brother that your mom makes you take everywhere. South Carolina is where you go to buy illegal fireworks, ride your motorcycle without a helmet, and rip the mufflers off your cars because there are no emission laws. South Carolina just stopped flying the confederate flag in 2000. South Carolina is home to the touristy and tacky Myrtle Beach, but the first of impression of South Carolina when entering from North Carolina trumps everything else. This incredibly tacky, yet irresistible, road side stop is called South of the Border.


I have only given into temptation once and stopped at the eyesore that is South of the Border, but goodness knows that I have wanted to stop every time I drive past. It's all in the marketing. You are forced to read over 100 billboards for the last 60 miles before entering South Carolina, all with punny catch phrases like "Pedro's Weather Report: Chili Today - Hot Tamale!" and "Time for a PAWS?". South of the Border is filled with cheaply painted statues, a sombrero tower, more gift stores than you can count, a gas station, and a roller coaster. Eager to make my way to Charleston, we skipped the redneck Disney World and continued south.


Charleston is situated between two rivers that flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The harbor is protected by a narrow entrance and multiple islands, making it prime real estate in colonial times. Charleston was the 5th largest city in North America at the turn of the 18th century and largest port in the southern colonies. Charleston has also been in the forefront of the early American wars. The British tried to seize Charleston early in the Revolutionary War and the first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston.

My first of impression of Charleston as we entered the city was that it felt like a small town. No buildings were over 3 stories tall. Most of the streets were two lanes. Most of the people were traveling by foot and there was light traffic. By the end of my stay this impression would extend to picture this city as a get-away town for couples (as most people were couples walking hand-in-hand) filled with restaurants, large historic homes, beautiful parks, and a strong southern charm. However, by night the city was even more alive with its vibrant night life making it a great destination for a bachelor party.

Upon arriving in Charleston, I called my old house-mate from Australia, Jeff, who was currently managing a bar in Charleston. We met up with him on Market Street (the central nightlife spot) and hopped through some of the bars. The rest of the bachelor party arrived in from Charlotte, and the whole crew ended the night drinking Charleston's finest on top of Big John's Tavern.

The next day we wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather and hit the beach. We met up with another one of my friends from Australia, Rob, and headed out to Folly Beach.


We spent the day on the beach drinking beer, tossing the football, and flying $2 kites we had purchased from the gas station. The kites were of especially poor quality and required a lot of effort to keep in the air. At one point, one of the strings broke and sent the kite out to sea. The weight of the string dragging in the water kept the kite from flying too high and the wind blowing offshore kept the kite aloft. We strained to keep sight of the kite as it reached the horizon, but eventually we could no longer see it. It should be flying somewhere over Portugal about now.

We made our way back into the city, cleaned up, and decided to go out from some seafood. A place named A.W. Shucks was too good to pass up. We had a contest to see who could say "aw, shucks!" the most during dinner. We started off with a load of oysters (which were fantastic) and then moved on to almost every form of seafood known to man. Pete and I split shrimp stuffed with crab and wrapped in bacon, and it was as delicious as it sounds.


After dinner, we went to Southend Brewery to start our bar crawl. The beer was good, but the music was even better. We got to hear Country Grammar on bongo drums. When made our way from bar to bar, eventually ending up at the pizza joint on Market Street.


The next morning while the rest of the guys were sleeping in, Pete and I walked down to the water front park near the end of Market Street. From here you could see the harbor stretching out in both directions (and Fort Sumter off in the distance). Sailboats filled the harbor as people took advantage of the sunny day. A pathway wandered along the water front all the way to the east end of town and battery park.




Battery Park had cannon monuments marking the positions where the original cannons had defended the Charleston shoreline. Gigantic trees lined the park. Large, historic homes were visible heading back into the city. It was very scenic, proving that Charleston had as much to offer during the day as it did at night.

We walked back to the hotel, drug the rest of the guys out of bed, and made our way out of town. I started the trek back home to Raleigh, once again barely resisting the temptation to stop at South of the Border.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 12:41 Archived in USA Tagged beach local_food bachelor_party Comments (0)

N'awlins and Bourbon Street - DO YOU!


sunny 96 °F

If I were to ask you to name the biggest party cities in the US, you would most likely include the location of the largest party in the country, New Orleans. The birthplace of jazz offers plenty of ways to have a good time, and its great food, soulful music, and colorful people offer a very unique experience. For these reasons (and the infamous Bourbon Street), New Orleans was our destination for Kortney's bachelor party.


A quick background on New Orleans. Originally founded by the French (and temporally occupied by the Spanish), Louisiana was purchased by the US in 1803 in preparation for Napolean's war with the English. It was at one point the 5th largest city in the United States (up until the civil war) and is one of the largest ports in the world. The city sits below sea level and has retaining walls to hold back the waters of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. However as I mentioned before, these facts were not the drawing points for us to come to New Orleans. New Orleans is home to one of the largest Fat Tuesday parties in the world, Mardi Gras. Although we missed Fat Tuesday, we certainly came to party.

After arriving at the airport, we made our way down to the taxi stand to catch a ride into the city. After discussing various options with the dispatcher, we figured out that the cheapest (and most stylish) way to enter New Orleans was via limo.



After a quick beer run, the limo driver started the 30 minute ride into the city. When asked if we could see the Superdome (home of the New Orleans Saints) and about the possibility of doing a shotgun in front of the stadium, the limo driver responded "do you". Slightly confused by her response, we repeated the request, and she replied "do you" a little more forcefully. She then explained that it was slang for "I do me, you do you" or "do your own thing". So with her approval and a quick scan for police, we jumped out of the limo to shotgun a beer in front of the Superdome.


The limo wound through New Orleans to pull up in front our hotel. We had made it to Bourbon Street!


After dropping our stuff off in our rooms, we began making our way down Bourbon Street. The street had some pedestrians walking down the sidewalk and the occasional car, not quite the swarm of boozed-up miscreants I had envisioned (although it was only 10am). Balconies overhung the street, some overly ornate with decorated railings, others seemingly secured with century old rusted trusses and rotten wood. A saxophonist was playing some jazz for spare change. Walking the length of Bourbon Street didn't take too long as it was only about six blocks until you reached the gay district. The repeating theme on Bourbon Street was bar, restaurant, tacky tourist shop, and strip club (see the picture of Ryan taking a break in front of one).



After spending more than 30 seconds on Bourbon Street, something hits you pretty hard—a putrid stench. At first you think it may be a draft from a trash can or overfilled sewer pipe, but when the smell doesn't ever quite go away, you realize it is just Bourbon Street. Some areas are definitely worse than others, but don't ever expect "fresh air" when walking down this street. Sections of the street stay permanently wet, despite the upper 90s temperature, and who knows what diseases and bacteria are brewing in the puddles. A grime covers the sidewalk and street. It is bad enough that I wouldn't pick up dropped change that landed in the street.

We continued walking down to the waterfront of the Mississippi. The water was moving very fast as large barges and paddle boats zipped along with the current. The sun was beating down and the humidity was suffocating, but we took a stroll down the waterfront to take in the sights. We passed by some more musicians and saw a sign for a local brewery. The thought of sipping a cold beer in air conditioning was heavenly, so we left the mighty Mississippi and went back into the French Quarter.



We never actually found the brewery, but we did find something else—the casino! The casino was almost as nice as a brewery, it was air conditioned and waitresses brought you free drinks. Kortney, Willie, and I pretended to play a slot machine to continue being served. We eventually moved to a blackjack table when the rest of the group came over, and actually made a couple dollars.



Leaving richer than when we arrived, we headed back to the hotel to get showered up and ready to hit Bourbon Street at night.

Bourbon street transforms at night. The smell is still present, but the street is jam packed full of people. Cops ride up and down the street on horses that put Clydesdales to shame. Every balcony has people tossing beads, and nearly everyone has a drink in their hand. The occasional scantily girl walks by handing out free passes to one of the various strip clubs. Bars compete with each other to see who can play their music the loudest, and potential patrons are treated to a variety of musical genres while walking down the street. The bars get so packed that dancers often overflow into the street.



After taking a loop down Bourbon Street and checking out a few bars, we elbowed our way up onto one of the balconies. From above we could get a great view of the crowd below.


We sipped a couple beers and then abandoned our lofty post (we happened to be on one of the balconies supported by rust and duct tape) and continued roaming Bourbon Street. My memory starts getting a little fuzzy, and coincidentally I don't have any more pictures from our nights on Bourbon Street. Here are some remaining highlights: Kortney on a whale, Willard river dancing, a dance off in the middle of the street, shot girls forcefully dumping shots down your throat (despite you saying no repeatedly), and a late night run to Krystal Burger (which was definitely regretted later).



New Orleans was a lot of fun, but 3 days was enough of an experience for me. We ate some awesome seafood and partied in a nightlife that never seemed to stop. It was cool hearing jazz being played on the street and seeing the boats chug up the Mississippi. However, I'll leave the smell, grime, and overabundant strip clubs behind. We did spend one more day in Louisiana, driving out of the city limits and heading out to the bayou. That story, however, is another blog post.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 14:09 Archived in USA Tagged beer bachelor_party Comments (0)

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