Thursday, 26 March 2009

Not all is gloomy skies and chilly days!

A week ago today I landed back in Heathrow with my baby girl and we came back home after being away from the UK for more than two months (or, in her case, for her whole life!). It was of course incredibly nice to see my boys, to be back in my own house and to have the whole family on the same continent again. It was nice to get into a routine again and to take things more slowly.

Being back made me realize that I don’t only miss things when I’m here but I also miss more than a few things in the UK. Obviously I miss my boys and being among my own things, but there are also some surprising things that I found myself almost pining after…

First of all, I really missed the UK attitude towards the environment. I’ve posted before about the shocking amount of plastic shopping bags I was using in Mexico, but I also found myself having to throw away paper and carton because there is no easy way to recycle it over there. I guess I’ve been on this side of the Atlantic too long but I found attitudes over there wasteful and short-sighted and it’s nice to be back here where I can recycle and no one things I’m being weird.

Linked to that, I also missed the fact that people over here tend to be more curious about where their food comes from and demand things like humane standards in the rearing and slaughtering of animals, food grown locally and organically and the limitation of food additives and other harmful chemicals. It can get a bit obsessive over here but back in Mexico no one ever thinks about where their beef comes from, what’s in it or how many chemicals were pumped into it. Sure, the food is delicious but every once in a while I would find myself worrying about what I was eating and even more so when I was actually nursing the baby. So it’s nice to be back in the UK where food is regulated and consumers are more educated.

On a less serious note, I also missed shops like Boots and Lush. Boots is a drugstore (like Walgreens) and I love browsing around to see what new lotion or shampoo I can try and there is just such great variety of products, some are even organic, that I really missed it. Lush is another great shop that sells handmade cosmetics with no chemicals and the products are amazing. I had a few pots of my favorites like Ocean Salt for exfoliating and Skin Drink for moisturizing but when those ran out I had to wait until I got back in the UK to get some more and BOY did I miss them!

Driving is of course very different over here and while I actually enjoyed the crazy driving I was doing back in Mexico, I kind of missed the more orderly driving I do here in the UK, mainly because I don’t have to be on the defensive all the time. I also missed the clothes on sale over here because I think they are much more fashionable and trendy than anything I could find over there (even including the US) but I also think that the weather is much to blame for this: it’s easier to look trendy when it’s chilly outside all the time!

The weather also means that there are many more flowers over here and I am glad I was back in time to see the daffodils blooming everywhere which looks beautiful. I’d missed that. I had also really missed British radio and TV - the Mexican versions are not as good (and TV is decidedly rubbish) so I was glad to get back to the BBC and my local radio station.

There are of course many, many things I miss from back home and I may list them another time. But this list goes to prove that the grass is indeed always greener on the other side and no place will ever satisfy me 100%. That’s the great thing about other places - they help to discover different things that may be even better than what you already know!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A very special tour inside Spaceship Earth

Ok, the baby's asleep and hopefully I have time to share this story (and photos!) with you...

In another life, when I lived in Florida and worked as a Cast Member I got the chance to do some amazing things. One of them was an after-hours walking tour of Spaceship Earth and we got the chance to see the attraction up close and learn lots of things about it. But the best part were the photos we were able to take! Remember this was 1995 so the attraction has changed a bit since then.

So the tour started and there were about 7 of us if I remember correctly and we started by walking along the track, very carefully as there isn't an awful lot of room there! The good thing is that we can see perfectly as all the house lights are on which means that all the atmosphere is gone. But all the sound effects were still on so it was a weird mix of reality and fantasy.

Before long we found some maintenance guys starting their shift. They have a special cart thing that goes along the track and is also a great place to store their coffees while they work through the night. They seemed quite happy to be there!

Soon enough we were within the attraction itself and among the AI figures! We got great close-up looks at them and their props, so here I am looking over the shoulder of one of the monks:

David got a very good look at one of the sculptors and the work of art he was producing:

We then listened in to Morse-code guy and even read the books on his desk. They all have authentic details that regular guests will never get to see. A great example of the attention to detail that Imagineers are famous for.

This last one is my favorite photo: as you can see I'm listening carefully to whatever Renaissance man is saying!

The tour was a lot of fun and it was very, very informative. For example, we learned that most of the AI figures on Spaceship Earth were cast from the same models as the Presidents in the Hall of Presidents at the Magic Kingdom but with different hair and beards to look different and of course different costumes. I can't remember any details right now and I sure wish I was taking notes!

We also learned different stories about the attraction and a little about it's history. Remember those old WDW commercials where Mickey Mouse was standing at the very top of Spaceship Earty? Well, it was done for real, not with special effects or anything - at the very top of the ride (in the room with all the stars and the view of Earth from space) there actually is a small elevator that can take one person all the way to the top. According to our guide, Mickey at that time was performed by a girl and she was so scared being all the way up there, she actually had an accident while waving at the helicopter that was taking the aerial shots.

It was a fascinating evening and I'm grateful that I remembered to take some photos - but I do wish we'd taken some more!

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