September 27, 2013

Beautiful Italy

In our hustle and bustle world, there is something very calming about a trip to Italy. The colors, the sights, the people, the food and wine, the slower pace of life.

Our "major" anniversary gave us a significant reason to visit Europe back in 2007. But where to begin? London and Paris were early winners, as we had visited with our children years before- and promised each other a return visit once they were grown. We saved and save for this anniversary trip...for ten years.

Where to go? Here's how we settled it: Each of us spent a week looking at our travel books, then we wrote down the name of three locations with our first choice on the top. With so many stunning and historic locations to choose from (like much of Europe), we knew we would have to miss something- even with three weeks!

Once we opened the slips of paper, the trip began to unfold. My wife chose Rothenburg, Germany. I decided Venice, Italy was my top pick. From there, the planning fell into place. What a trip it was! And we were blessed by the Lord with a glorious celebration of 25 years of marriage- and a lifetime of memories.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

September 25, 2013

Animal Kingdom's Stunning View

Among us hard core Disney park fans, it is quite in vogue to complain about the current state of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Not that the criticisms are inaccurate. The park is stale and even in disrepair. The Tree of Life is falling limb by limb. The Yeti in Expedition Everest is almost a still life, and the special effects in Dinosaur aka Countdown to Extinction leave much to be desire. 

Even the plans for the future do not seem impressive or even in theme. Avatarland, anyone? A trip to a night-lit Pandora could be amazing, but its relevance to the park theme remains questionable.

With all to question and complain about, one thing is certain. When the park excels, it does so exceedingly. The evidence? This stunning photo taken from the trip upwards to the top of the Himalayas. What a view! Even on a cloudy day. And views like this fill the park, making it one of the most gorgeous of all theme parks.

(Photograph copyright Mark Taft.)

September 23, 2013

Mother and Son

My oldest daughter and her youngest son. I love this photo from our nighttime visit to the zoo. Something just so sweet about a mother's love. And that's only a sliver of a Father's love for us!

September 20, 2013

Epcot's Future World Transforms to a Tropical Discoveryland

Looks like Disney's Hollywood Studios is fast-tracked to get the Star Wars treatment. It's not a bad plan, it's just very incomplete, leaving precious little for the rest of Walt Disney World and especially its wonderfully one-of-a-kind Epcot Center. Yet once upon a time, as the story goes, things were different.

Here's an old fan favorite that I think was first made available on the great WDWMagic website: the Imagineers proposed plan to convert Future World at Epcot Center to Discoveryland. The centerpiece of the redo seems to be the transformation of Spaceship Earth into a roller coaster attraction named Time Racers.

Admittedly, there wasn't too much to like about this plan, but I did appreciate the proposed addition of greenery. A lush Future World would have made a terrific counterpoint to the elegant and unique pavilions of World Showcase. What do you think?

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 19, 2013

Thawed Interest in Frozen

Sorry, Disney, but this poster for Frozen is thawing my interest. As an adult, this looks strictly like a cartoon for kids. Not the adventure I came to this it was supposed to be. I'm a big animation fan, but I'm not of fan of this approach.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 16, 2013

Sparkling Parisian Space Mountain

Once planned to be named "Discovery Mountain",  the gorgeous structure that was correctly named Space Mountain stuns in the Parisian sky night or day. This piece of concept art paints a pretty accurate picture of what you'll see if you visit Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris. The rocket journey is amazing, to be sure, but there is eye candy all through the parc. It truly is the most beautiful Magic Kingdom ever created by Disney's incredible Imagineers, under the guidance of Tony Baxter. Want more proof? Try this Top Ten post. Or perhaps this one of the park at Christmas, or this photo filled post.  
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

September 15, 2013

The Best Contemporary Piece Ever Written About Disneyland

Sometimes a blog is so good, so thoughtful, so passionate about it subject, that readers tend to take its existence for granted. Such is my love affair with Passport to Dreams Old and New. My post today is to highlight an incredibly astute piece of what sets the Disneyland Resort and the park itself above all others. With nothing left to say, it's to be found here

September 12, 2013

Rain, Rain, Rain

Two solid days of this, and more to come....

September 11, 2013

Always Remembering

So many stories I could tell from a friend that was there twelve years ago in New York. But, the truest story, is of the heroes that gave their lives for others. 

September 9, 2013

The Heirs of the Medallion: Adzul

New author David Sage weaves a terrific tale of mystery and intrigue for the entire family. The Heirs of the Medallion: Adzul tells of a young Incan man from centuries past in possession of a medal which holds supernatural powers. Concurrently, the story weaves into the 21st Century, as a young set of twins, Sophia and Juan, learn about their family history- and the ancient secrets of the Indian nations of the Incas and the Aztecs. 

Well written and very engaging, Adzul is very fast paced but extremely thoughtful. Chock full of historical fact, it moves from century to century and civilization from civilization, drawing in the reader without colorful descriptions of ancient ways, surprising landscapes, and great characters. It's a very charming read, and it would make for an incredible movie! It's certainly a book I did not want to put down. (Grab a copy here.) Just cannot wait for Book Two to come along.