Dec 24

Queen Victoria Mall – Sydney

Before going to Australia one of my friends kept telling me I had to see the Queen Victoria Mall.  I mostly ignored this advice, until a free walking tour took me to see the mall.  Then I HAD to see more!
 On my tour we stopped at the statue of Queen Victoria outside the mall.  Near the Queen there is also a statue of her dog that says, “Hello, my name is Islay.”  He’s encouraging donations for the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children.  The building itself was built in the 1890s as a municipal market and was restored in 1986 as a prestigious shopping centre.

The building is quite beautiful, when I was there it was decked out for Christmas with a Swarovski Tree in the center dome.  The mall also has two mechanical clocks representing different moments in history.  The Royal Clock goes off every hour, on the hour from 9 AM to 9 PM and does a little show with trumpeters and six scenes of English royal history, including the beheading of King Charles I.  The second clock, The Great Australian Clock, includes 33 scenes from Australian history.

Inside the mall are mostly higher end shopping options, and if that scares you away, don’t be. The mall is beautiful n the inside and outside, with stained glass windows, and interesting window shopping.  Because the Queen Victoria Mall is such a destination, I found that the shops went all out with decorations. So even if you’re not in the market for shopping, this is a beautiful building with interesting sites.

Jun 05

More Holiday Storytellers

In 2011 I had my first Disney World Christmas experience, and one of the treats of the season are the Storytellers Around the World.  In 2011 I saw about half of them and when I returned this past December I saw a few more.  This is a review of the news ones I experienced.  I will give one disclaimer though.  I had gotten sick at the end of this trip and was at my best when I saw some of these.

I did revisit the Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings) in Mexico and La Befana in Italy.  Los Tres Magos seemed to be the same as the year before, still not my favorite, but still very good.  La Befana also seemed good, but not quite as good as I remembered from the year before, but I was feeling pretty sick at that time and I had just seen another really good one that day too.

Germany – Helga
With a name like Helga I expected an older woman, but I was wrong, Helga is a pretty young woman and this was a nice story.  Here we learned about the tradition of Christmas Trees and the first Nutcracker.  Even with German heritage I didn’t think this was the best one, but it’s a bit more contemporary then many of the others.  I think it did have the best setting though,  at least in terms of atmosphere.

The American Adventure – Hanukkah
This show has the best setting, it’s inside.  No dealing with hot or cold or sun in your eyes.  As for the show, it was just ok. The woman was nice and the story had an intimate feel to it.  But, I grew up with a lot of Jews around me and I felt like I knew more about Hanaukkah then I learned here. I suspect if you’ve had little contact with Jews this would be more interesting.  I did think it was a nice touch that the story teller played with dreidel with the kids after.

France – Pere Noel
Pere Noel tells the story of Christmas in France through a letter from a girl.  It’s a sweet story about believing in Pere Noel and santa figures.  But Pere Noel is too skinny!

Canada – Nowell
Nowell is a lumberjack, what?  How can you make all those gifts if your cutting down trees.  Or maybe you need the wood for all those toys?  I don’t know. But this was another good story, reminds me a lot of how Christmas in the US, as much as it’s the same for many, it can also be quite different depending on your heritage.

Norway – Sigrid and Christmas Gnome, Julenissen
This was my absolute favorite and you can tell the word is out, this story had the largest crowd of all the ones I have seen.  Sigrid tells the story of Julenissen, which she doesn’t believe.  Julenissen is a gnome who plays tricks on boys and girls.  And so Julenissen plays tricks on Sigrid, but since she doesn’t believe in him she doesn’t understand what is going on. It’s quite entertaining.

Even though Christmas is 6 months away, it is time to start planning your trips there!

Jun 13

Candlelight Processional

My favorite Christmas activity at Disney World is the Candlelight Processional at Epcot.  For 2012 it starts on November 23 and goes through December 30.

The event is held at the American Garden’s Theatre at the American Pavilion.  It is the telling of the Christmas Story accompanied by a choir and orchestra.  They have celebrity narrators to do the story telling, the night I went it was Edward James Olmos here is a youtube link for one of his performances in 2009, he was really wonderful and brought the story to life. The choir was fabuous too!  In high school I sang Hallelujah Chorus a gazillion times, but I never appreciated it until that night.

I did the event as part of the dinner package, an expensive way to guarantee a seat without waiting on line for a long time.  Terye and I ate at Via Napoli, which was delicious and then headed onto the line about 45 minutes to an hour before.  The line was already pretty long, but the seating wasn’t bad.  I wouldn’t recommend getting there any later then that if you can help it.

For those who do not participate in the dining package you must get there very early, particularly if there is a big name doing the narration, like Neil Patrick Harris.  Although the pavilion is large,  you may have to wait through full performances to get in.

For 2011 (and it appears that for 2012 too), in addition to the guaranteed seating for the Candlelight Processional you also got access to a special area to view Illuminations.  This was a nice perk, but not great.  Terye and I got there about an hour early and all the “front row” standing was taken and then we still had to wait an hour.  But it was better then fighting for a spot too.  Plus the area is closer to the front of the park so you can beat the rush out of the park.

If this is a must do activity, I recommend doing the dinner package.  And I do think this is a must do event if you are at Disney during the Holidays.

You can find me on Twitter at: @Travelingiraffe