One of the great things – possibly the best thing – about living in Walt Disney World is that you can look sneeringly at random vacation photos and haughtily announce that you know exactly where that picture was taken.
For instance, a close-up of a duck’s head with a smidgen of white rock visible in the background: “Yes, that’s just to the left of the water fountains over by the baby station on Main Street, facing North, at about 2:00 in the afternoon.”
And when they say, no, it’s near the rose bushes to the left of the Imagination pavilion, you can just scoff and remind them that you are attending Star Wars Weekends and can’t be bothered to care about their stupid vacation pictures.
One of the side effects of this is that sometimes you can be leafing through old Disney World books, perhaps while researching a park history article for some self-important website, and suddenly come across an image that you don’t recognize. Or rather, you do recognize it at first glance, but something is wrong about it, and you just can’t put your finger on it.
Take a look at this little beauty. It’s from Abrams’ giant tome Walt Disney’s Epcot Center, and is most obviously from the France Pavilion. You can tell by how rude everyone is (I toyed with writing this article in a really bad French accent, but it kept coming out as Swedish/Italian, so I just went for cliché French jokes. Get it? “Cliché” is a French word!)
But anybody who has strolled through Epcot recently will know that there is no outdoor café anymore. Bingo! Instant parkeology post!
Where was this little restaurant, known as the Au Petit Café (literally, “Aw, What A Dainty Restaurant”)? At first I wondered if it was somewhere over on the side that now faces International Gateway, but it didn’t seem to match up. The building wasn’t right. In fact, the only match is on the left side of the pavilion, the Chefs de France restaurant, but there’s no room over there for outdoor seating, right? It’s a congested area as is; I can’t imagine adding a couple rows of tables.
But Disney has seen many changes over the years, and this picture is deceptive. Back in the old days, these tables may have been outside for some fresh air, but thanks to additional building structures, the tables now spend all their time indoors playing video games and eating cupcakes.
Here are some pictures snapped a few months ago during a visit to Chefs de France to see the Remy animatronic. It’s indoors, but take notice of the wall. Look familiar? That’s the same wall as shown in the picture. You can spot the distinctive shapes of the doors, the lopped off corner of the building, and the stone trim work. It’s not hard to imagine reasons for enclosing this area of the restaurant. Who wants to eat heavy French food in the middle of a 95-degree Florida summer?
And as to that other French article I was researching, I guess it will just have to wait until next week. See you at Star Wars Weekends!