Tour of Epcot's France has surprises, snails

The last time my parents went to Epcot, they said the most memorable attraction was "Impressions de France," the big-screen travelogue movie.

That caught me off guard because the film had not left any, well, impression on me at all. The Epcot flicks at the Canada and China pavilions have more staying power, I thought.

A recent revisiting of the film started positively. The foyer had informative displays about gargoyles and flying buttresses, yet nothing felt familiar. Was it possible I had never been to "Impressions," even though it has been there since Epcot opened in 1982? Or could I have gone while in a Food & Wine coma?

The French-speaking cast members were lively, though the accents were so thick it was difficult to tell if they were speaking French or English. Once I was seated in the theater, decorated in deep burgundy, two kids in front of me were pretending to be mimes, and two men behind me were speaking French, concluding with "C'est la vie!" Really? I thought only English speakers said that.

Five large, side-by-side screens form a semicircle in front of the audience so that French scenery stretches from wall to wall. The screens offer panoramic views of the Alps, Versailles, the Riviera, the Eiffel Tower and other less identifiable places. (Subtle labeling would be appreciated.)

But the camera work is intriguing and immersive, especially the flyovers of buildings and cliffs. Lift your feet and you almost get that light sensation, as in the Soarin' attraction on the other side of Epcot. All it needs is the smell of exhaust for the Champs-Elysees scene and the whiff of grapes in the vineyard and you'd have another of Disney's "4-D" attractions.

Sometimes the action moves from far right screen to far left screen, such as the musicians on horseback on Bastille Day or the sheep dodging bicyclists. There's a lot to absorb. All this is set to the music of Claude Debussy and his countrymen.

Some scenes are too conspicuously staged, such as the flower market, the romantic dinner (couples only) and the wedding and reception. If this film is to be believed, there's a lot of love in France.

But it made me want to visit. I had to settle for the gift shop, which sells all manner of Eiffel Towers, including pink ones and versions with Tinker Bell or Stitch. It's just not the same.

Other notes from France

•My podmate, Food Editor Heather McPherson, shared this little-known breakfast option, Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie. It opens at 9 a.m. even though World Showcase opens at 11 a.m. Don't worry about the closed attractions on the way. Just keep walking.

•The tabletop animatronic version of Remy, star of "Ratatouille," has left the Chefs de France restaurant. It shouldn't be sad to get rid of rats from an eatery, but this one was a rare treat, no?

•Here's a leftover from the opening of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Visitor Carla Hall, a personality on ABC's "The View" and a fan of the festival's escargot, said:

"That is like garlic bread on steroids with a boom-pop-bang. It's a popper. …You pop the entire thing in your mouth so you can get the snail and you can get all the crunchiness and the garlicky [taste]."

Still … it's a snail.

•I ended my time in France watching Serveur Amusant, stacked-chair climber. He draws a sizable audience in the street, but usually I skip it and seek less-crowded spaces. Plus, this act historically has made me nervous. Imagine a double-wide stroller veering into the chairs, toppling the guy from his two-story-high perch.

But this time, I watched with borderline glee. I was starting to dig the accordion music. It's all further evidence that I'm turning into my parents.

C'est la vie. or 407-420-5477

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