Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day Five-Disneyland

At last, the Disneyland blog!

I’ve wanted to walk through those gates since I was very small. Getting to the West Coast was not to happen, and we’ve been quite happy to visit WDW on a fairly regular basis. As much as we love Da World, we still wanted to walk in the park Walt walked in.

Friday was a perfectly sunny day, and we made our way down to the hotel shuttle for the four block ride. When we got through the bag check and the gates, there was a band playing in front of the train station. Walking through the tunnel, it was familiar-but different. I love the fact that DL is chockablock with mature trees, so even in the heat of summer, this park has ample shade.

We hopped aboard the train and found the most hyper conductor you could ever find. Kat was her name, and boy, she was more jazzed than Stitch. It was mildly humorous to watch this person who makes me seem like I’m on tranquilizers. The train ride was different, we really traveled back in time.

Once we’d done the circuit of the park, we headed down Main Street and noticed what was the same and what wasn’t. If you wanted a hot dog and went down to the left, you were in luck. It wasn’t nearly as good as a Casey’s dog, though. If you went to the end of the block and to the right, no ice cream would you find. It’s halfway up the block on the right.

We walked around the hub and outside what we would expect to be Crystal Palace (but it’s not), we found Mary Poppins. Ed takes my picture with her and wow, her accent is perfect. We continue around the hub, hoping to have a picture taken in front of the castle. Success on that front. Then further around, passing the Matterhorn (who put that mountain next to the castle?) and into Tomorrowland.

Tomorrowland is a hit-we got the boys onto Star Tours and they loved it. For some reason, older son has freaked every time we’ve tried at MGM and younger son wasn’t thrilled with it, either. Makes no sense, considering how much they adore all the Star Wars movies. I don’t think we’ll have any problems in the future-they’re still talking about it!

Thanks to the magic of the Guest Assistance Card, we head onto Space Mountain next and experience a new way to get onto the ride. We loaded into the vehicle to the side, then it was moved onto the track. The ride was recently rehabbed, so I’m not sure what it was like before. There are speakers in the seats, playing fast music, wind is blowing at you and it is so dark that you can’t see the track AT ALL. The boys LOVED it, and I’m happy that younger son’s first time on the ride was at this park.

It’s interesting to see the melding of attractions that are in 4 parks in Florida into two parks in California. DL no longer has a Carousel of Progress, but the space is used to house Innoventions. I’m glad we went in, but this could be a huge time sucker when we only have one day in the park. We did find stitch and talked to him-similar to what you can do with Crush’s Turtle Talk. Hmmm, I still haven’t looked at the picture Stitch took of us.

Lunch was enjoyed in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Unfortunately, we did not conquer the Matterhorn-it’s being rehabbed. One thing I did notice is that there is far more open air dining and attractions here. Is is true about that Southern California sunshine?

We went onto It’s a Small World and find they still invade your brain long after you’ve said ‘Au Revoir’ ‘Auf Wedersein’ ‘Adios’ and ‘Adieu’. Neat loading area and I loved the cast members costumes.

Mickey’s Toontown has a ride I’d been looking forward to, Roger Rabbit. Now that we’ve experienced it, think Mr Toad meets the Teacups. It was okay, but not one I’d rush back to ride. The kids enjoyed the diversions that Toontown holds.

Into Fantasyland, where the landscaping probably is very similar to the park in Europe where Walt got his inspiration for Disneyland. It’s very park like and though the rides are on top of one another, it doesn’t feel that way, due to creative queueing and landscaping. It was nice to ride the teacups in the sunshine, experience a different Peter Pan and once again enjoy Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

We venture over to Frontierland and pass by what looks to be a campground, alas, nothing is going on. Big Thunder Mountain is in front of us, and we ride. The theming in better, IMO, and the ride better overall. Once off the ride, we find that the majority of the attractions in this section of the park are closed for rehab.

Pirates of the Carribean. For years, I’d heard this one was better, scarier, and Walt’s favorite ride in the park (not sure about that one). After riding it, I do agree that this one is the better one. The bayou area was great (think of the beginning if “El Rio Del Tiempo” if you’ve never been) and the ride itself was similar in spots, but longer. The addition of Jack was well done. I’m looking forward to seeing it at WDW when we get back there someday.

The treehouse is now occupied by Tarzan-and we had to drag the boys out! We head over to Splash Mountain-which now the younger son LOVES. He’s not a fan of drops and we’d only had him on the WDW once. Back over towards the rest of Frontierland and Adventureland. The Gallery was excellent, with the bonus of a Cast Member giving us a ‘tour’ and explaining what each room in the gallery originally was intended for. Can I have that apartment?

Next, Indy. Indy gets a show in Florida and a ride in California. I think this is the longest queue in any Disney park, lol. Again, the movie buffs love it. Then, we wait for the REAL Tiki room. It’s so much better when Iago and Zazu don’t blather on about what they’re going to do with the show!

Hunger strikes again and Ed gets an empanada and we get those hot dogs I mentioned. It’s almost time for fireworks, and we end up in the middle of main street to watch. They are similar to Wishes, which I love.

After shopping for a bit, we head out to the shuttle. I didn’t want to leave and wish we’d bought the three day passes-but we’ll be back.

We left with something to remind us daily of this day-mickey knobs for the kitchen cabinets. I’d tried to purchase them at WDW, but Ed suggested waiting until we knew how many we needed. By the time we did, they’d been discontinued at WDW. Now, I look at the mickey heads and remember this day. J

Day Two

The nice thing about vacationing three hours further west is that you can feel like you’re sleeping in, while in reality, you’re up at a normal time.

We got up around 7 and went and got breakfast. I have to say that the free expanded continental breakfast was good. The waffles were filling.

To avoid traffic, we got on the road at nine. However, this IS California, and we encountered some traffic. We got to the zoo just before 10am. The internet is our friend, we had $8.00 off coupons-seems others had $3.00 off coupons they wanted to give us.

We start our day by taking the bus tour around the zoo. It was pretty comprehensive and shows us that the exhibits were built into the landscaping, rather than the other way around. The zoo is quite hilly, something we’re not used to anymore after living in Florida for a couple of years.

Once we’re done with the 35 minute bus tour, we get off the bus and our first order of business is to go see the koalas! They all decide they want to sleep. We continue walking through the park. Little guy keeps on saying he wants to meet Bagheera, so we venture down Cat Canyon and find the jaguar for him.

Once we complete Cat Canyon, we’re upon the Panda exhibit. We get to see Mom panda and her 1 year old and three year old cubs. We then trek up to the top of the zoo to see the Polar Bears. They have four bears that they alternate in the exhibit, and we seem to have arrived just as the shift change occurred. After hanging around for twenty minutes, we see one bear-he made a beeline for the food.

Next, a skyride down to the bottom of the park, grab some lunch and visit the children’s zoo. The day at the zoo ends with a visit to the reptile house, which older child has asked for all day.

It’s not a good idea to leave town right now-it’s 4pm and it’s rush hour. We take the advice of zoo employees and head downtown to the Gaslight area. The parking area we were directed to ends up being the parking garage for the mall, so we venture in. It’s an outdoor, multilevel plaza. We find See’s candies and the employees ply us with samples as we choose a pound of chocolate nirvana. The boys also get their copies of Lego Star Wars 2.

The walk around the Gaslight area proves that there are plenty of restaurants, all with outdoor dining areas-unfortunately, we’re not hungry enough to justify sitting down for a meal. I’d definitely head back the next time we’re in San Diego.

We head on the road at 6:30 and have an uneventful drive up to Anaheim. I pricelined our room in Anaheim while back in Carlsbad-my 80 dollar 2.5 star bid got upgraded to a 3 star. We’re in the Hyatt Regency about ¾ mile up the road from Disneyland. 10th floor kid suite! OMG, this for 80 bucks? It’s very nice! Note that almost all the Anaheim hotels charge for parking, and this is no exception. They charge for internet access, too, so we’re hijacking bandwidth where we can, and the updates probably will all be put up when we find our hotel for Saturday night.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day One

Legoland was the first stop on our west coast journey. After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we drove three miles to the park. We're so conditioned to WDW that at 10 minutes prior to park opening, we were shocked that the parking lot was nearly empty!

The next shock was paying for the tickets. We lost the free tickets for the boys in the debris moved from our old office in the house to its temporary home. Ouch. I'm sure they'll be found within a day of getting back to Florida-100 bucks that won't be recovered!

However, the park was quite pleasant. The boys are the perfect age for this-another two years and I think they'd have scoffed at the rides. The Lego sculptures and art were impressive. We were able to do the whole park in the 7 hours that it was open, as one section was geared towards preschoolers.

After leaving the park, we continued on Cannon avenue to the Pacific. Yep, we're that close. We took a drive down PCH for about 10 miles and got some pictures. As our goal this trip is to not eat in any chain restaurants (other than ones based on the west coast only), we scoped out a place to eat. We headed back to our hotel for a bit, then ventured out for dinner. We detoured to a clifftop parking area to view the sunset.

I wish I could get YUM! to allow me to post, because this restaurant was incredible. If you're ever in Leucida, California, you MUST have dinner at Jimmy's. Atmosphere was relaxed and the food perfect. I had a huge pork chop with the right amount of crispy chargrilling and demiglace. Ed had a citrus chili flank steak. Both were cooked to perfection and served with cheddar mashed and a veggie medley. The kids loved their meals, Kevin getting a wood fired pizza from their sister restaurant next door.

No, the meal was not cheap-but it was worth every penny.

Tomorrow's plans are for the San Diego Zoo and probably downtown for dinner.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We're in CALIFORNIA!!!!!

After several false starts, rebooking penalties from Delta and disappointed parents and kids, we finally are in California! I sit in our hotel room, by my watch its 4am and can't believe that we are here.

Flight was fine-rental is even better. We'd reserved a Dodge Magnum, but ended up with a Charger instead. It's nice, rides great.

It's been a very long day, but the midnight snack (well, local time anyway) was In and Out Double Doubles. OMG, these are the best chain burger ever. The fries are delish, too. Only thing that could have made the meal better was a frosty brew.

Tomorrow: Legoland. Signing off from the land of fruits and nuts...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Four days to go!

It's a go. We are FINALLY taking our trip to California. When this was first planned, I was an ASM with Disney Store and we'd get into Disneyland for free. Alas, we'll be paying A LOT to go now, but WE'RE GOING!!!! This morning's agenda is to find cheap rental car, but I think I've got that covered. Next up, figuring out how much it's going to cost to get to the airport. Our airport charges 11 bucks a day for parking, let's see if we can get four of us to the airport and back for less than 100 bucks.

Three reschedules thanks in part to the DM who approved the vacation, then was beholden to the new ASM at my store who said 'he couldn't work without me'. If that hadn't happened, we would have seen the park Walt walked in 18 months ago.

The car still smells like epoxy. I think I need to put an air freshener in it while we're out of town.

Florida primaries yesterday. Fortunately, one of the morons running for governor was creamed. Hmmm, ad campaign? Preserving marriage as between a man and a woman, and removing 'adult' billboards from our roadways. Hello? Is there a brain in there? Floridians have bigger issues, such as the way homeowner's insurance has doubled in a year and the state's education ranking.

Scary Medusa Woman (SMW), otherwise known as Kathryn Harris, was told by the Republican party that she would not receive their support and ran anyway. SMW won the Republican primary-please pray for us. This woman is SCARY. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, think dangling chads.

I sure miss being around the Beltway. At least the politicians there had a clue.