Thursday, October 26, 2006

Last day in California

Grrr, fargin Blogger. I lost the Hollywierd entry and everything else is out of order. I need to take some time to fix it-but it's really ticked me off, hence the delay in posting the rest of the trip report!

Day six-we'd originally planned to head back into LA and find Pinks, Tail of the Pup and look for some of the LA landmarks we'd heard about. However, the venture into Hollywood made us realize that it wouldn't be all that great, so we went to plan B.

A goal for the trip was to dip our toes into the Pacific. We live near the Gulf, we'd grown up near the Atlantic, so to travel 3000 miles and not do it would be dumb. After vegging in the room (which now would cost 70 bucks tonight, woohoo!), we decide to head west on Harbor Blvd. Suburban Orange county is much like LI, and similar to Florida as well. It's like LI in that towns merge into one another without any clear indication that you've entered the next one. It's like Florida in the sense that you'd pass this seedy, run down strip mall, and then the next block would have this opulent, gated community.

It's lunch time and we're hungry. We continue with our rule (mom and pop or west coast chain only) in searching for lunch. I'd figured we'd probably get another In and Out burger, but in Costa Mesa, while waiting at a light, we see this little mom and pop that looks like it'll fit the bill perfectly. Ed does some creative navigating to get us back to the place-Pasta Connection.

This place is a winner. Homemade pastas, sauces and bread. We started off with mozzerella sticks, which came out with this delicious marinara sauce. The bread and salads come next, and the dressing? Homemade. The bread is accompanied by an amazing pesto, which younger son likes so much, he asks for more of it to top his ravioli.

Ed will tell you, I am *very* picky about eating Italian out. He has to drag me to the various italian chains, mainly because I cook it at home (except veal). This is a place that he would NOT have to drag me back to-ever. The manicotti was perfect, I know he enjoyed his lasagna and the kids finished their meals. That, my friends, is a rare occasion. My advice if you're going to Disneyland, and you want Italian, make it a point to hit this place! Do not trifle with chains around here.

Fully sated, we venture further west on Harbor and end up on Newport Beach, which is an island. Parking is at islands in the middle of the four lane road-weird. We park and walk to the waterfront, passing homes that cost millions, but are roughly the size of our place.

It's windy, sunny and hard to see the coastline that is just a couple of miles away. Darn smog! At the water's edge, there's something of a bluff, and we doff our crocs to dip the toes.

BRRRRRRR!!! Yikes, it was friggin COLD! Understand, as a Long Islander, you could head into the ocean in September and it'd still be swimming temperatures, even into the first or second week in October. The water temps would be somewhere in the 70's. The Pacific was probably around 60 degrees. We later talked to a couple of locals and were told that the Pacific is generally not swimable, except for much further south (hmmm, two and a half hours south to Mexico and still wouldn't consider it). Another illusion shattered.

We admire the view and take plenty of pictures. There's a sailboat regatta going on, a windsurfer and plenty to watch. For not going in the water, an hour seemed like 10 minutes! The kids had a ball running back and forth in the waves. Suppose we should head over to St. Pete Beach and enjoy the warmth of the Gulf again.

Back to the hotel, taking a different route. I'd noticed on the See's website that there was a location *near* our hotel, and ventured a trip down that road. Remember, these towns run together, I'm not sure if we'll be far enough out on Chapman to even pass by the See's shop. However, we hit pay dirt, it's a little stand alone store on the outside of a shopping center. This trip nets 2 pounds of various yummies and another tin of Toffeettes (alas, we finished them last week). I suppose we should be thankful that they're all the way on the other side of the country.

Back at the hotel, we head down to the pool and the jacuzzi. I had really hoped for another round with the jets of the jacuzzi-they work wonders on the plantar faciitis. Ed and I enjoy small bottles of wine and laze away the rest of the afternoon poolside with the kids.

We'd hardly purchased any Disneyland merchandise (except those knobs), so we head over to Downtown Disney, fully expecting it to be like Florida's. It's not. The world of Disney is, though and we plunk down money for things to bring back to the family. Food is in short supply here, and the one place Ed and I thought we'd try (Brennan's) is closed for a private party! Ugh. Guess this means we have to come back, because we didn't get to check out the Haunted Mansion, the Matterhorn, or Brennans! ;)

Legoland wouldn't take the Lego store gift cards that have been sitting in my wallet for ages, so the boys got to get things from the lego store here.

After walking and discovering that none of the remaining food choices appealed, we detour through the Grand Californian (beautiful) before heading to the hotel. The boys get pizza, we get Del Taco and we attempt to fit more stuff into the luggage that won't fit.

The next morning, we're up early to head to the airport. I end up driving the car for only the second time. We arrive in plenty of time for our flight and get a brunch of California Pizza Kitchen. Well, it originated in California, and we didn't have much to choose from. For an airport kiosk, it was surprisingly good. Enough so that we went to one in Orlando a few weeks ago (even better).

The flight was turbulent enough that we couldn't get out of our seats for most of it. The bummer is that I'd hoped to see some of our country from the air-the clouds prevented it. Oh well, guess we have to go back!

We arrived in Tampa intact. Obviously! A week wasn't enough and was enough. One friend has joked that we finally took a 'real' vacation. You can tell she's not a fan of the mouse.

And so concludes the trip report that took six weeks to post!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Day Three-California Adventure

Day Three-California Adventure

We get down to the lobby and hop on the free shuttle over to Disney. The shuttle takes 10 minutes, and we’re at the entrance before the 10am opening. Today’s plan is visit California Adventure, as the hours don’t alter from 10-6 at all this week, but Disneyland will have later hours Friday and Saturday.

Our first order of business, after entering the gates and having our pictures taken, is to get something to eat. I split a cinnamon roll with older son and Ed and younger both get rice krispy treats. What the heck, it IS cereal! The shop was rather cool-the fa├žade looked like a train.

Next stop was Condor Flats, where we walk onto Soarin’ over California. The ride itself is identical to WDW’s, but the queing area is themed differently-more like an old time airplane hangar. The orange smell is different, which Ed and I figure may be due to an attempt to make them more like the local orange groves. Florida’s smells more like the oranges, and California’s smell more like the trees.

We continue down the walkway and look at the outside of the Grand Californian. Sometime in the next few days, we need to go look at the lobby. J The Grizzly River Rapids come up on our left, and we head onto the ride. Riders coming off don’t look all that wet, so the propect of walking around drenched in 60 degree weather is unlikely. Yes, we’re cold-we’re now used to the Florida heat.

The ride is great, a more traditional rapids ride than Kali and no, not nearly as drenching. Later in the day, we take a second trip and the difference when it is warmer is that there is a waterfall at one of the bridges.

The kids wander around the play area for a little while, then we head over to Paradise Pier. There’s a variation on a swing ride that has larger vehicles, rather than individual swings. Little man is intimidated by it, but we strongly encourage him to go on-and we all enjoy. We take in all the rides in the area, except for the huge drop. I do a solo tour on California Screaming while Ed and the boys visit the carousel. The coaster is great, it looks like it’s a wooden coaster, but it’s steel.

Lunch was completed in two steps, first Ed and I get mexican, then the boys go for burgers and nuggets, with the revisit to the rapids.

Over to the Hollywood backlot. We take in Muppetvision 3D and then Monster’s, Inc. It’s a dark ride and rather entertaining. The animator’s tour is rather different here, you sit in a theatre and an animator shows you how to draw a character. We learn how to draw Goofy, with varying results.

Next was my attempt to ride the Tower of Terror-alas, the show elements 101 on us and eventually, the ride was ‘evacuated’. At this point, it’s near 6pm and we exit the park. We debate walking Downtown Disney or heading into Disneyland for two hours, but opt instead for returning to the hotel for the pool and dinner.

Ed and the boys head down to the pool while I upload all the pictures. By the time I get down there, I find they’re in the jacuzzi instead-the pool is too cold.

Dinner was found at another California based chain-but one we’re familiar with, thanks to the frozen food aisle. Marie Callendar’s was a pleasant and filling meal.

Lights out early and plans for some LA area activities for Thursday.