31 August 2009

And now, the REST of the story!

Entrance into the California Adventure

After a full night's sleep and a good breakfast, we ventured forth the next morning (Thursday) anticipating the long entry into what we now considered Mickey and Friends Gargantuan Garage of Massive Acreage. It actually only took 30 minutes on Friday to make the same jaunt so we were encouraged. Our plan was to explore virgin territory aka California Adventure. Perhaps it's because we had nothing to gauge it by but our experience started out more fun than the previous day! We headed straight for the Paradise Pier to see if we thought we could stomach the huge roller coaster, California Screamin', which is the focal point of the entire park. We looked at it, were uncertain about riding, got Fast Passes (just in case) and then went to ride the huge Ferris Wheel called Mickeys Fun Wheel - and it's not your typical Ferris Wheel. We got on one of the free floating cars, not one of the stationary, non-swinging ones. What a TRIP! Great fun!! Still undecided about Screamin' so went to ride Mulholland Madness, Soarin' (which is just like the one in WDW, one of my absolute favorite rides!), and the Monster's, Inc. Sulley and Mike to the Rescure Ride. We were still undecided about Screamin' so decided to run back over to Disneyland and go on some rides we'd missed the day before. Small World was fun (and a bit different with an outside loading dock and Disney story characters throughout). You cannot leave ANY Disney park without going on the Small World ride - it's traditional! We waited over 50 minutes for the Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin - okay, but not really worth the wait in our opinion. Then we walked back over to CA for our dinner reservation at the Wine Country Tratorria. We then waited about an hour to go on Toy Story 3-D Mania and it was worth every minute of waiting - what a FUN RIDE!! We would have gone on it again if the wait hadn't been so long, and, of course, they were one of the non-FastPass rides. Sigh...

Aladdin and Jasmine in Small World

Alice in Wonderland - Small World

Mulholland Madness

We decided neither of us was brave enough to go on Screamin' so scoped out the crowd and offered our FastPasses to two unsuspecting, but VERY grateful youngsters. Well, they were probably in their late 20s, early 30s, but when you're in your 50s, anything 40 and under is "youngsters" to us. We'd been in the Parks about 10 hours by now - our feet were beginning to protest so decided to do a bit of shopping in Downtown Disney before heading "home" to the Marriott.

"Mikey Mouse"

Saturday was very laid back with sleeping in, late breakfast, leisurely coffee drinking and massaging sore feet. :) We drove to an outdoor premiere shopping center called Fashion Island in Newport Beach after enjoying a FANTASTIC In-and-Out Burger lunch. I did a little bit of shopping and we got Mike's watchband repaired and then headed back to Anaheim as we had a dinner reservation at the Napa Rose restaurant at California Adventure's Grand Californian Resort (lots of "California" bandied about this place!). We've always enjoyed the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Hotel at WDW and wondered if this would be as good.

Paradise Pier at California Adventure in daylight

Oh. My. Word. "Good" doesn't even begin to describe how fantastic the food was at this place! The food was an experience. The service was, in Mike's words, "impeccable". The ambiance was intimate and the decor stunning with huge picture windows with Arts & Crafts style stained glass overlooking a beautiful garden. The evening was PERFECT! They even wrote "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate on our dessert plates. Those fillets were so tender, they cut like butter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED should you ever go to Disneyland! Afterwords, we walked back to Disneyland and rode Alice in Wonderland before doing a little shopping. We wanted to ride several of the long-term rides (Toad's Wild Ride, Peter Pan, Snow White, etc.) but they were either closed for some reason or the lines were over an hour (it WAS Friday night and the parks were jammed with locals). We then positioned ourselves to watch the Celebrate Disney fireworks display which began at 9:25pm. We found a spot to wait and then Cast Members roped off the area putting us front and center of a perfect viewing area without any obstruction. I got to visiting with a family from Liverpool who were there "on holiday" and had been to both the Florida and now California Disney Parks. They were very friendly and the time passed quickly before the spectacular fireworks display. A perfect ending to a perfect day!

Sunday we attended services at the Orange View church of Christ in Anaheim followed by another lunch at In-and-Out burgers. Oh I wish we had these restaurants in Texas!! Where else can you get two good old-fashioned cheeseburgers, fries, sodas and shakes for $13.98?? Then we drove up and down the coastal highway, looking at the architecture, houses, shopping, shoppers, beaches and the ocean (of course!). It really is a beautiful place from Newport Beach down to Laguna Beach. I can understand why people would want to live there from an aesthetic standpoint. Huge trees line the streets - and the streets were very clean and free from litter. I was in the mood for Mexican for dinner so we tried to get to the one in Downtown Disney but the queues for parking were enormous so we just started driving around the Anaheim area and found what looked like a chain restaurant called El Torito. It was very good! Everything was fresh, flavors were different from TexMex and the service very good. We shared a pineapple upside down cake for dessert - something I've never seen in any restaurant before let alone a Mexican one! It was light and perfect and made me want to go home and bake one.

Paradise Pier at Dusk - so very pretty and nostalgic

I'm not sure what we expected California to be like but I guess we had, in the back of our minds, a not-so-pretty picture probably based on the crime dramas we like to watch on TV. And I'm sure LA and other places are like that presupposition. But the areas we were in were gorgeous, well maintained, clean - and the people friendly. One thing that was VERY noticeable about the Disneyland Parks was the relatively modest dress compared to what is seen (or NOT seen, depending on how you, ahem, "look at it") in the Florida parks. You can get "quite an eyeful" in Florida as well as some questionable slogans/pictures on T-shirts. But other than a few low necklines, the California park attendees were relatively modest! Not to put the Europeans down, but we hypothesis that this observation might be due to the large numbers of Europeans that visit the Florida parks while the California parks had more Asian visitors - predominantly Japanese from what we could tell. Considering how "liberal" California is and all the hype with Hollywood and the "stars", we expected something different and were pleasingly surprised to find the parks more "family friendly" when it came to dressing.

Mike taking a business call

A Wife's Guide on "How to handle business calls when on vacation" - proven methods for sucess

We had a really wonderful time on our trip, getting away from "it all", getting time alone - Mike only took ONE call when he was there! No conference calls at 6am (which would have been 4am in California now that I think about it), no email syncing, only one "I need to take this call and then make one call" which was quite a feat for him! The only thing I would have changed about the vacation was our hotel - the Marriott was lovely and we had no complaints about it - it just wasn't "on property" at Disney which is something that definitely makes a difference to your stay if you're a Disneyphile like we are.

Happy Campers!

I hope to get some photos from our drive down the coastal highway this week so again, stay tuned.

So there you have it.

But I still keep hoping for a breakfast buffet to appear each morning. And the maid doesn't show up while I'm gone during the day. What's with that??

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