Saturday, September 15, 2007

Disneyland Vacation, Part 1

I’ve been meaning to blog about my trip to California, but as always, life keeps interfering with blogging. I’m not sure how other people manage to do it all.

In the last 15 or so months, I’ve made four trip to the west coast. My grandmother had a stroke in April ’06, on her 81st birthday, and she has been living with my mother since she left the rehab facility the following August. To say the situation is stressful is putting it mildly. Grams is basically bed-ridden. She has no movement in her left side. She can sit in a wheelchair but becomes uncomfortable after just a few hours. My mother has a nurse come in Monday-Friday to take care of Grams, but after 5:00 and on the weekends, her care is provided by my mother and sister. To top it off, Grams view of reality is, well, distorted. The problem, however, is that if you were to ask her the right questions (Who is the President? What football team do you like? What are the names of the baseball teams in the L.A area? Where do your granddaughters live?), she can answer you and seem perfectly lucid. On the other hand, she gets very worried about me if she hears that there are tornadoes in Florida (Is the airport OK? How are you going to get home?), and she asked me if I felt the recent Peruvian earthquake.

For this trip, I wanted to try to get my mother and sister to relax. It was my mother’s 60th birthday, and my sister and I asked my aunt to come stay with Grams so my sister and mother could get out of town for a few days. We decided that it might be fun if we went to Disneyland for a few days.

Please note that, as Orlando residents, T and I have annual passes to Walt Disney World, and we make good use of them. We go to the parks several times a year and are very familiar with certain details. My observations below are based in large part on my experiences here.

We stayed for three nights (Saturday through Monday) at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort. The hotel was just gorgeous. This is the premier hotel at the Disneyland Resort (DLR) and is most comparable in quality to the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World (WDW) (you can tell by the way the names are similar). Stylistically, the resort is closer to the Wilderness Lodge at WDW, although it's actually based on the art and crafts movement and not really a rustic Pacific Northwest theme. There was a tour offered about the hotel and its design, but I didn't get the chance to go, as it was right in the middle of the day.

It was very nice hotel though. The entrance way is a gorgeous stained glass. I was able to get a quick, not-too-terrible picture of it when it was briefly closed.

The room was a standard room, two queen beds and a day bed, mini-fridge, DVD player. The shower curtain was decorated by images of Bambi and Thumper (this will be a funny detail later). Prints from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves were on the walls.

The lobby was a comfortable place to sit and relax. The floors were a mix of inlaid wood and soft carpeting, that was sunken to be level with the wood floor. There was a lovely stone fireplace. Also, the house phones in the lobby were real rotary phones with cloth-covered straight cords! When I dialed our room number (3205), I had to wait until it turned all the way back from the 0. It was very exciting.

Our first night there was Mom's birthday, so we made arrangements to have dinner at their signature restaurant: Napa Rose. I wish I had the menu so I could tell you exactly what we had, because I forgot to take notes. We started with appetizers: Mom had some sort of eggplant dish that she said was "OK"; my sister (Sis) had sea scallops that she just loved; and I had the "summer tart" -- honey-mustard roasted rabbit in a tart shell. Mom and Sis were alarmed at my choice of appetizer. Rabbit? Really? shouldn't I be concerned about eating a cute fuzzy bunny? I simply explained that rabbits were hardly endangered, and I had never tasted rabbit meat before. I must say I'm looking forward to eating more. It was really good. For the main course, Mom chose the safe filet mignon. Sis was aiming that direction, but I knew she would be happier with the side items accompanying the beef short ribs, so she chose that. I had lamb chops cooked two ways; Osso Buco-style and ____(?) At any rate, they were delicious. I was eating cuteness everywhere. Dessert was a cappuccino mousse and chocolate torte. It was good and very rich, but I couldn't eat it all.

Upon arriving back at the room, and taking care of my business, Sis asked me (kiddingly) how I could possibly look at Thumper on shower curtain without feeling guilty. I just started referring to my appetizer as the "Thumper Tart".

Now, I spent my teenage years in the southern California desert. I've been fortunate enough to have visited Disneyland a good half-dozen or so times in my life. That said, I haven't visited the park since 1996, when I took T out west to visit my family before we got married. The DLR is a whole new animal to me, and if you've never been, I highly recommend it.

Unlike WDW, the DLR has been set up for everything to be within walking distance. Directly outside one exit of the Grand Californian is the Downtown Disney (DTD)entertainment complex, with shops, restaurants, and movies. At one end of DTD are the entrances to the two theme parks: Disneyland and the newer Disney's California Adventure. At the other end of DTD are the other two Disney-owned hotels. Another exit from the Grand Californian (and one of the great side benefits of staying at the hotel) is a private entrance/exit directly to California Adventure.

Sunday morning we wandered around DTD briefly and had breakfast at the La Brea Bakery (tar pits were nowhere in sight). It was a good meal, though I thought over-priced. Although, I did enjoy a couple of lovely cinnamon-apple sausage links.

We spent the rest of Sunday at California Adventure. This was the first time any of us had been to this park. Overall, I think it's a nice enough park, and it has some gorgeous details: The giant sun fountain in sunshine plaza, the "Paradise Pier" area.

Mom suggested we ride the Grizzly River Run rapids water ride first thing. I think we got her to do four or five other attractions that day, so it was exciting that she actually volunteered to go on one of the more "thrilling" ones and the one guaranteed to get us soaked. The ride is centered around Grizzly Rock. I'm pretty sure this is the park's icon. Anyway, it's pretty neat looking for Disney rock, although not nearly as subtle as the Jaffar rock at Animal Kingdom (note to self: get picture of Jaffar rock).

Sis and I rode the Golden Zephyr, which was a nice calm spaceship ride that went around in about 3-1/2, maybe four, times. On the up side, there were no lines for it. I also fulfilled my promise to Sis and went on the two roller coasters: California Screamin' and Mulholland Madness. California Screamin' wasn't too bad, although I have no intention of riding it again. Mulholland Madness, a "mini-coaster" terrified me. It was filled with all these tight hairpin turns, and being the fat girl I am, I was afraid my weight was going to shift the balance of the car right off the tracks. At least the cars themselves don't spin, ala Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

We tried to get Mom to go on the Sun Wheel (giant Ferris wheel), but she wouldn't go for it.

We did see Golden Dreams, the movie about California. It was kind of depressing in places: Spanish missionaries bring terrible diseases to the native peoples; Chinese railroad workers get blown up; a Japanese picture bride gets pelted by tomatoes by bigots. But, they overcame their hardships to build the great state of California. Why Whoopi Goldberg was chosen to play Califa, the spirit goddess of CA, I'll never know. Also, the film begins with the statue of Califa becoming "animated", just like the statue of Thetis is animated by Maggie Smith's face in Clash of the Titans. I kept expecting her head to roll off as she cursed us to a horrible doom!

We also saw Muppets 3-D, which is always fun. And we rode the Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sully to the Rescue! ride; a dark ride basically re-telling the Monsters, Inc. ride. Very cute. The two attractions had some of my favorite exterior designs. The first is a door just outside the exit to Muppets 3-D. I love the signs. The second two are the facade to Monsters, Inc., which reminds me of a trippy version of the "it's a small world" ride and the next is one of the "posters" in the queue for the ride. Look closely.

We also decided that Triton's Carousel was Mom-safe. I don't have pictures of that, but it did appear to have a real, honest-to-god, calliope making the music.

We toured the animation exhibits, which were very neat, but I wish we could have toured a real working animation studio, like we used to be able to do here before they shut it down. (grumblemumblebittergrumble)

Finally, we rode Soarin' Over California, or just Soarin' as we call it at Epcot. This is just an awesome ride that I insist all visitors to Disney Parks take time to see. It's a hang-glider simulation over the California landscape, complete with sweet smells. The line for this ride was only 25 minutes. I've never seen it shorter than an hour here.

Which gets me to my next observation. We went to California Adventure during the last Sunday in August, a week before Labor Day. We waited in almost no lines. The park was not even a little crowded, by park standards. It was a little weird. I'm not sure why it's not doing better, but I was definitely surprised.

We ate dinner at Wine Country Trattoria. Mediocre Italian food. Eh. This was probably my most disappointing dining experience at any Disney Park. I've had better Italian food, and much better choices, at Macaroni Grille.

We finished Sunday night by stopping by the candy store (where I got my favorite candy: dark chocolate honeycomb, yum!) and watching my favorite parade ever: The Main Street Electrical Parade. Of course, since it's at California Adventure it's just called Disney's Electrical Parade, but whatever. It's the old traditional parade, with the same floats and music. It just makes me happy. The entire parade route was lined with people, but they were only one or two deep. We found a nice bench and sat for the parade the whole time. We couldn't have asked for better seats. I loved it!

Anyway, that captures Saturday (the arrival and dinner) and Sunday. I'll tell you about Tuesday later.

EDIT: OOPS! I meant to promise that I will blog about Monday and Tuesday later, probably this weekend. As it turns out I'm too verbose to write much during the week.

1 comment:

Icepick said...

Great, now I'm ear-wormed with The Main Street Electrical Parade music. Gah!

Also, what about Monday?