Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Disneyland in Retrospect

Lolipops on Main Street USA

Finding Treasure on Tom Sawyer Island

Mark Twain Steamboat

Our name for posterity

Captaining the Steamboat

Paul and Violet on Space Mountain

Madeline and Violet in the Teacup

Cup of spinny tea anyone?
Sleeping Beauty's Castle

With bears in California Adventure Park

Candy Floss on Paradise Pier

Playhouse Disney Show

With our friends, Mater and Lightning McQueen

Sam in front of the Lego Shop (aka Heaven)

Cinderella in "it's a small world"

Kiwis! (it's a small world)


it's a small world clock

"it's a small world" (love it!)

Goofy's house

Mickey Mouse Clock in Toontown

Abigail pretending to be Pluto

Violet in Mickey's house

Madeline in Minnie's House

Tea time in Minnie's house

The girls with Minnie


Meeting Cinderella

Meeting Ariel

Meeting Belle (their favourite)

Our classic Splash Mountain photo: Who's having fun??!

We loved Eyeore

Pooh and Tigger being delightfully silly

On Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Love the girls' lip-chewing

Pirates of the Caribbean

Wenches in the Pirates ride. Incredible detail.

Fire trucks even in Disneyland

Meeting Pluto on Main Street

Our friend Mickey, on Main Street

I’ve stalled on this entry simply because it is such a hard task to capture three wonderful, glorious days at Disneyland into a piece of writing. With the kids and Paul back at school and a rainy day preventing me from doing anything else, I am finally up for the challenge! Keep in mind my loyal readers that this is my blog and therefore my journal; I intend to be thorough with such a special place.

We arrived in L.A. on the evening of January 11th after an hour delay at Vancouver airport with our Air Canada flight. It meant that by the time we had caught our shuttle and were on our way to Anaheim, we were well passed dinner time. Thank goodness for Grandpa’s brunch shout on the ferry earlier in the day. I remember telling the children, “Eat! Eat! Eat more!” It didn’t matter to me whether it was a sandwich or a chocolate biscuit—I just wanted them full. The kids were fantastic though and very excited to be sitting in the front of the green Mickey Mouse shuttle bus heading to our destination. Whenever they saw lights (which was all the time) they would ask our Hispanic driver if that was Disneyland. “I’ll show you Mickey Mouse,” he promised excitedly. My enduring memory of the bus trip will be the stars in the sky. Bright stars that grew and grew until they had become jets with glaring lights leading them to LAX. One after the other after the other in a constant flow. My thought was, "we’re not in Kansas anymore!"

We arrived at our hotel, The Staybridge Inn and Suites at about 9:30 pm and it was warm. Gloriously warm after the Canadian winter we’d endured. We still had the problem of filling our empty tummies so before we explored our lovely 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom suite, Paul was on the phone ordering pizza. With an ETA of 45 minutes we had time for a quick swim in the Mickey Mouse pool. Believe me, it was a long day and we needed that swim. And I assure you, pizza never tasted so good.

Up bright and early on Wednesday the 12th of January to find a beautiful California sun shining on us. Another buffet breakfast at the hotel, (“Eat! Eat! Eat more!”) and we were off, heading to the ART shuttle to take us to Disneyland. We arrived about 15 minutes before opening as I had read about the lines at the gates. There were no lines, and they had opened the park. I soon realized that I had planned well, coming here mid-week, off-season.

What a magical place. The music, the colours, the characters, the cleanliness, the magic. I had tears in my eyes and was so very very thankful to be there and to be able to give my four children this experience. Walking up Main Street, USA and taking it all in was something I will never forget. And of course, there was Mickey Mouse, ready to sign autograph books. After the signing and the photo, we decided on an clockwise route to try to take in the whole park in a sensible manner, and started with Adventure land. The first ride we found was Indian Jones Adventure. The sign said a 20 minute wait, and we thought that wasn’t too bad. It turned out to be the longest wait we had, and most of that wait was actually just walking up the ramps and through the paths to the start of the ride. Unfortunately the twins were too short so it was just me and the older two to take it on. A great first ride (me), very scary fire bits (Sam) and too bumpy and fast (Madeline).

Not much else to do in Adventureland so we wandered to New Orleans Square to have a look and found a ride that had no line up called Pirates of the Caribbean. The cast member at the start assured us (Madeline) it was a gentle ride and we were immediately in a boat travelling through the most incredible diorama of characters and scenes from the movie. There were a couple of little splashy bits but generally it was a fun ride to just absorb. So we did it again! Next was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a fantastic roller coaster train and then we realized we needed to let Madeline find her feet again or she would never forgive us. Up to Critter Country we trekked and found Winnie the Pooh—the character who enjoyed rubbing Abigail’s hair until it stood on end with static—and the ride. We enjoyed that ride a couple of times and then worked the children up to conquering Splash Mountain with us. A bit of history here: Paul had come to Disneyland for one day with a friend several years ago and Splash Mountain was closed for maintenance. He’s been dreaming of it ever since. It was great fun and we were rewarded with a priceless photo of all us. When I say “it was great fun” I’m coming from my own perspective here. Violet started sobbing after the first splash and Abigail decided to join her chorus. Sam and Madeline were white as ghosts and complained wholeheartedly, “I will NEVER do that ride again.” Even Paul in the photo looks slightly aghast at the prospects ahead of him.

We eventually found the train that circumnavigates the park and had a lovely ride over to Mickey’s Toontown. It was a fun place to explore, especially Mickey and Minnie’s houses and of course more rides but by this time, we were getting on the rides so quickly they were starting to blur. The girls loved meeting Minnie in her house (Sam was staunch), Mickey in his house and Goofy outside his house too. Heading into Fantastyland we discovered the Princess Fantasty Faire where you get to walk through an area and meet the princesses. But first you wait in line. For a brief few moments of meeting those special ladies. The girls enjoyed it, getting autographs and posing for photos, while Paul and Sam (staunch again) went off on their own adventure and found “it’s a small world.” Mickey Mouse ice creams for lunch and then we all enjoyed “it’s a small world” together. If you’ve been there (and I still remember it from my first visit when I was 5 or 6), I’m sure you’ll picture the girls’ delight in what they saw and heard. The tears came back to my eyes and I was especially choked up as our boat entered the last little area which was dazzling and sparkling in white Christmas beauty. "Peace on Earth" the sign said. Definitely our favourite ride.

It was heading towards dusk by now and we had time to do a few more rides in Fantasyland before calling it a day. Walking back to the bus to take us back to our hotel for free drinks and hot dogs (well planned!), it became clear that if we had another day like that one, the entire time at Disneyland would become a blur and we needed to shake it up. That meant upgrading our passes to the 3-day pass which would give us more time to explore the neighbouring California Adventure Park. Not a very difficult decision!
So on Thursday we started in Tomorrowland with Space Mountain. Again, no lines. Sam said he didn’t like his stomach feeling all funny and Madeline was certainly a whiter shade of pale, but the twins were keen to do it again. The cast helped the older two find a safe place to stand while the four of us went on Space Mountain again. The girls laughed and giggled the whole way through. Fantastic. I think there was a Buzz Lightyear ride in there and Autotopia and then we found the Monorail to take us to Downtown Disney. First stop: the Lego Shop. We just browsed at this point and then walked through Downtown Disney, grabbing some Wetzel’s Pretzels for lunch and on to the gates of California Adventure park. Still a lot of building going on in this park but we enjoyed Soaring Over California, taking in the sights and sounds (and the Ferriswheel—my worst ride) of Paradise Pier and the Playhouse Disney Show. I regret that I did not go on the roller coaster, but as I would have been the only one, I felt a bit selfish making the rest of the family wait for me. Next time!

This was a heavy walking and exploring sort of day and by the time we headed back up Downtown Disney to do some shopping, we were exhausted…all except Violet. Some of you might remember that we’ve spent a lot of time working on her endurance, knowing that every time we take her for a walk she’s whining and complaining 2 minutes into it. Well, apparently that condition does not occur in Disneyland. She was bouncing, dancing and hopping for kilometers that day. We grabbed dinner in an outside bar and then headed back to the Monorail, intending to take in one or two more Fantastyland rides at night before heading to the hotel. However, the monorail did not cooperate that night and we had to walk all the way back through Downtown Disney (Violet still bouncing) and out the gate. It was definitely bus time by this stage.

Friday: our third, last and bonus day, spent entirely doing our favourites and anything we had missed (Teacups, Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, Finding Nemo, etc) in Disneyland. The park was noticeably busier and the lines were heavy by mid-morning, but who should we bump into? Todd and Joy and Oliver, a couple from our ante-natal group in Taranaki. And I had just been thinking to myself that normally whenever we go somewhere we usually find someone Paul knows. And there they were! The highlight of Friday was being invited up to the captain’s berth on the Mark Twain Steamboat, where the children were given the opportunity to steer the ship, ring the bell and blow the whistle. The captain presented us with a certificate and Paul wrote our names in the captain’s log for posterity. Very cool.

A touch of sadness went with us on this day, knowing it was our last and aware that we hadn’t had nearly enough time to explore this special place. But we had to leave the park by 4:30 in order to get back to the hotel, grab our bags and catch our airport shuttle. Traffic was bad but we made it two hours ahead of our flight back to New Zealand, again escorted by those stars that grow and never dim until they land. By 9:30 that night we were on one of those stars, soaring through the darkened California sky, heading home. Exhausted, hungry, and still enjoying the magic of Disneyland every time we shut our eyes.

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