Saturday, 15 October 2011

That's All Folks

The last Disney activity for the day was a character breakfast at Storyteller's Cafe. Our superchicken, although having been primed for this event for months, still ended up being terrified of the characters. The food was quite nice, but our waitress was shocking. I had never seen Malcolm take such a dislike to someone so quickly. We let the matter go as we still had to pack and check out. To our surprise, we managed to fit all 7 passengers, 7 suitcases, 6 carry-ons, and a stroller into our Toyota Sienna. We've decided that that is the car we shall get when we need to buy a new car. We draped all our still damp washing all over every available surface area that we could find and headed to Downtown Disney for one last look. We lunched, shopped and then headed towards LAX before getting stuck in the Friday evening peak hour traffic. The car drop-off process was efficient and pleasant, as was check-in at the airport.

Breakfast venue

Big and expansive just like the rest of the Grand Californian

Disney Details right down to the lights

No Jonah

Still no Jonah

Content NOT to have photos taken

We've lost hope by now

And so here I am, sitting at LAX, waiting for our Virgin Australia flight to take us home to Sydney. The past 22 days have been simply awesome. We are so grateful that we have been given this opportunity to see such a beautiful part of the USA as an extended family. We thank the Lord for keeping us safe thus far, and I look forward to sharing the plans for our next journey.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Our Last Day At Disneyland

We haven't reached home yet but the post Disney blues has hit already. Feeling so sad that we have to go home tomorrow...

It was a much more relaxed day today. We arrived at Disneyland at 7am again but we were able to go on rides that we love or ones that we haven't already done. We also had the time to browse through all the shops. Being able to have a good look at the Disney artwork was a highlight. I had not taken much notice prior to being introduced to it aboard the Disney cruises, where we were one number off from winning $1000 worth of Disney art!

We had an early lunch so we could return to our rooms for a nap. The long hours of the past two days had taken its toll. I don't know how I survived the marathon that was Walt Disney World back in December 2010! We had a chance to swim in the hotel pool before going back into the park for the last time. It was a heavy heart that I walked out with, knowing that it will be at least one full year, if not more, before we are able to visit another Disney Park. I will end this post with some photos from our day today.

Jonah LOVES this ride. He went on it 3 times today

I can drive Mum

Another family favourite, Autopia

She's a hoon!

Convinced Lara to go on this. Not sure that she enjoyed it...

She was much happier here

My new time piece that I bought at Downtown Disney last night

One of my favourites...the Dapper Dans!

Lara rewarded with balloons (and many other goodies) for getting lost walking between the lobby to our room. Still not sure how she managed to do this.

The view from right outside our room

Swimming at the pool

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Disney California Adventure

This morning's start was not as cruel! Again, as guests of the Disney Hotels, we were allowed early entry into Disney California Adventure. We went to the Grand Californian entry into DCA to discover that there was already a line. By the time 915 hit, the line had doubled in length.

Doesn't take much to make me happy. This sign was enough to bring on joy!

We walked straight on to The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure. I quite enjoyed it! Jonah loved it, because he could sing snippets of the songs that he knew. The day had already started heat up and so we lined up for Grizzly River Run, a white-water raft ride. The children giggled as they remembered how wet Uncle Jason got last December on the Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. Jonah, unfortunately, was too short. As Daddy whisked him away to get fast passes for Soarin', he asked Elliot and Lara to laugh out loud for him whenever Oma and Opa got wet. Hmmm, I don't think the man remembered who babysits for us when we want to go out in the evenings....

We only remembered about Toy Story Mania AFTER we finished our very wet but refreshing ride. Yes sadly, we didn't really have a plan for today either. Fortunately for us, the line was only 45 minutes long. TSM was just pure fun. I blame Jonah for not getting a decent score! The rest of the family rushed off to Soarin'. The lucky sods got to go on twice in a row due to what turned out to be a fortunate miscount by the Cast Member. Malcolm was accidentally left without a seat and so was unable to ride with the family. Everyone else received the benefits! Unfortunately, Jonah did not meet the height restriction. So we had our own little adventure of NOT taking a photo with Buzz Lightyear, and NOT taking a photo with Mickey Mouse. Apparently, the chicken superhero was not so super after all...Mother was not impressed as we had to line up in the sun and wait a little longer while Mickey had his dunny break, only to have her child hide his head in her armpit and squeak. Oh well...

The afternoon went by very quickly. We sought refuge from the heat by entering as many indoor, air-conditioned attractions as we could. The mind boggles as to how people cope with the crowds and the heat in summer. Orlando would be that much worse. Anyhow, a surprise hit for the day was the Sorcerer's Workshop. Lara was in her element. She got to read lines from Aladdin which was recorded and subsequently played back with the animation. Elliot had his opportunity to provide the singing voice for Hakuna Matata. He got very upset when his siblings tried to join in....

Our first ride of the day!

Toy Story Mania trendiness


Lunch venue

So glad to be inside, in air conditioning!

Spaghetti Alla Vongole. Delicious! Jonah thought so too apparently, he ate half of it.

Cheeky Stitch!

Another hit with the whole family

An easy feat when TV screens are involved

Sigh...more screens

One of the few disappointing rides

A really fun place! 

The little ones transfixed by which Disney character they are most like

The children have already asked if we could come back when Carsland open. How could we refuse them?!?!?

We are suckers for merchandise. We just HAD to have the misting fan...
We were really looking forward to seeing World of Colour (sorry I just cannot bring myself to spell it "Color"). We had booked a pre-fixe dinner package at Ariel's Grotto. This allowed us into the Disney Dining area which saved us having to obtain a fastpass for the attraction ourselves.The reviews for the food has been mixed so my expectations were low. I felt that although the meal wasn't brilliant, it was certainly decent and enjoyable. The appetiser platters were fresh and tasty. My entree of seafood cioppino went down quite well, as did the unlimited coca-cola. The dessert platter was a nice way to end the meal.

The directions as to where to go/line up for World of Color was surprisingly poor and very unlike Disney. Asking three different cast member, we were given three different answers. In the end, we just happened to be fortunate and we were standing in the right area to be one of the firsts in line. We decided to take a punt and went for the "wet" zone. It was a warm evening and the wind had died down. The gamble paid off. We had an unobstructed view. Many reviews had mentioned that the view from further back gave a different perspective of the show, so that will be for next time! I need to mention at this point that I had left my tripod and my wide angle lens back in the hotel. Arghh!!!! The plan was to return to the room to pick it up before the show but that plan never came to fruition.

The show was simply awesome. Disney truly is the master of details. The score arrangement, the lighting, the mood changes, the timing, the choice of imagery...I loved all of it. The 20 minutes went by very, very quickly.  It was a great way to end the day. We returned back to our rooms and put the children to bed. We have been given time to go shopping at Downtown Disney by ourselves so got to go!

Dinner venue

One of our appetiser platter


A small section of our dessert platter

Paradise Pier before the show

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

My name is Belinda and I am a Disneyholic. It has been 145 days since I last visited a Disney park.

I have a confession to make. I entered a Disney park today with no touring plan. My theme park strategist would have been ashamed of me. I have an apology to make. The word awesome will be used repeatedly in this post.

So let's recap what was the best day ever...

The best day ever!
It was a 7am start. As guests of the Grand Californian, we were entitled to Magic Mornings, select days where we were allowed to enter Disneyland an hour before opening time. Walking down Main Street was so magical, as was walking through the castle with "When You Wish Upon A Star" playing in the background. Our morning in Disneyland whizzed past. One disappointment was that Jonah was not tall enough to go on Star Tours or the Indiana Jones ride. The other was that Pirates of The Caribbean was closed. However, I don't think the children cared!

We enjoyed the Enchanted Tiki Room. It was quite special to see Jonah sing along to the opening number. He was mesmerised by the show! The show was much better than the one we saw at Walt Disney World in December 2010 which has since been overhauled. The other ride I also wanted to mention was The Haunted Mansion. They have put on a holiday overlay based on Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, whereby two holidays collide. It was fascinating to see how clever the imagineers were. Some sections were awesome. However, I felt that others changed the whole feel of the ride too much with too much bright fluoro greens and oranges.

We had to leave Disneyland for the Hyperion Theatre in Disney's California Adventure so that we could watch Aladdin, the stage show. Today was the only day that it was showing during our stay here. Tired feet called for the help of the Disney Railroad. We hitched a ride from the New Orleans Square back to Main Street and across into the neighbouring theme park. We were glad we made the effort. The show was awesome. In true Disney style, the performers, costumes, sets and the music were superb. This was especially so for the genie. He was hilarious! We briefly left the theme parks for lunch at Downtown Disney. The Rainforest Cafe looked appealing and so we headed in. We opted to eat at the bar to avoid a 45 minute wait! The food was plentiful and delicious. It was nice to eat light food with lots of greens.

The Albanys have been let through the gates and they're off

Halloween decorations are up

Reading this plaque always gives me goosebumps

Just awesome

Ready for our day in the house of the mouse

Our first destination. To Star Tours and beyond!

Another awesome moment

The beautiful Hyperion Theatre

Next time (I'm sure there will be a next time...) we will have to sit at the mezzanine to  see Aladdin

Lunch stop

We had to sit at the bar

The kids didn't mind as they got to sit on funky bar stools yet again

Ahi tuna salad
We re-entered the park with the Disney monorail straight into Tomorrowland. We hopped on as many rides as we could before picking a spot in preparation for the 5pm parade, a wonderful session of great music and perky dancing. This was accompanied by the obligatory pineapple dole whip and churros. The parade was awesome! I just love how Disney did the score arrangements, and how seamless the transitions were between floats.

We went to get our tags for Mickey's Halloween Party. The children were excited to be able to go trick or treating. The lines for candy were incredibly long, so much so that many of the rides had only very short lines or were walk ons. We discarded the candy collecting and went on as many rides as we could. By the end of the evening, we had gone on most of the attractions and were quite proud of ourselves. We chanced on a short-ish trick or treat line and pounced on it. The Cast Member saw that our bags were empty and felt so sorry for us that he put it 3 handfuls of candy so we could "catch up". Awesome!

We feel so fortunate to have been able to visit our 3rd Disney Park in 10 months. We also enjoyed the fact that we have been able to see the parks (albeit different ones) decked out in both Christmas and Halloween fineries. I must admit though, as Christmas means a lot more to me personally, that I just find it that much more magical....By the end of the evening, we had been at the park for 15 hours and little feet were starting to get very tired. We trudged back home feeling content and oh so very happy.

Finding Nemo

Are you sure this is low season?

Pineapple dole whip


Getting tagged

Bands on!

Ready to go with our trick or treat bags

Our first trick or treat station

An OCD child arranging all his candy and the candy of the rest of the family before evenly re-distributing them

More Halloween decorations