Disneyland! Day 2

So, Wednesday now. Woke up absolutely stuffed from the drive yesterday and heading into the park the night before. Already my back was regretting the decision to go on the Goofy Sky School roller coaster ride with the Small Child last night – yes, I’m blaming that ride, as it was way too aggressive and jerky and no where near as much fun as the others!

The main perk of staying at the Disneyland Resort with its completely incompetent staff, is getting into the park an hour early before it is open to the general public. So up we get at 6am to have a bite, get dressed and hit the park by 7am. The early opening alternates between Disneyland and the California Adventure Park, and today it was the California Park’s early hour

We went in and went straight for the Cars. Had a quick spin and picked up some Fast Passes for later in the day. Then decided to go through the Soaring ride which is a large IMAX sized flight simulation of flying over California. Very impressive… your feet are off the ground and you’re banking with the action on the screen, it really feels like you are flying through the air.
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Then onto the Grizzly Rapids which is one if those round rafts that goes down a very wet rapids trip. We got thrown around and thoroughly drenched and thought this was a ride best done at lunchtime during the heat of the day!

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After we dried off a bit, we then decided to try the California Screamin’ roller coaster in Paradise Bay. Where we hit a wee hiccup… there was no way no how that the Kid was going on that roller coaster. Period. It’s a very very fast and extremely high ride with plenty of twists and drops and I’ve upside down loop. I tried coercion, cajoling, pleading, bribery, lightly veiled threats (to withhold junk food!) and no way! He was not budging one little bit. Apparently Dad had told him he didn’t have to go on anything he didn’t want to and he was sticking with it!
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Ok, so be it (personally, if have taken the $20 and closed my eyes, but) he was adamant he wasn’t going. So we threw out bags at him and went without him. The California Screamin’ roller coaster then became my all time favourite ride I’ve ever been on in my entire life! Talk about an adrenaline rush… so fast, so smooth, not at all jerky or painful and I LOVED it! We got off and excitedly reported to the Small Child that it was better than Cars, and that he should come too… but he wouldn’t be moved. So we went again without him. ūüėÄ Got us some fast pass tickets for that!
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By now both parks were open and we thought we’d finally go into Disneyland. First stop, Star Tours – it was on his list. The line was about 25 minutes and this was the longest wait we had over the entire three days we were there. We inched through the queue trying to stay out of the sun and chatting with other people in line. We eventually got into the ride and Angus loved it. Personally I’m not a Star Wars fan so I didn’t think it was worth the wait but that’s just me. The show has obviously been updated over the years as all the new characters from the later movies appeared in the ride.
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After that onto Space Mountain only to find a 50 minute queue had already formed. Time to whip out the golden ‘sorry we screwed you around’ ticket… And straight to the head of the queue. No problems getting the Kid to go on this ride. He hopped into the car, bucked his seatbelt and was raring to go… even though he had no idea what was in there. And shit by the end if it I wish I didn’t find out what was in there. Most of you probably know that the whole thing is in a darkened environment which is very low tech with its fairy lights and mirror ball effects to give the rider the sensation of hurtling through space. Only ready it still thrills is because you have no idea where you’re going or what is coming next. It’s loud and jerky and way too aggressive by half. I got so thrown around in that thing… yet the Small Child loved it!

Unbelievable. Couldn’t get him on the nice smooth newer rollercoaster over the way but this old jerky thing he loved it. We told him it was scarier and much worse than the California Screaming but he wasn’t buying still. Sigh…

We did a few more rides about the place and by then it was heading towards midday and we’d been at it for five hours already. To avoid dehydration and/or sunstroke and to preserve our feet and/or sanity, an executive decision had been made earlier in the day to get out if the midday sun and go see a 12:30pm showing of the Lone Ranger in the Downtown Disney area for a couple of hours respite… best idea I ever had.

We hightailed it out of the park, picked up some hotdogs for lunch*, and spent a couple of hours in the air con with some frozen cokes*, our shoes off and kicking back.

Movie was pretty good, the break in the heat of the day was even better. After the Captain Jack Sparrow, I mean Tonto was all done, we head back into the California Park with our California Screamin’ rollercoaster Fast Passes which had just expired while we were in the cinema (they stopped honoring expired passes in Feb apparently because Fast Pass queues in the late afternoons were getting as bad as regular queues from people storing then up all day).

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As we were walking in there we were trying to convince the Small Child to give it a go if they let us use the passes. He didn’t want to, but eventually he said ‘Alright, I’ll give it a go.’ as he fully expected us to be turned away due to the expired passes. But, bad luck kiddo… the nice lady let us in when I explained we had had to leave the park because we were heat affected, and the alarm on his face as we made our way up the fast line, was priceless. We were in the rollercoaster within minutes and there was no backing out. Off we went. Such a friggin fantastic ride. I looked over at him and he was screaming – but also laughing and grinning from ear to ear. We get off the ride feeling dizzy and the verdict: ‘That was awesome! Can we go again?’ Bloody hell, little nutter. Sometimes he should ignore Dad and just listen to his Mum!

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After that it was back to Disneyland… Thankfully our Fast Passes for Space Mountain had expired, and this time the line checker was not so generous, so I was spared being thrown through the dark jerky washing machine for a second time.

Instead we checked out Adventure Land, Frontier Land and the New Orleans Quarter, doing all the old favourites – Pirates of the Carribean, the Haunted Mansion etc etc. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that these rides are older, less sophisticated and in bad need of updating to keep up with their flashy new California neighbours. No doubt this is why the Big Thunder Railway was closed atm, to make way for a new improved, more modern rollercoaster.

Anyway, we had some dinner and were hanging around for the fireworks over the teeny tiny building they call a ‘castle’ in Fantasyland. Got shooed off by security guards from our various perches at least twice, and ended up in the crush on Main Street with everyone else anyway. Now we had managed to avoid long queues all day so far, but waiting around for the fireworks… there’s no ‘out’. My feet were sore, my tummy was a bit upset (probably due to the inundation of crap food) but most of all, my back was absolutely screaming by this time (about 9pm). My shoulders felt like they were covered with burning needles and my lower back felt like someone had stabbed me with a hundred knives – just sharp sharp pain that wasn’t going anywhere. Couldn’t turn my head without beck spasm and starting to stiffen up really bad. Worst bit, to be totally honest – I couldn’t give a fat rats about fireworks. Seen one show, seem ’em all in my opinion. In my entire life, I’ve never bothered to go see the Brisbane River Festival’s big Sky Fire thing… cos I just don’t give a shit. But there we were, standing for over half an hour to watch some lights and fire and loud bangs and smoke over Disneyland castle set to some well worn musical numbers.

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Ooh. Aah. Pretty. Lets move on.

After that Angus high tailed us over to the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride, where you use a ‘laser gun’ to shoot down the Emperor Zurg. This was a great interactive ride. You’re in a car going around a course and shooting at targets with your laser. The system somehow keeps score and you can compete with your fellow riders. Awesome fun. The kid was a bit disturbed that Mum got a higher score than he did though! I think he thought his video game expertise would win the day but he forgot Mum is a sporting shooter.

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After that we called it a night and joined the walking wounded through Downtown Disney back to the hotel… it’s just like watching a slow moving zombie apocalypse. Everyone is do stuffed and weary they’re ambling, loping, waddling and limping their way out of the park.

Until tomorrow… :S

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Disneyland! Day 1

Disneyland has been well and truly done and dusted. We¬†arrived Tuesday afternoon and after a small clusterfuck at the¬†hotel (and further clusters booking stuff for the next few days), I¬†tried hard to put my frustrations aside and take the kid into the¬†park with a ‘we are going to have fun if it kills me’ attitude.

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For someone who wasn’t too excited when we first¬†said we were going to bring him over for this, the Small Child knew¬†exactly where he wanted to go – straight to the Radiator Springs¬†Racing ride in Cars Land (apparently he and Dad had been doing¬†their research before he left). It was mid afternoon and not too¬†hot but the line up was over 60mins and we had done a 5 hr drive¬†that morning so I was getting ready to grin and bear it, when we¬†saw the ‘Single Riders Only’ queue. Cool. We didn’t care if we were¬†sitting together and definitely didn’t care enough to wait an hour¬†for the privilege, so in we went. In less than 10 minutes we were¬†on the ride! And wow, what a ride…

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Disney has obviously changed a lot since my last¬†visit in 1998. The ride puts you in a race car and takes you¬†through the town from the movie cars with all the familiar¬†characters leading you through the ride and next thing you’re on a¬†race track with some other riders beside you. The countdown begins¬†and then you’re off and racing. And shit this thing flies. It¬†speeds you through a desert landscape like the movie and the two¬†vehicles race at breakneck speed along a track to the finish line¬†where one vehicle will have pulled ahead. It was fast and smooth¬†and awesome fun. When I got off this ride I thought, ‘This is why¬†Californians won’t allow mandatory helmet laws!’ It was so much fun¬†we lined up and did it again straight away.

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Most of the rides in the California Adventure Park
seem well targeted at both older and younger attendees – the
characters appeal to the kids and the rides are a bit more exciting
and grown up for the adults, when you compare them to Disneyland
proper.

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That evening we managed to go on the Mater’s¬†Junkyard Jamboree (fun, swings around a lot, but a bit jerky , the¬†Luigis Floating Tyre thing (not so great, leave it to the little¬†ones), Flik’s Flyers (you can see one four leaf clover in Bugs Land from up there), the Golden Zephyr (good plan to get off the¬†pavement and cool down a bit in the fresh air), Goofy’s Flying¬†School roller coaster (fast, lots of drops, sharp turns and VERY¬†jerky…ouch), the Swinging Symphony chair-o-plane thing (not for¬†those afraid of heights), and the Little Mermaid adventure ride¬†(definitely for the kids, but lots of fun – found myself singing¬†along with all the songs). We didn’t wait in line for anything for¬†more than five minutes which was a huge bonus, and I’m pretty sure we doubled back in there somewhere for another go at the singles¬†queue on the Cars. ūüôā

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We were still there at 9pm when the ‘World of¬†Color’ night time spectacular thing was on. We found ourselves a¬†spot and watched the fountains, and lights, and animation¬†projections and fireworks and flames over the Paradise Bay area in¬†front of the huge Ferris Wheel. I don’t know if it’s because I have¬†OD’d on the incredibly sophisticated, skilled and nuanced Cirque du¬†Soleil performances lately, but as a visual/theatrical¬†presentation, I found the whole thing rather unimpressive and too¬†long by half. Must he getting to that point in my travels where¬†spectacular ancient ruins become affectionately referred to as¬†‘more crumblies’… jaded traveller syndrome obviously kicking in.

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We had a great afternoon/evening and even found¬†something nice to have for dinner that didn’t feel like someone had¬†extracted your wallet without the courtesy of lube!

Disneyland Hotel… First impressions count people!

Here’s a free tip for beginners – do not drive from San¬†Francisco to Anaheim with the intention of hitting Disneyland for¬†half a day when you get there. The reasons for this are two fold:

  1. The drive between these two cities is monumentally boring. If you make it through this long flat disinteresting dust bowl of a countryside without resorting to holding your eyes open with matchsticks; you deserve a bloody medal.
  2. Even the best laid¬†plans can, and will, fuck up on you… in our case, checking into a¬†$500 a night hotel with an international reputation for exceptional¬†guest service, proved to be obstacle to keeping our planned¬†schedule… who’d’ve thunk? Yes, that’s right. We arrived to check into our stupidly expensive hotel room at the Disneyland¬†Hotel ON TIME, only to be told our room wasn’t going to be ready¬†for potentially up to two hours. So we checked in (or thought we¬†had) and left our luggage with the Bell Desk to be retrieved later.

Seeing that the theme parks are about a 15-20 walk up through the Downtown Disney District, we¬†thought we’d loiter around the resort and hope the promised text¬†message with our room number in it, would arrive sooner rather than¬†later. ¬†It actually didn’t take too long before the much anticipate¬†text arrived… telling us our room number was 2378 which was on¬†the 5th level of Frontier Tower. Cool. We march over and go up to¬†the 5th floor and excited as he was, the Small Child wanted to use¬†his Mickey Mouse room key to open the door. He sticks in the key,¬†flings open the door and goes: ‘Ta-da!’ ¬†Only, we take one step in,¬†hit a light switch and see stuff everywhere – this room was most¬†definitely NOT vacant.

Hmmm… Interesting fuck up.

As head travel¬†agent, tour guide and fuck up fixer, for this entire schmozzle I¬†sent the others to go off and have a swim, knowing full well this¬†wasn’t going to be a quick fix, and trudged back over to the¬†Concierge Desk in the other tower. I spoke to someone who seemed to¬†know what he was doing and got the expected apologies etc, along¬†with a ‘We are fully booked tonight ma’am,’ speech, that was¬†swiftly followed by a ‘You have a party of three booked into a room¬†that accommodates five (two queen beds and a day bed for the rug¬†rat), if you wouldn’t mind taking a room with just two queens that¬†would make things a whole lot easier…’ My reply was delivered¬†with stoic impassivity and went something along the lines of a¬†polite version of: ‘Seriously? You people just sent us off to¬†invade the privacy of some of your other guests giving us keys that¬†opened someone else’s OCCUPIED room, fucking up big time, and now¬†you’re trying to fob me off with a room that is inferior to the one¬†I booked months ago? You wanna rethink that there mister?’

He eventually located a room for us and then asked me to sign the registration paperwork. It seemed ditzy bint who signed us in, gave us room keys and an occupied room but failed to have me actually sign for the outstanding balance on the room so they could charge
my Visa! Something tells me Meradeth, (with a name spelled like¬†that, do we expect anything more…?!) probably got dragged over the coals on that one.

But¬†wait, there’s more! You see, upon being given our personally¬†printed room keys, I erroneous assumed they were like cruise cards¬†and would be our entry into everything – the room, the resort, the parks,¬†etc… But no, apparently the park entry passes are a small¬†cardboard job that the (previously designated ‘ditzy bint’, but now¬†downgraded to ‘chicken fuckin’ moron’ status, of a) receptionist¬†had completely failed to give us! If we had we marched the 20mins¬†down to the park straight up without them, we would have found¬†ourselves heading straight on back again! So three cock ups in the¬†space of about an hour and I was starting to wish we’d just gone to¬†the Holiday fucking Inn!

Uptight Concierge dude, who seemed¬†seriously unimpressed with me about my refusal to accept the¬†smaller room (or at least, as unimpressed as a Disney Cast Member¬†is allowed to be with a Guest – I know the rules), finally sorted¬†things out, gave us reprogrammed room keys, had me sign all the¬†bullshit to pay for it, and gave us our actual theme park tickets¬†this time. After having made only one single terse comment about my¬†check-in experience not meeting my expectations of any Disney¬†establishment, (Disney’s entire ethos is about exceeding Guest¬†expectations and all…) I decided to spend the remainder of my time¬†watching him put the shit back in the cat, just staring at him –¬†vaguely impatient and seriously unimpressed.

At the end of his¬†stuffing about with computers, and popping out the back, he hands¬†over the keys and the tickets with a flourish, and his very¬†insincere hopes that we enjoy our stay. I’m staring at him and do¬†not leave… He then seemed to assess me and finally reaches under¬†his counter and brings out ‘The Book’, saying he’s going to give us¬†a special ticket to make up for the inconvenience. This ticket¬†would allow our party to jump to the head of the queue of any ride¬†in the parks and potentially save us a couple of hours.

Did I¬†mention while I was waiting for the supercilious concierge I¬†received four more SMS messages from the hotel : three more¬†reiterating the wrong room, and a fourth saying we were in 2324?!?). ¬†Anyway as he gives me the ticket, I looked at it and said to him,¬†‘Excuse me, but this afternoon’s complete and utter ineptitude has¬†inconvenienced all THREE of us.’ He did a momentary double take and¬†hesitated for a few seconds before¬†reluctantly¬†saying, ‘Yes, of course Ma’am, I¬†was just about to write our another two tickets.’ I took my three Golden¬†tickets, turned on my heel during the ‘Have a Magical Day’, that¬†I’m sure was uttered between gritted teeth, went out to the pool,¬†found the others and went looking for our room… again!

Across the¬†complex, through to Frontier Tower, up to the 6th floor to room¬†2478, opened the door to find – a cleaner. Who had just shampooed¬†the carpets leaving the room stinking of chemicals and the carpets¬†all wet… Le sigh.

disneyland hotel fuck up

The Streets of San Francisco

QotD on chat: “We’ve just had a nice relaxing gay in San Francisco.” :S

We were going to head up to Mendocino today but decided to opt out of many hours in the car when we are heading back to LA tomorrow and will get plenty of car hours in. That, and there was the pressing matter of the Not So Small Child’s shoes… You see with Mr K being at uni every day last week, and cramming and writing essays every night, it appears some of his packing may have been done by a minor! As such, we have a pair of favourite sneakers with holes in the soles and a pair of much loved jeans that are too small and won’t zip up… He’s growing up way too quick! And as much as I hate shopping at home, I really hate errand type shopping while on holidays but it’s kinda unavoidable.

So we decided to head downtown to go find shoes as number one priority for the morning. Hmmm… cable car for $6 each or quick cab for $10. I suggested walking but was shouted down once we remembered we were in San Framcisco and there’s no such thing as a street that isn’t uphill and down dale. Cabbie was not very chatty but dropped us right outside a massive Designer Shoe Warehouse where some Vans were acquired for the kid.

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After that we had a bit of a wander around Union Square and read the memorial nonsense about defeating the Spanish. Saw all the department stores we hear mention on TV and in the movies all the time, (Nieman Marcus, Macy’s, Saks etc) had a look at Tiffany & Co., nearly bought a new key (because they come in bunches! bunches! bunches!) and then reminded myself that I wanted to get my next one from somewhere in Europe, not another from the US – phew, narrow escape there – and basically poked around in The City for a while.

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We did decide to take the cable car back to Fisherman’s Wharf though as it just feels like one of those things you have to do while in San Francisco. Waited for what seemed forever for one to come along, and saw so many go past piled high with people. Well, not really piled high, so much as they’re all hanging off the outside!

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Finally managed to jump on a cable car and even though it was a short trip to Beach Street, it was so much fun. The conductor on our car obviously really loves his job and was happy to chat with us on the back of the car for the whole ride. Did I say chat? Well, he started off trying to chat me up… claimed all women he’d ever met from Brisbane were blonde and beautiful, ‘just like you, baby’. What a suck up! I told him if he was going to go around calling me ‘baby’ that we ought to at least be on a first name basis!

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Anyway we had a fun ride, he had Aunty Mary hanging off the back step and at one point he got the Small Child try and pull the brake on – which was hilarious as it obviously takes quite a bit of muscle to operate.

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We went past loads of really steep streets, and my new friend filled me in on being a cable car conductor and how much he loved his job and all the tourists he met. He moaned a bit about the cost of parking in The City ($40/day), recommended a cafe near our hotel (The Hollywood Cafe does a mean breakfast apparently), and told stories of people queue jumping to get on his cable car and also how people literally fall off everyday… but they just leave ’em and keep going!

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We made it safely back to Fisherman’s Wharf, had a bite to lunch and decided to head down to the San Francisco Bay Aquarium… mostly because they’ve recently opened a new river otter exhibit. ūüėÄ The place is a lot like Underwater World at Mooloolaba – touch pools, salt water tanks, fishes, corals, turtles, and jellyfish, as well as a 300′ underwater tunnel where you can see a multitude of fishes, sharks, stingrays, starfish etc.

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But of course. I was mostly there to watch the otters play. They have an impressive glass enclosure built for three adult river otters that provides excellent views of the little guys as they eat, frolic, play, squabble, swim, scratch and mingle. Awesome little creatures. ūüôā

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We did a bit of touristy shopping in the gift shops along the main drag and by then it was nearly dinner time. A long but relaxing day was had by all, and I wish I had more time to spend here. I think I’ll be one of those people who says they ‘left their heart in San Francisco’… this is definitely where I parked my car!