Archive for August, 2007

Disney day 2

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Sunrise saw us forsake the make-your-own waffles and head to the air-conditioned comfort ( and space ) of the local IHOP.

The Disneyland Resort ( as it’s know officially ) is made up of 2 theme parks separated by a central plaza. They build the Disney California Adventure Park some time in the late 1990s and is a “celebration” of California. This was more of a movie-themed park and allowed the Pixar characters to have their own section without tainting the Disney product.

This was a little more subdued then Disneyland itself. They have a boardwalk which contains a large Ferris wheel and incredibly fast roller coaster. Joanna likes Ferris wheels and Sam doesn’t so I played the role of “brave dad” for this one.

The wheel is, according to wikipedia, 48.8 metres in diameter and has 2 types of gondola. Those with a fixed axle and those which run on a small oval rail. The ones on the oval rail slide down as the wheel goes around. We chose the fixed axle.

Sam watched us from the ground as we started to move up into the air. Like I said, I’m not good with heights and it was about 20 feet up that I realised that I wasn’t comfortable being up with the gods. Joanna came to the same realisation so we held each other’s hand for comfort. Rachel didn’t have the same concern and she couldn’t make her mind up which seat she wanted to sit in so I had to, firmly and loudly, instruct her to pick one and sit down. I was concentrating on the horizon but Rachel wanted us to look down at the ground to see how high we were. Again, a firm and loud response was issued thanking her kindly for her offer but Daddy was fine looking into the distance.

We reached the zenith and began our slow descent and I relaxed. This allowed Joanna to release herself from the vice-like grip she’d been held in and wipe her sweaty palm.

As we got to the bottom of the ride again, I prepared myself to disembark from the gondola only to discover that the ride didn’t stop until we’d completed two revolutions. So, back up we went, eyes on the horizon, hands clamped together.

This time, it wasn’t as bad. The adrenaline levels were acceptable and we finished the ride in a state of semi-peace, much relieved to have reached terra firma unscathed.

We headed to the Pixar “It’s a Bug’s Land” section of the park where we got to play on Heimlich’s Chew Chew train and Flik’s Flyers.

We caught the Pixar Block Party Bash where we got to see a number of the characters and Rachel and Joanna were plucked from the audience to dance to the music.

When the party dispersed, we went into the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section. This was the highlight for me as we got to see the Muppet*Vision 3D show. The place was decked out like the Muppet Theatre and Waldorf and Statler were animatronics sitting in their box and heckling.

I still like the Muppets. You speak to kids today and they don’t know what a Muppet is but us grown-up kids remember. My favourite is Beaker and he was there as Muppet Labs showed off their 3D technology.

We had a quick go on the Monsters, Inc. ride and then retired to the hotel for swimming and food.

We returned in the evening again but this time we watched the Electrical Parade which is a series of floats covered in fairy lights. When that finished, we went straight back into Disneyland to see the fireworks again. For our evening rides we chose the Astro Orbiters, which is the Tomorrowland equivalent of the Dumbo ride, and the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.

The Orbiters are higher and faster than Dumbo and, this time, Rachel was the pilot with me. Because of speed and height issues, I had to explain to Rachel that we didn’t need to take the rocket any higher than it already was. The horizon is a wonderful place to be looking in situations like that.

The denoument was the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. To be honest, I don’t know why we didn’t go on them earlier. It was great. You get into a little car on a track taking you around an ultraviolet landscape and you have to shoot all the aliens with a laser gun connected to your car. Not only that but you have a lever that can spin the car around in case you missed shooting an alien behind you. I could have spent weeks in that one 🙁

And so ended our Disneyland visit.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and Walt

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Last weekend, I found religion.

It must have been a church because we, and a large number of others, gathered in one place to worship an icon and, raising our heads to the heavens, with one voice, prayed “Dear God ! Can this line get any longer ?”

Yes, we went to Disneyland 🙂 Sam and I went there on our honeymoon 13 years ago so it was nice to see if we even remembered what we did all that time ago.

I asked the girls what their favourite part of their Disneyland trip was and they couldn’t make their minds up between playing in the hotel pool or the toy they got in their McDonald’s MacHappy MacMeal on the journey home.

This was a last minute decision to go because the girls were going back to school the following week so we wanted them to have something to talk about when they met up with their friends again.

So, 6:30am on Saturday (I know ! I didn’t think there was such a time either) we piled into the car and drove the 400 miles down to Anaheim. Sam made the courageous decision to share some of the driving with me so she took the first 2 and a half hours to get us out of the Bay Area and on to I-5 and a great job she did of it too.
I-5 has to be one of the world’s most depressing roads. It doesn’t end. There are no discernible features aside from the service stations dotted every 30 miles or so.

The girls were fantastic considering the journey was so long. The “Are we there yet ?” silence was broken after 29 miles into the trip. We had to explain that it was going to take us a good few hours before we would get there so it was probably best not to keep repeating the question.

It took us about 8 hours to get down there but we probably had one and a half hours’ worth of breaks in between. Driving through the greater Los Angeles area was a crawl. There was a lot of construction work going on which added to the time unnecessarily.

We planned a 5-day holiday where the first day would be travelling and relaxing at the hotel, the following two days would be spent with the Disney Corporation and the fourth day would be a free-for-all where we’d see what we wanted to do. The fifth day was travelling home again.

Our hotel was on the same street as the entrance to the Disneyland Resort. Unfortunately, this meant we had to disappoint the girls as we drove straight past Disneyland to get to the hotel.

“See that magical, wonderful, fun-filled place over there girls ?”.

“Yes ! It’s Disneyland ! Yaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyy !!!’

“Well, we’re not going there. We’re going to the hotel”.

We checked into the hotel and took our keycards to the door of our room only to find that the little green light would come on but the door wouldn’t open. I went back into reception ( within about 3 minutes of checking in ) and the first question I got from the receptionist was “Were you looking to check in ?”. It turned out that you’re supposed to *lift* the handle unlike every other door in the civilised world.

Our room was a “Kids Suite” which meant that the girls had their own room with a bunk bed, bathroom and, most important, TV. Sadly, the shower was weaker than a weak thing. I’ve noticed, over the years, that the strength of hotel showers has deteriorated.

Being on holiday, we had to eat out every night. The regular restaurants were still around: Outback Steak House, Red Robin etc. as is the de-facto kid’s menu: Corn Dog, Mac’N’Cheese, Burgers, Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I won’t go off on another rant about this but someone must be able to show some imagination and innovation and I don’t just mean branding the Grilled Cheese Sandwich as a Cheese Quesidilla. I’ve a good mind to write a letter to Jamie Oliver.

A good night’s sleep saw our first Disney day arrive. There was a melee in the breakfast area which had no air conditioning but the best part was a make-your-own-waffles grill so I had fun there.

According to the brochure, the hotel is only a couple of blocks from the entrance so I made the excutive decision that we were going to walk there. The sidewalks are big and other families were doing it. Four blocks later, we got to the entrance.

Our Disney indoctrination began with piped music playing throughout the entrance plaza. This music didn’t stop for the hours ( and hours ) that we stayed in the park.

We shuffled through the entrance gates to be greeted by a brass band and Alison Wonderland and The Mad Hatter dancing around. Alison seemed to be changing Disney characters because, every so often, she was Grumpy. She didn’t like the fact that people wanted to take pictures of her. “We’re doing a show !” she snapped. Someone needs to remind her that this is the Happiest Place On Earth ™.

For the rest of the day, we pushed our way through the crowds to work out which rides we wanted to go on. The weather was blazing sunshine with little breeze so we had all lathered up with sun screen and were wearing our hats but that didn’t stop us from getting very warm.

Highlights of the first day were the Dumbo aerial ride, which Joanna enjoyed because she was in control of the lever that lifted us up and dropped us down again. Rachel is at the age where she’s allowed ( and wants ) to sit in a Dumbo on her own. That meant I sat in with Joanna and Sam was in a Dumbo on the other side of the ride looking forlorn 🙂

I’m a coward when it comes to fast, high or loopy rides where you are, potentially, parted from the contents of your stomach in the name of entertainment. This means that Sam gets to go on other rides with Rachel. So it was with the small roller coaster in Mickey’s ToonTown. Joanna and I retreated to the safety of an ice cream and watched. I liked Fantasyland because all the rides were slow and peaceful.

That is, apart from “It’s a Small World”. For the uninitiated, it promises a whimsical boat journey around the world using the medium of song to highlight how each and every child is the same underneath and we’re not as different as you would believe. For those of you that have been on this ride, it’s an incessant, saccharine-filled, torturous, animatronic voyage into Hades with only a looped tune for company that will burn itself into your brain for months, if not years, to come.

Still, it was air-conditioned so that was nice.

We managed to get our photo taken with Mickey and that made Sam’s day just like it did years ago. Does this mean I’ll have to dress up like a 6ft mouse to get her to smile ?

The Disney parade was great and I managed to get some good pictures. Lots of characters, song and dance. Joanna was exceptionally pleased because Goofy shook her hand. Unfortunately, we were too engrossed with the show that we missed it completely and didn’t manage to record it anywhere.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the hotel for a rest and to let the girls play in the pool. As I said previously, they enjoyed this part the best. Both of them were showing us how they could jump off the side and swim underwater as well as turn somersaults. This pleased me no end. I can now play with them in the pool without having to worry about which one of them is clinging to which arm.

After dinner, we went back to the park to see the fireworks. This happens every day at 9:30pm and is a great light show. Tinkerbell even flies over the top of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The congregation stops dead in their tracks to watch this and, at the end, half of them work their way to their cars, the other half pushes in the opposite direction to get to the rides again.

Because the park doesn’t close until midnight, people get to queue all over again but this time there’s no sun beating down on them. So, we queued for 45 minutes to get on the Finding Nemo submarine ride and then went home to bed.