Tuesday, 27 December 2011

And away we go.....Disneyland Dec 2011

Tuesday, December 27th

6:30 AM - After a fabulous dinner and evening at River Rock, we are up and ready to go. We have free passes to the breakfast buffet so we have breakfast before heading to the airport. We are really pretty unsure how busy the airport will be so we are going to go early just in case it is a gong show.

7:50 AM - We arrive at YVR and no gong show yet, although the WestJet check-in counter is pretty busy; there are 4 WestJet flights leaving before ours so it probably shouldn't be surprising that there are a lot of people waiting to check in. The lineup moves pretty quickly and we are checked in and through security in a reasonable time.

8:30 AM - We use our Nexus Air to bypass a short line at the US Customs gate and we are through.

9\00 AM - I'm off to the Duty Free shop to pick up a bottle of Dom Perignon for our New Year's Eve celebration. I'm quite perturbed to find out that they no longer carry it (I saw it the last time I flew from YVR!!). Anyway, I pick up a pretty decent bottle of Champagne as well as a seriously kick-ass bottle of Tuscan red wine from 2006. We shouldn't have any trouble enjoying New Year's Eve!

9:30 AM - I'm hooked up to the free wi-fi to do this blog. The wife has comandeered three chairs and is fast asleep. She didn't sleep much last night so this is going to be a long day for her. We still have an hour until we board so maybe a little nap will be good for her. There is literally not another soul at this gate right now. Maybe we'll have the entire plane to ourselves!! I'm sure there aren't ANY other people going to Disneyland 2 days after Xmas right?

As I'm typing that last sentence, another guy shows up. So much for that.

11:20 AM - Our flight leaves slightly late but close enough......

1:40 PM - Our flight, which had been uneventful up to this point, takes a nasty turn; and I mean that literally, as we take a sharp (AND I MEAN FIGHTER JET SHARP) right turn and start to climb back up (we were already in our descent). No mention was made of what happened, and let's face it, I probably don't want to know.

1:55 PM - We land. Not the smoothest of landings by any stretch, but a safe landing nonetheless. God I hate flying.

2:15 PM - We get to the baggage area and I leave Tracey there to get our bags while I go to get the rental car, which at SNA isn't far away. As I walk over there, I notice there is hardly anyone waiting in line, EXCEPT at the Avis counter, where there are about 30 people waiting (no exaggeration). As I look down at my Priceline rental agreement, I notice that (of COURSE), Avis is my rental company. Sweet. Thankfully a lot of the people ahead of me in line are together, so there are only around 11-12 rentals ahead of me, but with only 2 clerks to handle them all, it takes way longer than it should. We get upgraded to a really nice car (Chrysler 300) though so no big deal.

3:30 PM - We arrive at our hotel, Paradise Pier, and check in. Our room isn't ready, so we go to have a bite to eat while we wait.

3:33 PM - We don't even get to order before I get a text message that our room is ready. Now THAT'S service. As we are walking by the Bell Desk, I ask for our luggage to be brought up to the room. It arrives about 1 minute after we do. Now THAT'S service.

This is our first time at Paradise Pier and I didn't know what to expect, but the room is lovely. Two huge beds, a couch, a desk, a safe, a fridge and flat screen TV. Not too shabby. We generally stay at the Grand Californian, which is the most expensive of the three Disney hotels, but this is the busiest (and, therefore, most expensive) time of year and the prices at GC were off the charts. I did pay for a view of Disney's California Adventure park though and we have an excellent view of the park. So far, no complaints about this hotel, and it is literally across the street from the GC so it's not even that inconvenient.

4:00 PM - We go back to the restaurant we were going to eat in earlier and have a perfectly decent lunch. It's actually a lounge with some very interesting martinis (hmmmm we'll have to return here later when we have time to drink a little!!) but for now we're just having a quick bite. We have dinner reservations at 7:30 at Napa Rose.

4:30 PM - We are going to go into DCA and see if we can get a Fastpass for one of the bigger rides for after dinner. The parks are crazy busy (in fact, Disneyland was at capacity earlier in the day!) and we actually discover that there are NO Fastpasses available for today; so that's out. We head back to Downtown Disney and do a little shopping and then head back to the room to get ready.

6:45 PM - I go to unpack the computer and realize the computer bag is nowhere to be found!! GULP. I head down to the Valet desk to see if someone can go and check the rental car to see if it was left in there. They do, and it was, thank Christ.

7:10 PM - Changed and ready to walk across the street to Napa Rose. We get a table around the time of our reservation and Tracey notices the menu is not particularly to her liking. She decides to order the soup of the day (Apple and Chestnut with ham and truffle oil) and doesn't like it much. To the restaurant's credit, they comp us for it. I have a lovely salad with Asian greens, tempura lobster, spicy beef and a coconut and lime vinaigrette. For her main course, she tries a Christmas goose and doesn't like that much either. My filet was quite good but honestly it was probably a mistake having dinner at this restaurant on our first day; it's been a long day and we are both tired and not all that hungry, so we didn't enjoy the meal as much as we could have. Live and learn.

9:00 - PM After a little more shopping we get back to the room, 15 minutes before World of Colour is to begin! We can see the show from our room; sort of. We are behind the show so we can't see it perfectly, but we get a taste of what we'll see on Friday when we have reserved seating for a viewing. We can hear the music for the show through our TV and it seems like it will be an excellent show. Very much looking forward to that.

9:45 PM - The show ends and I hop onto the computer to update the blog. We are going to get up when we get up tomorrow and hit the parks. We know they are going to be obscenely busy but we are prepared for that....we think.....

Wednesday, December 28th

7:30 AM - Up and at 'em!! Well, one of us is anyway......my better half is snoring like there is no tomorrow. There BETTER be a tomorrow as we have hockey tickets!

7:48 AM - I get out of the shower and notice she is stirring, so I open up the curtains to let in the beautiful California sun. This is not met with the requisite happiness and joyfullness that should be present in the Happiest Place on Earth. Upon looking at the time, she exclaims "SEVEN!! IT STARTS WITH A SEVEN!!!!". Let the whining commence.

8:14 AM - She's up and in the shower. It's a Festivus Miracle!!

8:25 AM - In order to speed up the process, I order room service for breakfast; I figure they can be cooking and delivering our breakfast while Tracey continues the long, arduous task of getting ready to go out. I'm hoping we make it to the park before sundown.

Beautiful day today; it's only about 9 degrees right now but it's scheduled to hit 24 this afternoon. Tomorrow is supposed to be the warmest day of the trip, with a high of 28! Sounds like pool weather to me!

9:45 AM - We head into Downtown Disney and hop onto the monorail to head into the park. Our timing is PERFECT, as the monorail just arrives as we get into the lineup. No, I'm wrong, our timing is TERRIBLE as the gate slams in our face as the monorail fills up right before we get on. No, I was right the first time, they find a few other seats and open the gate to let us in! Oh, the myriad of emotions...

10:00 AM - We get off the monorail in Tomorrowland and notice that there is already a 75 minute wait for Space Mountain. We decide it's a good plan to get a Fastpass even though the Fastpass return time is already at 3:30 PM! Oh well, we have all day. We head over to the new and improved (REALLLLY improved) Star Tours and hop into that line, which is currently listed at 70 minutes. We get on the ride in 50. Another reason to love Disney. A posted 70 minute limit at other parks, say, Universal Studios, is closer to a day and a half. With some well planned Fastpassing (it's a word!) and some patience (not generally my strongest suit), we get on Star Tours, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain on day 1.

We have never seen Disneyland this busy......it's even worse than I expected, and I expected chaos. Chaos, meet Disneyland at Xmas time.

It must be "rare character day" at Disneyland today. We get pictures with one of the biggest characters who you virtually NEVER see, Donald Duck!

And if that wasn't rare enough, how about Geppetto???

Not rare enough for you? How about THIS???

JACK F'N SKELLINGTON, bitches!!! Absolutely the first time I've ever seen him in Disneyland. How freaking cool is that??? You can't see it in the picture, but Tracey's hat is a Jack Skellington hat!!

5:45 PM - We arrive for our 6 PM reservation at the Blue Bayou, always one of our favorite eateries. Ho-hum, we have another brilliant meal. Tracey has what she describes as the "best short ribs ever" and I have Filet Mignon and lobster. The real star of the meal, however, are the Blue Bayou potatoes. There is no way to adequately describe them, except to say that it was the POTATOES that I ate first and the POTATOES that I finished off my plate first. Keep in mind I ordered FILET AND LOBSTER (which were also absolutely perfect)!!!! That should give you an idea about the potatoes.

7:45 PM - Back in the room for a minute to update a little and then we are heading down to the pool/hot tub for a little relaxation.

8:30 PM - Back in the room after a nice little hot tub and we break open the $100 bottle of wine we bought at the airport. MMMM what a treat this is going to be!!

.....and it's really pretty average.....damn.

9:25 Today's blog is done and I'm off to bed. Tired after a great day. Getting up early-ish tomorrow to hit California Adventure.

Thursday, December 29th

7:30 AM - Tracey's alarm goes off and she gets up.....sure there was a little bitching and moaning, some whining and kvetching, but for the most part, she's a real trooper. Of course, I was already awake anyway....

We have room service scheduled between 8 and 8:30 and then we are off to the special hotel-guests-only entrance for California Adventure. We'll try to get one of the big rides knocked off before it gets too nuts.

9:15 AM - Already too late to avoid "too nuts" as we have to line up for a half hour just to get into the park that doesn't even open until 10 AM! They run a few of the rides early for hotel guests though, so when we do get into the park we get to walk right onto the newest attraction, Ariel's Undersea Adventure. So cute! It's kinda like watching the entire movie in a 4 minute ride. It's remeniscent of the Haunted Mansion, if you replace the death and spooks with cuteness and songs from The Little Mermaid.

After that we head over to Tower of Terror and get that one out of the way with only a 20 minute wait. That was the last bit of good news we'd get regarding lineups today though; Toy Story already over 110 minutes and Screamin' is close to that as well, and even the line to get a Fastpass for Screamin' was well over a half hour. Soarin' was even worse; 120 minute lineup and the lines for Fastpasses were so long you couldn't figure out where one line ended and the next one began. Next time we know to get here earlier as Soarin' is one of the rides that runs early for Hotel guests. It's so absurdly busy today that there is about a 40 minute lineup to get a corn dog!! Unfortunately Corn Dog Castle does not have Fastpass.

1:00 PM - Lunch at Ariel's Grotto. The food is fantastic, and we get pictures with Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Snow White and Cinderella. They come around to every table while you are eating and they are always fantastic. Just another part of Disney magic. It's far from cheap, though, as lunch for 2 will run you $100.

2:30 PM - Back at the hotel room for a little poolin' and then some relaxing time before the game tonight.

5:45 PM - Oh that was a good nap. Up and refreshed and getting ready to head to the Canucks/Ducks game which starts at 7.

Tracey is watching Nancy Grace while she's getting ready to go, and the bimbo on the show (I guess Nancy Grace is off??) mentions that the girl accused of shooting her boyfriend in the face, stabbing him 27 times and slitting his throat ear to ear almost decapitated his head! His head!! She almost decapitated his head!! That's just so much worse than almost decapitating someone's elbow or foot.....

9:30 PM - Back from the game, after 2.5 hours of watching the Ducks embarrass themselves I realize why they are near the bottom of the standings: because they absolutely suck. It was still fun though (somewhat, at least) as we had incredible seats in the "premium" section with in-seat food and beveridge service. Pretty awesome!

Thursday, December 30th

8:00 AM - This is our "sleep in" day but I don't sleep in much anymore, so I'm up and I grab Tracey's pass so I can go into DCA and get Fastpasses for us for Soarin' over California.

9:00 AM - They open the doors to the park for hotel guests and I head right to Soarin'. There is no lineup, of course, so I'd be stupid not to jump on the ride....and I'm not stupid (shut up, Tracey). After that I try to get the Fastpasses only to find out that I can't get Tracey one as her pass wasn't used for park entry, so I just get one and give it to her so she can ride later in the day.

10:00 AM - After going back to the room and collecting the wife, we are back in the park. She heads to Soarin' and I head to Screamin' to get Fastpasses for that. The park is WAY less busy today and I only have to wait a minute or two to get the Fastpasses and I head back to meet Tracey as she exits Soarin'.  The stand-by lineup for Soarin' is currently 45 minutes; at this time yesterday, it was already 2 hours!

11:45 AM - As we head towards Screamin' for our Fastpass time, we notice there is very little linup for Toy Story! That's very exciting until we notice that there is a reason for that; the ride is currently closed. So we hit Screamin' (SOOO fun) and then leave the park to have lunch at the Storyteller's Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel.

12:10 PM - We get seated at the Storyteller's Cafe rather quickly. They bring us bread; now, the presence of bread is not usually a blog-worthy phenominon. Of course, this is no ordinary bread. They bring little loaves of fresh white bread, with a sweetness that is both surprising and delightful. If that was all they brought, it would be a fabulous pre-meal treat; but that is not all they bring. Oh no, my friends. Accompanying the mini loaves are The World's Greatest Corn Muffins (TM). The first bite into these muffins sends you into a state of orgasmic bliss from whence it is difficult to recover. I cannot overstate how scrumtrelescent these muffins are.

And as if that wasn't enough tasty goodness for today, as an appetizer we order The World's Greatest Roasted Corn Chowder (TM). It's a huge bowl, enough for 2 to share (if you are having entrees as well), or it would be a great meal in and of itself. It is sublime. I ask for the recipe and they are going to Email it to me, which will be a great treat.

The only downside to the meal so far is that no matter what we order for entrees, they can't possibly live up to the muffins and corn chowder. I have a four cheese ravioli and Tracey has a club sandwich, and both are excellent....but dammit I want more chowder....

1:30 PM - We head to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping and pick up some ice cream as a perfect finish to our great meal. My clothes seem to be fitting me tighter all of a sudden, that seems to happen every time we come here. Must be the California air or something.

1:55 PM - Back to the hotel room to relax for a couple hours, we have dinner reservations at 6:40.

5:21 PM - Naps rule.

6:10 PM - Off to Wine Country Trattoria inside DCA where our reservations are held. For a fixed price we get dinner and preferred seating for World of Colour. And yes, dammit, I'm spelling colour with a U, I don't care how it's spelled down here.

6:40 PM - We get seated for dinner and start off with a wine flight, 3 California wines to try. We like the Pinot Noir enough to get a bottle. After a very nice dinner, the fire alarm goes off; apparently someone set off the alarm while making popcorn somehow! Anyway, after 10 minutes or so all is restored, and we pay our cheque and get our reserved tickets for World of Colour.

9:15 PM - After chatting up one of the cuter Cast Members, I'm told we should actually move back to a better location to see the entire show and get it recorded. Good advice as we would have been too close in our first location. There is only one word to describe this show: breathtaking.

9:40 PM - The show ends and we head over to Disneyland to take some night pictures and try to knock off another ride or two. It's still obscenely busy, but we manage to get on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage without too long a wait. Tracey finds it uncomfortably close quarters (in fact she deems it the "Death Ship"; she is shaking a bit. She blames it on claustrophobia; I think it's just because she hasn't had a McDonald's Iced Coffee for four days.

11:40 PM - Done for the evening and we're back in the room ready for a little sleep. We have breakfast with Minnie and Friends scheduled for 9 AM so we have to be up early.

Saturday, December 31st

9:00 AM - We get a great table at our Breakfast with Minnie and Friends. As the name implies, Minnie Mouse is the only constant character, but the "Friends" are almost always the inhabitants of the 100 Acre Woods: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. Today, however, in keeping with the "rare characters week", we get a second viewing of Gepetto, the Fox from Pinocchio, Chip N Dale, the Baboon from The Lion King, and:

One of the Fairy Godmother's mice??

The racoon from Pocahotas, I think....

So let's do a count. We've got a racoon, 2 chipmunks, a fox, and a couple of mice. Seems to me like this restaurant has a critter problem. All we need is a character from "A Bug's Life" and an infestation problem would be official.

10:00 AM - After a great breakfast we are out into the park to do what we can on the busiest day of the year. We manage to get Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters and then hop onto Winnie the Pooh and Big Thunder Mountain. As we go back to use our Fastpasses for Astro Blasters, we are told that they don't GIVE Fastpasses for that ride anymore....so we accidentally got Fastpasses for Star Tours. LOL. OK so we give those away and head down Main Street to do a little more shopping before exiting the park.

12:10 PM - Back in the hotel room to relax a bit before lunch and the hockey game tonight.

3:40 PM - I am the King of naps. Hear me snore.

4:00 PM - We head downstairs to the PCH Grill for lunch, only to find out it's closed in preperation for their New Year's Eve party....so we head back to Storyteller's Cafe for another round of The World's Greatest Corn Muffins and The Worlds Greatest Corn Chowder. MMM MMM MMM.

5:09 PM - Back in the room to pack a little and get ready for the game. Tracey in her Canucks jersey, and me in my newest Luc Robitaille Kings jersey. Jesus, I never ask you for anything, please let the Kings win tonight. I realize your sports time is probably taken up with Tim Tebow but if you can spare a minute to curse the Canucks, I would be eternally grateful.

The weather has been absolutely stunning. New Year's Eve, the sun is down, and I'm walking comfortably in shorts and a T-shirt. California rules.

5:45 PM - Off to the Staples Centre, definitely one of the nicest places to watch a hockey game.

10:30 PM - Back in the hotel after a fabulous evening. Great game, great venue, and most importantly, a 4-1 Kings win. My wife was a trooper, she's a much better loser than I am. :-)

We are cracking open the champagne a little early to celebrate the near-end of our fantastic vacation. We'll finish it off at Midnight to usher in the new year, which HAS to be better than the last one. Between Tracey's Dad passing away and my Dad being diagnosed with colon cancer, it has been a tough year.

Let me tell you, th $60 bottle of champagne tastes a hell of a lot better than that $100 bottle of Italian wine....I'm just sayin'.....

12:00 AM - HAPPY NEW YEAR!! We are in Downtown Disney watching a jazz band when the Midnight fireworks show starts.....pop pop pop pop pop......hmmm....they SOUND really cool, but we can't actually SEE them! I've never seen fog like this in California! I pity the poor bastards who waited fourteen hours to get a great spot to see a show that they couldn't see.....well having said that, maybe they were close enough to actually see the fireworks, who knows?

12:21 AM - Back in the room to finish off our champagne, watch Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin flirt with each other, and then get a good night's sleep. It's out last night here, what a terrific vacation it has been so far....and it's not over yet, our flight is at 6:30 PM tomorrow so we have half a day to get back into the parks and try to finish off what we've missed so far.

Sunday, January 1st

10:00 AM - Sad to be leaving but what a trip. I cannot imagine a better place to be to start off a new year. We put our luggage into storage for a few hours and head out to breakfast.

10:40 AM - Back to the Storyteller Cafe, this time for "Breakfast with Chip N Dale", a character buffet. The characters are secondary here, however, to the food. It's the best breakfast buffet I've ever had.

If I thought the Minnie and Friends buffet was ripe with critters, this one is even worse! The same raccoon and chipmunks, and add in a gorilla and a couple bears.

Noon - Done with a great breakfast and into Disneyland for the last time this trip. We take the monorail in again, which has been an excellent strategy to avoid the huge lines at the front gate. Today is much calmer than previous days though, and the lineups are much more manageable. It's also the hottest day of the trip, and I'm finding it pretty warm; since our luggage is all packed, I dressed more for "Vancouver evening weather" than for "California day weather" and I'm paying for it a bit now. Who would have thought I'd be complaining about it being too hot on January 1st!!

We finally get onto the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride, and Tracey calls is the "greatest day of her life" when she beats me. Yes, she beats me. Strange because the first time I looked down at the scores I was beating her 27000 to 1000. The final score? She beat me 48000 to 24000. Yes, I somehow LOST points?!? Clearly my score was malfunctioning, but whatever, she doesn't care, she's just happy for the win :-)

Our usual Disney tradition is to make Pirates of the Caribbean our first ride; with the crazy crowds this trip that didn't happen, so we decide to make it the LAST ride instead. What a fabulous end to the trip.

We missed a few big rides this trip, including Indiana Jones (Dr. Jones was having a bad week as the ride was down a lot), Toy Story and both water rides, but we expected that coming in so we aren't disappointed.

2:00 PM - Back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and the car and head to LAX. The freeway system in LA always amazes me, especially the carpool lanes that seem to criss cross the normal lanes, even the off ramps. I'm also amazed by the fact that we never ever see any accidents down here, even with all the traffic. Perhaps having 102 lanes to choose from lessens the chances of running into each other.

3:30 PM - Going through security and we get the friendliest security guy ever. He must have got laid on his lunch break or something. He's going to give airport security guys a bad (or good?) name if he keeps this up.

5:20 PM - I decide to grab a Whopper at Burger King. It's an adventure. It's ALWAYS an adventure at an airport Burger King. It doesn't matter what airport. Try it.

5:35 PM - I get the burger I ordered 15 minutes ago. FIFTEEN minutes. Stunning.

6:15 PM - Our flight is still listed as "on time", despite the fact that we are supposed to depart at 6:30 and THERE IS NO F'N PLANE YET. Gotta love Air Canada.

6:50 PM - The plane showed up and we are departing only about 20 minutes late, better than I expected considering.......

9:16 PM - It's a perfectly good flight, we land without incident and get through customs via the Nexus lane quickly. No luggage problems, no cab problems, and no problems with our car. Woooooo!!!

11:15 PM - We are home. Exhausted after a long day and an absolutely terrific vacation, but happy to be home. Curious to see how many times Newman peed in a spot that he isn't supposed to (turned out to be only one). The other cats are quite happy to see us as well. I had talked to Dad on the phone yesterday so we knew that everything was OK at home but it's always nice to get in the door and see it with your own eyes.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the blog. Until next time....

Engemoen OUT.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Our favorite new Xmas ornament

Found this at the Disney store yesterday:

I can hear her singing "Poor Unfortunate Souls". Best villian ever!!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Two weeks from today???

Wow, how does time fly......Xmas is two weeks from today, which means two weeks and two days from now we are off to DISNEYLAND!!! WOOOOOO!!! I finally broke down and told Tracey about the trip so she'd have time to prepare. I had to weigh the excitement of her finding out on Xmas morning (my original plan) with the panic that might have ensued if she needed to buy anything for the trip and the only day she could do that was BOXING DAY. Not a good idea.

Needless to say she was pretty excited when I told her about it :-)

The itinerary includes 5 nights at the Paradise Pier hotel on the Disney grounds, plus the Ducks/Canucks game on the 29th and Kings/Canucks game on New Year's Eve. It is the busiest time of year at Disneyland so we are prepared to take it easy, see the most important attractions, and just relax, relax, relax.

This hasn't been a great year; between Tracey's Dad passing away in April and my Dad being diagnosed with colon cancer a few weeks back, it's been stressful for both of us, and a wonderful vacation is EXACTLY what we need. There is no better place to finish off the year and start 2012!!

Speaking of my Dad, he has an appointment at the cancer clinic in Abbotsford tomorrow where we are going to discuss his treatment options. Whatever he decides, it will be nice to finally have some direction and we are all welcoming the opportunity to get to the next stage.

When I was in Cottonwood Mall the other day, I noticed they have an "Angel tree" with names and ages of some needy local children, where people have the opportunity to buy some Xmas gifts for kids who otherwise wouldn't have any. I was sad to notice that there were a ton of names still on the tree and only ONE gift actually returned to the bin; hoping that changes. Tracey and I are going to pick up one or two. We've been fortunate and it's only right to be able to help out a needy child. I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up Xmas morning and have no presents under the tree (or to not even have a tree).

Be sure to check out this space just after Xmas for my next Disney blog!!