Saturday, 29 September 2012

California Trip, Day 15....the drive home

Not too much exciting happened on the drive home, but one thing I thought readers might find amusing. We became part of a parade.

I kid you not. During lunch in a little nowhere town called Anderson, California, we couldn't get out of the Taco Bell parking lot because there was a parade for the local high school football team, that went right in front of the ONLY exit from the parking lot. So, we could sit there and wait (year right), or we could turn into the parade, which is what we did.

Fucking Americans will throw a parade for anything. Seriously, folks, it was 2 PM on a Friday, maybe the kids should be in school learning how to flip burgers or something? Sheesh.

We got home around 3 AM, after driving the entire way from California to Chilliwack. My wife is amazing, she drove it all except for about 3 hours. So good to be home, and not to have had to waste a night in a crappy motel.

That's about it, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the ride. I hope I was able to provide a chuckle or two along the way.

There may be blogs from 2 Vegas trips that happen in the next few months (early November, late January), but the next confirmed blog sighting is just 5 months away, as we return to Orlando for 2 weeks in another one of our timeshare resorts.

Engemoen OUT!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

California Trip, Day 14

8:00 AM - Well that could qualify as sleeping in, I guess. Tracey is still asleep, natch, so I head down to the fitness room for a little workout. While I'm down there I smell pancakes. I had forgotten there was a pancake breakfast this morning between 8:30 and 9, so after my workout I partake in some yummy pancakes.

9:16 AM - Back up to the room and Tracey is up, so I make her breakfast while she starts to get ready. We've done a good job this trip of eating all the groceries we bought, so we won't have much to take home (and we wouldn't have any room for it anyway!) or throw away. We do have two bottles of wine to drink tonight, though.....I guess we'll just have to take one for the team and drink them both. Ah, the hardships of being on vacation.

10:15 AM - Doing the last load of laundry as Tracey finishes getting ready. We have booked a Caravan Safari Tour for 1 PM at the Safari in just a few hours, we'll be feeding rhinos and giraffes! We've done this tour a few times before and it never disappoints. We are particularly excited about the pictures we should get this time as this is the first time we've been down here with our skookum new camera and lenses.

12:15 PM - We get to the park and notice they have special parking for hybrids! Of course the unfortunate part is that we didn't notice it until we had driven by it and parked in the normal spot. Way to go, Tracey.

1:00 PM - After checking out a few smaller exhibits, we check in for our 1 PM tour. The tour vehicles hold up to 16 people, and generally they are sold out or close to it.

NOT TODAY!! IT'S A FREAKING PRIVATE TOUR!!! Unreal. we are the only two that booked this particular tour, so we get the whole vehicle to ourselves. Our tour guide and driver are fantastic and of course we get to do whatever we want. We get to feed about a half dozen giraffes and one very large (and very friendly) rhino. What an absolutely incredible experience. As if this vacation could get any just did.

4:30 PM - After the tour which ran about a half hour long because we were having so much fun, the park is closing soon so we hop in the car and head back to the resort, to pack and prepare for leaving tomorrow. We also head down to the pool for one last swim. While we are there, a family with about 20 kids decides that the "ADULT ONLY" pool rules don't apply to them, and they all sit around the fire pit roasting marshmallows for chrissake. Good thing we were leaving anyway. Just to pay them back, I went and peed in the kids pool. OK not really but it was tempting.

8:00 PM - We are packed and I have got most of the stuff already in the car so we can be wheels up at 5 AM tomorrow on the drive home. We have truly had a special vacation, and this resort has been great. In terms of amenities, they don't have many, but if you aren't concerned about being able to get a drink while you are swimming, it's a terrific resort. The staff treated us with such hospitality, starting from the moment we arrived when they greeted us at the front desk with champagne. Everyone from maintenance to the cleaning staff to the staff manning the activities desk had a warm greeting and smile, and you can't put a price on that.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

California Trip, Day 13

9:01 AM - Is it possible? Has my "sleep-in mojo" returned? I lost it so long ago I had forgotten what it was like to wake up and see the clock starting with a NINE.

10:15 AM - Tracey has never misplaced her mojo, but it's late enough that I now feel comfortable waking her up. After she is finished throwing large heavy objects at me, we have breakfast and discuss what to do on our last "non-scheduled" day of the trip.

12:00 PM - Tracey heads down to the pool while I actually doze off for another hour or so. A sleep in AND a nap? I must be on vacation.

Or sick.

Better be the former.

While at the pool, someone comes in with an "In and Out" burger. Oh great. Of course, Tracey has to ask him where he got that, and I now know what we are doing for lunch.

2:05 PM - Off to lunch. Tracey gets an In-N-Out burger, and I have a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches. I win. Those are the most overrated burgers on the planet.

4:00 PM - Tracey and I crack open a bottle of Dreaming Tree Crush, a 75/25% blend of Merlot and Zinfindel. It's a 2010, and it definitely needed to sit for a few years. Much too young, it has a bit of that bitter taste that Merlots can have until they ripen.

Dreaming Tree is the winery started by Dave Matthews, Tracey's favorite singer, so she was very excited to try it....but I think if she answered truthfully, she would agree with me that it's not a great bottle of wine. Apparently Matthews is a VERY dedicated winemaker so it might be worth keeping an eye on for the future once the winery has had a few more years to mature.

5:00 PM - Back down to the pool and hot tub for a little more R and R. It's crazy busy down there right now...there must be at least FIVE other guests!!! I'll have to talk to them about some crowd control.

Seriously, the best part about the time we've had in this resort is the complete lack of other guests. We have had the pool to ourselves more often than not.

6:45 PM - Back to the room to finish off the wine and have dinner.....a crazy complicated dinner of ham and Kraft Dinner. Not exactly the gourmet food that we've come accustomed to on this trip but a nice change of pace actually.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

California Trip, Day 12

7:55 AM - A fairly decent sleep in, but I notice that Tracey isn't in bed; apparently she had another lousy sleep so ended up on the couch for a few hours so as to not keep me up. Probably wouldn't have mattered, I was dead to the world.

8:00 AM - I hear Tracey's alarm go off and she's up to begin "the process". We have a big day ahead of us today, which is our eighth wedding anniversary!

10:00 AM - We are off, right on schedule, to Universal Studios. Just planning a short day here, a few hours, to hit the biggest attractions. It's not particulaly busy today so we are able to tackle The Mummy, Jurassic Park and the Simpsons Ride in about an hour and a half; and have lunch, as well.

2:15 PM - Leaving the park on the way back to DCA for the last time this trip. We are very excited for our dinner plans at the brand new flagship restaurant of the park, Carthay Circle Restaurant.

3:15 PM - We arrive at the park and have to park in the regular parking area.....I admit to feeling a little dirty getting on the tram with all the"regular people".......but that's what happens when you aren't staying at a Disney hotel (anymore). I will have to deal.

Into the park and am once again overwhelmed with how fantastic the new entrance to this park has become. It is truly like being transported back in time. Everything that was wrong with DCA, the lack of identity, has been fixed, and this park has become nearly as special as the one across the courtyard.

We hit Soarin' over California again, our last ride of the trip, snap a few pictures and then head into the restaurant for dinner.

5:30 PM - We walk into the Carthay Circle Restaurant.


All I can say is.....go. This has instantly become the "must do" place to eat at this resort. We order two appetizers: Biscuits filled with cheese, bacon and jalapeno, as well as their special soup, which was roasted corn and vegetables in a tomato broth. Both were absolutely wonderful. The soup was so good I was actually tempted to cancel my entree and have more soup.

I'm glad I didn't do that.

For my main course, I ordered quail, stuffed with peaches. Because, when you think quail, you automatically think peaches, right??

Well, if I didn't before, I do now. Mouthwateringly delicious. Just the right contrast of sweet with the roasted bird. Unreal.

Tracey has a pork pot roast, which was absolutely the most tender pork either of us have ever seen. Another fantastic dish.

Add to that a terrific bottle of Gewurtztraminer, and that was a fantastic dinner! And quite reasonable too, $125 including tip (with my 15% discount). Not bad at all. Will definitely be back!

After dinner a little more shopping, and then it's time to depart.

7:50 PM - It's always easy to tell when the Happiest Place on Earth becomes the saddest.....this trip, it was 7:50 PM on Tuesday, as we left the park (and the Disneyland resort) for the last time. Tracey remarks that this might have been our best Disney trip ever, and it's hard to argue with her.

9:10 PM - Back at the resort and both of us are heading to bed, it was a great (but long) day and we are both tired. Tomorrow is our last "resort" day, and we are planning a little trip to the beach and not much else!

If this trip was over and we were coming home tomorrow, I know that we would both be completely satisfied....but it's far from over, after tomorrow's very relaxing day, we have a fantastic day at the Safari Park for Thursday!

Monday, 24 September 2012

California Trip, Day 11

9:15 AM - Well the first night in the resort didn't go so well, as Tracey couldn't sleep which pretty much meant that I couldn't sleep either. I ended up spending the bulk of the night on the couch, which, admittedly, is pretty comfortable. If I need to spend the rest of the week there, I'll be fine.

9:30 AM - Tracey is still sleeping so I think I will make some breakfast and relax for a while. Today is our first "we have no plans except to do nothing" day of this trip, which will means Tracey will be at the pool for 14 hours or so. I will probably hit up the fitness centre and see if I can work off at least one of the high number of high-caloric meals I have consumed on this trip.

10:30 AM - Tracey is up and we have breakfast, then chill out in the room for a while. The sun isn't out yet, it's covered by haze (or smog), so we are holding off on the pooling until it shows up.

We've had time to look around the resort and there really isn't much here, at least not as much as we generally find at these resorts. There is no doubt what the star of this resort is; it's the ocean, just 100 or so metres away, and the beaches that come along with it. Being born and raised in North Van, and having spent a good deal of my childhood at Ambleside Beach in West Van, the ocean isn't as big a deal to me as it would be to someone from the middle of the country. Still, it is a breathtaking view, no doubt about it. Here is a pic of last night's sunset, taken from our patio.

There are no restaurants, lounges or bars here. No food or drink of any kind, in fact, unless you count the fact that they have a Philly Cheesestake machine downstairs. I am not making that up. You can get a Philly Cheesestake from a vending machine. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit typing that.

12:30 PM - The sun has arrived, and I head down for a workout and then meet Tracey at the pool. Can't complain about being able to sit in a hot tub and stare at the ocean. Pretty sweet.

2:00 PM - Tracey is still hanging out at the pool while I head out to get some lunch/dinner at Pick Up Stix, a Chinese take-out restaurant we saw near Ralph's supermarket yesterday. When I get to the room, she has just arrived and we chow down on some quite tasty Chinese food. MMMM Kung Pao Shrimp.

3:45 PM - A little blog update while I also upload some nice pics Tracey took of the resort yesterday. Going to watch a little TV and relax a bit before heading back to the pool in a while.

5:15 PM - Back down to the pool while the sun is still up. It really is a beautiful pool, and there is hardly anyone there (actually, there are hardly any guests in the resort at all, it seems....which is really good for us, not so much for the resort!!!) so we have the pool to ourselves. For a while, anyway, until an older German lady decides to make us her new best friends. First in the pool, then in the hot tub, where Tracey and I were trying to have a private conversation. Apparently she has a friend who is so organized that she has separate bathrooms for number one and number two. That conversation actually happened. You can't make this shit up.

So, being the prick that I am, I left the hot tub and left my lovely wife to get more of this lady's life story.

I really don't like to be rude to people, she's just trying to be friendly, but c'mon....... when you see a couple sitting in the hot tub having a quiet conversation, perhaps it's not the best time to barge in and talk about your friend and her bathroom situation?!? I'm just sayin'.

6:55 PM - Back to the room after witnessing another beautiful sunset. Going to pop some popcorn and watch TV....and crack open a bottle of red wine that Tracey is really excited about.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

California Trip, Day 10

God it's been TEN days already!?!?

7:15 AM - Up at a reasonable hour and had a very good sleep. Room is a pretty comfortable "transition" option in between the high end hotels/resorts we are in the rest of the trip.

8:15 AM - Tracey is up and dressed and we head down to the free continental breakfast that comes with the room. It's pretty standard but we did get a couple of waffles along with all the expected goodies.

9:15 AM - Uploading the blog while Tracey gets ready to head out to the Zoo. Looking forward to getting some great pictures today and also very much looking forward to getting to our resort and doing some laundry as I have just run out of clean clothes!

We have bought so much stuff that we are probably going to have to leave a piece of luggage behind and combine all the clothes into Tracey's luggage and squeeze all the souvenirs into the car in some other fashion. It's going to be a bit of a challenge but I think we can do it. Well we HAVE to do it, somehow!

11:00 AM - We arrive at the San Diego Zoo and the first thing Tracey says is "where did all the food and wine go?!??!?". Oh, that would have been nice, I would love to have some more time to sample all that food and wine! It's hot and humid today so I'm guessing we'll only have 3-4 hours here today before we get exhausted. The first thing I see is a dragonfly the size of a buzzard. Some little kid catches it in his hat, just for fun. I was hoping the little brat would have put the hat on and we could have seen how the dragonfly reacted to THAT, and I'm sure it wouldn't have been good!

Lots of great animals to see today but the animals are as hot as we are, so many of them are inactive or out of view completely. Almost all the bears are asleep...ALMOST. Check out the polar bears:

Just sitting there, right up against the glass, chewing on a carrot, seemingly oblivious to all the people just inches away.

And how about some panda bears??

Seriously, how cute is THAT?? Just sitting down, chilling, having a beer. OK it's bamboo, not a beer, but beer is funnier.

2:07 PM - Yup, 3 hours was about our limit, as we are completely spent. Luckily we've seen just about everything we wanted to see anyway, so we are heading to the resort, hoping to be able to check in early and get settled. We have the resort for the week, but we are actually expecting to stay only 5 nights and get home a tad early, so Tracey has a couple days to relax before going back to work. That's not 100% decided yet but we are going to get all our other activities done early in the week so that we have the option.

2:45 PM - We arrive at the resort in Carlsbad. This is my first visit to Carlsbad, and wow does it even look beautiful! We are within spitting distance to the beach and ocean from our room, which has a wonderful view of same. Our room is nice, although it's one of the smaller ones we have stayed in. We knew that, of course, as this is a very high-end resort town and this resort is very expensive (in other words, very high "trading points" for us to trade our weeks in Mexico for this resort).

There is one noticeable problem in our room, there are no laundry facilities!!! I cannot BELIEVE I booked a resort without in-suite laundry, but after checking the resort details on the website, there is no mention of I blew it. Oh well, there is a guest laundry room about 10 feet from our room so it's not that big a deal, but it's not like me to miss such an important detail. Tracey immediately wants me dead.

3:15 PM - Off to Ralph's to pick up some groceries for the week.

4:30 PM - Back to the resort to get some laundry done, unpack and unwind a bit. Throw on some football and notice that Tracey and I did NOT have a good football day today...see what happens when we aren't around to watch the games? Our teams desert us. Now we definitely have to be home for next Sunday's games!!

6:10 PM - Finally completly unpacked, and a couple loads of laundry in. Clean clothes for tomorrow :-)  Going to go check out the other amenities at this resort, including the "adult only" pool (NO KIDS!! WOO-HOO!!!!).

7:30 PM - Sitting on our patio having dinner, about 150 yards from the ocean. Doesn't get too much better than that!

8:00 PM - Off to the pool/hot tub for a little more relaxation (I'm about as relaxed as I can stand at this point), and then back to the room to crack a bottle of Ice Wine and celebrate our first night at the resort. Another terrific day!!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

California Trip, Day 9

7:00 AM - I'm up and go to the door to get our bill and make sure that everything looks hunky dory. It does, so no need to riot. Tracey is still asleep so I'm trying to be quiet but that's not all that easy.

8:05 AM - She's up!!!!!! There is some whining about the time, of course, but not as much as usual. We've pre-ordered breakfast to come to our room between 9-9:30 so we are going to try to finish up the packing and get ready so we can get a jump on things after breakfast.

8:30 AM - Tried to log into my work Email address and it's disabled; so now it's OFFICIAL that I don't have to go back to work when I get home, except for one day to sign some termination papers. I still get paid until the end of my contract, October 30th, so for the next six weeks I get to realize a dream; getting paid to do NOTHING.

8:45 AM - Breakfast actually arrives early; no big deal, we are hungry so that works out well. We take it out to our patio to eat it while enjoying the silent tranquility of Downtown Disney in the morning. AH, what a beautiful way to eat breakfast.

10:30 AM - Called the bell to come and get our bags. We came in with 6, are leaving with 9. That's gonna be a problem on the drive home I suspect.....for now, we are able to squeeze everything in the car.

Oh, did I mention I got sunburned to a crisp the other day? Two days later and my chest and stomach are still lobster red. I NEVER burn. Luckily it's more irritating than painful at this point but still, I'll have to stay out of the sun for a few more days.

12:00 PM - Arrive at SeaWorld. This is a great park, and the best thing about it is that you can see everything you want in a few hours, and then go do something else.

2:45 PM - We're done, and heading to our hotel. Tonight is our "transitional" night, staying at a La Quinta Inn in San Diego, just a few minutes away from SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.

4:30 PM - Had pizza delivered for dinner, as we are heading out to a charity event tonight called the San Diego Zoo Food and Wine Event. We know there will be food there but we're not sure how much so we don't want to be hungry all night.

7:30 PM - At the San Diego Zoo for the event. OMG it is SOOOOO much bigger and better than we imagined!! There must be 200 food and wine vendors here. So much food/wine/beer/spirits that you couldn't possibly sample it all even if you stayed all night! Also got a picture with Tonight Show legend Joan Embry, and got to feed a porcupine! Also got pictures with a hedgehog, holding an armadillo and a couple of snakes. What an absolutely FANTASTIC evening!!

10:30 PM - Back at the hotel for the evening, going to try to get a nice sleep as tomorrow we are heading back to the Zoo for the day, and then checking into the resort in Carlsbad in the evening. This has been a great vacation so far but I'm freaking exhausted!!!

Friday, 21 September 2012

California Trip, Day 8

7:30 AM - I'm up and on my way to the lineup to get into DCA early again. Tracey joins me shortly thereafter and we're off to take another bite out of Radiator Springs Racers. That is a FANTASTIC ride! The Disney Imagineers have outdone themselves on that one.

We walk over to Toy Story Midway Mania and I see something I have never seen before; the wait time sign actually says "ZERO" minutes wait. ZERO!

And they were right, we walk right onto the ride! This is the same ride that had a wait time of 180 minutes when we were here at Xmas time. I prefer zero.

Regrettably, Tracey strips me of the title of "Toy Story Champion". I'm sure there was cheating involved, or at least some bribery.

We also get another ride on Screamin', and a few other smaller rides, before leaving the park for breakfast.

10:00 AM - Back to La Brea Bakery for another terrific breakfast. We chose this for breakfast again as it is right near the entrance to the parks and we are heading over to Disneyland to knock a few more things off our list.

One of my Disney "to do" lists is to get pictures with all of the Princesses. Don't laugh, it's not as easy as you think. When was the last time you saw Pocahontas hanging around? Yeah, I didn't think so. She remains my Princess "White Whale". I've literally NEVER seen her in any of the parks, but I know she exists. I'm also missing the following:

Tiana (she is here, hoping to get her before we leave this trip)
Rapunzel (apparently here also, but have never seen her)
Mulan (never seen her here, but can get her in March in Orlando, she hangs around the China Pavilion at EPCOT)

We did knock one more off the list today, however, as the newest entry into the club, Merida from Brave, has her own meet-and-greet spot in the park across from It's A Small World.

Notice that over our shoulders we are about to be attacked by bears. I swear there are more critters here than in Yellowstone.

1:40 PM - Updating the blog and about to lay down for a little nappy-poo before tonight's festivities begin.

4:00 PM - Never did fall asleep, but Tracey did, so at least one of us will be rested for tonight.

5:00 PM - Uploading a bunch of pictures from the camera to my computer, and just now realizing how slow the Wi-Fi here is. Taking forever to upload a few pics. We have also done the bulk of our packing, as tonight is our last night here! Tomorrow we are off to San Diego for one night and then to our resort in Carlsbad for the balance of the trip.

5:30 PM - Dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney, a Spanish/Mediterranean restaurant. Excellent food and a very nice table overlooking Downtown Disney. I decided to try an expensive glass of scotch after dinner just to see if I liked it. Not so much. I think I'll stick to wine.

7:00 PM - Off to DCA to get some pictures of the new Cars Land at night. It is spectacular! It evokes images of the Las Vegas strip. Disney has hit a home run here, IMO.

8:30 PM - Back to the room to finish up our packing and get a good sleep. Tomorrow morning we have to check out and head to San Diego. Can't believe how fast six days in this hotel has flown by!!!

9:30 PM - The fireworks start and we get to view them from our hotel room again. It's pretty special to watch the fireworks show from bed!!!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

California Trip, Day 7

7:20 AM - Up and at 'em.......but the wife gets to sleep in today, so I'm off on my own. I have breakfast and take the Monorail into Disneyland to catch a couple of rides that the wife isn't so crazy about (Star Tours being front and centre on that list). I do that and then head out to do a little shopping at World of Disney and then head back up to the room. By this time Tracey is already at the pool; I swear that woman could spend all day down there. Every day.

11:30 AM - I go down to the pool to join her. It's another gorgeous, hot day in Southern California. Ho-hum. After a little swimming and hot tubbing (and lunch), I head back up to the room to have a little nap before we head out for the evening.

1:15 PM - When I get back to the room, the housekeeping staff is just finishing up our room. I resist the urge to have sex with the Portugese cleaning lady.

Seinfeld fans are laughing now, the rest of you probably just said "huh? What did he just say????".

1:45 PM - After a small stop at Haagen Dazs (don't tell the wife, she will not be happy that I am out-Dazsing her 3 to 2) and a walk up to Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen to peruse the lunch menu for tomorrow, I'm back up to the room to try to sleep for an hour or so.

3:30 PM - Up and ready for dinner. The nap was good, but I'm missing that "super nap" so far this trip. You know the kind of nap I mean....when you lay down for an hour and it turns into 4. I suspect I may not get that until next week when we go to the resort. Oh the horror.

4:10 PM - Early dinner reservations at Wine Country Trattoria in DCA. After trying a wine flight of 3 Italian wines, we end up with a bottle of Napa Valley Pinot Noir. The Italian wines weren't that impressive; particularly the Chianti, which was really weak. Apparently Chianti isn't the same without some fava beans and the liver of a census taker.

As an added bonus, we are seated at a table right along the parade route, and we get a bird's eye view of the Pixar Play Parade as we finish our dessert. And by dessert, I mean the World's Largest Piece of Tiramisu. Tracey only eats about half of it, and considering how much she loves tiramisu, that should tell you how big that thing was.

OH.....and do you remember a couple days ago when I mentioned that Tracey went on a ride at Knott's Berry Farm that took her 301 feet in the air? Check this out:

This is the same ride. Two days later, people were stranded 300 feet in the air for 4 hours. I cannot possibly imagine how ballistic I would have gone if I were on the ground watching my wonderful wife sit 300 feet in the air for 4 hours. Existing technology wouldn't be able to measure how crazy I would have become.

5:30 PM - We are done with dinner and head back to the room to watch the Giants on Thursday Night Football, only to realize that we can't GET the game in our room, as it is only shown on the NFL Network. So, we head up to the ESPN Zone to watch the game and have a libation or two. Or three.

8:15 PM - The Giants are clobbering the Panthers so no need to stay and see the end of the game. We are back in the room, time to relax and enjoy the evening. We only have one more FULL day here before we have to check out of the hotel, so tomorrow is going to be a big day!! Tracey is going to have to get up early again. She can do it, I have faith in her!!!! YAY Tracey!!!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

California Trip, Day 6

7:20 AM - This is the latest I've slept in a long time. Hoping this is the beginning of a new trend.

8:00 AM - Out the door, headed down to La Brea Bakery for a nice breakfast before the tour. I have pancakes and Tracey has a croissant sandwich and both are outstanding. The food here is always excellent, I highly recommend you try it next time you are down here and looking for a light meal.

9:15 AM - Our tour guide comes and gathers us, and we head inside to prepare for our "A Walk In Walt's Disneyland Footsteps Tour". This is a new (revamped) tour, only 2 weeks old. We've never taken a guided tour before, and I thought this would be a nice one to try. This was one of the surprises I had for Tracey, although she has known about it for a few days.

The tour is very nice and features many tidbits of information. As a Disney-phile, I knew most of it, but there were some things that even I didn't know. Our tour guide was very knowledgable on all things Walt Disney.

Two particularly nice features to this tour. First, we got to go into the lobby of Club 33, the ultra-exclusive members-only restaurant which used to have a 10+ year waiting list, but now they have actually CLOSED the waiting list. Eating here is definitely on any Disney fan's bucket list, but it's likely that getting to go into the lobby is as close as we'll get since we don't know any members.

This is Tracey, in the Club 33 elevator. Very cool.

Normally that would have been worth the price of the tour alone, but it got SO much better. I'm actually getting goosebumps just typing this.

Recognize this place? No, of course you don't, because very few have ever seen it.

This is Walt Disney's private apartment, above the fire hall on Main Street. Many Disneyland Cast Members have never even been in here.

Many of the knick knacks you see here are originals, used by Walt and his wife Lillian.

This was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

12:30 PM - After the tour (and lunch that was included) was over, we head across the courtyard to DCA to check out the new entrance, which has been totally redone to look like Buena Vista Street when Walt arrived in California in the 1920's. It looks exactly as I imagined it would. The characters are dressed in 20's garb, and the entertaiment brings you right back to that era. Disney has done a fantastic job with the re-imagining of this park.

We walk into one of the art studios and find a beautiful new piece of artwork that we buy. It's a painting of Walt and Mickey, in the 1920's. It's really breathtaking. Now if only we can find a way to get it into the car and get it home!

2:30 PM - Up to the room to update the blog and rest for an hour or so before heading back to the park. We have dinner reservations at Ariel's Grotto tonight. The food is always great...and princesses as a little added bonus :-)

4:15 PM - Rested and ready to go back to DCA. We wander around a bit, get pictures with Donald Duck in a funny little red and white sweater, and then check in for dinner. As usual the food is great here, and we get visited by four princesses; the only drawback to this place is that it's almost always the same four: Belle, Cinderella, Aurora and Snow White. It would be nice to see some of the other, lesser seen princesses....but I guess if that's the only thing I can complain about, I should probably shut my pie hole.

After Aurora has come and gone from the table, I ask Tracey if "Cindy" is the next one to come, and she remarks that it's funny that I feel like I'm on a first name basis with her. Honey, considering how often we come and how much money we spend here, I should have her cell phone number by now.

Oh, and Tracey wanted me to point out that she got ID'd when she ordered sangria.

7:00 PM - Dinner is over and we wander through the boardwalk, do a little shopping, and head back towards the room. I decide to go on the Grizzly River Rapids one more time since we are on our way back to the room anyway and I don't care if I get soaked; good thing, since I DO get pretty wet. This is a great ride at the best of times but it's even better when it is dark and you can't always see what is coming. Despite getting drenched, I am still the dryest one getting off my boat. We got hit pretty hard with water this time. The young kids on the boat with me looked like they had just showered with their clothes on.

7:40 PM - Back up to the room to upload all of today's pictures, update the blog and go to bed. Today was an incredible day and it's going to be nice to get up whenever we want tomorrow as we have no breakfast plans.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

California Trip, Day 5

6:59 AM - Alert the media, I almost slept in until 7AM! Wow.

7:00 AM - I'm not alone this time, as Tracey's alarm wakes her up too. We are off to Disney's California Adventure park this morning. The park opens at 10 for the general public, 9 for us; we want to be in line by 8:30 so we can get to Cars Land before everyone else gets there too.

8:00 AM - We are out of sunscreen so I head down to the store to get some. They have SPF 10, 15, and 70. SPF 70? I think that's called mayonnaise. Nothing better on a burger than some SPF 70.

9:00 AM - They open the gates for the Hotel guests and away we go! We go directly to Cars Land (as does everyone else), and head straight for the "E Ticket" ride, Radiator Springs Racers. It only takes us about 10 minutes to get onto the ride, and it is FANTASTIC!! We also hit the other two rides in Cars Land, plus Toy Story Midway Mania, |Screamin', Soarin', and Grizzly River Rapids, all by 11 AM!!! We're done with what we wanted to do in the park already, so we are heading out of the park now to hit lunch.\

Oh, and just for the record, I beat Tracey like a rented mule at the Toy Story game. Back on top, baby!!!

11:15 AM - We head up to Tortilla Jo's in Downtown Disney for a mexican lunch. Very tasty. After lunch we go up to the Lego store to take some pictures. Now, I'm not really a "lego guy", it doesn't mean much to me, but the things they have built from Lego are UNREAL! Check out these:

Beauty and the Beast.

And some chick in a yellow dress.

Not impressive enough for you? How about this bad boy on top of the roof:

That thing's made of LEGO, man. LEGO. Jesus I can't even imagine how long it would take to put something like that together.

12:30 PM - Back up to the room to rest a little. Tracey is heading down to the pool, I think I may have a nap and then join her.

1:00 PM - Decided to go to the pool before the nap; actually "pools" would be more accurate, there are 3 seperate pools, each with their own hot tub. It's a very beautiful area with the most comfortable chairs I have ever experienced at any pool area. It's so hot out that the pools actually seem quite cool. I keep going from the pool to the's hot, it's cold, it's hot, it's cold..... I feel like a McDLT.

4:45: After a short nap, it's time to head out for our dinner reservation at the Blue Bayou.

5:40: Dinner at the Blue Bayou is always a "must do" every trip, and tonight is no exception. Tracey has short ribs, I opt for the Surf N Turf, and dinner is excellent as always. After dinner we have some pictures taken, take another ride on POTC, and head back to the room. Oh, and more shopping. Thank goodness we had SO much room in our suitcases for all the stuff we are buying. Believe me, that last sentence reeked of sarcasm. By the time we fit all this stuff back into the car to drive home, I'm going to have to ride on the roof.

And of course, we had to stop at Haagen Dazs for some more ice cream. I decided to shake it up a bit and try the Dulce Dazzler instead of my usual Mint Chip Dazzler. Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

8:50 PM - Bedtime, another big day tomorrow, as we are taking a guided tour, a first for us!

Monday, 17 September 2012

California Trip, Day 4

6:45 AM - I'm up, as usual, at an unGodly I head out to let the wifey sleep a little more. What a different experience it is walking around the grounds before much opens. The hustle and bustle of Downtown Disney is replaced by a calmness that you rarely find here; it's quite tranquil and relaxing. Walking by the pool I notice a gardener planting some new flowers, and workers inside the pool gates scrubbing down the pool deck, in anticipation of another hot, and therefore busy, pool day.

8:15 AM - Back up into the room and Tracey is awake and up, starting "the process" as she calls it. We have breakfast reservations at 10AM and we should just be able to make it :-)

9:45 AM - Down to the Storyteller's Cafe for our Breakfast with Chip N Dale breakfast buffet. It's a character breakfast but we come to this one for the food. It's what a breakfast buffet should be. We've all been to breakfast buffets where the waffles and pancakes sit under a heat lamp and get crunchy? No problem here, as they bring you pancakes and "Mickey" waffles to order so they are always fresh. The characters are always critters; chipmunks, baboons, bears and gorillas. I've said it before and I'll say it again; this restaurant has a varmint problem.

10:30 AM - Done with breakfast and off to Disneyland! After our last trip here, between Xmas and New Year's, where we shared the park with most of the free world, today's lineups are a very pleasant change. Tracey says to me "I can deal with these crowds!". Amen, sister. Amen.

It's busy, sort of.....Disneyland is ALWAYS busy, but there are no crowds to push through, no long lineups to deal with. We get through Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, and get pictures with Jack Skellington and Sally in about an hour and a half!

We get Fastpasses for Space Mountain, which has also been "Halloween-ed" and renamed "Ghost Galaxy" which is a new least, it's new to us. We do some shopping and then head back for the ride, which isn't much different than the regular Space Mountain except that there is a really ugly creature trying to get you while you are on the ride.

2:30 PM - Off to the Big Thunder BBQ for lunch. They bring us absurd amounts of chicken and cow, beans, coleslaw and cornbread. It's all you can eat, but we don't go too crazy and try not to make complete pigs of ourselves. Not sure if we succeeded or not.

4:50 PM - Done with the park today. A little more shopping and back to the room to relax for a few minutes before Monday Night Football.

5:00 PM - Down to the lounge, and we get seats at the bar so we can watch the football game while enjoying a drink or two (or six). Game is not going particularly well, so we leave at halftime to get a different kind of treat.....

7:30 PM - Haagen Daaz, bitches!!! Tracey gets some ice cream and I get a Mint Chip Dazzler, the first of about 8 of those sonsofbitches that I plan on having this trip. MMMMMMM that is some seriously good shite.

7:55 PM - Back to the room to watch the rest of the football game and get a good night's sleep, tomorrow we are going to take advantage of "early entry" to get into DCA before the riff raff (in other words, the general public) and try to see as much of Cars Land as we can before the crowds hit.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

California Trip, Day 3

9:00 AM - Up and down to the Amber Waves restaurant in the hotel for our breakfast buffet, which came with the package we bought (room, park tickets, breakfast). Pretty average buffet, at best. Food quality was OK, but very little selection. It's the kind of buffet you'd expect at a 3 star Vegas hotel. Not that impressed.

10:00 AM - At the park gates just at the park opens. Not many guests, not too huge a surprise, but even fewer than I expected. We are able to hit all the rides we are interested in, including an extreme coaster called the "Boomerang", in about an hour and a half!

One of the rides that Tracey went on was this monstrosity:

Yeah, my wife is up there, 301 feet in the air. That takes guts. I peed my pants just uploading that picture to my blog.

11:30 AM - Packed the luggage into the car and off to the Grand Californian!

11:45 AM - Arrive at the Hotel and are greeted by a very friendly valet guy who takes our luggage and the car. Into the lineup to check in, and while Tracey is waiting I'm off to the lounge to see what NFL games they have on the TV's. I notice the Giants game is on so we will go there after we check in, assuming our room isn't ready yet (and check in isn't actually until 4 PM so I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't ready yet). We get through the line very quickly and are quickly told that they have us booked in a "Premium Pool View room". Um, POOL VIEW?? Who the F**K wants to watch a bunch of people swim from their hotel room? I booked a Premium view of Downtown Disney, which we are told is not available. This might be the first epic fail we have ever experienced at any Disney hotel or park, ever.

We make it pretty clear we are not happy, and the young girl checking us in is obviously concerned.... it's not HER fault they screwed up our reservation. She goes to the back room a couple of times to see what they can do for us, and she comes back to tell us that she is really sorry, but the best they can do is to move us to a "Premium Theme Park View" room. Well, that's not what we booked, but whatever.... maybe we'll have a nice view and maybe even get to watch World of Colour from our room. We reluctantly agree, although we did ask her to make sure her supervisor knew we were not happy with this development.

The room isn't ready, of course, so we head to the lounge to watch the Giants/Buccaneers game. We have a couple of drinks and chat up the friendly bartenders as we are waiting, and get a nice surprise when the Giants come from way behind to win the game!

1:15 PM - Off to the ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney to see if we can get a table to watch the 1PM NFL game between Pittsburgh and NY Jets. It's a zoo, no surprise, and we'd have a better chance of finding a 3-legged ballerina than a table inside right now, but they can quickly seat us outside if we don't mind the heat. It's much cooler today than yesterday, it's about 33 degrees, so that is tolerable. We have another cocktail or two and a very nice lunch while watching the Steelers demolish the Jets. Good day for football so far!!

Tracey's lunch was so big she packed half of it up to go, so she's set for dinner tonight too!

3:15 PM - Still no text message from the resort about our room so we do a little shopping in Downtown Disney and then the gift shop inside the hotel, before sitting down in the hotel lobby to wait for the text that gives us the room number. We already have the key cards to the room so we just need to know the number and that the room is clean.

4:00 PM - Text comes in sending us up to the room. After a long walk from the elevator, we get into our room and notice this is the view we are paying big bucks for:

So yeah, that's a bunch of trees, the monorail track....and if you look way, way in the background, you might find the top of a couple of the highest rides.

HMM. That's a Premium View??? I'd hate to think what you get if you stay in a "Standard View" room. Maybe your eyes get poked out by Dwarves while you sleep?

Anyway, I'm not the kind to complain a lot, but this is something worth complaining about; Tracey calls the desk to complain and a girl says she will look into it and get back to us. It only takes a couple minutes for her to call back and tell us she has a room for us with the view that we wanted! I retract the "epic fail" comment, Disney!

4:10 PM - The girl arrives at our room with our new keys and walks us to the new room. She waits while we check out the view to make sure we are happy with it, and we are, so she takes her leave and Tracey and I spend about 20 minutes high-fiving. Now THAT is how to take care of customers!!

5:00 PM - Hanging out in the room this evening to watch the 49ers/Lions game on TV. Since Tracey already has her dinner, I guess I'm on my own. Looking across the way I see "Haagen Daaz". Ice cream for dinner? Hey why not, I'm on vacation!!!!

7:48 PM - We decided to get some room service, nothing heavy, but a nice dinner to put a cap on a great day. Still watching football, and we will just relax in the room and watch the fireworks when they start a little later.

Oh, and here is the view from our current room:

A small improvement over the other room! This is the kind of atmosphere I don't mind paying extra for. It is an especially spectacular view in the Christmas season, when all the trees get decorated with lights.

There is an excellent violinist serenading us from right beneath our room. This is such a beautiful room! What a huge difference in our trip the move from the other room is going to make.

9:30 PM - The fireworks begin and we couldn't have a better view! Who needs to fight the crowds on Main Street? Not us, we get to watch them from the comfort of our patio, and by turning on the "fireworks audio" channel on the TV, we get to hear the show as well.

10:00 PM - Show is over and we are settling into bed. Tomorrow is going to be a big day as we hit the parks for the first time this trip.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

California Trip, Day 2

8:05 AM - I'm already up and showered, and I decide it's time to poke the bear and get going. I know she's awake, I've heard the tossing and turning.

She complains a little bit about the time.....then it gets even worse when she looks at her cell phone and notices that it's actually only 7:40 AM! Obviously the time in this room was incorrect. So....

7:40 AM - After a bit more kvetching, she's up and the process begins.

1:00 PM - The process ends and we're ready to go. OK, kidding, it wasn't that long.....

9:00 AM - We are in the car, heading down the highway on our way to Knott's Berry Farm, our stop for the evening. After getting gas and eating breakfast at McDonald's (more gas), we are off again. It takes very little time until I'm asleep again.

12:30 PM - I wake to find we are stopped, getting gas again, only a couple hours from our destination. One major irritant from this trip, due to a fairly large (I'm told) fraud scheme that happened down here, everyone putting a credit card into the gas pumps has to enter their zip code, so we can't use our credit cards at the pump down here....we have to go into the station every time.

1:30 PM - Well according to our GPS we are only 45 minutes from our destination. According to the accident on the LA freeway in front of us, 45 minutes is actually 2 hours. Well at least we are ahead of schedule so no big deal.

3:30 PM - We arrive at Knott's Berry Farm and check into the hotel. We get a perfectly nice room, the hotel seems very comfortable. Never stayed here before but thought we'd give it a shot for the first night. All seems good so far.

3:55 PM - Finally got a chance to update the blog and we are off to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant for a copius amount of bird!!! MMMMMMM

4:25 PM - After a very modest wait, we get seated for our chicken dinner. Every time I've been to this restaurant, I've left satisfied and dying for more chicken.

Not this time.

It was good, but not great. Chicken was a little dry. Biscuits were terrible (Tracey liked them more than I did). Other accompaniments were fine, nothing special.

Can't complain about the portion size or price, though. We got two chicken dinners (three HUGE pieces of white meat), mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad, soup, biscuits, and choice of ice cream or pie (or in my case, pie AND ice cream), 2 soft drinks and one glass of wine, including tax and tip, for $60. This may explain the obesiety problem in this country.

Tracey and I are, no exaggeration, the second smallest people in this restaurant. Seated right next to us are two young, fit people (wow do they look out of place).....why are they fit? They ordered one dinner between the two of them! That was smart, if we come back here I'll try to remember that. It's way too much food for one person.

6:03 PM - Have I mentioned how hot it is here? It is 40 degrees right now, and it's after 6 PM!!! Jesus.

6:10 PM - Updated the blog and headed down to the pool to relax and unwind a little. Tomorrow we head into the park for a few hours and then off to our home for the next 6 nights, the Grand Californian Resort!

7:00 PM - Well the pool is perfectly nice, but it was basically Tracey and I, and about 150 kids. Oh, and one very nice lady who decided to spark up a cigarette WHILE SITTING IN THE POOL. Jesus. Stay classy, Buena Park.

I mean, I don't blame the 7 year olds for not knowing that the hot tub is not the same as a swimming pool and perhaps it's not a good idea to run and jump into it...but where the F are the parents???

7:28 PM - Up in the room to relax a bit, read Email, and watch some TV. We want to be up early to have breakfast and be at the park entrance when the park opens at 10.

California Trip, Day 1

5:01 AM - Car is packed and we are off! One minute behind schedule. I blame Tracey for that because....well, because she has boobs, ergo she is to blame for any delays. Pretty simple. I am driving the first shift.

5:20 AM - At the Sumas border crossing and we are delighted to hear that they are going to search our car. I guess they had nothing else to do. This is the first time I can recall ever being searched at any border. Not too huge a deal, except that the guards screw up the perfect car-packing job I had done so we end up having to pull over and re-do it.

Good news for future trips, as we discover that they have now instituted a dedicated "NEXUS" lane at this border crossing! That is very exciting as we both have Nexus. It's not open at this time of the morning but it's not like it would have mattered, there were zero other cars there anyway.

7:30 AM - Well, two and a half hours of driving is about my limit, and it's time for breakfast anyway, so I pull off the I-5 and find an IHOP. We encouter our first Spaniard of the trip. Don't have to go far over the US/Canada border to start encountering the locals :-)

We finish breakfast around 8 AM....

8:01 AM - I'm out like a light, seconds after Tracey gets back to the highway.

12:15 PM - Off the highway to get some gas and food. Dairy Queen is calling. I have an Ultimate burger, which, for those of you uninitiated in the art of tasty goodness, is a double burger with bacon and cheese. It has been QUITE a while since I have had one of those. Since I am not interested in gaining a ton of weight on this trip, I decide to leave off the lettuce and tomato. No need for those empty calories.

As we sit and eat, I am perusing the Blizzard menu, specifically the column marked "cookies". I see the following:

Mint Oreo

OK pretty standard

Oreo Cheesequake

Hmm not totally sure what that is but still seems reasonable....and then there was this little beauty:

Oreo Cookie Jar

WTF? Oreo Cookie JAR??? Does it come with ceramic pieces?? What the heck is that???

Anyway I don't feel like glass with my Blizzard so I indulge in a little Hawaiian number while my wife has a cone. I am informed that they actually offer CHOCOLATE soft serve at these restaurants!! It's a good thing I was not aware of that before I ordered the blizzard as I might have ordered an entire tub to eat in the car during the drive. And in this heat, that would NOT have been pretty.
The highway is under a ton of construction (which it was the last time we drove down here, 3 or so years ago), I wonder if they are ever going to FINISH the paving job??? OK granted it's a pretty damn big highway. Even with the construction delays, we are making good time and don't really run into any big issues.

9:00 PM - We find a very cool little Yaletown-like neighborhood in Sacramento and we pull into the Old Spaghetti Factory for a late dinner.

10:00 PM - After dinner, Tracey selfishly announces that she's had enough driving for the day. I am seriously considering finding a new co-pilot, as her level of dedication is not up to par. She's only been driving for about 13 hours, for chrissake. I guess I have to take over again........

10:40 PM - We check into our spectacular hotel for the evening in Stockton; a little villa known as "Motel 6". I originally figured it was called that because it was one better than your average "5 star" hotel.....however, after seeing our room, I am skeptical of that. Anyway it's a perfectly clean and nice place to sleep for the evening. It's definitely time for bed, I am exhausted after all that driving!!!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Make it six.....

Here we are, six days until our California trip, which we've been waiting for seemingly forever. We haven't been on a trip since our Vegas trip at the end of April...that's like 5 months! Oh the humanity.

We had plane tickets for this trip but when we bought the new car, we decided to trade them in and drive. It's been quite a few years since we've gone on a big road trip and we are really looking forward to taking the new car down the I-5.

Last night we took the suitcases down to the car to figure out exactly what was going to comfortably fit. We will have enough room for a couple large suitcases, which will be fine. Tracey will have to pack a little less than she normally would for a 2.5 week trip, but this will be a good test for my lovely wife. Anyway, during the second week we are staying at a resort in Carlsbad where we will have full laundry services in our room so we'll have no issue with washing our clothes.

Got some exciting things planned! Six nights at the Grand Californian hotel, a night at Knott's Berry Farm which will, of course, be accompanies by lunch at Mrs. Knott's Chicken Restaurant (Best. Fried. Chicken. EVER), an after-hours food and wine event at the San Diego Zoo, and lots, lots more. Even a surprise or two for the wife!!

Stay tuned to this space and follow along as I will blog about the trip (of course!!)