Friday, March 07, 2008

Trip Report Day 7 (Disneyland & L.A.)

Once again we are up early but today I have a problem, I can’t walk. The last few days have obviously taken a toll, my feet are still swollen so much it takes 10 minutes to get my shoes on, the air turns blue and every step is like standing on red hot needles. (Just to give you some sense of scale here, I’m writing this report on January 30th 2008 and my feet are still recovering from the damage that weekend and the following few days would cause.) Scott runs upstairs to tell his parents to head into the parks without us. He gives them his mobile phone - can you spot the trouble this may later lead to - so we can call them and keep them updated and brings breakfast down to the room. I’ve swallowed most of a box of Nurofen by this point. We give it 20 minutes and I’m just about able to walk, albeit very slowly and still in a lot of pain. We load our bags into the car where they join Linda & Graham’s cases and check out of the hotel. We can leave the car in the lot all day thankfully so we cross the street and make it to Disneyland for the second day.

As we walk up Main St, attempting to call Linda & Graham every few minutes to no avail, Mickey is leading the Big Band down the other way so we wave and watch the marching.

We get to the castle and stop to take pictures. As we are doing so, a very kind lady sitting nearby offers to take one of both of us so we thank her a lot and get our shots.

We head to Big Thunder to get a Fastpass, getting worried now as we still can’t get an answer out of Scott’s parents. If it reaches lunch time, Scott will have to go back to the hotel to try and find them as we’d agreed if they hadn’t spoken to us by then to go back there. We decide to try something else instead, texting them. Neither of them knows how to send a text but we figure if “new message” appears on the screen of Scott’s phone and shows up as coming from mine, they could at least figure out to press the “open” button and get the message. It’s about 10am now so we tell them to meet us at the exit of the Haunted Mansion at 11. As we are walking towards it, my phone goes off; it’s a blank message from Scott’s mobile. We take this that they have at least read the text we sent them.

On our way to the Mansion we pass the Sailing Ship Columbia which looks magnificent.

The Haunted Mansion looks even better today in the sunlight. The Imagineers have done a truly wonderful job decking it out in its holiday finery. The crowds have really begun to appear now so the queue is getting very long, we see the positive side and use the time to get some great shots of the Mansion.

Because of the queue, the ride takes longer than we planned and we are a few minutes late exiting, but we quickly spot Linda & Graham sat on a nearby bench. They haven’t done much, just wandered around taking in the scenery. Our Big Thunder fastpass is almost upon us so once again we split up, agreeing to meet at the Partners statue at 12. Me and Scott take a slow walk to Frontierland, it has to be as the crowds are now becoming unbearable.

(New Orleans Square, the queue for Pirates is making up most of that crowd)

We use our Big Thunder fastpass and take a slow walk back to the Central Hub, stopping for some photo opportunities as we’re in no rush.

As we sit at the hub, next to a turkey leg cart, I notice something unusual in the flower bed behind us, a cat!

A few others notice it and soon there’s a small group of people watching. A wandering cast member comes over to see why a crowd of guests is staring intently into a flower bed. She tells everyone that Disneyland has a large family of stray cats that live in the grounds but that it’s rare for one to sit out so brazenly in front of everyone, normally they lurk in shadows and scavenge dropped food. Disney allows them to live there as they keep the rodent population under control. This particular cat lives nearby around the Tiki room area.

Linda & Graham haven’t arrived yet. I want to see the original Enchanted Tiki Room which is just around the corner. Scott’s sure his parents won’t be interested so he waits by the statue and I go off to see the show. I arrive in time to see most of the pre show in the gardens which is a lovely touch. The show itself is much longer than I anticipated and lovely in a slightly old fashioned way.

By the time I get back to the Partners statue, Linda & Graham have arrived. The park is heaving so we decide to leave and exit down Main St to get lunch across the road. We walk out past the car parks and take some pictures, including one of a special paving stone by the entrance.

We end up at the Dennys just by our hotel. Scott gets grilled chicken, Linda a salads and Graham the meatloaf. I just get an ice cream sundae as I’m not feeling that hungry and I’ve always wanted to try one but have always been too full after eating a meal.

After our meal we decide that Disneyland is far too busy for our tastes and none of us can really be bothered trying to fight our way through the crowds. We are near L.A. after all so we decide to spend the afternoon driving around and seeing what we can spot, before setting off for the airport for our overnight flight to Orlando. We have a few potential ideas in mind, the first of which is to visit the Queen Mary which is over in Long Beach. We head back to the car, wave bye-bye to Disneyland, set up the SatNav and head off back to the open roads.

Long Beach is quite easy to find thanks to the SatNav which guides us straight there. En route we spot the Goodyear blimp hovering above us, we also see Knotts Berry Farm in the distance and the coasters look scary even from several miles away, especially the Xcelerator which stands out in a class of its own. It has always been a dream of Graham’s to see the Queen Mary and soon we arrive at the car park. The ship is absolutely enormous and is moored next to a Russian Scorpion submarine for some reason. We soon lose Graham who is off in a world of his own snapping pictures so we leave him to it.

Near the ship is a mailbox painted to look like R2D2 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. I had read about these special mailboxes back in the summer but forgotten all about them. There was no list given of their locations so it was up to the public to discover where they were. Having never expected to see one it was a lovely surprise.

After recovering Graham, we get back into the car and go for a drive down the Pacific Coast highway, another dream of his. I get my first real look at the Pacific Ocean which I have never seen before.

We pass through Newport Beach and several other small towns before stopping at a lesser known beach somewhere to stretch our legs and take a short walk on the sand.

By now the evening is starting to close in so we walk back to the car (now with sand on our clothes) and head north to Hollywood. The smog blanket of pollution covering L.A. is quite scary to behold as we drive down the 6 lane freeway towards it.

The SatNav is set for Sunset Boulevard but when we arrive the whole place is a dump, nothing but tacky tourist traps and smog. We stay in the car as the parking doesn’t look so good but from there we see the famous Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign off in the distance and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A wrong turn also allows us to spot Universal Studios and the Hollywood Tower apartments which bear a striking resemblance to the Tower of Terror. It’s too dark to photograph anything from the car really but a stop at traffic lights lends me the opportunity to get one shot of the legendary Hollywood & Vine intersection.

It’s getting dark so we make our way slowly to Los Angeles International Airport which we find with relative ease. We drop the car off at Dollar and board the rather scary free shuttle bus to our terminal. On arrival we find a quiet corner to organise our bags before checking in on our Delta flight to Orlando which is due to depart at 10.20pm. At check in we discover, annoyingly, that Scott’s case is slightly overweight. Rather than messing about trying to rearrange we just pay the excess and put it down to lessons learned.

We make our way upstairs to security which is quiet as it’s getting late. Scott goes through no problems but when my bag is scanned the officials tell me there’s a problem and it needs to go through the X ray again. I panic wondering what I’ve left in there as I continue to put my shoes on but luckily my bag comes through the machine with no more questions; I guess the squished teddy bear in there must have looked a bit funny! Linda comes through ok but Graham’s bag also gets pulled up for a second scan, unfortunately he won’t be as lucky as I was. As his bag goes through again, the x-ray operator signals some others to look at the scan and Graham is asked to go to a separate area so his bag can be gone through by hand. By this point Linda is starting to panic and Scott & I are slightly concerned too. We sit off to one side watching the bag check happening near the X rays and luckily, about 10 minutes later, Graham comes over to us, bag in hand. Apparently one of them had left a large bottle of perfume in the bag which flagged the security up as it was liquid. The security guard found it, checked it and, thankfully sent Graham on his way with nothing more than a stern warning. They are both upset and angry and so, after spotting a place to sit and leave our bags, Scott and I make a hasty exit to give them some alone time.

We go to the El Cholo cantina and order some drinks and are soon joined by Graham who also needs a stiff one to calm his nerves, Linda just wants to be left alone for a while to clam down. Ad we drink, a kid knocks its drink out of a pushchair causing a small spill on the main concourse. We see the dad tell a staff member and this creates the most farcical comedy sketch I have ever seen in my life. One of those incidents it’s impossible to explain to anyone who wasn’t there, the actions of the janitors are now comedy gold dust in our family. Let’s just say the clean up of this tiny drink spillage took 30 minutes, an *entire* roll of kitchen towel, a mop, a broom and two members of cleaning staff.

After the laughter had died down, we realised the flight had been delayed by an hour or so. Scott and I decided to share a pepperoni pizza from the California Pizza Kitchen before joining Linda & Graham near our gate to read, and play poker on my ipod until our time finally rolled around.

The plane was tiny, just 6 seats across with the aisle down the centre. We were on the very back row with one person on the row in front, which Linda opted to take. The whole operation felt very much like going on a car drive with your dad, harassed looking stewardesses trying to get all the non English speaking businessmen to sit down, put their seats up properly and pay attention. It did help that it was Jeans for Genes time so none of them were in uniform, leading to the causal madness of it all, the plane had even started to taxi before half the passengers had sat down! Eventually we took off for our red-eye flight down to Orlando where 8 days of Disneyworld fun was waiting for us.

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