Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Our US Trip: Part 3 - Disneyland.

Sunday 5th December

Now let me just say this about Disneyland: People have always said to me, "When you go to the States, you've just got to go to Disneyland!' And I've always been a bit cool to the idea; it's never really been one of my intentions to go there. Well maybe with the kids when they get older. I get motion sickness on the rides, and I've got no particular affection for Mickey Mouse, so I've always reckoned I'd give it a miss.

The previous night Paul had convinced me to go. I was plumping for Universal Studios; he reckoned we could still do that the following day. So I half-heartedly agreed. Anyway, Ali was keen, so that clinched the deal.

Sunday started out drizzly and cold - we wondered if we were going to go to Disneyland at all. We had intended to get up early, but 8am was the earliest any of us could manage. Hunting around for things, I realised that in the frenzy of moving rooms last night, my laptop bag was missing. It didn't have a laptop in it, it was just one of those "maximum carry-on" size bags. So, Paul and I went to reception and picked up a key to the old room and retrieved the bag that had been left behind. I don't want to name names, but when I asked the only other occupant of my bedroom if it had been completely cleared, and she said yes, I sort of thought that it had been completely cleared. Ah never mind.

Breakfast at the "Gatehouse", which was the dining room next to Reception. An introduction to Waffles made fresh. Mine always turned out perfectly, Ali's less so. While munching on our American breakfast (dare I say it: huge), the telly was showing scenes of congestion and snow falls on some of the California highways, and as we were watching, a real live car accident, right behind the on-location reporter. It almost looked staged.

A little bit of debate about whether it would be worthwhile in the rain and cold, but we eventually got underway. A quick stop-off at Fry's Electronics Store to get an extra memory card and battery for my camera. Prices of electronics are incredibly cheap in the States. The 256Mb card cost one-third of the price of a 128Mb card had three months previously in Sydney. Plus they have a "mail-in rebate" system, which gives you an additional discount off the price - you have to fill out the form and mail it to them. I presume they use your money in some high-return high-risk short-term investment in the time it takes to mail and return a cheque. And once again, the store was easily the largest electronics store I'd ever been in.

Paul stopped to get Petrol (or "Gas"). There are blokes waiting at the pumps, not working for the Petrol Station, just to "pump your gas", and presumably get a tip. We managed to avoid this, thankfully.

Finally, finally on our way, I-405 south, I-110 north, 91 east and we'll be there. Traffic notwithstanding, for it was chockers everywhere. Stop-start-stop-start, the traffic has a totally different rhythm to Sydney. In LA, it is either moving very fast or stopped completely. In Sydney, if it is stopped completely, then something is seriously wrong.

12:30 and we're at Disneyland. People eveywhere telling you which direction to head, even though there is only a handful of cars in the lot. "Cast-members" I found out later the employees are called (even though I've read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom). It is very cold, and raining hard, and I am wondering what on earth we are doing there. Board the tram, and into California Adventure Park. The place is a sea of Blue Ponchos and to try and stay dry, we went into the Gift Shop to purchase ours.

First stop was the Tower of Terror Hotel, and looking at it I knew that I really didn't want to ride it. But ride it we did, and I managed not to throw up at the end. Next was the Muppets 3D, which was a new thing for me, a combination film and stage show with 3D glasses. It was very cool. After that we briefly stopped for a lunch, I was still feeling a bit queezy and so only went for fries but Ali went to whole Hot Dog. It was our first introduction to the curious sales tax system they have. You don't bother pre-calculating the bill and preparing your money, because the price on the displays are only indicative of what you have to pay. You always have to add on tax, which they helpfully calculate for you, but unhelpfully, don't tell you how much it is going to be before you buy it. Even though I hate the GST, I prefer to the GST. I asked Paul and Roz, they weren't even sure how much tax should be.

Next "ride" was A Bugs Life, which was interesting, the first film I've ever gotten wet in. Then on to the big roller coaster. The weather and the small number of people meant that we only had 10 minutes to wait for a seat, and I reckon that was the longest we had to wait all day. I was very queezy after this one, and resolved to stay off the nasty rides for the rest of the day. I was tempted to go again: the take-off was spectacular. Many of the remaining rides were closed because of the weather, but truthfully, I would've stayed off them anyway.

Paul had a "corn dog". I struggled to see where the corn was – it looked like a Pluto Pup to me (or a Dagwood Dog).

So on to the Main Park. "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesteday, tomorrow and fantasy." Cool!
Main Street USA was pumping because the truck with all the characters was just going past. Here it was busy, and still wet. We walked up the main road and got to Cinderella's Castle. It was so small that I had to make a comment about it, and Paul told me that it was exactly his reaction on first seeing it. There was a chicky selling ice-cream, so I bought a Mickey Cookies and Cream ice-cream sandwich. It was frozen solid, and I very nearly broke a tooth eating it. Alison snapped a good series of shots of this, here, here, here and here.

The first ride was the Jungle Boat Cruise. The chicky taking the cruise worked very hard with some very poor jokes to inspire some laughter out of us all, but hardly a reaction unfortunately. I think some of the jokes were as old as some of the plastic creatures looked. The next was the Indiana Jones ride. We walked straight onto the ride, through about 16 miles of fake tunnel. The ride itself was very cool, and not as sickening as I thought it would be. At first I thought some of the dummies were real people!

We did a brief gift shop pause. Paul had torn his flimsy poncho and wanted a new one. I think he managed to convince the salesgirl that the thing had self-destructed on first use.

Down to New Orleans. I took particular interest since (the real) New Orleans was one of our stops. And the Paddleboat in the lake was particularly impressive. I almost got lost finding the toilet, but managed to find the others again, waiting for me outside the Pirates Of The Carribean. When I think of Disneyland I think of the Pirates, so I was definitely looking forward to this one.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Once again, no wait, straight into the first boat, with that view of the beautiful twilight restaurant. I took a great many photos, some with flash, some without. Now either the announcements were broken, or we got onto a boat before the announcements were made, but I swear I didn't hear ANYTHING about not taking flash photos before or during the ride until we were in the long wait at the end to debark. As soon as I heard that I said "Oops," and turned to the others. They had not heard it either.

I was dark outside and I had to check my watch: 4:30!! I guess I was still in Daylight Savings mode. Onto the Haunted Mansion. Once again, the biggest wait was the trundle through the maze to get to the entrance. What a ride! And how do they get the ghosts to dance?!

Next up was the log ride. It was very wet. And being in the front of the log (in fact, I do recall that Paul and Roz insisted I go in the front), I had so much water pouring into my eyes from the rain and the ride that I didn't see the final plunge except as a vague, murky black drop.

We decided to break for dinner, and plonked exhausted into the Horseshoe Bar for a Chilli in Sourdough Bread Basket. A show was starting up in a couple of minutes so we decided to wait it out to let our jumpers and ponchos dry out. Bluegrass Band? Well I must say I wasn't expecting much. How wrong I was. Totally entertaining, talented blokes. They even donned wigs for a Beatles number "Ticket to Ride" if memory serves. Very humourous as well, and goes to prove that it doesn't really matter what you play as long as you can entertain. After this it was back on with the wet clothes and back into the park.

Up into Littles Land most of the rides were closed, the Dumbo ride, the Teacups, but Roz insisted we go on It's A Small World. The song had been modified for Christmas, so I was tortured for about twenty minutes with Christmas carols. I thought it interesting that they play to the stereotypes. The Australian dolls were obvious – one blond bloke with a surfboard next to a kangaroo, and a couple of aborigines. It made me wonder how many other of the nationalities I recognised from the stereotypes only.

One thing we noticed: the place was clean! In fact at one point, one bloke was actually sweeping the pooled water away. We decided to catch the last train once around the park from nearby, and ended up back where we started. We had a brief visit to see the little houses, and sure enough Minnie Mouse was home. I tore my poncho in a rush to get it off and have a photo with her. Minnie has great legs (for a mouse), but I suspect that she was just a young girl.
Minnie Mouse

It was getting quite late now, and we still had Tomorrowland to go. Most of the rides were closed. "No, I didn't go on Space Mountain," to your next question. It was undergoing repairs for the season. About the only thing open was Innoventions, good for the kids, but a little boring for us. So back out onto Main Street and to do the obligatory gift-shopping. We arranged a half-hour limit with Paul and Roz and split up. When we met up with them again, they'd decided to buy Charlotte and Josephine some Disney jewellry, so it was back into the shops with them to decide on what to get. I just had to get a Mickey Mouse watch, as I've always wanted one. Paul got a matching one for Charlotte, so we can do the Daddy-Daughter thing.

The 9:30 fireworks display was cancelled because of the weather, so we left. A quick trip home to Thai leftovers for supper and an exhausted drop into bed.

Overall: Disneyland. A little bit cheesy in places, but the whole experience was overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable. Maybe the cheeziness became less noticeable to me over time. And it helped I guess that the crowds were small, as I have heard comments from other friends about how intolerable it is to wait 70 minutes in line for a three-minute ride. And bloody-hell we're in Disneyland of all places! Music played ALL the time. And the whole Cast-Member/Guest versus Staff/Customer thing was very novel.

Despite the weather, a thoroughly enjoyable day.

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