Sparkling With Joy Take 2-The Family Strikes Back NOW WITH PICTURES
Hopefully, the family won't really be 'striking back' on this trip but I am preparing myself for anything. :eek:
Last year, DH, Mom, Dad, and I had an amazing first trip to Disneyland at Christmastime. It was so amazing that all we could talk about the whole time was getting back with my sweet niece in tow who has never been to any of the parks at all and is getting, I am afraid, rather tired of hearing her aunt and grandparents talk about their love for them. And so, after much convincing of my dear brother, it's happening! We're going back!:santa:
It's going to be a big crew this time, complicated for several reasons.
1) We're going December 18th-22nd and I fear the crowds (but hope that since passholders will be blocked out for some of that time it may help at least a little) 2)My dad and grandma get around fine, but they are slow and need to take breaks. Neither one will consent to a wheelchair for any reason (we are talking hardy, pioneer stock type people here folks) so we just have to be patient with them and plan accordingly. I.E-I'll be doing lots of fastpass running, we'll take daily breaks, and I've set up our touring plans to minimize back and forth treks across the parks. I've had 2 Disney trips (Land and the World) with my dad in the past year while he's been dealing with this and we've learned that he's fine as long as he stops ever few minutes-doesn't have to sit down just has to stop walking.
Our cast will be:
Me, 31, Disney Fan to the extreme
DHusband 38, who is coming around to my way of thinking
Brother, 44 never been to ANY Disney park
DNiece who will be celebrating her 7th birthday on this trip:cutie:
Mom, Disney lover like me
Dad, loves the parks just moves kind of slow
Grandma also loves the parks but is a slow mover (and rather likes to be in charge)
Grandpa who doesn't really care too much for the parks-thinking he'll spend a lot of time back at the hotel reading and that's fine!
Grandma and Grandpa took me and a different brother on our first trip to Disney in the 80's so it's special to get to go with them again and have it be my niece's first trip, too.
We have character meals planned, hopefully the holiday tour for 'just the girls', lots of shopping, and magical experiences seeing the parks through a child's eyes for the first time. Just under 2 months to go and we can't wait!
Made our Priority Seatings this week!
I got all the restaurants I wanted at close to the times I wanted, so that was great!:cool1:
After arriving in early afternoon we'll tour the park a bit (more on that coming soon) and then the whole gang will traipse over to the DLH for dinner at Goofy's Kitchen. I've never done Goofy's but have always wanted to. When DH and I were at WDW a couple years ago we ate at Chef Mickey's and loved it, and this seems like it will be similar. I could never justify the cost of this meal when it's been just the two of us, but this has turned into kind of a 'whatever will make this magical for DNiece, we'll do" sort of trip so we're going for it. At first the whole crew wasn't going to do this one but at the last minute, the thought of missing one moment of the magic :wizard:was too much for them, so we're all in. After an early morning flight it will be nice to end the day with a sit down dinner, even though I expect some chaos and we will of course, have to move around to get to the buffet.
Saturday 12/19: We'll do our Magic Morning/Early Entry (can never remember what they're calling it these days!!!) this morning , hopefully the gals will take the holiday tour and watch the parade in the afternoon, and the whole gang will get back together for a later dinner at Cafe Orleans. I've been raving about pommes frites to the family for a year so I hope they live up! My mom loves the beignets at WDW and has never tried them at DL so again, I hope they live up to her expectations!
Sunday 12/20: Dining with the princesses at Ariel's Grotto this evening. Wasn't sure about doing this meal but I figure we can hopefully skip the long lines at the PFF to get autographs and pictures with the princesses this way, and I've heard good things about the food here (even though the menu doesn't look like anything I'm too wild to try, it looks like my family will like it). With this group I knew it was going to be important to do one sit down meal a day (that's important to certain members of our team) so this seemed like a good choice in DCA. We'll have taken our afternoon break beforehand so we can fix Dniece up with a bit of princess gear before heading back.
Monday 12/21: Grandma and Grandpa head back to the airport early this morning to get home and get ready for Christmas, so our group will be smaller now. Last year on our last day we ate lunch at Blue Bayou and it was such an amazing way to end the best DL trip I've ever had that we wanted to do that again this year. Turns out my brother and niece are heading back earlier than we are on Tuesday (again, gotta get ready for Christmas!) so we're doing our 'finale' lunch a day early. Since there will be 6 of us we couldn't get an 11:30 seating which I'm sure means no waterside table for us. However, DH has what I call "dimple power" and is not afraid to ask in the nicest way possible for what he wants. Planning to check in at 11:15 and see what happens. Even if it's not waterside I think it will be great. Dinner tonight will be either at our hotel or CS in the parks-it's her last night so it's 'niece's choice.'
Tuesday 12/22: After saying goodbye to brother and niece (after this trip they will understand why we opted for the later flight home in order to soak up as much Disney magic as possible...) we'll hit the parks for a while (dad may choose to sleep in and meet up with us after checking out) and then have lunch at Ralph Brennan's in Downtown Disney. We ate here about a week after it opened (was it 01? or 02? I'm thinking 01...) (just me, mom and dad at that point-DH came along a bit later!) and enjoyed it-my dad's a huge fan of New Orleans and cajun food so thought it would be fun to try it again. Also might be nice to stop at World of Disney for some last minute shopping before heading home.
Of course, this doesn't include the corndogs, Bengal Barbeque skewers, Mickey Bars, cinnamon rolls, Dole Whips, etc.. etc... that will consumed in mass quantities on this trip! Can't wait!
One more bit of our trip for now-accommodations:
Last year we stayed at the Embassy Suites Anaheim South and love love loved it. Loved the 2 room suites, the free hot breakfast, the evening reception, the location, cleanliness, amenities, incredibly helpful staff (especially when we arrived at 2 am after flight problems-should have been there at 9pm the night before!). The plan was for us all to stay there again.
I'm a teacher, and an incredibly wonderful family, knowing my love of Disney, gave me a voucher for 2 free nights at the Anaheim Marriott Suites! Couldn't pass up free nights (more money for souveneirs and Dole Whips!) so, the rest of the fam will be at the Embassy the whole time, and DH and I will be at the Marriott for the first 2 nights, then move over on Sunday morning. (We're going to DCA today so everybody can sleep in a bit since they open later; we'll take an early cab to the Embassy, leave our luggage, eat breakfast with the gang and go to the parks together.)
The only hitch in this plan that leaves me slightly worried is getting the Embassy portion of our crew to get to the parks on time. I'm a dyed in the wool, no two ways about it rope drop gal. Our whole plan hinges on this. Hoping it works! We'll all be taking ART each day, this worked fine for us last year, just hoping the fam gets down to the ART stop early enough in the morning on Saturday to meet us in line before park opening. Yes, we'll be 'those people', I'm cringing even thinking about. Two mild-mannered people holding a place in line for-gulp-6 more to join us. It will only be on Saturday though, when we're doing Early Entry so hopefully we won't get too many dirty looks. It's the holidays people, feel the magic!:laughing:
It sounds like you have everything well in hand. I'm sure you're neice will have a ownderful time!
Fighting Crowds and Having Fun
What a great trip. When we first got back I could only think of the things that we didn't get to do because of the crowds and the speed at which our group could move...but by Christmas morning when my niece "H" and I were laying on the couch wearing our mouse ears and planning a hypothetical trip to WDW I was able to focus just on all the great thing we DID get to do-and there were a lot! Those few things we didn't get to are just reasons to go back...
Which we are.
Well, DH and I are going back this summer, that is. Our 5th anniversary is July 17th, 2010. Which just so happens to be the 55th anniversary of Disneyland. Yes, that means that we were married on the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. :love: I've always told him we'd go for our anniversary someday and I think this year is it. I want to wear the Minnie "bride" ears :bride: and have our anniversary meal at the Blue Bayou. In fact, we volunteered for Give a Day Get a Day yesterday to get our free ticket. We're thinking we'll drive down from Seattle, spend 2 or 3 days in the parks and drive back along the CA coast which neither of us have ever done.
But, that's another trip for another time. For right now, let's focus on December 2009. :santa:
-Mom, Grandma, H and I took the holiday tour and it was awesome-so glad we did it. Loved our guide, walking onto attractions, cookies and cocoa and a pin while watching the parade in reserved seats and hearing all the little details along the way. So so so glad we did that!
-Seeing H's face when she walked into DL for the first time, walked down Main Street, looked up, and saw the castle. She stopped in her tracks and her jaw dropped. It was amazing.
-Hearing my tough guy/cop older brother laughing out loud during the Muppets and seeing his face on our pictures from Splash Mountain
-Getting my picture taken with Cinderella princess:
-Being invited to a "Holiday Family Gathering" when we came out of the Muppets. Apparently there was some sort of contest and people won tickets to this private event but not enough showed up, so we got to have pictures with the characters with very little wait, have a few snacks and drinks and some fun-felt very special!
-Being back at DLR with my grandparents, who took me there for the first time when I was a kid.
Hmm, I can't call them low lights, but how about "things to improve upon next time:"
-Crowds on Friday the 18th were very manageable even though we arrived in the afternoon, around 12:30 and stayed until dinner time. Crowds just built and were overwhelming as the weekend went on-strangely, they seemed much more bearable by the time we left on Tuesday the 22nd. Would love to convince my brother to go at a less crowded time next time, but he didn't want to take H out of school which I have to respect as a teacher after all.:teacher:
-Cafe Orleans ran out of Mickey beignets which was half the reason we ate there-annoying but we dealt with it.
-Not enough time to shop-H got home and showed my brother her unspent Disney gift cards that he didn't know she had-oops-we'll plan for that better next time. Somehow, I managed to still spend a mint but I went off on my own for shopping sometimes when they were taking a break and on our last day when half the family had returned home.
-Never made it for the fireworks/snow on Main Street, but I saw them last year and H didn't know what she was missing...the night we were finally going to do this she was so tired and just not up for it.
More details and pictures (once I figure out how to burn them on this new laptop...) coming up!
Day One of Fun: Friday, December 18th
The morning started out a bit stressful as our cab was scheduled to arrive at 6am and mom and dad, who were parking their car at our house and riding with us weren't here as of 5:57 and I couldn't reach them on the phone-was worried they had overslept. They arrived but then the cab did not. After 35 minutes and 3 phone calls to the cab company we were all waiting outside in the cold on our front porch when the cab did arrive-at the wrong end of our block which is sort of blocked off by some platicky/rubbery 'candlestick' things-DH convinced cabby to drive over them and we were finally on our way. Once we were through security and in line for Starbucks things felt better.
Got to the gate, met up with the grandparents and my brother and H, my newly 7 year old niece. Looked over my souveneir DLR book with her and talked about all the fun things we'd soon be seeing!
Had a great flight to LGB, quickly and easily claimed baggage in the wonderful 75 degree sunny weather and our van came to get us for the easy ride to the Embassy where we dropped off everyone else and made the quick trip to the Marriott for DH and I. We were pleasantly surprised with how close it was and planned to just walk over when we moved on Sunday rather than getting a cab. Checked in easily-had been a bit worried because of our voucher showing we had free nights as a gift from my former student-and loved our room...it was huge, with a separate bedroom with french doors and a great bathroom. We love the Embassy but the Marriott Anaheim Suites is defiinitely right up there-it doesn't have the free breakfast of the Embassy but other than that, it's great.
Quickly dropped things off, freshened up a bit, and we went down to wait for the ART. It came in only a couple of minutes and we were on our way! First stop once inside-Christmas Minnie ears for me. I wanted a pair last year and never got them and fretted about it all year. Was happy to put them on and feel "in the Christmas spirit" at last! Took a couple pictures in front of the Christmas tree, too. Tried to re-create one from last year of DH minus the 70 pounds he's lost since then but didn't remember the angle quite right-still, the difference is striking and I'm proud of him!
This year: nice change, huh?) No matter how many times I try to rotate it, it keeps coming up sideways...any ideas?
Then we went to the gates to wait for the family who had called to say they were on their way.
Coming up: Let the magic begin!
The family arrived and we spent a few minutes just letting my brother and niece (first trip for both) marvel at Town Square. Then, since the line was not long, brother, H, and myself went to City Hall to get H's birthday button and first visit buttons for them both. My mom had given H a lanyard with a couple pins on it for her birthday gift at the airport that morning and boy, was she happy to start collecting those pins! Took a few more "tree" pictures where brother swears he almost knocked over the tree-believe me, with my family, it could be done! :rotfl2:
Next stop, after H had her magical moment of ogling the castle for the first time (that morning I had asked her what she was most excited about and she said seeing the castle-so glad I got to have that moment with her) we headed to one of our favorite eating establishments at DLR-the Little Red Wagon for corndogs, yum! The boys staked out a couple of tables with no problem and we were soon happily munching...it was now about 1:00 and we had all gotten to the airport before 7-we were hungry.
I had spent months in the summer and fall trying to figure out what H's first ride should be. I hadn't originally planned for us to arrive in the middle of the afternoon so that threw a monkey wrench in things-it would have been Dumbo but I wasn't doing that line at 1:30. Peter Pan was another first choice but again, the lines. I thought of Small World as a great introduction to a classic Disney attraction plus a good holiday attraction, too. So I quickly ran over to Peter Pan, saw the line was only 40 minutes and knowing that it's usually less than the stated time decided what the heck, let's do it. It's my favorite in Fantasyland and I love it when Peter says "Here we go!" at the beginning and wanted that to be first-so it was. Even with the crowds as the weekend continued, that line and the one to meet Tinkerbell at 50 minutes (and Toy Story which was about the same) were the longest ones we waited in the whole trip. Not too bad.
H loved it as much as I had hoped she would. When we got off she looked at me and said, "That was great!" She's such a great kid-she ended up saying that after every ride. She really wanted to go on this one again some time during the trip and I tried to make it happen but it didn't work out-again, there's a reason to go back!
After that we stopped and H picked out a hat-the pink princess style one with the Mickey ears and veil-that grandpa (my dad) bought her and I think she wore for about 15 minutes in the next 5 days. :rotfl: In her defense, she said she couldn't hear when she had it on! I picked out a pair of blue infant Mickey ears and had them embroidered for my best friend who had had her first baby 1 week before. Too cute! He's swimming in them now but it won't be long until he grows into them.
Small World was next-they had the line snaking around a LOT but at least it moves constantly. We were on in less than a half hour. My dad took a quick nap :rolleyes1 which was not really a surprise, and I pointed out Elvis in the Hawaii scene-couldn't quite get a picture though. Grandma had never seen the Holiday overlay and as she can be a bit picky about changes to things she likes the way they are I was worried-but didn't need to be. She really enjoyed the theming.
Trying to minimize the walking, we next took the train from the ToonTown station. At one point it stopped in the area near Adventureland with all the vegetation and my brother thought it was part of the ride-that something was going to jump out and scare us or something. :lmao: We got off in New Orleans square and rode Pirates which everyone loved, of course. We told H she'd get to eat in the restaurant on Monday which grandma overheard and was a bit miffed about I think, since she was leaving for the airport that morning. Sorry, couldn't fit everything in...but I think it was apparent that I was trying to!
Took a short break at the French Market after Pirates for drinks and a few had some Mickey bars. Tiana's Showboat Jubilee came by on the riverboat while we were sitting there and we were able to enjoy the music and see quite a bit of it actually which was a nice surprise. Our feet were getting a bit tired (although, typing it out, it doesn't seem like we did that much, it sure felt like we did!). We made our way slowly but surely over to Tomorrowland at that point (stopped in Frontierland and did a tiny bit of shopping) and rode Star Tours before we got in line for the monorail. The wait was not long and we got off in Downtown Disney. I had forgotten that you have to go down stairs when you get off and that wasn't a great thing for Grandma's knee which had undergone surgery 1 week before. She didn't want to go take the elevator and decided to suffer down the stairs-can't say we didn't try to help! Slowly walked towards the DL Hotel and enjoyed the ambiance of Downtown Disney along the way. Enjoyed the DL Hotel grounds a little-that's where we had stayed on our first trip as a family with Grandma and Grandpa when I was 11 so it was fun to relive those memories-we reminisced about the Dancing Waters show-loved that!
Wound up at Goofy's Kitchen extra early-like 45 minutes early. We weren't sure we had time for another attraction at DL, and weren't sure how long the monorail wait would be/how long the walk would take us, etc...so the timing was a bit off. Grandpa surprised us with paying for dinner (with my AAA Discount, yay!) which was a really nice thing to do for 8 people! :woohoo: We were seated in the lobby and prepared to wait and were so surprised when our name was called in less than 10 minutes. Had our picture with Pluto taken which turned out great so we of course purchased it-with 8 people you're not going to get many group pictures to begin with, not to mention GOOD pictures of everyone. Another less than 5 minute wait and we were seated inside. The food was good, waiter was great, drinks were refilled frequently, and good character interaction. I'd given H an autograph book as a birthday gift and she was a very serious autograph getter. That scoundrel Dale-what a goof-took her book and her new DL sweatshirt and gave it to a little girl at another table who thought they were actually for HER and got very excited, talking about how she needed an autograph book and didn't have one-I quickly stepped in and said, oh, but he's just being silly, those are my niece's...and all was well. My poor niece had looked HORRIFIED at her things being taken away. Best surprise of the night was Cinderella (who I now refer to as my BFF) coming around and getting my picture with her! I didn't know the princesses came to Goofy's so this was a great surprise!
My Mom LOVES Chip!
We saw Chip and Dale, Cinderella, Aladdin, Minnie, and Goofy during dinner which was a nice assortment I think. We relaxed for a while (I love the decor there, from the umbrella lights to the neatChristmas trees there and around the hotel) and then the rest of the fam took a cab back to the hotel-well worth the cost for them to do so and not wear our dad and Grandma any more than they already were.
Tree outside a gift shop in DLH
DH and I strolled back to DL at that point after shopping at World of Disney a bit-a photo album, a t-shirt, a frame...and went back to Frontierland where I picked up a Christmas decoration (their last one!) that my Grandma had seen earlier and liked. Wandered the stores on Main Street a bit while I picked out items on my "Christmas wish list" (a long list!) and thought about staying for Fantasmic but we were tired too. While sitting on the bench waiting for the shuttle we were able to see the fireworks which was fun.
Headed back to the hotel and I was up for a while making plans for day 2. Hubby and I relaxed in the hot tub which felt great on the aching feet. It was an outdoor hot tub which I actually really like in the winter-the steam rising off of it and the little bit of the chill in the air adds ambiance I guess.
Had no trouble getting to sleep that night, and then before we knew it, it was...Day Two! Magic Morning! My favorite time at Disney!!!
Day Two-Holiday Fun for Me and You!
Morning came bright and early on Saturday the 19th. Magic Morning started at 7 and I wanted to arrive by 6:30, so we were out waiting for a shuttle at 6:10 which came pretty promptly. On Disney trips I am always the one to volunteer to get up and get ready first so my alarm went off at about 5. After getting ready I ran down to the Starbucks in the Marriott's lobby (LOVE that feature!) for a triple peppermint mocha, yum! I needed that extra shot of caffeine for this big day. We snacked on fruit leather and some Lara bars while waiting in line at bag check-ended up arriving before it was open, and low and behold, the rest of the family showed up on their shuttle just as we did. I'd been worried about them all arriving on time without me there to hustle them along but they did well and made me proud. :lmao:
We were second in line at gate 9 and didn't have too long to wait until we were let in. They let us go straight in, didn't hold us at Main Street if I remember correctly. We stopped for a quick pic in front of the Partners statue and then the castle before going to Fantasyland and made it on the first cycle of "Dumbo" for the day. I'd wanted my brother to ride with his daughter, as I'd always said I wouldn't ride it until I got to go with my own child, but he had to run to the restroom so I was the "designated rider" if you will. :laughing: I loved it! Mom and Grandma rode behind us and H had a great time lifting us up and down and up and down over and over again. DH tried to get some pics but didn't end up with any. Note to self for the future-put the child in the side closest to the outside so they can get in the pictures! The ones that did turn out are mostly of my hair. Oh well. Then my brother and H had their pictures taken in the Dumbo that's sitting next to the attraction so at least they have that. We did the Matterhorn next which everyone agreed is fun but a little rough-it sure does throw you around. Afterwards, we did, in no particular order Mr. Toad, Snow White (which didn't scare her at ALL, she is tougher than I thought!), Pinocchio, the carousel (I'd never done that before either and was glad I got to) and Casey Jr. That one was also new to me-we were surprised at how much we all liked it, it really gets going there towards the end and threw us all together in the monkey cage. We weren't expecting that! Alice in Wonderland wasn't open yet so H, DH, my mom, and my grandparents did the teacups while I took pictures. H decided she needed another hat at that point which her grandpa of course bought her (because that's what grandpas do!), she picked out the black sequin Minnie ears headband with a red bow, like my Christmas ones. So we were, I must say, extremely cute together!
Alice finally opened and then the park opened and we did the Storybook Land Canal boats. Unfortunately they weren't paying attention during the loading and loaded a family of 4, then most of us, but there wasn't room for my parents so they just sat the ride out-we should have been more proactive, telling them how many of us there were since we were a large party.
Since the park was open at that point they all headed over the ride BLAB (and apparently, buy some pins, use the restroom, who knows what else...) while I ran to Splash Mountain for fast passes. It was 80 degrees that day, so FP were defiinitely necessary. I met them in front of Jungle Cruise and got to browse in the Adventureland shop a bit while waiting-I really like that one. They had some of their new "55th" anniversary retro style merchandise out which was cute. Hopefully they'll still have some this summer. H loved BLAB and so I knew she'd really be excited about Toy Story Mania the next day.
We rode on the Jungle Cruise which is the first ride I remember riding with my grandparents, aww, sweet. H loved this one too, and the captain got her with his "back side of water" joke. It got me when I was a kid too, I remember taking a picture and then going hey, wait a minute...:rotfl:
We were able to get Indy FP when we got off, and were all ready for a quick break so went to Main Street and the Blue Ribbon Bakery. Should have skipped the espresso as it took FOREVER but the cinnamon rolls, cookies, chocolate croissants were great. Dad and H got the snack packs with a turkey wrap which they liked. Mom and I split the cinnamon roll-so good, yummy!
Cute or what?
We decided to visit the tropics then and enjoyed the Enchanted Tiki Room. H and her dad had been to Hawaii in October so they especially enjoyed the theming and music.We left the paradise for the frontier and went to ride Big Thunder Mountain. My DH screams like a girl on this one and that makes me laugh uncontrollably. H clutched me for dear life all through (brother and DH rode right behind us and I wondered if she was wishing she'd ridden with her dad) and when we got off I asked what she thought, fearing she didn't like it, but she said, "I LOVED it!" At that point I knew she was my kind of Disney girl and began imagining years of Disney trips with my new Disney buddy!
We'd done quite a bit by this time in the morning and were really happy about all we'd accomplished. I'd worried that they'd all be upset about having to get up so early and do so much running around but they all ended up being converts like me to the rope drop mentality. Brother was especially impressed with how much we got done in the first 2 hours and agreed that early is the way to go. When I was a kid we never made rope drop, not once in 3 Disney trips with my family so this was new to most of them although DH has always been on board with my philosophy. That's a good man! (My brother is 14 years older than I am and didn't make it on the family Disney trips since he was grown and married before we ever got to go.)
We headed for Critter Country and thought about riding the Mansion along the way but the line was nuts-something like 50 minutes at 11:30 am. I'm sure the closer to Christmas you get the longer the line. So we skipped it for the moment and mom, Grandma, DH, H and I rode Winnie the Pooh. That was new to Grandma and she liked it, too. It's a cute one. Grandma and Grandpa then headed to the Hungry Bear to stake out tables for lunch. Not my absolute favorite lunch location, I'd hoped we could do Rancho Zocalo or the Riverbelle Terrace, but it worked out best since they didn't know their way around too well and didn't want to ride Splash. No ponchoes necessary on this hot day which was nice. I "took one for the team" (kind of my theme for the trip) and rode in front and yes, got entirely soaked on my left side. Well worth it. In the picture H looks absolutely terrified, as in "What have I gotten myself into?" but when we came off the ride she of course loved it. She still says that was her favorite ride-just like her auntie! That's my girl!
We met for lunch, the line wasn't too bad, but they had a problem with someone's order ahead of us so things got backed up pretty significantly and very quickly. Our food was kind of cold by the time it got to us but it was okay. We weren't expecting anything outstanding. DH was trying really hard to watch what he ate and got the veggie burger and apple slices, he really liked the burger, and my chicken sandwich, though cold, was good. Mom had the onion rings and really liked those. Everyone else had burgers and again, nothing to write home about but no complaints other than temp. We enjoyed sitting downstairs and watching the ducks in addition to the riverboat and canoes going by.
It was break time, so we slowly made the walk back to the shuttle...this is part of why I'd hoped to do lunch at RBT, we'd have been halfway back to the entrance but oh well. Everyone was such troupers and Dad and Grandma never complained once although I know they had to be hurting. (Yes, we encouraged them several times to get wheelchairs but they were quite ornery about not getting them.)
Both shuttle buses were there within minutes, we never really had any horrible waits which was great.
"break" time and the Holiday Tour
Saturday Night's Alright for Holiday Fun!
Well, I mentioned that it was time for a "break." It depends on who you are and what your definition of a break is. For me-it ended up being 25 minutes. I ran up to the room, ran a HOT tub of water to soak my feet in for a few minutes, and then laid on the bed with my feet up on four pillows. Being the fast pass runner is hard work!
DH went to go work out (he's amazing and I'm so proud of him!) and after I freshened up a bit my 25 minutes were over and I made the walk over to the Embassy to meet the gals. It took me about 15 minutes to go about 1 1/2 blocks because of a LONG light. No problem though, the weather was nice and there were some pretty plantings at one of the hotels I passed along the way. I went into the Embassy lobby and felt "at home." Had a great stay there last year and it was good to be back. Went up to mom's room, chatted for a while, met up with my niece and found Grandma. They all ended up with about an hour's break so they felt ready to head out again. Not quite as long as I'd wanted, but we had gotten so much done in the morning it was hard to return to the hotel.
I think this was the ONE time we did have a long wait for the shuttle...to the point where we were starting to get a bit antsy since we had to be at the tour by 4:15 but were supposed to check in at 4. I had picked up our tickets earlier and they were very clear about that. Finally though, the shuttle picked us up and whisked us on our way. Grandma was trying to work up panic about the time among us but I held my ground and didn't let her get to me. We arrived at the tour booth at 4:01, not bad. We had a long wait for our tour to start anyway, and then there were problems with the headphones so we didn't actually head out until almost 5, we saw the beginnings of the flag retreat ceremony (which I've always wanted to see, anyway!). Our guide, Diane, was wonderful.
There were about 12 of us on the tour which was a good amount. First we went to visit "Mr. Silverstein" on Main Street and saw the Silverstein's menorah in an upper window. I love those kinds of little Disney details! We got a sample of pumpkin fudge too which was surprisingly yummy! We wandered through Fantasyland and heard about how many poinsettias are used during the holidays, saw the reindeer at Big Thunder Ranch, and followed Diane's candle towards the Haunted Mansion. It was VERY crowded at this point. Passholders were blocked out so I'd hoped it wouldn't be too bad but it didn't really seem to help. I shudder to think what it would have been like if they weren't blocked! We walked through the FP entrance to HM and then just right into the stretch room. Sweet little H stood in front of me and I put my hands on her shoulders and held her close like I always like DH to do for me-I don't get scared as long as I know no one can sneak up behind me and thought H might feel the same way. She was okay with it, kind of wary at first but once we were on our Doom Buggy she was enjoying it. We loved smelling the gingerbread and seeing the hidden Mickey in the dining room scene. Grandma had been afraid she wouldn't get on this ride during her part of the trip so I was so glad this was part of the tour.
H's headphone 'thingy' dropped and her batteries fell out as we came out of the ride. Luckily I was able to scramble on the ground and find them and get them back in, in the dark. We then had to fight the crowds which were getting worse to get over to It's a Small World. We stopped every so often to let everyone catch up. H's headphones quit working altogether at one point and Diane felt bad that she had no extra batteries. In a moment of true Disney magic one of the Dads in our group gave her his headphones and went without himself. So sweet!:hug: We finally got over to IASW and got our own boat. H saw up front with another little girl in our group who'd been on it many times and enjoyed pointing out all the Disney characters to her. She loved this. Then we went to ToonTown and were given our souveneir mugs of hot chocolate and our yummy and cute Mickey gingerbread cookies before being shown to our seats, curbside. Got some great pictures as the parade went by and enjoyed chatting with Diane, who was so touched that us gals were all there together. Throughout the tour she'd ask if she still had her "4 generations" with her. Really sweet. She took a picture for us which also turned out well.
Things got a little dicey after the parade. We had reservations at Cafe Orleans and all the guys were meeting us there after enjoying the free Happy Hour at the Embassy. DH started calling me, asking where we were, they had made it okay using the train but we were having trouble. So many people it was hard to walk and I was afraid of losing H or Mom and Grandma. We were advised by a CM to take the train but there were HUNDREDS of people in line at ToonTown. Apparently there was some sort of cheerleader situation going on and that was also contributing to the crowds. We meandered and finally, agonizingly slowly made our way to New Orleans Square via Fantasyland, around Big Thunder, and across to Cafe Orleans. They wouldn't seat the guys until we were all there and we made it just before they said they would have given our reservation away. Service was a bit slow but it was adequate and the Pommes Frites were as good as we remembered. Mom and I split the 3 cheese Monte Cristo, delicious as always! Brother and Dad loved their gumbo, Grandpa and Grandma had the french onion soup and salads, Dad and brother also had some chicken (?) I think. Can't remember what H had...I think it was actually the gumbo. DH had his favorite, the Monte Cristo-which is the reason he'd been on the treadmill that afternoon! It was worth it. He was also pleased that their light lemonade was pomegranate flavored, a nice refreshing twist he thought. He can't do caffeine and won't waste the calories on regular pop so he was happy to have a choice that wasn't just water.
We were excited to order our Mickey beignets after dinner and were then dismayed that they were out. Wish we'd have known, that was a major part of us being there. Had to try to figure out how to get out of the park then, that was tricky. We'd wanted to see the fireworks but it was so crowded and we were very wiped out after all the walking and people we'd been immersed in so decided to call it a night. To help dad's walking-fatigued legs we wanted to take the train back to Main Street, and were able to get as far as Tomorrowland. Once on the train they told us that due to the fireworks they wouldn't be running it farther than that. So, taking it didn't save us any walking in the end, but it gave my dad's legs more rest so that was okay. When we got off in Tomorrowland we had to walk around the hub towards the castle before getting to turn left and go down MS. I was hoping they'd have had it open behind MS to get to the exit but no such luck. We ducked into the bakery again to give dad a quick rest and the fireworks started as we got to Town Square. We stopped to watch for a minute but they were all antsy about leaving so we left. Had it been just DH and I we'd have stayed for sure, but that's part of going with a group, I guess.
Wiped out from the masses of people as much as anything else I think, (but it HAD been a long day, starting with Magic Morning at 7 am) we were grateful that the shuttles were very prompt.
No hot tub for us tonight, I had to plan out Sunday and also pack up because we were moving hotels in the morning. Not sure how things got so strewn about since we'd hardly been at the hotel at all since arriving the day before but that always seems to happen.
Next up: Day 3-a real California (Magical) Adventure!
Well, someone is reading since the views keep going up, so I'll keep going...pictures coming tomorrow, I hope!
Feel free to drop in and say hi!:wave2:
Day 3-Holiday fun for free!
Sunday morning dawned not quite as early as the previous ones. While I know many dis-ers advocate for hitting DL at opening and hopping over to DCA when they open, with trying to minimize the walking for my group, on top of two early mornings in a row I decided we'd skip this option-something DH and I will do for sure on our next trip with just the two of us, though. We got up, hit Starbucks and went back to the room to pack up and check out of the Marriott, then rolled our suitcases the short distance over to the Embassy.
Our room was not ready (not surprising at 8 am on a Sunday morning) and we were offered the option of leaving our luggage with Bell Services, but declined since my family had 3 rooms in the hotel and it would be easier to access our luggage when we came back for our break that way. We then asked if we could partake in the Embassy's hot breakfast since we were now paying guests. We were told breakfast was in effect for the morning AFTER your first night, meaning we couldn't have breakfast until the next morning. But we could pay $10 a person to go eat. Um, no. My family was purchasing 13 nights of stays because of my recommendation and we couldn't eat breakfast on the day we were checking in? It had always been our experience that when you check in to a hotel you are considered a guest and given all privileges-pool, workout room, etc... even if your room isn't ready yet. We politely inquired if the gal could check on that and the manager in the back gave us the OK. :thumbsup2 We enjoyed some eggs, fruit, and french toast, dropped our luggage, and met up with the fam at the shuttle stop. The ART stop at the Embassy has benches to sit on which is nice, the Marriott Anaheim Suites does not.
The only problem is there was quite a long line waiting, and the bus stopped halfway down, so the people who were waiting first were not sure they'd get on the bus. Luckily, it was a polite crowd of folks and everyone let those who were there first 'snake' their way onto the bus and we just followed them on, nice and orderly. That was nice to see!
We arrived at the DCA gates right about 9:15 and again, were the second family in line at our gate. They opened the gates right at 9:30 and we made our way inside-my mom again tried to convince my dad to let her rent a wheelchair and he refused-said if she did, he'd turn right around go to the hotel. Sigh. I had a lot I wanted to get done and was already figuring some things were going to have to go-as much as I wanted to see "Aladdin" I just didn't see it happening.
Through the gates, ready to head right for Soarin' ahead of the crowds behind us and....
Dad has to go to the bathroom. Double sigh. We were standing right next to a bathroom outside the gates for 15 minutes! Okay, trying not to get irritated but thinking, "We're burning daylight here, people" Dad took his own sweet time while prime touring minutes ticked by.
Taking pictures while waiting...
Finally we got to Soarin' and I picked up FP to ride it again later and we got in the queue. We were on within about 10 minutes which wasn't bad. Everyone loved this ride which I knew they would, so I was glad we had those fastpasses to come back and enjoy it again later. Afterwards my brother said, "Oh, that's a great effect how they make you think you're so high up--you're really only about 5 feet off the ground." We had been in front row center (yay!) and he apparently didn't look down and couldn't see the feet above him...I had him look down on our next ride and I think he was a bit frightened but would never let me know that! :rotfl2:
We trekked over to Toy Story next and the line was over 45 minutes already-I blamed it on 1) our slow pace 2) stopping to ride Soarin' and not just get FP and 3)that darn bathroom stop. Oh well. It was well worth the wait.
Mandatory 3-D glasses picture to pass the time in line:
My mom stopped in the gift shop and bought H the Wii game for her Christmas present since she was getting a wii for Christmas from her dad. H and I bought matching Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head pins and then commented that really, as we were having dinner with Ariel that evening we should try to find Ariel pins so as not to offend her. hee hee More time for that later, we had places to go and things to do! Passing Santa (not in his CA costume which I found disappointing) dad asked if H wanted to go see him, I know I got a frustrated look on my face-that was not in the PLAN and we were burning minutes!
Cool shot of the tree:
I then ran to GRR to get FP but was disappointed that I couldn't get one-I had thought it was disconnected but apparently not. I met the fam at A Bug's Land after I got a bit lost in the construction walls and ended up doing a circuit around the park. They had stopped for Mickey bars so it was a bit of a wait. We saw "It's Tough to be a Bug" (which I do NOT like) and H couldn't figure out why I was sitting on the very edge of the seat-she figured it out at the end of the show! They all liked it though, and it was good that we went-my parents had never seen it since I always refuse and they never make a Disney trip without me. We had been able to walk right in as a show was about to start which was also a good thing.
After this, we went over to Monster's Inc. Dad and Grandpa sat outside and rested for a while, this was a walk-on which was great. Coming out, the group ahead of us was approached by a CM and asked if they wanted to attend a 'special event' they were having that day. Our feelings were a bit hurt-some members of our party were a bit tired at this point and looking a bit grumpy perhaps, others of us were feeling the stress of trying to fit everything in that was on our PLAN, so we figured we didn't look like we were a 'magical' enough group to be invited! Then we walked directly into Muppets and everyone was very impressed when I told H to 'see if the key is really under the mat.' Love those little Disney touches!
Coming out of this attraction, WE were approached by a different CM who asked what we were doing next. I told her we were going to go have lunch and she asked if we had time to do something special. We were invited to a "Holiday Family Gathering"-the same event that other family had been invited to right in front of us! We went into the big warehouse-type building next to Monster's Inc and inside, there were characters-Mickey and Minnie, Pluto, Donald posing for pics and playing around, huge snowflakes projected on the ceiling and floor (which Pluto pretended to jump around and try to catch, very cute, with kids chasing him around), free cider and cookies, some crafts, a place to write letters to members of the military, and a lounge-y area to relax in front of a fireplace! Wow! The backdrop for the Minnie/Mickie picture was a castle. My mom asked and apparently there had been some sort of contest to get tickets for this but not enough people showed up, so they were inviting regular folks in. This definitely boosted our spirits and moods right when we needed it most. We felt we had the magic back in our systems. While there, I used (shameless Dis plug here) the E-ticket app on my iPhone to read the menu for Pacific Wharf to everyone and took their orders. Then, DH and I headed over there while H got her pics and autographs and everyone else relaxed a bit.
DH staked out a table while I waited in the long line-it was after 12 at this point and I try to always do CS by 11:30 to avoid the wait, but our delay was worth it. When the rest of the group showed up DH came in to help me carry the food which was lucky. Brother also came in-twice-to change Dad's order. We ended up with the broccoli cheese soup, oriental chicken salad, crab louie, and clam chowder and everyone RAVED about their food-and this is a hard to please kind of group. I had the louie which is what I always get here-just love it, and the bread is delicious. When I was here with a friend in 2002 they didn't have butter available, was glad that now they do! I also bought one of the adorable "Mickey head" loaves which I have frozen, saving for a special occasion.
We sat at our table for a bit, enjoying the sun and nice weather before grabbing our ponchoes and going over to GRR. We ponchoed up and got in the FP line-(I had managed to go grab us one at some point during the morning), and were on within 5 minutes. For some reason Grandma decided to be a bit difficult and refused to move all the way over once she got in the raft-everyone had to crawl over her and then she switched seats at the very end anyway. Not sure why-she still ended up next to an opening and besides, she was wearing a poncho. Can't try to explain her, but I love her!
H was cute on this one-she had an adult size poncho on which I referred to as her "pup tent" since she basically completely encased herself in it and then bent over, her face on her dad's chest so she looked just like a little yellow tent or trash bag in the raft with us. Even though she didn't see much of the ride, I think she really enjoyed it! She wanted to do it again, which we would, the next day.
Grandma and Grandpa headed back to the hotel then, while the rest of us stopped for ice cream sundaes at Brr-Bank. H said she didn't want anything, but my brother got her a frozen fruit bar from a vendor which she wasn't too interested in. That changed the moment she saw the whip cream on my mocha sundae-the race was on to see which of us would get more of the sundae. It perked her right up though, and we then went back to the hotel. Mom told DH, brother, H, and myself to go on ahead and she and Dad would go at their own pace and see us later. So, the four us got to the shuttle and it pulled up immediately-and then DH and I realized our luggage was in mom and dad's room and we didn't have keys-oh well, we'd wait it out in my brother's room. A few minutes later we saw my mom at the entrance to the shuttle area and were able to get the bus driver to wait-Dad did his best to fire up the afterburners but I know he was hurting at that point. *
Together again, H, brother and I hit the hot tub and pool, Mom and Dad Grandma and Grandpa relaxed in their rooms, and DH hit the gym, of course. No rest for DH-he continued his 8 mile a day treadmill run/walks on this trip, in addition to all the walking we were already doing. My feet were aching so I can only imagine how he felt. So proud of him. Anyway. We swam/relaxed for a while and noticed the wind kicking up. Hmm...perhaps fireworks would not be in the cards tonight, either?
After a 2 hour break we gussied up and met at the shuttle stop to go have dinner with Ariel and the princesses. We got on the bus and I asked H, are you excited to get Ariel's autograph? She looked at me, I looked at my brother who then said, "oops!" and ran off the bus to go get her book. Before getting off the bus he said, "I'll catch the next one and meet you there!" I wasn't sure he knew where "there" was but I planned to call him once we got off the shuttle.
We arrived early and had time to shop a bit in the store across from Ariel's-love the California vibe in there. We had tried to convince Dad to stay back at the hotel and relax but he powered through and was glad for the chance to sit a bit while we waited. Mom surprised H and I with Ariel pins which was very sweet of her. My brother showed up within 5 minutes of us arriving, autograph book in hand. He had taken a cab which was waiting at the Embassy so that worked out fine. We had H get her picture with Ariel which turned out really cute, of course we bought that one, too. (Welcome to Disney, hand over your Visa...) I loved the 'fanfare' at Ariel's Grotto when the princesses were announced and came out, and we got a lot of attention from them. They took pictures with H by herself and then both of us together, and I got a good one of me and 'my new BFF Cinderella, too!'
We enjoyed the food-we ordered the cioppino which we loved the chicken, and H had the meatball lollipop and pasta. We all liked the appetizer towers-they brought us two and we didn't come close to finishing either one but the selections were good. Drinks were promptly refilled and DH liked that he was able to get his light pomegranate lemonade again, too. Plenty of dessert to go around-again, two platters and plenty was left over.
The concensus was that we liked the ambiance, decor, characters (saw Cinderella, Ariel of course, Snow White, Sleeping beauty, and Belle) and the food was good but it wouldn't be a 'must do' every trip. We were all happy to get the princesses 'out of the way' this way and not have to wait in line for them elsewhere.
After dinner on 'the pier':
After dinner we rode Soarin' with those FP from earlier. They all returned to the hotel, I shopped a bit at World of Disney (a Princess and the Frog book to give as a Christmas gift, a Winnie the Pooh plushie for myself, a pin for mom's Christmas gift-she'd given her Chip and Dale one to H and since they're her favorites I wanted to replace it for her), while DH went somewhere to do some Christmas shopping for me (he did well-I got a set of antenna toppers for the holidays through the year, Mickey pyjamas, and an ornament I had my eye on). We met back at the hotel and it was time for beddy bye for another big day was coming tomorrow.
*My dad had an abdominal bypass last year and that was supposed to restore his ability to feel his legs. However, apparently, scar tissue built up and blocked the blood flow yet again. He says he's okay for a few minutes and then he just absolutely cannot feel his legs at all. He doesn't have to sit down, just to stop and rest until the blood flow is restored. This man is a black belt in judo, plays on a softball team, used to run 4 miles every morning...it's a huge inconvenience for him and change in lifestyle. Luckily, as I type this, he's going in for surgery in about 8 hours to get the scar tissue removed and he should be in good shape for our next Disney trip, whenever that is!
Day 4-Monday, Monday, so good to us...
Day 4 and the family hasn't decided to 'strike back' yet!
(I just read back over Day 3 and realized what I am hungry for, for dinner tonight is the shrimp louie in a bread bowl from Pacific Wharf Cafe...well, that's not about to happen, darn it!) Speaking of which, here's my Mickey bread:
On this morning we got up early and met Grandma and Grandpa for breakfast. They both ended up with a bit of a stomach bug this morrning and weren't feeling their best-they were sure they had picked something up on the trip and I wouldn't be surprised, just thinking about the railings...yuck.:sick: We got them some pepto and sent them on their way to the airport to head home and prepare for Christmas. My goal was for them to have a good time and to take everything they said with a grain of salt. Grandma has this certain...tendency...to see the glass as half empty. I tried to let it just roll off my back as she made comments during the trip. I know they were worn out and ready to go home but I also know they were glad to have come with us, and so, for me, I'll remember being the "four generations" on the Holiday Tour and re-living my first trip to Disneyland with the grandparents who brought me there-there's no way my family could have gone if they hadn't done that for us 20 years ago. Not wanting to miss anything even though they had decided to go home before the rest of us, we would receive multiple phone calls in the next 24 hours from Grandma wanting to check in and share the magic. That, and the fact that Grandpa never did skip any of the fun and stay at the hotel to read, lets me know they did have a good time, and they are glad they came. :hug:
So, we were off to Disneyland again on this Monday morning. We had a plan. We had done most of the big rides already, so felt okay about heading straight to Nemo. Dad decided to sit it out, and DH finds it claustrophobic, so they took their time and got seats at the Tomorrowland Terrace. DH then went to grab FP for Space Mountain. This had been such an odyssey, getting DH onto Space Mountain. I don't LOVE it and consider it a must-do but I do like it. When I met DH he was kind of a ride wimp and found Big Thunder too thrilling for him...there were several times we were all set to go on it and he'd change his mind at the last minute, causing some, ahem, hurt feelings and interesting discussions at the ride entrance. :rolleyes1 He has lost so much weight this past year and feels more confident and adventurous in general, he'd done his homework and watched YouTube videos of Space, asked me tons of questions about it, and even checked with his doctor that it was okay. He was geared up and ready and had eaten a light breakfast purposely. So, the four of us (brother, H, Mom, and I) rode Nemo with only about a 20 minute wait which was fine. I still think it's a bit long and like the Nemo attraction at WDW better (love those clam-mobiles) but it's fun and I'm glad they are using the subs instead of paving over them. Right near the end my brother tickled H on her back and she jumped up. Not knowing her seat would flip up behind her, she went to sit back down and scraped her back, hard, on the corner of it, OUCH! :eek: So, there were some tears and dear brother felt like a real jerk, I must say, but we recovered to tour again.
By this time it was just about time to go see Tinkerbell in Pixie Hollow. I was fearful of the lines for this and taking the touring time out to do it, but this was all about H and Tink is her absolute favorite character. She had, oh, I think about 5 Tink pins various family members had bought her at this point. (The great thing about her, and what makes everyone want to shower her with gifts and love, is that she never, ever asks for anything. Not ONCE! We would say, is there anything here you like and she'd point something out, but I was amazed! I'd come into every shop and turn to DH and say, ooh, there's a Christmas idea for me, or, I must have that...but nope, H never said anything like that once. Which of course resulted in her having pins-a LOT of pins bought for her! My brother did mention to me at one point that with the cost of the pins we'd bought, I could have quite the nice diamond necklace. Hmm..never thought about it that way, and don't think I want to!) The Pixie Hollow wait time was estimated to be about 40 minutes and it definitely took closer to an hour by the time we were done but the theming in there was really cute, and Tinkerbell is fun to watch as she interacts with the guests. The little girl ahead of us asked if she could see inside her house and without missing a beat, Tink piped up in top speed, with a story about how she'd been mixing up pumpkin muffins and her mouse friend got distracted by something and tripped her and before she knew it there was muffin batter all over the place and what a mess it was so no, she couldn't possibly let any guests in today. Very cute. She loved H's Tinkerbell autograph book and all her pins, too. We also met Terrance, who I don't know, but I'm not as in the loop as I think I'd like to be!
While we waited, DH went to get Haunted Mansion FP for all of us, and then we trooped over to Tomorrowland for our ride on Space Mountain. :woohoo: Mom and my brother said never again-they were sooo dizzy coming out of it. In the picture, DH looks like he's going to vomit promptly but he says he liked it. His exact words were 'what a rush! I can feel my adrenaline!' So he'll do it with me again in the future. H and I, no surprise, loved it. I do get a little freaked out on it though-I have extremely long hair-down to my backside-and was wearing it loose...being in the dark and whipping around makes me nervous...just how close ARE those tracks? So in the picture I'm clutching my hair to make sure it doesn't tangle on anything. Silly, yes, but the idea of it catching on something...yikes! :scared1:
H and the gang were ready for a little rest and a snack at that point so they met Dad at a table nearby and then planned to go see Honey I Shrunk the Audience. That had been on my list of 'optional' things to do today, but I wanted Dad to be able to do SOMETHING before lunch, so that seemed like a good idea. H had asked if we could do GRR again and since I knew we wouldn't get to a couple of her other favorites, like Peter Pan and the Matterhorn I wanted to at least give her that. So, I skipped breaktime (I also don't care for HISTA so it was no skin off my nose) and hopped over to DCA for those. All was fine until I got to the last FP which just kept popping out a slip saying the ticket had to be used for park entry before getting a FP. Right. I knew that. We had all entered the park together that morning, so huh? I asked the CM and he said it had been happening a lot that day. He said I'd have to leave the park and come back in, using the ticket. Thankfully it wasn't a child's ticket because I may have had trouble with that, and I was able to run over to the exit by GCH and get it all straightened out. We figured out it was my dad's ticket because he hadn't used his for a Space FP like the rest of us had. Not quite sure how that happened but it turned out okay.
I made my way back to DL then, and decided I had time to run up to Splash Mountain to get FP, since it was another of H's favorites. Thought about taking the train because the crowds were INTENSE, but figured since I was alone it was just as easy for me to weave and dodge through. My feet were getting a bit sore at this point but hey, it was all for those I loved. :lovestruc
We had plans then to meet at the Blue Bayou, where we had reservations for 11:50. With 6 I knew we probably wouldn't get waterside and I was trying to convince myself I was okay with that. :lmao: I got there first and checked in, the CM said we couldn't be seated until we were all there. No problem, I figured they'd be there soon since I'd left them 45 minutes before and all they were going to do was have a quick snack and watch HISTA. Apparently, they must have taken a longer break than I'd anticipated, and just missed a show starting because the minutes kept ticking and the CM kept asking if the rest of my party was on the way. I sent texts to fellow iPhone convert, dear brother, but didn't hear back, and DH wasn't answering his phone. Finally, they showed up, but not mom and Dad. They had decided to take the train to miss the crowds. It was so crowded they were doing the queue for Pirates where it loops around on the main walkways up towards HM, my brother had to pick H up and lift her over the chains as they tried to get through/around to New Orleans square. Finally, I told the CM that I knew what my mom and dad would order, so perhaps we could be seated and they would meet us inside. They were able to do that, and I ordered the jambalaya and gumbo for Dad (he had it last December and loved it), my brother had the same, H had the steak on the children's menu (and most of my brother's gumbo-he had tried to order a cup for her too but we found out they won't sell it by the cup...probably to keep people from coming in and ordering nothing but a cup of gumbo but I still thought it was a little strange), Mom had the crab cakes and salad, DH and I split the Montecristo-he had the salad and I had the gumbo and we went ahead and did the split plate charge so we could each have our own sides-LOVE those Blue Bayou potatoes!!!! Mom and Dad finally showed up as the gumbo/salads were served. When they finally got off the train they got caught up in the chaos around HM/the train station/the Pirates queue and had trouble just getting to the restaurant. We were all glad to sit and rest in the twinkling light of the bayou for a while. The food was delicious, no complaints from us. A great way to celebrate a great, and long anticipated trip. I told H I had wanted to go to DL with her since the day she was born.
"H, show me your pirate face!"
After lunch we decided to use our HM FPs. I looked at them and realized that we had one 'dummy' FP that must have been from when DH got one with my dad's ticket, but he hadn't looked at them and didn't realize it. I was willing to sit out since I'd done the ride already, but we decided to just try it and see what happens-we were truly entitled to a FP at that time, not trying to scam anyone or anything, the DL equipment had malfunctioned, not us. It ended up being fine, the CM was so busy she didn't hardly even look at them. H enjoyed riding this with her dad and being 'in the know' about what was coming. After this, it was time to use those Splash Mountain FP. Today it was not 80 degrees, and it was much more overcast than Saturday had been, so most of us chose to use ponchoes. DH rode in front and took the brunt of the splashes on the mountain this time which was very chivalrous of him, I thought. Then we split up. H had been talking all weekend about the sewers in ToonTown. Her sister, who had gone in May with her dad (not my brother) kept telling her how when you stepped on the sewers you heard someone in them and she was dying to hear them. If that's the little girl's Disney dream I guess we'd better grant it, huh? Mom and Dad planned to ride the train to Main Street and go to DCA, meeting us by GRR. So, the four of us headed to ToonTown. My brother ended up just picking up H and putting her on his shoulders, we were scared of her getting lost in the throngs of people. I'm not sure H realized how much we missed in ToonTown, it was so crowded I don't think she knew there were actual rides there. We walked past and pointed out Donald's boat, Goofy's house, Mickey's and Minnie's (so thankful we had been able to get their autographs the day before at DCA!) abodes, and then, the highlight for her, the sewers! She found the ones that 'talked' and was thrilled. She played around in the post office area and with some of the doors and things for a few minutes and then we started to make our way out, along with thousands upon thousands of our closest friends. For some reason I decided this was the prime moment to get a picture of me and H in front of the castle. Um, yeah. Castle? I think it's there somewhere...behind the people! I realized it was H's last time in DL itself on this trip and would have liked to have stopped to shop, done a few more things, being in the heavy crowds was really wearing us all out. We decided just to hop over to DCA for GRR.
When we got there we were surprised not to see Mom and Dad waiting for us. It had been almost an hour by now since we'd parted at the Blue Bayou. We thought that maybe Dad was too exhausted and had gone back to the hotel, maybe Mom had gone with him? We couldn't reach them on their cells (anyone else ever notice spotty cell service at DLR? It wasn't just that we weren't hearing our phones, because at one point we tested it out, calling each other on purpose and they wouldn't ring at all), and of course, Mom had our ponchoes. We looked around for them, waited a bit, and then decided, well, let's go for it. Yes, we'll be cold, but it's our last ride and we can go back to the hotel and get dry. H and I really wanted to do it so the boys didn't want to be less tough than we were willing to be! We got in the FP line and a few minutes later, just before we were going to go down the stairs to board our raft, saw Mom and Dad arrive at the entrance. They couldn't believe we'd beaten them there. I guess they had to wait quite a while for the train-once they made it into the right line for the train. They'd ended up waiting in what turned out to be the line for HM for quite a while without realizing it. Whoops!
DH, H, and my brother just stayed where they were in the line and let people go past them, while I met mom and dad and gave them their FP and waited with them while we caught up to the rest of the family. Sure, we could have gone ahead and joined everyone else but honestly? I hate it when people do that and it was less than 5 minutes anyway. We were so glad to have our ponchoes (or, in H's case, her pup tent!) and enjoyed this ride just as much as we had the day before. I just wish it was longer, it seems to end too soon! DH and I really felt that way about Kali River in WDW, which is even shorter than GRR.
Exhilarated from our rafting adventure we departed for Home Sweet Embassy Suites and again enjoyed hot tubbing and swimming. The wind had really kicked up by now, there were little waves in the pool and people's flip flops were blowing around the pool deck. Uh-oh, our last chance for fireworks. Somehow though, the idea of going back, with all those other people made me tired just thinking about it. We decided to leave that plan up in the air.
We all relaxed in our rooms for a bit and then met at the Manager's Reception/Happy Hour in the atrium. I haven't mentioned it yet, but there were nice holiday touches in this area-several Christmas trees in the lobby, a GIANT (4 or so feet tall) gingerbread house set up with holiday decorations, and the lion that sits atop the rocky mountain in the middle of the atrium had a Santa hat on. Very festive!:santa:
We took advantage of the free drinks (they have free soda and cherry syrup available so I made H and myself some Shirley Temples) and snacks (a chex mix type of snack and some popcorn) while others took advantage of the adult beverages available, and we split a couple slices of pizza. (You have to purchase the pizza but it's inexpensive and you could make a meal this way if your family is light eaters.) Dh was, of course, working out, but he joined us in a while. We had not made reservations for dinner for this night, planning to play it by ear. We thought that DH and I would go back around 7, stake out a spot on MS to watch the fireworks and 'snow' and they'd meet us around 8:30 for the 9:25 fireworks. As the evening went on though, the wind seemed to be getting worse and I did not relish the thought of sitting on a curb for 2 1/2 hours for diddly squat. Also, no decision seemed to be getting made about dinner. Mom encouraged me and DH to 'go eat' somewhere...but it was our last night and I wanted to stay with the group. I think we were all tired at this point and started to disintegrate a bit at this point.
Dad and my brother took advantage of the manager's generosity with the drinks and were feeling rather peppy shall we say, but the others of us were fading fast. :guilty: We moved to the restaurant area of the atrium then, which was woefully slow and understaffed. The waiter told us there were only two of them working the restaurant and bar because it was the hotel's holiday party that night and they were down to a barebones staff so everyone else could be at the party. We ordered our food-club sandwiches, appetizer platters, cheeseburger, some alfredo pasta and a turkey focaccia sandwich...DH's fries never did arrive, but it was okay because again, there was more than enough food to go around. At one point I turned to H and said, "What do you think? It's kind of windy and I don't know if they will have the fireworks tonight. Maybe we just save that for our next trip?" She looked at me and said, "THANK YOU!" So, she was just as tired as everyone else but would never have said so or given one word of complaint...quite the girl. I KNOW I complained about being tired but she never did. Amazing.
We finished our dinner and it was nearly 9pm by that time anyway, and H and my brother were leaving on a flight in the morning, they wanted to go ahead and get packed up. They didn't know it at the time but they were both coming down with a bit of a stomach bug, too. They'd both be up feeling feverish and then getting the chills and felt queasy but that was the worst of it for them, thankfully.
Exhausted and with PLENTY of purchases to figure out how to re-pack without checking any of the souveneirs in the bag that was not getting carried on it took a while to get organized.
So, it was certainly not the beautiful finale evening at Disney I had planned for us....how would I go about things differently? Hmmm...1)go at a less crowded time for sure! 2)PLAN for an early evening on our last night maybe (at least if it's 3 nights or longer) so as not to feel disappointed when that's all we want to do, anyway.
Coming up-See ya Real Soon...
Day Five-We'll be Home For Christmas
Tuesday, December 22nd dawned overcast and a bit chilly. H and my brother, not feeling too well skipped breakfast so DH and I hugged them goodbye and told H not to be sad-we'd see her in two days for Christmas! And I promised her we'd be back to DLR together again.
Mom and Dad decided to wait and hang out with H and my brother until their shuttle came around 9:30, so DH and I headed off on our own. We love my family, but knew that now we were on our own, we could MOVE!:banana:
MM was of course going on but we were let through the gates early and held at Main Street for rope drop. When it did, people went kind of nuts, there was screaming, pushing, shoving, someone actually stepped OVER the lap of a woman in a wheelchair, I'm not even sure exactly how that's possible! It was scary so DH and I just took a minute and stood back to let the maniacs through. We went right to the Matterhorn only to find it down 'for about 20 minutes, we think.' Didn't want to wait and see and possibly be disappointed so headed to PP. Shoot, the line was already 45 minutes and I just didn't feel like it. So, then we headed over to Big Thunder and rode that with only a 10 minute wait or so. That's more like it! :thumbsup2 We checked on the Matterhorn again but it was still down. Decided to ride Star Tours again, we always love that one and it was a walk on.
There were many things we could have done at that point, I hadn't done BLAB yet, but was okay with skipping it...while I didn't 'have my fill' of Disney, I can say that I was 'full of Disney.' I was just so very content with everything we had seen and done on this amazing trip I was happy to just do whatever DH wanted to-and that doesn't happen very often! :rotfl: We got FP for Indy then, and Dad had given me a hundred dollar bill that morning and asked me to pick out a sweatshirt for mom and a nightshirt for her Christmas gift from him. So I went to do that and DH thought he might get in the line for the Matterhorn and wait for me, but I didn't want to be time constrained. He ended up browsing a bit himself while I shopped-I found a really cute reddish pink zip up hoodie with a subtle Mickey design on it-really really toyed with the idea of getting one for myself, but had spent quite enough money on the trip already, I felt. (It's so hard to be a grown up!) Mom called just as we were finishing up the shopping so she met us on Main Street and mentioned she was cold and considering buying herself a sweatshirt.
This is a problem. Dad wasn't with her-he truly was exhausted and ready to relax so he stayed at the hotel for the morning. Mom was annoyed for a moment about having bought him a 5 day ticket when he wasn't going to be using the 5th day, but I reminded her how little that last day had actually cost and wondered why she would have wanted to push him to come 'have fun' when he didn't want to. But. What to do? Give her her gift before she bought one herself? Make her wait for Christmas? I decided to make an executive decision and gave it to her right then and there. She loved it, and needed it-it was COLD that day which was actually okay...helped us feel like it was time to go home for Christmas.
We had FP for DH and I to go ride Indy then, so we did, and left mom to browse the shops a bit. (She had found out that morning that H still had Disney gift cards she'd never used and that's when we realized how little shopping time there had been when we'd all been together as a group-but H was okay with going home and doing some online shopping...kind of an extension of the trip for her that was going to work out.) Indy was great as always, and we met up with Mom again on MS. We took a few pictures then, at Snow White's Grotto and in front of the Partner's statue.
By that time, the silhouette shop was open, and I was very excited to go in and have a silhouette made of...
My basset hound! I had taken a profile view picture of her last spring to get this done on my trip in April, and then left the picture at home. I had gone to the silhouette artist to see if she could do it from the view on my camera but even she's not that good, I guess. So, I was really happy to get this done today. The artist was so quick and amazingly talented! She was excited to do our basset, Lucy, and even, get this, was able to include the detail of the Mickey Mouse shapes that are on her collar. Wow. Hands down, my favorite souveneir of all time. We took the advice I've seen her and got the frame, so for a frame and 2 silhouettes it was right about $20 which was a great bargain. I plan to go back when we're there in July and get them done via photograph for H (my brother meant to go back and do this but forgot to tell me so I never worked it in), and that will be my Christmas gift for my brother next year. Also, my two best friends will have babies this year so those will be cute gifts for them for Christmas next year, I think. This was a great experience.
At this point we were ready for a bite to eat, and we all adore the DLR corndogs so took advantage of being nearby to partake in those. They had a CM taking orders while you stood in line and then every few people she'd go deliver the orders, so when you got to the window they already had your name and knew what your order was, so it was ready when we got there. Very efficient. The crowds weren't as bad as the day before and I could have stayed on MS all day and happily soaked in the ambiance, but I also felt full up of Disney joy. There weren't any more attractions I needed to ride, had no more disposable income to shop with and just felt fulfilled and happy. So, we took a corndog back with us to the hotel for Dad, and DH and I met him at his hotel room to help him move all of his and my mom's luggage down to the lobby where we'd wait 2 hours for our shuttle. It was about 1:00 at that point, so that wasn't a terrible wait. Mom stayed and shopped at Downtown Disney for a while and DH, what else, worked out. I walked over to the Hyatt and got Starbucks for Dad and myself, and then I relaxed in the hot tub for a while (had it all to myself!) and just smiled with my Disney joy.
Mom came back with beignets from the to go window at Ralph Brennan's-they weren't Mickey shaped but they were good! We had planned to have lunch there that day but had cancelled our PS when Dad didn't join us-he likes sit down meals more than the rest of us do and we just didn't feel the need without him there.
Interestingly, the crowds seemed a lot more manageable on Tuesday. Or maybe it was just that we were sticking mainly to the front of the park and we'd have a different story if we'd been in the NOS area. Also, we found out they DID have the fireworks the night before despite the wind (darn it!) so I had to just keep reminding myself we were tired and I'd experienced the joy of a Disney snow the year before and would again, someday.
The Embassy arranged a town car for us to take to Long Beach and our driver was right on time, professional, and courteous. We had an uneventful flight back home to SeaTac and this time, a successful experience getting a cab back home.
We were home for Christmas, and home to dream of...going back!
Great report! Thanks for sharing.
Jill in CO
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