Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Sept '11 Throwback TR (Complete)
Hello DISers, Liners, Box People, and whoever else I can coerce into reading! Welcome to my second ever trip report. This report will actually be a little different in that it is a PREQUEL to the other report I currently have going. You can find that report here:
Duffy is Going to be ECSTATIC! a.k.a. Thank God She Was Jewish
That report looks back at our May 2012 trip to Walt Disney World that we won from WDW Radio and their partners at MouseFan Travel. We stayed at a Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room, were Grand Marshals of a parade, had all kinds of magical experiences, and ate lots of great food.
I’m currently writing about our third to last day of that trip and realized that I’m really enjoying sharing all of the memories. I don’t want the fun to be almost over, and I figured out a way that it doesn’t have to be. You see, September 17-22, 2011, we took a trip to Disneyland—both of our first trips to that park in over fifteen years. Since I have an impeccable Disney memory (despite usually having no idea what I had for lunch today), and since I have well over a thousand pictures from that trip, I thought now would be the perfect time to start a new report. For now, I’ll be calling it:
Can We Move Here and Be Pancho’s Handlers? A Throwback Trip Report
Now, before I get too ahead of myself, perhaps some introductions are in order. If you really want a full length intro, I’d suggest reading the opening post of the aforementioned other trip report. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Welcome back. Okay, just in case you didn’t catch all of that, didn’t want to click the link, or just have a bad short term memory, here’s an abridged version.
I’m Taylor. I’ll be your host as we explore the park that Walt built and everything else in the Disneyland Resort. My Disney history begins at Walt Disney World. I’ve been on seven trips there over the years and have always considered it to be my favorite place on earth. My Disneyland history before this trip was relatively brief. When I was five, my family had done a typical “southern California vacation” that included visits to the beach, Knotts Berry Farm and, of course, Disneyland. Since it was the early nineties, there was only one park at Disneyland at the time. It was really the first Disney parks experience I can remember because my first trip to WDW had been when I was three and I truly can’t remember any of that. Certain moments stick out in my mind more clearly. For example, the Disney movie being heavily promoted at the time was Aladdin so there was an entire parade devoted to the film. I also remember that being the only trip when I was big on getting character autographs, and that was made easier by the fact that it was a time in Disney history when characters roamed more freely and spontaneously. I must have loved our day at Disneyland, because I was so sad to leave that Mickey called our hotel that evening and invited us to come back again the next day. At least, that’s what my family told me had happened! Our two days in Disneyland almost twenty years ago certainly aren’t among my most vivid Disney memories, but they helped lay the foundation for my love of the parks. Here are some of my Disney stats:
Favorite Disney Movies: The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 101 Dalmatians, Dumbo
Favorite Pixar Movies: Toy Story 3, Up, Finding Nemo
Favorite Disney Songs: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Feed the Birds,” “Out There”
Favorite Disney Characters: Pluto, Winnie-the-Pooh, Dumbo, Nana
Favorite Disney Princess: Belle
This is my wife, Tracy. Her Disney-going history actually starts at Disneyland. She had been once before this trip, when she was in third grade. That family vacation was really the source of some of her first concrete Disney memories. Since then, she has gone to WDW twice before our lives intertwined and we’ve gone together three times (though as of this Disneyland trip, we had only been to WDW together twice. Confused yet?)
Favorite Disney Movies: Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, Hercules
Favorite Pixar Movies: Toy Story 1-3, Up
Favorite Disney Songs: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Go the Distance,” “I See the Light”
Favorite Disney Characters: Pluto, Eeyore, Dumbo, Meeko
Favorite Disney Princess: Belle
Here’s some more of our history as a couple, since I didn’t include too much at the beginning of the last trip report. We started dating in March, 2005. We were high school sweethearts. Here’s a photo from our senior prom.
After graduating high school, Tracy went to college in Colorado while I went to school in New York, so we dated long distance for three and a half years. We clocked literally thousands of hours on Skype and between the two of us flew on 63 flights visiting each other. It was hard, but we made it through. And we still found the time to have lots of good times together despite living separated.
We took a road trip to Seattle.
We explored the sights of New York together.
In August of 2009, we got engaged at the same place where we had our first kiss over four years earlier.
We got married in 2010. I know I’ve already shared that fact, but I just like any excuse to include another wedding picture…
And now between this and my last report, you know us pretty well. How this Disneyland trip came about was a little unexpected, so we’ll start with a pre-trip report. Then once we get to California, we’ll relive some great times at Disneyland. We got several extra touches of Disney magic that I’m excited to share, and, of course there will be a slew of food pictures. What we didn’t realize going in is just how hard we would fall in love with Disneyland. I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that this trip literally changed the course of our lives. How’s that for foreshadowing?
Now I invite you to join me on a trip back in time. We go now to a time when Disney’s California Adventure was still a huge construction site with Cars Land and Buena Vista Street taking shape behind walls; a time when Disney was still hoping to bounce back from disappointing reviews of Cars 2 with the release of John Carter; a time when Regis was still sitting next to Kelly every morning; a time when people could only dream of how successful Facebook would be once it started trading publicly; a time when practically no one had ever heard of Tim Tebow, Gabby Douglas, or Missy Franklin; a time when the idea of Snooki being pregnant was about as realistic as—you get the picture. We’re now entering 2011…
Continued in Next Post
Table of Contents
What Do You Think About Going to Disneyland?
Bumps in the Road
September 17, 2011
Chapter 1: Here We Gooooooooo
Chapter 2: Do You Know the Way to Santa Monica?
Chapter 3: Hooray for Hollywood
Chapter 4: I Recognize That Tree
Chapter 5: Goin' Down the Bayou
Chapter 6: Strangers in Paradise
September 18, 2011
Chapter 7: Quivering from Anticipation, Shivering from Cold
Chapter 8: Disney Differences
Chapter 9: Black Lights Everywhere
Chapter 10: A Nightmarish Painting by Currier and Ives
Chapter 11: Thunder Mountain, Hear Our Cry
Chapter 12: Animals
Chapter 13: Our Very Own Space Helmets
Chapter 14: Inside the House of Mouse
Chapter 15: Pancho
Chapter 16: Itty Bitty Living Space
Chapter 17: Villains and (Speed) Demons
Chapter 18: The Spirit of Adventure
Chapter 19: Fantasies Come True
Chapter 20: Deep-Fried
Chapter 21: Duffy Does Disneyland
September 19, 2011
Chapter 22: A Late "Early" Morning
Chapter 23: Personalized Disney Magic
Chapter 24: Dual Citizenship
Chapter 25: To Be a Toon
Chapter 26: DCA Bound
Chapter 27: A Mouse and His Bear
Chapter 28: A Royal Lunch
Chapter 29: Step Right Up
Chapter 30: A Picnic in the Park
Chapter 31: A Carousel of Color
September 20, 2011
Chapter 32: It's a Magic Morning
Chapter 33: Astro Everything
Chapter 34: Plaza Inn Sans Minnie
Chapter 35: Where's My Pancho?
Chapter 36: Under the Sea
Chapter 37: All Aboard!
Chapter 38: Closing Down the Park
Chapter 39: A Rose by Any Other Name
September 21, 2011
Chapter 40: The Old DCA Morning Rush
Chapter 41: Reunited
Chapter 42: Costume Party
Chapter 43: We Can Draw!
Chapter 44: Hopping Mad
Chapter 45: Mmm, Soup
Chapter 46: The Last Hop
Chapter 47: Now Its Time to Say Goodbye...
Chapter 48: Drown Your Sorrows
September 22, 2011
Chapter 49: Goodbye for Now
The End is Only the Beginning
Ooooh I do love good trip report........no matter what the year!!!!
Looking forward to morepopcorn::
Looking forward to hear more! :)
What Do You Think About Going to Disneyland?
Our inspiration for planning the trip that would eventually morph into our trip to Disneyland came at the end of the summer of 2011. Tracy and I were both employed in jobs that we kinda sorta hated. Luckily as it turned out, she was able to quit that job only a month after we got back from Disney. I stuck mine out for almost another year, but am finished with that now! The point of all that, however, was that we were both gainfully employed for the first time in our lives. After graduating from college, we had done the whole floundering thing for quite a while, but were finally feeling like we were on our feet and could fund the first Disney vacation we would be paying for by ourselves.
We fully intended this trip to be a return to Walt Disney World. We hadn’t been since our honeymoon over a year before, and were feeling Disney withdrawals. Once free dining was announced for these dates, we decided to start planning possible dates when we would be interested in going. Long before we even knew whether we would be financially able to go at this time or whether it would work out with vacation days, we started making ADRs for the restaurants in WDW that we knew we wanted to go to. I’d heard several times that getting ADRs during free dining periods was next to impossible the closer you got to your dates, so I figured that I could make them early and cancel if necessary. Finally, as we settled on a set of dates and started thinking that we actually wanted to make this trip happen, we got in touch with an agent at MouseFan Travel who gave us the rates we were looking for along with all the options we wanted. Our dates seemed perfect to us because in addition to being free dining, we would also be able to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which we were dying to attend.
Once we got our quote in late July or early August, we made the mistake of letting a little too much time pass. As August began unfolding and we realized that we really wanted to make this trip happen, we started scrambling trying to move from the quote stage to actually booking the trip. We picked out our flights, settled on exact dates, and emailed our travel agent to tell her we wanted to go ahead with the quote she had sent us. She took our credit card information, told us everything was still open, and that she would get back to us in a couple of hours once everything was processed. We considered that as good as done, and we even immediately ordered a copy of the current Birnbaum guide to WDW from Amazon because we always like to peruse that as part of our build up to a trip.
Having squared everything away, we went for a walk. I never leave my phone at home, but after all those calls about the trip, it was dying, so I left it to charge. When we got back I had several missed calls and a voicemail. As we dreaded, it was from our travel agent. She didn’t know what had happened but between that morning and that evening, all of the free dining rooms at all of the value resorts had suddenly become unavailable. She said it was the first time she’d ever seen that happen and truly couldn’t figure out any explanation. She even called the other agents she worked with and no one could figure out why that exact week had suddenly become unavailable for us. Even the moderate resorts, which we couldn’t afford anyway, were suddenly all booked up for free dining. There was availability for both the week before and the one after, but Tracy had already been approved for vacation from work for those exact dates and they were sticklers about not allowing it to be changed.
At first we started panicking a little… We came up with two contingency plans revolving around keeping our WDW vacation. In the first, Tracy would ask if there was any way to change her dates. In the second, we would keep constantly checking the Disney site to see if anything opened up. Neither idea seemed like it would have guaranteed success. Suddenly, out of the blue, Tracy said, “What about if we went to Disneyland?” I paused for a few minutes to consider the matter. When we were booking our Disneymoon, we were working on a very tight budget and briefly considered Disneyland. We knew that if we went to WDW on that trip we would have to stay at a non-Disney hotel, which we were wary about, so we did some research into Disneyland. While it was a viable option, we decided in the end that Disney World had always been such a special place to each of us and to us as a couple, so we made it work to go there.
Now, however, here we were with Disneyland seeming like the soundest of options. The only problem was that we knew practically nothing about Disneyland. We started doing our research. On the official Disneyland site, they were offering a special where you could save up to 40% off one of the Disney hotels. We knew the only one of those that we could likely afford was Paradise Pier, so we started pricing out options. After we had settled on a decent quote, Tracy had the idea to check out Costco Travel and see how their rates compared. While the actual price was quite similar, the Costco Travel package had several added perks—among them were two character meals included as well as vouchers for priority seating at several attractions, AND admission to Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness one morning. The Costco package seemed to be the way to go, but we wanted to wait one more day to pull the trigger. After all, there was still a small chance that WDW would open up. Plus, we needed a little time to learn all we could about vacationing to Disneyland!
Continued in Next Post
Bumps in the Road
The next day, we went ahead and booked the trip to Disneyland through the Costco Travel website. We found good times for flights and were able to use miles to pay for the flights in one direction. Overall, we were satisfied with the cost of the trip as it was less expensive overall than the WDW trip would have been anyway! Our dates were to be September 17-22, though of those dates we would only have park tickets for four days. We would be staying in a Standard View room at Paradise Pier.
Ironically, right after booking the trip to CA, we got a call from our travel agent letting us know that some free dining rooms had opened up again at Port Orleans French Quarter. While we were a little disappointed, we decided that things had played out the way they had for a reason. Plus, we were already starting to get excited for Disneyland and all the new experiences this trip would bring.
I should start off by noting that we were never against the idea of going to Disneyland because we thought it in any way inferior to Walt Disney World. We were just creatures of habit, and having always been to WDW, we didn’t really take all that much time out to consider the alternative. As an avid listener of Lou Mongello’s WDW Radio Show, I had heard the episode from many years ago when Lou recapped his first adult trip to Disneyland, aptly titled “Why Every WDW Fan Needs to Visit Disneyland.” From the moment I listened to that show years before, I knew I wanted to take a trip out to Disneyland someday—it just came down to finding the right occasion. As we started planning our trip, re-listening to that episode was one of my first forays into learning all about the differences between the two resorts. I also turned Tracy onto that episode, and that became her first real introduction to Disney podcasts. In addition, we bought the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland as well as Birnbaum’s official guide, and we bought a subscription to the Disneyland half of the Touring Plans website.
Our planning thoroughly underway, we didn’t expect that our luck would take a turn for the worse about a month before our scheduled trip. Anyone who has read my other trip report will be familiar with the health issues that have been plaguing me for the last year. It all started in mid-August 2011 when I ended up in the emergency room twice in the matter of two weeks. The ultimate issue was that I was getting these extreme bouts of dizziness where I would almost pass out in a variety of places like on the subway or walking to work. At the time, every doctor I went to was basically clueless about what was going on with me. As doctors are prone to do, when they have no idea what is wrong, they blame stress and try to tell you there is nothing wrong with you physically. What I have found out since this time is that I have one of a set of disorders that falls in the category of dysautonomia. Put simply, my nervous system gets out of whack when triggered by various events and once out of equilibrium it malfunctions for a while. At the time of this trip, however, we were at the point in time when basically all anyone could tell me was that they had no idea what was happening. At first, we just hoped it would only last a week or so and then go away. Then we hoped maybe it would be longer term but still go away before our trip. Then we finally realized it was probably something we were going to have to do our best to deal with.
With all the ER and doctor visits having happened right after we booked our trip, combined with the fact that I had to miss a lot of work whenever I was feeling bad, we found ourselves in a stickier financial situation than we would have ever foreseen going into our vacation. We thought briefly about canceling, but didn’t want to be out our airfare and stuck at home feeling sick. I figured if I had to be sick, I’d rather it be somewhere happy…
So we got our trip planned as well as we could, realizing that there may be a few bumps along the way. We made our “Priority Seating” arrangements (why Disney can’t agree to call reservations ADRs on both coasts is beyond me), mapped out a basic idea of which park we wanted to spend the majority of our time in each day, and got basic touring plans ingrained into our minds. We also made plans with Tracy’s brother Steve who lives in L.A. and would not only be picking us up from the airport and driving us to Disneyland, but with whom we would be spending our entire arrival day.
Thus, with things at least shakily in place, we finished packing and went to bed on the night of September 16th. We were determined to have an awesome vacation no matter what life decided to throw at us, and it would start EARLY on our first morning.
Continued in Next Post
September 17, 2011
Here We Gooooooooo
I had to set my alarm for the earliest it had ever been set as we prepared to leave. At around 4:00 we were rudely awakened by it and stumbled out of bed. We got ready, tried to decide what type of breakfast we wanted at that ungodly hour, and decided on a yogurt each and a few sips of coffee. Neither of us wanted to be over-caffeinated in case we wanted to sleep on the plane, but we knew we wanted to make it to the airport without dozing off. Everything basically went according to plan as we got ready, packed our last minute items, and headed out the door.
It was always eerily quiet in our building on the few occasions when we were out and about early in the morning.
Choosing the cheap way of getting from our Upper West Side apartment to JFK was relatively easy, but it was a LONG process and was never exactly fun. First, we had to walk to the subway in the still-complete darkness. In all the time I lived in New York, I rarely ever felt vulnerable walking the streets, but the exception to that rule was whenever I had to take the subway to catch an early flight. No matter how safe our neighborhood was, I never liked walking in the early morning darkness carrying a suitcase that obviously has at least a few valuable items in it when there’s practically no one on the streets. Luckily, as always, it went off without incident—no muggings—and we made it to our local subway station.
The train came relatively quickly considering the hour, and we took the C train from our 96th Street stop to the 7th Ave stop where we had to transfer to the E train. While waiting for the E, it was clear that we were among only a few people going OUT at this hour. Most of the other people waiting for the train were on their way home from the previous night’s partying. This at least gave us several amusing drunk people to laugh at while we waited. The E never comes quickly, so we were waiting for quite a while. Once on the E, we lucked out in that it was running express to Jamaica, so while we were stuck on the train for a while, at least it didn’t have that many stops to make. I started feeling pretty bad on the train—good omen, right?—and had to close my eyes and suffer through, but eventually we arrived at Jamaica Station. We were almost to the airport! We waited another few minutes for the AirTrain, then finished the journey to our terminal. The whole experience took about an hour and a half (pretty standard for a trip to JFK).
Once at JFK, we bought some donuts at Dunkin’ Donuts, but put them away in our bags to enjoy after security. This was our first experience with the new-fangled body scanners, and since I forgot to take off my belt, I got the pleasure of a groping inspection before being cleared… Tracy, unfortunately, got pulled aside when they thought they saw liquids in her suitcase. It turned out that our tube of toothpaste was considered enough of a “gel” to get confiscated, so we gave it up and reconciled ourselves with the fact that we’d have to stop for a replacement somewhere in the L.A. area.
After all that excitement, we made our way to our gate.
I was feeling a bit better and we were feeling really excited despite the long flight ahead of us.
We ate our donuts, which we were certainly ready for by this time.
I think I got a Boston Cream donut while Tracy got Strawberry icing with sprinkles. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture. I can guarantee they were tasty though.
Our flight was on time, and before too long it was almost time to board!
Our plane pulled up to the gate, and we stood up as we waited for our row number to be called.
I was definitely more than a little scared how the flight would go. I mostly just didn’t want to have dizziness overtake me for the whole flight while I was trapped in that small space. Luckily, however, I was feeling pretty good after my donut, and was hoping for the best!
All my fears ended up being for naught as once we took off, I felt better than I had on the ground. We were able to enjoy the view.
Let it be said that the flight from New York to California is LONG!!! Apart from the one international flight I’ve ever taken (Denver to London en route to Paris), this is the longest I’ve ever spent on a plane. The flight ended up being divided into about three parts for us. Luckily, both Tracy and I were able to sleep for about the first hour and a half after takeoff. After waking up, we were thinking about starting a movie on our iPad, but first decided to flip through the TV channels to see if there was anything worth watching.
We hit the jackpot when we stumbled across the movie Private Valentine: Blonde and Dangerous starting on TBS. If you’ve read my other trip report, you know that Tracy and I were fans of the reality show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica when it was on many years ago. Mostly we just liked laughing at Jessica Simpson. Well, if you’ve never seen Private Valentine, let it be said that it is an absolutely terrible movie. But it’s just terrible enough to have that same laughable quality which makes it very watchable. Starring such film icons as Steve Guttenberg, Olesya Rulin, Cheri Oteri, and, of course, Jessica Simpson, it’s a light movie with plenty of eye-rolling laughs, and it was the perfect film to take up the next two hours of our flight. Once the credits rolled at the end of the movie, we were already over Colorado.
We waved down as we flew over our home. Now, unfortunately, was when the longest-feeling portion of the flight began. We were so close, and yet still about an hour and a half away…
Trying to find some distractions on TV, we waited it out as the last thousand miles or so of the flight finally passed by. Suddenly, we were beginning our initial descent.
After a relatively quick and painless landing, we touched down at LAX!
Deplaning as quickly as possible, we were thrilled to stretch our legs after sitting for so long. Now all we had to do was find our way out of the airport and we would be on our way!
Continued in Next Post
Do You Know the Way to Santa Monica?
Getting out of LAX and meeting up with Tracy’s brother Steve didn’t exactly prove to be the easiest airport meet-up.
After deplaning, we noticed we were the only JetBlue flight amongst a slew of Alaskan Air gates, so at least we knew to tell Steve to meet us in the Alaskan Air area. Unfortunately, LAX was under pretty heavy construction, so for us to get to street level to meet up with him involved going up and down several flights of stairs just to avoid the areas of the airport that were torn up for remodeling. At one point we ended up on a bridge going somewhere, but decided not to cross it.
Ironically, on Steve’s end, it must have been pretty easy to find us. Once we told him we were in the Alaskan Air terminal and waiting outside the Virgin Airlines signs, he seemed to know exactly where to go. Within minutes of finally finding our way outside, he pulled up in his car. We piled in and got going quickly because airport security at LAX does NOT want you to idle.
Steve had been waiting in a parking lot just outside the airport and had actually seen us land. Apparently there are only one or two JetBlue flights into LAX per day, so when he saw a JetBlue plane coming in, he knew it was us!
We quickly caught up on all of our lives and told him about our flying adventures, but before we knew it, we were at the restaurant we were going to for lunch. What restaurant, you may ask. Well of course, we had to patronize one of California’s most famous establishments—In-N-Out Burger.
I hadn’t been to an In-N-Out since I was in seventh grade and went to Las Vegas for a class trip. Tracy had been more recently, but it had still been quite a while. I’m a BIG burger fan. Burgers have always been among my favorite foods, and we made sure to seek out the burger joints with the best reputations while living in NYC. Still, In-N-Out has its reputation for a reason, and they cook up a mean burger. Steve and I each ordered Double-Doubles and Tracy had a cheeseburger. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to snap any pictures of the meaty goodness before we dug in. It was as delicious as I was hoping it would be. The fries were really good too! Once we move to CA, I’m excited to try out some of the items on the “secret menu,” but for now, good old-fashioned burgers were just what our stomachs were ordering. It wasn’t even quite noon yet, but since that was 3:00 our time and we had been up for almost twelve hours already, we were HUNGRY.
After quickly putting away our lunches, we tried to come up with a plan for the rest of this day. As I said, we didn’t have park tickets for this first day, so we weren’t in too big of a hurry to get to Anaheim. We decided to explore some of the sights of L.A. instead.
Our first stop was just around the corner from In-N-Out.
We had to go to CVS to replace our confiscated toothpaste.
Here was our first palm tree sighting (of many) in the CVS parking lot.
There was also a hawk up above making lazy circles in the sky.
After we had made our purchase and were on our way, I let my complete ignorance about the L.A. area begin to show.
As I noted, my last (and only) trip to Disneyland was when I was five years old. That was also my only trip to California except for senior year of high school when I flew out for one night for an a cappella singing competition. On that occasion, we arrived late one night, went to USC where the competition was being held the next morning, and flew out that evening. Needless to say, I didn’t get much of a flavor of SoCal. Therefore, I simply didn’t really understand the layout of L.A., and when Tracy suggested that one of our stops on our day of exploration be Santa Monica, I pictured it being some city outside of L.A., at least an hour away.
Instead, it was only a couple miles! On the way there we got our first taste of L.A. traffic. The traffic on the surface streets wasn’t really what I was picturing when I thought of a trafficky area. It’s not like you’re ever really stopped bumper to bumper. Instead, you just move pretty slowly because only a certain number of people make each traffic light. And there are a lot of traffic lights.
When we arrived in Santa Monica, we parked near the Third Street Promenade but started walking toward the boardwalk. We quickly got our first view of the ocean.
It was hard to believe we had caught a sight of the Atlantic early that morning and now here we were at the Pacific. The speed of air travel is really amazing when you think about it!
Even before you make the long descent toward the boardwalk, the park up above is really pretty.
Eventually, we found the best point of descent and made our way down the many stairs toward the Santa Monica Pier.
As we arrived on the pier, we saw this mural promoting the Santa Monica Aquarium. We liked this seal.
Heading out onto the pier, it was fun to see just how campy and old-timey it is.
We could see lots of great views of both the ocean and the mountains. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen those two geological features so close before!
We stopped to admire some of the colorful characters lining the pier as well as all the dogs! It was a fun place to just hang out for a few minutes.
We decided to take a couple family pictures, if only as proof for our families that we had met up. First we tried a threesome self-take.
Then we nixed that idea and just asked someone to take our picture for us.
Before turning back, we walked right up to the end of the pier and looked out. There were some people parasailing pretty far out in the background.
I stopped at one of the little gift shops along the pier to see if they had a Santa Monica thimble. Back in high school, I started a thimble collection as a set of souvenirs that were relatively small and could be gotten at all the places I visit. Luckily the little shop had one! Unfortunately, all the thimbles are currently in the storage unit with the rest of our worldly possessions, so I can’t post a picture…
We turned back and started walking along the other side of the pier. We saw the famous Ferris wheel doing its thing.
One of these hotels in the distance is the one that Tracy’s family stayed at when they did a vacation to Santa Monica when she was in high school.
At the time, I barely could picture where she was vacationing, but now I was finally able to put a visual to the name Santa Monica!
Continued in Next Post
I love your other trip report, so its a no-brainer that I will follow along with this one!!
Out of curiosity, when you were up here in Seattle, did you try out any of our good burgers? (Dick's or Red Mill)
We didn't try either of those places in Seattle. My aunt actually used to own a restaurant in Seattle (Bing's in Madison Park) so we ate most of our meals there since we got them for free haha...
We loved Seattle though, and obviously since we have family there we'd love to go back sometime soon. Now I know to put those restaurants on our list for next time!
Hooray for Hollywood
We descended off the pier toward the boardwalk along the beach.
This water looks so inviting. We were sad when Steve informed us that the Santa Monica beach is rated as one of the worst beaches in the whole area when it comes to cleanliness. Apparently, lots of sewage is released into the ocean along this beach, so it’s really terrible to swim in.
After making our way to the ocean but not going in lest we step in a literal “river of poo,” we walked along the beach under the pier.
Coming out the other side, we came across lots of seagulls.
We were pretty much done with the beach area at this point, so we started the trek back up to where we had started.
Going UP all those stairs was harder than it had been coming down... Luckily, we made it, and we explored the rest of the park up on the street level.
We made our way to the Third Street Promenade both because I wanted to see what it was all about AND because we hoped to see some skateboarding bulldogs. Unfortunately, as it turned out, this wasn’t one of their scheduled days… We did see SEVERAL dinosaur sculptures, however.
There was also this extra-large game of Jenga going on. I think they may have been shooting for a commercial, or else it was just some sort of PR stunt. It was fun to watch for a few minutes at least.
Of the several street performers we walked by along the promenade, the only ones we took a brief interest in were several street dancers who were gathering up children as the grand finale of their act. Since they were lining up all the kids in a line, we were convinced that the last stunt of their show was going to be jumping over this line of kids. Needless to say, that sounded like something we’d like to see because it seemed like a recipe for disaster! To our disappointment, however, it turned out they just had the kids dance instead… Much less death-defying.
When we made it to the end of the promenade, it abutted a big mall. This dolphin statue was part of it and was very pleasant.
This mall was ridiculous. Every single store was one of the really expensive designer brands, from Louis Vuitton to Burberry. We were flummoxed who exactly their customer base was. I’m sure most of the tourists who frequent Santa Monica were thoroughly middle class like us and couldn’t afford to actually buy anything at these stores. And while Santa Monica is a very rich area, we couldn’t imagine the locals wanting to shop at this sort of mall. Not surprisingly, we saw a lot of people window shopping, but no one actually buying.
Finishing up our tour of Santa Monica, we made our way back to the car. We started driving again—this time toward Hollywood! We passed through Beverly Hills on the way and saw some of its famous landmarks. The Beverly Hilton was actually playing host to the Emmy’s the next night.
The Chateau Marmont amused us a little. For being such a ritzy hotbed, it wasn’t very striking from the street.
Being still ignorant about L.A., I didn’t have the slightest clue where we were going. Before too long, however, we pulled into a parking garage. After taking an elevator and several winding escalators, we ended up in an outdoor mall that I would later learn was Hollywood and Highland. We walked down the strip a short way and were greeted with a familiar sight that I don’t think I had ever seen in real life.
The Hollywood sign was there in all its glory, representing so much for the entertainment business! We decided to grab a Starbucks because Tracy and I were definitely starting to feel the effects of our early morning. We thought this sign was hilarious and were sure the heads of Starbucks marketing probably wouldn’t appreciate the wording of the advertisement for the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
PSL’s are our favorite Starbucks treat, and we got a Grande to split. Our caffeine in hand, we were able to go back out and enjoy the Hollywood sign a little more thoroughly.
Hollywood and Highland was BUSTLING. Of all the places we went in California, this felt the most like being back in NYC… It’s funny how the whole mall seems like it was placed almost haphazardly amongst all these Hollywood landmarks.
There’s El Capitan Theatre.
I would love to see a movie there sometime, and I think it’s really cool that it’s owned by Disney now. I wish we could have taken the time out to go to the Disney soda fountain and store next door. That too will go on my list for next time!
As we descended to street level, we suddenly found ourselves on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! This was the first (well deserved) star I saw.
Here’s another Disney legend whose star I felt happy to see.
We continued walking down the street, and we quickly ran into another landmark that was very familiar despite the fact I’d only ever seen its replica before! In my mind, it screamed "Disney..."
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I Recognize That Tree
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre looks exactly like The Great Movie Ride except grander.
It’s so funny seeing the original after the replica. Obviously, our number one reason for going to the theatre was to check out the hand/footprints outside. One of the first ones we stumbled across was Ducky Nash (aka Donald Duck).
Some of the other coolest ones included Meryl Streep.
Tracy put her feet next to those of Judy Garland. Tracy is short, but her feet still dwarfed Judy’s.
Such cool detailing on this theatre. Like the El Capitan, I’d love to see a movie here.
I liked how Roy Rogers’ footprints included those of his horse Trigger.
After doing one big loop around the whole forecourt, we were sad that we hadn’t found the foot/wand-prints of the Harry Potter actors. We Googled and pulled up a map that plotted out all of the footprints and found where they were supposed to be. Finally, we found it.
Having briefly seen all that we came to see, we took a final look at the majestic theatre.
Next we moved along toward the Kodak Theatre, marveling at how dense this street was and how thoroughly they must have to shut it down when playing host to the Oscars.
Having seen several Hollywood landmarks—while only scratching the surface of everything L.A. has to offer—we decided that it was getting to be time to move along. Anaheim was calling our name, so we loaded back into the car, hopped on “the 5,” and started driving south toward the home of the happiest place on earth.
Of course, we hit plenty of traffic on the way there, and the sun started to set as we got close.
I wasn’t prepared to see this sign because I had no idea where we were, but apparently we had almost made it there!
Despite not having as definitive of property as WDW, when we saw this sign, we knew we had basically arrived.
We followed the signs toward Paradise Pier.
And there it was, welcoming us to our new home for the next five nights.
It was just getting dark when we pulled in.
We had made it to Disneyland!
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Love your 'prequel' trip report. Now to click over to read the rest! Great stuff!
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