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Old 07-09-2008, 11:46 PM   #1
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Yet Another Happiest Place on Earth Report Disneyland--Day One, June 9th, 2008

[The pre-trip report I posted on May 31 was not so much about travel journaling or even sharing planning tips with other Disney enthusiasts as it was about making a commitment to do a full blown trip report in a manner that wouldn’t allow me to wiggle out of the job once the vacation was over.. So, as promised, here is the first installment of the report about my trip to Disneyland. Fate was kind (or looking the other way) and things went as planned—or close enough to make me happy.]

Monday, June 9th
In the end it’s often the little things that bring us joy, isn’t it? What put a smile on my face that first day was the ticket for a non-stop flight to California that I carried with me to the airport. Of course, I was thrilled to be returning to Disneyland after a three year hiatus, but it was how I was getting there this time that made my smile a little wider. In a dozen California trips over the past decade and a half I’d never had the opportunity to fly direct. Tulsa, Oklahoma is close to the geographic center of the US (excluding, if they’ll forgive me for doing so, Alaska and Hawaii) and is about 1,400 miles from both Anaheim and Orlando. Living here and being equidistant to Disneyland and Walt Disney World is in many ways a good thing. On the other hand, living here in a medium size Midwestern city means all flights to anywhere require flying first to a “hub city” and usually having a layover and a plane change, all of which doubles travel time, and that’s not a good thing. Recently Express Jet, a west coast regional airline, came to Tulsa offering non-stop flights to California--to LA/Ontario, which is in Orange County and half an hour closer to Disneyland than LAX is. So it was all good and something new, to be flying into Ontario instead of the usual LAX or John Wayne/Santa Ana. [For your travel planning file: John Wayne is the closest of the three airports, 15 miles from Disneyland.] Not only did a non-stop flight mean avoiding a layover or a mad dash between terminals in Dallas, Phoenix, Salt Lake City or St. Louis (which is bizarrely in the opposite direction from California), it meant total time in the air would be less than 3 hours. Changing my watch for the two hour time difference felt like I was adding bonus hours to my Disney time. The plane left Tulsa at 3 PM and just one hour later at 4 (according to my watch) I was in California.

I’m going to back up a little here to tell you what happened to me at the Tulsa Airport when I handed the first Security person my precious non-stop ticket. For reasons only known to Express Jet and/or the Department of Homeland Security, my ticket was marked for “Special Screening.” For those of you who don’t know me, perhaps I should tell you that I’m a 61 years old woman (an elementary school librarian for goodness sake), not quite 5’1”, and always wear my Disney proudly—clothes and jewelry—which I was doing that day in addition to pulling along my Mickey and Minnie covered luggage with Mickey tags dangling. Pretty scary, huh? Not wanting to end up on a permanent No Fly list, I cooperated as cheerfully as I could, but have to say that I avoided eye contact with all the other passengers on the other side of the clear glass walls who were moving along unimpeded as in clear view I was being patted down (which by the way, is not as much fun as it looks on Law and Order ). Everything in my bags was removed and scrutinized and all electronics and the bags they were stored in were swabbed and the swabs were tested. This was all more disturbing than interesting. It was probably only the state of shock I was in that kept me quiet and out of trouble. I can’t be sure, but my theory as to why Express Jet chose me for this (and airport security assured me it was the airline’s choice, not theirs) is that the airline wanted to demonstrate in the most over the top way possible that the people they screen are not profiled on the basis of nationality, race, gender, ability to overpower anyone larger than a third grader (which I CAN do) or cultural background (unless they have something against Disney lovers)

Davy Crock-cat is inspecting my terrifying luggage and now that you’ve seen it I’m sure you can understand why I was picked for Special Security Screening.

Now back to the airport in California:
The pick up spot for the Super Shuttle was just a few steps out the door from baggage claim, which reminded me that a small airport can be very convenient. My transfers with Super Shuttle were arranged by Disney Travel, but make no mistake about it, this isn’t Disney Transportation, at least not as we know it at WDW. Since Disneyland was created as a day park and functioned as such for its first 45 years, amenities in place for multiple parks and resorts that we’re used to in Florida either don’t exist or are still in the beta testing phase in California. So, it was not a CM/driver who expressed his shock, horror, and disgust at having to drive a single passenger (me!) to Disneyland, a 35 minute trip. He waited at the shuttle sign for a few minutes and then circled the airport terminal once in the hopes that another Disney bound passenger would materialize. No one did. I felt very eco-unfriendly, then felt even worse when I learned that the driver had just driven another single passenger from Hollywood to the Ontario Airport (over an hour drive) and as I was his last fare of the day he’d be heading home from Anaheim—an 85 mile drive. What?! Could I feel worse? As a matter of fact, yes. I learned that drivers working for Super Shuttle own and maintain their own vehicles and with gas at $5 a gallon this man could not have made any money driving me. All those miles, all that gas just to get me less then 30 miles down the road to Disneyland. By then I was feeling largely responsible for the country’s gasoline problems. Finally we came to the Ball Road Exit. Ball is one of the streets bordering Disneyland, so I knew we were getting close. As we approached Harbor Avenue (another border street) I saw the enormous iridescent green and blue Disneyland office building and decided I’d felt guilty long enough. To assuage the last of my guilt—at least as it pertained to the plight of my driver—along with my Disney Travel transfer voucher I handed over twice the tip I would have given if there had been other riders sharing the trip. Guilt free I walked in to the lobby of the Paradise Pier Hotel.

This was my second stay at Paradise Pier, having been here with the Stringers in 2005. Looking around as I waited my turn at the registry desk, I could easily picture them all—Tammy and Kevin sitting just here; India and Georgia hanging onto the large statue of Surfing Goofy over there. You’ve probably experienced this, too—memories from previous trips overlapping the current one. Those memories are why I’ve never felt alone the few times I’ve found myself on my own at a Disney place. And on my own was how I was to be for the next few hours until my friend Sharon arrived from Northern California the next morning.

Goofy without his pals India and Georgia.

Check-in went quickly. I tried to listen carefully to the information from the CM, as it’s easy to treat some of this as we do the pre-flight info as the airplane is taxing down the runway—we’ve heard it before! But I knew I needed to understand what she was saying as similar things are often just a beat off from what’s familiar at WDW. It might be helpful for anyone staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel for the first time to know that things aren’t done exactly as they are at WDW. This can be a little confusing if you’re used to WDW ways. As the resort/hotel business is new and on a much smaller scale here, there are some things they’re still trying to work out. For instance, if you have a package vacation at WDW, a single plastic card will function as the room key, the card that allows you to charge to the room, and your parkhopper. Here I was given (and needed) a plastic card for my room, a second plastic card for my parkhopper, and a tiny piece of paper that would allow us to charge things to the room. I was cautioned in a rather scolding non-CM sort of way to take great care of them as the park pass and the charge paper were absolutely irreplaceable. When pressed in a good natured way, she quietly admitted that the parkhopper could be reissued. [A little Disneyland history: Remembering Scott’s explanation of Disneyland’s You Lose Your Ticket—Tough Luck! policy I know it comes from nearly a half century of being a day trip single park and was instituted in the attempt to keep carloads of visitors from sashaying in and out of Disneyland to the parking lot and back to the gate having added someone else to the group and declaring that they’d lost their admission ticket when they’d hadn’t bought a ticket at all. Hand stamps helped, but still people conned CMs and Disney reckoned they lost barrels of money and that’s not something Disney takes lightly.]

Excellent news about my room that the CM seemed delighted to give to me as it gave her the chance to recover her welcoming demeanor—the additional night I’d booked in a standard view room for this first night (tomorrow being the beginning of the 6 day parkhopper) had been upgraded to the park view that we would have for the rest of the week so I wouldn’t have to move the next morning and I had the preferred view tonight at a standard view price. This is one preferred view that actually gives you something very special for the money. When this hotel was the Pan Pacific, before Disney bought it in their effort to Resort-ize Disneyland when Disney’s California Adventure was built, the view from my 14th floor window would have been only the back half of the Disneyland parking lot and the Anaheim Convention Center which is only separated from Disney property by Katella Avenue (another street bordering Disneyland). But now with most of the old parking lot covered over by the new park, my view was the entire Paradise Pier portion of DCA.

Just above the Orange Stinger (India, Georgia, and I renamed it the Orange Stringer) you can see all that's left of the original Disneyland parking lot. That's the corner of Katella and Harbor and that little patch of asphalt covered ground must be the most valuable land in the country.

This is the very back of DCA. That’s California Screamin’ on the left, the parade barn with the door partially open in the middle, and the Anaheim Convention Center, the big arch-y building, just beyond the Royal Palms that line Katella Avenue.

I admired my room, took some photos, unpacked my bags, and then headed out for Downtown Disney.

You can see my luggage standing at attention in my new front hall.

A room with a View

I crossed Disneyland Drive and walked through the lobby of the Grand Californian, through the hotel courtyard, and out the DTD gate, following the familiar path forged by Kevin in 2005.

Downtown Disney is smaller but more densely packed with shops and restaurants than DTD at WDW, another example of making the most of limited space here. This means you can see and do a lot with fewer steps and that has its advantages. I decided to try Tortillo Jo’s for dinner. This corner restaurant used to house Y Aribba, Y Aribba, a place I always enjoyed--excellent tapas and good music. The Tortilla Jo's incarnation seemed very crowded, but I didn’t have to wait for a table because I was willing to be seated at the indoor bar. The bartender was friendly and gave me as much attention as she could while mixing drink after drink, so fast that she was a show herself. She made a good “handcrafted Margarita,” which she explained to me (and many others over the course of the next hour) was a Margarita made from scratch using no pre-measured mix. I ordered her menu recommendation, a spicy Mayan salmon. It was mediocre at best (yet pricey) and I philosophically decided that this would be a dinner that would serve as a relative low point against which to judge all the fine meals we had ahead of us this week. I continued my stroll through DTD. I bought a giant peanut butter cookie at the La Brea Bakery, made a quick pass through the World of Disney store, and then made my way back to the hotel via the Grand Californian route.

The night view of the park was gorgeous in a whole different way from the day view. I had accidentally timed my return for the start of Disney’s Electrical Parade (formerly—and for 22 years—the Main Street Electrical Parade in Disneyland before it traveled to Paris, spent some time at WDW, and then returned to be the night time parade at the then brand new DCA). Lights along the parade route were dimmed as were the ones on the construction site of Grand Californian Villas being built for the DVC. I was able to see that beautiful parade that I’ve seen so often from a unique point of view, a hundred and forty feet above. I could see the entire parade all at one time. Watching the Electrical Parade from that vantage was worth the price of the park view. I could see the huge open door of the parade barn and when the parade made its loop and returned to the barn I watched as they parked the lead float closest to that opening, the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio, her lights still flashing.

Day Two here : Day Two, June 10th

Last edited by SusanEllen; 10-18-2008 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 07-10-2008, 03:11 AM   #2
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Fantastic - I've been watching and waiting for your report after the brilliant pre trip report you did!

I can't believe you are 61 - you honestly look no where near that age.

Great that you can fly direct from Tulsa now, I'm sure it must be worth it even with the "extra security check" thrown in!

Thanks for sharing!

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Old 07-10-2008, 03:41 AM   #3
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Good start Susan, I must admit to being somewhat confused when you'd said you'd flown into Ontario - and I'd not be too surprised the cabbie was a little miffed as Ontario must be 000's of miles from LA - however that was before you explained that Ontario was a place in California and not the one on the land of the Moose!!

I have, you'll be unsurprised to know, a theory around your screening. I think that based on your multiple trips with the Stringers, the authorities may feel you are a little unhinged and therefore just wanted to let you know they're "watching you".

Glad to see that you found somewhere for a decent Margarita on day 1

Can't wait to read the next installments
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Old 07-10-2008, 04:33 AM   #4
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Marvellous to hear that you didn't have to contend with the usual vagaries of flying domestically within the US. Not so great on the 'special screening' front. Mild-mannered Librarian and Disneyphile of middle years by day...

I have a vague recollection of seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade during my first visit to WDW back in 1992, but I don't remember too much about it. Watching from your vantage point must have been akin to a Soarin' experience.

As an aside, I couldn't help noticing the Haunted Mansion tapestries hanging in your hall. I don't think I've ever heard you mention them (goodness knows you have too much memorabilia to have given me the history to it all), but I'm pleased to see that they survived the massive cull required by your house-move. They're wonderful.

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Old 07-10-2008, 06:04 AM   #5
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Great start! The screening sounded nerve-wracking The view from your hotel room window was awesome
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Old 07-10-2008, 06:59 AM   #6
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Great start Susan and lovely pictures - brings back many happy memories.

What a fabulous view from your room too

Can't wait to read more

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Old 07-10-2008, 07:59 AM   #7
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Special screening! He, he ......

I've been telling people for ages that you're a dodgy looking character, it looks like Jet Express have finally started to listen.

Great start to your report and the view of the Main Street Electrical Parade must have been wonderful.

I agree with Deb, your Haunted Mansion tapestries look cool.

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Old 07-10-2008, 11:38 AM   #8
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wonderful views from your room and a great detailed report. looking forward to hearing more. Fab photo's.
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Old 07-10-2008, 01:52 PM   #9
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Fantastic! Your trip report is finally here (yes - I've been waiting, ever so patiently.)

Personally, I rather liked the Jack Skelton (?) figure on your hall table.

And the view from your room - priceless - as was your view of the (always and forever in my heart the) MSEP!

Can't wait for more, Susan!

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Old 07-10-2008, 02:28 PM   #10
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Brilliant Susan Looking forward to more.
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Old 07-10-2008, 05:21 PM   #11
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Great start Susan. I'll be reading carefully so keep them coming.

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Old 07-10-2008, 05:25 PM   #12
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Great start Susan, can't wait for part two. It's nice to hear about a different Disney Park for a change.
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Old 07-10-2008, 06:21 PM   #13
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Thank you so much for taking time to share your trip with us
love all the photos
waiting hard to read more
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Old 07-11-2008, 02:24 AM   #14

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fantasic photos
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Old 07-11-2008, 03:46 AM   #15

It was so peaceful doing that and I loved it!
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Brilliant start and lovely photos. What a fantastic view from your room!
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