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Old 07-31-2008, 11:50 PM   #1
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Yet Another Happiest Place on Earth Report Disneyland--Day Four, Part 2, June 12th

[Part 2 of Day Four is what happened during the afternoon and evening of the day that began with our A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour.]

I tried to take photos of the tour souvenir pins we received for both tours, but with limited success—that is, I managed a nearly viewable one of the Cruzin’ California segway tour, but absolutely nothing of use with the Footsteps pin. The fairly decent shot of one I found on Google Images is not a jpeg file so I couldn’t download it on Photobucket to display with my report. I can, however, include a link so if you’re even remotely interested in seeing this pretty little pin you can find it here: http://www.pinpics.com/img/p709/pin35492th200

The Cruzin’ California souvenir pin is 3-D--and unfortunately my blurry photo looks like you need 3-D glasses to view it! The segway in the foreground slides on a track. What you see in the background is the present entrance to California Adventure, albeit so out of focus you can just barely make it out. Please, look at the photo of the entrance below to see what you're supposed to be able to see on this pin. We were told by CMs that all of the original entrance to DCA will be removed for the do-over—no more giant letters spelling CALIFORNIA, no more mosaic murals on each side of the gate, and no more San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. I hadn’t really considered myself a pin collector until now, but with this being a pin with a number limited to those taking the Cruzin’ tour and with the art only useable until the DCA entry is changed . . . I think I actually have a special pin!

Here’s the gate area for Disney’s California Adventure, facing the Disneyland gate only a few dozen yards away. If you wait a couple of years to visit, the DCA entry won't look like this.

We said goodbye to Andrea and our fellow Footstep tourists and made a beeline for Adventureland and Indiana Jones. For those of you who haven’t been to Disneyland yet, I should explain that this phenomenal ride bears no resemblance to the Indiana Jones stunt show at Disney's Hollywood Studios in FL. The Indiana Jones Adventure is an exciting ride through an incredible show venue (much of it underground) with an elaborately decorated queue so dense with detail that by the time you’ve worked your way through the maze of caves and narrow tunnels (some of them ancient ruins, others passageways dug by Indy and his archeological crew) you’ll feel like you’ve entered the movie. This gorgeous ride was part of the deal George Lucas made with Disney about fifteen years ago that resulted in the placing of Star Tours in both US parks (not sure if it’s in Tokyo or Paris) plus Indiana Jones in Disneyland just in time for Disneyland’s 40th anniversary 13 years ago. I’m not sure why it was never built in Florida but I have two guesses—1) Disneyland likes to have some exclusive things. and 2) The ride cost more than the original movie, a lot more, I think. When you see it, you’ll know where the money went—it looks exactly like what a George Lucas created Disney dark ride would look like, because that’s what it is! I usually shy away from comparing Disneyland and Walt Disney World or things in them, but I have no problem with comparing Disney things to Universal things, so I will gladly go on record as saying that Indiana Jones Adventure (Temple of the Forbidden Eye) beats Universal’s Revenge of the Mummy by a mile. So, if you are a Mummy fan, here is your reason to get to California.
[It may seem odd to find in Disney parks attractions based on the decidedly non-Disney Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies and on Jim Henson’s Muppets until you remember that George and Jim grew up watching Walt on TV every week and seeing him, as we all saw him, as the embodiment of family entertainment and Disneyland as the permanent display of his achievements. I can certainly understand why George and Jim (or anyone) would want their favorite characters enshrined in Disneyland (et al.) because as long as these parks exist the characters they brought to life will be lovingly cared for.]

Having told you all that about the Indiana Jones Adventure, I now have to tell you that we didn’t get on it that afternoon. Taking a look at the long-ish line marching up the path to the Temple’s entry we decided to get Fast Passes and try this later, as in after dinner later. We only had two hours before we needed to be on our way back to the hotel to get ready for our early seating at Napa Rose and the Return Time for Indy was three hours out.

We headed deeper into the park to Critter Country (that’s just beyond New Orleans Square) with the idea of riding Splash Mountain. However, the 60 minute Standby line changed our minds. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (only a few steps beyond Splash) was a walk on—so we walked on. The Winnie ride is an example of something new in Disneyland that meant something old had to go. It stands on the spot that used to be the site of the Country Bear Jamboree. Riding Winnie’s Many Adventures and adding Splash to our evening plans pretty much finished the checklist for Critter Country. We decided to go next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which at WDW would have been a few long strides from Splash, but here is on the opposite side of the Rivers of America in the spot at WDW that is occupied by the Haunted Mansion. This is the sort of difference between the two parks that causes the look of mild confusion to cross my face now and then as I get several steps down a path then suddenly realize it isn’t going where I want to go. The 5 minute Standby Line at Big Thunder Mt. Railroad referred to the five minutes it took us to walk the queue to the loading area, so we were on, enjoyed the wildest ride in the Wilderness, and then were off again in just a few minutes. We took the path that circles behind BTMR (a passage that doesn’t exist in MK) that runs between BTMR and Big Thunder Ranch (also not at WDW) as our route back to Main Street. This path spills into the “left” side of Fantasyland and that gave us a chance to size up the crowds there. As you might expect on any afternoon in Fantasyland, the crowd had grown considerably since we passed through here on the Footsteps tour this morning, thickened by families with the smallest guests in tow, not quite ready for their afternoon naps, standing in what always seem to be the longest lines in the park. We chose not to join any of those lines and walked on through the Castle and on to some serious shopping on Main Street. With only a detour or two in shops along the way we made it to the Emporium where we spent an hour shopping (and this time buying things)—some things for us, some for others. (Often what we found suitable for friends or family seemed like something we’d want, too, which meant buying at least two of just about everything!) In front of the Emporium Mickey was energetically leading the band.

Back to the hotel with just enough time to refresh and dress then we headed back across Disneyland Drive to the Grand Californian and Napa Rose.

I’ve tried and discarded several adjectives in the attempt to describe the Napa Rose, but am really and truly stuck for finding a way to adequately communicate how lovely this place is and how much I love it. The Napa Rose restaurant and lounge are elegant yet casual, spacious yet cozy with staff that is professional yet personable. My words fail, so once again I direct you to Dan and Jackie’s blog and Dan’s eloquent description of the Napa Rose and its food. http://danandjackievideo.blogspot.com/ I will spend some words telling you about the people Sharon and I encountered there and I will tell you what we ate. First I should explain that the exhibition kitchen seating is really a bar that separates the open kitchen from the dining room. It is divided in half by a walk through, with four seats on each side. Sharon and I were seated at the half first reached on entering the restaurant—the same place I’ve been seated for my two previous dinners here—once on my solo trip and more recently with India and Georgia as my companions.

About the food:
Directly in front us about 10 feet away was the cooking station where our appetizer was prepared. We shared the Sautéed Hand Harvested Diver Scallops with a Sauce of Lemon and Lobster, accented with Tahitian Vanilla (as described on the menu), two gorgeous scallops that we watched the cook carefully select from the refrigerated drawer at his station. We watched as he bent several times so that his work table was eye level as he sized scallops until he was satisfied that he had two close enough to the same thickness that he could prepare them together. Although our seating suggested eating at a diner, our server carried our food from the kitchen and served it properly. I assure you, the cooks didn’t slam our plates on the counter from the kitchen side diner-style—although it was such wonderful food, I wouldn’t have objected to getting it in front of me 10 seconds quicker!

As I wasn’t taking photos in the restaurant, this shot of the cooking station closest to our seating is a photo from Google Images

Sharon chose the Chervil Crusted Alaskan Halibut with toasted almonds, cauliflower, golden raisins, capers and blood orange vinaigrette that she absolutely loved. Living in California with access to fresh seafood, Sharon has developed the skills to discern what is truly good seafood. The Napa Rose halibut received her highest praise. I enjoyed every bite of the Angus Filet Mignon "au Poirve" topped with Melted Brie, Roasted Walnuts, Sun-Dried Cherries and Cabernet Sauvignon-Cherry Essence that was served to me. As much as crediting our determination not to repeat our disappointing behavior at Catal the night before when we skipped dessert, I have to acknowledge that the real reason we were able to select and enjoy a fabulous Napa Rose dessert (that is, two desserts—one for each of us) was the fact that we allowed ourselves nearly three hours for this meal. Sharon ordered the Napa Rose’s Signature Scharffen Berger Chocolate Velvet Pate with Candied Hazelnut Anglaise and Bailey's "Pot de Crème" (which I’d had on both previous visits) and I had the Valrhona Chocolate Truffle Cake with Milk Chocolate-Orange Ganache and Cinnamon Ice Cream. We had perfect meals beginning to end.

About the people:
1) Our server was expert and attentive. He was there when we needed him, but he did not hover. Every service he delivered came accompanied with, “It is my pleasure to serve you.”

2) Our chef, Andrew Sutton, has been the executive chef of the Napa Rose since it opened in 2001. Chef Andrew had been in charge of the kitchen the night in 2005 when I was here with the Stringers. We watched then as he conducted the Napa Rose kitchen workers like an orchestra through a most amazing feat. In addition to serving spectacular food to hundreds of guests throughout the evening, at one point the troops were rallied to form a production line for the preparation of 60 identical artistically constructed salads and 60 bowls of soup to serve as starters for a large party; then later the line re-formed to make 60 desserts for that group. Of course, it was vital that the pace of production match the pace of the delivery system and it was entertaining, to say the least, to see each plate made ready just as it was needed for pick up by the brigade of servers. As pots of soup were brought out we heard Chef Andrew say (only a little louder than the voice he’d been using all evening, but firmly!), “I need three gallons of soup. I only have two and a half here. What am I going to do?” I’ve never seen people move faster. Somehow by the time soup had been ladled into (I’m guessing) the 45th bowl, another pot of soup had been produced. I told Chef Andrew on this night this summer that making the last pot of soup appear was our memory of him from that dinner three years ago and that it had made us laugh every time we told someone about it. He broke into a slow smile and said, “When you have the right people working in the kitchen, you don’t have to yell and curse at them to get things done--like you see on TV.” Obviously that was true, but I know if I’d been working for him and heard the tone of voice he used that night, I would have scurried to get things done, too. Chef Andrew sent us samples of things we hadn’t ordered, which were lovely additions to our dinner. As busy as he was, he stopped to chat with us several times through the evening, giving us his attention, but only for a half minute or so at a time. He had a kitchen to watch.

[Note for Matt: I stuck to my promise to take no food photos. This is not my picture.] This is a Disney publicity shot taken at the kitchen exhibition seating from the kitchen side of the bar. Chef Andrew is standing at the spot between Sharon’s chair and mine.

3) Our dinner companions, who arrived about a quarter of an hour after we were seated, were charming and gregarious company. Orange County residents, they only lived minutes away from Disneyland. They were friends and neighbors of Chef Andrew and his wife and once we learned this, we understood why the server had announced to them that he was retrieving their menus as Chef would be selecting their dinners for them that night! (Sharon was happy to hear that the entrée she had ordered was one of the Chef’s choices for his friends.) The funniest story we heard the whole trip we heard that night. It seems that when the Suttons first moved from Napa Valley to our dinner partners' neighborhood, the lady dining with us had been introduced to Mrs. Sutton by another neighbor. At that meeting they briefly discussed what a lovely place this was to live and that their kids would be going to the same school, that sort of thing—but no mention of what anyone did for a living. Later in the day when our storyteller ran into Mrs. Sutton at the grocery story, she took the opportunity to do the friendly thing and invited her new neighbors to dinner. Mrs. Sutton, who by the way had herself been a chef at a four star restaurant in Napa before their move to Southern California, accepted the invitation and then called Mr. Sutton terribly excited because no one ever invited them for a home-cooked meal. Still having no idea that their dinner guests were chefs, our dinner friends welcomed the Suttons into their home, where she was whipping potatoes with her mixer and he was tending the grill for the steaks he was about to cook. It was around that time that occupations came into the conversation. She said that shock and panic quickly gave way to laughter and dinner actually went very well until the disastrous dessert. The frozen pie from Costco that didn't quite bake all the way through that she served to two (two!!) four star chefs will haunt her forever. Chef Andrew walked up in time to hear the end of a story that you know these friends must have laughed about a hundred times. He told us we had no idea what a rare treat any food was that he didn’t have to cook himself. What fun! As we parted we thanked these lovely people for making a wonderful dinner even better.

Here’s the place where the double deficit of no notes and the limitations of my long term memory really catches up with me. The only thing I can remember for sure is that we left the Napa Rose too late to make it to the 8:45 Remember Dreams Come True fireworks that we'd hoped to see that night. I think we wandered through some of the shops in Downtown Disney and that this is the night that we stopped at the cigar cart where Sharon and the cart manager spent half an hour puzzling through which cigars she should buy for Howard. Ironic, isn’t it? The only time I started feeling we were at a shopping venue just a little too long, is the one time Howard probably wouldn’t have felt the need to rush Sharon. We finally entered Disneyland and headed for Indiana Jones, Fast Passes in hand, only to discover the ride was down. How long it took to get back on line was of no concern to us once we decided we’d leave it for another day. The only other thing I'm certain happened that night was that, pumped by the success of getting on rides without much waiting after the crowds thinned following the fireworks, we rushed to Splash Mountain at about two minutes before the announced closing time of midnight. We made it to the loading dock just as the last log was launched, about two minutes after twelve. An apologetic CM told us the ride was closed. We weren’t disappointed. We’d a fabulous day that started with us walking in Walt’s footsteps. We had ridden some favorite rides in the afternoon and had enjoyed an evening of great company and great food. Any rides we managed after all that was just gilding the lily. We walked away from Splash Mountain smiling and laughing—and headed straight to the Emporium for an hour's worth of unhurried Disney shopping.

Day Five here: Day Five, June 13th

Last edited by SusanEllen; 10-18-2008 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 08-01-2008, 05:31 AM   #2
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Another great report I'm so pleased that I won't be missing the CALIFORNIA letters, looking forward to getting some cliched photos with them!! Indiana Jones looks awesome! There is a similar ride at DLP but themed differently (Temple of Peril or something)
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:45 AM   #3
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Another brilliant day's report Susan.

How we loved Indiana Jones ride and as you say the theming is magnificant.

Also glad to hear your meal at Napa Rose was as good as you hoped - your choices sound wonderful. I remember those scallops as being the best I have ever eaten.

It sounds like you had a very special trip with Sharon

Can't wait for more

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Old 08-01-2008, 08:22 AM   #4
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Great report Susan.

I too share your view that Indiana Jones is possibly the greatest of all Disney rides.

Your reports are only serving to remind me that we must make a return visit to Disneyland soon.

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Old 08-01-2008, 10:21 AM   #5
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Another fantastic report Susan, so looking forward to reading more

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Old 08-01-2008, 10:46 AM   #6
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Old 08-12-2008, 04:53 PM   #7
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Another amazing instalment and an inspiration to go back to disneyland just as Kevin says.

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Old 08-18-2008, 03:12 PM   #8
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Another great report
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Old 08-20-2008, 08:37 AM   #9
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A lovely way to spend the rest of your day. Thanks for sharing the pictures of the pins, they are really special.

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Old 10-18-2008, 03:41 PM   #10
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Your report of the Napa Rose ... oh, I am drooling!! It looks and sounds like an incredible place. When Jon & I ate at Tchoup Tchop at the the Chef's Table we were unsure if we would enjoy the seating and view of the exhibition restaurant more than a romantic table for two, but it was truly an experience never to be forgotten. It looks like the Napa Rose would be at least comparable!
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Old 10-21-2008, 09:00 AM   #11
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Susan.... I'd 'forgotten' that there was 'another' Disneyworld/land out there.. I've become pretty fixated on Florida over the last 7 years, and our one trip off-piste to Paris last year left us a little under-whelmed... I reckon that California needs a bit of exploration, so I thank you for your lovely, enthusiastic reports .. and my bank manager will be in touch to see if you will underwrite our next trip!

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