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Old 08-17-2008, 10:05 PM   #1
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Yet Another Happiest Place on Earth Report Disneyland--Day Five, Part 2 June 13th

We hadn’t made it to the Paradise Pier section of DCA on Wednesday other than the ride through on the segways and there was one ride in Paradise Pier that I’d promised I’d do. When we were here in 2005 India and Georgia Stringer and I rode the Orange Stinger and renamed it the Orange Stringer. I told them I’d ride it this time in their honor. Sharon was game for parkhopping for just one ride so off we went, quickly crossing the narrow expanse that separates Disneyland and California Adventure, hustling through the front of DCA, slowing for nothing until we reached the Orange Stringer. Disneyland’s crowds had been thickening as the day went on, but DCA’s walkways were practically deserted. As we approached the Stringer we saw there was no waiting line at all. There were, however, a couple of guests talking with a Cast Member at the bottom of the staircase. In order to get to the ride that’s inside the big orange you have to climb three or four dozen stairs arranged nearly ladder-like in an extreme incline. As Sharon and I trudged up the steps we could hear some of the conversation between the CM and the guests, most definitely hearing the words “open” and “Toy Story” so as soon as we made it to the top we asked the CM supervising the loading of the ride if Toy Story was indeed open today. He was happy to tell us yes and before he started the ride, he announced to all of us sitting in the Stringer swings that Toy Story Midway Mania had just opened moments ago and would be running for the remainder of the day. We were cautioned that if we wanted to give it a try, we’d need to do it this afternoon or we would have to wait until the official opening the following Tuesday (two days after we departed). He repeated his announcement emphasizing the ride would NOT be running over the weekend. What great luck and we owed it all to India and Georgia. If we hadn’t been on a mission to ride the Orange Stringer we’d never have bothered to switch parks that afternoon.

Approaching the Orange Stringer with Paradise Pier Hotel in the background.

Inside the big orange Orange.

You can bet that early in the week we’d asked about a soft opening for TSMM and when told that the only one planned was for annual passholders, we’d resigned ourselves to having to add it to our Next Time We’re Here list. So, we were nearly beside ourselves with glee. Here was another great surprise that, like the breakfast at Steakhouse 55, had come out of the blue. Immediately we reprioritized and decided we could spend a little more time in the park and somehow we'd manage to clean up a bit at the spa before our appointment. So off we ran to Toy Story. We had to stand in line for about half an hour but we didn’t care—we were getting on Toy Story! Standing in line gave us time to take it all in and to congratulate ourselves on our good fortune. Sharon was thrilled that she could now tell friends back home who’d gotten to attend the annual passholders opening that she’d ridden, too. As David explained the ride so well in his recent Way Out West trip report, I will refer you to that and only add some photos we snapped.

Mr. Potato Head makes a great barker. He was making wisecracks about people standing in the queue.

The ride vehicle is double-sided allowing games to be projected on both sides of the track.

Decorations that are three dimensional.

My attempt to capture a 3-D projection. It might work with 3-D glasses, so if you have a pair . . .

Since we’d abandoned the idea of going back to the hotel before going to the spa we decided we ought to do California Screamin’ while we were here. Take a look at the next photo to see how few steps were required to get from Toy Story to Screamin’.

We’d really cut it close, doing the extra rides and so as soon as we were off Screamin’ we were running toward the front of the park to the Grand Californian entrance. We rushed through the spa door at 1 o’clock (the appointment time) and so the quick showers we took actually cut into our treatment time (Very expensive showers! For that reason, also very quick ones!!) There was a little confusion about the therapy I’d booked. I’d asked for the hot stone aroma therapy, the same one I’d had at the Mandara at the Dolphin at WDW. It turns out that these aren’t standardized treatments and here at the Grand Californian Mandara there was going to be hot stones only and no massage. My tired body had been looking forward along with me to this massage, so this was rather disappointing news. I asked if I could please switch to the therapy that Sharon had chosen, a Balinese massage (a combo of several forms of massage) with an extra half hour (because my hot stone was longer and we’d be done at the same time) and was told sure I could have that. The Balinese with extra time took the same amount of time and cost the same as the Hot Stone therapy. Then when I told my therapist that the WDW Mandara’s version of hot stone aroma therapy included both the hot stones and the massage, she very obligingly said she could do that, too—she already had the stones ready in our room. It was a lovely and relaxing massage and 80 minutes later I met Sharon in the dressing room where she reported that she, too, had had a great massage. We showered again, this time using more of the spa amenities, washing and drying our hair. It was after 3 when we moved languorously from the dressing room to the reception area to pay for our spa experience. And here’s where Friday the 13th caught up with me and I ran into the day’s only unpleasant surprise. When the bills were handed over, mine was $40 more than Sharon’s. You’re probably already ahead of me reading this now, but I was so laid back and sanguine at that point that it didn’t register for a minute just what had happened. I was being charged an extra fee for the hot stones. It only flickered through my mind that I should protest this as I thought my therapist had agreed to do the therapy as it was done at the Dolphin Mandara. However, I realized right away that any confrontation, no matter the outcome, would be counterproductive to the purpose of massage therapy, so I quietly paid the whole amount. In retrospect I believe that I also may have quietly accepted the additional charge as a sort of Liberal Guilt Penalty. The children at my school are poor and the cost of that spa treatment—the original price or the one with the extra charge—would have bought groceries for a sizable family for a couple of weeks. So, I guess in a way, I felt I deserved to pay for my Hedonistic ways. And believe me, I did!

It was now 4 o’clock and it seemed like it might be a good time to have an early dinner before leaving the park. We had freed ourselves of the need to work around a dinner reservation time this evening when we cancelled the Steakhouse 55 PS, but now we needed to find some place that could feed us as walk-ups. Neither of us had eaten at Wine Country Trattoria so we decided to give it a try. We were given a choice of being seated at a table inside or on the terrace. As it was approaching the hottest part of the day, we chose inside and were seated in about 10 minutes. The restaurant is attractively decorated yet with a casual feel to it. Our server was helpful in explaining menu items and attentive to our needs without making us feel we were being rushed. We ordered entrees and side orders that we could share, creating impromptu tapas out of vegetable lasagna, a chicken Panini, a salad, and a bowl of soup. We said no to the dessert cart as we had our Fantasmic Dessert Buffet ahead of us this night.

From the Trattoria we circled around to Sunshine Plaza where we stopped to watch the Pixar Play Parade again before continuing to the Golden State area and the ride we intended all along to do between the spa and returning to the hotel to get cleaned up and dressed for the evening—Grizzly River Run. We’d both ridden this one on previous trips and we both knew there’s no way to avoid getting soaking wet. I believe that everyone in our raft ended up as wet as wet can be but somehow the fabric of my capris when wet just looked extraordinarily wet. They clung to me is such a way that not only was Sharon dying laughing at me as she climbed the stairs behind me as we exited the ride, the couple who had been in our raft, and to that point very polite, were laughing very loudly, too. Good thing I like being the center of attention no matter the reason!

Grizzly Peak shot in an early morning haze. Blue sky backdrop is part of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot.

Sharon had a chance to hug Mr. Incredible after the parade. Mr. I runs a close second to Beast in Sharon's affection for Disney men.

We sloshed back through the Grand Californian lobby as quickly as possible so that we'd be gone by the time people noticed the trail of river water that I was dripping with every step I took and back across the street to the Paradise Pier Hotel 12 hours after our day had begun when the noisy Cast Members woke us. A lot had happened already but we still had another 6 hours to go before we planned to call it a day. We put our feet up for a bit, then used hair dryers for the second (third?) time today and pulled ourselves back together for a return to Disneyland. We moseyed down Main Street looking in shops along the way and on to Tomorrowland to cash in our Space Mountain Fast Passes. We decided we should try for a shorter standby line at Indiana Jones by riding during the fireworks, an idea that worked out as we nearly walked on. Watching the Remember . . Dreams Come True fireworks from a single spot all the way through just didn’t happen this trip. We did see and hear parts of the show from various places over the course of several nights.

Because we had tickets for the 10:30 Fantasmic Dessert Buffet seating we didn’t have to give up any time to stake out a viewing spot, but we did have to allow for making our way through the 9:25 fireworks crowd and the people who were rushing to the Rivers of America at the last minute to search for a Fantasmic spot. We were seated in an excellent place directly across from center stage (the stage is on Tom Sawyer Island).

[As you probably know whether you’ve seen the show in California or not, Fantasmic at Disneyland is staged on the Rivers of America rather than in a specially built, dedicated venue as it is at WDW. There is no amphitheater with seating for all the audience. The Disneyland show was conceived as an event to be watched like the fireworks. Having a place to sit is almost accidental—at least it was until the Company thought of another revenue stream with the Fantasmic Dessert Buffet. The Stringers and I enjoyed the premium Fantasmic viewing spot when we sat on the balcony of what is now the Dream Suite. The Imagineers must have been on that balcony when they choreographed the show, but the balcony is no longer available for the Dessert Buffet. I suppose the lucky family who’s staying there on any given night might object to a couple of dozen people tramping through their apartment to get to the balcony for the twice a night showing of Fantasmic.]

Our drink order was taken and our dessert box was served and what wonderful treats—delicious little cakes and tarts, cheeses, grapes, truffles, and a molded sugar spoon to stir our coffee or tea with Sorcerer Mickey embossed on the tip of the handle. I’d guess that Scott and I watched Fantasmic at least a dozen times without the lovely perks of dessert buffet seating (before such a thing was offered) and we always had a marvelous time (though we were squashed by the crowds a couple of times). I know, though, that he would have very much liked this addition to his beloved Fantasmic. After the show (and all that sugar) we certainly felt up to doing everything we could get to before midnight park closing. This amounted to another ride through the Haunted Mansion which was just steps away from our Fantasmic seats, this vacation's second ride on Pirates also only a few steps away, then on to finally ride Splash Mountain where I clutched with a death grip the dessert box that held the few treats I couldn’t quite manage to eat during the show. I’ve ridden Splash enough times to know that sitting in the front of the log (single file at Disneyland’s Splash) I was going to get very wet, so I’m not sure what I thought could be accomplished by wedging the dessert box between my knees and spreading the thin fabric of my sundress across it. Luckily the gallons of water that washed over me and the desserts beaded on the lid of the plastic box so that the only thing about me that was dry when I climbed out of that log were the little desserts safely tucked in their box.

Now I’m going to tell you the final surprise of the day and one that delighted us as much as any of the others. As we made our way down the hall from the get off place for Splash we heard some yelling, “Hello. Hi. Hello.” We turned to see coming down the hall, dripping wet, too, the lovely young couple that we’d spent time with in the Nemo queue this morning (14 hours ago). With thousands of people in the park even at that late hour and with hundreds of places any of us could have been, we had managed to finish the day at the same spot with these charming people. They thanked us for the information we’d given them in such a hurry this morning and for our advice about what to be sure to do. They told us that they’d done everything on our too good to miss list. They had taken a short break during the late afternoon so that they could come back and stay until midnight, something they said they’d had no intention to do when we they entered the park this morning. While back at their hotel they had convinced another young man who’d been at the conference with them to come along for the evening and they’d all been having so much fun, they’d decided they had to make a trip back to Anaheim soon and give Disneyland the time it deserved. Sharon and I were so proud of them and we told them so. They asked if they could take a photo of us, which was so sweet. It wasn’t until we’d parted ways that I realized I should have taken a picture of them. It’s okay, though. I can still remember their smiles.

Day Six here: Day Six, June 14th

Last edited by SusanEllen; 10-18-2008 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 08-18-2008, 07:13 AM   #2
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What a stroke of luck that you got to go on Toy Story! The spa treatment sounded lovely, I think I would have been the same about the bill. I can totally understand your guilt though, some of the daycares I work in are in very deprived areas and although we save hard for our vacations and sacrifice a lot I still feel like it's too much to spend sometimes considering what some of the families have to live on. The Fantasmic desserts sounded yummy, i'm so sad it's in rehab during our visit but I guess it just means we'll have to visit again at some point What a lovely ending to the day to meet the couple again
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:48 AM   #3
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What a fantastic day, Susan! What you two packed in this one day is not for the faint of heart! Wow!

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Old 08-18-2008, 12:36 PM   #4
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A great end to the day Susan.

I currently live in London until I have enough DVC points to stay at Animal Kingdom Villas every day of the year

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Old 08-18-2008, 03:26 PM   #5
Still here.....
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Loved that picture of Sharon and Mr I
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Old 08-20-2008, 03:08 AM   #6
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Excellent afternoon. Good break getting on Toy Story.

No pictures of our sodden adventurers though? Come on, if it was that funny surely Sharon took a picture?
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:32 AM   #7
Who says these things pass you by.....
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Wow, what fantastic luck getting to ride Toy Story Mania. I'm not jealous at all.....

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Old 08-22-2008, 03:18 PM   #8
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Susan - Another wonderful installment of your trip, you really do need to get into the writing game my friend, your novels would be wonderful

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Old 08-29-2008, 05:10 PM   #9
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What a lovely day you both had. I am so glad that you had so many lovely surprises in such a long day.

Shame about the confusion in the Mandara Spa but at least you were suitably relaxed after your massage

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Old 09-14-2008, 03:56 PM   #10
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Loved reading your day and had tears in my eyes when you met up with the couple you had met earlier.

What an absolutely great day.

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Old 09-15-2008, 11:35 AM   #11
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A great end to a fab day. I'm so pleased that you were able to ride Toy Story Mania
Mandy xx

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Old 10-21-2008, 09:39 AM   #12
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We managed to ride Toy Story in Florida a few weeks ago (although the lines were horrendous! And that was just for the Fast Passes! ) and thought it fantastic!

Another busy day! thanks!

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