Dates: December 13-17, 2001 Travel Method: Plane, Super Shuttle Resort: Grand Californian Accomodations: Concierge room Ages: Adult Experience: Frequent CAST Robin/Me - age 38, trip planner Paula/Sister - age 28 Wes/Brother-in-law (husband of Paula) - age 28 Friday, December 14, 2001 "We're in the Happiest Place on Earth at the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!" Plan: Disneyland, lunch at Blue Bayou I woke up at 6:00 (ugh! Four hours of sleep) so we could make it to early entry at 8:30. Amazingly, we didn't use the alarm clock or have a wake up call the entire trip with the exception of the last day. I staggered into the shower where I discovered that the Grand Californian has great soap. It was oatmeal and sea kelp and had little grainy scrubbers in it that felt really good on your skin. After having washed my hair in hazel and sage shampoo, conditioned it with basil and mint conditioner, scrubbed my body with oatmeal and sea kelp, and applied lotion with almond and aloe, I will be lucky if I'm not attacked by a giant, mutant squirrel or a band of very hungry Italians! Paula got up at 6:20 and, while I called home to let everyone know that we made it safely, she and Wes got ready. We left to have breakfast in the lounge at 7:50. They had bagels, cream cheese, and jellies, banana bread, croissants, chocolate croissants, muffins, watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, cereal, milk, juice, coffee, tea, and, of course, my all important diet coke. We left at 8:15 for a quick walk east through Downtown Disney and were all surprised at how quickly we were at the gates. The last time we were here, all of this was a parking lot and now there are bricked walks and trees and plants. We speculated that we were probably walking on "Dopey" or "Alice" parking sections. We were at the gates when they opened at 8:30 and were soon on Main Street. Can anyone guess what I'm going to say next? All together now...."Wow!" Again, the decorations were just lovely. Their tree was right at the beginning of Main Street and they had garlands of lights and decorations strung across the street and all over the buildings. A tremendous wave of nostalgia washed over me and I began to cry. I love WDW and it will always be magical and wonderful to me but Disneyland has a special place in my heart because I feel as though I grew up there. I could look down Main Street and immediately recall the Silhouette store where I had my silhouette done when I was 12, the curb where I sat as I saw the Electrical Light Parade for the first time, the place where I first met Alice when I was 4 and she was the only character who didn't make me cry, the Partner's statue that always puts a lump in my throat. Yes, WDW is magical in it's own way but at Disneyland you can *feel* Walt. Everywhere you look you see his touch. I tried to explain my feelings to Paula and she was soon crying with me while poor Wes looked helplessly on, desperately longing for some male companionship. We soon pulled ourselves together and were laughing the next minute at how small Sleeping Beauty's Castle looked. I guess we are used to Cinderella's Castle at WDW because this one looked tiny to us. It was beautifully decorated; however, and we hurried through the center of it to Fantasyland. Peter Pan was our first stop where we walked right on. We then headed to It's A Small World because we were anxious to see the Holiday make-over that it gets every year. We arrived right at 9:00 and were just in time to see the parade of dolls come out of the giant clock on the face of the building while it struck 9:00. We had a boat to ourselves and the tears started rolling again as we entered the ride. Everything was just precious. There were lights and decorations everywhere and the dolls interspersed singing "It's a Small World" with "Jingle Bells." The goat in Switzerland was eating the list of naughty and nice boys and girls names, the mermaids had left a plate of fish for Santa and were singing "Jingle Shells," there were tiki-god Santas in Polynesia, New Year's fireworks in Asia...too many cute details to mention. And the all-white grand finale room...dazzling. We stayed on our boat and rode through again because there was too much to see in one trip. Paula was quick to point out that we were at the Happiest Place on Earth at the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. After all of our crying; however, Wes modified our saying to be the Happiest Place on Earth at the Worst Time of the Month! Men. They'll blame anything on PMS. We finally tore ourselves away and, after browsing through a gift shop, we rode on Alice in Wonderland with about a 5 minute wait. It was now 10:00 and the whole park was opening. Next, we went to the Matterhorn. We waited maybe 10 minutes to get in our toboggans. It was overcast and cold this morning and we had no sooner fastened our seat belts than it began to pour rain on us. We rode the Matterhorn with the rain pelting us and then quickly ran for a gift stand where ponchos were going fast. Two ponchos and an umbrella later, we joined the sea of blue Disneyland ponchos and headed toward Liberty Square and the Holiday Haunted Mansion. We got to the gates of the Haunted Mansion at 10:45 only to find them closing the gates and not letting anyone in. We found out that there had been a power surge during the downpour of rain which had knocked out the electricity in most of the park. We went ahead and got Fast Passes for the Haunted Mansion because I figured that, since the ride went down, the would honor the Fast Passes any time during the day and then walked around the Mansion admiring the decorations on the outside. The Mansion was very impressive with hundreds of flickering candles and carved pumpkins decorating it. Jack Skellington himself was perched on the gate in his Sandy Claws suit admiring a snowflake. There were garlands of berries, twigs and spider webs everywhere. Jack's Christmas sleigh had crashed into the roof of the Mansion and there was a giant count-down clock that said 000 days til XMas. We waited until 11:30 with no luck and then decided to go to the hotel to dry off and come back later. On the way out we stopped on Main Street at the Main Street Showcase to pick up our free pin and lanyard that came with our trip package. We also found that ever elusive Rex pin from Toy Story. We had been looking for Rex since our trip to WDW in November of 2000 and had yet to see him. Here at Disneyland I swear they had him at every pin cart we looked at--go figure! We slogged back to the hotel, stopping in the concierge lounge for hot chocolate for me, coffee for Wes, and hot tea for Paula. We also got some popcorn to snack on. Back at the room, Paula ran the blowdryer for at least an hour drying everything on her body. She even took off her socks and put them on the barrel of the blowdryer to dry them! We stayed in the room until 1:05 and then headed back out into the rain. We went straight to Disneyland and were at the Blue Bayou right at 1:30. I politely asked if we could sit by the rail and when the CM told me that we might have to wait a little longer I said, "okay." For anyone that doesn't know, the Blue Bayou is a restaurant in New Orleans Square that is actually inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. You can see the boats go by from the restaurant and, likewise, watch people eating from the boats. While we waited we sent Paula back to the Haunted Mansion to get us another Fast Pass. It only took about 15 minutes before we were seated and we were right by the rail! Warning: here's another flashback from Robin's childhood about to occur! It's funny what you think when you are a kid. I remember coming to Disneyland as a child and riding the Pirates of the Caribbean and seeing the people eating at the Blue Bayou. Mother and Dad didn't have a lot of money when we were kids and we were only at Disneyland because my Dad had sold enough insurance to make the national conference which was held in Los Angeles or Anaheim every few years. Any meals that we ate in the park were always counter service because it was less expensive. Anyway I remember seeing the people dining at the Blue Bayou and thinking that I would never be able to eat there because only rich people could afford it! And here we were at the Blue Bayou, not even rich. The atmosphere is great, if not a little dark. You can hear the crickets chirping and the water lapping at the sides of the boats. The food also was very good. Paula had crab cakes, Wes had the pork loin, and I had the Monte Cristo which was huge--large enough for two people to share. I had a diet coke and Paula and Wes both just had water. The total for the meal was $48.65 plus tip. While we dined a jazz trio played Christmas Carols from the balcony of the restaurant--very nice. After lunch we made a beeline for the Haunted Mansion and got there just in time to see them shutting the gates again! Aargh! The CM did tell us that our Fast Passes would be honored all day. We next decided to try Pirates of the Caribbean and while Wes and I stood in line, Paula ran over to Indiana Jones to get Fast Passes for later. By the time Paula joined us in line, Pirates was down also and Paula reported that Indian Jones had also gone down and their Fast Pass machines were not working. Darn this storm. We went to Big Thunder Mountain which had a 30 minute wait posted but the line moved quickly and we were finally on a ride in about 15 minutes. It started to rain again while we were on the ride. We decided that we should stop getting on rides that were out in the open since it seemed to rain every time we did! After Big Thunder we went back to the Haunted Mansion and it was actually open! We used our first set of Fast Passes and were soon in the stretch room eager with anticipation. Let me just say that they did a splendid job of re-doing the Mansion. Words fail me but I certainly hope that they bring this back every year like the Holiday Small World and I would even like to see this come to WDW. It was teriffic with great attention to every detail. Even the music and narration has been changed to all fit together perfectly. We got off and immediately used our second Fast Pass to ride again. One detail I will mention is that everywhere in the Mansion that there used to be a raven (on the back of Madame Leota's chair, over many of the doorways, etc) there is now the Vampire Teddy Bear from a Nightmare Before Christmas. This was the Teddy Bear that Jack gave to the Vampires to see if they could improve on his design. Anyway he's this teddy bear-like doll with sharp teeth. As we were walking out of the ride some lady was talking about him. She said that she kept seeing this doll everywhere and she couldn't figure out what he was until it finally dawned on her--it was Evil Mickey! Whatever! We just about fell over with laughter. I didn't have the heart to correct her. One of our favorite details on the ride were the man-eating plants in the conservatory that sing along "FA LA LA LA LA!" We also noticed that many of the stands in New Orleans square were selling Jack Skellington rice krispie treats After the Haunted Mansion, we went to get a Fast Pass for Indiana Jones (return time of 4:40-5:40). The rain cleared up around 4:00 but it was still very cold. You could tell all of the locals because they were the ones wearing hats, gloves, scarves, and winter coats and were complaining about how cold it was! All of us tourists just had light jackets and didn't think the temperature was that bad. Paula and Wes looked around in the gift shops in Adventureland for a while and then we all went to ride on Pirates. The Pirates in Disneyland is much longer than the one in WDW. I was warm for the first time today when we passed through the room where the town is on fire. I also noticed a message in a bottle floating in the water that I had never noticed before. After Pirates it was time for our Indy Fast Pass. The Fast Pass line had a 20 minute wait since the ride had been down so much of the day. We made it through the ride, rescued Indy and were off by 5:45. As an aside, the Indy queue wins for the *longest* queue in the park--it must be a good mile from the entrance to the loading area, and then at least another mile or two to get back out! On the way out we heard that the ride went down again and we were glad that we had made it on before it stopped. By this time we were tired from our late night/early morning so we decided to go back to the hotel and rest. On the way out we admired the Christmas decorations which were all lit now. Beautiful. We stopped at the fire station on Main Street to decorate some Christmas cookies ($3 per cookie). I decorated a snowman, Paula made a Christmas tree, and Wes did a star. They supplied various colors of icing, several different kinds of sprinkles, mini M&M's, etc. They even had sprinkles in the shape of Snowmen and Christmas trees. We were back in our room by 6:15. Turndown service had been by and Paula and I were thrilled that we had another sewing kit! Now we didn't have to fight over the one from yesterday. We went to the lounge for a snack. They had several kinds of cheeses, crackers, bread, four or five kinds of pate, spiced nuts, vegetables and dip, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and chips. We sat in the lounge for a while and then mixed up some hot chocolate to take back to the room with us. As we stepped out of the lounge we heard Christmas Carolers singing in the lobby and saw that Santa Claus was holding court by the Christmas tree. We rested in our room until 9:00 when we decided to go to Downtown Disney and do some shopping. The Carolers were back in the lobby and we enjoyed their singing as we walked through. Even at this late hour Downtown Disney was busy. There were lots of street musicians performing and Christmas carols playing. We looked through several neat shops: The Basin (bath products), Tin Pan Alley (collectibles, tins, lunchboxes, etc.), Island Charters (sportswear, nautical items), Illuminations (candles), Dept. 56 (glassware, Christmas ornaments, Snow Village collectibles, etc.). And we even got some Christmas shopping done. When we came out of Dept. 56 I gasped and grabbed Paula's arm--someone was playing my song! Okay, so it's not really *my* song, but it's a song that I love and, of course, have no idea what the name of the song is. I always hear it at the Italy pavilion at Epcot in WDW (it's a beautiful, almost operatic sounding song that--shocker!--always makes me cry) and I have been trying to find out what it is for months. As it turns out, one of the live performers right outside Dept. 56 was playing the song on the violin. We listened to the song and, when he was finished playing and the applause stopped, he announced that the song was called "Con te Partiro" or "Time to Say Good-bye" and that it was on the CD that he was selling. Five minutes and fifteen bucks later, I was patting myself on the back for finally getting a copy of the song! The artist's name that performed the song was Drew Tretick and he even insisted on signing the CD for me after I told him how much I loved that song. It was almost 11:00 by now and the shops were starting to close. We decided that we were hungry so we went into the Napoli Restaurante and got a small four cheeses and fresh tomato pizza and a small Italian sausage and mushroom pizza to go ($27.03). We took the pizza back to our room (have I mentioned how much I love this location?!) and were there in two minutes. Since the concierge lounge was already closed, we stopped at a vending machine and got two cokes (Wes and Paula) and a diet coke (me) for $2 each (ouch!). We ate our pizza and listened to my new CD on the DVD player in our room. Paula had some coke left over and decided to put it in our "Big Brother" refrigerator as Wes called it. There was a tiny 6x6 space that was labeled "for your personal use." It was just about enough room for Paula to put her coke as long as she leaned it sideways! I updated my trip report notes and we watched a little bit of Letterman. We were all in bed by 12:30.