Princesses, Pirates and Pumpkins


In Search of the Tag Fairy
Dec 25, 2007
Day 1

Like so many previous trips, this one started at the Crowne Plaza at Manchester Airport. I had managed to get a great travel industry rate for a Club Room. We had originally planned to head out to the viewing area to see our A380 depart, but the weather was pretty awful. So we decided to just stay put and chill out.

I was quite surprised that our room was already ready when we got to the hotel. I left Graham in the room and headed to the Club Lounge to do my online check in. I had to bite the bullet this time and pay for the extra suitcase. This is cheaper to do online than at the airport. Unfortunately they no longer have a printer in the club lounge. However, a quick trip to reception fixed this problem. They logged me in in the business centre and I sorted out my online check in and printed my boarding passes. Once this was out of the way, I checked my emails before going back to the room.

Graham had settled down to watch the Formula One race. I decided that I would finish my book. Once the race was over, we headed down to the Club Lounge. There is a distinct absence of a kettle in the room. Fortunately there is a nice fancy coffee machine in the Club Lounge. Still, once we got down there, we both decided to have a cold drink. Graham had an orange juice and I went with an apple and raspberry J2O. We both went online to sort out various things.

Once we were done, we decided to get some fresh air. The weather had significantly improved since lunchtime. We walked up to the perimeter fence near the runway and spent a happy hour or so watching the planes come and go.

When we got back to the hotel, Graham watched some more TV and I got absorbed into a business traveller magazine that I found on the desk in the room. At 18:00, we headed back to the Club Lounge. Every evening between 18:00 and 20:00 they serve alcoholic drinks and canapés. Graham had a Corona and I had a Bulmer's Cider. They had crisps and salted peanuts out and then came round with assorted cold canapés and spring rolls. My eyes had been caught by the after dinner liqueurs and specifically the Cointreau. As I knew that they would have stopped serving alcohol by the time we had dinner, I decided that I would have my after dinner drink before dinner. I was on holiday after all.

Once we had finished our drinks, we were ready for our dinner. We had made a reservation for 19:30, but we decided to check if they could fit us in earlier. This was no problem. We started with Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup and then had the set meal, which consisted of Crispy Seaweed, Steamed Pork Buns, Chicken Satay, Sambal Prawns, Crispy Chilli Beef, Chicken Massaman Curry and Egg Fried Rice. Graham had a Chinese beer with his dinner, but I decided I had enough alcohol and went with a Ginger Ale instead.

After dinner, we headed back to our room. Graham watched TV for a bit, but I was really tired and headed for bed.
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 2

    We had an early start this morning. Our alarm call went off at 6:00. We had a quick shower and packed the things that we had needed over night and then headed to the Club Lounge for breakfast. We both had some coffee and orange juice. I am not really a breakfast person at the best of times. So I just had some orange segments. Graham had some fruit, yoghurt and a croissant.

    When we had finished our breakfast, we went to check out, which was very smooth. We had a short wait for the shuttle, but very soon we were on our way. When we got to the terminal, there was only a very short queue for the baggage drop. The queue for the normal check in was significantly longer. My passport caused some excitement again. This happens every time I fly with Delta. They asked me for my UK driving license, which I fortunately had handy. I also showed them my staff ID and once they had a look at both, we could proceed to the check in desk. Everything from there on in was smooth sailing. We were checked in very quickly and there was hardly any queue at security. My bag was not singled out for extra screening this time round. I decided to play it safe this time and put the door magnets for the cruise in my suitcase. Graham ended up having to go through the body scanner, but that was very quick as well.

    We had plenty of time until our flight left. We both looked for a book. I normally just read ebooks on my iPad nowadays, but I knew that the battery would not last all the way to Los Angeles. So I decided to get a good old-fashioned paperback. I was also looking for headphones as I managed to forget mine. They had the same ones that I have at home, but there "airport price" was twice as much as I had paid on Amazon. As they were about the cheapest that they had, I passed.

    I still had some of my vow renewal make up to get as it is cheaper at the airport. I had brought the list. I arranged to meet Graham at the gate and he went off. Once I had done my shopping, I headed to the gate. It was interesting to watch how they got the plane ready.

    Soon it was time to board. The plane was full to the rafters. I was very glad that I had decided to play it safe and got ordinary tickets. There was no chance that we would have got on flying standby. Graham and I had two seats together by the window. As airline seats go, they were pretty comfortable and even had a decent amount of legroom. When we had flown Delta to Atlanta before, we had seatback TVs, but this time round they just had overhead TVs in the cabin. I do not cope particularly well with those. I therefore alternated between reading my book and napping, but Graham watched all four films.

    The flight was smooth, uneventful and pleasant. The cabin crew was fabulous, even though they all seemed close to retirement age. They came round very frequently with drinks and unlike last time, beer and wine were included in the price of the flight. I was a bit nervous as the white wine was Chardonnay and came out of a cardboard box, but it was surprisingly tasty. I was also surprised when I asked for Ginger Ale and was not just poured some or given one of those mini cans, but was given a full-size can. The food was also a nice surprise. Yes, it was airline food, but a notch above most of it. There was a choice between either Vegetable Lasagne or Grilled Chicken Breast. We both went with the chicken, which came with Ratatouille and Mashed Potato. We also got a salad with some kind of cheese cubes, a roll, cheese and crackers and some chocolate biscuits. With about 90 minutes of the flight to go, we were served pizza ( tomato, cheese and pesto) and ice-cream.

    We arrived in Atlanta a little ahead of schedule. Things were very smooth. We got in line, for immigration and were then asked to move to another area where the line was significantly shorter. We did not have long to wait to clear immigration. When we got to the luggage belts, our suitcases had already been taken off the belt and put to one side. The line for customs looked huge, but moved very quickly. As soon as we were through customs, we dropped off our luggage at another belt. We went through security and then we decided to get some dinner.

    Our original plan had been to have dinner at Chilis, but we could not find a directory and there was no Chilis in the terminal where we had arrived. There was however a TGI Fridays so we settled for this. We shared a starter platter, which consisted of boneless chicken wings in a Garlic and Parmesan sauce, fried mozzarella and fried green beans with different dips. Graham then had his first steak with fries and vegetables. I went with chicken strips and fries and some Ranch dip. The Margaritas were very tempting, but we decided to stick with water. The food was very nice and we were soon stuffed. We had a bit of an amusement as they kept moving wheelie bins through the restaurant. I somehow doubt that this would happen back home.

    Once we finished dinner, we checked if our flight was listed now, which it was. It ended up departing from a terminal at the opposite end of the airport so we set off towards the train that links the terminals. On the way, we passed a Starbucks and Graham asked if I wanted to get a Green Tea Frappuccino. However, I was too stuffed and declined.

    When we arrived at the terminal from which our connecting flight would depart, we watched the planes for a bit before heading to our gate. Graham settled down opposite the gate and had a nap. I was pretty tired, too, but knew that I could not risk falling asleep as this would probably have meant that the plane would have gone without us. I started with reading my book, but as my eyes kept falling shut, I decided it was better to move around. I browsed the shops in the terminal for a bit and ended up having a Green Tea Frappuccino shortly before it was time to get on the plane.

    The plane was again very full. It was a narrow-bodied plane with a single aisle and I was very surprised when it was announced that this was supposed to continue on to Sydney after stopping at Los Angeles. Because the plane was so full, there was no room in the overhead lockers for our hand luggage, but fortunately everything fit underneath the seats in front of us.

    Shortly before take off, I realised that the person in the seat behind had some kind of service animal. After I had to do a online course about transportation of service animals at work about 18 months ago, I was a little concerned that it might be an emotional support spider as there did not seem to be room for anything bigger. However, at some stage during the flight, the person sitting next to me got up and suddenly he was replaced by a cute little dog that had spotted an escape route and came to join us. It took the owner a while to convince the dog to return to its spot underneath the seat.

    Other than that, the flight was pretty eventless. I spent most of it napping and read when I was awake. Soon enough, we were approaching Los Angeles. Just before we landed, there was an announcement that there would be an aircraft change for those people continuing on to Sydney. This was probably what caused a delay in getting our luggage. We took our time in getting to the luggage carousel as we needed to use the bathroom and I was half expecting that our luggage would already have arrived by the time we got to the baggage hall. In the end, it took about an hour and involved a sudden change of baggage carousel. Fortunately, once the luggage from our flight started arriving, all of our luggage arrived in quick succession.

    I was glad that we had decided against hiring a car for the duration of the holiday. Instead I had booked two seats on a shared van service. We had to wait for a little while for a van servicing the Disneyland area to arrive. Once our van arrived, we took a bit of a scenic tour around the airport. I started to get a bit worried that we would drop off the people going to private residences first, but once we had left the airport, we headed straight to the Grand Californian Hotel. Graham slept for the whole of the journey.

    When we got to the hotel, we were greeted by a whole army of bellmen offering their services. Considering how late it was, we decided that we could cope with our luggage ourselves. We did not want to have to wait for our luggage to be delivered. Check in was smooth and we were soon on our way to our room. I had managed to leave a carrier bag with our books behind. I could not recall if I had left this at reception or if I had never picked this up in the car park after sorting out the paperwork for the shuttle. So decided to retrace my steps. When I came up to reception, I saw the bag sitting on the counter. They had already called the room to check if he had left something behind. Once I had my bag, I headed back to the room and finally went to bed. It was just before midnight, meaning that I had been up for 26 hours.


    <MARQUEE BEHAVIOR=ALTERNATE><img src=http://www.em
    Jun 29, 2008
    :wave2: Followed your link from the AKL Lite thread.
    Can't wait to read more:goodvibes
  • Angel16

    <b><font color=f95602>Member of the 'Jambo! WildBu
    Aug 1, 2004
    I am here to join in the adventure. :)


    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Nov 15, 2009
    Our paths never crossed at Disneyland, but I'd love to hear about the trip and the cruise! So I'm in!
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Welcome to the thread. I am honoured that you are joining me. I will post about our first day at Disneyland later.



    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 3

    The day started with an interesting realization: It is actually possible to sleep beyond 4:00 or 5:00 AM the first morning in the USA. I suppose it is all a question of being awake long enough the day before. When I woke up, I thought that it was daylight early. I then checked my watch and realized that it was 6:55, which was kind of a blow as we had a reservation for a character breakfast at 7:00 AM. Graham was still fast asleep. As the reservation was in one of the restaurants in our hotel, I decided to go and see them to explain the situation and see if they could reschedule the reservation. This was fortunately no problem and I got a new reservation for 8:20.

    With the breakfast situation sorted out, I decided to turn my attention to the tickets. This is where I encountered the next spanner in the works. I was planning to attend Mickey's Halloween Party twice, once before the cruise and once after. I had rang the ticket hotline as soon as annual pass holders and DVC members could purchase the tickets and they tried everything to dissuade me from buying the tickets before coming to Disneyland. When I did Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World in 2009, I was able to purchase the ticket from home and was given a pick up number, with which I could get my ticket from any ticket booth once I got there. This was not an option. They said that they could mail me the tickets, but were strongly advising against this. I was advised that I should just get the tickets once I arrive at Disneyland. I voiced my concerns that the party nights in question might be sold out by then, but I was advised that the only night that sells out ahead of time is Halloween itself. So I decided to trust the advice I was given and get the tickets when I arrived at Disneyland. Boy, do I wish I had not listened. I had no problem to get a ticket for 11th October, but was told that 30th September was sold out. I was decidedly not impressed. I had made arrangements for a Trash the Dress shot on the 30th. The make up artist and the photographer were booked and the photographer had her ticket for the party. I explained the advice that I had been given on the phone and that I had made arrangements to go to the party with somebody who already had a ticket and how let down I felt. The cast member went to speak to her manager, but there was nothing that could be done at this point. I was advised that some tickets would have been held back for sale on the day. This left me at least some hope. I got my ticket for 11th October. I was also hoping to get my annual pass. However, they could only sell the normal annual passes and not the ones with the DVC discount. I was not too worried about this as I was heading to Disneyland that morning anyway and I had to walk right past the ticket booth.

    While I was down there, I tried to pick up a couple of packages that had been sent to the hotel. One of them was waiting for me. This was the package with my tiara and other jewellery. So I took it back to our room and checked out my loot. I also had a couple of emails to send. Once everything was done, I noticed that Graham was awake. I told him that I had managed to change our breakfast reservation for a later time. He was not too impressed at first, but the prospect of steak and eggs for breakfast proved too tempting in the end. While he got ready, I checked out the view. Grand Californian Hotel is technically inside Disney's California Adventure. We were overlooking the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and Grizzly River Run.

    Once Graham was ready, we headed down to the restaurant. It did not seem overly busy. We were seated straight away and soon had some coffee and orange juice in front of us. Graham went with the Grand Steak and Eggs - Two Eggs and a grilled New York Steak with Country Potatoes and white Toast. I decided on Huevos Rancheros - Two Eggs Sunny-Side Up, crispy Corn Tortillas and Black Beans, topped with a mild Roasted Tomato Salsa, Cheddar, Sour Cream, grilled Flour Tortillas and fresh Avocado. We both very much enjoyed the food. It did not take long for the characters to arrive. It was nice that there were so many relatively rare characters. Dale was the first character to join us, followed by Koda, Terk and Kenai in short order. I had never encountered Koda and Kenai before. The same is true for Meeko, who was so much fun. Meeko spent a while with us and was really mischievous. At one stage I asked him if he was Stitch in disguise. While Meeko was with us, Chip passed by. I was a bit disappointed that we had missed him, but our server redirected him to us when she realized what had happened.

    Once we had finished our breakfast and had seen all the characters, we decided to have a look around the hotel. The pool area is pretty impressive. The hotel has three pools, a kids' wading pool and two hot tubs all in the same area. One of the pools has two slides, one for young children and one for everybody else. They also have very luxurious loungers by the pool and the views are pretty nice, too.

    Graham had decided that he would join me for the Halloween party on 11th October so we went back to reception to get his ticket before this one sold out, too. He also got a one day hopper pass so that he could join me in the parks for a day. Once this had been taken care of, we headed back to the room and I picked up the things that I needed for a day at Disneyland.


    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    One thing that always impresses me is just how compact everything is. The Grand Californian Hotel has an entrance at Downtown Disney. From there, it is about a 5 minute walk to the turnstiles of Disneyland. I got sidetracked though. I could not resist the huge World of Disney store. Now that Graham had made the decision to come to a Halloween party with me, I wanted to get a Halloween t shirt for him. I did not find anything suitable. So I headed onwards to the ticket booths to get my annual pass. The bag check was very quick and I was directed straight towards an available ticket agent. Within 5 minutes, I was the proud owner of a new annual pass. I was asked to see a Photopass photographer to have photo associated with the annual pass and was sent on my way. The annual passes at Disneyland are proper plastic cards and also double as a Photopass card.

    When I got to the turnstiles, I was asked for ID as there was no photo attached yet. They do not have the finger scans at Disneyland. Again I was reminded to have a Photopass photographer take a photo for the annual pass. This proved to be easier set then done. On every over day, there were Photopass photographers right by the turnstiles, but on that day none were to be found. In the end, I found one near the giant Mickey pumpkin on Town Square. So I did not only have my photo taken for the annual pass, but also had my first Photopass photos taken.

    I slowly walked up Mainstreet. It looked very crowded and I started to get a certain sinking feeling. I learned very quickly though that just because the park looks crowded, it does not mean that it really is busy. I suppose much of it is because the park is so much smaller in size then the other Disney parks I have been to. The longest advertised wait times were 45 minutes for Splash Mountain and 30 minutes for Startours. I had no intention to do either and everything else was much lower. I stopped at the hub to have my photo taken in front of the Partners statue and then headed over to Tomorrowland.

    I started off with riding Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters three times in quick succession. The posted waiting time was 5 minutes, but it was essentially as long as it took you to walk from the entrance to the loading area. This ride is slightly different from the version at both Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris, but like Disneyland Paris, the laser guns are not mounted to the ride vehicle. It felt shorter than the other two, but is actually the longest version. However, we did not stop even once on the way around so that probably altered the perception.

    After the last turn, I decided to check out the pin situation at the gift shop. I had forgotten my trading lanyard at home so I got a starter set and a mystery pin. They also had a Vinylmation Disney Cruise Line pin so that followed me home as well. Of course, in the end I did not do any pin trading at all this time round, but I just have more pins to trade next time round.

    Next up, I decided to be brave. I went to ride Space Mountain. I am not very brave when it comes to coaster type rides in the first place. Rides like Crush's Coaster at Walt Disney Studios in Paris and Primeval Whirl and Expedition Everest at Walt Disney World all freak me out. Add to this that I had a bad experience on Space Mountain at Walt Disney World years ago where I was sliding around rather too much despite the lap bar, and I had avoided this particular ride like the plague for years. However, at Disneyland Space Mountain gets a make over for the Halloween season and is turned into Ghost Galaxy. I had every intention to sample all the Halloween offerings. I had a word with the cast member manning the entrance of the line and explained that I am nervous of this kind of ride, but love the likes of Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain. I asked him if he thought I would be OK with this. He pointed to a poster with the ghosts and said that they would pop up regularly and can be startling, but that from the ride perspective, if I like Matterhorn, then I would have no problem with this. So I decided to go for it. The special effects did not worry me at all. The wait time was 20 minutes so I had plenty of opportunity to doubt my decision. I ended up loving the ride. The theming was done very cleverly and although it was way more intense than Matterhorn, it was a true blast and nothing I could not handle. The ride vehicles were different from those at Walt Disney World. The seats were molded and even though it still had only a lap bar, it felt like you were bolted to the seat.

    That adventure over, I headed for a ride that was new for me. It had still been built the last time I was at at Disneyland: . The wait for this was again 20 minutes, but it felt longer as almost all of the line is completely out in the open and it was very hot. The ride started with a scenic ride through a "coral reef", which was very well done. Then came a segment that used the same film footage as The Sea with Nemo and Friends at Epcot. There were then some pretty stunning special effects simulating an underwater volcano eruption and then the ride concluded with some more film footage.



    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Dec 25, 2007
    After this, I managed to ride Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain with next to no wait. I had planned to do It's A Small World, but it looked really busy. So I decided to leave this for another day. With hindsight, it would probably have been OK. The entrance plaza leads pretty much straight to the loading dock. So just because there are people waiting on the entrance plaza does not mean that the ride is particularly busy.

    Instead I headed for Mickey's Toon Town. This is an area that I normally always bypass, but I knew that there are two rides there: Gadget's Go Coaster and Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. I decided that Gadget's Go Coaster was really for the kids, but got in line for Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. The line was indeed the best part of the ride. It was hugely inventive, snaking through the streets of Toon Town with loads of visual gags. The wait time was again 20 minutes. The ride itself is not very memorable and the only thing I do remember about it is that it is a cross between a dark ride and spinning tea cups.

    Next up was Haunted Mansion Holiday. I expected a lengthy wait for this, but the posted wait time was 15 minutes and the actual wait time was probably closer to 10 minutes. At Disneyland, Haunted Mansion is getting an elaborate holiday make over every year with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme. I have never watched Nightmare Before Christmas, but I had heard that this is pretty spectacular. So I definitely wanted to try this as soon as possible. I absolutely loved it. It was amazing what they are able to do. It was like a completely different ride.

    I decided that it was time to get something to drink. As I was at New Orleans Square, I decided to try a Mint Julip. It is a concoction of mint and lime and very refreshing. I browsed the shops around New Orleans Square for a bit. I then crossed into Adventureland. By then I had essentially had enough for the day. I decided to make use of the single rider line for the Indiana Jones ride and that brought the wait time down from 25 minutes to about 10 and most of this was spent walking through the endless exit path. This ride uses the same ride technology as Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom, but I love the theme of the ride and how it has been executed.

    I thought I would treat myself to a Dole Whip Float on my way out, but the line for that was easily the longest line that I had encountered all day. So I gave up on that idea and headed back to the hotel.

    When I got back to the room, I had a message from somebody from the DVC team at the hotel about my issue with the ticket for Mickey's Halloween Party. She promised that somebody would contact the main gate on my behalf on the day of the event to try to get me another ticket. I was pretty happy with this.

    Graham arrived back at the room shortly after me and we decided to check out Anaheim Garden Walk and get an early dinner. According to all the information, Anaheim Garden Walk is only one block from Disneyland. Well, it felt like we were walking for miles. It is not very well signposted either. I suddenly saw Bubba Gump's Shrimp Company and I knew that this is at Anaheim Garden Walk. Otherwise we might not have realised that we had arrived. We decided to try The Cheesecake Factory. Graham had one of their combination plates, Shrimp Scampi and Steak Diane with a Mushroom Wine Sauce and Mashed Potatoes. I went with the Famous Factory Meatloaf with Mashed Potato, Roasted Onions, Gravy and Corn Succotash. We both enjoyed our meal, but as the portions were huge, neither of us had room for cheesecake.

    After dinner, we had a look around. Anaheim Garden Walk reminds me a lot of Pointe Orlando. It has a cinema and a lot of restaurants as well as some upscale and specialty shops. Two shops caught my eye: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Lush. I did pass on Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, as I did not think that the intense smells of chocolatey goodness would agree with my full stomach. I did however have a look at Lush and managed to find some soap that I used to love, but that was discontinued in the UK years ago. So I bought a nice big chunk of this.

    Once I had my shopping, we headed back to the hotel. Even so it was only about 19:00, we were both ready for our bed. We called it a day and went to bed.

    Tammy Stringer

    <font color=red>I love babies - all milky and baby
    May 5, 2002
    Oh good another of your trip reports to read Corinna

    Some lovely pictures of Disneyland.



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