Robin's December Trip Report - Part 2 - Day One


Are we there yet?
Feb 4, 2001
Dates: December 13-17, 2001
Travel Method: Plane, Super Shuttle
Resort: Grand Californian
Accomodations: Concierge room
Ages: Adult
Experience: Frequent


Robin/Me - age 38, trip planner
Paula/Sister - age 28
Wes/Brother-in-law (husband of Paula) - age 28

Thursday, December 13, 2001

"Experience nothing that you do not deem to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Plan: Trip to Anaheim, check in to Grand Californian, early to bed for an early start in the morning.

Our plane wasn't scheduled to leave until 6:30pm so I worked until 3:00 today and then went home to finish some last minute packing. Wes and Paula met me at my house at 4:00 and my mother took us to the airport at 4:45. We were checked-in by 5:00 and Paula and Wes both had to be scanned by hand after they went through the metal detectors at airport security. It was both of their first times to fly since September 11th and they weren't used to having to show their photo ID every 10 feet!

After we got our boarding passes (we were flying Southwest) we had a quick supper at Burger King, bought a few magazines at the gift shop (and an emery board. I swear, since we can't take fingernail files on board airplanes anymore I break my nails every two minutes while flying!), and then it was time to leave.

Our flight to Albuquerque arrived on time and our connecting flight left from just two gates down. Much better than the Baatan Death March through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport that we normally have to do! The flight attendants on the flight from Albuquerque to Los Angeles were hysterical (I love flying Southwest). After comments such as, "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but only 6 ways off this plane." and "Badda Boom Badda Bing there's the ding!" we were on our way.

We arrived at LAX on time at 8:00pm. This flight sure seemed easier than the ones to Florida to WDW. For one thing, it's a shorter distance to California and for another, the flight segments seem to be better spaced out (an hour to Albuquerque then 1 and 1/2 hours to LAX versus an hour to Dallas then 2 and 1/2 hours to Orlando)! We had claimed our luggage by 8:15 and headed out of the terminal to catch a shuttle.

I had decided to forego the rental car and just take a shuttle. That way, we didn't have to worry about driving or finding our way. To pick up any shuttles or busses at LAX you exit the terminal and cross over to a median where the shuttles and busses all pick up and drop off passengers. There are employees there to help arrange transportation for you. We had decided to use Super Shuttle instead of a bus because, with a smaller number of passengers, they make fewer stops and they take you directly to your hotel instead of sometimes having to change busses at the bus terminal in Anaheim in order to get to your final destination(look for the blue vans). As luck would have it, one headed to Disneyland pulled up just as we walked out! The driver loaded our luggage for us, put us in the van, and we were off on a terrifying trip out of the airport. It wasn't bad once we were on the open road, but getting out of the airport with roughly half a million other shuttles and busses all jockeying for the best position and zipping into and pulling away from the curb was very un-nerving! We finally had a running joke that, when we could no longer look out the front in terror, one of us would point out a side window and say "Look, there's a palm tree!" so we could all avert our eyes from what we knew to be an impending crash!

After two stops to pick up additional passengers (we had been the first ones on the van) we were on our way to Disneyland Resort. The shuttle let one passenger off in Buena Park and then the next stop was the Grand Californian.

Let me just take a minute to apologize in advance for what I'm sure will be the over-use of adjectives such as "beautiful," "breath-taking," "amazing," etc. I had never been to Disneyland or WDW at Christmas time and I now feel that there are not enough adjectives in the English language to describe how beautifully everything was decorated. So, please forgive the repetition

As we pulled up to the security gate the CM's checked all of our ID's (the driver and other passenger included) and checked to make sure we had a reservation. After clearing us, they gave us a pass to give to Bell Services when we unloaded our luggage. As we pulled up in front of the hotel, we didn't know what to "Oooh" and "Aaaah" over first. The hotel itself is very striking and was landscaped for Christmas with flower beds full of poinsettias and dusty miller. There was a row of evergreen trees which ran parallel to the road and they were all full of white Christmas lights. The front of the hotel and many of the eaves were decorated with wreaths and swags of greenery filled with lights, ribbons, pine cones, etc.

It was right at 9:20 when we pulled up. Gene, a bell services CM was at our side immediately helping to unload our luggage. We paid the Super Shuttle driver ($48 plus tip) and Gene whisked us into the Grand Californian.

Wow! This place is beautiful. It's slightly reminiscent of the Wilderness Lodge at WDW but with a character all it's own. It's full of stained glass, Tiffany lamps, hard-wood floors, marble floors, California pottery, etc. There is also a huge fireplace with plenty of seating around it. The furniture and styling is very Frank Lloyd Wright and Mission. The Christmas tree was situated in the middle of the lobby. It was at least three stories tall and was decorated with pine cones, ribbon, berries, and other ornaments. After picking our jaws up off of the floor, I went to the desk to register while Paula and Wes stayed back and talked to Gene (who, as it turns out, had a roommate who was from a small town close to where we live).

The registration desk is immediately to your right as you enter the lobby. We were quickly checked in and given a special welcome pack since we were staying on the concierge floor. Gene gave us a quick tour of the hotel lobby, pointed out the way to the theme parks and Downtown Disney, and then took us upstairs. Once we reached the 6th floor, Gene showed us where the concierge lounge was and then took us to our room. We were in room 6114 which was a great location. We were close to the elevators, lounge, and ice machine. Gene took us out on our balcony and showed us the view. Our room overlooked the courtyard and we were immediately rewarded with the sight of a monorail passing through. Now that will put you in a Disney mood in a hurry. After the monorail streamed by, we could hear the peaceful sound of crickets chirping along with the occassional hoot of an owl. Gene told us that these sounds were piped in but that he had been working there since the hotel opened in February and he had only recently realized that the crickets weren't real!

It was now about 9:40 so we hurried down to the lounge to get a coke before they closed at 10:00. They also had some cookies so we grabbed some to take back to our room which we were anxious to explore. The rooms were approximately the same size as the one's at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at WDW. There were two queen beds with a nightstand in between them, a table and two chairs, and an armoire with a TV and DVD player, refrigerator and several drawers. (The CM that checked us in had been quick to point out that the food and drinks inside the refrigerator were hooked up to sensors that automatically charged the room when you picked up an item. She said that, even if you immediately put the item back, there would be a charge. So we were paranoid about even opening the refrigerator!) The closet had an iron and ironing board, extra pillow and blanket, portable crib, wall safe, and several Grand Californian robes. On the balcony were two more chairs and a small table. The bathroom was lovely with a green marble double sink vanity with lots of storage above and beneath the sinks, and a smaller room with the commode and bath tub/shower combination. They had great toiletries--facial soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath soap, shower cap, shoe shine cloth, and a precious little sewing kit in a Grand Californian tin. There was also a coffee pot with regular and decaffeinated coffee and a blow-dryer.

My sister and her husband, who are both graphic designers, spent a fair amount of time marveling over the stationery, notepads, hotel guide, etc. Everything had little quotes on it such as "Experience nothing that you do not deem to be useful or believe to be beautiful." (This soon became the motto of our trip; however, as pretty much everything was beautiful, we had no problem sticking to our motto.) There was also a Sunflower Kit which contained sunflower seeds and planting instructions in a cute little tin. We also liked the picture of Snow White hanging on the wall and the Bambi shower curtain. Housekeeping had already been in to turn down our beds and had left chocolates with Bambi, Thumper Rabbit, and Owl on them. Everything was so precious that Paula and I lost the ability to speak and could only make high-pitched squeaking noises as we went around the room pointing from one thing to another!

We went back out on our balcony to wave at the passing monorails and were delighted to see that we could see the Matterhorn and the tops of Space and Splash Mountains from our room. We could also see the very top of the Christmas tree on Main Street at Disneyland.

It was now around 10:30 and, ignoring the fact that our bodies were telling us that it was 12:30am our time, we decided to look around the hotel. We took a closer look at the fireplace and the Christmas tree in the lobby and then went outside to the east to look at the outdoor fireplace which was in a courtyard that looked like it was used for weddings. They had several archways of live vines and a nice lawn. We could see the California Adventure theme park, especially Grizzly Peak--the mountain shaped like a bear. We also took a look at the swimming pools although they were both closed by this time. The slide on the larger pool looked neat. It wraps around a huge "redwood" tree trunk. It was pretty chilly every night that we were there--probably in the low to mid 40's--so we never saw anyone swimming at night.

We went back through the lobby, stopping to window shop at the Acorn gift shop, then went out to the North to the courtyard that our room overlooked. We walked maybe 20 yards and then, presto! We were in the middle of Downtown Disney! We all stopped in our tracks and gasped in amazement for several reasons. First, we couldn't believe how close we were. Second, where did all of this come from? We couldn't believe how this area had developed since we were last here (5 years ago for me and only 3 1/2 years ago for Paula and Wes). It certainly gives even Downtown Disney in Florida a run for it's money. And third, we had to gawk at how beautiful all the Christmas decorations were. Every tree was covered in a different color of lights from trunk to top and had lit ornaments hanging in them. It was lovely.

Most all of the shops were closed as it was now well after 11:00, but we walked to the West toward the Disneyland Hotel to take in the sights. House of Blues was jumping with a huge line of people waiting to get in. In fact, all of the restaurants looked like they were doing a good business. They had the Rainforest Cafe, Y Arriba Y Arriba, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, and the ESPN Zone all still open. We walked past the monorail station and over Disneyland Drive (how neat to be able to just go over the road) to the Disneyland Hotel. They have a giant Sorceror Mickey hat too, just like at MGM Studios at WDW, although it is not nearly as large as the BAH at MGM.

The Disneyland Hotel was all decked out for Christmas also. The had a huge live tree outdoors which had been flocked white and decorated with multi-colored lights and ornaments. They also had strings of white lights cascading down the sides of the three towers that make up the Disneyland Hotel. These lights ran all the way from the rooftop down to the ground (probably 10-12 floors). Very impressive. We took a quick peek at the Neverland Pool and noticed that even the pirate ship had lights on it.

We were back at the Grand Californian by 12:00 and, since several of the over-sized leather rocking chairs in front of the fireplace were vacant, we sat in front of the fire for a while until we were in danger of going to sleep and staying there til morning! We were all in bed by 1:00 (Yikes! That's 3:00am our time!). Paula and Wes were soon fast asleep. I updated my trip report notes until a little after 1:30 and then I was off to Neverland myself.
Thanks for the detailed description of the Grand California and for posting!


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