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 Monday, December 17, 2001 "100% Magic-free" Plan: Paula's choice, home Even though I had arranged for a wake-up call and set the alarm, I didn't sleep worth a darn from worrying that we wouldn't get up in time. I finally just gave up and got out of bed at 4:30. Our plan was to be packed and ready to go for early entry at 7:30. We wanted to video tape It's a Small World and the Haunted Mansion (which didn't open until the regular time of 9:00) and be back to the room to get our luggage, check-out and be downstairs by 10:10 for the shuttle back to the airport! Wes had decided the night before that he needed some rest so Paula and I could share some "sister time" by ourselves. Paula and I showered, packed and dressed then stopped by the lounge for a coke and croissant before going back to the room to wake Wes up so he could pack his things and get dressed while we were gone. We told him that his job was, if we didn't make it back before 10:00, to throw himself in front of the shuttle and not let it leave until we got back! We left for Disneyland at 7:15 and were at the gates before they opened. At 7:30 we were one of the first through the gates and we made a beeline for It's a Small World. We once again had a boat to ourselves and succeeded in taping the ride. When we were through the CM asked if we wanted to stay on and ride again. "It's free!" he said. We had to decline. We decided to take one more ride on Peter Pan since the Haunted Mansion wouldn't open til 9:00. After stopping for a bathroom break it was 8:15 and we decided to ride the monorail round-trip so we could ride through DCA and the courtyard at our hotel. We boarded at Tomorrowland and travelled through DCA, the Grand Californian (although the monorail never actually goes through the hotel, just outside of it), and were soon at the Downtown Disney station. While we were stopped at Downtown Disney a CM made all of the people waiting to board the monorail and ride to Tomorrowland go back out into Downtown Disney and informed us that we would have to get off the monorail here and walk through DTD to the front gates of Disneyland. She said that there was a fire alarm at the Grand Californian hotel so they were not allowed to take the monorails through the hotel! Ugh! Neither of us were fired up about having to walk this morning, plus we were now worried about making it to the Haunted Mansion in time. (Oh, yes, we were also worried that Wes and all of our luggage were now charcoal!) After hurrying through Downtown Disney and to the front gates we arrived on Main Street at 8:50 to find it roped off at the end of the shops so you couldn't get to the hub or to any of the ropes at the entrances to the various lands. Fortunately, a CM told us that if we were here and qualified for early entry, we could go through the Penny Arcade and would be let into the hub of Main Street. We did this and then positioned ourselves at the entrance to Adventureland so we could hurry to the Haunted Mansion. When the rope dropped we hurried along with all of the folks heading to Indiana Jones and then detoured to the Haunted Mansion. We were quickly in the stretching room and then loaded into our Doom Buggy. As soon as I got in the car and began to video tape the ride, I hit myself in the eye with the viewfinder and knocked my contact lens out! Not missing a beat, I handed the camera to Paula and hissed, "Keep filming! I lost my contact lens!" While she taped, I felt around for my contact lens and finally found it on my sweater. I put it back in my eye (worrying that the jerking of the car would make me lose it again) and then got the camera back from Paula! Yikes, what is it about Paula and I at Disney that makes us lose our contact lens (she lost hers in front of Peter Pan at WDW in May)?!? Luckily, that was the extent of our excitement and we were off the ride at 9:30. We hurried back to the hotel saying good-bye to everything as we passed. "Good-bye Indy!" "Good-bye Main Street!" "Good-bye California Adventure!"...you get the picture. We were back in the room by 9:45 and found that Wes had got both Paula and I a talking Eeyore as a reminder of the trip. We called Bell Services who quickly arrived to take our luggage downstairs and our shuttle was right on time at 10:10. We had one stop before we went to the airport. We were soon on the freeway with honking cars and zipping traffic and then were at the airport with all of it's security checks and waiting in lines. It's a shame that you don't have a couple of days to slowly come off of the magic from Disney. Instead you are immediately plunged into reality. The last straw was when Paula was physically frisked at the security check point because her shoes set off the alarm! Poor Paula! She declared that the airport was 100% magic-free! FINAL THOUGHTS Just a final thought or two. First, I started this trip cursing myself for scheduling it during such a busy time of year. It took all of two minutes after we arrived to change my mind. Everything is just beautiful this time of year. You couldn't help getting into the Christmas spirit with all of the decorations, lights and music around you. I would highly recommend visiting during the Christmas season. While the crowds at night for the parades and fireworks are daunting, the daytime crowds were very manageable (especially with the use of Fast Pass). After our initial day of rain, the weather was sunny and pleasant (although too cold to swim). As for the Grand Californian hotel--we absolutely loved it! I can't imagine staying anywhere else. I would definitely stay here above the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel. The location just cannot be beat and it is a gorgeous hotel. Finally, we also liked California Adventure. I know critics have been very hard on this park but we found it very enjoyable. Sure, it doesn't have the magic that Disneyland does--I don't think any park could duplicate that. We went to the park two days (granted they were not full days) and didn't manage to do even half of the rides and attractions. (Maybe if we hadn't have ridden Soarin' Over California three times we could have fit some more in!) I will agree that the Superstar Limosine ride sucks but, for the most part, everything we rode was great. Anyway, thanks for hanging in there with me. This is the last trip to either of the Disneys that I have planned for a while but I'm ever hopeful that one will come up!