Victoria Kahler -- October 2003 – Disneyland (PPH)
Victoria has written four previous trip reports:
In June 2003, Mae and I became Annual Passholders (APs) for the Disneyland Resort (DLR). It was only a matter of time before we made another trip to Anaheim. We just needed an available weekend and a reasonable room rate. Using Mae’s Cast Member (CM) discount, we booked one night at the Paradise Pier Hotel (PPH) for October 25 at only $89. Later, I found out that the AP discount rate was $119 for that very same night, so we were pleased with our arrangements.
If you read any of my previous DLR trip reports, you’ll know that we are hopeful to stay at the Grand Californian Hotel, but again that was not to be. Someday, when the price is right, we will at last. The PPH, after all, is a fine place to stay for a night or two and we appreciate the proximity to Disney’s California Adventure (DCA).
There were three items of high priority for this weekend getaway. First, Haunted Mansion Holiday (HMH). Mae, especially, insisted on this attraction. When I finished a rough itinerary for our trip, I sent it to Mae. She added only one notation, next to HMH, she wrote: “Twice please.” Second, Fantasmic. This is the greatest Disney theme park show ever. We were ecstatic that its run extended into the fall season. We planned to experience this “twice please” as well. Third, pin trading. We discovered Disney pins on a Walt Disney World (WDW) trip in January 2002. Since then, our collections have grown quite large, thanks to Ebay and occasional trips to DLR. I can only imagine the fun and (financial) trouble we will find when we return to WDW in 2004 and see the pins there!
Friday, October 24, 2003
The day before our trip, I met up with Mae at her house after she got off work. We tried to rest up for the night’s drive, but, as always, how could I sleep the day before going to Disneyland? I ended up watching “I Love the 80’s Strikes Back.”
At midnight, we were excited for the trip and ready to pack up my car. An hour later, we left Northern California for Anaheim.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
The drive was uneventful. The great thing about driving during the night is that the truckers pullover to the side of the road to sleep. We enjoyed nearly empty highways most of the way. Somewhere around 3:30 a.m., we stopped for a snack at a Carl’s Jr.--Not much to report there.
Paradise Pier Hotel
A little after 7 a.m., we arrived at the PPH. As expected, our room was not yet ready. We checked in, and called later in the day to find out what room would be ours for the night. After a few minutes of make up and hair styling in the second floor bathroom, we headed over to catch the Monorail just as Disneyland opened at 8:00 a.m.
As pin traders, our first stop was Tomorrowland’s Premiere Shop. There we made a few trades and bought a few pins too. The CMs succeeded at getting us to buy more than we expected to. One pointed out new releases of the day; then another displayed the AP exclusives when he noticed our cards.
Next, we headed over to New Orleans Square. Haunted Mansion Holiday was inexplicably closed, and the CM there said to try back later in the day. So, we took a ride with Winnie the Pooh. I heard there are several Hidden Mickeys in this ride, but we only found one, after the Heffalumps and Woozles part.
As we walked through the park, we began to notice the smokiness of the air. Walking along, I would suddenly be struggling with a speck in my eye. Mae looked at my black t-shirt and thought I was suffering from an extreme case of dandruff, until I pointed out the “dandruff” on her shirt as well. When we stopped to trade pins with a CM, we asked her about it. She said, “It’s snow,” then went on to explain that due to a few fires in Southern California ashes had been floating all over the place for a couple of days. Neither Mae nor I watch the news much and had no idea of the severity of these fires until later.
Trudging on, we went over to Toontown. I had never before been on Gadget’s Go Coaster. With no line in sight, this was the perfect time. It’s a cute ride. The spitting frogs surprised Mae when they sprayed her. Other than that, the ride was fairly ho-hum, though I’m sure kids like it.
Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin is much better. The queue alone is an experience! For this time, we decided not to use the steering wheel to spin the car. Instead, we just sat and tried to keep up with the finer points of each scene. I can’t say that I really followed the storyline, but I noticed so much more than ever before. Spinning the car, though fun, distracted me in the past. We really enjoyed the ride in a different way. Unfortunately, without using the wheel, we ended up having our backs to a few scenes. I suppose we will have to spin a little next time.
Strolling out of Toontown, we saw Jafar and Governor Ratcliffe standing in the meet-and-greet area near it’s a small world. Mae collects autographs and needed Jafar’s. After a short line, we stepped up to meet him. Though he couldn’t speak to us, his villainous personality definitely came through. When Mae asked for his autograph and presented her book, he turned his head. Though his facial features remained motionless, we still practically saw him sneering. I told her to address him properly and he might sign her book. So we each tried: “Please your Majesty . . . Excellency . . . Supremacy?” Finally, he nodded and signed the page. We bowed. Then Mae started to walk away and Jafar followed her, pointing his scepter at her. “He’s after you!” I called. Then we both ran, laughing and shouting “Bye!”
We continued to stroll and pin traded up and down Main Street. The shops there are a great place to find lanyard-wearing CMs. If you are a pin trader, don’t walk on the sidewalks when traveling this street; you miss too many opportunities.
As we walked, we noticed that characters were out in full force. I guessed that due to the closure of several rides (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it’s a small world, Space Mountain, for at least a few hours HMH), characters roamed various parts of the park to spread some pixie dust. There was Alice, Mary Poppins and her penguins, Pluto, and a couple of princesses. It is nice to see them out and about; I think they are part of the magic at Disneyland.
At last, HMH opened for the day; we never found out what caused the unexpected closure. Instead of using Fastpass, we went through the queue. This is something we hadn’t done for a while, but like to do from time to time. Especially at this time of year, the queue included many special touches: lyrics to scarols (scary Christmas carols), Halloween-esque wreaths, a first Oogie Boogie sighting. At the entrance to the ride, the CM handed out maps with clues to all the places in the ride where Oogie lurked. We passed on the map for this time and just enjoyed the ride, planning to ride later and find all the Oogies then.
At 11:30 that morning, our Priority Seating (PS) time for Blue Bayou arrived, and we were starving. We checked in and waited at the back of the crowded lobby. The hostess called my name first, which was somewhat exciting. Mae said she felt like a celebrity as everyone turned to look at us and parted to let us enter the restaurant. I said, “See, it pays to make a PS way in advance.” The hostess seated us in the empty restaurant (since Blue Bayou had just opened) right near the water. The Pirates of the Caribbean boats floated by, and we felt like part of the ride. A few people even waved at us. This is why I love Blue Bayou! Where else can you find this great dining atmosphere? Eating right next to the (arguably) greatest theme park ride ever!
Mae ordered the seafood platter. I asked for the Monte Cristo. Both were delicious. I had heard that the legendary Monte Cristo sandwich was excellent; it was the best Monte Cristo I ever had. The blackberry jam was particularly good, smooth (no seeds) and sweet (not tart at all). However, the seafood Mae had was even better than my lunch. The skewered shrimp and salmon were wonderfully flavorful.
After eating, we walked through DCA to get to our hotel via the Paradise Walk (the exclusive entrance into DCA for Hotel guests) to get to our car and go to Company D (a CM store where Disney merchandise is 50% to 90% off; the selection is limited however. It is a mile or two away from DLR. CMs show their IDs at the front door and at the registers. Friends and family members may accompany them). We spent about an hour there. Not much was different from our last visit. The main addition to the supply of the store was all the costumes. I was very tempted to buy the Maleficent one, since I am a huge fan, but I resisted. We bought a couple of t-shirts and some cute plushes. Unfortunately, there were hardly any pins.
Paradise Pier Hotel
Returning to the resort, our room was ready. We asked for a bellhop to help us (Yes, for just an overnight trip, we had packed plenty and needed the assistance. Can you believe it?). The room was great. On prior stays at the PPH, we liked the fun, casual atmosphere. This time our room was in a corner area, so instead of one window we had two huge windows. The room itself seemed much larger as well, with two king-sized beds, table and chairs, a plush reading chair, and an entertainment console for the TV and refrigerator. The Disney touches are not as abundant as they are at the Disneyland Hotel, especially in the lacking pool area. Nevertheless, we are fond of the place. Though the windows faced DCA, we did not have a theme park view due to our fifth floor location. If you want to see the park, ask for floor seven or higher, I think.
Disney’s California Adventure
After settling in, we headed into the park, making a few pin trades on our way to the Hollywood Backlot. On our first foray in DCA in 2001, we took the personality test in the Beast’s Library and found that I am Jane (from “Tarzan”) and Mae is Nala. On another trip, we wanted to take the test again, but didn’t want to contradict our last test’s results. So, we answered differently on the pivotal question: “Do you like to eat lunch with nice people or eat nice people for lunch?” Choosing the latter, we discovered our villainous selves. Me, Evil Queen. Mae, Yzma. This time we discussed how to again come to different, but not contradictory, results. We decided we needed to learn what male characters we are most like.
As we stood in line, Mae noticed that the woman ahead of us did the same thing. “Look,” Mae said, “She got a male character.” The person then stood up from the chair and turned. Oops! It was a longhaired man. I turned bright red, embarrassed for Mae, and she and I laughed. The guy didn’t say anything, so we hoped he had not heard. We went to the kiosk for our turn, avoiding eye contact with the man.
Anyway, we took the test and found that Mae and I are Lumiere and Cogsworth, respectively. This test really is 100% accurate. Mae really lights up a room, and I am always wound up! For good measure, we took the test again to discover our masculine villainous sides. Mae, Hopper. Me, Shere Khan. Hee!
Moving on, we considered stopping to sing in Ursula’s Grotto, but were too shy with the crowds around.
Before this trip, I somehow scraped some skin off my left index finger. Throughout the day, I managed to hit the wound numerous times. Every time I traded a pin or pulled my credit card out of my wallet (which, obviously, happened quite a lot!), I would aggravate my injury. So, we went to the first aid station at the end of Main Street. I never before visited in this area. It was calm and quiet inside. A few pictures of Minnie and Daisy as nurses adorned the walls. The RN on duty promptly cleansed the scrape on my finger with an iodine swab and then applied antibiotic ointment. Then she put a big, flexible Band-Aid on my little wound, making it look very substantial (a greater source of sympathy?). She asked me to sign the “guest” registry and gave me two more Band-Aids to have when the first came off. She even offered me ibuprofen for the slight swelling; I declined. The whole thing was very professional, impressing both Mae and I.
From Main Street, we returned to New Orleans Square to visit the Disney Gallery. For this season, the Gallery featured the art of the Haunted Mansion. The showcase delighted us. Marc Davis was a genius!
We stopped at the Mint Julep Bar for the famous/infamous mint julep. I took part in a discussion thread on the topic of mint juleps recently and found that this drink is a divisive issue. Some people hate it; one person described it as “drinking Scope mouth wash.” I myself compare it to drinking mint gum: delicious! If you don’t like mint, you probably will not like a mint julep. Otherwise, give it a try, I say.
For dinner, we ate at Rancho Del Zocalo. This is a great counter-service restaurant with two sections: Mexican food and barbecue. Mae went for a burrito, and I went for the barbecued tri-tip. We both enjoyed our meals. Mine was hearty, with side dishes of baked beans, cornbread, coleslaw, and fries. However, with the windows boarded up, due to the closure of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the atmosphere lacked the usual excitement.
After dinner, we had an hour or so to spare before finding a place for Fantasmic. It was time for a great moment with Mr. Lincoln. Boy, did we ever. Awake for nearly twenty-four hours by this time, we were in giddy moods and everything seemed funny. We had the giggles as we walked into the Walt Disney Story area. When the announcer reminded us that inside the theater no flash photography was allowed, I burst out laughing. For some reason, this struck me as hilarious. Mae asked why I kept laughing. Still amused, I managed to tell her between laughs. She and l barely noticed that everyone turned to look at the screen right behind us while we continued to chuckle. When I saw the crowd looking our way, I walked to the back of the room to finish my laughter. We both continued to laugh as we entered the theater. It took a minute of Private Cunningham’s story to get us to stop. I felt so guilty, since it’s such a solemn show, but Mae said, “It’s not like they can kick us out of Disneyland for being happy!”
Anyway, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was as poignant as ever. The story is really touching. However, the sounds of glass breaking, bees buzzing, and scissors snipping still unnerved me. I pulled the earphones away from my ears to keep from cringing.
Back in New Orleans Square, we had a few difficulties finding a place to watch Fantasmic. The areas closest to the Rivers of America were completely full; a CM stood watch to make sure that no one else entered the area. When we found an okay place to sit, another CM came over to tell us we were blocking a walkway. Finally, we found a good location to stand, just a bit right of center. As show time came near, fellow onlookers surrounded us until each of us had, maybe, one square foot to stand in.
Standing to watch Fantasmic is, strangely, part of the appeal. The walkways are *magically* turned into an auditorium for the show. I always feel that Fantasmic really shouldn’t be going on there, kind of like it’s guerilla theater.
Fantasmic was wonderful. It seemed to transport me back in time eleven years, and I remembered the first time I saw the show. I remembered my astonishment when the film screens made of water appeared. Mae and I spoke and sang every line of the show, not too loudly but made enough of a spectacle of ourselves to get *that look* from a couple of people near us. You know, that look that says, “How/Why on earth have you memorized this?!”
After the show, we decided to find a better spot to watch Fantasmic again. We went front and center to where the previous show’s crowds had just cleared. Here, we took our seats and waited. At last, the second showing began. At this time, the winds also kicked up a bit. Ash (from the Southern California wildfires), sprinkles of water (from the movie screens), and heat (from the dragon’s flames in the show) came right at us. Apparently, this posed a potential hazard. Immediately after Mickey defeated the dragon, the show came to a halt and the announcer said that for the safety of guests and performers, Fantasmic could not continue. The crowd sighed, but I think everyone understood and quickly dispersed.
Mae and I intended to spend at least another hour in the park, but the ash in the air became too difficult to tolerate. We headed out of the park and to the Hotel. A lot of other people evidently felt the same. Everyone walked very briskly through Downtown Disney to the three hotels. With people ducking their heads and covering their faces with the necks of their shirts or with any available cloth and ashes swirling in the air, we looked like evacuees from a war zone or something. Not that I ever escaped from a war zone!
Sunday, October 26, 2003
In the morning, the fires had obviously worsened. The sky was even more gray and smoky and the sun was a reddish-orange color. A few minutes of the morning’s news broadcasts confirmed our thoughts. I went down to the bell desk and asked about road closures. The helpful Bell Captain gave me a map and highlighted the fire-ravaged areas on it. He also provided me a toll-free number to call about highway conditions. Mae and I decided it would be okay to leave at our planned time—later that day in the early afternoon—and we tried to enjoy our last few hours at DLR. It would have been nice to have the surgical masks that many CMs wore that day.
With a 7:30 a.m. Priority Seating at Goofy’s Kitchen, we proceeded to the Disneyland Hotel. As we walked into the restaurant, a family followed us through the door, with their little boy inhaling audibly and saying, “Ah, fresh air!” It was a bit odd to hear that when entering a building, rather than the other way around, but with the current situation that was an exclamation we heard throughout the day.
Goofy’s food was as tasty as we remembered from our last visit. Among other things, Mae highly enjoyed the warm and gooey peanut butter and jelly pizza, and I had the savory tri-tip with some rice pilaf and asparagus spears. A few characters roamed the restaurant, in particular the White Rabbit, whose autograph Mae did not have. When we missed his visit to our table, while we were at the buffet, Mae pouted a bit and then followed after him. Between visits, she managed to stop him with a “Mr. Rabbit? May I have your autograph?” It was kind of funny. Of course, I teased her: “You had to call him *Mister* Rabbit?”
Entering the park, our first destination was, you guessed it, the Premiere shop for more pins. Then, it was onto HMH for the required second ride. This time we found all the so-called hidden Oogie Boogies.
We hopped on the Disneyland Railroad to get to Tomorrowland and then took the Monorail to return to the Hotel. We quickly packed and checked out of the PPH, barely meeting the 11 a.m. deadline.
The gate to the Paradise Walk was broken, the lock jammed. Instead, we cut through the Grand Californian and used that Hotel’s private entrance into the park.
Disney’s California Adventure
In Engine Ears Toys, we discovered a build-your-own-potato bar. Here, we choose from a variety of Mr. Potato Head pieces to adorn our potatoes. Many of the pieces were Disney ones: Mickey balloons, mouse ears, sorcerer hats, and ice cream bars. There was also a Mad Tea Party teacup for Mr. Potato Head to sit in instead of wearing shoes. The CM at the potato bar gave us a few tips for how to best pack the box with the potato head and all of its pieces.
I want to be a millionaire (Who doesn’t?) or, in this case, I want to go on a Disney Cruise, so we went to Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Play It! Neither of us made it to the hot seat, but we each got onto the leader board. Mae twice, me once. However, it would be useless for Mae to qualify for the hot seat; as a Disney Cast Member, she is ineligible to play.
We had a good time watching the show, but we chitchatted quite a bit between questions too. Once, we unexpectedly found ourselves on the jumbo screens, talking to each other and mindless to the cameras on us until the crowd laughed at us. We looked up shocked (a great way to look when a hundred pairs of eyes are on you!) and waved dazedly. The host then complimented us on our matching Mickey Mouse Club t-shirts. Mae likes to buy t-shirts at the Disney Store for us to wear when on vacation. We are constantly asked if we are twins. I grimace, being eleven years *younger*, I am not thrilled about being mistaken for her twin. Mae, of course, beams every time since she does not look her age.
Before leaving DLR, we made our regular visit to Adventureland’s Bengal Barbecue. The special of the day is usually great, even better than the regular chicken and beef skewers. The special that day was Caribbean Beef, which was tasty and tender. On the side, we required plenty of Safari Skewers, bacon-wrapped asparagus.
We ate in the River Belle Terrace’s dining area, since the Barbecue’s dining area is very limited. After eating, we compared our Mr. Potato Head pieces. Though Mae’s box was full to bursting, I came out with several more pieces than she did. Unfortunately, I had two right arms, so we made a quick stop in DCA to replace one right for a left arm.
After one more check at the merchandise at Company D (and few final pin trades), we left Anaheim and drove home, grateful for the sight of blue, smoke-free skies. Now it is time to countdown the days until our 2004 Walt Disney World trip!Victoria Kahler