Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 6 – June 24, 2010

Plan: Breakfast at Carnation Café, Dinner at Ariel’s Grotto, World of Color


I was up at 5:30am and quickly showered and dressed. Jason came over and we hung out in my room. I had a cup of coffee and a Mimi’s muffin while I checked my email. The movie “Apollo 13” was on HBO so we watched that for awhile. I haven’t seen that movie in years. It’s funny the things you’ll watch on TV when your options are limited.

At around 7:00am we left the hotel. We were directed to the Pinocchio lot and as we drove down the aisle we could see Mom and Dad getting out of their van. We pulled in directly next to them and walked together to the tram station. They said that Sandy had walked over earlier to use her Magic Morning. The night before Dad had told everyone that the van was pulling out at 7:00am in the morning. The door to Samantha and Matthew’s room was closed. Mom and Dad waited five minutes and then left without them.

It didn’t seem as crowded as it’s been earlier in the week. Other than a couple of dining reservations, the day was very loosely scheduled. We were through the turnstiles at 7:50am. Mom, Dad and Jason went to wait near the rope for park opening. I spotted a chair on the small porch in front of one of the Main Street shops so I decided to just hang there for awhile. A man walked by with a cup of coffee and spotted me sitting there and said he thought I had the right idea. He went and sat down on another chair while he drank his coffee.

When the park opened at 8:00am, everyone in our group headed for Tomorrowland. I had given Jason my AP so he headed for Space Mountain for FastPasses. Mom handed off her AP to Dad before she headed into Buzz Lightyear. Dad picked up FastPasses for them for Buzz. I sat in front of Buzz and waited for Jason to return from Space Mountain. We had planned to meet Sandy outside of Buzz at 8:05am. We waited until 8:10, but there was still no sign of her so Dad, Jason and I headed into Buzz. We were almost boarding, when Sandy texted that she was outside Buzz. He told we were already inside. We’re all hard-core Buzz players and we don’t share a vehicle because it hinders our game play, so it doesn’t really matter if we are near each other or not since we really don’t pay attention to each other while we’re on the attraction.

We left Mom riding Buzz while Sandy, Jason and I went across to Star Tours. Jason and I rarely ride this anymore because sometimes we end up feeling nauseous afterwards. But we wanted to ride it one last time before it was closed down for the upgrade.

We met up with Dad outside Star Tours. Samantha showed up at the same time. We waited while she ran to Space Mountain for a FastPass. Sandy told us about her Magic Morning and how she hadn’t remembered that we told her only Fantasyland and a few Tomorrowland attractions were open. She had tried to go over to Adventureland to ride Pirates and was surprised to see the area blocked off.

After Samantha came back from getting her FastPass, she and Sandy went to ride Pirates. Jason, Dad and I decided to do Captain EO. We could see from the monitors that the doors to the theatre were about to open so we just hung out near the doors on the side so we could be seated near the back. The Cast Member was telling everyone that there were still plenty of seats available in the first few rows. Of course there were. Those are the absolute worst seats in the theatre. We sat at the end of the row about three rows back the first time we saw Captain EO in February and it was so blurry that we could barely see any of the film. So now we make sure we’re near the doors that lead to seats in the back. This time the moving floor effect was working. I was glad that Dad was able to experience it. After the show, he said that it really enhanced the experience.

After Captain EO we considered riding Buzz again, but the line was longer than we wanted to deal with. We decided to head over to Market House for coffee. We could see Mom and Matthew sitting at a table outside. Jason and I went in to get our coffee. As we did all week, we purchased our coffee on separate receipts to make it easier to get a refill later if we ended up splitting up. As we headed outside to join the others, we could see Sandy and Samantha in line for coffee. We all sat at the table until 9:35am and then stepped across the street to check in for our 9:40am Carnation Café breakfast. Again we had two separate reservations to accommodate our party of seven, but we luckily able to all sit together at one table.
Breakfast was great. I had the Mickey-shaped waffle this time. Oscar was working the room as usual. After we finished breakfast, Jason, Samantha and I went to Space Mountain to use our FastPasses. Dad walked along with us. Earlier in the week he had worked his way through the exit until he reached the loading area. He was able to take pictures of us in our ride vehicle. He thought he might try to do that again. If not, we would meet him at the exit.

We entered the FastPass return line and made our way up to the point where the FastPass line and the standby line merge. We’ve always been able to immediately hand our FastPasses to the CM and continue on. For some reason, this time the CM let a ton of standby people go through while we stood there waiting. Maybe we’ve just been lucky in the past, or possibly they do things differently in the summer when the stand by line is longer. While I watched the huge line of people go by, I was mentally calculating how many ride vehicles this was putting me behind. I’m usually a patient person and don’t mind waiting my turn, but my knees were really bothering me and I was hoping we could just walk on through.

Space Mountain was fun. Again, I left my glasses on which made for a much better experience. Dad wasn’t able to get through the exit, or else chose not to, but we met up with him near Star Traders. The four of us decided to head over to It’s a Small World. Before jumping into line, I took a lower resolution picture of the new Hidden Mickey on the hedge back where the parade floats are stored so I can submit to the Hidden Mickey’s website.

After It’s a Small World, Jason and I decided to head back to the hotel for a rest. I wasn’t looking forward to the long walk to the front of the park so we decided to talk the train. Using the train as transportation to other areas of the park sounds like a good idea. In actuality you usually end up spending more time waiting in line then you would have spent walking to whatever area you were headed to. As we walked towards the train station, I could see there was a train already in the station. I was hoping by some miracle it would still be there when we arrived at the station, but no, it loaded up and was long gone by the time we made it. We were near the front of the line though for the next train. Many people hung back and waited where there was a little shade. I wanted to make sure we made it onto the next train. It seems like very few people get off at the Toon Town Station. We waited about 10 minutes for the next train and were able to find seats together.

During the ride, Dad and Jason commented on how they really dread the stretch of the route where we go through the Grand Canyon and Primeval World. The train slows down and it seems to take forever. I actually enjoy that part. We don’t ride the train that often and it’s something interesting to look at. As usual, there were the people that disregard the warning and can’t resist the temptation to take a flash picture of the dioramas. As a result, they are rewarded with a nice picture of their flash reflecting off the glass. As for our group, even knowing full well that it’s extremely difficult to get a decent picture with the dim lighting, no flash, and moving train, we all eagerly snapped away, full of hope that maybe this time we’ll get a picture that isn’t dark and out of focus.

We disembarked at the Main Street Station and met up with Matthew. Samantha and Matthew decided to walk back to the hotel. Jason, Dad and I took the tram to the parking lot and hopped in our car. We stopped at Dad’s hotel so he could pick up his laptop and then brought him to our hotel to so he could check his email. We were surprised to find that our rooms hadn’t been cleaned. This was the earliest that we’ve returned to the hotel all week so I have no idea what time housekeeping usually gets to our rooms. We hung out in my room for about 20 minutes and then drove Dad back to his hotel.

One the way back home, we stopped at McDonald’s for some lunch and to kill some time hoping the room would be cleaned by the time we returned. This McDonald’s is very expensive. Our standard McDonald’s fare at home is a McDouble, which is a dollar, and a sundae, which is also a dollar. At this McDonald’s the sundaes were $1.89 plus sales tax (which we don’t have in Oregon) and the McDouble wasn’t even on the menu. We ended up spending $9.20 for lunch, which really isn’t bad, but more than double what we’re used to spending.

When we returned to the hotel, our rooms still hadn’t been cleaned. I really needed to rest and I couldn’t put it off any longer since we had to be back in plenty of time for our Ariel’s Grotto reservation. So I put out the Do Not Disturb sign and settled in for a short nap.

I didn’t nap for long, but it was enough to re-energize me. Even though we could have hung out in the room for awhile longer, we ended up leaving at 3:00pm just to be sure our rooms got cleaned. Although I keep my room very clean, I did want fresh towels and more coffee pods.

We drove over to the Toy Story lot as we’ve been doing all week and were stunned to find that it was closed. Jason pointed out that our first clue should have been the lack of Toy Story themed busses that we usually see on the street. We really didn’t want to park in the Mickey and Friend’s lot because we would be at DCA for the first World of Color and we expected it to be a mad house at the tram loading area after the show. So after some careful consideration we decided to walk from the hotel over to DCA. We parked at the very edge of the HoJo parking lot, closest to the street. We crossed over to the other side of Harbor and walked along that sidewalk. It’s much less congested with people and you don’t have cars pulling in and out of the various hotel driveways. We stopped twice for me to rest. Once at the string of bus stops that are outside of the park entrance and then again at the last bench we came to before we reached the bag check area. Jason is always so patient and willing stop for me to rest whenever I need to. Even with my sore knees we made great time. It was much faster than driving, although driving is easier physically.

We made it through the bag check and turnstiles fairly quickly. I wasn’t sure if there’d be big lines of people coming over from Disneyland to see World of Color but it wasn’t crowded at all. I was ready to rest again so we sat in Sunshine Plaza facing the entrance, where we had a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. While we sat there we decided to try to get a photo of the Monorail passing over the bridge. The problem was that we had no idea how often the Monorail passed by and there wasn’t a way to get any advanced warning of its approach. While we sat there we spotted Dad entering the park. All three of us had our cameras ready, and finally the Monorail came through. We had our cameras set on continuous shooting so we were able to get the shot we wanted.

The plan was for everyone to meet outside of Ariel’s Grotto by 5:00pm for our 5:10pm seating. Even though we still had about a half hour to wait, we decided to walk back to Ariel’s anyway. As we approached we could see the green army men doing their show right outside of Ariel’s. We found a shady bench with a good view of the show and sat down. A few minutes later, Matthew and Samantha joined us and took the bench next to us.

At 4:30 we received a call from Mom. She had gone back to the hotel for a rest and then decided to park in the Toy Story lot, which of course was closed. It figures after that after a week of us raving about this lot to her, she finally decides to give it a try and it’s closed. I doubt she’ll ever give it a try again. Jason had tried calling her earlier to warn her but she didn’t answer her phone. This wasn’t surprising since we’d be lucky if she even had the phone turned on. He didn’t leave her a voice mail, since she’s unfamiliar with how to retrieve messages and would have waited until one of us could retrieve it for her. She said she was going to park in Mickey and Friends and will meet us as soon as she could. A few minutes later, Sandy joined us with Mom showing up around 4:50pm.

At 5:05pm Dad and I checked in at Ariel’s Grotto and were given a pager. We were trying to get everyone to come over and sit in the waiting area, when the pager when off, not five minutes after we checked in.

We were seated inside, which I had requested when I made the reservation, not sure of how hot it would be outside. Two tables had been pushed together to create one long table. We were given menus and our drink orders were taken. While we waited for our drinks we tried to decide which of the two appetizer options we wanted. One was cured meats and shellfish, the other was grilled vegetables and cheeses. When our server returned we decided on the grilled veges and cheeses because not everyone likes shellfish. With a party of our size we could have had one of each choice of appetizer.

The appetizers were brought out and the plates placed on metal 3-tiered holders, one at each end of the table. The plates held Manchego cheese, Chef’s blend of marinated olives, Ciligiene Mozzarella, Endive cups with Apples, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, Bleu Cheese, Marinated Piquillo Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Zucchini, Eggplant and Asparagus. The bottom tier held Mixed Greens with House Citrus-Tarragon Vinaigrette. There was also a basket of rolls, baked in a flower shape, with butter, light ranch and pesto sauces on the side.

For our entrée, we all chose the Santa Maria-style Tri Tip, which was slow-roasted over Rock Salt and smoked with Red Oakwood. It was served with Cheddar Herbed Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables. A few people in our group aren’t fond of mashed potatoes and they were offered Rice Pilaf as an alternative. The seasonal vegetables were asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash and onions. The meat was very flavorful, tender and cooked perfectly.

For dessert, our server brought out two platters, each with an assortment of tiny desserts, which included Chocolate Molten Cake, Tiramisu Chocolate Cups, Passion Fruit Quenelles, Green Apple Mousse in a Cone, French Macaroons, Chocolate Ganache Crunch Triangles, Seasonal Berries, and a World of Color White Chocolate Film Strip. We are all very full from dinner, but managed to nibble at the desserts. Our server offered to bring us a box for the rest of the desserts, but by the time he returned with it we’d managed to finish everything off.

Along with the check we were give our World of Color tickets and told to line up near the lighthouse between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. When we left the restaurant at 6:30pm of course we immediately walked over to the lighthouse to check things out. They hadn’t started roping off the viewing area yet, but were told it would happen shortly. We asked several CM’s what to expect and given several different answers. We ended up just hanging around the lighthouse until the CM’s starting putting up the barriers to keep us out while they cleared the area. It didn’t really seem like there were a lot of people waiting around until the barriers started going up. Then suddenly we were all crushed into one big group. We were at the front of the crowd, at a point where two of the barriers met. We were hoping that the CM’s would let people in through this barrier. At 7:15pm, 15 minutes before the time printed on our tickets, the CM’s opened up the barriers. First it was just the barrier to the right of us, but immediately afterwards they opened up the barrier in front of us. Everyone was making a mad dash for their assigned viewing areas. We were among the first to enter the blue, preferred dining viewing area which was in the center, circular area. Instead of racing to the very front, we opted for the front of the third tier. We thought we’d get a better overall view from this location. I knew we had a long wait ahead of us, so I sat down with my back to the railing. Mom noticed some benches along the top tier that were empty. She spoke to a CM who told her that this was a disabled viewing area and that we were welcome to sit there. She asked if we could have members of our party sit with us and we were told yes. She and I went to sit down. At first Dad and Sandy stayed where they were, but eventually they came and joined us. The younger members of our group decided to stay put.

It was so nice to be able to sit in comfort while we waited. Gradually, the viewing area below us began to fill up, but even as late as 8:20pm there were places along the railing in the third tier. Around 8:25pm everyone stood up for the preshow which began at 8:32pm. It was very loud, mainly because there were speakers very close to our bench. I wasn’t over fond of the pre-show. I would have been happy just sitting there until the show started, although the puppets were interesting. The show lasted about 15 minutes. It was breezy and chilly by the water. I was kind of wishing I had a light jacket with me.

World of Color was amazing. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was great to be able to sit and watch the show. As much as I was looking forward to seeing the show, I was also dreading the hours of standing that seemed to go along with it. I think I did miss some of the effects close to the water. I’m hoping my knees are in better shape when we return next January. I would love to be able to stand right at railing by the water and view the show from that vantage point.

When the show ended, we sat around for awhile to give the area a chance to empty out. Eventually we were politely encouraged to leave so they could clean up for the next show. We followed behind the tail end of the crowd. Sandy, Samantha and Matthew went on ahead, but Mom, Dad, Jason and I stopped for a quick restroom break. As we neared Soarin’ CM’s were directing people who were parked in Mickey and Friends out through a gate that I’d never noticed before. We said goodbye to Mom and Dad and continued on our way out through the turnstiles. Matthew came out of nowhere to walk with us up to Harbor where he turned right and we went left.

We made it back to HoJo’s by 10:15pm. Jason had been suffering from what he thought was a allergy (but ended up being a cold) so we stopped by the gift shop at HoJo’s to look for some allergy medicine. In spite of 10% discount offered to AP holders, he ended up paying $11.00 for 5 Claritin tablets.

We hung out in my room until 11:00am and then Jason returned to his room. It was lights out for me shortly afterwards.

Highlights: Dinner at Ariel’s Grotto was excellent although I don’t thing we’ll make it an every trip kind of thing unless we want to do the World of Color Dining Package. World of Color exceeded my expectations and I was so relieved that I didn’t have to stand for the show. As great as I thought the show was, it took a huge investment of time and probably isn’t something we’ll do if we’re here for a short trip.

Pedometer Stats:
Miles: 14,215 (1,579 aerobic steps)
Steps: 4.48

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