Turning 29 Again at Disneyland, Day 2, Part 1

For the intro (rant) for Day 2, click on this post. To pick up with Disneyland, continue reading below.

Eventually… we moved step by step to the front gates and we entered with our mobile ticket and at one point thought we were getting early admission. But no, they now let guests line up at the beginning of each land, instead of holding you on Main Street. Alas, no joy there so we turned around and went to the Market, the only place open, for some breakfast.

I found a seat and Rich got us a couple of coffees and two chocolate croissants, whic were truly amazingly delicious. We enjoyed our breakfast, and made our way to Frontierland, which had a humongous line for the Galaxy’s Edge ride, whatever that’s called, I can never remember (Millennium Falcon).

We decided to sit down at a table in front of Jolly Holiday, which was not yet open, and waited for the park to open and the crowd to die down. Our main objective was to get to Oga’s Cantina for our 10:45 reservation.

The park opened and the line began moving and we weren’t sure what the best way to get to Oga’s Cantina was. We asked a security guard and he told us the most direct way would be through the gate past Big Thunder Mountain. We headed that way, but a CM redirected us to the gate past Hungry Bear Restaurant, which, apparently, is the only gate open at park opening.

We noticed Haunted Mansion was empty, so we jumped in an almost nonexistent line and got right on the ride, which was so cool since it was the 50th anniversary of its opening. That was fun. We were moving so fast, we forgot to take any pics.

Then we found our way to Galaxy’s Edge and noticed the line for the ride was humongous. We passed on that – have no interest in that ride – and had to ask for directions on how to get to Oga’s Cantina. Galaxy’s Edge is open and empty and hard to find anything because of the almost nonexistent, non descript signage. I predict they will have to fix this land, more signage, snack and drink options, and Disneyfy it the way they had to do for Epcot and DCA.

We checked into Oga’s and were seated at a booth with one other couple, but then they left and a few adults with about 6-8 kids sat their kids down at the booth while they all stood at a nearby table. The kids misbehaved and took over the table. Eventually, the CM came by and I stood to tell her we were not with them and were there first. She snapped at me with, “I’m aware of that.” Okie dokie!

We got our drinks: Margarita for me (Outer Rim), and a Bourbon thing for Rich (Jet Juice), which he pronounced as very good. We were next to DJ Rex, so I got up and danced with him, taking video and having a really good time. Going in, we thought we’d want to get a booth, but ended up enjoying standing and walking around more. It was a really fun atmosphere and inspired me to produce more DJ-type music. So fun!!!

After our drink and our 45 minutes were up, we asked directions for Ronto Roasters and each got a Ronto Wrap (delicious!) Then we made our way out of Galaxy’s Edge, and out of the park. My hip was starting to hurt and we’d accomplished what we’d set out to accomplish at Disneyland. Time to nap at the Disneyland Hotel to rest up for the evening at DCA. But we did stop off at Salt & Straw to get a cup of ice cream to share and the CM gave it to Rich for free for his birthday (he was wearing the hotel “I’m Celebrating” button — more on birthday pins later).

Impressions of Galaxy’s Edge — I thought I’d be more excited about a new land at Disneyland, but it just wasn’t my thing, at least, not yet. Oga’s Cantina was the real star – that was my favorite part about Star Wars. Ronto Roasters and the shops were fun. Rich got a Black Spire Output t-shirt, which is cool. We’d like to go back to Oga’s and maybe eat at Docking Bay.

Photos below (no captions, self-explanatory, I think). Videos following photos.

YouTube Videos:

Main Street, Part 1

Main Street, Part 2

Waiting for Rope Drop

Millennium Falcon Line at Jolly Holiday

Millennium Falcon Line Starts to Move

Chewy at Galaxy’s Edge

First Look at Oga’s Cantina

DJ Rex at Oga’s Cantina

Oga’s Cantina Cocktails at the Bar

 

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 2 with Catal Review

Rich: After the requisite rest in our Disneyland Hotel room, we headed out to Downtown Disney. First stop was World of Disney to browse and shop. We found an adorable Lion King stuffed toy and a 16-month Disneyland calendar.

We strolled around Downtown Disney some more, and then headed to Catal for our 8 PM dinner reservation.

Kathy: We chose to have the birthday dinner Saturday night, because for Rich’s actual birthday, we would be in the parks and didn’t want to spend park time at a lengthy sit down meal.

Rich: Since we had a reservation, we headed to the second floor via elevator and checked in at the hostess desk. We were soon led to a cute, round tower room and seated at a 4-top by the window. We had a great view of Downtown Disney that only became better as the sun set.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Chicory Lettuce, Blue Cheese and Peppered Sherry Vinegar

ENTREES
Kathy:
Traditional Paella
Mussels, Shrimp, Clams, Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, and Peas

Rich:
Chicken Paella
Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, Peas, and Saffron Aïoli

WINE
Ercavio Tempranillo Red Blend, Spain 2015
Expressive aromas of dark fruit: black cherry, plum and blueberry mixed with a pleasant minerality, hints of cedar, vanilla, licorice, spice and espresso. Medium bodied, yet dense, this wine offers ripe tannins under a complex blanket of black fruit. The acidity is well balanced and the finish is long and velvety.

The service started out nicely with our server showing up quickly to review the menu and the wine list. He took our food order and suggested a nice red blend wine for us. Unfortunately, after that, we hardly ever saw him again.

Kathy: The wine turned out to be a really good choice — the best thing our server did to add to our meal.

Rich: We were served the appetizer, but the wine had not been served. We waited for a while until I finally got the attention of another server and asked him to find our server and have him serve our wine. Before long, our server sheepishly showed up with the wine, making some excuse about how he forgot about it.

Kathy: I had been waiting for the wine to present a birthday card to Rich.

Rich: But to the food, wine, and atmosphere — these were all lovely. The room we were in had a limited number of tables, plenty of windows, and a soft undertone of enjoyable music. And the food and wine were superb.

Kathy: The music, view, and overall atmosphere was special.

Rich: The bacon wrapped dates appetizer was a wonderful combination of sweet and smoky, and the blue cheese created a nice balance to the other flavors. Kathy gave me a beautiful (and truthful) “Happy 29th Again” birthday card that graced the table for the rest of the meal.

It is rare to find paellas on a menu (we’ve seen them at Jose Andres’ Jaleo here in Las Vegas too), so had to order them. Kathy had the traditional with fabulous seafood. I had the chicken (would have had the traditional, but I’m allergic to shrimp). Both were amazing. They were served in hot cast iron pans right out of the oven. The rice was perfectly cooked with a light glaze of tomato/saffron sauce.

The flavors were so well crafted. The chicken was nicely cooked, served in two large pieces that had to be cut. I would have preferred already-cut chicken, but it was delicious. For Kathy, everything was tasty, although the shrimp were a little bland.

The wine was a perfect pairing for the appetizer and the entrees. Overall, the food and wine were excellent. It’s too bad that the service was a bit lacking.

Kathy: We were a bit disappointed in the service – not the usual “Happy Birthday from Disney” and inattentive, but it was a busy Saturday night. We were too full to finish the Paella and this was when we were missing staying at our usual Residence Inn where we could have taken the leftovers and heated them up the next day. Oh well, we’ll have to return to Catal when we can take the leftovers.

Rich: We finally got to see our server again when he threw a dessert menu on our table. When we told him we were too full for dessert, he grunted, returning with the check which he once again threw on the table.

Kathy: I was oblivious to this – too busy enjoying the view out the window.

Rich: The tip was small, but the dinner was otherwise incredible. The location was romantic and quiet with a great view of Downtown Disney. We will return when the time is right.

Downtown Disney Magician Jumps in for Photo Op


View of Catal Bar in Downtown Disney from our Upstairs Window Seating as sun sets and lights turn on

Rich Peruses the Menu

Kathy Smiles but Secretly Waiting Impatiently for the Wine

The Bacon-Wrapped Dates

The Wine Arrives

Time for the Birthday Card

Kathy’s Classic Paella

Rich’s Chicken Paella

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 1

If you’d like to peek ahead, check out the Rich’s Birthday at Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland playlist on YouTube.

We’d had many plans for Rich’s birthday – when we were living in Florida we’d even booked a Med cruise, but, alas, with the move back west, we had to scale down those plans. But celebrating at Disney is always fun, right?

Staying onsite these days is reserved for special events, and this was pretty special, so we booked the Disneyland Hotel. Unsure about our future travel plans and with the AP we were interested in blocked still, we did not purchase an AP, but got a one-day park hopper to focus on catching up with what’s new, such as Galaxy’s Edge.

While Rich got in the check-in line, Kathy waited in the tea cup in the lobby, and after dropping off our bags in our pool view room, we changed into our swimsuits with a stop at Tangaroa Terrace for some lunch. We snagged a table outside, Rich ordered a Mai Tai and Kathy a Margarita, shared some Pulled Pork Nachos, and an order of Asian Chicken Wings. Tasty and refreshing. It was a hot afternoon and the whole pool area (Tangaroa Terrace) was packed.

After our lunch snack, we headed for the pool, but no chairs were available so like many others, we stacked our stuff on a cement wall and jumped in the pool for a refreshing dip. When we returned to our stuff, this big guy was sitting on our stuff but when I said, “You’re sitting on our stuff,” he got up and just stood there while we got dressed. Really strange, if not rude.

After the pool, we rested until time to get ready for Rich’s birthday dinner at Catal (and Kathy snuck in some birthday room decorations while Rich was out of the room).

 

 

 

Kathy’s Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 3

The next morning, Rich brought back some breakfast from the hotel and I heated up the leftover pork chop to go with, which was still so amazingly delicious. If you think you don’t like something, think again if Andrew Sutton is preparing it. That’s what I love about food – the surprise.

We packed up and got on the road via one more look at the beach. Ah….

Around Barstow we were thirsty so we drove through Del Taco for their “mini” shakes, but that location doesn’t have them. So we got one shake and a Diet Coke to share.

The road was pretty busy, especially where it narrows to 2 lines each way on the Barstow to Vegas stretch. But the line of cars heading back to L.A. on a Sunday were even longer than before. Note to LA to Vegas travelers: do not drive home on a Sunday or, if you must, get up early!!

Anyway, here’s a video of the pianist in the Grand Californian playing “The Sound of Music,” us relaxing and enjoying our home away from home. Can’t wait to go back for Rich’s birthday for a stay at the Disneyland Hotel and catch up with the parks.

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Big Birthday Celebration: Disneyland or Cruise?

It’s really hard to plan vacations when you’re in the throes of a “Relocation Year” or “Repositioning Year” as we like to call it. So, we’re still tossing around ideas for how to celebrate Rich’s special birthday in August, and I think we’ve got it down to either Disneyland or a Mexican Riviera cruise.

But with all of this Galaxy’s Edge hype, we’re leaning toward the cruise. We’re not big Star Wars fans – I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to obsess over – so Galaxy’s Edge holds little appeal for us. And we’re hoping it doesn’t change our Disneyland experience forever. And oh the crowds and expense these days – Yikes!

Also, I’m working on my third novel set on a cruise – this time the Mexican Riviera – binge watching our favorite cruise vloggers such as CruiseTipsTV, SoTweetie, and ScottSingerCruises. So I’m totally engaged in the cruise experience.

As some of you know, my other two cruise novels are Real Women Wear Red (Caribbean cruise) and the sequel Real Women Sing the Blues (Hawaii cruise). Originally, there were plans for a third in that series per my agent’s request, but as it looks now, the third book will be a standalone with new and fun characters. I’m really excited about it.

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Four, Wrap-Up

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

I didn’t sleep much at all – either the big dinner or the chocolate cake at tea – but I was definitely ready to get off the ship. I couldn’t get to Port Canaveral soon enough. Maybe I was cruised out or maybe it was the oddness of the cruise or just too many short Carnival cruises. We do feel like we’re slumming it a bit when we’re sailing on Carnival – lol!

There are also highlights that are some of the best at sea, namely, the Alchemy Bar, the Steakhouse, and like we did on my birthday cruise, the Chef’s Table. You don’t even know you’re on Carnival then – no wonder they are our highlights. We’re already missing those – especially the Alchemy Bar. And the excellent service we had on our last cruise when we sailed in a suite. So even Carnival can come through for up-charge items and bookings.

But Carnival is always there to give us a quick fun affordable cruise fix when other ships aren’t available or too long or too expensive to do often. So I can’t say we’ll never cruise them again. But we’re both definitely missing a longer cruise on Princess and our mini-suite. 🙂

Our “Faster to the Fun” group met in the “any time” dining room where they offered tea, coffee, and pastries. We arrived at about 6:30 and were off the ship by about 6:45? Rich probably remembers better than I do.

The garage was right there, so easy to pick up our car, and drive the hour home, the fastest/closest cruise port we’ve ever traveled to.

Chocolate cake (amazing!) and Fruit Tart at Afternoon Tea

The Birthday Boy

Good-night!