Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 4

We skipped the complimentary breakfast at the hotel because this was travel day and that means Norm’s for breakfast. Their pancakes are the best ever. And it fills us up until dinner so we don’t have to stop to eat on the way home.

As usual, we had the “Bigger, Better Breakfast,” which is the best deal even if you just eat the pancakes. It comes with ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns and pancakes. I skip the ham and bacon, eat a couple of sausage links, half the pancakes, and the hash browns because they are pretty amazing, too. I am so getting hungry!

Our drive home was uneventful and it was so good to see the kitties. Scott, our pet sitter from before, had agreed to take care of the kitties even though we now live way beyond his normal boundaries. He is awesome and the only pet sitter we trust in Las Vegas. Thank you, Scott!

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 3

We woke up feeling like we’d accomplished all we’d set out to do on this trip and thought about driving back home. Maybe it was the overcast skies. We were missing waking up to the desert sunshine. But then we became aware of a bit more business we needed to take care of in Irvine so we repeated yesterday’s breakfast/coffee routine, and drove back to Irvine. It was quite a successful morning, and we were glad we stayed.

By lunch  time we made our way back up PCH to Duke’s in Huntington Beach, noticing the heavy traffic in the opposite direction. Oh yeah, it was some big Volleyball championship going on off the pier – lol! So we left the Challenger with Valet and were seated in the bar since we wanted to eat off the regular menu and not the brunch.

Rich had the Waikiki Classic, which was ribs, chicken, rice, and macaroni salad with a Mai Tai, and I had the coconut shrimp off the appetizer menu with a Margarita since it was Cinco de Mayo or as Rich called it “Cinco de Mai Tai.”

After lunch, we walked the Huntington Beach pier, looking in shops and soaking up the beautiful day.

We returned to the room for our usual nap, and then got up to get ready for Mass at our favorite church. It was a huge blessing for us, outdoing even the last time we were there.

The day had been so wonderful, we were thankful we hadn’t left that morning.

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 1

We left Las Vegas at around 9:00 but since we’re 30 minutes north of where we used to live, we basically left at our usual 9:30 departure time, arriving around 1:30/2:00 pm with our usual lunch stop at Tommy’s in Barstow.

TamaleTommy’s Tamale – Yum!!

This was our first trip from LV to SoCal in our Black Challenger, although the one we rented at LAX last summer was exactly the same – lol!

Btw, Las Vegas is booming again and has grown quite a bit since we left in May of 2017, and this is felt on the Vegas freeways and on I-15 from LV to SoCal. We also noticed the change in Inspection station, which is now much closer to the Cal/Neva border than it was before. Fridays used to be pretty smooth sailing, but now it feels more like a Saturday.

Also, instead of staying near Disneyland, we chose to stay in Huntington Beach so we had another half hour on the other end of the drive. But we were more in the mood to relax at the beach than spend most of our time at Disneyland since we weren’t planning on entering the parks this trip.

After settling into our room, we took a nap and instead of going out for dinner, we opted to make something in our villa. Pizza, as I recall, with some wine we’d brought from home. It felt so good to be here again!

The two-story villa (instead of high rise) is nice for a change

Studio with King Bed

Convenient to have a kitchen – our version of DVC

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

As I mentioned here, we ate the leftover steak from Napa Rose for breakfast this morning along with some eggs from the hotel breakfast buffet. Then we headed for the port of Long Beach via my old stomping grounds – childhood home, high school, and other neighborhoods. I’ve posted enough pics about them so I won’t repeat that – lol!

We were a bit confused by the entry to the port due to some detour. But when we looked confused, a bus driver asked if everything was okay via a thumbs up? And so I rolled down the window and asked how to get to the port and he very nicely gave us directions. We were so impressed!

We parked the car in the garage and headed for the new check-in area at were directed to priority boarding and were onboard in no time at all. Because we were suite passengers, our room was ready so we dropped off our luggage and I noticed there were birthday decorations and a bottle of Prosecco that Rich had ordered. Yay! We met our cabin stewardess who was amazing and kept our ice and water well-stocked and cleaned.

 

We then headed for Guys Burgers for lunch. We shared the Straight Up – amazing!! Maybe even better than In N Out! Ohhhhh!!!

Then we made our way to the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar and Rich ordered a Blue’s Patron Margarita for me then ran over to the Red Frog Rum Bar on the opposite side of the ship and brought back his Rum Jumper (aka Rum Runner).

Rich’s Rum Jumper

Kathy’s Blue’s Patron Margarita

We did a bit of a ship tour, although we have sailed on two sister ships, the Paradise (twice), and the Inspiration. One of our favorite areas is the Adults Only Serenity Deck, especially on this class of ship.

We unpacked our carry-on bags and then it was off for the Muster Drill. Ours was located up on the pool deck. Carnival has improve somewhat with accounting for people by electronically beeping people’s Sail & Sign cards, similar to Princess but Princess is far more efficient. Then it was time for sailaway, although there seemed to be a bit of delay.

Our Prosecco was on ice waiting for us but due to the delay, we headed to the salad bar (Carnival’s is the best!). We made our way back to the cabin where chocolate covered strawberries, cookies, macaroons, and truffles awaited! Eventually, the ship began to move and Rich popped open the Prosecco, poured us each a glass, and we sailed away from our balcony.

I don’t remember doing much more after we sailed away. I think we pretty much just hang out on the balcony, which is our favorite thing to do on a ship. This is why we cruise. We texted with our pet sitter a few times before leaving range. We were pretty tired, as we always are on embarkation day.

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Three: Napa Rose

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Birthday Dinner at Napa Rose

We were enjoying sipping our Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge when a server came by, told us our table was ready and carried our wine as she led us to our table. We were seated at a table for two near the open kitchen where I could watch Andrew Sutton cook. If you’ve read our prior Napa Rose reports, you’ll know I am a big fan of Andrew Sutton and his food.

Our server, excellent throughout our meal, took our order and brought us a basket of delicious breads, including tasty rosemary rolls and delightful parmesan crisps.

MENU

Appetizer (Shared)

Barbequed Bristol Bay Diver Scallop
with Forager Mushrooms, Apple Bacon, and Summer Peaches

Entree (Rich & Kathy)

Grilled Creekstone Farms “Prime” New York (Medium Rare)
Bone Marrow Fritter, Onion Fondue, and Mustard Crème

Wine (Rich & Kathy)

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

Dessert (Shared)

Valrhona Blond Chocolate Crunch Covered in Dark Chocolate Ganache
Caramelized Bananas and Honey Sauce

We always wanted to try the diver scallop appetizer at Napa Rose, and we finally got our chance. Andrew Sutton changes the preparation often, and this preparation was exquisite. This has to be the best scallop we’ve ever had. Amazing!

We both ordered the New York Strip. Sometimes a steak is just a steak, but not at Napa Rose. Cooked perfectly, the steak was luscious, juicy, and seasoned splendidly. The accompaniments were good, but the steak was the star.

Since it was Kathy’s birthday, our server offered her a free dessert from the menu. She chose the Valrhona chocolate dessert that we shared. What can we say? YUM! That about sums it up. It was rich, chocolaty, and, well, incredible.

This was our best Napa Rose experience, even better than the Chef’s Counter. The service, food, and atmosphere were delightful. This was a fantastic way to start the celebration for Kathy’s birthday and kick off her birthday trip.

Bread Service

The Amazing Scallops

Awesome Steak

Complimentary Birthday Dessert

Kathy’s Comments: Looking at the photos, it might seem as if we were skimping but neither of us could finish our steak – Rich left a couple of bites on his plate and we took about half of mine back to the hotel, stored it in the fridge, and the next morning heated it up with the hotel eggs and had Steak and eggs for breakfast, which was absolutely scrumptious the next day.

 

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Picking up the story where we left off in Part 1 (pulling over to figure out how to get to 405S and to make arrangements for Skipper with our pet sitter), we found our way to the freeway, amazingly enough. We were both quite devastated over the news and I suggested we cancel my birthday dinner at Napa Rose and just rest up at the hotel before boarding our ship the next day. The good news was that when we picked up our car in the Emerald Aisle, a black Challenger just like ours at home was sitting there waiting for us. Amazing. We’ve never seen a sporty car like that in the Emerald Aisle. So we were at least feeling comfortable driving a familiar car in the midst of all this craziness.

We were also happy we’d chosen the Residence Inn in Garden Grove just a few miles from Disneyland. We’d stayed there many times when we came in from Las Vegas and it felt like home. We’d booked and unbooked so many choices before we finally settled on this hotel, and we were glad we’d stuck with this choice. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we decided we should go ahead and celebrate and keep our dinner reservation at Napa Rose. Skipper would have wanted it that way.

We checked in and relaxed for a few hours and then valet parked the car at the Grand Californian. Unfortunately, the porte cochere was under some sort of refurbishment and we had to park over by the Conference Center, which meant a roundabout walk to the lobby. We admired the lobby, the oh so familiar Hearthstone Lounge, and our favorite gift shop before heading into Napa Rose a bit early. They seated us at a table in the Napa Rose Lounge and asked if I’d like a birthday pin. I said yes and we ordered a couple of glasses of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir for old times’ sake.

Rich will write about the actual dinner. But let me say that this was our best experience at Napa Rose and the Napa Rose staff surprised me with so many wonderful birthday touches – far more than they had before. Maybe because Andrew Sutton was in the house and everybody outdid themselves. 🙂

And now for a few pics – we’d made a pact that we wouldn’t take any photos of each other because after travel day and the news about Skipper, we decided it would be best not to.

“Good Neighbor” Residence Inn Hotel along Hotel Row, Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove/Anaheim with our Black Challenger rental car (just like Home)

The Grand Californian Lobby – a site for sore eyes!

Our usual table at Hearthstone Lounge – ah….

A glass of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge while we wait for our 7:30 p.m. reservation

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part One

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Before we get into the actual trip report, I must get the sadness out of the way. We’d just landed at LAX and picked up our rental car and were trying to find the 405 S but missed our turn. Rich pulled into some driveway, I don’t remember now because I was totally devastated by the phone call from the pet sitter: “Skipper is gone!”

Our 18-year-old cat Skipper, who was more our son than pet, was looking amazingly well on his birthday in April. Our new vet who made house calls told us his kidneys had improved and he was doing quite well. We began to hope he’d be with us for several more years. But as the weeks went by, when he had good days and bad days, we realized this was probably his last year.

He was still having good days and bad days but on the day we left, it looked like one of his bad days. He didn’t wake us up at 6 am yelling for food. He was sleeping in the closet when I got up and peeked in on him. Rich carried him to the food dish and he ate a bite or two. He was a bit slow so I picked him up and carried him back to the closet where he loved to hide out and sleep for hours. Before leaving the house, we both peeked in on him and told him we loved him, hoping he’d still be here when we returned from the trip.

The pet sitter blamed herself for not checking on him earlier (we reassured her it was not her fault, and I blamed myself for leaving him, but Rich and our friends pointed out that this was Skipper’s way of shielding us from pain, and of doing this his way, as he did everything in his life his way. He was a very private cat – “stealth kitty” we called him.

This was our first pet that actually just died – we’d always had to make the Euthanasia choice for each one and that was extremely painful. Just writing this report is a bit too much so I’m not sure I can go into the many ways he was so special like I did for the other cats when they passed. It’ll probably take more time before I can do that.

But I just looked at my iPhone to gather pics for this report and I was greeted with this message: “On this day July 20, 2017.” Of course, there were 2 photos of Skipper. But I will post one of my favorite recent photos of Skipper when he and Shadow were hanging out like father and son, as if Skipper was revealing the secrets of the world to Shadow. We just had this photo framed and it looks adorable.

It will be good to get on with the trip report because, in spite of the sadness hanging over our hearts, it really was a wonderful trip! Later, when I can, I’ll share Skipper stories as a tribute to him. But, for now, I’m just too sad and depressed, to be coherent.

Photo taken in 2015 when Skipper (on left) was 15 years old and Shadow (on right) was 16 months

Skipper looking good on his 18th birthday, April 9, 2018

Our last photo of Skipper, just 4 days before the end

We love you, Skipper!
April 9, 2000-July 11, 2018