Now It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Note: This is the last page of Trip Report. If you want to read it from the beginning, go to Trip Reports at the top of this blog and choose the Big Kahuna Family Trip Report, where it’s broken down into three days.

May 19, Part 5: Check out, Drive Home and Final Thoughts

We wandered back over to Paradise Pier, freshened up, packed our bags, and checked out at the front desk. While I was waiting for Rich to bring the car around, I chatted with the security guard. He was very nice. We talked about Orlando and how hot and muggy it is in August (when he was there) and how his son lives in Las Vegas now and loves it. We talked about various shows in Las Vegas and how we had been on this journey to WDW and back to DL. He welcomed me home. It was a great experience.

We drove off about 8:30 p.m., missing any heavy traffic, and listened to our new Willie Nelson Reggae CD on the drive through the desert at night. We highly recommend that. I’ve always loved driving at night in the desert. The traffic was light, and, listening to Willie over and over again, we were reminded of the fun store in Downtown Disney where we bought the CD–from another older, friendly CM. And when we tired of listening to Willie, we tuned in to the Highway Country Radio Station, originated by Howard Hughes and broadcast specifically for drivers making the L.A. to Vegas trek.

Before we knew it, we had arrived home at midnight—just 3-1/2 hours after we left Disneyland Resort. We were glad to be home—all was well and the kitties and we were all happy to sleep in our own bed with our working A/C.

The only thing we missed by leaving early was having Beignets for breakfast the next morning.

Final Thoughts

“Welcome Home” was the focus of this entire trip and from that point of view, it was a big success. The CMs were all friendly, the atmosphere at DLR was intimate and personal and it was great to be back home. We knew Paradise Pier might not give us the experience we were hoping for but being dubbed “The Big Kahuna” family was a nice touch and helped make up for some of the gotchas. But budget was a consideration for this trip and on future trips, would we stay here or some place offsite? That’s a good question and one we ponder. We’re hoping we won’t have to make that decision and that we’ll either stay at the DL hotel or the GC.

There was so much we didn’t get to do on such a short trip and we’re hoping to catch up on everything on future trips. We didn’t make it to any of the sitdown restaurants where we had made a PS. We didn’t want to take time out of our busy schedule and, being hot, we were more in the mood to snack and eat more casual meals. But we hope to experience them on future trips, as well.

Thank you all for reading and participating in our trip report. You added to the fun of reliving it. We hope to be reporting another trip before we know it. In the meantime, we’ll happily live vicariously through your trip reports.

Downtown Disney

May 19, Part 4: Tortilla Joes

After we woke up from our nap we realized the A/C wasn’t working again–and this time it wasn’t working in either room. We had called engineering every day since we checked in and we just didn’t want to call them again. But that was just the thing that tipped the scales in favor of spending one last night in Downtown Disney for eating and shopping and then driving home to see our kitties and reassuring ourselves that everything was okay at home. This was the first time we had been away from home for so many days in five years. When we lived in Florida, we only stayed overnight one night at a time.

There were so many places to eat at Downtown Disney but we really wanted to try Tortilla Joe’s and that was about all we were up for eating anyway after that big lunch at the beach. Rich placed our order at the walk-up window (there is a separate restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating as well) and then sat down with me while we waited for our name to be called. We didn’t hear it but another nice guest walked over to tell us our order was ready. Are these friendly people all Californians or out-of-staters? I don’t remember my fellow Californians being so friendly. LOL! Or maybe after our journey, we’ve changed–not as stressed–and are now attracting friendly vibes.

We shared an order of two different kinds of tacos and they were scrumptious–we will definitely be back to try the restaurant.

Tortilla Joe’s Tacos: 2 corn tortillas with onions, cilantro, and choice of meat

1 order of Marinated Beef Tacos
1 order of Shredded Pork Tacos

After we ate, we headed for World of Disney—similar to but not as large as the one at WDW. We bought two picture frames for the photos that were taken of us. BTW, we forgot to mention the gift shop at the Grand Californian, which was a favorite. In fact, before this trip we were hoping to buy a light blue wrap to put on our couch and we found the exact color at this gift shop with the Disneyland logo on it. We bought that and we really loved this store—the CM was very friendly and the shop had a lot of nice stuff in it.

After World of Disney, we stopped in at Basin (a favorite from our WDW days), but didn’t find anything we had to have. We popped into Compass Books and Café, which was a wonderfully large book store for a Disney location we thought. We noticed many books on baseball. I, of course, believe that baseball and California are synonyous (grandpa was a pro pitcher). LOL.

We checked out Marceline’s Confectionary but were afraid any of the chocolate items would melt so we didn’t purchase anything. And we stopped in at Island Charters, which had delightful beach-themed merchandise. But what caught our attention was Willie Nelson’s Reggae CD being played. It was way cool! We purchased that and more about that in our final comments.

We headed for the Disneyland Hotel and was approached by a CM with a survey about our thoughts on Downtown Disney–we loved it! Then we continued on our way to the Hotel (under the Mickey hat) for a quick look around to see if we’d like to stay there in the future. I stayed there years and years ago and was curious how it stood up today. This was the first time I had seen the NeverLand Pool since the redo and noticed how much nicer the pool area and grounds are here compared to Paradise Pier. The pool area may even be nicer than the Grand Californian’s pool area. We concluded that this would be a good choice during pool weather.

Next: Check out, Drive Home and Final Thoughts

Balboa Pier

May 19, Part 3: Ruby’s on the Pier

We were bubbling over with ideas about which beach we wanted to go to but the top three were:

  • Newport Beach
  • Balboa Island
  • Corona del Mar

We ended up at Balboa Pier and after parking the car, we walked along the beach for a bit, watching people enjoying the beach and watching the waves. It was a week day so it wasn’t very crowded at all.

Then we decided to walk to the end of the pier. And since we were ready for lunch by then, we decided to have lunch at Ruby’s Diner at the end of the pier.

The man who seated us by the window was very friendly. It was a small room but there was additional seating on the rooftop patio, which opened after we were seated. We preferred to sit inside because it was another hot day.

I had the yummy Kobe Beef Sliders, French Fries, and a Strawberry Milkshake and Rich had a BLTA (A=Avocado) Club with French Fries and a Double Vanilla Milkshake. Everything was scrumptious and just what you need on a day at the beach. (I wish I were there right now having lunch.)

After our tasty meal we decided to continue touring the beach communities from the car. So we headed south on Highway 1 and I reminisced about my childhood going to these beaches all summer long. One of our favorite family outings was to drive around Balboa Island just as it was nearing dusk. We eventually reluctantly turned back at Irvine and back to Paradise Pier in time for a short rest and an evening at Downtown Disney before heading home.

Next: Final Night at Downtown Disney

Memory Lane

May 19, Part 2: Driving to the Beach

This trip report has been written from a nostalgic point of view upon returning to favorite places after being away for 8 years. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

After our yummy beignet breakfast, we got in our car (hated to give up such a choice parking spot) and drove down Harbor Blvd. For years, Harbor Blvd. had remained the same but since we were last here, there have been a lot of changes. Such as, what happened to Belisle’s? They served yummy food with huge portions. We used to drive past it a lot when I was a kid and my mother would read the funny sayings painted on the window. I finally got to eat there as an adult. I did a search on the internet and it may have closed in 2004. I also read this fact:

It opened as Belisle’s in 1955 same year as Disneyland. Walt and his imagineers used to eat in there when Disneyland was being built.

Another piece of history bites the dust.

Palm Harbor Hospital, where my sister was born, is now a high-rise condo. I never did see my friend’s father’s pool supply store, Anthony’s Pools–he probably sold it when he retired.

The plan was to drive down Harbor Blvd. until we found the turnoff to my first childhood home except that the landmarks had changed so much we missed it. LOL! We had to backtrack a bit and when we arrived, I vowed to never return. You know how some neighborhoods deteriorate over time? Well, it’s been going downhill gradually since I lived there but when they start to put bars on the windows… it’s time to close that door for good.

We turned back to Harbor Blvd. and the first thing I noticed when we got to the intersection for my second childhood home was that the Von’s store on the corner (Debbie Reynolds showed up for the Grand Opening) was a Latino grocery store. This neighborhood still looked good–unlike the previous one. And while there were some changes to the neighboring area, the strawberry field behind the house is still there.

I had always dreamed of coming back here and buying this house. And guess what? The house is up for sale now. The current owners upgraded the inside and they maintained the outside well. But our home in Las Vegas is twice as nice at half the price–a big reason so many Californians live here.


Driving Down Memory Lane

Next: Lunch on the Pier

Beach Day

May 19, Part 1: More Beignets

We are beach lovers and the one downside to living in the desert is we don’t have an ocean. So on our DL trips we must try to squeeze in a beach day. But, first, back to Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen (Express) for more beignets and chicory coffee. Woo hoo!

On the elevator ride down from our room on the 15th floor we overheard what seemed to be a conversation between a free-spirited dad, complete with earring and male partner, and his teen-age daughter. She, being the more conservative one, was complaining that her dad let her wear “pleather” for her school pictures. The dad looked at us and laughingly said, “I’ll pay for your therapy.” The daughter continued to complain about her liberal childhood and the partner laughed and said, “Hey, this is supposed to be the Happy Place.” We laughed along with them and they looked relieved.

We found this to be true throughout our stay. Parents seemed especially conscious of their children’s behavior (for the most part) and seemed relieved when we smiled at the kids or gave them special attention. We were really surprised by this. And, at DL, we weren’t so overrun with those double strollers like we were at WDW–another nice surprise. We also noticed more little girls were dressed up like Minnie Mouse in her red dress () instead of so many princesses. But the kids are really cute and it’s great seeing them having so much fun!

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning and not too hot yet so we walked to Downtown Disney from Paradise Pier–it’s a lovely walk in the morning when you’re fresh. Downtown Disney was peacefully quiet at this time of day, which was after park opening. DD can be quite busy because it’s the main thoroughfare to the parks from all resorts–although not the GC so much.

When we arrived, the Kitchen Express was having some A/C leaking problems (the theme of this trip) so we had to go in the other door and place our order. Everybody we ran into was very nice. We grabbed a table underneath cover this time and these tables were much better at handling powdered sugar running amok. LOL. Not as much powdered sugar landed on our clothing. I used to say I wanted to live at New Orleans Square–now I’d be happy to live at Ralph Brennan’s.

While I didn’t enjoy working at WDW, I’m seriously thinking that when we retire, we’ll sell the house, get an RV, park it down the street from DL at one of the RV parks and get a part-time retirement job somewhere at DLR. Hee, hee! Have I changed my tune.

Next: Strolling Down Memory Lane

Evening Wrap-Up

May 18, Part 9: Changes to DL During Fireworks

We took our favorite route past Big Thunder Mountain (love this ride at DL—haven’t ridden it since that fatal accident several years ago but may have to rethink that on future trip), past Big Thunder Ranch and through the back door to Fantasyland. We love Disneyland’s Fantasyland—especially at night. And, in the past, unlike WDW, jumping on rides during the parade was a great way to catch up on a bunch of rides. So, we headed for Storybook Land Canal Boats. Uh, what do you mean this ride is closing because of the fireworks? We headed for several more Fantasyland rides—closed and roped off for the parade. Yikes! This was one of the most frustrating things about the MK at WDW and now it’s caught on at DL. Help! This is not my Disneyland.

We noticed the Matterhorn was operating so we got in line for that. The line moved quickly and we were soon seated in our bobsled, each with our own seat. We had read that the Matterhorn was getting new seats and we were hoping it was so because these seats are very tight for two adults—unless one or both of you is quite small. I used to do the squeeze in my 20s, but, well, that’s been a while now. The Matterhorn was a blast! It had become the symbolic ride for returning to Disneyland so this ride was a must!

Because of the parade, there wasn’t much more we wanted to do in Fantasyland so we headed back to Adventureland to kill some time before our FP for Indy. We decided to go ahead and get in line for Indy but just as we did, the ride closed due to malfunction. We browsed the shops in Adventureland—love this place—especially after dark—and then we seemed to be surrounded by loud noises everywhere. The parade, Fantasmic, and the fireworks all seemed to be going off at the same time.

Note: After living two miles from the MK at WDW and listening to fireworks going off every single night, we hate fireworks! I know—it sounds like such an un-Disney thing to say. But my ears still ring after living that close to what sounded like gunfire going off outside our window every single night. The fireworks were perhaps exacerbated by the layout of the Townhome community, causing a ricocheting effect.

But by now we noticed Indy was back up and running and the line was short, so instead of waiting for our FP, we jumped in line. And what can I say other than this is the best ride on Planet Earth? Okay, so it’s my kind of ride. It touches the adventuresome spirit inside of me and it becomes the biggest thrill ever. Now Rich loves ToT because he loves that freefall feeling, but Indy gives me that big adventure experience (it is in “Adventureland” after all), which I much prefer. It’s just awesome.

Note: My back/tailbone area has been acting up since our last move and this ride really hit it where it hurts most. Without notice the muscles can start to spasm, sending shooting pain up and down my spine so I had to give an all-out effort to hold my back perfectly still—squeezing my stomach muscles as tightly as I could. Well, that worked—my back didn’t go out—but the muscles in my stomach killed me for about a week—I could barely sit up—it hurt so much. But it was worth it!! LOL!

By this time we were absolutely exhausted and we still had to walk all the way back to Paradise Pier (the monorail closed early tonight due to the fireworks). This is when you really want to stay at the Grand Californian—the location is perfect for everything. We gave our Indy FPs to a couple waiting in line and it we hiked back to the resort, up the slow elevator for 15 flights and crawled into bed. We knew then that we’d never make it back to DL early next morning before going to the beach.

Next: Beach Day

Dole Whip Float

May 18, Part 8: Disneyland

Where were we? Oh yes, we just finished the Winnie the Pooh ride. By now we decided it was time for a Dole Whip so we headed back to Adventureland.

Note: it was so great to spend time to/fro New Orleans Square – one of our favorite lands in Disneyland and one that WDW doesn’t have. We had planned to spend more time there dining/snacking but once we discovered Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen and the surrounding authentic New Orleans atmosphere, we spent more of our time at DD. One night there was a fabulous blues musician performing between the Jazz Kitchen and the House of Blues. Later, we wished we had picked up one of his CDs.

Anyway, back to Adventureland and the Dole Whip at Tiki Birds. At DL it’s located right at the Tiki Birds attraction – one side open to those already inside the outside portion of the attraction and the other side open to those passing by. We were of the latter and the line was long, but we were soon enjoying our Dole Whip Floats.

Note: The last time we were at Disneyland, they only had Dole Whips and since then we had become accustomed to enjoying a Dole Whip Float at WDW. Thinking we would have to settle for just a Dole Whip (such a sacrifice), we were happy to learn Disneyland also has Dole Whip Floats now. Also, no need to walk past the spitting camel Aladdin ride because DL doesn’t have that – yay!