So first “overseas” trip in the COVID era and all its wonderful restrictions – although we travelled to British Columbia and Alberta earlier in the year, and technically Canada-US travel is semi-domestic but was an experience nonetheless. It was a full time job just understanding the testing requirements, quarantine timelines (especially for kids), and all the logistics that would come with travelling even without COVID. After many flight cancellations and rescheduling due to the COVID Pandemic which took us from a shorter non stop flight at a reasonable time to a stop in Detroit starting at an ungodly hour (waking up with kids at 2:00 a.m. is never an ideal). But with rising numbers due to the Omicron COVID variant as a background and the chance of a lockdown at any moment we were happy to just take flight and whatever will be will be. The kids were “respectable” and no temper tantrums were had, which was a nice surprise.
After reaching LAX (LA Airport) we had a minor confusing wait from the rent-a-car shuttle (run by Budget – we saw the other companies come by twice so we were thoroughly confused). The shuttle took us a long 15min ride to LA proper for the shuttle which was news to me – I just assumed all airports had connecting car rental kiosks right there for convenience. But once we sorted that out, and praying to God our luggage – fit for an entourage – would all go into the trunk, which thankfully it did, BARELY! In fact when I eventually reached the airport, the trunk just popped open waiting to get a gasp of air with all that luggage. The Chevy Malibu was an easy drive, and although nothing spectacular worth noting, the drive was easy to Anaheim. After a jambalaya and much needed sustenance form a slightly overpriced nearby Mimi’s Café and a quick “splash” at the hotel water park, we are more than ready to sleep early (thank you jet lag and waking up way too early). Disneyland (our Fifth Disney theme park and the first one in the US) will be quiet the adventure – here we go!
(Day 1, Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel, Dec. 16, 2021, 9:40 PM)
With the jet lag and the early sleep yesterday – we were all nice and refreshed early in the morning. We hit the nearby iHop (couldn’t finish the breakfast but was delicious, especially the omelette with the Chuluha sauce) at around 7:00a.m. and made our way to the Disneyland California Park. It could be the fact that it was still a weekday, schools were still in, or that we went way too early – but the queues were non existent, the park was a breeze and we managed to hit up all the rides (except a couple that weren’t really of interest) in a matter of 2 or so hours. This includes two rides on the Incrdicoaster which was a highlight. A close second was the swinging Ferris wheel, but the Mickey Philharmonic show was also a nice surprise. We almost missed the Little Mermaid ride which was fun and the shot-em up toy store ride was great too. We got our souvenir fix keeping the tradition of getting the wifey some Disney Jewellery (unfortunately not a Pandora bead this time, and I got a pair of socks – two actually to make up for the other Disney lands where we didn’t have much luck. Got a Nightmare Before Christmas pair and my favourite Disney movie of the Emperor’s New Groove!
Took a break from the park and drove out a little to a Turkish restaurant (Doner G) but have to say despite a solid attempt it was a disappointment from the beef in the Doner to the “kefir yogurt” or Ayraan drink which was less than stellar. Rested up a bit and realized we still have a good 7 hours before the kids can manage to sleep and we had to entertain them somehow. So we went back to the park on the same ticket (same park) and had an impromptu show on one of the walkways by the Black Panther bodyguards (women warriors), then went to the Turtle Talk show which was fun (even had an interactive question and answer with yours truly) and then the Animation studio where I learned how to draw Baby Groot. Capped the night at the Disney Downtown District at Napolini Pizza where the Margherita was excellent and then back for a final rest. Tomorrow we go for the main Disneyland Park for another jam packed day (hopefully we will have energy for the 9:00p.m. fireworks show).
(Day 2, Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel, Dec. 17, 2021, 9:54 PM)
What a day, and thought yesterday was productive. Due to the great ambitious drive of our friends (who we’ve met up with today – and whom we haven’t see for over 3 years, bless them) we were in Disneyland Park for a solid 13 hours – YES 13 HOURS!! In the confines of the park. Granted we weren’t as efficient as yesterday, with additional kids to shepherd and the longer wait times, we did manage to see and try most of the park with a respectable 12 rides altogether. Oh we got our money’s worth and then some. We got the big ones out of the way with Indy Jones and the Jungle Cruise, and capped it at night with the Matterhorn ride and Star Wars Mission Rescue, ending off with the short but not completely underrated firework show (and a delicious corn dog for a late dinner).
Needless to say everyone in our group is not only exhausted but can barely muster a normal walk (my son was limping, my wife was in agony, and I was just completely numb). Not sure how I am putting in this short but necessary entry to the journal – looking for a long LONG deep sleep and a sore body and set of limbs first thing tomorrow morning. Recovery mode tomorrow for sure! A few quick things that saved my day today:
- Disneyland app to get a digital GPS on the Disney map of where you are relative to everything else
- The app also made ordering our food from Galactic Grill that much quicker – was worth the effort
- Going on line to see which rides to do first (which ones fill up the quickest with queues)
- Having an overall strategy to walk around and see which queues are the shortest
- Hoping for the best, and expecting and usually getting, the worst in terms of energy drain
(Day 3, Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel, Dec. 18, 2021, 10:25 PM)
The next couple of days we thought we would take it easy and explore some of the sights of other places around Orange County with our friends. Usually around this time I would jam pack and itinerary and look up some landmarks and neighbourhoods to visit, but this time we thought we would spend some good ol’ quality time with our kids and let our kids get re-acquainted and bond. We did manage to catch a beautiful, but chilly, sunset on long beach. It was beautiful and the amount of art galleries along the main road were a cozy sight to see. Driving back at night under a full moon it was an incredible sight to see the cliff side houses, reminiscent of older Mediterranean cities, and more so reminded me of Tangier’s beautiful chaos of development along a cliffy rugged coastline.
On the second day we hit Newport Beach with a local gem of waffles and chicken – but wasn’t the best to be honest in Dory’s Deli. Although the sitting area and the view more than made up for it. A nice surprise was our daughter vomiting all over the table and booth just before we ordered, but luckily we had our fair share of wipes (finished a whole pack) and a full toilet role from the restaurant. It was the cold two bottles of milk we gave her – too much for travelling stomach and we regretted it as soon as she started drinking, but at least the clean up wasn’t “multi-coloured”. We were lucky to catch the sun before it started getting cloudy by walking along the pier. Then heading to Bolboa Island it was a great walk down Main Street with all the boutique shops, walking down the side row of houses with their small stretch of beach and docked boats was a great chill vibe that was much needed after a hectic few days.
We still had a long day left to go so we drove to the outdoor mall of Fashion Island and chilled our completely before having lunch at P.F.Chang (a much missed dive from our days in Dubai). The Tornado Shrimp, Beef and Broccoli and cap off with the Banana roll and coconut Ice cream dessert brought back so many wonderful memories and made some great new ones too. Then making our way to “The Lot” had a great cappuccino was a great, posh but memorable, send off to our time here in Orange County. Off to L.A. we go, with a larger curiosity and need to see more of the surrounding areas (i.e. Orange County) – let’s hope another trip is on the agenda in the next few years to see all the wonderful things I’m sure we have missed. We did see more of OC than we thought though, so no complaints – just a larger appreciation of this beautiful part of Cali.
(Day 5, Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel, Dec. 20, 2021, 9:20 PM)