Friday, March 28, 2014

Disneyland 2014

Many people told me Disneyland is not as good as Disney World because it's smaller, older, etc.  Well, it's been years (more than I will admit) since I have been to Disney World, and Disneyland suits me just fine.  I went with a couple of friends, and one is an expert, she knows this park like the back of her hand.  I can't wait to go back just to visit the park with her.

Wendy and I went to the park the night before and we tackled Main Street, which has shops, food, and musicians.  I heard the first of many variations of the song "Let it go" from Frozen.  I have no choice but to like it now.  Try the pizza at Naples, it's delish! We stayed for the fireworks, which were nice, I especially like the Mickey shaped one that I got a picture of.

The next day, bright and early, Wendy and I were joined by Ashley, the Disneyland expert.  Making our way into the park I got my button for my first visit, and then we hit a hat shop.  Since I knit hats, I love to see hat shops, and the Mad Hatter is all about characters with Mickey ears, you've seen them.  The most curious one was the R2D2 hat, since Disney bought Star Wars.  That is still strange to me.

Meeting characters is one of the fun parts of Disney parks.  And the best ones stay in character.  There was over a two hour wait to see the characters from Frozen.  I got to meet Mary Poppins, way cooler (pun intended)

We went left after this to Adventureland.  I was sad to see that the Indiana Jones ride was closed, since I love Indiana, but we took the Jungle Cruise instead, which had animatronic animals and guides who tell horrible jokes.  Then Ashley nicely ran to get fast passes for a ride and I climbed Tarzan's treehouse.  One of the best views of the park can be seen from here.

Next up was New Orleans Square for Mickey shaped beignets, which are simply awesome.  Since there was no line, I ran off to do Splash Mountain.  Wendy and Ashley skipped this one since they didn't want to get wet.  There was a maybe 10 minute wait, which is unheard of, and a chivalrous man in front of me gave me his plastic cover, so I was dry after.  It was awesome! 

Then we walked right into The Haunted Mansion, which was delightfully creepy, and then we got right on the Pirates of the Caribbean.  Odd I got more wet on Pirates than I did on Splash Mountain.  But I loved seeing Jack Sparrow.  It was also pretty amazing how quickly we were getting on these rides.

Ashley and I rode Big Thunder Mountain in
Frontierland, the fast pass was the key, we only had to wait a few minutes. Ashley was excited because this ride had been closed for over a year for upgrades, so she wanted to see the changes. I loved it, I have no idea what they changed, but whatever they did, it works. It's a great ride. Get the fast pass for busy times. Wendy and I then went into Fantasyland and rode Snow Whites Scary Adventure. It's not that scary for adults, but I can see it scaring my 5 year-old self.

In Tomorrowland we rode the cars in Autopia via fast pass.  And we all wanted our own car.  I'm suprised this ride still exists, the cars run on gasoline, and go about 5 miles and hour.  But it is a nostalgic favorite for many visitors. Disney now owns Star Wars, and there are rides that reflect this in the park. The lines for the rides were so long, but we were treated to watch the Jedi Training Academy, and let me tell you, there are some bad ass kids out there who can wallop Darth Vader and Darth Maul.  I am a huge Toy Story fan, so I was excited to try the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride. But I am terrible at videogames, so needless to say my level 2 score is nothing to brag about.

We were joined by another friend, so Wendy chose to go with her and do the Buzz ride again, Ashley and I headed off to the Matterhorn Bobsleds.  We chose the single rider line because the general line was over an hour long, and we got on the ride in minutes.  Apparently the Matterhorn ride is only at Disneyland, and it's a blast.  I actually got to ride twice, I'm not sure why, but the staff asked us if we wanted to go again, and who is going to say no?  The abominable snowman was great.

To end our evening we had dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant.  You have to make reservations far in advance, and you pay for the ambiance, it's in the Pirates ride. The food is so-so.  I liked my chicken, the cornbread rolls are addicting, and the Mickey mousse is amazing, they gave it to us free since it was my first visit.  I love how the park makes a big deal out of a first visit.

There were a number of rides I would have loved to try, but the lines got soo long, that I will save them for next time.  There are also apps for a map of the park and ride times, I recommend these, it really helps to plan out your day.  I can't wait to go back!

Santa Monica Beaches

Beaches in L.A. are very different than New England beaches.  Most noticibly the sand.  There is a loooooooong stretch of sand before you get to the water.  And I hear these beaches get crowded.  I find that to be very hard, considering how crowded Cape Cod or Maine beaches get.  The water was cool, but not freezing, but cold enough that all I did was dip my feet.  

My friend and I did a beach clean-up one afternoon with her school.  A student organized the whole event, which I think is fantastic.  While we were picking up plastic tops, a needle, a liquer bottle (really this was the cleanest beach of trash that I have seen) I noticed there was a lot of black stuff blended in the sand.  I was told it was tar, and at the shoreline there were large clumps of smelly tar.  I find this more concerning than trash.  But the tar comes from the ocean, gets blended in the sand and sticks to your feet.  I would love to see a cleanup of the tar.  It is such a beautiful beach otherwise.

This beach is tar-free.  Miles of lovely soft sand.
That black stuff? Tar blended in the sand.  It get in your feet, everywhere really.

Long stretches of tar in the sand

clumps of tar were as big as my foot

Santa Monica beach at night.  Just beautiful.

Hollywood Homes and Famous spots

My friend and I took a Hollywood homes tour.  Our tour guide was fantastic.  I couldn't keep track of all the places he showed us.  If ever traveling to L.A. I recommend one of these tours.

I saw more than one shop dedicated to all things British.  I wish one of those shops were near me!

The iconic sign announcing where you are

Many celebrities can be found in L.A. I spotted Jesus. 

Walt's star

Betty is still trendy, so I'm glad I saw this star

The red carpet really is red.  There was a premier at the TCL Chinese Theater.

"You work on comission, right?  Big mistake...huge"
"It had to be the top floor.  It's the best"

"Yippee ki yay"  We drove by Nakatomi Tower

I think this is Meryl Streep's house

This is Leo DiCaprio's house his mom lives next door and tends to take her water hose on tours.
She left ours alone, I was rather disappointed. 

I saw a lot of houses, and took a lot of pictures.  I can't remember them all, I think this was Simon Cowell's.

The Hollywood Sign.  It doesn't light up, and you can't go up the hill any more.

L.A. at night

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stars Hollow still exists! A 2014 WB studio tour

I took a WB studio tour the other day.  Most people there were Pretty Little Liars fans, but I am a huge Gilmore Girls fan, and I wanted to see what structures from Stars Hollow they had left on the lot.

Gilmore Girls stopped airing several years ago.  But there are a few sets and facades still standing on the WB studio lot.  Totally worth the visit.

Main Street Stars Hollow.  The corner is Luke's Diner.
I really wish they had recreated this set somewhere, but they recycle sets a lot, nothing lasts long after production.

Gilmore house on one side and Sookie's house on the other.

Babette's House minus the gnomes.
Miss Patty's Dance studio, no yoga mats.
The church, I looked to see if there were the broken bells.

Any town USA.  This street is used in a lot of movies and is built in forced perspective.

In the WB museum these are the only Gilmore Girl artifacts left.  

But I now know what is on that letter that Lorelai sent Rory.

They still have a few GG items to buy in the gift shop. I chose a Luke's Diner mug.

All in all, it was worth it.  I would have loved to see the Stars Hollow sign, or Luke's Diner sign, or the gazebo. But the show has been over for several years, so I am content with what I saw.