The other way to Cuba

Monday 18 January

While Roger was in the Shot Show in Vegas my sister, Debbie, and I decided to have a few days reliving our childhoods at Disneyland in LA. This is something we have done a few times and we always have a great time, soaking up the atmosphere and generally running around like 10 year olds.

We had a very easy flight to LA. Debbie had been upgraded to Business class, her first time not in economy. It was great to be able to travel together and Air NZ definitely do Business class well. We both got plenty of sleep on the flight.

On arriving in LA we encountered the same congestion and madness at US Immigration as Roger had the day prior. I have a US passport so entered through that queue, which was long but moved very quickly. Debbie, on her NZ passport took considerably longer with lots of being shunted to a different queue, only to be shunted back again. After about 90 minutes she made it through. This is where our challenge started!

I had been patiently waiting, sitting on my cart (with both our bags) at the bottom of the stairs leading down from immigration, knowing there was no way she could miss me there. After about two hours I stood up to stretch my legs and realized, to my horror, that there were two sets of stairs! I went back to the NZ baggage carousel and realized that there were no other bags from our flight left. Surely Debbie wouldn’t have gone through customs without me I thought, checking my phone. She had – causing quite some consternation with the customs officials arriving in the US with no luggage.

Eventually we reconnected and caught a taxi – about an hour’s drive to the Disneyland hotel. The check-in was quick and easy and we received our passes to the parks, dropped our bags and headed off. We had a dinner booking in the California Adventure Park, which also gave us access to a reserved viewing area for the World of Colour show later in the evening. We managed to fit in several of our favourite rides as well. The World of Colour show is very impressive (yet hard to describe) with numerous fountains creating the backdrop for the story of  Walt Disney’s dreams. The whole park is lighted up in multiple colours as the fountains shoot high into the air. They are somehow able to project movies onto the spray created by the fountains as well.

After the show we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Tuesday 19 January – Friday 22 January

Staying at one of the Disney Resort hotels gives you an extra magic hour each morning with admission to one of the parks one hour before it opens to the general public. This alternates between the parks: Tuesday and Thursday we were at Disneyland and Wednesday and Friday it was at California Adventure. The best part of this is that you get to do a whole lot of rides quite quickly as there are relatively few people in the park. In Disneyland we really let out our inner children and start in Fantasyland riding all the real kiddie rides. In California Adventure we make a bee-line for the Radiator Springs racers, where we also make use of the single rider line to really minimise our queue time. After a few visits we now have this down to a fine art, managing about 25 rides a day between our extra magic hour and using Fastpass effectively. We also walk about 15km a day so that helps to make up for the cinnamon buns and ice-cream!

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On Wednesday evening we had dinner in the Blue Bayou restaurant which is part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The atmosphere is amazing and the food is excellent. This dinner also gave us access to preferential space for the evening Paint the Night show and the fireworks spectacular. Although I have been to Disneyland several times and gone to many shows I have never watched the fireworks – an incredible spectacle and I could only wonder why I hadn’t bothered before!

One of the best things about the trip was just catching up with Deb. Both of us have busy lives and it was a rare treat to get to spend so much time together – and even though we minimize queuing time we still had plenty of time waiting around where we could just chat. We got to scheming… but watch for more of that in the future…

On Friday evening, tired but happy, we headed back to the hotel, picked up our bags and taxied back to the airport, Debbie to catch her flight back to NZ and me for the long, overnight haul through Houston to Cancun to meet up with Roger.


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