Sunday - Wednesday, March 26 - 29

Our Sunday started early in order to catch Air Canada flight #791 to Los Angeles at 7:40 a.m.  After a smooth flight we picked up our rental car at Budget and headed for San Diego.  Along the way we stopped at Carlsbad to see the "Flower Fields".  There are 50 acres of beds, row after row of different colours of Ranunculus.   This spectacular planting provides seeds which are sold throughout the world.  After a few pictures we were on the road again heading toward San Diego for another stay at the Best Western Blue Sea.  We really enjoy this little hotel on Pacific Beach.  Every morning we would wake up with the magnificent beach at our doorstep.  Kono's CafeOur days always started with a walk along the beach, watching the surfers who are there from dawn to dusk each day.  After a breakfast at the popular Kono's Cafe we would begin our day's exploration.  We were disappointed last year that we could only spend a few hours at the Wild Animal Park, so this time we made it our first priority and spent the full day there on Monday.  What a wonderful facility.  The following day we revisited one of our favorite spots, the Children's Pool at La Jolla and in the afternoon took a whale-watching cruise.  Alas, it was too late in the season and there were no whales.  Maybe next time!  Our last day in San Diego we visited the San Diego Mission before we drove to the end of scenic Point Loma.  We finished our tourist stops with a visit to the Del Coronado Hotel. This is the hotel Disney Imagineers used as inspiration for the Grand Floridian in Orlando. 

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad.

A shy giraffe.

Lions relaxing at the Wild Animal Park.

A baby elephant . . . a 700 pound tyke!

A lion at the Wild Animal Park.

A seal pup at the Children's Pool, La Jolla.

Basking seals at the Children's Pool.

The San Diego area is one of our favorite spots . . . we just can't get enough of it.
I wish I could grow some of this at home! Is there anything more beautiful than a Pacific sunset?

Thursday March 30

We checked out bright and early and after a quick breakfast on the road, we were northbound on Interstate 5 toward Anaheim and Disneyland.  This time we stayed at the Candy Cane Inn, a "Good Neighbour" hotel located adjacent to the park.  It's a delightful little hotel with all the needed amenities, and it's just a few hundred yards from the main gate.  It was a very short walk in the morning when we were well rested and eager, but most evenings we found the complementary shuttle bus was a very welcome sight.

The Candy Cane Inn - Disneyland is a few hundred yards behind Gary!
Gary and I in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Billy Hill & the Hillbillies.
Our room was ready when we arrived so we tossed our luggage in and were off to the parks.  We started by riding a horse drawn trolley up Main Street USA and walking through Sleeping Beauty’s castle to Fantasyland.  We quickly visited a few of our favourite rides.  Mr. Toad's Wild Ride has been replaced in Florida but is still operating in California and we rode it three times during our stay.  Another one we like is Alice in Wonderland, which is unique to California and we rode it four times.  Over to Tomorrowland where Gary beat me at Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters, and then we had to visit the Golden Horseshoe Stage in Frontierland to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.  It's a very funny musical show!

Gary won the first round at Buzz Lightyear.

Gary made a new friend while I traded pins!

We had dinner at the Plaza Inn and were able to ride It’s a Small World before watching the fantastic "Dreams" fireworks display from Main Street USA.  After an early start to the day we were pooped, so we started back to the gate . . . but wait . . . are they trading pins at the Plaza Inn?  Gary agreed to a quick stop for some pin trading and he settled in to listen to the ragtime piano player.  A mere 45 minutes later we started back toward the gate where we hopped the shuttle back to the Candy Cane Inn.  I finished unpacking while Gary soaked his aching bones in the hot tub. 

Friday March 31

It was raining as we entered Disneyland early in the morning, so crowds were very light.  We rode the little red Horseless Carriage up Main Street to the castle.  After riding Mr. Toad (again) and Peter Pan, Gary talked me into trying Space Mountain one more time.  Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it, so we went back again later in our trip.
The Horseless Carriage! A refreshing pause!

We shopped our way down Main Street USA and went across the esplanade to Disney’s California Adventure Park.  We rode the new Monsters Inc. ride and then stopped for a quick hot dog at Award Wieners.  The Aladdin show was almost ready to enter as we walked by so we hopped in line and got balcony seats.  This was much better than the VIP seating we had last year when all the magic carpet flying took place over our heads.  This time we had a great view of the stage and the magic carpets.  Do not miss this show . . . it’s great.

After a quick ride on the Tower of Terror it was time to head over to P. T. Flea Market for some pin trading.  Gary always carries a book in the backpack, so he settled in on a bench to wait.  After the trading, it was my turn to wait while he rode the Grizzly River Run a few times.  When he was finished it was time to head to the Grand Californian Hotel for our 6:00 p.m. dinner at Storytellers Café.

Just had to stop for some pin trading.
A shop in New Orleans Square.

It had rained from time to time throughout the day and the evening was no exception.  We had pre-booked the Fantasmic Desert package and were scheduled to watch the show from the balcony of the Gallery in New Orleans Square and we knew that this would be one of the highlights of our trip, so we were hoping the show would not be rained out.  By 8:30 we were on the balcony, where seating is restricted to 19 people and were enjoying coffee and some fabulous deserts, but it was still threatening rain.  At about 8:50 they announced to us, and the thousands of people lining the riverbank below us, that the show “might” be cancelled due to weather conditions.  Have you ever heard 10,000 people groan in unison?  But the show began without a hitch at 9:00 and we all lived happily ever after.  What a great way to see this amazing production.  It’s expensive, but it’s well worth it.

Oh yes, one more advantage to the Fantasmic Desert package . . . when you pay this much for “special treatment” you know that you will be surrounded by died in the wool Disney fanatics.  This night was no exception; we met a couple from Overland Park, Kansas and chatted with them about both the California and Florida parks, which they visit about as often as we do.  We mentioned that we had bought a motor home and would be taking it to Fort Wilderness Campground at Walt Disney World the following month.  Within a few weeks we received a videotape in the mail, a copy of the RV Life show taped at Fort Wilderness.  What a great item to watch before our trip!

After another long Disney Day we caught the shuttle back to the Candy Cane Inn.

Saturday April 1

Saturday was our day to visit Universal Studios.  It was bright and sunny, and hot later in the day.  We still had our rental car so we drove through Los Angeles to Hollywood.  We have heard Californians complain for years about traffic volumes and gridlock in Los Angeles, but each time we drove through the city, on a Thursday, a Saturday and a Wednesday we found the traffic to be a great deal lighter than we contend with in and around Toronto.

We began our day at Universal with a Studio tour to get acquainted with the park.  A tram took us through a number of sets, including Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, the Bates Motel from Psycho, the plane crash scene from War of the Worlds, Whoville from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the dock from Jaws and many more.  It was a fun way to start the day.

The main entrance at Universal Studios.

The War of the Worlds plane crash scene.

Wisteria Lane.

The Bates Motel with Whoville in the background.

The park is built into the side of a huge hill and we decided to start at the bottom and work our way up.  We enjoyed a number of rides including Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4D, Jurassic Park, Water World, Backdraft and Back to the Future.

One day was sufficient to cover the entire park, so we headed back to Anaheim and had dinner at about 8:00 p.m. at the Catal Restaurant in Downtown Disney.  After a little shopping we called it a night.

Sunday April 2

Sunday was another beautiful sunny day and we headed off to the Disneyland Park.  Crowds were very light and lines were short, so we revisited a number of our favourites before heading over to Mickey’s Toontown.  This is an area filled with whimsical cartoon buildings and we were there too late in the day last year to get any good photographs.  This year we arrived early and got some good pictures.

Goofy's Gas in Mickey's Toontown.

Goofy's house.

We wanted to spend the afternoon at the California Adventure Park so we hopped aboard the double-decker bus for a trip down Main Street and then crossed the esplanade.  We took a second ride through Monsters Inc.  Our route through the park took us past P. T. Flea Market, so naturally I had to stop and trade a few pins.  Gary took another run on the Grizzly River on the way over to Paradise Pier where we both “got a lift” from the Maliboomer.

Sully and Mike with little Boo.

Dinner at Ariel's Grotto.

I waited while Gary took two rides on the California Screamer and then we headed to Ariel’s Grotto for our 5:50 p.m. dinner reservation.

After dinner we walked back across to Disneyland where we caught the evening parade and the Dreams fireworks show.

Acrobats in the evening parade.

Belle and Beast in the evening parade.

Monday April 3

Monday was another rainy day; the showers came and went throughout the day.  Our Los Angeles Grand Tour began with a visit to the Mission District where we saw the oldest house still standing in LA, the Avila Adobe built in 1818.   Then we were off to Hollywood, where we stopped near the Kodak Theatre (where the Academy Awards are presented) from which we could see the famous Hollywood sign on the hill.  Just down the street were Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame . . .and across the street were the Disney Soda Shop and the El Capitan Theatre.  WOW!

Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Disney's El Capitan Theatre (the Soda Shop it on it's left)

Home of the Academy Awards.

The famous Hollywood sign.

I never thought I’d be so close to the one and only Disney Soda Shop, so I dashed across the street and started taking pictures.  Then into the soda shop; they had pins!  I’m in heaven . . . the bus is leaving in ten minutes . . . what’s a girl to do?  I bought a fistful of pins, grabbed a souvenir napkin and ran across Hollywood Boulevard in time to locate Mickey Mouse’s star on the Walk of Fame before we hopped back aboard the bus. 

Here's a star I recognize!

Mickey's star!

Our next stop was Marina del Rey; million dollar yachts and seven-dollar ice cream cones.  We didn’t buy a yacht, but had an ice cream before we left for Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is apparently the new muscle beach.  We weren’t impressed.  The million dollar homes looked like slums and we had the impression that if we didn’t keep moving the graffiti artists would spray paint us like they had sprayed everything else.

After the tour we went back to Disneyland and had a light dinner at the French Market in New Orleans Square.  We wandered the park after dinner, rode Alice in Wonderland another time and watched Dreams again from Main Street.  Long day?  Yup!  Were pooped again . . . back to the Candy Cane Inn and off to bed!  

Tuesday April 4
Tuesday morning took us back to Disneyland.  We roamed the park repeating or favourite rides; took our time shopping up Main Street and then strolled over to Frontierland where we caught another show at the Golden Horseshoe Stage.  This time it was a different cast for Billy Hill and the Hillbillies.  Different routine too . . . but just as funny.  This is another show you should not miss!  We spent the rest of the day just strolling through both the parks  (I also shopped at Downtown Disney) before dinner at the Granville Steakhouse in the Disneyland Hotel.  What a wonderful way to end our visit to Disney California. 

Gary in the Fire Hall.

Billy Hill & the Hillbillies!

Wednesday April 5

Gary went off first thing in the morning to pick up our rental car at Avis and I made a quick dash back to Disneyland to make a few last minute purchases. Since it was so early and there was no line at Storybook Land Canal Boats I couldn’t resist and had the first boat ride of the morning. It was time to go so I hurried back to meet Gary and across the desert we went.  As we drove into fabulous Las Vegas we stopped at the Disney Outlet Store on the western part of “The Strip” and I found a number of Disney Pins available for under $2.00, I bought a few for traders.

We checked in at the Mirage and Gary dropped off our car.  We were shocked and disappointed when we saw what the Mirage has done with Kokomo’s.  When Gary and I were married in Las Vegas five years ago we had our wedding dinner, with all of our family, at Kokomo’s.  It was a delightful and romantic steak house in a rainforest setting.  Bamboo railings, waterfalls, orchids and other lush and exotic plants surrounded you.  We have gone back every year since to have our anniversary dinner at Kokomo’s.  But one look at Kokomo’s this year and we cancelled our reservation for Friday evening.  The bamboo and foliage have all been replaced by stainless steel.  What was a romantic setting could now pass for an operating room or a research lab.  What were they thinking?

We had a pleasant evening walking The Strip and playing some slots.

Thursday April 6

We spent the morning relaxing at the Mirage’s fabulous pool and later walked up and down The Strip.  We wandered through the new Wynn Casino, which had opened since our last trip to Las Vegas.  Like all the newer casinos, it is huge and the décor is lavish.  Naturally we had to make a few stops along the way to waste some money in the slot machines.

Gary and I at the Mirage Fountain/Volcano.

Fountains at the Wynn Casino.

Thursday evening we had tickets for the Harvey Korman and Tim Conway Show at the Stardust Casino.  It was hilarious.  Even at 79 and 72 years old, they had us all roaring with laughter.  Tim Conway didn’t have to say a word, just watching him was enough to have us convulsing with laughter.  They did some of the classic skits from the old Carol Burnett Show . . . The Dentist’s Chair, The Golf Instructor, and more.  Our ribs ached for days after.  

Friday April 7

Once again we started our day relaxing by the pool and followed with a walk along The Strip.  The Conservatory at the Bellagio was just amazing, as always.  It was filled with giant butterflies and ladybugs, all made with cut flowers.   Caesar’s Palace has been renovated and seems to be fully “refreshed”.  We had to stop at slot machines in both casinos.  

A fountain at Caesar's Palace.

A giant ladybug at the Bellagio.

Since we had cancelled our dinner reservation for Kokomo’s, we were looking for something special to do on our last night in Las Vegas.  While we were at Caesar’s Palace we dropped by the Box Office and were lucky enough to get two good tickets for the Elton John Show that night.  What an outstanding show.  He is a born showman as well as a gifted singer and songwriter.  He used his music, and some amazing special effects, to tell his life story.

Saturday April 8

All good things must come to an end, so we checked out and caught a cab to McCarran International Airport.  Air Canada Flight # 592 to Toronto left at 1:15 p.m. and had us home by 8:00 p.m

Now it’s time to start packing the motor home for our next trip . . . we are scheduled to leave for Florida in only two weeks.