"Why are we going in here?" asked Clara. "Disneyland is that way."
She was right, of course. Darn little monkey is getting way too perceptive. The days of us spelling things to keep them secret are numbered.
"P-I-Z-Z-A for dinner?"
"Nah. We had that last night. M-A-C and C-H-E-E-S-E?"
"Mommy, I want Mac and Cheese!"
But all that's beside the point. The fact of the matter is we weren't heading to the gates of Disneyland. Instead, we were entering into the Grand Californian. Suddenly, we weren't in the saccharine world of old Walt, but a craftsman fantasy. It seemed a little out of place on the Disney campus. It would have fit better in Yellowstone and in fact made me think of the Old Faithful Inn.
However, we weren't there to gawk, though we did. The Grand Californian hid a secret entrance to Disney's California Adventure. While all those chumps were standing in line we could just breeze through a pseudo security check and bleep our cards to get in. Take that chumps!
Of course, the TSA wannabe did want to look inside our bags and I had to be discreet with the princess dresses I was concealing. Today was a special day. (Well, duh, every day down south is special.) Today was the day we were having lunch with the Princesses.
You know. The Princesses. The whole reason we're there. The stars of the show. The very models of modern major superstars.
We had a reservation for lunch in Ariel's Grotto. It'd be kind of like eating in Goofy's Kitchen, but without all the non-princess characters.
And if the girls knew about lunch they'd have no interest in anything else we tried to do before lunch. No chance that'd fly with the rest of us. We had plans in the "grown up Disneyland."
Apparently, they tried to boil all of California down into a 55 acre former parking lot. I guess it worked, but you know how if you leave something on the stove too long it gets kind of thick and sticky and crusty around the edges? Bits of it are still good, but when you listen to nothing but music about California you think maybe they went too far.
Still, the part we started with was pretty cool. It was supposed to be like the Sierra Nevadas. Grizzly Peak rose way up high and was host to a white water rafting ride that looked like it would rival Splash Mountain. Oh, wait, crap. Another mountain... do I have to ride that, too? Well, not today anyway.
We headed to the section that felt more like Coney Island (or what I imagine it would be like) so the less sane members of our party could ride California Screamin'. Hmm.. do I want to ride. Oh, yeah, sounds great. Too bad I have to stay with the kids. "I can stay with them," said Nana. I said, I have to stay with the kids!
That meant there were three of the. Amy, Nicole, and Martin. Hmm... shouldn't it be four? Carl, you ought to go, too. "Sure! I can do anything for two minutes."
(Technically, that was my line from my tour through Roller Coaster Hell, but I was ok letting it go. Especially after the repeated jokes like "And you frequently do!" )
The four intrepid morons disappeared into the labyrinth that was the waiting area and we hung out by the launching area. (Any ride that has a "launching area" shouldn't be on anyone's short list.) Soon enough the line of cars pulled up. They were not just belted in, but had full body restraints on. Probably due to the loop they'd be subjected to shortly. (I don't need to comment on that, do I?)
A voice counted down from five and then they were just a blur of screams. When the steam cleared they were well on their way and we were headed for the carousel. A nice, sensible ride.
We mounted up on whales and fish and such and rode and rode and rode. Since nobody was in line the operator didn't make us get off. I actually started getting dizzy, though that's likely a testament to my weak constitution rather than the intensity of the ride.
When the screamers came off the ride they were beaming (except Carl). They had really enjoyed the ride (except Carl) and wanted to go again (except Carl). I think Martin even considered sneaking Molly through the height check to get her on, but common sense won out.
We hit a couple of more sedate rides before it was time to change for lunch. Out came the dresses and there was a moment where it looked like we'd have three little streakers on our hands. Luckily, their desire to be princesses was more powerful than their exhibitionist tendencies.
While we waited for our time to go into Ariel's Grotto (I'm not making that name up) I overheard a mother talking to her son. "You just have to eat and then you and Dad can leave." I'm guessing Amy'd be talking that way to Henry if he were just a wee bit older.
Inside we followed a spiral staircase down into the depths of Ariel's Grotto (heh) where the girls stared through the banister at Princess Ariel in all her glory. Like any good princess she ignored us until it was our turn to sit for a picture. During our time it was as though the world was just her and the girls. We shattered that dream when we plunked Henry down in the middle to make sure everybody knew there was more than just estrogen flowing through our family and after a few final snaps of the shutter we took our seats.
If Ariel was the appetizer the rest of lunch was going to be the main course of princess goodness. Once everyone was seated the princesses came out one at a time and circulated among the tables. Everyone got a chance to talk and since we were the last table we had perhaps a little bit of extra time. Ever the princesses, not a single one was in a hurry to escape the slimy little hands and run out the door.
Princess Aurora, Clara's current favorite, seemed more prince than princess, but even in Southern California I don't think that'd fly. Snow white was so-so and Belle was a blast if only because Lilly tried to look under her dress. (A girl after my own heart.) The big deal, though, was Cinderella.
When she arrived the girls got quiet and then began buzzing around her. Molly, dressed like a miniature version of the great one, was first to move in. Cinderella was great about giving equal time to all the girls and even spared a few moments for Henry.
After lunch we passed through San Francisco Land and found ourselves in A Bug's Land. (Get it? Like A Bug's Life?) No, there isn't some part of California that is infested by giant bugs (as far as I know), but here's my theory on what's going on.
Most people who go to Disneyland are from California. They don't want to go to Californialand so the Adventure became Disneyland's poor hick cousin that nobody wants to visit. However, Disneyland is getting full. Where could you put something new like... Ariel's Grotto or A Bug's Land? So you start putting Disneyland-style attractions into the Adventure and next thing you know all the folks who thought it was lame will at least walk through the Golden Age thing to check out what it would be like to be a bug.
The only problem was that giant ants (aka Flik and Princess Ana) freaked Clara out. And Carl got a teeny bit aggressive driving the bumper cars. Oh yeah, and the 3D movie was a little too 3D with the blasts of air, liquid effects, and seats that poked us in the back.
Having heard California Girls one too many times we headed across the plaza and into Disneyland. (Turns out nobody really wants them all to be Californian or at least doesn't want to hear about it from the Beach Boys every 10 minutes.) The parade was due to start just after dark so we figured dinner on the benches along the route would be our best bet.
Once the parade started the girls were glued in place. Float after float passed by with waves and smiles and giggles. Favorites? Mine was the rhino from the Lion King float. Amy was all about Tinkerbell. The girls were focused intently on the princesses.
As the parade wrapped up and disappeared into the darkness Chip and Dale waved from the back of the last float just for Nana.