How do you capture the sky a sunset over the ocean?
Is there some enchanted glass
I can hold in my hand
whisper and watch
as the satin tapestry
hanging before me,
gilded blue and molten
gathers at the hem
like a cool drink
past that vial’s lip,
the bottle’s neck
folds of sunlight
wave upon wave
until the last frayed corner
the last thread
below the rim,
filling the crystal flask
with fireball pink
coppers and golds
luster and light
of the night’s first star?
How do you capture the longing
fear that tingles in the toes
something like worship?
Is there a vessel
for what these hands
can never hold?
By now you all know how our family loves Disney World. I actually think, that if given the chance, I would visit every year. My dream vacation, aside from this cross country road trip, is to spend 2 (maybe 3) full weeks in Disney, staying inside the park and seeing everything at a reasonable, enjoyable pace. Disney always feels like a genuine escape; a place one can forget everything beyond the borders and just have fun.
Over the years, I have heard much commentary on the difference between Disney World and Disneyland. Mostly I have been told that the Land is nothing comparing the World and that if you are going to go, you should just go to Disney World. After my first visit to the Land, I see the reasoning behind this sentiment. Disneyland is what I would call “Disney Light” – same great taste but a little less filling. Yet for some families, this may not be a bad thing.
First, as most people know, Disneyland is much smaller than Disney World. Disney World has four major theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios – and two water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. While Disneyland consists of a mere two parks: Disneyland (equivalent to the Magic Kingdom) and California Adventure, a sort of mish-mash of the World’s other three parks.
A smaller park disappoints in some ways, as there are fewer rides, shows and dining options. Also, because of its sheer magnitude, Disney World possesses an intangible power not present at Disneyland. In Orlando, one feels overcome by and absorbed into a completely new world, a place apart from time and free from the trials. Disneyland does not have this effect.
The most shocking moment for us was when we entered Disneyland and looked up Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. At first I thought the parks centerpiece was missing! Sleeping Beauty’s castle is a mere dwarf compared to Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando.
Doug and Jacquelyn also mentioned that some of the rides, particularly the roller coasters, were disappointing, slow and less elaborate. Other rides, however, like Pirates and Small World were longer and more detailed. Though some people, like my step dad, would not consider extra time on It’s a Small World a good thing!
A smaller park does have many advantages, though; and families looking for a “Disney Light” experience may find the Land a little more digestible. While there are still many attractions in Anaheim – too many to see in one day – they all reside closely together. This increases the sense of crowding (which I hate) but also decreases the amount of walking (yay!). A more compact park also means that you can see more in less time, particularly if you approach the park strategically. Another bonus: Disneyland and California Adventure sit directly across the street from one other, making park hopping easy and efficient.
The smaller more condensed layout extends to the area surrounding the park as well. At the Land there are only three hotels within the resort and they are mega-expensive. No value resorts here. But a slew of independent hotels surround the park for relatively reasonable rates. We stayed at a Sheraton outside the park (using mile points) and we were only a 10-15 minute walk from the park entry. All hotels appear to offer a shuttle service as well. For $13/day for the four of us, we used the shuttle service, which ran every 15-20 minutes. Those of you who have been to the World know that whether you are inside or outside that park, travel time is always a minimum of 20 minutes and can be more than 30 minutes if transferring from one mode of transportation to another. (The only exception is when visiting the theme park your hotel is based in; for example if you are staying at a Magic Kingdom resort you have a short ride or walk to that park, but visiting other parks typically takes much longer.)
So if you are interested in Disney but don’t think that you or your children can handle the magnitude of the World, Disneyland may be a good option for you. I think you can see all of both parks in two days at a fast pace, three days at a moderate pace and 4 days at a more leisurely pace.
The shows we saw at the Land were equal in quality to those in the World, and the smaller park enabled closer viewing. For the most part, this made the viewing much better. However, at the Land, “prime viewing” for night time shows must be bought or fast passed. For example, at Fantasmic one must purchase a pricey dessert tray ($59/$49 person) to gain entry to the closest sidewalks. For World of Color, a person must either eat dinner at an expensive restaurant ($40/person), purchase a picnic dinner ($15/person) or wait in a line (up to 90 minutes) for “fast pass” reserved seating. Unfortunately, unless one resigns to watch from the side or back, (which distorts the images projected on the water), viewing for World of Color is entirely reserved. The Land even has reserved seating for parades!!! I think this method is probably the product of limited space combined with L.A. mentality – out here, people seem accustomed to paying for what they want.
I personally missed the freedom of open space and the “first come, first served” mentality at Disney World. There, even the cheapest among us can stake out prime viewing early in the evening. Don’t get me wrong! We have paid for our share of dinners at Epcot’s Rose ‘n Crown, but that was because we chose a nice, leisurely dinner in front of the fireworks; not because we had no other options. Perhaps, if we had another day to spend in Anaheim, we would have waited for the fast passes or bought the $15 dinner; but with such limited time, we opted for the 10:30 showing of Fantasmic. At this time of night, the crowds were thinner and we were ready for a rest. We did not have reserved seating but we were just behind them with a perfect view. Strangely enough, this was our first Fantasmic experience and we loved it!
The only other difference that stands out to me is the general lack of Disney camaraderie at the Land. At the World one has a sense of being part of something grand, even a sense of community. Don’t expect to do very much pin trading in Anaheim and “cast members” are not nearly as cheerful, magical or “Mickey-fied” as those at Disney World. (Though, our waitress was wonderful!) Basically, the Land has more of a general amusement park feel. As Doug put it, “Disneyland is not quite Six Flags, but it’s definitely not Disney World!”
So here’s my summary of recommendations:
1)If you are going to be in L.A. and you love Disney, go! It’s worth it!
2)If you are looking for a “Disney Light” experience, go! This is the perfect place to get your feet wet.
3)If you want a genuine Disney experience, the whole shebang, go to Orlando. It’s the real thing, baby!
Tuesday the 29th was our day in Los Angeles. Neither of my parents had any real interest in seeing the city, so this day was mostly for my sister and me. I had heard over and over that LA and Hollywood were so unimpressive that my expectations were not very high. This was a good thing though, as it allowed me to enjoy the city rather than be disappointed. Since I was expecting so little, it was actually pretty nice:)
When we first got into the city we walked down Rodeo Drive (certainly not to shop, but only to look). We entered a few stores but felt out of place whenever we did. The street outside, however, was full of tourists just like us. For me, the buildings themselves were more noteworthy than what they were selling. One clothing store on the corner required an elevator to enter it, another store had two spiral staircases with a chandelier hanging in the center, and finally there was the runway at Louis Vuitton. Contrary to what you may first envision, this runway wasn’t for models but for purses! The purses rolled out from behind a gold, beaded, miniature curtain and appeared in the store’s window, spun around to face us, and disappeared under another curtain. While we couldn’t actually shop in the stores, it was impressive to just walk down Rodeo Drive and see the stores.
After lunch at a flatbread restaurant, we went shopping in the more affordable stores of the city and then headed for the Hollywood sign. We drove up neighborhood streets (with people who we figured were so sick of tourists like us) until we saw some other people taking pictures in front of the sign. Picking a location slightly further down the road (and across from an overlook so we weren’t too close to anyone’s house), we got out and took our pictures with the Hollywood Sign.
After driving through the city a little longer, we headed for our hotel through LA’s rush hour traffic. Arriving around 6 pm, we enjoyed the hotel’s complimentary appetizers and drinks. To close out the night we bought our Disney passes for the following day and went to Build-A-Bear in Downtown Disney.
Good news! The Sequoias look big without a sip from Alice’s magic bottle! At first the forest looks like any other pine forest but then suddenly one finds herself among trees towering over 300 feet and as wide as 40 feet in diameter. Giant trees line the road in certain parts of Seqouia National Park, but walking among the groves is the best way to experience them. We visited the General Sherman tree and trail first. The General Sherman Tree is the largest living organism in the world and is an estimated 2,200 years old. While Jesus walked on the other side of the earth, this tree was just a sapling. Each year the Sherman tree grows the same amount of wood in an average 60 foot tree!
Did you know that Sequoia trees have bark as thick as 31 inches and are resistant to fire, chemicals, insects and fungi? They are vulnerable, however, to falling over because of their shallow root systems and lack of tap root. We actually walked through some trees that had fallen many years ago. One, in particular, the Fallen Monarch, was completely hollow on the inside and all that was left was a long, cylinder of bark. Truly, someone could have lived inside this tree. It certainly was bigger than the Ingalls’ sod house or shanty!
Walking among the massive, chestnut colored tree trunks, filled me with a sense of quiet wonder. How I wish they could speak. I half expected one to bend over and whisper something in my ear. What a mysterious, magnificent creation we inhabit. We also visited the Grant Grove, which was our favorite of the two. There is much more freedom to walk in and among the trees there; this grove is also less busy and therefore a little quieter. The General Grant Tree is the widest of the Sequoias, at 40 ft. in diameter. The park has many other groves on and off trails, but we did not have time to visit those. I wish we could have stayed longer; I think I might have walked among the groves all afternoon and never grown tired of them.
We left the park and drove straight to Santa Monica Pier. The contrast between the quiet, peaceful trees and the lights, music and sounds of boardwalk amusement struck me immediately. The natural wonder and the man-made frenzy. Is one intrinsically better than the other? Or is that personal preference? Can all people benefit from time in nature? Or just some? Would people be more content if they spent more time appreciating God’s creation?
At about 7:45 pm, We all dipped our feet in the Pacific Ocean and felt some sort of accomplishment, I guess. We truly made it to the other side of the continent. I wish the weather had been nicer and then maybe we would have gone swimming or lingered on the beach; but the gray sky and cool temperatures made the experience somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps because the experience was nothing at all like I had anticipated. Nonetheless, we made it!
We did a little shopping, rode the ferris wheel and then ate ice cream and funnel cake for dessert, or well, maybe it was dinner. A typical ending to our very atypical days on this wild adventure!
We spent day 11 of our trip sightseeing in San Francisco, staying over for a second night. Until this stop we haven’t spent more than one night in any hotel. We finally got a break from loading and unloading the car for a day! Soooo…..let me share something with you about San Francisco in the summer. I am assuming this will be new information for all of you, because not a single person warned us of what we would encounter here in the foggy city.
Apparently Mark Twain once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” I learned this while on our open top motorized cable car tour, shivering beneath fleece blankets. Why is it cold in San Francisco in the summer, you ask. The friendly, native San Franciscan sitting next to me says it’s because of the fog that rolls in off the water coupled with the ocean winds. So if you ever want to know what the Golden Gate Bridge looks like in person, I am probably not the person to ask. The fog was so thick we could only see about 1/3 of the bridge at any given time, even when we were standing on it.
The good news is that the further east you travel from the coast, sometimes a mere 500 ft or so, the sunnier and warmer the weather becomes. If you ever come to San Francisco in the summer, dress like you would in New England – in layers! And when I say layers, I mean a tank top, then a t-shirt, then a long sleeve tee and then a heavy sweatshirt. Chances are you will need them all as the temperature can vary from place to place by 20 degrees, maybe more!
Being in a city as populated as San Francisco was quite a culture shock after a week in the mid-west. People, people everywhere! On our trip we have seen towns whose populations are smaller than our church’s membership (the lowest population was 10 in the town of Emblem, WY) and neighbors were three, five, ten or more miles apart. Yet in San Francisco, as in any major city, people literally live stacked upon one another. According to our tour guide, in San Fran’s Chinatown, about 12,000 people live within the 30 blocks. American lifestyles are so varied.
I found the streets of San Francisco the most interesting part of the city. Some hills were so steep, I was convinced that before our car reached the top, we would simply roll backwards, front end over rear end, all the way back to the bottom. Anyone living and walking in this city must be in great shape!
Doug and I celebrated our 17th anniversary on Saturday by having dinner (with the kids, of course) at Lori’s, a 50’s themed diner in Ghirardelli Square. No, this wasn’t your traditional anniversary date but I think fish ‘n chips and chili cheese fries suits our marriage well. For dessert we all shared a Ghirardelli sundae. Then we went to the hotel and warmed our chilled bones in the hot tub!
Remember, if you are holding information…like, oh I don’t know, in June San Francisco is blanketed in fog reminiscent of a Stephen King movie…if you are holding information like that about any of the other places we are headed, please share!!! I would hate to get to Sequoia National Forest and find out the trees only look big after a swig from Alice’s “Drink Me” bottle.