Sleep we did – we slept through our alarm by an hour and we quickly got up, got the kids showered and dressed for the day and out the door to walk to Disneyland. Even surrounded by shops filled with Disney products and buses driving past us with Disney emblazoned on them, it didn’t twig with the kids as to what was going on. That was, until we actually entered the park and approached the ticket booth to pick up our pre-paid tickets. Standing in the centre, with the original Disney park to our right and on our left the California Adventure park, and in front was the iconic Mickey Mouse flower bed, behind it the train station with people hopping on to the little train, the penny dropped and both kids dissolved in excitement.
You really can’t describe the atmosphere – it is truly something else. I found it hard to believe that I was about to enter Disneyland with our kids. Mike had been when he was a kid, but it was a first for me. All of a sudden the jet lag vanished and I was ready to race off and have fun. So were the kids. We headed down Main St U.S.A – Main Street was a hive of activity. Quaint little shops selling various treats and trinkets, abound. We picked up Mickey Ear hats for the kids and some sunscreen. Then it was over the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle into Fantasyland, stopping to take a photo of our feet surrounding the first nail to be set in the ground for the park. We stood in the shade and looked at the map, where would we go first? Easy. New Orleans Square! Our first ride at Disneyland was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – and yes, it had been kitted out with Jack Sparrow animatronics much to the delight of the women (and maybe some men) on the ride!
The kids screamed and laughed their way through the first ride. Mike and I gave each other a high five – this was going to be a great day. We walked through New Orleans, looking in the gift shops. Making our way round to the next ride on our list – the Haunted Mansion. This, I think, would be my favourite ride. Walking up through the ghoulish garden that is filled with tombstones of people and pets, something would move out of the corner of your eye. The lines moved very quickly, and we were led through the foyer of the mansion and into the parlour room. Surrounded by portraits, all eyes on you, when all of a sudden the floor drops and you feel yourself going down, down, underground. Lights flicker and dark voices whisper, groan and laugh. Tilly, who has a thing for the macabre laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Mish clung to me, he wasn’t too keen on the falling down. We were then taken from the parlour room and down through the halls to our little carriages. The portraits on the walls began moving now. Faces changed from flesh to skulls as we moved by. Tilly and I jumped into one carriage, Mike and Mish on the one behind us. The carriages led you down through the mansion, past corpses, and talking heads. In one room sits a table with a crystal ball and the gypsy’s head appears within the crystal ball, her glowing green eyes – she looks at you and gives you warning. But you can’t escape, and she laughs as you are whisked further on towards the ballroom. You look down at a large table covered with food and decorations. When you lift your eyes up, dancing high above are ghosts, waltzing around your head. Some will fly past you, howling, talking, laughing and singing.
The guide informs you that you have made it through and you will be out on the other side soon enough. You leave the ballroom and your carriage locks in and you slowly glide past a mirrored wall. Then you see it. Sitting right behind you in your carriage is a hitchhiker of the paranormal kind. Your own ghost who has decided to jump in and try and leave the mansion with you. It was brilliant, and the look on our kids’ faces was priceless!
It took us the whole day to cover all the rides in that part of the park. The kids met Disney characters – the Briar Fox pulled Tilly’s hat down over her head and tweaked her nose to the delight of Mish. Winnie the Pooh came up for hugs. Mike quite liked the Princesses. Ride after ride, feeling more and more like a kid again – all the worries of adulthood long gone. Mike and I were immersed in the world of play and imagination with the kids. We hugged every character we came across, we yahooed on every ride. We chowed down on burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, fairy floss, hot chips and soft drink (with lots of water!) There were carts filled with fresh fruit and bottles of juice and water available. The kids would snack on fruit between rides. When I saw the tea cup ride I lost it – for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to go on the tea cup ride – and we did! You could not wipe the smile off my face.
The kids loved the It’s a Small World ride, the little singing dolls from around the world, and by the end of it Tilly and Mish were singing along and continued to sing the song for the rest of the day. Mickey met us in his house and insisted on having his photo taken with us, he was a bit cheeky too, mucking around with the kids.
We would have little rest breaks, sunscreen top ups, water refills. There are plenty of benches and quiet places to stop for a rest. We finished the first day off with Tomorrowland. As we were walking in to Tomorrow Land we were approached by a mum and her daughter, they wanted to know if we would go on Space Mountain with them. They had a fast pass but it was for 6 people, they needed another 4 more in order to go. I eagerly agreed, telling Mike as we went with the mum and her daughter to the fast pass line that the ride was nothing more than an optical illusion. That you don’t actually move fast, it is the lighting that makes you feel like you are going fast. Oh my God no. No. It is not an optical illusion. It really does tear you through space and time. I clung to Mish for dear life – it was probably a blessing that he was not tall enough to see over the carriage front (but he was tall enough to go on the ride). Tilly was white-knuckled gripping the safety bar, her eyelids peeled back by the speed of the ride as it zipped us side to side, up and down. Mike sat up straight, stiff upper lip throughout the ordeal.
When the ride finished we thanked the mum and her daughter. I was twitching, Tilly’s eyes had dried out so much she couldn’t blink and her eyebrows had been lifted up to her hair line so she looked like she was frozen in a state of surprise. Mish hopped out and looked at Mike and me and squealed “that was fun! Can we go again?” Tilly turned and looked at Mish and he pulled back in horror at her frozen expression. He had his answer.
By the time we left the park on the first day it was just after midnight. On the way out we enjoyed the fireworks over the castle and then popped into a gift shop in Main St and picked up some little souvenirs, and the kind lady behind the counter upon learning that we had just come off Space Mountain, gifted the kids with “badges for their bravery”. It was really lovely. We stopped off at IHOP for a quick late night bite before walking back to the hotel.
As we approached the hotel, there were cop cars all over the road, cops out and walking around and a man was sitting on the kerb, hands cuffed behind his back, answering questions from a cop. I won’t lie, in my head I immediately began singing the Bad Cops song, and kept an eye out for a camera crew. This could be our first cameo! No cameras, but as we walked by the suspect and the cop, Mish points to the man on the ground and says “you’re going to jail!” The cop tried not to crack a grin as he motioned for Mish to keep it down. No camera crew. Would have made for great TV. Just sayin’.
The next day was our rest day – all that walking (and remember I had recently broken my toes) had worn us out, so it was to be a day of rest. We stocked up on snacks and games from the little shop nearby and relaxed in our cool hotel room. I indulged in the many television channels, watched the local news, read some magazines. When it got a little cooler outside we walked over to a shopping complex and had a look around. Subway for dinner and an early night in preparation for the second part of our Disney adventure the following day.
To be continued…