Angela Dawn

Now is the Start

The Cars Land at California Adventure

Angela DawnComment

I visited CarsLand on my first day at the Disneyland Resort (Thursday), but also went back Friday during the day and evening; so I was able to explore both during the day and night. And man, I have to say that the imagineers did an amazing job. It really does feel like you're stepping inside the movie. Everything is so perfectly themed. I kind of wish I had the time to stay longer (than the four full days I had), as I could just sit in that particular Land all day; eat, ride and people watch. I've done that before at Disney Hollywood Studios; it's a great spot to just take in the action. Anyhow, back to CarsLand.

The entrance to Radiator Springs

I went to Radiator Springs Racers on Thursday, and I'm glad I did, as I was able to step right on in the Single Riders Line. When I ventured back Friday; and the rest of the weekend, the wait line for the regular line was 2 hours or over, and the Single Riders line was even 30 minutes or more. I didn't ride it any further as I had enjoyed my experience fully the first time around; and didn't want to wait when I could be doing other things, but those times seem to be more common. I also hear that Fast Passes are given out fairly quickly for this ride.

The theming of the ride is pretty cool - even the queue lining up (and from what I've heard, in the full line it's even better.

Looking out at the Southwest along the queue for Radiator Spings

Part of the queue

You step into two different cars, each with two rows; and you're off into the adventure that is CarsLand.

Already in the car, getting ready to head into part of the attraction.

The bridge; fairly identical to the movie. I'll show this off later.

You basically see most of the Cars Characters. The Sheriff stops you from speeding, Mater enlists your help in cow/tractor-tipping; and awakens Frank (the combine harvester), you run by Sarge and Fillmore. It's just a neat setup.

Stop the speeding, per the Sheriff.

Fillmore and Sarge; you can see Mack in the background.

Then, after all that, you line up with the other car that disappeared at the start; and as per the ride name, you are going to race. And off you go...

Who will win?

I realize this is already a picture heavy post, but you shouldn't expect any less from me. You'll find plenty of them to follow, too. Moving onto the actual Radiator Springs.

Standing at the beginning of the street. Take note of the layout and how the street looks. 

Cozy Cone Motel Quick Service Restaurant

Get your kicks...

Radiator Springs Curios - one of many shops

Flo's Cafe - one of many places to eat

The shops along the way specialize in Cars Merchandise, though there were a few other items inside. There was Sarge's Surplus (various), Ramone's House of Body Art (clothing), Radiator Springs Curios (souvenirs), 

Also, there was plenty of places to eat. You could easily spend a good portion of the day in this part of the park. Flo's V8 Cafe is a Counter Service restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating; and open for all meals. Cozy Cone, also counter service, offers up different options at each of the different cones. I had a "Pear of Dice" soda. It was refreshing. Fillmore's Taste In is a quick stop for drinks and fresh fruit. Everything seemed to be submerged in ice, so if you're there in the summer, this would be a great cool-down spot. 

There are also various Character Greetings - I saw Mater, Lightning McQueen and Mack all out for official photos.

Look at all that Neon! 

So, all in all, Day or Night, CarsLand is a well-executed addition to California Adventure. I hope to see it come to Walt Disney World someday. The imagineers outdid themselves. 

And I'll leave you with a few stills of the movie, just so you can grasp (if you hadn't already) the spectacular vista that is this part of the park.

The Neverland 5K - My first Disney run

Angela DawnComment

I woke up on Friday morning not really certain what to expect. I didn't have to get up too early; it was about a 15 minute walk to the start line - a leisurely one - and the race kicked off at 5:45am. Being on east coast time; I wasn't feeling it too much. And I had went to bed fairly early thanks to the wine from the previous evening. I had laid out my running outfit/costume (a tribute to Mr. Smee) the night before; so I really just had to grab a small snack and be on my way.

The race began just to to the right of Sleeping Beauty castle, so we corralled up in a circle in front of the castle and then down Main Street USA. There weren't corral numbers identified for the 5K; and in the program it had noted that you should line up based on pace (fastest runners in the front, walkers in the back), but it really just ended up being whomever arrived first was in the first corral. I saw a couple of four year olds up there - and I doubt they could race at a 5 min mile pace. But, this was a Family Fun Run, so etiquette really can be thrown by the wayside. It also is not a timed race, though Disney needs you to finish at a 16 minute mile pace, so they can clear up and prepare the parks for opening. I was going to use this run for a chance to take many of the pictures I wanted to; so I wouldn't have to stop during the 10K or the half.

Heading to the corrals.

When I arrived, I was able to get up to the left front of the Castle. It was a pretty good spot, and the third corral; but the group extended all the way down Main Street, so there were plenty of people after me. I was waiting for about half hour before things kicked off. There was entertainment during this time; and just before the race began there were fireworks (a good deal of them) and Tinkerbell flew above the Castle. It was a great start to the morning. After a little more shuffling, we were off.

I decided to run versus walk, so I could just get a little bit ahead in preparation for all the characters I would be coming across. I saw Daisy and Clara and the line was fairly long, so I decided to just skip them - you know, there would be a lot of characters during this race; I had read about a good deal last year. 

I stopped for Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. Of course, I had to. I was dressed like one of them. And I would have wanted to anyhow. 

It's not the best photo, as it was dark; but you can still make out who everyone is.

So, I continued running. It was nice looking around the park while it was closed (despite it still being crowded) and seeing the Christmas lighting on It's a Small World. I kept waiting for more characters. I finally saw The Lost Boys....but wait, they were out on the water. With "John" and "Michael", the teddy bear, and what I'm guessing would be Wendy. Wait. The Lost Boys were available for pictures during the 2013 5K (I had done my research). What a bummer. Oh well, I continued on.

The Lost Boys...out on the water...not available for pictures

Before I knew it, we were already headed into California Adventure. So two character stops in Disneyland and that was it? I was a bit bummed, but continued on. As we were heading into Cars Land, Mater and Lighting McQueen were out for pictures, so I naturally stepped over to them and discussed how I could probably beat Lightning in a foot race.

Lighting McQueen, Me and Mater. 

California Adventure was lovely to run in; the World of Color lights were going and it was beautiful around the water. I took a picture there, too. I will note, people during these races are so helpful and friendly. It was great to be able to ask a complete stranger to take some time out of their run to take my picture, and they'd say "sure" in a delightful manner. Even better because the Disney Photopass Photographers aren't in every area. 

In front of the water. B-E-A-UTIFUL (the scene, not me). Oops, forgot to pull my top down after getting my phone out of my belt.

Hey, that's my hotel in the right back corner.

I ran along the Boardwalk, past Toy Story Mania and all the games, along the backside of the Ferris Wheel and came upon Peter Pan and Wendy. Finally, more characters that are actually related to "Neverland." I waited in line for them and was happy to get another picture.

Peter Pan and Wendy Darling

And before I knew it, I was rounding the corner and finishing the race.

All done, medal and race finishing goodies (i.e. banana and eats) in hand.

Another pic in front of the water

Finisher's Medal

So, here are my final thoughts for the 5K

  • I had a lot of fun. The fireworks at the beginning were amazing and Tinkerbell flew in the air for a good while. 
  • I thought starting in front of the Castle, even though we didn't run through it, was an awesome way to begin the race
  • And on that note, ending along the pier in California Adventure was great, too.
  • I was disappointed by the amount of characters (I guess in comparison to last year). I thought within the 3 miles, there would be more opportunities than just 4 sets of characters. And where were the fairies? Isn't this TinkerBell weekend?
  • Of course, etiquette wasn't really happening during this race. But, that's understandable as there are lots of family and children involved. Though, the people I found to not really follow the "rules" (dead-stopping in the middle of the road) seemed to be adults. Without children. I was just hoping that wasn't a sign of what was to come in the 10K and half. No need for injuries/accidents to happen because somebody doesn't move to the side to tie their shoe.
  • Aside from my disappointment in the amount of characters, there were plenty of picture taking opportunities along the course. In front of the Castle, It's a Small World, Haunted Mansion, and practically everywhere in California Adventure. So, I guess that made up for it.
  • The course - 3.1 miles - was completely inside the parks, or backstage. As lovely as Anaheim is, I'm glad that the course was entirely in the park. And it made for a great, fun run.

Overall, this was a great first race experience. I love Disney, but of course with anything there will always be cons, but this run was mostly pros. A lot of fun, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I'll make sure I sign up for the 5K at future races, too.

Napa Rose Chef's Counter

Angela DawnComment

One of the excursions I wanted to do while I was in California was visit the Napa Rose Chef's Counter. I had built myself up to it by reading what reviews there were (there aren't many on blogs), and prepared my tummy by only eating those beignets and the corn dog earlier in the day. I took plenty of pictures of the food, kitchen, and the alcohol; but I didn't get many of the atmosphere of the restaurant. I fully plan on eating at the Chef's Counter at least once (if I am lucky to get an additional spot on more than one night, I will) when I return in August, so I'll take more pictures then. As for now, onto the review:

The details: There are two seatings for the Chef's Table every evening - 5:30 and 8:30. Each seating has eight spots - four on one side, the prep area; and four on the other side, the main kitchen. If you want a particular side, you need to make certain you request so at reservation time (which can be done 60 days in advance by calling Napa Rose directly - not the Disney dining reservations line).

As is the usual for me, I arrived early. I checked in at the podium, and since the dining room wasn't officially open yet, I was seating in the lounge to wait. The lounge looked extremely comfy with plush, cushioned chairs that I wanted to sit in all night. They do not require (nor take) reservations for the Lounge, but in the 5-10 minutes I was sitting waiting for 5:30 to roll around, it was filling up. So, if you don't make reservations at the Chef's Counter, or in the restaurant itself, and want to eat at Napa Rose; get there right at 5:30 or before. The lounge serves the full restaurant menu. There is a Bar that you can sit at, too (and I did on a different night), but that doesn't serve the full menu - and believe me you want access to the full menu on your first time here.

The lounge - look at those comfy seats!

On the way to my seat.

I was escorted to my seat pretty much at 5:30. I was the only one there on my side, the prep side. Eventually two others - regulars - joined me; and a group of four were seated on the opposite. I think next time I would prefer to sit on the opposite side as there was more action going on there. Plus there was a display counter on my side, that kind of blocked the view a little bit (and I didn't see a purpose for it). Though, rumor is, that they'll be removing it at some point.

View from my seat

I should mention here that all these pictures were taken with my iPhone, and I'm not the best (yet) at taking excellent quality pictures with my phone. I was greeted by waiter for the evening, Mickey. According to the regular couple that goes to Napa Rose often (and always sits at the Chef's Counter), Mickey was the best. All waiters at this restaurant are also sommeliers, so they have great wine recommendations (more on that later). Mickey let me know that I could order off the regular menu, the Vinter's Menu (a prix fare menu), or have the Chef whip me up something for each course of his/her choice. This last option is a choice only available at the Chef's Counter, so of course I chose that. I also added the wine pairing (when in Rome, right?) to the dinner. 

A sous chef for the evening (Andrew Sutton is the head chef), Gloria, came over to visit and ask me about my likes/dislikes. I told her that I didn't like sushi, oysters or chocolate. (I know, I know, I'm a woman and I don't like chocolate). Other than that, I was good to go. I'm also not a big fan of soup (something about my food being liquified), but I lucked out and wasn't given any - they must have been psychic that way. As I've read, either Andrew Sutton will help you at the Chef's Counter, or if he's not working, one of the Sous Chefs. I just assumed he wasn't there.

The bread basket - I had already torn off some pieces when I took this picture.

 I resisted getting any more than this. It was difficult.

Mickey brought out the bread basket. Now, something about me: I love bread. Carbs, really (which is funny since I follow a low carb diet). But bread is amazing, any which way you cut it. BUT I knew I had an incredible amount of food coming, so I tore a tiny piece of each bread off & ate that, and only that. Believe me it was hard. They were delicious. I didn't ask what kind - but it tasted like a simple country bread, another soft type, and thin a crispy type. Next time I'll ask. The butter was excellent too. 

The lovely couple next to me was having some kind of pre-meal bubbly, and Mickey brought me some, too. I'm not sure if this is customary with the wine addition to my meal, or just because they were having some, too; but champagne-like pre-meal bubbly is always welcome. Next up was an amuse-bouche. A small preview of the gloriousness that was to come. Mine was a celery root puree with apple and cranberry raisins. If baby food tasted like this, babies would have nothing to complain about. It was fairly amazing for being beaten up celery root. I'll have to spice some up & try it at home with my Vitamix, though something tells me it won't taste quite the same.

The celery root amuse-bouche - I broke this up into as many bites as I could, but I could have easily spoonful-ed it.

Mickey brought me out another wine that would go with my first course. I hadn't really broken into much of my bubbly yet, but he advised me that it would go well with my first course, too, so I could always save some. The first wine was a Graff Family Vineyards Viognier, 2007.

The bubbly

The Viognier

I sipped on both my wines and enjoyed watching some of the preparation that was going down in the kitchen while I awaited on my first course. I'd recommend the meal to anyone, but if you're traveling alone, this is an excellent choice. I was able to talk to the kitchen staff, have a view of everything, some entertainment and such, as I enjoyed my meal. Much better than sitting alone at a restaurant tapping into Facebook because there is no one there to talk to. 

What looks like beef in front of a chef lemoning some scallops

The same chef transferring the scallops to the stove.

My first course was sustainable Swordfish with crusted chickpeas and a green harissa made on site; from what I could understand from the chef it's normally made with red bell pepper, but this had more green and yellow.  It was similar to a ramesco. And, all of that was topped with roasted almonds.  I was described the meal when it was brought to my seat, and I tried to remember best I could. Some of the sauces might be slightly off, but for the most part everything should be accurate. I was surprised at this point to see Andrew Sutton. He came over to let me know about the Swordfish and what I was eating. The man next to me was having the Swordfish for his main course, I believe. Along with the chickpeas there were also crusted lemons, which surprisingly didn't taste too sour upon putting them in my mouth whole.

Look how amazing that is. 

And the after... (this is how my plate looked pretty much after every course)

At this point I had a little time to look around; and talk with one of the chefs. Ronnie was in front of us prepping a fair amount of the evening, so he was able to give us details about what he was doing. I even was able to try some Bucharelli that he was making, despite it not being in anything I was eating. 

Ronnie doing prep.

A view where you can see more of the other side

Mickey brought me the second wine for my second course; a chardonnay. This one was a 2010 from Firepeak Vineyards. And then, onto my second course. I was brought out a Hickory Smoked Pheasant Salad with French Green Beans, Pomegranate Dressing and Almonds Frisee. 

This was an excellent salad. I had read on the menu that the normal salad comes with an Almond Vinagrette, so the Pomegranate was a nice surprise, and worked well with the other flavors.

The Pheasant Salad

The time between the salad and the next course went by rather quickly. I was done eating and my next meal arrived shortly after. Mickey came with the third wine just about the same time as the course came. I was having trouble keeping up; and I love wine. The third wine was a 2012 Pinot Noir.

The duck breast

Of course, the Pinot Noir paired wonderfully with the course. Above, the third course was a Grilled Maple Leaf Duck Breast a Quince Puree and Lentils. I cannot say enough how perfect these meats were. Done to just the right tenderness. I did forget to mention that Gloria did ask me how I like my red meat prepared and I said medium. I imagine if you had said well-done, the meat could have looked differently, but I don't think it would have tasted quite the same. Medium is the best.

Third Course Pinot Noir

Fourth Course Cabernet Sauvignon

I was brought another wine, a fourth wine (in addition to the bubbly pre-meal). I want you to remember that first pour of Viognier that I took a picture of. These aren't tastings, they are glasses. As you can imagine, I'm feeling the wine at this point. The fourth was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I had a feeling my last, main course would be a red meat; and I was right.

The final course (before dessert, of course)

For the last meat course, I was given a Buffalo tenderloin over mushrooms and capers; with artichokes wrapped in dolmas (grape leaves) on the right. I'm uncertain of the sauce/jus on either part of the meal. I guess at this point I had so much wine in me, I didn't care to write it down. Either way, it was all delicious.

Next up, my final wine; or a Port, actually. This one I was not able to finish. I was fairly full at this point. Not bursting, but satisfied. And, apparently buzzed, too. So, I didn't drink all of my Port. But, I love dessert (despite not liking chocolate), so I was bound determined to eat my dessert. I wasn't sure what to expect. I had perused the menu prior to traveling to California to see what I might get, and was thinking it might be some sort of sorbet trio or something.  Instead I received a date cake with a swirl of white chocolate and dulce de leche ice cream. It was amazing! White chocolate can sometimes be overwhelming - too much at a time, but this was just right. I could have eaten a jar of the white chocolate with a spoon.

Despite being so full, I could have easily had two of these wonderful desserts. Everything in it paired so well with the other parts. Just as it had been with all the courses previous. 

The meal was wonderful, and I look forward to doing it all over again in August. I actually came back to Napa Rose on the Saturday evening of my trip and sat at the bar. Joe, the bartender, was wonderful, as all the staff seems to be. I sat again next to a lovely couple, this time they were a bit more engaging and we made plans to eat at the Chef's Counter together when I return in August. I might try to eat there twice. Fairly ambitious, but it was so great. When I was at the bar, I tried the scallops and the truffle macaroni and cheese. Both were beyond words. I am craving that macaroni and cheese right now, and I'm not a mac and cheese fan normally. I had been recommended the scallops from Ronnie and another chef when eating at the Counter, as it was something I didn't try. It lived up to the expectation.

That brings my review to a close. I know it's long and picture-ridden, but when you're talking about this kind of food, it deserves this much space. I highly recommend going to Napa Rose if you're able to while in the Disneyland/Anaheim area.

The TinkerBell 2014 Expo

Angela DawnComment

I arrived early to wait in line for the expo. I'd say that I stepped into line around 12:45. I was told to head down a ramp way to where others were waiting. There were two lines - one for those going directly to pick up their bibs and another for those waiting for the official RunDisney store. I was in the latter. Shortly after I arrived, they moved the line. They were set up with several rows, marked by masking tape along the ground. I estimated each row had about 30-50 people; and I was in the fourth row. It seemed to be very well organized. I'm not certain how the original setup was for the Dumbo Double Dare, but they must have made some improvements. 

Not only was it more organized, but they started moving us early. The expo opened at 2pm, and we were being ushered into a different room inside the Disneyland Hotel, just outside the conference center, around 1:30. Being able to get into the store before 2pm was great. That gave me plenty of time to pick up everything I wanted to, as well as explore.

A picture of the tape outlying the rows; as well as someone wearing the special RunDisney New Balance Mickey shoes.

The official RunDisney store of the expo. 

I was actually disappointed in the official merchandise. Nothing really stood out at me. I did get a shirt because I wanted to have something to commemorate my first Disney race, but the selection was pretty dull. There were magnets, mugs, water bottles, a jacket, and several different shirts. The t-shirts were not soft, but just a regular cotton t-shirt you could get anywhere. The athletic shirts were Champion brand and good in that sense, but I was hoping for something more Vibrant. Everything seemed to have white logos with a TinkberBell on them, and that was it. Where was the color? 

The shirt I ended up getting.

Backside of the same shirt. I do like the

Once I had picked up the official shirts - a long sleeve Raspberry for a the half and a Lavender for the 10K, I actually thought about returning the shirt I had bought. They were plenty good enough, and better than anything I found in the store to be honest. I decided to keep it though, since it was my first race. I hope that the Princess Half Weekend provides better merchandise. Or maybe, I don't (so I can save money).

The long sleeve Champion shirt that came with Registration for the Half Marathon

The expo wasn't all bad. I actually found a company that sold running merchandise with a Disney-esque vibe, and bought a BUNCH of stuff from them. Raw Threads had tanks and t-shirts galore, and a wonderful hoodie that said "Fly Thirteen Point One" with wings on the back that glowed in the dark. I picked up two skirts to run in from Sparkle Athletic, and a new Flip Belt and some CEP sleeves. So other than the "official" table, it wasn't all that bad. I wasn't thinking about a blog post, so I didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course the ones above aren't fantastic quality - they were just quick ones I grabbed with my phone. But, I'll make sure to take more and better photos at the Princess Expo.

It was then time to take a picture in front of the official half marathon display (thank you kind strangers that took my picture) and head back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Expo equals success, and money gone.

Photo in front of official display.

Tinkerbell Weekend begins

Angela DawnComment

It is beyond wonderful waking up at Disneyland. Not only is the weather not verging on the edge of freezing, but I can see California Adventure from my hotel room. Today was set out to be a rather long day. The to do list:

  • Arrive at parks early so that I can purchase my annual pass (this particular pass, the Premier, is only available at park ticket booths and will enable me entry for the year into all the parks (and water parks) at Walt Disney World, and at Disneyland. So, many trips are to be had.
  • Pick up breakfast somewhere
  • Venture into the parks - which at this point I wasn't sure how much time I'd have
  • Around 12:30, I was going to head to the Expo early to get in line. The Expo opens at 2pm.
  • After waiting for the official merchandise line, head to get my bibs & packets for all three races, and look around the expo
  • Go to Napa Rose for my Chef's Counter experience

Everything went as planned. I headed out early, picked up some beignets at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, waited in line for my pass. And then ventured into Disneyland. Down Main Street USA and I ended up in from to Sleeping Beauty's castle.

Being Thursday, I imagine most of the Tinkerbell racers were not in town yet, as the parks were fairly empty. I also had the advantage of the locals being in schools; the weekends would be more crowded. AND something that the Disneyland Resort has that Walt Disney World doesn't really offer at the more popular attractions is the single rider line. I went on Dumbo, the Mad Hatter's Teacups, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in such a small amount of time. I grabbed a Matterhorn Macaroon on my way out of the park, then I headed over to California Adventure.

The California Adventure park was also fairly empty. There were a few new rides that had opened since I had been there, and I was anxious to try those out...as well as seeing CarsLand (which I will post about separately). I rode Soarin' and Ariel's UnderSea Adventure (aka The Little Mermaid Ride), then visited CarsLand. I had my picture taken with a dapper Mickey Mouse and a flight-ready Minnie Mouse; grabbed a corn dog (which was amazing - they're so delicious here) and then ventured out into Downtown Disney to head to the Expo. After the Expo I went back to my hotel to get rest and prepare for dinner at Napa Rose. Stay tuned for more information about the rest of my trip!

Welcome Home - Arrival

Angela DawnComment

I arrived at Disneyland late last night, so unfortunately, the park was already closed. That didn't stop me from venturing over to the gates to view the train station from the other side of Main St. Then I started wandering Downtown Disney and the grounds of the hotels. When I was here in 2010, I stayed at Disneyland Hotel. The pools were under construction; happy to see that the area is clear of that and looks pretty wonderful. 

I wandered over to Tiki Sams - a bar that I didn't try out the previous time I was in Disney. I picked myself up a drink; and then headed back to my hotel (Paradise Pier) to sleep...as it was technically 1am EST by that time, and I was hoping to wake up a little early so that I could go get my annual pass. 

Back at it again

Angela DawnComment

Well, it's been 3 years since I've last visited a Disney Park. That is WAY too long for me. I'm off to my first adventure of 2014 very soon. And not only a Disney Park, but Disneyland. I haven't been there since 2010; and it will be only my second visit. I'm very much looking forward to it.

AND

In 2014, I'm visiting Disney Parks A LOT. Well, a lot for a person that doesn't live anywhere near Florida. For my 30th year, I decided I'd get a cross-country annual pass & visit for all the races (minus Marathon Weekend in WDW). So...let the year begin!