Monday, October 29, 2012

Disneyland - A BAD DAY turns good for my seven year old

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Day 1.

Today is the day we have been waiting for.
Disneyland - Anaheim!

We have budgeted bigger for this next few days.

We have booked into a hotel opposite...
 after yet again an on-line hotel booking went wrong.
We had arrived the night earlier at the hotel I had booked using
only to be told they never had a booking. 
This then turned into a fight and being reported to my bank
as I later find they charge my credit card & inform me by email I had refused to stay there.
Which is a complete lie.
So for now will not get my business until they resolve it.
I have also contacted my bank but I want my $400 back!

We are blessed to be collected by friends who live in the hills of LA.
They drive us around and find us the Ramada opposite Disney.
They give me a super rate.
They include breakfast, and have a spa and pool.
So we can spend part day in Disney,
then come back and have a rest, and go back for more.

We also make sandwiches at breakfast, and take the fruit with us.

We are up at 5.30 am.
Breakfast by the pool at 6 am (and it is freezing outside).
By 7.45 am we are warming up, and already in the Disneyland Park.
Everything is decorated for Halloween.
The character heads are carved pumpkins.

Fabulous - there is hardly a soul around!
We get a great shot of the giant Mickey Mouse pumpkin head.

We get to see Walt Disney's statue and talk about his dream.

We ride Star Galaxy and then head for Space Mountain.
My son asks the attendant if it is scary and she said no.
Less than Star Galaxy.
So we sit right up front.

Alas, she has told us wrong.  Way wrong!
In fact, it has changed its name to Ghost Galaxy.
It is a dark roller coaster fast ride.
There are ghosts, skeletons and body parts flinging at us.
My seven year old is completely traumatised by this.
We are sitting right up front and I am trying to scream calm words at him above the noise til I lose my voice.  He is thrashing and distraught and we can't get off.
He gets off screaming and crying and shaking for 2 hours.
He wants out of Disneyland, and back to Australia.
Nothing will console him.
I am really upset at this employee giving us wrong information.
So I head to Guest Relations.
We talk to the guy who tries to get my son on some simple rides and gives us priority tickets.
He is now scared of anything that is joined together; any moving rides; darkness; loud noises etc.

So I head back again to Guest Relations.
By now I am nearly in tears.
The dream day is now a horrible day.
The dream is now a nightmare.

He informs us Disney will give us a cast personal assistant for the day.
She councils my son, and talks about what he likes.
We walk around the park.
She has us meeting loads of characters.

He even has jokes with the Barber's Shop Quartet.

Finally she talks him into trying the Dumbo ride.
She has us go to the exit and he is straight on.
He likes it and the next round he has Dumbo flying.

Next she has us priority on the spinning tea cups.

Then she manages to get him on Autopia.
We have success and he enjoys the cars.

We go again.

And again!

But then Norali (our personal cast assistant) makes some calls.
She excels, and has organised a private meeting 
with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They really make him feel special.

They take him and ask him to be in the show.

Mickey Mouse even helps him make a mask.

Minnie Mouse is so lovely and grabs us before we finish for a photo.
During this time we even have a Disney photographer taking photos of us around the park.

We end with a big hug from Mickey Mouse.

I get back to the hotel exhausted.
 I have my son afraid to go to sleep, and is having a lot of new fears.
I have a 2 day pass left and we will try California Adventure Park tomorrow.
It has Carsland and I hope we can overcome some of the fears.

But all in all, it has ended up to be a fabulous day.

Last days in Hawaii. Visit Pearl Harbor - from a child's viewpoint.

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We arrive in Honolulu, and have booked some accommodation through Craigslist.
It is a high-rise building on the 36th floor with a mid-way glass balcony, 
which instantly makes me nervous.
The room really is B grade and barely clean enough for my liking, and has a few chipped plates, 
and the pans don't look to clean.  
I am tired and he has my credit card and I feel a bit stuck.
So I figure the $100 a night is cheap for here, and all we will do is sleep - forget the cooking.
Booking accommodation on-line is proving not so flash for me!

But it has a very hot spa and I do like that!

The lights in the hills are just lovely.
The pool is freezing, so I leave that to my seven year old to enjoy.

We have been living with one small bag of clothes for the past week, 
and I had left the bulk of our luggage at the home of the Couch-surfing family.
I cannot wait to throw these clothes out.
Travelling with the same clothes is super boring.
However a travel tip is to go to Wall-mart or just buy souvenir t-shirts.
Here in Hawaii they are only $3-$4 each.

Next day we meet our new friend, who has managed to work out how 
to use our international sim card in our phones - quite tricky!
We enjoy lunch at famous Duke's right on Waikiki.
The food here is great - I highly recommend it, 
but there is a long wait to get in.

The next day we have arranged t meet our Couch-surfing friends.
My son has discovered some new kids books,
and uses the time to read.
Travel tip: Hotels, lobbies, some cafes, and yacht clubs etc
all have a 'swap book area'.
You can leave your used ones, and replenish your supplies.
An ideal way to save $$.

We head for Pearl Harbor.
There is a lot to see and learn here, and an educational day.

Some displays allow the kids to touch, feel and play.
Like this old divers helmet.

When you get there, you book your tour as you have to go by boat 
to the sight where SS Arizona sunk.
You are taken into a picture theatre before.
There we watched a movie and learnt a lot.
Our friends 4 year old knows so much about Pearl Harbor.
So he teaches my son.

As we walk around the memorial it is very sobering and quiet.
It is amazing to see tiny drops of oil still bubbling to the surface.
They say this is the sea crying for the dead.

We are dropped back with our bags and need to pack for 
mainland USA.
We decide to head to Waikiki to see the sunset.
Some guy puts his birds on me in the street, and takes a photo.
I tell him to get them off as my shirt is wet at the back - poop!!!

As the sunsets, we meet some Australians from the Pearl Harbor tour
who take our photo.

My son enjoys the hula dancer.

As we walk back my son strips off and runs through the 
synchronised fountain.
Of course the Japanese love this and stop to take his photo.
It is lovely, as many smile as they see his joy.
Oh to be free as a child!

We finish up with dinner at the Big Kahuna.
Don't personally recommend the food, 
but it was a great place to sit by the windows and people watch.

We are ready to say good-bye to Hawaii.
My wallet is especially ready to say good-bye to Hawaii.

Tomorrow we will be in mainland USA, California.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sightseeing on Kauai Island, Hawaii with my seven year old

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Today we start out early while it is cool to do a bit more sight-seeing.
As there is only one main road around the island, it is an easy drive for me, unless I am turning across traffic, or doing a U-turn etc.
We visit historic Koloa town down south first.
As it is early there are only a couple of shops open.
There is a free museum open air display near the old bridge that is worth a look.

I need a coffee and my son wants to see how they make their famous Shave Ice.
We find a shop that makes sugar free ones. He has been on a health kick and will only eat "healthy foods".
I have to twist his arm to even have an ice-cream.  
He used to be a bit 'cuddly', but has slimmed right down, and is exercise crazy too.
But right now, he enjoys this (and I don't mention how the artificial colouring might not be so healthy!). 

I think he looks quite tanned in this photo and quite the little vacation boy!

We head back through the Tree Tunnel to Kahali Mountain Park. 
Tip: Photography wise, this is nicer to take on the way into Koloa, than on the way out.

We then take a left, further south to the Spouting Horn.
There are two blow holes, made by tunnels under the volcanic rock.
We learn that the farmers used to grow sugar cane, right up to the coast, and in the 1920's, the larger one was given some dynamite, and blown up so the spray would not effect the crops.
This is a real shame.
Makes us aware of how man can ruin wonders of nature.

We take a further drive east, but turn around once we get to Hanapepe Look-out,
 as it is red-orange soil and barren.  
Kauai is known as the rainy island, but alas it is in drought right now, 
and really needing rain. and is surprisingly dry.  
We stop on the side of the road at the coffee plantation.
We have seen coffee growing on bushes on Oahu and couldn't stop.
So we enjoy the break and seeing how it grows.
I have found some lovely coffee in the shops here.
And I have discovered Starbucks make really awful coffee, and are only useful for free Wifi!

A must see is Wailua Falls.  
These are used in the old TV series Fantasy Island.
Remember: "Da plane, boss. Da plane"?
To reach them, take Hwy 56 to Hanama'ulu to Hwy 583 (Ma'alo Road). 
This is a country road through sugar cane fields, and barely wide enough if you meet oncoming traffic.  It is a pretty drive.
Follow this road about 6 miles to the end.
You can no longer climb down to them, but the view from the road is still worth the trip.

We head back to the hotel for a swim and a rest.  
Travelling with a child means you need some "down-time".
They need rest, the odd afternoon nap, and just time to have a swim or watch some TV or read.
It is a nightmare if you try to pack your days full with exploring.
I have found it way better to start out early.
It is cool and there is less traffic and queues are not so long.
Then I make sure we are back by the latest 4 pm, so there is time for a swim or a rest before dinner plans (even if dinner is made by me in the room).

Tonight we have booked the Smith Garden Luau.  
It is not cheap, and you have to book a few days in advance, as it is a quality dinner and show.
Included in the price is all the food you can eat, and all the drinks, and as they include a free coach pick-up, I take that option so can take full advantage of relaxing and enjoying the night.

We arrive, and are presented with a shell necklace and then we are taken by road train around the gardens.  
Most people have made the effort to dress "Hawaiian style", and it feels like a giant wedding celebration - but there is no bride!

[We had been a couple of days earlier to the Lihue Salvation Army Thrift store in Rice Street.
This place is a bargain.  
My top is new and cost $1, and so did my sons.  
We spend $11 and buy bags and all sorts of bargains.  
Ideal for when you travel - you get bored with the same clothes, and is easy to just launder these and give away the stuff you are bored with.
The day we went, we met 2 ladies at the pool-side that had done exactly the same thing!]

Anyway - back to the ride in the gardens - they are just gorgeous and we are told all about the plants, and how this garden was made over 50 years ago.  
It is a Smith tradition and despite the name not sounding Hawaiian, it surely is a very Hawaiian night!

We enjoy the Japanese Island and have a good wander around prior to dinner, and the unearthing of the cooked pig.

My son enjoys this giant statue.  He pretends to pick his nose!  Boys will be boys!!
The whole night incorporates many regions of the Pacific, including this representing Easter Island.

As the son sets over the palms we head for the cocktail bar, which is included as our welcome drink.

The pig is unearthed with a ceremony.  
It is pretty disgusting looking.  
But they take it and pull it off the bone in the kitchen.
My son later eats it thinking it is chicken, and thoroughly enjoys it.
It falls apart, it is so tender - well worth a try.
I myself have the luau fish - which is just delicious - along with taro and other vegetables that have been cooked underground.

These are the guys who have worked hard unearthing the pig.  
We are pleased to get a picture with them, as there are a lot of people around the place 
trying to do the same thing.

Somehow, we end up on the stage.  
Some-one says it is "the Orstraylians" (Australians) and people with birthdays.
We learn that all the hand movements represent birds, ocean, setting sun etc.
It is a load of fun.
One thing I have decided is this trip I will have no regrets.
I will get up there if asked and give it a try.
I will be a doer and not a spectator (well as long as there is no danger in what I am asked to do).

After dinner, we all move to the amphitheatre.
There is a fabulous show with dancers, a dragon, island Polynesian culture, history and more.
We are late finishing our dinner, but manage to get a seat right at the front side.
Tip: if you go there is a side seating area - the dancers come in and out there and it is a great viewing spot.  Way better than the general seating area I think.

The Hawaiian dancers are just gorgeous.
There is fire dancers, a volcano which lights up and much more.
The whole night is very professional, and educational, and a quality event.

As we sit by the side where the dancers come and go, we manage to get a photo with them all at the end.  I was really disappointed that half the crowd got up to go in the final act.  
They dash to get out before the crowds block up the car park.  
It makes it hard to see the finale with so many walking in front of you.
I thought it was really rude.  Really it is their loss.  
Why be in such a hurry when travelling?

The dinner is professional and as it is all you can eat it is well worth it.

Tip: As soon as you arrive, go and reserve a dinner seat.  
Open the cloth napkin, and lie the mug on it.  
If in doubt, "Grandma Smith" is there to give you a hand on etiquette.
(Or bring a jacket or similar to place there).
Best place to sit is at the far side towards the amphitheatre.  
These tables go first for food, so you have more time to go back for seconds.  
The whole night is pretty jammed packed with things to do.
If you do drive there, go early as you have more time to see the stunning peacocks
 and bird life in the gardens.  

This has been a pretty full-on day.
I am full from the wonderful desserts - I confess I had 3 serves of coconut pie!

We enjoy the bus ride back, and sit with our new friends, 
and enjoy the evening breeze outside our room with a nightcap.
Most folks on vacation we find are so friendly, as are Barry and Cheryl our new friends from South Carolina.
We have found Kauai more relaxing that Waikiki - which was filled with city lights and action packed days.  This is an island to wind down and enjoy nature.
Both are great though, and we will be heading back to Waikiki soon so a few days of fun and sun.