Two Senior Citizens with a sensory overload
Why a visit to Disneyland should be on your bucket listCredit: Sue Visser
The second half of our visit to the USA in 2014 was open ended. We started on the Western side of the continent and enjoyed some wonderful sightseeing and pampering (we usually find our own way around) on a coach tour. Then we headed across the vast North American Continent to explore the Eastern side. Obviously Disneyland was a priority. Even as wrinkly grey haired grandparents we skipped and trotted around like excited little children whooping with delight. We shared the thrills and spills with youngsters who were unafraid of heights, space ships and punishing roller coaster rides. If you cant beat them, belt up and join them!
A Bird's Eye View of the Swampy TerrainCredit: Sue Visser
Flying across the lower section of the USA from the dry Western side to the luscious green swamp lands of Florida was fun to observe through the small window of the Jumbo jet. So remember to grab a back seat on the plane so you can be pleasantly entertained by the scenery below. As above, so below, they say and you can take great shots from the cabin windows with a bit of practice. Even with a mobile phone and a steady hand you will be surprised at the results. Often the video gives a clearer picture because it is one way to avoid the dreaded camera shake! Lean over the camera to make your own shadow if you need to avoid reflections or cabin lights.Credit: Sue Visser
We landed and made our way to the self catering apartment we had booked online. We decided to skip the fast forward options for buying tickets or getting special discounts and take pot luck. Fortunately it wasn't a week end or a public holiday. (I know I am making excuses because I am not an expert when it comes to instant hand-held online efficiency.) But we were lucky and used the waiting time to rest, have picnics, write letters, do Face Book and watch people.
Day 1 The Epcot Introduction and Edutainment
We only had three days so most people advised us to begin with Epcot Centre and take in as many impressions, rides and experiences as you can. We were lucky that the food and wine festival was on and that took care of lunch. One course in every country! After waiting in a few queues for tickets we entered the giant steel golf ball pavilion and jumped into the seat of a train that ambled through animated exhibits portraying the history of man.It was convincingly narrated by Judy Dentch. The most famous historical scenes were enacted by life-like androids. We saw mechanical cavemen, astrologers, philosophers and ancient folk switch on and move. Yes, I know it is a bit tame compared to what lies ahead on a trip to Disneyland but we needed to make a beginning. This was our reward for standing patiently in our first 20 minute queue.
A designer rocket ride
Not a long wait - just enough to watch the people in the simulated rockets being thrown around in a small cockpit attached to huge robotic arms. The idea is to select your own rides and control the direction, height, speed and effects. We were soon strapped into our rocket seats and hurtled into the air, swung around and swished into spirals, loops and steep inclines. Not my favourite postures and the best of times but I could scream and know that it was all an illusion, really. Really? Yes, because watching the TV screen in front of you makes it far worse than if your eyes were closed shut. So now you know, but that would be cheating, especially with all the roller coaster and space rides we had in store during our 3 days.
Space shuttle to Mars and the thrill of genuine G-force
The realistic mission to Mars was the one of the most profound, if not awe inspiring of all the Disney rides. I loved the way we were briefed as members of the mission and had to perform certain tasks when asked by the captain. We played roles of navigators, engineers and other serious members of the crew. All we had to do was push the right button on the console in front of us when asked to do so. We experienced the true impact of G-force. Something I will never forget. Adrenalin levels were peaking as we soared into outer space. The silent eerie Mars landscape loomed on the TV screen (our spacecraft window) and I was struck with awe. I had remembered not to swallow my tongue. "Wow!" So realistic, those rocks, the dust and we were going to land. I was asked to deploy something or other and remembered to push a yellow button so we could complete the entry. On the way back to planet earth we were nearly hit by asteroids but Jim was at the controls and steered us away from them.
The Epcot world and visiting all the countries at lunchtimeCredit: Sue Visser
To stroll between the pavilions that represented realistic buildings and scenes from most of the countries we have visited throughout the world was uncanny. As if you were in the real China, eating spring rolls only to gulp down a beer a minute later in a German village. Sample genuine French perfumes, flit through Norwegian wooden houses and end up in a British town square. If you are not lucky enough to travel around the world, then at least take a look at this unique setup. I was impressed that the Moroccan food we ate was cooked and served by authentic Moroccans. An international showcase of countries in a make believe world where they were happy neighbors. A miniature portrayal of Disney's ideal world, filled with nice loving people.
Day 2, the Magic Kingdom and back to
Credit: Sue Visser
We hopped onto the shuttle bus and walked up to the entrance. Here is a view from the gallery.
Our visit was just before Halloween and here you see the Magic Kingdom decked out in pumpkins. Impressive too, are the green organic versions of Mickey and Mini Mouse! The small children love to meet the most famous comic characters personally and talk to them and we saw many little people standing in line for this special treat. A lot of people collect badges and buy memorabilia. The most important icon is the Mini Mouse Alice band with the round black ears and the red polka dot bow. I found an original vintage one back home at our flea Credit: Sue Vissermarket.
Watch a few of the parades go by and take the obligatory pictures. When done, head for a shorter queue at your next destination because most of the crowds gather around the parading floats and the performers. Well loved songs, dances waves and smiles delight both young and old. This is a happy place and ideally suited to small children who read comic books and watch movies about Donald Duck, Goofy and Snow White.
Walt Disney certainly has left his mark on the world and his legacy is enjoyed and appreciated the world over. It has become a booming industry and delightfully so with the aim to please, to promote peace and unity and to shun violence and ugliness.
Splash mountain in a log boat and Thunder Mountain
Back in another queue and it was a very entertaining 30 minute wait as we filed past amusing scenes and exhibits before taking a roller coaster ride up and down and around the little mountain. Good one for little kids but I was keen to get to Universal Studios for some meaner stuff. Note the drinking fountains that are provided. Remember to take your water bottles along - it saves a fortune.
The Swiss Family Robinson tree house and jungle scenes
The Swiss Family Robinson tree house was beautiful and we really enjoyed climbing up the huge artificial tree and peeking into all the little rooms. Down below you can see the makeshift jungle kitchen with a fruit breakfast on offer. It seemed to have no effect on the visitors. Instead, most of them took a dash to the food kiosk to grab a greasy burger and wash it down with a soda.
After the tranquil jungle and a stroll through the beautifully landscaped grounds we gave ourselves a wake up call at Spaceship Earth. Another dark and violent roller coaster thrill ride in a giant studio with dramatic rushes and plummets, drops and jerks. Make sure you have a strong stomach and watch out for any potential whiplashes. There are adequate safety measures and so - you will survive!
Day 3 and at last - Universal StudiosCredit: Sue Visser
TCredit: Sue Visserhe vertical rocket roller coaster ride. Before Jim could see what was coming I shoved him into the line and mad sure he did not see the 10 story tower we were about to encounter in one of the most frightening rides I have ever had. He is not fond of heights but had no option because he was securely anchored in a yellow plastic seat next to me. O M G. After that I couldn't remember where I had left my liver and my head was still spinning as we staggered off to become a Minion. We were already yellow and barrel shaped.
This is it! If you are too fat, you can't fit in the seat - so off we went.
We had some amazing rides in the newer roller coaster buildings that are enhanced by immense movie projected images and clever props. All that spinning, head jerking and dashing back and forth and upside down (vertical). Sometimes we were in the dark but well strapped in and the smoke, water sprays, live flames and deafening noises left nothing to the imagination. I can see why people get hooked and want to scare themselves over and over again. It causes a mighty rush of adrenalin and leaves you dry -mouthed and shaken up. But after a drink of water and a deep breath we were ready for more.
Transformers, car chases and Alien shoot outs but take these Minions with you!
The film sets are very authentic with shop fronts and buildings realistically portrayed with great attention to detail. They range from streets in the Wild West to scenes from Back to the Future, complete with the original time machine albeit a tatty looking grey sedan. We also loved the blue Cadillac, the set for the Simpsons and the Crusty Burger. We were running out of time and after the revenge of the Mummy we needed to find Harry Potter. That was easy, just walk along the street until you find the station!
Has anybody seen Harry Potter - in the flesh lately? How about a dragon?
There is so much to explore and the hyperactive rides keep the adrenalin pumping. Here in Harry Potter's World you can dally in a queue that begins in a large banking hall filled with the most amazing mechanical entities. These wizened and grey haired old bank clerks sit behind their desks and work all day. One of them looked up at me and stared right through me with his glass eyes. Then he winked. In the main shopping mall we came face to face with a genuine young Harry potter look alike and took this picture. The merchandise was what you could say - enchanting, especially the creepy snakes and winking owls. This is the highlight of the Harry Potter legacy to come and feel and touch and be in a virtual world of magic. Even the dragon perched up on the top of a building belches and unleashes his fiery breath on the whooping crowds. Hot stuff. Unique shopping and don't forget to visit the sports shop to pick up a broom or two.
Sorry - no cameras on rides
The only drawback at Universal Studios is that cameras are not allowed in the most interesting places and certainly not on the rides. All your belongings have to be stored in lockers to ensure nothing is flung away during the hectic rides. We went in search of Nemo in a magnificent underwater world and rode on an ET mission. So many rides and events to choose from it is hard to know what to tackle and what to skip as time runs out after a long and intense day. But we packed in all we could and took lots and lots of pictures to remind us of our visit.
The lakes and parks are exquisitely landscaped and you can enjoy the natural aspects in addition to all the splendid Disney characters and inventions. Soon it was time to hop back onto the shuttle bus. Happy and overloaded with sensations, we headed for our apartment to pack up and catch the plane for the next leg of our epic trip to the USA.
You can share our tour of the Western regions by clicking on the 3 links below. Yeeeha!
Part 2: Bryce, Zion, Vegas
Part 3: Mammoth Lakes, San Francisco
Now relax and enjoy our video - come share the action!