Wednesday, August 15, 2012

La Brea Bakery - Express and Cafe Review

The Diva Family had two opportunities to have breakfast while we were at the resort. We had considered having breakfast at a couple of different places, but due to the nature of our stay, we ended up having breakfast at La Brea Bakery both days.

There are two sides to La Brea, the Express, which is a quick counter service and then you sit out under  umbrella covered tables, and enjoy what you choose from the counter.
Here is Sister Diva enjoying her panini toasted bagel and cream cheese.  
Daddy Diva doesn't look all that happy, but he liked his Cinnamon Roll (pictured below) 
and he ate the other half of Sister Diva's bagel.
These are the cinnamon rolls.  You can get them with or without frosting. 
Daddy Diva got the frosting, of course!
Aunt Diva and I shared tastes of several pastries with Momma Diva.  
We tried the cream cheese danish which was good.  Slightly sweet but not too sweet.
We also tried both of these.  The raspberry streusel bars were terrific!  
Really tasty!  The coffee cake pictured in front was a little dense and a little dry.
These orange danishes were the very BEST pastries of the bunch!  
Slightly orangey and sweet and the crunchy almonds added a nice touch.  This was the winner!
These were some of the other offerings available like breakfast sandwiches and salads.
The other side of the bakery is the La Brea Cafe.  On this side you are seated and served by wait staff.  On this particular morning, we met with Sister Diva's friends Kevin and Kate.  Kevin works at Disneyland in a myriad of roles, from emcee of many Disneyland Resort events, to the Laughingstock Company and DCA's Miner 49ers (a group we miss terribly!) Just for the fun of it, I'll post a picture at the end of this blog post of him in his current role. You won't recognize him. But enough about that, back to the review!
Sister Diva ordered the Veggie Omelet served with country-style potatoes, organic mixed greens
and choice of toasted La Brea Bread for $12.95.  She said it was very good, especially the potatoes. The omelet was good too, but there were too many onions for her taste.  It was fine after she set them aside.
I got the Croissant Sandwich - La Brea Bakery Butter Croissant with eggs any style, melted Gruyere cheese served with applewood smoked bacon. $13.50

Seeing as my beloved Carnation Cafe no longer serves their Croissant Breakfast Sandwich, I decided to try the one at the La Brea. This is how it came.  Seriously.  I ask you, is that appetizing? I had to totally assemble the sandwich just so I could eat it. Then somehow I missed the fact that on the menu, someone thought it was a good idea to serve organic greens with breakfast.  Sister Diva didn't mind it, but I thought it was a horrible idea. Fruit.  Fruit goes with breakfast and especially a croissant sandwich, not greens.  I only ate half of the sandwich and I found it a disappointment.  Please, oh please Carnation Cafe, bring back the Croissant Sandwich breakfast and show La Brea how to do it right!
Mr. Diva, Daddy Diva and Aunt Diva all got the Classic Breakfast - Two eggs any style with your 
choice of applewood smoked bacon or apple cinnamon sausage. $12.95

Mr. Diva liked his breakfast with bacon, but also would have preferred fruit.   Daddy Diva and Aunt Diva got the sausage and they liked it a lot.  Daddy Diva doesn't eat greens or the fruit, so it didn't matter what they put on his plate.

Everyone else in our party got the fruit plate for $5.95.  It was light and refreshing and they all enjoyed it.

As for the ambiance, we liked sitting outside, even in late July.  There were ceiling fans to keep the air circulating on the covered patio.  The faux woven chairs and vine covered half wall that you see behind us gave it a bit of a tropical feel.  Even though we were right on the Downtown Disney walkway between World of Disney, the tram drop off, and the security entrances, it wasn't noisy at all. And our server was terrific.

The Diva Family gives the La Brea Bakery a good rating.  Not great, but good.  If you need a quick bite before you head into the park, the Express side is perfect.  If you want to meet some friends for breakfast who can't go into the parks, this is a nice place to dine without being interrupted by characters.

And now, back to our friend Kevin.  Remember how nice and respectable he looked?  Here he is in his role as Tweedle Dum for the Mad Tea Party in DCA.
The hair is one thing, but seriously, look at those shoes.

And here he is with Sister Diva - She is cracking up laughing on the outside, but on the inside, I think I sense a bit of, I don't know, characterphobia setting in from our childhood! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel

On our recent Diva family trip to the Disneyland Resort, we needed to stay in a resort hotel that was close to the parks. Of the three hotels available, the Grand Californian was really the best choice for our needs.  It is actually attached to California Adventure and Downtown Disney, and it even has a private entrance into DCA for hotel guests. 
 The Grand Californian Hotel was designed after the famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. 
 I borrowed this from the Disney website - you can see that it kind of has that Sierra Nevada mountain lodge look to it.
 We took these as we drove into the hotel so excuse some of the glare from the car window.  This is the main entrance.  We love all the trees against the wood siding.
 Here we are approaching the valet parking.  You can self park, for $15 a day, but we chose the valet parking for $22 a day.  It was the most convenient for us because Mr. Diva had to leave part of one day to go out and back for something for work.
 I borrowed this one from the Disney site also.  We were so excited that we didn't get a picture of us checking in, but the registration is so beautiful that we wanted to show it here. Let me state right away that all of the cast members we dealt with from registration, bell service, valet, housekeeping and the information desk were all fantastic.  They went above and beyond to make sure that this trip was all that we wanted it to be!
 We arrived an hour before the check in time of 3pm, and found that you can't check in early, so our luggage was gathered and stored by the bell service.  We were allowed to sit and relax in this gorgeous lobby with a piano player on the second level balcony.  At 3pm we were quickly checked in and the bell service promptly delivered our luggage to our rooms.
 This is from the fourth floor, looking down on the grand fireplace.
Details really make the place don't they?  Look at these lamps in the hallways.
Aunt Diva was particularly enamored with the tile work on the floors in the lobby.

And of course I can't move on from the lobby without pointing out one of the Hidden Mickeys in there. Can you see it?
 As we headed to one of our rooms in the far corner of the hotel, we passed the pool area.  There are three pools in this area and you must show your room key in order to even get in to look.
 This is the kiddie pool with the slide that backs up against the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail in DCA.

That is the third pool in the back ground and one of several spas can be seen behind the table on the right.
 The view of the hotel from the pool area.  The gate is right in front of the Storytellers Cafe.
 We took a picture from the park, looking up at Sister Diva's suite that she shared with Momma and Daddy Diva.  It is the window and covered patio on the corner right above the top of the trees.  If you know DCA, you know we are standing at the corner of Condor Flats with Soarin' to our right and the path to Grizzly River Run on our left.
 This is the view from that patio.  You can see the front of the plane in the bottom right corner.  Amazing view right?   From left to right we can see the roof to Soarin', Hollywood Tower of Terror, Carthay Circle Theater, Grizzly Peak and the Monorail!  We could also hear Minnie's Fly Girls as they performed.
 This is the view from the living room area of the suite.  Again, still amazing!  This suite had a large entrance area, a hallway with a small closet and bar that opened into a living room with a pull-out sofa bed, two arm chairs, TV cabinet, coffee table and small table with two chairs for working or eating.  We were so busy that somehow we forgot to take good pictures of the suite.
 If you turned to the left from the entrance area and walk down a small hallway with a large closet, you come to the large bedroom with this luscious king size bed.  There was a ton of room in here and it had a small patio off the east side of the room and a large window looking out at the beautiful view above.
 The bathroom was also large.   There was this vanity area and then behind it was a large area with the toilet and the shower.  You also get complimentary robes to use during your stay. The bathroom area opens into the bedroom hallway and into the living room area.

It was a gorgeous suite and we couldnt have been more surprised and pleased! So perfect for a trip that we wanted to be extra special for Sister Diva.

So that we could be near the rest of our party, Mr Diva, Aunt Diva and I booked a room at a different time. We ended up on the other end of the hotel with a park view of Goofy's Sky School.  Again, we forgot to take actual pictures of the room, so I borrowed these and this is exactly what our room looked like.

Very nice, plenty of room for the three of us, and we are so glad they do not use bed spreads!  We learned on Hotel Impossible that they are dirty, disgusting and so 1980's.
Our bathroom was nice too!  Everything seemed very clean and well maintained.  Totally important to us.
 The carpet has Hidden Mickey's in it so don't forget to look for them!

Now here is where I am going to veer from the praise for just a moment to tell you on this blog what I wrote in my survey for the resort.  We paid for a room with a park view.  We understood that it was a last minute booking at a very busy time. We didn't mind that our room was on the complete opposite side of the hotel, that it was a room and not a suite, and that we were overlooking the park from Goofy's Sky School. We were glad we got a room in the hotel to be near the rest of our party, but, when you pay for a park view room, you should get a view of the park, not this:
If you go out onto the tiny balcony and peer far to the left you can see this:

I must again reiterate that we only booked a room in the hotel to be near our family and to be able to serve them so that they could have the best trip possible.  The room itself was wonderful and served its purpose.  We weren't in our room enough to care about the view, or lack there of, BUT, we paid for a park view the same as everyone else and this is what we got. Not cool Disney.  If I were staying here on vacation with my family and I paid some $500 a night for this "view," I would be livid.  So as a courtesy to my readers, if you get booked in room 3256, 3258 or 3260 and are assured a park view, I would contest it.

Okay, enough of the one flaw in our trip and back to the good stuff!

 You definitely want to get the "turn down service."  The maid comes in and turns the corner of your sheets down and then leaves a cute little note wishing you sweet dreams as well as leaving you some yummy chocolates.
 These are the cute and tasty turn down chocolates.
One of the reasons we chose the Grand Californian was because they have a private entrance right into DCA from the hotel.  As we had two members of our party with medical issues, we knew this would be important for us since we would be able to get them back to their rooms quickly and easily throughout the day.  From the hotel, you enter the park just past the Napa Rose and the pool. You enter the park right across from Grizzy River Run.  This is also the best place to line up for the Magical Morning Hour where as a resort hotel guest, you get to enter the park a full hour ahead of the riff raff. ;-D  This was especially helpful the day we did Radiator Springs Racers.  We got on the ride in about 30 minutes and then also got fast passes to go again later in the day.

Another thing we knew we were going to need were some ECV's (electric convenience vehicles) as mobility was a big issue for Daddy Diva and Sister Diva.  We wanted them to have enough energy to get through each day and not expend unnecessary energy on walking long distances and standing endlessly in lines.  We thought that Mr. Diva and I were going to have to run over to Disneyland to rent them every morning and return them every night, but not so!  We were informed at registration that we could actually rent them through the hotel and that they could use them in the hotel to get down the long hallways to the room and they were able to keep them for the duration of our stay.  Fantastic service!!
Daddy Diva was reticent about getting one as he said he would be fine walking around and standing all three days.  We knew better and insisted.  He fell in love with it and he ended up speeding all over the place.  One particular time, we were all reduced to fits of giggles as he left us in the dust and all we had were momentary low flying cowboy hat sightings as he sped through New Orleans Square from Pirates to the Haunted Mansion. 
We must say that we booked this trip at the very last minute, and we had two people in our party of six who had medical issues.  We wanted this to be a very, very special trip for them and that was mentioned to the cast members when we booked the room and checked in.  We paid for and were assured a park view, and what a view it was! Let's take another look at it!

One last thing to note is that we checked out of the hotel before 11am, but wanted to spend more time in the park.  So that we didn't loose any more time in the park than we had to, we called Bell Service and they took our bags from our rooms and held them for us until we were ready to go home.  We also had the use of the ECV until we left as well.  Since we had rented them from the hotel, we just went back to Bell Services in the lobby and had them get our luggage, then to the valet to get our car, and after they delivered our car and loaded the baggage into it, they took the ECV's from us and returned them.  So incredibly smooth and such great service!

The Diva family highly recommends the Grand Californian if there is any way that you can work it out to stay there.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mater's Junkyard Jamboree - Cars Land

 The first ride you see as you enter Cars Land is Mater's Junkyard Jamboree on your left.  It has the classic Mater sign right over the entrance.
 It is a junkyard, so there is a LOT of junk piled around and they landscaped it with weeds.  We totally loved it!
 All along the wall at the beginning of the queue are props from Mater's past.  If you have seen Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales DVD, you will recognize some of these from Mater's past experiences.
 Rescue Squad Mater and Mater Hawk from the short Air Mater.
 Mater the Greater was Mater's stint as a daredevil.
Moon Mater had to make a moon rescue of the Impala XIII for NASCA, 
the National Automotive Space Car Administration.
I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!
 El Materdor was a Bulldozer fighter in Spain.
 Mater and the Gas Caps sings one of Mr. Diva's favorite songs, "Dad Gum."
 My favorite Mater short was Unidentified Flying Mater, where he had to break into Parking Area 51.  
 There is a Hidden Mickey in the queue.
 This ride is based on Mater's love of tractor tipping.  He got a bunch of Holstein Heiffer Chewall's and attached trailers to them and taught them to square dance. The tractors move smoothy in a figure eight and the trailer at the back really swings wide at some points. Sister Diva says it is kind of like the old Tilt a Whirl rides from the county fair, you just don't swing as far.

 While you are waiting you can hear the music playing from Mater's home-made sound system.  Mater sings all the songs for his jamboree and we think the songs are hilarious!
 Here is his homemade sound system, made with all the things he had on hand in his junkyard.

Ready for some twistin', twirlin, whippin', whirlin', good ole fashioned fun unfurlin'!

 Some people laugh on this ride, like Momma Diva and Aunt Diva.
 Some people are cool, sitting back and enjoying the ride, like Daddy Diva and Mr. Diva.
 And some people scream like little girls.  I'm not saying who that might be, but it wasn't Sister Diva.
 From my first ride on the Jamboree, I loved it! Not sure why, but my inner Japanese Disneyland Diva came out here. (I was a Japanese exchange student in high school and we have hosted tons of students from Japan. ;-D)
Mr. Diva loved how they built this shack to look just like the movie and like it is leaning.  It's the construction worker in him.  He notices all those little details.

Still shots are fun, but this video allows you to see the ride in action and to hear some of our favorite parts of a couple of the songs.  They seriously make us laugh!
Junkyard Jamboree 
(with Billy Hill and the Hillbillies)
Twistin' Twirlin'
Whippin' Whirlin'
Good old fashioned fun unfurlin'
Listen tractors, 
while you're towin'
Better watch which way you're goin!

The One You Want To Call
Trouble, if you get in trouble,
Shoot, it don't matter, if it's big or small.
Flat tires, grease fire,
No gas, broke glass,
Tow Mater, the one you want to call.

Big Bull Dozer
Ain't got no money
Ain't got no honey!

We loved Mater's Junkyard Jamboree.  It is a short line, interesting queue, more so if you have see Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales, and Mater singing the songs is funny!  But be warned they may stick in your head.