Grandparents, Movie Stars and Mr. Toad

My cat Dorian is sitting on my lap while a few errant snowflakes fall outside, and if I wasn’t so nice I’d move Dorian and go make a cup of hot tea. Just a week ago I was in California, and with highs around 75 degrees out there, I’m wishing I could go back.

And why was I in California? Well, the story really begins in New Orleans. Last April was our first official Girls’ Weekend, which was kicked off in the French Quarter by me, my mom, my Aunt Bonnie, and my former college roommate Elyse. We had such a good time that we decided we needed to have another Girls’ Weekend. Since my family lives mostly in California, Mom and I took the opportunity to combine a visit to my grandparents’ home in Lompoc with a Girls’ Weekend.

Mom and I flew out on a Wednesday, and Bonnie picked us up at LAX for the three-hour drive to Lompoc. Aside from running out of gas at the intersection of the 101 and absolutely nowhere, it was an uneventful trip. (All I can say is, “Hooray for AAA and our tow-truck driver hero.”) Our two-day visit with Grandma and Grandpa was a nice, quiet one. Grandpa told me all kinds of stories from his time in the Air Force, from working in the motor pool in Germany to his memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which time he was working at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

On Friday we drove down to Anaheim. After checking into our hotel and grabbing dinner, we made a five-minute drive to my cousin Josh’s college hockey game. The timing and location of the game worked out perfectly for us… and, as it turns out, perfect timing became a recurring theme of our weekend. Josh’s team won… yay!

By the time we got back to the hotel, Elyse had arrived and she filled us in on her traveling adventure, which beat our “out of gas” story by a mile. Let’s just say that hers involved a flight attendant making a PA announcement of, “Is there a doctor on board?”

Saturday was Hollywood day, and we started things at the Hollywood History Museum in the old Max Factor Building. The Art Deco building was almost as neat as the movie memorabilia. I especially enjoyed the really old costumes worn by stars like Valentino and Charlie Chaplain. If you ever get to Hollywood, I recommend a visit to the museum. It was the best thing we did all day.

We wandered past all of the Hollywood theaters, like Graumann’s Chinese Theater, the Kodak Theater, and El Capitan, then headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. From there we drove down Melrose and Sunset Boulevard, and even Rodeo Drive. The houses in Beverly Hills were like a whole different world from the slightly seedy, faded grandeur of Hollywood. We ended the tour at Venice Beach. The upside: it was a beautiful sunset. The downside: the little outdoor shops there are downright scary. Mom said she worried that if we wandered into one we’d wind up with our faces on a milk carton. I just kept thinking of the nighttime boardwalk scenes from The Lost Boys, wondering just who – or what – was walking next to us. (And no, I didn’t run into a fanged Keifer Sutherland.)

We ended the night with dinner at The Jazz Kitchen at Downtown Disney, where I had my first-ever bananas foster. Yummmmm. We got back to the hotel and had just settled into bed when the fire alarm went off. Yes, we had to evacuate the building in our PJs. The fire department came, declared that it was a false alarm, and sent us all back to bed. Nothing like an impromptu slumber party in the parking lot.

Sunday was Disneyland and California Adventure day, and we started right at eight and didn’t stop until 11:00. It was the longest Disney day I’ve ever had. The four of us pinned our Mickey ears on our heads and set out. As soon as we walked into Disneyland, we ran into Minnie and Donald. Mickey came out just as we walked up to get pictures, so we figured our day was off to a great start.

The park was practically empty for the first few hours, and we walked right onto the Finding Nemo submarine ride (cute and so much fun to be riding the subs again), Alice in Wonderland, the Teacups, Storybook Land, the Matterhorn, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (twice!), Roger Rabbit, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We also ran into Mickey again at his house in Toontown. Whew. We stopped at the Diamond Horseshoe to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. What a great show! The musical talent those guys have is amazing, and they are so funny.

By then it was about time for our lunch at the Blue Bayou, a restaurant I have always wanted to try. After all, it’s right there where you load into Pirates of the Caribbean. The food and service were excellent, and even our non-alcoholic mint juleps weren’t bad. Mom made a toast to our Girls’ Weekend and announced our plans to go to Tokyo Disneyland for Elyse’s next Big Decade Birthday.

After some more rides, we went to California Adventure. I did a lot that was new to me, like the Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story Midway Mania rides (both a lot of fun), and the roller-coaster California Screamin’. The highlight, though, was the Aladdin show. It was the best stage show I’ve seen at Disney, and had the elaborate costumes, sets and effects of a full-on Broadway production.

We went back to Disneyland to cap off the night, and nothing was funnier than riding Star Tours with someone wearing the same sweatshirt as me… we were both in our Boba Fett hoodies. The guy didn’t seem as amused by it as I was, though someone else on our “flight” gleefully told me that we were geeks. I had to tell him that I’m already aware of that.

On our way out of the park, we ran into Mickey just before he went backstage. He came out to greet us in the morning, and was there to wave goodbye as we left. It was the perfect ending to Girls’ Weekend – Disneyland Edition.

Beth Dolgner

Beth Dolgner is a freelance writer and editor whose work encompasses everything from motorcycles to ghost stories. She is a devoted Boba Fett fan and a member of the 501st Legion.

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