Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 16 | August 28th

What a day we have had today. Our flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles was at 10.10am and we had to drop the rental car off first so we decided we needed to be leaving the hotel at 7am to allow enough time. Lucky we did!

We were up at 6am and out the door on time and found the rental car drop off easy enough with the GPS and the car was cleared and all done in a matter of minutes. We then headed downstairs to get the shuttle to the terminal which was 7 minutes away. Our tickets said terminal 1 and we were also directed there by the shuttle staff.

When we arrived we could not see any United Airline check in desks and upon asking we're advised the UA had moved to terminal 3 last week. Woohoo!

So, we had to walk some distance and get an airport shuttle to terminal 3 and then walk some more to get to the UA check in. Finally we made it and then the self check in machines weren't working for me. A lovely staff member tried again for us and helped us check in all the way to Hawaii.

We then had a 35 minute flight to Los Angeles in a very tiny plane. When we landed we went straight to gate 60 as it was quite a walk, to where our next flight would be leaving in about 1.5 hours.

When almost everyone was on the plane we were advised that the UA computer system was down and we couldn't close up and take off until the computers were back up and they could check we had the correct fuel for the number of passengers etc. After waiting 2 hours they let us off the plane to get something to eat and soon after the system was all back up and running. We left 1.5 hours late and arrived in Hawaii at about 5.30pm and gained 3 hours with the time difference.

We finally arrived and made our way by taxi to the hotel. We had booked to stay at the Sheraton Waikiki but there were some issues with Denis and Cameron's rooms so they upgraded us all to the Royal Hawaiian, their superior adjacent hotel complex. We still got our ocean view room, balcony and a bigger room which was suppose to have two double beds but when we got to the room there was just a king bed. So, we had to call reception and they gave us a trundler bed for Ashleigh at no extra cost.

As soon as we dropped our bags at the room with Denis we meet up with everyone down at the Mai Tai bar for a much, much needed drink. Ashleigh was so happy to see everyone and apparently Paddy had been asking when Ashleigh was going to arrive for days.

We then headed straight to dinner at Yard House, which was a very loud bar and restaurant and was a bit noisy for easy conversation. Scott and Cam had these enormous Stella yard glass drinks....two each.

Afterwards Cam, Catherine and Paddy came back to our room for drinks and a catch up. Ashleigh and Paddy both went to sleep and we sat on the balcony chatting until about midnight. We all went to bed very, very tired as it was a very, very long day.

Day 15 | August 27th

Today we knew we had a long drive back to Las Vegas....160 miles and we also wanted to have a good look at Zion National Park. So, we set the alarm for a 7am wake up so we could have an early breakfast and be on our way.

We drove back into the park as far as we could, which was only a few miles and from there you had to take the free shuttle buses up into the valley. We got the shuttle at the canyon junction and took it all the way to the end stopping on the way in and out at various stops. The scenery was truly amazing and majestic. The towering sandstone mountains and winding river through the canyon changed around every corner and was just beautiful.

Ashleigh played in the river for a while, digging up the sand and throwing it back into the river. She was in heaven!

At one stop we had to walk up a very steep, but short pathway to the Weeping Rock. It was a large rock overhang that was 'weeping' water like a constant rainfall. It was very damp and lots of ferns were growing along the rock face and around the area. Another beautiful sight.

On the walk up to Weeping Rock we also saw a deer resting in the trees. It was very relaxed and didn't move at all considering all the tourists that were walking up and down the path and looking at it.

We were so glad we made the time to have a good look as it was like nothing we had ever seen before.

Once we got back to the Canyon Junction we jumped in our scalding hot car and headed back to Las Vegas.

We didn't stop many times along the way but I did have to make a bathroom stop around lunch time and the only place to stop was McDonalds, which was quite ironic given earlier in the day I had commented about how happy I was that we hadn't been to any McDonalds or other fast food outlets.

Our first destination when we arrived back in Las Vegas around 3pm was The Gun Store so Scott could have a go at the indoor shooting range. He chose to shoot three guns, a Glook 9mm, AK47 and 223 Snipper. The wait was a very long two hours and it was all over in less than 15 minutes but Scott said it was definitely worth it.

After that we headed to our hotel, New York, New York and checked in for the night. It was about 5.30pm and we found out straight away that the pool closed at the crazy hour of 7pm so we quickly dropped the bags in our room, Ashleigh got changed and we were down to the pool. Scott and I had a much needed beer after a long and very, hot day.

We had dinner in one of the many hotel restaurants, Chin Chin which was a Chinese and Japanese mix. Very nice after many days of American food. Then we did some packing and reorganizing of bags for the flight to Hawaii in the morning and it was off to bed ready for another early morning.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 14 | August 26th

We set the alarm for 7am this morning so we had lots of time to make the 250 mile drive to Zion National Park with stops along the way.

This morning we saw a squirrel on the way to breakfast and our third deer on the way out of the village. Really wish I was able to get a photo of the deer but not to worry.

The first part of our drive was east around the rim of the Grand Canyon which gave us lots of opportunities to stop and take photos. It was hard to put into words the vastness and beauty of the canyon, totally amazing. And at our first stop we were lucky enough to see four condors gliding around the rim of the canyon. They are truly magnificent birds with wing spans of 3m.

After heading away from the canyon for about 60 miles we stopped at the Trading Post and Restaurant at Cameron, which is home to the Navajo. The trading post was huge with so much for sale and some of it made at the local reservation. There were also lots of roadside stalls along the drive where the locals were selling product as well.

Over the next 150 miles we stopped a couple of times for gas, water and snacks but most of the trip was uneventful. Oh, except we did get to drive over the dam at Lake Powell and the lake was beautiful. And we did see a herd of buffalo at a lodge just before entering the National Park.

When we arrived at the Zion National Park we had to pay the $25 entrance fee and then drive the winding road to Springdale where we were staying. We also had to drive through this amazingly long tunnel right through the sandstone mountains. Driving through the park with the tall mountains all around us was another amazing sight to see. Again, so hard to put into words and really the photos don't do it justice either.

We arrived at our Best Western hotel in Springdale around 6pm, but here it is mountain time so it was actually 7pm. As soon as we unpacked we went straight to the pool and Ashleigh swam for at least an hour while Scott and I checked our email etc as this was the first time we had wi-fi access (and it was free) for a few days.

As the sun was going down there were little bats flying around here as well.

After swimming we had dinner at the restaurant next door and then it was bedtime for all as we need to get up early again tomorrow so we can take a look at the park before heading back to Las Vegas.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 13 | August 25th

After having breakfast and checking out of the Paris hotel this morning we were on our way to the Grand Canyon. We knew it was going to be a long drive being 273 miles with stops along the way.

Our first stop on the way was the Hoover Dam, which isn't far from Las Vegas. We drove down to the dam and then parked up and walked around the rim of the dam. The vastness of the dam was incredible but this place was the hottest we have experienced. The car was telling us on the way down that it was 104F so we thought it must have been about 110F on the dam.

I don't do that kind of heat all and I couldn't wait to get back to the parking building for a drink and then back in the car. Scott thought it was really funny how grumpy I get in the heat.

Once we got back on the road we decided we would be best to stop at the next gas station to top up as the distance between towns and gas stops seemed to be getting longer and longer and we thought it better to be safe than sorry.

We also picked up some water and snacks and I was chatting to one of the staff to ensure I had the right directions to the Grand Canyon correct as they did helicopter tours and I found out we could take the scenic route from Kingman along the historic Route 66 rather than take the main freeway. It would add an extra 30 minutes to our trip.

We stopped at the tourist information centre at Kingman and they were so helpful, giving us lots of maps and points of interest along the way to Grand Canyon and from Grand Canyon to Zion National Park. So, we took Route 66 and our first stop was the General Store at Hackberry, which was absolutely amazing. The old cars and memorabilia was incredible. It was definitely worth the stop.

We were amazed at how green it was along the way after the brown countryside from San Diego to Las Vegas. And we were to find out why soon.

About 10 miles before we were going to rejoin the main freeway we drove into a lightening storm. The temperature quickly dropped from 100F to 62F and the wind picked up and the rain poured down. As we drove towards it we could see the fork lightening coming down many times. Truthfully, it was a little scary and we were trying to be positive as Ashleigh was hugging Fizzy Lizzy and trying not to freak out. It wasn't long before we started to drive out of it and the familiar blue sky with a few fluffy white clouds became more regular.

We made another couple of quick stops in William for gas and Tusayan for beer and then we were driving into the Grand Canyon National Park. It cost $25.00 to enter the park and the Grand Canyon Village was just a few miles down the road.

We arrived at the village just after 6pm and were blown away by the view of the canyon, it was stunning. After checking in and unpacking the car it was perfect timing to see the sun go down. Ashleigh and I went out from our room to the rim and sat on the edge to watch the sun go down. I got lots of photos of Ashleigh with the sunset and the amazing sky as the sun went down and the scene changed continually. I also tried to photograph the little bats that were flying around but they were just too quick.

We got to chat to a couple from Tampa and another couple of older guys who were photographers and also both had race cars. It was very interesting the information they told us about the local area, like the deer that were everywhere (we did see a little one on the side of the road in the village as we were driving in).

We had a reasonably early dinner at the restaurant next door so we could get an early night with the aim to get an early start tomorrow so we have lots of time to make our 280 odd mile trip to Zion National Park with plenty of stops along the way to take in the Canyon and other tourist stops.

Day 12 | August 24th

Today was all about getting our laundry done. We were all down to our last pair of underwear and socks as the last two hotels did not have laundry facilities and when I did try hand washing the clothes in San Diego the clothes just would not dry.

So, after breakfast our first stop was a laundromat in the suburbs only 3 miles from the strip. We got all our clothes washed and dried but we had to hang out in the laundromat for a couple of hours while the machines did there work.

One upside was a pretty good shopping mall across the road with Macy's and Old Navy among many other stores.

After getting the washing done we headed just down the road to the indoor gun range for Scott to have a go at shooting some big guns that we don't have at home. But it was really hot and the queue was 1.5 - 2 hours long so he decided to try again on Monday when we are back in Las Vegas.

So, instead of driving the 30-40 minutes out to the outlet stores in Primm we decided to go back to the shopping mall by the laundromat for a look. Especially as it was air conditioned and it was just too hot to do anything outside....even the pool at the hotel didn't have any shelter and was too hot during the day. I was lucky enough to get a great pair of shoes and dress at Macy's and a couple of things at Old Navy.

By the time we headed back to the hotel it was 5.30pm so when we got back Ashleigh quickly changed into her togs and we took her to the pool for a swim before dinner.

We ate at the hotel again tonight as we didn't want to be too late and really didn't know where else to go.

Another day done.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 11 | August 23rd

After checking out at 11am we started on our 330 mile journey to Las Vegas. We decided to get on the road and find a place along the way to stop for a late breakfast/early lunch.

Once we were out of the main San Diego area and heading out of the suburbans we took a random off-ramp where we could see there were some eating places. As we were looking around to find somewhere to eat Scott spied a Denny's.

We pulled in for brunch and meet a lovely little girl called Evelyn who introduced herself to Ashleigh. She was 5 1/2 years old and her Mom told us she saw Ashleigh walk in and commented on how pretty she was very funny. Then we had a big long chat to them, she kept commenting how we spoke a different language....meaning we had a different accent. They were so lovely and friendly.

After eating we carried on our way to Las Vegas stopping for a petrol, bathroom and frappachino at about 160 miles to go and then at a Rest Area to stretch our legs about 75 miles to go. The roads and scenery were incredibly long, vast and bare. The desert was very, very dry and the outside temperature sat around 100F most of the way.

Ashleigh was very good and we played card games and eye spy alot of the time as well as games on the iPad.

We arrived at Paris Vegas about 5.30pm and everyone was certainly ready to get out of the car for awhile. The traffic and hotel were both totally overwhelming. The lights, multitudes of people and extravagance is amazing. When we walked into the hotel to check in we walked straight into the casino before getting to the check in area.

After settling in and having a quick rest we took Ashleigh to the roof top pool about 7.00pm for a swim. According to Ashleigh the pool was freezing but once she was in there was no getting her out.

We didn't get out to dinner until about 8.30pm. We had a look at all the many restaurants in the hotel and then decided to take a look along the strip. We walked to the first over bridge and went up for a better view of the strip north and south. Just then the Bellagio water show was starting so we got a chance to see the amazing show as well.

Then it was back to the hotel for dinner at the Italian restaurant there and off to bed for another good nights sleep. Tonight was a very late night with bedtime for Ashleigh being almost midnight. Guess it will be another late morning tomorrow.

We have been trying to decide what to do tomorrow, our options are going to the fashion outlet stores in Primm, going to the gun range, going to the water Cirque de Soliel show at the Bellagio and spending time at the pool. Definitely on our list is the laundromat....the Hyatt and here do not have any laundry facilities and no where to hang washing in the rooms. This has been very frustrating and we are all running out of necessities.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 10 | August 22nd

Ashleigh and I were up early this morning and while we let Scott sleep Ashleigh played a game that involved mixing up all her new clothes, closing her eyes, picking pieces out and then trying them on and parading in front of the full length mirror. Very entertaining!
Today we were off to Sea World for the day. We had our ticket from Disneyland so that was a money saver. The weather started off overcast but still quite warm and it did warm up over the day and then late afternoon it turned really overcast once again.
Sea World was much bigger than we expected but we managed to get through most of the shows, rides and attractions that we wanted to see throughout the day.
Just after we arrived the One Ocean at Shamu Stadium show was starting so we stopped there first. The show was with the whales and it was amazing. I was just happy we weren't sitting in the soak zone because those whales did a great job of soaking those people.
We also saw the SeaLions Live show, which was very funny and the Blue Horizons show with the dolphins, birds and pilot whales which was fantastic and the Pet's Rule! show with dogs, cats, pigs, geese and ostriches. Scott was just pleased to finally see a show with dolphins.....haha!
Scott and Ashleigh went on several rides....Oscar's Rockin' Eels, Elmo's Flying Fish, Riptide Rescue and the last ride of the day Shipwreck Rapids on which they both got totally soaked....but it was still heaps of fun!
We all did the Sea World SkyTower and BaySide SkyRide which both had amazing views of the surrounding San Diego area. The water ways are incredible from up high.
We also enjoyed lots of animal encounters....Shark Encounter, Penguin Encounter, World of Sea Aquarium and the Fresh Water Aquarium, among many, many others.
There was just so much to see and we managed to walk our way around the whole park. But by the time we had done all we wanted to do and were on our way back to the hotel it was after 6.30pm. So, today was the first day we didn't get to spend some time in the afternoon at the pool.
Dinner tonight was at Red Lobster which was a short drive away. Scott is getting much more comfortable with driving on the right side of the road and we have quickly become familiar with the local area.
Today was a real off day for first of the trip, but I was not feeling well and had a headache. I just kept drinking water and took some nurofen and got through the day. I am feeling better tonight so all will be well.
Today we are half way through our holiday and I have filled up my first 8Gb memory card on my camera plus the iPhone photos I have taken as well....not doing too bad.....some days are hundreds of photos and some days are just a handful.
Tomorrow will be a big driving day as we head up to Las Vegas. I am not looking forward to the Vegas heat.....the days will definitely be spent by the pool.

Day 9 | August 21st

We headed out for breakfast and to do some shopping late this morning about 11am. Our first stop was Target and once there we tried to find a place for brunch. After walking the long block we found a great little cafe which had delicious food which was all organic and locally sourced.

We spent quite some time in Target and Scott was very, very patient walking around and around the store several times while Ashleigh and I picked and then tried on a few clothes. Scott got himself a new pair of Massimo sunglasses. We also picked up some provisions....snacks, beer and water.

Then we drove down the road to Staples to have a look at the Martha Stewart Home stationary line. While Ashleigh and I looked around Scott popped across the road to the marine shop. I was lucky enough to pick up the MS labels etc that I was looking for as well as some chalkboard adhesive labels, which would be fun to use.

And our final stop was Paper Tales, a local scrapbook store. The store was very tiny, in fact they were preparing to break through the wall to the store next door tomorrow, but it was packed with some fantastic product. And they had the new My Minds Eye - The Sweetest Thing product that I was hoping to find. I didn't over do it but I did manage to pick up a few products that have been hard to find online such as the Studio Calico wooden stars and the Dear Lizzy thanks a bunch mason jar stamp.

Again Scott was very patient while I had a good look around and he looked at all the other shops in the block and even got a hair cut.

After stopping next door for a drink and something to eat for Scott and Ashleigh we finally headed back to the hotel around 4.30pm and I took Ashleigh down to the pool for a swim. Scott joined us later after he had a rest.

We decided after being out all day shopping and driving to have dinner at the Hyatt restaurant that overlooks the marina. It was one of our more extravagant meals although Ashleigh had a kids buffet that only cost her age. I had fillet mignon as I needed some red meat the first time since arriving here in the States. Ashleigh and Scott both helped me with the steak and Ashleigh absolutely loved it. As Scott ate earlier he just had a seafood chowder which was also very yummy.

The weather here is a bit cooler than we expected, which is great. I even wore my cardigan to dinner last night which was perfect for sitting outside. Hopefully, tomorrow it will stay a little overcast for our day at Sea World.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 8 | August 20th

Today was all about resting and finding our way to San Diego. After a very, very long day yesterday we had a sleep in this morning then spent the rest of the morning having breakfast, picking up our rental car and packing our bags before checking out of the Anabella.

Then we were on our way, with the GPS set for the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego. Scott was a little nervous at first driving on the right side of the road but it was a short drive to the freeway and then we were our way straight down the I-5 for most of the one and a half hour drive.

We got there in good time and then settled into the hotel before taking a walk along the marina and then relaxing by the pool. The pool is the best feature of this hotel with three individual pools and two water slides.

Ashleigh had a long swim and play with a new friend and then Scott got in and had a play with her as well.

For dinner tonight we all wanted sushi so we headed to Pacific Beach in the car were all the restaurants are and found a little, local sushi restaurant. The food was great, very filling and cheap. Ashleigh amazed me by trying my miso and loving it. She also ate my tempura vegetables before finishing off with her salmon sushi....another very good meal for her.

On the way to dinner we were given directions by the hotel reception which was a direct route but when we plugged the address into the GPS her first direction wasn't very clear so we headed the wrong way and when she corrected we came back around in a circle but then she had us on another course which was way longer but we eventually made it there. It was very funny, but Scott wasn't so pleased to be sent on a wild goose chase when he wasn't that comfortable driving on the right anyway.

We were back at the hotel tonight by 8.30pm so we could all rest up and get an early night. Ashleigh actually woke up with a runny nose this morning, probably from the lack of sleep and changes in temperature from the heat outside to the air conditioned hotel, shops and restaurants. She is taking the cold and cough mixture we brought over which works really quickly and she is feeling better already.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 7 | August 19th

We wanted to make the most of our Magic Morning pass today so we set the alarm for 6am and I was up making coffee soon after it went off. We were all up and ready by 6.40am and made it to the park by opening time.....7am.

It was certainly cooler at this time of the morning but we were all still a little tired after such a late night.

We headed straight for Cars Land and the Racer ride along with everyone else entering the park early. The queue was still about 45 minutes but we really wanted to do the ride and it was cool and not a 2 hour queue. The ride was worth the wait.....we were all glad we got up early to do it.

After that we headed to the other ride we wanted to do, which was the Grizzly River Run. It was also fun but there was a bit of screaming as we went through the white water rapids and got soaked. By this time the sun was well up and it didn't take long at all to dry out.

The final ride for the morning was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that Scott really wanted to do. Of course Ashleigh was not interested so Scott had to do this one by himself....he loved it.

Then on our way back to the main entrance Ashleigh had her photo with Minnie Mouse, the Ice Man from The Incredibles, the Monster from Monsters Inc and Pluto and Goofy.....a great character run!

Ashleigh and I then did some shopping at the Disney store in the park for Ashleigh. Then Scott headed back to the hotel while Ashleigh and I also did some shopping in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney. Ashleigh got some pencils for her class mates, a present for Mackenzie, a Minnie soft toy and a t-shirt for herself. I got myself a Minnie t-shirt.

Ashleigh had been wanting to visit the Build a Bear store for a few days so we also went there and I let her build her own bear. She absolutely loved it....see chose a coral coloured rabbit, a heart beat for inside it, then a couple of outfits and accessories for her build a bear, which she named Fizzy Lizzy from the Famous Five books.

We then had an ice-cream for Ashleigh and pretzel for me before heading back to the hotel for a rest. Scott was not happy when we got back because we had been so long and he didn't know where we were......won't do that again!

We watched television, slept and rested for about three hours and Ashleigh got out and played with all her new purchases. At about 5pm we went down to the pool for a swim, I got in today with Ashleigh, a drink and snack. We finally made it out to dinner just before 7pm.

After dinner it was a quick walk back to the hotel via the ABC Mart for water and then another quick walk to Disneyland once again for the fireworks show at 9.30pm.

The show was amazing and we had a great spot where Ashleigh could see it all and I could take some good photos. The lights on the castle were amazing and Tinker Bell flew across the sky which was totally surprising. It was well worth going to see from in the park rather than the hotel balcony or the street. Totally amazing!

As soon as the show was finished we headed back to the hotel as we had all had a very long day getting up at 6am and our feet were very sore from all the walking we have been doing. Ashleigh rang Nanny to say hi before bedtime at 11pm....yes, another late night!

Ashleigh has been so funny when we go shopping asking me all the time is it ok to get this Mummy, it's not too expensive? I have let her get a few things that she can keep to remember this trip like the Minnie soft toy, a bag and t-shirt but without going over the top with too much or things that won't last.

Day 6 | August 18th

We started our day late again today with breakfast at Downtown Disney before heading to California Adventure. It was another incredibly hot day so we brought a misting fan to get us through the day.

Once we got through the gates we found a spot in the shade to work out our game plan for the day. As we were studying the map Chip and Dale bounded on over to us and started playing with Ashleigh. Taking her sunglasses and trying them on, dancing with her and then we also got some photos. Ashleigh absolutely loved it.

We then visited Hollywood Land and Ashleigh had photos with a few characters but we didn't do any shows there. Then it was on through A Bug's Land where Ashleigh and Scott went on the Tuck and Roll's Drive 'Em Buggies but this area was for the little kids so the dodgem buggies didn't go that fast.

Next was Cars Land....the scenery was amazing....this has been done very, very well. The queue wasn't too long at Mater's Junkyard Jamboree so we all did this ride together. It was like the tea cups but with the cars tractors. We were then planning on going the Radiator Springs Racers....the most popular ride at the park.....hence the 120 minute wait. Surprisingly, we didn't feel like a two hour wait in the sun so moved on.

Then it was on to Pacific Wharf and Paradise Pier, which Ashleigh was very excited about because that was were the Australian Junior Masterchef Disney shows were filmed.

After trying to convince Ashleigh to go on the California Screamin' rollercoaster unsuccessfully Scott went by himself. We said it was pretty fast and full on and didn't think Ashleigh would have liked it so, just as well she didn't go. We all then went on Mickey's Fun Wheel (ferris wheel) and Silly Symphony Swings. The ferris wheel gave us an amazing view of the park and surrounding area as well as the Disney Pixar parade.

As it was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to come back for the World of Colour show later in the evening we headed to Grizzly Peak where we could get FastPass tickets for the show. We could only get tickets for the 10.15pm show not the 9pm show but it was a must see. So, we headed back to the hotel in the heat of the day for a quick swim and rest.

After a short rest in the room we had about one and a half hours at the pool before it was time to get ready for dinner and to go back to California Adventure park. Dinner tonight was mexican. I had a chicken caesar salad, Scott had a meat and seafood platter and Ashleigh had a healthy choices kids meal, which was grilled chicken, sweet corn and salad and she really loved it. One of her best meals here.

Back at the park, before the show started we thought we would take another look at Radiator Springs Racers to see what the wait was....this time it had increased to 150 minutes so we flagged that again and decided to do our Magic Morning entry the next day and head straight for this ride....probably like most everyone else but worth a try.

We got a prime spot on the bridge for the World of Colour show and the show was absolutely amazing....the colours, lights, fire and image projections were incredible. This was definitely the highlight of the day.

As soon as it was finished we headed straight back to the hotel and didn't get there until 11.30pm we were all very tired and went straight to bed. Scott and my feet were totally aching as we climbed into bed.

Another great day at the happiest place on earth!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 5 | August 17th

Today was our first day at the happiest place on earth.....Disneyland. We got to Downtown Disney just after 10am and wow was it hot.....Universal Studios was nothing on the oppressing heat of Anaheim. I heard someone say later in the day that it was 101F and that so wouldn't surprise me.

After getting our CityPass 3 day Disney tickets which include one Magic Morning were we can get into the park 1 hour before it opens to the general public and includes entry to Sea World in San Diego, we headed to Fantasyland.

On the way Ashleigh had her photo taken with the Queen of Hearts and we saw various other Disney characters. We also saw the Disney Princesses, which Ashleigh wanted to have a photo with but the waiting time was 60 minutes and it was far too hot for that according to Ashleigh.

We went on Snow White's Scary Adventure, King Arthurs Carrousel, Storybook Land Canal Boats and Mad Tea Party. Ashleigh's favourite was the tea cups, which she went on with Scott while I took photos and Scott got their tea cup spinning the fastest of all. Ashleigh loved it.

After that we headed to Mickey's Toontown where we stopped to catch our breath, have a drink and something to eat. We then headed to Minnie's House where Ashleigh got Minnie's autograph and had her photo taken. We then wandered through Minnie's house on our way to Mickey's house to meet Mickey. Ashleigh also got Mickey's autograph and had her photo taken. I think these were the highlights of her day.

By now it was just after 2pm and we were all suffering with the heat but we wanted to stay until the Mickey Soundtastic Parade at 4pm so we headed to Frontierland to take a ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat.

We had a little longer to wait for the Parade so rested again in the shade and then headed to the Main Street shops to enjoy some air conditioning to cool down. Ashleigh and I got a Christmas decoration as a reminder of our trip and Ashleigh got herself a Minnie necklace.

We then got a great spot curbside for the parade but it was directly in the sun and so, so hot waiting, then the parade was running late for some reason. I hung in there but Scott and Ashleigh couldn't stand the heat so found a spot in the shade.

The wait was worth it....the floats were amazing and the costumes were incredibly detailed and beautiful.

As soon as the parade was finished we headed back to the hotel for a swim as we were all suffering from the heat. We only stopped for a pretzel which I have been hanging out for since we arrived.

A cold drink and swim in the pool was just what was needed by all of us after a long hot day at Disneyland. Ashleigh had a very long swim and we headed out for dinner a little late. By the time we got to Bubba Gumps Ashleigh was not in a good way.....the heat of the day which had totally sapped her energy and little food because it was too hot to eat and she was so, so tired. She had a headache and sore stomach but as I explained to her she needed to eat something and drink more water and I was sure she would feel better. I was right, by the time was left she was feeling much better and talking up a storm again.

We got to see the fireworks again on the walk back to the hotel and despite our efforts it was another late night, which I finished with two big loads of laundry.

It is very difficult to get early nights at Disneyland as we want to go to the World of Colour show one night at Disney California Adventure, which is at 8.45pm and the fireworks show another night at Disneyland, which is at 9.30pm. So, our late mornings and late nights seem to be working at the moment but I hope we get to do a little catching up in San Diego.

Another amazing but unbearably hot day!!!

Day 4 | August 16th

We had a reasonably quiet day today after a full on day yesterday and we were moving from Santa Monica to Anaheim.

After packing up all our bags, which was quite a task given we haven't really done much shopping but it was a struggle to get everything back in our bags (good news though...we are still at two suitcases), we headed to the beach to walk the boardwalk to Venice.

It was quite a walk and oh so hot....Ashleigh was ready to turn around many times along the way. We had another late breakfast when we got there and we got to watch the weird and unusual sights, of which there were many. Venice is a long stretch of the beach front that is lined by street sellers and entertainers....many looking very homeless. And on the other side of the boardwalk little, cheap souvenir and trinket shops. It was certainly an eye opener of a walk, which took almost 5 hours.

We made it back to the hotel by 3pm to get our van charter transfer to our hotel in Anaheim...the Annabella Hotel. The hotel is just across the road from Disneyland and is a 10 min walk to the entrance.....perfect!

We spent the remainder of the afternoon by the pool enjoying happy hour while Ashleigh swam and swam. I also got in for awhile and Ashleigh had me doing all sorts of swim moves.

We had a reasonably early dinner to try and get an early nights sleep so we could be up at a decent hour in the morning to get to Disneyland. As I was putting Ashleigh to sleep after reading at about 9.30pm (not so early) we heard these big, booming sounds, which I realised were the fireworks from the night parade. Ashleigh and I rushed outside and we had the perfect view from our balcony. They really are the most amazing fireworks and just went on and on for over 20 minutes.....truly amazing!!!

What an amazing finish to a quiet day.....can't wait to see the whole night parade.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 3 | August 15th

Today was a brilliant day. We had so much fun at Universal Studio. Ashleigh was so excited to be going to her first theme park in the USA.
We had another slow start to the day, sleeping in to 9am and breakfast at the hotel due to lack of time. We got a car to Universal Studios and arrived about 12pm and it was sooooo hot. No sea breeze like at Santa Monica.

There were so many people and so many queues but as the day wore on a breeze picked up, which we all appreciated. We started with the Terminator 3D show, which has a different ending to the one I saw 15 years ago but still very similar.

Then we did the Studio Backlot Tour, which was fantastic. There was so much to see and so many surprises, especially the King Kong 3D show by Peter Jackson. It is so amazing, so real and scary!

We then did the Waterworld show, which is not a dolphin show in case you were wondering (isn't that right Scott)! That was also amazing and lucky we didn't sit in the splash zone, some people got very, very wet!

Our final ride of the day was the Jurassic Park ride. Ashleigh was so keen to go on this ride after I told her how I got so totally wet last time I went on it. We all went on the first ride and it was so much wetter through the ride than I remember last time. And at the end we came down the water slide and got absolutely, totally soaking wet and Ashleigh was in heaven. After screaming at the surprise she was laughing and smiling with joy. She loved it so much she didn't want to go on anything else she just wanted to do it again. So, Scott took her and I got some great photos of them at the end. That was totally the highlight of Ashleigh's day but she also enjoyed all the other rides.

We stopped briefly at the shop for a souvenir on our way out before the car picked us up at 6.30pm.
And this was my favourite photo from the day.

When we got back to the hotel Ashleigh and Scott went for a swim....they were both already wet.....before we went out for a late dinner at a local pizza place.
Another late night for all but trying to get to bed earlier so we can get up earlier in the morning and start our day before the sun gets too high.
Scott and I both loved the excitement and enjoyment on Ashleigh's face at all the rides we went totally made the day!!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 2 | August 14th

Wow, I can't believe we slept in until 11am today. I know we didn't get much sleep on the plane but 11am is unbelievable and we had to wake Ashleigh. She obviously needed to catch up on sleep as she got 14 hours sleep.

We decided to have a day around Santa Monica today and go to Universal Studios tomorrow. We finally started our day around 12pm and went for brunch at Santa Monica Place. It is surprising that the food is actually reasonably healthy. Even at the food court there is healthy options at all the food outlets.

Ashleigh had a strawberry crepe, which she said was the yummiest ever! Scott and I had Japanese - it is very, very popular here with lots of Japanese restaurants and sushi places.

After brunch we spent the afternoon shopping down 3rd Street Promenade. Ashleigh did well with purchases from Gymboree, Gap Kids and Old Navy. Scott got some great shorts and t-shirts from Old Navy, which he desperately needed. And I got a couple of things at Anthropologie. Maybe surprisingly I brought the least clothes.

I knew neon was the latest thing in fashion but I didn't know just how big. It is everywhere and man is it bright...I don't remember it being so bright the last time around.

By 4pm we had all had enough of shopping in the heat and it was time to head back to the hotel for a swim. Today was my turn to get in the pool with Ashleigh. We had a great time and she did a fantastic job practicing her tumble turns.

For dinner we found a little Japanese restaurant, Ma'kai with a view of the pier. Ashleigh had Salmon and Avocado Sushi and Vegetable Tempura which she totally devoured in the shortest time. Apparently, she was starving! Scott and I shared a few small starter dishes. It was all delicious.

Then on the way home, at Ashleigh's request, we took a ride on the Pacific Wheel at the pier. She absolutely loved it and the view was amazing.

An amazing day....according to Ashleigh....I would agree!

Day 1 | August 13th

After a very long flight in which none of us slept very well we made it to LA. Then a short taxi ride and we were at the Doubletree Suites, Santa Monica. On the way Ashleigh commented that LA was just as she imagined it - beautiful and luxurious!

We arrived at the hotel about 2pm and all had much needed showers and a rest. Then it was time to explore our surroundings by taking a walk down to Santa Monica Pier. The weather is just beautiful, the temp is about 26 degrees and there is a lovely sea breeze.

We walked all the way to the end of the pier, taking everything and everyone in. Ashleigh was fascinated by all the sights. On the way back up the pier we stopped at Bubba-Gump Shrimp Co for a much needed drink. Corona for Scott and I and a frozen blue lemonade for Ashleigh, while we enjoyed the beach view. We also realised just how hungry we were so also decided to have an early dinner of shrimp, several different ways. It was all yummy!

We then made our way back to the hotel for a swim at Ashleigh's request - it was certainly warm enough for one. Today, Scott and Ashleigh had a swim and I just joined them in the spa pool. Only briefly as it was so hot!

We finished the day with room service dinner for Ashleigh as she didn't eat earlier and she was falling asleep as she ate then she went straight to sleep. It was about 9pm.
It was a busy afternoon but Ashleigh was so excited to finally be here and it was great to get our bearings.

Monday, August 6, 2012

In the blink of an eye...

It still amazes me that our baby girl is now nine years old. What an incredible nine years it has been and it has flown by so, so quickly.
Everyday she brings fun and laughter to our lives. The words that come out of her mouth, the crazy dances, the interesting singing, her imagination. She loves to entertain us and her friends anyway she can and she always get a laugh.
And she is smart, really smart. She does great at all her subjects at school and knows more than most nine year olds do. Her teacher is incredibly complimentary of her abilities and talents and believes she has big possibilities in her future. She just needs to work on her confidence in her abilities. She knows it, she can do it, she just needs to believe in herself.

Nanny made Ashleigh an amazing banana birthday cake with spots just as she requested. This photo is the best of a bad bunch of candle blowing photos I got but you can still see the delight on her face, which is all that really matters.