Sunday-Monday July 9, 10
Sunday morning, bright and early, all of the out of towners showed up at mom and dad’s place for brunch and goodbyes. AAron and Troy were there along with Tom. Family and other friends came by as well and there was even a cupcake to celebrate Monki’s birthday (although according to Lithuanian tradition you don’t officially celebrate birthdays before the day because that is bad luck and takes time off the back end of your life).
AAron and family left early and provided us “on the road” updates about traffic conditions, which were bad, but we figured that by the time we left, it might be a little thinner. No such luck.
Traffic was bad and there were times when Monki was just not having it. So we made little stops along the way – Alien Fresh Jerky for one (and my that place has grown a bit since it started life as a little roadside stand!) then a few food and formula stops before finally making it to Emmy-Award winning producer Matt’s place.
Now, I almost always stay with Matt when I’m in LA, but since I was there last, he’d moved and I hadn’t been to the new place, so I was flying blind getting there. And it was up in the Hills, not far from his old place. And it had gotten dark. And he wouldn’t be home until later.
I found it and we let ourselves in, hoping we had picked the right guest bedroom. By the time we crashed out, he still hadn’t made it home, so we went to bed figuring to see him in the morning before we left.
Of course, we got up early with the Monki, got everything ready to go ( I swear I said “hi” to some celebrity who was jogging past as I loaded the car), enjoyed the daylight view out his window (just as impressive as the nighttime view over the lights of the city) and loaded up the car. And still no noise from him.
I tapped lightly on the door to what I assumed was his room, but no answer. And since we had to get going to make sure we caught our flight, we left without actually seeing him (we did leave a thank you note and took a selfie in the house to show we’d actually been there).
As we left Matt’s place, the Mulholland Drive lookout point was just opening up (the guy was there, hosing everything down) so we stopped to get some pictures of the city and of Monki with The Hollywood Sign before heading out to drop the car off and get to the airport.
According to my GPS, the best route to take to get to the car return place was on surface streets, so away we went, pretty much going as far as we could on La Brea. Of course, since it was morning, breakfast was the order of the day. Rasa, who had developed a keen taste for donuts (and McDonald’s soft serve ice cream) over the last few days suggested we stop for some on our way. Naturally, when you’re looking, you never find them so in all that way, not one donut shop.
But then we passed Pann’s. Pann’s has been an LA institution since 1958 and in all my time living in the area, I never ate there. So I quickly explained it was a diner and should we try it? Rasa said yes so again, like getting donuts back in San Diego, I cut across several lanes of traffic to get us into the parking lot. An hour later, bellies full of fantastic diner breakfasts, we were back on the road, ready to drop the car.
Dropping the car off was just as easy as picking it up and the only slight hiccup was getting to the Bradley Terminal at LAX, where the traffic was insane. It got to the point where I was seriously worried, again, about missing our flight. I was certainly feeling some strain and stress of getting back on an 11 hour flight, carrying Monki on our lap.
Thankfully, the ground staff at LAX was much more friendly than the ground staff at CdG and we got checked in with no problem. Then, because we had a stroller, we were able to go through the special needs security line and got to our gate with plenty of time to spare.
Okay, there was a bit of fun at security where they insisted one of us (Rasa or myself) get a full pat down if we wanted to keep all our baby food for the flight. I volunteered and got more action than on any first date in high school. The guy was nice enough, but really, why the pat down when they put all the food and stuff through all the testing and scanning machines? In the end, it was a 5 minute delay. Nothing to write home about, especially after the hassles coming in.
At the gate, I arranged for us to get into the bulkhead seats again, since the people re-booking us two weeks earlier had us placed in the middle two seats of a 4 seat row.
As it turned out, once on board we were even able to swap out for a window and aisle seat (and keep one of our original seats for storage) so Monki could look out whenever she wanted (she could also sleep in the bassinet, however briefly). Rasa had learned a lot about packing from our first flight so we were so much better prepared this time and ultimately, the flight was a much better experience all around (would have been even better had Monki had her car seat, but that’s another issue, already being dealt with).
Tuesday July 11
Eleven hours after leaving Los Angeles, we finally arrived back in Paris at Charles de Gaulle. Again, with the issues, this time it was the stroller, which was gate-checked in LA and showed up damaged in CdG. I filed the requisite paperwork while Rasa and Monki got our bags and then we headed out in search of the “Magical Shuttle” which would take us to our hotel and Disneyland Paris.
Let me tell ya, even after running all over to get an approved car seat two-weeks ago, Charles de Gaulle is huge. Now, we had to find a connector between two different sides of the airport, which, after much walking and stopping for directions several times, we did. Naturally, we just missed the shuttle, which left as we got there, but there was another leaving in 15 minutes, so no worries.
45 minutes later and we were pulling up to our hotel, the Santa Fe. The place was US Southwest/Cars themed – which meant it looked like a 60s motel. We walked in with all our luggage at around noon, got “security wanded” by a guy who really couldn’t care less and I found myself in line with everyone else who had just gotten off our same shuttle. Now, I know I had just spent several hours traveling and was tired, but this was Disney. I expected the process to be a little more smooth. There were stupid things like filling out the registration form. They actually send you this form so you can fill it out ahead of time, which I did. It appears I was the only one since everyone in line in front of me was given a clipboard with the form to fill out. Then when it was my turn, I was also given a clipboard because while I had done my job, they didn’t tell me I needed to fill one out for every adult member of the party. I could have had that done as well, but I didn’t know.
At the desk, they were friendly enough, but little things, like only giving us one key (again, we’d need a key for electricity in the room) or not connecting a card for room/park charges (which I marked I’d like) just meant I had to make another trip down to the front lobby, where they originally asked me to re-queue. I convinced them to just take care if it, because I wasn’t about to stand in line again.
We got to our room (you guessed it, about as far from the front desk as we could get) and dropped our stuff. We debated a few minutes, Rasa unpacked while I went back to the lobby to deal with the key and credit card situation and by the time we were both done with our respective chores, we decided to head out and at least sample the park, see what was happening. The whole place is decked out for the 25th Anniversary of the park, so not only are there huge “25”s everywhere, but costumes and statuary have been redone in silver and stars (the theme is “25 Years of Stars”) for the event.
We hit Main Street and I activated my Photopass (which, if you’re going to get a lot of big name character pictures, isn’t a bad deal, especially if you pre-book it as part of your package) then we just ambled around. We made it to Discoveryland (which is the Paris version of TomorrowLand) and “discovered” that the single rider line for Star Wars: Hyperspace Mountain wasn’t very long. Since Rasa isn’t much into roller coaster rides, she suggested I go and I’ve it a whirl – so I did. The ride itself is like Space Mountain, in the dark, but now the whole thing is that you’re in the middle of a rebel space battle (of course, based on location, in French). It’s a fun ride, and worth the wait.
The most interesting thing for me was as I got closer to the front, there was an employee who was letting the single riders down to the main queue for boarding. Now, there’s a sign which states “you will be separated” so if you’re part of a group (and there were numerous groups lining up in the single rider lines) you take what you can get (in fact, a few days later, I watched a guy wait his turn while his whole family completed the ride before he ever got on). So this girl is letting people through and there’s a couple in front of me and she kindly sends them through together. I mention to her that I saw that and it was a nice thing to do. She shrugs and says “sure,” but then comments that no one ever says thank you when she does things like that. I commiserated with her, made sure to thank her when she sent me through, and then I was on my way. This doesn’t change, I guess. The employees at a Disney park are incredibly nice and friendly and the customers just take it all for granted.
When I got off the ride, we were hungry and had vouchers for a meal, so we headed to our old stand-by, the Cafe Hyperion, right there in Discoveryland. We love the Hyperion! Not only is it where we’d be getting our breakfast for the next few days (the only place in the park and the only place to get eggs) available on our vouchers, but it’s also got a stage for entertainment purposes (Jedi Training Academy is held here, as are the various school performing groups) and the staff is first-rate. Plus, it’s the only place to get the “Jedi” burger deal, so that’s cool.
By this time, the exhaustion of the day was catching up to us, so we headed back to the hotel (about a 1.5km walk) and I tried to find ice for cooling down the baby’s bottle. No ice machine, despite the signs which pointed to it. I called and was told they were there. they were not. And again, disappointment with Disney. I get it if you don’t have ice machines, but really, they’re not small devices. You should know if they’ve been removed or not.
I was just destined to not have ready ice this trip…