The Happiest Trip on Earth–The Bonus Day

MSP—>STL; 8,316 steps

And so we arrive at the “Bonus Day” of our trip. Trying to look for a silver lining, I will say that if we hadn’t had to spend the night in Bloomington, MN, we wouldn’t have seen this cool airport art at MSP. That’s the best I can do.

We left our hotel on the first shuttle out, at 4:30 a.m. We were not taking any chances on not getting to the airport on time! Once we arrived, we went to Caribou Coffee to use our meal vouchers for breakfast. Fortunately, we had enough money to each have a coffee and a breakfast sandwich!

We cautiously made our way to our gate, and it seemed like we would be leaving as (re)scheduled. There was a brief moment where the gate agent seemed doubtful, and started trying to put people on alternate flights, but then they decided they were worried for nothing, so we just sat and waited for our boarding time.

The flight wasn’t very full, so we boarded pretty quickly. We buckled in for what was scheduled to be a relatively short flight and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Because the same issue that had delayed the flight the night before (lack of a first officer) was still a problem. They finally found one on an inbound flight, and I assume she hurried over as fast as possible after she landed, and she was cheered by the entire plane when she stepped through the door. I’m not going to lie…I help my breath while they did the pre-flight check because at that point, I was pretty much assuming they were going to find a mechanical issue. They didn’t, though, and we finally took off (after I had already watched most of the first Downton Abbey movie).

We made it home without further complications, and we didn’t even have to wait too long for our luggage.

And that brings us to the end of our trip. It was an amazing experience, even with the trouble we had on the way home. I’m so glad I had this special time with Turkey and Bunny to celebrate their accomplishments before they move on to the next big thing!

The Happiest Trip on Earth–Day Four

LAX—>MSP; 14,650 steps

So this is the point where our trip started to fall apart a bit. We had a fairly early flight from L.A. to Detroit, so we were up at 4:30 (I was up even earlier, because I was pretty nervous about going back to LAX). We called our Uber without any trouble, got checked in with only a little trouble, and made it through security.

We headed to our gate in Terminal 3 (which is apparently the “new” terminal, as in, not quite done…there were very few food options, and they were doing construction on an escalator the whole time we were there). I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on around me, until I heard the word “cancelled” over the loudspeaker…yes, it was our flight. After a moment of panic, we headed to the help desk to find out what we needed to do. They put us on a flight back through Minneapolis-St. Paul, which was fine, but the flight was scheduled to leave many hours later than we had planned…did I mention there was almost nothing to do in that terminal? They gave us meal vouchers for our trouble…which covered the cost of two meals…did I mention there were three of us? Anyway, we had a very long, very boring, very uncomfortable day in LAX, where we tried really hard not to fall asleep for too long with some success. If I never have to go back to that airport again, it will be too soon!

I did still have one goal before we left California…I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t see it on our arrival, but shortly after our plane took off from LAX, Turkey poked me and told me to look out the window…we had swung out just enough that I actually got to see it!

While I was disappointed not to be landing in Detroit (I had a heard a lot of buzz about a cool fountain, and I was also hoping we might find a Tim Hortons there), it was nice to see Minneapolis-St. Paul again (or so I thought).

We managed to get to Wendy’s (directly across from our departure gate no less) right before they closed, and food improved our mood greatly. Until…

Our flight home, which was schedule to leave at 9:55 p.m. was delayed. To 9:00 a.m. The next day. And that delayed flight was the last flight to St. Louis that day, so it’s not like we had any other options. So I figured out how to request the hotel room they let us have, and after a very long wait, we finally got on the hotel shuttle (at around 11:00 p.m.) and made it to the hotel for a very short sleep.

Did we ever make it home?

The Happiest Trip on Earth–Day Three

Disneyland–32,673 steps

We saved Disneyland for our second (and final) theme park…seeing the train station for the first time was just as much of a thrill as it was at Disney World!

We got to watch the welcome show that is held on the steps leading up to the station when the park opens. The characters (minus Donald and Daisy, sadly), were all were their beautiful Disney 100 costumes!

We decided to take care of two things at once, and rode the Disneyland Railroad (something I really wanted to do since its Disney World counterpart was closed last summer) to the back of the park (where we wanted to get coffee).

What I didn’t realize is that station was practically on top of “It’s a Small World!” So we rode that first thing, and I loved it (of course)!

We then made our way to the Alice in Wonderland area, where not only do they have the teacups (a different experience because in California, they’re fully out in the open), but a second Alice-themed ride as well. And we ran into Alice herself, plus, the Mad Hatter!

We also visited New Orleans, home of the Haunted Mansion and beignets, and also Princess Tiana!

We wanted to make sure we saw the Sword in the Stone and the Wishing Well, since we missed both of those things at Disney World. Sadly, none of us was worthy to remove the sword, but we did all get to make a wish!

We were lucky that the “Star Wars Month” events were still going on while we were, and Turkey and Bunny got to ride “Hyperspace Mountain.” While they did that, I walked around and took some pictures of the castle (and let a Disney photographer take a photo of me!). Not as grand as the Cinderella Castle, but still lovely!

We walked back to the castle when they were done, and I found someone to take our picture:

The Disney photographers also got some nice pictures of the three of us:

And then we headed over to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I’m pretty sure there are some minor differences, but it felt pretty much the same as the Disney World version! We got to have ronto wraps for lunch, and do some shopping and sightseeing.

One of the things Turkey and Bunny were most looking forward to, though, was having another lightsaber building experience at Savi’s Workshop (especially since they updated the parts since last summer). It was pretty cool to just get to be an observer this time, and watch other people do the work!

We didn’t see the Mandalorian and The Child, but we did get to meet Boba Fett!

We didn’t get to go on Rise of the Resistance because it was either shut down or the line was two hours long or it closed early (that was probably the biggest regret of the whole trip), but we did go on Smuggler’s Run…I got to blow things up!

After that, we walked through Downtown Disney on our way to dinner. Of course we had to stop at the Lego Store and admire their creations:

I really like this beautiful floral display:

And then we went to the Disneyland hotel to have dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen…it was so much fun! (Full details to come…)

After our meal, we hopped on the monorail to get back to the park:

We rode Star Tours (always a fun experience), and then went in search of Dole Whips:

We were barely able to find a place to view the fireworks…the crowd was massive!

The park is open for a couple of hours after the fireworks, so we had time for a few more things. We were three minutes late for Rise of the Resistance, so we headed toward Runaway Railway, instead. I love how the line is set up like a museum dedicated to Mickey Mouse!

After that, Turkey and Bunny decided to ride the Matterhorn while I took care of what was left of our shopping, and took some more pictures:

We rode the teacups one more time, and even managed to get on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

We shut the park down (which I would somewhat regret the next day), and didn’t get back to our hotel until about 12:30. It was really hard to get to sleep after all that excitement and knowing we had a full day of travel ahead of us!

The Happiest Trip on Earth–Day Two

Disney California Adventure–26,156 steps

The real fun began on the second day of our trip, when we walked from our hotel to Disney California Adventure!

We stopped by Radiator Springs first thing, only to find out that our number one ride opens late. We did get to see some characters, though, and Lightning McQueen wished me a happy birthday! (Since we were also celebrating my birthday on the trip, I got one of the park’s “Happy Birthday” buttons…you would not believe how many cast members notice and congratulate you!)

After that, we headed over to Pixar Pier, where we got to ride an eccentric ferris wheel (I think there are only two like it in the country!), a carousel, and a roller coaster (OK, only Turkey went on that). We also met some characters from Up!

After Turkey got off the roller coaster, we headed over to Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, where we go the “Pixar Parfait.” The combination of soft serve and slushy was surprisingly good!

Then we headed back to Radiator Springs, were we got in line for Radiator Springs Racers, a ride we all wanted to go on. The line was long, but you really felt like you were in the movie, so we didn’t mind, because there was a lot to see (and a lot of back story explained). The ride itself started off very calm and relaxing, just like when Lightning and Sally went for the same drive in Cars, but then it turned into a race (we won!).

We also went on Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, which was just plain fun!

We stopped by Flo’s to share a traditional diner meal of a burger, fries, and a milkshake:

Then we headed back to Pixar Pier. We went on the Little Mermaid ride (but sadly not Goofy’s Sky School, because it was closed all day), but more importantly, we found someone nice enough to take a great picture of us!

Buena Vista Street is a great place to find characters (sadly for me, no Daisy Duck), and we took full advantage:

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do after that. The Monsters, Inc. ride broke down while we were in line. A few of the other rides we were considering going on were closed, too. We did finally make it on Soarin’, which is a fantastic ride, and makes amazing use of scent, and that was a lot of fun. We also visited the Avengers Campus and the Shawarma Palace, and lived out our superhero dreams…we even got to pose as various characters!

By that time, it was starting to get late, so we headed back to Radiator Springs to see the neon and grab a snack at the Cozy Cone Motel, where you can get ice cream cones, chili “cone” queso, frozen cone-coctions, a popcone, and…churros. We picked the churros, partly just because the ridiculousness of trying to make churros fit a cone theme amused us!

And then we went back to the pier for the light show, which was really beautiful…it’s amazing what they can create with light and water!

We stayed pretty much until the park closed. The walk back to the hotel felt much longer than it had in the morning, and we were exhausted, but we still had a full day at Disneyland to look forward to!

The Happiest Trip on Earth–Day One

STL—>MSP—>LAX; 13,823 steps

Are you ready for a look at the “Happiest Trip on Earth?!?”

To celebrate Turkey’s and Bunny’s graduation, the three of us went on a trip to California, where we visited Disney California Adventure and Disneyland! Two weeks ago, we set out from St. Louis’ Lambert Airport:

Even I, an airport novice, could tell that Lambert is a very small airport:

It was the first time either Turkey or Bunny had flown, and it’s probably been 25 years since I have, so it was quite an adventure for us!

We had a decent layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, so we had plenty of time to explore the airport, which we all really liked. It was big and bright and busy, and almost like a mall, with shops and restaurants everywhere. There was plenty to see (and lots of moving sidewalks, which I love, because they’re so much fun), so the time passed quickly.

We stopped at Shake Shack (another first for us) for lunch, and we absolutely loved it!

I also got to introduce Turkey and Bunny to Caribou Coffee (something I really enjoyed when I lived in Chicago)…we’re very excited that they’re slated to come to the St. Louis area soon!

Our gate was much bigger and more modern than the one in St. Louis:

We settled in for our long flight of the day, to Los Angeles:

I won’t lie, the airplane snacks and being able to watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off made me much more comfortable on this long flight!

It was fascinating to watch the landscape change from 35,000 feet as we traveled across the country…we even saw snow on the Rocky Mountains!

As we approached L.A., we were impressed by just how sprawling the city really is:

The airport was busy, although we certainly didn’t see much of it!

We took an Uber (another first for us) to our hotel, the Castle Inn and Suites, a “Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotel” just a few blocks from the parks:

I loved the theming!

Our room was simple, but nice:

I’m not going to lie…it was hard to get to sleep knowing that we were going to visit Radiator Springs the next day!

Lake Eufaula Motor Lodge

I saw a second vintage road sign on our trip, also for a defunct motel…the Lake Eufaula Motor Lodge in Eufaula, AL. It’s a little worse for the wear, but that only enhances the vintage feel!

The Fountainbleau

I’m always on the lookout for vintage road signs when we travel, and I’m lucky to have seen this one for the Fountainbleau Inn in Myrtle Beach, because the hotel is in the process of being torn down. It seems to have a somewhat sketchy history, but the sign is still cool!

Dreaming of Travel

American Girl has a new World Traveller collection for their Truly Me line. I don’t know if they created it because so many people’s travel dreams are on hold due to COVID-19, or if it’s something they would have produced anyway, but the timing is perfect. Even though we don’t have any Truly Me dolls, that didn’t stop us from ordering outfits for our historical characters. So we have Julie (1970s) in France, Courtney (1980s) in England, and Maryellen (1950s) in Ireland:

There are also outfits for Japan (which I’ve put away for summer school, assuming we actually get to learn about Japan during the Tokyo Olympics this summer), and Italy. I think this is a really cool new range, and I wouldn’t mind if they added some more countries to the collection. For a family who watches episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe on pretty much an endless loop, this is another fun way to dream of visiting new places!

The Top Five–Places I Want to Visit

OK, first of all, let’s just take London out of the equation. This is not just a place I want to visit…I need to go there, eventually. I’ve said many times that my heart is British, and my British heart is crying out to visit London. It’s simply not fair to put in on a “Top Five” list when it’s so much more than that. So, with that out-of-the-way, and in a category all its own, here are the “Top Five” places I hope to visit someday (yes, the list is again at six…but I figure it’s ok that two baseball locations tie for fifth place!):

  • Florence/Pisa–Italy in general, and the Tuscan towns of Florence and Pisa, were not even on my radar before last year. I mean, sure, I knew that Italy has tons of culture and history and good food and architecture (which is really what I’m looking for when I travel), but there was no place there I really desired to visit. Enter Rick Steves’ Europe. After seeing all that region has to offer, it’s now at the top of my list!
  • Canadian Rockies–I would love to take a train trip through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. And spend some time in Banff. Yes, I know, it’s pretty cliché, as far as Canadian travel goes, but it’s also, as far as I can tell from pictures, stunningly beautiful.
  • Gimmewald–This charming little town in Switzerland is another place I hope to see someday thanks to Rick Steves. He visited there in a regular episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, and went back again for his Christmas special. Gimmelwald was charming and lovely in both, and I’d love to visit that Alpine town someday!
  • Germany–This is a tough one. First off, when would I want to visit Germany? There are two main things I would want to experience…Oktoberfest and a Christkindlmarkt. So I guess I’d have to go hang out in Germany for several months? But that leads to the second question of where? Obviously, Munich would be an awesome place to be during Oktoberfest, but what about the Christkindlmarkt? There are so many beautiful towns that have their own version, I’m not sure where I’d begin. The classic in Nuremberg is an obvious choice, although I also really like the idea of going to Köln. So many choices…
  • Spring Training–I love baseball. And the return of baseball, after a long, dreary winter brings so much hope. Plus, it’s often still dreary when spring training begins, so a trip to Jupiter to see the Cardinals put their team together would be most welcome!
  • Cooperstown–Again, I love baseball. And history. And when you put those two things together, you end up in Cooperstown. I saw the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit when it passed through St. Louis last year, and it only made me want to visit the Hall of Fame more!

I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get to travel anywhere (but if I do, it better be to London, at the very least!), but I like to keep a list of the places I hope to go, just in case the opportunity ever presents itself! At least we saw the ocean two years ago, because if we hadn’t, that would have taken up a space on this list…that’s one location checked off!