Last Day, wheels up

Wednesday October 5, 2011

Awoke to rain for our last day, boo!

We decided to have breakfast in Story Tellers cafe, and there were lots of Disney Characters cruising around.


Sue wanted us out of the unit to pack up, so we 3 headed out for some rides after I made a poncho purchase. The Toy Story ride was great, and we found the because of the rain, every outside ride was closed.  In fact due to the rain, no one was about the park, and it wasn’t the most pleasant experience for adults, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.  We headed for an indoor attraction, the Bugs life show, which was really well done, in 4D no less!

I peel off from the kids for a little bit, to finish up clearing out the unit.  The rain comes down harder and we decided to checkout downtown disney and the monorail.  The kids wanted to brave the rain further, so Sue and I we hung out in our hotel reception for bit whilst they got in their last rides.

Packed and ready to go


The lobby was spectacular at the Grand Californian


Tegan’s final pins after swapping the 4 originals we got at checkin


Got our car, bags in and reshuffled, and off to LAX.  We were lucky enough to make use of the Qantas lounge (well American Airlines lounge) and it  was great for a drink, feed and shower!  We knew we were in LA when a lady was talking loudly about a new show that she wanted to cast Eric Estrada in the role!

Kids relaxing their way (travel journal and iPhone)


and my relaxants


Our ride home


We relaxed until the plane was called, and it was chock o block full. Wheels up and thanks USA for a great 3 weeks.

I caught the Hangover 2 and Bridesmaids (had a theme going there) and enjoyed the non think viewing.

We lost Thursday as we crossed the International date line, and we arrived around 6:00 back into Brisbane.  We were all a little groggy, but glad to be home.  We all managed to get “some” sleep so we looked vaguely like our passport photos, but with poofy hair.  We had put all of the “potentially” suspect items in one(ish) bag to declare to customs.  All made the cut, except for our luau beads 😦

Ryan and I headed off to pick up Charlie the wonderdog from the kennels, and our family was back to norm in our house from travels, even though we had suitcases everywhere to remind us of our travels.

I will write a reflection of our trip in a couple of weeks, but it was such  a great experience, and I think we will be booking another Waikiki holiday, sooner than later.


Rainy for a bit

Tuesday October 4, 2011

We were met with a rainy day, but we had a Magic Morning in Disneyland (meaning allowed in 1 hour before the rest of the punters) so we headed in to make the most of it.


Quiet in the park for the Magic Morning


Rest of the park goers about to move in after the dropping of the rope

We headed to Buzz Lightyear again, the star wars ride, Indiana Jones and the river cruise.  After getting the tip from Ryan on how to score more on Buzz, I managed to take him out in the highest score!  Thanks mate!  Indian Jones was a fantastic ride!

The girls about to head off on the Indiana ride


As the ground was wet, Sue slipped over, and luckily wasn’t hurt.  I was however noted about her going over  in London on our last big holiday, and we realised that it also occurred on the 3rd week of holidays.

Pumpkins everywhere!

The kids and I


We headed back to Cal Adv to get fast pass for world of colour in the evening.  We could get access to it earlier in the day, which allowed us to secure tickets for a particular area to watch the show.  Even though we got our fast pass, it was advised to get there at least an hour before the show.

   I haven’t seen a vending machine like this before


Sue and kids in the park, shot from our balcony


The rain came down heavier and kids wanted to brave the rain for a while, so they had some time in the park, while Sue and I relaxed.  I was heading to a shopping mall to get some clothes and the rest of the crew decided to join for some lunch and a turbo 1 hour shop to tag out from the rain.  The mall at Brea was almost a ghost town, and there were some great bargains to be had.  Whilst Disneyland maybe the happiest place on earth, it is also the most expensive.  A can of heineken from the local store in the lobby has a can for $6.50, so I picked up some beers, a 3 pack whilst shopping for $5.

3 pack of beer


We headed back to DL and the skies had cleared, Yay!  We hit some rides and got setup for the Parade.

The parade starts

Sue and the kids on the Grizzly ride

We headed to the World of colour show where we had a long wait until the show started.  It was worth it though, as it was brilliant!

Lots of lights, animation and colour!


Monday October 3, 2011

We hit the park with vigour and were guided by the kids and what they wanted to see.  The last time we were at Disney, it was early December, and the park was themed for Christmas.  This time it was Halloween themed.

The buzz lightyear attraction (shooting game) was a hit for us all last time, and the four of us enjoyed it again this time.  Seems Ryan’s video game time investment has paid off with him top scoring.

Heading into Buzz Lightyear

The girls in the car ahead of the boys

The prams and strollers were just over the top at DL! 

Heading into Toon town


The attention to detail is amazing everywhere you look


Sue and I decided that we would let the kids travel around the park on their own for set periods of time, regular txt check-ins and rules.  We were staying at the park, so we were very close by, and it was great to see the kids with this responsibility and looking out for each other, knowing the boundaries and accepting and acting on these.

Easy access in and out of the park from our hotel

The day was beautiful, so Sue and I decided to check out the pool for a bit, and it was fantastic!

Sue enjoying a cocktail in the pool.

The kids reported came back and we all headed into California Adventure Park, and we were a little disappointed in the number of rides shut for maintenance and with some new (very large) attractions being constructed, there were a lot less rides open.  We were still glad to be in the happiest place on Earth though…

California Adventure Park at night



We decided to go for  walk to the Cheesecake factory for Dinner, checkout the menu as it is ridiculously large. After seeing Staf’s meal at this restaurant in Hawaii, Ryan and I attempted the burritos and it stopped us both! The White chocolate, macadamia and caramel cheesecake was a winner again!

We talked about our time in the park, what to do tomorrow, and how no matter the duration of a holiday, 4 days or 4 weeks, towards the end you are thinking of home.


Santa (Barbara & Monica) then Disney

Sunday October 2, 2011

We headed into Santa Barbara for a look around, and the pier was pretty big, with a number of stores and restaurants built at the end.

The Santa Barbara pier in the background

One of the restaurants at the end of the pier

We then headed south towards Malibu and at one point there were end to end RV’s parked at the beach for many miles!  There were so many massive houses at the beach, with waves underneath their balconies, to mansions up in the hills looking out to the pacific.  A lot of money in this area!  When I was struggling with our dodgy fuel cap trying to fill up, a Ferrari just cruises up beside us at the bowser, with the owner not missing a beat on his “cell” while filling up.

We stopped at Santa Monica for lunch as I had a Margarita at the end of the pier on a previous trip and suggested it would be a good option for Sue.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing, and we found ourselves there with a gazillion others on this beautiful day.

Heading into the Santa Monica Pier area



Sue enjoying her drink

And me enjoying mine

We headed on to Disneyland, and checked into the Grand Californian hotel where there was a large queue of people coming in.

The queue ahead


We got into our room and, and we could see and hear the sounds of the park from our small balcony on the 4th floor.  The hotel also has it’s own entry into the park which is very convenient!

View from our room


We decided to grab some food from downtown before heading into the park.  Seems everyone else had the same idea, so we headed to the ESPN sports bar / restaurant.  There was a 45 min wait, but the kids could play on the games inside whilst Sue and I grabbed a frosty drink.

Our buzzer sounded and we were led into the restaurant area.  Oh my, it was like a small cinema with 1 large screen and 12 others surrounding.  We had a regular table, but people were in like gold class lounges. I milked as much sports viewing as I could until the park beckoned.

Inside ESPN


We were on the rides until the 10:00 PM close and had a great time.

Big Sur and Pismo Beach

Saturday October 1, 2011

Today we are leaving our Monterey accommodation and heading through the Big Sur, and on to Santa Barbara overnight.

We had heard a lot about the Big Sur, and it didn’t fail to disappoint.  I thin think the family was getting sick of me stopping every 200 metres for a photo.

Heading down Highway 1

The scenery was jaw dropping and the twists and turns had the family on edge with the constant call of watch the road 🙂

One of the many stop off points

 Some of the coastline views





We called into a National Park to trek out to a waterfall

Waterfall near middle of frame

Me caught standing under gum trees with camera gear on the back


At the end of the Big Sur, there is a colony of Elephant Seals, that take over a local beach and are very accessible to watch and photograph.



We headed on to Pismo beach for lunch, and it was a pretty lively spot.  I had been given the word to give the Fish Taco’s a try at some stage, even though they sound so wrong, I decided to give them a go.  Man were they good!  Thanks for the tip Rob!


We had a stroll around Pismo beach, and with more retail bags under our arms, we headed onto our hotel just outside of Santa Barbara.  We had a quiet night in as we were getting ready for the Disney arrival tomorrow.




Monterey, Pebble Beach and Carmel

Friday September 30, 2011

Hearty breakfast at our place (Sue’s personal chef was called into action) and we were off to explore Monterey.

This was artichoke country, stretching all the way to our place in the sand dunes.

We walked around the cannery row area and had our first sighting of seals and sea otters.  We had some very excited kids, as well as Ryan and Tegan.

John Steinbeck wrote a novel Cannery Row and they call this area Steinbeck Country

Shots of Cannery Row


We drove a 17 mile private road to Carmel through some beautiful country, with very expensive golf courses and houses along the coastline.

The golf courses were magnificent including Pebble Beach


A seal colony on a rock not far off shore.  They were making a lot of noise.


Getting a better look at their antics


The guys were enamoured with the squirrels we came across


The guys taking it in


We walked around Carmel, which was a very cute town, with some big brand stores servicing the well heeled locals.  We lunched in a swiss cafe, which got the 2 thumbs up rating from us all.


When picking up some supplies I spotted the Hosties Twinkees, a fabled thing of my youth, only seen in comic books with sea dragons and xray specs.  I was educated with the importance of these sweet morsels when I watched the documentary Zombieland.

We had pre-booked all of our accommodation except for the following night, as we were unsure where we would like to stop.  Our plan was to research from our Monterey accommodation, but without an internet connect, that proved difficult.  I txt’ed the owner of the property asked about the interntet password as I could see a wireless network, and he txt back saying only dialup (if you brought a modem) or cell access.  Hmmm, doesn’t meet the “internet” indicated on the accommodation, but any how, that meant a diversion to a neighbouring town to get some starbucks and use their wireless.

After consulting tripadvisor’s ratings and hit a couple of no’s before securing our accommodation.

We went for a walk on the beach for a while, and I returned later to get some sunset shots.

Our accomodation


Tegan leading the charge to the beach

Beach shots


One of the shots I grabbed whilst chilling out (literally in tshirt and shorts) at sunset

A really nice day, and ready to hit the Big Sur in the morning and on to Santa Barbara overnight.

Leaving SF, on to Monterey via Google

Thursday 29 September 2011

I headed across town to grab our hire car whist the rest of the crew got their last minute souvenirs and finalised our pack up.  I managed to make it back across town without a prang, so a good start before picking up the crew at our apartment.

I was stoked that Simon, who I have worked with before, and who now works at Google was able to organise a tour for our family of the Plex at Mountain View.  When I initially asked Simon about the possibility many months back, he said he would be at Mountain View in September also.  Bingo!  Unfortunately, he flew out just before we arrived, so he said it would be unlikely, but he may be able to work something out.

You know you have arrived when you see a google maps marker on the side of the road

He caught up with Adam, who is an American, but had worked in Oz for a while, living in Bondi, and we had met on a couple of occasions, and I determined he is a terrific guy from our meetings.  Thankfully he is now a SF local with his wife, and agreed to show us around.  He was gracious, informative, amusing and a terrific host.  I am so pleased we got to have a tour of the campus with him.  Seems Ryan’s career aspirations may be wavering from being a surgeon, as he asked me what he needed to do to work for Google.

Our host Adam and I in front on the google slide

I guess after seeing the free food, that has different cuisines for each building, as well as everyone smiling, and what I think impressed Tegan the most (being the animal lover she is), you can take you dog to work, and it sits near your desk, you can walk in the parks around the campus, and they have specific doggy buses to transport pets (and their owners) around.  They also had a bowling alley, cinema, football fields and bikes to allow you to cycle around the campus.

The bowling alley


Adam showng Tegan the Snacks you can have between chef cooked meals


We made some purchases from the google shop, and dropped Adam back to his office building and we were rolling to our digs oustide Monterey.

Heading into Monterey

We had a quick look around our place, which is built just behind the dunes, and headed to find some groceries.  We couldn’t get over how cheap everything is, and had to contain ourselves from buying too much.

Our place was perfect, except no internet, though some would argue that is perfect…

We had a nice night in, and rested up for our exploring in the morning.

Academy of Sciences, Shopping and Fam Portraits

Wednesday 28 September 2011

We had Brekky together, then we were separating to each of our own specialities.  Ryan, Tegan and I were heading to the Academy of Sciences, whilst Sue headed to Union Square to do some shopping sans Family.

The science centre was so much better than expected, even though the planetarium was close for maintenance.  Ryan and Tegan had a lot of fun, as well as it being very educational, with volunteers talking us through various experiments and exhibits.

Indoor tidal pool, with very realistic waves


The rainforest exhibit was 4 stories high that you could walk through, and had lots of butterflies, birds and fish.



The penguin feeding was great


 The centre has a living roof, which we could only see part of on this day.

The kids got to be very hands on


Best cinema in town

We met back around 3’sh and caught up with Sue’s spolis of shopping, and we then got ready for a photo session I had organised with Flash Bullet Photography. I have admired their photography for a while now, and as we were passing through there town, I thought it would be great to get some family portraits done.  Erin and Dustin were great, and their 5 month old son, Agent, joined in on his first commercial shoot.  He was delightful, but when teething got the better of him, he headed back home with Erin.  Dustin finished off the shoot, and due to my tardiness in posting blog posts, we can show some of the shots, as they were great in turning them around so fast!  Even though they were heading off OS in a couple of days.  Thanks Guys, very much appreciated!

A few of the shots from the session

Dustin in action with Ryan and a Voice ativated light stand


We asked for a recommendation to grab some mexican, as their neighbourhood, Mission, is famed for it’s Mexican cuisine.  We were directed to Papalote, and it was way busy, excellent tasting and great value burritos!

We grabbed a taxi back to our digs, and got ourselves ready for the next leg of the journey in the morning.

Catching up with Aussies, shopping and at the Ballpark

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Today was a designated late start, so I got to catch up with the blog, and then we headed towards Fisherman’s wharf as we were catching up with others for lunch.

Stopped at Boudins Bakery for a look around and some coffee.

The sell all manner of shapes of sourdough   



This little fella rocked it on the drums



I came ever so close to buying a famed U2 guitar from a memorabilia shop, (or a Signed Nirvana album) and will either be glad for the self imposed “sleep on it” rule, or will be kicking myself in the weeks ahead…

We caught up with Rob, Jen and Liam for Lunch and heard about their travel tales.  Rob and I worked together until I left 8’ish weeks ago.  It was great to see a familiar face, and Liam at 10 month (I am thinking) was an absolute joy.

We ate at a place with a kombi out the front, which I am very partial to.


Rob and I with a frosty one


 We then set off to Union square on a street car for some shopping to the dulcet groans of Ryan.

First stop, the apple store.  I wanted some Bose headphones as they were way cheaper from the USA compared to Oz.  We purchased a couple of other items, and I was amazed at their checkout process.  It was all done on an ipod touch.

With purchases and a smile!    Cash register

Then we were off to the Levi’s Flagship store, Adidas, Gap and we noticed Ryan starting to flag from the shopping experience, so we made a plan for Sue to come back in the morning solo.

We wanted to head back on the cable car.  As we topped the crest of a hill, I spotted alcatraz, and needed to get a pic.  I stood up to hang off the side of the cable car to take my pic, forgetting that I had grabbed my backpack back from Tegan and had it on my lap.  Now my seat was facing outward, so it flew off my lap, and onto the road.  We stopped at a stop within 20 metres, so I said to Sue and to the driver behind her, don’t worry about me, will see you shortly, I will catchup.   The driver was nice enough to see me running back towards the traffic coming, to stay in place to stop cars driving and for me to make it back.  I could feel the eyes peering at me as I jogged back from those standing at the back of the car, as I put my hand up aka football player who acknowledges their mistake, whilst saying, “There’s always one, hey”

Hanging the side of the cable car


Very steep streets


We got back for so rest and freshen up time before heading off to the ball game.  We were off to see the Giants host the Rockies at AT&T Park.

It was a fantastic night.  Last time I came here, I froze, and I think I scared the family with how cold I was (and Dad doesn’t get that cold that easy, especially when I had the winter coat on until recently)

All of the family had so much fun.  It was so entertaining with the music, chants, videos and food merchants strolling up the aisles.


Tony Bennett called the “play ball” and sang a song – he is still going strong at 85!

We had great seats!


Us in the stands



The food vendors kept coming!




Woods and Wine

Monday 26 September 2011

We popped down the road to the Blue Mermaid  to have a in and out brekky if they can do it, before we are picked up in 30 minutes for our tour from Extranomical –  Redwoods and Sonoma tour .

Our tour guide, Rick was fantastic, though the strong Italian accent at the start of the tour had me wondering how much local knowledge he would have. He didn’t fail to impress with his knowledge, humour and attention to detail throughout the whole day.

We headed across the Golden Gate bridge and into the not so great vision. Again…

We traveled to the Muir woods and we had a 1.5 hours to wander around.

Arriving at the entrance to the woods

Shots of the woods and some wooden folk



We then headed off to the Sonoma wine region.

Climbing out of the woods enroute to Sonoma

We visited the Jacuzzi Winery for our first tasting.  We tasted 6 wines as well as a dessert wine served in a chocolate shot container, then you eat after sipping a little of the wine.  Fred our host taught us (well me) about the dominant nostril, and the right way to sniff wine. We left with 2 bottles of wine and some olive tapenade.

Entering the Sonoma region


Jacuzzi Winery and our bus


Fred our host


We had lunch at Sonoma square, and had a stroll around.  It was a very nice area, and we could see it would be a lovely weekend escape for the SF locals.

We headed off to another winery, which was a little lame for the amount of time we had allocated but we still tasted, bought a bottle of Rose, and waited for the bus for 40 minutes.

Rose purchased

We then headed back towards San Francisco via Saussilto.  The weather was finally nice around the bridge area so we stopped for impromptu Golden Gate pics, which was awesome due to our bad luck with the visibility to date.

Finally saw the bridge without cloud / fog


We chilled out for a bit and them we headed out for some Italian and a stroll around the fisherman’s wharf area.