Grand Californian Room Photos

It had been a few years since we’d stayed at the GC, but a 25th anniversary celebration was definitely worth it. Our room was a King Courtyard view, which a the front desk CM arranged for us through her manager when Rich told her it was our 25th anniversary. Otherwise, we would have had 2 queens.

The room had been refurbished since we’d last been there, the open space below the bed, Keurig, mini fridge, and the upgraded stand-up shower with 2 sprays (one a rain shower), which was fabulous! And because it was a King room, we had a couch and chair for sitting, instead of just a chair. It was a very comfortable room.

We’ve had a courtyard view before (as well as a theme park view and a standard view), but this time without the swooshing of the monorails since they still are not up and running at Disneyland.

25th Wedding Anniversary at the Grand Californian, Day 1 (#Disneyland Resort)

Like so many, we’d had big travel plans for 2021. A Med cruise, for example. To celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in August. Cancelled, of course. And then we scrambled to come up with some place special we could go to celebrate such an occasion. Disney World was open so we booked a trip but not until October because we really didn’t want to go to Florida in August.

We kept our eyes open for Disneyland’s reopening but by June, it was open to California residents only. When Napa Rose opened, we jumped on it last June just in case it closed again.

By then, it looked as if Disneyland would open to out-of-staters so we booked the Grand Californian, bought 2 tickets to Disneyland, made reservations, bought special anniversary T-shirts and masks and we were off – to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary on the actual date.

It felt so good to drive up to the gate and announce we were checking in, valet park the car, and leave our luggage with bell services to wait by the pool for our room to be ready. We missed our favorite pool area, as it once was, replaced by Craftsman Grill. But even our second favorite place across from the Craftsman was now available for cabana rentals only (we checked but nothing was available). So there would be no seating near the main pool.

We sat at a table near the pool gate and Rich went up to the bar (bar service for cabana people only now) to bring us back a couple of drinks. I had a Pineapple Ginger Margarita that wasn’t my favorite (I am a Margarita connoisseur) and Rich had the Grand Mai Tai (Rich is a Mai Tai connoisseur).

Pineapple Ginger Margarita
Patrón Silver Tequila, Nostrum Pineapple Turmeric Ginger Shrub, Cointreau, and Lime Juice available frozen or on the rocks

Grand Mai Tai
Bacardi 8 Yr Aged Rum, Myers’s Dark Rum, Orange Curaçao, Orgeat (Almond), and Lime Juice

And, btw, the table was not clean nor did a CM come by to clean it, which would be a theme for this trip. And while some will defend the CMs due to a shortage, we kept seeing groups of CMs standing around talking amongst themselves.

A bit later we got our text that the room was ready so we headed up, unpacked, rested, and then grabbed dinner at Hearthstone Lounge. I’ll post room pics in a separate post.

We each ordered a glass of our favorite Coppola Malbec and the “Charcuterie Pizza,” which was… AMAZING!

In the past I haven’t been a fan of charcuterie (I like some bread with my meat) so making it into a pizza was perfection. And then Disney would prove to me again on our most recent trip how yummy a well-done charcuterie plate can be without any type of bread.

Charcuterie Pizza
Premium Pepperoni, Prosciutto, Salami, Italian Sausage, Arugula, Fire-roasted Tomatoes, Grana Padano, and Aged Provolone

Previously… Napa Rose Finally Reopens (Review)

By Rich

We had been away from Napa Rose for too long. When the doors were finally open again in early June, we made reservations and found our way back to one of our favorite restaurants.

We arrived with the glasses of wine we had been sipping in the Hearthstone Lounge, Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection Malbec. We were seated without delay in a beautiful, private section of the dining room overlooking the outdoor fire pit. This room is usually reserved for private parties. We were the only ones there.

Our server, Brett, was fantastic. We had never been served by him before, but he and Michael are our two favorites now.

Since we had such a private dining area, we felt it was only appropriate that we dine with The Vintner’s Table, a four-course meal that changes every week, expertly designed by the incredible Andrew Sutton.

Brett explained the menu choices and agreed to bring our new wine order with our second course.

The only odd thing about Napa Rose now is that they do not offer bread service of any kind, free or paid. Seems like an odd way to save money and effort, and it detracts from the overall experience, but not a big deal. In fact, in subsequent visits, I don’t think we missed it.

FIRST
Beef Carpaccio
Artichoke, Pecorino Cheese and Truffle Aioli

SECOND
“Pot Pie”
Rocky Chicken Fricassee and Summer Vegetables

THIRD
Beef Pot Roast
Slowly Braised Beef and Zinfandel Blackberry Essence

DESSERTS
Sea Salt Affogato
Salted Caramel Semifreddo and Dark Chocolate Espresso Sauce

Baked Artisan Cheese
Fennel-Red Pepper Marmalade

WINE
Tinto de Toro, Numanthia, Termes
Toro DO, Spain

As always, the food was delightful. The beef carpaccio melted in our mouths. The “pot pie” was a lighter take on the classic, with plenty of deep flavors. The beef pot roast was a bit heavy following everything else, but just as rich and savory as you would expect. When it came to dessert, we couldn’t decide, so we had both. The cheese was a nice balance to the sweet, but the affogato was definitely the star. You can’t do wrong with salted caramel and dark chocolate especially in the hands of the Napa Rose artisans.

Brett was perfect throughout, helping us when we needed him, chatting a little for some nice interaction, and leaving us to eat our delicious meal when appropriate.

It was so comforting to be back at Napa Rose. It was like coming home to eat here again with the fabulous food of Andrew Sutton, the private, comfortable atmosphere, and the top-notch service.

It was our first time back in a long time, but it wasn’t the last time we ate there. More Napa Rose stories to come as we relive the culinary joy of Napa Rose through photos (starting with Kathy’s pre-dinner selfie, pre-dinner wine at Hearthstone Lounge, the beautiful lobby, and finally, the Vintner’s Table dinner).

Duke’s Huntington Beach Review

By Rich

It was wonderful to be back at Duke’s Huntington Beach. We’ve eaten here many times, but this was the first time we’d been here for dinner. And, therefore, the first time we’d heard live music there. At least, that we can remember.

We valeted the car and arrived on time for our 6:15 PM reservation. We were immediately seated at a table for two not far from the windows and the beautiful view of Huntington Beach.

MENU

DRINKS

Rich & Kathy:
DUKE’S MAI TAI
signature cocktail made with aloha, fresh hawaiian juices with two types of rum

APPETIZERS

Kathy:
CAESAR
romaine, parmesan, lemon-anchovy dressing, garlic focaccia crumble

Rich:
WEDGE
iceberg, blue cheese, balsamic tomatoes, duroc bacon, candied walnuts

ENTREES

Kathy:
CRISPY COCONUT SHRIMP
lilikoi chili water, pickled cucumbers

Rich:
SAUTÉED MACNUT & HERB CRUSTED HALIBUT
parmesan & panko dusted, lemon caper butter, seasonal vegetables, herbed jasmine farro rice

Duke’s may be known for its wonderful location on Huntington Beach at the Pier, but the food is outstanding too — and the food this night was especially terrific.

Wedge salad is my favorite, and with the tomatoes, bacon, and walnuts, it was incredible. The flavors all worked together so marvelously. Kathy enjoyed one of her favorites, a Caesar, especially with the lemon-anchovy flavors to enhance it.

Now, about the halibut. Wow! I’ve never had a more delicious halibut dish, and very few better fish dishes anywhere. The cheese, panko, nut, and lemon flavors made for a luscious, heart-warming entree that made me savor every bite. It was so good, I had to choose against the incredible-sounding halibut dish the next night at Napa Rose.

Kathy’s coconut shrimp is always one of her favorites, and this did not disappoint — juicy, crispy shrimp! It was listed as an appetizer, but it served very well as an entree.

With no room for dessert, we left the restaurant completely satisfied and strolled the length of Huntington Beach Pier, stopping along the way in a shop to buy a rash guard for Kathy and a light, pullover sweatshirt for me. We needed them because it was a little windy and chilly on the Pier, but the walk was lovely at dusk with the waves crashing below us.

Another magnificent visit to Duke’s and Huntington Beach.

Previously… June SoCal Trip: Duke’s, Knott’s 100 Years, and Napa Rose

As soon as we heard Napa Rose had reopened in June, we scheduled a trip to SoCal. Duke’s in Huntington Beach was also open for indoor dining, so we made a reservation there, too. We also tried out a new (to us) hotel in Huntington Beach, enjoyed some time on the Huntington Beach Pier, and stopped in at the Knott’s Berry Farm Marketplace to pick up some 100 Year Celebration merch.

Rich will write up both dining reports, but I’ll share a few pics (starting with a selfie at the hotel – lol), and a video at the bottom. (Update: Duke’s Huntington Beach Review here.)

Previously… A Touch of Disney(land)

And then, finally, Disneyland got into the act of hosting a limited food festival with “A Touch of Disney” not long before California announced that theme parks could reopen April 1st. Disneyland chose April 30th to open to California residents only. “A Touch of Disney” was already in progress so we were at least allowed to enter DCA (Disney’s California Adventure).

“A Touch of Disney,” April 2021

Previously… from Knott’s Merry Farm

Now that Disneyland is open and we’re back with our brand new “Magic Key,” we feel it’s time to bring back the blog. In fact, we just got back from our first Magic Key trip to Disneyland. But first, we need to update you on some visits to the parks since last October when we went to the food event at Knott’s called A Taste of Fall O ‘Ween.

Knott’s Merry Farm, November 2020


Disneyland Opens for Cast Members (and Guests)

I was touched when I saw the Disney Parks video promo about the lighting of Sleeping Beauty Castle before Cast Member day. But then I watched the video and I thought it was a bit sad. I missed the smiling Michael Eisner days with Mickey Mouse. And then those 2 guys standing 6 feet apart wearing masks seemed like it was so staged… so PC! Ugh!

But then I saw this video, and I felt the feels, complete with chills.

I was a bit disappointed, though, by the Disney vloggers who got in on Cast Member preview day and the livestreams after they’d already done the first rides, etc. I wanted that to be my first peek – after suffering this past year together, talking about what we would all ride first, etc, well, I wanted to see that – not their livestreams after the fact.

I must say, though, during the few moments I did peek into the Lives and the view of Disneyland characters and attractions, well, that really made me happy. I’m so happy it’s open again even if I can’t go. It breaks my heart that it was closed at all, let alone for over a year.

I’m happy for all of you who are going and can go! Hope you have a magical time!!! After all, I imagine it is still our happy place. I certainly hope so, anyway.

I will peek into the vlogs just to soak up some of that happiness. I’ve been peeking into Disneyland since it was first being built, even if I was too young to remember.

“A Taste of Fall O’Ween” Knott’s Berry Farm Trip

Knott’s Berry Farm plays a huge role in my childhood:

  1. The first time I knew (from the back seat of the car) what the parents were spelling and it happened to be Knott’s Berry Farm
  2. The celebration place for winning the 6th grade spelling bee
  3. The meeting place for family get-togethers (sitting with cousins after school)
  4. Me in 2020, sitting (without thinking) in the same place as I did back in 1961-62


Two months after our wedding, we’d just bought a new Mustang and headed down to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland to test drive the car. It’s been 24 years since then and our last trip to Knott’s Berry Farm (other than breakfast at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Knott’s is doing a fabulous job with contactless temp and bag checks. We didn’t even know it was happening. Arriving at opening, the crowds were low and we felt safe throughout our visit. The food was awesome, especially the Pastrami Tater Tots and Apple Cheesecake Trifle. We even did the Trick or Treat trail (and why didn’t Disneyland do this? Too busy playing the “all or nothing” game, as we see it.).

We brought back some Boysenberry Turnovers (2 for the room and 2 to take home), and a box of Chicken to go. We also finally got the Kitty Clock we’d had our eyes on since that first trip – boysenberry to honor our Knott’s Berry Farm trip (plus a couple of T-shirts and some Boysenberry Taffy).

We’re still hoping Disneyland offers something like this during the holidays. If not, we may be back for Knott’s. I’m pretty sure they’ll transition into the holidays once Fall O’Ween ends on November 1st.

Here are a few photos and more in today’s YouTube video:

 

#Disneyland and the #Cruise Industry: Let’s Get This Party Started!

Disneyland and the cruise industry seem to have one thing in common (besides the fact that both are our favorite recreational choices): lots of talk about what they’re doing to restart but without any real dates. Both tried last summer and both were shot down.

The latest video I saw, uploaded by Sharon at Sea, was called “Carnival Cruise Line: Gearing up to Cruise Again.”

It looks awesome to me, and Florida and Europe have actually pulled it off, proving that what they are doing works. But restarting cruising in North America and Disneyland out west is still just talk. I’m starting to think by the time cruising and Disneyland actually get back to business, this whole situation will be over. And maybe that’s what Governor Newsom and the CDC are hoping for.

Enough delays. Give us some real dates. Give us something to start feeling!

If you’re feeling it, check out these videos (music created/produced by me during 50/90):

Cruising: Can You Feel It?

Disneyland Reopening: Can You Feel It?