Thus begins the record of the travel adventures from December 2017.
The girls were super excited to be finally on their way to see Steve when we left home for the airport. As was I. Only the usual airport hassles as we cleared passport checks and customs and onto the plane. Here are the girls with their travel buddies from my godmother and their fluffy neck pillows borrowed from some bible study friends.
Though I encouraged them to sleep early, they didn't. They were however pretty great on the plane flight, and did both sleep in the end, I even slept too, though I'll never know why the flight attendant saw fit to wake me and give me a kids meal when both of my kids were asleep too.
I had wanted the reunion with Steve to be amazing and magical, but in the end it was really emotional and there were a lot of tears. I had had about four hours sleep in 48 hours, we were unable to find each other at the airport, and I couldn't get wifi anywhere which meant I couldn't contact Steve at all. When he finally got off the bus at the car hire place where we were waiting, there were so many tears. The girls hardly noticed because they were just so ecstatic that Steve was there.
Steve had driven in Seattle (up to Vancouver for the Thanksgiving weekend), so thankfully he managed driving to our airbnb really well. We just hung out that day, went to the local grocery store for supplies, lunch at Maccas etc.
The girls were tired, but also so excited to be with their dad and on their adventure that they lasted the day really well. We had told them that they couldn't sleep until after dinner. I was watching Rachel as she finished her first roll of sushi. It was like her mind did the math: "They said I could sleep after dinner. I've finished. I'm going to sleep." She put her head on the table and was out to it. It was hilarious.
We were all in bed pretty early that night, but managed to sleep through til 8:00 am! Take that jet lag! We drove out to Venice Beach late morning and had a bit of a look and walk around. Steve did some pokéwalking with the girls, which they loved. Actually despite all of the pokéwalking, we failed to catch the special American pokémon, which was a little disappointing.
Sophie saw her first squirrel there too, which was exciting. She tells me now that squirrel's are her favourite animal. We were still pretty tired out that day, so we headed back home again fairly soon too. There is only so much you can do with kids the day after a long flight, even if they did manage to sleep through the night.
What I wasn't expecting on this first week back, was the way the girls really attached themselves to Steve again. They were so happy that their dad was back, that they were right next to him all the time. If he was sitting on the couch, they were right there next to him. It was beautiful, but I felt a little left out. Where was my time with Steve? I did get to have it, but it was a little hard sharing him that first week.
The next day we went back to the beach, this time Santa Monica, because it had been so great there before. The weather was very similar to an Australian winter actually, and there were Australian native plants everywhere! It was a little sureal to be walking along in Las Angeles and see Kangaroo Paw, Bottle Brushes and Bougainvillea. Did we even leave home?
We walked through downtown Santa Monica after some Chipotle lunch; delicious Mexican food! The best thing was these dinosaur features in the main street, which were just super cool.
We ended up back down at the beach at a small theme park called Paradise Pier. There was no entry fee but you had to buy tickets or an armband for rides. We ended up getting an arm band each, which was well worth it. The rides were pretty perfect for the girls and it was really quiet, so no lines at all. Steve was keen to take Sophie on some roller coasters, and to my surprise, she loved every minute of it. They are riding around in the second seat of the third section of the picture below. You can see Steve's hands in the air, though Sophie is too small to be seen.
Rachel was fairly devastated that she wasn't allowed on, being too small, but she did get ice cream instead, and that cheered her up a bit. It was a pretty rad day.
The next day we took the kids to a train museum, which was fun for them, and then a big park near Griffith Observatory. From there we went down to Hollywood Boulevard, which was probably the lowest point of our LA trip. It was so overrated, and when we got there it wasn't cool at all. Maybe if we could have done one of the tours looking at where different movies were filmed (which, I guess is not at Hollywood Blvd at all, you just start there), it might have been good, but with the girls, that was just not on the cards. It reminded us a lot of the Valley in Brisbane. Steve did try an Umami Impossible Burger, which, while a little saucy, was a good bite.
That night, I got to see some life-changing musical theatre: Hamilton. Oh my goodness. It was fantastic.
The entire thing is sung, so if you've got a soundtrack, you know all the words, but to see it on stage with the sets, costumes, choreography just takes it to another level entirely. Everything is so well done, it's just amazing. In an era of "Soundtrack Musicals", this is truly something new and well worth getting to see if you can. I hope it comes to Australia so I can see it again. The theatre it was done in, The Pantages, was just amazing too actually. Phenomenal.
The next day, we got up early, before the sun to drive south to Anaheim: Disneyland awaited! We were really lucky because in September, I had run into a friend of mine from teaching days at a trivia night and I had mentioned to her that we were planning on going. She had a friend who had been recently with kids and that friend ended up giving us a whole list of tips and tricks for doing Disneyland with the kids. It was expensive to get in, but so worth it, and the extra info we had meant we were pretty efficient with our time.
The girls were the right age for so many of the rides, and it was not busy, so I don't think we waited more than 15 minutes for a ride, and even then, that was only once. We bought our own snacks in, so we didn't have to buy too much food. We had booked a hotel for the night (we were doing two days at Disneyland), which again, was a great tip, because we could leave the park and walk back to our hotel for a rest in the afternoon. The girls really needed it, Rachel more than Sophie, but Steve just took Sophie back in the evening and they got to see the lights and go on more rides together, so that was pretty cool.
Here we all are on the Mary Poppins Carousel. This was probably the number one thing I wanted to do, so dream achieved!
The next day we were back again at California Adventure Land (which is just another Disneyland theme park), seeing more things and going on more rides. We were there at 8:00am, so no lines at all. I took the girls on another carousel, the Ferris Wheel and the Little Mermaid ride, while Steve smashed out three big roller coasters, including the new Guardians of the Galaxy one, which, from about 9:00am had a wait time of one hr at least.
We then went to a character breakfast in Ariel's Grotto, which was pretty expensive, but delicious and had the added bonus of five different Disney princesses showing up while you ate breakfast, so you didn't have to chase them all over the park for photos. The girls LOVED this so much. I have to say that being a Disney Princess would pretty much be my dream job. Get dressed up, walk around smiling and singing all day. Yes!
The girls were also really excited for Cars land, and just wanted to take photos of everything for Hugo. We had to leave about three to head straight to the airport for our flight to Budapest, but it was still a blast and we had such a great time. So much fun! Thanks America for being leg one of the Big Travels 2017.