Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pass the apples to the Rhino!!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas Holiday! I got behind with posts because of Christmas and family visits. But, I wanted to get right back in and get to where we left off a few weeks ago.

 After we had our time with the lions, we found our way back to the park entry walkway. It was a little confusing to find the correct path because the park is located on a hill with winding pathways and many trees.

We arrived at the caravan check-in desk and found the crew members to be very nice. They were all enthusiastic and eager to take us on our trip. The guides were trying their best to get the group excited about seeing giraffes and rhinos. Some of the other visitors seemed so serious and quiet. We had a group from Japan that were very excited. Once the crew loaded us in the truck, everyone started to show a little more enthusiasm.

Ian, our guide, was ready to handle all questions that we would throw at him.  We sat on benches, in the flatbed of the truck that had a canopy to shade. Lucky for him it was a cool day with a breeze because he was not covered at all.

We came upon the animals quickly. As shown in the photos, the park's exhibits stretch far across the land, almost like a savannah. One is able to see a great number of animals all at once. At first glance the giraffes, rhinos, steer type bulls, and deer looking animals are found. We headed straight to the rhinos.

Umm...poop pile is behind Eric lol

We just pulled right along side these grey beasts and I had to wonder if we were annoying them a bit. Ian explained their mating habits and pooping habits. As a matter of fact, one pooped right in front of us. Imagine that! We are on the back of a truck, minding our business, and this rhino comes and relieves himself! It was like something out of the film Bridesmaids! Well, it was nice to see he felt comfortable enough with us to do so.

We then moved on to what we had all been waiting for, feeding giraffes. They were up on a hill and all eating together. Our guide said that although they were eating, they would still come over for a visit. Ian also mentioned that the only reason they would come to say Hello is the food we had. We were also instructed to never pet the animal. They are not like dogs and aren't looking for affection from us. He also added that if you do touch them, one might use its head to hit you. Have fun!!!

The visible keychain is available at

Let me just say up front that people can be dumb. And, it can be fun to watch stupidity in action, when adults are the ones committing the crime. After we received a few more instructions, we started to go around the group and feed the giraffes acacia leaves. "Away from your face, and keep arms stretched out when possible," Ian told us. Of course people have their hands right at their own faces and are getting slobber on them form the giraffes. Then a few others are trying to pet the animal and Ian has to cry out to not do that. Eric and I just gave a look to one another that asked ourselves, "Why are they doing this?" To be fair I need to add that the giraffes do not wait until you are ready. As the leaf is getting handed to you by the guide they are already going in for it.

I must add there was this lady with us that was just an odd ball. Before the tour began we were asked what we want to see on the tour. Well she was so excited to see giraffes, her "Favorite animal", she added. When it came time to feed them she became impaired in motor movements. She could barely look at them and panicked. Again, Eric and I gave each other one of those looks.

The patterns are interesting, aren't they?
Although we saw other types of species while standing in the back of that truck, I was surprised we were able to feel a rhino. We had seen some rhinos earlier and when we left them, we figured that was it. But, toward the end of the tour the sliced, sweet smelling apples under my seat got their use. This was good because at this point I was so hungry, I was about to eat them myself.

This one was located away from the others we had seen earlier. He was with a different group and held in the Asian zone. Feeding the rhino was easier than I thought. All one had to do is walk over and toss it in his mouth. People were glad that they were able to pet him near his ears. I wish I knew this before I fed him because then I would have joined in that.

Even though this was a lot of fun, Eric and I were so hungry. Having been up around 7 AM, we were also getting tired. Feeding the rhino had been our last stop. Now we just enjoyed the scenery as we headed back to the loading/drop off area.

Once getting back to that station we were gladly surprised to see that our friend Kevin was suited up for a tour. There was a schedule change and he was about to drive a tour group out to where we just had been. He had been indoors most of the day so he looked forward to this.

Kevin had to get going, but we thanked him for the great time we had and hopefully he reads this to hear the details of the trip.

Yes indeed, Eric is sticking his tongue out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hollywood does Grinchmas

Before heading back on Safari, I was inspired to share our latest trip!........."Simply having a wonderful Grinchmas time " was today's mantra.  Eric and I hadn't been to Universal Studios during Christmas so we gave it a shot. To add to the cheer, our friends Ricky and Miley joined in the winter event.

It was a cold afternoon when we arrived. We were caught in a light, misty drizzle that didn't keep us or anyone else away. But of course the day I wear my glasses, the lenses were full of water! It was a surprise to find that on rainy days, the park gives out free hot chocolate in heated tents!!! What service!!

Although the walkways were full of visitors, we were glad they weren't in the queues. Even the line for food was a breeze. We had decided to eat and headed to Mel's Diner. Great burgers were devoured! But, Miley was the odd woman out with her Chilli Cheese fries. We had some great service with our food. A busser even offered to help a nearby table with directions to their next destination, and they didn't have to ask!

First attraction up was The Studio Tram Tour. We had heard that the WhoVille scene had added characters and dancers for Grinchmas. Miley is a former tram tour hostess and she asked a former coworker which guide available would give the best spiel. A guy named Jay was the recommended tram host. He performed some fun voices and used his personality to give a better experience. Since we were at the front of the tram with him, he also had some funny side comments.
Jay, our fearless tram host

Although Jay gave an above average performance, we were a underwhelmed at the WhoVille scene. It was still drizzling, so the Whovians were only standing and waving. Lame! The host, Jay, added that they do a cool little song n dance, but the rain has stopped them. Knowing there would be a performance, you can imagine our surprise when the tram didn't stop and kept moving!

So basically we rode the whole tour for nothing?? All was not lost because it was fun for Miley to experience Kimg Kong for the first time. She hadn't worked there in a few years so even the Jimmy Fallon supplemental video is new to her. Universal is a working studio, so there is usually a slight variance in one's tram experience as they avoid film shoots. We missed Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane because of an insurance commercial.

To prove how short the lines were, we waited about 8 minutes for Transformers. That was also a first ride for Miley and she loved it! Who wouldn't, except for people prone to motion sickness? Eric would really like to see a soundtrack added to that attraction. The sensations of movement and technology are fascinating, but it lacks that little boost music would give.

The queue for The Mummy coaster was a "walk-on"! Although a fun coaster, it wasn't as exciting without the sound effects. For some reason they were never switched on for us. The attraction was slightly awkward because it was obvious something was missing. Our group did have a slight giggle as the unenthusiastic unload hostess sipped on a beverage. Where was the clapping???

So far we have Whovians that only wave hello, no sound effects on The Mummy, and a bored worker drinking what I hope was water. But, the four of us were still having a fun time in the cold.

We ventured into the future by visiting the Cyberdyne presentation at Terminator 3D.  But, according to Terminator 2's timeline, aren't we past what Sara Connor calls "Judgement Day"? Shouldn't the Terminators have taken over the country by now? Oh well.

Neither of us had seen the 3D/Live Action show a while. With rumors that a Despicable Me film will replace it, we had to stop by. I love the T2 film so I was definitely into the show. Motorcycles driving into and out of the screen, live actors, explosions, hydraulic theater seats, and CO2 enveloping the audience is great fun! There is a section in the middle that drags a bit, but I'm forgiving.  I'll miss the show once its gone.

During the show "load in"

It was now time for the icing on the cake, the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The show is held in the former Wild West arena. It was now an icy blue winter scene that surrounds a whimsically shaped, 60 foot tall tree. I don't really recall the film "The Grinch" all that much. I am more of a fan of the vintage cartoon. The show drew from both sources as they used the original music from the Christmas special. I looked like a nerd filming with my iPhone and snapping photos with my camera. Below you can see the video I shot.

Once the Whovians started singing the song 'Welcome Christmas" I got a little giddy and Eric was mumbling the lyrics. The show's writing was a little hard to swallow, but that song really brought out the feeling of Christmas. The show's climax ended with a lighting of the entire theater, the tree, and a snowfall. It was a nice treat for this wintery day. Eric and I then decided to get a little scared at the House of Horrors!

As noted in a previous post, I've always been a fan of Halloween and horror. It's great that Universal has a haunted maze filled with their classic characters such as Wolfman, Dracula, Chucky, and Norman Bates. The facility is a former Marvel themed restaurant and storage area that was renovated approximately 10-15 years ago. There are elaborate, eerie sets that fill up the two level space.


It's not really all that scary, but some people really do get frightened. I love whenever the film Psycho is represented! As the "Shower Scene" music plays, one must walk close by a creepy figure of Norman's mother sitting in a chair. We never knows if it's merely a figure or if she will jump out at you. This time she merely sat there (guess the performer was at lunch or a call sick).

To our surprise it was nearly 9 PM and the park would be closing soon. It was evident that the marketing campaign for Grinchmas had helped to keep in the crowds. To be honest I almost fell for the holiday marketing and bought a silly Grinch themed hat. Ricky did make a purchase but his hat was definitely more reasonable. I wonder who's Christmas tree will go missing tonight....blame Ricky!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Run for your lives!'s a.....Giraffe???

Ah the beauty of Southern California! Why you ask? Everything is about an hour away and so convenient. I know I have mentioned this before, but it really is a great perk. Luckily another attraction that is worth visiting is near us, The Safari Park. If one  has a clear road ahead, it's about an hour away, south of Orange County. It's a nice drive down the 5 freeway as you pass the nuclear plant San Onofre (looks like boobs, heehee) and most importantly the Pacific Ocean. Just make sure you don't stare at the ocean for too long. It is very tempting to direct your gaze off that road.

I'll admit there is a point where the second travelled freeway ends, the 78, and you wonder if a wrong road was taken. The land dedicated to the park is secluded in the hills near the city Escondido. When hope is almost lost, you come upon the greenery that surrounds The Safari Park signage. For those that don't carry cash, like myself, the toll booths for parking do accept cards. That was a relief! It was also a grand surprise that Eric and I were able to park so close to the main entrance. Last year we parked in a land far far away, on a dirt lot. And, I was pleased to be reminded that they pipe music into the parking lot! Nice touch!
No Howard here.

We know people in high places at this park so we had the red carpet rolled out for us! For the sake of the animals, I hope that carpet was made from sustainable products. On that Imaginary red carpet, at the park entrance, we met our great pal Kevin. Thanks to his employment as a lion tamer, we were able to waltz through the front turnstile, in style. (He's not really a lion tamer but we can pretend)

It was a relief to see that it felt as though we had the park to ourselves. I think all must be Christmas shopping or in school. Walkways were clear. I could hear music from the carousel (which I didn't notice at all the last visit). I'm sure you all get the picture.

We then set out to find this odd looking bird that resembles Howard the Duck. If you are clueless as to who that is..... First, pat yourself on the back for never having to see that film....Second, you might just be too young. (I've never actually seen the film, but I have seen clips of it) Anyway.......Kevin, Eric, and I gave up our search quickly after a few minutes of strolling around what I will call "The Bird Pond". We were ready to see some gorillas.
Left : Grandmother Gorilla, 57 years. Center : Alpha 
Awww, the baby. 1.5 years old

Last November we saw the youngest gorilla at a few months old. Well we were told he was now about a year and a half. It took some patience, but he finally emerged from the cave where he was probably resting. Watching him run around was awesome! By watching him create solutions to get what he wanted, it showcased how smart the gorillas are. The leader of the pack, the male, was very calm as he kept watch. When it was time to be fed, he was fed first and the others joined. I should mention that the eldest gorilla (grandmother) was born in 1957! That's very impressive!

Something else that really caught my eye are the serene locations that are within the park. There is a winding trail that takes you through what is a huge garden and forest. It's quite nice to look at, so I added a panoramic view. And, in that area we came across some interesting animals such as Warthogs, these deer looking things, and a few exotic birds. As peaceful as all that is, the main attraction for the park are the safari trams or caravan tours. Kevin set us up for a caravan tour and he headed back to the offices. Before going to check in for the ride, Eric and I stopped by the mighty lions.

It was still early, around 10 AM, so the lions were active. Well, they were as active as they were going to be that day. Although only our second trip to this park as a couple, both times we have had great views of the lions and lionesses. When one visits Animal Kingdom in Florida, it is "hit or miss" with the lions. As you can see, we had a very close encounter. He really was staring us right in the face and it was a little creepy.

As mentioned, Eric and I were heading to the caravan tour. That is going to be quite the addition to the blog. It's full of many more animals and feedings! It's best if that is left for part two of this post. (Keep the few of you reading this, wanting more) Have you been to this park? And, have you also been to Animal Kingdom? Thoughts on either??? Leave some comments because I'd like to hear your thoughts. (or maybe you hate zoos altogether?)

I'll end with this cool shot of a bat flapping his wings, which of course gives us an upside down BATMAN signal!

The Joker better start running!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Music | Amaluna | Cirque Club | Cirque du Soleil | Cirque Club

Music | Amaluna | Cirque Club | Cirque du Soleil | Cirque Club

Looks as though the new Cirque album is available for the show Amaluna! I'm about go preview it at the link above. They let you hear the whole album.
The show celebrates the female presence/Mother Earth persona. What I have seen so far looks very different to other shows, but in a good way. I don't see anything on the schedule for the CA area yet. I hope the show makes its way here because as I have said in other posts, Eric and I enjoy a Cirque show in a tent!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Is it a Dragon or a Lion?

The famous French Canadian circus troupe, Cirque du Soleil, passed though our area over the weekend. This particular production is called Dralion. It is a fusion of Asian and European cultures. The show first came to California in 1999 and made a stop in Irvine. When I saw the show in '99 it was performed under a signature Cirque du Soleil tent. At the present, Dralion is shown in an arena setting, which I'm against. I'd rather see their shows under the circus tent. It's more intimate, but this still won't keep me from wanting see a show.

I will say that both Eric and I had a change of opinion for this show. Dralion actually played out just fine in the Long Beach arena. Unlike the Cirque show Quidam, this show didn't have an arching track above the stage to obstruct views of spectators in higher seats. Our seats were a decent distance and we saw everything, including the performer's facial expressions. I know I'm dwelling on the venue choice, but Quidam really didn't play well here. Eric also made a good point that the color scheme for Quidam doesn't reach the viewer as well as the vibrant colors of Dralion. Quidam is a much darker show with many grey and blue hues.

There isn't really a story to this show and that is just fine with me. The themes brought forth are of the four elements of the Earth. Characters personify the elements through use of color and choreography. At one point the avatars of Water and Fire have a brief, but hostile dance with one another. I might have chosen Silver to represent "Air", but I am sure the color chosen, Green, is seen better onstage.

Although not all the acts were present in this re-staging of the show, I liked it. It gives someone a reason to see the show for a second time. There were four acts that weren't in the original creation. Those acts were Trampoline, Diabolos, Aerial Hoop, and an all new apparatus called Cross Wheel. These four acts in the show really injected new energy into the 13 year old production. Luckily the music hasn't changed. It has high energy containing Spanish and Italian lyrics. As usual, there are also lyrics in the "Cirquish" language. This language is used to evoke a feeling and not put so much focus on paying attention to the song lyrics. The music is there to act as a backdrop and emotional guide of the acts.

It has to be mentioned that the clown acts fell flat. I don't know what the company was thinking by approving these four or five interludes of "comedy". These four clowns even managed to wreck a section where the clowns are mimicking the whole show. They have "make shift" costumes and attempt to repeat the grand feats of strength, but comically fail. The original clowns had great timing with this.  These new clowns seemed to be going through the motions. I guess we all have our days where we just want to be off from work.

I really wanted to get some shots during the show, but this is of course prohibited. I do believe that these performers give so much of themselves and deserve to be paid for what we see them do. Deep down......I still wish I had snuck a few shots. The only one I took was of the stage prior to the start of the show. Unfortunately it doesn't show the impressive structure that towers at the back end.

Shadow interlude at the end of Intermission

I'll always be a fan of Cirque, even with not so great clowning. I don't think a traveling production is due to pass through any time soon. We do hope to see Iris again with its newer length of just 90 minutes. I will definitely report on Cirque again when we see it. Remember to support the arts in whatever form you choose.

Free Candy to Scares in the Streets!

It was that time of year again when we all needed to avoid the demons that are roaming the earth! To avoid the spirits we dress like goblins, ghosts, witches, Hogwarts students, Doctors without names, or cheap prostitutes (but claim to be bunnies)!! But seriously all, Halloween is up there with Christmas as my favorite holiday. Who doesn't have great memories of running door to door and asking for candy? I have a lot of memories of dressing up the outside of our home with lighting and scary vignettes for the Trick-o-Treaters. Then as an adult, Eric and I use to haunt the yard with strobe lights, gravestones, and many pumpkins. This year our friend Natalie had us over to hangout and pass out candy. We had a great time.

She lives in an area with older houses that have a lot of character to them. These houses all have cool porches, huge trees, balconies, and 1940s styles. The residents use this aesthetic to their advantages for Halloween. To prep for the night we decorated the front of Natalie's place. We were told by the resident next door that close to 500 kids come around!

Natalie and Kristen had some haunting ideas!

Eric and I spun a web that would put a Black Widow to shame!

Natalie also invited Kristen, another friend, and they had an early start on trying to get the house up to par for the night's festivities. Eric and I arrived with candy in our bags, and a few items to add to the yard. As mentioned earlier, Eric and I have a history of haunting a yard, so the two of us quickly got to work. The sun was setting quick and the kids would be coming soon! We even had three groups show up as we were setting out the decorations. The fact that the kids were already out gave us a hint of what was to come.

Dr. Who and Eric as a Hufflepuff student form Hogwarts
Krsiten(left) was Jane Fonda & Natalie was Jane LaFonda!

Natalie's home ready to receive the dressed kids!
Once the sun went down the kids came in huge groups. There were a few instances we had a queue going to the sidewalk. At that point a little girl, around 4 years, decided she had a pass to the front of the line. She made a "bee-line" to Kristen and opened up her sack. She was ready for that chocolate. We all laughed so hard! It really was a fun time as we gave out the candy to all the "free loading kids" ;-)

About 2.5 hours later we were clean out of candy! (Of course we popped a few wrappings of chocolate into our tummies as well) We wanted to take a little walk and see what else was going on around the neighborhood. As we set out we were met with crowds of kids clogging up the sidewalk. For a brief period our little group was at a stand still. There was even a house that set up a haunted maze. Being a Halloween enthusiast I wanted to go in, but the queue went clear down the street. I took a photo of the maze's facade, but it wasn't a great shot. I did get a photo of a house that was also decked out for the holiday. At this time of the night, they were also out of candy, but were still scaring pedestrians. The father there said he gave out just over a thousand pieces of candy!!

The smaller character here really got Natalie as we passed by. He followed her and it was hilarious!

Monsters everywhere!!
Again, we had such fun that we hope to do this again. It sure is tough when Halloween falls on a weekday because it makes you feel a little "short changed" that work is early the next day. When I am a few years older, Halloween will be on a Friday in the year 2015. (all photos courtesy of my iPhone 5)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Food, Alcohol, and a Few Attractions

If there is one thing that the folks at Disney can entice their adult guests to accomplish, it's this : 1) Get as stuffed as possible, and 2) Get as drunk as possible. Although the advancement of ride technology and learning is apart of EPCOT, I think I will fall back on my first statement. Even though the event is later in the trip, this park is the setting of  EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival. We had ourselves armed with our dining plan snack credits and a taste for a few adult beverages.

There is food everywhere here! You can even learn about it! They tell you where it grew, how long it took them to grow it, and even where you can eat the food! It is true The Land pavilion exists to tell all who enter that preserving the planet is important for all, but in the end we still have to eat.

Eric enjoying his crop inspired cruise.

Rey and Brandi are getting even more hungry!

Throughout the course of our trip we must have ridden Living with the Land at least four times. I think everyone was a fan. Was it just chance that we all enjoy our food too? After our trip down the canals of interior farmland, we had a huge appetite. The first country we would hit has margaritas and food....Mexico!

Thanks to the magic of iPhone 5 technology, I give you our panoramic shot at La Cava de Tequila. That is the name of the bar inside the Mexico pavilion. One fun fact about this shot is we didn't have help from a sixth person. After the humid air outside the temple, this was just the drink to cool us down. We would soon chow down on a Mexican dish, but we couldn't help noticing that guests received a discount on shots if you were following the bar's Twitter account. Well it just so happened we already had done just that! The result was being treated to $5.00 shots from Ricky!
I love the interior of this place so I threw in another shot!

We decided on the water front food location outside of the temple. Our Disney Dining Plan was going to be stretched to the limit! The dish I chose was Cheese Empanadas (type of fried quesadilla) w/chips and Churritos for dessert. The other dessert option was a type of frozen fruit bar so we all ordered the Churritos. Some locations don't have enough dessert options. I would like to see at least three options. As you can see in the photo, we all had our Churritos. They were tasty!

Churritos came with a dipping sauce. Dipping is fun!

If you haven't been to EPCOT you must know that walking is something you can't avoid. To get an idea of just the size, The Magic Kingdom can fit in the parking lot. With all that walking, all this food is needed. Something also needed are hats! To fit in with Ricky and his Perry hat, Eric and I had to get shopping!



I can't say that I have ever joined in with the rest of the vacationers and bought a silly hat. Sure, this one isn't big and purple, but it was the most obnoxious one I was going to buy. And who knows? I may wear it on July 4th and the one after that!

Now, it seems for this day I lacked to take a lot of food photos. We weren't "falling down drunks" but the excitement must have put my head elsewhere. We did have a nice drink that evening in France. It was a Grey Goose, orange liqueur, Grand Marnier concoction that we all loved. To me, it tasted like a 50/50 bar! There are a few shots with that drink during another day of this trip.

As we drank around the World Showcase, we had two more friends arriving back at the hotel. It would be their first time to the resort. Would they get lost or stay at the hotel? I can report that as we closed down the park, the two of them went to Downtown Disney twice! What troopers!

iPhone 5 shot of Space Ship Earth

Does anyone reading this have a favorite lounging area in EPCOT? I believe ours became Mexico, for obvious reasons. Or maybe you have a favorite place to eat at the park? Please share in the comments below.