Thanksgiving morning, this was our view from our hotel room. I wished we were staying longer!
We had a 3-night Airbnb rental in Topanga Canyon starting that night that we’d booked several months in advance. The owner called and left a voicemail that morning, so I called him back before breakfast. We reviewed the plans we’d made via email: we had dinner reservations at 7:30 in Venice, and would get to the house to meet him before 9-10pm. That worked out well for him, too, since he had Thanksgiving plans.
We ate breakfast at the little bar in the courtyard, then checked out. Here’s the daytime view down the street from our hotel. We didn’t even know those mountains were right there when we arrived.
We checked out and got on I-10 again. Our destination this time was Anaheim, and Disneyland.
I’ve been to Disney World a few times in my life, a couple times as a kid and once as a sarcastic adult who expected to hate every minute of it, and ended up having a really great time. (Occasionally for sarcastic reasons, but also because I can’t stop loving Epcot Center.) People in California really seem to have a thing for Disneyland, even those I wouldn’t expect to, so we figured it was worth checking out. Plus since it was a holiday, it wasn’t as crowded!
We got to the parking around 11am, and rode the monorail to the park entrance. Everything was decorated for Christmas, which was pretty great. Also, LA was having a huge heat wave that day, around 85 degrees, so it was heaven.
One pleasant surprise was that it’s super-easy to walk anywhere in Disneyland quickly (well, semi-quickly, depending on the crowds). That’s not really that easy at Disney World. This park is a lot more compact.
We walked down Main Street USA, and stopped to take pictures of the much smaller castle. Then we consulted the map to figure out our plan of attack for rides. I was a little nervous about them in general because I still didn’t feel great, and my vertigo was terrible. But dammit, we were at Disney, and I was at least going to go on Space Mountain.
We circled for a while to get our bearings, and then went to see what the deal was with Fastpass at Space Mountain. The last time I’d been to Disney many years ago, Fastpass was awesome and enabled us to get on Space Mountain multiple times in a row. That didn’t seem to be the case anymore; you had to go stamp it with a time you were allowed to come back and get in the fast line. Those times were multiple hours in the future, though. We stamped our passes anyway (for 4:30) and headed out again.
We needed lunch, and for some reason this was more challenging than expected. We didn’t really want a sit-down restaurant, especially since everything seemed to have a long line outside it. And while I know there’s plenty of vegetarian food there, none of it seemed apparent. We finally decided on a Mexican restaurant because they had vegetable enchiladas. They weren’t the greatest I’d ever had, but they were pretty good, and nowhere near as expensive as I’d expected.
Refreshed, we went to go get in the line for Pirates of the Caribbean. Having walked past most of the rides we wanted to go on, we’d already accepted that we were going to end up standing in line for most of the day. But it was nice out, so that made the half-hour-or-so wait worthwhile. The ride was entertaining, and I didn’t really remember much of it. There was also a guy sitting in our row who texted for the entire ride, so that was pretty funny.
From there, we decided to go on the Indiana Jones ride. It was about the same wait time, which wasn’t terrible. This one was advertised as being more jarring than the Pirates of the Caribbean, so I figured it was a good test of how I would feel in Space Mountain. We got into our Jeep, held on tight, and I screamed at every fast corner. (Screaming like an idiot is the best part of going on rides.) I was a little worse off from vertigo afterwards, but it was fine. Plus the ride was great.
Next we took it down a notch at the Enchanted Tiki Room. I’m sure I’ve probably been in there before (in Florida), but I didn’t really remember it. I definitely remembered the cheesiness of that animatronic era, though. The birds that descended from the ceiling looked a little bit ratty.
After that, it was time for some actual tiki. We walked over to the monorail, and rode over to Downtown Disney. They had a skating rink! Did I mention it was 85 degrees?
We found Trader Sam’s amongst the resort buildings. It was a glorious little tropical oasis.
We walked in, and the entire place was full. There was a bunch of patio seating available, but we’d been hoping to get a seat at the bar. Paul’s friends had told us that some of them were rigged to sink into the floor occasionally, and I really wanted to see that.
Regardless, the place was great. The bartenders were hilarious, and if you order a Shipwreck on the Rocks, they trigger this whole animated diorama of a ship on stormy seas that’s built into the wall. It would’ve been nice to stay there for a very long time, but we had places to be that holiday night.
After our drinks were finished, we rode the monorail back to the park. It was still a bit before our Fastpass time, so we grabbed a pretzel from a vendor and wandered around. People were sitting on the curbs on Main Street for the parade, even though it wasn’t happening for quite a while.
Finally, it was time for the one ride I’d come to Disneyland for: SPACE MOUNTAIN. The Fastpass line was pretty great, at least.
One thing it’s important to know about Matt is that he hates roller coasters with a passion. He doesn’t like heights, so he’s waited nervously by while I’ve done things like skydive and jump off the Stratosphere. But since it was just the two of us there, he’d agreed to go on Space Mountain with me. That’s true love right there.
We were both pretty nervous by the time we boarded. I was scared of our stuff flying out, so I had my purse wrapped around my legs as much as possible. Matt was carrying a tiki mug in a box and bag that he’d picked up as a souvenir, so he had to ride with it clamped between his feet. I was scared about my vertigo and the fact that I hadn’t even been near a roller coaster in probably 10 years. Then I looked over at Matt as the coaster started up, and he looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but there at that moment.
Space Mountain was FANTASTIC. It’s as good as I remember. Matt doesn’t agree, but he survived!! I was a little shaky getting it, but it didn’t seem to make my vertigo any worse.
Then it was time to start heading to the car. We hadn’t had very much time there, but it was good to see Disneyland. And we managed to get out before the parade insanity began.
We stopped into the gift shop to get postcards for my Disney-loving nieces, and was told they didn’t sell stamps there. Didn’t see stamps! At Disney, the place which can give you anything you want. That’s really strange, right?
We rode the parking train back to the car, and Matt pulled up directions to LA while I drove. We had dinner reservations at 7:30 in Venice, and then were heading to our AirBnb rental afterwards.
The drive was faster than expected (mostly because it’s safe to assume that generally traffic in LA will be the absolute worst), and we got to Venice with almost an hour to kill. I parked on a side street by the beach, and changed clothes in the car because I’m super classy (and was too underdressed for fancy Thanksgiving dinner). We then went to walk down the boardwalk to see what might be up in Venice on a Thanksgiving night.
The answer: nothing. There were a bunch people who lived on the beach hanging around, but all the businesses were closed. We saw one bar that was open, but the bartender told us they were just shutting down as we walked in. So went back to the car and decided to go try to find something on Abbot Kinney instead.
The one place besides our restaurant that was open was a bar that Matt had noticed more than once, and had wanted to visit. So we parked at The Brig and went in for a drink. The people at the bar were friendly (who isn’t when they’re drinking at a bar on a holiday most people are with family?) and they had sports on TV.
Then it was time for our reservation, so we drove down about half a mile (it was too cold to walk in sandals at that point!) and checked in at Joe’s Restaurant. I was a little worried we’d have to wait forever, because the bar area was packed, but they had our table waiting for us. They definitely weren’t wanting for business for Thanksgiving dinner, either – the entire restaurant was full, too.
They had a prix fixe menu that we’d approved beforehand, due to their good vegetarian options. We picked our three courses and a dessert, and Matt ordered from their awesome cocktail menu as well. My entree was half a butternut squash filled with vegetables, in case you were wondering if California is good at food.
Our dinner was going quite nicely when my phone rang in my purse. I looked at it, and it was the number for the guy who owned our rental house, so I answered right away. He started huffily exclaiming about how he’d been at the house since 7:00 waiting for us, and where were we? (It was close to 8:30 at that point.) I told him that no, like we’d discussed a couple times, we were at dinner and were supposed to meet him between 9 and 10pm. But he was having none of it; he just kept repeating over and over that he’d been waiting there forever, and that this was very rude, and what was he supposed to do? He even told me he had a recording of our phone call from that morning, where I’d told him we’d be there at 7:30. (If that was the case he probably should’ve listened to it, since I told him very clearly that we had dinner at 7:30 in Venice, and would meet him between 9-10.)
I told him we’d get there as soon as we could, and hung up the phone upset. We had to grab our server to get the tab quickly, run to the bathroom (it was still a long drive), and get our dessert to go. The restaurant was super-busy, though, so our dessert didn’t show up, and we ended up leaving. I texted the guy from my dying phone that we were on our way, and we jumped in the car and headed out of Venice and up the PCH.
We turned off the highway at Topanga Canyon, and began the 10-mile drive up into the mountains. I was glad I’d looked at Google Streetview earlier so I knew what to expect along the way. The road going up the hill wasn’t narrow, but it was really dark. We found the turnoff and headed up the wrong road initially, which ended up as a tiny narrow street that two cars couldn’t possibly pass on. After realizing that was wrong, we found the correct road up the hill to the house.
We found the driveway, which had a gate and closed garage door, with no path up to the house. My phone was dead, which didn’t much matter because Matt couldn’t get a signal up in the mountains anyway. The lights at the gate were on and there was a security camera pointed at us, so we figured he’d probably see us there. There was no bell we could find, so we waited around there for ten minutes or so, unsure what to do.
Finally, we gave up. I wasn’t thrilled at staying there knowing the guy was really flaky, accusatory and generally bizarre, and he obviously wasn’t in that much of a hurry to let us in. I wanted to just leave without telling him, but Matt convinced me that calling was the right thing to do. We plugged in my phone, drove back down the mountain, and I called him to tell him we were going to get a hotel instead. He was argumentative at first, but calmed down really quickly once I told him why I didn’t think it was a good idea to stay there (i.e. that I didn’t trust him at all, since he was being totally unreliable).
By the time we got back down to the PCH headed back toward Santa Monica, it was after 10pm. I was upset from the ordeal, and we had to find a hotel. Matt pulled up hotels.com on my phone and started searching for places, and I told him to look near LAX, since hotels were always cheap there. We decided on the Sheraton Four Points, and he used my phone to book the room while we drove there. Hooray, technology!
We got to LAX, found the hotel, and pulled into the driveway to find a ‘lot full’ sign in the parking lot. A guy who worked there was standing outside, so I pulled up and asked him about it. He told us that we should pull a ticket and go into the lot anyway, because a bunch of the staff was leaving right then, and there would be spots opening up.
Well…. no. We drove around and around in the lot, which was packed full. People had invented their own spots in driveways, so I’d go down an aisle and have to back all the way out to leave it. There were other cars circling, but nobody seemed to be finding anything. We discovered an underground parking area that was somewhat hidden, and ended up getting stuck in there and having to turn around, too.
We probably circled around there for half an hour, finding nothing. Finally, I drove back to the gate and pressed the call button and explained our problem. The lady told us to go park over at the Radisson, and they’d reimburse our parking.
We drove down a very long block, pulled another parking ticket at the Radisson, and found a parking spot. By that point it was 11pm, and I was on the verge on a panic attack. (I don’t deal with unplanned changes well at all.) We unloaded our suitcases and rolled them through the parking lot, across the street, and finally into the Sheraton to check in. When the very friendly lady at the front desk told us she couldn’t find our reservation, I wanted to cry.
It turns out that because I’d most recently been looking at hotels in Quebec in May, Matt had ended up booking a room for Thanksgiving 2015. Thankfully, that didn’t seem to be a problem for the front desk – she just updated the dates, and we were fine. We even got the same rate.
(Fun fact: while hotels.com will acknowledge that you did indeed stay for a reservation booked on the incorrect dates, they won’t credit your Welcome Rewards until the original dates actually occur. So I still technically have a room booked at the Sheraton Four Points LAX over Thanksgiving 2015.)
FINALLY, we were in our room and settled for our longest stay in one place… three entire nights!