"Adopting a Child won't change the world; but for that Child the world will change."

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

We're in AMERICA!

G'Day Mate! (geez the yanks can't get enough of us saying that?!!!) I thought I'd write up a post, because I've had too much coffee and can't sleep - and our hotel has free wireless internet... so why not use it?!!

Here's how our trip has gone so far...
24 hrs to get from our door to the door of our hotel
surprised (in a good way) that our hotel is actual pretty good!
seen Disneyland for the first time - our childhood dreams come true!
Harrison had the best day ever on Sunday 15 May - he got to go to the holy grail of his imagination... Legoland!

Thats the short version!

The long version goes like this...
Flew from Adelaide to Melbourne with Qantas (I was making myself sick with worry, because the Monday before we left Qantas employees were threatening to strike on Friday 13th... the day we were leaving) - thank the Lord, they didn't strike, and we kept our flight. We then flew from Melbourne to Sydney with United Airlines, then Sydney to Los Angeles with United (departed at 1130am on Fri 13th, landed in LAX at 1027am Fri 13th!!! We arrived before we left?!!!!) I'd like to say, that United Airlines service was brilliant. They constantly offered water and food - which is alot more than I can say for Qantas, on our return flight from Shanghai to Adelaide with Tiny. So Bravo United Staff!! There are only 2 downfalls; one was there are no individual screens in economy class. (which does suck - especially when travelling with children). I put a great deal of thought into how I could keep them entertained for the mamoth 13 hour flight. I bought the new Panasonic 13hr battery portable DVD player, and each child had a Nintendo DS, along with some colouring books & pencils. I'm very happy to say - the journey went very well. The kids were entertained and slept the rest of the time. The other was the coffee was absolutely terrible!!!! So stick with tea, softdrink or water!!!

When we arrived at Ramada Maingate Hotel, I thought... hmmm... looks pretty old. I knew I couldn't expect the Ritz - we are only paying $99 p/n!!! But upon entering our compact room, we've come to appreciate the very comfy pillowtop queen beds, single cup coffee machine (with GOOD coffee), fridge and microwave, flat screen tv, new carpet, newly tiled bathroom (with bath), and large vanity bench and closet. H-Man can vouch for the pool, says its great along with the new "water play" area next to the pool, that has water canons and sprayers etc. There is also a hot tub, that I'm yet to test, as its usually full of other guests! The free continental breakfast is adequate, although is very different to our Aussie breakfast! The bread here is really sweet! And we're not quite used to sugar donuts, icing covered (thats frosting here?) danish and chocolate muffins for breakfast!!! There is a bit of fruit on offer and some sugar coated cereal. BUT... the coffee is really good!!! And last but not least the staff here are BRILLIANT! Thank you to all staff - for trying to understand our aussie accent and putting up with our constant needs!!!

Disneyland is almost identical to HongKong Disney. I don't know why that surprises us - I guess its because everyone that has been to both, says "HK Disney is much smaller" - I was thinking that meant rides etc - but theres no real difference in the rides / attractions at all?! Don't get me wrong!!! We love Disneyland - its just different from what I expected... the funny thing is, I'm not really sure what I expected!!!! Even the front gate wasn't what I imagained!! After thinking about it though - to have a huge marvellous front gate on the main road is ludicrous, because there'd be people lined up everywhere!!! The folks at Disney are all very welcoming and absolutely everyone says "Did you find everything you were looking for?" and "Enjoy the rest of your day"!!! A group of (Amercian) high school girls were following us at one stage and trying to work out where we were from, first she said England, then Ireland - so we said we're from the largest island in the world - she said "Long Island?" then she said "No wait, I'm from Long Island"!!!! We then said "What if we said Crikey and crocodiles" She got VERY excited and screamed "Australia!!" Thank God for TV, hey? Educating the young people of our world?!!! At night we went to World of Color at the California Adventure Park - it was absolutely brilliant, and totally worth, trying to stay awake til 10pm to go (remember 10pm is about 2pm the following day at home)!!!!

We've got a 6 day pass, so we'll go back a few times yet!

On Sunday we went to the place that H-Man hasn't stopped raving on about since I booked our USA tickets... LEGOLAND!!! OH! I have to mention first, that we explored all sorts of options to get there (coz its about 45 mins out of Anaheim), and eventually settled on hiring a big ass bus, to take the 5 of us and family of 4 friends who met us here. NOW. I must explain that driving over here, for us, is a huge challenge... YOU PEOPLE DRIVE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!!! Your steering wheel is also on the wrong side of the car!!!! So, we all climb aboard big ass bus, with our friend at the wheel. We've got Mr T in the passenger seat (that at home is the driver seat!) trying to get his i-phone maps to work. We've got my BFF in the first row of seats, with one map, and me with another. Next row of seats is Tiny (constantly singing), Miss M (joining in with the singing). Next row is friend's sons (12 & 8) and H-Man, playing some DS game - all connected, so there's all sorts of yelling coming out about who's not doing what correctly. Are you getting the picture here... CHAOS with a capital C!!!! And we haven't left the parking lot yet! We go to turn onto the road, and nearly turned into traffic... CHECK - when turning right its HARD right - not wide right. OK... driving on the road - everyone is very sweaty - find highway 5. OH THERE IT IS!! Whoops, nearly turned into the "off ramp" not the on ramp - "just follow that taxi" was screamed in unison by all adults in the car. OK - we're on the freeway!!! YAY!!! Everyone gives a big hooray!!! Why is everyone passing us?!! We're doing 70 miles an hour, even trucks and buses are passing us!!! Where are the speed signs? How fast are we sposed to be going?!!! I guess we'll just sit on 70 in the middle lane, everyone else can work it out!!! We realised eventually that the far right lane, is the "slow lane" so we moved over (note: we are still very sweaty). Oh - it started to rain. Now we're flogging along at 70 miles an hour in the rain, still don't really know where we're going - still been overtaken by everything that moves. You'll be proud to know, we did actually overtake one truck and one winnebago!!! We finally spotted the exit to Legoland. Parked B.A.B, all got out and kissed the ground!

Legoland was awesome (had to say that coz I reckon I hear an American say that 100 times a day!!!) It was peeing down with rain when we got there, so our first stop was to get ourselves a very stylish bright yellow "Legoland" poncho - otherwise known as our garbage bag raincoat. We figured, the beauty about it raining was it'd probably deter others from coming!!! I think it did - because it was pretty quiet there. About an hr after arriving the rain stopped, the sun came out - and we had a fabulous day. H-Man got his fill of Lego (bought about 4 new sets - all half the price of what it is at home). Mr T braved the drive home - which was great, til we had to work out which exit to take, to get back to the hotel. I'd like to publically apologise to the 5 or so cars that we cut off, trying to zoom across 5 lanes of traffic!!! We got back safe and sound - although Mr T, seriously nearly drove into traffic on the wrong side of the road. Geez its hard work trying to remember to drive on the wrong side of the road!!! (I might add, our friend was terrified we'd get shot at, or carjacked!!!)

Monday we decided to take it easy, do some much needed laundry, and did some shopping at Downtown Disney. (I mistakenly thought there was a discount Disney shop there?!!! Seriously wrong. Nothing discount bout that place at all!!! Did get some nice souvenirs... but for someone who just loves a sale... there wasn't one!) I also had to spruke about Mimi's. An absolutely fantastic restaurant just up the road from Disneyland main gate. (next door to Howard Johnson). We had lunch and dinner there today - it wasn't only fantastic food, but was excellent value for money. AND they put the calories next to all their meals... I tell ya... really made me think about what I was going to order!!!! I had the Sweet n Sour Chicken for lunch, and their "3 course dinner special" for dinner (I chose Corn Chowder, Prawn & Ravoli, Chocolate brownie) - and I am paying for it now!!! My tummy is oh-so full, I can't sleep!!!! (could have something to do with the "bath-sized" latte I had there too?!!!) (I've just re-read my comments, and realised I sound like a fool, saying I watched my calorie intake, then ordered a 3 course meal!!! hehehe!!!! I might add - it was a little bowl of soup, an entree (4 pieces of ravioli, and 2 prawn skewers), and a "petite" dessert)

So - thats our America Experience so far!!! I have a few questions though - so if readers would like to shed some light, feel free!!!
1. No-one here knows what a lemonade is?!!! Apparently is Sprite here. We do have Sprite at home, but Coca-Cola isn't the only one that makes lemonade!!! So we just call it lemonade!!! If we forget to call it Sprite, we usually get a weird look, then a glass of water with squeezed lemon appears!!! Also, Lemon Squash is another thing that no-one knows about? I was thinking tonight, we should call it Mello-Yello - do they still have that in America? Coz that is Lemon Squash!! I asked for a Lemon, Lime and Bitters - the waiter didn't know what that was either, but asked at the bar - the barman said "Yeah, thats Sprite and bitters"... we are trying to educate the American Wait Staff on Aussie drinks... we're slowly getting there!!
2. What's with all this (money) change? Can we use any of it for anything? I discovered today, that "quarters" (the big silver one), is used for the washing machine - but what about the other silver and copper ones?!!! What am I sposed to do with those?!!! And how much are they worth?!!! (ie. whats a dime? 5c? 10c? 50c?!!!)
3. Speaking of money... what's the go with the tax not being on the price tag?!!!! Crikey - how are you supposed to know how much something REALLY is?!!!!
4. All the toilets/taps/paper towel are automated. When you get off the loo (toilet) it automatically flushes! Tiny lent one way to check out what was going on back there, and the loo went off!!! Nearly flushed my tiny baby down the drain!!! Poor thing lept off the loo quicker than jumping jack flash!!! The paper towel drives me crazy - darn thing takes forever to work, meanwhile you're dripping all over the floor - I'm worried some old lady (or me??) will slip over!
5. We must have a strange sense of humour!! Several times we've cracked a joke with a store attendant or any person really, and they smile and nod... I'm guessing they don't have a clue what we're on about?!!!
6. Lots of people say "excuse me" after we've said something, coz they don't understand us! My friend was in America a few years back, and was at Subway ordering a sandwich when the attendant said "what bread would you like" she said "white" the attendant repeated herself, so my friend said "white"... this went on for about 4 times, til the dude behind my friend in the line said, "I think she said whYte" in his strong American accent... apparently the attendant thought she was saying "what?"!!!! I told this story to a nice lady standing next to me at World of Color, I asked her if she'd think I was saying "White, as in the colour" or "What, as in What do you want"... she said "What do you want"!!!! Too funny!!!!
7. Tips. We tip at home, if service is exceptional. Its not expected, and is usually a surprise to the recipient if we do tip! I'm so confused about tipping. I asked the girl at the Target checkout, if I was sposed to tip her. She looked at me like I was an alien (which I am, I guess?!!) and said "no". Mr T said, tip anyone that gives service... she gave me service?!!! My friend said, the tip should be double the tax. Then someone else said about 14%, and someone else said 20%. And you wonder why I'm so confused??!! I will say though - service in restaurants is excellent so far... they obviously want a big tip?!!
8. When you buy a soft drink, at any restaurant, is it the done thing to get free refills? The first restaurant we went to, they keep bringing us drinks (even before we'd finished) our friends that were with us, were getting really worried, they were just trying to crank up the bill, and put the drinks that we didn't order on there!!! Of course, they didn't put the extra drinks on there - but I was wondering if it's the "norm"? Coz most places have done it so far?
9. The meals are GIANORMOUS here!!! A normal serve at home would be the size of a kids meal here. I'm gonna get so fat on this trip!!!!

Well... it's 1230am now. I'm still not tired at all. (thanks Mimi's for that great coffee!) Mr T is snoring like a freight train, so I don't think I'll be dozing off anytime soon! Sorry I've rambled for ages... just wanted to share our experience!!! (I forgot to bring my download lead for my camera - so I'll add pictures when we get home!)

(PS sorry if there's spelling / gramatical errors... I'm doing this in the dark - my eyes are getting sore and I'm tired of re-reading my post!)


Johnny said...

Welcome to America!

(seriously, no one answering your questions?!?)

Here we go:

1) Money: it's all the same color, so be careful not to give someone a 10 when you meant to give them a 1!

2) Lack-of-VAT: This is my personal, non-confirmable theory that America was started as part of a tax revolt. Thus, we like to see what something really costs and then see on the receipt how much the local government taxes us. That way, we know whether to blame the seller or the government when prices change.

3) Tips: You tip people who are in the hospitality industry. That means YES to waiters at sit-down restaurants but NO to McDonalds. At almost all restaurants, people make 1/4 or 1/5 of the legal minimum hourly wage. They must "make up" the rest of their wage solely through tips.

4) Most soft drinks and all coffee at restaurants are "bottomless". Watch your bladder!

5) Big meals = Obese Americans

Remember, as you've just finished cutting several people off after suddenly crossing 4 lanes....they are not angrily gesturing at you, they're telling you "Welcome to America! You're NUMBER ONE!"

Colleen said...

1. Lemonade here is pretty much lemons, water and way too much sugar. I like Sprite, but to me it tastes nothing like lemonade. :)

2. We have way too many coins here. We are talking about getting rid of the copper ones, the penny. The penny (1c) is worth 1/100 of a dollar, the lowest bill. A nickel (5c) is the small silver one and is worth 5/100 and the quarter (25c) is the larger silver coin and is worth 1/4 of a dollar.

3. Each state has different taxes, so it can get really confusing. I live on the border of 2 states and one of those states has like no tax on most things.

4. I think they use automated bathrooms the most in public places because of germs and there is less cleaning.

5. A lot of people here have no sense of humour :)

6. That's funny! :)

7. In most places you do not tip. If there is a sit down restaurant where they bring you your food you tip 15% or 20% if they were really good. If they were really, really bad I will leave $1 to make a point. But I was a waitress when I was a student, so I try to be nice. If people carry your bags, like at the airport, I also tip a few dollars. Or if someone parks your car I tip a few dollars.

8. At many restaurants, they will bring you unlimited soda. But sometimes you only get one glass of milk, or tea, or coffee without free refills.

9. I specifically get the kids meals because of this or bring home insane amounts of leftovers. It's crazy how big the portions are!

I love Disney, and it sounds like you are having a great time. :D

Briana's Mom said...

Sounds like Johnny and Colleen have covered most of your questions. You are making me giggle. America seems pretty weird when seeing it through your eyes. LOL!

Anonymous said...

G'day. So glad you posted. Been wondering how you are going. Sounds like a lot of fun. I am jealous. Keep us updated. xx Jandra

Anonymous said...

On the automated bathrooms, you can put on post-it note over the sensor so it will not flush. My niece will not sit down until she sees the post-it. She is terrified of it flushing while in use. Afterwards, remove it and let it flush away. WELCOME TO AMERICA!

Michelle said...

It was so fun meeting you all! Thanks so much for letting me hang with you guys at Disney. I had so much fun! Tell M when she sets up her etsy shop to drop me a line. I'll post about it on my blog. I can't wait to see her creations. Have a wonderful rest of your trip.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Between Johnny and Colleen, I think all your questions were answered. I second the bathroom post-it notes. And - as for no one laughing at your jokes - either they aren't too bright or they can't understand the accented Australian slang. Because y'all are FUNNY.