California Adventure Park

This week I’m discussing the California Adventure Park, which is located  opposite Disneyland. In many ways, this park is forgotten or dismissed. Now, I’m not saying it’s empty because California Adventure can be overcrowded. However, there are not many people who travel to Anaheim specifically for the park. I myself made the trip specifically for Disneyland, and California Adventure was just a bonus. I feel like this is a common opinion among park-goers. Therefore, I want to change this belief today.

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I want to start off by saying California Adventure Park is, in fact, Disney-themed. From the Little Mermaid to A Bug’s Life and Cars, California Adventure can still thrill Disney-lovers. Most of the souvenirs found within the park are also Disney-themed but many are different from what can be found in Disneyland. This is fantastic for if you are looking for a gift but couldn’t find the right thing in Disneyland (I had this issue. California Adventure saved me). The park also contains the Animation Studio, where you can learn how to draw your favourite characters and view original sketches.

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My favourite aspect of California Adventure Park, however, was the main street. It is styled in Hollywood’s Golden Era of the 1920s. Every building, food stall and water fountain is Art Deco and I loved this. It honestly felt like I had stepped back in time. It gave me a bit more of an understanding into what life was like at the time that Walt Disney began his career in animation.

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Architecture aside, I would have to say that California Adventure caters to both children and thrill-seekers. The areas such as Cars Land and Flik’s Fun Fair hold an array of themed children’s rides and amusements. The restaurants and cafés are incredibly well-designed, too. I felt like I was in the Cars movie whilst wandering through the park, especially when I ran into Bumper.

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As to thrill-seekers, all other rides are designed to make your stomach drop to your toes. Even the iconic Mickey Ferris wheel has a twist- the cages swing along a tilted frame. Being such a baby, I must admit that I didn’t attempt even one of these, knowing I would surely regret it. However, if you love your rides, you must try each and every roller coaster. I promise you will be hoarse by the end of your visit.

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I’ve already mentioned the Hollywood theme but there are so many other themes that I have yet to address. You can find a region dedicated to educating the park’s visitors  on both California and Los Angeles’ culture and history. There is a sort of obstacle course set among a forest known as the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. There’s also an aviation area, set around the 1950s. Paradise Pier has a circus or fair atmosphere to it and runs under the entire track of one roller coaster. This somehow lends a nostalgic feel to the area. It’s almost as if hearing the sounds of screams is synonymous with a fair.

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The food within the park is amazing. The Pacific Wharf, modeled after San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, holds a chocolate factory, a number of bakeries, and cafés, all with delicious delicacies and specialties that you will want to try. Each of the different themed areas will also have specialty foods but I must warn you that every restaurant and café fills up incredibly fast. If you want to get a meal quickly, opt for the bakeries or take-away options.

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The shopping, as I mentioned earlier, does marginally vary from Disneyland. For instance, at the Animation studio you can find Disney baubles for the Christmas tree. Along that same street you can find a store that sells Marvel and Star Wars souvenirs. Of course, souvenirs are seasonal and will change with the season so bear that in mind.

For all you who are much like me and afraid of roller coasters, there are a few other options you can consider. I have already named the Animation Studio and Redwood Creek obstacle course but there are also things such as the bakery tour.

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I hope that this post has helped to explain what the California Adventure Park has to offer. Like I stated at the beginning, I feel many people underestimate the caliber of the park. My only regret is not being a fan of roller coasters as I would’ve loved to try many of the park’s rides. Perhaps that is one of its downfalls- not having enough tame rides for people such as me. However, I still had an exciting day, as you will!

Happy travels!

Disneyland: The Happiest Place On Earth

Disneyland is every Disney-lover’s dream. An amusement park all about our favourite Disney movies! I don’t know about you but I grew up in the 90’s, when all the best Disney movies were released. The classics. I get a thrill just thinking about them; The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin.

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Therefore, when I saw a deal from Flight Centre for cheap flights and packages to visit Disneyland, California, my Disney-shaped heart fairly burst out of my chest at the possibility of a trip. I had booked myself a holiday within a week; my most spontaneous holiday to date. For those who truly know me, they understand that such a quick decision is phenomenal.

Then came the waiting game. I had about 4 months before my trip and during that time I researched and fantasized. The research was good but the fantasizing was a bad idea. You know how it is. When you have a childhood dream and, even though you’re now a rational adult, you still have that child-like expectation of magic. Well, that was me and Disneyland. Don’t get me wrong; Disneyland is a fantastic park and I would certainly return if I was in the area again. However, I somehow forgot that Disneyland is a business, not just Walt Disney’s attempt to fill the world with magic.

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What time of year, season and day of the week is a big factor in how much you will enjoy your time at the park. I visited in early September, which is after the American summer holidays. This made the park less crowded during the week but overcrowded on the weekend. If you really want to see the park during a particular season, then you are going to have to count on it being shoulder-to-shoulder busy. I was shocked at the difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday.

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As you will be able to tell from my photos, there is a pretty slim chance that you won’t get random people in your pictures and just know that people really don’t care that you have been waiting for them to pass before taking the shot. I don’t know how many times I took 6 or 7 shots of the same spot in order to get a shot without someone’s face looking into my lens. Listen, I am not having a whinge about finding “the perfect shot” because there is no way I am a good photographer. It’s the awesome camera I use. No, I honestly don’t like how oblivious we as humans are to our surroundings, especially to people trying to get a memorable photo. But like I said, resign yourself to having to look past the crowds for a good shot.

As to the atmosphere in Disneyland, I would definitely say it is one of the happiest theme parks I’ve ever been to. This is mainly because no one is judging you for dressing in a full Disney-themed outfit, sporting those iconic ears and walking around with a glazed expression on your face. In fact, most people will compliment you on what you wear and even share in your enthusiasm. Some of the staff within Disneyland, however, could be a little more nice. I found the staff on rides and the ones at the fruit/ bottled drinks stands rude. I mean, I understand they’re at work but they do work at Disneyland, right?

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The rides are pretty incredible, I must say. I myself am not much of a rides person but the few I did go on were fantastic. The park is very large so if you do intend to ride many of the rides, I would suggest using the Fastpass service to your advantage. The lines were upwards of an hour waiting, which leaves very little time to do much else and there is so much more to see.

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The food inside the park varies between reasonable and expensive. If you plan on eating at one of the cafés or themed restaurants, I would suggest leaving yourself plenty of time to eat. The lines for a seated meal were sometimes the same length as the rides’ lines. I often stopped to stickybeak, wondering what could be so good that they’d wait an hour just to be seated. If it’s possible to pre-book a table, do it. Food you must try, however, is the beignets and churros. Now there is something that I could easily wait in line for. Maybe not an hour, though.

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On to my favourite part of Disneyland. The shopping! I could’ve spent a million dollars in the park’s stores. From jewellery to clothing to ornaments, Disneyland has a vast array of Disney-themed souvenirs. Be warned, however. None of these things come cheap. There was many times where I gasped at something spectacular, only to stare in horror at the ridiculous price attached to the item. If you are on a budget as I was, you will have to learn to be decisive on your shopping budget for your souvenirs will add up quickly.

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Though the park has so many different facets, I can definitively name my favourite section of the park. It has to be Tomorrowland. Why? Because it’s Star Wars-themed! From the moment you enter the Tomorrowland zone, you hear the amazing soundtrack from the Star Wars movies. All the decorations are futuristic and cool. The rides, too, are the definition of amazing. Everyone lined up to go on them. The lines often blocked the walkways, no joke. The Star Trader store, however, was drool-worthy. I walked in and began touching everything, oohing and ahhing at every turn. I couldn’t decide what to buy! It was always my first and last stop during the day.

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The one place I would not recommend visiting is Toon Town. Now, there is nothing wrong with Mickey’s Toon Town. It’s more that the region is most definitely suited for young children. It is where characters such as Minnie, Pluto and Mickey can be found and visited at their respective homes but there’s not all that much else. Nothing to keep the older ones happy.

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So, if you are contemplating a visit to California’s Disneyland, here are my top tips.

Use the ART bus system. This is one of the local bus systems that has every route linked at Disneyland. The buses stop outside most of the hotels in Anaheim and take you all over the city, not just the Disneyland parks. They also arrive every 20 minutes or so, which is absolutely amazing. Do not walk unless you are staying at one of the Disneyland resorts. It’s just too far and too painful. Besides, you’ll be doing plenty of walking in the park.

Don’t visit Disneyland alone. It’s not as much fun when you have no one to share the magical moments with and you feel pretty lonely getting on rides. Disneyland is a place that you need to visit with someone. I know there are plenty of people who say it’s better alone but, speaking from experience, it was lonely.

California is hot. No matter what time of year you visit, California is going to be hot and dry. If you have fair skin, slather on that sunscreen. You will totally thank me later. I actually burnt my scalp and was in serious pain the rest of the week. Take a cute hat, too. That sun can be blinding and a hat offers much needed shade.

That about sums up my trip to Disneyland. I hope this post answers any questions you might have. I had an absolute blast in Disneyland, even if it didn’t live up to my childhood expectations. If you are thinking about going, grab a bunch of friends and check out this phenomenon.

Happy travels!

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

This week’s post is such a somber one that I am at a loss as to how to begin it. The Second World War introduced the world to a new level of atrocity, something that those who had lived through the Great War (WW1) couldn’t believe was possible. No one could’ve guessed the extent of the damage that World War 1 would wreak on the entire world. From shortages to the Great Depression to the staggering loss of life, every nation felt the effects of the conflict.

Germany, however, was the biggest loser- they were blamed for the entire war and forced to pay restitution to the Allies. The German people were suitably enraged that they had been solely blamed for the war. Enter the man that has been labeled as one of the most evil men in all of history- Adolf Hitler. Hitler served as a Lance Corporal in the Bavarian Army during the Great War and was quite certain that the superior German race would conquer the inferior Allies and rule the world as was their right. At the news of Germany’s surrender, Hitler was bitterly disappointed. When Germany was plunged into debt, more so than the rest of the world, because of the restitution payments, Hitler saw the wealth of the Jewish communities within Germany and a seed of bitterness that had planted years earlier began to sprout.

Hitler’s rise to power is not all that stupefying. The German people were desperate to improve their situation, making radical ideas easier to swallow. Hitler also had an arsenal of weapons in the form of loyal followers who believed the same philosophy regarding Germany’s superiority. These followers had no issue with disposing of anyone who objected to the Nazi’s rise to power. This is where the idea for the concentration camps arose.

Some of the first victims of Hitler’s schemes were political rivals or influential persons. Many were imprisoned before the Second World War began and kept alive until the final days, starved and worked to death. Gypsies and any other form of “impure” race was targeted next, almost used as guinea pigs whilst the Nazis perfected their system.

Once World War 2 began, and Hitler conquered neighbouring nations, they were able to ship their victims off to far off places, away from the German people’s eyes. A vast majority of the population had no inkling of what was being done away from home.

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Auschwitz is one of the most famous concentration camps and the largest by far. Auschwitz is located in Poland. The camp was built from scratch by the millions of Jews that were detained there. Auschwitz is most famous because of its size but also because it was a well-oiled extermination camp.

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Today, Auschwitz has been preserved and opened to the public. The grounds have been left in its original state, with minimal alteration, to allow visitors to understand the conditions in which the prisoners lived in before their death.

 

During the guided tour, you follow a path that depicts the story of the prisoners from the moment they arrive to their final moments within the gas chambers. Pictured above is one of the rooms where an indecent amount of prisoners lived, at the end is a photo of the women and children as they are herded through the gates of the camp, unaware of the horrors that would face them. The middle picture is a portion of the empty cans of zyklon B, the poison used in the gas chambers. The final picture is an urn of the ashes of some of the victims.

Many of the prisoners were sent immediately to the gas chambers upon arrival at the camp. They were told they would be taken to bathing chambers in order to keep them calm. The German soldiers looted the bodies for jewellery and gold teeth, their clothes removed, hair cut and their bodies burned. Any personal documents were destroyed and their personal effects were sorted. In essence, all trace of the victims were erased systematically and without hesitation.

The remaining prisoners were kept as slave labour and worked to death before sharing the same fate. The prisoners were even forced to build their own torture chambers. As the number of victims increased, so did the workload. More lodging was required to accommodate the growing influx of prisoners. Now that the war was in full swing, prisoners of war were added to the camps regularly, as well as the “inferior” races that were conquered by the Nazi forces.

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Auschwitz has many rooms that I was not allowed to take photos of, out of respect for the victims. However, these rooms were filled with their belongings; shoes, suitcases, cooking utensils and a wall length glass cabinet of hair from the millions of prisoners. There is a hallway that has the pictures of all the recorded prisoners, their eyes downcast and their faces filled with despair.

The entire experience is eye-opening and quite distressing. I am a firm believer in knowing the truth about history, even if the truth is upsetting. How else will we learn? I especially believe that, being so far removed from those horrific times, everyone should understand the pain that was felt by the world when these horrendous acts were uncovered.

Though I was brought to tears and an unbearable ache filled my chest, I will never regret my visit to Auschwitz. Even now, tears fill my eyes at the memory of what I was shown. It is a testament to how far we as human beings have come, the fact that we can’t imagine such acts being allowed. I am glad.

For those who are anticipating visiting the camp, I must urge you to be considerate of the victims. It is not a place where tourists are smiling, laughing or taking selfies. It is an attraction that brings a great deal of soul searching. The pain will be almost physical so you must be certain you will be able to handle this.

May we never see such cruelties ever again.

Happy travels!