At the bottom on the left is an alphabetical list of the pages in this web site, to help you navigate if you feel so inclined.
A guide to our family photo album covering 1994-2010, showing the principal themes, is here.
A year by year guide to our family time-line from 1994 through 2007 is here.
A photo journal beginning in 2008 is here.
The most recent pages of the album, copies of posts from my WordPress family blog, http://ianstock.wordpress.com/, are linked here:
We spent a long July weekend there, Nick with Charlotte, his girlfriend visiting from Paris, Alban with Ava, his live-in girlfriend, Charlie and Josh, his soccer buddy, and Alex and I, for the first time in years. When was the last time, Thanksgiving 2003? Wow: almost eight years. What were we thinking, not visiting the Magic Kingdom for so long!
Nick reminded us that it was longer since he and Tom had been to a Disney park with us, the summer of 2000 in Orlando. How did they miss both visits in 2003? No idea, but a terrible shame. We’d had so much fun during our early years of constant visits to Disneyland in Paris, between 1994 and 1997.
We drove down to Anaheim from Santa Cruz this weekend in three cars. Alban and Ava drove one, with Charlie and Josh the first part of the route, and then by themselves, and then with Alex, Charlie and Josh. Already complicated arrangements! Why? There are always reasons!
Alex started out with me because sitting shotgun in my car looked better than sitting between Charlie and Josh in Alban’s: it’s tough being everyone’s little brother! Then Charlie and Josh moved over to my car as well so that the former could do a little highway driving at night. Finally, right around the Grapevine, when the 11 pm curfew for teen driving approached, all three elected to transfer back into Alban’s car. I get it: older siblings are preferable than parents for teenagers!
Nick drove Charlotte in the third car, and missed our convoy by about twelve hours! Nobody’s fault. Charlotte had only arrived from Paris on the Wednesday, and was jet-lagged. So they left early Friday morning, and met up with us in Disneyland at about 5 pm.
All eight of us were there!
By popular acclaim, the first order of business on Friday morning was TomorrowLand, for the new 3D Star Tours show and, of course, Space Mountain. By 10.45 am there was already a 60 minute wait for the former, and so I took our six tickets (Nick and Charlotte were yet to arrive) to the Fast Pass distributors for the ride. We received the day’s last Fast Passes for Star Tours before 11 in the morning. In fact, there were only five left, but the cast member kindly scribbled “+1” on one of them so that we would all get in. The time for our admission? Between 23.30 and midnight! It was going to be a long day of Fast Passes and rides.
There was also a 60 minute wait for Space Mountain, but this time we elected to do the necessary. If we had to wait 60 minutes, we’d wait for Space Mountain, a key attraction for our little group. Unfortunately, the ride broke down as we waited. We hung around for a while, and were among the 20 or 30 people at the front of the line when cast members finally decided to send us away. This was the third “breakdown” of the day, and they were going to spend some time to ensure that it did not happen again. As a gesture, because we were almost on the ride when all this happened, they gave us a Fast Pass for any ride we wanted. (Fast Passes are sort of like VIP access to rides, entitling you to jump most of the queue. You can get one every two hours).
We chose Splash Mountain. Actually, that’s an abbreviation. We first went to Pirates of the Caribbean, where the midday line was very long. The cast members stationed at the entrance kindly sent us on, letting us know that the line there would be much shorter later. So we would get more bang for the buck at a ride which would be busy all day long.
Splash Mountain fitted that description, and off we went. If you don’t know it, it’s a great ride. The park’s old-fashioned real railroad train rolls through it from time to time, there are scenes of “zipadee doo-dah, zipadee ay, wonderful feeling, feeling this way” playing on the banks of the stream, and on top of all that it’s a wonderful log ride. I’m fond of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, our hometown funfair, and it has an okay log ride until you compare it with Splash Mountain. Why has nobody ever even equaled Disney in designing and building rides? Good feelings come at you from all directions, for most of your senses. They’re pretty much all worth the wait.
Then came the low moment of the long weekend, a lousy lunch at the French Market. Several of us had the pasta bake, which was a gastronomic catastrophe. 90% of our meals were abandoned on the table, and those of us who had selected it all felt queasy for a while. Josh nailed it later in the afternoon when that lunch again entered the conversation. “I don’t remember another terrible meal that actually looked like vomit,” he reflected, with a questioning expression on his face. Neither did the rest of us!
Not having explored Disney for so many years did create a little anxiety for Alex. Each of his brothers and sister had learned to enjoy roller coasters as they grew old enough to ride them, with a little help (read peer pressure) from their older siblings. But they were regular visitors until they turned 12 or 13. So learning to enjoy roller coasters was a natural progression for each. Without the same progression, Alex was a little worried about the peer pressure that might come from his three older brothers.
He voiced these concerns sitting at home in Santa Cruz one evening before we left. I told him that he had nothing to worry about, and that none of his siblings would force him on a ride that he was worried about. Two hours later, Charlie walked in from some social event and out of the blue announced in an authoritarian voice that whatever happened, Alex would be going on roller coasters at Disneyland. I kept my peace, and Alex went back to his video game. He knew that the pressure was on, whatever I said.
He had enjoyed Splash Mountain in the morning, but the true test would come with Space Mountain later in the day and Thunder Mountain Railroad. The latter is my favorite roller coaster ride. The children called it the “Train Fou” in Paris, the crazy train, and all of us loved it there. It was an older ride at Disneyland, but still had the same great mountain mining décor, hints of Colorado and Rocky Mountain silver mines, to spice up the great ups and downs and whirling around.
Needless to say, Alex loved it, although he preferred Space Mountain later that day. That was his favorite, he proclaimed, trying to convince me to go and retrieve him another Fast Pass for it. He got it. The next day he took to California Screaming too, and insisted on going on it again. So much for that little anxiety! A little help from his brothers, and Alex was on his way to teenage roller coaster heaven: whatever had he been worried about!
Past Disney visits were often in the air for the older members of the family. Alban reminded us that for a while Nick had been the only one tall enough to go on Space Mountain, and had gone on it constantly, time after time, visit after visit. I remembered the parents’ anxiety back then, trying to keep track of our turbulent little crew as we made our way around EuroDisney in Paris (its original name). Someone was always getting lost and finding his way to the lost children’s office. Normally, that someone was Tom! (He lives in Paris now, which is why he did not join us on this trip).
This weekend, we all went on “It’s a Small World,” just like we all used to, sitting together on the benches in the little boat, and it was all very emotional. Well, maybe that was just me. Disneyland in Paris was home to some of the best early moments of our beautiful blended family.
We got lucky on the Saturday: my nephew Antony brought his daughter Avalon and her cousin Vincent to spend the day with us. His wife Courtney had given birth about a week before to Carys (it’s the Welsh for “love” explained Antony), they live in San Diego, only about an hour and a quarter from the park, and Ava needed a day out. She has a special feeling for Charlie and Alex, and was delighted to come and see them. Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!
After a few photos of the ten or eleven of us to prove that we were all actually together, we split into groups, each of which duly wandered off left and right with its own specific itinerary. I hung out with Antony, Ava and Vincent, doing the Disneyland rides that the children liked, or ran around collecting Fast Passes for people so that they didn’t have to waste as much time doing it themselves.
Alban, Ava, Charlie, Josh and Alex moved over to California Adventure to pursue their obsession with scary rides. One of their destinations was the Tower of Terror, the ride which looks like an apartment building after a bomb went off in a higher floor somewhere, and which somehow manages to tower over the entire park.
Waiting in line there, for maybe the second time, they again sat on the chains that cast members move around depending on how many people are waiting for the ride. They’d been doing the same thing at different rides all the time we were there. Only this time, the chain that Alban was sitting on broke He informed the rest of us about this breakage later, with a truly gleeful expression on his face. This was something to write home about!
He continued the story with a Fast Pass which was lost at the same ride. “We lost a Fast Pass,” said Alban, relaying the story, and Ava (the older Ava, his girlfriend) jumped in: “I lost a Fast Pass!” Let’s hear it for full disclosure! Alex did not go on the Tower that particular time, and so it was Alex who overheard the cast members’ exchange about the lost Fast Pass after the others were back on the ride. “Yeah,” one cast member said to his colleague, “that was the same asshole who broke the chain!” Yeah Alban! I guess I can't say that he's my a--hole, but I can say that he is my step-a--hole!!
Listing of Pages in the Site
. . . with Alban