Urbi et Orbi

sunset over Disneyland
 "Urbi et Orbi" is Latin for "to the city and to the world" which was the title for the Pope's Christmas message this year. On this ever-shrinking planet I think it is an apt title for communication in general. A single tweet is global, no? This little blog may be one person's perspective, but putting it on the web is a message to the world.

We Rioses got out of town this Christmas. We are fresh back from our holiday exploring some urbi and some orbi, Palm Springs and Disneyland in particular. And, may I say that a healthy dose of California desert certainly does a body good!

Not to say that we didn't get our fill of the Northwest Christmas thing before we left. Christmas just doesn't seem like christmas without frosty pine trees and cozy white lights, hot toddies and dinner at the Sapphire Hotel. We just did all that a bit early. Personally, I began the xmas season in October. I don't really care for halloween, (so tacky!), so I pretty much ignored it and decorated the house for "fall" instead. No cheesy gourds or corn stalks here, however, Cora and I made copper candle lanterns (see previous post), and gathered acorns. We cued up Pandora with the "Bing Crosby Holiday" station, and got our yule on before thanksgiving even hit the stands.

I love Oregon during the holidays, and this fall was particularly spectacular. There were plenty of sunny, frosty walks to be had throughout November! Faye and I soaked it all up, walking miles over Mt. Tabor, and throughout southeast Portland with Bing and Frank crooning away in our ears.

Merry Christmas!

view from atop Big Pink
December was just as beautiful as November, serene even. This neighborhood is beyond lovely with its huge old homes and giant leafy trees that are the perfect backdrop to a cozy holiday season.

This year Greg, Cora and I had a special dinner on the top of the Big Pink "skyscraper", 30 floors up, looking out over Portland. We saw the pink sunset turn to indigo, and all the lights of the city come on. We could even see the fanciful fairytale tents of Cavalia under the Fremont Bridge. When Christmas proper did actually roll around, I'd had my fill of a northwest holiday, and was ready to head south, to the desert...and to Disneyland!

I know it's strange, but I love to pack. Traveling for me is serious business. I could never be someone who throws things in a bag and runs out the door. Once a long time ago when Greg and I were dating he brought a paper grocery bag as a carry-on. Um, no.
Vacation Vision

No, my vacation begins with packing. Every necessary item is carefully arranged, including the ten pounds of fashion magazines which are my flight anxiety medication.

Because this is my blog and I can talk about whatever I want, and because I love fashion, I will describe my going-home flight outfit. Think 1970's California vacation girl. Faye Dunnaway on a weekend in Malibu. I wore dark wash, wide leg, high-waisted jeans, heeled brown boots, a light-wash chambray denim shirt, hair parted in center, straightened, and a long gold chain necklace, and blue eye shadow. I looked and felt like a Charlie's Angel. It was awesome.

Rollerskating Disneyland Snowflake Girls
But I digress. Ok. Disneyland. I have a thing about Disneyland. I've been going there since I was a kid, but it wasn't until I was in my 30's that I really fell for it. Which is ironic because I'm not one for overly-commercial themes, and expensive crowded events. And of course all of those things describe Disneyland. But it's not the whole story. For me, the lure is NOSTALGIA. That's why it's got to be Disneyland in Anaheim, not Epcot Center or Disneyworld in Florida. The one in California is the one that Walt Disney himself spent the night at in an apartment over the fire station on Main Street. The rides there are the REAL DEAL. Mary Blair's original It's a Small World is there. The Sherman Brother's Tiki Room is there! The amazing Abraham Lincoln theater is there, with the awe-inspiring animatronic 1960's Lincoln figure himself! And the train, and the monorail, and the freaking Matterhorn! All original. I love it.

Hotel Lobby

our cozy beds with good lighting
looking down to the lobby
I especially love it when we can spend the night there. As a kid I never spent the night because we lived nearby in Santa Monica. We would top off an exhausting day with a grueling drive home on the freeway.

We decided to live out a dream and cough up the (many) sheckles it takes to book a room at a Disneyland hotel, knowing full well that we were entering a land of corporate consumerism masked as childhood happiness on a level that was too profound to comprehend, and....we had a great time.

We stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel, a place I've dreamed of staying since I first glimpsed it from the monorail about a decade ago. A huge, Arts and Crafts-style lodge situated just along the park, it's gorgeous from afar. The massive beamed architecture landscaped with pine trees ironically reminds me of home. It's like Timberline Lodge, but 20 times bigger! And weirdly new! The moment you enter the hotel your breath is taken away by the scale of the lobby. Giant boulders surround a cozy fireplace nook that seats at least ten. Towering wooden pillars support the ceiling six floors above. And it was decorated for Christmas! There's an 80-foot christmas tree covered in glittering gold and red gifts, sparkling acorns, red flowers and ribbon. There is pine garland everywhere, festooned with white lights and sparkling glass balls. It's incredible. Our room is great, the beds are like magical cozy ships with good lighting. Everything is so damned tasteful, I'm freaking out! A tasteful attack! Ok, get a grip. Hard though it is to drag ourselves away from this magic hotel palace, Disneyland awaits! Onward!

Tarzan's tree, my next home
about to get soaked
  It was a day of great fun and of lower back pain. The first thing I did was ride Splash Mountain, which is the greatest ride in the park, but I got completely soaked. I mean, completely. Hair-mashed-and-dripping-sitting-in-a-pool-jeans-stuck-to-skin-shoes-full-of-water-soaked.And it was the very first ride I went on. So I was wet all day and looked like shit, but I still had fun! I got separated from Greg and Cora for awhile when they stood in line for the Matterhorn, so I paddled around Tom Sawyer's island with the canoe guy and a bunch of strangers. I found the art gallery with Mary Blair's art in it, and I watched the Abraham Lincoln presentation for the first time. I fought the urge to wave back at Mary Poppins when she walked by with Burt. I just love her. Also, I decided to model my next home on Tarzan's tree.

Disneyland palm trees in the morning
view from the back of the canoe

We braved the crowds, (lots of family men with HUGE tattoos on their necks. Gang dudes on family holiday. And lots of smoking. Wait a minute -- smoking in Disneyland?! Wtf?!) and we made it to all of the things on our list. We saw the holiday parade which was cheesy, not at ALL like the excellent Lion King parade I saw there like 15 years ago (ouch I'm old!).

Later, after I'd retired to the loving arms of my magical hotel bed, Greg and Cora stayed up late to see the lightshow. Evidently it climaxes by having a giant dragon set the entire lake on fire. When Greg told me this I wondered, "what about the ducks?" There are a lot of ducks on that lake by day! How can you set the whole lake on fire and not even singe one duck? Hmmm...neck tatoos, smoking, and duck singing at Disneyland.

A word of warning: it's all fun and joy the day of your arrival, but the morning you check out of a Disneyland hotel you feel a bit deflated. Once you leave that driveway, the magic is abruptly over and the real freeway is just outside the gate.

We were heading south on Christmas Eve, Hurtling down the I-10 toward Palm Springs. Cruising through Riverside, through the soft, tufted desert hills, past the eerie wind mills dwarfing the surrounding homes, but being dwarfed themselves by the rising mountains. It's a beautiful landscape, and desolate. It doesn't really feel like humans should be there, it's very alien, and VERY hot, but it also feels full of life. Ancient, hardy plants and small animals rule the landscape just beyond the reach of the sprinklers.

I do love the desert and this was a great time to go. As different from our northwest pine trees and rain forest as you get, it is a welcome change to the spirit to see forests of palm trees and cactus, feel warm sunshine and smell the fresh december desert breezes. A different place altogether in December than in July!

We spent Christmas with my dear mother-in-law, Ida at her house. We had a really lovely time being together, eating christmas dinner next to a crackling fire on the heated patio of a nice restaurant, tasty lemon-creme salmon and tangy white wine on our lips as we toasted the season. Giving so much thanks.

The next day we took a wonderful tour of the Moorten Botanical Gardens. I do love a good Botanical Garden, I must say. And this one was all cactus! Enormous prehistoric monster-cactus. Tiny, fuzzy hilarious little cactus. Mean, evil super-spiky-I-gonna'-kill-you cactus! And one cactus that had a female-like form that was almost indecent. (see below.)

It was very interesting. Evidently the fellow that started the gardens was a friend of Walt Disney himself! He acted as a consultant for "Frontierland" at Disneyland! It's a Small World, indeed!

someone get her a robe!
Our time was up. So, I packed again. Re-packing to return home is not nearly as exciting as packing to go, but you still try to be thoughtful so security goes smoothly at the airport. As previously described, I was feeling particularly glamorous in my Charlie's Angel on the weekend travel outfit, and comfortably passed three hours in the zoo that is gates 30-34 by reading fashion mags. (And tuning out that one shrieking little child beast.)

Sadly for me, the flight home was especially bumpy. I get pretty freaked out by flying, and though I can distract myself with magazines, beer, and thoughts of celebrity get-aways, if there's enough turbulence, I sometimes quietly cry. It is so embarrassing! A few tears leaked out during our dramatic descent, but thank god we landed safely. One eccentric cab driver later, we were collapsing into our dear Faye's excited kisses and tail wags, and locking the door behind us.

Urbi et Orbi. And home again.  xo