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Published: September 24th 2016
Disney California Adventure Park I
We have the matching outfit for the park and are ready to go.
On 12th April Achim and I arrived in Anaheim, CA, for the 31st Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
. I was really proud of myself since we had managed to get two posters and one symposium accepted, but don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the details of the conference. Those who want to learn more can do so on our ScienceBlog
.Of course we took the chance to explore the area. Since we were in Anaheim, we definitely needed to go to Disneyland
. It was within walking distance and I did my morning runs in Downtown Disney (no admission required for this part of the resort). It is amazing how you dive straight into this world simply by the design of the street and by the music they are playing. The theme parks were not even open yet and there was hardly anybody around, except for the employees going to work, but still, whenever I passed the gate I felt as if I had entered a totally different world.
We decided to buy discounted Twilight Tickets and went into the park on a late Friday afternoon. There were two parks we had to decide between, Disneyland Park
and Disney California Adventure Park
. We opted for the latter. When entering the
Disney California Adventure Park II
On Mainstreet. The part with the cloudy sky behind the last palm tree is acutally a painted wall - extremely well prepared, I did not realise it at first glance.
park the first thing we needed to do was buy the appropriate outfit: Mikey Mouse ears. They looked so cool that we wore them throughout the entire evening. The park was very crowded and in my opinion not as well organised as the one in Florida where I had been last year. In Florida I was able to get FastPasses for three attractions per day that were complimentary when buying the ticket. With these FastPasses I could get immediate access to the selected attraction during a certain time frame given on my FastPass. However, this was not possible for the park in Anaheim. This meant that we had to skip quite a few attractions that we would have loved to ride because we would have had to queue for an hour or even longer. But we enjoyed the ones we rode anyway. There was the Grizzly River Run, a whitewater raft type attraction where you sit on a big round raft that speeds down steep waterways. We got soaking wet – but I loved it. We also visited Arielle the Little Mermaid in her underwater kingdom and followed her journey until she married Prince Eric. We were determined to queue
Disney California Adventure Park III
A crazy car playing hop hop music. Later on it stopped and some of the staff danced and sang around it.
for the rollercoaster type Radiator Springs Racers, but when we got there it smelled burned, and they had to close the attraction down. Other than that we just walked around (turned out that we had done 15 km at the end of the day) and looked at all the Ferris Wheels, roller coasters, carousels, and all the other rides. From the many types of food one could choose from we opted for Mexican and, of course, ice cream.
Once it was dark there was an amazing water and light show on the lake in the centre of the park showcasing the history of the park and how Walt Disney had created his Disney Universe. I have to say that I find it quite amazing because he was convinced that his ideas would fly although everyone else laughed at him. But he kept going and he realised his vision. And the vision in fact was not to make a lot of money (which they coincidentally do now) but to make people happy. He also wanted to teach them something about our world, like he did with World Showcase Laguna in Florida, where there are little replicas of famous places in
Disney California Adventure Park IV
Paradise Pier. Once it was dark there was a water and light show on the lake.
the world like Paris or Venice. After we had left the park we could watch the fireworks that were being launched in the other park next door, they were pretty nice and rather long – and they are on every night!
The next day the conference ended at around noon, and we got ready for a little road trip. We had planned to drive up to San Francisco. So we picked up our car, a Buick Enclave, a huge SUV that Achim had rented for us so that we would be able to travel in style, and drove down to Santa Monica. This drive showed me once more what a huge area greater Los Angeles is – it took us two hours to get from Anaheim to Santa Monica Pier. We had a late lunch at the Pier and then walked around for a bit. The pier itself is super famous, with its little amusement park on it and the beach on both sides. There is also the old carousel that one can still look at and even ride. Just slightly down the beach from the Pier there is Muscle Beach, where body building has its origin.
Santa Monica Pier I
The amusement park on the Pier.
soon hit the road and drove up the coast, with the sun setting into the sea. It was dark already when we got to the place where we wanted to stay overnight, Santa Maria, slightly inland. I had booked a hotel there because prices were a lot more reasonable there compared to all the places along the coast, and we only wanted to stay overnight anyway. We soon realised why it was so cheap. The hotel was fine, but there was literally nothing in the entire city except for liquor stores and laundries. And we were wondering whether it is really clothes that they launder there.
Finding a restaurant was a true challenge. There was a Mexican place within walking distance of our hotel (the entire city seems to be Mexican somehow), but when Achim read about the “mariscos de la muerte” (clams of death) on the menu he figured that this might not be the place where we really wanted to eat. Googlemaps only gave us a Starbucks and a Pizza Hut. The Pizza Hut turned out to offer take away food only, so there were not tables. However, right next door there was Denny’s, where we finally
Santa Monica Pier II
Muscle Beach. Look at the guy making his way along the rings hand over hand. Amazing!
got a decent dinner.
On my morning run I was wondering how anyone can live in this city. It is really dead, there was nothing on the streets except for cars of course, it was devastated and empty and pretty much the only living beings I passed were lamas in a paddock.
After breakfast we drove north. Unfortunately we missed the turnoff back towards the coast and did not realise until we were almost halfway in San Francisco, so we drove inland instead of the scenic route along the coast. We stopped in Carmel by the Sea, a most beautiful town in a scenic spot just south of the Bay Area. Clint Eastwood was the mayor there for a couple of years and apparently he passed a law that forbids restaurants and shops on the promenade just above the beach. Therefore, although there are quite a few tourists, the town is not touristy. Rather, it has beautiful houses in diverse architecture in quiet streets underneath old trees, lots of artsy places (which I love), and a great atmosphere altogether. We went on a walk along the beautiful beach and then back through some residential areas. We had a
Carmel by the Sea
View of the beach from the promenade.
super nice late lunch on the terrace of an Italian restaurant, and of course we needed to have some decent wine with it. It was the perfect compensation for the dinner we had had the night before.
Afterwards we wanted to meet with our friend Michal, a professor at Stanford Business School, at a beach just south of San Francisco. However, we got stuck in a traffic jam. It was Sunday evening and of course everyone was travelling back into the city. So we had to skip the beach experience and drove straight to his place in Palo Alto, where he had invited for a barbecue. It was super nice to catch up and meet some of his friends and we really had a nice evening before heading off to San Francisco.
Our hotel was in the city centre, close to Union Square. The next morning we dropped off the car, then headed towards the waterfront and caught a ferry to Alcatraz. The trip was super interesting. First we were welcomed by a guide who gave us a brief intro to the island’s history, then we walked up the hill and into the main building where we got
Approaching the island on the ferry.
an audio guide for a self-guided tour through the former prison. I found the atmosphere there pretty oppressive, and what I found particularly bad were the isolation cells. Prisoners were confined to them to punish them for not following the rules, and to me it seemed that if you had not turned mad before simply by being in this place you would once you had to spend time in one of these cells.
Before being a prison, the island had held the West Coast’s first lighthouse, and it also was a harbour defence during Civil War. The name stems from the Spanish “La Isla de Los Alcatraces” (Island of the Sea Birds), as Spanish Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala had called it after surveying the bay in the 18th century. Not until 1860 did its history as a penitentiary start, first as a military prison, then as a maximum security Federal Penitentiary from 1934 onwards. There are a few famous escape attempts, 14 altogether, with 36 inmates involved. 23 of them were caught, six shot to death during the attempt, two drowned, and five were never seen again. It is unclear whether they managed to escape or whether they
Approaching the landing pier with the view of the main building.
died, for example while trying to swim across the bay. The latter is more likely. The prison was closed down in 1963 by Robert Kennedy. Nowadays it is one of the most prominent sites that tourists visit when they are in San Francisco.
When we returned to the mainland we walked a little further down the waterfront and had lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf. It is a very crowded, very touristy kind of jetty that has shops, restaurants, and cafés, but nonetheless it is kind of nice. We walked back to Union Square and had a literally huge dessert: cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. I think my Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake had at least seven million calories and I did not even manage to finish it, but it was fantastic.
In the afternoon I met my dear friend Melissa. She used to live in Seattle where I visited her four years ago. Now she lives in San José with her fiancé. We met on Union Square and had a coffee together. We had not seen each other for four years, and we had not even talked much because I had been so incredibly busy and at the same time
One of the alleys with prison cells on two floors on both sides.
there had been so much going on in her life. I was grateful that she had come all the way to see me and it was a shame that I did not have more time than only an afternoon. But it was at least something. We did not even know where to start because so much had happened. It was wonderful to catch up.
While we were sitting in a café and on a bench on the square I realised that I had never ever seen so many homeless people with really obvious mental health problems as here. The previous night I had to close my window because there were many people out there yelling and screaming because they were caught in some kind of loop, and while sitting outside for a few hours with Melissa now I could see what was going on. There were so many weird people addressing us with weird stories that we could not even follow, people running around talking to themselves. I really felt like sitting in the park of a psychiatric hospital. Melissa explained to me why this was the case. First of all, many years ago President Reagan had closed down
Inside one of the prison cells.
many psychiatric hospitals and had released their patients without any follow-up support. Many of them never managed to get back into a normal life. Moreover, San Francisco of course has a pleasant climate throughout the year. Therefore many homeless people travel to the city to live there because of course it is better to be there during the winter than for example in Chicago or Seattle. Besides, the city also grants some money to homeless people so that they are also better off than in other cities. Finally, it also seems that many people just lose their homes because they are unable to afford them. Prices for housing have skyrocketed with the growth of Silicon Valley. This is really the downside of the development. Michal told us that he pays $2,500 for his 40 square metre two bedroom apartment. That is madness.
Melissa and I met Achim for dinner before Melissa headed back home. It was so good to see her and catch up and I was so grateful that she had come all the way.
The next morning I went for a quick run and then Achim and I went for a hop on hop off bus
One of the prison cells for solitary confinement.
tour. Our tour guide was a real entertainer not telling us too much about the city’s history, but rather about his favourite places to eat and lots of tales and stories around the city. We started off in front of Macy’s on Union Square, just around the corner from our hotel. We went through Chinatown and the nearby Financial District and then down to the waterfront, past Pier 41 and Fisherman’s Wharf. On our way back we passed Lombard Street, which runs from Presidio to Tower Hill and is known as the most crooked street in the world. It was nice to just sit back and enjoy.
After the tour we picked up our luggage from the hotel and caught a shuttle to the airport in order to catch our afternoon flight back home. What a cool trip with so many new experiences!
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