Every year around Blizzcon time I’d hear that the only thing that comes close to Blizzcon awesomeness is the parties held in the lead up to Blizzcon. My twitter would be filled with people seeing their friends and/or people they’ve been following on socials just hanging out have a great time being nerds together. Last year the wowhead party even streamed the night, which was amazing to see. So I knew that when we went to Blizzcon, we’d need to go to at least one of these parties (even though the very idea of them terrified me).

This time around choosing which party to go to was made a whole lot easier by merging of the Wowhead AND Con Before the Storm parties into one giant nerd fest! It was an easy decision to support the kickstarter again this time around, and even better to be able to attend!

Even though we had spent (almost) the whole day at Disneyland, nothing was going to stop us from heading to the Con Before the Storm party. Not just because we wanted to meet some amazing friends, but also because we had so many treats to give out!

Thor was the mastermind behind these goodie bags, and spent a whole bunch of time finding Australian treats to take over and give to people. The no brainer was of course Tim Tams, but he also grabbed some Picnic bars, Caramello Koalas, Minities, Fantales and other stuff. Then he ordered little toy koalas from ebay… he really is such a darling with a big heart.

So, once we were back from the hotel after Disneyland we had showers and made an attempt to make ourselves presentable. Because it was Halloween I wasn’t sure if people were going to be dressed up. I mean, it’s USA and they’re very big on Halloween there, so there was a chance. But I wasn’t certain, which made deciding what to wear an absolute nightmare for me (who was already freaking out about the whole thing anyway). In the end I found a really cute headband that had a little witches had on it, then just went with a plain black dress with bright orange tights and orange belt. I figured this was reasonable middle ground. And the hat was just too darn cute! ❤

So off we went! We were a little late because of being at Disneyland so we missed some of the earlier panels at World of Podcasts, but thankfully arrived just in time to catch the last half of Raven (from Girls Gone Wow)’s panel, which was awesome!

During the panel I realised that the one and only Thyst was in the same row as me. I’ve always had a bit of a girl crush on her, and I had a goodie bag for her, too, so once Raven’s panel was done (and I could see she was swarmed by fans!) I awkwardly headed over to Thyst. You know how you get an image in your head of what someone is like in person, even though you’ve never actually met them? You paint a picture based on their twitter and streams and stuff and it never really lines up with reality. That was true meeting Thyst, but in the best way. She was so much nicer and sweeter in person! She was such a darling, putting up with me being super awkward and stuff. I was so glad to be able to meet her and thank her in person for being such an awesome person for the WoW community. Here’s a pic of me being beyond awkward meeting her.

By this point I could see that the crowd around Raven was dispersing, so I made my way over to meet both Raven and EJ. This was such a special moment for me because the Girls Gone WoW podcast was one of the first WoW related podcasts I listened to, and one of the few podcasts I still listen to to this day. I was so nervous to meet them both. I needn’t have been – they are both a kind and beautiful in person as they are on their show. They were both such a delight! We chatted away for ages, and all ended up heading off together (because I’m an awkward “hey I’ll come too!” person) to grab a drink and chat some more. EJ and Raven really are the type of people you could sit around and chat with for hours on end. Even though we were all exhausted for different reasons, we had a laugh and shared our predictions for the next 2 days as if we’d all been friends for ages. It was so lovely. ❤

One of the perks of contributing to the kickstarter for the party was getting a free spin of the prize wheel! Loads of companies had donated prizes for everyone to win, and everyone was guaranteed to win something. So I got in line for my spin. I won a prize from Razer, and chose a new mouse. I actually madly love my current mouse (a Corsair Scimitar!), but this prize was never really going to be for me anyway – I chose the mouse so that I could give it away to a guildie as part of our (now?) annual guild Christmas party, so it was nice to have something to give for that.

It was around this time that Talisen and Evitel were at one of the the meet & greet tables, but oh my goodness the line to see them lapped at least twice. So we decided to pass. Thankfully, not too long later I saw that Frazley had his meet and greet! I was a bit nervous about meeting him, but again, I shouldn’t have been. The heart on this guy is out of this world. He is so kind and just a downright good person through and through. And he seemed to genuinely pleased to see me. It filled my heart, I tell you! I was so glad I was able to catch him before Blizzcon to say hello and give him to Aussie treats ❤

For the rest of the evening we went around handing out Tim Tams to random people. We went and visited all the artists in the store area and gave them some Tim Tams (I was stoked to meet Eggu! A few years ago I won a competition where she drew my shaman! It was lovely to thank her in person for that). All of the artists were wonderful, and we may have bought too many pins lol It was really fun surprising people with treats. We will definitely do this again in future.

We were pretty pooped by this time but unfortunately couldn’t head off yet as I had been fortunate enough to win an art piece from the art gallery. Woot!! I LOVED the piece we won, too. It’s Queen Azshara by Moonpix and I just love it. The colours are beautiful (not that you can see in my rubbish pic below!) Just need to find a home for her.

The line to get the art pieces was pretty massive and took awhile, but the team behind the scenes were doing such an amazing job of getting everyone’s art to them as quickly as possible. They were bloody brilliant the whole night – that crew certainly know how to throw a good party!

We were absolutely exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel. It was really late (well, for me, who wanted a decent sleep before Blizzcon!) but on the plus side, being as tired as we were meant we fell asleep relatively quickly and slept pretty solidly until Blizzcon the next morning. Wheeee!!!! Those adventures coming up in the next post… stay tuned!

Halloween! And what better place to spend it than at the happiest place on earth – Disneyland!

Disneyland was at the top of Thor’s list of things to do while we were in the USA. He’s a big Mickey Mouse fan, so of course we had to go. Personally, I was just curious more than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney movies, but Blizzcon was still top of my list of things to look forward to. In the end, it was SO much better than I could have ever expected!

If you haven’t been to Disneyland in California before, there are 2 parks – Disneyland Park (which includes all the old favourites like Fantasyland, Tomorrowland etc.) and then there’s California Adventure, which has a lot of the newer stuff in it like Pixar stuff and the Haunted Mansion. In between the two parks is a general admission area which includes Downtown Disney. You don’t need a ticket to visit Downtown Disney, and it includes some really amazing stores – the biggest Disney store ever, the Disney Dress store, and a whole bunch of other places.

When we were sorting out tickets I was a bit confused about how it all worked, not having been there before. But knowing now, there are ticket gates at the entrance to each of the two parks, so the tickets you get need to match the park you are going in to. There are loads of different ticket bundles, from single day passes to one park, to multi-day passes that cover both parks. In the end we got a 3-day pass which would allow us in to one park on each day. Day 1 (Halloween) would be in the Disneyland Park to see all the Halloween stuff, Day 2, California Adventure, then Day 3 back at Disneyland Park for Galaxy’s Edge. This plan worked out really well for us, because we found we didn’t see everything we wanted in Disneyland Park on the first day, so it was good to know we had an extra day there up our sleeves. (We also avoided Galaxy’s Edge like the plague on this day, but more on that later!). What you do for your own trip will depend on what you are wanting to see. But here were our adventures.

Day 1 – Disneyland Park

I don’t think Thor slept much the night before, he was so excited. And I have to admit, I was too!

We had both brought Disney-themed t-shirts for us to wear to the parks so that we would fit in at least a little. I wore my Winnie the Pooh “No Bothers Given” t-shirt, and Thor wore his Tee Turtle Han & Chewie shirt (which doesn’t seem to be available anymore, sorry!) I’d forgotten about my shirt, though, and as we walked through the ticket gates we were greeted by an employee, and then he very seriously whispered to me “ma’am, you have poo on your shirt”. I freaked out, and then looked down and realised… I’m sure the guy must make that joke 50 times a day, but it cracked me up.

We had made a list of things we needed to buy while we were at Disneyland. Things like salt & pepper shakers for Thor’s Mum (as she collects them), birthday gifts for my nephew and my friend’s baby, Christmas decorations (I do a Christmas decoration trade with some family members each year, so every year our tree is full of beautiful memories of family and friends), and of course Mickey ears for both of us. And a whole bunch of other stuff, too! So with that list in mind, we walked through the gates.

Honestly, it was immediately overwhelming. We had no idea where to go, and my neck was hurting from just looking at everything and getting completely and utterly distracted! There were people everywhere, though thankfully not as many as I was expecting. We gathered ourselves and started making some plans. First stop was to have a look in some of the stores to see what was there, and to look for some ears.

The stores were really something else. Who knew there was this much Disney-themed merchandise?! And SO many different ears! Holy moly. A great tip we got from Battle Panda and Hooblie before we went was that not all stores sell all things that are available. And that some items might only be found in one store. Also, because it was Halloween, there were special in-park-only Halloween themed items. Of course we wanted everything!! But decided to just have a look and purchase things at the end of the day so we didn’t have to carry them around all the time, and also to help us stop overbuying (we didn’t succeed very well at this during our entire trip, though!!)

One thing we did get right away, though, was some ears. Thor was initially planning on getting a pair of Chewbacca themed ears, and they weren’t in the first store so he waited. I, though, wanted some sparkly Minnie Mouse ears – I just adored them! I had to stop myself from buying 12 pairs of ears, they were all so great. Eventually in another store we found Thor’s Chewie ears, but they seemed to be for kids and unfortunately didn’t fit. We were really disappointed and headed off to a different store to re-think what he might get. On the way he saw the most spectacular thing – a man was walking by with Fantasia Mickey themed ears! Thor ran up to him asking where he got them, and we were pointed in the direction of the store. The ears were perfect for Thor – completely ridiculous and charming all at once. I think we made an adorably silly pair, indeed! 😀

The only other goals we had planned for the day were to go see Mickey Mouse in his house, and to see the Teacups ride. But before that, we realised we were both pretty hungry as we hadn’t really had breakfast (excitement, nerves, you know!) so we wandered in the general direction of some food. Looking on the map we saw there was a Pizza Planet in Tomorrowland, so we headed there. The pizza slices were huge and delicious!

Side note here: obviously, as you will have noticed from our pictures, Thor and I are on the large side. Because of this, we didn’t expect to be able to go on any of the rides, as we figured we would be too large for them. It’s for this reason that none of our plans included any rides because we just didn’t think we’d get on! But we were mistaken, and there are loads of rides that we were absolutely fine for. It was a wonderful surprise and really made us feel welcome in the park. I think next time we go we might plan for a few more rides 🙂

After some food we went on the monorail to see a bit more of the park to get a better idea of where we’d like to focus our time. We ended up in line with a gentleman who’d had quite a few drinks, but he was pleasant enough. And when the monorail arrived he asked the attendant if we could sit in the very front section (which was closed) and they said yes! So we had a fantastic view as we were hurtled around the park. The man was chatting away, asking us about where we were from and all that. He was delighted to hear we were from Australia, and shared some drinking stories with some Australians he’d met previously. He was quite amusing to say the least, and certainly made for an entertaining ride!

After our monorail ride we headed towards Fantasyland and found the Tea Cups ride! It looked like so much fun. We stood watching for awhile, then figured stuff it, let’s see if we can fit on the ride. We got in line and when we could, asked the attendant if we’d be ok to go on – they said no problems at all! And they were right! It was eventually our turn to find a cup and in no time at all we were spinning spinning spinning. It was glorious!! Thor figured out if we turn the thing in the middle we spin even faster – you can see the very moment he figures this out in the video below – he get a devilish grin on his face haha!! (and also sorry for the small swears in that video!)

We wandered around some more… Thor tried his best to become a King, but alas it was not his time.

We found ourselves on Mark Twain’s riverboat at one stage, which took us on a gentle trip downriver. It was a beautiful day for it! And the boat theme continued shortly after as we found ourselves in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Again we figured we’d try our luck, and hopped in line. (I should point out here – it was not a busy day at Disneyland. Lines were relatively short so we weren’t losing much time by trying our luck!) The ride was SO great! We were both far too wrapped up in it all to take any pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was a good time. 🙂

By this point we realised it was close to time for a parade, so we caught a train back Main Street…

On Main Street we set ourselves up on a curb and waited. We made the mistake of being on the sunny side of the street… it was a pretty hot afternoon by that point so we got a bit burned, but it was worth it to be up close to all the characters.

Then it was time to take Thor to see Mickey Mouse. I think he’d kinda been putting it off a bit all day, and I think he was a little nervous, but we had to go! So we made our way to Toon Town to find Mickey’s house. This area of the park was absolutely adorable. It really looked like we were in a cartoon world! Everything was so bright and… well, bendy looking. It was fantastic!

The line to Mickey Mouse started out the front of his house, where we are told Mickey is out back working and would love to see us. The line to see him snakes through his house and through the backyard to his studio out the back. Every room is his house is designed to suit a cartoon mouse! The attention to detail was incredible. Some of the areas would animate, too! The chickens out back clicked away and bobbed their heads, and strangly, so did the carrots in the garden… hmmm.. I got a real kick out of seeing the mopbucket from Fantasia there! As we went through the studio area there were prints from some of the earlier cartoons and “props” hanging from the ceiling. Then right before the room to Mickey was a big theatre with rolling Mickey Mouse cartoons. It was all done so well, and was very effective at keeping kids (who have been in line for 40 minutes by this point!) relatively entertained.

Finally, it was the moment. I don’t know why I was nervous to see some random person wearing a Mickey Mouse costume, but I was. Most of all, though, it was pretty emotional for me seeing how excited Thor was to see Mickey Mouse. I think Mickey Mouse is one of those things that throws us right back to when we were kids, to a time when things were simpler because we didn’t really know what was going on… that innocence that kids have that we all lose as we get older and more cynical, you know? Seeing Mickey brought all that back for both of us, and so it was a pretty emotional time.

Afterwards we got some icecream. Once again we hadn’t learned our lesson about portion sizes and foolishly (?) ordered an ice-cream each. We didn’t finish them, but they looked amazing!!

By this point it was starting to get late, and we needed to head back to our hotel to get ready for the Con Before the Storm party! But not before getting some nighttime Halloween pictures 🙂

All in all, I really enjoyed our first day at Disneyland. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s the happiest place on earth, but I would agree that it is a magical place. SO many people were dressed up, either in fun t-shirts or costumes or onesies. It made the whole place feel so much more fun. And everyone (for the most part!) was just nice, you know? Like we all recognised this is a shared experience and we all just want to have a good time. There were so many times people would offer to take a picture for someone else, and phones/cameras would be handed over without concern for them being taken. It was a really nice feeling. You could ask someone a question and they would be so glad to tell you the answers. I dunno, it was just really nice, you know?

Anyway, that’s it for day ONE at Disneyland – two days to go! But first, BLIZZCON!

There were so many things I was looking forward to about this trip, from Blizzcon to Disneyland to seeing Hogwarts in person. But one of the things that was right at the top of that list was getting to visit Blizzard HQ.

Thanks to an amazingly kind friend, we were given the opportunity to visit the mothership – to see where all the magic happens. To say I was excited about this was a massive understatement. I mean, this face of mine below of me losing my shit was an understatement for how I was feeling inside!

So, we go there by Uber, and I was jittery the whole way. And then we saw the gate and oh boy…

We got dropped off at the gate then walked in, and there’s the Orc in all his wonderful glory, RIGHT THERE. It took all of my effort not to sqeal. Well, ok I squealed, but hopefully not too loudly.

Once inside we met up with our beautiful friend, Marie, who was to be our guide for the afternoon. After handing over the piles of gifts we had, we headed off to lunch at the campus cafeteria. I don’t know if it’s like other workplace cafeterias…? I’ve only worked in small organisations really. But to me, any place that makes pizza in front of you is a winner by default.

With our meals in hand we sat down and caught up on all the happenings. I kept getting distracted by the moment. I mean, here I was, surrounded by all of these amazing, talented people who work on the games that I love so much. And you know what I noticed most of all? They were just like me. Everyone was dressed in Blizzard gear or clothing that was “them” rather than “corporate”. And everyone seemed… happy? Ok sure it was lunch time and there’s food, but like, everyone seemed happy to be there. Like they had a purpose. Don’t get me wrong, some people looked like they had a lot on their (work)plate, but noone looked like they were just done with everything and was ready to walk out the door. You could feel the energy in the air, it was remarkable.

With lunch done, we started on our tour. For those who are unaware of what happens on these tours, there is a museum that has exhibitions that change every now and then, there’s amazing statues all over the place, and other places around the campus to visit. But before you go anywhere, you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (of course!), and they let you know where you can and can’t take pictures. All of which is fair enough. ESPECIALLY 2 days before Blizzcon! The secrets in that building, oh my gosh.

Because of where you can and can’t take pics, there’s quite a lot here that we experienced that can’t be shared, but there’s still plenty to show…

The Blizzard museum had just been updated to celebrate Hearthstone! Even though I don’t play the game very much at all, I do love all the artwork. And it was amazing to see how it all started out. Definitely a fantastic experience to check out.

After the museum we headed in to area where we can’t take pictures. So let me paint some pictures with my magical words 😉 Our first stop was a peek in what looked like one of those scenes of NASA with rows of people at computers all facing a whole bunch of screens. This was, of course, where the servers were all monitored. They also had a great interactive display talking about how it all works and what happens when something goes wrong. I kinda wanted to throw Tim Tams to everyone in there because those folks work bloody hard to keep us in game. It was fascinating to see it all in person.

One of the main things you notice when walking around the corridors is that there is Blizzard artwork EVERYWHERE. There is not a bare wall, and it’s beautiful. The halls were filled with creativity – you could feel it oozing out of every corner. If I had all the time in the world I would have just slowly wandered from wall to wall, gazing at it all… probably would have been there for a few days if I’m honest. It was very inspiring stuff.

One of my favourite places to visit during the tour was the library. Oh my gosh guys it was everything you’d want a nerd library to be! There were all the games you could think of, there were cozy corners – there were even doggos in there, because there were a few employees at one of the tables playing a game together! How awesome is that? Everything was decorated for Halloween, too, so it had the spooky old library vibe going on. And even better – we got a treat! I spoke to the librarian (who was an absolute sweetheart) telling her I wanted her job and pls can has? And obviously not, but she was lovely hehe. And then she offered us Bizz bookmarks! eep! We got one each…

Then we were off again. We went around and checked out all the statues… you can’t see in the pic, but the Tyrael statue wings GLOW omg. It was my favourite of them all. Although Gorehowl was pretty awesome to see in person – that thing is flippin’ HUGE!

We were also really lucky and got to visit some of the WoW dev work areas. There was so much here that just blew me away. Firstly, again, all the art of the walls. Ahh!! Secondly, everyone had really personal work spaces. Some were really decorated with their favourite things – others looked like a nerd had exploded in there. It was AMAZING. But my favourite thing here – every person we met in the halls stopped and said hi and was just so darn friendly to us strangers. It wasn’t the usual “polite nod, half smile walk on” kind of situation; people would smile and say hi, some asking about our trips over here, what we were looking forward to at Blizzcon… I just wanted to hug everyone for being so nice! (I reckon it’s also because Marie is such a darling to everyone, too!).

The other thing about this area is that there were a few walls that we noticed were covered in black cloth. SECRETS! Having seen the reveals now, it was all obviously Shadowlands stuff, but seeing those covered up walls got me so hyped at the time. Eee!!!!

Eventually we had to go and let Marie get on with her day. We were SO grateful to meet Marie for the first time, too, after talking and playing together all these years! What an absolute treat our time there was.

On a personal note, the whole experience at Blizzard HQ was really inspiring for me. For those of you who follow me on twitter you’ll know that I’ve really been struggling with my job a lot lately, and I’ve just fallen in to a bit of a rut. I’m not working in a job that I enjoy, and I have so much creative energy just going to waste. I’ve felt like I’m stuck, and that this was really as good as it was going to get. But after that tour and seeing how a workplace can be… it was truly inspiring. The people there seemed to really enjoy being there. They seemed to care about what they were doing and wanted to share it with people. And it made the whole campus buzz with an energy I’ve never felt before. It was the kick in the butt that I’ve needed to get me out of this rut. I want to work at a place that inspires me like that; that encourages me to be creative, and makes me care about what I’m doing. And while Blizzard would (obviously) be where I would want to do that, it doesn’t have to be there – but it certainly isn’t where I am now, and I need to change that.

Anyway, back to our holiday! After our HQ adventures we headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately the cleaners arrived shortly after we did and they kicked us out, so we checked out the pool… it was way too cold to go in, though (it was quite a windy day). Thor decided to go for a walk to get some things we missed from the day before while I just lazily stayed at the hotel watching Netflix lol. I shouldn’t have left him unattended, though, because he came back with unicorn magic Snack Packs! They were actually pretty amazing… the blue tasted… well, blue.

Eventually night came, and on twitter I could see people were starting to head to the Hilton lobby. This was the thing I was most nervous about, because I don’t drink, and I’m awkward as heck. But I also knew it was where a lot of people would be hanging out, and I’d heard many stories about people having some amazing non-Blizzcon times at the lobby. So we forced ourselves to head over.

I was as awkward as expected. Everyone seemed to be in their groups and so we felt a bit out of place really. We grabbed a drink from the bar and kinda stood around for awhile. Eventually, though, I recognised a face – Terran Gregory! And then all at once I was terrified. We had brought Tim Tams with us to give out to people, but I was too scared and shy. But Thor forced me to take some over to Terran because he knew I would be kicking myself later if I didn’t. So I swallowed my terror and went over to Terran and said hi and gave him Tim Tams and he was SO lovely even though I was such a dork and he took a picture with us that cracked me up and I did it! I thanked him for being amazing, and then set him free to be bombarded by less weird nerds than me. But it was great. 🙂

We also saw the amazing folks who made the Eyes of N’zoth. Darn it I can’t remember their names, but they looked incredible. They also had dressed up Pepes that were amazing! We gave them some Tim Tams too, but then we headed off because that was our quota of being brave. (Well, mine anyway). And by this point I was pretty emotionally exhausted after the HQ tour. That, and we needed an early night, because the next day was Halloween at Disneyland!!!! stay tuned…

PS – I totally forgot to mention that we saw Ion Hazzikostas TWICE while we were at Blizz HQ! Once in the halls of the WoW dev area, and then secondly as we were leaving. Except I was stupidly trying to look something up on my phone at the time and missed him! Bah! So we didn’t get to say hi and/or thanks, but we did see him, and he was glorious 😀

We ended up packing our suitcases a few times to help shuffle the weight around. We had a few big boxes of gifts to give to people while we were in the USA, and then of course we needed to pack clothes, which was interesting because we needed to pack for potentially hot California and really cold Yosemite. So it was a lot of trial and error!

The longest Monday

I don’t know how I managed to sleep on the Sunday night before we left. I think being completely exhausted from work helped a lot! Once I was awake I was well and truly awake, so we had our showers then headed off to catch the bus to the airport.

I like to be at the airport early. I’m not a good flyer, so being there with plenty of spare time helps me to calm down. Having said that, Thor will never let me live it down because we got there so early we couldn’t hand in our bags and check in. Oops! (it was only 10 minutes too early!!) We had a few dramas – for some reason when we tried to put our bags in it said we had 2 too many (which we didn’t). It got fixed fine, but then when we went to put our bags on the conveyor belt thing, the whole thing shut down! Something happened when the man at the booth next to us put his bags in, but the timing of it was unnerving.

So we passed through security no worries and find somewhere to have breakfast. It was only at this point that I started to calm down a little and realise we were on our way to America! eeee!!

Eventually we headed towards our gate, only to find another round of security. Well, kinda. Blocking our path to the gate was a temporary table with some people sitting at it, checking our tickets. Everyone was going through fine, including Thor. But of course it got to me and I was asked to a different area for further processing. Ummm ok? Anyway, it turned out they were doing some new extra security stuff and my ticket had been flagged to go through the process (we think this is why our bag situation got borked at check in). Nothing drastic, but I did have to run around with my little compression socks, looking like a fool.

So I passed through yet another security check and we’re waiting at the gate when next minute my name is called over the loud speaker. I have never been upgraded to business class on a flight, so my heart leapt at the thought that this could be the moment! But no, it wasn’t. I was being called so they could check I had gone through the extra security. Well poop.

Flight 1 was from Melbourne to Auckland and it was uneventful. But I will say this – Air New Zealand has great planes. We paid a little extra (like $15 per ticket) to have a pair of seats together at the back. The pair was the whole row, and we did it because we’re both big people, so this way we were only squishing on ourselves, not random strangers. It was the best decision. The seats were perfect. I could even cross my legs in front of me I had that much room! (And that never happens given my size and height!). So if you fly Air NZ and you get the opportunity for those pairs of seats, do it, they are brilliant.

Our stop over in Auckland was for 5 hours or so. It was a lovely airport. There was loads of art leading us to the international transfer area, and then in the terminal itself there was lots of nice stuff to look at.

We found ourselves a couch and parked there watching netflix on our ipads with the the free wifi. Not the worst way to pass the time!

Eventually it was time for the big flight to LA. It was a doozy. 12 hours all up. I did manage to sleep for a little while. Thank goodness for inflight wifi and downloaded Netflix shows on our ipads! By the time we landed we were pretty exhausted. And had arrived only a few hours after we left (time zones are weird).

Getting through customs was every bit as terrible as people say it is. Despite having visa waivers and being (apparently) able to have a faster process to get through customs, every single person there ended up in the 1 long line, waiting for 3 or 4 border patrol guys to check us all and let us in. It was actually stupid. We were in that line for well over an hour. I felt so bad for anyone who had a transfer, because they were in it too! I was baffled at the stupidity of the system. But it was what it was and we waited.

Then we started playing a game – spot the BlizzCon attendee! We noticed a few people popping up in the line wearing Blizzard shirts. Then we saw Preach and his family in the line… it helped us stay excited and focused. Despite claiming food products on our forms, noone asked what they were or to look at them, and we passed through customs and all the security stuff quickly and easily.

Getting to the hotel was a bit of a pain because I had not gotten around to booking a shuttle bus. Which wouldn’t have mattered because we couldn’t find anything at the airport anyway. LAX really wasn’t that fun lol Being so tired didn’t help either. But eventually we got on a shuttle bus to the hotel… and we were there! We were in LA!

As we were coming in on the plane I couldn’t get over just how massive LA was. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was exciting, but in a way made me feel a bit claustrophobic at the same time! Being on the road was also as daft as people had said it would be, and the hotel ended up being further than we thought. But we made it in one piece.

We stayed at the Double Tree at Anaheim, and I will say this up front – they were fantastic. The rooms were really great, beds SO comfy, and the staff were amazing. Price-wise it was pretty good, really. It didn’t include breakfast, but it was so close to the Convention Centre that we didn’t need to pay for Ubers or anything, so had some trade offs there. So if you’re looking for somewhere for a future BlizzCon, we definitely recommend!

Despite how tired we were, we forced ourselves to stay awake, with the goal of going to bed at a normal time for California. So instead of going to sleep straight away (as much as we wanted to!) we forced ourselves to leave the room and go get some dinner. Thankfully there was a Denny’s across the road from the hotel that would give us our first taste of US food. We learned the hard way that serving sizes are really something else in the US. Thor had ordered a “sampler” plate, thinking it would have a couple of things on it… not the multitudes of food that it did have! And the sauces, oh my good lord they were the size of bowls of soup! I got a nachos for myself that I barely made a dent in. All we could do was laugh and try to learn from the mistake (hint: we didn’t get this right ever during the whole trip!)

With our bellies full and it late enough in the evening, we wandered back to the hotel for our first night’s sleep. To help make sure we stayed asleep we had a sleeping tablet each to knock ourselves out, and I have to say it was the best thing we could have done. We both slept solidly, and woke up the next morning at a normal California time feeling completely refreshed. Huzzah! No jet lag for us!

Tuesday

Our first full day in LA, and our primary goal was to get supplies. We didn’t want to be spending money eating dinner out every night, and we needed breakfast foods, so we headed off to a Target that we knew was nearby. We also needed SIM cards. Another lesson learned here… I had initially planned to have SIMs arranged before we left, but just ran out of time to get us all sorted, so we relied of getting things sorted out in Anaheim. It was a giant pain in the ass. Target ended up being a bust so we had to head off to try and find SIM cards from somewhere else…. but then they didn’t have what we needed. In the end we got the SIM cards from a small convenience store, but setting them up was bloody stupid too. Anyway, the moral of the story is to have this stuff sorted out before you go!

With SIM cards, bottles of water, breakfasts, snacks and foods all sorted, we headed back. It was a LOT of walking on this day, but I think overall it helped us get used to the time. And the sun wasn’t terrible 🙂

Once we were back near the hotel, we decided to have a bit of a wander down near the Convention Centre so that we could have a sneak peak at BlizzCon getting set up, and to get our bearings of the place. This was when I really started getting butterflies. It was nearly time for BlizzCon!!!!!

For dinner we had wandered up towards a nearby shopping mall (?) and found ourselves in a mexican restaurant. It was pretty good!

The mall itself was amazing – it had loads of Halloween decorations (which we aren’t really used to seeing back home) and also had loads of art around the place and fun lights and stuff. I liked it 🙂 Then on the way back we passed Bubba Gumps! That was something new for us.

Last thing for the evening was to put together all of our Aussie treats for people. We made some little goodie bags for friends we knew we would see, and packaged together some little Tim Tam packs for anyone else who wanted them. We also had a really big box of treats for a special friend and her team 🙂

All in all it was a busy couple of days, but it really did help us get settled in to a proper sleeping routine, and avoiding jet lag, which we were really grateful for.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been back from our trip for coming up to two weeks now. It feels simultaneously like a lifetime ago, but also just yesterday. But that’s usually how it goes when you have fantastic experiences.

Over the coming days/weeks I’ll be sharing our stories and, of course, LOADS of pictures, from our time in the USA, from Disneyland & Universal, to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks, and of course BlizzCon AND Blizzard HQ (yeah you read that right!).

If you can’t be bothered reading multiple posts, the tl;dr is this: We had a bloody brilliant time. 🙂 But if you want to hear all about the adventures and see way more pictures that necessary, stick around. I’ll be adding shortcuts to the links below as posts are uploaded.

Cinder & Thor in the USA

Getting there & settling down

Blizzard HQ

Disneyland Part 1 – Halloween

BlizzCon part 1 – Con Before the Storm

BlizzCon part 2 – Day 1

BlizzCon part 3 – Day 2

BlizzCon part 4 – the aftermath and meeting Taliesin & Evitel

Disneyland Part 2 – California Adventure Park

Disneyland Part 2 – Galaxy’s Edge

Road Trip – to Joshua Tree National Park

Road Trip – to Grand Canyon

Road Trip – to Pahrump (via Hoover Dam)

Road Trip – to June Lake, Yosemite

Road Trip – to Bass Lake, Yosemite

Road Trip – to Pismo Beach

Road Trip – back to LA

Universal Studios – Harry Potter!

Griffith Observatory

Coming Home

I hope you enjoy our stories!

xo

I had hoped to have written about some of our adventures to California and BlizzCon by now, but of course I got sick on the flight home and I’ve just been absolutely wrecked. So I haven’t been able to go through the thousands (genuinely 2500+!!!!) of photos from the trip to pic some favs. And I haven’t written stories yet because staying awake is hard. But I’m slowly getting through it all! Expect a LOT of posts over the next couple of weeks as I go through everything, though. Can’t wait to share our adventures with you all 🙂

Xo

It’s amazing how fast time passes. Last time I posted about Blizzcon we were just over 2 months out. Now, it’s 2 weeks and 12 hours before we get on a plane bound for LA.

The anxiety about it all has well and truly set in – and blimey is my brain good at freaking out about the strangest of things…

There’s obviously all the plane-related concerns – missing our flights, getting sick on the plane, missing our connecting flight, landing and not getting through customs and being ordered back to Australia, luggage going missing etc. etc. (and of course, one of the planes crashing).

In LA itself, there’s also obviously the concern of being shot. Now this might seem ridiculous to many people, but living in Australia, it’s just not the norm to see people walking around with guns. It’s definitely something that’s going to niggle the back of my head the whole trip.

We are doing a bit of a road trip after Blizzcon and are hiring a car for it. Right now I have the panic because part of the road trip is in Yosemite, and there’s a chance it could snow. And I can’t get a straight answer as to whether or not the rental place rents chains for the tires, or if they have those all-weather tires that don’t need chains. And of course none of the rental companies have online support so I have to find a time to call them in LA to get an answer. And THAT is another panic all on its own. blergh. Oh and of course driving on the other side of the road isn’t going to be a picnic either. I’m very grateful that Thor will be doing all the driving…

And then there’s Blizzcon itself… one of my biggest concerns about Blizzcon was (and this is going to sound so self-involved) that noone would actually care that I was there. All these people I’m friends with on twitter who I’m so keen to meet in person… what if they don’t want to say hi back? What if they don’t care? I’m such an awkward person, and I really wouldn’t blame them but golly has that been at the top of my worry list. Well, it was until earlier in the week.

The Hong Kong/China/Blizzard situation has brought a whole other level of concern for Blizzcon, with a bunch of protests now planned to happen at Blizzcon itself. I’m not going to be going in to this other than to make two comments:
1. Taliesin’s video about the situation is a very well thought out discussion about the situation, and really sums up how I feel about it all. Watch it here.
2. If someone had said something we *didn’t* agree with, this would be a completely different conversation.

It’s such a complex situation… and a terrible insight in to just how fucked up the world is. I just feel like the problem is so, so much bigger than Blizzard, but they are an easy target… But I *personally* don’t think that Blizzcon is the place for these protests. And I suppose when it comes down to it, if for any reason the protests got out of hand, we are visitors to the country… I dunno, America just scares me a little I suppose… and there’s just no easy answer here 😦

And then there are the really stupid panics that I have. The stupidest one I had was a few weeks ago in a dream. I dreamed we were at Blizzcon watching one of the panels, and something so incredibly amazing got announced and everyone was cheering. And I went to cheer along too…. except my cheers of excitement sounded like a cow in labour (warning – graphic content). And everyone just stared at me as I made this god-awful sound. I couldn’t even cheer properly! What a stupid thing for my brain to be worried about. And yet HERE WE ARE!

If only I were this cute!
( https://unsplash.com/photos/rWkq8xO8F_U )

So clearly my brain is going in to overdrive. There’s a lot to get done in the next two weeks – we need to get the lease on our apartment renewed so that we have a home to come back to, for one! We’ve also got a lot of tidying to do in case they decide to do an inspection while we’re away (and also it’s just so much nicer coming back to a lovely clean home.)

Mostly, though, the next 2 weeks will be packing (and repacking!). We need clothes for all weather. Parts of the trip will have temperatures in the high 20’s/early 30s (celcius!) which is too hot for my liking. But then temperatures at Yosemite look to be in the single digits, and might even snow! So it really is one extreme to the other. Layers will be the key priority for packing 🙂

In the meantime, I’m curious to see what other stupid things my brain can decide to be anxious about over the next 2 weeks!

Cover image from https://unsplash.com/photos/5DTY3_FYaNY

I looked at the date today and realised that it’s just over 2 months until we head off to LA for Blizzcon and I am FREAKING OUT.

I have done nothing more for our trip since initially booking flights months ago other than thinking a lot about it. Not acting on anything, just thinking about it all. Freakin’ typical.

Our list of things still to do is pretty big:

  • sort out visa
  • buy Disneyland tickets
  • buy Universal Studios tickets
  • figure out what we are going to do for the 10 days between when we leave Anaheim and when we fly back home – including where we are going to stay!
  • sort out our flights over* (more on that below)
  • figure out what the hell I’m going to wear
  • buy comfortable shoes
  • figure out what days we’re going to Disneyland and Universal studios
  • figure out a day to go to the beach (it’s a personal thing – have to stick my feet in every new ocean I am near)
  • organise presents for US friends
  • make a list of people we need to buy presents for back home
  • $$$ do our taxes so we can pay for everything!!! $$$

Oh look, there’s so much more than that, but that’s just what is floating around at the moment.

Actually, one of the decisions we have been trying to make is around Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. I think we’re pretty settled on going to both of these places, but how we get there has been a bit back and forth. Initially we had planned on driving and doing a fun road trip, but then had advice from some friends who have driven in LA who said to avoid it at all costs. So then we started looking for flights instead. I asked for some advice on airlines for the trip (thanks friends for the input!)… but someone said we should just do a road trip. And honestly, I think that’s where our hearts lie. So even though it’ll be scary driving on the other side of the road and having the steering wheel on the left and all that, it looks like that will be our plan. We like adventures 🙂

So the flights thing. We booked our flights ages ago, which is fine. I got an email from our airline about a week or so ago now saying that the plane we were due to fly over on was one of those planes that was having issues with crashing all the time, so they need to send it away to be fixed. They are leasing a plane from someone else to replace the original plane. Now, I am all for not exploding on my flights so have no issues with the planes being changed – 100% in support of this decision. However it does put us in an awkward spot. We had paid extra to sit in some specific seats that were in a pair towards the back of the plane. We did this to help manage my anxiety over flying, but also because, in a row of just the 2 of us, us being large people wouldn’t impact anyone else (and again would help ease my anxiety). With being on this new plane we have been told seats are no longer guaranteed. While they will do their best, they can’t guarantee any special seats chosen will be available. If we paid extra and didn’t get what we wanted they would reimburse us. That’s all well and good, but I’d rather the seats. So I need to call them to make some arrangements. It’s just triggering my anxiety a bit (seeing a theme here?!!) but I just have to do it.

It’s slow going, and really getting to the point where we have to make some hard and fast decisions. I think this weekend will be quite busy with planning!

cover photo by Joseph Ngabo on Unsplash

Note: there are no spoilers in this post for Avengers: Endgame or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This is a safe space!

What a week it has been! With all the public holidays happening over Easter and ANZAC day, I decided to fill in the blanks with personal leave to get 10 days off work for a mini-break – I really needed it! But I tell you what, it has turned out to be one hell of an emotional week.

The bananas week started on Monday, which was my 8 year anniversary with my partner, Thor. But before we got to celebrating, I guested on the Girls Gone WoW podcast, which meant a 4am wake up call. Eep! But it was so worth it. EJ & Raven are justt so lovely, and we had a good laugh. (You can check out the episode here.)
For our anniversary, Thor and I spent the day binge watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix, which was so great. Aside from it being a great show, it was nice to just spend time together doing nothing else.

Tuesday I went and visited a lovely friend of mine to have lunch with her and her partner and their gorgeous new baby. This was probably my most chilled out day all week, to be honest.

Wednesday was where things really ramped up. At 8:45am (which is generally far too early for a movie!) Thor and I were sitting in a theatre ready to watch Avengers: Endgame. I will not spoil anything here. Suffice it to say it was an emotional experience, as I expected it would be. It was truly fantastic though, and well worth the early start to the day to avoid spoilers.

Then came Thursday. Our anniversary present to ourselves was to go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play that is currently showing here in Melbourne. We bought the tickets months ago. They were not cheap, but as a mad Harry Potter fan, I figured it would be worth it to experience this. I was not disappointed. For those who are unaware, the play runs over 2 showings. We saw Part 1 on Thursday, and Part 2 on Friday. I was in tears just arriving at the theatre. I mean, look!

To be fair, most things makes me cry. This in particular was always bound to have me in a mess – to see this amazing world Rowling created come to life in front of us… well I didn’t really stand a chance.
The show itself… it wasn’t without flaws, don’t get me wrong, but it was genuinely magical. Well worth the ticket price, and then some. Being able to experience the world again was just amazing. I highly recommend it.

But the emotions didn’t stop on Thursday night. We got home after seeing Part 1 of the show, and I was way too amped up to go to bed any time soon, so stayed up a bit to level my paladin in WoW. And wouldn’t you know it – Blizzcon 2019 dates finally got announced!! 1-2 November, with a special community day on the 31st (the Thursday before the con itself). EEEEEEEEEPPPP!!!!

What makes this Blizzcon so special is that this year, Thor and I will be attending! We will be making the trip from Australia to LA. We’re making the most of it, planning to be there for 20 days. So far we have planned Blizzcon (of course!), Disneyland (of course!), and Wizarding World of Harry Potter (of course!). Now we are just working on the rest of it. There’s a travel expo coming up in a week or so that we’ll go to to see if we can get some good deals. But anyways, that was Thursday.

Friday was Part 2 of Cursed Child. Again, no spoilers, but I was openly weeping during parts of it.

Come Saturday, I’m pretty exhausted but still seriously pumped for Blizzcon. I had organised accommodation around 2 months ago for the dates I guessed Blizzcon would be – thankfully I was correct! – so we were already ahead with somewhere to stay for the convention and Disneyland. But what we hadn’t sorted yet, and why I’ve been so desperate for the dates to be announced, was our flights.
Unfortunately flights that we had been looking at were already gone and almost doubled in price. So I spent a big chunk of Saturday looking at what was available, checking times, legroom etc. In the end we settled on an airline and flights and we think we should be pretty good. Most importantly, we booked the flights. That was a big expense, and hence the overwhelming moment of the day. But I did feel good to do.

The other adventure on Saturday was my passport. I lost it. Well, temporarily. It was funny, because last time Thor and I went on a big trip together there were a lot of dramas with his passport/s and everything was fine with me. This time around he knew exactly where his was, and he’s good to go. Me? I had put mine in a really stupid place and couldn’t find it for the longest time. And then when I did find it, I saw it was expired. Thankfully not too long expired so the replacement process should be pretty quick. But it’s nearly $300 for a new one, and I could have done without that expense!

Today, Sunday, it seems things have calmed back down again. I levelled my paladin and she dinged 120, but other than that it’s been a pretty cruisey day. Tomorrow I am back to work and basically will be super busy until this trip. But it will be worth it!

I’m going to track all my Blizzcon prep and posts as best as I can, and will make a little sub-section on my site for awhile for anyone who wants to follow along on these adventures. In the meantime, I’ve already made a countdown for our trip!! Check it out!

I hope everyone has had a great week!

xo