My wife, bless her, isn't a die-hard like I am - I mean, she enjoys the films well enough, and I think she has absorbed some of my fandom by osmosis - but she knew that if I was ever going to be able to afford a visit we'd need an excuse to go without the kids. Delaying the honeymoon seemed like the best option.
Sorry, kids, but if it helps you feel better, we felt guilty the whole time, and we nearly died!
I make no apologies for being a Star Wars fan. It hit me, like so many, right at that perfect formative age, and I know I'm not exactly unusual in that respect.
While I don't blindly adore everything Star Wars, I do despair at times at the amount of entitled grief it gets from supposed fans. I'm able to enjoy it on multiple levels; the artistry, the imagination, the world-building... that unique blend of grounded, high-tech, grittiness and mythical fantasy.
I enjoy how Star Wars is made now by fans for fans; even when decisions are taken which aren't greeted with unanimous positivity, I love how it feels as if it's being made with passion by those who care.
When Galaxy's Edge was announced, it was for me, and many of my ilk, the promise of something we'd yearned for since childhood; being able to truly become part of the Star Wars universe, rather than just running around in a Parka jacket pretending to be Han Solo on Hoth, or waving a stick about and making lightsaber noises.
Before we left, I was trying very hard to temper my expectations for Galaxy's Edge. I mean, I'd been following the development of the place since it was first announced. It helped, certainly, that since it first opened - first in California, then Florida - that it was, to a degree, branded a flop.
Light crowds, low wait times for the one completed ride... criticism about how many of the promised features (droids roaming about, drone spaceships flying overhead, your 'reputation' travelling with you around the land) were subject to budget cuts.
With that in mind, I was braced for disappointment. Even without any of it, surely there was no way it could ever be everything I wanted it to be? That still didn't quite stop me feeling like a giddy kid on Christmas Eve...
All of the criticism, I'm happy to report, is either irrelevant or - certainly in the case of low wait times - a positive. I mean, over in Disney's Animal Kingdom, years on from opening, the wait time for main attraction at Pandora: The World of Avatar can still be three hours. While at Galaxy's Edge, the longest wait I saw for Millenium Falcon Smuggler's Run were never more than an hour. Is that a failure or a win?
Attendance seemed to me to be more a result of clever layout than a lack of people. It stayed just the right side of too crowded, even as the days wore on.
While much seems to be riding on the opening of Rise of the Resistance - due in December in Florida and January in California - for me, Galaxy's Edge isn't about rides anyway. It's about the immersion, and how much you get out of that is going to be down to the individual. You have to shelve cynicism, and buy into it. You need to give yourself permission to be a kid again. You need to look up and take in the detail.
The first thing that hit me upon entering the land was the scale. I mean, for a single land within another theme park, it's huge. Ridiculously so. As we walked through the entrance tunnel, into a forested area - the sounds of native wildlife rises up. And then you round the corner, and you see a vast mountain range - formed from the petrified remains of ancient, giant, trees. It can't possibly be as huge as Disney's imagineers have made it seem, but it appears to stretch on forever.
There are three entrances into the land at Galaxy's Edge California, and we chose the one that will eventually be home to the Rise of the Resistance attraction. The first sign of that are the huge laser gun turret that will become the entrance to the ride, plus full-scale A-Wing and X-Wing ships.
These are certainly head turners, but it's the other details - the smaller, almost inconsequential ones, that I most appreciated; droid and animal tracks in the ground, a couple of gonk droids just stood to the side, moisture vaporators and the like which I could see many people simply glancing over, not realising they're part of the theming. Even the way everything makes its own, unique, sound. It all looks worn and lived-in, and believable; the perfect, immersive, realisation of George Lucas's used universe.
And then Rey dashes past, Chewbacca shows up and starts tinkering with the X-Wing... a local is offering lessons on how to play Sabaac...
I confess that, after so nearly not making it (more on that shortly), I got a bit choked.
The heart of Galaxy's Edge is Black Spire Outpost. One of the criticisms the land has come in for is that it isn't set on a planet seen in the movies. Frankly, Black Spire is to all intents Tatooine without the sand. It's seriously Star Wars. And, again, the scale, the depth of detail, the immersion - even with the land full of tourists - is insane. Like, completely insane. They didn't need to make a place this large, and this detailed, but for some reason they did.
Whatever your thoughts of Disney as a corporation, Galaxy's Edge is the product of thousands of artists and imagineers who care. It's the only explanation for it.
You don't get something like this unless those responsible for it are creating it with love. Plus, it's shamelessly geeky. I mean, I can understand casual visitors feeling like they're missing out on a lot of the detail, because it's everywhere - and it's all deep cuts.
Turn your head and you might see a captured Imperial Probe Droid hanging in a net. Dok Ondar's Den of Antiquties is full of obscure weaponry and helmets from the Prequels, the Classic Trilogy and the Sequels, plus other paraphenalia drawn from the expanded Star Wars universe. I could see how the made-up names of the food - the Ronto Wrap, the Yobshrimp Salad or Endorian Yip Tip - could annoy people. But for me... it's all part of the immersion.
Everything is there for a reason, everything tells a story. Get into a conversation with one of the locals - all the Disney cast members are encouraged to create their own character - and they might tell you a bit of the history between Oga, who owns the local cantina, and the Toydarian who owns the toy stall in the market place. Blaster holes in walls aren't just randomly placed; they're the result of a disagreement between Oga and her cheating Wookiee boyfriend.
I loved all of that, how Disney puts story first, and the more you embrace it, the more it gives back. More than anywhere else in the Disney parks, it's a place that encourages everyone, regardless of age, to play.
Admittedly, a lot of Galaxy's Edge is set up to encourage you to spend money. Yes, you can build a lightsaber, and it's $200, but at least you don't just buy one; you go through a whole quasi-religious Jedi ceremony. Okay, making your own droid is $100, but at least it's an experience, where you choose your droid parts from a conveyor, then use tools to put it together.
Even browsing the stalls in the market is fun; again, the merchandise is absurdly geeky, and I loved that. There's stuff for the casual visitors - the t-shirts and the like - but my wife bought a Puffer Pig (even I don't know what that is, but she loves him), and I picked up a droid restraining bolt fridge magnet that, frankly, will look to most people like a random hunk of junk.
And talking of hunks of junk... on the other side of the marketplace is the Millenium Falcon... full size, and every bit as perfect as I'd hoped. Oddly, though it's built to 1:1 scale, it's slightly smaller and chunkier than I expected, but if you come back at night - easily the most beautiful and atmospheric time of day to visit Galaxy's Edge - it's jaw-dropping.
I did, of course, ride it... though going on as a regular punter (more on that shortly) is a bit of a rush. I wanted to spend more time in the main hold, but they speed you through to the cockpit quickly. It's a decent enough ride - where you get to fulfil one of three roles, pilot, engineer, or gunner - but it's little more than a fancy, if simplified, arcade game, and the jump into hyperspace lacks the sense of awe that I was hoping for.
Currently, it's probably the most disappointing aspect of the entire land, and I can see why - for those who see theme parks as all about the rides - why that might be a bone of contention. For me, it was just cool that you got to go aboard.
The only other element I felt needed work was the cantina. It's atmospheric - if a touch on the noisy side - but the drinks are overpriced, and it's far too small. You have to book in advance for your 45 minute, two-drink, window, and it's a shame you can't spend more time in there.
The drinks are cool though; I had something called a Fuzzy Tauntaun, which I was advised not to drink as it's "extremely poisonous". It made my mouth go numb.
As amazing as all of this was... for me the greastest unsung aspect of Galaxy's Edge is the datapad. Disney aren't really pushing this as much as they should be, because it really helps to bring the world to life.
In short, you download an app to your phone, set up a character profile, and you really become part of the world, gathering (virtual) objects and credits to add to your stash.
You can embark on missions for the Resistance or the First Order, engage in multiple choice conversations with characters, hack door panels and ships - excitingly, I hacked the Falcon and got it to vent a load of steam - scan crates and other objects, tune into transmissions...
It turns Galaxy's Edge from a theme park land to a fully immersive IRL role-playing game, which reacts to what you do. With my lightsaber and droid on my back, it honestly felt like I was playing Zelda for real, and it's the perfect compromise between a unique immersive experience, and what is practical with the sheer number of visitors.
I think if more people were aware of this aspect, if more of them were doing it, it'd go a long way to tempering some of the criticism Disney has received. It is the killer app (literally) of Galaxy's Edge, and I can see how - by refreshing the missions, and adding new features - it could keep people returning. I really hope Disney build upon it, and really encourage more people to embrace it.
In conclusion... I was blown away. I had high expectations - albeit reigned in as much as I could by the backlash that seems to greet anything Star Wars these days - but Galaxy's Edge exceeded them, and then some.
I stood in front of the Millennium Falcon one evening, and looked around at the buildings and the spires, as the sound of ships soared overhead, and I couldn't fathom how anyone could fail to be impressed. In fact, you'd have to try really hard not to be.
How can you not appreciate the work and care that has gone into it, whether you're a Star Wars fan or not? How can you not be moved by the people working there, who are helping make it feel like a real place?
Even on an engineering level, it's impressive. Add into that all the nerdy elements, the immersion, the interactivity, and it's an astonishing feat. Yeah, you could find things to grumble about - alright, there aren't droids and aliens wandering around - but even then it's just fun to be interrogated by Stormtroopers, or help Chewbacca avoid a First Order patrol.
That's what I felt; I was having fun. I could've spent even longer there, and I was enjoying it, in the way kids enjoy things, without cynicism or self-awareness.
You have to let go.
Now... I can't really do this review without admitting that on one of my visits to Galaxy's Edge I had a very different experience to most visitors.
A couple of days into our honeymoon, before we were due to arrive at Disneyland, my wife and I were in a pretty serious car accident, out in the desert near Joshua Tree. Our car was hit by a truck that seemed to come out of nowhere, and we were knocked off the road into a vineyard, of all things.
She received a broken collarbone, I got a serious cut on my hand - down to the bone - and we were both left with bruises that, as I write this, are still coming out. Thankfully, nobody in the other vehicle was hurt, but there's no other way of downplaying the fact that we came very close to being killed.
Suffice to say, I'm very glad we chose to spend four days at Disney when we did, because as soon as I got in the car again afterwards my mood plummeted at the thought of having to navigate LA's manic roads. We were both very, very scared, and I say that as somebody who is generally pretty fearless in life.
After the accident, we considered coming home - it took us a couple of days to even be able to walk properly, and we were understandably shaken up emotionally - but once we decided that, having come so far already, we would at least try and see Galaxy's Edge, I posted about it in a Galaxy's Edge Facebook group that I've been lurking on since the land was first announced.
Quite unexpectedly, a couple of fans took it upon themselves to arrange a special photoshoot for us in front of the Millennium Falcon. What none of us knew is that a couple of Disney employees had also seen my post, and... it all got a lot bigger and a lot madder.
First, Chewbacca turned up... then (after complementing my hair and beard) he invited us to a private tour of the Millennium Falcon - my wife hadn't been able to ride it due to her injuries - and then we got a VIP tour of the land, with our own personal photographers, plus got free popcorn.... and... it was surreal. So, so surreal, and so kind.
I should state that I'd already been blown away by Galaxy's Edge before any of this happened, so this didn't colour my opinion. However, by all accounts, Disney worked hard behind the scenes to give us an experience that we'll never forget. Even typing this I'm feeling a bit emotional at the effort everyone went to.
They didn't need to do that, we didn't expect any of it, but again it comes back to something for me that I've had floating around in my head ever since the accident.
We had a horrible experience with our car rental agency - whose main concern seemed to be the car rather than those inside it - but everyone else we encountered, from the driver of the truck that hit us, to the paramedics, to the hospital staff, our cab drivers, to the people on the FB group, to the Disney employees who went all out... was so unecessarily kind... that it has just highlighted how fundamentally decent most people are.
Yeah, we can all get sniffy about corporations, and big, faceless, companies - of course they don't care about us - but those entitites are still made up of individuals.
We're sold this idea day after day that the world is an awful place, but people are, at their core, decent. Each of us has the capacity to make a difference for others, and we saw this time and again on our trip. Even if you forget our VIP treatment, just seeing Disney cast members having impromptu droid races with kids - going that extra mile, creating a little moment of magic for somebody - has been life affirming.
All the individuals who made our trip special - Bryan, Morgan, Sarah, Sage, and Shawn (who is otherwise known as Obi-Shawn, and does a lot of fundraising in his astonishing Star Wars-themed car, the Z-Wing) - didn't know us, but still did something for us.
And that's how I choose to see Galaxy's Edge; it's a place made by thousands of individuals, on a daily basis, all of whom have bought into that idea, who are going beyond the bare minimum to create those moments for other people.
It's inspiring, it's beautiful, it's magic, and it's something to live by.