29 Apr 2007

Thomas is 5 today!

Gordon's Jamaican cousin is over from England for the weekend with her 1 year old daughter. The baby is so gorgeous and we've all loved playing with her and making her laugh. She has such a smile, wow, it's really precious. I got lots of cuddles, especially when her mum was away briefly with Gordon. I got a good fix of baby girl deliciousness!

But the big story is, Thomas was 5 today. We had such a nice time celebrating his birthday. Dad and G. came out for a visit yesterday to give him his present, a pair of light sabres (or light savers, as he calls them!) They weren't able to come today.

So today, after breakfast, he got some more presents; 5 pots of play dough from Lady and Duncan, and a Pirates of the Caribbean dressing up outfit, and a few Doctor Who toys from us. J (Gordon's cousin) bought him a talking Tardis money box. Gordon's mum joined the gathering, as did U, the girl from next door, so we had a small but happy group for the celebration. His cake was also a Doctor Who creation. Oh we're all big fans of the Doctor here and are really enjoying our Saturday night fix. (Lady much prefers Martha to Rose, for one thing, she looks more like her ;-) but she reckons Martha is cleverer, asks more questions and screams less.)

We all headed to the beach and had a nice walk and Duncan drew sand pictures and chased dogs. It was all simple pleasures, and when I was kissing Thomas goodnight, he told me he'd had a really good day. He's such a star. I'm really crazy about that boy!

27 Apr 2007

Disneyland- The Next 3 Days

So here's my memories of the last 3 days of our holiday.


I'd arranged to have our breakfast in the park (Good Morning Fantasyland they call it!) and the restaurant we ate in was done up to look like Gepetto's cottage; Lady and I spent the whole time trying to remember what the little black cat from Disney's Pinocchio was called. We both noted that had Duncan been there, he'd have been able to tell us!

The Park had opened to everyone by the time we'd finished breakfast, so we weren't in the mood to tackle the rush to get on a ride. As we wandered around the corner, we saw lots of the Disney characters out for their meet and greet sessions. The children had their photos taken with Snow White and her Prince. Next we meet Mary Poppins, who blew kisses on Thomas's 2 cut knees- he's fallen over when we were rushing over to breakfast. Anyone who knows us also knows we have a habit of being late...quite often. There were a few scrums (which we avoided), to meet the more popular characters.

We had decided to take a trip into Paris and were making our way to the station, when we passed Alice and the Mad Hatter, standing in prime spot, with a nice orderly queue of only 2 families. So the children waited their turn, and got to meet Alice. They were great, the Mad Hatter in particular interacted so well with them, and expressed deep regret at having missed Thomas's tea party the previous day! Thomas thought Alice was beautiful, and tells me she was his favourite person in Disneyland!

Gordon was determined to visit Paris at some time while we were there. Lady also was very keen to see the Eiffel Tower. The train station is right at the Park entrance, so we bought our tickets and boarded the Paris bound train. We weren't too sure where to alight, and I asked a woman sitting near us, who was part of a group of Yorkshire people, if I could borrow her tourist map. She was kind enough to let me keep it, so we were able to figure our route. We got out at Charles de Gaulle — Étoile. Lady was surprised to come up the metro steps to see the Arc de Triomphe right there. We walked towards the Eiffel Tower, stopping at a pharmacy for some anti-histamines (my face had broken out in a painful rash after using a new bottle of sun screen that morning) and more pleasantly, we stopped at a Boulongerie for a few wonderful cakes. We all enjoyed a picnic with a view of the tower, though to be honest, Thomas was more impressed with the steep stone ramps alongside the steps, which he kept sliding on.

After crossing the river, we joined the queue to buy our tickets to ascend the tower. And phew, that was quite a queue. The children did great, though Thomas was a bit too cold at times and I was carrying him now and again. He amused himself by clambering on the railings, and playing 'Fingerman' with Gordon (in which Gordon's index finger becomes, 'Fingerman' who tickles a small boy and plays various tricks, to the delight and entertain said boy.)

At last we got onto the tower and went straight to the 2nd floor, which felt high enough to me with my jelly legs. We ate some horrible croque monsieur at the cafe (avoid!) then joined another queue to continue our trip to the top of the tower. Well, going up in that lift was a scary experience. It felt like we were moving for such a long time. Eventually we got out, and felt very proud of ourselves, well me and Gordon did; the children felt it was no big deal to go so high! After taking a load of photos, we joined the 1st of 2 more queues to get back to ground level!

I was knackered after all that standing about, so we walked back across the river and took a table outside a cafe. Now, we've been in Paris once before and we were skint. We weren't able to afford to eat at one of these places, yet here were these 2 young children settling down to hot chocolate and lemonade like they were royalty! Gordon ordered a cake with his coffee, which we shared. We agreed it was probably the best tasting cake either of us had ever eaten.

It was getting on, so we went back to Disneyland, and braved going straight back to the park. It was just half an hour before closing time, but in that time we manged to see Honey I Shrunk the Audience (a great 3d show) and to go on the Star Tours simulator and the carousal! There was zero queueing, thankfully since we'd all had our fill of lining up for the day.

Dinner was at Planet Hollywood, bringing back memories of student days in London when going there was a big treat. We all had a lovely meal.


It was yet another beautiful day, and when walking to the parks, we noticed that the Panoramagique tethered hot-air balloon was taking on passengers, so we hopped on for a wonderful ride 100m into the air. Next, we'd decided to spend a bit of time at the Studios Park, and started off with the Tram Tour, which I'd known nothing about, and which was a very pleasant surprise! Over the next few hours we went to the CinéMagique show (absolutely don't miss this, it's excellent!) and the fantastic stunt show and the children were able to meet loads more characters, including Mrs Incredible (another of Duncan's favourites) and the main man, I mean mouse, Mickey himself! Amazingly, there was no-one else anywhere near him, so the children chatted and played with him for ages!

In the afternoon we went back to the Park, and over the course of the afternoon we manged to ride on Autopia (little cars, Thomas loved being in control of his car), watch the brilliant Tarzan show (with a very buff Tarzan, iykwim!) and ride on Big Thunder Mountain (Oh Duncan, you'd have loved it darling!), Space Mountain (making use of baby swap), the Mad Hatter's Cups and the Pirates, Buzz and Small World rides (again). Oh, I forgot to mention, the park was open until 10 o'clock. We had eaten at the Blue Lagoon, billed as Caribbean cuisine and with a nice sounding menu. This however was very poor quality and hugely overpriced for the 2nd rate canteen food we were served. It was a nice location though, and apart from the food, we had a nice time!


So at last, our last day arrives. We packed our bags and handed them into the hotel luggage store before heading off for a few more hours of fun. I cannot believe how much we have managed to see and do. We were all missing Duncan, but were happy to know that he was having a great time with my Dad. When I phoned, I only heard about how well he was getting on and how easy he was to look after!

There were a few items on the park maps which we still wanted to tick off, 1st being the Animagique show at the Studios Park. This was, like all the other live shows we'd seen, wonderful, really top quality stuff. Thomas keeps singing the little song 'Laa, laa, la la la la, animagique, c'est fantastique!' We also watched the Art of Animation show, which was not so good, especially the bit when the narrator competes with the sound from the multi-language head-phones and all you hear is babel. I hope it's not like this at the UN. The Armageddon experience wasn't all that special either.

Anyway, we all went on the Flying carpets ride too, again, with less than 5 minutes to wait in line. The Studios parade was on, and we had a great spot to watch it from, so although it's much less spectacular than the main Park parade, we interacted with the participants more and enjoyed it better.

We went back for one last time to the main Park, where we rode the Fairytale boat ride (zero queue) and Casey Junior (5 mins queue). Obviously we took photos of Casey Jr for Duncan. I was only sorry that I couldn't find any toys based on this ride in any of the shops. We strolled around Alice in Wonderland's Labyrinth; Thomas was disappointed now to see pretty Alice there. Then we took the Disneyland train to Frontierland, and had a great meal at the Cowboy Cookout Barbecue (which also has some of the cleanest toilets in the Park!) Next we went to the Pocahontas Village play area for a while before finishing up at the Pirate play ground before heading back to the hotel. Thomas shouted 'au revoir' to all the children as we went!

Our taxi came on time, the flight went smoothly, we picked up the car and got home just after 10. Duncan was asleep, so Lady wrote a postcard telling him we were all home (it had a picture of Big Thunder Mountain on it!) and left it on his pillow. Early the next morning, he cam into my room and found the Disney bag with all his presents. He had Buzz Lightyear laser blaster, a Zurg car, a toy Big Thunder Mountain train (hooray!) a Winnie the Pooh lolly and a Mickey Mouse T-shirt.

It was marvelous to see him again, he loved looking at all the photos, and as always when you go away, it was great to be home.

24 Apr 2007

Disneyland Day 2


I'd had to take an early slot for breakfast the following morning. At 7.30 (yikes) we were downstairs partaking of the breakfast buffet. This was lovely, I thought. There were piles of good croissants, plain and with chocolate, as well as the usual continental breakfast ingredients. Thomas and Lady were in heaven at the prospect of unlimited chocolate croissants! We filled our bellies then had a little walk around the hotel. A while later I took the children to the swimming pool while Gordon went to the gym. This wasn't such a success. The water was very cold and far too deep for the children. Thomas was shivering, so after braving it for a few more minutes we gave up and got out. Anyway, it was almost 10 o'clock and we had better things to be doing!

The first thing on our to do list, was the Buzz Lightyear ride, so I collected 4 fast pass tickets (meaning we could get on a while later and skip the queues) then we joined the line for the Orbitron (rocket like rides). It was about 25 minutes before we all got on the ride; this was the longest we ever stood in line at Disneyland. And though we all enjoyed the rockets, we decided that it wasn't worth our while to queue for ages for anything again.

We took our turn on the Buzz ride straight after, walking right through and onto our carriage where Lady and I helped defeat that evil Emperor Zurg and all the baddy aliens. Obviously, we were all thinking of Duncan so much then, and Gordon made a few films especially for him to see when we gt home.

We ate lunch in Cafe Hyperion, and I collected the free, instantly available tickets to see the Lion King show. I hadn't known what to expect of any of the shows we saw while we were there, but they were all excellent. The sets were wonderful, the music was, of course, terrific, and it was an unexpectedly great event to experience at such close range. It lasted only half an hour, just right for the attention span of younger children.

After that little break we were ready for more action. A wander round the park brought us into the path of a mini parade, the Casey Junior Character Express. This little train is (no surprises here) a big favourite of Duncan's, so we took a few snaps to show him later, though he turned out not to be very impressed since it wasn't the correct colour!

Lady was keen to see inside the castle, and Thomas wanted to explore the dungeon and see the dragon, so we did both. Next we visited the area known as Adventure Land, and went right to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We all thoroughly enjoyed this. There's nothing like a glimpse of plundering and pillaging, arson and death to brighten up a nice family day out!

The children had a bit of a play around the pirate ship and caves and tree houses. These areas are great when you want a break from rides and shows. There's so much to see as you wander round the parks too. There are a hundred or so shops and stalls, most of them selling the same stuff and the children were mightily interested in spending the money they'd each received from their Granda when we were leaving.

Next up, Frontier Land and for some reason we decided to visit Phantom Manor. After a not too bad queue, we entered the hall of the building, crowed beside a few too many other people. The room descended, plunged into darkness and Lady joined the other sensitive souls in a good old scream! The ride itself was in these creepy old looking black carts, and was nice old fashioned ghost ride, with new fashioned effects. Lady was creeped out and declared that she wouldn't be dong that again!

We dootered back to the castle area, where we were just in time to watch the 'Once Upon a Dream' parade, which was unbelievably well done. These Disney folk are very good at this sort of thing!

I'd booked a character tea party, and since Thomas is 5 in only a few days time, I'd arranged to make it into a birthday party for him. This was terrific. We had loads to eat, then the nice Disneyland people brought out a load of birthday cakes for all the children celebrating their birthdays, and we all sang Happy Birthday. The Disney characters started to arrive and circulate the tables. By the time they'd met Mr Smee, Tigger, Captain Hook, Pluto and Goofy, as well as some creature I didn't recognise, the children were a lot more comfortable with meeting and even hugging the characters. Thomas really enjoyed his tea party.

We just had time for a ride on It's a Small World (so sweet!) before going back to the hotel for dinner and a relatively early night.

If anyone wants to see all the photos on Flickr, e-mail me and I'll send you an invite...well, I will if I know you!

Disneyland Day 1

I've been trying to find the time to write a post about our fabulous holiday last week, but keep getting stuck with stuff like washing, cleaning, helping the children to learn and catching up on what happened in blog land and in real life while we were away (bloody awful stuff). So I'm splitting my telling of this tale into sections, otherwise it'll never be posted.

It's sure to bore the t... or whatever off most people, so read on at your peril.

The big day arrived. I had time to pack and tidy and organise stuff that had to be organised, before Dad and G (my step-mum) arrived at 3. I'd written a story comic strip for Duncan to reassure him that we would be returning. He was ecstatic when he saw his grandparents. He knew they would be looking after him and he was obviously very happy and excited. We all kissed and hugged and said goodbye then Gordon, Lady, Thomas and me drove to the airport.

The journey was smooth. We'd each taken a small bag or case and carried them on-board. The flight left on time and the children enjoyed it. I'd booked a taxi to take us to Disneyland from Charles de Gaulle, and the driver was waiting in the terminal holding a placard with my name. About 30 minutes later, we were pulling up to the hotel.

The Sequoia Lodge hotel looked nice, lots of wood and stone. It's supposed to resemble a lodge from the great national parks of the USA. As I was checking in, the children spotted Minnie Mouse in the lobby. Some children were with her, but Lady and Thomas were too shy to approach her yet. A minute later my shoulder was tapped, and it was Minnie. It was obvious then that this was no ordinary hotel, this would be no ordinary holiday. The children then said hello to her, though Thomas was still uncertain about the big creature person.

We dropped our bags off in our room which was perfectly nice. I hadn't booked a room in the main building as that cost a bit more and I didn't see the benefits, but we'd been upgraded anyway...which was nice!

So, it was then just after 9 pm, but Extra Magic Hours meant guests of the Disney hotels could stay in the park for 2 hours after closing on a few days each week. So we headed to the park. It was a scenic and gentle walk round the lake, passing through an area called the Disney Village, which was a collection of shops and restaurants, then going under the pretty Disneyland Hotel to the park entrance. And wow, it really was something special. I know this is a big corporation, but man, they are good at creating magic. It was beautiful.

We scoffed a few hot dogs to stave off the hunger pangs and set off to try a few rides in the short time before closing. Thomas had always said he wanted to try the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride 1st, so we went there, and queued for only about 10 minutes. Straight afterwards we went to the Peter Pan's Flight and got onto our 'flying' ship right away! Both rides were so much fun, and the children talked about their favourite bits for ages afterwards,

We were all hungry for something more substantial then, so even though it was after 10 we went to the Rainforest Cafe. We just shared 2 large starters, and Gordon and I had a cocktail each. A short dander brought us back to our room, where the children instantly conked out.

13 Apr 2007

April Adventures

What happened to the 1st half of April?

We'll be off to Disneyland Paris on Monday, and everyone is very excited. Duncan is just looking forward to getting his present when we get back again. He's going to stay at home with his grandparents, as he wanted. But Lady and Thomas have been deciding what to pack and talking about what rides they'll try and have even been practicing a little bit of French.

Easter weekend we spent with my brother and sister-in-law in Leitrim. The children had a great time with their 2 little cousins and we all enjoyed a few days of being well looked after. My brother did all the cooking, and damn fine food it was too.

My other little niece visited last week one day with my dad and step-mum. We walked through the country park, the children all pretending to be jungle princesses and princes...or something. Lady gathered a handful of leaves and pine cones to pretend to cook when they got back for their 'forest feast'. Some of the leaves, she told me, smelled of garlic. They looked familiar so I Googled wild garlic, and that's what it was. It's quite safe to eat, and tastes good, sort of peppery. The guinea pigs really liked it! They've been loving all the fine weather as they're getting on in their run on the grass every day.

Gordon had a few days off work so we all dossed about a lot and occasionally managed to cross a few things off the always growing to-do list. On the Monday, after we drove back from Leitrim, I took Thomas and Lady into town to buy them shoes and a small suitcase. The traffic was terrible as we approached so I parked in an outer car park and we walked in. It turned out that we'd just missed a parade of some sort. I'd naively (hopefully) assumed it was some sort of Spring festival for families and was sorry we'd missed it. I found out later it was a Orange Order thing and a bunch of low yahoos had been causing trouble so it was no loss. And that's an understatement. Anyway we got what we wanted and went home.

Yesterday, Thomas and Lady were playing on the street (well, the pavement) out in front of our house while Duncan and I were on the computer together watching videos of Disneyland parades on Youtube- oh I wish he had wanted to come with us! Lady came in all excited with a little Yorkshire terrier that they'd found in our garden. They took him into the back garden to play with Duncan, who had immediately named him Pippin after Auntie Mabel's dog (it's a TV show he likes). I went out front and walked up and down the road to see if anyone was looking or calling for their dog. I went to ask the lady who lives across the street if she recognised 'Pippin'. I knew she owned a dog herself and people often know the other dogs in their area. Now I'd never spoken to this woman before, and I'm so glad that we've now met. She's a lovely woman, who has lived here for over 50 years. We stood talking for ages and I told her all about the children and she's going to come over for tea some day when we return from France. It's funny how it takes an unusual occurrence to get you to meet your neighbours.

Another neighbour, whose house backs on to ours didn't recognise 'Pippin' either, but he gave us a little bag of dog food in case he couldn't find his owner soon. I kept an eye out on the street while the children played in the back garden with this adorable little dog. Eventually a woman walked past who was able to tell me where the dog lived, so I called into the right house and the owner came to collect him. The children were so disappointed. They'd been hoping that we'd be able to look after him for a while longer. Hopefully they'll be be able to see him now and then.

It's certainly re-opened the dog debate here again. Though one senior member of the household is adamant that there will be no dog! Ach, sure we'll see!