Festival of the Arts 2017

This is a little throw back to a girls trip last February…

Of course it was to Walt Disney World!

☆Two girls

☆Hand luggage only

☆A lot of fun!

A blog post of pictures mainly!

Look forward to doing it again one day!

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San Diego Zoo

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As part of our seven day mini California adventure, we chose to visit San Deigo Zoo. We had done a bit of research on the zoo but didnt realise quite how big the zoo was.

To start the day, we took the Kangaroo bus around the park to get our bearings. The bus loops the park and stops at several points to let you hop on and off through the day.

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We did a full lap of the zoo, on the bus and then started off on foot. They have an amazing variety of animals, some of which, like the pandas and koalas, we have never seen before. The koalas were so cute, and with up to twenty two hours of sleep a day, they seem to have life sorted.

We first headed to Panda Canyon. This seems to be one of the zoo’s main attractions and was very busy. The Pandas seemed very relaxed and there was lots of information about the various bears we saw along the way.

As we were still way off with the eight hour time difference, we decided to get an early lunch at the Hua Mei Cafe, next to Panda Canyon. They serve pretty good food, such as peppered beef teriyaki and orange chicken.

Once we were revitalised we worked our way towards the back of the park through the African Rocks and Elephant Odyssey. The zoo areas are very well themed to the animals and their natural habitats

To get back to the front of the park, we took the Skyfari aerial tram. The zoo is situated in a canyon so this gave us a great view and a rest from walking for a while.

As it was so hot, we treated ourselves to ice cream and drinks. We had purchased the refillable drinks cup at the start of the day, which definately saved us a lot of money. You can fill it at any of the restaurants or food stands around the park.

Next stop was the childrens zoo with a play area and petting paddock. We spent quite a while in this area, as the kids didnt want to leave the play park. All parents bear the scars from having to drag their kids off of play equipment!

To end the day we went through the reptile house and reptile walk. These creatures are always on our ‘to visit’ list because Emily loves anything slimy and scaley!

San diego Zoo has so much to offer. It is a great day out and deserves its reputation as one of the best zoos in the world. There is plenty more zoo left for us to explore and we will be back to enjoy it again in the future.

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Newport Beach And Balboa Island, CA

What a place to start our first California adventure! We stayed at a basic hotel in Newport Beach, as we were only staying here for one night. After breakfast we drove and parked on Balboa Island. It’s a picturesque place and as it was coming up to Halloween, we spent some time looking at some of the fabulously decorated houses. We even made a new furry friend!

We took the ferry across to the peninsula. The kids loved watching people fishing off of the Balboa Pier. We stopped at Ruby’s Diner on the pier to get a quick lunch. I had the cinnamon bun French toast which was absolutely amazing and big enough to share!

After lunch, we took the ferry back to Balboa Island for a whale watching tour with East Meets West Excursions. We chose a smaller boat tour in the hope of getting a more personal experience. We met Captain Nick and headed out to sea. Luckily, we had the boat to ourselves.

Once we cleared the harbour it was full throttle out to sea! It was a fast and fun ride. We spent the first half an hour looking for wildlife and we wondered whether we would have a hard time spotting anything that day. Nick was on the radio to other captains and there was a sighting of a large pod of dolphins nearby. We were off again racing across the waves to catch up to the dolphins.

Nick got us in position ahead of the dolphins to let them catch up to us. We were soon amongst hundreds of common dolphins passing us and playing around us on all sides. Captain Nick invited us to sit up on the front of the boat whilst we moved forward with the dolphins.

There were dolphins everywhere, as far as the eye could see. We were now amongst a mega pod, of more than five hundred dolphins and some yellow fin tuna too.

We spent around fifteen minutes with the dolphins before it was time to head back to shore and we made one last stop on the way back into the harbour to see the sea lions, taking a break in the sun.

We had an amazing time out on the boat with Captain Nick, who is an amazing guide. He was great with the kids and very passionate about our experience. Balboa has so much to offer. We will definitely be back!

‘The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.’

Jacques Cousteau

Newport Beach- California

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Newport Beach, what can we say? Certainly beats a trip to Bournmouth beach!

It had everything you need for a relaxed beach day.

Sun, sea and sand. The premium version!

After a long flight the day before it was bliss to walk on the clean, hot sand and soak up a bit of vitamin D. The children just loved running wild on this seaside playground.

 

It was a day of happiness all round. A real treat to feel truely relaxed, all stresses and strains of everyday life, left behind for the day. One happy family.

Newport Beach, we will back again.

Mickeys Not So scary Halloween Party 2016

 

If there is one event at Walt Disney World that we would do over and over would be Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party!

We went to this event for the first and only time (so far) in October 2016.

You have to purchase event tickets in addition to your standard entrance ticket but it’s completely worth every penny!

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We themed our costumes around Alice In Wonderland, because we are Oxford based and the original CS Lewis story originated from our town.

As a family we love to dress up, so the fun began even before we got there. We made our costumes quite basic so they were easy to pack and lightweight to wear in the heat.

 

 

We met our friends at the Grand Floridian before heading to Magic Kingdom on the monorail. Its a great backdrop to add some extra class to your pictures.

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When we are arrived we were given a bag each to use for trick-or-treating.  Our son, who is dairy intolerant was given an ‘allergy friendly’ teal colour bag, so he could still join in, which was great! You collect teal tokens at the treat stations (instead of candy) and redeem these later at one of the allergy friendly centres for special sweet treats.

We enjoyed walking around checking out other people’s costumes. We even bumped into Tweddle Dee and Tweddle Dum!

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We had loads of time before the parade and fireworks, so we headed toward some rides. For some reason the ride experience seemed a lot more fun when dressed up!

We went on Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Prince Charmings Royal Carousel, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the Mad Tea Party.  We had a spooky treat at the Haunted Mansion- We met a ghostly friend!

After the ride we went to some of the treat stations to get some much needed candy. It was then time to find a spot for the Boo to You Parade. We really loved it! It had lots of different characters, music and floats. We didn’t stop smiling!


Next we went on to save a space for the fireworks. We were in need of a snack and decided on chicken waffle sandwichs from Sleepy Hollow, one of our MK favourites. This is easily the BEST fireworks display that our family has ever seen. It truly justified the money (if you were not entirely convinced already!)

We then headed over to see the Hocus Pocus Villian Spelltacular show in front of the castle. It was such good fun! A mix of the original characters from the film Hocus Pocus and lots of disney villans. It told a story, fit for Halloween, with some adult humour thrown in for the big kids!

A brilliant end to the nights entertainment!

 

We cannot wait to get back for another spooktacular evening at the Magic Kingdom.

What are your favourite events at Walt Disney World?

‘Come little children i’ll take thee away, into a land of enchantment.  Come little children, the times come to play, here in my garden of magic ~ Hocus Pocus

Our First Mini Roadtrip to Europe

A roadtrip to Europe had been on the bucket list for a long time. As with many of our shorter trips, we planned this one at very short notice. Our aim for the trip was to visit some new places. We decided on Bruges and Amsterdam as the main destinations. To keep driving times to a minimum, we planned a few stops along the way to break up the journey.

Day 1 – We’re on our way

After the usual rush to get everyone out of the house and in the car with all the essentials, we were on or way. We had a thankfully quick and uneventful trip to the Eurotunnel and arrived in Calais late morning. Our first stop was Dunkirk, a coastal town in Northern France. The weather was great and we enjoyed a couple of hours on the beach and some tasty baguettes at the seafront.

 

 

Leaving Dunkirk, we had an hours drive to reach our final destination of Bruges. We had decided on the centrally located Crown Plaza hotel as we would only be staying in the city for 24 hours. The hotel has onsite parking, which was important as we wanted the car easily accessible.

Day 2 – Discovering Bruges

We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel then headed out to explore the city. Bruges doesn’t seem to get going until 10am so we spent a while in nearby Kon Astridpark, to let the kids enjoy the playground and stretch their legs. A little later, we took a boat tour of the city. The boats depart behind The Burg, one of the city’s main square’s. The tour gave a different perspective to the city and the kids enjoyed the boat ride.

After our boat tour the children were inevitably hungry so we headed to the central area of The Markt. There are many restaurants and shops in this area. It’s a great area to discover some traditional Belgian exports, especially the chocolate and waffles! Looking for another family activity, we found the Historium Bruges, situated on The Markt. It is an interactive museum telling the history of Bruges.

To complete the day we walked to the Eastern edge of the City to see The Windmills and the beautiful church, Sint-Annakerk.

Our day In bruges was at an end. It is a small and interesting city, perhaps more suited to adult visitors. There are many museums of art and cultural interest, which we did not choose to explore on this trip. We would definately recommend it as a stop off. After a quick snack, we left Bruges and were moving to our next hotel, a Novotel in Breda, Netherlands. This was close to our next days activity.

 

Day 3 – Eftling Theme Park

We woke early, which seems to be standard practice when sharing a room with children! The hotel was basic but all we needed for a mid-way stopover. We had a short drive to Eftling, which is a theme park in the Netherlands. The traffic was very busy getting into the park, despite arrriving early. Entry was 44Euros per person, so a relatively expensive day out.

Some of the rides in the park are a bit outdated but there is certainly lots to do. The children enjoyed playing in the various play parks and going on the smaller rides. We ate some good food at the park, especially the ‘poffertjes’ (mini pancakes). We enjoyed our day on the whole, but would probably not visit again.

After a full day at Eftling we had a slightly longer drive for the evening to get to Amsterdam. We arrived at out hotel around 9pm, The ‘Van der Valk Hotel Oostzaan- Amsterdam’. The hotel is on the outskirts of the city, which suited us well as we were driving.

The hotel is very modern and we found it very good value for money in comparison to other options in the city.

 

Day 4 – Amsterdam

We woke around 8, all still a bit tired from the previous day. We had a pre-booked hotel shuttle bus to take us to the nearest ferry port. The public ferry services are free and run several routes from the outskirts to Amsterdam Centraal, the main transport hub of the city. We were heading for the Nemo Science museum first, a short walk from the the central station.

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Nemo Science Museum

We spent nearly four hours in the museum. There are so many interactive and interesting things to discover.

The museum has a lab where older children can try some basic science experiments. This is included in the admission price. We chose to do the rocket fuel experiment, which was great fun.

We had a quick lunch in the museums rooftop restaurant, which has nice views of the local area.

After Lunch, it was time to see some of the city. With limited time, we decided to take a canal cruise to see some of the main sights. The tour was very informative and gave our legs a well earned rest. Emily took advantage of a comfy seat and took a power nap.

We walked down to Dam Square to look for somewhere to eat dinner. The area is very busy and touristy, which didnt have the right kind of place that we wanted to eat. We decided to carry on a bit further into the city and found a restaurant near Spui square, called Eetcafe T Pakhuis. It was a quiet, relaxed location with a more traditional Dutch menu.

When we arrived in Amsterdam, we wern’t sure what to expect as the city has a reputation for more adult themes. With a some prior research, we found we could enjoy the city as a family quite comfortably. There is definately more to explore in this busy city.

Day 5 – Heading Home

We had a long day of travel ahead with about 300 miles to cover. After a big breakfast at the hotel, we left Amsterdam. To break up the journey and make the most of the last day we were heading for the Belgian city of Ghent. We stopped for some lunch and had a few hours to walk around the city and enjoy a bit of shopping.

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Gravensteen Castle, Ghent

It was then onto Calais for our evening Eurotunnel and onwards Home. It was a brilliant experience for our first roadtrip. Its given us the bug for this style of holiday, perhaps to travel for longer, and further in the future.

 

‘It’s a dangerous business going out your front door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to’.

Bilbo Baggins, LOTR

How to keep a 5 year old busy on a long flight

We leave for California at the end of this week! This is what we have packed for our 5 year olds entertainment.

 ☆Something to play with

☆Something to colour

☆Something to watch
☆Something to read 

We have also packed lots of other things that fit into these catergories 

PLUS 

☆Snacks- and lots of them!

WISH us luck!

What do you pack for your children for a long journey?