A Day at La Jolla Cove & Rock Pools

A family day, enjoying La Jolla Cove!

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Two Days Universal Studios, Hollywood

HARRY POTTER, HARRY POTTER, HARRY POTTER.

THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER.

Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system! As you may be able to guess, we are massive Harry Potter fans! BUT, we are also massive Disney fans. This left us with a difficult choice to make when we were in the planning stages of our Californian roadtrip. We were only visiting for seven nights and we also had to keep a reasonable budget. We had not long come back from Walt Disney World a few months before, so we (eventually) decided upon Universal studios.

We didn’t have in mind which rides or what things we wanted to experience, so we just turned up and got stuck in.

Hogwarts Castle is just incredible. In fact, the theming in this area of Universal Studios is perfect. The attention to detail is mind blowing! It really is an immersive experience. It transports you from California to Hogsmead and Diagon Alley!

When we were here, in late October the queue lines were thankfully short. The maximum time we waited for a ride was ten minutes! This allowed us to do more in a shorter space of time, which was unexpected. We enjoyed The Flight of the Hippogriff three times in a row, without having to get off and re join the line (because there wasn’t one!). Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was also just walk on, so we went on that a couple of times. You have to be slightly taller for this ride so we used the parent switch, which is available for some of the rides.

We couldnt leave Hogsmede without stopping off for a delicious frozen Buterbeer. It is the best thing ever! Cools you down, tastes great and you can pretend to be a wizard…

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The park is naturally split into two different areas, the upper and lower lot, because Universal Studios Hollowood is situated on a hill – a very big hill. They are connected by escalators, called the Starway. You wouldn’t want to walk it!

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View of the Lower Lot and Studios

Down to the lower lot, we experienced the parks most iconic and unique attraction, the Studio Tour. This takes you behind the scenes, to Universal Studios back lot, which homes sets and backdrops used in lots of their films. It is a working studio, so each experience may be different, depending on what is being filmed on the day. When we did this a lot of the sets and back drops were set up for halloween. During the tour you also experience King Kong: 360 3D and Fast and Furious: Supercharged, which are both 3D experiences.

We stayed on the lower lot to do the rest of the rides including Transformers, Curse Of The Mummy and Jurrasic world. There are good charachter meets for transformers and Jurrasic park outside the rides.

Whilst we were visiting, the park was closing early for Halloween Horror Nights. This suited us, because we were all tired from travelling.

We decided to eat out of the park, so we took a walk through Citywalk to find some dinner. We decided on Hard Rock Cafe, which is normally a bulletproof option.

One of the perks of visiting a theme park with children is the excuse to go on things that you may class as ‘kids rides’. We personally have no shame and will ride things with or without our kids! Universal Studios has lots of things for children of all ages to do. Super Silly Fun Land is, well, exactly that! Its theming is all things Minion! It will certainly catch your eye, with its colourful attractions and catchy music playing in the background. Most childrens dreams or most hungover adults nightmares could be realised here! Our favourite part of Super Silly Fun Land was the wet play area inspired by the carnival scene in Despicable Me. Being from the sometimes (mostly) chilly UK this was the perfect way to let the children cool off! This area comes with a changing area and lockers, because swim wear is a must.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is just across the way from here, which fits in nicely with the themimg. Side note- if you get motion sickness remember to take your anti sickness before attempting this ride!

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Another great area for children is the Simpsons area. The Simpsons ride is a 3D adventure, where you are taken along for the Simpson family day, out at the fair. If you have ever watched the Simpsons you will know that this will not be a straight forward trip! The minimum height for this attraction is 40″, but our five year old measured up ok!

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Across the two days, we had lots of character interactions, which is always great for a photo opportunity!

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During our two day visit we went to see the WaterWorld show. It was brilliant! It had explosions, jet skis, fighting and a (*SPOILER*) epic plane crash! This is something you just have to see if you visit Universal Studios Hollywood. we didnt get many pictures because our eyes were firmly glued on the action!

All in all we had a great couple of days here.We could have rushed it all in one day because of the small crowds and short queue lines, but were able to take our time.

If you get the chance to visit it is definately worth a day trip.

Don’t forget the anti-sickness!!

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.

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