Holiday Diaries 2017

By now all my readers know that we are a wanderlust family and 2017 is shaping up nicely in terms of holidays. 2016 was a good year for time away as a family and with friends and this year is going to be no different.

This year I would like to take BattleKid home to Ireland for his first ever Saint Patrick’s Day and I need to get my skates on and book my flight home for that. St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year and that doesn’t happen very often so with this in mind it makes sense to pop home on the Wednesday or Thursday for the weekend. So watch this space!

Soon after that it will be Easter and we have a trip to Portugal to visit my Mum and Dad’s new home near Tavira, where BattleKid and I went to last Easter and which I blogged about in the Portugal Diaries. I’m so happy my folks have finally found a place for their retirement and we are more than happy to have it as a place for some holidays. Even better that BattleKid gets to see his grandparents in the process too!portugal day2

In June we are off to our first ever festival, the Wychwood Festival. I read about this when Kerry of All About A Mini Norris was lucky enough to attend last year. Her post set me thinking and very soon after reading her review I booked our tickets. BattleDad and I have never been to a festival, can you believe that, and so we are really looking forward to it. Even better I went all out and booked a pre-pitched tent so we don’t even have to bring our own. I can’t wait!

After a long wait during the summer our trip of a lifetime will soon be looming. We are doing a two week road trip in America next September, starting and ending in Portland, Oregon. We will be spending five days exploring Yellowstone National Park during that time as well as visiting Lolo National Forest. As soon as I found out there was a forest with the same name as my Dad, albeit a nickname of his, I knew I had to visit it. And to find it so close to Yellowstone and en-route to and from Portland was a bonus.  I’ve blogged about wanting to visit Yellowstone before and we had considered waiting until BattleKid was old enough to remember it but we just bit the bullet last October and booked it. Sometimes you just need to be spontaneous!

BattleDad wants to take a drive down part of the Pacific Coast Highway from Portland so that will be a day trip for us. There is also an amazing waterfall 30 minutes drive from Portland, the Multnomah Falls, that I definitely want to photograph. So it’s easy to see why this is going to be the trip of a lifetime for us. It’ll be a busy two weeks but I’m hoping we come away with great memories alongside some awesome pictures. I’m just not looking forward to the 11 hour plane journey to and from Portland with a three and a half year old.

Multnomah Falls

Then sometime before Christmas we are intending to visit Euro Disney with W and S (of the Bluestone Diaries) with their 2 children who will be just turning one and just turned three. BattleKid won’t be far off his fourth birthday so we felt that next year in November or December it would be the right time to bring him to Euro Disney for the first time. We invited W and S and they jumped at the chance. Both families are looking forward to it and we will also take a day or two to go into Paris as it’s been a few years since BattleDad and I last visited Paris and I need my fix, haha.

So 2017 isn’t looking too shabby when it comes to holidays for the Battle Family. It’s always nice to start the new year with something to look forward to and I think we can safely say we’ve got things to look forward to. What are your holiday plans for 2017?

Cath x

New York Day 5: 21/09/2016

BattleKid woke briefly at 2.45am but he settled back to sleep quickly in bed with me. We both woke just before 6am and we went into the living room to chill on the sofa while we waited for BattleDad to get up.

BattleDad woke at 6.30am and we decided to head into Manhattan one last time as we didn’t need to check out of our accommodation until 12pm and our flight wasn’t until 5.30pm. We thought about doing a bit of shopping but instead went through our to-do list and decided to go get our pictures of the Empire State Building as it was the only thing we hadn’t ticked off our list.

We got the N train straight to 34th Street and managed to find what we’d classify as a real American diner for breakfast. BattleDad was in his element when the waitress came back after bringing our breakfast to top up his coffee. That was the icing on the cake for the trip for him. Simple pleasures. BattleDad had steak and eggs for breakfast, as you do, while BattleKid and I shared pancakes again.new york day 5

We then headed for the Empire State Building and last minute decided to go up. We got our tickets at 8.15am and breezed through the lobby, straight into a lift and up to our first stop, the 80th floor. It was amazing see the New York skyline from above. new york day 5

new york day 5

new york day 5We headed to the lifts to go up to the 86th floor observatory and again breezed into the lift and straight up. There were absolutely no queues and there was plenty of space in the lifts and on the floors. I’d been warned that the queues can be hours long but we definitely lucked in with deciding to go in as soon as they opened to the public.

Getting our pictures on the 86th floor observatory was a bucket list point ticked and it was yet another great way to view the city, up there with the ferry ride. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the skyline as we were too busy getting a family selfie and capturing some video for my vlogs. Typical! Once we’d gotten all our videos and pictures we headed back down via the gift shop where we bought our fridge magnet (we get one from every new destination we visit). We also got a Christmas tree decoration and a little soft toy for BattleKid too. On ground level I did manage to catch a snap or two of the the Empire State Building.new york day 5

We finally felt like we’d seen as much of New York as we could in the time we had and so headed to the apartment to do our final packing before we started our journey home to Wales.new york day 5

new york day 5

We called an Uber taxi at midday and got to JFK in less than 25 minutes as there was very little traffic leaving the city. It was a different story on the other side of the road I can tell you. BattleKid slept in the taxi and continued to do so when we transferred him to his buggy at the airport. Our bag drop desk wasn’t open until two so we checked in, printed our boarding passes and found a seat.

new york day 5
Flaked out at the airport!

At 2pm we dropped our bags, headed through security and found a nice restaurant to have our last NYC lunch in. We were slightly disappointed with the small duty free in Terminal 5, so just got some water for the flight and headed for our gate to wait until we were ready to board.new york day 5

Again we were lucky enough to board with first and business class and got BattleKid settled for the flight to Dublin. I had changed him into comfy jogging bottoms in the hope he’s be comfortable enough to sleep. He watched his tablet and ate a little bit of the dinner before we tried to settle him. He did eventually get 2 hours before we landed in Dublin, as did I but poor BattleDad didn’t as he was trying to keep BattleKid comfortable.

Surprisingly the flight was less than 6 hours and we landed in Dublin before 5am. We had to collect our bags and check in again as our flights were booked separately. Once we found our departure gate, I entertained BattleKid to try and let BattleDad get some sleep. He didn’t manage it though due to the constant airport announcements. Our Cardiff-bound flight took off on time at 7.40am and both BattleKid and I were asleep as soon as we took off. BattleKid remained asleep, even after we landed, transferred him to his buggy and then to the car.

We were glad to get home and BattleKid and I went straight to my bed and straight to sleep. New York was done and after a disastrous first full day we still managed to tick off everything we had on our to-do list. Although we were only there for a few short days, it was enough to get a taster of the city, enough to know we will definitely be returning in the future. Has it grabbed me like I thought it would like Paris did all those years ago? To be honest no, it’s a great city but Paris remains my number 1 favourite city. That said, it won’t stop me visiting again in the future.

Thanks for reading,

Cath x

New York Day 4: 20/09/2016

While BattleKid quietly watched some Curious George I managed to doze on the couch until just before 6am. BattleKid asked for some food so we had a yogurt and some fruit before BattleDad woke and joined us at 7am. We chanced looking out the window and it was a bit cloudy but dry so we decided to try and beat the commuters and head into Manhattan and try catch up on the things we hadn’t managed to do the previous day.

We quickly got washed and dressed and headed for the Subway with my little list of destinations and the subway routes to get to them. We decided to head south and visit the World Trade Centre Memorial first. We were lucky on the subway and it didn’t get too packed so our decision to go early paid off. BattleKid had a snooze unsurprisingly on the subway. We only had to do one change from our line, the N line, before we arrived at Cortlandt Street and came out in what was the most amazing concourse I’ve ever seen, the World Trade Centre Concourse. It contains entrances to the various World Trade Centre buildings as well as a brand new mall and entrances to the subway. I completely forgot to get a picture of it as we tried not to get in commuters ways with our mouths wide open in wonder.

Once we got to ground level we made our way to the memorial site and came across the North Tower memorial first. It’s a very sobering and yet beautiful site but seeing all the names along the walls of the memorial brought that day back. Getting that first phone call from BattleDad about the first plane to getting home just to watch the first tower fall on TV. Although we were watching from over 3000 miles away it was no less shocking.New york day 4

New york day 4

The site is very peaceful and beautiful, even on a dull grey morning as it was for us. We got some pictures of BattleKid and us around it and in time will explain to him the significance of those pictures.New york day 4

New york day 4

The one thing that got to both BattleDad and I was along the names on the North Tower memorial. It was the name of a lady and beside it it read

And Her Unborn Child.

Seeing that brought tears to our eyes. We knew there had been at least one pregnant lady who had lost her life that day but it wasn’t until that day that it really hit home for us, particularly now we are parents. After walking around both the North and South Tower memorials we stopped at a nearby diner for breakfast and BattleKid and I had some lovely pancakes with bacon and strawberries.

From the World Trade Centre Memorial we decided to walk towards Battery Park to find the Staten Island ferry. Just as we turned the corner across the road from Battery Park an African-American guy stopped us and asked we were interested in the New York Water Ferry to see the sights from the water. He must have spotted my camera in my hand and guessed where we were headed. BattleDad reluctantly said yes. Now he was wearing a ‘New York City Attractions’ bib and had an ID badge but I was still wary as was BattleDad as he told me later. We paid the guy our ticket money and he put us on a free bus which took us near to Pier 16, the ferry dock.

It turned out that he was legit, BattleDad exchanged our tickets for actual ferry tickets and we boarded the 11am departure on the Zephyr for an hour’s tour around the waters of Manhattan and it turned out to be great. It wasn’t quite a water taxi as we were on board with a couple of hundred other sightseers but it was well worth the $30 each we paid (BattleKid went free).

During the boat ride we went under the Brooklyn Bridge, which I had completely forgotten about until the guide pointed it out and around the southern tip of Manhattan to get a great view of the Manhattan skyline with One World Trade Centre (mistakenly known as the Freedom Tower as the guide told us) taking centre stage. New york day 4

New york day 4

New york day 4Once we turned around we headed towards Liberty Island to get pictures of the Statue of Liberty. This was definitely our preferred way of seeing her! After we docked we decided to get some lunch near Pier 16 and I had a lovely salad, while BattleDad and BattleKid enjoyed some burgers.New york day 4

With our bellies filled we headed back to Cortlandt Street Subway station to head for Central Park. BattleKid fell asleep in his buggy in the train. We got off at 57th Street and we walked into Central Park from the south, heading for the Natural History Museum which is located on 81st Street on the west side of Central Park. We enjoyed our walk through Central Park and it’s easy to see why New Yorkers flock to it on nice days. It’s surprisingly peaceful inside, despite the hustle and bustle of the city around it.New york day 4

New york day 4

New york day 4

We arrived at the museum just before 3pm to find out it was going to cost the guts of $60 for the three of us in entry fees and we’d only have 2 hours in the place. That seemed quite expensive to us considering the majority, if not all museums in the UK are free of charge (donations suggested instead). And they were going to charge us for BattleKid as he was 2 years of age. Really?! The museum was more for us than him but not for $60 so we decided not to go in this time. We’d rather wait until we return when BattleKid is old enough to appreciate and enjoy the museum.

We headed back through Central Park on route to the subway to catch a train back to the apartment. While there we decided to try and find a particular spot in Strawberry Fields that has sentimental memories in our family. We managed to find it and got a kind passing tourist to take our picture there, keeping the family tradition going. I was chuffed, even if BattleKid was still asleep in his buggy. Our plan is to return to that same spot when we go back to New York in the future to emulate our sister’s pictures. I won’t explain further but I hope she doesn’t mind us carrying on what she started all those years ago.

New york day 4
BattleDad taking my picture at the Central Park spot before getting a passing tourist to get a family one for us.

Satisfied that we’d achieved quite a lot in one day, we headed for home and got back to Astoria just after 4pm. BattleDad got us some Starbucks drinks; him an iced mocha, me an iced chai tea latte. BattleDad and BattleKid watched some Netflix cartoons while I started packing us and cleaning up the apartment. We had showers and donned our pjs and had a late dinner just after 7pm.New york day 4

After dinner we saw another spectacular sunset before getting BattleKid ready for bed and I wasn’t far behind him at 8.30pm, with very sore feet after walking the legs off ourselves, something we always do on city breaks. I was knackered after a broken night’s sleep and a jam-packed day and was really hoping for a better night before home day arrived.New york day 4

Stop by tomorrow to see how the return journey to Cardiff went!

Cath x

New York Day 3: 19/09/2016

I woke at 6am to, would you believe it, lashing rain. Oh joy. The weather had been beaming sunshine the day before, and week previously for that matter, so trust us to bring the wet Welsh rain with us. I was not a happy camper. I made BattleDad and I a cup of tea while BattleKid had a banana and fruit with his milk while he drew pictures.

Over our tea BattleDad and I started to make our plans for the day. We didn’t arrive in New York with firm, concrete plans other than a list of places we would love to visit which included:

  • Times Square, which we had ticked off the day before,
  • The World Trade Centre Memorial,
  • The Staten Island Ferry,
  • Central Park,
  • The Natural History Museum,
  • And pictures of the Empire State Building.

We decided to head towards Central Park and hope that the weather improved, or that it at least stopped raining enough for us to walk through to the Natural History Museum. We got dressed and stopped at a bagel café near the Subway station where BattleDad and I had breakfast bagels and BattleKid had pancakes. His pancakes were delicious, yes we tried them. We then headed to the Subway just after 8am and got on the Subway to head for 59th and Lexington. One stop down the commuters got on and oh my Lord I’ve never experienced anything like it, even in London. Sardines doesn’t come close to describing how packed the train was! BattleKid did not enjoy that train ride I can tell you!

I was certainly happy to get off that train but was not overjoyed to see the rain continuing above ground. It showed no sign of ceasing so we decided not to walk across Central Park and instead decided to walk down 5th Avenue towards 34th (and Macy’s) in the hope it would eventually stop. Along the way we had to stop at a pharmacy as BattleKid’s cough was getting worse and it was driving him insane. The poor boy got a sleep in his buggy in between the coughing fits while Mum and Dad got more and more soaked. The rain even started getting through my so-called Gortex rain jacket and I was getting more and more fed up and grumpy.

Along the way BattleDad stopped at a gift shop as we hunted for a Big Dog t-shirt for S in our kennels and he got BattleKid some New York model cars which we’ll give him for Christmas. Unfortunately we didn’t find the t-shirt for S.

new york day 3
A very wet 5th Avenue.

new york day 3

BattleKid woke himself up with the coughing as we made our way slowly towards Macy’s. I didn’t want to go in as both us adults and BattleKid’s buggy were soaked and I was conscious of dripping water everywhere. We shook ourselves off, waited a few minutes for the drips to subside and went inside. Macy’s is a bit like John Lewis on steroids, very, very, very posh with a whole host of designer shops inside. We had a very brief walk around the ground floor before deciding to nip across the road to Foot Locker on the hunt for trainers for BattleDad has he had only brought one pair and they were soaked through. I had back up sandals with me so I didn’t bother looking for myself. BattleDad didn’t find anything in there but picked up a lovely pair of trainers in Sketchers, just down from Foot Locker.

new york day 3

new york day 3
Robert F Kennedy Bridge from Astoria Boulevard Station

We decided to call it a day from there and headed back to the apartment at midday, soaked and thoroughly fed up with the weather. We got a Starbucks lunch to take back to the apartment and enjoyed it after warm showers and pjs. BattleDad went into his room and had a much needed nap while BattleKid and I snuggled on the sofa watching a Fireman Sam movie on Netflix. It was really strange as they had changed all the Welsh accents to American ones and at first I couldn’t make out what was wrong with Fireman Sam until I realised the accents weren’t Welsh ones. Very unnerving but of course, BattleKid never noticed and enjoyed it all the same. BattleKid didn’t nap in the apartment but we still had a nice relaxing afternoon with cartoons, reading and games.

At 5pm we ordered a Chinese which arrived well ahead of the estimated time. BattleDad was beside himself when he discovered the rice came in the proper Chinese boxes that you see in films and TV. Right there and then his year had been made as he put it “proper Chinese takeway in New York”. It’s the simple things.new york day 3

The food itself was tasty although we did our usual with Chinese and ordered way too much, too much for just two of us as BattleKid only ate a little bit. After dinner BattleDad went to see if he could get something else for BattleKid’s cough as what he had picked up earlier wasn’t really helping.

When he got back he mentioned the sunset was starting and it looked like it was going to be a good one so we took it in turns to go up to the roof terrace to grab some snaps before it was time for milk, stories and bed. BattleKid was asleep by 7.15pm, and after some planning of destinations and subway routes to them in the hope the next day would be better and we could tick a few more things off our list, I got into bed as well. And I was sleep pretty quickly.new york day 3

However, a good night’s sleep it was not as the fire detector in mine and BattleKid’s room started beeping from 1am, most likely as it’s battery was starting to go. Reluctantly I woke BattleDad to see if he could remove it but as it was wire into the ceiling we didn’t want to take the battery out for fear of setting it (and possibly those of the building) off.

Instead BattleKid and I moved into the pull-out double bed in BattleDad’s room. However, BattleKid woke as we moved him and point blank refused to go back to sleep. I tried to keep him as quiet as possible and encourage him to go back to sleep but just before 4am I gave up and took him out to the lounge to let BattleDad get some sleep.

Stop by tomorrow to see if there was an improvement to our first trip to New York or was it destined to remain disastrous.

Cath x

New York Day 2: 18/09/2016

After an alright night’s sleep with just two shout-outs from BattleKid we got up at 6.30am, got dressed and my Mum dropped us out to the airport. Although it was a very short stop-over in Dublin, we were grateful for the chance to see our families (although we didn’t get to see Corrina) and to share in my parents good news. I’m so excited for them and of course delighted to have somewhere nice to go for holidays in the future. Tavira and the surrounding areas that I visited during this year’s Portugal Holiday Diaries is lovely and I know my parents will be happy there.

We left my parents’ house at 7.15m, taking just 25 minutes to get from Tallaght to the airport thanks to light Sunday traffic. We checked in, went through security and headed to one of the restaurants in Terminal 2 for breakfast. I ordered Eggs Florentine, which I had never had before, and it was rather yummy. I’ll be ordering it again if I ever see it on a breakfast menu. BattleDad was sorry he hadn’t ordered it once he tasted it!new york day 2

At 9am pre-clearance opened so we made our way there and got through fairly quickly. It’s such a good idea to be able to do immigration clearance in Dublin airport before you get on your plane to America. It certainly made a huge difference to us travelling with a toddler in tow and it’s something we will do in the future should we visit America again.

After pre-clearance we made our way to our gate, stopping at a duty free shop along the way to get BattleKid an Aer Lingus teddy for the flight as we’d left George at home. We waited by our gate for our flight to start boarding and BattleKid was quite well behaved, watching planes taking off and landing and shouting “oh aerflane”. new york day 2

new york day 2We were lucky to be able to board with the first and business class people as they called for families travelling with young children to board alongside first and business class. Again this was great as it meant we could get BattleKid settled and sort out what we needed from our bags before everyone else boarded. We stowed our bags and got into our seats, leaving the aisle free of us and our toddler, haha.

Surprisingly the movies were available to start watching as soon as you board which was a first for me. When I’d travelled long haul before they didn’t start until you were in the air and I tell you, it was a treat because we found The Jungle Book 2 was showing so that was BattleKid sorted for an hour or so! After he got bored of this, BattleKid moved onto his tablet where he watched episodes of Curious George, The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom on repeat. He was quiet and content which was the most important thing for Mum and Dad.

Come lunch time and BattleKid only picked at the chicken I ordered for him as it was a spicy tomato sauce for him. It was really nice though and I enjoyed it. BattleDad had a beef chili con carne so that was out of the question for BattleKid. If there is one thing I was disappointed with the flight, it was the lack of options food-wise for BattleKid. I never thought to fill in the dietary requirements section of our booking to request non-spicy food for BattleKid but I know in future. So if you take one thing from these Holiday Dairies it is to request certain foods for your children if they are not into spicy foods or if there are certain ones they won’t eat.

After lunch I had about an hour and a half’s sleep until the afternoon snack was served. BattleKid hadn’t slept but he had been quiet the whole time, either watching his tablet or playing on the Sony PSVita that BattleDad had put into our bags last minute. That was a stroke of genius on his part as BattleKid got stuck into the car game that BattleDad loaded up for him! This has been duly noted for our trip to Tenerife in December I can tell you.new york day 2

We landed before 1.30EDT (local time). We let most of the other passengers disembark before us and many of those who had been seated around us commented how good BattleKid had been on the flight. This is always nice to hear as a parent who, like many before us I am sure, had fretted about how the longer flight would go with a toddler in tow. We collected our bags and headed straight for a taxi, having done immigration pre-clearance already.

I turned on my phone to bad news that BattleDog #1, our female black German Shepherd, had taken ill. I text our kennels lady, S, back after getting her answering machine and while we were on our way to our AirBnB accommodation I managed to get through to her. Now T was twelve and a half and her hind legs had been getting weaker due to hip dysplasia so I was expecting it to be joint related. However, S thought T may have had a mini stroke as her hind legs were drastically weaker than before. S had used a harness to get T on her feet and had given her some medicine to help open up the blood vessels to get oxygen around her body. T had improved slightly with this and had eaten a little bit and S said she would do everything she could to keep T going until we got back. But I did have the difficult conversation with S that if she thought it was time to let T go we were giving her permission to make the decision if it was in T’s best interest.

This news was a bit shocking and I think both BattleDad and I were brought back down from our “we’re in New York” high with a bump. We knew there was nothing we could do from where we were so we had a chat about it, while BattleKid slept, and decided that we should just try and enjoy ourselves and deal with any call from S if it should come. And it was during that phone call to S that we were informed of the bombing in Chelsea the day before. Scary, not what we wanted to hear on the day of our arrival into New York.

BattleKid slept all the way from the Airport to our AirBnB accommodation in Astoria, just across the river from Manhattan. We met Jada, our host, who let us drop our bags in the apartment before she showed us around it and let us collect keys. We were 2 hours early for the check-in time so we decided to head for the Subway and go into Times Square as Jada had said it was only 20 minutes direct from Astoria Boulevard Station into Times Square.

So that’s what we did. And as we came up the stairs from the Subway, the first thing we did, like typical tourists, was look up and go “Wow”. You see the skyscrapers in films and TV shows but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it in person. new york day 2We walked around the corner and hit Times Square and did another “Wow”. Unfortunately, the main section was fenced off, either for refurbishment or due to the previous day’s events but we still got the full effect of the bright lights in the big city. We had watched the recent BBC2 mini-series about New York and had seen behind the scenes of the billboards and it was amazing seeing them with our own eyes. new york day 2

new york day 2

new york day 2We got plenty of pictures before and after visiting the Disney store for BattleKid where we got him a Halloween Mickey Mouse and a Disney New York t-shirt. One thing we did notice was a heavy police presence and it was no bad thing in my eye. It made me feel alot safer knowing they were on the streets.new york day 2

new york day 2

new york day 2

new york day 2

On our way back to the Subway we bought a print picture of the Manhattan skyline which we plan to put on our travel wall at home. We got the subway back to Astoria and stopped at a corner shop near the apartment to get a few supplies before ordering pizza for dinner. And it tasted good I can tell you. We were hungry after all that travelling.

After dinner we had showers, got into our pj’s and had BattleKid in bed by 7.30pm after a long day. He fell straight asleep and I followed soon after, absolutely beat. He slept well until 2.30am when the air con in our room started giving BattleKid a dry throat and the coughing started.

BattleKid woke on and off during the night and BattleDad ended up taking him into his room. I napped until I eventually woke fully at 5.30am.

I find the travelling day is always long and tiring and I was hoping for a good first full day in New York. Come back tomorrow to see if we got it.

Cath x