This post is a little late being published this year but none-the-less, here it is. Now, 2017 was a fantastic year for holidays for the Battle Family. I have no idea how we are going to beat it. But, as wanderlusters we will strive to enjoy whatever holidays we have planned. And so far we have three booked.
As for last year, we started the year with a scouting mission to Portugal in readiness for our permanent move here. Then, after what felt like a very long wait, we were finally on our 2-week USA road trip. And what a trip that turned out to be. Only a few weeks after we returned from the States, we were back in the UK to experience a mid-week stay in Bluestone as part of their Bluestone Bloggers Programme. And we ended the year in style by visiting Disneyland Paris in December. BattleKid keeps asking to go back to the castle every time we watch a Disney film.
So, what do we have planned so far for this year I hear you ask? Well, firstly, BattleKid and I are off to Ireland over Easter for a 10-day trip. We are starting with a 7-day road trip in the southern half of the country where we will take in places like the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle and Fota Wildlife Park. After our mini road trip, we’ll be heading up to Dublin to visit family and to also spend a day being a tourist in Dublin, thanks to an amazing collaboration with a tourism company (more on that to come). I’m really looking forward to our trip to Ireland, which is only a matter of a few weeks away now.
The next trip we have booked is a long weekend as a family in Barcelona at the beginning of July. BattleDad is going to see Guns and Roses in concert there. When I discovered we can get a direct flight from Faro to Barcelona, I asked could BattleKid and I tag along. We’re going for four and a half days, and I’m looking forward to visiting this famous Spanish city.
And last but not least, we have an awesome trip mostly planned for December. We’re going to visit Santa in Lapland, and we’ll also spend a few days in Helsinki as well. And this is the trip that has me most excited. I am literally hopping with excitement. We have our flights to Helsinki booked, and are finalising our accommodation. We will also need to sort our transfers from the capital to Lapland nearer the time but I know it’s going to be amazing. There are a few final details we need to sort out with family we’ll be joining there, but for now, it’s shaping up nicely.
The three trips we have planned so far are going to be wonderful, but I don’t think we’re done yet. We are weighing up options for another trip at the end of the summer and it’s between two options. Both will entail a road trip, as we’ve really been bitten by the road trip bug since our epic time in America last year. It will very much depend on BattleDad’s work commitments and whether we can take one or two weeks. I’m really hoping we can stretch to the two weeks as I have something in mind for that. But if not, we’ll plan the one week in the coming month or two. So watch this space for updates.
That’s our travel plans so far for 2018. I’ll update this post if we plan and book that road trip, and also if anything suddenly appears on the horizon.
Have you got any trips planned for this year, and if so, where are you going? Inspire me!
Happy New Year to all my followers. My word, 2017 went like a flash. And what a year it was for us as a family. I wanted to write a little note to start the new year on the blog and explain a few things that will be happening with the blog going forward and some changes that will be happening and some that have started and will be continuing.
Those of you who are regular readers will have already noticed these changes happening, but I thought it would be good to explain the changes to those who dip in and out of the blog, or for any new readers. I also thought it would be good to explain my reasons behind the changes to my regulars.
Firstly, you’ll have noticed my blog header and social media avatars have changed quite a bit in the latter quarter of 2017. Gone is the scientist header below:
and it has been replaced by this:
The reason is simple. As of March 2017, I no longer work as a scientist and felt it was time to change the blog accordingly. I gave up my much-loved job as a scientist in readiness for our move to Portugal. We made the decision a year ago to sell up lock, stock and barrel, and move our family to Portugal for a number of reasons. Being close to my parents was top of the list.
They bought a retirement home late in 2016 in Portugal, and we thought it might be good to move to be closer to them. The advantages far outweighed the disadvantages. For one, BattleKid would be able to spend much more time with his grandparents. And for times when BattleDad is travelling for work, I’d have a support network there that I didn’t have in Wales.
Secondly, the sunshine. There really has been no comparison where that is concerned. We quickly realised as we were discussing the possibility of moving that BattleKid had spent more than two thirds of his life indoors, mainly down to the cold, wet weather of the UK. Most times, when he’d ask to go out on his bike, we’d have to say no because it was either too cold or raining. Moving to Portugal would mean more time outdoors.
We also thought it would be a great opportunity for BattleKid to become bilingual and that at three and a half, it would be the right time to make the move as he would most likely pick up the language quite easily.
The other reason for changing my blog header is that BattleKid is growing up and I felt the baby no longer represented where we were in terms of his age. And while I am still a biker underneath, I haven’t been on one since I was four months pregnant with BattleKid, and I’m unlikely to be on the back of one for some time to come.
The new header is a much better representation of our family as it stands. We’re a family who love to travel and I thought it was time to bring that into the header. It also shows how the blog is changing. My blog started as a parenting blog during the last few months of my maternity leave. While I enjoyed writing about BattleKid growing up, I came to realise last year that I don’t really want to continue with the parenting theme.
There are hundreds of great parenting blogs out there, and loads of great parenting resource websites, and really I didn’t think I had anything more to share beyond what everyone else was sharing. I also didn’t really want to be writing about dealing with tantrums, or potty training, or how to deal with night wakings after toilet training. It didn’t feel right and it was no longer for me.
I still enjoy reading about other people’s experiences but I didn’t really feel like I wanted to share ours anymore. However, the one thing that gets my fingers typing fast and the words flowing easily is writing about our travels. Be it our Holiday Diaries, or posts about our Dragon Hunting adventures, these are the posts that come much easier to me and are the ones I enjoy writing so much more than general stuff.
I still enjoy the odd review but in the latter half of the year, I became pickier, if you will, about what things I wanted to review on the blog. And I started to focus on things that could have a travel aspect to them. Things like the Cabin Zero bag, of which I now own two as I love them that much, and the Adventure Belt, a great new edition to our travelling arsenal with BattleKid.
And as a result of all of that, our blog is now focused on family travel more than anything else. There may be one or two posts which are not wholly travel-related and it is for that reason I call my blog a Family Travel and Lifestyle Blog. The main focus of the blog has been changing over the last few months, with more travel-related posts being published than anything else and this will continue going forward.
I will continue to write our Holiday Diaries, mainly as a diary for BattleKid to look back on in later years, but also so that people can see what sort of things we get up to on our holidays. They used to be quite boring, if I’m honest, particularly when we were on package holidays, but as of last year, our travels have taken a different turn (which I’ve written about recently). They have become much more about discovery and adventure rather than sitting by a pool doing nothing. And I want to share those tales with everyone.
Out of our travels will come guides or information posts too, which I hope will be of benefit to others. Posts such as my 5 Things to Do in New York with a Toddler in Tow. That series will continue as we visit more and more places. I also plan to write other types of posts about travelling which may provide helpful hints and tips to others embarking on travel with their little ones. And if there is anything in particular you’d like to see on the blog then let me know!
So there you go, BattleMum is becoming a more travel-focused blog. I know the title of my blog doesn’t quite reflect the niche, but I’m still a BattleMum, battling my way through life, albeit a life vastly different to when the blog first started.
We woke just after 7am and got ourselves washed, dressed and ready to head to the airport. Given the traffic on the way to Disneyland four days ago, we didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
We checked out and BattleDad was about to call an Uber until he noticed the pickup point was by the RER station. We really didn’t want to have to walk all the way there, and the Magic Shuttle bus was parked outside so we decided to hop onto it. It left on time and started making its way around the various Disney hotels for picked but, with only two to spare, hurdle five of the holiday happened.
Somehow, and I really don’t know how he managed it, the driver collided with the steel gate to the Sequoia Lodge Hotel. A gate that was open. It resulted in the bus stopping at the barriers while the driver called a supervisor. He arrived within minutes, but we sat there for almost 20 more minutes while the hotel gate people and the supervisor argued it out.
BattleDad ended up arguing with the supervisor to get us moving, as there was nothing wrong with the bus other than some superficial damage. The supervisor was also arguing with another couple who didn’t have a Magic Shuttle voucher. BattleDad said either get the bus moving or call taxis for everyone on the bus as we were now running late. He soon changed his tune when BattleDad said, in French, I also speak French my friends. I don’t think he was expecting that.
Finally, at 9am, the time we should have been arriving at the airport, we left the Sequoia Lodge and still had 30 miles to go in heavy rush hour traffic. I watched the clock getting closer and closer to our check-in time closing. But, with only about 30 minutes to spare, we arrived at Orly. We tipped the driver as he was having a bad start to his day and said we hoped he had a better day tomorrow after a bottle of wine on us. He was very grateful.
We then had a job to find the Transavia check-in desks which are hidden away on a lower floor of Orly, with NO signs indicating which way to go. I’ve never come across a more disorganised set of desks. We checked in, got rid of our bags and very quickly made our way to security where we somehow missed the Fast Track security line. Thankfully the gentleman directing people in the main line ushered us into a quieter line that happened to leave us closer to our gate.
We had just enough time for BattleDad to grab some Laduree macarons before heading for our gate where our flight was already boarding ahead of schedule. I dread to think how things might have turned out if BattleDad hadn’t argued with the supervisor to get us moving. There was no need for the bus to be sitting there as the supervisor was perfectly capable of sorting out the mess with the hotel after the driver had given his licence details.
We left Orly on time and thankfully left the rain and cold too. WE flew south and were greeted by blue skies and temperatures heading for 20C. A stark contrast to the previous few days. We picked up our car and drove home, absolutely shattered after our first family visit to Disneyland Paris. See you in 2022!
We were up by 7.20am and got ourselves dressed and packed for the day. As we had another character’s breakfast this morning at 8.15am, we left just before 8am and waited behind just two other groups before being let into the Disney park at 8am.
We managed to properly get ‘The Picture’, albeit in the early morning light before heading over to the Plaza Gardens restaurant for our second characters breakfast. This was an all-together quieter affair as there was no queue to get in at 8.15am. A lot of people arrived afterwards. We were seated in a different section to the first day and once again Mickey Mouse made a beeline for our table.
We saw Daisy Duck again and this time also met Scrooge McDuck who hadn’t been at our previous breakfast. We filled our bellies and decided to leave before the Winnie the Pooh characters came over. We figured we had our autographs and pictures with them from the first breakfast so didn’t really need to see them again.
As it was still EMT, we decided to go and do the official Meet Mickey. Although we had the photos from breakfast, we wanted to meet Mickey in the official capacity as we had done the meet and greet with Minnie Mouse the previous morning. So, this would top off the meet and greets nicely. On our way there we walked through the dragon’s cave under the castle and BattleKid wasn’t having a bar of the green dragon, despite him being a dragon hunter!
Then, we headed for Mickey’s building at the back of Fantasyland and saw the queue time was 40 minutes. This was doable, especially as they had old Mickey Mouse cartoons running on a screen in the queuing room.
However, one thing we had forgotten to do in our haste to get out of the restaurant was visit the toilet. BattleKid was occasionally dancing like he does when he needs to go, but as we were halfway through the queue I didn’t really want to leave it. The decision was made to wait it out and hope we got to meet Mickey for those dreaded words were uttered. If they were I was fully prepared to drink my water in my drinks bottle and let him pee into that.
Thankfully it didn’t come to that and it was soon our turn to meet the main man himself. It’s slick operation (one I won’t go into too much detail about). We took some photos on our cameras before the photographer took the official ones. Mickey was brilliant with BattleKid once he spotted his jumper. We got some family pictures too, before leaving satisfied with our visit. A trip to the toilet was done before we did anything else. The Mickey queue had felt like we were in a race to see which would come first. Mickey or a discreet wee into a bottle! And I was glad we had done the meet and greet when we did as the queue time had jumped from 40 minutes to 70 by the time we came out.
After this we took BattleKid on the It’s a Small World ride and he loved it. I, too, was suitably impressed by this ride and was glad we’d fitted it in. It is a very colourful, vibrant ride and yes, the song is still stuck in my head!
At that stage we’d pretty much ticked off everything I wanted to do in Fantasyland. As it was nearly 10am, I let BattleDad head for the Indian Jones ride, while I took BattleKid on the Dumbo ride again. It made sense to split up, so everyone got to do what they wanted.
I came across some extremely rude and ignorant Spanish people in the queue for the Dumbo ride and their behaviour and rudeness just beggar’s belief. Disney can bring out the worst in people I can tell you! They basically pushed their way past BattleKid and I as we got towards the entrance to the ride as one child in their party had gotten in the queue before us. I had let their mother and two siblings past us, but as we got to the entrance, SIX adults pushed past us to join this mother and three children. SIX adults for a kids ride! I really couldn’t believe it. I stared into their faces and down at BattleKid, but they just didn’t care. I was livid. And the outcome of their rudeness. Two had wait until the next rotation.
Anyway, we enjoyed the ride together and after it ran to meet BattleDad in the queue for the Baloo and King Louie meet and greet. There was no official photographer with them, which I already knew, but I had hoped to do this meet and greet and thankfully we got the chance.
After this we visited Captain Jack’s restaurant to confirm our booking for 1pm, especially after the mix up the day before. It was confirmed, and we decided to take a ride on the Disneyland train around the edge of the park for something different to do. We timed it well as we only had a few minutes to wait before the train pulled into the Fantasyland station. And BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed it.
With a little bit of time before lunch, we did Pirates of the Caribbean again as the queue was just 5 minutes and BattleKid enjoyed it more this time, pointing out the dog with the jail key and the man with the several hats on his head. And before entering the restaurant, I met a lady to give her some of our meal vouchers we weren’t going to use on the Friday and she was very grateful.
We were still waiting on our friends to arrive, but as it was cold we went inside and were seated straight away. And who should wander over to our table but Captain Jack Sparrow himself. I had forgotten he sometimes roams the restaurant. He had a chat with BattleKid before we got some pictures with him and he left BattleKid a lovely message in his autograph book. Our friends made it in just in time for a quick photo and signature from him.
Our meal was very nice, and we enjoyed a Mickey Mouse birthday cake, as between our two families, we have 5 birthdays within five weeks around the Christmas period. It was an amazing chocolate cake and worth the money I paid for it.
We were a bit later leaving the restaurant than I had hoped. We had missed the Mickey and the Magician show in Studios the day before due to our reservation mix-up and it was a show everyone had been raving about. Our choice at this stage was to run for the 3.35pm time, so we could get back for the main parade at 5pm in the Disney park. Or, we could forgo the main parade, take our time and catch the 4.40pm showing of it. The latter is what we opted for, particularly as it was raining by now and none of us wanted to be standing in the rain for the parade and the waiting time before it.
We decided to stop by our hotel room for BattleKid’s buggy and meet our friends at the entrance to the Mickey and the Magician show around 4.20pm. We wandered up Main Street via one or two shops in a bid to find BattleDad a 25th anniversary jacket in his size to no avail. Thankfully we had another option.
We had spoken to a cast member in the boutique in our hotel the previous night who had given BattleDad the official product code and an email for the manufacturers. The cast member, Rocky, said to email them and if they had them in stock we could buy direct from them. As no shops within the parks had his size, BattleDad tried this option, and as I type this post, a 25th anniversary jacket in his size is on its way to Portugal!
We met our friends outside the auditorium at our agreed time and by then the queue was at the turnstiles. Again, we met more ignorant and rude people and BattleKid ended up falling asleep in BattleDad’s arms. At 4.40pm, the doors opened, and we found a seat for us all. We managed to wake BattleKid and enjoyed the fabulous show with some popcorn I’d bought the day before. I was so glad we took the decision to go see this show as it was well worth it.
We figured that we’d seen the Christmas parade, and our friends had caught some of it again earlier this day. Everyone on the Disney Facebook groups said it was not to be missed and they were right. It was worth missing the main parade for and as a bonus, we were out of the rain.
After the show we said a fond farewell to our friends as we’d booked dinner in our hotel restaurant for ourselves that night. We got back shortly after 5.30pm, had warm baths and got ourselves dressed for dinner in the California Grill in the Disneyland Hotel.
And it was a meal worth waiting for. This restaurant is a fine-dining experience and we had to top up our vouchers for the meal. And it was worth every penny. Hot, tasty food that was well presented. BattleKid even surprised us by eating his vegetable starter in full. He also enjoyed his fruit salad for dessert. It was a fabulous way to end our first family trip to Disneyland Paris and is a meal we won’t forget in a hurry. It was by far the best meal of the entire trip.
After dinner we bought our final souvenirs in our hotel gift shop and took some pictures of the amazingly decorated lobby.
We did our final packing before bed as we had an early start to the airport. We were all in bed before 10pm, shattered after three great days at Disneyland Paris. Our next planned visit is in five years’ time and I think it will be an all-together different affair. BattleKid will be eight and I think the meet and greets will be replaced by roller-coaster thrills.
We were up shortly after 7.20am, got ourselves dressed and headed for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We had a nice table with a view of the castle. Breakfast was quite similar to that on offer at the character’s breakfast with both a hot and cold buffet, fruits, yogurt and cereals. We filled our bellies and were going to head straight to Studios having brought our day bag with us.
But, we had an unexpected but delightful stop just outside the restaurant when we happened upon Minnie Mouse doing a meet and greet. We weren’t going to miss this chance to meet the main lady herself, especially as the queue was short and she had an official photographer with her. Our wait was less than 10 minutes. She kindly signed BattleKid’s autograph book before he, and then us as a family, had photos taken with her.
What a lovely surprise to find coming out of breakfast. It did mean we were running slightly behind getting into Studios. And once we were in, we had one other special appointment to make. Our meet and greet with my favourite, Goofy. This was my non-negotiable, so we joined the queue. Halfway around we heard those dreaded words “I need a wee”. So BattleDad ran with BattleKid to find toilets and ran back, just in time for our turn. I had let two Spanish families go ahead of me by this stage.
And whether we got disapproving looks from anyone or not for me keeping our place, I didn’t care. We’d queued and waited our turn and I was getting those pictures come hell or high water. During our wait we had a change over of Goofy and unfortunately the official photographer never returned with the character. So, we could only get our own photos. But at least it was done.
Next on the agenda was Ratatouille. Again, this was a ride everyone had said do during EMT or Fast Pass because of the length of the queues, so we joined the queue shortly after 9am and it moved reasonably quickly, with us getting on the ride within 20 minutes.
And what a ride it is. A 3-D interactive ride, BattleKid wasn’t too sure of it again but, having only watched the movie for the first time recently, Mum and Dad thoroughly enjoyed it.
After Ratatouille, we dressed BattleKid in his Buzz Lightyear outfit and I took him into that queue while BattleDad went to do the Hollywood Tower of Terror. It’s not a ride that appeals to me, so it made sense to let him do that while we waited to meet Buzz. I was praying BattleKid wouldn’t want the toilet before our turn and thankfully he didn’t.
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Buzz was brilliant with BattleKid thanks to his costume. Once we’d got our photos and his autograph (a stamp) we headed off to find BattleDad via the toilets. We had a quick costume stage as we were heading to meet our friends at the back-lot stage for the Moteurs show. Just outside the show area is one of BattleKid’s favourite characters, Lightening McQueen. We got some pictures and headed into the show.
And my word, it was great, especially for our motorbike-mad child. It is set up like a movie set and a director talks you through the stunt scenes they are shooting. First up was a drive though by Lightening before the motorbikes took to the stage. Following these are dramatic car chases and even our friends 11-month-old daughter was enthralled.
I have to say it was very well done and enjoyed by us all. We had a little bit of time before our friends had planned a meet and greet with Spiderman. Although he hadn’t been on our hit-list, he was very good with the boys and showed them how to do Spiderman hands. BattleKid is still practising them at home!
Following this, we had enough time to do the Cars Quatro Rally ride before heading to Bistro Chez Remy for lunch at 1pm. And this was our second hurdle of the holiday. When we went to the reception desk we were told that our booking had been for 12pm, not 1pm! I had definitely booked for 1pm and we were told if we wanted to eat there we’d have to come back at 2.30pm. I couldn’t believe it. We took the new reservation as I did not want to miss the chance to eat there, with it having had glowing reviews and recommendations by many of my fellow bloggers.
We had a walk around the Studios and visited the shops in the main building before heading back to Chez Remy for 2.20pm. However, it took until 2.50pm to be seated. As we walked through the restaurant towards our table at the back beside the windows to the ride I spied A LOT of empty tables. It didn’t make sense that they were all empty, despite the receptionist telling people they were fully booked. I can only put it down to a lack of staff as there was not a lack of tables.
We were seated, placed our order and had a lovely time chatting before our meal started to arrive. Again, not hot, but warmer than previous meals, the food was very good, and our steaks were amazing. I fully understood why this restaurant got some big thumbs up from others. The ambience and decor were perfect, and the food was very good. It could have been a little bit warmer though.
We didn’t leave the restaurant until nearly 5pm (due to a problem with our friend’s son) and by then it was starting to get dark and colder. We wandered around the Toy Story area before making our way out of Studios and into the Disney Village.
We waved goodbye to our friends as we were headed for the World of Disney shop in the Village for some shopping.
And here was hurdle number three. I filled a basket with some shopping including lots of Christmas decorations for us, my folks and for BattleKid’s two classroom assistants here in Portugal. AS I headed for the tills, BattleDad waited outside with the boy. I had my hotel charge card so thought I didn’t need our bag. However, as the total was over €100, the lady on the till needed to see some ID to confirm the name on the charge card.
We hadn’t needed ID using the card before, but then again, all transactions up to that point had been below €100. I had to call BattleDad to come back with ID, at which point he said he was at our room as BattleKid needed the toilet. Within 10 minutes he was back with my driving licence and we could pay and leave with our purchases. My licence went into my lanyard with the charge card at that stage in case I needed it again. Finally, we were headed for our room and another bath to get warm.
Afterwards we ordered room service. A pot of tea for BattleDad and I, and a plate of biscuits arrived quite quickly. The biscuits turned out to be macarons and a slice of cake (all for just €5) and we shared them with BattleKid before getting into bed. Tomorrow was to be our last day in Disneyland and we planned to spend it in the Disney park ticking off some final wish-list things.
Our restaurant booking mix-up meant we didn’t get on as many rides as I had hoped in the Studios park, but we got to do three meet and greets, eat in Chez Remy and caught the Moteurs Action show, so we were happy with that.
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