Our Visit to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Those of you who have read our USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries will know that we visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI as it is known, while we were in Portland. This had been recommended to us and was on our Portland Bucket List. In this post I’ms haring with you our visit to OMSI as well as some useful information should you plan a visit there yourself.Our Visit to OMSI

The day after we arrived in Portland we decided to head there. I was quite excited as I had found out they had a Pompeii Exhibition on at the time of our visit to OMSI. BattleDad is a huge fan of Roman History and we’d love to visit Pompeii at some stage so to see the exhibition was an unexpected bonus. Our only reservation for our visit to OMSI was whether BattleKid would enjoy it. We need not have worried.

OMSI was founded in 1944 and was originally located in Washington Park at the site of the Portland Children’s Museum. However, as visitor number grew, and exhibitions got bigger, a new location was found for it on the east bank of the Willamette River.

The OMSI building is huge and houses no less than 3 auditoriums, a planetarium and numerous exhibition halls. They also have a submarine exhibit in the form of USS Blueback which was used for the film The Hunt for Red October before being towed to its current location at the pier adjacent to the main OMSI building.

Exhibition halls include the Featured Hall for special touring exhibits and the Turbine hall with exhibits for engineering, physics, chemistry and space travel. There is also the Life Sciences Hall which is all about biology, and includes talks and demonstrations with live animals. The Earth Science Hall features geology-oriented exhibits with two specialised laboratories. The Planetarium holds astronomy and laser light shows. And there is the Science Playground which we spent the most time in.

We arrived shortly after 9.30am after driving from our hotel and once we’d bought our tickets for the Pompeii Exhibition (including museum admission) and planetarium tickets, we made our way to the café for a quick cuppa and bite to eat. There I had my very first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which was quite nice.

After we had eaten, we made our way upstairs to explore the exhibitions halls. As soon as we entered this area, BattleKid made a beeline for some giant cubes and dived right in. He and I had great fun at a giant pinball machine which was designed to educate children about food groups. Although he was too young to understand these, he still had fun trying to whack the balls!

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid falling into soft bricks
Giants soft cubes!
Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid playing with the food pinball machine
Fun with the pinball machine

There were exhibits about recycling and garbage, exhibits about animals where we saw a Dire Wolf skeleton and saw live animals, and my personal favourite, an exhibit about fluorescent materials. This brought me back to my science background.

Our Visit to OMSI - Fluorescent Minerals at OMSI
Fluorescent Minerals
Our Visit to OMSI - A Dire Wolf skeleton
A Dire Wolf Skeleton

Next, we moved onto the Science Playground. And BattleKid had a whale of a time in the Science Playground. This area has been designed for families with newborn to children of six years of age. Fully enclosed and designed so that children are visible and secure at all times, it encourages children to discover through play and imagination. It has various experimental stations including

  • a stimulating infant area
  • a giant sandbox
  • a water area
  • a reading area and
  • a physical sciences area.

First stop was the water area of course. Only, we hadn’t quite planned for the wet floor. We had to take BattleKid’s shoes off as we entered but forgot to take his socks off. Wet feet were the result for spending so much time having splashy fun in the water area. It also meant he couldn’t really go into the giant sandbox as his feet were still wet and I didn’t fancy trying to get sand off his feet!

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid having fun with the water area at omsi
Fun in the water area

Next BattleKid had fun at the physical sciences area and was playing with other children, putting balls through holes and down ramps.

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid playing at the physical sciences area
Fun at the ball wall

We moved into one of the rooms off the main one and he and I did a fun game with magnetic balls in a maze. I ended finishing it when he got bored!Our Visit to OMSI - BattleMum helping BattleKid with a magnetic game

As were we getting close to our 12pm time for the astronomy show in the planetarium, we had to drag BattleKid away from the Science Playground. This was the first time BattleDad had been in a planetarium and he and I enjoyed it. It was great being shown some of the star constellations we can see above our house in Portugal, although I couldn’t tell you their names, apart from the Plough now. BattleKid got a bit restless before the end but stuck it out thankfully.Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid pretending to be an astronaut at omsi

After the stars show we made our way to the Pompeii Exhibition. They allowed entry at timed intervals, which was to allow them to show the short video at the start of the exhibition. This gave some background about Vesuvius and Pompeii and the build up to that fateful night in 79AD.

Once you had watched the video, you were let into one of the main exhibition halls which featured artefacts from Pompeii including urns, gladiator clothing and weapons, mosaics and frescoes. Between this hall and a second one, there were over 200 artefacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum.Our Visit to OMSI - One of the Pompeii displays at omsi Our Visit to OMSI - Roman vases from Pompeii at omsi

It was amazing to see how well preserved some of the items were and the level of detail in them, particularly metalworks such as jewellery and coins. After the main hall, we were led upstairs where there was another short video. However, it was advised that it was unsuitable for young children and we were allowed to skip this video and were let into the next exhibition hall by a member of staff. #

The video we didn’t see was a 4D one in which you could experience the fury of Vesuvius in an immersive theatre with vivid sights, sounds and shaking ground. I think it was very helpful of OMSI to allow families with younger children to skip this part.

The last room of the exhibition had more artefacts and also body casts of people from Pompeii. It was a sobering place, especially seeing the body casts of children. We didn’t stay long in this room with BattleKid.Our Visit to OMSI - The Pompeii Exhibition was at omsi during our visit

Before we finished our visit to OMSI we visited the gift shop which is well stocked, and BattleKid got a little space ship souvenir with his name on it for his room. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to OMSI and highly recommend it. Had we known how good the Science Playground was going to be we might have booked a later showing in the planetarium and let BattleKid enjoy it even more. I am so glad it was recommended to us and made it onto our Portland Bucket List.

Visitor information for OMSI

  • There is a large car park adjacent to the OMSI building with a charge of $5. WE were there early on a Wednesday morning in September and there was plenty of parking.
  • OMSI is served by public transport. The OMSI/SE Water Ave Station connects to the MAX, bus and Portland Streetcar lines.
  • The museum is open from 9.30 to 5.30 Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
  • The café is open from 8.30 to 5.30 Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday and from 8.30 to 8.00 on Friday and Saturdays.
  • Submarine tours are from 9.50 to 4.30 and you can even do sleep overs!
  • Entry to the museum costs $14.50 for an adult and $9.75 for a child (3-13 years).
  • Entry to the submarine costs $6.75. For the Empirical Theatre, which we didn’t go to, an adult costs $7-8.50 and a child is $6-6.50. Entry to the Planetarium costs between $5.75 and $7.50.
  • The Pompeii Exhibition ended in October. To see up-and-coming events, please visit the Events page of the OMSI website.

Our Visit to OMSI

We can highly recommend visiting OMSI if you are ever in Portland, Oregon. There is plenty to see and do for children and adults alike. Children will particularly like the Science Playground, so give yourself plenty of time in there.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing.

**We were not asked to write this review.Our Visit to OMSI

Our Visit to OMSI

USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Days 15 and 16

After getting showered and dressed, we ate breakfast in the hotel at 8.30am. BattleKid and I went back to our room to do some final packing while BattleDad visited a chemist for some throat spray and melatonin for BattleKid for the plane.

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All packed and ready to go.

We had to check out by noon, so shortly before we loaded up the car and set off to drop off the AirBnB keys before heading to Portland International Airport.

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Heading for Portland Airport
usa road trip days 15 and 16 holiday diaries
Portland International Airport
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Leaving on a high

We got rid of our bags, made our way through security and went to some lunch. As we had some time to kill before our flight was due to board, we found the children’s play area and let BattleKid have fun. He even met another boy with the same name as him and it got quite confusing for them when we or the other parents would shout the name.

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Loving the children’s play area in Portland International Airport
usa road trip days 15 and 16 holiday diaries
Loving the children’s play area in Portland International Airport

The play area at Portland Airport is great and both older kids and toddlers had fun in there. BattleKid’s favourite part was the soft airplane. We boarded at 4.30 for our 5.30pm flight and settled down for the night. It was an uneventful flight, with BattleKid and I managing a few hours’ sleep.

As usual BattleDad didn’t sleep much and as a result was knackered by the time we landed in London on the Sunday morning. He had to run an errand while there, so once we’d transferred from Terminal 3 to 5, he went off, leaving BattleKid and I to chill out. When he got back we checked through our bags and went through and grabbed a Wagamama’s for lunch/dinner.

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Thanks for a great flight back to the UK Delta
usa road trip days 15 and 16 holiday diaries
Strutting his stuff in Heathrow in his pj’s, as you do when you’re 3!

BattleKid is quite fond of noodles but was fascinated by chopsticks, which I can’t figure out myself. Our flight was due to leave London shortly after 4pm but we were delayed by an hour and a half.

The plane had come from Athens and was carrying a man with a broken leg. They had gotten him into the plane using a particularly narrow wheelchair in Greece, but he became wedged in his seat and they couldn’t get him back out at Heathrow. The crew called the on-site nurse who had to call for a doctor’s assistance. They couldn’t administer any more pain relief as he was on morphine already. Eventually they freed him with gas and air. As soon as all the passengers were on the plane we took off.

Our misfortune in getting back to Portugal didn’t end with that. We were seated towards the rear of the plane and ended up beside a group of about 12 gentlemen who were clearly on a golfing holiday and who were quite drunk even before they boarded the plane. As a result, they were loud and leery and a right pain in the behind. A poor elderly couple in front of us ended up sitting in the crew’s jump seats for the flight as they couldn’t stand the noise. I take my hat off to the crew who somehow kept their cool with them.

I’ve never been gladder to get off a plane. We collected our bags and headed out to find the car. I read the parking printout and couldn’t get the ticket machine to accept payment. I found a parking office and he informed me I had done our entry to the car park wrong. Thankfully he sorted it out with no additional costs and I now knew what to do next time I booked parking at Faro Airport. We got back home after 10pm and fell straight into bed, shattered but pleased we’d had a great holiday in America. It was certainly one we would remember for a very long time.

If you’ve gotten this far, I have to thank you for reading all about our incredible USA holiday. Has it inspired you to consider a road trip with your family?

Cath x

USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Day 14

We woke around 7am and after showers and getting dressed, I packed some of our things up in preparation for our return to Europe. We called an Uber at 9am and got him to drop us off at a bistro that had also been recommended to us, Mother’s Bistro and Bar in Downtown Portland.

We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table as it was very busy, even though it was after 9am. And the wait was worth it. I had the Wild Salmon Hash and poached egg, while BattleDad had the same hash but with scrambled eggs. Oh my word, the food was amazing. Even BattleKid ate well. It wasn’t a cheap breakfast, but I could understand why it was so busy. Once again, thank you to those on Facebook who recommended it. Definitely a great breakfast!

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Starting our day in Mother’s Bistro and Bar with an amazing breakfast

After we were suitably fed, we walked from there to a shopping area in Downtown Portland, visiting yet another Sephora for me and a Nike shop for BattleDad. Neither of us got away with cheap purchases. I bought some more makeup and another Tom Ford perfume, while BattleDad bagged himself some very nice Nike trainers and an Oregon football jersey, which was not cheap.

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Wandering Downtown Portland with our Adventure Belt on

From there we walked to Finnegans Toy Store, where we got BattleKid a Brio Police Motorbike toy. It was a quaint toy store selling more traditional type toys and not an electronic gadget or toy in sight. BattleKid could have stayed for hours playing with the Brio Train set on display. I can highly recommend this shop as a stop in Portland if you’re with kids.

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Playing in Finnegan’s Toy Store

We had also been urged to visit Powell’s City of Books store, so from the toy shop that’s where we headed. It was amazing. Occupying a whole city block with over 1 million books, it is easily the biggest book shop I’ve ever come across. The children’s section was huge and there were areas to sit and read to kids too. We didn’t make any purchases there, but it was lovely to say we’d visited it.

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Powell’s City of Books, Portland
usa road trip day 14 holiday diaries
Powell’s City of Books, Portland

Next on the cards was Voodoo Doughnuts but the queue was incredibly long just to get into the shop, so we called an Uber to take us to Salt’N’Straw in the Alphabet District of Portland, another Facebook recommendation. And we weren’t disappointed. We got a tasting tray of ice cream, and apart from the coffee flavour, they were amazing. The salted caramel was out of this world.

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Arriving at Salt’N’Straw
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Amazing ice cream in Salt’N’Straw

After our ice cream treat, we had a wander along the main street of the Alphabet District of Portland, and it was here we got a taste of the Portland we had been hoping for. Cool little cafes beside hip and trendy shops, and buildings that were right out of Grimm, this was the Portland we’d come to see. If we get the chance to return to Portland, this is the area we’ll probably spend more time at.

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Lovely streets in the Alphabet District of Portland
usa road trip day 14 holiday diaries
Buildings right out of Grimm!

We got another Uber back to our hotel at 2pm, and spent the afternoon chilling and packing. BattleDad and I also got a proper chance to read our Kindles. At 5pm we went across to Red Robin for our last dinner before getting BattleKid into bed for 7pm. By 9pm I couldn’t keep my eyes open so followed him in after a great day discovering Portland city itself. I could easily see us returning to Portland for another visit in the future.

Cath x

USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Day 12

BattleKid and I woke at 7 but snoozed for another hour. The beds in the TownePlace Suites were very comfortable. We got up at 8am and I discovered I had missed a call from Portugal about our application for a school place for BattleKid. I called back to no avail.

We got dressed and drove to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, also known as OMSI. Established in 1944, this science and industry museum had been recommended to us during our planning stage for our visit to Portland. It contains three auditoriums, a planetarium and exhibition halls with hands-on permanent exhibits. Located on the east bank of the Willamette River, it was once housed in Washington Park, in the now-home of the Children’s Museum. But as visitor number outgrew the building, it was moved to the now impressive building.

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Visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

OMSI has five different specialised exhibition halls, a planetarium as mentioned, and also a submarine exhibit, which I totally missed and am gutted about. The submarine was featured in the film The Hunt for Red October!

We paid entry to the museum, the Pompeii Exhibition and for the Starry Night Planetarium show. We visited the coffee shop before starting our exploring of the museum and enjoyed some hot drinks, a coffee and our first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It wasn’t bad at all.

After 10am we headed upstairs and found a great area for BattleKid to explore, the Science Playground. Aimed at children between the ages of newborn and six years of age, we knew he’d enjoy this area the most. Fully enclosed and designed to keep children visible and secure, it has a variety of experimental areas for children to freely explore, with specially trained staff on hand to help or give information to interested parents.

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Fun on blocks

 

BattleKid had fun with balls in the physical science exhibit, in the water area and, my personal favourite, the luminescent rocks. BattleKid had loads of fun in the science playground until we headed back downstairs at 11.50am, in time to catch the planetarium show.

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My favourite exhibit
usa road trip day 12 holiday diaries
Having fun with water, I’ll make a scientist out of him yet!

usa road trip day 12 holiday diaries

usa road trip day 12 holiday diaries
Even Mum had some fun

This was BattleDad’s first time in a planetarium. BattleKid had been in one at Techniquest in Cardiff. The show was very good. Us adults thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly as we see the Milky Way on clear nights above our house in Portugal. BattleKid got a little bored towards the end.

Next we visited the Pompeii Exhibition. It was fascinating seeing the exhibits and learning more about that fateful night in 69AD. Pompeii is now on our bucket-list. We did have to forgo one video as it was advised it wasn’t suitable for young children, so we managed to skip it with the boy.

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A really great exhibition: Pompeii

Once we had finished seeing all we wanted at the OMSI, we headed to the Clackamas Town Centre for a late lunch and some shopping. We visited the Disney shop and picked up some bits for BattleKid for our forthcoming trip to Disneyland Paris. And I finally got to visit a Sephora. I’d passed one in New York last year but didn’t venture in and I came out with a few goodies for myself.

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Shopping time!
usa road trip day 12 holiday diaries
Family shopping at its best.

Back in the car by 4pm, we hit rush-hour traffic on our way back to the hotel. As we’d had a late lunch, we made some popcorn and watched Mulan with BattleKid when we got back. We ordered a pizza to share later in the evening while watching Finding Dory with the boy. After food, we got BattleKid ready to bed and into it by 9, in time for BattleDad and I to watch another episode of Ozark, which we were really enjoying. So far, we’d had a great start to our few days in Portland.

Cath x

USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries – Day 11

We woke just after 7am, tidied up and after getting dressed, went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast was included in the price and was quite nice with a continental breakfast available, as well as some other hot and cold choices.

We packed up and got the car loaded, ready for our final day of driving big miles. BattleDad, unfortunately, had to complain to reception about the uncomfortable sofa beds in the hotel. I had shared the main bed with BattleKid and BattleDad had taken the sofa bed and it was extremely uncomfortable. This was our only grumble about what is a great hotel in Richland.

We were on the road by 9.30 heading for Portland. It felt strange to be on the last leg of our USA road trip, but we were looking forward to a few days in Portland, a city we’ve always wanted to visit. I did the driving this day as BattleDad had managed less than 5 hours sleep. We took I-84 and stopped at the same Love’s gas station we had filled up on our first day in the USA. It was here we heard news we didn’t really want.

I-84 was closed from junction 64 at the intersection with I-35 as there were fires all along the Columbia Gorge Creek, including around Multnomah Falls. We had intended the falls to be our pit stop as we drove towards Portland, so that I could photograph it. It’s been on my wish-list for some time and now we had no chance of visiting it.

BattleDad did a Google search which confirmed what he had overheard in the gas station. I was gutted. The fire had started two days before due to a teenager setting off fireworks for Labour Day celebrations. A fire was the result of him ignoring the signs around the Creek which forbids the use of fireworks and portable barbeques.

The closure of I-84 also meant I had no pictures of the Columbia Gorge Creek. I had been unable to photograph it on the day of our arrival into the States as I sat in the back of the car with BattleKid, trying to keep him comfortable while he slept. We had been stunned by its beauty and had decided to photograph it on our return trip to Portland. Alas, another thing not meant to be.

Because of the road closure, we were diverted around the back of Mount Hood National Forest, along I-35 and meeting up with I-26 and taking that into Portland. It lengthened our journey by a few hours. We also couldn’t see Mount Hood from the north side due to the smoke haze.

After two and a half hours of driving around the mountain we pulled off I-35 for a toilet break and to get some lunch at the Crooked Tree Tavern. I ordered a mushroom soup and it was terrible. A congealed, thick goo which was hardly edible. The boys, however, had a nice burger each. I did steal a few chips from them.

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The Crocked Tree Tavern off I-35 where I had my worst meal of our USA trip
usa road trip day 11 holiday diaries
Waiting for lunch

Back on the road, we finally rounded the bottom of Mount Hood and finally caught glimpses of the peak through the smoke. We arrived at our AirBnB at 3pm to falling ash in the sky. We had experienced ash in Missoula, but this was something else.

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Concentrating on the road, with Mount Hood in the distance

While our AirBnB house was quaint and looked exactly how we imagined a house in Portland to look like, the location of the house was terrible. We went to a Walmart a few miles away and as we drove towards it, we went through a rough looking area. There were cannabis shops, beside guns shops, beside casino shops and it looked rough as hell. There was even a wanted poster for a murderer of an eight year old boy!

Now, I should explain something. Both BattleDad and I grew up on council estates in Dublin which weren’t exactly the poshest areas of Dublin. With that comes a sort of sixth sense about a place and this area of Portland was really freaking us out. For that to happen to us, it must be pretty bad. Our spidey senses (as we like to call it), were in overdrive. We felt completely uneasy about spending a night in the AirBnB, particularly with BattleKid in tow. Had it just been the two of us, we’d probably wouldn’t have been that bothered about the area, but we just knew we couldn’t stay there.

We debated in the car park of Walmart for a good half an hour before I got my phone out and searched for a TownePlace Suites in Portland. I figured we had stayed in the one in Richland and loved it, so if one was available, then to hell with it. We found two which had two-bedroom suites (so BattleDad could get some decent sleep) and we tried the first one, but it was full. However, they kindly transferred us to the other one who had a two-bedroom suite available and not at a ridiculous price either.

BattleDad passed over his Marriott rewards card number, secured the suite and we both breathed a sigh of relief. We went into Walmart to get some supplies for the rest of the week and even treated BattleKid to yet another Cars 3 toy, this time a steering wheel. We sent our AirBnB host a message to let them know we weren’t going to be staying in their place, and that we’d return the key on Saturday on our way to the airport. We returned to the house, put the suitcases into the car and drove the 45 minutes, in rush-hour traffic, to the TownePlace Suites by Marriott in Hillsboro.

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Hello Portland rush hour!

The same lady BattleDad had spoken to was on reception and, Gracele I think her name was, couldn’t have been nicer. The hotel was lovely, the staff were friendly, and it really put our minds at ease. I was so grateful we were in the position to be able to switch accommodation just like that. I dread to think what the remainder of our week would have been like had we not been fortunate enough to be able to afford an accommodation change at a moment’s notice. It is the first time we’ve ever done something like that and the first time we haven’t felt comfortable in an AirBnB house.

BattleDad later spoke to a colleague who regularly uses AirBnB with his family, who travel the world, and he said they’ve done the same on a few occasions; booked into a hotel when they’ve gotten a bad vibe about an AirBnB place or the surrounding area. He said we did the right thing. This made me feel better knowing we weren’t the only ones to ever do this.

After checking in, we found our room and it was just gorgeous. Large and comfortable, I knew straight away this was a good place to end our USA road trip in, whatever the rest of Portland had in store for us!

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Bedroom 1
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Living room
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Bedroom 2

We unpacked and then drove across the road to find somewhere to have dinner. We decided on a Red Robin and were really impressed by the place. The food was great, portion sizes weren’t ridiculous and reasonably priced too. It felt so good to sit down, comfortable with where we were going to be staying for the next four nights.

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Enjoying a non-alcoholic cocktail in Red Robin

We got back to the hotel at 8.30 and had BattleKid in bed half an hour later. It was then we realised he had done 3000 miles in the car, spending 60+ hours in it and he had been an absolute star. He never complained once or had a tantrum. He did it all without a tablet or electronic gadget in sight and his overall behaviour had been amazing. We couldn’t have asked for a better travelling companion and I was glad we had some things in store for him to enjoy in the coming days.

We went to sleep that night feeling a lot safer, excited to explore Portland.

Cath x