We left our house at 10am, and headed for Faro to pick up our car which had been in for a service. Trying to fit all our bags and BattleKid’s buggy into a Land Rover Evoque was fun. You don’t realise how used to your own boot you become until you don’t have it. We were soon on our way to the airport which is no more than 5 minutes from the garage, destination – our first family holiday to Disneyland Paris.
We checked in, got rid of our bags, headed through security and grabbed a bite to eat before boarding our plane for our departure to Paris Orly at 13.55. Our flight was on time and we left the warm blue skies of Portugal, me more excited than the two boys put together. I had done a lot of planning and was hoping this trip was going to run smoothly and be enjoyed by us all.
We landed early but had a trek to get to our bags. However, this was where we came up across our first hurdle of the holiday. I had booked the Magic Shuttle bus when I organised our trip back in June. I thought it would be a regular service, but oh no. Due to the delay in getting off the plane, we’d missed the 17.50 bus and the next one wasn’t until 19.00, a 50-minute wait.
Paris was cold compared to Portugal and I really didn’t fancy waiting around for 50 minutes so we decided to hop into a taxi. This in itself was easy enough but there was a horrendous amount of traffic on the road between Orly and Disneyland and it took us an hour and twenty minutes to travel the 31 miles. It was stop-start traffic almost the entire way to the turnoff for Disneyland. BattleKid ended up falling asleep for the journey and I had a job to wake him at 7pm so that he didn’t sleep too long.
We finally arrived at the stunning Disneyland Hotel just before 8pm. It was amazing to see it all lit up and decorated for Christmas. Our bags were taken from us, to be delivered to our room for us. We checked in and couldn’t have had a more helpful gentleman, who not only gave BattleKid a badge and some balloons, but explained all our vouchers in detail. He even changed our Fast Pass for that day to the next day as the parks were closed and we’d missed out on using the Fast Pass that day. I was not expecting that, and it was so kind of him.
We went up to our room, put our passports and valuables in the safe, and headed out to get some dinner. The Disney Village was open, and we tried to get a table in a few of the restaurants where we could use our meal vouchers, but they were all full. It had been a long shot but there was no harm in trying. It felt strange walking through the Disney Village as the last time we’d been there we were still just a couple. This time we were there as a family of three.
In the end we managed to get a table in Planet Hollywood before 9pm and opted to just have mains before heading back to get some sleep. Now, Planet Hollywood was chaotic. We were seated within 10 minutes of our arrival and our waiter took our order quickly, but it was very loud and when our meal finally arrived it was lukewarm at best. It was as if it had been sitting ready to be brought to us for quite a while. The food tasted fine, albeit presented a little strangely but none of our dishes were hot.
My lasagne was brought out and I initially thought I’d been given the wrong meal as it certainly didn’t look like lasagne. It tasted lovely but just looked strange. BattleDad had a burger, and again, while it tasted fine it was a little too cool for his liking. After paying up we headed back to our hotel and got one or two pictures of it all lit up before heading to our room for pj’s and bed.
Surprisingly BattleKid went to sleep shortly after 10pm, as did we parents. We were planning to be up early to make the most of our first day in Disneyland Paris as a family.
Join me tomorrow when I fill you in on our first full day in Disneyland Paris as a threesome!
So, you’ve got a train-mad little boy, a nice sunny day in South Wales and nothing planned of a Saturday morning. What do you do? You visit the Brecon Mountain Railway of course.
The Brecon Mountain Railway is situated just a few minutes from Merthyr Tydfil and is a railway with a steam engine to thrill the hearts of any train fan. It is also located just 15 minutes from our South Wales home and was somewhere we had been meaning to visit but hadn’t until last year.
Running from Pant to Torpantau, the Brecon Mountain railway follows part of the original route of the Brecon and Merthyr Railway which closed in 1964. It takes you into the Brecon Beacons, through Pontsticill and along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir before climbing up to Torpantau high in the Brecon Beacons.
On the day we visited the Brecon Mountain Railway, we drove to the Pant Station, parked up and bought our tickets in the office before making our way to the platform. We passed the locomotive running shed and workshop on the way to the platform and the smell was lovely. Grease, oil and engine smells. There is also a model railway as you approached the platform which BattleKid loved.
We waited patiently for our train, boarded and handed the conductor our tickets. The train left Pant Station and started its journey through the stunning Brecon Beacons towards Torpantau. We saw the peaks of Pen-y-Fan and the Pontsticill Reservoir.
Although it had been sunny when we left Pant, the clouds got thicker as we ascended towards Torpantau. We alighted the steam train and a certain little boy wasn’t too sure about the steam coming from the engine.
The engine spends a few minutes changing around before everyone gets back on for the journey back to Pontsticill. There, you have 25 or 30 minutes to enjoy the views, have a refreshment in the small café or spend some at the playground, as we did. You can even spend longer there if you want to, and get a different train back. We chose not to.
Back at Pant Station, we visited the traditional sweet shop and bought some rhubarb and custards for BattleDad, his favourites, before heading home. Although we had only been at the Brecon Mountain Railway for less than 2 hours, it was a fun filled 2 hours. BattleKid thoroughly enjoyed his ride on the steam engine and his time at the playground.
Things to note if visiting the Brecon Mountain Railway
There are 3 or 4 train journeys a day, depending on the time of year. There were three the day we visited.
Adult tickets cost £14, children cost £7 (up to 15 years of age), and seniors cost £12.50 return. Under 3’s are free.
There is ample parking at the Pant Station and it is free.
The Brecon Mountain Railway is mostly wheelchair and buggy friendly, although wheelchairs are limited to manual ones and cannot leave the train at Torpantau Station.
There are toilets at both Pant and Pontsticill Station and baby changing facilities.
There is a tea room at both Pant and Pontsticill Stations.
There is a gift shop at Pant, while the Steam Museum (which is free) is located at Pontsticill Station.
A children’s playground is located at Pontsticill Station, which we can highly recommend for young children.
The Brecon Mountain Railway also holds special days throughout the year such as for Easter, Mother’s and Father’s Day. They also hold Santa Special Trains throughout the month of December.
Trains run non-stop to Torpantau and return to Pontsticill for 25 or 30 minutes. Passengers are allowed to stay longer at Pontsticill and get a different train back to Pant station.
For timetables and up-to-date news, it is best to check the Brecon Mountain Railway website.
We thoroughly enjoyed our few hours on the Brecon Mountain Railway and would highly recommend it for families as a day out in South Wales. It would particularly appeal to Thomas fans and fans of trains in general.
Travelling has changed for us since having our son. Before he came along, my hubby and I were keen travellers, although we were rather lazy with our adventures. I think we took it for granted that the world was there, and we could go wherever, whenever. We went on at least two package holidays a year, and had many city breaks in between. But, until our second honeymoon, we never ventured further than Europe.
I was born and raised in Africa before returning to Ireland when I was nine. A year later my family spent the summer holidays in Saudi Arabia, due to my Dad’s work. So, I’ve been travelling since I was just a few months old. My husband on the other hand, went to America when he was just a few months old but never went further than Europe after that. He spent a year in Paris when he was part of the opening crew of EuroDisney, as it was called then, so he is no stranger to travelling.
When we got together, we enjoyed many sun holidays, mainly to the Canary Islands, as mentioned and we visited European cities such as Rome, Paris, Zurich and Amsterdam. We even spent a fantastic weekend in Reykjavik with friends in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights just before we got married. Alas, we had to venture to Tromso in northern Norway for that.
After our biking honeymoon in Ireland, we booked a real honeymoon to Cuba and spent two amazing weeks between Havana and the Varadero Resort area. We drank lots of Havana rum, stayed in Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner’s honeymoon suite in Hotel Nacional, swam with dolphins and had an amazing time.
But, that was as adventurous as we got. And on our return from Cuba we discovered I was expecting our son. Suddenly, the thought of travelling with our son took on a whole new meaning. I worried about how we’d cope away from home comforts and about how we’d cope on the plane. I thought we’d have to wait until he was much older before we could be adventurous and visit far flung places with him.
And at the start, we stuck to our routine of booking a week-long package holiday with him to, yep you guessed it, the Canaries. We visited Lanzarote twice, Gran Canaria once and our last visit was to Tenerife.
But we were both becoming bored of these holidays. They weren’t the same as when we’d done them as a couple. Gone were the days of lounging by the pool all day with the latest release on Kindle. Gone were evening strolls into town to find a restaurant for dinner to enjoy a bottle (or two) of wine over.
And do you know what, we didn’t mind. We didn’t miss those days, probably because we gave up drinking alcohol when our son was just a few months old. We didn’t really miss the long days by the pool, as the time of year we went (to avoid the really hot summer days) meant the pool was chilly and not as inviting.
And as the boredom set in, we decided to take a leaf out of my sister-in-law’s book. We decided to stop booking the typical sun holidays and start getting more adventurous. My sister-in-law took her twins to New York several times and did Route 66 with them when they were just a few months old. Then, when their first brother came along 18 months later, she took all three of them to the States and did 66 again! Since then, two more brothers have arrived, with another on the way. Although she cannot afford to go that far, she has taken all of them to Disneyland Paris, to Lapland to see Father Christmas, and on several adventure holidays within both Ireland and the UK. Having five, soon to be six, children has never stopped her travelling or kerbed her bug for it.
And we decided we wouldn’t let having our son stop our travel bug. We vowed to get more adventurous and so, last year we took our son to New York for a few days. It was the first time we’d ever visited, having been lazy as a couple and thinking “oh New York will always be there”. It was also the first time we flew for more than four hours with our son. We survived. And we ended up loving it, even with our son in tow. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a sun holiday last year, but New York opened our eyes. And so it was that travelling changed for us, and in a big way.
Not long after we got back from New York, we researched and booked our most adventurous holiday to date. A two-week USA road trip, taking in Yellowstone National Park, Montana and Portland, Oregon. We were a little apprehensive how our three-year-old son would cope with the long days and many, many miles in the car. This August, we set off from our new home in Portugal for our longest ever journey by plane. And, it was the most amazing two weeks. From bison and geysers, to smokey mountains and chilled-out Portland, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Our son totally surprised us by taking it all in his stride. The 11 hours by plane? No problem. The 3000 miles and 60+ hours in the car, without an electronic device in sight I might add? Easy peesy! When we told people, they thought we were mad to go all that way, and spend all that money, on a trip he most likely wouldn’t remember. Well, let me tell you, it was worth every penny and 3 months on he is still taking about the bison, our ‘cave’ (AirBnB) and the camp fire Daddy and he built with sticks.
So, he may not remember it in the future, but do you know what? We have memories we can share with him, photos he can see, and videos we took. And, if finances allow, we intend to return to the north west of America in the future. If not, he can always return himself in years to come if he wishes.
Even better, our USA road trip has given us a bug for road trips. They weren’t something I’d really considered before we booked our last holiday. But they are a great way to see a few places in one go. Our next road trip we’re planning will take in four countries in Europe. And that is after a 7-day road trip in Ireland before we stop in Dublin to visit family next Easter.
Travelling with our son has been both scary and exciting. And the way we travel, and where we choose to visit, has changed as well, even since our first family holiday to Gran Canaria when he was eight months old. New York was a turning point for us, and we proved that we don’t need to just rely on package holidays while he is young for holidays. We can still see, and enjoy, other parts of the world.
There are some destinations we WILL wait to visit until he is old enough to remember them as they are far flung places that we want to be able to remember with him in the future. They also happen to be expensive destinations that we intend to visit just once. So, it makes sense to hold off a few years before planning them. Places like Mongolia, Argentina and Japan.
In the meantime, we plan to visit destinations that are either easy to get to, easy to return to, or places like Yellowstone that we intend to visit again if finances permit. We may be slightly selfish with some of the destinations on our family bucket list, but we do hope that by visiting many places, and cultures, we instil a travel bug in our son.
I firmly believe that travelling can only enrich a child’s life and can teach them a lot including life lessons. I admire those families who travel full time. In fact, I’m a little jealous of them. Since moving to Portugal earlier this year, travel has become much more important to me than material things. If we didn’t have our dog I think we’d be joining those families who travel full-time.
How we travel as a family has changed rapidly in just a few short years, especially since our son came along, and I think it’s for the better. We don’t let having a child dictate our travels, although we are becoming mindful that we will need to limit ourselves to school holidays soon.
We want to see as much of the world as our finances and personal situation will allow, and we want to share the adventure with our son. Having children doesn’t mean you need to put travel on hold. In fact, you should want to travel more, to explore the world with them and share those trips and experiences with them. I think it brings families together and that has to be a good thing.
Do you travel with your children? Or does the thought of it scare you to death?
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.
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!
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.
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!
Next BattleKid had fun at the physical sciences area and was playing with other children, putting balls through holes and down ramps.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last September, the Battle Family finally visited New York for the first time. I had originally booked an apartment in Lower Manhattan via AirBnB but just two months before we were due to fly out, our host got in touch to say the booking was cancelled as they no longer had the apartment. Cue panic. We needed to secure somewhere and fast. I went back onto AirBnB and scoured ‘Book Now’ places to find us somewhere, and reasonably priced, and stumbled upon a fabulous apartment in Astoria.
Now, Astoria wasn’t our first choice of areas to stay in. We had ideally wanted to be on Manhattan itself but with so little time before we travelled, the available apartments were silly money. I read the reviews of this apartment in Astoria and decided they were good enough for us. We booked it immediately and, although it was a little over budget, we were at least guaranteed our booking. Lesson learned. Always go for the ‘Book Now’ option, not the ‘Contact Host’ option.
We flew to New York on September 18th and although we arrived before the check in time, our host Jada allowed us to drop our bags off. She went through the building and apartment rules before we took our keys and headed straight for Times Square. I’ve written all about our New York holiday, but thought I’d let you know what our apartment in Astoria was like.
We booked a 2-bedroom apartment, mainly so that I could sleep with BattleKid as he had only just moved into a big bed. It also let me escape my husband’s snoring!
Located in Astoria on Astoria Boulevard, this modern 2 bedroom apartment will sleep up to ten people. Initial thoughts were it was a very clean, modern apartment, well decorated and would set a New Yorker back a fair few pennies to buy it!
You enter a lovely little hallway which leads into the open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen. The living room is comfortable, although only had one sofa which would seat three people. Additional people would have to use the dining chairs, although you couldn’t be spending a lot of time in the apartment. The living room also had air conditioning and cable TV.
The kitchen was well equipped, with everything you’d need for a city break. There was even a kettle, which Jada said previous guests had insisted she get. We’d have been happy boiling water for our tea on the hob.
There are two bedrooms in this apartment in Astoria. The main bedroom had a queen size bed with a sofa beside it. We made this up as a bed and pushed it beside the queen bed for BattleKid. The main bedroom had a small built in wardrobe and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows which lead to a balcony. You could see the Manhattan skyline from the balcony.
The second bedroom had not one, not two, but three queen beds, with an additional queen air bed in the huge walk-in wardrobe. The three beds were configured in a bunk-bed type style and I’d never come across anything like it before, but was brilliant. This bedroom also had floor to ceiling windows and a balcony on which to view the Manhattan skyline.
The bathroom was modern and had a huge shower. There was also a cupboard with a washing machine and dryer, handy if staying longer than a few days. You also have access to a lovely roof terrace for viewing the Manhattan skyline!
The apartment in Astoria was also well located near an underground station with a direct line to Times Square. That ride takes less than 20 minutes. There are bars, shops and diners nearby for food and drinks, and plenty of take-aways around which will deliver to your door via apps such as Seamless or Yelp Eat 24. My personal favourite was the Starbucks on the corner of Astoria Boulevard and 21st Street.
As for our host, Jada, she was lovely. She was very welcoming and accommodating. As we’d arrived early, as mentioned, she let us drop our bags off and collect the keys before we headed to Times Square. When we got back she had kindly put our bags in a wardrobe and hung up our coats! When one fire alarm kept beeping all night (the battery was going), causing BattleKid and I to take solace in BattleDad’s room, she responded to my message very quickly and helped us sort it out. Jada was a lovely host.
Overall, the apartment in Astoria turned out to be the perfect location for us. Getting to and from JFK airport was easy via Uber, and was less than a 30-minute ride. With a terrorist attack which occurred in Jersey the day before we arrived, we were happier staying outside of Manhattan. Although not completely child-friendly in terms of some glass tables, the AirBnB apartment in Astoria was brilliant for us and I’d highly recommend it should Jada list it again as available.*
Our stay cost us £213 per night. This is quite expensive but as we were let down so close to our trip, it was the least costly option short of staying in a hotel room. And hotel rooms are not an option for us. They are a last resort for us or booked out of necessity! Here’s a tour of our apartment in Astoria.
As an area to stay when visiting New York, I’d never considered Astoria but would definitely stay there again as its location for both Manhattan and JFK airport was ideal.
Have you visited New York, and if so, are there other areas we should consider for our next visit?
*The listing for this apartment is no longer on AirBnB at the time of writing this review.
**I was not asked to write this review.
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