One of the things that reinforces my faith in the fundamental goodness of reality when it waivers is the adventures of our Henry’s Jess the Cat. This black and white soft-toy has been with Henry since his first Christmas, courtesy of my brother George. He/she (I and Rachel aren’t exactly sure) is his constant companion (excepting school and the occasions where we or Henry decide its best to leave her at home). I’ve lost count the number of times that we’ve lost her on trips out. When he was really young I was forever having to retrace our steps and ask shopkeepers or customer care people “have you seen our Jess?” Sometimes it’s an overnight stay as we have already left the attraction, and we ring them when we get home. But every time, and I mean every time, Jess is returned to us. Noone takes a fancy to her, throws her in the bin, or just can’t be arsed to look for her when we ask and shes be found on some sites that are frankly staggering in size and super busy. Consider the odds of that for a moment.
Her latest adventure was at the Heights of Abraham (which fits the big and super duper busy category), which we visited last week on Thursday on our way home from our short holiday in the Peak District. Henry had wandered off to play in a playground without telling us (which was an anxious 20 minutes in itself) and left Jess on a nearby table. We only realised a couple of hours later when we reached the car, and for a variety of reasons couldn’t simply go back up the cable car to look for her. So Rachel contacted customer care there and then and left our contact details. I politely chased up over the bank holiday weekend, but they were so insanely busy I didn’t actually get through to a human being until Sunday! In parallel, I had also emailed them, and this started a conversation with their office when it opened on Monday. On Tuesday despite a search, they hadn’t found her, and I politely thanked them for their time especially in light of Henry’s attachment to Jess.
Notice at all times I (and Rachel) were polite. No point being otherwise, but it really is part of the magic. People really go the extra mile for you and some really magical things happen as a result. So I send my email conceding defeat in this instance and then five minutes later the nice lady got back to me saying that the park rangers had found Jess in some brambles, a bit soggy but otherwise ok. She then got her washed popped her in the post and she arrived first thing this morning so that when Henry got up he was able to give her a big hug 😀
Then the endless parade of school concerts/nativity plays that dominated weeks 2-3. My favorite was the Christmas Concert held at Oldham Parish Church, which Evie’s school choir was invited to sing at.
Christmas itself was a quiet affair. I got loads of presents (which I still haven’t played with all of them), but me George and Evie did manage to get out on a cold and blustery Boxing Day to do the traditional walk thing 🙂
Rach and Henry went to Guliver’s World in Warrington with our H’s Beaver group in October, and were keen to go back to this themepark/fairground aimed at 6-preteens. Just before Christmas Rachel noticed that they did a New Year’s celebration, so we signed up and spent from about 4-9 in the park before retiring to a nearby Premier Inn. As well as being fun in itself its the first time I’ve celebrated New Years in the last ten years or so!
The main thing I remember was me thinking “Dang I was just getting into Summer!” and feeling a succession of jolts as the ambient energy dropped (that’s seasonal downturn to all you people in normalsville).
Life progressed as normal. Kids where settled back in School. Work continued to be vaguely annoying and indecisive, but I kept my cool and played along.
Henry had an ace small boy birthday, full of toys, meals out with family, a party at a local play place, and the realisation is that he’s now beyond his littlely years and growing up fast!
Big personal news for me was that the final proofs of Crypts and Things landed, and I had it my hands after spending a good two years developing it. That was a feeling you can’t beat! 🙂
Although most of August was dominated by the holiday, the weeks before and after it was fun. I vaguely remember the weather being much better than usual. Although nowhere near the high summer days of my youth, at least it wasn’t grimmly overcast and raining all the time (yes 2011-2013 I’m looking at you).
This was our big two week holiday in the Glastonbury area of Sommerset. It was slightly delayed due to a bit of drama on Evie’s part. Two weeks before she had broken her front tooth in two, and our dentist very kindly stuck it back together. A miracle of modern science! However we had to have a breif check up (something to do with roots possibly dying) on the Monday afternoon of what would have been our first week. So we delayed driving down until mid monday afternoon, which was a good thing because our Rach wasn’t well (she’s been having problems with her gall blader) and I did all the packing of the tent + clothes + kitchen sink over the weekend. Drive down was cool. Rach got used to our new trailer (verdict great on the motorway, less so on small countrylands). Bristol was a bit bumpy! Just as folk were tired and tempers were flaring we reached our stop off point, a trusty and chilled out Premier Inn.
Next day after breakfast we did the last third of the drive and after me and Rach put up the tent, she took the kids to the local supermarket while I did the pegging and moved all the ‘stuff’ into the tent. Which was a good way off doing it 🙂
This time out we did alot of loafing around the campsite, because after last years holiday we realised we were spending too much time on a mission to visit places every day. There were complaints from the kids who wanted to spend more time playing with their new frieds. Also Rach was taking it easy due to not feeling well. But that be said we did Longleat Sarari Park as a big day out, Glastonbury muliple times, and we had a couple of trips to Wells. We also got to go to an outdoor swiming pool a couple of times and visit Rach’s friend Hema (some of you might remember as one of Rach’s bridesmaids at our wedding) and her big BIG Bull Mastiff dogs. So overall we had a good venture out.
I loved this holiday. From the moment we got to the campsite the whole experience was magical. People joked about “feeling the ley lines” , but I felt a rise in energy the whole time I was there, which hasn’t really gone away since I’ve come back. I would quite happily come again, but the family now have their sights set even futher south ( after realising we can break the journey quite happily by stoping at a hotel ) and at this point Eurocamp in the South of France is on the cards. Rach is even learning French! But I hope to return the Isle of Avalon at some point – if only to finally walk up the Tor which I missed out on doing this time out.
Most of July was us just kicking back enjoying the summer and gettnig ready for the camping trip to Glastonbury that was coming up in August. Weather was pretty meh, occasional sun, a bit of rain (but not very much for our neck of the woods) but mainly overcast. Lots of quality home time though including games and a new barbeque.
So we went to Disneyland Paris end of May/start of June 2016.
A number of things manifested this one quite quickly. The main one was that Rachel has just finished nearly a decade on the wards as a Clinical Midwife, and we wanted to celebrate the end of disrupted weekends, nights shifts and general return to normal family life as she now works as Research Midwife which has normal office hours. So what better way than in a half-term holiday in one of the world’s biggest family orientated resorts. It also dovetailed nicely into the fact that after visiting in 2012 for 3 days (with much of the first day being taken up with travel) we wanted to go there again when the kids were bigger, but not too big, and for slightly longer trip of five days.
I’m going to tell this one mainly through pictures and bullet points, because by gum we squeezed a lot into those five days!
Click on any of the images for a larger image in a slideshow.
Friday (Blazing Sun)
Up at 3:30 to catch a 6:30 flight from Manchester Airport, which was busy because of Air Traffic controllers strike the day before.
Managed breakfast at the pub at Terminal 3 and was shocked to find J W Lees was listed as a craft beer, and people were drinking like it was an evening out (which confused me no end due to lack of sleep).
The very comfortable big taxi which zoomed us through lovely french country side (unlike in 2012 were we were all split up on a big crowded bus that took for ever through motorways).
Arriving at the Sequoia Lodge Hotel (surrounded by trees and modeled on a Californian Hunting Lodge) where we were staying before going out to the parks (Disney Studio + Fantasy Land) until we could get in our room at 3:30.
Had a great time at Disney Studio with a lovely veggie burger lunch at a Dinner in a Van tucked away.
Revisit the main parts of the main Disneyland park that we visited in 2012 (Main Street + Fantasy Land) when the kids were too little to do much else.
Seeing the Spring Parade, which was lovely but far too energetic.
Being beyond tired but having so much fun we all didn’t mind.
A nice relaxing swim with all the family at the hotel’s awesome pool.
In the evening we had a buffet* tea at the hotel which was awesome.
Saturday (Sunny to Hot and Muggy)
The first breakfast which was another awesome all you can eat buffet*. Bowls of olives, cheese and pureed garlic! Kids ate mainly chocolate (i.e. pain au chocolate, choc cereal, toast with nutella).
Legostore in the Disney Village. More lego than the mind can take in.
Meeting Micky and the rest of the gang for lunch at Innovations resturant in the Walt Disney Hotel. Being hot sweaty tourist in the poshest hotels, and the staff making us feel very welcome regardless. Kids had a great time meeting the characters. Henry a bit over enuthasatic (see Goofygate in photos)
More rides and wandering round the park (my mind becomes a blur here).
Finally getting Henry a Lightsabre, which he’s wanted for ages. it was one of the very groovy build your own ones , which I’ve not seen over here, and are cheaper than the premade ones and double the size. WINNING! 🙂
Tea at the hotel again, but it was nice just to get back and eat!
Sunday (Rain on and off)
The ran starting to come down and me not having a coat!
Going on the Ratatouille ride, which was a big funky 3D experience. The newest and most modern ride.
The Earl of Sandwich fast food restaurant, actually owned by descendants of the original Earl of Sandwich (see photo of posh people below). Really quite good for the ‘British fast food place”
While Rach sleeps in the afternoon taking the kids for a swim 🙂
Afternoon snack at the Colonial Trading Post, and having the weird one of hearing brass band music. It was like being in at home!
Pirates of the Caribbean Ride. “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me!”
Late Tea at the Plaza Gardens a big 19th Century French themed all you can eat buffet* . Probably one of the nicest places to eat (despite being one of the cheapest).
The light show at 10-11, which was the most fantastic thing ever. Took no photos, completely pointless to even try to capture it.
Monday (Rain all day)
Heading off on my own after breakfast to book Henry into the Jedi Academy Show and completely failing because all the places sold out at 9:00 when the early birds from the hotel got there before the gates opened to the General Public at 10:00.
Getting to walk round the Nautilus from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea in Discovery Land.
Lunch at King Ludwig’s Castle. Probably the worst food and customer service of any of the food outlets, but by god the most bonkers surroundings!
Backstage tour, which starts really quiet and then takes you onto a special effects stage – where the fun really starts 😉
Getting to see the Jedi Academy Show as we sheltered it the building that houses it while having afternoon snack. Young padwan’s using the force to lift R2D2 and defeat Darth Vadar and Stormtrooper pals.
Seeing the rain come down and being transported across time and space to Disneyland Manchester, where you can go on any ride you want without any ques as long as you don’t mind getting soaked to the skin. Which is what we did 🙂
Doing the shopping arcades on main street. Rachel and Evie bought the first of many Disneyland Pins (metal badges) to keep and swop with the cast members.
Tea at the New York Dinner at the Rockafella hotel. We did this in 2012 and while it was all you can eat buffet* (American style) it was very quiet and relaxed. We even got to chat to another British family which was nice.
Tuesday (Overcast with rain)
A quite mooch around the village buying some last miniute souvenirs and more pins since Rach’s US contacts on Farcebook had come back with their bulk orders 🙂
Didn’t attempt to go on any rides, because we had done the last of them the previous day.
Having our last lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, which is an animatronic delight.
Another most excellent ride back to the airport via a Transfer taxi. The kids even got to watch the new Lion King movie (which was cool because they were so tired).
Getting home at a reasonable time, unpacking the car and going to bed before Zombiefication hit in!
*You’d think with all these all you can eat buffets (which we all took advantage of) and mention of regular big meals at the restaurants I would have put on loads of weight? Absolutely not, when we averaged 8-10 miles of walking a day (Rachel had Fit Bit on) and went swimming with the kids everyday. I found I had actually lost seven pounds when I had got home! On holiday we are not sit on the beach types!
Make an attempt to speak French. The cast members (which is what they call all the staff from dancers to restaurant staff) really appreciate it and you really make their day. Even my awful school boy French worked a treat. We got extra special points because our Henry is a rather huggy boy and at home we’ve told him he has to ask before hugging. So Rachel taught him the French for “Please can I have a hug?” which charmed the staff up no end 🙂