Wednesday, 24 October 2007

No one can accuse me of doing nothing!

I have a lot going on at the moment.

My OU course is going well and I’ve managed to not only keep up but stay a bit ahead which is good. This way, if I have any unexpected delays in the next few weeks it won’t be a tragedy and I should still be able to keep up. The course itself is really interesting as it’s dealing mainly with design principles for the web – although a lot of this learning can also be applied to scrapbook pages! In fact, my scrapbooking experience has helped a lot in this course as lots of the principles presented (like color wheels, golden ratio and rule of threes) I’d encountered them before in my pages. So I’m doing well on the course but I am still worried about the time it will take to put together a fully functioning website for my final exam.

The running is still very much happening and I’m aware that the marathon is less than 3 months away. My long runs are getting longer and while that in itself is a challenge, I find that I worry more about fitting them in. I am so slow, a 16k run takes me around two hours and that is before any warm up, cool down, showering afterwards, etc. I’ve managed to work around it so far but the weather has been a big help. It’s much easier to get out there when the sun is shinning and the sky is blue but I’m aware that as time goes on my long runs will get even longer and the weather will get colder and wetter. This means I may have to do some long runs on a treadmill (how boring) or outside (how cold). The things I do for a vacation!

To add a bit of cross-training to my plan I’ve also joined some of my marketing colleagues in a touch rugby league. We play every week for around 20 minutes of very, very fast running and it is certainly tiring. For those that don’t know, touch rugby is the ‘low contact’ version of rugby which in itself is similar to American football. There are lots and lots of rules but the main one is that we’re only allowed to throw backwards which means that there is a lot of sprinting and changing direction during play.

Another thing that’s kept me a little busy is that this weekend is my little boy’s birthday party. We’re having it at a local gym and the kids get two hours of trampolines, foam pits and other tiring activities. We had Samuel’s party there last year too and the kids loved it, plus it was so easy as they provide food as well! All we have to take is party bags and cake and of course I couldn’t just throw some candy in a plastic bag, could I? I had to do better and although I made my life simple and chose a simple solution, it’s still meant a couple of evenings of putting things together, not to mention a few days creating images and printing them at work.

Speaking of work, I am of course still working and very hard. We’ve had a lot of work in the past few weeks and I don’t see that changing until maybe Christmas. I am still very much enjoying it and the good thing is that most of the things I do are fun and there are only a few that are a bit boring so I guess I’m lucky. T

his all means that scrapbooking time has been very limited! I do manage the occasional page or two (and I’ve fully completed my All About Me album) but these days I mainly get things done at crops and rarely at home. Also, because I’m kept so busy at work and stuff I don’t visit scrapbooking forums as often as I used to or have much time for scrapbooking blogs and the like. This in turn has meant that I haven’t bought anything for a good long time and I quite like that! As I’m not visiting the usual channels that promote stash I feel quite liberated from the marketing onslaught and don’t feel like I NEED anything new. I am happily creating with the stuff I already have and this is lovely.

Hopefully I can keep this up once the OU course is completed, once the marathon has been done, the rugby league finished and Samuel’s party wrapped up. It will be nice to go back to scrapbooking a bit more and using up the supplies I’ve already invested in. Besides, when all these things are done I will have so many memories to scrap!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Disneyland Paris - trains, taxis and 'tapis volants'

Yeah, I know it's been a while but I've been busily preparing for our mini-break to Disneyland Paris and since I've come back I've been swamped at work... but to make up for it here is a super long post with info all about our vacation!

Photos to follow as soon as I sort them out - promise.

Day 1 (Thursday) It had been a long time since my husband and I went to DLRP and our son had never been so we made the most of the offers at the moment and booked our trip a few months ago. Finally the day came when we could start our adventure and we were all excited!

We couldn’t get tickets on the direct Eurostar to DLRP so we had booked a later train with a connection in Lille. We decided to take the train from Milton Keynes to London, cross the city in a taxi instead of the underground (easier with luggage) and then arrive in time for our check-in at Waterloo. It all worked quite well as we were away from the morning rush hour and after a great taxi ride through London, we made it to the terminal.

Check in was very easy and before we knew it we were boarding a very quiet train to Lille. Our little boy – nearly four – really, really enjoyed the train journey and didn’t mind the tunnel one bit as that meant that we could go faster! We had a quick connection in Lille and when our TGV arrived we were thrilled to note that we had seats on the upper floor of a double-decker train. Our little boy couldn’t have been happier and was almost sorry when we got to DLRP and had to leave the train.

We arrived at the resort and were initially confused as to which way to go: we knew where the hotel was but somehow we got a bit disorientated as we hadn’t been there in such a long time. But we made our way to the Sequoia Lodge pretty quickly and after a very efficient check-in, we were in our room, grabbed our stuff and ran out to enjoy Disneyland Park before it closed in an hour. We got on a few rides and then went to the castle to watch Candleabration – which was actually a big disappointment. It was a pretty cute song and dance show with Disney characters but the ‘big’ finale was actually rather dull. Nevertheless, we headed out of the park and looked for somewhere to eat.

We settled on the fixed price menu at Billy Bob’s saloon and after a bit of a rush to try and find a table, we ordered our dinner and got it very quickly. We both had baked potatoes with chilli and the portions were generous. We finished our dinner and headed back to our hotel for a very welcome rest. It had been a long day but at last we were on holiday!

Day 2 (Friday)

We awoke very, very early as we had breakfast booked at 7.45 (plus we are travelling with a toddler that likes to wake up at the crack of dawn) and after getting ready we went down for our breakfast. It wasn’t too busy but we could see that it got busier and busier as it got later. We had our fill and headed out to play in the parks.

We walked to the Studios, taking in the beautiful surroundings: the weather was foggy and a bit cold but with a promise of a clearer day later. It did clear up, but before it did it was actually colder than we expected and were glad when the sun finally came out. The trees all looked so lovely with their russet leaves against the foggy skies.

We got to the Studios but as it wouldn’t open for an hour decided to spend it in Disneyland instead. We got on a few rides (including Pirates) and finally left for the Studios shortly after they opened. We actually had never been to this park as it was a big hole in the ground last time we visited so it was all new to us. We noticed that it wasn’t huge and didn’t have that many rides so we decided to make sure we saw all the shows and parades. We managed all of this quite easily because even though the park was busy it didn’t seem THAT busy. The one exception seemed to be the Crush coaster that constantly had waits of 60 minutes plus and we just didn’t want to wait that long.

Lunch was at the Backlot Express and that was pretty good. After lunchtime we continued our visit to the park and quickly ran out of things to see as we’d done them all! We somehow managed to see all 5 presentations of the High School Musical show, but without planning it. It was a good show and our son enjoyed it, though.

His favourite ride was definitely the Flying Carpets (Tapis Volants). We did it over and over as it had a very short queue and every time he wanted to go higher and higher. When we finally managed to convince him to leave we went back to our hotel. I went for a run while the boys went for a swim and, fully refreshed, we went out in search of dinner. We decided on burgers and fries at Annette’s and although we had to wait a little while we enjoyed our dinner. Service, on the other hand, was just about good enough but could definitely do much, much better.

Another day ends and after our great walk back to the hotel, we finally got in bed for some well-earned rest.

Day 3 (Saturday)

We knew Saturday would be crazy busy so we made arrangements to have breakfast in Fantasyland. It worked out very well, better than we thought, and were pleasantly surprised to discover that the choice was basically the same as it would have been back at the hotel. This of course also got us in the park early and we started our explorations.

We also noticed that the park was celebrating the first day of the Halloween celebrations and the decorations everywhere were quite amazing! We spent a good while taking it all in before heading off to Phantom Manor and the start of a busy, busy day.

We took a very calm approach and knew that we just wouldn’t manage to do it all so if any ride had a wait that was too long we just didn’t bother. We also spent a long time in Adventure Isle playing on the slides and climbing frames while enjoying the gorgeous sunshine and clear blue skies. The weather was certainly much, much better than expected!

We caught a few Halloween shows, did lots of rides and enjoyed being together. We were disappointed to learn that The Legend of the Lion King wasn’t being performed which was a real shame as that is SUCH an amazing show but we did manage to get fantastic seats to watch the parade. This parade has got to be one of the best quality parades I’ve ever seen at Disney (Florida, USA or Japan) and I took tons of photos. Even the music was magical.

Speaking of music, my one shock was the special song that was being played because of Halloween. It is some awful song called Happy Halloween or something like that and it GRATED. It is probably the single most awful song ever produced by Disney for anything and it sounds like some awful parody of a song. I am a huge fan of Disney music, especially park music and I’ve never heard anything so irritating. The single was available for sale and as I collect park music I debated whether I wanted to add this hideous piece of music to my collection and decided it wasn’t worth the 5 euros. I never want to hear that song again!

After spending hours in the parks the boys decided to head off early to go swimming and I stayed behind for another hour, doing a bit of shopping (only a bit as it was crazy busy) and taking photos of the park at dusk. We then met back at the hotel and went to dinner at the Santa Fe Tex-Mex buffet. The food here was pretty good and the price not too bad so we enjoyed our dinner. We also had some entertainment for the children in the form of yet another High School Musical pep rally – which the children really seemed to enjoy!

The park was incredibly busy and it meant that there were queues everywhere. It didn’t really spoil our time because we didn’t expect to get on everything but the crowding does take some of the pleasure away. All in all we did well and I couldn’t wait to get back in bed for some welcome rest.

Day 4 (Sunday)

Sunday was always a day that we weren’t sure what we would do. We did talk about heading to Paris but quickly decided that with the stroller it probably wasn’t such a pleasant adventure. Besides, we have travelled to Paris before and we just couldn’t think of what to actually DO once we got there so decided instead to spend the day in the resort.

I headed out shortly after breakfast to do a 2 hour run while the boys went to the parks and we arranged a time and place to meet. It all worked well and after my run (which was great and actually quite reviving, even though I’d walked and walked for days) I caught up with the boys in Disneyland. Apparently they’d just been on the flying carpets YET AGAIN and my little boy had just as much fun as before. We had lunch in the park and spent the rest of the day wondering around, getting on rides occasionally and just generally soaking up the atmosphere. The weather again was gorgeous with a bright blue sky and bright sunshine so we took lots of good photos.

We decided to leave the park relatively early so that we could beat the rush for dinner and went back to Annette’s as we liked it so much. Dinner yet again was good but with service that could do with some improvement. After eating we actually then spent some time in the Village watching the entertainment and checking out the shops before walking back to our hotel. Once there we went to the bar for some drinks (and a welcome seat next to the fire as it was chilly once the sun set) and then off to bed.

Day 5 (Monday)

Our last day. After breakfast (which was pretty chaotic actually but by then we’d got used to the crowds and the bedlam) we checked out of our hotel and left our bags so that we could go out and play before our train at 3pm.

As our son had enjoyed the ‘Tapis volants’ so much we decided to head off to the studios and we must have done this about 5 times! We also managed to get onto the Crush coaster with little queuing thanks to a secret scam… by then we felt that we’d pretty much ‘done’ the parks but as we had time to kill we mainly walked around and caught shows or rides that looked quiet. We then had lunch and all too quickly the time came to get back to our hotel, grab our bags and head to the train station.

Yet again we didn’t have a direct train so we got on our TGV back to Lille (no double-decker this time, much to our son’s disappointment) and then the Eurostar to London. Before we knew it we were back in England and catching another taxi back to Euston. Our son was in very good spirits and really enjoyed this taxi ride – he even thanked the driver as he got off! Pretty soon we were on a train back home and our adventure was finished.

We had a great time and did everything we wanted to but there would have been no chance to do it all had we wanted to. The size of the crowds meant that the queues were just far too long and in some ways, there isn’t enough to do in the parks after a while. The Studios in particular could do with some new attractions (Hollywood Tower is due to be completed in Jan 08 and will add a welcome ride) and even some more places to eat as it feels like it’s a very small park. But we really did enjoy it and the weather played a big part as it was beautiful most of the time.

Our one big regret is that we didn’t book the half-board option before we went as we didn’t know if it was worth it but it turns out it is. Now we know for next time!

Since we came back I've asked my little boy what his favorite part was? Well, apparently it was the trains, the taxis and the flying carpets!!

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