That Disney Magic…

Disneyland Paris

Our First Disney Experience: Halloween 2018

This year we weren’t sure if we’d manage to squeeze in a family holiday as we knew we’d be moving at some point. So on a bit of a whim, back in May, we decided we’d take the kids to Disneyland Paris.

I’ve never been to any Disney, Robin’s been to Florida as a kid and loved it, so we thought Paris would be good introduction for the kids with them being so young. The whole booking experience is daunting and incredibly confusing! There are so many meal, hotel and travel options so we decided to book directly through Disney.

We booked 3 nights/4 days, flying to CDG and staying in The Santa Fe hotel which is in the Disney park so that we could benefit from the ‘Magic Hours’ before the park opens to the public. We selected the Half Board Premium meal plan as it included a Meet the Characters meal and a night at the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show… Turned out, all of this didn’t come cheap. It was significantly more than we had expected to pay, but we were in too deep, and it was worth it – Oscar would love it, right?!

Luckily for us, we’d decided to add a little bit extra stress right before our Disney trip by attending a wedding down South with Scout in tow, while Oscar stayed home with his Grandparents. We flew down to Hampshire on the Friday (oh, and we got engaged at 4am as we were getting ready to go to the airport!), attended the wedding on the Saturday (and had such a good day – was so lovely to have some time away!) then on Sunday, we flew back to Edinburgh, arriving home at midnight… and quickly discovered our flight to Paris the next day was in fact at 6am – two hours earlier than we had previous thought. Organised as ever…

Flying to Disneyland Paris

Jetting Off

A few short hours later we were up and off! Arriving at the airport at 4:30am, without an added engagement, but with a disoriented and excited Oscar. We quickly discovered Robin had left his bag with the travel documents on the kitchen table! Again, organised! A mere 35 minutes later I returned to the airport with the rucksack and we ran through security (why do I always bleep?! I’m thinking it’s my specs??) and straight to the gate in time for boarding starting. This was Robin, Scout and I’s third flight in 4 days, so to be honest, we were kinda over it… but Oscar was psyched!

Upon landing we trekked through Charles De Galle airport, boarded some kind of genuine, bona fide monorail and managed to find our Magic Shuttle (just a bus) that would take us to our hotel. This was all a bit chaotic. People shoving kids out the way to get on. Probably the same kind of people that fight to get on a train as folk are still alighting – WHY?! The transfer to Disney is about 40 minutes or a little more depending on what hotel you’re staying in. We arrived at The Santa Fe and waited in the queue to check in… the first of many – queues are a bit of a theme at Disney.

Our first impression was that this hotel was a bit dated, and a bit tired. But, we weren’t planning on spending that much time in it, so it would be fine. We decided to drop our bags in our room (it was 11am-ish and the room was ready to go – that was a positive) and head to the park. The weather caught us a bit off guard. It was bitterly cold, just a few degrees, which was a shame as just the week before it had been unseasonably warm with highs of 20 degrees! We jumped into a shop on Disney ‘Main Street’ and grabbed Oscar a hat but I think it was safe to say, his 3:30am start was catching up with him, but we were determined to have fun. The kind of magic fun that Disney promises.

Unfortunately… it was downhill from here. What we thought was just tiredness seemed to be a bit more and Oscar was actually quite poorly… and probably wasn’t really in the mood to be trailed round in freezing temperatures. It was at this point, I asked him how he felt and he said “mummy, I feel sad. I want to go to Disneyland” – fairly tragic considering we’d been there about 4 hours at that point… I can laugh now, but at the time this was a metaphorical punch in the gut. 

Disneyland Paris

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 

Anyway, I’ve put together some info, pointers, good points and bad points – before I left and while we were away I had a lot of people get in touch to ask about it as they were thinking of going. I read a lot before we went (yes, we even joined the ‘Disneyland Paris for Brits’ group on Facebook…), and to be honest, everyone made it out to be amazing, and I hate to sound negative, because that’s not really our bag, but elements of the trip were disappointing and I’d rather be honest. Doubt I’ll be getting sponsored by Disney any time soon anyway… 

Mickey Meal Madness with some Buffalo Bill chucked in… 

Let’s start with a positive – despite coming to the realisation on the first day that Oscar was feeling absolutely lousy with a raging temperature we had booked to go to Buffalo Bills Wild West Show and decided to give it a shot (ya know, still determined to power through and enjoy ourselves despite snipping at each other through gritted teeth…) and actually, Oscar enjoyed it! We had tickets as part of our Premium Meal Plan otherwise I believe it’s around £160… which is a lot! Was it worth it? As adults, maybe not (see face below)… but like I say, Oscar did enjoy it, so in that respect it was. The food was mediocre – TGI’s style mixed grill, but I wasn’t expecting much better so wasn’t disappointed. You can book this before you go, you can do that up to 60 days before I think and can email them directly, we did it the week before and managed to get a table but probably wouldn’t advise being so last minute.  

Disneyland Paris

Our meal plan also included a character meal, we wanted to do this at Inventions, which is classed as one of the best restaurants in the park, located in the actual Disney Hotel, but, well, it was fully booked so that went out the window. Instead, we booked the breakfast at Plaza Gardens just off Main Street. Despite refusing to eat anything (a theme of the trip) Oscar seemed to really enjoy this, so I’d say it’s worth it. It could have been organised a lot better, with characters being more interspersed instead of them moving round the restaurant in groups meaning you had to wait ages to meet them then when you did it was all of them and a bit rushed, but a three year old obviously doesn’t care about that and he was really psyched to meet Mickey and it was mega cute. We even took some pictures so that in years to come we could show Oscar them and lie to him about the whole trip by insisting he had the best time ever

Disneyland Paris

On the topic of food, because we had a premium plan, we were able to book the “best” restaurants in the park without having to pay a surcharge and we did this a week before and although we managed to get tickets to the BBWWS we did struggle to get a table at a few other restaurants. In hindsight, maybe this was a good thing. Oscar is 3, and terribly fussy. I suppose I assumed that all the eateries would be child focused with quite “child friendly” food and this wasn’t the case – which was my bad. Coupled with the fact that Oscar felt lousy, and just wanted to sleep, it wasn’t the best restaurant experience. So we ended up cancelling a few of our reservations and just chancing our arm at a few of the buffet restaurants which were fine.  

There are also a fair few places out-with the main Disney and Studios park within the Disney Village including sandwich shops, coffee shops, Five Guys and a trusty McDonalds. After a 20€ Uber trip to a pharmacy for paracetamol in the morning (yup, I went away without packing Calpol…) it was the Golden Arches that supplied us with one of the peaks of the trip when Oscar saw it on day two and ate for the first time since arriving – even managing to crack a smile at the Mr Potato Head happy meal toy! We found the snack food pretty reasonable. We were expecting it to be extortionate. Same goes for the toy shops on site … of which there are many… they weren’t that bad. We took Oscar to one after his McDonald’s to try and capitalise on his rallying mood and treat him to a wee toy – we came away with a set of Toy Story characters for 19€ which didn’t seem more than you’d pay on Amazon. Had we been feeling jollier about our Disney experience we’d maybe have stretched to Mickey ears, but the furthest we went was matching Disney ponchos to keep us dry. 

Disneyland Paris

Disney-ing with a Baby

On a bit of a side note – if you’re doing Disney with a baby I have a few wee tips. Overall, we found changing facilities very poor. At the Wild West Show, Robin took Scout to the toilet to change her and there were no facilities – not in the mens toilets or in the male/female disabled toilets and he ended up changing her on a dirty and cold tile floor as we didn’t have a mat. Now, later on I went to the ladies toilets and there was a changing area, but come on, its 2018… men change nappies, ya know? I don’t think its acceptable to have to change a 9 month old on a dirty floor, and especially not in a place made for children! However in the main park, next to Plaza Gardens restaurant, there’s a Baby Care Centre where there’s a big open plan changing area (that men can use as well) with toilets too and also a big feeding room with chairs and highchairs and microwaves and stuff. This was handy since it was a bit cold to whip a boob out from my 64 layers outside. Luckily, Scout doesn’t really need fed that much during the day now or else this would have been a bit of a ball ache going back and forward. However, I think the restaurants do have microwaves too if you need them for baby food or milk or whatever.  

Disneyland Paris

Day three: we finally make it on some rides…

Day three, Halloween, was actually the most Disney (*jazz hands*) day, Oscar woke feeling a bit better (and hadn’t been sick in the night – YAY). On this day we managed to get to the parks for Magic Hours. You can use these if you’re staying in one of the Disney hotels and means that you get exclusive access to the parks between 8-10am before the general public get in. This was good for getting on some of the rides with bigger (read: absolutely mental) queues. We used them to get on the new Peter Pan ride and then Pirates Of The Caribbean.

On the topic of rides, most of the bigger rides have a minimum height of 103cm which Oscar just missed out on unfortunately. But there was still a fair amount he could enjoy, especially over in the Fantasy Land area of the park (back right). Most of these rides we were able to get on with Scout in the carrier as well which was good, but probably an indicator that they’re not exactly thrilling. Oscar really enjoyed It’s a Small World, Pirates of The Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight, Ratatouille: The Adventure and Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. For a few rides, including Ratatouille, we used our Fast Passes – this is available to you if you’re staying in a Disney hotel, but isn’t really explained very well when you check in. Not all rides have it, but most of the bigger ones do – just look for the Fast Pass hut near the queue entrance and put your card (the card that you use for your park entry, room key and for dinner reservations) into the fast pass machine, and it’ll give you a printed ticket with a time. Then all you have to do is come back within that time frame and enter the Fast Pass queue and you skip the main queue. This is handy, but we probably didn’t make best use of them – mainly because we spent less than half our time in the actual park due to a sickly toddler!

There were also a few ‘big thrill’ rides that Oscar couldn’t get on that we wanted to do, and for these we used single rider queues as we were passing. Robin went on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, Big Thunder Mountain, Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror… I went on Space Mountain – can you tell I’d lost all ‘Disney Magic’ by this point…?! 

Disneyland Paris

Que the Queues

Now, of course, when you go to a theme park you expect to wait in queues – it’s par for the course really, I’ve queued for hours at Alton Towers, I get it… but it did put us off bothering with some of the rides partly because they didn’t seem worth it and because Oscar’s tummy was sore. What was more annoying though was the queues at every other bit of the park, whether it be a 25 minute queue to get a picture with Goofy (I mean, does anyone even care about Goofy?) or the 40 minute queue to buy a crepe when I was literally the 4th customer in the line… crazy.

We didn’t wait 25 minutes to meet Goofy… I’m not mental, however, I did think that Woody might be able to bring a smile to Oscar’s face and I knew a way to make it happen… I had it on good authority from the Instagram community that at 2pm on the dot, you can go onto an app on your phone called Lineberty and book a slot to meet Toy Story Characters. So at 1.55, we were sitting eating lunch in Cafe Agrabah and I had my phone out, poised to refresh every 3 seconds as if I was trying to secure Glastonbury tickets… although, you could argue, the stakes were much higher. As it turned 2pm I was placed in the queue and secured my e-ticket – I was number 28 with an estimated wait time of over an hour, giving us time to finish lunch and head over to Walt’s Studios park. As we left the restaurant half an hour later I looked at my phone with horror to discover that the queue time had skipped to 8 minutes… we sprinted through the park, out through the gates, zig zagging through the halloween crowds to get to Studios on time only to get in and realise we had no clue where Woody was hiding. In some sort of Disney induced frenzy, we managed to find someone to point us in the direction and there he was – a 7ft slightly odd looking Woody. We entered the queue, Oscar seemingly unaware f the drama had fallen asleep in the buggy (bearing in mind Oscar hasn’t even looked in the direction of a buggy in nearly 2 years, this was an indicator of his current flu-ridden state).

Despite all the disappointment that had come before, I was still full of hope that this would be the turning point and we would have a #makingmemories moment… wrong. We woke Oscar up and epic meltdown ensued. No, he didn’t like Woody, no he didn’t want to meet him, he certainly didn’t want a picture with him (lucky we hadn’t purchased that 70€ photo pass…) … in actual fact, he wanted nothing to do with him, and could not have cared less that we nearly gave ourselves heart attacks sprinting to get there in time. Now, I’m not proud of myself… but this was where I broke. I had a full Disney induced meltdown to rival my three year old’s and I ugly cried. I Kim Kardashian ugly cried in what is supposed to be the most magical place on earth.  In hindsight this was obviously a pretty massive over reaction. I mean, when I’m ill I can barely muster the energy to change the channel on the telly, and yet, here we were expecting a little three year old, flu-ridden Oscar to have forced fun. But Disney had broken me. At this point, if I could have just gone home… I probably would have. 

Disneyland Paris

The Santa ‘Stay Away’ Fe This Hotel

One of the biggest downfalls was our hotel, as I mentioned, we booked The Santa Fe, which admittedly is the cheapest hotel in the park, but ‘cheapest’ is very relative when talking about Disney, and in all the holiday was expensive so I’d have expected better. I’d have expected a better standard for the Disney brand. The hotel was tired, dated and actually downright dirty in places… for example, mould on the window frame which is unacceptable regardless of price point. Admittedly, we didn’t expect to spend as much time as we did in the hotel, we booked it as just somewhere to sleep as we thought we’d be out at the parks from 8-8 every day but we hadn’t banked on a sick toddler. If anyone is thinking of visiting, this would be my one top tip – book any other hotel! Don’t make the same mistake we did!

On our last night, Halloween, we did decide to hang about in the evening for the illuminations and they were fab, Oscar had fallen asleep so we secured a good spot, it was nice and dry and we woke him up just for them starting. They didn’t last too long, just long enough to keep his attention and ‘wow’ him. Just the other night Oscar randomly started talking about the fireworks he saw at the pink castle which was really sweet because there were wee glimmers during the holiday that he was enjoying himself. 

Disneyland Paris

Woody’s My Round-Up

I hate hate hate that this all might sound a bit negative or ungrateful because we’re not generally like that, we try to make the best of situations and with Disney we tried, believe me, we tried in an attempt to justify our significantly lighter bank balance, but I think we’ve walked away with the realisation that we’re maybe not ‘Disney people’. What I would say though is that for all the disappointment we felt as adults , if Oscar had had a ball, ultimately, none of that would have mattered. And if he’d not been unwell, I’m sure he would have had a lot more fun, and as a result, we would have too. It was just so unfortunate that he was ill and completely out of our control. If we’d been at home it would have been a good 3-4 duvet days. So if you’re thinking of booking a trio to Disneyland Paris, my intention is not to try and put you off, it’s merely to point out some things that could be done better or to prepare for, ya know?

Plenty of people go and love it. On a different week that could have been us. Would we go back to Disneyland Paris – probably not. We would probably still consider Florida when both kids are a bit older as we’re assured that its a whole different ball game. Robin made a good point when we were away saying we could probably have stayed at Alton Towers for a few days for a quarter of the price and had a better time and he was right, although admittedly that’s not really what I wanted to hear at the time – too soon Robin, too soon!!

I’d love to hear about your experiences – have you been and felt the full force of the Disney Magic, or did it leave you feeling a bit empty and dead inside (jokes, kind of…)? Are there other places you’d rate more highly?

Disneyland Paris

Motherhood: Levelling up in London

Taking the Plunge

This weekend I travelled down to London, solo, to see one of my dearest friends. She hadn’t had a chance to meet Scout yet, and it was proving difficult for her to find a date she was able to get back up to Scotland. So on a bit of a whim, I decided instead to book a flight down to London to see her instead.

I booked it, and told everyone that asked that I was really looking forward to it and it would all be brilliant. And I was really looking forward to it – spending time with one of my oldest friends and exploring more of a city, that previously I’d only actually been to twice… but I was also worrying a bit (maybe more than a “bit”)…

You see, I don’t think I’d ever have done this with Oscar when he was a baby. Generally, I’m not a worrier, but I’m not sure I had the confidence as a first time Mum to a six month old to take the plunge and go it alone on a solo trip. I think it would all have been just a bit too scary.

However, I’ve spoken before about how in some ways I feel like a “different mother” second time round. So I decided I’d just go for it and push myself out of my comfort zone.

As last week rolled round I did start to get a bit nervous. We went on a wee outing to pick strawberries in the week and Scout was on such poor form. Screaming in the carrier and generally just being a massive grump which gave me the FEAR. It did not bode well for our trip considering I was only planning on taking the carrier. No pram.

I think I’m a fairly relaxed person, and mostly, I feel confident in my parenting even if a vast majority of it is definitely filed under the heading “winging it”, but man, I’d be lying if I said I don’t get stressed out sometimes, especially when it comes to crying. That, coupled with the fact of be completely on my own with no one to take turns with if things turned tricky was scary.

The reality was, as ever, nowhere near as scary as I had thought! Ok, so the 4am start wasn’t ideal and as a result, Scout was a wee bit grumpy but that’s where the carrier comes into its own – for sleeping. Sitting on the runway for an hour before we took off also wasn’t ideal… but I survived. At the other end the public transport was seamless and I was sitting on Jess’ sofa by 10.30am.

Preparation was Key

I packed light… very light! I took one little Kanken rucksack. It was more than enough for two nights for both of us. I dwindled my list down to the essentials – an outfit for each day for Scout and the same for me. I wore my bulkier items of jeans and a jumper, although, turns out I definitely didn’t need them in the 32 degree heat of the Capital!

I also packed smart. I had 4 nappies and half a pack of wipes in my trusty Mutha.Hood pouch for the journey and asked my friend to buy me a small pack to use while I was down there. I also borrowed most of my toiletries – cause ya know, what are friends for?! A large muslin, ie. the most versatile baby product of all time, (this one is one of my favourites from Book of Deer) packs smaller than a changing mat, and is perfect for changing, wiping up any sick, using as a wee sun cover or blanket etc.

I also took an extra wee pouch that I kept all my travel essentials in for easy access – passport, boarding pass, phone, some cash and my card. That way I didn’t have to keep taking my backpack on and off to get stuff in and out. If I had been super duper organised I’d have actually bought a little karabiner to hook it onto the baby carrier… I thought about this at the airport on the way home, and I’m gonna get one for future use!

Wear that Baby!

The thought of navigating London transport with a pram brought me out in a sweat, so I decided to just take the carrier, but this came with it’s own worries. It was really hot in London and I was worried about Scout or me, overheating. It also didn’t seem the ideal way to be able to enjoy a meal. As with my packing though, I was keen to travel with as little stuff as possible and the carrier meant I was able to do this. I have a few carriers and I chose to take our Connecta. It was the first time I’d used it but I would highly recommend it as a holiday carrier. It’s nice and light but with good support and really easy to get on and off by yourself – even in the confines of an EasyJet plane seat!

No Pressure

Just have fun! We had ideas of stuff we could do, but it was all really relaxed and we didn’t put any pressure on ourselves to see or do loads over the two days. We stopped in parks when we needed to let Scout out the carrier and stretch, kick and feed and we stuck to the shade when we needed to.

I can be bad for piling pressure on myself sometimes when it comes to doing things. I build days out or activities up in my own head, and then feel like I’ve failed a bit if they don’t go exactly to plan, but it’s taken me a while to learn that sometimes… or even a lot of the time… things don’t always go to plan where kids are involved, and that’s ok.

Levelled Up

I ended up having the best time, I’m so glad I did it… and actually wish I’d done it sooner, or even with Oscar when he was little. I know that I’ve not scaled Everest blindfolded, but still, I’m proud of myself, and I think that’s ok!

There’s been quite a few points recently that I’ve felt a bit bogged down by everything. Parenting two littles has felt like a bit of a slog. As expected, having two has come with a whole host of new challenges, and quite often I’ve felt a bit defeated. This weekend has given me the wee confidence boost I needed. It’s left me feeling refreshed, and reassured me that maybe I’m doing alright after all.

Huge shout out to my wonderful friend for letting me stay with her and making the weekend so great – for picking Scout up when she cried, playing with her to give me some peace and most importantly, holding her while I ate my ramen! We even got to enjoy Love Island together in person rather than over WhatsApp.

I feel like I’ve levelled up and I’ve earned a new badge for my ‘parenting sash’. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this one little trip has earned me Superwoman status, you might be reading this thinking “I do that all the time, big deal!” But parenting can sometimes feel relentless and can be a thankless task and I think we should always celebrate the wins big and small because that little pick me up can set us back on the right path and remind us that we’re doing more than just surviving!

I’d love to hear about the badges that you’ve earned. Is there any feat you’ve undertaken big or small that has given you a much needed parenting boost?

I mean… even just changing a baby in a plane toilet deserves a medal – amma right?!

Lou x

Travelling With A Tornado

Well, we returned from our Italian trip two weeks ago, and I think we’re just about recovered & back to reality…! Last year, we went to a lovely 5* hotel in Tenerife and sat by a pool. We didn’t do an awful lot, and we also made use of the Baby Club on a number of occasions – but it was some great chill time in the sun with our Little. It was also the week Oscar decided to start walking, so it will always be memorable! However, the week was topped off by a 5 hour flight FROM HELL! Don’t ask. No, actually, I’ll tell you – he basically just screamed in our faces at point blank range for the duration of the flight and we spent the whole time standing with the cabin crew at the back door, hiding from every other human being on the plane. Yeah, was great. Continue reading

2017 Adventure List

Days off with my Little
Just some of our 2017 adventures so far – Ravelston Woods, Vogrie, Portobello + The Botanics

There are so many brilliant things to do in and around Edinburgh, but so many that we’ve not yet got round to doing – we’re still relatively new to the city!

I was so lucky during maternity leave to have Robin around so much, his shift pattern means he gets a fair amount of quality time at home during the week. Now, I know maternity leave isn’t one long holiday, but I’ll be honest when I say that now I’m back at work I do miss the freedom to be able to go out and do things during the week as opposed to weekends when Robin isn’t always home.

Vogrie Park on Maternity Leave

So my mission for 2017 is to make the most of our days off as a family and check off all the places on my ever growing list. Many we’ve been to before, some we’ll be visiting for the first time.

Here’s what I’ve got so far –  Continue reading