Monday, September 15, 2014

Beach Manics

No California trip would be complete without a lot of beach time. That is why September is the best time to go. The water still thinks its summer! 

We got the residual of a hurricane in Mexico. The waves were huge and rough. We all got pounded by surf, sand, and seaweed. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Adventures in Cali

We started by getting fast passes for Cars Land and world of color the show. With that taken care of we were able to enjoy the rest of the park. We walked on most rides. Tuesday in September turned out to be a pretty great time to come!

Cars Land looked amazing. 

Tower of Terror was the favorite with California Screamin' coming in a close second. 

We had all four kids at the carnival games trying to shoot their way for a prize. Brynn came away winner with Dumbo.

We packed lots of snacks--jerky, granola bars, and fruit snacks then ate a late lunch. Earl of Sandwich in downtown disney turned out to be our favorite spot for a reasonably priced lunch and delicious hot sandwiches. For dinner? Hagen daaz. That's the stuff vacations are made of.  For a snack we tried the bag of beignets or french donuts at the Jazz Market also in downtown disney. They were a hit! and we left a powdered sugar trail the rest of the day. 

The world of color show was definitely worth the wait. Visually spectacular! 

Magic of Disney

We finally made it to the Magic Kingdom!!
It took us one day to drive, then we had one day at the beach, followed by one day at Disneyland, one day at California adventures, another beach day, and the last day we drove home. It was just about the perfect ratio of beach to amusement parks.

They have buttons especially for "first-timers."

Discovered Dole whips at the Tikki bar. Very refreshing. 
We did it all and we did it all together.  Favorite ride was Splash Mountain. We went on it 3x in a row. 

Only low of the day is that we took a wrong turn walking back to our hotel which extended our already long day of walking into an extra 2 miles of walking!!! Ugh. We fell into bed exhausted. And the next day we spent the smartest $9 of the trip and took a taxi!

Friday, September 12, 2014

At Sea

We bid adieu to London and took a coach to our port of debarkation, Southampton.

Once on board (phew!) we got busy exploring. Cunard boasts 3 fantastic luxury ocean liners; The Queen Mary, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth. We sailed the Queen Victoria along with 2000 other passengers and a host of crew at our beck and call. 

 Greeting us on board was the sublime music of a classical string quartet.  That's when I knew I'd be right at home. To top it off we discovered the library!
   In true British fashion the pool and hot tub were tiny but not the chess set...
 We enjoyed fine dining every evening at the Britannia restaurant--always a "starter" then a salad followed by an entree, finished with dessert, and just when you couldn't stand another bite, the post-dessert tray came around with bite sized sugary delicacies.
 Our British table-mates who after 14 dinners together became our favorite British friends.
 Chocolate Royale? anyone?
 Cunard is the only cruiseline to have a ballroom, a museum, Herrod's gift shop, and it is the only cruise line to offer fencing. We took advantage of all of it.
 "Gentlemen" were on hand to serve as dancing partners--and in our case--teach lessons. One told me he'd have us dancing like Ginger Rogers after 2 weeks. Yep. pretty much. We learned to tango, cha-cha, foxtrot, jive and waltz.  For all that, it was ABBA disco night that really had us rockin' the dance floor.
 Room with a view
 To cool down after dancing we would saunter over to the lounge to listen to the harpist, or the pianist, or the string quartet depending on the night. All of it stellar talent and a superb way to end a day.
A typical sea day went like this:
9 a.m fencing
10 a.m. WWII Espionage lecture by renowned historian...
11 a.m. British politics lecture by Author and Lord ...
12:00 p.m.  Arctic Seals and their habitats by naturalist....
also scheduled were dance lessons and lectures about the history and attractions of the ports we would be visiting. What a dilemna--a smorgasborg of cultural and educational options and so little time! 

 Someone ordered room service for breakfast every day and it wasn't me.
 Beautiful Baltic sea.
 Every night after dining was a show--a fantastic show! We had singers, dancers, acrobats, a magician, comedian, even a flutist. Then it was off to the evening Ball.
 We sat in a box seat every night. It pretty much had our names on it and we shared it with our favorite Brits. We're all dressed up for the Masquerade Ball.

Life aboard the ship was grand. I ate lots of steak and seafood and even more desserts--fancy ones like Baked Alaska and souffle. We took afternoon walks along the promenade deck, went to High Tea, read our books on the balcony, played ping-pong or deck quoits, and got all dressed up for dinner.  

The ship was definitely British-style. Almost everyone onboard was British including the captain and staff. The food, the games, the tea, everything was British. It got to the point where I was THINKING WITH A BRITISH ACCENT.  We tried out some phrases with our newly acquired accent much to the entertainment of our table friends. They tried out their American accents on us and we were equally amused.  We learned to eat properly with a knife and fork. ( I had a real test with a hamburger!) We also learned to say things nicely and sophisticated-like. In conclusion I will shre some of my new language skills (to be read in a Midlands accent with a hint of Yorkshire) 
  •  It has been lovely spending a fortnight with you all.  
  • Sorry? What was that you said?  
  • That photo is absolutely brilliant!  
  • We must order dessert, this is the penultimate night of the cruise afterall.
  • Excuse me ladies, is this the queue for the toilet? 

Saturday, August 9, 2014


Ridiculously lucky me got a free 2-week Baltic Cruise above Britain's luxury liner the Queen Victoria. As Brandon says, everyone should have a sister that's a travel agent.  I didn't have much notice--I had a few days to decide, book a flight, pack, and get my kids all situated for school. It was almost enough to keep me home but my adventurous side prevailed. We saw the world, had a lot of fun, and definitely have no regrets.

We flew from LAX straight to London, watching movies all night. From there, in our sleep-deprived state we went straight to sightseeing.
 From the airport we rode the "tube" downtown and took a double-decker sight-seeing bus all over the city past buildings modern and sleek to old and ornate. It seemed the whole world was visiting London the same day!

 Tower of London was commemorating the anniversary of WWI with a bounty of poppies.

 Cruising the river Thames


Traditional English fish and chips.
For running on no-sleep and only with limited time, I think we did pretty well at taking in all the key sights of London. Next time I would like to tour Buckingham Palace. We spent the night at a Holiday Inn, enjoyed a typical British breakfast of tiny things--pancakes, little honey pots, herbal tea with a little milk and sugar and we discovered a British breakfast favorite, Wheetabix.