The charms of Balboa Bay in the Orange County

On the last day of our trip we stayed in Newport in the Orange County.  After a lazy morning we started late by having lunch at the Balboa Bay Club member’s restaurant which overlooks a heated swimming pool and Balboa Bay. Food was great and healthy. The kids menu included a hot dog with chips- the best chips we had all trip in fact!

After lunch the boys had a play on the beach while we enjoyed the view – rowing boats, cruising boats, canoes and some impressive yachts drifting through by the bay. It was warm and buzzing and reminded us of the River Thames in summer; they are so lucky to enjoy the warmer temperatures all year round over there!

We explored the children’s playrooms – They had a playroom geared towards the older kids with bean bags, flats screens and games consoles (the children could request controllers at Reception). They also had another playroom for smaller children with dozens of board games, books, puzzles and DVDs.

We then spent the rest of the day exploring Balboa Bay. It has a small town feel with pristine wooden houses and quirky-yet-trendy shops. We took the tiny ferry across to Balboa Island where the boys played in the arcade, winning some toys. We bought sweets in one of many vintage candy stores and strolled up the pier.

Finally, we watched a beautiful sunset and waved good bye to the Pacific Ocean before heading back to the airport.

10 things I wish I knew before I visited Disneyland

We just returned from a great time in California.  We visited Disneyland and this is what I wish I knew before I went..

1. Arriving an hour before the park opens will give you the best start
With an 8 hour jetlag we were up at 3am so it simply made sense to get to the park as early as we could. The roads were clear as we set off around 6.45am from Marina del Rey and got there within an hour. Kids dosed off in the car and once we got to the parking booth we were asked where we came from.  “England” we answered and so we were named Mickey’s Honorary Guests for the day. We got badges for everyone in the car, free parking and were escorted to the front of the park to a special parking spot in front of where you take the tram. This saved us at least 30 minutes.


2. Just print your ticket or take a picture of it – avoid delays to get in!

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We bought the tickets the night before and downloaded the pdfs onto the phone, each ticket was  open in a different window ready for scanning, however, as we got to the entrance it turned out that when you tried to open each of them the page would go blank because we didn’t have an Internet connection. This wasted at least 10-15 minutes trying to go on Disney’s wireless and reopening each ticket. Just print them if you get a chance.

3. Download an app to plan your day but know when to give up if it’s not going your way

disney app

We found an app with clever statistics on which order to do the rides. It had good reviews but I don’t think it took into account we were visiting the Monday before Christmas Eve.

It suggested Peter Pan would take 10 minutes but instead it took 40 min. Then,  It’s a Small World was meant to take 2 minutes and actually took 20min and so on. It was ok-ish but it took some convincing to just accept we should focus on the rides we really wanted to do.

4. The queues you see outside the ride are just the tip of the iceberg. Park the stroller and take a carrier

At a glance you think it won’t be too bad and question why the sign says it will take 40 minutes.  You join thinking this is moving at an ok speed. Almost at the entrance and then you realize 2/3 of the queues actually take place inside the building itself. The good news is that once inside there are things to distract the kids such as screens, or robots, but just to warn you; don’t be fooled when you join that queue.

Also bear in mind that you can’t join the queue with your stroller so you’ll have to park it outside. This is why having a carrier with you is so handy specially if you go with a little one. Our son is almost 5 but still fits in the Ergobaby (up to 20kg) so luckily this helped him not  get too tired – daddy on the other hand was wrecked.
Queues get progressively worse as the day unfolds. Get your FastPass first thing. You are given a slot throughout the day and ours were given very late. Indiana Jones was at 9pm by which time we had gone to sleep already. Get them quick.

5. Height restrictions apply on some rides but this doesn’t necessarily apply to babies
I almost gave our 1 year old and myself a heart attack when we took the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I had been on this ride as a kid but I seem to have forgotten there are 2 falls which felt like a rollercoaster drop. I do wonder how this was allowed as I felt I could have dropped him easily. It was so dark and everyone screamed including him. It frightened him and before we could recover came the second one. Wish I’d left if in the carrier so he felt safer. On the flip side it was a great ride and I am pleased we all got to enjoy it.

6- You will probably be more excited about the parade than your kids


Jonas age 1 slept through the whole parade, Dylan sat on Mark’s shoulders and was not all that impressed by seeing the characters. He was eating an ice cream – very expensive Mickey shaped one – which he dropped on someone’s head. My nephew aged 8 wanted to sit down after 5 minutes and asked for the iPad.  My other nephew aged 13 wanted to go to the Star Wars shop.

At least I was excited to see all the characters prancing around and waving. Not sure if it’s a generation or cultural thing with the parade but this wasn’t the highlight I though it would be for the kids.

7. Food and drinks are  luxury commodities – and alcohol is not sold at Disneyland

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They say take loads of snacks and drinks and avoid food stalls. Instead I recommend you invest in a nice lunch where you can also rest and relax. We ate in front of the Haunted Mansion. It was great as there was live music and it was a New Orleans style restaurant with delicious food. It was a bit expensive and we had to queue to get in, had to hunt for seats but then had time to relax and recover. If only we could have had a beer while the sun was shining.

Don’t be surprised if the queues for food, drinks or snacks take longer than the one for a ride itself. Popcorn queue was 30 minutes. Same went for ordering coffees at stalls. It is not quick. It can also be hard to find what you want unless you go to Main Street. Those queues are simply not worth it!

8. Take your stroller
As they don’t let you enter the queues with the stroller you might question if you take it or not. Take it! It’s a handy storage solution. Especially as we went in December it was very cold in the early hours and towards the evening.  Carrying all those coats and jumpers was painful so throwing them on the stroller was the most handy thing. There are areas to park the strollers and they have staff keeping an eye on them. Can’t believe I almost considered leaving it.

9. Take a picture of the picture or buy it if you have the money


They still take a pic of you on rides but now with smartphones some clever youngsters were all prepared to take the picture of the picture. Very clever as they get a free memento. We were obviously not prepared and our picture was shown for a split second and then we had to go to the counter to see it.

If you want to save $15 have your phone ready as you exit the ride. If you can afford it though it is  worth every penny. First time our son went on a roller coaster and he will remember it forever.

10. Visiting Disneyland as a parent is even better than visiting as a kid

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I knew this would be a special day but I never imagined I’d feel so happy. Being taken back to your childhood when you took the Its a Small World ride and then to see your little ones eye sparkle as they experience it for the first time is simply precious and will melt your heart.

The last time I’d been to Disneyland I was 15 years old so it was great to return with the kids, relive all those happy childhood memories and watch how your little ones have a magical day. It is definitely the happiest place on earth for big and small. Don’t miss it.



Happy times during our trip

Happy 2015!

We had a great time celebrating the New Year in Las Vegas. Just returned from our trip where we managed to  drive from LA to the Grand Canyon and back.

The days went by so quickly as it happens when you are in company of all the family..

Will write all about it but for now her is a video of our best moments.




Pop(py) of Colour

Remembrance Day has passed and the 888,246 hand-made ceramic poppies that made up the Blood-Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London have now been removed. We were lucky to visit in September.

In the meantime though, the  Poppy Factory continues to operate in no other place then Richmond Upon Thames. Only a walk away from our home.

So on a cold and grey November afternoon this was the perfect place to visit in an attempt to answer the many questions this little one had about poppies.

The history of the poppy factory goes back to 1922 and we learnt that the poppies were  designed so that  someone who had lost the use of a hand could assemble them. It was very inspiring as the factory has become a specialist employability charity for disabled veterans – helping them to find work throughout the UK.

The factory is a perfect afternoon out for the family during school holidays as tours are only during school hours.  It is a great way for children to not only learn about history but also introduce them to a bit of our disappearing industry.

We finished our day indulging with a hot chocolate before heading home and bringing  back poppies for the whole family.




Solitude: To Halls Gap and back

Sunrise in Halls Gap
Sunrise in Halls Gap

After our first week in Australia we left Melbourne and ventured into other parts of Victoria.

One of the places we visited was Halls Gaps which is adjacent to the Grampians National Park.

From dawn, the kangaroos fill the fields quietly grazing away. With no other tourists around we took the opportunity to watch the sunrise and enjoy a moment of solitude among  them.


Between the Miles


Omaha Beach
Sunset at Omaha Beach, New Zealand

This is Dylan and his cousin Gemma. They are only a few months apart in age but are separated by 11,000 miles. They met for only the second time when we visited New Zealand in May.

Watching the children enjoy the waves wash them away at sunset is one of the most cherished memories of our trip to Omaha Beach. This video captures their time together:

The song playing in the video is from the band AsWeFall. It reminds me of the sea, the ocean and the miles of water that separates me from family and old friends. Listen to the full version.

A quiet street in the Atlas mountains

In March 2013 we ventured to Morocco for 2 weeks.

Only 60 km from Marrakech, the windy road brought us to the village of Imlil.

Atlas mountains
The mountain is Mount Toubkal.


We stayed at the  Kasbah du Toubka.   A lodge so secluded it could only be reached by mule or foot. Such an experience for our little one riding the mule which also carried his trunki along.


The Kasbah is a testament that true sustainable tourism is possible: The water that feeds the premises are  channelled to the irrigation system aiding local farmers; the village or the solar panels are used as a source of power for some areas. Also the Berber community run the day to day hospitality giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and give back to the community.

I love  this plaque at the entrance.  Read more  here about how  the two brothers  behind Discover made their dream a reality for all of us to enjoy.



Chaparral High Association of Parents and Teachers

absolute aleesha

Living the dream

Mush brained ramblings

from crazy pregnant person to blissfully happy breastfeeding mother