Disney HOLLYWOOD Life

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I SWEAR I had this post all written up and ready to go on a note app on my phone weeks ago, but then I cut the text to paste it and deleted it by accident =(  So here we go again!

The 3rd and final Disney installment covers our trip to Hollywood Studios.  The admission is the same as the other Disney parks: $99.00 for those age 10 and over, $93.99 for ages 3-9, and free < 3.  We had purchased both Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios tickets online at the same time, so when we previously went to the Mickey Halloween party, they loaded both admissions conveniently on the same reusable card.  The day was very hot, perhaps 32 degrees Celsius, and not rainy (at first).  A little trick we do is to tell the ticket person that it’s our first visit every time and then you get a cute “1st Visit!” button to wear, so you can imagine how big our collection has grown =)  Hey – at $99 admission, I feel entitled.

As we entered the park, we were given Olaf cardboard fans to cool off.  They were much needed.  Our first stop was to the “For the First Time in Forever” Frozen sing-along show.  We had to get an advance ticket and pick a show time, and then wait in line (about 30 minutes).  The show consisted of a male and female host, with special appearances by Anna, Kristoff, and of course Elsa at the end.  Basically, it was a gigantic screen that played the entire Frozen soundtrack, complete with lyrics, dazzling lights and special effects.  It was about an hour and it was “so-so.”  Nothing too exciting.  It was cute hearing all those young voices singing word-for-word, though.

After that, we headed to the “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground.  Overhead was a giant “spider web,” or jungle-gym type rope maze for kids (and parents) to climb through.  There were slides and even a gigantic “Antie” just like in the movie.  It was one of my favourites as a kid, so I definitely wanted to check this one out.  I always dreamed of being a child actress and starring in such an adventurous film as this one.  As the day was getting progressively hot and expectant mommy was starting to get hungry, we headed to the nearby food court to grab sandwiches, hot dogs, and ice cold soft drinks.

We spent the rest of the day on pregnant- and toddler- friendly rides and shows such as Muppet Vision in 3D, the Great Movie Ride, and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (this was my favourite of the day – who didn’t love Indy in the 80s?!).  We had wanted to take Dani to the Jedi Training Academy, where apparently kids get to do Jedi training with light sabers and all, but she was too young and/or short.  I had always wanted to check out the Tower of Terror, so perhaps we’ll need to come back once the bun is out of the oven =)  Also, there was a 2-hour wait for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride, so we said forget that.  By that time, it had begun to rain (yes, we donned the Disney ponchos yet again), so we called it a day.

All in all, I’d still prefer the excitement and crowd participation of Universal Studios, but maybe when Dani is at least 6 or 7, because DHS proved to be the more toddler-friendly option.

Until next time, Mickey fans… hope you got something useful out of your reading and enjoy your next trip to the happiest place(s) on earth 😉

Euro-Trippin’ Part.. Something. Lol

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It’s Wednesday and we’re at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar! Contrary to my fears that we would be stopped at the border, we actually drove straight to the front of the line and barely waited 10 minutes for our passports to be checked.
I also thought I’d mention that, since the tour bus picked us up straight from our hotel door, they collected our Viator vouchers and there was no need to exchange them for tickets this time. Yay!
We went from our tour bus to a minibus, which drove us up the rock, nearly 500 meters high, steep and kinda scurry due to the lack of sufficient roadside shouldering, and periodically stopped for picture-taking. At the top of the hill, we entered St. Michael’s cave and all around the cave and in the souvenir stores were the monkeys!  Their true names are Macaca somethings- I lack wifi still and can’t google.  They were everywhere… jumping on and into cars, on people’s heads, some fighting each other, some carrying babies on their backs… I gathered my courage to step close enough to this rather large one for a photo and I won’t lie; I was worried he’d park his patchy red ass on my head!
Tangier, Morocco tomorrow!

Lady in White

image image imageAs of 9:00 am Saturday morning (3:00 am EST) we are in Malaga, Spain. Our last day in Paris was the usual: tiring but beautiful, with visits to the Notre Dame, the Galeries Lafayettes (mainly for a coffee atop the 7th floor panoramic terrace, as shopping is tres cher) and Au Printemps department stores, and the Sacre Coeur, ending the day off with Dani running around Les Jardins Tuileries and riding the carrousel.

Seeing the magnificent white Basilique du Sacre Coeur sitting atop that hill reminds me of my late Aunt, known affectionately as Tita Peng.   She was a simple and inspiring lady. She had devoted her life to God and only wore white, which is why I thought of her yesterday. She passed away in 2004, in my first year (2nd attempt) of college.   In my early years after first moving to Toronto from Calgary, she was always so kind and supportive. Ever since our arrival, my mother’s 4th eldest sister had always been my favourite.  Though she was never officially ordained (pretty sure that’s not the right word, but there isn’t any wifi for me to google it so it’ll do), we always thought of her as a nun, and were actively part of her prayer group called Rufina’s Family Crusade. We would bring the Mother Mary from home to home and pray the rosary together, and we had even taken a pilgrimage to Montreal to visit churches and spread our word. I remember sleeping in a cot in a bare-bones monastery there, and that it felt cold and quite eerie. There was nothing on the bed other than a sheet and nothing on the walls, so I stuck a small prayer card of St. Joseph on the wall above my head with some toothpaste to protect me.
 I also remember doing processions in the streets of downtown Toronto. My aunt always talked to and never turned away from the homeless, bringing them food and an ear to listen whenever they needed one. She didn’t even own a television in her apartment.
Going through my rebellious years, I would fight with my mother a lot, and I remember one incident when my mother told me to get out of the house. For a week I did, staying with my boyfriend at the time.  Then I received a call from her, telling me she was sorry and to return home because she loved me (she had never, ever in my memory admitted she was wrong, nor apologized for much of anything).  I later learned this was under the influence of my Tita Peng.  After hearing of our fight and the harsh words exchanged, she was appalled at her younger sister and told her to call me and tell me to come home right away. Now, I was a pretty wild teenager who partied many late nights, yet my aunt never doubted that I had my head on straight and I’d make something of myself. In my eyes, she was the only great influence in my life who really knew and believed in me.
I thought of you, that beautiful white presence atop the hill, Tita Peng. I wonder if you can see for yourself, but in case you can’t, I’m working very hard. I’m trying to be the best person and mother I can and I think you’d be proud. I wish you were here to see for yourself.  Danica would have loved to know you, too.
I miss you every day.
Love, your Di-Di

Trip Trippin’ Part IV – Bonjour Bon Bons

Wellll let me say that our transition from the Beauvais airport to the Port Maillot Metro station was not a difficult one – Mommy walks really fast so we beat the lines to get the bus tickets and were on the next available bus before those lines got ridiculously long.  THEN came the stress I’ll call the Paris Metro Stroller Haul.  It’s not that difficult to get around the subway system, rather just like Rome, accessibility is another issue.  There are faster and more efficient elevators, but they’re not on every floor in every station (at least not the ones we’ve been in).  Thus, we again began the juggling act of Dani, backpacks, carry-ons, stroller, and the like up and down many flights of stairs.  This time with less sleep than ever.  One of the exits was strange, because you had to insert your luggage and stroller through a hole in the bottom left of the partition before going through the small turnstile yourself.  This took some strategic planning but we managed somehow without having to stuff Dani or our own butts through the hole 🙂

After tons of sweat and passing through many a urine-stank-soaked elevator, we arrived at our hotel 1.5 hours early, so we went to a Chinese restaurant across the street for lunch and to kill some time.  That was a big mistake.  Snobbiest waiters ever, who had these “get out of my way” looks about them when Dani got up to walk around.  They seemed annoyed that we weren’t speaking French, and took forever to deliver our ultra-chintzed, child-sized portions that ended up costing 20 Euros, or $28 HARD-EARNED CANADIAN DOLLARS!  For LUNCH!  Man, I’d have a shitload of fried tentacles, chicken’s feet, scramp rolls, tripe, siu mai, etc. etc. back home (Tremendous or Perfect, take your pic.  HOLLA!) for that much.  Now, I never, ever, get homesick.  But one thing I’ve been missing here (okay, two) are Timmy’s and FOOD.  GOSH all we ate in Rome was pizza and all we’ve been eating here is sandwiches and crepes.  We’d like to branch out into the smaller neighbourhoods and experience more of the local tastes, but when working with a child’s schedule and temperament, we’re lucky to sit and grab a bite at all!  That goes for shopping as well.  We barely bought a thing in Rome and we haven’t hit the department stores or any of the shops on the Champs Elysees (not like I’m able to fork out hundreds of Euros as it is).

I start to miss Rome when I see how SOME (not ALL) people look irritated when they see Dani running around.  Others think it is cute and will smile and wave at her, but that’s rarer than the former.  Also, it seems like no one waits in line, rather just rushes in and out of whatever lineup, doorway, subway train, etc. like it’s every man for himself.  In Rome, your children are LOVED.  Most people of all ages stop and smile and chat to your child, and there isn’t one time that a seat wasn’t offered on the subway because we were pushing a stroller or carrying her.  I have yet to see that here, although most of our servers and the shop keepers have been very nice.  Perhaps we’re just picking up the vibes of irritated locals during busy tourist season 🙂

On day 1, after we finally checked into the hotel, we took a nice long nap, were out the door by 10:00 pm, and hit the city.  We visited the Louvre, Palais Royale, and even the local carnival for some crepes and churros.  Photo ops along the way were inevitable.  The next day we slept in, made it in time for our Seine city bus tour (as you can guess, we got lost, LOL – prepare for PLENTY of getting lost whenever you’re in a foreign land), went to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower, to Leon de Bruxelles for some dinner on the Champs Elysees, and then back to the Seine for our evening cruise.  We had booked this tour (which includes the bus tour/Eiffel Tower visit/Seine River cruise) through Viator.  Our Disneyland (which is where we went today) tickets were booked through the same supplier.  Let me exercise some caution.  When you order online, you’ll be emailed a voucher with a barcode.  Do NOT mistake this for your ticket.  We were lucky to find out in time that you need to go to Information and exchange the vouchers for actual tickets before you can join the excursion.  I’ve seen some people turned away and have to re-enter really long lines for this reason.  Also, don’t mistake your printed RECEIPT for a voucher, either.  Mommy had a dum-dum moment and for that, we had to return to our hotel after already getting to Disneyland.  Dani had a nice nap in between this fun little setback and the lines had disappeared when we got back, so it all worked out in the end.  Heh.  Heh.

I’ll stop blabbering away now.  Tomorrow we will spend our last day in the red light district (woo-hoo!), visiting the Sacre Coeur- my favourite, and what I find to be the most beautiful place in Paris- and the department stores Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps for some shopping, if we can get there in time.  All in all, Paris is beautiful as always.  We’ll be very sad to leave tomorrow night.

Pics are below.

Au revoir for now.

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Part 2-FCO

Trip Trippin’ Part 2-FCO

When in Rome… be prepared to be tired and stressed out when travelling with small children!!

Day one: arrive Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino airport. Baggage pickup and the Leonardo Express train to Termini (Rome’s central train station) were relatively smooth,  except for one incident in which we discovered that elevators in Rome are shoebox-small, slow, and don’t reach every floor you want or need them to.  The rest of our journey was quite stressful and tiring.
After arriving at Termini station, we headed to the TerraCafe (also in the station) to pick up our OMNIA Rome and Vatican cards, which allow unlimited use of public transportation including the hop-on, hop-off bus systems, and, most importantly, entrance to the Vatican, Colosseum, and one other main attraction without having to wait in line. If you’ve ever seen that massive Vatican lineup (I’ve stood in it once before, actually), you’ll know what value this holds.  Waiting to pay regular admission could take two hours or longer.
Back to picking up the OMNIA cards, or lack thereof. Apparently they’d run out completely, and the only other place to get them was at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.  After a long flight with about three hours of sleep (not to mention a 45-minute initial delay, insignificant at this point), each hauling 25-lb. backpacks, carry-on luggage, and pushing an unhappy Dani strapped into her stroller, we decided to just pick up the passes the next day.  We search for the elevator.  After a few attempts on our own and asking a local store clerk (apparently no one knows where the eff it is), a police officer finally points us in the correct direction. Too bad it’s under maintenance and appears to be the only one.  Regretfully, we end up waking up Dani, who is not pleased with us, and yells out her unhappiness as we now balance a stroller, two large backpacks, two heavy carry-ons, and a 24-lb infant down the escalator.  After purchasing two day passes for the Metro, we begin the arduous elevator journey down to Metro Line A- direction Anagnina. It is arduous because, yet again, it is shoebox-sized, and takes three of them to get down to subway level.  Apparently, it is mastermind Roman urban planning that allows such elevators to descend only a few floors each time.  In travel books and on online forums, “they” say that Rome is not child-friendly, but I wasn’t expecting this.  I’ll never complain about the Eaton Centre’s “inefficiencies” ever again.
By this time, around 2.5 hours on foot since exiting the plane, our entire bodies are drenched in sweat in yesterday’s clothes, and our shoulders are caving in and defeated.
We make it to our stop and exit, look around, ask two locals for directions to the hotel, and somehow end up walking in a gigantic extend-a-route square path in the 32+ degree Roman weather with the aforementioned baggage, until we finally find our hotel.
The rest of the day was spent walking around the city, visiting the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and major shopping streets Via Corso and Via Condotti, with a stop for some mango and kinder egg-flavoured gelato along the way, obvi.  I almost fell asleep two or three times while waiting for a meal or just getting a chance to sit.  However, none of those details were as exciting as even getting here, so I’ll leave it at that. ‘Til the next…
Ciao!

Trip Trippin’ Part One – YYZ

I am SO PROUD to announce that our check-in at Pearson was swift and almost hassle-free.

I’ll compare that to our Florida trip last year, quite the nightmare on the contrary. Dani was only 11 months at the time, and though she couldn’t yet walk or run around, she was quite cray cray in the Customs lineup. I guess it’s more irritating to deal with US boarding, because we had to struggle with our cart of luggage pushing Dani all the while, and at security we had to remove our shoes. This year, flying internationally, we didn’t have to go through Customs and we were whisked to the wheelchair/stroller accessible line, not having to remove our shoes like before.

Back to Dani in the Customs lineup – about halfway through the jam-packed queue, she started screaming and crying hysterically because we couldn’t carry her like she wanted. You can imagine all the stares and comments we got from nearby patrons until, literally 2 rows away from the front, they parted the way and let us ahead. Gee, thanks for noticing… eventually!

Back to today – we were at the kiosk to print our baggage tags as we’d checked in before leaving home in order to proceed to the bag drop (limited lineup) but, lucky me, no tags printed out and I was told to stand in line with the rest of the less-prepared mofos (LONG lineup). Dani was already starting to fuss shortly after entering, but after devouring one Kinder Egg (we have a limited supply of 5, for extreme freakout instances only) and a pack of Mum Mums (sadly, she finished them all and didn’t share with Mommy), she fell asleep. We successfully lifted her out and back into the stroller to pass security without any hitches, and she even stayed asleep for a while after. The heavens were shining on us today!

That was around 3:00 pm. It is now 5:30, and Mommy and Daddy have already inhaled a double-patty-jalapeno-mushroom cheeseburger avec frites with some of Mommy’s favourite gummy candies, and she has just woken up. Sitting in Daddy’s lap eating a hot dog (eating = stuffing large pieces into her cheeks and somehow chewing and swallowing), she is happy as a clam.

Just 2.25 hours til takeoff 🙂