I’m a huge Disney Cruise Line fan, as you know. We were on the Disney Magic last year cruising around the Mediterranean and it was just absolutely magical. Of course, the Magic has now had an incredible revamp and is ready, all sparkly and new, to set sail along with the Fantasy and Wonder for new destinations in the summer of 2015.
Some lovely friends of mine were in Florida recently, staying at the gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge and I happened to comment on one of their Facebook pictures ‘oh, that’s my FAVOURITE Walt Disney World resort!’. I love the African styling, and the fact that you can see giraffes wandering outside your window. But then I thought about the glorious Grand Floridian, and the quite incredible Contemporary Resort, and I realised, I can’t have just one. I have to have at least five! Read more
So as you know, August was a busy one for me. First of all we whizzed around Britanny for two weeks in our lovely (borrowed) Honda CR-V, and then, with the most ridiculous timing known to man, we got home on the Friday night at 11pm and had to be at Heathrow at 5am the next morning to grab a flight to Barcelona to meet up with the Disney Magic, Disney’s wonderful cruise ship.
Are we mental? Yes, possibly, but this was a trip that I just couldn’t miss. Let me explain: the Disney Magic was Disney’s first cruise ship and is thought of especially fondly by everyone who loves Disney cruising (and Disney in general). The boys and I were lucky to cruise around the Mediterranean, visiting Villefranche in France, La Spezia, Civitavecchia and Naples in Italy, before returning to Barcelona (more of all these amazing shore adventures later). Shortly after this, the Magic was heading to Cadiz to undergo a complete transformation under Disney’s incredibly talented team of ‘Imagineers’ (I love this name).
The Disney Magic is 15 years old. FIFTEEN! But obviously you’d never know it because nothing has ever been allowed to get old – there are no bits of bare carpet or faded curtains aboard a Disney ship – everything is monitored very carefully and has been kept pristine over the years, but still, fashions change, technology moves on, and Disney Cruise Line felt that the Magic deserved a flashy new makeover!
While we were on board, as well as getting the chance to visit Monaco, Rome and Pompeii, we had a once in a lifetime chance to spend time with lovely Frank De Heer, basically the ‘Chief Imagineer’, but officially the Vice President of Disney Cruise Line Operations, and in charge of the Disney Magic’s incredible new look. We wandered corridors, looked at public areas, staterooms, restaurants and kids’ clubs, all the time listening to Frank telling us his grand plans for each area, getting all the insider info about how the ship is going to look, including exclusive peeks at the new designs. Here’s what I found out:
The Grand Atrium Lobby
This is the area where you first walk onto the ship (and where they introduce you and all the staff give you a round of applause, which always makes me cry). It’s going to be completely transformed into an elegant Art Deco wonder, inspired by the sea, with a gorgeous new chandelier, and opened out by losing one of the staircases, but the much-loved ‘Helmsman Mickey’ bronze statue will stay, receiving a buff and polish to give him back his shine!
The pool areas and upper decks
We’ll be waving goodbye to the lovely Mickey pool (sniff), but the whole area is going to be reimagined, with a Huey, Dewey and Louie theme. There’ll be a fabulous new ”AquaDunk’ slide, which will take up three storeys of the deck and extend 20 feet out over the edge of the ship (and yup, you guessed it, it’s transparent!), and for the tiddlers, there’ll be an interactive water playground with jets, fountains and bubbly things galore, oh and a smaller slide called the ‘Twist’n’Spout’ so they don’t miss out!
Here’s a sneaky peak at the new look ‘Aqua Lab’ (with kind permission of Disney Cruise Line):
One of the things I loved about the whole project to reimagine the Disney Magic was that there was a sense of not fixing what isn’t broken. The Animator’s Palate is one of my favourite places. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the black and white line drawings in the restaurant REALLY come alive at night, and it’s a huge favourite with the guests (the food is amazing), and so the place will stay the same, but with a bit of sprucing up: state of the art new high-def flat screens, new animation, and updated characters too, including Disney-Pixar favourites.
One place that is going to change is Parrot Cay, the restaurant that provides buffet dining for breakfast and lunch, then a full service experience in the evening. It’s going to be an AMAZING new, much bigger restaurant called Carioca’s (I’ve seen the pictures, oh my goodness), with a South American theme. In the evening, it’ll be like dining al fresco in Rio. It’s gorgeous, with softly lit windows and amazing lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
Other bars and restaurants are being reimagined, and there’s a whole newly designed adult entertainment district called After Hours. Ooh, and a new Irish pub and sports bar called O’Gills! Lastly but not least, my favourite restaurant, Palo, will receive its own sprinkle of pixie dust, with new stone floors and glass artwork in keeping with its Venetian theme.
The Kids’ Clubs
When we were on the Disney Dream, I was really impressed by the kids’ club spaces. The Disney Magic is going to take on a lot of those ideas, and more besides. As you know, Marvel have now joined the Disney family and Marvel’s Avengers Academy, where the kids get to train to be a super hero through special missions, looks set to be fabulous, including Captain America’s shield and IRON MAN’S SUIT!!!:
My favourite new space by far, though, is going to be ‘Andy’s Room’, featuring a huge version of Andy’s bed, complete with a Slinky Dog slide and an enormous Mr Potato Head and everyone’s favourite piggy, Hamm.
There will also be a new It’s a Small World Nursery for the youngest cruisers aged 3 months to 3 years, and Pixie Hollow for all the little fans of Tinker Bell (sadly, I’m too old) where there is a COSTUME CLOSET (be still my beating heart) shaped like Tinker Bell’s teapot house. The cuteness! It burns!
The already-gorgeous spa with incredible ocean views is being expanded and redesigned and will offer a special new Chill Spa especially for teenagers aged 13 to 17.
All the staterooms will be getting their own reimagineering too, with more space made available by clever imagineering like elevating the beds to provide storage underneath and obviously all-new soft furnishings and bathrooms.
All this work will be completed in Cadiz by October 10th and then in 2014 the Magic will be heading back to join the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy in Port Canaveral, Florida (the Disney Wonder home ports in Miami).
And what’s all this going to cost? I hear you cry?
‘Just enough‘, says Frank, with a twinkle in his eye, ‘and not a dime more‘.
7-night Disney Magic Mediterranean Cruise from £949 per adult and £699 per child. Virgin Holidays Cruises offers seven nights onboard Disney Magic from Barcelona, calling at Villefranche (for Nice, France), Pisa, Rome and Naples, including flights from London Gatwick and transfers. Prices are per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing an inside cabin on a full-board basis. Based on a departure on 30 August 2014. Offer is subject to availability and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change.
To book: Visit www.virginholidayscruises.co.uk, call 0844 573 4398 or visit one of our stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.
One of my favourite moments aboard the Disney Magic was when I had the amazing opportunity for a one to one masterclass with the Executive Chef of the fine dining restaurant, Palo. Here I am (below, with lovely Jamie the cameraman – he works on the X Factor you know) doing my piece to camera VERY BADLY. Palo was my favourite restaurant aboard the Disney Dream, so I was really excited to see how the Palo on the Magic stacked up. Luckily the experience was just as incredible, and, with the film crew (film coming soon!), I got to see how Chef made his famous seared tuna with a potato risotto.
The Chef’s version was obviously much more complicated, with shaved truffles, artichokes and a beautiful veal reduction. However, he did tell me how to cook the creamy potato risotto and the wonderful seared tuna:
Potato Risotto (serves 4)
1kg waxy potatoes
1 fat clove garlic, grated
500ml stock (chicken or fish is fine)
Dash of double cream
So firstly, peel all the potatoes and chop them into about 2 cm cubes. It’s a bit laborious but well worth the effort (as you can see, mine weren’t very uniform – I’m terribly sloppy in the kitchen – what would Chef say?). As you chop them, pop them into a bowl of salted water so they don’t discolour. Heat a large knob of butter in a large, heavy frying pan and fry the garlic for a minute or so, then add in the potatoes. Stir well to cover them in the garlicky butter, then pour in the stock.
Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and allow the potatoes to simmer very gently for about 15 minutes until just tender. Pour in a dash of double cream, stirring gently so you don’t break up the potatoes, and season to taste. Keep warm while you quickly sear the tuna.
Bring four decent sized tuna steaks, trimmed of any sinewy bits, to room temperature. Rub the tuna with a little oil and then season with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan until it’s really hot, then fry the tuna steaks so that they’re golden on the outside but still retaining some pinkness in the middle.
Serve immediately on the potato risotto. Drizzle with a little truffle oil if liked.
If you follow me on Facebook (if not, why not? We’re a lovely gang and have all sorts of waffly conversations), you’ll know that a while back, my chums at Disney offered me the most FABULOUS prize for you, my lovely readers: a 7 night holiday in a Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, complete with park tickets. I, of course, bit their arms off (not literally – you don’t bite Mickey, it’s just not done), but then, disappointingly, we couldn’t persuade anyone to offer flights (it’s the end of the financial year, times are tough, blah blah) so I faltered. I wondered if people would be disgruntled with a competition that wasn’t a WHOLE holiday as it didn’t include the flights. But people commented, in their droves, to say that it didn’t matter, that they’d definitely enter a competition. And hey, it’s a fabulous holiday, worth a ton of money. So here it is, in all its glory.
The prize (squee!)
Disney will provide one winner with a vacation package for four people for seven nights and eight days at Disney’s wonderful Art of Animation resort consisting of accommodation (one standard room for four people for seven nights), PLUS four 8-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper® option (EXCLUDING flights).
How do I enter? I hear you cry!
My favourite attraction at Walt Disney World is Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve always loved it. So just leave a comment and tell me: what’s the attraction you’ll be heading to first if you win this amazing prize?
(New commenters please note yours won’t show up until it’s been approved.)
For an extra chance to win, just comment and let me know that you’ve tweeted the phrase:
I’ve entered @EnglishMum’s Walt Disney World Florida holiday giveaway #visitMickeywithEnglishMum
The small print
There’s quite a lot of small print, I’ll admit, but hey, giving away a holiday is quite complicated, so I’d be really grateful if you have a read through and make sure you agree before entering. Ta muchly
- Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This competition is open to the residents of UK and Ireland. You must be over 18 years of age. The prizes offered are not transferable (and may not be sold, traded, transferred or refunded) or exchangeable for cash. The winner will be chosen at random.
- Items that are not included as part of the winning vacation package are: meals, hotel room service, laundry service, alcoholic beverages, merchandise/souvenirs etc, local and long distance telephone calls, tips, gratuities, service charges or taxes, all other charges and items not offered as the main prize, and the big one: FLIGHTS. Entrants must arrange their own air travel.
- The winners are responsible for arranging visas, travel insurance, transfers, etc.
- The competition ends at midnight on Saturday 6th April 2013. No entries received after this time will be considered.
- Winners will be asked to provide 3 dates when they can travel, but departure date and accommodations are subject to availability; certain restrictions and block-out dates may apply. Prize to be taken within a year, subject to availability.
- Disney, its parent, related, affiliated and subsidiary companies and their respective officers, directors, agents, employees and assigns shall be released and discharged from any and all legal claims, losses, injuries, demands, damages, actions, and/or causes of actions that arise out of and/or in any way related to the prize, the receipt, use and/or enjoyment of the prize and/or the promotion.
- Oh and lastly – don’t cheat! One entry plus one bonus Twitter entry per person The system picks up on duplicate entries
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER, CHOSEN BY AN ONLINE RANDOMISER, IS CAROLINE CAVANAGH – CONGRATULATIONS! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES – MORE COMPETITIONS VERY SOON XX
I do love a Minion. And the cheeky Minions of Despicable Me are soon to have their own ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
Planned for 2014, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem will mix videos, special effects and digital animation and whizz guests around Gru’s house (and secret super-villain laboratory) , encountering loads of elements of the movie on their way – you even get a special pair of 3D Minion goggles!!
If you’re lucky enough to be heading to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida before 19th May, check out the amazing floral art at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival where you’ll find Disney and DisneyPixar characters recreated as topiary displays as well as other themed flower and garden displays.
Staying with Disney news, the fabulous Disney Wonder cruise ship will be visiting Alaska from May this year through until September, departing from Vancouver. This is next on my absolutely must-do list, stopping at capital city, Juneau, as well as ‘Salmon Capital of the World’ Ketchican, where you can, wait for it, go on a Bering Sea crab fishermen’s tour aboard the Aleutian Ballad, made famous on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch! (Mr English will faint when he reads this). You can watch the fishermen haul crab pots and chat to them about their adventures. This cruise is worth it JUST FOR THAT!
Adventurer Ben Fogle has recently returned home from a trip to Sarawak, part of Malaysian Borneo where he met some of the local wildlife and made eight short films about the area. If you visit the Sarawak Tourism Board website you can find out more about this beautiful area. Here’s Ben visiting Gunung Gading National Park and visitng the world-famous giant “Rafflesia” flower up close:
Lastly, lovely Monarch are giving three lucky schools (pupils yrs 7- 9) the chance to win exclusive use of a Monarch aircraft on 24th April 2013, with a range of fun activities in the air and on the ground. Here’s Pixie to tell you more:
A surprising amount of people planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, and the surrounding areas often miss out by thinking that they can’t afford to stay in in a ‘proper’ Disney hotel. The luxury resort hotels are phenomenal – the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa springs instantly to mind, as does the eye-popping Animal Kingdom Lodge – but there’s a whole host of other Disney properties at all price ranges and to properly immerse yourself in the Disney experience, you can’t beat staying at a Disney resort hotel.
Disney have several ‘value’ options when it comes to accommodation, the newest of which is the Art of Animation Resort where I stayed at Christmas. The resort is HUGE, with giant characters dotted everywhere. It’s split into four main wings: there are three family suite wings: a Finding Nemo themed wing, a Cars-themed wing where we stayed, and a Lion King wing, plus there is also a wing with standard rooms, with a Little Mermaid theme.
The styling and attention to detail in all of these areas is frankly enough to take your breath away. We were drawn to the ENORMOUS Crush (whom I love, with a passion – don’t miss ‘Turtle Talk with Crush when you’re visiting Epcot – you can have a full-on chat with the cool surfer dude. It’s totally AWESOME, duuuuude!) and the Cars themed wing where we stayed had huge, lifesize Cars characters and a complete recreation of Radiator Springs. Mindblowing!
The staff are, as you’d expect from Disney, absolutely wonderful and go above and beyond the call of duty, especially with the little guests. We were late to meet up with the others on the trip one day as we were transfixed by one of the gardeners who was showing a group of children how to draw Disney characters with a brush and water on one of the baking hot sidewalks.
Inside the family suites, the incredible theming continues – there are two proper bathrooms, a kitchen area, a dining area that magically transforms into a pull-down double bed at night time, and another leather sofa, themed like the rear seat of a car, that also folds out into a double bed. It’s all such good quality, you’d never believe they call this a ‘value’ resort.
The reception area is absolutely fabulous, with different lights as you go down the row of desks, and iconic framed artist sketches of the characters on the walls, and the pool area is frankly magical, where you can actually hear the Disney tunes being played UNDER THE WATER!
My only negative, if you can call this a negative, is that personally, I wasn’t massively keen on the dining area, which is huge and a bit complicated to negotiate. Still, if you’re staying in the suites it’s far easier – and cheaper- to self cater and just pop in occasionally to treat yourself to breakfast (with nice coffee) before you head off to the parks.
There’s a fact box below with an example of pricing, but as always, if you’re planning a trip and need any help or advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch via my contact form. I’ll be able to help (or if I can’t, I’ll know someone who can!).
Seven nights in Orlando from £935pp
Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, accommodation at the 3V Disney’s Art of Animation Resort on a room only basis with car hire included. Price is based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures in March 2013.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport… Adults £20, Kids £12
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 100 stores located in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.
One of the things I love about Disney is that they never stop. There’s always something new and exciting in the pipeline (more of this later in the week) – their teams of designers (or ‘Imagineers’), work tirelessly to keep Disney fresh, new and exciting. At Christmas I was really lucky to be invited to the opening of New Fantasyland – a project that doubles the size of Fantasyland, an area of the Magic Kingdom beyond Cinderella Castle. There’s no party like a Disney party, and stars like Ginnifer Goodwin and Jordin Sparks were on hand to make it go with a bang.
The party was AMAZING – the food was incredible (check out the cupcakes!) and there was an actual, flying DRAGON. If you don’t believe me, check out the video here!
I adore the Magic Kingdom. I sometimes think the perception is that it’s more for the younger guests, but there are some real classics there that every visitor should do: The Haunted Mansion is just fabulous, and Pirates of the Caribbean is probably my favourite ride of all time, it’s just so atmospheric. And I don’t know anyone that doesn’t get off Big Thunder Mountain and want to go straight back on!
We also had the chance to check out the new attractions. As you’ll see from yesterday’s video, I absolutely loved Enchanted Tales with Belle. If you’re a fan of Beauty and the Beast, you’ll love it too. It’s a really lovely experience where guests get to act out a story with Belle, the Wardrobe and Lumiere (an absolute triumph of animatronic technology). The little girl that we saw was so entranced with Belle, her face was a picture. Wonderful. And yes, I cried again.
There’s also a lovely ride called Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid where guests get to ride in a clamshell and see lots of the characters from the Little Mermaid (including scary Ursula), and you can meet Ariel herself in Ariel’s Grotto too.
One of my very favourite rides, Dumbo, The Flying Elephant, has had a makeover and now there are DOUBLE DUMBOS: two rides, one going clockwise and one going anticlockwise, halving the waiting time! There’s also a fabulous big top where you can hang out and get involved in lots of circus activities while you wait your turn.
The Great Goofini is a lovely family coaster ride, and you can pose for photos with the Disney gang at Pete’s Silly Sideshow too – get up close and personal with Minnie Magnifique, The Great Goofini, Madame Daisy Fortuna (Daisy Duck) and The Astounding Donaldo too!
It’s not all about the rides, though, as one of the biggest parts of New Fantasyland is the fabulous Be Our Guest restaurant. We were completely overwhelmed by this beautiful restaurant, themed to look like the ballroom of Beast’s Castle (and it really does – right down to the chandeliers!) – you can even see the enchanted rose, floating magically in its glass case. During the day, this restaurant serves Disney’s trademark fast lunch service menu, but by night, it transforms into a full-service, reservations-required restaurant serving a French-themed menu and, unusually, as the Magic Kingdom is a ‘dry’ park, alcohol at dinner, bringing a much more grown-up feel to this beautiful setting. You can look out of the windows and watch the ‘snow’ as well, which is really quite magical.
Gaston’s Tavern is a more casual experience, but nonetheless beautifully themed and finished, with a roaring fire and an amazing antler chandelier. The food has been specially created for the tavern (it’s mostly snacky, but different – try the roasted pork shank – gnawed straight off the bone!) and there’s yummy LeFou’s brew to drink too. I think it’s a nice place to pop into after you’ve spent the afternoon tramping the park, to sit down with a pastry and a lovely hot chocolate.
The magic doesn’t stop here, though – the Princess Fairytale Hall will be opening this year – a lovely place where you can meet all your favourite Disney Princesses – and then next year, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will finally open – an amazingly clever musical coaster ride through the mine where the Imagineers are attempting to recreate the swinging motion of the individual buckets – and there are rumours of interacting with the dwarfs (Disney don’t say ‘dwarves’) too! I’ll just have to go back for another visit to find out, I guess!
I was having a conversation with my Disreputable Dad recently about crying. ‘Oh I well up all the time’, he said. ‘Watch out, it gets worse as you get older’.
This can’t be good, as I seem to cry plenty already. Just before Christmas, I was lucky enough to be invited to Florida for the grand opening of a brand new section of the Magic Kingdom: New Fantasyland. I seem to have spent most of this trip either choking back tears (happy tears, I’ll explain later) or wiping away proper big fat ones (again, all happy – there’s just no room for sadness at Disney World). But who can blame me – who WOULDN’T blub in a place where there are princesses (and a staff member who asks tiny princesses-for-a-day for their autographs), where you can get a hug off Mickey Mouse and there are fireworks with light shows and pyrotechnics that take your breath away. Add whizzy rides, Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, a kiss from Woody the Cowboy and… if you go at Christmas there is snow – REAL SNOW! – on Main Street… it’s no surprise that I was a wreck.
In fact, there’s SO much fun, and SO much stuff to tell you that I’ve decided to take the whole week to tell you all about it. Brace yourself. There’ll be roller coasters, Belle and the Beast, scrummy food, waterslides, motor boats, wonderful new themed hotels and loads of news of fabulous new Walt Disney World rides and attractions – secrets that I’m going to share only with you (shhh!).
To give you a little taster of what’s to come, here’s a video of my amazing New Fantasyland week. Make sure you keep popping back all week. WARNING: I might say ‘gorgeous’ and ‘fabulous’ quite a lot!:
So I’ve already told you about our marvellous trip to Disneyland Paris. I think one of the best things about it was spending a whole weekend just with one of my children (the other was rather happy to have some alone time with his Xbox AND without his little brother, don’t worry). The Death Wish Dude and I had an absolutely blast and really enjoyed each others’ company. And let’s face it, when they’re 14, the opportunities for ‘quality time’ are few and far between. We whizzed on rollercoasters, whooshed on rockets, oohed and ahhed at amazing sound and light shows and got all competitive zapping in Buzz’s Laser Blast, but more importantly we laughed. And laughed.
Here’s a gorgeous video that the lovely chaps at Disney made for us. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried buckets!
It’s been an odd weekend. First of all we watched ourselves on the telly (it’s a very weird experience, I can tell you). We took part in a Channel 5 programme being made about Disneyland Paris’ 20th birthday celebrations when were out there a couple of weeks ago – it aired yesterday. I actually managed to take a picture of the Death Wish Dude being interviewed – here he is in all his widescreen glory! Anyhoo, after all that excitement, it was straight on to the birthday cake challenge. As you might already know, it is the tradition at English Towers for the birthday boy to pick his very own choice of birthday cake. Usually they choose something hideously difficult to make (just to annoy me), but this time, the Birthday Death Wish Dude wanted nothing more than a big fat chocolate cake.
Easy peasy. The only difference is that I had a little experiment and tried making the ganache with coconut milk instead of double cream. It came out deliciously light and whipped beautifully. Highly recommended.
To make the Death Wish Dude’s Ultimate Coconut Ganache Chocolate Layer Cake, you’ll need:
175g butter (I use salted)
175g golden caster sugar
150g self raising flour
20g good quality cocoa powder
100g good quality dark chocolate
For the ganache:
400g tin coconut milk (I used the full fat stuff)
500g (yes, yes, I know… ) good quality dark chocolate
1 packet Maltesers
So firstly, melt the chocolate (you can do it all at the same time or in the two batches. It’s quite easy to pour the melted chocolate into the mixer bowl when it’s sat on the scale) in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Don’t let the water touch the bowl (yeah you know the drill).
Beat the butter in the food processor until light, then add the sugar and whizz again until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs (I beat them, then add them a dribble at a time – helps with the odd bits of dropped shell too), then stir in the sifted flour and cocoa. Finally, stir in the 100g melted chocolate.
Bake in two medium lined tins for about 20 minutes until just springy in the centre. Allow to cool.
For the ganache:
Warm the coconut milk in a saucepan – don’t allow it to boil, it only needs to be warm enough to melt the chocolate. Then just turn off the heat, plop all the chocolate in and stir occasionally until it’s all melted.
Transfer to a bowl and chill down completely in the fridge.
Carefully slice each cake into two. Pick a nice flat one as your top layer and remember which one it is!
Take the ganache out of the fridge and whip until light and fluffy (or you can just spread it).
Layer the cake slices with a thick spreading of ganache then finish with a nice layer of ganache all over the cake. If the thought of 500g of chocolate gives you a heart attack, you can halve the quantities and just layer the two cakes together.
Finish with Maltesers (beer can candles optional).
And here he is with his birthday cake of choice. Happy birthday, Charlie! xx
Well, the celebrations continue at Disneyland Paris (even though I’ve now left – fancy partying without me!) for the park’s 20th birthday. Yesterday, all sorts of famous faces (I spy Kym Marsh, super duper uber model Erin O’Conor and Lisa Maxwell) took part in a really lovely British celebrity tea party on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups ride in Fantasyland (one of my faves), complete with cute dainty sandwiches, cakes and chocolate dipped strawberries. Mickey and Minnie Mouse also joined the party, bringing an amazing 20th Anniversary tiered cake, magically created (in Scotland!) especially for the tea party:
The celebs also got to watch the new Disney Dreams show and the amazing the new parade that we saw last week too. Here they all are telling us all about it:
If you want more information about the 20th anniversary celebrations at Disneyland Paris, read all about my visit here.
The Death Wish Dude and I arrived at St Pancras (in sizzling sunshine – don’t you just love London when the sun’s out?) to board the Eurostar. We’d been invited to join the great and good of the world’s media to celebrate Disneyland Paris’ 20th anniversary and to get a sneaky preview at some of the new parades and shows especially created to mark this incredible birthday.
Disneyland Paris opened on 12th April 1992, adding Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002. It’s within easy walking distance of its very own Eurostar station and there are seven hotels located near the site too. It’s a real ‘one stop shop’ as far as entertainment goes, and we love it.
The Eurostar journey is another favourite of mine. I love being able to walk about, chat, eat and relax while being whizzed towards France. It’s such a relaxed journey. The Dude hadn’t experienced it as a foot passenger before and thoroughly enjoyed being fussed over by the Eurostar staff!
On arrival, we dumped our bags at the hotel (The Hotel New York, one of my favourites) and rushed straight to the park. I decided to give the Dude the same introduction to rollercoasters as I’d received myself back at Walt Disney World, the amazing Rock’n’Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith – one of the fastest rides of all the Disney parks and, so I’m told, with acceleration akin to that of a Formula One car. The dude was hooked and we headed straight back to the front for another go. This ended up setting the scene for most of our weekend – a veritable orgy of thrill rides, maximum velocity and loop the loops, with a lot of Disney magic thrown in!
I wanted to head over to the the Toy Story Playland at the Walt Disney Studios Park as it was just being opened the last time I was there. We weren’t disappointed. The Toy Story themed area is packed full of amazing rides – we loved the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, and the AMAZING RC Racer (don’t go on this one if you like the feeling of being dangled in mid air before rocketing backwards and forwards at very high speed – we loved it!). Carrying on the maximum velocity theme, we headed back over to the Disneyland Park (we weren’t very good at planning our route – too darn excited) for Discoveryland’s Space Mountain and Star Tours. Both with puke-making potential, but loved equally by the Dude.
We headed back to our lovely hotel for a dip in the pool (the outside bit was completely deserted and we swam and sunbathed – blissful) before heading back out to the park to enjoy a private dinner in the (now closed) Walt Disney Studios, catching up with a few of our favourite characters too. After a quick scream on the Tower of Terror with our favourite Disney Dave, we had several whizzes around Crush’s Coaster – another amazing indoor/outdoor thrill ride before retiring, somewhat giddily, for the night.
After a late start (another thing I love – breakfast served until 11am!) and mountains of pancakes and maple syrup later (you can’t visit a Disney resort without eating a pancake mountain or two), we headed straight for the Disneyland Park for a duel on one of my favourite Disney attractions, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast (for some reason it really tickles me that his French name is ‘Buzz L’Eclair’). I decided to share some of my favourite rides with the Dude: the wonderfully themed and bone-shakingly brilliant ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril’ coaster, and the beautiful, gentle and atmospheric classic, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.
Disney Magic on Parade!
Next it was time for the first showing of the brand new ‘Disney Magic on Parade’, a riot of colourful characters on amazing floats (I’m still singing the fab new music!) celebrating Disneyland Paris’ 20th birthday. I love Disney parades (I always have a little cry) and was ridiculously pleased to see that the Death Wish Dude was entranced as well. Look out for the Toy Story float (one of my favourites) and the lovely Rapunzel too. Watch out for the fabulous bumblebees floating around Winnie the Pooh.
On Saturday evening we were invited to the 20th anniversary celebration gala dinner. The venue was like nothing I’d ever seen before. We were led along a path lit by glowing orbs into a massive marquee (the word ‘marquee’ doesn’t really do it, but it’s the best I can do), lit by chandeliers and sparkling with glitter and glass:
I’m going to have to do a separate piece about the food because it was SO fantastic I can’t possibly elaborate enough here! We had our faces painted by amazingly talented artists, and were all given glow sticks while clouds of smoke billowed out into the venue from hidden smoke machines. The atmosphere was just incredible – here’s one for the family album:
After the gala dinner, we were led to the park (by a man in a suit with a giant balloon strapped to his back) past amazing street performers on stilts and in spectacular inflated and illuminated costumes, to the park, which was lit with a million lights and looked spectacular.
As we entered, all the cast members were lined up, waving huge glowing light sticks and calling out ‘bienvenues!’ and ‘bon anniversaire!’. It was absolutely magical and strangely emotional too. We listened to speeches by the CEO of Disneyland Paris and Zinedine Zidane before walking down Main Street USA with huge confetti cannons going off all around us, blasting little golden ’20′ letters into the sky which was awash with colour and sparkles.
Next up was the new sound and light spectacular that will be performed at Disneyland Paris from now on in the evenings (always check the schedule for timings). This show was SO amazing that we sat next to Jonathan Ross and didn’t look at him once. Yup, THAT amazing.
I can’t even begin to describe the show, but with the aid of clever lighting, the castle was transformed into jungle scenes, Notre Dame and even a huge waterfall. Images were somehow played on walls of water, and massive flame throwers whooshed into the sky. Just. Incredible.
After the amazing show, we were interviewed by Channel 5 (everything was so surreal this weekend, even THAT seemed normal). Here’s the Dude who was, apparently, a ‘natural’:
After a final day in the parks, whizzing around on Space Mountain, getting competitive on Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast and screaming our lungs out on the Tower of Terror, we headed, knackered, to the Eurostar station. What a thoroughly amazing weekend – I have to say it’s probably my favourite ever Disney visit, and that takes some beating.
A MASSIVE thank you to the very lovely and incredibly hard-working Disney team and a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Disneyland Paris too. For all the rest of the photos from this trip, go to my Facebook page: facebook.com/englishmumdotcom
During the 20th anniversary celebrations at Disneyland Park, prices for a two-night, three-day package including return travel with Eurostar in April 2012 start from £856 for a family of two adults and two children (aged 4-6 years). Price includes return travel with Eurostar, two nights’ accommodation at the Hotel Santa Fe and three day hopper tickets with unlimited access to the Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park and is based on two adults sharing.
For longer stays, Disneyland Paris is offering guests up to 40% off Disney Hotels and park tickets as well as kids under 7 visiting for free. For more info call 08448 008 111 or visit www.disneylandparis.com.
Waaay before we were good buddies, on our first trip to Disneyworld Florida, my fellow bloggers, the Disney 7 (well, the other 6), were most perplexed by the fact that any time anyone from Disney mentioned the ‘hidden Mickeys’ placed all around the resorts and parks, I dissolved into snorty cackling. It didn’t matter how much I tried. One mention of a mickey and that was it – my shoulders would shake… tears would spring into my eyes… It’s so much worse when nobody gets what you’re even laughing about.
The thing is, in Ireland a mickey is a… well, it’s a willy.
Hence, ‘searching for hidden mickeys’ brought a whole new mental picture to mind than gaily flouncing about trying to spot little mouse shapes.
Anyhoo, I digress.
Recently, I was the recipient of a very solemn phone call from school. Apparently the Death Wish Dude had been caught defacing another pupil’s book. Three of them were involved. The others being George (of George’s brownies fame) and another of the Dude’s buddies, a girl.
Reader, I was shocked.
He’s a silly bugger, but he’s a good kid. And I can’t imagine him doing anything malicious. I told this to the teacher. She agreed.
Apparently it wasn’t malicious at all:
The crime – this terrible crime that warranted a telephone call to his parents? He’d drawn a willy.
It was all I could do not to laugh. However, I solemnly accepted that this behaviour was not to be encouraged, and promised to give him a stern talking to.
I said to him: ‘you tit’.
Anyhoo, this incident has set in motion a willy-themed madness in the Dude and his mates, culminating in his whipping up a little present for them in the kitchen last night. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…
The willy cookie. Or ‘cockie’ as it became known on Twitter last night. Or for you Irish people, the ‘mickey bickie’ (thanks to Aoife for that one).
His father took one look at it and said ‘blimey. If that’s what he thinks they look like he’s not been paying enough attention in biology’.
So straight on with the Christmas Countdown, then… this time I’ve got some gorgeous, and distinctly grown-up gifts from Disney. The Imagination Winter range is a scrummy set of products to scent your home. And, even though I’m the biggest Disney fan EVER, there’s not a Mickey in sight. The candles and spray contain festive cinnamon bark, nutmeg and clove and I love that they should ‘transport you to a winter wonderland of enchanted pine forests lying under a blanket of snow ‘. Count me in!
And the verdict? Gorgeous. Even with the spices, the scent is not at all cloying or ‘Christmas puddingy’ – I’ve had the candle burning in the evenings for the last couple of nights and the fragrance is actually really light – almost herbal… I think the hint of orange helps here. The packaging is beautiful and would make a really lovely pressie, not just for a Disney fan either!
The range consists of mini candles (£10), a large candle in a glass (£12) and a scented room spray (£8). All are available from Disney Stores and via www.disneystore.co.uk
First things first, when I’d promised to take de brevren out to see Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, I’d forgotten that blimmin’ Kings of Leon were on at Slane. Practically every route had some kind of diversion or was absolutely jammed with Dublin buses, coaches and cars all headed for the gig. Arriving 5 minutes late, we actually headed into the 2D version instead of the 3D, so sadly I can’t tell you if the 3D photography was any good.
I’m a huge Disney fan, as you know, and a massive ‘Pirates’ fan to boot. I was, however, a bit nervous about this one, mostly because with Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom missing, I wondered if it was going to turn into the equivalent of Grease 2 or American Pie 3 – movies that just shouldn’t have been made. Happily, this honestly wasn’t the case.
What I adore about the ‘Pirates’ franchise is the enormity of it all – nobody does epic scenery, massive ships rolling upon broiling seas and lush desert islands quite like Jerry Bruckheimer. Johnny Depp brings his usual humour and quirkiness to the role of Jack Sparrow and Angelica, the ‘is she or isn’t she?’ daughter of Blackbeard played by Penelope Cruz, steps into the ‘love interest/feisty girly’ role really really well (although certain pronunciations did make us laugh a teeny bit). There was tons of chemistry between Angelica and Jack, even if the actual story of their past was a little murky.
Best bits? Well I don’t want to spoil it for you, but all I’ll say is look out for the mermaids – absolutely incredible. The French girl that plays Syrena, the mermaid they actually catch, is fabulous – the spark between her and missionary Philip Swift makes for a really nice bit of 0ff-plot interest. The swordfight between Barbosa and Jack in the unstable shipwreck is really cleverly done too. Ian McShane’s Blackbeard is a fabulously evil character (I’m always fascinated with their teeth – how do they get them so realistic-looking? Disgusting!).
All in all I’d say it’s every bit as good as the previous movies. Well worth battling through Slane traffic to go and see. The film is rated as 12A here in Ireland (presumably the same everywhere else but I know it’s not always the case). For parents of younger ones, though, I’d warn you that there are some bloody scary bits in (you’ll never look at Ariel the Little Mermaid in quite the same light), and several people took younger kids out crying. 9/10.
Okay, so in the hassle of moving, sorting the house out, the Bloggers on Tour messy weekend, etc. I totally forgot to do my end of month roundup.
Luckily, I’m my own boss and I decided not to fire myself. Instead, I give you ten things that I think are blimmin’ marvellous:
1. Kidstart’s fabulous new Save a Million campaign
My lovely, scrumptious friend, Liz Jarvis from LivingwithKids has told me all about Kidstart’s fabulous ‘Save a Million for UK kids‘ campaign. It’s such a great idea – anything that encourages us to think about ways we can save money to put aside for our kids’ futures gets my vote. It’s got tons of fab supporters like Sophie Raworth, Barnardo’s and Kiddicare (and me!) so why wait…
2. My Blankie
These are just gorgeous. They’re like little mini duvets – perfect for popping over your legs on a cold night, or as an extra layer on the bed. Ninja Cat of Death rather likes mine, but happily even though they’re down and feather, they’re machine washable. They come in fabulous colours too. More info here: http://www.blankie.ie/
3. My Photobox canvas
When Photobox contacted me and offered me one of their lovely canvas prints, I knew exactly which photo I’d choose. How lovely is this? Now I just need to decide where to put it (I can’t put my friends in the loo, now, can I?):
4. Samsung’s Christmas Range
Oopsy, rash use of the C word there, but seriously, I’d like the 3DTV, a Galaxy Wave, the robot vacuum cleaner, the gorgeous laptop and the microwave, please Santa! Feast your eyes HERE.
5. Superdrug’s new ‘wonder’ Optimum Apple Serum
Lauded as beauty’s Next Big Thing, I’ve been trying it for the last month and I have to say I’m impressed. Slathered on before bedtime (with moisturiser over the top if my skin’s extra dry), I really feel like my skin’s plumper, with less dry lines around my eyes. It’s a snip at £9.99, and even though I got a free one (thanks Superdrug!), when it’s finished, I’ll carry on buying it. It’s that good.
6. Simon’s Choice by Charlotte Castle
I was introduced to Charlotte Castle by my lovely friend Jane Alexander, who, as well as writing a fabulous blog: Diary of A Desperate Exmoor Woman, is an author who’s had a gazillion books published. For her to recommend I read Charlotte’s book, then, meant it must be good. A pre-production copy of Simon’s Choice was despatched to me, and I read it, start to finish in one bathtime, emerging, blue, freezing and somewhat tearful. It’s a beautiful, beautiful read about parents struggling to come to terms with their daughter’s terminal illness. It’s admittedly sad, but also uplifting. Grab yourself a copy now.
7. My hamper from Irish Gourmet…
…bought for me by my lovely friends before their weekend. Sadly it’s nearly all gone now, but highlights included gorgeous cupcakes, fudge, beautiful Irish cheeses, chutneys and jams.
8. Disney’s Gorgeous Princess and the Frog on Blu-Ray
I know I’m 40, but seriously, it’s really really cute, and surprisingly funny. It could well be a contender for #2 in my fave Disney movie of all time list (it’ll take a lot to knock Toy Story off the top spot though).
9. Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam on Nintendo DS
What? I love the styling bit – ooh, and the drumming!).
10. Bake with Compassion Week, 23rd – 31st October 2010.
Bake with Compassion is Compassion in World Farming’s national fundraiser to raise vital funds and spread awareness for higher farm animal welfare.
Factory hens are stuffed into battery cages up to 4 or 5 at a time, with less space than an A4 piece of paper to live in. Having had my own chickens (and planning to get some more next week!), I know that they love to flap and fuss and rootle around. It breaks my heart to hear of them suffering like this.
Happily, and mostly due to Compassion’s hard hitting ‘ban the battery cage’ campaign, legislation comes into force to make the production of battery eggs illegal from January 2012. Their Director of Food Business, Steve McIvor says:
“Our advice to consumers is to check the ingredients on shop bought cakes, biscuits and quiches, because without knowing, you could be buying products containing eggs from hens reared in cramped factory farm systems. Download our egg guide at bakewithcompassion.org to know what to look for.”
Holiday Extras’ new Travelling with a Baby guide. I’m already a huge fan of Holiday Extras after their fantastic effort during the Icelandic volcanic ash disruptions. Their CEO was posting travel updates every day on their website – a service that was invaluable to loads of people (including me) stranded all over the globe. If you’ve ever travelled with a baby (or are planning to), you’ll know what a flibbin’ nightmare it is. This guide is invaluable, so check out the website for tips on packing, choosing hotels, flying with a baby and much more. (Oh and if you’re a fan of green travel and want to make greener choices when travelling, I noticed that they do a Green Travel guide too).
…Nicky Howard’s adorable animal pictures. I saw them in an advert in the back of Country Living:
Have a look on the website and choose your favourite. I love this one, but oh, I love ‘Wendy’ too, and ‘Norma’…
Feeling very proud…
…of my ol’ muckers from Northern Ireland, the Ulster Weavers, who’ve just won the textile licence for the London 2012 Olympics and have already launched a limited edition tea towel for the two year countdown.
For the month of September, Ulster Weavers are giving away a waffle weave tea towel to anyone who spends £25 or more, plus FREE UK Delivery on all orders over £30.
And as an exclusive treat for you lovely lot, they’re offering a special 15% OFF for the whole of September for Englishmum.com readers who quote code: ENGMUM09 when ordering!
Watching the skies…
…for black balloons. My lovely mates at Disney have given me the heads up that they were at Bristol Balloon Fiesta (a hot-air balloon festival) recently with Mickey Mouse, where he launched a balloon race involving 5,000 balloons. Attached to each balloon is a ticket which, if found, can be redeemed for a special edition Mickey Mouse Campervan toy from Fisher Price! Keep your eyes peeled for those black balloons!
Oohing and ahhing…
…at the beautiful new Icklebabe.com website. Lovely Helen sent me some gorgeous little lavender hearts and a cute little egg cosy when I ordered my tea cosy too! And check out the retro aprons!)
Sparing a thought…
…for those children who don’t have a warm bed, happy fun-filled school holidays, the loving arms of a parent, the benefit of a safe home and financial security – all those things we wrap around our children. Put it Right is a five year initiative by UNICEF UK to galvanise us all into action to protect the rights of children everywhere. The haunting track is by Radiohead. Please watch, and give what you can.
I’m moving so I might be awol for a while, but I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, have a great September xx
… well, hopefully – with my fab new Reebok EasyTones – there’ll be buns of steel by Florida, mark my words..
…that I’m in with a chance to win – my lovely friend Lu at Family Affairs has the most fantastic competition running to win a £150 Lavish spa gift. Get entering right now!
… these amazing chocolate pizzas:
In celebration of the World Cup, the Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Company have produced a range of football themed chocolaty treats including these mini 3” ‘Football Fun’ pizzas, which can be customized with the colours of your favourite team, football-shaped chocolate balls and football themed chocolate lollies.
…that I could whisk the family away for a lovely holiday at Walt Disney World, Florida. If you’re lucky enough to have some spare cash, my lovely pals at Disney have given me the heads up on some great special offers. Book 5 or more nights in a Disney Hotel (Moderate or Deluxe) including park ticket and you’ll enjoy FREE Disney dining for the duration of your stay …
Click on the linky loos for more info. See how flibbin useful I am? Onwards to June, then…
So blimey, what a weekend! I hardly know where to begin. Brace yourself, this could be a bit of a big one (as the actress said to the bishop). A little while ago, the Hubby and I were invited to Paris for the launch of Disney’s New Generation Festival. Basically, Disney are introducing their newest generation of characters, from Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen from The Princess and The Frog, through to Stitch, Sulley and Mike Wazowski (and the adorable little Boo) from Monsters Inc, through to characters from Ratatouille and Buzz, Woody and Jessie, to join ‘old favourites’ such as Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Goofy, with new shows and attractions either starting on 2nd April or planned to roll out over 2010.
I’ll start, dearest reader, with the nice, calm trip into London. Speedily glossing over the screeching, panicking, suitcase hurling and fishwife-type swearing that featured heavily in our slightly late departure.
The wonderful Aude, Press Officer for Eurostar and the equally delicious and rather drop-dead gorgeous Alix from the Disney Team met us at St Pancras International and frankly, if they could have carried us onto our first class carriage on the Eurostar they would have done. Nothing was too much trouble. We had a lovely breakfast (cheese omelette, sausage, mushroom, tomato, yoghurt, fruit… you name it), and our peace was only mildly shattered by a very annoying man talking arse to his family the entire journey. Ah well.
Arriving at Marne La Vallée (the station is right next to the parks and a five minute walk to the Hotel New York, but they still bussed us in), we were met by the wondrous Disney Sarah – our own patient, sweet Mary Poppins from the bloggers’ trip to Florida and after hugs, kisses and a birthday card, we checked into our fabulous room and set off at a rather ungainly trot for the nearest park, which happened to be the Walt Disney Studios Park. By this time starving enough to gnaw our own fingers, we indulged in a burger the size of a child’s head (very nice, beautifully cooked beef and lovely fresh salad) and unwisely headed off to the nearest ride. The Rock’n’Roller Coaster nearly reacquainted us with our lunches, but we persevered and headed straight to the Armageddon Special Effects show, which started out with a really boring presentation (mostly in French), but ended with a fabulous special effects mock-up complete with flame throwers, water jets and falling scenery. I then forced Hubby to sit on Peter Pan’s flight (bit of a kiddy one, but I love it), where he did a full ‘London from the Air’ type commentary: ‘on your right, you’ll see The Tower of London…’
CELEB ALERT: We then sat next to Shane Richie and his family (who were very nice) in a specially cordoned off area (we felt well posh – it turned out later the pretty girl behind us was one of The Saturdays, but sadly I’m too old to recognise them) to watch the lovely Once Upon a Dream parade. This was also the part where I got told off by Hubby for going ‘ooh look, there’s Chris Evans!’ in a really loud voice (‘sit down! And stop bloody pointing!‘).
Then it was off to Café Mickey for dinner and drinks where we finally met up with fellow blogger Tara from Sticky Fingers and her lovely lad, plus a host of characters. Tigger brought me a lovely 40th birthday cake and I got all overemotional when he gave me a hug. Ooh, and DISNEY TIP: if you go to Disneyland Paris, do make sure you book (in advance – the queues are horrendous if not) at least one meal at Café Mickey. The waiters get up on the bar and dance. I nearly died laughing when they hauled Chip’n’Dale up there too for a shimmy. It was like a furry version of Coyote Ugly. We finished the evening in the hotel bar, drinking mojitos, and returned to our room to discover champagne on ice and fresh raspberry truffles. Blissful.
Plenty of free time today. We started with Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast (Hubby got all competitive when he realised the front of the ‘gondola’ contained a scoreboard), then queued up for Space Mountain Mission 2 (never, ever again). Onto a simulated Star Wars ride called Star Tours (which made us both regret being quite so greedy at breakfast – but oh, those croissants…).
After meeting the Disney chaps and the rest of the press pack for lunch, we headed back to the hotel for a little R&R: jacuzzi, swim, sauna and then a little snooze (we’re not as young as we once were y’know).
We ventured out later to watch the all-singing, all-dancing Disney Showtime Spectacular with all the new characters. It was really energetic and looking around, it was nice to see it wasn’t just the kids that were dancing and clapping (no, not Hubby – don’t be silly).
The evening saw the main event, a champagne reception to mark the official launch of Disney’s New Generation Festival. We enjoyed private access to the parks (which was really incredible), a fabulous buffet: sushi, little canapés in teeny glass bowls, little salads in globes and the layered strawberry desserts that you syringed straight up into your mouth – I was in heaven.
Leaving our lovely, champagne-toting waiters behind, we filtered over to a mahoosive stadium where we watched the New Generation Dedication Show. I can’t even tell you how bloody amazing this was. Highlights for me was the aerial ballet dancer supported only by balloons, and the incredible Toy Soldiers from Toy Story. Oh, and then there was Buzz whose shape-cutting frankly stole the show:
Later, we snuck another little mojito with the Disney peeps (who were having a brief five minutes before heading back out on celeb duty), and teased Disney Dave that we’d got him on video shmoozing and practicing his ‘princess moves’ with The Saturdays and Princess Tiana.
Sunday was a free day in the park and we took the opportunity to use our Fastpasses (a MUST – this isn’t even high season and some of the queues were 90 minute waits) to visit Big Thunder Mountain (fab), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (or I liked the French version: ‘le temple du peril’!) and several of the smaller attractions. A bit of retail therapy later, and it was onto a coach to travel into Paris to the Gare Du Nord (I saw the pointy top of the Eiffel Tower!), a fabulous dinner on the Eurostar (garlicy salmon on a bed of spinach and dauphinoise potatoes, far too much wine and some very funny conversation). By the time we’d legged it from St Pancras to Euston (we had 15 minutes to connect), we were absolutely burned out.
I still found myself singing ‘It’s a Small World After All’ on the train home though. Good Times.
Eurostar operates a daily direct service in each direction to Disneyland Resort Paris (daily direct services to the resort will no longer operate on Tuesdays and Saturday except during school holidays)
Fares are from £69 standard class return (adult) £44 return (child aged 4-11)
Children under 4 years-old travel free (not allocated a seat)
Leisure Select travel is from £146 return for an adult and £94 return for a child aged 4-11
Return through fares start from only £77 (St Albans, Luton etc)
2hrs 35 mins from London and 35 minutes less from Ashford, Kent
Tickets are available from eurostar.com or from Eurostar’s Contact Centre on 08432 186 186
So by the time you read this, I shall be winging my way to gay Paree to spend a fabulous, star-studded (what? Mickey’s a star), glamorous 40th birthday weekend courtesy of the lovely folks at Disney (yes yes, there’ll be the customary ‘this is what I had for dinner’ photos, don’t worry) checking out Disneyland Paris’ New Generation Festival.
This was supposed to be a ‘now I’m 40 I feel different because…‘ kind of post, but I wrote it and re-wrote it, and frankly, I couldn’t find anything different about being 40 than being 39 (I’ve only had a few hours to get used to it, to be fair). Okay, looking back on my 30 year old self or… god forbid… my 20 year old self – would I swap places? No. I’m probably happier in my – admittedly slightly less firm – own skin than I’ve ever been, but there’s nothing momentous I can tell you young whippersnappers about being 40, I’m afraid. Nope, nothing to see here, move along…
So here goes, then, with reasons why I’m probably likely to be exactly the same forever, whether I’m 40 or 70… In fact, I can feel a top ten coming on. Brace yourself:
1. I am still clumsy. I fall down a lot, set fire to things and drop things all the time. I’ve probably always been like it, but spectacular crashes aside (the walking down the stairs when the dog trod on the back of my slipper incident – henceforth known as slippergate – springs to mind), I don’t seem to hurt myself too badly. And boy, do I bruise like a peach.
2. I am still horribly unsociable. And yes, years ago I suppose I used to beat myself up about not wanting to go to parties, and my horror of being surrounded by drunken, sweaty people… But do you know what? I still feel exactly the same. The only difference is that now I don’t care. I embrace my inner solitary mad cat lady and go with the flow. I have lovely friends that I cherish, and who seem to love me for who I am, the nutters. So I shall continue to adore them back, and spend lots of time sitting on my sofa while other people go and do that sweaty, socialising stuff.
3. I am still a nerd. If I’m not cooking, then you’ll find me on Twitter, or I’ll be writing my blog and if I’m not doing that I’m gabbing to my mental bloggy mates on gmail and if I’m not doing that I’m probably on Facebook. I sit with my ‘fercuck’ glasses on and type faster than a greyhound with a hot bottom. I say things like STFU! and LOL! and do I care? Nooooo. I’m always saying to #1 that if anyone calls you a nerd, embrace it. Do you think Bill Gates gives a shit if people call him a nerd? Doubtful.
4. I still can’t take my drink. On Saturday night, we started with a cocktail, then went on to gin and tonic. I think I had two and was happy as larry. Cheap date? Yup. When we lived in Ireland I could always tell how much alcohol I had consumed by how unsteady my last walk around the garden with the dog was. We’re not talking 2 or 3 bottles here, we’re talking glasses. I’m a total lightweight.
5. I’m still completely in love with my children. In fact, I think I’m probably a better parent now they’re able to have a good, snorty, laugh-til-you cry silly conversation (at which I excel). I was actually a crap Mum when they were little – no patience for reading the same book ten times in one evening, and hopeless at painting and stuff. Still, they got to make loads of cakes. My happiest time is 3.30pm, when the door bangs open and there’s a rush of testosterone-fuelled, slightly muddy-smelling energy in my direction. Okay, so they ruffle my hair and go ‘alright, knob?’, but it’s with affection. No, really.
6. I still have the stupidest baby hair in the world. It’s like toddler hair – so soft that you can’t even put it up in a pony tail without the bloody thing falling out, slipping down the back of your t-shirt and ending up in your pants. I’ve stopped trying to control it now and go through life looking like a blonde Russell Brand.
7. Talking of toddler-ness, I still can’t help myself but go ‘oooh’ when faced with anything pink, sparkly or gorgeous smelling. It doesn’t matter if it’s lovely shimmery nail varnish, the edible glitter you put on cupcakes or one of those vaguely scary ladies in Debenhams offering to squirt you with perfume. I love it. Well, I love the perfume, not the scary ladies. In fact, I always get an urge to lick my finger and wipe it down their orange faces to see if it will leave a white mark. So far, I’ve resisted…
8. I still love baking. I love the mixing and the stirring and the lovely smells and the alchemy and the sheer pride of giving something delicious that you’ve lovingly created to someone that you adore. In fact, I love it so much, I’m going to teach an evening course at the local college this summer. A three week ‘Introduction to Cupcakes’ course. There’ll be sparkles too. It’s just how I roll.
9. I’m still married. Something of a miracle this one. Fifteen years and counting. He tolerates my unending, ‘shiny, happy’ optimism and I occasionally tell him off when he’s really grumpy. Apart from that, we rub along pretty well. The fact that pasta makes him gag, he doesn’t do creamy sauces, and can’t stand pork OR buttercream is another matter altogether.
10. I am still stupidly enthusiastic about stuff. I suppose this is in part due to my infernal, eternal optimism, but oh how I love having something to look forward to. Holiday, birthdays, Christmas… all come in for some serious list-making, planning, wishing, hoping and longing. Oh, and I still hunt in cupboards for my birthday presents. I can’t help it.
Anyhoo, I’ll see you on Sunday… à bientôt! xx
…and Toy Story 2, newly released in Disney Blu-ray
The first thing I’ll say that, as always with BluRay, the quality is AMAZING. We were constantly fascinated by the little details, like the weave on the skipping rope, and the shine on the floor – bits that we didn’t notice before. As a family, we love Toy Story (I think it’s our favourite Disney movie), and these new BluRays are worth the purchase just to watch the quality in HD. We also loved the sneaky peak at Toy Story 3!
Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are released on Disney Blu-ray on 8th March 2010. Toy Story 3 is out on general release on 18th June 2010.
So since we bought the two new pullets at the Mullagh Fair, Hubby’s new project, the Great English Towers Chicken Coop Extension, is going quite well. There’s been plenty of drilling and hammering (and swearing), but the finished item will double the size of their roosting/nesting space and hopefully stop Minnie, who was once the lowest in the pecking order and has now morphed into some sort of evil chicken bully, from pecking the new babies to death before they grow old enough to actually lay anything. As soon as Hubby can get ‘this f*cking bit to fit into that b*stard bloody thing there’, then the chooks will have plenty more room to manoevre.
Panini, the new little speckly one, who Mr Lovely thinks might be a Rhode Island Red after all, seems to escape pretty much unpecked, but poor Elvis, the slightly camp-looking Minorcan with the enormous flares (hence the gender dismorphic name) sadly gets the brunt of everyone’s aggression, rushing madly around cheeping and trying to avoid getting brain damage from continually being pecked on the head.
Talking of Mr Lovely, we went up to see their brand new ducks this morning only to find one dead. Poor Middle Lovely had only just put in a pond for them (he’s the teeniest, but most enthusiastic smallholder – it’s pigs next, apparently) and the one remaining duck was waddling about, quacking despondently. I know it’s part and parcel of this smallholding business, but I still felt quite sad. I tried not to cry in front of Mr Lovely though (I’m such a girl), as he and Hubby would never have let me forget it, the gits.
In other news, two more lubly pressies have arrived from the wonderful chaps at Disney (‘good grief’, said Hubby, ‘are you sure you’re not sleeping with anyone at Disney?’). First up was a new Blu-ray version of Monsters Inc. This caused muchas excitement as we’re all big fans, and last night a popcorn and Malteser-fest ensued whilst it got its inaugural viewing. I know I’m scathing about the Hubster’s big ugly monster telly that I’m not allowed to touch – not even to dust – not that I actually ever do dust anything, but still… anyhoo, you really could see every little strand of fur on Sully’s back with the combo of HD TV and Blu-ray disc. (Ooh, listen to me, I’m all technofabulous!)
My other pressie was a new Wii game called Toy Story Mania. Now me and the other Disney 7 girlies had a bloody ball on this ride at Walt Disney World. It changed even the mildest-mannered Dulwich Divorcee into a sharp-shooting, evil killer (‘die, m*therf*ckers, die!’). Happily, shoot ‘em up games are my lot’s absolute fave, and this one’s eye candy into the bargain (I love those little alien thingies – they’re soooo cute!). By the way, my #1 son just looked at this picture and said ‘Mum! You can’t put that on the blog, it says ‘great knob’!!’ Er no, that’s a J, darling.
Oh, and while Hubby’s been building and the kids have been happily killing aliens, I’ve been doing a bit of experimentation in the kitchen. Watch this space for a nice fruity teabread, coming soon!
Okay, so obviously as usual I have to maintain the mystique which means you don’t get to see ALL the shots (email me if you want any more), but I’ve picked out the best moments of our day for you to see. From the top, then:
Mable the Merc gets a pink moustache (thanks Moon!):
The boogie down the aisle (thanks to my adorable niece Lu for these pics). For some reason I seem to have ‘the claw’ with me again. And corr I could seriously ‘out’ some anonymous bloggers with these photos… you know who you are!!!:
The beautiful cake, forever to be known as the ’6am cake’, as that’s the time she finished making it on the day. ‘One day, the full story of that bloody cake will come out’, said Jen’s other half. Oh, do tell! But seriously, how gorgeous is it? God job, Jen, good job (and there’s that claw again):
Our first dance:
And here I am wearing my wedding present from Disney. I couldn’t persuade Hubby to wear his top hat mickey ears, sadly:
Well, it wouldn’t have been the perfect day without a little Disney magic, now would it:
So the lovely chaps at Disney have released information about their newest film and I have to say it looks amazing. I asked if I was allowed to post about it because you’re my lovely readers and you deserve a scoop, and got an answer in the affirmative, so have a look at this: Disney’s Alice (thank you muchly to the wonderful Sarah (I love you, Mary Poppins) and the techy guys at Disney for the code – I am living proof that a blogging nerd can still have absolutely NO clue about HTML):
Jay over at The Depp Effect will be delighted that The Mad Hatter is none other than Johnny himself:
And my boys were whooping when they saw the fantabulous Matt Lucas:
Alice also stars Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Crispin Glover, with Mia Wasikowska as Alice (not heard that name before). There’s also some fab people voicing animated characters, including my fave Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman, Paul Whitehouse and the wonderful Barbara Windsor.
I can’t wait for this – it’s directed by Tim Burton and I LOVED Edward Scissorhands and Charlie and the Chocolate factory – that slightly creepy ‘unreal’ feeling he gives his movies is just so unique.
Anyhoo, plenty of time as it’s not out until March 5 2010, in glorious Disney Digital 3D™. Oh, and can I also point out I’m writing this ‘cos I’m excited, not ‘cos Disney have given me any free stuff, ‘cos they haven’t, not this time anyway. So there.
- The Birthday Challenge: chocolate peanut butter cheesecake for Charlie April 17, 2014
- Edinburgh Festival – an insider’s guide April 16, 2014
- Disney Cruise Line’s amazing new ‘Frozen’ destinations for 2015 April 15, 2014
- In which we stuff our faces with burgers made of gelato at Prezzo April 12, 2014
- The one where I turn detective in my quest for cheaper mobile data bills while travelling April 10, 2014