Ratatouille is one of our favourite films. For some reason it’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition – we adore Rémy, and feisty Colette is so fab – I always get a bit teary when she falls in love with Linguini (I know – I cry at everything)…
New Fantasyland is fast becoming one of my favourite places at the Magic Kingdom. Last time I was there it was for the official opening, and last week, I was over in Florida again for the official press event to celebrate the imminent opening of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We were lucky enough to get exclusive access to the ride during a fabulous party at Epcot (there’s NO party like a Disney party!) where we hung out with the likes of Elsa, Anna and Olaf!
So if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (and frankly, why wouldn’t you? There’s cake, beaches, ships and the lunatic whippet of mass destruction makes the odd appearance too), you’ll know that I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, Florida. I have loads to tell you – there’s news of the opening of the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a review of the frankly beautiful Disney’s Wilderness Lodge resort, and masses of food, fun and breaking Disney news (Avatar!!).
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.
Oh, it’s a tough question. I’m not sure that I could ever choose my favourite Walt Disney World resort. I’ve often said that it’s gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge as I love the African styling, and the fact that you can see giraffes wandering outside your window. But then there’s the glorious Grand Floridian, and the quite incredible Contemporary Resort, and oh, 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 Brittany 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.
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.
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
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