Italia, one of my favourite places in the world


Ok, I haven’t been to many countries and maybe this is why Italy is always in my Top 5. Or maybe it is because it’s a fantastic place. The food, the climate, the lamdscape, the language, the History… It is all so familiar, it’s like being at home, but in a new place.

We went to Naples this time, the cheapest option for a last minute trip. We stayed in Hotel Marad in Torre del Greco. The hotel had a lovely terrace with views to the Vesuvio and the sea. 

It was warm, sunny and lovely. Here are some photos we took on the terrace at the end of a lovely day.

Getting ready for tomorrow


I didn’t realise it is Friday 13th until almost the end of the day. I was trying to justify why things weren’t going as smoothly as they should. Just excuses, it’s easier than say I’m exhausted, lost my focus, ran out of patience and can’t do a lot of things I am trying to do.

The girls’ party is tomorrow. It’s all sorted in my head, but truth is, I don’t know if I can put it all together in an hour. It’s how long we have in the hall before kids start arriving. And this is the UK, people do arrive on time. 

I’ve been working on everything individually, not thinking how things will look good together. I do have a rough sketch of how the main table should look like, just to help on the day. 

It will all be good, it will all be great, but I can’t wait for it to be over.

How can we be in May already?


It seemed not long ago that I read all the May the force be with you  / May the 4th be with your posts on Instagram. And this week they were all back. We are in May… goodness.

And with May comes the girls’ birthdays. Beatrice is turning 3 years old next week and Laura turns 6 at the end of the month. In between we have a birthday party that I am trying to organise. With the trip to Florida in April, I got timings wrong and everything got delayed. Nothing to panic about… yet. Not that things are under control, they are and they are not. Things are completely… messed up. Let’s say that there will be a party and kids will have fun, but the OCD mum here is kinda freaking out because, due to the lack of planning, it’s all a bit random. We have a theme, which is important, and it is Ariel-Mermaids (like… different styles)-under the sea. The designs are all mixed up, got some designs from Etsy, some from party websites, from Little Mermaid stuff and that is the typical kids birthday party. Because, let’s face it, kids are… random. Get a 5 years old to pick up her outfit and you will see. It will look great, but not always will match.

One of the reasons for the delay in planning (I’m not a quick executer, I must confess, so I need extra time) was that Laura couldn’t decide on the theme. Princesses,  fairies, My Little Pony – no! Equestria Girls, a spin off MLP – Rapunzel, Ariel… she set her mind (not quite) on Ariel/Mermaid just after we got back from Florida, so I couldn’t even check out what are the latest party stuff in the US. Not that the prices are better there, they were not, but they have more options. More physical options, as opposed to online stuff. Although I get everything online these days, there is a lot of shopping in the dark and getting something slightly different than I thought.

I’m also a bad planner… I did some research online (thanks Pinterest and all party blogs) and wanted to get and do everything! And started shopping for random stuff. Now I’m not even sure what I’ve got – most of them didn’t even arrive yet. Food-wise, there is very little I can do before next week. I mean, I don’t think I can bake a cake and leave it for a whole week, right?

One of the fun stuff about it all is sharing little things I do on Instagram. It makes it feel a bit more special for me. It’s just too much work and too much effort (and money) for just a 2 hour party for 20-something kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally worth it, they will be happy, but I feel like I need to share the behind the scenes with more people. I love how some of my friends give their opinion and help me along the way. My “comadre” (Beatrice’s godmother) is also my consultant – thanks to Whatsup – and provides me with instant feedback when needed. Not to mention that I have an “ear” (an eye, more likely) to listen to my insecurities, and and someone to tell me “it’s great!” or “maybe try this”.

Being at home is being great to get this party organised in the little time I’ve got – I would be pulling my hair off if I was on a full time job now. It is also very lonely, if it wasn’t for the online community. When hubby comes home, we talk about other things (I’m working for him too), and the girls are super excited about the party and I do welcome their feedback, but sometimes it’s not enough.

Mini wooden treasure chest that I spray painted in gold and Laura decorated with stickers. I have loads of washi tapes at home, so experimented with them – I don’t love how it looks with them on, but Laura does, so she wins.


The fun part: spray paint 30 mini chest in a few minutes.


It’s a bit of a messy job and I ended wearing gloves (not a big fan), but no far, my favourite part.


Little bracelets that will go in the mini chest… I was going to put each one together, but friends on Instagram voted to keep them in bags and let the kids do it at home. Got myself a few hours back here.


Ballon filler in training. We have a lot of balloons to blow, missy B, you better practice. (If I don’t give up the day before, which is what normally happens)


Our experience: Disney Water Parks


As part of our 5-day ticket to the Walt Disney Resorts, we also got 5 days worth of water parks (and other things, but we only took advantage of the water parks). Visiting water parks is something that we discovered last year, when we went to Lido de Jesolo in Italy. We loved it, the girls had so much fun and we actually enjoyed going with them on the rides (unlike me going on carrousels).

So we were quite happy to go to both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. I won’t go on too much about it, but comparing to the one in Italy (Aqualandia), the Disney water parks have some work to do. Aqualandia had so many attractions that Beatrice enjoyed, not silly baby rides, proper kid rides and the reason she was happy about it, was because many of them could be enjoyed by parent and child on the same floater. They had some really good rides, but also live shows. I was actually surprised that Disney water parks didn’t have anything “off water” for the kids. Well, it could have been water related, like the one in Aqualandia; it was Peter Pan’s story, but the actors were all divers and had some acrobatic dives in a pool hidden in Captain Hook’s ship. Anyhoo, enough about Aqualandia (a place we would definitely return if ever going back to that area) and on to Disney’s parks.

We had to change our plans slightly the morning we were visiting our first water park. We were supposed to start with Typhoon Lagoon on a Tuesday and go to Blizzard Beach Park on Friday or Saturday (I can’t remember bow), but after calling WDW customer service to try to book their umbrellas, we found out that Blizzard Beach was going to be closed for the weekend we planned to go, so we swapped them around. Ah, we couldn’t book the umbrellas on the phone, apparently you cannot do that on the day you are visiting the park (and they were all booked for the other days we wanted to go; you can still book on the day at the venue).

Blizzard Beach

We took longer than expected to get in because it was our first day at any of the Disney parks, so we had to queue to collect our cards. We then went to rent umbrellas, one of the last 8 available! I must say that because we didn’t have a clue of where to go, what to do or expect, we took our time to take action. Some families got there before, were already in line for the park and/or rentals, while we were looking for bathrooms, looking around, taking photos. Back to the umbrellas (they are called something else there): it cost $55 per set of 1 umbrella + 2 chairs + 2 lounge chairs. You will get a special arm band to go in and out these areas, although no one checks. There is a free option of chairs and umbrellas, but those are first come, first serve. Some of them are close to the rides and pools, so quite convenient. And there is a more private option, for bigger groups (and bigger budgets too). These are also located around the parks. Depending on the day you go (eg. mid week), all you need is to arrive early and go and find the free chairs; it’s much easier when is not your first day.

Two of the adults (bigger kids) rides – Summit Plummet and Slush Crusher – were closed “due to bad weather”; just a funny way they found to say they were shut for maintenance. We went to Blizzard Beach Water Park twice, with five days in between them and the rides were closed on both days. For some reason, we had the impression that this park was more child friendly and better for smaller kids like ours, which it is, but the second time we went, the girls didn’t enjoy as much.

There were a few rides that splashed water on their faces and they weren’t happy about that. One of these rides was the Teamboat Springs, were we went as a group – maximum 6 per raft, we were 8, so we split up and shared a raft with a few teenagers (funny kids). We got up there via the Chair Lift, which is slower than walking, but the girls thought it was fun.

On our first day, we took our own floaters, but we were told the kids couldn’t use them in the park. The ring ones, that is. They need to have the leg protection, so kids don’t go through them. Either that, or we have to use theirs… they have vests at different spots of the park, but if I can be honest, they were awful for Beatrice. The kid was trying to swim and the thing kept tipping her over because her legs were too light.

There is a toddler area (Tike’s Peak) that we spent some time with Beatrice. It was too simple for Laura, but Bea managed to have some fun. I got bored after a while, as I couldn’t do anything with other, other than just look. Most of the kids in the area were babies, under 1 is my guess.

Laura went to the Ski Patrol Training Camp, as there were a few activities that she could do. She said she liked it, but she didn’t want to go on the second day we went there.

We all went to the Cross Country Creek (there is something similar in the Typhoon Lagoon), which was also a way to go to some of the rides from our umbrella site. It’s a shallow stream, nice to relax or for the kids to have a swim. The wave pool was mild, but Beatrice didn’t enjoy it that much. Laura was ok with it the second time.

We (I?) didn’t go to many of the non-kids attractions, but the second day was easier – one of our friends wanted to relax, so he looked after the kids for us. 🙂 I went to the Downhill Double Dipper – the worst I’ve been in both parks; I was so scared that I couldn’t even scream. It’s not bad and for people who enjoy these steep falls, it’s pretty fun (very quick though). It didn’t help that a bunch of very big guys were screaming their lungs out, making it look worse than it was. I went to the Run-Off Rapids a few times. There are three toboggans, one is a closed tunnel, which is the “scary” one. Laura went to this one and screamed all the way down; she didn’t want to go again. She loved the other ones and went a few times. The swimming pool is quite deep though, so we were a bit worried, as she doesn’t know how to swim. I went in all three of them and the tunnel one is quite good – I was scared at first (don’t like not knowing what to expect) but then it was very good. I went a couple of times to the Snow Stormers, the zigzag ones. First time, I lost my grip, banged my head on the side and lost my sunglasses. After than I kinda got it and was ok. Also got some water in my nose, which wasn’t pleasant. I didn’t go to the Toboggan Racers, but the boys said it was cool.

Typhoon Lagoon

Although we found this slightly less child friendly than Blizzard Beach (for our kids’ age, that is), the girls managed to have a lot of fun… playing on the sand and on a small kiddy pool by the Crush ‘n Gusher ride. Beatrice tried to swim there, the life vest not letting her, and still she was happy and didn’t want to leave.

The rides are pretty much the same in both parks, changing the names and intensity. The Surf Pool is pretty cool, but the waves are quite strong for small kids. There are a couple of kiddy slides next to it (Bay Slides), but even these splashed too much for Bea. The Castaway Creek is exactly the same thing as the Cross Country Creek in BB. The girls had a bit of fun at the Ketchakiddee Creek, an area for smaller children. Gangplank Falls is the group raft – a very short ride compared to BB, but also very rough. A lot of banging, splashing, and the kids hated it. We were a bit like “is that it? all this queueing for this?”. We – the adults – went a few times on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, because the queues were small. We went on the double ones, as the single ride line was way longer. It’s quite fun (again, I was scared at first, but once I tried it, I was happy to go a few more times). Laura was too small for that one (there is limit of height). I didn’t go on the Humunga Kowabunga, but hubby did and said I would sh*t myself if I did. Keelhaul Falls was pretty smooth and Laura enjoyed it. Same for Mayday Falls and Storm Slides, although not as smooth… the pools were deep, so we were a bit worried, but she was alright. One different attraction was the Shark Reef. Although it was ok for Laura’s height, she freaked out very close to the start and left. I must say that after swimming in this tank (with a few sharks, rays and other fish), I think she would have hated it and would be scared. It was really good though and there is no limit of time to stay there. I do get a bit anxious under water and with snorkel + mask. (I’m basically a chicken, scared of almost everything). We didn’t go on the Mountain Trail… honestly going up the stairs holing floaters and rafts was already enough exercise for my poor legs.

Going during the week surely made a difference in terms of waiting for the rides. In some of them, the wait was 5 minutes, which was pretty good for us. Towards the end of the day the queues are also shorter, as people with smaller kids just left. We stayed until the very end, so managed to go to some of the rides a few times.

In both parks, the food was bad. It’s fast food, so can’t expect much. The boys had the turkey leg, which I found very salty. Overall I thought that the parks were dated and simple, but it was a nice break between the real Disney parks, the girls have fun, the sun and temperature were perfect and most of the rides were enjoyable. It was worth adding them to our tickets – but not sure if there are better water parks there, we didn’t even think about trying any other.

Here are some photos, but very few as we didn’t have a water proof camera with us.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.

The area where the umbrellas are located. There are a few of them around the park, but not many.


The private area where you have 6-8 chairs, a safe and a completely covered area. I also saw some people having food delivered to them, but not sure if it is exclusive to people renting that.



The map of Typhoon Lagoon. The circled area is where our umbrellas were located.


The three girls used these a few times, but not the most friendly of the life vests in my option.

Laura wearing her vest on our 3rd day of water park 2nd visit to Blizzard)


The wave pool in Typhoon Lagoon is much cooler than the one at Blizzard Beach Water Park.

Castaway Creek in Typhoon Lagoon is the same as the Cross Country Creek in Blizzard Beach park.


Our experience: SeaWorld


The day we visited SeaWorld was sunny and hot, really hot. I did a bit of the homework and checked what shows were available, their locations and times, to try and plan a bit more the day. It worked kinda ok, except that we arrived there a bit later than planned and ended up changing the order of the shows a little.

The park was incredibly empty park, especially comparing to Universal Studios, which we visited a couple of days before, and it made us wonder if it was all the bad publicity that they had received in the past months/years, or if it is just because there is not that much to see and do.

The shows that we went to were:

Pets Ahoy – a presentation with pets (cats, dogs, mice, geese, pigs…). Seemed so random at SeWorld, but the girls liked it.

Pets Ahoy, cute show. Apparently these are all animals that SeaWorld rescued.

One Ocean – that’s the “famous” killer whales presentation. 25 years ago, they made the whales do way more things than now. Also, there was no trainers swimming with the whales this time. There is also an opening presentation talking about SeaWorld’s work rescuing animals, how important it is to respect the environment, etc. (*I thought it was part of One Ocean, but it’s a different “show”, just at the same place and just before the whales one. It’s called Ocean Discovery and it only happened at 11am, right the time that we were there). All full of good intentions, but the kids got extremely bored and didn’t enjoy the show that much. Laura was actually pretty annoyed that we were in the “wet area” and not a single drop of water came to us. I tried to explain to her that the whole thing wasn’t right, that we shouldn’t make wild animals do these things, that whales should never live in a tiny tank, that they belong in the ocean, etc, but she couldn’t care less about the whole thing. She just wasn’t impressed at all. I’m hoping it is a good thing, that she understands that there is no fun in seeing poor whales obeying a bunch of people in uniforms like they were in a circus.

The Orca shows are much low key now, after all the incidents in the past with trainers, etc. Amazing creatures, but so sad to see them performing shows like they are… pets.

Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High – cute but a bit boring. Clyde and Seamore are two sea lions – from the size of it, I’m guessing they are like… teenagers? At the end, there was a giant one, who seemed VERY old. The kids didn’t enjoy it at all… they were more interested in eating popcorn than actually looking at what the poor sea lions were doing. Again, another tantrum from Laura for not being at the very front and getting wet.

Blue Horizons – we sat in the first row, Laura, Beatrice and I, so we could get proper wet. Unfortunately the view is not the best. Laura was really impressed with the show. Not so much with the dolphins – although she liked how agile and fast they were – but more with the acrobats. And of course, she was very pleased to get soaking wet. Beatrice hated and cried half way through and went to her father at the top.

Unlike the orca show, here the trainers interact a lot with the dolphins. It’s such a dynamic show and makes me feel guilty for loving it. Dolphins are adorable creatures and you can’t help but wish you could have one as a pet. Just wish, because it’s illegal (and wrong) to have one, ok? I saw very few in the wild; they are even better in their natural habitat!


Before the show, waiting and waiting. This hair is not wet from the sea water but from sweat. It was boiling hot and we were all sticky.


Changing positions, so I could protect them both from the splashes (they don’t like water on their faces, especially salty water)


Proper splashed, although I don’t think it’s possible to see how wet Laura’s tee was in this photo.


All wet – now from the show – and a bit happier after she changed clothes.

We missed all the animal talks and encounters, although we’ve seen the dolphins in the nursery and sharks and sting rays in a tank. Also, because we were so focussed on the shows, we missed some of the other attractions, such as the Antartica ride (40 min queues for the ride and 30 minutes non-ride), Turtle Trek, Wild Artic or Sky Tower. Nobody wanted to go to the roller coasters (although one of the boys went to Manta on his own). Both the other mum and I went to Journey to Atlantis, a water ride with a drop or two. They advertised it as you getting really wet, but it was no more than a few drops. The queue for this one was huge and so so slow… I think we were there for an hour.

The Dolphin Cove: we arrived there a few minutes too late and the food had finished. This was probably one of the encounters that we all felt sorry for missing. (I did feed and touch them 25 years ago, so I’m not THAT sorry).

The new roller coaster claims to be Orlando’s fastest, tallest and longest roller coaster. Have fun those who enjoy it; I’m not a roller coaster fan for nearly 10 years now.

We took the kids to Shamu Harbor and they finally started enjoying themselves for good. Until then, I had to listen to Laura moaning that “this trip is so boring, we only get to go where you want to go”. And we were thinking that we were planning a nice day for them… Finally it all changed at the kids area, and they went to the roller coaster a few times, a boat/slide thingy that both Laura and Beatrice loved, an elevator that drops and a few other rides. I went with Beatrice to other two baby-ish rides – a train and one of those “mad tea party” type of spinning cups, while the bigger girls went to the roller coaster, just because of height restrictions. Later we found out that they weren’t checking it at all. She ended up going to two other rides with height restrictions and nobody checked. There was little to no queues, which was brilliant.


The free fall elevator for kids. Check out Beatrice’s size on the thing.


Spinning round and round…


With a new friend at the choo-choo-train.


Spinning and going high up in the sky. That thing was tiny and really hard for an adult to squeeze in. Luckily I’m short, but the other couple… poor them.



Beatrice enjoying the rocking-spinning boat, she went at least 3 times.


The beautiful sunset at the end of a long and hot day!

So the day started bad, with three very moody and impatient girls, not happy about anything, but ended up brilliantly, with them having so much fun at the kids rides. Absolutely no need for the animal shows, which makes you wonder whether it is even worth going there again, considering that we didn’t even bother with the adults rides.

Our experience: Universal Studios


First time I went to Florida, Universal Studios didn’t even exist (I went in January 1990, it opened in June of that year), so I had no idea what to expect of this park. I read on a few blogs that Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures had very few things for small kids to do. Unfortunately I read those posts after getting the tickets. Anyhoo, having this info helped planned what to do there. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was getting ill the night before going to the park. My theory is that I overate and ate the wrong stuff (which I’m not used to), so I spent the whole night in the bathroom and the following day I was miserable. But, hey, it was our first park and we were all excited, so let’s just pretend that nothing happened.

We started with Islands of Adventure, just because… we had a look at the map and saw that half of the park wasn’t worth even exploring with them because they couldn’t do anything. We went right, starting with Seuss Landing.

The Dr. Seuss area seemed to be designed for small kids but even some of the silly rides won’t take small children like Beatrice (minimum height: 40″). While Mr. C took Laura on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, I went with Beatrice to the Caro-Seuss-El (carroussel in normal spelling). She loved it and wanted to go again and again. We also went to If I Ran A Zoo, which is a play area for very small children. She was ok there, but I got bored. We didn’t go to a couple of others, that seemed nice (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat) because the queues were really long.

From there, we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Again, nothing much that we could do and we got stuck in a discussion of what to do: explore the area or get on the train to “London”, which took us to Universal Studios. We couldn’t decide and because the train was going out in 15 minutes, we decided to go. The kids didn’t have a clue who Happy Potter was, so it would have been fun for us, not them. Two attractions I wanted to go, though: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippograph (which was ok for kids 36″ or above, which I think is good for Beatrice). The Hogwarts Express was fund for them. Laura’s friend got scared, because it is loud and dark, but overall it was good fun for all of us. Laura got annoyed that we were back in London. 🙂

At Universal Studios we did very little. The queues were massive and it took us way too long to get anywhere. Our first stop was the Kang & Kodo’s Twirl ‘n Hurl, a bit boring for me (and I was sick of going round and round), but the girls seemed ok with it. We looked at the Simpsons Ride, but the wait was too long and I overheard a couple of girls saying it wasn’t worth for the wait. From there we managed to miss the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and went to see Shrek 4D instead, with a 50 minute long queue. It was good fun but again, the girls were sitting on the parents lap and were scared in some parts. The wait for the Despicable Me ride, just across the road from Shrek, was over 95 minute long. We weren’t in the mood for massive queues and, by the time left the Shrek experience, it was pissing down with rain. The boys wanted to go on the Rip Ride Rock It ride but it closed due to bad weather. So by then we were ready to leave and go home. Not without taking some pics with Scooby and friends – they were really nice.

In summary:

I feel like I can rate this one. It seems like a good park for older kids, teenagers and even adults, but when you have small kids that have absolutely zero patience for queues, it is not great. And because I was poorly, I wasn’t in the mood for walking a lot, I didn’t want to eat much (although was feeling weak) and all I wanted was to sleep.

The parks were packed. Also, the fact that you have two parks in one, one day is not enough to see the best things. There were plenty of interesting things to do, but not enough time.

I won’t go back there until Beatrice is big enough for most of the rides.

Meeting the Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2


Laura was in a bad mood here and didn’t want to pose for pictures


We met Scooby & friends just before getting to Shrek 4D experience and before it started pouring down with rain


The view to London, from the Simpsons ride


More of London


And we’re back!


It’s been almost a week since we returned from holidays, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I managed to unpack our last luggage and wash the last holidays clothes.

The holidays were great and intense, we got back exhausted and suffering from mild jet-lag and the girls are nearly fully recovered. Going back to the routine was (is being) a bit harder than anticipated, because we had a few changes just after the holidays. To start with, Laura doesn’t go to breakfast club or after school club anymore, so we are getting used to different things in the morning and afternoon. Anyway, we will get there soon.

I am in the process of going through all the photos and sorting what to publish or not, so soon a bunch of Disney/Florida related posts. In the meantime, this is just to leave main details of our trip, even if for my future reference (I tend to forget where I went, what I did, where I stayed…).

We had a quick stop as our flight was to and from Miami. Orlando was way too expensive!! We booked the flight via an agency called, after a good research. It was expensive but the cheapest option for the dates we wanted. Note to self: Easter break is a very expensive time to fly around Europe and USA because it’s spring break and everyone is on holidays.

Our flight was British Airways, flown by American Airlines. With all due respect to the Americans and all the great things they have, airlines are not one of them. American Airlines suck big time and I don’t think it will ever change. Three days before flying, the agency contacted us saying that the airline (BA) had cancelled our flight and we – passengers – had to contact them to sort it out. So we booked with an agency, the airline kicks us out of the flight and it is our problem. Good. Mr. C was on one line with BA and I was on another with the agency. BA saying it was the agency’s fault (for not reissuing another eticket, when the flight time was changed in December), the agency saying that it was BA’s fault, because they did everything they had to. The agency had indeed sent us a new etickets, which we told BA and of course, BA realised that somebody their end screwed up. And this is where AA comes to play. American Airlines simply cancelled the flight and didn’t tell anybody or tried to sort the problem. An hour later, lots of panic, several private messages with BA on Twitter, hubby on hold on the phone, BA finally put us on another flight, two hours later. At least we were going. The agency told us that we could ask for compensation at the airport, but at the time we didn’t understand what they meant. At the airport, finally the penny dropped. American had “cancelled” several flights (overbooked them and had to kick passengers out of the flights) and was giving $800 for those who volunteered to go on a different flight. The thing is: they didn’t tell us that – they acted like it was all normal and let’s move on. When we asked them about the $800 compensation (there was a paper on the check in desk), the lady then told us to go to customer service and ask about it. We were tired, late to go through security but we decided not to go until this was sorted. So now we are the “happy” owners of $800 voucher to spend on a trip flying American Airlines. Yay…

In Miami, we stayed in a one bedroom flat in Mare Azur by Grand Bay as we arrived late and didn’t want to drive to Orlando on the same day. The apartment was really good, spacious (now this is something I am so jealous of the Americans: space), well equipped, great view, free wifi and, although not by the beach, it was 20 min drive to one. Parking is available at $15/day.

Speaking of parking, the car we rented had to be upgraded due to the amount of luggages (and people) we had. We rented via but the provider was Alamo. The car was really good (it was almost like climbing a hill to get to it, but I’m short, my bad) but consumed a lot of petrol. Luckily, big cars are common in the US and it was easy to park it everywhere. Something like that in the UK wouldn’t even get through some roads.

I need one of those! Washing machine and tumble dryer occupying minimum space.


Swimming pool at Mare Azur. We didn’t use it, but the water was nice and warm.


The “little” kitchen that had it all. The microwave is huge compare to ours. The fridge/freezer too.


The view of our flat in Miami (Mare Azur)

The view… I could get used to that every morning.


Flat in Mare Azur (living room)

There was a king size bed in the bedroom and a sofa-bed in the living room.


Car in Florida

Our car during our holidays


She was very comfy at the back (3rd row)

Our accommodation in Kissimmee was great too. We rented a four-bedroom house with private swimming pool that we only used one day. The house was just next door to Medieval Times, but we didn’t go to this one. The house was arranged by a friend Luciana Misura, who is a Disney travel agent in the US (she is Brazilian, but fluent in English) and sorted out most of our trip. She didn’t charge anything to suggest an itinerary, book the tickets and the house, and it was really good to go via her as her suggestions about busiest park days, etc, were spot on. She also booked the character lunches at Hollywood Studios and Epcot Centre for us, but we were late to decide what to do and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was full for the days we were there.

We had a minor incident with the house and the emergency numbers – one of the bedrooms door was locked from the inside and the couple that was sleeping there couldn’t get in. All their things, money, Disney passes, clothes, etc, were in there, so it wasn’t like they could leave it to the next day. We called the emergency number but they didn’t show up at all – we saw a missed called at 11am and we guess it was from them. In the end, we had to go to Walmart to get some tools to open the room. This was in the evening and we had a late night because of that. All sorted though and the agency was actually good at sorting other things for us, like getting a toaster and a frying pan that we didn’t have, and – oh dear, I see a pattern here – unlock the main door that we managed to lock from the inside. The later was easier to sort, because we were ready to go to the parks and had all our stuff (except for the other family’s Disney card) with us. When we returned home, it was all sorted for us. So, despite the issue we had, I do recommend the place (Bella Vida Resort) and would stay there again. I must say that we didn’t use any of their facilities, like common swimming pool, gym, etc.

Our private pool, protected by net. Now this was something that surprised me – all the houses that we saw had this net at the back. I though it was to keep alligators away, but it’s just for insects. 🙂


By night


The kitchen-living area. Did I mention that I could easily live here?


From the kitchen…. 

Don’t forget:

Travel insurance – this is a must. The prices will depend on what you choose and the cover. We mainly took for medical costs. We used Insure and go, but I can’t really recommend it or not.

ESTA visa if you are British – British citizen don’t need to apply for visas to enter in the US, but they need to have a valid ESTA. It costs $14 per person (including kids) and you will need to apply at least 72 hours before your trip. Once you have it, it’s valid for a couple of years.

Living the Disney dream


And we have finally made it as a family! We are in Orlando for our first Disney holidays. It’s my second, but first time I was here was 25 years ago, a LOT has changed (for good and bad).

It’s early days to give any in depth review of our experience and the best is still to come. So far, things worth mentioning are:

1. The weather is amazing here. But my kids are too British now and they can’t cope with 30 degrees. They are melting!! I’m as happy as Larry and I couldn’t ask for more. The sun is quite strong though and hard to spend 8 hours under it, so cloudy (but warm, hear that UK?) is welcome and good.

2. Everything is big as it was and as it will always be. Big cars, big fridges, big houses, big packages of everything in the supermarket. Some are good things, some unnecessary. 

3. The kids… Oh, kids… Goodness, kids!!! Where have I gone so wrong??? Are they broken???? For crying out loud, we are on holidays, destination chosen for them and yet, it’s 70% complain, 15% indifference and 15% hapinness. 0% gratitude. Nothing is good, unless you shove ice cream and crisps. Nothing against treats during holidays, but the thing I’ve noticed is that they are not happy because of the experience, but because of the crisps and ice cream. Basically, if we stay at home eatingg ice cream or go to Disney without ice cream, the house wins. By far.

4. On the other hand, when they like something, they REALLY like it. And that’s why water parks are a winner for us. They love them and we live them! They also loved some of the rides at Universal Studios and Sea World and the meet and greet with characters (but can’t stand the queues).

5. Staying in self catering house has lots of pros and cons. I think it was a good choice for us, given the price we are paying, the duration of the trip and the location. If we were staying just a week and only going to Disney, I would probably have trying to stay at one of their resorts. 

6. We are struggling to find the best way to handle our days… They are far too long for the girls and by the end of it, they are ready to kill each other and exploding for no reason. It is very stressful for them and we even tried to cut a day short once, only to get stuck in traffic and end up at home at the same time as we would if we waited another hour or so. Maybe they will get used to it (she hopes).

7. I have problems with the military planning for Disney/Orlando trips I’ve read on blogs; the  lack of spontaneity of these trips drive me crazy, but you know what? It’s needed. This is not your usual holidays, this is a boot camp! It is an military operation to have fun. You have to know, plan, book, reserve, arrange, write down, download, learn, read, call, act upon… Want a relaxing holidays to wind down from a stressful period at work? This is NOT your destination, unless you go every year and are not bother about seeing much. We decided to take the approach of seeing one of two things and whatever comes extra is a bonus.

8. If you are not used to eating the food, don’t over eat it. I think I did (or maybe it was something I ate) and was in really bad shape: a whole night awake putting a week’s worth of meals out. And the next day had to find strength to go to Universal Studios. Not fun. I learned my lesson the hard way (unless it was something specific I ate).

9. So far, prices are very comparable to the UK. Some few stuff might be cheaper, but we haven’t seen that many items worth our dollars.

10. Being online in a trip like this is proving very hard to me. Wifi in all the park, but I need to look after the kids, enjoy the shows, etc. And now it’s 11pm, I’m dead and having a hard time to write this post. 

(Photos in a strange order)


Our car: the average size here


Our house in Kissimmee


our bedroom (very messy!) with a closet – live that all have this mini closet


My very first trip to a Whole Food Market


Our private pool, by night


our private pool, by day


Where do the hours go?


It’s been nearly a month since I stopped working and I’m still having mixed feelings. If on one hand I am loving being able to go to my daughter’s school in the middle of the morning to watch her dancing for Sports Relief, or go to talks about math, or spend some time clearing accumulated mess around the house, on the other I am not enjoying the lack of structure, rigid plans and sense of being productive.

Mondays, for example, are the days to tidy up and clean the house from the weekend with family at home. This is what I’ve done today. I am also sorting last details for our trip to Florida – basically printing whatever important document we need to take with us, putting everything in a folder so we have everything easy to access, etc. And I started packing; 75% done, I would say. I am also looking at venues for the girls’ joint birthday party – calling venues, checking costs and availability. I called and wrote to a few, but no success so far. I also washed and dried clothes, twice. And now the day is gone. Just like that.

While some people would say it was quite a productive day, for me it wasn’t much really. I read the posts I wrote a few weeks back and the sentiment is the same of not being productive, of feeling I’m not doing enough. The main difference is that I am not killing myself now. I can do stuff during the week, so I don’t have to freak out on the weekends. I am yet to come to terms with this new life; I’m yet to stop judging myself and realise that this new life is a good life, not a waste of time. Taking it easy is not a bad thing, is it? If I wasn’t happy before, I am doing the right thing and trying to slow down. Am I? So why doesn’t it feel good?

The main objective was to take March off, to recover from all the years of sleepless nights, all the anxiety, all the stress, all the manic routine. Yet, I didn’t take one single nap during the day since I stopped working. This is the one thing I was missing the most since I had children: being able to take a nap after lunch on the weekends. I can now, during the week. But I feel like I’m being watched (by whom? God?) and being judged for wasting precious time that I could have been… working? cleaning? cooking?

I won’t lie. I had so many plans for this period: learn another language, another skill, exercise, sort all the mess around the house, meet all my friends that are not working or are working from home, talk to people, stop shopping online and go to the supermarket. I have done very little of those and I have no energy to. I could blame it on the weather (and I partially will), I just can’t get myself to get out of the house. I can’t. Too cold, too grey outside. Inside is so much nicer.

We will soon be off on holidays and when I’m back I will have to have my life sorted out, even if just planning the routine. Either that, or I will soon start looking for a job.


Planning holidays and trips


I love going on holidays, but don’t like planning the trips at all. I don’t mind to research bit, read about places and choose the destination, but find it all very complicated to check logistics, compare prices, check offers, select accommodation. Especially because these days there are so many options that we can just spend several days looking and checking and looking again. Then you read the reviews and some are useful, some add even more confusion to our heads.

Holidays with kids can be pretty simple in a way: select a beach destination, find a accommodation with a swimming pool and that’s it. In theory, at least. This year we decided to change the strategy – but not much – and go to Disneyworld in Florida. We honestly thought it was just a matter of booking flights, finding accommodation, getting the tickets to the parks and that was it. I went to Disneyworld more than 25 years ago, in January, way before this climate change thing messed up the whole holiday planning. January was nice and warm, fresh I would say. There were queues, but nothing bizarre. We could see, do and go to most of the things we wanted, without too much hassle.

Now it seems like we are going to war, with so many strategies behind every move. You need to plan the days you should go to each park, as some are less busy than others, plan all the activities beforehand, so you don’t waste time in unnecessary queues, plan the meals, restaurantes, meet and greets. There is an app to help you with it. There are billions of blogs giving detailed information and planning tips. You have to book things in advance – sometimes 6 months ahead!, you need to have an idea of what attractions you want to go to. Of course, no one forces you, but without this careful planning, your trip can be ruined.

We are actually using the service of a travel agent to organize the trip. We booked the flights, the car and the insurance and she has sorted the accommodation and the itinerary + park tickets for us. She also has a very comprehensive blog (in Portuguese) about travel, including lots and lots of information on Disney, and has been several times to Orlando, with and without kids. So we are kind of taking her lead. Even small things like “this particular attraction might not be great for young kids”, despite me really wanting to go, is taking into account. The trip is for the kids and adults have a way around it (using single rider and child swap queue schemes, for example, that I only got to know about this week, reading her blog).

I will confess that after this whole experience, I would like to go again, another time, when it is less busy, for shorter period and maybe to stay in the park resorts. Or maybe not, maybe Disney will be ticked from our list for a few years, until they are old enough to go to every single ride and be able to walk for 10-12 hours without wanting us to carry them.

More to come on this trip soon.