Tagged: vacation

Back to life… back to infertility

(Or: Maybe it’s easier not to have hopes and dreams, but we do.)

(Title to the tune of Back to Life)

The eagle eyed among you will have noticed I’ve been on holiday. In total I was away from work for three weeks. I had the operation (fibroid removal) and was off for a week, and then we popped off to the good ol’ US of A for our two week holiday. An escape from reality. An escape to the place where every day is happy – and it was. That holiday was what we promised ourselves we would do if our first round of IVF didn’t work out.

It did work out… and then it didn’t.

(I’m writing this with patchy internet connection so can’t easily post links, but I have lots and lots of ramblings on various related subjects that will provide some context – if you click on the links to the top or at the side… or if you just want pictures of food then click on my holiday blog – just scroll back a couple of posts!)

I had a miscarriage in July and it was one of the worst moments of my life. All that hoping, wishing, waiting – gone. Hopes dashed. Little heartbeat, gone. No-longer-an-aunt-but-finally-a-mum, gone. (Back to making success through work – a goal that’s bound to lead to disappointment.)

And the worst of it is that after around 15 years of infertility, or pretty much all my adult life suspecting or slowly coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t just a suspicion, I really was infertile, and then the trauma of a failed relationship – it’s not like I had hope in the first place. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up.

What happened after that – getting out of a long long term relationship, and finally finding someone who really wanted to have kids just like I did – getting an appointment to put a name to this fact of not having kids, and realising that what I was was infertile (I never really called myself that until recently; I just didn’t have kids… I was just Not A Mother… I had no words) – the best and worst of that is that it gave me hope.

Adoption, infertility and hope

I liken this to some of the mushed up feelings I have about adoption. I think I’ve never longed to meet my first family in the same way as some adoptees do. I don’t think about it a lot, because it never seemed like an option for me. I came from another time, a time when being unmarried was a good enough reason not to keep a baby. I came from another country, a country whose language I don’t speak. I look different but so much of my growing up narrative was about being almost-the-same-just-looking-different so I never really tried to keep a hold of my birth culture. 

It’s National Adoption Month this month. There are many adoptees online speaking out against the celebratory tone of it, wanting to #flipthescript. In England, where I am… They’re quiet. We aren’t really like that in England. (We ethnics know our place. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t mention boats. Just be as British as you possibly can and hope they don’t notice your hair or your tan.)

I came from the idea that babies were tabula rasae, blank slates. Sure, I might look a bit different and all, but it’s not like I ever had the chance to grow up or learn or be attached to my birth culture. I think in most people’s eyes (my friends and family) my [other adopted] sibling and I are “basically white” and/or “colour doesn’t matter”. I’m sort of torn between the whole yes it does bloody matter… you don’t see it because you’ve never had to! and a kind of British horror at all the anger and pain that’s displayed on some of the adoptee groups and postings. I can’t relate to that kind of anger, but then my original birth certificate isn’t denied to me, and my citizenship was all done and dusted thirty-odd years ago. 

Unless the British National Party (a racist white supremacy group with political aspirations) stops being a laughing stock and gets into power, I am not about to be sent home to my country of birth (a country I don’t know or speak the language of) any time soon. So yeah, they are angry, and rightly so. My ambivalence is no reflection on those whose basic human rights are denied, and who as adoptees have fewer rights than transgender people (who have the right to change their birth certificate to be declared their chosen gender rather than their birth gender – I say this not to denigrate transgender people but to illustrate that they have more rights to alter their birth certificates against what actually happened than adopted people do to find out their original identities – doesn’t that seem a bit crazy?).

I guess maybe I’m more British than adopted, because I certainly don’t go around feeling adopted all the time. I know I look different, the same as my black and ethnic friends look different, but it’s just one facet of their looks. Nobody expects anything particularly different of any of us. We do as ethnic minorities (“people of color” in the US) have societal expectations and stereotypes we rail against. As females, doubly so. But we all have our ****. I deal with it because I have no choice but to suck it up as I’ve done all my life and the little choice that I do have is to choose not to spend my life angry or disappointed or longing for what I don’t have. Or maybe that’s some kind of borrowed privilege from growing up in a relatively affluent environment, I don’t know.

I’m very clear that I’m not white. It comes to me in various ways, pretty much puctuates every day of my life. I got back from holiday and I did a full working week and then I did my duty trip. My duty trip was to get up early on my first weekend off (with jet lag, oh poor me) and trek across London to see my new niece, who was born whilst we were away. And you know what? I had total resentment, and I sent a few ranty Whatsapps on the way, but when I got there an hour and half later, the anger dissipated.

My brother has always had everything. He’s white, he’s good looking, he’s by any assessment an alpha male. He found his girl and stuck with her. They got married and now they have their two children, a boy and a girl. DING DING – JACKPOT! They life in a massive house in London in a way nicer area than our dodgy area. Throughout our lives he’s been the successful one, despite being less clever than me, despite not achieving anything like I achieved academically (though he was good at sports, which is all you need to be at a British public school to ensure lifelong acceptance). 

But you know what? He’s a nice person. I have to separate a resentment of White Privilege (Why does everything come so easy to him? Why does he still achieve success even though he did less than I did at school, achieved worse education, isn’t as smart?) from the fact that he can’t help nice things happening to him just because he’s the default colour and gender. He had no choice about that just like I have no choice. I had all these thoughts traveling to see them and then – poof! They disappeared.

Because to me he’s family. And he thinks and treats me like any of his (three adopted/not adopted) siblings. And he isn’t smug about it (much!) and he’s accommodating and I genuinely don’t think he really thought about the whole birthday/christening thing. (See previous post: My selfish brother. He got completely harangued by the rest of my family and they’ve cancelled it till next year. Which is nice although possibly related to their own organisation and not me.)

I got there; I was welcomed. I played with the nephew and spoiled him with toys like any self respecting aunt does. It was fine. I don’t want to do it every weekend, but as smug parents go it was fine, and he’s family, and there’s no point resenting my nephew (or new niece) as a) he’s very cute, and b) he’s only got one Aunt Nara, and who wants to be the least favourite aunt?

It got me to thinking, though. I call it:

Everyday life with infertility

Visiting my new niece – Getting up early on the weekend and with jet lag, because people who have kids can’t travel and you always have to go see them. Hanging around the children’s department in John Lewis and trying to pick out something that the kids will love. Feeling like a fraud – no pregnant belly. Just a flabby post holiday one. Watching the perfect family – all grown up even though he’s younger than I am.

Being asked about plans to have children – We went out for lunch with some friends at the weekend – another couple. No kids. They have been going out less than a year but are dying to move in together and have lots of children (she has a bunch of sisters – she’s in a big Italian family, like I imagine Joey on Friends). Literally the last two times we have met up, she has asked about our plans to have children. I like her, and I excuse it because she obviously doesn’t know about infertility in her family(!) and also I don’t want to cause a scene. But it hurts. I just say “maybe” and move on. 

Being assumed pregnant – I still can’t quite talk about what happened at work a while ago but it involved an annoying woman at work actually asking if I was pregnant. I wanted to punch her. Instead I said no and then told it in a typically Nara funny-sarcastic anecdotal way to anyone in the office who would listen… Mainly to prove how nuts she is. Although I do think, seriously, you need a good slapping. (*British turn of phrase… No actual violence intended. On record.)

And finally… Everyone else is pregnant – The everyday insult for infertiles. We just can’t escape them. On the tube, flaunting their bellies and Baby on Board badges. Even on here, even for people who want them and I’m happy for them, I really am… Will it ever be my turn? Maybe not; maybe never.

So yeah, I’m back to life. And you know what? Lots of it is going pretty well. I got back to work and a lot seemed to have happened in my absence, and that has worked out for me. Sometimes I’m just waiting for work and it can be frustrating, or have too much work and am stressed out, but I now have a pretty good new project. I’m grateful for that. We have our appointment for IVF #2 in a couple of weeks. We’ve just had the holiday of a lifetime. We have money in the bank. 

Maybe it will all happen at once. Maybe my ex will finally settle and T and I can buy our own house. Maybe I’ll get a nice project after this one and be able to spend more time at home with Dog. Maybe our second round of IVF will work, or maybe it won’t work but we’ll do that thing of getting pregnant naturally. (It happens, as any of your fertile friends will tell you!)

Maybe baby.

Maybe…

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In pictures (and some words): NYC roundup 

Finally catching up and I can reassure the faint hearted among you that this is my last holiday post! Normal infertility-adoption-random-blethering will be resumed shortly… 😉

This is the final installment in our gripping saga* – previous installments are here:

  1. Pre take off
  2. Magic Kingdom
  3. Animal Kingdom
  4. Be Our Guest dinner
  5. Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs
  6. Epcot
  7. Orlando roundup
  8. Washington DC
  9. Food Tours of NY

(*I may have fibbed about gripping.)

So… Our final days of our holiday (“vacation” to my American buds!) were spent in NYC. We stayed in an Airbnb in Brooklyn, which was our first ever go at Airbnb. Don’t believe the scare stories! Really it was very straightforward and well organised and we didn’t even meet the hosts in real life! It was all done via electronics (whatsapp, Airbnb, emails) and we just rocked up and the keys were in a lockbox and the apartment had been cleaned.

We had a whole “Parlor floor” to ourselves in an old brownstone. That floor, for any non Americans reading is what we call the ground floor – but you walk up steps (the stoop!) to it. The basement is not all underground and still has plenty of windows although is a bit lower than street level. We have places like this in London but they’re not brown! Anyway the conversion was great – big open plan space including a living room, kitchen/diner and bedroom plus a bathroom off the bedroom. It was larger than most places in London!

The reason we decided to stay in Brooklyn is that we wanted to experience a different neighbourhood. I kind of think Brooklyn is a bit analogous to where we live in London – an “up and coming” neighbourhood! (Note we were in Bed-Stuy, not the trendier Williamsburg which is already up and come!) It was fine, although I have to say I’m not quite understanding why so many people seem to walk around talking to themselves…! And the commute on the metro is not much fun – we realised our tube in London for all its sins is a lot better! We had a lot of interrupted journeys because it would stop working or whatever. Usually we are fine with that – as Londoners we are used to walking a lot – but T had hurt his foot badly in Orlando and couldn’t walk without pain so that wasn’t ideal. I think we were spoiled the last time we were there as we stayed in a really central area (the meatpacking district by Chelsea market) so it was weird not to have everything on our doorstep like it had been there, but then you can’t compare an apartment to a 5* hotel! It’s a different experience and just as fun!

On our first full day there we did the food tour (pictures on my previous post) and then we headed off to meet…

Ashley!

The Ashley of Ashleykyleanderson / In pursuit of a family blog fame!

It was so nice to meet up. We decided to try and catch up because she wasn’t too far away from where we were. When I told T that I wanted to meet someone who I knew via blogging, he was just like okay then! I think he’s used to my somewhat unconventional ideas! Anyway we were relatively nearby to each other (at least, a lot closer than we usually are, across the Atlantic) and so we met up and it was awesome. I hope I’m right in saying it wasn’t awkward and the four of us had a good chat! And don’t worry, it wasn’t just about infertility! (Ashley will be able to fill you in on her considered opinion, haha.)

None of us really knew the area so we wandered around and came to a little café and we ended up staying there for a while. What you can’t see in this picture is the wine/beer that the Brits had! We couldn’t really manage a lot of extra food after the tour but I managed to scoff a burrata on the strength of the fact that I had passed a few of my tasters to T because I’m fussy, so he’d doubled up and I’d saved some space! Basically I always have space for burrata. (It’s like soft mozzarella and really creamy.) Yup, food tour may be over but we can still do food…

Anyway it was fab to meet up and have a natter to some real live Americans. 🙂 Ashley also brought me some hot chocolate from Ghirardelli which I mentioned in my Epcot visit was possibly the best hot chocolate I had ever tasted! How cool is that?! I’m saving it for the cold weather hitting the UK this winter! (I am a total hot chocolate fan so I was very happy with this!) For all the Brits who moan on about Hersheys, let me tell you that Ghirardelli makes up for Hersheys in a big way. It’s more like Belgian chocolate. We bought a few squares in a selection pack when we were in Brooklyn and they were really nice!

Maybe it’s just me as I’m used to meeting people from t’interweb but it didn’t really feel like meeting strangers. I feel like I “know” quite a few of you on here. And we were so excited about being in America and doing loads of stuff that we probably yakked their poor ears off about Orlando and America in general! Finally we had to stop talking (poor Kyle… I think he was starving and we Brits had been focusing on the liquid embellishments rather than the food ones) and we had our next appointment to get to, a short walk away. Thank you to Ashley and Kyle for coming to meet us nearby and not making us negotiate the subway again!

A few blocks away from where we met, we headed for our next stop. The Moth Club is this amazing monthly (I think) event which is sort of an open mic for storytelling. It is massively popular and the last time we were in NYC last year we tried to go but the queue was round the block and they cut it off and said people after a certain time wouldn’t get in. So T was really keen to go this time as he’d been once before and said it was really good.

The tickets only open up a week before which was when we were in Orlando so we logged on straight away and already the VIP/premier tickets were gone, where you get a guaranteed seat. We could get a standard ticket with no guaranteed seat and you have to queue up with the hundreds of other people who have bought those tickets! When we got there about 40 minutes before, there was already a long queue.

Anyway, we got to the front of the queue and who should be (wo)manning it but M, that cool girl I mentioned that we met at Murray’s Cheese! It was so funny – she was standing on the steps fielding the queue (“line”) and I hear this yell “Hey! What are you doing here?” and it’s M! It took me a while to register who it was, because I didn’t expect to meet anyone I knew, let alone someone I’d met the night before. Ha! We decided it must have been fate for us to meet twice in a row and so we had a quick chat and let her get back to her work, not before friending each other on Facebook. (It’s the modern way!) Coda: We half expected to meet her the next day, but it wasn’t to be… However, we did then see one of the storytellers on our next day in Brooklyn! This set me off on a whole everything-is-connected thought… but I digress.

The idea of the Moth Club is that it’s a “storyslam”. It means that people get up on stage and tell a short story based around a certain theme – this month’s theme was Sacrifice. They had 2ish hours which translated to 10 people with a 5 minute story each. You have a warning bell at 5 minutes if you’re going on too long (actually I think it was someone twiddling on the recorder!) and then you get cut off at 6 minutes. It means you get these great, bite size stories. The fun is in how different people interpret the theme, and the atmosphere in the room which is kind of electric… all these people on tenterhooks concentrating on the relatively old fashioned way of transmitting information for entertainment. It’s like a big change from staring at our devices (which the compere insisted we turn off!).

We’d actually been to a storyslam before in our local (pub, to my American friends! You’ll soon realise that British society revolves around drinking!) and so I vaguely knew what to expect, but this was so much more slick somehow. The venue itself was a bookshop which is run for a charity which helps those who are homeless and affected by AIDS – I think maybe the Moth Club is held at different venues so it depends where you go. The whole night is staffed by volunteers so all the profits went to this charity, which is pretty awesome when you realise how many people attended (hundreds). They also had an absolutely hilarious compere who was this massively pregnant lady (but of course… I wouldn’t expect anything less on an infertility/loss healing trip!) – she was really funny and I was actually just enjoying the night too much to feel bad about not being pregnant.

The level of stories and storytelling was amazing. The one in our local was kind of an enthusiast’s endeavour, based on this idea… This one was a fully formed, oversubscribed event with people who were dying to tell their stories and so many attendees that half of them were standing. Imagine how intimidating it must be to get up on a stage under a spotlight and tell your story when the place is bursting at the seams with expectation. People sitting on the stairs, in the aisles and on the floor and standing at the back,all because they want to hear what you have to say.

(Actually only 10 people were able to do it but there were 13 names in the bag which were picked out on a sequential basis… That means three people had their story all prepared, the adrenaline running – “I wonder if it will be me next?” and they didn’t get to tell their stories! Brutal! I mean, it takes a lot of guts to get up in front of hundreds of people and speak, let alone tell a story of your own.)

That’s the idea, the stories have to be your own and nobody else’s. I’m in awe of anyone who does this – I love writing, but my idea of hell is public speaking. I’m terrible at it – if I ever have to give presentations at work (the type where you stand at the front and talk) I go to pieces. Which is funny as I’m quite opinionated “confident” most of the time. I can sit at a table and talk in a conversational way with even quite important people, but there’s something about standing up with all eyes on you which makes me cringe.

I think the difference in America, possibly why I love the place, is the there’s this presumption of confidence and a “you can do it” mentality. All the people who spoke – even if they were nervous – did it so confidently and so it wasn’t just about the stories but also the performance. The best ones weren’t just telling a story but performing it; using their hands, gesturing, acting out parts in a way that makes it far more compelling. You could tell they’d really thought about how to tell a story rather than just standing there like a rabbit in the headlights (my preferred method).

And I didn’t even mention yet that they get scored on it and the scores get written on a board behind the stage! They’d apparently picked three sets of judges in advance who had to hold up scorecards after each performance. Actually it was sort of funny as they had decimal points so it was always 7, 8 or 9 point something – they kind of all normalised to 7.5 – 9.3 or something like that – I guess it feels as though they’re being less brutal by always giving a score above 7 out of 10, but in reality it seemed that most were 8 point something with a “bad” one being 7-something and a great one being 9-something. Coincidentally the last few did get 9s and we wondered if it was because the judges had had a few drinks by then!

It was a great event and I loved hearing all the stories. I thought the best one “won” (it was a tearjerker about his dead brother) but there were many memorable ones. People really laid themselves bare, too – one memorable one (not the winner) was a young girl who’d met a guy in Ireland when she was in her college placement year there, fell in love with him, worked and saved up during her final year at college here, never going out and working extra jobs and giving up her extra electives and graduating early – all so she could get back to this boy in Ireland. Turns out when she got there after this year of wishing and hoping and saving and not doing fun stuff that he didn’t love her in the way she loved him! There were other great stories too and even the lowest scored one was not bad – it was more an advert for his company though (his “sacrifice” was that he left a well paid job to set up his own company) so it seemed a bit like self-promotion and I guess people didn’t love that as much as the heart-on-sleeve ones. The other thing I noticed about the American one was that they knew how to inject humour into their stories – in the British one some were funny, and some weren’t funny at all – I think that’s definitely a learning for the audience.

I still think scoring it was brutal (we didn’t do that in the British version – they judged the winner by a clap-off!) but perhaps it’s nice to feel validated in some way. The winner doesn’t win anything but the admiration of the audience (and possibly a sense of catharsis in telling their story, or relief when it’s over!). It’s really great just to do stuff like that once in a while. I have a pretty busy life when I’m at home, because I’m at work fairly late every night and then I tend to rush home because I feel bad that Dog’s at home waiting to go out. So having that life of leisure on holiday-cation, we try and cram in as much as possible!

After the Moth Club had finished, we decided to get a pizza because pizza. As you know, I love pizza. And when you’ve been on a food tour you get pointed out a load of establishments and you get ideas. (My ideas always seem to equate to pizza.) One place we’d been past earlier was Lombardi’s, which is apparently the oldest pizza place in New York. Apparently they were the originators of the New York slice! Lombardi was the first person to cut up a pizza and sell it by the slice, because the workmen working down the blocks didn’t have enough (5c!) to buy a whole pizza. This is something I’ve been droning on about at work, that there’s nowhere that’s commoditised the New York slice to sell for lunchtime in the City! (My coworkers will tell you how much I go on about City grab and go food and what we’re missing… I predicted porridge and I’ve told them the next big thing is pizza slices. And I’m not even going to tell you my other idea because one day I might quit my job and do it!)

We decided to share a pepperoni and red onion pizza and it didn’t disappoint. I’m still thinking about it actually… It’s exactly how I like my pizza! The pepperoni was crispy round the edges and the mozzarella was stringy. The dough was fantastic. My iPhone picture doesn’t do it justice (nor any of the pictures and their subjects really, but I’m not a photographer but a food paparazzo!). It was soooo tasty that even after a food tour in the morning and a burrata in the afternoon we were still able to eat the lot!

The other thing to mention is that this is the place where Buddy of Carlo’s Bakery CAKE BOSS fame (I think I mentioned I’m a bit of a baker in my spare time so I am a big fan of Buddy!) made the giant pizza cake. Well we talked to the waiter about it and he told us all about it. He was amazed we got Cake Boss in the UK and I was like, we love Cake Boss! They had a whole load of pictures of when Buddy came in and made the giant pizza slice cake. It was cool!

Anyway, if you are ever in the Nolita area of NYC, you should check this place out. I had a lot of pizza in the US and I would say this was my favourite. And it was probably the cheapest! (I like all sorts of pizza – Italian, American, home made… This was the American sort. Even though Americans confusingly always say they’re something else like Italian!)


 

The next day, and our final full day, we decided we’d have to stay out of Manhattan and explore Brooklyn. Our hosts had given us lots of ideas of where to go so we knew we should head to their favourite restaurant, Manny’s. It was a sweet neighbourhood place decked out in the hipster industrial kind of way (very East London… I wondered if East London modelled itself on Brooklyn or they came to this aesthetic independently? It’s pretty much identical, down to the beards and bicycles and stag heads…). We ordered breakfast because I love breakfast. I’d go so far to say that it’s my favourite meal of the day, generally. I love pizza but breakfast is fun, probably because when you’re busy at work you don’t have time for breakfast. Breakfast means weekends and holidays and bacon… and who doesn’t like bacon? (Vegans and vegetarians. How do they manage it? I always think about going vegan and I’d really like to but I just can’t give up bacon.) I ordered buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and a side of bacon. T had eggs hollandaise. They were both great. I couldn’t even eat a whole pancake. I don’t know how Americans manage the food, honestly. The servings are ginormous. Anyway, T made a valiant effort to finish mine and that set us up for a day of walking.

We made our way about quite slowly because T was still suffering with his foot. We had bought crutches back in Orlando and we did use them (well, one of them) in DC but T didn’t want to carry it around with him so we just kind of hobbled and meandered slowly. It was fine although I am a Londoner and we like to walk fast. It is so funny because everyone in London walks fast because we’re always running late. You can tell a tourist because they walk to a different speed and you’ll probably see a Londoner behind them doing that dodge-fake thing trying to pass them and swearing under their breath. (Or is that just me?) Well, that day we were tourists. It was actually fine because we noticed in America that people don’t like to walk fast! (Some of them in Orlando don’t like to walk at all! They even have mobility scooters for people who don’t like to walk, not just for people who can’t walk!)

We walked across from our neighbourhood to Williamsburg via the Williamsburg bridge. It is pretty long! We did the Brooklyn bridge last time we were in NYC so this was a different one and a bit more gritty!
  

So once we arrived over the bridge, we wandered around the shops in Williamsburg. I don’t know if there is a great deal to say here because there wasn’t food so I didn’t take pictures of it! We had a nice time. My main priority was to go and get a manicure as I still had my Disney nails after almost two weeks. They were gel nails so I had to get them removed or pick them off! So I was on the lookout for a nail bar. When we stayed in the West Village, I knew where one was but this time I didn’t, so in the end I went to a random one we came across on our travels. It was really funny because it was run by Asians (or “Chinese” in the UK) and they didn’t really speak English, so I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do for most of the time.

Going to a nail bar in the US (or Brooklyn) is a different experience from in the UK. For one thing, it costs waaaay more in the UK to get your nails done. I was prepared to pay so I didn’t ask how much it was (and anyway, my lady just communicated in gestures mainly so I couldn’t really tell what was going on) and so I was pleasantly surprised when I went to pay and it turned out to be 15 dollars! Sheesh! The place I go to in London is probably an average price and it costs upwards of £40 for anything but the most basic, which is something like $60! (It is a very fun nail bar which is themed like an airline and if you’re ever in London and feel like a splurge then check it out. The ladies wear air hostess uniforms and the chairs are old airline seats and you can even get a glass of bubbly whilst you’re having your nails done!)

Anyway, the whole experience was slightly discombobulating (as I didn’t know what to expect at any point) but it was great. If I knew I could get a manicure for $15 I would probably have one a week! And it wasn’t even a quick-and-dirty – it took quite a long time as they first had to soak off the gel varnish, remove that, file and shape, and do the new colour. Actually felt that she did a better job of it than a lot of the nail bars in London do – it was super neat although my terrible iphone picture probably doesn’t do it justice. (T was impressed. Although maybe just knows it’s better to nod and agree when I ask.) I decided to go for non-shellac (because I always find it a pain to have to find somewhere to get it taken off) and a neutral colour because I knew I had to go back to work. Usually I like dark nails but those show up every chip and scratch, so I went for the low maintenance look. It was really good and T was impressed even though he had to wander off around the shops on his own for a while! I ended up giving her $20 because I wasn’t sure how much to tip and anyway I’d expect to pay more than $20 for a manicure so it didn’t seem like a bad deal at all. Bye bye Disney nails!

Incidentally, this whole thing about tipping in the US is completely perplexing for Brits. I don’t know how you manage it because the sticker price is so far from what you end up paying! We don’t have sales tax added on to the sticker price – it’s included. (Actually if you go to Jersey – it’s a tax haven island near the UK – you pay less than the sticker price because they don’t pay tax like we do! Win win!) So we are used to paying what’s on the price tag, and then we don’t have a massive culture of tipping.

In the UK tipping is by no means universal. Like before I moved to London we just weren’t used to tipping large amounts at all – it’s all optional and it’s pretty much limited to tipping in a restaurant if you have food, and that’s pretty much 10% at the most (because that’s what people can work out in their heads!). Also you tend to leave it as cash so if you don’t have the exact change it might be slightly less or more than 10%, to the nearest pound or whatever. In London it is different as they’ve cottoned on to tipping in restaurants and now they add a “service charge” in most places which is 12.5%, which is considered more than what people would usually give so people never give anything else – it’s just added to the card. But most other British places I’ve been, they don’t include the service charge on the bill. You can also ask for it to be removed if you think the service hasn’t been good.

The other places people sometimes tip are hairdressers (though I never have; I get a haircut once every three years or something and my last one was this year after the miscarriage and I have a massive phobia of hairdressers so I went to a really expensive place and ended up paying about £180, and I really felt that an additional amount wasn’t necessary!) and taxis (people round up to the nearest pound or pay the bill and give them a one pound coin). Also, T has this thing where we have to tip the Dominos pizza delivery guy – he gets a quid (pound) too. A pound is about $1.50 by today’s exchange rate. (It used to be $2!) In a bar/pub, we rarely end up leaving a tip unless we are sitting at a table and we’ve been there a while. People might leave the change on the bar after they’ve paid for drinks but I’ve never seen people leave tips as a matter of course. Also in hotels people sometimes leave tips for housekeeping but that is pretty rare too. I travel for my job and so stay in hotels a lot and I’ve never felt obliged to leave a tip for housekeeping unless there is some mess they have to clean up. (I once got my period overnight and felt terrible about the sheets so left a lot!)

In the US it is apparently obligatory to tip, and people tip for everything. Which means you have to have a stash of $1 bills to hand out to everyone. I found it quite anxiety inducing, not knowing how much to tip. I’d read up beforehand and I knew it’s meant to be 20% (which to us seems like a massive amount considering our “good” service is 10% and our standard service charge in a table waited restaurant is 12.5%). So we did probably end up over tipping – like we got a few Ubers and we always tipped until our friend in Washington said not to bother. Confusing!

Anyway, I digress (again!). It got a bit chilly so we headed for a hot drink (me) and a cold drink (T). I am a massive Starbucks fan. I think because they do hot chocolate and they have cinnamon on the side. I’m easily swayed by anything cinnamon and American (as it’s perceived in the UK). The Williamsburg Starbucks was open in the evening and it had gotten quite cold outside (relatively, I mean, not enough for a coat) so we popped in for a hot drink. The funny thing is that it is so huge and open in the evening (ours in the UK are not) and the other funny thing is it was so hipster. Like someone had tied up their trendy dogs outside and people were sitting on the wooden benches outside and smoking, and then we went in and literally everyone was sitting at the tables with their iMacs open and the Apple signs glowing! So funny. I should have taken a picture.

(I did spend most of my NYC time feeling decidedly unhipster… I am usually a tad more trendy but I’d tried to pack “light” which meant all my wardrobe was Disney themed… which I would never wear in day to day life! When we met Ashley I was wearing a hoodie we got at WDW which had Minnie Mouse ears! Felt like a right lame-o but you gotta embrace the Disney on holiday!)

The Williamsburg Starbucks had some evening snacks and events too… They even served wine! But we decided we didn’t need wine… It’s Starbucks FFS. We had a frappuccino (T) and a hot chocolate (me) and a side of bacon wrapped prunes, because bacon. They had chorizo in too which was weird. It was okay as a snack but prune and bacon rolls (“devils on horseback”) are like an institution in my family (we have stacks of them at Christmas and people eat loads per person) so it was kind of strange. Actually I have a feeling they might have been dates. Maybe that’s why they were strange.

I had to take a picture of this. In the bathroom they had this “window” onto the old building. The ultimate hipster industrial chic.

Finally after a lot of wandering around the shops (and trying not to buy anything because we already had had to buy another case in Orlando just to accommodate the shopping we did there!) we decided to round off with another Italian in Williamsburg. This was the result of a walk in and we did really well because after we got the last table, a queue formed! It was a great Italian, probably more Italian-y than Lombardis and the pizza was another gigantic one. I think on balance I preferred Lombardis because I prefer pepperoni to salami, even though the salami in this pizzeria was probably the expensive Italian sort! We also had a plate of antipasti. (I did take a picture of the giant pizza but it had me in, and I’m still that anonymousish blogger so you don’t need to see my grinning chops next to a giant pizza… Just imagine it!) We treated ourselves to a bottle of prosecco and agreed we had had a fantastic trip.

 

But it wasn’t over yet! After a final night in “our” Brooklyn pied a terre, we packed up our cases and headed off to Manhattan for The Lion King matinée. Now, seeing the Lion King has been an ambition of mine so it was super exciting to think we were going to see it on Broadway in my favourite country! (If you can’t see it then you should go and see the show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom which is different but awesome!) We stowed our cases in a left luggage place – the whole thing was quite stressful as we had to get an Uber into town (we didn’t dare do the subway with T’s bad leg and all the stairs and two heavy and unwieldy cases) and then find the left luggage place. But once we’d dumped our luggage we were freeeeeeee!

Entrance to the Lion King. It’s the Minskoff Theatre, not the ***koff Theatre! 🙂 I had time to get a quick Starbucks in anticipation but we then had to dump a bit of it because there was a bag search on the way in. That doesn’t happen in London! There were tonnes of people there and a lot of them had dressed up too. I think London is a bit more casual in that way.

View of Times Square from the theatre upstairs. Ahhhhhh.

You’re not allowed to take pictures during the performance. Here’s Scar’s outfit.

No photos during the performance! I figured this meant you could take a cheeky one beforehand. I was so excited.

It was brilliant! I don’t know how to do justice to things like this really, because you can’t describe how it feels to engage with a performance. You just have to sit back and enjoy the show, which we did. The one thing I would say is I think in any good musical (movie or live) there is a song which kind of gets you, and sometimes more than one song. For me in the Lion King it is Circle of Life, and when all the animals/performers came on and they were singing that, I totally welled up and cried. (I actually did during the same song at the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom… It is no less moving when it’s more Disneyfied.) I guess it’s the Let It Go moment, you know, when your heart catches and you feel super emotional without quite knowing why. I’m not a musical person but I know there’s a science to it and even if it’s a bit cheesy and you know it’s totally not real, like a cartoon baby Simba or a puppet Simba in the show, there is something in me which just sort of went to mush.

(Please note: I am British and what’s more I went to “public” school, which is private school in anywhere else than the UK, and it’s all about stiff-upper-lip and never ever showing your true feelings. I would never cry at a thing but I’m one of those people who can totally do the escapist thing and cry at a film or a book or a play. Because I’m not going to be seen to be crying!)

Maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s all those layers of feelings about infertility and not knowing if I will ever complete my own circle of life, and losing our first baby and this trip being for healing and commiseration for not being pregnant now, and getting away from all the people having babies, and the idea of starting again when we get back to real life. Going through all the chemicals and hormones and injections and interventions. And the fact that my brother’s wife gave birth to my niece whilst I was away. All of those feelings are probably buried in there somewhere. But even before all of that, I found the song moving. Just as I find Let It Go moving, even though it’s super cheesy…

Anyway. We enjoyed it. On balance I’d still say my favourite musical is Matilda but this was a great experience and one to tick off the list of lifetime (or adult) ambitions… to go and see a show on Broadway. We’ve been to NYC before and seen musicals but they were Off and Off Off Broadway or something so not quite the big production. (This wasn’t actually on Broadway but I think it counts as Broadway… or maybe it doesn’t… It’s all very confusing!)

And then that was it! Our holiday was at an end… Sad times, although we were super excited to get back to Dog. (Maybe I was more than T was, but actually we kept talking about him and I think he was excited too.) It takes a long time to get there though! We picked up our cases and then went through a convoluted process to get to the airport involving the subway to Penn Station and then the New Jersey Transit. We were flying from Newark airport – we’ve flown from JFK before but that’s how it worked out and it usually doesn’t make that much difference (though would have been better from Brooklyn!).

Our very first trip together we almost missed the flight back to JFK and it involved us running frantically through the airport after they said the gate was closed – we managed to get the flight at the last minute as we only had hand luggage, but we’ve been somewhat paranoid ever since about missing flights. So we turned up super early! It was such a relief to get rid of the cases as we usually like to travel light. We had one case we’d brought and one we bought in Orlando to hold all the shopping and gifts so two unwieldy rollers plus a guy who should have been on crutches = madness. We checked in and headed to the food court to get something to eat… I wonder what we got?! 😉

Goodbye EWR! Goodbye New York slices!

Goodbye New York! (Or is that New Jersey?) Goodbye USA!

Airline food! Teriyaki chicken was okay. Cheesecake was good! (Salad I gave to T and bread roll could have been used as a doorstop!)

After not much sleep, and a few films (American Sniper… strange exciting/depressing film; Amy… strange depressing-punctuated-by-a-sense-of-inevitable-doom-and-sadness-that-she-always-seemed-likely-to-die-no-matter-how-talented-and-brilliant-she-was film) we were getting ready to land in what seemed like a very short amount of time.

Almost at England! Sadly no full English breakfast.

Morning! Hello London!

And finally… back to real life. I can’t describe our reunion with Dog, who was staying with our friends, but it was good. We had to grab a couple hours sleep at home before we headed out to get him as we were almost dead. We took them some nice presents (hopefully – they seemed happy) – we got them a Kate Spade purse (wallet – not handbag) and a little snowglobe from Washington. Dog was so funny when we went to collect him – when he saw it was us, he ran up to me, jumped into my arms with his tail wagging and licked my face for ages. (I’ve trained him to “kiss” or at least commoditised his natural inclination to lick people’s faces.) Insofar as a dog with a sad expression can look happy, he looked happy. (That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy staying with our friends – by all accounts he snuggled up with them and they spoiled him, but he knows who his humans are! I was worried he wouldn’t recognise us but he definitely did!)

And from the heat of the US, even the relative coolness of NYC… Back to autumn weather. I felt a little bit better that I could wear some of the winter clothes I’ve been stockpiling. On Monday, my first day back at work, I finally wore my Sanctus clothing coat – my goth coat! It’s very extravagant/theatrical and it’s made by a local designer in small batches and to order; mine was 40/100, and it’s all made out of vegan “leather” and “fur”. I feel like a right goth in it. I usually get an opinion on my clothes in the morning from T and like the excellent boyfriend he is, he tells me I look lovely. Our exchange on Monday went like this:

Me: How do I look?

T: You look like the wicked witch of the west!

Me: That’s exactly the look I was going for! [Heads out with a smile]

 

You decide… 

 

I know this was a long post but this wraps up my holi-blog. Until next time… Be good! 🙂

In pictures: Food Tours of NY

Some of you may have noticed that I’m a little… umm… preoccupied with food.

We are back from our hol now so I’m playing catch up on the holiday. Not much more to go apart from NYC, and then we can get back to talking about boring stuff like my infertility (joke! It’s fascinating, as you all know!). 

Anyway, we had a fabulous holiday overall and it was just what we needed. Many of you have talked about how you went on a commiseratory “no baby” holiday after unsuccessful treatments and/or losses and this is exactly what we did – we said if IVF didn’t work then we’d go to Disneyworld on the holiday of a lifetime. I’d always wanted to go and we just went ahead and booked it. To be honest I think it’s what kept me sane in the wake of our miscarriage in July.

Because we always love NYC especially (T took me for our very first Valentine’s day as a surprise trip – what a guy!) it is kind of our special place. We really didn’t need anything on top of Orlando as it was amazing, but it was lovely to round off with a flying trip to DC to see our friends and then a trip to the Big Apple, our happy place. (The whole of America is our happy place!)

Since the first time we always do a food tour with Food Tours of New York. I totally recommend these guys. They’re amazing. It is so much fun – you walk around a neighbourhood and you get told the history by an enthusiastic guide and you get to sample great American food. I mean, my little lost baby was Pizza Baby so you can guess how I feel about American food… It’s my life! Plus you can kind of kid yourself that it’s vaguely healthy (because you’re walking) and cultural (because history).

First of all a quick few food pics before the tour! Because you can’t have too much food, especially in the US!

Frozen ice pop bar. We went here last time as we were staying nearby. It’s fun!

  
A frozen “hot” chocolate from the same place!  
  

One of my favourite shops, Amy’s Bread on Bleecker Street. There are a few around – there is another one in Chelsea market. I am mad for cinnamon and I love their cinnamon challah. They also had a new (since we were last there last year) cinnamon crunchy bun which was excellent. Bread is magic. 

  

We went to a cheese tasting of cave aged cheeses at Murray’s Cheese. It is right next to Amy’s Bread on Bleecker. It is one of my favourite shops of all time. They have a classroom upstairs and I always wanted to do a cheese tasting but we never managed to in the past, so I was harassing them via email for months in advance! It was great fun and as you can see we also had wine. Met some cool people including a really cool girl who I didn’t think I’d ever see again…


The shop from above    
   

Anyway, before I get onto my final New York roundup, here is the food tour in pics! This one is the Noho/Nolita tour. I highly recommend it… If you’re ever in NYC then you can sign up for updates from Food Tours of NY, and every now and then they’ll send you discounts and you can book for a reduced price. It’s totally worth it anyway. Top tip: do not eat breakfast before you go, unless you want to pop! 🙂

Apparently this art is by a famous street artist. Our tour guide was Annie the Nanny – that’s her with the funky hair. She’s a performance artist in the truest sense of the word!

  

Brooklyn blackout mini cupcakes… They were amazing. So light and fluffy but very chocolatey!
  

Cool pizza place where we witnessed the making and cooking of pizza in about 5 min end to end…

  

It was a white pizza (no tomato sauce). As a tomato lover, this was scary but it worked!

  

Prosciutto, basil, rocket (arugula as you lot call it, haha), parmesan on top of the mozzarella mixed cheese base that had been cooked in the wood burning pizza oven for about 3 min. Topped with fresh tomatoes!

  

  

Industrial chic

  

A French restaurant where we had tartine (like an open sandwich on toast) and wine!

  

  

  

Chicken and fennel(?) tartine
  

Moe was there! He’s lived in this neighbourhood all his life and is in his 90s. It didn’t feel right to take a picture of him but he was very cool. The meat market is now an art gallery but Moe still hangs out on this street, shooting the breeze with his buddy the artist. 

  

Mexican canteen type place with a VW camper inside!

  

  

Corn with spicy sauce. Actually I don’t like sweet corn but T did so he got mine too! We also had a cinnamon rice milk drink which was nice. 

The Smile  

  

Home made ricotta on Amy’s bread. As you know, I love cheese and I love Amy’s so what’s not to love?

  

Final stop for donuts! They were called something else (Italian) but basically were caramel filled donuts. 

  
  
Finally Annie the Nanny did a song! In the middle of the street! She was crazy in a good way!
   

All in all, an excellent tour and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it!

It’s now 3ish in the morning… Day 2 back at work and I’m still somewhat jetlagged! Will do my final NY roundup and get back to blethering about random stuff! 🙂

In pictures: Washington DC

We went through to DC for a few days as we have friends there. It was a flying trip but great fun. I last went there as a child and I barely remember it so I enjoyed seeing another non NYC American city. It’s very historic by US standards but a bit younger by UK standards! And everything is a museum!

Lincoln memorial   
  

Washington monument from the Lincoln memorial

  

The White House! Through the gate and on zoom. You can’t get very close!
  

River by night

  

Dinner! Pizza! I love pizza! This was at a great restaurant called Fishers or something like that. Seemed very popular. It served home made type food – nobody else had pizza, but I love pizza.
  

Huge slice of cake – hand for scale. I ate less than half!

  

Our friend’s fat cat! I was in hysterics when I saw him.
  

The other cat – he’s new and doesn’t quite know what to make of everyone just yet.

  

Stash of British chocolate we brought them – one of them is Scottish so misses it. They were happy. We got almost as much at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party – but not quite!

Smithsonian air and space museum. I kind of think this was cool but also was overwhelmed by how many museums there are in Washington – there’s one for everything!  
  

A giant ice cream!  This cost $4. He said he was giving me my money’s worth!

I’m not one of those people who hates Starbucks. I love Starbucks.  
The Jefferson memorial – they like their  dead presidents in DC.
    

Smithsonian Museum of American History – flag made out of Lego

Not sure how they got out of sequence – I think the earlier ones were taken from the tourist bus. (It’s a bit sketchy but T had hurt his toe so couldn’t walk.) I liked this one best.    
    
    

We went to this place called Gravelly Point (I think?) where the planes come in really low over a park. I kept jumping to try and touch them but didn’t quite make it!
  

On our last night our friends took us to Ben’s chili bowl which is apparently a DC institution. It looks disgusting but was tasty!
    

Although they haven’t yet gotten round to removing Bill Cosby as one of the reasons to go there…
  

Popped in here for dessert. Amazing!

  
    

Final view of the station in Washington. It’s pretty nice!

 

In pictures: Orlando roundup 

For the last couple of days in Orlando we ended up having a bit of downtime – mainly because T had sprained his toe(!) somehow and couldn’t walk very far so the parks would have been difficult during the day. We had already planned for a shopping day so we hit the outlets and the mall (with T limping very slowly!). Fortunately I knew exactly where I wanted to go! I had lusted after a Coach bag – they aren’t very common in the UK. And everyone from the UK who comes to Orlando gets something from Michael Kors. 

Michael Kors is a weird one in the UK as a lot of people have them. Although they’re probably fake! I do like them but it seems like they’re maybe a bit passé now (but it doesn’t stop me liking them!). I managed to be talked out of the canary yellow handbag by T, which I had liked a lot when it was in the MK shop in London last year. It is a bit bright! I got a little evening / going out bag instead (in the canary yellow, haha). I knew that the bright yellow would probably get all muddy in the everyday commute anyway. 

This didn’t stop me from getting two handbags in Coach! Super excited. I’m really not a fashion plate (I’m currently living in Disney themed clothing just for this holiday!) but I do like a good handbag. I got one brown everyday bag and one red one that would be nice for Christmas. I also got two other red ones in various sizes for my mum and sister – lucky them! It will be nice for Christmas to give them something lovely. I also got my sister a watch from Marc Jacobs which matched mine! It is so cheap in the outlets – about half the price we pay in the UK or even less. 

T got some stuff from Calvin Klein but it’s safe to say I got the bulk of the shopping. He did do quite well as I bought him an Apple watch for his birthday… after buying myself one! Everything is so much cheaper in the US (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself!). We had a good couple of days shopping and we ate dinner in the parks so we still got the magic experience. 

If it seems extravagant it’s a lot different than our trip last year where we were on a really tight budget. We were on a single income unexpectedly and we didn’t know when we would be able to afford anything so it was quite stressful. We had already paid for the flights and hotel so decided we would still go, but try to do NYC on $10 a day! We tried to do everything cheap or free (and for the most part we managed it!) so this year we decided to splash out. We’ve been saving all year for it so it felt good to let loose for a bit!

Here are some pics…

The Mall at Millennia. This is a standard shopping mall (not outlet, which looked less fancy), or should I say shopping planet. For those of you in the UK, it’s larger than the Trafford centre by quite some margin. I would say it would take a day to walk one end and back. We had a limper (or Mr Hoppy as I’d christened him) so we pretty much just went to the Apple Store and looked at the shops near to that. T went into Coach which is opposite Apple to check that I’d gotten a bargain at the outlets – I apparently had! They had the same bags for about twice as much!

 
This is my midway shopping point at the outlet whilst T was in Asics – he got two pairs. The ones he wanted are a bit harder to get in the UK and he hardly ever buys trainers so he was pleased.   

My end of day shopping: L-R – Michael Kors (evening bag), Coach (2 handbags for me, 1 each for mum and sis), Kate Spade (a wallet for the person who’s lookin after Dog), Calvin Klein (T’s smalls!), Apple (watch; we went back next day for one for T and my first ever iPad!), Watch Factory (matching Marc Jacobs watched for me and my sis). Quite a haul! I never shop this much in the UK! I reckon I saved around 50%.   
New watch with Mickey on! He taps his foot for the seconds and moves his hands for the time! Sweet. You can change it to other stuff so I might when I’m back.   

Our fanciest meal at the second most romantic restaurant in WDW (haha). The first most expensive was all booked up and would require a mortgage to afford! It was at Monsieur Paul in France in Epcot. It was really nice for a treat and even though it was about twice as expensive as any other meal we had there, it was about the same as we would pay for a mid range restaurant like Gaucho in the UK.   

Carrot soup with a Parmesan froth. Not pictured – delicious warm home made bread!
Steak with mushroom and bacon topper. I don’t often have steak and I had it twice in Orlando and both times it was amazing.   
  

Truffle mash. Looked liquid and was quite mushy but really good. 

Dessert #1: mango and strawberry. Amazing. My two favourites!  

Dessert #2: Raspberry and meringue. My other favourites! Like a deconstructed pavlova.     

The next morning I walked down the road (everybody drives) to Walgreens to get stuff for T’s toe. Hilariously someone had put bubble bath in the Walgreens fountain. 

Something I won’t miss: your toilet doors! Seriously what is with this?! In the UK we don’t have gaps or peepholes. It’s just odd and rather disconcerting to find that in the US you’re generally visible. Also the self flushing toilets! It all takes a bit of getting used to!  
We went to Walmart and bought a case for our extra shopping! We needed it! I tried churros and they were delicious. Probably really trashy but the cinnamon sugar was great! We also got dog sweaters for Dog… He will be overjoyed!  

Here were my handbags all packed up in the case. The red ones were packed inside each other – I got my mum and sister matching versions to mine, just different sizes. They’ll be nice and Christmassy!  
On our final night we went to the Boardwalk (Disney resort) and I finally got to do the pick your own pearl. I’d wanted to do it as I thought it sounded fun. I was worried about the oyster but the lady said he died of old age!  So I didn’t kill him or anything. They are farmed oysters and you pick your own and then they open it to see what pearl you have and they can put it in a necklace or ring for you. This was mine. 

I was so excited as my pearl turned out lovely!  
It was not a white pearl – it was peacock coloured which I like even more! Usually they’re white so I was really pleased. I got it put into a little necklace so I’ll have a nice reminder of our trip (to go with the handbags and pandora bracelet! Haha!). 

Our final evening was at Beaches and Cream. It’s a 50s themed cafe, very casual and fun.   
Pink lemonade. Lovely!  

Huge hotdog with chilli and cheese and fries. Couldn’t eat it all!    

They’re famous for the Kitchen Sink which is their signature ice cream. We couldn’t eat any ice cream after our meal but lots of other people could! When they bring it out they dim the lights and do a whole routine. It is fun! And was the cheapest meal of our stay. Although I have to say that I hate to think what we’d look like if we ate this kind of food every day! Good job I have some clothes with elasticated waists!

Thanks Orlando… We had a blast! 

In pictures: Epcot Food and Wine festival

I loved Epcot! We managed to land right in the middle of their annual Food and Wine festival… Some might call this serendipity!

We also went on the rides. Epcot is more of an experienced based park rather than ride based so it’s more about visiting the different “countries” and exploring those. Nevertheless we enjoyed the rides!

Spaceship Earth was our first fast pass. (You can have 3 a day/park booked in advance which I highly recommend. It takes a lot of stress out of the whole thing meaning you know you will get 3 good rides and you don’t have to queue.) We didn’t queue for long for anything really – the longest queue (line, Americans call them lines!) was to meet the seven dwarves at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party!

In Epcot we enjoyed Spaceship Earth – it’s a bit old fashioned but fun. Then we went on Mission: SPACE which replicates (okay I don’t know if it does!) a trip to Mars. Omg it was horrific! I mean, it’s a great ride and very clever how it makes you feel the g forces but it made me feel so sick! I enjoyed the fact we went on it but I’m never doing that again! You can do the Green (non g force) version so I might do that next time! Finally we went on Soarin’ which is a dangly leg ride where you feel like a bird. Great fun. We didn’t bother with Test Track as it had a 2hr queue and I’m sure no ride is worth that. Next time!

The real fun came from visiting all the different countries. Because the Food and Wine festival was on we got to try lots of different food and wine. Annoyingly I got IDed at the champagne bar and they wouldn’t accept a European driving licence as proof of age! I’m about 15+ years older than drinking age! They said they’d only accept a passport but who carries that around? If I wanted to get illegally drunk I’d choose a cheaper means! Also UK driving licence is the same as all of Europe… Anyway, it turns out that the other stalls let us order alcohol so all was not lost! Plus at least it means I must look young! 🙂

 Artist palette of cheese and wine


Dominican Republic 
  
New Zealand lamb meatball in a random Yorkshire pudding!

Craft beer flight (I had the one coffee flavoured beer as I don’t usually drink beer – it was nice!)  plus pretzel sticks and chili cheese dip

China    
    

Spaceship Earth aka the golf ball

Frozen and Up made out of cake/candy!    

Best hot chocolate ever. Ghirardhelli (sp?)    

Marshmallow Mickey

The Land – an interesting look at agriculture and conservation    
    
  

Mexico  
  

More China

  
  

Italy

  
  

America. We heard / saw Sugar Ray’s Eat to the Beat concert from here!

Japan, where we ate dinner at Teppan Edo – teppanyaki / hibachi grill. It was great. Although they don’t do the sparks volcano (made from onion) for reasons of health and safety – lots of kids around! I was slightly disappointed but it was still a lot of fun and we were sitting with an American family so had lots of chat with the mom about their trips to WDW and what they should do when they visit London next year!
    
    
  

Morocco. I’ve been to quite a few of the Epcot countries and it’s fun to compare! 🙂  
  

In summary, I really liked Epcot and would definitely go back. And it has great food!

In pictures: Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs

A packed day at Hollywood Studios! It was great fun. There are lots of shows as well as some great rides like the Tower of Terror and Rock n Rollercoaster. We then had VIP dining package for Fantasmic – a great meal at the Hollywood Brown Derby (highly recommended) meaning guaranteed centre stage seats for Fantasmic. After Hollywood Studios we then went to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) to soak up the atmosphere. Another great day! We love WDW!

I love this place. We have HS in Paris but it isn’t as hot! 🙂   
    
    
  
Beauty and the Beast on stage. It was great, being my favourite and all. They did a good rendition of Be Our Guest!  
    
    
    
    

What could this be?!

    
    

This was T’s favourite thing of the entire trip! Haha. The narrators (not in the original Frozen story) were really funny. I got totally emotional in Let It Go!

    

Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant. Amazing. A 3 course meal (dining package for Fantasmic) for $60ish, which for us in the UK is amazing value. My steak was absolutely delicious and would have been about $45 on its own!

    
    
    

Indiana Jones stunt show. Really fun. We didn’t see the car stunt show as we watch it every year in Paris so we were prioritising stuff we don’t get to see usually. 

 
Giant boulder!

   

Fantasmic. It was packed. Apparently can hold 11,000 people. Lucky we had VIP seating which meant we had a great central view!

    
    
Mickey!!!!

    
Not a great picture (all my pics are iPhone but we also got the Memory Maker which means I’ll have loads to download when we get home – you get the parks photogs to take your picture which is fun). Fantasmic employs a lot of laser projection type stuff so they show animations on huge water screens. It’s very impressive!

  

Beauty and the Beast boat. Ahhhhh. 

  
Fire on water!

  

Mickey saves the day!

  
  
Rock and Roller coaster. One of our favourites from Paris.   

Downtown Disney / Disney Springs. It’s fab! We got a new bauble for the tree. We always get one in Paris. 

    
    
    

I treated myself to a little memento! I do have a full Pandora already but just wanted something small to commemorate our trip. This has the parks exclusive bracelet plus a bead for 2015, one for Epcot and one for WDW. I’ll try and get one for Paris but otherwise just going to try and get one a year, Disney only! 🙂

   

In pictures: Be Our Guest dinner 

The coveted dinner at Be Our Guest (the Beauty and the Beast themed castle experience in the Magic Kingdom, probably the hardest reservation to get as it is the only chance to meet the Beast). 

After breakfast and lunch on the first full day, we were lucky enough (persistent enough – T found the reservation after checking lots of times for cancellations!) to snag a dinner reservation for day 2. I swiftly cancelled our reservation for Animal Kingdom dinner and booked BOG instead. 

We already did BOG breakfast and lunch on our first full day so we knew what to expect. I do love it though and it was a fabulous experience. The food was tasty, the ambiance was a bit more grown up than in the day time (but not too grown up!) and I got my castle themed goblet to take home! (It flashes blue and red… So funny. I noticed a lot of adults had them after they saw mine so I started a trend!)

The difference with dinner is you get proper table service and you can have wine – we had the rosé, naturally. And after dinner, the Beast receives guests in his study!

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

In pictures: Animal Kingdom

Did you know that WDW has more parks than Magic Kingdom? They also have Hollywood Studios (we have MK and HS in Paris) plus Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Sea World. On top of that they also have two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, and a huge shopping, restaurant and entertainment area called Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), not to mention all the resorts. 

We decided to skip Sea World mainly because of the animal rights issues and I felt like I would be upset by seeing Shamu in a tank, but half of me wondered whether we should go just to see what it was like. I love going to aquariums (acquaria?!) but they don’t usually have orcas in tanks doing tricks. Anyway we ended up skipping it as we only have a week so thought we could always do it next time. T didn’t really want to do it either. The ultimate parks ticket gives you unlimited entry to all parks for a set time (we had 7 days) so we could have fitted it in if we didn’t go shopping!

Day 2 of the full days (we managed Epcot on the first night for the Illuminations) was Animal Kingdom. We are DLP (Disneyland Paris) aficionados so we are quite used to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, so I was really excited to go to AK. It didn’t disappoint!

First off though: drama. I realised that morning that I couldn’t find my wallet. Agh. We had taken it to MK the previous day but I hadn’t even used it. We thought maybe it dropped out of my bag when we were getting our Halloween costumes out for the party. (We were in MK all day then Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party was in the evening until late!) We went to guest services and got a number to call. They log all lost and found items and send to one single place (the transport hub near Epcot) so I was on hold for around 40 minutes when we got to AK. It was kind of stressful.

Fortunately, Disney magic being what it is, they had it! Whoop! So we could carry on the rest of the day without being too stressed. So here is AK day in pictures…

The Tree of Life that is the symbol of AK. It has lots of animals carved into the trunk and it’s huge. I love it.  
The Lion King show. We are off to see The Lion King in NYC and we wondered if this might spoil it – it was amazing! Lots of acrobatics and singing and animatronic animals, including Simba!  
    
  

One of the monkey islands. 

  
Expedition Everest. It’s a really great ride! It’s a roller coaster with some hidden surprises!

 

Nemo musical. “Fish are friends, not food!”
 

More monkeys. We saw them playing around and climbing up and down so I think (hope) they are happy.   
  

Animal spotting tour. We spotted a lot of birds but the tigers weren’t playing ball! Made me feel quite happy to know they can go off and hide if they want to. 

  
Birds of prey show. Really impressive. The birds kept flying in and out and did tricks like taking a dollar bill out of an audience member’s hand. And who knew you could train chickens?!


A slushie. It was so hot that day!   
Rafiki! You go on a train up to his conservation centre and it tells you all about stuff that you can do to help animals. And we met the real Rafiki there!

 
This little guy had had an operation this week. The silver colour on his shell is protective post op coating. 

  

Great music – I think this was in Africa. They have Asia and Africa areas plus a random dino land (notable mainly for the Dinosaur ride where there is a hilarious picture of me screaming in horror at the T. rex). 


Then Kilimanjaro safaris. This was a real highlight. You go around in a safari truck driven by a guide and you can see loads of animals in a semi wild situation. Of course they are cordoned off in some way but it’s a bit like a large open zoo – you don’t see bars or anything but there are some ditches between you and the lions. They said that they’ve trained some of the animals to come in for the night and it can take a few hours for them all to show up! It was really interesting and fun. I’m always conscious of not wanting animals to be suffering and obviously it’s better if they can be in the wild, but these guys did seem like they were almost wild and just wandering around.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
    
    
  
I really loved Animal Kingdom. 

Our plan was to go back today (our last day) but unfortunately T has sprained his toe and is having trouble walking so we are going to have an easy last day today and do some shopping. (Day #2 of shopping – I’ll post an update as we are playing catch up here!) It’s a good excuse to go back next year! We are already planning a return trip for maybe 2 weeks instead of 1. There is so much to do in WDW. Apparently it’s 30 times the size of NY! We have our annual Disneyland Paris trip for Christmas (we always go in December) so that should tide us over until then. If you ever get the chance to go, I would really recommend it!

In pictures: Magic Kingdom

Some highlights from our trip so far. I’ll have to split posts as we had a lot of photos!

View from my window on the plane. We had a great flight. Watched Inside Out and a few other films!  
View from our balcony. Could be worse! 🙂  

 
I got a gift basket as a present for T and also ordered our Lumiere in advance. The basket had Halloween Mickey and Minnie in and lots of American candy… Yum!   

We arrived just in time to rush to Epcot for late opening on the first evening… The big globe at night! Never seen this before. 

 
We even managed to see Illuminations on our first night.    

First view of the castle at Magic Kingdom… Early entry to the park for our breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest. Almost empty!


The Beast’s castle on the hill – Be Our Guest restaurant (the most in demand restaurant in MK). 

    

The ballroom. I almost cried.     

Then we went to see the parade… Ahhh. 

   

   

  

  

My favourite statue. Sniff. 

  

Halloween Mickey!


Mickey’s dream show  

    

My favourite ride as a kid: It’s a small world. 

 

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party and Hallowishes