Disneyland 101

Finally I am getting down to writing about our USA holiday, well this is just one part of it really – DISNEYLAND.  Everyone wants to know about it and what we did so the best way was to write it down.  Now I am not going to write every single detail just the main points you will need to know about. We travelled in October so the weather was just perfect.

  1.  Research – as you can imagine there are hundreds of blogs out there about Disneyland.  Before our trip I read a lot of them and each one will have different tips to the other so it is worth doing some research and reading about other peoples experiences of what worked and didn’t and making note of them.
  2. Disneyland Passes – we are a family of 4 and bought our passes online direct through the Disneyland website as this worked out cheaper.  We bought the Disneyland Park Hopper tickets which allowed you to go to both Disneyland and California Adventure Park and it was valid for 4 days at the parks, the total cost for this was NZ $1420.00.  Also keep an eye out as some mornings during the week your ticket allows you a magic morning hour, which means you get to enter the park an hour earlier before the general public.
  3. Plan your day –  plan which days you are going well in advance.  It pays to go during the week when it’s not school holidays in the US and also don’t go on a public holiday or weekend either. We knew it was going to be long days so decided to head out early each day.  We were up each morning at 5:00am had breakfast in our room and then walked to Disneyland.  Magic morning on the Tuesday gates opened at 7am.  The good thing about going early, it is less crowded and it’s cooler.  We did the whole of Disneyland (literally every ride) in 1 day and by 2:30pm when it starts to get crowded and really hot we were done for the day, which meant, afternoon swims at the hotel and relaxing our very sore legs.  California Adventure Park same deal we were there by 6:30am on the Wednesday and did the whole park by 2:00pm.  The following day we went back around 9am, we didn’t get there too early as we have pretty much done both parks it was more going back to see things we may have missed like some shops etc, we were there only for about 2hrs and then went back in the evening for the parade.  We skipped Friday and didn’t go at all.  Saturday we wanted to go back at night for the Fantasmic show and the fireworks display.  We bought a dinner pack from one of the Disnleyland restaurants which got you a ticket in a sectioned off area with great views of the show.  Around 3pm we went into to pick up our food and get out tickets.  I have never experienced being somewhere with that many people, now I know why you avoid going in the weekend.  We couldn’t move there were just people everywhere.  The lines for rides were 2-3hrs long!!!!  We got our food and got out of there as quick as we can which wasn’t really quick because of how many people there were it was like exiting at snails pace. 
  4. Disney Max Pass – if you are planning on spending money to go all the way to Disneyland, trust me the only and best way to do it is by purchasing a MaxPass via the Disneyland app which is another must have.  The Disneyland app show’s you wait times of all the rides so you know which ones to go to etc.  The Maxpass cost  US $10 per person per day.  We bought the maxpass for two days so total of US $80 for both days.  As soon as you enter the park you can book your fastpasses for the more popular rides. You can only book 1 fast pass at a time, sometimes it allows you to book two rides.  By booking a fastpass you don’t spend hours waiting in line.  As soon as you use that fastpass then you can book your next one. The most we stood in line for was about 10mins.  The other great benefit of the Maxpass is it included unlimited photos.  Around the park are professional photographers who take your photos at the popular spots and they scan your maxpass and the photo gets downloaded to your phone.  All the action photos from the rides, you key in the code and you get the photo.  So less time worrying about taking photos and more time to enjoy the park and have fun.  

5.  Food and Drinksyou are allowed backpacks into the park and we took ours on all the rides too.  You can bring in your own food, but not any commercial food, so you can’t buy McDonald’s and bring it into the park.  The park has so many carts and places to eat at, we didn’t as we packed our own food.  We made sure we took lots of snacks and fruit etc.  We had our own water bottles which we filled up at numerous water fountains all over the place.  We did buy ice creams though which was great in the heat.  

6.  Kids & the parks – you are probably thinking why do I need to write about kids going to the park it’s the whole point!  Well let me tell you.  Our girls ages are 12 & 7.  Miss C literally just made the height on all the rides so we were really lucky.  To be honest they were really good, even though we were up early the excitement of going on all the rides just kept them going. Just a note Splash Mountain and the rapids ride at California Adventure park you get soaked.  Our girls loved it and wanted to go a few times.  Because it was so hot, getting wet was very refreshing and we dried pretty quickly. Walking back to the hotel in the afternoon is when the tiredness kicked in, but we bribed them with a swim so it was all good.  However, looking around at all the kids in the afternoon at the park after being there all day, it sure didn’t look like the happiest place on earth!  In my opinion, I wouldn’t take kids younger than 7/8, unless you live there.  It cost a lot of money to go there so you want them to be able to experience it all and go on all the rides and also remember the holiday.  There were a lot of prams, and kids sleeping a lot of the time, or crying because they were hot and tired.  Also going when your kids are older means you can all go on the same rides together which we absolutely loved being able to do with them.

Pixar Pier at California Adventure Park

So, all in all I would say we nailed Disneyland and California Adventure Park.  The months of planning and research paid off, we could not have done it any better.  I would say that the main thing is don’t rush it.  Prepare yourself in knowing that it is going to be busy and you have to wait in line and you just have to go with the flow of things, makes it less stressful.  I hope that if you are travelling to Disneyland you have the best time ever.

Disneyland you were epic

Ronell x

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Easter Camping at Russell Top 10 Holiday Park

Another successful camping trip done and dusted! This time we ventured further north to Russell in the Bay of Islands.

We knew it was going to be a long drive and with recent slips in the area the diversions added a little extra time to the journey. The night before we packed most of the trailer so we could make an early start. We were on the road by 8am! We decided to pull the girls out of school on the Thursday before Good Friday to beat the traffic and I’m so glad we did.

The kids were entertained on the way up there with a few movies. I don’t have an iPad/DVD car holder so I kinda made my own with ribbon and it worked great! They had headphones too so it was a nice quiet ride for us.

Our first stop was at Kawakawa for a quick toilet break and I mean if you’re going to stop to use the toilet this would be the place to stop at. The toilets are pretty cool made using lots of glass bottles and mosaic.

Next stop was at Opua to catch the car ferry to Russell. It was a short ride across but really picturesque and the girls loved it.

We arrived at the Russell Top 10 Holiday Park just after lunch. It was time to put up the tent. Now that the girls are a bit older we get them to help out before they run off! Their job is to pull out all the poles and start putting those together.

I found this time round putting up the tent wasn’t the hard bit, it was setting up all the paraphernalia that goes with the tent that was a mission. If you’re like me I can’t relax until it’s all set up and in its place! Shortly our friends joined us too and we all got stuck in setting up. The park was in pristine condition. The showers and kitchen always clean. This is the first campground that I have seen the staff walking around cleaning and checking on everything all day!

That’s our two red tents all set and ready for the week. I even managed to put up some fairy lights around the gazebo which was quite nice at night.

After slogging away in the heat setting everything up there was no way we were going to be cooking on our first night. So a week before our trip I rang and made a reservation for dinner at The Duke of Marlborough . It was worth doing that early as they get pretty busy especially over peak periods. A delicious meal and a cold beer was exactly what we all needed. Best part it’s only a 10 minute walk from the campground to Russell town.

It was beautiful watching the sun set whilst having dinner. This beach is on The Strand at the Russell wharf and the water was so clear!

The next day we set out exploring. There are so many beautiful bays and beaches to swim at. Our favourite was Long Beach which wasn’t far from the camp either about a 5-10 minutes drive.

There is even a coffee van onsite for you to get your daily fix while watching the kids play.

When we go camping we always take our Weber Q with us. This time we purchased the Weber pizza stone set to make pizzas. Well the stone was amazing!!! So glad we took it. I don’t think we will ever use the oven again!

And no I didn’t make the base that was a store bought base! Fair to say dinner was a hit.

There is so much to do in the Bay of Islands we spent a day driving through Keri Keri and checking out the Stone Store which has been opened since 1836. We made a quick stop to check out Haruru Falls. Then ice cream in Paihia before heading back to camp.

We barely saw the kids at the campground they spent most of the time at the playground so the adults had lots of time to kick back with a wine or even a gin and tonic!

If you do head up to Russell there are loads of boat tours that you can do, from dolphin watching to exploring the bays. They are pricey so be prepared. We booked the Discover Otehei Bay tour through Explore and a family pass was $110.

All in all this was a great trip. It was so relaxed, the kids didn’t want to leave.

What I learnt is that no matter how many times you go camping there is always something that needs tweaking or changing around.

I’m already looking at planning our next trip! So here’s to more adventures and experiences.

Ronell x

Romantic Getaway to Raglan Cont…

Raglan is a small beach town, known for its surfing.  The town is a very laid back easy-going town, and just walking through it, you automatically relax because no one seems to be in any hurry at all.

Our first night in Raglan we headed out to Orca Restaurant for dinner.  It pays to book as they get busy pretty quickly we were surprised for a Monday night how packed it eventually got.  The food was delicious and the portions sizes were very generous so well worth the money.  It has a pretty good selection of desserts too, but because we were so stuffed we decided to just share a creme brulee.

After dinner we walked along the harbour and came across the limestone pancake rocks.  These rock formations are over 30 million years old, and you can kayak or paddle board around them to really get up close and personal.  If we had more time we would definitely have done this.  There is hire company at the beach were you can go on tours amongst the rocks Raglan Water Sports.   We managed to see the rocks from across the harbour at low tide but I imagine it would be spectacular at high tide.

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Afterwards it was back to The Round Tent for a well deserved rest.  The next morning we headed into town for breakfast and tried out The Shack.  It was a really great looking cafe and the breakfast was amazing too.  Topped off with fresh cold pressed juices to kickstart our morning.

We did a bit of driving around to have a look at the beaches.  We could tell it is definitely a surfing town, down at the beach there were so many surfers already in the water waiting to catch their next wave.

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Next stop we were off to a special anniversary treat at the Te Aroha Mineral Spas.  The spa is nestled at the bottom of  the Te Aroha mountain.  The mineral spa has natural thermal water which is so silky and has been there for over 100 years.  Each room is private and you it has a shower and toilet in it as well.  What I liked most was that you can actually control the temperature of the water.  We booked the romantic package.

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The romantic package was an hour in the spa, with candles, chocolates and a rose or a teddy, whichever you wanted.

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It was well worth the hour and a half drive from Raglan, also what I enjoyed was along the way it was great seeing other smaller towns in New Zealand.

We spent the night in at the tent with takeaway dinner and catching up on our favourite shows. The one thing we were hoping for that we didn’t get whilst down at the tent was rain.  The weather promised a storm that never came.  There is just something extra special about being in a tent hearing the rain.

Looks like our next trip will have to be around winter!  It was the perfect mini break for us and just what we needed to start the year off.

Ronell x

 

 

Romantic Getaway to Raglan

We recently celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in Raglan.  I thought 15 years deserves a mini break.  We both have never stayed in Raglan before, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to explore the area.  The drive down from Auckland to Raglan is about 2 – 2.5 hrs.  A nice easy car trip especially if you are travelling with kids, however for this trip we were child free.  We could only check in at 2pm so on our way down we decided to check out the waterfall on our travels.

Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls

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The walk to the falls was pretty easy from the car park, it’s about 10 minutes.  The falls itself is a 55 metre drop.  There are a few viewing platforms that are easy on the legs, the two upper viewing decks have spectacular views and no stairs. We walked down to the midway viewing point, this was about 135 stairs and if you are keen you can walk all the way to the bottom which is 261 stairs (I was not so keen).  All I can say is that this proved how unfit I am!  My legs were like jelly!  But it was totally worth it.  Just a note that you’re not allowed to swim at the bottom of the falls due to the water quality, which is a kinda of a give away by just looking at it.

Accommodation

In regards to where we would stay, I wanted somewhere a bit unique and romantic.  After searching for weeks I finally found the perfect place, The Round Tent.  We booked this well in advance around July last year and again it pay’s to book early, so you are not left disappointed.  This place was everything we were looking for and more.  The tent is a Mongolian style yurt which was just unreal.  I could easily live in this permanently.

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Every detail was so well thought out and it was so comfortable.  We did not want to leave at all.  I could have stayed here forever.  The best part was the peace and serenity of the place, all we could hear was birdsong and cicada’s.

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The kitchen and bathroom were well equipped and had everything you could need.  Tea and coffee were provided as well as a bag of marshmallows to toast using the outside fireplace.

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There were plenty of games, dvd’s and books to keep you occupied.  The yurt is fully air-conditioned as well, and in current weather conditions it was our haven.

I loved all the art and special pieces that were around the yurt, it was not over done and just perfect.

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After the drive down and the hike to the waterfall the outside bath was just what we needed.  Sitting outside under the stars and just relaxing, was total bliss.  In winter I can just imagine how amazing it would be with the fire pit outside and a hot steaming bath.

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The yurt has a set of bunk beds and our two girls were not very happy that those were there, and we did not take them down with us!  So the option to take kids is available, but oh my goodness if you can experience this without kids I would highly recommend not taking them!  We took advantage of not having the kids around and just lazed around, read books, talked and laughed. It’s so easy to forget who you are as a couple after you have kids, that every now and again it’s great to just reconnect.

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It’s fair to say we absolutely loved it and we will definitely be back (maybe with the girls) to The Round Tent.

Stay tuned for part two where I share with you what else we got up to in Raglan.

Ronell x

Family Trip to Cambridge, New Zealand

Over the summer holiday’s my sister and her family where over visiting from South Africa, so it was the perfect time to hit the road and head south.  We had planned the trip out around June 2017, as you will know a lot of things book out really fast so it pays to plan early.

After New’s Year’s day we left pretty early to beat the holiday traffic and the good thing was it wasn’t too far from Auckland.  On our way down to break up the journey we stopped at the Hamilton Gardens to stretch our legs.  I assumed it would be quite but oh no I was wrong it, it was bloody packed!  But don’t let this detour you, it’s still big enough that the crowds are a bit spread out.  From February 1st this year the gardens will be opening up 6 more concept gardens, so definitely pack a picnic and head on down.

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The Indian Garden

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The Italian Renaissance Garden

Accommodation

We were travelling with a big group so needed somewhere that could accommodate all of us.  Luckily with Air BnB we found the perfect house.   It was truly amazing and so well-kept, I could have stayed longer than the 3 nights that we have booked.  It was so spacious that you never felt like you were on top of each other at all.

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The amazing kitchen

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Outdoor Entertainment

So if you are looking for somewhere to stay down in Cambridge that can accommodate big groups I would highly recommend Town and Country Accommodation.  There are more photos on the link provided.

On the itinerary for our stay down in Cambridge we were going to visit the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton.

Waitomo Caves

First up where the caves, we did the two cave package which was the Ruakuri Cave and the Waitomo Glowworm cave.  The Ruakuri cave tour was about 2 hours long so that involved a fair bit of walking, there are some spots that you have to bend down to get through but most of the time you are upright so you don’t feel claustrophobic.  You see some glow worms in here but the main cave that has most of the glow worms is the Waitomo Glowworm cave.  This cave is the one that you get to do the boat ride and see thousands of them, it was absolutely stunning!  However you have to be extremely quite, no talking, sneezing or anything!, which can be hard with children but ours were okay as they were a bit older, except for Miss Chloe who was sitting on my lap and decides to let one rip (in other words – farted) and yes in a cave it echo’s thank goodness it was dark and no one could see the shock horror on my face!

The thing I found with doing both caves is that you get the same info about how it all formed etc.  The Ruakuri Cave has a lot more structures to see, whereas the Glowworm Cave has the boat ride where you see a lot more glowworms and the cathedral section where you can sing your heart out and there is no echo in that part.  So in my opinion you don’t need to do both, but it is up to you!

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Spiral staircase at the Ruakuri Cave

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Hobbiton Tours

The following day we headed to Hobbiton.  Once you get there, the bus takes you to the movie set and your tour begins.  There is a tour every 10 mins so it’s pretty busy.  Now I have not watched The Hobbit but it was still absolutely mind-blowing to see it all and hear the story about how it all came together and the changes that were made during filming and after.  The tour guides are amazing, they point out so many things that even if you have watched it you would want to go back and watch it, just to see it and say, ahhhh!  Again lots of walking up hills and dirt paths etc but oh so worth it,  even more so, when you are shouted a drink at the Green Dragon by your tour guide!

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So there you go, that’s what we got up to in Cambridge.  If you have not been to either of these attractions I would highly recommend them.  Just remember though the tours do book out pretty quickly so if you are after certain time slots then book early.  Our kids absolutely loved it, we can now tick this off our bucket list!

Happy travels!

R x

Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple 

This morning we visited the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple (North Island – NZ) in Flatbush.

Looking at it from the outside you don’t quite grasp the size of it until you enter. The temple occupies an area of 4 hectares. The temple was officially opened in 2007.


The courtyard was designed to look similar to farming fields and the grounds around the temple are just immaculate.


There is also a wishing bell that you can make a wish and say a little prayer then ring the bell.


Along the courtyard are trees where from their branches hang ribbons which you can purchase from the temple and write your wish/prayer on then hang them on the tree.


Also dotted around the zen gardens are these cute Buddha statues.



The Bell and the Drum are important Buddhist instruments. The bell is made of cast iron and weighs 3000kg, the Drum weighs 300kg. Both instruments are used daily to signify the start and the end of each day.



Next we visited the Pagoda.  The Pagoda at Fo Guang Shan is built like a memorial garden. This place is not only a place where loved ones are laid to rest but also a place where you can offer respect and remembrance. There is a big water feature at the entrance of this as water is the source of life.


After this we went and visited the art galleries within the temple. There was a great gallery especially for kids where they get to see how the Buddha grew up. It was really pretty and colourful.


In the photo above you will see little coloured papers pinned to the wall which kids have written their wishes on.

After all of that it was time for something to eat so we headed to the Water Drop Vegetable cafe. The cafe has beautiful rustic wooden furniture. Adam and I ordered the curried roti snack! It was delicious.


There are a few options for kids too. Miss K had some plain hot chips, Miss C had a muffin. There is also an array of tea available.

The temple is free to enter, there are a few donation boxes around the place where you can make a donation.

The only thing I would say is that if you are taking kids they need to be respectful of the temple and what it stands for. I have seen a few kids this morning that were running around and climbing on the statues and being extremely loud. It is not a playground, and there were people praying at the different shrines throughout the day.  So be mindful.

It was a great family outing today and we got a lot out of it.

Hope you visit it soon.

Ronell x

Art Like No Other

A couple of years back we visited Gibbs farm.  Gibbs Farm is privately owned and is located near the Kaipara Harbour, the biggest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is here at Gibb’s farm that a few artists get to showcase their sculptures on the 1000 acre farm.

The farm is only open monthly to the public by prior appointment, where you get to walk around and view each sculpture. There is no fee to enter the farm. They offer a few dates where they take bookings but be quick!  Spaces book out so you  need to book in advance.  We visited in Spring, and there was a lot of rain!!  The walk around the farm takes a good 3-4 hours, and trust me it is long, not sure how, but our girls managed to walk the whole way without complaining.  Until that time when Miss C needed to do a wee and there were no toilets near us, so we had to find a tree pretty quick smart!

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You can take younger children but the roads are a bit rough so not that great for strollers unless you have one of those heavy-duty 4×4 prams that can go off roading.  Even though the weather was pretty shit, it didn’t stop people visiting.  The only time the farm is closed is during the winter months.  There are plenty of animals about too, Ostrich, zebras, giraffes you name it.  The cool thing is you can get up close and personal with the giraffes and feed them.

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In summer it would be even more amazing, as you can pack a picnic and sit down anywhere really and soak it all in.  If you are going in wet weather, definitely pack a spare set of clothes to change into once you have finished your visit.

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Both our girls loved the freedom of exploring, and the sheer size of the sculptures where breath-taking!

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We had a great time visiting and it wore out the kids too…hooray!  If you would like more information on Gibbs Farm, click here.

To make a booking to visit, click here for the reservations form.

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Enjoy!

Ronell x