There was a 6am wake up call this morning as we were docked at Edfu only till 8.30am. We had pulled in next to another ship and actually had to walk through it to get to the bank. There we caught a horse and carriage to the Edfu temple. It’s the most beautiful and well preserved temple in all of Egypt as it’s the furthest from the Nile. Dedicated to a triad of Gods, which consisted of Horus, Hathor and their son Hor-Sama-Tawy. The main front wall is 37m high and decorated whit battle scenes.
Then we headed back to the boat for breakfast and to catch some sun on the top deck. After lunch, we entered the loch. That was super cool. Not just for the watching of the gates and the lowering of the water levels, but for the merchants in their boats. They would hook themselves up to our boat and then proceed to throw up bags of goods, mostly towels and table cloths. The kids (esp B.B.) were mesmerised. It was fun watching them scramble when a bag fell into the water
We arrived in Luxor not long after. It’s Karnak and Luxor temple time! We first visit Luxor temple. Luxor means the palace. It took more than 800 years to build the Luxor temples. It’s been mostly destroyed as it was over 65 acres but now only a 5th remains.
After an hour to roam it’s on dusk and we move to Karnak temple. It’s amazing to see it all lit up. Its massive rows of mini Sphinx used to run all way to Luxor temple. They are only now uncovering it and restoring as they go. The two huge stone figures at the entrance are most impressive. There is a change of style here with the temple pillars looking like lotus flowers.
The kids are struggling so we head back for diner. B.B. isn’t feeling well and nearly falls asleep at the table. Ayrlie is desperately trying to stay awake long enough to see the belly dancing show at 9pm….. it’s only 7! With much coaxing we change her into the beautiful blue dress we purchased in Dubai and head up. Mark stays with B.B. as he is already in lala land! We walk into blaring music and an Anook (check what this really is) dancer spinning around in his massive skirt. It even has lights! He goes to the tables and dances over Ayrlie and I. Then the belly dancer drags us both on stage. It’s a bit embarrassing but Ayrlie has a great time. She is asleep 3 seconds after her head hits the pillow when we finally get back to the room. Tonight is our last night on the boat and it’s another early start tomorrow.
Breakfast was an assortment of hot fresh croissants, sausage with capsicum, eggs and fruit. About a million times better than the Le Meridian! At Atlantis we would easily spend over an hour at breakfast but there, we were in and out in 20 min! Here is better thank god. Our guide hires a felucca (traditional sailing boat) this morning and we set sail for the botanical gardens that are set on an island in the middle of the Nile. Our seamen are Nubian villagers. The Nubians are actually native Egyptians but look much more African with the almost black skin and wider nose. They live in their own village with their own language. They are great fun and share Egyptian tea with us. They then break out the drum and sing some songs for us. It’s a beautiful way to spend the morning. The sail is so smooth! We love the gardens and the kids finally get to run off some energy. We buy some trinkets from the guys on the boat on way back and head up for lunch.
It’s delicious again and the boat finally sets sail while we are eating. We go and watch the send-off. It’s super cool and the country side is so beautiful. We see herdsman with their cattle, donkeys and even some camel. Kids run to the shore to wave and say hi. We arrive at Kom Ombo around 4pm. The sun sets are longer here. You have a beautiful orange glow for about an hour. It’s gorgeous on the temple. This temple was unusual as it’s dedicated to two gods. Sobek, the crocodile god and Horus the falcon god . The crocodile mummy museum is better than I thought it would be and the kids really enjoy it too. There is a Galabeya party tonight and Ayrlie is stoked to wear her new blue dress from Dubai. After enjoying a traditional Egyptian dinner Benjamin starts to fall asleep at the table. He doesn’t even get through desert before we have to take him up to bed! Unfortunately we miss the party but have an early start tomorrow so aren’t too devastated.
Remind me to never tell B.B. if we have an early morning again! We had an early flight today with our driver picking us up at 4.45am. B.B woke at 1am and then every half hour or so after, rushing over to make sure I knew the time so we didn’t miss our flight! This was despite knowing I had set the alarm and we were getting a wakeup call (which I said I didn’t want and got two anyway!) So with no sleep, we head off for tour flight to Aswan. We are greeted by Mesa. He is a melancholy and goes through every detail of our itinerary and goes over a few extra tours and costs. He gives us the rundown on tipping and how much everything should be. He even takes us to an Egyptian shop to buy water and some food as it’s cheaper! The new High Dam, unfinished Obelisk and Philae temple is on the list for this morning before boarding our boat, and sailing up the Nile. The High Dam was built to better regulate the annual flooding of the Nile but despite its size Philae Temple turns out to be more impressive, especially knowing they moved it! When they put the new High Dam in, the temple was flooded (along with thousands of other sites) It took them 10 years to move it to another site.
The unfinished Obelisk is the largest one ever made. Unfortunately, just before finishing, it cracked right through the middle, rendering it useless. Finally we make it to the boat. Thanks god too as the kids are not being on their best behaviour. We are blessed to be upgraded to a suite. It has a queen bed, single fold up bed and a small couch. Considering this room is supposed to be double the cost, we were hoping for something a little bigger. Lunch is buffet style with much the same food as yesterday. A KFC style chicken, fish and some stemmed vegetables. Then another table for salad, bread and a big desert table. There are quite a few other guests, although a good 97% of them are Asian. I’m starting to feel like I have a head cold so we decide that instead of doing the Felucca ride and gardens today that we will go to the room for some quiet time. The kids however really want to go to the pool so mark takes them up. The water is below freezing so they are back in 5 minutes! Mark wants to sit in the sun up on deck for a bit but the kids and I stay in the room. I lay down for a nap while the kids play on the iPad. 10 minutes later I hear the kids setting up a shop in the room. I was trying to sleep with a pillow over my head so they didn’t know I was listening. Next I hear Benjamin say to Ayrlie “Because you have a beautiful face and a pretty smile I’ll do you a deal. I’ll give you a 10% discount so it will be 30 instead of 40 pounds.” They are practising what they have witnessed over the last few days and it’s super cute!
Dinner is great! Way better than lunch and what we have been eating. Yummy soup, lightly battered fish, pasta and pizza. Kids are stoked! We are all bushed so head straight to bed.
We are greeted with a city, just waking up. A warm glow from the sun lights up her streets. Camels with their riders and donkey drawn carts clop by, laden with vegetables to sell to the people. It’s a stark contrast to Dubai’s glitz and glamour. Men huddle round barrel fires, smoking pipes in the bushes in the medium strip in a slow start to their day. Apartment buildings are a mix of ornate window trimmings with old brick, or a run down, crumbling faced with beautifully painted, sculptured doors. First stop of the day was at the famed Egyptian Museum. It certainly was a sight to behold. We spent three hours here and barely scratched the surface. We went through so quickly I can hardly remember a thing! Lucky I took like a million photos to help jog the memory later.
On the way to the blue mosque, Ahmed had the car blessed. He signalled to a man who promptly came running over with incense tin. He then proceeded to go around the whole bus and even came inside! We thought that was very funny and cool. The Mohammed Ali Mosque was stunning! The inside was so beautifully decorated with such detail! Again we became a spectacle with people wanting our and especially the kids photos. The girls kept running over to Ayrlie and sometimes Benjamin saying they were so sweet… like honey.
They followed us everywhere. After the Mosque we went to the synoptic churches. We picked up some silver chains and some silver scarab beetles with semi-precious stones ($136Aud). We saw the cave (they have turned into church) that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus stayed whilst travelling through Egypt to Jerusalem. It’s pretty cool. Then we finally go to pick up our cartouches. Our guide Ahmid has had them made for us overnight, inlaid with our names. We arrive and walk down a little ally to the workshop. Up the windy staircase we find 3 small rooms. One guy demonstrates on mine, how they solder on the hieroglyphs. First they place a very small square of silver on the cartouche. Then they place the letters on top. They use a blow torch to heat the whole thing up and melt the squares. It’s polished with running sand and an electric buffer. They are solid silver and 18ct gold. So beautiful for only $46 each!! Bargain! We eat dinner at the pool bar after being evicted from the pool. The food is so good! We can’t believe it’s the same hotel as breakfast is so bad! We have yummy fish and chicken with hummus and cheesy bread.
The day started early with our guide Ahmid picking us up at 7.45am. We headed first to the great pyramid of Giza. There are 3 large ones, 5 smaller ones and of course the sphinx. We paid extra (900 Egyptian pounds) to go into the great pyramid. You crawl through a very steep passage up 70m into the heart of the pyramid to the burial chamber. Inside is a sole sarcophagus. Made out of one solid piece of granite. The walls inside and out were complete smooth, almost polished! Above us, massive slabs of granite 10m x 2m each. It’s impossible to believe it was made with simple tools. The kids are really taken with how big the pyramid is. We then barter for our camel to ride behind the pyramids to be able to see them all at once. Mark and B.B. are in front and they end up having a naughty camel! At one point as mark is getting on, the camel jumps up, nearly knocking him off! It’s funny as it keeps farting and pooping too. We capture some amazing shots of the pyramids and head to the Sphinx. Here we again become a spectacle with hoards of Egyptians wanting our photo. Benjamin decides today he likes all the attention but as I see people running in our direction put a stop to the picture taking. We already have about 60 people around us and more are coming!
After 3 hrs, we head to a papyrus factory. We see how they strip the papyrus stem and then hammer it flat. They then soak the strips for 3 days for light and 7 for dark paper. This takes out some of the sugar. It then goes under a heavy rock to dry. After some real heavy bartering we end up with two large pieces and two smaller ones for the kids.
Next we are off to Saqqara and the stepped pyramid. We pay a quick stop to see the oldest mummy in Egypt pharaoh Meryn Ra We can’t go inside this pyramid though as it’s not stable. We stop off at Memphis this see what’s left of the monuments from Ramses and a mid-size Sphinx.
On the road again and we head for the bent pyramid and the first completed, true pyramid built by Sinafru. After climbing what seems like a thousand stairs, we look down the barrel of a 65m steep shaft, almost straight down! The chamber is again beautiful but stinks to high heaven. There are three chambers with the last one needing you to climb back up 30m or so. As much as we would have liked to have stayed a bit longer the smell is too overpowering.
As a full day of pyramids viewing comes to a close, Ahmid invites us back to his place for ‘lunch’ that just happened to be at 4.30pm. His sister spent all day cooking and we were delivered a feast! Battered fish (mullet) crumbed chicken, baby eggplant stuffed with rice, pasta and some delicious potatoes. All sooooooo amazing!! So much flavour! Ahmid kept piling our plates up till we almost burst! Then we had the privilege of meeting his family. They all live in a 5 story complex in a little village. The house looks old from the outside but walk indoors and you’re blown away! It’s like a Victorian manor house. Decorative crown mouldings painted in gold, wallpaper on the ceiling. Victorian triple layer curtains in every room and big ornately carved furniture. The kids went and played with the other children. Despite not knowing the Egyptian, they all enjoyed the universal language of laughter and play. We left will full tummies, after eating more fruit (The mandarins were amazing) and little pastries named Fteer Meshaltet.
We excitedly head down to our buffet breakfast after a restless night’s sleep. Let’s just say, it’s not the Atlantis! There is some salads, an egg station, some puddings, some other stuff we didn’t know what it was and a bakery section. Thank god for that bakery section!! There is a lady making it fresh right in front of us and it’s delicious! We head back to the room to shower and get ready for our photo shoot. As soon as we booked our trip I started looking for a family photographer. I knew I wanted photos here! Something quintessentially Egyptian with old buildings or ancient hieroglyphs. We ended up hiring the tour company’s guide to get us where we need to go because this place is a rabbit warren! Our guides name is Ahmand and is lovely. We end up having some time free so go to a perfume factory first. The owner goes through how they make it and we test some combos. They serve us tea (sweet black and hibiscus) which the kids love. Even the kids fill out their favourite fragrances. $4000 Egyptian pounds later ($300 Aud) and we have 4 bottles of perfume, 6 decorator bottles and 1 oil burner. Ouch!
Off to find our Photographer Amani from Sweet Pea Photography. We arrive at a street resembling an old market and wind our way through some backstreets. The locals look as surprised to see us as we are them. There is an open air butcher with meat of various cuts hanging all around. Fresh bakers with young boys carrying massive trays of flatbread on their heads. Stray cats and dogs everywhere! Dozens of little shops, selling their wares and interesting fair. After about 10 minutes, we arrive at the most gorgeous old building. It’s a house over 800 years old! Our photographer has gotten special permission to shoot here and it’s amazing!! Dusty as all heck but beautifully old and historic. The park is next and I’m soooo glad I brought my head scarf. Not that it helps while we are actually shooting tho. We are the centre of attention for the whole park! The kids can’t believe it. There are a good 60 people around us starting and taking photos. It’s quite unlike any of us has experienced before and I’m not sure we will get used to it. Amani is amazing and we have a great session. I’m dying to see the photos but she is booked solid for the next few weeks so we are looking at a 6-8 week wait. We quickly stop at KFC for dinner and our guide shows us the sound and light show on the pyramids. The colours are beautiful but it’s a historic account of the ancient gods that we can’t hear properly so the kids (and us) quickly get bored. Time to head home for some shut eye.
Today was our last day at Atlantis. It’s sad to be leaving as we have enjoyed our time here more than we thought we would. After taking our time with breakfast, we headed out for our last trip to the waterpark before our flight to Cairo. It’s 4 hours and we arrive at 5.15pm. We are picked up by Amir, the tour company’s owner. He gets us our visas and through security with ease. It’s super quick and we are out in less than 30min. Unfortunately it then takes another 2.5 hrs to get to the hotel!! Traffic is unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like it, even in Thailand. There are no lanes and cars just drive wherever. Finally we reach the hotel. We have a pyramid view room that’s supposed to be in the new wing. Ummmm, it’s nice but a bit small. We order room service because the kids are falling asleep. The Pizzas are ok but unfortunately cold so not very appealing. Not the best first impression. Hopefully tomorrow will go better.
Today was spent at the Lost Chambers Aquarium. Home to over 65,000 marine animals including white crocodiles, this place is truly magical. We saw bright pink jellyfish, ruby red rock lobsters and a few species I’m still trying to work out. It’s set up like a lost city under the ocean and convincingly places you in the high tec world of an ancient civilisation. They have a number of touch tanks for the kids and the staff on hand were wonderful at explaining all the animals.
Indoor skydiving was on the agenda today so we were up early to catch the free shuttle into the Emirates mall. Then we had to catch a taxi to the city centre Mirdif. After a brief safety video and learning the hand signals we suited up and headed in. Mark and especially the kids loved it. I completely freaked out and screamed my head off like a little baby when they took me higher. We purchased the photos and video afterwards and it’s totally worth it. The kids had 3 goes with mark and I having 2. B.B. just wants to spend the day there. They both loved being flipped and spun and thought it was the best thing ever!
We want to see the Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. It stands 830m from ground to tip. We catch another taxi to the Dubai Mall which is also supposed to be the largest mall in the world. Ummmm, that it is! The place is massive with 4 story’s covering a ridiculous amount of space. All the posh shops are here but the place is beautiful. The Burj Khalifa amazing! We stay for dinner at the rainforest cafe (same one as in Vegas) and watch the fountain light show. Every shop is decorated so beautifully and I could easily spend the house deposit as we wander around. That open spice market.. was in their equivalent of Woolworths! We taxi it back to the free shuttle and head back to the hotel around 7. Head up to the club room for some coffee and to laugh at ourselves watching the skydive videos. It’s been a great day.
Breakfast was back at Kaleidoscope today and it has now been decked out in Christmas fare. After another stuffing we again… you guessed it, headed to the waterpark. We did however stop off at the private beach for some sand castle making and table tennis playing beforehand. It’s cooler and a bit foggy today and the water in the lazy river was totally freezing! We wrapped it up quicker and headed back to get ready for our tour tonight. We are off to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and it’s the largest mosque in the country.
Hend is our tour guide and makes a great first impression hugging the kids and getting them as her side kicks. We are the first pick up and on the way to collect the rest of the guests we chat and find out she is from Egypt. She has kids go with her to collect the other guests and of course they love that. It’s a 1.5 hr drive to Abu Dhabi. It starts to rain and the weather is hazy. Not the best unfortunately for taking photos! Along the way she explains a bit about The United Arab Emirates. It was formed in 48 years. It was originally 9 separate states all fighting for survival. Then they found pearls in Abu Dhabi. That brought trade. Then the Japan worked out how to make cultured pearls and send the economy down again. When Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi found oil, he then United 7 of the states into one. He built the whole infrastructure of Dubai etc from 1971-2004 when he died. It’s a country of peace where over 200 nationalities live together. Zero crime, zero drugs etc..
The Mosque is absolutely packed when we arrive but the place is breathtaking. There is an inner courtyard surrounded by pillars that look like palm trees with golden fronds and gemstone flowers running up the trunk. Unfortunately they have closed the main attraction due to the rain. The single woven piece of carpet is worth 30 million dollars and they don’t want people with wet feet walking on it. We spend an hour wandering before heading home. There is an amazing amount of work that has been put into every tiny detail of this place. From the delicate floral designs inlaid with semi-precious stones on the floor to the crystal chandelier filling the main prayer hall. The largest one is in this main hall and weighs approximately 12 tons! It sparkles with Swarovski crystals and shines with 40kg of 24-karat galvanised gold. It was definitely worth the trip and I recommend anyone going to Dubai to make the effort to head there even if just to admire it’s sheer size and amazing craftsmanship.
It was more of a free day today with no particular activities planned. After the late night we slept in a little so headed to Seafire which opened at 9am for Breakfast. It’s one of the more sophisticated restaurants and the decor definitely reflected this. There wasn’t as much choice either though the biggest hit was the fresh Nutella crepes! They were really delicious with everyone going back for seconds.
We headed back to the water park afterwards (it’s definitely our favourite thing to do) before the kids went back into the kids club. It’s pirate and princesses theme today so they are in for a treat.
I then headed to the spa for another treatment while mark had some quite time. We all finished just in time for happy hour! It’s been perfect that between breakfast, afternoon tea and happy hour we haven’t needed to buy a thing! We have all been so tired that so far, we haven’t even been able to stay the whole time but tonight we dragged ourselves out for a nice walk. The weather has been pretty good so it’s not too cold out. We found a massive playground for the kids and about 12 table tennis tables! We were still back in the room, tucked into bed and all asleep by 9pm.
Our usual early riser Bb has been sleeping in and Ayrlie has taken his place tho much more disturbingly! At least today was better than yesterday, 5.30 am instead of 4.30 am 😳. Breakfast today was at Saffron, one of the hotels Asian inspired restaurants. The international selection was vast. So many dishes to choose from including 8 different flavoured dumplings, won tons, curries, a full pastry wall, and another chocolate fountain. The kids were desperate to go to kids club (which is included in our room rate) so we booked them in for the morning 10.30-1.30pm session. I headed off to the Spa for a body scrub and mud wrap and Mark hit the slides at the water park.
Then it was a quick change and snack before heading to the lobby for our afternoon pick up by Platinum Heritage Safaris. The initial drive was longer than I expected being 1.45min. When we arrived at the desert we were given gift bags with water bottles and fitted out in our traditional head dress. Women’s are black and the men’s red and white. We then climbed aboard our camels! Wow! What an experience that was. A full 45 min ride through the desert. They are bumpier than we expected. The camel behind mark and Benjamin kept coming up for a pat and scratch on the head. We saw a Gazelle and some white Arabian Oryx, which are quite rare.
Next was an amazing falconry talk and show. It was amazing to learn that they aren’t native to the AED but the Bedouin trained them to hunt after noticing their migratory patterns. They could fully train them in 3 weeks and then would release them again for the summer. It was too hot for them to live there so they would just release them and re catch and train in the winter. It’s now illegal to use them for hunting in Dubai but you can travel to places like Morocco. You do however need to buy them a business or first class ticket! They are treated like royalty and can cost up to 1million dirham. We then hopped on the open air vintage land rovers to travel to the traditional Bedouin encampment. We were treated with traditional coffee, rose water and a tour of the things on offer. Ayrlie and I had some henna done and Mark smoked the shisha pipe. Dinner was some rice and slow cooked lamb but my favourite was definitely the camel stew. That was bloody delicious! (Much more delicious than the camel milk…that I can pass on.) They performed a traditional drums dance where everyone could join in. The kids really loved that. Before leaving we sat down with a coffee maker who explained the process of roasting, grinding and brewing the beans to get the best flavour along with the ancient Arab customs. Traditionally, if you are only given a little coffee, it means you are welcome and they will continue to fill your cup throughout the night. If however you are given a full glass, it means you are to drink that but then kindly leave. We arrived back at the hotel at 10.30pm and after literally dragging Bb out of the bus crashed again.
We were seriously wowed by breakfast at Kaleidoscope today! I’m sure we looked like freaks walking around with our mouths open. Everything you could think of from Indian, Asian, Western, Korean and even a chocolate fountain complete with a candy was on display. We tried to pace ourselves but believe me it took some restraint! We finally waddled back to our room to get ready to head to the long awaited aqua adventure park.
We caught the buggy from the hotel which was a super fun ride. First on the agenda was the lazy river. I had heard it was the best in the world. They weren’t wrong! It took oven an hour to do with two side tunnels along the way. The first tunnel took you to a series of rapids that became more adventurous as you went along and the other was called the Torrent river. This was where a tidal wave of water would come rushing for you in stages and you needed to hold on or be flipped.Before we left home, we purchased the GoPro Hero 5 Black just for this day and have been impatiently waiting to use it ever since. It has been a blast! It takes excellent video and the photos are great quality. We easily spend the day here, finishing off with the kids play area which is massive. Happy hour makes for a relaxing couple of hours and we don’t need dinner afterwards which is a bonus. For some reason we can barely keep our eyes open and all crash out by 7.30pm…. again.
Our flight is at 2.30 am so it’s a long night before we even board. The kids are so excited the time is of no consequence so checking is a breeze. We board on time and off we go! I didn’t think that they would serve food straight up but they do. We are flying Emirates for the first time and the service is excellent and so is the food. The kids get little goodies which keeps them occupied for a while and despite the fact it’s a 17 hr flight, it goes quickly.
We arrive at 1.30pm Dubai time. Our first night is at the Savoy Park Hotel Apartments. The service is great right off the bat with someone bringing us cookies and cold tea as soon as we walk in the door. The hotel is a little older but it’s comfortable enough for one night.
Breakfast the next morning is at the hotel so we headed down to see what’s on offer. Chickpea curry, scrambled eggs n sausages, croissants and a selection of fruits and Middle Eastern goodies. We then decided to walk up to see the coffee museum. It’s in the historical sector about a 20 min walk from the hotel. Benjamin mentions that he was expecting Dubai to be all new and not old like what we are walking through 😂. The museum is located in group of old building that remind us of a rabbit warren. The architecture is beautiful.
After an interesting walk around and a selfie with a friendly Arab, we head to the spice Souk. It’s a short Abra ride across the river. An Abra is a traditional water taxi and is super fun, very fast and only 1 Dirham each. Along the way there are lots of individual souks. One for textiles, spices, utensils and even mattresses! We are lured into a textile store by a guy who puts a traditional head dress on Benjamin. We all end up being dressed in traditional fair. The young guy is a great haggler but in the end I’m happy with my two pure cashmere scarves and Ayrlie looooooves her traditional blue dress.
We stop to buy some spices….until we get the price! For 3 very small bags of spice and two of tea the gentlemen wants 580 dirhum…..$190!! Ummmm no thank you! Off to the gold souk it is! I’m looking for an eternity ring or bracket and maybe some earrings for Ayrlie. The gold in the windows is simply amazing! They specialise in laser cutting the gold so it shines and sparkles with the smallest of light. It’s extremely decorative and very beautiful. We end up with two pair of earrings that we haggled down from 1180 durum to 850 around $300 Australian. Pretty good for 22crt gold. The service in the jewellery shop was perfect. We are given chairs and drinks. The Marsala tea was super delicious! We are all starting to get tired so head back to the hotel.
It’s time to make our way over to the Atlantis where we will spend the next 7 nights. We have imperial club access which gives us breakfast, all day access to the club lounge and free entry into the aquarium and watermark. As we are checking in, they send us over to the lounge to have afternoon tea. It’s quite an impressive spread. The hotel is almost to amazing for words. Ornately decorated with stunning colours, sculptures and golden details. I’ll be sure to take photos in the coming days because you simply won’t believe it!. Happy hour is from 5-7 and we feast on some hot dishes, treats and free cocktails. Mark and the kids can’t resist a quick dip in the pool despite the cold. We are all still recovering from a bit of jet lag so turn in for an early night.
This little girl was simply gorgeous!! She was the sweetest little poppet and a joy to photograph today. We started her session with a cake smash to celebrate her first birthday (still to come) and then headed to our property for an update on the family photos. Along the way we came across a field of wild flowers and just had to stop! Afterwards, it was time to play in the tree house and have cuddles on the swing. What a great way to spend the day!
Usually our family portraits are super fancy, lots of hair and make-up and full sets that take me months to prepare! All of which I love and adore but when my favourite supplier introduced their wooden block prints I needed something asap! It was Friday afternoon so I sprung it on the family that the next day, we would be heading to the park for a quick session so I could fulfill my dream of having a beautifully large collection of wooden blocks on my wall! Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and it was pouring rain almost all day! Determined, we headed there anyway. It was soggy, the tripod kept sinking, I stood on and ripped my dress (actually it was borrowed from a friend) and it drizzled most of the time. We had about 25 min of total shooting time but I was stoked with the end results. Mission completed and my wall is now adorned with awesomeness!
It’s the second visit to the studio for this beautiful family and I couldn’t wait to see them all again. We had the most lovely newborn session with Miss I when she was born and I was looking forward to seeing how she had grown. True to her newborn nature, she is the sweetest, happiest little poppet ever! Mama looks gorgeous and we captured her baby bump to a T.
Poor Master L had to wait a while for his Cake Smash Session due to Cyclone Debbie! She came in and flooded our beautiful park and then left us with thick mud and debris. Eventually we made it tho and Master L finally got to enjoy his cake. And that he did. He was more than content to sit there, eating away, sharing some icing in between mouthfuls. He is super gorgeous :). Needless to say, we had fun filled afternoon. Happy Birthday little man!
For Easter this year we are staying with family at the gorgeous Corella Creek Country Farm Stay at Nelia. The kids have been completely taken with all the baby (and not so baby) animals. So what’s a photographer to do with all this adorableness….. an impromptu photo shoot of course! 🙂
We don’t fly out today till 9.45pm but the hotel has graciously given us late check out till 1pm. The kids hit the pool first thing to get a swim in before breakfast. The hotel has a full kitchen so I whip up pancakes and bacon and eggs. A walk down Hollywood blvd is crazy! There are hundreds of people here and it’s not fun, literally after two blocks we bail. We saw the stars of fame, chinese theatre, good enough! It’s busier than Disney world!
My Friend Kirrilly lives in San Diego and has graciously decided to come visit us. We meet at the outlets so we can get in some retail therapy at the same time. She has two little ones (of which I have only met one) that Benjamin and Ayrlie dote on the whole time. It’s so good to catch up after so many years and spend some quality time together. After they leave we hit some more shops and scoop up some bargains. Man, only if we lived here and didn’t need to do the dollar conversion!! Anyway, shopping done we head back to eat more ice cream and MnM’s 😂
We can’t quite believe our holiday has come to an end. It was planned for so long and on our first day here, we thought a month as such a long time (I’ve missed a few non-exciting days of blogging)! Basically I feel like I’ve blinked and now we are done. It’s sad to go, but we have made some very special memories. Ones I’m sure the kids will remember for the rest of their lives. Thank you all for coming on this journey with us and feel free to contact me if you are ever heading over and need some info. I’d be happy to share hotels, excursion vendors etc.. but for now Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and may 2017 be an adventurous one!
This morning we are visiting Santa Monica which isn’t too far away from our hotel. It’s busy but the view on the pier is gorgeous. The ferris wheel and show rides look beautiful against the sand and ocean.
We walk along the strand and find the swings and circus rings. It’s super fun. Benjamin nearly makes it all the way across but poor Ayrlie needs some more practice :). There are a lot of guys working out and showing off on the equipment. It’s quite amusing to watch the posturing.
The kids want to head back to the hotel for a swim while it’s still warm so we end up spending the rest of the day there. They love the Popsicle Hotline! Basically you pick up the phone, anytime you like and a lovely lady will bring out a gleaming tray of ice blocks! They have also been quite taken with two girls at the front counter, Sara and Alexander and love chatting to them in their free time. The girls let them go behind the counter and help serve but the thing Benjamin and Ayrlie like the best, is knowing where the secret stash is 🙂
Sadly we are on the last leg of our amazing trip in the US. Today we fly to L.A for our anticipated 3 night stay at Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood. It’s a long 6 hour flight, excluding the extra airport time but the kids are great, there are no delays or turbulence and the scenery out the window is beautiful!We arrive at 2.30pm so plan on doing some shopping on the way the hotel. Well, that was the plan…. until we turn up at the car hire place! OMG, the line is out the door and down the street!? I’m truly baffled how, when everyone needs to book their car online, in advance, as a company, you can’t schedule staff for that. 45 min later, my patience has moved to zero and I head in to complain. There is one, ONE guy at the counter serving. I ask if he can call someone as he has been with the same person the whole time. He replies smugly that he is the only one on and that there is no one else. After a few choice words none of which I can repeat here, I head back in line to inform everyone that we are in for a long wait. We are, believe it or not, the lucky line. There is another one for a different company, and most of the people there have been waiting already 3 hours. Another 1.5 hours later…. people are starting to come back from out the back yelling at all the staff and telling everyone still in line that there are no cars!. Yep, they don’t have any left and people are waiting outside for other customers to bring them back. Another hour later… we finally get to the front counter. We ask if it’s true there are no cars and he scoffs ‘of course there are’. Another 30 min later….. We get outside and low and behold… there are NO cars! We seriously need to wait for someone to drop one back and wait for it to be cleaned. It takes 40 min for this and finally we are out of that place! It’s now approaching 7pm and we are more than tired and hungry. We head straight for the hotel and sanity!
Thank goodness I booked this place. It’s not 5 star in appearance, but it makes up for it in service. I picked it for this exact reason. Unlimited chocolates, treats, soft drink, juice, popcorn, ice cream, dvd’s and the best bit, they have a laundry service! Yep ladies you heard me. They will happily take all those dirty clothes, wash them, fold them perfectly and drop them back to your room. Heaven right there folks! The ladies at the front desk are amazing. The hand over some chips and juice to the kids as soon as we walk in. They then organise for dinner to be delivered to our room for no extra charge. Another hour later, and wine and goodies are also sent in for our Wedding anniversary. The room is one of the biggest we have stayed in, complete with chocolates and fluffy bath towels for us and the kids.
The pool is open 24/7 here so even tho it’s late, the kids want to get in. It’s supposed to be heated so off we go! Unfortunately it isn’t as warm as they would have hoped so it’s a super quick swim and then back to the room with some warm apple cider and ice cream.
It’s Christmas Day!! Yay!! Kids sleep in a little which I’m considering as my Christmas present so am happy as! 😂. They unwrap their presents and play for a bit while we work out what we are up to today.
We were planning on heading somewhere nice for breakfast but find out that ice skating is opening earlier than we thought so we decide to just snack on what we have in the room and run straight for the subway. At first I was nervous about traveling on the Subway but trust me, when faced with walking 56 blocks, I’ll take it anyday. It only takes us 15 min to arrive at the top of Central Park. It’s actually our first sunny day since we have been here and the walk is gorgeous. There are the most adorable squirrels everywhere. Scuttling through the trees and snapping up nuts.
We are the second people to arrive at the rink. We decided on Lasker over the one at the Rockefeller as it’s half the price! Only $43 instead of $88 and much quieter, and larger. The kids are so excited! What an ionic way to spend Christmas Day, ice skating in Central Park, in New York! Only thing missing is snow. We get a good 1.5 hrs in before the masses arrive. We stop for a quick break and skate for another hour before heading home.
The city is much quieter today and not everything is open. On recommendation of a friend, we head to a little Italian restaurant on 52nd street. We order our last NY pizza and it’s massive! Takes up the whole table. What a way to end our stay here. Although not our favourite place along the trip, it’s sobering to know that by leaving tomorrow, this is really our last destination on our way home.
Cookie monster. That lovable, blue fury monster from Sesame Street. He was the inspiration for today’s Cake Smash and Master A was just stoked! He loved the cookies and the cake. We first met Master A for his newborn session (here) and I can’t believe what a handsome little man he has grown into. He was a perfect newborn and was just as happy and content today as he was then. Mum and dad must be super proud of their little munchkin. Happy Birthday A!!
I was so happy the rain decided to hold off today! Thisafternoon was spent with the beautiful C family and I would have hated missing that! Miss A was an adorable, fun, cheely ball of attitude and giggles with Master L being calm, snuggly and cool. I almost couldn’t handle all the sweetness Miss A showed towards her brother. I’m quite sure they will grow up to be the best of friends.
Today we have decide to make the trip to visit the Macey’s santa. We were supposed to leave early but time slips away and we arrive around 11am. We are told there is a two hour wait. Hmmm, that’s a long time! Only other option is to get here at 6.30 am tomorrow. Not my idea of a good time so we decide to wait it out now. I’ve heard the santaland is amazing and it’s really worth the visit, it’s also the third thing on my list. 5. HOURS. LATER. We walk into see santa. Yes, santaland was pretty buy by no means amazing and santa is in this tiny room (they have more than one) sitting on a bench, no lights, no decorations, no tree! We are out in under two min, collect our dodgy prints that cost $70 and fled for our lives! Another thing to add to the underwhelming nature of New York. We were supposed to catch a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty but it’s now 4 pm, so we head back to the hotel for dinner. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little brighter!
(Photos have been re-edited by me because the origional were just soooooo bad, and they still aren’t great)
It’s a rainy Christmas Eve so we decide to do the Natural History Museum today. It opens at 10am so I set the alarm for 8 thinking two hours will be enough time to just throw some clothes on and eat breakfast. Wrong! By the time we finally get down to the subway, it’s already 10.30am. Not sure how that happened?? The subway machine only takes coins ( who carries $12 worth of 25c coins around) and credit card. After purchasing two tickets with the credit card, the machine decides it won’t take it anymore. There is no one to talk to, and we are causing a huge line up! So we need to put the kids in front of us, swipe through the card and try and both push the turntable thing at the same time. Not fun. The kids love standing on the train because it’s so bumpy and an new experience and it does get us to the museum in about 6 min instead of walking the 42 blocks! We arrive at the front door and of course there is a line up, all the way down the block…. and around another block. More waiting, but in the rain! After an hour wait, the ‘suggested’ entry for the 4 of us is $77USD. So over $100 Australian. Ummmm, sorry, what? I’ve read, that you can pay a donation instead so I offer $25USD for all of us and the guy doesn’t bat an eye. Phew, a much more acceptable price.
We tour the dinosaurs, space and native Americans searching for the giant head out of the Night at the Museum movie. It really is huge! Some of the displays look amazing and extremely life like. It’s easy to spend all day here.
It finally stops raining and now that we are an expert on the subway, decide to head all the way down to lower Manhattan to Chinatown for dinner. That’s an experience! The streets are lined with little stalls selling fake Loui Vuitton bags and Rolex watches. Fresh fish stalls are crowded with different seafood and some of the smells are less than pleasant. Now to find a restaurant I’m actually going to eat at! We decide on one and order the lobster special. Two for $25 cooked in ginger and scallions. It’s the first time I’ve ever ordered lobster. We start with some fried dumplings (which Ayrlie eats and loves for the first time ever) and spring rolls and follow with lobster, rice, crispy skin chicken and ribs. It’s all quite delicious.
On the way back to the subway, we stop at a few little bakeries to pick up some treats to have when we get home. We get a lemon sesame roll, chocolate black forest cake, strawberry mousse cake and a chocolate hazelnut roll. Yum! We snuggle in bed, watching Harry Potter till midnight before drifting into a santa dreaming sleep.
Next morning we head out in search of breakfast. We are given some advice on the elevator to stick to McDonald’s as the breakfast over hear is not that great and to save the $$ for dinner. We heed the warning and go in search of one. Along the way, I get side tracked at a little bakery and pick up some goodies, cheese scone and chocolate hazelnut muffin. They are amazing and this spot becomes my favourite breakfast stop for the rest of the trip. We decide it’s a day for strolling Central Park so we head in that direction. Ayrlie spots it first and lets out an excited squeal. It’s the horse and carriage rides. Looks like we will be crossing off the second thing on our to do list. She picks the prettiest carriage, white with flourishes of purple. The pony even has purple feathers on it’s head dress. We snuggle under the blanket and set off around the park. We get a quick tour with some of the sights pointed out, trump ice rink, Central Park zoo etc.. we even see some more squirrels much to the kids delight.
The temp is dropping fast and we realise we aren’t dressed warm enough so head back to the hotel early. Being such a big place you’d think you could find somewhere for dinner easily, nope it takes two hours but we settle on sushi. Luckily we find a place just around the corner. It ends up being lovely and we chat to the ladies beside us while we eat. They are a grandmother with her two grand daughters and she is completely taken with the kids. When they are leaving, she comes to the table and explains that she is Jewish, and that they celebrate Hanukkah. She then gives the kids the Hanukkah gift of money so that they will remember her. It’s a super touching moment. With promises to save some and spend some of the money, we finish our meals with good feeling in our tummy. We decide to go see the famed tree a the rockefeller centre. It’s not to far but with the night crowds takes an hour to walk there. Finally we arrive and are completely underwhelmed. It’s just a normal tree that someone stuck lights on. No decorations, no star on top, just some red and green lights. My tree at home looks better! The ice skating rink is not much bigger than a tennis court and the line up is hours long. Well that’s not happening! We get bailed up by a security guard whom is again taken by the kids and he proceeds to give them a ‘life lesson’ talking to. The kids are told to work hard, not be lazy, and do as they are told. He tells them that he comes from Romania, grew up very poor and knows what he is talking about. After promises to slave at learning with no fun ever, we escape back to the room to snuggle with hot chocolates and a movie and to wonder why the hell we decide to spend 5 whole days here! 😳
We arrived in NY around 1.30pm but it took another hour in a crazy cab ride to get to our hotel (seriously, it felt like we were back on a Tuk Tuk in Bangkok) Our rooms not ready so we go find some lunch. It’s 8 deg but feels way colder, closer to 4. We are staying at the Belvedere and it’s a far cry from what we have just came from! Back to sharing a single room with no kitchen.
We do some light unpacking, chill for a bit and head for dinner. We are noticing the streets are quite dirty…. and particularly stinky! There are bags of rubbish lining the streets. Not sure if it’s like this all the time but it’s not a pretty sight. And it’s busy, really busy. We tick the first thing of our to do list when we find a NY pizza cafe. The pizza is massive and Benjamin thinks he has died and gone to heaven 😂. It’s good too and we inhale all but two pieces.
Next we take a walk down Times Square. Not quite what we were expecting considering the hype. We agree Vegas was better and more visually appealing.
It’s getting late so we head home for some shut eye.
So you are probably wondering if there is anything else other than Harry Potter going on at Universal. Well there is a ton! Firstly, I am a huge Jurassic Park fan so that ride was high on my list of priorities. You slowly start by riding through the ionic doors, then gently sail through jungle, dinosaurs, a destroyed Raptor enclosure before plummeting down a steep drop off! It’s not my video but it was the best one I could find that shows the full ride. That drop off is really steep!, and you get wet. Another reason why it’s not my video :).
Another cool ride was Kong – Skull Island. We were told it was a kid friendly ride on a big RV and you didn’t even need your seat belt……hmmm, I think we all would have preferred one! This was another full on 4D ride complete with ‘real’ bug guts splattered in your face. There is a fight between Kong and a T-Rex where the truck you are traveling in gets thrown off a cliff. Ayrlie found it a little intense but Benjamin just loved it (after the initial freak out waiting moment).
Now Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges are another story. We were thinking it would be like Dreamworld’s Thunder River Rapids. We love that ride and you don’t get too wet so we thought we would be good to go… how wrong we were!. It’s cool, so I’m in jeans, jumper, kids have their jumpers on. We take the first corner and bam! Full bucket of water straight on our heads! There are water cannons on top of the barge around the next corner and kids (and adults) are able to fire them at you as you float past and they are way to accurate for my liking. Tho the kids loved having their turn when we hopped off. It went downhill from there and we came off looking like drowned rats! Completely soaked and very cold. It was a fantastic ride, but they need to give people some notice.
There were a ton of meet and greet opportunities the favourite being Shaggy and Scooby. The Minion ride had been talked up on some of the blogs I had read and we were really looking forward to it. Unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to the expectations. It was rough, real rough. You were thrown around, bumped and bashed. We noticed a lot of the rides were this way. Although the 3D effects were something else, most rides were similar in their execution.
With 54.5 hours, 58.9km of walking and countless rides/photos and experiences to remember, we can officially say we loved our time in Orlando!
For those of you that don’t know (like I didn’t) Universal Studio’s is broken into two parks. Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. To ride The Hogwarts Express, you need a park to park ticket. That way you can visit both parks in the same day and ride between them as the experience is different each time. Firstly to go from Diagon Alley to Hogsmead, you need to head to King’s Cross Station where you will pass through the magic wall onto platform 9 3/4. (sorry my phone was not co-operating and was a bit fuzzy for the start of the video). The affects they have used here are really cool as from our side, it really looks like the kids are disappearing into the wall! From the other side (as you can see in the video) it looks normal so I really wish they video’d everyone walking through so you could buy it.
Once you step through, you arrive at the platform. They have even nailed the details here with suitcases and Hedwig waiting on the slide for collection.
You sit on the train and they close your cabin. Your window then comes to life with scenes of hagrid, countryside and finally Hogwarts. The door freezes when the Dementors turn up and when you come back the other way, the shadows of chocolate frogs, Harry, Hermonie and Ron appear. Again, it’s done perfectly. At Hogsmeade you are greeted with snow capped buildings and the smell of Butterbear. This you can have hot or cold but since it was still a coolish day, we opted for the hot version. It is amazing! All butterscotchy with a cold marshmallowy foam on top, super moreish and I could have had 4 on the spot.
After working our way around, completing spells we were lucky enough to be able to head inside the castle for a self guided tour. It was officially closed for maintenance, so we couldn’t do the ride but as it was a bit quiet they were letting a few people in. We were surprised at how big it is inside! I was thinking the size was more for show but it actually too 20 min to walk through and we were being rushed by the crowd. Again, the detail is amazing. My favourite was definitely the rooms with the moving and talking paintings. I really couldn’t tell you how they have done this! It fully looks just like any other painting, and then it moves, talks and people even walk out of frame. The projections of Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione and Ron in the hall are great and the kids were thrilled to actually see them, as if they were really alive and talking to them.
After the tour we hit Flight of the Hippogriff, a roller coaster aimed more at the little ones. This was a big hit so we lined up and did it again…. and again, just for good measure. It’s a great way to see Hagrid’s house and of course the Hippogriff.
After watching the frog choir and chatting with the hanging head on the night bus our day was done. Tomorrow, maybe we will see something other than Harry Potter… but I’m not holding my breath 🙂