After I had lived out my childhood dream at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, it was time to let my Dad live out his.
[Bit of background if you are new around here… I work for my Dad and unbelievably, this was a work trip!]
My Dad was 9 when his family gathered around a black and white television set to watch man land on the moon. I don’t think he’s ever dreamed of travelling to space, but he loves all forms of transport – be it cars, boats or planes. And yes, rockets too.
I had imagined this was going to be a day of smiling politely and feigning interest while he ran around like a kid in a sweetshop, but after an hour, I was finding it all quite exciting as well.
Space travel doesn’t need any glamourisation, but NASA certainly know how to put on a show. If I had children, and I wanted to spark an interest in science or STEM fields – this is where I would take them.
I don’t think anyone could ever convince me to board a rocket, but I have a new found respect for those who do.
There are many educational resources at the Kennedy Space Centre but I found the film on their planned mission to Mars especially interesting. I’m not sure I see a need to push the boundaries of what the human body can endure, but for those who do want to venture further from earth, the work they are doing to support life in space is fascinating.
And if you aren’t able to venture to Florida yet, I would definitely recommend the film ‘Hidden Figures‘ in the meantime.
A couple of days after our trip to the Kennedy Space Centre, we headed south for our conference. It seemed wrong to bypass Cocoa Beach on the way so we made a slight detour for lunch.
This area is where the families of the astronauts lived in the 1960s, and the beach is where they gathered to watch their loved ones take off for the moon.
It’s relatively quiet compared to other tourist spots in Florida and we had a lovely peaceful lunch at the end of the pier, overlooking the ocean.
When I was 10, my Aunt won a Safari Trip in a photography competition. When she and my uncle arrived home they brought us souvenirs. I was given a necklace featuring “The Big 5” (Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant and Buffalo). I’ve never worn it but the symbolism is something that has always stayed with me: You are an exceptionally lucky person if you get to view The Big Five (or any endangered creature) in the wild.
Not long after I got my necklace, Walt Disney World announced it was opening Animal Kingdom. I knew I might not ever get the chance to experience the real thing, but a Disney safari seemed like the next best thing to 10-year-old me.
Fast forward a couple of decades and (through hard work and some very good fortune) I found myself in Florida on a work trip. So as you can imagine, Animal Kingdom was the first park I wanted to visit.
I made a beeline for “Kilimanjaro Safaris” as soon as we were through the park gates.
I have to be honest, visiting as a 30-something, the safari area was a little smaller than my childhood memory had led me to believe, but of course I was much smaller back then…
Some animal rights campaigners don’t support zoos, for obvious reasons (lack of space, enrichment, animal welfare, etc) but most reputable keepers of big game will off-set that by directing some of their profits toward conservation. I also think parks such as this have a vital role to play in educating children and adults alike about the magic of the natural world and the need to protect and conserve it.
Looking at the wildlife documentaries and films available on Disney+ it certainly feels like this attraction is more than just an amusement park to the corporation. For honesty’s sake though I will say it would have been nice to see some more mental enrichment in this area of the park (which wasn’t overly large).
These guys in particular seemed a bit bored of their enclosure…
The safari itself is certainly educational and there are other resources dotted around for visitors too.
I had to share this as (being tall) I have a certain affinity with the Giraffe.
Back out in the main park there’s colour and life, everywhere you look. It’s classic Disneyland and makes you feel like you are wandering through one of their live-action remakes.
The street acts were just as impressive as the rides and attractions too.
Everest is a ride with a twist. I loved every second on that runaway cart.
We saved the best for last though. The Avatar Flight of Passage is billed as an immersive 3D ride through the world of Pandora (from James Cameron’s Avatar). Personally, I would have described it as 4D. It’s the best theme park ride I have been on to date. It’s that good. Get there early because naturally, everyone wants to ride the Banshee!
Visiting in February (2019) meant that nightfall came early so we finished our day with the Rivers of Light show on the lagoon.
Maybe it was the magic of Disney, or maybe it was the jet lag, but I found this show and it’s message very moving. Visually, it was stunning, and a real feat of aquatic engineering.
I look forward to going to Scotland every winter. Sadly this year I spent the entire holiday feeling very poorly indeed. Back home, whenever someone asked me how the holiday was I replied with “Well the medical centre was excellent, and the three pharmacies I visited were lovely.”
That being said, staying indoors wasn’t too bad, with these views to admire…
We rented the most charming and secluded cottage. If I won the lottery I would buy it (I liked it that much!)
When I was feeling up to it, I didn’t have to venture too far to see more of the scenery. The cottage is surrounded on all sides by secret pathways and spectacular views.
The most spectacular part was perhaps the three waterfalls, which you surrounded the house and could be heard everywhere you went.
The village of Lochgoilhead doesn’t offer much more than a medical centre and a post office, but the one benefit of having to make multiple trips to the pharmacy, is that you get to see more of surrounding areas.
Fortunately all of the pharmacies I needed could be found in one place: the charming town of Dunoon. My grandad came from Dunoon (which perhaps explains why I’ve always prefer the west coast of Scotland) but this was my first visit to his hometown.
Sadly I couldn’t linger for as long as I’d have liked, but I’ll be sure to return. When everywhere looks as pretty as this, how can you stay away?
I am just going to say it… I think Charleston is possibly the prettiest city I have ever visited. Not to mention the most warm and welcoming. It really showed us some amazing southern hospitality.
We only stayed a couple of nights, but I could easily live here.
On our first evening we arrived starving after a long, long drive. I had heard wonderful things about Magnolias but sadly they couldn’t squeeze us in. So here is my hot tip: head next door to it’s sister restaurant Blossom. Which is every bit as good and much less crowded.
For shopping; you can’t beat King Street, but the market hall was fun to wander through and we also found a fun farmers market on the square (held once a month).
Mostly though, I spent my time in Charleston drooling over dream houses and other pretty places.
Oh, and if you want to splash out on a fancy dinner – try this place. I celebrated my birthday with a Bison steak which I am still talking about now.
Last month we took a little time out and headed to Pembrokeshire for a few days R&R.
Driving south we took the scenic route through Snowdonia and along the Pembrokeshire Coast before arriving at our destination: Slebech Park
Slebech really is a haven away from the rest of the world (no mobile signal). The building itself isn’t much to look at, but the converted stable-block rooms are a modern twist on country comfort.
The main thing I loved about Pembrokeshire was that virtually everywhere was dog-friendly and Cali was positively encouraged into every restaurant and shop with us. (It’s a good job the rest of the world isn’t like this or I fear she’d have a terrible shopping habit and I’d have an empty bank account!)
We visited Pembroke Castle on our first day and enjoyed a free guided tour. Followed by a look around the town (and in Cali’s case, a chance to scoff all the yummy biscuits people offered her) and an afternoon on Tenby beach. We ate at the South Beach Bar and Grill while the sun set over the sea outside.
The second day was spent tiring Cali out walking around the Slebech Park estate and later exploring Picton Castle and Gardens. The gardens were the real star there – I’m aware I’ve probable middle-aged myself by saying so, but they were very special.
On our way home we stopped off in the Pembrokeshire National Park and spent a happy couple of hours exploring it on horseback. Later we ate dinner in Aberaeron before heading home.
Two months ago Cali and I took some time out and spent it with family in the Scottish Borders.
We stayed in this house, which is what I would call ‘unusual’ and ‘unique’. It’s extremely spacious which makes it excellent value for money – but (I’ll be honest) not quite to my taste.
The house is not too far from Kelso which is a perfect town for a touristy day out shopping for knick-knacks. It’s also only an hour and a half from the coast. We visited Eyemouth – which has a small but perfectly formed beach and a great coastal walk (past the smugglers bay!)
If you do get chance to visit Eyemouth, I would also recommend this lovely pub.
But the main draw of this house is that it’s very much off the beaten track and the best of the Scottish Borders is right outside your front door – waiting to be explored.
On another note… this post is, as usual, a little late. I’ve been getting into bad blogging habits over the past year and you may have noticed that the number of posts has dwindled a little. I have all the best intentions of remedying that but all is not so simple as it would seem! I’m going to share a little more about my journey over the past year soon, but for now, let’s enjoy Scotland…
Having had such success with our guidebook when looking for somewhere to eat out, we decided to give it another spin for the next day’s activities.
La Pelosa was listed as one of the most spectacular beaches on the island so we headed over to it. Unfortunately, everyone else must have thought so too… when we got there you couldn’t see the beach for people. The waters were a stunning colour but the area lacked the tranquility we were craving so after snapping a couple of photos we turned around and headed back to Alghero.
On the hunt for another activity, I remembered reading about Neptune’s Cave and we managed to book ourselves onto the last trip of the day.
Things couldn’t have worked out better – even if we’d planned them. We had a quick bite to eat on shore, then hopped aboard and set sail for the cave. It takes about 40 minutes to reach by sea – and you have to pay extra for the crossing – but it is preferable to walking from the car park, which involves a climb of 654 steps.
The cave itself is roughly 80 million years old. I can never remember which is a stalactite or a stalagmite – but there were a lot of them! The very helpful guide (who spoke 4 languages) told us that only 1% of the cave is still “living” due to reduced rainfall in the area.
Tall folks take note though – there are a lot of low ceilings and things to bang your head on (as demonstrated by the blurry photo lower down)
Alghero may not be the largest place to visit in Sardinia but it’s certainly one of the prettiest.
The old-town is by far the most picturesque part – and can be reached via little archways leading off the harbour. Be warned though – the streets are made up of pebble-stone cobbles and therefore not somewhere you should venture in heels.
On our first night we headed for dinner at Il Pavone – a restaurant the guide book recommended. We got there a little early, which was a blessing as we managed to catch the sun setting over the sea in the harbour – a little bit of pink-tinged magic.
Almost everywhere you go in Sardinia dinner is made up of 4 courses: Antipasti, Starter, Pasta/Risotto course and Dessert. Il Pavone did not disappoint on any level. I’s been owned and run by the same man for decades and he took the trouble to introduce himself to all the diners that evening. The waiter had been there for 25 years and between them they helped us pick the most amazing selection of food. However, our guidebook had advised us to ask for ‘black gelato’ for dessert and it wasn’t on the menu. Nevertheless we asked …and were provided with the most amazing gelato I have ever tasted.
I didn’t take my camera to dinner so unfortunately can’t show you this wonderous dessert on the blog. I did manage to snap a quick picture on my phone so if you follow me on Instagram you’ll be able to see it for yourself.
When we left Isola Rossa, we headed south along the West Coast and on the way we decided to stop off at Castelsardo. The castle itself is 12th Century but the area’s history extends back much further than that.
There is some parking higher up but we opted to walk up the hill so that we could see more of the town and it’s charming shops (note to self – next time, do shopping on the way down). It was quite a climb but we were rewarded when we got to the Castle with a blast of fresh air at the top and the most stunning views of the harbour and the Sardinian countryside behind. Oh and there was a Gelato shop up there – so that helped too!