My First Adventures By Disney Vacation is Booked! FINALLY

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I am extremely excited to announce that after many years of trying, our very first Adventures by Disney vacation is now officially booked!  FINALLY!

Here is my Adventures by Disney story…….

About 3-4 years ago, I got the bug to want to travel Internationally for the first time.  Neither my husband or I had ever traveled outside of the country and although I am terrified of flying, something just clicked in me that made me decide that it was time!  Being a Disney Vacation Club member, I often get various Disney information in the mail.  One day I received an brochure that contained information about all sorts of glorious vacations (both International and Domestic) that were provided by Adventures By Disney.  I started flipping through the catalog and came across the pages for a trip of a lifetime to Germany.  I was instantly hooked… bait, line and sinker.  They showed the most amazing pictures of visiting beautiful castles (Neuschwanstein Castle: the castle that  Walt Disney himself used as motivation for Sleeping Beauty Castle), taking a Berlin Wall bicycle tour, learning to make pretzels, brewery visits, chocolate factory tours and of course, lots of yummy German food.  I was in a vacation  haze.  The trip would start in Munich and end in Berlin with stops in Rothenberg and Bamberg.    As fabulous as all this was, it was all wrapped up in a big red bow by adding the fact that this all was accompanied by all the Disney magic one would expect.  They would take care of all the transportation, excursions, many of the meals and hotel check-ins.  Being the person in our household that plans all vacations and events (which I do enjoy doing), it was still such a wonderful thought to realize that we could book this vacation and that is all I would have to do.  They planned EVERYTHING.  We just had to basically show up.  What a nice break that would be for me.
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Although I was completely on board 100%, my husband…. not so much.  This could be because I basically came home one day and said, “I am booking this trip to Germany”.  Not very nice of me to not include him in the decision making.  There were also all sorts of other wonderful locations we could go (Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, London, etc.).  His response was “OK” and he went about his business.  He never showed a great deal of excitement, but I felt I was excited enough for the two of us, so I went ahead and booked the trip.  A booking which included a $1000.00 deposit.

The trip was booked for the following year.  I continued to be super excited about the whole experience and kept reading the itinerary and continued to try and get my husband to rise to my excitement level (he was excited about the Berlin Wall Bike, but that’s all I could get out of him).   As the months passed by and the trip started getting closer, in true Tammy fashion, I realized that I had committed to more then I could afford and there was just no way I was going to be able to swing this trip.  We decided that we would postpone one year and go the following year.  I was pretty devastated, but my husband seemed okay with it all.

I postponed the trip to the following year.  During this time, we decided that we were going to get MARRIED!  Finally, after 14 years, we were going to take the leap and become husband and wife.  At first we thought we would just make the Germany trip our honeymoon, but as the wedding expenses started getting higher (amazing how much a wedding costs, even when you go relatively cheap),  I realized once again that we were not going to be able to swing the cost of the trip.  By this time, my husband was starting to get on board with the idea, so we were both disappointed, but we had the wedding to look forward to, so again, the trip was postponed to the following year.

This brings us to the year that I found out I would be going to France for a month for work.  I’m sure you can see where this is headed… there was no way I was going to be gone for a month in France and then turn around and take this elaborate trip back over to Germany.  Unfortunately, by this time, Disney had enough of our postponing and we had to forfeit the $1000.00 deposit.

So, life went on and I continued dreaming about eventually taking an Adventures By Disney vacation (to any location).  Which brings us to a month ago when out of the blue, I received an email saying that if we did not confirm and book a reservation by end of April (for travel within 2019) that our reservation would be forfeited.  Hmmmm… the reservation I already thought had been forfeited had now returned?!?!  This was such amazing news.  Now the problem was that we had to figure out which Adventures By Disney vacation we could afford to do in such sort notice.  They have what they call “short escape” trips which are usually 3-4 nights long.  We narrowed it down to Boston, New Year, Montana or good ole’ faithful Disneyland.  After much financial debate  (remembering that 2019 is supposed to be my getting out of debt year), we compromised and decided to do the Disneyland Resort and Southern California Short Escape.  Now this may seem silly, since this is only 6 hours from our home and because we have been to Disneyland more times than I can count.  However, I look at it this way.  1.) We are FINALLY getting to do an Adventures by Disney vacation.  I truly believe that once my husband sees the amazing service that is going to be provided, he is going to be as hooked on these Disney trips as I already am.
2.) We go to Disneyland every October anyway.  Instead of losing the deposit (again), it made more sense to put the deposit towards a trip we were already planning on taking.

So what makes the Adventures By Disney trip different then just going to Disneyland on our own?  Well, to start with, it’s the whole special treatment thing that Disney is so famous for.  We will get to stay in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which we have stayed at once before, but is just to pricey for a normal yearly trip.  Plus, even with all of our previous Disneyland trips, we will get to do some special things that we have never done before.  The group will get a special visit into Walt Disney’s apartment that is on Main Street above the fire house.  I knew that it existed, but I never thought I would get to go inside.  I’m almost giddy at the thought.  Plus we will get a special backstage tour of the park and a private tour of the Walt Disney Studios.  They will arrange character breakfasts and special dinners.  We will also get to have VIP entrance to the park (hopefully cutting down on those crazy long lines that we always end up standing in).

To say that I’m excited is an understatement.  I cannot wait for October to get here.  I am pretty positive that after the trip is over, we will end up booking another Adventures By Disney trip right away.  It’s really crazy because I’m normally the one that is very apprehensive and gets anxiety when put in a situation where things are new or unknown, however, when it comes to travel, it is my husband who turns into that person.  He is always a little reluctant about things until we actually do them and then is get so excited!  This happened with cruising.  I took him on his first cruise and now he wants to go every year!

We’ll be seeing you real soon Mickey!

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My Story: 365 day blog challenge Day 33

365 Day Blog Post Challenge 2019
Day 33
37. Your 10 greatest joys are….

My 10 greatest joys in no particular order:

1.) Random texts from those I love just saying they are thinking of me
There is just something so special about getting a random text from someone for no other reason then because they wanted to say they were thinking of you.  It does not happen often, but the few times this has happened, it not only brings me that instantaneous joy, but also puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.  Just recently I was having a not-so-great day at work and out of the blue, I received a text from my god-daughter saying that she just wanted to say she loved me and missed me and that she hoped I was having a good day.  I found it interesting that she just happened to send that text on a day when I was having a rough time.  It made me smile from ear-to-ear and it pulled me out of the funk I was in.  It just goes to show that the smallest things can bring another person such joy.  We should all do more to bring joy to others life.  I love that girl.

2.) Taking pictures and revisiting those memories
I love taking pictures.  I have my camera (yes I still go old-school style and have an actual camera) or my cell camera out taking pictures wherever we are.  It does not matter the event or vacation, you can be assured that I will have pictures to document the memories.  The importance of documenting moments with photos is extremely high on my list.  Although I have pretty much always been that person that has her camera out snapping shots, the importance really hit me just recently when we attended a memorial for my friends husband.  During the celebration of life ceremony after the service, they showed the most wonderful slide show with photographs spanning his whole life.  It made me realize that this is exactly why I do what I do.  I take pictures so that down the road, I (or others) can look back and revisit the experiences that were important enough to for me to take the time to photograph them.
For a while I was big into making the photobooks of each individual event and adventure. There are times when I will just sit down and look through them all and remember all the wonderful memories.  With all the pictures I have, I probably could make another 200 books and still not be finished, but I am determined to try.
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3.) Disney
I have no other words then Disney brings me joy.  Pure and complete joy.  I cannot walk into any Disney location without instantly being overwhelmed with happiness and a strange sense of calmness.  I think the calmness comes from the fact that in everyday life I am very anxious and high strung.  Disney is one of the few places that all of those feelings vanish and I can just be at peace and enjoy everything around me.  Granted, I am not a big fan of crowds or screaming children.. and outside of Disneyland it would pose a problem, but inside Disneyland I seem to be more tolerable of the things that cause me anxiety in everyday life.

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4.) Planning Vacations
Yes, planning vacations brings me joy.  I know for some it is stressful, but for me, it is often one of the best parts of vacationing.  I love the organizing, the searching around for new and interesting things to do and the hunt for good deals.  I love keeping binders with reservation printouts and google map directions (I know.. there is GPS on the phone.. but what can I say, I’m a paper person.  I like to hold that piece of paper in my hand rather then the phone).

5.) Taking vacations
Getting away from life, whether it be for 1 day or 9 just makes me a much happier person.  My husband and I don’t often get to vacation on our own.  We are usually with various other people.  So part of the joy of vacationing for me is that during all of the pre-planning, I try and make sure that I am able to do special things to make vacations special for others.  If we can go on vacation with other people, and I can in someway make their experience better by having something planned that is going to bring them joy.. then that brings me joy.

6.) My alone time
My work offers the option of working a 9/80 schedule.  This means that I work all of my 80 hours in 9 days and then I get a day off every other week.  I find a lot of joy on that every-other Friday off when I get have some quality alone time.  I personally think it’s important to spend time alone.  It gives your time to decompress and get some much needed space.  This is a difficult part of my relationship with my husband, because he is the opposite.  He does not like to be alone.. ever.  So he does not understand why I find so much joy in being by myself.  I think after 15 years he is finally starting to get it, but it still can be difficult.  I try to explain to him that sometimes a person just needs to have time to sit and watch old reruns of their favorite show without someone else there giving comminatory about how stupid they think it is.

7.) Having time to work on hobbies 
Since extra time is not something that I have a lot of, I usually don’t give myself the opportunity to spend time doing things that I enjoy.  As mentioned above, I love pictures.  So this has created an obsessive hobby of photobook making and scrapbooking.  I recently started getting into a form of scrapbooking called Project Life.  I purchased a ton of products to get started, but have yet to find the time to actually sit down and do it.  So, on the rare occasion I have time to do any type of hobby, it brings me a lot of joy.  It could be that I find more joy in it because the time I get to spend doing it is so rare.

8.) Paying off a bill
Having been in debt for so much of my life and always having those credit card bills hanging over my head, there is an extreme since of joy when a bill gets paid off.  I wish I could say that over the course of the last 35 years that once I paid off a bill, it would stay “paid off”, but that unfortunately wouldn’t be the truth.  Even though I know the joyous feeling of paying them off, it still apparently is not enough to keep me from charging them back up again.  I have gotten much better and this is the year of my debt free journey, so here is hoping that I have that feeling of joy more and more often in the upcoming months.

9.) Socks
There is not a lot to say about this one.  I have no explanation for my strange fixation for socks.  But they do bring me joy.  Socks are comforting to me.  I wear them all day and all night (minus the few times I wear sandals or go to the beach/pool).  I wear them to bed regardless if the weather is 45 degrees of 100 degrees.  I know it sounds crazy, but I just feel very uncomfortable without them.  I actually despise the feel of sheets against my feet.  You know the shivery feeling  you get with nails on a chalkboard?  That is how I feel when I have to have sheets rub against my feet.   Hey… what can I say… I’ve never tried to pretend I don’t have some serious “issues”.

10.) Lists:  making them and crossing things off of them
Sheldon Cooper said it best….”If there were a list of things that made me more comfortable, lists would be on the top of that list”.  How true that is.  Lists do all sorts of things for me.  They not only bring me joy, but they bring me comfort and a sense of calmness.  I would be lost without my lists.  I have them everywhere.  I have work lists, personal lists, grocery lists, food planning lists, money budget lists…. need I go on?  I clearly am obsessed with lists.  The only thing more joyful then making the list is crossing something off of it when you have completed a task.

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My Story: 365 day blog challenge Day 10

365 Day Blog Post Challenge 2019
Day 10
284.  List all the vacations you’ve taken

It would be difficult to try and list all of the vacations I’ve taken in my lifetime with just one post.  So for the sake of this 365 day blog experiment, I am going to try and briefly list as many as I can think of.

Except for my one month long trip to France for work, I’ve never taken any overseas vacations.  Although I would like to and hope to in the future.  When I was a child, our vacations consisted of camping trips and trips to Disneyland and Universal Studios.  Except for some trips to Tahoe, Reno and Las Vegas, I never even left California until I was 18.

Over the years I have been to Hawaii several times, traveled to Disneyland pretty much yearly, as well as Disneyworld every 2-3 years.  We take regular camping vacations and have been to Texas a few times.  Once to Dallas so that my husband could see a Dallas Cowboys game during the last season in their old stadium (my husband is a born and raised Californian as well, so I’ve never really understood why he is a Dallas Cowboys fan).  I went to San Antonio for a week on a business trip so I’m not sure that really counts as vacation, but I was able to do a bunch of fun stuff like one of those open top bus tours, a cruise down the river walk and of course a trip to the Alamo. We go to Las Vegas yearly and have been on numerous cruises. We’ve also been to Seattle a few times.  I love it there.

1.) Places we have been on Cruise ships:
Alaska: Junaeu, Glaciers point, Skagway
Caribbean: Cozumel Mexico, Nassau Bahamas, Labadee Haiti, George Town Grand Cayman, CocoCay Bahamas, Jamaica, San Juan Puerto Rico, Phillipsburg St. Maarten, Charlotte Amalie St. Thomas
Mexico: Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta

I think that cruising is probably one of our favorite forms of vacationing.  I get that it’s not for everyone.  However, I would like to say that for those that are reluctant to cruise because they think they will be “bored” on cruise ship, please give it a try.  Cruise ships now are literally sailing cities.  You can do so much not just during the shore excursions, but on the ships themselves.  We have ice skated, roller bladed, zip lined, watched Broadway style shows, enjoyed comedy clubs, climbed rock walls and played miniature golf.  This all while sailing the high seas.  This does not even take into account the extraordinary shore experienced we have had when we stop at all the different port of calls.  We have snorkeled with turtles, swam with dolphins, swam with stingrays, zip lined through the trees of Alaska, taking train rides up into the mountains of Alaska, gone out on an “all you can drink” pirate ship in Mexico, walked waterfalls in Jamaica, and have taken numerous city walking and bus tours.
One of things we love so much about cruising (other than the food) is the fact that on a one week long vacation, you get to visit so many different locations. Usually each cruise has 3-4 different stops.  This is another reason some people are not fans of cruising.  They would prefer to pick one location and stay there.  We like to do that too, however, when you are limited on vacation time, sometimes cruising gives you the most bang for your buck.

2.) Disney:


I don’t think it’s any secret if you have read any of my other blogs that I am a huge Disney fan.  We got to Disneyland at least once a year.  We pretty much always go in October for their “Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween” party.  As adults, this is one of the few places where we can still dress up in Halloween costumes and actually trick or treat for candy.  We normally come home with many pounds of candy from our trip.  We like to say that we try and get as much candy as possible to offset the price of the ticket… but let’s be real.  We get the candy for ourselves.  🙂
We also take a trip to Orlando to go to Disneyworld at least every 2-3 years.
We are such Disney lovers that we have been Disney Vacation Club Members for about 10 years.  This is the Disney timeshare, which helps with the cost of Disney hotels since we can use our points instead of having to pay cash every time we go.

3.) Work?  France/Germany
I added this in even though it was not technically a vacation.  I went to France (28 days) and Germany (4 days) on a business/work exchange program.  It was officially a work trip, but I did so much tourist stuff, it sure feels like it should be considered a vacation.

4.) Camping

Does camping qualify as vacations?  I think it does.  I actually think camping is probably the most relaxing of ALL the vacations we go on.  Camping is the only vacation we take were you actually HAVE to just kick back and relax.  You can go on walks and hikes and other various activities, but for the most part, it is not like our typical vacations were we seem to be busy morning until night doing all sorts of tours and excursions.
The best part of camping?  Smores of course!

5.) Las Vegas

As I mentioned, we go on a week long trip to Las Vegas every year.  My parents have a time share and we’ve been going along with them for the past 15 years.  The time share itself is lovely.  It has a beautiful pool and a lazy river and has daily activities for all owners.  We don’t really spend much time at the resort though.  We seem to always be on the move.  Even after all of these years going, we always seem to find new and fun things to do.  People are often surprised that we can go to Vegas for a full week every single year.  I could see how that would be difficult for some to understand if you just think of Vegas as a place to gamble.  We do like to gamble, but we are “cheap” gamblers.  We play penny slot machines and that’s on a budget.  We don’t however spend all of our time at the slot machines or on the Vegas Strip.  We like to venture out and do different things other then your typical Vegas type of actives.  We’ve been on a Ghost Hunting tour, food walking tours, cruised Lake Mead on a paddle boat, visited old ghost towns (this is my favorite thing to do).  We also spend time down on Fremont Street which is the old Vegas.  We’ve visited the Neon Graveyard (where all of the old Vegas neon signs retire) and because I love anything mob related, I made everyone go visit the mob museum (which was extremely fun and interactive).  Then there is of course the shows.  Any and every kind of show you want to see, they have it and we’ve seen a good amount of them.  Although I am not a huge fan of the heat, the rest of the group loves it, so they are just happy to enjoy the heat.

There are so many vacations still left on my to-do list.  I hope that if I were asked this question in 5 years, I could add a lot more to the list.  Although I enjoyed Europe, I am really focused on seeing as much of the U.S. as possible.  There are just so many things and so many States to visit.

All of this talk about vacations is making me want to go and plan one right now.  I better get on that!  🙂

My Story: 365 day blog challenge Day 3

365 Day Blog Post Challenge 2019
Day 3
123. List 10 things you want to accomplish before it’s too late

This was a great prompt to come up during the first few days of the new year.  It sure made me stop and think about some of my more meaningful goals and the importance of not continuing to put everything off.  We have a tendency to think that there is always a tomorrow, when in fact, there are no guarantees.  As you can see from my list below, the majority of the 10 things I would like to accomplish before it’s too late relate to travel and experiences.

1.) Visit all Disney parks.
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit 3 different Disney parks in 2018.
Disneyland in California, Disneyworld in Florida and Disney Paris.  I’ve been to
Disney California and Florida many times, but walking into Disneyland Paris was
a whole different level of Disney excitement.  Just knowing I was in another country
but getting to experience something so familiar was a unique experience.  I’m sure I
would feel the same if I was able to visit all the Disney parks.
2.) Travel Route 66.
I think this would just be a blast!  I actually have some books on fun places to
stop and also places to eat when traveling Route 66.  So, I have material to do the
research, now it’s just making the time to do it!

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3.) Buy a small RV and visit all U.S. States.
This is a dream of Don and mine.  We go to RV shows often to dream.  We don’t want
anything extravagant.  Just a small RV (something I would feel comfortable driving)
that we could throw our basic necessities in and hit the road.  There is so much to see
in the U.S.  We have not really been to many states, so our dream is to get out there
and see all that America has to offer.
4.) Be fully debt free and never need to depend on credit cards again.
This is something I am very seriously trying to accomplish over the next few
years.  I grew up in a home were living off of credit cards and having a large
amount of credit card debt was normal.  I got my first credit card at age 16
and have been in debt ever since.  I have never had a time in my adult life when I
was not in what most would consider pretty significant credit card debt.  I’ve never
experienced the feeling of not living paycheck to paycheck.
5.) Travel with Don to Europe: Germany, England, Netherlands,
I would have to say that my recent month long trip to France for work definitely tops
the list of one of the most extreme experiences I have ever had.  Although it was a
wonderful trip, I did miss Don.  I would have loved to experience my first
international trip with him, but sadly it just did not work out.  This makes the list of
10 things I want to accomplish before it’s to late simply because there is a pretty large
age difference between Don and myself.  I want to be able to do this while we are
both young enough to fully enjoy everything that international travel has to offer.
6.)  Go to Williamsburg Virginia!!
This should have probably been the first thing on my list.  I’ve wanted to go to
Williamsburg Virginia for longer than I can remember.  I am a history geek.  I love
the hands-on type of history like you can experience in Williamsburg.  Where people
dress up in period outfits and you get to see them reenact the living conditions of the
time.
7.) Live more of a minimalist life style (have more adventures and less “stuff”).
Just like the debt, this is another area I am making a priority this coming year.  The
less “stuff” I have and the end of 2019 the better.
8.) Be financial set so Don can retire.
I often worry that Don will not be able to retire due to our financial situation.  He still
has several years to go before he would be able to retire at a normal retirement age,
but my fear is that due to our debt struggle, that he won’t even be able to retire then.
I don’t want him to have to work any longer then he should.  Finding the tools to get
into a better financial state is top priority for me in 2019.

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9.) Make a point to spend more quality time with family and friends making
memories.

Life is just busy.  That should not be an excuse to not be spending quality time with
family and friends.  I recall just a few years back when I was working  overtime
every weekend to try and make more money.  I would go into the office and work
every Saturday and sometimes Sundays.  We missed so many family events and I
never really made an effort to try and see my friends.  I basically would work, eat and
sleep.  I missed out on making so many memories during this time.  Time is the one
thing you cannot get back and as I already stated, tomorrow is not a guarantee.  So
attend that family get together and make those dinner plans with friends.
10.) Be healthier both body and mind.  Be off all prescription medications.
This is another work in progress, but I am hoping that changing to the lazy KETO
way of eating and continuing to drop some of this excess weight (down 17 pounds so
far), that this is not so far out of reach.  Although I have inherited my high blood
pressure from BOTH parents, I do believe that if I was at a healthy weight, I could
get it under control enough to get off the daily medication.  As for the anxiety.. I am
not so sure that will be so cut and dry, but there just has to be a way to calm a mind
without resorting to medication.

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So those are my top 10 things I would like to accomplish before it’s too late.  Who is to say when “too late” will be.  What I do know is that this topic was a fantastic reminder to myself of what is important to me and forces me to start thinking of ways to start taking the steps I need to reach these goals.

 

Paris Memories Part 2: Disney

Photo Jun 09, 12 04 27 AMI would imagine when most plan their very first international trip to Europe, their first thoughts don’t necessarily think of Disney.  Cathedrals, museums, and monuments maybe, but Disney?  I guess it takes a true love of all things Disney to be that person that gets excited when they first learn they are going to Paris simply because there is a Disneyland there.

I recently wrote about the special memories I had from my first day in Paris when I went on my walking food tour.  I would have to say that having the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris tops the list of my amazing Paris experience.  I was lucky enough to get to share the day at Disneyland Paris with my cousin Jeannette.  She flew in to spend a week with me.  This was actually one of our last adventure days before she left to go home.  A good way to end things with a bang as far as I’m concerned (although I didn’t let her stay to watch the fireworks, because I was so exhausted…. so maybe it wasn’t much of a “bang” after all).  🙂

Now I admit I had some pretty grand notions of what my Paris Disneyland experience was going to be like.  I was so excited that I spoke about it often to my coworkers prior to the anticipated date.  I was only slightly deterred by them telling me that if I frequented California Disneyland, I would most likely be disappointed with the Paris version.  Seriously… how could one every be disappointed with Disney?  I would not let my excitement be squashed.  I was going to go and experience the Disney magic in all of its glory.

My first thoughts of Paris Disney?  I will admit, I was a little surprised at the size.  Having been to Disneyland in California hundreds of times, and Walt Disneyworld in Florida 4-5 times, it was in fact smaller.  However, I found it very charming.  And that castle… SERIOUSLY?  Being a native California girl, I feel like I’m being a traitor when I say that this castle is way more spectacular then the one in California.  The outside has much more of that fairytale look, not to mention the inside has a fire breathing dragon!  I seriously got goose bumps.

I was very excited to see that not only did they have some rides that they do not have in California or Florida, but they also had some modifications to similar rides.  For instance, The Indian Jones ride in California is completely different then Paris.  Not really knowing much about the Paris version of the ride, I of course was willing to check it out and give it a try.  Little did I know that the ride in Paris is actually a roller coaster that goes upside down (I don’t do upside down!).  We were already to the front of the line when this was discovered, so I had to suck it up and go on.  It wasn’t to terrible and I’m definitely glad I tried it…. at least once.

I wouldn’t be doing the day justice if I didn’t mention the Raratouille ride. Although they don’t have this in California or Florida, I was still much anticipating this one after watching many YouTube videos about Disney Paris.  This ride was super cute and has you being chased around inside your little rat-mobile as if you yourself were a rat.  Adorable!

Although I believe there are pretty mixed feelings about the It’s a Small World ride, I personally love it.  It’s is one of the few rides that lasts more then 30 seconds and is a wonderful place to rest your feet after walking all day.  The Paris version was great because we got to see a larger section on America which was pretty cool.

There were many times in the day when I would get lost in the Disneyness of things and forget that I was in another country.  Disney is such a familiar place for me, that it was easy to feel at home there, even though I was thousands of miles away.
There were certain rides that would pull me back to reality though.  Although I was in Paris, and shouldn’t have expected otherwise, I still found it fascinating to go on some of the more familiar rides (Buzz Lightyear, Snow White and the Seven Drawfs and Pirates of the Caribbean for example) and have them be speaking French.  It was a reminder that I wasn’t in California this time!

As for my general opinion of the park, I would say it was well worth the hour and a half train trip there.  Would I do it again?  ABSOLUETLEY (because that would mean I would get another trip to Paris).
Specifics on my park experience?  The food was… well I’d rank it as “okay”.  I didn’t eat anything that made me say “wow”.  With that being said, I didn’t eat anything that wasn’t decent either.  My only regret is that we didn’t make reservations to eat in one of the theme restaurants like Bistrot Chez Remy.  I believe that would have heightened the eating experience a lot.  The crowds….  average for Disney.  I would say maybe slightly more wait time in line at the rides, which could simply be that the park itself is smaller.

Overall, a total thumbs up!  IF I ever get to return, my hope is to stay in the Disneyland hotel that is actually located directly OVER the entrance of the park.  Can you imagine the amazing views from your room at night when all the lights come on?  That is something that is going on my bucket list.

I am not sure if I would ever be able to find anything negative about Disney.  Which is why in 2018 I will have my feet in three different Disney locations.  Paris was the first.  California the second and Disneyworld in Florida will be the third.

Love you Mickey!  Until next time.

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Paris Memories Part 1

Photo May 28, 12 40 19 PMAlthough it has only been three months, I must admit that my time spent in Paris seems like it was ages ago.  It is hard to believe that just three short months ago, I was roaming the streets of another country.  It is interesting how even with all the anticipation of going on such a grand adventure, once it is over, life sort of has a way of pulling us right back into the same old routines and soon the magical wonder of it all is quickly forgotten.

One of my fondest memories of the trip was my first full day in Paris.  I arrived on Sunday and did not have to start work in the office until Tuesday.  That gave me all day Monday to explore.  I know myself well enough to know that there was a high probability that once I arrived and I had to struggle with the language barrier, that I could quickly become a hotel recluse and spend the majority of my time locked up in the safety and comfort of my hotel room.  In order to make sure that I forced myself out and about I decided even before I left that I was going to book myself on a tour for my free day.  This would require that I had to leave my hotel room (if I actually paid for something, I would be much  less likely to try and talk myself out of going).  Needless to say, I was right.  When I arrived on Sunday, I took a walk and already was having some anxiety trying to figure out how to get food or find my way around.  To make matters worse, my phone was not working properly, so I did not have GPS.  I ended up relying on printed directions that I just happen to bring with me (good thing I have major OCD when it comes to planning and organizing and had everything printed and neatly organized in a binder).

With all that said, I did manage to force myself out on that lovely Monday morning.  I did not appear to be suffering from jetlag which was a bit of a surprise.  My body seemed to adapt rather well to the change.

My first major hurtle was to make my way onto the RER with a transfer to the METRO.  It went relatively well, but not without some hitches.  I ended up buying the wrong tickets, and as luck has it, I bought a 10 pack of tickets.  So now I had 10 wrong tickets that were not usable for the locations I would be traveling.  Trying to communicate with the RER employee to have them explain to me why my tickets were not working was comical.  However, through some broken English on their part (which I was INCREDIBLY greatly for), we managed to figure it out…  basically I messed up.  I ended up going back to the ticket machine and purchasing a Visite pass which would allow me to travel and transfer among the RER and METRO for a full day.  WONDERFUL option and one I would highly recommend to anyone that will be using the RER/METRO during a stay in Paris.  They have 1, 2, 3, or 5 day passes.  Well worth the money to eliminate a lot of the stress of constantly buying more tickets.  Due to my direction print outs, I had handy the RER/METRO schedules and when and where I was supposed to transfer.  Transferring (at least for this one trip) was much easier than I anticipated.  More stories on transferring around the METRO that were not as successful will come later on in my trip.

I finally arrived in Saint-Germain.   This is where I would start the wonderful journey on my WALKING PASTRY AND CHOCOLATE TOUR.  The tour way exceeding my expectations.  The tour ended up being just myself and another couple, so we had some personalized service from our lovely tour guide.  We visit several patisserie, boulangeries and saving the best for last… ate a lot of CHOCOLATE!

Remember, this was my first official day in Paris, so you can imagine I was instantly sucked into the joy of food after going on this tour.  After just a few stops on the tour, I decided I wanted every pastry and every type of bread I could get my hands on in Paris.  Although this tour forced me out of my comfort zone and required me to do a lot of things I would normally be apprehensive to try on my own, it also ended up being the starting point to my 15 pound weight gain that would slowly occur over the next four weeks.

On the tour, we walked some beautiful streets of Paris and stopped into about 6-7 shops to sample a variety of pastries, breads and chocolates.  I tried my first world famous Paris macaroon and had the most amazing pastry with this cream inside that was the most incredible thing I believe I ate during my whole stay.  The only thing I had a hard time with was our very last stop where we were going to get “hot chocolate”.  This was definitely not an American hot chocolate.  It was basically like drinking melted chocolate.  I could only drink less than half of it and had to throw in the towel.  It was delicious, but just a little to rich for me, especially after having all of those other treats on the tour.

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This was my absolute favorite!  I wish I could remember what it was called.  I just call it heaven!  This is worth flying back to Paris for… yes, it was that good.

Here are some fun pictures of the tour and some of the places we stopped.

So that was my official day 1 in Paris.  So far at this point in time, I am still feeling pretty good and confident.  I did get lost trying to find METRO to get back to the RER and back to my hotel.  I had no GPS and spoke no French to ask anyone for help.  There was a short panic moment, but I managed to keep myself together enough to remember I saw a sign near one of the METRO stations (not the line I wanted, but another one) that had free WiFi.  I managed to get on google maps and screen shot the walking directions to get me to the METRO station I needed.  What should have been a 30 minute ordeal ended up taking me 2 hours.  Just the mere fact that I remand calm gave me hope that I could manage the next four weeks just fine.  Whether I actually managed “just fine” is definitely debatable.  More on that to follow…….

Back from Paris and on with Life

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Four months later, here I am… finally getting back to my blog!

So much has been happening the last several months since I went M.I.A.  I successful survived my first international travel and spent an entire month away from home in Paris (both working and playing).  I’ve done some other traveling as well since returning home…. all much closer to home then France, but still fun and happy adventures.  Don and I also started a new way of eating to try and get our weight under control (I came back from Paris with about 15 pounds of croissants and baguette weight).  We decided 2 months ago (9 weeks to be exact) to start eating KETO.  High fat, moderate protein and low carb.  I’ll discuss more about our keto journey in a separate blog.  We also recently celebrated our one year wedding anniversary!  Ahhh…  1 year married, but almost 15 years together (I am apparently a very patient person).

Right now I am going to focus on looking back on the month I lived in Paris!   So many good memories and also some tribulations, but regardless of good or bad, this was probably my biggest life adventure….  so far!

I left for Paris May 26th, Memorial weekend.  I did not return home until June 24th.  I have some mixed feelings about the trip.  I am very grateful to my company for sending me on this adventure and allowing me to basically live and work in another country for an entire month.  Yet, I cannot say that if given the opportunity I would do it again.

I know it is probably difficult for people to comprehend that a free month long trip to Paris could be anything but fabulous.  Yet, it is important to keep in mind that I am someone that deals with pretty extreme anxiety and I suffer from intense panic attacks.  To add to this, I also have some OCD issues that I deal with on a daily basis.  When you add all of these things together, what I find is best for me to stay as mentally stable as possible is routine.  This is part of why I consider myself an introvert.  I feel much more comfortable and happy when I am home in my own familiar environment.  So, as one can probably detect from all of this, leaving home for a month and going to another country was about as outside of my comfort zone as I could get.

So many Paris memories to share, but to much to put into one blog.  Some of the highlights were flying business class for the first time and visiting so many different monuments and museums.  I took the most wonderful walking food tour on my first full day in Paris.  I was able to figure out the Metro and even went and saw a show at Moulin Rouge.  I had some fantastic food and got to know my Paris co-workers through some fun teambuilding activities.  However, even with all of these wonderful memories, I still remember nights of such intense homesickness that I still to this day am surprised I made it the full four weeks.

I am proud of myself that I made this journey and was able to accomplish so much on my own.  I learned a lot about myself and realized I was a lot stronger then I often give myself credit for.  By no means am I saying I was the most outgoing and adventures person while I was in Paris, but I do think that the things I did accomplish were major for me and for that reason, I am happy with the outcome.

More Paris stories to follow….. as well as many more life adventures!

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36 Days Until the Start of my Paris Adventure

pexels-photo-236514.jpegI wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that seeing that 36 day countdown isn’t a little of an anxiety inducer.  Time has gone by so fast since I first found out I would be spending a month in France for work.  There is rarely a day that I do not have a crazy mixture of emotions about the whole experience.  I feel an enormous amount of excitement when I am doing research and making plans and yet, when it’s late at night and the house is quiet, I lay there thinking about leaving for a whole month and I feel the anxiety levels go up.

Today the emotions are more leaning towards excitement.  I just received in the mail my Paris Pass.  The Paris Pass is 6 full days of access to over 60 museums and monuments.  It also includes 6 days of unlimited public transpiration (Metro/RER/Bus) and includes a day on the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, as well as a Seine River cruise.  Although I will be in France for a month, this pass is going to be very useful when my cousin arrives and we hit the streets to try and get in as much “tourist” type stuff as possible in the week she is there.  Not only does this pass save having to stand in lines for tickets, but at some museums and monuments, they have express lines where you get to bypass the queue and get in quicker.  Due to our long list of places we want to see, any amount of time we can save is going to be helpful.

So far our “must-do” list is pretty extensive.

  • Eiffel Tower
  • The Louvre
  • Notre-Dame
  • EuroDisney
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Sacre’ Coeur
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Luxembourg Gardens
  • Champs-Elysees
  • Montmarte
  • Pantheon
  • Latin Quarters
  • Musee de Cluny
  • Versailles
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Sainte Chapelle
  • Paris Opera House
  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery
  • Finding a specific yarn store to get yarn for my dear friend Chris    🙂

There are a few items that are on the “maybe” list.  One of those being the Catacombs.  I am not so much freaked out by the fact that it is undergrown tunnels full of human bones, but what does worry me is my claustrophobia.  It would be horrible to get down there only to have a panic attack because my claustrophobia decides to kick in.

Doing lots of research (and watching countless amounts of YouTube videos) has been helpful in making me feel brave now, but I worry that as soon as the plane lands and I try and venture out on my own (not speaking the language) that I am going to fumble my way to the hotel and lock myself in the room!  I have great plans and expectations in my head, but reality is often a lot different then the plans we make in our head (so I’ve learned the hard way in many other aspects of my life).  I cannot speak for my braveness on day one, but in order to “force” myself to leave the hotel room on day two, I already booked a walking food tour the morning of my second day.  It is a chocolate and pastry tour to be exact.  I know there is no way I will miss that.  Not only will it force me out to learn the Metro/RER system, but it will also hopefully give me some confidence in  ordering pastries and bread (which I plan to eat everyday as much as possible while I am there).pexels-photo-461060.jpeg

So, now that I have my Paris pass and I am partially through making itineraries and reservations (still underway, but almost half way complete), the next step is to try and figure out what to pack.  Packing for 28 days is going to be difficult.  Especially since I need to figure out how to incorporate relaxing clothes and work clothes.  This is going to be a challenge for me.  I know I am going to want to bring everything, but I need to keep it down to one suitcase.  Oh my!!

 

Preparing for a Month in France

 

flash cards

Learning French

So, I think it is safe to say that there is no way I can master the beautiful language of French in the next 8 weeks.  However, what I can do is take some time to learn the most important basics of the language.  Things like “hello”, “goodbye”,  “please”, “thank you”, “how much does it cost” and “I would like a croissant”.    For myself, these 6 things should get me through most of my stay in France.
I have resorted to going old school and using flash cards.  Surprisingly, it is actually helping.  In the past week, I have been able to memorize counting from 1-10.  Am I pronouncing them all correctly?  Absolutely not.  However, from all the research I have done so far, it has said that if you at least “attempt” to speak the language, you are apt to get more help.  So, I may butcher one of the most beautiful languages in the world, but I will do it with grace and dignity (Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m sure I’ll be embarrassed as heck… but that is part of learning to live out side of my comfort zone I guess).

Research and Preparation

My trip is not for 8 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting), yet I already feel completely behind in terms of preparation.  I normally have everything so much more under control.  When it comes to traveling, I am a fanatic on research, organization, pre-booking and pre-preparing.  I am NOT one for living by the seat of my pants.  For me, anxiety comes quickly when I am in a situation that has not been carefully thought through and organized full force.   Spontaneous?  That is not in my vocabulary.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do not find spontaneity a bad thing.  In fact, just the opposite.  I envy those that can just go with the flow and let life lead them in whatever direction it has in store.  My brain however does not like to play that way.  I do not do well with the unknown.  So anything that I can control ahead of time, helps to ease a lot of that anxiety.  My husband calls me a controlasorous. Very funny Don.

 Planning this trip however has been particular challenging.   This is my first international trip and to say I’m intimidated is a massive understatement.   The thought of just getting through customs and finding a taxi to take me to the hotel is overwhelming.  Then there is the language barriers to deal with for what should be simple tasks like checking into the hotel or figuring out the metro system.  I have to admit, I am not the bravest person.  Part of this adventure is to try and help me realize that I am capable of doing more then I believe I can.  Fingers crossed!

With all of that being said, being this is a business trip and I will be working a good portion of the time I am there, it is even more imperative that I keep focused on my planning and preparation.  Even 4 weeks in Paris isn’t a whole lot of time when you have to add work into the mix.  The next 8 weeks will be about making an itinerary, figuring out what to pack and trying to organize my thoughts to help me get through an 11 hour flight (I’m afraid of flying by the way… just to make things even more complicated).

Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel

 

I’ve already spent a good deal of time discussing the Boysenberry Festival, so I thought I would now spend a little time sharing our experiences at both the Knott’s park and our stay the KBF hotel.

I personally really enjoyed KBF.  Granted, I’m a sucker for wild west themes.  I love visiting all the old western ghost towns, so KBF is pretty much right up my alley.  Here you can ride the old mining train ride, be part of a train robbery and ride a stage coach.  For those wanting a little more action and adventure, they do have several of the larger-modern day rollercoasters as well.  Don and I were both very impressed by the Snoopy kid area.  There had to have been at least 15 rides for the smaller kids.  Definitely enough to keep the little ones entertained.  Spending such a significant amount of time at Disneyland, I’ve begun to be spoiled by the whole Disney experience.  I must say that the folks at Knott’s sure give Disney a run for their money (at least for our 1-day experience there).  Several times we experienced service that was above and beyond by the KBF employees.  One time in particular we were standing studying the park map (we are not regulars there, so I do not know my way around like I do at Disneyland), trying to find a specific area.  One of the workers walked up to us and asked if we needed help and guided us to where we were trying to get.  Definitely 5 thumbs up for that.  We were also pretty impressed with the merchandise pricing.  For instance, the boysenberry festival shirts we bought (which also came with a limited edition pin) were less than $15.00.  I’m sure everyone will agree that you cannot find clothing items at most amusement parks for less than $15.00.  Especially “special event” merchandise.

As for the KBF hotel. Overall, our experience was good.  The hotel is older and the rooms slightly outdated, which is not a big deal for us.  What is important is cleanliness, which the room was.  We opted to get the smallest room (just one queen bed), so the room was small but perfect for just the two of us.  I like to use the word “cozy” rather than small.  Bonus was that from our room to the park entrance was about a 5 minute walk (we love when we can just park the car and not have to drive). We purchased a package, which included the room for two nights, breakfast buffet both mornings, tickets into the park for one day, as well as a boysenberry festival food tasting card.  The price was great and so convenient to have everything included.  We are not normally breakfast people, so this was kind of a treat to get up and have breakfast each morning.  Our normal breakfast on vacations is a granola bar!  The breakfast buffet was very good with lots of options. Oh, and did I mention Snoopy walks around to say hello to everyone while you eat?  So, if asked, I would recommend the KBF hotel for sure.  The mere convince of location is worth the price.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm unless you eat some of the famous fried chicken.  The amount of food is generous to say the least.  We shared a 2 piece chicken lunch meal and it was way more than enough for the two of us.  Between the warm biscuits and chicken noodle soup for a starter, then the chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy with corn, we were both more than satisfied with our portions.

Stocking up on your boysenberry essentials while you are there is a must.  After all, Knott’s is the home of the boysenberry.  If you are a boysenberry fan like me, you will have a hard time picking just a few things.  Here is my loot from our trip.  I would have gotten more, but Don convinced me to save something for our next trip.  So next time I will try the boysenberry bbq sauce, boysenberry dressing and boysenberry butter!!IMG_4687

I’m adding these photos just for fun.  Sometimes Don thinks he is so funny.