A New Adventure for Team J – Coffs Harbour, NSW

So after a good nights rest in our lovely room at the Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour, we were up early to embark on a full day of activities.

Coffs Harbour is one of the largest urban centres on the North Coast of New South Wales. Situated 540km north of Sydney and 390km south of Brisbane, Queensland Coffs Harbour is our favourite holiday spot to relax and unwind. It is probably most known for the tourist attraction and amusement park, the Big Banana – a massive banana, the first of Australia’s Big Things it was built in 1964 on a banana plantation. You can walk through the Big Banana, pose for photos out the front too. It is a popular item on the Aussie tourist to do list. The weather in Coffs is always lovely – even in winter, and there are plenty of accommodation options available.

Up and ready for the day ahead, we started off by grabbing breakfast (and a coffee for me) at the Coffs Central Shopping Centre. Whilst there, I popped in to some shops for some bits and pieces for the day’s activities, and Mike bought the kids a Play Station VR set for Christmas. Whilst walking about the shopping centre we came upon Santa who was handing out candy canes. Caffeine hit, new swimmers (bathing suit), sunscreen, batteries for Tilly’s camera and the first Christmas gift sorted, we set off to our first activity for the day – checking out the Clog Barn Holiday Park.

 

 

This is a cute little attraction and accommodation option, that Mike and I have stayed at previously (December 2004 on our first posting from Sydney to Townsville). Back then the accommodation was clean and comfortable and unique. This time, we took the kids in to walk through the clog shop and model Dutch village before grabbing an ice cream each from Big Oma’s Coffee House (the morning was warming up quite quickly). Whilst eating our ice creams we met a lovely little pup by the name of Katherine who was enjoying her breakfast next to her owner. She had finished her breakfast before him though – for a tiny dog she could eat like Flash Lightning! Meanwhile, her owner was enjoying his big breakfast serving from Big Oma’s and holding conversation with Tilly and Mish. The staff there were all lovely and super friendly. At certain times, they run a clog making demonstration – we were too early for that, but you can still check out the workshop and look at clogs that have been made and are available for sale.

From there the Team headed to Dolphin Marine Magic. This is a fantastic education centre for young and old alike. The team there run shows daily to educate visitors on marine life and the conservation and preservation of our oceans. We arrived in time to catch the dolphin presentation which had a cameo by the lovely sea lion Adelaide. The dolphins, Zippy and Bella flipped and splashed, jumped and called out to the audience. The children were all enthralled by the experience. After the presentation, everyone was invited to come down to the pool where Zippy and Bella were doing the rounds for belly rubs (the LOVE their belly rubs). If you have not had the opportunity to pat a dolphin, they are very soft and smooth. Round and round they went, lapping up the attention. Then it was off to look at the other animals. We hung around the pool for a while, watching Zippy and Bella swim and play. They would come up to the sides to look at people, checking everyone out. Sometimes they would grab one of their balls and push it to the side to who ever was standing there wanting them to play. Mish was one of the lucky ones to be chosen by Zippy to play fetch – and he absolutely loved every minute of it.

Whilst we were still with the dolphins, Mike had snuck off to organise for the kids to meet Ozzie – a great big and beautiful sea lion. Last time we visited the park in 2009, the kids had their photos taken with one of the seals, and here they were going to get to do it all again. Ozzie, as you can see in the photos is a great big beautiful sea puppy. The kids were smitten with him, getting the chance to give him pats, toss the ball with him and feed him. For the photos they decided to poke their tongues out instead of getting a fishy, whiskery smooch from Oz.

Following the meet and greet with Ozzie, we headed up to see the Little Blue Penguins get their lunch. Initially we thought it was to watch the handlers feed them, but they had it all set up and visitors were able to line up and feed the penguins. They were so funny to watch, huddled up waiting for the handler to open the gate. The little wings and tails wiggling in anticipation for the big bucket of fishies. A few of them tried to climb off the little platform to dive right into the feeding bucket, the handler would gently set them back on the platform. They were adorable little characters, and oh boy can they put away their food!

 

The whole experience at Dolphin Magic centres around conservation and preservation of these wonderful creatures and their habitat. They are running an awareness program called Experience. Discover. Act. You can become involved in this program by simply snapping a selfie of you out and about picking up rubbish and tag on your social media it to #EDADMM – in doing so, they hope to spread awareness of the plight our marine life are facing due to pollution.

 

Before we knew it, it was coming up to lunch time and we were heading over to the next attraction – The Big Banana.

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Tilly and Mish letting me take a nice “normal” photo of them…

I don’t think a visit to Coffs Harbour is complete without a visit to the Big Banana. It is a large amusement park, spread out through a banana plantation. Right up behind the Big Banana is the café where you can enjoy coffee, cold drinks, cakes, hot meals and frozen bananas. There is a kids arcade next to the café, and out behind is the ticket counter for the other activities that are on offer. You can choose from tours, theatre (4D experience is coming soon), mini golf, laser tag, tobogganing, and if you are brave enough, you can try the Racer Slide. There is also a water park too cool off in, a cheese shop (for blessed are the cheese makers!) which not only have all things cheese, they run cheese making workshops and have a selection of amazing handmade chocolates to choose from. There is also a candy and opal shop on site too. We bought tickets for the Racer Slide and the toboggan. First up, the Racer… Holy cow it is a big, long slide! The hike to get up to the top can rattle you if you are not a mountaineer, or just fit in general. Mish made it to the top, but upon looking down the slide he went pale and shaky and decided he wasn’t dare devil enough to give it a go. Mike went down the slide twice, I had one go and that was enough for me – self preservation kicked in as I felt my bum lift only so slightly off the slide. I didn’t see anything other than my life flash before my eyes as I screamed all the way down, clutching the carpet sack I was sitting on for dear life. Tilly on the other hand, first go and she was wild about it.

We gave her all the remaining tickets, and she would bolt up the steep incline, carpet sack over her shoulder – without breaking a sweat. She would then take her spot on one of the lanes and as soon as the light turned green, she was off like a shot, arms up in the air and whooping it up in adrenaline. Mike had over estimated our eagerness for the slide and as such had purchased a heap of tickets for it. So much so, that Tilly befriended two other young girls and was only too happy to share the remaining slide tickets with them (we didn’t mind, and we could see the girl’s parents were grateful for the chance to be able to get off their feet and have a cold drink and a rest whilst the kids wore themselves out).

Slide tickets finished, we headed up past the water park to the toboggan ride. Mish was apprehensive about it, but I managed to convince him to come with me on my toboggan. First round, he loved it – I put him in control of the brake, so he felt comfortable. Second go, he wanted to remain with me. The third round and he was ready to take the ride on his own and he and Tilly set off to do the toboggan track with the parentals watching on.

It was getting late in the day, so we wrapped up our visit to the Big Banana with a stop in at the cheese shop to sample some cheese and buy a box of handmade chocolates (yum!). We decided it was time to head back to the resort where we would finish the day with a swim in one of the three lagoon pools at the resort and then a wander down from the resort onto the beach for a spot of shell collecting. Unfortunately, we had to be on the road the next day to head to the next stop in our road trip, so the quiet swim and beach combing was a lovely way to finish up our fleeting visit.

Some other places we wanted to check out but didn’t get round to seeing was the Bunker Cartoon Gallery and the National Marine Science Centre. This just means that we absolutely must and will go back to Coffs!

To be continued…

We were also sad to learn of the passing of a wonderful man, Coffs Harbour local and Australian surfing legend Scott Dillion. We had the absolute honour of meeting him during our 2009 holiday when he was running the Legends Surf Museum. He passed away on the 12 December 18 at 90 years of age. I will always remember our meeting him – he absolutely adored the kids and took us through his museum, finishing with us all sitting on the porch and chatting and goofing around, and before we left, he had gifted us with an autographed poster. A very down to earth Aussie bloke. 

May he rest in peace.  

 

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Cat on a cold patio roof.

IMG_4700Anyone who has a cat will tell you that they are experts when it comes to psychological warfare. Whilst you crave their love and attention (because just look at them! Fluffy, purring balls of cute!), they treat you with contempt, tolerating you long enough to provide belly rubs and food on their terms. They often call the shots in the relationship. They can do what they want – they are independent (ish). This is my cat Dwight Kat Shrute. A big, fat, four year old tabby, who only seeks us out for a belly rub, food or to sleep on our legs at night when we fall asleep. He is an indoor cat, his only foray out of the house is when he darts into the garage as we go in and out in the course of putting our washing through the dryer. He will run in, flop on the concrete and then proceeds to roll all over the floor. He has a nosey through the tools and bits and pieces that we have stored in the garage. If we are not quick enough, he will even spring up into the dryer (often on top of the clean clothes fresh out from the washing machine). When he gets in the dryer, he then seems to puff himself up so as to make it hard for us to remove him from the dryer.

Whilst he likes to sit by the window and watch the birds outside, he prefers to be inside where he gets the house, great food and the dryer. We were proud that our cat shunned the great outdoors – look at our cat, being responsible and not out there killing native wildlife. What a great cat we have.

You know sometimes it is bad to get complacent…

Last month my parents were visiting from interstate. My husband and I had turned our young son’s bedroom into the guest room and Mish got to camp out in the home office. In preparing his bedroom for my parents to sleep in, I noticed that the window flyscreen had fallen out and onto the patio roof. We would sort that out later (my dad actually fixed it for us), but at the time we were not too worried as the window was fitted with a safety lock, so the window could only be slid open no more than a gap of 12cm. My husband slid the window open to let fresh air into the room, and I made the comment “maybe we should keep the bedroom door closed whilst the window is open. I don’t want Dwight to get out.” Mike looked at me as if I had two heads, “what? Really? No, he won’t fit through that tiny gap. Look at him, the cat is a tank! Too fat to make that little gap. Plus, he has never shown an interest in getting out. Pffft!” Still, I insisted that the room remained closed off for as long as the window was open.

Later that evening my parents arrived and we spent the night catching up on everything over dinner. The kids were loving being with their Nanny and Poppy. Ripley, our dog, remembered my dad from the last visit and she was all over him like Velcro (he is the bringer of cookies and bones). Our guinea pig, Doctor Who sat in his hutch and kept staring at mum – I believe it was because he recognised a fellow vegan in my mum. Dwight thundered down the stairs and into the lounge. He stopped and stared at us all before going over and giving Ripley a quick cat bath. They had a play fight and Dwight sat on his little armchair and watched us all for a few minutes before heading in to the kitchen for his dinner.

As the night wore on, we decided it was time to all head off to bed. I got Tilly and Mish sorted and tucked up in their beds. My parents changed and settled down in the guest room. Mike went into the study to play a quick game of warships on his computer, whilst I headed back downstairs to do a final check of the doors and windows. As I walked around downstairs I realised that I had not seen Dwight since he wandered out of the lounge room hours earlier. Usually he comes back downstairs to circle me in the hopes I will give him an extra packet of food before bed. I called out for him. Nothing. I searched all of the downstairs, behind furniture. No cat. I went into the garage on the chance that maybe he snuck in as I was changing the laundry over in the dryer. I poked about the tools and boxes. No cat. I turned and looked at the dryer which was thumping away. My heart froze. No! Did he jump in the dryer without me realising? Surely not! Oh my GOD! With my heart pounding and hands trembling, I paused the dryer and opened the door. The warm air rushed out at me. I sniffed, relieved that all I could smell was warm, clean sheets and not singed fur. I began to take the sheets out of the dryer and let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw that Dwight was not in the dryer.

Alright, so not downstairs, he must be in his usual spot – under my bed. I run upstairs and into my bedroom where I called out to him before dropping to my hands and knees to look under the bedframe. He was not there. Home office – nope. Tilly’s room – nope. Mish’s (guest) room – nope. I was getting annoyed. Where was this bloody cat? Mike was not concerned. He continued his computer game, convinced the cat would appear out of thin air as cats so often do. My parents though were just as bewildered as I was as to where he could be, and they came out to help me look for him. We did another search of the house to no avail. The only thing left would be outside. But how? Oh my God, the WINDOW! Mike was still incredulous of my theory that Dwight had managed to slip into the room and squish himself through a 12cm gap and out to freedom.

Mum and I went out to the backyard whilst dad looked out the bedroom window onto the patio roof. He was not on the roof, not in the backyard. Maybe he jumped across to the neighbours’ patio which winds around to a big garden with trees. From there he would climb down and into another yard. I had a vision of my big fat cat wandering around the pool in the yard behind our home. What if he got down, but could not get back up over the fence to come home? I came in to see that Mike had decided to join the search party and had gone out the front to see if he could find this cat of ours. He shook his head at mum and I. So we went out to look for ourselves. I crawled around the communal driveway, peeking under parked cars. Mum poked about in the garden beds. We make clicking and cooing sounds. God knows what the neighbours made of it – two women outside rummaging through the gardens, making weird sounds – at twelve o’clock at night. It was freezing and I began to get upset and angry that Dwight could do this to me. I bought him his favourite food earlier that day, I let him shred my arm as he let me rub his belly, and now he has the audacity to leave me. Break up with me without as much as a post-it-note (a little Sex and the City reference there).

As I stood by the trees, feeling hopeless, rejected and pissed off because it was freezing cold and I was no doubt cementing my neighbours opinion of me as being a bit odd, I heard a rustling. I looked up into the branches and in the dim light I could make out a grey, furry body and a little face with big black eyes and twitching whiskers. “Dwight!” I gasped. Mum heard me and came running over to where I stood. “Oh, not Dwight. Just a possum.” As it sat in the tree peering down at mum and I, we stood with arms outstretched, wriggling our fingers to try and coax it down so we could pat it. Looking back, not a smart move on our part as mum and I have shit night vision, so for all we know, we could have been offering our arms and fingers to a large rabid rat. We were none the wiser.

Possum

Not the possum mum and I encountered (and tried to adopt), but looks exactly like it (image: free stock).

 

It was no use. The possum/rat grew bored with us and climbed over the fence. Mum and I were freezing, we both realised we were out walking around on the cold concrete barefoot. We had to go back inside, there was nothing more we could do. Dwight was gone. Inside, mum and I decided we would camp out in the lounge room so we would hear Dwight if he returned. Mike and Dad did a final look out the upstairs windows overlooking the patio roof, but Dwight was nowhere to be seen. Soon the house was quiet. Kids, Mike and Dad were sound asleep. Mum and I sat up in the lounge room, mum offered me words of comfort. She assured me that Dwight would come back home. If someone found him, they would help him because he is such a lovely cat. We could check with the vet and council in the morning to see if he had been brought in. “He will come home Jassie. I know he will.” In my head I was seeing him being skittled by a car – we are surrounded on all sides by main roads. I saw him being attacked by a dog – he has grown up with our Ripley, but she is such a dope of a love pupper, she would never hurt a fly. I saw him being picked up by a stranger and taken in as their new cat.

*With the help of my mum and  my brother James’ artistic skills, these were my picks for the Lost Cat posters for Dwight.

I was woken around 2.30 am by Ripley sneaking over to Dwight’s food bowl and scoffing the cat treats I had put in the bowl the night before. She was quite loud (she can’t do stealth). I grumbled at her to get out of it. The sound of Ripley eating the cat food carried up the stairs and woke up my dad who came downstairs to check on mum and I. When he returned upstairs to his room, he heard a rage carrying on outside the window. Next minute he runs back down to mum and me, excitedly informing us he had found Dwight. He was outside the bedroom window on the patio roof! Mum and I leapt up and into action. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a tin of cat food and a sachet of diet shake (thought it was a pouch of cat food). I handed the tin to mum and she grabbed a fork and ran out into the backyard and proceeded to tap on the side of the tin, calling out for Dwight. I ran back up the stairs with dad, where he shone his torch out the window. There was our tank of a cat, Dwight Kat Shrute, sitting there like Jack Nicholson in the final scene of The Shining, glaring at us, it was clear to see he was pissed off with being stuck on the patio roof. Dad tried to coax him over to the window, but Dwight sat and stared at him. I held out the diet shake packet and shook it. Dwight looked offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently.

The Shining

Jack Nicholson kindly re-enacts Dwight’s patio roof discovery scene (stephenking.wikia.com)

 

I then ran into my bedroom to wake up Mike (and I also needed to pee). As he staggered toward me, I quickly informed him “cat is on the roof!” and then I threw the packet of diet shake at his face and bolted into the bathroom. When I finished, I opened the bathroom door to see Mike still standing there holding the packet of diet shake and looking offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently. I explained the packet was for him to shake at the cat, who is almost frozen on the roof. Mike, in his still sleep foggy and offended state could not figure out how the cat got on the roof. “The PATIO ROOF!” I said, and then ran out of our room to head downstairs and out into the yard where mum was still out there, in her pyjamas, barefoot on the cold grass, hopping from one foot to the other, tapping the tin and calling out to Dwight “Dwighty!” *ting, ting, ting* “Dwighty boy!” *ting, ting, ting*.

Dwight let out a really loud and long howl of outrage. Mike had now joined mum and me with a ladder. He set it up and dad steadied it as I climbed up to see Dwight. Mike had gone back upstairs to the window. One of us would get him down. I held out my hands and softly called out to Dwight. He sat, like a big hairy lump and glared at me. He would not budge. Instead he let out another really loud howl. Oh my God our poor neighbours! Mike leaned out the window, he called out to Dwight. Dwight looked at Mike and then back over to me. He wasn’t moving. By now I was getting really impatient and grumbled at the cat “Dwight you fucking womble, get off the roof!”

Meanwhile, Mike was now dangling precariously out over the windows edge, arms outstretched. Dwight finally, FINALLY got up and moved to Mike and for a moment we held our collective breath as Dwight appeared to then hesitate just out of Mike’s grasp. He seemed to be contemplating the neighbours patio roof, and I was waiting to see Mike lose his balance, tip out and over the window and slide on his belly down and over the edge of the patio roof, where he would land in a crumpled heap in the garden bed below; I would have laughed out loud at this thought if I was not cold and tired and desperate to get the cat back in the house.

Dwight moved closer to Mike, however his eyes remained firmly locked on the neighbours’ patio. Just as it looked like he would do the bolt, Mike swooped down and grabbed him and quick as lightening, pulled the cat back inside. Hurrah! Dad, mum and I ran inside and we greeted Mike as he came downstairs with Dwight balled up in his arms. The cat was freezing to the touch, and we were all relieved that we found the shit head and he was back indoors where he belonged after being out on the roof for a good couple of hours.

Since then, we came to the conclusion that Dwight was quite happy outside, it was only when he heard Ripley eating his food that sent him into a panic and he began making noise to come back in. Following his adventure, he spent the next few days hiding under our bed. He has not set paw back outside, obviously for fear of Ripley eating his food on him.

Lesson of the story? I was right, Mike was wrong. I’m gonna sing the I Was Right song! Oh, and our cat is a dick (but we love him!)

 

Until next time!

 

Jasmine x

A Haunting in the Hawkesbury

 

It was late 2008, during a Friday luncheon at the oldest hotel in Australia, the Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor, NSW; when my daughter Tilly (who was two years old at the time) had an encounter with one of the hotel’s residents – of the paranormal kind. But, before I go any further Dear Reader, I will first go into a brief history of the Macquarie Arms Hotel…

 

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie had granted land to emancipated convict Richard Fitzgerald. The instruction given to Mr Fitzgerald by Governor Macquarie was for him to build a two-story hotel that would service the town of Windsor and provide accommodation to passing gentry. Mr Fitzgerald set to work, and in 1818 the Macquarie Arms was opened to the public. The hotel was also known as the Royal Hotel (1872-1900) and in its early years was occupied by the 73rd Regiment Red Coat Soldiers – who lived in the upper levels while down in the cellar, the convicts lived. The convicts managed to secure themselves access to rum, smuggling it up from the banks of the Hawkesbury River through the aptly named “Rum Smugglers Tunnels” to keep themselves merry and warm whilst living in the cellar.

Later, the Macquarie Arms would become a private residence before reverting back into a hotel.

With such longevity, it goes without saying that the hotel has a life within it. Tales of ghosts are inevitable in a place so old and so worn as the Macquarie Arms. From reports of seeing soldiers on the upper levels, to run-ins down in the cellar with convict brothers Richard and Fitzpatrick, who met an explosive demise in the cellar thanks to an incorrect mix of chemicals in their endeavour to make rum. Then there are the stories of little Mary who lived in the main bedroom on the second floor and at seven years of age, had perished in a fire that had trapped her on the upper floor of the hotel.

Back to late 2008 and the luncheon. I had been to the Macquarie Arms a few times prior to getting married and having children, but this was the first time going there with our daughter. At the time I was also pregnant with our son Mish, and as a stay at home mum with a rambunctious toddler and another bub on the way, I was looking forward to eating a meal that I had not prepared, and spending time in the company of other adults. I love the Macquarie Arms Hotel, as I walked through the gate I looked down at the well-worn steps (it was the last time I was able to see my feet and the ground beneath me before the big belly swell) and found myself wondering about all the people that had stepped through over the 190 years the hotel had been standing. Tilly, holding my hand, leapt up over the big step with ease and she began to try and wrestle herself free of my grip, wanting to march right through the front entrance on her own.

Stepping through the entrance, Tilly and I stood and waited for my husband to arrive. Whilst waiting, I looked at the lunch time menu deciding I would have one of everything (what? I was eating for two!) and when I looked down at Tilly to ask her what she would like from the children’s menu, I found her engaged in chatter with someone off to our right in the dining room. She was smiling, waving and saying “Hi! My name is Tilly!” She would wave again and let out a giggle. She then put her little hand over her eyes and went “peek-a-boo!” Hmmmm…okay. I sidled back so I could see into the dining room to see who she was talking to. I couldn’t see anyone there. I walked over, holding Tilly’s hand and stood in the doorway of the dining room. It was empty save for tables and chairs. Tilly was still chatting away to someone…something…

“Imaginary friend” I thought as my husband arrived and we proceeded upstairs and onto the balcony that faced over towards the Hawkesbury River.

Tilly and I were seated on the end of the table closest to the doorway into the hotel. We were facing the direction toward the far end of the balcony and the river. Tilly, in her high chair looked about and then her gaze settled on the far corner of the balcony. She smiled and immediately began waving and saying “Hello! Hello again man!” I followed her gaze and the corner was empty. I wanted in on this, so I asked her who she was talking to. “That man” she said, pointing over to the corner. “What man?” I asked, the hairs on my arms began to stand up. “The man there in the red coat. See?” No, I didn’t, I didn’t see, couldn’t see, but it did not mean that something was not there. Her face told me that there was something, someone standing right there, and they too were interacting with her.

Then as lunch was served, Tilly, who had been happily chatting away to the “man in the red coat” suddenly waved in the direction of the corner and said “bye-bye!” and that was it. She turned her attention to her food and made a stellar mess of the kid’s serving of spaghetti bolognaise, turning herself orange and smelling of tomato sauce. Over lunch, I quietly informed my husband, who has a very weak disposition when it comes to all things spooky of what had just transpired, and he instead chose to cling to the hope it was just an imaginary friend and she was just being a typical toddler. I decided to think of it as that way too, until it came to her afternoon nap when we got home from the lunch. As I sat on the side of her bed patting her to sleep, she sleepily said; “He was a soldier…” and with that she rolled over and was sound asleep.

BOOM! (or should that be BOOOOO!) Paranormal activity right there!

Fast forward to last Friday evening where after spending all day cooped up in my home office working, decided to drag the kids out and head into Windsor to stock up on candy from the lolly shop and maybe grab some dinner whilst in town. Satisfied with our candy stockpile, we wandered down in the direction of the restaurants that sit adjacent from the Hawkesbury River. We were intending on having stir-fry, but as we approached, I found myself looking across the road at the Macquarie Arms Hotel. I had not been there since that lunch in 2008 and I knew that we had to go there for dinner instead. The kids were immediately sold on the proposal – they know all too well of Tilly’s encounter and the history of the hotel, and they were now hoping to see if the soldier or one of the other ghostly occupants would make themselves known over a chicken schnitzel, fish and chips and a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, washed down with a few glasses of lemon squash (lemonade for my dear overseas readers) while seated in the exact same place we were sitting in back in 2008.

 

Unfortunately for whatever reason, the ghosties did not feel in the mood to join us for dinner – however this did not stop those of us alive from engaging in a discussion on all things paranormal in the Hawkesbury region. I was telling the kids about other stories I have read regarding the paranormal activities in this area – and there are plenty of stories and first (second, third… ) hand accounts available on line should you wish to investigate it further (I have provided some links on the Hawkesbury region and paranormal accounts for your further reading pleasure).

Although we were stood up by the spirits, I did take the opportunity to take some photos of the upper level of this beautiful building. I will be honest – I was hoping to capture a flash of a human shape or an orb, but no luck (I did get the tip of my shoe in the photo of the staircase, but that does not count). I will however, in the near future be looking at going on a local history/ghost tour of Windsor so you just may never know what I will see then… I will keep you all posted!

Jasmine x

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Sunset over the Hawkesbury River

*All photos are mine, and were taken using my trusty old iPhone 6S Plus – JJ

Links for further reading:

http://www.macquariearms.com.au/history/

http://www.discoverthehawkesbury.com.au/heritage/heritage-trails

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85930517

https://www.hawkesburygazette.com.au/story/3905753/the-ghost-of-the-regent/

http://unexplainedaustralia.com/21-ghosts-hauntings/68-wisemans-ferry-ghosts

 

 

First Crush…

Pickles and Squish

As a mum, I get to be there for my kids as they experience their first moments. Most of these –  their first word, first solid belly laugh, first crawl, step, walk, solid food, day of school, etc… have been filled with joy and excitement. However recently, we had some firsts that were not pleasant…

 
A few weeks into the new school year, my 11 (almost 12!)-year-old daughter would greet me after school and tell me all about this new boy in her class. He was nice to her, he was funny, he had the same interests as her (anime, video games and science geeks). It was when she started to mention things like his nice hair, his smile and the colour of his eyes that I tweaked and realised that what I was witnessing was my daughter’s first crush. She was smitten with this boy and to me he sounded like a decent kid. I thought it was cute the way she would blush and go coy when I mentioned his name, and how she would smack her little brother when he teased her about her crush. Watching and listening to her, made me think of my first crush when I was her age. His name was Jeff, and he had come over from America and started year 6 in my class. At the time I, and every other girl in my year 6 class would go all dreamy-eyed whenever he was around. He was to us in 1993, what Johnny Depp was to girls back in the 80’s. Jeff never paid me any attention though – unlike my daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to Audrey Hepburn and Emma Watson, I was more Pippi Longstocking meets Punky Brewster.

 
But I digress. As time went on, my daughter thought that this boy really liked her, and she started to develop more than a crush on him, until one afternoon when it all fell down.

 
I picked her and her brother up from school, and as I approached where they were sitting, I noticed that my daughter was sitting there looking sad and confused, whilst her little brother was jumping around and playing with the toy dinosaur he had snuck in his bag to school that day. I greeted them and as we walked back to the car I asked her what was wrong. She vented about the day’s event – this boy humiliated her in front of all her friends after she told him that she really liked him. He made fun of her and said that he didn’t like her, he was only hanging around her because he likes her best friend. Mumma Bear was not happy, and I felt my chest tighten as I saw her face crumple. I did my best to cheer her up and she assured me that she was okay and “over it, he is just a jerk anyway”, but I knew. I have had many a heart break over stupid boys who did the exact same thing to me growing up.

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Later that night when I was sitting in the lounge room reading, my daughter came downstairs to sit with me. I looked at her and I saw her eyes filled with tears, her bottom lip trembled, and she sobbed “no mum, I am not okay. It hurts. My heart hurts.” I scooped her up and just hugged her as she cried. I wanted to rip into this boy for being so cruel towards my daughter who had been nothing but kind to him, the new kid in the school, in her class. When she settled down, I shared my own experience with “jerk boys” and we had a laugh as we made fun of all these boys. That Friday night we set up a girl’s night, were we ate copious amounts of spaghetti bolognaise, sour candy, ice cream and chocolates as we binged-watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix (my daughter loves Dean, and hopes to one day when she is older find her Dean to her Rory).

 

As we watched the show, we talked about this boy and I supported her decision to have nothing to do with him, or her now former best friend (who had joined in the taunting with this boy – further hurting her). I made it clear to her that I had her back and fully supported anything she wanted to do. Back at school, she stuck to her guns and I stood by her. Her former best friend wanted to know why my daughter didn’t hang around her anymore. The boy wanted to know why she would avoid him like the plague. Her teacher noticed the behaviour and my daughter explained what was going on, and her teacher (who is the coolest teacher ever) supported my daughter too. Soon she had bounced back and was happy.

 
With that “first” now behind me, I was soon confronted with another painful first to deal with – this time being my 9-year-old son. After school we head over to a park to play and burn off extra energy. Whilst my daughter was on the swings, my son on the jungle gym equipment, I sat down on the bench in the shade to keep an eye on the kids. My son though was just out of my vision when his “first” happened. One minute I see him on the platform, the next he comes limping over to me, doubled up, pale and his hands clasped down over his…yep. He had crushed his boy parts for the very first time. I led him over to the bench, tears welled in his eyes, and between gasps, he was able to tell me that he had slipped on the ladder and his legs went either side of the ladder rung. Bang. Whilst I don’t share the anatomy, I do share the agony as I guess it could be likened to that of childbirth.

 
I realised that I could help him through this – the breathing technique you learn in antenatal classes! I admit the breathing technique was not used once during either of my labours (I resorted to yelling, sobbing uncontrollably, pleading for a stand in to take my place and holding my breath in retaliation to being told no to the birth stand in), but now, right here on the park bench I could use it and use it I did! I became my son’s birthing partner – I talked him through the technique and we puffed, puffed, panted until colour returned to his face and he was able to unfurl from the foetal position. He continued the breathing until he was then able to sit upright, and the pain was nothing more than an ebb. I knew he was on the mend when he managed to shoot a glare and a terse “SHUT UP! IT’S NOT FUNNY! I COULD HAVE LOST MY NUTS!” to his sister who was watching the situation from the swing set, amused.

 
The next day I kept him home from school to take things easy and we watched movies and ate pizza shapes, ham and cheese sandwiches and drank lots of milo until he felt back to his normal self.

 
As for me, I have chalked these events up in the growing list of firsts for them, and I consider myself very blessed that I was able to be there for both of them when they needed me, to help them through their situations, and I hope they know that I will be there for them for everything that is yet to come their way.

 
Motherhood is awesome.

A New Adventure for Team J

Things are starting to settle down on what has been a month of big changes for our family. As I sit here typing this, we have just clocked up our first week in our new place. So, where will I begin? Last month was crazy. We were packing up our home in the lead up to our posting interstate, I was also trying to continue with my university study and working full time right up to our pre-pack day. Our daughter Tilly was closing the chapter on six years of Primary School, graduating year six and also saying goodbye to all her friends as she was getting her head around the fact that she will be starting her high school journey in another state, away from the friends she has made over the last four years of our posting to Sydney.

The day of her graduation was surreal – I could not link the Tilly standing next to me, holding her graduation certificate with the tiny Tilly who walked through the gates of the school on her first day of Prep, with such swagger and sass. Her school bag was bigger than her, and now she stands the same height as me, and is on the cusp of her teenage years. I sat through the graduation ceremony, in a daze, but holding it together. I cried when the Principal dismissed the year six students from the hall “for the very last time.” The teachers were all wiping away tears…so were all the other mums in the hall.

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Tilly on her first day of school with her cousin Em and little brother Mish (2012) to last month’s graduation with her dad Mike and little brother Mish

That night she had her formal, so we made a big fuss about it for her. She had picked out her outfit two weeks earlier and now she was excitedly getting dressed. I let her wear a little mascara and a touch of tinted lip gloss. When she came out of her room, myself, Mike and Mish all were caught off guard by just how grown up she looked. The little Prep Tilly was well and truly gone. She was driven to her formal in a Corvette –owned by my boss’ husband. Tilly loved it, she could not stop talking about how great the car sounded and all the attention it got when she pulled up the front of the venue. The boys in her class were pretty impressed by her ride.

All the year six kids looked so different now. Like young adults, they were ready for a night of good food, dancing and cake. Parents were not allowed, we had to go off and do our own thing, and this was just for the kids. Mike, Mish and I enjoyed a dinner with some friends before we went in to get some quick photos, have a dance with the kids and then head home. It was a fantastic night for Tilly – she had so much fun partying with all her friends. I exchanged numbers with other mum’s so our kids can all stay in touch. Then that was it.

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Last day of school.

The day of the removal up lift was the kids last day at school. They had their shirts signed by friends and teachers, exchanged Christmas gifts and cards with friends and come the final bell, it was hugs and final goodbyes. Tears and more hugs. I grew up an Army kid and we moved every two years. I hate this part of the life – it never gets easier and I felt so sad for my kids and their friends.

That was that. The next morning the cars were packed, we checked out of the hotel and we started our journey to the next posting. Dwight our cat and Ripley our dog were already in the pet resort in our gaining location of Brisbane. They were flown up the day before the up lift. From all accounts of the pet transport company and the pet resort, they were doing just fine. Our guinea pig, Doctor Who was going to travel up with us – he rode shotgun in Mike’s car. Doctor is 5, almost 6 years old, so in guinea pig years, he is a little old man. He handled the trip really well though. We had a comfy travel crate for him and a portable pen for the hotel stays.

The drive out of Sydney was surprisingly really smooth considering we were heading out on the very first day of school holidays. Tilly and Mish rode in my car and we had it stocked with lots of snacks, cold drinks and audio books – the kids LOVE the Tree House series by Andy Griffith and Terry Denton. We were on the first leg to Brisbane – Sydney to Coffs Harbour. We love Coffs, it is our favourite little family get away spot. So we were all pretty excited to be going back there for a two day mini-vacation. By 3pm that day we arrived in Coffs and checked into Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort. We quickly unpacked and set up Doctor by the big double doors so the cool ocean breeze could cool him down. No sooner had we unpacked, I was running the kids down to the little beach – the very first beach Mish was taken to when he was seven months old (we had stayed at this resort back in 2009 when we had a little family vacation upon Mike’s return from deployment). It was really surreal watching him running into the waves. Last time he was at this beach he was not too thrilled by it.

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We finished off the long day with Thai from a great little place called Memory Thai (Tilly highly recommends the Pad Thai and Mish and I love the Yellow Curry).

To be continued…

 

 

I am still here!!!

Me: I’m going to sit down this morning and catch up on some writing.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Me: No. You have already had two packets. I am going to do my wri…

Dwight parks his crunchy cat butt down, right on my laptop keypad and he stares straight at me.

Dwight: What’s that? You’re going to feed me?

Before I can push him away I hear a loud BANG from the lounge room. I run in to see Mike is playing the PS VR, twirling about with his “gun”. He stuck it up in the air right into the ceiling fan WHICH WAS ON!

I have turned the lounge room ceiling fan off for Captain Oblivious’ safety, made it clear to Dwight he is not getting more food, fixed breakfast for Mish while he gave me a run down on Xenomorph aliens; now I just want to sit and write.

Tilly is still passed out in bed. She is my favourite human in this house right now.

Dwight’s Day

Me: “Hey Dwight, why are you looking so glum?”

Dwight: “First up, I only got ONE PACKET of food this morning. Then I was jammed into a carry cage. Then I got the worst Uber lift to my medical appointment. The guy drove like he was flying an old RAAF aircraft. Both the driver and his mate decided to stop for breakfast at a cafe. They left me in my cage at the table whilst they ordered food and they had the audacity to get annoyed when I voiced my opinion, declaring I was not going to be paying the fee for this pit stop. They put me back in the car, continued to eat their food in the car IN FRONT OF ME – I WAS STARVING! Finally I reach my appointment only to be violently shaken out of the cage, poked, prodded and man handled. To top it off, I get told I am too fat and I got stabbed in the neck when I was distracted by the smell of fear coming out of the room next door. THEY FRICKEN STABBED ME IN MY NECK! I COULD HAVE DIED! Apparently it is a booster vaccination, and now I am sore, snuffly, cranky and starving. Oh, and if you think of taking the Vet up on her recommendation of a feeding chart for me, I will eat you. Not a threat. A promise.”

Me: 😳2570CE52-5617-469A-8511-575796754F21.jpeg

The Latest Fad…

Mish has a new obsession. Aliens, or to be more specific, Alien. It is all I hear about now. Friday night whilst trying to piece together my critical reflection piece for my uni subject, I was given the run down of the entire Alien franchise and cost comparisons of Alien figurines. I am pretty sure the odd reference to a xenomorph has made it’s way into my now already submitted piece. 😖

Yesterday the discussion continued as I dropped Mike off to meet up with his coworkers, did a quick grocery shop, and then tried to catch up on tutorials. Aliens, aliens, aliens. I could not catch a break – even when I went to the bathroom, Mish stood outside the door and demonstrated his Alien and Predator sounds. Nice. Meanwhile, Mike was partying up on a boat in the Sydney Harbour and Tilly had barricaded herself in her room to avoid the Aliens obsessed brother of hers.

It was relentless. By the time he went to bed my brain went into survival mode and shut down. Anything I had wanted to work on that day was now not going to happen because my brain could only muster enough cells to enable me to sit and stare at the tv as The Christmas Prince movie played (don’t ask me what it was about, I just saw blobs of colours and spent the movie preparing to scream at the first sight of a xenomorph).

I wake early this morning to fix myself a coffee and to sit and listen to some podcasts in peace and quiet as the family sleep in. I am excited. A break! I let Ripley out (the dog, not the Alien killer) and walk into the lounge with my cup of coffee. My eyes on my phone with the first podcast up and ready to play. Then I saw him. Mish was up. Bright eyed and sitting on the couch, looking at me. I just about died.

Me: “uh…good morning son.”
Mish: “good morning mum.”

I pause and wait for it… nothing…

Me: “would you like some breakfast?”
Mish: “yes please.”

Breakfast made, I sit down with my coffee. I turn the podcast app off because I know my fantasy of alone time whilst still coherent, just like my fantasy of Prince Harry leaving Meghan Markle for me, is never going to happen.

He swallows his first mouthful of cornflakes…

“Mum did you know that the protomorph is bigger than the xenomorph? I also think my request for a twenty nine, ninety five dollar Alien figure is more reasonable than Tilly’s request for the larger Queen Alien figure which retails for over one hundred dollars. Hey, do you know where the eyes are situated on the Alien’s head? Do you know the speed of which the Alien can project out it’s second mouth? Like, this fast…” he swings his arm out to demonstrate.

Oh boy. It is going to be another long day for me…

 

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 5

California Adventure is a step back into the California that Walt Disney arrived at when he first set about his path to Mickey Mouse. Stepping back into 1923 Los Angeles with buildings and characters of the like Walt encountered when he stepped of that tram. It is this side that you will encounter more recent Disney characters along with a theatre, animation studio, at the time of our visit the Tower of Terror was still operating, Cars Land and Bugs Land. Mish was a huge fan of the Cars movie so for him to see Lightning McQueen, Mater, Luigi, and the others driving around and posing for photographs was more than his little heart could bear. The first time he saw Lighting as he slowly drove by, he burst into tears “because he is REAL!” When we went to get our photo with Lightning, Mish slowly approached, gave the car a pat and then a hug. During the day we went on Lugi’s tyre ride, through the underground with the bugs – the 4D Bug’s Life theatre was so much fun. You get sprayed at by termites, “stung” by wasps and have roaches run under your bottom!

There is a water park feature which was fantastic in the Californian summer heat. The kids got absolutely drenched and loved every moment of it. We saw the performance of Aladdin at the theatre, which was AMAZING! The actor who played Genie was so very much like the late and great Robin Williams, he would have been proud of this actor. He had everyone laughing and cheering along. Over near the massive Mickey ferris wheel we jumped on the Little Mermaid ride (located in Pacific Pier) before making our way to meet up with Woody, Buzz and the gang from Andy’s room in Toy World. Jesse spent some time with Tilly and Mish as we waited to meet Woody and Buzz, she took them over to look at the water and the roller coaster that would whoosh past, filled with screaming laughter, and ironically the ride is called California Screamin’.

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Eventually they got to meet and have photos with Buzz and Woody, Mish was a little nervous at first. The Toy Story ride/shoot em’ up laser game is a lot of fun. Mike and Tilly versus Mish and me, we jumped into our carts and made our way through the course, hitting our targets, getting sprayed with water and cold air. Very competitive and the kids got right into it. We stopped for lunch, some more gift shopping and then more rides. We finished off the night with the Radiator Springs Racers ride. Out of all the rides, this one had the longest queue time, and by that stage Mish had fallen asleep in my arms as we slowly made our way down the line to the ride. It was worth the wait though – like Space Mountain, it is a fast ride and it is incredibly fun (all rides as Disney Land are fun). Afterwards we walked through the neon-lit Radiator Springs towards the pier for the World of Colours show. Wow. Absolutely stunning and a spectacular way to wrap up our short stay. Disney never does anything by halves, and I have not seen a light show that comes close to what we watched that night.

At the end of the night, as fireworks lit up the sky, we said goodbye to an amazing experience. A final photo with Pluto, and we walked out of the park. The kids loved every minute of it. Mike and I loved every minute of it. It was definitely money well spent. The memories will last a lifetime. Growing up on Disney movies, as a kid I was forever drawing the characters – telling myself that one day I would be an animator for Disney. Well, I never achieved that, but I did get to go and spend some time at the Happiest Place on Earth, and that is just as good for me. Mike and I have made a vow that we will return one day, and now that the kids are older we will be able to stretch out our visit, taking in more of Anaheim and surrounds.

If you ever get the chance to visit Disneyland I highly recommend it. Especially if you have kids – you get to live the experience through their eyes and it is like reliving your childhood all over again.

Remember:

*Space Mountain is a very fast ride!

*Get a photo pass card. As you go through the park there are photographers with the characters. The photographer scans your card, and takes your photos. At the end of your visit you can log onto your account, select the photos you want and download them or have them sent to you on a CD (this is what we did).

*Hug as many characters as you can!

For more information check out: http://www.disneyland.disney.go.com

The End 🙂

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 4

Sleep we did – we slept through our alarm by an hour and we quickly got up, got the kids showered and dressed for the day and out the door to walk to Disneyland. Even surrounded by shops filled with Disney products and buses driving past us with Disney emblazoned on them, it didn’t twig with the kids as to what was going on. That was, until we actually entered the park and approached the ticket booth to pick up our pre-paid tickets. Standing in the centre, with the original Disney park to our right and on our left the California Adventure park, and in front was the iconic Mickey Mouse flower bed, behind it the train station with people hopping on to the little train, the penny dropped and both kids dissolved in excitement.

 

You really can’t describe the atmosphere – it is truly something else. I found it hard to believe that I was about to enter Disneyland with our kids. Mike had been when he was a kid, but it was a first for me. All of a sudden the jet lag vanished and I was ready to race off and have fun. So were the kids. We headed down Main St U.S.A – Main Street was a hive of activity. Quaint little shops selling various treats and trinkets, abound. We picked up Mickey Ear hats for the kids and some sunscreen. Then it was over the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle into Fantasyland, stopping to take a photo of our feet surrounding the first nail to be set in the ground for the park. We stood in the shade and looked at the map, where would we go first? Easy. New Orleans Square! Our first ride at Disneyland was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – and yes, it had been kitted out with Jack Sparrow animatronics much to the delight of the women (and maybe some men) on the ride!

 

The kids screamed and laughed their way through the first ride. Mike and I gave each other a high five – this was going to be a great day. We walked through New Orleans, looking in the gift shops. Making our way round to the next ride on our list – the Haunted Mansion. This, I think, would be my favourite ride. Walking up through the ghoulish garden that is filled with tombstones of people and pets, something would move out of the corner of your eye. The lines moved very quickly, and we were led through the foyer of the mansion and into the parlour room. Surrounded by portraits, all eyes on you, when all of a sudden the floor drops and you feel yourself going down, down, underground. Lights flicker and dark voices whisper, groan and laugh. Tilly, who has a thing for the macabre laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Mish clung to me, he wasn’t too keen on the falling down. We were then taken from the parlour room and down through the halls to our little carriages. The portraits on the walls began moving now. Faces changed from flesh to skulls as we moved by. Tilly and I jumped into one carriage, Mike and Mish on the one behind us. The carriages led you down through the mansion, past corpses, and talking heads. In one room sits a table with a crystal ball and the gypsy’s head appears within the crystal ball, her glowing green eyes – she looks at you and gives you warning. But you can’t escape, and she laughs as you are whisked further on towards the ballroom. You look down at a large table covered with food and decorations. When you lift your eyes up, dancing high above are ghosts, waltzing around your head. Some will fly past you, howling, talking, laughing and singing.

The guide informs you that you have made it through and you will be out on the other side soon enough. You leave the ballroom and your carriage locks in and you slowly glide past a mirrored wall. Then you see it. Sitting right behind you in your carriage is a hitchhiker of the paranormal kind. Your own ghost who has decided to jump in and try and leave the mansion with you. It was brilliant, and the look on our kids’ faces was priceless!

 

It took us the whole day to cover all the rides in that part of the park. The kids met Disney characters – the Briar Fox pulled Tilly’s hat down over her head and tweaked her nose to the delight of Mish. Winnie the Pooh came up for hugs. Mike quite liked the Princesses. Ride after ride, feeling more and more like a kid again – all the worries of adulthood long gone. Mike and I were immersed in the world of play and imagination with the kids. We hugged every character we came across, we yahooed on every ride. We chowed down on burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, fairy floss, hot chips and soft drink (with lots of water!) There were carts filled with fresh fruit and bottles of juice and water available. The kids would snack on fruit between rides. When I saw the tea cup ride I lost it – for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to go on the tea cup ride – and we did! You could not wipe the smile off my face.

 

The kids loved the It’s a Small World ride, the little singing dolls from around the world, and by the end of it Tilly and Mish were singing along and continued to sing the song for the rest of the day. Mickey met us in his house and insisted on having his photo taken with us, he was a bit cheeky too, mucking around with the kids.

 

We would have little rest breaks, sunscreen top ups, water refills. There are plenty of benches and quiet places to stop for a rest. We finished the first day off with Tomorrowland. As we were walking in to Tomorrow Land we were approached by a mum and her daughter, they wanted to know if we would go on Space Mountain with them. They had a fast pass but it was for 6 people, they needed another 4 more in order to go. I eagerly agreed, telling Mike as we went with the mum and her daughter to the fast pass line that the ride was nothing more than an optical illusion. That you don’t actually move fast, it is the lighting that makes you feel like you are going fast. Oh my God no. No. It is not an optical illusion. It really does tear you through space and time. I clung to Mish for dear life – it was probably a blessing that he was not tall enough to see over the carriage front (but he was tall enough to go on the ride). Tilly was white-knuckled gripping the safety bar, her eyelids peeled back by the speed of the ride as it zipped us side to side, up and down. Mike sat up straight, stiff upper lip throughout the ordeal.

 

When the ride finished we thanked the mum and her daughter. I was twitching, Tilly’s eyes had dried out so much she couldn’t blink and her eyebrows had been lifted up to her hair line so she looked like she was frozen in a state of surprise. Mish hopped out and looked at Mike and me and squealed “that was fun! Can we go again?” Tilly turned and looked at Mish and he pulled back in horror at her frozen expression. He had his answer.

 

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By the time we left the park on the first day it was just after midnight. On the way out we enjoyed the fireworks over the castle and then popped into a gift shop in Main St and picked up some little souvenirs, and the kind lady behind the counter upon learning that we had just come off Space Mountain, gifted the kids with “badges for their bravery”. It was really lovely. We stopped off at IHOP for a quick late night bite before walking back to the hotel.

 

As we approached the hotel, there were cop cars all over the road, cops out and walking around and a man was sitting on the kerb, hands cuffed behind his back, answering questions from a cop. I won’t lie, in my head I immediately began singing the Bad Cops song, and kept an eye out for a camera crew. This could be our first cameo! No cameras, but as we walked by the suspect and the cop, Mish points to the man on the ground and says “you’re going to jail!” The cop tried not to crack a grin as he motioned for Mish to keep it down. No camera crew. Would have made for great TV. Just sayin’.

The next day was our rest day – all that walking (and remember I had recently broken my toes) had worn us out, so it was to be a day of rest. We stocked up on snacks and games from the little shop nearby and relaxed in our cool hotel room. I indulged in the many television channels, watched the local news, read some magazines. When it got a little cooler outside we walked over to a shopping complex and had a look around. Subway for dinner and an early night in preparation for the second part of our Disney adventure the following day.

To be continued…