USA – Our Final Week…

It’s done. It’s finished. Our holiday to the U.S has officially come to an end. All the months of saving and planning, all the time I spent organising stuff, buying gear, making lists, packing to a fine art so our luggage wasn’t over weight has all been done, experienced and lived, but what an amazing time we had with memories created that will last forever!!! As I lie here on my bed trying to keep my super heavy jet lagged eyes open, I have the fondest of memories this last week. It’s been a huge week. We’ve been to the bay of San Francisco to the snowy mountains of Tahoe back to the beaches of LA – amazing is an understatement!!!!

When we arrived at San Francisco I was super excited as I’d never been before and always wanted to go and see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got there mid afternoon the Saturday before Christmas and what I didn’t expect was herds of people and traffic so bad it felt worse than New York. It was busy, shoulder to shoulder people lining the streets, horns beeping – I don’t know why but it wasn’t what I’d expected. The drive on the way to where we were staying was an interesting one. We saw people dealing on the corners when we pulled up at a set of lights, streets seemed dirty and I just wasn’t feeling it. It was my choice to come to visit San Francisco and I was beginning to think I made the wrong choice.

Our motel was nice but the smallest one we’d stayed in yet. It was older and darker than the places we’d stayed at before and I just didn’t get a good vibe. The volume of homeless people were somewhat larger than what we’d seen yet and they were vocal, more vocal and in your face than what we’d ever seen. So far this had been my least favourite place. But the next day my sister and I decided to do a bus tour of the city. The girls had woken up sick and the boys wanted a break from sightseeing so we took the opportunity to see the real San Francisco and why it’s on the map of places to see.

Our tour was awesome we saw all the hot spots – Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, zig zag street, steepest hill, China Town, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge…what a site!! It was such a memorable moment driving over it and seeing it for the very first time! San Francisco was awesome to see, has lots to do, plenty to eat – particularly a little diner we found Lori’s Diner. It won our hearts over and would have been the best place we ate at over the 3 weeks we were in the States!

But I was happy to move on and would be content to only see it once. After our two nights were up in San Francisco, the kids we so happy as we were finally road tripping to the snow!! Mia had been bursting to see snow since we left Disneyland so you can imagine how pumped she was. The drive was amazing. 4 hours of beautiful scenery where we looked at snow-capped peaks for half the drive before we actually got to them – it was awesome!! Bailey saw the first sighting of snow on the mountain tops and as we followed our trail the green slowly turned to brown then to white and oh my how surreal!!!

As we drove closer to our destination of Lake Tahoe the snow became more prominent and thicker on the mountain sides and ground. But then all of a sudden it disappeared the closet we got to Tahoe. We were a bit underwhelmed as 5 years ago when we were in Tahoe, we drove through a blizzard to get there!!! When we checked in, the hotel receptionist said they hadn’t had a good snowfall in ages just rain!!! What??? Where is our white Christmas?!!!

The disappointment of this was quickly patched over with our rooms. They were beautiful. There was a bedroom and a kitchen and two bathrooms and space – dear lord space!!!! We felt at home:) The first thing we did was grocery shop lol – it was awesome lol! It was so nice to cook and clean and not eat out!!!! When we got up the next morning, I loved getting the kids their cereal and washing the dishes like I would at home – strange but true:) The kids were so disappointed not to have snow to play in, so we drove 15 minutes up the road where the snow was just so they could touch it! It was so worth the priceless looks on their faces! We had a ball that afternoon…little did we know what we were in for over the next two days!!!

As we followed all the news reports they kept consistently saying that a snow fall was coming in Christmas eve. We didn’t get too excited. It’s like that comment of ‘possible rain’ yeah right what rain!! Christmas eve we decided to take a gondola ride up to Heavenly mountain. When we arrived to buy our tickets, the gondolas were closed due to the windy conditions and the predicted snow storm. So we were advised to check out Adventure Mountain which is a place 20 minutes out-of-town. I’m so glad we weren’t scared off by the weather as it was the best day in the three weeks we were away. We all went sledding and tubbing for the morning and half way through our time on the mountain it started snowing – what a moment!!!!

We were so hoping by the time we returned to Lake Tahoe it would be snowing there to! It wasn’t it was raining…but not long after lunch it turned to snow and snow it did!! It continued to snow on and off for the next 24 hours – we got our white Christmas, was the best gift we could ever receive. Waking up to a town covered in snow on Christmas morning and seeing the kids faces when they saw Santa had found them and left a note in the snow for them – absolute priceless!!!!!!

We spent Christmas Day up on Heavenly mountain after finally getting our gondola ride – yet again another blissful moment. The views were exquisite, completely breathtaking – a moment I will never ever forget! But it was officially the coldest we have ever felt! I couldn’t feel my feet or hands even though they were covered, but so worth seeing such a beautiful site – all while it snowed:)

Our time at Lake Tahoe would have to go down as the most memorable moment in any holiday that we have ever had. Everyone was happy and enjoying themselves and we saw things that everyone in the their life time should see – I even ran for the first time in the snow…now that was a priceless moment!!! It was sad to let go and move on from here, especially knowing that our trip was coming to an end. But what a finale!!! Our last two days spent at Santa Monica beach was also awesome!! What a great place to holiday. There is so much going on down at ‘muscle beach’ with all the swings and rings and different walks of life, we literally spent two days at the beach playing and watching everything that was going on around us!

We spent our last night at the famous Santa Monica Pier where the kids rode ride after ride – but it was freezing!!!!!!! The days were beautiful in the sun, but once the sun went down and the wind came off that water, it became an uncomfortable coldness – but we survived!! My last run for the journey was spent running from the Santa Monica Pier to the Venice beach Pier and back. 10k of water front views and front row seats to a lot of homeless people and someone being arrested. This was all happening while hundreds of people kept living – running, walking, bike riding…it was so bizarre! It really made me appreciate even more what my life holds and how lucky I am!

And so our trip had to end:( not before one last dash to the shops – 8 items purchased at GAP for $100 – crazy!! and dinner out. We caught our last shuttle bus to LAX and thankfully by me asking to fly straight to Brisbane (originally we had to fly to Sydney then get a connecting flight) we were booked on the Brisbane flight which we boarded at 11pm and were off on our way home! Two 13 hour flights in 3 weeks, four internal flights and two road trips and I must say the kids really did so well!!

Would we do it again? Hell yes!!
Would we do it differently? Always!!

5 years ago we went with two babies who were pushed around in prams the whole time – we saw lots but didn’t do a lot. This time only one child in a pram, three kids is completely different to two, kids who argue (normal sibling rivalry) and by the end didn’t want to walk another step, but we did way more this time! It was a massive effort taking three kids around America. There were many ups and downs but that’s life with kids anyway isn’t it?? It was great having family this time to experience it with – we really loved having my sister, brother-in-law and nephews and the kids loved having their cousins to hang out with! What an experience though. We covered so much in the three weeks we were there. Geographically the kids were interested in everything and Bailey in particular loved the history behind things. The kids really learnt a new appreciation for how lucky they are – seeing so any homeless people showed them the real values in life. It was quite sweet in the end they wanted to give a dollar or left over food to each one they saw. I know they will have the fondest memories and many stories to share with their friends when they return to school!

But for now as this year comes to a close, we will focus on the good things that have happened this year and our trip being one of the biggest highlights!

Happy new year to all my family and friends who have followed our journey this year…here’s to an awesome 2015 that brings us all lots of peace, happiness, good health, love and joy’!

First stop for 2015 for us…a week at our favourite beach – Burleigh!!!!

Highlights of our last week….

San Francisco…

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Lake Tahoe…

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Santa Monica…

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USA – Week 2…Vegas to New York!

I’m writing this blog on our 6 hour flight to San Francisco! It’s been another early start to the day in order to fly from one side of America to the other to see out our final week. We are tired and starting to miss some of the comforts of home, but the kids are super excited because it’s only a matter of days now and we will be playing in the snow…that’s all Mia has been asking for since we left Disneyland!!! We started this week with a road trip to Las Vegas! I always find this trip an easy and fun one to do – especially once we are out of the city of LA and its billion of freeways that intertwine with one another. Now I can easily say this as I’m never the driver and am so grateful that my husband always braves it for us! It means one less flight and we get to see some of the outback of America! Once you hit highway 15, it’s all the way to Vegas baby!!! On the way to Vegas, in the middle of no where are little townships that exist with nothing but dry barren land around them. We stopped at one town for lunch that had a huge outlet centre and a variety of restaurants to eat at. Lunch was lovely and so was my purchases at the Guess outlet store…this was not planned but such a great find lol! I was supposed to be waiting to shop in Vegas itself!! Due to our little expedition, we arrived at Vegas in dark, but oh what a sight. You literally drive for miles and then in the middle of the desert is big bright lights and a city that never sleeps! It’s a great place to visit and so many things to do other than drinking and gambling, but we never stay long enough to check everything out! But we always stay long enough to shop like there’s no tomorrow, ride that massive roller coaster and see the big and bold sites downs the Vegas strip! It was short and sweet but we had fun!

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20141222-123327.jpg Our next stop for the duration of the week would be New York, one of my favourite places in the world but of course not without drama!!! Our flight for New York was at 7am which meant we had to be up extremely early to be at the airport. We were up and out and at the airport on time. We checked in and got to security where everything went from bad to worse…. When we went to check in, we were going to be charged $25 per bag we were checking on…$160 later!!!! This was a surprise to us as we never paid any of these fees on our last trip and thought this was included in what we had originally paid (will be following this up with our travel agent on our return)! We were advised that we could take some of our check on bags on a carry on to save some of the cost, so we did…but I forgot my toiletry bag was in one of them! Of course I went through security and too many liquids later, they were going to make me throw out half my toiletries and the kids water bottles. I was going to until the lady said I could check my bag in. I asked if I had time and she said yes! What seemed like was going to be an easy task turned into a nightmare! I tried and was knocked back as there was no time!!! Which then I had to throw out my stuff anyway to get back through security!!! I finally made it through security to find myself waiting for a monorail to take me to the section I had to go to…why do people not tell you these things when you are checking in!!!!!!! I kept telling myself you’ll be right you won’t miss this flight, how could you miss this flight! As soon as the monorail stopped I ran with three bags in toe as fast as I could to our gate number which was deserted. There was no one around other than a lady who I asked so desperately “please tell me I can get on that plane!!” Rudely she shook her head and said “no!” It was 6.55am the plane wasn’t due to leave until 7am and it continued to sit there for the next 15 minutes until it took off. As much as I was pleading with the staff that I had checked in ages ago and was told I had time to check one of my bags in and that I was travelling with my family – no one cared! All I was told is that the doors are shut and you can catch the next flight out to New York at 11.45….5 hours later!!!! I was numb. I was upset, angry, mad. Mad at myself as I felt like I brought this on myself. When I watched my family fly away without me, my babies gone, it felt like I was never going to see anyone again. My heart was ripped right out of my chest for a moment. I sat and didn’t speak to a soul until I pulled myself together and kept telling myself it will be ok. I just had to get through this next 10 hours and I would be back enjoying our holiday!! That I did and after being separated from my family for 10 hours, we were reunited and so so happy again!! All was good in my world. We were in New York and about to embark on the awesome adventures this city has to offer and that we did! In the five night stay that we had there, we fitted in almost everything we wanted to. We watched the New York Knicks play the Dallas Mavericks in a NBA match. This has always been Kane’s dream and it was great to see him with his family for full this. We visited ground zero and saw for the first time the memorial garden that has been created in remembrance of the terrible tragedy that took so many innocent lives. This is always an emotional experience – I can’t even imagine what the city went through on that day. We saw all the favourite hotspots…Time Square, Broadway, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, State Library, Macey’s, 5th Avenue and all the exquisite window displays and I couldn’t leave without a little purchase from Tiffany and Co:) My sister and I did the Sex and the City tour…this was fantastic!!! We got to see so many of the major spots that were used to film the show and we got a photo outside Carrie’s apartment building! My favourite show was being lived out – LovEd it!!! But our highlight for the week, which we always love, is our time at Central Park. We love it there. Kilometres of open space with playgrounds, walkways, park benches and hundreds of squirrels running around. Last time we were in New York it was covered in snow, so it was really nice to see the green grass and fallen brown leaves that covered so much of the park. It’s just such a pretty site and I was fortunate enough to run 10k through the park – was the most blissful run I’ve ever run! It was such a special moment ice skating in Central Park with our three babies. Last time Bailey put one toe on the ice and didn’t attempt anymore, Sienna was a baby and Mia wasn’t even thought of. This time both Bailey and Sienna didn’t give up until they mastered it and Mia loved it!! With the help of Kane and I she went round and round several times! It’s one moment in time I will cherish forever!!!!

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20141222-123920.jpg I love New York!!! It’s a place I wouldn’t put my children through again though. It’s very very busy, I mean so busy that unless you experience it you just don’t understand busy when I say it’s busy! And it’s freezing!!! When we got up to leave this morning it was -2 degrees. The first couple of days we were there it was quite bearable, particularly the first day when it was 8 degrees. But by the time we left Central Park yesterday afternoon it was 1 degree and we ended up catching a cab back to our hotel as Mia was turning blue!!! But Kane and I will return one day when the kids are older and can fend for themselves! One week to go…the time is going steady and so much has been done, with still so much ahead of us! Fingers crossed we wake on Christmas morning to snow falling – that would be the icing on the cake for this trip! Merry Christmas to all my readers…I hope it brings you lots of love, joy and laughter xoxoxo!

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USA – Week 1…LA!

I’m writing this as my two baby girls are latched to me asleep while we are a road tripping to Las Vegas!!!

This past week has been amazing!!! 7 nights in Anaheim, LA, staying at the Howard Johnson which is across the road from Disneyland!! We love California and when we visited America last time, California was great but this time I really fell in love. The weather, the theme parks, the beaches…it’s all sounding a little bit like home, which is probably why I love it so much!!

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This week we have spent 3 massive days at Disneyland, a day at Universal Studios, a couple of days shopping oh and it wouldn’t be a holiday if we didn’t end up at the medical centre!!!! Yes that’s right!!! Our baby girl learnt the hard way that no more monkeys really shouldn’t jump on the bed – 4 staples in her head later and she was good to go again!!!! I managed to sneak in a few runs and Kane finally got to see an Ice Hockey match!

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Disneyland…what a truly magical, spectacular, amazing place! It really is the happiest place in the world! Between the endless amount of rides, entertainment and characters walking around, there is never enough time to do everything. We did far more than last time as the kids are much older, but it still didn’t seem enough. But the most important things were done especially getting the kids favourite character signatures and photos…this is always my favourite thing to do to!

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It’s become a tradition now that on the last day we wear our Disneyland gear and get a photo with the one and only Mickey Mouse!!!

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This was our first photo 5 years ago!

It was really nice having my sister, brother-in-law and nephews there to experience it with us this time. They loved having their cousins to go on rides with and it also meant we were able to enjoy some rides too! One of the most memorable moments is always watching the castle light up. The Disneyland castle would have to be one of my most favourite things in the world and at night when it’s shining with millions of fairy lights…just exquisite!

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Universal Studios is always a great day out!! The detail of each ride that has been put in to make them so spectacular is amazing and wherever you turn there is always a character to get your photo with. Our favourite for the day was Scooby-Do he was so funny! The Back Lot Tour was yet again unbelievable. I find movie and show making so interesting…I always wished I was a Hollywood star…clearly that will never happen lol! Another massive 12 hour day was enjoyed by all, particularly as it involved a tour of LA and we got to see the Hollywood sign…although low lying clouds meant the photos weren’t very clear!

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We don’t usually shop much in LA, but this time we bought almost a suitcase worth of stuff lol! We came across a TJ Max, Walmart and Shoe City not far from where we were staying…many, many bargains later and everyone was pleased! Oh and you can never ever go to Disneyland without buying a shirt or two or ok we bought many things this time but we LOVE Disneyland!!!!!!

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We only touched the surface of LA this week. You could easily spend a good couple of weeks there, as there is so much to do, so many places to visit and things to see. We are fortunate enough this time to spend our last couple of nights in Santa Monica in a couple of weeks time…I’m really looking forward to that!

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Finally The Time Has Come…

The day has arrived…..

Finally after months of planning, saving, organising, buying and packing our holiday to the States is awaiting us!!

It only seems like yesterday that we went for the first time…that was 5 years ago!!! So much has happened in that time – another baby has been born for goodness sake!!! This time we will be traveling as a family of 5 and with my sister, brother-in-law and nephews. It still seems so surreal!!

This past month has been one of the craziest months of my life. Between the end of year demands at work, finishing off everything for our holiday and celebrating the spirit of Christmas, what I would normally do at this time of year in 6 weeks, has been crammed into 2!!! I’m feeling a little fragile but I know this next month of holidaying in the US and our week at Burleigh when we return will be so worth it!

When I finished work on Tuesday the realisation of being on 7 weeks holidays was bliss. I woke on Wednesday morning and I had a three-day plan to enable me to be completely ready for our trip…that was short-lived as Bailey woke up with a leaking ear and Mia had told me the day before her ear was sore! A trip to the doctors and $82 spent at the chemist was not in my plan, neither was all the little mishaps that happened along the way this week!! But I will not be defeated. I’m happy to say that no tantrums were chucked or no tears were shed…and we WILL have a great time lol!

While I’ve been packing for our trip and celebrating Christmas with loved ones of late, it makes my heart ache for the people who will face this Christmas for the first time without their loved ones. That was us this time last year – even though we will continue to uphold our family Christmas traditions, there will always be a void on Christmas Day without nana!

Although the festive season should be a happy time, I always struggle emotionally at this time of year. This has been a challenging year for us with the kid’s health and has seen many of our family and friends experience heart ache, but it signals the end. The end of memories made, the end of another school year – the kid’s teachers have yet again been amazing and the thought of saying goodbye makes me sad. It means we are all another year older, but hopefully wiser. It means Mia starts preschool so soon – now where did that time go! I’ve never liked changed and always resist it to begin with but I will endeavour to enjoy what’s left of 2014!!!

I think I have everything sorted:
Passports – check
Travel documents – check
Money converted – check
Snow clothes – check
Beanies, scarves and gloves – check
Jackets – check
Clothes and shoes for 3 different climates – check
Toiletries – check
Medication in case ears go pear shape – check
Entertainment for the plane – check
Chargers – check
Camera – check

Our itinerary for the next 23 days is as follows:
*7 days in LA – Disneyland, Universal studios, San Diego
*Drive to Vegas for 2 nights – shopping!!!
*5 nights in New York – my favourite place!!
*2 nights in San Francisco – I haven’t been there before and am so looking forward to it!!
*Drive to Lake Tahoe – Christmas in the snow!
*Our last 2 nights are spent at Santa Monica – tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills!!

As I board the plane I’m feeling happy, excited, nervous, cautious, but so very grateful that we are able to provide such an experience for our children. Yesterday when I felt like I was never going to be ready I had a sudden feeling of – why are we doing this?? But now that the stars finally aligned and we are ready, we are going to enjoy every moment of what this trip will bring to us!

As Americans would say…Happy Holiday everyone!!!

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