10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland Photo Trip Report (Summer 2013) - Part 1

Having worked at Disneyland Paris in 2011 (and having visited 5 times) and worked at Walt Disney World in Summer 2013, it would be unthinkable of me to visit the US and not visit the park that inspired all the others that came after it. A note of warning: there are A LOT of pictures in this photo trip report. If you would rather read the full trip report which has a lot more detail then take a look here.
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SeaWorld Orlando 2013 - Photo Trip Report

In Summer 2013, I took my first visit to Seaworld - a theme park unlike any other combining some of Orlando's most thrilling rides with stunning scenery, great food and incredible entertainment. Here's my photo trip report.





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Disney's Art of Animation Resort Photo Trip Report

The newest resort hotel on Walt Disney World property is the Art of Animation resort. The resort is a value hotel featuring some incredibly themed areas, taking theming of a cheap resort to a whole new level. The hotel is split into four distinct sections. Explore them all in this trip report.





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New changes coming from Transport for London - 24 hour tubes, station staff cuts and more

The Mayor of London and Transport for London have announced their plans for the future of the capital, including a 24h weekend tube, more wifi and ticket office changes.

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Universal Hollywood Photo Trip Report

This summer I visited Universal Hollywood - a movie studio come theme park located in the Hollywood Hills. For years I had wanted to do their almost-hour-long studio tour and I did exactly that this summer, as well as seeing a few more things. Instead of telling you what about the experience, here's my much more visual photo trip report.



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Web of Links - Week 12

It's time for the weekly round-up of some the most interesting and thought provoking articles and websites I saw this week. This week find out a free way to learn languages, a defence of why not to wear a poppy and how to make money vlogging.

1. Duolingo  - Duolingo s a free way to learn languages - there's French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese to learn from. It's a great free alternative to something like Rosetta Stone and surprisingly it is really effective. I have vastly improved my Spanish already having just used it for the past week. I can thoroughly recommend it!

2. Disney World Map - WDW focus has created a " unofficial transportation map of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida" with details including ferry boats, buses, monorails and more. It's all done in the style of the London tube map too - genius!

3.  Grumpy cat at Disneyland - The perfect mishmash of pop culture.

4. Twitter introduces custom timelines - Get custom feeds of just those you want to follow.

5. ITV news presenter explains why she won't wear a poppy on air - Is it right, or is it wrong that this reporter wanted to be impartial and so decided not to wear a poppy around Remembrance Day 2013.

6. How to make money blogging and vlogging - The BBC investigated how some people are making a living out of their online presence.
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Comparing Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris - Part 3

This series of blog posts analyses the difference between the three Disney resorts I've visited -Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Disneyland Resort in California. Come explore the similarities, differences and quirks in all three resorts.
In this series I'll analyse the parks in terms of their atmosphere, offerings, attractions, accommodation, resort size, entertainment, food, the magic and their cast members. As well as giving them all a score for each category.

In the third part of this series, the spotlight is on food, the magic, cast members and we give the resorts all overall score. To read the first part of the series click here. You can also read the second part here



Food (Offerings and Pricing):
Walt Disney World has the luxury of offering many different types at food, particularly throughout its resort hotels. You can go to Boma and get a taste of Africa, visit the countries in World Showcase and try Canadian and Italian food, or settle for simpler theme park fare. Prices are more expensive than comparable food outlets in the US, but compared are still affordable as far as theme park food goes. Also remember to add 15-20% to the price of sit-down restaurants for a tip. Side: The meatballs taste weird at Disney World (I think they might have cheese in them).
Score: 4.5/5

Disneyland Resort offered significantly less food options that Disney World but had some great breakfast offers, especially in adventureland. The food here was more standard theme park fare and here are definitely a lot less sit-down restaurants to eat in than at Disney World.
Score: 3/5




As Disneyland Paris is just outside Paris, one of the culinary capitals of the world, you’d expect food to be exquisite. Sadly, this is not the case. Food is generally bland and there isn’t a great variety, though the Casey’s Corner hotdogs here were the best I’ve had anywhere. There are some high-class dining experiences such as Walt’s on Main Street and Inventions in Disneyland Hotel which offer great food apparently but these are generally the exception rather than the rule. There’s a good mixture of sit-down, quick service and buffet restaurants throughout the resort. Food prices are almost twice as high as in the states, though drinks are included and in France tips are included in the price of sit-down meals. (Photo: Disneyfoodblog.com)
Score: 1.5/5

The Magic and the Cast Members:
The Cast Members at Walt Disney World are hugely empowered to create magic with tools such as a "No Strings Attached" meaning that damaged or lost items can be replaced. There are also planned magical moments throughout the day such as free cake buy the teacups ride at the Magic Kingdom, free desserts at quick service locations and being able to pull the sword out of the stone - all done in a seemingly random fashion. Magic is everywhere and Cast Members are both empowered, and encouraged, to create it.
Score: 4.5/5

Disneyland Resort is very much like Disney World, though I am unsure as to the existence of planned magical moments or No Strings Attached. The cast however do go above and beyond to make your day as I found out during my visit - they will do anything possible to make your holiday or vacation an unforgettable one.
Score: 5/5



Disneyland Paris cast members have no magical moments policy and No Strings definitely do not exist. Some have dubbed DLP as Disney without the magic. I wouldn't go that far but I'd say that cast members are generally not as willing to help as at the American parks, though as still generally very friendly. The US has such a focus on customer service which just can't be replicated.
Score: 2/5


Misc:
Just a few random things I noticed.



Disneyland Resort - The whole park was clearly designed for when people were a lot smaller almost 60 years ago - the turnstiles are tiny and accessibility isn't as great either. Everything did however seem more relaxed and natural than at Walt Disney World, you get the same quality of service just without it feeling like it's being forced onto the Cast. The roping off of crowds during parades and fireworks is a great way of keeping walkways clear - I was very impressed with this. There is no wifi in the parks.

Walt Disney World is probably the world's safest theme park resort. Safety truly is the number one priority and it will not be lost for anything. Wifi in the parks is great. The weather being generally warm year-round is greater though hurricane season as well as the hot, humid summers can put a downer on things.




Disneyland Paris is by far the most beautiful resort and quirky thinks like the dragon under the castle are great. The rides they have are generally world class but they could do with so many more of them, especially in the studios. There still isn't any wifi in the parks.


Overall:

I never believed people when they said that after going to the American Disney parks Disneyland Paris would feel less special and although I haven't gone back yet I think it's what I will feel. I would still say that DLP is my favourite resort despite what the scores below show. It may not be the most magical but it serves its purpose which is a quick getaway destination in Europe. A few more rides would not go amiss even if they are direct clones from the States. No other resort is so close to a major city though so nothing can compete with that. I hold high hopes for the future of Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios is slowly expanding, the hotels and parks are being renovated, the food menus are being revised and under french contract law there should be a third theme park in just over 15 years. I just hope the visitor numbers stay high to pay for all this. It could be the perfect resort being a getaway destination and a local's destination all at the same time.

Overall Score: 21/35

Disneyland Resort is the perfect resort for locals and I can see why it's done so well. Almost 60 years after opening it still captures a truly magical era, yet the resort is not afraid of keeping up with the times. This score is incredibly high for a resort that is a fraction of the size of Disney World - a testament to who this small theme park resort has kept up with the times.
Overall Score: 26.5/35



Walt Disney World is truly what it says on the tin - a world of Disney - it is almost inescapable when you're in its claws, but in a good way. You really do get immersed inside the Disney bubble and it's easy to see why it is the world's most visited tourist destination.
Overall Score: 29/35




Agree? Disagree? Think I've missed things? Let me know in the comments below.
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Comparing Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris - Part 2

This series of blog posts analyses the difference between the three Disney resorts I've visited - Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Disneyland Resort in California. Come explore the similarities, differences and quirks in all three resorts.

In this series I'll analyse the parks in terms of their atmosphere, offerings, attractions, accommodation, resort size, entertainment, food, the magic and their cast members. As well as giving them all a score for each category.


In the second part of this series, the spotlight is on accommodation, resort size and entertainment. To read the first part of the series click here


Accommodation:
Walt Disney World has the biggest variety of resort hotels with more than can be counted on your fingers and toes. Deluxe hotels in particular have a transportational quality making you forget you're in Central Florida and immersing you in a different environment - you can be taken to a campsite, to the wilderness, the Polynesian, Africa, the Victorian Era, the world of Pixar, New Orleans and much more. The theming at the hotels is second to none, as are the amenities on offer. The variety of prices is also very appealing. The Art of Animation resort recently showed that exceptional theming is provided in all categories of hotel - not just the deluxe resorts!
Score: 5/5

Disneyland Resort - Only one of the hotels, the Grand Californian, really has the transportational quality at Disneyland Resort. The others seem like a Hilton with Disney branding unfortunately. There are only three hotels too and they are all very, very expensive. Especially when you can get a much cheaper non-Disney hotel ten minutes' walk away.
Score: 2/5



Disneyland Paris has seven incredibly American-themed hotels and campsite which do immerse you in their environments though not quite to the extent of Disney World, but certainly a lot more than those at the Disneyland Resort. These hotels are significantly more expensive than those at Disney World though not quite on the scale of the Disneyland Resort.
Score: 3.5/5


Resort size:
Walt Disney World - The resort is huge, spanning 47 square miles (twice the size of Manhattan). That means Disney has lots of room to build things like lakes to cross by boat, all its resort hotels and a race track for example - it also has room to still double in size. Sometimes though, the resort seems almost two big - I spent three months there working and I still didn't manage to see everything. Things seem unnecessarily spaced out and when it takes 20-minutes on a bus to get from your hotel to the Magic Kingdom you know there's something wrong with the size of the resort. Image: Google Maps.
Score: 3/5




Disneyland Resort - A tiny resort with a very intimate feel though the main Disneyland park does feel a little small and cramped. Everything is within walking distance including the two parks which are literally opposite each other. Due to its location Disneyland doesn't really have room for expansion.
Score: 3/5





Disneyland Paris - At the moment the resort is still relatively small, though it is already larger than Disneyland Resort, and six times smaller than Disney World. Everything is walkable though it is a 20-minute stroll to the further on-site hotel and shuttle buses are provided. The size allows a good amount of exploration that the Disneyland Resort doesn't allow. Disneyland Paris has space to quadruple in size and the idea is that one day it will become a more compact Disney World.
Score: 5/5

Entertainment - Shows, Parades and Characters:
Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom provides a wealth of entertainment in its park with dozens of character meet and greats. Unfortunately there is only one real live 'stage show' which takes place up to five time a day in front of the castle. Magic Kingdom offers a few sit-down recorded shows such as Mickey's Philharmagic, Monster's Inc, Stitch, Carousel of Progress, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree and the Tiki Room, most of which feel vastly out of date. Animal Kingdom offers the most incredible shows, followed by Hollywood Studios. EPCOT's world showcase is filled with street-mosphere (as is Hollywood Studios) and cinema-style shows too. The Magic Kingdom day parade is lacklustre, Animal kingdom's is slightly better, and EPCOT and Hollywood Studios do not offer parades.

Nighttime entertainment is widespread throughout the parks. Though none is offered at Animal Kingdom, in the evening EPCOT presents Illuminations, Magic Kingdom presents the wonderful Main Street Electrical ParadeCelebrate the Magic and Wishes and Hollywood Studios presents the magical Fantasmic.

Characters can be found throughout the parks but not 'randomly', usually being scheduled meet and greets.
Furthermore there are little touches the Magic Kingdom has such as the Welcome Show, the Trolley Show in the morning which is a magical start to the day, and the unadvertised Kiss Goodnight at the end of the day.



All that's needed to raise this score is more stage shows at the Magic Kingdom, parades at the other parks, a better MK parade (on it's way), more random meet and greets, and nighttime entertainment at Animal Kingdom (which is coming soon!).
Score: 4/5


Disneyland Resort has many more random character appearances, incredible casting with characters who are exceptionally true to life and are prepared to spend a long time chatting to guests, three nighttime shows despite there being only two parks and many many more stage shows. The parades at the two parks are also the most creative and fun parades I have ever seen too. It is a shame Disneyland does not have a nighttime parade but both Fantasmic and a fireworks show on the same night make up for it. Plus with luck and careful timing you can see World of Color too! I was not a fan of the castle fireworks show, Magical, in the slightest though the flying Dumbo was a cool addition.
Score: 4.5/5


Disneyland Paris - The day parades are as good as ever in Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park though they have now been running in one form or another for several years, though the floats still look very good. The music in Disneyland Park's parade is getting tiresome now though. There are no live stage shows at Disneyland Park or a nighttime parade. There are both scheduled and random character meet and greets at the parks which is a great variety. The stage shows at Walt Disney Studios Park are unique and well worth the watch. Disney Dreams is the premiere nighttime show and I can't quite work out if I have it tied with, or beating, World of Color in my all-time favourite nighttime show. I think it gets the edge.
Score: 2.5/5

Agree? Disagree? Think I've missed things? Let me know in the comments below.
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Comparing Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris - Part 1

This series of blog posts analyses the difference between the three Disney resorts I've visited - Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World in Florida, and Disneyland Resort in California. Come explore the similarities, differences and quirks in all three resorts.

The three resorts are all very different: Disneyland Resort, opened in 1955 is a local's playground, Walt Disney World, opened in 1971, houses some of the world' most visited theme parks and is the most visited tourist destination on the globe with few regular locals, and Disneyland Paris, opened in 1992, is a mixture of the two being a European tourist destination as well as a local's paradise.

In this series I'll analyse the parks in terms of their atmosphere, offerings, attractions, accommodation, resort size, entertainment, food, the magic and their cast members. As well as giving them all a score for each category. Enjoy!

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New York 2013 Photo Trip Report - 48 hours to see as much as possible

This summer I fulfilled a life-long dream and visited New York for the first time. As I was only there for 48 hours I was determined to make the most of it. Instead of telling you what about my travels, I thought I'd show you with a photo trip report.



Day 1:
I flew into Newark airport and could see the city in the distance. So close, yet so far!


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Web of Links - Week 11

It's time for the weekly round-up of some the most interesting and thought provoking articles and websites I saw this week. This week is a little more political than usual.

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Fantastical 2 Review (for iPhone)

Fantastical is a paid-for calendar application for the iPhone designed to replace the built in iOS calendar app. Just a little under a week ago, the second version of the app was released keeping its best features whilst bringing some new elements in too. The app is a paid-for upgrade from the original Fantastical - to upgrade and purchase the app if you don't already own it you’ll need to visit the App Store and download the new app. Pricing is $4.99, but it is currently available for a limited time for just $2.99.




What I still love:

Smart sentence parsing
Smart sentence parsing - Unlike the built in Calendar app on your iPhone with Fantastical you don’t need to enter every single detail in different drop downs. Instead of typing the event name then selecting a start time, an end time and date, you can simply type “Lunch tomorrow at 1pm for 30 minutes” and it will figure everything out for you. You can also dictate into it. The smart sentence parsing feature has been improved in Fantastical 2.

Slick interface - Fantastical provides a great at a glance view of the week ahead.

Easy integration - Start it up and the app will grab all the calendars from your phone without you having to configure anything yourself.


New features:

The standard calendar view
iOS7 Redesign - Although the old app works just fine (but it’s not as snappy as this one) on iOS7, it was lacking the new design making the interface feel clunky. The redesign makes it feel much fresher and more of a part of the OS. The new light theme is a welcome addition too.

To do lists and reminders - You can now tell the app to add something to your to-do list or remind you of something later in the day. These will appear in-line with your calendar. Also grabs these from the built in reminder app.

Background updating - If you add things on Google calendar or any other app that sync on any device it will push the events to Fantastical 2 without you having to open it.

Event details - Now add a map to your events.

Birthdays and Facebook events - Pulled from Facebook.
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Bramley Baths: Swim-Along Cinema Review

A couple of weeks ago I became aware of Bramley Baths and their swim-along cinema. The idea is very simple: you go into the swimming pool, there's a load of floats and you watch a film. I went to test it out.



Being close to Halloween, the Baths decided to put on their 'spooktacular' by screening "Ghostbusters" as the film of choice. Having not seen the film in several years, quite fancying a swim and wondering what the fuss was about I and a Jasmine set off to have a look.



Arrival:
I won't lie. Jasmine and I were apprehensive about the idea. Being two people in their early twenties our initial fear was that we weren't really of the usual age group to be attending an event like this. "What is everyone going is really elderly?" "What if there's only families with little kids and we stand out like a sore thumb?" and most importantly "What if we are the only ones there?". These were just three of the questions running through our heads.


We arrived at the baths and apprehensively walked through the doors expecting to not find a soul but were pleasantly surprised to find a family in front of us. "At least we're not the only ones here". The decor took me by surprise as the Baths had spared no expense with cobwebs, costumes for the staff and even rolled out a red carpet. I'd booked the tickets in advance over the phone at the very reasonable price of a fiver each. Tickets can also be purchased on the night subject to availability or beforehand in person at the Baths - as the event seemed reasonably popular I would recommend booking in advance.

We picked up our tickets and emerged into the main swimming pool area which already had about twenty people in it and there was still a while to go before the film started. The lifeguards wore Ghostbusters costumes. After getting changed we were ready for what we had already deemed to be an interesting and unusual night.


Before getting in to the pool we were approached by one of the characters roaming around who asked if I'd like to audition to take on the new role of the receptionist. If I succeeded and passed the audition I could work for Ghostbusters. I had a go, being awarded a lollipop for my valiant efforts and told I'd start my new job as the receptionist on Monday at 8am. I'd work 70 hours a week and earn £2 an hour - what a deal!

Another member of staff told me he wanted to draw my attention to a very important message he had and then shone his flashlight at a sign saying "Bustin' makes me happy".

The experience:
Once the film started and the lights dimmed I was pleasantly surprised at how clear the projection was on the screen at the end of the pool but there was one thing that I couldn't get over while watching the film - the audio. Naturally, a swimming pool already has very echo-ey acoustics but when a sound system is added, the audio become almost unintelligible making it very hard to understand what was being said by characters. I found that when music was playing however it could be heard perfectly fine- my feeling is a film with more of a score and less talking would work better (Wall-E would be a perfect example).

Although the film itself is a classic, I'd forgotten that it's not (at least in my opinion) actually that great. With a very slow start and lacklustre performances, its only saving grace is the fantastic theme tune, which everyone in the pool sang along to throughout the film.

There were two ticket options available to purchase - non-swimming (balcony) and swimming. I would thoroughly recommend the swimming option to immerse yourself (no pun intended) in the experience. Admittedly after an hour it did start to get cold in the pool but dipping your legs in the warm water, or being in the pool itself, is such a relaxing way of enjoying a film.

There was a "tuck shop" upstairs where you could buy hot and cold drinks and even freshly made popcorn - all very reasonably priced and a great way to stay warm. When I went to the shop they were also looking for more volunteers to help with nights such as this one, as the place is now community run.

Overall impression:
I enjoyed the experience and the atmosphere was really nice. You could tell that the staff and volunteers really enjoyed working at the Baths and enjoying hosting these events. Would I personally come back? Possibly - although the event wasn't about the film (and swimming/floating around and watching a film at the same time is not as easy as it looks) it would have been nice to have understood what was happening a bit better. Would I recommend you experience the swim-along cinema? 100% yes. Go along - it's weird, it's surreal but it IS fun!


After the event.
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