Welcome to…Legoland!

It’s Monday again! I’ve been thinking some terribly deep thoughts over the weekend; terribly TERRIBLY deep thoughts. So deep, in fact, that I’m over deep thinking for now, and have decided it’s time to share some photos with you instead. People keep asking me about our experience in Legoland (most often “is it actually made of Lego?” which, I’m pleased to say, it’s not), so I think it’s about time I showed you all what it’s like.

We LOVED Legoland.

Legoland Hotel Carlsbad

Legoland California Hotel

When I was a kid I was a passionate Lego collector, and I dreamed of one day visiting Legoland in Copenhagen, not ever really believing I’d get a chance to do it. I have no idea how that original Legoland differs from this one, but this one was an absolute joy.

The hotel is designed with kids in mind. We stayed in a lot of hotels while we were away, but this was the only KIDS’ hotel. Check out the decor:

Legoland Hotel

Legoland Hotel

Each of the three floors has a different theme: adventure, castle, or pirate. We slept on the second floor, the pirate rooms. The kids loved it, but what they loved most of all was that the elevator turned into a DISCO the moment you pressed the button for your floor. Why doesn’t the one at Myer do that?

The elevator host

The elevator host

The hotel had a huge Lego play area, model building competitions and entertainment for the kids in the evenings, and Lego to build in your room as well. Even the restaurants (there were three) were in on the Lego-themed fun.

IMG_2528The restaurants were full of large-scale models like this, all made of Lego. Unfortunately I’ve lost a whole bunch of photos :(. And the food was GREAT, too!

And then, as if the hotel alone isn’t exciting enough (which, really, it isn’t. It’s a hotel, and unless you want to spend your entire day swimming, eating and building Lego, it’s nice to get out), there’s the theme park!

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Lego Safari…

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IMG_2560and plenty of just plain old amazing Lego stuff. There was a whole area dedicated to Star Wars (including a life-size…ie, big enough to really fly in…X-wing fighter) and my favourite, Lego San Francisco. We started and ended our trip in California. I hadn’t realised though we’d be able to start and end it in San Francisco!

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Lego Pier 39. The kids went on the real merry-go-round on the real Pier 39 as well!

Lego Pier 39. The kids went on the real merry-go-round on the real Pier 39 as well!

The (Lego) seals at Pier 39. Much less smelly and noisy than the real ones.

The (Lego) seals at Pier 39. Much less smelly and noisy than the real ones.

Well there you have it folks. Legoland California. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you, like me, still have a few kids and a secret passion for Lego.

 

 

 

 

San Francisco Dreamin’

It’s late. I’ll try to make this short, although I’m not sure how well I’ll succeed. It’s 11.35pm, and the kids are up drawing in their hotel bedroom – their body clocks (and mine) are still on Australian time. Every night we try to make it a little earlier, but that’s the way of holidays too: late nights and sleep ins and precious little in the way of routine. It’s been lovely. I’m kinda tired now though. Here’s a brief rundown, mostly in pictures, of what we’ve been doing and where we’ve been.

Our house in San Francisco was a small piece of wonder. Located in the Mission District, which is apparently the oldest area of SF, it was an old house filled with art works, curios, books and collectibles enough to make me drool, and wish I could stay a month and simply dream and read.

Art and stuffed animals

Art in the toilet

IMG_5997Yes, that is an oil painting hanging in a toilet. Yes, that is a stuffed pheasant. There was a bison’s head and a deer’s head as well. And a five-foot crudely carved crucifix. I loved it.

And there were friends! The reason we came to San Francisco was to see Steve and Theresa and their girls, and we had such a wonderful time catching up with them. If people make a place, then they made San Francisco for us. We did the tourist thing as well though (of course!) and made our way down to Pier 39. I was shocked by the contrast between “regular” San Francisco and the tourist version (OMG so many TOURISTS!), and felt very privileged to be able to see both sides. Regular side is grottier, of course, and with  many, MANY less white people. It’s a fascinating city, and I found the architecture and layout quite unique. There are no suburbs, just masses and masses of city. No front gardens. All the houses joined up for block after block after block. Flat roofs. Dense, dense housing. And the hills!

San Francisco Mission District

 

You may notice the no parking sign. They were really common. We were told that parking is atrociously hard in SF, and it’s true! You are allowed to park in your garage, but not in your driveway (the part of the footpath/sidewalk leading up to your garage), or you could be up for a $350 ticket. You can park on the street, but not on Tuesday mornings (here, other days elsewhere) when they clean the streets. No idea where you have to put your car when they’re cleaning though…maybe you just have to drive around until it’s time to come home again.

Pier 39 sealsYes, those brown things are seals. Live, smelly, noisy, honking ones. The story goes that the city built a marina for the boats and the seals just took it over. No joke. It’s a tourist attraction in it’s own right. Off to the right (outside the frame of the photo) is the Golden Gate Bridge, and further around, in the bay, is Alcatraz. Pier 39 is full of shops, restaurants, tourist attractions, you name it, it’s there.

Bubba Gump Shrimp CoYes, even a fictional Shrimp company. Check out all those people! This was on a Thursday, and after peak season too.

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Aquarium

 

And an Aquarium! The boys spent their money in the gift shop, and we’ve now welcomed to our family a fluffy sting ray, and a fluffy octopus. An ugly creature, really, but highly intelligent. And, so it seems, a great companion when you’re 4.

So there you have it for San Francisco. A city well worth a visit, but when even the taxi drivers tell you not to drive there you realise you’ve got to take that seriously. We did…after we got our rental car. But it’s late, and that, my friends, is another story.

Good night!

 

 

 

 

 

Spider, spider, burning bright

When I was a kid every spider was a big one, and every really huge spider was a Trianchula. To say it right you’ve got to say it in an Aussie accent, hold your nose, and screw your face up at the second syllable, okay? Tri-AN-chula. As in “Muuuuuum, there’s a triANchula in the car! Get rid of that TRIANCHULA!”

I remember my first one. It was orange. I was loud.

Sometime, around the age of six, somebody told me that it wasn’t a trianchula, actually, it was a tarantula. And, then, sometime around the age of eight, somebody told me that it was a huntsman spider and that there’s no such thing as tarantulas anyway. Well. That’s all right then.

Huntsman are about as bad as it gets. They hate the rain, so on wet days they go to the nearest dry place, which is sometimes the woodpile, or the bedroom ceiling, or the toilet wall, or the front door, or the car. And they’re big. They’re freakin’ huge monsters of things that make grown men stop the car randomly in the nearest parking space and jump out leaving the door wide open and say they’re going to walk home. Oh. Maybe it was me who said they’d walk home. But it was the grown man next to me who jumped out first. I remember that. We never did find that spider, either.

Funny thing is though now I’ve got kids who are around six and around eight, and sometimes down at their school I hear other kids yelling out to their mums about seeing a trianchula. The myth is passed down from generation to generation.

There’s a few things I used to be frightened of that I later found out didn’t exist: like Transylvania, Count Dracula, Vampire bats, and tarantulas. Life feels calmer when you know it’s really only Pennsylvania, fruit bats and huntsman*.

I don’t remember when it was that I discovered that tarantulas actually existed. Probably after the age of fifteen when I saw the movie Arachnophobia. Do you remember that one? I’m NOT going to describe it here. Needless to say that if I’d known then what I know now I would have been looking for ways to exit the planet and quick smart, too.

Tarantulas are real.

And not only that, I find out a few days ago that they’re not confined to the South American jungle, but that they’ve disregarded all common sense and live in California as well. California, USA. That very and self-same California that I will be actually standing on in fifteen short weeks. No longer the-other-side-of-the-world, but under my feet.**

I had a huntsman spider on my leg once. Crawling up the inside of my jeans, on my actual skin. I learned a valuable lesson that day: sometimes the best thing for people is to have the worst thing happen. Something unexpected occurs: you cope.

We are stronger (and at the same time more fragile) than we think we are.

I might pack a very large can of fly-spray though. You know…just in case.

 

*I know NOW, okay? Yes, even Transylvania and Vampire bats are real. Except I don’t think those things go together. Although I could be wrong.

**I’m assured by my friends who live there that I WON’T be seeing any tarantulas. So far I believe them. Although they could be wrong, too.