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Liverpool! - Expat Adventures

Liverpool! - Expat Adventures

Something new I've discovered I quite enjoy, is going to a destination that you know very little to nothing about.  When Dani signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon in Liverpool, I said "sure, sounds fun! I've never been to England.". I think at that point all I knew about the city was that it was in England and it's where the Beatles came from. Turns out, it's a really awesome place to visit.

We already had Whit Monday as a holiday, so we took Friday off and made it into a long weekend. It's a super short hop from Amsterdam to Liverpool. I think the flight was only a little over an hour. We stayed at Jurys Inn, right on the wharf, and right next to all the race things (expo, start lines, party, etc).  It's a great location as you are next door to the Albert Dock, near the Mersey river (obviously), and walking distance to most things in the city center.

Mersey Waterfront / Albert Dock / Ferry

There's a lot going on along the waterfront in Liverpool. You've got the events and arena complex, the Ferris Wheel, Albert Dock, Museum of Liverpool, the "three graces" and the ferry terminal for starters.  Since we stayed in this area, we saw quite a bit, including from the ferry and the top of the Wheel of Liverpool.

Albert Dock is the largest collection of Grade 1 listed buildings in England

The water front is full of statues, memorials and so much character.

The museum of Liverpool is beautiful inside and out. In addition to a brand new John and Yoko exhibit, they had a fascinating look at lgbt history in Liverpool and England.

And of course some shots of the three Graces and obligatory pictures from the top of the Wheel of Liverpool.

City Center

There's so much in the city center area. Thee's lots of fantastic buildings, monuments, cathedrals, and historic sites. For starters, there's Matthew street, where the Beatles played while they were getting their start playing in the Cavern Club.

Then there's the Anglican cathedral that was designed by a protestant and the Protestant cathedral that was designed by an anglican.  Both absolutely gorgeous buildings. We also saw the bombed out cathedral from WW1, the Queen Victoria monument (a bit naughty from a certain angle), and St George's hall (where a lot of movies have been shot),

On the recommendation of a lady at the race expo, we took a look inside the library and the attached Liverpool world museum. The library, especially the reading room, was incredible. And the museum was quite impressive as well.  They had a terracotta warriors exhibit happening, but that was an extra charge, so we stuck to the rest of the museum. That was fine, expecially since they had a really amazing mummy exhibit.

Beatles Magical Mystery Tour

You can't go to Liverpool without seeing some amazing Beatles history. We bought tickets to the "Magical Mystery Tour" on our last day there. It's a two hour bus tour around to many different sites of significance to the band. It included places like Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, birth homes and other houses where members of the band grew up. All along the way we got stories of how the band got together and became the phenomenon that they did.

The Races

The races were decently organised for an international Rock 'n' Roll event. The expo and bib pickup was a bit understaffed, so there was some waiting.  Dani seemed to enjoy all three races and was happy with her times. I was my usual supporter / photographer role.

If you find yourself in England and looking for a fun city to visit, definitely give Liverpool a shot. Just know that although the people are very friendly, that Scouse accent is a real bugga' to understand.

Je t'aime Disneyland Paris

Je t'aime Disneyland Paris

Dani and I have been talking about going to Disneyland Paris for what seems like forever.  Well, certainly since they first announced the Run Disney event there.  When we talked about going, the idea of us living a few hours away wasn't even conceivable.  Well folks, sometimes life takes you unexpected places.  But given that we are living in Europe now, visiting Disneyland Paris was anything, but, unexpected for us.

Our original plan was to take the train from Amsterdam Centrum to the Gare de Marne-la-Vallée station just outside the park. However, due to the train strikes in France falling on our departure date, we had to scramble and make arrangements to fly.

So we booked and flew Transavia for the first time.  There's not much to say about the airline other than it's cheap and not-bad.  It's super no-frills, so don't expect anything like "priority" lines, early boarding, free drinks, etc.  The good news is, it's quick. Only about and hour and twenty minutes gate to gate. The downside is that we then had to pay for a bus shuttle to take us the remaining 50 minus from Orly Airport to the parks area. And we had to spend time in Orly, which is a shit airport, on the way back.

We stayed at the Sequoia Lodge resort. It was an okay hotel, but definitely felt dated, even though I understand it was renovated not that long ago.  The amenities were nice (lounge, shop, restaurants, etc.).  We didn't get a change to check out the pool, but it looked quite nice as well. And the grounds were spectacular.  It's also nice in that it's a 15 minute walk to the park entrances through Disney Village. There's a spectacular lagoon along the way as well.

We spent most of the rest of Friday and the weekend in the parks. The castle here is spectacular. It's even got it's own dragon underneath. And the parks are just gorgeous in general. Space Mountain (Hyperspace temporarily) at this park is the best one, hands down. The coaster is awesome, and the Star Wars overlay works perfectly. My favourite thing there. The Ratatouille ride is also super good. It's a fun mix of practical and projected 3D effects that brings you down to the size of a rat in a kitchen.

Because of social media and friends, we were able to meet up with a new friend, Giona, who is a cast member with Disneyland. He was super kind and spent much of his weekend playing in the parks with us and showing us around.  And the best part is, now we have a new friend in Paris! 

"It's a Small World" isn't my favourite attraction, but it has grown on me in recent years. I was really surprised how nice and fresh the Paris one felt.  Plus it was fun to see how the States and Canada are portrayed in a non-US based attraction.  It... did not disapoint.

And of course, we had to book at least one character dining experience.  When we booked our package, we took the option of a Crystal Palace breakfast.  Breakfast itself was quite good. I appreciated the variety of fresh foods. French staples like croissants and crepes were all very good. We had some great characters too. Mickey, of course, and Daisy.  But then Scrooge McDuck came out and we were pumped! He's one of those characters you rarely see.

So it's safe to say the wife and I had a great time this trip (despite me getting sick half way through).  We loved it so much we decided to take the plunge and purchase annual passes.  Since the park is close enough for us to make the trip pretty easily, it made sense. I already can't wait to go back!

Disney Holidays & Wine and Dine 2016

Disney Holidays & Wine and Dine 2016

Dani and I took in our first food and wine festival as Disney a couple weeks ago.  As a huge fan of Disney and of the RunDisney races and with the announcement of the inaugural Lumiere's Two Course Challenge, we couldn't pass it up the opportunity for another trip to the happiest place on earth.  It also didn't hurt to be there during the final stretch of this awful election year (but that's a story for another post).

As usual, we stayed at our favorite budget hotel, Pop Century.  Staying at those resorts makes getting to the parks, the race expo, and all the races so much easier.  While Dani has signed up for all three races, I decided just to do the 5K this trip.  That meant I only had to get up SUPER early one of the days.  This race, my first RunDisney 5k,  actually turned out to be one of my best RunDisney races. As per usual I didn't stop for any pictures, due to the long lines, but I managed to plod out a 40ish minute 3.2 miles without having to do intervals or stop to walk. I think I even managed to get negative spits.  I guess all the cross training is starting to pay off.

The race itself was mostly through Animal Kingdom which was actually pretty nice. We got to see a fair amount of the "backstage" areas of the park - which included some animatronic Dinosaurs in storage as well as the floats for their new lagoon show.  And how about this start? Is that snow? In Florida? ;)

Dani rocked her 10k and Half as well.  And sported some pretty nice costumes if I do say so myself.  You can see those on her Instagram or blog.

Outside of the races we enjoyed six awesome days at the parks.

While we were there, the 2016 Food and Wine expo was also happening.  Essentially what this was, was at Epcot they set up food and drink kiosks all over the world showcase with tapas sized food options from all over the world.  There was even a passport booklet you could get to check off all the different food and drink you tried.  It's a bit expensive as you have to pay for each item and they aren't cheap.  But it's so much fun to try all sorts of food.  I think my favorites might have been the Korean Barbecue and the Elderberry Cider.  Oh and we didn't even know that they had special concerts for the festival, so you can imagine how excited Dani was to see Boyz II Men live.

The other amazing highlight was going to the first of this years Mickey's Magical Christmas Party.  This was an extra ticket which got us into a four hour "party" at Magic Kingdom that Monday night.  They had many of the rides open (with much shorter lines),  free treat stops with all sorts of cookies, eggnog, and hot chocolate, special character spots, an incredible holiday parade and an even more amazing fireworks show.  I'm so glad we decided buy tickets to the party. It was so much fun,

As per usual, a lot of photos were taken. (Although I always find I forgot to capture a few things).

We even saw my gal, Phasma, marching the troops through Hollywood Studios!

We enjoyed the experience so much we are already planning on going back again next year.

J'aime Montréal

J'aime Montréal

Sometime's Dani's races take us to some really cool places.  This time it took us north of the border, to Canada.  I can't believe it's taken me this long to visit our neighbors to the north.  And I have to say I absolutely fell in love with the place.

It's kind of funny, every time I bring up Montreal, if the person has been there, they agree the city is amazing. It's a beautiful mix of old and new.  The people were friendly and the poutine was delicious. Highlights included poutine of course, seeing the Bell Centre, Square Victoria, and the Olympic Monument.