Stonehenge: Visiting in 2014

Stonehenge

Today is Throwback Thursday, so I decided today would be the perfect day to blog about our trip to Stonehenge.  There aren't many things that could be more of a throwback than Stonehenge!  A few months ago, I blogged about Stonehenge and its previous visitor facilities, and wondered what the new Visitor Center would be like. Fourty-four years ago, Alfie could stand right next to the stones. Four years ago, we could only stand 100 feet from the stones.  What would our visit be like now?  Would we be even farther away?   Happily, the new logistics don't diminish the experience at all;  in fact, I was able to take exactly the same photo, standing at exactly the same spot, as I did four years ago!   With all the new exhibits, the whole experience is actually much better than it was, because you come out of it with a much better understanding of the history and culture behind this ancient site.

Race for Life 10k: Victoria Park, London

Race for Life
How time flies; it seems like just yesterday that I was donning my caveman costume for Bay to Breakers, but 2 years have gone by in the blink of an eye, and I've been dragging my feet through my fitness routine ever since.  Registering for races always motivates me to maintain a regular running schedule, so I was determined to do a race this year.  The Disney Social Media Moms Fun Run gave me the kickstart I needed, and I decided to go one step further by joining a Race for Life event in London this summer.

5 things that Disney Parks do better than any other theme park


When the schoolyear ended, the kids begged us to get season passes to our local amusement park.  After all, they said, they were only signed up for 1 session of summer camp. A few of The Pea's friends were getting season passes, so they could all go together. Admission to the adjacent water park was included.  You could recoup the prices of a season pass in just 1 visit.  I caved in.

I don't regret buying those passes.  We've already gotten our money's worth.  The kids love visiting.  The park is a lot of fun.  The problem is, every time we go, I'm reminded of how inferior the park is to my favorite theme park of all: Disneyland.  Little things about the park irritate me, and I find myself saying, "Well, at Disney, we wouldn't have this problem, because at Disney, they do it this way.....".  There's no questions that this theme park costs less, and there's no question that the kids enjoy it.  But after 1 visit, I'm done, and I couldn't care less if I didn't go back for another 5 years.  I could go back to Disneyland again and again, year after year, and enjoy it each time.

So what is it that Disney does so much better than other parks? Other parks have rides (and many are much more thrilling than Disney rides).  Other parks have entertainment.  Other parks have characters. I realize I'm biased towards Disney, but I've come up with 5 concrete, objective factors that separate Disney parks from the rest.  Actually, I can think of 6, but I'm not even going to talk about how Disney parks provide an immersive experience and attention to detail like no other brand of theme park in the world (with the exception of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida). I'm just going to talk about operations, i.e. the way Disney runs their theme parks.  Here are five things I think Disney Parks do better than anyone else:

Driving Alfie Crazy (aka Driving in the UK)


I've been a regular visitor to the UK since the late 90's, living life as a local, not as a tourist, for weeks on end, so by now I can safely say I've become a pro at quite a few English customs: chatting about the weather, packing your own groceries at the supermarket, knowing which side of the escalators to stay on if you're not in a hurry, hanging the wash out to dry instead of using a dryer, deciphering local accents and colloquialisms (i.e. "Up the Apples") saying Please and Thank-You for everything, appreciating the pleasures of a cup of tea. But there's one thing that I never did during those visits, and that is drive a car.

A taste of Scotland

Scottish food

One of the things we most enjoy about traveling is getting to try new foods. Every region on earth has its own distinct cuisine, and if you keep an open mind and an open mouth, there's no limit to the delicious experiences you can have.  Even foods that might seem gross turn out to be delicious -- that was certainly the case on our trip to Scotland.  Who would have thought that I'd actually eat -- and enjoy -- dishes made out of sheep's innards and blood?

Celebrating LGBT rights at Pride in London 2014


The first Gay Pride event I ever attended was in San Francisco (where else?), over 10 years ago.  Alfie and I took The Pea to the Castro, watched the parade, and celebrated with the community.  Although my kids know we support marriage equality and LGBT rights (as do they!), we haven't been to a Gay Pride event since then.  The hassle of parking and wading through the crowds has held me back.  Also, as open-minded as I like to think I am, I must admit that I'm not quite ready to wander around booths filled with S&M gear and be handed free neon condoms in front of my kids' curious eyes.

But this weekend I had the opportunity to visit my sister in London and leave the kids with their grandparents for the weekend.  Since my visit coincided with the Pride in London parade, I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to watch and celebrate!

My favorite World Cup 2014 commercials

Nike World Cup 2014 ad
Football is not a sport that lends itself easily to commercial breaks.  The clock never stops, not for time outs, not even for injuries, and certainly not to switch from offensive to defensive to special teams.  Sponsors have to content themselves with signage on the field, on player jerseys, and on-screen placements beside the match score.  Fortunately, the payoff is enormous; the 2010 World Cup final was seen by over 1 billion people, so it's worth spending the time and money to create a memorable World Cup ad. With YouTube, Facebook, and social media, companies don't even have to buy ad time to get their message across. If an ad resonates, it will go viral.

Companies have been scrambling to take advantage of World Cup fever, with dozens of soccer-themed commercials airing since the beginning of June.  Even those who are not official sponsors of the World Cup have joined the bandwagon -- their ads don't mention the World Cup or show the official, FIFA World Cup logo, but their intent is clear.  As a soccer fan, I'm loving all of it!  Here's a list of my 5 favorite World Cup ads (so far), as well as a longer list of World Cup ads that are worth watching:

10 things you must do at a Disney Park


No matter how many times you visit a Disney Park, there always seems to be something you haven't done -- a ride you haven't been on, a treat you haven't sampled, a show you haven't watched. I've put together a list of 10 fun experiences that should be on everyone's Disney Park bucket list.  Some are easy to do, others aren't.  We've already done the first five, and we're working on the last five!  Check out the list below and see how many you have done.....

Then and Now


Some of my favorite internet memes are the ones where grown men and women recreate recreate their baby and childhood photos.  Everything about then-and-now photos are hilarious. The clothes!  The hair!  The expressions!  The poses!

Naturally, I had to get on the bandwagon.  My siblings and I are scattered around the world, so we won't be able to do one until we meet again in Manila next year, but hey, my own kids aren't doing anything right now. 3Po and Jammy are 10, so I figure it's a good milestone.  They've certainly changed almost beyond recognition in those 10 years!  Stay tuned for the next installment of this photo series in 2024!



Here's a roundup of then-and-now family photos for your viewing pleasure:





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Travel Tuesday: Boomerang Bay waterpark at Great America

Boomerang Bay Great America

When I first visited Great America in 1994, I loved it so much I wanted to go back every year.  That lasted about 3 years -- I could only ride Top Gun (later renamed Flight Deck) and the Drop Tower so many times.  Even when I returned with The Pea in 2002, I wasn't eager to make it an annual ritual.

The arrival of Boomerang Bay changed all that.  Great America added Boomerang Bay in 2004 (it was the first theme park in California to have a water park), and we first visited Boomerang Bay in 2012.  Thanks to Boomerang Bay, I love visiting Great America once again -- we even splurged on season passes this summer so we can visit again and again!   Much as I love roller coasters, I could go four or five years without riding the ones at Great America (the kids will probably disagree with me!), but  Boomerang Bay is like a community pool with the added benefit of a few thrill water rides.