Yes, yet another visit to Harry’s Favourite Hotel in the World™. This time we went for this. I thought it would be fun for the boys to see and take part in a World Record. They weren’t that impressed – David had to try to sing with Joe’s hands over his mouth “Stop SINGING, Daddy!” – but I’m pretty sure they’ll be excited to actually see the record in the book (although it’ll be next year’s now, won’t it? They’ll have forgotten by then…). I enjoyed it anyway.
In the evening we went to Space Night at the World Museum (it’s on again this Friday, if you’re nearby and fancy it. We would highly recommend it). We’ve been to the museum before and it’s brilliant. We hadn’t realised the museum was actually closed, apart from the Planetarium, but that actually made it even more special – we had to knock on the door and then were escorted up to the Planetarium, where a show was just about to start.
I don’t know which show it was, but it was absolutely amazing. Detailed close-up views of planets and then we zoomed out until our solar system looked like a star… out more to see the Milky Way… out more until the Milky Way looked like a star and out and out and out… until I said, “I’m scared” to David. When we left, Harry said, “I’m not going to think about that.” I don’t blame him.
We were also shown the path that the two Voyager probes are on. Yes, on. Did you know they were still out there? Still going? Cos I had no freaking idea. But then I didn’t know Uranus had rings. They obviously hadn’t found the rings when I was at school. In olden times. So, yes, the Voyagers are still trucking on and are, um, quite far away. Voyager 1 is apparently close to entering interstellar space and becoming the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. Hold me.
Possibly because he was also freaked out by what Spinal Tap referred to as “too much fucking perspective” – or more likely because he’s 3 – Joe decided that the Planetarium was the perfect place to say “Smell my finger” and stick his finger up my nose. The finger that had clearly, mere moments earlier, been stuck elsewhere. He laughed so much at my response that I had to shush him – I’d already had to shush him repeatedly for asking what were, yes, insightful questions, like “Is Mars our planet, Mama?” but that really should have waited until after the bit-in-the-dark-with-other-people-where-we-need-to-be-really-quiet – and then, when shushing didn’t work, threaten to chuck him out. To which his response was a loud and plaintive “Oh PWEASE don’t frow me out, Mama!” Yeah, okay. I didn’t. And he shut up. Mostly.
After the show, we made badges and then went on the balcony to look at the telescopes. We would have been able to look through the telescopes, but it was cloudy. Pah. Still, it was a top night. Oh and Liverpool looked really pretty in the dark.
Along with scanning in the contents of my mum’s suitcase, I’ve also been scanning the boxes of slides. Among them were Mum’s photos of her trip to New York in 1964. (She was living in Boston at the time, working as a nanny, along with her friend – also called Maureen.)
This was one of Mum’s photos – taken from the top of the Rockefeller Centre (Mum calls it the RCA Building. It’s the GE Building now).
And here’s mine, taken from the same place, but in 2007.
In the opposite direction, here’s Mum’s:
I never made it to New York while Mum was alive. I actually first went there the year she died (1999) and I remember, while there, desperately wanting to phone her and tell her where we’d been and what we’d done. I got that feeling again, looking at these photos.
I thought today I’d give you a sneak peek of my inspiration for Emma’s home in Emma Hearts LA.
I first heard about the Venice Canals in, I think, this book. I had no idea until then that Venice, LA had actual canals. I went googling assuming they’d have been filled in or dried up or something, because if there really were proper canals, I’d have heard about it, surely?
This was one of the first photos I found and I had it as my computer wallpaper for a while – isn’t it gorgeous? I started trying to find out more about the canals and found this site about their history. But I think it was only when I watched Valentine’s Day and Because I Said So that I realised I had tohave Emma living on a canal.
I spent quite a lot of time “researching” on this site. (Where does research stop and “nosing around people’s fabulous homes” begin? Don’t ask me.) And this was the house I loved and thought was perfect for Emma’s family.
When we were in LA last year, I marched poor Stella around to find it and we eventually did, but I was disappointed that it’s no longer that gorgeous red, which was one of the things I loved the most about it.
When I wrote about our 2001 US trip, I meant to include this story, but completely forgot. I’ve just noticed this photo on Flickr, so I thought I’d tell it now.
The guy in the photo came up to us at some traffic lights and started chatting. He was really friendly, he asked us where we were from, and was excited to meet people from England.
He told us his name was Clinton and asked us to take his photo. Then said, “When you get home to England, you can tell your friends you met a black man!”
Even ten years later, it still kind of blows my mind. But I guess not as much as it would have blown his if he’d hung around long enough for us to tell him he – gasp! – wasn’t the first black man we’d ever met.
We’d decided to go into Paris on the Friday so we set off straight after breakfast in the rain and on a double decker train. We went for a quick look at Notre Dame and the Christmas tree and a guy held out some bread for the birds to show Harry and Joe.
While looking for a loo, we stumbled upon Shakespeare & Co and Harry and I went inside for a look. It’s such a gorgeous place with nooks and crannies, sofas and desks (and daybeds) and the most fabulous writing nook with a typewriter and fairy lights. Harry loved it just as much as I did and we could’ve stayed there a lot longer, but instead we went back out to D and J and went for a cuppa. (Large cappuccino, small hot chocolate, one banana milkshake = 18Euros, which is basically £18. Yikes.)
I wanted to show the boys some of the gorgeous Parisian shops, so we crossed back over the river and wandered down a little street lined with bakeries and chocolate shops. Harry and I got crepes (mine was salted caramel, yum) and took a photo of us reflected in a bauble.
Joe didn’t want a crepe, but he did want something, so I got him a palmier.
He ended up so utterly covered in crumbs, that I wanted to take him back to Notre Dame and give the birds an early Christmas present.
We crossed the bridge again and saw the locks all over the railings. Do you all know about this? Couples leave locks with their names on – as long as the lock stays on the bridge, the couple with stay together (probably). It looked fantastic and I could’ve stayed a lot longer (if it hadn’t been raining and I’d been alone).
We got the train to the Eiffel Tower and walked towards it with Harry chattering about wanting to go right to the top and Joe saying, “Madeyine sit there!” (Have I mentioned that Joe pronounces his Ls as Ys? So when we got to our hotel he said, “Yook! Yoads a’yights!” [Look! Loads of lights!])
I felt incredibly lucky to be in Paris, with my boys, and for them to be excited about being there too. Happiness.
Harry and I queued and got tickets for the lift to the very top, but when we got to the second stage we realised there was a massive queue for the next lift and, if we waited, we wouldn’t have time for one last quick trip into Disney, so we skipped it. The second stage was pretty damn cool though.
While Harry and I were up the Eiffel, David and Joe went on the carousel, got some lunch and then chased some pigeons…
We got a variety of trains back to Disneyland and had just over an hour to spend in the park before we had to get the coach to the airport. Harry had one request: Big Thunder Mountain. Again. The queue was too long and even the Fast Pass time was cutting it fine, so we threw ourselves on the mercy of one of the Disney staff who allowed us to go right through. Lovely. So we had one final ride and then headed back to the hotel. There were a few tears as we left the park (from Harry and then, because he was so upset, from me) and then we waved Disney goodbye.
“Sleeping. It’s too early, Joe. Go back to sleep.”
“What Goofy doing?”
“What Minnie doing? What Pluto doing?”
“They’re all sleeping, Joe. Go back to sleep.”
“What Peppa Pig doing?”
“Sleeping. But Peppa Pig’s not Disney.”
“Where Peppa Pig work?”
After breakfast we had a couple of wasted hours trying to go to parks or on rides that weren’t open (you get a couple of “magic hours” when you stay in a Disney hotel, which means you can go into the parks before they’re open to the general public, but few of the rides were actually open) and then we finally made it to Disney Studios.
Me and H went on Crush’s Coaster – which we’d wanted to go on last time, but the queues were too long – and we were both disappointed. There’s a cute Nemo bit at the beginning and a few seconds with projections of jellyfish, etc., but the rest of it is basically a rollercoaster in the dark. I wish there’d been more of a Nemo theme.
Harry had wanted to go on the Hollywood Tower since the last time we came and, though the idea of it horrified me, I agreed to take him. It was all so well done – fantastic attention to detail – but it was horrendous. (In the US, it’s called The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, so, you know…) Harry and I were both shaking as we staggered to the shop to buy the photo. Harry said, “We should send it as a Christmas card and put ‘Have a horrifying Christmas.'” Then, as we walked to meet David and Joe, Harry said, “It’s weird, but I think I enjoyed it a little bit…” I know what he means… but I’m still never going on it again.
We went on a couple of Toy Story Land rides and then stayed for the Stars in Cars Parade, hoping that Phineas & Ferb might turn up (they didn’t) and then we went to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch. Joe slept through most of it, but thankfully woke up in time to see some of the animals.
As Harry posed for this photo, I said wouldn’t it be funny if the one on the right just thumped him on the head. As we both looked, the one on the left turned its head towards H and H ran through the restaurant, shrieking. Heh.
David took Joe back to the hotel, while Harry and I went back to Disney to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, which I’d completely forgotten about until H reminded me – was absolutely fantastic, probably my favourite of all the rides.
Then we went on Big Thunder Mountain again and by then it was dark. It was even better in the dark. In fact, that may have been my favourite. I can’t decide. Don’t make me.
We met David and Joe back in the square for the tree lighting, but the wind blew the (fake) snow away from us so the boys didn’t even see it, but luckily there was another (fake) snowfall on Main Street – while we waited for the Fantillusion Parade – and they loved it.
Watching the snow…
After the (fabulous) parade, we dashed up to the castle for some quick photos before going back to the hotel for bed (for the boys) and mulled wine (for me and D).