Disney California Adventure

Saying that we thoroughly enjoyed the Disney California Adventure Park would be a bit of an understatement. We absolutely loved the convenience of getting to the park from the hotel (just a short bus or cab drive away), found the size of the park to be perfect for a full day of frolicking without being overly tired, and liked that it never seemed to be terribly crowded, even when it was (which was evident by the long wait times for certain popular rides). We took advantage of all the ease that Disney offers by purchasing the tickets online ahead of time and adding the MaxPass option, which proved to be well worth the cost, as it allowed us to plan for FastPasses to rides that were important to us and also gave us access to some fun photos taken by Disney employees throughout the day.

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The highlight for us, specially with a four year-old son, was without a doubt Cars Land. I knew our little guy would be super excited to see it, but I was surprised at how excited I was when we got there!

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We enjoyed all the attractions we were able to experience throughout the day, but our favorite was definitely the Radiator Springs Racers. Thankfully we got a FastPass for it, because the wait lines otherwise were insane.

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Another important highlight for our little guy was getting to meet Spiderman, who was wonderfully gracious with every little kid he met, making it a truly magical experience for each one of them.

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“I’m four years old”

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My husband and I even got to experience a little bit of the park on our own while the other parent stayed with our little guy. He chose to ride the California Screamin’ rollercoaster, and also took a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day in a quiet part of the park by A Bug’s Land (yes, it was QUIET, unbelievable, I know!), which made him a much happier camper for the rest of the day. I decided to experience the Animation Academy, which I absolutely loved!

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Visiting in October allowed us to see the park’s Halloween theme, which was fun and never too scary for our son.

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Before ending our visit watching the World of Color water and light show, we spent a good chunk of time in Cars Land, which at night was even more magical.

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What a wonderful way to end our first California adventure trip as a family!

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The end of our RVing adventure in California: Refugio State Beach, Santa Barbara and Balboa RV Park

We left Plaskett Creek Campground thankful to have made it there to enjoy the beautiful Sand Dollar Beach, and at the same time not looking forward to the long, winding road back. After that interesting drive, we continued our way south. With a couple more days to go before our final stop in Anaheim, we decided to spend that night at Refugio State Beach for some additional beach time, which we always love.

The next day was our last driving the RV. We made a quick stop in Santa Barbara to see the Old Mission, then continued on our way to Los Angeles.

We had to return the RV very early the following morning, so our best option to camp for the night was the Balboa RV Park in L.A., which allowed us to experience some true city RV camping; not our favorite kind of camping, but certainly interesting to see.

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The next morning we were up early to pick up our car rental and return the RV, then it was off to Anaheim.

After we checked into our hotel in Anaheim we went in search of dumplings (a common theme with us), and enjoyed some delicious ones at Din Tai Fung. Always interesting to see how they are made!

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Then it was off to the hotel for a good rest before our visit to Disney California Adventure the next day.

Sand Dollar Beach

After our day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium we headed to Plaskett Creek Campground for some California Coast time. Unfortunately, due to a winter-storm landslide earlier in the year, most of Highway 1 was closed, so what originally was meant to be a 30 minute drive along the coast turned into a 2.5 hour drive on a very narrow, very winding road. We finally made it to our campsite that night, tired and ready for bed. The next morning we woke up ready to head to the beach!

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A very short walk took us to Sand Dollar Beach and its stunning vistas, cold water, big waves and soft sand.

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Only a few steps separated us from the beach, so down we went…

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We had fun playing with the sand and running from the waves.

We took a break after our 4 year-old got taken down by a wave when he was looking at other kids playing. He’s a pro at falling in the water at this point, it seems, as he kept his sunglasses on and his head above the water, but the ocean was cold and the experience was jolting, so he was ready to leave the beach for a bit, with crazy amounts of sand in his vest’s pockets, by the way!

After lunch and an afternoon nap, we were ready to head back to Sand Dollar Beach. We walked along the beach and enjoyed watching the birds and sea life.

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The sunset was breathtaking…

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We watched the end of it from the trail, a wonderful farewell to this beautiful coast.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

The next stop on our California trip was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We parked our RV and took a nice walk along Cannery Row.

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This wonderful aquarium offered our family hours of entertainment, as we learned, played, explored, and enjoyed the stunning ocean views. We didn’t take many pictures, but we had a grand time.

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Our cousin met up with us and joined us at the aquarium, then we went for a late lunch in the Cannery Row area before getting back in the RV and driving to our next campground for the following two days right on the coast.

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Yosemite National Park

This October our first family California trip included camping at Yosemite National Park.

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Since camping for us usually involves an RV, we made plans to rent one in San Francisco. We also sent a box to ourselves in advance with many of the things we would need while camping, instead of renting them from the RV rental place (sheets, pillows, blankets and kitchen pots and utensils). So, after a wonderful full day exploring San Francisco, we got up early, took the train and then an Über ride to the RV rental office.

Once we had our RV, we drove to a nearby FedEx office to pick up our box, made stops at Costco and Walmart for food and other necessities and then were finally on our way to Yosemite!

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We ended up getting there at night, and started to feel a bit disappointed for not being able to see the park… until we hit a spot on the road where several cars were parked admiring El Capitan in the full moonlight. That was one incredible entrance to Yosemite which we realized we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy if we got there earlier.

The next morning we were up early, had a good breakfast in our camper and were ready to explore!

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Our campsite offered this spectacular view:

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Our first stop was, well, a bus stop. In the summer, Yosemite offers a free shuttle bus service. This is very convenient as it will get you to the main points of interest where you can then go off on hikes and explore the park without having to take a car everywhere and struggle to find parking. This is a busy park! So off we went to the visitor center to get some information on kid-friendly hikes and to get a game plan for the next couple of days. We also picked up a booklet so our little guy could work on getting his first Junior Ranger badge. Then we got a ride on the El Capitan shuttle to our hiking spot for the day. We got off at the El Capitan Picnic area and enjoyed incredible views of this impressive rock formation.

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Our little camera allowed us to spot some climbers hard at work.

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We were so happy to be out in nature, and felt so lucky to see all this beauty.

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Our four year-old did incredibly well during this hike, we were actually surprised! It’s our goal as parents to teach him to love and respect nature, and some times this involves some tree-hugging…

He finally found one he could hug all the way…

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After our day of hiking we went back to our campsite and got a fire going, some dinner ready and then it was time for s’mores!

The next morning we looked through our Junior Ranger booklet, worked on several activities based on what we saw and learned on our hike the previous day, and then we were ready to head back to the Visitor Center for a badge!

After that we were off on our next hike, this time to Mirror Lake, which was relatively close to our campground. Once we got there, our little guy was, as usual, drawn to the water and sand, so off came the shoes and socks (and, soon after, the pants as well) and he played to his heart’s content while we enjoyed spectacular views of Half Dome.

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What a wonderful way to spend our second day in Yosemite! Then it was back to the campsite for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

The next day was our last in the park, so we took a final walk around the Visitor Center area before heading out.

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We stopped at Tunnel View to see Yosemite Valley and found it very hazy; the effect of the wildfires was really felt here in the air quality as well. Still, it was beautiful and impressive, and a great way to end our visit to Yosemite.

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A day in San Francisco

This October we were lucky to go on a trip to California, our first as a family! 

Our first stop: San Francisco. We had an entire day to explore the city and kicked it off with a cable cart ride.

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We took the Powell-Hyde Line from Market Street to the top of Lombard Street. As we walked down the “crookedest street in the world” we had the opportunity to see a few cars driving down, one particular pick-up truck going a bit fast (must have been a local), which was quite entertaining.

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We continued our stroll through the beautiful Russian Hill neighborhood towards Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Once there, we walked around and explored a few sights, like the USS Pampanito.

We also visited Pier 39 and saw (and heard) the sea lions.

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After that we had a quick snack at Boudin Bakery before heading out on a boat tour of San Francisco Bay. It was glorious to be out on the water and see the sights from that point of view. We went underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which provided a great opportunity for a closer look, and also saw Alcatraz and San Francisco’s historic waterfront.

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We then headed to what was probably the most entertaining part of our day: Musée Mécanique. This antique penny arcade was a real surprise to me, I must admit I didn’t expect to laugh so hard and have such fun! We thoroughly enjoyed trying out the different arcade machines, from old, crazy looking ones, to some that we played with as kids and were excited to introduce our son to. The number one choice for our little guy was, without a doubt, Atari’s Pole Position.

When we were ready for lunch we took a street car to the Ferry Building Marketplace, where we had a delicious meal at The Slanted Door. We explored the stores inside the market, spent more time that we thought we would particularly at The Gardener (so many cool gadgets!) and then grabbed an ice cream and sat outside to enjoy the chocolate and the sunshine.

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We decided to end our day at a playground nearby at Sue Bierman Park, where our little guy played happily. Finally, we took a street car back to the Market Street area. It was a busy time of day, and as we squeezed ourselves into the street car, our kid  described it best, saying: “there is almost no more room in here!”.

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We walked back to our hotel amazed at how much we had done and seen in one day. San Francisco was a wonderful way to start our trip!

Québec City

We arrived in Québec City on a stormy afternoon after a four-hour train ride from Montreal. Although it sounds long, we thoroughly enjoyed riding the train. We read, played, napped, listened to podcasts… what’s there not to love?

 

After a very short taxi ride from the train station we got to our little hotel, conveniently located just a couple of blocks away from Terrasse Dufferin and the Château Frontenac.  We checked-in, and went to take a first look at this beautiful boardwalk.

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The next morning we headed straight to La Citadelle to experience the changing of the guard and to take a good look at Batisse, the Royal 22e Regiment’s mascot, a pretty regal-looking goat.

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We then took the steps back to Terrasse Dufferin, admiring the ramparts, the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico.

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We continued our way down towards the Petit-Champlain district by taking the “Breakneck Stairs” (Escalier Casse-Cou). We ended up on Rue du Petty-Champlain, a charming little street and one of the oldest commercial streets in North America. We took a break at the quaint Parc Félix-Leclerc and people-watched, before heading back to the Upper Town on the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec.

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We had an early dinner at Conti cafe and ended our day touring the lobby of the Château Frontenac and exploring the streets of Upper Town.

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The next day we had breakfast at the popular Café-boulangerie Paillard and then headed to the Marché du Vieux-Port. After purchasing some fresh fruit and cheese curds at the public market we continued our walk along the St. Lawrence River. It was a beautiful day and a lovely walk. It was also very warm, so when we walked by this unique bar we decided to stop and have a drink while we dipped our toes in the water and our little guy  dipped a bit more than just his toes (thankfully I had his swimsuit and water shoes in my bag). After our little oasis break we continued our walk and ended up in a fun splash park by the Old Port.

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We hoped on the ferry to Levi and enjoyed a great view of the city. It was a short ride to Levi and back, but it was wonderful being out on the water on such a fine day!

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Next on our list was the Place Royale and the Fresque des Québécois mural, a historical, beautiful quaint part of Lower Town.

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We had the opportunity to meet up with a friend of mine from Venezuela who I hadn’t seen in many years and who is now a true quebecois, and she gave us a great tour of the city outside of the walls.

We ended our day with a walk along a section of the walls, with a stop at the playground at Parc de l’Esplanade, where our son played with a local little girl to his heart’s content.

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A stunning sunset from Terrace Dufferin marked the end of our visit. The next morning we headed to the train station and were on our way back to Montreal.

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