Brief History of Cinco de Mayo

Thanks to George Stephanopolous and ABC News, they have created a short movie explaining the history behind Cinco de Mayo and what a massive business this has turned into.  In essence, it’s a celebration of the Mexican beating the French army … who wouldn’t celebrate such a victory over the frogleg eating, brie producing and wine drinking French republic who attempted to Second French Empire.

To me it’s a Mexican version of the Irish Paddy Day, with a single purpose – drink, eat and party.  Many people suddenly develop Mexican heritage, the same group of people who only a few months ago claim to be Irish.  I have no doubt this is an important day in the Mexican history, but many of these celebration are turning into tourist traps and drinking parties.

[iframe src=”http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=30805456″ width=”640″ height=”360″]

Viva Mexico!

Tour de Paris

While on holidays in France, visiting Disneyland Paris, my wife was desperate to show the kids Paris … the stomping ground of her youth, where she lived while studying and her love for this massive city.

Having seen some of the places she used to visit, e.g. pubs, I was somewhat reluctant to show our kids that side of her life.  Not kidding, my wife dragged me into a pub once, just off Bastille Square, which was completely covered with religious pictures, figures, etc. During our stay at this little sanctuary, I had to visit the toilet, and was greeted with floor to ceiling porn – literally.  No wonder most men were in there for long periods of time and came out smiling.  So, you can understand that this was not something I could show my kids.  My son would never leave the toilet again or would demand similar decorations in our toilet!

Anyway, the hotel we stayed in had some pre-planned excursions.  Yes, these are normally pretty boring and they take you to all the sights, but at least you have somebody to drive you around.  So, we booked us on the Sunday day trip – full day.

Tour to Paris started as soon as we arrived at the bus parking area, where the tour buses were locked and ready to be loaded with innocent tourists.  Suddenly, we heard a scream (not too far from Gollum’s scream when he had lost the Ring) and this elderly woman came “flying” down the car park, frantically trying to get people to listen to her.  She had this huge Michael Bolton hair cut, that waved in the wind as she was speed-walking towards us.

In her defense, she knew a few languages, but her voice was borderline screaming, and people just fled as she came.  Her aim was to organise the tourists into language groups, so we could get an e.g. English speaking guide.  We were in the English speaking queue and got Alex as guide, a Spanish speaking guide!

As we were waiting to embark on the day of days, our uber guide leader was trying to park the gigantic buses.  Suddenly she appeared from out of nowhere, waiving arms to one of “her” buses, trying to get the driver to park the bus in a different lane.  Whoosh, and she was gone again.  The driver got so frustrated, not understanding her naval hand signals, that he took off – only to return a few minutes later.

Finally, we crawled onboard our transportation vehicle.  The benefit of having kids on such tours is that you can get them to go first, or just squeeze by, and take the good seats.  We managed to get seats facing each other, with a table.  We could still hear the tour guide screaming instructions to tourists and bus drivers.

Alex, our Spanish speaking English guide, welcomed us on the English tour (in Spanglish) and gave us our headsets.  The headsets were so we could listen to a pre-recorded sightseeing guide as we drove by these locations.  So much for a personalised English speaking guided tour!

Paris is a pretty large city and the monuments are spread across the city and on either side of the Seine.  Seeing them all would under normal circumstances take a few days.  I had feared that, when reading the tour description, we would be confined to the bus for most of the journey.  Unfortunately I was right.

We felt a bit like Japanese tourists, the stereotype image obviously, where a bus full of people flies through town, only stopping a few seconds (if even) at each sight.  Most of our pictures from Paris therefore have flash reflection from the window or show parts of the curtains in the bus.  But, fair play to the tour organiser, we did see most sights that day, even if they were a bit blurry.

How many people can say they saw Paris in 2 hours, from a bus going 80 kmh through Paris?

Of all days, the day we visited Paris it was roasting hot, approx. 35 degrees.  The bus had air-con, but as soon as we left the coolness of the bus we were greeted by a heat wave – just like walking into a sauna.

We did stop and see some sights.  The 45 minute stop at Louvre Museum was an extremely cultural experience.  First we had lunch at McDonalds and then we sped across to Arc de Triomphe … back to the bus!

The second stop was at the Seine, going on a river cruise.  Only minor problem was that it was still 35 degrees and the windows on the boat couldn’t open.  So, now were actually sitting in a glass sauna.  After an hour on the Seine, with no air in the cabin and I having lost 2lbs of fat, we returned to the port.

To our amazement, we had another hour outside the bus.  The guide just pointed at the stairs and said we had to walk to the Eiffel Tower – a short 10 minute walk.  My only problem at this stage was that my son refused to walk another step, so I had to carry him on my shoulders, up the stairs.  I probably lost another 2lbs on the stair master.  We then had to queue to get up the tower.  My poor body was drained, so I turned back to the Seine area after waiting less than 3 minutes to get into the tower, overheated and tired.

My son and I had a few liters of liquids (me beers and he juices + icecream) and cooled down a bit.  An hour later my wife and two daughters returned to the bus, and we all headed back towards the hotel – absolutely knackered.

It was not the best Paris tours I’ve ever been on.  The missus was devastated because she had insisted on taking us to Paris and we agreed to go back to show our kids Paris – again.

Paris, we’ll be back soon, to spend more time in your beautiful streets and wonderful atmosphere – Griswald Europe Vacation, does that ring a bell 🙂

Did you read the other Disney Stories?

Woody & The Gang

As you read in previous blog, my wife and I had a VERY quick chat whether to go on holidays or not, and where we might go.  We opted for holidays and Disneyland Paris.

Read more here:

Welcome to Paradise, if you are a kid or an adult with a childish mind.  Either way, the Disney Parks will give families an adventure of great proportions.  You will get an opportunity to see and meet all your Disney heroes, and at the same time see your kids absolutely ecstatic of being so close to the magic kingdom.

We got off the bus, by the main train station at Disneyland Paris, and slowly walked towards the main attraction – literally following thousands of people, like cattle walking slowly to the fields of dreams.

The kids got more and more excited, as we got closer to our final destination.

There it was.  The famous Disneyland Paris was in front of us and the kids started to scream of happiness … and, so did my wife.  I swear I could even see a tear forming in the corner of her eye.

Paradise opened up in front of us as we stepped through the ticket booth, into the magical kingdom, where dreams come true.  There it was.  Main street of Disneyland, with it’s red bricked road, Georgian / New Orleans houses packed along the road. Each road was filled with souvenir shops, full of families wanting to buy anything possible with the Disney label on.

The kids refused to move and just stood there, sucking it all in, and in a complete daze of happiness.  Was it too much for the kids?

We jumped on the Disney train and took the tour around the entire park, seeing all the amusements and villages scattered around the park.

As we got off the train, at the main street, music was blarring from the speakers and Mickey’s familiar voice was shouting “Welcome and we love you!”.  I knew what was coming and quickly dragged the family to a good spot.  Low and behold, the Disney parade was driving up the main road.  The kids started to scream as they heard and saw their heroes get closer.

Suddenly, Goofy and Pluto came running towards us, literally, and my daughter let out a loud scream.  Not out of fear but of pure happiness.  Imagine, the characters you have seen on tele come alive in front of you, running to you to shake your hand.  She was so ecstatic that I was afraid she would pass out, but she pulled herself together and gave Pluto a high five.

The next thing that happened took me somewhat by surprise.  I know my son is totally devoted to Woody and Buzz, but I didn’t expect his reaction.  He was sitting on my shoulders, cheering and shouting.  As soon as he saw his Toy Story heroes, he stopped. He was just sitting up there completely in shock.  Suddenly, as the Toy Story train came closer, he started to shake uncontrollably.  He screamed so loud that half the park looked in our direction, and then he just burst into laughter – all while shaking.

He could no longer hold it in and peed on my shoulders + back, simply because he was so over the moon to see his heroes in the “flesh”.  Initially I thought it was me sweating, until I could smell the pee as the sun heated up my shirt and neck.  There’s nothing I could do about it, so I just had to let the sun dry my shirt and smell of pee the rest of the parade.

Most days we had to eat fast food, which we normally don’t, but there weren’t any other options.  To my disgust, a “light” lunch consisting of pasta and pizzas for the family cost a whopping €60!  Well, that was including two souvenir straws shaped as Tiana from Princess & the Frog + Buzz Lightyear.  Still, I thought it was fairly expensive for fast food.

What else did we experience during our long weekend in Disneyland Paris?

  • Meeting the Stars – again; I was walking around with my son, when he suddenly screamed and pointed – unable to mutter a single word.  It was a lucky coincident.  Sully (Monsters Inc.) walked straight in front of him, followed by Jessie, Woody, Stich, Lilo, Incredibles, Mike Wazowsky and Buzz.  He went ballistic, and we started running to catch up with them.  It was the Disney Stars Show.
  • Paparazzi Disney; As we walked around the vast Disneyland Park, in 30 degrees, we were lucky enough to have our pictures taken with Micky, Minnie Buzz and Woody.  The kids were uncontrollable and super proud.  I almost lost the pictures late one afternoon, but luckily I found them again – just where I had left them – in the men’s room on the hand dryer.
  • Queued for “fun”; we tried a few rides for and with the kids, but the heat was unbearable, and we had only queued for 10 minutes when my daughter expressed her disappointment. She was bored queueing.  “Honey, we still have to queue for another 30 minutes!”  Most rides had queues between 45-60 minutes, which is too long to queue with 3 kids below the age of 6.
  • French Connection; During one of the many parades, my wife had a verbal bust-up with a huge French woman (I know, it’s not like the French being really fat, but this one was).  My wife had been sitting on a bench, during a parade to breastfeed the baby, when this french gigantor crawled up on the bench and sat on my wife’s shoulders.  The missus was not impressed, and ended up calling the lady a fat elephant – which resulted in our daughter greeting all women with the new French words she had learned “Hello fat elephant”.
  • Princess Dinner; We had dinner with ALL the Disney princesses, much to the amazement of our daughter.  This is also were she discovered the autograph phenomenon, and managed to get ALL the princesses’ autographs.  Our son danced with Ariel and they both gave bear hugs to Snow White.
  • Playhouse Disney (in Spanish); We watched the live show of Playhouse Disney, in Spanish, so the kids were overly amazed – again.  I didn’t have a clue what the characters were saying, but that was irrelevant.  The main thing was that the kids had fun.
  • Slinky Ride; The last ride was on Slinky the Dog.  It was basically Slinky going super fast around in a circle.  The kids screamed and I did too. Arms in the air and screaming, while the ride was going 20 kph – and getting dizzy.

There are two parks in the Disney complex; Studio and Disneyland.  We actually enjoyed the Studio a lot more than Disneyland.  I think it was because the queues weren’t as long and the rides were more fun for the kids.  And, they had the Toy Story Land theme park.

I was trying to get my wife into the ‘Dropping Elevator’ attraction, but that back fired slightly and we took the Studio Park train instead.

We walked a marathon every day, but the great thing was that we could rent strollers for the entire day, which made it a lot easier for the kids to survive – and, us parents lost a few kilos from pushing these dudes around in their private limos.

The only thing that pissed me off was the fact that nobody told me, until I returned home to Ireland, that we could have received VIP tickets because my son is born with Down Syndrome. It would have allowed us to skip all the queues.  We are not trying to milk the system for freebees, but we would have been able to try a lot more.  See, my son is not exactly the most patient person when it comes to queueing.  That said, we still tried all the stuff we wanted to try and the kids had a blast.

Disneyland Paris.  Was it worth it?  Hour long queues, thousand of people and expensive merchandise.  Well, when your son pees on your shoulders out of pure happiness of seeing his heroes, your daughter becomes a paparazzi during the Princess dinner and your wife cries when seeing the kids happy (and experiences Disney spirit), then it was absolutely worth it.

I do think that the kids were too young to try out all the attractions. We definitely want to go back to the Disney parks, but we’ll wait for a few years, when they are around 10 instead.  They will be able to try a lot more rides, and so will I.

We have already agreed that we will experience the Disney mania again, but next time it’ll be in Disney World Florida.

I love you Walt

We hadn’t been on a real holiday for almost 2 years, so we were getting fairly desperate to go somewhere – anywhere really.  I would have settled for a camping holiday in the back garden, but something tells me my wife and kids would prefer something different.  Perhaps something with activities other than fighting off giant slugs or not getting burnt by nettles.  It was pretty clear.  We had to do something this summer.

After a long chat with the event coordinator (the missus), which lasted approximately 27 seconds, and having looked at the most recent bank statement, we decided what to do.  We lifted our hands, clutched our fists, and screamed “To hell with it!  Lets’s enjoy ourselves and take the kids on a family vacation. We have all deserved it”.  So, we booked a trip to Disneyland Paris.

In true Judgebrix style, I had to break the blog into a few blogs, otherwise you would fall asleep bored while drooling on your keyboard or you’d close my blog site.  Either outcome is not acceptable – stay awake!

As I see it, the holiday is broken into 3 tales

  1. There and Back Again (this blog)
  2. The Disneyland Adventure (the actual WD experience)
  3. The Other French Connection (blitz visit to Paris)

These brave tales of our family holiday, will capture the most magical moments of our first adventure away from Ireland in over 2 years (sad, I know) and at the same time allow me to remember what exactly happened.

The journey itself was a package deal, so nothing exciting about that.  However, we had decided to stay in the Disneyland zone – or so we thought.

All packed and ready to go, we were leaving on a jet plane – or so we thought.  The plane was tiny compared to the “normal” European short haul planes. It was packed with French tourists going home.  I could barely fit my arse down the isle, so imagine squeezing two kids, a baby and a hand luggage down the isle.  And, to make matters worse, they had placed us at the very back.  The days of letting families with kids on the plane in advance are well gone, so now I was bumping every French person’s head, all the way down to my seat.

And behold, I was sitting next to a Franciscan Father and my wife was seated next to a Franciscan monk.  Was this short flight doomed already?  If it was, then we could at least get a blessing.  In fact, the two Franciscan dudes were extremely nice to talk to.  I know this sounds weird, but you often have the preconception that holy people can only talk about their God.  We chatted about everything but God and I even introduced the Father to the wonders of the iPad. He was truly amazed.

We arrived safe and quickly found the Disney Resort bus. Disneyland Paris is only 30-40 minutes from the airport.  You know you are in France, when the bus drivers sits on a bench smoking, while watching you struggle putting the luggage on the bus.  It’s not like I expect help, as I’m a strong dude, but it would be nice if the driver helped my wife while she attempted to hold the baby and folding the stroller at the same time.  But no, he just pointed to where we should put them in cargo area.

Finally, the hotel was in sight and we checked in quickly.  To our surprise, the hotel was not in the resort area, but a 10 minute ride on a free shuttle bus.  It was a nice hotel and they had steamed snails on the buffet menu, much to my daughter’s amazement.

We dropped the luggage in the room and headed straight for Disneyland.  We had to see the place of our dreams.  The kids went bananas when we saw the shuttle bus, as it had all the Disney characters on the side.  They couldn’t believe it.

As we arrived, we had to walk to the park, and walked passed the Disney Village.  Again, the kids went mental.  Screaming and laughing frantically.  For us parents, we knew that this would be a great holiday for them.  They had only seen this in the movies and YouTube, but now it was real.

All the restaurants in or around Disneyland were primarily burger joints, which I don’t mind at all, but if your kids don’t eat burgers, fries and pizza, then it’s pretty darn annoying.  But, we weren’t going to let that get to us.  I’m sure we would find smaller restaurants that server spaghetti or buffet food.

The next few days were spent running up and down the main street, visiting all the smaller parks, seeing all the Disney characters and breathing the Disney spirit.  It was pure magic for our family.  We had plenty moments of “aahhh”, “uuuhh”, “wow!” – and several truly hilarious incidents.  Read more here: