Shrewsbury Town 2 - 0 Scunthorpe United | League One | 30/09/2017

Shrewsbury Town 2 - 0 Scunthorpe United | League One | 30/09/2017

In my absence Shrewsbury had continued their fine form and start to the season, taking 26 out of a possible 30 points. Scunthorpe United had risen to fifth in the league, having only conceded 3 goals in their opening 10 games. Having played some of the bigger clubs and returned with 4 points, this seemed to be another difficult match against a well organised team. I'd be happy with a draw to continue the unbeaten start and remain at the summit of League One.

Shrewsbury: Henderson; Bolton, Nsiala, Sadler, Brown; Whalley (C Morris 75), Ogogo, Godfrey, Nolan (Dodds 80), Rodman (John-Lewis 90+4); Payne
Substitutes: Beckles, Morris, Dodds, Gnahoua, John-Lewis, MacGillivray, Adams

Scunthorpe United: Gilks, Clarke, Wallace, McArdle, Butroid (Adelakun 84), Holmes (van Veen 51), Mantom, Bishop, Morris, Novak, Hopper (Madden 60)
Substitutes: Crofts, Ojo, Madden, van Veen, Adelakun, Burgess, Watson

First Half
Both teams seemed to be cancelling each other out at the start of the first half but on 24 minutes Bolton rose highest and planted a headed towards goal, despite the best efforts of the defence, Stefan Payne was on hand to get the ball over the line from a yard or two out. Shortly afterwards there was an appeal for a Shrewsbury penalty as Whalley darted into the box and had his heals clipped but the referee signalled for a goal kick - this seemed to typify the referee who was being assessed from the sidelines.

There was a flash point after 36 minutes, with John Nolan going in for a 50/50 tackle with a Scunthorpe player (which looked like a foul on him), but he then got up and slide into another tackle with his boots slightly raised. The referee quickly brandished a yellow card for the Shrewsbury man, but Neal Bishop got involved shoving Nolan in the back and taking a swipe at Payne. The referee, under advice from his assistant, produced another yellow, whereas on another day he could easily have sent the Scunthorpe player off. From this moment on, it was easy to tell when Bishop was on the ball as booing echoed around the Montgomery Waters Meadow.

Second Half
The second half saw Scunthorpe having more possession in Shrewsbury's half, however everything that sent towards the Shrewsbury goal, Manchester United loaned Dean Henderson got in the way of. A free kick was punched for a corner, then the corner was cleared by another big punch upfield.

A few minutes later, Junior Brown appeared to be unlawfully pushed off the ball which resulted in another pen appeal, again it wasn't given. Both teams made changes, but it was Shrewsbury's that had the biggest impact as Carlton Morris bagged himself a goal. Ogogo slid in to win the ball high up the pitch, falling to Morris who took on a defender, beating him before placing a left foot shot passed the goalkeeper.

Final Thoughts
2-0 possibly flattered Shrewsbury as Scunthorpe looked organised and it was easy to see why they had the best defence in the league, but it was nice to win a game by more than one goal. The match also saw Shrewsbury's unbeaten start to the season continue, and it's left me questioning just how far the team will go this year.

Man of the Match - Abu Ogogo
Again, Ogogo worked tirelessly for the team, harassing the opposition midfielders and not giving them any time on the ball. This was exemplified by the tackle that set Carlton Morris free to score his goal. Ogogo really appears to be benefitting from having a holding player sat in front of the back four, he now has license to get forward and even managed to have a shot at goal, something I don't remember happening during his time at Shrewsbury.

Ravens 7 - 44 Jaguars | NFL International Series | 24/09/2017

On Sunday 24th September 2017, I had the most brilliantly surreal experience and I’d like to share the story with you…

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was offered some tickets to watch one of the NFL international series matches at Wembley and the chance to attend a launch event in central London. Being the sort of chap I am, I was dubious as to what the catch was. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the launch event as we were on holiday, this left me fearing that I may miss out of the tickets. This fear was unfounded, because when we returned from France, there was a letter waiting for me containing 2 tickets for the Baltimore Ravens versus Jacksonville Jaguars (eek!). Better still they were at club level, this left me feeling very excited, but there was still a nagging concern that something was too good to be true.

Fast forward to Sunday and we set off down to Wembley, thinking if it things didn’t come to fruition we’d head into central London for the day, especially as we would have to go passed Wembley on the tube to get into London. One thing we hadn’t accounted for was ‘planned works’ between Hillingdon and Harrow-on-the-Hill, resulting on us jumping on the Bus Replacement Service (this let me spin plenty of Pokémon Go stops, so there was an upside to the slower journey).

As we approached Wembley, more NFL fans could be picked out and it wasn’t long before non-NFL fans were easily outnumbered by those adorned in team colours. I’ll say at this point I’ve never been to an NFL game before, I’ve only watched the Super Bowl games on TV but my only live experience was a few years ago watching some friends who joined the Shropshire Revolution (congratulations to them on going 13-0 this season and gaining promotion!).

What struck me on the journey in was the number of people wearing merchandise from all of the different franchises from the NFL. All the fans, no matter who they were supporting were mingling together. This felt like a very foreign concept to me, coming from a mainly football/soccer background were the authorities tend to segregate fans from opposing teams.

From Wembley Park underground station, I caught a glimpse of the magnitude of the event as I saw the ‘Tailgate Party’, a fan zone where fans could go and get involved in the party environment. I had anticipated that there would be a good turnout, but I was astounded by the number of American football fans that had come along to experience the atmosphere. I’m not the greatest at guessing crowd sizes, but if there were 15,000 people in there at that moment, it wouldn’t surprise me. We tried to head round to grab some merchandise to blend in, but by the time we got near the entrance we were advised that it was closing ahead of the match. From doing a bit of research after the game, the Tailgate Party had appearances by NFL Hall of Famers, performances by cheerleaders, music acts and interactive and historical NFL elements.

Fortunately, this pushed us towards going into the stadium. It was at this point we found that we’d be sat in the Club Wembley level. As we entered, I still thought we’d be turned away but after another a couple of security searches, we were in!

This is where events took their surreal twist. We made our way to our seats as I’d been advised that there might be a surprise if we were in our seats at a certain time. Someone approach us and asked us to follow them for pitch-side access during the warmup! We were escorted through a maze of corridors and steps, which presented us at the mouth of the players tunnel! We continued to walk along the pitch edge until we reached our spot and could take in the players warming up. It was a great chance to watch the players going through their drills and take photos of the teams - so a huge thank you goes out to Subway, who not only supplied the tickets (and fantastic seats) but also arranged the amazing & unique experience.

It felt like we were allowed to stay for an eternity, which allowed us to be really relaxed about the experience, but all good things come to an end and we were advised we needed to return to our seats. But it wasn’t the final bizarre episode, to return to our seats, we walked into the Jaguars jaw so to speak into a hub of excitement ahead of the players taking to the field.

On route back I stopped at a merchandise stall to pick up some bits, but so close to kick off, they only had the lanyards which were on my shopping list, all just in time to see the players take to the field.

The game played out with the Jaguars making light work against my Ravens, every mistake being exploited, racing to a 44-7 victory.

I had been aware of the infamous length of matches, but it surprised me how often there would be a break in play to introduce, amongst others, competition winners, a sevens side, “Party Patrols”, cheerleaders and some members of the Women’s English Cricket team. Oh and a drumming team who were amazing.

The game ended and we slowly retreated back out of the stadium to the Tailgate Party where we were finally got Nikki her Dallas Cowboys shirt and me a Ravens baseball cap.

There are three games remaining in the UK leg of the International Series, the Miami Dolphins take on New Orleans Saints in the final game at Wembley, then the Arizona Cardinals play the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings play the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham. If you get chance to watch a game, it's so worthwhile!

Le Grand Voyage 20017 | Day Eight & Nine - Return to Blighty


So after six full days in France, it was time to return to Britain. We spent the first part of the morning packing and putting our belongings into the car (why does there never seem to be enough space in the car on the return leg, I did consider telling Nikki to walk home!). When everything was in, we started our journey home. We had our route planned, as we decided we fancied a trip into Belgium on the way and Ypres was our chosen place to stop for lunch (We had planned to stop at Theipval, but with Nikki not feeling great and our son hyped up for going home we gave it a miss).

With the kilometres covered we arrived in Belgium and I could tell Nikki was unimpressed by the transition between countries. Literally all that signified the change was a small sign saying ‘Belgium’ and the signs changing language (That said, it was weird when we did pass through what used to be the border controls both entering and leaving Belgium).

I can only assume that because Belgium is a smaller country than France, it felt more populated with fewer agricultural fields between towns. Both Nikki and I had a sense of home there, the buildings reminded us of British houses and towns get quite British. It’s definitely a country that we’d like to return to and explore some more.

We chose to stop Ypres (Ieper) to get some lunch as it is located about 2/3 of the way to Calais. I had visited Ypres with my dad previously and I thought it’d be somewhere that we could indulge in the history of Central Europe. Having seen a number of First World War graveyards on our journeys around northern France, we paid a visit to the Menin Gate in the town. The Menin Gate is a memorial dedicated to British and commonwealth soldiers killed with unknown graves in Ypres during the First World War. The memorial forms an arch over the road and lists over 52,000 servicemen and each evening at 20:00 a bugler plays the last stand, extremely poignant if you get the chance to witness it. We arrived at 12:30 and had a ferry to catch at 18:00, so there was no way to see the ceremony this time round for us.

We easily found a parking spot a few metres from the Menin Gate, but I found it strange that parking charges only applied until 12:00 and then resumed at 13:30, either way I paid to let us park until 16:00, giving us plenty of time to get to our ferry. It was only as we started to go into the town and I checked up on the internet I found that Belgian shops close at lunchtime - explaining why parking was free during these times!

We started exploring Ypres by visiting the Menin Gate, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people were taken during the war, although we only explored the one side of the memorial, both Nikki and I were struck by the magnitude of the structure. Our little boy even enjoyed the experience as he got to climb some gentle steps and see (what I assume was) a moat. There were a number of poppy wreaths lay on the stairs and I had a wobbling bottom lips as the first one I read was from the West Mercia Constabulary (we live in the midlands).

From the Menin Gate, we headed in to the town to find somewhere to eat. A number of the establishments were closed, and those that were open didn’t really appeal, that was until we arrived at Ypresburger, a burger restaurant which served an assortment of burgers and fries. I had a standard burger, my son had chicken nuggets and Nikki stuck to fries. We were pleasantly surprised at how nice the meal was. From there we found Il Gusto d'Italia to have a waffle (it was a holiday goal after we decided to visit Belgium). I’m there I found that there isn’t just one type of Belgian waffle, so I indulged in both varieties. Having just eaten a meal, it’s unsurprising to find out I didn’t eat both in the parlour, instead I decided to take the second back to the UK to have for tea.

By this point Nikki wasn’t feeling well, so we thought we’d head to the port and see if we could catch an earlier ferry. An easy journey straight in to the port later, and we had been allowed the chance to get on a ferry an hour earlier than we had booked. All of this meant that we would be arriving in Dover before we were booked to leave Calais. Having had problems with applying our light deflectors on the way out, we made sure we weren’t caught out again by taking them off as soon as we got on the ferry.

The crossing was significantly smoother and the weather better than our journey out, so much so that we could see Dover before we left France. My son once again made friends with some other similarly aged children and played with them in the soft play area while Nikki and I chilled out watching the white cliffs approach us.

Despite being near the front of one row of cars, it seemed like a long time before we were instructed to move, but we were soon on our way to Ashford to stay the night in a Premier Inn. We got checked in quickly enough (and had a bit of a chat with the receptionist), after which I popped across the road to get a McDonalds for dinner. Lots of fun with this in the end as I was given two happy meal boxes despite ordering one, but it turned out the second one contained some of our meal - I just wish I knew that before handing it back and taking the rest of our meal back to our room. So after this to-ing and fro-ing, we were finally able to eat our dinner lay on a very comfortable (and high) bed.

It was only as we started to prepare for everyone’s bedtime routine that I realised we didn’t have a source of milk for our son! I asked at reception and they said to pop by the on-site pub restaurant and ask there. I asked the barman and he duly obliged, giving me the best part of a pint, it must be a standard thing as he didn’t bat an eyelid at the request nor did he ask for payment, but I did buy a bottle of cider and some nuts (even if I did have to remortgage to pay for them).

It was nice to be in a very comfy bed, with thermostat controlled heating having spent the previous week in a caravan. Oh and watch something that wasn’t the Minions [2015] movie.

The next morning we plotted out next move. We had planned on stopping somewhere en route home, but the lure of home and being reunited with our cat prevailed and we went straight home, back shortly after lunchtime.

...One last thing, the second Belgian waffle made it all the way back to Shropshire!

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Seven - Final Full Day In France

We woke to find our little boy had gotten out of bed, walked across the caravan and opened the door to our room. He just stood there looking dazed as we invited him to join us on the bed for morning cuddles. He was so cute, it's a memory that will stick with me. When we were all a little bit more awake, we gave him his Toy story figurines from Disneyland. He went straight into naming them and started role playing with each of the characters.

After breakfast we went through our haul from our two days at Disneyland, adding our pin badges to the lanyards we bought. Our son really enjoyed choosing where the badges should go and wanted to wear all the lanyards at once!

I took him for his nap and ended up falling asleep myself for an hour, before swapping with Nikki. With the two of them asleep, I decided to watch 'Ted 2' [2015] as I'd downloaded it for the holiday and I hadn't had chance to watch it. This kicked off a bit of a movie marathon as we watched 'Minions' [2015] (again!) and 'The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie Sponge Out Of Water' [2015] before having dinner.

I went for a short walk around the campsite to bookend our holiday, having done a similar walk on the first day. When I got back Nikki was ready to go to bed, so I joined her and caught up on some emails.

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Six - Return to Disneyland

After relaxing for a day, it was time to return to Disneyland for our second day. As we’d spent one day in Disneyland Park, we had considered going to Disneyland Studios for our second day, but looking at the attractions, we felt there might be limitations as to what we could take our 2 year old son on and (I think) visiting the park was for him.

Instead of driving to Disneyland as we had done previously, we joined a coach trip from our campsite. We were advised the coach left at 07:50, and sure enough we left bang-on 07:50 and took the same route that we had done two days previously (yay - we took a standard route!). The biggest difference was that because we’d left a bit earlier we got caught in traffic on the dual carriageways, however we still arrived before the parks fully opened.

We got dropped off in the same car park so we knew where to head to, but as we approached the security checks we detoured into Disney Village to check out the World Of Disney, a large store selling everything Disney. We spent a while in there, this allowed the initial surge of visitors to get into the park and we could sail straight into the park.

Our first stop was to join a queue to get an autograph and some photographs with Minnie Mouse. An hour and a half of waiting and we finally got to meet her. The weather had started to turn and the heavens broke meaning I had a strange look on my face as I got caught between umbrellas and the rain trickled down my back!

We sought sanctuary from the rain under a nearby arcade. At the other end stood Donald Duck so I joined the queue whilst Nikki took our son to get some lunch. However, as I joined the umbrellas were taken down and Donald was escorted indoors. The Cast Members (park staff) came round to explain the situation, there had been a weather warning of winds meaning all the outdoor characters were taken in until it passed (that’s for another post). I waited for a while until Nikki and my son returned, we decided to head to Mickey Mouse who was situated in a theatre, aka inside!

We headed through Adventureland towards the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride and we soon were on the ride. For some reason, my son didn’t like the ride second time round and thought it was too loud.

Despite the weather and the fact Mickey was indoors, the queue to see him wasn’t too long. Again, my son love watching the old Mickey Mouse episodes whilst we waited, almost to the point we had difficulty leaving that part of the queue. There was someone else ahead of us when we entered the room, and my son had a cute moment peaking around the corner to spy Mickey. When it was time to see Mickey, we remembered to get a family photo with him!

We grabbed a FastPass for the Peter Pan’s Flight and then headed to It’s A Small World, staying on the ride for three loops. To recover from that, we went to La Maison Du Marionette for a drink and try to dry off. It was soon time to head back to Peter Pan’s Flight, this takes you on a journey through the story Peter Pan. It was fun, but I did find it a bit jerky and a bit too quick to take everything in.

From there we joined a queue for the Pinocchio Story, and although it was probably the longest queue for a ride we experienced, we were soon on the ride. Like Peter Pan’s Flight, this tells the story of Pinocchio, but again I felt the ride had been sped up to get visitors on to it as quickly as possible. All the same, it was fun, if a little creepy.

We took another walk through the park towards the Discoveryland and the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast. My little boy joined me in the cart and I helped him shoot on the first lap, the second lap he was in control of the cart, spinning us around and on the third and final trip he did a bit of both - yes we did three consecutive laps on the ride, what can I say, my son loves it.

When we finally dragged him away (almost literally), we dived into the café Hyperion, a Star Wars themed café. In there I FaceTime’d my parents to tell them about our day and grab some dinner. From there we walked around the last little bit of Discoveryland that we hadn’t seen, before making our way back into Main Street USA and eventually World Of Disney to part with some more money.

With plenty of time to spare, we explored Disney village which consists of various restaurants and stores (including a Lego Store, always useful to know). As time ticked on it was soon time to return to our coach and head back to our campsite.

I’m going to do a separate post soon with my thoughts on the park and in particular a couple of points that I think need to be addressed. But that’s for another day.

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Five - Recovery

We had two tiring days days previously, so we had agreed that we'd have a chill out day on the campsite to recover from our exhaustions in Paris and Disneyland.

I started the day with my now customary walk up to the bakery to grab some pastries for breakfast, which were soon demolished. After completing our sons new puzzles a couple of times, everyone in the family had a nap... a long nap, about 3 hours, we were all very tired from our long day in Disneyland.

In the afternoon we made the puzzles ago and again, then we played with my son. The evening soon rolled round and we were heading to bed again, like I said the previous two days had take there toll on us.

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Four - Disneyland Calling

Having told our son that, for our holiday, we were going on a big boat to meet Mickey Mouse, it was the big day - we were off to Disneyland! To put this in to context, when we got on the ferry in Dover, he was asking where Mickey Mouse was, and everyday afterwards he would ask the same question whenever we left the caravan.

After grabbing some breakfast (another 'Maxi Choco' - an elongated pain au chocolate) and getting ready, we set off. The drive down was pleasant, however we drove passed a number of memorials erected in honour of those that fell during the Great War. Even in an excited car, it was sobering to consider that this was a region that had been the central to the war.

After an hours drive, our excitement reach fever pitch as we saw the entrance to the Disneyland where Mickey was overseeing our arrival. We had decided that we would park on site in the anticipation that it would be easier to leave at the end of the day. We parted with our €20 and pulled into a bay, even with it being outside the school holidays I was surprised that the car parks was a lot of free spaces (the car park was less than a third full). After a few minutes walking and we arrived in to Disney Village. We had made the decision to go into Disneyland Parc, so we made a beeline for there through the various security measures (bag scans and metal detection).

After walking under the resort hotel we entered Main Street USA, sort of an old school American high street. It was here that we got our first glimpse of the Disney characters - Chip and Dale were stood in a bandstand, but they disappeared before we could get to them. The first place we visited was one of the many stores on site to get our son an autograph book and pen, before heading back onto the street to try and spend time with Goofy and Pluto. Again they went for a break before we could get to them, so instead we had a brief look in an Arcade showcasing posters and models from yesteryear.

We then proceeded to go through Main Street towards Sleeping Beauty's castle. I've got to admit, I was surprised how small it seemed, I always imagined it was massive (shows what I know). But we made our way up inside and I took my little boy for a look round whilst Nikki stayed with his pushchair. Just beyond the castle was the sword in the stone from one of my favourite stories.From there Nikki took our son on a carousel as the queue was quite short.

By this time we were looking to get some lunch. The first place we spotted was Au Chalet De La Marionette, inspired by Pinocchio, serving chicken and chips which was perfect for our family.

After lunch we spotted Peter Pan and Wendy, who again were just about to disappear for a break. Instead we joined a queue to meet Captain Hook and Mister Smee. After a short while my son got to meet some Disney characters - even if they were from a film he's not seen!

From there we made our way to the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride. The queues were very short for one of the iconic Disney rides. Through the very dark passages we walked (stumbling in places), before waiting a short while to board our boat. Our little boy loved the experience to my surprise, but the ride was soon over and we headed out to see what we looked like when our photo was taken (it wasn't the most flattering of shots).

We continued around the park, passed Peter Pan's Flight as the queues looked to be too long, and found a theatre where you could meet Mickey Mouse. The queue was due to last 30 minutes, but thanks to constant Mickey cartoons playing we were soon getting excited to meet the main man! Although it was a bit of a blur, I think we spent 5 minutes with him getting his autograph and photos taken alongside him. In all the excitement though, nikki and I forgot to get photos with us! I will admit when we left, I took our son outside whilst Nikki got our photos and we had a bit of a chat about the experience. Where it was the long day, where it was because we had built up this moment for him, I don't know, what I do know is that I came over very emotional.

When Nikki finally sorted our photographs out (buying Disney's PhotoPass+), we took a stroll through Fantasyland, passed Alice's Curios Labyrinth and the Princess Pavilion, to  sit down and have a well deserved ice cream. During this break we had our first shower of the day, fortunately we were sat under an umbrella so we didn't get too wet. Across from the ice cream store was It's A Small World. Having joked about the ride, we forced ourselves towards the entrance. Again the queues were kind to us and we soon boarded our boat as the music started to mesmerise us. In honesty I enjoyed the trip, so much so that we asked if we could go round for a second time with the queue almost being nonexistent. The cast members / staff agreed and we ended up on a boat of our own, which was great but surreal at the same time. On the second pass our son was obviously feeling more comfortable as he started to wave at the animals. The cast member at the end of the ride told us that by going on two successive trips the song will be stuck in our heads for 5 years!

We proceeded through Fantasyland on to Discoveryland, where we joined the queue for the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride. This is an interactive ride with passengers helping Buzz shoot targets to accumulate their score. I found it to be a lot of fun, managing to score 55,400 which I thought was quite impressive for a first attempt.

We spent some time in the store buying a few souvenirs before returning to the gardens in front of the Sleeping Beauty's castle for the parade. We got a decent spot near the front for my son, but as soon as it started he wanted to be higher up, so he got bundled on to my shoulders for a better vantage point. The parade was great, with lots of recognisable characters taking part, the worst thing was my son grabbing on to my hair (a bit like Remy in 'Ratatouille' [2007]).

When the crowds started to disperse, we made our way to Frontierland and Adventure Isle we just walked around these areas before ending up at The Mad Hatters Teacups. I took the opportunity to take my son on these and I think he really enjoyed them, helping me spin the wheel making the cup turn faster.

At this point we had to consider our options, there was about three hours until the park closed and the illumination show began, but the characters were no longer accessible and rides were beginning to close. Somehow these hours passed by and we found ourselves near the front of the audience in time for the show. My little boy began to get restless in th hour we were stood there, so I offered him my phone to watch the 'Minions' [2015] film (I didn't think to download anything Disney before we left home). There was a cute moment when my son noticed a French girl next to him had started to watch the film, he turned the screen so she could see it easily.

The Illumination Show started at 21:00, with fireworks, fountains, lasers accompanying a projected montage of Disney footage set to some of their most iconic songs. By this time I was feeling exhausted so I don't remember a huge amount other than some of the songs just sound wrong not being sung in English.

When the show ended we followed the masses back along Main Street USA, back under the resort hotel, up toward Disney Village. We resisted the opportunity to go in there and continued back to the car... or so we thought. We ended up in the bus station area of the car park and had to negotiate roads that weren't suitable for tackling with a pushchair, but we made it back eventually without any other hitches. I was surprised at how easy it was to leave the car park, I was expecting it to be slow leaving, but we made it out in no time.

Tomorrow is going to be another rest day to recover from a couple of very hectic days and let my legs recover. We will also be looking at how we're going to approach our next / last day in Disneyland on Wednesday.

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Three - Visiting Paris

Having had an easy Saturday, we wanted to get out and explore France. We knew that we wanted to visit Paris, and we had heard that smaller towns can be quite sleepy on a Sunday, so we decided to head to the capital.

Not really having a clue about the best way to travel into the city, we did a quick search for local trains into the centre, knowing that the worst case scenario would be that our little boy had an opportunity to go for a train ride. Our site reps from Eurocmap suggested going to either Soissons or Compiegne to catch the train. With wifi / internet access being temperamental at best, we finally found that Compiegne appeared to have the more frequent services. It was a short drive of about 30 minutes into the town and there was plenty of parking available (even if I did initially park in a short stay space). We queued up for what seemed an eternity, watching as the train we planned to catch left the station, fortunately there was a second train 20 minutes later, but the fun and games at the ticket office meant that we still only just caught that one.

It felt exciting getting on a double decker train as we don't have them in Britain, but we still defaulted to sitting on the lower tier near an exit, next to a window so we could watch the world go by. After three or four stops, we made it into Gard du Nord. We were greeted with seeing a building that protruded from the pavement at an angle and an angel with wings, but on the other side of the road there were signs of the shrinking corporate world we live in, Starbucks, Burger King and McDonalds all within a short distance of each other.

We headed south, as all the tourist attractions we wanted to visit all required us to head in that direction. It was only after a quite a few metres that Nikki pointed out that it was lunch time and she really want to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe. This meant walking in completely the opposite direction. It did however meant that we got chance to experience some of the small alleys and the buzz that goes with them. There were numerous cafes and brassieres with people sat watching the world go by, it looked idyllic. I did have a laugh to myself with all these wonderful looking cafes, we still decided to go for an American lunch! One thing that did strike me was the cigarette culture that still seems to exist in France, where it is more popular, perhaps it's because we saw so many people outside at these cafes, but there seemed to be a lot more smokers in France than there is in the uk.

We finally arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe after about an hours walking to find there was a 30 minute wait for a table, we took our alerting device and got some drinks at the bar. It was my first experience of a Hard Rock Cafe, and I can see myself going to others in the future. We were sat next to's jacket at the bar as Metallica played over the speakers. When our devices started to buzz, we were shown to a table under Frank Zappa's coat and, I think, an album sleeve with him sat on the toilet (each to their own). Thankfully our all the staff seemed comfortable speaking English, which we were grateful for as I ordered a Hickory Barbecue Burger, Nikki a Pulled Pork Sandwich and we ordered pizza and chips for our son. The food soon arrived and we devoured our meals leaving clear plates, except my son, who initially had the most enormous meal in front of him! After settling the bill and buying some merchandise we headed on our way again.

The road opposite Hard Rock Cafe took us towards Jardin du Palais Royal and the Louvre, one of the places that Nikki wanted to go to. It felt like another long walk down side roads but we made it to the Louvre - Nikki was in awe. We spent a few minutes taking photos and absorbing the architecture whilst our son had his nap. Nikki also caught her first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower at this point. We headed further south on to a bridge where we could just make out the island which Notre Dame is built on. We thought we may be pushed for time, so we decided to head to the Eiffel Tower. I wish someone had warned me how far the walk was!

We finally arrived at the Eiffel Tower shortly after 16:00 and after a short queue to get through security, we were stood under the Tower. Our little boy was amazed how high the tower went up and, at his request, we took the elevator to the 2nd level. In hindsight this was a smart move, he was already getting frustrated with all the queuing to get tickets, searched and to get in the elevator. When we got up to the second level, we took in views of the city. My little boy was fixated on looking out of the meshed holes across the city, whilst mummy and daddy tried to spot various attractions. After about an hour of being at the tower we decided to head back, but thought we'd get a cab back to the train station. (One piece of advice I'll offer up for free is if you normally carry a penknife with you, remember to leave it at home as there are multiple teams of security scanning you and you won't be allowed to take it up with you, as I can testify.)

After flagging down a cab, I asked in my broken French how much the journey would likely be, I was sure the taxi driver said €50, but then said maybe up to €20. I thought it was a risk worth taking to get back as soon as possible. If I'm honest, I'm really glad that we took the taxi as it gave us an opportunity to see other parts of the city, catch a train at a sensible time and we could get back to our car sooner rather than later. It also allowed us to experience Parisian traffic in the hands of a professional!

Back at Gard du Nord, and again in my broken French, I tried to find out which platform the next train to Compiegne left from (even if my pronunciation of the towns name was terrible). The second person I spoke to said to just keep watching the electronics boards and soon enough, the train to Compiegne was given a platform. Being the rebels we are, we got on the train and found some seats hoping it was the right one. Bang on time, the train left the station, phew, and best of all we were getting off at the first stop.

The only thing was we found that we had been sold tickets for a train shortly after 17:00 and it was 19:15 as we left the station. No one came round to check tickets luckily, I really don't know how that conversation would have ended. Back at the station, we paid for parking - the cheapest part of the day at €4 - and headed back to our campsite.

Tomorrow, we are off to Disneyland by car, which I'm sure will be fun for all involved. Until the next post, au revoir!

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day Two - Exploring our surroundings

With the journey down being a bit more eventful that we had anticipated, we agreed that we wouldn't venture too far away from our caravan. One of the main reasons for this was because our son had obviously frustrated at not being able to do much, being strapped into a car for most of the day.

Something I hadn't realised was that right outside our caravan was a large fishing pool, this gave us a stunning view to wake to - see the title photo.

We headed to the onsite bakery and shop to grab some breakfast and essentials, we took a family walk around the campsite to acquaint ourselves. We made our way along the muddy side of the pool, passed a number of fishermen, up to a bar which is next to a man made beach. Next to this is a play area and multipurpose sports arena. We continued round the beach and round the second of three fishing pools, before heading back on ourselves and making our way back to the caravan. 

After my sons nap, he wanted to take Nikki to the shops in the afternoon to show her around, having been there with me in the morning. We also popped into a second onsite shop selling souvenirs and recreational stuff, our typical resort shop. My little boy got restless again a bit later on so I took him to the sports arena to play some football.

In the evening we treated ourselves to a takeaway from Berny Burgers. Nikki and I shared pizza and chips, whilst my little boy had a infants meal. His meal consisted of 5 small fish fingers, chips, a hard lolly and a soft American football. With an anticipated long day in Paris coming up, we retired for the night shortly afterwards.

Le Grand Voyage 2017 | Day One - Travelling to France

Having waited patiently whilst everyone else reported back on their holidays, it's finally time for my family to go on our 'summer' holiday! I'm referring to this as our 'summer' holiday, because we're now in to September and there was a distinctly autumnal feel to our journey south.

As is usually the case, I left my packing to the last minute and, at the time of writing this, I'm sure there's something on the sideboard at home that we are going to need. I packed the car on Thursday night with as much I could and grabbed things as I passed them in the early hours of Friday with the intentions of getting on the road as early as possible (our plan was to leave at 06:00).

Shortly after 06:00, we realised that there were some bits that we still hadn't got, so I had to do an emergency run to the shops to grab those bits. We finally got on the road by 07:30, which wasn't too bad, especially as Nikki told me that the journey should only be four hours to Dover to catch our ferry. It was nice to be the passenger for most of the British leg of the journey as Nikki took on driver duty.

Having made two stop as the services, the first for breakfast and the second because we were quite early, we got to the port in Dover at about 13:15 in plenty of time for the ferry which was due to leave at 13:55. As we checked in, we were told that due to the weather there was likely to be a half hour delay to our departure. As we joined our queue we tried to keep our sons spirits up by telling him that we were going to be getting on the big boat in front of us. After about an hour of waiting, the boat started up and soon afterwards started to leave the docks. We were shocked.

Thankfully a few minutes later we were beckoned forwards and directed to another ferry that had come in. We drove aboard and got our little boy out to let him start enjoying our holiday. He had been very patient considering we were sat in the car park of the port for a long time, with rain lashing down outside meant that no one wanted to leave their vehicles. He ran up the stairs and we soon found ourselves at the Kid Zone of the lounge area. Our son soon made friends with another little boy and they had lots of fun playing together for the whole crossing.

The captain spoke over the tannoy to apologise for the delays which were a result of gale force winds in the English Channel. We soon left port and hit the waves, literally. I've been on ferries before, and our crossing did leave me quite queasy, but it became a more smooth we go closer to Calais.

We were advised not to go to our vehicles until instructed, so like good passengers we waited for the second announcement as we watch the ferry enter the port. When the second announcement founded we mad our way to the staircase to find it extremely busy as people wanted to get to their vehicles. We finally got on the stairs and to our car where we had planned to add the light deflectors required for continent driving. This was a bit of a mistake as we couldn't work out what we needed to do and ended up causing a bit of an unnecessary tailback (oops), but we weren't the only ones having this trouble.

We left the port and got on our way. After a short while the bad weather we had hoped to leave in England caught up with us as the rain started to fall. Even with dealing with driving on the wrong side of the road, we made good time along the toll roads. That was alright, until the skies darkened and the rain got heavier, I dropped my speed but still ploughed on with the journey. With the delays that we had encountered it meant that we got to the campsite a lot later than anticipated, but we found our way to the Eurocamp reception and then to our caravan just around the corner. After bringing everything in, we settled in to our surroundings.

For Saturday, the plan is to use the day to recover, let my little boy use up all his pent up energy from today and visit a supermarket to get some meals in.

Until my next post, au revoir.

Au Revoir for now

It feels like it's come round so quickly, but today we are heading off on our first family holiday as we depart Britain for a week and head to La Croix du Vieux Pont Campsite, just over an hour north of the French capital, Paris.

We decided earlier in the year that we should try and get away on our own having tagged along on my parents summer holidays for the last few years. After pawing over different potential destinations and options, we finally came back to one of my earliest suggestions, which was to drive to France and stay at a Eurocamp site. I'd been on these kinds of holidays with my parents when I was growing up so it seems natural, that I take a similar path now I've got a family of my own.

In making our decision, it took probably my biggest concern out of the equation - how to travel with a two year-old abroad. Although lots of people said we'd be fine flying further afield, the same nagging though kept cropping up, how can we travel without a car seat for my little boy? As we are going to be driving ourselves, we will be in control of how we get about once we arrive at our destination.

All being well we are planning to spend two days in Disneyland Paris, as well as heading into central Paris to do the tourist thing by seeing all the famous landmarks. The Eiffel Tower, L'Arc De Triumph and the Louvre all feature highly on our places to visit when we get in to the city centre, but I also want to take in the architecture and appreciate that. It was crazy that one of the first things that we agreed on to do on holiday was to drive back via Belgium just to say we've visited another country.

It's only as I'm typing this out that I'm realising just how unprepared for this trip I really am! Although we've got the crossing and accommodation sorted and got lots planned to fit in to our six full days away, I've put very little consideration into how we're going to do everything (eek!). Anyway, so long as things go well I do plan to blog whilst we're away and I may turn my hand to producing a vlog/video of our journey.