Lockdown 2020

The COVID-19 (Novel Corona Virus) which started in Wuhan China late December 2019, forced New Zealand in to lockdown on Thursday the 26th of March.  Prior to this I started working from home on Monday because I had a laptop and was not involved in any face to face training that week so I could.  News of the lockdown came on Monday afternoon, so I raced to the supermarket before the inevitable panic buying set in leaving nothing for me to buy on the shelves.  I’d seen videos of other countries and the awful behaviour of people buying up all the toilet paper and desperate people punching each other in attempts to get at least one pack.

Luckily when I got there I only had to wait in a queue of about 10 people and only took 10 minutes before I got in to the supermarket.  It had a strange surreal feeling about it, people behaved weirdly and one lady with her friend going up and down the aisles at the same time as me constantly commented loudly so everyone could her how virtuous she was, on how they were only buying just enough to get buy on and shame on all these other people.  However she wasn’t virtuous when it came to the 2 meter distancing rule coz she constantly got way too close to me, which made me speed up my shopping but as luck would have it, she ended up right behind me in the checkout queue.  I gave her the death stare but she was too busy bragging about her minimalist shop to notice.  Her trolley was overflowing – how many people live in her house?

My supermarket had plenty of toilet paper but no bread!

While heading back to my car a slight panic attack set in as I thought the stress of the world closing down had got to me and my car looked strangely different.  It had changed colour and one wheel was all rusty (had I driven through some rusty coloured puddle?).  But then the car parked next to it backed out revealing MY car.

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What are the chances eh!  I never see any other cars on the road like mine, it’s not really very common, it’s a bit old now.

On the drive home it felt like the world was ending, everybody was driving like maniacs, far too fast and doing strange things like U-turns in weird and dangerous places and like they were the only cars on the road.  It felt nice to get home and close my garage door shutting out all the madness.  And so started this blog post, I thought there would probably be many more strange events that would fill a blog post and be a reminder to me one day when I can look back at all this, and think oh yeah – that’s right, that did happen.

The underpants incident.

One morning while getting dressed for working from home, after putting on boxer shorts and a tee shirt I had this random thought that the black boxers looked just like shorts and who would know or care if I didn’t put shorts on today.  Even if I attended a video conference for work nobody would ever see or realise I wasn’t wearing shorts.  However that is not something I would do, so I put some shorts on and laughed to myself how much the shorts really did look like the boxers, just a little bit longer.

Later that day I went to the mailbox… just as I got to the end of the driveway having walked past several people and houses I had a terrible thought – I wasn’t wearing any shorts!!!  I did a very weird kind of maneuver as I tried to pull down my tee shirt to cover up this fashion disaster, in case anybody was looking.  A moment later I remembered I was indeed wearing pants and I could breathe normally again.

The Bush is Closed.

One Sunday morning halfway through lockdown I set off for my usual bushwalk, really looking forward to seeing the beautiful huge trees and getting out for some fresh air.  As I approached the path that takes you in to the bush I noticed a man staring at the track and I thought he better hurry up coz I don’t want to come too close to him while entering the track.  But he just stood there and soon enough I caught up to him.  He told me it was closed and sure enough there was a brand new fence blocking our way in to the bush!  Shortly a very fit jogging lady turned up and then an elderly couple came walking down the hill.  We all just stared at each other and then turned around and headed back the way we came from, all in different directions.  I guess there are parts of the bushwalk that would be impossible to get past someone without entering their bubble, so they had to close it to keep us safe.  I’ve never seen that many people headed for that track ever.  I’m always alone!

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So I went for a longer walk along Onewa Road.  It was strange to see no cars on the road.  Onewa Rd is one of the busiest roads on the North Shore.

You can’t buy Wine or Beer on Easter Sunday.

I usually go to the supermarket on a Sunday evening, but with the lockdown I know this is not the best time to go and now that I have to make my lunch every day, it’s important to go while they still have cooked chickens available so I can eat some kind of meat for lunches during the week.

So I have been keeping a very close watch on the Google “popular times to visit” chart.

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I rushed out when I saw there was a dip in the chart and it turned out to be very wise as there was only 4 people in the queue and I only had to wait about two minutes.  I managed to get a chicken no problem, but shock horror I could not buy any wine or beer!!!  How did I not know this?  I drank up all my wine last night happy in the knowledge that I would be able to replenish my stocks the next day.  But no – all the alcohol was trapped in cages, like animals in a zoo – only to be looked at but not touched!

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Things I missed the most while in lockdown:

  1. Hugs
  2. Buying my lunch
  3. Mitre 10
  4. The TV Guide

Things I learnt while in lockdown:

  1. I can make my lunch every day and be creative if I have to.
  2. You can’t buy wine or beer from a supermarket on Easter Sunday.
  3. I am on a lot of emailing lists – including every single chemist I have ever brought restricted medication like Voltaren from.

And now New Zealand has moved from Level 4 lockdown to Level 3, we were in level 4 for 4 weeks till the 28th of April – but I’m still working from home and living in a bubble, so it doesn’t feel any different to me.  I still can’t get hugs or go shopping in Mitre 10 and I still have to make my lunch.

My Garden Makeover

A friend of mine asked me back in January how my courtyard was looking these days.  It was quite a timely question because another friend of mine had recently paid some students to do a massive clean up of her backyard and I had looked longingly at her very tidy garden and wondered what it would cost to get someone in to tidy up mine.  So I told the friend who asked after my courtyard and I told him what my other friend had done, he offered to do the same as he was currently between jobs and looking for something to do.  The next weekend he came round to have a look at what was involved and guestimated what it would cost.  Done deal!

So here is the before pic – a bit overgrown but looking very lush.  I really just wanted the Leaning Tower of Yucca to be chopped down and get rid of all the wild bromeliads in the corner.  My friend recommended water-blasting, repotting and planting some stuff in to the small strip of dirt at the back.  Ok!garden 1

Thursday the 6th of February was Waitangi day so my birthday holiday had officially begun and my friend turned up to get stuck in, another friend decided it would be fun to join in (she’s crazy).  So here they are trying to chop down the massive yucca with a very small handsaw!garden 2

At the end of the day the yukka was chopped down but there was a big mess and we all had places to go so we had to just leave it like this…garden 3

I wasn’t feeling very comfortable about it looking like a tornado had swept through, but by the end of day two I was loving the new garden and even thought the yucca looked kinda cool where it was laying waiting to be removed, so I suggested we leave it there, as it might act as a garden edging and stop mulch and soil from ending up on the cobbles.garden 4

My friend dug a massive hole which took hours big enough to plant the bamboo and we hoped it would survive the transplanting.  (I’m pleased to report that a month later not only did it survive, but it’s thriving and no less that 5 new shoots have appeared.)  This leant itself to the creation of a little Japanese corner.garden 5

After the water-blasting the whole backyard looked brand new and I love it.garden 6

Even the frangipani did some late blooming to add a beautiful finishing touch.
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From upstairs…garden 8

I think it’s nearly ready for visitors.garden 9

The timing of the work on my courtyard could not have worked out better.  As we are now in lockdown my backyard is the only place I’m allowed to go, so I get to enjoy it every day for a lot longer and much more regularly than ever before.

My 2019

Sometimes it’s easy to look back on a year and think it wasn’t a very good year, maybe it’s because the bad things that happened stick out more than all the good things.  So I decided to look back through all the photos on my phone as a reminder of all the cool/awesome things I did in 2019.  So these are the main highlights:

January

~ Sculptureum with Barb & Tony in Matakana.
~ Built the Disney Castle out of Lego.

February~ Trip to Palmerston North with Una.
~ Massive birthday bridge walk to the Huia Dam with the gang.
~ Birthday lunch up the Sky Tower with Dad & Paula.
~ Heroic Garden festival with Barb.
March~ Built the Taj Mahal out of Lego.
~ Te Papa, Wellington day trip with Heidi and the gang to see the Terracotta Warriors.
April~ Went to “The Mousetrap” at the ASB Waterfront Theatre with Michelle B.
~ Day off work to enjoy High Tea at Sugar, Chelsea Sugar Refinery with Heidi.
May~ Reconnected with all my old friends I used to work with in London back in 1988, through a Facebook group that found me.
~ Tried on-line grocery shopping for the 1st time & decided it’s not really my thing.
~ Built the Flintstones House out of Lego.
August~ Christchurch for work & my nephew cooked me a special dinner in his flat.
~ Finally gave in and joined Netflix, there was a Lego documentary I really wanted to see, exclusive to Netflix.
~ Hit my broadband limit first time ever – thanks to Netflix.
September~ Grand opening of the Xmas Heirloom Co in Milford with Heidi.
October~ Home & Garden show with Barb which led to the buying of an awesome Italian Coffee Machine.
~ Auckland Marathon with Barb (watching out for Tony of course).
~ Sky City Convention Centre fire – not a highlight but a major event.
~ Auckland Brick Show with Arian.  7th year, 1st one was in June 2013.
November~ Auckland Lego Store finally opens in the brand new Westfield Mall, Newmarket.
~ Celine releases Courage.
December~ Special Xmas lunch with Dad, Paula & Karyn (Xmas Eve).
~ Christmas with Heid in the Cordis.
~ Waiheke Island with Heidi & friends.

 

Sydney 2020 Day Four

February 14 – Friday

My last day in Sydney, and one of the many kind things the guy at reception did for me when he upgraded my room was ask me what time I was headed for the airport and extended my check out time till 12:00 for me.  So that meant I had half a day to enjoy the amazing room and do some last minute shopping.

I figured I had enough time to race to the Westfield Mall to check out Myers Lego department and then go up the Sydney Tower, the sun was shining so it was a great day for going up the tower.  The salesperson in Myers said the same thing about the Sydney Skyline set – it has been retired.

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My trip up the tower was probably the fastest “been there done that” sightseeing I’ve ever done.  I even asked the girl selling tickets how long it would take.  Crazy question I know but I needed to know if there was a long wait to get up there – there wasn’t.

I made it back to the hotel in time for one last look at the spectacular view, grab my bag and check out.

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Because it was so hot I contemplated getting a taxi to the airport, but then I had noticed a lot of taxis driving around with their windows open, so I didn’t like my chances of getting a taxi with air conditioning.  Plus if there was traffic I’d be quite stressed, so I caught the train which was fast and easy and nowhere near as hot as the one I caught from the airport.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time for several beers and shopping, but I think that should have been the other way round, because it was hot and I was thirsty so I drunk many beers quite quickly and then went shopping.  This of course made the purchase of the really expensive new Apple earpods with noise cancellation very very easy.  But I love them, and thank you to everyone who gave me birthday money – this is what you bought me.

Oh and as I passed through bag search, guess what I found… the Lego Sydney Skyline Architecture set, for about $20 cheaper (duty free) than what it would’ve been if they’d had it in any of the stores I went in to.

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The flight home was fun and I managed to finish off the movie I started watching on the way over – Judy, starring Renée Zellweger.  The flight even had wifi so I needed to take a picture of something so I could post it on Facebook (seemed like a good idea at the time), so this is the pic I posted.

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Getting my bag and going through customs etc was easy and a very kind friend was waiting outside to pick me up and take me home.

Sydney 2020 Day Three

February 13 – Thursday

My Birthday and my whole reason for going to Sydney.  I woke up earlier than normal because all these wonderful birthday wishes started happening at about 6:00 am because that’s 8:00 in New Zealand.  So I was wide awake and enjoying the rainy overcast view (cooling everything down for me) when my magnificent room service breakfast arrived.

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Eventually at about 9:00 I set out for the Apple Store to buy myself a birthday present.  The weather gods even decided to stop the rain as an added bonus for my birthday, so I set out in glorious sunshine.  However the glory didn’t last long – the Apple Store was CLOSED FOR RENOVATION!!!  Seems I’m doomed to never get inside that particular Apple Store, it wasn’t open back in 2015 when I was last in Sydney either, click here to read about that day.

That completely threw me and I completely forgot it was my birthday and didn’t really know what to do after that, so I stayed on the flash new air conditioned tram till I got to a stop near Paddy’s Markets.  When I was 16 my parents took the whole family to Sydney for the August school holidays and one of the places we went to was Paddy’s Market – it was cool.  There was so much amazing stuff you couldn’t get back in New Zealand and the coolest thing I bought was a Nintendo Octopus game.

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Sadly the Paddy’s Market of 2020 was nothing like the 1981 version.  Or maybe it is still cool I just didn’t like any of the stuff they were selling now that I’m not 16, it seemed like a never ending $2.00 shop with row after row of identical stalls, so crammed with cheap stuff that you couldn’t move around each stall to have a proper look.  But I did find some Stubby Holders which was on my list, so it was worth it just for that.

After the markets I headed for the Chinese Garden of Friendship which I really enjoyed and it only cost $8 to get in.  The garden is set amongst some really tall buildings so at times when I looked up it felt like I had been magically transported to Hong Kong.  There were the biggest frangipani trees I’ve ever seen in full bloom and these gigantic lizard things that just lay around everywhere (I nearly stood on one, not sure which one of us got the biggest fright).

After that beautiful relaxing experience I headed for the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium with a quick stop at McDonalds along the way.  The aquarium cost $45 to get in and definitely was not worth it.  The best part (and probably the reason I went) was the lovely cold air conditioning keeping all the fish & penguins cold.  I got to see a Dugong but the whole place seemed run down and creepy.  The penguin expedition was over in about 30 seconds!  So glad I didn’t need to queue up for it.  Check out this sad penguin in dry kinda ugly conditions.

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Last time I was in Sydney I caught a ferry back to Circular Quay from Darling Harbour and it took about 10 minutes, so I thought I’d do the same thing this time.  I asked the ticket man which peer for the ferry to Circular Quay and he pointed me in the direction of a ferry that looked more like a hydrofoil than a ferry, so I thought things have really got flash in the last 5 years.  45 minutes and about 20 stops later, me and several other tourists realised we were miles away from the Quay and certainly not headed in the direction we should be in.  One lady asked a crew member if this ferry was going to Circular Quay and he said no – so they hurriedly got off, but it took me too long to work out what they had asked the dude and what just happened.  So I got off at the next stop and luckily the ferry returning to Sydney was just pulling in.  It took another 45 minutes to get to where I was supposed to be going, so all up a 10 minute ferry ride took me an hour and half.  At least it was a pleasant trip around the very expensive North Sydney harbour suburbs.  I guess a 90 minute harbour cruise for $6 is a bargain.

Here we are heading in the wrong direction getting further and further away from the city.

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According to my iPhone this is Drummoyne.

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90 minutes later this was a very welcome sight.

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So… after all that I wasn’t really sure what to do for my birthday dinner.  I really didn’t feel like getting all dressed up to sit somewhere flash all by myself, so I bought a box of beers, a lot of junk food and thoroughly enjoyed my wonderful hotel room with the stunning view.

 

Sydney 2020 Day Two

February 12 – Wednesday

Very exciting morning, I went on a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  The tour was fun, educational and well worth taking the time to do – I loved it.

At the start of the tour you have to put on these headsets and receiving devices which was not a good look or a good feel and I said to the guide “do I really have to“.  He explained the device was so I could hear him talking no matter which way he was facing or how far away from him I got, which is perfect for someone like me who always straggles behind the pack, taking photos and looking at things just that little bit longer than everyone else.  After only a couple of minutes I was loving the headphones.

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We got to see inside several of the different theatres and learnt how all the different stages work and watched a video on the history of the Opera House.

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From there I went back to the hotel to enjoy my incredible room and view and then headed out to Bondi Junction on a bus.  The bus departed from a stop right across the road from the hotel so it was easy, with no wait time and I got to see a lot more of the real Sydney than if I’d caught the subway.

My reason for going out to Bondi was not for surfing (ha ha) but to find the Lego Shop and some hard to find Australian TV show DVDs in JB-Hifi.

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Interestingly the Sydney Lego Shop wasn’t any better than the one we have in Auckland and I was disappointed they no longer sold the Sydney Skyline architecture set, apparently it’s a retired set and I’d missed out.  I never really wanted it before now, because the Opera House in the set looks weird and there is a building I didn’t recognise.

 

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While there I found a great place for a very late lunch called Lobster Tail Seafood with a great view of the Sydney skyline from an outdoor deck.

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I did manage to find a couple of the DVDs on my list in JB-Hifi but I didn’t manage to find my way out of the 5 floor Westfield mall.  I had to consult a directory map touch screen several times.  Exit is not a search option, but Bus or Train is!

Sydney 2020 Day One

February 11 – Tuesday

I made it!!! There have been several times recently that I was afraid I might not make it to Sydney because of bushfires, smoky skies, corona virus and debris on the runway closing Auckland Airport twice.  Ok that wasn’t all in one day but for the past few months there have been events that made me think I might not get to go.

At last all the stars aligned and an awesome friend who also lives on the North Shore got up extra early and gave me a lift to the airport.  Because of the corona virus I needed to be at the airport an hour earlier than normal, so I was there three hours ahead of departure and I had the place to myself, there was no queues anywhere and no holdups, so I managed to get through check in/bag drop, passport control and security really fast.  This meant I had loads of time to wander around Auckland airport checking out all the fab new areas and flash shops that weren’t there two years ago when I was last there.  If you take a walk beyond the food court towards the really far away departure gates and look up you will see this amazing art installation.

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At last it was time to board and take my seat, luckily I was the first in my row so I could wipe down the window, touch screen and everything else I’d be touching with wet wipes.  As the name implies they were “wet” wipes and I ended up soaking the window, so I had to hurriedly dry it with something before the people seated next to me wondered what happened.  The airplane was one of the new Boeing 787s, was very comfortable, had really big windows and a clever window tinting instead of a blind.

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For many days before departing I had my eye on the weather forecast and sadly it was all doom and gloom with nothing but thunderstorms forecast for the whole week I was going to be there, however 1/2 an hour before landing the Captain announced the great news that all the horrible weather they’d been having had cleared up!

A friend recommended I catch the train from the airport to Circular Quay as it is cheap and easy, so I did and it was.  But it wasn’t air conditioned and the heat was unlike anything I’d experienced in a very long time, maybe not since living in Japan.  Once I stepped off the train I was hit with a wave of heat and sunshine that was both a happy surprise and unbearable.  I was dressed for rain, cold and thunderstorms, I didn’t even have a cap.  So here’s my first pics of sunny Sydney.

Luckily the Hotel Intercontinental was only 5 minutes walk away from the train station and it was stunning.  As this trip was for my 55th birthday I splashed out and treated myself to three nights of luxury in a 5 star hotel in a great location very close to the Opera House.

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While checking in at the very flash & luxurious reception desk the friendly and welcoming guy at the counter went through my booking and noticed the reason I gave for this trip was for my birthday.  He asked how old I was then refused to believe it, so then he went to the office to see if there was anything they could do and came back with an amazing free upgrade to a room with a view on one of the top floors.  But the room wouldn’t be ready for a while, so he gave me some free drink vouchers to enjoy a nice cool beer (or 2 or 3) in the lobby bar while I wait.  I was quite early, it was only 11:30am, but 1:30 New Zealand time, so I headed to the bar and had lunch plus several free beers.

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After several beers and lunch I decided to go for a walk to fill in time before my room would be ready at 3:00, at the rate I was going I’d be too drunk to make it in to my room.  But it was very very hot and humid outside so I didn’t last very long, but I did manage to cross the road and have a quick look at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

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The Royal Botanic Gardens (Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the background)2

After what felt like an eternity I headed back to the hotel and waited in the beautiful air conditioned lobby for my room to be ready.  Just after 3:00 my fantastic room was ready, everything was awesome; spectacular view, a bath, fully stocked minibar, a Nespresso machine, a flash desk with executive swivel chair, an electric blind that was controlled from the bed, a sofa and a very handy window bench seat to lie back on and enjoy the view and a few more beers.

 

And just when I thought I couldn’t get any luckier there was a knock on the door from Room Service – they gave me a special birthday treat of a cake with an Opera House type decoration.  Wow!!!

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Eventually I felt brave enough to go back outside in the heat and take a stroll around the Opera House.  Actually it was early evening so I figured it should be cool enough.  While I was wandering around the Opera House a very rusty looking cruise ship (the Ruby Princess) departed which was a very impressive sight from where I was standing.

Once it got dark I headed back to the hotel for dinner and drinks in the lobby bar.

A Very Heidi Xmas 2019

Xmas 2019 will forever be remembered by me as the Xmas of Heidi. It all started on Xmas Eve meeting up with Heidi at the Cordis Hotel. In case you’re wondering this used to be the Langham and before that it was the Sheraton.

Last Xmas Heidi and I decided to go to Fiji for Xmas 2019 for something different to do and get away from it all. Turns out that December is the worst month to go to Fiji because it’s the rainiest month of the year and very humid.

So Fiji turned into Bali after several months of indecisiveness and then sadly I didn’t think I’d have enough money to have an awesome trip coz there really wasn’t enough paydays till Xmas for me. So as a compromise and a way to still do something fab… we decided to stay in a flash 5 star hotel in the city where we could sit by a pool on Xmas day and drink cocktails.

I started my Xmas holidays this year on Monday the 23rd so all I had to do on the 24th was wait for Heidi to finish work and check in to the hotel. I caught a taxi from my place to the hotel and the driver gave me a $10 Xmas discount making it only $20, what a fab start to my luxurious Xmas experience.

While waiting in the very flash lobby there was a Santa wishing everyone a very merry Xmas and a very lovely lady handing out beautiful gingerbread cookies.

Our room was very very nice and the beds were like giant marshmallows- they were so comfortable, and we had a great view of the Sky Tower lit up for Xmas.

Once it got dark enough we went for a big walk along K Road to the pink cycle path because I thought we should do something involving lights on Xmas eve.

Xmas Day

Got woken suddenly this morning by a faint knock on the door announcing our room service breakfast had arrived. Or maybe the poor guy had been out there a while knocking – we will never know.

Checked out of the hotel at 11:00 and went for a walk over Grafton Bridge to fill in time till High Tea at 11:30. It sure was very special and what a fab thing to do on Xmas day – no stress no drama no dishes and we were treated like royalty.

Boxing Day

Today I joined Heidi and a bunch of her friends for their annual Xmas tradition. We caught the ferry to Waiheke Island and had an awesome lunch and much wine in a vineyard restaurant called: Thomas’s Batch.

Awesome views, fun company and a fab day.

27 December

Today we went to Point Chev for a catch up brunch with a mutual friend Dave L. The cafe we planned to meet in was closed!!! So we went to another one nearby called Ambler Cafe. Great food and great service, would happily go back there again.

So… it’s been a very busy few days with lots of fun adventures with Heidi, hence the title of this blog post.

I’ve only just realised something!

The castle that proudly sits at the centre of Disneyland in California is NOT the same as the one that is in Walt Disney World in Florida or Tokyo Disneyland. It’s also not the same one as Lego used to create their model that I built at Xmas time.

The original castle in Disneyland California is known as the Sleeping Beauty Castle, here is a photo I took of it when I went there in 2012.

When Walt Disney World was built they used the Cinderella Castle which is much taller and more spectacular and it is this castle which features in the Disney Logo and at the start of the Disney movies. When Tokyo Disneyland was built they copied the more spectacular Cinderella Castle as its centrepiece. Here’s a photo I took of it way back in 1985.

The Lego Disney Castle I built this Xmas is the Cinderella Castle.

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Apparently Walt Disney was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany while on holiday there before construction began of Disneyland and based the Sleeping Beauty Castle on it, it is also rumoured that the German castle was his inspiration for the Cinderella movie castle. They both have turrets with blue tops but to me the Sleeping Beauty castle has a closer resemblance to the German one.

There is also an urban myth that Disney have to pay Germany (or the owner of the castle) royalties – but I think it’s just that… an urban myth.

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