Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A Vegan Meal at Annette's Diner, Disney Village Paris




Before we went to Disneyland Paris, I did a lot of research to find out what, if any, vegan options were available at the different restaurants. I had visited Annette’s Diner when I visited Disney back when I was seven years old (so long ago it was still called ‘EuroDisney’). I can remember the novelty of seeing waitresses on roller skates. So when I found out they had a vegan option, I was keen to go back.

We actually got some takeout chips from Annette’s one night after leaving the park. We just wanted to grab something quick to eat on the way back to the hotel, so we bought a few portions of chips to share. It was early on in the evening, maybe only around 5 pm, and Laurie saw a waiter skating around on roller skates.

The day we went for dinner, however, there were no rollerskates to be found. The restaurant was crazy busy so it’s not surprising there wasn’t much room for roller skates, but I was a little disappointed because I think Ebony would have loved seeing the skaters. We ate at the restaurant on Thursday night when we were killing time before the fireworks. It was probably 8ish by the time we sat down at the table. There was a big queue at the door. You can’t book a seat in advance so you have to wait in line until a table becomes available. After around a 20-minute wait, we were seated at a booth.



Annette’s Diner is based in the Disney Village, just a few minutes walk from the park entrances. I really liked the decor in the restaurant. It is decorated like a classic 50s diner, so it’s exactly what you would expect, lots of colour pops and light-up neon signs. The restaurant has a fun feel to it, even when there aren’t waiters skating down the aisles. The menu is, obviously, filled with diner food and milkshakes. I really wish they’d had vegan milkshakes or cola floats on the menu because that would have been perfect.

The menu isn’t great for vegans, nowhere in Disneyland seems to have much to offer us fussy-eaters, but there are two vegetarian burgers and one of them can easily be made vegan by simply serving it without the mozzarella, coleslaw and pesto. Our waiter knew what vegan was and was able to advise us on what to order. The vegan option is called The Veggie Burger and appears in the classics section of the menu. In truth, it’s not much of a ‘burger’, but it was really nice. It cost €16.99 and came with a generous portion of fries. The burger itself was more of a pile of food than a burger, that doesn’t make it sound great but it honestly was really tasty. It consisted of breaded tofu, portobello mushroom, courgette, aubergine, cherry tomatoes, avocado, peppers and rocket.



We went at peak time so the service was a little sporadic. There seemed to be a big wait to order, but then the food came really quickly once our order was in. I always find eating out with a toddler to be hard work, so I was glad we weren’t waiting around for too long. We ordered two burgers and two extra portions of chips thinking they would probably be pretty stingy with the servings, but in fact, we ended up with way too much food. The kids shared a portion of chips and helped themselves to bits of our burgers, but we’d had more than enough to eat between us by the end of the meal.

If we went again, we would probably try to go at a quieter time, perhaps slightly earlier or later, because it felt pretty manic in there while we were eating. The food was nice though there weren’t many options for vegans. There were a couple of things on the menu that sounded potentially vegan (hash brown sticks and onion rings) but we were told contained dairy which seemed a shame. It would be amazing if they added a vegan dessert or milkshake to the menu and I live in hope that they will do that. But, failing that, there is a gelato stand right outside the diner that serves gelato ice-cream and has two vegan sorbet options each day (so tasty) so we still managed to get pudding after our meal.



Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A Vegan Meal at Auberge de Cendrillon, Disneyland Paris




When we booked Disneyland, I knew I wanted to take Ebony to one of the character dinners. I had earmarked the money right at the start of the planning so I knew it was there for when we needed it. What I didn’t do, however, was book the meal. And this was pretty dumb. The character dinners fill up months in advance, especially during busy periods, so you need to book it in advance. When we eventually rang to book it, two weeks before the holiday, we were advised to ring back days before in the hope of getting a cancellation. Luckily, I hadn’t mentioned a character dinner to Ebony so she wasn’t disappointed.

A couple of days before we arrived at Disneyland, Laurie rang the reservations number again and this time he was successful. The woman on the phone explained that cancellations are common so it’s always worth ringing repeatedly if you have no luck the first time. The woman on the phone also happened to be vegan (what are the chances) and she wasn’t overly hopeful we’d be able to find much vegan food at Disneyland. She made a few recommendations of places to try and gave some examples of the sorts of food we might find.

We booked the Princess lunch at Auberge de Cendrillon. Located near to the castle, this is one of the fancy restaurants in the park. Laurie popped in the day before to explain we were vegan, but we were told there wasn’t much they could do. It didn’t sound great, to be honest. We could have the prawn salad without the prawns, pasta and then a fruit salad. The lunch isn’t cheap, it came to around €125 just for me and Ebony to eat there. I did some Googling and found some pretty depressing photos of the vegan meal at the restaurant and it was almost enough to put me off. But then it’s not really about the food, is it? It’s about the princesses, and I decided I’d happily eat baked beans on toast if it meant Ebony got to have a magical meal at Disneyland, so we went anyway.

I didn’t tell Ebony about the meal in advance. I told her we were sneaking off for some special time just the two of us. She had decided to wear her Belle dress to the park that day so she was perfectly dressed for the occasion. I put a little bit of glitter on her face and sprayed glitter spray in her hair and then said I’d take her for a drink. When we got to the restaurant, we were asked to take a seat in the waiting area. As we waited, the seats around us started to fill up with other little girls wearing princess dresses.

After a 10 minute wait, we were taken through to the restaurant and shown to our seat. Our waitress came over to explain what the vegan options would be and they were what we were expecting. Soon enough, Cinderella’s mice scurried past and that caught Ebony’s attention. A little while later, Ebony noticed Ariel milling about in the background. She figured Ariel must have come for her lunch break at the restaurant, so was pretty excited to be eating where the princesses ate.

The Food
We’d been told the starter would be a ‘prawn salad without the prawns’, so I was expecting a miserable plate of salad leaves. We were actually served more of a seaweed salad (similar to the ones you get from sushi restaurants) which is one of Ebony’s favourite foods so she was thrilled. It was really tasty and we both cleared our plates.



Next up, we had pasta for the main course. Ebony had a plate of plain spaghetti served with a tomato sauce. This came on a plate shaped like Mickey Mouse so she was pretty much over the moon. She really liked the pasta sauce and managed to get spaghetti all over her autograph book moments before a princess arrived to sign her book. I had the same main course (sadly no Mickey Mouse plate for me) but with the addition of sauteed mushrooms which were taken from one of the other dishes on the menu. The tomato sauce was from the kids' menu so it wasn’t the most flavoursome dish, but it was a lot better than I was expecting and the mushrooms were really nice.



Finally, there was a fruit salad for dessert. When I’d looked online before the meal, I’d seen photos that looked like that tinned fruit salad from the 90s so I wasn’t expecting much. In actual fact, the fruit salad was really nice… but it was still a fruit salad. The non-vegan desserts look way better and I think if Ebony had seen one of those next to her fruit salad she’d have been pretty disappointed, but she didn’t and so she loved her dessert. It’s not exactly an exciting vegan menu, and it’s not worth the cost of the meal, but you’re not paying for the food, are you? It’s all about the experience and that was definitely worth the money.



The Princesses
Like I said, I wasn’t expecting much from the food, but I figured it would be worth the money as long as Ebony was able to meet a few princesses. And it was definitely worth it, she had the most amazing time and managed to collect quite a few autographs for her little book. The Little Mermaid came over to our table and introduced herself to Ebony who looked more than a little starstruck. Ariel signed her autograph book, posed for some photos and chatted to Ebony about Disneyland. We were at the restaurant for about two hours and during that time Ebony met Ariel, Aurora, Suzy and Perla (Cinderella’s mice, if you must know), Belle and Cinderella. Each came over and posed for photos, signed her autograph book and chatted with her about her day.



Belle is Ebony’s absolute favourite and she was in complete awe of Belle when she came over to chat to us. She gave her the biggest hug ever and had a huge smile plastered across her face for ages afterwards. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen her that genuinely happy since her sister was born. The princesses were amazing, they all took the time to talk to Ebony and happily chatted away to her about Disneyland and the other characters. Aurora, in particular, was amazing. While we were there, I saw her speak three languages fluently meaning that it didn’t matter what language the kids spoke they were still able to interact with their favourite princess.



At the end of the meal, Ebony snuck over to my seat and cuddled up to me and said it had been the absolute best 'me and her' time ever. Ever. And it truly was. You could stumble into Disneyland Paris without any forward planning and still have the most magical day ever, but the little extras add an extra touch of something special to an already brilliant holiday.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

5 Things We Did To Secure Our Home



When we pulled up to the house yesterday after a long drive home after our holiday, I found myself thinking 'please don't have been burgled, please don't have been burgled'. I just had this horrible feeling that it could have happened - and wouldn't it be awful to find that out while you were with your kids? My family home was burgled when I was a child and I remember feeling absolutely terrified that my guinea pigs might have been stolen (they weren't... obviously, but this seemed like a logical conclusion to me at the time). 

We hadn't been burgled, I walked into a part-tidy house (so close to being tidy and then we ran out of time before we left for our holiday) and felt a rush of relief at finally being home. There's nothing quite like home, is there? Even when it's messy and covered in toys, it's still home. 

For the last couple of years, we have had friends house sit for us while we've been away. I cannot stress how wonderful this is. Your house is safe, your cat is fed, and you know that if something does happen, you'll get a text letting you know. I loved having house sitters. It made life so easy and it meant we didn't have to put the cat through the stress of a car journey (she does not like the car). 

This time, however, we didn't have a house sitter. We sent Bear off for a holiday with Laurie's parents, and we left the house empty. I felt nervous about leaving the house empty while we were away, probably because it's the first time we've done that in a while. Crimes rates are climbing and burglary seems to be a common occurrence where we live (if the local Facebook group is to be believed...). 

So, here are a few things we did to try and secure the house while we were away:

1. Got new locks
We recently updated our home insurance and, as part of that, we needed to update some of the locks at the back of the house. You could request the help of London locksmiths to update the locks on your doors, but we chose to go down the DIY route. The weekend before we left, Laurie bought and fitted a few new locks at the back of the house. It feels so much safer now, just having that extra bit of security has made a big difference to my peace of mind. 

2. Told the neighbours 
We live in a terraced house so it makes sense to warn the neighbours before we go away. At the very least, they can look forward to some lie-ins while my kids are in another country. And it means if they hear any suspicious noises or see anyone hanging around, they might keep an eye out for us. I don't think either of our neighbours would ignore signs of a break-in, so hopefully telling them when we're away makes our house a little safer. 

3. Made the house look lived on
I left lights on in the house so that it would look lived into passersby. We don't get milk deliveries (obvs), but cancelling things like that can stop your house appearing empty. It's a good idea to ask somebody to clear mail from behind the door while you're away, though we don't really get enough mail to warrant this. You can set lights to come on with a timer, but I just leave a couple of lights on permanently for ease. 

4. Hid things
This one might be a bit weird... but I hid some valuables just in case we were broken into. I'm aware that burglars empty drawers and rifle through your things, but I still hide the things that are dear to me. They would probably find them easily enough, but hiding them makes me feel a little less worried about getting burgled so I still think it's worth doing. 

5. Checked all the windows and doors
Before we left, I did one final sweep of the house and checked that all the windows were securely locked. I also checked the doors and made sure all of the locks were on. This sounds really obvious, but it's easy to forget to do this in a rush. Laurie is forever leaving windows open so I have to make a habit of checking. 

If you have any tips for other ways to secure your home against intruders, I'd love to hear them.

This is a collaborative post. 

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

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