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Unread 12 Jan 19, 08:56 PM  
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Gill H
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A Cowboy Christmas: November 2018. Day 1 - Wagons Roll

<<Pre-trippie - a word from Jessie


Jessie the Yodelling Cowgirl writes:

Howdy folks, and welcome once again to the tale of our two pioneers. Today they venture over land and under sea, before they arrive at the good old homestead. Let my good friend Wild Gill Hiccup take up the story


Hello again everyone! Before we plunge into the epic journey that is to come, let me set the scene for you.

Usually in November we spend a week with each of our families. Peter works for John Lewis and cant easily get time off in December, so instead we take some leave in November. However, this year, things are slightly different. My dad went in for a hernia op in early November, and wed arranged things so we could help out while he was recovering and specifically, arranged that I would travel to my parents a few days earlier than Peter, so I could be on hand.

So we kicked off the holiday by spending Friday night to Wednesday morning in Preston with Peters mum and sister.





As well as the usual trips into town and to Dobbies garden centre with Peters mum, we also had a trip out to Barton Grange garden centre on our own. It really does go over the top for Christmas and the level of decoration is well worth seeing if youre in the area.









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WDW: Port Orleans Riverside Dec 10; SSR Nov 14

Edited at 10:27 PM.
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Unread 12 Jan 19, 09:00 PM  
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Then on the Wednesday I got a train to Manchester, where I had planned to drop in on some work colleagues briefly, but unfortunately train delays scuppered that one, as there wasnt enough time before my train to Bridgend.

This was my first experience of the new train company Transport for Wales about which I can only say bless them, theyre trying their best. Three and a half hours on a train with no charging points for phones (I asked the guy who checked my ticket, who confided breathlessly that theyre supposed to be happening next year!) and although some of the scenery was spectacular, much of it was spent pulling in and out of the least picturesque parts of various small towns. There was at least a trolley service, albeit a very limited one which had trouble taking cards, and a wifi service of sorts which worked sporadically. To cap things off, there were various delays along the way due to mechanical problems, culminating in all of us being asked to leave the train in Cardiff so it could be taken out of service. This proved to be a blessing in disguise though, as the new train was a proper GWR one with yes! a socket to charge my phone. So I made the most of the 20 minute journey to Bridgend, and then managed to find another socket in the station cafe while I waited for the Llantwit Major train. I took the opportunity to grab a hot pizza slice and a coffee in the cafe, as it really was very cold that day.

After a brief 20 minute train journey and a few minutes walk, I arrived at my parents house in Llantwit, to a welcoming cuppa and a nice warm house. I spent from Wednesday to Friday with them, in a blur of sorting, cooking, shopping, cleaning and running all the errands Dad would normally do, helped by Mum where she was mobile enough to join in. We found time for several more proofreading sessions on the book with Dad, and the customary card games every evening. Since it was too uncomfortable for Dad to sit at the kitchen table, we played on a portable table on wheels which we could draw up to his chair not ideal conditions but we made it work!

On Friday evening Peter arrived, having made a similar but less fraught train journey to mine. He did, however, discover the bizarre trolley system, whereby if you wanted to pay by card, you paid the conductor, who gave you a ticket with the amount of money on, which you could then give to the person on the trolley. From then until the following Thursday morning, we spent time with Mum and Dad, and also had trips out on our own to McArthur Glen outlet centre, where we sorted out a new mobile phone for Mum and went to the cinema, and to Cardiff, where we got new landline phones for Mum and Dad, as well as having a browse round the shops and the Christmas market.







Oh, and there were lots more games of cards, as Dad could sit at the table by now which was a lot easier with four people!

As well as some nice walks.





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WDW: Port Orleans Riverside Dec 10; SSR Nov 14

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Unread 12 Jan 19, 09:00 PM  
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All of which brings us to Thursday morning, when we packed our stuff, said goodbye to Mum and Dad, and walked up to the railway station for the start of what was to be a very long day of travelling.





Llantwit Major railway station is very small and very exposed, and the bitterly chilly wind that morning made it not the best place to wait around for a train.



To add to that, the departure board was showing that our 9.19am train to Bridgend was expected at 9.31am OK, not a major delay, but it meant that we might have to rush to make our connection. As we walked up and down the platform to keep warm, the indicator kept moving between expected 9.26 then expected 9.31 and was constantly changing. Well, 9.19 came and went, and so did 9.26, but at 9.30 the board changed to Arrived. This was just to play games with us though for some reason the board at that station always shows Arrived for a good few minutes before the train actually does arrive. Is this just a local quirk or do other people get it too?

Anyway, fortunately at 9.31 the train did indeed arrive, and we were in Bridgend just after 9.45, which gave us just time to go over the bridge and wait for our 10.02 train to London.

Fortunately the next leg of our journey was uneventful. The train left on time, and we chatted, read and dozed until we arrived at Paddington station at 12.30 bang on schedule. We headed over to the Hammersmith & City line platform a much nicer experience since so much work has been done to that side of Paddington station. Theres even a nice looking coffee van with the unusual name of Collici, which I presume is Italian and pronounced col-leech-y? I initially read it as colicky and wondered why you would want to drink coffee if you had colic

Anyway, no time for a coffee, we were off to catch our tube. Which arrived in minutes and was pleasantly empty. The joys of travelling during the week! And just 20 minutes and five stops later, we arrived at Kings Cross St Pancras, with plenty of time to spare before our train. Which meant our next task was finding somewhere for lunch.

There are several places to eat at St Pancras. However, if you want to have a main meal rather than a quick bite, and want to be indoors escaping the cold, you need to be prepared to spend quite a bit. Even the chain restaurants like Carluccios seemed more expensive than usual, perhaps because they didnt seem to do the budget-friendly set menu that other branches do. We toyed with the idea of busting our budget at the Brasserie, but the 12.5% service charge would have taken it beyond what we could afford. Eventually we settled on the Betjeman Arms, where we had enjoyed an extremely good breakfast on a previous trip.

Evidently we werent alone in this idea, as the Betjeman Arms was extremely busy and we wondered whether wed manage to get a table. A friendly waiter took us through to the large main dining room, and told us to wait there for a moment, and one of his colleagues would soon come and show us to a table. Well, we waited and waited and waited. Eventually someone took pity on us and asked if she could help. When we explained, she immediately showed us to a nearby table and sorted us with menus.

A quick scan of the menu was a little daunting. Main courses were over 15 each, and we wanted something substantial as it would be a long time before we ate again. However, we eventually settled on one of their sharing boards. We figured that at 23 for two people it would likely be more than just a starter size, and the Chippie board sounded interesting. It consisted of ale-battered cod and sausages, fish fingers, breaded and seeded sprats, and what were described as proper chips, accompanied by tartar sauce, curry sauce, bread and butter. Just to make sure it was enough for a main meal, we also ordered a side of beer-battered onion rings for 4.50 between us, and a couple of Cokes to drink.



If you are ever in the Betjeman Arms, I can heartily recommend this sharing platter, but please take warning from us and dont bother adding the onion rings! Not that there was anything wrong with them, they were lovely. But the Chippie platter is a substantial meal for two in itself. It arrived piled high with freshly cooked and enticing food. Everything was delicious and we felt it was a very substantial meal, and particularly good value for the price, given the other options available.
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WDW: Port Orleans Riverside Dec 10; SSR Nov 14

Edited at 09:07 PM.
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Unread 12 Jan 19, 09:01 PM  
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Eventually we found the strength to drag ourselves away from our comfortable surroundings, and headed over to International Departures. We didnt have much time to look at the stations Christmas decorations on the way, but did see the enormous tree sponsored by Tiffanys, flanked by a rather hideous huge blue robot for no apparent reason.

Our tickets were on our phones and it was simple and quick to scan the barcode at the ticket barrier. Usually I dont risk this in case my battery dies, but we discovered the previous night that I had only printed off one of our two Eurostar tickets, so phone was the best option.

Once through the barrier we were straight into the security area. This always feels a bit rushed and hassled to me, perhaps because its immediately next to the barrier so there is no separate queue. The women in front of us were taking their time getting trays, taking off coats and putting things into the tray to go through the scanner, and eventually an official gestured to us to jump the queue and go in front of them. This felt very uncomfortable indeed were British, we dont jump queues! But I guess its OK when youre told to do it. Peter got through without incident, but for some reason the security arch beeped when I went through it, and I was subjected to an extremely thorough pat-down I thought it was only the American TSA staff who specialized in those! Anyway, they obviously didnt find anything, so we were free to join the passport queue. Since we have the biometric chip on our passports we were directed into the queue for the scanners. However, we really wished we had just gone to the other queue, because those who were being seen by a person were getting through much more quickly! There were only two scanning machines working, and one of those kept breaking down. In the end it took a good few minutes and several attempts before I eventually got through. Peter didnt manage at all and had to get his done by a person which would have been far quicker.

We noticed that there is now a World Duty Free shop instead of the previous W H Smiths, so we had a quick browse but didnt buy anything. We had intended to buy some mints or sweets for the train, but everything in the shop was in big packages with silly prices. So take warning and nip to M&S in the station if you want sweets or snacks!

The departure hall was really busy considering it was mid-afternoon on a weekday, but once the Brussels train started boarding, the crowd thinned out a little. And it wasnt long before the Paris train was called and we headed up the moving walkway to find our carriage.

We were soon settled in our seats on the Eurostar. I wonder whether we are the only people who prefer the old trains to the new version? The new ones seem to have narrower seats (important to those of us whose bodies are more Baymax than Baywatch) and they have done away with those wrap-around head supports which were handy for grabbing a quick forty winks. I appreciate the phone charging facilities and theres wifi now, but really I found the older trains much more comfortable.

Anyway, we left promptly at 15.31 and were on our way to Paris. Wed forgotten that there are now films and TV programmes available free on the Eurostar app, and the wifi wasnt strong enough to reinstall the app on our tablets, so instead we settled for reading and napping, apart from a brief visit to the buffet car for lattes and a Toblerone (its so long since I had one of those, its not something I ever think of buying normally!)

At 18.47 (French time) we pulled into Paris Gare du Nord. Our previous visit there had been in March for Peters birthday trip, and although some of the renovation work had been completed, it still looked a bit of a mess. We didnt take much notice though, as we were too busy going down the escalator to the RER trains for the next stage of our journey.

Wanting to avoid the usual long queues at the ticket office, we found ourselves a ticket machine. However, after several attempts using our Halifax Clarity card, we couldnt get it to work. The machine took coins rather than notes, which was no good to us, so we tried other machines nearby, to no avail. Peter remembered that there was a ticket office nearer the RER trains, so we headed in that general direction and soon found one off to the right, where a friendly member of staff sold us two tickets to Marne la Vallee. We used our Halifax Clarity card for the first time for this transaction, and were relieved when the PIN number worked!

We headed down in the lift to Platform 42 to catch the RER line B Sud (South), onto a fairly quiet train. One stop later we pulled into Chatelet les Halles and walked across the platform to catch the line A train to Marne la Vallee an easy change with no steps or escalators to deal with. But thats where things got a little trickier. I dont know what time rush hour starts in Paris, but I would have thought by about 7.15 it would have been slackening off. But I couldnt have been more wrong. The line A train was packed to the gills and we had to push hard to get ourselves and our suitcase on the train. Having lived in London for years now, were familiar with the sight of tourists trying to negotiate the Piccadilly line to Heathrow in rush hour with heavy luggage, and have always tried to avoid being those people. Well, now we were those people! For a good twenty minutes we were squashed up so tight there was hardly room to breathe. It wasnt until we really got out in the suburbs that enough people left the train to make it possible for us to move. Fortunately the rest of the journey was uneventful, and by the time we pulled into Marne la Vallee the train was almost empty. We were soon up the escalator and through the barriers where what should meet us but torrential rain. Seriously, the heavens were emptying upon us. Oh well, nothing for it but to run over to the Cheyenne bus stop and get under shelter. Fortunately it wasnt too long before a Cheyenne bus pulled up, and with some difficulty we managed to squeeze ourselves on the days final form of transport. Usually we dont bother with the buses, as even Cheyenne or Santa Fe arent far to walk but with rain like this, there was no question we were taking the bus.
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Unread 12 Jan 19, 09:01 PM  
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Gill H
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A few minutes later we arrived at the Cheyenne, and even in the rain we were struck once again by how amazing the theming is at this place. Right from the beginning you are completely immersed in a town in the old Wild West albeit one with a Starbucks and a launderette!

For once, there was barely a queue at reception, and we were soon checked in and given our Magic Passes. It was the first time weve visited since they introduced these. They function as room keys, park tickets and meal vouchers, and you can also use them to charge to the room if you wish. We decided not to bother doing that this time, as we had our Clarity card as well as some cash.

As you may remember, we had managed to get a room near the main building for no extra money. Normally I dont really mind whether we are near the main building or not, as its only really a difference of a few minutes walk. However, since we had to run through the still pounding rain, we were grateful that our room was in Wyatt Earp, right next to the main building. We were upstairs in room 1875. Its worth noting that there are no lifts at the Cheyenne, but even with a suitcase, one flight of stairs wasnt a problem for us.

The last time we stayed at the Cheyenne was in 2011 when we shared adjoining rooms with our friends and their four children, back in the days when the Cheyenne had bunk beds. This was our first experience since the Cheyennes major refurb, and we were pleasantly surprised at what we found. Although there is no mistaking that the Cheyenne is a value hotel, there is such attention to detail in things like the fake wood panelling in the bathroom, the frieze around the ceiling featuring Woody and friends, and the curtains which echo Woodys outfit. The cowboy boot lamp is still there, although the mirror is now a simpler horseshoe design, and the previous more ornate mirror has been moved to the hallway.

All in all we were really pleased with the room. It was a good size for the two of us, with plenty of hanging space and storage space, and even a UK socket as well as some USB charging points. Wed read some comments about hard beds, and while its true they were firm, they were perfectly comfortable and we didnt have any issues with them. It was a cosy and welcoming room and we thought they had done a great job with the refurb.

By now it was 8.45 and our stomachs were reminding us that the lovely lunch in the Betjeman Arms was a long, long time ago. So we nipped over to the main building for dinner at the Chuck Wagon. Our last experience of this had not been pleasant. After a long day with tired feet and frazzled nerves, we had found it just too noisy and busy to be comfortable. So it was good to see that DLP had taken a few steps to dampen down the noise. For a start, there were tables themed as covered wagons, which helped to lessen the echoes from the room. The tables also seemed more spaced out than previously. And most importantly, you were now shown to a table before you went to get food, which did away with that awful moment when you stood with a full tray of hot food, searching in vain for somewhere to sit that wasnt full of over-excited toddlers running around.

This was a much more civilised set up. And the range of food seemed to have increased too. As well as the expected staples such as barbecued meats, pizza, chilli and so on, there were various salads, a wok station cooking noodle dishes fresh to order (which is something Ive never seen in a Western, but you never know) and also, this being France, a good variety of cheeses and desserts. True, it wasnt the quietest meal, but we found we were more than happy with our experience.











We briefly considered a relaxing drink at the Red Garter saloon, but it was packed out and extremely noisy, so instead we popped back to reception to ask for our kettle. Gone are the days when you had to pay a deposit for this, and now they bring you one on request if it hasnt been left there already after the previous occupant. I do think they could do with putting in kettles as standard, but I know that its rare in much of Europe and the early morning cuppa is very much a British expectation. Anyway, we went back to our room, and just a few minutes later there was a knock at the door, and voila one kettle. So we settled down to make a bedtime drink. We discovered that the box of Kenco 2 in 1 sachets we brought only had 5 sachets, so decided to share one between us for tonight, and it wasnt long before we hit the hay and drifted off to dreamland.

Join us tomorrow, where we try to cram in as much of Disneyland Park as we can before the weekend crowds arrive!


>>Day 2 - The Good, The Bad And The Wurst

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Edited at 11:03 PM.
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Unread 13 Jan 19, 12:07 AM  
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A busy travel day! That sense of relief when you arrive at your room on travel day is amazing isnt it!

Sounds like a successful day. Look forward to reading the rest.
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Unread 29 Jan 19, 09:30 PM  
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Yes, it certainly was a relief to get to the room!
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Unread 31 Jan 19, 02:29 PM  
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I'm totally with you on the Eurostar Gill! We had an old Eurostar on the way out and a new one on the way home just recently and the difference in seat comfort is astounding! The new trains have these awful hard plastic seats with barely any padding on them that seem to be all the rage with train operators these days

Great news about the Chuck Wagon, the wagon style seating areas sound really good, and I have such awful memories of being that mum with trays of food, 2 children, a pushchair and seeing nowhere to sit!

Thank goodness it sounds like that has changed for the better
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