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Disneyland Paris & Walt Disney Studios Park – A Must See in France?

July 3, 2017

The one brand in the world that really needs no introduction.

Disney.

The happiest place on earth.  Where dreams come true.  Where fantasies come to life and where big kids become small again.

As a child it was always a family dream to one day visit Disneyland and when it did eventually happen, I remember it being an absolute bucket-list moment for us all.

I’ve since gone on to visit Disneyland in California a number of times, finding each visit as magical as the last.

It’s unsurprising then, that when we booked our dates in for Paris, a visit to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park was top of my to-do list!

With high expectations, we set off on the train (an incredibly easy way to get to the parks) to see if our Parisian Disney dreams could live up to our past experiences.

Disney – A Step Above

Disney set the benchmark for theme parks the world over – they consider things other parks wouldn’t dream of.

Worried your children might see another Mickey floating around the park?  Don’t be – there’s only ever one of each character out on duty at a time (and they’ll never talk for fear of voices sounding different or ruining the magic).

Have you ever wondered just how they make Main Street look so long (and the iconic castle centre-pieces so far away)?  Forced perspective!  As you move further down Main Street, the shops become wider making everything appear further away than it really is.

As you walk from area to area, keep your ear to the ground.  In doing so, you’ll notice subtle sound-effects that change to reflect the theming of that part of the park.

They really do think of everything!

Two Parks – One Pass

Between Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park guests are able to enjoy the majority of classic Disney favourites and a number of new rides and though you can pick just the one park and stick to it, we always recommend the Park Hopper tickets.  They give you maximum flexibility to come and go as you choose.  Bounce around to avoid the lines and make the most of your favourite rides!

The Rides You Can’t Miss

A perennial Disney favourite, Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris (known as Starwars Hyper Space Mountain) is the fastest of all five incarnations (46mph in just two seconds!) and it’s also the only one to go upside-down.  Unfortunately it was closed for our visit but we love the original and can only imagine how awesome this version would be!

If you’re after a rollercoaster style ride that builds up to an amazing ending, be sure to check out Big Thunder Mountain.  It starts off fairly sedately but the last blat is incredible – I won’t ruin the surprise, just make sure you check it out for yourself.

Keen for another coaster?  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is a bit rickety but it absolutely makes sense given the theme of the ride.  The queuing area is especially well appointed and the ride itself excerpts some fairly major g-forces on riders (with a surprise towards the end!)

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was the ride I was most excited to try out at Walt Disney Studios Park.  The take off was incredible but I must admit that I found the rest of the ride a bit uncomfortable – probably a combination of the number of earrings I wear (they don’t go well with roller coasters) and the fact that we’ve been spoilt with more modern coasters.  The music was well-matched though and as a dark ride, it’s a great introduction for those wanting to ride a bigger coaster without seeing what’s in front of them.

Though we ran out of time to jump on, we’ve also been told by friends that Crush’s Coaster is great fun.  This spinning, wild-mouse coaster is suited to the whole family and would make a great addition to your day if you have the time.

… and saving the best to last, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was our absolute favourite ride between the two parks.  Like the original, it’s impeccably themed and run by cast members that never once break character.  The ride itself features a number of significant drops – enough to bring on the butterflies in your tummy but not so much so that it’ll put people off – it’s a balance that can be hard to find but is done perfectly on the Tower of Terror.

It must be said too – let’s all cross our fingers that one day Splash Mountain is added to Disneyland Paris.  What a ride!

Make Your Day Even More Magical – Practical Tips

It’s practically impossible to have a bad day at Disney but there are a few things you can do to improve your experience.

It’s All in the Planning…

Unfortunately even Disney can’t work real magic and this does mean that from time to time you’ll find rides out of commission.  They post the expected ride closures ahead of time, allowing guests to thoughtfully plan any potential visits.

Pro tip:  Check the opening times, expected ride closures and any special events for the day of your visit on the Disneyland Paris calendar.

The Fast Pass – Your ‘Golden Ticket’ to Disney

Though we visited on a Monday just before the school holidays in the hopes of finding the parks relatively quiet, it wasn’t to be.  With rides ranging from a 45 minute wait time up to 1.5 hours or so, the Fast Pass would normally save the day in helping to get guests through lines (without the headache of actually having to wait in line).  The concept is fairly simple – when you first enter the parks, make a beeline for the ride that you’d most like to ride, scan your ticket and pick up your Fast Pass.  This fabulous little ticket will, for-all intents and purposes, hold your space in the line at a certain point in the day whilst you head off and enjoy other attractions.  Simply return within the given 30 minute window and jump yourself to the front of the queue via the Fast Track entrance.  

Unfortunately for us, the day we visited ended up being so busy that all of the Fast Pass tickets were snapped up early and we only managed to get our hands on one each.  There’s a limited number of passes up for grabs each day – after all, if everyone in the park could take one for every ride, nobody would get ahead!  This is great in the sense that everyone has a fair shot at jumping to line (unlike in some other parks, like Six Flags Magic Mountain and Thorpe Park, where guests with deep pockets can buy their way to the front time and time again) but it does mean that you’ll struggle to benefit from this place-saving technology on particularly crowded days.

Let’s face it though, you’re at Disneyland – there are much worse places to be standing in line!

Minimising Your Wait Time

Whilst in the parks, try to pick up as many Fast Passes as you can.   Failing that though, use the following tips to try to avoid the lines as much as possible:

  • Upon entering Disneyland Paris, turn right first towards Discoveryland.  The majority of Disney-goers head to Frontierland (the first zone on the left after Main Street) so by starting at the other end of the park, you’ll avoid many of the larger lines off the bat.
  • Consider the hours of operation.  Disneyland Paris is open a fair bit longer each day than Walt Disney Studios Park and as it’s the experience that most visitors are there for first and foremost, it makes sense to pop across to the Studios first.  Not only will the lines likely be shorter there first thing in the morning but you’ll be guaranteed to tick off your must-see rides, leaving the rest of the day/evening to explore Disney.
  • Be smart about lunchtime.  Most visitors to the parks dine between midday and two – not only will the lines at the food outlets be longer then but the lines for the rides will be shorter.  If you’re able to, plan in either an early or late lunch and make the most of the quieter periods around the parks.  Alternatively, if your tummy is grumbling, you may like to consider heading to Disney Village where you’ll find fewer visitors.  We speak from experience when we say it’s probably worth walking another 5 minutes to save spending 20 in another line – the food cues certainly aren’t as entertaining as the ride ones!
  • Make the most of parade times.  Queues are generally shorter then as most of the guests will be enjoying the paradise as it snakes its way through the park so it’s a great time to hit the rides.
  • Catch the train around the park but do so from Frontierland, Discoveryland or Frontierland.  You’ll find Main Street to be the busiest station in the park.
  • Mums and Dads, don’t wait twice!  If you’re travelling with a little one that’s too small to ride, you can avail the ‘baby switch’ policy – just ask a cast member for information.
  • Splurge and have the parks to yourself.  If you choose to stay onsite at one of the Disney hotels, you’ll be allowed into the parks before and after everyone else, plus you’ll have the added bonus of being able to return to your hotel to relax when things get busy (and then be able to pop back across when the lines die down).

Regardless of the park you step foot into, Disney really do a magical  job of their theming and in creating a truly immersive experience for the whole family and their Paris parks are no exception.

Though the parks are smaller than their American counterparts, they’re a great introduction to the world of Disney!

If you’re visiting France, be sure to allow yourself time to visit Disney.  After all, it’s the happiest place on earth and who’s not looking for that?


Off to Disney or know someone that is?  Pin this post to return to these park tips!

Disneyland Paris should be top of your bucket list itinerary whilst on vacation in France. This theme park has amazing rides, great restaurants, incredible theming and the general magic you'd expect from Disney.  Find out how to maximise your time at the park whilst having the best holiday fun!Disneyland Paris should be top of your bucket list itinerary whilst on vacation in France. This theme park has amazing rides, great restaurants, incredible theming and the general magic you'd expect from Disney.  Find out how to maximise your time at the park whilst having the best holiday fun!

Thank you to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park for providing us with a one day park hopper pass for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Activities day trip England Europe London theme park United Kingdom

Thorpe Park Review – One for the Adrenaline Junkies!

July 3, 2016

We woke yesterday morning to pouring rain in London City – though we were led to believe summer had started, it seems someone missed the memo.  Regardless, we donned our gear and set off for Thorpe Park on the outskirts of London; no amount of rain was going to stop us from checking out their coasters!

Thorpe Park is the closest theme park to the capital and makes for a great day trip out of the hustle and bustle, offering something for those new to the theme park experience right through to hardened adrenaline junkies.  We initially considered making the trek out to Alton Towers but decided on Thorpe Park based on positive reviews online and the closer proximity to the city – having then spoken with others inside the park, it became clear that we made the right choice.

 

The Main Event – Roller Coasters at Thorpe Park

The park is based around a number of large, world-class rollercoasters and is supplemented by dozens of smaller thrill rides, water rides and family rides.  It was of course the big coasters that drew us in though, and those same coasters that will see us return again.  For the purpose of this review, I’m going to break down our thoughts on each of the main coasters.  Hold on tight…

 

The Swarm

The clear favourite of the day for us!  We rode the Swarm back-to-back three times and only moved on because we thought we’d better give some of the other rides another go.  The theming in and around this coaster completely immerses you; unsure of what’s caused the destruction, multiple explosions have been noticed within Thorpe Park and chaos fills the park (or so the theming, fictitious news reports and sound effects would have you believe).

The coaster itself is a towering charcoal structure that guides riders, perched either side of the tracks, legs dangling, through countless twists and turns.  The ride is incredibly smooth and picks up tremendous pace through the loop, treating rides to both positive and negative g-forces throughout.  The Swarm features a number of ‘close calls’ where you weave in and under a variety of debris – under a plane wing, through a billboard, right past a crashed helicopter – all adding to the thrill of the ride.  Alongside the quick pace, The Swarm plays upon your nerves by putting you through a number of turns at a painfully slow pace (painful being a relative term, I love the anticipation!), the most notable of which, the slow barrel roll at the top of the first drop – not for the faint of heart, this first inversion sets the scene for the rest of the rollercoaster.

In our opinion, The Swam rivals the big players in the U.S – this ride alone warrants the trip to Thorpe Park from London!  Do yourself a favour and check it out if you’re in the United Kingdom.

Stealth

As you enter Thorpe Park, Stealth will probably be the first coaster to catch your eye.  It towers over the others and is amongst the fastest in Europe (reach speeds of 130km/h) – a lethal combination.  The ride itself is themed after a retro drag race, with everything from the queue to the cars themselves matching this style.

Once riders are ready to depart the loading bay, the countdown begins and the starting lights begin to change.  Before you know it, you’re blasted off the starting line and headed for the mountain of track laid out ahead of you.

The most impressive part of this coaster is without doubt the incredible acceleration.  Using powerful electromagnets, riders are shot from 0 to 80 miles an hour in under two seconds – an amazing rush!

Though we loved this ride, if we were to be critical, we would have liked for the coaster to continue on a bit longer.  We’ve ridden a similar track in Los Angeles that raced up the big hill and the continued over a sweeping corner and through a couple of air-time inducing camel humps, whereas Stealth hit the breaks soon after the main hill.  With that said, the acceleration and massive track rise are the main appeals of a ride like this and Stealth definitely delivered in these areas.

Stealth was our third favourite coaster of the day, only marginally behind…

Nemesis Inferno

Set within a tropical volcano, Nemesis Inferno didn’t excite us much on first view, but with time on our side, we decided to give it a go and we were incredibly pleased we did!  This coaster which drops into the first sweeping bend right out of the station and blasts you directly into the mist-enveloped volcano, ended up being one of our favourite rides of the day.  Riders are suspended beneath the tracks and weave in and out of the tracks themselves.  Again, this coaster is beautifully smooth and quick with a series of inversions.

Apparently the ride has gotten better with age, picking up speed after the first few seasons it ran – it has matured into a fantastic coaster.  It was so good that we rode Nemesis Inferno twice and could have very happily continued on but of course the other rides were calling out.

 

Saw – The Ride

We’d never had the opportunity to ride a coaster like Saw and for this reason, it was probably the ride I was most excited to try out.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this ride, it includes a vertical lift hill (that’s right, it takes you directly to the top) and then brings you back in for a ‘beyond vertical’ drop of 100 degrees.

The theming inside Saw is fantastic; eerie music, text scrawled across stained wooden walls and the iconic creepy puppet all work together to help set the scene for this unique ride.

Eight at a time, guests are loaded into the small coaster cars and ride into the dark part of the ride.  A surprisingly big drop into the darkness (my favourite moment of the ride) is followed up by a slow corkscrew inversion – the kind the leaves you hanging right out of your seat.  As you come back into daylight, you’re confronted with the terrifying lift hill.  Surprisingly, we both found the lift hill to be scarier than the drop on the other side of it.

Racing around the rest of the track, Saw has a number of inversions that it completes at speed.  We were a little surprised by this ride as the portion after the drop wasn’t as smooth as Nemesis Inferno or The Swarm, but the first half of the ride warranted a second ride on it.

As we were loading onto Saw for the first time, both Nathan and I experienced a good dose of nerves – something that many others face on a great scale so it would seem.  Both times we rode, the ride had to be temporarily halted for ‘essential cleaning’… our suggestion, try to settle your nerves and don’t have a big lunch and then jump on Saw!

Colossus

This is a coaster that seems to divide opinions amongst riders – people seem to either love it or hate it.  When it was first opened in 2002, Colossus had the most inversions of any rollercoaster in the world; an impressive 10 inversions that twists and turns riders along it’s lengthy track.

Colossus is quick but over the years has apparently changed the way it rides (which is not uncommon) – whilst come coasters get better with age (Nemesis Infero, we’re looking at you), we found Colossus to lack the smoothness that the other rollercoasters at Thorpe Park provide.

It does however have a nice little surprise at the end where the track twists counter-clockwise catching first-time riders off guard.  Colossus also has a long track that seems to keep going and going – whether this is a blessing or a curse, we’ll leave you to decide.

I don’t doubt that this coaster was amazing when it first opened – it was ground breaking and the start of Thorpe Park’s foray into massive thrills.  The ride has a cult following and there are plenty of riders that absolutely love it!  With that said though, it is a polarising ride and that fact that neither of us felt inclined to ride it again suggests it wasn’t a favourite of ours.

 

The Rest of the Park

Thorpe Park offers a lot more than just roller coasters (I’m assured there are some people that aren’t keen on them?!) so whether you’re travelling with younger theme-park-goers or need a break in between the big rides, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained.

Thorpe Park Map

We didn’t venture onto the water rides as it was wet enough already but on a warm summers day, they would be the perfect way to cool down (and there are enough of them to ensure you’re not stuck waiting in a long line).  If you’ve got a young family, be sure to take your swimming gear too as there are some great little water slides and a couple of large (but shallow) pools designed to look like a beach which will help keep the kids busy.

The most exciting new addition to the park, Derran Brown’s Ghost Train, was tantalisingly close but just out of reach for us.  During our visit technical rehearsals had begun but by the time we’d realised the ride was open, it was closed again to iron out a couple of issues.  We knew the ride hadn’t officially opened yet but had hoped to sneak a peek at this innovative new offering – unfortunately for us, it wasn’t meant to be.

There’s very little that’s been made public about this ride (which makes sense) but from what I understand, it’s a combination of an indoor coaster, virtual reality, special effects and interactions from live actors.  It sounds like an incredibly unique ride, certainly unlike anything we’ve experienced to date.

If you manage to ride Ghost Train, we’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts!

 

Food

We were pleasantly surprised both by the quality and price of the food and drinks being sold around the park.  Some of our past theme park experiences have left us wanting when it comes to food, and have resulted in us practically taking out a second mortgage to pay for it!  This wasn’t the case at Thorpe Park though.

For less than £7 we shared a meal of potato wedges and pulled BBQ pork (yum!), with coleslaw and a drink – you’ll find the pulled meats next to The Swarm, to the right of the park.  We also noticed Mexican, Italian, Burger King and KFC onsite to name just a few.

You’re able to take your own food and drink into the park too, so if you are travelling on a budget or have special dietary requirements, Thorpe Park has you covered.  It was so refreshing to visit a theme park that wasn’t trying to nickel and dime you every step of the way!

 

Getting from London City to Thorpe Park

The park is easily accessible via public transport and of course offers onsite parking for those of you that would prefer to drive out to Surrey.

If you do decide to catch the train (which we’d recommend), take a look at Plan a Journey or Google Maps to help determine your best route.  We caught a train from Streatham Common (near where we’re staying) and transferred at Clapham Junction onto a South West train headed towards Reading.  We got off after 4 stops, at the Staines station and were then directed to bus 950 which was clearly labelled for Thorpe Park (and took about 15mins to get to the park).   The bus was £3.70 per adult return and had a variety of return times throughout the day – in the last few hours of the park being open, the buses run on continuous loops so you’ll be guaranteed a timely connection.  It also runs for an hour after closing, so if you would really like to maximise your time there, you can.

It is worth nothing that if you have an Oyster Card (the public transport card in London), it will get you as far as the stop before Thorpe Park… we weren’t quite sure what to do when the message came over the loud speaker, explaining that the Oyster Card wouldn’t be accepted at the next stop but got off and spoke to one of the station attendants, explaining our confusion.  She very kindly let us through at Staines and when we returned, we just purchased the cheapest fare (which was just shy of £3 each) to ensure we were covered to get us one station along, after which point our Oyster Card kicked in again.

 

What Ticket Should I Buy?

If you’re planning a trip to Thorpe Park, try to buy your tickets online a week or more before your intended visit.  If you’re able to get in at least seven days prior, you’ll only pay £27.99 (per adult), whereas giving 1-4 days notice will bump your price up slightly to £30.99 and buying at the gate will be £51.50.  With savings like that, it’s definitely worth getting in their earlier if you’re able to.

Of course, if you’d rather wait to judge the weather on the day or decide on a spontaneous visit, you can pick up tickets at the gate.

We’d also highly recommend adding some ‘fastrack’ tickets to your normal entry ticket.  The pricing at Thorpe Park is very competitive so we’d suggest putting a little extra towards beating the queues, especially if you’re planning a weekend visit to the park.  For only £32.99 you’ll get both your entry ticket and a fastrack pass to use on a ride of your choice.  To learn more about the different fastrack options, check out the details on Thorpe Park’s website – the more fastracks you have, the more you’ll benefit from multiple rides on the big coasters.

 

What If It’s Raining?  Is it Still Worth Visiting Thorpe Park?

Though we considered postponing our day at the park due to rain, we made the decision to go ahead with our visit.  When faced with the choice of getting wet but spending less time waiting in lines, or the potential of better weather the next day but contending with weekend queues, we decided we’d rather don a poncho and get on with it.

Having spent a little time in London now, we’re starting to understand just how changeable (and sometimes rubbish) the weather here can be… showers sometimes turn quickly into downpours but on the day of our visit they disappeared as quickly as they came.

We would definitely visit again in the rain – many of the lines have trees and structures to help shelter guests from the rain (and sun on the odd occasion that it comes out) and the benefits of shorter lines far outweighed the discomfort of getting a little wet.  We were there to have fun and a little rain wasn’t going to stop that!

If you do decide to go ahead and prebook your tickets online, Thorpe Park offer a ‘rain guarantee‘ which is worth checking out.

 

We had an awesome day at Thorpe Park and would highly recommend it to others that enjoy theme parks.  It isn’t the biggest park that we’ve ever been to but it does offer a great selection of rides, big thrills, great theming and good food, all at affordable prices – all in all, a great option for an exciting day out!

Thank you to Thorpe Park for hosting us, we had a fantastic, adrenaline-filled day!

Abu Dhabi Africa Dubai Expat Life Holidays Monthly Round-Up theme park United Arab Emirates

Where has the time gone? Another ‘Monthly’ Round-Up

June 1, 2016

How on earth is it June already?!

The plan was to jot down what we’ve been up to over here each month but considering my last ‘monthly round-up’ was posted at the beginning of March, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been pretty unsuccessful in doing so!


The past three months have been a whirlwind of travels, work (school for me, price-lists for Nathan), brunches, socialising and for a week, family (yay!)

Nathan arrived back in Abu Dhabi, having spent a month or so working in New Zealand.  He had a great time catching up with our friends and family (not to forget our cats!) but it was nice to have him home again at the end of it all.

We were fortunate to get out of the UAE on two occasions since our last general update, on both occasions to Africa (which is incredible considering before those trips, we’d never set foot on the continent).

Our first trip away took us to Eastern Africa – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.  It was a mind-blowing trip that left us feeling incredibly humbled.  If you’re interested in checking out our itinerary, you can see the key places we visited in this post.  The highlights of the trip were based around the amazing animals we saw – all of the ‘big five’, not to mention tracking highland mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild (the stuff of dreams!), swimming with wild bottlenose dolphins, diving to spot seahorses and trying to avoid the killer croc that almost landed in our boat whilst cruising the Nile!  You can read about the differences between our Masai Mara and Murchison Falls safaris here too.


Our second journey to Africa took us to Egypt where we spend a whirlwind three nights exploring this unique, vibrant country.  We spent a night in Cairo and two in Luxor, where we were memorised by the incredible history found throughout the country.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much we managed to squeeze into our three nights (which was really only two full days) there – we visited Sakkara, home to the oldest buildings (which also happen to be pyramids) in the world, where we also climbed down inside a pyramid, rode camels and Arabian horses to the Great Pyramids of Giza, explored the Valley of the Kings and rode a hot air balloon over the Nile (and that’s only scratching the surface!)  We found the Egyptian people to be warm and welcoming and had no concerns whatsoever in regard to our safety.  I don’t doubt that having a fantastic driver/guide helped, but we have no reservations in recommending others visit this incredible part of the world.


I’m a bit behind the ball with blog posts (stay tuned for posts on our Masai Mara safari, Ugandan adventure and Egyptian exploration) but you can find our photos on Instagram if you’re keen for a peek before I find the time to get writing.

Back in Abu Dhabi, I’d been watching the newest coaster at Ferrari World pop up and the implementation of a teachers’ special made the call of a new coaster far too hard to ignore!  Along with three friends, I headed back to the theme park and, I’m pleased to say, came away feeling quite differently about my experience there (read my thoughts from our first visit here).  Flying Aces is a welcome addition to this indoor park – the initial climb was fantastic and a number of slow loops pull you right out of your harness – certainly a ride that doesn’t suit everyone, but I was a happy camper!  Whilst there I had another zip around on Formula Rosa (the fastest rollercoaster in the world) and again, felt much more positive about it.  The roughness that we experienced our first time riding it was gone, making way for a smooth, incredibly fast (yet comfortable) ride.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the engineers had given the cars a once over, but regardless of what made the difference, Ferrari World is now a much better option for thrill seekers… I will be watching with anticipation to see what the other new rides look like.

My friend from back home arrived so we had a great time showing her around the UAE.  Together, we managed to squeeze a trip to Aquaventure in (the waterpark over on the Palm, in Dubai) and we have a fantastic day splashing around and racing down the slides!  Nathan and I enjoyed Yas Water World but if we had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Aquaventure – it was seriously impressive!

We made the trip over to Dubai a number of times in the last three months and are finally starting to feel like we have a sense of direction there! It’s a big city and like all of the UAE, the off ramps tend to loop around which means you often drive in the opposite direction to where you should be going before the road loops back around.

The more time we spend in Duabi, the more the city seems to be growing on us! The architecture there is mind blowing and it’s nice to get out of Abu Dhabi; even driving an hour down the road feels like a mini holiday.

We spent a night in the city to see Armin Van Buuren play one of his Armin Only gigs.  We’d seen Armin play a few times in the past and though the production was good the music wasn’t particularly to our taste.  Regardless, it was a well overdue night out and Nath’s excited as we’ve booked in to see one of his all time favourite DJs over the summer.

On their way back from visiting family in Spain, my mum and stepdad swung by Abu Dhabi and spent a week with us. It was such a treat having them here with us!


We’ve also been branching out and trying a range of restaurants recently – as much as we love Chilli’s and PF Changs, its been great to broaden our options and explore more of Abu Dhabi in the process.  We treated ourselves to the fanciest meal of our lives at the Ritz, enjoyed the atmosphere and amazing pan Latin food at BU!, munched on burgers and crazy shakes at the U-Turn Diner and experienced an Emirati fusion Iftar taster too.

In mundane news, my word visa come through (I cannot tell you how exciting this is) which has meant that we can now start the process for Nathan’s visa.  We’ve managed fine without having them but life will be easier once they’ve both come through.  With my visa, I’m now a proud holder of an Emirates ID and UAE drivers licence (you can read my practical guide to converting my NZ licence to a local one here – it’s not exciting but will be helpful for other newbies).

School’s been incredibly busy with our students preparing for (and sitting) their SAT assessments and reports that need to be finished. Last night we celebrated how far they’ve come though, with a graduation evening – they’ve had an awesome year!

Nath’s been busy with work and by all accounts Chant has had a big few months which is awesome news!

As we wrap up our last few weeks at school and work, preparations for our European summer continue. I’ll pop our initial plans here – if you’re going to be in those areas or have any recommendations, we’d love to hear from you! Most stops aren’t set in stone quite yet so feedback would be much appreciated.

Dubai Expat Life Middle East Stop Overs & Quick Trips theme park United Arab Emirates

Fun in the Sun – Aquaventure, Dubai

April 19, 2016

The weather here in the United Arab Emirates is starting to warm up again, so before the crazy heat sends us racing for the confined, air-conditioned comfort of the malls, we figured it was time to check out Aquaventures over in Dubai.

 

This iconic water park sits to the side of the Atlantis hotel, the jewel on the top of the man-made marvel that is the Palm.  From our home in Abu Dhabi, it’s a comfortable (albeit a little boring) hour long drive to reach Dubai on the motorway that allows you to drive up to 140km/h (crazy fast, right?)

We arrived not long after 10am on Friday morning.  For those of you not familiar with the UAE, Friday mornings are the best time to get things done (if your plans fall within a weekend) as that is the main time of worship for Muslims, making the roads and attractions around the country relatively quiet.  Parking is free and you’ll just need to board the minibus to take you to the entrance.

Jumping straight into the lazy river, we floated our way over to our first slide of the day… there’s even a conveyor belt that takes you up to some of the rides so you can rest those weary legs (in preparation for the hundreds, if not thousands of steps you’ll climb later in your visit!)

 

The park is organised around two main slide towers (The Tower of Neptune and The Tower of Poseidon, with a couple of lazy rivers/rapids weaving throughout and a fabulous kids area.  The only thing Aquaventure is really missing is a normal swimming pool or a wave pool but where the lazy river opens up, there is the option to just relax in the water.

 

Our favourite rides were easy to pick as they offered something a bit different to what we’d experienced before.

The Leap of Faith is probably the parks most iconic ride and it definitely didn’t disappoint.  The moment you push off over the ledge and plummet down the slide takes your breath away, and though the video shows you slide through the shark tank, you’re racing by so fast, with so much water splashing up, that I must admit, I only saw a blur of blue. What a ride though!

 

 

Speeding down, about to enter under the shark tank. I remember watching people go down this slide on the Amazing Race and have more of an appreciation of why people would be nervous to ride it now!

 

The Zoomerango would have to have been our favourite ride of the day – we rode it half a dozen times which speaks for itself.  This slide starts off relatively tame but before long the slide drops away into a huge halfpipe.  Check the following video out to experience it for yourself…

The Zoomerango – the perfect combination of thrills and fun made this our favourite slide yesterday. That drop!! #mydubai #adrenalinerush
A video posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ✈️? (@exploringkiwis) on

 

Poseidon’s Revenge was a close tie to the Leap of Faith (in regard to scare factor) – I personally thought it was scarier than the Leap of Faith but Nathan thought the shark tank slide beat this one out for scares.  Either way, being locked into a near-vertical shoot before the count down begins and the floor suddenly drops away is terrifying!

 

That drop!! Nathan being very brave on Poseidon’s Revenge #differentinwater

A video posted by Sarah & Nathan Chant ✈️? (@exploringkiwis) on

Top Left (moving clockwise): The Leap of Faith, about to go down the big drop on Zoomerango, Olivia and I about to head off down the rapids on our raft, and Nathan climbing into the loading bay of Poseidon’s Revenge.

 

We had a fabulous day splashing around and exploring the rides.  The food at the park wasn’t cheap, but was at least served in good sized portions so it didn’t feel as expensive as it could have.  All in all, we would highly recommend a trip to Aquaventure – even at full price it would have been a great day out!

We were fortunate to pick up discounted tickets directly through Aquaventure (follow their Facebook page to be alerted to specials), so popped along for only 130aed each (NZD50 or USD35) + an extra 50aed each to add on a visit to their aquarium.  If you’re planning on visiting, keep an eye on their Facebook page and if no specials have popped up, prebook your tickets directly through their website… you’ll save money on paying at the gate.  Also, if you’re in Dubai around your birthday, sign up and you’ll get a free ticket to use during your birthday week.  Have fun!

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Aquaventure Duabi review

Abu Dhabi Middle East theme park United Arab Emirates

Ferrari World Review – Abu Dhabi, UAE

January 9, 2016

We’ve been living in Abu Dhabi since late August now and before we even touched down here, I was excited to visit Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest roller coaster.  Everyone that knows me, knows I’m a bit obsessed with roller coasters and the call of Formula Rossa just became too much to bear, so yesterday we headed over to check it out (blame it on the post-holiday blues).

Ferrari World is hard to miss as one of the main features of Yas Island, alongside Yas Waterworld, Yas Marina Circuit (where the annual F1 is held) and Yas Mall.  It’s become quite the tourism hub over the past years, drawing crowds from every every corner of the world, but is Ferrari World worth spending your hard-earned money on?

10.Ferrari-World

From Arabian Business

I’d heard mixed reviews of Ferrari World over the past months; most of them commenting on the relative lack of rides in the park and though I’d hoped that Formula Rossa would make the visit worthwhile, unfortunately for us, it didn’t.

The flagship ride at Ferrari World, Formula Rossa is said to reach the mind-blowing speed of 240km/hr and without doubt, the takeoff was incredible!

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Formula Rossa launching

The coaster has some awesome air-time moments but, presumedly due to the speed it reaches, the ride itself is jerky.  Both Nathan and I came off with sore heads though that’s probably to be expected.   Yes the acceleration was fantastic, but it really demonstrated to us both that there’s more to a good roller coaster than just speed… it makes me realise how much I want to get back to Six Flags Magic Mountain to ride Full Throttle again!

Both of us can now say that we’ve ridden the fastest roller coaster in the world, but we also have to admit to opting out of riding it for a second time (even though the line was relatively short) which for a coaster fanatic, I feel that says quite a lot.

The other rides were relatively relaxed and unremarkable from our point of view, but there did seem to be plenty of people excited to be there.

The park feels more suited to families and first-time theme park attendees; the truth is, we’ve probably been spoilt by visiting theme parks that excel in creating amazing atmosphere and have memorable rides.

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Winter at Ferrari World – foam snow included!  The structure that houses Ferrari World is worth a mention as it was very impressive.

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One of the family rides

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The dueling family coaster

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Italian theming inside

Flying Aces, another coaster currently under construction (which is soon to be completed), along with a log flume and another family ride are being added to Ferrari World, which is exactly what I think this park needs.  If they’re able to add to the number of rides whilst improving the quality of their offerings they may find they’ll have more repeat visitors.  I must admit, it’s going to be hard to resist visiting again when Flying Aces opens – the track looks like great fun!

Have you visited Ferrari World before?  What did you make of it?


The most popular theme park in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World is home to the fastest roller coaster in the world. Is the rest of the park worth visiting though? Find out!

PS: Stay tuned for our review of Yas Waterworld which we loved!

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