My cat Bob, Bob Buttons to award him his full title, is a cat among cats. In fact, he’s more than a cat among cats – he’s a leader, a trend setter, a feline eminence. We were a week away from moving into our new, first home: all bare floors and magnolia walls. The first thing that would grace our house would be a cat. We met Bob who was a six week old bundle of orange fuzziness and knew we must have him. Being forced to take him a week early, meant he had to live in a pet carrier until our house was ready. In it, he was cosy with a mini litter tray (a takeaway box filled with litter), his food bowl and a cushion to sleep on: a kitten bento box. To this day, he can’t pass a pet carrier without getting in, lying down and claiming it as his own.
So we finally moved in. He had a sniff around, decided it was modest enough and laid down his hat. Should he have had the ability to speak, he would have said ‘yes, fine humans. This will do.’ We subsequently purchased him a bed: the kind that hooks onto the radiator and is made of sheep skin. Did we have a couch for ourselves? No. We had an inflatable children’s armchair and a deck chair. But Bob would look down at us from his heated height and yawn at us: his uncomfortably seated comrades.
He was a playful kitten. His party piece, to rear up on his back legs and ‘box’ with us or his very entertaining crab impression: arching his back, his fur standing on end, ears flat to his head and run sideways, thinking his tiny, fluffy self formidable and terrifying. His favourite thing was to jump into our car and head off for a visit to my parents. He’d lie across the back window, watching the cars behind us. His other transport method of choice was across my shoulders, sometimes on my head when he was small enough. Being a new estate, we didn’t know our neighbours but I’m pretty sure they thought I had hideous dress sense: this orange stripy fur hat that doubled as a scarf. Once they knew the truth of my living garment, their opinion changed from oddly dressed lady to crazy cat lady pretty quickly.
Some neighbours may not have been as fond of our marmalade moggy as we. He was often known to sneak into their houses and either rob things or repose on their beds. A lad living behind us, stopped us one day, asking if he was our cat. Dubiously, we muttered ‘yes’ and ‘why?’ As we cringed, he explained that oftentimes he’d come out of his shower to find Bob laid flat out on his bed, fast asleep. We uttered a hurried apology and ran inside, issuing a futile scolding to the impervious Bob.
Once retiring from burglary and breaking and entering, he turned over a new leaf and became a superb neighbourhood watch-man. During a particular incident on our street which made the headlines country wide, Bob could be seen on the six and nine o’clock bulletins, sitting on the victim’s wheely bin, scoping out the crime scene. Not one detective or police car got by without a thorough inspection of the chassis and sometimes roof. The street felt safer with Bob on the case, I’m sure of it.
So Bob was our baby for the better part of four years. A new cat, Molly joined us and while they are reasonably amicable, they could take or leave each other. Then real babies came along. On bringing our brand new baby daughter home for the first time, we of course worried about ‘the cat sleeping on the baby’s face.’ We needn’t have worried. Bob couldn’t have given less of a hoot if he’d tried. Things got real when the baby became mobile. Bob was now a moving target. But, being as laid back as ever, he accepted this fate and was often rewarded for the tail pulling with a rub, cuddle or playful headbutt. Eight years later and the two, along with our second daughter, are the best friends you could find. Adding a dog into the mix didn’t upset him either. Retaining his alpha status, the dog is put swiftly in his place with a nail studded swipe. He can regularly be seen following us half way to school. Once he gets as far as he has the bottle for, he’ll sit and wail until we fade out of view.
As he settles into his geriatric years, (he’s now twelve) he’s still got that spark of devilment in his eyes. But he is slowing down and prefers nothing more than the company of his ‘mammy’ at night by the fire. Not deterred by working on a laptop or any kind of device, he will firmly place himself between it and me and there will be no moving on him. He’s also decided that he’s too good for his litter tray, preferring to pee into the part of the garden wall where the cap stone is gone and the cavity block is exposed, leaving him a perfect little hole which he’s adapted to be his urinal.
Whether it’s a ginger cat thing, or whether he was just blessed with having bags of personality, there isn’t and could never be another like my cat Bob.
As someone who hadn’t a clue about Disney before we went, I found the advice of others very helpful. Here is my experience of Disney. It might be helpful, it might not but here goes.
Four a.m, the alarm clock went off. The sound was alien to me as I have kids – I don’t need an alarm clock. But this noise grated on my confused ears as I tried to open my reluctant eyes. Four a.m. Bleurgh. Best get up or we’ll miss our plane to Paris. We woke our sleepy daughters (aged four and six) and dressed them through bleary eyes. They were clueless as to where we were going. They knew we were going on holiday but didn’t know where exactly. We arrived at the airport and met my parents and sister who were coming with us. Sitting down to a breakfast that we were too tired to eat, we presented the girls with a letter from the Disney Princesses which said they were going to Disneyland Paris. My four year old looked at us and continued to stuff herself with Coco Pops, oblivious to our anticipation of her reaction. My six year old looked at us in disbelief at first and then quietly exclaimed “We’re going to Disney? Whoa!”
My rising panic about our impending flight was abated slightly not only by the Xanax I had taken, but also by the knowledge that a friend of the family who I’ve known all my life, was co-piloting our flight. He brought us up to see the cockpit which thrilled the girls. A driver from Ezyshuttle was waiting for us at arrivals and we bundled into the mini bus, Disney bound.
We stayed in the New York hotel and it didn’t disappoint. The large foyer, Manhattan-esque décor, welcomed us as did the friendly staff. We couldn’t check in until later in the day so we checked our bags in and walked out the other side of the foyer to be embraced and absorbed into the Disney Village. While not part of the park itself, it contains all of the restaurants and shops and is only a ten minute walk from both parks. Our first view was a large hot air balloon and a lake teaming with ducks and large fish (unnervingly large, especially having just seen a trailer for the movie “Piranha 3D”). We made our way through the village and our first stop was a sandwich bar which was tended by a gruff impatient woman who had little time for my Leaving Cert. French. We couldn’t pass our first Disney Store (of which there would be many, we would find out later). We treated the girls to a stuffed toy each and made our way to Disneyland Park.
Walking underneath the beautiful white washed Disneyland Hotel, we were assimilated into a magical town, with colourful shop fronts like something from the American mid-west in the 1800’s. Little miniature Buzz Lightyears and Disney Princesses were walking around, mouths open, shrieking and pointing in delight. I was glad I had brought the girls costumes so they could join in the dress up. As we were fairly exhausted, we didn’t do too much, just walked around in awe. In the distance, the brilliantly pink Disney Princess castle floats on the horizon, the focal point of the park, pointed turrets sparkling in the midday sun. When you first see it, you can’t help but gasp, no matter what age you are.
I had resigned myself to the fact that this was a holiday for the kids and I would probably not be too into the whole Disney thing but the place doesn’t allow that. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the ‘Disney-ness’ of it all. When the music starts in the ‘town centre’ and the parade comes out with the characters singing and dancing on floats, I dare any sceptical adult not to dance or at least not to hum the tune along with them.
After a ridiculously expensive coffee in Starbucks back at the village, we made our way to the hotel to get our room keys and freshen up. Our room, overlooking the ice rink and lake, was lovely. Clean, modern and comfortable and very much nicer than I was expecting. There was no time for a snooze, however, as the kids were already stripped and looking for their swimming suits, itching for a long promised swim. The pool itself was deep but they provided plenty of safety equipment, arm bands, floaty belts and swimming boards.
Dinner that night was booked for the Manhattan restaurant in the hotel. We were taken aback on arrival to see the price of it. It was very expensive. The food was amazing however but in truth, we were too tired to enjoy it. It was lost on our four year old who fell fast asleep at the table, waking only for a mouthful of pizza, then falling back to sleep again. We admitted defeat, retired to our rooms and fell into bed.
Heading down to breakfast, we noticed Disney characters doing a meet and greet in the hotel foyer. We decided to eat first. The breakfast was amazing, continental food, fried breakfast, all kinds of everything. We stuffed ourselves and headed out to meet Chip and Dale, then Minnie Mouse. We hadn’t brought autograph books so bought some in the shop.
Then, we were park bound: ‘It’s a Small World and the ‘Mad Hatter Tea Cups’, both of which the girls loved. Then to Auberge de Cendrillon for lunch with the princesses. Suzy and Perla (mice from Cinderella, I think) met us at the table and chatted to the girls. Then, as soon as we were seated, Cinderella and Prince Charming arrived, dancing around, then went table to table to meet everyone, along with Snow White and Aurora who came around later. The girls were mesmerised and star struck by it all. While it is expensive and the food isn’t exactly amazing, the looks on the kid’s faces alone made it worthwhile.
We’d heard horror stories about queuing for hours for rides but the longest queue we encountered was for the train ride around the park, a forty five minute wait. I wouldn’t do it again as it was akin to being on the Sligo-Dublin commuter train: not much to see and stops four hundred times. However, it was a good way to get your bearings in the park if nothing else.
Back to the hotel to freshen up and then out for dinner in McDonalds. (Yuk!). We made our way to the roundabout on the Park (as recommended by the hotel concierge as the best viewing point) to watch the Disney Dreams show. At ten thirty, it was on late and I was worried the kids wouldn’t last, it being on three hours after their normal bedtime. I needn’t have worried. They were open eyed and open mouthed in amazement. The show focuses on the castle itself: fireworks, lasers and projections. But no description could do it justice. It was simply…… magical.
We asked the girls what they wanted to do that morning and the resounding response was to see the Eiffel Tower. So we boarded the train at the station located outside Disney village to Etoile and then hopped on a metro, neither of which was a pleasant experience but hey ho. I smelled Paris before we emerged out from the metro station: it smelled like bread, steel and the Seine. The first glimpse of the tower looming over us like an old friend was wonderful, the girls gasped at its size. The only Eiffel tower they knew of was the key ring on my car key and the hazy view they got of it out the plane window as we approached CDG. We found a quintessential Parisian café that served Sancerre and Croque Monsieur made with …..Pain de Poilane! As an avid fan of Ina Garten, I have in the past watched, mouth-watering, as she slices the Poilane sour dough loaf and serves it to her friends adorned with various toppings. My last trip to Paris, I dragged my poor unfortunate husband around trying to find the bakery, but failed. But here it was, on the menu of this unassuming little café. After savouring my last delicious mouthful, I asked the waiter where I might find the bakery that supplied the bread and much to my excitement, he told me it was only around the corner! Off we set to find it and suddenly, there it was, in all its glory, crusty loaves adorned with the famous P, lined the ‘fenetre’. While locals came in and ordered modest quarter loaves, I over exuberantly ordered two full loaves, not realising how big, or indeed, how heavy they were. Carrying them back to the hotel on a metro and train was no easy feat, but it didn’t matter. J’ai Pain the Poilane! So excited!
Back to the hotel and dinner was in the all you can eat American Diner. It, again, was pricey but it was all you can eat and wasn’t burgers and chips so happy days. Into the bar for a drink and then we were spent for the day.
We woke late, had breakfast and then went shopping for our last few hours in Disney. Bought a rake of souvenirs and useless hats that were destined to live out the rest of their days at the bottom of the wardrobe and went to meet our transfer to the airport. More shopping in CDG and then got onto the plane to go home. 🙁
To sum up Disney:
Magical, expensive, busy, fun, and magical some more.