2017 was a rough one for me, I was burnt out, unhappy and my hair would not behave no matter what I did. I needed a break, a big dumb holiday with zero thinking and a lot of magic. I know I live close to Europe which has history, and art and the best pizza in the world – but I didn’t want a holiday that involved even an ounce of thinking. I didn’t want to learn or be cultured or go exploring, my brain needed to switch off and so I set to planning my big dumb holiday.

I could have gone for a beach break, but let’s be honest I would have just spent a week thinking a million miles an hour about all the things I should have or could have done, just with extra sand involved. No, I needed a distraction. Disney World in Florida was my destiny.

I had been wanting to go to Orlando ever since they opened the Harry Potter parts of Universal Studios, and then last year I really got into Disney vloggers as a bit of escapism (if you need a quiet thing to watch with no surprises and it’s just people walking around doing Disney rides – Disney vloggers are the way to roll). Two things had always stopped me booking it however. The first is that it seemed like a ridiculous holiday to book when I could go to Iceland or Rome or literally any place that has real culture. I mean, part of Disney is actually called ‘the world showcase’ and has pavilions from France, Norway and Morocco – all countries I could actually have gone to instead of travelling in the other direction to see a fake version.

And the second thing that stopped me was the money. Disney is prohibitively expensive, and add on top of that Universal (different parks, different expensive ticket you have to buy), the lack of public transport so you have to cab everywhere, and hotels who know you are in Orlando for one reason so can charge what they like. Disney is a very expensive holiday.

But mid last year at work I won an award that came with a cash prize, a cash prize that would be enough to cover my flights and some of the park ticket. And I knew after living in London for all of time that winter is rubbish even in the best cities in the world. So I did it, I booked a trip to Disney, a once in a lifetime trip that would allow my brain to have a break, me to recharge and most importantly actually see the sun for the first time in months.

I called my Dad to tell him my plan, and he asked if he and Mum could gate-crash my trip (Florida is kind of [but not really] half way between NZ and UK). Now, Dad does not have the authority level to make these decisions without sign off from Mum. So I said sure, thinking that Mum would never go for it. But to my huge surprise she was totally on board for my big dumb holiday. I can’t tell you how amped I was for them to join. I hadn’t seen them in about 10 months, and I hadn’t spent actual holiday time with them in two years – this was going to be epic.

Then came the spanner in the works. Dad called me and said “we have had a look and Disney is quite expensive, how about we go to Peru instead”. I had two issues with this proposed amendment to Plan A, firstly it was my damn holiday that they were gate-crashing so who did they think they were changing the destination, and secondly the key factor in this was Disney World – and Disney World was not in Peru.

We eventually worked through the logistical issues and my god I’m glad we did because it was exactly the holiday I had dreamed about. We didn’t do any full days at the park, normally we either had a sleep in or went super early and were back by 2ish. We filled the rest of the time with outlet mall shopping, a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre and going to the Olive Garden three nights in a row (those breadsticks!!!). There was no thinking involved outside what rollercoaster we were going to go on that day and which snacks we should pack.

I wish I had got off my cultural high horse earlier and gone to Disney World. Would I go back? Probably not, it is a hella expensive couple of weeks. Would I try to find an equivalent to give my mind and body a break? Absolutely. Except this time I might do it before burning out.

In Disney you spend a significant amount of time in queues. You queue for security, you queue for the monorail, you queue to get in, you queue for Starbucks and then of course there are the rides. I have been in the UK now for 6 years, so I am totally ok with queuing – in fact if you are British then I personally think Disney is the queue lover’s ideal vacation. You can spend hours happily sandwiched between other people as you slowly inch forward. The reason I mention the endless standing in line is because it allowed for a lot of people watching, and some rather through observational research into what the best age is to take your kids to Disney World. It is a tough one, Disney is an expensive ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday, so you absolutely want to make sure your kids will enjoy it, but what oh what is this magical ideal age?

It’s 29.

Let me break it down for you.

New-born: Yes we saw a lot of new-borns at Disney. I am rather judgey Mc judgey on this point, because I just can’t get on board with a new-born being in direct sunlight in a queue for two hours in all the noise and chaos of Disney. I get that if you book a holiday 11 months ago and then have a surprise baby that you don’t want to waste all the money. But maybe go to the parks in the morning and afternoon when it’s cooler and less crowded? Or if you are going to be there all day take some sort of sun shade for the micro human. Anyway, new-borns are lame to take to Disney because they can’t do most of the rides and they don’t even eat churros yet.

Toddler: Toddlers at Disney might be the funniest thing in the world. They don’t give two flying Flounders about the judgement of others AND have zero logic. Throwing a tantrum in the middle of crowded Fantasy Land because you met Rapunzel after you had asked to see Rapunzel? Totally cool in the mind of a toddler. And don’t get me started on their lack of spacial awareness. Dad managed to push three over in a row as they wandered into his path (we were rushing to join the Avatar queue, there was no time for dodging mini-humans). But for the parents dealing with these snotty sugar covered monsters? I have never seen parents so desperately stressed. After all the money they paid the kid is more interested in the $12 bubble machine than any Disney provided fun.

Children (generic ages): I believe children are the short humans that are older than a toddler but younger than the ones with a swoopy fringe. They seem to understand the magic of Disney a little more, but just don’t have the stamina for it. I can’t even count the number of ‘final warnings’ that I heard parents dishing out.

Teenagers: Much like the toddler category, teenagers are hilarious at Disney as long as you are not responsible for them. There is nothing like the face of a teenager trying to be moody while on the Whinny the Pooh ride. Or like the photos of the entire family with the Fairy Godmother as the teenager folders their arms and glares at the camera imitating their future mugshot. Beautiful, but not ideal.

29: This is the best age. I will fight you on it. At 29 you are old enough to be able to stand in the queues all day long (I only threw a tantrum once in the line and made Dad go and buy me popcorn), you can march at adult speed to get from Space Mountain to Splash Mountain while the queue time is only 45 minutes and, the best thing, YOU CAN DRINK. When Epcot all got a little too much? We had margaritas in the Mexico pavilion. I mean, I still made my parents order and pay for them (I’m still their responsibility after all) but it was a chilled out afternoon of drinking and rides that parents with any other aged children just don’t get to experience. And side bonus, at 29 your child is old enough to be in charge of The Map and help with the planning.

Seriously, if you are the parents of a 29 year old, or a 29 year old yourself, then it is time to book a stress free trip to Disney World. You will build memories that you will take with you throughout your 30’s and bring magic back into the dreary adult existing.

Sherlock and Watson are in a pub. Sherlock arrived late because he got distracted by some eyeballs on the Jubilee Line. When Sherlock finally arrived he saw that Watson was drinking whisky on the rocks and had four empty glasses sitting next to him. Not wanting to be shown up, Sherlock orders five of the same and necks them in under a minute. All of the drinks that Sherlock and Watson had that night were poisoned, but only Watson was to die that night. How come Sherlock survived? All of the drinks were poisoned, all in the same way.

I love a good riddle don’t you? I managed to solve the one you just read while standing out of breath in a side street just off Covent Garden as I held an iPad in one hand and a lollipop in the other. What can I say, I’m great at multi-tasking. This entire escapade was a result of a murder mystery night run by Mega Bus – yes that Mega Bus.

On a freezing Thursday night (just before I was meant to hop on a plane to Florida) I found myself with a team of five other women running from Westminster, to Trafalgar square to Covent Garden to try and solve Moriarty’s devilish plot – I think he had gotten his hands on some weapons of mass destruction? Or maybe he had just spoken to someone on the tube…same same. I didn’t have high hopes for my team after they all got lost on the straight line from the Tube to the starting point. But turns out we were the dream team, who were destined to go on to win the entire shindig and head home with champagne – oh and I also stole a hat.

I hadn’t done a murder mystery event like this one before. As a team you had an iPad with three different types of challenges to complete. Some were pictures of statues or blue plaque, and when you reached the icon the answer to your clue would be within a meter of the statue. The next puzzle type was finding characters in secret locations and ‘interviewing’ them. That worked out well until the robber, who just quite simply ran away. The rest of my team took off in hot pursuit, but I only run for doughnuts. The last challenge was finding evidence along the way, such as a monocle or evidence of a dog – let’s just say we had to use our imaginations for some of those.

Back to me stealing the hat, a moment I shall forever refer to as my finest hour. One of the pieces of evidence we needed to collect was a deerstalker hat. Obviously we were not going to find one of those on the streets of London on a Thursday evening, so we were hoping to come up with something pun based to use instead. Keen detectives among you will have clicked that I mentioned meeting characters earlier, and yes of them was wearing a deerstalker as shown in the photo below. The actor was well practiced, and kept a firm grip on his hat at all times so no scheming teams could get a hold of it.

Enter a curly haired kiwi hyped up on sugar and hypothermia. When we were back on the Mega Bus driving back to the drop off point I waited till the actor was taking a photo for another group. Then I snuck (yes, imagine proper cartoon sneaking) up the isle of the bus and with lightning reflexes grabbed the deerstalker and hightailed it back to my team – victorious.

Anyway, it was a really fun night full of hijinks and problem solving, like an escape room if Central London was the room. Thanks for having me Mega Bus – I will try not to steal things next time.

Oh, and the drinks? The poison was in the ice.

It snowed in London last week, did anyone tell you? There was the initial sparkling magic, then the commuter panic and now the recriminations about why weren’t better prepared. Just the normal British weather cycle really. In the midst of it all I was scheduled to go to a snow themed event that had been in my calendar for a month – I’m not saying that the event manager caused the polar vortex but it is suspicious.

The event, put on by The Post Office, had an interesting premise. We’ve all heard of après ski and dreamed of the glamorous fondu based life on top of the mountain and then in the middle of the mountain, and then at the bottom of the mountain? Well, those skiing numptys are invalidating their insurance – you can’t drink then ski. And not only that, but the alcohol is more likely to put them in a position that they need said insurance. In essence, they are about to get a short sharp shaft up the polar vortex.

On this cold Wednesday evening we set out to prove the hypothesis. At the start of the event (aka sober) we hopped on a virtual reality skiing game and got a score. Then FOR SCIENCE we had some gin cocktails and at the end we needed to do the simulator again to see how much alcohol had impaired our performance.

First problem: I had gin before I got there because it was snowing and I like gin
Second problem: on my first run I killed a deer on accident and then got scared and crashed into a rock
Third problem: I am genetically proven to handle alcohol excellently (I will post about this at some point)

I sat down and drank some (many) hot gin cocktails (holy vortex these were good) because science told me to. At some point I got involved in a skiing based board game that my new friend Ashley promised was “just like snakes and ladders”. No, it was a hellfire with four pages of instructions where nothing made sense and there was a 12 sided dice. I acquired more gin, a snowmobile, made it up a chairlift and then couldn’t get down a black run and Ashley ended up winning. I have no idea what happened.

Before it was time to transition from the fake snow back into the real blizzard, I needed to have my second run on the ski simulator. If you remember, on my first run I killed a deer (not ideal), and by this point in the evening I was relaxed and full of both gin and righteous board game anger. My second run was a dream, a literal dream. On the original I scored 19,607 but on this second run I scored 33,655. So, is the theory incorrect? Do you ski better when drunk? Yeah, no. Promptly after my dream virtual reality run I fell off a chair. So, lets listen to the experts on this one and don’t drink and ski – it will invalidate your insurance.

I love a niche museum. The high point for me had to be the Paris Sewers Museum, just down the road from the Musee de L’Orangerie – yes I recommend it, and no I would not have gone if Dad had not taken me there on the false pretence of getting coffee. Anyway, talking niche museums, the Postal Museum opened in Clerkenwell mid last year and it has been on my list to visit since I saw an ad for it on the tube. What caught my eye, what made me choose this museum to fantasise about above all others, was its newly refurbished postal train.

You read that right. London used to have a tube network running beneath the streets just for the post. It was created when the streets began to fill up with traffic back in the day and keeping to a regular timed route became impossible. To solve the problem they created mini-tube carriages (like ¼ the size of the normal tube) that had sacks of letters hauled onto them, the trains travelled around this fair city making sure the words found their homes.

The reason I took quite so long to get to the Postal Museum is because that darling Postal Train had sold out for bloody months. I had to wait for a spontaneous bright and freezing Thursday in January to be able to secure a coveted seat.

The museum space proper is across the road from the train part, it is unbelievably cute and kids (or you know, millennials with a child’s heart) will love it. It’s interactive and full of fun facts about how the postal service shaped the nation. And it has some working pneumatic tubes that you can use to send anonymous notes to the other side of museum – I will let you guess what I wrote on mine (a risky move since I was the youngest in the museum by about 50 years).

When you head to across the road to THE TRAIN you get some more fun interactive post games, including my favourite where you have to maintain your balance on a moving train carriage simulator and put letters in the right slots. It’s a cool museum.

But ONTO THE POST TRAIN. I had an unfortunate wait when it came to my timeslot (all rides have a specific time, you can’t just hop on), one of the two trains had broken down and there was a delay of half an hour. No, not ironic at all. I eventually managed to hop on the TINY TRAIN (they are not designed for passengers, only mail was meant to travel on them) and begin my 15 minute journey.

It is amazing to see the real life tubes that the mail travelled down for so many years, and hear the history of the men that worked the mail train. They have some interactive displays that are a nice touch and then before you can blink you are back to the start.

I really enjoyed my time at the museum and the mail train ride (excluding the 30 minute delay which was a Royal pain), however it is the price that I quibble with. I don’t doubt that it costs a pretty penny to restore and maintain the train, and the museum is world class – however we are in a city of free museums. I think £17 is a lot for the train ride, and for the price I don’t think I would do it again (or have done it in the first place). Check out the website and make your own mind up, it is a really interesting way of looking at history in any case. And besides, stamps are cool.