National Parks and Theme Parks, that’s what I’m going to sub-title this report for our first ever trip to California. You may be wondering why I would call it that. Well, the answer is – we are going to be visiting 2 National Parks (Kings Canyon and Yosemite) and three …. wait for it, wait for it ….. Theme Parks (Disneyland Magic Kingdom, Disney’s California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood). See, I always was good at clever titles.

Along the way we will also be visiting San Francisco, Solvang and West Hollywood. There is going to be a lot of driving, but hopefully a lot of fun as well.
But perhaps I am a little premature here, not a problem I suffer from on a regular basis I might add. You really need to know a little about who is going along on this particular jaunt.

Me – Kev, now 47 – where does the time go? I still feel like I’m 21 although I probably look more like 25 or 26. It’s the curse of eternal youthful good looks.

The lady of the piece – Tam, 41. She is looking forward to this trip enormously as it involves a part of the States that we’ve never been to before and she does like to try new things. Fortunately I’ve managed to sneak in 3 days in Disneyland at the end of the holiday in order to satisfy my addiction.

Child 1 – India, 14 . Apparently the is very important when you’re 14 . India’s musical tastes are maturing as she is. Her favourite band is now Green Day thanks to my gentle persuasion. ‘Gentle persuasion’ involved strapping the child down and playing American Idiot to her incredibly loudly until all thoughts of the demon Williams (Robbie, that is) had been driven from her young body. Just call me Damien.

Child 2 – Georgia, 11 . At this age the seems to mean less except when used in cajoling her parents to stay up a little longer at night. Protestations of ‘But I’m nearly 12’ tend to fall on the deaf ears of her cruel parents.

There is one more participant.

Those of you who read my trip report from June last year will know about Susan. We met up in Florida last year and she is joining us for the last 8 nights this year. Susan is a long-time Disneyland visitor and her knowledge of both the Happiest Place On Earth and LA in general will be invaluable.
She is fully aware that the main reason for inviting her along is to act as a tour guide and babysitter.
The real reason is that once the Stringers find someone who can tolerate them for more than an hour without calling the police, we latch onto them like leeches.

Work on the last day goes amazingly quickly for me as I have a couple of meetings to attend. At one I learn that another trip to China (the 3rd in 12 months) is on the cards. I don’t mind this really as we get to fly Upper Class with Virgin and it really helps to rack up the frequent flyer miles. The other benefit is that I really enjoy the odd Tsing Tao. For those with dirty minds, this is not the name of a Chinese lady of ill repute (and why would she be odd?) but a brand of beer.

We have decided to try on-line check-in for the first time and I duly enter all the information into the web site. Here comes the first problem, not only do we not get our pre-booked seats, we are also split up with Tam and the girls on one side of the plane and me on the other with the galley in-between us.
I get on the phone to Virgin where the lady suggests that we should be able to change this at check-in tomorrow. When I ask if this will be possible if we arrive one hour before the flight (as you are supposed to able to do with on-line check-in) she says it would be better if we left a couple of hours. I gently point out to her that this completely nullifies the benefit of on-line check-in, but the irony of the situation is lost on her.

Tam and I leave work at 3.00pm and return home for a quick shower. Not together, it’s not that kind of trip report.
Amazingly, everything for the 4 of us has squashed into 3 suitcases. This is important as we are visiting so many places that the fewer pieces of luggage I have to heave in and out of the car, the better.
Mike, my boss at work, has kindly offered to drive us the 10 miles to Cirencester from where we catch the 5.00pm coach to Heathrow where we will be staying the night.
The coach arrives bang on time and we are off. I’m pleasantly surprised by the journey with a very modern bus with comfortable seats. It’s only 90 minutes up the motorway to Heathrow and the time goes swiftly as I start my trip report.

Now, I was seriously considering not doing a trip report this time (yeah, I know I’ve threatened that before) as there are only a few Disney days at the end of the holiday and an awfully packed schedule before that where I will probably struggle to find time to get much down on paper.
The fact that you are reading this shows that I changed my mind. The main reason was nothing to do with providing entertainment and information to the reader (although I suspect you are a really quite lovely person and therefore fully deserving of all the attention I can lavish on you) but because it provides an invaluable record of our trip that we can refer back to in years to come. The girls have already taken to reading my old trip reports to remind themselves of the things we got up to.

On arrival at Heathrow we trundle ourselves and the cases across to Terminal 3 where we attempt to sort out the seating fiasco. Much as I suspected, the lady at the Virgin desk tells us there is nothing they can do until check-in tomorrow. However, she does give us some free tickets for the shuttle bus to the hotel and this saves us 10.
We manage to find the bus stop only to see our bus pulling out and we have to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Still, we are on holiday, so we relax and don’t let it bother us.

The Sheraton Skyline is a hotel that Tam remembers from when she was about 11. I think they still had gaslight in those days. She has been dying to stay there ever since. We check-in and have a look around. The main feature is an indoor pool with central bar surrounded by trees. It is quite tropical and very nice, if a little dated in style. One slightly strange thing is that you get a hookah pipe at the bar for 10. This can be flavoured by all sorts of unusual things such as apple, banana and cappuccino! As I’ve never really fancied smoking coffee I give it a miss.

Kev and Tam take part in the 'Who has the hairiest legs' competition.

There is a sports bar, which serves food, and we decide to eat there. It’s your typical airport hotel food, ok but very overpriced. We pay 57 for the 4 of us. Admittedly this includes a drink, but the girls split a pizza.

Back to the pool bar where Georgia decides she wants to go swimming at 10.00pm. Tam has to join her while Ind and I enjoy a drink.
Tam lasts 5 minutes in the pool, but Georgia splashes around for half an hour or so.

We head back to the room and are in bed by 11.00pm.