The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music – a few of my favourite things.

Salzburg was one of my favourite things on this adventure. Exploring the streets and landscape made me feel like I am sixteen, going on seventeen. Rising out into the scenery beyond the town made us want to climb every mountain, ford every stream… You may even find a lonely goatherd.  I have confidence that you will want to come and visit the beautiful Salzburg.  Ok, before I make you say so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night I will stop with the lyrics. I hope you sang along!


We are big musical fans in our house, one of Miss 11 greatest loves is Sound of Music. No better place than to head on a Sound of Music tour. There are a number of companies offering it, but after some research we settled on Panorama tour. I’m glad we did, it was spectacular.

The Sound of Music Story 

First it’s a true story, like actually fully real and learning the extra bits made it even more wonderful. If you have been living under a rock, and don’t know the movie, it is based on the unusual and exciting story of Baron Georg von Trapp, an Austrian aristocrat who married his governess in 1927.  Maria the governess ( a former Nun), came to look after the 7 children following the death of their mother. Untold in the film, the von Trapps went on to have another 3 children, bringing the total to 10. A priest (not Uncle Max) gave the family music lessons, and they went on to win first place in a choir contest during the famous Salzburg Festival and subsequent contests became their financial rescue.

When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938 the family immigrated to the USA, unable to reconcile their principles with those of the Nazis. Rather than climb over the mountains to Switzerland they took a train to Italy, then travelled to France, England and then the USA. They went on to build a Salzburg- inspired chalet in Vermont USA in 1941 and have lived there ever since. They went on to continue to tour as singers.

The Tour

The tour lasts around 4 hours and covers many of the main sights from the film.  You are bused from location to location. During the travelling time, the guide will fill you in on all the fascinating history of the story, the time period and of course there is some opportunities to watch clips from the movie and sing along.  We visited:

Mirabell Gardens – Best known as the location where Do-Re-Mi’ is sung with Maria and the children. This is a luscious garden with statues and fountains throughout, it is a wonderful place to spend some time. You’ll remember the scene where Maria and the children are singing “Do-Rei-Mi” on the steps. You’ll also see the vine-covered tunnel and the fortress that appears in the scene in the background.


The Gazebo – The place where Rolf and Liesl sung ‘Sixteen Going On Seventeen’, one of Miss 11’s favourite songs. No longer can you enter inside as the local mayor closed it following an 82 year old fan getting too excited and as she jumped off the benches. She went first head first through the glass. She recovered, but apparently when the Mayor considered the madness of Sound of Music fans he decided it was safer that they watched from the outside only!


Frohnburg Palace – You drive past this palace which provided the facade, courtyard and garden gate of the von Trapp villa in the film.


Palace of Leopoldskron – this lake was frozen when we were there, but it is the place where the kids and Maris fall from the boat into the lake. The outside of the palace was used as the back of the house. Incredible Austrian views from here! It would be beautiful in any season.

Nonnberg Abbey and the Fortress – This is where Maria was a nun in the movie, but it’s also where the real wedding in 1927 between Maria and the Baron was held.  The fortress  is the real backdrop of the abbey, not the rolling hills from the movie.


St Gilden/Lake Wolfgang – This spectacular vista is seen in the opening credits of the film. It’s even more impressive in real life!


Church of Mondsee – The location of the movie wedding of Maria and the Baron.  There was time to enjoy this picturesque little village, for a walk around their Christmas market and the important apple strudel (which was delicious).

The disappointing reality bit – shockingly the Sound of Music is not a well known movie in Austria, there is no hills alive with music ready to burst into song, nor eating Schnitzel with noddles! The tourism industry however of course are experts. Our tour guide told us he rarely has locals on the tour, just if they are bringing America, British or Chinese friends – all these countries love a bit of Sound of Music.


It was a highlight to our European Christmas adventure, especially if you enjoy the Sound of Music movie. There are incredible views all around the Austrian countryside, and the guides were full of interesting factors. We would strongly recommend it!

Broadway Disney Theatre Tour and Broadway shows – the home of bright lights and dreams

NYC with kids

If you’ve had any sort of a look at our blog or insta you will know that we are big theatre fans in our house. Musicals are life for the kids (maybe a bit for me too!) So getting to see Broadway was high on the list. In fact, Miss 10 birthday cake was all about the shows. 

Times Square ready to explore Broadway

I came across the Disney on Broadway walking tour on Viator, so signed us up. We met our wonderful guide Jocelyn and off we headed (we were a small group of about 8 which was perfect) around the different theatres in Broadway. Broadway is the name of the street in Manhattan which has become the world leader of theatre entertainment. As we walked the streets, we learnt about the first NYC stage in the 1700s in Massau Street. Standing in the midst of Times Square look down at your feet and you will see a handy map of all the theatres in the area. The 2.5 hour walking tour is pitched just right, enough history about the growth of Broadway in 1800s, the impact of the Great Depression, and the more recent growth again. It was active, and seeing the range of the theatres kept the interest, even on a cold NYC morning. A good balance of history and modern day knowledge pitched for all ages- perfect. 

Then, what Miss 10 had been waiting for, a visit to New Amsterdam Theatre, where Aladdin is currently showing. We got a VIP tour of the beautiful and majestic theatre, then got taken to the stage to stand, look out at the lights and dream of being on Broadway. Well for Miss 10 anyway. She was totally taken with seeing how it all worked and getting that backstage view after her summer performances with the touring company of Evita in the Grand Opera House in Belfast. We were then taken to a room and shown a fantastic array of the props from a range of Disney shows  including The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. We got to try on the costumes, learn all about the props and take lots of photos. It was a fantastic, inspirational morning! I strongly recommend it for any one with a love of Musical Theatre and of Disney, and if you love both like us it is a dream come true. 

Since we were staying a few days in NYC, we used the opportunity to ourselves experience the wonderment, excitement and spectacle that is Broadway. 

Frozen the Musical – just ‘Let it go’ and enjoy the show

Miss 10 was obsessed with Frozen a few years ago, now a big 10, is a little past it, but still was keen to see the show. Frozen is a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen of two sister princesses, one with ice making powers. They are close until Elsa accidentally hurts her younger sister Anna while playing. Anna’s memory is erased by some trolls, and the two are separated by their parents. Tragically like many a Disney story, their parents die, and Queen Elsa is crowned. Overwhelmed by her magic Elsa turns the town to ice, and takes off. Through an icy kingdom, Anna seeks out her sister accompanied by iceman Kristoff and Sven the Reindeer. Elsa learns to ‘let it go’ and sisterly love saves the day. It’s different than the traditional male prince saves the day storyline.
It was a good show full of music, dance, likeable characters and lots of ice and snow. It was transformed to the stage well, close enough to the movie and with some extra songs thrown in. Miss 10 enjoyed it, was engaged with the music and impressed by the set design. A perfect introduction to Broadway theatre for any little Disney fans, and a good adaptation of the movie that will engage older kids (and adults too).

School of Rock – super talented kids

Miss 10 was super keen to see this one, anything with kids on the stage makes her want to get up there too! We had great seats in front row of the dress circle, and we were so impressed by the talent of the children in the show. A great energetic production, telling the story of Dewey, a musician recently banished from his band. Living with his long term mate Ned and his wife Patty, Dewey is told to get a job and pay rent or he’s being kicked out. Desperate, Dewey poses at Ned to get a job as a substitute teacher at a posh private school. No idea what he is doing, he uses music to get his way through preparing the pupils for a battle of the bands competition. The kids are phenomenal and steal the show – amazingly talented.

Phantom of the Opera – a classic

This one was my choice – I saw it in London years ago and loved it so was keen to introduce Miss 10 to it and see it on Broadway.  It’s based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, the story of a man born with a horribly deformed face. He hides in the bowels of a Paris opera house where he torments the occupants. However, when he hears Christine Daae sing he dedicates himself to nurturing her talent. Soon the Phantom is overtaken by his desire and love for her, and he becomes reckless. He reveals his love for her, and she responds well to him until she sees his face. She then falls for Raoul, resulting in the Phantom declaring war on the Opera house. The music, the staging, the fantasy, hopes and dreams draws you in. It is a stunning production, totally and utterly engaging, even for a 10 year old. She was transfixed throughout.

Anastasia – fantastic Russian spectacle

Set in the beautiful and grand Broadhurst Theatre, Anastasia and her royal family are captured by the firing squad of Romanov, who kills her entire family. The girl is said to be dead, but the truth is that Anastasia survives. However, she has lost her memory, and is wandering the streets of St. Petersburg. Her grandmother, who left to Paris before the family murder, offers a reward to anyone who finds Anastasia- so she becomes a living legend without any awareness. Many a girl pretends of be her, and two tricksters, Dmitry and Vlad are plotting a scheme to secure that money. Through this these meet Anya (Anastasia’s name now) and finally realise that there are memories there that she did not know she had. It is enchanting and the set design feels truly Russian and French. The costumes are fantastic, and the music enthralling. A wonderful musical, that is well worth seeing. Miss 10 loved it.

Top tips to getting Broadway tickets 

Tickets for shows are never cheap. You need to weigh up are you happy to go with what is available and on offer, or if you have certain things in mind you may need to prebook. Super popular shows like Hamilton and The Cursed Child are sold out for months ahead. Many of the Disney ones such as Frozen, the Lion King and Aladdin will need pre-booked. I’ve outlined other tips to get discounted tickets.

1. The classic visit to TKTS (Under the red stairs in Times Square) 

The classic way to get discounted tickets is to wait in line, on the day of the show at the TKTS booth under the red stairs in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). Most are 50% discounted. However, there’s also two other booths in the city – one at Lincoln Centre’s David Rubenstein Atrium which is only 15 blocks away from the original one , and South Street Seaport. Generally the earlier you get there the better, and often less queues in the non Times Square ones, so head that way. You can buy up to 6 tickets, and fees are around $5-$6 per ticket. 

2. Online 

Rather than standing in a queue, you can get discounted tickets from your phone from up to a month in advance. There’s discounted ones alongside regular priced one. There’s a few other websites too  New York Show Tickets (it’s a membership one costing $4 per month). Good discounts can be also be found at BroadwayBox, TheaterMania and GoldStar, and there are even some discount deals Time Out New York Do shop around these options – but there are online ticketing fees of around $10 to $15 which you need to take into account. 

3. Rush and lottery tickets 

Many productions offer same day rush tickets – which can be the only way to get reasonably priced tickets for shows that are otherswise sold out. Sometimes they are as little as $20 a piece. You need to get to the theatre for 10 am (Sundays 11am) on the day of the performance for them. School of Rock is a good one for Rush tickets. Wicked holds a in person lottery but most others have digital lotteries – you can sign up online for them. Hamilton offers 36 $10 seats per day, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has the Friday forty. Playbill and Broadway for Broke People has the full line up. 

4. Buy at the box office 

If you are trying to see a popular show right now, you probably won’t get a discounted ticket. However you can save a few dollars by buying at the box office and not having to pay as much in fees and you might get good seats. 

For us, we were quite particular about what we wanted to see so pre booked Frozen and School of Rock. We kept an eye on numbers of tickets available, and bought Phantom of the Opera a few days in advance from  Broadway Box, and Anastasia on the day. 

A Wizarding Weekend – a Harry Potter magical filled 3 day London itinerary

We’ve just returned from the most magical weekend in London, perfect for the biggest wizarding world fans. Miss 10 is a big fan of everything J.K Rowling has created, and in essence of our continued gifting of experiences not stuff, she received some tickets for Christmas this year. Together we’ve designed a magical other worldly itinerary for any wannabe witches or wizards in London Town!

Day 1

Start the day with a wonderful walking tour exploring all the actual and inspirational places for the Harry Potter movies. We toured with Tours for Muggles accompanied by Ellie Lovegood (Luna’s cousin of course). We went around many of the key sites from the movies- learnt about the challenges in filming in central London with all the crazy potterhead fans. Starting around the Tower Bridge area we saw the Borough markets (a good spot for lunch even if the Leaky Cauldron doesn’t quite look the same) we explored the area. Now experts on the range of bridges and the inspiration for Azkaban (well the English inspiration in Clink prison anyway), we took a tube to Westminister and retraced Mr Weasley and Harry’s footsteps on the way to the Ministry of Magic. A dander (walk for all you non Northern Irish) through Trafalgar Square to the inspirations for Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley before ending near Leicester Square. Ellie was able to answer all questions, and full of great wizarding knowledge.

An afternoon well spent is at the Potion Room in Soho’s Cutter and Squidge. A magical interactive afternoon tea- with potion brewing (I make a mean galaxy drink), a crackling cauldron to blow your head off, and a full spread of very English magical inspired savoury and sweet delicacies. Dressed in robes, in the beautifully adored basement, seated at school desks, our potion making class was delivered by a fabulous in character wizard. Full to the brim, we ended with a lovely treat from the sweet trolley! Great fun, immersive and delicious- a great afternoon out.


Reading Harry Potter in the Wizard Chambers at the Georgian House Hotel

Then to retire to the Wizard Chambers in the Georgian House Hotel. Situated near Victoria station, the hotel has dedicated a number of rooms to detailed wizarding theming. Through a secret bookcase, we came up to our magical room, with potions, brews, old style furniture and lighting we were transported to a different time. There was even a secret passageway to the Ministry of Magic down the toilet if you dared! A comfy 4 poster bed meant for a good night’s sleep after walking all those steps! Sweet magical dreams.




Day 2

Next morning, following a delicious wizarding breakfast (included in the stay) head for the Palace Theatre in the West end for the enthralling Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It is split in two parts – we did them both in the same day, some people choose two consecutive nights. Tickets must be bought well in advance, but there’s also the weekly Friday Forty when 40 tickets are released for the next week’s shows for the total price of £40.

E0C1F759-22C0-449E-80C8-4FA4C055E9FCThe play is absolutely mind blowing, a full day in the theatre went in a flash! Keeping to the #keepthesecrets we won’t say too much. Other than go go go go!!! A little scary in places perfect for Potterheads aged around 8 plus! Miss 10 did jump out of her skin a few times but was totally spell bound! The end leaves you ready for the next part instantaneously!

There’s a few hours gap between the two performances- we grabbed a pizza and had time for a visit to the House of MinaLima. A wonderful exhibition of the graphic artwork of two of the main designers on the Harry Potter movies has been curated in a 3 story building in Greek street just around the corner from the theatre. Free to enter, and lots of wonderful prints to purchase should you desire. It covered all the movies including the more recent Fantastic Beasts. Lovely way to pass a little time.

Back to the theatre, for the second splendid part. Gripped throughout, the magical performances, wizardy set design, spell binding music, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lives up to the high expectations. A new production, that my theatre loving one now has in her eye for future treading the boards! In our case, a short wait at stagedoor resulted in some lovely chats, magical memories and the important signed merch for the theatre wall at home! What a day- time to rest those weary legs (a different type of weary from all the sitting today).


Day 3
(Caveat we didn’t do this part this time, but did go 2 summers ago, but would make a perfect part to a 3 day magical weekend).

Up early and off to the famous Warner Brothers’ studios to see The Making of Harry Potter. We caught a train to Watford Junction (about 1 hour outside of Central London but easy on public transport), then we jumped on the themed double decker bus and in no time we were transported to the magical studios.

ADFFCAC1-598B-48F9-A396-4247C95C2911After seeing Harry’s under the stairs bedroom, we inspected the table settings in the Great Hall and took in the sights of the sets, props and costumes from the movies.We wandered along the cobbles of Diagon Alley, gazed at Dumbledore’s bookcases and saw many videos of the making of the movies. After a lovely cool butterbeer, we headed to peer through the windows of number 4 Privet Drive and a quick photo with the Knightbus.

A highlight for me was the model of Hogwarts itself. Built to 1:24 scale, it was used in the exterior shots for the first six films. The attention to detail is incredible- more than 3000 fibre optic lights fitted inside and turned on as the night sky darkens.74FB211D-9477-4AA5-AA10-9C919EEEF957

We met some fantastical beasts including buckbeak, flew across London on a broomstick (well with the help of a green screen), and saw Dobby in model form.

Incredible, detailed, and perfect for Potter fans of any age. The gift shop is pricey, but the chocolate frogs went down well! A great day out.

Other ideas:

We arrived into Kings Cross station on our train from the airport which was perfect for a quick search for platform 9 3/4. You can queue up for a photo- it can be super busy so go for early in the morning, or later at night. The Harry Potter Shop takes photos that you can buy inside, but we were happy snapping on our phones! Quick browse around the gift shop for any other purchases too.

Primark in Oxford street has a dedicated Harry Potter section- perfect for some cheaper inspired purchases.

77F2871A-6ECD-4940-99DB-B7653ED20A0BThere you have it, our recommendations for a magical wizarding weekend in London! Let us know what you think and if you give any of it a go.

Tickets for the cursed child, the potion room, and rooms in the Wizarding chambers all book out in advance. The WB studios also can book out so get that sorted too. So if you are planning a wizarding weekend get those reservations in place, otherwise you will be staying with the muggles in the rest of London.

Theatre with kids – review of Les Miserables, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin

les mis

We are big musical fans in our house, there’s always a performance ongoing with the 3 dramatic ones, so any opportunities of a ‘big show’ in Belfast or Dublin and we are there. When I saw ‘Les Mis’ was coming over the Christmas period to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, I knew Miss 10 was just about ready. She’s been learning ‘Castle on a Cloud’ at singing  lessons for the last few months and this recently resulted in a brave moment whereby she sang for her class- even making it on to the school website. A big step for the usually shy one in class. We decided to make it an intergenerational adventure with an overnight, so Granny, Mummy and Miss 10 set off for a Dublin adventure. 

Equipped with the soundtrack, we were excited for the musical adaption of Victor Hugo’s novel.  Set in 19th centenary France, ‘Les Mis’ is the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, ready for parole after serving nineteen years in prison for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. Valjean breaks his parole, and starts a new life after a bishop inspires him through a tremendous act of mercy, however his journey to a new existence, is relentlessly hampered by a police inspector, Javert. Based during the revolutionary period in France, we witnessed young idealist students attempting to overthrow the government and all the devastating consequences of such a struggle.

Killian Donnelly is fabulous in his role of Valjean as he follows a righteous path through decades of war, suffering, themes of death, prison, prostitution and poverty. There are of course parts that are a little ‘adult’ in content, such as the ‘lovely ladies’ for sale. I fielded a couple of awkward questions about it on the drive home.

With fantastic musical numbers, we journeyed through the suffering and passion of little Cosette, her hardworking mother Fantine, and Miss 10 was particularly impressed with the young performers and more generally with the vocal ranges in the show.

I enjoyed the clever use of projected images at the back of the stage gave nearly cinematic feelings at times. It is long, but even Miss 10 was gripped throughout. She barely moved and we have been hearing the songs performed since!

A wonderful show.


We followed it by a delicious ‘Les Mis’ themed meal in the The Marker Hotel in Dublin. It is a perfect location for a pre  or post theatre meal. Often with some theming of a set menu. We previously enjoyed a ‘Mary Poppins’ inspired meal when that musical was in town a few years ago, and the tasty food and attention to detail is still discussed by the two girls. We stayed in the Clayton Hotel in Cardiff Lane. Both  The Marker and the Clayton are right beside the Bord Gais theatre.

Undoubtably a wonderful classic theatre musical. Do I recommend it for kids? I think they need some maturity. For my 10 year old, it was perfect, she enjoys musical theatre, we’ve seen most of the more child aimed shows, she was familiar with some songs,  she could process the notion of war and any more risqué aspects went over her head. I would have more caution for the younger ones, and I will be leaving it a few years before bringing the two little ones in our house. Perfect post Christmas afternoon out, with the three generations.