Sunday, 23 December 2018

Centre Parcs Festive Xmas Break - Longleat Forest

Beautiful Plaza Walkway Lights

Just back from an amazing Christmas spent at Centre Parc Longleat Forest. 

We’ve been to several of the Centre Parcs  (Sherwood Forest and Longleat Forest) over the years but this was our first Christmas spent there. It did not disappoint. From the moment we arrived until we (reluctantly) left it was fantastic.

We were a small group of 2 adults and a 10 year old child so we were a little anxious that we might have felt swamped by large groups celebrating but we never felt anything other than part of the celebrations and the fun.

The park itself was decorated beautifully. We were in pine area so very close to the Plaza and fortunate to be located right on the main walkway with its amazing lights in the trees. The staff did a great job all over the park to make it feel very festive.  There are different light displays all over the park but our favourite was the walkway from the Plaza to our cabin.  Truly stunning.

Every member of staff we encountered were friendly, helpful and went above and beyond to make sure we had a good Christmas time and they always had a smile on their faces.

As we have been several times before we know you need to book your activities well in advance or you will miss out. We did lots of festive activities;
- Breakfast with Santa on Christmas Eve in Hucks was really good. Balloon animals, presents, visit with Santa who also walked round the tables, reindeer food to leave outside your lodge etc etc
- Santa’s Workshop was really good fun and well organised. I’m fairly sure my daughter doesn’t believe and this was her last year of visiting Santa but it was definitely a good way to end the fairytale. The photo and gift are included which was  a lovely surprise.  you get allocated times so no long queues waiting with inpatient children.
- Horse and Carraige ride was lots of fun even though there was a slight galloping incident with the carraige before us. The lady who was ‘hosting’ was very enthusiastic.
- Carol Service in The Venue was good but unfortunately our daughter was a little bored so maybe better for the adults.  We thought it would be Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer but it was more O Come All Ye Faithful
- Pantomime. So funny that we spent the whole 2 hours laughing. I’ve seen some big polished pantos over the years but I think this was my favourite. Buttons was hilarious.
- Christmas Quizmas this was quite good but ran on a little too long and would probably be better with a larger group
- Aqua jetting whilst not a Christmas activity still our favourite and the instructor was really good fun. We do this activity every time and we all love it.

All the usual Centre Parcs activities were on offer but we didn’t get the time to do anything else as we spent most of the rest of our time in the pool. After 5 long sessions both my husband and I were exhausted, bruised, aching and sore but when asked by our daughter for another trip down the rapids we both eagerly did it again. Really good fun and she’s such a water baby she could be entertained there for ever more. The new slides were really good and hardly any queuing even though it was very busy all the time.  It was quite different to be going around the rapids at 10am on Xmas day. 
Xmas Day Rapids Fun

We decided to completely buck the Christmas trend and had a bbq instead. Not sure if I was 100% happy with this but a nice change. Although now we’re home I’m yearning for a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.

For the first time we didn’t take or hire bikes. We thought the weather would be bad and we had paid extra to be close to the Plaza (knowing that was were we would spend most of our time). We did however manage to log record breaking steps and used the train a lot even managing to spot some deer on Xmas Day which seemed like a very special treat. 

We have already been online to get our next Christmas at Longleat sorted. It really was one of the best Christmas times I can remember and definitely one we won’t forget.  Next year though we need to bring lots more Xmas themed clothes as everyone wore them all week long.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Winter Visit to Weston-Super-Mare

We love Weston-Super-Mare and we probably love it even more out of season.  There's something quite magical about being wrapped up in scarves and gloves and going for a walk along the seafront in the wind.

We're quite lucky to only live 45 minutes away so visit here quite regularly but we always have fun.

Our day follows a simple timetable.  We arrive mid morning and go for a walk along the seafront.  We walk past the pier and past the outdoor pool (which is usually overflowing) and along past the beach huts to the old pier that has fallen in to serious disrepair.  There's always lots of people out walking with their children or dogs and it's a lovely friendly route.  We then turn around and go back towards the peir stopping for coffee and cakes at one of the few open cafes.

Next we go on the pier.  Well a trip to Weston Super Mare wouldn't be a trip without the pier.  It had somewhat of a face lift a few years ago and has lots of rides and arcade machines.  Enough to be honest to keep anyone entertained.  It's very cheesy but great fun.  And there are some great rides inside as well.  There's also a great little go karting track that provides lots of fun. 

Beautiful Rainbow Over Weston Super Mare
The pier itself has a little train you can ride on from one end to the other.  Lots of fun for the younger children and I think it costs about 50p.   All along the pier there are information boards giving you facts about the area and one of our favourites is about the water being called gravy due to it's lovely brown colour!  On our visit we were lucky enough to see a double rainbow over the sea which was great and not something I'd ever seen before.

If you're looking for a great day out at a very traditional British seaside town then you can't get much better than Weston Super Mare.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Harry Potter Studio Tour - Again

I'm back at the Harry Potter Studio Tour this time with 2 of my friends Suzanne and Steph.

Every time I go there's something new to see.  This time it was a celebration of the dark arts.  There were lots of different costumes on show.  Decorations from the Halloween ball and a full on battle in the outside lot on the bridge with the Death Eaters.  This was primarily for children to join in with but we all wanted to as well.  We had to do wand lessons and learn spells then battle with some of the death eaters.  We laughed so much and had a great time.  You're never too old.

Even though I've been many times before I still love it and still get all emotional.  I really do believe I should be able to go to Hogwarts and this is as close as I can get.

I couldn't persuade them to try the butterbeer but other than that they did everything.  We had several attempts on the train as we kept laughing and getting it wrong.
Our acting skills letting us down a little
They spent a fortune in the gift shop as did I.

I've said it before but if you're a Harry Potter fan you really need to go and to be honest even if you're not it's a great day out.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Dawlish Weekend Break

We went for a nice weekend break with our friends and their son.

We stayed in a lovely large lodge with hot tub on a holiday park.  We didn't really use the facilities on the park so can't comment on those but the lodge itself was really nice, very modern and had everything you needed.

Dawlish is a lovely old fashioned seaside town in Devon.  It has all the usual arcades etc but also has a stream running down the middle of the town which is all lit up and looks lovely at night.  Like most old British seaside towns it has seen better days but manages to maintain it's charm. 

It has 2 distinctively different areas.  The old seaside town and the area by the beach with the rides.

As we had two 11 year olds with us we saw a lot of the arcades but Libby did manage to win lots on one of the machines so she was very happy.  We also went on the rides lots and had a great time.  The 'men' in our group had most fun on the water ride and I'm surprised we didn't get asked to leave given the messing around they did.  They even ended up in the water at one point.  All in good fun of course.  The go-karting also got quite competitive and I'm pleased to say that Libby won.  Not that I'm competitive of course.
Winning the  go-karts - Dawlish Beach

Dawlish Beach

We walked from one area (beach end) to the other (town end) and it really is gorgeous.  The train runs right along the coast line and it has flooded in years gone by.  The walk is a couple of miles and was lovely as the sun was shining.  We did however get the train back.


Monday, 6 August 2018

Eastnor Castle with a puppy!

We’ve just returned from our second visit to Eastnor Castle but the first with our new little puppy. 
As usual this is a great place to visit with lots to do from the maze to the house itself. 
All the staff we encountered were very friendly and helpful and there are very informative members of staff in most of the larger rooms in the house to provide lots of details and facts. 
there are several different treasure trails to follow and complete for the younger children which looked great fun. 
Having fun at Eastnor Castle

The cafe served lots of lovely sandwiches and all the play areas are good fun with a castle theme. 
The grounds are well kept and ground staff do a great job.
 But the best thing was the way dogs are not just welcomed but encouraged. There are helpful water/food stations for them in the cafe, poop bags everywhere and just a general feel of inclusion. This was our first proper trip out as nervous new dog owners and we were completely reassured. There were no dogs running free (something we are a little worried about as our puppy is a tiny shih tzu) and we certainly didn’t feel as though we couldn’t go anywhere.
Well done! We will definitely be back and we

will be recommending.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Flambards Theme Park

One of my favourite memories from my childhood is a day out at Flambards.  The first time I went I had my best friend Lisa with me, the second time I took my oldest daughter Shannon who is 25 now, went on my honeymoon
Libby with the Flambards Egg
 so it was lovely to go with my husband Jonathan and youngest daughter Libby.

The park is in a bit of a time warp but that's what makes it so lovely. 

None of the rides were busy and we had lots of fun on the log flume.  We went on it lots of times getting wetter and wetter which was great as it was a very sunny day.  We seemed to follow the same group of people round which culminated in a battle on the go karts.  Libby went on with her dad and they had a battle with the OTHER family.  It was very amusing and everyone spectating was getting in to it as well.  Lots of cheers when overtaking took place and booing at any questionable behaviour.  I'm very proud to say my team won and yes, it is important.  All in good fun though.

Next we went to the Victorian village with the chemist shop and the blitz experience.  So well done and so much information and still exactly how it was on my previous 2 visits.  I remember walking round the war time exhibit with my lovely dad and him reading everything on every board.  He sadly passed away a few years ago so was a lovely memory to have.
Flambards Theme Park
Lots of ice creams and a lovely lunch.  Every member of staff that we came in contact with were so sweet and kind. 

A really fantastic trip.  I look forward to taking the next generation.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Luxury Lodges - Clowance Estate, Cornwall

After our Butlins experience we were very relieved to arrive at our original accommodation the stunning Clowance Estate in Cornwall.

The luxury lodges are beautiful and have everything you need and more.  A bit of a hiccup at reception meant our lodge wasn't ready but they sorted it and we were eternally grateful to be somewhere clean.  There was a lovely welcome hamper full of goodies that was a nice touch.
Welcome hamper at Clowance Estate
We were situated at the top so had a lovely view down over the grounds and they were stunning.  We went for walks round the extensive lakes and played the giant garden games.  We played tennis, swam and Libby drove the car on the private land.  There are extra activities you can book such as Segway and archery.

Our only niggle was the hot tub was faulty and we spent most of the week unable to use it.  When we did it was gorgeous.

We had a lovely meal in the restaurant and the staff there were very accommodating.

What a difference to our previous choice.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Butlins - Minehead

I debated whether or not to include this but decided to. Here goes.........

We had a mid week break booked in Cornwall and decided last minute that we wanted to make it a full week.  Due to being so late we ended up at Butlins in Minehead.  It was quite simply the worst decision I've made.  It was awful.

Our first impression when we arrived wasn't great.  Security and large groups of rowdy people booking in.  We did our check in and went to our 'room' or more aptly bomb shelter.  The carpets were so dirty and sticky we never took our shoes off, the bedding was stained, the bathroom was unusable and the whole place smelt of sick.  We let reception know but nothing happened. 
We then went to the restaurant for dinner.  We had paid extra for the 'nicer' restaurant but it was awful.  A canteen with people barging each other out the way.  Undercooked food and dirty plates.

After this experience we were getting very disheartened so went for a walk to have a look round.  The main complex is like nothing I've experienced before.  The facilities themselves aren't bad but there were drunk adults (and in some cases teenagers) everywhere you went.  The main green outside by the high ropes was littered with people drinking, smoking and rubbish everywhere - it was only 6.30pm. 

We took ourselves of for a walk along the beach.  This was lovely and there were other families clearly doing the same.

The next day we thought it might be a good idea to do as many paid activities as possible as these seemed to be empty.  We spent a large section of the day on the high ropes, crazy golf etc but you could not escape the dinking, smoking, foul swearing and general rowdiness.  There's something quite disturbing about an adult screaming obscenities at their young children and the children shouting them back. I went back to our bomb shelter and cried.  We looked at finding some other hotel but decided to stick it out. 

That night Libby was violently sick.  I suspect the food.  It really added to stench.

The next day we downloaded a treasure trail and spent the day in Minehead which was absolutely lovely.  We found lots of old fashioned streets, churches etc and sat at the top of the hill having an ice cream. 

When we returned to the holiday park Libby tripped at the gate and the security guard laughed at her and made fun of her.  Really sums up the whole experience.  Needless to say we left at about 5am the next morning and went on our way.

I'm sure Butlins has it's place but in my opinion after what we experienced I'd say it's somewhere back in the 1950s.  Awful awful experience

Monday, 2 July 2018

Clowance Luxury Estate - Cornwall

Clowance Welcome Hamper
This one is a bit tricky.  We went for a mid week Monday to Friday break with our 9 year old daughter and we were underwhelmed with the experience.

Things didn't start well.  Several weeks before arrival we received confirmation from Clowance Estates that our booking in time was 2pm so we went shopping and arrived at 2.25pm to be told quite bluntly that the lodge wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be available until 4pm as per their policy. We politely pointed out our email confirmation and we were pretty much told we were lying. After some discussion back and forth we drove to the lodge. The lodge was still being cleaned so we again waited with a car load of shopping on a very hot day. 

When we got in to the lodge we were very pleasantly surprised. It was a beautiful lodge with lots of rooms and some really nice touches such as a utility room.  The master bedroom had a lovely dressing area and the bathroom was really stunning.  There was a lovely welcome hamper which although a nice touch wasn't in the lodge when we arrived but was delivered  later as it had been forgotten.  Ooops.

One of the main reasons we booked this lodge was it’s own hot tub. We always book them and use them extensively. The hot tub was cold. We tried to correct the temperature but there was clearly something wrong. My husband phoned reception and reported the fault and he was told someone would be straight up. They never arrived so we phoned again. Again no one arrived so my husband went back to reception and reported it in person. This was all done over several hours.  Again a very blunt, unfriendly member of staff. When the maintenance arrived they said it was because the hot tubs are never ready on the day of arrival (in my experience they are always ready) but it would be hot in a couple of hours. Again in our experience it takes a lot longer than a couple of hours to go from room temp to hot tub temp. So by 10pm it was still tepid we again called maintenance who this time honestly, laughed at the prospect of it being ready that quickly. To cut a very long boring tale short we had problems with the hot tub everyday and were told that there was something wrong with it. No apologies or compensation were offered on site. 

The leisure facilities were at best dated and smelly to say the least. Much below the standard one would expect in luxury accommodation.  The changing rooms were pretty unpleasant and although we went several times we only ever saw 2 other people there.

When we booked our stay through their website we were promised a Segway experience for each person. This was never offered and the staff were so frosty we never had the chance to query about it. This is surely false advertising?!

Every time we encountered staff they were rude and very blunt. They could do with some customer service training. If you are advertising yourself as luxury and charging luxury prices then you need to offer luxury service. 

Every day someone entered our accommodation without any prior notice, request or approval. Although I’m not sure of the legal requirements I’m fairly sure when you rent accommodation for any period of time that residence becomes your property so just turning up whenever you want is completely unacceptable. Several times I was in my underwear when they wandered past or through which made us very uncomfortable.

On the plus side the grounds are beautiful and well kept and vast.  There are lots of lovely walks through the trees and wooded area and the lake is very pretty. There are some garden games which are good fun and the tennis courts were a great addition.

When we got home we contacted their customer service and after a lot of badgering from my husband and an excessive amount of emails we were offered a very small compensation that I feel does not compensate for our experience and this was done in a very aggressive manner. I am truly shocked that somewhere selling itself as luxury treats people in this manner. We won’t be returning or recommending which is a shame as the ground are quite spectacular for a resort break and the lodge itself was probably the nicest I've experienced.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Father's Day - National Space Centre

Happy Father's Day!

The daddy in our house has a serious interest in all things space and astronomical so we thought it was time to take him to the National Space Centre for the day and he had a fabulous time.

We arrived before it got too busy and entrance was smooth and fast.  The whole thing is set up into different sections on 2 floors with the planetarium in the centre.  We had a great time doing all the interactive exhibits.

Lots of learning about space both historically and in the modern day.  There are lots of replicas and real space debris and crafts.  There is so much to do its hard to remember all the bits we did.  We all loved the training to be an astronaut that after doing some tests tells you what your job would be on the spacecraft.  Lots of competition here to be the pilot - daddy won.
Daddy training to be a pilot
The planetarium show was really good.  We chose the one for older children but were still very disturbed by small children and babies messing about so a little disappointed but the overall show was excellent. 

You get to eat lunch in themed space booths which was fun and the food was really reasonable so again we were impressed.

We didn't manage to see everything as there is a lot to take in in one visit so we will definitely be going back.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Cotswold Wildlife Park - Giraffe Feeding Experience

Libby received a gift from her Gran to feed the giraffes at Cotswold Wildlife Park so we all went to watch.

The gift included entrance as well so we went nice and early and had a look at the different animals.  The rhino's are right in the middle with a really good viewing area all around their field.  They were out wallowing in the mud so great to see them. 

The walled garden area has penguins (dad's favourite), meerkats (Libby's obsession) and lots of other small mammels and birds. The gardens in this area are always beautifully presented with lots of colour on show.

We slowly made our way down to the giraffe house to meet the keeper at the allocated time.  He was ready and waiting and he was really friendly.  He included us all in the event and had us collecting large branches round the back of the enclosure to take to the feeding area.  Libby then had to reach the branches up to the two giraffes who stripped the leaves then grabbed the branch.  The keeper had to be extra careful to keep Libby on the ground as the giraffes are quite strong and kept lifting her off of her feet.  Very amusing.  Whilst the session was going on the keeper was giving us lots of information about the animals all over the park and the park itself.  He was very friendly and took extra time to answer all the questions Libby had.  She thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and wants a return visit.
Libby about to be lifted high in the air
After the giraffe feeding we continued round the park having a stop in the play area and lunch in the main restaurant. The park itself has a lovely open relaxed feeling and welcomes dogs which is very unusual. 

Another lovely visit to Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Birmingham Think Tank

The Think Tank Museum in Birmingham is an interactive science museum.  Libby had been previously with friends and said it was good so off we went.

The museum itself is in a large modern building in the centre of Birmingham.

Overall we had a good morning there but it definitely wouldn't satisfy a full day out.  Lots of the activities are interactive so you have to wait quite a while for them to become free.  Plus you need a little bit of elbow power or you stand there forever.  I hate to say it but I've never come across so many rude children.

The activities were generally good fun but there seemed to be an awful lot of broken ones or ones with maintenance posts on them.  This was a real shame as you began to expect the machines not to
be working.

The robot area was really good and you could program the robot to do and say things whilst making it move.  We had lots of fun with this as you can imagine.

There were a lot of areas specially for younger children and a whole village set up for under 5s to play at. The outside area was good fun and lots of energy needed to work some of the exhibits.  We definitely enjoyed this more.

Gloucester Soldier Museum

Now war museums really aren't our usual thing but we decided we'd have a look at our local one.

The location is lovely it's right at the Docks so makes for a nice trip with an excellent choice for lunch afterwards.

The staff were really friendly and wanted to give us lots of information and details about all things Gloucester.  Possibly a bit over friendly and may put some people off.

The museum itself has a lot of detail and the written information is overwhelming.  I think the general public might find it a bit too much but anyone with an interest in warfare would love it.  They do several different trails to help the younger members enjoy themselves and there is a good dressing up area with lots of different uniforms both present and past to try on. 

Overall it was a pleasant trip.