Saturday, 16 November 2019

Gloucester Quays Victorian Festival

The Gloucester Quays Festival always feels like the start of the Christmas celebrations even if it is held halfway through November.

We've been going along since it began several years ago and whilst it's always busy and vibrant it seemed to be lacking a little of it's usual magic this year.  

As you'd expect there are lots and lots of stalls selling everything from local alcoholic drinks to pretty handcrafted goods.  There are lots of stalls offering free samples of cheese, gins etc but it is a little samey.  Same companies selling the same things year after year.  I'm not sure what you can do about that as there are only so many things that can be sold but if I'm being honest I was a little bored.

The entertainment wasn't as vibrant and fun as previous years.  Whilst there were actors in Victorian costume mingling with the crowds there didn't appear to be any scheduled shows.  There was a carousel but I think there needs to be more rides things to do.  

Word of warning; it is very busy and car parks get full quite early in the day so be prepared to queue.

The ice rink is good fun and I'm sure at some point we will be visiting.  We just need to book a slot.

Come on Gloucester - a bit more choice please.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Clowance Estate - Cornwall

This one is a bit tricky.  We went for a mid week 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 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 where 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 lovely lodge with lots of rooms and some nice touches such as a utility room.

One of the main reasons we booked this lodge was it’s 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. 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 dated and smelly to say the least. Much below the standard one would expect in luxury accommodation.

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 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. There are lots of lovely walks 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.
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Saturday, 26 October 2019

Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon - Gloucester Cathedral

The Museum of the Moon exhibit has been making it's way round the country and stopped on it's way at the beautiful Gloucester Cathedral.

The impressively large moon was hanging in the Nave at the cathedral and was getting lots of attention.  On the day we visited there was a queue across the forecourt of the cathedral.

It was free to view but you are encouraged to give a donation.

We went with my mother in law, her partner, my husband and daughter Libby.

There were the inevitable people taking photos pretending to hold up the moon with their hands.  Bit like being at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It really is quite stunning and with the stained glass backdrop it's quite something to see.
Museum of the Moon - Gloucester Cathedral

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Worcester Museum

We had an appointment in Worcester so decided to pop in and have a look at Worcester Museum.  Especially as they had a Star Wars Collection on show and our daughter Libby is a big fan.

It's free entry which is a nice touch and the man on reception told us about a treasure trail you can follow.  We decided Libby was too old or rather she decided she was 'too cool'.

The museum itself is in a lovely building so it makes for an interesting walk round.

It was the normal exhibits on show describing the local area and its history.  On the plus side the Star Wars exhibit was good fun.  Lots of original toys and merchandise from the 70's which I remember well (showing my age unfortunately).  Libby was intrigued by how big the movies were 'back then'.
Star Wars Exhibit - Worcester Museum
Over all it was a nice albeit brief visit and a little surprise on a day with a boring appointment.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

'Incarcerated' - Escape Room - Bristol

What a great time we had.

Have to say when we arrived my first impression was not great.  It's located in a terraced house on a general street.  Not quite what we expected.

There were four of us participating; myself and husband and another couple.  The man running it explained how it all worked and also gave us the option to change the theme if we wanted.  We decided to stick to our original choice and went for the War Spy Theme.  He also explained that due to the extreme heat the rooms did get quite warm so he happily sold us a bottle of water each!

He locked us in and we were off.  I've never done an Escape Room before so it was all new to me.  You have a certain amount of time to work out all the clues and find the key to get out.  One of the group had done several so he knew we had to move fast.  There were lots of clues and puzzles to solve.

We managed to work quite well together and after 53 minutes we found the key and Escaped!  We were very excited and of course celebrated at a bar with several drinks.

Definitely have a go at an Escape Room as they're great fun.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Harts Barn Cookery School - Family Cooking Session

We've just got home from a really fun day at the Harts Barn Cookery School. 

We booked a family session for 4 hours where us and other families would be cooking a 3 course meal. 

It was great fun from start to finish.  The lady running it was really friendly and nothing was too much trouble.

We made a watercress soup for starters with flatbreads.  I was dubious about the soup as I'm definitely a tomato soup person but it was delicious.  The flatbreads were great and so simple to make.  Our main course was frittata; we did a veggie one and a meat one to please everyone.  Unfortunately these went wrong and to be honest were awful.  Libby did a mean salad though.  Desserts was meringues which we made and we could decorate how we wanted.  I have to say ours which were a bit of a play on a strawberry shortcake were divine. 

The whole day went really well.  The booking was simple and easy, the teacher was lovely, the lady doing the tidying was helpful and the facilities were lovely (apart from the blow torch which broke oops).  The setting of the cookery school is lovely in the heart of the Forest of Dean and due to lovely weather we ate everything outside.

I cannot recommend this highly enough and we will be back.

Stroud Outdoor Swimming Pool

Bit of a quick visit to this one. 

It was during the very very hot weather and we were desperate for a cool down.  We had to choose between Stroud (our closest) or Cheltenham (quite a bit further away and in the centre of town).  Time and ease lead us to Stroud.

The pool itself is large with an extra toddler pool.  When we arrived the main pool was sectioned off and it looked like only 2 small sections were usable.  The rest was closed.  The toddler pool was also closed.

The water was cool which was our reason to be there but overall its a very run down facility that either needs updating or replacing.  A real shame as outdoor pools are few and far between and this one could be really good if some money was spent on it.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Woolacombe Bay Beach Area

Last minute decision to have a day at the beach and what a fabulous beach we chose.

Its quite a drive from home but after 2hr 45minutes we arrived.  The beach is absolutely lovely but the sea was a long way out. We were dry before we reached our towels after the walk up from the water!  We made the walk several times and felt it the next day.

We set ourselves up and went down to the water.  Libby had a new boogie board and was determined to try it out.  She had lots of fun and many hours in the waves and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole atmosphere.

The beach was crowded but it was a sunny day in the school holidays so I wouldn't expect anything else.  Not sure what the facilities are like as we took everything with us.  There seemed to be a steady flow of people coming past with hot food and drinks so I assume there were several place.

It really is an old fashioned British seaside at its best without all the cheesy stuff.  We shall definitely be back.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

National Justice Museum - Nottingham

A break visiting family included a trip to the National Justice Museum in Nottingham. 

As someone who is interested in all things crime (other than committing it of course!) I was very intrigued and definitely looking forward to this trip.

We booked our group ticket on line and when we arrived we were given our wristbands with our 'convict number' on them.  The numbers corresponded to different information around the museum which would tell you what your crime was, what sentence you were given etc.  The idea was that everyone in the group got a different number unfortunately several of ours were duplicated which was a little disappointing.  We did discover that overall we were a sorry bunch of pickpocketers, silk stocking smugglers etc not a murderer in sight!

The museum is actually the old court house and is really interesting.  There's a mock Witch Trial with actors that you can attend which was at best is a bit silly but not really worth the time it took to watch.  There's also a 'hanging' you can attend but again it's a little disappointing.  Other than that the museum is great.  Lots and lots of facts.  Lots of interesting exhibits and the ship taking convicts to Australia is done very well.  You can read a diary of several different characters as they embark on their new life.  It's really worth taking the time to read each of their diary entries.

The café is basic but really good.  They were very helpful and made something to order that wasn't on the menu with no complaints and lots of friendly chat.

There's an exhibit at the entrance which you can see for free which covers different areas of crime detection; DNA, fingerprinting etc. and is really good.

Overall a good place to visit and one I would recommend for all ages. 

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Symonds Yat Day Trip

On the first Sunday of the school summer holidays we decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and go for a trip to Symonds Yat.  It really is an area of natural beauty and is absolutely stunning.

We parked in the main car park and decided to go for a walk along the river.  There's a path that runs alongside the river past the hotels and tea rooms that is easily accessible.  We only walked for a while as we wanted to go for a boat trip and needed to keep an eye on the times.  Our walk took us past a tree swing that someone had kindly left behind and Libby had great fun swinging out over the water.
Symonds Yat Rope Swing
When it was time for the boat trip we made our way back to the main tourist area and boarded 'The Kingfisher' which was a 40 minute cruise along the River Wye with commentary.  This was lovely and breezy on such a warm day so we all enjoyed the cool air.  There are refreshments available on board and its really very reasonably priced.  The commentary is a little dated with lots and lots and LOTS about salmon fishing but the trip is still worth it.

After the boat trip we went up to the viewing point (I have to confess we drove up as it was so hot) stopping for a bite to eat at the café at the top.  We were very impressed by the quantity of choices offered for vegetarians and the food in general was lovely.

The view from the top is amazing and you can see right across the Wye Valley with the river running below.  We stood for ages watching the view and taking it all in and for any Harry Potter fans this is where some of the scenes The Deathly Hallows were filmed.
Symonds Yat View Point
Wye Valley

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Whipsnade Safari Park Sunset Session

A trip to our favourite safari park was made even more special by attending the Sunset session at Whipsnade Safari Park.

We arrived just before 6 and after a short queue we parked up and made our way to the entrance.  Whilst there were a lot of people milling around it didn't seem crowded at all.

Once we were booked in everyone dispersed to different parts of the park.  We made our way to the chimpanzees who unfortunately didn't make an appearance so we set off in search of brown bears and weren't disappointed.  They were out and very playful.  This seemed to be the theme for most of the animals.  The lion enclosure is fabulous and we got to see the pack up close, personal and very active. 
Daddy and daughter time at Whipsnade Wildlife Park

Next we made our way to the tigers who were very active and playful tumbling about with each other.  Each animal we visited was active and it was a pleasure to witness them at a different time of day than normal.

There were refreshment kiosks all round the park serving light refreshments but unfortunately we chose the wrong way when entering the park and completely missed the enormous food court serving lots of different types of hot food in trucks - oops!

We had pre booked and paid for a behind the scenes elephant care tour.  It was really educational and informative.  The keeper was really friendly and explained lots of unusual details.  Who knew that elephants on average sleep only 4 hours in a 24 hour period - not us!  We got to see the way care has changed over the decades and the latest most modern building in use.  Of course we got to see the elephants up close as well especially the youngest 'Sam' who was adorable and very playful.
Sam the elephant
We managed a trip round on the steam train which was fun even though I've been riding that train for 40 years.  Lots of information from the driver.  This is an extra cost as well but only a few pounds.

The evening session is only 4 hours so is a bit of a whistle stop tour but we shall definitely be returning next year although we'll probably book to stay somewhere overnight as we didn't arrive back in Gloucester until the small hours with a very fast asleep 10 year old mind you we slept pretty well that night.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Northern Cities Cruise Royal Caribbean 2019

We've been on several cruises before but by far my favourite was to Norway and the Fjords.  This time we chose to visit the Norwegian capital Oslo and several other major northern cities of Europe.
Independence of the Seas Promenade

We went on our favourite ship Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.  We love everything about this ship and my favourite place is the cantilever spa pools - one on either side of the ship.  It's a great place to view everything and an added bonus that no children are allowed.

Libby our daughter was finally (after years of waiting) tall enough to try the flowrider.  We booked a group lesson for early on the first morning so she could try it out without large numbers of people watching.  Unfortunately after arriving and waiting for over 40 minutes no one turned up.  She was very disappointed but the staff admitted they had completely forgotten so arranged another lesson just for her and her dad the next day.  It was fabulous.  The 2 instructors were really good fun and by the end of the session she was doing great.  It was used many times over the week and she gained quite a reputation amongst the hardened surfer men who cheered her on and were great with her.  I on the other hand chose to do the recording and photographs.
Libby surfing on the Flowrider
Our dining choice was to sit at a table with another family.  This can sometimes work and be fun or you can get seated with people who are total opposites.  This time we were lucky and enjoyed a week with a lovely mum and her son.  We had lots of laughs with both them and the dining room staff who were as always absolutely fabulous going above and beyond to help and make it very special.  I celebrated my birthday on board and our table was treated to a specially made dinner that happened to be my favourites (I had mentioned this to one of the waiters earlier in the week) - well done Royal Caribbean.

We did a cupcake decorating class which again was great fun and enjoyed by all.  Unfortunately, my husband turned out to be the most creative and his stiletto cupcake design was stunning - we'll never live it down.
Jonathan's masterpiece!
Why did it have to be so good?
As for the cities we visited; Oslo, Hamburg and Brugee they were all lovely.  Oslo was stunning with lots to do and very friendly people who couldn't do enough to help.  If you get the chance visit Vigeland Sculpture Park as its quite something to see.  Hamburg was a little functional but still a lovely place to visit, the departure was beautiful and we got lots of waving from people on the banks. The lake in the centre of the city is beautiful and surrounded by stunning houses and different embassies.  Brugee was, as always, gorgeous.  A stunning historical city with lovely waterways, medieval buildings and lots and lots of chocolate shops.  Libby's favourite was obviously Brugee and she shopped til she dropped - it took us many weeks to eat all the chocolate she bought (a difficult job but someone had to do it).

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo
We had a lovely week and cannot wait to return.  I truly feel as though I left a little piece of my heart in Norway and maybe someday this is where I'll end up.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

We The Curios Bristol Planetarium

As a surprise for my husband Jonathan who loves anything astronomical I booked an adult only session at the Bristol Planetarium.

The session was in 3D and was really well done.  Usually I struggle with 3D due to sight problems but this one worked perfectly.  The effect of us flying over Earth was breath taking and when we landed on another planet the droplet effect was mesmerizing.
The night sky at Bristol Planetarium
The show itself was well presented but the presenter whilst pleasant would have suited a much younger audience.

There were refreshments on offer and overall was a really nice evening that I would recommend to other lovers of the night sky.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is a beautiful place to visit with so many fun things to do.  Each time we visit we find something different to do.

It was another lovely day and the sun was shining as we arrived.
Lovely view of Warwick Castle
 We had a lovely walk round the grounds reading all about the history before embarking on a trip round the Horrible Histories Maze.  We've done this before but still managed to get thoroughly lost.  We didn't cheat and worked our way all round learning all the horrible facts in the usual gruesome manner from WW1 to the Tudors.  Great fun.  Plus the younger ones can get a special card stamped at each time era along the way.  Mind you they seem to just love running around getting more and more lost.

Next we went for a wander through the house itself which is really lovely.  There are also several trails children can do in here but Libby chose not too (I think she may be 'getting too old' for that sort of thing).  There are always enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff at hand to offer interesting details but if you prefer there's a lot of information about each room.  I love the grandeur and opulence particularly the bedrooms.

We decided to take Libby on the dungeons tour and we're very pleased we did.  She loved it even though she was scared for most of the way round.  The courtroom is really interesting and the whole tour is funny and interactive.  Be warned you will jump at the last bit.  I'd done it before and knew what was coming but still jumped out of my seat.
The Dungeon Tour
We managed a bit of archery and despite Libby being useless last time we tried it at Centre Parcs she managed to score a bullseye.  Well done Libby.

Food is really reasonable and varied.  Lots of different choices and vegetarians also had plenty to choose from.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Primrose Vale Easter Trail

I've been told that the Easter Trail at Primrose Vale in Cheltenham is eggcellent so we decided to give it a go and we had great fun.  We went quite early so not many other people there. 

They do a trail for under 5's and one for the older children.  You basically follow the numbers and do the activity at each place writing down your answer on a sheet before going back to the start and claiming your prize.

The games really were inventive with lots of silly ideas.  Dragging someone round a pretend lake on a sleigh, lining lots of wellies up in different order, an egg and spoon race over an obstacle course....... the list was endless.
Me winning the race!

Battleships on the farm
We laughed so much and the fact that me with an injured knee won the obstacle course does show that slow and steady wins the race.

If you get the chance go along next Easter and I'm sure you'll have an eggstemely good time.

Sorry for the puns!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Birmingham Sea Life Centre

Our first trip to an aquarium for a very long time.  I have to say fish are not really my thing.  In fact a couple of years ago I went on a break with a friend to Greece and we were paddling in the sea when several fish swam by and touched my feet.  I jumped in to my friends arms and remained there whilst she carried me out of the water - I'm so brave.

Anyway, back to the aquarium.  You enter at the bottom and sort of wind your way up along a path.  There are lots of different displays and tanks full of weird and wonderful fish.  It does get a little crowded but I have to say the fish are quite mesmerizing.

There's a penguin area that is shockingly small with no natural light.

When you get to the top there's a open tank full of manta rays which again is quite impressive.  Lots of warning signs asking you not to touch them that were completely ignored with people putting their hands in left right and centre.  No members of staff intervened to stop them either.

There's also the obligatory tunnel you walk through.  It's quite short and again very crowded.  It was lovely to see some turtles swimming about but it seemed quite cramped for them as well.  

Saturday, 9 March 2019

The Wild Place Project

Another day another animal park.  This time we visited Bristol Wildlife Project which is on the outskirts of Bristol and a branch of Bristol Zoo.  It's quite a small place and to be honest it's a little run down.

There were lots of animals to see and the wolf enclosure is always very active.  I've been to this park several times over the years and we always see the wolf pack.  The viewing area has a glass panel quite low down so when they walk past you do feel very close to them.

The giraffe enclosure is quite impressive but I'm never sure how much conservation occurs at this park and there never seems to be anyone about to ask.

The play areas are well used and could do with an update.  We did go out of season but have been here in mid season and it's the same.  The mud walk is closed but it was closed last time as well and like the play areas it is in need of some TLC.

The lunch facilities are limited at best.  We went to grab a sandwich just after 11 from the café and they hadn't had their delivery yet.  Surely a delivery of lunch provisions should arrive before lunch?  The staff were quite rude suggesting bluntly that we make do with a cupcake. 

Overall I would say this is an ok few hours out but not really for older children.  Our daughter was quite bored and was ready to go after a couple of hours.  Oh and she was hungry as well.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Bristol Film Festival

My husband Jonathan and daughter Libby went to the Bristol Film Festival to watch the original Jurassic Park film and enjoyed all the fun activities they had to offer.

Libby has been a massive dinosaur fan since she was tiny so we thought she might enjoy the original film in a museum.

The museum itself was only partially open to the film festival people so she didn't really get to see too much which she was quite disappointed by.  She thought it would be fun to have a look round at night in the spooky darkness but oh well.

They did however have a dinosaur wandering around and she loved that.  I think that was probably her favourite part of the evening.  She did enjoy watching the film but the audience was definitely made up of hardened dinosaur fans who were mostly middle aged men.  Oops.  Oh well.
Meeting a Velociraptor at Bristol Film Festival

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Noah's Ark Zoo - Bristol

We visited the park today and I have to say we’ve come away feeling terrible.

The ‘zoo’ has a very depressing feeling and feels like it would be much better as a farm park than a zoo.
Whilst I agree that the enclosures for the elephants, giraffe and other large animals seem well equipped and spacious the same can’t be said for the farm type animals. I have to question the lack of any link to conservation and breeding programs. The animals seem to be there purely to bring in the crowds and the money. 

The conditions for the horses, cows and sheep in the enclosures were awful. Their tiny cell like enclosures were dirty, lacking food and lacked enough bedding. Fairly sure their natural habitat doesn’t include cement floors. When do they get to run around fields? Take any exercise? Have any type of enrichment.?! It seems they’re kept in small enclosures purely for paying customers to pet and take photos next to, this seems to be a return to the historic concept of zoos. Something I thought we had long since moved past. 

Seeing birds of prey tied up and biting at their restraints in frustration was very distressing and our 10 year old daughter was very upset. No fresh food or water for the guinea pigs, the reptile house was in an appalling state of disrepair and the porcupines were sleeping on concrete floors with no bedding in sight.

I have to say we definitely felt that the animals that bring in extra revenue and had stricter formal policies and rules for their care were in the better surroundings - funny that. All the other animals were there strictly for the paying customers. One notice on the horses said something along the lines of having a special blanket to keep the flies off (can’t quite remember the exact wording). I feel better knowing that level of care is occurring!

I have to say the keepers were doing the best job they could  in less than ideal circumstances. They seemed to be dedicated and caring but just not given the means to be at the level that you expect.

I won’t go into the rights and wrong of evolution and creationism but it’s not appropriate to advertise in an educational environment.  Since visiting I have read that Noah's Ark definitely have a religious slant.

It’s not about it being overpriced or what’s on offer to the visitor but very much about the welfare of the animals, conservation in modern society and our responsibility to educate children.

Overall, we will not be returning or recommending.