LOLL – all the way into Summer!

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We’ve just had the hottest day on record in the UK for 42 years, 33.4 degrees!  It was so darn hot and what to wear for work and the home was a tough one, let alone exercise.  Swimming is my thing, always has been.  I swim to relax, I swim to destress and cool down.  I like the fact it’s just me and no one else, no one can even talk to me.  This is the way I like it.  But what I have never found is the perfect towel or thing to wear once I some out of the pool.  I like to have a little sit down afterwards, to read or just rest my eyes.

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Life is busy with children, and working parents and these times are essential to keep equilibrium.  A regular towel is too bulky and makes you too hot after a swim, plus of course, it doesn’t stay on!  There are a few towelling are the-like on the market, but again too hot and bulky to wear or use, not to mentioned too big to fit into your bag.

At last, I think I have found my answer in a LOLL towel, you wear it like a poncho and unzip it like a towel.  Made in Oz, ‘Down Under’ is where you’d expect some of the best beach/hot weather solutions to come from.   It’s shorter in the front and longer in the back which gives it a stylish edge.  With a comfy, big hood to pop up if the sun/the wind get too much.  I’m taking mine to Portugal on our family holiday in August, it will be perfect and will take up hardly any room in the suitcase.

As us Brits know only too well Summer starts when schools close mid to end of July, and as in the past few years has lasted long into September, the loved and long for Indian summer.  Your Loll Pocho will see you through all this, I can’t wait to wear mine on the beaches of the Algarve, I’ll post some pics!

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Side zip detail

It comes in lots of different styles and colours to choose from, with a handy internal front pocket for bits and bobs.   You can where it, unzip it, lie on it and is made from 100% cotton with plastic zips, so they won’t rust.  Other colours include Choppy Ocean, Ocean Waves and Black.

Although based in Oz they will ship to you anywhere in the world for one flat rate.   £42 per poncho. Contact them for more details right here

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LOLL Ladies Down Under

The Oakwood – Alderley Edge

Nestled between Knutsford and Alderley, on the outskirts of Wilmslow sits The Oakwood. Over the years this place has been a myriad of different pubs and restaurants, some have lasted and some haven’t.   I used to come here in the late 80’s when it was a pub during my A levels!  After visiting for a Father’s Day dinner something tells me this place is here to stay.  I didn’t tell my family where we were heading for dinner, my husband has been on an FA training course all weekend so was hot, worn out and ready for good food.  It’s cosy and welcoming inside, with lots of lovely sofas and quiet corners to sit and just have a drink or a light bite.  Lots of dark cosy navy paint colours, with touches of jewelled bright pop of velvets, patterned cushions and lots of chic table, wall and ceiling lights offering soft but good lighting.

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Elegant relaxed decor

 

We decided to share two starters; Ocean-reared trout gravadlax, dill, Dijon mustard, cucumber julienne, lemon crème fraîche and Potted Cromer crab, avocado, prawn butter, toasted sourdough, both so fresh and full of flavour.  The gravadlax was sliced into cute little decent sized sections, not the wafer thin style we are more used to, which worked really well.  The sourdough toast was divine, I love sourdough and I think it is so easy to get wrong, but here it was light and chewy and full of flavour.

My 15-year-old son is in Y10 and had two weeks worth of exams starting the following day, so needed a great plate of hearty sustenance to set him up.  He chose Steak Frites, a 9 oz rump steak, chips, ‘Café de Paris’ herb & mustard butter.  His words after his first mouthful were ‘oh man, this is the boss’ (teenage speak for ‘great’) and we didn’t hear another word until he’d finished.  I had Grilled stone bass & cardamom-braised fennel, apple purée, watercress & fennel salad.  Stone bass is a fish with which I am unfamiliar, but I loved the sweet, moist flakes of white fish, and with the apple puree and crisp fennel it was just delicious.

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Burgers & Steak

 

My poor sunburnt husband enjoyed a dish of Pork Rack which had been cooked confit, with a touch of sage and dauphinoise potatoes, which was his idea of the perfect plate of food.  Our youngest son aged 10, went for the good reliable burger and chips, in this case, Free range Cornish beef burger, brioche bun, chips, with the added bonus of a slice of Comte cheese.

Being in the middle of a UK side heatwave, all the doors and windows were open to ensure a cooling breeze throughout.  We also had a couple of glasses or Beaulieu Rose to cool us both down, they were both so cold and hit the spot.

To end with, we shared two desserts a sticky toffee pudding and a lemon posset with cats tongue biscuits; I’d never heard of this type of biscuit and our lovely waiter told us it was a classic French recipe.  This lemon pudding has us all fighting for the last mouthful, so much so, we nearly forgot about the sticky toffee pudding so we polished that off between us too!

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The Ladies

 

Between Knutsford, Alderley Edge and Wilmslow, you are spoilt for choice on places to eat, but this is the place you should definitely head for.  I am with my Mum for lunch next week and I can’t wait to go back.  This is the sort of place that becomes a no-brainer place to choose to eat, you get a great varied menu with fresh seasonal produce and what else do you need when you want to eat out?  The staff were lovely, knowledgeable

The White Brasserie Company is a family of British pubs with a French brasserie twist. With 15 different places to try, mainly in the south, The Oakwood being there first in Cheshire, in fact, we have been to The Cricketer in Cobham Surrey several times as it is round the corner from my sister in law.

From chef Raymond Blanc, who sits on the board of the White Brasserie, said that while these new pubs will be high-end gastropubs, they will eschew the white table cloth dining concept. “I’m not talking about three-star Michelin,” he said. “I’m talking about fresh, good, cooked food and that’s what Great Britain needs.”  And I couldn’t agree more.

£139.21 for four including drinks and wine.

Book your next lunch or dinner at The Oakwood right here

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Zooming round Delamere!

Tom Cruise said it, ‘I feel the need for speed!’  and this could be our family motto, so walking is not something favoured by my family.  We are sporty with swimming, rugby, cricket, cycling and football done regularly, but walking is seen as, to quote, ‘boring’.  I do occasionally drag them on a walk, Shuttlingsloe in Macclesfield Forest was the most recent and they did enjoy that.  So when I mentioned Delamere Forest over the half-term there were cries of ‘not a walk!’ but I was plesed to inform them it was Segway – “woo hoo, wicked was their response.

I know some cool companies, such as Facebook and Google, use Segway to go about thier business and after trying them out at Go Ape we all should have them.  Josh was our guide and carefully talked us through all the safety and users details, you have to sign a detailed waiver for you and your children, so do read this carefully before you sign. Thankfully you get to have a practice on a little figure of 8 track on a slope.  My boys went first and of course got it straight away, me and my husband were a little more cautious as we tentatively made out way round the practice track.

Once you get the hang of it, which takes no more than 10 minutes, you are away and it feels amazing, weird, but amazing.  You are moving, but you legs or feet are not moving, so it takes a while for your brain to compute.  We all found that our feet hurt by the end of it, in different ways, my insteps were killing me!  But so worth it.  Apperently dogs are a little freaked-out by humans whizzing through the forest and you are taught to slow down near dogs, and of course other people.

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In training & half way round

 

There is a training mode to get you started, so you can’t zoom off into the woods at a wreckless top speed!  Once you’ve mastered the training section, and gone a little further into the woods you are taken off trainig mode and you can put your feet down.  15 mph is the max and we averged about 10 and that felt fast enougt quite frankly!  If you were to come off at that speed and hit and tree you could do some damage and you do wear a securely fitted helmet.

 

You follow the instructor, Josh, in single file throughtout your session, stopping now and then for him to give further instruction about going up and down hill and around corners.  I was totally convinced I was going to facepalm, by leaning too far forwards but it’s impossible we were all told.

I did fall off, but only when we were staitionery and I hadn’t followed the instructions, but I was totally fine.   Josh was there to help me thank goodness!  It was a lovely afternoon whizzing through the lush dense forest, weaving gently in an out of the paths avoiding holes and puddles.  We took turns in our positions following Josh and to see your children having such a great time, mastering a new skill, is so heartwarming.  To me, life is all about experiences, big and small, and we all really enjoyed it and would definately do it again.    I could do with one now just to pop out to the shops, maybe it’s the future for helping with future public transport.  Huge thanks to Josh who was a great guide, and made us all feel secure and comfortale.

Go Ape at Delamere Forest has so much for families to try, not to mentioned you can go just for a walk.  Segway is a great way to cover more gound and see bits of the forest you have not seen before.  You can find out more about the details here  take a look at the short film all about it. Book you Segway adventure soon.

Snow Fun at Chill Factore

With thoughts of a (hoped for) long hot Summer on our mind,  ice and snow is the last thing we were thinking about.  So when the Chill Factore called and asked us if we’d like to try out their Snow Park we did hesitate; did we want to be cold?  Of course, I asked my children (two boys aged 10 and 15) and their answer was yes.  I’ve been to the Chill Factore a few times over the years, for ski lessons and to use the snow park, but it had been at least five years since I’d stepped foot inside the place.  We managed to round up a few of my ten-year-old son’s friends and Mums to come and play in the snow.  Poppy was our host who met us at the check-in desk and managed the rabble of excited boys and girls, with snow boots and kit.

The changing room which was just for us was a little hot, but it’s great to have a place for them all to change and leave all belongings securely.  You have to put a coloured bib on over you ski stuff, which is a bit of pain, to be honest, and does restrict your movement a bit.  This is so they can see who belongs to which group, but I think there must be a better way of doing this.

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The Mums giving it a go!

As parents, we don’t often get the chance to act like kids and we jumped at it!  My husband’s favourite was the sledging, it reminded him of his childhood sledging up in the hills of Macclesfield.  I especially enjoyed the luge, you just lie back and off you go, twisting and turning not knowing where you are going to end up!

It’s a great taster for young children to give them confidence in the snow and ice; you don’t fall over all the time and even when you fall off, you will be fine!

You can try the donuts, luge (two for children and one for adults) and sledging.  I love the donut and by the end was given a full-power spin by the staff at the top of the hill, much to my sons laughter!  You do think you are going to ping off the end but I promise you won’t.  It’s so much fun watching the others slide down the snow, listening to the cries o delight!

After just under an hours fun on the snow park we were hot and puffed out.  We opted to have pizza at Pizza Della Piste; the family meal deal £30 for two large pizzas, one garlic bread and four drinks, oh and some chips.  Huge portions, steaming hot and very tasty.  There are lots of other places to drink, opt for coffee at Costa or a full dinner at Nando’s.

 

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The lovely Polly & the rowdy boys

 

It’s great to have this wonderful place on our doorstep, and you can see it from miles around peeking out from right near the Trafford Centre.  If you have not been for a while it’s worth the trip, there are lots of things going on for all ages including ladies only sessions, lessons for all, snow camps, parties and taster days.  And by the time we’d finished, we were not cold, in fact, we were roasting.

Best deals are online so it’s worth subscribing to their email newsletter…

Find all the details you need right here

 

The Main Attraction – Edinburgh Castle

You can’t go to Edinburgh without a visit to the castle, she sits there looming over the city and you just can’t ignore her even if you try.  We arrived in Edinburgh at night, the castle was lit up and looked amazing and daunting; what did the enemies of old make of it as they approached this insurmountable building?

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Against the night sky

 

Walking up to the castle gates makes you feel part of history as you cross their threshold and enter through the castle gates.  They are of course small to only let those through who were welcome.  What were our highlights?

The Military Prison was a real eye opener, French and Spanish prisoners being locked up in such hard conditions so far from home, during the 1700 and 1800’s.  Hammocks are hung everywhere, with tiny windows, gives real insight into what life was like.  Letters from home were allowed at certain times of the year, which must have made their stay just a little, more bearable.

The dog cemetery carves out a quiet little corner, dogs of former soldiers, who must have been great companions during a harsh Scottish winter and a gentle reminder of the lighter side of castle life.

The courtyard offers safety from the wind, with the Great Hall on one side in which Mary Queen of Scots stepped, with sheer drop down the cliff face on one side.  Did anyone every get flung out of the windows I wonder?

The Scottish National War Memorial just stops your breath as you wander around and read all the dedications and memorials; the story of Scotland at war until the present day.   Within the walls of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum tells the story of battles lost and won, through military artefacts and personal treasures.  The bronze and metal work alone is worth a visit, the details are incredible.

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Details everywhere

 

Some moving and sobering quotes inside make you stop and really think about what as gone before us.

The Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the Honours of Scotland are a must-see – although a tourist decided to take his shoes and socks off whilst having a rest for us all to see, which was a little distracting!

It’s hard to get your head around the layout of the castle, but I am sure that was part of the design to foil attackers.  But this is also the beauty of the place, add in the views and it’s just WOW.  We even saw Arthur’s Seat which had climbed the day before.

 

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Growing out of the rock

We are blessed in the UK to have a plethora of castles to visit, but this one is unique.  The location alone is just stunning, slap-bang in the middle of the city, which means you can see her peeping out wherever you are in the city. You feel the power and influence this place had been part of over the years.

 

There is the lovely Redcoat Cafe for a warm up of great cakes and tea, with the most amazing views over Edinburgh, in a stylish setting.

With so many details to look at (as shown in the picture above) the whole design and planning of the castle makes your head spin, the way the bricks meld into the rocks as if they grew straight out from the earth rocky crust.

The one o’clock gun fires every day, except Sunday, and this was when the castle seemed most busy.  It’s worth the wait, it’s loud, very loud!  I can imagine the office workers of Edinburgh listen out for it as a marker of when to head off for lunch.

I first visited the castle in the mid 90’s and I loved visiting again.  You must visit when in Edinburgh as she won’t let you forget about her whilst you are in the city.  Visit here to view the website. Audio and tour guides available.

 

The Royal Yacht Britannia

OK so my two children, boys aged 10 and 14, were not that into the idea of going to look around a boat that once belonged to the Queen.  It was decommissioned in 1997 long before they were born, so fair enough.  I on the other had always had a little bit of love for it, I’d seen in action a couple of times in the 90’s and always thought it was very glamorous.  Situated next to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre I got a sneak-peak as I popped to the loo in Debenhams from which you can see her from; boats, as you know are always referred to the female.

You start right on the top deck in the wheelhouse which seems by today’s standards so quaint.  Lots of knobs and dials, practically nothing at all high-tech.  Did it really go around the 1,000,000 miles around the world?  To visit each section you come and off the yacht via stairs as you go down and finally end up in the launch (you can go back up via a list).  Every level has something joyous to look at, everything takes you right back in time and you it feels like you on the set of a 50’s Grace Kelly movie.  Each room from the formal dining room, to the bar to the bedrooms, feels so homely and cosy you have to remind yourself you are on the sea.  You get such and insight on to what life would have been like, as much has been left as it was, including glasses, bottles of champagne and all decorations.

No wonder the Queen nearly shed a tear when she was decommissioned.  It must have been a place of real privacy and relaxation, a great place to spend time with the family and get away from it all, away from prying eyes.

You get given a hand-held audio guide (child version also available) and you can click at your leisure when you see the relevant number.  You get told some fascinating facts, such as who has been on board, the events held, the gifts given from various travels.

All the staff were so lovely and helpful, with even one posted by the ship’s bell to take a photo for you, and they look so cool in their tartan trousers!

What did my boys think?  From the moment they stepped on board, they were hooked. Of course, they liked things like the engine room, wheelhouse and spears in the dining room.  But they loved hearing all about the history, who worked on board, where the crew slept etc  They especially loved the fact a Phantom Rolls Royce used to travel on board as well!  I haven’t put too many pictures as I think this would spoil your visit as there is so much to absorb, also keep an eye out for the beautiful details such as the wood and brass work.

If you fancy, you can take afternoon tea on the royal deck, which looked simply divine actually prepared on board.  The gift shop has some impressive things to buy and we settled on a fridge magnet and tea towel.  Whatever you think about the royal family, you can help but be impressed by the piece of British history and what she did for Britain around the globe.   The ship, which acted as the Queen’s private yacht between 1954 and 1997, In her latter years Britannia is estimated to have brought in £3bn of commercial trade deals.  Now as Scotland’s second most popular visitor attraction after Edinburgh Castle, she is now bringing a new economy to the area, with jobs and tourism and that is another lease of life I hope continues long into the future.  We then popped to Wagamama for lunch in the Ocean Terminal, after all we had been given a taste for international travels whislt on board!

Open all year round, adults £15.50, children aged 5-17 £13.75, under 5’s free.  Other ticket prices available.  Please check the website before making your booking or trip.

Please visit the website here for more details

 

Yorkshire’s Best, Flatt House Barn

You know how it is with your friends, one of you suggests a girls weekend away and you are the one who volunteers to find somewhere to fit the brief?  The brief being somewhere for six tired working mum’s, no more than 1.5 hrs away, somewhere remote, somewhere luxurious and with a hot tub; no problem!?   After a quick Google search that consisted of’Yorkshire, luxury and hot tub’  up popped Amazing Dales – luxury country retreats in Yorkshire, Flatt House Barn (near Ingleborough Cave and Ingleton Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales) seemed to fit the bill.

Front Door

One quick snoop around their website and I was sold, I could feel the fresh hill-air filling my lungs already!  I emailed the link around to the girls, several of whom have high expectations and thankfully all agreed this was the place.  Six Mum’s/working women can organise anything in an instant, so with the food, fizz and wine organised, we were ready to go.  Once you are off the M6, there are endless perfect winding country roads getting more twisty and higher the further you go.  Easy enough to find from the instructions (don’t rely on Sat Nav as the signal is hit and miss) you soon find Flatt House Barn, just about remote enough atop of a hill, with views over Kirby Malham.

Living Room

 

 

I was first to arrive, I just sat on the floor looking out of the window, rolling green hills, stillness, quiet, calm, no voices.  In daily family life moments like this never happen, there is always noise of some sort, I could even hear my heart beating.  I then went to a look in every room, of course, to pick the best bedroom, which was hard because they were all divine with tonnes of cushions, clean fresh bed linen galore, perfect for us all Mums to be fully off-radar and off-duty.

The whole place is just stunning, elegant touches everywhere you look, with some quirky things that are just perfect, like the big ram’s head with sparkly horns in the hallway; a huge driftwood lamp base; elegant cushions in the living room, so many gorgeous fabrics!  And as it was in the run up to Christmas we even had a delightful tree and decorations throughout, making it feel even more special.  My personal favourites were the three little lambs looking out of the window in the utility/drying room, just so cute.

One Mum travelling from some work in Northumberland arrived about 10pm, she got lost in the dark and we took our torches and head torches to form a beacon to guide her in from the tiny hamlet below us.  The stunning views were a welcome sight in the morning, for those who came in the pitch dark the night before.

We, of course, spent a lot of time in the hot tub, talking and drinking, plastic glasses thoughtfully provided. With some subtle lighting and under shelter, it was heavenly to sit in the bubbles and watch the sun set.  So relaxing and we all did unwind, helped by heaps of laughter!  It was a good job we were miles from the nearest place with all our shrieking out loud.  With the hugest TV I’ve seen and we spent each night fully engulfed in a great movie with wine, snacks and chocolates.

Lovely touches everywhere

You can either eat casual, in the kitchen, which we did for breakfast and lunch, or in the dining room where we ate dinner, Indian cooked by Kate and Laura and very tasty.

Underfloor heating throughout made the place especially cosy, with walls as thick as your forearm we all felt heavily protected from the elements and the outside world.  We ventured out on Sunday and visited The List Arms for Sunday lunch which was very busy but still managed perfect service and food, with head-sized Yorkshire puddings with the Sunday Roast!

We were not going to do much sight seeing or miles of walking, we just wanted to sit and be, talk, not have a schedule or places to go.  We did have a shortish walk down the hill, around a bit and back up again!  We stayed three whole nights, Sunday too, no Monday morning school run – woo hoo!

What did we all think?

Kate‘Simply delightful’     Amanda‘Peace, just what I needed’

Laura‘Luxury, luxury, luxury’ Kath ‘Gorgeous, hot tub was perfect’

Celia‘I want to take all of the gorgeous stuff home!’

Caroline (me) – ‘Just what we all needed and in such a beautiful place inside and out’

When looking for a holiday cottage online you do come across some that stretch the description somewhat and are not all that they seem, but with Flatt House Barn your expectations are exceeded and then some!  We’d all go back, in fact, we are thinking about booking again for some more R&R.  Adele and her team at Amazing Dales were great to deal with and nothing was too much trouble, including me texting about towels the day before.

A great base to discover Yorkshire, and only coming from the Cheshire it’s not far for such luxury and beauty.  With two barns to choose from Bookilber Barn and Flatt House Barn, these are the best the county has to offer.

img_1324Book your luxury Yorkshire visit here
 

 

The Big Smoke & Us

Since moving to Cheshire from London nearly 12 years ago, I still hold a deep fondness for the place in my heart.  I’ve been back many times for work and play, and now my boys are older it’s great to go back with them, to be a tourist with some ‘on the ground, in the know‘. As our Christmas school hols lasted into the first week of Jan we took the opportunity to visit the Big Smoke.  Of course, you can’t cram in everything London has to offer over three days, but we did try!  40 Years ago my Mum and Dad (thanks, so glad you did) brought me and my brother for two days to the capital, my first experience ever of our biggest city.

traflagarI remember it well, I was five at the time, and definitely loved it from the get-go.  Whilst we visited this time, I recreated a picture my Mum took of us all in Trafalgar Square, with my own husband and boys (aged very nearly 10 and 14).

It made me feel quite emotional as my Dad passed away some years ago and he would have loved to see this photo recreation.

Lots has changed, the Congestion Charge, no more Route-masters and there seems to be a Pret every other block.  We had no time to waste, just two nights and three days to explore The Big Smoke.

Novotel Blackfriars – Fab Hotel No 1

First port of call was our Novotel in Blackfriars, we’d stayed in a Novotel the previous summer in Versailles and wanted to see if London could match it.

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The Outside – we parked round the back

Just over Blackfriars bridge from the north, the hotel is easy to find, with the usual London parking available.  What we loved about Novotel Blackfrars is that it is so chic and understated, there is no formal reception just some cute little desks where you are greeted from.  The boys were given Yo-Yo’s which still are a big hit; we had to stop them yo-yoing in our room for fear of breaking something!

There were four of us, sharing one room, and in some hotels we’ve stayed in this has been a little compact, but not here.   The room had a huge double bed and two put-up beds for the children.   Again, in other hotels the children’s beds have been poor examples of camp beds, creaking and paper-thin mattresses.  But not here, big thick proper comfy mattresses on a sturdy, squeak free base, and to top it all both beds were made up properly with sheets, pillow and a duvet.   After a quick refresh, we asked at the front desk how to get to the Tate Modern and were furnished with a map and some top tips.  Returning to the hotel after dinner we visited the pool and spa, I swam about and went into the whirlpool whilst the boys checked out the well-equipped gym.  There was even music underwater!  Having the spa was a great welcome to our aching feet and decorated beautifully, a total oasis of calm.

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The dreamy spa & pool

We all had a quick shower or bath, and the highlight of the bathroom was the switch that turned the glass panel between the bathroom and bedroom from frosted to completely see through.  Oh, what fun the boys had turning this on and off, and pressing their buttocks against the screen! (which I cleaned afterwards).  The room was bright and fresh, with curtains that acted as total blackout; important for those with younger children.  Being in the heart of the City the hotel was quiet and with a window open slightly (I’m not keen on hotels where you can’t have at least just a crack of air), we all had a great night’s sleep.

Next morning it was off to breakfast, I’ve always been a total fan of a hotel breakfast.  A wide variety of fresh, hot and cold food you haven’t prepared yourself at your fingertips, what is not to love?  We all like our eggs done differently so the choice of poached, fried, boiled and scrambled suited us all.  My youngest who is 10 at the end of this month was in charge of the toast machine and he did a fab job.

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The bathroom screen ‘unfrosted’

Coffee was rich and hot served in little silver flasks. All the staff we talked too I think were French, I could be wrong, but they were all super-friendly and very smiley.   It was tough to leave but London awaited, and after a great night and sumptuous breakfast at Novotel Blackfriars we were primed and ready to take it on.  At some hotel groups, children are just an afterthought, an add-on that are hardly considered, but here at Novotel children are just as important, in every way,  as any other guest.  We shall definitely Novotel again very soon, we are off to Italy in the Summer, I wonder if they have them there?

Book your great family Blackfriars Novotel here

Star Wars Identities at The o2 – For Princess Leia

I’m in an all-male household with two sons and a husband, and Star Wars has seemed like a fifth member of the family sometimes.  So was I as enthusiastic as the rest of my family about going to see Star Wars Identities at The O2?  To be honest, no.  I’d even thought about spending the time in a Starbucks reading my new book whilst they got their fill, but no I bit the bullet and joined in.

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Can you feel the force boys?

I hadn’t been to The O2 before, well I had when it was the Millennium Dome back in the year 1999, but the less said about that the better.  The place is huge, stuffed full of places to eat and drink, and we soon found our way to Star Wars Identities which is tucked away in the furthest corner.  Upon arrival, you are given an earpiece and sensor to wear round your neck, with great instruction from the staff on what to do.  It’s dark and the anticipation was palpable as we were let loose into the first section.  The look on their faces as the screen your surrounded by bursts into life full of all things Star Wars, it was priceless!  You are given a wrist band that you have to tap on ten stations throughout the exhibition, which at the end gives you your Star Wars Identity, it’s hard to choose as there are so many options to think about.  In a nod to Carrie Fisher, I chose a couple related to her; I like to think I have at least one of Princess Leia’s characteristics.  The whole place is a cross between a geeks paradise/film lover’s nirvana.

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Hair on the back of the neck tingles!

There are so many things that made the hairs on the back of our necks stand up, from the framed original sketches of some of the early character developments such as Chewbacca, to some of the actual models of ships used in the films staged to look like there were travelling at light speed.  We all loved the mix of props, my eldest loved the drawings and my youngest loved the droid helmet selection.  I loved seeing Han Solo frozen in the block from the Empire Strikes Back, and my husband loved seeing Yoda, R2D2 and C3PO close up. Darth Vadar is there too, you just have to wait till you find him.

When you get to the end you scan your bracelet and your very own Star Wars identity appears before your eyes!  What can I say, I loved it and was glad I hadn’t missed out, the force was definitely with us all.

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Our Star Wars Identities

Book your tickets here on till September 3rd 2017

London Hilton Metropole, Edgeware Road – Fab Hotel No 2

If our Novotel was a quiet chic cousin, then the Hilton Metropole is the big fun uncle.  At the very end of the bright lights of Edgware Road’s restaurants sits this big tall beast of a hotel, with a bustling, busy lobby with an array of people coming and going.   Checking in we felt like we were royalty with everything we needed offered and in a matter of moments the super-quick lift whisked us up to the 12th floor to THE VIEW of the trip.

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Room with a view

As far as the eye could see London stretched out before us, with cars, buses and taxis snaking endlessly below us.  Hot and tired from a day’s sight-seeing on foot, we went to the pool and spa.  Although a little cold the pool was a relief and being able to see the sun setting through the glass roof was lovely.  Our room was huge and had a desk the boys took turns in sitting at, not to mention two TV’s to choose from!  I especially loved the lights that peeked out from just under the headboard which gave lovely soft light as we all got ready for bed.   We had two huge double beds and a sofa bed to argue over, and as we settled down to sleep we left the curtains open to sink in the twinkling lights of the view.  The location is great and we walked down Edgeware Road to see all the middle eastern restaurants, people smoking bubble pipes, we even got invited to try some baklava at one place which was delicious.

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Our Big Room

Breakfast was a marvel, over 1,000 people to feed (and this was a quiet day!) and it was all done so effortlessly.  We had a chat with one of the managers who said the breakfast service was ‘like a ballet’ and all parts had to work seamlessly for it to be a perfect production.   We all went for something different I had a mushroom and herb omelette made in moments in front of me, my eldest had a huge stack of pancakes, banana and maple syrup, the youngest had a mini-full English to match Dad’s large full English.  Everything presented and cooked just as I would at home, no greasy-spoon fayre here!  Even though we’d both lived in London we’d lost our bearings so needed some help from the hotel, who’d soon whipped out a map and marked us the quickest and picturesque route to Trafalgar Square.

metro-1This hotel gives you a feeling of being an international traveller and what life in hotels should be about, busy, efficient and with great attention to detail.  I hope our stay here inspires my children to travel the globe knowing what a great hotel should look and feel like.

Book your big hotel experience here

The Rainforest Cafe, Haymarket – Roar!

When I lived in London I walked past this place a 1,000 times and dismissed it as a tourist trap, but now as a tourist I wanted to go!  I’d looked at some Facebook reviews before I went, always a bad idea, as only the bad ever seem to get posted.

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Nellie

I wasn’t wrong, the place had got a bit of a kicking recently online, oh well, when in Rome!  You enter via the shop full of every stuffed animal known to man and then some.  Seated by the lovely Aaron who gave us his list of recommends, right next to elephants.  My eldest a teenager can be hard to please, but even he thought this was ‘epic’ – high praise indeed.  Soon the thunder and lightning erupted and the elephants roared – hilarious!

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Lion & Monkey

 

I needed a cocktail and chose a Mojito, which had the perfect kick.  My husband weirdly had a Bloody Mary, never known him to have one ever!  Starting with a plate of Nachos and dips, all freshly made, with a large amount of green chilli’s which definitely kicked my husbands cold into touch.  Two huge Chicken Caesar Salads, one Chicken Quesadilla and one mini ribs, we all tucked in.  Aaron, our server, told us to look for the cheetah and monkeys, plus to go take a look at the fish, which the boys duly did. The food was fresh, crisp and delicious.

A themed restaurant could just turn out standard fayre, but this place doesn’t.  They kindly gave us two rainforest themed activity packs which were great and had masks – see pics.

Yes it is expensive, £127.85 inc drinks plus service, but you are a hairs-breath from Piccadilly Circus in the very centre of London!  It’s an experience and you pay for that too. I never understand people who whine about the cost, check it out beforehand if it’s not for you don’t go!  Could the interior and surroundings do with a bit of TLC?  My answer would be yes, a refresh in some parts would not go amiss.  But for making memories for my family, it was a total winner, where else can you eat dinner with an elephant?

Book your Rainforest Cafe table here

Where else did we go?

Evensong at St Pauls Cathedral; the Design Museum at it’s new home in Kensington; The Primrose Bakery in Holland Park; the Royal Observatory in Greenwich; loved standing on the Meridian line; the new Lego Store in Leicester Square; queued to get in at 8.50pm! Byron Burger One New Change; best burgers; Tate Modern, we lay in the Great Hall as part of ‘Anywhen’; Millenum Bridge; no longer wobbly; finally Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, because they are a must-do.

Is London worth the trip from Cheshire?  Yes, London is worth it from anywhere on the globe, but so easy from Cheshire with trains from all over including Crewe, Macclesfield and Wilmslow.  We drove and left the car at Westfield and used car parks/meters.  Three days is plenty if you plan in advance where you want to go.  Would I want to live there again?  Yes, but only in somewhere glam like Holland Park or Kensington, just need to find a few million to buy a house!  With a Feb half term coming up I’d encourage you to go and see what our glorious capital has to offer.

Visit London’s official website here

 

High how high & low can you go?

More adrenaline for us this half term with a visit to the newly opened Freedome Arial Park at Cheshire Oaks, right next to the cinema.  There are a fair few of these trampoline parks popping us across the UK, so what makes this one different?  Besides the large area of trampolines to bounce on, there are four other areas to have a go on.

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Main bounce area

Slam dunk basketball x2 / Obstacle course x2 / A flip area – not sure how else to describe this; you just bounce yourself into a huge inflatable mat / Dodge ball – not open when went.  So lots to choose from.  You get two hours and a large sticker, to put on your top, displaying your start and finish times.  I popped on my socks with the grippers and off I went with my boys to get bouncing.  I’d thought ahead and put on my sports bra so I was good to go!  It’s been a while since I trampolined so I was a bit cautious, but you know it was great; rherapeutic even, the up and down and the up and down, makes your feel kind of tranquil.  Of course my boys bounced faster and higher than me and thought the site of me bouncing was hilarious; the cheek!

 

I also loved the very loud house style music they blast out, try bouncing in time to that!   Next to try was the obstacle course, of which there are two, one for the younger children and one for older children and adults.  Both quite tricky and enormous fun, think Ninja Warrior on ITV.  There are lots of staff to keep an eye on your children as they attempt the various things, but of course with all places like this it is really up to you to decide if your children are capable.  In face, once you have resisted on the computer, you have to read ALL the safety details and have to answer one question about them, get it right, you are but get it wrong and you have to try again.

It’s not huge which makes it easy to move around, at first I thought we wouldn’t last two hours, but we did grabbing a breather now and again. There is an on site cafe where you can sit and overlook the bouncers and enjoy an iced slush to cool down.  I had a look around and it was I’d it say 70% boys, not sure why!

There are also separate areas for children’s parties, up near the cafe on another level where you can enjoy a slush and cool off watch the other bouncers.  As well as a whole host of classes and activities for adults to try.  This is what I think sets this park apart from the img_0847others, the website is slick and cool and this matches the look and feel of the place.  The staff don’t stand around looking bored, they help and join in.  My eldest was desperate for a full on slam-dunk and was so nearly there so many times, so one of the staff gave him a few pointers and in the net it went!  There are loads of great classes, dodgeball and other stuff for adults to try.  Think this place is just for kids think again.  This is the new way to work up a sweat, just remember your sports bra!

One tiny moan thing, more lockers are needed for you to put your stuff in.

Find out more details Freedome Arial Park

 

 

 

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