London, possibly the greatest city in the world and the capital of my adult life! I love it. Everything about London makes my heart sing. I love how it smells, that rush of hot air as you step off the train. The hustle and bustle of people and the knowledge that this is City that never sleeps. I completed my nurse training in London, had my first job here afterwards and met Mr Pud. Together we had our first child here and negotiated parenting round a city hosting the Olympics! London lives in our souls and courses through our veins. So this weekend we brought both the kids back to our old stomping ground.
We were pretty lucky to be able to stay in a house for the weekend. No trying to cram the 4 of us in a tiny hotel room. I had had visions of watching tv with subtitles while two little ones slept! Instead we stayed in a house smack bang in the centre of London. Having a base certainly helped because crikey it was hot. Sweltering and humid, poor Pudding was not impressed!
Despite being smack in the centre of Town we decided with Pies little legs that a travel card would be best. This meant that during the course of the weekend we travelled by bus, tube, DLR and had a go on the Thames Clipper. Transport is one of the things I love about London. As a Londoner I used to moan about it. But having lived outside of London now, I realise how fantastic it actually is! I have to say the kids thought the Thames Clipper was ace, I found it a bit vomit-inducing….
We had a great few days sight seeing. It was pretty cool to ‘do’ London from a more tourist point of view. We took the kids to see the changing of the guard at Whithall. Pie got chatting to a police officer at Downing Street. We walked right across Waterloo Bridge to show him Big Ben and the hospital Mummy completed her nurse training at. Then we hit the South Bank. More of an assault on the senses than usual due to the heat and the crowds. It was so busy but we managed a spot of lunch and to meet a friend!
We had promised a trip to Hamleys. It was the one thing about the trip that had Pie really excited. Again it was sweltering! But his eyes were like saucers. Taking in everything. I thought he would morph into ‘I want, I want’ mode. But he didn’t. He wanted a green light sabre – his only desire and once we had found them he was quite happy to buy it and get out!
Sunday was a trip to Greenwich to meet Nana and Grandad. Thankfully it was much cooler there! We headed to the Maritime Museum to checkout the new space exhibition, Above and Beyond. It was pretty cool and had lots of interactive things to get involved with. Pie enjoyed building his spaceship and flying it. But there was quite a queue for stuff, not great for a four year olds patience. Lunch was had down by the river, enjoying a lovely breeze. The boys managed to get down to the river and lobbed a few stones in – before almost getting caught out by the tide. Grandad treated us all to a rather fabulous ice cream before we headed back off up river on the Clipper.
We chose not to do that expensive London based entertainment. We kind of felt with two kids under 5 it was waste of money to do the London Dungeons, or The Zoo. I think because we know London so well that definitely helped. Although I imagine in the future Pie will want to do some of the more expensive attractions. But this time he was happy to hear about Mummy & Daddy’s life in Town.
So here we are sat in 1st class en route from Birmingham back to the Mother Lands (Aka London) for our first grown up weekend since the Pudding arrived.
Some mixed emotions as we leave both kids where their more than capable but slightly crazy grandparents. I have made lists, organised food, shown them how to make milk and work the pram – in all honesty it felt a bit like leaving the dogs at kennels – ‘yes 6 scoops for 6 ounces…’ Luckily they are used to my control freak nature and humour me by listening intently and nodding along, giving only the occasional dig that they have actually raised two children themselves. Of course they know babies, but they don’t necessarily know my baby, all her quirks and peculiarities, her preferences and cues. But then does it matter? Do they have to do exactly what Mummy does? No, they don’t, as long as she sleeps and eats and is reasonably content then that’s fine. I mean it’s not like I want them to upstage me!
I am not worried that the kids won’t survive one night without me, I can’t quite put my finger on what gives me that little knot in my stomach. My rational brain is screaming just relax woman, you have two days of quiet, hot meals and a lie in. Two days of uninterrupted adult time with your amazing husband who has planned and executed this trip with laser precision. (He is already looking at pictures of the kids…) When did we become these people? 5 years ago we would have been on this train, prosecco in hand and not a care in the world!
I know it will be fantastic when we get there and that all our old haunts will soon bring back those fabulous memories of being young and childless – but in the back of my mind I know that I will have left a piece of my heart in Birmingham, even if it is just for one night.
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This is the picturesque view over Bluestone Wales this weekend as I dropped off the car in the main car park (Bluestone is a car free zone!). We had been lucky on the drive down, no major disasters befell us like they normally do, we did have two tired and slightly grumpy children but once we had decanted them into bed we could look forward to two blissful days surrounded by fantastic scenery and our choice of fantastic activities.
Last time we stayed we had one of the two storey lodges cleverly designed to have the living quarters on the top to make the most of the views, this time we opted for a single storey chalet-type. We weren’t disappointed, although the space was not huge, it was a good size and the high ceilings made it feel very light and airy. I loved the open plan kitchen, lounge and diner, it mean that we could all chill out together without having to be on top of each. There was a slight issue with sound on the TV which almost pushed Mr Pudding over the edge, but a few jiggled wires soon sorted that out! The lodge was clean and tidy, we located the travel cot with ease, my only minor complaint was that there was no mattress provided but a few folded blankets and a super-sized muslin later and Pudding had a bed, it must of been ok cos we didn’t hear a peep out of her all night.
The lodges in Bluestone are allocated on the day and you don’t really get a say in where they put you (I guess you probably could if you paid extra), we were down towards the big lake, which was beautiful. However; it was very far from the pool and the adventure centre, we did try to hire a buggy but unfortunately there weren’t any left. Mind you the walk up the giant hill did wonders for my bum especially carrying Pudding. Our Ergo carrier came into its own, I did bring the pushchair but that would have been even worse to push up the hill!
Pudding enjoying the Adventure Centre!
We decided the next morning to take the kids swimming, so we hiked up to the pool, Pie was in the worst mood ever and he whinged the entire way. I should have seen the storm clouds gathering but I figured he would join in the fun after a little while. The swimming pool is fantastic, it is set in a huge biosphere so lovely and warm. Perfect for Pudding who is not a fan of the cold and wet, Pie loved the lazy river and the waves. He was less keen about queuing for the family changing rooms and this caused another mini meltdown. We headed back for lunch before Mr Pudding and Pie had to be at their afternoon activities.
So you remember I ignored the storm clouds? Well that was a rookie mistake! As we headed back up to the adventure centre Pie kicked off for the biggest meltdown you have ever seen, he refused to walk and then finished with his party trick and promptly pooped himself. Even the promise of an afternoon playing at pirates couldn’t bring him down from the ceiling. Mr Pudding went off to do his high ropes course (which by the way he said was totally fantastic and he thoroughly enjoyed it!), I went into the adventure centre with an extremely angry Pie and spoke to the amazing Bluestone staff. Because of his accident Pie couldn’t join in with the other children, but the staff were amazing, they were more than happy to rearrange for us and booked us in for the following morning. We stopped into the main office on the way back and asked the fabulous staff there who promptly radio’d through to my husband at Steep Ravine to explain that we were going home for a nap. I really can’t fault them they were so helpful, another point to add about the great staff is that everywhere you go on the Bluestone site they say hello or good morning!
Having recovered from what can only be described as an epic tantrum, Pie woke with a smile on his and to two little friends! These little friendly little ducks were knocking on our patio door with their beaks the next morning, they were so tame the took bread right out of Pie’s hand, clearly they are well versed in guests at Bluestone. We took this as a good omen and after some breakfast headed back to the Adventure Centre for some pirate fun! Pie loved it, he went off for 2 hours with a group of children and didn’t even look back, they all looked great with facepaint and pirate costumes. Pudding, Daddy and I enjoyed an hour of baby massage and yoga which was lovely, great sensory room and our instructor was really friendly (another credit to the Bluestone staff). Our afternoon was spent back at the pool, before we headed back for some chips from the chippy van, again the staff were great and we avoided another Pie meltdown when the chap kindly gave us a free ketchup as we had run out of cash!
Overall, I can’t praise Bluestone enough for their family friendly environment, the staff were amazing, nothing was too much trouble. I wish we could have stayed longer as there is still so much that we would like to have done, this is my second visit and I still haven’t managed to try out the Spa! We will definately return again in the future, but a few tips for those who are planning a visit:
1. Book a buggy – firstly they are awesome and secondly little legs get tired!
2. Upgrade the WiFi to premium if you want to stream anything, or get any blogging done.
3. Take advantage of the kids activities, they are good value and give you the opportunity to enjoy some of the more adult activities as over 4s don’t need adult supervision.
4. Remember a pound for the lockers at the pool (we were lucky another fab member of staff let us leave my bank card and gave me a pound to use in the lockers)
Thank you Bluestone for another fab visit and we look forward to returning again soon!
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I was asked this week ‘Are you excited about your weekend away?’, it was only Monday and I have to be totally honest that on Monday I was not excited. All I could see looming in front of me were the thousand and one things that as the chief organiser, top packer and lead chauffeur (not to mention general miracle worker) I had to get done before the ‘holiday’ could begin. I mean even the word ‘holiday’ is misleading as in all honest its the same shit in a different location with only half the things you need and the overwhelming feeling that you should be enjoying yourself!
Those carefree days when I was younger when I would just buy a load of holiday cloths and dump them in the suitcase the night before are a distant memory, in part because I haven’t brought new clothes in bulk for several years. But mainly because these days I carve out a small corner of the suitcase for me, and then the rest is dedicated to those essential kid items. Now before Pudding was born life had got marginally easier, but now I am back to packing all but the kitchen sink (I would take that too but you have to have a cut off point somewhere). My husband laughs, he always reminds me that we aren’t going to outer mongolia, and its true we are only going to Wales where there will be access to Boots and Sainsbury’s should we need anything. Still top packer I am and packing I shall do.
Then comes the general organising, this includes ensuring the house is clean because I don’t want to have to trip over anything when I return from said ‘holiday’ with two tired and grumpy children. Making sure everyone has some clean pyjamas to wear and a tidy bed to get into is also essential, two tired and grumpy children remember? Of course the fridge needs looking at before we go to, who wants to return to that carton of milk that will be out of date and slightly lumpy? Worse still if you pour it into your cup of tea and take a gigantic thirst quenching swig before realising that its chewy… Don’t forget the kitchen bin as well, that nappy from this morning is not going to smell to sweet in a warm house after 4 days. The Sausages’ need some planning too, this time my brother in law is kindly coming to dog sit for a few days but the dog walker will still need to come in twice to fill in the gaps. I have to break it to the Sausages gently that they aren’t coming, Flick takes this as a personal afront and promptly refuses to move out of the car seat, when I do finally evict her she sits on her bed looking straight at the wall and refuses to look at me. Having completed the majority of my chief organiser duties its time to take up my chauffeur post.
Luckily Mr Pudding has agreed to pack the car so with a few wifely instructions he does a masterful job. I in the meantime have packed a snack bag for Pie, rechecked the map, put the postcode in my iPhone and looked at the traffic report. I know its going to be too longer a journey to do in one go, so a stop has to be planned – to early and everyone will be hungry when we arrive too late and there will be meltdown in the car. I pick what I think will be the ideal time and place. Having read a great post on tyre safety this week, I dutifully check the tread on the tires and contemplate looking at the oil level and windscreen wash but my enthusiasm is waning now as its raining, instead I check I have the breakdown cover details! Finally we are ready and the kids are strapped in, Mr Pudding has loaded a playlist on the stereo and we are away. 2 minutes later it begins ‘Are we there yet….’ Like I said ‘holidays’ same shit different place!
To finish off our Easter school holidays we, that is Mummy, Pie & Pudding, arranged to meet some friends at the National Forest Adventure Farm over near Burton-on-Trent. We drove up from Birmingham and the journey was really easy, straight up the A38 and then follow the signs through a lovely little village called Tatenhill. On arrival there were car parking attendants guiding cars into the large car park, plenty of spaces and the car park is hardstanding so no mud to wade through. Considering it was Easter holidays the farm didn’t look overly busy, it was a bit of miserable, drizzly kind of a day, but we live in Brum that kind of comes as standard. I initially thought that entrance was a bit steep at £10.95 each (if you book online in advance you get 10% off) – but in all honesty once we got inside and saw all the things that were available I realised that this wasn’t actually unreasonable.
Our friends were running a little late so I took Pie into the indoor play area and brought myself a coffee (there is always time for coffee right?) Pudding was her usual interesting self and was asleep! The indoor play area was HUGE, there were some quite scary looking vertical red slides that the bigger children were throwing themselves down, but the rest of the soft play looked great. Pie obviously thought so as he had his shoes off and was disappearing up the steps in less than 30 seconds of us arriving. I sat at the table with Pudding and a large latte (very nice and reasonable too), it took me a long time to spot Pie in the soft play and due to its size I did loose sight of him quite regularly, luckily Pie is food and drink orientated so he returned to the table regularly to steal some of my kitkat.
Once our friends arrived we decided to take the boys on the Easter trail that had been set up in the woods – we weren’t entirely sure what was involved but knew that there was a tractor ride and the promise of chocolate soon had the boys on board. We queued for the tractor for around 10 minutes, thankfully a very sensible person had put the queuing system in a marquee so it wasn’t wet and cold. Once on board the tractor we were taken around the farm and up to a little wooded area, the boys loved the noisy bumpy tractor ride and Pudding slept through it (no change there). Once we got to where the trail was the boys were given a small piece of paper that they had to carry round the trail and stamp with the animal stamps – they had to get 6 stamps to show the Easter Bunny. Thankfully the trail had been covered in bark chippings, so again not too muddy, not pram friendly so I had to carry a sleeping Pud. The boys really enjoyed the trail there were a few characters to meet on the way round as well as collecting the stamps and all the characters were really enthusiastic and friendly. The Easter Bunny was right at the end of the trail – unfortunately the boys were a bit more focused on the chocolate by then! Then it was back on the tractor for a bumpy ride tot he farm, even Pudding woke up for the return journey, she did look less than impressed but their is no accounting for taste.
Everyone was a bit chilly when we got back so we decided to head back to the soft play area for lunch. We ordered kids meals for all of us as at £3.95 they were good value, both the boys were a bit to excited about the soft play and neither ate that well. The food was simple but good, I have to recommend the chicken goujons, they were really tasty!
After lunch we wandered out to find the big animal barn (the boys spotted an amazing JCB bouncy castle too) this was just round the corner from the soft play. Outside was a big sand pit and both boys wanted to spend some time in there digging. It took us a while to drag them into see the animals but it was worth it. When you enter the animal barn there are two low walled areas that have loads of guinea pigs and rabbits in. You aren’t allowed to pick up the small animals but they are great fun to stop and watch for a while. The barn only had a small selection of animals but they were all at close quarters so that the boys could see them (they could have fed them if we had brought a food bucket) they enjoyed stroking the piglets and the goat. We had managed (by total fluke) to arrive in the barn when the lamb feeding was about to start so we grabbed a token and sat down. The lamb feeding was quite organised, the children all got a number and were called up in groups to feed a lamb, the boys really enjoyed this and the staff were brilliant with all the kids. We did talk about going round to see the outside animals but both boys wanted to drive the go karts and it had started to rain!
Unfortunately Pie had a minor disaster at the bouncing pillows (which were great, one specifically designated for under 8s so the smaller kids don’t get ploughed), he had run off in front in his excitement and straight across what can only be described as a quagmire, which had him covered in mud right up to his knees. This signalled a major meltdown and as it was now 3.30, we decided to call it a day.
We didn’t get to do everything available at the Adventure Farm – there were lots of other things available and in the summer there are even more things going on, including the giant Maize Maze (Dinosaur themed this year!). We will definately be back later in the year as we had a great day and I do love dinosaurs….
Want to know more about the National Forest Adventure Farm? Have a look at there website http://www.adventurefarm.co.uk/