A UK Travel, Food & Family Lifestyle Blog

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Taking your children to visit famous Sports Grounds

Yesterday marked the start of Wimbledon - definitely one of the sporting highlights of my year. It is actually a childhood dream of mine that I will win tickets via the ticket ballot at some point in my life. I've been trying for years with no luck but I always have hope! If I could choose any sporting venue to visit, Wimbledon would definitely be high up on my list and I would just LOVE to take the children one day. For now however, we will stick to supporting Andy Murray from the comfort of our sofa with the obligatory bowl of strawberries.


We have been inspired by this 'Name That Sports Ground' quiz to think about other Sports Grounds we have visited and to think if our children have gained from the experience.

Football grounds feature pretty high on our list and a trip to Nou Camp has been one of our family's all-time favourite trips. Although I am personally not a football fan, it certainly is inspiring walking amongst all of those trophies and I'm pretty sure our family trip had something to do with Harry winning a trophy of his own back at home.



Stadium visits certainly seem popular - I posted on our facebook page to ask for photographs featuring family visits to Sporting Grounds and it is clear to see how much fun a visit can be for kids and grown ups alike.
Thanks Louise for this photo from a trip to The Stadium of Light

Our own trip to St James' Park a few years ago

Thanks Susan for this shot from Dunstanburgh Golf Course

Love this hot tub photo of Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground from Life In Geordieland

Another photo from Rachel enjoying the Basketball at Northumbria Uni

Thanks Angela for this photo enjoying Rugby League with the family at St James' Park

Tammy's daughter at Northern Gymnastics

So, back to the quiz. Unfortunately we only managed a bronze medal - we guessed just 3/10 sporting grounds correctly! Have you visited any sporting grounds with your children? Has it inspired them to join in or take up new sports themselves? You can take the quiz with your own family too - make sure you let us know how you get on.




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Worldwide Trips


Europe

Top Outdoor Adventures in Europe

5 Places that will make you want to visit Tenerife with kids

Hotel Las Vegas, Bibione | Italy

Camping near Venice

The Coastal Walk from Calella to Llafranc

Camping La Siesta, Costa Brava - A Review

Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava

Travelling to Spain by coach with Siesta Holidays

Dining in Catalonia

DFDS Seaways Mini Cruise to Amsterdam 

Amsterdam Zoo

Fred Olsen Cruises from Newcastle

Taking your children to Barcelona

Al Fresco holidays - Sanguli, Spain



The Americas 

Our second honeymoon in Mexico

A guide to Cancun, Mexico



Africa

A weekend in Marrakech

Places to visit in Mauritius for Kids & Families



Travel Advice

The pros and cons of flying long haul with children

5 ways to beat the post holiday blues

Is it time to emigrate?

When family trips away don't quite go to plan

When to book your summer holiday

18 tried and tested tips for travelling with young kids

When should you book to get the best price for your holiday?

The world's 50 greatest travel experiences - how many have you tried? 
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UK Holidays and Day Trips

Advice and Tips

10 ways to save money at Center Parcs

How to squeeze lots of road trips into your year without spending a fortune

Festivals with kids | 10 essentials you can't leave home without

How to camp with a baby

Top 5 tips for surviving a car journey with kids

Is a holiday with kids really a holiday?

Can you visit Glastonbury when pregnant?

The benefits of solo travel

Holiday options for a family of 5


North East

6 Day Trips to take with your kids this summer

The Kingslodge Inn, Durham

Our top 10 places to camp in the North East

Springhill Farm Wigwams - Northumberland

Beacon Hill Farm Cottages - Northumberland

Westwood Yurts - Durham

Calvert Trust Lodges - Kielder

Waterside View Cottages, Alnmouth

Newcastle Malmaison

The Morritt Hotel, Gretta Bridge

Longsands Lodge, Tynemouth (sleeps 10)

Jesmond Dene House Hotel

Breakfast and Beamish with Sunderland Marriott Hotel

Family Glamping at Bells of Hemscott

Craster Reach Cottage, Northumberland

Yorkshire

Angry Bird Land, North Yorkshire

Valley Gardens & Play Ares, Harrogate

Harrogate Serviced Apartments Review

One Frenchgate House, Richmond

Acorn Glade - glamping in York

A £250 holiday at Dacre Lakeside Park

York Railway Museum

Scarborough North Bay Attractions

Ready Camp Glamping in Scarborough

A day trip to Whitby

Scotland

Robert Burns Cottage, Ayr

10 Reasons to Visit Edinburgh in December

A Postcard from Fort Augustus, Loch Ness

Paddling in Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

Loch Ness Shores Campsite Review

Edinburgh Zoo

Hilly Cow Wigwams, Edinburgh

A half term holiday at Parkdean Sundrum Castle, Ayr

Halloween at Heads of Ayr Farm Park

Attractions for children to enjoy in Glasgow

Hostel Suites by Eurohostel in Glasgow

North West

A Day Trip to Carlisle with Northern Trains

33 Reasons we loved the Just So Festival

Center Parcs Whinfell Forest on a budget

New Style Woodland Lodges at Center Parcs

Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool Tower and Circus

Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Lake District Photo Diary

The Lakes Distillery Tour

London




Everywhere else

Tattershall Lakes, Lincolnshire 

Butlins Skegness Gold Apartments and Premium Dining

YHA Sherwood Forest

YHA Cholderton (near Stonehenge)

Bolsover Castle (English Heritage)

Visiting Stonehenge with children

Foodie heaven at Gidleigh Park

A family break in Henley on Thames

Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World

Thomas Land in Summer





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10 vintage wedding traditions we should bring back

There has been a lot of wedding talk in our house recently. Heidi has just been a bridesmaid for her Aunty and one of my best friends is busy planning her dream day and when we meet for our weekly catch up, weddings are definitely one of our main topics of conversation. Our wedding day was almost 10 years ago now and I've almost forgotten just how much planning is involved in making sure your wedding day is exacltly how you imagined. There are some things that will top every couple’s to-do list including buying the rings from a site like 77 Diamonds, securing a venue, inviting guests, ordering a cake and finding the perfect dress – not to mention ordering the tuxes and bridesmaid dresses and arranging a table plan. Amongst the hustle and bustle of it all, however, it can be easy to forget the little details – those that make a wedding unique and special, such as simple yet romantic vintage wedding traditions. With this in mind, I've compliled a list of ten traditions we should definitely bring back into popularity. I'd love to hear if any featured on your wedding day.

Asking the father of the bride for his permission

It’s fair to say that many men don’t do this these days. Of course, some still do but wouldn’t it be nice if this tradition was more set in stone? Sort of a must-seek-out-future-dad-in-law-before-proposing priority. Of course, family relations must be intact for this to work, but it’s a respectful tradition nonetheless.

Writing a letter to your significant other the night before

In years gone by, many couples used to write letters to their future spouses the night before their big day. They’d then put them in a box along with a bottle of wine and open them on their first wedding anniversary – now that’s pretty romantic, right?


Put a coin in your shoe for good luck

Back in Victorian times, brides used to pop a silver sixpence piece into their shoe to ensure a happy and prosperous marriage. While sixpence coins have been out of circulation for some time now, there’s no harm in popping a twenty pence in for good luck. 

Put a sugar cube in your wedding glove

There are many weird and wonderful wedding superstitions floating around, but the Greeks have long believed that placing a sugar cube in your wedding glove will sweeten your union.

Plant a pine tree outside your home 

If you’re not overcome with pre-wedding nerves, try planting a pine tree outside your home the night before you tie the knot. This is thought to symbolise a new beginning and is a great thing to do together before you walk down the aisle.


Throw your flower bouquet

These days, brides often carry brooch bouquets or other modern accessories instead of a traditional floral bouquet. While these are innovative and eye-catching there’s something special about throwing a bunch of flowers in the air for the next blushing bride to catch.


Hide a ring in your cake

When one couple gets married, the guests can’t wait for another pair to tie the knot and are always looking to hook up the single people. As a result, many people used to hide rings in their cake believing the person to find it would be the next to marry. If you do this, however, always attach it to a piece of ribbon so it doesn’t become a choking hazard.


Freeze a slice of your wedding cake

Your wedding cake is probably the most special desert you’ll ever eat in your life. Sure, it might not be your favourite as many of us tend to prefer brownies, sticky toffee pudding and other pub grub treats, but it’ll have extra servings of sentimental flavour, so save some to eat on your first anniversary.


Ask your nana for her favourite beauty secret

Sometimes, we look too hard to find real vintage beauty secrets when the answers could lie with a family member. Your grandma probably has a wealth of tricks up her sleeve and will help add a touch of vintage glamour to your big day.

Propose with a family heirloom

Engagement rings have been around for many years and are of great importance. While it’s easy to go out and buy one, why not ask your mum or grandma if you can use their engagement ring instead? Of course, you should always talk this through carefully with any family member carefully to avoid stirring up negative emotions. If you’re offered a family heirloom to propose with, accept with grace – even if you want to buy another ring of your own down the line.


Vintage traditions are often the best and shouldn’t be forgotten, so I hope I've inspired you to try incorporating some of these into your big day.

Mums' Days
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Monday, 29 June 2015

Is a holiday with kids ever truly a holiday?

As I hit publish on this post I am about to leave Butlins after a non-stop fun filled weekend. I've had a lovely time with my mam and the kids and it has certainly beat sitting at home. I have been thinking about this for some time though - is a holiday with kids ever a true holiday?


I don't know about you but sometimes I leave a holiday more exhausted than when I left! That old saying of "I need a holiday to recover from that holiday" definitely rings true after a trip away with three fiesty children.

So I thought I would look up the definition of a holiday in the dictionary:-


Holiday: an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home


Was our weekend at Butlins an extended period of leisure? Well from my perspective going to the beach, drinking wine, spending time having fun with my mam and children, having my meals cooked for me and a house keeper for the weekend certainly ticks that box! 


I guess what I am trying to say is that although holidays as a parent sometimes don't seem that way (sitting watching the skyline gang or exercising with Pingu certainly aren't ways I would usually choose to spend my free time) they still are a break away, a change of scenery, a chance to try something new, time to spend together instead of working and there are little moments in any short break I take where feel incredibly lucky and I do think - yes I'm on holiday!

Cheers!


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Sunday, 28 June 2015

97 & Social, Jesmond - A review

It is not often I get the chance to meet up with my friend Kelly from Cygnet Careers outside of business/networking events so we agreed to make a date for a few cocktails and booked 97 & Social in Jesmond after there had been a bit of a buzz about it opening a few months ago. Located next door to sister venue SoHe it is in a prime location on popular Osborne Road.

The bar was quiet when we arrived at 5pm but soon filled up with local business men and women who were calling in for a drink or two and catching up with friends after work. The vibe is relaxed and slightly upmarket with Chester style sofas, cosy booths and chandeliers. The music is perfectly pitched so you don't have to shout across the table which was great (now I'm sounding old aren't I!).

Kelly was feeling a little under the weather so decided to start with a Penicillin from the cocktail menu for medicinal purposes of course! Made with Monkey Shoulder and Ardbeg whiskies, ginger syrup, honey and lemon water it went down a treat and priced at only £5.40 was a bargain too.


I decided to go for the Spring Thyme - Boulard Calvodos, benedictine, lemon juice, pineapple, thyme and black pepper. Priced at £5.90 I thought this was a reasonable price for a pretty decent cocktail.


We perused the food menu with hungry stomachs - the menu is a little quirky with pea and ham salad or lemonade and cumin spiced fish as options. We decided to play it safe though and both ordered a beef burger which was served in a brioche bun with smoked applewood cheese and a dill, vanilla lime and cucumber pickle.


Our burger was ok for £5.50 but not a patch on the Fat Hippo up the road. What we did begrudge is paying £5.80 extra for two portions of twice cooked freshly cut chips. They were a little bit bland and certainly didn't have a homemade taste to them which was disappointing.


There are no desserts available at 97 & Social (or if there are we weren't made aware) so we decided to order another cocktail each. Another Penicillin for Kelly and a Lonsdale for me (Gin, lemon juice, honey, fresh basil and lemon juice). The service we received from the staff was perfect - they checked everything was ok and were pretty speedy in making our drinks which is fairly unusual for a cocktail bar.


Our bill was £38 for a burger, chips and two cocktails each which I don't suppose was too bad and in hindsight was pretty good value considering we could have spent that on two cocktails each in some city centre bars. I wasn't wowed by the food though so although I would return to 97 & Social next time I am out with the girls on Osborne Road, it would be for cocktails only. It is worth noting that they have almost 20 types of whisky available so I am sure this bar would be a hit with my whiskey-loving other half too.







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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Butlins Skegness - 6 years later!

This weekend we are having lots of fun at Butlins in Skegness. We have enjoyed two holidays here in the past in 2008 and 2009. I thought I would share a few thoughts and photographs from our last visit in 2009. We just had Harry and Heidi then who were aged 3 years and 5 months. We stayed in a Silver apartment with premium dining and I think a weekend break cost us around £300. There will be a few Butlins posts in the next few weeks about our break 6 years later in 2015 and it will be interesting to compare the two.

Harry enjoying an all-you-can eat breakfast

Daddy and Harry at the fairground

How cute are Harry and Heidi here!

Barney the dinosaur 

Inside our Silver Apartment

Harry getting his face painted for the first time

Waiting for coffee!

A 3yo Harry meeting his then-idol Fireman Sam

The popular puppet castle show

With Heidi in the tots fairground.

Ah I just love re-visiting places I've loved and looking at the photographs from past visits. Lots of happy memories! Why not follow us on instagram to where I'll be posting up-to-date photographs of our trip to Butlins Skegness this weekend.



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Friday, 26 June 2015

Crowne Plaza Hotel Newcastle - Opening Late Summer 2015

This week we were invited to a 'Builder's Lunch' and hard hat tour around The Crowne Plaza in Newcastle before it opens later this year. It is nowhere near finished but I was absolutely blown away with what we were able to see. Expect state of the art conference facilities, free wifi as standard and comfortable executive style bedrooms with a personal touch.

Crowne Plaza Newcastle builders lunch

Dining in Hawthorns

I was very impressed to hear how keen the management team were to keep things local. Hawthorns will open from 10am and serve high-end, locally sourced food (my favourites Turnbulls of Alnwick were mentioned). The Crowne Plaza will break down traditional barriers to hotel dining with clean, clutter free tables (yeah) that are designed to give you space and allow the staff to engage and design your dining experience around you. Whether you want a sandwich and an (ouseburn) coffee for one whilst you catch up with emails or a table for six where you can debrief your team after a day of meetings, Hawthorns has been cleverly designed to be able to adapt around your needs.

Atrium view at Crowne Plaza Newcastle near Central train Stration
This stunning atrium is the centre piece of the hotel

The Gin Bar

With a design-your-own martini menu with over 3000 combinations, local ales and spirits and plans for live music over the weekend, The Gin Bar hopes to serve premium drinks with personal service. We were told that cocktails will be priced around £6.50-£7 which is not at all expensive for a city centre hotel bar.

The Gin Bar, Crowne Plaza Hotel Newcastle

The Gin Bar, Crowne Plaza Hotel Newcastle

Mineral House Spa, Pool and Gymnasium

The spa and pool at Crowne Plaza will really set a benchmark in Newcastle. Located in the basement of the hotel, the pool area is dark and cozy and I think it will be a gorgeous place to relax and unwind in the heart of the city. Facilities include a 10 metre pool, steam room, luxury spa pool, three treatment rooms, a state of the art gym and personal training. 

Mineral House Spa and Pool at Crowne Plaza Newcastle city centre

Mineral House Spa and Pool at Crowne Plaza Newcastle city centre

Crowne Plaza Video

Today was a first for me - I don't think I've ever made a video whilst walking around a building site and half-finished hotel (and I'm not sure I will get the chance to ever do this again). I do think this video gives you a real flavour for the hotel and what to expect - look out for the stunning atrium.


Thanks to Crowne Plaza for our behind the scenes tour. It was a lovely taste of exciting things to come and I can't wait to return soon and see your progress. If you'd like to know more or follow the hotel's progress, you can like Crowne Plaza Newcastle on facebook.








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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Can you visit Glastonbury when pregnant?

A trip to Glastonbury has always been on my bucket list and in 2010 we were lucky enough to secure tickets to the festival (pressing refresh, refresh, refresh with 3 x computers as we tried to book was horrendously stressful!). When the date of the festival at the end of June arrived, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. I was about 18 weeks so not huge but as this was baby no3 I had a definite bump. I was a little nervous about attending my first music festival in a pregnant state but I didn't need to worry at all. Glastonbury was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and I can't wait to return in a few years when Jack is old enough to appreciate it properly (I'm thinking 7+).


Arrival

There is quite a trek from the car park to the camping fields and you will need to carry all of your luggage and tent - be prepared! A few people use metal trailers which are probably a good idea. Suitcases are quite difficult to pull as you are walking on farm fields! Pack as light as you can. We chose to take two pop up tents as these were the lightest option and we bought and airbed and a few other bits and bobs from one of the stalls at the festival. Depending what time you arrive you may struggle to find a space to set up your tent as we did. Luckily as we only had two tiny pop up tents we managed to wedge them into a fairly good spot overlooking the pyramid stage and fairly close to the only flushable loo's on site! Be prepared though, the tents are VERY close together and there is no such thing as personal space.



Toilets

Ah the toilets! This is one of the least pleasant part of Glastonbury. I swear I used to wretch with the smell as I walked past some of the infamous 'long drops'. They certainly ARE NOT a pleasant experience. I suppose the good thing about being pregnant was that I wasn't drinking alcohol so didn't need to go every 3 seconds! Most of the time I dragged poor Steve up to the flushable loo's near the hospital at Big Close Ground. DO NOT be tempted to urinate on the farmland - not only is it harmful but if the 'green police' catch you you'll be publicly shamed. 

Health and Wellbeing

As I've just mentioned, there is a temporary hospital on site which even has x-ray facilities and an emergency dentist. If you are pregnant it might be worth popping up on arrival so you know where to go if needed. In an emergency it is recommended you make your way to a first aid site or ask a steward for help (who can then call the site rapid response) rather than calling 999. If you are in the late stages of pregnancy and do go into labour, you will be transported off site to the nearest hospital.

There are also three welfare centres on site which I have to say were a god-send to us. They provided us with sunscreen when we'd ran out and provided shelter from the Sun and crowds when needed. They were also giving away free earplugs as it was very noisy at night from Shangri-La until the early hours of the morning. 

It is important to stay hydrated at festivals and Glastonbury provides over 400 drinking water taps so make sure you pack your own re-fillable bottle.

Areas


Of course being first timers we wanted to catch the headliners on the main and other stage (Kylie, Muse, Florence and the Machine and Faithless were all huge highlights). These stages get VERY crowded however if you stick to the outskirts you won't get crushed but can still enjoy the atmosphere. It is perfectly safe for kids (and pregnant people) at the side or back and there is a lovely chilled atmosphere especially at night. Some older folk even bring their own camping chairs, blankets and flasks of hot drinks.




Sometimes the tents did get a little bit crowded. I really wanted to see Two Door Cinema Club but I got a little scared being amongst the crowds inside. 


There are lots of places to chill out when you need to get away from it all though. Surprisingly there was lots of space to chill in the dance fields and there was lots of room to dance around to example here. Also areas like The Park provide lots of smaller open air stages where you can kick back and relax.

Sunset over the tee-pee fields

The ultimate place to get away from it all though has to be the Green fields. Here you will find a more laid back way of life, intimate performances, organic foods and peace. Even if you think this all sounds a bit too 'hippyish' I urge you to walk around and see what they have to offer.


There is honestly so much to explore at Glastonbury you would be a fool to think you could see it all. I do highly recommend a visit though - it can even be life changing! I forgot to mention that there is also lots of yummy food to try and it isn't too expensive either.

So, can you visit Glastonbury when pregnant? Well I survived to tell the tale and I'm desperate to go back for more. Whilst we were there a lady actually left to give birth on the Saturday evening and returned with her baby on Sunday! Amazing! (but probably not recommended).










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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training

During our recent visit to Alnwick Gardens we noticed that Alnwick Castle (which sits next door to the Gardens) was holding a Harry Potter Day. We scoured the internet to find a 20% off discount code from Primary times (sorry, it's expired now) and decided that although we would only spend a few hours at the Castle the £30ish cost for family entry would be worth it as we could validate our ticket for a year and visit as often as we would like for free in the next 12 months (make sure you validate your ticket at the ticket office - they need to take your photograph and give you a separate pass).

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training | Castle Exterior

We only spent around 90 minutes at the Castle but tried to pack a lot in, we will be following up with a more in depth review this Summer.

Broomstick Training

Broomstick training takes place daily at Alnwick Castle and is included in your admission. You just need to pop along to Knight's Quest and sign up to a slot (more info here). We joined in with a lunch time session which lasted around 20 minutes. Your 'teachers' are in character the whole time and really get into the spirit of the session. Adults are encouraged to take part too! Everyone is given their own broomstick and you will learn how to fly and levitate your broom from the ground. Magical!

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training

Harry Potter Broomstick training at Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training | Flying a broomstick
WOW! Harry is flying!!

Flying a broomstick at Alnwick Castle
Preparing for a crash landing

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training | magic
Looking super cool as I levitate my broom!

Harry Potter Inspired Characters

In case you weren't aware, Alnwick Castle was one of the filming locations for the Harry Potter movies and on certain dates  Potter inspired characters from the movie will be on site walking around and presenting magic shows. Obviously they aren't the real Harry Potter stars but I did have to look twice for a second as they were very realistic! Harry Potter gathered the troops after broomstick training and we settled down to watch some Potter magic with Harry and Professor Dumbledore.

Alnwick Castle | Harry Potter Broomstick Training | Dumbledore and Harry Potter Characters

Of course we got roped in to help - we are cousins of the Weasley's after all!

Harry Potter and Dumbledore at Alnwick Castle

Harry Potter and Dumbledore magic show at Alnwick Castle

The show lasted 20-30 minutes and had everyone laughing plus there was some actual real magic involved too! The audience was certainly captivated.

Knight's Quest

Knight's Quest is a a fantastic area located in the medieval courtyard of Alnwick Castle. There are free medieval crafts, some fantastic chances to dress up, play traditional games and even train as a Knight as Jack enthusiastically demonstrates in this video:-


Photographs speak louder than words I think, take a look at the Knight's Quest area below, it really is fantastic for families.

Knight's Quest - the stocks at Alnwick Castle

Dragon at Alnwick Castle


Knight training and dress up at Alnwick Castle


Medival Dressing up at Alnwick Castle

Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest is a permanent part of Knight's Quest. It is only for the very courageous though as is dark and scary in places - especially as you reach Northumberland's most feared dragon at the end! For those who are brave enough (like our 6 and 8 year old) it is a really fun challenge and exciting too. 

Dragon's Quest at Alnwick Castle


That concludes our whistle stop tour of Alnwick Castle - there was so much we didn't explore (we didn't even venture inside to see the beautiful State rooms) and we can't wait to return in the Summer with our validated ticket for free. We'll definitely take a picnic and make a day of it then.

Check out Alnwick Castle's Website for opening times, admission prices and special events.




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