Budget family holiday idea - Sanguli, Spain

As a family we have tried many types of holiday - 5* all inclusive, budget all inclusive, villa holidays, self catering.....it is hard deciding on the holiday which will be the best value for you and your family. With this in mind, I wanted to tell you all about our amazing holiday to Sanguli near Salou with Al fresco last summer. This is not a PR collaboration, I just really loved it!

We managed to get a fantastic deal and booked flights for 5 people with Jet2.com to Reus and a Vivaldi Luxe caravan for under £1000 in the first week of September last year (this was booked before the new term time holiday rules). Transfers to the park took about 15 minutes from the airport Via taxi and were about 30 euros.

Thomson Al fresco caravans have everything a family needs for a relaxing break. They are modern, have their own shower, toilet and fully equipped kitchen. They come complete with their own sun loungers, decking and outdoor table and chairs. They also have their own BBQ and we enjoyed a family BBQ on a few evenings. The fridge even comes stocked with a couple of cold beers and juice for your children on arrival. You can pay 3 euros per day for air conditioning in your caravan if you'd like. The whole park has a lovely community feel and is very safe. There is a rep's caravan within the 'Al fresco village' where you can drop in anytime for advice and borrow buckets, spades, inflatables, board games, books and more. We took advantage of this service and didn't need to waste any money buying the children inflatables for the pool which was fab.

The park has so much to offer families - there are 4 swimming pools all with something different to offer including slides and bubbles pools. There is a lovely shaded play park, an indoor kids club full of toys and a timetable packed full of activities. The park has it's own mascot (Guli) who regular walks around the park and greets guests and eening entertainment provided in a large amphitheatre. Our children loved the kids disco and fire breathing show. The two onsite restaurants also cater for children and offer a 3 course children's menu, a drink and colouring sheets for a reasonable 6 euros.

For grown ups there is an on-site spa and if exercise is your thing there is full timetable of classes (for free) and a gym. I couldn't believe how popular these classes were!  Boxercise in the blistering heat is certainly not my idea of fun! There is also a sports bar which had all of the main football matches on and a lovely poolside restaurant. My parents were on holiday with us and watched the children one evening while we enjoyed a lovely meal here. Think candle-lit with white drapes and cava on ice! It was lovely for a treat and what you would expect in a 5 star hotel not a campsite! We enjoyed some amazing cocktails and seafood here. 

Out and about there is a lot to do - you are just across the road from the beach. Sun loungers were a very reasonable 3 euros to hire and there were plenty of beach bars dotted along the promenade where you could buy a drink and cool off.

We enjoyed a trip to Barcelona and the zoo (booked with a company just outside the park entrance). It was a very long day on the bus but everybody enjoyed it.

We also visited Salou market which was probably just the same as any Spanish market but nice to walk around and there is a nice little park next door. The market is about 40 minutes walk from the hotel or a 5 minute ride in a taxi.

In the evening, we either enjoyed a BBQ at the caravan followed by entertainment in the amphitheatre or ventured out for a walk along the promemade to find a restaurant. There are lots and lots of restaurants to choose from, all within walking distance. Our favourite was a Mexican restaurant just outside the park. We enjoyed some lovely food here in a nice atmosphere (and I couldn't believe my 6 year old managed to eat an adults portion of fajitas!).

You can also walk to the Salou fountains in the evening and watch the dancing water and lights set to music for free.

One evening we caught the bus from outside the park along the coast to the next town of Cambrils which was just lovely. It is more up market than Salou and featured a beautiful harbour with a string of outdoor restaurants and quirky, independent shops. When we return to Sanguli, I will certainly spend more time in Cambrils as it was just lovely. We decided to dine in a seafood restaurant and the children were really spoilt by the waiters who spent the whole evening bringing the children little toys, gifts and sweets. You really cannot go wrong catching the bus as they all go to the same place and it is very cheap.

There are lots of facilities on site to make your stay as stress free as possible - free wifi throughout the park is a huge plus! There are also 2 supermarkets with their own bakery sections and a gift shop. There is a main reception who can help with booking taxis or give you any advice you may need. Our flight home was late in the evening and we did not pay for late check-out. There was however a left luggage room (with attendant) and a shower block to use. The shower block was the cleanest I have ever seen! As soon as you stepped out of the shower it was cleaned. There was also a children's section with special smaller children's showers and baths - also immaculate - which was a nice extra.

So overall, Sanguli was pretty much our perfect family holiday. I loved how relaxed it was and being able to pop to the bakery in the morning for fresh croissants and then enjoying breakfast on our verandah every day was just perfect for us. I loved how everything was on your doorstep and you could walk everywhere and I also liked the fact that once we'd put the children to bed in the evening we could sit on our verandah with a chilled drink and relax. We cannot wait to visit Sanguli again.


Gibside in the mud - March 2013

I had a rare weekend off this week and really wanted to make the most of it. We decided to go back to gibside as we loved out visit in the summer. A farmers market would be at gibside this weekend and they were advertising a lambing weekend on their website where you could meet newborn lambs and chicks which sounded just up our street!

We dressed the kids in their rain suits and wellies and were soon there. The car park is being re-developed so there is a hike up a steep hill to get to the entrance. All part of the fun though!

As always the staff were friendly and welcoming, pointing out on our maps where events were being held. They even let us have on map each to stop any fights! Entrance would normally cost £19.50 for a family, but as we are NT members it was free!

We started off taking a walk to the strawberry castle play area. Harry and Heidi love reading the map and finding the way. NT parks are honestly some of the best parks you could go to. We spent a good hour here getting muddy - climbing nets, crawling through tunnels, zooming down slides and playing kings and queens in the castle. It will be even better in the summer when the park has it's own toilet block and cafe so you won't have to walk all the way back to the entrance.

We then decided to walk up to the stables which is a lovely uphill walk through the woods. Probably about a 3-4 mile round trip from the park. The walk was worth it though - we spent the whole time playing eye spy and it was a great way to just spend time together.

The stables were great! We saw a baby lamb, 2 heavily pregnant sheep and some baby chicks. There was a chart where you could suggest names for the newborn lambs, we decided on wooly and fluffy! There is a great indoor play zone within the stables with a puppet theatre, playhouse, farm set, worksheets and more plus some seats for mum and dad. There is also an interactive wildlife room where you can learn all about the animals you might see around the Gibside estate. There is a cafe and a bookshop too, but we didn't visit today.

The kids did start to get a bit whingy on the walk back to the car as their little legs were getting tired but soon perked up when we promised they could pick a cake from the market at the exit. (there is a free shuttle bus between areas every 30mins if you really can't face the walk) The market was small but perfectly formed with cakes, fish, chocolates, plants and crafts for sale. My 3 all chose a marshmallow lolly which soon put a smile on their faces again. There was a local band playing at the market and there is a cafe and shop plus a small park in this area too so it's the perfect place to stop for a while before heading home.

We have only been to Gibside twice, and both times have been fab. It is the sort of place you can easily spend all day and There is so much more still we want to explore - next time we are going to walk even further to the nature reserve and natural play area and when the kids are older we will definitely try out the rope challenge. There are also some yurts you can hire within the grounds which would be fab and on Friday nights in the summer the cafe turns into a big beer garden with live music and local ales. There is just So much going on!!


Ben and Holly live

We have always been big Ben and Holly fans in our house and when I read the fantastic reviews of the live show, I knew it would be the perfect introduction to theatre for my 2 year old.

It was being shown at the playhouse, which in my opinion is the most family friendly theatre in our region. Tickets were priced at £13 each.

The show starts to the familiar theme tune and it was lovely to see the delight in all of the toddler faces in the audience as Ben and Holly appeared on stage. There was audience participation right from the start, beginning with a game of hide and seek and it was lovely watching Jack join in shouting and pointing at the stage.

The stage show takes bits and pieces from various Ben and Holly stories - we see Gaston the ladybird play fetch, Nanny Plum being the tooth fairy, Ben elf being turned into a frog and the elf band rehearsing for King Thistle's birthday and of course the show would not be complete without a jelly flood which had Jack in fits of giggles! The star of the show for me was Gaston the ladybird, who was just as cute, adorable and full of personality on stage as he is in the tv show.

The stories are played out with lots of toddler friendly songs and the larger than life characters certainly kept Jack's attention throughout.

My only gripe was the over-selling of and over priced merchandise on sale. The stand at the foyer was full of Ben and holly goodies, staff walked the aisles at the interval selling more merchandise and programmes and then there was a lady selling Ben and Holly balloons on exit. I couldn't resist buying Jack a Ben Elf light on a stick, which at £7 was not cheap! Despite this, we both still had a lovely time and I would certainly recommend it to children aged 0-4.


Family weekend away - peppa pig world

Everybody who has a pre-schooler will be well acquainted with peppa pig. In summer 2011 I had 3 pre- schoolers who all adored peppa pig! We decided the loooong trip to peppa pig world at Paulton's park near Southampton would be worth it. At this time, my children wed aged 4, 2 and 9 months and it seemed to be the perfect time to go.

Newcastle to Southampton is a very long drive! We broke the journey up by staying at the De Vere Village hotel in Swindon and in all honesty the journey was not too bad.

If booked in advance, a ticket for a family of 4 costs £86 and under 1's are admitted free of charge. Your admission includes access to the whole of Paulton's park, zoo and of course peppa pig world.

Near the entrance, there are large lockers available to hire which were perfect for us as we still had quite a lot of baby equipment to carry around in those days and we had packed a picnic to try and keep costs down. Everybody parked their buggys outside the ride queues and there didn't seem to be any problems.

Peppa pig world is AMAZING! The whole park is themed so as well as the obvious rides such as the balloon ride and helicopter ride there are lots of other parts to enjoy - mr potato's playground was a great way to let off steam, you can jump in muddy puddles (change of clothes a good idea!), 'recycle' in the indoor softplay centre and stop for an ice-cream in Miss. rabbit's ice- cream parlour. There are also various places to stop for photo's in various peppa themed buildings such as the school and peppa's house - they can be taken professionally and you are allowed to take your own.

The ride's are very family friendly with grown up's being allowed on them all and accompanied baby's on most. That means that nobody is left out. We went on a bank holiday weekend and at the most queued for 30 minutes per ride. Our favourite rides were the balloon ride and grandpa's little train.

Your day is broken up with meet and greet's from peppa and George who pop onto a stages area at various points for a sing song and to wave hello throughout the day.

We spent most of the day at peppa pig world but on our way home had a few rides on the carousel in Paulton's park and had a quick look around the zoo.

No trip to a theme park is complete without a trip to the gift shop. I have honestly never seen so much themed toys in one place! Although a few pounds more expensive than amazon, it was great letting the children pick a few toys with their spending money (and they still get played with almost 2 years on)

If you have children under 4, a trip to peppa pig world will delight them! I would definitely recommend a visit.


Family friendly Sunday lunch - St James' Park

Last year, the whole family decided to book a table at St James' Park for Sunday lunch to celebrate grannie and grandad's birthday. There were 12 of us in total ranging from 1 year old to age 50+.

Sunday lunch is available to book in the magpie suite on Sunday's when Newcastle aren't playing at home. It is priced at £16.95 per adult for 3 courses and a reduced price child's menu is also available. The price includes a stadium tour (more about that later).

St James' park was a lovely choice for a special family meal. Our table was situated next to a floor to ceiling window with spectacular views over the pitch. The staff were very welcoming towards children and provided them all with NUFC colouring sheets and crayons. Children's meals were only £3.95 which was an absolute bargain.

Everybody enjoyed the lunch and before dessert was served we were invited with other diners to enjoy a stadium tour. Our guide was great and kept the tour fun and informative for young and old. Highlights of the tour were us being allowed to film the kids running out of the dug out, sitting pitch side in the manager's seat and being allowed in the players dressing room and seeing all of their shirts hanging up.

I really could not recommend St James's park for a special occasion lunch highly enough. It was such a lovely day for all who went and it will be lovely to go back in a few years time when the children are a bit older and will probably enjoy it even more.

More information can be found here:-

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